Sunday, October 23, 2016

Photograph: "Summer Dreams Past"

A child's butterfly bracelet dangling from the fingers of the Black Angel.  Taken in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (A few more pictures I've taken of the angel can be found here.)
Summer Dreams Past
"Summer Dreams Past"
by Bruce H.
Walking through Omaha and Council Bluffs has become a walking meditation for me.  Similar to the Camino, when you walk your mind wanders from the past, through the present, and on to the future.  Lately my mental meanderings have become nostalgic, dark, and full of regret while still having a shimmer of hope and anticipation of the Appalachian Trail adventures that lay ahead of me.

It is the small and simple things, like a child's bracelet in an unexpected place, that bring me back from the brink and returns me to the future.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Photograph: "Shadows Of Autumn - 1 & 2"

Imprints of fallen leaves.

Shadows Of Autumn
"Shadows of Autumn - 1"
by Bruce H.

Shadows of Autumn - 2
"Shadows of Autumn - 2"
by Bruce H.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Book: Blake Crouch's "Dark Matter"

I downloaded my latest read in Detroit while waiting for my connecting flight to Omaha.  I downloaded it to be distracted and it turned out to be a very thought provoking read.

Blake Crouch's "Dark Matter" follows a physics teacher, Jason, who is abducted and wakes up in another world nearly identical to the one he left.  In this new world he is an award winning physicist but, unlike his own universe, he is not married and doesn't have a son.

From here the novel explores the path not taken and what one would do, or not do, to make an alternate choice.  Who among us does not have regrets?  Who among us does not wonder what would have happened if you'd made a different choice?  Just looking at my own life I see how things could have turned out so differently.  If I had not entered that chat room in early October 1995 I would have never met the Wife.  If the start of my first Camino had not been delayed by a day due to a misplaced bag I would have never met Gv.  So many small things steering our lives.

The book is interesting and ends with a twist as Jason tries to get back to his family.  I enjoyed it and it provided the needed distraction.  I gave the book four stars on Goodreads because it made me think a lot about how my life could have been so different were it not for small quirks of fate.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My New Bag

I purchased another backpack (my fourth [!] since 2010).  After my Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) camping trip I decided that a lighter backpack would be better for the Appalachian Trail (AT).  The one I chose was the Hyperlite 3400 Southwest in black (The black pack has a thicker material for added strength and the other color, white, gets dirty too easily).

The Southwest is a simple pack.  It is essentially a dry sack with arm straps.  Coming in at 2.1 lbs (0.95  kg) the pack is 2.7 lbs (1.2 kg)  lighter than the Osprey pack I used on the RMNP camping trip.  The pack has a large, deep, main compartment, three external pockets, and two belt pockets.  The main compartment closes like a standard dry sack, i.e. roll it over a few times then click the ends together.  A 'Y' strap helps compress the bag vertically as well as allows you to secure equipment on the top of the pack.  There are multiple attachment points for equipment mounting.

The Southwest is a 55 liter pack rated for 40 lbs (18 kg) though, after exchanging a few emails with hyperlite, you may be able to push it up to 50 lbs (22.6 kg).  I think forty pounds will be plenty but for some of the longer AT stages the food will probably push the weight up to the low to mid forties.

The pack is made of dyneema, a very durable and waterproof material.  The dry sack construction of the pack means it shouldn't need a pack cover for rainy days (assuming you pack waterproof stuff in the outer pockets).

The pack has a hydration sleeve inside the pack.  My Osprey had an external hydration sleeve that I found incredibly convenient.  The exit for the hydration tube is on the right.  This is odd since most packs give you the option of feeding it either right or left.  This is no big deal but I am used to the drinking tube being on my left.

The simplicity of the bag is a payoff for lack of amenities.  Along with the internal versus external hydration sleeve, there are other things missing.  For example, my Osprey pack has a bottom zipper that allows for easy access to the bottom of the main compartment.  It also has a 'J' zipper that allows you to open the main compartment for easy access to everything.  The Southwest main compartment access is only from the top which means you have to dig to get stuff on the bottom of the main compartment.  You want the bells and whistles?  Then you have to carry the extra weight.  If I'm hiking 2,200 miles I'm willing to trade convenience for less weight to carry.

I used the Southwest on my September camp and it performed well (keep in mind I had a relatively light load).  The pack does not have load lifters.  Load lifters are adjustable straps on the top of the arm straps that allow you to snug the load to your back.  The idea is, when walking on level ground or climbing up, the load should be close to your body.  When you are going down you loosen the load lifters allowing the load to flop back a little thus helping you keep your balance.  My Osprey had load lifters and, during my RMNP hike, I never adjusted the load lifters and I was moving up and down a lot on that hike.  I didn't notice much of a difference so I am not concerned about the lack of load lifters on the Southwest.

All in all I am happy with the pack so far but it is early.  I will be taking it out for a second overnight camping trip next week and I will have another chance to feel out my new AT pack.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Three Years Ago - Camino Sunset

Three years ago today, GV and I finished our second Camino.  We sat on the rocks near Faro Fisterra, ate a picnic dinner, and watched the sun set over the Atlantic.  It was the perfect end to our Camino.

Sunset at the end of our second Camino.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Photograph: "Red Vine Flower"

I took this back in August but it needs to be shared.  We need a little more beauty right now.

Red Vine Flower
"Red Vine Flower"
by Bruce H.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Book: Susan Cain's "Quiet"

I switched over to nonfiction for my eighth book of the year.  Susan Cain's "Quiet" delves into the world on introverts, a label I've often applied to myself.

Before reading "Quiet" I thought of myself as a fairly typical, if not extreme, introvert.  The book corrected many of my misperceptions and I think I have shifted position along the introvert - extrovert spectrum.  As I read the book I said yeah, that's me, I'm an introvert but then I would read something else and think "Oh, I'm not so extreme then."  Some of my more extravert features are probably introverted attempts to fit in with the extrovert dominated world we live in.  It was an interesting learning experience.

The only part of the book that lost my interest were the last two chapters about how to communicate with the opposite type and how to raise introverted children.  Being my age I have pretty much figured out how to communicate with extroverts (though avoiding them is my usual way of dealing with them).  Not being a parent, the last chapter did not interest me but I expect it would be very useful to parents.  Recognizing your child's introversion early and guiding them would be a helpful thing to know.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads mainly because I really learned something about myself.