Well I’m back

Philmont was (and is) great and I highly recommend it to anyone who can go.

Ten days with one shower is not bad in the dry New Mexico mountains. We smelled better than the homeless do here in Atlanta.

I have some quick gear pointers and then a few crew management pointers.

  • My lightweight pack worked very well. On the first day with 5 days of Philmont’s heavy and bulky food and 5 liters of water it weighed 32 lbs which was the lightest in the crew. At the finish with some food, trash and about a liter of water it weighed 25 lbs. (my son’s was 20 lbs – so he is still a better light-weight backpacker than me).
  • I used an outdoor research waterproof extension bag to hold the food and some extra’s (belts to be branded, a pack of jolly rancher candy (wrapped in paper as a surprise), and an extra crew shirt for the ranger).
  • The shoulder pockets for the miraposa plus were not very useful – in the end I just kept the camera in a short pocket.
  • We just used the chemical sterilizer – it was fine.
  • The six moon design lunar solo is well adapted to Philmont conditions – I could always find place for the tent pegs (it’s not self-supporting) and the condensation was usually not too bad. The amount of condensation was a pretty accurate predictor of the amount of rain that the afternoon thunderstorm would produce. I’d make sure to bring a microfiber towel (get them cheap in the auto section of Target) along to wipe off when it is bad. I expect that any decent single layer ‘silon’ tent will work well too.
  • Make sure everyone brings an extra 2.5 L platypus and fills it for dry camps.
  • bring a good book that you can stand to re-read.
  • bring at least one bandanna to use as a “dew rag” and wash to avoid “monkey butt”
  • The Philmont issued food is too bulky and too heavy. It also contains cans and pouches of meat and tuna that are impossible to clean thoroughly in the backcountry and can contaminate packs. Even though we could get rid of trash every few days, this is a serious issue in bear and panther country. It needs to be completely re-thought. When I was a scout (30-35 years ago) we carried ten days of food with less trouble than three days of Philmont food. Food technology has improved since the 1970′s. You will also get sick of meat bars and (bad commercial) jerky for breakfast.

Crew management is a more difficult issue.

  • Establish clear communications with the other adults as soon as possible. This should happen during the training. (This was my one big mistake).
  • The isolation will amplify personality quirks – be sure you like and (more importantly) respect and trust each other before you enter the backcountry.
  • Except for health and safety issues or immediate coaching for technique, be sure to go via the “crew chief” (the crew chief is the elected senior scout). Insist that the other adults do the same.
  • Beware of protective fathers who want their “father and son” experience to be extra special. You will, if you have your son in the crew, have a “father and son” experience and get to know your child much better. But it is critical to give them the room to grow. A good scouter will always consider what is good for the crew and do his best to treat his son like any other scout.
  • Try to avoid injuries early in the trek by keeping the speeds down so that everyone can keep up. Having an injured scout will demoralize the group, reduce efficiency, and ruin at least one person’s trek. We had a total for the crew of 2-3 minor blisters over this trek. Can you beat that?
  • Do Not Worry About Speed Early in the Trek. There really isn’t any need to be anywhere at any time. Everyone will improve in condition and by the end the group will fly along easy trails at speeds that they could not approach in the beginning. (the long long steep uphills will still be slow).
  • We used a caterpillar technique on half of the 41 river crossings between miner’s camp and black mountain. It rocks. (basically the first person across the bridge waits for the last – yells clear and everyone moves on. It gives everyone an even rest break and avoids the stop and start that happens otherwise).
  • Learn to use the rest-step.  We beat a much older and physically stronger crew up Mt. Phillips by rest-stepping.
  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Use the toasting method to “camel up”.
  • There will be disagreements about issues, it’s normal.
  • There will be disagreements about issues, it’s normal.
  • Let the crew chief lead the crew.
  • Scouting is a “game with a purpose” – sometimes you can play with the scouts in the game or start it off. Association with adults is one of the methods of scouting and treating the scouts as equals includes occasional playing around.
  • The scouts will have a good time.
Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting |

Things sometimes just work out

It looks like I have an interlude to write an entry after all.  One of the things our crew has done correctly is to get to high altitudes several days before starting the trek.  Training at 1000ft just isn’t the same as at 6-12000 feet.

It’s also given the crews (we’re sending two) time to get oriented.  I was quite worried about fitting in our odd scout (we’d moved from 8 to 7 as a result of a needed shift in adults), who I must add was my son – which only makes it harder.  So we finally got them together and viola it was solved.  One of the other pairs liked the idea of dividing a seven pound tent in three vs. a 6 pound tent in two and since they also were buddies with the odd scout everything was fine.  What a relief.

Otherwise we spent the day up Pike’s peak via the cog railway.  They still tell the same joke about having two springs (Manitou and Colorado Springs) to stop the train if the breaks fail that they told 30 years ago when I visited with my family.

We also walked around the garden of the gods which is a neat eroded sandstone feature and well worth the visit.

After dinner at a Mexican restruant,  Arceo’s where the food was good and inexpensive,  (really – the Carnita’s are quite different from how I’ve always done them and they had a Mexican coleslaw that was a cross between coleslaw and salsa) the boys returned and used the motel pool.

I feel a little as if I should end as Samuel Pepys “and so to bed”

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting |

Off to Philmont

This is probably my last post for a few weeks (unless I have a lot of time on my hands at the airport or on the way).  Hopefully, the practice hiking and thought I’ve been putting in about how to pack will pay off.  I got to where I could put 33 or so lbs in my pack and shoot hoops with my son – or walk for 5 miles (on what passes for hills around here) with it and not be tired.   None the less something like 80% of the adults who go feel they should have prepared better.   I’ll keep my fingers crossed.  (anyway I’m not in the 50% who don’t prepare at all)

Some specific data that may be useful for others:

  • With the Mariposa plus backpack – use their pads including the situpon one.  Put your bigger pad inside.   I folded mine up and put it on the inside next to the carbon-fiber stays where it helps with the strength.  The pad pocket will hold a folded thermarest-type pad but it will bulge out and be less than ideally comfortable.    Socks as padding will get wet and aren’t that comfortable (at least at the loads I’ll have to carry).
  • The Gossamer Gear shoulder pockets work well – one will hold my waterproof pentax optio (in plastic bag) with room to spare.  They are comfortable and don’t fall off.
  • The Mariposa Plus is small enough for carry on – I could (in principle) not check any luggage.  (put the tent in the pack and pick up a soda bottle  rather than carry a nalgene).
  • Measure the weight of everything and use it as a guide.  My base weight will be less than 20 lbs and I will meet all of the Philmont guidelines as well as some of the “leader tax” weight.

It’s not clear if I’ll take a GPS on the trail, but if I do I’ll use lithium cells to minimize weight.  I’ll bring a filter to basecamp, but we may just use the chemical sterilizers.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors |

Deja Vu.

I’m reminded by the recent GSU-specific phishing attack of one thing that happened when I was new to GSU and they had just converted to web based grade submission.  I had one student who would show up for the first day, say he was going to work hard and then disappear.  Much to our embarrassment, he was working hard – as a waiter in a <some asian ethnic> eatery when I was part of a faculty party that was having dinner with a speaker.  ARRGH! Unfortunately he was able to appeal his failing grade with the dean’s office (over the head of the department’s objections by the way).  Apparently a number of the <some asian ethnic> group students had been told that their grades would be fixed so it didn’t matter that they were working illegally on the side.


What was going on was that there was a bug in internet explorer (long since fixed) that allowed a “man in the middle” attack and the labor boss was using that to get faculty passwords and “correct” grades.  Unfortunately for my students, I didn’t use internet explorer, so it wouldn’t have helped anyway.  The next term this was even more obvious because suddenly the certificates were bad from within the university (sign of this particular attack).  I entered my grades from home those terms, via an earthlink ISP account so it’s unlikely (but not impossible) that the attack worked then either.


I guess they’re trying to do the same thing again.

Written by Rob in: pedagogy,security |

More Outdoor Things.

Just a quick post to put some stuff out there.

  • I’ve added a trail map category the the blog so you can get all the maps I’ve posted.
  • My favorite Georgia map site is http://georgiahikes.com Click on the map link to see many trail maps. They also have trail reports.
  • The Pinhoti Trail is well worth exploring.

I’ve gone a bit “gram-weenie” and my current working pack base weight for Philmont is about 18 lbs (this includes some clothes that I will wear which when subtracted lowers it a fair bit (16lbs)).  I don’t think I’m leaking any secure information if you see my working gear list.  I’m not including a stove or fuel bottle in this, but would still be under 20lbs with them (and would loose a fair amount of “leader tax” weight if it were just me soloing).

I just purchased a six moons designs luna solo tent, and really want to try it.  It was extremely easy to set up (1 minute first time) and looks to be very dry in severe weather.  The only drawback is that it is probably a bit short for anyone over 5′ 11″, but it is roomy, light (1.91 lbs with standard floor, stuff sack and stakes) and seriously cool.  Six moons makes a lot of other similar tents, but here in the buggy south I need good insect control, and opted for an integrated bug screen.

The other issues that are bothering me right now are how to get 7 boys into 3 tents (since we had a change in crew roster) and making sure that the youth leadership steps up and actually leads.  They haven’t chosen a crew leader or tent partners yet and it’s late.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,gear lists,outdoors |

I don’t hate you but I still won’t post spam.

In checking the 99 spam comments from last night, I saw one amusing one.  It read “don’t hate me – I’m just trying to make some money” and had a link to (probably bogus) phenatrimine web site.  Sorry, as the title says – I won’t hate you, but you still don’t get a free link.   Cheers

Written by Rob in: Uncategorized |

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