I spent a night in a designated wilderness!

I spent a night in a designated wilderness!

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August 2011
Due to weather, I decided not to go up Mt. Liberty and instead go with my fallback plan of Flat Mountain Pond Trail. It was good.

The weakest of my gear was my pack, exactly as expected. A JanSport day pack, not meant for anything near carrying 29 pounds through mountains. A lot of that weight was my NATO Modular Sleep System, I think 12.5 pounds. Tied to the top of the shoulder straps. I think that actually worked out better than anybody could have expected. Relatively good weight distribution and stability. But man that was rough on my shoulders.

Close to the trail, still in my car, a guy walking his dog along the road waved at me. And then some guy probably drinking a beer in his yard waved at me. Its funny how farther from cities seems more civilized.

I thought about leaving one of my sleeping bags in my car, since I wasn't going up a mountain. But I didn't feel like I had sufficient means to insulate myself from the ground without both.

I took it way easy. I stopped for a break I guess three times. I ended up seeing a big chunk of concrete with rebar, on top of a large boulder in the river, which seemed strange. It looked very much like it had been part of a bridge. Then the path disappeared. Up to that point the path was very clear. I eventually figured out I needed to cross the river. On the other side was a sign that said something like "Entering the Sandwich Range Wilderness", which at the time felt very much like a prize for figuring out a puzzle. It was nice how I felt like I was expected to think, and survive on my own. In other places, just because there was clear indication I was expected to cross the river at a given area, there was no presumption that it would be safe.

The last time I rested, looking at a map, I decided there was little chance of me making it to Flat Mountain Pond, and then not being miserably sore by the time I got back to my car the next day. And, having no goal, and figuring taking it easy my first time out was wise, I felt there was no place better to be then where I was.

That was when it sunk in that following a trail up a mountain river meant that the rule requiring camping at least 200 feet from the trail basically meant straight up a mountain. Requiring walking up a mountain, and few flat spots. So I hiked on a bit more, crossed the river where it was wide and I felt I had a pretty good view to the other side, and found a wonderful shelf to camp on. Somebody else had clearly felt similarly - it was marked with a ribbon on a tree. I think that ribbon was inappropriate, and I probably should have removed it, but I erred on the side of doing nothing (reminding me of Zen, via Tron 2 and Burning Man Rangers).

I set up camp, which didn't take long. I ended up with quite a lot of time to kill. I lounged on the boulders in the river, waved at three groups of people walking the other way (2 people, 5 people and a dog, 2 people). The group that saw me was very pleasant. And I napped in my camp. The first time I woke up with at least six fresh welts from mosquitos on the back of my hands, very grumpy about it. Not long after that they weren't bothering me anymore. I realized later that it would have been perfect to spend that time building a fire.

There were a few incredible mushroom flowers, Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora). Fortunately [info]doctordidj recently mentioned them to me. Because they must be one of the most surreal things I've seen. A flower, with the colorization of a mushroom. It evolutionarily gave up on chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Sounds like it's a parasite getting its nutrition from trees via fungus. On my way back I saw a couple more along the trail.

I didn't put my food in a tree. That was dumb. But I didn't get visited by bears.

I almost (intentionally) went without a flashlight, because the appropriate one I have has been very problematic. In the end, I took it, it shorted a battery, and I got no use out of it. So laying in practically pitch black, with nothing over your head but tree canopy (not even a thin layer of fabric), knowing you were supposed to hang your food in a tree because of bears, can be a little unnerving. There were about three times I jumped up at a noise.

It got chilly enough at night that I put my long sleeve shirt on.

I slept pretty comfortably, if a little stiffly due to lack of cushioning. I slept in all my clothes except boots (which I propped upside down to avoid collecting rain). I only once felt a cold spot at my hip laying on my side. I was actually too warm most of the night. I should've taken my long sleeve shirt and pants off, but didn't.

It didn't end up raining at all.

I had packed three liters of water (the capacity of my smaller hydration bladder). I can't imagine more than a liter would be appropriate for a trail so often so close to water. I almost ran out by the time I got moving in the morning, so I refilled. My filter worked great. I only filled up to about a liter.

I walked back to my car without taking my pack off once, and got there by 9:19am. Yeah, I could have gone in further.

So, I carry this big 12.5 pound sleeping bag + bivy sack set because I want a four season pack. But it might be wise to put that off until I get some more backpacking in and get in better shape. I've been planning to get a (very) light weight air mattress, which, replacing my intermediate sleeping bag as a mattress, would reduce the weight of my pack significantly. Although the one I want isn't available yet, the Therm-a-rest XTherm, or maybe XLite. Also, a real backpack with hip support would be lovely. I'm kind of thinking about getting a Kifaru Late Season, but haven't researched enough.

I feel a lot more alive.

This hasn't been proofread yet. Maybe I'll get to that, and maybe some more detail, later.
  • Yay! Sounds fun!

    When you first posted the sleep system, I really liked it, but it doesn't make sense to me for backpacking. You could carry a backpacker tent for 2, sleeping bag and a pad for LESS than 12 lbs. (I just ran the numbers on REI gear I own.)

    I would pitch you on all the awesome gear you could be using instead, but I realize you don't need to be an ultralight fanatic like me ... At your size all you need is a real backpack. With 29 lbs in it you'll probably forget you're wearing it.
    • Yup, I realize there are other options that are a fraction of the weight. Kifaru made some nesting sleeping bags that weigh about nothing with similar insulation. And a tarp shelter thing that also weighs about nothing. They're tempting. And yeah, I expect a proper pack to help a lot. Now I just need to pick one....

      Kifaru 20°F slick bag = 2.0 pounds
      Kifaru 0°F MOB bag = 1.69 pounds (-35°F together)
      Kifaru ParaTarp = 0.69 pounds
      Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm mattress: 0.94 pounds

      Serious four season shelter for 5.32 pounds. And lots of cash.

      An article on four season Kifaru gear I need to read later: http://www.kifaru.net/tipi4sezn.htm
  • A friend of mine recently started going camping a lot. He went this weekend (something like the 4th time in 6 weeks) and, at first, I thought this post was him summing up what happened, until I looked at the icon.

    However, you may want to mess with weight distribution. His pack runs around 30 pounds, and he rearranged the weight so the majority (60/40, I believe) is at his hips and he says it feels considerably lighter than 30 pounds that way. But maybe you plan on doing that since you said you want a backpack with "hip support." (And I'm not exactly sure what 'hip support' entails in terms of backpack design.)
    • Backpacks designed for backpacking generally have a belt that goes around the waist, heavily padded, to take a lot of the weight off your shoulders. I'd guess your friend probably has that kind of belt.
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