Raingear Success

July 28, 2017

Rain pelted down outside Thomas Knob Shelter, high on the ridge near Mt. Rogers, VA.  Redhat, my companion for the week, and I sat happy and dry in the shelter at one o’clock in the afternoon!

That’s pretty early in the day to settle in camp, but the continuing rain, predicted to persist until 11 p.m., made the dry shelter quite attractive!

We stayed. Redhat had changed into her dry clothes. Long johns and a shirt, plus a “puffy jacket” comprised her carefully stashed dry wardrobe. She also had a pair of dry socks. Everything she had worn for our five-mile walk in the rain was wet. She hung it out on various nails and hooks around the shelter, reveling in our luxury of space being the only ones there.

“It’s all wet” she lamented. “This rain jacket did no good! I’m soaked through!”

I, by contrast, simply pulled off my wet socks. Everything else was dry or just damp. I hung up my damp shirt, and pulled on my one warm layer, a thermal shirt plus a fleece hat. Even in summer, covering my head with a warm hat is crucial for retaining body heat.  Although I was disappointed in NOT having a second layer of insulation, like the lightweight wool sweater I often pack, I was warm enough. My choice to leave behind my extra socks proved to be a discomfort as well, but again, I was in no danger. My rain gear had worked!

Through the afternoon, ten other hikers arrived in pairs, peeling off wet shirts, jackets, shorts, and socks. None had stayed dry in the rain, I noticed. What had I done differently that provided me a basically dry rain walk?

Here’s what had worked for me that day. Now, I’m not smuggly saying that I would never have an issue with getting wet, just that my rain gear worked in today’s conditions!

The gear I had chosen for today’s rain were basically two items: a cheap umbrella and a silnylon rain skirt. The umbrella kept my top ventilated and mostly dry. The rain skirt covered my shorts and kept them dry. If the wind had picked up, the umbrella would have been useless, so I was lucky there.

I did have  both a rain jacket and a poncho packed along, but was able to keep them in reserve for those possible windy conditions. Not wearing the rain jacket allowed my torso to dissipate the sweat that can get trapped by a rain jacket – even a breathable one. Since my rain jacket stayed dry, I had it available to provide warmth in lieu of that missing sweater.

I will consider bringing along those extra items next time. It’s a tough choice for summer hiking, when I can most easily pack light, but this experience nudges me to pack for extremes like this. I’ll check the forecast for my next 5-day walk and consider packing the extra socks, sweater, leggings, and maybe, just maybe, my 8oz “puffy jacket.” 

This time I had rain gear success -with no margin for extremes!

Connection


Grayson Highlands,VA

July 25, 2017

Is “connection” something that comes to us or something we choose to acknowledge? When the woman walking with me this week said, “I know I’m connected to God, but I just don’t feel it!  Maybe when I feel that connection, I’ll feel more confident out here.”

As I walked th.IMG_20170721_123315rough the magnificent forest, then out into an open field, I pondered her quandary. “What if we are connected, no matter what, and at any moment we can say, ‘this is what being connected feels like at this moment?'” I wondered out loud. I invited her to walk for the next twenty minutes reflecting on the notion that being connected is constant and foundational.  Simply noticing how that feels is the feeling of connection at that moment. I believe that we can choose to ignore, deny, or deepen that connection whenever we want.

Having said that, I realized that there are many specific connections I can feel while walking the trail. There’s connection to the Earth and the support of the ground. There’s connection to the air, with it’s wind, weather, heat and cold. There’s connection to plants, reflecting on the various qualities of growth that resonate with my emotional, spiritual, and physical growth and metabolism. There’s connection with other people, how our journeys cross, coincide, compare, contrast, or not. The list could be quite long, and a long walk allows for leisurely reflection on the idea of connection.

This quandary was one of many that Diana brought to me as we walked our 26 miles together. Here are a few others:

Pacing, I realized, while coaching her with my Meet the Mountains Technique to easily ascend each mountain, is not only a helpful skill and practice, it’s essential for a joyful walk of a long trail.  Discovering our own body’s rhythm of breathing and stepping that supports us to walk up any slope tirelessly, I’m convinced is the foremost skill to master before considering walking any appreciable distance on the Appalachian Trail.

Unless one has an acceptance and ease with climbing, and descending, mountains, a walk of the AT would be grueling every day!  By contrast, developing from within a physical rhythm, just like perfect timing in an engine, that we can sustain throughout the day regardless of the terrain, makes going up mountains, walking on level ground, or descending mountains a joy. If we’re not struggling for breath, burdened by a heavy pack, or straining our muscles every time the trail ascends, we can pay attention to our surroundings!

Gear. Diana also helped me appreciate the value of scrutinizing every single piece of gear, choosing the smallest, lightest, and fewest versions of items I carry with me!  I know that I started where she was when she came with me this week, following the advice of an outfitter salesperson and investing the smallest amount of cash possible.  I remember my first backpack trip when I thought I needed a roll of masking tape. I have no idea why. I just remember being glad that we had mistakenly taken a longer way to our first campsite, happily discovering that we were close enough to our car to dump a bunch of unnecessary items, including the tape, the next morning!

That’s why I was glad that I had planned her first night out to be a single one, with a night off the trail before we went out for another night.  That gave her the chance to reevaluate choices, leave a few things behind and find smaller bottles for toiletries. She helped me remember that it took me many short trips to pare down, try different things, replace heavy things with lighter ones, and sew some of my own gear to settle on the reliable and repeatable pack of gear that I now carry, fifteen years and 10,000+ miles later.  I still don’t know that I would have invested early on in the best quality, lightest weight gear that I carry now!  It makes a big difference in my enjoyment, though!

Thanks, Diana, for walking with  me to remind me of what it’s like to be a new hiker. I was there once, too!  Keep walking, and learning, and adjusting! Stay aware of connections – and come back again soon!

In joy,

Regina

 

 

 

 

Intown Ingenuity

September 12, 2106

I bought a backpack in Waterbury. It’s very cool, emblazoned with “I ♡ 1 Direction” and a photo of the boyband. “Whaaat?” you say!

Actually, it’s perfect…….because…

It has a zipper! My pouch needs a new zipper, and this backpack has a good one. I can cut it out and use it. And it only cost one dollar at the Bargain Boutique in Waterbury.

With my tiny swiss army knife scissors, stashed needle, and multi-purpose dental floss, I can switch out the failing zipper in my pouch.

Well, sorry boys, you are  not coming along, but glad you had a zipper I could use.

I ♡ 1 Direction

Town Food

June 12, 2016
I can’t eat what most hikers eat! Here’s what we bought at Food Lion in Front Royal to rejuvenate and celebrate completing our first hundred miles of this trip.

First, we did step one of our three step Don’t- Buy-Too-Much-In-Town plan: go in and buy something to eat right now and leave the store. We bought and devoured:

A banana
Two peaches
Four apricots
Two apples
23 oz. Coconut water

Then, we took step two: go in and look and talk about what to buy (actually, we skipped this step this time, and went right to step three: buy food for the town stop).

Frozen Cod
Kale
Apples
Mushroom antipasto
Carrots
Little red potatoes
Rosemary infused olive oil
Cucumbers
Frozen corn
Another 23 oz. Coconut water

We packed it all over  to the Quality Inn and got a room. Our plan was to cook the fish and potatoes in the microwave, not my specialty! It came out rubbery and melted our rehydrating bowl!

Please send ideas for preparing fish in a hotel room!

The antipasto was delightful! Oh, and the corn tasted sweet and filling, like a desert!

We had some leftovers to pack out, which worked just fine and

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gave a special treat on the trail: carrots, one cuke, three apples, kale. We also stopped at Food Lion again and bought a small tub of hummus, giving us a new rehydrating container.

Little Things

June 11, 2016
I have a list of small mishaps that we’ve been able to deal with and keep going. HeartSinging walking reflects how gracefully I can dance with the little things.

**Broken watchband. My cheap fake leather watchband  snapped.  Irritating! The good thing was that I noticed that it had fallen off. I threw away the band and stuck the watchface in my waist pouch where I can still get at it easily. Keep moving!

**Melted food bowl. Drat! My favorite lidded Glad bowl where I rehydrate my food on the trail was NOT microwave safe for repeated uses! I like this solution! We made an extra stop at Food Lion on our way out of Front Royal and bought  small bowl of hummus. The container fits perfectly inside our cooking pot, and the hummus was a fine extra snack for the afternoon. We might even switch to PLANNING it this way, getting hummus to pack out and a new bowl! Keep moving!

**Minor shoe breakdown. John’s shoe lining, a little foam piece around his heel, was bunching up and rubbing a hotspot on his heel. It’s too soon to get new shoes! He used my tiny Swiss Army knife scissors and successfully cut out the irritating fabric. Keep moving!

**Hot shirt. The air temperature rose today, into the 90’s. Whew! My long-sleeved shirt was too hot! John let me wear his spare shirt, a woven fabric button shirt with short sleeves. Better! Keep moving!

**Crowded camp. And the irritation that is just barely a “small” one occurred this evening as we were wrapping up our walk for the day. We knew the terrain and vegetation in this section would make finding dispersed camping difficult (that’s when we find a flat spot in the woods where no one else has camped before). We aimed for a shelter for tonight, planning to tent nearby. Surprise! When we reached the shelter turnoff at 6:30 p.m. there were people and tents everywhere! A Boy Scout troop of probably 25 people had taken over every tent spot AND the shelter! Grrr! We filled our water containers at the spring – and KEPT MOVING! That was the way to solve this dilemma. Keep moving! About ten minutes north of the shelter, we found a flat, rockfree spot without much poison ivy. Not bad! Ahhh! We can stop moving for the night!

Little things come up often on a long walk. But, with patience and ingenuity, they can be resolved, and we can keep moving!

In joy,
Regina

Frustrated to Confident

image

June 1, 2016
Today was a transition day from feeling frustrated with the technical challenge of setting up an RSS feed of my blog to my subscribers and Facebook page to feeling confident that it can actually work!  Thanks for reading!
The second accomplishment of the day was to pack our backpacks! I’m happy to say that my pack, with a liter of water and 4 days of food weighs  in at 20 -22 lbs.

Now, before you gape with too much amazement, I will remind you that one of the favorite qualities of my heartsinging walk is that I have a hiking partner who shares gear with me! That means that I don’t have to carry everything I use!!

I’ll try for a gear list:
Pack – Gregory Jade 60 with no “brain”
Sleeping bag – Western Mtneering 30 degree down bag
Thermarest prolite 3
Silnylon poncho/groundcloth
2 qt pot w lid
1 pint lidded bowl
Platypus water bladder (no hose)
1-liter Smartwater bottle
Rainjacket
Thermal shirt
Leightweight polyester Long pants
Extra socks (mitts)
Powershield jacket (insulation/rain)
Fleece hat
Sun hat
Trekking poles
30 ft cord for bearbag hanging

Waistpouch
Phone + 5 extra batteries + charger
Pocket knife (7-tool swiss army with the plastic cover missing)
3 colored pencils, 2 pens
2 small pcs watercolor paper
Small paintbrush
Toothbrush
Dental floss
15 ml peppermint oil
Credit cards, i.d., thumbdrive
Small notebook

John is carrying the shared tarp and net, sleeping bag coupler, canister stove, fuel canister.

I love my gear!

In joy,
Regina

Maine Ideas: Fine Without My Brain

My PACK brain, that is! In my constant effort to lighten my pack and still have what I need I took out a few items in Monson, Maine. It’s been a week without them and all is well! I sent away my pack brain, knitted scarf, extra pack liner bag and didn’t miss them.
At Caratunk, I took one more step and ordered a lighter sleeping bag. What’s more, I wore my short sleeved shirt instead of my long, hot shirt. I could even wear the short one at night, so maybe don’t need a second shirt! I sent the extra shirt away from Stratton, Maine.
Lightening my pack gets done one piece of gear at a time! Trying a few days without things. Taking chances. Trusting.

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Gear I sent away is on the left. John’s jettisoned gear on the right.

Resourcefulness on the Trail

In this photo, I’m wearing my food-bag skirt!

My shorts had ripped and my rainpants were too hot. When backpacking, I don’t carry extra clothes, just one of each type, except socks. I cut the bottom seam of my nylon food bag, which turned out to be just the perfect size for a drawstring skirt. It’s made of silnylon, silicon nylon, so it’s waterproof. It was a good rain skirt too!

When have YOU been resourceful, using something right at hand to fill in for something that you didn’t have.

A hiker’s motto I like is:

 

“If you don’t have it, you don’t need it!”

Dressed for rain

I made a skirt from my food bag when my shorts ripped.

Regina’s Gear Lists: Summer Backpack Content

Regina’s Gear Lists
Backpack Contents for Summer

Trash compacter bag lining the pack
Pro-lite 3 Thermarest. ¾ length
Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering 30 degree down bag
Extra clothing: fleece cap, long sleeve midweight thermal shirt, 1 pair smart wool socks, wind shirt,
Shelter: Custom homemade silnylon tarp with net tent liner (from Ray Way kit)
Backpacker’s Poncho for groundcloth and raingear
Cookset: 1qt stainless pot with lid, Pepsi can stove, 8 oz. denatured alcohol, foil windscreen, pot lifter
Food: 1-1.5 lbs per day
Wash bowl: Small zip-loc lidded bowl, small sponge, 1 oz. bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap
Plastic trowel
Trekking poles
Water bottles: 3 liter capacity
Map, guidebook
Comfort Couch: 12”x14” piece of ensolite pad
Umbrella
Sunhat
First Aid Kit
1 oz. bottle hand lotion, 1 oz.Tecnu
2-3 plastic grocery bags for trash or bagging wet stuff

 

 

My Umbrella: A Room with a View

I Love My Gear!

My Umbrella is a Rainy Day Room With a View

Yesterday, I walked on Cold Mountain, VA, in a cloud. Rain drizzled down and visibility was

"My Room with a View"

about 20 feet. Yet, I was enjoying the walk, the view, and a visit to this magical place of beauty.  As I walked, I realized that my umbrella played a big part in my ability to embrace this moment in comfort  and joy.

When I first started backpacking, I thought that an umbrella would be about the dumbest thing I could bring.  Wouldn’t it get caught in branches along the trail?, I thought.  An umbrella is fragile and awkward! Umbrellas are for city streets, not trails!  It’s just not right! An umbrella is bulky and hard to pack. My list of reasons to leave the umbrella at home was long.

Four years later, I’d walked the entire Appalachian Trail in plenty of rain, snow, and sun all without an umbrella.  I’d walked along perfectly well with my poncho that covered me and my pack.  My AT hiking partner even used an umbrella, but I wouldn’t cave in.  Umbrellas were simply NOT for backpacking!

Fast forward to mile 4,479 of my backpacking career and I’m holding –an umbrella!  And I’m loving it!

Snow was falling all around me in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State and I had the feeling of being in a cozy room of my own with a beautiful view on a wondrous world.  My upper body was dry.  My hands were dry. My glasses were clear. A new world had opened before me. My initiation into the community of Umbrella Backpackers was complete.  “Umbrella” was permanently on my packing list.

Here’s what I like about my umbrella on the trail:

  • It’s lightweight rain gear
  • It’s easy to pack
  • It’s quick to pull out and put away
  • It’s easy to replace when lost or broken
  • It’s a good conversation starter
  • It’s a windbreak for my outdoor kitchen
  • It’s great for night-time toilet runs

 

It’s still true that an umbrella doesn’t work well in wind, so I still carry a poncho that doubles as a ground cloth.  However, an umbrella can be turned against a light wind to create a wall to driving rain.  If wind and rain are too heavy for my umbrella, however, that’s a good sign for me to get out of the weather and head for a shelter or set up my tarp and go inside.

Now I’m an umbrella advocate and I invite you to consider packing one for your next walk.

 

What do you think?  Let me know by commenting below!