John Muir Trail, Part 1 -- Gear List (with Shout-Outs to Skinfit, USANA, ProBar, John Mayer, and my BeardLoofah™)

If you have spent any time interacting with me over the last few months, then you probably know I'm hitting the John Muir Trail next week. This is how most of my conversations have played out recently:

"Would you like fries with that?"

"No thanks, but you know where I wish they had fries? The John Muir Trail. It's a 221 mile trail from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney. Yeah, I'm running it with a couple of friends and we're going to try to do it in 9 days which is nearly a marathon a day...we were going to try to do it in 7 days, but I had a bad day on Mt. San Jacinto, so we lengthened probably already knew about that, because I wrote about it on my blog."

"So, would you like fruit or slaw?"

"I'll take the fruit, the slaw might get stuck in my beard...that I'm growing for the John Muir Trail, it also doubles as a loofah, which will come in useful on the trail, because I don't have room for any extra pack weight is currently under 12 pounds, so no sponges allowed."

"Your burger will be right up. Enjoy the John Mayer Trail. I never really liked that guy after what he did to Taylor Swift."

While preparing to cover the JMT, I have learned that the longer the run, the bigger the role gear plays. As the gear choices become more important, I have been trying to find that thin line of balance between weight and necessity. Whittling down a pack to under 12 pounds was difficult and I hope that I have found that balance, but to be honest, the only way to know if it will work is to try it out on the trail. I'm excited and scared about reality of being out on the trail and surviving (hopefully in some comfort) with the gear strapped on my back, dipping my bottle in cold lakes and rivers, and eating enough calories to keep me floating along.

If you're not into gear, and really, I wasn't either a few months ago, I'd move on. This probably isn't for you. This article is for the weight weenies.

Speaking of weenies, yesterday, I was on my hands and knees on my bathroom floor with gear splayed out all around me, hovering over a single tube of chap stick on the center of a kitchen scale and patiently waiting while the blue digital numbers oscillated between 9 and 10 grams before finally settling on 10 grams. As I knelt on the cold tile, hands shaking like a junkie setting up his works, I applied a liberal layer of the waxy stick to my unchapped lips. I'd done it, single digits...9 grams. My lips were now soft and supple, not that it matters; they haven't seen much action since allowing my John Muir trail-beard to have its way with my face.

What follows is a gear list from a relatively new fast packer. If you're here looking for expert advice, don't. I've done some 2-day runs with this gear, and I've tried it all out, but 9 days on the trail could provide completely different results. Hopefully I've successfully balanced the weight vs. need line, but I'm well aware that there may be a big 20 point font warning at the top of this page added by a future, older, and wiser version of myself shaking his head and mocking the current soft-lipped version of myself, asking “what were you thinking?”

I want to thank some of the companies that provided gear for this trip. Some sent free samples to try, and some I have paid for. Bottom line is I'm trusting my journey to the gear provided by these companies, and if they made the cut, it's because I have tried them, and they are the best that I have found.

Skinfit -- skullcap, running gloves, arm warmers, and wind jacket. This stuff is awesome, super light, hi-tech fabric and very comfortable and functional.

USANA -- I have been using these supplements for nearly 20 years and I completely trust everything that the scientists who founded this company put out. My favorite products from USANA that will be with me on the trail are the BiOmega fish oil (to help with inflammation), Procosa (for my joints), the whole food and high protein snack bars, and digestive enzymes to help me process all the high-calorie junk food that I'll be eating on the trail.

ProBar -- I'll be mixing the junk food up with this high quality stuff. Most of my lunches will consist of a ProBar meal bar, which is a great-tasting, organic, whole food meal bar with about 400 calories. I'm also taking the delicious ProBar Bolt organic fruit chews on the trail as snacks.

Fits Sock Company -- for a little piece of heaven, I’ll switch into these wool socks in the evening (along with my silk robe, slippers, and pipe).

Here's the whole gear list:

My sleeping set-up in the wild.
Food for one day.

As for food, I'm targeting 3,500 calories per day. To get to that number, I'm using a combination of high caloric density junk food and whole foods. For some reason, junk food is the most efficient way to get a lot of calories into the system without adding too much weight (to the pack, the belly on the other hand...). I'll start off the day with vanilla iced coffee powder and a couple of pop tarts. I'll snack throughout the day on a mixture of Fritos, jerky, trail mix, USANA protein snack bars, and a ProBar meal bar for lunch. Dinner will be a variety of freeze-dried meals from Expedition Foods. These dinners are healthy and packed with calories, and they are surprisingly good. We're re-supplying at 3 different points on the trail (Red's Meadow, Muir Trail Ranch, and Kearsarge Pass), so I won't be carrying more than about 2 pounds of food at any given time. Day 9 dinner will be at Whitney Portal store and will consist of multiple beverages from the Sierra Nevada brewery and a mediocre, but most delicious bacon double cheeseburger in existence, and I might even get a side of slaw.

Thanks for reading.

Kauai Vacation

I took the dog out last night to poo, and she didn't quite finish. Sometimes, without going into too much detail, there is a blockage. She eats grass, and I try to stop her because I don't think it's good for her, but then someone told me that dogs eat grass because there is something up with their stomach and grass helps aid the digestive process. Last night, I also had to aid the digestive process with a makeshift doggie bag glove on my hand. For some reason, my dog doesn't like a finger up her butt, so this is kind of a difficult task. She was patient, though, and avoided any eye contact with me as I very slowly and carefully pulled a cylindrical mixture of grass, small sticks, hair and dogshit out of her. It was satisfying to get it all out in one step, so I proudly showed it to my wife through the window, and announced triumphantly, "look what I just pulled out of Hazel's ass." Then I remembered how fun and beautiful last week's vacation on Kauai was. Here are some pictures:

Hanapepe Bridge (which I called Haveapeepee resulting in this photo)

Bring on the hurricane

I planned on running the Kalalau trail on the Na Pali coast. It's a trail I've wanted to run for a long time, and each time I go to Kauai, I get a little closer to actually running the damn thing. This time I had a permit ready to go, and I had recruited my brother-in-law, Cameron, to run it with me. We were all set, the weather looked great the week before, I'd been reading trip reports and watching videos of the trail and with each one, I was getting more excited to get out on the 22-mile trail. Unfortunately, Hurricane Flossie hit Kauai the day of the hike. It didn't even really hit Kauai, aside from some wind, clouds, and a short rainstorm in the morning, there really wasn't any evidence of a hurricane, but it was enough that the Hawaiian Parks department closed the trail as a safety precaution.

I searched for an alternate hike and found the Powerline trail which is a steep, muddy 10-mile trail through the jungle on the north side of Kauai. Two of my brothers-in-law joined me on the hike/run, and it was a lot of fun. All the online descriptions of the hike describe it as a dry hike, which I interpreted as the hike isn't very wet, but during the hike I realized that it probably meant that the hike should be done in dry weather. We only had one car and a limited amount of time to get back to the family at the beach for a day of cutthroat kids' beach olympics competition, so we did 10 miles total on the trail. The first half was a long, slippery climb to the top, and as is usually the case, the views from the top of the mountain were worth it. We turned at the top and ran most of the way back down. By the end of the run, I had slipped and fallen about 5 times, was covered in mud, and a little of the sting of not being able to do the Kalalau trail had been washed away by the mountains. I was proud of Ryan and Cameron for joining me in the tough conditions. My favorite part of the run, of almost any run, was sharing the calm that comes from being outside surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Powerline Trail

Photo credit: Ryan Kaltenbach

Photo credit: Ryan Kaltenbach

My wife and I were also able to jump into a local race in Poipu. She did the 10K and took second in her age group, and I did the 10 mile and took first in the 40-49 division, so it was a good race for both of us.

10 mile finish line
Thanks for reading.

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