Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to Subscribe!

Starting tomorrow I expect my posts will become irregularly spaced with long gaps followed by several posts at once.  With that in mind, you should subscribe!  The easy way is to type your email into the box in the upper left under "Follow by Email" and hit submit.  Fill in the "captcha" to prove your lack of robotness and click on the link in the email it sends you. 

From then out you should be getting and email every time I slap some words together on this thing.

One day to lift off

Saturday made me grateful for the many games of Jenga I've played which allowed me to stuff my Honda civic full of items that fit neatly together but collapse when you open the car door.  I would have taken pictures but my camera wound up as part of the puzzle.  I managed to break things up by going out to breakfast with my now former roommate and the formerly bronchitis infested friend mentioned in the Wapack trip blog post.  She gave me her deck of cards and some inspirational quotes to keep me moving.  After breakfast it was back to packing and cleaning and packing some more. By the time I thought I was ready to leave around 1:30, my roommate systematically pointed out all the crap I was forgetting about, tucked away in closets and our basement.  I tend to let things I don't use blend into the background and it was an especially bad example. Sorry Jose!

By 3:00 I was leaving Manch-Vegas in my dust and heading south for Grandma's house.  Arriving at 6:30 made for an even 12 hour day, followed by an encouraging dinner with grandma and what I suspect to be the source of my wanderlust - my Aunt and Uncle who have ridden motorcycles across more countries than I have useable toes or fingers.  They gave me a totem for my trip - a tiny Kodiak bear carving with an arrowhead on its back.   It's wrapped in a cloth in the big mesh pocket of my pack and every time my feet hurt and I start doubting myself, I'll be reminded of them. Here he is about to engage in deadly combat with a pencil (for scale).

Sunday morning I was on the road again, visiting two friends in Maryland who have recently joined the suburban ranks of the house-owning, job-going "adults".  By 2 pm my parents and their dog gave me a warm welcome and helped unload the overloaded civic (pretty sure I bottomed the shocks out a few times on I-95).  My mom made some amazing ribs and chocolate cake to fatten me up in preparation for the wasting away I will likely experience when I can't realistically shovel enough calories into my face every day for five months.

Since then I have been making runs to REI, the grocery store, a different grocery store and packing an arranging.  I also made a pair of shell mittens with mom with stuff from DIY gear supply.  It sounds funny but they're windproof, water resistant and have no insulation so I can wear them if it's too buggy or for sun protection for my hands.  If it's cold and windy they can go over my liner gloves and make a warm combo.

It's amazing how all the tiny things I left to the last minute added up.  I knew I had a bounce box but where would I send it?  If I send it full of food to one place that means it has to show up somewhere with a good grocery store to get a refill before I can send it to another location.  I also got some last minute jitters making sure I could actually get food where I want it.  The REI stop included buying an ice-axe leash but they didn't have grip tape so that meant a hardware store run.  The running store had socks but no callus file (gross I know!) which meant a trip to a makeup store.  Trader Jo's didn't have hand sanitizer, powdered milk and a few other things so that meant yet another store.  The zipper on my ULA pack broke and Chris, the owner, sent me a free replacement hip belt which was amazing of him. I think I've got things wrapped up now though. I'm glad its over and I can have today and tomorrow morning to spend with my folks. 

Stuff I might need mailed out, mostly just clothes but a tyvek groundsheet and my air mattress as well:

The bounce box/5 gallon deicing bucket!

Bear can, ice axe and other Sierra gear.  You might not see but the bear can is stuffed with 6 days of food.  I have no idea how people can fit 11 days in those things!

Monday, April 29, 2013

test post

This is a test post from my kindle. i expect these posts will be more twitter esque since typing on my kindle is so hard.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Final Countdown

It's Wednesday, April 24th, one week before my flight to San Diego and I'm sitting in my bedroom in Manchester, New Hampshire after the first warm day of spring.  Buds on the trees are starting to open, the obnoxiously loud motorcycles are just starting to come out and roll around downtown for no other reason than to rev their engines and I still have to go to work through Friday; it couldn't make me want to be on the trail more.

The last minute preparations are steadily wrapping up.  I've moved about half my stuff to storage with friends.  My training is coming along fine and I'm managing to remain injury free.  The only things remaining to move are my computer, bed, two bikes, clothes and hiking/camping gear.  A HUGE thank you to Alison S, Justin R. and Jessica A. for storing my crap!  Also to Tim for lending me his BV500 bear canister! You guys are awesome and I owe you when I get back!

Today I mailed my first resupply box to Warner Springs, CA with hopefully ample food for 4 days and the California section B and C maps.  I'm also in the process of selling a few extra things on Craigslist to reduce what I have to move and raise some petty cash for the trail.

I'll be mailing myself a "bounce" box filled with things I'll only need every week or two.  So far the list will include:

  • Refills of Dr. Bronners soap and olive oil
  • My electric razor and my hair clippers (I look like a pedo with long hair and after 4 days without shaving.  The mountain man look does not happen for me.)
  • My camera charger (the battery should last 200+ shots, I figure that's 20 photos a day for 10 days)
  • Shampoo and bar soap
  • Extra socks and possibly underwear
  • Maps and my Yogi's guide sections
  • Extra sunscreen and foot powder
  • Extra TP
  • Resupply food if a future section has a no or poor options for resupply and the current town has a grocery store
People seem to recommend a 5 gallon bucket, and I happen to have one from work.  Hopefully it will fit in my car with all my other stuff...

In addition to the bounce box, I'll be mailing a box to Kennedy meadows with my ice axe, microspikes, bear can, bug headnet and inner tent mesh/bugnet.

This weekend I move the remainder of my stuff out of my apartment (Yay rent free life!) and down into my parents in Maryland.  I'll spend a few days there and a week from today fly out to San Diego.  A trail angel is picking me up at the airport, letting me sleep in his yard and driving me an hour and a half to the southern terminus of the PCT.  From there I'll be on my own with over 2,600 miles of trail in front of me. 

PCT Information!

I don't expect everyone to know what the hell it is I'm doing with the next five months off the top of their heads so here are a few good resources I've come across:

Smithsonian article about hiking the PCT

A quick and dirty guide to the PCT (the pmags website is an excellent backpacking resource by the way)

Google earth file for the PCT route

The people that make it all possible - the PCT Association

Hope that helps!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stove post!

I've had some questions about my stove, so I thought I would post a few pictures.

It's two soda cans cut and jammed together with an inner sleeve that creates a kind of gasification chamber between the outside soda can wall and the sleeve.  The 16 holes allow the hot alcohol gas from the chamber to be vented and burned. I actually forgot my lighter at home and had to use my "back up" sparker to light it.  The trick is to cup your hand over the top so the alcohol vapors can accumulate enough to be lit by sparks instead of a lighter.

 Here you can see the JB weld sealing the upper part of the chamber, it also seals the sleeve.  I cut two tiny triangles out of the bottom of the sleeve to allow alcohol into the chamber through the bottom. 

Home made wire mesh pot stand and disposable aluminum baking sheet wind screen complete the menagerie. 

Wapack out and back

A few weeks ago I had the brilliant idea of preparing for my PCT through hike with another through hike - the Wapack Trail here in NH.  At 21 miles long it doesn't quite make the "grand trail" lists but completing the whole thing would still count as a through hike (to me..).  Unfortunately my friend who I conned into going caught bronchitis on Monday and wasn't feeling up for it.  Instead of a 13 mile day, an overnight at windblown followed by an 8 mile day to her car, I just did the thirteen miles, turned 180 degrees in the morning and came right back to my car at the northern terminus. 

I'm tired, so here are some photos!

The trail leading up to North Pack Modnadnock: 
The north sides of the hills were still icy on Sunday, but this was almost all gone Monday.


View of Mount Monadnock from the Wapack:
My idea of dinner and a movie or camping at Windblown:

Look at that taunt pitch!

All the literature about the trail warns about a complete lack of "year round" water sources but I passed numerous large streams, ponds, beaver dams etc.

Anyway, it was a good slog.  I hope that the difficult trail conditions mean 13 miles is similar to 15 or 18 miles of the relatively smooth, graded PCT.  Unlike the white mountains, the temperatures on the Wapack ranged from a stifling 60 degrees F to a chilly 24 at night.  Thanks to the moderate temps I was finally able to use my trail runners and start getting my feet used to hiking in them which seems rather important.  I took today (Monday) off from work to do the overnight and it felt pretty damn good not to be in the office, so hopefully that feeling will continue for the next five months!

Friday, April 19, 2013

What to do if you want to send encouragement!

I know there are folks from the various internet communities I may have never met reading this but don't let that stop you!  Send encouragement!  Empowerment through anonymity!

The following is the second half of a mass email I sent out to friends and family:

This is an epic journey along the lines that dwarfs anything I've done previously so I will appreciate any and all support, encouragement and words of wisdom!  If you would like to send me something to help along the way I will hugely appreciate it and the uplifting effect on my spirits will be far greater than the cost of postage!  Please please please only send non-perishable, edible, high calorie type items.  Suggestions include cliff bars, power bars, granola bars, chocolate bars, plastic peanut butter jars, small jars of olive oil, oats, quinoa, couscous, dried fruit, beef jerky, hard sausage, dehydrated meals (mountain house makes some) or dehydrated soup mixes, trail mix or other home made but durable goodies.  I can't carry what I can't eat!  Letters, photos or other words of encouragement are also appreciated but I'll be mailing them home so they don't weigh me down!

Mailing the actual packages is a little bit complicated so I'll do my best to explain:

First make sure you only send packages with the US Postal Service,  - not UPS or Fedex and do not require signature on delivery.  Otherwise the post office, general store or trail angel will not hold the package.

I've set this up so you can copy and paste the address exactly as it should appear on the package (feel free to add package decorations)

I'll be hiking at a somewhat unpredictable pace and stopping only in certain post offices/trail angle houses/general stores so you'll have to pick the location from the list below with a date more than 3 weeks after when you plan to send your package. Also please email me to let me know its coming!  I may skip the post office if its out of the way and I don't know your package is there! For example: if today is May 2nd and you want to send me a package you could pick the Saufleys address under May 26 and send the package with lots of time for me to get there early or for the package to get there late.

May 6:
Mike Henrick
c/o General Delivery
Warner Springs, CA 92086

May 16
Mike Henrick
c/o General Deliver
Big Bear City, CA 92314

May 26
Mike Henrick
c/o The Saufleys
11861 Darling Road
Agua Dulce, CA 91390

June 8
Mike Henrick

June 26
Mike Henrick
c\o General Delivery
Tuolomne Meadows
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389

July 27
Mike Henrick
c\o General Delivery
Dunsmuir, CA 96025

August 21
Mike Henrick
c\o General Delivery
Sisters, OR 97759

September 15
Mike Henrick
Expected Time of Arrival (9/15/2013)
c/o General Delivery
Snoqualmie Pass, WA 98068

September 26
Mike Henrick
c/o General Delivery
Stehekin, WA 98852
Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gear post!

You can't go on a through hike and not write a few thousand words about gear.  It just isn't possible.

This will be my still evolving gear post.  My spreadsheet of items and weights and all that fun stuff is located here.  Below I will briefly go through my choices.  First the "big three" weighing in at a hair under 7 pounds.


ULA Circuit
At 2 lbs 7 ounces the circuit is on the lightweight side of traditional backpacks and the heavy side of ultralight backpacks.  For two or three day treks I would love a nice 10 ounce, frameless cuben fiber pack but not when I have to carry 6 days of food or two gallons of water.  This pack has wide shoulder straps, a wide hip belt and good load support without relying on a flimsy foam pad.  I've done two winter overnights in the white mountains here in New Hampshire with it and the variety of shoulder strap, load lifter, chest strap and hip belt adjustments make rearranging the weight on your back easy and variable enough to keep the pack comfortable.  The only real negative to me is a lack of additional pockets, although the large mesh pocket in back is nice.  This is also one of the few pieces of gear I bought specifically for this hike. 

Sleeping bag:

Marmot Helium 15 degree bag
 850 fill down with DWR coating makes for a comfy bag.  I got this on a steep discount last summer and have been very happy with it.  I slept warm in wool long underwear with a fleece hat at 24 degrees the other weekend.  Adding my down jacket would be another layer of warmth if needed.  There are ultralight "quilts" or psuedo-mummy bags with no insulation on the bottom which shave 6-10 ounces but it isn't worth the cost to me.  This is the most expensive piece of gear to replace so for the PCT I'm using what I have.  I'll be using this with a 3/4 length thermarest z-lite foam pad.  I like the quick setup time of foam instead of inflatable and it makes an easy yoga-mat/sit pad double (not possible with an inflatable).  I used to abhor 3/4 length pads until someone pointed out you can sleep with your feet on your empty backpack.


Tarptent Notch
Not a tarp but not a free standing tent either.  It can use either hiking poles or tent poles or sticks for support along with 4 aluminum stakes.  1 lb 10 ounces with the optional bug net liner (not used in SoCal) makes it damn light for a single person tent.  I purchased mine about a year ago when I was in love with hiking poles and picked up the optional tent poles for bike touring.  Since then I no longer use hiking poles most* of the time but it still makes for a great tent.  There is a setup learning curve (which I'm about midway up) to getting a taunt pitch 100% of the time but it works and seems sturdy enough.  What nice is the removable interior which I won't need for SoCal and will save me 8 ounces. 

*they're great for insanely rocky downhills and stream crossings but that's about it.

Stove/Cook system:

Sadly my only DIY gear. This has been the latest piece of gear to evolve.  I originally planned to use a trianga mini but have found it to be an inefficient, overweight system.  Instead I've made a soda can stove similar to the instructions here but using JB Weld (a type of epoxy) to seal the gassification chamber up.  It warms up much faster than a penny can stove, doesn't need priming and is more efficient than a cat can stove.  I plan on taking up to 8 ounces of denatured alcohol or HEET (fuel additive found at most gas stations along the PCT) at a time with me which should yield about 10 to 12 meals.  See my stove post here!

Camp Jacket: 

Marmot Ama Dablam down jacket (discontinued)
Like the tent and sleeping bag, puffy down jackets are expensive and I already own this one so no added cost.  It's definitely heavy for a puffy at 18 ounces (Montbell and others make similar jackets in the 8-12 ounce range) but whatever.  I don't want to replace what I already have and it will likely be trashed by the end of the trail so I can look at new fancier lighter jackets then.  Some nice features include the DWR coating, high collar in front of your mouth and the draw string closures.  I just washed mine with special down soap and it is back to its original puffiness. This with my winter shell have kept me toasty atop many 10-20 degree 50 mph winter summits in the white mountains.  This also doubles as my pillow when stuffed into its internal pocket-stuff sack.  It will spend most of its time un-stuffed taking up extra room in my pack.

Wind Jacket 

This jacket weighs almost nothing! Four ounces! Four!  Amazing.  Also the only piece of patagucchi I'm taking, mainly because their stuff is expensive and rarely on sale. Wind jackets are also pretty unusual here in the Northeast but come highly recommended for the vast open stretches out west.  I will not be taking a rain jacket until I hit WA so this will be my rain shell as well. 

Sun/Rain Protection

Golite Chrome Dome
As an east coaster who spends 95% of a hike under tree cover it sounds completely ridiculous to me as well.  Apparently out west they don't have the wealth of canopy we enjoy for free sun protection and hiking umbrellas have almost reached legitimacy so I may not be laughed off the trail. Golite makes an 8 ounce reflective umbrella which is supposedly strong and I figured out how to attach it to my pack so I don't have to hold it!  This will be perfect for the desert sun and the light rain of OR and WA.  Not sure about the Sierras.

Now for the electronics!
My camera, my kindle and my SPOT gps messenger.  The SPOT is to keep my parents from worrying and let other people know where I am/live vicariously.  The kindle has free 3G wireless so I can check the water report for updates and send quick emails.  The internet is very very slow so you have to be patient but the battery will last about 3 weeks and uses the same charger as my dumb phone.

Well, that about wraps up the most interesting gear.  For more details see my gear spreadsheet or ask questions below!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Everyone asks me what I'm doing to prepare for the PCT so here's a quick rundown:  

  • Weekends - overnight trips, usually around 8-12 miles (5 to 7 hours) per day in the white mountains. I try to carry a pack weight similar to what I'm expecting on the PCT.  Camping in the whites in April is difficult since there is still 4 feet of snow at elevation and night time temperatures can dip into the single digits. Last weekend I stayed at a hut because my 15 degree bag would not have cut it.  This weekend looks warmer and I've got a route with a campsite at 2,000 feet instead of 3500 which will add about 5 to 10 degrees.
  • Monday and sometimes Tuesday are rest days. Rest days are generally under emphasized in training plans but they are as important as the actual training; if you don't rest your body won't heal and become stronger. I use the evenings of rest days to take care of PCT related planning things (buying gear, permits, boxing stuff for the trail, buying even more gear, etc.). 
  •   Tuesday or Wednesday I run after work.  I've never run on anything resembling a regular basis in my entire life since about two weeks ago.  That said, I only run for about 40 minutes with a few quick rest stops.  It seems to be the most time effective way to train for hiking because you tire out all the same muscles used for hiking but much faster.  I've noticed my muscles aren't as sore after hiking, or at least not the usual ones.
  • Thursday I run again or do an uncanoonuc hike.  
  • Friday is a rest day if my legs feel beat up from the week, if not I go mountain biking at night with some friends to mix things up.  It's never an intense ride but is a lot of fun

Rinse an repeat from there!  I try to always stretch.  When I hike that's usually every time I take a breather or every hour or so.  I need to get my friend Jo to work out a yoga routine for the PCT for me... Injury prevention is key! 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Shake out hike at Uncanoonuc

All the new gear I've been collecting for the PCT made me itchy for a quick practice run before this weekends trip to Carter and the Wildcats.  North Uncanoonuc is a tiny mountain in Goffstown, NH which is a great testing ground for new gear; steep slopes, semi-exposed summit, lots of wet trail and some nice views to boot.  I couldn't get out any earlier than 7 pm so it turned into a night hike, which let me test my new headlamp.  I also broke in my ULA circuit, which was comfy with the light load I carried. 

The trail was about half ice an half dirt, which gave me a chance to try my trail runners with microspikes.  The chains at the front rubbed my big toe in sort of a weird way that could lead to trouble after a longer hike so some kind of home made fix is in order.  I could probably attach a small piece of hardish plastic like a disposable tupperware lid under it to spread out the feeling of the chain.  The new head lamp worked well, but my old, now broken, light was more comfortable on the forehead.  Not sure why and it makes me wish I hadn't thrown the old one out when it finally broke after five years. 

Here's the map: