Archive for December, 2011

A trip to Richards

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The trails were rumored to be setting up well in the Whites, so early-ish on a Sunday morning Ms Marsh, Tom, and I headed out on a overnighter to Richards Cabin in the White Mountains NRA. The weather had been pretty nice the last couple of days, though perhaps a bit too warm for the trails to set up for good biking.

We arrived at the trail head and started down the trail, enjoying the warm weather. I was planning on biking, and Tom and Ms Marsh were going to ski. Richards cabin is about 20 miles in on a well used trail. The trail starts off with a climb up over a small ridge, then decends for 8 miles or so to cross Nome Creek, then winds though spruce forrest and a old burn before arriving at Richards. The trail was a bit too loose and steep for me to bike right out of the parking lot, so I started off pushing for the first mile or so. Tom and Ms Marsh carried their skis, so I traveled up the hill with them for a while, though once it became ridable I headed off. The day was bright and beautiful, and very warm.

Eventually the climbing stopped, and I was treated to nice downhill to Nome Creek.

It was in the upper twenties for most of the day, a bit too warm for pleasant snow biking. The trail was nicely packed and I made good time for the first half of the trip. Eventually I was passed by a large party of snow machines on their way out from Richards, and the riding slowed down a fair bit.

I found out later that these folks had just returned from Iraqi. It was a bit too warm for the trail to setup, so I spent the next 8 miles or so in a mix of low pressure riding and pushing. Good practice for what is in store for me in two weeks.

Not a big deal, as it was warm, and due to the low sun angle and a bank of high clouds, there was a all day sunrise (or sunset?).

The low angle sun illuminated the ridges along Cache Mountain beautifully.

Remus the dog is not too excited by snow biking. When pedaling I travel fast enough he has to trot to keep up, and can’t lolly gag. He gets to goof off while I am pushing though, and durring on of these non-pedaling sections a vole ran across the trail and ran into one of his legs. Remus was very surprised, and didn’t know what to do for a couple of moments. After following the vole around for half a minute he decided it was not edible or interesting and moved on. I followed the vole for a bit as it attempted to find it way back down to it’s tunnels under the snow.

After several minutes of running around on top of the snow the vole found tree well and returned to its life under the snow. Eventually the sun set, I turned on my lights, and eventually arrived at the cabin.

The cabin was still warm from the previous tenants so I hunted down some more wood and got busy melting snow. Once there was enough water I feed Remus, and soon after that Tom arrived, followed by Ms Marsh a while later. Richards Cabin is a large 20′ by 30′ log cabin with lots of room. We enjoyed a wonderful evening eating, talking, and goofing off. Tom was excited to find a copy of a UK publication call “Poultry Magazine”, which was complete with a section of reader submitted poems. He was riveted.

Richards sees a different style of visitor than most of the other cabins in the Whites. Besides several other UK farming publications, there was a number of issues of gun magazines and trading publications, and some motor sport publications. I think it might see a bit more of the hunting crowd, as it is possible to reach it in summer by ATV.

Eventually we hit the sac, and after a slow morning, set off to head back out to the parking lot. A about a half inch of snow fell overnight, and it was slightly colder, but the trail had setup firm and was now pretty rideable. The new snow and the low lying clouds made for a very white day.

The ride out was mostly uneventful, though scenic. I arrived at the truck an hour or so before the skiers, with enough time to feed Remus and myself, and get the bike unpacked and loaded up.

A very wonderful overnighter – thanks for putting together the trip Ms Marsh!

First Ski in the Whites

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

I got out today and skied 20 or so miles in the Whites.. It was a beautiful day, and it was very nice to be getting some outside time. It was a fairly short ski, only out to the Wickersham Creek Trail shelter and back for a round trip of about 18 miles, but it was nice to on skis and enjoying the snow. Thanks for providing the motivation Tom!


Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I admit it, I love reading about gear. My life is pretty busy these days and I spend lots more time thinking and dreaming about outdoor adventures than actually having them. Thinking about gear is just another way for me to think about future adventures outside… I was feeling a bit guilty while searching for some information on a potential gear purchase and decided it was about time to get off my lazy butt and put up some gear talk about some of the stuff I have been using in the summer (no winter gear here, that will come sometime later) and am particularly enamored of.

After the twins were born I knew i had to do something different about our tent setups. Our normal two person 6 pound tent was just not going to cut it, and neither was our four person 9lb tent, as there was no way to carry either of them in addition to the twins and not end up crippled. After a bunch of research, I ended up getting a Tarptent Rainshadow 2 . It’s a three person tent (the two in the name apparently means version 2 rather than two person) that weighs a little less than three pounds.

Its pretty spacious and all four of us can fit in it without trouble.

It holds up pretty well in the wind, and I have had it in rainy windstorms above treeline without trouble, though it does require care setting it up (stake out the sides low in wet windy conditions).

I liked it so much I started taking it on trips without the family and sleeping in it by myself. I often end up as the third man out on trips, and as no one I travel with has a three man tent, I end up packing my own tent and sleeping solo. This is not a big problem for me, as I like having my own space and a little quiet time by myself. However, after a while the small zipper on the door started having problems, so I decided to keep that tent only for family trips, and got a Tarptent Moment for trips where I was going to be sleeping solo. This is a fantastic tent – it’s very weather proof, spacious, light, and easy to set up.

I have used it in windy conditions above treeline in the rain, and its handles that wonderfully.

I am super happy with it. Hopefully by the time the twins get too large to share the larger tarptent with Nancy and me they will have a four person Moment-like tent! Both these tents are single walled, are made of thin fabric, and have small zippers, and require a bit of care. In calm damp conditions you have to be careful to make sure they are well ventilated to prevent moisture buildup. The zippers need to be kept clean, as the teeth are very small and easy to damage. It would be worth while for Tarptent to use a larger toothed zipper and gain a oz or two for a more durable zipper. Its not that big of a deal though, so long as one is careful, and is a small sacrifice for such light, roomy tents. They are made in the USA too, and the owner of the company actually personally responded to a handful of questions I emailed them about the Moment before I bought it – a very nice touch!

Rain Gear
I found a OR branded jacket on closeout several years ago, which they called the Zealot Jacket It weighs a little under 8oz, and is full on waterproof. Its the nicest rain jacket I have ever used – so light that I take it on all my summer trips, and very breathable. It packs down very small, about the size of a large apple.

Alas, it appears to be discontinued, which is a shame, as it is a wonderful jacket. OR has something similar that replaced it, but it is quite a bit heavier and does not pack down as small. I attempted to find something similar for Nancy and was quite annoyed to find that finding waterproof breathable jackets in a similar weight class (sub 8 oz) is pretty hard. For whatever reason they seem to have disappeared.. I don’t know why, as this jacket works as well as any traditional jacket, but weights a lot less. The thin fabric breaths better than a lot of standard weight jackets too. It is also great for class II and lower packrafting.

I have been using the same pair of float pants for most of my packrafting – a pair of goretex paddle pants from Kokatat . They work very well, and unless I swim I don’t get wet. When I swim I get more or less wet depending on what top I am using and if the cuffs on the ankles stay closed or not. I have found that the Velcro and neoprene cuffs don’t leak if I close them up, then pull my socks over the tops of the cuffs.

It looks a bit funny, but keeps everything tight and leak proof. These pants also work great as standard rain pants and on trips where weight is a concern these are the only pants I take.

I have been using a Arc’teryx Naos 65 for the last three years, and it is a wonderful pack for packrafting. It is completely waterproof, with a roll top closure, and keeps everything nice and dry. Even after going though long swims everything still stays dry, which is a major plus. The fabric of the pack also does not absorb water, which is nice as you can put on the pack after packrafting and not have to carry extra water weight in sodden fabric.

It is a bit heavy, but the lack of fiddling and waterproofness more than makes up for this. It is fairly free of weird extra widgets and straps too, which is nice. It is a great pack. Alas, Arc`teryx appears to be no longer making it, but has lots of similar looking packs. The downside is they appear to be tremendously expensive. I got mine on closeout for a reasonable price, but the new ones that Arc`teryx seemed to have replaced it with appear to cost a bit (perhaps a lot?) more than they should. On the upside Arc`teryx is quite good about handing problems – I partially ripped the hip belt off and they repaired it quickly and without fuss. It has room for packrafting gear and a week to a week and a half supply of food.

Other Stuff
I like to have my snacks ready while hiking and now have two “chub packs” as I call them that go across the shoulder straps of my pack allowing me to easily access snacks while hiking or skiing. The small one is made by Osprey and works pretty well – its is called the Grab Bag . It converts to a small fanny pack, which initially I though was pretty silly, but recently I started using it while packrafting and using a light pfd without pockets. The light pdf I have works ok, but does not have any pockets, leaving no place for me to carry survival gear and snacks. I have started using the small chub pack as a fanny pack, with it turned around so it is in the front instead just bellow the pdf – great for storing snacks while packrafting. I had a similar gadget made that is large enough for a water bottle, snacks, a gps, and random other stuff (hats, gloves, etc).

This works wonderfully for winter ski trips, allowing me to store just about everything I need in it for fast access while skiing. It is very nice to get snacks, water, etc without taking off your pack. I had it made by a local custom outdoor gear shop Apocalypse Design.

I am a big fan of Hydropel , an almost magical anti-friction and anti-maceration/pruning cream. It slows down the rate at which your skin aborbs moisture and is very nice when you are going to have wet feet for several days. It is also very good at preventing blisters. SportSlick also works pretty well but does not last quite as long, however it is a fair bit cheaper.

For the last two years I used a SteriPen to treat water. It works very well, treating about a quart in under two minutes. It appears to be effective, as I have not been on the receiving end of any waterborne pathogens. It is also possible to treat water while walking, though it requires a bit of coordination – nice for those moments when you want to keep moving or when the bugs are super bad. Or both.