Mar 29, 2017
Preparing to Hike the Pacific Crest Trail: How My Lawyer Lessons Served Me Well
Mar 29, 2017
By Randy Wallace
The powers that be at the Bar Association graciously permitted me to publish my “Notice of Unavailability." When lawyers ask me what I am doing from April 28, 2017 to on or about September 15, 2017, I tell them I will hike 1,716 miles from Campo, California, the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail to Callaghan’s in Oregon.
I also tell them that to my surprise the practice of law taught me lessons that will serve me well on this hike: failing to prepare is preparing to fail, knowing what I do not know, and of course old school binders.
Nevertheless I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up after 40 years. What gear is available, how much does it cost, what to choose and how to choose it? If I listed all of the items in Binder No. 1 and told you that I downloaded and printed pictures, with specifications, and weights, I would lose you as readers. Binder No. 2 was route planning, logistics, food menus, water locations and quality and camp sites. That raises two basic lawyer questions: how much I did not know and how much I did not know what I did not know.
Take, for example, base weight—everything you carry minus consumables (food, water and fuel). Talk about fanaticism, you have no idea: the bottom line is 22 pounds or less is very good…less than 18 pounds is better…less than 15 pounds is outstanding, but impossible for most. Do you know the answers to what to get rid of, what to keep, and what do you need as opposed to want? I did not.
I bought three different pairs of shoes until I found the right ones. I bought green super feet insoles because you do not want Achilles and ankle problems, shin splints and plantar fasciitis on the trail. I bought three different packs because I found out real quickly that, “if a pack don’t fit, you’re gonna wanna quit.” The third pack fits.
But as in the law, some things you cannot fully prepare for or practice, like the weather and the pain. And unless you shake down your gear on a four day trip and maybe two of them before you start your hike, you will not know what works and what does not. In the words of the special ops forces “you gotta lock your sh#@t down tight” before you go.
In the Sierra, you need 4,000-plus calories a day and enough protein (about 80-95 grams per day depending on your weight) so your body will not start cannibalizing itself, i.e., atrophying muscle to liberate amino acids to regenerate the daily tearing and repair of muscle fibers. How many are thinking, “I’ll pass and go lie on a warm beach somewhere”? I could not fault these thoughts.
But every day you will see billion-dollar views. Every day you may have a, “Holy sh@#t, Batman,” moment. Every day will be different other than knowing you will wake up to the light and birds, coffee up with breakfast, pack it all up, hike, snack, drink, stop, rest, filter your water, change your socks, air out your feet, take everything out of your pack, set up camp, cook, eat again, organize for the next day, read your maps, sleep, and then start again, and again…every day for four plus months. Did I say washing your clothes and a taking a shower every seven days or so makes you hiker trash?
Will I hike all of the 1,716 miles? I hope so but the goal is to hike for four plus months and see where I end up. If I don’t make it, it might be because of the snow, but it will not be for lack of the lawyer lessons learned.
The entire PCT from the southern terminus, Campo, California to the northern terminus, Manning, British Columbia is 2650 miles. Way too far for this boy in one hike. But as part of my “base weight” on my hike, I will carry Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at the close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Randy has practiced law for 39 years and has been a mediator for 23 years. His law office is in San Rafael. He was MCBA President in 2015.