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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:

Trip photo albums

Here’s the link to my trips on youtube

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Just One More JMT Video

When I was planning my JMT thru hike I found hundreds of videos on Youtube, most were around 30 minutes, some around 1 hour long, almost none were useful for planning purposes.


I was looking for information on passes and especially water crossings and general scenery to get a feel for the hike overall.

Lots of information on the Yosemite lower section.  Lots of selfie video while walking.  But most was not very useful for planning.


When I take photos, I usually have in the back of my mind, taking photos that will aid in someones future planning, information I could have used.

So anyhow, I threw all or most of my pix and vids into a 56 min vid that I hope planners will fine useful.

So here it is, click here!


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Backpacking Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, August 2016

Gunny drove down and stayed at my house on Thursday.  On Friday we got up at 3am and drove to the Patrick Henry airport in Hampton. (yawn)

To view all the photos, click here.

Going through TSA, the feds found a zip lock full of bullets Gunny had forgotten about in his camera bag – SURPRISE!, and called the police, YIKES!

No problem, but they made a fuss, and kept the bullets and let us (him) go on the trip, WHEW!!

In Charlotte we met up with Biscuit, Jai, and Mike and flew together on to Denver.  Mike rented the car and we were off to Pinedale, arriving about 6pm, where we all checked into the Hampton Inn.

About 7pm we met up with the rest of the gang, minus Bob, Cathlyn, and Zack and had beers at the Wind Rivers Brewery. DSC03544

On Saturday morning we met up with the others for breakfast, then headed off to the only outfitters in town for last minute stuff.

Then we visited the Museum of the Mountain Man.  After that we drove up to the Elkhardt Trail Head (@9500′) for acclimatization.  We took a hike to a scenic overlook called Sacred Ridge and took lots of photos.



We then drove back to Pinedale (@7100′), stopping at the grocery store/hardware store/liquor store for more supplies and booze and fishing licenses.

We all met up again for dinner at the brewery for a last minute planning and pre-trip trip feast!

Sunday were off to the trailhead and hiked to Upper Sweeny Lake.

Monday we hiked to Lost Lake.  The trail was sort of sketchy and we got pretty stretched out with those in the back having some trouble finding the path.  We all made it down to the lake, but a few were pretty pissed off that those in front hadn’t waited at spots where the trail was hard to find so we had a tribunal to discuss leaving cairns to make the turns or someone just waiting around for those coming from behind.  After that was sorted out, we didn’t have any route issues for the rest of the trip.

On Monday night, I scouted out the un-maintained trail for Tuesday and couldn’t find it, leaving me a bit worried that night.  In my tent I realized we were looking for the trail in the wrong place, so Tuesday, after the water crossing we used the map apps to locate the real trail (whew!) and after that had no route finding problems.

On Tuesday the trail up to the ‘big water slide’  and Fremont Crossing was pretty rugged and slow going, as was what I’ll call ‘Fremont Basin’ up and over to the plateau leading to Lower Jean Lake.

Our large group was going pretty slow, so we decided to go head and camp at Lower Jean Lake, but it turned out to be a fantastic camp site with tremendous views and outstanding fishing.

Bob caught a fish EVERY SINGLE TIME he cast his line!  He had found THE SPOT.  When he got tired, he handed is pole to Cathlyn, who then proceeded to catch a fish every time she cast!  DAMN!

But this was all after dinner, so it was catch and release.

Wednesday we hiked up to and past Island Lake, to an unnamed lake at 10,467, where we forded a creek and found another fantastic camp site.

We camped there both Wednesday and Thursday, fished and day hiked all around, the highlight being a hike to Titcomb Basin.

We experienced a few short thunder showers almost every day.  The storms would roll in, the temperatures would drop, getting pretty cold sometimes, then the storm would pass, sometimes rain, sometimes not, then the sun would come back out.

Thursday evening the rains came in about dinner time, forcing dinners in the tents.  This time the rain lasted until about 8pm.  The rain returned about 9 and it rained until about midnight so we had to pack up wet tents on Friday.

On Friday we were hiking towards Middle Sweeny Lake and making very good time, so we all decided to go ahead and hike the final 6 miles to the trail head and call it a trip.  It was a long day, about 13 miles or so.

On the last leg of the hike in, we got a combination of rain, hail, and sleet to cap off the trip.  And, wouldn’t you know it, as we neared the trail head, the sun came out, drying everyone out and allowing lots of photos and high-fives as each of us entered the parking area!

We drove back down to Pinedale, managed to get rooms in the Hampton Inn, and a had fantastic post trip feast at the Brewery.

Saturday morning we all met at the Wrangler Diner (thanks Happy (Anna)!) for another giant feast.

What a great end to a fantastic trip!

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Philreedshikes Photo Albums


35 Years of Hikes & Climbs with Drag’n & Geardog plus a few odd photos
2016 Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Wy  (August)
2015 JOHN MUIR TRAIL (Attempt) Cottonwood – Kearsarge Pass)
2015 Grayson Highlands/Mt Rogers National Recreation Area, Virginia, Backpack
2014 McAfee Knob-Tinker Cliffs, Appalachian Trail, Virginia
2014 Grand Canyon Backpack 6 days
2013 Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop, Aspen, Colorado
2013 Grayson Highlands Winter Hike 2013
2013 BRIDGER WILDERNESS, Wind River Range, Wyoming  AUGUST 2013
2012 Rapidan Hike Shen.NP (December)
2008 MT WASHINGTON Summit Hike via Tuckerman’s Ravine
2006 Rocky Mountain Nationa Park at the height of my fat phase
1997 Alpspitz Via Ferrata Diana,  Garmisch, Germany
1988 SENECA ROCKS Climbing Area, West Virginia
1988 Great Smokey Mountain NP Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
1986 Matterhorn & Monta Rosa Climb Zermatt, Switzerland
1985 Haute Route (High route) Chamonix to Zermatt
1984 Wildspitze (solden) Climb & Training, Austria
1984 GROSS GLOCKNER Backpack/Climb Attempt
1983 ZUGSPITZE VIA FERRATA (Garmish Germany)
1983 Garmisch Hike-Lost! On the German/Austrian Frontier Wetterstein Gebirge
Misc Hikes & Climbs
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We’re Back! John Muir Trail (JMT)!

Well, we’re back!  Geardog and I finally completed* the JMT on 18 July 16.

2016 photo album link:


I’m going to turn 64 in a few weeks, and the trip was, uh, a bit tough on me.  I was in pretty good shape, walking about 7 miles a day, mixed with a 17 degree inclined treadmill in my study, up until about 3 weeks prior to flying out, when I developed a massive shin splint on my left shin.  So I stopped walking altogether, and thank God, that did the trick and it went away and hasn’t returned and I had absolutely no physical issues.  Well sort of.  On day 3, when we had just gone over Pinchot Pass, I hit some sort of “wall” and had zero energy, so we didn’t make that days goal, so we basically became 1 day behind.  I’m chalking that one up to acclimatization.

We actually started our JMT attempt last year (August 2015), north bound, from about 20 miles south of Mt Whitney, at Cottonwood/Horseshoe Meadows.  Unfortunately the Rough Fire in Kings Canyon NP was creating so much smoke, I had trouble breathing and combined with the hot weather, I was just dragging, so we bailed at our first re-supply point over Kearsarge Pass into Independence, Ca.  We stayed for a few nights at the Mt Williamson Hotel before flying home.  But we had fun and were determined to return and finish.  Man, it was a long year planning and waiting and waiting.

note:  I mention ‘north bound’ because the trail runs north-south from Yosemite Valley to the the summit of Mt Whitney, for a total of 211 miles.  The popular starting point is in Yosemite Valley, however, that popularity has forced the NP to have lottery for permits, which are now extremely hard to get.  There is also a lottery for permits to start at Mt Whitney.  There is no problem getting a permit for the JMT at almost every other entry point/trail head, and I had  no problem getting us permits to start our hike at Horseshoe Meadows, about 20 miles south of Mt Whitney.  Also, add in 14 miles for going over Kearsarge Pass twice for our re-supply and re-start.

DSC01961Above – Smoke view from Kearsarge Pass August 201511891097_841882112554275_8453471096773743118_n

Above – afternoon smoke view, below – same view in the morning (Independence, Ca)


This year (July 2016) we flew into Mammoth Lakes, Ca (again), stayed overnight at the Shilo Inn, then the following morning caught the Easter Sierra Transit Bus  ($11.50) to Lone Pine where we picked up our permit and caught a shuttle ($80) to the Onion Valley forest service campground at about 9000′ where we camped for 2 nights to acclimatize ($20).  The following morning we were up and over Kearsage Pass (again!), but this time the skies were clear and we were able to take lots of pix.(with no smoke and hazy skies this time).DSC02165

Above – Kearsarge Pass July 2016

Hiking north bound we had the sun basically at our backs the entire trip, which was very nice.  We walked about 10 miles per day, which is about my max.

The mornings were very cold, averaging about 38-40f every single day with a few mornings approaching 32f.  Day temps averaged in the 60’s most of the time, peaking for a few hours in the low 80’s, then rapidly cooling off as the sun started its decent in the west.

Mosquitoes were a variable problem, huge at times, non-existent at times.  I used Skin-So-Soft bug juice with picareden from Avon, which the mosquitoes just HATED! thank god.  But I wished I had had a spray attachment to cover more skin area.

Our first resupply was at Muir Trail Ranch.  They had a couple of cabins available when we walked in and Geardog was able to snag 2 nights, so that was nice.  We were able to wash our clothes and eat some very good meals.

I wasn’t eating as much as I had planned, so I donated quite a bit to the ‘communal’ food bins.

By the time we got to Red’s for our second re-supply, the food I wasn’t eating was piling up so I tried to mail some home.

About 2pm at Red’s, I got a wild hair and jumped on the bus from Red’s to Mammoth in hopes of mailing a box home.  HOWEVER, the bus took about an hour to get to the Mammoth ski upper area, where I had to catch another bus down the mountain to the town, then yet another bus, this time the free city shuttle to rush to the post office.  I was told the last bus up the mountain to catch the Red’s shuttle was at 5pm so I was stressing big time!  I walked into the PO at 4:05 and wouldn’t you know it, the mother f*ckers were CLOSED! GOD DAMN!

So, very dejectedly, and looking like a homeless person, filthy, unshaven, I start the series of buses back up the mountain.  Then trail magic happened.  The nice lady bus driver of the bus to Red’s volunteered to mail the box for me!  I asked her to stuff the contents into a ‘if it fits, it ships’ priority flat rate box($18), gave her $25 and crossed my fingers.  Well, I received the box just 2 days after returning to Virginia!  THANK YOU TRAIL ANGEL!!

The weather was terrific.  Walking north bound was great, sun never in our eyes.  We walked down the ‘golden staircase’ instead of up (joy!) and down the north side of Donahue Pass into Yosemite which was a royal bitch, so glad we were not going up!

I will say this, huge crowds on the JMT.  Geardog made a game of counting the number of folks we passed while walking, the daily tally was always approaching 100!

When at Red’s, the neighboring little forest service campsite area, which I guess is the de-facto PCT/JMT hikers camp, quickly filled up creating a crowded mess.  About 25-30 tents crammed into an area of 4 small adjacent campsites.  The good part, the campground host didn’t bother to collect the fees.  But instead of staying 2 nights, we stayed just 1 night.

This year I brought tons of sun block and was able to hike mostly in shorts and a tee shirt.  The trails are covered with a pulverized powdered dirt and at the end of each day my legs were absolutely covered in grime and I needed to wash every night in a stream, where we both took the opportunity to wash out socks, shirts, hats, pants, whatever needed to be rinsed.

But since we made camp almost every day between 2-3, we had plenty of time to dry our stuff before the sun dipped below the towering ridge-lines.

We would mill around till about 6, eat, then retire to our tents, generally about 7pm.  I surely needed the long rest.

We got up everyday at 5am, packed up, ate breakfast, then hit the trail promptly at 7am. We took a short pause for a snack about 10am, then had about an 30-45 min  lunch around noon.  Geardog could have easily covered 5 more miles per day, but I was spent after about 10-11 miles and needed the rest; I’m just getting too old for this shit.

Of note were the swarms of mosquitoes that hit us at most every stream crossing during the middle segments.  If we stopped to change shoes, we were swarmed.  On the other side, we were swarmed.  If possible, geardog would cross over any log that was felled over the creek, and there were many.  A few were quite an act of death defying balance!  At one point I even reminded him that we were in the middle of no where and I didn’t like him taking these ‘unnecessary risks’, but a risk to one person, may not be to another, but thank goodness, he never fell.  Sometimes, I would plow through the stream in my trail runners and just let them dry out.

I want to mention that although the trail is somewhat crowded with JMT’ers and PCT’ers, you are really isolated and out in the middle of bum-f*ck Egypt.  Once you get away from the trail head, you reach a point of no return, if someone gets injured.  You either keep marching forward or backtrack to your trail head or try to get to a new trail head or possibly a distant ranger station. The trail heads are no bargain either, 20 miles at least in any direction, likely over an un-maintained trail and more than likely over a remote pass…good luck.  And once at the trail head, you are still 20 miles from the nearest town.  Another option, a distress satellite beacon, which alerts rescuers to your grid coordinate.  Geardog had one.  I made him show me how to operate it, in case he fell off one of the logs he was tip toeing across (sure, if I could recover his pack from the raging torrent!)

One thing about the JMT, you can’t carry all of your food, you will need to resupply, and NP regulations now require everyone to carry all their food in an approved bear canister.  The largest of these can only hold about seven days of food (if you’re lucky and are good at cramming).

We carried 6 days of food from Horseshoe Meadows then resupplied first in Independence, Ca, going the 7 miles one way over Kearsarge Pass.  We then carried 6 days from Onion Valley, the trail head below Kearsarge Pass, to Muir Trail Ranch.  Then we carried about 5 days of food from MTR to Red’s Meadow Resort (this is where I had the bus tragedy).  From there we carried 5 days of food to get us to Yosemite Valley.  Our original schedule had put us into Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite on a Sunday when the PO would have been closed or we could have sent 2 days of food there and carried only 3 days of food to Tuolumne Meadows.  As it turned out, our earlier delay had us arriving at TM when the PO was open, but by then it didn’t matter.  At TM I caught the bus back to Mammoth due to the plane reservations for 2 days later, I wasn’t sure I could make it back in time.  Geardog, a much faster hiker, went for the Valley, and made it back to Mammoth in the nick of time!



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JMT 2016 Prep Continues

I’m tracking PCT thru hikers and viewing their progress and especially their photos .

Right now the photos are showing snow that is still pretty deep with only 16 days until ‘wheels up.’

However, this entire post is a test of the WordPress app and the difficulty of writing about post one letter at a time!

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January – (26-28 Dec actually)      – Cold Mountain backpack, 2 nights

February                                            – Backpacking 101 course

– Ski trip to Keystone, Colorado, 7 days, 5 days skiing

March                                                 – 2 nights camping with scouts, Camp Rock Enon

April                                                    – Three Ridges backpack 2 nights

– Outer Banks, NC (Scouts) 2 nights camping

May                                                     – Grand Canyon backpack, 5 nights, 6 days hiking

– Crabtree Falls (VA) camping 2 nights (scouts)

June                                                   – Tinker Cliffs-McAfee Knob backpacking, 2 nights

– Scout Camp, 6 nights

July                                                     – Dolly Sods backpack, 3 nights

– AT Section hike, North Carolina, 6 nights backpacking

August                                                -PCT/JMT High Sierra’s California, backpack, 7  nights,

(forest fire shortened)

– Tar Jack Ridge AT Section Hike, 2 nights backpacking

September                                          – Dolly Sods backpacking 2 nights

October                                               – Newport News Park Orienteering training (scouts),

2 nights camping

November                                            – Grayson Highlands backpack 2 nights

December                                            – Nothing so far

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Grayson Highlands-Mt Rogers National Recreation Area Backpack November 2015

We missed our October hike to the Graysons area due to massive rainstorms so we rescheduled to November.

Of course the leaves were down and we had a chance of weather.

Grayson Highlands State Park is adjacent to Mt Rogers National Recreation Area and is located in the far western part of Virginia.  Mt Rogers, at 5729′,  is the highest point in VA, and most of the hiking is right around 5000′.

The Appalachian Trail runs thru the MRNRA and turns south to make a large “U” thru Graysons.

GHSP (Grayson Highland State Park) and the MRA are home to several herds of wild ponies, and in spring thru fall,  a herd of Texas Longhorn  cattle.

But the best part of this area is that you can make a 3 day backpacking trip in an area with little or no tree tunnels. You are hiking thru and over a series of high (5000′) meadows, bare ridges, and rolling hills.

It was around 65F when Mike and Paula drove up from Virginia Beach to pick me up and start the 7 hours drive to Graysons.

We stopped in Newport News and linked up with Jen, Mike and Heather for the convoy.

The weather was forecast to  be in the 50’s and then drop to the 30’s for both nights, so we had a heads-up that we needed to be a bit prepared for our first cold hike of this season.

There had also been a wind advisory earlier in the week and that’s just the sort of thing you breeze (ha ha) right over when looking at the forecast.

Seven hours later we pull into the Park gate and Anna, from Roanoke, pulls in at the same time.  At the Backpackers Lot, we find Zack already there and changing clothes out of the back of the car.

DSC02859   DSC02857    DSC02861  DSC02863    DSC02872

At that point we realize that we shouldn’t have disregarded the bit about wind conditions.

My temp gauge hanging from my pack was reading 36F and was dropping but the winds were surely giving us a wind chill in the low 20’s! Yikes!  No worries about getting hot and sweaty on the hike to the campsite!

Despite leaving Hampton at 0900, we didn’t arrive at the campsite until sunset, so tents were erected by headlamp. (it dawned on me at that moment, temps now in the 20’s, that I took out my spare headlamp batteries for the JMT and hadn’t replaced them, causing me to worry about this most of the weekend).

Paul and friends, whom had arrived earlier, had collected a huge amount of dead-fall so we had a great campfire while we cooked diner, again, under headlamps.

DSC02878 DSC02880 DSC02882 DSC02889 DSC02896 DSC02897

I brought 2 liters of Gluh Wein (Zach carried 1liter for me), so after dinner we heated up 1 liter.  It was all gone in a second and was a big hit.  Probably any warm beverage is a hit in temps in the 20’s and a gusting steady wind.

That night, my temp gauge minimum reading was 22 under my vestibule, quite a unexpected for a “fall” hike.  However, everyone was prepared and we suffered no casualties, but we did have several water hoses and bottles tops freeze up.

On Saturday we took our usual route following the AT as it wound South East then turning North East leaving the trees as we went uphill into scrub vegetation, cresting over a hill and getting the magnificent views we came for, then dropping down into a valley, passing thru the “Scales”, a rather large stock corral, where we stopped for lunch.  We had great sunshine all day, but the temps were still in the upper 30’s with steady wind.

We needed to kill some time at the Scales since we only had about a 5 mile day, so I coerced several folks into letting me give a map reading class.  That killed about 30 minutes.

DSC02898 DSC02905 DSC02907 DSC02919 DSC02927 DSC02933 DSC02936

Leaving the Scales, the AT heads north up out of the little valley goes into the trees and up to about 5000′ then drops over a hilltop going down to the next shelter and then to the highway that bounds the recreation area.

Also leaving the Scales, the Crest Trail parallels the AT up to the 5000′ elev then turns due West in the direction of our campsite for Saturday, Rhododendron Gap and Wilson Ridge.  The Crest Trail is primarily a horse trail on an old road but the big difference it doesn’t dive into the forest so you have the spectacular views of the valley below while you walk.

So as we left the Scales, half the group continued up on the AT where they would eventually link to yet another trail, the Pine Mountain Trail, also at the 5000′ point (a busy trail junction indeed!), turning West and paralleling the Crest Trail again and separated by only a few hundred yards, but in the trees.  So I guess you’re trading the views for a wind block (?).

Note:  It’s a bit hard to explain, but the Pine Mountain Trail used to be the AT until it (the AT) was re-routed South at Rhodo Gap so it would loop around and into Graysons, going south then east (where we picked it up), then north (where it goes thru Scales) up over the 5000′ junction where it links back with it’s old self.

So my group heads west on the Crest Trail and the great views.  Well, the sun was shining and the trail had been repaired so the walking was greatly improved, so we had an excellent time and took many photos.

DSC02959   DSC02965   DSC02970

We checked out the spring just before the campsite, it was good, then


arrived at the most magnificent campsite in VA. and set up tents.

About 30 minutes later, the other group arrived.

DSC02990 DSC02992 DSC02999 DSC03004 DSC03005 DSC03006

Tents up, water purified, bear hangs skipped, wood collected, fire started, meals cooked, gluh wein drank, yadda yadda yadda.

As I head to my tent, really early, but a while after sunset, a freaking herd of ponies enters our campsite to graze, and apparently mate, right over my tent.  Fortunately for me, Buff notices that their friskiness is leading a pair dangerously close to my tent and yells them off, more or less.  Thanks Buff!

Next morning, super cold, a few incidents of water freezing, great sunrise, lots of photos, great breakfast, pack up and head out.

DSC03020 DSC03026    DSC02985 DSC03044 DSC02977 DSC02983 DSC03045 DSC03063 DSC03065 DSC03066 DSC03074 DSC03108 DSC03127 DSC03135   DSC03146 DSC03154

Hiked to Rhodo Gap,



hiked over and along Wilson Ridge,

DSC03175 DSC03170 DSC03169


noticed the park had new trail signs making it much easier to find the right trail, in the mish-mash of trails, back to the back packers parking lot.

DSCN0274 DSCN0281

Then off to Marion and the McAdoo Restaurant for a very very nice feast, then everybody headed home.

The end.

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