Training Hike 1

The first hike since I decided on The Journey.

Went out with 4 friends and the lady friend to Mitake and Odake, in the far corner of Tokyo Prefecture. Great temp, but clouds kept us from views of the city and Mt. Fuji. Made good time while making good conversation on the way up and long way down. Wasn’t breathing too hard.

Esbit tablets in an impromptu stove (bottom of the penny-stove since I forgot the alcohol at home) did not impress my friends. Maybe it was the one tablet at a time, or the pot being too far away from the flame. And then watching the pot. And you know what they say about watched pots. I looked a bit loony with a bunch of cut up aluminium cans and flammable tablets, scraping away at my fire steel fanatically.

Most heartening that I am still excited about light weight hiking in those conditions. Now we’ll see how I take weather…

15k, 400m or so vertical, great bento made by and consumed with the lady friend, hot springs, lots of good company. A great way to open the hiking season!

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The Importance of Why

“Why?” is cliche.  It has scared people. Scared people so much we over use it and never answer it to the point of meaninglessness. A particularly terrible cultural inheritance.

From giving unforgettable power point presentations to reflecting on your own life, it’s the question.

At first, thinking about adventures, I needed a why: I needed a justification. I needed a reason. I needed a purpose. But I was fabricating the adventure for the sake of finding justification, reason, and purpose.

This time, The Journey (coast-coast, all 3000m, light-weight) was the why. That made all the difference.

I was talking with Paul the Red-Headed Priest (of HT) about Priesting and God. I argued that God is an assumption. He said we need a third-party to give our morality and lives meaning. Not so different.

The Journey is that third-party. While it lasts. It provides a metric by which I can judge myself and the world. It provides an axis from which things can be measured. It’s “the highway (that) sets the travelers stage.”

I’m sure you can think of lots of meaningful metaphors.

The incredible Andrew Skura is open about his arbitrary, but important, why on his 4,700 mile Alaska loop: pushing his own boundaries. It isn’t noble. It isn’t global. It isn’t spiritual. It’s authentic.

Our existences are ultimately self justifying. The metric is self-imposed. Gods, for all their majesty, are taken by faith. And that’s the boldness of it. The boldness to declare “this matters!” And then finally start changing yourself.

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Gimme Shelter

I’ve got the pack. The bag is good enough. I made the stove. Runners? Check. But where to sleep….

Constraints on the choice:

  • Yari-ga-take campsite: exposed ridge at over 3000m, lots of wind.
  • Camping below 500m, in the woods, near roads, etc with Japan’s wonderful summer humidity
  • Less than 2 pounds
  • Doesn’t break the bank

The choices:

Initially I was thinking the MLD Trailstar ($155). It provides lots of coverage. Shed’s wind. Brand has great reviews. But, it’s 17 ounces and I would need a bivy in case things got really hairy…and they take up to 8 weeks to ship. And that won’t work at all.

Instead, I’m going local. I’ve talked to Locus Gear, a new Japanese cottage manufacturer, and they will customize their great solo tarp ($70) to some of my needs. I’m hoping to add beaks so I can pitch the tarp low in the case of heavy wind. I’m going to pair this with the ultralight Ti-Goat bivy ($110). The bivy includes a mosquito-net hood they will give great protection and ventilation for the lower elevation interludes in my trip. The total weight will be under a pound.

I’m excited to work with a local equipment maker, and to try out bivy/tarp camping. Hoping I can hook up with some local ultra-light hikers and hear their take on the state of hiking in Japan (few young people, lots of expensive heavy gear).

Cheers to Wes from Hiking in Japan for his shelter advice. Check out his blog and ask him any questions you have about hiking in Japan, he’s been just about everywhere!

If you’ve got advice on the shelter, let me know…before I buy it…after that I’d prefer just to think I made the best choice ever. If it rains on the bivy…roll over…

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Shelter and Personality

From the beginning I decided to aspire to lightweight on my hike.  Besides the practical benefits, ‘going lightweight’ says something about me. I’ll leave what up to you.

As I sort through my shelter options I now find myself entertaining all sorts of questions about thekind of person I am, as indicated by gear selections.

Am I a true wilderness man who needs nothing more than a bivy?

Or am I someone who needs the crutch of a tent to shelter me from nature and her assaults?

A bit of a false dichotomy.  I had expected that introspection on how I am impossibly tied up in projecting a false image of myself would begin  in earnest on the trail; I was not expecting it to confound me while picking out a sleep system.

Just like the brands I buy and the neighborhood I choose live in, how I camp makes a statement. As much as ultralight hikers like to pretend to be above the judgement laden world, packweight has become a pretty sexy word.

Oddly, for me, it is difficult to make a decision ‘just because.’ Everything is wrapped up in who I want to believe myself to be.

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Planning: Everybody loves a spreadsheet!

The Biggest Challenge: Actually convincing myself I am going to do this. So,  I started a blog and made a spreadsheet; both of these things convinced me that I am actually serious about hiking across Japan.

You can check out the planning spreadsheet as it morphs and gets checked off as I go. Maybe it will be a useful tool at some point in the future. Coast to Coast Planning Spreadsheet

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I’ve often day dreamed about long walks in Japan. Kyushu to Hokkaido, the 88 Temples of Shikoku, etc etc.  But, I’ve also hoped they would solve my spiritual issues, give me the ‘crazy’ experience that all good youth need, etc etc. So they never got done.

I started hiking in Japan because Tokyo drove me crazy. I hurt my knees hiking. I discovered lightweight/ultralight hiking. And then I found the perfect journey to a) test out some new skills b) see some amazing peaks in Japan c) see how well I do tackling a long solo hike.

So in August 2010 I will be hiking from the coast of the Sea of Japan to the Pacific coast (Toyama to Shikoku), traversing most of the north and south alps, and climbing all the 3000m plus peaks in Japan.

I want to provide a log for others who might try this and other long hikes, while also giving me a space to keep myself honest, on target and motivated for the trip. So I will write  about preparations, gear, hiking in Japan, and my own struggles and successes getting ready and going on this journey. Thanks for reading, commenting, and keeping me honest!

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