Matt’s Big Hike
We have the privilege of working with some pretty cool people around here. From avid skateboarders to home brewers, our coworkers constantly surprise us with their many talents and interests.
One such guy is Matt Lenarz. By day, Matt is a senior software engineer focused on building front-end user experiences and features for our clients. By night (well, not exactly at night, more like during his non-dev time), Matt is a hiker.
But not just any hiker.
If you visited the office, you may notice that Matt has been noticeably absent as of late. Don’t worry, he’s not gone for good, he’s just taking some time to, well, hike.
I’ll let him explain.
[from Matt, 2015-03-16]
As some of you may have heard, I’ll be taking a long-vacation/mini-sabbatical this April and May. I’m headed out to California to fill-in the first part of the Pacific Crest Trail that I missed back in 2013 (due to time constraints). Kurt asked me if I wanted to do a presentation during one of our Friday lunches and I said no (I don’t like having that many eyes on me). Instead, I thought I would put together an email sharing the basics of the awesomeness that is long-distance hiking.
Some of you may be familiar with the trail because of this gal:
Reese’s character did her hike in the 90s – back when it was less popular than it is now. She picked a bad year because the snow level made it such that she had to skip around all of the more challenging (and beautiful) parts.
The entire trail is 2600 miles and it stretches from the Mexican border to 8 miles north of the Canadian border. The part of the trail that I’m doing this time averages around 5000 ft elevation, but a lot of the trail north of SoCal is > 10,000 ft – peaking out at 13,500 ft (or 14,500 if you include nearby Mt Whitney) in the Sierra Nevadas.
I’ll be starting on the Mexican border, circling around the outskirts of LA and finishing 650 mi north of the border in the mountains outside of Bakersfield. I drew a crude map here.
Q: Why? Just… why? Don’t you like indoor plumbing and not sleeping the ground?
A: I do, but I guess I’m a bit strange that way. There’s something exhilarating about going without the things you think are absolutely essential. It reminds you just how lucky and pampered we all are. There’s also the exercise component: when you’re burning that many calories, you can be as gluttonous as you want. Food will never taste better than the first bite you have in town after five days eating ramen and granola bars.
Q: How do you carry six weeks of food? That must be hella heavy.
A: I don’t carry that much food; that would be crazy. I usually only carry food for four or five days at a time. Every 100 mi or so, there’s a road crossing where you can hitch a ride to the nearest town and pick-up groceries and get yourself cleaned-up.
Q: What about animals? Do you carry a gun?
A: No, no gun. Sure, there’s the occasional mountain lion or bear – but they won’t bother you. As long as you keep your food locked-up, you should be good. Honestly, I’m more concerned with the little things – like bees and snakes and scorpions.
Q: And humans? Aren’t there some crazies out in the desert? What about loneliness?
A: I’ll be hiking the trail by myself, but I’ll rarely actually be by myself. There’s a really strong community of long-distance hikers and we all take care of each other. As for crazies… I’ve yet to meet anyone who made me super nervous. Most people are drawn into the story and want to be a part of it by helping.
I’m really excited about my hike. If anyone is curious or wants to know more, feel free to ask. I leave the second week of April.
[From Matt, 2015-05-01]
Quick note to let you all know I’m alive and that the hike is going well. I’m at mile 344, avoiding the mid-day heat by hiding in a tunnel under the railroad. I passed the midpoint of my hike yesterday and celebrated with a trip to BOTH Subway AND Del Taco this morning!
Nothing too crazy has happened so far. The desert has been both hotter and colder than I expected (including two hale storms and five minutes of snow). My fellow hikers have been great (as always) and the views have been amazing (ditto). I feel very lucky to be out here!
Hope you’re all doing well. See ya in June!