Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reflections of the Treks

These are a few reflections I've made on last year's backpacking trips into the Uinta Mountains of Eastern Utah. Please bear in mind it was close to 17 years prior to those trips that I was out before last summer. The last time I went for a few miles hauling all was in Yellowstone N.P. criteria 1991. The rucksack (ruck) I bought back then bugged me a little but, so what then was then. I got the ruck because I needed something to keep me mobile as I worked from park to park. Since those parkie days that ruck's been in storage. Having the ruck and being an avid hiker I decided to make use of my days off with a little more distance and hopefully a few days of story making. I learned a lot in the few miles I did. I racked up over 115 miles in 5 trips out. I talk of trouble in some of these thoughts, I want to reassure you that in no way was I ever stuck in any kind of situation. The two exceptions to that is for a having wrong fitting boots one time and a ruck that didn't fit right.

Thoughts and ideas...

On Footwear
* Dry feet in wrong size boots equate to big deep blisters.
* Wet feet in right sized boots equate to prune feet at the end of the day and that icky feeling of sticking them back on the next morning.
* Light weight camp shoes were well worth every ounce, be the hike a 5'r or 20 mile day.
* Clean dry socks at the end of a long day are heavenly.

On the Pack
* I cringe at the very thought of shouldering up my weighted ruck, 35lbs trail weight. I knew after my first trek with it in Y'stone it didn't fit right. Even in those days, I loved getting 'back in there' so I put up with the inconvenience then.
* I fancy using what I have, so I used what I got. The parkie ruck is now on permanent display hanging on the wall of memories with a few marks from last year.
* The issue encountered with multiple compartments became apparent when I could not place some items to please the balance.
* The multitude of compartments and pockets meant I could keep things sorted and ready for different purposes.
* Invariably the water bladder bottle walked it's way into the balance of imbalance.
* Even the best ruck is burden some when it doesn't rightly fit.

On Pain
* 20 years ago, pain was just an inconvenience to deal with. Today, pain management is everything.
* Preventing pain means ensuring the gear works and that it fits me just right.
* Letting pain go unchecked, equipment continue to wear into my body, isn't good.
* Letting pain become numb is dumb.
* Letting pain become numb over time or with drugs (aspirin) is not acknowledging the problem. Pain, it's the tragedy of ill preparedness or the ability to adjust the gear.

On Sleeping
* Even a hammock on a warm summer night gets chilly, breeze or not.
* The best intentions to sleep near the trees for hammock'ing can sometimes beget an area devoid of trees.
* Closed cell pads trap moisture but, are well worth the weight even in a hammock. They add a layer of insulation to the hammock. Take a moment to prep the pad with a graph paper arrangement of holes with made a pen tube in 2”x2” sections.

On Cooking
* Is a 3 minute to boil stove worth the expense of carrying the weight when a tab/alcohol fueled stove will bring water to boil in 7 minutes and far then then half the weight of the former?
* My problems with the tab fuel stove were easily over come with a little trail ingenuity.
First, in the wind it took 2 tabs to bring water from a chill to warm before I realized what was happening. To over come the wind, I took my wet boots to use as a barrier. My water came to a ready boil before the completion of the third tab. Now I carry a small sheet of foil wrapped around my water bottle to use as a wind screen.
Second, lighting the tabs wind or no wind took a few to many matches. To get the tab lit I used a shot of hand sanitizer on tush paper and one match. Now, I have a 1 oz bottle of stove alcohol, a few drops insures a quick light and a few more will add to the burn time.
* To simmer with a tab, put it in a modified mint tin so that you can slide the lid closed a bit.
* As with all stoves the small base size and high weight tends to lead to at least one mis-calculated tip. The wider the base the better. A big can lid with the 3 sides folded down can serve as a base or as a small stick fire fire pan. Be sure to file any sharp edges off the lid before packing it.

On Skills
* Having the right map and knowing where you are at, going, and have been is worth more then all the dead GPS batteries carried.
* Reading the weather is like reading a map, you have to know what the signs are before you get into trouble.
* Knowing how to rig a tarp in the rain will keep your feet dry at night and the soup from getting prematurely cold.
* The two greatest skills to master;
First, knowing when and where your limit will run out.
Second, the skill to know where you are at before you get lost.
Mastering these will keep your plans simple, your goals in check, and you out of the news.
* Have a plan. Plan out the trek with contingencies in place just in case. Let someone know where you're going and what the possible contingencies are. Stick yourself to it.
* Plan aggressive, hike conservatively, be willing to bow out should the need a rise. Their's no harm in turning around. There's no shame in not achieving the goal if it means staying safe. Stories are best told not discovered.
* Don't plan back to back treks, your city slick friends can only handle a weekend's worth of story a month.

On Photography
* A cheap point and shoot is more valuable then a dSLR left in the car.
* Packing right also means keeping the camera within usable reach without taking the ruck off.
* Pictures equal value added stories.
* The right picture can draw even city slickers into wanting to give camping a try.
* Add quality, value, intrigue, and mystery to the stories with unique and awe inspiring images.
* Keep your batteries warm, sleep with them.
* On every flash card before the trip,
Take a general map image.
Take a picture of the specific region.
If the trip is longer then take several detailed pictures in sequence.
Take a picture of your ICE card.
Doing so will give you a map at the push of a button and always one image advanced then the last picture taken.
It will also help you remember which trip was which when the trails begin to blend one into another.

On Boy Scouts
* Think like a Boy Scout, be prepared and have fun but, don't get lost like one. A sad side note, there is hardly a season in the Uinta's when a Boy Scout does not get lost.
* I ponder how many men have nightmares about backpacking because of their Scouting days?
* Many a Tenderfoot I passed that were over loaded with older Scout's gear. This is a right of passage, right?
* Many a troop I passed that were jingling and jangling with camp comfort stuffs.
* I passed many a Scout with the added burden of exhaustion. Ironic, they hadn't even cleared the half way to camp point.

On Music Devices
* The rhythmic thump of a steady stride is sweeter then anything I could can into my ears.
* The sweet song of a babbling brook near by is sweeter then Jewel's. IMO Jewel's voice is the best of my era.
* If you can't hear my greeting before you plow me over stay in the gym.

On Packing
* Laying out gear is a great way to see what's lost on the trail.
* One must be careful not to shave an ounce only to add pounds.
* A great debate always comes up, comfort on the trail verses comfort in camp. The balance is always the looser.

On Food
* Even Diddy More Stew [Dinty Moore/Hormel Foods] tastes good while camping. So I can't figure out why freeze dried meals can't taste half way decent at home.
* I prepped my typical back country meal at home recently. I took three bites and pitched the pot and all. I later fetched the pot.
* The search is on to find reasonable flavored low weight trail meals without spending a fortune or over loading my sodium intake.
* Granola is grandeur with a hand full of no melt chocolate.
* PB&J wraps last and satisfy my hunger while sauntering down the trail. Pre-made before leaving they are the no mess lunch, breakfast, and any time snack.
* Instant coffee, however foul, is still coffee in the morning. When will Starbucks make dunk it bags for the back country?
* Thanks to Into Thin Air I became a tea drinker, at least for my evening drink.
* Leaving a jug of water and a road snack in the car reduced the stress of one last trail meal.

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