Monday, February 25, 2013

Over And Out

Well *sigh* the time has come to wrap up here at Front Porch Anywhere. We started this blog to keep our family and friends posted while we took our incredible adventure and now that we are settled, we're going to stop blogging.  
The site will stay up, of course.  Our hope is that others can browse through our photos and stories and perhaps use them as a resource on their own travels.  We read numerous blogs while we traveled, hiked and prepared and hope our adventures can provide inspiration, motivation and reference, too. 

Click either of the following photos to read more:

As always, feel free to contact us at frontporchanywhere (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Many, many thousands of thanks to y'all for reading, commenting, supporting and enjoying our trip.  We think about it daily and revel in all of our glorious memories.  

I am quite certain that there will be more adventures and travels and escapades in the future and at that point, we'll revive Front Porch Anywhere to share the love. 

All the best, y'all. Be well. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pacific Crest Trail Final Gear List And Reviews

Five months after completing the trail and I am finally getting around to our gear review and update. Hope this is useful to some of you nerds out there. Better late than never!

Last spring as we were preparing for the PCT we posted a gear list here on the blog.  Once we were on the trail, our gear list changed quite a bit.  We sent things home, left things in hiker boxes and swapped things out.  I have updated our gear list here (to the best of my memory) but have not included the weights.  All told, I think our pack base-weights (minus food and water) were around 15 pounds each.

If you don't read this entire (long) post, here are some key points that worked for us:
1. It's all trial and error. We thought we had a pretty good handle on what gear we wanted/needed before our thru hike... we're experienced backpackers and had spent plenty of time on trail. But thru hiking is a different animal. We certainly went through lots of options and were glad we did. Your body, needs and desires change so much. If you can, give yourself some room to try and change options.
2. Use what you have.  We got a lot of gear as wedding gifts and already owned lots of gear from years of working outdoor retail.  Gear costs add up quick, so use what you have, even if it's a few extra ounces.
3. Don't be afraid to be comfortable.  Hiking is hard. If there is something you carry for comfort, it's worth it.

Now onto the reviews...

Traded Up
Here are things that we swapped out and are so damn glad we did.  

CATALYST BACKPACK: In Agua Dulce, I swapped my Granite Gear Vapor Ki out for a ULA Catalyst. I LOVED the Catalyst.  It does carry quite differently than the Vapor Ki (and most packs I've carried) but once I got used to it, I absolutely loved it.  It's durable and light and, I found, very spacious!

SAWYER SQUEEZE FILTER: This thing is brilliant.  We used bleach and the Katadyn Hiker for the first 1100 miles and switched to the Sawyer in Reno.  We wish we'd had it from the beginning.  The bags that come with it are total junk, so swap them out for the Evernew 2 Liter bladder.

BIG AGNES FLY CREEK UL3: We started with the Tarp Tent Squall 2 and switched to the Big Agnes in Sierra City.  We actually got the UL2 (2 person) and found it so small that we couldn't sit up at the same time.  We also got concerned about condensation, as our bags touched the walls all the way down the sides.  We upgraded to the UL3 (3 person) in Shasta and were (and still are) obsessed.  We had plenty of room, a full mesh top, a fly and felt like the little extra weight was well worth it.  Like other things, we wished we'd started at Campo with this bad boy.

Trial, Error, Success
It took a few tries, but we were thrilled with our selections.

MAGGIE'S SHOES: I went through three models of shoes on the trail.  I started in the Vasque Velocity and wore them until Agua Dulce. I was having hip and knee pain and switched to the Merrell Moab Ventilator, looking for more support and bulk.  I wore the Moabs (two pair) until Shasha City and switched to the La Sportiva Wildcat.  I loved the Moabs.  They were supportive and confortable, but the second pair I got felt very narrow and my feet got so swollen on the Hat Creek Rim, that all I wanted breathability.  I found the Wildcats in Shasta and fell head over heals. I wore three pair to get me to Canada and loved every step.  I wore each pair for 600-700 miles. In 'real life' I measure at a 7.5-8 shoe size, but on the trail, in all of these pairs, I wore a 9.

TRAVIS'S SHOES: Trav started in Montrail Masochists, which he had pre-ordered online in his normal size 9.5.  By the time we made it to Northern California, his feet had grown/swollen so much that it was time to get something new, so in Mammoth he bought some Patagonia Drifter ACs (for a few reasons, mostly because they had a very solid sole).  Just a handful of miles out of Mammoth he realized that those Patagonia shoes were not for him and he could not wait to get some new shoes. The trail provided (as it always does) and in Yosemite, at the gear store/gas station in Tuolumne  he bought the only trail runners they had, the Solomon XA Pro 3D Ultra.  He love loved them, and wore three more pair until Canada.

SHELTER:  We liked the TarpTent that we started with a lot, but the zipper became such an issue and eventually broke completely (like, into two pieces).  Most people we talked to with 2 person TarpTents had zipper issues.  I don't know if this is over use, poor zippers or what, but we just abandoned ship and moved to the Big Agnes Fly Creek (as mentioned above).  We actually got the UL2 (2 person) at first and found it so small that we couldn't sit up at the same time.  We also got concerned about condensation, as our bags touched the walls all the way down the sides. Like I said above, the 3 person was very luxurious, and I know some hikers might not have gone with this heavier option, but we sure were happy and feel like it's going to have a long life with us.

Clothing Favorites
EX OFFICIO UNDERWEAR: Cover you butts in this stuff. It's great. We both concur. Mine and Trav's.

PATAGONIA...EVERYTHING: It's no secret that we wear a lot of (matching) Patagonia clothing. We met while working there and have a large stockpile of Patagonia gear.  We were, basically, decked head to toe in clothing we already had.  It wasn't always the lightest, fastest option, but it was what we had and we didn't want to spend more money.  Items we are both obsessed with: Baggie shorts (lasted the whole way), Wool 2 long sleeved shirts, Rainshadow jackets, Down Sweater jackets. My old Baggies that I started in got a hole in the seat, so I did buy a new pair in Reno at the outlet.  I hiked in the Wool 2 zipneck, long sleeved shirt from Campo to Eugene, and switched to Capeline 2 for the last leg of the trip.  Most wool shirts that I saw wore through and need to be replaced.  It was worth it to me in comfort.  The Capeline was fine, but I also wore a hole in in and it stiiiiinks.  Trav wore his El Ray button down the entire way, and it's still in solid shape. I had my Houdini shipped to me in Kennedy Meadows and loved having it through the Sierra.  This has been a long standing favorite of both of ours (we both wore this jacket religiously while biking around San Francisco). Trav picked his up in Reno (after a few hundred miles of being jealous of mine).  We had a warm year compared to most but nonetheless we were so so glad to have had this extra windproof layer through Northern California, Oregon and Washington.  It was worn daily. There's a picture of us with Histo, all in our Houdinis.

THERMAREST WOMEN'S PROLITE:  We rolled into a gear shop in Bishop and picked up Prolites that were a past model and deeply discounted.  We both carried the Women's version.  Adding the 16oz to our packs was WELL worth how much better we slept.  And yes, we did keep carrying the ZLites, too.

USB MEMORY CARD READER: You can find one of these at any drug store or Radio Shack.  We got ours in Big Bear and it was a  wonderful solution to uploading and backing up our photographs.  A bunch of our hiker friends used it at every town stop, too.  It's a light and simple solution to backing up photos.  I'm glad I did along the way, because the first of our two memory cards was somehow damaged and I cannot access the photos from Campo to Bishop any longer...

List of (some) things we ditched all together:
-Second/spare Moving Comfort sports bra
*There are so many things that we ditched that I don't even recall... In each town you end up leaving something behind and trimming weight and bulk.

Honorable Mention
We loved...

MSR POCKET ROCKET: We loved the system and felt like it was quite efficient for the two of us.

IPHONE: So glad we had our iPhone. Carrying a phone/gadget isn't for everyone, but we were glad to have it for internet-ing in town, calling family and friends and using PCT Apps.  We HIGHLY recommend the Halfmile Maps and App.  We kept the phone in a simple Ziploc and it was fine for 2660 miles.

Hope this helps!

PS. I have added some useful information, guidelines and even print-outs on our PCT page outlining the US Postal Service's guidelines for mailing fuel canisters to PCT hikers. In short, it is totally possible and totally easy to mail isobutane canisters, you just need to account for more time (they cannot go air, they must go by ground, even if you use a flat rate box) and you must add the appropriate label.  Ship on!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yoga Challenge: It's Week 3

Well, it's week three already. 

The personal yoga challenge is going well... actually I'm loving it.  It's an incredible feeling to recognize areas and muscles and poses that are stronger than they were weeks ago.  I have, since the first day, been acutely aware of how strong my legs are from all of that hiking.  My arms and core were a bit flimsy so after shaking through the arm/core focused areas, the leg focused stuff made me feel tough.   I am now starting to look ahead to March and beyond, figuring out what kind of yoga practice I can/will have when this challenge is over. Does anyone out there have a practice schedule they like? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


While drinking our coffee this morning, Trav put on Willie Nelson's Stardust. And it is Valentine's Day perfection.  I have a hunch that it will be on repeat all day... lots of record flipping. If you haven't gotten your sweetheart or a special someone something... I highly recommend this album (no Willie Nelson pun intended there).  It's a perfect collection of love songs.

And Willie seems to me the perfect Cupid. A reminder that love ain't always pretty or polished or conventional.  But it's sweet and simple and meant for enjoyment.

And for a special loveydovey throwback, you've gotta re-read this one.

Happy VDay, y'all.  XOXO.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Yoga Challenge: Week 1

I decided weeks ago that for the month of February I would do a personal yoga challenge.  The idea came from a number of motivations:
1. There is a wonderful studio in town that offers an unlimited 30 day trial for $40.
2. I have no job and know few people in town and therefore have a good amount of free time.
3.  As I mentioned before, I find it difficult to create structure when I have none, so a 1 hour yoga class a day gives me something to plan around.
4. I like a physical challenge and having a goal (ahem)
5.  Health, wellness, fitness, core strength, etc.
6.  Feeling centerend.

So, the goal is to take a yoga class everyday for the month of February. I'm eight days in and feeling good.  I try to mix it up and take classes that differ in practice and difficulty.  I took one the other day that made my upper abs sore for days. Laughing was so painful.  And when I would start to laugh I'd cower in pain making Travis laugh at me and then making me laugh more.  Vicious cycle. Some days I feel muscles I didn't know I had.  Like, what's with that weird muscle right in front of your arm pit? You know that space that seems to always get sunburned too.... anyway, that was screamin' at one point.  Today my shoulders are worked.

One thing I did not expect was to appreciate the meditation and quiet reflection as much as I have.  I remember in yoga classes of yore I spent the whole 'meditation' time wondering when it was going to be over. Now, it's often not long enough.  I guess it's safe to say I have a lot of reflecting to do.

So! Eight days down, twenty to go!