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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More About the Hike

I have had a night's sleep now, so I am remembering more I want to write about the hiking trip.

It was humbling on many levels. I have been around hiking, camping, and backpacking for many years. I just haven't actually backpacked for a couple of, uhh, decades. I felt like there were some things that I was pretty sure about, and some beliefs that I held dear. One thing that I was very sure about is that my current pack, which is over 25 years old, was way too heavy to meet the current weights that hikers carry once it was loaded. I had everything except a tent and a stove (well, and the things I forgot), and it only weighed 23 pounds. That was with my winter down sleeping bag, too. And 2 liters of water. I guess replacing my pack isn't quite the immediate concern I thought it was. Especially since it performed well on the trail.

Another thing I felt that I knew what I wanted to have, or not have, was one of these new single wall tents, especially the ones that are held up with the hiking poles to save weight. I figured there was a limit to what I was willing to do to save weight, and I wanted my free-standing conventional tent. I just would get the lightest weight one I could find. On this hike we used Stumpknocker's single wall tent (that uses his hiking poles...). He loves his tent. Won't even discuss the pros and cons of other tents, it is a conversation that doesn't interest him. Did I mention he loves this tent? After using the tent, I have to admit that it had plenty of room for 2 people, even with one of them being 6'5" (not me). It was sturdy even in the storm. The kicker for me was as he was breaking camp. He just folded the tent up and it went into this smallish pouch that would fit into one of my side pockets and leave room for a water bottle. Sigh. Ok, so I'm reconsidering this single wall tent thing.

His alcohol stove worked fine. It seemed to be a diifferent design than the one I want to make, but it looked home made. So, I think that will work for me, just gotta actually make the stove. He showed me his headlamp, which was a Petzel (I think) that was small and seemed to have a retractable headband and fit in the palm of his hand. I will be on the look out for that model. I can see that if I keep those kinds of things small and light it makes everything else easier. And, I might even remember to take it along.

Stumpknocker spent some time tellng me that I had everything with me I would have NEEDED. My tent was back at his RV so had I been hiking alone I would have had it, I could get by without a flashlight, the mug and a stove (he doesn't pack his stove on distance hikes), and that I had done fine.

As we came off the trail at the visitor's center and were walkng down the parking lot to the truck with our packs, Stumpknocker perked up and pointed to a guy walking out of the picnic shelter ahead. "Look! See what he has? A bucket of FRIED CHICKEN!" Stumpknocker has a thing for fried chicken. Luckily for the guy, he had his leftover chicken safely locked into his RV before we got down there. We dumped our packs into the back of Stumpknocker's truck and walked back to the visitor's center. I hit the restroom while he checked us out from the overnight parking. I was walking better without the pack, but still wobbly. As we passed the RV, he pointed to it and said "There's fried chicken in that RV." I pulled him away, and we drove up to the lodge. I didn't know what kind of food they had, but it was still open for lunch so we decided to try it. The lodge is beautiful, with a full wall of glass looking out over the valley and mountains beyond. The buffet looked wonderful, and there was fried chicken on it so that settled it. She sat us in a corner next to the wall of windows in the sun. I loaded up my plates, and the waitress kept my glass of sweet tea filled. I sucked down 4 or 5 glasses of tea since I knew I hadn't been drinking enough water while we hiked. As we finished our plates of food I moved over to the seat next to the window and kind of stretched out with my last glass of tea. Stumpknocker went back and got 2 deserts and finished them while I almost fell asleep in the sun.

Stumpknocker showed me how to do Sudoku, which I had never learned. He goes to a site in the internet. Trying to stay awake past 7 pm that evening, I was on my computer and decided to try my first sudoku puzzle. Stumpknocker was supportive, saying it took him 45 minutes his first one so I shouldn't feel badly if it went slow. I finished the puzzle in 28 minutes. For some reason, after that he jumped up to the most difficult level, Evil, to try his skill. Guess it's that alpha male thing :).

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