Homer's Travels: August 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Apology To Summer Activites

The cool weather we've been having this week reminds me that Fall is just around the corner and has gotten me to reflect on what I have done this Summer.  Thinking back, I owe the Summer an apology.  More specifically, I owe the Summer's activities an apology.  My reviews of my Summer activities - the New England vacation, RAGBRAI, and the Rocky Mountain camp - have all been too harsh.

The New England vacation was a perfectly fine vacation.  I enjoyed visiting the 911 Memorial and the Freedom Tower, I enjoyed the Woodstock Museum, and despite it coming across a bit underwhelming, Niagara Falls is still pretty awesome.

RAGBRAI taught me I didn't like riding bicycles over long distances that much but that's an important thing in itself.  I now know that I don't like riding bicycles over long distances!  I also know that, even though I didn't like riding bicycles over long distances, I can ride bicycles over a long distance.  I rode a freakin' bike over 462 miles!  That is an accomplishment all in itself.

My Rocky Mountain National Park camping trip was a terrific learning experience.  While I was in the middle of it, I didn't feel that way, but I recognized soon enough that I'd learned some important lessons that could be used to further my hiking and camping experiences.  That's not a small thing!

So all you Summer activities - activities that I have poo-pooed so easily - you were great!  From now on the wisdom each and every one of you contributed will be remembered fondly.  I learned a lot from all of you and those lessons will continue with me on all my future endeavors.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Camping RMNP: Lessons Learned

Every now and then it's ok to have a bad experience if you can learn from it.  My Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) five day camping trip was a mix of good and bad.  From the good I got wonder, joy, and happiness.  From the bad I learned valuable lessons that will help me improve.

There were five major lessons learned on this camp.  Four are universal and can be applied to most, if not all, future camping.  The other is a bit more specific.  We'll start with this one.

Lesson One: Altitude is a butt kicker.

Doing my first five day camp in a park with altitudes ranging from 8,000 ft to over 12,000 ft probably wasn't the smart thing to do, especially considering that I live at 1,000 ft 99.9% of the time.  Altitude sickness comes in various grades and severities.  I am fortunate to handle altitude pretty well.  In Peru, on our first day at altitude in Cuzco, I suffered from a headache which went away after a good night's sleep.  In RMNP I didn't even have a headache.  What I did suffer from, both in Peru and RMNP, is rapid onset fatigue ... i.e. I tired very easily.  This made my days two to three times harder than they should have.

I'd spent the night in Estes Park (altitude 7,000 ft) and I'd hoped it would have acclimatized me but one night was not enough. It took until day three on the trail to finally start to acclimatize.
Learned: Take time to acclimatize before you do physical activity at altitude.  You may need up to a week to fully acclimatize.  In the meanwhile, take things slowly and rest often. 

Lesson Two: Thirty-seven pounds is not light.

I thought my pack was light at thirty-seven pounds but once you hoist that pack on your back it begins to feel like a ton of bricks.  When I chose my latest pack, I picked it for it's weight capacity (50+ lbs).  I figured I may have to go over forty pounds occasionally and most ultralight pack capacities top out at 40 pounds.  Now I know better.  Thirty-seven pounds is too much.

My current pack weights, empty, about 4.8 lbs (2.15 kg).  Another pack I was looking at but rejected due to it's lower weight capacity comes in at 1.8 lbs (0.84 kg).  Both of these packs have the same volume (60 liters).  One weighs three pounds lighter.  Now I know I could have gone with the lighter pack and I would have shaved a few pounds off my load.

Besides the pack, I will have to look at all my equipment to see if I can shave a few ounces (or pounds) off the final weight.  I am starting to understand the ultralight hiking obsession that I've read about.
Learned:  Keep the weight to a minimum.  Lighter is often better and a light pack means additional spring in the hiker's steps.  Lighter = happier.
Lesson Three: Food is not food unless it has calories.

I thought I'd brought enough food with enough protein and calories to sustain me for five days.  Turns out, for various reasons, I was wrong.  In addition to the weakness caused by the altitude and weight of the pack, I wasn't giving my body enough fuel.

I carried four dehydrated meals, trail mix, and jerky.  I also carried some sandwiches packaged for campers in case it rained and couldn't use my stove.  First off, I didn't carry enough of each.  I probably needed double the calories ... maybe even triple.  Another thing is everything has a high sodium content which made me drink a lot of water.  This is not a bad thing but high sodium is not ideal.

To make things worse on this trip, all my jerky molded on the first day and had to be tossed out.  I never noticed this at home because I store my jerky in the fridge ... hence no mold.  The camping sandwiches saved the day here substituting for the jerky.

Before my next long camping trip I will have to research calorie dense food - foods that really pack the calories into each ounce.  I will also have to investigate foods that can take the heat and not spoil too quickly.
Learned:  Calorie dense food that doesn't spoil.  The more you expend energy, the more calories you need to keep going.
Lesson Four: Pull up your pants!

The North Face convertible pants that I love do not fit me properly.  Also their integrated belt (i.e. the belt is sewn into the waist) will not stay cinched tight.  This allows the pants to shift down and the pack belt then rubs on the hips without the protection of the pants.  I didn't have open wounds but it was a bit bruised and sore on my hips.
Learned:  Find better fitting hiking pants, preferably without an integrated belt.
Lesson Five: Toesocks RULE!

When I first bought my Injinji toesocks I said that they would need a multi-day hike to really test them out.  Well, on my camp I thoroughly tested them.

I had three pairs of liner toesocks and three pair of wool hiking socks.  While I hiked I wore a pair of liner socks with a wool hiking sock over them.  I wore two pairs for two consecutive days each and one pair for the last day.  I climbed up, I climbed down, and I walked on all sorts of surfaces with these socks on.  I wore a pair of Solomon Eskape Aero hiking shoes with custom orthotic insoles.

The results, frankly, were amazing.  During the entire trip, I had only one blister on one toe.  This was better than I expected.  I had a couple hot spots on a big toe and the bottom of one foot but they only lasted a day and never developed into blisters.  I couldn't have asked for better results.

In addition to having minimal blister issues, the soft corn on my toe that seems to always flare up when I do long hikes, never bothers me when I wear the toesocks and it didn't bother me this camp either.  The added cushioning seems to prevent any irritation of the corn.

One odd thing which I may have to work on is, when I pulled off my socks to change them after wearing them two days, my toes were filthy.  Aparently the tenacious dirt went through the cloth upper of the shoe, through a thick wool hiking sock, and through a liner sock to get to my toes.  The rest of the foot was relatively clean.  Fortunately I had some Wet Ones with me and I could clean my toes before putting on clean socks.
Learned:  Toesocks work wonders for reducing the chances of getting blisters.  A must have on long hikes.
I'm sure there were other lessons in there that I've forgotten.  There are always opportunities to learn things when you do something new.  All of these lessons, once I tackle them and find solutions, will help me on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  The only one that really won't matter much is the one hardest to solve and that is altitude.  The highest point on the AT, Clingmans Dome, is only 6,643 ft (2,025 m) which is nearly a thousand feet lower than Estes Park and nearly two thousand feet lower than the Bear Lake trailhead where I started my hike.  I would consider that a good thing for, as I said before, altitude kicks butt.

Several times as I was struggling near the end of the day I found myself asking if I was willing to repeat this week twenty-six times along the AT.  At the time, especially during the first three days of the camp, I might have answered a resounding 'No'.  But I've learned my lessons.  I will find solutions.

Near the end, even when it still was difficult, I would stop, look around, and marvel at what I saw.  I would drink a long draw from the filtered river water - some of the best water I've had the pleasure of drinking - and forget all the dark thoughts I'd had the day before.  It's time to start planning my AT adventure.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Camping RMNP: Days Four And Five

Day Four or "Goodbye to an old friend"

Day four would be my second hardest day based on elevation and distance but, looking back, it didn't feel as hard as day one and two so I think I'd finally gotten acclimated to the altitude.  Having a half day of rest and camping overnight at over ten thousand feet also helped a bit.

I got up a little later today than the day before.  This would be a trend during my five days of camping - each day I would sleep in a little later.  I broke camp and headed up the Tonohutu Creek trail toward Flattop Mountain.  Since I started at ten thousand feet, the climb up to the top was a thousand feet less than on day one but, despite being acclimated, I stopped to rest at least fourteen times on the way to the top.  The views were beautiful as the sun rose over the mountains.

Ponds and Lakes viewed on the way to Flattop Mountain.
At the top the wind was whipping.  I'd removed my hat and attached it to my pack before I reached the peak.  I wasn't bothered too much by the wind as it was mostly a tailwind and it helped blow me up the trail.  I stopped and sat down in the most sheltered place I could find.  I'd tried to call the Wife the past few days at camp but there was never any service.  I tried again from the top of Flattop Mountain and finally got through and let her know I was still alive.

Beautiful hiking weather near the top of Flattop Mountain.
The way down was easier but not easy.  I only rested five times on the way down.  At the bottom I turned to the northeast and headed towards my camp.  This part of the trail went back up climbing about six hundred feet.

The wind had died down a bit so I put my hat back on.  Somewhere along this two miles section my hat came off.  It either blew off or fell off when I sat down to rest.  Either way, I didn't notice it since I was wearing my Buff under it and the Buff gave the sensation of wearing a hat.  I didn't notice it was gone until I reached camp.  I did go back along the trail for a bit when I went to fill my water bottles in a nearby pond but I didn't see it.  I was a bummed.

Fatigue plays weird tricks on you when you are on the trail.  I lost count of the times when I saw a rock, log, stump, or tree and thought I saw a building, tent, or, once, a trailside shrine with a buddha statue that turned into rocks, logs, stumps, or trees when you got closer. On day four this shifted to people.  A guy asked if I was lost.  I was just checking my map so I said no and ask if he was lost.  He said he couldn't be lost because he had no destination.  Weird.  He was a bit rough around the edges and, to top it off,  he had a gob of snot hanging from his left nostril.  The more I saw him in front of me the more paranoid that I would find him at my campsite.  No reason to believe this.  My site was a solo camp and he did not have camping gear.  I just figured he was one of those "I don't need no stinking permit" types who would just camp where he wanted to and mooch off other people.  I didn't want him to mooch off me.  I'm pretty sure I was wrong about the guy.  But all sorts of weird thoughts go through my head when I'm exhausted.

The campsite was a nice one.  It was the only solo campsite with a privy.  While I was happy to have my own toilet there seemed to be something missing.  Didn't stop me from using it though.

My evening routine was the same as the last three nights.  I was tired after the eight and a half hours of hiking and once again, after eating, I crawled into my tent, read, and passed out.

Total Distance on Day Four: 9.4 Miles (15.1 km)
Total Ascent: 2,744 ft (836 m)
Total Descent: 2,634 ft (803 m)
Map of Day Four.

Day Five or "Enough, I'm taking the short way home"

I'd thought about day five for awhile as I struggled and stumbled along the trails the past few days.  Day five was going to be an 8.8 mile (14.2 km) circuitous route that passed by Odessa, Fern, Cub, and Bierstadt lakes before arriving at the park & ride where I'd left the car.  It would be mostly downhill.  Knowing now how hard down could be at RMNP, I pulled out the map and found a shorter route to the car.  I would only see one lake, Bierstadt lake, before I got to the car.

Morning reflections on a pond.
I woke up a bit later than normal, thus continuing the trend, and wondered "What is that smell?"  I soon realized it was me.  It took me four full days before I noticed my body odor.  It was time to head home.  I broke camp and headed back down the trail.  I looked for my hat the whole way but it was not to be found.  I followed the signs to Bierstadt Lake and followed the mostly downhill trail. I stopped briefly at the lake and admired it.  I started to wonder if skipping the other three lakes was a smart idea.  After the lake, the trail took a dive and dropped rather rapidly, and steeply, until I arrived at the park & ride.

On the shores of Bierstadt Lake.
I unloaded my stuff into my car and drove to the Bear Lake trailhead.  I asked the rangers there if anyone had turned in a hat.  Sadly it was no but they told me all backcountry lost and found was sent to the backcountry office.  I stopped there on the way out of the park.  No joy their either.

Since I shortened my hike today I was really early.  Too early to check into my hotel.  I stopped at a subway and had lunch (I ate in the car in case my stench turner off other customers).  I got the first of two ice creams of the day and went to the hotel to see if I could check in early.  My room wasn't ready but they were nice enough to expedite the cleaning and I got in fairly early.

A shower never felt so good even the one in my cheap, in need of renovation, hotel.  I cleaned off the grime and laid around most of the afternoon but at 3;00PM I couldn't stand it any longer and drove downtown and found a restaurant.  I had a really early open-face roast beef dinner (I nearly licked my plate clean), had some real ice cream for dessert (dulce de leche and chocolate like on Sunday), and shopped around for a couple magnets that I still needed.

I returned to my hotel and spent the night proving to myself that they hotel cable really didn't have CNN.  It took me four or five hours to convince myself of this.  I finally gave up and went to sleep in my comfy enough bed.

My camping trip was over, it was a mixture of good and bad.  It's alright though as I enjoyed the good and learned lessons from the bad.  I will talk about that in a later post.  I would have to say, despite my exhaustion, and the many evil thoughts I had while staggering down the trail after a long day, my first multi-day camping trip was a success.

All my pictures can be seen in my 2015-08 Rocky Mountain National Park Camp Google Photos album.

Total Distance on Day Five: 5.4 Miles (8.7 km)
Total Ascent: 509 ft (155 m)
Total Descent: 2,524 ft (769 m)
Map of Day Five.  My shortened route out.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Camping RMNP: Days Two And Three

Day Two or "I thought less elevation would be easier than this."

I woke up early on day two and broke camp.  I put on the pack and walked down to the falls and actually took pictures of it before I headed out on the North Inlet trail heading west.

Most of the morning was generally in the down direction which used less energy but, as I said in my last post, the rocks on the trail made it slow going.  I was pleasantly surprised at my energy level as I left camp but that ended up lasting about an hour.  That's when the crash came and energy drained out of me.

I didn't take many pictures this day or the next but I did take a picture of the last large animal I saw during the camp: a moose.  It was not that large.  Either a juvenile or a female.  Not sure of my mooses.

I stumbled down the trail for about 7.3 miles (11.7 km), and 1,000 ft (304 m), before I reached the North Inlet trailhead.  Here I dumped the moldy jerky in the bear-proof trash cans and used the trailhead bathroom facilities.

This is a shared trailhead.  Both the North Inlet trail and the Lower Tonohutu Creek trail start at the same parking lot.  This parking lot would be my last sight of civilization intil I hiked out on day five.  I turned north and headed up the Lower Tonohutu Creek trail which, incidentally, was primarily uphill.  It was only 3.6 miles (5.8 km) and rose only 900 ft (274 m) but it felt like it went on forever.  When I finally saw the sign for the campsite, after just over eight hours of hiking, I was really relieved.  I was also confused.

When I was planning this hike I had located the Paint Brush campsite on several maps ... and none of the locations matched.  To make it worse, the sign said "Paint Brush #1 Camp"  This confused me since I thought there was only one Paint Brush Campsite (there is only one).  I decided I didn't care and turned up the trail.  This is where is got even more confusing.  I came up to what looked like a campsite next to the creek.  The map on the campsite information sheet showed the campsite was on the other side of the creek.  There was a small foot bridge so I crossed it and followed the poorly marked trail for a while but, when it turned uphill, I said hell no and turned around.  I ended up camping at the first location I saw before crossing the creek.  I suspect that this was not the correct campsite location but ... at the time I didn't care.

View from my campsite (Paint Brush) out across Big Meadow.
As you can surmise, I was nearly as exhausted as the day before and my attitude was a reflection of that exhaustion.  My mood did improve a bit after I put up my tent, collected and filtered water from the creek, and admired the wonderful scenery.  This campsite was at the southern end of what is known as Big Meadow.  It was gorgeous in the late afternoon sun.

I repeated the same activities as the day before.  Took a nap, made dinner, crawled into my tent, read my book briefly, and then went to sleep really early. I slept well until about midnight when I woke up cold and had to break into my base layers to keep warm.  During the night I would look out from under my tents rain fly and I swore I saw snow and frost on the ground.  When I woke the next morning there was no evidence of snow, frost, or even dew.  I think it was just the moonlight playing tricks on my tired mind.

Total Distance on Day Two: 11.9 Miles (19.1 km)
Total Ascent: 1,951 ft (595 m)
Total Descent: 2,122 ft (647 m)
The map of day two.  Doesn't look as bad as it was.

Day Three or "That was a short day?"

I woke up after a weird night's sleep.  Besides thinking there was snow on the ground, I also had multiple dreams where I thought I was suffocating and being smothered.  I woke up several times thrashing around trying to get my breath.

After two very long days, I was ready for a shorter day and day three would be that day.  I woke up a bit later than the day before sleeping in an extra hour.  I broke camp and headed north on the Lower Tonohutu Creek trail.

The trail skirts the west side of the Big Meadow, a narrow strip of wild grasses that runs north and south along the creek.  Along here I passed the remains of an old log cabin.  I wondered just how old it was.  Did it date back to the formation of the park back in September 1915?

Big Meadow in the morning.
Like yesterday I felt energetic for about an hour before every last drop of umph went out of me.  I turned east on the Tonahutu Creek trail and the trail started to climb.  For a short day it was slow but, after four and a half hours, I arrived at my next camp, Renegade, just after noon.

The camp was not far from the creek.  I put up my tent, collected and filtered water, and again, did the same thing as I'd done the day before but with a few minor changes.  Since I was at camp much earlier I ended up reading my book more and I took a longer afternoon nap than on days one and two.  I knew I had to rest up since day four would be another hard day.  I considered doing a side hike to a nearby lake but I decided against it, instead I used my collapsable bucket to bring water to the camp where I gave myself a sponge bath that was probably not very effective.

I dressed warmer when I went to bed.  I was a thousand feet higher than the night before so I was ready for the cold night.  While I wasn't happy that I had to carry the extra weight of the cold weather clothing, I was happy to have them when I was snug and warm in my tent.

All in all, I felt better on day three.  The shorter, yet still difficult, hike gave my body time to recover at the end of the day and I felt I had more energy around camp in the late afternoon and evening.  I actually enjoyed this relaxing afternoon.  All the rest eventually would make day four a better day.

Pictures can be found in my 2015-08 Rocky Mountain National Park Camp Google Photos album.

Total Distance on Day Three: 6.1 Miles (9.8 km)
Total Ascent: 1,546 ft (471 m)
Total Descent: 388 ft (118 m)
Map of day three.  For reasons unknown I could not extract proper elevation data from my GPS.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Camping RMNP: Days Zero And One

Last week I went camping at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) near Estes Park, CO.  It would be my longest, and first, multi-day camping trip.  For now I will describe my experience as ... an interesting one with lots of lessons learned.

Here is how it went:

Day Zero or "How I got there."

I left home early, around 6:45AM and drove west.  The drive was about eight and a half hours.  It went without much of a hitch.  I stopped at the backcountry office and picked up my camping permit and we went over the regulations.  It was pretty straight forward and I was already familiar with most of the rules.  There were a couple things that were new to me on this day.

The first happened when I stopped for lunch in western Nebraska near Ogallala.  I told myself I would stop for lunch at 11:00AM but just before the clock turned I changed time zones and lunch jumped an hour away.  I said screw that and found a Subway at a truck stop and pulled in for an 'early' lunch.  As I was eating a pickup pulled in next to my car.  It was a beat up pickup with what looked like a homemade paint job.  In the back of the truck bed was a flagpole flying a full size confederate flag.  To top it all off, a small noose hung from the rear view mirror.  I knew then that I was in Western Nebraska.  I was going to take a picture but ... who needs trouble?

The second thing I saw was at my hotel that night.  I saw my first commercial for marijuana the Republican Party.  I think a commercial for weed would have been less unsettling.

After a good dinner at Penelope's and some dulce de leche/chocolate ice cream, I went to bed early as I would be getting up early on Day One.

Day One or "What have I gotten myself into?"

I arrived at the RMNP park & ride a half hour early.  I had orange juice and a muffin for breakfast as I waited for the first shuttle.  The free shuttle bus took me down the road to the Bear Lake trailhead where I would start my camping trip.

Sunrise over the Bear Lake trailhead.
I hoisted up my pack (it weighed 37 lbs - 16.8 kg) and it dawned on me that it was really heavy.  I headed for the trailhead, saw the sign pointing towards Flattop Mountain, and promptly went the wrong way.  I have no excuse.  The arrow was huge, obvious, and very clear.  In my excitement, I just temporarily lost my mind.  A half hour, and a very nice little lake (Nymph Lake) later, I realized I was no longer seeing signs for Flattop Mountain.  I checked a map and realized my error and booked it back to the trailhead.  In the end I ended up wasting an hour/two miles/400+ ft of elevation.  I wasted this on what I expected would be the toughest day of the five day camp.  Not a real good start.  Fortunately this would be my only navigational error.

On the right trail I headed up the side of Flattop Mountain.  There were quite a few people on the trail as this is a popular day hike.  I went up the mountain slowly.  Very slowly.  Two things were slowing me down.  First was the weight of the pack - I was just not used to it.  The second was the elevation.  I'd started at around 9,500 ft (2,896 m) in altitude and I was working my way up to 12,300 ft (3,749 m).  I live at around 1,000 ft so I was gasping for air at the trailhead.  Add some exertion and I was huffing and puffing something awful.

One of many beautiful views on the way to the top of Flattop Mountain.
My goal was to get to the top before the afternoon thunderstorms kicked off and I made it to the top at noon.  On the way up I saw deer, marmots, and pika (The cutest things that sound like squeaky toys).

At the top I sat down to rest before I started down the other side.  I pulled out a bag of turkey jerky I had in my pocket and found it moldy.  Turns out all the jerky I was carrying was moldy.  There went a large source of protein.  Fortunately I did have some extra food that I'd brought in case I couldn't cook hot meals (due to rain, say) so I wouldn't starve ... much.

The North Inlet trail marked by pairs of cairnes.  Not the two cairnes on the horizon.
I started down the other side catching the North Inlet trail to the south and west.  The trail was marked clearly by pairs of cairnes.  Another trail, the Tonohutu Creek trail, went north and west and was marked by single cairnes.  I would be returning to Flattop Mountain on the Tonahutu Creek trail on day four.

I was tired at this point ... very tired ... but I figured that downhill would require less energy and I would be fine.  Oh how wrong I was.  You see, I discovered why the Rocky Mountains are called the Rocky Mountains.  They are ROCKY!  Rocks of all sizes everywhere including on the trail.  You were constantly watching where you placed your feet and stepping over rocks and lowering yourself down large stone steps all the way down the side of the mountain.  On top of that, natural springs flowed across, and on, the trail in spots making foot placement a little more complicated.  It was a slow, tiring descent.

A bull elk giving me the eye.
The only plus was that I passed a bull elk on the way down.  He was only five feet from the trail and eyed my warily as I passed by taking his picture.

Before I got to the bottom the rain finally arrived.  I'd expected it for a while since I saw it in the distance from the top of Flattop Mountain.  It wasn't terrible and didn't last long.  More of a nuisance rain but i did have to put on my rain jacket briefly.

The canyon or valley I would be going into and across on the way to my campsite.
At the bottom you cross to the other side of a canyon/valley (not sure the difference) and turn west.  My campsite was about another mile or so from this point.  Also at this point exhaustion set in.  I could feel the energy drain out of me.  I emptied my water bottle (two liters) along this part of the trail.  When I stopped walking my legs would shake.  I think my body had used up all its reserves.  I was in pretty sad shape.  I was relieved when I saw the turn off for the side trail that would take me to my campsite.  When I arrived at the campsite, I'd been on the trail for eight hours and thirty-five minutes.  I was pooped.

The campsite was near a fairly large waterfall.  While the campsite was set a ways back from the water, you could still hear the roar of the waterfall from your tent.  I walked into the campsite and dropped my pack.  I put up the tent in a hurry since rain decided to start just as I arrived.  I rushed putting up my tent, got my gear undercover, and climbed into the tent in time for the rain to stop.  Like I had energy to spare.  The little rain that we did have just made it easier for the dust and pine needles to stick to everything.

I walked back to the falls, collected water and used a filter to fill my water bottles with three liters of water (one for the evening and two for the next day).  I have to say that the mountain spring water tasted mighty good.

After an hour nap, I ate a meal at 6:00PM and climbed into my tent soon afterwards.  I was asleep by 7:30PM.  I was exhausted and it didn't take long for me to be out.  I woke up a few times during the night, mainly to add another layer to stay warm ... which I did.

I can't say I enjoyed this first day.  I hiked longer than I expected due to my silly mistake and the pack weight and altitude just sapped my energy.  The moldy jerky was a disappointment.  The added protein would have been handy.  I'd hoped to do a side hike to a couple nearby lakes but my legs saids "no way pal" as I drifted off to sleep.

Pictures can be found in my 2015-08 Rocky Mountain National Park Camp Google Photos album.

Total Distance on Day One: 11.7 Miles (18.8 km)
Total Ascent: 3,539 ft (1,078.7 m)
Total Descent: 3,474 ft (1,058.9 m)

The map of the day.  The little hump on the left of the elevation plot is my mistake.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Passing Of A Traveling Companion

I returned from my camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday without an old friend.  On Thursday, as I hiked to my last campsite of the trip, a nasty wind blew off my trusty Tilley Hat.  Normally I would have noticed it immediately but I was wearing my new Buff under the hat to keep sweat from running in my eyes.  The Buff feels surprisingly like you are wearing a hat.  I didn't notice the hat was missing until I arrived at my campsite and tried to take it off.

The next day I checked at the trailhead and at the backcountry office where all lost and found items are taken.  There was no sign of my old friend.  I was a bit heartbroken.

Me and Tilley Hat go back seven and a half years.  He was a Christmas gift from the Wife (though I picked him out personally) back in 2007.  Since then me and Tilley Hat explored the trails of California, Nebraska, and Iowa.  We traveled the world together going to Jordan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zanzibar.  We completed two Caminos together in Spain.  We nearly completed my first multi-day camping trip ... but it was not to be.

I hope the Tilley Hat wasn't jealous of my new AT Buff.  I hope it didn't leave in a fit of spite, having to share the same head.  If Tilley Hat is still out there and can see this, you will always be my first and you will always be the better of the Buff.

I will now test the Tilley lifetime warranty and see if I can find a replacement for my trusty Tilley ... at half price.  No matter how new it is, or how cost effective, it will never be the first.

Tilley Hat

Dec 2007 - Aug 2015

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Last Exploration Of The Summer

I've had a full summer.  Our New England Trip and then RAGBRAI.  Today I'm heading for my last big experience of the summer:  Rocky Mountain National Park for a four night, five day camp.  This will be my first multi-day camping trip so wish me luck.

My pack is coming it at around 37 lb (16.8 kg), a bit heavier than I'd hoped but that includes everything.  Food and water stuff, sleeping stuff, tent stuff, clothing stuff, toiletries stuff, first aide stuff, and, my luxury item, my tablet and external battery.  My luxury item probably adds the extra weight.  Also, as usual, I'm probably carrying more water than I need.  I'm carrying two liters.  I'm sure after day one that will probably be reduced to one liter (it's a lesson I've learned repeatedly but I'm always overly cautious the first few days when it comes to water).  As I drink and eat the weight will go down,

The weather forecast is, of course, changing as I get closer to the park.  There are thunderstorm chances everyday but the latest shows the longest expected period of precipitation is an hour.  I hope that forecast is right.  If not, I hope it overestimated the rainfall.  If not that, I will have a learning experience that will serve me well on the Appalachian Trail.

Unexpected for me were the forecasted temperatures.  The highs are in the mid 50s to the lower 60s.  The lows at night will be dipping down into the 30s with 32°F being the coldest.  It also appears it will be windy which I'm sure will make putting up my tent a breeze.  These temperatures are another reason my pack is heavier - I had to pack warm weather clothes including my base layer, my half-zip, and my rain jacket.  This added a few pounds too.  On the other hand, the cool weather will make the hiking more comfortable.

It will be an interesting first day for sure.  The most weight on the day with the most elevation climb.  Hopefully my RAGBRAI leg muscles will help me get through.

I hope to take more pictures than I did on RAGBRAI.  It should be easier to do at 2 mph than at 12 mph.

One interesting side note.  The Wife insisted that I buy bear spray.  This is the first time she has condoned me buying anything remotely hazardous.  Watch out world!