Same shit different year, right? Well kind of.
I’m going all out prepping for the PCT in 2018. I did the same in 2016 but my version of going all out focused on a lot of the wrong things, and certain aspects of prepping dominated my time because I didn’t have a firm grasp on it just yet. One of those was gear. I spent a lot of time trying things out, researching, buying, and weighing things. This year I threw a gear list together within minutes, it’s under 10lbs, and I’m confident in how well it will work out. Now I can focus on the important things.
Here’s my gear list just for old times sake. I didn’t list anything that won’t be in my pack, and it’s just missing a water filter that I’m too lazy to add at the moment: https://lighterpack.com/r/cleovb
I’ve mentioned on Instagram and Youtube that I’ve been trail running. I won’t go too far into it, but I’ll say this: I’m tired of starting hikes with injuries. It’s frustrating, it hurts, it sets you back time-wise, and sometimes it may even pull you off trail. Ultimately an injury may even have a snowball effect and ruin your thru-hike attempt by how far it ends up setting you back and – in the moment – you’ll be totally oblivious to it until you’re off trail short of your goal. More or less that’s what happened to me last time on the PCT along with a handful of other things, but that was the heavy hitter. I could have managed the other issues, but time is the one luxury you don’t have out there despite how much it may feel like it. I’m going all out on preparing my body this time so hopefully I start my hike off without a hitch. Beyond that I’ve hit a respectable hiking rate and my legs are pretty strong right now, I’d like to keep it that way.
Most of the time people don’t fail their thru-hikes for any particularly extraordinary reason other than they sustained an injury and couldn’t continue. It’s something seemingly so random and out of your control. Whenever I develop one on trail it’s hard to stay positive, because: “What if this is the one that takes me out of the game?”. I usually just end up going back on trail and try to respect the injury and that’s worked pretty well so far, but maybe one time it won’t. Then what? Hike over.. again.
I’m super super insanely focused on doing a full thru-hike this time. If there were a triple crown for failures, I’d be on the list. The only one I really care about is the PCT, hence why I’m going back. Hence why I don’t write an article without mentioning that trail at least 20 times. It’s an obsession, and I don’t really fully understand it. That trail is just so beautiful and special, I want to know what the full experience is like in a single season.
I’ve filmed some stuff covering this that I’ll throw together, mainly the focus on taking a more proactive approach to preparing your body for a long hike. People sometimes say it doesn’t matter.. I’m starting to feel like it absolutely does at this point.
Videos and Stuff
Maybe someone’s noticed, maybe not but: I’m putting a bit more care into my videos. When I edited the PCT footage I was in a rush to see what kind of story would develop from it that I didn’t feel they were particularly engaging in the end. I’m taking note of certain things like having consistent run-time for certain shots while I edit, having some variation in each shot while I’m filming, and good god one day I will conquer the demon that is shaky footage. I’m still working on more interesting angles and subjects so it doesn’t feel like a moving slideshow so much, but to focus on the one thing I care about: Nature. The scenery. The views. I’m working on narrating it a bit better as well. My downfall with that was I tried to focus on how interesting the scenery was because I feel like that’s more riveting than my personality but I didn’t back that up with good footage.. so.. bleh. Mostly I’m just kind of awkward so I dunno what to say or do sometimes, but I’m getting used to it.
While I’m working on that, I’m noticing while I edit footage that it all just feels so two dimensional. There’s no depth, the colors feel washed out in a bad way, the lighting at times can be piercing. This is where things really get under my skin: I feel like I am at times really strong at taking pictures and it’s something I’ve had little self doubt about. I don’t go crazy with it and use manual settings, and I sure as shit don’t edit images (though I have a good grasp on how.. it feels dirty. This feeling is carried along to editing footage too. I don’t know that I’ll ever take to editing in post to make it more cinematic. I just want it to look and feel real). On the other hand, I’m not as strong on taking video as I’d like and a lot of footage carries little emotional weight for me. I’ve broken my rules to create some examples and edited flat looking pictures totally saturated by the natural greens and sub-par lighting to illustrate a point:
Any possible subject in this photo is totally overpowered by the amount of green in this photo, but in person it looked a little more impressive. The only amount of depth in this photo is created by the blues in the background as the forest gets darker, leaving the mossy branches looking like a crust forming on the image or something. A really interesting thing in-person ended up being one of my least favorite photos once I got back home. Also take note that I’m partially color blind so maybe it looks fine? But I don’t like the way it looks.
This to me feels like it has more layers to it. You can see the darker hues of the bark on the branches separated from the green of the moss. The yellow leaves on top feel like a warm blanket lying on top and seem like a separate entity (though maybe too bright still). The ferns provide a good floor for the image, and the backdrop stays just about the same. This looks much better to me and feels a lot more genuine to my original experience with this place, namely how imposing the branches felt, how spooky it was beyond the branches, how soft the ferns looked and how they almost look like a conveyor belt going into the deep forest, and how safe/comfortable the bright leaves above made me feel. It doesn’t just look like someone drank a bunch of green food coloring and threw up on a piece of paper. In the end maybe there isn’t much difference between the two, but the impact it has on me personally is much stronger.
Here’s another one:
Again: Everything’s being washed out with green. The lighting didn’t capture the ‘majesty’ of the mountains. Ultimately it’s just uninteresting to look at other than the brief “Oh, pretty mountains”. For me: If something doesn’t capture the emotional power to at least a fraction of what I felt when I was there it just kinda goes into my mental trash bin and I ultimately feel disappointed that I was unable to get a true image of it.
The brightness is a little out of whack here, but I felt like overall the mountains are more interesting and gave the leaves in the foreground more substance/texture without being too invasive. If I wanted to perfect this I’d blur them out a bit but I wasn’t going to spend too much time on it, it’s just an example. It’s not the best edit, but it makes the nature feel more powerful and rightly so. That’s why I take pictures of stuff like this instead of shoes… or something… In any event, it still feels more legit to how it was in person. It was getting late and clouds were rolling in so the scenery immediately around me had that ‘pre-rain’ darkness to it, but the mountains were still in decent sunlight and felt more dramatic. It seems really snobby to say every image has a story behind it.. but they do, and it’s just fun to try to capture it. I also recognize I’m not a pro, but I am kinda just that emotionally invested with my pictures.
What’s goes wrong here the majority of the time is I’m lazy and I just use the auto settings on my camera for everything, and what’s worse is I’m not using the video mode on my camera which has its own set of auto settings. I’m using auto picture settings for my video and I’ve come to learn how much that’s degrading my videos, so I’m brushing up on my camera knowledge and made adjustments in my cameras settings and I’m gonna be doing things manually from here on out once I get the hang of it. My camera isn’t top-of-the-line by any means and I’m relatively limited with what I can do until I get a new one, but the adjustments I can make should have some meaningful impact on the image quality… hopefully. We’ll see tomorrow when I go get some test footage.
I’m not making videos and working on them to increase production quality because I think I can run a brand here. The idea of working out the taxes for collecting revenue on Youtube gives me a headache right now (No, it’s not free money. Yes you still have to be an adult with it). I like sharing places with people because it may be the tipping point for them deciding ultimately to go out and experience it for themselves. So many folks on Youtube did the same for me when I was looking up the PCT and even helped me maintain my sanity when I was going crazy with excitement to start my own hike. Beyond that I just genuinely love the process. It’s fun and lets me relive the experience to a degree while I’m putting it together. I’ve been doing some form of digital art or another for a loooong time (since 2003) and video editing is my new one along with making music (which I have even less of a grasp on than video editing.. buuuughhh).
Maybe if I get good enough at this, I could make it my career. Not specifically hiking videos, but just filming in general. Or editing. Or making music. Hiking is just ‘the thing’ that gives me drive to pursue these things and get better because it’s one hell of a fun subject. And maybe I won’t ever become professionally good, but at least I’ve had fun and learned things I can take with me to other areas as I try new stuff out. But in any event, I’m hoping to have really nice looking videos this time that capture the scenery a little more honestly.
The Post is Over Now
That’s kind of all there is to it this time. I’m staying in shape/improving my fitness to improve myself as a hiker. I got rid of some stuff from my pack and plan on getting a couple new pieces of gear to really lighten up to help my pace/distance but also not murder my back because it’s been bothering me a tad. And I just want to make the hiking videos I had in my mind when I set out on the PCT the first time. I’m so happy to be getting another shot at this. This trail has had a huge positive influence on my life from the moment I found out about it and I’m really looking forward to starting it again soon.