Inca Trail Update: Day -139

Rita and I returned last week from our trip to the States, having ensured the financial security of REI, Bass Pro Shops, Jockey and Reebok for 2017. I can’t look directly at our American Express bill from our hike supply spending spree without dazzling my eyes, but I think we did surpass the gross domestic product of several small nations.

We flew out of Guayaquil with two suitcases and two carry-on bags, and returned with 4 suitcases and four carry-on bags, packed to the fullest with about 300 pounds of merchandise. Granted, some of that weight was taken up with things like pumpkin pie mix, Hawaiian coffee, glass jars for my spice drawer project, and other non-hike related goodies. But the bulk of it was from our Inca Trail shopping list.

Now, with just over four and a half months remaining until the big event, we are back to working up to trail shape with the local hikes, and have started working into the routine some of our gear. We’ve been very happy with our Lowa hiking boots, which were quite expensive but worth every penny – if your feet are not having a good time on a four-day hike, you are not going to have a good time either.

Yesterday we tried out our Osprey backpacks on a 6-mile test hike out to Loberia and back. We just put a few things in them, to build the weight gradually. Mine weighed in at about 12.5 pounds, Rita’s about 5 pounds. Most of the weight was from carrying about a liter and a half of water in the hydration packs.

If you have never seen them before, the hydration packs are kind of cool. They are thick plastic bags that fit into a special compartment on your

                   Osprey Hydration Pack

backpack, and store water. Mine is a 2.0 liter bag, Rita’s is 2.5 (although she probably will not fill it – too much weight). What makes them really nice for hiking, is that they include a feeder tube, with a bite nozzle that attaches by magnet to the front of your straps. That means you can easily grab the nozzle, take a little drink, and put it back in place, with out any awkward reaching around for your water bottle. It also distributes the weight much more evenly.

The test hike was a success. We’re learning how to adjust our packs just right, and we will start to carry them more often, with gradually increasing weight. We’ll also start practicing hill climbs using our hiking poles, and learning how to quickly access things like the rain covers and first-aid kits.

Of course, the conditions of our hike yesterday did not match what we will find in Peru. For one thing, it was damn hot. Upper 80’s and very sunny, so we were drenched in sweat by the time we returned home. Fortunately for the reader, we ran into a friend on our last half mile or so who snapped the photo attached below. As you can see, my shirt looks like a Rorschach test from the sweat stains, and I must point out that although it looks like I have peed myself, that is just sweat collecting in the front of my shorts (my own version of sopa de bolas).

The happy couple, drenched in sweat but trying out their new backpacks and hiking boots.

Honestly, it’s just sweat.

The rest of April and May we will continue to do at least our usual pair of 3-mile hikes each day, and add the longer hikes with packs two or three times a week. We will also start throwing in some stair time, walking up and down from the lower parking level to our 19th floor unit. But the big tests will come in June, when we will be spending some time hiking at altitude (between 10,000 – 15,000 feet) in various hikes around Quito.

We plan some hikes that month around Cuicocha near Cotacachi, the mountain trail near Lago San Pablo, a visit to the Cotopaxi volcano park, and then finish up with a hike up Mount Pichincha from the Teleferico in Quito. One of the things we bought in the States was a nifty little device for checking your pulse rate, and more important, the oxygen content of your blood. This will help us determine how well we are adapting to the thinner air.

Assuming we survive all of that, we may also take a trip to the Cajas region outside of Cuenca for some final high altitude warm-up hikes in late July or the first week of August. If all of that doesn’t get us ready for the Inca Trail, well, at least we will feel like we gave it our best shot.

For now, our feet are in good shape, my waist line is starting to shrink once again, and we are feeling good about the process.

Now I think I better Google something about how to remove sweat stains …




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  • Nancy Clevenger says:

    Love hearing about your gear and hikes. Good luck as you go forward.

  • Peter A. Seymour says:

    Definitely impressed by both of you taking this hike on the Inca trail. Look forward to reading about it as I still harbor dreams of hiking up to Machu Picchu, but am not sure that my 64-year-old body would make it–particularly the higher altitude air. You go!

  • greg bernd says:

    Best Wishes Jim and Rita. Keep up the great work!!

  • Kathryn Jones says:

    GO GO Team Santos!

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