Monthly Archives: November 2011

22 Nov 2011, field notes

1.  Ramsey’s Draft was trey successfull, but it kicked my ass, as I was overall very tired, on the Saturday leg. 

1.1  My legs never seemed tired though, so I don’t need to change my winter work out, primarily hitting a 15 degree treadmill at 2.5 mph, for 60 minutes at a shot almost every other day -this kicks ass!  My summer daylight workout is to walk 2 miles at lunch and 5 miles after work, and a month before the hike, start wearing a 35lb pack on the 5 mile daily walk.

2.  Just got my permits (geardog and myself) to hike the Grand Canyon for  5 nights starting 6 March, Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim on the corridor trails. YEAH!  My son Bill, who lives in Phoenix, aka DJ William F** Reed, or, ‘the professor’, might go with, if permits can be had

3.  Crabtree Falls/The priest combo trip next up for December.  4 have signed up and I don’t have confirmed vision of the trail head where I plan on us “stealth camping” on Friday night.

4.  My steripen WAS working at Ramsey’s Draft, the flashing green light meant GOOD, not BAD, Icouldn’t remember at the time if the green light was to flash or be solid for a successful filtering (flashing is good, RED light = bad), so if I get sick it won’t be from that.

5.  The jetboil worked like a charm, at only 10.5 oz it was a hit.  Works best in a solo situation, or where you’re just going to boil water, which it did EXTREMELY FAST, 2 cups = 2 min, (I timed it of course)

6.  The problem with my Garmnin GPS, was low batteries, including my backups, not any system malfunction, I feel like such a jerk – low batteries??? That was smart, jackass.

Ramsey’s Draft Hike 18-20 Nov 11 Trip Report

I picked up Jeff (Trailsurfer) about 1pm on Friday 19 Nov 11.  We then swung by the pickup site in Williamsburg to pick up Megan Sherpa, about 1:45.  We then headed up to the trail head just off HWY 250 about 30 minutes north west of Staunton, Va.

         

Try as we did, we didn’t make it before the sun set around 5:04pm.  When we got out of the cars we found the temperature had dropped into the 30s!

We unloaded, put on coats, put on water shoes, grabbed our boots, packed up, switched on our headlamps and made for the trail.  About 100ft down the trail, you have a choice of going straight, going up the ‘draft’ following the creek up the valley or turning right, which leads to an immediate stream crossing.

Our path led to the right and the first of 17 stream crossings; 1 tonight, then 16 on Sunday coming down the draft on our return leg.  I volunteered to go first, mainly so I could try to get some photo’s in the dark.  Wow!  The stream was very cold, the rocks slippery, and extremely tricky the pitch darkness.

Megan Sherpa was without poles, so she was forced to balance each step, while carrying her heavy winter pack – in the dark.  She made it, no falls.  We all made it.

As we were crossing, we were met by Chuck aka ‘beast’, from the midatlantic backpackers meetup, who had arrived before us and set up a camp with a roaring fire on the other side of the creek.  He had spotted our head lamps and came over to guide us to the campsite he had established.

We trudged on to the camp with wet feet, not bothering to change shoes until we were able to drop our packs.

Phase 1 over.

We set up camp, warmed up and visited by the roaring fire, until one by one each of us went off to bed.  I checked my watch thermometer about 3am and it was 24F in side my tent.  That morning I found that the water inside my camelback hose had frozen solid.  The water in the bladder and my canteen was ok.

We got up, made breakfast and swapped stories about how cold (or warm) each of us had slept and what each of us had to do to get warm, and spent some time complaining about the rating systems for sleeping bags.

As we were getting ready to hit the trail we were met by Mike aka ‘U.K. Mike’, who had arrived about 11pm and had slept in his car.  U.K. Mike was also from midatlantic backpackers.  This brought our number up to 5.

   

We hit the trail about 9am.  The sun was shining but hadn’t risen enough to hit us.  The first leg is the climb up to the first of the series of ridges.  We took our time and made the 2 miles in about 1hr and 15min.  The sky was clear and we enjoyed amazing 360 degree views for the entire day. 

   

We walked on and didn’t break for 4 hrs, about 1pm.  We had a 45 lunch break, followed the ups and downs and flats of the ridges.  After 2 more hous of hiking, most of us were starting to feel it.  Day 1 is 11 miles and the ridge has some long flat stretches and some ups and downs, nothing too long or steep, but it makes for a long day.

 

We pulled into Hiner Spring at exactly 4pm, 7 hrs after we started.  I personally was beat, maxed out, very tired.  Tents went up and everyone unpacked.  Almost everyone but me had the energy to collect deadfall to make a fire.  We started eating before 6pm and by then it was DARK.

   

I had planned to heat packaged taco filling and eat it in several flour tortillas, with the salsa I had carried, but I made the mistake of not rehearsing it in the kitchen before hand, and decided that in the dark, it appeared to be too large to heat inside a ziplock, in the new pot I brought (I was using my brand new jetboil system for the first time), and I didn’t want to heat in directly in the pot because I was too lazy to clean it, sooooooo, I made the decision to just eat it cold!  YUK.  I choked down 2 and then finished off my 3rd tortilla by itself.  FYI a flour tortilla doesn’t contain running salsa very well.

The Hiner spring area has 2 springs, each flowing together making a giant “Y”, with a huge camping area inside the top of the Y.

That night was much warmer, mid 30’s.  During the day the temps were probably in upper 50’s, cool, but comfortable, no or very little breeze all day.

That morning we took our time breaking camp and making breakfast.  Jeff ‘trailsurfer’ shared some of his mountain house instant raspberry(?) cheesecake he was having for breakfast, it was FANTASTIC!!

We hit the trail about 9:30 and headed down the mountain.  The trail heads down a ravine following the stream (Draft) until it hits the end of an old almost obliterated road.

The trail then makes SIXTEEN crossings, where you WILL get your feet wet.  This last 5 miles of the trip took 4 whole hours, although it was mostly flat.  I suppose what takes so long is stopping at each crossing taking a look to see if one can avoid plunging in (you can’t); accept the fact you are going to get your feet wet, and plunge in.  You lose a lot of accumulated time trying to analyze each crossing.

    

But in the end it was done, we all made it back safe and sound.

Everything went very smoothly, so unfortunately, there was no ADVENTURE to write about.  It WAS a very beautifuly day, gorgeous scenery, great company, practically everything went great (darn!)

Note 1:  U.K. Mike, wore leather (and I say heavy) mountaineering quality boots (waterproofed via waxing)  (soles were prepped to accept crampons) and waterproof O.R. brand super gaiters, and maintained that his feet did not get wet.  This is a very good combination to remember when hiking in the snow.  The drawback is the extra weight on one’s feet.

Note 2:  Getting feet wet during a winter hike can be deadly, it was around 65-70 degrees on our hike out, and we were able to keep our feet warm as we kept walking and immediately changed at the cars.  This was planned in advance.  If the temps were forecasted to be below freezing, this hike out would have not been recommended.

Getting Ready for “Ramsey’s Draft” hike, @18 Nov 2011.

Some short random notes.

I’m getting ready for a hike in Va called “ramsey’s draft” named after a creek of the same name.  It’s about 16 miles, 10 or 11 the first day, 5 or 6 the next.

Did it in March or April of 2011 to see if I could still do a 10 mile day.  I was quite surprized that it turned out to be not such a big deal.  Took my time and strolled.  It was cold and foggy so I only needed a parka to keep warm during the hike which is about 2 miles to get up on a ridge then the rest of that ridge with very minimal ups and downs.

The trip can be seen on the web site hikingupward.com, scroll down for my little report.

I announced the trip 2 of my 4 meetup groups, dedicated to backpackers, one group has about 200 members, the other about 500!  But only 1 person signed up.  I’m starting to think that most people who sign up for these groups are looking for singles meetups instead of the purported purpose of arranging backpacks so one doesn’t always have to go solo.

I’m looking at buying a jetboil sol system at 10.5 oz vs my pocket rocket w/pot w/windscreen ~15.5 oz, also looking at the new thermarest neo-air all season pad at @18 oz vs my 20 yr old therma rest self inflating at 40oz (2.5lbs!!!!);  like my wife says, what are you waiting for? (you gotta love that!)

But last time I placed an order, REI started another 20% sale the very next day, so this time I’m going to wait it out.

Back to Ramsey’s draft;  the plan calls for a stream crossing to the campsite on Friday night, this will most likely be in the dark, so should be very interesting.  As I remember, the “draft” wasn’t very deep, but it was very wide!

I got a little distracted from my Maroon Bells trip report but should return soon to it.

Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop, July 2010, Part 2

Maroon Bells 4 PassLoop, July 2010, Part 2

Recap

Day 1 – Flight toDenver, drive to trail head near Aspen, night hike to Camp 1 below Crater Lake.

Day 2 – Hike to Camp 2,Maroon Basin, above Crater Lake, elev 10,650, to acclimatize.

Day 3.  Today is our first full day of hiking, and all the suspense ends today.  We’ve got blue sky and sunshine as we head up the trail towards the first of two passes,West Maroon Pass(12,450′). 

We make it over our first stream crossing, which needed big jumps, and we stay dry.  The trail is well graded and we’re off at an easy pace.  The first parts of the trail are through these bushes that are almost head height – and very wet.  It doesn’t take very long before our pants are also wet.  But after a short while we’re above the brush and start to dry off.  We can see the pass once we go around a corner and at first it looks really really far.  After a short while we spot people standing on the pass, take plenty of photos, and we’re in a

great mood.  It’s funny that stopping for photos is a more manly way of saying let’s take a very short break in place to catch our breath!

We make it to West Maroon Pass around noon, take our packs off to rest and enjoy the views and take about a gazillion photos.  Phase 2 over and completed without a hitch.  So far we’re off to an excellent start! 

Notes on the paths/trails, all very well marked, and very worn, many with huge ruts forcing you to walk on the sides, creating new ruts, you have no choice, and as far as we could tell this section didn’t have signs of horse travel, all foot.  You can see where the trail is headed for miles.

Looking southwest from West Maroon Pass one gazes into the gigantic bowl that is formed by theCrystal River east and south forks.

After a very short rest and knowing we have one more pass for today, we’re off again.  The path descends for a while and after about 1 mile we take a right fork and traverse on the side of a hill until we approach switch backs leading up to our second and final pass of the day, frigid Air Pass, (12,375). 

Now I’m getting tired, so it’s slower going.  Although not far to the top I need to pause every now and then for a “break in place” and to take some photos (of course!).  Not sure how I got ahead of geardog, but if I recall correctly I reached the top of the pass first.

I think this is where we had the ‘bag of chips’ incident.  Talk about trail magic.  I noticed an unopened bag of potato chips sitting on a rock ledge and in a moment of magnanimity, because he’s hauling the booze, I give the bag to geardog, who in turn devours the entire bag.  Now geardog is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met, he’s always giving me maps, t-shirts, coins, mementos of trips with his wife, but man, just one little chip….please!  Actually, I’m very thankful he ate the entire bag by himself, or I wouldn’t have anything to write about for this trip – it went that well!

We’re only on Frigid Air Pass for a few minutes, packs aren’t even off, when we notice the dreaded thunder boomers – with lightening – starting to roll in, gee, we get a burst of energy and after not a few photos, we’re off again, dropping down into the magnificent Fravert Basin.  Fraver Basin is a true OMG moment.  Wildflowers in bloom for miles!  Majestic peaks surrounding the entire valley!  Photos just don’t do it justice.

So we head down.  The trails are incredible. Broad, easy, gently sloping, perfect for checking out the jaw dropping scenery as you walk.  The trails head towards the North Fork of the Crystal River, visible as a very thin line in the distance, then reaches scrub trees and  drops down into the tree line, eventually heading into the forest.  There we had some steep switch backs and only glimpses of the river.  This is where there is a magnificent water fall but unfortunately you don’t see much of it heading down until you get past it.

When we get to the basin floor we started looking for a site for camp 3,  it was around 3 pm.  There were a couple of obvious sites, but they were taken.  We didn’t spend a lot of time looking, (rainclouds) so we settled on a very small clearing in a clump of trees pretty close to the water. 

                                    

Geardog, who carried the wine, also brought a 8×10 nylon tarp to set out to eat under in case it rained – it did, not much, but enough.  In fact we used it several nights to cook and eat dinner under.

The water was ICE COLD so sitting and bathing or just ‘chilling’  (ha ha pun) was out of the question.  By the way, hiking temps were probably in the mid 70’s.

One minor problem, with our little campsite in the trees – mosquitos.  Little or no breeze to drive them away, that sucked, but we had OFF, so we were slimy but minimally bothered.

End part 2.

MAROON BELLS, 4-PASS LOOP, WHITE RIVER NATIONAL FOREST, ASPEN RANGER DISTRICT (July 2010) – Part 1

 

Trip Report

Geardog and I linked up on Monday at the Denver International Airport around noon and caught the shuttle over to Hetz car rentals.  We waited in line for over 30 minutes and didn’t get to the actual car until after 1.  As we were driving out the security gate the check engine light came on so we were turned around and had to go back to the line to get a different car.  Around 2:30 we’re finally on our way.  We get on I70 headed west.  I started getting a splitting headache so we had to stop at a small gas station along the way so I could buy a bottle of Tylenol at rip off prices.

Once we got to Glenwood Springs we turned south on HWY 82 towards Aspen.  We stopped at the Glenwood Springs Walmart and picked up fuel and some snacks.  Geardog spotted a liquer store and picked up one of those cardboard wine dispensers that looked like it weighed at least 5 or 6 lbs.  (He could carry it, not me, but I’ll be glad to drink it!)

On the way to Aspen we had some light rain showers and spots of sunshine arriving at the group parking lot around 6-6:30 pm.  I can’t remember whether or not we stopped to eat.  The ranger gate was open and unmanned, but we stopped to fill out some sort of registration form and put $5 or $10 into some sort of envelope, it was all very confusing.  Supposedly, only backpackers are allowed entry and long term parking at the Maroon Lake trailhead parking lot, else everyone must take a bus shuttle.

Leaving the parking lot

It was overcast and looked like rain so we hurried  to repack our stuff and transition from getting up at 4 am, to air travel, to renting cars, to driving across Colorado,  into hiking clothes, for a 4-5 day hike into the “unknown.”  If I remember correctly we actually hit the trail about 7:30 (geardog says it was closer to 8:30) and it was already looking dark due to the cloud cover.  When we reached Maroon Lake, (about 2 minutes) we had to spend some time ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ and taking pictures while there was still enough daylight.

The trail skirts around the edge of the lake and a series of meadows, then winds gently in

Maroon Lake before dark

 

and out of patches of trees before going into the forest.  We kept an eye out for potential camping spots, but not being familiar with the area, didn’t see anything where we wouldn’t get busted by the rangers the next morning.

We wound up heading up the trail towards Crater Lake as it started getting darker and darker.  After a while it started raining, so it was break-out the parkas & headlamps.  We trudged on for over an hour and didn’t get to Crater Lake.  It’s only 2 miles between Maroon and Crater Lakes, but in the dark and rain, after a long long day, it seemed farther.  We started looking for any spot to pitch tents and set up camp at the first decent looking site, a gap among the trees really, I think around 11pm.  It mercifully stopped raining as

Camp 1, below Crater Lake

 we pitched our tents. Next morning was cool and sunshine.  We were only just off the trail and hikers were already going by, staring at us.  After a quick breakfast we headed up the trail only to find we were about 5 minutes short of the lake and its designated campsites.  

This was just like when geardog and I were winter

Geardog captures a great photo of the valley

 backpacking in the Bavarian Alps behind Garmisch Germany very long ago; we hiked up through the Partnach Klam into the Rhinetal valley and towards the Boch Hutte, where we turned up and left, up the mountain towards the

 

On the 'path' to the Saschen Hutte

 Saschen Hutte.  The path was snowed under, and we kept losing the trail and wound up scrambling in the snow in many places.  It got dark, flashlights gave out (this was before either one of us had a headlamp), I was sweating plunging through the snow, this was on the night before New Year’s Eve, it started snowing and we weren’t sure how much further we had to go, so we gave in and tried to set up camp on the path,

Saschen Hutte from above

in the snow, on the side of a steep mountain, in the forest. (I have pix).  I literally pounded a trough in the path and set up my tent over the ‘depression’ and tried to get in my bag in a semi-sitting  position.  Geardog, bless his heart, found a slight overhang under a sloping rock wall just off the trail and set up his pad and bag in the little crevice, you can’t make this shit up.  I was jealous that at least he could stretch out, but the snow was dripping inside the crack and I had a down bag to keep dry (that bag is still rocking almost 27 years later).  The next morning we get up and find we were only about 20 minutes from the freaking hut!  Anyway, that wasn’t the end of that epic trip, but that’s another story!  I will say the bivy bags and water proof flashlights were immediately on the next shopping list!

Crater Lake

Back to the story.  At Crater Lake we take a bunch of pictures and start really absorbing our surroundings.  The goal for Day 2 was to only reach a spot about 10,500′, set up camp and acclimatize.  We sign the register at the trailhead then headed up Maroon basin. 

We had our first stream crossing (jumped rock to rock) and were lucky to find a pretty good campsite. 

Camp 2

We spent the day checking gear and looking for a spot where we cross the stream again further up trail.  We had to work it out without packs, but it paid off the next morning. 

That night, I heard geardog up and moving around so I think it’s time to get up and get going, so I pack up my bag and pad, and get out of my tent, well it’s pitch dark, full moon and geardog is taking pictures with his tripod.  After a few minutes I realize my watch is still on east coast time, so I go back in the tent and sleep for 2 more hours!