Another perfect day in Dolly Sods Wilderness

Another perfect day in Dolly Sods Wilderness
Taken just off the Red Creek Trail/Blackbird Knob Trail Junction

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Startin my winter projects

I have started my winter gear making projects. I have made two Caldera Clone windscreens; one for my Fosters Can and one for the Heinie pot; they weigh 1 ounce each. I am also gathering materials and tools to make a couple of supercat alcohol stoves. The windscreens turned out pretty well, but the proof is in the using, which I will do as soon as I can fire up the stove outside. Must do the first couple of burns with the new windscreens outside, as the aluminum flashing has a coating on it that will smoke and burn the first few times (I will use a wire brush to brush off the coating after it has softened up).

I will take a few pictures of the windscreens soon and post some test data on the supercat stoves that I make.
I love stove projects! They make winter at least a useful time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review of Ribzwear front pack

I ordered a size small (400 cubic inch) Ribz wear front pack on Saturday and received it in good condition on Wednesday. It came packed in a plastic bag via US priorty mail. The pack was received in good condition with its hang tag. There were no instructions for fitting, but it was pretty intuitive to adjust; so this was not a problem. There is plenty of room, and plenty of pockets to organize gear. Used the pack for a cool weather day hike over rather rugged, but rarely steep terrain. I pretty much forgot I was carrying this pack. It is very comfortable, fit well under my day pack (a Golite Peak pack) and gave great access to snacks, camera, gloves, etc. The pack might prove to be a bit hot during the summer, but I think I shall like this pack very much. It should work well for hiking out of a base camp. I purchased it to use with my Luxury Lite pack and it should work well with this pack. I think I should be able to carry a 1/2 liter platy or two with comfort also. Overall, I am very happy with the initial use of this pack and would recommend to others.
As you will notice from the above picture, the pack is riding very well and is hardly noticeable.

Last hike of the year

My friend and I had a wonderful hike in the Roaring Plains West Wilderness in my home state of West Virginia. The day was cool, but comfortable. We had awesome views pretty much the entire day. There is no other place I would have wanted to be today!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jeep update

Well, I am really liking my new Jeep Patriot. Drives sweet, good visibility. It is familiar enough to my old Caliber to be comfortable, but different enough to be fun.
Gas mileage for this past week was 27 1/2 MPG. Not too bad considering I idle for 10 to 15 minutes in Morgantown Traffic and my drive home is all UP!

It sounds like I might get to test the 4WD this winter, since the long-range forecast for winter is "messy"; kinda like last year.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New wheels!

Finally made up the old mind that it was time to help the economy and buy a new vehicle.
Decided on a nicely equipped Jeep Patriot in inferno red pearl coat. It sizzles! I also decided to try this really cool option called an automatic transmission. This is so cool, it actually shifts gears for you; why didn't someone think of this before now :)

So far I am really liking it. It is familiar enough to be comfortable, but different enough to be fun.
I hope the 4WD makes getting to work a bit easier. I decided to take my Dad's advice and "but what you want", since this will, in all likelihood, be my last new vehicle, as early retirement is starting to take precedence in my thinking and planning.
I hope everyone is having a really nice autumn and I hope we all have a mild winter this year.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

AT Hike 2010 - Shenandoah National Park

Day 1 - Start Rockfish Gap; destination is Calf Mountain Shelter. We started at around noon with the rather steep hike up from Rockfish Gap. Packs are way too heavy since we are carrying about 3+ liters of water each as the water source at the shelter is listed as dry. Due to my own negligence at taking care of my body, I did a crash and burn at the top of McCormick Gap. Face plant on a rock! Had a hell of a bump on my forehead and drove my glasses back into my eye orbits. Still did not have enough since to eat and drink anything. STUPID! I was hitting the wall bad on the climb out of Beagle Gap, but the shelter side trail was a welcome site. Oh, and there was water in the spring! Carried 10 pounds of water that I did not have to carry. Two SoBo thrus at the shelter: Ghost pirate and Quick step.

Day 2 - Calf Mtn Shelter to BlackRock Hut. We decided that with the water situation, we would hike down to the Moormans River and take it around to the hut. This made for a 1500 foot elevation loss and gain, but it was worth it to carry lighter packs and have enough water. We missed the high ridgeline scenery, but the river side walk was nice. The Moormans river is the main supply for the city of Charlottesville, VA. The river was very low. We did about 12.5 miles today. The climb from Blackrock Gap up to the Shelter side trail sucked! We had the shelter to ourselves. Very nice evening.

Day 3 - Black rock hut to Loft Mountain Campground (about 6 miles). Low mileage day and a rather easy hike with only a few moderate climbs. We arrived at the campground around 12:30. We visited the campstore, then headed the mile down to the Wayside for FOOD! We then hiked back up to the campstore, did laundry, took showers and resupplied for the next couple of days. We then headed for the campground. The ranger dudes hooked us up with a very nice site that had a sunset view. They let us set up 3 tents on one site (limit is usually 2 tents). Awesome!

Day 4 - Loft Mtn Campground to Pinefield hut. A bit more difficult day, but still low mileage. We did carry water up from the Ivy Creek Maintainance area spring. This spring was flowing very nicely! We did see a naked hiker today. What a not so nice surprise. Kelly was not feeling well today and not sure if she could continue. She took some pain reliever (heavy duty stuff) and we continued to the hut. We pulled in at Pinefield hut around 3 pm. Thunder started around 20 after 3. We did received some much needed rain. It was a pretty good storm! We caught water off the shelter roof. I did get to meet the fabled Mother Goose (she has done 3 or 4 thruhikes and is the first woman to do a yoyo hike - Maine to Georga and the turn around and walk back to Maine). She is around 70ish and had just done a 20 mile day. Very nice woman! Wish we could have talked to her some more.

Day 5 - Pinefield Hut to Hightop Hut (8 miles). More uphill and we carried water for 5 miles from the Simmons Gap Ranger station. There was some water at the spring, but you had to dip it out without scooping up salamander larvae. We were the only 3 at the shelter. We decided to get up at 0400 and start our hike around 06oo. Nice day

Day 6 - Hightop Hut to Lewis Mountain Campground (11.5 miles) . Started our hiking day at 0550 by head lamp. Started off with about 4 miles downhill to Swifts Run Gap; we then started mostly up for the next 7 1/2 miles. Not too bad though. We are finally starting to hit our stride. Kelly fell at the South River Picnic area and banged up her knee. Bill did a break a way and started speed hiking to Lewis Mountain Campground, since it is Friday and campsites go early. Kelly and I followed. Bill arrived at the campground at 1238; Kelly and I arrived at about 2 pm. We snagged two sites. Showers, laundry and Yuengling! Some of Kelly's friends came up around 8:30 pm with burgers and more beer. I hit the sack around 10ish. I slept very well.

Day 7 - Lewis Mountain Campground to Milam Gap (6 miles). Our last day. We tagged Bear Fence Mountain very quickly. I am just now starting to feel really good physically. We hit the car around 1 pm. This was a nice day, and I just want to keep going.

Summary: Section hiking is difficult. You start with a lot of aches and pains, finally start to hit your stride and head toward decent shape, then your hike is over until next year. Just once in my life, I want to see what thruhiker condition feels like. I want to spend 4 to 6 weeks just hiking. It must feel awesome to have your body function as the Human body was meant to function.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Time to hike!

Tomorrow (9/19) is the first day of our Shenandoah N. P. finish up hike.
Decided to use my Mountainsmith Muse pack since it will handle the way too heavy load I will have to shoulder. Pretty much all natural water sources along the AT in the southern section of Shenandoah N.P. are dried up. This means carrying about 7 to 9 pounds of water weight in addition to everything else.

I decided to use the Big Agness Fly Creek UL1 tent since it does offer more more privacy. I am sure I will regret the extra pound of weight tomorrow.
If the two springs north of Calf Mtn Shelter (the spring at the shelter is dry) do not have water, we have decided to drop off the Appalachian Trail and head down the South Fork of the Moormans River fire road to then hike along the river and the Moormans River Trail and then head back up to the AT via the North Fork of the Moormans river fire road. At one time, this was the route of the AT and it is actually about 1 1/2 mile shorter than staying on the ridgeline. Of course shorter does not mean easier or faster. We will have to carry water to all of the shelters we will stay at. Day 3 will put us at the Loft Mountain Campground: FOOD!, shower, laundry and resupply. At least we do not have to carry food for the 6 days we will be hiking.

Trip report to follow.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Getting ready for AT section hike

Well, it is finally time to get my gear ready for the hike I wait for all year, Drum roll please: The Section Connection Annual AT Hike! My GG Mariposa + is slowly getting packed. I really like this pack. It has enough pockets to stay organized on trail and it is still very light. Food is pretty much packed except for cheese and tortillas. Food bag will be around 3.5 to 4 pounds. Probably have too much food, but It is nice to have emergency rations if needed. We do plan to resupply at Loft Mtn Campstore and will probably get a little food at Lewis Mtn Campstore.

I have yet to decide on which shelter I will take, but it will be either my GG One or the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. I am leaning towards the One because it is about a pound lighter. The One is lighter, but the Fly Creek might block wind better if it is cold and it does offer a bit more privacy for campgrounds. This is important since we will be carrying a lot of water at times. Day one is 7 dry miles, day 2 is 12 dry miles. I am gonna go on faith that the springs at Calf Mtn Shelter and Black Rock Hut are not dry. If they are, we gonna get thirsty! I will follow up with a trip report in late September.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Otter Creek, WV weekend

Gonna hit the Otter Creek Wilderness over the weekend. Moore Run Trail to campsite; then explore. If you love stream side hikes, then Otter Creek is your place! This area takes some care however. Otter Creek can rise quite quickly if the rain starts and can become very dangerous very quickly. So head up, if the storms set in, you might wanna start your plan B, C, and D thinking.

I rate Otter Creek as the number stream-side hike in WV. It has plenty of drama!
I rate Seneca Creek as number two. It has nice waterfalls and you are always close to the action.
I rate Red Creek as number three. Has drama, has water falls, even has a water slide, but you are too far from the action.

I am doing this hike with my friend Rumble Seat; not her real name :) and her two dogs. We should have a great time! This will be her boy's first backpack trip. Her girl is an experienced hiker dog.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL-1 initial review

Decided to try a tent for a change, so went to the local outdoor store, Pathfinder, WV and purchased a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1.

Initial impression: Well made, well thought out, nicely put together; looks like it is actually made for a backpacker instead of a desk jockey.
Listed weight total as packaged is 2 pounds 3 oz, on my scale it is 2 pounds 5 3/4 ounces.
Took into the yard and set it up (instructions are sewn to the inside of the stuff sack).
Easy to set up, took me about 6 minutes for first set up; looks like I should be able to go from stuff sack to set up in about 2 or 3 minutes. Very intuitive set up.
Tent seamed very stable and roomy enough for one person (and perhaps a small dog) and Ultralite gear. All zippers work smoothly, enough head room (38") to set up with room to spare. Enough foot area height to avoid sleeping bag hitting the top. Length of tent is 86 inches, width at head end is 42 inches, width at foot end is 30 inches. The vestibule is small but roomy enough to put boots and wet clothes. There is a small mesh storage pocket at the head end, roomy enough for my glasses. There are 3 loops attached to the top of the tent to hook up a separately purchased gear hammock. I will probably use these for stringing a line to hang maybe wet socks and perhaps a light to read by. Taking the tent down was also very easy. Everything fit in the tent stuff sack (at last a stuff sack that is actually big enough to get the gear back in without cursing!). Tent is reported to not need seam sealing as all seams are factory taped; I will test this theory soon. I expect exiting the tent in rainy weather will result in a bit of water coming in as there is nothing to prevent this. I will need to practice setting tent up to minimize rain puddling in the tent floor during rainy weather set up.
An actual usage review will follow in the next couple of weeks.

Okay, I have had the opportunity to use this tent on an overnighter. I used it on my trip to Otter Creek Wilderness.

Set up was quick and easy. It took up very little space. I only used 9 stakes instead of the 11 stakes provided. I had plenty of room for my regular Neoair pad and Montbell sleeping bag. My boots and pack spent the night in the vestible (rather small, but adequate). The night was cool, (low 50's) and still. I zipped the vestibule up to hold in heat and to see how bad condensation was. Condensation was light to moderate, which is to be expected with a still night. I did not have any condensation drip onto my gear and the inner wall kept my sleeping bag and other gear from contacting the fly. I do like the little overhead gear pocket, it was the perfect place for my glasses. I also used one of the tabs that are to connect a gear loft to hang my head lamp. In the morning, the tent broke down and packed up just as easy as it set up. I have ditched the provided stuff sack in favor of a three-sack system: Tent in on small bag, fly in an other, this keep the tent body drier. The pole sack rides in the outer pocket of my Mariposa + along with the stakes.

I will post another "weather" review after I have used this tent in some less than nice weather.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Roaring Plains West August Bushwack hike

Had a very nice bushwacking hike with my hiking pardner. The hike followed the rim of the Roaring Creek Drainage area. We had planned to hike the entire "trail" to its junction with the Roaring Plains Trail, but had to sit out a two hour rain delay first. This caused us to have to start later and set a turn-around time to start back to camp. We had no views because of fog, but I think the views would be awesome! We have decided that we must have a "do over".

The Roaring Plains West Wilderness is close to the more well known Dolly Sods Wilderness in Tucker County, West Virginia. It is not an easy wilderness to access. There are only a few "portals" to access is. One is to use FR 70 to access Roaring Plains Trail; this is a 3.4 mile walk just to make it to the trail head. The other official access site is to hike up Flat Rock Run Trail which has its trail head along Bonner Mountain Road. One can also access this wilderness by hiking up a gas pipeline (long hike) or by hiking Either Boars Nest Trail or South Prong Trail to access the above mentioned forest service road, FR70. Or one can simply use South Prong (the upper end) as a starting point, walk eastish or westish along the pipeline and cross country. This is NOT an option for the inexperienced hiker! Get a map, compass and GPS and know how to use them. It is one of West Virginia's newest wilderness areas, officially becoming a wilderness April 2009 when President Barack Obama signed the Wild Monongahela Act which was part of the Omnibus bill. If you do nothing else I approve of President Obama, thank you for signing this bill and preserving a spectacular area for future people of the world.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Luxury Lite external frame backpack review

Company web address:
2307 Whitetail Lane
Lake Jackson, Texas 77566
Contact Information:
979-798-2248, ask for Bruce Warren

My stats: I am female, 51 years old, about 5 feet tall, 16.5 inch torso length (torso length not too much of an issue with this pack). I backpack every chance I get. I most generally use an ultralight pack and carry a very light load.
I am looking for a pack that can carry heavier loads, around 25 to 30 pounds for trips that require 5 or more days of food or that require carrying 3 or more liters of water for the day with reasonable load control and stability.

Received about 10 days after ordering. Order was complete. Ordered; stackpack with hook belt, and 3 -18 x 9 inch cylinders, and the front pack. All items received in good condition: No damage, no loose threads, no missing parts. Complete instructions for use, loading and fitting received with pack (these can also be printed from website). I will not describe the pack itself in detail since it can be seen on the website

Initial impression: Nice, high-quality workmanship with attention to detail. Instructions are very clear. Only problem encountered with initial fitting was the top bar smacking me in the back of the head (short torso). This was addressed by creating a "back band" across the vertical bars and padding it with some old closed cell foam pieces so that the "pad" hit be at shoulder level. This kept the top bar from hitting me in the head (pictures to follow). If this works out well, I shall try to come up with a smoother looking arrangement.

Initial use:
Place: Dolly Sods Wilderness (northern part) in West Virginia
Weather: very warm and humid. Rain not predicted.
Terrain: Mostly open, fairly gentle and easy. Only a few moderate uphils/downhills. One stream crossing. A few rocky sections.
Mileage: 9 miles round trip.

Beta: Cylinders open wide and load easily. I was trying to load the pack up fairly heavy, but this is difficult for an ultralight backpacker. I used a bear resistant food canister which I usually do not and I carried all of my dogs gear. This brought the total pack weight up to just over 20 pounds.
Initially, the pack feels kinda different, but after a short while, the scenery made me forget about it.

The pack needs to be packed with the load fairly centered and with the cylinders full so that the pack does not sag sideways. I did initially have an issue with the pack sagging to one side. I was able to tweak this by loosening or tightening the shoulder straps. This solved the issue, but I suspect that a really uncentered load would have to be rearranged in the cylinders.
The pack carry was very stable. This actually was a surprise! I was pleased by how stable the carry was. I was afraid of being thrown off balance as this has occurred before when using other external frame packs.
The pack was not "clunky" to carry. There was plenty of room for every thing.

I packed the bear canister (small Bear Boxer Contender model) in the bottom cylinder and stuffed my SMD Lunar solo tent around it and stuffed small items each end of the cylinder. Next, I folded up a torso length self-inflating pack and pushed it into the back of the middle cylinder. I then rolled up 2 short pieces of 1/4 inch closed cell foam pad and put those in. Next I stuffed my sleeping bag (Western Mountaineering Highlight), sleep clothes and down jacket in this cylinder. The top cylinder was for everything else: camp shoes, camera, dog water bowl, dog tie out leash, water filter and empty 2 liter platypus, Cooking gear, and 1/2 liter of extra water (I did not use the front pack on this trip). This cylinder was not full and I suspect this may have been the source of a lopsided load.

The pack carried very nicely, It was comfortable. The hip belt can be worn high on waist or down low without affecting how the pack rides. It is nice to be able to vary where the hip belt rides. The pack was easy to place on and remove from the hook belt. I did use a small water bottle pack that I use on morning walks to carry water and a few other items. It was able to be buckled in the back without creating a comfort issue with the pack.

I am not sure about using the front pack on terrain that might require being able to see foot placement, but I will use it on "easy" terrain just to see how well it counterbalances the load. I am hoping that the front pack will surprise me, so that I can use it on the Appalachian Trail in southern Shenandoah National Park, since one day will require carrying all needed water for a 12 mile section.
I will add pictures to his review at a later date and will add additional information/problems as needed.

I think this is a pack I can live out of for a week or a season on trail. Nicely done pack.

Another nice fishing trip to Sutton Lake

We did not catch much but still a nice trip. Saw many deer. This is a nice lake for wildlife watching. Definitely a recommended destination.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Planning a 3 day fishing trip with my Pa. We are going to Sutton Lake in Braxton County, West Virginia. It will be kinda hot, but anywhere not at work is all good. I will update with our facts and figures.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cooking kit

This is a project to create a light weight cook set. Requirement is to be under 6 ounces total weight and nest together.
So, here it is:
Heineken cook pot (24 ounce can) with lid.
Wing "stove (for fuel tabs) and aluminum wind screen
Cup (7 1/2 ounce coca cola zero can) with lid and foam cozy (1/4 " thick foam).
Bowl (2 1/2 cup plastic bowel) with a "bubble pack" cozy
Light my fire spork
Small lighter
Nylon stuff sack
Roll up windscreen and put in Heineken can, put cup with lid in Heinie pot, put wing stove (in plastic bag) into cup, put lighter in cup, put lids on all of these. Put in stuff sack, nest this into bowl, place bowl in bubble cozy and wedge spork down between bowl and Heinie pot.

Total weight 5 3/8 ounces! Not bad. I will test this set up next hike to see how well it works.
Possible changes might be to switch to a folding spoon, so that this will also go inside the cook pot

Roaring Plains West Wilderness, July hike

Well, a friend and I decided to head for our local hills to get away from the heat. So we head to the Dolly Sods area, specifically the Roaring Plains West Wilderness (one of WV's newest wilderness areas). I have hiked this area for a long time, but it never fails to surprise and tantalize. We camped only a short ways up Roaring Plains Trail (Yes the roaring plains roar!). We then hike up the gas pipeline that acts as the east border of this wilderness. We discovered a trail we did not know existed (no I can't tell yah, or I will have to kill yah). WOW, what a sweet place. We plan to return for further exploration of this trail; gotta know where it goes.
Wildlife seen: 2 deer, 1 timber rattlesnake, a frog, a gray squirrel, vultures and countless other birds.
Wildlife heard: Coyotes briefly just after dusk.
Other animals seen: 1 very tired bear dog, that had "seen action" with the bear (he followed us out the forest service road).
Other people seen: Only the owner of the dog; so at least the dog will spend tonight at home in his dog box.
Hiked with Grabow and Top Bunk (Trail names).
Weather: Hot, humid and very windy; no rain or storms.
I totally recommend this area if you want outstanding hiking and very little company.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Went fishing with my Pa on Friday. We went to Mt. Storm Lake in WV. The water is as warm as bath water. How the heck to fish live in water that warm! We caught a few sardine-sized channel catfish. I have caught nice bass in this lake, up to 2 pounds; but have never caught a decent sized catfish. Has anyone ever caught eatin' sized catfish at this lake?

We had a pretty nice time. We explored a bit. Got off the lake at the perfect time; about 45 minutes before thunderstorms started.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Valley Falls State Park in West Virgina

Went to Valley Falls State Park this past Saturday. It was a very nice day. This park has about 18 miles of lightly used trails. Not a lot of people hike here because the main attraction is the falls. Many folks have their wedding here. There were folks setting up for a wedding during my visit. To get to the park from the west, take route 50 east (from the East go west to the other side of Grafton) to route 310 near Grafton, WV, wind your way about 7 or 8 miles out this nice country road then follow the signs to the park. On your way you will pass Rock Lake, a private lake. The water lillies were in full bloom! They are very beautiful. I would certainly recommend this park for just sitting and thinking. It is a photographers dream park!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First ever blog post!

What the heck, I decided to give this a try. This blog is to share my hiking and other outdoor adventures with other like-minded folks. I will include trip reports, gear reviews and hopefully some awesome pictures. Kinda neat the way ferns grow.