I’ve begun the process of packaging up resupplies to for my Appalachian Trail mail drops. Made a mess of my apartment in the process and logistically kind of a nightmare but hopefully it pays off and saves time off the trail. Throwing in some Ensure shakes, pudding cups, and fruit cups for a little snack at the mail drop. If you can think of other happy food I should put in there, let me know!
I’m excited to announce that I will be partnering with Wild River Outfitters for my clothing needs for my upcoming Appalachian Trail self-supported thru-hike record attempt!
They are a local outfitter here in Virginia Beach that stocks gear for kayaking, canoeing, backpacking, and rock climbing. They also lead professionally guided trips and instruction for fly fishing and kayaking. I’ve grown up depending on them for my gear needs and am thrilled to be partnering with them for this upcoming adventure!
Check them out at http://www.wildriveroutfitters.com/
And on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/WildRiverOutfitters
With a solid training week coming to a close and preparations reaching a lull, I wanted to take a moment to review a piece of gear that is going to be invaluable to me on my upcoming Appalachian Trail self-supported record thru-hike attempt, my Enlightened Equipment 50 degree Enigma quilt.
To give some background, a quilt is similar to a sleeping bag, except sports a simpler, more efficient, and lighter design. While a sleeping bag wraps all the way around you, a quilt maximizes the insulation by only covering above you and letting the sleeping pad take care below. They usually come without a hood or with a detachable one. To most new backpackers they’re daunting for their simplicity in the same way that new hikers flock to tents over tarps. Unfortunately this kind of misunderstanding really halted the quilt’s progression as an innovative piece of backpacking gear. For years quilt companies simply didn’t have access to the top fabrics and were way behind the field in design. The fully enclosed counterparts were often lighter despite being fundamentally inefficient.
When I started checking out the market for new, lighter gear to replace my battered gear from my previous trips, I was elated to find Enlightened Equipment leading the way in lightweight sleep systems. Their 10 denier nylon fabric matched that of the outdoor gear giants and the option for 800+ fill down showed their dedication to using the highest quality materials for their quilts. I continued my search for competitors to make sure EE was truly the best and nothing came close. There was no getting around it, I needed an Enlightened Equipment quilt for my hike and to carry anything else would put me at a disadvantage from the gun. Continue reading Review: Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt
One rainy day in college, just before Thanksgiving, I stood out on the side of 311 near Roanoke with my thumb out. I had been threw hell the past few days but still was ecstatic. I was excited for my warm cozy bed, a large PK’s pesto pizza, and a good Pixar movie. But I was most thrilled about what I had just done, the grueling solo backpacking adventure I would remember forever. Hour after hour people sped by me without even the slightest hesitation. And eventually one man took the time to roll down his window, slow down, and flick me off. I was baffled by his judgement. Initially I thought, no I’m not one of them but then wondered, one of who? He could know nothing about me from his drive by and from his attitude, never would.
The setup I decided on for the outriggers is similar to Andrew McAuley’s rig for his Tasman Sea crossing. I used ram ball and socket mounts, size 1.5 inch ball on the deck on either side. I used giant 1.5 inch washers on the underside but I still think I need to reinforce the hull with some fiberglass in that area. The benefits of this design is its flexibility and convenience. It’s weakness is the stress on the hull and weight. I considered simply strapping the extra paddle to deck but realized that would be neither flexible, resilient, nor convenient. However, the load would be distributed across the hull whereas the load for the ball and socket setup is on the hull in just a 2.5 inch diameter circle. Another fault of this system is that the outrigger can slip over the ball, a problem I imagine worsens in the water. Still a work in progress but I’ll figure it out.
Andrew McAuley suggested that sea kayaking was the new mountaineering. For him it was, and it is luring me in too. But for some reason it isn’t drawing the crowds that a new frontier maybe should. It is baffling how many untouched adventures exist on the open water. But even many serious mountaineers draw the line at an open ocean crossing. 95% of the ocean has yet to be explored and until recently, more was known about the surface of the moon. The water turns people away and rightfully so. It has been hundreds of millions of years since we were residents of an aquatic environment. It is foreign to us, unstable. We are not the top of the food chain in the ocean. In fact, we are so outnumbered that an open ocean swimmer is as easy of a meal as a pork tenderloin on your dinner plate. We can only be visitors to the ocean, and that humility is something foreign to the designed environments. Continue reading “A leap of logic”
I landed on the Man o’ War covered Smathers Beach on the south end of Key West at around eleven in the morning. I jumped out of my kayak in front of dozens of tourists trying to tan their wintery white skin. My face was coated with zinc oxide, my eyes sunken in from lack of sleep, my clothes wet and smelly. I sat on the beach in the warm sand for a moment reflecting on what I had just done. I had paddled a kayak the same distance it would be to paddle to The Bahamas. The absurd goal, an unfathomable distance, didn’t seem so crazy anymore. The only difference, no bugs to fend off, no unpredictable currents, just open water and solitude. Continue reading Middle Keys to Key West