After Sylvie offered to let me do my own project for my vacation the idea of a through-hike began to take shape in my mind. I usually think about hiking projects while walking 30 minutes to the subway on my way to work and that is where this trip was born. After I dreamed up the route using a map I divided it into 13 days (13 because that seemed to break it up nicely). I tweaked it a bit and then looked at it on the computer screen. I wanted a linear route that traversed a lot of peaks and that was what I got.
It was late March.
There was a lot of bushwhacking.
- I would be doing a horrific amount of elevation gain, both on and off trail with an overnight pack.
- I would need to re-learn back-packing, ultra-lite style.
- I would want to be re-supplied often.
- I would need to figure out and purchase new gear.
- I was entering the complete unknown and would have to train very, very hard.
Early April I had just turned 60 and began semi-retirement, meaning I was working Tuesdays and Thursdays only. Out the door I went with a 40 pound pack to Lake Colden and set up for 3 nights in the McMartin Lean-to and hiked lots of peaks with a day pack. My apprenticeship had just begun. My TR for that weekend is here but in short I realized I needed a much lighter and smaller pack and a mini bear canister. As the weather would get warmer I would be able to shed gear, use a light sleeping bag etc.
I embarked on a series of 3-day hikes, tweaking my kit (the pack had to be good for bushwhacks and the first one I bought was only so-so so I got another one, I tried different shoes-trail runners instead of boots, ditched the rain jacket and relied on a light shell, different socks etc. etc.). I made all my own dehydrated food, jerky, energy bars, granola, dried fruit and also carried candy and sugar coated roasted peanuts. I weighed all the food, wrote it down and verified how much I had left over when I got home.
Between preparing food for each weekend’s 3-4 day trips and stocking up for PFD I was very busy when I wasn’t either hiking, working or getting ready for the next weekend. I made many trips to the gear store and bought all sorts of items on Amazon or other cottage industry web sites. (see later for details)
My training hikes involved doing the exact segments I had planned for the actual Project and I quickly realized that I had drawn them up from the perspective of a day-hiker who rests up before and after each hike. Carrying a 20-25 pound pack and hiking relentlessly, day after day, setting up camp, cooking, eating, cleaning, preparing for the next day, breaking camp etc. completely changed the game. A couple of the hikes were way over the top hard but I completed them anyway. I hiked in the pouring rain in cold wind and got a handle on dealing with that, mentally and physically. Putting on wet clothes and shoes in the morning before striking off for a 10 hour hike is an art form!
One of the most difficult training hikes:
- Day One: Santanoni direct trail-bushwhack Little Santanoni-lonely solo bushwhack camp near Calahan brook 1000 feet below Couchie.
- Day 2 Couchie-bushwhack to the Cold River and up Mount Emmons then over Donaldson and down Calkins-camp near junction off the trail.
- Day 3: hike out on valley trails for 8 hours in torrential rain and road-walk to car at Santa trail head.
Other than the training hikes I did 2 (each work day on my lengthy lunch breaks) x 10 x 200 vertical feet with a 15 pound pack on a steep gully at a much harder pace than the training hikes. This gave me a roughly 90-10 ratio for Zone 1 and Zone 3 workouts.
With Sylvie’s help I took a huge sheet of poster paper and categorized the things I needed to do and wrote everything down. For instance: get a tiny knife, buy more butter, send camera back to Canon for warranty repairs, purchase a 40 liter dry bag (my then-current one leaked), order a third pair of shoes from Amazon, verify first aid, contact journalist for interview, make another batch of jerky and more dinners etc. etc.
When her summer vacation began Sylvie got more involved and helped make food and plan things.
As July ticked away I had re-written my route so as to add 2 more days which now made a lot more sense and I spent 4 whole hours re-doing the maps and posting them again on my blog. I knew my required food quantities and weighed and individually zip-locked 15 days worth of granola with added milk powder, 100 grams each of peanuts and various types candies, 50 grams per day of jerky, 150 grams of energy bars, 200 grams of dehydrated dinners, 2 Gu packets (caffeinated to replace the hassle of morning coffee).
Then the hardest mind exercise was to determine each re-supply day and location and group the above food into large zip-locks and label them all. Ie. Glen day 3 on Sawteeth. 1 breakfast, 2 days trail food, 2 dinners. Sylvie and I broke these bags down, found errors, and re-bagged everything 3 or 4 times. She re-wrote all the labels much more neatly. Some of the re-supplies contained all-important maps (all maps were printed out in double at a print shop for better quality, and I always carried 2 sets plus the new ADK trail map), gas canisters, toilet paper and batteries.
Sylvie made pages of notes, learned my route by the day numbers and the who, what, where and when. Ie. Day 4: drive to Upper Works to meet Tom Penders, leave two different re-supply bags in his truck, get and add 2 suppers from Tom- thanks Tom!), drive to Loj and hike in to Kagel Lean-to for the night, get cold Root Beer for Neil at Stewarts at latest moment possible.
On August 5 we loaded up the car and headed to Tmax-n-Topos Hostel, which is where Sylvie stayed in a tent trailer for 2 weeks and used the internet and her cell phone to make sure that all the moving parts of Project meshed and ran smoothly. Now all I would have to do was to keep putting one foot in front of the other.