I’ve lived my entire life in the Northern Hemisphere, and nearly all of that time I’ve been in the higher latitudes. A fairly consistent complaint I hear from my fellow humans is that they dislike winter. I get it: Not much daylight, and in maritime climates the sky seems grey all winter. The weather isn’t conducive to being outside, and it can make traveling – even just to work – challenging.
I don’t think I’ve ever been a winter-hater. I grew up in Seattle – one of those places where the skies are gunmetal grey from November to April, but where snow was also an infrequent treat. (And we almost never got enough snow to cancel school. Drat!) While I never teased out this thought in my head, I think I recognized the short winter days were a bookend to summer’s late sunsets. Or maybe I just figured there wasn’t much to be gained by complaining.
This topic has been knocking around in my head for a few weeks now. It started on an evening I was standing in the yard of my suburban home – a yard lit by decorative solar lights and a decidedly undecorative& overly-bright street light. (There’s a 4-lane arterial behind our home.) Despite all this human-created light, there was a quality to the darkness that reminded me of night in the backcountry.
When people without much experience in the backcountry think of nighttime in the woods, they envision the sounds of predators. I’ve been hiking since I was a child, and even with decades of experience I’m still struck by its silence.
My PNT work party was cancelled. I found myself with an open weekend and decided to do some hiking. My initial plan was to hike from Rd 23 to Wind River Road – 49 miles – in three days. That section has more downhills than ups. I took Monday off, and it was my scheduled Friday off*, so I figured I could do it if I pushed myself.
Last weekend, I hiked about forty miles of the PCT (Chinook Pass to Tacoma Pass). My original plan was to hike to Stampede Pass – another ten miles – but the shorter trip made for a better weekend.
I left work early Wednesday to get a jumpstart on the trail. I’m glad I did. Jim dropped me off at Chinook Pass about a quarter after seven. Truth be told, if I’d worked until five on Wednesday I probably wouldn’t have gotten to Chinook Pass until near-dark.
At this point, I’m planning to return to the Pacific Northwest Trail to complete the section hike I truncated last summer. I have two weeks off, and I’m planning to start where I left the trail last summer (the Ryan Cabin/Big Lick trail). That cuts about 18 miles and 3200′ of elevation gain from the route.
I currently have a couple of goals. First, I am going back to hike the section of the Pacific Northwest Trail I bailed out on last summer. To make that hike easier, I’d planned to do several shorter hikes in the interim. I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Chinook Pass to Stampede Pass in late July, and I wanted to challenge myself with some long day hikes and one or two overnight hikes before then. Unfortunately, family obligations and other things – including my own sloth & indifference – have meant I’ve not gone on a single overnight hike, and I’ve had a hard time pushing myself to do much of anything.
I know I can do little things to improve my chances of success this year. Taking a few minutes a day to do some core strength work or stretching goes a long way to avoid fatigue and injury on the trail. Today, I’ve decided to start a “What Have I Done Today?” reflection at the end of my day: each night, I want to reflect on what I’ve done that will pay dividends come August. Physical fitness will paly a big role, but I also need to plan. I haven’t thought much about my menu for August’s hike. I haven’t played much with my gear. These things count, too.
“If you bail out each time a honeymoon period ends, you won’t ever follow through with any worthwhile challenge in your life.” Appalachian Trials, p 52-52, Zach Davis, 2012.
Hello, 2×4! I see you’ve just met my forehead.
Reading that threw me for a loop. I’m not planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail – or any trail, for that matter. But I’ve been reading this book because I know I have mental barriers that make me timid, and they’re probably what keeps me from making the decision to thru-hike anything. (In addition to the financial consequences of taking 4-5 months off and my discomfort with river crossings.)