Yesterday morning I started working my way up to the quadfecta of Mt. Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross. Cameron isn’t technically considered it’s own mountain because it lies on the slopes of Lincoln but it is still a 14er peak. Because of the brutal winter temps and snow the past couple weeks the road up to the summer trailhead at Kite Lake was closed about 3 miles down the road at an old abandoned mining hub called Paris Mill. A few days earlier I had tried to navigate my way up to Kite Lake with my city slick tires and was stuck within a half mile. So the past couple days I had settled for a start at Paris Mill and accepted the easy 3 miles out and 3 miles back of road walking. Continue reading Mt. Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross
With temperatures dropping I put together a list of my absolute favorite winter backpacking gear that I’ve found over the years. Snowfall, high winds, and cold temperatures means gear has to be durable, warm, versatile, and of course as light as possible. The harsh conditions put tremendous strain on gear and the varying conditions often require very specific tools. I attempted to address several pieces of the various winter backpacking gear in this post. I’ve divided the list into super cold and mild cold (Heavy and Light) alternatives. These are relative definitions, but for a guy who took a 50 degree quilt down to sub-freezing temperatures, super cold would start at sub-zero Fahrenheit. Continue reading Winter backpacking: best gear
The air was thick and warm. I was elated to relax and know that the near freezing temperatures I encountered up on the northern Appalachian Trail were behind me. I was calm and at peace after laughing on the phone with my parents making fun of the grump I met down in Salisbury and I easily fell asleep under the clear sky. But by early morning I woke up to gentle drops of rain hitting my tarp roof. I thought it would remain just that so I went back to sleep. I would have hiked to the shelter the night before but I remembered the .4 mile detour to get there very well and at this point I counted any deviation from the trail as a setback. I did prefer to sleep in shelters because of their dependability over a tarp on stormy nights but sometimes it just isn’t worth it. Continue reading Kent, Connecticut, Day 23, 29.0 miles
This past summer I went on a grueling backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in New England with only 3.5 pounds of gear. Despite sub freezing temperatures, 60+mph winds, horrible bugs, and incessant rain, my gear kept me decently comfortable. But packed up for an extended trip and dealing with horrible conditions, I couldn’t help but wonder how light of a pack I could carry in better conditions for a shorter trip. So I refined my gear list and present now a proposed gear list that I intend to use next summer on a 3-4 day trip. At some point I guess I’ll probably just go into the woods naked with a bottle of water but for now this is my 1.4 pound super ultralight backpacking gear list:
Super, super ultralight backpacking gear list:
The most common question since I came home from my Appalachian Trail unsupported record attempt with a torn calf is “what would you have done differently?” It’s a brilliant question and one I’ve thought exhaustively about, trying to pinpoint if it was my own error that resulted in me getting injured. So I want to answer that question of exactly what I would have changed here:
Carry a rain jacket
I got a great night’s sleep and woke up after sunrise feeling rested and ready. By now I understood that the start of each day was always rough. So it didn’t surprise me when the first few miles were dragging. With the weather clearing and temperatures rising, thick humidity permeated the air. But I’d take anything other than rain and was extremely excited for better weather. I was getting demoralized with how slow the hiking was going on such easy terrain but just continually reminded myself that it always got better. Nearly every evening I felt on top of the world, like I could keep hiking for another 20 miles. But the mornings were dreadful and I would set myself back so tremendously from slow miles in the morning that by the time I felt good it was already afternoon and I was racing to cover the distances. Continue reading Tom Leonard Shelter, Day 21, 37.5 miles
The rain didn’t relent through the entire night. It seeped in through the side and heavy drops splashed on me from the sides of the tarp. By midnight I was soaked but the Downtek coated down in my Enlightened Equipment quilt kept the down dry and lofted, keeping me warm and asleep.
Hiking down Stratton Mountain I felt elated and completely at peace. A couple miles from the summit I saw a couple hikers setting up hammocks just off the trail. Enjoying the relaxing pace I had adopted this evening I sat down for a minute to check my mileages on my phone and ask them about the trail conditions down the hill. As was becoming the norm they couldn’t believe I was camping with such a tiny pack. Both engineers from Boston, they asked where I was from. I told them Richmond and one of them said he was dating a girl in Richmond. I found out she went to a rival high school and graduated a year before me. Simple things like that bring back little pieces of home and made the trip much more bearable. It was a cool little reminder of the connectedness in this world. In my loneliest moments, I always found there was a little bit of home everywhere, whether in some familiar looking woods, or in a phone call home, in a stranger’s friendliness, or in a crazy connection. Continue reading Massachusetts Appalachian Trail, Day 19, 42.3 miles
I got an early start this morning to work my way into Hanover. The rain started around 4 and made it a tough morning to leave the comfort of the shelter despite a leaky roof. But I wanted food and wanted to get a solid mileage in today to back up that I can do the 40 mile days back to back.
In town the gloominess persisted. I went to a diner, Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery, where I had eaten 6 years ago when I came through. I pulled off my poncho to keep from looking too homeless inside and rolled it up and put it in my pack. I was dripping wet, shorts absolutely soaking and shoes squeaking with each step. While I wandered around looking for an outlet to charge my phone another customer asked if she could lend me her towel to dry off. It was very thoughtful of her and I told her thanks but I would just be getting drenched in another hour so I declined the offer. Continue reading June 23, Day 15, 21.5 miles, Vermont Appalachian Trail