Posted by: fateaglescout | March 29, 2010

Billy Goat Trail

View from the trail

The first hike of the year was fantastic.  Our friends Marisa and Annie met us at our apartment at around quarter of eleven.  We all contributed some food for lunch, so we made some sandwiches, packed up, and headed out to the park.  I made sure to bring the first aid kit and Sara brought the emergency sharpie, “so we can write messages on the rocks if we’re kidnapped.”  The drive was perfectly pleasant.  For some reason the Garmin took us off the beltway for a bit and then put us right back on before dropping us off on the Clara Barton Parkway.  In no time at all we parked near the trail head and got on our way.

The start of the trail just followed the old B & O tow path.  After half a mile or so we came across a bench that someone had written “Obama Lies” on.  With quick thinking and Sara’s emergency sharpie we made it a far more accurate “Obama FLies.”  Another mile down the trail and we turned right on to the Billy Goat Trail.  A short walk through the woods brought us to the meat of the trail.

A big improvement.

Part of what initially brought me to the trail was the promise of scrambling over the rocks.  I did not anticipate how much scrambling would be involved.  I absolutely loved it.  A full two-thirds of the trail was a field of rocks to climb up, down, and around.  A little way in we found a nice spot to stop for lunch.  Marisa was right when she said food always tastes better on a hike.  I had a wonderful pastrami and corned beef sandwich with all the picnic trimmings.  The view at our stopping point was beautiful.  Great Falls is a great place to hike when spring is just coming on.  On the right of the trail is bare forest, but on the left is bare rock.  That does not change with the season.  Every few yards grew a pine tree, its roots clinging stubbornly few patches of bare earth.  Like the rocks, these pine trees do not change, they are ever green, giving us a much-needed splash of color.  After a fifteen minute break or so we were back on our way.

Marisa and Annie work their way down the steep drop.

A little past our lunch spot we came across the biggest challenge of the hike.  All of a sudden the trail dropped off fairly steeply with minimal footing.  Annie bounded down like a champ with a more cautious Marisa following close behind.  Sara moved deliberately but easily.  She was nervous, but mostly for me because she thinks I’m clumsy.  Clumsy or not, I made it down without incident.  Sara said I looked about as cautious as Marisa.  Sadly no one at the bottom had a camera, so I don’t have a picture of my descent.

We worked our way over another field of rocks and boulders until gradually they trailed off and we were left with relatively flat earth.  The trail was still tricky, but it was easier than before.  We started to feel our sore legs but could only remark on how fun it had all been.  We soon came back to the tow path trail and took it back up to our starting point.

Before we walked back to our car, we took a short detour along a side trail to an overlook of Great Falls.  Unlike the Virginia side, Great Falls, Maryland only has one view of the falls.  Getting there is more fun though.  A series of bridges and wooden walk ways took us over a series of small islands to the falls.  On the way we were treated to views of smaller falls and quiet pools.

This was my first hike of the season and my first with Marisa and Annie.  Sara also had a great time (although once she noticed that the trail was classified “strenuous” she accused me of hiding it from her).  So the hike was replete with great fellowship.  We all remarked on the beauty around us and actively appreciated the hike.  We also joked and told stories, which much like food, are often better on the trail.

Now I am at home and sore, but grateful for the day.  It was a great start to the season and I cannot wait for more.

View of the falls from Maryland

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Posted by: fateaglescout | March 21, 2010

Plans and Plans

It is beautiful in the east.  I have been itching to get out for at least a month and my plans are coming together.  Next weekend I am hiking the Billy  Goat Trail with Sara and two of our friends, Marissa and Annie.  This seems an excellent inauguration to the outdoor season for two reasons.  First, I began all this with a hike along Great Falls and the Billy Goat Trail follows the Maryland side of the falls.  Second, it offers some scrambling and also works its way into an island that has a fairly unique ecosystem.  I do have a side goal on this hike, I would like to find a good length of wood to fashion into a walking stick.  Another blog and photos to follow in a week or so.

I have other plans in the works as well.  The capstone to this season will be a float trip up the New River from Blacksburg on Labor Day weekend.  I’m also planning on a weekend backpacking trip with Jason Rickert and Matt Webster in the Shenandoah.  We haven’t decided on a weekend yet, but the time is coming soon (in fact I’ll be emailing them  after this is published).   I suspect we will go sometime in June, July, or August.

More immediately, I have a camping trip planned for next month with some coworkers.  I do not anticipate my much sought after quietude on this trip, but the fellowship will be refreshing.  Still, I am an early riser and I will fish, so I will find the time, space, and quiet for communion.  I also plan to hike around Roosevelt Island some time that month.

May will be more difficult, as  Dom and Kelly’s wedding is that month.  I suspect that I will hike some and likely fish as well.  The wedding will be great, no doubt, but I should earn that party with some vigor.

I still have a few months to fill in.  I’d hoped to go camping in the Shenandoah next month, but the park isn’t open to campers that early, so I plan to do that some time during the summer.  I also want to hike around Harpers Ferry more and do Bolvar Heights.

A new challenge will present itself in September.  I am starting graduate school and will continue working.  I will need to find time to find my peace.

As to the other side of the equation, I am still struggling to eat well.  The desire remains palpable, but is often undone by the stress of daily life.  I need to break that association.  I am starting on weight watchers to give myself some more structure.  I’m still hoping to replace that structure with a mindful general diet, but I feel I need to built better habits first.

I am unbelievable excited to begin the next few months.  I cannot wait to build memory and write more.

Posted by: fateaglescout | February 13, 2010

Delay and Failure

Aaron Rodgers would want me to keep focused.

I have to admit, I’ve strayed.  The holidays made it too easy, of course, and it is not quiet the season for getting out.  But that sounds too much like an excuse.  This is more of a mea culpa.  I should be better.  I have not strayed from my desires or plans, but I have let them move out of focus.  I have not been mindful of the fact that I must eat well and exercise now in order to do what I like later.  Worse, I’ve lost sight of the point of this blog.  It was to be both a record of my experiences out doors and a means to keep myself accountable.  I have been diligent in recording my hikes, but have not been so honest in my self reporting.  I suppose that once it got to cold to hike, I figured I had nothing interesting to write about.  Unfortunately, while my struggle losing weight may not be terribly interesting, it is half of this endeavor, and I do need to get to it.

So, here  I am then, having delayed my success but not falling completely into failure.  I am not quite to where I started, if the fit of my clothes is to be believed.  But I am not as far along as I was or should be.  I am resolved to be more accountable to myself and this blog.  If possible, I would appreciate it if my friends and family reading this would also do what they can to keep me honest as well.  Ask me how I’m doing and if I haven’t written ask me why and remind me that I should.  I am out to change my life and recapture some of the good that I lost.  My now and future family deserve nothing less.

Posted by: fateaglescout | January 9, 2010

Holiday Break is Over

295 Pounds.

After my last hike, I had trouble deciding how to continue this blog.  I didn’t want to get out of the habit, but I also didn’t want it to become about my everyday life.  It was about reclaiming the outdoorsman aspect of my life while losing weight.  I thought, too, that I could discuss the challenges of maintaining weight loss during the holidays.  But that seemed too much like it’s own blog topic.  Anyway, I’m not really interested in “dieting” over the holidays.  I’m after a lifestyle change here, and the reality of the situation is that I’m not going to eat spinach salad for Thanksgiving.  I was, however, much more mindful of my holiday eating and was fairly successful in not doing too much harm.  I have a few pounds to shed to get back where I was, but I’m not in a horrible way.  That said, I do not want to leave this blog behind.  Sara got me the National Parks DVD set for Christmas and then told me she was worried that I’d gotten over the whole outdoors blog thing because I hadn’t written lately.  That hadn’t happened, but if I’d let it go much longer, it might’ve.

So, I’m writing again, although I don’t know what about.  Next month the county will be stocking some local trout streams, since February and March are the only times of the year the water is cold enough for trout in Faifax County.  So I’ll get out and do some fishing and write about that.  Any other suggestions for outdoors activities in the dead of winter would be greatly appreciated.  Anyone who wants to come is also welcome.

I’m back!

Posted by: fateaglescout | November 13, 2009

Maryland Heights

me

Harpers Ferry behind me

288 Pounds.   Good days rarely start on six hours sleep and end in pain, but yesterday was a good day.  The night before last,  my wife was kind enough to drive me to Frederick, MD where we met our friends Matt and Jen at the Double T diner.  After an excellent dinner, she handed me off and made Matt promise that I would come back alive.  We got to Matt’s house around midnight and after a call to Sara I fell right asleep.  After a quick six hours, I woke up to an excellent breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast and we headed out for the day’s activity: a hike up  Maryland Heights.

Since I was a kid, my parents loved to take long weekends in Harpers Ferry.  For them it was about quaint shops and breakfast at the Hilltop House.  For me it was about Civil War and John Brown museums.  One of the indelible landmarks in Harpers Ferry is an old sign painted into a cliff face across the Potomac River.  As a kid I was fascinated by it.  It says something about powder, I think, but is just faded enough that you feel you could make it out if only you looked hard enough.  Every time we visited Harpers Ferry, I would spend time staring at it trying to figure out what it had to sell.  That sign is on Maryland Heights.

powder

The sign on Maryland Heights

Matt, his son Dom, and I arrived at the trail head a little past eight and met Jason, a friend of Matt’s and acquaintance of mine.  I’d read several reviews of the Maryland Heights trail that reported a tough beginning to the hike.  I have to confess, I was not prepared for how difficult it was.  The degree to which I am still out of shape was readily evident.  My heart was pounding in no time and, it seemed to me, my pace slowed to a near crawl.  Fortunately, I had good men with me who offered plenty of encouragement.  Dom ran ahead and Matt kept pace with him, but was nice enough to remind me how far I’d come already.  Jason was kind enough to walk at my pace.  We a lot to talk about.  Jason’s sons are in Cub Scouts and he was getting into Scout leadership, so we swapped stories about scouting.

Soon enough we reached the top of the incline and the going got easier.  I was more able to keep pace and we all walked together.  Around the top of the ridge we saw two white tail deer run through the brush.  They looked like does to me, but I wasn’t able to get a very good look.  We saw them again later but I was never able to get my camera out in time to take a picture.

Maryland Heights was occupied by both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War and the remains of Union artillery emplacements run along the ridge of the heights.  After we reached the top, the remains of stone walls slowly become more and more evident.  Eventually, they became pronounced enough that the National Park Service explained them with a sign.  The fort was designed as a rectangle with two small square emplacements on two corners diagonal from each other.  A set of tiered steps worked their way up the western side of the fort to a ridge above.

For most of the hike we were all pretty warm.  The weather predicted a cool, wet day and we were all dressed for that eventuality.  I was wearing a flannel shirt, vest, and knit cap.  Matt and Dom had on sweatshirts and had ponchos with them and Jason wore a gortex rain jacket.  Still, the strenuousness of the hike up the heights got all of our blood pumping and body temperatures up.  By the time we crested the ridge west of the fort, our heart rates had dropped and so had our temperatures.  Up on the ridge, without the trees breaking the wind, the temperature dropped.  Suddenly all of our jackets were zipped up and our sleeves rolled down.

Still, the sudden cold and drizzly day could not ruin the view we were treated to.  Below us wound the Potomac river through farmland and other hills and heights.  It was a sight and more than worth the work it took getting up to that ridge.  I cannot wait to hike up there again in the spring and take in that sight on a clear, green day.

rain

Even the rain couldn't ruin this view.

We scrambled across the rocks strewn along the ridge and back down the heights.  Along the way we came across a naval gun emplacement behind a slick wooden ramp.  I slipped and fell on my knees.  I’m old and I forgot my boots in the car when Sara dropped me off.  A recipe for falling on slick ramps if I’ve ever heard one.

Down below the naval gun emplacement we reached the trail to the bluffs that overlook Harpers Ferry.  Above us we heard a series of awkward squawks and looked up to see a flock of swans flying in a lazy V formation.  A short hike down the heights and we reached the rocky outcropping that overlooks the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and the town below.  We took some pictures and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Matt and I shared an Odwalla bar I packed from home.  Simple food never tastes better than when eaten on tired legs and accompanied by a hard earned view.  It was still cold and wet, but I barely noticed.

Me, Matt, Jason, and Dom

Me, Matt, Jason, and Dom

We headed back up the hill to the main trail and back to the cars.  The going was easy and quick, but we managed to see some small wonders than we missed on the way up.  Down in a gully Jason noticed a small pool the trickled in a slight waterfull into another pool below.  Soon enough we reached our cars and I took the time to notice just how tired my legs were and how wet my feet were.  Being a good Eagle Scout, I had a pair of dry socks handy and I delighted in putting them on.

It was a good day.  By the time I got home, it was clear exactly how sore I was.  I have a long way to go, but I take that as a challenge.  For the last couple weeks I’ve been hovering around 288.  It’s time for that to change.  Next time I climb those heights, I’ll have a better time of it.

way back from the heights

Talking to Jason as we walk back up from the bluffs

Posted by: fateaglescout | November 3, 2009

The John Muir Trail

nevada_from_john_muir_trail

John Muir Trail

289 Pounds.

In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world—the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.

-John Muir

I am not a romantic.  I don’t much care for notions of Truth found in the heart or soul.  I tend to hold that it is more important to think than feel.  I cling very tightly to that sort of rationality.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am obsessed with the epistemological problems of just about everything.  I believe that truth is relative and our intellectual tools are socially created.  However, being a creature caught in webs of significance of it’s own making, I think in argument, because arguments are how I was taught to think.

That way lies no peace, I know that.  I am aware of the true believer’s peace that passes understanding.  There is a great comfort in transcendent faith.  There is calm in knowing that there are answers, even if we don’t know them.  Being hardheaded, I’ve chosen to turn my back on certainty and live in doubt.  I look for more questions and shy away from any answers.

Yet I seek peace.  I need calm.  I need to feel small.  As an old professor put it, I need to find my lie.  I find that out of doors.  There I do not need to understand, only appreciate.  There are no arguments to comprehend and debate, there are only the rhythms of a world that cares very little for our small machinations.  In that quietude I find my wounds are healed, ere I am aware.

Muir_portrait_1872

John Muir

John Muir made that observation long before I did.  He fell in love with what is now Yosemite National Park and the surrounding area and worked his entire life to preserve it.  For all his service, a trail was dedicated to his memory several years after his death.  The John Muir trail runs about 211 miles along the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.

I have never had much desire to see California.  My 23 years in the east have left me with a resolute bias that only my personal experience in Montana seems to escape.  That said, I don’t reckon I could turn away from a place that inspired a man like John Muir.  So, to see what he saw; to let that heal my wounds the way he did seems only reasonable.  Consequently, I plan to hike the John Muir Trail sometime in my life.

Last week I wrote about the Long Trail in Vermont and said that after this week’s John Muir blog I would solicite recommendations for which to make a priority.  So, I have given two arguments, both of which are short on anything but my very personal reasons for wanting to do each trail.  What do you out there think?

Posted by: fateaglescout | October 25, 2009

The Long Trail

Mossy Glen Falls

Mossy Glen Falls

290 Pounds.  When I got married my parents were nice enough to give my wife and me one of their timeshare weeks to trade in for our honeymoon.  We tried to get a place out in Cape Cod or somewhere else in New England, but we started looking too late and everything along the coast was booked up.  As a result, we ended up going to Vermont and, for me, it was like going home.

Vermont reminded me more of northwestern Montana than any place I’ve been since I moved.  We visited in mid-June and the entire state was bursting with life.  It seemed that every inch was covered in trees, ferns, or moss.  Along the roads ran angry little streams flowing over smooth stones.  I was brimming with excitement the entire week.  All I could think of was all the places to hike, fish to catch, and things to see.  I was probably the worst person to go on a honeymoon with ever and I’m sure Sara wondered more than once what she’d gotten in to.

I’d like to think that we struck a good balance.  We planned plently of things to do that appealed to both of us.  We visited the Ben and Jerry’s factory, took a day trip to Salem, MA, and went to the Shelburne Museum, one of the best I’ve ever visted.  On the way to all these places, Sara would let me stop at all the little curiosities I found on our map.  As a result we stopped at Mossy Glen Falls when we saw it along the road and went about half an hour out of the way to see Texas Falls.

Texas Falls

Texas Falls

Ever since we’ve left, I’ve wanted to visit Vermont many times. I want to go again with my wife to see the leaves change and spend more time in Burlington.  I also want to go to do all the camping, hiking, and fishing that Vermont has to offer.  Deep down I hope to go to Vermont one last time and stay.

The Long Trail

The Long Trail

So, I was very excited when I first read about the Long Trail.  The trail is 273 miles long and runs the spine of the Green Mountains.  It literally takes you from the Canadian border to the border of Massachusetts.   From what I’ve read, it usually takes hikers a month to a month and a half to thru hike the entire trail.

I want to go back to Vermont in the next couple years to do some leisurely camping, hiking, and fishing.  I found a couple of great camp sites when we were on our honeymoon that would be perfect for an easy week.  Hiking trails and fishing streams are hard to avoid in Vermont, so that shouldn’t be a problem either.  I might even be up to taking a couple days to backpack a piece of the Long Trail.  In the long run, though, I want to do the whole thing.

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking into what I should work towards after my planned canoe trip.  I think that the Long Trail may be that thing.  There is competition, however.  Next week I’m going to write about the John Muir Trail in California and I’ll be looking for any advice from my friends and family about which should take precedence.

In the meantime, any takers on a low key week of camping, fishing, and hiking in Vermont in, say, two years?

Posted by: fateaglescout | October 18, 2009

Ultralight Backpacking: Gear and Gimmicks

291 pounds.

Most of the camping and hiking gear I owned as a scout were hand-me-downs from my parents.  I never felt sore about that.  My parents took good care of their packs, tents, and sleeping bags.  In any case, my father taught me that skill always trumped equipment.  This attitude was institutionally fostered in Boy Scouts as well.  One of the merit badges to loom large at scout camp was Wilderness Survival, which required the scout to spend a night outdoors with what he could carry in his pocket.  The point of the exercise, of course, was that the scout should demonstrate the he could make do without all the fabulous toys that are usually at his disposal.

As a result of this attitude, I am drawn to ultralight backpacking.  When we would go backpacking, we were taught to forgo  a lot of the equipment that other hikers would bring.  Instead of a pad, we would carry hammocks.  Instead of a tent or tarp, we would carry surplus army ponchos with reinforced grommets that could double as rain gear.  Instead of a bulky, heavy sleeping bag, we would carry an old, surplus wool blanket and poncho liner that could also be used to, well, line the poncho.

That didn’t mean that we refused every new development in camping equipment.  As a troop, we were very devoted to heavy duty, reflective “space blankets.”  No other piece of equipment could reflect 75% of our body heat back to us.  That, I think, was the rule of thumb.  We would happily adopt a piece of equipment that did something new and helpful, but would not replace a piece of equipment just because something was done more conveniently.

I swear by these "space blankets."

I swear by these "space blankets."

Now I am looking to replace some old equipment and I’m inundated with all sorts of new equipment to sort through.  I’m amazed by the things that have been replaced, “improved,” or made lighter.  As a result, I’m working out what I need to replace and what I should stick with.  For example, an ultralight sleeping bag weighs about 3-4 pounds less than my old wool blanket/poncho liner combo.  However, I am reluctant to give up this old sleeping arrangement.  Both items are just so versatile.  The wool blanket wicks moisture away from the body in the way a sleeping bag can’t and the poncho liner can insulate me as I hike on cold,wet days.  Furthermore, an old, trusty space blanket will make both useful in the early spring and late fall.

What’s especially galling are the titanium “trekking poles.”  By the way, “trekking pole” is the most ridiculous term since “hydration pack.”  The advantage to the poles is that they are light and collapsible.  I understand the goal of keeping your pack light, but for the life of me, I can’t see how a good old hiking stick can be that much of a burden.  One of my favorite parts of backpacking was cutting a good hiking stick on the first day and whittling on it throughout the hike.  I just can’t image replacing that organic experience with something as cold and metallic (literally and figuratively) as a titanium “trekking pole.”

Of course I’m not all opposed to new developments.  As I wrote before, I plan on using “hydration packs” (or “water bags” as my friend Dom suggested).  I’m also willing to take advantage of any new lightweight designs when it comes to getting a new pack.  So I suppose I need to decide what I mean by ultralight when choosing my new backpacking equipment.  The answer, I think, lies in backpacking philosophy I was brought up with.  It is better to rely on skill and knowledge than fancy equipment.  We cut things out of our pack because we do not need them and it reduces weight.  Sure, I need to get a new camp stove to replace a lost one and I will got out of my way to get a light one.  But it’s silly to sink money into light equipment when something I can do myself will work just as well.  I doubt John Muir ever worried about super light, synthetic equipment.  Dom suggested that the hunting community is less given to gimmicks that hikers and backpackers.  I certainly intend to look there for more equipment.

Other tips or suggestions are more than welcome.  As always, I’m interested in what knowledge and experience is out there.

Posted by: fateaglescout | October 12, 2009

Great Falls

Great Falls

Great Falls

293 pounds. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get out to West Virginia to help on the apple orchard.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to help some in the future.  So, my back-up plan went into effect and Sara and I had a wonderful time at Great Falls.

We left the apartment around 10 and took the  GW Parkway first to Gravelly Park, located just north of Reagan National.  Sara tried to go once with her friend, Mylynh, but it was closed.  We walked around for awhile and tried to get some pictures of the airplanes as they took off over our heads.   Getting those pictures was harder than I expected.  The sun was right over the airport so it was hard to track the planes as they flew overhead and banked left to avoid flying over the city.  The park was wide open and would be a great place to go kick around a ball.

Airplane flying over Gravelly  Point Park

Airplane flying over Gravelly Point Park

From Gravelly Point, we took the parkway up to Great Falls Park.  Despite living most of my life in the DC area I’d never been to Great Falls.  Apparently that’s where they keep all the mansions.  The number of ostentatious houses between the parkway and the park is ridiculous.

After parking, we walked down the old canal tow path to the three prepared viewing sites.  They were full of our fellow park goers, each clamoring for a better view.  Everyone was respectful and we never had to fight for a good view.  I have to admit, the overlooks were situated at the most exciting part of the falls.  However, the crowd of people was exhausting after awhile and I looked forward to finding some more secluded spots.

After looking at the river and taking some pictures, Sara and I decided to break for lunch.  My parents gave us a picnic backpack for our wedding two years ago and we still hadn’t gotten around to using it.  The backpack is really great for short jaunts where water and weight aren’t a huge concern.  It has a compartment with plates, utensils, and cups; two big insulated compartments for food; and an insulated sleeve for a bottle of wine.  We packed a couple sandwiches, Lebanon baloney, American cheese, and mayo on kaiser roll for Sara and corned beef, muenster cheese, and mustard on a pretzel roll for me.  We had a little potato salad from Wegmans on the side and a bottle of French limonade, since you can’t take alcohol in the park.  It was a great lunch.  We also brought apples and a couple cookies, but we saved those for a snack during our hike.

Our lunch on the picnic kit my parents got us.

Our lunch with the picnic kit my parents got us.

After lunch, we cleaned up and walked over to the visitor center.  As my parents, and now wife, can attest,  I love visitor centers.  I will drag anyone with me to even the most modest visitors center.  Time was, I would spend time getting every single bit of information in the place, but I have learned that not everyone is as interested as I am.  Also, I was anxious to get on the trail, so I wasn’t as inclined to spend a lot of time there this time.  I expect we’ll go back though.  We did take time to watch a brief film about the park and pick up a postcard for my folks.  The Park Ranger at the center also gave us a more detailed trail map, which was very helpful on the hike.

We decided to walk south along the River Trail and then back north along the Matildaville Trail.  According to the more detailed map, that was about a 5 mile hike.  The River Trail was wonderful.  It validated my belief that the best views are earned through hiking.  The trail ran right along side a gorge with the Potomac River running along the bottom.  It was still fairly busy, but nowhere near as busy as the prepared overlooks closer to the visitor center.  It wasn’t a terribly challenging hike in terms of incline, but the going was rocky and had some tricky footing.  Along the way we passed a number of rock climbers with their ropes anchored to the trees along the trail.

View along the trail

View along the trail

We passed a number of wonderful spots for future lunches on future trips.  It was an excellent walk; the two and a half miles just flew by.

The Matildaville Trail back up was a little less satisfying in terms of view.  However, there were a couple slight inclines that got my out of shape body working and I appreciated that.  The trail runs past the ruins of Matildaville, which was why we chose it in the first place.  The ruins were neat to explore and a little sad.  It was a company town built next to the canal and when the canal failed in the 1830’s, the town failed too.  It was weird to think that whole families lived and worked in a place now set aside for nature.

A Matildaville ruin

A Matildaville ruin

After another 45 minutes or so of hiking, we were back at the car and ready to head home.  Sara and I agreed that it was a great day and only whetted my appetite for more.  I can’t wait to hike up Maryland Heights in a month or so now.  The hike did show me two things.  First, I need to get another pair of wool socks, but my boots held up pretty well and were plenty comfortable.  I may be able to get away with not buying a new pair for a while.  Second,  I need to get a daypack.  We brought Sara’s old backpack to carry some water and it worked, but I worry that it would not work so well if we had to carry a full day hike’s load.  I’ll definitely be looking more into a new one.

For more pictures go to: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2036463&id=50800129&saved

Two happy hikers

Two happy hikers

Posted by: fateaglescout | October 8, 2009

Daypacks

293 pounds

I’ve been looking into new camping equipment.  I definitely need some new hiking boots and could probably use both a new day pack and backpacking pack.  I’m set for spring and summer camping, but could probably use a sleeping bag if I do anything later than early fall.  There have been some pretty neat developments since I was last paying attention.

The first thing I’ll need to get is probably a daypack.  I have boots that will suffice for the time being and I can always use my old external frame pack in a pinch (if I’m nice, my dad may even let me borrow is internal frame pack).  However, after being a college student and/or living in the city for about 12 years, I only own messenger bags.  A quick look at some of the rating sites suggests that I can’t think about packs without thinking about water.  It looks like most daypacks either come with a “hydration pack” or can support one.  I’m a little torn about this.  There’s part of me that looks back romantically on lugging around my old surplus canteen on a web belt and rectangular, aluminum Boy Scout back up canteen complete with red nylon cover.  Plus, calling it a “hydration pack” is needlessly pretentious.

However, I can’t get over the weight saved by using a small plastic bladder with a convenient bit of medical tubing hanging right over the shoulder for easy use.  It looks like even the Army, an institution not known for quick adoption of new technology, is all over this.  So I guess I’m just slightly inclined to go with a pack that includes a “hydration pack.”  If anyone knows of something else to call that so I don’t have to feel like an ass all the time, please let me know.  I don’t want to call it a camelbak either.  I need a word like canteen.  Something generic that doesn’t make me feel like a sell out or over-equiped neophyte.

Time to leave this old stand-by behind?

Time to leave this old stand-by behind?

It looks like Camelpak is at least the most well known manufacturer of daypacks with “hydration packs” (you see the problem here?)  They get pretty good reviews and sell for around $75 to $100.  I think I like the GoLite VO24.  It’s name is about as bad as “hydration pack” but the 3 liter bladder is removable and it has pouches for traditional canteens if I just can’t stand it anymore.   It also comes in multiple sizes and collapses small enough to pack in a backpacking pack if I’m traveling heavy.  I also like the slim design.

GoLite

GoLite

Are there any big opinions out there?  I mostly looked here for reviews of different packs: http://www.trailspace.com/gear/backpacks/rucksack/.  That seemed like a pretty good site with plenty of user reviews in addition to company pitches.  If anyone knows of another, better place to look, I’d love to hear it.  I’d also like to hear any personal experience anyone has with a daypack they really like.

Coming up next, I’m going to look into new hiking boots.

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