Homer's Travels: October 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!!!

Happy Halloween Everybody!!!

For Halloween: a spider who lived on our deck.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Camp #11: Preparation Canyon Sunset And Sunrise

My eleventh camp was in Preparation Canyon.  I've camped here two times before and I've always liked how remote it feels.

Preparation Canyon Sunset.
The park is a fairly small park but is is surrounded by farmland and the nearests towns, Moorhead and Pisgah, Iowa, are small.  The area is rural.  It is also Trump country based on the number of political signs I saw going to and from the park.  I was hoping it would be a quiet night but I forgot it is harvest season and the distant sounds of combines harvesting corn could be heard all night (I think I still heard them when I woke up at 2:30am though I might have dreamt it).

The campsite looks small when seen from a nearby trail.
Like the other campsites I have used in this park, there was no real level ground to pitch the tent on.  This meant I would wake up to one side of the tent in the morning.  I found the best spot I could up hill from the picnic table, opposite the fire ring, and put up the tent.

I like fall camping.  The temperatures are crisp, the skies are often clear, and the stars go on forever.  This fall camp was a bit odd.  First of all the temperatures were above 70°F (21°C).  Secondly the low temperature for the night was 56°F (13°C) which is much milder than I expected for this time of year.  Lastly there was a whisp of high altitude clouds that obscured, but did not totally block, the stars.

A nice fire to contemplate life beside.
I lit my fire before the sun went down.  The wood that I collected was very dry and the fire burned hot and quick.  I had to collect more wood over the next hour to keep it going.  I sat at the picnic table and ate my Spaghetti with Meat Sauce while watching the sun set and the fire burn.  On my other camping trips I usually do a lot of reading by the fire.  This one I just sat by the fire, looking into the flames, and letting my thoughts wander.

A leaf covered trail brings back memories of youth.
Once the sun had completely fallen below the horizon I layed down on the picnic table bench and looked up at the stars.  I'd hoped to see a lot tonight as the forecast was for clear skies but the wispy clouds blocked some of the view and dimmed many of the stars.  Nevertheless the stars still shined and I saw a lot more than I can from the deck of our house.

I got in the tent early (8:00pm) and read a little of my ebook before falling asleep,  I slept surprisingly well and only woke up a few times during the night.  I got up just after 7:00am, before the sun came up over the horizon, broke camp, and poured the remainder of my water on the cold ashes of my fire.

I returned to the car walking on a leaf covered trail.  There is something about the sound of fall leaves crunching and shooshing under my feet that makes me feel content.  Maybe it's a memory of jumping in piles of leaves when I was a kid.

I drove home making only one stop along the way - my customary McDonald's hotcakes and large orange juice that I always have after camping.  It was a good camp and, weather permitting, I will have one more in November. (Pictures have been added to the end of my 2014-2016 Camping in Iowa and Nebraska Google Photos album.)

After every sunset there will be a sunrise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Photograph: "Color Explosion"

The odd summer and fall weather we are having seems to be delaying and extending the fall colors this year.  No complaints from me.

"Color Explosion"
by Bruce H.

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"
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 - 1"
by Bruce H.

"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"
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.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Tent Comparison: The Tarptent Notch Versus The Tarptent Rainbow

NOTE:  I was going to write this post over a week ago but lately life has been distracting.

Over the last few years I have looked for a tent to take on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  I have tried two tents and I think I have the one I will take.  Here are the tents that I tried:

The Tarptent Notch.
The Notch

A few years back (Christmas 2013) I purchased the Tarptent Notch.  I used this tent for eight overnight camps, seven days during RAGBRAI, and for my five day camp at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).  The tent did a great job.  I fully expected that this would be the tent that I would use on the AT.

The Notch is a small one man tent (the tent weighs 27 oz [0.77 kg]) that pitches using trekking poles.  The tent and attached fly has two entrances, and two vestibules, that allow easy access to the interior and, with both doors open, allows ample ventilation.  I usually used one entrance and stored my backpack and gear in the vestibule of the other entrance.  This meant I had a clear path in and out the tent.

The Notch pitches easily taking only a couple of minutes assuming no hard wind.  The tent is pitched using two trekking poles and four tent stakes.  The tent can not be pitched freestanding, i.e. tent stakes are required.  I did pitch it once on a wooden platform but I used screw in cup hooks instead of stakes.  Pitching it on a rock surface would be difficult at best and, more likely, impossible.

The interior of the Notch is fairly cozy but I could easily sit up in the middle of the tent.  The bathtub floor provides protection from running surface water.  The tent seams are not sealed at the factory.  I sealed the seams using a silicone- mineral spirit mixture.  This resulted in me staying dry the few times that it rained during my camping trips.  There was one time when some rain came in through vents at the peak of the tent but I think this was a fluke - I hadn't pitched the tent on a level surface.

During my last camp at RMNP I noticed small holes had developed in the interior tent screen.  This could allow small insects to get into the interior of the tent.

The Tarptent Rainbow.
The Rainbow

As I considered my tenting needs for the AT I realized that I would need a tent that was capable of being pitched free standing (i.e. without tent stakes).  Also, the small holes in the Notch's screen showed that the tent had suffered some minor wear and tear.  My choice for a replacement was the Tarptent Rainbow.

The Rainbow is also a one man tent.  It weighs more than the Notch coming in at 36 oz (1.02 kg).  The tent has a bathtub floor and only one entrance and vestibule.  The vestibule is a bit tight but, having said this, the interior tent is much larger that the Notch and you could easily store your gear in the tent and still have enough floor space to sleep.  You could probably fit two people in the tent (without gear).  It would be a snug fit so you would have to be fond of your tent mate.

The Rainbow pitches using a long, collapsable pole and a minimum of four tent stakes (six tent stakes work better though).  The pole adds some weight so I purchased the carbon fiber pole to keep this weight to a minimum.  The four main stakes (two at each end) can be replaced with trekking poles.  When trekking poles are used the tent becomes freestanding.  This allows you to pitch the tent onto any solid flat surface.

The Rainbow does not pitch as fast as the Notch.  The main pole, 146 inches (3.7 m) long, is threaded through a sleeve that runs the length of the tent.  Threading the pole through the sleeve is not hard but you have to push the pole through.  Pulling the pole does not work since it is divided into nine sections connected together by bungee cord.  Pulling the pole simply makes the sections pull apart and before you know it you are only stretching bungee.

My AT Pick

Both tents have pros and cons.  The Notch is lighter, has better ventilation, and packs smaller.  The notch is roomier and can be pitched free standing.  I think, in the case of my upcoming hike up the AT, the ability to be pitched freestanding trumps the Notch's pros.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Civic Duty Is Complete

Today I dropped off our early voting ballots at the election office.  I hope my vote will be joined by millions of other like minded votes.
It's your turn now!

Monday, October 10, 2016

My Heart Breaks ...

I spent this weekend in Montreal visiting my friend Geneviève.  She is in the hospital and this weekend I was there to support her as she made some of the hardest decisions one ever has to make.

I met Geneviève on my first Camino.  We planned and walked the second Camino together.  Of all my friendships, hers means the most to me.  She is my BFF.  She is my Camino Angel.  At her bedside we reminisced and remembered the incredible times we shared.

Geneviève needs your support, thoughts, prayers, and love.  No one deserves what she is going through but she does deserve all the love and happiness her family and friends are surrounding her with.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

A Few Unwanted Changes

Google, owner of Blogger, has retired and/or changed a few things in the past month or so.  Readers may not have noticed but the Travel Magnet slideshow disappeared on Thursday.  I replaced it with a static picture of the current magnet.  Clicking on the image takes you to the full Travel magnet album.

The next thing I found is the email graphic I used would not load so I replaced it with a simple text link.  I also added links to my Flickr photos and my YouTube videos.  These links can be seen in the Contact Me section of the sidebar on the right.

Neither of these changes are earth shattering but it is still a pain in the keister.  Functions should be added, not removed.  Google has a habit of doing things like this.