Tag Archives: backpacking

Winter 2014/2015 RECAP

As of today, 6 March 2015, this has been the ‘winter that almost wasn’t’.  We’ve had a ton of rain and warm weather (40’s – 50’s), up until about Mid February 2015, then it started to get ‘Polar Vortex Cold’ along with lot’s of snow that Virginia is not geared to deal with.

On the coast, where I live, we got a foot of snow in early February, then a week went by, then we got another foot, while I was off for a week Skiing in Colorado, paradoxically, looking for snow.

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The temps on the coast have been single digit, which broke records everywhere around here.  Gunny just posted that it’s currently -4F where he lives now, up near Staunton, Va.

That said, I have just scheduled a short 2 night backpacking trip for next week, a short loop thru the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area and Shenandoah NP.  Camping will be ‘Stealth Camping’.  Hoping for snow camping.  Hopefully the 2 river crossings will be easy and we won’t have to take our boots off (December 2013 below), else, it’s going to be a bit ‘nipley’.

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In late December we had a backpacking trip up and over Cold (Cole) Mountain, off the AT, near Buena Vista, Va.

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We’ve done this area many times and it’s always a beautiful trip.  The temps were pretty mild, I think above freezing the whole time, and we had sunshine (yeah!).  We had 8 or 9 show up from OC Backpackers.  Here’s a link to the photos :http://www.meetup.com/OCBackpackers/photos/25818110/ .

In February we had a Backpacking 101 course, which went, IMO, really well. Instead of speaking to a powerpoint slide show,  I and several others brought our backpacks fully loaded for a spring/summer 3 day/2 night hike and slow unloaded, explaining and discussing the concepts and variations as we went on.

Also in February, I met up with Geardog in Denver and we drove out to Summit County, Dillon, Co, for a week of skiing at Keystone.  It was GREAT!.  I bought a season pass for about $300 in October, which brought the price of skiing 5 days down to about $60 a day, versus the walk up price of $105-$120 per day!!!

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We had sunshine for ALMOST everyday, a few days the clouds would roll in after lunch, and we had small amount of snow 1 or 2 days, but not enough to drive one off the mountain.  The biggest thing though, is when mid-week skiing, the slopes are almost deserted!  You can ski so much that you (I) can become exhausted by about lunch time! YIKES!  Each day we would trudge back to the condo for lunch, a small break, then hit the slopes for the afternoon.  According to the Keystone app, we skied over 100,000 vertical feet, and that was with a short day on Friday, when we had to check out by 11 and drive up to Denver.  We were determined to leave early and take our time driving to Denver as the weather on the I70 corridor between Denver and Summit Couny had been literal shit the entire week, with, I kid you not, hundreds of accidents due to the speed, snow, and ice. On the Wednesday we were there, over 60 cars where in a massive pile up on the interstate on the way back to Denver, leaving motorists stranded all night!  Luckily we had sunshine on the drive back.  Single digit temps, but the roads where clear except for the constant mud spray on the windshield from the cars in front.

I’ve got my annual 6 day, 5 night corridor backpack in the GRAND CANYON coming up the first week in May!

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DEVIL'S CORKSCREW FROM PLATEAU POINT

DEVIL’S CORKSCREW FROM PLATEAU POINT

We’ve got 4 people going (that’s all I requested on the permit application).  We’ve got myself, Jen, Biscuit, and Bones going.  Normally we go in March, but I was undecided if I wanted to do a trip this year and didn’t decide to go until the earlier deadlines had passed and May was up for the lottery.  It promises to be a lot warmer, possibly shorts weather down in the canyon, that will great!

I guess the big thing going on for this summer is a planned hike to do the James Muir Trail (JMT), 210 miles in the California High Sierra’s with Biscuit and Geardog.  After we went to the Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Wyoming last August, where I was pretty much under the weather the entire trip, mostly due to my own doings, I was determined to make this years’ BIG ADVENTURE a ‘sleepy, easy’ fishing trip loop either in Colorado or back in the Winds.  However, after a winter of sitting around, pretty bored, Biscuit and I kept talking about the JMT, so I started researching it.  It’s a huge logistical undertaking and permits are required and have been greatly reduced due to enormous demand, by the park service in the northern terminus of the trail in Yosemite NP.  Reduced to lessen the impact on the corridor the JMT traverses in YNP and just outside the park.  We were able to snag permits going NOBO from about 22 miles SOUTH of the JMT’s southern terminus at the ‘Mt Whitney Portal’, with a start date of 15 August.  I also applied for a permit starting at the Whitney Portal, which are awarded based upon a lottery, which will happen in mid-March. So we’re still waiting to see what happens with that.  I’m not sure my body is up to doing 230 miles, we really won’t have a time limit.  The limits are really based upon the number of meals one sends to the resupply points.  We’ll see what happens.

 

Roaring Plans Wilderness Trip Report

Roaring Plans West Wilderness, Monongahela NF, WV 17-19 Oct 2014 Trip Report

Photo credits to Pyro, Gunny, and Jen.

After our Winds hike last August I came up with a new rule that I would stay home if the rain forecast was greater than or equal to 50%, this is especially true if the daytime temps are predicted to be in the 50F’s or below.  Not that I’m that big of a pussy…it’s just that I’ve had more than my fair share of backpacking trips that become gruesome slogs in wet cold rain.  And a wet cold rain in a tree tunnel just doesn’t do it for me anymore.  I’m not talking about the trips where it rains unexpectedly or the big trips away from home, just those ‘routine’ hikes that are in the class of what I call ‘training hikes.’

So it was on 17 Oct that Buff and Pyro arrived at my house and we loaded up the truck with a 60% chance of rain and 40F temps hovering over our heads for the next day.  But…being ever the optimists and having plenty of sunshine as we loaded up, we once again decided to go for it.  Jen and Cartman linked up with us and we were on our way to pick up Gunny in Verona.

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We set up our camp just off Forest Road 19 and followed the trail, an old gravel road, about 1/4 mile to the crossing of Red Creek.  We didn’t see any campsites so we ended up camping on the road and forgot about making a fire.

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One33 great thing that happened was that the leaves in this area had just peaked and the colors were absolutely FANTASTIC!  We had thought we may have missed out, but we were very-very pleased!

 

 

Next morning we awoke to partly cloudy skies and temps pretty mellow, probably in the low 60F’s or upper 50F’s.  Immediately upon starting off we had to take off our boots and make an uneventful ford of the creek where as luck would have it, found a great campsite just on the other side.  For next time.

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The trip description we were using was pretty easy to follow at first.  Our first section had us following blue blazed trail winding up to the plateau that Roaring Plains is known for.

But wouldn’t you know it, about 10am it started to drizzle.  About an hour later the drizzle got a little harder and the temps dropped into the forties.  And for extra fun, the breeze started to pick up.

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More creek crossings.  Bear prints in the mud on the trail.

So on we slogged.  I will say that the drizzle did stop for a while, at times, and the sun would start to peek out.  And our morale would rise.  But then just to mock us, the skies would laugh and cloud back over and the drizzle would begin anew.

We followed the South Prong Trail up to the plateau but then marched past the right turn onto the Lost Passage Trail.  Once we discovered our mistake, after about a quarter mile, we backtracked and got on Lost Passage.  Here’s where things got a bit tough.  There were several trails headed in more or less the general direction we wanted to go.  Some seemed more obvious than others. We followed a well worn path just to have it die out in the brush. We crossed a creek and tried to follow a few others, just to see those come to a dead end.  Gunny went back across the creek to check out a faint path that had seemed to die out in the bushes.  He followed it for a bit and determined it was probably the main trail. A check on the GPS after a few yards confirmed it was headed in the right direction.

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By the time we got to the Pipe Line Trail, it was raining pretty good.  And cold.  And Windy.  Time for winter hats and gloves.  The clouds had settled in at our altitude so no valley views and no views of anything more than a half mile or so.

We noticed that the Pipe Line Trail is a huge right of way, maybe a hundred feet wide with a dirt maintenance road and a good foot trail, and it was running both south (our direction) and north.  What’s more, earlier in the day, when the South Prong trail crossed what appeared to be just another old dirt road on the USGS topo map, that road was actually WV Forest Road 70, a very well maintained gravel road with quite a few trucks running up and down it carrying hunting dogs.  We had been listening to the distant howling of the dogs for several hours and had even had a few pass us on the trail.

It appeared on the map that we could bail out now and follow the Pipe Line Trail north to where it intersected FR70, then take FR70 east for a few miles to where it intersected FR19 a few miles below from where we were parked. This would bypass the Canyon Rim Trail (which we couldn’t see) and allow us to skip a muddy 1500′ descent on the Boar’s Nest Trail to the trail head.

The descent to FR70 on the Pipe Line Trail was a bit sloggy in the rain but once we hit the gravel road we were able to make good time.  So about 3 hrs after we made our decision to bail we were back at the cars.

We stopped at our favorite local restaurant for dinner and some peanut butter pie and  coconut pie and it was great!

We convoyed back to Verona, stopping to pick up groceries, and stayed at Gunny’s new house.  With plenty of craft beers and chips and salsa we had a great time swapping lies late into the evening.

More Thoughts On “Rain Management”

More thoughts on Rain/Cold weather management while backpacking

Here’s my perspective and frame of reference;

I’m not a thru hiker of anything. I just like to backpack. I am primarily able to get out and hike at least once a month, sometimes twice, and when I say hike I mean backpacking. I try to get out west once or twice per year for a week long backpack. My normal hiking range is the Virginia-West Virginia National Forests and Wilderness areas along the Appalachian Mountains (AKA Blue Ridge Mountains).

I used to climb but am retired from that now. I lived in Europe for 14 years and did quite a lot of ‘stealth’ backpacking along the German-Austrian frontier, especially in the winter (less chances of being caught).

So on with Rain Management.

As I reflect on the Spring/Summer of 2014 here in good old VA, it was pretty lousy, lots of rain, lots of cold windy days.

But what didn’t kill us made us stronger (Friedrich Nietzsche) and wiser and better able to deal with the weather.

Last week in the Bridger Wilderness we had cold and windy and sometimes rainy conditions for most of the trip. But guess what, it didn’t seem to matter, we were prepared and dealt with it. We had been doing it all summer.

Good tents.

The tents went up easily in the rain. We had experience putting them up in rain. We knew how to put them up while keeping the inside nice and dry.

All our tents had some sort of vestibule, most had two vestibules. You threw your wet stuff in a pile in one vestibule and cooked under the other.

A canister stove with an attached pot, like a jet boil, works great under a vestibule, no flare ups. No way to cook under a vestibule with a white gas stove, you’d burn down your tent for sure.

We were automatically conditioned to keep our stuff dry in our packs while walking in the rain. We had lots of down clothing/bags and it was imperative to keep that stuff dry to avoid hypothermia. Everyone had some sort of layered waterproofing both inside and outside of the pack. I use, in addition to the stuff sacks, a thick black industrial garbage bag for everything inside my pack and a good, tested pack rain cover. It seems however, no matter what I do, wind-blown water will creep in around your neck and shoulder strap area and make its way into the pack. That’s why you need to wrap everything up inside the pack.

Every night’s camp requires water to be drawn and filtered, so you just have to suck it up and do it, wait for the filtering, then take your water to your vestibule.

You can’t hike in your rain gear, you just get all your layers totally soaked, and if there was a chance for a little air drying, it won’t happen. While you’re walking you only need to wear something light enough to keep you warm. But whatever you’re wearing, it’s sacrificed to the rain gods and you need to change out of the wet stuff and into something warm and dry when you get to camp. You can put your wet stuff back on tomorrow and dry it out while you walk in the sunshine!

If it is still raining and you changed into your dry and warm stuff once you got to camp and before you got your water, you absolutely must keep that stuff dry!! But now you’ve got a rain layer wet along with your walking sacrificial clothing. Sometimes it’s best to stay in your wet walking clothes until you can finish your camp chores, getting water, hanging bear bag, and then you can finally dive into your tent for the final change into your warm stuff.

If it’s raining when you set up camp, get your tent up, get the dry stuff in your pack into the tent. Put your food under one of your vestibules. Get your water and start filtering. Hang your bear bag rope. Now that your water is filtered take it to your tent. Get in as best you can, take off the wet stuff and place inside the vestibule, dry off the inside of the tent with your bandana, then change into your warm stuff.

Now that you have warm clothes on and your food and water under the vestibule, go ahead and eat.

Now one of the bitch things. Now that you’ve eaten, you need to get back out in the rain and hang your food. That means putting your wet socks back on and grabbing your parka and hat or something to keep your head dry (hood?) and making a dash into the trees to hang the bag and then back to the tent. Keep the wet socks and parka outside the dry part of the tent and under the vestibule. Dry the inside once again with your bandana.

I keep my backpack under one vestibule and eat under the opposite side. I’ve learned to place my pack on top of my pack rain cover so the bottom doesn’t get any wetter while on the saturated ground during a good soaking rain.

Next morning, you’re going to need to put back on those wet socks and pants and shirt and walk them warm. Your boots are still wet from yesterday’s walk in the rain and if you put on your last or next to last dry pair of socks, well, you’re going to have a second pair of wet socks. Better to keep one pair dry for inside the tents.

When you got in your tent where your pants wet? Get them off quick, not to avoid hypothermia, but to minimize dripping inside your dry cocoon. How to keep your legs warm then? I carry a spare set of thermal bottoms, but you could carry an extra set of pants to keep dry, or just push your sleeping bag around you.

Next morning you need to be able to pack your stuff up and tear down your tent in a rain. If it’s not still raining, your tent is probably soaked on the outside. Pack up your stuff into your backpack while inside the tent, be wearing whatever you’re going to walk in that day, probably yesterday’s wet stuff, as you exit the tent. Take down your tent in such a manner that keeps the rain fly over the inside and folds up nice and neat, keeping the inside dry.

Your probably should practice this in the back yard.

Because you’re probably walking in wet socks, little irritations on the feet and small hot spots are magnified, so best to tape them up before hand.

If the sun is shining, you’re going to dry out and everything will be alright! If it’s raining, chug on, take photos of your ‘ordeal’ and just remember you’ll have great bragging stories around the next campfire!

And remember what Friedrich Nietzsche said, if the weather doesn’t drown you, you’ll have great stories…or something like that.

Backpacking the Sky Pilot Loop, Bridger Wilderness August 2014

Sky Pilot Loop, Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Pinedale, Wy

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23-29 August 2014.

Phil, Gunny, Buff, Pyro, Biscuit

Click here to see my favorite pix from this trip.

“Let me explain, no, there is too much, let me sum up” (Inigo Montoya)

Another great trip to the “Winds”. Very long drive. Cold wet weather. Great photos. Took longer to acclimatize to the altitude.

So, let’s get started.

Buff and Pyro drove up from VA Beach and met me at my house in Hampton on Wednesday 20 August. We then drove up to Verona, VA to Gunny’s new house where we stayed for the night. Gunny and Nancy were perfect hosts preparing fresh chicken enchiladas and salsa and supplying us with plenty of iced cold craft beers!

We then sat around in Gunny’s study and watched him finish packing getting to bed around 10 or 11. Which isn’t anything to talk about until I tell you wake up was planned for 3a.m. with departure set for 3:30 yikes! But, happily, but not much, since we were already in Northern VA, we moved back departure to around 4 a.m.

So there we were at 4 a.m. pulling out of Verona and heading to St Louis, Mo our destination for day 1 (day 2?).

From St Louis (departing at 0330 hrs) we were off to Cheyenne. Going through St Louis and then Kansas City at this time of day is a piece of cake, if you can keep awake! Fortunately our plan of switching drivers every 2 hours worked out very well.

We got to Cheyenne, in the rain, around 1900hrs. We could tell we were at higher altitude already (6000′) as we huffed and puffed just going up stairs to our rooms.

Saturday, 23 August.

We departed Cheyenne again at 0330 hrs arriving in Pinedale, Wy around 1000 hrs, later than planned due to quite a bit of highway construction.

We linked up with Biscuit at the outfitters in Pinedale then grabbed some early lunch at the micro-brew next door to the outfitters.

We then dropped into the outfitters for last minute supplies and fishing licenses. It was getting ready to rain and getting cold, like it wanted to snow, so Buff decided on purchasing some more layering.

It was then off to the trail head, but not before a detour into the grocery/hardware store and a stop into the Museum Of The Mountain Man. This is great museum and I highly recommend it if you ever make it to Pinedale.

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It started to drizzle slightly on the way to Elkhart Trail Head. It was cloudy and dreary and there were remnants of an earlier snowfall in the trees. When we were able to make out distant peaks through the clouds you could clearly see the snow cover at the upper elevations. Temps were in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s at this point.

We got the parking lot about 1400 hrs and were headed down the trail by around 1500 hrs. The sun was trying to peak thru the clouds, which helped our morale quite a bit.

The trail down to Long Lake was maintained and in pretty good shape. We arrived on the shores of the lake about 1700 hrs.

We found a super campsite and since we had dropped down about 1800′ it had warmed up a bit. We got the tents up and Pyro and Gunny got a good fire going in spite of the very wet conditions from the day prior’s rains.

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Sunday, 24 August.

After breakfast and photos on the beautiful shores of Long Lake we started walking at 0930hrs.

At this point I had started to get an ass kicking cold, sore throat, headache, dripping sinus, not fun. To add to my fun, the grass/vegetation around the trail was sopping wet and the water proofing of my normally reliable boots immediately failed soaking my left sock, great.

This year, in order to complete the Sky Pilot Loop we needed to drop down almost 2000′ from the trail head, to Long Lake and then back up to Glimpse Lake where the rest of the trip would be more or less between 10,600′ and 11,060′.

Well, the trip up to Glimpse Lake was harder than we hoped, a 2000′ climb over 4 miles, The trail wasn’t too bad, but adjusting to the altitude was a bitch. The altitude was affecting everyone differently. We didn’t arrive until about 1530 hrs. To be fair, we walked really slow, stopped for quite a few breaks, and took a ton of photos. A long day for such a short walk.

Once at Glimpse, we had the pick of several great campsites. Pyro and Gunny once again got a great fire going under very damp circumstances. Gunny, ever the fisherman, found some reserve strength and went fishing for a little while.

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Monday, 25 August.

We departed Glimpse Lake around 0900 hrs headed for that day’s goal of Summit Lake. The going was still pretty slow as we were still not acclimatized and at 1500 hrs we had only reached Borum Lake. We were all dragging, Borum was beautiful, so we decided to camp. I was only too happy not to continue the 1.6 short miles to Summit Lake for several reasons, I still had my sore throat and was still feeling weak, and, Summit lake is above the tree line so there’s no campfire there. Borum turned out to be a very beautiful place to camp indeed! We had 2 short thunder/rain storms which negated a campfire and I was so tired I sacked out early, eating only snacks in my tent.

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The next morning was clear skies and beautiful. We had terrific reflections on the still lake waters.

Tuesday, 26 August.

I’m feeling better, but still not much of an appetite.

We depart Borum Lake about 0900 hrs. headed for Upper Jean Lake, arriving about 1630 hrs. This is our best day so far, clearing skies, a bit warmer, above tree line.

We hike on past Summit Lake, cross the bridge on upper Pine Creek, over to Elbow Creek to Pass Lake and Twins Lakes following the creek above tree line, in a moonscape environment, past countless stream crossings and unnamed small lakes/tarns. We spot the tip of Elbow Lake in the distance. As we get closer, the Lake is enormous and the walk around it very long. We’re on the Highline trail headed for the junction of Shannon Pass Trail, where we’ll turn south, go over our high point at 11,060′ and drop on down to Upper Jean Lake.

We arrive at Upper Jean Lake around 1630 hrs and go on with the business of setting up tents before any rains can move in, get water for filtering, getting stuff unpacked so it can air out/dry out/fluff out, getting ready for another night in the 30’s.

No trees so no campfire. Gunny goes fishing. My appetite is getting better, but I have trouble finishing my one hot meal.

When you’re above tree line and in mixed company, going to do your ‘business’ can be a little tricky. A small ridge behind out tents along with some huge boulders provided a small bit of privacy. The obvious little piles of rocks meant to conceal made me coin the term for the area “monument valley.”

This area was the only area on the entire trip where we were bothered by mosquitoes and used head-nets. Except for Gunny, who had some repellent in this clothing, which also, I guess, deterred the critters from bothering his exposed face.

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Wednesday, 27 August.

We depart Upper Jean Lake around 0915 hrs headed for Freemont (Creek) Crossing, then down an un-maintained trail to the big “Water Slide”, then off to Lost Lake.

After a short lunch at the “water slide”, we decide to bushwhack, more or less, from the water slide, follow “game” trails down to Lost Lake, like we did last year.

Gunny leads on following very feint trails, but after about 20 minutes the trail disappears so we have to thrash about a bit to find what we hope is the trail from last year. Well, after several dead ends over cliff tops or around impassible corners, I resort to the GPS. The “trail” we’re looking for is not on the map, of course, so we are left to head in a generalized direction over contours that we hope aren’t cliffs. After a few more false leads we miraculously find the path and finally meet the primary trail at the series of two fords where Freemont Creek pours into Lost Lake.

It starts to rain. Nothing to do but take off our boots and march across the series of fords. As luck would have it, the fabulous and only campsite is taken so we’re forced to set up in a series of clearings just off the trail.

So in the rain we set up tents, get water, hang bear bags, etc.. Pyro tries to get a fire going and succeeds for a bit. Gunny goes fishing and brings back 4 or 5 good sized trout. He’s had wade out into the area where Freemont Creek enters the lake and fish in the intermittent drizzle and fog.

Nevertheless, due to the constant drizzle, they can’t get enough fire and coals to cook the fish. I retired to dinner in my tent to avoid a slow soak.

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Thursday, 28 August.

The morning is glorious and clear. Lots of sunshine. However, due to the mountains surrounding the lake, the sun can’t quite reach our tents to dry them off before it’s time to leave. So yet another day of packing wet tents, oh well, no problem, the sun is glorious! My cold is finally gone.

We depart between 0900 and 1000 hrs and have a good walk up to Seneca Lake for a nice lunch in the sun. We arrive at Barbara Lake, I think about 1500 hrs. I discover the top of my fishing pole has slid out of my pack, oh well. We set up and Gunny goes fishing but doesn’t have much luck. Pyro makes the fire and we do our set-up chores and hang bear bags, which is very tricky with these lodge-pole pines and their short branches.

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Friday, 29 August.

My tent is on a sort of angled hump and I wake with little bit of a back ache which loosens up when we start walking.

We depart about 0900 arriving a short time later at Photographer’s Point for the obligatory scenic photos. A man with 4 or 5 very little girls is camped right on the point in the area people go for photos. I’m sure this isn’t allowed. Very bad manners to camp there.

We arrive back at the trail head around noon, hiking all day under very blue skies and warmer temps. My back starts to tighten up again and stays tight for the next 4 or 5 days.

We head on down the micro brewery for our traditional after hike feast. After a few short stops to look for souveniers, Pyro, Buff, Gunny and I are back in the truck around 1400 hrs and headed for Cheyenne.  Biscuit heads on back to Jackson Hole to catch his flight to Salt Lake City then on back to VA.

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Sunday Morning, Waiting For the Winds To Blow

Sitting here on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee, checking the weather in Pinedale, Wy for what seems like the ten-thousandth time.

In just three days Gunny, Buff, Pyro and myself will get in my truck and start the 2.5 day trip to Pinedale.  Biscuit, the smart one, is flying up to Jackson (Hole), Wy and driving down to meet us Saturday around noon in Pinedale.

The current plan is to meet Biscuit at noon at the brew pub next door to Pinedale’s primary outfitter.  In no particular order, we’ll eat, drink some beer, check gear, purchase some more stuff for our packs.  Get some fishing licenses, check lures and try to avoid adding more weight to packs already loaded with 6 days of breakfasts and dinners.

But first, back here in good ole Hampton, Va….Buff and Pyro will drive up from the Beach to my place, then we’ll all go together in my truck up to Verona, Va where we’ll stay overnight at Gunny’s new place.  Gunny has promised us fresh salsa and chicken enchiladas – YES!

Next morning we’ll leave Verona and head off towards an overnight in St Louis.  Should be about 14hrs of driving.

From St Louis, it’s off to Cheyenne, Wy, where we’ll overnight on the historic Warren AFB.

(Warren AFB is the oldest continuously active military installation within the Air Force, established in 1867 by the United States Army as Fort David Allen Russell. The facility came under United States Army Air Forces control on 1 June 1947, and United States Air Force (USAF) respectively on 18 September 1947 until now….Wikipedia).

Gunny and I stayed there on our way to the Winds last year.  The old part of the base is like going back in time.  We had a suite in a preserved barracks, which meant no AC, but luckily the elevation in Cheyenne meant cool nights, so we didn’t suffer.  I did note that the check in for the base lodging was also in an historic building, and they had AC, hmmm.

Anyway, we should be leaving Cheyenne about 3:30 a.m. and get to Pinedale around 9 or so.

So after linking up with Biscuit and doing whatever chores still need doing, we may hit the “museum of the mountain man”, an excellent museum if you ever make to Pinedale.

There shouldn’t be a lot of chores, we’ve been planning this hike ever since last years hike there ended and we’re carrying our packs in the truck, not like we’re putting them on a plane.   But we’ll still probably stop at the big grocery store on the main road leading to the Elkhart trail head.

I’ve got some pre-cooked pork sausage links in my garage fridge right now, so if I can’t keep them chilled on the drive up, I might just get some more in Pinedale, still need to figure that part out.

So, once we’ve sorted out our chores in Pinedale, we’ll head off to the trail head (~9300′ elev).  The plan is to park and go ahead and hike the 3 or so miles down the Pine Creek Canyon trail and camp some where below Long Lake and Freemont Creek (~ 7858′ elev).

That plan gives us a head start on the next days hump up back to the top of the “plateau” and Glimpse Lake (9373′ elev) and onto however far we can get that day.  It would be nice to reach Summit Lake, but I don’t think we’ll make it that far.

Ok, that’s the plan so far, time to check the weather!

 

 

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.

bye

Rapidan Hike 28-29 Dec 2013 Trip Report & Changing My Paradigm on What “Staying Dry” Really Means

I don’t normally blog about my monthly weekend backpacks but this was special for stress testing rain equipment in the cold and for the 3 river crossings!  My next post will be on my new phil-osophy on staying dry in pouring rain.

It’s not supposed to rain in the Blue Ridge, especially this time of year.  We (being myself, Buff, Pyro, and Bones from Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers Meetup) were looking forward to our first snow hike of the season, but warm weather had melted what little snow there was and as a bonus, a predicted front brought in a torrential downpour on our day 2.

We parked at the Graves Mill trail head parking lot, and with a late start we had about 4 hrs of daylight to make the days first objective, a flat spot next to the Rapidan River, just past the ‘Rapidan camp’ (this is a series of cabins that you can rent out on the road to camp Hoover.  The Marine guards for the presidential visits to camp Hoover were housed there).

But first we had to negotiate a crossing of the Staunton River and Rapidan River.  The first one went ‘ok’, we were able to barely hop across on the rocks and had no problems.  The second river was a little higher, so those of us who are vertically challenged, had a series of long jumps ahead of us which left us looking for an alternative crossing.  After spending a little bit of time searching to no avail, we wound up just sucking it up and taking off our boots and socks fording barefoot.  The river at that point had a few sections 1 1/2 – 2 feet deep and had a pretty good current, so it was a good opportunity ‘stream crossing lessons’.  Once across, we used bandanas to dry our feet off.  The good thing about the water being freezing cold is that the numbing effect sort of negated the pain of sharp rocks on bare feet.

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After a few miles or so we happened upon a  junction of the trail, a fire road going up the mountain, and a gravel road coming in from the south-east leading to the Rapidan Camp.  There was a gravel parking lot for visitors to the Rapidan Wildlife Management area and a natural flat area with a not-so-old fire ring.  After some discussion about the pro and cons of stealth camping there (we were in the wildlife management area and not exactly in the park (SNP) and the fact it would be dark soon), we decided to go for it and camp there.

Despite the many pick up trucks passing on the gravel road, who we assumed were hunter who had to vacate the area before dusk, we didn’t have any issues with any ‘authorities’.

We had a great campfire and I strung the Christmas Lights on my tent that Buff and Pyro had carried.

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The rain started in the middle of the night and didn’t stop at sunrise, it just got heavier.  Soooo….we had every backpackers worst nightmare (no not a bear in camp), we had to get up and break camp in a driving rain!  I had brought my REI quarter dome and had a great breakfast, cooking under my vestibule  (or my tent’s ‘foyer’ as Buff and Pyro like to call it!)

Then it was out of the tent into the driving rain and packing up.  As a bonus, the rain was kicking up mud onto everything in contact with the ground, adding to the soaking wet tents that had to be packed up.

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And off we went!  We decided to take an alternative route back to the cars to avoid the 2 river crossings, the Rapidan, which we camped near had risen quite a bit.  So we hiked up the mountain on the fire road heading up towards the Sag and the junction of the Jones Mountain Trail.  We found on the USGS topo map a trail that formed a cut-off back down to the Staunton river Trail which would negate have to hike up to the Sag, and taking the Jones Mountain Trail to the Staunton River Trail.

Only problem was, that trail was not on the PATC SNP map so it was anybody’s guess if it was still there.  As it turned out, the trail intersection was not marked and we walked right by it.  Fortunately we were using the Backcountry Navigator GPS app, with the USGS map tiles pre-loaded and were able to double back, only 100′ or so, and found the trail.

The trail looked unmaintained at the start but well defined, but after about 200 meters, it started fading out and disappearing altogether, we knew it followed a creek to the Staunton River so we had to basically bushwacked down the mountain for a while, fortunately the app still received GPS signals and we knew we were in the trail’s vicinity, more or less.

We were able to hit the Staunton River and Staunton River Trail at the exact spot of the trail crossing, but as luck would have it, the river was very much swollen over. We searched, pretty much in vain, for a rock crossing.  However, Bones, who should be renamed “longshanks”, managed a daring rock hop leap and crossed (luckily) without falling in!

The rest of us short legged folks, have no alternative and being already soaked (did I mentioned it was still pouring?) said ‘fuck it’ and just plowed on through.  Swollen river crossing lesson number 3!  We’ll, it was touch and go, but we managed it ok.

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After the crossing, it was a short scramble up the bank, finding the main trail and straight on, easy walk, to the car.

The rain let up and had stopped on the way back to the parking lot, but, as again luck would have it, started raining when we got the truck (SHIT) so we had to hold up umbrellas for each other to change into dry clothes.

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It was then off to the Mellow Mushroom in Charlottesville and the post hike celebratory feast!

Phil-Osophy on UL hikers, Bridger Wilderness Wind River Range, Maroon Bells

Howdy all!

Like I’ve said many times, you really need to have something to say on these blogs.  They (the blogs) take a lot of time to do right and to make half way interesting.  I thought I’d be writing more than I have, heaven knows I’ve been backpacking at least once a month for the past 2 years or so.

Buff sent me a link to a rant some guy posted on youtube the other day, the rant was about UL hikers; that’s ultra-lite hikers.  Here’s the link

http://youtu.be/kn83NXRWtvw

And here’s my rant.

This guy kind of nailed what I couldn’t put my finger on.  For whatever reasons, these people, the UL’ers, sort of make themselves out to be socially dysfunctional in a setting among other backpackers.  They do this with an arrogance deriving from their quest to lower their pack weight to almost, well, not almost, unsafe levels.  They come up to you and ask how much one’s pack weighs, say 30lbs, then brag that theirs only weighs in at 12 lbs and insinuate that anyone who needs food/shelter/first aid stuff/stoves/fuel/extra clothing/maps/camera, etc etc etc is somehow a loser.  Their main goal in the backpacking universe seems to be how low they can go, not about having fun with friends, enjoying the beauty of the natural world, creating great memories among new friends.

The reason this irritates me, is that it could make a person who is trying to get into backpacking and all the wonderful doors to nature that it opens, feel somehow inferior, or embarrassed, inadequate, and then they drop the whole backpacking thing. Backpacking is hard enough and expensive enough without this bullshit!

Another common link that this vid nails is that these people seem to lack normal social skills, keeping a distance from the group – especially in camp, lacking basic conversational skills, hiking alone, and maintaining an unfathomable air of superiority.

Anyone who has hiked with me for anytime has heard my observation on this; at almost any social venue, there are a group who have bonded together to be the ‘experts’ or upper clique of the venue; it seems every bowling ally, skating rink, hiking club, climbing club, golf club, you name it, have a clique of regulars who want you to know that they are the social elite of that venue; this is no less true for the day hiking/backpacking/rock climbing/mountaineering communities.

Here’s another of my observations; an off shoot of the UL are the fast-hikers.  These idiots pride themselves on literally (I think I’m using that correctly here) racing down the trails, and brag about that they hiked 20 miles or so, while you only hiked 8, and they do this every trip, all the time.  Hiking with people, making conversation is not their goal, and in my opinion, within their ability.

It seems that people who lack social skills, in the backpacking universe, who find their niche in having a strength in UL or long mileage, something or anything they can excel at, then exploit that ‘strength?’ to a point of conceit and use it as a subtle hammer whenever possible.

I for one enjoy the camaraderie and companionship, although I don’t deny that I can hold my own on being quite the ass.  The camp, the camp chores, fishing, making a fire, telling stories around the fire, just a wee bit of the fire-water, the navigation skills, first aid skills, cooking skills, fine meals, and meals not so fine, swimming in the creek, taking pictures of fantastic vistas are a huge part of total experience and shouldn’t take a back seat to how much ones pack weighs or how many miles and how fast you walked that day.’

whew! take a breath!

just saying

I’ll talk about what happened in the Winds & Bells later, I promise!

Setting Up Camp in the Rain, What’s Your Solution?

Phil Reed’s Hikes Photo Albums

It’s raining now at my house. So I did what any backpacker does, I started anguishing about setting up my tent in the rain and minimizing my discomfort.

My current tent is the REI quarter dome (3lbs 14 oz, without stuff sack).  I’ve watched my fellow hikers from Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers   set up their hubba hubba’s and brag that if it rains they can just set up their rain flys and crawl in for the night.

So I took my thoughts out of the warm and dry house out into the backyard (about a hour ago) and this is what happened:

I took my pole set and snapped them altogether.  I then laid out my rain-fly over the poles and connected the primary rib pole, not hard.  I then attached the first side pole to the first fly corner and tried to attach the other end to the grommet on the inside just over the first door, very very tight.  I then tried to repeat the process with the other pole, it’s pouring rain mind you.  The quarter dome’s poles are not 2 poles crossing and going corner to corner, there are 3 poles, a main rib pole, going corner to corner, then 2 slightly smaller poles that go from 1 corner, over the rib and to a grommet over the door on either side, it’s kind of weird but I guess this is a weight saving strategy.  As I connected each of the shorter poles to the door grommet, the rain-fly kept flipping in and out under tension, but I managed to finally get it together and stake out the 2 vestibule ends.

I then crawled in with the actual tent and laid it out on the grass.  The actual tent is all screen over the nylon bottom, with very large screen doors on each side, also a weight saver.  I spread out the tent and fasted each corner to the poles.  I then sat upright in the tent – out of one of the screen doors and then proceeded to clip the tent to the poles.  The clips are on the outside of the screen top, but it turned out to be pretty easy.

The hard part was un-clipping the ends of the shorter poles, fastened in the  rain-fly grommets over the doors (under tension) and trying to clip then into the grommets on top of each screen door, while sitting inside the tent.  I had to really bend down the poles to do this and was pretty worried about  snapping a pole.  But once it was done, the tent was set up pretty good and still pretty dry for all that thrashing around.

My wife came looking for me about that time and calling from the garage back door, heard my voice inside this newly erected tent in the backyard, in the pouring rain, and I could hear her thinking – WTF is this idiot doing now?

So, what’s your plan?  I’m ready to steal good ideas!

Told To Sleep Naked In The Woods? Turn The Other Cheek!

Phil Reed’s Hikes Photo Albums

Let me try to get this started with some Phil-osophy, this is the way I think.

I have a mantra I bore people with every hike. #1.  What goes down must come up, and #2.  There’s no such thing as a small accident in the wilderness.

Backpacking is training for the main event, Mountaineering.  You have to learn to pay attention to every bit of minutiae, every little detail of your route, your equipment, objective and subjective dangers.

Your sleeping bag could be your last line of defense in an emergency, your last refuge;  Keep your bag dry at all costs, especially a down bag.

Don’t get into your bag with wet clothing – unless you don’t have any choice;  You may get away with this if your bag is fiber filled.  The only time you get into your bag nude is when you know it’s going to be warm enough or your bag is down and your all your clothes are soaking wet.

Here’s the problem, and there’s a couple of issues here.  If you get into you down bag and you have wet clothing, you risk getting the down wet, losing loft, losing the ability of the down to trap and warm air, losing the insulation down provides to keep you warm.  Further, wet clothing against you skin prevents any possibility of trapping and warming air against you skin, which is the definition of keeping warm in the first place.

You stay warm when dead air is trapped and warmed against you skin.  Wind can blow this warm air away from your skin, (wind chill), and cool you down.  This is when you put on a parka to trap the air and keep you warm.

If the outside air temperature is too cold, wind or no wind, you need insulation to trap – and warm – the air next to your skin.  The colder the outside air the more layers of insulation you need.

Let’s say Squirrel is standing naked in the snow (could happen 🙂 ), somebody hands her some thermals, she starts to warm up, but is still cold.  You throw her a shirt and some pants to put on over the thermals, a little warmer, but still cold.  Now you throw her a sweater, some rain pants, then a parka, a hat, some gloves, a down vest, – get the picture?  At some point, hopefully, she’s finally warm and cozy, still standing in the snow.  Now you throw her a giant down comforter – wow! Finally toasty!  No wait, somebody told her all you needed was the giant down comforter (sleeping bag), so you need to strip all the clothing off and just wear the bag?  WTF?

Kind of depends on the rating of the bag, how cold the outside temperature is, whether you sleep warm or cold.  You probably need some combination, but there’s no rule that you need to sleep in the nude, unless your bag is too hot, or you’re with your sweetie(?).  Note:  If my bag is rated 30F (comfort) that means it will not keep me warm below 45F.  My zero bag works for me in the upper teens, then the sweater and hat go on, possibly a hot water bottle inside my bag.

Ok, let’s sum up.

1.  Keep your bag dry, at all costs.

2.  Don’t get into your bag with wet clothing, unless in a survival situation, and then only in a fiber bag.

3.  It’s ok to wear clothes/coat/sweater/hat/gloves/thermals – or nothing in your bag, to stay comfortable.

4.  Remember to take the 10 essentials, what? you don’t know about the 10 essentials?

5.  And finally, there’s no such thing as a small accident in the woods and that backpacking is training for mountaineering, so stop relying on other people to read the map, ok that’s 3 things.

6.  And don’t trust the temperature rating on the bag. (final point)

good bye

please comment, thanks, adios

chupa