Keep On Trekking On

I’ve been following a few women’s hiking groups on Facebook, one each for the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the John Muir Trail. I joined these groups when I thought there was a chance I would be thru-hiking one of the trails, but I really don’t think I have the strength, stamina, or will to attempt such a massive project. (The food planning alone is staggering, considering that you have to plan for six months, and in some cases, have to send the food on ahead and hope you get to it before desperation sets in.)

WANDERLUSTThough I’ve set my sights on a smorgasbord of shorter trails, working up to multi-day backpacking trips, I’ve kept up with the groups, because you never know where life might take you. (At least I don’t where life is taking me. You might have a better concept of your path than I do of mine.)

I’ve paid particular attention to discussions about gear. The trouble is, the advice is so conflicting, it’s almost impossible to sort out what would be best for me as opposed to what is suitable for younger, fitter, thinner women. Most of the gear I have purchased I found on my own, though I still don’t know if it will work for me. The tent I got is a backpacker’s dream, lightweight and easy to set up, but a bit claustrophobic for general use, so now I’m looking for something a bit larger for car camping, where perhaps I would have room for some sort of folding lounge chair. Conversely, since the sleeping pad I got is a bit heavy for backpacking, (though that’s what it was intended for), I’m looking for a lighter pad. And a warmer sleep system.

Recently I’ve been researching trekking poles since I need new ones. (I only have one that’s about worn out, and my hikes in the Redwood Forest proved the necessity for two). I’d just about decided to get a couple of the one I am now using when I noticed a brief mention of Pacerpoles in one of the groups. I immediately went to the Pacerpole site, watched the videos, read the theory, and was sold. Oh, my. These poles are completely different from regular hiking poles — they work to keep you upright, better balanced, and better posture, as well as allowing for a normal arm swing. Although the poles are not ultralight, apparently, the way they work, they don’t demand extra strength or energy. But they are only available from Britain.

No problem. They ship anywhere, and shipping costs are included in the price. And PayPal so kindly sent the euros to the Pacerpole folk so I didn’t have to worry about currency exchange. A few minutes ago, the Pacerpole folk emailed me. The poles are coming via Royal Mail. How cool! My first international mail! Well, my first overseas mail — I have had Christmas cards from a friend in Canada.

What cracked me up is the Pacerpole people sent me homework to do while I’m waiting. Videos to watch, information to read, proper body form to practice. Now I just have to wait a couple of weeks until they get here.

Meantime, I’m preparing for my road trip across the southernmost part of the country. I’d hoped to be more spontaneous, just stopping upon whim, but I know me — if I didn’t make plans to stop, I’d get into the car and drive until the car needed to be filled with fuel and my bladder needed to be unfilled. And then I’d just keep driving to the next pitstop. Since that is not what I want on this trip, I am researching various National Parks and Monuments with campgrounds and hiking trails along the way. I might not visit any of those places, but at least I’d have shorter driving goals, with a hike to look forward to if whim doesn’t stop me anywhere else along the way. (For those of you who like to plan, you’d be so proud of me — I have a notebook with maps, camping information, hiking trails, and any other information that would be helpful, such as food storage tips to keep from attracting mountain lions. Eek.)

I’m hoping by the end of the trip, I’ll be a seasoned camper, maybe even backpacker, and then . . . who knows. Probably back to dance class for a while to unkink and restore myself, while I replenish my supplies and get my car tuned up for whatever comes next.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

18 Responses to “Keep On Trekking On”

  1. thepathopens Says:

    And I’m hoping to see you out there! 🙂 ~Jessica

  2. Louis Shalako Says:

    Keep food in two or three small bags, and have thin nylon rope to hang it from a tree. You can tie a rope around a rock or heavy stick and throw it over a branch when you put the food up at night or when you’re away from the site. Your real problem is more likely to be raccoons.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      They did mention raccoons and mice. I thought I’d get some odor-proof bags and hope for the best. If I’m car camping, the food should be okay in the car in odor proof bags, shouldn’t it? There’s so much to learn about all this, I am grateful for any advice. I’ve added thin nylon rope to my list. (I always carry thick nylon rope in my car for no other reason than that I didn’t know what else to do with the ropes, but I think they are too heavy to use.) How thin should it be?

      • katsheridan Says:

        Look into paracord. Lots of ways to pack a lot of strong, flexible rope in a small space. Look into the ways folks use it to make bracelets or lanyards, so they can have it for emergency purposes.

  3. Mary Gluchman Says:

    Hi there, Pat! I was hoping to speak with you. I have been watching your blog and wanted to say something that the whole world doesn’t need to see. I am not good with knowing what tech is private… Is this a private channel or?

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Kathy Says:

    I envy your plans – gives you something to look forward to with much to research. Just back from a cruise so I have the letdown blues – need something new to focus on.

  5. tekkster Says:

    Awesome writeup. Thanks for the information.

  6. tandemtrekking Says:

    Pat, you could totally do a long distance hike! Something like the AT requires no food planning if you don’t want to! You would just need your gear, AWOLs handbook and you’d be off! If you are still feeling stressed about gear I offer a gear advice service on my website:
    Check it out! Best of luck with your shorter trips, but really, anyone can do a thru hike, just a matter of will power!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I really wouldn’t have to do mail drops for the AT?

      • tandemtrekking Says:

        You really wouldn’t! You can get off trail pretty easily all the time! Sometimes you are resupplying at dollar stores, so not the best selection, but still totally possible. Do you have any dietary restrictions? Then things get a little more complicated, but if you are flexible with what you will eat you never have to send yourself a food drop!

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Maybe I’l have to rethink the AT.  I had planned to do thw part through Shenandoah, thinking it would be the easiest to resupply since the trail follows the highway. I still don’t know if I can carry a pack for any length of time, though. And I don’t know if my feet will hold up. But we’ll see.

          • tandemtrekking Says:

            Starting small is a great idea, but really you can resupply easily from anywhere on trail. Just don’t be intimidated! And it is hard on your feet, but they get used to it eventually. If you are worried just plan on starting super slow, six or eight miles a day! If you are really interested in it and what to learn more I suggest How the Hike the AT: The Nitty-Gritty Details of a Long-Distance Trek, by Michelle Ray.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            I’ll check out that book, thank you. I’ve been following a woman’s AT group on Facebook and doing a lot of research online, and both have helped me get an idea of gear. I’m sure I will have to make changes, but my main things so far are a Gregory j53 pack, copper spur UL1, enlightened quilt, big agnes double z insulated pad, solo stove (though I might have to get something lighter), pacer poles, hiking shoes (trail runners gave me plantar fascitis, maybe because one was too short), and various clothing layers. It’s funny, I can’t get the idea of a thru hike out of my head. My latest concern is what to do with my car for six months. 

          • tandemtrekking Says:

            Haha, if you can’t get it out of your head then your car is the least of your concerns, I am sure you could figure something out. Your gear sounds good!

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            The car is a major concern. It’s a 44-year-old vw bug I just had fully restored.

            I know older folk thru-hike all the time, but some of the parts of the trail look more like an obstacle course than a walk in the woods. I guess I’ll never find out if I can do it unless I try.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Is there a particular section of the trail that goes through a lot of towns or by stores?

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