Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blue Springs Tubing

We had the full day open and it had been a while since I took the girls on an outdoor adventure. We headed up to Blue Springs prk in Orange City for the day. I knew that there was a spot for canoeing and swimming, but I didn't realize you could cruise down the river for a bit in the rented tubes. We did two runs of the springs and the girls got to play around in the water and we swam out over the springs. The girls stayed in their tubes most of the time so they didn't get too cold. Evie did take a jump off of a pretty high log. We also saw a manatee down at the mouth of the run; which was unusual for late August. We'll have to bring the canoe with us the next time we come. It was a blazing hot day; which are always the best for swimming in Florida's chilly springs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

AT Section Hike 10/08 - Amicalola Falls to Neels Gap

Tom, Alex and Alex's buddy Charley hiked the first 35 miles of the AT including the full approach trail (full meaning at the welcome center and not the top of the stairs.) We spent the first night in our tents outside the shleter on top of Springer. A bit of a spooky shelter compared to some of the others. The water source was decent. The weather was crisp. We could hear machine guns in the background in the late evening from the fort in the valley. Actually when we first arrived atop Springer there was an army dude sitting there alone looking out at the valley and mountains, clearly in deep thought. I was told later that this is the last bit of mountain training before these guys head out to Iraq. I would be sitting on top of a mountain too I think.

The second night we ended up not quite making it up to the top of Sassafrass Mountain where we were planning to camp, so we ended up down on a forest road in Horse Gap. Spirits were low so we made a little fire ring to create a little mental comfort and had a fairly quick dinner before the sun went down. There just isn't much to do when the only light you have is a tiny LED on your forehead. Alex swears we were visited by soldiers in the night.

The third night we tented on top of Thunderock Mountain where the view of the valley was nice. There are lots of makeshift spots for tents on an overgrown mountain road. Tom and I camped in the tent site right on top of the mountain. There was a very strong gust coming up from the valley that rushed through the trees above us all night. It was fine in the tent for most of the night. One problem I encountered was my own fault. Thinking I was crafty I kept the wind from "stealing" the heat from inside my tent (I was worried about sleeping comfortably in my bag as I like to use it more like a blanket to kick out a knee) by piling up leaves around the bottom edge of my outer tent, thus totally defeating the power of the breeze to carry away moisture and avoid compensation. Becuase the zoid is double wall I did not have condensation directly on me, but I brushed up against the walls with my bag, thus getting the down in the footbox wet. This would come back to haunt me - slightly.

The next day we were planning to hike to the Bird Gap shelter and then have a short hike out the next morning, but it had started to rain as we were leaving camp in the morning and the cold rain did not let up. Charley ended up getting off of the tral at Woody Gap. We pressed on. We got to Bird Gap shelter (after a long backward blue blaze) and were not in good shape. Alex was soon shivering and spirits were dampened more when we found that Alex's waterproof bag had done its job in not letting any water out. His sleeping bag was drenched. With no way to keep warm through the night we had to call an audible and hike all the way out over Blood Mountain. We ended up on top (see picture below) at around 6pm and we decended in the dark down to the car. We were a sight in the Walmart (we hadn't planned on needing clothes until we got to our shuttle car the next morning). The shower in the hotel room was amazying. We hit the Pizza Hut in Dahlonega and made our way back home the next morning.

Blairsville, GA 10/03

Our second trip to the Georgia mountains. We checked out Brasstown Bald and enjoyed the autumn air. She Coop was about 5 months along with E Coop.

I got a chance to hike a bit on the AT, about 5 miles from Cowrock Mountain back to Neel's Gap (sobo). It was an amazing day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Steamboat Springs - Our First Family Ski Trip 3/09

We had our first family ski trip in March in Steamboat Springs which is about 3 hours northwest of Denver . It was the first time that any of us snow skied. It was actually the first time that the girls saw snow and it was the first time that She Coop played in the snow. We had a blast. We stayed in a condo within walking distance of the slopes. It was a bit of a learning experience in many ways. Without someone who had done all of this we relied a lot on the kindness of the employees at the facility. We all did ski school on the first day. She Coop was a natural, I took a little longer, but it finally clicked and we hit the "real" slopes; which were still little training slopes. I fell a few times, but for the most part was successful in pointing the wedge down the hill and going back and forth. By the second day I was getting a few actual turns in. She Coop and I did one green run; which was enough for us for this trip. I would have liked one more day to try a few more green slopes, but that will just leave me hungry for another crack at them next time. The girls both did ski school the second day and D Coop did great. E Coop was still a little young, and will probably love it more next time. She was thirsty when we picked her up. The Coop family is not used to being bundled up in all those layers!

We went tubing out at a ranch on the last day which was a blast and a nice break from the slopes. We'll have to go horse back riding in the snow next time. I'd also like a crack at climbing a mountain or doing some ice climbing (I have never done either.)

Hiking Footwear in Florida

Footwear - I usually wear trail shoes rather than boots. I don't run into a whole lot of uneven terrain, the more common obstacle is water on the trail - either in crossings or just standing water from the rain. I carry water shoes, but usually where there is one big puddle in the middle of the trail - there tend to be many more to follow. I am better off hiking in quick drying trail shoes that heavier boots or less comfotable water shoes. I currently use a pair of Merrell hiking shoes with a pair of Montrial stabilizing insoles to give my feet a little more support and comoft over long, flat strecthes of trail. The shoes are great and I have remained blister free and comfy.

Socks - I hike with one pair of Wigwam Comfort Hiker Merino Wool socks no matter what time of year it might be. I have found that even if they giet wet they still provide a comfortable layer between my feet and my shoes. When they are dry they are like walking in a cloud. I tend to take three pair. Two for hiking, alternating days so that one has a chance to dry out. The third is a different color that I use at night or around camp if it is chilly.

Water Shoes/Camp Shoes - If I am looking for comfort around camp on an overnight I do bring a pair of Waldies as my water and camp shoes. If I know the trail is mostly dry with a few water crossings then I will change into these. They are made of rubber and stay on my feet really well. The size 13's only weight 9 oz. They are great for camp shoes as they slip on and off easily and work well with a pair of my wool hiking socks on underneath when camp is colder. Although many lightweight backpackers eschew camp shoes as unecessary weight, keep in mind that your hiking shoes are probably very wet and, if you are only out for a weekend and spending a decent amount of time around camp, you are your primary form of transportation - your feet - will be much more comfortable.

Water Walking - At some point in your Florida hiking adventures you're going to run into some water on the trail. Don't be afraid of snakes, gators, and other dark water creepy crawlies. Just keep on walking. And don't worry about getting your boots or shoes wet. There's gonna be more and more water so don't try to hike all day in your water shoes. You're better off hiking in wet shoes and giving your feet a no shoes / no socks breather every once in a while. You should carry a hiking stick or trekking pole to poke the water in front of you to make sure that you are not going to step into a big hole or onto a gator's back. If you have never walked standing water on the trail before then I would encourage you to try it with a hiking buddy first as it does add an element of danger that doesn't exist on a flat, dry trail. If the water starts to get above my knees then I start to get a little anxious about getting to shallower water. If it does start getting deep and you are not in an actual waterway (or not in Big Cypress) then you should check to make sure you are on the established trail and then consider if you want to trudge through this deep stuff for a long while, or if you should find another route or change your plans. If you are alone and hiking in progressivelly deeper water, be ver careful. There are gators and snakes out there. Just don't be too concerned about water below your knees.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Next on the Gear List

If you are a lightweight backpacker and you scan my gear list the sleep system might jump out as the area of greatest weight reduction potential. I have had my down bag for about 8 years now, and it has done the trick but it is time for a change. I have been eyeing the quilts.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Current Gear List - 3 Season

Coop's Planned AT Gear List

Skin Out Weight in Pounds 32lbs 14oz
Base Pack Weight in Pounds 15lbs 13.1oz
Total Pack Weight in Pounds 27lbs 7.5oz

Section Item Total Weight

Shelter Henry Shires Tarptent, 8 stakes, sack 29.2
Sleep Sleeping Bag 53.0
Sleep Thermarest Pro-Lite 4 Large 33.0
Sleep Garbage Bag (for bag) 2.0

Pack GVP G4 Large 15.7
Pack Sit Pad 1.0

Clothes Pack Mountain Hardwear Rain Jacket 10.2
Clothes Pack Marmot Driclime Windshirt 17.0
Clothes Pack Mountain Hardwear Windshirt 8.0
Clothes Pack Frogg Togg Pants 7.7
Clothes Pack Driclime Long-John Shirt 10.8
Clothes Pack Driclime Long-John Pants 9.3
Clothes Pack Camp Shorts - Ski Shorts 0.0
Clothes Pack Wool Socks - Thick 4.0
Clothes Pack Fleece Hat 1.5
Clothes Pack Wool Glove Liners 1.0
Clothes Pack Fleece Gloves 0.0
Clothes Pack Stow Sack SilNy 1.0

Kitchen Cat Stove & Windscreen 0.7
Kitchen Evernew Pot 1.3L, Lid 4.7
Kitchen Mesh Bag for Pot 0.8
Kitchen Lighter 0.3
Kitchen Bandana (cooking) 1.1
Kitchen Gatorade Bottle 2.0
Kitchen Nalgene 32 Oz 3.8
Kitchen Aqua Mira Water Treatment 2.0
Kitchen Ziploc Water Bag 0.4
Kitchen Ziploc Garbage Bag 0.4
Kitchen Lexan Spork 0.3

Storage Pencil 0.2
Storage Paper 0.1
Storage Credit Card, ID, Insurance Card, Cash 0.2
Storage Duct Tape 0.2
Storage Needle & Thread 0.2
Storage Super Glue Stick 0.2
Storage Aspirin 0.2
Storage Tums 0.2
Storage Antihistimine 0.2
Storage Neosporin 0.2
Storage Moleskin 0.2
Storage Bandages, bandaids 0.2
Storage Immodium 0.2
Storage Cotton balls, Q-Tips 0.2
Storage Matches & Esbit Cube 0.2

Ditty Bag Cellphone (in ziploc) 5.0
Ditty Bag Baby Wipes 3.0
Ditty Bag Toothbrush, Baby Finger Tip 0.1
Ditty Bag Toothtpaste 0.5
Ditty Bag Vaseline Intensive Care - Lip Balm 0.4
Ditty Bag Powder in Baggy 1.0
Ditty Bag 1 Bandana (hike) 1.1
Ditty Bag 40 ft Nylon Cord (bear bag) 1.9
Ditty Bag Headlamp 1.3
Ditty Bag Alcohol Gel 1.0
Ditty Bag 100% Deet 0.0
Ditty Bag Sun Lotion 0.0
Ditty Bag Baby Powder 0.0
Ditty Bag Book (thin, small paperback) 5.0
Ditty Bag Tricor 0.2
Ditty Bag Aleve 0.4
Ditty Bag Vitamin 0.2

Trinket Pocket Leatherman Micra 1.7
Trinket Pocket Maps 1.0
Trinket Pocket Camera 0.0
Trinket Pocket GPS 5.5

Food Detail Below 117.3
Fuel 1 Bottle Alcohol 5.1
Water 2 liters 64.0

Worn Mountain Hardwear T-shirt 6.7
Worn Nylon Zip Pants 10.8
Worn Wool Socks 2.1
Worn Tilley Hat 5.2
Worn Watch 1.7
Worn Merrill Shoes 40.0
Worn Trekking Poles 20.0

Articles I've Written

A few articles I have written about backpacking:

On the Trail, So in Life

It Doesn't Take Much

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park - 1/02

The Bee Island Loop

A fun overnight on a 10 mile loop. Went with my little sister and had a great time. Saw lots of critters and got doused by a rain shower in the middle of the night.

The Welch Ridge Loop, Smokies, July 2003

The Smokies - 8/03

The Welch Ridge Loop

A 31 mile loop over 3 nights with Tom and Alex. Down Forney Creek, across Bear Creek, up the Welch Ridge and up the A.T. to Clingman's Dome. A great intro to mountain hiking and the Smokies.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Seminole State Forest

Seminole State Forest - 8/03 - Florida Trail

A quick overnight with Alex and his son Josh. A shakedown hike for our trip in the Smokies the next month.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Time to start posting again

So Geocities is closing down and my little hobby based website is going along with it. It was a chance for me to try to stay just marginally current with "webpage stuff" and was also an outlet for my backpacking obsession since no one else wants to hear about it.

I don't think I've posted in about 6 years; which is suspiciously close to the age of my oldest child.

So now I'm back.