Monday, March 30, 2015

Gear Talk

Serenity Bug Shelter and Grace Solo Tarp from MLD

I just purchased this bad boy to be my companion for the duration of my trip!  Like I said previously, the idea of a tarp tent really makes me happy.  There are a lot of things I like about sleeping in a traditional tent, like the security and coziness, but there are a lot of things I'd like to get away from like the condensation, the stifling feeling, not seeing the stars, no breeze when the weather isn't nice, and lots of poles.  Oh and weight.  The tent I got way early on was a bit of an over excited decision and resulted in a lovely 2 person tent that weighs almost 5 lbs.  This practical little guy, made for one, weighs a total of 24oz!  1.5 lbs!  I just saved myself pounds of weight to carry around for 4-5 months.  Go me.

I also mentioned before that the idea of being a bit more exposed scares me in a good way.  I feel like it will definitely be a challenge to get used to it, but the rewards will be worth it!  Also, to work a tarp tent you have to be a lot more aware of the weather and manipulating it according to the winds, which you don't have to consider AS much in a traditional tent.  I also have a smaller pack this time around and so need to save space.  This guy gets REAL small.  No poles either, just my trekking poles.

Gregory J38
This is the pack I have right now.  I also have my old pack that I used in Yellowstone (21 days), The Bitter Roots of Idaho (30 days), and Alaska (40 days), but it's quite the monster, and rather beaten up.  Oh it did get a trip to Europe with my best friend Sarah who hiked the Camino de Santiago.  I'm not ready to let go of hip belts, though a lot of ultra light backpackers are anti hip belt.  My legs are my powerhouses.  Have you seen my hips?  Hip belt all the way.  This Gregory, I might name it Greg, is 2 lbs 12 oz, which is light weight for sure.  I've seen some nice ultra lightweight packs that weigh in under a pound.  Just can't afford one of those yet.

At 2,320 cubic inches it is on the smaller end of a thru hiking pack, and frankly I don't think it's marketed as a thru hiking pack, but at this point it's either this one or my monster pack, also a Gregory Pack.  Considering some people thru hike using old mesh laundry bags or very typical nap sacks, I'm thinking this will be great.  It's been my city biking and produce delivery pack this winter.  Always surprises me how much it fits in there.

Ahnu Sugarpine

Merrill Barefoot

Salomon X-tour
One consistent thing I read regarding thru hiking is variety in footwear as well as lighter weight footwear.  I have some Merrill Barefoot sneakers, similar to the ones above that I know my feet enjoy a whole lot.  They are very aerated, which I haven't decided is a good thing or not in the New Mexico desert.  I'm going to go with a good thing and see how I fare.  Then I've got my Ahnu boots for snowy climates, which I'll have shipped in, and my Salomon's were a gift and will replace my Merrills when they die, which may be sooner than later.  I've been told I need about 5 pairs of shoes for my trip.  I'm gonna go for these 3 and pick up more along the way if I need them.

Dirty Girl Gaiters!
When I heard of Dirty Girl Gaiters, well, I was beside myself.  Obviously I wasn't going to settle for some boring black gaiters.  These have a great reputation and are lots of fun.  The amount of designs she has is astounding, and I ordered this galaxy awesomeness!  I'm sure they lose any semblance of color or design after not too long on the trail!

The MSR Whisperlite International from MooseJaw
ANDDDDD, this lovely stove.  We've been giving each other the eye since I decided to go on trail again, especially after my last big trip in Alaska.  We ran out of our White Gas and where we thought we could refuel, we could not!  they had not received any shipments!  So, stuck with minimal wood in the tundra, in 99.99999% rainy days, we had to eat mostly cold food for 3 weeks.  This stove can use Kerosene, unleaded gas, and white gas!  Yay!  It should be in the mail soon!  The fuel canisters cannot be flown out, so I need to buy some in Lordsberg, or put a bunch of stickers on the outside and put gatorade on the inside and pretend they're my drinking bottles.....

That's enough gear talk for today!  My life on trail is getting clearer and clearer. 3 more weeks!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How I'm Prepping

These days have been busy days.  In almost exactly one month, I will be stepping onto the dry, treeless expanse of the New Mexico desert.  I am feeling the time crunch to get all my things together.  I have a big presentation at the Bloomington REI tomorrow, Thursday, to talk about what I'm doing and why.  I'm really excited and hope lots of people can come and support.  Hopefully we'll get some people to join the donation train!

SO, what exactly AM I doing to plan these days?

  • Dehydrating tons and tons of fresh veggies
    • I don't want to have that low nutrient rich diet a lot of thru hikers subsist on, and I can't help myself.  I want to make delicious foods that I can share with any hikers I meet along the way
  • Dehydrating tons of fresh fruits
    • Think pineapples, apples, bananas, pears, raspberries, lemons, limes, oranges.  Some of the citrus has gotten blended up into a powder, while others are going to be kept to soak in my water bottles to add taste and vitamin C
  • Making delicious dehydrated snacks as healthy treats
    • Coconut macaroons, when dried are super light and quite calorie dense, great nutrition profile too.  Fruit leathers from apples, bananas, and raspberry puree.
  • Making green powders from dried greens
    • So far I haven't mastered making this taste very good....I think it's going to be a chugging in the morning sort of thing.  Just get some hardcore nutrients and anti-oxidants into my body
  • Making/ putting together electrolyte drink powders
    • Taste is off.  This is the dried citrus, blended with salt and powdered honey.  The piths threw off the taste.  I'll be mixing it with a more commercial electrolyte mix to even out the taste
  • Researching last bits of equipment I will need to pick up before heading out, like an ice axe...
    • I'm actually excited about that
  • Dreaming about forgetting to bring shoes and waking up in a panic
    • Or a compass, or enough clothes, or being in the wrong state
  • Starting my route planning
    • How many miles am I going to average.....?
  • Getting addresses sorted out for the first leg of my journey
    • Mail on trail is like the holy grail!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Packing Light


As some of you know I have been reading Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking and it is pretty phenomenal.  I'm getting to the point in my planning where final decisions need to be made and my vision for my life on trail must come together.  At least in material.  So far, the most intriguing and inspiring change that I've been reading about is using a tarp instead of a tent.  I've always been a huge tent person, adamantly against the idea of being even MORE exposed in the dark of night than I already am.  BUT, suddenly this seems like a great idea.  If there is one thing Warren introduced me too from the start, in a good way, is pushing your boundaries of comfort.

I will never forget my first year at Camp as a 7/8 year old cubby, who I can openly admit was definitely spoiled and accustomed to the finer comforts of life.  The memory that sticks out to me and I think of every time I intentionally take a cold shower or have no hot water available, is on the last day when my extremely patient and amazing counselor, Charlie, insisted I shower in the Homaji basement, which were the only showers at the time for us.  I can only imagine what that meant about my hygiene levels because I definitely avoided showers.  It was right before parents were coming to pick us up, so, you know how it goes, we HAD to be clean.  The water would not warm up to a temperature I deemed hospitable and I threw a fit about it.  Also, have you seen the old Homaji basement.  Creepy place.  Not like it is now, beautiful.  Anyway, After a time Charlie's perseverance paid off and I showered.  I probably cried the whole time or something.  I think I cried a lot as a young camper.  Sorry and thank you amazing counselors of Warren!!!

So the point of that little trip down memory lane is that that was the first memory I have of a lesson that has become invaluable to me.  I took my first steps in learning that discomfort is not something to fight but something to accept.  Discomfort is part of the world, both in nature and in city life.  If you fight discomfort your entire life you'll be that crying cubby who smells bad and makes a well-intentioned counselor's day that much harder (think figuratively).  Accepting discomfort is an art and a practice in patience and perspective.  I've had SO many more lessons about accepting discomfort and learning about the happiness and peace that comes from that acceptance.  Like accepting the bugs at the Archery range allows you to rock the bow and arrow.  Or accepting the discomfort of standing on top of the Pamper Pole allows you the feeling of victory as you smack that buoy.  I can't say I ever accepted the cold of Half Moon Lake, opting out of the swim test every year or intentionally failing so I could get out more quickly, until I became a counselor.  I had to encourage those kids to accept discomfort and pass the swim test for their own future enjoyment and accomplishment.  Only then did I ever finish a swim test.


Bringing this all back:  I want to sleep under a tarp.  I want to scare myself a little bit so that I can grow a little bit more and accept that exposure in order to connect more deeply with the earth.  I want to step away from my world of constant comfort and find comfort in lack.  So, I'm going to try that out!  I think it might change my life for the better.

Anyone here have experience with tarp camping?