This is Part 2 of 2 in a series about where life will be taking Kristin and myself over the next few months and years. If you haven’t already read Part 1, then what the hell are you doing, man!? Gosh. Get your shit together.
The last thing I mentioned in Part 1 (I think, I didn’t actually reread it like the well-trained writer that I am) was that I was planning on returning to graduate school and getting my master’s degree in urban planning. How I am going to pay for said schooling I have no fucking idea, but I am certainly not above robbing daycares and pet stores to bankroll my education. So, the current plan (which has a tendency to not work out in any way that I thought it would) after finishing my degree (summer 2020) in planning urban things like parades and hiring food trucks and other related stuffs would be for Kristin and I to return to the Sierras and hike the ~350 section between Mt. Whitney and Echo Lake that I (we) skipped when I drowned in my own lungs and almost died and got to fly a helicopter. Well, I didn’t actually fly the helicopter, but I did sit in it with this super cool helmet on and got to fire a machine gun out the door. Okay, that last part didn’t happen either, but whatever. Details schmetails.
But really, though, we definitely want to get back there and finish arguably the most scenic and stunning section of the PCT. This time we’ll certainly take a few more precautions regarding the altitude. I have a prescription now as well as some strategies to help mitigate the effect the thin air has on my body. Regardless, we will not let our difficulties in the Sierras this year prevent us from tackling them another year. We are finishing what we started.
Now for the fun part of this post. Before I did the PCT I had already began thinking about other adventures that I would really like to do one day. For a while I’ve known about Nordic skating which is essentially skating on “wild” ice. So like frozen lakes, rivers, streams, etc. Nordic skates are essentially long track speed skates that use cross country ski boots. So you would just clip into the skate with your ski boots and have fun. I used to race short track when I was younger and I really miss being on the ice, but I also don’t have much desire to be competitive with it anymore so this kind of activity would be perfect for me, especially while living in Canada.
Sometime before the trail I was listening to this podcast interview with an Irishman by the name of Gavan Hennigan who had walked 430 mi/700 km across frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia in an attempt to break the fastest known time on foot. Only a handful of people have ever walked from tip to tip on the largest lake in the world by volume (and the deepest). Baikal is known for its crystal clear ice in winter (over a meter thick) and the vast majority of the lake has glassy smooth exposed ice making it perfect for skating (which people do). There’s also a highway on it, so believe me, it’s safe. It sounded crazy at first (you would probably classify it as a death wish), but it got me thinking, wouldn’t it be quicker or at least easier to travel on skates than by trekking? Because if you used Nordic skates, you could just unclip from them when the ice was covered with snow and attach cross country skis; they use the same bindings.
I mentioned this idea to Kristin while we were on the trail and she was indifferent on it, but since then we’ve had a chance to return to normalcy and really dig in and do some research, it actually sounds extremely doable and both of us have become really stoked about the idea. It’d probably take three weeks or so and we’d likely have to carry all of our food, which sounds like a lot, but we’d be pulling pulks which are basically sleds designed to carry all of your crap and be drug behind you. This would enable us to carry more weight than with a backpack plus it would be relatively easy to pull especially when on skates.
Additionally, other people have done this! And not just professional adventurer dudes, but like average normal people. Now, most don’t trek from end to end, but many people have walked, skated, bicycled, ridden horses, and skied extended distances on Baikal. The only difference is the duration of the trip; we’d just be making it a little longer. Those who do get out for overnight extended trips on the lake usually do it in March. It would be cold of course, but not absurdly cold. The average temperature in March is 16°F / -9°C so with the proper gear it certainly isn’t out of the question (for us, maybe not for you). Most people walk northbound and the majority of the exposed ice is in the southern portions of the lake. So we could make good time before hitting snow and moving over to skis.
We would really like to do this trip in March of 2021 so it’d be after I would have graduated from my master’s program and after completed our Sierras PCT section hike the previous summer. I think that should be enough time to start acquiring the gear and learning the skills necessary to be prepared to tackle such a journey. For comparison, when I decided that I wanted to do the PCT, I had zero backpacking experience—neither had Kristin. I spent four years planning, preparing, and training before leaving the Mexican border. Kristin did it in one. So I really think that while insane, this should be a very achievable goal. And both Kristin and I are thrilled to begin making steps towards making it a reality.
In Part 1 I mentioned that I was planning on taking sailing lessons this summer. You may or may not have inferred that I have much, much bigger plans than simply sailing around in a small boat for funsies. The ultimate goal would be to go on a long journey across the ocean. Like, sailing to Australia. A couple years ago I became enamored at the idea of sailing around the world and while I would still love to pursue that, I’m not sure that I really want to commit the kind of time required to do that kind of venture; there’s just so many other things that I (and Kristin) want to pursue. We want to have wild experiences and adventures, but we also still value our careers and we do eventually want to have a family.
Assuming I learn to sail and enjoy it enough to continue learning and building my way up to larger keel boats and assuming that Kristin enjoys experiences on the water as well (we’ve never tried, so we don’t really know), then we hope that within the next ten years or so we can have the preparation necessary to embark on a voyage that would take us from the Atlantic coast of Canada, into the Caribbean Sea, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific and down to French Polynesia, Fiji, New Zealand, and ultimately Australia where we would likely sell the boat and fly home.
Here’s the thing, though, we have zero and I mean ZERO experience sailing. Neither of us has even piloted a motor boat; only canoes and kayaks. In fact, neither of us has even set foot on a sailboat. Hopefully, you get my point. This isn’t like Baikal where we would need to add some winter camping skills and some more experience with navigation since their won’t be a distinct trail, but that’s attainable. Even going from no backpacking experience to hiking the PCT is very doable. It doesn’t really take a lot of practice to learn what’s necessary for that kind of adventure. This, on the other hand, is different. Very different.
With backpacking I knew the gist of how to use a map and compass, I had the fitness and had done plenty of day hikes before and from there it was just learning about gear which I already had most of and small nuances that just come with experience. But with sailing I have no background. I didn’t grow up on the coast, not a single person in my family has ever sailed or knows a lick about it, and ultimately I’ve just never been exposed to it. So here’s a sampled list of all the things that I will need to learn before Kristin and I would feel remotely comfortable buying our own 30-35 foot yacht (a sailboat yacht, not one of those gaudy monstrosities that shit out wealth) and sailing halfway around the world.
- Port/Starboard (I think that means left/right when facing the bow which I think is the front.)
- Parts of a Boat (Spreader, batten, transom, halyard, leech. No clue.)
- Windward (No clue what that means, but it sounds like it has something to do with the wind?)
- How to fucking sail! (I downloaded an app from the American Sailing Association that has little games to help you learn where to place the sail to generate power to move the boat so I think I’m getting the idea. I think it all has to do with angle of the wind relative to the boat and the sails and involves of a lot of zigzagging.)
- Jibing and Tacking (Pretty sure these are types of maneuvers or turns, but I don’t really know which ones which.)
- Spinnaker? Jib? Genoa? (These are apparently sails. I think the spinnaker is the big poofy colorful one that is used for something specific. I don’t know what that specific thing is, though.)
- Navigation (Based upon a quick Google search, I am not aware of any marked trails on the ocean. GPS? Sextant? Compass? Nautical charts? Moana? A far cry from following the trail north.)
- Laws (Is it lawlessness?)
- Weather (When can you safely sail where? What do you do about the various kinds of conditions?)
- What the hell is a Knot? And why is it called Nautical Miles instead of Knotical Miles?
- Tying knots (I quit Boy Scouts after three years. I only made it to Tenderfoot.)
- How do you get fresh drinking water?
- How do you sleep while sailing overnight?
- Do you have to speak in a pirate voice?
- Can you play with the dolphins?
- I want to be a pirate.
- Are mermaids real?
- Can I please be a pirate?
So yeah there are a lot of things to learn, but we have plenty of time. There’s no rush to get there. We’re hoping to learn the skills and acquire the right equipment over the next ten years which means, we would probably have kids by then. And yes, we plan on taking them along. Of course that would add another layer of complexity, but we’re excited about the challenge and the opportunity to show the world to them from a young age (roughly five years old or so). When they’re little, it will be much easier to go on long hiking trips with them since they can be carried, but until they’re ten or older, it’d probably be hard to share the wilderness with them on foot. So sailing would be the perfect way to share the world with them. I know, I know “Hey Gummies and/or Michael, you’re a dumbass and going to be risking the lives of those poor little children. You should be incarcerated for such thoughtless behavior.” Yeah, yeah. We just want to instill adventure and a sense of possibility from a young age instead of just sitting there in an insulated environment closed off from the realities of the world. We want them to live rich, full lives.
Okay, so let me recap, in the next several years we’re planning on returning to the PCT to complete the Sierras, we plan on ice skating and/or skiing across frozen Lake Baikal in Russia, learning to sail and eventually sailing to Australia or somewhere else cool, and with many smaller adventures in between. To me, one of the most thrilling parts about doing things in the wild is being creative and coming up with the adventures and planning them and figuring out how to make the become reality long before you ever actually begin the journey itself. So here’s to taking more risks and more leaps of faith and seeing what kind of surprises life has in store for us.
Oh, I almost forgot. One more thing. You know how you all were like, “Hey Gummies and/or Michael, when’s your book coming out? Heh heh. You could write Wild. Wouldn’t that be great?” Right. Sounds like a blast. Honestly I cringe about the thought of yet another personal account of someone’s thru hike and finding love on the trail blah, blah, blah. HOWEVER! Kristin and I have been doing some thinking and we are considering NOT COMMITTING, but considering writing a book about our PCT experience and meeting each other and all that other stuff that people get all gaga about. If we do indeed write it, we can promise you these things: It will be good, it will be entertaining, it will be offensive, it will be funny, it will be thought provoking, it will be personal, it will be different (like very different from any other memoir you’ve read), and it will have pictures. Lots of pictures. As in illustrations, not photos. So consider this a very informal announcement that Kristin and I will be writing a memoir. When will it be done? Maybe before we’re dead, if that helps narrow the timeline.