Howdy! Before I dive into this article about efficiency, I want to give you all an update from our hike the last few weeks. During our last check in, Spice and I had just begun our transition from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Cascade Range. Since that check in, We have completed 2,380 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and have removed 719 pounds of trash from the trail.
We quickly glided through Oregon's diverse terrain, doing our best to balance the need to hike miles and the siren call of the lakes and huckleberries. Side cleanups and alternate routes resulted in some unique trash finds. Oregon was overall an incredible state.
Sitting in a hotel room half-way into Washington, I'm wondering where the last 250 miles went. Then I remember that they went up, down and around some of the most incredible mountains I've ever seen. Looking outside at the coming rains, I'm reminded of how fortunate we've been to see only blue skies on our journey through Washington. Once they begin it's not certain whether or not they will stop. With less than two weeks of hiking left, we are prepared for whatever comes our way. We have the form, strength and efficiency to make the most of these last few days on trail. That reminds me. This article is supposed to be about efficiency, so let's get to it.
Efficient: Performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort; having and using requisite knowledge, skill and industry; competent; capable
The most efficient way for me to define the word efficient is to give you the dictionary definition above. Great, now that we are through that let's move into how this word is applied to our daily lives on the trail and in camp.
Efficiency on the trail comes from using good form and the right amount of strength, together, to get a consistent moving pace. At this point in the foundations series you have developed good form and you're probably feeling pretty strong. This is good but there is a hidden danger in this combination, over-use. When we have dialed form and a good level of strength we often begin to ramp up mileage and push the envelope. Moving hard all day will get the miles done but it's not using your energy in the best way. As a result, you may begin to experience a breakdown of form before each day is over and in the long term start to burnout by getting to the point of chronic pain or injury. We curb this by keeping things in check and instead opt for a pace that is well below our max. For us that is right at 3 miles per hour. We can walk that pace up or down about any mountain. It works day in and day out.
In the strength article you may have read about us jogging/ trotting up the trail. This is true, but keep in mind, we also had a week of rest planned after that session. Lately, our planned recovery periods are much shorter. Opting for a slower more consistent pace makes more sense at this point.
Other ways we remain efficient on the trail is by being quick at water stops and by being very adaptable to conditions while walking.
Water stops can quickly become a twenty minute ordeal. Stopping to squeeze-filter water takes time and effort, without added distance. This is inefficient. We choose to use Steripen for water treatment. This water treatment method kills harmful bacteria in your water in 90 seconds. As a result, our water stop looks more like a water walk-through. We just bend over and fill our bottle, then keep walking. We can use the pen while on the move, making the most out of our time.
Another way we stay efficient on trail is by remaining adaptable to any conditions that come. Having to stop and pull our packs off whenever we get hungry or get cold is a slow going and inefficient process. Instead we keep stacks and warm layers accessible in side pockets so we don't have to stop every time we change to the windward side of the mountain. Our secret weapon here is the Altra Stashjack. This jacket has no back on it. Yep, you read that right. Our backpacks cover our backs just fine. With the Stashjack we can put on and take off our wind later on the go. It makes our days on trail not only more efficient but by far more comfortable.
Once our marathon for the day is done it’s time recover and set up camp. This leads into the next section on efficiency which is efficiency in camp.
Being efficient in camp is pretty straightforward. I would break it down into two categories: multi-tasking and sharing the workload.
Multi-tasking in camp presents in the form of brushing your teeth while you lunge around camp to warm up. It may also look like getting your water for dinner going before you setup your shelter. The stove will heat your water while you do the shelter setup. These seemingly simple steps end up affording you more time for chatting with friends in camp and more time catching Z’s.
The best way I've found to get efficient in camp is to share the workload with a hiking partner. Last year on the Appalachian Trail the three person crew had this mastered. One guy took care of dinner prep, the other two handled the shelter and bear hang setup. In no time we would have a bombproof camp. This year isn't much different. Spice and I share camp duties which makes life not only easier but at the end of the day, more efficient.
To close this piece on efficiency, I want to stress the importance of finding balance. We've covered finding balance between the foundations, but what I'm getting at is the act of finding balance between these foundations and your hike/life. You don't want to get so caught up in efficiency that you walk past the ripe berries or that perfect swimming hole. Most importantly, you don't want to get so lost in the miles that you lose your willingness to help a brother in need. Twice on this trip Spice and I have changed our daily plans to helps a fellow hiker in need. On both occasions, people walked by because they had their ‘miles’ to get for the day. One of these occasions resulted in a helicopter evacuation and the other involved a systemic allergic reaction. Again, I won't beat a dead horse here. Stay efficient. Stay human.
Until next time,Cap