While the winter has seemingly flown by, we find ourselves again scattered across two continents but preparations are well underway for this years hike from Truckee, CA to the Canadian Border. We have mainly been focusing on permit applications and gear preparation. Permits? To walk in the woods? Yeah this is not the world John Muir lived in, and to avoid any legal unpleasantries along the way we are applying again for the free long distance hiker permit, which will enable us to pretty much camp anywhere that is ecologically sensible (away from stream banks and the immediate trail). We also need to apply for the Canadian entry permit (also free thank you very much friends to the North) so that we can keep hiking from the end of the PCT into Canada without having to backtrack after reaching the Northern terminus.
As far as gear goes we have retained our old sponsors while also picking up a couple of new ones. Foremost on our list of gear gratitude has been and continues to be Gossamer Gear, who supplied us very generously last year with their ultralight but super spacious Mariposa packs. I feel like one of the key’s to a successful business, and the creation of great products, is being able to really work with the feedback a company gets from their clients. Gossamer Gear has apparently done just that. From what we hear they have made some rather major upgrades in overall durability and comfort while somehow not increasing the weight of their line of ultralight packs. While the older version served us incredibly well last year we especially look forward to testing out their new and improved Mariposa bags. Cliff Bar as well has been good to us in keeping our snack urges diversified. I loves me some venison jerky, but a cliff bar now and again, and again, and again, especially with the flavor diversity they offer, hits the taste buds. Based on last year we have winnowed down our list of favorite flavors…and our list of those that we don’t plan on packing this summer. (The former list is longer than the latter.)
As for field guide preparations, I have been spending 11 and 12 hour days in the UC Berkeley Jepson Herbarium finishing up my identification work on the hundreds of plant specimens we collected last summer. I have had enormous help from Andy Sanders of UC Riverside, as well as generous support from Lawrence Janeway at Chico and several here at the Jepson Herbarium including Prof Strother and Margriet Wetherwax.
It was not the typical spring break but going back through those specimens was actually incredibly enjoyable as it enabled me to also relive parts of last years hike in a really detailed way. Miles for me were often not marked by towns or road crossings but rather by new species met along the way. As there were so many of them it makes for a lot of memories.
So when do we head out? That is the question on my mind. My classes will be over May 9th, and Li An will be finished teaching her course at Erasmus University in Rotterdam at the end of May. The larger question is whether or not this scanty dry winter will remain so, or whether we will continue to get some late spring dumpings in the mountains. This past winter couldn’t be more different from the previous. We went from a near record breaking amount of precipitation in 2010-11 to a record breaking? lack of precipitation (in the Sierra, not the northern Cascades) this winter. That doesn’t bode well for the farmers in the valley’s but for us heading up high this means we stand a good chance of getting onto the trail (and actually seeing some vegetation) far earlier than last year would have allowed. As it stands now things couldn’t be working out better. The late summer last year meant we hiked nearly all summer in ‘spring time’. The dry winter this year could well mean we are able to get going up in northern CA early enough to actually make it to Canada in one last 1200 mile push.