Saturday, May 25, 2013

I Don't Think This is Going to Stick

In 1998 my son Martin turned eleven. Like many boys he was involved with the Scouting program. His mother had been active with Cubs and declared that I would be doing the Boy Scout thing. 
Martin's idea of Boy Scouts was backpacking and high adventure. He searched out a Troop that seemed to offer that type program. I said seemed because later I was told that backpacking was brand new to this Troop. 
Being a firefighter I was taught the "5 P's". They are "prior planning prevents poor performance". So Martin and I headed for a small local park to test out our gear. What I remember about that trip was coming home worn out from the few hundred yards we walked to the camp. I told my wife as I dropped my hefty pack on the floor "I don't think this is going to stick". 
Well, somehow it did but there have been a lot of changes over the years. While many were gear related, I think the biggest change was with me. More on my journey to lightweight backpacking next time. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

So How Did I Get Here?

It was another fun weekend of hiking through the Uwharrie National Forest.  On Saturday I met up with Troop 1 from High Point, NC at Big Island Creek.  It was kind of a follow up after a class on lightweight backpacking I had with them a couple of weeks ago.  I alway wonder how much of what I present sticks with boys.  This was a chance to check it out first hand.
The weatherman had predicted rain all weekend. A few sprinkles fell as I parked the Outback at NC 109 and started south.  It didn't last long and I begin to think a few hit and miss showers were all that I was going to see.  The Uwharrie Trail was pretty empty.  I only saw one other hiker the first five miles.  Then I ran into a large group of Scouts on the Dutchman Creek Trail.  They were camped at Yate's Place and doing a day hike.  Just before noon I saw a second group of Scouts.  Turns out both groups were from Winston-Salem and had 40+ boys camped together.  My Troop has about 15 boys.  I can't imagine handling three times as many.
On arrival at Big Island Creek I got a text message from Marty Purser the Scoutmaster of Troop 1.  They were running behind and had just crossed Dennis Mountain.  I decided to hike on and met them.  When I got to the next campsite they were spread out under the trees having lunch.  They thought they were at the meeting place.  I looked around at the packs.  Some of them look pretty good but a couple could use some work.
After lunch Marty suggested I hike on ahead with a couple of his older boys.  It sounded like he would not be too far behind so I agreed and took off with Patrick and Austin.  I let them set the pace.  I had been maintaining 3 mph all morning so a slower pace worked for me.  I suggested to Marty to take Woodrun Road to shave off a few miles but his group of boys wanted to walk the trail.
Just over a mile from lunch we switched from the Uwharrie Trail to the Dutchman Creek Trail.  Patrick and Austin were moving at a good pace.  When we crossed Woodrun Road the third time I told they they were less than an hour from camp.  They walked along talking about school and future plans and then one of them made the comment that he had never hiked a mile so fast before.  I figured it was just because we had only stopped once in five miles to take a break.  That was not so much to rest as it was to remove ticks and apply more deet.
About 3 PM we arrived at our campsite.  The boys busied themselves with setting up hammocks and tarps.  I went about my camp routine of hanging a bear cord and setting up my single wall tent made by Gossamer Gear.  It had been an hour and the rest of the group had not arrived so I texted Marty to get a location.  They were not too far away so I hiked out to meet them.  Everyone seemed fine but I helped with a couple of packs to get everyone to camp.  It was a good thing because just as we got there the sky opened up and it poured.  Okay it just seemed like a good time to take a nap.
The boys set up a tarp and waited for the rain to stop.
Just before dark the rain stopped and we gathered to cook supper.  Most of the meals were Mountain House boil and pour.  As for me I had a meal of dehydrated Paleo lasagna I had prepared a few weeks earlier.  I poured the hard dried mixture of tomatoes, egg plant, zucchini and eggs into a pot with water and placed on my new esbit stove from Flat Cat Gear.  In just a couple of minutes I had a very satisfying hot meal.
By the time we were all finished eating and cleaning up the sun was gone and everyone was headed to their tents.  It wasn't long before the rain returned and I fell asleep to the patter of drops on my shelter.
On Sunday I was up with the sun.  I had 15 miles to my car and the weather was calling for thunderstorms.  By 7 AM I had thanked everyone for a fun weekend and was hiking.  I left the group with one final instruction.  When they get home, empty their pack.  Sort all the items as used or unused.  Next trip don't bring anything from the unused pile (one
exception is a first aid kit).
I made the first five miles dry and then it started to rain.  Before long it was pouring and I reached for my rain jacket.  As I walked I gave a lot of thought to how my pack has evolved over the years from as much as 40 lbs. to the 13 pounds with food and water on this trip.  Its been some journey and while you might think buying light to start with would do it there is a lot more to hiking light.
Over the next few weeks I plan to add stories of how I got here.  How the load has gotten lighter and the miles pass much easier.