May
01
2014
0

Backpacking near Blood Mountain Cove

We went backpacking near blood mountain cove. 6.3 miles and 550 Meters elevation gain. (This meets one of the camping merit badge requirements.)

Trail map for the April 26/27 trip

Beware of the locals at the spring by the loop near Jarrard gap. There is something going on there, possibly involving the growth of herbaceous substances, and they are willing to fire warning shots. We missed the turn to the cove proper as it was plowed up for planting deer food and decided to head for nice areas near the gap. Given that we would have had to cross the trigger-happy private land to get back to the rest of the troop on Sunday morning this was probably a blessing.

Scouts on the trail

The woods were just leafing out, and we had nearly ideal weather. The wild flowers were coming out.  The scouts did extremely well, and worked together as a team. Since we hit the trail just before lunch, the distance was on the short side. We met the rest of the troop at Lake Winfield Scott in the morning. The hike was probably a bit hard for the youngest scouts (12 yro), but they made it and more importantly are willing to go again.

Trilliums

A trillium

Another kind of trillium

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting,trail map |
Dec
19
2013
0

Neat piece of gear

I’ve been using an REI windshirt for the last few months. There’s nothing particularly special about it (cheap, decent quality). It’s a permeable wind-resistant outer layer that’s not quite water proof.

The beauty is that it combines well with almost any layering system for most more or less temperate conditions. (We don’t get winter in Georgia, really, but it does get into the 20′s (-2 to -3)). So I can wear it with a sweater or fleece when it’s not too cold, on it’s own when it’s just barely chilly and over a primaloft jacket for the rare days when it is sort of like winter.

It’s also really great for biking – the “ipod” pocket is fantastic for car keys. Of course our conservative neighbors don’t like anything that can go as fast as a recumbent trike and doesn’t use gasoline – but that’s another story.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting |
Oct
28
2013
0

Standing Indian Hike

Just back from a hike with troop 77 on the Appalachian trail.  Troop 77 is quite large and has a good number of dedicated, skilled and trained leaders so we were able to hold three simultaneous outings: a base camp for the youngest scouts, a relatively easy backpacking trip for the intermediate scouts, and a more difficult trip for the older scouts. That’s the one I’m reporting.

The troop booked the kimsey creek group campsite from the national forest service.  We were then shuttled to the Beech Gap trail and walked via the mountain back to the group site. The GPX track is here .

Snapshot from google earch

Snapshot from google earch

The profile is shown here.
profile

The view from the top is spectacular:view from the top

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting,trail map |
Jul
14
2013
0

Moving to km

Just a few thoughts before I post some more UK trails.

I think it is (well past) time to move into SI units for hiking and backpacking. Units are just a measure of things – so in one sense it doesn’t matter what I use, rods, furlongs, leagues, cubits or miles. Except certain unit systems are more convenient than others. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the light blue grids on both UK ordnance survey and US Geological survey maps. They are 1000 meter (1km) grids.

These make it very easy to use a GPS to figure out where you are and how far you have to go to get where you want to be.

In the UK

SP(which grid sheet), Westerling (in meters), Northing (in meeters).  (SP 54101 23950 for example).

and in the US (and Canada – just make sure to use the right UTM datum)

Northing (in meters) , Westing (in meters)  (43100 38131 for example – though I might have north/west mixed up).

In either case the GPS will read out your position and and then you can just use simple subtraction to find how far you are from where you want to be.

It’s pretty simple to convert km to miles – multiply by 0.6 to get a ball-park estimate.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,rant |
Mar
21
2013
0

What is the length of a trail?

Last weekend, I went with the scouts to pine mountain.  We did a loop I’d done before . I expected about a twelve mile loop based on an old GPS track I’d made. The new GPS gave 10.1!  We stayed at the new Jenkins Spring campsite which was excellent.  One the chief volunteers in the Pine Mountain Trail association came by and said that there were a lot of Eagle projects to be done on the trail (which is entirely built and maintained with volunteer labor).

new map of the loop

new map of the loop

What’s going on?

The new GPS uses both the Russian and US satellite systems as well as having a more sensitive antenna and thus simply more satellites.  Therefore the distances are more accurate – with less wobble. Also the two systems have different and less correlated systematic errors so that the estimated precision is more accurate with the combination than with either. Thus the ruler used to measure the distance was smaller than before.

On the surface this is sort of an “anti-fractal”. It’s well known, or at least should be, that as rulers get smaller the distances measured gets larger. One simply measures more of the little in and outs on the curve and hence arrives at a longer distance. With the GPS estimates, which depend on point measurements, the idea is a little different. Here there is a swarm of (we can pretend in the limit of large numbers) normally distributed points drawn around a true track. Hence the calculated distance includes the sum of a bunch of random “wobble vectors”. The spread of the wobble is smaller with the new system and so the distance is more accurate. So the fractal measure in this case is actually in the statistics of the sampling and not the curve being measured.

Dec
10
2012
0

Low-complexity Backpacking.

I’ve begun to think about what light-weight backpacking means.  This is partially because I’ve been helping to teach scouts about it, and partially to help myself understand what is special about it.  I’ve never been an especially ultra-light sort of backpacker – usually due to what I call “leader tax”, but have used many of the techniques and equipment quite successfully.

It occurs to me that light-weight is not the issue, in reality, but that it is a by-product of a different design process. Low-complexity implies that the kinds and numbers of things you bring are small.  If you bring fewer things then you automatically have lighter weight.  (well at least if you are vaguely careful.  One dutch oven is a highly multi-purpose item, but no one would ever consider one a part of light-weight backpacking (even if they were made in titanium)).

A good example that comes to my mind is the guy I teach backpacking with to scout leaders.  He’s a great guy, but a conventional backpacker.  His tent is light, only 3 lbs or so, has 2 layers, a complex pole system and so has a raw parts count of 14-15.  While he may be able to get away with leaving a few parts  behind, most of those are critical parts.  I use a trailstar or a luna solo (depending on whether I want space or need to worry about bugs).  So my parts count, including hiking sticks, is 7-8.  Here in the southeastern United States, my critical parts count is one (the tarp) as everything else can be improvised.  He carries very light weight camp shoes. I just loosen my hiking boots.  He has a neat stacking plastic bowl and lightweight cutlery.  I use the same titanium pot and plastic spoon to cook and eat. He has a crazy creek chair for his pad (2 parts). I have a small pad from my pack (1 part).  However we both carry very similar first aid kits because it’s hard to skimp on those.

The point behind this is that we’re both very comfortable in the woods.  I just bring fewer things, and therefore carry less, have a lighter footprint, and have fewer things to lose.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,engineering,outdoors,scouting |
Nov
25
2012
0

Preliminary Experiments with a Vapor Barrier

I was recently reading about vapour barriers (Andrew Skurka’s site and Section hiker). It sounded impressive.  The gear is not very expensive from Stevenson’s Warmlite (possibly the only R-rated outdoor gear catalogue in the world), so I ordered a shirt, gloves and socks. I’m nominally an XL, but L would probably fit better.

It wasn’t that cold over the weekend with temperatures into the low thirties, but I gave it a try. What seems to work is a wicking shirt like a polypro top, followed by a vapour barrier layer and then insulation.  It was surprisingly warm with even a thin outer layer.  Stevenson’s says it adds 15 degrees F when sealed up, and this seems realistic.

This got me thinking about cheaper ways to test out vapour barriers – I could have just worn my frogg toggs underneath and seen how that worked.  But then what would I have done for rain (if it rained?). I’m tempted to try using a bivy sack inside of a sleeping bag (well sleeping quilt) to see if that works before finding a real vapor barrier liner.

Oct
27
2012
0

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

My trekking poles are feeling their age. They’re twist-locking springy poles from REI and have (as long as I periodically clean the mechanism) served me reliably for 4 years or so (and something like 400 miles of backpacking or walking). However one pole received a slight bend at Philmont, trying to hoick down a bear bag line, and it has gradually increased to where it interferes with opening and locking. (It took more than a few more miles to happen – so the pole worked very well).

So it is time to replace them.

I’d read good things about some of the relatively cheap poles found at places like W******t and C****o. So I took a look. They looked the part and were about 1/4 the cost of an REI set. The locking mechanism felt a bit sloppy – so I read the warnings on the package. There was a warning in slightly larger than normal fine print – these poles should not be expected to hold your entire weight. In other words, they look the part, but aren’t likely to be reliable. It really is important that the poles hold most if not all of your weight, at least transiently, because you will put a lot of load on them on the downhills.

Disappointed, I looked at some of the other gear. The 48-cent lexan spoons were good value, and I like their inexpensive water-resistant bags, but there were other traps for the unwary. Water filters that “improved the taste”, but didn’t filter microbes. Water purification pills that were not particularly effective. Steel tent pegs, heavy tarps and inadequate tents. (on the other hand if you know what you’re doing these can form the basis for re-engineered gear).

So it is critical to look carefully at the gear – sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it isn’t.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,gear lists |
Oct
17
2012
1

Fast and Light cooking system

Based on a review from section hiker, I wanted to test out the olicamp heat exchanger pot. While I’ve found esbit stoves to be the lightest for a solo weekend, they just won’t work as well for a group. In my hands alcohol stoves have been too touchy, and white gas – while very good – is a bit complex and heavy. I’ve never been keen on canister gas as the canisters are a pain when empty and the stoves I’ve seen have been, to put it politely, rubbish.

I was wrong.

The combination of an olicamp heat exchanger pot with an MSR microrocket worked extremely well. It took about two minutes to boil 3/4 of a liter of water for dinner – on the trail. It took less than a minute for smaller amounts for tea. Everything folds up and can fit into the pot. (though I did wrap the stove in a bandanna rather than the case MSR supplies).

The pot itself is not particularly expensive (about $20 from Amazon), nor is the stove. There are less expensive stoves than the MSR one that have similar heat outputs, but I needed a stove and it was what REI had.

This system is robust enough to be useful for scouts and is safer and lighter than white gas.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,gear lists,scouting |
Oct
17
2012
0

Another Pinhoti Trip with the scouts

Last weekend I helped lead a backpacking trip for scouts from my son’s and my new troop (which is much better run than the old one – but that is the subject of a different post). This troop, being huge, splits up into patrol-based or crew-based activities occasionally and this was one of them.

The younger scouts and most of the adults base camped at the chief ladiga campground which sits astride the intersection of the chief ladiga bike trail and the pinhoti trail in north east alabama. Another crew (mostly the Moose patrol) went backpacking on the pinhoti.

We walked just about 6 miles (5.92 by the GPS) to a campsite by the Terrapin creek flood control lake. There is a big field for camping there – so that several crews could camp at once. Fortunately, since we had a scout injure himself with a knife, there is good road access in an emergency.

Trip map.

Trip map.


It is not an insignificant climb as is shown in the profile.
Profile of the trail

Profile of the trail

This hike is a good simalcrum of the trails in Philmont, although it is generally less rocky and a bit more of a single track. There is a fair bit of poison ivy and poison oak so some care is needed – though I wore shorts and didn’t get any so it isn’t too bad. There are a couple of places to pump water.

There were no bears, despite seeing plenty of “sign”, but we did see a yearling timber rattler perched on a small hickory.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting,trail map |

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