Day 85-89: Lightweight and Inexpensive Backpacking Gear
Our lightweight packs greatly assist us in walking 20 miles per day on the Pacific Crest Trail. In this post, amidst our normal daily highlights, we also describe some of the gear that helps us travel light.
Day 85: Zero in Sierra City
Shutterbug picked up his new shoes in Sierra City. We have been wearing running shoes for our entire PCT hike. When your pack is light, running or trail running shoes have several advantages over traditional hiking boots: 1) running shoes are very light, often half the weight of hiking boots 2) running shoes are more breathable and less sweaty in the heat 3) running shoes dry out more quickly if you have to ford a creek, and 4) many people already own running shoes so no new purchase is necessary. We have been very happy with our running shoes on this trip, with only two blisters each in over 1200 miles.
After picking up the new shoes, we spent the rest of the day doing town chores and resting North Star’s shin.
Day 86: Sierra City (Mile 1197.5)-Near Spencer Lakes (Mile 1218) + 1.5 miles off trail; 22 miles
Back on the trail, we immediately began a 3000 foot climb. The lower elevation portion was completely forested and shady, while the higher part was rocky and exposed.
Even though we took a rest day yesterday, North Star’s shin pain flared up on the ascent. Luckily at our lunch break the spring water was icy cold, so we filled up a water bladder and used it as an ice pack.
We made a huge pot of oatmeal for lunch. We cook with the Caldera Ti-tri cooking system from Trail Designs because it is more fuel efficient than other similar setups. This system includes a stove and a custom-sized titanium windscreen to fit our titanium pot. The stove is made from an aluminum pop can and is extremely light, about half an ounce.
First, we pour denatured alcohol into the center cavity of the stove and trickle a little extra on the lip.
Then, we light the fuel on the lip and place the wind screen around the stove. The fuel on the lip ignites the rest of the fuel.
Next, we nest the pot, filled with water, into the windscreen, which doubles as a pot stand. The water soon boils and we eat a hot, tasty meal on the trail.
After “icing” at lunch, North Star’s shin felt a bit better so we continued onward. We enjoyed some great views of lakes and rock from above. The peaks weren’t as dramatic as before, but they were still lovely. Then near the end of the day, while looking around the forest, Shutterbug noticed a tiny chipmunk head pop out of a hole in a tree. As we watched, three more chipmunks began playing peekaboo with us!
Day 87: Near Spencer Lakes (Mile 1218)-Chimney Rock (Mile 1239.5); 21.5 miles
North Star’s shins were worst in the morning, but got a bit better after a few stops at cold creeks.
Once the shins were under control, the day was pleasant. We enjoyed fairly uneventful walking through the forest, listening to birds call and trees creak in the wind, and watching butterflies drinking nectar from flowers.
Late in the day, we came across some very unexpected trail magic. John, Natalie, and Jason served us grilled cheese, cold sodas, fruit juice, and roasted peppers and brussel sprouts. We really appreciated all of it, and the roasted vegetables were a great touch.
We found a forested flat place to camp for the night and unpacked our gear. In order to keep the contents of our packs dry from rain, deep creek crossings, or leaking water bladders, we line our backpacks with trash compactor bags. These bags are lightweight, cheap, and surprisingly sturdy — stronger than normal trash bags. Due to dry conditions, we haven’t often needed them yet, but come Oregon and Washington they will keep our possessions dry.
Day 88: Chimney Rock (Mile 1239.5)-Near Lookout Rock (Mile 1262); 22.5 miles
The morning’s 11 miles were almost all downhill, 3000 feet worth. We started walking in pine forest, then oak and bay trees, and finally entered greener and denser vegetation.
At the bottom we reached the middle fork of the Feather River, which was large and flowing well. We even hopped in!
In the afternoon we mirrored the morning’s walk, climbing 3000 feet back up the other side of the canyon.
Along the way there were several great waterfalls and springs, which provided some really tasty cold water to drink.
Speaking of drinking, while preparing for the PCT, we tried a number of methods for filtering water. Our favorite was the Sawyer Inline Filter because it is light, relatively inexpensive, and convenient to use. We simply spliced the Sawyer filters into the drinking hoses of our hydration bladders. Now we can stop at a creek or pond, quickly scoop up a liter or two of water, and keep going, knowing that as we drink, the filter will catch whatever bacteria might be in the water.
At the top of the climb, near Lookout Rock, we had nice views and soon set up camp.
Today was an especially fun day, made even better because North Star’s shins were improving.
Day 89: Near Lookout Rock (Mile 1262)-Belden (Mile 1289); 27 miles
Today we had fun sharing childhood stories with each other as we walked through the forest. We also spotted leopard lilies several times. They are one of our favorite flowers.
During most of our longer breaks Shutterbug likes to drink a flavored drink with his meal. He mixes the powdered flavor packets with filtered water in a plastic Powerade or Gatorade bottle. These bottles are strong, cheap, and much lighter than a Nalgene or Sigg bottle.
At a mid-afternoon break, we realized that the remaining miles to town were all downhill. If we kept a steady pace without breaks, we could get to the restaurant in town before they closed at 9 PM. So off we went, descending 4000 feet to Belden. We arrived at 8:15 PM, but the hours posted online were incorrect. Luckily, the friendly bartender let us buy snacks from the adjacent convenience store, even though it was closed, and order fried foods from the restaurant menu. This wasn’t a very healthy meal, but it sure satisfied our hiker hunger!