Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Self Induced Changes...

So if you have noticed, even f you haven't... I've tweaked the web site design and my plans once again. I was planning the five hikes in five days etc. However due to feeling under the weather and having a xtra long drinking session on Monday. That has changed too. In all fairness my not feeling well is not all self-inflected and just feeling "blah".

I have to get ready for my "Music on the Mountain" hike and only have so many days to do that. I promise to be ready here in the next 4-5 days. Just chilling till then.

BTW, Please vote on facebook for my picture (shown here) at the following link... CLICK HERE :-) You can vote once a day for it till the contest is over.

Till next time!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sack It! Bivy's.

Note...After this post we will be getting back to trips and adventures... I hope to be hiking a lot over the next month or so. Until then please read, catch up and perhaps click on one of the ads/sponsors as it would help. Thx...

Last time we talked about tents... I'm sure this section will be just as clicked on (LOL) as we enter the world of Bivy's. I posted this because I was shocked how many people were just clueless to what a bivy was. I will admit at first I was to. So lets dive in straight away.

Bivy's are basically (for those who have not heard of them) lightweight, weatherproof bags. The traditional version is just a sack that a sleeping bag will fit into. In recent times Bivy's have expanded into one or two pole structures that may apear to be a tent but really are a lot smaller and have little head room. People either love or hate bivy's. I know people that sleep outside in a bivy sack and despise tents because they block views or whatever. I also know people that feel very confined in a Bivy and hate them with equal passion. Both sides I can understand but "can't we just all get along". :-)

I personally could not get used to a sack and as I've mentioned before went with a Bivy that has a pole (See Review Here). My reason was simple and I find even a closed Mummy bags is just way too confining. So I went with what I was happy with. I tried a tent but the weight and the also the setup was just not what I was looking for. So this was the lightest option. Of course it reduces my chances of that romantic camp-out but hey I'll live.

I would say though I may one day go into just a Bivy sack; I'm working on dealing better with being closed in. The sacks I think are great, even for people who want to just be sleeping among the stars. No bugs or water or even snow to worry about. They are "Bomber" as we are prone to say about indestructible gear.

I will say this for just under $100 you can't go wrong with a bivy sack even for an emergency situation. You can end up paying as much as $250 for one. Just depends on the "options" that come with them. Hold that laughter because you would be surprised just how many bivy's have certain features that others don't. Zipper placement, stow away pockets, and face screens are just some options to name a few.

Condensation is also an issue that comes with bivy's. The collection of moisture over night can be a big detraction. However with new technology in waterproof sleeping bags this is becoming less of an issue. Bivy's are just one of the options to think about when you start bangaranging miles in the dessert; for me it happened to be the best way to go backpacking.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tents, Tarps and Bivys... TENTS !

Talking, comparing and ultimately bragging about what gear you have and use is quite common with backpackers. The banter only increases when you are talking to people who work at a shop, it goes way overboard when two Ultra-lighter's converse. I'll never forget the time I was selling an extra water reservoir to some guy and we started to compare gear notes. All that we failed to do was whip it out and measure penis size. I came away with two very profound thoughts after that. One, I'm glad I backpack alone after meeting this guy...Two, gear is about personal preference. What works for you may not work for someone else.

This thought holds true most of all for sleeping quarters. What you acquire and how you choose to bed down for the outdoors is just as personal as buying a house or bed. So today I'm going to focus on Tents and then my next post will be Tarps and Bivys. Really the best option is up to you, but trust me I'm going to cover things below you may not even have thought of.


Here despite what you or your friends might say...Size matters! I have a friend who shall we say is quite large. So when we hit the shops to find her a tent... A hell of a lot of smirking and laughter went on. The phrase "Yea, that's not going to happen" was uttered more times than I can count. What is now considered a large 2person tent holds at best 1 adult and 1 small kid. Head room is also something to really consider. I always see a ton of people unhappy because they have to really get low or can't even sit up without their head touching the mesh.

When looking for a tent always know what it's going to take to setup. How much time and how complex its going to be. Now a days it could vary from just a pole, to a pole with sleeves or be nightmare with poles, sleeves, guy-lines you name it. The amount of time and your patients in setup should determine if you like it. backpacking / camping should be enjoyable and not time wasted on tent setups.

This may sound strange but get a routine going in how you enter and exit a tent. It helps when you are in the dark or have to go to the bathroom at night. So practice this before a purchase if you can. Knowing if your routine will work with this tent will become important.

Tents are much heavier than the two other options and can be freestanding (No Stakes) or not. More often though, even freestanding tents you are going to be putting in stakes. So I wouldn't let this be the deciding factor in your choice. Do however consider overall weight before you carry something be it 1mile from the car or 20 miles a day in the back country.

Shop around and then do it all over again... It took me over 3 months to settle on a Mountain Hardwear tent and I loved it. Though I have to say I'm a fan of the bivy now and sold it off. Though that was because my needs and wants changed not because I was un-happy with the product. Still, take your time with the decision and try the least expensive options first.

Overall its the size, price, ease of setup and overall weight that should determine how and what you buy. Again its all about personal choice and not a penis contest. Hope you enjoyed, Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Leave a trace...Pay a price

Today I want to talk a bit about leaving traces of your hiking or backpacking experiences behind. I know their has been constant preaching about this matter on many websites, commercials and signage; time and time again. Yet people still do not seem to get or want the message. Though it stands as important today as it did 30 years ago the slogans "Pack it in, pack it out", "Leave No Trace" all seem to go un-noticed at times.

I have rarely walked or hiked even in the remote parts of the wilderness, without some piece of liter catching my eye. It's completely baffling to me how some people are careless or perhaps just so spiteful in there trail and camping manners. I'm also convinced that Dr. Pepper, Keystone and Bud Light drinkers are advertising their products though littering. (ha ha)

I don't care if your a border crosser, trail guide or just want to get away with friends to drink beer smoke dope and party it up... "CLEAN IT UP don't FUCK IT UP!" We all pay a price for not being diligent in how we conduct our self out on the trails. Be it though pollution, wildlife destruction or higher taxes; it affects everyone in a multitude of ways.

So if you go out there, bring certain things, think it through. Take something to put garbage in; I use an orange oder proof /waterproof stuff sack. It's completely washable and you can get one at Wal-mart. Don't leave things that can potentially fly away unattended. Use rocks to weigh down things if necessary. Try packing without using the plastic bag things come in. Above all make the effort that if you see liter, pick it up even if its not yours. Saying to yourself "its not my mess" is just a piss poor juvenile excuse for turning a blind eye to the situation.

We all have to do more... Help with keeping our dessert and environment clean. Not only for yourself but for the wildlife and yes...even mountain bikers, snowbirds and the dreaded family car camper :-)

Thx for reading.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ultra What?

Its called "ultralight" backpacking and while it sounds cool and catchy; according to backpacker magazine this month it only accounts for about 30% of backpackers. Simply put, we tend sacrifice typical camping methods and equipment for a lighter weight and more space in our pack. So in theory we can travel further and faster than most. Some backpackers carry 60lbs, others like me carry 25lbs or less into the same environment. I think "Ultralight" is really still being defined and as such its hard to put it in perspective. In my trips, I've encountered only a few other so called "Ultraighters". However I always meet people who usually ask for tips or even demo's on how to lighten the load. So today I thought I'd give a few tips of my own and dispel some myths along the way.

 First off I'll say I didn't really start out thinking, "Hey... I'll be an "ultralight" backpacker. Honestly it just started with my lazy ass style of thinking. What was the best way to avoid the pain of carrying weight? As a 40 something getting back to my backpacking roots I knew I could not do things the same as when I was 20. While its true the newer technology and gear meant less weight; you still go without. Below is the top five things I do not carry with me that a typical backpacker/camper would. Also I explain the alternatives that I use.

A look inside my Bivy...Behind me is mesh so I can see the stars.
1) Tent... Average weight is about 4-5lbs still for a so called 2 person version. The alternative for me was a "Bivy" which is typically a sack that is water and rain proof. However I went with more of a "Bivy" hybrid. It has a pole so I have room above my head. The weight is far less at 1lb 8oz is waterproof and can fit myself, pad, pack and that is about it. Some people use less and have a tarp or ground cloth but I prefer this method.

2) Food.... This can be a huge drag in the weight department. I now exclusively, say for some trail mix go with dehydrated foods. The weight of my food is a fraction of the typical camper/backpacker. They literally carry tons of stuff for the calories and I carry a lot less and do sometimes suffer with weight loss.Taste I could care less about and am always surprised how good dehydrated things taste now. Really when cooked right, there is not much difference. However it leads me to my next weight saving method...

3) Stove... Typical stove is any where from 5 to 7 lbs. My stove with kitchen gear is 10oz, the fuel is a separate matter but obviously I use a lot less. Water and coffee (Starbucks via packets) is the only thing I use it for. Then pour into my food pouch (never a plate) and I have a meal. It's that simple. Food to me is substance; not a damn thing more.

A normal setup for me
4) Pack... The average framed fully padded pack that is considered for multi-day backpacking weights 6+ lbs. I go with a less than 3lb pack that really works very well for me. It's not huge but still considered big at 61L. Do I suffer in pain? Nope not a bit because I've got less weight to begin with.

5) Hygiene products and clothes... I carry travel size things and do not use deodorant. This is mainly because of the bears and honestly I'm not trying to impress a woman out there. It's backpacking people not a dating scene. You go with what you need and can always clean up later. Do I smell my best? Nope. Do I stink to high heaven? Only after I'm running for my life but other times NO!

In the clothing department I may carry one or two changes of lightweight UV resistant clothing. and that is it. Maybe two changes of socks and this is all. It's an adjustment but again not a dating scene out here; its nature.

It is also very important to note that "Ultralighting" is as much about mentality as anything else. I don't need a shave until I get back home. I stay warm by moving and doing jumping jacks before I go to sleep at night. Not with heavy clothing though I do carry Military poly-lite thermals.

Not uncommon for me to sleep like this either
I have one last tip for people that may want to try this. Constantly revise your thinking and ways. Make a list of what you use and more importantly what you don't use. I found tons of useless things in my pack even after I thought I was carrying light. You don't have to buy the latest greatest stove. MSR's Pocket Rocket has been around for 30years and still out-performs most things on the market. Look on Craigslist and yard sales instead of REI or Summit Hut. Trust me they will get their fair share of your business but look around. I get some of my most lightweight stuff at Wal-Mart for a fraction of the cost it is at REI. Oh and by the way my "In the Bag" page will return later this month so you gain a better idea of what I and others carry. Till next time friends... Bangarang!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Next Adventures!

So what do I do now??? Mostly healed from my trip I was headed to Northern California and Sequoia and Kings Canyon national park; then the call of parenting intervened. It shouldn't be too much longer now but the "Lily sitting" has definitely taken me off my course. Though this is not viewed as a terrible change.

One thing I hope to do in the next few weeks is go upward from Sabino Canyon to Mount Lemmon. Coinciding it with one of the "Music on the Mountain" concerts held on the weekends; then return via Romero Canyon. When I have the dates I will post them. If any one wants to meet for the Music, they are welcome to let me know. There is something about doing a lot of hiking followed by drinking beer and listening to music that appeals to me.

The other main trip will be at the end of September (Weather Permitting) to Sequoia and Kings Canyon. This will be after the permit season and I can attempt the "High Sierra" trail and just maybe Mt. Whitney. Though I have to admit its really the trail that appeals to me more. I have never seen a finer sight then that of the Sequoia's. I've often compared other places I've been with that of Yosemite. Mainly because of those very guardian like trees standing tall in the forest.

While I know challenges will await me on these endeavors; it will never compare to the fire in the wilderness. At least, I hope it won't. Still, I can't wait to share them with you through writings and pictures. I've even devised more accessible way for my camera to be closer; in hopes of documenting future trips better. Below is also my Top 5 list in no set order of places to see (backpacking wise that is). Yes by the way the "Arizona Trail" is still on this list its was lack of rain and timing that held me back last time.. Until then I will be posting things about ultralight backpacking and training etc... Till next time; Bangarang!

Pete's Top 5 to go

1) Arizona Trail
      2) High Sierra Trail
    3) John Muir Trail
                     4) El Camino Real Pilgrimage
                      5) Appalachian Trail (All of it)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 15... PTSD...Post Trail Stress Drinking

Slept right through my alarm and still clutching my prayer cross. I was stunned to see nothing but clear blue sky. Either the winds changed the direction of the smoke or...well...honestly I didn't care for an explanation of it. I just wanted to be safe and for the first time in more than 24hrs it seemed likely. Heading back south and west, continuing the plan that started from fear. To say this day started as a miracle would be a gross understatement.

My body had some issues but not many ill effects as I thought would be the case. I was not refreshed. Is any one after 14nights backpacking? Still, I could walk, there was water and I kept to my task. Following that canyon the main trail started to reappear. As it climbed slowly above the canyon I decided this had to be the way. South and west, it became the mantra of the morning; just has it was the entire day before.

Some people say I have a very annoying "smugness" about me. Today as I came across a trail head sign lets just say I was humble, contrite and believed in luck for maybe the first time in my life. I wanted adventure, in the worst way and that is what I obtained; far more than I wanted. At that moment no one, including myself, would have ever recognized me. At least by talking to me or judging my demeanor.

The last 15 to 20 miles of my journey was a mundane hike compared to the day before. Perhaps all future outings will be just as un-eventful. Hardly seems I should bother with any details of it. The very end of the Gila trail was Forest Service spotters. We had a brief discussion and off I went down FS-155.

On that long road headed to the Town of Gila three hunters gave me a lift to Silver City. Plenty of beer was offered and accepted. Their generosity allowed me to have a piece of mind for the night. The trip may have ceased but the process of what happened was just beginning. That being said convalescing in SC for the next 4 days seemed like the right thing to do.

I'd lost over 12lbs on this trip, felt excruciating pain that still exists, serving me reminders time to time. My first words uttered on the phone with someone who asked how my trip went were... "Remind me never to do this again." She exclaimed "Why bother? ...I know you will any how." Perhaps she's right :-)

Till the next entry... Bangarang

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 14 pt.3...Spirit not Broken but Wary

This being the longest day of my life as I previously stated. It took three parts but and will now try to just hit the highlights and move on as my trip nears its conclusion.

Slowly as the afternoon wore down, the wind picked up, gusting in my face. I marveled at the amount of ground I covered; all due to my adrenaline fear induced day. Physically I knew it was all adrenaline today with a terrible let down tomorrow. Mentally I explored all possibilities. Name a scenario and I promise you I thought of it. From would I let fire burn me or jump to my death. To who hotter... I won't name names here. I was confident but if I stopped or could see smoke, that confidence turned very quickly into despair.

Countless times as I said before; I would block out the thoughts of family and friends. This worked for most of the day but begun to seep in my every thought. The terrain was getting "lower" and "flatter" and that is the perfect description of my spirit. I did all I could to get distance, followed every bit knowledge I could draw on. Yet lower and flatter the two seemed. The canyon seemed to merge with another and clear trails that seemed to mark the way before, were now disappearing right before my eyes.

I had a. hour of light left when I reached this merger. A big decision loomed. Do I continue south and west? Or perhaps I'd be better suited going up this canyon that was flatter and had some outcrops and such for sleeping? I choose the latter option and found what to me could best be described as a large V-shaped area of rock. I climbed it, laid out just my mat, mummy bag and prayer cross and started looking at the sky turning to twilight and the thin layers of smoke crossing it. Needless to say I gripped the cross a little tighter that evening.

I went as far as I could in body and spirit. I really could not tell you if I had any thing left if that fire would have approached me again. If I would have seen a glow coming my way could I have kept going? I just thank God I will never know the answer to that question. No glow in sight and I passed out completely among the stars and smoke. The last thoughts I can remember were "what happens will happen and its out of my hands".

Day 15 just has to be better? Right?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 14 Pt. 2...Cpt. Kirk, A Woman in High Heels Oh and Yea... FIRE

Thoughts outside the box is what makes me tick...So in a way when I'm faced with what seems like an impossible situation; it helps. This I can say in retrospect because during the moment I came close to a full on freak out. No pack, its down countless feet below me. No conventional way of getting down that I can see. No way to go forward and then backtrack, because that fire I guess is still coming my way. The eventual answer was looking right at me the whole time.

A tree, yep just a narrow tree that jetted up out of most of the canyon. Looking right at me the whole time. Two issues with this tree... One: Its going to take a leap that literally I have no clue if I can make it. Two: Trees have branches and this one is no exception. It did however possess another tree right next to it that had even fewer so I opted for that one. A quick second and third thought maybe even a fourth and off I went.

When I spiraled down and looked up I just yelled "That was awesome" then resumed my mode of getting out of there. I was in pain and scraped my leg, yet I know I had a smile on my face; because I realized something at that very moment... No matter how this ends up I'm going to know I gave myself every chance to get out of there. The "what ifs" don't matter because I'm doing everything I can to create distance and survivability.

We are about half way into the day now and really it was becoming like a normal hike for me. With the tiny exception of a fire somewhere behind me. I see white smoke but nothing else, I heard a helicopter once and while it sounded close it was not right on top of me; so that gave me some relief.

My thoughts were still of Kirk and random quotes, and then I started to make up different lists in my head of 5 things I would do. I also came to terms with that I'm just a sucker for women who wear stilettos and know how to walk in them. I kept my mind busy with anything but what was behind me or even ahead of me for that matter. I set my watch alarm to every 60 min to remind myself to look behind me. Though I will admit I looked back hundreds of times. I also used that alarm time to remind me to drink. That may sound strange but I didn't want to hike myself into exhaustion and dehydration.

The water in the canyon was flowing more and more so I must now be on or near the Gila itself and heading out the right way. As this day went on I realized that sleeping would be a wake up every hour to check the direction I last would see smoke. That I should prepare myself for a night hike and find higher ground, perhaps even a cave. After all, rock does not burn.

There was beauty all around me but I couldn't really stop and take notice like I did in Jordan Canyon.  I tried desperately not to think of family or friends. When I did it would just depress me and I didn't need that right now. Don't ask me why but I did think of things like arguments, sex and what turned me on. Yet even these trivial things bummed me out and I knew I was in for a rough afternoon and night...

Pt 3 Tomorrow

Day 14... Pt. 1 Here we go...Wait Where do we go?

Even my most wildest, "worst case scenario" didn't come up with this one. Day 14 was going to be at best life changing and at its worst...Well lets just say I would be telling lies in saying some old tough cliche like " It never crossed my mind". No it all crossed my mind in an instant. Death, serious injury and panic to name but a few; and that was just for starters. If I wasn't taking to myself on this trip... I was certainly doing it now.

It's dark and a little away from sunrise, no wind yet and that can only be an act of God; as it was windy this entire trip. I can see the glow but really have no grasp of the direction or speed of this fire. Not even sure how to even proceed. I'm now positive there is a book out there I forgot to read when it came to this. Just because this could not even be happening. Right?

The end results was a deep bruise down to the bone
I was going to go into a great painstaking dialog of what happened on this day. Then I thought how can I really put this into detail or perspective? Honestly it would take an entire novel worth of work just on this one day. What would be the point? After all you know the end result. I'm still alive and fully escaped injury except for my badly bruised leg that still hurts slightly after a long day of hiking or running.

So I'm going to try and explain it from my thoughts as oppose to actions. The actions are vague at best any how because I was literally on the run and being at one point as close to flames only a few football fields away. Fleeing for my life, not knowing most of the time exactly where the fire was or how I was going to get out of there. South and West was the safest route from my own observation and my encounter with a spotter plane. The Sun is finally up... I say finally because this was without any doubt; the slowest day of my entire life. Nothing happens fast enough today not my accelerated hiking, not the water running into my bottle. NOTHING at all.

A trek like this was common through out
As I admitted already panic was there at the start. However, there comes a point and for me or any one with experience and knowledge, when a calm replaces the initial fear. For me it all starts with a simple word I tell myself. Breathe. Really that is what its all about for me. When I felt today was getting worse or I made a wrong turn even had to backtrack a time or two. "Breathe", was all I told myself. When I knew I had to stop and eat or drink to keep my strength and when parts of my mind said RUN! Instead I would pause, and just take a breath.

No matter what heading I took, it seemed smoke was coming over my head. Not knowing at the time what exactly was going on was probably in retrospect a good thing. The "Miller Fire" was to last weeks and burned more than 88k acres, closed the ruins, NM 15 and countless trails. It drove me faster, further than I even thought possible. Still, where was I going? I had general ideas and made sure the canyon I followed below had water. I used my compass for direction but that was it. Always south and west. Circumstance caused me to take risks but also to "Take Care of Myself"; best I could.

Trail running was never my strong suit, however I am, if nothing, swift. The canyon I'm about to enter is entirely draped in shadow. If there was ever a more spooky, erie situation...I have not a recollection of  facing it. Not a soul but mine and God's. Every countless step I take is focused on leaving this fire way behind me. Realizing I have no choice but to lower my gear first then find a way down. I tie a rope and lower my pack. Still I cant seem to find a way into this damn thing, time is ticking and that fire is not standing still.

As I'm making my way down a second time my attempt fails once again. Either I leave my pack and continue or drop 4 to 5 story's down maybe more. Both options are unthinkable but you think it anyway. Almost at the point of despair and already exhausted. I have choices to make that to me are "No Win" choices. Talking it through, out loud to myself Captain Kirk's phrase from Star Trek 2 comes into my head. " I don't believe in the No Win scenario". Yea, I know crazy but tat is how the "Pete Mind" works. I come to realize I agree with "Jim". So now what??? Breathe I say.

Pt. 2 will post tonight or tomorrow.


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