From www.bigagnes.com

Gear Updates

I realized it has been a while since I discussed my gear purchases, and since I know how much everyone likes to talk about gear, I figured I would fuel the conversation some.  Here are a few of the decisions I have made so far.

Water Filter

After a long day hike where I had need to pump two bottles of water, I decided to replace my existing PUR Hiker water filter with a lighter (and slightly faster) Sawyer Squeeze.  I debated between the two Sawyer products – Squeeze vs Mini – and made my decision based on numerous online and in person reviews.  While the Mini works just fine, I was told it has a slightly slower filter rate.  Quite a few people also told me that the Mini clogs up a lot more than the Squeeze, due to its slimmer design.  For less than an ounce of weight, I decided to go with the larger of the two.

From www.sawyer.com

From www.sawyer.com

Those same reviews also told me to find a replacement for the Sawyer water bags that comes with the Squeeze, saying that they do not hold up to the rigors of the trail.  I have heard mixed results about the Platypus bags, some saying that the threads are different than those on the Sawyer.  However, I did find a YouTube video exclaiming high praises for the Evernew Water Carry bags, so I purchased a 2-liter bag from Amazon to use as my dirty-water collection bag.

Let me tell you this – these Sawyer filters are GREAT!  So much easier to fill a bottle than the old fashioned pump filters.  Think of it as going to the garden hose vs having to use an old cast iron well pump to get a bucket of water.  No real comparison.

Tent

There really was not a decision to be made when considering whether to buy a new tent or not – the two tents I had were either very confining inside, or extremely heavy.  After a lot of review reading and visiting a few different stores to actually see specific tents, I decided on the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2.  I considered the UL1, but the weight penalty for the two-person version was negligible to me, and was outweighed by the comfort given with some extra space.  Besides, if someone I am hiking with needs a dry place to sleep (or needs to escape the bugs for a while), I will have space for them.  Regardless, compared to my existing tent, this one saves me over 5 pounds!  Yeah, that old tent is heavy…

From www.bigagnes.com

From www.bigagnes.com

From www.bigagnes.com

From www.bigagnes.com

I have set it up a couple of times, to familiarize myself with it, but have yet to spend a night in it.  Soon, though.  One noticeable difference between old and new was the material used.  This new tent uses an extremely thin fabric, and I would be lying if I said I had no hesitations about it.  But numerous people have told me that it is far stronger than it seems it could be, and the sales figures show that it is a popular model.  Nothing stays popular without a good track record for quality.  So we shall see.

I SPOT You

Thanks to an early birthday gift from my mom, I have purchased a SPOT device.  There really was not a debate with this, either, as I know it will help calm her down while I am out in the woods.

From www.findmespot.com

From www.findmespot.com

For those that are unaware, the SPOT device is a GPS enabled device that sends a predefined message to your personal network page, a private website on the SPOT site, dedicated to you.  This message includes your GPS coordinates and a web link to view your location on Google Maps.  It can also send a text message with this information to those whom you deem worthy of tracking your progress.  Where this device shines, though, is when you have an emergency.  When you activate the distress signal, your GPS coordinates are sent directly to the GEOS Rescue Coordination Center, who then arranges to get help to you as quickly as possible.  As is typical of modern technology, though, the service contract actually costs more than the device.  But if it makes mom feel better, it is worth the money and the 6 ounces added to my pack.

Clothing

Anyone who knows me knows I despise clothes shopping.  Even for my hobbies.  I hate trying things on and due to my height vs weight, I inevitably either end up with something made for floods (pants too short but fit in the waist) or for someone twice my weight (decent length, but enough space in the waist to put two of me).  But it is a necessary evil, I suppose, so I sucked it up and tried on a few things.

For pants, I have purchased and tried out a pair of The North Face Silver Ridge convertible cargo pants.  While I will probably not use them as shorts much, the pants are made of a thin material that breathes nicely, moves easily and feels cool and comfortable.

I found a nice Patagonia Down Sweater (aka my puffy jacket) on the clearance rack, so I grabbed it.  Just wearing it around the store, I am guessing this jacket will become my winter jacket this year.  I just hope I do not wear it out before I even get on the trail!

During the same clearance sale, I was able to pick up some Patagonia Capilene 3 mid-weight long-sleeve and long-pant base layers.  I have not used them personally, but have a friend who swears by them, and since they were on clearance, they were no more expensive than the store brand I was planning to buy.

As I wrote about in a previous post, I am nearly committed to the ExOfficio boxers for my underwear.  I will most likely throw a loose pair of boxers in, for in camp, too.  I am still trying out all the different socks I have out there but I will most likely not be buying anymore.  I have two pairs of Point6 socks, three pairs of Darn Tough socks, and a pair of REI hiking socks.  I think I am set.

Still in the Works

Obviously, there are still a lot of things I am not decided upon.  Or just have not purchased yet.  While at REI, the salesman showed me a nice summer sleeping bag that was real inexpensive, which may be my solution for the middle of the hike, but I am still contemplating what to do about a winter bag.  I own a 35-degree bag, but it is older and heavier than what is out on the market now.  While I hesitate to spend the money for something new, I like the thought of shaving of nearly two pounds with just one purchase!  (Update:  Since originally writing this, I have gone on a quick overnight trip… and my current sleeping bag does not even fit in the sleeping bag compartment of my backpack.  Fail #1.  So it MUST be replaced…)

Similarly, I am still looking at all the different sleeping pads out there.  Mine still works, but I am trying to not have anything strapped to the outside of my pack, and my current pad will not fit inside, even with summer gear packed.  Maybe Santa will be kind to me this year.

My last big purchase item under review is a camera.  I am still contemplating what system I want to bring, and whether I need to upgrade before my trip.  I have an old digital SLR camera, but it is heavy and not always the most reliable camera I own.  If I decide I want a dSLR with me, I will most likely need to upgrade before I leave.  But if I am content with a point-and-shoot camera, I already have a decent one, and would only need to buy some more memory cards.  Decisions, decisions.  I am trying to get a sponsorship with a local camera shop, and that deal may make or break my decision of camera.

If you have any comments, advice, or suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.  I would welcome anything you can offer!

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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Love this tree I found on the trail!

Sugarloaf Mountain

With a three-day weekend for Labor Day, I decided to spend a full day focused nearly entirely on preparing for my thru hike.  This included some extended trail time, a little gear testing, and shopping spree at my local REI.  I will cover the trail here, as I am still sorting through the shopping bags.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf_140830_02

Sugarloaf Mountain is an impressive hill, at least for this area of the country.  It is a privately owned park and is open to the public for much of the year, at no cost.  There are four trails, designated by colored markers, which circle and climb the mountain at different points around it.  While each of the trails is a loop trail, they cross each other at many locations, letting you jump from trail to trail at will.  Each trail is marked frequently with painted blazes on trees, and a numbered post marker every half mile, making it near-impossible to get lost as long as you stay on a trail.

Sugarloaf_140830_01

The day was predicted to be about 80-degrees, and mostly sunny, so I filled my hydration bladder, packed up my daypack and headed out the door.  For this hike, I decided to do the Yellow Trail, a 7-mile loop that circles the base of the mountain and has only moderate elevation gain.  I figured this would be a good trail for the day, letting me cover some new ground and trying a trail I had never been on before.

Hiking solo is a great time to get lost in thought.  Here are some of the random thoughts that passed through my head that day:

  • I need to check the humidity, not just the temperature forecast.  80 degrees is fine, unless there is 95% humidity.  Wow.
  • I remember the woods having more song birds.  The constant drone of insects is deafening without the birds to break the noise.
  • Squirrels are sneaky bastards.  I was hit in the head by 3 acorns on this hike – and after each one, a squirrel started chuckling.
  • I hate being tall on a trail with lots of spider webs.
  • Sweat in your eyes hurts.  Sweat with bug spray hurts more.
  • I am pretty sure my trekking poles are trying to kill me.  They help me when I truly need the help, but when the terrain levels out and they are not as critical, they always seem to find a way of tripping me up.  Probably invented by a squirrel.
  • I need to find a strap to keep my sunglasses on my head.  It is hard to pick them up while carrying a small daypack, and I imagine it will be impossible with a full pack.
  • When a trail map says “minimal elevation gain”, the person who wrote it is likely lying.  Sure, there was lots of flat ground, but the “minimal elevation gain” was all found in a one-mile section.  Killer.
Love this tree I found on the trail!

Love this tree I found on the trail!

Gear Testing

This hike also gave me a chance to really try out some new gear, namely a pair of ExOfficio boxers I picked up from REI and my relatively new Oboz boots.  I had used both on my evening hikes around town, but this was the first I was able to put serious miles into a trail hike.  And both passed with flying colors!

I have had a difficult time finding a pair of boxers that kept things where they need to be but at the same time let things air out.  Guys understand the need to avoid swamp ass.  ExOfficio may very well be my answer.  These boxers were comfortable, protected my delicate parts, kept me cool and dry, and did not allow any chaffing at all.  In fact, had I not thought about this post while hiking, I probably would not have thought about them at all.

Same with the boots – at one point, I had to look down to make sure I actually put them on!  These Oboz boots are as comfortable as my daily athletic shoes, and just as lightweight.  The traction they offer is amazing, too, letting me hop from rock to rock without any fear of slipping.  I did have to stop twice to tighten my laces, but I mark this up as breaking them in and expected a little stretching.  These boots might be the only reason I actually get out and hike on days I am not feeling up to it, they are that comfortable.

These boots rock!

These boots rock!

I was feeling so good when I finished the loop that I decided to turn around and do the same loop backwards.  As you can imagine, it was quite a different hike!  First, the quick uphill was now a quick downhill, and the gradual downhill that I did not really notice on the first loop was a never-ending torture hike uphill on the second.  Ok, so it probably was not that bad, but it felt it.

I am glad I did the second loop though, as I learned a few things I would not have learned if I had stopped after one loop.  My first learning lesson was that while bug spray may say it works for 4-6 hours, sweating negates that.  Reapply often.  Secondly, I learned to stop for lunch.  While I ate a Clif Bar while hiking, it was not enough and I was feeling out of energy by the end of the second loop.  I should have stopped to eat a decent lunch like I had planned to, whether or not I felt I needed it at the moment.

One thing the extra distance allowed me to identify is that I still have some residual foot problems from my surgery I need to work out.  While my injury was strictly knee-related, I have had some issues with my left foot after being non-weight bearing for so long.  My doctor said it would work itself out, but I noticed a slight discomfort behind the ball of my foot that extended into the arch of my foot a little.  It was not enough to make me stop hiking, but if it is a concern at 15 miles, it will certainly be an issue with 2,200 miles.  Another thing I need to look into was that after I was done hiking, and had sat down, I developed an ache at the top of my foot across the top of where the foot arch is.  I have felt this before, so it was not new, but it got my mind thinking.  Perhaps a checkup with a podiatrist is in my future, just to ensure there is nothing larger looming there.  To be honest, I never really had my foot checked after the accident, as it was my knee and wrist that hurt, but maybe there was some small injury to my foot, as well.  Something to look into…

Sugarloaf_140830_05_small

Relaxing and cooling off in my ENO hammock after nearly 15 miles!

I will not be getting a chance to hike this coming weekend, as I have a motorcycle club fundraiser event and then need to spend some serious time on homework for a fire/rescue class I am taking, but after this hike and my gear preparations, I am feeling a bit more relaxed about where I stand.  Still more work to do, for sure, but not as far off as I had thought.  For anyone in the Frederick area of Maryland, I highly suggest checking out Sugarloaf Mountain, but be warned, the weekends can be crowded and parking is limited.  If you have any suggestions about my foot issues, feel free to use the comment box below, or the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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One Year Later

While this will not post for a few days, I am writing this on the first anniversary of my motorcycle accident.

My return to the beach...

My return to the beach…

This weekend, I returned to the scene of the accident, and while my gut did its own little twist and roll dance as I drove past, I was able to finally put this chapter of the accident behind me.  I had a great weekend with a few of the club members, and left feeling much better about where I am.

I have spent the majority of today reflecting on the past year, and all that has changed in my life.  I have gone from a healthy, strong young man, to a cranky old man with all the creaks and groans that come with the title.  I have found and lost love.  I have discovered who my real friends are and who just pretends to care.  And I have redefined my goals in life and am undergoing some extreme changes to my lifestyle, such as this thru hike.  And through it all, I am constantly reminded how lucky I am and how far I have come.  I know I have a lot more work ahead of me, and a lot more changes to go through, but I am renewed with confidence in myself and am ready to take those challenges on.  Thank you to all who have supported me during this process, and who will continue to support me through my expedition.  I will always be thankful for you, your kindness, and your efforts.

Special thanks to my family for putting up with me; to Nancy and Jenn for helping me with rehabbing my knee so quickly; to Helene for being true to herself, even if it means saying goodbye to me; to Val and Angela and Emily for each of your individual support systems; to Ron and the rest of the motorcycle club for not letting me park the bike permanently; to Rose for getting me off the couch all summer and making me be more active; to Becki for your unending knowledge and support.  You have all made a huge impact.  Thank you.

Here’s to a lot more adventures and fun.  Thank you for following along.  Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass”.

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Coyote

Questions

Coyote

This post may be a long shot.  I am not sure how many, if any, seasoned hikers actually read this little blog.  But I have questions.  Lots of them.  And while I am planning to reach out directly to other thru-hikers, I figured I would put them up here, too, to hopefully generate more than a single point of view answer.

Maps and Compass vs Guidebook

While I plan to take the AWOL guide with me, for the overall knowledge it has in its tomes, I am hesitant to walk into the woods without a map and compass.  Guess it is the Eagle Scout in me.  Then again, I have never hiked the AT, and I have read a lot of people say maps are just extra weight and not necessary.  I am torn on this.  Part of me thinks that they could come in handy if I ever needed to get off the trail in between road crossings or something, especially in an emergency.  And being a visual person, sometimes it is nice actually see how far a town is from the trail instead of just reading about it.  Your thoughts?

Gear

Gear has become my nemesis.  I love to research and buy gear.  I hate the bill at the end of the month.  Actually, researching gear is becoming a negative, too – there is just SO much gear out there!  And for the most part, it looks like most of it is of similar quality and price.  So how do you decide?

Source: http://mdtrailrunner.blogspot.com/2013/05/ragnar-trail-zion-race-report-prologue.html

Source: http://mdtrailrunner.blogspot.com/2013/05/ragnar-trail-zion-race-report-prologue.html

One item I am unsure of is gaiters.  I see pictures with people wearing them, but a lot of the online forums say they are not useful.  I have never used them before, but I have never hiked 2,200 miles, either.  I am not sure if they would be useful or not.

I have always been a liner sock user.  Then again, I have always been a big heavy boot wearer, too.  When I went to put them on while trying on boots, there was a chuckle from the store worker, indicating I had broken some taboo about wearing liner socks.  But they weigh next to nothing, and do not take up much space, so I am thinking I will throw them in and if I do not use them, it is not too much of a penalty.  Bad idea?

While on the subject of footwear, I wonder if I should buy extra boots now, or wait until I need them?  I know the pair of shoes I found are not easily found – Oboz is still a fairly new brand and I have only seen them in one or two outfitters.  But I also understand that my feet will change size as I accrue the large miles of the AT.  So I am unsure of what to do here.

The Appalachian Trail is wet.  There is no denying that.  So obviously, dry bags (aka stuff sacks) are an important piece of equipment unless you plan to just throw everything in a large trash bag in your pack.  But I am unsure of how many and what size dry bags I need.  One big one for food, probably around a 13-liter bag or so, right?  One medium sized one for clothing.  Possibly one for my sleeping bag, if the one it comes with is not able to be waterproofed.  Maybe a smaller one for essentials like toilet paper (do not even want to think about trying to use wet paper!).  But do I need more than that?  Are these sizes good?

Source:  http://quietmike.org/tag/environment/

Source: http://quietmike.org/tag/environment/

How much water should I be able to carry?  I know I will have one or two water bottles for the everyday, and my filter system will have a “dirty water” bag that I suppose I could use to shuttle water to a dry campsite, but are there times when I will need more than that?  I remember using big 2 gallon collapsible containers when we hiked through New Mexico, but the East Coast is a bit more adequately hydrated, I would think.  Thoughts?

Here is a very serious and important question.  I am tentatively planning to bring my Kindle with me, for evening entertainment.  So what books do you recommend I load onto it before leaving?  Or even what genres?  I already have a few books lined up, but I am not sure how I will feel about reading about the AT while I am hiking the AT, if that makes sense.

This is my library… not really, but I wish!  (Source:  http://www.architectureartdesigns.com/50-super-ideas-for-your-home-library/)

This is my library… not really, but I wish! (Source: http://www.architectureartdesigns.com/50-super-ideas-for-your-home-library/)

Tactics

I am fairly comfortable in the woods.  At one point in my life, my dad and I figured that I had spent something like half of my life under canvas.  But I have never attempted to hike this far before, either.  My longest hike to date was the ten days in New Mexico, at Philmont, and a lot of those logistics are different because you hike with eight to twelve other people who all share some of the common items – stove, food, bear bag, cook pot, etcetera.  So learning to carry a small stove, a single-portion pot, and pack my own bear bag is new to me.  Here are a couple other skills I want to have an understanding of before I get out there.

Water crossings are assumedly plentiful.  For the smaller crossings, I am sure it is fairly straight forward, but what about the bigger crossings you need to do?  Do you just charge across?  Do you take your boots (and anything else…) off and go au natural?  Wear your crocks, which are loose and rather smooth-soled?  I know my boots will be wet a lot of the time, so guessing I should just take my socks off (unless they are already wet anyways) and put the boots back on to cross the stream, then dry off and lace back up for the rest of the hike.  But I never claimed to be an expert, so you tell me.

Source:  http://nols.blogs.com/nols_news/yukon/

Source: http://nols.blogs.com/nols_news/yukon/

Does anyone do anything special to avoid thigh friction?  I will have spandex-type undershorts on, I am sure – probably something from ExOfficio.  Is that enough?  When I used to run, I used body glide – would that be useful in this condition, or not so much?  Or am I overthinking this?  Perhaps it is even unavoidable, I do not know.

All of the backpacking I did as a youth was done at parks that had established campsites, with staff-maintained privies… meaning, I only carried emergency rations of TP, and never had to “deal” with the used products in the woods.  So how much TP does one carry while hiking the AT?  And when it is time to resupply, do you buy a 4-pack and toss 2 or 3 rolls, carry all 4, try to get someone to buy half of them?  Lastly, as much as I HATE to ask, what exactly am I supposed to do with the dirty paper?  Leave No Trace says to pack it out, but I do not plan to carry a biohazard suit with me, so how is anyone else carrying out this crappy paper?

Well, those are the questions I have so far.  I really hope this drives some conversations.  I would welcome any and all feedback, answers, advice, and whatnot.  Feel free to use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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Damascus

Damascus 02_small

I was finally able to find an empty day in my schedule where I could make the nearly six hour drive down to Damascus, Virginia, to visit with the two outfitters down there.  I had been to Mt Rogers Outfitters during Trail Days but the building was bulging at the seams with hikers – people who actually needed something RIGHT THEN – so I did not stay real long or take up too much of the staff’s time.  This time was much different…

I love the scenery in the area!

I love the scenery in the area!

Oh, for anyone who has only ever been to Damascus during Trail Days, I implore you to visit during a non-T.D. weekend.  It is a MUCH different experience!  During Trail Days, the whole town seemed like a giant carnival, with wildly dressed (or undressed) people around every corner.  Driving into town now showed a nice and quiet mountain community, with lots of bicyclists and people just strolling through town.  There was a beautiful house for sale just down the street from one of the outfitters, and if I had the $500k for it, I would have considered moving there!

Sundog Outfitters

When I got into town, I stopped first at Sundog Outfitters, mostly because I had not been there before.  Inside, it became clear that bikers and tourists were more of their target client, with a minimal backpacking stock.  Lots of beautiful new and rental bikes lined the floor.  And truly, that is not being fair – there was a nice side room full of tents, sleeping bags and backpacks, with a decent selection and variety.  But upon waking in, it was obvious bikes were the priority – probably because most of the northbound hikers have been through and the bike tourism sector seemed to be blooming.

I cannot say the trip was worthless, though.  While walking around, I found a shelf of Black Diamond Spot headlamps on sale for $20.  It is not the headlamp I had been looking for, but at half price, I could not pass it up.  I may or may not use it on my hike, but for now, that is one less thing I need to worry about.

M.R.O.

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After Sundog, I headed over to the ever popular Mt Rogers Outfitters.  I browsed the shelves for a while, making mental wish lists and reminding myself I am on a budget, and headed to the backpack section to check them out.  One of their employees – “Bill…Just Bill” – came to help me out.  This man was AH-MAZE-ING.  He was a walking breathing backpacker gear guide!  We started by looking at the pack my dad loaned me.  He loaded it up with sandbags until it totaled 35 pounds, and showed me a few ways to adjust it.  His advice was simple – the pack could be made to work, but ultimately, it did not truly fit my back, I could feel a few pressure points, and it was on the higher weight side of the lot.  Ironically, it was almost too large, even though when sized, I am a large for most manufacturers.

Then Just Bill loaded up the same sandbags into five other packs (and two of them, twice…) to show me some options.  The first pack was the Osprey Aether 70.  I have tried this on before, and I know it fits comfortably, but I am also afraid of the over-five pound weight.

Then I tried the Osprey Atmos 65.  Immediately, I liked this pack.  I had tried it before and now wonder if I had tried a different size, because this pack felt like a different pack altogether.  When cinched down, it felt like the back was hugging my body, making it extremely comfortable.

Next up was the ULA Catalyst.  Again, this pack was comfortable, but in a different way than the Atmos.  While the Atmos hugged me, this pack felt as if a round duffle bag was strapped to my back.  It felt different, but it was a comfortable pack.  The padding and straps were minimal, but were more than adequate.  I liked the simplistic nature of the design, and the material seemed a bit better than the Osprey.  Strong contender.

For comparison, Just Bill weighted up a Deuter Act Zero 45+15 SL.  Immediately, I did not like this pack.  While the construction was top-notch, and some of the little features were better than the others, the pack made me feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame more than my old external frame pack ever did.  And while I was intrigued by the concept of the padding, which allows a space, and therefore airflow, along your spine, it just did not feel comfortable on my back.  If it was uncomfortable in ten minutes in the shop, I cannot imagine wearing it for six months.

Ultimately, I asked Bill to reload the Atmos and the ULA again, for a better comparison, and after that, decided the Osprey was for me.  I liked the back-hugging feel of it, and just felt more at ease with it than the ULA.  Bonus – it was on sale!  That said, if the Osprey does not hold up, the ULA will be my next pack!

After that, Just Bill discussed a lot of other things with me.  We talked about winter weight vs summer weight, and he showed me one of last year’s packs, the smaller Osprey Exos 46, which he said a lot of hikers “downsize” to when they drop their winter gear.  I tried it on, and know what size I need if I decide to go this route mid-hike.

Explaining my footwear issue, Bill took me over to the wall-o-shoes.  He explained that they only carry a select few brands but have had no complaints.  He pulled one low-rise boot (shoe?) down for me, the Oboz Sawtooth, and had me try it on.  Wow, I know why nobody complains.  I barely noticed it was on my foot, and walking up and down the mini-hill in the shop proved that the shoe had griping power!  These were hands-down the most comfortable hiking boots I have ever tried.  One of Bill’s coworkers walked by and mentioned he had three pairs, one of which has over 1,500 miles on it, and is still going strong.  I brought up my fear over not having ankle support, and Bill confirmed what I have read elsewhere – your ankles will strengthen on the train and it will not be an issue.  Just take it easy at first and you will love the low rise shoes.  Sold.

Bill then led me around the shop, showing me some rain coats, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and other items.  I was up front with him about my budget for this trip, and he informed me it was not about the sale, but about the information.  He has my complete respect.  He showed me a few sleeping bags, gave me his recommendation for pads and rain coats, but never once pushed me to buy anything.  Bill, I will be back.

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After a quick lunch at the Blue Blaze Café, I stopped by the town park to snap a few pics, and then headed home.  The trip was definitely a productive and worthwhile trip, but it sure made for a long day of driving!  I want to thank Just Bill for all his time and patience, and the overall knowledge he shared with me.  He even asked his boss if he could have the afternoon off to do some day hiking with me – unfortunately, he was denied.  Next time, Bill.

Damascus Caboose_small

Next up for the gear research is sleeping bags and sleeping pads, I think.  There is SOOO much out there to look at, I am a little overwhelmed.  While I technically have both of these, my thoughts on weight were confirmed – I can cut over a full pound of weight if I buy newer, lighter gear.  Things to ponder.  If you have any advice on bags and pads, or have any general comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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