Sunday, September 28, 2014

Congratulations... NOT

To whoever let the cat out of the bag, thanks a lot.  It will now be destroyed, just like the Vance Creek Bridge.  The internet will kill it.  Why did you have to go and do that??

Monday, September 22, 2014

My MLD Duomid has arrived and these are my first impressions

It looks like this
I ordered a MLD Duomid a few weeks ago and it arrived today.  I am sick today and I am not in a good mood.    I think I'm going to keep the Duomid, but it's not what I was expecting.  It was supposed to weigh 20 ounces, but it weighs much more.   I got perimeter bug netting and I know that added a few ounces.  Still, I was not expecting this floor-less shelter to weigh 30 ounces with stakes, bag and lines.  My 3 person Shires Tarp-tent with full bug netting and a full bathtub floor weighs 43 ounces with stakes, poles and lines.

It weighs this much with lines, stakes and pole jack and stuff sack
I think the listed weight for the Duomid on the MLD website is off by five ounces.  I'm just not sure how much weight I added with the perimeter bug netting and the extra snaps that come with it.

This is what it came with, the seam sealer was missing and there were no directions or receipt
If I use a polycro floor then the Duomid will still weigh about 30 ounces but if I use a tyvek floor like I had planned the mid will weigh about 33 ounces.  That's only a ten ounce saving and for that savings I get less space, less bug protection and I have to carry a heavier trekking pole or fart around tying my poles together.   What I do get is a prettier tent that will hold up better in the wind and the snow.  I don't think that my Shires Tarp-tent would hold up at all in the snow and it's not particularly good in the wind with it's long side walls.

If I bought the inner net I would have a shelter that weighs just as much as my 3  person tarp-tent  so it made no sense to me to get the inner net.

My trekking poles are Black Diamond ultra mountain FL women's poles that extend to 110cm and they are too short to use with the Duomid even with the pole jack, so I will have to use heavier poles or will have to take the time to tie my existing poles together and carry the extra weight of cord to tie them together.  Tying my poles together will take extra time and the cord to tie them will add a little extra weight.

One of the selling points of the Duomid for me was being able to quickly pitch it in the rain and the cold with just one trekking pole, so I'm disappointed. I suppose I could try to find a 41cm rock to put under my pole, but I don't think I want a huge rock in my living space.  I'll have to take the time to tie my poles together.  Maybe I can come up with a good fast solution using Velcro.

My pole is way too short, even with the pole jack
the mid is pitched tight to the ground here too.

 I bought the mid because I wanted something lighter and smaller and more wind resistant.  It's a little bit lighter but is it $300 lighter?  Maybe the answer is yes, but only because I  want to be able to camp in the wind and maybe even the snow.

The Duo mid does look to be very well made and the stuff sack is certainly ample.  In fact the stuff sack is twice as big as it need to be.  I wonder why it is so big?  The stuff sack is well made too, much better made than the sack that came with my tarp-tent.

My mid was not shipped with the seam sealer that was supposed to be included and it says I'll void my warranty if I use any other seam sealer.  So I emailed MLD about this and I hope they will send me some.  What a shame it was not included, because it's going to rain all week now and I won't be able to seam seal it in the rain.  Today was probably the last day this week that I could have seam sealed it.

I found directions for the Mid online and it did not take me too long to cut up all the string and attach it.  The directions said that the length of strings needed for the side tie outs would be obvious, but it wasn't really.  Still I was able to get it pitched for the first time without too much trouble.  I am going to have to singe the ends of all the cords I had to cut to stop them from fraying.

The mid has a very strong smell to it that I hope will fade with time.  I had a headache when I pitched the mid and the smell made my headache worse.  The peak has a vent in it.  The vent has bug netting in it but there is a gap in the attachment that is big enough to let mosquitoes in.  I'll have to find a way to plug that gap during bug season if mosquitoes are smart enough to find their way in and around the vent.

The mid looks to have ample space for both my daughter and I and all of our gear. I'm only 5'5" and I sleep with my backpack under my feet so I will be able to store all my gear at my head or at my feet.  My daughter is about 5'3" and growing.  In fact there is no reason why we can't fit the dog in there with us.  I never let my dog into my tarp-tent with it's bathtub floor, but I think I will let the dog into the mid since it does not have a floor that she can destroy.  She will have to be trained to stay off my sleeping bag though.

 So bottom line, not as light as I had hoped but plenty big enough and plenty strong enough for wind and snow.  Now I have to find out how livable it is with out a floor or full bug netting.

I'm going to go with this self improvised system.  It will give me ten centimeters of adjustment and by using the rivit on the pole I can prevent the poles from slipping down under pressure, but I can still slide them up and down for adjustments via the flick locks.  I think this will work, it won't take too much time to tie my poles together and there won't be as much of a weight penalty as there would be if I packed a dedicated pole.  The only weight penalty with this is the cord. 

If I want to pitch my tarp and go hiking with my trekking poles I will have to find a stick to prop the mid up with, that or tie the top to a tree.  But I doubt there were be very many situations where I can tie it to a tree branch in a spot that is flat enough to pitch it. Running a line between two trees might work better depending on how saggy the line is. 

I can creatively use this rivet on my pole to keep my poles from slipping down under pressure.

With the slack in the cord I can use the flick locks to adjust the poles up and down
and at the same time the rivet on the lower pole will prevent the set up from slipping down under pressure.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Staircase to Bat Camp Backpack

I took my daughter to what we like to call "bat camp".  It's not far up the trail past Staircase so I don't want to advertise it too much.   Staircase was a zoo, I guess it was less crowded than it would have been during the summer, but still it was a zoo.

 Our first stop was the ranger station to get our backcountry permit.  In Olympic National Park it costs a lot money to go backpacking.  In many other national parks you don't have to pay for your back-country permit.  But ONP is reserved for the well-to-do backpackers.  First there is the $15 entrance fee, then the $5.00 registration fee and then a $2.00 per night per person backpacking fee. The only way for a poor person to get into the park is to cheat or to qualify for and know about the elderly or disabled passes.  I have an annual park pass and an annual back country permit so this visit cost me nothing.

 The volunteer at the back country permit desk must have been very new, she had to ask for help for everything. Maybe she was tired too, she was not rude, but she certainly was not friendly.  She had never seen a annual back-country permit before so she showed it to a ranger, the ranger insisted that the other person in my party had to pay $2.00 per night.  I told him that the other person is a child, he then asked how old the child was.  Children over the age of 16 have to pay.  Well my child is ten, so she does not have to pay.  I think maybe the ranger did not expect a woman to be hiking alone with a young child, so he was surprised that my child did not have to pay.  sigh..

Next time I'll just self register and avoid all the hassle in the rangers office.


 Ranger Davis was in the back room, I saw  him before he saw me.  He looked startled to see me, but he  asked me how I was doing and he was friendly enough.  I guess he won't go out of his way to give me any more trouble after his infamous stomping mushrooms while invoking the name of congress scene a few years back.  It's good to feel like I can go to Staircase without being harassed.

A spider web

With the red tape sorted out, we  started our hike at about 1pm.  The loop trail was crowded with tourists.  So many tourist had such nice camera equipment and lenses.  What a shame that amateurs can afford all the good stuff while professional photographers have to settle for what they can afford.  It's such a waste for all that nice equipment to be in the wrong hands, that is, not my hands.

Staircase rapids bridge

For this hike my goal was to take some photographs of bats at night, so I brought my big camera and my external flash and a Walmart  tripod.  I could have used two external flash units and I could have used a much faster lens than my clunky old 3.5.

Western toads are out again but I failed to get a good picture of one.  Just before the bridge a woman had a tripod in the middle of the trail.  She was a foot away from her camera so it did not enter my mind that she was taking a picture as I walked around her tripod.  Then she complained that she had been doing a long exposure and I had walked in front of her camera.

 So many problems with this scenario.  You don't put your tripod in  the middle of a crowded popular trail and you don't do long exposures of a rock at 1 in the afternoon.  I still want to know why she was doing a long exposure in that much light, it makes no sense to me.

 If she had a polarizer and was trying to photograph a waterfall it might make sense.  But she was just photographing a big rock.  I asked her how many seconds her exposure was but she ignored me.  Then she tried to explain to me that I'd be surprised to know that with a long enough exposure a person walking in front of the camera does not show up and I had not ruined her photo after all.  I told her that I am a professional photographer so I was not surprised by that,  she ignored me and just walked away.  I still don't know why on earth she would be doing such a long exposure in that light.  I guess I'll never know since she ignored my questions.

Dinner by the river

We got to bat camp at about 2pm and we were happy to see that it was unoccupied.  My daughter was surprised that the distance had gone by so fast.  She's in good shape now after all the training we did together for the PCT.

We waited until dark and tried to get some bat pictures.  I got a couple of okay pictures.  I also tried to take some pictures of the stars since I had my tripod with me but those pictures did not come out well at all.  With the days getting so short I really should teach myself how to photograph stars so I will have something to do in camp at night.  For starters,  I know that I need a remote shutter release that actually works and I'll have to bring my super heavy tripod.

Could have used another flash maybe

Three bats with reflections

A bat

We cowboy camped and before we went to bet I set up a mouse trap.  Half of the trap was just my spoon propped up in a way that would cause a mouse to knock it down and be heard.  The other half of the trap was my external flash set up on a tripod.  A few times I woke up to the spoon flying and I reached for my head lamp and my camera and I could not find the mouse.  In the end I got a few shots simply by blindly firing off my camera and external flash when ever I heard a noise that woke me up.  When I got home I was happy to find that I had captured the mouse a couple of times.  There was no moon in the sky all night long.

Deer Mouse

Deer Mouse

We packed up and left at about noon and were on our way home by two pm.  We got home just in time to see soccer players changing their clothes in the middle of the street.

Poor shot

My camera trap

Morning coffee, still had my camera set to 3,200 ISO

tiny purple puff balls

The new bridge at Staircase

It really was this color

So many Leo's at Staircase, the one on the right has interesting hair

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gear list for my final PCT section hike

This is what I carried from Timberline to Cascade Locks.  I paid the weight price for carrying my 3 person tarp tent and my DSLR camera.  I have a Duomid tarp tent on the way.  With a Duomid and no heavy camera my base pack weight would be 13.8 pounds.  I could lighten my load with a quilt instead of a sleeping bag but a warm quilt is very expensive and I sleep cold.

I don't need such a large cook pot but I'm not yet willing to spend $70 to save just a few ounces.

ULA Circuit backpack purple 32 ounces                                                            

Clothes, not always worn, full rain gear, base layer etc.. 60
Original Shires Rain shadow 3 person tarp tent with 6 stakes 43
REI Magma 7 degree 800 fill down Sleeping Bag in sack 41
Camera Nikon D40 w 18-55 lens, case, wp bag,  lens cloth, 1 sd cards 30
Evernew Ti pot,  cat stove, 2 lighters,  wind screen, pot stand, bag 8
First aid, meds, toiletries, tooth brush.. Etc 10
Delorme inReach SE 
Garmin GPS  map 60csx with batteries  7
Sansa fuze mp3 player 2
Black Diamond Storm headlamp and 3 extra aaa battery 5.1
Sawyer Point One filter, Evernew water carry (900ml), small towel 5
Sunglasses, Deet, Sun screen carried in hip belt pocket 3
Food Sack 2.5
P-Style and P Rag 2.2
2 empty 1 liter  bottles 2
TP in bag 2
Soap 1/5 bar 1
Polycro Plastic ground cloth 0.7
Empty plastic bottle for fuel

Sea to summit Alpha light spoon with biner 0.5
Z-lite Sol sleeping pad small 10

Ounces 274.5
Pounds 17.15
Minus camera and with a duomid indstead of a Rainshadow 13.84

Also carried: Black Diamond Women's Ultra Mountain FL Trekking Pole, 110cm

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lower South Fork Skokomish Haven Lake Fire

Just a stroll in the woods to loosen up after my big hike on the PCT.  It was nice but boring to be in my home forest again.  There is a lot of trail work being done.. One big cedar was cut down and I can't figure out why.  It was a healthy tree.

Don't bother coming here for mushrooms, I already picked them all.  Each year students from the Evergreen State College field trips come and pluck everything within one mile of the trail head, I beat them to it this year.  Actually its not a good mushroom season so far.  We had one good rain but now it's too dry.

The Mason County Haven Lake fire has started up again.  I thought it would be out by now.  It's burning in a Greed Diamond tree farm.  That's tax free land, I hope that Greed Diamond foots the entire bill.  I've been to Haven Lake but it's all red dotted and closed off forever now.  South Mountain seems to be closed too.  It's time for me to remove all of my geocaches in the area.

Haven Lake fire

Sunday, September 14, 2014

PCT Mount Hood to Columbia River day 5 - Eagle Creek Trail

Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

My Rainshadow 2 tarptent in the morning
it was a Christmas present in 2005

I woke up with the sun and was ready to hike by 7:30.  Before I started my hike I made myself the best cup of coffee ever by using all of my cocoa powder, all of my Nido and all of my coffee.

 I still did not know where Aimless was and it had been almost 48 hours since I had last seen her.  I decided to start hiking and then once I got to the trail head I would have to figure out what to do.  It was looking like I was going to have to upset her family and report her as missing.  I certainly could not just drive home not knowing where she was.

Old signs on the trail, this trail
needs some TLC
 The Eagle Creek trail is pretty but there were a lot of day hikers on it and I wanted to avoid them.  The trail is narrow and day hikers and tourists don't always understand that backpackers need more space than they do.  I was also almost out of food, so I moved pretty fast.

Morning light hits the river just so

I had 9 miles to hike to get to my car.  6.5 miles on the Eagle Creek trail and 2.5 miles on the road.  When I was just 4 miles from the end of the trail I saw a group who was camped.  They had bear cans but still, they looked like they might be thru-hikers so I asked them if they had seen Aimless.

Finally I got an answer.  A man said that he had seen her at Indian Springs and that she had decided to hike out on the PCT instead of Eagle Creek.

 What a relief, to at last have an answer.  She was safe and she was on a different trail.  I still had no answer regarding why she did not meet me at the windy campsite on the ridge the night before, but at least now I knew that she was probably okay.

I guessed that she might be a day behind me factoring in her speed and the fact that the PCT was longer.  I also factored in that she said she was okay with finishing on Friday morning. 

 So I decided that I would tell her family that I expected her to finish hiking on Friday.  I knew her family who I had been sending Delorme messages to, would be concerned if Aimless did not come home with in a few hours of me hitting Cascade Locks.

This is all of the food I had left at the end

The trail head at 9:34

A flush toilet, first one in five days

Took a wrong turn here

The way back the Cascade Locks was not clear, I knew that Cascade Locks was to the East (right) and that I wanted to take the Gorge trail through a campground to reach it.  I found the Gorge trail but it was going in the wrong direction so I turned back and headed down a bike path.

A bike path is part of the trail too

This is where I should have came out

I soon saw the trail that I should have came out on, but it made very little difference as it was only about a tenth of a mile of trail and then it turned into the road that I was already on.

The way out

The way back to Cascade Locks follows the old highway and it had interesting signs.  I was out of water so I stopped to filter some water at Ruckel Creek.  The noise from nearby highway 84 was loud so I drowned it out with music from my Mp3 player.  Some woman with a stroller who seemed to live in a white bread world frowned at me when I said good morning as she passed by, so I frowned back at her.

Manics like Sam Hill make the world go 'round!

Tunnel under 84

The closer I got to Cascade Locks the higher I got.  I was finally, after three attempts at the Oregon PCT, going to walk into Cascade Locks.  With this my summer would be complete.

Time for re-entry leaving the trail world and back to the non-trail world

Walking down I-84

As I walked down the side of Interstate 84 I felt superior to all the folks driving down it.  Those MF's in their cars!  I was better than all of them!  I was a hiker!   But soon I would be joining them.

The song "Tubthumbing" by Chumbawamba came onto my Mp3 player so I put it on repeat.. it seemed to fit.  I got knocked down twice by the PCT but I got up again!

At last

Day 3
Day 4
Day 5