I love flat dirt

I love flat dirt

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August 2011
It's so much easier to walk on than boulders at a 45° incline.

"I'm too fat to walk up a mountain." "Most people are."

I don't know about most people, but I'm sure not comfortable with not being able to walk up Liberty Mountain in a day. I saw lots of people do it. I saw two couples go up and then come down in one day, and the vast majority of people we saw didn't seem to be packed for spending the night. And my coworkers were confident I could get up the mountain.

We saw one other person about as overweight as me. He was hollering obscenities.

But I spent my weekend hiking in the woods with [info]cathijosephine instead of with my butt firmly attached to my sofa, and that's awesome.

And hopefully it'll motivate me to reduce my body fat and increase my cardiovascular stamina. More.

Maybe in a month I'll try another valley trip, quite possibly Flat Mountain Pond from the West end. Let me know if you'd like to come with me.

Zeph was wonderful to have with me.

Our plan had been to hike up most of Liberty Mountain, spend the night at the designated tent site, go up to the peak, which is above tree line, maybe wander around the ridge a bit, and come back down the second day. 3.5 miles the first day. The first 0.9 miles is pretty flat, so 2.6 up the mountain.

After I was feeling pretty well done, every lift of my leg painful, one of the people we ran into who was heading down, when figuring out we were planning to spend the night, got a pained look on her face, and said we had a while to go, then said "Wait, how much farther do we have to go?" Not long after, another person we ran into said we had a mile left to go. Zeph said "She has to be wrong." She apparently didn't see the pained expression on the previous lady's face. We kept going up slowly, focusing more on attempting to find some vague approximation of a small flat spot on the side of the mountain to sleep on, preferably at least 200 feet from the trail (as regulated). I gave in and took two ibuprofen.

We came to a spot where the trail was much flatter than everything we'd seen for a while, so that seemed like a good place to scout for a camp site. I found a spot too close to the trail that looked like it would work. Zeph looked around some more while I sat with our stuff so we didn't lose it. I looked around longer. I don't know how long, could've been half an hour. Found a better spot. Turned out to be a perfect spot. Again it could've been problematic if it rained really hard, as it was a small bowl, but it turned out amazingly comfy for two snuggly people in bivy sacks. Glad I wasn't trying to pitch a tent.

I asked Zeph what she thought our chances were of getting our food in a tree this time. She said good, because she didn't want to deal with a bear. I pointed out the problem with putting your food in a tree is that it's then in a tree and you can't snack on it anymore, and our chances plummeted. After it got dark, she eventually managed to talk me into putting it in a tree. That may have significantly contributed to how well I slept and how little I jumped that night. Having a light source certainly helped, I'm very happy with my Princeton Tec Quad Tactical.

We were expecting temperatures around freezing. It didn't seem like it frosted. I've been kicking myself for not picking up that $6 combination thermometer and mini compass from REI, which is exactly what I wanted. We both ended up sleeping well. Zeph woke up a few times to cold feet, because she had taken her socks off because they were too tight. But we were otherwise warm enough.

I took two more ibuprofen as we got back on the trail.

On the way up a very large portion of the people coming down had trekking poles. I was particularly surprised by the number of them who had expedient poles (sticks). I commented on their popularity to one person who had fashioned his own, and he said he felt they were almost a necessity. Remember this was boulders at about a 45° incline. Zeph and I opted to try without, and neither regretted it at all. Slightly different muscle use, and half the time, and we were joyously back to the car. I took another ibuprofen and an aleve. I'm still rather sore.

About six hours up, three hours down.

We both slept in USGI Modular Sleep Systems (MSS). I was in the light (patrol) bag, using the intermediate bag as a sleeping pad, wearing only (heavy) socks, boxer-briefs, and polypropylene jacket. She was in the intermediate bag using a Therm-A-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite pad, wearing no socks, pants, sweatshirt, jacket.... I'm thinking I would've been fine with the intermediate bag plus pad, which would've cut my pack down, hell, 5-7 pounds, which could've been enough to get me the rest of the way up the mountain. Do not underestimate the value of hauling less crap in your pack up the mountain. I didn't, I'm just still buying gear. Zeph appreciated me talking her out of packing an extra long sleeve shirt and more socks and underwear than she would have worn.

My new Kelty Redwing 50 internal frame pack was magical. Last time, every time I stopped it was primarily to get my damn pack off. This time, most stops I didn't even care to take my pack off. The weight of the contents hangs from the top of the bag, which is basically suspended from the top of a single aluminum stay which runs to the bottom, to padding, then a thick padded belt that wraps snugly around the top of your hips, basically holding all of the weight. Then the shoulder straps are just there to keep it snugged to your body. I felt like a strap around my chest under my arms would've been nice (I did have the chest strap buckled).

Zeph packed much like I did last time - day pack with the MSS tied to the top.

My other gear addition was two pair of REI rag wool socks, and two pair of Merino sock liners (one REI, one SmartWool). They were great, but hard to say more great than the synthetic hiking socks I used before. I think I liked the REI liners slightly more. Rag wool socks are cheap, and I believe the best socks you can wear, with the one qualification that you be planning to wear liner socks (which reduce friction and stuff).

I also added my US GI M-65 field jacket shell, because of the cold. And swapped my cotton short and long sleeve shirts for synthetics. It was very convenient to strap my top two layers across the top of my pack with the compression straps when not in use.

We each brought a dozen hard boiled eggs, a bag of mixed dried fruit, and a bag of M&Ms. I brought a bag of "yogurt" covered M&Ms, she brought two small bags of jerky, which was a good idea. I ate eight eggs, and most of the rest. She hardly touched her eggs, at least partially because we forgot salt, finished the jerky (which she tore through) and fruit, and had a bunch of M&Ms left. I probably ate too many M&Ms.

I've been convinced to ditch my synthetic base layer stuff and switch to wool. The socks, mentioned above, and long underwear in Merino (and a balaclava). Mostly due to people raving about how much it reduces need to adjust the number of layers you're wearing. Doesn't overheat you as much when you get hot, while still keeping you nice and warm when it's cold. Also, less stench, although that's not so much of a concern for me.

I'm also really tempted to get Patagonia Men's Hiking and Trekking in Wet Weather technical clothing system except for the base layer as explained above. Although it's kind of expensive, for somebody who can't even walk up a damn mountain. But I want it. Partially for its utility in the event civilization collapses and I feel a need to wander, of course.

I was very much reminded of this:
"If you pick 'em up, O Lord, I'll put 'em down." - unknown, "Prayer of the Tired Walker", from whiteblaze.net
  • About those poles...the first times I went hiking in the Whites, you'd encounter the occasional hiker with one. Usually someone with full camping gear, like thru hikers on the AT. And kids on a day hike. Maybe. But it was the exception, not the rule.
    I've personally hiked in a few places where I found a walking stick invaluable - going up a steep incline on a track that also functioned as a small stream with smooth bedrock at its base, because it was slippery and an extra point of contact was useful. On extremely bouldery paths, coming down, again esp. if the rocks are wet and I've got a full pack on. Still, I've never owned one. If an acute need arises, I know I can probably find a stick to use temporarily.

    It seems to me what changed such that they've become so very common on the trail is that they became a cheap commodity item from China. I saw them selling for $3 when I was there, and soon after that I noticed they were bargain-priced at every outdoor store here too. I suspect if they were still only a fancy brand name item with a $40 price tag, as they once were, you'd see far fewer out there today.

    Also, I suspect that the 200 foot rule in that area is violated by most folks who end up sleeping outside of designated camping areas above the valleys, unless it's also near or above treeline. Thick undergrowth and steep terrain make compliance a matter of great luck and/or effort most times, and if you're searching for one up there it's often because you're tired or it's getting late. The one time I camped up there deliberately (so I could scramble up above treeline in the dark to watch a meteor shower) I searched for a long time in the area I wanted to stop and finally had to settle for a spot that was only about 50 feet from the trail. Either the rule was carried over from other forest areas where campsites are easier to find, or they *know* it's darned difficult a lot of the time up there but they want you to do your best to spread out anyway - just to reduce impact on the few spots near the trail.
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