I’ll begin with an exert from the book on my Pacific Crest Trail hike – The Last Englishman.
I walked with Stumbling Norwegian the following morning down the endless switchbacks on Fuller Ridge’s east side. We stopped for a break and some shade under an overhanging rock. Reaching for my spork (a plastic eating utensil with a spoon one end and a fork the other), I discovered it had somehow disintegrated into four little pieces. Norwegian laughed at my forlorn expression as I realised I had nothing to spoon out my peanut butter with.
“Don’t worry, Fozzie, the trail will provide,” he said reassuringly.
I reached the bottom on my own and made my way across a dry, featureless flatland to a promised water cache under the bridge where the trail went under Route 66. Marker poles stuck in the sand every quarter mile or so guided me through. Dry creek beds crossed the trail, their surface etched with ripple patterns that looked like tree bark where the water had once flowed. A huge gopher snake whipped out from beneath a bush, making me stop abruptly in mortal terror. It was longer than I was tall and literally flew across the terrain at a speed faster than any human could run.
I reached the underpass and water cache just in time as the local trail angel who looked after it came sliding down on his quad bike. Dr No stopped in front of me and, without even asking, reached round to the cooler strapped on the bike and handed me the coldest beer ever. As I took the bottle, a sliver of ice gently slid off the top and glided down the side, where it melted and dripped down my finger.
“Thanks,” I said. “Great timing.”
“No problem, here to help,” he replied.
We chatted for a while and as I put my rubbish in the bin, I noticed something sticking out of the sand. Bending down to pick it up, I couldn’t believe my luck. An antique spoon, black with tarnish, nestled in my hand. On the handle it bore the inscription ‘MBL’ and on the underside there was a silver hallmark and the engraved letters ‘Pat 1907’.
Dr No explained that the highway had been built over a hundred years ago and, although he doubted if it was a worker’s spoon, as they would not have eaten with silver cutlery, it may have been left by someone picnicking under the bridge to get some shade. I remembered Stumbling Norwegian saying, “The trail will provide”, and smiled. I spent a few minutes rubbing it in the sand, which removed the tarnish, and it came up like new. That spoon stayed with me for the rest of the PCT and I still use it when I go hiking now. Despite weight penalties, we all have to have one item of luxury.
Video I took on the day of finding the silver spoon
There are always a few weird experiences on trail and in many cases, the trail will provide actually comes true. It usually provides in far simpler terms such as a sweet camp spot or shelter just when you’ve noticed alarming rain clouds bubbling up overhead. You may be hungry and salivating over the thought of bacon and eggs, only to spill out onto a road with a diner not listed in your guide winking at you from the other side of the road. Or perhaps a sweet spring just when you’re out of water.
However, this post is less about the trail providing and more about my borderline obsession with reducing my gear weight, particularly in the last couple of years and now even more so with my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike just a few weeks away. I’ll be posting a full gear list before I leave on the new CDT Blog.
My bedroom has gear strewn everywhere, I’m getting completely nerdy and partaking in such exercises as measuring out stove alcohol, undertaking burn times, weighing wool shirts as opposed to synthetic, researching which lighter weighs the least and cutting things off various pieces of equipment. I have enough severed straps lying about to start a material shop. Not only do I have a travel size toothpaste but I’ve even squeezed half of it out.
I have come to realise that my hiking is far more pleasurable when I’m carrying less weight, I can cover more distance in a shorter time, walk more miles in a day, have less chance of injury and just feel a little more nimble. There is a full gear list coming soon but let’s get back to that silver spoon.
Since the PCT it has been a regular companion in my pack but with my weight fetish now reaching dangerous levels, I find myself possibly having to say goodbye to it for this trip at least. In the mail today I received a Fire Maple titanium spoon weighing a miserly 11 gr / 0.39 oz. This is half the weight of my silver spoon at 23 gr / 0.81 oz.
Decisions, decisions . . .
So what? Is a 12 gr saving really that important to lose a little bit of luxury, a piece of kit with a story, an old friend? Possibly no but this illustrates one area of weight saving that most hikers don’t look at – the little stuff.
Your biggest weight savings will be made by paying attention to your pack, tent, sleeping bag and ground pad / mat and this is where most people make the effort, myself included. However, paying attention to the small stuff can also pay big dividends. A 12 gr weight saving on one item doesn’t seem much but when you consider the actual amount of items needed on a thru-hike, the overall saving can be more than worth it. A lighter spoon, squeezing out half the toothpaste and antiseptic cream, taking a standard mineral water bottle as opposed to a dedicated manufactures which has no advantage other than a little durability, leaving spare batteries to the bounce box, changing your tent pegs to titanium and using a pot cosy to use and carry less fuel all make a difference. If you saved 20 gr each on 20 items, suddenly you’re carrying nearly half a kilo less.
Making the little changes that seem insignificant individually do make an overall difference.
Now, back to that spoon . . .