Welcome to Phil Reed’s backpacking blog!

Scroll down for the latest posts.







 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 http://www.meetup.com/OCBackpackers/photos/

While you’re here you can view my personal web photo albums here https://plus.google.com/photos/100284807835224819162/albums?banner=pwa

Here’s the link to my trips on youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/PHILREEDSHIKES

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment


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.
DSC01364  DSC01371

DSC01381  DSC01391

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!

DSC01401  DSC01405

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.

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | 1 Comment

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, https://plus.google.com/photos/100284807835224819162/albums/6147264895078688497

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)



Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

Winter 2014/2015 RECAP

As of today, 6 March 2015, this has been the ‘winter that almost wasn’t’.  We’ve had a ton of rain and warm weather (40’s – 50’s), up until about Mid February 2015, then it started to get ‘Polar Vortex Cold’ along with lot’s of snow that Virginia is not geared to deal with.

On the coast, where I live, we got a foot of snow in early February, then a week went by, then we got another foot, while I was off for a week Skiing in Colorado, paradoxically, looking for snow.

10916403_778409252237695_2594256947159663790_o 10955414_776897395722214_7612196778123460669_o

The temps on the coast have been single digit, which broke records everywhere around here.  Gunny just posted that it’s currently -4F where he lives now, up near Staunton, Va.

That said, I have just scheduled a short 2 night backpacking trip for next week, a short loop thru the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area and Shenandoah NP.  Camping will be ‘Stealth Camping’.  Hoping for snow camping.  Hopefully the 2 river crossings will be easy and we won’t have to take our boots off (December 2013 below), else, it’s going to be a bit ‘nipley’.

DSC03874 DSC03869

In late December we had a backpacking trip up and over Cold (Cole) Mountain, off the AT, near Buena Vista, Va.

DSC00025 DSC00044 DSC00078

We’ve done this area many times and it’s always a beautiful trip.  The temps were pretty mild, I think above freezing the whole time, and we had sunshine (yeah!).  We had 8 or 9 show up from OC Backpackers.  Here’s a link to the photos :http://www.meetup.com/OCBackpackers/photos/25818110/ .

In February we had a Backpacking 101 course, which went, IMO, really well. Instead of speaking to a powerpoint slide show,  I and several others brought our backpacks fully loaded for a spring/summer 3 day/2 night hike and slow unloaded, explaining and discussing the concepts and variations as we went on.

Also in February, I met up with Geardog in Denver and we drove out to Summit County, Dillon, Co, for a week of skiing at Keystone.  It was GREAT!.  I bought a season pass for about $300 in October, which brought the price of skiing 5 days down to about $60 a day, versus the walk up price of $105-$120 per day!!!

20150225_161539 DSC00225 DSC00229

We had sunshine for ALMOST everyday, a few days the clouds would roll in after lunch, and we had small amount of snow 1 or 2 days, but not enough to drive one off the mountain.  The biggest thing though, is when mid-week skiing, the slopes are almost deserted!  You can ski so much that you (I) can become exhausted by about lunch time! YIKES!  Each day we would trudge back to the condo for lunch, a small break, then hit the slopes for the afternoon.  According to the Keystone app, we skied over 100,000 vertical feet, and that was with a short day on Friday, when we had to check out by 11 and drive up to Denver.  We were determined to leave early and take our time driving to Denver as the weather on the I70 corridor between Denver and Summit Couny had been literal shit the entire week, with, I kid you not, hundreds of accidents due to the speed, snow, and ice. On the Wednesday we were there, over 60 cars where in a massive pile up on the interstate on the way back to Denver, leaving motorists stranded all night!  Luckily we had sunshine on the drive back.  Single digit temps, but the roads where clear except for the constant mud spray on the windshield from the cars in front.

I’ve got my annual 6 day, 5 night corridor backpack in the GRAND CANYON coming up the first week in May!

DSC02431 DSC04856



We’ve got 4 people going (that’s all I requested on the permit application).  We’ve got myself, Jen, Biscuit, and Bones going.  Normally we go in March, but I was undecided if I wanted to do a trip this year and didn’t decide to go until the earlier deadlines had passed and May was up for the lottery.  It promises to be a lot warmer, possibly shorts weather down in the canyon, that will great!

I guess the big thing going on for this summer is a planned hike to do the James Muir Trail (JMT), 210 miles in the California High Sierra’s with Biscuit and Geardog.  After we went to the Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Wyoming last August, where I was pretty much under the weather the entire trip, mostly due to my own doings, I was determined to make this years’ BIG ADVENTURE a ‘sleepy, easy’ fishing trip loop either in Colorado or back in the Winds.  However, after a winter of sitting around, pretty bored, Biscuit and I kept talking about the JMT, so I started researching it.  It’s a huge logistical undertaking and permits are required and have been greatly reduced due to enormous demand, by the park service in the northern terminus of the trail in Yosemite NP.  Reduced to lessen the impact on the corridor the JMT traverses in YNP and just outside the park.  We were able to snag permits going NOBO from about 22 miles SOUTH of the JMT’s southern terminus at the ‘Mt Whitney Portal’, with a start date of 15 August.  I also applied for a permit starting at the Whitney Portal, which are awarded based upon a lottery, which will happen in mid-March. So we’re still waiting to see what happens with that.  I’m not sure my body is up to doing 230 miles, we really won’t have a time limit.  The limits are really based upon the number of meals one sends to the resupply points.  We’ll see what happens.


Posted in Backpacking, Equipment, GRAND CANYON, Hikes in Virginia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roaring Plans Wilderness Trip Report

Roaring Plans West Wilderness, Monongahela NF, WV 17-19 Oct 2014 Trip Report

Photo credits to Pyro, Gunny, and Jen.

After our Winds hike last August I came up with a new rule that I would stay home if the rain forecast was greater than or equal to 50%, this is especially true if the daytime temps are predicted to be in the 50F’s or below.  Not that I’m that big of a pussy…it’s just that I’ve had more than my fair share of backpacking trips that become gruesome slogs in wet cold rain.  And a wet cold rain in a tree tunnel just doesn’t do it for me anymore.  I’m not talking about the trips where it rains unexpectedly or the big trips away from home, just those ‘routine’ hikes that are in the class of what I call ‘training hikes.’

So it was on 17 Oct that Buff and Pyro arrived at my house and we loaded up the truck with a 60% chance of rain and 40F temps hovering over our heads for the next day.  But…being ever the optimists and having plenty of sunshine as we loaded up, we once again decided to go for it.  Jen and Cartman linked up with us and we were on our way to pick up Gunny in Verona.


We set up our camp just off Forest Road 19 and followed the trail, an old gravel road, about 1/4 mile to the crossing of Red Creek.  We didn’t see any campsites so we ended up camping on the road and forgot about making a fire.

100       9988

One33 great thing that happened was that the leaves in this area had just peaked and the colors were absolutely FANTASTIC!  We had thought we may have missed out, but we were very-very pleased!



Next morning we awoke to partly cloudy skies and temps pretty mellow, probably in the low 60F’s or upper 50F’s.  Immediately upon starting off we had to take off our boots and make an uneventful ford of the creek where as luck would have it, found a great campsite just on the other side.  For next time.

77 200

The trip description we were using was pretty easy to follow at first.  Our first section had us following blue blazed trail winding up to the plateau that Roaring Plains is known for.

But wouldn’t you know it, about 10am it started to drizzle.  About an hour later the drizzle got a little harder and the temps dropped into the forties.  And for extra fun, the breeze started to pick up.

11     44

More creek crossings.  Bear prints in the mud on the trail.

So on we slogged.  I will say that the drizzle did stop for a while, at times, and the sun would start to peek out.  And our morale would rise.  But then just to mock us, the skies would laugh and cloud back over and the drizzle would begin anew.

We followed the South Prong Trail up to the plateau but then marched past the right turn onto the Lost Passage Trail.  Once we discovered our mistake, after about a quarter mile, we backtracked and got on Lost Passage.  Here’s where things got a bit tough.  There were several trails headed in more or less the general direction we wanted to go.  Some seemed more obvious than others. We followed a well worn path just to have it die out in the brush. We crossed a creek and tried to follow a few others, just to see those come to a dead end.  Gunny went back across the creek to check out a faint path that had seemed to die out in the bushes.  He followed it for a bit and determined it was probably the main trail. A check on the GPS after a few yards confirmed it was headed in the right direction.

55 66

By the time we got to the Pipe Line Trail, it was raining pretty good.  And cold.  And Windy.  Time for winter hats and gloves.  The clouds had settled in at our altitude so no valley views and no views of anything more than a half mile or so.

We noticed that the Pipe Line Trail is a huge right of way, maybe a hundred feet wide with a dirt maintenance road and a good foot trail, and it was running both south (our direction) and north.  What’s more, earlier in the day, when the South Prong trail crossed what appeared to be just another old dirt road on the USGS topo map, that road was actually WV Forest Road 70, a very well maintained gravel road with quite a few trucks running up and down it carrying hunting dogs.  We had been listening to the distant howling of the dogs for several hours and had even had a few pass us on the trail.

It appeared on the map that we could bail out now and follow the Pipe Line Trail north to where it intersected FR70, then take FR70 east for a few miles to where it intersected FR19 a few miles below from where we were parked. This would bypass the Canyon Rim Trail (which we couldn’t see) and allow us to skip a muddy 1500′ descent on the Boar’s Nest Trail to the trail head.

The descent to FR70 on the Pipe Line Trail was a bit sloggy in the rain but once we hit the gravel road we were able to make good time.  So about 3 hrs after we made our decision to bail we were back at the cars.

We stopped at our favorite local restaurant for dinner and some peanut butter pie and  coconut pie and it was great!

We convoyed back to Verona, stopping to pick up groceries, and stayed at Gunny’s new house.  With plenty of craft beers and chips and salsa we had a great time swapping lies late into the evening.

Posted in Backpacking, Hikes in Virginia, West Virginia Hikes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment