The big trip is almost here... only one more week! I am so incredibly excited and nervous just the same. In the past month, Mugg and I's weekends have been jam-packed with nothing but hiking, breaking into boots, loading backpacks. Slowly we eventually collected most if not all gears needed for the Wonderland Trail. Today I bought my final, but probably most important, piece of equipment - the Gregory Maven 50L backpack. I have had 2 other lined up from coworkers, but this little backpack is so comfortable and beautifully made that I couldn't resist. An internal frame, the pack has a sleeping bag compartment, 3-entry into the main load, a solid and sturdy hip belt that fits snugly around my waist. I was lucky to find a perfect fit - it was the last x-small backpack left at Tent and Trails. My only concern is that it's not big enough, though the sales man insisted that I should only carry 25 pounds, a quarter of my body weight. "Just make your boyfriend carry more!" he said seriously. We loaded the bag with 25-30 lbs and I walked around the store, amazed at how well the weight sat on my hip bones. Mugg will be carry considerably more with his 70L backpack - I grimaced at how he surely would laugh once he saw my tiny internal frame. Once Mary bring me her sleeping bag, I definitely need to load the backpack and see if it can hold 2-week worth of living.

The bulky items will be the sleeping bag, the tent (5 lbs splitting between Mugg and I), insulating pads, 5-day worth of food to keep us going till the next cache. Amazingly 5-day worth of food translates into about 10 lbs per person, meaning we each will consume about 2 lbs of food per day! I never thought I eat that much. Water too will be heavy - we each will carry about 3L, or 6 lbs a day. Most likely we will filter enough water supply for the group in the morning, then might do it again at night if someone runs out. We will need to be scanty with water, especially Mugg who drinks a lot, since there might be a stretch when there's no lake or river near us.

Unlike Mugg who is a light sleeper and is bothered frequently by blisters, my biggest worry lies with the fact that a shower might not be feasible till the few final days of the trip, when we hit a more-equipped check point. The prospect of not being able to wash my hair for 10 plus days sends me squirmish - luckily tickets had been bought at that time the thought finally dawn on me so there wasn't a possibility to back out. Baby wipes and dry shampoo are considered, though both are inconvenient. We will have to pack all trash with us, so I'm hesitant to bring anything that's non-biodegradable. And dry shampoo... apparently there's no need for water, just shampoo and towel dry - the concept of which is skeptical to me. More research has to be done on this.

It all started 3 months ago, when Ian, a phD candidate in Oceanography at UCSD and Mugg's buddy from Berkeley, sent out a rally call for a backpacking trip of 100 miles on the Wonderland Trail that runs around Mount Rainier, a snow-covered active volcano southeast of Seattle. To my surprise, Mugg enthusiastically signed us up. "I never know you are so into backpacking," I had asked skeptically. "It's a one-of-a-lifetime opportunity," he answered solemnly. He was right - it definitely is not a light matter to plan a long backpacking trip on which we will have to live with bare survival. The Wonderland Trail is open only for a month or two a year, since the rest of the time it's covered in snow. We were lucky that Ian took care of most the logistics, like planning out the route, acquiring permits, sending ahead food cache. There will be six of us to split the food and common gears: Mugg and I, Ian and his triathlon girlfriend, 2 more guys from UCSD. Daily menu includes mostly dry food - lots of trail mix, energy bars, beef jerky etc, with the more fancy freeze-dry food packs spared for dinner. I am most excited for the warm milk tea in the morning (thank goodness we are bringing a stove!)

As inexperienced in backpacking as it gets, Mugg and I had to buy/borrow most of the start-up gears. In fact, I haven't shopped for anything but hiking stuffs in the last quarter. After this trip, I might have to make hiking a life-long habit to worth all the investments made (not a bad motivation at all, mind you lol).

The packing list, so far, stands as followed:

- Gregory backpacks - 70L for Mugg, 50L for me
- Sturdy Goretex hiking boots - Merrill for Mugg and Vasque Sundowner for me
- 20 degree sleeping bags - borrowed from Craig and Mary the wonderful nature-loving coworkers at NERA
- Thermarest 4-season self-inflated insulating pads - rented
- Kelty 2-person 3-season tent - amazing piece at 5 lbs
- Hiking shirts and shorts - 2 each per person
- Rain jacket and rain pants - 1 each per person
- Long thermal tops and bottoms - 2 and 1 each per person
- Thick wool socks - 3 pairs each
- Silk sock liners - 4 or 5 pairs each
- Fleece jacket and fleece pants - 1 each per person
- Lots of hand sanitizer
- Sun screen, bug repellent, iodine pills to purify water, personal aid kits, moleskin for blister, duct tape, small towel, journal, camera

All of this (plus food and water) will add up to 30 - 40 lbs loads each of us will lug along the, so I heard, breathtaking trails of Mount Rainier.

I can hardly wait.
The last few days before vacation are long. Way too long. As Mugg has been kept in the office everyday past midnight for the last two weeks, I was appointed Chief of Packing and Investigator of Missing Items. The progress was good - yesterday I felt particularly productive between listening to Michelle Obama and packing up my sweet little Maven. To my dismay, the backpack is indeed too small, and definitely won't fit the giant synthetic sleeping bag a coworker had kindly dropped off at my cube. I will need to go back to Tent and Trails to exchange for a bigger size or return it. Good thing I still have Alex's backpack as a backup. But man, how I'm gonna miss those hip belts. Michelle Obama, on the other hand, was fantastic.

Mugg is justly the Chief if Misplacing Items. As if affected by a spell, two things can never match up in his apartment: socks always get their partners confused, and gloves strive in vain to find their better half. Well, I had to admit I played an active role in the chaos. In the last few weeks, I was often distracted by superb jumps and twist of gymnastics and other Olympics events while folding laundry, thus giving my share in mixing up socks. Next thing on our Sherlock Holmes list is a right hand winter glove, a must item for the chilly nights of Mount Rainier.

Jay called few nights ago and asked if I want to volunteer for the Talk For Obama campaign. A coworker at NERA and law school candidate, Jay took 3 months off to campaign for Obama in North Dakota. As he was outgoing and an avid bar hopper, I was curious to see how Jay coped with the god-forsaken midwest town. Apparently the campaign has worked him breathless. While there isn't many bars around, Jay has been well-entertained with tall blond girls in this German-Swedish settlement region. lol Good for him. About Talk for Obama, I enthusiastically agreed. After vacation, Jay will pass along to me a list of potential voters in North Dakota to whom I need to call and persuade them to vote for Barack. In preparation, Yuko promptly lend me her "Dream from My Father" so I could marginally be familiar with the man. Exciting stuffs!

Three more days till the big trip!