Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 31: A month on trail

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Date: May 30, 2017
Miles: 0 in Hiker Heaven (mile 454). 
Health: Feeling rested. 

 Note: as my camera is still broken (see day 25), all photos here are from iPhone 7 Plus.

We're all enjoying a zero day in Hiker Heaven, and as I've now been on trail for a month, I though it would be a good time to cover things that I haven't had time to talk about in the daily posts.

Overall the trail has been amazing. I was worried that once the "honeymoon period" was over, I might slowly start losing my interest to hiking long days everyday. Instead it has gone the other way. I keep getting more and more excited about hiking as we go on.

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I can still remember how my "normal" life back at home felt like, but by now it feels so distant and far away that it seems like a lifetime ago. At home time moves so quickly, weeks can go by in a blink of an eye. In here, days feel really long and every day is a new adventure. Although the heat and the trail are constant, no two days are the same and it's hard to feel like what you're doing is a routine.

The trail life feels amazing.

Gear changes

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While I thought, and still think that I had a pretty well thought out gear list, I've made few changes during the first month.

One of the best advices I heard before leaving for the trail was that you're not locked to the gear you start with. Sure it makes sense to have a well thought out list and gear that works, but it's not like you're going to spend the next five to six months in total isolation. You'll have plenty of places along the trail where you can change out your gear. I've seen people change almost all of their big three on the trail.

Most gear changes are done because people change to lighter gear, or because gear failures.

So what have I done? I send my solar charger and knife back home from Big Bear. I didn't use my knife once during the entire trip. I was completely fine with my small titanium scissors.

Tiny enjoying the sun.  

Tiny enjoying the sun.  

The solar charger went home because I found out that I had more than enough power from the battery pack alone. And sending them both home saved weight.

I also switched my cold soaking container to a smaller Talenti ice cream container. I didn't need that much volume and it took too much space in my backpack.

I'm also planning on switching to a smaller backpack once we're done with the Sierras and I don't have to carry a beer canister. My current pack is a 48 liter MLD Prophet, but I'm having a hard time filling her up even with longer food carries. So I'm looking to switch to either the 38 liter MLD Burn, or the 40 liter Pa'lante Packs Simple Pack.

Food and eating

Queso making us a dinner.  

Queso making us a dinner.  

From the start I've gone stoveless and haven't regretted it once. Not having to deal with fuel, carrying extra weight, or waiting for food to cook is just liberating. And lighter.

So what do I eat?

For breakfast I usually eat bars, trailmix, or anything that can be eaten while walking. I usually aim to eat about 1,000 calories for breakfast.

For lunch I eat something that requires a little bit more preparation. My favorites are salami-cheddar-bacon-mayo-hot sauce bagels or tortillas. Cold soaked ramen with tuna also works. I aim to eat 1,500 to 2,000 calories for lunch.

More food.  

More food.  

For dinner I usually just eat what ever is on the top of my food bag and easily available. I aim to eat about 1,000 calories.

On top of those, I try to eat snacks throughout the day, adding anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calories to my diet.

So how much does my daily food weight? It's a bit hard to weight but I carry approximately 2.2lbs (1kg) of food per day of hiking.

Body and sleep

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I haven't had any really bad problems with my body or feet. In the beginning I went to sleep way before hiker midnight every night and woke up without an alarm around 4am. But since, as working on this blog takes about an hour, hour and a half every night, and as we keep hiking later and later in the night due to the heat, I've been getting less and less sleep. And I can definitely notice that. And I'm not a young guy anymore so I don't recover as fast as the younger hikers. But that just means I have to take rest days every now and then.

Howie going on a road trip.  

Howie going on a road trip.  

My biggest problems with my feet were due to swelling, which was fixed by changing to wider shoes at Warner Spring. And since then, hiking in the zero drop Altra's that I've never worn before, has caused few other problems. The new shoes kept causing blisters for few weeks but that seems to be going away now.

One other thing about the zero drop shoes is that my legs are definitely doing a lot more work (compared to 12mm drop on Cascadians) and I do notice that after a long day. But that'll probably go away as my legs get used to the zero drop.

About the trail so far

KB and Howie snuggling.  

KB and Howie snuggling.  

I've gotten many comments about the amount of people on the trail, and the experience overall. There are few reasons why you see so many people on my photos.

First of all, there's a very short window each year to start the PCT. Therefore you and tens, maybe hundreds of other hikers like you who wish to thru-hike the PCT, start the trail around the same time. From the same spot.

Secondly, while we hike most of the time alone, we usually congregate around water sources and camp spots that are available in very limited quantities along the trail. There might only be one or two spots to sleep in on a 30 mile section, so naturally everyone gathers around these spots.

Also, I tend to take a lot more photos in these places, instead of photos of an empty trail, so it might look like we're constantly surrounded by a massive bubble of hikers. It would be really boring to write about, or photograph, the 8 hours of hiking alone we do daily. That's why I seem to focus more on the social side of the hiking.

Food makes happy hikers.  

Food makes happy hikers.  

Also, I want to follow the great advice many past thru-hikers have given: photograph the people you meet, not the scenery you see. I think that's an excellent advice. While I love seeing all the amazing vistas and scenery we pass by daily, it will be the people I hike with daily that I want to remember for the rest of my life. Also, as we've already seen, you'll never know when you'll see someone for the last time on trail.

How we spend our time on trail?

Most of our time on the trail is focused on water and food. The daily discussion evolves always around "where's the next water source?" and "how much water are you carrying?".

At times it also feels like we're here to eat. And then to do some walking between meals. I can definitely already tell that there are going to be few food items that I don't want to see ever again after this hike.

We usually hike between 6 to 10 hours and then the rest of the time is spend resting, preparing, resupplying, or just goofing around.

My photography workflow

Tents in Hiker Heaven.  

Tents in Hiker Heaven.  

I shoot most of my photos on the Sony RX100 V that I carry on my left shoulder strap. I transfer the photos over to my iPhone using Apples Lightning to USB adapter and edit all my photos on my phone using Adobe's Lightroom. When ever we react a wifi spot I try to sync them online to the Adobe's Cloud for a backup. Once the photos are in Lightroom I delete the version on my phone.

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As my camera is broken, I've used the iPhone 7 Plus and shooting with the Lightroom camera using DNG format. It's an ok solution but the 28mm lens (vs 24mm on Sony) and poor low light quality make it no match for the Sony.

Did I leave anything out? If there's something you'd like to know, please let me know in the comments.