This file is probably lost forever, and probably for the best. It is a tale of a life mystery that remains in part a continued mystery that I am no longer interested in. I kept it in a protected state to protect not only myself but everybody else involved.
T -70 and counting.
The PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) is a 2650 mile trail that runs from the Mexican border to Canada. Over the distance, multiple deserts and dry spots are crossed, mountains are climbed, and even a pass of 13,100 feet altitude must be negotiated. Specifically, the route runs as follows…
Some of the trail in Oregon and Washington I’ve already hiked, or I am quite familiar with the trail. Other parts, like in California will be totally new to me. Although the trail starts in Southern California, and I will be starting my hike on 04APR, I will almost certainly be hitting snow within the first 100 miles, and challenging snow outside of Idyllwild/Palm Springs. So, I await eagerly the snow reports that will be forthcoming in March.
Training: I am trying to prepare my body for this feat. Already I’ve been hiking up trails and stiff peaks, holding about a 3 mph pace on average. This includes carrying a 30 lb pack, which I’ll be increasing to 40 lb soon. I don’t anticipate typically needing a 40 lb pack, but it still helps to improve the conditioning. The first day on the trail, I’ll try to get a 20 miler in, going from the border to Lake Morena. Why? There is a campground with water at Lake Morena and no guarantee of water before then. Also, there is a restaurant that serves hamburgers! I don’t want to be late for the restaurant. I also don’t want a situation where I burn myself out the first day. Most hikers will typically take most of their zeros (days where they do no hiking at all, like when in town to buy groceries and wash clothes) in the first 700 miles, which is just before the High Sierra.
Resupply: There are a lot of ways to resupply. Many will send most of their resupply packages, and depend minimally on needing stores and other resupply sources. Many will hit a town, and their purchase their resupply for the next two stops. Some will hitchhike into town at every road. I am doing a moderate higher resupply schedule than average, preparing between 20-22 boxes for the trail. I just need to go over them all one more time.
There are things that one cannot anticipate. That is how often one will need a change of clothes, or when certain equipment will break. For this, I am preparing contingency items for Betsy so that I could ask for some gizmo and she’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Other things, like shoes, I just plan on replacing every 500 or so miles. And yes, I already have 5 more pair of shoes boxed and ready to go.
The resupply boxes are all left open, so that if Betsy needs to slip in something or another before mailing the package, she may do that. They are all labeled. Since my trail name is Pilgrim, I printed many circular labels that include images of Pilgrim from Pilgrim’s Progress, that will help identify my packages. All she’ll need to do is to tape the box shut, put on an ETA (for me) at the post office, and send it off.
Sponsorship: I don’t need sponsorship. In fact, by doing this hike, my personal cost of living drops. You live simple when on the trail. Rather, I am trying to raise money for a mission project deeply of interest to me, which is the Huguenot Heritage. It is run by a good friend Francis Foucachon, who was a distinguished French chef who found Christ. As an ordained pastor, he now translates Reformed literature into the French language. It is a vital ministry, and God is working strong in French-speaking peoples of this world. I beg of you to support this ministry. I will be working with Francis to determine how you could support them on my backpack-a-thon. If you donate just 1¢/mile, you will only be out $26.50, or 10¢/mile, only $265.00, at most. That assumes that I am successful for the entire hike. I give myself about a 10% chance of making it all the way through. Please pray about this, and consider it seriously. Besides, not only does it further motivate me, it’s a great tax write-off.
Final Packing: I have my base weight down to 19 lb. In the old days, that would have been considered impossible. Now, it is still considered a touch on the heavy side. I will be vigorously scratching my head, packing, repacking and weighing everything that goes into my pack. Even fractions of an oz. matter. There are people that cut off their tooth brush handles to reduce weight. Many will not carry a stove. I’m not that valiant. Still, there are subtle ways to reduce weight, like omitting stuff sacs, re-thinking how much food you really need to carry, and picking here and there to lose weight. There are some interesting simple things. I will not be carrying paper maps. Guthooks Guides has the trail totally mapped out, with virtually every point of interest to the hiker, like campsites, water sources, obstacles on the trail, etc. This Guthook Guide goes on your cell phone. And, the map on your cell phone ties into your gps unit, so that you always know exactly where you are… so long as your cell phone doesn’t get damaged, or you accidentally burn out all of your battery supply.
Transportation to California: I’ll be taking the train down to California. A friend, Tom Braithwaite, who lives in the San Diego area will pick me up, let me stay at his house the night, and then dump me off at the trailhead. I’ll have to be purchasing train tickets soon for that.
Permits: Permits are now needed to do the trail, especially when going through the High Sierra. I have my PCT permit and California Fire Permit. All I need and am waiting for is the Canada Entry Permit. I don’t anticipate that they’ll turn me down, and if they do, I’ll reach Canada and then exit in the USA at Hart’s Pass.
Betsy and Home Arrangements: Betsy will be babysitting our 12th grandchild, starting the end of January. This will tie her up 5 days a week, up to summer, when Sarah gets off as a teacher for the school year. She will be going back in early September. This means most of my hike will be with her stuck at home. I’ll stay in touch day by day whenever I have cell phone coverage. Betsy needs to know which resupply package gets sent when, where all my camping stuff is, so that if I need something, she’ll have a clue where to find it.
Technology: I used to be on top of technology, until Technopoly took over (See Neil Postman’s book of that title). Determining how to do simple things, like posting a blog page from an iPhone will be challenging to me. Ultimately, I will figure some things out while on the trail. But, I’m making sure my camera can communicate with the iPhone, and that WordPress on the iPhone works well, as well as having FaceBook access.
Getting Psyched: I confess, I frequently look in the mirror, and wonder if I’m not blooming crazy. Yet, 10-20% of all thru-hikers (hikers that hike the whole tamale in one season) are over age 60. And, of all hikers, 30-40% are successful. Many of the unsuccessful are very unsuccessful for a reason, like not being prepared, or not thinking realistically about the endeavor ahead. So, I will do my best to be mentally prepared for this. After all, I’ve dreamed about hiking the PCT for many years, and I estimate that there are not many more years that I will be physically able to attempt such a feat. So, this will be my year, and I’ll give it my darnedest.
So, stay in touch. Pray for me, root me on, support my backpack-a-thon, and stay in touch. Pilgrim
The New Year is a good time to reflect on life, including the past, present and future. This New Year brings particular note, in that it is the first year I enter as a retired person soon to be on Medicare and social security, and making the transitions in life that are ultimately an end to a long journey. It remains a mystery as to how long the ending will be. I could die as I write this piece (okay, I’ve finished this piece, and remain alive), or I could live to be past 100. If I had my choice, I’d live for a full but short life, rather than a long life.
In the past month, Betsy (my wife) and I have purchased our funeral arrangements, caskets (the cheapest wood casket on the market!) and burial plot with stone—the only absence from the headstone is the dates of our death, and that’s something that only God knows. Funeral preparations remind one how fleeting life is. As I look back on life, I cannot help but think that it is but for the grace of God that Betsy and I are still here, more madly in love than ever, and yet so different from each other. We’ve had some very difficult times in life, though the blessings have been so much greater, and it overwhelms any of the trials we may have had to bear. I know of a certain that I could not have made it without her, and I don’t think any other person in the world could have filled her shoes.
This coming year offers some exciting times for us. 1. We have to figure out how to do Medicare. We’ve already applied for social security, which will start in March. 2. I am very busy making preparations, including planning, packaging resupply mailers and doing training hikes, for my 2650 mile walk on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs in the mountains, through desert, and follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges from Mexico to Canada. I face it realistically, and realize that it may end up being nothing but a section hike, but it is a dream that I will pursue until circumstances possibly prove otherwise. 3. Betsy begins a year of babysitting our youngest grandchild Rachel, daughter of Sarah. This little Fleischklopps is cuter than cute, and a precious little kiddo. 4. Our youngest daughter Diane graduates from Nurse Practitioner school with a doctorate in nursing. We are so proud of her. I call her a “noctor” (not a doctor), but I feel comfortable that Diane is brighter than many of the doctors that I know. She will do well. 5. We celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on 20OCT. I’m not sure what we will do. Betsy and I love to go to Jamaica to vacation, but this year is something special that I will leave undecided for now. 6. Reading… I have a veritable stack of books that need to be read by me. I love reading history, and have large volumes awaiting on the founding fathers and civil war era. I really want to get back into Herman Bavinck’s magisterial four volume work in systematic theology, titled Reformed Dogmatics. Ever since I took a systematic theology class from JI Packer, I have had a love for reading through systematic theology texts. Bavinck’s is the most challenging one I’ve encountered. 7. Getting back into long-distance cycling. I’ve taken a short pause from cycling in order to be prepared for the PCT, but have an endearing love for cycle touring. 8. Refreshing my language studies. I have taken German, Russian, French, and Chinese in my life. I no longer have an interest in Russian, and Chinese is interesting but maybe a little too challenging to pick up. I’m reasonably good at German but would like to become semi-fluent. I’m passable in French, but would like to be better. Some day, I’d like to hike the Camino de Santiago with Betsy, and so would maybe want to learn passable Spanish. 9. Trying to spend a little time a day practicing my trumpet. 10. Possibly start writing a Memoirs. My father wrote a short book on the history of his life, at the behest of us children of his. It was awesome. It may be perhaps time to do the same, before my memory fails me too badly. 11. Last, but definitely the most important, I would like to have this year as more consecrated to my Lord Jesus Christ, more devoted to His word, more diligent to walk in His ways, and more eager to have entire being, thought, word, and deed centered around Scripture and obedience to Him. Soli Deo Gloria
The things that we love tend to be our motivation for doing things in life, and there are three things that I identify that seem to be my loves, and motivation for still living. They are listed in order of my priorities.
1. Scriptures —I’d offer a lengthy quote or perhaps wax eloquent here, but perhaps the best statement is to encourage the dear reader to just go over Psalm 119. May I also regard God’s word as more important than silver and gold and everything else most precious to me.
2. Family and friends. First and foremost is my wife Betsy. We have been together nearly forty years now. We’ve had our hard times and good times. We’ve had fights, but most overwhelmingly, we’ve had cherished moments of loving each other, ravishing each other, enjoying each other, and pleasing each other. I could not think of another person who could better fit me as a lover, friend, helpmate, advisor, companion, support, wife, mother, grandmother or human being. She truly has been a gift from God to me. My children, all four of them, have been the joy of my life. The grief and trials they have brought us pales in the light of all the joy they have given us. I am grateful that they all are Christian, and have been very successful in life. Plus, they have given us the most adorable grandchildren. It is now Opa’s (grandpa’s) duty to teach them to walk rightly and to help them enjoy life. I wish to have special time taking each one separately backpacking and on outings. My siblings also have been a delight. Now with retirement, I am able to make better contact with them, and it is wonderful to be able to enjoy their fellowship once again. I think long about many of my current and past friends and the change of year causes one to focus particularly on past friends. One would love to be in perpetual contact with them, yet it is humanly impossible. Sadly, I have many past friends, all of which are cherished by me, and often thought of. The words from a wonderful song “Blest be the ties that binds” come to mind “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” My pastor has been a source of strength and encouragement, a soul coach, but also a good friend. On a slightly darker note, I also think of what I would call false-friends—those friends who were friends in appearance only, but then revealed their true self, who used you, who gained your trust, only to mislead and betray your trust. They are the Judas’s in one’s life. Even King David had such experiences, and reflects on it in Psalms 55,
For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
Memory of these false-friends sometimes bring deep grief and sleepless nights, wondering why a person would act and behave the way they did. I’m thankful that there have been few of these in my life. I truly pray that I have not been a false friend to anybody else.
3. Nature. This is my Father’s world! The heaven’s declare the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork. God has given me the strength and capability to delight in his world, and I will do that to the fullest possible. From the seashore to the desert to the mountains, all are wonderful. My favorite spot is in the mountains. I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Whether on a bicycle, on foot, or in a car, I love adventuring into wilderness. It is my best chance to reflect, meditate, and wonder over the goodness of our God. soli deo gloria!