All posts by David Veeneman

Back to the Real World

Whitney Summit 2014I’ve been back from the John Muir Trail for a couple of weeks now, and I’m still not over the experience. It was simply the most amazing hike I have ever done. Before I left for the hike, I worried a bit about spending three weeks in the backcountry. I knew that some folks got a bit wonky after a week or two, so I kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t be one of them.

Not to worry. The longer I spent on the hike, the more comfortable I got being away from civilization. At the end of the hike, I really wished I could spend more time on the trail, and since I’ve gotten back, I have felt the draw of the trail like never before. I want to grab my backpack and get back out there!

The highlight of the trip (if there is such a thing on a hike that spectacular) was my summit of Mount Whitney. This hike marked my third summit, and I guess the third time truly is the charm. The weather was perfect all day long, which meant no worries, no hurries going up. I felt better at Trail Crest (13,000 ft elevation) than I have ever felt before, and I felt even better than that when I reached the summit (14,500 ft elevation). It was probably the most perfect day of hiking that I have ever experienced.

Liza is hard at work editing footage from the hike, and we’ll be sending out an email to all of our contributors soon, with a link to the finished video. Thanks again to all our contributors, and thank you to The Alliance for a Healthier Generation for all the good work that you do, and for being a part of the coolest hike that happened this summer!

Preparations Almost Complete

PreparationHike preparations are almost complete. We have laid out our route and created a day-by-day ininerary. Gear has been cleaned and packed. And food has been prepared, packaged, and sorted by the resupply drop where we’ll be getting it.

Liza and I created a video showing our food preparations. It’s on the Videos page of this site. I’ll be living on dehydrated dinners, oatmeal breakfasts, protein shakes, and ramen noodles for three weeks. Yes, the food is definitely better in Paris, as Liza likes to point out, but the mountains are calling, and… well, you know the rest of it. Five days to go until the hike begins.

David Jumps off a Bridge!

Bungee Jumping StillMe and my big mouth! Who’d have thought that just because I said I’d jump off a bridge if the ‘100 x 100’ campaign met its goal, that I’d actually have to do it. But as Liza put it so well, “If you say you’re going to jump off a bridge, you really have to do it!” No green-screen, and no excuses.

Actually it was about the most fun I’ve had all year. I did two jumps and came up grinning both times. I don’t know if I’d recommend it for the faint of heart, but if you’re into thrill rides, there aren’t many better than this.

The funniest part of the day was all the twenty-somethings asking “How old is he, anyway?” I used to be called immature, but now they call me young at heart.

You can click the link above to see the video, or view it on the ‘Videos’ page.

One Week to Go!

IMG_3096One week to go until we begin the Big Hike! I’m working this week to get all my food ready to go. To save weight, all the commercially-prepared food is coming out of its original packaging and going into plastic bags. The bags are lighter and produce less trash on the trail. So far, breakfasts are done, dinners are about half-done, and I’m working on lunches. Once the meals are bagged up, they go into one of four resupply boxes; one for the start of the hike in Yosemite Valley, and three others for the points where Liza will resupply me: Red’s Meadow, Muir Trail Ranch, and Bullfrog Lake. Everything has to go into a ‘bear cannister’, a bear-proof container with a limited amount of space. The plastic bags double the capacity of my bear cannister, and they keep food weight to a minimum.

No Easy Fourteeners!

Mt Langley 2014-12Liza and I climbed Mt. Langley last weekend. It’s sometimes described as the ‘easy fourteener’, but one of our friends has christened it “Mt. Whitney’s evil sister”, and that’s an apt description.

It was a great training hike for the John Muir Trail. I tried out my new nutrition strategies, and I concentrated on deep-breathing at altitude. It all worked very well. I’ve removed ten pounds from my pack weight (goodbye, spare change of clothes, and all the other amenities), and I feel like I’m just about ready for the JMT.

Liza (trail name ‘Skree Dancer’) summitted in fine form, and it was great to have her with me this time. Don’t ask me my trail name (it’s ‘Face Plant’).

Up Next: Mt Langley

Mt LangleyLiza and I are headed up to Mt Langley this weekend for a final run-through of the JMT hike. It’s supposed to be the “easy fourteener” in the Sierras, but believe me, there are no easy fourteeners! We’ll be staying at Cottonwood Lakes for two nights and day-hiking to the Langley summit on Saturday.

Cottonwood lakes is some of the prettiest country in the Sierras. We backpacked in the area two summers ago, although we didn’t bag Langley on that trip. We are really excited about going back!

Another Double Dipper!

ThanksIce Cream Cone, and a shout-out to Christine Le, who came back with a second contribution, equal to her first! She’s the second double-dipper we’ve had in our fundraising campaign. Thanks, Christine!

And a big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has contributed to the ’100 x 100′ fundraising campaign. Your support will help ensure that the next generation will grow up healthy and happy. And if you haven’t contributed yet, it’s not too late. You can go to Contribute.JMT2014.org to make a donation to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Thanks!

Rae Lakes Loop

Rae Lakes 2014-06 132I did the Rae Lakes Loop last week as a dress rehearsal for the John Muir Trail. The Loop is a challenging, 50-mile backpack with over 7,000 feet of elevation gain. It includes a climb up Glen Pass, at about 12,000 feet above sea level. So, it’s a pretty good trial run for the JMT, and a good indicator of likely challenges on the trail.

I discovered that I am pretty well prepared for the Big Hike, but I’ve still got work to do. On Glen Pass, I was literally gasping for air. So, I’m now doing breathing exercises on a decive valled a Spirometer. It’s already making a difference.

I also discovered that I am short on energy on the tough climbs at high altitude. So, I have added a nutritional supplement to my water, and a carbohydrate gel to help provide fuel when the going gets tough.

Finally, I’m carrying too much weight in my backpack. I went in with about 50 pounds last week, including a week’s worth of food. I am getting ready to go through the backpack and eliminate everything that is not absolutely essential. I hope to get the backpack weight down to 40 pounds. I’ll be in the Sierras again next weekend for another trial run. And on July 30th, I’ll head off down the trail.

Rae Lakes is one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever done, as well as one of the more difficult. There is a gallery of trail pictures in the Galleries section of the web site, and a short video about the hike on YouTube.

Safety

BungeeJumpersFolks who have hiked with Liza and me know that we emphasize safety and preparedness on our backcountry hikes. And the jump from the Bridge to Nowhere is no exception. The operators of the bungee jump have a perfect safety record in 25 years of operation and over 150,000 jumps.

Yes, Liza still thinks I’m nuts, and maybe she’s right. Help us reach our $10,000 goal, and let’s find out! We’re going to film the bungee jump, including a GoPro camera that will record the look on my face when I go off the brige. And that’s worth making a contribution to The Alliance for a Healthier Generation to support the ultimate goal of this endeavor, the 2014 John Muir Trail hike.

The Bridge to Nowhere

BTN MapAs you may know, I have promised to bungee-jump off the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ in Azusa, California when we reach our $10,000 goal.

The Bridge to Nowhere is an arch bridge that was built in 1936 north of Azusa,  in the San Gabriel Mountains. It spans the San Gabriel River and was meant to be part of the East Fork Road, connecting the San Gabriel Valley with Wrightwood.

The bridge was completed first, and the road was still under construction when it was washed out during a major flood on March 1–2, 1938. The East Fork Road project was abandoned as a result of the flood, leaving the bridge forever stranded in the middle of what is now the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.