Four Pass Loop by Luke Weisman

Is this journal alive again? Well, i’m not sure, so lets go with strong maybe.

A couple weekends ago Sophia and I were joined by our two friends Anna and Nate to tackle the epic Four Pass Loop backpacking trip. It’s a Colorado backcountry classic, that travels around the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area over four mountain passes that exceed 12,000 feet. The loop extends for a total of 27 miles and includes more than 8,000 feet of elevation gain, and took us four days to complete.

Nate + Anna brought along a lot of their photography gear to capture these amazing images.

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Zero Day by Luke Weisman

Zero Day. A day in which you hike zero miles or nearly that many.

Also known as...mental health day, recuperate your body day, hitchhike day, pick up your resupply box day, check out the small town you find yourself in day, wash everything you own day, check into a motel and sleep on a real bed day, order a burger you know is going to be over cooked and enjoy it anyway day, box wine day, see a movie at the theaters that's been out for over a month already day, notice that half the other people in this tiny town are also hikers day, leave big tips day, order the local beer day, restock up on candy bars day, crank up the AC day, see what other horrible thing has happened on the news since you last turned it on day, download new podcasts day, plan the next section on the trip day, shower both at night and in the morning day, don't order the Chinese food in a small town day, walk as little as possible day, make sure you have enough fuel day, wish you girlfriend was magically in this town day day, check your email, Instagram, facebook, and whatever other social media day, steal toilet paper from the motel room day, realize that tomorrow is a back to hiking day.

Sierra by Luke Weisman

Be careful what you wish for.

In the desert the PCT Water Report was everything. At night before bed I'd always check it, and then check it again, to make sure I knew exactly how far I needed to walk to get to the next water source, and how much water needed to be carried. It also informs how sore I'd likely be after making that carry, often twenty miles, which translates into four liters of water, or eight extra pounds on my back, which translates back into soreness. But the best thing about the Report (other than the obvious), is that it makes it easy to plan a day, rough, and painful as it might be.

Fifteen miles into one of those sunny strolls through a waterless section the mind has a tendency to drift, to daydream for a time when water will bemore plentiful, when I won't need to weigh myself down with all this heavy h2o. It starts to asks itself questions, why is water so heavy anyway? Who made these crazy decisions to take this trail through this anyway? Why don't I have a Twinkie in my possession right now? I really want a Twinkie!

Then at mile 710, the Water Report stops, nothing is there, no data at all. That's when the PCT changes completely. That's when water is everywhere!

Snow, slush, frozen snow, streams, creeks, rivers, springs, lakes, frozen lakes, ponds, ice, ice-burgs, mud, puddles, waterfalls. There are sections where water is literally making its way down the trail, turning the path itself into a water way!

With all that water brings three things. Beauty first and foremost. It's unbelievable the places you find yourself, the spots you camp at, the sights you see, the places you stop for lunch. It's beyond compare.

Second wet feet. I've now walked through more snow then I ever have in my eight winters in New York, and let me tell you wet shoes, and therefore wet feet are not good. Ok, obvious I know, no one likes walking with wet feet, but at least in NY you have some semblance of a system that clears things up, and really it's only those slushy street corners where it gets real messy, and even those you can often hop over. You can't hop over ten miles of snow that is in the same condition as those corners, you just have to walk through it.

Third, mosquitos. Fuck mosquitos! No amount of Deet can keep them off you. They can swarm in the hundreds, maybe thousands, and it's a nightmare. The key is to move and keep moving, don't give them the chance to land on you. And whatever you do, choose those nature calling locations very carefully, oh and bring an insect head net.

The walk from Kennedy Meadows to Tahoe, The Sierras, will be something I'll never forget. It was much harder than I thought going in, I found myself in spots that were a more than a little scary, at altitudes that literally took my breath away, there were definite moments of frustration, but I loved every bit of it. Except the mosquitos.

Letter Forms by Luke Weisman

In all the small details letter forms are everywhere. 


 
 

Sand by Luke Weisman

Thank you sand.

Thank you for showcasing your ability of energy conversion, away from each step meant to propel me forward, into your dark soul, for purposes unknown.

Thank you for your uncanny ability to find your way into my shoes, to hasten the destruction of my socks, and the formation of blisters. You're my constant reminder to take breaks, to take care of my feet. You're out to get them, I know, but prevent you I'll try.

I have to reluctantly thank you for the softness you can sometimes provide. With my tent pitched upon you at night, I sleep in relative comfort. I may have nightmares consisting of useless footsteps to nowhere, but dreams on the trail should be saved for a different thank you.

Thank you for testing my resolve on this first leg of this trip. But as I exited the desert, I thank you most of all for being behind me. Now please return to your place at the beach, I expect to see you soon enough, with an umbrellaed drink in hand, on a future tropical vacation.

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Saddle to the Sierras by Luke Weisman

Near mile 680 I passed over a saddle between two mountain tops and I noticed an amazing transformation. The landscape shifted, there were new smells, and new plants, there desert diminished, and I knew I was looking at my next leg of the trip, the Sierras! They were finally here.

I love it, and I earned it. The desert was hard, harder than I thought it was going to be, especially right near the end. A forty mile stretch with no water nearly got me, those two days were my lowest moments on the trail so far, but I made it through, and now it's completely different.

Water is everywhere! Trees and shade everywhere. The spirits of every hiker that I meet high, everyone is smiling. This is what it's all about! And now Deet is also what it's all about...I may have gotten out of the desert (tough as it was), to now deal with the mosquito hoard. Annoying biting bugs or long heavy water carries? I know which option I'd sooner take.

Some of the highlights so far are, trekking over Forester Pass, a 13,000 foot high section, the highest point on the PCT. Sliding down a snow incline and bruising my ass on a rock. Drinking unfiltered water straight from snow melt off from the peak of a mountain. The challenge of multiple stream crossings.

As always I can't wait to see what comes next. It's never what I think it will be.

Joshua Tree by Luke Weisman

Thank you Joshua Tree.

Thank you for germinating and growing where you did, to the size and robustness to provide me adequate shade to escape the intense Mojave Desert sun.

Thank you for allowing me the time to rest, and the time to explore your ancient mysterious beauty during the five hottest hours of the day.

Thank you for your durability to withstand the harshness of this landscape.

Thank you for reminding me I'm alive when accidentally backing into you, and stabbing myself on your pokey skin.

And as evidence of the many petrified cow patties that surround me, I also thank you for the protection you provide the natural wildlife. You are a true hero of the desert.

Thank you.

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One Month by Luke Weisman

I have been on the Pacific Crest Trail for one month now. One month! It feels like yesterday I started, I was back in Campo without a clue about what I was about to do, but no, I've traveled over 600 miles on foot. 600, wow that number is crazy to me! I can't believe that nearly one fourth of the whole trail is now behind me. And still I continue without much of a clue.

This first fourth of the trail is considered the desert section, and before I actually experienced it, I imagined it so differently than it turned out being. While there have been plenty of truly hot days with little shade that tested my resolve, I also hiked through so many different areas that weren't desert at all. Lots of high passes through pine tree zones, most notably that areas around Wrightwood, Big Bear and Idywilld. And other locations really reminded me of where I grew up in Carmel Valley, the smell of the oak trees, the chirp of the grasshoppers in the tall grasses, the rolling brown hills...it made me really miss that area. Also in this desert section, I've swam in lakes, relaxed in a hot spring, collected and used snow as a way to cool off, and seen the stars like I never have before. It's been truly a unique experience.

That being said, I can't wait for the next leg of the trip, the Sierras! No more 20-30 mile sections without water, no more days without shade and hopefully no more sand, just bears, high peaks and cold nights! Can't wait.

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Another aspect of the trail that I've thought a lot about is the balance between the mental and the physical. Before this trip started I would have thought that balance skewed more to the physical, now I know it's the opposite. You need a basic level of physicality, definitely, but out here it's all mental. The walking uphill in the sand, the sun, the switchbacks, the long heavy water carries, the blisters, the setting up a tent in the wind, the food you're sick of, the gnats, the unknown, the everything. All those difficulties are being achieved by every type of body out here, but we all have our different ways to cope. My ways continue to evolve, sometimes I grit and bear it (which usually ends up with me in pain), or I just stop. I stop, I sit down, I eat something, relax, and realize that if I don't do whatever it is I'm doing at whatever pace, it will be completely fine, the trail will always be there.

Hike your own hike.

Now for some photos.

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The Desert by Luke Weisman

The desert is a harsh mistress, in the middle of the day it can be dangerous, the heat and the lack of shade is brutal, hiking through it is challenging. But between 6pm and 10am the desert completely changes. It's beautiful and quiet, the temperature drops dramatically, the stars are nights are brilliant, over all it's a very enjoyable hiking experience.

I've made some questionable decisions to hike in that afternoon sun, relying on the umbrella I'm carrying to help battle the heat, but it's just not enough, and my body has paid for it. I've now made pact with myself, going forward I'll be taking longer siestas in the middle of the day, looking for a spot in the shade to read, or nap, and then hike into the night. The evenings out here are perfect, I might as well take advantage of it. 

This will not only help me stay sane, but will help with the water consumption as well. For example, when I started day four, I had to cross a 23 miles waterless section, and to make it through that I had to come close to my maximum water storage capability, 7.5 liters. That much water weighs a ton! If I had hiked more of that section later in the day, I think I could have carried less, not be so burdened, and had been in a better mental state. Learning the hard way. 

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100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail! 

First thoughts by Luke Weisman

I'm on the pacific crest trail.

I'm on the pacific crest trail!

Shit...I'm on the pacific crest trail...

I hiked 26 miles day one, too far to start. I need to save those big days until I'm stronger and need to pull them.

Secondary thoughts

Everything hurts. What have I done to myself!

My feet feel like a million degrees, my hips where the bag rides are killing my, my shoulders also feel it under the bag strain, and my toes, my poor poor toes, little flesh balls, just waiting to become blisters.

It's strange, at 6:30 am you can still feel everything, you get the pack on, it's loaded with the water for the day, it's heavy, it's there, but at 7:30 you're at cruising speed, it all goes away. The only sad part, is it always comes back, always.

My favorite piece of equipment so far, and by a long shot, are the trekking poles (also known as my crutches)! I've never hiked with them before, and going forward I'll never leave home with out them. When you're going up hill, they give you leverage and an extra boost, and when you're going down hill, they can support you. They're great for a water crossing, for balance and for sword fights. Ok, I haven't had to use them in battle yet, but I definitely would if the situation arose.

My least favorite piece of gear I currently carry is sadly my camera, it weights a ton! I'm currently debating with myself about sending it home, and just going with the iPhone. I'll give it another week to see how I feel.

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Food by Luke Weisman

My food resupply boxes are packed, addressed and ready to go! All I need to do next is start walking north, and make my way to the various towns these boxes are headed.

Below are most of the items that will be waiting for me in Idyllwild, in Box #2, and typical of what will be in all the rest of the boxes. I try to mix it up for every box, different dinner, and lunch options, a lot of little snacks, but I'm sure I'll grow tired off all these quickly, with my mind solely focused on my next "real" meal when I get into town.  

I'm one day away from hitting the road, and driving down to the Southern Terminus of the PCT, and it's difficult to explain how I feel. I'm nervous, excited, worried, and little stressed I'm forgetting something. Will I have enough water for the desert? Will this food be enough? Will I get lost? Who will I meet out there? Is my pack going to be too heavy? What's it going to be like to hitchhike? Am I going to get blisters? What's it going to be like to be alone for that long? 

Antelope Canyon by Luke Weisman

Time for another road trip, this time back up to the northern Arizona, southern Utah border to visit a place I have seen in sooo many Instagram feeds (now mine included), Antelope Canyon. Just look at these colors, these shapes, completely breathtaking.

I could have spent all day at Antelope, but it is a guided tour, and they keep you moving at a decent clip. Our guide was great, full of stories about the history of the canyon, how it was used in the past, how it's changed, the dangers of it when it rains, and how they take care of it now.

Resupply by Luke Weisman

One of the challenges of planning for a thru hike like this, is figuring out your resupply strategy. Which towns to hike into, how far you want to go between them, all the correct addresses to send everything, if you plan to send yourself food, or if you plan to buy food in town. What a lot to think about! Luckily though, there are some great resources to help with this process. The main two I used are Yogi's PCT Handbook and Craig's PCT Planner, without either, I'd have been completely lost. 

The below map has my supply strategy! All red location markers are places where i'll be sending myself a box of supplies, while all the green location markers represent where I'll resupply at a store in town. If you click into each marker, in the description area is the proper way to address a package to me, as well as the approximate time I'll be arriving at that location. Hint hint... Although, if you do send me something (I recommend dark chocolate or beef jerky), you'll have to let me know, because I'll need to ask for it.

Paulden by Luke Weisman

The small town of Paulden, AZ. Home of the Weisman household and extremely slow internet connections. Ash and I take walks around the area everyday, these are some of the sights. 

Paulden has been my base of operations for the last couple weeks. Currently I'm still working on my resupply + food strategy, as well as gathering last minute items (do I really need that little doodad?), but it's getting close now. Crazy to think, the trail is right around the corner.

Zion by Luke Weisman

What a place! 20 years ago I was in Zion on a family trip, and I loved it, but I don't think I saw it then. This trip, I saw it. I clung on to the chains of Angel's Landing, hiked the many switch backs, and I got my feet wet hiking in the Virgin River going up the Narrows. What a place indeed. 

I went with the Prescott Area Backpackers, and what a great group they were. If you're ever in the Prescott area, definitely look them up, you'll have a blast! I'll be headed up to Hell's Gate with this group in a couple weeks. 

Again, great trip, and a great way to test a lot of the gear I'll be taking on the PCT.