Memories of our first “thru-hike” – The Trans Catalina Trail

map_transcatalinatrailSo years ago (circa 2012), we figured it would be a good idea before we actually began major planning for the PCT to see if attempting a thru-hike was really something in our wheelhouse.  Based on its close proximity, we chose the Trans Catalina Trail.  It’s official length is only 37.2 miles, but another blogger who did this trail had his total trekked miles (via his GPS) as a little over 5o miles.  Our theory was that if we could survive nearly 40 miles (split the difference) with very little “experience”, what’s another 2600?  We had purchased backpacks (Paul an Osprey 65 Atmos, me a Gregory 70L Diva), Western Mountaineering 20 degree bags, ExPed Synmat 9 Pump DLX (with an R-Value of 6) sleeping pads and JetBoils for both of us, enough food to survive for over a week, rain gear and a 3P/ 3 Season tent (MoutainHardware Lightwedge 3).  We had already tried out all the items during that previous Fall’s annual mule deer hunt in southern Utah.  All of the gear performed well, especially the tent, sleeping bags and pads, having gotten caught in a lightning storm/snow blizzard  whilst camped at the top of a plateau after having bagged (just before dusk) the big boy that I have mounted (yes mounted) on a wall in my home…at the beach.  So, setting off to walk across the island of Catalina, in the sunshine seemed like a peace ‘o cake.  Silly wabbits!  We had planned to take 4 days to complete this trek, but as Mother Nature would have it, we would have to do it in 3.  A vicious storm raged the night before, and all the next day, which prevented us from making the 26 mile voyage to the island of Catalina.  Part of the planning for this trip required making campsite reservations, which frankly were not cheap ($24/per person…not counting “fees” and taxes)!  Turns out, that the trip/trek was a serious eye-opener.  We used to be premier athletes…emphasis on used to be, and on this (dare I say) “short” jaunt, we realized how out of shape we had gotten.  Actually we were a “shape”, just not the one we wanted, or should have been in.  On this trip we learned about map reading; the importance of water; how to set up a tent in ridiculous wind; what walking downhill on marbles was like; and that frankly that we had waaay too much shit!  This is not to say that the trip was not fun, or the sights were not stunning.  It made us realize that we had to change-up some gear and re-think our training and approach to hiking the PCT, if we were to have any chance at making it, let alone enjoying it.  Fast forward four years, and three “long” trails under our belt (Tahoe Rim TrailPCTThe Camino de Santiago ), we are heading out to revisit and thru-hike the Trans Catalina Trail once more.  This time we will have friends with us (Brian and Jody who took care of our PCT resupply) who are interested in getting into backpacking and possibly thru-hiking a longer trail or two.  We hope that the lessons we have learned over the years (and miles) will make for a fun, if not relaxing outing.  Wouldn’t that be a treat?

We will however, NOT, be carrying the same gear we did on our first outing.  We have embraced the principle and motto of “when the weight goes down, the fun goes up”.  With that said, and because we will be doing “small” daily miles, we are going to switch up and try out a few new gear items to see if they will work for us, and whether said items are even worth carrying in the future.

Paul will be using a smaller volume pack, the Osprey Talon 44, to see if he can get by with a smaller volume bag.  It’s kind of like owning a house with a lot of storage.  The more storage you have, the more stuff you’re inclined to acquire/keep to fill those sad, empty spaces.  I will have my Osprey Exos 58.  I will not be “down-sizing”…I like my “empty” spaces.

As I can not find my REI Flash inflatable pad, I will be reverting back to my ExPed SynMat UL 7 LW (3.1 R-Value) mat as I am too cheap to buy new mat, and it is light enough for this trip.  Besides, I am waiting on in-field  review from Tandem Trekking (PCT thru-hiker) on the ExPed SynMat Hyperlite Duo Sleeping Pad, for our next purchase.  We also will be using our tried and true ExPed Schnozzel Pumpbag for easy inflation.

We will be daring, and will ditch our Western Mountaineering 20 degree bags for our Jacks R Better  Shenandoah 40 degree quilts, as the lows should only be in the 50’s at night. (Seeing that I am a cold sleeper, and the old lady hot flashes are no good to me when I really need them, I will bring my Western Mountaineering “puffy pants” and a SmartWool long sleeve shirt to sleep in, as insurance)

Paul wanted to go the “full Monty” and cowboy camp, with only our MSR E-Wing tarp as back-up.  But considering there is a mild chance of rain toward the end of the week, and meteorologists get paid for being right half of the time, we are bringing a tent!   We will use a 3 season 2P tent (our Big Agnes Angel Springs UL2) that we used on the PCT.  At first we thought we had lost our rain fly, and emailed Big Agnes to see if we could purchase a new rain fly seeing that they don’t sell this particular tent any longer.  They still still had a few in stock and could send us one for $120.  Hmm, $120?  That’s a down payment on a new tent, so we looked really hard and went through ALL of our gear.  We eventually found it, but how it got misplaced, I’ll never know.  But then if you saw our gear room (which should be a guest room) then maybe it would make sense…too much stuff!  As luck would have it, the zipper was broken!  We still considered buying a new one, but ran out of time and figured it could wait…it’s only a “mild” chance of rain.  Maybe we’ll spend that money on a new tent as you can’t have too many, especially when you’re kids like to camp as well.

Our cooking system will remain the same, as we love our JetBoil, even though we have researched other options.  The JetBoil covers all the bases we require in a stove.  It boils water in a relatively short amount of time, in any weather event, and/or altitude.  Paul has built a light-weight “cozy” to carry it in, seeing that I initially dropped it a few times (cause I am the one that carries it) to know that it is pretty darn durable, even after the ruff and tumble treatment we (I) have subjected it to.

We have paired down our food, and will NOT be carrying an extra days worth of food, for “just in case” scenarios.  We are not that far from “civilization”, and we are certainly in no danger of starving or wasting away, for that matter.

Footwear will be significantly different from 4 years prior, as we will not be wearing heavy “traditional” hiking boots, but will sport trail runners as our “kicks”.  I for one will be testing out a new pair of Salomon Wing Pros, to see if they are a good swap from my Salomon XT Wings 3 that have lost their “spunk”.  Paul will do his best to destroy, once and for all his Salomon XA Pro’s that he used during the last leg of the PCT in 2014.  He has tried the Altras Lone Peak (gave him shin splints), and is now back with his worn and tired Salomon XA Pro’s for this trip.

I will forgo my heavy-duty Princeton-tech head lamp, for a lighter /smaller headlamp (Petzel e+LITE) that feels and looks like something you get out of a Cracker Jacks box.   Apparently it’s the latest and greatest, and is supposed to be just as good if not better than what I normally carry…we’ll see.

Four years ago, we used  3L Osprey and/or 3L Camelbak hydration bladders.  We are now going “low-tech” and carrying 3 1liter AquaHydrate bottles.  No more leaking into or onto the pack, or more importantly being surprised when we run out of water.

This trip we will be going out of San Pedro and starting from Two Harbors.  We will in essence go from West to East on the TCT, ending up in Avalon.  From Avalon we will take the ferry home to Dana Point Harbor.

This will be my first lengthy hike in a long time,as both my feet have decided to take turns with separate but equal injuries that have kept me from walking any significant mileage, let alone carrying any weight besides water and snacks.

Here goes nothing!

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