Penn (State), Packs, Palanquins, Planes, and so on

My daughter and I are just back (got in at 2 a.m.) from Penn State where she had orientation and registration and where I (along with about 200 other parents there for one of the many FTCAP days) learned about paying for it all.  The Eastern Seaboard is enjoying a ridiculously-hot spell.  Ironically, when we visited the campus last year there was a freakishly hot spell as well.  I had more free time than Michelle, so I hiked around the campus (big ol’ place), and I was reminded of advice my student Yoshiko gave me:  “Do not do your walk [of the tokaido] during the hottest months or the rainy months.”  It seems there’s about a month’s window of ideal weather; the rest of the year is very hot or very wet in much of Japan, and the heat during the summer is attended by the sort of mugginess we found at Penn State.  It’s draining.  Now I was carrying only a day’s worth of “stuff” on my back (I had my eye on a nifty new day pack at REI, but I settled on an old Easton that is comfortable if a bit funky).  The pack was heavier than normal because the weight of the heat was pressing down on me the whole time.  I thought of Booth’s description of Saigo’s being carted around in a palanquin during his retreat from the imperial forces, but there were no tourist bearers in the land of the Nittany Lion.

So I had two thoughts:  I really need to toughen up to warm weather hiking (chances are my schedule won’t allow me to hike during the one perfect month), and I need to think about packs.  I looked at the Osprey Aether 60 Pack that Matthew (WalkingFool) took on his last major walk, and it looks roomy, sturdy, light.  But there is also something like this award-winning (for being “green,” not necessarily for function) ultralight pack:

  GoLite Jam Pack

I’m curious what the pack-wearers among you think of this and/or other options.

To add to my sense that I need to keep getting into better and better shape there were the four planes (two REAL planes and two miniature flying horrors) we took in two days. Whatever wasn’t sore from walking was certainly sore after having been wedged into economy crunch for the better part of two days. When we go back in August to take Michelle to school for real, I think we are driving.


Of shoes and ships and … maybe not ships

OK, now the winter clearance racks are ready to pore over as I try to outfit my daughter for the Pennsylvania winters she’ll be experiencing soon enough.  My old (OLD) parka is vintage 1966.  It’s a navy Sti Tique Michelin-man-esque parka that is still very warm, though the ripstop nylon shell is ripping, and grey duck feathers occasionally escape and float down around me.  Maybe I should look at another jacket, but, well, maybe this antique I bought at Big 5 for about $30.00 has some more life left in it.

This all got me thinking about outfitting my trip to Japan.  If I dawdle along at about ten miles a day, it will take me a month to travel the Old Tokaido.  My world will be on my back, though I’m sure I can figure out ways to make that load lighter (shipping caches of clean clothes along the route? buying new t-shirts to replace old?), but I’ll still want a nifty rucksack with loads of pockets (I like pockets) and a comfortable shoulder fit.  When I got that same 1966 parka, it was for backpacking, and things were NOT light OR comfy back then.  A fifty-pound-filled. nylon-over-aluminum-frame Kelty pack was state of the art, and I could not afford state-of-the-art; it was army-navy surplus store all the way.  Heavy.

Then there is the matter of shoes.  I love my Van’s.  I’ve been wearing Van’s slip-ons since the year they first appeared (right around the year of my parka, though I’m not wearing the same pair of shoes I had 45 years ago).  Van’s have seen me through a lot of walking, but I doubt they are the right choice for such a long trek.  Once upon a time I actually got some walking shoes; they were solid black and not too hot or restricting.  I wore them very little (they weren’t Van’s), and they might still be in good-enough shape, but for some mysterious reason I now have only one of the original shoes that sits alongside another black shoe that I never bought in the closet.

One of my students is Japanese.  She warned me not to make the hike during the too-hot or too-rainy seasons.  When I asked her when these were, she suggested that I just might have a week of perfect weather near the beginning or the end of summer.  From the books I’ve been reading, I know that the occasional typhoon seems to come along just when folks decide to walk the Old Tokaido.  But I don’t think I’ll trundle down the road with a lot of storm gear, though I probably should get a hat (hard for Southern Californians to think of wearing hats, but it’s something else for my list).

In my mind socks are key, socks and maps, socks and maps and maybe a debit card.

Any suggestions are most welcome.