The Fragility of Plans

It’s been a long time since my last post. Why? Read on.

Just over seven weeks ago, I was celebrating my first overnight backpacking trip. I spent a Saturday hiking a local state park with twenty-five pounds on my back. It was a short hike—about six miles—but it wasn’t about the miles; it was about the experience. What does it feel like to carry a fully loaded pack? How would I manage, setting up my own campsite? Is being solo something I can handle?

It was the first of many planned training hikes to prepare for my July 10th backpacking trip—Section K of the PCT (California), to be exact. This is an area near Lake Tahoe and goes through the Desolation Wilderness. I had my permits, my maps, and my gear. All I needed to do was continue my training.

I came home from my experimental trip with some new-found knowledge. First, my secondhand tent leaks in the rain. Second, carrying a twenty-five-pound pack isn’t easy, but it’s do-able. Lastly, and most importantly, I discovered a sense of confidence I wasn’t sure I had.

I could do this trip! I will do this trip.

But all plans are vulnerable, fragile. Mine were taken away from me in a matter of seconds when a truck coming the opposite direction swerved into my lane to avoid rearending the car in front of him. This happened on our way to school/work the Monday after my short solo backpacking trip. One day I was feeling accomplished and excited for the summer, the next, I was just thankful to be alive and that, other than a few bruises from his seatbelt and a yanked back, my son was uninjured.

Me? I ended up with a broken right ankle and a fractured left wrist. I took my first-ever ambulance ride to the hospital, where the doctors reset my ankle and told me I would be having surgery on it the next day. I ended up spending three nights there.

When I left the hospital, it was with a monster-sized leg cast and a walker I could barely use because of my broken wrist. The only mobility I was allowed for two weeks was to hop my way to the bathroom, using my clunky walker to keep me from falling on my face.

Two weeks after the accident, the orthopedic surgeon switched out my post-surgery monster cast for a normal-sized fiberglass cast. I chose a beautiful purple-colored cast, in case you’re wondering.  I also switched to a wheelchair to get around. Turns out I’m pretty good on wheels.

Four weeks after the accident, the surgeon removed my staples and I got to choose a new cast color. This time, I picked red in honor of the upcoming 4th of July and Canada Day holidays. I was still wheelchair bound and would be for the next two weeks.

Now, seven weeks post accident, I am about a week into wearing a “walking boot.” My doctor wanted me to switch back to the walker, but since my wrist is still healing, that proved to be as awkward as it was the first time I tried. Instead, I decided to try using crutches with the reasoning that either way, my wrist was going to suffer. It actually feels better with the crutches than using the special “platform” attachment on my walker meant to keep my weight on my forearm instead of my wrist.

I’m getting around pretty well with the crutches and putting weight on my ankle. My doctor likes the way I’m healing and is impressed with the relatively little swelling my ankle has. His outlook is positive. My son’s bruises have disappeared, although he is visiting the chiropractor twice a week to ensure his back, which got a bit tweaked in the accident, goes back to its pre-accident level of untweakedness.

Truly, I have a lot to be thankful for. I tell myself everyday it could have been worse, that because of the nature of the accident, it could have been fatal… but it wasn’t. I could have lost my son… but I didn’t. My children could be motherless… but they aren’t. These reminders are a life preserver in a sea of disappointment. I cling to them when the negative thoughts crash into me and threaten to pull me under.

I’ll save the non-physical impact—both good and bad—the accident has had for another post. There are always lessons to learn and new ways to grow in every circumstance, and this has been no exception.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of my car, my cast changes, and my Frankensteinish post-surgery ankle. And, in case you’re wondering, the driver of the truck, who was at fault and had obviously been distracted at the time of the accident, is fine.

20190520_075205
Mine is the car in the shallow ditch.
20190520_075236_HDR
RIP, little Mazda.
20190522_123724
In the hospital. My surgeon is a fan of padding.
20190603_143159
It was so pretty!
20190612_102539
Happy Independence Day and happy Canada Day!

This next photo is the final one, and if you’re squeamish, I’d skip it. Just a warning.

20190603_160938
Two weeks post-surgery. Both sides of my ankle looked like this.

 

Plans, Permits, and the PCT

No new mileage to report in this post; however, I will be hiking this weekend, so I’ll update in a couple days. Aside from trying to reach my 500-mile goal by my birthday in about 11 months, I’ve got a new incentive to get out and hike.

In July, I will be section hiking the Pacific Crest Trail!

California’s Section K is where I will begin my quest to hike the PCT a section at a time. I chose Section K because its trailhead is about a nine-hour drive from my house, it doesn’t require that I trek through desert during the summer, and its 60-mile length seems doable for a someone new to backpacking.

This section of the PCT requires a permit, which I reserved last week. It also has quotas set for the trailheads because the trail passes through the Desolation Wilderness. It was a bit confusing trying to figure out how to plan around the permit and quotas, but I feel 99% confident that I did everything correctly.

Now, I need to prepare my body and my gear. I’ve been adding to my pile of things I need for backpacking, but I have a lot of work to do when it comes to being physically and mentally ready. Each of these topics deserve their own posts, so I won’t get into this now.

Instead, I’ll end this post with an image of Lake of the Woods, one of the many beautiful places I will see during my trip.

Photo attribution: brewbooks from near Seattle, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Decisions

D is for Decisions

When I began training for the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon, years ago, I had nothing a runner needs to train for a long-distance race. So even before the ink was dry on my entry form, my friend and I went to the nearest Road Runner Sports. I remember being overwhelmed by the massive store and all the options in front of me.

This venture into serious hiking and backpacking feels the same way. But the financial stakes are higher. I thought running was expensive—and it was. That was due, in part, to making decisions without doing my research first. I purchased things I didn’t need, and I want to be careful this time.

There are a lot of items a backpacker needs to purchase before heading out on the trail for the first overnight trip. At the bare minimum, I will need to purchase some kind of shelter, a backpack, sleeping bag, and food. Of course, I’ll need water, but water is free, which is why it’s not included in my list of items to purchase.

But if I want to have water, I’ll need a way to transport it. I already have a decent CamelBak bladder, but I really don’t like drinking out of those tubes. Blech. Maybe I’ll see what my options are. In case I need to scavenge water along the trail, I’ll some kind of filtration system, so there’s another water-related purchase I’ll need to decide on.

I know there are a lot of other things I’ll need. Off the top of my head, those items include a first aid kit, boots that don’t hurt my feet after eight miles of hiking, proper clothing, a sleeping pad, a way to heat food (and make coffee), and good socks.

I’m focusing on the big things first.

Backpack

For my birthday, I ordered a used Osprey Viva 50 from Amazon. I decided to return it, though, when I saw a brand-new Viva 65 on the Osprey website for the same price as the smaller, used one. Buying a pack without trying it on first might not be the best way to go about it, but I’m willing to take the chance… especially knowing I can return it. It comes today, so I’m anxious to get home and try it on. I love the green color.

Footwear

I’ve heard great things about Altra trail running shoes, and at under $60, these will likely be my second “big” purchase. The 3.5 is last year’s style, which is why they’re about half of what they were selling for at REI before the 4.0 style came out.

My feet are happiest in light, bendy shoes, and based on reviews, these seem like a good option. I’ll be getting them from Amazon, so I won’t know until I buy them and try them on.

Tent

Soon, I will have to decide on a tent, but first I want to sell a road bike I haven’t used in a few years. I also have an exercise bike I bought off a friend. Like a lot of the world’s exercise bike population, it spends its time gathering dust. I’m hoping that between the two, I’ll make enough to purchase an inexpensive one-person tent. I’m looking at these:

Kelty Gunnison 1 Tent with Footprint

There aren’t a lot of reviews, which makes me wary, but I like that it comes with a footprint. Also, it’s pretty.

REI Co-op Passage 1 Tent

This doesn’t come with a footprint, and it’s not as pretty, but it’s less expensive and about a pound lighter than the Kelty. Most importantly, it has a lot of reviews, and the majority of them speak highly of the tent. This is probably the one I’ll decide to get.

At this point, I’m not concerned about getting the best and the latest backpacking equipment. Keeping this new obsession budget-friendly is a priority. My objective is to get out there, enjoy nature, be healthy, and have fun. If backpacking becomes a regular part of my life, I will be able to upgrade and decide on equipment as I learn what works for me.