Archive for the ‘Preparation’ Category

Monday, September 19 Home!

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Avis is the only car rental company that does not charge a dropoff fee for one-way rentals, so that’s where our friend took us this morning at the Portland Airport.  We ended up with a new gray Kia, and as Bill put it, “flogged that poor horse” as fast as we dared, all the way back to Petaluma.  It’s a very familiar route along Interstate 5, and made us feel as if we really were headed home.

Back in California at last, the rice harvest was underway in the Sacramento Valley, and it was hot!  97 degrees!  What a change from the cold in northern Montana!

But once we were back near San Francisco Bay, it cooled down, and what a joy to come back into Petaluma and see our house again, looking OK.  Inside, I expected to see spider webs and dust bunnies everywhere, but no–everything was fine.  But we had no time to waste–we needed to return the Kia to Avis at the Santa Rosa Airport.

So we started up one of our other cars, and drove in the sunset light, then the dark, till we finally located Avis (not easy) and turned in the Kia.   By the time we got home again, it was after 10:00 pm.  Tired doesn’t even come near describing how we felt, but we stopped off to pick up some artisan bread, cheese and fruit for a late supper, California style.

Home.  We are finally home.  The CDT is almost like a dream–but we still have lots of scratches, bruises and sore muscles to prove that we really did do it.    And thank you, thank you, Father God, for walking with us all the way!

Sunday, September 18 Along the Columbia River

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Yesterday when we got back to East Glacier (thanks to Terry, who gave us a ride!),  the first thing we did (besides eat!) was find out if there was room for us on the Amtrak train.  Yes!  They had room!   By the time the train left East Glacier, there was a bitter cold wind blowing hard, and the rain was falling.   You could not even see the mountains.  We were so glad we made the decision to “run” for the border on the road instead of hike the trail.

During the night last night, our Amtrak train split in half, and our half headed directly to Portland, Oregon, on a route I have never seen before–following the Columbia River on the Washington side.  At first it looked a lot like the desert we hiked through on the CDT, before Rawlins, Wyoming, except for the great blue river.  I was sort of glued to the window, looking at everything, including the very gray clouds, and so glad to be done–no more worries about weather on the trail.  But we are still concerned for the hikers we know who are still out there in Glacier Park and we prayed that God would take care of them as he has us.

Finally we got to the “green part” of the Columbia River gorge, with the waterfalls and magnificent trees and lots of fishermen out on the river in their little boats, and it wasn’t long before we were pulling in to Union Station in downtown Portland.   A short ride on the “Max” and we were at our friend’s house, warm, dry and very well-fed.

Tomorrow we will drive HOME!

Saturday, September 17 Canada!

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

The wind howled all night, and this morning the clouds were moving in fast, looking nastier by the hour.  Before 7 am, we were on the road, headed for Canada, walking against a stiff headwind.  Finally the road dropped down enough to be out of the wind, whew!   And at 9:05, we walked up to the US side of the border.  It was no problem then walking over to the Canadian side for pictures and some cheering!

The long hike is DONE.  Worth it?  Absolutely.  We got to see God’s loving care firsthand almost every day on this hike, in ways only He could manage, ways we never even dreamed were possible.

Two songs were running through my head as we hiked in the early morning wind and clouds–one a Christian song and the other a sea chantey.  I did change the words a bit….

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul” was a song that I sang to myself on the very first day of our hike, as we were on our way to the CDT beginning at Crazy Cook monument, New Mexico.  It says…

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning–it’s time to sing Your song again.   Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul, He loves and cares for me, Sing like never before, oh my soul,  My Father walks with me.”

And then there is the sea chantey, “Home, Dearie, Home.”   It says,  “Oh it’s home, dearie, home, My tops’ls are hoisted, and I’m bound to sea.  The birch and the larch and the bonny aspen tree are all turning gold in this north country, and it’s home, dearie, home.”


Like I said, we are dinosaurs….

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

april-27-1It’s a cold, cloudy morning with rain in the forecast, and we are finishing up all the last details for heading out tonight for the first stage of a summer on the CDT.  Most of today will not be CDT stuff, though–it will be getting ready for our Awana Club Awards Night.  There are decorations to put up, lots of ribbons and trophies to set out, and programs to copy and fold.  It’s fun to see the kids’ faces when they come in and see the big display, and to enjoy the applause as they come up to get their awards!

This will be my last chance to do a post on our computer, though.  Like I said, we are dinosaurs, and that’s not just technology-wise, that’s age-wise, too.   On the trail, we need all the rest we can get, and posting to a blog does not involve resting, at least not for us.

So from today on, I will be scribbling in a journal every night, and writing a couple of neat, clear summary sentences for the day.  At each resupply, I send my journal to our daughter who can then transcribe the summary sentences to this blog.

So from this point on, you will be getting a Readers’ Digest version of our hike–when we return in September, I will fill in all the details!

So it begins…..

Exotic animals??

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

april-26-1Most people the age of Fixit and I are limping around with knee replacements, hip replacements, multiple prescriptions for blood pressure, cholesterol, etc, and they look at Fixit and I as if we were weird exotic animals in the zoo.   They see us putting on 20 lb. packs and heading out for a day of hiking in rain or mud or heat or fog or whatever and they shake their heads and say, “You’re just lucky,”  or “I wish I had knees like you–you got the good genes” and other similar remarks.

At moments like that, I am tempted to growl like some exotic animal and say, “NO, IT’S NOT LUCK!  It’s hard work and living healthy!”   We made a decision many years back to NOT let ourselves get all run down and decrepit.  It started when we decided to hike the PCT in 2005, and discovered that it’s possible to stay strong and do well even if you are “old.”  And to give credit where credit is due, we have also appreciated the insights we gain from “alternative medicine” newsletters–the best one is “Health Alert” from Dr. Bruce West.  We take no prescriptions, and we  literally have not had a cold or flu or any of that in years, thanks to his ideas plus others we’ve gleaned here and there.

Before we did the PCT in 2005, we did have a few knee problems and feet problems and hip problems.  But all of those have gone away as we maintain a lifestyle of hiking a lot!  We sort of joke about it–“Are you hurting?  Walk it off!”  Once in a rare while (and it’s been years since I’ve had to do this) we will take some “Vitamin I” (ibuprofen) if something hurts so much that we can’t sleep.

april-26-3It’s been discovered that basically, we humans are engineered to WALK.  It’s our most efficient and comfortable activity.  Running trashes your knees, and sitting trashes a lot of other stuff, but walking makes your whole body happy. So what could be better than a really long walk–like the CDT??  A walk where you can throw away the car keys and just walk as far as you want and see new things every day and meet new people and have new adventures–there’s nothing better!

So when people look at us as if we were exotic animals and talk about how “lucky” we are to not be suffering from the usual “old people stuff”, we don’t growl–we just smile sweetly and say, “It’s not luck–it’s hard work and determination.  And it’s fun!”

The fun begins tomorrow night, when we leave home behind and start making our “run for the border”!



Monday, April 25th, 2016

I spent my whole afternoon yesterday setting up for, helping to run, then putting away, a leadership class for teens and preteens connected with the Awana Club we run for kids.   It was work, oh yes–but MEGA worth it!

Years ago, two of our own kids were in 4-H, which is a great organization, and one of the basic principles in 4-H was that kids not just learn how to DO projects (raise animals, sew, cook, build machines, whatever) but that they also learn how to TEACH what they learned and how to be LEADERS in the various project categories.  When we started the Awana Club, I took that idea and ran with it.  So as a result, many of the leaders in our club, who help run club and teach younger kids, are preteens and teens, just as in 4-H.

With the PCT and CDT and AT, there is no way these trails and all the work connected with them could ever “just happen.”  It took leadership.  It took somebody or somebodies willing to bear the burden of planning, of organizing, of hearing all the complaints and grumps and grouses, of being criticized and critiqued, and all the other “wonderful” benefits of being in leadership.  It took time.  Lots of time.   It took vision that could survive all sorts of stress and distractions.  It took caring–caring about the trail and about the trail community.  And a lot more.

So thank you to all those in leadership on the CDT!   I have never met you, but I know you are there–I hear Teresa’s name mentioned often, for example–and I am grateful that I can set down my own “leader hat” for this summer and just put on a pack and hike the trail that YOU have made possible.  Thank you so much!


Age & guile??

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

We have a saying at our house that goes like this:  “Age & guile beats youth & strength, but little & cute beats everything!”  Well, we passed the little & cute stage a looooong time ago, and youth & strength is in the misty past, too.  So we’re left with age & guile.  Yes, to do a 3,000 mile thru hike when you are 60, 70 or 80 years old does require a certain amount of guile (the GOOD kind!).

So what’s our “guile”?   It’s taken us two thruhikes of the PCT to figure it out, but basically it’s these things:


  1. Get enough rest.   We take a break midmorning and midafternoon, where we lie down and totally relax for about 15 minutes.  We take an hour off for cooking lunch and lying down for awhile.  We stop at around 5:00 for a cold supper before hiking on till 7:00 to make camp.  And when we are in town for a resupply, we try to spend as much time just lying around resting as we possibly can.   We met Bristlecone, who was hiking the PCT at age 80, and he said his policy was “A full zero at every resupply.”  Welllll, we tend to do neros, not zeros, but Bristlecone is on the same page with us.
  2. Train, train, train.  If we don’t thoroughly train, we get blisters, we are sore and our knees hurt.  Train means carrying weight (we are carrying 20 pounds right now) and doing around 30 plus miles a week.
  3. Trek poles!   There is no way we could hike without them!
  4. Shoes that protect our feet from rocks.  As you get older, you lose the fat padding on the bottoms of your feet.  It’s so not fair, but that’s how it is.  (Too bad there isn’t some way to transfer fat from OTHER places down to our feet)  We have found that we MUST wear shoes that have tough, protective soles and foot protection.  For us this year, that’s La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. They are reasonably light, but do the job on rough trail.  We used to wear Vasque Velocity but sigh, can’t get them anymore.

So that’s our “basic guile.”   This time, I am finding also that being older means I don’t sleep as well, so I am also bringing melatonin.  Never used to need it, but now I do.

Countdown progresses: 4 days left to go!

Last training hike–wet grass, ticks, FUN!!!!

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

IMG_0472Well, the countdown is seriously happening–we did our last “big” training hike yesterday, out at Point Reyes National Seashore, on one of our favorite 20-plus mile loop hikes.  The route we took has everything we want–big hills, awesome mountain and ocean views, and enough uncomfortableness to make it a reasonable replica of what we figure will be the real deal on the CDT.

We parked our car at the Bear Valley trailhead and headed out across the meadow on the Rift Zone trail.  It didn’t take long before we were knee and thigh deep in VERY wet grass hanging over the trail.  (Trail?  What trail?  We couldn’t even see it in all the long grass!)  Our nylon hiking pants were totally soaked, but no problem–we knew they would dry fast.  Then into the cow pastures (short grass, well chewed down) and waved at the cows as we went by.  We’d anticipated a lot of mud there, but it wasn’t as bad as usual.  Along the fire road then–easy going through the beauty of a Point Reyes forest full of magnificent trees, ferns and wildflowers.

IMG_0476The Horse Camp was empty–no horse people there yet–we joined up with the Olema Valley trail, and finally  began climbing the first big hill, up and up till we reached the Bolema Trail at the top of the first ridge.  From there we switched to the Lake Ranch Trail, which passes a lot of interesting territory (including some bogs and swamps) high up on the mountain, before switchbacking down through a lot more long wet grass with the added challenge of large stinging nettles and poison oak.  Sometimes I felt like I was running a gauntlet, trying to avoid the nettles and the oak.   Usually along here we get our first wonderful views of the ocean, but no luck there–it was gray and obscure, since we were actually IN a cloud.  The forest around us looked mysterious, misty and wonderful.

IMG_0475Four hours later, we had come down to the Coast Trail, and one of our favorite lunch spots under a huge old Douglas Fir tree that overlooks a large lily pond.  When I sit there leaning on the massive old trunk, with long branches drooping almost to the ground around us, I feel like a chick under its mother’s wings.  And another bonus–underneath a Douglas Fir, the ground is dry, even if it’s rainy.  And it was rainy–misty rain that didn’t even make raindrop ripples on the pond.

IMG_0467After lunch, we followed the Coast Trail past large, dark, beautiful Bass Lake to the Ocean Lake Loop trail and headed along there for ocean views and more lakes.  Finally we reached  Wildcat Camp and another big hill climb with views (and often wildlife sightings).  The trail wanders through dark forests and sunny meadows, on rough trail and smooth, before reaching its final descent to the clifftops right above the ocean.  (Yesterday, somewhere along there, both Fixit and I picked up some ticks, which we had to deal with later. ) The hike along the clifftops is wonderful–wildlflowers!  Waves breaking on rocks!  Fishing boats offshore!  Finally we made the turn for home onto the Bear Valley Trail and followed creeks up the wooded, ferny valley to the ridgetop, then down the other side.

IMG_0465It made for 8 hours of awesome hiking, with only a lunch break.  We didn’t follow our PCT/CDT routine of stopping every 2- 2 1/2 hours for a snack–just kept walking.  So when we got back to the car, we were pretty tired!   We also discovered that we’d picked up some ticks–they were crawling on my pants (but my gaiters kept me out of trouble).  Once we got home, we did a thorough “tick check” before taking showers and I found two ticks crawling on Fixit and one teeny tiny one crawling on me.  But crawling was all they were able to do–we got rid of them, pronto!  Oh well, my motto this time of year is, “When the grass is green, the ticks are seen”.   As long as they don’t “bite in”, we’re fine!

Our CDT boxes have left our house and gone to live at a friend’s house–he will be mailing them for us!  Now we are down to all the “little stuff”–I still have more modifications I want to do on my pack, and we need to make sure our garden irrigation system is working OK.  And we are getting ready for our final big Awana event–Awards Night!

Yum, yum!

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

People sometimes ask us “What do you enjoy about doing thruhikes?”   I could say (and very truthfully) that I love being able to just hike and hike without feeling like I’m on a leash where eventually I have to turn around and head back to the car.  I could say that being able to see the awesomeness of the mountains and the trees and rivers and not having to deal with crowds of people is a big plus.  I could say that being in a situation where I actually have to depend on God and not just rely on civilization is a great experience, which it is.  On that subject, I’m with Joe Anderson at Casa de Luna on the PCT.  We were sitting around at his place in 2010 and he was telling us the story of how he started hosting hikers and being a trail angel.  Joe said, “Listen up!   I get to hear hundreds of hiker stories from all you guys and you all talk about trail magic.  I got news for you, reality check.  It’s not magic.  There really is Somebody up There, looking after you.  The stuff I hear that’s happened for hikers, there is NO WAY that could all “just happen.”  So give credit where credit is due.”   Fixit and I listened and almost started yelling, “Amen!”  It is so true.

But one of the other reasons why I really enjoy thruhiking, including right now when we are just preparing, is that we get to EAT!   Eat all we want!  Normally we are careful because we don’t want to be overweight.  But when we get into serious training mode for a thruhike, we get to eat all we want!   Bring on the calories!  In 2005 we were on the PCT and reached Sierra City.  It was chilly and cloudy that day, and we were glad to head into one of the restaurants to have dinner and sit by the fire.  We had just finished up our food when the owner of the restaurant came by.  She said, “I love PCT thruhikers!  You always clean your plates!”   We looked down and she was right–not a speck of food left!

So I am having fun eating spoonfuls of Nutella, lots of gravy and potatoes and cheese and cookies and, etc.  Yum, yum!


Piles of boxes…and what about those piles of snow?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

We’ve now filled 23 resupply boxes with stuff for the trail.  It’s been interesting to watch the “cycle” through our house.  First came the lists (that was me), then the shopping (me) and ordering stuff online (me and also Fixit).

Once the stuff started arriving, our living room became the receiving dock.  Soon there were bags and boxes of trail stuff, roughly categorized into things like “freezedried dinners”,  “dried veges”, “granola”, “nuts”, etc.  Our living room is small, so it got to the point where we could hardly walk around.

Once we had everything, came step 2:  Measure and count.  (That was my job).  I spent countless hours measuring and counting so that our supplies ended up as individual daily “baggies” of everything.  When we first started backpacking, I didn’t bother with this step–just threw all the granola into one bag, all the dried veges into another, all the powdered milk into another, etc.   Problem:  out on the trail, I never could get it right and at the end of the trip we either had stuff left over or were running on short rations.  So when we did the PCT in 2005, I bit the bullet and disciplined myself to measure and count everything for each separate day.  Wow, on the trail it was great!  No measuring, no counting, no worries.

Once all was measured and counted, came step 3:  collate.   This was also my job.  I assembled a “dinner bag” for each day, containing a freezedried meal (I repackage so it’s lighter and less bulky), extra carbs (rice/noodles/potato), dried veges, and some cookies.  “Breakfast bags” contain vacuum-sealed granola (Fixit did the sealing), freeze dried fruit, nuts and powdered milk.  “Lunch bags” have crackers, peanut butter or freeze-dried refried beans & cheese, and dried fruit.   Then because we are old, there were the “vitamin bags” with our daily vitamin rations.  And the “drink bags” with Emergen-C, Crystallite, and electrolytes.  Oh, and every one of those bags was labeled as to which resupply box it belonged in.  And there were various other small things, too.

Meanwhile, out in our garage, Fixit was laying out boxes, making his best guess as to which size for which destination.  We use ordinary brown cardboard boxes, and scrounge them from all over the place, including out in back of a nearby large office building.  Once I was done collating, he and I started making lots of trips out to the garage and dropping things into their destination boxes.   Finally our living room was cleared out!   We could walk through it without feeling like it was an agility obstacle course!

At that point, Fixit took over.  He likes the challenge of seeing how small of a box he can make stuff fit into, and he is really good at it.  Once all the supplies are into a box, on the top he lays the maps, town guides and journal pages.  Then with the prayer, “Oh Lord, hope we have everything here!”  he seals the box and tapes on labels (address, “CDT Hiker, ETA______”) and  “ORM-d” because there are Esbits inside and another note on some of the boxes that says “Liquid not over 4 oz, double sealed” (those boxes have tiny bottles of Purell or shampoo in them).  Last of all, every side of the box gets a green stripe that says “CHIPMAN” (our last name).

Once a box is sealed up and finished, it goes back to our living room, stacked in towers based on what mailing date the box should go out.   We mail everything USPS ground, except for 3 boxes that HAVE to go UPS.

The one box we have not sealed up yet is the one for Chama–we are still hesitating about whether to send snowshoes.  We go snow backpacking every year and know how awesome snowshoes are, but they are heavy and they are a hassle to mail.  Reports of this new storm in Colorado have us a bit concerned. Will there be piles of snow, or will it be pretty much melting down by the time we get there?  We are going to wait till the last minute to decide, and are watching reports on Colorado snow in the meantime.

Yesterday we enjoyed looking at pics of the  “CDTKO” in Silver City.  Looked chilly.  Looked like awesome fun!  Both times we did the PCT, we went to the PCTADZKO and it was a blast.  We were sorry to miss Silver City, but there is no way for us to leave till after April 27, when our Awana Club kids all get their final awards and the big Awards party!