Thanks for visiting!

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

Dolly Sods Wilderness 4th Of July Weekend, Map Reading, and more…

Hey there! Long time no post!

We, Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers (Meetup.com) had our 2nd annual 4th of July trip to Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV. a few weeks ago.

(Link to all photos – http://www.meetup.com/OCBackpackers/photos/23019712/)

DSC05616

We had about 20 signed up, most bailed out at the last minute, 13 showed up, and I heard that 3 folks coming in late couldn’t find us.  This led me to start thinking once again about map reading skills and the dearth (lack) of map reading training available to the general public.

I was fortunate that I received a healthy dose of map reading classes early on, primarily thanks to some sort of military training.  Three years worth at Highland Park High School (Dallas) JR ROTC, some in Basic training, some in Infantry AIT at Ft Jackson, some in MP AIT at Ft Gordon, some more in ROTC at Texas A&M and ROTC summer camp at Ft Sill, still more at Engineer Officer’s Basic at Ft Belvoir.  Three years of ‘practical’ use at Ft Bragg, then 3 yrs driving around the woods of the Germany/Czech border with a map on my lap for the entire time!

But other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen map skills training available to the general public.  I don’t even know if you can take a class at a local college.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of adults who want to backpack really don’t know how to read a map.  Here in Virginia a lot of our hikes are on the A.T. and there are hundreds of generalized topo maps to help keep you on the trail, but you are on a marked trail, not much of a chance of getting ‘lost’.

I’ve also noticed that a great majority of people showing up for the hikes don’t carry a map and are putting their trust in the hike organizer, hoping he/or she knows where the hell they’re going and will keep them from getting lost.

This really bothers me because most of the people I backpack with are incredibly smart folks out for a good time for a weekend.

Funny, but I’m always volunteering to give ad hoc map training on the trail and very few will opt in; not sure if it’s a lack of interest or not wanting to reveal a blind-spot, or my wonderful, humble personality.

I’ve started to think, hmm, people don’t want map training, or at least for free, maybe they perceive that things that are free have little value, so I listed a series of map classes for $25 a pop, and lo and behold, the first class of 4 has maxed out, with a waiting list!  Interesting.  But, we’ll see if anyone shows up.

Anyway, back to the Sods.

Dolly Sods Wilderness sits on a plateau in West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest.  There is a portion over 4000′ so it’s a little cooler than the lower lands and the weather can change pretty quickly.

Story goes that there was a huge fire that cleared out the upper elevations creating the great  360 degree views everywhere.  There is a super stream network so plenty of water and fantastic swimming opportunities where the streams combine.  Also, apparently the fire did little to damage the giant trees along the vast stream network, creating these oasis of camping after walking among the vast fields and meadows.  The place is a great hiking/camping mecca.

At the Seneca Rocks Visitor Center DSC05697 you can pick up a free map brochure detailing the vast trail network.  The trails are marked and well defined which has made it very easy for anyone to wander in and stand a pretty good chance of not getting lost, again, no map skills really necessary.

The area didn’t seem to be very crowded when we arrived on Thursday, but by Friday, more and more people were on the trail, especially day hikers.  When we got to Friday’s camp site area, we found a good spot, but the entire area started filling in with backpackers camping for the night.

We had a great camp fire Friday night, temps dropped into about the 40’s.  DSC05606When I left Hampton, the temps had been in the upper 90’s all week, what I call ‘Africa Hot’.  I find it hard to wrap my head around the drastic temperature changes between here in Hampton at sea level and 4000′ in the mountains when backpacking.  It’s hard to think about which down sleeping bag to bring, or should I bring my down coat, when it’s baking hot outside!

I can’t remember for sure, but I think Friday night it got down to an incredible 38F, all I can say is WOW!  However, it warmed up enough that it was in the 70’s by the time we dropped down a 1000 or so feet to our next camp, warm enough to go swimming!

That was about the only thing noteworthy about this trip.

I cooked pancakes and sausages every morning on my pocket rocket and my new skillet, an $8 dollar purchase at the grocery store.  I chopped the handle off and the thing weighs in at 8.2oz., not bad.

DSC05620 DSC05622 DSC05623 DSC05624 DSC05628 DSC05634 DSC05637 DSC05638 DSC05654 DSC05679 DSC05682Also hauled my bake-packer and extra fuel.  So between Juice and I we baked, cornbread muffins,biscuits, banana muffins and a delicious chocolate chip muffin.  Some butter would have been nice.  It was nice, but carrying the extra weight wasn’t so nice, but not as bad as I expected.  I only haul this crap out once or twice a year.

Trisha carried about a gallon+ of wine/sangria and berries soaked in triple-sec and treated everyone, especially Friday night!  Thanks Trish!!  That stuff must have weighed more than her pack!  What a trooper!

I’m sure not everyone was prepared for the cold night temps, but no one complained.  Pretty good group.

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

Grayson Highlands (State Park) to Damascus (VA) 14-18 May 2014 Trip Report

Just a quick re-cap of the trip.  Additional photos here:  http://www.meetup.com/OCBackpackers/photos/21964582/

Attending: me, buff, pyro, biscuit, Justin, Jen, Jim.

Hard to believe this was our 3rd annual trip doing this, might be our last time trying to do this in May.

Two years ago, May 2012, the first trip, the weather was great. The main thing I remember is that when we got to our camp on the VCT (Virginia Creeper Trail) it was pretty warm so I was able to go swimming in the creek.

I also remember that I didn’t bring any water shoes and the rocks were killing my feet as I waded out into the middle of the stream next to one of the VCT’s many bridges.

That’s the trip where Biscuit caught a fish and I was able to get a pretty good photo of his DSC02870Ccheese-eatin grin when holding up the small thing.

I believe this was the year I went to get water after setting up my tent at the Lost Mountain Shelter, leaving my flaps open of course, ran down to the spring, and it starts raining like a son-of-a-bitch, so I had to high tail it back to close up my tent. Of course I didn’t have a rain jacket on, what an idiot. Lesson learned.

The second year (last year, May 2013), it rained our second night when we were camped up in the meadow just east of the Thomas Knob shelter on the AT, beautiful site. But it was horribly windy and foggy and cold when we got up. Ice had also formed on the trees and bushes from the wind chill, which broke off and pelted us as we walked above 5000′.

That trip, my jet boil broke down, the fuel canister wouldn’t engage the pin or screw in completely, that sucked. It also sucked that I had to borrow gunny’s stove, but not until waiting for him to finish breakfast (come on Gunny, hurry up already!) But I did get some great photos of him eating in his tent vestibule in a reclining position no less).DSC00267

 

 

 

 

 

Also, Biscuit’s dog, Shadeaux, gets attacked by one of the wild pony’s roaming around up there and Biscuit has to fight him off with his hiking poles, great drama for about 15 seconds.

This is also the trip where it rained like crazy once we hit the VCT and marched onto the restaurant stop in Taylor’s Valley and on towards VA HWY 58.  DSC00389It was raining so hard that once we got to the campsite, the same place we fished and swam in the sun the year before, that we wimped out and sent the drivers, sans packs, the 5 miles into Damascus to pick up the cars so we could bail.

 

 

So now this is where we pick up this year’s little trek, May 2014.

Buff and Pyro drive up from VA Beach and pick me up in Hampton.

Seven hours later we arrive in Damascus and park next to Mount Rogers Outfitters. We meet Biscuit and his son, Justin, and a little later Jim arrives with Jen. I check in with the outfitters, pay for the shuttle and collect the cash from everyone and off we go, taking the shuttle to the fox creek trail head on the AT.DSC05217

This is the same piece of shit 12 pax van that we’ve ridden in for our other shuttles, and I’m sure I’m bitten twice on the arm by a spider or fleas or whatever while riding in this crapped out vehicle.

It’s about a mile and a half from the trail head to Old Orchard shelter and we arrive between 4-5pm.

Absolutely gorgeous day, blue sky, very warm temps, early spring blossoms everywhere, nice grass to put up the tents. Worked up a nice little sweat humping up the 600′ elevation gain to the shelter. That would be the last sweat worked up that weekend!

We scrounged for wood and pyro made a nice campfire. The campsite area around the shelter started to fill up with arriving AT thru-hikers as it got later, about 8 or so between tents, hammocks and the shelter, plus our 7. Jen was using her hammock.

The weather forecast for the next day, Thursday, was for 100% rain, and the weather guys were 100% correct this time (the bastards). About 2am it started raining and was still raining when we got up.DSC05227

I had prearranged with everyone, that in the event of heavy rain, with people eating in their tents or not eating at all, and no way to communicate effectively, that we should plan on having tents down and the walk started at 0830, trying to minimize anyone standing around getting soaked.

So at 0830, in a steady but light rain, we were off.

It’s about 1.7 miles and 1000′ elev gain from the shelter to the AT/Pine Mountain/Crest Trail junctions at 5000′.

When we got to the junction (not petticoat junction) it was basically pouring and the winds had picked up. At that point we had some decisions to make, either take the AT down from the ridge, thru Grayson state park and back up Wilburn ridge to the shelter, about 8.5 miles or take a shortcut on the Crest trail, about 5 miles.

Biscuit, Justin, and Jen opted for the short cut and headed to the shelter. The plan was to camp in the same meadow as last year, just before reaching the shelter.

Jim wanted to hike the AT section, I wanted to just hike down 1 mile to the ‘scales’ and see if there were any photo ops of horses or the Texas Longhorn herd that grazes up there.

So Jim, I, Buff and Pyro hike on down to ‘scales’ in the now blasting wind and rain and fog.

Unfortunately, no animals so we take a short break on the park service latrine porch to get out of the wind for a bit.DSC05244 DSC05248 DSC05253 DSC05258 DSC05262

Then Buff, Pyro and I head back to the ridge and Jim continues on the AT.

The 3 of us arrive at the meadow by the shelter about 1330, no tents, so we march up to the shelter and find Jen, Biscuit and Justin and 17 others crammed into a cozy little situation.

We double back in the blasting rain/fog and set up in a very small clearing just off the trail in a nice grassy spot.

 

 

 

 

 

We had a technique where we were able to take down the tarp tents and put them back up in such as way as to keep in the inside under the rain fly and stay dry, more or less.

DSC05265Getting into the tent while drenched became my big problem.

But prior to dealing with that, after we got the tents up, Buff and I had to trudge back to the shelter and down a small ridge to the spring and fill up. Then back to the tents and setting up our gravity fed filter systems on the handiest brush. I stood out in the rain waiting for the water to finish filtering because once I got in the tent and got everything dried out, more or less, I didn’t want to have to get out again to get the water as the forecast was for rain until the next morning, it was now only 2pm in the afternoon.

Now, how to get in the tent while I’m dripping wet?  I opened up the rain fly vestibule, with my torso hovering over the threshold and my butt in the rain, took off my dripping jacket and shirt, piling them under the vestibule, then tried as hard as I could to flip the fly over my rear end, then pirouetted my butt into the tent and quickly removed my dripping rain paints adding them to the pile outside the tent, under the vestibule. I only had shorts on under the rain paints but my legs were cold and seemed to be wet. I dried off with the hand towel I had the foresight to bring the quickly put on every layer of clothing I still had dry, including my down parka and stocking cap. Semi success.

We could talk between tents and Pyro told me she was able to completely change clothes under their tarp tent vestibule (arggggh!)

Jim arrived a few hours after us and set up in the same clearing. Unfortunately, for him, he can’t cook under a vestibule, as his tent had none.

Next morning there was still another tent set up next to ours!

So we settled in for the next 18 hrs! The hard rain continued, temps in the 40’s, getting as low as 38f in the morning. It did stop raining before dawn and the winds were killer. I wondered why the tent was not dry on the outside from the winds as I could see drops thru the material. Reaching out and around to feel the water, it turned out to be ice, from the wind chill!

Both tents stood up well, I have the tarp tent ‘notch’, buff and pyro have the stratospire 2, which is freaking huge, but under 3lbs!!! They did have one of their pegs pull out of the saturated ground in the middle of the night, but that was about it.

DSC05276We were more than ready to get going in the morning and were off by 0730, it was misting and really cold.

We had to put back on our wet clothing from the day before so we didn’t feel like waiting around for the others when we blew by the shelter. Jen was outside brushing her teeth and we told her we needed to keep walking to generate some much needed heat and that they would have to catch up, or else we’d see then at the next shelter.

I tried to wear my wet nylon gloves to help with the wind, but that only made things worse, my fingers almost numb in the wind and my toes freezing. It took probably over an hour for us to start warming up a bit.

Fortunately, as we went on, the sky cleared, just a bit, and the winds died down, just a bit,DSC05297 DSC05287 in the tree tunnels. And, as luck would have it, when we went down across Elk Garden and then up and over White Top, the winds lessened, and it wasn’t as bad as last year.

We made it to the Lost Mountain Shelter about 4pm. We actually had some brief periods of sun and warmth during the last half of the walk.

During the day, Buff’s left knee started to hurt, really bad, and he was starting to be in a lot of pain.

 

DSC05327We set up camp in nice spot and hung our stuff out to dry a bit in the slight breeze.

We collected firewood and pyro once again made a nice fire.

Biscuit, Justin, and Jen arrived around 5pm. Jim had caught up and passed us about 2 miles from the shelter and had set up in the shelter.DSC05326

At the end of dinner, under patchy blue skies it started raining. Buff and I called this ‘Immaculate Precipitation’, pretty clever, if I do say so myself ;-).

So it was back inside the tent, about 6 or 7pm until the next morning, now we’re really starting to get cabin fever.

Saturday morning was pretty nice. Breakfast #3 under my vestibule, Buff and pyro eating under theirs.

DSC05356 DSC05368

The morning walk on the VCT into Taylor’s Valley was pretty nice but it was starting to look like rain again when we arrived and Buff’s knee was hurting pretty bad.

The clouds were closing in once again when we got to the next campsite on the VCT, just about 300yrs or so from the HWY 58 pull off.

At this point, with Buff’s knee and no one desiring to spend all afternoon in the tents, we decided to once again send the drivers up the trail to Damascus for the cars.  We were hoisting the white flag, again.

DSC05357

 

 

 

 

Notes:

- there were hundreds of bikers on the VCT which made walking suck as we had to keep running back to single file on the sides of the trail. This was on a Saturday, so we should have known.

- Trail Days were taking place in Damascus, but after we got to the cars in town, we just wanted to get the long drive over with. I got home at 1130pm, Buff and Pyro had another 40min.

- As far as I’m concerned, I’m packing for winter trips until June first!

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

Uwharrie Trail, North Carolina, (W/Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers)

Trip report.  Uwharrie Trail, NC. 18-20 April 2014.

note: some of the photos here were taken by Bones.

Me, Bones, Mustang Sally, Jim, J.D.,Katherine, & Jake. DSC05009 DSC04998 This trail is listed somewhere at around 23 miles, Buff & Bones had originally planned it, but both had to bail and I took over as host.  When I was drawing my gpx file at trimbleoutdoors.com, it came out to only 17 or so miles, not sure why.

The plan was for 6 of us to start at the northern trail head Friday evening and link up with Mustang Sally at our planned camp on Big Island Creek Saturday evening.

Friday’s drive and 6 mile hike to camp 1 on Spencer Creek was uneventful.  By the time I arrived everyone was there and setting up camp.  We didn’t make a campfire.  Around 6pm it started drizzling pretty good and I retired to my tent to make dinner under my vestibule.  (thank God for vestibules!)

DSC05005 DSC04999

It started raining pretty good a little later and seemed to me to rain most of the night.  It was still drizzling pretty good when we woke, so it was breakfast in the tent once again.

We all packed up and were ready to go around 8:30am.  I gave a mini brief on the day’s target camp, Big Island Cr, to everyone, except J.D., who couldn’t be bothered to wait around or say goodbye.  J.D.’s a seasoned hiker and seems very capable, said he’s hiked this trail before, and wasn’t carrying a map.

It seems no one but me had a map….Anyway, off we go, Bones and I taking up the rear.  It started drizzling even more.  Fortunately, there was a bridge across Spencer Cr so I was pretty hopeful at this point.  Bones said that the stream crossings were VERY minor during  his last trip.

As fate would have it, there must have been at least a dozen (seemed like 50) crossings, every single one swollen over the normal rock-hopping points.

DSC05023 DSC05019

At one particular gnarly crossing, with no visible rocks above the swollen surface, the trail could be spotted directly across the stream. We searched high and low for a suitable crossing, but found nothing. So….it was off with my boots for a barefoot ford attempt.  Once across and feet dried with bandana, we searched and searched for the path, as the one we spotted came to a dead end and so did the white trail blazes.

But no luck, fortunately, it was raining again so that was nice.  I couldn’t tell from the map which stream we were stuck at so I had to pull out my phone’s gps/map app (Backcountry Navigator Pro), well wouldn’t you know it, the trail didn’t actually cross the creek, it took a sharp 90degree left turn on the far bank and followed the stream and then crossed back and forth a few times.

highres_355942262 highres_355945502

And, as luck would have it, we were on the wrong side.  I postulated that the group in front of us could have made that same mistake, possibly bushwhacking to the top of the hill in front of us and following down the other side to re-join the path on this side of the stream.

We attempted to follow the stream on our side, but soon got entangled in dense brush and Bones said fuck this!  So, we returned to the trail, now soaking wet and beaten by the wet brush.  I took off my boots once again and tip toed back across the stream. By the way, Bones, who is 6’4″ for more, was able to make a series of death defying leaps across slippery rocks and certain death! like a fucking elf.

highres_355945362

I use my now soaking wet bandana to dry off my feet and put my boots back on.  Twenty minutes later we’re back at the same fucking stream, this time also no where to cross, but there is this wet fucking log to try to make it across.  Now, I don’t normally do logs because I don’t want to die, but this log was short, 2 steps was all that was needed, and wide enough.  Luckily we make it across with no problems.

A few hours and twenty more crossing (I exaggerate, but not much) we reach Big Island Creek camping sites. How did we know we were there?  There are 2 little signs nailed to trees (plus I used my gps map app).  We had landed at the exact planned point.

highres_355946572

But…we were the only ones there.  WTF?  Not again?!  So now I have to try to “logic” it out.  Where are they?  In front or behind?  If behind were they lost?  Could they have possibly crossed the same creek we did and bushwhacked on and gotten turned around?  Remember, they didn’t have a map.  If they were in front of us, where the fuck are they?  They don’t have a map, but there are 2 signs!  J.D.’s been here before, but was he with them?

If we keep going, and they are behind us, are they going to worry about why we aren’t there?

So we camp, at the spot where we were all supposed to camp.

The rain is only a drizzle, but Bones and I are able to get a good fire going, in spite of the area being picked over and not much nearby dead-fall.

DSC05024 DSC05028

Once again it rains for what seems the most of the night.  Next morning, sunshine!  We break camp and hit the trail about 8:15.  We head over the little hill next to our camp, after crossing another fucking swollen stream, and guess what, there’s the rest of the group, minus J.D.

J.D. had continued on to the trails end and slept in his car (without sharing this little factoid).

Mustang Sally had linked up with group in front of us that prior evening.  Seems she had run a 5KM “tough mudder” type event Saturday morning but still had enough pioneer spirit or need for punishment to go backpacking that same day!  Damn!  I’d probably be in the hospital recuperating!  You definitely want her on your team.

Now that we’ve finally linked up and everything’s cool again we head off and finish the damn hike, in the sunshine.

DSC05044

J.D.’s at the trail head, he stuck around because he was our shuttle car back to the northern trail head (that was so nice of him…)

Then it’s off to lunch, then to R.E.I in Raleigh.

In the sunshine.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

Colorado Skiing; 6 Day Grand Canyon Hike

Well, let’s see, since my last post, RB and I went to the Dillon/Silverthorne area in Colorado where we skied three days at Keystone, then snow-shoed twice, once with Rock Creek Annie, who lives on her ranch in Silverthorne.

Rock Creek Annie went on our Wyoming trip to the20140228_123908 Winds last August. She’s about, what, 63ish, and kicked our asses in the Winds. She ate about 3 tablespoons of granola or something for breakfast and had a freeze dried for dinner, incredible energy.

I’m going to say she was able to kick our buts hiking because she lives at 9400′ and we were coming from sea level, yeah, that’s my story.

 

 

20140228_114911At Annie’s, we snow-shoed up to an overlook above her house where she had constructed a lean-to out of pine branches. Due to the 3 or 4 feet of snow, we had to step down into it, like a pit with a pine-bough roof. We made a campfire and roasted wieners and had hot dogs for lunch. Best hot dogs I ever had…out in the snow covered forest, on a campfire, blue sky, it was great!

 

 

 

Initially I didn’t want to go snow shoeing because I had only brought my ski stuff and had already shipped my pack, boots, etc to Las Vegas to pick up for our follow-on Grand Canyon hike.

RB persisted, so I had to go in my ski pants and wear my timberline boots and hope for the best. But I had a good time.
The skiing was also great. Weekday skiing in Colorado is the way to go, very few people on the slopes, and no wonder, given the lift tickets at the window was over $100 per day!! Yikes!

So after we skied, we went over to the FEDEX store and shipped our skis back to Virginia (RB’s snowboard). Then drove to Denver and got a hotel by the airport.

Saturday we flew to Vegas, met everyone at the airport, took the shuttle to the car rental place, loaded up and took off for the Grand Canyon, stopping on the way out of town at the UPS store to pick up our packs. My box was completely torn up, but the contents managed to survive. We also stopped at the Vegas In And Out Burger, I thought it was only ‘ok’, and that it didn’t live up to its hype.

GRAND CANYON HIKE

For the Grand Canyon trip, it was me, Juice, Mr. Clean Jeans, and Gunny in one car and RB, Fez and scenic vue in another. Which was fine, after 6 days together RB and I need some space.

We got to the park about 8 or 9 pm and checked in. Gunny had forgot about getting a room and slept on the floor of my room, pretty funny.
The plan was to hike 6 days, camp 5.

Bright Angel Trail from the south rim to Indian Garden camp, then to Bright Angel camp, then to Cotton Wood camp, then back to BA camp, then back to Indian Garden camp, then hike out.

DSC04256The weather was perfect and warmer than the same time in 2012. No snow leaving the  DSC04262crsouth rim so we didn’t need our mini-spikes like before. However, the trail was very wet and muddy from a prior rain, so it was still careful going for a mile or so, then the trail dried up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC04319The hike to IG was uneventful, but still had the oooh, aaah, factor. This was only my second trip and I still felt the wonder of the canyon.
After setting up camp we took a hike over to plateau point and took our first pix of the Colorado river.

 

The next day we hiked down to the river and on to DSC04486bright angel camp/phantom ranch. We stopped at the beach, soaked our feet, took a break and lots of photos.

When we got to BA camp, I went over to phantom ranch to check on our steak dinner reservations for that evening, when the lady told me she had no record of the reservation I just about had a stroke! She did some checking and found out I had actually made the reservations for our second trip thru BA in 2 nights (which is what I had originally planned, but somehow got the dates mixed up in my head…blame it on getting old), what a relief!! The was about the most excitement I had on the entire trip.

Gunny and I then proceeded to have a couple of ice cold beers there at the phantom ranch cantina/restaurant.

Next day we hiked on north on the Kaibab trail towards the north rim and cotton wood camp. At the Ribbon Falls side trail, we couldn’t find a good place to ford the stream from the south so we talked ourselves out of visiting the falls.

So we hiked on and set up camp. Cotton wood was the only place we had to filter water.

DSC04678The next day, heading south back towards bright angel camp, we crossed the bridge over to the Ribbon Falls side trail from the north. The falls were spectacular! From the trail it looks pretty lame, but up close it’s massive with a huge moss build up on a gigantic rock standing up from creek. There’s also a little trail where you can walk up and behind the falls.

Then it was on to BA/phantom ranch. This part of the park is more desert and more ‘open’. But when you leave BA camp headed north you walk a few miles in a canyon called ‘the box’ with steep walls. The trail parallels bright angel creek the entire way.
The walk was much warmer than before, t-shirts and shorts (if you brought them). After setting up camp, Gunny and I did another recon of the cantina and made sure the beer was still cold, simply amazing!

That evening we gorged ourselves at the steak dinner meal at phantom ranch; steak, salad, DSC04767cornbread, fixings, chocolate cake, wine, beer, ice tea, yum! Now that’s what I call roughing it!

Then it was back up the devils stair case and to Indian garden camp. No more downhill hiking, now we have to hike up for the next two days to get out of the canyon, here we go, let the fun begin!

DSC04856Just before we got to Indian garden, when we were on a section of trail with a steep wall on our left and a cliff of about 30′ above a stream on our right, we meet a convoy of horses and riders heading south down the trail.
I’m at the back in my usual spot, the group in front press themselves against the wall, but the only spot I could lunge for was a small clear area between the trail and the cliff. When the first mule got to me, and with our group pressed between the other mules and the wall, the lead mule with the wrangler stopped and wouldn’t go. The wrangler after a few tries with the mules asks me to hide my red bandana, which I hold behind my back, still no luck but after several tries, the mules decides to go on. That was the highpoint of our excitement that day.

The following morning, and last day, we get up early, in the dark, eat breakfast by headlamp. I want us to get an early start, so we can go slow and easy and before it warms up.
DSC04928

The sun rises while we’re walking so we get great views of the canyon in changing light as we gain altitude. Gunny and I hike with Juice and Mr. Clean Jeans, slow and steady, straight on up. Victory!

RB, Fez, and Scenic Vue hike on in front of us and reach the rim about an hour before us, never waiting for us so we’re denied a victory group high fives and photos. They go and eat and are already finished by the time we arrive, denying us a group victory feast, which I’ve always regarded as the best way to finish a hike….’together’ being the operative word. I just hate it when this happens, so I was more than a little pissy.
RB and his group then left for Vegas, while the four of us checked in to bright angel lodge then did some leisurely sightseeing and a little shopping on the south rim.

Next morning we hit the road about 6 am, had a good drive to vegas, turned in the car, shuttled to the airport where we said our goodbyes, and that was that.

A very nice trip, very smooth, no issues, and lots of beer at the bottom of the canyon.

I’m considering doing this annually. The only drawback is the permits max out at 6 to a group, so you have to squeeze into the campsites. I tried to get us permits for the group sites and 8-10 people, but that seems harder to get, so we had to down size to 6. Scenic vue was able to get his own permit for 2 so we pretended to not know each other due to park rules (buts that’s another story).

 

 

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

What Do I Like About Backpacking?

I was thinking today, what was it I like so much about backpacking?  I think, for me, it’s not just about getting from point A to point B.

I really enjoy all the preparation, the planning, the special technical planning for winter hikes or hikes out west to the mountains.

I love preparing the maps, the routes, creating way points, studying the terrain, the weather, the water sources, the special features of a certain route and camping area.

I’ve always thought that all the skill sets we learn in backpacking are naturally suited for mountaineering; as in map reading, foods for trips, stove selection, water purification techniques (summer vs winter); knot tying, which boots to wear, type of pack, type of sleeping bag, is it going to be a ‘dry’ trip or is there a possibility of rain or snow, is it going to be super hot, is sunburn a possibility, how far are we going to be from rescue if someone gets hurt, special navigation tools, the study of hypothermia and prevention, etc., etc., etc.

But I think the thing I enjoy the most is walking and talking with friends, and debating or telling tall tales around the campfire.  The campfire is where genuine friendships are formed.  I also love the after hike ‘feasts’.  I can’t tell you how much I love telling hiking stories and hearing stories.  Sometimes this can be such a hoot!

I was trying out a new chair, one with only 2 supports on the back, stabilized in the front with your legs, well I was able to provide a few laughs for everyone as I was figuring out the best ways to use the chair and in the process took more than a few tumbles! It was great!

Any hike where it was ‘so cold’, ‘so wet’, ‘ so buggy’, although a challenge at the time, have always provided fodder for the next camp fire.  “you should have been there when we endured…(fill in the blank)!

Hikes where we, as Bones says, “had to embrace the suck” are the ones we laugh about and take pride in during the next hike.  I think this so into the human nature, overcoming adversity and surviving to laugh about it later.  Any adversity, no matter how minor,  creates the future bonds of a group norm.  Adversity is really the cement that bonds the group experience.

Once a group has bonded together, and norms established, there is indeed a certain spirit or elan that provides a confidence that says, we can do it, come on, weather or terrain – bring it!

This confidence is not bought easily however, the group dynamic, brings a shared experience that realizes another saying we joke about; “If I only had that one thing” my trip would have been better; I wouldn’t have been so cold, my boots wouldn’t have gotten so wet, my shoulders wouldn’t be so sore, I wouldn’t have been so tired, or hungry, etc..

These shared experiences are piled upon each other, slowly but surely building a basis of confidence and group expectations.  The more I hike with friends, the more confidence I have, not only with my abilities, but also the abilities of my companions.  I also feel the burden of not wanting to let the other members of the group down.  So I faithfully do all the things I love to do anyway, I train for hikes, I make sure I plan, have the maps, that my equipment works and is appropriate; I not only don’t want to let my self down, I don’t want to let down the members of my group.  This is part, in my opinion, a feeling of responsibility and solid group dynamics/norms.

When you have these dynamics, I believe it’s easier to spot people or situations which may be outside the group norm.  I have noticed that those who are more likely to accept the group norms are inherently more apt to be happy, to enjoy the trip, to help, to share, and try to make those around us more comfortable.  They do not shun conversation, they do not isolate themselves and they try to be responsible (like keeping tabs on where everyone is on the trail – and – realize that we are all looking out for each other!)

What’s not to like!

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment

Texas Ranger Woodrow Call doesn’t tolerate rude behavior!

Texas Ranger Woodrow Call, doesn’t like rude behavior in a man, in fact, he won’t tolerate it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snxME3CDtvI

Posted in Hikes in Virginia | Leave a comment