MEAL PREPARATION

The Pacific Crest Trail spans just a squeak over 2,650 miles. I am hoping to tackle the distance in under 65 days, dun dun dun. There are several sweet little towns to choose from that will hold resupply boxes for PCT thru-hikers. I decided I would resupply every 200-300 miles. I am also resupplying in towns that are less than 2 miles from the trail, due to the no hitchin’ rules. I have a total of 9 resupply boxes with a 51 day supply of meals, snacks and drink mixes. The other meals will be purchased when venturing into town, thinking a whole gallon of ice cream here.

For the past year, I have been slowly adding food to my resupply boxes. Grocery shopping meant an opportunity to grab a few items for my boxes. This made it less overwhelming than trying to come up with over 120 meals plus snacks in one setting. I also changed my mind on meals and flavors after a bunch of sampling.

Dehydrated Veggies, meat and kale.

For meal prep, I dehydrated several dinners. Most of my dehydrated meals included wild ground meat from my husbands hunting adventures. I found that Goya canned beans also work best for re-hydration. I also dehydrated kale and added a table spoon to each meal for added nutrients, here is a link to a guy smarter than me about all the goods in kale. A great tip that I got from a friend was to add some extra virgin olive oil to my dinners for added calories, antioxidants and healthy fats. I found some amazing olive oil packets on Amazon.

The Dollar Store was also one of my favorite places to visit. Some items I found from there include hazelnut spread, peanut butter, tuna packets, donuts, jerky with cheese and a variety of snacks.

Thanks to the website ExpertVoice, I was able to score a box of Mountain House meals at a great price. My favorite meals from Mountain House are Chicken & Dumplings and Biscuits & Gravy.

So How Many Calories?

One of the things I looked for when choosing food was the amount of calories it provided yet was light to carry and took up the least amount of room. On average, I will be consuming 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day and more if the opportunity should arise, again ice cream. I plan to start my day with some hot and tasty instant coffee from PERC. The majority of my breakfasts and all of my lunches will be eaten on the go and not require a stove. I will end my days with warm cozy comfort meals and Silver Star Nutrition‘s powder protein.

Advice

There are a few things I have learned along the way when meal prepping. This includes, always trying meals before hand and checking for expiration dates, at least the kids had an abundance of snacks. In addition, don’t bring items you sort of like, no meh foods. Make sure you aren’t packing all of the same meals. Instead, try to focus on a variety of items so you do not get bored of the same foods, think back to the same school lunch everyday forever, don’t do that. Lastly, buying food over time is a lot easier and manageable then trying to buy all at once. Although I’m sure it is not quite as thrifty but again you avoid that school lunch monotony.

My Big Three

I am officially less than a month away from my PCT adventure! Although there is much to discuss regarding gear, I decided to start with my Big Three Items: Shelter, Sleep System, and Hiking Pack.

GEAR

My goal is to have an overall backpack weight of around 25 lbs. This includes food and water. I made my decision on which items to bring based on previous backpacking trips, gear efficiency, cost and weight. I understand that there will always be something better and lighter in the market. However, it usually comes with a hefty price. I am also a firm believer in the motto of hike your own hike. What works for me, may not work for you, as well as the other way around. So here are my big three gear choices and why I chose them. Maybe you will fall in love with them just as I have.  

BackpackZPACKS Nero 38L    

TentNemo Hornet Elite 2 person  

Sleep SystemBig Agnes Blackburn UL0, Enlightened Equipment 20 degree & Nemo Tensor Mummy Pad

BACKPACK

I will be using the ZPACKS Nero 38L backpack. They are ultralight, weighing only 10.7oz. I really enjoy the ability to configure this pack. I did this by adding a pack liner to help keep my gear dry. I also added a shoulder pouch, water bottle sleeve, top side pockets and a pair of padded belt pouches. I have been hiking with this pack for a few months now. Although it is frame-less, I still find it comfortable. With all my additions to the pack, it now weighs 1.02 lbs. Very remarkable.

TENT

The Enchantments in Leavenworth, WA

I have decided to stick with the Nemo Hornet Elite 2-person tent. It is durable, light weight and I have had it for a few years now. I changed the stuff sack to a tall dry bag from zpacks and 4 of the 6 tent stakes to MSR Core Tent Stakes. With the tent, drybag and tent stakes, my Nemo tent now weighs 1.92 pounds. I really enjoy this tent system. It is roomy enough to keep all my gear inside and is easy and quick to set up. It is also a double walled tent which aids in the prevention of condensation.

SLEEP SYSTEM

Since I am a very cold sleeper, I will be using the Big Agnes Blackburn UL 0 sleeping bag for the first few sections of my hike. After making some modifications to it such as removing the flex pad sleeve and tags, it now weighs 2 lbs 1 oz. Once I hit warmer weather, I will be switching to my 1.43 lb Enlightened Equipment 20-degree Revelation Quilt. Both sleep systems will be kept in a 1.4 oz waterproof compression dry bag.

Sleeping pad

I have fallen in love with the Nemo Tensor Insulated Mummy Pad. Because of back issues, I cannot use a sleeping mat. The added air to the pad will provide enough comfort and warmth to get me through the night. With the vortex pump (this helps blow up the pad) and a rubber band to hold everything together, the Nemo Tensor weighs in at 16.25oz.

DISCOUNTS

I should note that besides great reviews, the discounts I received on my sleep system and tent played a major factor when determining which gear to choose. I used the website called ExpertVoice. It is a company who works with over 500 brands in offering major discounts to those who qualify. Those who qualify include:

Service Members: Active duty military, veterans, professionals in fire and rescue, and law enforcement.

Industry Workers and Members: Instructors, athletes, members of industry organizations, and others who play a role in an industry qualify.

Retail Store Workers

Simply fill out an application. The company will notify you within a week or two and let you know if you have been approved.

OVERALL WEIGHT

Overall, I am extremely happy with my gear selection. My goal is to carry gear that is light, comfortable and also provides me with the best best opportunity for a good nights sleep. The grand total weight for the Nero 38L backpack, the Nemo Tent, the Big Agness sleeping bag, and the Nemo sleeping pad is 5.04 lbs. However, the weight will drop to 4.44 pounds once I reach the Sierras and switch out my sleeping bag. Although it may not seem like much of a difference, everything adds up. Once I complete my hike, I will do a thorough review on how my gear held up over 2,650 miles.

22 Veterans

For the past few months, I have ramped up my Pacific Crest Trail training by participating in some online virtual runs. The latest virtual run involved four 50k’s put on by Trail Racing Over Texas. I even decided that I would carry 25 pounds in my hiking pack for my last two. I completed my last one Memorial Day Weekend.

The night before the start of my last 50k was rough. I found out a fellow NCO my husband and I had deployed with committed suicide. So I laid in bed tossing and turning, both sad and angered. I woke up the next day, determined to make the most of it and not take life for granted. I spent the next 8 hours hiking with that NCO in mind recalling some of the memories I had of him.

I remember the first day I met Sergeant First Class E. I got to my unit, 21 years old, fresh out of training. We had to go work in a warehouse with medical supplies that morning. As we are all standing outside awaiting instruction, SFC E. makes a loud whistling sound, followed by an explosion. We all look at each other thinking, who is this guy and what is he doing? He then starts yelling and cursing. Why didn’t you guys get the fuck down! He’s angered at our confusion then tells us all to drop. From that point on he has us in the front leaning rest doing push-ups while lecturing us on the importance of being aware of our surroundings and getting down if we hear incoming rounds. At the time, I didn’t think it was funny or much less a valuable lesson and yet it is a memory that has stuck to me like glue. Because you don’t know what life has in store. You don’t know what’s around every corner. Be aware of where you are but don’t live in fear. SFC E. was always rough around the edges and taught you how to have thick skin.

So as I lay there in bed, with a heavy heart, I’m saddened that someone we knew felt that this was the only way out. Maybe he was too afraid to get help and maybe he tried. I am saddened at the fact that everyday 22 soldiers commit suicide. If you know a veteran or active duty soldier, please check up on them. If you need help please get help! I’m here if you need to talk, cry, laugh, or whatever. If you are not comfortable talking with me, you can always call the Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 or Text: 838255.

Why the Pacific Crest Trail?

North Cheyenne Canon Trail, Colorado Springs, CO
Photo Credit: Jessie Cunningham

The first time I heard about the Pacific Crest Trail, I immediately wanted to do it. 

So, I placed the idea into the far regions of my mind and decided that someday, when my kids were old enough, I would hike it. After the completion of the Triple Crown of 200’s (Bigfoot 200, Tahoe 200, Moab 240) in 2018 and The Franklins 200 in 2019, my husband mentioned that 2020 would be a perfect year for me to tackle the PCT. 

I looked at him in shock. “Do you really think I could do it and leave the kids for that long?” I wasn’t asking for validation in my ability to attempt the hike, but rather the validation in being away from my family for that long. He gave me a simple answer. Yes. From that moment on, I knew it would soon become a reality because I had the support of my husband. As a military spouse, we move every 3-5 years. When opportunities arise we must jump on them. Timing is everything.

So once online registration opened in 2019, I waited patiently for my place in line to register. Luckily I was able to grab a Southbound slot for June of 2020. From that moment on, I would continue to prepare for an adventure of a lifetime.

Daily inspiration hanging up in my living room.

So, why hike the Pacific Crest Trail? This is a question I have been going back and forth on once it was decided that 2020 would be the year. 

I’m always eager to push my physical, mental, and personal limits. Maybe I’m searching for something. As a combat veteran, maybe it’s my way of dealing with PTSD.

Photo taken with my mother on my return home from Iraq in 2009.

Maybe I enjoy the outcome of sleep deprivation, physical pain and desire to push limits. Maybe the deprivation is that of adventure and I’m starving for exploration. Whatever it is, there are a lot of maybes and a lot of reasons why. 

I think those maybes and whys are the driving force in always wanting more. It’s the simple desire to search for more and to become the best version of myself. Trekking long distances has the ability to break you down to your core and push you beyond what you think you are capable of. For that I am grateful. You are never guaranteed a finish but you are guaranteed a story.

This year seems to be flying by and so much has happened these past few month. However, my desire to hike the PCT has not changed. I have been following COVID updates and even tracking a few fellow hikers currently on the trail. As things begin to reopen, I have high hopes that this years PCT Fastest Known Time attempt will not be greatly hindered. Now I am less then 2 months away. Time passes quickly and before I know it, I will be trekking along the Pacific Crest Trail with the high hopes of setting an FKT. As of now, all I can do is finalize my food, gear, and plans.