Monthly Archives: May 2012

Still Daydreaming about the Grand Canyon Trip

These are a couple of photo’s Geardog took of Sherpa (Meghan) and myself descending from the South Rim on Bright Angel Trail and while at plateau point.

I will probably plan another trip next March or April, and hopefully make it a group trip for my backpacking meetup “obsessive compulsive backpackers”.  Geardog will be hiking the A.T. next March/April and won’t be able to make it.

T-70 Days Until Departure for Maroon Bells Wilderness, Colorado


Take off for Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop is only 10 weeks out.  Need to start serious training (I’m talking to myself).

We have some slots left, so still time to sign up.  Photos of almost every step of the last trip 2010 can be viewed at the Maroon Bells Web Album (link on top banner here).

Looks like the snow is already melting fast, that is good news.  Hope we are can catch the wildflowers in max bloom.  Looking at the amount of this year’s snowfall, the wildflowers will probably start blooming before we get there.

Once again, the plan is to link up in Denver and convoy to Aspen (206 miles), with a stop at Wal-Mart in Glendale Springs (157 miles) for fuel, snacks, or whatever.

It won’t bother me if other drivers chose to leave Denver at different times, dependant upon arrivals, etc. we just need to link up at the campground or ultimately at the trailhead monday morning.

Monday, we’re only hiking to just above Crater Lake or where ever we can find a good campsite and spend the rest of the day acclimatizing to the altitude.

I recommend we pick a restaurant to eat at before we get to the campsite.  I know for sure we pass a Subway before we get to Aspen and I know there are many places to eat in Glendale Springs.  Last time Geardog and I drove through Aspen, we couldn’t find a place to park so we said screw it and hit the road and ate at Subway.

We will overnight Sunday at a campground near Aspen, get up early and get through the Maroon Bells Gate before it opens at around 0800, else we have to pay a day fee, regardless of it supposedly being free to park for overnight backpacking.

I’ll try to make the reservations for the campground today.

Coming off the trail on Saturday 25 Aug, I would like to drive back to Denver so I don’t have to kill myself to get to the airport for a 10 am flight on sunday morning.

Here’s a screen shot of the area from google maps if you want to locate it and  check out the terrain.

What Do You Think Are The Most Important Skills For Backpacking?

Let’s get our own forum debate going here.  Please go ahead, get your wordpress account, so you can be like someone in the above picture 🙂 and tell me how bad my blog sucks or just make a comment to share your experiences.

What do you think are the most important backpacking skills? 

Forget about water weight, tent weight, favorite menus, hating to clean up, etc. etc., etc, some of our favorite fire side chat material.

Note:  these blogs really take a lot of time to write, jeeeez!  And when you let your words “cool off”, then you keep thinking of more elaboration; it’s a vicious circle my friends.  Now I need to go and find a good topic photo, wait, am I thinking out loud again? 😉

Off the top of my head, I’m thinking, …..wait, crap, maybe there are different categories of skills sets? 

Maybe a set for a group/trip leader?  Maybe a set for solo hiking?  Wow, I’m complicating this after only 74 words!

Is there a general skill set?  Ok, here goes, real fast…no particular order…

  • Problem solving. 
  • Navigation. 
  • First Aid.  Is that different from wilderness first aid? 
  • Survival? (maybe my sleeping bag finally gets wet, and it’s cold, very cold, and I can’t get a fire stated). 
  •  Ability to start a fire?
  • Ability to keep calm in an emergency/provide leadership?  Ability to keep out of an emergency situation?  Ability to recognize when you are in or near an emergency situation?  (I personally think some people lack ‘personal situational awareness’ and just follow along blindly)
  • Leadership?  (rant:  sometimes a group needs somebody to just make a decision!  Like, where to  camp that day?  If you break camp, start walking and it’s not clear where the group is to camp, you have all sorts of problems.  How far are we going to walk?  Where are we camping?  How much water do we carry?  Does the fast group wait for the the slower group – and/or where?  And if you’re already up and walking, it’s pretty clear  or murky that a leader is going to be needed to make that decision or at least lead the group into a concensus – or you just have backpacking anarchy! (JK- I jest)
  • Ability to tell jokes or play the harmonica at the campfire?  (these traits will be discussed next!)

Ok, your turn, what are your most important skills!

Backpacking Heroes! A Shout Out to a Few Budding ‘Mountaineers’ Who Inspire Me!

This is a ‘shout out’ to some wonderful people I’ve had the great pleasure to hike with during the past few months.  We’ve had some extremely cold weather, darkness, longer than expected days, steep trails, rain, and more rain, water crossings, and hot weather etc.; but these folks have made it a real pleasure and have unknowingly motivated me if ever I was feeling tired and down.

Biscuit – Always happy. Experienced.  Willing to share.  Great companion on the trail! Oh, almost forgot, makes fantastic sausage and egg biscuits and will actually bring them to your tent to get you to wake up!  My Hero!


Sherpa – Always happy, super strong hiker, shares knowledge, willing to learn, buys beer!


Crockett – Great trail companion, always happy, shares experiences, super strong hiker.


Trail Surfer – fantastic trail logic, wise, helpful, tells great stories.


Condor – Super hiker, very wise, shares experience, always helpful!

And last but not least,

Squirrel!  Great trail companion, fantastic attitude, always helpful, great compassion, willing to learn!


Proof That I’m Insane!

Exhausted in a hut, somewhere in the Swiss Alps

Backpacking – Illegally- and exhausted, somewhere in a valley in the German Alps.  Winter time so you can pitch you tent near a hut and eat on the porch!

 Exhausted after unable to pitch tent on the trail, somewhere on a hillside on the German-Austria border

Too exhausted to bend over and pick up ski pole after finally finding hut in a white out, somewhere very high up on a Swiss Glacier.

 Where is the goddamn trail! WTF am I doing here?… preparing to be totally exhausted and breaking into a high altitude shepards’ hut for refuge, somewhere in Austria.   

Badly out of shape, unable to sleep in hut, unable to continue, on failed attempt on the Duforspitze, Zermatt, Switzerland


falling, falling, and falling again, getting exhausted, roped ski climb, above Saas Fee, Swiss Alps


Backpacking (illegally) in a forest in the German Alps, trying to crawl under a tree, exhausting

Exhausted, in the rain, on the AT, in New Hampshire.

Exhausted, once again, by the AT in New Hampshire!

This is the F***ing AT in New Hampshire, and I wasn’t in shape for it.  Another trip, another beating! 🙂

Looking pretty beat (and wet) after reaching top of Mt Washington, New Hampshire.  In just a few hours both my legs would be cramping, and of course, I would be exhausted!

4 Days On The A.T. And Virginia Creeper Trail In The Blue Ridge Mountains

This is about our six days and five nights backpacking and camping in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, where Virginia meets North Carolina and Tennessee.

We hiked the Appalachian Trail to the Virginia Creeper trail, starting from the Fox Creek Trail Head near Grayson Highlands State Park, to Damascus, Va.

Nine of us from our meet-up group Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers ( from Hampton, Williamsburg, Richmond, Chesapeake, and VA Beach, did this 4-7 May 2012.

The trip included Chupa, Biscuit, Sherpa, Trail Surfer, Crockett, Condor, Mark, Tim, and Paul.

Day 1, Thursday 3 May:

We rendezvoused in Newport News Va and drove the 8 hrs to Damascus so we could check out the area, eat dinner, and allow Condor to get a new canteen.  When we were in the Mt. Rogers Outfitters (MRO) store, I noticed a hiking “kilt” for sale and remember thinking, I bet that would be pretty cool, as is ventilation, to walk in, but I would need to carry a broadsword to keep myself, um, gender appropriate 😉 .   We then drove the 30 miles back to Grayson Highlands State Park to camp for the night.  There are showers and additional trail head parking.  Theoretically, you could sneak into the showers even if you’re only using the area to park.

Day 2, Friday 4 May:

Next morning at Grayson, we pack up the tents, load up and drive back to Damascus to link up with MRO, for the shuttle to the TH.  We piled into their van and they drove us to where the AT crosses S.R. 603 (Fox Creek TH – I guess).

At the trail head, I noticed a tall woman wearing the same ‘kilt’ or skirt over a pair of leggings I had noticed at the MRO store.  I thought that was neat until the women greeted us with a deep husky voice and we noticed the huge muscles, the only things missing were a Viking helmet with large horns and an axe…time to sit on the jokes and hit the trail!

At the point where the AT crosses Pine Mountain Trail, we had a long lunch and watched the small herd of ponies fight amongst themselves – and – there was a small herd of  (and I’m not making this up) Texas Longhorn cattle.  After lunch we voted to cut off the AT loop which takes you south into the trees of Grayson Highlands, opting instead to turn west on the Pine Mountain Trail, before rejoining the AT.

We camped about 1/4 Mi E of the Thomas Knob shelter in one of the most beautiful campsites you will ever see, with views deep into Tennessee and North Carolina.  The spring was barely flowing behind the shelter.  I had to use a cup to fill my water bottle to use a steri-pen.  A purifier with a hose intake could be dropped into the very shallow stream.

Day 3, Saturday 5 May:

We then hiked to the Mt. Rogers side trail and by the time we got to Elk Garden Ridge, the rain had started.  So from here to around Whitetop to Buzzard Rock and on to Beech Mountain, we had a pattern of rain-sun, then rain-sun, and so on.  It finally stopped raining on the long haul around and down Beech Mtn but it was hot, humid and muggy as we walked down and across Hwy 58 and up to Lost Mountain Shelter.  This is an extremely long haul, over 12 miles.  Next time I’ll break it up and stay an extra night somewhere between Beech Mtn and Buzzard Rocks. It had been raining off and on all week and the spring was from a pipe over a huge mud hole. When I got to the campsite there was a large crowd at the shelter but we found a great clearing to pitch our 9 tents.  I put up my tent and made a dash to the mud hole/spring, without my parka, and just as I was leaving the spring, – you guessed it – it started to pour, shit.  End of day 3.

Day 4, Sunday 6 May:

That morning it started raining as we’re all getting up for breakfast and I ate in my tent under my awning.  We got lucky as the rain soon stopped and the sun came out in full strength!

After Lost Mountain, the trail eases up quite a bit and we chose to get on the Virginia Creeper trail and follow the very large trout stream to Taylors Valley for lunch.  Extremely beautiful walking!  If you’re coming from this direction there are several ‘pretender’ food stops before you get to the main attraction, the Creeper Trail Restaurant which is in the main section of town, with a picnic deck on the water, full menus and service to a gazillion day bikers.

Departing Taylors Valley, we camped in a lovely sight on the water about 4 miles from Damascus.  Some of us fished for trout, others, went swimming.  Water shoes recommended for the rocks in the stream.  The Creeper and AT run literally side by side, The Creeper has the fantastic water views, the AT is literally a rhododendron tunnel.


Biscuit started fishing and caught a trout, but released it.  He had promised us fish cooked over a fire, so when asked about it, he said he thought Sherpa had turned vegetarian on us, so he didn’t want to offend her (don’t worry about offending the rest of us ! ), anyway, this was just a misunderstanding, but we didn’t get any more fish :-(.

Day 5, Monday 7 May:

This day was a leisurely walk getting us into Damascus and MRO around noon.  Plenty of sunshine, only very brief showers.   MRO has a shower you can use at their hostel, directly across the street from their store, which you can use for $2.00 and they give you a bath-towel (bonus!).

We hung around the MRO hostel, drinking a powerful Ale Sherpa had purchased, feeling no pain until we decided to take a side trip to Tennessee to see Rock Hole, or something like that, a large hole blasted into a narrow natural rock wall to make the shortest railroad tunnel ever!

We ate a great meal at the Old Mill Restaurant in Damascus, which didn’t open till 5PM.

After dinner, we drove back out to Graysons State Park and set up camp in the same spot as on Thursday night.

As we hung around MRO hostel, drinking lots of beer and waiting for the restaurant to open, we got to see quite a few AT thru hikers, coming in for showers or just a break.  There was one tall tattooed covered dude actually wearing the hiking skirt I had seen in the store and again at the trail head several days before.  Although he had tattoos, he was more like an accountant than a biker dude.  We had a chuckle about a dude wearing a hiking dress, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was cooler and suitable for walking.  Sherpa did point out that his skirt was too short and should have gone over the knee.  I don’t know, something about kneeling or stooping.  I’ve seen plenty of women hiking in both the US and Europe, but nobody in skirts, just saying.

Day 6, Tuesday 8 May:

As luck would have it, it started pouring rain as the sun started to come up.  So we had to take down the tents and load the pickups in a driving rain.  We didn’t stop for breakfast until we got to I81.  The rain finally stopped and the sun was hot as we got to Williamsburg to drop off Sherpa and see her take off in her vintage WWII motorcycle with sidecar.  How perfect!

End of book.

Our 365 (and growing) photos can be viewed at