Monday, October 08, 2007

Travel plans

After the walk. Rested. Mind at some semblance of ease. But today is a day of list-mania, of tasks tackled, one after the other, of movement and then, later, after the flurry, the blessed fatigue of earned rest. Today is a to-do list day.

Haircut, laundry, oil change, a peer review worksheet to either write from scratch or crib in whole or part from the ‘net, dishes, cooking for the rest of the week. Other items added to the list, while certainly not mandatory, take a high priority in my day. They are: walk at least an hour (check), read an hour (not yet), and write 1,000 words (working on it).

I checked out my blog today and realized I hadn’t written in it for almost a month. Why? I think the reason is because I don’t make the blog a priority. So… in an effort to write and blog with regularity, I have changed the title and focus of the blog to “A Thousand Words A DAY!!!!!”

I don’t know how the 1,000 words will manifest themselves. There’ll probably be a lot of journaling. Maybe some poetry or fiction. Certainly a movie review or two.

Last week I splurged on plane tickets to Tucson, AZ. I am going back to the Arizona Trail in December and pick up where I left off on Redington Road. My goal is to hike at least 140 miles from Redington Road to Hwy. 60, near Superior, AZ. If I can put in some serious trail miles, I might even, best case scenario, push through the Superstitions another 50-plus miles to Roosevelt Lake. But that’s a tall order and would require me to average 19 miles a day.
I leave Dec. 12 and return the 24th. I want to be home for Christmas for the first time in three years. I plan to be on the trail 10 days, with a couple days thrown in for transit to and from the trail.

Last year I spent almost $2,000 during my month in Arizona, which included two weeks of backpacking and another two weeks day hiking and car camping with a rented car. I stayed in hotel rooms and ate out a lot.

This trip will be different. Hitchhiking and public transportation will be the only non-walking way I will get around. I will again mail myself food, but will not even bring a credit or debit card. My cash resources will be limited to $100. This will be used for bus transportation to and from the airports, a Greyhound bus from Mesa to Tucson, and about $10 at each town stop for food.

I will also not buy any new gear for the trip, though it is very tempting to splurge on a down parka. Last year I went “heavy” and loaded my external frame backpack up to 60 pounds. I carried a lot of food, many luxury items, such as a two-inch thick air mattress, four books, many extra batteries, and a lot of extra clothes. This year, I am going light and will try to keep my pack weight, with food and water, under 25 pounds. I will never need to carry more than 4 days of food at a time. The town stops (at Oracle and Kearny) are spaced evenly.

There are, of course, some downsides to the go light method. It means I will have to leave my digital camera at home. I will take a disposable and send more to my mail drops. Photo numbers and quality will be less on this trip. I will also have to choose my camp sites more carefully. I can’t sleep just about anywhere, like I could with the luxury Thermarest. I am taking a chance with colder weather. Last year, I packed enough layers to get me through a zero degree night. The best I can pack for this trip is to get through a 20 degree night. This shouldn’t be a problem, considering climate trends and what I faced last year. And then there’s the drudgery of drilling holes in my toothbrush.

Other go-lite/ crazy things I do include packing a medical kit that consists of dental floss, three ibuprofen, two anti-diarrheal pills, moleskin, small scissors, large and small needle, and a nearly-empty tube of Neosporin. Notice the absence of bandaids. Toilet paper and duct tape are better.

* I don’t use many ditty bags/ stuff sacks. I use one large trash compactor bag for my inside items. I use freezer bags to keep items separate. The trash compactor bag is made of a heavier plastic. Items I want to stay dry, such as clothing and my sleeping bag, goes inside it. Everything else stays on the outside. This method worked marvelously through weeks of rain in the Cascades.

* This trip I won’t pack stove fuel. I think I can find dry wood, even on a rainy day. I never needed it last year. This also means I won’t pack my .2 ounce beer can stove.

* I don’t use a tent. The 10 x 12 foot tarp and bug bivy with nylon floor weighs a little more than a pound. This is one gear item I’m tempted to replace with a Henry Shires tent. Tarp camping gives no guarantee of dryness. Even the most intrepid backpacker is subject to the vagaries of the wind and, in the case of my rather large tarp, available flat ground.

* I use a Go-Lite Breeze pack. It is a rucksack that weighs about 12 ounces. Mine’s been through a Pacific Crest Trail and is a bit worn out. It also has smells to it that no detergent can touch. But I’m putting it through another hike and have confidence it will serve me well.

* Last year I carried enough plastic bottles to carry up to 8 liters of water. I reasoned that, duh, this is desert hiking, and read water reports about the AZT. There were a couple 30 mile stretches without aqua. But last year’s experience taught me water is more abundant in AZ in the winter than any other time of the year. Plus, I’ll be going light and can do the miles from one source to the other in less time. This year I only have room in my pack for four liters.

I am treating the gear needs for this trip as I did for September in the north Cascades in Washington, another colder weather lightweight backpacking experience.

So, those are my vacation plans. I know it will be tough terrain, including more trail-less bushwacking, and it will be cold, lonely, and nights long. But 10 days at a remove from the hustle and bustle of civilization… I’d endure any hardship for that. And, besides, hardship makes for good fireside stories.

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