Friday, February 28, 2014

Canada Permits are here!

Just wanted to share that I got my permits to enter Canada on the PCT last night. So that's good. Still waiting for the Long Distance Hiker permits from the PCTA. But it's all good - I have time.

I also got two nice stickers and another PCT map (I got my first with the PCTA registration), so now I have an extra map to bring to my parents, so they can follow up on my progress easily.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shopping Spree (Wont somebody please stop me?)

OK. I've done it again. And again. (And again).

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Anorak
I was eyeing this very nice and lightweight wind shirt (The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Anorak) at Sierra Trading Post for a while now, keeping it in my shopping cart. At first I was really excited about this special sale they were having, offering it with an additional %30+ discount over their usual discount rate (I think it's %25), and then I decided I don't really need it at the moment (=got vetoed over it at home), and was a bit bummed the sale was over.

Then I noticed that STP are having sales constantly, each with %25-%35 off on most items, and sometimes even more on several selected ones. So I decided to just keep an eye on the jacket, and see how it goes. Over the past 1-2 weeks I think I once saw "my" jacket for as low as $60, and I didn't buy it at the time. But it got harder and harder to just check it out every day or two, and convince myself that I can manage without it, or at most just buy it as I go along on the trail.

Finally, I decided I will actually get it and be done with it. I might regret it later, but it was on for $65, and the shipping and tax brought it up to ~$80. It's still not bad, considering its full price is $140, though currently even the Mountain Hardwear site is offering it for $107.90.

GoLite Chrome Dome Trekking Umbrella
Then I started looking at the Chrome Dome Trekking Umbrella. I was watching the movie "Tell it on the Mountain" several weeks ago with my girlfriend and several friends, and one of the things that struck us most was the heat and exposure in the desert parts of the hike. I don't mind getting wet in the rain (At least, that's what I'm telling myself at the moment), but I don't want to ruin my skin in the long term, just because I wasn't careful enough in the California Desert. I am not sure that the umbrella is neccesary, and not just an over-weight luxury item I will be carrying for no need. But I decided I'd give it a try. It is not too expensive, and at most, I can just leave it at some hiker box and carry on under my wide-brimmed hat.

Ordering the umbrella wasn't easy, though. The GoLite site does not allow using an international credit card, or PayPal/Google Checkout account, even though my shipping address was in the US anyway. I had to contact their support and ask for instructions, and was told that I can order using an international credit card by phone. It took me several days, but today I finally called them, and ordered the umbrella. The order went surprisingly smooth, except for a mistake in the email address they wrote down, but I have just fixed that by chatting with their online chat support. So that's good.

As a final purchase, I have also just ordered a set of Halfmile maps from Yogi's store. The maps themselves are free to download from his site, which I have. The "problem" is printing all 455 pages... I was trying to print them somewhere in Israel, so I can experiment with double sided and even half size printing, but I failed to find a local print shop that can print on Letter size paper (Over here the standard is A4). I almost found one, but they weren't really answering my emails, and wouldn't give me any quote, even for a 3 page test print.

Even though Yogi is offering the full set for $30, I asked Matt Signore, who is the one dealing with the printing at Yogi's store, for a quote on half size maps (2 per side/4 per page). He offered this option for $18, but at the end I decided I'd go with the full size maps. A small test print on A4 with half size seemed almost ok, but some of the numbers were a bit too small to read, and at the end I decided that I'd rather be a bit on the safe side on this one.

So, three items. I hope this marks the end (apart from some smaller items I'll buy in the US, maybe).

I got all three items shipped to the Trail Angels' house in San Diego, so thanks again for their kind help in keeping my shipping costs to a minimum. It makes a very big difference.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A strange pair of shades

Yesterday I got my Fast Find 220 device, rented from Small-World. It seems like a small-enough device, and I hope I will never need it.

I specifically chose a device with only an emergency option (No daily updates, or checking in along the trail), because I don't want my girlfriend to be worried if I accidentally forget to check in some day, or if it fails somehow. I will call home every chance I've got, and I believe that will be enough to keep everyone back here at ease.

Well, things are moving along. Scary stuff...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The great map fiasco

There are currently three available options for getting good maps for the trail (that I considered/know of) - Halfmile's, Postholer's and Eric the Black's. I guess all three of them would "work", in that I will probably not get totally lost, but I really liked the "open source" feel of the Halfmile project, and I decided that I will use his maps and notes for my hike. I know that having a free digital copy of the maps is only half the work, since printing them all (~450 color pages) would still cost money. But it seems like a simpler and nicer option than ordering a map book from one of the other publishers.

My plan was to wait for 2014 edition of Halfmile's maps, and print them at some local print shop in Tel Aviv, so I can drool over them at home, and also maybe try and arrange them into manageable chinks, ready for future mail drops (Though currently it seems as though I will just have one big chunk inside my bounce box).

I also wanted to experiment a bit with different formats - namely color/black & white printing (To save on printing costs, especially if I decide to primarily use my smartphone for mapping, and the paper maps only as a last resort), single sided/double sided printing (To save weight, but I have to make sure the backside map won't interfere with the front side map), and maybe even printing two smaller maps per page (This will save cost AND weight).

Well, several weeks ago Halfmile finally released the 2014 update, and I immediately downloaded all the files from the site, extracted the pdfs and started moving with my plans. I created a simple 2 page file (The first 2 maps of the trail), so I can test some of my options, and was also relieved to discover Adobe Acrobat can easily print 2 maps per page, with automatically rotating and placing them at the correct size, while retaining the aspect ratio. Before discovering that, I tried to calculate how much I'd need to resize each map to fit two per page (.64, in case you were wondering), all because Halfmile's maps are designed to be printed on Letter pages (8.5"X11"), and not on the simpler A4 format (where it would have been a nice .5 ratio...). Well - Adobe did that for me automagically. So I also created another simple file with 2 pages, containing the first 4 maps of the trail, as an experiment as well.

I then sent those two files to a print shop, asking that each option will be printed once in color, and once in black & white, all on letter paper size, and all in double side (I gave up on the single side option. Seems like a waste of paper/weight).

Botched map attempt
Yesterday I finally picked up my prints. A complete disaster. All printed on single sided A4 papers, it's just useless to me. Not to mention the fact that I probably won't be printing the whole set at this place now.

I might try a different place, if I can be sure they manage to follow my simple instructions. But lately a new option has come up - Yoggi is offering a low cost print of HalfMile's maps, that can be sent to the San Diego trail angels for a total of about $40. Seems like a really good price, and it also saves me the hassle of dealing with all those prints myself. The only downside for this is that I can't get the two-maps-per-page option, which I'm still thinking about. I guess I'll have to decide soon enough.