My ups (and some downs) with Strava

I began tracking my biking, hiking, and walking efforts with  the Strava app on Christmas day back in  2011.  According to their website, “Strava lets you track your rides and runs via your iPhone, Android or dedicated GPS device and helps you analyze and quantify your performance. Strava provides motivation and camaraderie”.

I had been using the free version of the program until Dec. 31 of this year when I decided to pony up the $59 a year Premium fee and avail myself of the additional features at that level.  Three Premium features that I have used so far include GPX file downloads and transfers. I have not yet downloaded any other hiker or rider routes to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS, but plan to do so in the next few months.

I also sometimes strap on my Garmin chest monitor and record my heart rate, which converts to a Suffer Score, which quantifies my suffering and allows me to visualize exactly how hard I have worked on a particular hike or ride. My most intense workouts yield a a special class of Points in the Red.  My Polish suffering gene interfaces well with the Suffer Score.

But the one feature that convinced me to pay for the use of the program is the ability for me to set goals and monitor them.  On Jan. 1 of this year, I took the advice of my son Lincoln, where I set a goal of 1 hour a day of either biking, walking, or backpacking for the whole year.  Strava allows you to set goals for distance or time.

I religiously track my progress week over week.  Simply put, I need 7 hours a week to stay on track.  I often take a day off between particularly hard workouts to recover, and things come up so it’s good to have some way of sticking with the program, even it it is an hour a day.  I often put in a longer ride or hike a few hours at the end of any week where I was slacking  in the beginning.

Here’s one of the visual presentations that has encapsulated my progress from Jan. 1, 2015 up to today:

Hourly achievement to date ( 2015)
Hourly achievement to date ( 2015)

As a psychologist, I am awed by the power of the reinforcement of this cart- to me.  To others, it may mean nothing.  This is the real data deal.

What is also satisfying about the program is the ability of Strava to aggregate data and present it in a manner that compares not only hourly progress, but progress within repeated walks, hikes, or rides.

There are stories about individuals that become obsessed about moving up the rankings for speed on segments of popular rides.  For instance, there is a Strava segment of the climb up Moody Mountain Road, which is just 1.2 miles from my doorway.  There are 87 people that have recorded their effort climbing this 1.8 mile section of 4% grade of 383 feet of elevation gain.  All are ranked in order, and there is one King of the Mountain on the top of the list.    I am not motivated by moving up the list, but I am motivated by knowing that I  am improving on my own performance.

For 2015, I am shocked and pleased  to see that I have broken 67 personal records,  when I compare my times since Dec. 2011.  Most of the time, I feel that I do pretty well out there, but there are days like yesterday when I nearly bonked on a ride that we call The Bog From The Pit.  Here’s that data:

Sunday ride
Sunday ride

But I didn’t totally crash and burn out there yesterday. If I had lost my mojo and landed on the ground in a weeping heap, then either Rigger or Kevin would have picked me up and helped me out.  I really enjoy riding with these Bubbas in the Woods, a group of Midcoast Maine faithful who have included me in their thrice weekly mountain bikes rides for close to 30 years now.

Bubbas in The Bog
Bubbas in The Bog

The big picture is what Strava offers me, and I like it.

Between Strava and The Bubbas, I am still moving along.

Hiking in The Hundred – The Last Day

Today was not supposed to be this last day of a 50 mile backpacking trip.

Improvisation ruled from day one, when my intended 3 mile afternoon and soak on the deep pool in front of my favorite shelter, the Cooper Brook Falls lean-to morphed into an 8 mile  jaunt that ended camping au sauvage beside a shoreline 0.2 miles down a branch off  the Appalachian Trail.

The crew from Boston that I am guiding through here is a tattoo-friendly family.  At least two of them were hoping to make the last day of the Boston Tattoo Convention  on Sunday, so today it was up early and out hiking from the

Rokrabbit and Gaspedal depart the shelter
Rokrabbit and Gaspedal depart the shelter

Rainbow Stream lean-to at 7 AM.

After a short climb out of the dark hollow by Rainbow Stream we hoped to make some miles before the predicted rain hit.

Up and out
Up and out

We encountered several sections where the tread was pounded down into a perpetual wet mud layer.

Logs help, but not when they are wet !
Logs help, but not when they are wet !

We have seven miles  of walking  along the shoreline of Rainbow Lake to complete today.

Topday's MIssion: Rainbow Stream Lean-to to Abol Bridge parking lot
Topday’s MIssion: Rainbow Stream Lean-to to Abol Bridge parking lot

While hiking near the Rainbow Stream campsite we encountered a southbound hiker.  I stopped to talk a bit with “Farmer”, after I recognized his Templeton, Massachusetts accent.  It turns out that Farmer and I had both thru-hiked the AT together in 2007.

Uncle Tom and Farmer
Uncle Tom and Farmer

We also realized that we had talked together on that hike as well.  Farmer told me that he started another thru-hike attempt in 2009, with his son.  Unfortunately, Farmer’s son died soon after being diagnosed with brain cancer.  Farmer said that he had several other setbacks since then, including a quadruple heart bypass last year, but that he was back trying to finish his thru hike in sections.  He said that when he hikes, he now thinks of his son.  Farmer is 75 years old.

The rain began to come and go as we were finishing up around Rainbow Lake, so we added makeshift rain covers for two of the packs.

Keeping the gear dry
Keeping the gear dry

Eventually we made it up and to the top of the Rainbow Ledges, but this time, there was no Katahdin view.  Instead, I introduced the crew to the wonders of wild Maine blueberries, which were in abundance just off the trail itself.

Worth it !
Worth it !

Everyone was increasingly tired, so we decided to stop at the last shelter at Hurd Brook, and hydrate, cook hot food, and rest.  This was supposed to be our destination today, after 12 miles of hiking.

The Hurd Brook lean-to going north has a tough, slippery access path over off-canter, slippery boulders that needs to be traversed.  I heard from a hiker that I had guided up Katahdin several weeks ago that she had fallen into the water here, where she also broke her Leki pole.  I had real doubts that we would be able to do any more miles today, but, to my surprise, the gang perked up again on recharge, and told me they wanted to add the 4 extra  miles so that they could gain some time getting back to Boston.

We were all totally soaked from the rain, and needed to keep moving in order to avoid getting chilled.  After building anticipation around every final corner, we eventually reached the end of The Hundred at the Golden Road, where we still had to slog a quarter of  mile to my van.

Not over yet
Not over yet

The feeling of accomplishment and awe at what this family was able to accomplish in these 50 miles of walking overwhelmed for all of us,  and tears of pride and joy fell freely with the rainwater that ran down our chests.

Gaspedal's done !
Gaspedal’s done !

As the four of us we sloshed past the Abol Bridge store, a half-dozen thru-hikers were huddled up under the overhang at the entrance to the store.  I glanced over and waved at them, with a smile on my face.  They were almost done, with just 15 miles of hiking left until the reached the end of the AT on Katahdin’s summit. I shouted encouragement to them.

And our last gift of Trail Magic  was the best of all, when we received a standing ovation of clapping from the hikers as we walked on to our car.  If there was ever any doubt, we all knew that this crew of hikers are now part of the Appalachian Trail family.

The magic of a wilderness walk unfolded itself, yet again.  So much happens in a day out here. The wilderness in Maine will be there when we need it again.

Bugdawg, Gaspedal, and Rokrabbit
Bugdawg, Gaspedal, and Rokrabbit
Yup !
Yup !

( sort of ) Boston Globe review of Redford starring in ” A Walk in the Woods”

Other than the inaccuracy that 3,000 individuals completing the AT in 2014, this is an entertaining read.   The bulk of the article is a review of the new movie, coming out nation-wide on Sept. 2.  Who can go wrong with casting nick Nolte as the stumbling cast-off named Katz?  I liked the fact that we will be seeing  actual footage on the Appalachian Trail, something that didn’t happen at all in Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” movie about that other National Scenic Trail , the PCT.

Here you go–>” Appalachian Trail getting a promotional boost” – The Boston Globe.

Hiking Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness – Day 3

Nesuntabunt !

Nesuntabunt rocks !

I mentally conjure the image of a bundt cake when I encounter the steepest climb in the northern half of The Wilderness- well maybe the steep sloping sides.  Just west of Nahmakanta Lake, at a mere 1,550 feet in elevation, Nesuntabunt challenges the hiker in that area, mostly due to jolting us out of our complacency in walking over the relatively flat AT in that region.

Today, we all met the uphill challenge, and all completed it in a strong manner, especially Bugdawg.  Collecting ourselves at the base of the climb, we drank up, and nibbled snacks.  Then I saw Bugdawg fiddling with his iPhone.  I heard music coming from the tiny external speaker.

“Uncle Tom told us that music helps on the uphills,” he told us.

I then gave Bugdawg my earphones, so that his listening would not affect anyone else’s wilderness experience.  We quickly spread out as the uphill route enfolded.  I consider Nesuntabunt one of my favorite uphill hikes.

Going up
Going up

We all agreed that terms like primal, and Jurassic Park-like fit this situation perfectly.  It’s a narrow shady groove in the forest here, surrounded by ancient mossy boulders covered with polypody ferns and mosses- and today humidity, as well.

Zen garden
Zen garden

Despite the grueling nature of the steep unrelenting walk, we were pumped about the whole situation, and barely contained our encouragement and excitement about new vistas as the trail twisted and turned its way to the top.

I moved from the back up past Gaspedal and Rok Rabbit in order to join Bugdawg, who was first on top.

Bugdawg on top
Bugdawg on top

He had a deep look of satisfaction on his face, as I told him, ” You will forever have a connection to the song you were listening to as you hit the top.  It will link you to the deep feeling of power in your chest that you are feeling right now.”   We both teared up right then and there and I knew that at that moment Bugdawg had crossed over to experience the power and deep satisfaction that sometimes may come to us as we move through the ancient forest.

We came down the other side and continued North, stopping for a snack and break on the shore of Crescent Pond. I felt that we should be looking for a campsite soon after that, and we eventually  stopped to cook our dinners by the bridge that crossed Pollywog Stream.

It was here that we experienced a true low point in energy and outright exhaustion due to the 98% humidity and heat of the day.  But somehow, after laying down, eating, and talking out our feelings, Rokrabbit and Bugdawg wanted to try and keep going.

Moving up Rainbow Stream
Moving up Rainbow Stream

We walked along the stunning cascades and pools of Rainbow Stream  where we eventually made it to the campsites behind Rainbow Stream lean-to.

These neophyte hikers from the streets around Boston had just surprised by completing a 14 mile day.

There were several thru-hikers staying in the lean-to and camping around us.  They listened to me as I stood on my soapbox for a while and spoke to them about understanding the rules of Baxter State Park, why those rules are there, and to be respectful to the rangers there.

We need to do all we can as hikers right now to maintain Katahdin as the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Hiking The Hundred Mile Wilderness – Day 2

Heading out
Heading out

On our second day, walking 11 miles,  all three of this Boston clan received their trail names.  It was a specific request that they all made of me coming into this adventure.  I could not guarantee that it would happen, but said that it was possible.  I’m not that impressed with all the Rainbows, Blue Skys, Striders, and Mountain Men that populate the trail year ofter year.  The AT tradition is to have another hiker give you a name based on some incident or personality characteristic that offers to others a glimpse of  your own uniqueness.

Dino was the easiest for me to scope out.  He worked for a major natural gas company in Massachusetts.  Dino was also a “go at it “ type of guy, so the name of Gaspedal bubbled right up into my consciousness, and he felt that might work.  I had warned Dino that hikers can end up with names that are pretty weird, like what happened to Assface and Balls.  He took to Gaspedal right away.

Gaspedal with Mud Pond in the background
Gaspedal with Mud Pond in the background

Rok Rabbit’s identity was part of a magical event.  As Jake as I were carefully picking our steps across a stream that was the Mud Pond outlet, avoiding a slip on the slick stones, he shouted out, “  Look, check out the rabbit coming along with us!”
I turned to my right and witnessed something I had never seen in my life- a brown snowshoe hare slowly hopping its way across the 15 foot wide stream, picking shallow spots, hopping up on a couple of rocks, splashing along, and making it happen. Jake then pulled out a green rabbit’s foot from his pocket, and showed it to me, and told me that the rabbit was a special animal to him. Bingo- trail name #1.

I was impressed with Nick’s keen eye for small life forms.  He spotted a nymph casing floating in the water on the edge of Antler Camp point, was excellent at spotting tiny little toads, often stopped while walking to poke around in the greenery to examine tiny beings, and appeared particularly attuned to the details along the trail.  I learned that Nick was an entomology buff, and had a good collection of insects in his own room at home. I suggested Bugdawg and he went for it.  Yes !

Gaspedal, Rok Rabbit, and Bugdawg staying upright
Gaspedal, Rok Rabbit, and Bugdawg staying upright

We were all experiencing sticky clothing in the unrelenting heat and humidity.  Gaspedal was concerned about possible chafing in his shorts, so I asked him, “ You wearing underwear?”
He answered, “Of course”.  So I suggested that he go without them and see how that worked out.  Later in the afternoon, he said, “ I just tried going commando, and I like it. Mucho better.”

It was so hot that we took three swim breaks today:  Antler Camps, Sand Beach, and when we stopped for the night at the Nahmakanta Stream campsite.

Sand Beach
Sand Beach
Antler Camp point
Antler Camp point

Gaspedal cut his foot on some rocks at Antler Camp , so I was able to try out the New Skin that my friend Joe recommended.  It worked!  I painted a bit over the cut, which dried in 2 minutes.  Then I placed a small piece of duct tape over it and everything held up after we checked the wound at the end of the hike. The layer of New-Skin was still on there after the tape was peeled off and the cut had already healed up.

We stopped to drink and fill out water bottles at the Potaywdjo spring near that same-named shelter.

Hiker at Potaywadjo spring
Hiker at Potaywadjo spring

This spring is the largest on the whole Appalachian Trail, where ice cold crystal clear water comes up to the surface through white sand.

One of the issues in the hiking community right now is overuse, due to the increasing number of hikers that are taking to the Appalachian Trail.  Nowhere is that more evident in the outhouse that was set up here at the far edge of the Nahmakanta Stream campsite.  Let’s be clear- there’s no way I would want to be the volunteer who is responsible for maintaining this segment of the AT.  I’ve been in hundreds of privies in my day, and the one here was not only strewn with unused and a “bit used” toilet paper, it reeked to a place that was definitely not high heaven. It was nauseating.   I was the only one that ended up using it, and that was because I forced myself to breathe through my mouth, and I was very efficient at getting in and out of there.

Today, we had one uphill segment to lumber up- Potaywadjo Ridge, a mile long climb of some 400 feet in elevation gain.

Coming up Potawaydjo Ridge
Coming up to Potaywadjo Ridge

I was impressed at the strong,  steady walking of the crew, who all made it up without a whine and just one brief stand-up rest stop.

The walking today was punctuated by numerous sections where the trail is traversed on puncheons,  split-log  timbers with one face smoothed, used for avoiding walking in deep mud.

Deep wet forest
Deep wet forest

They are slippery when wet.

We met two couples who were parked on the Jo-Mary Road just before Nahmakanta Lake.  I asked them if they were willing to take our trash and they said yes.  The policy on the AT  is to Leave No Trace.  Sometimes it’s hard convincing hikers that this also means you don’t leave working items at the shelters that you don’t want to carry any more, but that you believe other hikers want. For example, rolls of duct tape, jars of food, battery operated lanterns with used batteries, metal water bottles, saws, or full bottles of white gas.  Pack it in, pack it out.  It makes the work of volunteers easier.  They are the ones that have to carry all the great stuff out that no one wants to carry anymore.

We also established a new pattern of cooking and tenting today.  Last night, at the wild camping site, we did both in sequence, and ended up being pressed into using our headlamps before we had all of our tasks completed.  I was also nervous about the possibility of a spark from our cooking igniting the deep dry bed of pine needles that were all around and under us. So, this afternoon, we cooked at a place that was next to water, and had safer undergrowth, which minimized fire danger.  Then we washed the cook pots and utensils and packed up and moved on, hiking for a couple of miles before we settled into this official campsite for the night.  There was one other section hiker who also was tenting at the site, Chopsticks.

Nahmakanta Stream Campsite
Nahmakanta Stream Campsite

The Poles take on Himalaya Winter Climb ( 2008) – National Geographic Magazine

I just read this 2008 article from National Geo. magazine. The Polish climbers of the 1980’s and 1990’s evolved into the toughest group of Himalayan mountain climbers that the world has ever known. They focused on winter ascents of all 14 of the world’s 8,000 meter peaks. It’s inspiring to me.

Ice Warriors
“Numbing cold, gale-force winds, avalanches, frostbite. Why risk your neck on Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat in the middle of winter? Ask Polish climbers.”

photo by Tommy Heinrich

Himalaya Winter Climb – National Geographic Magazine.

Hiking Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness- First Day

Our five day adventure began by squeezing into Katahdin Air Service’s little float plane for a 50 mile flight, with pontoons touching down at Crawford Pond in the middle of the fabled One Hundred Mile Wilderness segment of the Appalachian Trail.

Great North Woods
Great North Woods

Jim, our pilot, flew low enough that we were able to see good detail right to the edges of the ponds and streams below as he pointed out the path of the Appalachian Trail that we’d walk some 50 miles back to my car around Abol Bridge on the Golden Road.

Uncle Tom, Jake, Deano, and Nick
Uncle Tom, Jake, Dino, and Nick

We thanked Jim for his skill in placing us here on this beach, and I told him that I’d be sure to fly with him again next season.

Ready for lift-off
Ready for lift-off

After departing the inviting sand beach at the southern end of the pond our band of four entered a dark slot in the dense forest and started walking  north.

We enter the forest
We enter the forest

My clients came to Maine from Boston to sample the simpler life in the Great North Woods.   I’m up here guiding a father and his two sons through their first backpacking experience.  I secured my Registered Maine Guide credentials in November, and have had some luck in scoring up some customers.  Dino, Nick, and Jake have purchased, borrowed, and rented gear that they have cobbled together for as they experience trail life for the next five days.

This family has actually listened to some of the suggestions that I made to them. Consequently, we had no issues with blisters today, and I was encouraged by strong hiking from all three.

We met our first three thru-hikers at Cooper Brook Falls lean-to three miles into our hike.  We swam in a deep pool with two young women that had started the AT in Georgia.

Cool, clear, golden pool
Cool, clear, golden pool

They made it north as far as Harper’s Ferry, VA where they skipped all the way up to Maine to turn around and head south, hiking to Virginia where they hoped to complete their 2,200 mile hike.   Also cooling his body was a young man from Norway who had just left the towering Katahdin on his own southbound journey, hoping to reach the southern terminus of the AT at Springer Mountain in Georgia.

On my fifth time through here, I still love this Cooper Brook Falls shelter.  There is a broad rushing water fall to the right and a deep wide pool of water in front of the shelter.   We jumped right into the slowly flowing water and rinsed off the copious sweat that drenched our shirts in just three miles.

I had originally planned to spend the night here at this shelter, but Dino and his boys pressed me to go a bit farther on the first afternoon so that they would not be faced with walking 12 miles on their second day.  I gave in, which  ended up being the right thing to do.

Tonight, we ended up camping “au sauvage” at Cooper Pond, 0.2 miles down a blue blazed (side) trail off the AT, turning my original 3 mile plan to an 8.2 mile accomplishment.

In the end, we pushed an extra 5 miles, and walked late enough so that we were using our headlamps before we had the campsite settled, our dinners done, and the tents up.

When you reach Cooper Plond, the path ends at an old dam. I crossed the shaky , wet rocks at the top of the falls and explored past it, where the path went no further. I noticed a fresh dump area with open clam shells visible beneath the water near shore,  where I suspected that an otter had been engaged in some kitchen prep of his own.
The terrain around our campsite is fully punctuated with rocks and hummocks but we were eventually able to find two flat spaces that held the one three-man ( them) and single 1 person (me) tents.

Tarptent and Coleman tent find flat places
Tarptent and Coleman tent find flat places

The humidity and heat were unrelenting.   We later learned that it reached 90 degrees today, with close to 100% humidity, in Maine !    It was so hot that I laid out on top of my sleeping mat. The humidity and heat were the worst that I’ve ever remembered hiking in my home state.  Thankfully, we were headed past numerous ponds, lakes, and streams, which we’d put to good use tomorrow.

At least I slept.  Dino told me he was tossing and turning all night.   I listened  to the sound of the pond water rushing over the dam nearby and the strange  cry of a single loon wailing out on Cooper Pond.

Here’s the map of our first 8 miles in The Hundred:

Pink arrows- start to finish, Day 1
Pink arrows- start to finish, Day 1

5 stars to The Precipice- my book review ( it’s a backpacking novel)

precipice_MECH_01.inddIt has been at least a decade since I last sat down and read a novel from cover to cover in 1 one day, or part of one day, as in this case. The Precipice is Maine native and bestselling author Paul Doiron’s latest creation.

The book’s protagonist is Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, and the setting is totally outdoorsy- Maine’s fabled Hundred Mile Wilderness segment,  smack dab at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail.

I have hiked the entirety of The Hundred twice, half of it three times, with the fourth time coming up this week when I will be in the unique position of functioning as a Registered Maine Guide, and assisting three novice backpackers in traveling 50 miles through the uninhabited forest.

I will definitely not tell them about this book, at least before they go. It’s unerringly accurate, and captures the details of the lifestyle of Hikertrash, that grimy subset of backpackers who are totally immersed in the walking in the woods lifestyle.

I am not giving away any spoilers, as the book’s inside dust jacket boldly proclaims, “Mike Bowditch joins a desperate search for two missing hikers as Maine wildlife officials deal with a frightening rash of coyote attacks.”

Lest one think that The Precipice is too unrealistically grim a portrayal of the hiking life, consider this.   A disturbing personal chime was sounded in the Author’s Note section of The Precipice when Doiron lists being informed about the AT by Michelle Ray’s How the Hike the AT: The Nitty Gritty Details of a Long Distance Trek.

Ray attempted a thru-hike of the AT the same year that I completed it in 2007. I hiked with Birdlegs a number of days that summer, and we remain friends.  In an uncanny twist to her placement in this particular book, Ray’s own thru-hike was halted on October 4 just after she crossed the Kennebec River in Maine, shortly before one enters The Hundred. She writes about the incident here in her 2007 Trailjournal .  Ray was advised by the Maine State Police not to continue hiking alone after a vagrant drifter who was camped out on the AT began to follow, harass, and actively stalk her.  The individual was well-known to local police and had an extensive criminal background, with warrants out for his arrest in Georgia and New Jersey. The police were concerned enough about the incident to place the Northern Outdoors outfitter into lock down, and searched for him with no luck. The individual knew the area well and vaporized into the woods.

Coincidentally, Outside magazine’s latest issue (September 2015) features a major story- “Up on Cove Mountain”, by Earl Swift, that explores the 1991 murder of two young hikers who were killed at an AT shelter on the Trail in Pennsylvania. The author was also hiking the AT that year, where he had actually met the two hapless victims.

I am still going to guide my group through half of The Hundred. As always, I’ll have my “bad guy” radar turned on. If we encounter any shifty characters out there, my gut feeling will have me hiking on and hiking smart.

The Precipice is the real deal.

 

Prepping For My 50 Mile Hike of the Appalachian Trail

I am taking out three clients on a Half The Hundred Mile Wilderness backpacking trip next week through my Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures business.

Sign at start of the Hundred Mile Wilderness
Sign at start of the Hundred Mile Wilderness

Now is a great time to be doing any business that involves communication. As a starting point, I sent my clients a copy of the excellent book Lighten Up: A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking. It’s been easy to stay in touch with clients about how they best prepare, train, and consider gear recommendations.  We trade photos and gear talk via texts and e-mail. I will fill in their kits with the additional gear.

For example, I am supplying three different types of air pads that I will encourage them to switch out and try, including two Big Agnes Air Cores, and a Thermarest Neo Air.

I am also providing stoves and cook sets. I have a brand new Bushcooker LT2 multi-fuel unit that two of them will share. This will allow the group to try out cooking with alcohol, solid fuel tablets ( hexamine), and biofuel( wood). There will also be a MSR Pocket Rocket/ isobutane canister stove for comparison.

I had a disappointing experience in my purchase of a two person pot set at LLBean last week. Bean’s is going downhill.  Their book selection is 1/10 of what it used to be, and is leaning toward coffee-table tomes.

A month ago, I was exploring buying an Osprey hydration pack when I asked the salesman about the lower zipped opening.  He informed me that it held a waterproof pack cover, which seemed like a great idea, however when I got it home, it harbored a tool roll, and not a pack cover !

Last week, I told the salesperson that I was a backpacker who was looking for a larger cooking setup to take wilderness backpacking.  He steered me to the GSI Outdoors® Pinnacle Dualist Cook System.  277013_0_42 However, it was out of stock, so he helped me get it sent to my house (with my Maine Guide’s discount) and with free shipping.  So far, real good.  After I opened the box and checked out  the product, I was surprised to see how much plastic and rubber there was in the unit, including the pot and the pot lid.  Thankfully, I  actually read the directions.  I was shocked to learn that the pot and lid , “.. is intended for stove top use only. Not for use with open campfires. Never expose handle to direct flame.”  I like to cook with wood and will also place my cook pots on established campfires or coals,  where flames sometimes creep up the sides of the stove.  There was no way that I was going to keep this backcountry cookpot impostor !   It’s going back.

It was obvious that neither product was actually used by the salespersons, which could be a  dangerous practice for any business, let alone LLBean.

In truth, I might have done better just to strip the label off a 28 ounce can of tomato puree, punch a couple of holes through the top edge, and fashion a bail handle out of a short length of wire, and saved myself a trip down to Freeport to The Flagship Store.

One new product that I will be packing is a foot care item recommended to me by Joe Niemczura, a rural nursing guru who is also a very decent backpacker. Joe was enthusiastic about New-Skin Liquid Bandage, in either paint-on and spray form. According to Joe, it leaves a Krazy Glue-like residue that protects the skin from breakdown. Joe uses it in advance, along with duct tape.

Today, I’m dehydrating the first of my two supper choices. I have a lot of fresh corn right now so Campo Corn Chowder will be one choices. photo 12 My favorite is Smoky Mountain Chili.photo 6 I picked up a 4-tray electric dehydrator a few years ago at a yard sale for $4. The recipes are from Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ by Tim and Christine Conners.

I am also fine tuning my own fitness for the trip. Last night I pushed out a hard two-hour mountain bike session with The Bubbas in The Woods up and around Ragged Mountain where I was able to ramp up my heart rate and maintain it between 145- 175 beats per minute for over an hour.

This morning I put 20 pounds in my backpack and did close to a 5 mile hike at a pretty good clip, targeting a two run repeat of the steepest hill I can walk to from my house (Moody Mountain).

I like to view my biking and walking results on Strava.  Today’s elevation profile is highly reinforcing !  photo   On the hike next week, I plan to hold the group to a 10 mile a day average, spending 4 nights and 5 days to complete the 50 miles.

Here’s my own packing list for this trip. I have whittled things down to  a 15 pound base weight, meaning what I have on my back, without food or water.   Do check out Lighten Up: A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking.   That’s how I got lighter.  It’s got a lot of cartoons to get the point across.  It’s less than $7 in Kindle format and retains those great cartoons!