Saturday, January 26, 2013

2013 dreams, spring and early summer

Daylight is beginning to creep back into Leah's and my evening bike rides in the Marin Headlands. On Thursday we got out for our favorite loop from the bridge, watched a beautifully hazy sunset, listened to coyotes howl as burrow owls swooped through our headlight beams, and remarked how warm it was because 45 degrees and moonlight sure beat the pouring rain that was happening at my home only forty miles south. It was a typically beautiful ride, and we topped it off with some fantastic Chinese food from this unique fusion place in the Mission.

As we buzzed with endorphins and chili sauce, we schemed possible bike tours for the spring or summer. The adventure planning reminded me that I'm still making my wish list for 2013. Spring and the first part of summer are bound to be the time for a bike tour and micro-adventures, but there are a few endurance challenges that I hope to include as well:

May 11: Quicksilver 50-miler. Fifty miles is the one major ultra distance I haven't tried, and honestly, it's the distance I'm least likely to enjoy. Fifty kilometers is just short enough that I can savor a challenging run without it degrading into a slog. A hundred miles is so hard that I can embrace the slog and let it take me to all of the magical places that it will. A hard hundred kilometers or seventy miles offers some of the flighty fun of a hundred miles with less of the pain. But fifty miles — that's a tricky distance. Much longer than a "fun run" 50K, but not quite long enough to venture into ultraendurance mindgame territory. So there it is. I'm going to give fifty miles my best shot at the Quicksilver 50 in San Jose. The course has 8,500 feet of climbing, promises to be an inferno of oppressive heat, and enforces the trails' consistent runnability with a twelve-hour cut-off. Can you tell I'm looking forward to this? But I need a long training run for:

May 31: The Bryce 100. A hundred miles of high desert alpine and otherworldly redrock formations on the outskirts of Bryce Canyon National Park. May 31 is Beat's birthday, and this is how he wanted to celebrate. The course rings the rolling hills of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, ranging between 7,800 and 9,400 feet. The altitude is harsh for a sea-level dweller, and judging by some of the breathing problems I had in the Bear 100, Bryce promises to be a hypoxic struggle amid some of Utah's most breathtaking scenery. The total elevation gain is something over 14,000 feet. My goal for this race is to not pass out, be gifted with great photo-taking weather, and finish before the cut-off. My sights for the summer are set on multiday adventures, so I don't want to run myself into an injury by trying to push my speed limit. (Last month I wrote an article previewing the race.)

June or early July: Sierras fastpacking adventure. This is something I've been dreaming about since I moved to California. I hope I have a chance to pull it off this year. The grand out-there dream would be to hike/run the 220 miles of the John Muir Trail in seven or eight days. Whether I can leverage the time and planning to pull this off is the question. Eight days is lot of time in itself, and the effort will require significant recovery after a full week of going as strong as I can for twelve to sixteen hours a day. I've also received conflicting advice about how to apply for permits, so I have to spend more time looking into this. Also, I need to figue out how to actually *become* an ultralight backpacker rather than just covet their cool gear from afar while I imagine them shivering in space blankets and gnawing on twigs and moss. The John Muir Trail is realistically too much to bite off for a first-time fastpacking adventure. But I still want to plan some kind of multiday endurance challenge on foot. A three- or four-night loop in Yosemite National Park or part of the Pacific Crest Trail would be great possibilities as well.

I'll get to the rest of summer in the next post. I will say that it won't include the Tour Divide or any big bikepacking race, this year at least. As I mentioned earlier, 2013 is the year I want to test my limits on foot, because there are so many incredible places in this world that I can't access on wheels. But the wheels still hold the first spot in my heart, and I'm sure after this year's for-fun bike adventures, I'll be looking for something more challenging once again.


  1. Cool list so far Jill. Good luck in your prep for the 50 miler. It seems that you'll be fine given your experience. I had a "just for fun" year last year and it was great, but it made me hungry to get to some races this year. Your bike will likely be looking really attractive after so much time on foot.

  2. You should have applied already for June! Check the yosemite website for days with open quotas. I know you love the fastpack stuff so I will spare you my thoughts on how much you will miss by going that fast. It will still be beautiful. Call up the permit office when you see those open dates but you will have to watch the snow pack. June is way early to get over those passes!

  3. I'm aware of the snowpack issues. Conditions would have been perfect in late June last year, but I certainly can't expect the same dry conditions this year. Snowy passes I can work with (given a good GPS track), but definitely not move as fast as I'd like. Also, the problem with calling for permits now is there's no way I can set an exact date just yet. All of these reasons mean I probably won't be able to plan on JMT this year. I'm wondering if there's still a chance I can show up mid-week in Yosemite and apply for one of their walk-in permits, and if it doesn't work out do something else.

    I'm curious how the PCT through hikers do it? Are they granted a pass-through because they're going the whole way?

    All of this information is surprisingly hard to track down. Those NPS Web sites are terrible.

  4. Also, Mary, your comment brought more thoughts about the common idea that people moving faster than average "miss" parts of the experience. It's a different experience, but I disagree that any part of the landscape or beauty is missed. Some of the most incredible moments/scenery I've experienced have entered my consciousness in the dead of night or fog of fatigue. I don't feel like a missed a single moment of the Tour Divide. In fact, going into endurance mode is what I believe puts me in a state of mind to fully experience the landscape, by taking me away from the distractions of my sometimes overactive thoughts. But this might be something fun to address in a blog post sometime — the value of moving fast. Especially for people like me, it's often not about "speed." Although I will say this — it's appealing to only have to plan for one week solo on the JMT rather than 3.

  5. Not sure if you've heard of Brian Robinson and his calendar year triple crown. He's clearly quite the fastpacker. Here's a link to his trail logs trail logs, etc.

  6. I would highly recommend the JMT! It's my favorite place in the world. For permits, they are based on the trailheads you enter and exit on, so getting the Yosemite Valley entrance and Whitney Portal exits are the hard part. PCT hikers just have to get permits based on their start/finish points which are much less crowded. You would definitely have a shot at getting a walk-in, but just be prepared to have backup plans in case it doesn't work. Regarding season, August gives you the best shot, both in terms of snowpack and potential for late-season storms (which you might be unprepared for if you're going fast and light). Early September might be a good option, too. The trails empty out after Labor Day, and it might be colder at night, but there won't be snow.


    Jill, I wanted you to know that because of reading your blog from times gone by, I genuinely believe I avoided getting serious frost bite in my feet today.

    Thank you.

  8. How about fastpacking Mt. Rainier's Wonderland Trail for your first ultralight adventure? You can cache gear and food at multiple places along the way too.

  9. My brother and I have been slowly working our packs down to a 'one way' trip weight. Typically we go in 'heavy' and set up a base-camp and then day-hike/fish.

    We are eyeing the JMT...though we'd be doing it one section at at time. I think we'd need to have our carry-weight under/near 25lbs IMO. Which food to carry is probably the biggest question...even for a 3 or 4 day trip that's some decent weight (plus the bear can required). Also we're pretty spoiled AND getting old...

    I'm hoping that THIS is the year we will notch our first segment (we've been 'practicing' and refining our gear for about a decade now). Or maybe further 'study' is required (GRIN!)

  10. OH, and to expand on what Adele said...we typically go after labor day (into the Sierras). Crowds are down, bugs are GONE! That is a HUGE incentive for us to carry some extra gear for the cooling temps...HATE HATE HATE the high mt mosquitoes...I can see how animals will jump off a cliff to escape them!

  11. Thanks for the input. I hadn't heard of Brian Robinson before but wow, what an accomplishment. I'm going to read some of his trail logs when I have more time. Years ago one of my big aspirations was to hike the Appalachian Trail, but I've lost interest in it since. I have to say hiking it in the winter sounds appealing in its own way.

    I won't be able to plan a backpacking trip for the late summer/early fall this year, so I have to figure out something that can work well in the early summer, preferably mid-June or the first week of July. The Wonderland Trail seems like a great option and I'm going to look into that possibility as well.

  12. MattC — I've given it some thought and think I can comfortably get my fastpacking rations down to about two pounds of food (4,000 calories) per day, with nothing that needs heating. In a seven-day trip I'd try to arrange for one drop and carry eight pounds of food. The bear canister is annoying, but I figure I can stuff other gear inside and have it be only a minor space and weight setback. Still, me being me, I'd still carry full rain and safety gear and a small tent, so I'd probably still have a 20- to 25-pound pack. I'm just don't have that ultralight mentality. But I should spend more time really thinking about that issue as summer approaches.


Feedback is always appreciated!