Kendrick Mountain Wilderness -or- Prelude to Humphrey’s Peak…

Kendrick Mountain

Humphrey’s Peak is the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 ft.  It’s been on my must-do list for a while now.  A couple months ago, I started chatting with Matt on Twitter about hiking Humphrey’s Peak in June.  My only worry was that I have not been at high elevation in a long time.  The last time I spent any real time above 10,000 ft was hiking the Mount Rose Summit (10,776 ft) in Tahoe in 2010.  Prior to that, my last experience above 10,000 ft was in Peru all the way back in 1998.  I’ve never really had trouble with elevation, but things change over the years so I needed to see how my body would react at elevation and I wanted to do it before making a run on Humphrey’s Peak.

Dirty TruckMy buddy Bryan does a lot of bike races (he was the reason I was in Prescott for the Whiskey Off-Road).  A few weeks ago he asked me, kinda of last minute, if I wanted to go camping with him for another bike race.  The race was a popular 104-mile relay called the Barn Burner.  The Barn Burner Mountain Bike Race covers a 26-mile loop that weaves in and out of the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness area, home of Kendrick Peak.  Kendrick Peak tops out at 10,418 ft and is part of the same volcanic San Francisco Mountain Range as Humphrey’s. It would be a perfect warm-up for hiking Humphrey’s Peak so I packed up some gear and set to drive out to Flagstaff.

That day I had some work that needed to get done before I could get on the road so I got a later start than I wanted.  I didn’t leave the house until close to noon.  By the time I was on the freeway headed north, it was already pretty hot and weekend traffic headed out of town was getting thick.  To make matters worse, there was an accident reported on the freeway about 10 miles ahead and all of us were stuck in a slow crawl up a long grade out of the valley.

That’s when the truck stalled.

I spent the next hour or so with the hood up on the side of the freeway as vehicles crawled by trying to figure out why the truck would have stalled.  I was certain my weekend was ruined and I’d be headed back in to town in a tow truck.  I had managed to get it started once or twice only to have it die on me again seconds later.  Eventually I got it started again and it was done stalling…probably water in the fuel line, but at least it was running again and I was headed north to the wilderness.

Hammock CampingA few hours later I was at camp at the C&C Ranch with nearly 4,000 other people in what was probably the dirtiest, dustiest piece of land in Arizona.  There were signs on the way in describing how the land had been destroyed by overgrazing and the soil was loose and devoid of nutrients.  The soil was so soft and dry that it would billow up in front of your vehicle like water as if you were driving through a shallow pond.

Crazy amounts of dust along with the crowded nature of the camp area convinced me to hike up above the flat into the trees with my hammock and camp above the chaos.  Before it got dark I wandered up to the tree line and found a good spot to hang camp, then walked back down to be “sociable” and have dinner with the race crew.

After a nice dinner and a cold beer, I headed up to my hammock and snuggled in for the night.  More and more I find myself enjoying this style of camping.  The temps got down to about 40 degrees that night and I slept like a baby.  I’m getting used to using a top-quilt and keeping warm with an insulated sleeping pad.

Early the next morning, I shuffled down off the hill and back to my truck to make some camp coffee (thanks to Coffee Brewers).  My plan was to wait until the bike race got going before heading to the trailhead.  The road I would take to the Kendrick Peak trailhead is the same road being used for a portion of the bike race and I didn’t want to be in the way, or creating unnecessary dust for the riders.  I headed out about 8:30 and was near the trailhead by 9am.  The first wave of bikers had made their way around and I couldn’t drive all the way to the trailhead without impeding the race so I parked off the road a half-mile or so down from the trailhead parking lot and hiked up.

Trailhead ParkingThe parking lot is well kept and big enough for nearly 20 cars.  It also has some posted trail and wilderness information as well as a permanent bathroom.  The trail wasn’t crowded but there were several cars in the lot and a couple of groups getting on the trail about the same time as myself.

Kendrick Trail MapI really love hiking in Northern Arizona.  The pine forests with thick green grasses and ferns remind me of a slightly drier version of the Pacific Northwest.  The trail is well maintained and easy to follow.  Though the 4-mile hike to the top is a continuous incline, it’s not terribly aggressive making the hike fairly moderate.  Hiking up the mountain, the trail weaves though Ponderosa Pine, Aspen, Oak, Fir, and Spruce trees and is home to Mexican spotted owls, mule deer, elk and black bear.  I didn’t get to see any real wildlife while I was up on the mountain, but the scenery was amazing even with large sections of the forest along the foothills still recovering from the 15,000 acre Pumpkin Fire back in 2000.

Kendrick Mountain TrailMost of the trail zig-zags through the forest, but occasionally opens up to offer views to the to the south as well as casual glimpses of Humphrey’s Peak to the east.  I kept a solid pace marching up the switch-backs, passing many of the hikers who were already on the trail.  Surprisingly, many of the hikers seemed to be in the over-fifty set.  With the exception of a young woman running the trail and two other women hiking together, I think I was the youngest hiker on the mountain.  When I reached the grassy saddle there were a couple of groups of day-hikers resting on fallen logs enjoying a mid-morning snack.  Smack in the middle of the saddle, surrounded by tall pines and green grass is the old, historic fire lookout cabin.

Built around 1911, the old log cabin is still in pretty good shape.  It was originally built as a shelter for the men working the fire lookout at the summit of Kendrick Peak.  It still has a functional door and glass windows.  Inside, the cabin is kept up with an old spring bunk bed, desk and storage chest with some emergency gear.  On the desk, along with other miscellaneous items, is a small notebook used as a trail sign-in book.

Kendrick Mountain lookout cabinThe trail splits at the saddle.  To the west you head up a rocky, narrow trail to the summit and the fire lookout building and can continue west along the ridgeline on the Pumpkin Trail.  To the northeast the Bull Basin Trail can take you down the north side of the mountain where it connects back to the Pumpkin Trail.  Having done this shorter trail, I would like to go back soon and hike the Pumpkin trail, hammock at the meadow next to the cabin, and then hike back down the Bull Basin Trail.

Kendrick Mountain TrailI left the cabin and headed up to the summit, so far feeling minimal effects from the elevation.  The hike from the saddle to the summit is less than half a mile and, though rocky, is not difficult.  At the top, the fire lookout dominates the peak.  In fact, you can see the massive fire lookout building from quite a distance (I was able to see it from camp that morning).  I’ve been to several fire lookouts in Arizona and this one is different than any of the others I’ve seen.

The first thing that makes this fire lookout unique in Arizona is that it is the only lookout post that does NOT have vehicular access.  The volunteers that work this post have to backpack the 4 miles in with all the gear and supplies on their backs.  There is a very small helipad near the structure for emergency extractions.  I hiked around the back of the structure and across to the helipad where several hikers were stretched out on the warm concrete like lizards soaking up the morning sun.  I pulled an apple out of my pack and soaked up the view from the peak while I ate my snack.

After a short rest, I noticed that most of the hikers had left.  So I secured my pack and walked up to the lookout building to meet the guy working there and have a chat.  It turns out that many of the Arizona fire lookouts are manned entirely by volunteers, most of which have no affiliation with the Forest Service.  I also discovered that they are typically in need of more volunteers on a regular basis.  The guy I was talking to, Ken, said he lives in Phoenix and comes up to man this post for about 5 weekends out of the summer.  He works a regular 9-5 during the week and uses this as his Summer getaway.  Where do I sign up??!!  I asked a few questions and managed to collect some contact information for the guy who manages the schedule for the volunteers.  I plan to call and get my name on the list.

Kendrick PeakThe lookout building itself has a propane stove and fridge, solar power, a bathroom, two double beds, a hammock and 360 degree views from one of the highest peaks in Arizona.  Sounds like the perfect Summer cabin to me!

I thanked Ken for the information and headed back down.  The total hike for me was nearly 9-miles round-trip because I parked further away from the trailhead.  The hike is typically about 7.5-8 miles RT with an elevation gain of nearly 3,000 ft.  The total trip took me about 3 hours. All in all, I never really felt any issues with the elevation even at the solid pace I was keeping.  Humphrey’s, here I come!

Side note: My phone battery has not been working properly lately so I have no track map.  I also had some technical difficulties with my DSLR right before reaching the saddle so I don’t have any pictures of the fire lookout.  Guess this just means I really need to hike this one again!

Today’s run -or- What was I thinking?

Check your friends’ status on Facebook….they know it’s hot.

Check your timeline on Twitter….everyone knows it’s hot.

Walk outside…damn it’s hot.

Half the country is on fire right now and it seems that everyone I know (except for you lucky bastards in the Pacific Northwest) is suffering under the oppressive heat wave that has most of the country in 100+ degree weather.  Here in Phoenix, 100 degrees is just the beginning.  100 degrees is a cake walk in a part of the country that regularly sees Summers cresting the 120 degree mark.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not miserable.

I’ve been avoiding my runs.  I admit it.  Maybe there’s a support group for me, but I just dread getting out in these temperatures and running.  Last year I would run at night, I was still running in 95 degree weather but it was dark and, usually, breezy at night.  Last week I waited until midnight and it was still 102 degrees outside!  No.  Not doin’ it.

In the mean time, I can feel myself getting soft.  Getting a hike or two in on the weekends when I can drive up north out of the oppressive heat is not enough.  So today, in an apparently irrational moment of courage I decided, “No more excuses!”

That’s right, no more excuses!  I was gonna get out and run no matter what.  I needed time on the trail, I needed time outside, I needed the exercise and I wasn’t going to let a little heat stop me.

So, I grabbed my CamelBak and filled the bladder with some cool water.  I thought about grabbing the new GeigerRig pack but the last time I ran with it, I felt it was just too big for a short trail run (I have the 1600 pack and it’s huge).  I strapped on my shoe, my new running shorts and my new lightweight-breathable running hat (my regular hats get very warm in this heat) and jumped in the truck.

I arrived at the parking lot by the trailhead at 9am…89 degrees and the sun felt intense.

There were not a lot of cars in the parking lot.  Apparently the smarter ones stayed home.  I got on the trail and started with a strong hike to warm up, don’t want to push too hard too early.  A few minutes in I passed up the guy that was starting the trail when I pulled in.  I was feeling good so I started a slow jog after passing him.

The first mile was a little rough, but not horrible.  We had a nasty dust storm last night with no moisture so dust still hung over the city and I swear I could taste it as I tried to breathe.

10 minutes in and the first mile down, I was starting my climb.  I was also on the back of the mountain and for some reason the sun seemed to be especially intense here and the air was motionless.  Heat is bad, but even when there is a hot breeze it can work with your sweat to create an evaporative effect and cool you down.  There was no breeze, no evaorative cooling and I swear I could feel my body drying out.  My blood seemed to be thickening, my muscles getting sluggish and my skin shrinking like fruit in a dehydrator.

I decided to run just so I could create some breeze against my skin.  I came across some trail trash (more on that later) and picked it up and stashed it in my pack.  I took the opportunity to spray myself down with water (would have been much easier with the GeigerRig…why didn’t I bring the damn GeigerRig?)  The water worked with my faster pace and seemed to cool me down slightly.

I shit you not, 20 seconds later I was dry!  I JUST dumped water on myself!  How am I now dry!?!

The heat was starting to hurt…I had to slow down.  I kept hiking up the back side of the mountain and I tried to keep my pace up.

When I got to the top I dumped water on myself again (again cursing myself for not bringing the GeigerRig).  It’s a rolling downhill trail from the summit so I picked up the pace again and there was some breeze along the ridge making things easier.  But it was getting hotter and I needed to get out.

As I reached the east side of the mountain, the headache started.  By the time I had jogged around to the south side (exposure!) I was a little delirious and I had pushed myself to keep running as far as I could.  When the trail began to climb again I started feeling sick and stopped running when I nearly threw up.

The rest of the uphill I walked.  The sun was really beating down on me and I imagined it focusing it’s burning gaze on me.  I could hear it’s maniacal laughter as it watched me struggle.

During this slow walk I was imagining all sorts of things from wishing I could walk in to a convenience store for some Gatoraid or Poweraid or Thirstaid or Hey-asshole-you-are-not-an-athlete-aid.  I continued to curse myself for not having my GeigerRig so I could be spraying water in my face this whole time.  I cursed all the #OmniTEN for hording their OmniFreezeZero (Columbia better get to Phoenix soon!).

Then the trail descended again, and I could see the truck.  I reminded myself that there was a cool, icy beverage in my truck and air conditioning and shade…

So I started running again…in my mind I was running, but from the outside I’m sure it was something more like what a 100 year old man looks like when he’s trying to catch a bus.

I was again assaulted by the heat when I stepped back on the asphalt.  If I thought the trail was hot, holy crap!  It was only 10am and the asphalt was radiating heat like an oven.

I got to the truck, fired it up and start the AC.  I still had my trail trash to deal with so I found the nearest trash can and disposed of it.  I downed the icy water left in my HydroFlask and strapped in to the truck and left.  This was a bad idea….but I did it, no excuses, I did it.

I haven’t decided if I’d do it again.

Addendum: It was 89 degrees when I started at 9am and 97 when I got off the trail at 10am.  It was NOT my imagination, the sun was trying to kill me.

Trail trash left by assholes

It’s not that hard to pick up your own damned trash!

And now an open letter (RANT) to the assholes who leave trash on the trail:

(harsh language warning -earmuffs for the kiddies)

FUCK YOU!  Seriously, how hard is it to pick up after yourself?  Fuck you and your lazy fucked up parents for raising you to have absolutely zero respect for the outdoors and other people!  I’ll pick up your trash because I don’t want to see it on MY trail.  I’ll clean up after you because I don’t want to LET you ruin MY experience.  I know it’s not always kids but when I am picking up, over the course of the trail, an entire 6-pack of Smirnoff Ice I know it’s some dumbass High School dropout worthless shits.  I spend a lot of time outside and I have some trails I hit on a regular basis and this kind of shit drives me nuts.  I don’t come over to your house and piss on your Justin Beiber poster or your True Blood BluRays, so don’t leave your trash in MY outdoors. Go back to school, get a job, cut your hair and STAY OFF MY LAWN!! 

 

Hydration Summit – Week 3…

Hydration Summit

Week 3 of the Hydration Summit has come to a close and we’ve got some great new material!  Last week we got in to some great discussions about how hydration needs change as you get old and tips for keeping your kids hydrated.  We also some new perspectives on the hydration systems themselves.  If you are just discovering the Hydration Summit, check out my round-ups of Week 1 and Week 2 then get involved!

June 18th -

Tiffany looks at the GeigerRig pressurized hydration engine from a new angle…what does it offer as a camp tool?  How many jobs would be easier at camp with a little water pressure?  From sharing water, to cleaning, to putting out fires…a good spray of water can be very useful.  Check out her article and chime in with your thoughts on how you would use a pressurized system at camp.

We also got a nice review from Melissa, looking at the GeigerRig as a Family Friendly hydration system.  She looks at how effective the spray technology is in sharing and caring for the entire family on the trail.

June 19th -

Ever the Boy Scout, Adam takes a look at the history and importance of hydration in the Boy Scouts of America.  He takes us back to his early days in the Scouts when old surplus canteens were all the rage.  Now, with hydration system technology so easily acquired, keeping the Scouts hydrated is a less daunting task for Scout Leaders and parents.

Ryan offers us a nice breakdown of the hydration systems and compares them by taste.  Those of you have have been using hydration systems for a while are very familiar with the odd, plastic-y chemical flavor your water absorbs in the reservoir…especially after sloshing around all afternoon.  Adding flavored, sugar drinks like GatorAid also can leave a residual flavor and odor in the reservoir. Ryan takes a look at which brands are the least offensive and gives some tips on how to reduce the offensive flavoring…hint: keep it clean!

June 20th -

We are seeing a huge increase in the over-50 set exploring and enjoying the outdoors.  On my hike up to Kendrick Peak, I would say that the large majority of the people I saw on the trail that day were well over 50.  Many of us have learned to enjoy the outdoors from our parents and quite a few of us still get to enjoy their company on our adventures.  The importance of hydration is amplified for those more experienced explorers and adventurers.  The body’s ability to recover and deal with outside stressers, like dehydration, is diminished with age.  Erika covers this topic well in her article on Hydration for Adventurers over Fifty.

Brian takes his GeigerRig 1600 for a spin and has a chance to test out the main advantages of having a pressurized system.  He walks us through using the GeigerRig to irrigate a wound, wash dishes at camp and share with his awesome trail pal, Coco.

June 21st -

We bounce from worrying about our parents’ hydration needs to considering the hydration of our children in Melissa’s article.  She discusses the factors, besides heat, that can cause dehydration in children then discusses ways to monitor your child and make sure they stay sufficiently watered down.

Katie’s review is a no-nonsense look at whether or not the pressurized system is really all that necessary.  For those of us who have used the traditional systems and the pressurized systems, it’s obvious that there are some benefits…but does it really become a necessity?  Go read Katie’s article for yourself and let us know what you think.

Week4!

Week four is kicked off with another 4-system comparison, this time by Whitney.  Be sure to check out Whitney’s video review of the four different hydration systems.  I agree with her criticism of the Osprey’s tube attachment…I really wish it was a quick-release tube like the others.  About 5 1/2 minutes in she discusses the GeigerRig’s in-line filter and demonstrates it’s use.  (about 12:15 into the video Whitney admits to being a “weirdo”….her words, not mine! hehe)

Go check out the Hydration Summit and keep checking back since new content is being added every day!  Make sure you register and join in the conversation for a chance to win a GeigerRig Hydration System of your own.

 

Hydration Summit – Week 2…

Hydration Summit

The Hydration Summit has wrapped up Week 2 of some dynamic conversation about the health, science and gear revolving around the subject of hydration.  Last week I did a wrap up of all the articles from Week 1, so this week will get the same treatment!  I hope you guys have been following along, if not…what are you waiting for??

June 11th -

I kicked off Week 2 with an article describing the signs and symptoms of waterborne illness and discuss the importance of staying hydrated.  Check out the article for some tips to mitigate the symptoms and an easy Oral Rehydration Solution.

June 12th -

Amy delves in to the question of whether or not a pressurized hydration system is all it’s cracked up to be.  She discusses the pros and cons of dealing with a pressurized system in the field.  It certainly has some benefits, the ability to spray water under pressure can be useful.  But is it really easier, or better, when you just want a drink?

Brian also posted his article comparing filtering techniques.  He offers up the question: Would you rather drink water from the source or pump your water and carry it?  The technology exists to carry a small, direct use filter that would allow you to stop at any spring, stream or river for a quick drink without having to lug all that water around.  But what about those of us that don’t usually have the opportunity to hike near reliable water sources?  Check out Brian’s article  and make sure you read the discussion that follows.

June 13th -

The famous Katie Boué had the opportunity to discuss hydration with one of the leading experts in the field.  She interviews John Seifert of Montana State University who has been studying hydration and it’s related fields for nearly 3 decades.  Katie talks with John about hydration and how it effects bodily processes.  It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s amazing how much water (or the lack of water) governs how our body and mind functions.

June 14th -

Our resident Camp Mom, Tiffany, posted her review of the GEIGERRIG Hydration packs and talks about teaching kids to share using a pressurized system.  She talks about using the spray-system with her kids to wash cuts, cool down, clean up and hydrate.

Gumption Ryan made a good showing as well with a huge comparison of hydration enhancing supplements.  He touches on the importance of hydration and what dehydration can do to you.  Then we get a candid discussion of many of the gels, liquids, powders and tablets available to make hydrating easier and more flavorful.  See which products he personally believes has the Gumption to get the job done.

June 15th -

Jake drops another awesome 4-system comparison on us, this time with a cool video review.  Jake takes a look at the different hydration systems using specific criteria:

  1. Ease of filling (water, ice cubes, powder, etc)
  2. Ease of filling on the go (from little trickles of streams, with filters, etc)
  3. Water accessibility
  4. Ease of cleaning
  5. Use in high aerobic activities

Week 3 opened up today with another great post from Tiffany discussing using hydration packs at camp.  We also get another GEIGERRIG review from Melissa looking at the system from a family friendly point of view.

More great stuff to come this week so keep watching!  And don’t forget to register and get involved in the discussion for your chance to win a GEIGERRIG Hydration System of your own!

 

The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping…

Over the years, in my back country adventures, I’ve tried hammock camping several times.  I have two hammocks I hang in my backyard when the weather is nice.  I have a hammock that picked up specifically for my (formerly) annual trips to Mexico.  I have tried many hammocks in a variety of locations and I’ve always had a great experience, even when it wasn’t ideal.

Cascade at Havasupai…Imagine hiking 12 miles into a picturesque oasis of fantastic waterfalls and crystal-blue creeks.  High red-rock cliffs rise on all sides dripping with verdant greenery creating welcome shade in the normally warm temperatures of Northern Arizona in late Spring.  After the long, hot hike in to camp you set up a luxurious hammock under the canopy of group of shade trees next to the cool creek water…  This was the setting of my first hammock camping trip, a nine-day hang in the heart of Havasupai just above Mooney Falls.

On that trip, I packed in a very heavy cloth hammock.  It was warm in late May and I did not bring a sleeping bag.  Nor did I bother with a tarp, bug net, or any of the other fun accessories available for hammock camping these days.  I was a little cold the first night there, but was otherwise comfortable the entire time in the canyon…and I was hooked!

Since then, I’ve hiked in to various locations around the state with a hammock and have even taken it on some whitewater trips.  Hammock camping, in general, has always been a warm weather adventure for me but as I work to get out in the wilderness more often I’ve looked for ways to make my hammock a more year-round setup.

The Ultimate Hang BookI recently mentioned getting to use the ENO Double Nest Hammock I won last year to do some camping up near Flagstaff.  One of the comments left on that post was from Derek Hansen.  I soon discovered that Derek was the author of a new book called The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping.  After a quick back-and-forth, Derek offered to send me a copy of the book to check out and I happily accepted.

Derek was introduced to hammock camping at the age of 14 at a Scouting event in Utah.  Later, volunteering as a Scout Master himself in Virginia he began experimenting with hammocks again.  He became a very active voice at the worldwide hammock community, HammockForums.net.  Here, his talent and skill as an illustrator played a major roll in his ability to share his experiences and techniques with the Forum.  Eventually, Derek decided to parlay his talent, skills and experience into a concise, self-illustrated guide to the art of Hammock Camping.

Page samples from The Ultimate HangAs soon as I received my copy of Derek’s book, I leafed through it to get a feel for the presentation, expecting it to be a dry read of knots and gear lists.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a fun, well organized, beautifully illustrated, interactive book that reveals a real passion for the subject.  Derek’s writing style is easy and informal offering in a fun read.  It’s organized such that you could read it cover to cover, or jump in to any chapter you want.  The illustrations are a fun fun mix of diagrams and comic-strip style cartoons, making the book entertaining and informative.

Illustration from The Ultimate HangAs a former freelance illustrator myself, I was very impressed with the consistency and continuity created with the illustrations.  The book has a great, relaxed look and feel but presents you with an amazing amount if information.

Another fantastic feature of this book takes advantage of a fairly new innovation just recently finding popularity in marketing circles.  The book is sprinkled with QR codes, allowing you to scan them with your smartphone for more detailed information, a custom “Hang” calculator, links to web pages mentioned in the text, among other things.  This feature I found to be great fun and a beautiful use of the QR code technology.

How to Layer your Hammock from The Ultimate HangThe best part about this book is that it walks you through many of the basics of hammock camping as well as technical knots and DIY projects, making the book relevant for beginners and experienced hangers alike.  Whether you’ve never owned a hammock before in your life, or you are a regular weekend Hang Champ, this book is bound to teach you something that will make your hammock camping experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

Have you been out hammock camping, or thought about hammock camping, but just don’t feel confident in trying it on your own?  Well, here’s your chance…not only will this book help, but I’ve got a copy to give away!  Derek was gracious enough to send me an extra, autographed copy of his book to give away to one of YOU!

Check out the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions for your chance to WIN your own copy of this book.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Campsite Impact on the environment…

I’ve been doing a fair amount of hammock camping lately.  I’ve also been studying and testing gear and techniques associated with making hammock camping more comfortable and convenient.  I’m currently reading The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping by Derek Hansen.  I’m hoping to see Derek at a seminar he will be giving at the local REI about hammock camping and, I’m sure, promoting his new book.

Aside from the technical information about knots, gear, quilts, tarps, etc. Derek also discusses the history of the hammock in Western Culture.  Most interestingly, he does discuss the importance hammock camping plays in protecting the environment.  In my interview with Seth Haber of Trek Light Gear, he also touches on the fact that hammock camping is, by it’s nature, a zero-footprint way of camping.  It is very closely associated with the Leave No Trace school of thought.

To illustrate this point, I took a couple of photos this weekend while I was out camping with some friends.  This photo is not to place judgement or to show that one method is better than the other, simply to show the difference in the impact (footprint) of a typical family camp site vs. the impact of a hammock camp site.

campsite impact on the environment

Whether your style of camping is closer to the top, or the bottom picture…whatever gets you and your family outdoors enjoying nature is good enough!

The sad side of this weekend was something I failed to get any pictures of.  Just a couple of camp sites down from where we were, a previous party had left a giant pile of trash and debris.  It looked almost as if they had brought trash from home just to dump at the camp site.  It was frustrating and infuriating to witness.  Back in Northern California, in the more rural areas, we would find trash dump sites all throughout the forests.  People would use the wilderness as their personal landfill to avoid having to pay to dump in the actual landfill. Often these sites would host appliances riddled with bullet holes and broken down vehicles with rusty frames and the engines missing.

I think it’s that sort of carelessness that I’ve seen in the backcountry that makes me so self-conscious about my own impact on the environment when I’m in the wilderness.  On most local trails, I often return carrying trash I’ve collected from the trail.  On camping and backpacking trips, I go to great lengths to make sure I’m leaving things just as I found it.  My time camping along the Colorado River it was a constant challenge to leave our camp site cleaner than it was when we arrived.

What are your “camp rules” for making sure you leave a clean camp site?

Have you ever tried camping in a hammock?  Would you take an extended trip camping in a hammock?

Hydration Summit – Week 1…

Today marks the beginning of Week 2 of the Hydration Summit, a huge collaboration of 16 outdoor adventure writers discussing everything you ever wanted to know about hydration.  For those of you who have not visited the site yet, I thought I’d do a breakdown of some of the highlights of Week 1.

June 4th-

My first article hit the night before the summit went live because I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t schedule my publish date properly.  I crafted a full product comparison of the 4 top hydration reservoirs competing in the hydration system market today.  I focused on presenting the CamelBak Antidote, the GEIGERRIG, the Osprey/Nalgene Hydraform Reservoir and the Platypus Big Zip.  Each had their unique advantages.  Go check it out and let me know which reservoir design you prefer.

Paul posted his article comparing the nozzle designs of each system as well.  His review systematically focused on the Pros and Cons of each nozzle (bite valve) and illustrated the differences.  He also got feedback from other users so his article didn’t just present his opinion.  He compared the CamelBak, Osprey, GEIGERRIG, Outdoor Products, High Sierra and Platypus.

June 5th-

Katie presented a fascinating, and somewhat disturbing (Blowback!) article about techniques for creating water pressure in your hydration system in order to spray water from the bite valve.  She presented multiple techniques (some of which I have tried myself) but ultimately focused on the one true “pressurized system”, GEIGERRIG.  There are times when having the ability to spray water through your hydration tube is a very handy ability.

Hendrik gave us a nice little comparison review of 4 different hydration backpacks.  Not all packs are created equal and many are designed for specific activities, making them less versatile and more specialized.  Hendrik compared the Osprey Raptor 18, GEIGERRIG 1200, the GoRuck GR1 and the LAUFBURSCHE huckePACK and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of all of them.

June 6th-

Phil published an informative article explaining the dangers of cross-contamination when refilling your hydration system and how to avoid it.  He shows us the most common points of cross contamination are:

  • Dirty hands – Putting “dirty” hands in your mouth or eyes
  • Dirty nozzle – Contaminating your hydration system hose nozzle
  • Dirty reservoir – Putting “dirty” water into a clean hydration reservoir
  • Dirty hose – Touching a clean hose with a “dirty” one

June 7th-

Whitney‘s fantastic and informative article about hydrating in the backcountry gave us an introduction to what the potential threats are in backcountry water sources.  She then follows up with explaining proper treatment techniques to avoid drinking contaminated water and becoming ill.  She offers some great tips for being safe with your drinking water.

June 8th-

Jessica had an opportunity to interview virologist J. David Beckham, MD, Assistant Professor in the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine about hydration issues during outdoor activities.  Her interview digs deeper in to the problems of contamination in backcountry water sources and the dangers of drinking untreated water.  At one point she asks Dr. Beckham, “Are you confident relying on an inline filtration system, being able to fill your pack from a stream and have it filter thru the line and be immediately potable? Why or why not?”  That is an important question and you should check out his answer.

We also had some great additions to “Stories from the Trail” where you guys get to tell us your real life hydration stories.

I kicked off Week 2 this morning with my newest article about how to deal with illness and dehydration in the backcountry.  The danger of having to deal with the problems associated with drinking contaminated water are low on smaller trips.  Most of the time, you will be back home and near medical help when you start to feel sick.  But on longer trips into the wilderness, it is entirely likely that you’ll have to deal with a serious bout of illness and dehydration is the most dangerous challenge you’ll face.  I discuss ways to deal with it.

Look for Ryan‘s article later this week about hydration supplements!

Weekend camping with new gear…

I was fortunate enough to head up into the high country this weekend to get away from the oppressive heat of The Valley.  I camped just south of the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness area and made plans to summit Kendrick Peak (post to follow!).  The great part of this weekend’s trip was the opportunity to test out some new gear.  I will post full reviews of some of this stuff over the next few weeks and some of it needs additional testing before I can truly review it.  For now, however, I want to give a quick outline of what I got to play with and my first impressions.

Eno DoubleNest Hammock

I love hammocks!  I’ve camped in other hammocks multiple times and there’s nothing like it.  I won an ENO DoubleNest almost a year ago and I’ve only recently had the opportunity to take it camping.  So far, I really like the ENO Hammock.  It’s light, easy to set up with the ENO Slap Straps.  It takes some time to get used to sleeping in a hammock again but it’s really the way to go.  I look forward to using this one a lot and can’t wait to see how well it holds up over time.

Exped Synmat UL

One of the keys to comfortable hammock camping is a good insulated sleeping pad.  I got the Exped a few months ago and have used it a few times now.  It’s super lightweight at just over 1lb and packs down to about half the size of a Nalgene bottle.  I’ve used it now on the ground, in my truck and in the hammock.  It’s been pretty comfortable and I love the one-way inflation valve.

enLIGHTened Equipment Revelation X

I was shopping around for a new sleeping bag a couple months ago after getting frustrated with the size and weight of my old bag.  I started talking with some of you guys on Twitter about a backpacking quilt instead of a full sleeping bag.  I ended up getting myself a nice full down quilt from enLIGHTened Equipment.  The Revelation X is very nice!  It’s warm, soft, light and comfortable.  The first couple of nights I used it I was colder than I expected to be but once I got used to using the quilt it was better.  This recent trip the temps got down to about 40F overnight and I was actually warm enough to have to open the quilt a little to cool off.

GEIGERRIG 1600 Hydration Pack

I just started field testing this pack a couple weeks ago.  I’ve had it out a half-dozen times or so and it’s a pretty nice pack.  I ran in to some minor issues with one of the pieces of webbing but the issue was immediately addressed by GeigerRig as soon as I brought it to their attention.  Otherwise, the pack is very sturdy and well made.  The 1600 is their largest pack and, in my opinion, too big for cycling or trail running.  It is, however, the perfect size for longer day hikes and peakbagging trips.  The pressurized hydration system is taking some getting used to but I have enjoyed being able to easily share my water with my dog when we hike together.  An in-depth review of this pack will follow later this month.

Grower’s Cup Coffeebrewers

A few days before I headed out for Kendrick Mountain a package from Grower’s Cup arrived.  I don’t know who was more happy about this…me, or my buddy who found out we’d have quality coffee at camp.  We brewed up some coffee Saturday morning and it was super easy and faster than brewing coffee at home!  We drank it black and it was actually really good coffee.  I think I want to let it brew just a little longer next time since I like my coffee strong.

Buff USA headwear

I grabbed a couple of these after it seemed EVERYONE got to win one but me!  I used to carry a bandana on hiking and backpacking trips for all sorts of uses.  It came in handy often.  I haven’t carried on in a while and I usually find some reason why I wish I’d had one.  The Buff serves the same purpose except better.  It’s even more versatile than the bandana I used to carry.

Ahnu Elkridge Mid Hiking Boots

I just picked these up Thursday and was excited to try them out.  They were amazingly comfortable in the store when I tried them on.  I wore them all weekend and did a 9-mile peak hike in them.  My feet were sore and tired, but the boots held up well.  I look forward to putting more miles on them.

The North Face Apex Elixir Summit Series Jacket

I picked up this nice little light-weight soft-shell jacket at REI a few weeks ago.  It’s a nice jacket and has good stretch to it so it doesn’t confine any activities.  It’s wind and water resistant and fits me nicely.  I wore this jacket all day Saturday and it was light enough to be comfortable in full sun, but warm enough to keep me cozy in the shade.  It worked well in the high winds on the peak and was water resistant enough to keep me from getting soaked while attempting to get used to spraying water from the GEIGERRIG.

It was a fun weekend that allowed me to spend part of my afternoon at over 10,000 ft (something I haven’t done in close to 15 years).  Watch for my post about Kendrick Peak coming soon.