FEAT Canada Talk

On Sunday night, I spoke at FEAT Canada 2.0, part of the VIMFF. The format was following Pecha Kucha, essentially, 20 slides each automatically changed every 20 seconds.

I tried to talk about the sense of being alone on the trail and what that does to your mind. There were a lot of people there, and I ended up twiddling my thumbs for 4 hours beforehand, getting ever more nervous, before my turn to speak came. Overall, I was happy with the talk, definitely stumbled a bit here and there due to the nervousness, but I got all my points out. The other speakers were very interesting too, particularly Ryan Leech and JD Hare.

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Using GaiaGPS iPhone App for the CDT

Here are some step-by-step instructions for getting GaiaGPS working for the CDT.  I felt like I generally had the most fun setup for GPS out of anyone I met on the trail in 2011.  The main advantage comes if you’re already going to carry an iPhone for other reasons – you save weight by making this your GPS.  I also really enjoyed the UI of GaiaGPS on the iPhone, it was always an intuitive pleasure to use.  I was the envy of at least one other CDT hiker :)  The key feature of using GaiaGPS over a lot of other GPS solutions is that you’re going to end up with exactly the same USGS maps that you’ll be printing from Ley.  This makes figuring out where you are on the map a ton easier.

Read on after the jump for all the gory details.

Continue reading

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I set out on this trip with a pair of LightTrek 4 (LT4) poles from Gossamer Gear. On the PCT I used a different kind, made by Leki. What happened on this trip was that I broke my LT4 poles repeatedly, in circumstances where I felt that they shouldn’t have. To compound the problem, Gossamer Gear doesn’t offer any kind of warranty, except from manufacturing defects. Further, they don’t make it easy to get new pole sections sent to you on the trail. Their website only ships with UPS, which means I can’t get them sent General Delivery to the next town on the trail. Each time I broke a pole, I ended up being without it for at least a week or two.

The pole tips on LT4s are glued on, meaning that replacing them either requires sending the poles into Gossamer Gear, or getting out some serious tools. Leki poles on the other hand, you can pop the tips off with a big rock or a picnic table (i.e. things you can find in the wilderness). The other finicky thing about the LT4s is the locking mechanism is very sensitive to temperature. I was lucky to have Chance with me early in the trip, as he had dealt with all the locking issues before and knew quite a few tricks to get them locked. Even so, I managed to rip off half of one of the grips while trying to expand a pole one time (mostly due to frustration).

I was amazed by how upset I got about all this, because it generally happened when I was very tired and making mistakes on the trail anyways. On Day 74, I briefly mentioned that I broke my pole. What happened was that I stepped over a blown-down tree, and dragged my pole over it behind me. It caught on a branch and snapped. Then I threw it into the trees nearby and stomped around swearing loudly, before retrieving it (after all, one of the sections wasn’t broken) and walking on. I actually carried it in my hand, continuing to swear continuously, eventually trailing off into mumbled curses. After that I stopped and strapped the remains to my pack, but you get the idea. I was angry with a pole.

Part of my anger was just that the hassle and cost (~$75) of the replacement was relatively high. The other thing was knowing I had a perfectly good set of poles at home that had made it through the whole PCT. Halfway through the trail,after breaking a pole for the third time, I had Hailey bring me my old Leki poles, which made it in perfect order through the rest of the trail. They also gave my arms a bit of a workout, as they weigh 3x as much as the LT4s.

Overall, I loved the LT4s though. I just think they aren’t appropriate for me on a long trail. I would happily carry them on weekend or week long trips, where if one were to break I wouldn’t have to hike for weeks afterwards with only one pole.

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The best and worst gear

  1. MEC Wool Hoodie.  I wore this to bed every night, and sometimes in cold weather I didn’t take it off for days.  It’s cheap for a Merino shirt too, and so versatile.
  2. Kindle.  Apart from breaking one early in the trip, I loved being able to read as much as I wanted.
  3. Montbell Ex Light Down.  I was amazed how warm this 5 oz jacket kept me.  I didn’t wear it hiking much, but whenever I stopped, it went on.
  4. iPhone.  Great as a GPS, but also was so handy in towns.
  5. MSR NeoAir Sleeping Mat.  I slept like a baby on this, and never had cold spots on my hips or shoulders.  Choosing campsites was easier than ever, as I could trust it to even out pretty rough ground.


Most irritating/useless/worst:

  1. Gossamer Gear LT4 Poles.  They were finicky, broke easily and were expensive.
  2. Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Rain Mitts.  The failure was entirely my own.  It takes someone very crafty to successfully seam-seal these, and I am not that.
  3. Wigwam Rebel 1/4 socks.  The least durable socks I have ever owned.
  4. Camera Tripod.  This falls under the “useless” category, as I used it a total of maybe 4 times on the entire trail, for that much use, I should have just figured out ways to prop the camera up on the few occasions I wanted to use it.
  5. MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes.  I love these, but they were also just useless in the conditions I found (consolidated snow and steep side-slopes).  I should have known better, but I was nervous pre-trail and just piled on gear to make myself feel better.
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Finishing the CDT

I haven’t written much since I finished, but now I’ve gotten a bit of rest and I wanted to reflect a bit more.

I was in a lot of pain the last night. My hips and glutes were very
sore and even on my plush sleeping mat, no position was comfortable.
I took a couple ibuprofens expecting that to take care of it, but
nothing changed. Around midnight 4 Border Patrol jeeps raced by me,
headlights fully illuminating me as they went by. I expected one
would stop and check me out, but nope, not even a brake light.

I finally fell asleep, waking only briefly to choke on the dust of the
jeeps return trip. I woke up to my alarm in the darkness, feeling
like I’d lost a bar fight in a blackout, but still mentally excited to
get moving.

As I walked, I had fantasies of how I’d end at the monument at the
Mexican border. Throw my trekking poles to the side. Strike a Nixon
victory pose. Write a triumphant statement in the official CDT log
book. Reality was different. I barely even took a picture at the
end. Sam Hughes was there and I spent most of my monument time
talking to him and his dogs. Then the ride out was spent staring out
the window, not thinking. Not able to think. Way too tired.

I have more time now, but still not much to add. I finished, the real
world intrudes and calls to me. I have a series of notes and TODOs
I’ve written to myself in the last 4 months, from which I hope to
retain my frame of mind as I reenter society. I hope :)

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the last photos

Here is the link to the last photo album.

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Day 125

Well it’s done! The walk today was pretty forgettable, especially since I was tired and not able to eat well. I mostly drank Gatorade and ate chocolate bars, nothing else appealing in my food bag. By lunch I was in striking distance of the end. I turned up music and powered through to the END!

I was met by Sam Hughes at the border and after a quick photo snap, that was it – we hit the road. I’m now embarking on the trip home, and I’ll write more once I’m there. So far I’m not having any deep thoughts or emotions about finishing, except relief. Hopefully more to say later.

June 25th to October 26th. Pretty good!

Daily Summary
Date: Oct 26, 2011
Day 125
Daily Distance: 30 miles
Trip Distance: 2605.8 miles

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Day 124

Today turned out to be pretty damn good all over. All bodily orifices functioning normally. I didn’t make a lot of miles before sunrise, again navigation being an issue. After the sun came up and I could see the posts marking the route, I zoomed off.

At lunch I found shade in the form of a CDT info sign by a highway. There was nothing else around for miles. Again I got lucky in the afternoon with some clouds and a cool breeze… Still hot enough though!

I ran into a guy late afternoon, doing basically a Minuteman patrol, looking for illegal immigrants. He knew Sam Hughes and told me he was reliable – I was already counting on that, but good to hear.

The evening was a bit of a slog, so I listened to a bunch of podcasts to distract me. Now I’m cowboy camped for my last night on the trail, eating my last dinner out of a bag (and my first dinner in 3 nights!). I’m lacking any deep thoughts right now, just deeply tired.

For comparison, I slept through a rain storm in the night last night an usually I wake up at the first drop.

Daily Summary
Date: Oct 25, 2011
Day 124
Daily Distance: 36.3 miles
Trip Distance: 2575.8 miles

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he made it!

Hi everyone, it’s Hailey.
I just heard from Ryley. He finished the trail! A big long post from him is coming, but I just wanted to let everyone know he made it okay on gatorade & jolly ranchers.

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Day 123

Well, good and bad day! The start wasn’t great as I woke up in the middle of the night to puke up my dinner. I was also having ridiculous dreams about not being able to progress in my walk until I “did it right” (not clear who was telling me this). When I was able to sleep, I was dead to the world, catching up from last night. In the morning, I’m not sure how to put this delicately, I shit my pants. Something is definitely going on, but I’m still hoping not Giardia!

Onto the good – I made great time into Lordsburg, including a nasty bushwhack through the desert, where even the meanest grasses had it out for me in some way. In town I got everything done and then thundershowers rolled in! So I got out there and enjoyed the rest of the day sun-free. Knowing I had to make miles these last days, I sadly wasn’t able to do laundry, so I will be one stinky dude by the end.

I could barely eat in town, no appetite, and it all came up rather quickly after town. I think I may have to go the rest of the way on Gatorade and Jolly Ranchers, because everything else upsets my stomach pretty badly. I also took some Immodium, fingers crossed on that one!

I hiked well into the night, following a “hard to find in daylight” cross-country route. So I mainly just checked my GPS regularly and followed vague compass readings in between (hard to dead reckon with no landmarks!).

So the good news! I’m still on track to finish Wednesday evening! Keeping that in the forefront of my mind :)

Daily Summary
Date: Oct 24, 2011
Day 123
Daily Distance: 37.6 miles
Trip Distance: 2539.5 miles

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