I am home for a little over a week and then off for more hiking! Love this time of the year.
I just got home from a great 5 day 120 mile hike and a package from ZPacks.Com was waiting for me, along with a shipment of freeze dried food food from Honeyville Grain which I badly needed to get myself resupplied with fruit, meat and refried beans. Showing up later this week will be a shipment from MontBell America with a replacement Montbell U.L. SuperSpiral #1 (my prefered sleeping bag) and the Montbell Mirage Parka, a new pair of Dynamo Wind Pants, the updated sub-2 ounce 2013 Tachyon Wind Jacket and a couple other small things. I am also getting a resupply of Probar Meals, and some FITS socks to give a try alongside my Wigwam socks. Oh, and I ordered up a new LiteTrail 550ml Ti pot that should be here before I head back out onto the trail, which I am going to give a go with, and let my Evernew 600ml pot a rest.
As for my most recent trail. It was an interesting adventure. Saw some beautiful country, pushed myself pretty hard, broke some gear, learned a bit more about dealing with people who are sitting at home and suppose to be helping out hikers yet utterly fail to do so when the hiker actually needs something, got to test out my new ZPacks Arc Blast (my second one, all black with all the extras, nicknamed “Darth Vader”), experienced some weather that was waaaay colder than what it was suppose to be, and all in all had a great time.
The first day out I was moving along at a good rate and snapped part of one of my Gossamer Gear trekking poles. After hiking for a couple of hours I found a spot with a very weak internet connection and I contact the guy that was suppose to be the ‘new guy’ in charge of handling requests from Sponsored hikers/Trail Ambassadors for Gossamer Gear and long story short, that went over very very badly. It is as if people do not understand that some of us actually spend the vast majority of the year out on the trail and when we contact them to help out, it is because we actually honest to God need help. I got a run around from this guy and eventually just decided to say screw it and not even bother trying to get a new pole piece sent out overnight to the next trail town that I was going to be at in two days. So I just had somebody else overnight me my Blackdiamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles from home. I love Grant and Glen from GossamerGear, but whoever in the world it was that made the decision to outsource their Trail Ambassador program to somebody outside the company, needs to rethink that whole idea. We hikers out on the trail have limited internet and phone connectivity, we should not have to play a go-around-game just to get the gear we need. This whole event was a nice reminder that when your gear breaks out on the trail, it is always a good and wise thing to have somebody back home, be it family or a friend, that can handle resolving an issue for you. I am very grateful to my family, my friends, and those at my company, for all that they do to allow me to keep being out on the trail so much. Beyond that ordeal, the first day was good. Did some nice elevation changes, and thankfully had a good amount of water with me when I started as it was a day with only one water source, and it was around 14 miles in. Eat a crazy amount of food for some reason. Stupid me for not pounding a bunch of high energy food before I left my truck. Set up camp in a really beautiful spot, and was sure to mark it on the map for future trips. It was one of those odd days when you do not see, or even hear, any animals. I enjoy the sound of animals and seeing birds flying around, but there was not a peep or feather anywhere to be heard or seen.
The second day was hard, as they usually are. Body was aching, still pissed off by the aforementioned events of yesterday, and my feet were bugging me as this was the first hike of any distance that I have done with sandals. So many hikers I really respect, hikers out on the trail right now hiking the CDT or who hiked it last year, have made the switch over to sandals and I figured it was about time I gave it a try, so I ditched my much beloved Inov-8 shoes and went with a pair of sandals. Taking some getting use to. A lot stiffer than the crazy light trail runners I am use to, and the straps on the top of the foot are kind of bugging me, but the freedom of stretching my toes, and the complete breathability factor, and the knowledge I do not have to worry about foot-swell, are all things I am beginning to see as really amazing reasons for making the switch. I was able to have access to a lot of water on day two, so that was nice. Put my Sawyer Squeeze to a lot of use. Having added the small section of tube (see my previous article) was totally worth the extra few grams of weight. It just makes filling up water bottles so much easier. One of those situations where weight for functionality is smart hiking.
The third day I was able to get into a trail town and get some supplies, but most importantly was getting the hiking poles. It was a very small town (one of those towns that is a store/postoffice) so not a lot to do there so I just grabbed my stuff and went on my way. I think one of the things I said about the Blackdiamond Alpine Carbon cork hiking poles when I reviewed them was something along the lines of them being heavy, but oh so worth it. The more I use these poles the more I love them. Yeah, they are heavy trekking poles (when compared to the Gossamer Gear trekking poles) but these are the most rock solid pair of hiking poles I have ever used. They also make setting up my shelter at night a bit faster and easier, because the locking systems on them is a lot easier than sitting there doing ‘the twist’. Yeah, I love the LT4 poles, but Gossamer Gear really needs to find a way to move away from twist locking mechanisms – please guys!! The end of day three turned cold and thankfully I had with me my Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka. It is my no means the lightest jacket out there, but it has saved my butt a few times. I am really looking forward to getting the Montbell Mirage Parka later this week! It has one ounce more down than the Alpine and weighs 1.9 ounces less! I was also seriously glad I had with me my Black Rock Gear Hadron hat and the Black Rock Gear Mitts. It thankfully did not rain but I had with me the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket, at 4.7 ounces, it just makes sense to always carry it.
The fourth day was all about pounding the miles, and that is exactly what I did. Started off really cold, sub freezing and stayed cold pretty much all day. I hiked for about four hours in the dark until I was really tired and knew I would just go right to bed. Went to bed cold.
The fifth day I again started off cold but thankfully it warmed up a bit. Ended the 120 mile section of trail when it was almost dark and headed home. Made up some spaghetti and feasted.
My next trip out will be hiking the same exact section of trail, only this time in the other direction. One of the aspects of building a new trail is the joy of getting to hike the same trail multiple times in multiple directions, at different times of the year. It helps you make sure that you have enough GPS data to be able to properly build a map system that others will be able to use, and it helps you really learn where the water is at and when there will be a water source and when it will be a dry creek. I will likely be taking a camera with me on my next hike so I should have some photos and video to share. There is some really beautiful country up here in North Western California.
Besides the already mentioned issue with the LT4 poles, this was a great trip to test out some new gear. My new ZPacks Arc Blast road like a champ. Really loving that backpack. It was way more then what I needed for this trip but I wanted to get some more miles on it. I also used the Lawson Ti-Hook Stakes for the first time. I gotta say I really enjoyed them over a traditional hook stake, the slightly more bent head really did make them noticeably better. I also took with me a Petzl TacTikka Plus for the first time. I gotta say that while it is heavier than any other light I have taken, it was kind of nice having a full power torch to use, it was the main reason I hiked for four hours in the dark. I also took with me the Klymit Double Diamond vest. I have been using one for a few months around the house and on short day hikes, so this was the first hike of any miles I have taken it. It is crazy heavy compared to my down vests/jackets, and it seems to suffer a problem of not drying out very fast, but I gotta say, it is really impressing me. Going to give it a lot more trail time before I make a verdict on it. I took with me the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, size large of course. It is one beastly sleeping pad, but I gotta say, it is the most comfortable air sleeping pad I have ever used. Almost tempted to keeping lugging it around the rest of the year, regardless of the fact it is 570 grams – which makes it heavier than my entire shelter system, the Six Moon Designs Skyscape X, the Adventure Medical Kits Sol Emergency Blanket (groundcloth), and the 5 stakes that the SMD SX takes. For heating up water I took the TrailDesigns Caldera Sidewinder and the Evernew 600ml pot. For food I took mostly food I had made myself over the winter season, using the Excalibur dehydrator I got for Christmas, which all of my family pitched in together and got for me.
Anyway, I grabbed my camera a bit ago and decided to shoot a quick video on the updated ZPacks Belt Pouch, which I ordered while out on the trail.
I hope everybody out there is having an awesome, fun, and safe hiking season!
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