Hiking in PA – Preamble I.5

Just some pics to round out the last post – more soon…

Me, Guthrey, Vance, Guthrie, Pappy - Indianola, MS 95(ish)
Me, Guthrey, Vance, Guthrie, Pappy - Indianola, MS 95(ish)

I named Guthrey after that fish. My dad caught that fish early in my mom and dad’s relationship. She had it ‘preserved’ and mounted for him, and he hung on our various den/living room walls for years. Vance named the fish Guthrie.

Guthrey in PA - 1998?
Guthrey in PA - 1998?

I don’t know why he looks so sad (aside from being on the leash) but i love this pic.

Guthrey, Emily, Vance - Fairfax 1994
Guthrey, Emily, Vance - Fairfax 1994

Back in the brief time that my folks moved back into our old house before selling it and moving to PA. Suck it Rockwell!

Smilin' Guthrey - Chimbo, 2000(ish)
Smilin' Guthrey - Chimbo, 2000(ish)

He did love to have his picture taken…

Segue and Jake on McAfee Knob - 2009
Segue and Jake on McAfee Knob - 2008

Jake surpasses me in distance hiking big time!

Jake's Summit Photos! Katahdin 2009
Jake's Summit Photos! Katahdin 2008

Jake at the Northern Terminus of the AT with Segue’s Prayer flags, Dylan the hikin’ skunk, and a photo of Jake and his grandpa.

Another summit photo...
Another summit photo...

You can’t see it here, but you need to know. That hat says, “Kent Fightin’ Episcopalians”. Aside from being a kick-ass hat, there are some good stories that go with that hat as well.

Hiking in PA – Preamble I

My history of hiking in PA has been less than ideal. I did get my first ‘real’ gear up here – pack, tent, and sleeping bag. I had also decided to do some exploration and maybe do large sections of the AT while living up here in 1996-7. I planned a two night trip to test my tent that did not go so great. Somewhere before reaching a spring, i lost the trail, wandered about for a few hours, ran out of water, and was generally not in the best of spirits by the time i got back to the trail. I just did an overnight and went home the next day.

– This is about to take a somewhat gross and potentially disturbing turn – though there is some redemption, or if not that, at least a happy ending.

Jake with Pappy, Brandon MS, May 2009
Jake with Pappy, Brandon MS, May 2009

Jake and i became good buds in 96 and talked about hiking a bunch. When the weather turned warm, we decided to hike together. Jake had not really done much hiking, but was interested. He was game to try anything, so i pulled out the maps for the old tent trial trip. We loaded Guthrey into the truck with our gear and headed out. About 45 minutes south of the trail, Guthrey fell out of the truck. I heard a sound like something being dropped into the bed of the truck and glanced in the rear-view mirror. I could see Guthrey still tumbling in the road. I pulled over and stopped the truck as quickly as i could, which took about an eighth of a mile, and ran back to Guthrey. From the minute i saw him in the mirror, i was screaming and crying and sobbing and yelling. I know that Jake did not know what was happening right away. He probably asked some questions and i may or may not have answered – i can’t remember that part of it.

I sat in the middle of the road with Guthrey and Jake stood a little bit away sort of watching for cars and also freaking out with me. Guthrey was alive, but it was obvious he was in terrible shape. I could not tell how many or which bones were broken, but i could see his head. There was a hole in his skull about the center line of his nose and an inch or so above the center line between his eyes. It was about as big around as a quarter and blood flowed from it in time with his heartbeats and his breath.

This happened right in front of someone’s house. The coolest old dude came out and talked to me. He was firm and kind at the same time. He told me i had to get out of the road. I said i could not leave my dog there, he might get hit by a car. I told him i was afraid to move him because i might sever his spine or do something else that might kill him. The man said that he would die for sure if we did nothing and anything had to be better than having us both get hit by a car. As carefully as i could, i picked Guthrey up and moved him into this man’s yard and laid him back down.

My sense of the timing and even the order involved in all of the steps is elastic at best. But i remember certain parts in great detail. I knelt gently petting Guthrey and still weeping. Jake was there and weeping. I can’t remember if he was also petting Guthrey, but i am sure that if he was not it was only for fear of hurting him. At some point, the man’s wife took Jake inside to use the phone and find a vet. Out of the blue, Guthrey opened his eyes, stood up smiling and tried to walk before he fell down and passed out again. That moment – hope, joy, fear, guilt, pain, wonder.

We were in a part of PA that neither of us was familiar with. I had been on this road once before on the previous hiking attempt. Jake had never been there. Jake had the directions. But we were both nervous and terrified. Then we had a new impossible moment. I told Jake he had to drive. The big blue truck is an automatic, and it is in a little better shape now (mechanically at least), but still it can be difficult to drive. Back in 1997 it was no picnic. The steering was beyond loose. There was so much play in the wheel you could turn it over 90 degrees in either direction and have no affect on the tires. Braking was also quite a chore. In part, it is a heavy truck with older brakes (i had not re-built them yet – so most of the braking system was from 1970). In part it was the way the engine was tuned. It was still in winter mode – rich mixture, advanced timing, high and fast idle. Even at a dead stop, you really had to stand on the brakes to keep the truck in place.

1970 F-100 Custom
1970 F-100 Custom

I don’t remember if Jake was 18 or 19 at the time, but it is suddenly his job to drive this giant old truck through unfamiliar curvy roads as rapidly and as safely as possible while looking for the turn for the vet which we had never seen. It may have been easier for me to drive, but i could not do it. I could not let go of Guthrey. If we got in a wreck with Jake driving and bad things happened, i knew i would not blame him at all. I could not face the possibilities of what could happen if i drove and we killed Guthrey getting him into Jake’s lap on the seat, or if he passed on the way to the vet. This all happened in the briefest of instants. Jake did not want to do it, but we did not argue or discuss it. We just did it. I picked Guthrey up and got in and Jake drove. Talking him through driving the truck gave us both something else to focus on instead of simply obsessing over Guthrey.

We knew we passed the vet, but we did not see it.  We saw Bob’s Market which was a sign that we had just missed it. We pulled into a gas station and Jake asked the guy who knew nothing. I told him we should just turn around and go to Bob’s market.  We did. Bob’s market is set back of the road about 100 yards to give room for the parking lot. When we were almost to the front of the store, i saw the vet across a field on another road. I jumped out with Guthrey in my arms and ran over. I can see the receptionist and some people waiting on the benches inside, but no one will help me. The doors are both “pulls”. I am covered in blood and carrying my 92 pound deeply wounded dog. I am kicking the doors (gently – but still) and probably yelling.

They come and lead me to the back. I get Guthrey on the table and am ushered away. Knowing that Guthrey is being looked after, i am still freaked out, but a little calmer as there is now truly nothing i can do. I head back out to find Jake and we hug and talk and cry and freak out some more. Oddly, i don’t remember much of the rest of the details about this time at the vet. I remember that i spent a lot of time in his cage in the back as he was in and out of consciousness from fatigue and stress and surgery and anesthesia, and lots of pain killers. I remember staying long after they were closed until the last person was leaving and locking up. I remember being there in the morning long before they opened but when the first person arrived to see to the animals. I remember Dr Bill coming to the back at some point and saying that i could take Guthrey home. He said that normally he would keep a dog under observation for much longer after a surgery like that, but that if i was going to sit in a little cage with him all day, i would probably watch him at home and not let him fall or hurt himself.

My parents were out of town. I think it was Spring Break, but i am not sure. I just know that Jake and I made a fort in the living room in front of the tv.  We built some walls of furniture and pillows and had lots of blankets on the floor. For a week, we stayed with Guthrey in the living room and petted him and watched movies. We took turns running errands just to have a chance to get out of the house. We would go out for the essentials, more movies and pizza.

Guthrey healed nicely and came back to his old self with a few small adjustments. We were close before, but our bond was deeper now. He had liked Jake before also. Guthrey was a big fan of anyone who wold actually go and walk with him, which few of my other friends ever did. But he was closer to Jake after this than i think any of us really imagined.

Jake, Lucas, Guthrey - Chimbo, RVA, 2001 (ish)
Jake, Lucas, Guthrey - Chimbo, RVA, 2001 (ish)

It was not too long after the surgery, definitely while he still had the metal plates in his legs, that he started jumping up into the back of the truck again. He loved riding back there, though i have never let him or any other dog ride back there again. It took something major like that for me to learn this particular lesson. In my defense, i was not throwing caution to the wind and blithely sticking my thumb in the eyes of the fates, i simply did not know any better. Every dog i can remember from growing up rode not just in the back of pick-up trucks, but in the back of that pick-up truck, and not just dogs. My sister and my cousins and i rode back there all the time. Growing up, my sister and i spent every summer down south either in Central Mississippi, or South Georgia, or both. At the end of summer, we rode back up north to Virginia, or Tennessee, or Kentucky. I remember sitting on the lowered tailgate for most of the way up the Natchez Trace and then the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Big G in Big Blue
Big G in Big Blue

I don’t know how to transition out of this and back to hiking in PA, so i am just gonna stop now and come back to it next go round.

Take your pants to the woods!

Let me hit the promised issues before we get to the title…

1. I have not had a run since the 19th. This makes me feel less than awesome, and i hope to get back on the stick. If you read here regularly, you will know that i have had some difficulty running in the cold weather. I also have generally felt pretty good when i do suck it up and run through the cold, but it is difficult to get out there. We had an actual nice and spring-like week that turned back into cold. In PA we are back to highs near 40 and single digit lows.

I did make one of my three goals that i set through the online nike+ system. Due to taking a week off i did not make my frequency or distance goals for March, but i did meet the ‘pace’ goal. I had 5 runs under a 9’/mile pace. While i do want to work on frequency and distance also, this was a great hurdle to overcome. It seems that my body now knows how to get out there and maintain 8’30”-8’45”. Once i am easily breaking two miles and ready for more, i can begin to do some much more beautiful runs. The route i am using now is pretty boring, but it is a combination of the safest and flatest route under 3 miles i can use without driving somewhere to run. Once you are comfy with even 3.5, there are some really beautiful runs through the farmland, along the ridges of Lancaster’s rolling hills, and beside some nice creeks and rivers.

Guthrey and Vance near Slackwater bridge - 1996(ish)
Guthrey and Vance near Slackwater bridge - 1996(ish)

I have kept up with my indoor activities. I am doing the full stretching routine twice a day, as well as my floor exercises. I am still increasing my reps as i get stronger and build endurance. The morning session is 18 push-ups, 60 twisty crunches, 60 regular crunches, and 60 leg lifts. The evening is 15, 50, 50, 50. Lucas and i are still walking 4-8 miles in the neighborhood everyday, and on the 26th we did 7 or 8 miles in the woods.  More on that at the end of this post – or the beginning of the next one.

2. The Spam bin has been fairly boring since the last report. Mostly it has been huge comments filled with online gambling and casino links – nothing suspicious about that… There were two oddly accurate spams though. It took me a minute to be sure that these were spam. Luckily there were two, and they were identical, and the commenters’ email addresses were almost identical, but that aside – oddly on point. It was two or three grammatically correct sentences about the virtues of Dome tents and how they maximum available interior space with a minimum of added weight.

3. The informal poll on discussing hiking equipment – i was going to ask you folks if you were remotely interested in my search for “the right” hiking gear, because if you are not, that could be pretty boring. Then i realized that i don’t really care, and you can skip it if you don’t want to read it. In part, writing about it here helps me organize my thoughts and remember specific products which is extremely helpful when i am face-to-face with a sales person. And i am a process guy. To my way of doing it, there are lots of processes in hiking. The more processes i employ and the more efficient i can make these processes while at home the more relaxing and enjoyable the adventures when i do make it out into the woods. I know that there is at least one other backpacker and several hikers who read this, so i will probably continue to share about the hiking gear process. Hopefully, you guys will continue to chime in with your experience and advice from time to time as well.

I have to go back to job research now but, the title comes from Saturday’s adventure (Mar 26). I went to the REI in Maryland, bought some new hiking pants, and then had a great hike on some new trails. Lucas loved it, and was even peppy around the neighborhood the next day.

Next Up – more on the hiking pants, learning about trails in Southern PA, the most awesome resource for hiking trails in VA…

Pending – job update, vegan vitamin update (i feel good), probably a short piece on race relations in Friday Night Lights in celebration of the final season launch on regular TV (iTunes Store for me) – no spoilers please, and i will warn you of the spoilers in my FNL essay – it will probably be confined to two episodes in season one.

Big Ball o’ Random (or small pile of unassociated items)

1. Kelly made me realize that i did not put out the word on Lucas. After writing about it here, i never closed the loop. He is doing great. His stomach was pretty much settled by the time i got back on Monday. The vet visit on Tuesday was super and he passed all his various blood work and other tests. It was just a simple upset stomach with no larger issues related. That is what i suspected, but it always nice to get more definitive analysis.

2. Last weekend’s trip to NOVA was fantastic.  It was better than i could have imagined it would be.  I am not finished processing and feeling and remembering – but it was a great time.  The music was awesome, and seeing old friends was hard to describe – in a good way.  There are many people who showed up that i did not get to spend much time with, and there were definitely folks missing, and other friends that i did not get to see – but that is kind of the nature of trying to fit twenty plus years of catch-up into one weekend.

JS, TS, NR - photo KAB
NR, KAB, LT, KM(R) - photo some guy we got to snap a shot

Aside from seeing old high school buddies, i got to re-connect with some “newer” friends as well. When i lived in Annandale in 2006/7, Lucas and i made many friends through the Mason District dogpark, but there was one family we bonded with deeply and almost instantly. The whole circumstance is strange in that two less-than-social dudes met, bonded, and have stayed great friends. Like many situations, the dogs had a lot to do with it. Lucas will get along with just about anyone, but he has had few great dog friends. There were a few other street dogs or dogs that got loose regularly that he played with as a puppy before he joined my team. Of course he loved Guthrey. But Fox is the first dog since Guthrey that Lucas really seemed to love. And, Fox was the same way. He also liked to see other dogs, and could get along fine, but had really only had one other dog friend before Lucas. Who knows what the factors involved really are.  Did the dogs know that Mehdi and I had few friends and though we liked being alone, we were also lonely? Did the dogs simply like each other regardless of how the bipeds felt? Is it something deeper but ephemeral – that because these dogs chose us individually, that we were predisposed to like the same kind of people? Is it a combination? I don’t know, but i am glad it happened. I met Mehdi’s wife and we all became close.

N, L, G - Chimbo RVA 2002(ish)

As things do, we drifted apart a bit once i left for India and i had not really gotten back together with them since i came back to the states. In the interim, Fox passed and they have two new friends now. Not being able to bring Lucas to see Mehdi and Maria was the big downside of leaving him home last week, but i still think it was the right call. It was excellent to see my old friends and to meet the new dogs and go on some of our old walks. It did not take us long to discuss and then move past “the missing years”. The stuff i wrote above is of course “the good parts” version of the story. Not that there were problems between us, but that was not a very good time in my life – which is a different story – or a part of much longer story.

FOX - Mason District Dogpark - 06/07

3. La Traviata arrived and i have really enjoyed listening to it this week. I was planning on continuing to refine my Spanish skills (and vocab!) this year, but i may have to hit an educational detour to learn more about the lyrics to this opera. I only know a handful of Italian and have not used it since 1992. But that is quite a decision to make. I love this music and wouldn’t it suck to discover that the lyrics are trite! It is hard to imagine in this case, but let’s face it, most musicals are trite… My mom asked me recently if i wanted to go see a high school musical with her.  She has one private student that she has been teaching for about 8 years, and this girl was making her singing and dancing debut. I asked my mom, “what show is it?” She said, “The Music Man!” I told her, “No. Mom, that is a terrible show.” Which is true. I was in it. Like most musicals, it was fun to be in – and i believe we performed it well – but, like Tim Kelly adaptations, that does not make it a good show. Anyway – i am trying to decide whether or not to learn more about what is happening in La Traviata.

4. One of my very smart friends misused ‘comprised’ in a recent online self-published venture. I spent a few days trying to figure out how to deal with this. I am not a grammar or punctuation or even spelling Nazi like some of my smart friends. But the proper use of words themselves is one of the areas of language that i do care about. Comprise is one of my pet peeves. I do notice and get bugged by the common faults – their, there, they’re and such. But they generally make me less fussed than a misuse of ‘comprise’. People who mess up with something like ‘there’ and ‘their’ may have never learned the difference, or may be lazy, or may have difficulty proofreading. But comprise ain’t one of your common everyday words. It is one of those book learnin’ fancy words. I do not assume that my friend was attempting to put on airs by using the word, but i see this error all the time and generally, it is someone trying to sound smarter than they are, or trying to make their argument sound fancier, or more authoritative.

So here is a good rule of thumb, a fast and loose usage guideline for you folks. ‘Comprise’ means ‘made up of’, ‘consists of’, or ‘composed of’. There are many specific cases we could go through, and i will be happy to address any if you send in your questions, but the most common mistake is people saying ‘comprised of’. As you can see from having just read the definition, saying ‘comprised of’ is like saying ‘composed of of’ which sounds a lot less fancy and authoritative than the user is probably going for. “The US is composed of 50 states.” “The US comprises 50 states.” Those two sentences mean the same thing. That is probably enough said.

Wrapping up now as i want to finish some research and preparation then head down to Maryland for a quick look at REI (i got my 2010 dividend in the mail), and then some hiking.

– – In the next episode –

Exercise update

Spam Bin update

an informal poll on the issue of discussing hiking equipment

Anybody seen Rerun? Update IV

The Nova Trip

I am going down to NOVA for two musical events and several sort of mini-reunions.

I have never been to any of my “Official” reunions, though I may drop in on one of the next in the series. Partly this is because few of my best friends from high school were in the same grade or even attended the same school. Partly this is because they cost a lot of loot and are not even at the school. We are denied the sort of reunion we grew up thinking about, hearing about, and watching on the big (and little) screen. To me, these official functions seem more like conventions than reunions. I know I am not alone in this and some of our modern social media tools are helping to fix this. My class has a group on the Facebooks, and there are at least two gatherings a year organized that way. And, there is always some “unofficial” (less costly) gathering to coincide with the official convention gathering.

This weekend’s events are neat in that they revolve around a place and a band (or bands). This cuts down on the limitations of school and grade and allows people who cared about the same kind of stuff, and the same people, to come together. I like that. Truthfully, I was not crazy about the place nor many of the hangers-on. But I too had some special times there. And I too had some special people connected to that place. And so I also go to look, to listen, to imagine, to remember, and hopefully – to connect.

Man-boys

This will be only the third or fourth show I have been to since 1992 where I was not playing, or doing sound, or being a guitar tech or general roadie. It is always a little weird for me to try and simply relax and enjoy. I feel like I should be doing something. The levels are not mixed well, the sound is not balanced in the house, and that guy broke a string, but the dudes at the door made me check my leatherman, I forgot my flashlight, and I don’t have any extra strings in my bag! It can get a little tense…

Lucas and Brio

I am also excited for reunions with some non-school friends. Lucas and I were looking forward to seeing our old pals and hitting some of the old trails. But he has some kind of stomach bug and will have to stay behind in PA. I don’t want to risk infecting those we visit. “Thanks for letting me and my dog stay at your house. Here’s a little special something we brought just for you!” I don’t think it is a real medical problem, just a stomach bug. But, we do our last walk between 10 and midnight. Two nights ago he woke me and my dad up at 4:00. This morning he got me up at 1:30 – two hours after the last walk. I am not complaining.  It is not his fault and I am sorry he is suffering, but that is definitely not the kind of gift we want to leave behind…

Solitude in the Burbs

Let’s segue into

Hiking Part III – Tent of Lucas

I got this wicked badass tent for Lucas last year. We did one hike up Crabtree Falls and on to the Priest Shelter. There had been thunderstorms forecast, but I looked at the weather and it seemed like your average Virginia summer thunderstorms – sweep in and dump water and sweep out. It rained for at least 12 hours. Lucas was not pleased.

I started looking into doggy tents as soon as we got back. There are many on the market. Few are actually designed for backpacking. REI has one that seems ok except the floor is not fully attached, so you are going to have water flowing through the tent – which defeats the purpose if you ask me. I found one that sounded good and was reasonably priced.

The tent itself is good. Nice solid construction. The side panels and the door work great. The flaws were obvious and immediate. It uses the fabric sleeve method for the tent poles instead of clips. I hate tent-pole sleeves. Feeding poles through fabric tubes makes me feel like I am not living in an era where we have sent men to the moon and miniaturized computers that are more sophisticated than those astronauts had down into the palm of my hand! Anyway, it is hard to feed the poles through these fabric sleeves.

Lucas testing the tent

Part of the reason it is so difficult is the second flaw with the tent. The poles are total garbage. They are super cheap and flimsy. I felt that right out of the package. I was actually surprised that they made it through the first trip without breaking. I set-up the tent indoors for a trial and to get Lucas used to it. I set it up in the woods for one overnight. And I set it up to clean it before I put it away for the winter.

The first time I set it up post-winter, about a week ago, two of the poles snapped. I went to EMS to discover that they do not have any kind of replacement poles. Later I took a road trip to the closest REI in Towson MD and discovered that they also do not carry replacement parts for poles, or replacement poles. I did get some great intel on a company that does make poles, and that may be the way to go.

One idea that I had (unfortunately a little late in this whole dog tent process) is to look at children’s tents. I bet that there are kid sized tents made by reputable companies that would fit the bill. And with our “protect the children” litigious society, I bet they would be decent quality. But, I am going to continue to explore fixing the one I have for now. The folks at REI had some good advice. Check out the used equipment sales. I can probably make the poles from any tent work with a few adjustments, so any inexpensive tent with decent poles would be good.

I did “repair” the existing poles with duct tape and set the tent back up and it held overnight without signs of over-stress. The question now is probably cost effectiveness. Is it better to get replacement poles, to cannibalize poles from a used or cheap tent, or to find a children’s tent that will work?  I don’t know.  Back to the research cave…

For those who may have been thinking, “why not just put the dog in your tent?” Good point. But, the last hike with all the rain is my counterexample. I love my dog and would do just about anything to protect him if it were necessary. But he was already soaked. I mean super soaked, by the time we got to camp. I had some dry clothes and gear, and could keep the tent and its contents dry. There was no way to dry off the dog. Inviting him in would not dry him, only wet me. Also, while Lucas is an affectionate creature, he doesn’t really like anybody messing with him while he sleeps. He will snuggle for a minute (or allow you to snuggle for a minute) and then he wants to go somewhere else and stretch out without you bein’ all up in his chili. So, that’s why…

What’s Happening Now? Update Part III

Interlude – Got in a run yesterday – 2 miles, pace 8’39”

I had to run through two walls of discomfort, but all-in-all it felt good and I felt super after the run. Some Wolfmother and RPG were right there to pick me back up when I needed it. I am still anti-shuffle in normal life, but I am digging it for running. I do still have the same thing that happens every time I am not listening to an album – I start to hear/sing the next track – but for running, those mental jolts can be good.

Hiking Part II –
Bag –

I have had the same bag since about 1996. It has been great, but there are issues – which are my fault. In the category of “you don’t know stuff until people tell you” – I have always kept my bag stored in it’s stuff sack inside my pack. Sure, it wasn’t a compression sack, and the bag is synthetic – but 14 years of storage in a small sack will take it out of any bag. The bag still works, in fact it has been an integral part of my nightly bedding since at least October 2010. But it is rated 20 degrees and it no longer performs anywhere near that level. I can’t sleep in it just in shorts even inside the house.

I still have to decide for the next bag – down vs synthetic.  I think I will stay in the same temp zone since I don’t do snow camping on purpose, but do encounter near and below freezing temps. Hopefully I can get a lighter and better performing new bag and
maintain the current bag for a loaner.

Tent –

Frontal - the one stage right

I have a great two-man tent. My only issue with it is that it too is from 1996. It works great, is fairly light, and it has as much no-see-um netting on the walls as a tent could back then. The newer tents can have almost all no see-um netting so that you have an unobstructed view (and airflow) in all directions until you put up the rainfly. That issue alone would not get me to replace my tent. But I am looking into one-man options.

Side View - the green one

I have done and probably will continue to do a lot of solo hiking. Also, most of the folks that I know have their own gear. While I will keep and maintain the two-man for the right time, I think I can lose weight and volume and gain some features in a one-man set-up.

I am definitely going to see if I can be happy in a biv sac. I have been researching them and the next step is to try them out in the store and then on the trail. I am not worried about feeling confined as I have slept in mummy bags since I can remember. Some models require many extra steps to secure from the rain, and some require you to rig up lines to hold the netting off your face. More importantly, some take a little while to get in and out of. The simple fact is, I pee a lot – especially at night. If I can’t easily get in and out of whatever it is, it ain’t going to work.

I do like the freestanding tents and there are several good one-man options out now also. I am very excited about the designs that have the door in the side instead of at the end!

Pack –

I have not done much on the pack research yet, but I may have to step that up. I remember really hating my pack the last two times I went out. I have researched enough to know that the GoLite packs will not work for me. I believe I need more support and padding than they offer. Other than that, I don’t know yet. While I will still be researching packs, I do need to get a few more things nailed down before I can make a great decision there.

My hope is that new job comes through and I can replace/supplement all my equipment at one time. We shall see…  Don’t scramble your eggs before you get chickens and all that…

– –
I have been to the local shop (EMS) for some hands-on gear time and talks with the clerks since I started writing this, as well as having spent loads of time reading reviews.

The stove is settled.  I am going to get a pocket rocket. I probably will still build and play with denatured alcohol stoves, but that is more to satisfy my curiosity and internal tinkerer.

A better shot of the DragonFly in action

Bag – Part II
I still need more intel and some product testing (part of which is on my docket for this weekend in NOVA being near to REI!).

That said, I am really interested in GoLite’s 3-Season UltraLite. It looks like a good fit. The specs are good.  The weight is intense at less than 2 pounds! And it gets great reviews. But I am concerned.  I would prefer to find one in-stock somewhere so I could actually get in it and see how it feels. If that proves difficult to impossible, I am not sure what I will do. Similar bags by other manufacturers are generally at least 1 pound heavier. This is why I need to go talk to the experts.

Tent – Part II

Tent talk is another reason for the research trip to REI. I want to get inside a few Biv Sacks like this one and I want to check out and talk about these:

Big Agnes Copper SpurGoLite EdenMSR HubbaBig Agnes SeedhouseBig Agnes Fly Creek
Just looking and reading specs – the Seedhouse and the Fly Creek seemed most appealing. But after loads of reviews, it seems that these two are more cramped inside in practice for those over 5’10”. Reviews for the Copper Spur and of course The GoLite indicate that these actually perform as advertised. But, can I find a GoLite to test out? And the door design on the Copper Spur does look appallingly stupid for such an otherwise well designed tent. There is no zipper across the bottom so the door must fold on the ground inside or on the ground outside for you to get in/out. This does appear to be the only drawback to the tent however.

I am also surprised by the number of outstanding reviews of the MSR Hubba. I have heard that they are good tents, but by the specs they are both heavier and have less floorspace than all the others listed above. But it seems that in use, they are less cramped than some other models because of better design. Also, they have a nice vestibule and the door is designed better than the door on the Copper Spur.

Again – I need testing and experts!

Next Up in Update IV:

The Weekend trip to NOVA

Hiking part III – the tent of Lucas

Tent of Lucas

What’s happening Hot Stuff? – Update Part II

Random Goodie –

I decided to search again and I found the version of my favorite opera that I have been looking for on and off for years. I had one of those awesome “greatest moments from” $3.99 tapes from a bargain bin and I have wanted to get the full recording ever since. This is Verdi’s La Traviata – Pavarotti, Sutherland, Bonygne, New York Met Orchestra and Chorus.

iTunes and amazon US only have the version with the London Opera Chorus and Orchestra.  That one is good too, but the recording is not as clear, and I came across the other one first and it simply moves me more both for its own sake and for associations I have with that version.  Amazon UK has dispatched (which does not mean killed) this version right on out to me and it should be here in early April (for less money than the download of the version I did not want…)

Hiking Part I –

I have gone back through my gear the past week.  Cleaning this, re-organizing that, and tightening up my list of required goods and desired goods. I got 2 new stuff sacks, a collapsible lightweight trowel, a tiny swiss army knife, and my first Nalgene bottle (and yes I did get the orange). After some mishaps and some advice from my hiker pals, I only use Sea to Summit stuff sacks. I generally buy the compression sacks, but the other models have their uses as well.

I am stoked about the knife and the Nalgene. I love knives. I have loved knives for as long as I can remember. But, I am trying to adapt and learn newer ways of being in the woods and carrying less weight. I came up in the climate of metal frame packs, hiking in with axes, canned goods and freakin’ potatoes – so I am definitely making progress. This allows me to have a knife, scissors, and tweezers – all of which are regularly useful, without carrying a giant leatherman or other assortment of tools.

The Nalegene is also great. I have never had one. I use Gatorade or Powerade 32 oz jugs in my daily life for water. For hiking, I take my 3 liter camelback, another 1 liter bladder and round out the supplies (when necessary) with my daily jugs (simmer down).  Part of the whole “lightweight” hiking thing involves food and cooking.  I don’t measure at home, but if you are on limited water and gas resources, you want to get your food right the first time, so I measure when I hike. I have used the Nalgene of my hiking companions to measure in the past, but now I have my own.

I also noted that many folks use their Nalgenes as a place to carry a few feet/meters of Duct tape. The folks at GSI noticed that too, and designed that into this bottle.  Since I have already loaded mine up with about 2 meters I can tell you – it works great! The tape wraps in that recess (they call it a “dog-bone” design) and then you slide that mesh thingy overtop for added protection and grip.  I am also pleased with the lid design. Easy to open even in gloves and uses nice (and replaceable) cord instead of plastic as a lanyard.

This is all exciting. It gets me excited to go out backpacking again. It also is exciting that I am nearing the goal I set that must be met before I get a new pack!

A good buddy and AT through-hiker advised me about pack replacement – if you want a new pack, first replace everything else that you think you might replace. Then take all that crap with you to the store and buy the smallest pack all that stuff will fit into.

Good rule of thumb I believe.

So I am close. I have to do some more experiments with stoves/cooking/eating gear. What I have now works great, but it is bulkier and heavier than I need, and difficult to gauge for fuel consumption.

Dragonfly in action at The Priest shelter

Also, I have given up coffee and not replaced it with other hot beverages since I last did a trip. My needs have simplified.  I am thinking of moving into a self-made denatured alcohol stove (just one of many info sources out there, but I like the Pirsig reference)- but I am also looking at Jetboilthe pocket rocket (simmer down), and other stoves.

I have always been an “eat from the pot” guy in the woods. Without the need for hot beverages, I think I can get this down to a much simpler, more compact, and lighter system.

After that – it is time for the big three: bag, tent, pack.

Note – there are some better hiking and equipment pics coming in Hiking Part II – i can’t find them on my computer (grrr) and Facebook totally changed the image download rules and procedures (grrr) so i have to figure out how to use photo grabber or some such to get the darn pics back onto my computer. If you are burning with desire and cannot wait – check out my Facebook album “Little Sluice Mountain”.

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