Monday, October 31, 2005

Wildlife - urban and otherwise

I had barely sat down at the computer at work this morning when the resident red-tailed hawk flew low in front of my office window and then perched on the road light over Rte. 283, where he (a small bird) sat placidly as traffic zoomed by for a good 10 minutes.

I have seen this bird regularly in the area since my office moved here in August. Usually, he’s across the road in the wooded area behind the restaurant and the rent-a-car place. This is the first time I’ve seen him on this side of the highway, and the first time I’ve seen him perched on a light pole. I suspect that a fluttering package of plastic on the median strip is what attracted him. When I first saw the bundle, I thought it was a dead bird, with feathers blowing as the trucks, etc. pass. As I looked closer, I realized it was only loosely wrapped, thin plastic wrap, with the torn edges flapping in the traffic breeze.

On Saturday, I saw the first dark-eyed juncos of the season at Roundtop. As it's the end of October now, it's likely a few of the birds have been here for a week or more, if they headed south at their usual time, and I just hadn't seen them yet. This was a flock of 20+ birds.

With the time change over the weekend, I will now be able to walk Dog and Baby Dog, for a few days at least, without the headlamp. I'm still out before sunup, but the eastern sky glows orange and provides enough light for the walk. If I'm lucky, the leaves will fall before too long, so I'll have open sky to walk under, even if I don't have daylight.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

West Rim Trail photo

Here's a picture of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon from my hike on the West Rim Trail two weeks ago. It's one of the few pictures I was able to take. The weather was very overcast, with low clouds, and it was too dark to take pictures most of the time.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Shorter Days

Sometimes living in the woods is no different than living anywhere else. Sometimes life just gets so darn busy that I don’t see anything around me.

As much as I love the dark side of the year, with its cool temperatures and views of the mountain next door, sometimes I don’t get to enjoy much of it. That’s especially true during the work week when it’s dark when I leave the house and dark when I get home.

At this point in the year, it’s not yet full dark on both ends of my day. I have 45 minutes of twilight after I get home and about 20 minutes of it before I leave the house. Since during both of those times of almost daylight I’m rushing around getting ready for work, getting unready after work and letting dogs out, I don’t get much time to actually look at anything.

I was reminded of this fact again this week, as I must be every year around this time. Intellectually, I know the days will grow short and the nights long, but every year there’s a point where the emotional meaning of that knowledge suddenly feels real. It feels real today.

What the shorter days mean to my life is that my observations and enjoyment of the outdoors tends to get pushed to the weekends or my days off work when I am home during daylight hours. It’s tough to enjoy living in the woods when I’m tripping over my own feet in the gloom of the driveway. The only birds I encounter are the songs of owls, the only animals the raccoons that raid the feeders.

In some ways the situation will improve in another week or two. Once the leaves are completely off the trees, I’ll be able to see the sky and navigate the darkened woods in the light of the stars or the moon. But that’s a topic for another day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Evening Activities

Baby Dog went to the vet for the first time last evening, yapping the entire way. She weighs 13 lbs at 8 weeks of age, so I expect she will be a Big Girl, or perhaps even a moose.

When we got back, my headlights caught multiple feral cat eyes congregated in one place, so I went over to investigate. One of them had caught, or at least claimed, a gray squirrel and was eating it in the driveway, surrounded by the rest of the tribe who were no doubt plotting how they could get their paws on it. I’m surprised a feral cat could catch a healthy squirrel as they are both faster and more agile than cats. So perhaps this squirrel wasn’t healthy. It certainly wasn’t faster.

I heard one of the screech owls last night, its haunting call rising up from the valley below. The screech owls call from all over my side of the mountain. Sometimes they are in my driveway, sometimes so far away I can barely hear them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

First Frost

Although it's later than is typical, it appears that tonight will produce the first frost in this area. I'm hoping this will prompt the leaves to change color faster and soon drop their leaves, as I am ready for winter.

The greenery is so thick around the cabin that when the leaves are on the trees, I feel as though I live in a green box. I can't see more than a few feet before the green canopy blocks my view of everything.

Once the leaves fall, I sit out on the back deck, wrapped in a blanket, sipping chocolate or wine, and stare over at the next mountain. I like knowing that no one lives between me and that mountain. Sometimes, I will get out my scope and search for the single porch light of my next nearest neighbor, over near the base of the mountain.

This morning as I left the cabin, the golden morning light on the still-wet leaves almost made me believe the leaves had already reached their peak of color. I wished for a camera, which I didn't have with me. I will take the camera tomorrow morning, though I can't really expect the light to be as spectacular as it was today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dog and Baby Dog

I've gotten a new puppy, a rescue from Hurricane Katrina. I picked Baby Dog up on Saturday. She is just a little over 8 weeks old. Her feet are the size of chocolate-chip cookies. She's black, with a chocolate color on the sides of her belly. She's purported to be Belgian shepherd and Something Else. At least one of the something else's must be chow since the center of her tongue is black.

The only thing I'm sure of is that she's going to be Very Large, and she yaps a lot--more than Dog ever did. She might also be long-haired or perhaps medium-length haired, as she is a very fuzzy little bear cub of a girl.

You want pictures?? Listen, I've tried to take pictures. I have butt pictures, back of head pictures, blurred pictures, etc, but no clear picture of this perpetual motion machine. As soon as I get a decent shot, I'll post it.

Dog is being an angel about the whole thing. So far.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Rain Traveling Through Trees

Before I moved to the woods, I didn’t understand how rain travels, how I could hear it moving closer and closer by its sound on distant, then nearer, leaves. I didn’t appreciate its motion, how I could track a storm’s path by the sound as it traveled slowly up the mountain, growing closer with each second.

If I thought about it all, I assumed that clouds lowered over an area, and at some point rain simply fell from the sky. I would have said that when it rained over me, it would also be raining over my neighbor’s house, at the end of the block and also at the next street over. If it was possible for someone to notice timing differences at all, it would be over miles, not feet.

In truth, rain moves in slowly; at a measured, if inexorable pace. Sometimes I can hear it roll up the hill for perhaps half a minute before the first drops reach my cabin roof. It is a gentle sound, a little like wind through the trees, growing gradually louder and louder as it nears.

The sound itself and the knowledge of what the sound is have become one of my favorite little treasures, a small piece of lore that people who live in cities or suburbia don’t get to experience. I certainly never heard it or understood what it was until I moved here and into a silence that allows for understanding and perceiving such small noises.

The first time I noticed this distant gentle noise, I didn’t know what it was. It sounded a little like the wind, yet I knew it wasn’t. Gradually, I’ve learned to recognize the sound earlier and over greater distance. The sound seeps into an edge of my awareness, eventually breaking through whatever else I am hearing. No other sound is quite like this one, not even the wind, though that is what I compare it to.

The sound of rain traveling up the mountain reminds me of wind because wind also travels in the much same way, letting me hear it before I feel its effects. Sometimes the rain I hear never reaches me at all, and I hear it pass through the valley or hear it roll along the next mountain, missing my little corner of the forest.

It is only because I live where it is already quiet that I am able to hear this gentle sound. No other sounds compete with it as they would in more populated spots. The everyday noises of a city or a town, even on a quiet street, are likely too loud to allow someone to hear sounds this gentle. And even if a street was quiet enough, on some hypothetical day, the lack of trees, at least compared to the numbers of them in a forest, would prevent comparison to the sounds I hear.

Sometimes I think about our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago and how they must have also understood this sound and knew what it was. It makes me feel closer to them to think that I share this small knowledge, this small similarity with one piece of life that they experienced.

I connect with their lives and connect to the earth in ways that I never imagined before I moved here when the sound of rain travels through trees.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

West Rim Trail - Day Three

Soon after Dog and I settle in for the night, I realize that Dog is licking and licking and licking himself. I ask him to stop, which he does for a few seconds but soon starts in again. At this point, I start to worry that he’s having a problem with his feet, so I find the headlamp, turn it on and examine him. I soon realize his feet are fine, but I find a bare patch of skin on his leg, high up by his elbow. Even with the headlamp I can’t see very well, and I can’t tell if there’s a cut or not. I can only see this bare patch that’s about 2”x 1” long. I press a wet cloth against it, looking for blood and can’t find anything. Eventually he quiets down, and so do I, finally getting a good night’s sleep.

In the morning I take a closer look at Dog’s leg. I still can’t see a cut, so I’m thinking the pack might have rubbed the spot bare of hair. Now I’m torn about what to do. I don’t want Dog to be hiking hurt, and I sure can’t carry either him or his pack. I decide to load up and hike to the picnic area for water and breakfast and see how he does on the short trip there. He isn’t thrilled about putting the pack back on but doesn’t do more than try to squirm away from it one time.

We haven’t gone 100 yards before Logan somehow slips out of his pack and takes off into the woods. I’m not looking at him when he does this so for a second I don’t realize he has gone until he is already some yards away. I’m calling, “Dog, Dog, come here” but he disappears. I drop my pack and head down the trail, trying to get in front of him, calling him all the while. I can hear him crunching through the brush/leaves, and I am in full panic mode.

After what seems forever, his noises start sounding closer. I keep calling and head back to my pack when he suddenly appears, awfully proud of himself and his adventure. I rig the leash/pack in a different way, hoping to forestall a future episode of adventure. After that getting in to Bradley Wales was easy.

The picnic area is really nice. They have restrooms and picnic tables there! And an old hand pump. I soon realize that pumping water ain’t that easy. I’ve done it before but not recently. Either this pump is particularly hard to use, or I’m weaker than I remember, but eventually the water starts flowing, and I fill the water bottles. Now, I get my breakfast and Dog’s breakfast, and I’m stunned to find out that Dog barely touches his food. Now this is a dog that eats like a horse, and I listened to his stomach growl through part of the night. So when he won’t eat, I’m worried. I know a sign that a dog is working too hard is that they won’t eat. Iditarod mushers always say that dogs not eating are the first bad sign. Between the cut and the not eating I’m really worried about him.

As a result, I decide to try and call the outfitter to see if he will come and pick us up. I figure if I can’t get through to him, I’ll get out to the road and see if I can flag someone down. But somehow, the telephone poles nearby must act like antennas or at least cell phone towers, because for the first time in 2 days, I have one bar of phone reception. I get through and the outfitter says he will come and pick us up. So that’s what we do.

My ride arrives in the form of Chuck Dillon himself, the author of the trailguide to the West Rim Trail. He’s a man about my age, perhaps a few years older, extremely nice. Dog, who's very opinionated about people, decides he likes him immediately and is suddenly all excited again, making me question whether or not I really needed to bail out of the hike. On the drive back to my car, Chuck and I talk about hiking and writing and balancing life/work. He even stops the car a couple of times so I can see the views from a particularly good spot.

After that it was a simple matter of the 3.5 hour drive home, with Dog sleeping like a log the entire trip. He didn’t even wake up when I stopped for gas.

All in all, we hiked half of the trail and though I'm sorry I didn't finish, we had a good time, which was an important part to me, as I didn't want Dog to find it a drag. Next time I think I will bring a third water bottle since Dog drinks so much. I'll likely add some sheepskin to the pack girth so it won't rub against Dog. We can hike the second half another time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

West Rim Trail - Day Two

During our first night on the West Rim Trail it rained a bit, though most of the time it was perfectly quiet, except for the sound of water dripping off the leaves or acorns dropping. I didn’t sleep well—typical for me on my first night out on a backpacking trip.

Sometime in the middle of the night a barred owl (whose call sounds like "who cooks for yoouu") started hooting, and to my surprise the sound scared Dog. He woke up, all alert, and started shivering. I calmed him down and for the rest of the night he cuddled as close to me as he could get. I think that's the first thing Dog has ever been scared of. The owl drifted off down the hollow after about 5 minutes. Then, shortly before dawn, a saw-whet owl (I think. At least it made the wacky noises that saw-whets do), also close to the tent, started in with calling, and Dog was scared again.

Dog is supposed to be sleeping on and carrying a special backpacking dog mat that I got for him. He does carry it, but he won’t sleep on it. He prefers to sleep on the nylon tent floor, which can’t be very warm or comfortable. I first laid out the mat next to me and soon discovered Dog was sleeping at the foot of the tent. Later, I tossed the mat down to the foot of the tent, and soon Dog was curled up near my waist. He’s a funny dog.

In the morning we headed out early, on the trail by 8 a.m., though in the gloom of the low clouds it was hard to tell if it was full daylight or not. I don’t think the west rim gets all that much sunlight even when it’s not overcast and gray.

We headed out of Steel Hollow and across an open area of blueberry bushes and mountain laurel. I’ll bet it’s spectacular when the plants are blooming in the spring. The trail here was not easy going. The bushes were thick, and the trail makers cut a very narrow path through the berry bushes. Often, the path wasn’t wide enough to use my poles on either side of me. For Dog it was probably even tougher as the bushes were about as high as he is, so he was walking in the bushes the entire time.

After a while we started a long, fairly gentle descent into Gundergut Hollow along the very rim of the hill. This section of trail was surprisingly difficult because the trail was both very narrow and its width steeply angled. The trail was cut along the edge of the mountain’s rim, rocky with shale and covered with slippery wet leaves. My left ankle was turned upward at a sharp angle as that foot was a lot higher than my right foot. Walking "cockeyed" like this was slow, made worse by Logan’s pulling to go faster. It’s one thing to be pulled uphill, but kind of terrifying to be pulled downhill with a 1000 foot drop just a few inches to the right. We were slow and lost time through here.

I also lost the basket of one of my hiking poles somewhere through here too, and my right pole collapsed a bit, and I wasn’t able to readjust it. I switched that pole with my longer left pole, which worked okay when I used the longer pole along the rim edge, and the shorter one on the uphill side. Once again, I expected the climb out of the hollow to be a lot worse than it was. In fact, I almost had myself convinced that we weren’t in Gundergut Hollow at all, but some other minor hollow and that the big hollow was still up ahead.

After the long and slippery descent, my feet started to hurt, though it was a minor annoyance, nothing unusual. It’s just that a constant descent while holding back the dog worked my feet differently than walking on the flat or even going uphill did. After climbing out of the hollow, we walked through more blueberry bushes. We came to an overlook, with nice views down Pine Creek. I think I actually took one non-beeping picture here. The fall color change was pretty far along, though probably still one cool night or two away from their peak. The mountain looked beautiful—mostly yellow leaves with only a few red colors in the mix. I scared a few grouse along here. Dog is uninterested in them, even though they spring up only 25-30 feet away. We take a break—I’ve discovered that Dog drinks more water than I do, though he weighs less than half as much.

After this nice break, we walk through more blueberry bushes. Dog wants to stop and smell every downed tree, as the smells from the local rodents really excite him. It doesn’t matter if it’s a squirrel or a chipmunk; if it’s a rodent in a hole he wants to smell it.

I am fooled by a sign just past the overlook that promises we will reach the West Rim Rd. in .2 mile. I know the trail is to follow the road for a short distance, and I think that is what the sign refers to. I soon start to think this is the longest .2 mile I’ve every walked, though eventually I realize the sign is a shortcut trail out to the road and not the road walk section of the trail.

Because we were so slow through the descent into Gundergat Hollow, I am starting to realize we won’t make our 10.2 mile trail plan today. Eventually we take a break at an open area in sight of a hunting camp. We are starting to get low on water, and it is only around noontime. From here, though, it really is only a short walk out to the road, which I hurry through as quickly as possible because of Dog. Because we live off the road system, cars are not something he has a lot of experience with. I think this is why he wants to chase every car he sees, other than mine, and I'm determined to hurry through this road section without him seeing any cars. At the end of the road section, we reach Fahnestock spring, which was supposed to be a covered spring but isn’t.

While Dog rests, I replenish our diminished stock of water. About halfway through filtering the second water bottle, my water filter quits on me. It doesn’t act as though the cartridge has filled up, as this is usually signaled by the pump simply getting harder and harder to pump. This time the pump simply sucked air and quit. I tried to examine and readjust it, but no dice. The filter is fried at least for this trip. (I still don’t know if I need a replacement part or a new filter.) And I only have about ¾ of the water I wanted to have in my pack at this point.

I know there’s supposed to be water at Bradley Wales picnic area, though I am not confident of this, given that it is after Labor Day. I have visions of the water tap being winterized, which means it’s turned off for the year. If that happens, I’m screwed. I can boil any water I do find, though that could create fuel problems. I only brought a single fuel canister as that should have been more than enough for the limited cooking I do. However, now I will have to boil all my water and that will use a lot more fuel. It will also take added time for the water to cool enough to safely put it into a plastic water bottle. I suspect I will be lucky if I get a full water bottle from a single cook pot of water. Since we are drinking over 2 quarts during the day and needing more for cooking at night and in the morning, this will be a problem.

I decide to only hike one more mile and camp just before Bradley Wales picnic area. This means we only walked 7 miles today but also means I can use the last of the filtered water from the spring in camp that night. Then I can hopefully get water for breakfast at the picnic area, drink as much as we like there and still leave the picnic area with full water. That would mean I probably wouldn't need to boil water until the third day. And, I reason, if we take the 2 mile short cut the next day, we should still be able to finish the hike in four days.

So I find a place to camp in an open area and settle in. This night's camp is noisier than the one in the hollow. We didn’t have owls, but we had rodents of various kinds scratching and barking. I hear a fairly close turkey gobble a few times but nothing larger than that.

I hang the food and settle in for the night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

West Rim Trail - Day One

Got up at 4:15 a.m. to drive to the West Rim Trail. Arrived shortly after 8:30 a.m. without incident. The shuttle guy arrived shortly after 9 a.m. and drove Dog and I on the 40 minute trip to the trailhead in an old clanking van.

Dog and I are dropped off at the trailhead, and we head across a small meadow to the woods shortly after 10 a.m. Almost instantly, Dog puts his head down to sniff something, and the pack slips right off. I don't know how he did it, since the straps felt tight to me, but he did. We need to readjust. I hooked the buddy leash to a ring on the back of the pack. This keeps the pack from sliding forward, and I get some added aid on the uphills from his pulling.

Soon we are heading up the mountain, and I am much encouraged as the climb is not nearly as extreme as I expected from the elevation change diagram on the trail map. It is nowhere near as steep as the Chilkoot Trail. I allotted 2 hours to get to the top of the hill (including my breathing breaks), and I was up and had covered almost 2 miles in not quite 90 minutes.

At the top of the hill, the trail follows a grassy woods road through open woodland. We took a water break before moving on. Dog soon wanted to stop and smell all the poop he saw on the trail. We saw fox poop, deer poop and raccoon poop and probably some other poop that I couldn't identify--not bear poop, though. Soon we were seeing rodents—squirrels and chipmunks--so he was smelling under every log we crossed in hopes something would appear.

Surprisingly, at least to me, the knee did okay. It twinged a bit for the first mile or so, but after that I didn’t feel anything unusual and didn’t really think much about it. Whether the Advil finally kicked in or the change in the wrap helped, I don’t know. I didn’t stop taking the Advil, though.

Soon we passed a tin dynamite shed—not sure what they were dynamiting—and crossed the West Rim Rd. On the opposite side of the road was a small memorial, “In Memory of John Steck 09-16-05” with a small stone cairn, some fall mums and a bouquet of flowers.

Soon we descended off the rim for the first of what I called “hollow hopping.” We’d descend 1-2-300 feet, go through a small hollow that might/might not have water, climb back out of the hollow, cross a small section on top of the ridge and then start the whole thing over again. The first day was crossed Bohlen Hollow, Dylan Hollow and Steel Hollow, where I decided to camp, making our goal of 7.19 miles for the day.

We didn’t see a soul all day. I tried taking pictures at the one overlook we passed, but kept getting a nasty beeping message from the camera that said I didn’t have enough light. The weather was dreary and gray, and the forest was wet but it wasn’t raining. Dog was pretty tired during the last mile we walked and laid down the instant we stopped. I set the tent, used the wonderful Jetboil stove without incident, hung the pack and settled in for the night.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Back from West Rim Trail!!

Dog and I have returned from our hike on the West Rim Trail. We did not complete the entire 30 mile hike. Dog got a cut on his shoulder near where the pack rides and is missing a patch of skin around it. At first I wasn't sure if the pack caused the cut/rub or if he was cut by the sharp ends of blueberry bush twigs along part of the trail. I discovered the injury our second night out and decided to try and make contact with the shuttle the next morning.

I wanted Dog to enjoy his adventure, and I was concerned that the minor injury would worsen. If that happened, I'd have a limping unhappy 70 lb dog with no way to get him out. What really decided me was that the next morning he didn't want to eat his breakfast, and I know the first sign of a dog working too hard is that they don't want to eat. So I was luckily able to make cellphone contact with the shuttle at the Bradley Wales picnic area, and they came and retrieved us.

Dog slept for the next 2 days. I will give a more detailed trip report later--perhaps even starting it later today.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Trip Prep Minus Two Days

Okay, I have to ‘fess up. The hike is still on, but my bad knee is acting up. I don’t know what the deal with the knee is as it doesn’t hurt, it just feels different and my stride is off so that I’m sort of limping. I’m still going on the hike, but I’m not sure how I’ll do. Maybe I’ll get in the woods, have fun for a few days and head home without finishing the thing. Don’t know. I’ll just have to wait and see how the knee does after I’ve hiked a day or so or 5-8-10 miles. Maybe I’ll be okay, but I’ll just be slow—I’ve packed an extra day’s food for both Dog and I just in case. Maybe I can make Dog carry my pack, and I’ll carry his. As I think I’ve mentioned before, this hike has been sort of a jinx for me, and I’m trying really hard not to let that happen again when I’ve gotten so close . I’ve hiked hurt before, so it’s not as though this is the first time for that. In the meantime, I’m taking Advil and have given up my daily walks to see if that helps. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Trip Prep Minus Four Days

Last night I put together my trip notes and trail map and added them to the stack of backpacking stuff now in the middle of my living room. I tried to plan my driving route to the site as the Mapquest directions looked and sounded weird to me, so I decided to map my own quest. Unfortunately, my Pa. gazetteer is missing a page or two, including the one around the West Rim Trail. Well, the gazetteer was a good 10-15 years old anyway. So tonight I’m off to a bookstore to pick up a new one. I’ve decided that the best way to reduce the amount of gorp I’m taking with me is to eat a little bit of it each day before the hike until it looks/weighs what seems to be an appropriate amount.

The best news of all is that my knee is fine now. I sat down at the dinner table last night, and my knee made this little “click” sound. When I stood up the knee was perfect again. Well, as perfect as my knee ever gets, but still. So now I will be hiking healthy, though not in the condition I hoped for. I haven’t done much walking/prep for the last 8-9 days because of the knee, so I will be healthy but not fit. Ah, well, at least this isn’t a race.

The weather forecast for the hike looks very promising--near freezing at night and about 60ºF during the day. That’s almost perfect hiking weather, as far as I’m concerned, and almost exactly the temperature during my Chilkoot Trail hike in Alaska in late September.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Trip Prep Minus Five Days

On Saturday morning, Dog and I took a walk out onto the ski slope. Up the slope, two deer were grazing. They raised their heads to look at us, then returned to grazing. Apparently we weren’t dangerous-looking enough for them to bolt back into the woods.

I spent time over the weekend, getting ready for my West Rim hike. I fired up my new lightweight backpacking stove. It is simple enough that even I could use it without burning myself. And I got it lit on the first try. I’m sure this is a lifelong personal best for me. I also practiced with the tent. This tent is one I’ve only used once or maybe twice before, so I wanted to make sure I remembered how to set it up (I did).

I also did a first run-through of packing, just to see how much the pack weighs. It’s just under 30 pounds without the camera/film, so I expect it will total out at 30 lbs. I gave up my plan of carrying Dog’s sleeping mat with my equipment. It doesn’t fit and it puts the total weight over 30 lbs, so he’s carrying that come hell or high water. I seem to have pounds and pounds of gorp, and I am going to winnow that down a bit before the hike. I also have a lot of energy bars—ditto. I need to add a few first aid items and figure out what additional clothing to take. I’ve already packed the underwear. I’m undecided, at the moment, which clothing to take—I’ll wait for a last weather report before finalizing that.

I might also change my trash bag plans. Rather than take one large industry-sized ziplock bag, I might take several gallon-sized freezer ziplocks instead, at least in part because the trail looks as though it has at least one spot where I can drop trash (Bradley Wales picnic area). Taking smaller bags means I can drop those off and reduce the weight as I go. Of course, eating as I go will reduce the pack weight as well, but since the first day’s walk is the big hill and the second day’s walk is planned for just over 10 miles, reducing the weight early on will make those days a bit easier for me.

The knee is still not perfect, but it is better. I wore a foam brace over the weekend and walked a bit, and it’s now in the range of healing to where I’m starting to think the hike is do-able. I’ve hiked hurt before—my knee didn’t feel “perfect” until the day before I started Alaska’s Chilkoot Trail—a steep rocky trail if ever there was one. And I finished that one.

The knee problem will slow me down, as my stride isn’t quite right yet. Worse, I haven’t been doing my conditioning walks, so I’m not as prepped for the hike as I’d like. The result will be that I’ll be hiking slower than I usually do—how much slower is the question I won’t be able to answer until my feet are on the trail.