5 Reasons Why You Should Join the Arizona Conservation Corps Today

Almost all of us have slogged away at the turgid vapidity of job searching, endlessly sending out applications into the void and hoping to catch something that is minimally soul-crushing. Most of the jobs I have had involved coming into the same, artificially lit building each day and making sure things stayed the same, each day. There is no progress to be made, only a status quo to maintain.
It can be difficult to find your way out of this cycle, especially when you’re in your 20’s and have a resume about as impressive as a dance performed by a fish that just flopped out of the water. So is there anything out there that’s interesting, exciting, and doesn’t involve doing the same thing every single day? Let’s explore the Arizona Conservation Corps, a non-profit organization with offices in Flagstaff, Tucson, and the White Mountains.

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5. Escape the Monotony 

What if your office was outside, and instead of building a spreadsheet, you were building a trail? No matter what it is you’re doing now, if your post-highschool experience was anything like mine, you’d do just about anything to find something different. The AZCC experience is about as different as it gets. We spend eight days in the field, where we camp, cook, and work outside. Camp duties are generally rotated among crew members, so someone might cook dinner one day, wash dishes the day after that, and have breakfast duty the next morning. It can be fun to cook stir fry one day, and the crew leader makes delicious quesadillas the next day. The work itself can change day by day as well; you could be trail building one day, invasive species control the next, or making erosion control structures the next, so you aren’t often bored.
You truly do have to be ready for anything, but all the work brings the satisfaction of a job well done when you’ve finished. Unlike your typical retail working experience, you can see your progress, not only in the work that your project brings, but also how you progress in experience. A hand tool that you’ve never seen in your life will become second nature in a matter of a couple of months. I find that this noticeable difference in physical ability and the improvement we bring to the local community to be a refreshing change from the monotonous tedium of a call center or fast food joint.

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4. Beef Up Your Resume

How much do you rely on words like “Good communication skills” and “Shows up to work on time” on your resume? Maybe you said you’re proficient in Powerpoint from that one time you made a slideshow of selfies and Dragon Ball Z pictures for a middle school class. We certainly have all been there before, and 20-somethings these days have it harder than ever in a market that requires experience for entry level jobs. Is there any place that offers specialized experience in numerous fields of practice that is actually valuable to today’s job market?
As previously mentioned, you often do a different thing every day in the AZCC. This means you get many unique experiences involving many different techniques, tools, and settings. You would be surprised at how quickly you can learn to take apart and reassemble a chainsaw, which is exactly the type of problem solving skills that many employers are looking for these days.  The same thing goes for every hand tool you can imagine, and every electronic device used in the field as well. I’ve had the privilege to utilize such tools as GPS units, pole saws, and fence post removers. In every case, I began with zero knowledge of these tools, and now can use them all with natural ease. Along with the education you can take away about natural resources, National Parks, and various conservation efforts, you can take away a boat load experience to present to the job market. Instead of a list of reasons why you’re a normal human being, you can actually boast a long list of specialized skills and unique abilities that just might snag you something that doesn’t involve putting bread in the bread isle.

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3. Get Fit

How fit are you on a scale from one to ten? Before I joined the AZCC, I would have rated myself at a ten, but only because that was the amount of tacos I would eat in a day. I could flex my arm and it would actually look less muscular. I tried to make myself do push-ups every now and then, but come on, who are we really kidding? Would you rather wake up and eat a Pop-Tart, or do twenty push-ups? I know a lot of us are the same way, and most of the jobs available to us don’t exactly encourage a healthy lifestyle.
When I first joined the AZCC, swinging a small hand pick was enough to get me out of breath within five minutes of it. We would start each day with safety and exercise, which involves fifteen minutes of calisthenics, and fifteen minutes of stretching. That would be followed by ten hours of hard work in the desert, doing anything from hiking for miles while pulling invasive grass to lifting heavy rocks to make erosion control structures. At first this just results in a lot of sore legs and stiff arms, but after a few months of it, most will find a significant difference in their fitness levels. One day you realize the rock isn’t quite as heavy or that you’ve been swinging your pick for hours and didn’t even notice. After a full term of this and you may find yourself looking in the mirror with all new muscles you never dreamed of having. Anything is possible when you’re actively moving your body and eating well on a regular basis. You become stronger and more flexible, all while your endurance develops more and more each day. Also your tolerance for being covered in dirt goes up appreciably. This is the nature of the work, though.

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It’s a very diverse group of people in the AZCC, and we all work hard together to deliver amazing results to our project partners in the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.  This, in turn, will deliver amazing results to your waistline, and quite possibly will give you that beach body you always wanted.
So if you’re looking to get buff, throw away your gym membership and join the AZCC.

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2. Make New Connections

It’s hard to make great connections when your only references are your Aunt Sally and the high school gym teacher. Where can you meet a diverse group of professionals who have valuable information about their fields of work and connections to networks that you might have mutual interest in?
Well, down at the good ol’ Arizona Conservation Corps, you are guaranteed to meet individuals from all walks of life and levels of experience. I’ve met geologists, biologists, environmental scientists, National Park Service employees, conservation leaders, field interpreters, and many more interesting people from all sorts of backgrounds. One of my favorite projects has been working with the volunteer buffelgrass pulls, in which a diverse team of people volunteer their time to help control an invasive species. The age range was from high school teen to octogenarian and everyone was just as enthusiastic about the event.
Anything you could possibly want to know about nature can be learned in the AZCC, from the ongoing efforts to preserve our natural resources, to the details of how things grow in Arizona and why the environment needs our help. I’ve found that this program has been a veritable gold mine of valuable insight from experienced professionals, as well as a solid network of references to go forward in my career with. If you find a passion in working with our National Parks and other public lands, you could go on to be a park ranger, or study the wildlife and geology to help discover new things about our regional and local environment, or give park visitors tours and teach people about our beautiful natural resources. If you’re looking to open up your life to a world of new possibilities, the AZCC is a great place to do that.

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1. Have the Time of Your Life

Have you ever camped deep in the mountains and awoken to stunning sunrises over sheer rock faces? Or stood in the middle of the open desert, seeing for miles under a bright, blue sky? Incredible views are a regular part of life on an AZCC crew, and is a perfect break from the headache-inducing dreariness of an office.

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This is an office view that can’t be beat

Maybe breathtaking views aren’t your thing. If you’re a more social person, the AZCC is a great place for you. In crew life, your co-workers become your best friends. Spending eight days at a time with each other, doing everything together, cooking, eating, working, usually camping close together, you tend to develop personal bonds with these people. Every crew is different and the crew culture all depends on the people involved. Every crew has their share of in-jokes, shared quirks, and other unique interactions. Some crews make music together in their down time, singing camp songs and sometimes someone brings a guitar or harmonica, some play fun games like word association or cards. Every crew finds their own ways of having fun and passing the time, and it definitely brings the group together and makes working with everyone a great experience.

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The more adventurous minded will find themselves a great fit in the AZCC as well. If you like travelling, you will be in the right place as we often travel to all kinds of places in Arizona, from the Saguaro National Park, to the Chiricahua Mountains. We’ve taken amazing hikes, seeing miles of pristine desert countryside. Many of the places we visit and work at are full of intriguing history, such as Fort Bowie, and Picture Rocks. There are few things as exciting to me as finding 10,000 year-old petroglyphs while I’m working.

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So as you can see, no matter what it is you’re doing now, there are many reasons to join the Arizona Conservation Corps. If you’re looking to get into school, you may also be interested to know that corpsmembers receive education awards from Americorps for every term they serve. No matter what the reason you join, you will get much more from it than you ever expected.

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How Music Changed My Life

I’ve been recounting my old war days on the PCT as of late; here’s part 1 and part 2 of that series. I definitely still have much to share about those adventures and I promise I will be going through all of them in due time. For now, I want to shift the focus instead on some things I have been working on for a while, because I finally feel ready to share my craft with anyone who finds interest.
I started practicing music about two years ago, when a great friend of mine introduced me to an instrument known as the kalimba, also known as the thumb piano. It was a hollow block of wood with metal tines one plucks with their thumbnails, and with two small holes in the back and one on the front for adding effects like reverb or the cool “wah-wah” effect. For the first time in my life I was making musical sounds without struggle, the melody just floated effortlessly from the metal tines, seducing me into this amazing world of music.

After a few months of playing the kalimba, I ordered a Native American flute and started practicing on that. It took me a while to be able to produce good notes, and a little bit longer to figure out how to create a melody, but within about a month or two I was making music on it as well. I lived on a farm in the Ozarks at the time, and it was my favorite thing to go out to the pond in the field and play my kalimba and flute as various farm animals would come and sit, sometimes a goat would come to nuzzle me. This was where I found peace within myself for the first time. My thoughts ceased, my anxieties melted away, and I found myself completely relaxed.
Needless to say, I haven’t stopped making music since. Two years now down the road, I have branched out musically in ways I would never have imagined. Even still, it completely amazes me that I’m capable of this at all.

I still play the kalimba and flute, but now I’m experimenting with as many different instruments and styles as I can find. It turns out there’s a whole litany of instruments that can be learned intuitively, and for me the learning process is fun. About a month ago I started playing the didgeridoo, which I expected would be an extremely difficult instrument to learn, however I’ve taken to it quite well. Adding in some throat singing techniques makes for some wonderful sounds, and playing around with different vocals and sound effects makes me feel like a kid again, blowing raspberries and making funny sounds. The most difficult part was getting my circular breathing locked in, but once you get it you have it always. Now I’ve started working rhythms into it and I’m getting some sounds such as this:

I just love the powerful, primal sounds it makes, and how when I lock into it just right, the rhythms come forth seemingly of their own accord. This type of music has always spoken to me, but the idea of that music being inside me was something I would have considered absurd just two years ago. Considering I’ve only been at the didge for a month, I can’t wait to see where I’m at with that two years from now.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve also been practicing throat singing. Now this is something that I’ve been interested in for about seven years, and I’ve listened to quite a bit of Tuvan and Mongolian throat singing, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I could actually do it. I’ve been practicing this for six months now and I’ve made leaps and bounds in progress. I went from making horrible, raspy screeches to creating a polyphonic symphony full of rich harmonics and high, whistling overtones in just a couple of months. Combine that with a Vietnamese mouth harp and you get something that sounds like it came from an ancient tribal shaman:

I really hope that you’ve found this interesting, as I certainly enjoyed sharing it. I can promise much more in the future as I continue to experiment and refine my musical ability. I’m also very interested in what people think of what I’m doing so if you have any thoughts, critiques, or advice please feel free to share it in the comments. As always I appreciate all who visit my blog, and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

My Amazing PCT Journey pt. 2

My journey continues from the brutal stretch of Cajon Pass to Wrightwood described in My Amazing PCT Journey pt. 1. I’m healed, rested, and ready to get back on the trail. As I hike further up in elevation, I am relieved to be surrounded by trees, and the temperature was much more bearable than in the frying pan of the desert. It didn’t take long for my feet to start getting messed up, however I was starting to get used to it so I was able to hike a bit more efficiently even with blisters forming. I hiked some major elevation gain until I couldn’t go any further, and at that point I made camp on the side of a cold, windy mountain. It was worth it, though.

 

So after a good night’s rest, I continued up the mountain until I met with a group of guys which I started hiking with. When I told them of the problems I was having, they were quick to assure me that blisters are quite normal and in fact everyone in that group had them just about as bad as I did. It didn’t take us long to reach the summit of Mt. Baden Powell, which provided us with some breathtakingly good views. This wasn’t the first mountain climbed or amazing view seen for the group of guys I was with, but for me, it was. I was amazed at myself for having come this far, and my reward was endless beauty all around me.

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I’ve seen a sea before, but not a sea of clouds

Of course, this drove home the whole point of why I had come here. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy; I didn’t realize just how hard it would be, but I knew it didn’t matter. This trail was changing my life already.
So after this pleasant reminder of why I came to the trail, I continued hiking with this group of much more experienced hikers than me. They decided that after the next intersection with the highway, they were going to get off the trail and walk on the highway to skip an upcoming section that was supposed to be very difficult. This sounded like a good plan to me, as my feet were tender and my body was tired. I got on the highway with them and we walked the day away on flat, paved road.
There were some problems with this. First of all, these hikers were much more conditioned than me and were already used to hiking twenty mile days. Also, pavement is much worse on the feet in the long run than the trail is. While I enjoyed the company of this group, my feet were slowly becoming worse and worse, and the catch was that I didn’t know my way back to the trail, and had yet to download Guthook’s PCT guide, so I had to stick with these guys in order to find my way back.
We walked twenty miles on that road until we got back on the trail. My feet were destroyed. My body was wrecked. I had made a huge mistake.

The next day, the group hiked on ahead, as I was unable to hike at their pace. I trudged on miserably for miles until at long last I found this:

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THANK YOU MARY!!!!!!

About three tenths of a mile from there was a fire station where I topped off my water and also found a group of hikers who were already waiting on Mary. I joined them and Mary took us to the Acton KOA, where I met up again with Rabbit and Squid and met a whole bunch of new people who were fellow hikers. I enjoyed pizza and beer with my new friends, soaked my poor feet in the pool, and reflected upon my adventures up to that point. It seemed for every low point on the trail, the high points more than made up for it every time. Coming off that trail, the group of hikers I met up with actually noticed me before I noticed them, because apparently I was moaning in pain and they thought they were hearing a wounded or dying animal. Yet within a couple hours of that, I was relaxing and having fun with great people, who were from all around the world. The pattern was becoming evident to me. It doesn’t matter how long you do this, the trail is always hell on the body. It’s what it does for your mind that really matters, and the only way for that to happen is to stick with it as long as possible.

More to come very soon! Thanks everyone so much for supporting me in this, I’ve been overwhelmed with how many people are interested in this stuff. I’m glad you guys like it and I can’t wait to bring you more and tell you about all the crazy adventures I had!

 

My Amazing PCT Journey pt. 1

As I posted in Back home from the PCT! , I have recently returned from my two month journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. During my time there, I met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever come into contact with, saw incredible sights which struck me with awe and wonder like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I encountered obstacles which I never would have expected that I could surmount, and yet every time I was able to go on, until I got to the Sierras, that is. I will relate the reasons as to why I quit the trail later on, for now I’m going to start at the beginning and work my way through this journey, recounting the stories as best as I can remember them. We’ll start with this:

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Time for war, I guess?

This is me departing from Tucson, AZ to go to San Bernadino, CA to start the trail at Cajon Pass. As is evident in this photo, I am quite encumbered with gear. Most of this gear was obtained from military surplus stores, as military gear tends to be cheaper. The base weight of my pack, which is an external frame ALICE style rucksack, is about 50 lbs. This is without food and water, so the weight of the pack with everything probably exceeded 65 lbs at times. This is more than half my body weight, which at the time was about 110 lbs. This weight does not include the items in my pocket vest, which probably weighed at least an extra ten pounds. You can see I’m wearing military boots as well, which were quite heavy. So, we can tell from all this that I was not destined to have an easy start.

My first stretch on the trail was from Cajon Pass to Wrightwood, which is about 22 miles of rocky, mountainous desert with no water sources whatsoever. The first part of my journey started by walking from the bus station to the trail head, which was a 17 mile hike. This took me two days to do, so I had to sleep behind a town sign by the freeway. I finally got to the trail, and I was too exhausted to continue, so I set up camp near the McDonald’s that every hiker goes to when they reach Cajon Pass (not that I knew this at the time). I set up my Coleman brand bivy tent….and it immediately broke. The tent pole snapped like a twig, leaving me with a useless pile of fiberglass poles and nylon. I threw this away, and decided to use the 9 X 9 tarp I was carrying for shelter. Thanks to some help I received from other hikers at the McD’s, I was able to find the trail and start. I made it about six miles before I made camp on a super windy mountain ridge, where the fierce winds took my nice adjustable wide brim hat. I made peace with the loss and continued hiking the next day. About twelve miles in, I ran out of water. I sat down and waited for another hiker to pass, and eventually a young man who went by the trail name of 437 approached, and I asked for his help. He gave me a whole liter of water and went on his way, hiking confidently into the hot desert sun. I continued, sipping water from that liter as slowly as possible. Unfortunately, I was not a strong hiker, the weight was oppressive, and the blisters forming on my feet were excruciating, so I walked at a rate of approximately half a mile an hour, and hiked a total of about five miles a day after hiking the first day. It took me five days to get to Wrightwood, and I had to ask three other hikers for water, so by the time I got there, I was hobbling in misery at what was barely crawling speed. After I got off the trail, I ran into a hiker couple known as Rabbit and Squid, with whom I waited as we tried to hitchhike. We were picked up by a very nice man named Rich, who turned out to be a regular trail angel, and he housed me and a few other hikers for a few days while I rested and recovered my poor tattered feet.

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Let me pause a moment to sing the praises of LeukoTape

Here, Rabbit and Squid gave me my first pack shakedown, and I dropped a good 15 lbs. of useless weight with their help. Among the items were bear spray, a folding saw, four canteens, and 100 ft. of cordage. After this much needed rest stop, I picked back up on the trail, feeling like I could truly take it on with my newly healed feet and slightly lighter pack. This of course was a mistake, as I was definitely not prepared for what I was about to face. My body was in for the beating of a lifetime. My mind was in for the single biggest test of will that I’ve ever faced.

I’ll continue this story in the second part of this article series. Currently I’m still organizing all the photos and journal entries I have for the trail so I’ll try to update as much as possible and keep the stories coming. I have many things to write about and they only get better as I go along. Thanks for reading!

My Amazing PCT Journey pt. 2

Back home from the PCT! 

I’ve safely returned from my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. I traveled for two months, hiked about 500 trail miles, and hitchhiked well over 600 miles throughout California. To say the least, this journey was amazing and life-changing. I’ve been home for a few weeks, readjusting to real life and trying to find work, so I’ve been a bit too busy to update the blog. I promise there will be plenty of details and pictures to share, as well as incredible stories of adventure and travel. All of this I will be posting very soon, starting tomorrow. 

Also I am announcing a new direction for this blog. I will still utilize it for relating travel stories, but I will also be including my endeavors in art and music as well from now on. These are just as important aspects in my life as traveling, and I also believe that some people may enjoy the things I create. Among the things I will be sharing you can expect to see more stories as I recount my recent adventures and things that have happened previously in my life, fictional short stories, artistic photography, wire wrapping, macrame, throat singing, flute playing, and even a didgeridoo and a whole bunch more. I’ve been having a lot of fun learning and experimenting so I want nothing more than to share this experience with others. That’s all I have to say for now, more to come soon! 

Journal Entries from the PCT

6/7

10am

Between Cajon Pass and Wrightwood. Town is 20 miles away. Feet are blistered and in pain, pack is causing major exhaustion, it must weigh over 50 pounds. Boots are rubbing foot raw, no room for toes and I think my feet swelled past their size. I have half a liter left.

2pm

Out of water. Dropped pack and waiting in shade, hoping a hiker will come along. Not currently dehydrated. 10 miles from known water source.

A hiker came by and saw my situation after half an hour. He introduced himself as 435 and gave me a liter of water. 435 may have saved my life.

6/8

Made it to the highway and hitched a ride into town with a couple of hikers named Rabbit and Squid. Trail angel Rich is housing me, says I can rest as long as I need. Will stay at least a night or two and let the feet heal.

 

6/9

Back on trail. Feet are better, still some blisters. Changing from boots to rope sandals to lessen pressure and allow feet to breath. Dropped about 10 pounds of weight in Wrightwood and I am definitely noticing the improvement. I think this will work out much better.

 

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Not exactly sure what day it is, phones are dead. I think it’s been four days in the wilderness. Feet are getting worse and worse. I’m taking it slow so as to not make things drastically worse. I just want to make it 7 miles today to reach water. Next resupply point is over 30 miles away. Moving at current pace, almost 2 miles per hour, I will run out of food the day before I get into town, perhaps sooner if I move slower or need more calories. I am oversupplied on water, since I ran dry I’ve been pretty paranoid about not having water. Taking 10-20 min. breaks every hour and keeping hydrated.

Made it to water. Making camp a mile up from it so I can get more before I leave out. The campsite has a fire pit and looks way more comfortable than any I’ve been at all week. Warm food soon. Rest for my poor feet. There is happiness to find in my misery.

6/14

Made it to Mill Creek fire station, met a group of hikers there. They saw me in pain, hobbling along at maybe 1 mph and told me there was a trail angel on the way to take them into Acton. I joined with them and met trail angel Mary, an incredibly generous woman who says she drives probably about 250 hikers per year, and mostly tries to help those that are sick or injured. Now I’m resting at the Acton KOA, soaking my tattered (but clean) feet in the pool.

6/15

Hooked up with a couple of hikers at the KOA and hitched to Agua Dulce. Now resting in Hiker Heaven, which is aptly named. I saw 435 again here and was sure to thank him profusely for saving me with that liter of water. I picked up a new hiking pack from the hiker box which probably weighs about 5 pounds less than my current military external frame pack. Also ditching boots and ordering trail runners. Blisters are healing, starting to walk normal again. Will stay here for a few days to rest, heal, organize, and plan. Getting lots of help from other hikers, everyone is so friendly. The people I have met on this journey have given me so much hope and inspiration. They want me to succeed at this as much as they want to themselves. Everyone helps everyone. Nobody is left out or left behind, even a beginner such as myself coming into it later than everyone else. I am excited to get back on the trail as soon as I have myself and my gear ready. In the meantime I am perfectly happy to relax on this beautiful California farm and commune with the amazing people who are around me.

A Detailed List of my Travel Gear

I have decided to compile and publish a list of all the gear I will be traveling with on the Pacific Crest Trail along with the total weight of the pack without consumables such as food and water. I have separated the gear into different kits for organizational purposes but obviously much of the gear is multi-use. The pack I’m using is a medium military issue ALICE style rucksack which employs an aluminum external frame to bear the load onto the wearer’s hips rather than their shoulders and back. This is heavier than most conventional hiking packs, however this system is extremely robust and reliable. It’s the same carrying system used by soldiers in the Vietnam war, so it’ll probably hold up to any abuse I can subject it to. Here’s the list of gear that will be in or on it:

Shelter and Sleep Kit

  • Bivy tent
  • Down sleeping bag
  • Cotton sleep bag liner
  • 9×9 plastic tarp
  • Folding foam sleep pad

Clothing Kit

  • Cold weather shell jacket
  • Thermal shirt
  • Merino wool liner gloves
  • Wool army issue gloves
  • Silk shirt & pants liners
  • Skin-tight base layer shirt & pants
  • Small cotton t-shirt
  • Breathable long sleeve shirt & pants
  • Cotton poncho
  • Small windbreaker/rain jacket
  • 4 pairs underwear
  • 4 pairs socks & liners

Main Outfit

  • Safari shirt
  • Cargo pants
  • Pocket vest
  • Belt
  • Boots/Sandals
  • 2 Buffs
  • Shemagh
  • Adjustable brim hat

Cooking Kit

  • Sterno stove
  • 2 canned fuel 7oz (4.5 hours burn time)
  • Metal canteen cup
  • Canteen stove (for backup)

Water Kit

  • 4 canteens (1 quart each)
  • Stainless steel bottle (1 liter)
  • Camelbak hydropack (1 liter)

Survival Kit

  • 2 4×4 gauze sponges
  • 15 bandaids
  • 3 ft gauze roll
  • Medical tape
  • Tweezers
  • Triple antibiotic
  • Burn gel
  • Sting relief pen
  • 2 antiseptic pads
  • 5 packets electrolyte tabs
  • 4 acetaminophen
  • 6 Excedrine
  • 6 anti-diarrhea
  • 10 Benadryl
  • Moleskin
  • Latex gloves
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Aspercreme
  • 6 cotton swabs
  • Tums
  • 6 AAA batteries
  • Waterproof matches
  • Duct tape
  • Iodine tabs
  • Lifestraw
  • Krazy glue
  • Emergency blanket
  • Signal mirror
  • Compass
  • Emergency plastic poncho
  • Mosquito head net
  • Red blinker light
  • Small reflective vest
  • Small funnel with strainer
  • Handkerchief
  • Folding saw
  • Small BIC lighter
  • Long refillable grill lighter

Sewing Kit

  • Needles
  • Thread
  • Wax
  • 6 Safety pins
  • Folding scissors
  • Thimble

Hygiene Kit

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Razor
  • Soaped paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Toilet paper

A few notes on the locations of these items and a few unlisted items:

  • Bivy tent, sleeping bag, and bag liner are all contained in the same compression sack, which is tied to the top of the pack. Also tied to the top of the pack is the rolled up tarp and the sleep pad.
  • All cold weather clothing is wrapped up in the shell jacket. All other clothing is kept in a plastic bag except for the cotton poncho, which is tied to the bottom of the pack.
  • Most survival items are contained in a first-aid kit bag kept in the middle fast-access pocket on the pack. Items that are not kept in that pocket are kept in the pocket vest such as the folding saw and the long grill lighter, and other items are clipped to the outside of the pack, such as the handkerchief, which I’ve sewn a hole into so I can clip it, the funnel strainer, and the head bug net.
  • Not listed is 2 PVC flutes, which are attached with gear ties to the frame of the backpack, and trekking poles which are either carried or stay in an area behind my back where I have room because of the metal frame.
  • In the pocket vest is extra cordage, flint and steel, extra matches, an extra handkerchief, tent stakes, the hygiene kit, gear ties, and any food I want at quick access.
  • Attached to paracord around my neck is a small knife with both a sharp and a serrated edge.

The entire pack loaded with all the gear excluding water and food totals 36 lbs, which is definitely on the heavier side. With water and food it may weigh up to 50 lbs or more. Ouch!
I’ve test hiked with it and it will definitely take some getting used to which will almost certainly involve a great deal of pain and blisters. However it does allow for a surprising amount of movement since it places all the weight on the lower half of my body. The shoulder straps literally just hold the pack close to my back, I don’t have to carry any weight on my shoulders or back. Also the external frame gives a lot of room near my back from the pack, which gives me nice airflow and the ability to wear my Camelbak with the pack. I can also slide my trekking poles in the cavity there and they stay pretty secure and easy to get to.

Not a bad setup. I think.

Why am I Doing This?

This question has come up a few times, so I wanted to write a post about why I’m doing what I’m doing and what I hope to get out of it. This is all about me but I believe many people can benefit from what I have to offer, so I want to explain why I’m thru-hiking the PCT, and also why I’m sharing this journey through this blog.
The first part of this is that I am on a journey already, and I haven’t even set foot on the trail yet. This is an inner journey as much as an outer journey, if not more so. I have recognized in myself a great deal of immaturity and egotism, and having faced this I find the reality of it unacceptable. Rather than coming at this from an angle of shame, I aim to pinpoint the areas that I am lacking in and draw attention to them so that I can determine the source of my egotism and address it directly. In this way I hope to gradually move further away from my egoist thinking and shift instead into awareness. Awareness of myself, who I am, what my weaknesses and strengths are, the world that I live in, the relationships I participate in, so on and so forth. The goal is truth, and in order to reach that I have to start being honest with myself, and in order to do that, I have to accept myself.

This is my goal.

Second to that is my desire to motivate others to do the same thing. I hope that in sharing my journey, it may give you some perspective into how many different ways there are to explore your own journey in life. I want people to question themselves, to explore possibilities not yet considered, and to always be moving forward in some way. I want to inspire them to create, destroy, live and breathe. I want them to ask themselves why they are in so much pain inside, and I want them to consider what role they’ve played in their own suffering.
Why do I want this? Because I did it and every day that passes I free myself of another aspect of my ego. I am learning how to use my mind instead of it using me. It isn’t easy and I would not have come to this on my own, so perhaps there are some who can benefit from my stories as I learn how to accept myself for who I am. You can do this too. You are not alone in your suffering. However, you do not have to continue suffering. You can be free. I cannot free you. But perhaps I can show the entrance to the path.

Also, I love nature and camping and hiking, I’ve been doing it for a while, and what better place to practice my survival skills and find beautiful landscapes than the Pacific Crest Trail? About 60 mountain ranges to traverse, 57% pure unadulterated wilderness, and little camping towns packed with like-minded people. So of course I want to share the wealth of pictures and stories I will have as I explore this amazing trail. No doubt I will have many difficulties, which I will share along with my triumphs and everything in between. I know some of you simply want to live precariously through someone else, and I would be happy to be your window into a life of adventure and travel. If someday you ever take it upon yourself to join in the fun, just remember me fondly as the one who showed you the way to this awesome path. If not, that’s okay too, I hope you enjoy my articles and pictures and videos. One side of my journey as well is learning to do away with my self-image. This is one reason why I like to share videos of me exploring music even when I’m not terribly good at it. The point isn’t whether the music is perfect or I look good doing it, the point is that I am on a journey of exploration, and this is where I start from. I will pick things up, practice them, and get better over time. You get to see this process in action, which may help you see that literally anyone can do it. That musical instrument you want to learn? Pick it up and make a noise. That language you want to speak? Start with one word. The world you want to explore? Take one step outside.

In the end, this is about me growing up. I have recognized that I am still a kid. I’m 25 and I know as much as a 25 year old knows. Not any more than that. When I am 60, I will know as much as a 60 year old, but for now, I am 25, and I have a LOT of growing up to do. I am going to embrace this and explore my potential. I hope you join me in this challenging, yet immensely rewarding journey.

What is the Pacific Crest Trail?

I mentioned in my last post, My Unfortunate Update that I would be abandoning my previous itinerary and instead bussing out to San Diego, where I will connect with the Pacific Crest Trail and start traveling north. You may not have heard of this before, so I thought I’d go into a bit more detail on what I’m planning on doing.

The Pacific Crest Trail is a system of paths through remote regions spanning from Mexico to Canada, going through California, Oregon, and Washington. The path is marked in places with official PCT trail markers, however there are numerous stretches in which the path is faint or nonexistent, so there will be a major degree of self navigating using maps and a compass.

 

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Not exactly a walk in the park

 

There are towns along the way but for the most part it’s fairly primitive. I’ll be collecting water from natural resources and purifying it, camping in unmaintained wilderness, and dealing with major changes in climate and weather. Everything I am bringing with me will need to fit in my medium sized external frame military backpack (ALICE style for those in the know).
There is extreme and potentially dangerous terrain in some places. I will be doing everything I can to avoid that but it’s bound to come up at some point. There are a lot of extremes that I will be dealing with, but it will all be worth it to be doing what I want to do. Also, from what I hear, the beauty of this trail is unmatched.

 

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Worth the hike, I’d say

Of course there are sure to be many challenges I have yet to consider, but I believe in the end everything will work out, and I will get to see some amazing things along the way. I will likely be starting this trip within this month, and I’ll be posing updates along the way. Remember that if you would like to support me in this endeavor, you can donate to me. Literally anything helps and will allow me to continue exploring the world and sharing its beauty. Also if you like my content please share it and tell people about me. I’ll be updating the blog later with a new Facebook page and YouTube account. Thanks for reading!

 

My Unfortunate Update

As so often happens in life, plans do not go as hoped, mistakes are made, and compromises must be reached. I have had such an experience with my bike tour that I was planning this summer. As I covered in My (super weird) bike setup, I got my bike second-hand from BICAS, a wonderful bike co-op in Tucson, AZ.
This bike was in okay condition, however the tires and brakes were definitely not suitable for a long term tour and the shifting system was too complicated for me as well.
In the end, the whole thing ended up being too complicated for me. I would like to preface this story by saying that I know I’m not always a clever man.

 

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This is what failure looks like

 

I won’t go into great detail here, but what basically ended up happening was that I would unscrew one thing, and ten things would fall off the bike, none of which I had any idea what purpose they served or the original order they were in. I would frantically consult YouTube hoping for anything that could help repair the damage I had done, but the more I tried, the worse it got. By the end of it I had a table chock full of random metal components and not a clue on what to do with any of it. It was definitely not one of my prouder moments.

At this point, I resolved to make one important change to my bike tour idea. I am not going to bring a bike along. So it’s not really a bike tour, it’s a hike tour now.
The reasoning for doing this is that I clearly do not have the expertise to maintain a bike as of right now, so using one as my main vehicle to travel the country would not be a smart idea. I can take classes at BICAS and learn everything I could ever need to know about bikes. I may very well do that when I return to Tucson, but the trip is not ending just because I don’t have a bike. I had planned for this contingency, and if anything I am a tiny bit relieved because walking incredible distances is one thing I have always excelled at. The itinerary is obviously going to have to change, as it would likely take about a year for me to walk that route. Instead I am going to head straight for California and walk up the Pacific Crest Trail (If you haven’t heard of it, look it up because it’s pretty amazing).

I would like to point out that while my attempt at fixing a bike was a complete failure, that does not constitute a failure in my travel plans in any way. I would suggest that having fluid plans is much better for things of this nature, as life can throw some really unexpected curveballs at very inopportune moments. Getting caught up in the details is a really good way to set yourself up for disappointment.

Also, as far as I can tell I’ll be leaving within a month. Since I’m not taking my bike, I pretty much have all the gear I need except a good pair of hiking boots and perhaps a few random sundries. Once I have my full kit together I’ll post that up here along with my checklist just in case anyone wants to see what gear I’m using.
Lastly, I hope this information is useful, or at least entertaining, to those who read it. My point in sharing this, aside from the fact that I enjoy it, is that I am sure others out there can relate to me in my endeavors. If that’s the case, I hope you learn from my mistakes and triumphs as I share them because I am absolutely certain that there will be many more of both in equal measure.