Archive for the ‘Backpacking’ Category

Backpacking on the PCT Day Three

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

We woke up at 6am and were immediately set upon by swarms of mosquitos. Packed up and were almost running out of Salvation Spring camp site. The mosquitos didn’t clear out for another couple miles. Looking at the map, that stretch of trail was at slightly lower elevation between Lost Lake and Bull Run Lake, which was clearly a mosquito breeding ground like no other. Funny thing was, despite the sheer numbers, I received very few bites; only a couple around my face and ankles. Apparently, they were very picky.

After four miles or so, we reached a side trail to Buck’s peak. The PCT skirts the peak, but it marked the start of the Waucoma ridge, a long, very dusty and sun exposed stretch of a couple miles.

Buck Peak

The Waucoma ridge also quickly earned the nickname “The Star Trek V” ridge, because at this point we entered into a long discussion of the relative merits of Star Trek V (almost none) and also had to review the plot for Dan, who apparently only remembers the camping portion at the beginning, Kirk and Spock locked in the brig, and the camping trip at the end. While that would have been a much better movie, I felt compelled to fill in the detail. I also had to explain that Kirk did not tell anyone Spock’s ears got caught in a mechanical rice picker in Star Trek IV (that happened in “The City on the Edge of Forever”, great episode).

And yes, I am clearly a massive nerd.

All too soon, we began descending off the ridge and arrived at Indian Springs camp site. Initial impression wasn’t good — large sunny field with a lot of trash, but it turned out there were several smaller, much nicer campsites. Sites even had a picnic table. We had done ten miles by Indian Springs and it was only lunch time. Jeff and I still had some miles in the tank, but Dan’s knee and feet were causing him a lot of pain, so we decided to stop for the day.

It can be surprising hard to fill hours in a camp site. Took a nap, then spent some time looking at the maps to determine the best route for tomorrow. Jeff’s original plan had been to follow the Indian Springs trail down into Eagle Creek, mine had been to follow the PCT around Wautum Lake. My route was longer, but was a gentler descent while Jeff’s was looked pretty steep. After some discussion, mostly around the relative states of our knees and what a steep descent would do, we chose the easier, Wahtum Lake, route.

Then it was dinner time! Jeff and I cooked up some Chicken Italian while Dan had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Dan also recorded some video for our new show, “Trail Chefs” or “Trail Cooks” or something like that. After, Dan built a fire for his new show, “SurvivorDan”. Not yet on youtube, but I’ll add the clips once I’ve uploaded them.

At the time, that all seemed really cool…oh well.

Jeff and Dan hung the food bags while I gathered more water for the next day. We decided to forgo the tarp again and sacked out cowboy style around the fire. Far better when there aren’t swarms of mosquitos trying to suck your blood…

Backpacking on the PCT Day 2

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Day Two of our PCT Trek started at 9am. I had slept reasonably well, which isn’t always a guarantee for me. Had a gourmet breakfast of granola, dried fruit, and powdered milk. Got packed up and were on the trail by 10am. First challenge, crossing the mighty Sandy River, which we accomplished with our normal aplomb.

After that, we had a long stretch of “AT” style hiking; lots of uphill with no switchbacks. The overall elevation gain wasn’t that bad, but it was tougher than the day before. Only other issue was with the water filter. For this trip, I was using a 4 liter platy bag with Aqua Mira purification tablets in combination with the Aqua Mira Frontier Pro water filter. I’ve used this set up before and it had worked well in the past. Basically, I just fill the water bag, drop in tablets, wait thirty minutes, and then use the water filter in gravity mode to fill the water bottles. Simple, no pumping, and the combination of purification tablets and a 3 micron filter work well for catching small and big bugs. At lunch, I tried filtering some very silty water that wrecked havoc with the filter. Water throughput dropped drastically and had to spend lots of time trying to get the water through it. Managed to get the four liters filtered and kept moving. Important to note that the filter isn’t necessary; I could have just let the water sit after putting in the tablets for the full four hours, but using the filter lets me speed up the process slightly (30 minutes is long enough to kill the little stuff and the filter gets the big stuff).

After we got back up on the ridge after crossing the Sandy, we came to a fork in the trail where the official PCT and the Ramona Falls trail split. We took the Ramona Falls trail (listed in the guidebook as more scenic) and weren’t disappointed.

Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls was pretty impressive. After ten minutes admiring the view, we continued on, climbing another thousand feet or so, up and onto Yocum Ridge. Next cool sight? Crossing a bridge high above the Muddy River.

Then it was more “AT” style hiking up to and around the summit of Bald Mountain. Dan and I argued about his “seeing blue through trees means we’re close to the summit” theory; in my opinion, all that could possibly tell you is where a local maximum is, but he’s convinced. The fact that he’s said that on many trips without us being close to any summits hasn’t made any difference…

We reached Lolo Pass, around 4:30 pm. We were looking for a camp site, but the “site” at Lolo pass (right off a dirt service road) was pretty trashed. Plus, not a fan of camping near roads. We continued through the pass, which was basically a stretch of tall grass between two ridges, when Dan pointed and said, “Look, a deer!”. A second later, about thirty yards away, leaped something definitely not a deer; a couger took off out of the long grass and ran up the hill into the woods. The whole encounter was over in seconds. This was also the largest animal I’d seen on any of our backpacking trips and easily the most dangerous (although, the rattlesnakes are right up there).

We took a few minutes to reflect on the beauty of nature and to review both how cool and how frightening it was that we were about to go into the same woods into which the cougar had vanished. We then continued into the woods and after a few minutes came to our next water source. As we were eating and filling up the water bag, I mentioned that I bet we’d find cougar tracks in the mud around the stream; there were vague tracks that could have been cougar, but they were indistinct. There was a small spot down hill from the stream where we could have camped, but the area was very buggy (black flies) and the site itself was slanted and small. Also, a cougar had just come through…

At this point, the water filter had pretty much given up. We hiked another mile (to get away from the flies) and sat down to try to get water through the filter. Around this time, a trail runner came up from the South (where we’d been) heading North (where we were going). After calling it quits with the filter, we managed to get another three liters through it, but that was it. We started moving again and after thirty minutes ran into the same trail runner heading back South. He warned us that in another mile, the terrain changed and the mosquitos were insane — told us to break out our sleeves if we had them. We thanked him for the info, but didn’t pay too much attention; we hadn’t seen more than one mosquito the entire trip so far and we were well supplied with bug spray (especially Jeff). We were singing a different song when we hiked another mile, though.

I’ve never seen mosquito swarms like I saw on that stretch of trail. It was like a switch was flipped. We were literally wiping mosquitos off our arms and legs; dozens, if not hundreds, were landing on every part of exposed skin. I put on my wind jacket and pulled up the hood to protect myself. Jeff and Dan covered themselves with bug spray, to no effect. By that point, we’d already done about 13 or 14 miles and were hiking as fast as we could, trying to get out of the mosquito zone. After another mile or so, we were still being attacked and we were running out of steam. About the same time, we reached “Salvation Spring” camp site. I went down to check it out and it looked pretty good, although lacking on the “Spring” part; the water source was just a trickle. We got down there and lit up a big smokey fire, which still didn’t keep the mosquitos away. We were all so beat we didn’t bother with the tarp or a hot dinner, or even hanging the food bags; we just spread our sleeping pads around the fire and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The mosquitos finally “died” down around 9pm — as Jeff put it, that meant they dropped from one hundred mosquitos to about eighteen mosquitos for each of us to deal with. It took me a while to get to sleep, since there was one mosquito who just loved to fly around my ear.

Some lessons from this day’s hiking:

1) Mosquito head nets are a good idea
2) Prefilter silty water (stupid me, I knew this and didn’t do it, but did for the rest of the trip)
3) Probably should have brought either a second water filter or bought a fresh one for this trip anyway.

Backpacking on the PCT Day Zero and One

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Several months ago, I started planning a trip to Oregon with Jeff and Dan. Jeff had moved out there several years ago and neither Dan nor myself had been out to visit. Also, since Jeff has missed all the backpacking adventures Dan and I have gone on, it made sense to also make it a Backpacking Adventure — a trip for Guys, with Guys.

And so, the Great PCT Adventure was hatched. I mapped out Section 11 of the Oregon portion of the PCT — Mt Hood to the Eagle Creek trail head at the Oregon/Washington border. Not entirely PCT, Eagle Creek was supposed to be more scenic than the PCT. I made food, Jeff bought his first set of backpacking gear, flight reservations were made, and life was good.

Life continued to be good the day Dan and I went to the airport. We got a nice, early start and took public transportation the entire way (Metronorth to Grand Central, walk to Penn, LIRR to Jamaica station, Air Train to JFK). We got to JFK and a nice Delta employee helped check us in. That same Delta employee then informed us that even though our seats had been “confirmed”, we would actually be sitting in totally different seats, each at one end of the plane. Apparently, in the year 2010, Orbitz and Delta can’t figure out how to make sure confirmed seats are actually confirmed. Pretty amazing.

Anyway, I considered it a minor annoyance. We get through security without too much trouble (despite Dan’s best efforts) and find ourselves with hours to spare. Maybe our start was a little too early. Dan and I retreat to a bar and spend an hour or so talking to various passengers and a pilot. That hour was probably the most enjoyable one we would have for the next 20 hours or so. After we’ve quenched our thirst, we head towards our gate only to discover our flight has been delayed an hour. Since we only had an hour to catch our connection in Seattle, that’s a problem.

After a six hour flight that felt far longer, we finally get to Seattle. Of course, we got there far too late to actually make our connection. We get on standby for the next flight to Portland and don’t make the cut. Next flight — 6:30 am the following morning. We call Jeff to fill him in and go off in search of food and shelter for the night.

Turns out, sleeping in airports is only fun on television or in the movies. I ended up sacking out on the floor while Dan tried curling up in one of the seats. Neither of us slept much and were up in plenty of time for our flight.

The flight to Portland was fairly uneventful and quick. Jeff was pulling in about ten minutes after we arrived. By 8am we were at Jeff’s place, packing and sorting our gear. By 10am we were leaving for Mt Hood and the Timberline Lodge. This had been the original starting point until about three weeks before the trip when Jeff scouted the area and discovered it was covered by several feet of snow. We had decided on an alternate trail (Paradise Park) as our starting point, but we still wanted to see the Timberline Lodge. When we got there, we discovered that all that snow was gone and the trail was mostly clear, except for some large drifts of old frozen snow. We decided to leave from our original start point and by 12 we were heading North.

Also, just a note — there’s a Park Ranger at Timberline who was nice enough to tell us that the entire trail was completely closed. While I’m sure she was telling us that because, let’s face it, we look like the Three Stooges most days and she didn’t feel like having to rescue us from some ravine, it was pretty obvious that the trail was clear and that tons of people were using it.

Snow on the Timberline Trail

The Timberline Trail on the first day mostly stayed level, traveling around Mt Hood on a ridge line. Every so often, the trail would dip in the a ravine, usually with a stream or river flowing through it, and then back up onto the ridge.

View from the ridgeline

Stream in ZigZag canyon

About an hour before we reached the Sandy river, we ran into another hiker coming from the North. He gave us some beta — apparently there were some logs across the Sandy that only reached about 2/3 of the way across the river. We’d need to jump the rest. Around this time, Jeff found an unwitting companion — a hiking stick he planned on using to help him cross the Sandy. We got to the Sandy around 6pm or so after hiking roughly ten miles. Jeff scouted the crossing while Dan and I cooled our heels (literally, the water was freezing, being glacial melt). The Sandy crossing looked rougher than we felt like doing, particularly given the time of day and the distance already covered. Luckily, there were plenty of nice campsites along the river and we made camp for the night, complete with a camp fire. For dinner, Dan had Cheesy Tuna and Ramen, while Jeff and I had Cranberry Chicken and Rice. That turned out to be a tactical error — I didn’t have my hiker appetite yet and it ended up being too much food. However, my cook kit (complete with Unican alcohol stove) performed flawlessly).

The Sandy River

After dinner we hung the food bags and sat around the camp fire for another hour or two before retreating to bed.

2nd Annual Winter AT Trip

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

In what will surely become The Event of the season, Dan and I headed out to the AT for a two day backpacking trip (March 5th and 6th). However, we didn’t pick up where our last trip left off. Instead, we started at Pittsfield Rd in MA, about twenty miles north of our last finish (Bear Mountain Rd in MA), and hiked the nearly ten miles south to MA I20.

Our first winter trip, last Febuary, was easily our most challenging trip ever. We weren’t prepared for the trail being one continuous sheet of ice, our food supply depending too much on having to stop for long periods of time to cook on a stove, and every river and stream that, in the summer, you could step over, became torrents of white water that were nearly impassible. Also, my mileage estimates were far too optimistic.

Learning from that experience, we came far more prepared. For one thing, we both used snowshoes. Even though Dan questioned whether we’d even need them during the drive north (despite several big snow storms last month, all the snow is gone in Connecticut) the snowshoes definitely earned their keep. The trail had several feet of snow over it and postholing ten miles would have gotten one of us hurt most likely.

For food I kept to the system that’s worked well the last couple of trips. Some hot drink mixes, one or two hot dinners, but the rest is easy and quick sandwiches that require almost no prep and can be eaten on the move. And this time around, we didn’t even bother with the hot stuff.

Third change involved mileage. For this trip, we went from North to South. I switched that because the shelter along this stretch was only a very flat two and a half miles from the Northern end. Since we always seem to get to the trail head in early to mid afternoon, having an easy hike to a shelter meant we’d have more time to relax and be fully rested for the second, more difficult day.

And that’s pretty much exactly what happened. We were hiking by 1:30 pm (2.5 hour drive, plus we had to stop and buy Dan snowshoes) and had reached the shelter by 3:30 pm. We started on a snow mobile trail at Pittsfield Road and missed the turn for the AT — apparently we got distracted by the used fireworks marking the turn off and kept walking another 50 feet or so before realizing something wasn’t right. Then Dan ran back to the car to get something (forget what) and while he was at the car, four or five snow mobilers came riding down the snowmobile track. This section of the trail went through October Mountain state forest and the AT crossed snow mobile trails 4 or 5 times. Also, the AT is apparently popular between that snow mobile track and the shelter; trail was heavily post holed and also showed snow shoe tracks. In addition, about 100 yards down the trail was a fire pit — in the middle of the trail.

But clearly the Gods were smiling on us, because when we got to the October Mountain shelter we found seven cans of Bud Light. So, after spreading out our gear, gathering firewood, and otherwise killing time waiting for night, we had ourselves a nice fire and pounded back a few cold ones. Easily one of the best shelter experiences I’ve had on any of these trips. Thanks to the person or persons that left the beer, much appreciated.

The temperature dropped big time during the night. Went from low forties to somewhere around 15 degrees. Even in my 0 degree bag, I got cold around 1:30am and couldn’t really get comfortable again. I think the biggest problem was the stupid inflatable pillow I decided to bring. Took me a while to realize the thing was like an ice cold brick under my head. And I also hadn’t tightened up the sleeping bag hood enough either. By that time it was too late, somewhere around 4:30 am, and Dan was also up due to the cold. We both decided, better to be warm hiking than cold sleeping and packed up and left.

The second day was the “big” mileage day — about 7 miles to I20. We stopped for breakfast around nine am after covering almost three miles. We stopped again at 11am after reaching Finerty Pond. By that time, the temperature felt like it was low to mid fifties, the sun was shining, and the sky was absolutely cloudless and a gorgeous blue. We spent an hour on the bank of that pond, just relaxing.

At 12 we started moving again, with only a couple miles left to cover. Unfortunately, the AT around Finerty is poorly blazed. Most of the blazes are extremely faded and far apart. We lost the trail a half dozen times in only thirty minutes or so.

The last leg of the trip was the most “difficult” — up Mount Walling and Mount Beckett, then a descent to I20. This was also the first significant elevation change of the entire trip. We were both winded going up (snowshoes and wet, slushy snow make for tiring hiking), but we got through just fine. Signed the register on the top of Beckett and then started the hike down to the road. Reading the register on Mount Beckett, it appeared we weren’t the only ones to lose the AT at Finerty, either.

An additional note — Google Earth just gets better and better for trip planning. I usually use the Trimble Trip reports in Google Earth to get track logs and waypoints that I can import into National Geographic TOPO! to make custom maps, but Google has also integrated Street View into Google Earth. While I’m not crazy about having pictures of my house on the internet, it was very nice to be able to use Street view to figure out where the trail head parking was and what it looked like. A lot easier than driving around having no idea what kind of parking will be there. Also, Backpacker Magazine’s web site ( also allows access to the Trimble Trip reports, including the ability to print out a map, elevation profile, and waypoint list directly from their site. I printed it out from to leave for the Wife, so she would know exactly where we were going.

The Stick Pic guys rock!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

So over the Holidays I noticed this comment posted on this site. When I first read the comment, my first thought was that this was the single most specific and impressive scam in history. Luckily, Rod (the poster) actually is one of the inventors of the Stick Pic, an ingenious device that allows me (or you, even) to pretend you’re Survivorman by attaching your camera to tip of your trekking pole. I bought one in May and have used it on every trip since and love it. Apparently, Rod also noticed the love and offered to send me the latest and greatest stick pic. I accepted his offer and also give permission for Rod to link to some of my youtube videos and pictures on

Today I received my brand new, improved stick pic. I’m looking forward to trying to out this weekend and comparing the old and new versions. Also, the timing is perfect, because I’m planning a winter trip in a few weeks.

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 5

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

It downpoured most of the night. When I woke up on the final day of our trip, around 6 am or so, the rain had mostly stopped; only short rain showers. However, the fog had rolled in and if I didn’t know the Presidentials were across the valley I’d never have been able to tell. Visibility was only twenty to thirty feet.

Dan woke up mid morning, around 10 am. We had the last of our pop tarts and some hot apple cider (Clif Shots Hot Apple Cider, pretty good). After that, we took a hike over to one of the self service cabins (“The Log Cabin”) to check it out; we were gone about an hour and a half and got back around 12:30. Our original target had actually been “Gray Knob” but we missed a trail cut off somewhere and ended up at The Log Cabin. It was pretty nice, one room cabin with a porch and open doorway and an elevated sleep platform. It started raining while we were there, so we sat for a while to wait it out. During the rain, a veritable troop of kids came tromping up the trail. The leader stopped to ask us which cabin this was — since I thought this was Gray Knob and they were headed to Crag Camp cabin, the directions were a little…off… About twenty minutes after the troop trooped off for what would be a slightly longer hike than they (or I) thought, Dan and I headed back to Perch.

Once we got back to Perch I called Sue and was basically told that Dan and I had to be at Mt. Washington that day and that the auto road closed at 6pm. The reason was that Sue had borrowed her mother’s van for this trip and didn’t think it would handle the drive up and down Washington. Instead, Sue was using Michelle’s car; Michelle was a friend who had come up with Sue to spend a few days camping with her. Michelle was leaving the next day so today was the last day Sue thought she could pick us up. She also said that the weather report was clear and sunny. As soon as she said that, the sky cleared and we saw the sun for the first time in almost two days. Dan and I immediately started packing and had a quick lunch (tuna pesto wraps) before heading off at quarter after one.

Naturally, twenty minutes after leaving Perch, the sun once again disappeared and it started raining again. I donned my rain gear and was very pleased at how the poncho stayed perfectly in place and gave almost full coverage. We hiked back to the Presidential ridge line and joined up with the AT past Mt Jefferson, having skirted around that summit. The visibility was still down to only forty feet or so and we frequently had to scout out for the next cairn before continuing along the trail. I even had to consult the compass, just to make sure we were heading in the right direction; without landmarks, it was hard to tell. The rain tailed off after an hour or so but the wind was still very strong so I left the poncho on.

Since we only had four hours to cover about seven miles, we really had to hustle. We also had to bypass the rest of the peaks (Adams, Jefferson, and Clay). At one point, while passing Mt. Clay, the fog actually started to lift and for just a brief moment we could actually see something other than the heavy white cloud.

We only met a few people on the way to Washington. One group was the campers we had been sharing Perch with; they were returning from Washington. The other group we met while crossing the railroad tracks. Couple of guys also coming down from Washington. The amazing thing was the shorts and t-shirts they were wearing.

We reached Washington around 5:30 and took a quick summit picture; the wind was much stronger and it was getting pretty cold, so we didn’t stick around long. We met up with Sue and Michelle at the Visitor’s center. Apparently, we really stunk since Sue had the car windows open the entire drive down the mountain…

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 4

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

And here’s where things go all pear shaped…

We woke around 6am on Tuesday. I started packing up immediately because today we were supposed to reach Mt. Washington by the afternoon; Sue would be meeting us there to give us the rest of our food supply so we could continue our trip another two days. I had one big concern, though — rain was in the forecast starting this morning and there were supposed to be thunderstorms in the afternoon; I definitely didn’t want to be above tree line in a thunderstorm.

A slightly smaller concern was that we would be climbing almost 3500 feet in the first two and a half miles, to Mount Madison. I knew this would take a while, especially since Dan’s knee was still hurting and that the earlier we got going the better.

The one saving grace was the AMC Hut just past Mt. Madison. If we ran into trouble, we could at least hole up there for a while.

We got moving around 7:30 or 8 am and it was every bit as difficult as I expected. As we approached treeline and 4000 feet (still 1000 feet short of Mt. Madison’s summit) the “trail” turned into a massive field of boulders with cairns for the trail markers. Walking across the boulder feet made things more difficult, since not every rock was secure. We only saw two other people that morning, coming down from Madison, what I guessed was a grandfather and grandson. The grandfather was carrying a pack that looked almost twice the size of mine.

We stopped for a snack at around 4500 feet. The clouds were starting to roll in and we still had another half mile to get to the top of Mt. Madison. Considering that the entire terrain was broken rock, I definitely did not want to try climbing down Madison in the rain. After eating a couple of BMCs (Bagel, Meat, and Cheese) sandwiches, Dan and I continued on. While we were eating, Dan had asked if we’d head back to Osgood if it started raining. I told him that, in that case, it’d almost certainly be less dangerous and faster to continue and try to reach the AMC hut. If we really needed to, there was at one cutoff trail to bypass Mt. Madison and go directly to the Hut.

We got to the top of Mt. Madison around 11 or so. It was an hour later than I had wanted, but I couldn’t do a lot about that. There was only one other couple there, carrying just camera equipment (they had come up from the hut). The wind was really whipping, making it feel about ten to fifteen degrees colder than it had been climbing up and making conversation almost impossible. In addition, it looked like the rain was about to start at any moment and I started feeling rain drops. I put on my wind shirt and pulled out the camera for a couple quick snaps and a short video. After I finished with the camera, I spent a couple more minutes looking around and then started heading down.

When he had reached the summit, Dan had dropped his pack and taken shelter behind some boulders. As I started heading down I caught his attention and motioned for him to follow. Dan didn’t really want to and I had to wave him forward once more before he started packing up. The other couple were already on their way down. While I was climbing down (Dan was somewhere behind me — I’d stop to keep him in view before continuing down) the rain started and it was a becoming fairly sustained by the time we both reached the hut.

It took us a minute or two to find the entrance to the Hut. Madison Springs Hut was designed in a T shape, with the common room making up the base of the T and the bunk rooms across the top. The bunks were stacked 4 high, which was interesting. We went into the common room and saw a couple thru-hikers (they had come from Lake of the Clouds that morning and had stopped for food) and another family already there. Dan practically collapsed as soon as he landed on the bench. I went to find the bathroom, which was an actual flush toilet; I found that interesting since even the toilets at Pinkham Notch (along the road) had been composting toilets.

When I returned from the bathroom, I asked Dan what he wanted to do at this point. The rain was starting to come down a little harder; I wanted to wait it out and then continue on. Dan said he was beat and had thought we could just stay at Madison Springs hut for the rest of the day. Truth be told, I was pretty much speechless at that. We’d only done three miles, and while the elevation gain had been major, it was still only three miles. We were on a schedule and taking practically an entire day off would cause some problems. The problem was the weather. I definitely didn’t want to attempt Mt Washington in bad weather. I went out to call Sue and update her, and to cool off a little bit after just barely keeping my cool with Dan.

At this point, I had two problems. One was the weather and the other was Dan’s knee. Some ibuprofen had helped one knee on the second day, but the other knee had started hurting that same day and hadn’t stopped. Stopping early at Carter Notch Hut and taking a couple of extended breaks on the way to Osgood hadn’t helped either. Now bad weather had rolled in and I was worrying about what would happen if Dan’s knee gave out altogether. Even without all that, it seemed like Dan was tiring more quickly than usual.

When I came back in from talking to Sue, Dan was having a Buffalo burger. I decided that was a pretty good idea and ordered one myself. After eating I perused the Hut’s library for a few minutes (it was only one bookcase). The rain didn’t show any sign of stopping and it was already almost 1pm. The weather report had said morning showers, but if the rain kept up all day I knew we’d probably have to hole up somewhere — making Mt. Washington today was looking increasingly unlikely. I told this to Dan and then went to check if there were any free bunks left.

Naturally, Madison Springs was all booked. The crew member also checked at Lake of the Clouds and they were also all full. (note to self, next time make reservations). It turns out we had been pretty lucky that Carter Notch Hut was so empty. Since we couldn’t stay at Madison Springs and wouldn’t find room at Lake of the Clouds, I asked about other campsites in the area. The crew member mentioned a couple of self service huts and other camp sites nearby. I headed back to the table to check over the map and after some consideration chose Perch Shelter as our target for the night. This shelter was just a couple miles away and looked like we’d have to do the least amount of downhill to get there. I called Sue to let her know about our plans and we headed off around 1:30 or so.

We reached Perch shelter about 3pm to find the shelter overrun with a father and what I assumed were his sons. Luckily they were only making dinner in the shelter because of the rain, but they took what seemed like forever, making hot dogs, mac and cheese, pop corn, and god knows what else, using two stoves to cook all their food. I put on a couple extra layers as I was more than a little wet from the trip from Madison Springs Hut. Dan pulled out the shelter register and started reading through that. Finally after an hour or so, the family moved back to their tents and Dan and I spread out our wet gear and started preparing our own food.

I forget exactly what we ate, but I do remember that Dan crawled into his bag shortly after and was out like a light; I think he woke up off and on, but that was about it. While Dan was resting I started reviewing my rain gear, which had failed pretty badly on the trip over. First up was my poncho.

Two years ago Dan and I did a trip in Massachusetts during a pretty major rain storm and my poncho worked great, except in high winds. In particular, the back of the poncho kept blowing up and over my pack and was almost impossible to keep in place. I had planned for that by attaching the back of my poncho to the ice axe loops on my pack with carabiners. This had kept the back from flying around on our way to Perch but hadn’t helped the front of the poncho at all. I ended up just taking off the poncho, preferring the ability to see where I was going and move faster than getting wet. After some thought, I came up with a way to rig the poncho to my pack that kept it in place in high winds and would also function better as a pack cover.

After the poncho rigging, I took a look at my rain pants. I’d only worn them a couple times since I’d gotten them as a gift. Every time I’d used them I had ended up sweating out and today had been no different. I’d taken them off 20 minutes away from Madison Springs Hut. I realized that rain chaps or gaiters would be more useful and decided to make myself a pair. I cut the legs off the rain pants. The cuffs had elastic and buttons to keep them tight and by putting the cut off legs on upside down (cuffs around the knees) I could keep them fastened. It worked pretty well for an emergency field upgrade.

After I finished messing with my gear I read through the trail register. Dan had mentioned lots of people recording card game scores or mentioning playing cards, and one post even mentioned the deck of cards kept in the shelter, so I wasn’t too surprised when I found the cards and a set of dice in the box the register had been. Dan had poked his head out of his bag when I found the cards, but I didn’t really feel like any card games. I probably dropped off to sleep around 7 or 8 pm.

Ultralight Fishing Kit

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Thought this was very interesting — a tenkura style fly fishing kit weighing only 6 oz. Almost makes me want to learn fly fishing…the idea of catching my food on a backpacking trip is very intriguing.

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 2

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

I woke up early, around seven am or so, after a pretty lousy night’s sleep. I spent most of the night tossing and turning trying to get comfortable on the wooden tent platforms. Turns out I don’t like tent platforms. After packing up our gear and filling our water bottles with the remaining filtered water, Dan and I had a quick breakfast of poptarts.

The big question mark at this point was where we’d be staying that night. The next closest free camp site was almost 20 miles away (Osgood campsite). In between Imp and Osgood are two AMC huts, Carter Notch and Pinkham Notch. Both of those were full service huts and reservations were strongly recommended (according to the guide book, at least).

That decision could wait for a while, though. First we had to climb 1500 feet up to the Carter line of mountains — North Carter, Middle Carter, South Carter, and Carter Dome. Mount HIght is also in this range, but we decided to take a side trail and bypass the summit; by the time we had reached Mt Hight we were both getting a little beat and Dan’s knees were starting to act up.

We stopped for lunch at Carter Dome, which was only a short distance past Mt. Hight. Carter Dome was pretty cool — a large rocky area with nice views.

Dan and I on Carter Dome

Dan and I on Carter Dome

Lunch there was mini bagels, pepperoni, and cheese and tasted great. As we were packing up the food I saw what I later confirmed was a spruce grouse.

After lunch we began the descent of almost 1500 feet in a mile to Carter Notch Hut. This was a pretty tough descent and we got to the Hut around 3:30pm.

Carter Notch Hut

Carter Notch Hut

At this point we had to decide where we wanted to stay. The next closest shelter was Pinkham Notch Hut another six miles away. Since Carter Notch Hut had some open bunks we decided to bite the bullet and stay there the night (at 90 bucks a person). While pricey, that did get us a hot dinner (salad, soup, stuffed shells, and dessert), breakfast in the morning, and a bed with a mattress.

After paying and ditching our gear in the room, Dan and I sat down to play chess in the common room. While we were playing, I noticed a kid (probably 12 or so) come rushing in and start filling up a glass of lemonade. The kid ran back outside. A minute or two later the kid returned, this time with what I figured was his father. The kid went to fill the glass again while the father slumped down on the bench; the father was carrying a huge pack that must have weighed fifty or sixty pounds. His son (I assume) kept giving him glasses of lemonade and helped his father get his pack off. Clearly, wherever they’d come in from, the father had been having a hard time with all that weight.

After a few more games of chess, we sat down to dinner. This was served “family” style; clearly, other families are much more polite at dinner then mine — there was a distinct lack of fighting and arguing. We were joined by six other people — a father and daughter, a mother and son, an older woman hiking alone (I think) and a older man, who also appeared to be on his own. Conversation was very interesting — the mother and son (the mother was seated to my right, the son across the table from her on Dan’s left) were very impressed by Dan’s whistling skills and decide that his trail name would definitely be “The Whistler”. I quipped (I’m quite good at quipping, having practiced for years) that as long as I didn’t become “Whistler’s Mother” I was fine with it. After talking a little more about music, it turned out they had also stayed at Imp the night before, in the shelter, and had also heard the Indian Flute player. The father and daughter were both reading Ann Rand’s “The Fountainhead”, which I thought was interesting. The solitary woman was someone Dan and I had passed during the day (and would pass again the next day).

Dinner was soup (Moroccan Lentil, which was pretty spicy), salad, stuffed shells, “almost sourdough” bread, and for dessert carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Everything was very good, even the carrot cake. After dinner Dan and I headed back to our bunk room where we were joined by the overpacked father son team that had arrived during our chess games. I took the bottom bunk and Dan took the top.

I had a fairly rough night’s sleep, again. Just couldn’t get comfortable. Around 10pm I went out to use the bathroom and stayed out there for a few minutes star gazing. The night’s sky was amazing; no light pollution and being 3000 feet up helped, I’m sure. Eventually I got to sleep, although I woke up several times during the night.

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 0 and Day 1

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Dan and I had arrived at Timberland Camp ground, about 3 miles from the AT trailhead, Friday (7/17) night around 10pm.  Sue (my wife) and her Mother had arrived a few hours before us and had been busy during that time setting up my Mother in law’s pop up camper.  It had started raining halfway through the 5 hour drive and continued down pouring throughout the night.

The plan was for Sue to spend the week camping at Timberland while Dan and I left the next day (7/18) to backpack from Gorham, NH to Crawford Notch.  Sue would pick us up in Crawford Notch on Thursday, 7/24.

We got a late start Saturday morning.  Dan and I redistributed the food bags again, leaving behind a larger share than we were originally going to take.  We replaced several hot meals with greater supplies of cold meals, like Tuna Pesto sandwiches and mini-bagels with cheese, pepperoni, and summer sausage.  I also realized I had forgotten my trekking poles and a bandanna at home, in my rush to get out of the house.

Because of my missing poles, we stopped at a local Walmart to pick up a pair of cheap replacements.  The replacements, a pair of Outdoor Products trekking poles (20 bucks for the pair) actually held up nicely during the trip.  I feature I liked that my normal poles lack were the locking clips, rather than a twist lock, for adjusting the pole height.  Major issue was the filmsy baskets on the poles, both of which broke off during the trip.

After getting breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts, Sue dropped us off at the trail head around 1 pm.  The A.T. in the WMNF actually runs over many different trails — this stretch was on the Rattle River Trail, running alongside the Rattle River. 

A.T. / Rattle River Trailhead in Gorham, NH

A.T. / Rattle River Trailhead in Gorham, NH

The first three miles went by extremely quickly; Dan and I covered them in an hour or so, with only a brief stop at the Rattle River Shelter at mile 2.

After crossing and re-crossing the Rattle River,

Bridge over Rattle River

Bridge over Rattle River

the trail began to climb steeply up the side of Middle Moriah and Mt. Moriah.  Our first night’s campsite, Imp Shelter, was on the other side of Mt. Moriah (on the Carter-Moriah Trail.  We gained almost 2500 ft of elevation in the three miles from Rattle River Shelter to Mt. Moriah.  Once on top of the ridge, the the trail became fairly level, with some lengthy sections of moss “bogs” that were protected with a long run of boards for hikers to travel over.

After we passed Mt. Moriah, we stopped briefly on the ridge while Dan readjusted some gear on his back.  The ridge had great views of the Presidentials and the Carters before we re-entered the forest.

We arrived at Imp shelter around 6:30 or 7pm.

Imp is an AMC managed shelter; along with the shelter itself, there were several tent platforms.  Per person, it ran 8 or 9 dollars a night.  Dan and I chose to use a tent platform and picked Platform One, which was the most secluded.  Dan filtered a few liters of water for dinner while I set up the tent and started putting together dinner (Mountain House Classic BBQ Chicken and Rice).  I gave Sue a call (she was also having chicken for dinner, with with corn on the cob and potatos).  After dinner we crawled into our bags and listened to another camper play and Native American flute.  I fell asleep pretty quickly after that, but didn’t sleep very well.  Combination of the tent platform and not being able to find the right temperature balance in my bag kept me tossing and turning most of the night.