Category Archives: Meals and cooking on the Trail

Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop 29 Jul -5 Aug 2012 Trip Report; Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers

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There were 8 of us on this epic trip from the Hampton/Richmond/Roanoke/VA Beach areas of Virginia and Washington State. (Chupa, Sherpa, Scout, Hardrock, Joe, Sandi, Geardog, Biscuit).  Seven of us flew into Denver, 1 drove, so we only had to rent 1 additional car.

We all linked up at the Hertz rental pavillion at Denver International Airport around noon on Sunday 29 July, 2012.

Here was our plan:

Sunday 29 Jul – Arrived Denver Airport, rented car, drove to Difficult campsite near Aspen, Co. CAMP Zero

Monday 30 Jul – Drove to Trail Head at Maroon Lake (9580), Hiked approx 4 miles to elevation approx 10,600 to acclimatize. CAMP 1

Tuesday 31 Jul – Crossed West Maroon Pass (12,500), Frigid Air Pass (12,415), into Fravert Basin, camped above waterfalls, North Fork Crystal River, approx 6 miles (10,400). CAMP 2.

Wednesday 1 Aug – Hiked to Geneva Lake (10,936), approx 4 miles. CAMP 3.

Thursday 2 Aug – Cross Trail Rider Pass (12,420) Hiked to Snowmass Lake (10,980), approx 5 miles. CAMP 4.

Friday 3 Aug – Cross Buckskin Pass (12,500), hiked down to Crater Lake(10,060), approx 6 miles. CAMP 5.

Saturday 4 Aug – Hiked down to Trail Head at Maroon Lake (9580), approx 1.5 miles, into Aspen, ate at the “Hickory House”. Drove to Denver.

Sunday 5 Aug – Return Flights/Return drive

From Denver we drove to the Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs to purchase fuel and extra munchies for the hike.  We ate a late lunch at a greasy mexican restaurant about 1 block north of Wal-Mart, it was pretty good; the place was packed with local latino’s, a great sign!

From Glenwood Springs we drove to the ‘Difficult Campground’ outside Aspen, with a brief stop at Maroon lake to take some pictures and get our first ‘gasp’ view of West Maroon Basin and the Maroon Bells.

Sunday morning we skipped breakfast in order to beat the toll booth on the road to Maroon lake.  However, the booth did have a ranger, who only took our $5 per vehicle and waived us through.  The overnight lot was already full so we parked in the overflow lot.

We spent about an hour with final pack arranging and were off.  About a full 10 minutes later we were having breakfast on the shore of Maroon Lake.  It had rained briefly that night so we had a chance to unpack and layout the tents to dry in the early morning sun.

In the overflow parking lot, getting ready to Hike!

Around 9 or 10 we took off towards Crater Lake, took a break there, then headed up the trail to find a campsite.  This was our “acclimatization” day so we weren’t in any rush.  Most of us were really feeling the difference in altitude, huffing and puffing up the trail.


– no bears – anywhere on actual hike (old reports of bears in minihaha gulch, but we didn’t camp there.)

– There is (was) a current bear warning at Difficult Campground, with a threat of a $350 fine if food was left out; we stayed there 1 night, thank god no bears!

– hiked above crater lake to about 10,600 for acclimatization day, visited by a porcupine at night, each tent was visted, apparently just visiting, no issues. note: Joe left his hiking poles out and apparently the porcupine chewed on the handled (we speculated for the salt?).  This same type of incident was also relayed to us by another hiker later in the trip.

Rich at Camp 1, above Crater Lake; Joe approaching top of West Maroon Pass.

– Frigid air pass is really worn down and slick with tough footing, but is pretty short. Watch out if wet. We were really huffing and puffing at this point due to the altitude (we came from sea level)

  Sherpa on Frigid Air Pass (I think); view descending from Frigid Air Pass into Fravert Basin; the tree line were making for is barely visible center-right.

– No water sources after going over frigid air pass into fravert basin, creeks dry, almost up until the lower forest treeline, but everyone had water, we only needed to carry a little over the 2 passes into fravert’s.  Plenty of streams in West Maroon Basin, however,  headed towards West Maroon Pass; I counted at least 10 (from crater lake).

– Once into fravert basin we were pretty beat (at least I was) due to the higher than expected heat (low 80’s ?) and camped in a good flat spot about a quarter mile before the tree line, next to the stream (Chrystal River). We had to bushwhack from the trail thru scrup brush to get to the creek.  Kudo’s to Sherpa for making the initial recon.  Next morning all the tents were soaked outside from a small rain shower and inside from the humidity from the stream. Sun hit over the ridge line by 0800 and tents were dry by 0830-0900.

North Fork Chrystal River;  I got a visit from “Mr. Tent”

– Once we hit the tree line we found 2-3 excellent designated sites we could have stayed in had we walked on for 20 more minutes.  So we followed the switchbacks down below King Falls and thru the 2010 blow down area, destination Geneva lake.

– the 2010 tree blow down just past King Falls has a new path cleared thru the debris.

– The water crossing just past the Hasley basin trail cutoff was low, could have crossed by jumping rocks, most of us changed shoes to wade across the freezing water for the relief. Further, the creek in W Maroon Basin was pretty low and the crossing easy.

Note: I thought it was interesting that the trail sign in this area did not point back to what I call the Hasley Basin ‘cutoff’ trail.  When you’re on the trail from W. Maroon Pass going towards Frigid Air Pass, the there is a trail junction and a sign where you take a right turn off the trail onto  a well defined trail going to to Frigid Air Pass.  The first trail continues on, a little fainter than the main trail, and is clearly indicated on maps as going into Hasley Basin, and linking up with the mail trail coming over Frigid Air with both trails crossing about in the area of the ford.


– (above)  Geneva lake


Biscuit and Scout on way to Trail Rider Pass.  Biscuit on Trail Rider Pass looking back towards Hasley Basin.

Sherpa on Trail Rider Pass, looking down at Snow Mass Lake; Biscuit taking the plunge in Snow Mass Lake.

Eating dinner on the shore; Early morning photo at Snow Mass Lake.

Biscuit signals VICTORY on Buckskin Pass, the final pass.  Sandi looking AWESOME!

– Morning temps in my tent fell to 39F for 3 nights, 41F for 3 nights, between 5-6 am.

– Daytime low 80’s, which felt VERY warm and impacted our energy levels. BTW we had one gal carrying a 53lb pack (we weighed in in the parking lot) she made it the entire trip, no problems, though lagging a little behind the group, I thought for sure she might bail out before the first pass. She gets the award for shear determination and awesomeness! Anyway, sunscreen and a hat and sunglasses HIGHLY recommended.

– Unfortunately very few wildflowers.

– About 11 designated sites just at crater lake if a party needs to stay there.

– We stayed at crater lake day 6 for an early exit and drive to breakfast in Aspen, ate at the hickory house, just on the left on the highway into town – YOU MUST STOP THERE FOR BREAKFAST -OMG, a highlight of the entire trip, ENORMOUS portions, great price and atmosphere, perfect for a post-trip victory celebration!

– We also stopped 1 night at Geneva lake, great call, was beautiful, if you do that, from Fravert basin, take the lower (to the left) trail junction which is a flat beautiful walk but with a 900′ up the last mile, but excellent views so you don’t have to re-cover that same walk when heading for trail rider pass;

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.

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

Back from Apple Orchard (VA)

Just back from a short weekend hike on a trail called “apple orchard” (ref: http:\\

Hike goes down from the Blue Ridge Parkway on the AT for a mile or so, then drops down the mountain for a couple of miles to the campsite on a creek.  Don’t walk too fast or you get there really soon and have a lot of laying about time.

We drove down Friday night and camped in the TJNF off a dirt road, then visited what’s called the longest foot bridge on the AT, crossing the James River.

I had a large cinnamon raisin bagel with pineapple cream cheese and folger’s coffee bags for breakfast, worked ok.

For dinner I tried something different, 3 packets of .5 cup each dehydrated mashed potatoes, weighed almost nothing, and some liptons gravy.  It was hard to simmer the gravy in the jet boil without burning, but it was done.  But the potatoes with the gravy was FANTASTIC!  and I was not hungry later.  Only problem was the bowl that comes with the jet boil would only hold 2 packets (1 cup), next time will need to use a larger plastic bowl.

We had 3 or 4 sailors on this trip and these guys were great, and absolutely hysterical!  Caleb shared his “Jack” with me at the campfire and he and Rattler swapped Chuck Norris jokes till we almost cried with laughter (you had to be there).

Squirrel had a new and lighter tent and was hiking and camping like a pro!

Squirrel almost stepped on a black rat snake, I was walking behind her…so after I cleaned out my pants we took some pictures and made a film of the snake before moving on.  We ran into Herc, who’s an amateur herpetologist, so we went back found mr. snake, Herc picked it up and we played with it for a few minutes, it secreted musk, and I got it all over my hands, yuk.

Besides Caleb, I met Rodney and son Josh BMX, also Mr. and Mrs. Rattler & Sunflower Snackalicious (NOT TRAIL NAMES :0) from me anyway.  I had hiked with Micki last year at Tinker Cliffs, this year she had new boots and no blisters, she also had Mr Sunflower, (we knew who was in charge)

From the parkway down to the camp we had to drop from 3470′ to 1600′.  For the return trip an adjoining trail took us by Apple Orchard Falls for some photo ops the back to the trail head on the parkway.

I guess I was still in pretty good shape from the Grand Canyon hike because I had no issues with the climb back to parkway, held my own, was able to march on, only took one small break and that was at the falls for our photo op.

Comments appreciated!

Water Water Everywhere, and Oh the Boards Did Shrink….

I was very young, and I was enlisted and stationed at Ft Hood.  The Army had taught us in basic training and Infantry school a simple technique one could use to ‘examine’ water prior to drinking.  This was around the time I had to filter water from a dried river bed thru a sweat sock at Big Bend NP while on a backpacking trip, before I had ever heard of backpacking water purifiers.

The method was this; 1.  Look at the water to make sure it was clear 2.  Smell the water to detect any odors 3.  Slightly taste the water to detect any odd or bad tastes.  It’s not a bad common sense, last resort type of thing.

But then came my trip to Mexico.  Drove to Laredo, took the overnight train to Mexico City, stayed for 2 weeks, and then took a bus, via Guadalajara, to Puerto Vallarta.  Stayed in a cheap hotel for $3 a night.  When it rained, the river turned brown, and so did the water in my room.

Long story short, Montezuma caught me and I had it bad, at both ends, for 3 full days, until I hopped a plane for San Antonio and some fresh water.

Hence my obsession with clean water and purifiers.

If you canoe or raft down the Shenandoah river up from Luray, you see cows standing in the water doing their ‘business’ – (yum! pass the canteen!)

When hiking with folks who don’t bother to purify their water, I think about mexico.  I KNOW that there are springs and creeks from springs where the water is probably clean, and I will drink from those myself, but I for one will always recommend that hikers beware and be prepared to clean their water.

One of the disturbing trends is in the manufacturing world of purifiers.  It is getting harder and harder to finds filters for older model purifiers which necessitates upgrading.

So over the years I’ve gone from a Sniff test, to a sweatsock, to boiling, to iodine tablets(YUK!!) to a Pur, to a First Need (lack of filters for both), to a Katahdin  model (nice but heavy), to a Steripen, expensive but VERY light, and the wand is glass, so its fragile and needs batteries. 

Let’s hope the Steripen stays around for a while..I’ll drink to that!

Back from three ridges, Vic Reed’s Gap & AT/Blue Ridge Parkway, Va

Back, alive, feet a little sore due to the rocky parts of day 3.

Leaves changing color, temps perfect, no incidents to report   ….except…for….the….hiker….who…..showed…..up…..knowing  he was missing

1.  boots 2. stove  3.  bowl   4. cup  5.  sleeping pad 6.  bag for the season 7. canteen/water bottle 8. water purifier 9. matches/firestarter

So….being a great guy I offer my stove up to boil water on the condition he brings an extra fuel bottle, so when my fuel is gone*, he pulls out his fuel canister – and the fucking thing is so rusted we can’t clean it to attach my stove!!! AAARHGGGG!!!

* Ok, just a little my fault for running out of fuel, I used 25 minutes for my coffee+sausage+ biscuits on saturday (yum), and then I warmed up burito mix, then cooked a giant banana muffin for everyone Sat night (double yum) but I had to put it back on for 10 additional minutes for 20+10 min cooking time, then my poor small canister was done!  Now at least I know for sure I can get 60 minutes out of that size canister, but needed 70! 

Anyway, ‘trailsurfer’ , the third member of our party, had an alcohol stove and boiled me some water for coffee sunday morning.  A valuable lesson, sigh.

About 30 scouts whooping it up at Harper creek shelter area, but we found a great site along the creek up from the hut.  The sound of the water falling masked the little kiddies noise.

Rant – Who goes on a hike knowing they’re missing all that stuff?  I will say there was no complaining – at -all, so kudo’s to Mr Forgetfull for that, who also worked for at least an hour, but in the end got the fire started (with my firestarter).  But that was one-and-done for me; I kept thinking about the guide “nothing is provide for you”.  Let me be clear, this stuff was not forgotten, It was declared (via several phone calls to me in route the the pick up) that this stuff was ‘missing’ or couldn’t be located, but ‘what the heck’, will go anyway, lord.

I guess I doth protest too much, ’cause it all worked out and everybody had a great time.

Biscuit test, getting ready for the trail!

I wanted to know how a can of refridgerated biscuits would hold up over two days (i.e. opened on day 1, partially consumed; then remainder cooked on day 2).

I put the 5 remaining out of a ten pack into a zip lock and put in the fridge (not freezer); I know this is not a good test right now, fridge is about 40F, this weekend will probably be in the 60’s.

Anyway, it seemed to work out ok, Dee enjoyed them immensly. 

Used the same pot to heat up pre-cooked jimmy dean sausages, then used a 1″ sq scouring pad to clean the pot.

Only trouble with the cooking/cleaning process is using up a lot of fuel, plus the 5 pack of pillsbury “grands” weigh about 14 oz, yikes!  Only for weekend hikes!

BTW, I tried all this in June, the temps were probably in the upper 80’s at the campsite, so I tried to keep the biscuits cool in a creek, anyway, the can popped open, and dough got all gooey, was only able to retrieve about 7 of the 10 in that can.

Saturday, 8 October 2011 7 days to ‘three ridges’ hike

I just ordered a steri-pen from REI, (thurs); the very next day, the send me a note for 20% off 1 item; so I call them, the items haven’t shipped, so I ask for the discount.  They say, nope, sorry; so I have to send it back next week, and I had to order a new one today to get the discounts,  this sucks.

Experimented with making biscuits again this morning in the kitchen.  Cooked 5 normal refrigerator biscuits in a zip lock, on the the ‘bake-packer’, put the 5 remaining in a zip lock to see how they keep for tomorrow.  If I carry a 5 pack on the trail, cook 3 on saturday, how will the remaining 2 keep for cooking on sunday?  I guess if it’s cool or cold it will be ok.

My new obsession is revamping my short hike backpacking meals, balancing weight with flavor.  More on that later…