OK, not a bear. Just a silly old tent in my dining room.
Oh, and a bear bag. Cause you just never know what’s in your dining room!
OK, not a bear. Just a silly old tent in my dining room.
Oh, and a bear bag. Cause you just never know what’s in your dining room!
I did it! I did it! Twenty miles with thirty pounds.
I was wondering about the twenty miles, given that it took me five hours, or a few minutes under. But then I remembered that my regular walks are four miles and they take roughly an hour and a half, including stopping at traffic lights and a trip into the grocery store. Plus the one thing I’ve never been accused of is walking slowly. Once I get steaming, I roll along. And this is an easy walk, too. Paved roads and footpaths. Not much in the way of uphills, but it is what it is. And I’m OK with that. I remember back in my martial arts days: one of the greatest teachers I had the privilege of learning from said something along the lines of “The dojo is where you practice under bright lights on a soft floor with friends.” The Farm Park is bright lights on a soft floor with friends. At the very least, my back and shoulders know what it feels like to carry thirty pounds. My feet know what it feels like to march twenty miles.
I feel pretty good! A little stiff, for sure. I wish I could sit on something high and swing my feet, because those dogs are barking! The only thing that’s worrisome is the same old left knee issue. It really started to hurt at the end, and it hurts now. I didn’t have the brace with me, but I’ll wear it tomorrow.
Wait. Did I say tomorrow? Yes. Yes, I did! I think the only thing I can do right now is prepare my body to do long days in a row. Three times a week is fine, but for me, I want two of them to be back to back. I want to have a little soft-floor, bright-light training with complete lack of motivation—or worse, really not wanting to go out, and going out anyway. Going out without having had a full day of rest to recover.
As far as the walk itself went, it was pleasant. Saw some dead snakes, some dead caterpillars, and some smooshed mice. On the other hand, I had a long stare-down with a deer. I love the way deer stand in the woods and peer at you. They seem wise, somehow, and serene. In the moment. They’re gauging which way the wind is blowing from one instant to the next, prepared to move in whatever direction is called for. It’s very zen. Thank you, deer.
I saw a lot of people, mostly retirees getting in their miles, and a lot of people walking dogs. A lot of dogs. And some poop. But I digress. I saw one guy who was very chatty—a World War II vet who asked about my backpack and gave me a long rundown of most of the strategy for most of the battles in most of the theaters of the War. It was interesting, but the man himself was more so—more interesting, I mean. Here he is, clearly without people to talk to, clearly deeply interested in this massive experience that shaped his life.
Will that be me, someday? An old woman meandering through a park, pinning down a stranger and talking relentlessly about bear sightings and running out of water near Pearisburg? I hope so. Because when push comes to shove, the guy had to be 80. But there he was, still fit and strong, and wandering, and having those crisp bright memories (and opinions) to share.
When he stopped for a breather, I thanked him for his service, then I slipped away.
“If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.”
(OK, so maybe that’s an unfortunate quote. But since Johnnie Cochran was pretty much a cartoon character anyway [as were all of them, with the notable exception of the vastly unfortunate victims], I guess that’s enough said.)
My beautiful, wonderful pack, which I love so much that I want to marry it… yes, my ULA Circuit: We had a sit-down, my pack and I. (I wonder if I should give my pack a name? People name their cars, they name their GPS devices, they name all sorts of things that don’t generally need names. Maybe I should name my pack “Mango.” Then again, the whole trail name issue is hard enough without compounding it by naming each and every piece of gear as though it were family. Which it is. And my phone, by the way, is “Bruce.”)
My pack—for the purposes of this post, let’s call it “Mango”—well, let’s just say that the gloves don’t fit.
And not only the gloves. The stove doesn’t fit, the sleeping bag doesn’t fit, the eight-pound bag of birdseed I’m using to simulate food doesn’t fit… it’s a giant, enormous, pretty-much-infinite mess of generalized non-fitting. In other words, I’ve got the weight manageable, but the bulk is out of control, baby.
I’ve had to cheat some. For instance, I don’t have my stupidly expensive Nunatak quilt yet, so I’m using my stupidly expensive Western Mountaineering bag as a stand-in. The bag weighs 32 ounces. The quilt is reputed to weigh 21, and I’m assuming will take up half the bulk of the WM bag. Great! I figured, because, well, there’s a whole raft of crap I haven’t figured out yet: toothpaste and such. I mean, I’ve figured it out, but I haven’t packed it up. That extra 11 ounces can represent the rest of the family.
Also, I only had a larger canister of fuel. (I remedied that yesterday, woohoo! That tiny little JetBoil canister is adorable. So adorable, that I want to take two! Which, of course, is why Monsieur Cochrane is the headline of this post.)
I was originally taking a Patagonia down jacket, plus a Montbell down shirt (7 ounces) for sleeping, given that I’m going with the quilt and starting in early March, and I sleep cold. BUT… the people at White Blaze terrified me with all the hypothermia talk, so I decided I’d better switch out the down shirt for a Patagonia fleece, just in case everything gets wet. I’ll have one piece of synthetic insulation that dries quickly and also insulates even when wet. But man, that thing is bulky (bulk, of course, being relative, in a situation where 3 ounces might as well be a half-ton)!
I could not jam all that crap into that pack.
Mango and I went through a few iterations of trying things out in a different order, as though somehow packing something on the left instead of the right would magically make it take up less space.
Oh, Mango. You’re killing me.
Thus, we’ve entered the land of Hard Choices. In the land of Hard Choices, the cute Montbell down shirt has to stay at home. Yes, honey, you pack down to the size of a baseball, but you know what? I don’t have room for a baseball, either. (That’s predicated, of course, on the quilt being warm enough. When it arrives, I’m going to do some hardcore experimenting.)
In the land of Hard Choices, I dumped my titanium coffee cup, which I love. It weighs about as much as a feather, but it takes up too much space. I dumped my polypro ground sheet (although that one may come back; I’m also afraid of three weeks of driving rain). (Also, I’m taking another, silnylon ground sheet for under my tent, so this was basically cutting out a redundant nicety.) In the land of Hard Choices, I switched out my midweight Capilene sleeping insulation shirt for Thermasilk, since I have the Patagonia down jacket. That might not work out either, once I start experimenting with the sleep system, now that the down shirt is a goner.
I’m still working on this. I’d like to get another test-pack done today and tomorrow, including all the miscellaneous toiletries and such.
Mango and I will keep you posted.
So, I did a 9-miler over at the Farm Park with both the iPhone and my Canon Powershot. I wanted to use the iPhone as my only camera (which would save me roughly 10 ounces). My early impression was that the iPhone camera was great within certain limits, but I wanted to do a quasi-scientific study (by which I mean pretty much a half-assed comparison).
Here you go.
That’s some bushes. The iPhone image is the winner there, I’d say. It picked up the lower-light shadows.
And the iPhone was the winner in a few other situations, too.
But—and it’s a big but—the phone is a clear loser when it comes to the zoom.
And this one is questionable:
So what’s the verdict? Hard to say. The Canon tends to wash out the photos. The phone, though, tends to make them too dark, even with the flash on. The iPhone takes better pictures of the sky. The zoom on the iPhone is pretty much made of fail.
I think the upshot is that no matter what I end up doing on the actual trail, I need to have access to both pieces of equipment. I’ll probably end up taking everything twice! That’s fine, though. It’s only pixels. And the iPhone will be terrific for the day-to-day stuff that I might upload here. The camera will be for the photo album.
And, of course, I’m no photographer. I have about as much skill with both pieces of equipment as that dalmation in that one picture. (Cute doggie, by the way.)
The nerve center, new and improved!
I can’t quite see how to upload a photo with this phone. That could be a problem.
Edited to add: OK, obviously I figured out how to upload the photos! On the other hand… meh. The quality really isn’t stupendous—by which I mean the quality of the photographer, rather than the phone. Still, it’ll do for a couple of daily shots, a ‘capture the day’ sort of thing, for all the people who aren’t reading this journal, lol.
Also, how the hell do you make bad photos smaller once you’ve stuck them up there? Hrm….
I keep going back and forth on whether to take Thermasilk base layer bottoms, or whether to take my Eco-Mesh nylon pants. The nylon pants weigh 11.85 ounces, which is very heavy, but they’re comfortable. And I figure if it’s so cold that I need bottoms, I’ll be happier with actual pants. And if it’s warm, the pants are still useful.
Oh, who the hell am I kidding? The only thing I’m really trying here is using the microphone on this awesome phone.
The good news? I love this phone. It’s gonna make updating so much easier! The bad news? I still have no idea what the hell to do about the pants.
This is a test. This is only a test.
Trying a test post from the new phone. It’s certainly not easy, is it.
At least once every day or two, I have a minute of near panic—the “what the HELL am I doing” moment.
Today it was food. I went to the grocery store and had a careful look around, and did a test shopping: basically four days or so of food. I need to check the general weight of food, I need to figure out the bear bag situation… and basically, it’s all adding up to getting an actual load into the new pack to check the fit and feel. Yes, I could throw five pounds of birdseed in there and pretend it’s food, but before I do that, I’d like to get a sense of the actual weight, in the actual pack, with the actual gear.
And panic. Grocery panic! It’s overwhelming. Who knew that buying four days’ worth of food could be downright terrifying? But it was. Now the dining room is littered with starch and receipts.
Takeaway: On the Trail, don’t go into the grocery store without a list. Not necessarily a specific list, but I have to retrain myself not to overbuy. I’ll be super hungry, too, which is just a nightmare. I don’t want to drop $200 on food that my stomach is shouting for, when I can only really carry about $50 worth.
Lists. Which means general baseline. Which means I need to do what I did today.
It’s still scary, though.
Also, I’m starting to work on quads for the 640 steps of the Approach Trail. I loaded up my old Gregory pack with 30 pounds of books (or actually, the total pack weight including the books is 30 pounds). I’m going to just go up and down my single staircase with the pack on. I did it eight times today. I’ll work up to 50. I was thinking I’d go train at the local parking garage (five stories), but I think they’d look at me funny, what with the pack and all. And honestly, just using my staircase is probably fine. I’m likely to stop and take a few breaths after every flight anyway.
I’ll do this fake stairmaster on Fridays. Saturday will be my zero. Sunday, Monday, and Thursday I’ll do nine miles in the park. Wednesday, I’ll go to Valley Forge and actually do a full day of walking, six hours and gradually increasing to eight. I’m targeting the Horseshoe Trail, but we’ll see how that goes. I don’t want to have to dodge horseshit for eight hours. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.
I’m going back and forth on journaling.
Facebook doesn’t seem to be great for photos. I did set up a Facebook page, but that’s probably only for “I’m alive” type posts, and it’s going to involve some PIA switching between accounts.
This blog is great for lengthy updates, but really… if it’s just for me, should I bother? I haven’t decided. I do want to journal, but to get deep, I’m wondering if I ought to stay private. Damn this need to process! (Not really. I kind of love processing.)
On the other hand, I really really love reading other people’s trail journals, so maybe somebody would stumble on mine. Who knows?
Meh. I think it’ll have to wait until the phone gets here. Anything I do will be done via the phone anyway, so ease of use will play a big part in figuring stuff out.
I’m actually at the moment leaning toward just keeping the blog. People can subscribe or not, I can add some photos or not, and so on—a little more user friendly than FB. Oh, and I’ve been experimenting with flickr for the majority of the photos, but I’ll have to see how that goes once the phone is here.
I might also switch this blog over to a theme that’s more photo friendly.
The experimentation goes on…
Quick update: I ordered my pack.
The new stove and the tent came yesterday, too. I’m not worried about the stove, but the tent is huge—mentally, not physically. I put it in a corner. I need a couple of days to get used to the idea and to clear out a room to put it up. It’s watching me, I swear.
The pack, though? That’s terrifying. Nothing has made the trip seem quite so real as ordering the pack. ULA Circuit. It won’t be here for my next training hike (tomorrow), but I’m still focused on footwear anyway. I’m filling my old Gregory pack with shoes and socks and trotting up to my proposed training area: a steep 3-mile chunk of the Trail. Tomorrow I’ll try to do it twice. If I can manage that in the shoes (given today’s fierce storms), and if the leaves haven’t obscured the Trail in any way that makes it dangerous on the muddy slopes, I’ll plan to use that stretch once a week. Three round trips is 18 miles, all of it uphill or downhill in that section. I’d like to build up to full pack weight.
I need to do a gear post. I really do.
Look! That tent is watching me!
I’ll let you know how the shoes work out. I’m optimistic.