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

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.