Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Hike, Therefor I Am

A long time ago, when I lived in North Carolina, the hiking/camping gene got triggered inside of me. I could feel the pull of nature calling me, the constant tug from an ancient, ancestral past luring me into the wild. Back then, though, it was mostly car camping with an occasional long distant overnight hike, but even then I wasn't too hardcore about it. A few miles in with a tent and a blanket strapped to my back, camp the night, a few miles back out the next day. That was a long time ago and I never did fully commit to exploring all that the Pisgah National Forest had to offer. I simply "had fun" a few times and that was it. Looking back, I would have to guess that being a crazy pet person had something to do with me not going deeper. At any given time I had at least half a dozen exotic pets in my care, and that's not a hobby you can just leave and disappear into the wilderness for more than a day/night. I had responsibilities, you see! Parrots, salt water aquariums, prairie dogs, snakes, sugar gliders, iguanas, etc. They all depended on me, you see! So mainly, I stayed close to home, only escaping for short spells here & there.

But now I live in Oregon and I no longer feel the urge to keep every animal under the sun. I have a cat, that is all. And if I leave enough water and food out, he'll be fine while I'm gone. Granted, he may hate me upon my return and sulk for awhile, but he'll live to meow another day. And that hiking/camping gene? Yeah, it's been triggered again big time. I've been scouring the Net studying all the gear that has been produced for avid hikers and backpackers and let me tell ya, technology sure has helped this area of interest out. Things that used to weigh a lot 15 years ago, now weigh nearly nothing. For example, the sleeping bag I purchased when I lived in NC is a North Face +20 bag which compresses down to the size of Thanksgiving turkey (and that's stuffing the hell out of it). It's big and it weighs about 5 pounds and it takes up half the space in my backpack. Now I'm looking at a Western Mountaineering Ultralite sleeping bag which weighs 1 pound and a few ounces and compresses down to the size of a cantaloupe. Ha! I will own this amazing bag... soon.

The two man tent I was using weighed 6 pounds and barely fit two people. My solo tent is the Eureka Backcountry 1 which weighs just under 4 pounds and has just enough room for me and my pack. But now I'll be using the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 for everything, which only weighs 3 pounds and can fit 3 people decently, but will fit two people plus all their gear, comfortably with no problem. The same goes for every other aspect of this hobby. Everything got lighter and improved upon in so many ways. I've been having a lot of fun exploring YouTube, watching peoples' gear list videos, taking notes and learning which products are awesome and why. I've also been exploring a website called and learning about all the remarkable hiking trails that exist everywhere around me. The members of that website have proven to be an invaluable resource and I have since been on several amazing hikes due to reading their trail reports. So, a quick shout-out to all you PH'ers... thank you!

Now that I've gotten the initials out of the way, I'll share some pics and videos of some hikes I've done and gear that I've acquired. First off, the boots:

I drove up to the Woodburn Outlets and visited the Merrell store there. I chose the perfect day to do it: they were having a store-wide BOGO 1/2 off sale. Win! I chose the Chameleon 5 waterproof hiking boots, based on price and customer reviews. Straight out of the box, these boots have been perfectly comfortable on every hike and never needed to go through a break-in period. I've already clocked many miles in these and can honestly say that my feet have never really been an issue during any hike. My back, shoulders, and knees on the other hand, now that's a different story.

Okay, next up is the backpack. I chose to go with an Osprey Atmos 65 for my overnight hiking trips:

As for the pack itself, it's pretty awesome, but I have a feeling my body needs to get accustomed to it. After about 3 miles of hiking with the above items, my hips and waist began to hurt, and once the entire 10 mile hike was completed my entire waist hurt. Needless to say, I was disappointed in it's performance. I went back to the shop where I bought it and they loaded me up, made some adjustments, gave me some pointers and told me to try it again (which I look forward to doing). I like the pack, I want it to work, but if it doesn't they said I can return it for an in-store exchange, which I'm okay with. So I'll keep you posted on that.

Here's another item I purchased that has great potential, but I haven't had the chance to use yet:

This is the Therm-a-Rest Ultralite cot. It weighs only 2 lbs 12 oz and packs down to 6x15. Truly a remarkable design, to be this lightweight and still manage to support 350 pounds. In the above pic I only have four of the six support rods in place because I only weigh 180, but you can add in the others accordingly. If getting off the ground is your thing, then this might be a great purchase, especially for those of you who choose tarps over tents. I've slept on this several times here at home, and while it really is very comfortable when lying on my back and sides, I must say it isn't suited for stomach sleeping unless you keep your arms directly by your side. I have the tendency to position mine in a triangle by my head and that doesn't work very well. The two side poles (lengthwise) are only 24 inches apart and will press into your arms, so I found myself having to dangle one arm off and under the cot to achieve stomach sleep.

Here's my basic backpacking cook set:
And here's an even better way of cooking or boiling water that doesn't require a fuel canister (but is too heavy for hiking):
Okay, enough about gear! Now I'll leave you with some pics and videos of recent hikes. Maybe next time I update my blog I will have a new short story for you guys, lord knows I'm ready to jot one down (how many times have I said that in the past, ha). Anyway, here ya go, enjoy:

There ya go, my far away friends, a quick look through my eyes on a few Oregon hiking trips. And instead of adding videos to this blog entry, instead I'll create a new entry and add them there. This one is already quite long. So, check back again to see those video links! Bye for now.