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I’m getting ready for the home stretch of my PCT adventure. I’ll be attending PCT Days this weekend and then hiking north through Washington. I’ll be interviewing many hikers during the next month. Are there any questions you’d like to hear me ask my fellow PCT hikers? Let me know in the comments below.

Hello everyone! I thought I’d give you all an update about my hike as I skip a few hundred miles of trail to catch up to The Herd and hopefully position myself to reach Cascade Locks, OR in time for PCT Days. I am currently hitching from Old Station, CA to a place on the trail near the Oregon border. This will give me two weeks to hike Oregon– also known as the 14-Day Oregon Challenge! That means I’ll have to hike an average of 32.5 miles per day with no time off. It will push me to my limits, as the longest day I’ve ever hiked was 32 miles.

I’m currently working on Episode 16, which should come out next Tuesday like usual. I’m taking the following week off as I won’t have time for editing while I’m hiking Oregon. Trailside Radio will return the following week. The next two episodes will be a little different than the previous ones, as I’m going to focus more on my own hike and record my day-to-day experiences pushing myself to make big miles. After that, I’ll be returning to the usual focus on interviews with hikers, trail angels, and others in the PCT community. Hopefully PCT Days will provide a wealth of stories, just as Kick Off did back in April. I will also be attending the ALDHA-West Gathering at the end of September.

Everything is going great. My ankle hasn’t given me any troubles in the last couple weeks, and hopefully it’s ready for the 32-mile days I’ll be hiking in Oregon. I’m somewhat disappointed that I haven’t succeeded at hiking every mile of the trail, but I have no regrets and my morale remains high. Money has gotten very tight for me, but my expenses should be minimal for the duration of my hike, and I do have resources I can turn to in case of an emergency. The occasional contributions I’ve gotten from listeners have been a big help, putting some of the money I’ve spent to produce this podcast back into my hiking budget.

To answer one of the questions I get asked the most: yes, I’ll be continuing to produce new episodes of Trailside Radio after this hiking season is done. It won’t be weekly– probably monthly– but I plan to spend the off-season interviewing other hikers about the adventures they’ve had this year on other trails, including the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Will I be doing another thru-hike (or nearly-thru-hike) next year? It’s too early to say. I won’t make that decision until after I finish this journey. But if– or when– I attempt another long-distance hike, I’ll be sure to bring you all along with me for the ride!

Thanks for listening. I still have 1000 more miles to hike this year, and I look forward to sharing the stories with you.

– Ratatouille

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After celebrating at the 500 mile mark, Ratatouille loses his phone while hitching to town, is bitten by red ants, gets sick, encounters a Mojave Green rattlesnake, hurts his foot, and falls on a cactus. Two brothers from overseas and a traveling trail angel come to his rescue.

The song “Hearns” was written and performed by ate21. Used with permission.

LINKS!
Gorilla Walker
PCT Water Report
Featured music: ate21

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Gear decisions are very personal. Many people would be very unhappy if they hit the trail with the same gear I use. My pack is heavier than average and some veteran hikers have rolled their eyes at my choices, such as hammock camping with four pounds of insulation (underquilt, sleeping bag, and sleeping bag liner). I do not suggest that anyone blindly use this as a guide. I am sharing this list for those who are curious, and because some specific information may be helpful to some people, particularly my podcasting gear which many people have asked about.

I am posting this list without pictures for now, but I intend to add those along the way. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to use the comments section.

Sony PCM-M10 audio recorder (7 oz)

A key piece of gear for Trailside Radio. This thing is amazing. It records high-quality, low-noise audio in wav or mp3 format. It has 4 GB of internal memory, as well as a slot for microSD cards. I can fit over 20 hours of CD-quality audio on one 16 GB card. The internal microphones are great, although I’ll often be using its plugin power to operate my external microphones, providing me with more flexibility in my recording technique. The PCM-M10 runs for about 24 hours on 2 AA batteries. It was recommended to me by two different people who both have professional experience recording audio in the wilderness, and so far I’ve been very impressed with it. I’ve used it to record every interview since episode 2. If there are flaws in the recordings, blame it on my inexperience, not this recorder.
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“The thing about food is it’s all good, but there’s no food as good as trail food.” – Ratatouille

I love cooking. I enjoy the process of combining a variety of ingredients and mixing flavors to create a unique result. When I first started backpacking 17 years ago, I bought an Excalibur food dehydrator and started making my own instant meals. I quickly tired of eating the same dishes day after day. Somewhere along the way I realized that if I prepared all the ingredients separately, I could mix and match them on the trail and never eat the same meal twice.

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Wild rice, quinoa, red cabbage, tomato paste, pinto beans, black beans, carrots, and broccoli.

I’ll be using this technique for most of my meals on my upcoming thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I tend to skip breakfast when I’m hiking. If I want a hot meal before midday, it’s usually oatmeal. Unlike a lot of people, I actually eat oatmeal when I’m not hiking, so I’m not too worried about getting sick of it on a thru-hike. Otherwise I just snack on cold foods: trail mix, dried fruit, bars, and so on. I usually cook two hot meals later in the day using my arsenal of ingredients.

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Production of Trailside Radio has begun. In the last week I’ve conducted three interviews, with more to come. By early April there should be at least two episodes available for your listening pleasure.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have very little experience interviewing people. Over the years, I’ve probably conducted more job interviews than journalistic interviews. I listen to a lot of interview-based podcasts (WTF, Nerdist, etc.) but the hosts of these shows have the advantage of decades of experience in radio and television. Luckily for me, Trailside Radio will not focus on long form interviews like these other podcasts do. There is no pressure for me to seamlessly fill an hour with one unedited conversation. Still, I need to develop a similar set of skills if I want to create the best result possible.

Fortunately, my first three subjects have all been great storytellers who made the process easy for me. I interviewed two people who have completed thru-hikes of the PCT. Both interviews were conducted at a friend’s home studio here in Portland, which allowed me to forget about the recording process and focus on the conversation. Both sessions exceeded my expectations, and the credit belongs to the hikers I was interviewing. I think the secret for me will be to stay out of the way as much as possible. Follow-up questions are great when someone isn’t sure what to say next, but when a story has momentum, it’s usually best to stand back. My goal is to give people space to tell their own stories. In these segments the spotlight should be on the person telling the story.

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Step One: Put on your backpack and walk to the grocery store.

Step Two: Walk right past the grocery store and continue to the next one.

Step Three: Repeat Step Two until you are at a grocery store at least 10 miles from your home.

Step Four: Buy 30 pounds of food and place it in your backpack.

Step Five: Walk home along the hilliest route possible.

Step Six: Cook the food and place it in a dehydrator.

Step Seven: Sleep.

Step Eight: Return to Step One.

It’s official. I have my permit. In only ten weeks I’ll be at the Mexican border to start my 2,660-mile journey northward. Right now, that day feels like it’s a lifetime away, but if I’m not careful, it will be here before I’m ready.

Even though I have a fair amount of backpacking experience, I’ve been spending absurd amounts of time researching the trail. There are plenty of books to read, documentaries to watch, and online forums to browse. I’ve talked with people who have done the hike before, some of them multiple times. I attended a class at a local outdoor gear store. (Shout out to Gary at the Mountain Shop!) I’ve connected with other people who will also be doing their first thru-hike this year. I’m starting to develop a severe case of information overload.

Fortunately, I already have most of my gear. I recently bought a new backpack and I’m about to upgrade my hammock, but most of what I’m carrying will be the same equipment I’ve used in the past. While this will be my first long-distance thru-hike, I’ve done solo hikes as long as 300 miles, which has given me plenty of time to find my hiking style and dial in my gear. This definitely gives me a leg up in the preparation department.

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My earliest camping experiences go back to my childhood in Minnesota. My mother took my brother and me on trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area from a very young age, usually with other friends or family in tow. We’d paddle and portage from lake to lake for days at a time. My mother was (and is) an experienced wilderness adventurer who enjoyed occasional solo trips as well. She taught us how to appreciate the natural world while having fun and staying safe. These memories stand out more clearly than any others from my youth. Jumping out of a canoe to swim in the middle of a lake. Eating freshly caught fish roasted on the campfire. The magical sound of loons singing at night.

Even though I grew up in the suburbs, my childhood was filled with opportunities to appreciate nature. Cross-country skiing. Ice fishing. Visiting my grandparents’ farm. Hikes through local wilderness preserves. Family road trips. Camping with friends as a teenager.

With my brother in Alaska. (I'm on the left!)

With my brother in Alaska. (I’m on the left!)

I moved to Oregon on my own at the age of 19. It wasn’t long before I heard the wilderness calling my name. I figured I had enough experience that I could just head out onto the trail without advice or guidance. Fortunately I did know enough to keep myself safe. What I didn’t know was how to pack for a trip when you have to carry everything on your back. I was used to packing more than one bag per person, and carrying it all in a canoe. It didn’t take long for me to learn from my mistake.

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