Saturday, December 31, 2011

Front packs

Hey all. In my quest to find the perfect packing system I have come across an idea to balance the weight of a backpack with a couple of front backs. A company from New Zealand called Aarn makes a complete system of back and front packs. Being a commercial pack company their gear needs to be bomb proof and I wondered if I could make something similar, yet way lighter. Thus I spent the better part of yesterday coming up with a pattern I think would work and making the first of the two front packs. I still haven't completely decided how to attach them but that will come with time.  Fun!
Builders paper

Can you see my pencil scratches?

All cut and ready for assembly

Left and right pouches


Voila! It weighs .6 ounces

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hennessy Hammock for sale

Here goes. I have an Ultralite Backpackers Asym Classic for sale. I have used it maybe 8 times, only 2 nights in the backcountry. Included in this package is the hammock, dedicated tarp, undercover, treehuggers, snakeskins, but no underpad.... it got ripped so I don't feel like I should sell that. Everything is in excellent order, clean, etc. I seemed to remember from the last time I used it that there was a snag on the mosquito netting but I couldn't find it to photograph it. It was very small. New, without the underpad, this would cost $299.99. I would like to sell it for half that at $150.00, plus shipping. The replacement pad costs $29.95 at HH website. Here is a photo of it from their website.

Oh, the reason I am selling it is that I am now using a Warbonnet hammock and can't see keeping gear I won't be using. Maybe you'd like a new(ish) hammock?

Backpacker Asym Classic

1 lbs 15 oz / 860 g


ultralight backpacker hammock

Monday, December 26, 2011

For myself, or others and myself?

I have been thinking for a few weeks now about hiking, self involvement and/or how to make my thru-hike attempt seem less selfish and more about helping others. Of course, one question might be, why do I think I need to make this hike about something other than myself? Isn't it enough to just have fun for 5-6 months, without making it about other people and their needs? Well, in theory yes. Yet I know from past personal experience that if I have committed to something other than myself, I am more likely to be able to push through tough times if I have committed to other people,  organizations, etc. And this has more to do with my own limitations than my selfless wish to help others. Of course, it isn't one thing or another. Both things are true and, like most folks, I am a bundle of contradictions.

Given all these ideas and musings,  I have decided to blend this hike with a wish to raise money for the City of Hope. Why the City of Hope? My friend in L.A. was recently dx with a very rare, nasty, aggressive kind of cervical cancer. Other than that really bad news, being an American and self employed, she also has no health insurance so she was looking at not being able to treat the cancer in any meaningful kind of way. Fortunately, she was accepted into a treatment program at the City of Hope, with no cost to her. This is an amazing and remarkable blessing in my friends life. To know she will have the best chance of living without the worry of losing her home and everything she has worked for all her life, is something I want to support. So, I hope to make some kind of plan to raise monies for this worthy organization. More information to follow.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gear Sale!

It's finally time I got rid of some of the extra gear I have hanging around. Over the years I have purchased packs and cookpots, some of which I never used and the others only very slightly. The prices will be well below my original cost and I hope a good deal for someone else who needs quality gear at cheap prices. Here goes!

I have a two year old ULA Circuit, size small with a medium waist belt. It has been worn for about 20 days on the trail. Recently washed, no nicks or tears. In excellent shape. The only issue is cosmetic. There was some sap on the back panel. It has been removed and is no longer sticky but it did stain the material. It has the newer (as in brand new, $30 worth) S shoulder straps. Works better for some women and slight men... I would keep it but I also have the ULA P-1 which I like better... who needs two of them? Weighs 35 ounces and costs $200 new. I'm selling for $100. SOLD!

back showing new straps

Sap stain, no longer sticky!

The second pack is a Gossamer Gear Mariposa. Purchased in 2005 for $129.95 Size small which fits 16" to 19" torsos. Weighs 20.5 ounces. I wore it twice for training hikes but never used it on the trail. It never really fit me but it is sure to fit someone! I think the higher of the torso range would be better. I'm a 16" and it was too long for me.  I don't know,  how is $70 dollars? Still looking for a good home!
sil nylon

back with pad

Last but not least is a Snowpeak Trek 700 titanium pot with lid. The photos show some water spots but this is one of those items I never used in the field. Silly me. My scale says it is 4.4 ounces but the website lists the weight at 4.8 ounces... maybe they are including the stuff sack, which I don't have. New they are $39.95 but for you? 20 bucks would do it. Sold, pending the arrival of a check.

So if you are interested or if you have any questions, leave a message here or email me at Thanks for looking!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Stove set-up

I am relieved to have decided on my PCT trip stove set-up. I have used so many different stoves over the years, from home made soda can stoves to a Whisperlite white gas stove, that I have a hard time deciding on which way to go. I finally went with the cheapest stove, the easiest to use and a modified cozy cooking method. Instead of putting my food in a freezer bag to cook I'll just use my pot with a cozy on it! Easy-peasy. Here are some photos.
pot (with everything inside) in cozy on scale...

Fancy feast cat food stove!

Pretty simple
One decision down, many, many more to come...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Training hike

Hi all. I spent three+ hours on the trail today, with a 20# pack. Got to get the parts used to the work. Here is a photo of the cutest (can mushrooms be cute?) teeny, tiny mushrooms I encountered today.
Below is a pack I made a couple of years ago and this is the one I've been using on my hikes. My commercial packs don't feel right so I am going with a home made one, at least for now. This one is made of material that is too light to withstand the rigors of a 5-6 month hike so I sent off for material that is a bit tougher. 70d instead of 30d, if that means anything to anyone but me. Any-hoo, when it arrives I will be working on a new one, with components of all the previous packs I have made or purchased. Kinda like a pack casserole, if you know what I mean.  If I can pull this off I'll feel very proud of myself.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Some days it is important to take inspiration from where ever one can find it. This guy provided such inspiration to me today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

2012 PCT dinner meal plan

This is my standard cook set-up. As dinner seems to be the most important meal of the day for me I have put together a dinner meal plan that includes 26 different dishes. I want to make them as varied as possible so I will be interested in eating them when I am tired at the end of the day. Here goes.

PCT dinner meals

  1. Mac and cheese with tuna
  2. Pasta with pesto and chicken
  3. Thai chicken with peanut butter
  4. Grits and cheese veggies
  5. Chicken noodle casserole
  6. Chicken chili
  7. Leek/mushroom/gnocchi soup (pg 49)
  8. Trail Tom Yum (pg 50)
  9. Sesame Lemon chicken (pg 53)
  10. Indonesian Sesame noodles (pg 56)
  11. Coconut lime shrimp (pg 59)
  12. Curried rice with chicken (pg 62)
  13. Pesto potatoes with salmon (pg 65)
  14. Alice lake alfredo gnocchi (pg 68)
  15. Gnocchi with sage butter parmesan and bacon (pg 68)
  16. Sheep lake mush (page 70)
  17. Fruit chicken stuffing (pg 69)
  18. Chicken and dumplings (69)
  19. Ginger curry couscous (pg 64)
  20. GoBlue fredo (pg 54)
  21. Salmon chowder (pg 46)
  22. Three sisters stew (pg 43)
  23. Black bean and corn chili (pg 43)
  24. Trailhead ropa vieja (pg 51)
  25. Garlic wasabi mashed potatoes (pg 65)
  26. Dungenesse blue gnocchi (pg 67)

Number 1 and 2 are of my own device
Numbers 3 through 5 are from Freezer Bag Cooking by Sarah Kirkconnell
Number 6 is Trader Joes canned chili, dehydrated. I can’t make it any better.
Numbers 7 through 26 are from One Pan Wonders by Dicentra Black

If any of you talented foodies have any other suggestions, please feel free to share.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I wish I could say the new packs were the 'bomb' but I am still having difficulty with pressure on my lower back. Quite a bummer, yes? Anyone got any ideas?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My packs are back!

I got my packs back from the folks who made them today, only nine days after I sent them off to have their shoulder straps changed out. Finally, there are straps that are more comfortable for women and our particular shapes. ULA is the company and I can't say enough about the company and the customer service they provide. I have been using their packs since the first incarnation and have continued to wear them since then. I models I currently have are the P-1 and the Conduit. Both will be used extensively during my hike of the PCT in 2012. I got so excited I took pictures of them.... empty and bereft of stuff but you get the idea.

I guess you had to be there.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It looks like I'm going...

It has been hard for me to make the final commitment to attempt the PCT in 2012. I have all the usual concerns but once my land mate agreed to take care of my cats for the five month trip, that was the final roadblock. I somehow felt a weight lift off my back and I could really plan this thing for real.

There you have it... right there, to the left, you see the three states that are included in the Pacific Crest Trail - 2,650 miles from Campo, CA to Manning Park, British Columbia. The details remain to be considered and at some point decided. What kinds of gear to take for which parts of the trail? Do I prepare all or most of my food before the trip and send it along to post offices and other pickup places? Or buy as I go? How can I train to make it likely I'll be able to complete the hike without major injury? What is the right thing to do?

Many people who have done this hike tell the same story. You can plan and plan but once you get out there, you just have to adapt and roll with what comes your way. Those that are the most adaptable are most likely to complete. So I will practice flexibility and not become attached to things that are out of my control. I can control the exercise I do in preparation to hike, I can't control the weather I have to hike in. I can plan my food and send it along, yet I can't control whether or not it is at the post office when I arrive. Knowing the difference should help me weather the inevitable storms I am sure to experience. A famous (in trail circles) woman with the trail name of Yogi has coined a phrase I really like and will adopt for my own. Embrace the brutality. This may seem an odd statement but I am sure you can guess this adventure won't simply be a walk in the park. If I can embrace the hard parts as well as the beauty I am that much farther ahead to begin with.

I have begun a trail journal over at The name of the journal is Walking North, if you should want to follow along. I hope to eventually have a link on the journal which will show, on google maps, my actual wear abouts as I meander along. We will see.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Making a hammock

A couple of weeks ago I ordered some 1.1 oz ripstop nylon with the idea of making a hammock for my upcoming hike on the PCT. I sewed the perimeter first then gathered the ends, finally whipping the ends to make things nice and tidy, as well as secure. I pulled some whoopie slings off another hammock and anchored myself to the eye bolts I had previously set, gingerly sitting myself down on the thin fabric. Hey, it worked!  Some photos...

My new sewing machine!

Whipped end

Attached and ready for action


Monday, October 10, 2011


I did my first planned training hike today. Six miles with a 20 pound pack in two hours. In six months I hope to be up to 13-15 miles with a 30 pound pack, three to four times a week.  I hope this slow build to higher miles will do the necessary strength building I need to be successful with next years hike, whatever I end up doing.

Just a nice image from the JMT hike last summer.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night when I can't sleep, I get out my camera and take pictures. Here is a goofy self portrait. Like that crazy head gear? I made it from a kit I bought online from Ray Jardine.  For those of you who don't know about RJ, he is the godfather of the lightweight gear movement. A bit of an egocentric guy but most people who are driven to innovate are sort of self involved, don't cha think?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thousand Island Lake

I really can't help myself. This is probably one of the most iconic places to photograph along the whole JMT, and I am quite certain no one has done a better job than Ansel Adams, HOWEVER, I just have to throw in my own image as it is such a pretty place.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pay attention!

Long time no post here. I simply got bored with my own thoughts...

Just got back from 2.5 weeks in the High Sierras with a hiking buddy. The plan was to thru hike the JMT but, as with most plans, that didn't turn out to be the outcome. It is a long story but in keeping with my not wanting to bore myself or others, I won't recount it here.

I did have one or two interesting things happen. Number one photo is of my tent surrounded by trees in Tully Hole. This photo was taken during a trip in 2009.
Unseen in this image is a tree with the trunk split into two main branches. Later, after I pitched the tent and was going about my business, I started hearing creaking sounds from the joint of that tree, kind of like something was going to crack open and ...? I kept thinking about this and wondering if part of that tree was going to fall on me in the night so I finally moved my tent to a decidedly uncomfortable spot, far, far away. I always wondered if I was being silly that night and if that tree was really dangerous. See the photos from one week ago.

Guess what? The tree fell right about where my tent had been. Now I know it didn't fall the night I was there, or probably the next night either but dang, during the last two years it did fall and right where my tent would have been. So I feel vindicated and will remember to pay attention in life and if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

Friday, May 27, 2011

fun with casts

A request was made to take another photo of the cast I am stuck wearing for TWO MORE WEEKS. Dang. The first image is the original cast and the second what it now looks like after 4 modifications. It was too big and went half way up my forearm... not necessary. Plus I cut the length off the fingers so I could use the hand somewhat better. A hack saw is a girls best friend!

Clean, big and clumsy

Worn, shortened and (almost) usable

Friday, May 13, 2011

What wind???

Just a note to share a short video of me walking along and fighting 40-50 mile per hour wind gusts. The jerky motion is me being hit by gusts and trying to remain upright.

The desert in spring can be quite blustery....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I'm back!

it has been an adventure for sure. tales of wind, water worries, interesting people and plans needing adaptation. it started with this...
and ended with this...
a broken pinky finger on my left hand and the trip, as planned, done for. i will be putting together a series of my edited journal pages with photos but it will have to wait till i have the use of both hands. one finger typing won't cut it. it will be another week (or three) until i am back to the use of both hands but i shall return!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I'm off!

I leave tomorrow morning for a 14 day backpacking trip. I'm at my Mother's place in SoCal and have no access to my computer to post photos so you all will just have to imagine. Be prepared for tons of photos upon my return to regular life on May 1st!

Hike on!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Amost ready...

OK, I leave for L.A. in two days. I am frantically making lists, checking things off the list and remembering more to put on the list. I have decided on my ULA P-1 pack for this trip as it will hold 6+ liters of water better than my home made pack. Unfortunately it weighs just shy of 2 pounds whereas my homemade one weighs in at 11 ounces. I just don't think the lighter one will handle the weight of water, food for 5 days and gear. At this point it looks like the weather down in that part of the world is hovering at mid-60's during the day with mid-30's at night. That would be f not c.

Well, here's the pack. I am guessing it will weigh in at about 13 pounds, without food and water. More than I'd like but still not too bad.

I haven't talked about this here but I've been struggling with low back pain and have had some physical therapy over the last couple of months to try and fix the problems I am having. I am trying to correct decades of posture problems and while I can't say I am 100% cured, I hope to be able to hike my miles without too much difficulty. This is of course, the biggest reason to keep my pack weight as low as possible and I have done my best and still be prepared for most scenarios.

In this photo you see a joke gift I picked up for myself over the Xmas holidays. Hand warmers made in the style of men's underwear. They are called, wait...
handerpants. I love them and will be wearing them on this trip as sun mitts. The desert is sunny, even when it isn't always hot, so these will protect the back of my hands from sunburn and will make me laugh all day long... simple pleasures.

I don't think they will be white when I return.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The Grandest of all Canyons... also known as the Big Ditch. I love it there. Devoid of mechanical sounds, with only the sound of living critters to interrupt the rushing of water, lots of water, more water than you can imagine. If I had shit-loads of money I'd take a trip every year... it is that cool, really.
If you ever get a chance.........

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Photo App

Whoooeee. I am sure having fun with the new app for my Mac. It is called VintageScene and is really easy to use. Folks who have more talent with Photoshop and other professional software will probably see the deficits of these images but what the hey! I like playing with images I have taken on my travels.

Ravens - Grand Canyon Raft Trip 2009

Pinecone, Tahoe Rim Trail  2010

El  Rito, NM   2010     Sparky's wind toy
One could spend a lot of time on these kinds of experiments. Angela says it isn't wasted time, it's time well spent. I'll take her word for it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Food for 5 days

It is that time of the year again. The dehydrator is humming along in the kitchen and I am making lists, one of my favorite things to do!  You see here most of the food I will be taking for the last section of my upcoming PCT hike, enough for 5 days. The only thing missing here are a few lunches (drying as I type), maps and my daily ration of gorp or gorp-like snacks.

I don't yet know what the food will weigh per day but I suspect it will be in the 1.5 pound range. It will be lighter than some years as I took the extra time to dehydrate all the tuna and chicken, rather than simply throwing single packets in, straight from the store. Young and strapping people can often eat 2-3 pounds of food per day but I couldn't possibly choke down that much food. There is a phenomena called "hikers hunger" which is supposed to hugely increase appetite but I've never been out longer than 3 weeks before so I have yet to experience  this.

Included in this re-supply is laundry soap, shampoo, TP, wet wipes (for dry camps) and some extra first aide supplies. I'll pick it up at Warner Springs Resort where I will spend the night in a bed, soak in hot springs and generally just laze about. I'll get here on day 10 so I'm really gonna need that shower!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Do I need to get a life?

One of my favorite things to do in a drug store is to cruise the 'travel size' area looking for products I can use backpacking. You see to the left my latest find... Colgate Wisp, the mini toothbrush. The orange brush is your standard toothbrush, weighing in at .2 ounces. The cute blue one didn't even tip my scale on the gram setting so I would venture to say it is pretty light. For the first use there is even a dab of tooth paste in the center (the blue stuff). In addition, as if this wasn't groovy enough, it's got a rubbery, toothpick kind of thing on the other end! How cool is that?

Some people use a kind of toothbrush that you slip over one finger and they brush their pearlies that way but frankly, I don't like putting a dirty backpacker finger (mine) in my mouth at the end of the day. Yuck!

The simplest things are so fun sometimes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

foot gear

Last year I stopped wearing shoes, in the most common sense. Crocs, Teva sandals, shoes of no particular form, have been my experiment. Yesterday I hiked in last years hiking shoes and damn, my left foot was cramped by the time I made 8 miles. (I think my feet have spread out a bit) Frankly this isn't going to work for me. So here are my current thoughts, in visual form.

Above you see a pair of home made sandals that use a vibram sole that seems to be pretty grippy. You see two different ways to attach them to my feet. I don't know which would be better.  The next idea is to use moccasins.
Unfortunately, the sole of this kind of foot wear is smooth and not very grippy. WHAT to do? When I was laying awake, at 2:30 am last night (or this morning) I imagined I could find a way to use a grippy sole and make a groovy kind of shoe for myself. What do you think? I need more brain than I currently own.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Got the OK on my reservation!

After standing by the fax machine this week, waiting till 5:01pm and hitting the send button, it appears I was one of the lucky (or speedy) ones and got a spot to leave Happy Isles and the OK on my permit. I leave Yosemite Valley on August 1 and hopefully arrive in Whitney Portal on August 19th or 20th.
From their website

Wilderness Permits
John Muir Trail
If you plan to hike the John Muir Trail as a continuous hike, you only need one wilderness permit for the entire trip (you do not need a "Whitney stamp"). Most people begin the hike at Happy Isles (its traditional start in Yosemite Valley), however many people begin at Lyell Canyon (Tuolumne Meadows) because permits for this trailhead are slightly easier to obtain. There is no special JMT permit.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Na-Nerd of the North

I've been thinking of buying a Ray Way bomber hat kit and pattern for a couple of years now and I finally did it. I started it this morning and now it's done! It wasn't a particularly fast project but never-the-less, I made it and it turned out fine! It's even reversible...
This kind of hat is not what anyone would call attractive but it will be warm and it only weighs...... 1oz. Pretty dang good. Still haven't started the shorts...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sewing Begins!

Ten years ago I bought a pair of shorts in Yosemite Village to hike the JMT in. The shorts I brought to hike in were proving to be very uncomfortable so I popped for an expensive pair of shorts. Unfortunately the only shorts I could find that had generous side pockets were mens shorts so they didn't really fit, being too long in the torso for my short waisted self. They were perfect in every other way so I've been using them yearly since then. That is until last year when I destroyed them trying to put an iron-on patch to the seat of the shorts. Note to self: nylon melts when set-upon by an iron.

Since that time I have been looking in vain for a pattern similar to those favorite shorts to no avail. Apparently the people who make patterns for women don't think women want big pockets so I was SOL. That's when I got the idea to deconstruct my faves and use the pieces as a pattern...

Notice the red patch?
I hope I can remember how to reassemble them once I've cut out the new material. Speaking of new material...

Here you see the on-sale material I picked up to make a practice pair of shorts... (if there is only one, why are they called a pair)? English is confusing.

Below you will see the expensive material I will use to make the final hiking pair of shorts. It is Supplex material which is light but strong. Unfortunately the material is a very light color so  I reckon they will stain quite nicely, thank you very much.

So there you have it. I hope to get the practice shorts started soon and if they are successful I'll get brave, cut up the material from the supplex and make the for real shorts.