ENCINITAS — Instead of celebrating retirement with a mai tai in Maui, Jack Ross, 65, and wife Barbara Bolton, 56, have embarked on an ambitious 2,650-mile, five-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, which extends from the Mexican to Canadian border.
The journey will take them through desert terrain, mountain foothills, raging waters and snow-packed peaks of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains.
Jack says the trek has been on his bucket list since reading a National Geographic article in 1977. Finally, last Thanksgiving he turned to his wife and said, “If not now, when?”
“We are looking at this as a series of 30, five-day backpacking trips,” he explained. “Some trips are three days long, some nine. It averages to five days.”
The journey began April 18 as they left from Campo and will conclude in Manning Park, British Columbia on Sept. 20.
Each trip will end at a predetermined resupply point where they will pick up a box shipped by friends containing food for the next segment of their journey. They’ll also enjoy a warm meal at a restaurant, and spend the night at a hotel.
The next morning they’ll be back on the trail, hiking an average of 20 miles per day. Jack figured they’ll need 4,000 calories each day to maintain their strength.
The breakfast menu will alternate between granola with dried fruit and powdered milk one day, and two oatmeal bars per person the next.
Snacks will play an important role in sustaining their energy. Jack has prepared a 300-calorie maltodextrin beverage with electrolytes to promote the slow infusion of calories. That will be supplemented with dark chocolate M&Ms and Snickers candy bars, trail mix and sandwiches and tortillas filled with peanut butter and jelly or salami and cheese.
“I’ll be eating a lot of things I wouldn’t normally eat,” Barb adds, smiling.
Dinner choices include Mountain House freeze-dried dinners or food dehydrated at home such as hamburger, lentil stew, Mexican burrito stew, black beans, rice and salsa. They’ve made room for packets of condiments and small bottles of olive oil and tequila to spice up the fun.
After dinner, the couple will ante up their treats in a heated game of Pigmania, which is similar to dice. If the reception is good, they’ll upload their daily journal entries to their blog.
Each hiker expects to go through five pairs of Merrell hiking boots by the time they reach Canada.
Barb’s backpack weighs about 22 pounds, including food and water. She is only taking the clothes she is wearing. Jack will be carrying an additional 8 pounds, the weight of a pair of rain pants, the tent, an ice axe and electronics such as a small AM-radio, Smartphone and a personal locator beacon that will show their location in real time to followers of their blog as well as search and rescue crews in case of an emergency.
“Our greatest fear is 300 miles around Kennedy Meadows at Lake Tahoe,” Jack said. “We’ll be wading across raging rivers. If it’s massive whitewater we’ll turn around and go early in the morning. Fortunately, we are very good swimmers but in 35-degree water all bets are off.”
Barb met Jack in 1993 when he ran a personal ad in the newspaper for someone who was sports-minded. They married in 2005.
While they have traveled the world extensively, the couple says the experiences that best prepared them for this adventure was a 30-day hike in the Mt. Everest region of Nepal, and an 18-day hike along the Annapurna Circuit. Jack has also been getting in shape by running laps up and down the stairs at Swami’s Beach.
They estimate the total cost of their trip to be under $10,000, but advise that others can do it cheaper if they purchase used equipment and less expensive food such as ramen noodles.
Barb and Jack credit their friends with making their dream possible, some of whom will be house sitting while others will meet up with them later to share part of the adventure. They are also looking forward to encountering “trail angels” along the way, who are known for opening their homes to hikers, or positioning themselves along the trail with free soft drinks and water jugs.
The Coast News readers can share Barb and Jack’s expedition vicariously at their blog at postholer.com/jackandbarb.