The Thousand Mile Summer…

…is a book by Colin Fletcher that fired my imagination decades ago. A thousand miles–now that’s a hike. It’s dwarfed in comparison to doing the entire Pacific Crest Trail in one season (or the Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail, and others), but it’s always had a nice ring to me.

Late each winter I get cabin fever and start dreaming of long walks in the mountains. Since having knee surgeries I have also been researching the ultra-light backpacking methods commonly used by long distance walkers. As I was studying (and worrying about one still-cranky knee and the approaching soccer reffing season) I realized that it’s not getting easier to do a hike of this magnitude.

Hey, I don’t claim to be quick.

Other hiking acquaintances have had to scale back or quit backpacking for various reasons, and the increasing scope of woodworking commissions as I get ever larger bandsaws will compete for time. These factors converged on the idea of doing a thousand mile Tour de Sierra this summer, visiting areas long on my wish list and capped with a grand 500 mile trek the length of the range.

Research led to an entire community involved in long distance hiking (not just hikers–the subject of a future post), many of whom generously shared their information and experience, and gradually the idea of a single continuous journey took hold. Starting in Oregon sounded cool, and by chance the trail distance from the border to the south end of the Sierra is…you guessed it…a thousand miles.

This link shows a map of the Pacific Crest Trail; I plan to walk south from the Oregon border past Mt Shasta, Mt. Lassen, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and Mammoth Lakes to roughly 50 miles past Mt. Whitney–north-south-wise about halfway between Fresno and Bakersfield.

I’m planning just over 100 days to the journey, winding up in early October. This was partly to permit a slow, knee-preserving pace, and partly to experience the full course of summer in the mountains; early season’s lingering snowpack and abundant springs, the ensuing explosion of flowers (and mosquitoes…), high summer’s warm days and thundershowers, the transition to vibrant colors and falling leaves as the days rapidly shorten, and fall storms warning of winter’s hard edge.

Often over the years at work, as I tried to keep a hundred balls in the air (so it seemed), I imagined the smooth passage of days and nights in the Sierra; sun, clouds, moon, water, rock, trees, flowers, fish, pikas, ouzels…sometimes it was hard to feel they really existed. This summer I’m checking it out…in detail.

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