Monthly Archives: January 2014

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!

Tar Jacket Ridge Backpack, 17-19 January 2014 Trip Report, Notes, Rant

Tar Jacket Ridge Backpack, 17-19 January 2014 Trip Report

View trip photos here:

Sixteen people signed up. Fifteen showed up and suffered through extreme cold temps Friday night.  Two bailed out Saturday morning.   Thirteen intrepid souls, many on their first winter backpack (yikes!), hiked the almost 8 miles on the snow covered AT to the shelter.


Temps below 10F Friday night and also at the shelter Saturday evening.

Snowed 2-4” Friday night.

People standing around the campfire in the meadow at Hog Camp Gap needed to be aware that they needed to keep their down jackets dry as the snow started

Looked like over a case of beer was consumed around that campfire the next morning.

My best buddy Gunny had a beer waiting for me.


Stored 2 water bottles in my tent, right side up and covered with nylon, partially froze, but because they were upright, massive freezing on the lids, almost did not get one open.  Second night, stored bottles upside down and covered with nylon bags, in the tent, out of the wind, and was able to open both bottles, only minor freezing (frozen water).

Saturday night stored water in my stove as a last resort, to enable direct thawing on stove (jet boil), covered it with rain pants, in vestibule, out of wind, only minor freezing on surface.

Water froze in canteens on Saturday’s hike, plus couldn’t get lid off.  Sunday, turned bottle upside down in pack side pocket while walking, the top surface froze but was able to open lid to drink.

Tough to get a flame out of almost empty fuel canister,when only warmed with hands, for Saturday breakfast inside tent, under vestibule.  Sunday, put canister in sleeping back about 2 hours before rising, canister was completely warmed and had full flame.

Zack had his jet boil plastic bowl/pan base cover freeze to the unit and had to borrow my stove.


Two people bailed out of the trip Saturday morning because of the cold.

Several people walked too fast on Saturday and sweated, causing drastic cooling once they stopped walking when reached the shelter, no backup dry clothing, that must of sucked.

I didn’t sweat at all, at least to the point of making my clothes noticeably damp, However, socks were damp and I warmed up fast once I put on dry socks and heavy long john bottoms in camp.  Walked all day with rain paints on due to the vicious “slight breeze” that was absolutely killer in those low temps, but pants didn’t seem to get damp, at least I didn’t notice it.

Spring was flowing great.  Used my steripen to treat the water.  Had my gravity filter, but using it was out of the question.

Put my tent up on a slight incline and kept sliding down hill on my nylon air mattress, extremely annoying!

Used my Kelty zero bag, worn thermals, shirt and thick pile sweater, and extra thick balaclava, and a buff, I was only “ok”, Saturday night I could feel the temps dropping, but clouds came in, it snowed a little and warmed up a bit.  Temps dropped again in the morning when the sky cleared up.

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Used 2 chemical hand warmers in the foot of my sleeping bag Saturday night, I couldn’t tell you if they worked or not, I guess you have to have contact with them and they don’t really radiate that much.

Really didn’t get to know any of the first timers.  Everyone was so bundled up, you could only see people’s eyes and there wasn’t a lot of chit chat standing around the campfire Saturday night.  Kudo’s to whoever got the fire started.  It was already getting started by the time my slower, and last, group arrived.

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Now some ranting.

Sadly, the fast of group of 4, departed by the time my group reached the trail head, not sticking around to say goodbye or to see that we all made it back in one piece or that everyone could get the cars started.  No goodbye, no fuck you, no nothing.  And when we arrived at Vito’s in Amherst, they were getting in their car leaving after finishing their lunch, and didn’t even make an attempt to say hello or good bye or fuck you.  So I went over to invite them to join us, but alas, I guess they were in too much of a rush to socialize.


I find it constantly incredible that people would go on a “meet up” and never socialize one bit. Oh, they may be friendly when addressed, but otherwise will not ever try to start a conversation, will purposely hike far ahead of the main group **, never wait at a trail head, never say they are leaving the camp and heading out, and just leave when done, never thinking that the host might just wonder if someone had a broken leg and was freezing in the forest. The huge reason meet-ups are so popular is that people are looking to meet and have fun with other people, duh!  One guy even boasted how extremely few people hike with him a second time, and almost no one a third time, and I’m thinking, what the fuck dude?  Are you bragging about that?

**Ok ok, I know some people have a fast hiking pace, in fact almost everyone I know hikes faster than me, that’s not my point at all.   Hiking fast is not the reason for not waiting at trail junctions or leaving the forest without the courtesy of informing the host, who believe it or not, may just show some responsibility and worry that everyone gets out alive.

I had to make it a point on Saturday at the shelter to ask everyone to out of courtesy to let me know when they were departing camp so we wouldn’t be wondering if anyone was lost, especially in that cold weather.  I had already made it clear that no one needed to hang around waiting for others, once they were packed up and ready to go, because otherwise you would just be standing around freezing; but hey, be smart, let somebody know when you’re leaving, and how about this, be smarter, and let the trip host know where you are, because most of the others are not concerned about where you are.

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Getting Ready for Tar Jacket Ridge (AT), Skiing at Keystone, Grand Canyon 6 day backpack, and another Winds Trip?

Getting ready for the next weekend’s winter backpack to/on Tar Jacket Ridge, on the AT.  However the weather’s predicted to be not-so-cold, maybe low 20’s, at least no rain is predicted yet.  This will be TJR hike number 5 or 6?  highres_246741902I got sick just after the last trip, ‘gastro’ thing (’nuff said), thought I had giardia.  Went to the doctor’s about a week or two after the trip and did have a gut infection.  Had to take cipro for 10 days, this was in Jun/Jul, but I got rid of it the day before our trip to Grayson Highlands.  We’ll camp at wiggens spring and take the AT 7 miles to the seely shelter, camp, then hike back, eat and go home.

Then, I need to ship my pack to Las Vegas, where 8 of us will meet at the LV airport and drive to the Grand Canyon for 6 days, 5 nights on an easy out and back, easy if you don’t DSC02431count the 3000′ hike out from indian garden on the last day, then it’s 1 night at one of the lodges followed by a drive to Vegas on Saturday with flights back to Virginia that same day.

But, on the way to the GC, Red Baron and I will meet in Denver, drive to Dillon and stay a 028week to ski at Keystone, probably for me only 3 days, before driving back to Denver and flying to LV to pick up that backpack I shipped earlier. (Don’t break a leg!).

Then back to planning another trip to the Winds in August.  This will probably be a ‘by invitation only’ hike, not posting it on our meetup group, need to avoid the ‘first timers’ DSCN2752and hiking with strangers thing.  Not that I mind hiking with strangers and making new friends, but that needs to happen on the weekend trips where we can get past the ‘group dynamic stuff’ in an easier, less remote scenario.

I need to put this away and get on the treadmill.


Water, Water Everywhere, But Not A Place To Cross

A short homage to water crossings we have known and loved, built our self confidence, and provided fodder for campfire stories for years.


A leap of Faith, Maroon Creek, Maroon Bells Wilderness

IMG_6447 Geardog crossing the Chrystal River, Maroon Bells


rio 2Crossing the Rio Grande River, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

rivercrossing rio 1

weminuche 1 Ute Creek, Weminuche Wilderness

weminuche 2

DSC01469  Night crossing Ramsey’s Draft

DSC01471 Nightrain crossing Ramsey’s Draft…at night


DSC01566cr  More Ramsey’s Draft, (17 crossings, count’em)

IMG_5736 Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers, Maroon Bells Trip #1







DSC02221 Nightrain crossing Bright Angel Creek (?), Grand Canyon NP

DSC02210  Bridger Wilderness, Wind Rivers



DSC02499 Maroon Bells

DSC03873 Either the Rapidan or Staunton River


DSC03920 Rapidan River, upstream, after a rainstorm