April 24th, 2006

Redtail - bird face

PCT prep trip - Snow camping clinic, Day 2

(Two weeks ago, I took a four-day group hiking trip to test out my gear and learn snow camping strategies prior to hitting the Pacific Crest Trail. The notes below are transcribed from my paper wilderness journal. -B)

Saturday, 4/8/2006 - Snow Camping clinic - Desolation Wilderness, near Tamarack Lake

Well, it looks like I've got my trail name.

Today was avalanche safety and ice axe training day. The latter involved flinging ourselves down a snow slope and trying to recover. In full rain gear. Since i brought my DriDucks, which are not known for their durability, this involved one of the women (Donna?) making the observation that my ass was delaminating. The fabric got stretchy, non-shiny and thin - one step from rain pant failure. I complained about never being able to finds a set of rain pants that would last me and somewhere along the line philosophically suggested I'd just duct-tape the entire butt of the pants up with my red roll. [I'd picked it up to make flags for the poles we left attached to our cars in the Sno-Park parking lot. We were expecting further snow, and that would help the snowplows avoid our bumpers. -B]

She said if I did, I'd have to watch out - a story like that was trail name material.

"Redbutt?" I replied. "Or red-ass?"

So naturally it came to pass. I returned to my tent when we hit base camp - that butt area was looking pretty worn - and did what I had to to save the pants. One bright red butt and an emptied duct tape roll later, I showed it off to the party [as in adventuring party. Are my geek roots showing? -B] amid laughter and general appreciation (and Ned taking a pic). [I have not been able to secure a copy of that photo yet. Hopefully can get one e-mailed to kadyg when I see him at ADZ. -B]

I then took off on an evening conquest to build up an appetite -- a 600-foot climb up the nearby ridge. Got some good shots of Lake Tahoe and a potential Redeemers [TTU theri paramilitary group -B] location. (More windblasted and full of lodgepole pine than I expected.) Came back down the steep, ice-powdery slope ... and how could I resist one last glissade or two down the descent? I sat my freshly fortified butt down on the slope and, well. *shred*

I stopped by Jeff and Donna's tent upon my return to chat and check on Donna. (She'd hurt her neck in a fall during ice axe practice. [Not seriously -- a painful muscle strain -- but it did give me a brief chance to attempt to apply my new Wilderness First Aid skills. -B]) At the end of the talk, I said, "Oh by the way, I think my trail name is trying to stick." I turned around to show them that the giant duct tape butt had survived, but that it had ripped underneath and to the sides of the tape - making a perfect flap that lifted out like a .... well, tail.

So I guess I'm "Redtail" for good now.

Advantages of 'Redtail' as a trail name:
  • Like the bird.
    • Hey, a new furry archetype to play with.

  • Like the beer. Guess I'll have to see if it's any good.

  • Comes pre-approved by two of the PCT's best-known trail angels (Jeff and Donna Saufley). Instant street cred! ;->

  • A sort of odd synchronicity with TTU.
    • People have been comparing me to Dennis Redwing already. :-P Guess this seals it. Or at least adds to the irony.

  • Sort of catchy.
    • Though the story is mildly embarrassing. (Not that that stopped Gottago.)
    • Jo suggested "Busted Ass" but the consensus seems to be with "Redtail."

  • Sounds more risque than it actually is.

  • It's not "Pole" or some other Tad pun.

Ned: "Hey, Redtail." (Trying to get my attention as I left for the ridge.)
Me: "Is that the big test? Whether I answer to it or not?"

Today's Other Highlights
- Big morning pee - managed to hold it until after the storm.
- No more snow. Really thought another wave would blow in, but we seem clear. Hope it holds.
- Ned dug a snow pit. "Buried hoar" (aka corn snow, aka what kills you in avalanches - mind those 25-30 degree slopes) is like that stuff you make shaved ice out of.
- Flinging yourself down powder head first on your back and doing a butterfly stroke to keep your momentum makes a track that looks like a centipede crawling down the hill.
- Rice for dinner (@~7). Not as good as the noodles. Cooked a lot cleaner because I used a Yogi-book technique: Boil water, add stuff, let sit. (No cooked-on stuff from the flames.)
- Spiritually, accompanied by dreamflow and Savi - TJ went home. They followed me up the ridge. Probably ~50 mile an hour winds up there. Staggered from wind shadow to wind shadow in the few trees around.
- Hopefully laundry tomorrow.
- 12:37 am. Now sleep.

Tomorrow: Days 3 and 4. Blizzard hiking, a little posthole practice, and crapping in a snowstorm.
Redtail - learning to walk

What's in a name?

My planning bible, Yogi's PCT Handbook, has this to say about Trail Names:
"A thru-hike is a wonderful, crazy, unique experience. We take trail names to recognize this experience as a special time. Some hikers name themselves before hiking. Others wait to 'get named' on the trail. I think a trail name should be just that: a TRAIL name. ... By naming yourself [beforehand], you cheat yourself out of a great story and memory.

"Them: 'How did you get your trail name?' You: 'Oh, that's a funny story ...'

"Gottago was named on a PCT training hike. She had to pee. She thought she was alone, started to take care of business, then some guys on mountain bikes rolled by. One of them smiled and said, 'When you gotta go, you gotta go.'"

You: "So, Bax, do you have a trail name?" Me: "Oh, that's a funny story ..."

Long story short, one stuck while out on the snow camping trip. In the best possible hiker tradition, it involves duct tape, and my ass.*

The question arises, I suppose, why I would want a trail name at all. Why not just go by my birth name? And the best answer I can give to that is -- this trip is meant to be a transformative experience. It's symbolically important to me to give myself a fresh slate out on the trail, to do my walking as someone who I can grow into rather than as someone who I have to grow out of.

Well, alright -- you may ask -- but why a new name for the trip? Don't I already have a perfectly serviceable nickname? Er, if you're referring to Baxil, the answer is no. That is who I am as much as "Tad"; I answer to it, prefer it in conversation, and the name has a history that grounds me in much the same way as my birth name does.

I generally agree with Yogi here; this is going to be quite an ambitious summer, and recognizing that is a good gesture. Also -- and this is not insubstantial -- there is a strong distance-hiker community out there, and I'll be immersing myself in it while I walk. Taking a new name for the trip is a way of shifting worlds.

So, for the duration, I'm going to be Redtail.** I'll still happily answer to my actual names, and I don't expect anyone to bother to drill the new one into their head, but do be aware that my journals are going to be labeled accordingly.

* The long version, sadly, is not quite as entertaining nor as lurid-sounding as the short one. (It's catalogued in the snow-camping Day 2 journal.) But at least I have the option of just giving trail acquaintances the summary and preserving the mystique.
** Yes, longtime TTU fans may start savoring the irony now. Just no calling me "Dennis." Well, more than strictly necessary. :-p
  • Current Music
    "Towards the Within," Dead Can Dance
  • Tags
hiking - drink break

Also: Photos

Day 2 - Ice axe training

Day 2 pictures and commentary posted to snow camping clinic gallery. Take a look. Additionally, I've posted a few photos from a February Sierra Buttes hiking trip I took with roaminrob.

As a side note, since the snow camping trip originals came from a 5 megapixel camera, I can provide wallpaper-sized or print-quality copies of any of these (or any of my PCT pics) on request. 800x600 was merely a good compromise for uploading Web-viewable images.

(If the photo you're seeing at the links isn't that big, it's because of LJ's peculiar photo handling system -- click on a thumbnail to see a medium-sized image along with its caption, and then click on THAT to see the full-sized source image.)