With semi-spontaneous vacation opportunities somewhat limited by Stephanie’s school schedule, we set aside two weeks in early June (between her spring and summer semesters) almost a year in advance. Our plan amounted to little more than a list of Utah’s best known natural wonders—and an ill-fated attempt to rent a Jeep Wrangler in Cedar City, UT. The rental fell through, but the puddle jumper was already booked, so Cedar City it was—a blessing in disguise, as Cedar City is just over an hour from both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. A great starting point. Everything else (including the route) we made up as we went along.
While hiking with my Dad on the Pacific Crest Trail two years ago, we averaged 18.75 miles-per-day over 8 days. It was difficult terrain, and we encountered snow daily, so it took several days before we reached our target pace. But as I got stronger and the terrain got somewhat flatter, we eventually made it over 20 miles-per-day, several days in a row. My brother Matthew hiked a section through Oregon with Dad, encountered altogether different obstacles, but he similarly managed to cover 160 miles over 8 and a half days.
It was our respective PCT experiences that led us to believe we could complete the 220-mile long John Muir Trail in 11 days. So we took a rough elevation profile of the trail, divided it into 20-mile segments, and discovered that if we followed it blindly, we’d be sleeping at the top of several high passes. A slight re-jiggering was in order, one that would also account for the fact that no matter how much we trained in advance, nothing quite prepared you for the real thing—besides the real thing. Thus we landed at what became our rough 11-day schedule: warming up with two “easy” 17-mile days, before ratcheting it up to 22, 21, 20, 16 (resupply), 24, 22, 22, 22, and 18 miles.
Ten years ago I embarked on my retirement savings journey by opening a Roth IRA. The research I did at the time gave me the conviction to make post-tax contributions in the present—to avoid paying taxes on the projected earnings 35-40 years in the future (while also hedging against the risk of higher taxes). It seemed like a no-brainer. Later, when I had access to a Roth 401(k) at work, I followed suit and contributed even more, rolling that balance over to my Roth IRA between jobs.
But it turns out that I fundamentally misunderstood how our progressive tax system works. In short I’ve been paying the full marginal tax rate on my contributions (25-28% Federal + 9.3% CA), but if I had put that money in a Traditional 401(k) instead, I could have avoided paying those taxes, and I would very likely have paid little to no effective tax on any future distributions (depending on my cost of living in retirement).
I would not have had any intention of rehiking the trail to Murietta Falls (deemed a “Butt-Kicker” in 101 Great Hikes), except that it, the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, reaches all the way to Mission Peak, covering 28 miles with 7,600 feet of cumulative elevation gain. So of course I had to rehike the trail to Murietta Falls (and then some)—the next “logical” stage in my quest to discover how far I can hike in a day.
Last Sunday at 7 in the morning, Stephanie dropped me off at the trailhead in Del Valle Regional Park, and I started walking, and I didn’t stop until I emerged at the Stanford Avenue parking lot at 4:20pm, exactly 9 hours and 20 minutes later—a perfect three mile per hour pace. It now stands as the longest I’ve ever hiked in a day after Skyline-to-the-Sea, and the first time I’ve crossed the marathon threshold. Onto 30!