Monday, August 20, 2007

Trip Report: Yoho National Park

Our search for the sun was successful! On Wednesday morning, Ian and I got on the 9:00am ferry and headed towards the mountains. Because this was a last-minute adventure, we decided to go into familiar territory and headed for Yoho National Park. After a motel stop in Revelstoke, we proceeded early on Thursday morning to the Yoho Information Centre to purchase our park permit and wilderness passes. We asked about some of the backcountry hiking which allowed for "random camping" (no assigned campsites) but were advised that the best hiking was in the Yoho Valley. We chose an itinerary based on this advice, and opted for 3 nights: one night each at Twin Falls, Little Yoho River, and Yoho Lake.

Plans were settled, and we eagerly set off for the short drive up Yoho Valley Road towards Takakkaw Falls. Around 11:00 am, we quickly grabbed our packs and headed up the Yoho River trail. It only took about 5 minutes to leave the tourist-filled parking lot behind, and soon we were in the relative solitude of the Yoho Valley.

The hike to Twin Falls is about 8km on well-marked trails. Although this is some of the most accessible, beautiful hiking around, we only saw a couple of day hikers and even fewer backpackers. After an hour, roughly halfway along the Yoho River trail, we passed Laughing Falls which I assume got its name from when I tripped over a root and Ian laughed at me. Another hour later and we were at the Twin Falls campground. No, we didn't both trip over here: this one is actually named for the waterfall that divides into two distinct plumes falling 180 meters (591 feet). We set up camp and had lunch, then put on the daypack and headed up towards the Yoho Glacier.

The trail up to the Glacier begins in a pine forest, but soon opens on an expansive and barren valley and the Yoho River. Panoramic views of the Waputik Icefield, Mt Balfour, Mt Gordon, and Yoho Peak prevail. Hiking up the rock strewn pathway, the trail gets steeper and then scrambled up some rocks beside multiple waterfalls. We explored the waterfalls for a while, scrambling about on the rocks and looking for a safe place to safely cross a small branch of the river to continue on the trail. As it was getting late in the afternoon, the river was fairly wide, and we didn't feel comfortable with jumping the distance and risking a twisted ankle. After a bit more exploring, we started back towards camp. A father and son went by, in a rush to avoid what they predicted was an impending storm. They mentioned that it was just a "hop" across the river, but we still opted for safety and continued back to camp. The "storm" never materialized, so we spent the rest of the evening relaxing by the river with a book and plenty to eat.

Day two was to take us to the Little Yoho campsite. Heading out of camp, the trail takes you to the base of Twin Falls for some fantastic views, then punishes you for them by heading straight up to the top of the Falls. Well, not quite straight -- there's plenty of switchbacks. Once at the top of the Falls we stopped for lunch and took many photographs of the valley down below. Thankfully, the ruggedness of this trail keeps the majority of tourists away, so the steep cliffs are accessible without the usual blight of guard rails, fences, and warning signs. Common sense keeps you at a reasonable distance, while allowing for an unimpeded view for hundreds of miles.

Once we crossed over the top of Twin Falls, the trail continued to climb for a bit to the top of Whaleback (7250 ft.) A few more photos, and we headed down the much-steeper switchbacks towards the Little Yoho River. We both agreed that coming up from this direction would have been much harder. About 7km from where we started, we arrived at a junction and headed up the Little Yoho River trail. This 5km trail went through a mostly forested area with beautiful meadows and stream crossings until arriving at the Little Yoho campground. We set up camp and had lunch, then freshened up in the ice-cold river.

I was still full of energy at this point, so I decided to head up the 4km trail to Kiwetinok Pass. Ian was feeling his age and opted to stay at camp and guard the coffee. I grabbed some water and a snack then headed up the trail. After about 10 minutes I arrived at an unmarked 3-way junction. David, a gentleman we had met at the previous campsite, had been exploring the area and said the right-hand fork looked like the one to the pass, so off I went. A couple of easy river crossings were required, then playtime was over. The trail went straight up, and then got steeper. I was in full spirits, and practically jogged up the next few kilometers. After one false summit, I crested a second ridge and was rewarded with a small, deep-blue lake of stunning clarity. I took a short break and splashed about in the frigid water, then sprinted up the final section of trail to the top of the pass. Absolutely stunning views in all directions took my breath away, and I cursed myself for forgetting my camera. Luckily David came to the rescue and sent me some great photos, including the one at the top of this paragraph. He also advised me that the

I eventually tore myself away from the top of the world, and bounced down the trail past a few other hikers, practically beaming with contentment. When I got back to camp, I tried not to gush too much about the trail to Ian as I knew he had a hard time saying no to the hike. He made the right choice though, and didn't take a risk that could have made the rest of the trip less enjoyable.

Saturday morning, we awoke to another clear day, and started the trek towards Yoho Lake. After a few kilometers in the forest, we reached the junction to the Iceline Trail. This popular trail follows a ridge just below the Emerald Glacier, and winds through a boulder-strewn landscape replete with small lakes, ice patches, and creeks. Views of Takakkaw Falls and the Daly Glacier proved irresistible to our cameras. We passed dozens of dayhikers equally dazzled by the sights, exhausted after their climb from the valley below. After about 6km on the Iceline Trail, we turned back into the trees toward Yoho Lake.

Emerging into the campground and picnic area at Yoho Lake was a little surreal. A very popular dayhiking spot, the lake front was filled with screaming children, dogs, and guided tour groups. I knew they had all made a long, steep hike to get there, so I didn't begrudge them for intruding on my solitude. We scouted out the available campsites, and found one by the lake with a couple just packing up ready to leave. Rather than hover over them, we retreated back to the main beach area to relax and put our feet up. When the couple still hadn't left after an hour, we settled for a spot in the trees. The lakefront spot probably was probably too close to the water anyway.

After setting up camp, we started to head towards Yoho Pass and Emerald Lake. Once over the pass it was 4km straight down to Emerald Lake, and we were a bit hesitant to hike that far down and end our day with a long uphill hike. I felt suddenly very clammy and sweaty, and really wanted to go back to Yoho Lake for a swim. We abandoned our hike and headed back to the campsite, which was now deserted. I took the opportunity to don the special swimsuit given to me at birth, and jumped in the glacier-fed lake. The water was a bit warmer than the rivers at the other campsites, and I managed to cleanse myself without risking hypothermia.

After my swim, we noticed black thunderheads racing towards us over Wapta Mountain. The air thickened, then shook with thunder. We quickly strung up our small siltarp and had dinner under the shelter while the heavens opened up for an hour-long deluge. Goretex laden campers hurried in from their various explorations and sought the shelter of their tents. It seems we were the only ones who have discovered the 4 oz. siltarp. I wonder if my sudden need to abandon our hike was my body's spidey-sense tingling and detecting the coming storm long before my eyes did? Maybe I'll get a job as a meteorologist. Or a superhero. Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a Weatherman!

I digress. The storm passed and everyone emerged from the nylon cocoons. The rest of the evening was spent reading, relaxing, and chatting with our new friends Barry and oh-I'm-so-bad-with-names. If you're reading this, please forgive my ignorance, you know what we all smoke out here in BC. And mom, I know you read my blog, I'm just kidding. (Edit: Barry and Jennifer sent me an email too!)

Sunday morning we awoke early and quickly packed up camp. It was a short 4km hike back to the car, and we knew we could make the 9:00pm ferry if we didn't dawdle. Just as we put our packs on it started to drizzle. Hiking in the rain is fine, but I'm glad we didn't have to pack up in it. 45 minutes later we were in the car, and headed into Field to have breakfast at the Truffle Pigs Cafe. With casual service, excellent coffee, and a small but tasty menu, Truffle Pigs is an adventure in itself. Allow for an hour or so as it's usually busy, but there's plenty of knickknacks and distractions to pass the time.

The drive home was long and uneventful, an although we got to the ferry terminal at 6:45, there was a two-sailing wait so we were on the 9:00 sailing anyway. The buffet made the crossing bearable, and shortly before midnight I was home to a warm shower and soft bed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Change of plans

The weather reports for the West Coast Trail are looking pretty dire for the next week. Essentially, "rain, heavy at times". Although I have no problem with a damp hike, I'm not eager to spend 5 days in driving coastal rain. I've done the WCT before, so have nothing to prove.

On that note, I'll be heading to the mainland on the 9:00am ferry tomorrow in search of blue skies! We're going to decide where we're going en route, but so far it looks like it'll be somewhere in the Rockies, probably Yoho National Park.

See you in a week!

Monday, August 13, 2007

5-day Menu

As promised, here is my menu for my 5-day West Coast Trail hike. As we don't have permits reserved, we're not entirely sure of what time or day we'll be starting. I'll have a few extra meals in the car in case we have to camp at the trailhead while waiting for our permit. This plan assumes we arrive at the trailhead at noon, get our permit at 1:00, enjoy the hour-long mandatory slideshow, then hit the trail around 2:00pm. I have alternate itineraries planned as well.

Wed, Aug 15: hike 17km to Tsocowis (km17)
snacks: Home Made Energy Bar (HMEB), 2 tortillas + Peanut Butter & Jam (PB&J)
dinner: corn pasta with asiago tomato sauce, mini chocolate bar, decaf tea

Thu, Aug 16: hike 25km to Cribs (km42)
breakfast: meusli, fruit bar, coffee, juice
lunch: greek tortilla
snacks: HMEB, 4 cookies
dinner: Ez Ed's burritos, mini chocolate bar, decaf tea

Fri, Aug 17: hike 14km to Logan Creek (km56)
breakfast: oatmeal, fruit bar, coffee, juice
lunch: hummus and crackers
snacks: HMEB, 2 tortillas + pb&j
dinner: smoked salmon corn pasta, mini chocolate bar, decaf tea

Sat, Aug 18: hike 14km to Thrasher (km70)
breakfast: meusli, fruit bar, coffee, juice
lunch: mashed potatoes & gravy
snacks: HMEB, crackers & cheese
dinner: curried vegetables & rice, , mini chocolate bar, decaf tea

Sun, Aug 19: hike 6km OUT (km75)
breakfast: oatmeal
lunch: stuffing
snacks: granola bar, cheese coins

Food weight is around 2 pounds per day. Although I weigh and keep track of everything, I don't stress about the weight of good-quality, nutritious food. Within reason, the positive energy gained from this food negates the extra pack weight. Often the heavier meals will also be the quickest to spoil, so I will eat those first.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Preparing Food

A friend of mine is heading up to hike the Cape Scott Trail this month, and she recently called me to get some ideas for meals. Good timing, as I'm up to my eyeballs in preparing food for next week's West Coast Trail hike.

I have a few goals in mind when I start preparing a meal list: weight, nutritional value, taste, and shelf life. I like to make a lot of my meals from scratch, using recipes from Lipsmackin' Backpackin, the Web, or my imagination. I know when I make the meals myself that they will be healthy, satisfying, and chemical-free. Unfortunately, sometimes that's just not what I crave on the trail, so I will augment my menu with a few commercial freeze dried meals, energy bars, and snacks. Currently about 75% of my food is homemade.

So, the first step is to calculate how many days and nights you plan to be on the trail, and from there figure out how many of each meal you will need. For this upcoming trip, I have determined that I will need 5 breakfasts, 5 snacks, 6 lunches, 6 bags of trailmix (gorp), and 5 dinners. We're planning to spend 4 nights on the trail, but weather and timing means 5 nights is just as likely. Normally I would bring an extra emergency meal, but instead I will take a bit of cash and perhaps enjoy a meal at Chez Monique's (photo), or some fresh crab or salmon at the Nitnat ferry.

Once quantities are calculated, I will grab a pad of paper and make a chart with the headings of breakfast, snacks, lunch, gorp, and dinner. Under each heading I will create a numbered line up to the quantity of each meal needed (ie, 5 lines for breakfast). I will then proceed to populate the chart with meals as I prepare or buy them.

The next step for me is to go through all the meals and make a shopping list for ingredients. This usually requires visiting a health food store, grocery store, and outfitter. Then, I will prepare all of the ingredients that require dehydrating, and load up my dehydrator. This often takes a couple of days so I try to start a few weeks in advance. While dehydrating, I will start preparing the meals that don't require dehydrated ingredients, but may require dehydrating once prepared. Between stages, I store all dried ingredients in the freezer to maximize shelf life and make them easier to chop in the blender.

The next few days are spent baking, mixing, and generally making a mess of the kitchen. Eventually, I will have a bunch of Ziploc bags full of tasty meals. Each bag gets a masking tape label with the meal name, preparation instructions, and another label with any ingredients I need to add before I leave, such as cheese. If a meal is in multiple bags I will label them with "1 of 3","2 of 3" etc. Once each meal is completed, I will put a checkmark beside it on my chart.

A few days before my hike, most meals should be checked off the list, and any prepackaged meals added to fill in any blanks. When buying prepackaged meals, I look for those with the least amount of chemicals, and make sure they don't require long simmering times or the addition of special ingredients. A paper pouch is also nice as it can be burned in a camp fire. For my Ziploc meals, I will bring the tempty bags home, wash them, and use them again.

Now it's time to load up the pack. Typically I've always put a day's worth of food in one large Ziploc, and label the bag "Monday" or "Day 1", for example. For next week's West Coast Trail trip, I am going to try a slightly different system. As we don't know what time or day we will be starting (we don't have a permit reserved) I am just going to load all the breakfasts in one bag, lunches in another, and so on. This way, if we start early or late I can quickly add or remove items and leave them in the car. Another potential benefit of this method is I can have some choice in meals each day and not force myself to eat something I'm not craving that particular day. It will also let me choose meals according to the weather and schedule: a hot breakfast on a cold day, or cold cereal on a morning we're racing to catch a low tide. Meals with longer preparation times can be used on days we decide to stop early.

In my next post, I will share my specific meal plan, along with weights and approximate nutritional information.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Book Review: Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook

Full Title: Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook: Innovative Techniques and Trail Tested Instruction for the Long Distance Hiker
Author: Ray Jardine

If you've been seriously into backpacking for any length of time, the name Ray Jardine will be as common as Martha is to homemakers. Not content to rest on his laurels after changing the face of rock climbing, Jardine set his sights on backpacking - or, more specifically, long distance hiking.

Until the publication of the Hiker's Handbook, the rules of backpacking were simple: sturdy boots, bombproof backpack, waterproof clothing, and equipment to overcome any obstacle nature could provide. Ray Jardine blew all these rules out of the water, and offered up a new set of guidelines that took the backpacking community by storm.

The Hiker's Handbook has probably stirred up more emotion among backpackers than any other publication. Reading reviews, you will find descriptions ranging from genius to ignorance, insightfulness to arrogance. One thing is sure though, any book that can get a rise out of so many people must be worth reading!

The version available in my library is from 1998, so I opened my mind to the state of the industry at that point, ignored the reviews and descriptions I had previously read, and sat down to read the Handbook from cover to cover. The first thing I realized is this is definitely not just a Pacific Crest Trail Handbook, but a book that can be applied to all aspects of backpacking. Even a weekend warrior can use much of the advice offered.

Part One deals with Planning and Preparations, including goals, training, equipment, and food. This is the technical part of the manual, and immediately begins to dissolve any preconceived notions you may have about gear. Industry advertising and magazines are spared no punches, and every bit of planning a trip is covered from head to toe.

Part Two discusses The Journey, and how to survive the myriad of obstacles the trail will throw in your way. Sun to snow, ticks to cougars, each section is well thought out and discussed from a technical and philosophical standpoint.

Parts Three and Four are more specific to the PCT, and discuss itineraries, resupplying, and other trail-related issues.

The final chapters of the book wax a bit more poetic, and allow a window into the author's political views and feelings. Advanced techniques are discusses, as is the potential problem of re-entry after an extended stay in the wilds.

I think any backpacker could learn from reading this book. You don't need to agree with everything Jardine talks about - in fact, there's nothing wrong with adamantly disagreeing with some of his philosophies. I found the most important aspect of this read was that it got me emotional, passionate, and excited about backpacking. My complaints about the Handbook aren't to do with the ideas and criticisms, even if I don't agree with them, but only that Jardine insists on repeating some of his more controversial ideas to the point they seem like a joke. Ever chapter mentions umbrellas and corn pasta. Both might be amazing ideas, but I had enough of them by chapter 3. That, and a few unnecessary discussions about religion, politics, and ethics aside, I can definitely recommend this book to everyone.

In my next few posts I will discuss some of the specific ideas presented in the Hikers Handbook, and how they have influenced my hiking. Specifically, I will be taking some of this newfound advice (and my new tarptent!) with me on the West Coast Trail in a little over a week.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Henry Shires Tarptent

I got my new Henry Shires Tarptent in the mail yesterday. I will write a field report once I test it out, but for now here's a preview.

Based on conversations with Tarptent owners on the TLB Forums I decided to go with the Double Rainbow. I wanted a 2-person, lightweight shelter that could be set up with minimal amount of staking. The Double Rainbow fits the bill perfectly, as it is free-standing (with the use of two trekking poles) or can be staked out for more versatility.

The included instructions were a little bit confusing to start with, but in the end the setup was fast and straight forward. One long shock-corded pole is threaded through a sleeve, and inserted into a grommet at each end. The poles then sit on top of the extended trekking poles that lie horizontally on the ground, and are secured in place by velcro tabs. Four cords are then attached to the ends of the poles to secure the floor, completing the setup. In ideal conditions this should only take 2 or 3 minutes, but I can see needing two people and a bit of fiddling in windy/rainy conditions.

I was expecting to feel more exposed inside, considering this is a "tarp tent" rather than a tent, but the name is deceiving. The entire exterior can be pulled down and secured, resulting in a seemingly bombproof enclosure, but with a quick reconfigure can be ventilated, opened up to create "beaks" or vestibules, and an array of other configurations to suit the terrain and conditions.

Of course, the best part about the Double Rainbow is the weight. 2.5 pounds for a two-man shelter is fantastic! My current tent, the MEC Merganser, with groundsheet, comes closer to 8 pounds, so this is a significant reduction. This means my hiking partner and I can each lower our pack weights by nearly 3 pounds.

My next trip is the West Coast Trail in August, and I'm a bit apprehensive of taking the Tarptent into such wet, rugged conditions on its first outing. I had hoped to get it last weekend when I did a one-nighter on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail with my brother, but unfortunately Canada Customs decided they needed 9 days (and $11.27) to determine that the tent wasn't made from cocaine. Perhaps some backyard camping with the sprinkler on will serve as a test. Stay tuned for updates!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lightweight Tip of the Week: Condiment Packets

An article at Ultra Fine Backpacking describes a unique use for drinking straws to create single-serving size packages for items such as salt, tooth powder, spices, etc. I'm going to try this on my next trip, I will post photos and a review when I get back.

Monday, July 9, 2007

JDF Marine Trail Part II

This Sunday Ian and I hiked the section of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail that we didn't complete on our annual May hike. We started at Sombrio beach at 10:00am and hiked roughly 20km to Botanical Beach, arriving around 4:00.

Although an anjoyable hike, this section definately pales in comparison to the rest of the trail. Once you're past Sombrio, the hiking is predominantly away from the beach, and follows a muddy path through clearcuts and spindly second- and third-growth forests. Campy signage spin a tale about the benefits of modern logging practices, while a barren, ugly landscape reveals the truth. Even the crew responsible for trail maintenance has forsaken this area, and the trail is choked with Salal and other dense growth. Mud bogs, although dryer than in May, get deeper and wider every year, with no attempts at drainage, diverters, or boardwalks. As evidenced in the picture above, damaged areas are left for hikers to navigate around, further destroying the area. In one area, so many people mistook an unsigned turn that a side trail was almost as well travelled as the main trail. On the plus side, this wrong turn took us down to a previously unknown beach for lunch. A bit of scouting revealed the correct trail hiding behind a tree and some trail debris.

About 8 miles from Botanical Beach the scenery improves somewhat, with a slightly older second-growth forest and a trail replete with boardwalks for the benefit of day-hikers venturing forth from their SUVs. Those wishing to escape the forest doldrum can hike much of the distance on an incredible sea shelf, with frequent wildlife sightings (we saw several bears having a mussel buffet), tidal pools, huge crashing waves, and plenty of stunning vistas.

Closer-still to Botanical there are several secluded pebble beaches ideal for a final rest before the climb up to the parking lot. The hike was followed by a tasty dinner at Mulligans in Sooke, which offers a surprisingly diverse menu and affordable microbrews on tap.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Twig Stove

In my continuing quest to lighten my load, I recently came across an article describing how to make a twig stove out of a coffee can. This weekend I followed the plans (using a tomato can instead of a coffee can, as I'm a whole-bean snob) and took it on a day hike to test out by cooking some soup for lunch.

The construction was relatively simple, taking approximately 10 to 15 minutes. I added a couple of extra steps such as filing the ends of the pot supports round so they wouldn't tear any gear, and doing the same to any other sharp or pointy bits.

On the trail, it took only a moment to find the necessary firewood (one small bundle of twigs, broken down to fit the width of the can. A section of newspaper provided the firestarter, although I would probably take some firestarter material on a longer hike, in case no dry kindling was available.

Within a few seconds the wood took, and I added my pot with 2 cups of water to the top. It was neccessary to keep adding kindling for about 6 or 7 minutes, never allowing more than a minute to pass before adding more wood. There was a slight breeze that helped the fire along, but it's possible if the wood wasn't bone dry that I might have to blow on it occasionally.

My soup cooked up easily, although not as fast as Ian's (he brought his cannister stove). Shadow was content to eat her cold lunch, as she was ravenous after the 2 hour hike in over Mount Maguire in East Sooke Park.

Full of tasty food, we hiked another couple of hours back to the car at Anderson Cove and went home exhausted. As for the twig stove, I think it is definitely something I will use again in the future. I wouldn't want to rely on it as my only cooking source, but maybe on a two-person hike, one person could bring a canister stove as a backup, using the twig stove whenever possible to limit the amount of fuel needed. A potential savings of half a pound in fuel.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Another rescue

This time it was on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. Allan Angeles, while hiking alone along the JDF Marine Trail, lost the trail in heavy rain near Sombrio Beach.
I just slipped, fell off a cliff and landed on a couple of rocks. Luckily I landed on my backpack, which cushioned me and most likely saved me.

Angeles thinks me may have passed out for an hour or so. Upon waking, he managed to climb the cliff and make camp for the night. The next day, he tried to make it back to Sombrio, but after hiking about 1.5km he was still unable to find the trail. He then went out on another cliff and started waving his tarp to flag down a fishing boat.

Luckily, two American fishermen were able to pick Angeles up and ferry him to Jordan River. From there, he was taken by ambulance to Victoria General Hospital. Angeles was diagnosed with a fractured pelvis, effectively ending this year's hiking season for him.

Once again, I wish I could have some more details on this one. Hiking 1.5 km and not being able to find the trail is quite astounding on a coastal trail. On the other hand, the particular section between Chin and Sombrio goes inland a considerable way, and in heavy rain it would be very difficult to navigate off-trail.

I'm glad we have another relatively happy ending, and I'll spare the lectures this time!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Good News

A whole bunch of happy news as far as my hiking goes!

Next weekend Ian and I are going to finish the section of the Juan de Fuca trail that we missed on our last hike. We're planning to make this a 20km day hike, and use the opportunity to do some stove and fuel usage testing when we cook our lunch.

A few weeks after that, I'll be hiking the first half of the JDF again, this time with my brother. He has never hiked the JDF before, so I'm looking forward to sharing this with him. The goal will be a one-nighter, from China Beach to Sombrio, with the sleepover at Chin Beach.

And.. drumroll please.. Ian and I are planning to hike the John Muir Trail next summer. It will be our first hike requiring a resupply, so I'm looking forward to the logistics planning. Watch this spot for step-by-step planning updates! I'm already so excited to get back into the Sierras, one of the most amazing places I've ever seen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hiker Survives Fall From Bridge on West Coast Trail

This Sunday, a couple from Edmonton had their West Coast Trail hike end shortly after it began. The Times Colonist reports that Kristie Wenger and her boyfriend, Jonah Krauskopf, accidentally left the main trail and started following an old, out of use section of trail. Wenger attempted to cross a broken, slippery log bridge, but fell when she turned around to look at Krauskopf. The fall took her 25 feet down to the creek bed, but miracuously she wasn't seriously injured.

Luckily, as they were less than 2km from the trail head, Krauskopf was able to protect Wenger from the steady rain with a sleeping bag and tarp, then head for help. At the shore of the San Juan River, he was able to wave to a group of people on the other shore. One of the group, Victoria firefighter Cody Gidney, took charge and grabbed a rope, first aid kit, and radio from the Park Wardens. With two other men, he canoed across the river, then hiked the rough trail in flipflops to Wenger.

Gidney was able to assertain that although Wenger's injuries weren't overly serious, she would need to be airlifted off the trail. Two wardens arrived and helped Gidney prepare the site for the evacuation. Roughly 5 hours after the fall, a Cormorant helicopter from CFB Comox arrived and performed a successful evacuation.

So what did we learn from this?
It's hard to determine whether this mishap was caused by poor trail marking, careless hiking, inexperience, or just plain bad luck. We've all taken a wrong turn on a trail before, which in itself is a scary experience. Maps and compasses wouldn't have helped them avoid this, only experience.

Krauskopf did everything right after the fall, from protecting Wenger from the elements to quickly heading off for help. Some things I would add that he may or may not have done:
  • Leave a note with the victim indicating which way you went for help, what time, and what injuries there may be. The victim may lose conscoiusness or otherwise not be able to communicate with a would-be rescuer.
  • Remove all scented and food items from the hiker and hang from a tree. A bear or cougar may sense the defenselessness of the victim.
  • Indicate on your map where the incident took place, so you can show rescuers. A digital photo may even help them find an obscure area in case you aren't able to return with the rescue team. Tie some gear around a tree where you left the main trail, and spread out your tent or tarp at the rescue site to aid helicopters or boats. Give them the colour and description of the gear.
Once again, luck and good decision making helped this incident to have a happy ending. Thank you to Cody Gidney for going above and beyond the call of duty.

(note: the above photo isn't the area where they fell, but illustrates the disrepair some areas of the trail can be in.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lightweight Tip of the Week: Warm Clothing

I always find it hard to decide how much clothing to take on a hike. Over the years I've found I don't need many changes of clothes, and have gotten quite good at doing laundry on the trail. Where the indecision comes into play is for clothing to wear while in camp. I never get cold on the trail, as long as I keep moving. I typically hike in shorts and a tshirt, with a windproof/water-resistant shell for particularly cold mornings. Once I'm in camp, I cool down quite quickly if I'm not careful.

Rather than packing fleece pants, wool sweater, and gore-tex jacket as I used to do, I've found a few tricks to stay warm without having to carry any extra weight:
  • Change as soon as you get to camp. Remove wet, sweaty clothes, hang them up to air, and put on a light shirt exclusively for camp use.
  • Eat a warm meal as soon as possible. Even if it isn't dinner, have a cup of soup or something else quick.
  • Get in your sleeping bag. When we were in the Sierras, we often got to camp in the early afternoon. Rather than stand around shivering all evening (it got very cold after 5:00) we would just get into our sleeping bags and read, chat, or nap. Later, we might get up and make dinner, go for a walk, or visit other campers.
  • Wear everything. If you're still cold, put on a couple of shirts, your jacket, rain poncho, whatever you have that's dry. I have lightweight silk long underwear that add a surprising amount of warmth under my pants. Socks on your hands can serve as gloves, and a toque (wool hat) is on my essential gear list.
  • Don't sit on the ground. Cold ground or rocks will suck the warmth out of you. I use my z-lite mattress around camp, folded up to make a makeshift chair. Your pack would also suffice.
  • Keep busy. Go for a walk, take some photos, make dinner, hang your food.
  • Start a fire. Gathering wood and building a fire keeps you as warm as the fire itself. Invite some of your fellow campers to share your fire, you'll make new friends and conserve wood. Practice lighting a fire in the rain with wet wood, it's a skill that comes in very handy (as illustrated by Ian above.)

Since I've started doing all these things, I've been able to leave the extra clothing at home, saving a pound or so, but not risking getting sick or being uncomfortable. I've tried it in all conditions, from torrential rain to freezing mountain altitudes without a regret.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lightweight Tip of the Week: Multi-use Gear

A good way to lighten up your load is to avoid redundancy. A lot of gear has more uses than its original intention, or can be modified for other uses. This is different than a multi-use tool such as a Swiss Army Knife that does 10 things you don't need, rather, it's eliminating 3 items where one would suffice. The following is a list of examples, but as some of them may affect comfort/safety levels it's a good idea to try them out first before leaving something at home.

Poncho: can be used as a tarp, pack cover, emergency shelter, groundsheet, pillow...
Trekking poles: tripod, tent or tarp poles, emergency splint or crutch, fishing rod...
Spork: replaces spoon and fork (long handled version great for prepackaged meals)
Bandana: wash cloth, towel, head cover, pot holder, sling, bandage, water pre-filter...
Parachute Cord: clothes line, tarping, hanging food bag, securing splints...
Clothes: pillow, sling, socks as gloves, extra layer under sleeping bag...
Cooking Pot: bowl, cup, bucket (for emergency sandcastle building), noisemaker...
Tent Peg: splint, shovel, punch for leather repair...
Duct Tape: gear repair, blister treatment, pretty much anything...

Once you get into the habit of it, most gear can have many uses. Obviously you want to be safe and comfortable, but with a bit of work you can easily eliminate a pound or two from your load.

*note: the photo is Ian, he's smiling because our lightweight packing practices have enabled him to bring his somewhat-heavy camera equipment!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Five Hikers Rescued from West Coast Trail

An article today in my local rag, The Times Colonist, describes a narrowly averted disaster on the West Coast Trail yesterday. It seems that this group was attempting to cross one of the surge channels near Owen Point and were struck by a rogue wave and swept into the channel.

After reading the article, there are several quotes that I think are worthy of mention:
The rogue wave hit the hikers about 9 a.m. A park ranger spotted the hikers and called for help about 6 p.m.
That's 9 hours before the call for help even gets placed. Owen Point is a (fairly difficult) half-day hike from the Port Renfrew trailhead, so this should be a warning of how prepared you need to be when on a remote trail. If they were further along the trail, it could have been much longer, perhaps the next day. When I spent 5 days on the trail, I only saw a ranger once.

Joe Ellis, 24, a theology student from Anchorage, Alaska, and a friend of the Petersons, jumped the wide crevice.

Don't do this! Everyone hiking the West Coast Trail gets a mandatory lecture about the dangers of surge channels and other trail dangers. None of them need to be jumped, there are trails around all of them. At least these hikers had their packs off, otherwise the outcome wouldn't have been so happy.

Peterson, who initially had reservations about hiking the trail, but decided to go along to be with her brother and father.

If you aren't 100% sure you are up for hiking a difficult trail, don't do it. You endanger yourself, other hikers, and rescue workers. For the West Coast Trail in particular, going with an experienced guide isn't enough, you need to be experienced yourself. This group had exceptional luck, combined with keeping their heads and making some good decisions, the only reason nobody was seriously hurt or killed. This is also stresses the policy of keeping your group together, and, if you are a solo hiker, wait for another hiker or group before you attempt any dangerous sections.

I'm happy that this story ended happily, and admire the courage of this group. Hopefully we can all learn something from it, and try to lower the current statistics of 50-80 rescues on the West Coast Trail annually.

Monday, June 11, 2007

West Coast Trail

Well it looks like Ian won't be able to do the West Coast Trail with me this year. Anyone up for joining me in late August?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Lightweight Tip of the Week: Masking Tape

My new mission is to come up with one weight-reducing tip per week to share. Please comment with your own tips, and I'll feature them in a future LTOTW.

This week's tip:
When loading your pack, put a small piece of masking tape on every piece of gear. When you're on the trail, remove the tape when you use the item. Back at home when you're unpacking, set aside any gear that still has masking tape on it, and examine whether you really needed to bring the unused item in the first place.

Some obvious exceptions are first aid kits, weather-related gear, and other repair and emergency items.

My results: I did this over several hikes in different weather conditions, and managed to shave a few ounces. I eliminated a lexan knife, small bowl, a few bits of clothing, a couple of tent pegs, and a few condiments and snacks.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Summer is here!

Well it took a while to get here, but summer has officially arrived in Victoria. How do I know this? On Wednesday evening, my good friend Jade and I, along with our dogs Gus and Shadow, went to The Lake and it was warm enough to jump in!

I haven't been doing anywhere near enough hiking lately, but a walk around the lake followed by a swim was a pretty close second. Jade and I have decided to try to go to The Lake every Wednesday evening, so hopefully that, along with Ian and I's Thursday Afternoon Hike, and the soon-to-be-resurrected Sunday Hike, should eventually get me back into full hiking shape.

I believe everyone should live near The Lake. Not necessarily My Lake, but to be able to talk about The Lake and have everyone know what you mean. Happy Summer everyone!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Loss of appetite

There's an ongoing discussion on backpacking.net about appetite loss when on the trail. I've found this to be true on higher altitude and/or hot, dry weather hikes. You hike all day, but when you get to camp you find, in the words of the original poster, that you "just can't choke down dinner."

I've never had to address this on sea-level hikes, or in cooler climes, but was honestly amazed that my usual insatiable appetite was gone for the first few days in the Sierras. Not only does not eating affect your energy levels, ability to stay warm, and sleeping patterns, but you have to carry that extra food for the rest of your hike!

Some of my own tips, and some suggestions from other backpacker.net forum posters:
  • Pack accordingly: lighter dinners for the first few nights, progressing to more satisfying meals once you aclimatize.
  • Meals that work as leftovers: I usually make burritos my first night, then if I don't eat them, they make a great cold breakfast snack.
  • Pack tasty food: If you don't truely crave the meal at home while packing it, you probably won't crave it on the trail: only pack your favorite meals, especially for the first few nights.
  • Stay hydrated: bring juice crystals, koolaid, iced tea, whatever will encourage you to drink more water.
  • Get to camp early: Spend some time relaxing in the shade, swimming, slowly drinking, and your appetite may return. Nibble on some trail mix or other easy to eat snacks.
Some other tips from the forum include packing a favorite treat (pudding!), having a heavier lunch and lighter dinner, or having a cold meal instead of cooked, rehydrated food.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Trip Report: San Javier, Mexico

After this past weekend's cold and wet hike, I'm feeling the need to revisit warmer memories. The following is a report of a hike I did with Rebecca and my parents in December.

The Plan...
Rebecca and I flew to Loreto, Mexico, to spend Christmas with my parents who were spending 3 months camping and travelling around the Baja. After a few days of local sightseeing and beachcombing, we were all feeling the need to see the real Baja, and get some exercise to boot. A guidebook article suggesting the cave paintings at San Javier, about 30km away, caught our eye. Checking with the very helpful hotel concierge, we found out that guided tours to the cave paintings were over $100 per person, much more than we were willing to spend. My parents had heard of some people who drove to San Javier and asked at the police station for a guide, so we decided to give that a shot.

The Drive...
We started out with a hefty breakfast at Del Boracho, where my parents already had established a rapport with the Canadian owners. When we told them what we were up to, they scribbled out a note in Spanish to hand to someone in San Javier explaining that we were looking for a guide to the cave paintings. They also offered to make us a bagged lunch, but we had already prepared sandwiches and snacks.

The road to San Javier starts in various locations, depending upon who you ask or what signposts you believe. After 10 minutes in the wrong direction, we eventually got onto the right road and were on our way. The road is quite rough, and were were thankful for being in my dad's four wheel drive pickup. Winding our way uphill, through riverbeds, up snake-like switchbacks and over washouts, the 32km drive ends up taking nearly two hours. The area is desolate, with only the occasional shrine or ramshackle house as signs of life.

Eventually we arrive in San Javier, and are amazed by the difference in scenery. The immaculate streets are paved in cobblestone, and well tended gardens grace every sidewalk.

We find the tiny police station, grab the phrasebook, and begin an interpretive dance outlining what we're looking for. The officers chuckle over our note, and after a bit more sign language, we finally convince them that we're looking for a guide. They signal for us to wait for 5 minutes or an hour, and drive away in a cloud of dust. Some time later, a dusty gentleman shows up and we begin negotations for the price. We seem to agree on 300 pesos ($30 US), and begin the introductions. Miguel, our new friend, starts to climb into the back of our truck. As we have no idea where we're going, we convince him that he's welcome to sit in the front and offer directions.

About 20 minutes later, we arrive at a small farmhouse at the base of what we assume is to be the hill we're climbing. Miguel finds the owner of the house and obtains permission for us to cut through the farm to the start of the trail. We leave the truck at the farmhouse and begin our trek.

The Hike...
I'm not sure if they have mountain goats in Mexico, but they have Miguel. Our intrepid guide led us up a steep, rocky trail for two hours without breaking a sweat. When we stopped for water or a breather, Miguel stopped for a smoke. We took countless pictures of cacti, lizards, and other such flora and fauna, which made Miguel grin as it was probably like someone taking pictures of dandilions and mosquitos where we live. We gained considerable elevation, and were treated to incredible views of the valley below, and the Sea of Cortez far in the distance. Eventually we reached the top, and had a brief rest while our guide hunted around for a lost memory of the location of the caves. We were then waved on, and made our way along a narrow ledge to the first of two small caves.

The Paintings...
Although they don't look like much in the photos, the faded cave paintings emitted an almost overwhelming sense of history, timelessness, and awe. Seeing ancient art in its original location, without tour busses and interpretive signs, made the experience unforgettable. I'm not sure how much time we spent in the caves, taking photos and discussing the motivation and meaning of the paintings, but we finally had to leave as we still had a long hike and drive ahead of us. We had a quick bite to eat while Miguel had a smoke, then slowly picked our way down between the prickly cacti. An hour or so later we were back in the truck, and heading back to San Javier.

The Mission...
We didn't have too much time to spend in San Javier as driving at night is not desirable in this area, but the Church of San Francisco Javier, built from 1744 to 1759, was a must-see. Not really dressed for church, we timidly poked our heads in the door, where we were welcomed by two friendly ladies. Flash photography was forbidden, and so was not signing the guestbook. I abstained from my usual cheekiness and wrote a quick hello, then we explored the church and surrounding grounds. The architectural detail was fascinating, and the surround grounds were a tranquil combination of gardens, farm, and open space. A few more photos, and it was time to go.

Conclusion...
Although I saw many things and have many memories of my trip to Mexico, I think the hike in San Javier was the most enjoyable experience. From the confusion of getting there and hiring a guide, to hiking in terrain I've never even dreamed of, it had all the elements of a perfect adventure. Thank you and gracias to the owners of Del Borracho, the San Javier Police, Miguel, and all the residents of San Javier for allowing us to share your treasure!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The best laid plans...

Every May Long Weekend for the past three years, my hiking partner Ian and I have hiked the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The JDF is our home turf, and is often the destination for day hikes with our friends and families. We normally spend one night near the trail head (Mystic Beach) and then two more on the trail. This year, we decided to try to cut it down to two nights total by hiking in further from the trailhead after work on Friday.

We were packed and ready to go, the tides were in our favour, and we had an itinerary we were happy with. Unfortunately, plans to leave work early were thwarted by Ian's boss, and he ended up working overtime rather than leaving early. By the time he picked me up it was close to 6:00pm, and the trailhead was an hour's drive away. We weren't comfortable with trying to make it to Bear Beach before dark, and as the trail is muddy and slippery at the best of times, had no interest in night hiking. We decided to adjust our itinerary and camp at Mystic Beach near the trailhead once again.

The hike down to Mystic Beach is quite simple, and took us 30 minutes. Mystic is a popular beach for camping, so we staked out a spot quickly before the cooler-toting crowd took all the good spots. It's important to know the tides when camping on the beach, and we made sure we were well above the high tide line. The previous year, some teenagers were camping below the tide line, but didn't seem interested in any advice from the rest of us. We heard shouts during the night, and woke up to see them sleeping in the trees with wet gear hanging from the branches. But I digress. While getting dinner ready, I reached into my pocket to discover our payment envelope that was supposed to be deposited in the box at the trailhead. Whoops. 45 minutes later, we were back at camp just as the light was fading. We stayed up a bit longer to meet our neighbours and their dog, Duncan.

Saturday morning, we revisited our itinerary and tried to figure out if we could still finish the trail by Sunday evening in time to catch the trail bus at around 5. It wasn't critical that we did, as we had made arrangements for my girlfriend, Rebecca, to meet us at Botanical Beach midday Monday. Still, we like to set lofty goals, so we figured we'd try to make it to Sombrio Beach, 25.5 km away. I have been training quite a bit lately, and was feeling optomistic, but Ian hasn't been active for the winter and was a bit less eager. We decided to get to Chin Beach, 19 km away, and decide then.

We left Mystic Beach at 8:45 after a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, and arrived at Bear Beach at 10:25. There we had our second breakfast to give us energy for the most gruelling section of the trail ahead. Between Bear and Chin, the trail goes away from the ocean and over 8, 9, 0r 17 (depending upon who you ask) steep hills, tumbling back down to cross a creek, then back up again. Through the old growth areas the trail was in good shape, with a slight mist to keep you cool. In areas that had been clearcut many years ago, the ground was muddy, wet, and lacked the bright green undergrowth so prevalent in the old growth portions. Some of the river crossings were in need of repair after this past winter's violent storms. On the third hill climb, we stopped for a snack and Ian mentioned that his knee was starting to bother him. We slowed our pace, and pushed on to Chin.

Coming out of the forest at Chin Beach at 3:45, we could see off to the South West and the huge storm clouds blowing our way. Heavy rain was inevitable, and Ian's knee was no better, so we quickly set up camp before the rains came. We managed to set up our tent and a small tarp for a sitting area literally seconds before the skies opened up. For the rest of the evening, the rain came and went, and our view gave us 20 minutes warning before each downpour. Ian got a nice warm fire going despite the lack of dry wood, and we spent the evening under the tarp relaxing and eating. At 10 we let the fire go out, stashed our food in the provided bearproof lockers, and went quickly to sleep.

The rains came in earnest Saturday night, and didn't show any sign of stopping on Sunday. The tarp let us eat breakfast and pack up our gear in relative comfort, then we raced to take down the tent without it getting too wet. Finishing the trail tonight was no longer an option, so we planned to head to Payzant Creek, 19 km away. This would allow for a short 7 km hike on Monday morning to meet Rebecca at noon.

The rain was heavy, but this section was mostly forest hiking so we were somewhat sheltered. Our pace was slowing, and Ian's knee was really starting to bother him. At Loss Creek there's a side trail up to highway 14, and I let Ian decide if we should quit or keep going. He wanted to keep going, so we made for Sombrio Beach for elevensies.

At Sombrio, it was obvious Ian wasn't going to be able to finish the hike. We had a quick snack under a tree, then made our escape from the trail. Sombrio is accessible by car and is a popular beach for surfers. We made our way to the parking lot, then headed up the long gravel road up to the highway. Half an our later we arrived at the highway, dropped our packs, tried to look as miserable and pathetic as possible, and stuck up our thumbs. For 20 minutes we obviously didn't look pathetic enough, but finally the rain soaked every last bit of us and we reached the point where nobody with a heart could ignore us. Two very kind people and their puppy told us they were going to China Beach, which was perfect as that's where Ian's Jeep was.

Ian dropped me off at home, shivering at wet. I gave my dog a wet hug then crawled into a steaming hot shower. I'm disappointed that we didn't complete the trail, but also happy that we made the right decisions throughout and didn't risk any more injury or misery.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sleeping Bags: down vs. synthetic


A good sleeping bag can last you many years, and at $200 or more is a considerable investment. Before purchasing a new sleeping bag, do as much research as you possibly can: read reviews, talk to an experienced outfitter, and get recommendations from people who hike in the same conditions and areas as yourself.

In this entry I'm only going to address one issue: my preference of fill (down or synthetic). I've tried both kinds of bags in all kinds of conditions, and have definately joined the pro-down team, for the following reasons:

  • Weight: A quality down bag is lighter than a comparable synthetic fill.
  • Compactability: Down bags compress well, freeing up valuable pack space. (Don't use a compression sack if you can avoid it, check with the manufacturer for packing guidelines)
  • Loft: With careful storage and maintenance, a down bag will retain its loft for many years. Be certain the bag has adequate baffles to avoid any shifting of the fill.

Drawbacks
  • Down offers no insulating value when wet, so it's very important to keep your bag dry. Use a quality stuff sack, then wrap in a garbage back. If you're going into very wet conditions, consider an overbag.
  • Down is more expensive than synthetic fills, but as a sleeping bag will last you many years, the extra value here is worth it.

For the past few years I've been using a GoLite 700 fill down bag, in all sorts of conditions. I'm careful about keeping it dry, but the exterior has a moisture-resistant coating so a small amount of condensation doesn't do any damage.

Tips
  • Treat your sleeping bag with more care than any other piece of gear. Check the manufacturer's web site for cleaning and care instructions, and only use the highest quality cleaning products. I use Nikwax Down Wash once a year, handwashing in the bathtub with lukewarm water, then tumble drying on low until 100% dry. Your requirements may vary.
  • At home, always store your sleeping bag in a large cotton bag (the good bags will come with one), hung in a ventilated closet.
  • On the trail, unpack your sleeping bag as soon as you arrive at camp, and allow it to regain its loft in the sun if possible, or in your tent. Keep it away from the fire, one small hole will allow moisture to penetrate the outer layer.
  • Compact with care: don't use a compression bag.
  • Don't assume that because it isn't raining, your bag can't get wet (see photo below!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Leatherman Squirt P4

Last summer I bought a Leatherman Squirt P4 multitool, and have been quite happy with it. It was the smallest, lightest tool I could find within my price range, and the Leatherman brand came well recommended. I was worried that I would miss a longer knife blade, especially as the only cutlery I take hiking is a lexan spoon, but I haven't really missed it.

This past winter, while walking the dog in my neighbourhood, I stopped to help a little boy who was quite distraught and near tears. Somehow, while on an errand to the mailbox for his mom, he had gotten the mailbox door locked with the keychain halfway inside. His eyes lit up when I pulled out my Leatherman Squirt, unfolded it to magically create pliers, and, with some effort, freed his keys. Unfortunately, and possibly due to the below-freezing temperature, one of the arms of the pliers broke off in the process.

Yesterday afternoon, while packing for this weekend's hike, I realized I hadn't replaced the Squirt yet, so started to research a good replacement. A lot of reviews remarked on Leatherman's generous warranty. It hadn't occured to me to take it back, as I figured the Squirt, being a "miniature" tool, wouldn't be covered for breakages involving force. Deciding it couldn't hurt, I took it into MEC today where they happily exchanged it for the display model (they were out of stock) with no questions asked. I didn't have my receipt, but they were able to verify the purchase through my membership number.

Leatherman and Mountain Equipment Co-op definately earned some points with me today.

Packing


It's 3 sleeps until we hit the trail, so time to do a test pack to see how everything feels. I am a big fan of checklists, and keep a text file on my computer with a general list, modify it for the season and duration of the hike, then save it with the trail name and date for future reference. I also like to make notes of possible ways to reduce weight for future trips, and after the hike will update it with any wishes.

This packing list should only be used as a guideline, as everyones needs will vary. I'm including the weights of items so it's easy to target the biggest culprits. The first useful pack list I saw on my discovery of lightweight backpacking was the 27 pound, 7 day checklist at backpacking.net. It gives me something to work towards, and lets me know I'm on the right track. Before I made my discovery, my pack was probably over 50 pounds (I wish I'd weighed it back then.. oh well.) and now averages around 20 without food & fuel.

Weights are in ounces, although I think I'll be switching to grams as math is hard. Do you see anything else that I should highlight in red? I'm not prepared to spend $100 to save an ounce or two, but each year I like to reduce one or two things when possible. Luxury items are things I've decided, for this specific hike, are worth the extra weight in the name of enjoyment or comfort. This is a bit of a balancing act, and it's easy to get into the "just one more [random item]" trap.

I should also note that every item listed here goes inside the pack, I don't like anything strapped to the outside. Gear that swings around puts undue strain on your muscles, and on hikes like the Juan de Fuca, which involve lots of scrambling and navigating between trees, nothing should protrude above my head, below my belt, or be wider than my shoulders. On a longer hike I'll start out with the Z-Rest strapped to the outside, but will move it inside as soon as my food bag shrinks a bit.

Colour Key:
Necessary Item (for me)
Luxury Item
Candidate for Weight Reduction

Pack
Silnylon pack cover (2.8)
Gregory Z backpack (50.0)

Tent & Sleep System
5x8 Siltarp [we're hiking in a coastal rainforest, after all] (7.4)
Tent poles, pegs, guy lines in bag (24.0)
Tent body [fly and groundsheet carried by hiking partner] (36.6)
Golite Down sleeping bag in bag (26.2)
Thermarest Z-Lite mattress (14.4)

Clothing
Gaitors (7.0)
Waterproof poncho (10.7)
Gloves (4.5)
MEC Pamir jacket (16.4)
PJ bottoms (10.1)
Fleece top - mid layer (8.1)
Warm, quick-dry shirt (8.5)
Warm camp socks (2.7)
Hiking socks (2.1)
Hiking socks (2.1)
Hiking shirt (4.5)
Hiking shirt (4.5)
Waterproof stuffsac for clothing (4.0)
Sandals (25.8)
Fleece toque (2.1)

Safety/Hygeine
First aid kit (7.4)
Toothbrush (0.7)
Toothpaste (0.5)
Knee brace (2.3)
Toilet paper in waterproof bag (1.8)
Fast-drying towel (0.6)
Sunglasses (2.9)
Water filter and maintenance supplies in mesh bag (17.7)
Alcohol cleaning pads (2.1)
LED headlamp (1.1)
Bug spray (1.5)
Sunscreen (1.0)
Lip balm (0.4)
3 pairs of earplugs (0.1)
Floss (0.1)

Kitchen
Fire starting [lighter, waterproof matches, 2 tealights] (2.0)
Stove in plastic case (3.8)
Fuel (16.0)
Titanium cooking pot in bag (5.4)
Insulated mug with lid (4.5)
3 litre bladder [empty] (8.2)
Lexan fork (0.2)
Lexan spoon (0.2)
Water bottle (1.9)

Misc
Hankerchief (0.8)
Spare boot laces (0.7)
Sharpie marker (0.3)
Camera in waterproof bag (11.6)
Book [thick 1000 pager] (16.7)
JDF Marine Trail Guide + Map (7.2)
ID & Cash in ziploc (0.2)
Cel phone in waterproof bag [off except for emergencies] (3.7)
Notepad & pencil (1.6)

Food
Meals & snacks for 3 nights (48)

Total dry (before food, fuel & water) pack weight is approximately 21 pounds. Of that, nearly 4 pounds are "luxury" items. I'm comfortable with this pack weight, but if it were a longer distance I would definately start to pare down the luxury items. I find an evening around camp with a good book will do wonders for my energy level and motivation, so easily justifies the extra weight. Ideally, I'll find a smaller book to take with me, but I just started Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and am enjoying it. The camera and notepad are so I can document the trip to entertain you fine folks, and the rest of the luxury items are for my own comfort in the damp coastal conditions.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Footwear


When I was outfitting for my first High Sierra Trail attempt, most of my gear advice was from the staff at an outfitter chain. When it got to footwear, they were quite adamant that a good, sturdy pair of hiking boots was a must for trekking in the mountains. I ended up with some waterproof, all leather mountaineering boots weighing in at just under 4 pounds for the pair. I can't imagine why I got blisters...

For my second Sierra attempt, I did a lot more research, mostly on the Web. A common adage I noticed was "A pound on the foot is worth 5 on the back" or other similar variations. Although the issue seems to be continually debated, hiking shoes were definately winning out with lightweight backpackers. I went to a local, knowledgable outfitter and ended up with a good quality, breathable pair of hiking shoes weighing just over 2 pounds for the pair. If the adage is true, I just shaved nearly 10 pounds off my load! Not to mention they were less than half the price of the boots.

Not wanting to go blindly this time, I tested out the hiking shoes on a lot of local trails, and was absolutely thrilled with the results. They didn't need to be broken in, my feet stayed cool and dry so I didn't get blisters, and the flexibility made scrambling up steep rocky trails much easier. I wore them on my second High Sierra Trail hike, and I'm sure they're a big part of why I enjoyed that hike so much.

I should mention some drawbacks. Not being waterproof, I don't enjoy wearing them on coastal hikes where mud is an issue, and it also takes some getting used to a thinner sole and feeling sharp rocks beneath your feet. For people with weaker ankles or very heavy packs (we'll talk to you later..) you won't get any ankle support with hiking shoes.

For coastal hikes such as the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and the West Coast Trail (both to be reviewed here soon) I prefer to go with a lightweight boot. I have a pair of Garmont boots that are Goretex and leather, and I absolutely love them. At about 3 pounds for the pair, they aren't too heavy, they are waterproof, and they have ankle support for the slippery coastal rocks and boardwalks.

Summary? Hiking shoes for dry, mountain hikes, and lightweight boots for wet, coastal hikes. Always look after your gear with the appropriate cleaner and waterproofing - I'm personally a big fan of Nikwax products, but I will usually check the manufacturer's web site to see what they recommend.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Menu Planning

The upcoming May Long Weekend we will be doing our third annual hike of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. As we're going to leave Friday right after work, I decided to get my meal planning and preparation out of the way today.

We're spending three nights on the trail, so we'll need 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3 dinners, as well as the usual assortment of trail mix and snacks. My goal is to have each day's food weigh under 2 pounds, and cost under $20. I like to have a combination of commercially packaged and homemade meals. A second breakfast is something I'll add for shorter (less than 4 day) hikes as the extra weight isn't noticed. The mornings on the coast in May are cold and wet, so the extra food helps you stay warm. I have gotten away with around 1.5 pounds per day, but was often hungry in the afternoons.

I find it a good idea to label a large ziploc bag for each day you're on the trail, and fill it with all the snacks and meals for that day, with dinner at the bottom and pack up to breakfast at the top. This saves a lot of rooting around in your food bag, and makes carrying food to and from the bear lockers much easier. Additionally, if anything leaks, there's an additional layer to protect the rest of your gear. I'll also label each meal with the amount of water and instructions on a piece of masking tape.


Friday [0 lb 10.5 oz]
  • Dinner: Forever Young Macaroni & Cheese w/Veggies (AlpineAire Foods); 6 oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Saturday [2 lbs]
  • Breakfast: 2 packages of Nature's Path Organic Apple Cinnamon instant oatmeal with a handful of dehydrated blueberries & strawberries; instant coffee, Emer'gen-C instant Cranberry juice (vitamin supplement); Kettle Valley organic fruit snack
  • Second Breakfast: 2 small flour tortillas with Nutella
  • Lunch: AplineAire Tuna & Crackers, trail mix, granola bar
  • Dinner: Ez Matt's Burritos (see recipe here)

Sunday [1 lb 10 oz]
  • Breakfast: high energy cereal and powdered mil with a handful of dehydrated blueberries & strawberries; instant coffee, Emer'gen-C instant orange juice (vitamin supplement); Kettle Valley organic fruit snack
  • Second Breakfast: 2 small flour tortillas with blackberry jam
  • Lunch: Ramen noodles, cheese, trail mix, granola bar
  • Dinner: Instant mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy (see recipe below) , stuffing, 3 squares of dark chocolate

Monday [1 lb 5 oz]
  • Breakfast: 2 packages of Nature's Path Organic Flax n Oats instant oatmeal with a handful of dehydrated blueberries & strawberries; instant coffee, Emer'gen-C instant citrus juice (vitamin supplement); Kettle Valley organic fruit snack
  • Second Breakfast: 2 small flour tortillas with nutella
  • Lunch: Thai Kitchen Garlic & Vegetable noodle soup, crackers & cheese

Misc: [5 oz]
  • Gatorade powder, sugar, powdered milk, tea bags, 1 emergency meal (soup), extra snack

Well, I spent under $60 and altogether it weighs about 6 pounds. Success! When I get back I'll post a summary of what worked well and what didn't (and why.)

RECIPE: Instant Mashed Potatoes
1 cup instant potato flakes
1 tablespoon Kraft Parmesan Cheese
1 pinch of garlic salt
1 tablespoon skim milk powder
half of a 21g package of mushroom gravy mix

At home: package the first 4 ingredients into a regular ziploc bag, and the gravy mix into a ziploc freezer bag.
On the trail: boil 1.5 cups of water, then carefully pour half a cup into the gravy bag and allow to reconstitute. Pour the potato mix into the remaining cup of water and mash with a fork. When the gravy is ready (about 5 mins) pour onto the potatoes and enjoy!