Fall Hike/Gear Review Part 1

If you think it has been a long time since my last blog entry, consider this – until last week, I had not spent the night in the woods since March!

Camp 11/19/13
Camp 11/19/13

November 19-21st I continued walking south on the Appalachian Trail to get out of town, get into the woods, and shakedown some new gear. My last hike was about 42 miles, going from the Pennsylvania/Maryland State line to Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry is the “spiritual” midpoint of the AT and the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which coordinates trail-wide issues and maintains the registry of thru-hikers, among other things.

For this hike, I picked up where I left off and walked about 48 miles from Harpers Ferry south to the intersection of the AT and Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia. There will be some trail tales mixed with varying degrees of detail on the new gear items, but i will hit you with a summary of the good right up front.

  1. I had a great time and was knocked out by the simple beauty of the woods, the critters, and the sounds.
  2. I was much warmer than my last trip!
  3. My pack was much lighter than my last trip. (For those who know about these things, 22 BPW, 32 fully loaded with fuel, food, and 4 Liters of water. For those who do not have a firm handle on BPW and related issues, we will get into it. Many details and charts about gear weight are in our future!)
  4. The new gear performed well. I am an official convert to alcohol stoves!! (Much more on this later.)
  5.  I was able to meet or beat my expected pace. “Speed” as such, is irrelevant to me and my goals in the woods. But, when planning a 2,600 mile, five month walk in the woods (which is what i am doing getting ready for a thru-hike of The Pacific Crest Trail) knowing how long it will take you get from one re-supply spot to the next is rather important.
  6. I do still need to get my pack weight down. (I have most of that process figured out and just need to continue to earn the funds to replace some gear.)
  7. Though the total mileage is similar between the two trips, the daily output differed. In March, over three days i walked roughly 10 miles, 16 miles, and 16 miles. This trip i walked about 10 miles, 21 miles, 17 miles.
  8. I need to get back on the stick with my core exercises!! I was a little more sore than expected at the end of the trip. Most of the soreness was obviously pack related – hips and shoulders where the straps make the most contact and focus much of the pack’s weight. Some of that gets easier just as you go. But much of it will be cured by carrying a lighter pack. For the rest, being in better shape will definitely help.


Mini-chat on pack weight – contents for this hike
Patagonia Capilene Base layers – general, 1 vs 2, 2 vs Under Armour
Hydration: Bladders – Camelbak vs Platypus and Gatorade Powder vs the new fancy tabs
Backpacking and Cooking – stoves/systems/fuels, fuels, and pots

There may be more, but that is all i can foresee at the moment. Rock On!

*Product Disclaimer – i have no sponsors and receive no gear free or discounted. All product reviews reveal my unvarnished opinions. I will provide links when we get into specific products, as a courtesy to you, dear reader.

Rolling Hills

Howdy Folks. This is another interlude post because i would rather write a little bit about some current affairs than finish the tech series at this moment. I do promise that the tech series shall be completed and that some posts about drinking and sobriety will follow. For now, suffice it to say that i hit 5 months sober on June 27 and i feel good.

I continue to be very excited about doing a Pacific Crest Trail Thru-hike next year. It stays on my mind. To that end, i am still reading guide books, slowly acquiring and testing new gear, and working on conditioning.

New walkin' hat and shirt
New walkin’ hat and shirt

Prior to deciding to prepare for this hike, I tended to walk at least 3-4 miles a day without leaving my neighborhood. I have been casting about for longer and more interesting walks that do not require driving.

I found a few nice 3-5 mile treks and a pretty 8-9 mile course, but i still craved more distance.

After a little experimentation, i found a very nice 13 mile walk through farmland situated among the rolling hills for which Lancaster County is known.

Many of my “most recent” posts and series have been a little light on the pics, so this post will take the opposite approach. Without further ado some of the sights along the way…

Route Map
Route Map
Cow Pals 1
Cow Pals 1
Cow Pals 2
Cow Pals 2

And a little video of my cow buddies. I have also started feeding them, but have not figured out how to manage feeding and filming them at the same time…

Iron Bridge 1
Iron Bridge 1
Iron Bridge 2
Iron Bridge 2
Iron Bridge 3
Iron Bridge 3

I urge you to click on Iron Bridge 3 to see a larger version and check out the placid water and mirror effect upstream from the small rapids.

Iron Bridge 4
Iron Bridge 4
Second Bridge
Second Bridge
"Prayer Grove Everyone Welcome"
“Prayer Grove Everyone Welcome”

A nice place to stop for a few minutes about 4.5 miles in to the trek.

Hills and Sky 1
Hills and Sky 1
Hills and Sky 2
Hills and Sky 2
Hills and Sky 3
Hills and Sky 3

The big walk takes me about 4 hours and 15 minutes with one short rest break, which means that i am often chasing the sun towards the end and do not have enough light for pics during the last 4 miles, but i will work on that. Walk on buddies!

Just a Quickie

Howdy Folks. It has been a while. I have some stuff lined up for you, but some of it still needs a little polish. I had some good momentum going on with the writing and then things got a little weird for me just before Christmas. I got overwhelmed by a wave of unspeakable sadness and was stuck weeping and thinking many a negative thought.

My little blond girls!
My little blond girls!

I did manage to pull things back together and proceed with my holiday travel plans and visited with family and friends. Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, his mom, and my three lovely nieces was splendid. We played some of our favorite games and a few new ones too. I also got to spread a little Christmas cheer with Mickey and Max and their bipeds!

Max and Mickey
Max and Mickey

New Years in Richmond was a blast as usual, though the sadness started trying to creep back in on January 1. I rode it out – not splendidly, but i did not get overwhelmed.

On a brief return to NoVA, i got to take the nieces out to visit an old friend’s farm to ride some horses as well as share some time with her family. This has been a wonderful reconnection largely facilitated by Facebook.

Girls and Horses!
Girls and Horses!

I felt a little rocky again once i got back to PA, but i have spent time focusing on what needs to be done and applied doses of “Fake it ’til you Make it” as needed and i think i have righted the ship again.

Vance and i have made some excellent progress on the business front, i have some consultations set up with another LYP member regarding RAI‘s technical evolution, and have a few social outings on the agenda as well. I am also nearing completion on the JMT movie project. I need to review it again, but i believe that all the visual content is set. Once i verify that, i will add in some voiceovers where appropriate and be ready to set up a mechanism for those interested to either download it or receive a DVD.

I used my Christmas present from my sister’s clan, an REI gift card, to replace my old backpacking pan with a new one that i like much better. It boils water faster, has a non-stick coating, and can actually nest a fuel canister.

Jake/Floyd and i got to talk on the phone several times over a couple of days as well as exchanging some emails and it was really great to get to spend some time with him again. We have not had much time to chat since we left CA in July.

Me and Jake on Forester Pass
Me and Jake on Forester Pass

The next few days should be pretty full with business research and presentation creation, but i expect to have some time to dedicate to personal projects (writing and the JMT video) in the second half of January. I had hoped to have the JMT video ready for Christmas, but hopefully it won’t drag on past the end of January.

I hope your holiday season was filled with at least as much cheer as mine and hopefully far less battling with demons.



I am planning an overnight hike soon and it is pretty cold in Southeast PA. I decided to make my own sleeping bag liner to help me not die. A little research brought me to this article. I mentioned the project on the Facebook Page for Brian’s Backpacking Blog, and Brian asked me for some details, so I decided to write it up for him, his readers, and for all of you. I did follow the recommendation in the article and bought micro fleece.

Completed liner
Completed liner

Divergence from the method in the article:

1) My fabric was 58″ wide. I experimented before starting by folding the fabric in half and laying the resulting long rectangle on the floor. I laid my sleeping bag on top to get an idea of how much “extra” material there would be if I did not trim the foot end to more closely match the dimensions of my mummy bag. I also got inside the fabric to see how it felt. I folded the foot end a little and folded the open side a little to mimic space “lost” in the hemming/sewing phase. Everything seemed fine to me and I decided not to cut open the natural seam made by folding the material length-wise, nor did I cut the end section down to create that tapered look/reduce weight/increase the warmth factor by removing “dead space”.

2) I bought 7 feet of fabric instead of 2 meters. I was not sure what I would do at the top, but wanted to have enough fabric to mess about with a hood of some kind. And at 6 feet tall, I was not sure that 6 ½ linear feet of fabric would leave enough to cover my head once my body was involved, messing up that distance with its 3 dimensions and all.

3) I did not baste stitch the whole length of the fabric on the seam-side before installing the zipper. This seemed like extra work that would have to be undone, for little gain. I am sure they have their reasons, and I bet that their liners look much nicer than mine, but it worked just fine for me to only do the basting stitches for the exact area where the zipper would be installed.

4*) I am not sure if this is different or not. Perhaps because, while I can and do sew, I know very little about it or sewing-specific terminology. I was not very clear on what they were talking about with the “right side”. I could not tell if they meant the side with the pattern that they wanted to face out at the end, or the side that they wanted to have next to their skin when all was finished. I was building mine for comfort, so I determined which side I wanted next to my skin and did the project so that all the seams and the zipper fabric would be on the outside of the liner and I would have a smooth unobstructed liner inside against my skin.

My method:

I wanted to be able to close the top somehow and decided to install a little tunnel for a drawstring. Micro fleece is not the strongest material out there, so first I made about a ½ inch fold and ran a seam along the top edge of the material. Then I folded the same area again, about 1 inch this time and ran another seam. This is when I thanked the Lords of Kobol that I did not cut the opposite side lengthwise. It turns out micro fleece is really difficult to sew! You can do it – I did. But it is trickier than cotton/poly/blends or any other fabrics I have worked with in the past. It really wants to “wander”, bunch, or have the upper and lower sections pass through the machine at different rates. You can combat this by going slowly and careful hand placement/fabric feeding.

I laid the fabric out full length and folded in half on the floor again and measured 12 inches from the top and put in a straight pin to mark this as the upper terminus for the zipper. I set the zipper aside and put straight pins in every 4 inches or so until placing the final pin at the lower terminus of the zipper.

I used a basting stitch (the longest distance between stitches that one’s machine can make) to put in a temporary seam along the section I just pinned together corresponding to the length of the zipper. Consider your seam allowances and leave enough room to attach the zipper. Note – do not lock in this seam at either end with the customary reversal stitching, that just makes it harder to take these stitches out later. I did it out of habit and had extra seam ripping to do.


Butterfly open the new seam and pin one side of the zipper to one of the newly created “wings”. This is the most important moment to think about which side of the bag you want to be in and which side you want the zipper to be on – which way the zipper moves and whether or not you want to be able to operate the zipper pull tab from inside or outside of your bag liner. I bought a 42 inch coat/parka zipper that has a pull on each end so I could not mess that part up. It did take a little visualization to make sure that I would be able to access the zipper pull from inside the bag liner.

Remember to change your sewing machine settings from a basting stitch to a more normal setting. I went with something in the middle of the range offered by my machine. Sew the zipper side you just pinned. It was only tricky at the two ends where the bulge from the zipper pull fought against the sewing machine foot. I did (eventually) figure out how to move the zipper pull out the way, sew a little, then move the pull again. You do want to do the reversal lock stitch thingy at each end of the zipper seam.

Repeat the pinning and sewing for the other side of the zipper.

Lay the material out flat on the floor again and from the bottom of the zipper, throw some pins in the fabric down to the foot and then across the foot end and sew it up.

Completed liner, top pulled shut via drawstring
Completed liner, top pulled shut via drawstring

Feed a drawstring through the tunnel you made at the top. I used some 2 mm para cord and an extra spring clip I had in my extra gear bag. Turn it inside out and remove the basting stitches from the zipper area. Turn it inside in, pull down the zipper and get in that sucker to see how you did!

Para cord and spring clip
Para cord and spring clip

That is where I am at with it now. It turns out that the 12” allowance I made above the zipper provides plenty of space for ventilation, so I have planned a further adjustment. I am going to bust out my trusty seam ripper and undo all the stitching for the drawstring. Then I am going to lay down in the liner and determine if I will need to keep all 7 feet of material or if there is any room to trim further.

Then I am going to follow the same procedure used to create the original drawstring tunnel – but do it along the short section above the zipper (see photo) and pre-install the drawstring before stitching the top end closed. I will let you know how that works once I get around to it. For now, the liner works great as-is.

Version 2.0
Version 2.0

If you are really ounce conscious, you may think it is worth it to trim off as much unnecessary material as possible. That is a great idea. If you do not have much proficiency at the sewing machine, or in working with micro fleece, I would recommend that you try the whole procedure first with an easier material – like an old bed sheet – to work out all the kinks before moving to micro fleece.

JMT Day 9 – June 9, 2012

½ way between Deer Creek and Duck Lake – Squaw Lake

@ 9600 – 10,300 (+ 1148 ft) – @ 12.1 miles

Free Maps Online – Day 9 – Map 12 and 11

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Things are getting tight. I awake, check my food supply and find that I have 3 Cliff Bars and one dinner left. That’s it. It will be enough, but it will be uncomfortable. I have been eating two Cliff Bars and one dinner every day. I am starting to discover that this is actually not quite enough food each day. And now we have a full day of walking ahead, an evening camping, and another 9.4 miles the next day before the ferry to VVR…

Purple Lake was lovely. Between Purple Lake and Lake Virginia, I met a PCTer named Lucky Nalgene. We chatted a bit about passes and snow and terrain. While chatting, two more folks popped up from behind me, Alex and Sye. They were also going to VVR, but they were taking a different trail than we were using. Floyd joined us and we all chatted a bit. Alex and Sye headed off to Lake Virginia and we made a quick plan to meet there to look at maps together. I stayed a bit to talk with Nalgene about his solar charger.

We stopped for a while at Lake Virginia, talked with Alex and Sye, and moved on. I made a dumb choice and took the harder of two rock hops across the Lake Virginia outlet and fell in the lake. It was a fine and short fall. No injuries. I only fell in to about waist deep. Nothing in my pack got wet. I did have to remove my shoes and wring out my socks, but that was the worst of it. And, a great place to reinforce a lesson about safety and care. I made better decisions after that.

We found a great place to camp near Squaw Lake just short of Silver Pass and as we were setting up, Alex and Sye showed up. They were moving on, but stopped to chat and give us some food! I had mentioned the food situation earlier and they were eager to help us out. Alex gave us a mashed potato dinner she had put together with great ingredients, as well as two fancy bars. One was a pistachio/sesame bar and the other was a honey/sesame bar. Both very nice! It is lovely to not be hungry or worry about becoming hungry! Big thanks to Alex and Sye!

My feet continue to heal on the treatment regiment I have worked out, and I am not experiencing any discomfort on that front. But, I am also running out of Duct Tape. I think I have enough to make it to VVR…

JMT Day 4 – June 4, 2012

Tuolumne walk-in backpacker camp – Lyell Canyon

8670 – 8900 (+ 230 ft) – @ 5 miles.

Free Maps Online – Day 4 – Map 16, 15, and 14

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Another cold night sleeping in almost all my clothes. I am beginning to think that something needs to be done. We are not even at 9,000 feet yet.

Jake and I liked Tuolumne, and the grill, enough that we decided to do another half-day. We would eat breakfast at the grill, then go through our gear and the “new” supplies from our box and collect the excess to leave in the hiker box. Jake was thinking about mailing some stuff home as well. By that time, the grill would be serving lunch and we could eat a little more and pack out more food for another night of “no-cook” town eatin’ out in the woods!

I was also very focused on searching the store for more layers. I needed another shirt of some sort and a winter hat to go over my balaclava at night. If I could buy a sleeping bag or down jacket off a hiker or store worker, I would do that too.

The nice folks at the grill let me leave my phone in there charging while we did chores. I was underwhelmed by the additional warm clothing selection at the store, and was “joking” with the cashier about buying his jacket and he said, “Why don’t you go down the street to the Mountaineering shop?” Turns out that the gas station we had seen has a decent outfitter inside!

One of the nice clerks helped me out and I got both an awesome long sleeve very lightweight (mass that is) fleece shirt and a new synthetic sleeping bag (rated 20 degrees) for less than $150.00! (Thanks Dad!) The sleeping bag I had with me was a synthetic rated at 20 degrees, but it is 16 years old, and because I did not know any better, I kept it inside a stuff sack all those years. I had washed and dried it to try and bring some of the warm and loft back – but my feeling and the best guess of the clerk was that the bag was probably rated between 50 and 60 degrees now.

We bought a combo pack – hat, gloves, and scarf, that came in a bag made of the same soft and warm material as all the items inside. Jake wanted a hat too, so we split it up. He took the hat and scarf and I used the bag they came in as my hat. We mailed my old sleeping bag the new gloves and a few other things back to PA and left a TON of stuff in the hiker box.

Feeling much better about life, we ate a little lunch, packed out more sandwiches for dinner and headed back out on the trail.

We met our first on-duty Ranger in Lyell Canyon as the temperature dropped and the clouds gathered and headed our way. The Ranger did ask if we had a permit, but did not ask to see it. He did not even ask us if we had bear canisters. I guess we seemed like honest folks. He had no real intel to share on the storm and we moved on.

The first mile or two of Lyell Canyon comprises meadows with the now familiar 1-3 foot muddy trench for a trail. Still bent on following the rules, Leave No Trace principles, and wanting to preserve the meadow –  I slogged on through the middle of the muddy trench. The the first drops of sleet began to fall, and quickly turned into hail. Luckily, we were just clearing the 4 mile “no camping” zone and in a short time found a place to set-up and ride out the storm.

Just before bed, I took my gross mud covered shoes (I could not even see the laces anymore) to the river and cleaned them. I was almost positive they would freeze overnight regardless. So I chose clean and frozen over gross and frozen.

In other news – i am starting to get blisters on my heels!

I put on my standard sleep gear, plus my new fleece and hat, and i remembered another trick i read somewhere. I put my feet inside an empty stuff sack inside my sleeping bag. What a difference! It was like having foot mittens!

Stay Tuned for Day 5

JMT Day 1 – June 1, 2012

Happy Isles to Cloud’s Rest Junction

4,035 ft – 7,190 ft (+ 3,155 ft) – 6.5 miles

Photos open to the public on Facebook

Free Maps Online – Day 1 – Maps 18 and 17 – these are not perfect, nor the maps we used, but they are one of the better, free, online options.

We used Tom Harrison’s Map Pack.

We left our Yosemite Valley base camp (America’s Best Value Inn in Oakhurst CA) loaded with our gear and sandwiches from Von’s for dinner, and drove to Tuolumne Meadows to drop off a box of supplies. It turns out that this was an unnecessary trip as one can do a full resupply from Tuolumne easily. But we did not know that and i had made 9 tasty easy cook meals at home and wanted to enjoy them on the trail. With a resupply so close to the start of the trail (about 24 miles in) it was too tempting to leave ourselves a box there and only hike with 3 nights worth of food.

Along the way, we picked up a hiker, Eli, hitching to Tuolumne. We had time and space in the car and wanted to help as well as stock up some hitchhiking karma for later in the journey.

After dropping the box and exploring the store, we returned to Yosemite Valley, carefully moved all items with scent from the car to the bear box and began our journey in earnest at 1 PM.

The beginning of the hike is lovely, but less than a wilderness experience. The first few miles of the trail are paved and there are tons of day hikers from all over the world, with varying degrees of knowledge about trail etiquette. It is quite a steep haul from the valley to the top of Nevada Falls, and we were grateful to have as little food as we did.

This was the beginning of my quest to discover better water carrying practices for distance hiking. On day hikes, and overnight trips with my dog, i have usually carried 5 liters at a time – which is about 10 pounds. I knew i could not do that on this trip. I started with 3 liters, having noted the last point to re-supply by treated tap water, and the likely stream crossings.

At the top of Vernal Falls, i remembered something i read a long time ago and found a small pebble to suck on. Sucking on a small stone helps keep the saliva flowing in your mouth and makes me feel less of a need to drink – particularly on ascents. I did this every day for the rest of the trip, hiked with a rock in my mouth.

The crowds thinned out a good deal at the top of Nevada Falls and once we passed Little Yosemite Valley, we were mostly alone. We found a nice camp past the Cloud’s Rest Trail junction on the top of a hill and had some nice views.

There were loads of deer in the area. I saw at least 15 from our camp and heard more. 3 or four came within 5 feet of me and we stood looking at each other for a while before they moved on.

Sleep was quick in coming for us both. It had been a good day, the hike was truly begun, and we would not encounter crowds like that again – not even at Mt. Whitney.

Stay tuned for Day 2…

Grand Canyon – River and Back – May 21, 2012 – Part 4 of 4

Resumption/Fill In/Conclusion – missing details from the Colorado River up to the Bright Angel Trail Head.

Black Suspension Bridge
Black Suspension Bridge

When you first hit the tunnel and emerge onto the black suspension bridge there is a swirl of emotion and sensation. Your body is thrilled because you are walking ON LEVEL GROUND!! And you know about the water spigot in 200 yards or so. You have accomplished ½ of your goal. And the views are really something. Not that they were not special on the way down. But these are views you don’t get anywhere else. You have to earn them – and it feels nice.

Looking West from the Black Suspension Bridge
Looking West from the Black Suspension Bridge

There are some placards with information about the bridges and some ruins and a few other things. We did not spend time on these on this trip because we have a 3 night 4 day hike planned in September that gives us two nights at the Bright Angel Campground (close to these signs) and there will be plenty of time to explore more then.

We were both pleased with our planning, water/food consumption, and general handling of the descent. By the time we hit the spigot, we had both finished our Camelbak supply, and one of our gatorades. I had an untouched liter of gatorade, and Jake would have also had he not shared with those in need. I had one cliff bar on the descent. I am not sure, but I think Jake had one 7-layer burrito and one cookie.

After drinking a few liters each, wetting heads, washing hands and faces, wetting hats, and re-supplying to carry to 2 liters each, we decided to move on down a ways to a better spot to take a real break and eat some food.

The silver suspension bridge has a lot more sway and give than the black, and not all the panels seemed to be firmly attached, which made for a more thrilling crossing! The remaining 2 miles or so to River Resthouse were smooth sailing. There was some rise and fall, but all very gentle and at several points, the trail turned to sand and it was like walking on the beach for 50 yards at a stretch. I cannot over stress the degree of gratitude and joy our muscles shared with us for doing something other than walking straight downhill.

Near River Resthouse, we did a short rock hop to the Colorado River and I touched that sucker for the first time. We took off our shoes and socks and plunged our feet into the ice-cold water. While enjoying that sensation we each had a 7-layer burrito and a chocolate chip cookie from the Bell that Jake humped in for us to have this exact moment. The Bell has never tasted so good.

After drinking a liter each and having a rest, we got back into hike mode and ascended. This ascent trail was also lovely, and different from other sites I had seen so far. Different color rocks, different formations and a different kind of path followed by the trail. About a mile or so in, the trail got steep quickly. The trail was still nice – even from side to side, not many obstacles on the trail itself – but it was much steeper than we had been prepared for. I learned later that this is called “The Devil’s Corkscrew” – both for the look of the switchbacks and because this area traps heat better than other areas and can often reach 130 in the summer. We both felt a huge change in temperature and started to feel adverse effects. My head was throbbing in a way that I know is related to the initial signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration. We were going as slowly as we could, stopping often and sipping on our meager 1 liter each.

It is only 3.2 miles from the River Resthouse to the spigot at Indian Garden – but it was a tough there for a while. We could both tell when we cleared the corkscrew (not that we knew that name at the time). We probably had at least 1.5 miles left, but the heat broke, the trail smoothed out a bit and we both felt better and stronger.

Looking back, we both had the same three thoughts. 1) Had we decided to eat at Indian Garden instead of at the River, we would have filled up to at least 3 liters each if not more, and with how awesome our bodies felt, had we not stopped at the river, we would have plowed through that ascent and been at Indian Garden in no time at all and feeling fine probably with extra water. 2) Had we filled to max water capacity (me 5, Jake 4-5 liters) at the spigot between the bridges and still had our break at the river, we would have had ample water for that ascent and felt fine the whole way. 3) Option 1 is no good unless there is some overarching reason for such behavior. We are not marathoners, we are there to enjoy the moments and soak it in. From all we have both learned about the Canyon, wherever it is physically possible without overburdening to do so, one should probably fill to max capacity for one’s own safety and to be able to help the multitudes of underprepared folks one meets out there.

We hit Indian Garden and made it to the benches at the spigot at the absolute last possible moment one could do that without turning on a headlamp. I stayed there for 15-20 minutes. In that time I drank three liters of water and filled my Camelbak to 2 liters for the next section. I ate my second of 4 Cliff Bars. I was not really hungry, but it had been a long day and there were about 5 miles of ascent ahead of me and I was looking at someone temporarily crippled by lack of intake – I wasn’t taking chances.

I drank almost a liter over the next 1.5 or so miles to Three Mile Resthouse and drank a half liter there, filled back up to 2 liters, and repeated that pattern over the next two legs of the ascent. At the 1.5 Mile Resthouse, I ate one more Cliff bar.

When we reached the top, my legs were sore, but overall I felt good. Jake drank less at Indian Garden, and less on the ascent. I don’t know if he ate anything from the River to the Rim. It is a grueling day – no question. But I think that maintaining fluids and some body fuel makes a big difference on that final ascent, and in how you feel later.

Bottom line – this was a fantastic trip! I am so thrilled to have done it for so many reasons. I got to see things I had only imagined. I conquered a few internal fears and added to the well of good experiences to draw upon in hard times. I re-learned how much hiking (like any other pursuit) is at least 90% a mental game. And I gained some good mental fodder for the upcoming backpacking trip into the Canyon. Having done the 17 mile trip that we did, I know I can hump my full pack the 7 or 8 miles from the Rim to the campground.

Exercise is good. Getting back out into nature is good. And who would have known – talking to strangers ain’t that bad either.

Hope y’all enjoyed it. I may or may not have time to write anything else between now and departing for California and the John Muir Trail. But I will get back to you when I can.

Be well.

Go To Part 1

Go To Part 2

Go To Part 3

Grand Canyon – River and Back – May 21, 2012 – Part 3 of 4

Interlude 2 – Bipeds

It seems to us both that we can’t go anywhere in AZ without meeting folks from PA. Jake is from York and while I am kinda from nowhere, my permanent address since October of 2003 has been Millersville. I stopped to encourage two gals having a difficult ascent, and we chatted for about 5 minutes. They were from Juniata College in PA, and said the rest of their group was still below. I did see more of that group as I descended. There were several strings of 2-3 folks and two larger groups. The first large group was 10 kids taking a break in the shade of an outcropping talking loudly about which kind of television set was the best and who could or could not tell the difference. The second group was larger and I could hear them from at least a half mile out talking loudly about degree paths and other programs at their school.

That is what I am saying about the first 1.5. I love tech and degree programs and talk about that stuff often. I have even become heated in discussion and/or debate and raised my decibel levels. I am fine with people enjoying their own passions and interests. However, I don’t come to the GRAND CANYON to hear you talk about this stuff. It gets a lot better below Cedar Ridge.

We met a few hikers climbing out after longer day hikes. (I don’t know why anyone would plan an ascent of South Kaibab, especially a daytime ascent.) Jake and I met up at least once an hour if not more, but we did our descents on our own. This turned out to be unfortunate for one group of travelers. They were ascending and came upon Jake first as I was about a ¼ mile uphill yet. One of them made a joke about buying some water and Jake stopped them and filled up their bottles from one of his gatorades. I saw the same group a bit later and they just said, “Hello Sir” and jumped of the trail to give me room before I could do anything else, so I simply said hello and walked on. If they had said anything, I also had at least 1 liter to spare and would have gladly. It wasn’t upsetting or anything, but their behavior was just kinda weird so I moved on quicker without attempting to engage in the same way I had with other groups.

Next there was a string of about 14 Japanese youngsters, maybe teenagers, maybe twenty-somethings, spread out over 300 yards. I talked with the 4 in the Vanguard for 2 minutes, then saw the string of folks behind them approaching. Lots of hellos as these folks passed. The guy in the rear looked beat and like he was about to shout to his friends but didn’t. I noticed he had stopped in the meager shade of a tiny tree. I told him that where their lead walker was now, just 150 yards or so up the path there was a very wide cool section of trail in full shade. He thanked me and said in about ¼ mile, turn around and I would see a big turtle. I took no chances and stopped every 50-100 feet, but I never saw that turtle. It was still an awesome piece of advice that I bet I would not have been given if I had simply passed him by, even with a friendly wave.

At the privies at the Tipoff, I met a group of three hikers, one of whom seemed to be in bad shape. They were setting up a sparse rest zone in the shade of the privy station and getting that dude resting on a sleeping pad. I checked on them and offered of my gear, but they had plenty of water and food, just needed a break from the sun. As I was leaving I heard them say that they would wait there until around 6 PM before moving on, which sounded like a wise plan.

While Jake and I were resting and hydrating at the spigot by the river in between the two suspension bridges, one hiker approached. We asked if he needed water and he said he was fine and started to move off. Something clicked in my brain and I said, “There is a spigot. We would gladly give you ours, but this is piped in.” And he came back and filled up. I realized it was one of the guys from the Tipoff rest-house group.

We learned that his friend was more tired from lack of sleep the night before than anything sun or hiking related. After a few minutes of chit-chat, turns out that this guy is from State College, PA. Not but a moment from the hunting camp J. Piper and I lived on in Lewistown during the summer of 93. The guy knew the CVS where we worked on the demo/remodeling crew. The guy’s good friend was from York – actually Dallastown, which is of course exactly where Jake is from. And the guy’s friend went to the same high school. He was 10 years younger, but still – there is some kind of weird AZ/PA thing happening.

We met Rosy and her companion at Indian Garden. Rosy was the one suffering from bad dehydration and muscle fatigue. They had 9 total in their group but friend X had stayed behind with Rosy while everyone else went ahead. We were sitting on the benches right at the water spigot, so offering water was no good. We had no Gatorade or other source of electrolytes. We offered her what we did have left, Cliff bars or a 7-layer burrito from the Bell. But it was all a no go. If this had been anywhere else on the trail, if Rosy had been alone instead of with a friend, if Rosy had been with a friend who was also hurting, or who did not know about backcountry hiking, I would have stayed longer – maybe even all night. But, this is Indian Garden on a pleasant night in May. The lowest expected overnight temp at that elevation was 50-60. There is good endless treated water, a privy, 15-30 hikers camped within 50-100 yards, and a manned Ranger Station 200 yards up the trail. I told her she was going to be OK, listen to her friend, drink up – slowly, and that if she needed to stay right there all night, that would be just fine and she would be ok. Then I headed out. Jake stayed a while longer. Another guy came up the moment I left who was some sort of adventure tour guide fella and gave more advice about damp cloths and getting electrolytes and talked more about the Ranger Station and gave firmer advice about “stay here for the night”. Jake felt better about leaving after that and headed up also.

About 1.5 miles from the Bright Angel Trailhead, we stopped and talked with one Rim-to-Rim dude who was just getting started then, about 11 PM. Granted, we just finished talking about Dehydration Girl, but this is what I am saying about the danger levels of the corridor trails at night. You will still not be alone, and in many ways, you are in less danger than during the day (as long as you have a good headlamp!) After dark, you are more likely to meet the runners, marathoners, and rim-to-rim, or rim-to-rim-to-rim crowd, who are less likely to be carrying much in the way of extra supplies, but will help you out and at a minimum be able to send backup to your location. The reason these folks carry so little is that on Bright Angel there is water and a privy roughly every 1.5 miles!

I was still feeling good and rocking well in the last mile. I did have sore muscles, but it was nowhere near the 08 levels of pain. Suddenly, I saw a person about 10 yards ahead of me and stopped to also catch my breath and take in the stars. When they moved on I noted what should have been obvious before, they had no light – which is why I came upon them so suddenly. I started up after them trying to keep my light aimed at their feet and when I got within 10 yards I yelled out, “Is this helping or hurting you?”

The person turned and I saw that it was a man, he looked tired and a little scared, and he had little to no english. He let me catch up and I pantomimed to ask if he needed food or water and he waved those off. He stood aside for me to go ahead. At first I think he thought I just wanted to go on past, but quickly we found a decent enough pace and method for light sharing. I wanted to ask him if we were going too fast or too slow or if he needed to stop and rest, but I think that just everyone being tired and it being some time between 11 and midnight, it came across that we both just wanted to get up out of the Canyon.

Jake had been trailing on the ascent both from getting a later start than I did and from being tired and feeling run down. I waited for him at both of the rest houses and at several other locations, and we did a good job of having almost constant contact with one another via headlamp. I knew that he would be able to figure out what was happening with me and the new guy and he did and kicked it into another gear to first catch us and then keep the guy pinned between us in cones of light.

When we did get to the top I pantomimed again about the food and water and obviously feeling much better now that he was safe, he said, “I have hotel” and he pointed. He thanked us both many times and said, “No power. Electric go out.” So he had been prepared, sorta, just ran out of batteries for his light. And he proved the universal rule: whatever other country you are from – your English is much better than our XXXXXX (your native language).

He started off down this kinda dangerous rocky hill towards the road that I was not super comfortable with when we did it at 11:30 AM, and Jake and I jumped into action and followed him so he would not fall here in the home stretch. Once he made it to the sidewalk, he thanked us again and we went back to our car.

Next Up: Resumption/Fill In/Conclusion – missing details from the Colorado River up the Bright Angel Trail Head.

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Grand Canyon – River and Back – May 21, 2012 – Part 2 of 4

Video from the Colorado River

Audio from Indian Garden

Interlude 1 – Critters!

Once we were inside the park and on our way to drop off the car at the Bright Angel Trailhead, we saw a mule by the side of the road eating a tree. A bit further on, we saw what I believe was a mule deer, also eating a tree.

The first 3-4 miles of descent I saw many squirrels and what I am going to call crows. I don’t know much about ornithology, but these were crows or ravens, or maybe blackbirds – but I am sticking with crows. One group of 3-4 crows were having either a game or a battle, but they stayed close knit, often beaks together rising and falling in turning circles. Further down, I saw birds too distant to identify riding thermals and currents off of the cliff faces. I also had a few encounters with either a hawk or a small eagle right above my head doing the same. It came out of no where and was gone too quickly to identify, but I saw the individual “fingers” at the ends of the wings.

Did not see any fish or otters at the river, but we did hear an awesome chorus of frogs all the way up the Bright Angel. At Indian Garden, crickets, frogs and a few other insects were serenading the night sky and cheering us on our way.

Ascending Bright Angel in the dark, I saw two baby scorpions (my people) a few miles apart. There were 8-10 centipedes over the 5 or so miles up from Indian Garden. The biggest was about the diameter of a McD’s straw for milkshakes and 10 inches long. The smallest about the diameter of the cylinder that holds the ink inside a standard plastic Bic pen and 4 inches long.

There were a ton of tiny-to-1 inch beetles and many small spiders. However, at 3 mile rest-house there was a very big spider. It looked like the same or similar species as the little ones, but it was big and freaky. I know it was not a Black Widow because I researched those bad ladies in 08. Of course its body was smallish compared to its “wingspan” – maybe the size of a walnut – but with those long bendy legs it looked as big as a tennis ball. And its eye glowed! I don’t know if it had two, or one, or one tightly knit cluster, but it looked like one glowing eye. I got up and out of there!! I saw one baby snake I could not identify either.

On the drive back home there was serious deer activity. The most dangerous time there were 5-8 holding court in the middle of the road. Jake saw them in time because they hid the double yellow. Until then we had been scanning the sides of the road not looking for a hootenanny in the middle of the road!

Next Up: Part 3 – Interlude 2 – Bipeds!

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