Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dismal Falls to VA608

On Sunday I was up early. It took about 30 minutes for me to break camp and start hiking. It would be 7.3 miles to the van and then the drive to VA606 to pick up the crew. A stuck my head in Harold's tent and told him I was gone. 
All along the way I was collecting spider webs. I kept hoping to meet another hiker so the trail would already be clear. It was just a mile to go when I exchanged greetings with a hiker that told me that was the problem with hiking early. I agreed but morning miles are still the best. 
I had to crawl under Harold's van to find the keys but I was at the pickup point by 9 AM waiting. Finally about 45 minutes later, Graham and Mark walked out of the woods. They said Arron was moving slow. His feet were giving him a fit. A little while later Arron and Harold appeared and we started the drive home. 
At the church anxious parents were gathering to pickup their boys. They backed off a little when they got a good whiff of boys that had not seen a shower in eight days. One mother told her son it was only 1 1/2 miles to walk home. She did eventually let him in the car. 
One dad asked about next year. I told him I needed a couple weeks to get over this trip. Okay, it didn't take one night to make that decision. I got a text from Aaron's mom telling me he had called her at the beach twice to tell her about the trip. If he (blisters and all) was that excited then I already know my answer. Yes, let's do it again next year!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Doc's Knob to Dismal Creek Falls

This morning everyone was up and taping blisters. I'm the only one left without injuries and that includes the dog. Yes, Charolette got up favoring a front paw. At lunch I suggested that the crew only hike to Trent's Store. It's about two miles past Dismal Falls. They liked the idea. So I get to hike up to where the van is parked and drive back to pick them up. The part the boys like the best is they get to sleep in. 
It's amazing how a little ibuprofen and the  promise of a good swimming hole can speed up a hike. The boys hiked six miles this afternoon in 2 1/2 hours. That's the fastest they've hiked all week. Go figure. 
At Dismal Falls we all got in the water. It was cold but I finally made it under to clean all the sweat and trail dirt off me. I looked back at the others and they retreated after making it knee deep. 
Supper was on the rocks by the river. It will be our last night on the trail together. While this has been a tough hike for all, I think everyone has had a great time. I know I have. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rice Field to Doc's Knob Shelter

After days of trying to figure out Aaron's blister problem I think I found the cause. He was wearing socks with padding in them. With the wet conditions we've experienced, it was like walking on a wet sponge all day. Then the soften skin was irritated enough by the socks to form blisters. They're not the worst I've ever seen but they are aggravating him. This morning I gave him a pair of WrightSocks to wear. He said they were amazing. They were dry all day but unfortunately the damage is already done. He is washing and powdering his feet each night. I also suggested he take some ibuprofen before bedtime for the swelling in his feet. Harold and I will just have to monitor him close tomorrow. 
This morning we hiked into Pearisburg and had lunch at the Dairy Queen. We ate outside and had clothes drying in the sun. I guess we looked like a bunch of thru-hikers. 
While at lunch we got a weather report. Looks like more bad weather on Sunday. The boys elected to hike extra miles today and Saturday so they hopefully miss any storms. I guess the experience on Peter's Mountain was enough. It was for me. 
We stopped at Angel's Rest to check out the views. We could see the New River and most of the route we had just taken. We ended the day at Doc's Knob. Tomorrow we plan to stop  at Dismal Creek Falls. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Captain's to Rice Field Shelter

There is an advantage to being an early riser. I got to go for a swim before it was time to pack up and hike. The boys seem to like sleeping in rather than being clean. Of course it could be the water in the river never is above 70 degrees. 
As we left the Captain's I walked ahead to use the privy at Pine Swamp Shelter. I thought Harold and the boys would stop by the shelter and wait. However they just hiked on by. They thought I was ahead of them so they took off hiking as fast as they could. I on the other hand hiked back north on the trail wondering where they were. Finally I headed south still unsure of their location. A northbound hiker I passed confirmed they were ahead of me. They were still sure I was out front. When I caught up 4 miles later, Graham said he had been chasing me all morning. 
We stopped at Symm's Gap for lunch. While we were eating I reviewed procedures to follow during a lightening storm. There was good reason because a storm was coming fast. Just as we finished eating a bolt struck to the south of us. We rushed to a grove of trees and got down low. Fortunately it didn't last long. We hiked on but I could hear another storm in the distance. This one was not as severe but it lasted most of the afternoon. Just as we reached Rice Field the weather got better but we were wet and cold. Instead of hiking another 2 1/2 miles to the camping area we decided to stay in the shelter tonight and dry out.
Tomorrow we're headed into town for lunch. 
As for my gear. The Rab Pulse has mixed reviews. In a down pour I had some wetting out on the sleeves but my torso stayed dry. With this storm I guess that wasn't all that bad but I had hoped for better. 

War Spur to The Captains

Everyone was up early this morning. The boys packed up and were ready to hike a little after 7 AM. I wasn't too far behind and couldn't believe how long it took me to catch them. Finally about a half mile from camp I saw Arron and Mark standing on the trail. When I asked why they were stopped they told me there was a bear up ahead. While excited to see their first bear, they were also a little apprehensive about the beast. I assured them it was as scared of them as they were of it. We walked up to the spot where they saw the bear and sure enough there he was. I called out "hey bear" and be took off. When Jeff and Harold came by they said he had returned. Evidently he had something to eat. 
As we approached Wind Rock the skies turned gray. A couple of times I felt a little drizzle. I was sure we were in for a rainy acternoon. The view from Wind Rock was pretty much just white mist so we headed down to the road and our resupply. When Gary and Graham arrived the sky brighten up and the sun came out. So did a whole bag of Subway sandwiches. I ate way too much. 
Jeff headed home with Gary and Graham joined the crew. The three boys amazed me as they hiked over wet slippery rocks at a great pace. I actually had to work to keep up with them. 
We arrived at Pine Swamp Branch at 5:30. I walked up on the hill to check the tent spots. It was over grown and had several dead trees. After some discussion we decided to go to the Captain's Place. He lets hiker camp in his yard. Unfortuately to zip line across the river was down and we had to walk the road to get there. The Captain was happy to see a Scout Troop backpacking and made sure we had everything we needed. He even built us a campfire. 
Tomorrow we'll be back on the ridge line and actually pass into West Virginia for a short time. 

Sarver Hallow to War Spur

About 12:30 this morning the sky opened up and poured. The pounding rain on my tent was so loud it woke me up. I remembered a few items we left out. After all the sky was clear when we settled in for the night. I put on my rain gear and crawled out to move packs under the shelter's porch. It rained for over two hours. 
At sunrise we were all asleep. Even I had a hard time getting up. Aaron said it was a better night's sleep than in the shelter. I couldn't argue that one. I usually avoid shelter except in pouring rain. 
We finally got going about 9. The boys had assignments today. Aaron was the navigator and Mark was incharge of water. Anytime I was asked about distance I simply refered it to Aaron. If water was the issue see Mark. Tomorrow they will switch. 
At Laurel Creek we had two crossings. Usually this is a rock hop but with all the rain it wading against the current. We ate lunch after the crossings and soaked our feet. The cold water felt great. 
A mile or so up from Laurel Creek we stopped at Kelly Knob. The rock has fractured away from the mountain and there are several rock pillars a short leap off the mountain. There is also great cell phone coverage there so some of us called home. I was the only one lucky enough to talk to someone back home.
The boys and I hiked with a section hiker the rest of the afternoon namer Side Band. While hiking along a couple approach us and warned us about a bear and cubs near the trail.  We didn't see them. I figured they would be gone by the time we got to that part of the trail. I think the boys were disappointed. 
Tonight we are camped just north of War Spur Shelter. Side Band is camped with us. We resupply at Wind Rock at lunch tomorrow. Hope we have good weather again tomorrow but weather reports are not promising. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Catawba to Pickle Branch

I had planned to post more prep stuff last night but time got away from me. I've been waiting three weeks for the a new pair of Inov8 Terroc shoes to arrive.  Saturday morning the supplier advised me they were lost in the mail. Off to REI to purchase a new pair of Salomen trail runners. It was also yard sale day. 
Most of the crew was on time this morning but repacking and sending extra gear home took a little longer than I wanted. It was past 10 when we reached the trailhead. I stopped and talked with several groups of thru-hikers. It seems the Home Place AYCE buffet is still a propular place. 
Mark and Aaron had great time taking in the views. I finally got them up to Dragon's Tooth. I think they now understand that the best views are at the top. 
We are at Pickle Branch tonight after a 12.5 mile day. The rain is coming down and we're crowded into a small shelter with two thru-hikers. 
Hope the rain stops by morning but if not we'll pull out the rain gear and hike on. 
As for gear the Omni-Freeze did great today. The slightest breeze and I felt cool all over. I'll keep you updated on the other gear. 

Pickle Branch to Sarver Hollow

It rained all night, sometimes it just poured. At 6:30 it was still coming down but seemed to be slacking off a little. We packed up and headed south. 
At the first creek crossing we collected and treated water. The next 10 miles were going to be dry. Well no drinking water just rain. We started a 4 mile climb to the Audie Murphy Memorial. The steady up hill was grueling. For a short period the rain stopped but just as we got the the top it started again. Fortunately it didn't last long and we ate an early lunch. 
Then we hit the down hill. All the way up you wish for a little down hill but not  4 miles of it.   About 2 PM We arrived at Niday Shelter. The sky opened up and poured, so we pulled out our food bags and snacked some more. 
After the rain stopped we continued south, hiking along the Eastern Continental Divide. All along the ridge were flat rocks pushed up at a steep angle. Of course they were still wet and very slick so progress was slow. It was 7:30 before we got to Sarver Hollow. 
Before it got dark we set up tents and prepared supper. It's cool tonight or maybe we're just wet. Anyway tomorrow will be an easier day. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Few New Pieces of Gear

As I said in the last post, I'm leaving on Sunday for a 100 backpacking trip with my Scout Troop.  At one time I was changing gear on almost every trip.  Since thru-hiking the AT in 2010 I've made few if any changes.  I get comfortable with an item and I want to keep it around. However, I recognize that as time goes on gear wears out (just like me) and technology changes (and so must I).  So on this trip I'm trying out four new pieces of gear.  They are a Rab Pulse Jacket, a Columbia Omni-Freeze shirt, a Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack and a Flat Cat Gear Epicurean Stove.  Here are my initial impressions of each item and I'll continue the reviews from the trail as I fully put the gear to a real test.

Rab Pulse Jacket- Straight out of the package I was impressed.  An XL size weighted 7.7 ounces which is a big savings in weight from my older Rab e-vent jacket.  I normally wear a large but I like to wear extra layers under the jacket in cooler weather.  I actuallywore this out in the rain last night.  As tropical storm Andrea approaches from the south, I made a trip to the canoe access in Saxapahaw to move a trailer of boats away from possible rising water.  I stayed dry even in the down pour but the true test will be hiking with a pack in the rain.
This week I stopped by the Columbia Outlet.  I was looking for a short sleeve Omni-Wick shirt.  My wife Susan had purchased me a long sleeve shirt out of the Omni-Wick fabric and I was impressed at how dry and warm I stayed hiking in temps just above freezing in alternating rain, sleet and snow.  They didn't have the Omni-Wick but the young lady in-charge of the store said that some of the Omni-Freeze incorporated the wicking technology I needed.  If it does any where close to the shirt my wife bought me, I will be happy.
For the last five years I've been carrying a ULA backpack of one description or another.  The ULA Conduit summited Mount Katahdin with me so it is kind of hard to give it up.  I've even stitched up seams in the middle of the night while listening to the rain fall on my tent.  Recently Gossamer Gear accepted my application into their Trail Ambassador program.  One of the perks was a new backpack.  When I told Earlylite about the pack, he commented "it sounded like I was in need of a new pack".  First impressions of the pack are very good.  It is very similar in size and weight to my old pack however it has a better hip belt that is something I always thought the Conduit should had offered.
Last but not least is the Epicurean Stove from Flat Cat Gear.  For I don't know how long I've been a devoted alcohol stove user.  I've even developed a pretty cool design that could make the stove simmer.  However Boy Scouts of America frown on homemade alcohol stoves so I've been looking for an alternative fuel.  I read a review of the Epicurean Stove a couple months ago and decided I had to try it out for myself.  I ordered one and used it on an over-night last month.  A half tab of esbit heated the water to re-hydrate my supper.  Now I'll get to us it for a week and under various conditions.  One issue with esbit is the residue on pots.  I only observed a minimal amount on the last trip.
Its just a little more than 36 hours before I meet the Troop to go for a little walk on the AT.  I still have food to get ready and gear to pack.  This is going to be a fun week!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dave Parker to the Rescue

So after the practice trip I knew I needed to make changes. The problem was everyone I knew pretty much packed their car camping gear and toughed it out. I decided to consult the experts at a near by "big box" store. Now don't get this wrong. They did their best to help me. The problem was they're goal was to sell gear. They were very successful.  I walked out with a seven pound four seasons tent. I can say one thing about that tent, to this day it doesn't leak a drop of water in a down pour.
Just before Thanksgiving weekend I got a phone call from an old friend. "Hear you've started a little backpacking" the voice on the line said.  After a short conversation Dave and his son invited me and my son on a three day trip in the Uwharrie Mountains. It turned out the rest of his Scout Troop had dropped out on him except for John Faucette and his son. It was a great trip, all twenty miles. I'm glad I didn't think to ask how far we were going. Dave taught us about hydration bladders and sleeping pads that doubled as camp chairs and sharing items like toothpaste and a lot about food. He made a great breakfast drink from Tang and powdered milk. Lunch was canned meat and crackers and after supper we made chocolate pudding. I still wasn't getting any lighter but at least I felt like I now had a resource.
That's me front left.  Check out that big pack!
 A couple of years later Dave invited me to travel with his Troop to Philmont Scout  Ranch and the Grand Canyon. I knew I was still packing way too heavy but that trip set the hook. I was a backpacker.

Over the next week I'll be preparing for a 100 backing trip with my Troop.  I'll post some of the prep work including food and a couple of new pieces of gear I'm carrying on the trip.