Sunday, 21 October 2012
A week ago I finished the pct. In my weeklong celebration I have ignored the blog which shows that my previous excuse of "too busy hiking" was probably a lie. I finished at 3am on the 13th of October after hiking 36 miles in rain with Navi. The only day of rain I had in Washington and my longest day on the whole trail.

I am happy to have finished but am sad to be leaving such an amazing group of friends. People I will never forget.

I am in Victoria, Vancouver island currently and am planning on hiking the 75 mile West Coast Trail starting tomorrow or the next day. It may sound crazy but i still feel I need some more time to myself to reflect on the hike. I will hopefully be able to translate these reflections into words, and form those words into some blog posts.

Mile 2668 - Pct completed

Posted by Dave Murphy
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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
I am still alive. Washington has been amazing and we now have only 80 miles to go before we hit the border. The nights have become increasingly cold, streams and ponds are often frozen over when we wake up and we regularly walk on ice crystals on the trail that have grown overnight. Washington has been my favorite section of the trail and reminds me of new zealand a lot.

The scariest experience I have had on the trail happened on the side of mt Adams, where a forest fire jumped over the trail while I was on it. Hikers 3 hrs before me passed by the 2 week old fire with no problems but when I reached it, the trees to the left and right of the trail were on fire, and the view of the rest of the trail blocked by smoke and flames. I turned around and walked 6 miles back to a road. I was lucky enough to get a ride up a forestry road that evening back to the trail.

We have not had any rain in washington which has allowed a large group of us to push slacking to the limit, and finish about 2 weeks later than most peoples' original plans. We have soaked in the views and i have had a great time walking 20-25 miles a day with an amazing bunch of people. Our group has grown from 4 at its smallest in california, to 12 right now in Stehekin. Unfortunately cactus and extra credit had to get a move on to the border last week and hiked on while we had a zero day with 20ish hikers at the dinsmores hiker haven in skykomish. I started walking with cactus just after mile 100 and I am very sad I don't get to stand at border with him. Us remaining 12 slackers plan to hit the border in 4 days time and then slide on into manning park and Vancouver where we will celebrate for the last time together.

This trail has been the best thing I have done in my life - and I am sad to be finishing, but glad that my body will cease to be in constant pain. Canada ahoy!

I exist, and I'm almost there

Posted by Dave Murphy
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Friday, 7 September 2012
It is obvious by now that I am not very good at updating a blog. But in my defense, the half hour each day that I may spend writing a blog is spent on a midday nap or throwing a frisbee. Both extremely rewarding activities and time well spent i say. To make up for the absence of a coherent, well written blog, I will tell a long rambling story about eating and weight loss on the trail. It's probably not the best way of explaining my travels, but a better idea than describing the daily pattern of: hike, eat, sleep for every day over the last month.

Eating butter

At tuolmene meadows (mile 940) I had a break from the trail for a day with my old roommate Brina who is now a ranger in Yosemite national park. I had just come out of a few weeks in the high Sierra where we climbed a mountain pass a day on average, often over 12,000 ft in elevation.

reasons why we walked slow in the Sierra

Weighing myself after a good night down in el portal, i found that i had lost 50lbs over 940 miles since the start of the trail. I wondered how it had all gone and had a little bit of a freakout as 200lbs was my minimum planned weight before the trail, and is the lightest i have been since i was in high school. Although we had no snow through the Sierra (one of the lowest snow years on record), we still took our time and soaked in the amazing scenery everyday. That meant walking 15-18 mile days on average. We had planned to go a bit faster each leg but got sucked in by a lake swim or two each day, a trout dinner, or a beautiful campsite with a campfire that we couldn't pass up. This meant we sometimes had to stretch our weekly food allotment out a bit longer, which is a problem when you are starting to get the hiker hunger. The hunger (as it is commonly called) for me feels like a constant craving for food, but for none of the types of food i have in my food bag. No food i cook or snack on can ever satisfy me, and i am weary not to eat to much each break for fear that i will run out of food for the week. I am constantly hungry apart from the 30 minutes after dinner, and usually then i feel sick for eating too much too fast. The foods i mostly crave are fish and chips, home made lasagne, steak and kidney pies and marmite. Shit damn elusive marmite!

shirt buttons trying to escape on day 1

badass homeless ex offender ginger redneck santa on day 100 something

We as thru hikers have to eat constantly all day and have a big meal of rehydrated crap at night to account for all of the calories we burn each day (5000-6000), which is almost 3 times the daily average human. To carry enough food for 3 normal people to last for 7 days is a serious undertaking, and a considerable amount of weight to carry on our backs for a week. To get around carrying all that weight we get the most calorie dense foods we can find (ie olive oil, peanut butter, butter), and supplement our pasta, potato, rice, tortilla or bagel meals with extra calories. It is called the calorie to weight ratio. But what happens when you go to far with this idea, and turn the supplement into part of the main course?

After my freakout in tuolmene a suggestion came from Brina that i should supplement my diet with butter. Stuff olive oil, what could be better than delicious butter on the trail. I packed out some sticks of butter and began to add it to my meals at night. Unfortunately I am not a great packer of food and my butter melted during a hot day. A packing system of broccolini and butter in the same brown paper bag to save on weight is not a great idea. I ended up having to add most of my weekly butter, and all of my weekly fresh vege ration to one meal of tomato pasta. It was edible but unbearably rich.

The next leg from nth kennedy meadows (mile 1018) i decided I would also use butter at lunch to double my butter calorie supplement. My plan was to make fresh pb and j sandwiches on white bread for a week. Day 1 problem was the cold, and I realized spreading refrigerated butter with a plastic teaspoon onto a piece of bread in my dirty hand does not work. By day 2 i realized my method of bread packing by tying the bag the exterior of my pack is also inadequate. A freely swaying bag of bread on a pack is a beautiful sight to behold but when you rest with your back on against a rock using the bread as a cushion, the exterior bread packing method does not work. Even though my butter was warm and my spoon was ready to spread, I had no slices of bread to make sandwiches with. The best method I could think to make lunch with my 4 ingredients was to mash a wad of fresh coarse white breadcrumbs into a ball with my dirty hands, and wipe the pb, j and butter on to third of the ball each. The result was a little tasty trail appetizer, though a little gritty. Although not butter related, it is important to note that rodents may enter a bread bag freely when it has many holes. Bread bags are not resistant to sharp branches. However nice it is to see wildlife on the trail, rodents are different. They may leave small brown presents for you and may have to be manually removed from the breadbag if they cannot find an exit. By the end of the week my taste for trail appetizers had diminished slightly and I also learned the best way to produce rancid butter is to leave fresh butter in a ziplock bag out in the california sun for a few days.

By lake Tahoe (mile 1094) I had put on 7lbs. 7lbs of pure saturated fat. The butter diet was over and had been trumped lately anyhow by the trip patented "eat till you feel like you wanna vomit" diet. I tried to apply this diet to every meal. Although a very extreme diet (which most probably contributed to the previous 7lb weight gain), over the next 4 days without butter, I lost 4lbs.

cheesy broccoli rice, a crucial part of the eat till you feel like vomiting diet

By mile 1335 i decided it was time to revive the butter diet. In Chester I purchased the ingredients for trail appetizers but replaced sliced bread with hot dog buns for added bread stability, and left the jam out of the mix to save time. What could be better for lunch for a week than a buttered bun with crunchy peanut butter spread on it. This leg I carried a tub of butter so it wouldn't go rancid in a ziplock. In my haste I selected a butter with added olive oil and what I did not know is that this particular butter mix is a liquid at room temperature. On my first lunch out of town, i was relegated to dipping pb hot dogs into a tub of melted butter. Melted butter in large quantities coats the inside of your mouth with a film of dairy grease. It is similar to the feeling after eating the fat off a big rump steak, but tastes like butter, not steak. Water alone cannot remove the grease film and with the absence of a soda to cut through grease, whiskey was the prudent option. Whiskey will never let you down.

pb hot dog with butter dip, the final straw

The story and picture above a
explains why I have decided to no longer carry butter on the trail. 200 calories of olive oil in my breakfast protein shake will do as my calorie supplement from now on.
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Friday, 3 August 2012
There is a large forest fire north of Belden which has closed a large portion of trail to the south and north of the town including the half way monument. We hiked down into Belden yesterday morning through smoke on a section of trail that was closed the previous day while we were walking it. We hitched up to Chester and are going back on trail this morning at mile ~1350. All is well, everyone is safe.

Fire. Mile 1300.

Posted by Dave Murphy
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Wednesday, 25 July 2012
We left bishop late morning and hitched back to the trail head. I tried to look as neat and tidy as possible to get a ride but that has become increasingly hard after 2 months on the trail. We walked to the base of kearsearge pass and set up camp above a lake. The next day I collected snow at the top of glen pass and made iced coffee for lunch. I did not collect any yellow snow. We camped in the river valley at the bottom of woods ck and had a wicked campfire. Wiz and cactus taught me a dice game called silo and we gambled for drink sachets. Turns out peach mango is not a very popular flavour and was mostly used to piss off anyone who bet any other packet first.

The next day we walked up woods creek which ran in part, straight over a slope of solid granite. It had not eroded into a canyon yet and spilled over the rock like a waterside. I did not attempt to ride this slide as the result probably would have been a broken limb and/or face. We crossed over pinchot pass and camped at the base of mather pass at almost 12,000 ft. It was a very cold night cowboy camping and our water bottles had ice in them in the morning. We had a long downhill (my favourite) to the valley floor the next day and Unbeknownst to me I passed cactus who was soaking a severely injured foot. he didn't end up catching up to wiz, Dubz, action pack and I before the end of the day but He would have been impressed with the camp site we made beside the creek with such extreme speed. I believe we should probably be classed as thru-campers now as we are getting up increasingly late in the morning (830 am starts) and finishing early (7pm) to make sweet campfires. The next day was muir pass and it was my best day so far. The climb up was beautiful and we stopped multiple times to soak in the scenery. The best stop was lunch where dubz thought it would have been funny if a narwhal appeared out of the glacial lake and offered us snow cones. Cheeeery flaaavourred. fun times.

On top of muir pass there was muir hut, a stone hut with a cone shaped roof. It was a nice afternoon surprise as none of us had bothered to read our guidebooks the last few days. We had a great view of a mini glacier (not a real glacier) where the remaining snow on the south side of the pass appeared to flow down slope for a couple of hundred meters. Geology! I ran the last 8 miles down the hill set up camp just below 10,000 ft so we could have a campfire. I built a fire. I built the fire to make hot coals. We use them to cook every night now as we like to save fuel, but really it is just a good excuse to stop early every day.

The next day we walked down evolution valley. Cactus had miraculously recovered the previous day after an eagle flew over him when resting. Spirit animal. And he caught up to us when we were chilling at the first spot with no Mosquitos in the valley. We took a mini side trip down to a waterfall to take photos. Ec talked us out of swimming in a dangerous hole below the waterfall, and we took a swim in a calmer spot further down the valley. It was unbelievably cold. George castanza was correct when he claimed shrinkage is a real thing.

Our next major stop was the vermillion valley resort where we caught a ferry to and took a zero day. I had steak, eggs and pancakes for breakfast. Delicious! Cactus, wiz and I played risk and drank beer. It was a very productive day.

The next day we walked to purple lake and I met some kiwis who were doing the John Muir trail southbound. They said the trail so far had too much forest and switchbacks and it was boring. I told them that the trail coming up was amazing and they shouldn't worry. What I didn't know is that they had just walked past Virginia lake, one of the most amazing lakes on the trail. If I have known that I would have told them they were crazy to think any of the sierras were boring. We went for a swim at the lake and sat on the shore for an hour until it started to get dark. We walked on to purple lake where Dubz and Ec had started a campfire for us lazy boys.

We walked the last 10 or so miles into reds meadow and I had a milkshake and a beer. We got the bus into mammoth where little steps had our accommodation sorted. We slept in a condo, dubz and ec made grilled cheese for dinner and I made eggs Benedict in the morning.

Photos now attached.
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Wednesday, 4 July 2012
I walked with Virgo out of Kennedy meadows at night 3 miles to a campground. From the campground we only had walked 12 or so miles the next day before we had more trail magic at swallow bridge. Tom, dip, crash, kooshie, and griffon were waiting with food, beer and margaritas. Unfortunately we had to leave the magic and keep walking and virgo and i did a 25 mile day and i reached 10,000 ft (3050 m) elevation for the first time. I enjoy walking with Virgo as he sets a good pace and we have great chats about life and the trail. I struggled big time climbing with the high elevations and after another big 23 mile day the next day, I knew had to slow down. Unfortunately I did not communicate this to Virgo very well and he ended up waiting for me at Crabtree meadows after 15 miles in the afternoon for god knows how long as I dawdled around taking photos of marmots and chatting to other hikers all day. He ended up leaving about 10 minutes before I got there and I have unfortunately not seen him since.

I walked to Wallace creek to set up camp where I was attacked by a pack of extremely agitated Mosquitos. I ran up the adjacent hill and set up camp on a ridge overlooking the mountains. It was the first time I had camped alone since tehachapi and it was nice to sit back and reflect on the trail so far - the miles I had walked, the desert sections i had finally left and the amazing people I have met along the way. The next morning I walked half a mile to the next stream and found 2 members of the whiskey gang as well as 5 members of the extended whiskey gang family getting ready to split camp. After 3 weeks of walking I had finally caught them.

That day we hiked up forester pass which is the highest point on the trail (13,153 ft, 4009 m). This year is an abnormally low snow year and we had about 20m of snow walking on the north side of the pass. This small section made me miss a switchback and i took the fastest way down to the lake, which was a cliff. I saw condor down at the base if the cliff and he asked what the hell i was thinking. I told him am a pretty extreme dude. The whiskey gang and i camped beside a lake to set up for a 7 mile walk over kearsearge pass into onion valley and bishop the next day. I woke up with my bag covered in frost and my sleeping bag wet from rolling around in the frost all night trying to get warm. As my bag has a semi waterproof pertex outer layer it wasn't too cold, but maybe it would have been a good idea to set up the tarp tent.

We walked out over the pass in the morning and I ran down the hill. having no food in my pack was liberating and it helped being able to go fast with minimal knee impact. We received some trail magic at onion valley where uber and bristle cone were camped out with soup, snacks, beer and soda. Über gave us a ride down to independence so we could hitch to bishop and I had a subway footlong. It tasted the same as in new Zealand.

I picked up a new pack frame that granite gear had sent to me as my old one had snapped 400 miles earlier and had started cutting my back 200 miles ago. Unfortunately my shoes did not arrive in time. Wiz, Dubz and I got a 45 minute hitch in the back of a white van into bishop sitting on pieces of used chip board. It was very hot in the back of the van with no air flow and no seats.

We got into bishop and mellow yellow had sorted out a room at a motel. We slept 6 stinky hikers in the room which was pretty cool as I had always imagined this exact experience when reading books about the pct over the last 5 years. Smelly but awesome.

I purchased some clothes from the thrift store and mellow, wiz and I hit the town. The locals were uncharacteristically standoffish but we found some friendly enough locals to drink with and we drank pitchers to we were kicked out at closing time. The next day was a bit of a write off and we got breakfast and sorted out our resupplies. As the supermarket was a mile away we pushed the shopping trolley with 6 people's food back to the motel like hobos. On the way we got hungry and dipped into KFC. As we did not want to leave our food outside we did the smart thing and pushed the trolley into KFC - i think we are now real hiker trash, or just hobos.

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