Category: Training Hikes

PCT Training in Canyonlands National Park

We figure the best way to train for thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, is, surprise, surprise, to go backpacking. After checking out Salt Lake City and before heading to Fort Collins, we spent six days backpacking in Canyonlands National Park, in Utah. We covered almost the entire Needles District of the park, camping at Chesler Park 4, Elephant Canyon 1, Lost Canyon 1, Salt Creek 4, and Salt/Horse, and exploring  several side trails as well.

Canyonlands is one of the few completely silent places we’ve ever been. It is amazing, and a bit unsettling, to listen intently and hear absolutely nothing – no human sounds, no natural sounds – just utter silence. In a space devoid of sound, you begin to notice your breathing and your heartbeat. In the morning, the occasional bird call echoes through the canyons, which is quite beautiful as it breaks through silence and fades back into it.

The Big Dipper between two needles

We didn’t encounter many other hikers here. For the most part, we had the massive, often otherworldly landscape all to ourselves. This added to the intensity of the experience, which was personal and powerful.

San Francisco Bay Area Day Hikes

Some people jump right in and hike the PCT without training, but we plan to start the trail in good walking shape. So far most of our training has consisted of traipsing around San Francisco. Chris has begun carrying heavy photography books in his backpack on his daily walking commute. But our most enjoyable form of training is going on local hikes with friends and family. Here are some of our favorites from the past few months.

Rae Lakes Loop

We recently hiked the Rae Lakes Loop in King’s Canyon National Park. This area is known for its stunning scenery, and it didn’t disappoint. What we saw looked a lot like Yosemite, but without the roads and people. Massive granite cliffs, lovely chilly glacial lakes, alpine meadows with wildflowers, sweet waterfalls, the whole deal. There’s nothing better than being immersed in these things for a few days.

Especially exciting for us, the 48-mile loop included a section of the PCT. It felt great to be walking on a piece of the trail we’ll be encountering in 2012 when we walk the full PCT — although when we walk this section as thru hikers in June, snow will blanket most if not all of the trail. Then, instead of walking down the trail, we’ll glissade (slide on our butts) to the bottom!

From Glen Pass

On this five-day trip we continued the process of fine-tuning our PCT gear. We learned that Hypafix tape works better than duct tape to cover hot spots on feet, because it stays in place. Half Mile’s printed maps and GPS waypoints were accurate and informative. And we debuted our 1 oz pocket kite! It was great fun to fly, and we intend to grace many mountain passes with its lovely colors in the future!

Hetch Hetchy Loop

As we continue planning for the PCT, long weekend backpacking trips are proving to be a helpful way to test our new lighter weight gear. It’s not a big deal to carry a few extra ounces or pounds for a couple days, but it’s significant if we were to carry that extra weight for 2600 miles. We’re using these long weekend trips to truly figure out what we can and cannot live without. Plus, of course, we’re exploring and having a great time on whatever length trip we take!

This four day trip was a 29 mile loop near Hetchy Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park. Becky, Chris’s sister, joined us for her second ever backpacking trip. We left after work on Wednesday with the intention of camping at the Hetch Hetchy campground. However, within several miles of the campground, an NPS gate blocked the way with a sign stating “Day Use Hours 7am-9pm. Gate locked at night”. Well, that information wasn’t on the map or in the permit! So the first night we camped next to the road.