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Welcome to Phil Reed’s backpacking blog!







 noun: philosophy

1.  A theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behavior.”don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed, that’s my philosophy”

2.   What a person is likely to hear listening to Phil ‘wax poetically’ around a campfire.


If the posts are old, that’s because I either haven’t been out recently or there wasn’t anything interesting to rant about!

You can view our trip photos from Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers over at

While you’re here you can view my personal web photos at:

Here’s the link to my trips on youtube

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JMT August 2015 Attempt (Fire Shortened) Reflections

Lone Pine

If you ever make it to Lone Pine, Ca, be sure to visit the Lone Pine Film History Museum, over 200 western B films were shot just behind Lone Pine in the Alabama Hills.

Lone Pine is the town at the highway junction for Whitney Portal, a term for the trail head and control point for permits to either hike up Mt Whitney or enter the Sequoia National Park/John Muir Wilderness at that point and start the John Muir Trail, with or without hiking up Whitney.

Lone Pine is also the town for the Cottonwood trail head just south of the Whitney Portal, but about 20 or so hiking miles on the PCT  from Cottonwood to Crabtree Meadows.

We stayed at the “Historic Dow Villa” hotel, a very nice elder hotel which once hosted the movie star VIPs filming in the Alabama Hills.  We stayed in the William Boyd aka “Hopalong Cassidy” room.  Very nice hotel but no food, but there’s a nice place to have breakfast next door.


We needed to get from the airfield at Mammoth Lakes to our hotel in Lone Pine.  Then from Lone Pine to the Cottonwood trail head.  And, if all went well, from Yosemite back to Mammoth Lakes to fly out.  The charge for the the two of us was a whopping $750!!!  There is a bus that travels the 385 corridor in Owens Valley and that may be an option for next time.  The taxi (if you forget to arrange a shuttle with your hotel) from the Mammoth Lakes airfield to the Shilo Inn is $17 per person.

Food resupply

We initially carried 7 days of food in bear canisters.  We sent food to the Mt Williamson hotel (7 days), Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) (7 days), Reds (4 days) and the Yosemite Tuolumne Post Office (2 days).  We lost the food at MTR and Reds due to their return policy.  Still waiting to see if the post office at Tuolumn will return my food package.

The food I picked up at the Mt Williamson hotel was put in my pack and shipped home.


I don’t know what I was thinking, thinking I would eat oatmeal and raisins 22 days straight.  That lasted about 3 days before I started picking the raisins out of the baggie and eating granola bars.

I spent a lot of time adding up each days food to try to reach 2000 calories per day.  I reached it by adding lots of peanut butter packets (1 each Jiff per day), flour tortilla (2 per day), mixed nuts (about 1 hand full per day), a little chocolate (1 hershey Mr. Goodbars, xlarge for 7 days). and 3 mozzarella string cheese per day.

I think the only thing I’d change is a little more variety for breakfast, maybe mix up flavors of instant oatmeal, maybe some grits, possibly pop tarts.

The weight of my canister loaded for 7 days was 12.5 lbs.  The canister weighs 2.6 lbs so the seven days of food was about 1.5 lbs per day which surprised me.  I repackaged everything into ziplocks because I’m lazy and didn’t want to wash a bowl every night, but got real tired eating out of a bag every meal.

If I had increased the number of calories per day, I’m not sure how the increased volume would have fit into the canister!

My pack weighed, without canister+food, about 21 lbs, so the food brought it up to around 33 lbs, the last minute crap (maps, sunglasses, etc.), probably brought it up to a max wt of 35 lbs. (incl 1 liter water)

My dinner meals were primarily from Hawk Vittles and worked pretty well. Cooking or should I say re-hydrating, was indeed problematic, especially at camps above 11,250 and again at 12,500.  When I started using my beanie as a cozy the process worked A LOT BETTER and the food turned out much better.


There were two types of hikers, those with long sleeves, long pants, wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and those in t-shirts and shorts.

I wanted to be in the latter category.

The backs of my hands started to sunburn before I remembered to use sun block.  So here’s what I observed:  if you’re going to wear shorts/t-shirts (and it was hot!), you need to carry a LOT OF SUN BLOCK!!!  I was doomed to long sleeves/long pants because my small vial of sun block would not have made it doing more than my hands and face-neck area.


My biggest concern was how much water I would need to carry.  I had paid attention to the postings and guidebooks on those stretches with little or no water.  Only once or twice was I worried enough to carry more than 1 liter so I carried 2 liters, used only 1 or 1.5 l.  I’m going to say there was plenty of water and those ‘dry areas’ no more than 1.5-2 liters is required.

My 4 liter gravity filter (my 1 of 2 luxury items) is a hassle to filter just 1 liter on the trail, so we used Rich’s steripen on the trail and my platypus in camp.


Feathered Friends 20F 900 fill down bag (1lb) was way too hot.  30F quilt would have sufficed.  The only time my bag was comfortable was when the night temps dropped down into the upper 40’s in the pre-dawn hours.

Everywhere we camped the ground was able to take the tent stakes, not like the Grand Canyon corridor where the sites must have concrete under the dirt and people were bending or snapping tent stakes trying to pound them in with rocks.

A kilt probably would have worked fine, although I’m sure I would have been washing the fine dust out of my crotch area each night at camp.  That said, every day at camp I would give myself a full body ‘once over’ with a wet bandanna sitting on the edge of the creek or lake.  The air was so dry, you would be dry about 2 minutes after soaking yourself.

My Keene low top hiking boots with heavy duty insert worked fine.  I think anything lighter would have not been supportive, given the sporadic rocky stretches.


God bless California trail blazers/maintainers!  They sure know the definition of switchbacks and aren’t afraid to build them.  Colorado could learn a lesson or two on how to build a trail up to a pass.

Our shuttle driver warned us that the trails in the high Sierra’s were harder/rockier than the AT (or so he had heard).  That was bullshit.  When you take altitude out of the equation, the AT, IMO, is still the king of sharp rocks and randomness.  The trails were well built, wide, graded, and well maintained, typical ‘western’ trails.  I felt the ‘hardest’ trail condition, although very flat, was a  2 day stretch, pummeled by horse and mule trains into sand, like walking on beach, not providing much purchase to each step, requiring a little more effort over the long run.

That’s not to say going over a pass was easy, but that wasn’t the fault of the trail, blame the altitude.  The trails over the passes had wonderful switch backs.  In some places the nature of the rock required the building of rather large steps and/or picking your way thru rubble deliberately placed to stop erosion, but totally apropos to the terrain.


Don’t hike in it.  Smoke killed the trip.  I felt tired and drained in the smoke.  You can’t take photos of fantastic vistas, well, you can, but all you get is a smoke shot.  Never got to the point of coughing, but the smoke was making my eyes hurt even as we went to bed.

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Note:  this is my very initial trip report.  I will undoubtedly add more details on our logistics and lessons learned as I get to it.

Photo Link

As our plane flew from LAX to Mammoth Lakes you could look out the window and see the flames of a huge wild fire in the mountains. Wow, I thought, glad that’s not where I’m going!

Farther north, as we approached Mammoth Lakes I was hoping the pilot was familiar with this small landing field – as you couldn’t see the runway from the smoke!  Rumors were that this smoke was from a ‘smaller’ fire that was pretty much contained, nothing to worry about.

The next morning as we got ready for our shuttle to Lone Pine the sky was clear again and all was looking good, very good!

This was the acclimatization part of the trip.  Twelve hours or so and one night at Mammoth Lakes (7900′), drive to Lone Pine, Ca (3700′), hotel overnight, visit the Motion Picture Museum celebrating the hundreds of movies filmed in the Alabama Hills or on the vast prairie with the Sierras in the background.  Then shuttle to the trailhead at Cottonwood (10,023′).

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One night about 1  mile past the campground, then a short day over Cottonwood Pass (11,145′) and 1 night at Chicken Spring Lake (11,280).  I was going to make damn sure I acclimatized right for this trip.  Last summer (2014) in the Bridger Wilderness of Wyoming, I rushed it and spent several days feeling like shit before I finally got my full wind, and then the trip was about over!

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These first days were great, if not really hot, even at 11,000′.  Not the cool nights forecast.  If it did get cool, it was always just before dawn (duh) after a long night of burning up.  Well, maybe, that’s what you get when you bring a no-shit 20F bag!

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Anyway, the skies were blue and the days clear and very warm.  Surprising how intense the sun can feel at 11,000′ and the temps only in the 70’s!

When we finally got to serious walking, the sky was still blue and all was good with the world.  I could breathe great and felt great!  The time spent getting used to the altitude had really worked, it’s great being retired and having plenty of time!

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My only complaint, if one has complaints in the MOST SPECTACULAR SCENERY IN THESE UNITED STATES, is that this early section of the PCT (we would not hit the JMT until we reached Crabtree Meadowns), was also a horse trail, very sandy and as I walked behind Rich, I was literally getting covered by the dust he was kicking  up, a very fine, brown dust.

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(I’m going to summarize to get this posted)

When we reached Forester Pass (13,200′) the smoke to the north west had become pretty evident.

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South of the pass, skies were pretty clear.  Up on the pass, around noon, smoke had filled the valley, killing any chance of epic photos.

This started the trend we’d see for the next few days, clear early mornings, little or no wind, then about mid to late morning, the wind would pick up bringing in the smoke.  Around noon the smoke was all around and just past noon, the sun was blotted out.  Around midnight the smoke dissipated and one could see the stars again.

Our highest camp at this point was just below Forester Pass, at 12,500′, WOW!.  Even the smallest of camp chores left me a bit winded.

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Very few photo ops descending into Bubbs Creek and Vidette Meadow.  As we got further into the valley, the smoke got worse and it seemed, to me, much hotter.  This is when I started to really drag for the first time.  At the time I felt it was the heat draining me, but it was the smoke/heat combination.

We were headed ultimately over Kearsarge Pass (11, 834′) to Onion Valley trailhead, where we’d link up with our shuttle into Independence, Ca for our first resupply.

So because I was dragging, we went on past Bull Frog Lake and set up camp at one of the upper Kearsarge Lakes, so we could hit the pass early, leaving us enough time to meet the shuttle the next day at 1pm.

Here we met a group who confirmed the rumor we heard about a very large fire here in Kings Canyon NP which was filling the entire area with smoke.  This turns out to be the “Rough” fire, which is still burning out of control, causing evacuations, a full week later as I write this.

We consider bailing, but decide to wait until we get to the hotel in Independence before making any decisions.

As I said, we decided to get u  p early to give us enough time to get over Kearsarge Pass and down to Onion Valley trailhead to catch our shuttle at 1pm, else we’d have to hitch hike down to Independence (16 miles).

We got up at 4 a.m. (YIKES!) and hit the trail about 5:30 a.m.  Funny story, around 5-ish, just after having a bite to eat with headlamps – in the pitch dark -, I hear, the, um, call of nature, so off I go, being able to see only what my headlamp reveals, down among the rocks and boulders to find a nice ‘spot’.  Well wouldn’t you know it, each time I find a good boulder to go behind, there’s a tent that popped up in the night, other hikers leaving the smoke I guess….so I, trying to be courteous and not leave any morning breakfast ‘surprises’ take off once again, in the dark to find solitude, each time with an increased sense of urgency, ahem.  Each time I’m looking back to glimpse the reflective tape on Rich’s bear vault to keep my bearing and not get too lost.  We’ll after – doing my duty – I look back and find that Rich has apparently moved or packed his bear vault because the reflection which I could still make out at over 100 yards had disappeared, what to do now?  I called out and thank goodness Rich heard me and responded.

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So anyway, we hit the trail, thankfully full of energy and surprisingly make the pass by about 0630 (about 1 mile and 800′ elev gain), snap some photos at the top then make the 5 miles to the trail head by about 9-ish, great time, but now a long wait(?), luckily I had cell reception and got hold of our shuttle who had just dropped off that mornings fare, who then turned around and picked us up about 30 minutes later (yeah!).

They had our room ready (Mt Williamson Hotel) so we were able to get our clothes washed, our resupply food was waiting in the room, and take much needed showers!

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That afternoon the mountains became obscured by the smoke (Rich’s photo’s above) and our hostess (Strider) and owner of the hotel was telling us about the fire and the fact she was using a respirator to deliver food resupply further down the trail!  That about did it for me, I was in no mood to hike in the smoke.  The fire was forcing evacuations and had burned by then several homes and businesses in the area and was (is) marching closer and closer to the JMT.  Rich later decided that in this case, discretion was definitely the better part of valor and decided to bail with me.  Rich is an extremely strong hiker/mountain climber whose trail name should be ‘Superman’.

To be continued….

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Zermatt Day Hike – A few years ago

This is the Matterhorn (not my photo):


This is the view from the summit (my photo), Monta Rosa is the massive on the upper right:


On the way up.  Local Guides repairing (gulp) a standing rope:


Photo of me on the summit.


My tent in the Zermatt Campground, next to the train station:


This is on the path to the glacier crossing to the Hutte on the Monta Rosa:


This is looking back from Monta Rosa to that same path.  You can barely make out the path on the upper left side of the photo:


Here’s me crossing that glacier on a different trip: (notice my really cool red pants)

One last glacier to cross

Photo of me on a different Monte Rosa Climb, I ran out of gas and DNS (did not summit), should have worn the red pants!  That ‘pointy mountain in the center background is the Matterhorn.

Phil comes out into the sun

Phil comes out into the sun

Rich (Geardog) crossing the glacier, Monte Rosa background left, I believe he summited, although I wasn’t there.

Rich Pedersen crossing the glacier

Rich Pedersen crossing the glacier

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The Over Mountain Group – OMG

The Over Mountain Group was founded on 15 July 2015 to recognize backpackers who have endured exceptionally poor weather and trail conditions, while backpacking, for at least five or more nights.

OMG members are authorized to wear  the distinctive bandana of white edelweiss on a dark blue background or background of their choice, embroidered with the letters O.M.G..

The Edelweiss is the internationally recognized symbol of those who travel on foot in the mountains.

The name Over Mountain Group was inspired by the Overmountain Men.  The Overmountain Men were American frontiersmen from west of the Appalachian Mountains who took part in the American Revolutionary War.

The six founding members are Drag’n, Purl, Buff, Pyro, Gunny, and Suds.

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Roan Mountain A.T. Section Hike 12-17 July 2015

Before I get started, here are some basic recommendations that are probably common knowledge, but I wanted to list them anyway.

1. When you arrive at your camp, put your tent up first.  Pick a spot that avoids rain runoff as much as possible.  Don’t pick a mud soaked spot if you can help it, the muddy wet ground could indicate a very low spot that will collect water in a heavy rainfall.

A grassy spot is great, a spot with leaves is good.. a bare spot will splatter your tent with mud in a driving rain.

Look up and avoid overhead dead branches that could land on your tent in heavy winds.

Then put you stuff either in your tent or next to it.

2. Then find the spring and filter your water.

3. Keep a full water bottle near your tent in the event rain forces you to take cover in the tent.  Then you’ll have water to cook with under your vestibule.

4.  Change out of you wet clothes when you get to camp and into your dry set.  Better yet, try to wear your wet clothes dry, i.e. try to use your body heat to dry your clothes.  This is assuming better weather and dew point.  ALWAYS keep one set of dry clothes to change into and try to protect at all costs!

5.  You may have to put your previous day’s wet clothes on in the morning to hike in, suck it up.  Don’t use your only dry set of clothes – remember – keep that for camp.

6.  Don’t put on dry socks when you get to camp and then put your feet into your wet boots, or you’ll have another pair of wet socks.  One technique is to cover your dry socks with some sort of plastic bag, then put on your wet boots.

7.  Your colorful, new, and expensive pack rain cover probably will not keep all the water off or out of your pack.  Try using a large, thick plastic industrial trash bag inside your pack to keep your sleeping bag/clothes bag/mattress wrapped in.  Also, think about getting a box of  5 each 2.5 gallon extra large zip-lock bags from the Dollar Store as an extra layer of waterproofing for your stuff.  Use one of these large bags in the top pocket of your pack where you’re probably carrying a lot of you electronics and nav-aids.

8.  Hang your bear bag before it gets dark.  Use a cord with a slick finish so it lessens the chances of getting snagged.  Think about investing in a bear canister.  Heavy, but extremely convenient.

Avoid using a carabiner to attach you bear cord to the little bag with a rock in it you’re trying to toss over a tree branch.  The carabiner could get snagged.  Just tie a knot.  Why are you carrying a carabiner(s) anyway?  They just add weight, you’re not rock climbing.  Use a knot.

9.  Learn a few basic knots, for God’s sake!  Isn’t it about time?

10.  Bring a large zip lock for your trash.

11.  Bring a real fucking map, and hey, try to learn how to read it and locate yourself.  You’re in the woods for God’s sake!

12.  Buy a longer spoon, so you can get the food out of your freeze dried meal packet without getting food all over your knuckles.

13.  Bring a couple of paper towel halves.  They come in handy around meal time.

14.  Dig out your head lamp before it gets dark.

Pyro, Buff, Purl and I linked up and drove up to Gunny’s on Friday.  Gunny and ‘the wife’, had prepared chicken enchiladas, we brought beer and Guac, so we had a little party that evening.  Everyone got a bed, I had to sleep on the floor, not sure why I had the floor, since I’m the elder gentleman of the group.  That’s the last time that will happen.

Next morning we drove to the hostel where NC 19E crosses near the AT.  We camped then had breakfast at the BB that runs the hostel, then took a shuttle to the where the AT crosses the Nolichucky River in Erwin, NC.

The AT here follows the NC/TN border for about 50 miles and goes over several pointless ups and downs (PUDS) culminating with Roan Mountain famous for it’s several balds and higher elevations (@6200 feet).

Just as soon as we started walking, we ran into a torrential downpour that lasted for about an hour.  The humidity was, and stayed above 90%, for about 5 out of the 6 hiking days.

We had a few hours of partial sun and I, at least, was able to dry out a bit, before making camp.  We had originally planned to do only 5 miles on the first day with a 12 mile second day, but were able to do about 8 miles, leaving about 9 miles for Monday.

Rain on and off for the next 3 days.  A quite a bit of rain on Tuesday night, in fact a major storm forcing Buff, Pyro, and Purl to relocate their tents in the dark to higher ground.  This was a major undertaking that they performed quite well and very successfully!  Bravo to them!

It was a foggy, cold, wet trek up to Roan Mountain.  So foggy that we couldn’t see and walked right passed the parking area for day hikers.

Oh yes, we had linked up with another member of our group, Suds, at the Hostel.  Suds had driven down from Kansas City, Mo., and although Suds is an experienced hiker, this was his first backpacking trip.

This trip had started out as the backpacking trip from hell – even though we had all been through this kind of weather, the constant muddy and wet tree tunnels, fog, continual drip drip drip from the trees and cooler temps, wet feet,  the steep up hill climbs on muddy roots, did I mention mud(?), had turned this trip into as much a mental test as a physical one.

These conditions, unfortunately, took their toll on Suds.  But…what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…right?  So hopefully, Suds’ next trip (if there is a next trip) will benefit from the lessons of this trip.  I know I certainly learned a lot about my conditioning, equipment, and what a big baby I am.  It was all I could do to suck it up and drive on.

In case you’re wondering where the pictures are, my camera broke on day 2, so…sorry, no pix.  Gunny took a lot of photos.

The weather finally started to clear up, just a bit on days 4 and 5, and day 6, the hike out day, was quite pleasant.

The end.

Let me sum up.  We went backpacking on the AT, it rained every day.  We didn’t see anything because we spent all day in a tree tunnel.  The balds were socked in fog, except for the last day.  The campsites were soaking wet.  The last night, we couldn’t even get a good fire going, the wood was so soaked.  The 2 or 3 nights prior, we didn’t even try.

And to add to our camping enjoyment, we were using Awol’s AT Guide, and wouldn’t you know it, the site we intended to camp, marked in the guide as having both campsites and plenty of water – HAD NEITHER!  So we looked around for over 1 hour, then defeated, turned tail and marched back uphill for a half mile or so to the last place we saw water.

I’m beginning to really hate tree tunnels.

California here I come, right back where I started from!

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Muddog saved my life, but we had to leave him behind.

Well, sort of. I hate wet feet. I don’t mind so much hiking in wet feet, but hanging around camp in wet feet just sucks. I’m not complaining, too much anyway, if you hike in Dolly Sods you’re bound to get your feet wet sooner or later.

The forecast was for a 40-60% chance of showers, with some thunder boomers. We had about 15 people signed up for the trip, so it was hard to enforce my personal rule of avoiding these local trips with a rain forecast above 50%.

I know the ‘Sods’ is a wilderness area with a limit of 10 per group, but experience has shown that lots of folks sign up and lots of folks drop out closer to the day of the hike. And wouldn’t you know it, right on schedule folks started to change their RSVP, the polite ones anyway. We still had 4 no-shows, very rude. In the end we had a group of 6, so no wilderness rules broken.

Back to the ‘wet’. We left the Tidewater area of VA around noon, stopped to eat in Harrisonburg, Va, and made it to the trail head about 7pm. The ladies hit the trail and Mr. Clean Jeans and I shuttled the cars about 5 miles south of the TH to save a couple of hours on the last day.

By the time we hit the trail it was close to 9pm. Right from the start we noticed that the normally high ground, which was the remnants of some old road, was completely and thoroughly soaked, the Sods had some big rain earlier that day and week. But we had partly cloudy skies to camp and a great sunset.


Muddog was already at camp and there was a nice fire in spite of all the wood being soaked.


The naturally occurring phosphates had foamed up in parts of the creek, looking like something from factory runoff. And the water was still ‘reddish’ after being filtered, typical Dolly Sods.

No rain that night or the next morning as we took in the highlands of the Sods and marched to that nights camp along a tributary branch of Red Creek (Red because the water is almost red, brownish-red)

We covered the 23 miles pretty fast and got to camp pretty early, no wait, that’s my nightmare trip. We covered the – 7 – miles pretty fast and got to camp early in the afternoon. We had the usual long lunch at the rocky outcrops on the Sods west side overlooking Canaan Valley. Well, not that long, some folks were itching to start walking and the clouds were starting to move in, so off we went.
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We got to camp, set up tents, collected firewood – or fire brush in this case, got a nice fire going, and then it started raining. An hour and a half later, it stops, sort of, and we can get out of our tents. I had a good nap and listened to podcasts for a while.

The fire re-starts pretty easily and we start cooking somewhere between 5-6.

The rain never really stopped, it just slowed way down, where you can’t tell if it’s sprinkling or just dripping from the trees.

Now to part where Muddog saves my life.

My feet are pretty much soaked when we get to camp, I wasn’t carrying in spare shoes, I mean, like, who in their right mind would?

In the past I have carried large zip-locks to cover dry socks so I can put my wet boots back on, but for some reason (old age?) I didn’t throw any in my pack this time, so I was doomed to suffer in cold, wet, smelling socks around camp.

As I was lamenting around the campfire – there was no crying dammit! – Muddog saved my life by giving me 2 giant zip-locks so I could have warm and dry feet!! I feel a tear coming on just thinking about it! My hero!

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It was with great sadness that we had to leave him behind. Well almost. As the rain continued on and off, the discussion turned to the fact there was not going to be any swimming on Red Creek with lots of basking in the sunshine and that maybe we should consider hiking out and getting a good hot meal and homemade pie…not a bad idea.

In true 4th of July fashion, a vote was taken and pie won. Muddog was not being as wimpy as the rest of us, and was considering pressing on, or slogging on, in the mud, for a few more days, so leave him behind we would!

In the end Muddog bowed to group pressure or the call of the pie and joined us for an early feast at the Gateway restaurant on Hwy 33.

The slog out was almost as epic as the Sods get.          DSC01418   DSC01429       DSC01433   DSC01449 DSC01451

Ankle deep mud, ankle deep bogs, several creek crossings in pouring rain, and the sun breaking out of the heavens just as we clear the woods!

Homemade pie about 60 minutes later.

What’s not to love?

PS. Sort of training for the JMT in August, my pack weighed-in at 25lbs, including a bear canister (2.5lbs), my 2-legged chair (1.1lbs), platypus 4liter gravity filter (.8lbs), and 4 meals. Including one-liter of water. Not bad.

I could cut most of the weight of the filter by using my steri-pen or aqua mira, but I’m just effing lazy! I would rather filter my daily 4 liters all at once that stand there and do 1 liter at a time, plus my ‘clean bag’ could double as a water bladder with a sip tube, if I wanted to do that.

There, I said it.

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Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip #3 May 2015

Well, we’re back!  Six days and five nights of hiking the Grand Canyon Corridor trails!

Here the link to all the photos I took,

Full trip report soon!

The trip went something like this, well, pretty much like this; I awoke with my little dog Fergie barking her head off to someone pounding on the front door, I looked at my clock, it was 3 a.m., the time Jen and I were supposed to leave my house for the Airport in Richmond, about an hour and twenty minute ride.

Well, my alarm didn’t go off, but I was up and able to be out the door in about 15 minutes.  We arrived in plenty of time to check in and make our flight.

We made it to Phoenix around 10 a.m. and linked up with Jimmy and his son Justin.  It was then off to the rental car center to find out that the van I had confirmed was not a van and another $150 was required to get a van, or ‘van like’ vehicle, bringing the costs from about $360 to $500, man was I pissed.

So anyway, we got a gigantic Chevy Suburban and off we went.  First stop was any Phoenix Walmart for some fuel canisters and any last minute food supplies.

It was 97F in Phoenix and felt great (for a little while) compared to the freezer treatment on the plane.

The great thing about the drive from Phoenix at about 2000′ or so to the Grand Canyon South Rim (6600′) is how dramatically the landscape changes from huge cacti to high prairie, to scrub Juniper forests, to dramatic lodge pole pine forests at higher elevations.

The large mountain behind Flagstaff was snow capped, which amazed us to no end.

By the time we arrive at the south rim the temps had dropped from the high 90’s  to 50-60F with winds bringing a good wind chill, jackets on!

First order of business after checking into the Bright Angel Lodge, was stealthily setting up Jen’s new tent so she could apply some seam sealant.

I take that back, the real first order of business was, after parking the ARK, was walking thru the Bright Angel Lobby out to the South Rim retaining wall and spending a few minutes enjoying watching everyone’s jaw drop upon seeing the canyon in all it’s glory for the first time.  In truth, my jaw drops every time I see it.  It’s always like the first time.  Every time we walked along the sidewalk, we were compelled to stop and take MORE photo’s of the same views, only a little bit to the right or to the left of the last view!

In plain sight, 3000′ below, Indian Garden camp, with its green Cottonwood trees contrasting with the high desert below.  Tomorrows goal.

(to be continued)



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