Homer's Travels: September 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Camp #10 - The Third Return To Hitchcock Nature Center

It's been over a year since the last time I went camping.  The last time would have been August 2015 when I did a five day camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I decided to end the camping drought last night so I could test out a couple pieces of new equipment, namely my new tent and backpack.

Late afternoon sunlight reflecting off the pond near my campsite.
I've camped in Hitchcock Nature Center three times before.  Each time I picked different campsite from the six or so that are available.  These three had all been at the top of ridges.  This camp I picked one at the bottom of Fox Run Ridge next to a sizable pond.

A panorama of the pond from the campsite fire pit area.
The day was perfect for camping.  Temperatures were in the high 60s (about 20ºC) with a light breeze (probably because I was at the bottom of a valley - it was breezier at the top of the ridge).  The skies were mostly clear with just a wispy cloud here and there.  There was only a 10% chance of rain so I expected to remain dry.

The campsite is only a mile (1.6 km) from the trailhead and this is mostly downhill so it was an easy hike.  The tent pad (a sandy log framed area) was on the trail and the fire pit was a short distance away on a piece of land jutting out into the pond.  I took a look around the area before putting up my new Tarptent Rainbow tent.  [I will be posting about my new tent soon.]

One of my escorts as I walked along the edge of the pond.
I walked along one edge of the pond.  As I walked I was escorted by the sound of frogs jumping into the water from the pond's edge (there really wasn't a beach  ... just a sharp drop off with enough space for a frog to sun itself).Across the pond I could see a canoe.  It appeared to be on private property just outside the Nature Center's land.  The pond was good sized and had plenty of room for some canoeing.  The water's surface was smooth with only the wakes of small water insects to ripple the surface.

Water insects imitating small motor boats.
I sat by the fire ring and made my dinner.  I tried a new dehydrated meal by Good to Go.  I tried their Classic Marinara with Penne.  When I open the packet it instantly smelled wonderful.  The ingredients were all "real" food with no added chemicals,  The salt was 40% lower than the Mountain House meals which is a plus though it still had 15% of your daily salt requirement per serving.   The pouch had two servings but ... no one eats a half of a pouch so it was 30% of you daily salt requirements.  Yes, the Mountain House meals have close to 50% of the daily requirement per pouch (two servings).  Yeesh!

How was the penne?  The Good to Go meal had the same issue that the Mountain House Mac n Cheese had, namely the pasta was almost crunchy.  It is possible that I'm not heating the water enough but the water was boiling when I poured it into the bag to rehydrate the meal.  The flavor was good at the beginning but it strangely lost flavor as I got down to the bottom of the pouch.  The red pepper flakes gave the meal some heat which I'm not that fond of but it didn't hurt it that bad.  The heat might have been an attempt to pump up the flavor but it didn't quite succeed.

Some early autumn color.
The rest of the night was spent lighting a fire (flint, steel and  a Vaseline soaked cotton ball) and reading an ebook as the sun went down and the temperature dropped.  The fire kept me warm and I had enough layers to be comfortable.  As the fire dwindled, and I got a bit tired, a headed for the tent, stopping to look up at the stars.  The 10% chance of rain manifested itself as thin wispy clouds that didn't do too much damage to my star gazing.

I got in my tent and read some more until the two benadryl kicked in and I went to sleep.  The train tracks pass close to the park but the sound of the train and accompanying whistle didn't bother me as much as it did my other camping trip I wrote about here.  I fell asleep listening to the hooting of owls and the howling of coyotes.

It got down to around 45ºF (7ºC) overnight but I stayed nice and warm in my sleeping bag.  I woke up early in the morning to a screech which sounded like a cat in heat but I suspect it was a raccoon or opossum being threatened somewhere.  I rolled over and slept some more, getting up at 7:00am.

I packed up my backpack and tent.  I needed gloves.  My fingers were numb as I stuffed the tent in its bag.  The hike back to the car was quick.  Another successful camping trip under my belt.

I hope to camp again in October and, weather permitting, in November.

Pictures can be found in my 2014-2016 Camping in Iowa and Nebraska Google Photos album (scroll down to the bottom).

Oh yeah.  I found a new camping friend.

My new camping friend.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Book: Hugh Howey's "Wool"

My seventh book of the year is a post-apocalyptic story.  Hugh Howey's "Wool" is set in a future where the survivors of a disaster (natural or man-made - is is uncertain) live in an underground city called the Silo.

The novel follows several people as they plot, scheme, and learn about the place they live in and the secrets that are being hidden from the people.  The setting is far enough in the future that there isn't any original survivors left, only their descendants.

The story is interesting.  The storytelling feels ... a bit shallow.  I'm not sure why it feels that way.  It could be that the lack of historical detail, something required to maintain the element of surprise in the book, that gives it a slight lack of depth.

Having said this, the what was revealed about this world intrigues me and I am already looking forward to the other two books in the trilogy (this is not a new book and the sequels are already available unlike the other series books I have read this year).

I gave "Wool" four stars on Goodreads because it kept my interest.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Line Of Fear

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC.  It is time ... once again ... to remember those who fell and who have fallen since that tragic day.

Thinking back to that disaster and looking at the world around me today, it is hard to miss the line connecting the largest terrorist attack in history to the most insane presidential election season ever.  I am sure this line, a line of fear, has Osama Bin Laden laughing his ass off in his watery grave.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Appalachian Trail Stages Version 2.0

I finished bouncing my Appalachian Trail (AT) plan (version 1.1) with a 2016 edition of "The A.T. Guide".  The original plan was made using a 2013 edition and in the three year between the editions things have changed.  As a result I updated my plan to version 2.0.

The main changes that I had to accommodate include:
  • The elimination of all but one campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The park now requires you to stay in shelters.
  • Shifted some stop days around by, mostly, shortening the length of some stages.  This allowed stopping in places where resupply was possible instead of resupplying "on the go".
  • Changed stage lengths due to changes in the book.
  • Removed Palmerton, PA as a rest stop when I discovered the only place to stay was "Clothing Optional".
  • Moved some of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) stops to the secondary stops.  These shelters require reservations and are expensive (and lavish with showers and meals provided).  I kept one as a primary stop and will have to make a reservation once I've nailed down exactly when I will arrive.  These shelters also offer a very limited number of Work-For-Stay spots for thru hikers.
I also made some changes not related to changes in the book.
  • Marked entrance and exit to special parks like Great Smoky Mtn and the Whites.
  • Added Shoe replacement locations in the notes.
  • Changed how I count stage days.  Before I wasn't counting the day I walked into a rest town.  This would not be a fair representation of the actual stage length.  Each stage is now a day longer than before.
  • Added number of stages to the header information.
  • Added day of the week to the date field.
  • Corrected the misspelled word in the TITLE.  Sheesh.
If you would like to see the new version of my AT itinerary just click the Appalachian Trail tab at the top of the page (under the header image).

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Wrath Of Rapa Nui

This has been a weird week for me.  It was mostly loaded down with medical issues.  I actually hinted at me being sick in an earlier post.  Then it was an excuse for not prepping for the Appalachian Trail (AT).  This week it was even a more prominent reason for not training.

So what are my medical issues?  I will not gross people out ... much ... but it was all related to my Poopy Nui (or Rapa Poopy) that afflicted me after leaving Easter Island.  I took antibiotics in Quito and part of the Galapagos cruise and defeated the Easter Island Bug but, unbeknownst to me I was setting myself up for a failure.  From mid-July to this week I have been combatting some form of mild intestinal distress.  Not enough to ruin my day but enough to slow me down.  That is my medical issue.  That and my allergies are being wicked brutal this week.

This week, by coincidence, I had scheduled a follow up colonoscopy (following up on a benign polyp discovered five years ago).  I passed the colonoscopy with flying colors (and endured the excruciating prep procedures).  A biopsy was taken and it was determined that I have Clostridium Difficile Colitis.

What probably happened is the antibiotic I took in the Galapagos weakened or killed the good gut flora in my intestines allowing the not so good Clostridium Difficile to move in.  I didn't help the situation when, deciding to self treat, took even more of the antibiotic I had on hand.  This is easy to treat and I'm on medication for the next eight days or so.  Hopefully I will be biking and hiking again soon.  I already feel better ... though I do tire easily.

I haven't let this slow down all of my AT prep.  Today I finished up version 2.0 of my proposed AT stages.  I will be updating the Appalachian Trail tab next week along with a post explaining why some of the changes were made.

Have a happy Labor day weekend everyone!

P.S.  I have successfully fought off the urge to post the picture of the inside on my colon that I received after the colonoscopy.  You can thank me later.