Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lessons From Utah

Note: I write about gear after using it in the field. Some of this is reiteration from the journal entry, but I am more gear centric and less experience oriented in these blurbs.

10/11 -10/12/2010 The Narrows
As Jim and I did 2 separate overnighters in Zion, I will count them as different training hikes, as they were two vastly different adventures!
We began by getting a shuttle to Chamberlain Ranch beyond the northern border of the park, hiking down a private dirt road to get access to the beginning of the Narrows. I have written a journal concerning these events in another document, so I will just give the highlights here, and things I learned about the equipment I brought and food.
The pack was around 40 lbs, maybe a tic over. I brought 5 liters of water - 3 in Heathers Platypus and 2 Nalgens. It was a less arid environment in the Narrows (more like east coast humidity levels) so we ended up not having to pump water the entire time and ending with water to spare. The Platypus must be delicately placed in the pack or the hose will kink and you’ll be without water unless you stop, unpack your entire pack, unkink, and try again. Verily a pain. Jim’s water bag had a more inflexible tube and didn’t have the issue.
The Sprite tent is fantastic, plenty of room for boots and clothing, room in the vestibule for the pack. The tent is rather stake happy, and there seems to be a disparity between the foot print and the tent, I need to look at the directions to see if I’m doing it correctly before getting stuck in a monsoon, though I do want that to see how sea worthy she is.
The cook ware worked fantastically, nice and light-weight. I carried the 2 pots and larger lid. This was plenty for all our 2-person needs, and would probably be needed at times solo, so I will probably carry the same. Note to self: don’t forget utensils!! Luckily Jim had a knife/fork/spoon set to let me borrow a piece. Which remind me, the spork is great, but a 2 piece utensil kit, I think is necessary - leave the butter knife at home though... that’s what the folding knife is for.
Items borrowed and used from Heather (in other words, equipment I need to buy): compression Granite Gear water proof stuff bag for the tent, 3 water proof bags for toiletries, clothing, and general/emergency items, folding Buck knife, heavier rain/insulated pants, camp cup, Platypus water sac.
For dinner in the Narrows we went the pouch route - no waste or need of a sump - especially important since there is no good place for that in the canyon, in fact we were told to pee directly into the river (and poop in a foil bag), as that was more sanitary than a bunch of people peeing on rocks and getting a urine funk. Between that and the ranger telling us not to even pump water outside of the northern park boundary due to farm run-off, I was quite satisfied not having to use any water from there. The pouched food was tasty, however, the directions need to be modified and played with at home. Using the directions on the pouch lead to too much liquid, as we’re not boiling any off and rather bland noodles. The soupy cheesy liquid was delicious tho, and after a dehydrating day the salty liquid would be a good replenishment. I will need to experiment at home to get a good balanced consistency. Also I only used water, and didn’t add powdered milk, like I probably should have, as thickener. The added beef jerky was a much needed supplement to the concoction.
The next morning we tried huevos rancheros - freeze dried eggs. The stove immediately started burning the stuff, so there was that taste to sour the possible tastiness of it. Reminder to myself, there are a few tricks to Isopro cooking: turn it all the down to just above sputtering, don’t leave the pan sitting on the stove - to regulate heat even more hold it above the burner a few centimeters. Also we had a summer sausage, we decided to slice up half of it and fry it up - it was pure heaven in my mouth! By far the best way to eat it.
There wasn’t too much unneeded equipment lugged thru the Narrows - it was a bit warmer then expected, but safe to have warm clothing had I fallen in the water and got soaked. I didn’t use rain gear, though again it would’ve been needed had it rained (then again if rain was forecast we wouldn’t have been there), didn’t use the collapsible Nalgen Heather let me borrow (must buy her a new one since James promptly made it a smellable by putting Propel in it). Of the other things brought, I should have left the disposable hand warmers, sleeping bag liner, glow stick, shot glass, flask, and one of head lamp behind - I carried 2 head lamps and a candle lantern - none of which were used, as I was asleep before dark and awake after sunrise.

10/14 - 10/15/2010 The West Rim Trail
I bought a folding spork at the outdoor shop, since I left mine at home. I left this one in the car and had to borrow one from Jim’s set again.
The first day was fairly flat and we made excellent time. No blisters, no pain, no rain. The pack fit great, boots, socks, poles, knees gave me no issues whatever. This time we took the same amount of water as we did in the Narrows, however we ended up pumping 6 additional liters at the spring near camp (8) so it was obviously much more arid on the top of the canyon. It was also much cooler at night, there was a light frost. The sleeping bag and tent kept me snug - always wear comfy camp socks to bed, makes such a big difference.
The next day we had a couple hundred feet elevation gain, and then several (3) thousand feet elevation lose. My right heel began hurting and I started limping a bit. A small blister formed there. It may have been the sock/liner combination I had on, but tend to think it was just all that downhill. My knees were no worse for the wear, so I’m happy about that. Blisters now, mean tougher feet then! Knee pains don’t build calluses.
Other than that, I saw no additional equipment quandaries or unnecessary items.
We brought spaghetti for dinner, and a fresh onion to add. I didn’t have the gumption the evening before to put the sauce in the reusable container, so Jim carried it for naught, and I carried a full jar of sauce. The cooking of pasta is fuel intense, as well as messy. The onions were a nice touch, fried separately again - but we were not trying to conserve fuel. In fact we were trying to use it, as we knew we couldn’t take the canister home with us. I did notice, as it was breezy, that others had set up a rock wind shield for cooking. Even with this the stove would get blown out if the flame was too low, and burn the food if put higher. I could clearly see which way the wind was coming from while watching the water begin to boil - only one side of the pot would get the bubbles on the bottom and it took a couple minutes longer to boil. I need to make or buy a flame proof bib to go around the stove - I’ve seen other backpackers with these, and have found it is not a fruitless investment, but nearly required in some circumstances - plus directing the heat (especially to make boiling faster) will save a lot of fuel over time.
We tried the huevos again, but the twist was I brought flour tortilla wraps, unused BBQ chicken from dinner the night before, and hot sauce. Un-burned, they still were not very good, and rather expensive. Next time I’ll stick to oatmeal!