To The Mountains We Go!

Almost go time.  The next time you hear from me it’ll likely be from the trail somewhere.  Deep Woods and his brother-in-law are just about set.  We’ll all meet up in Abingdon, VA the night before we make the quick trip to Mt Rogers Outfitters in Damascus to catch our shuttle.

The elevation profile for the first day…Uncle Johnny’s in Erwin at 1,720 ft. to Beauty Spot at 4,312 ft…looks a bit daunting for an old fat guy like me but I keep telling myself that’s over the course of about 12 miles, with little elevation loss in between.  Piece of cake, right?  Yeah, right!  I’ll get there eventually.  I hope.

Too many of these……

makes this VERY difficult!

While reading over this season’s journal posts from various thru hikers, it appears the weather they’ve been experiencing hasn’t been much different than here at home.  I’ll see pics of people going over Roan Highlands one day and it looks absolutely beautiful.  Shorts and sunshine.  The next day it’s bundle up for snow and ice.  Roan is considered to be the coldest spot in the southern Appalachians so we’ll keep an eye on the forecast over the next week and pray for clear, dry, sunny skies and warm temps (just not too warm).

Just in case, I’ll prepare with the expectation of colder weather.  Since my quilt isn’t exactly the warmest thing on the planet and I use an un-insulated air pad, I’m leaning towards carrying a heavier base layer to sleep in and an 1/8″ thick Evazote foam pad to put down under the air pad.  That should help but I really need to start saving my pennies for an insulated pad.  Big Agnes recently came out with the new AXL line of pads and these things look like they may dethrone Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XLite line as the air pad of choice.

Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air sleeping pad (regular mummy)

They come in both insulated and un-insulated versions as well as a variety of lengths and widths.  Of particular interest to me is the Regular length insulated mummy version.  For insulation, Big Agnes uses Primaloft rather than the crinkly foil-type stuff used in the Therm-a-Rest.  If you’ve ever slept around someone on an XLite you know just how annoying the crinkling noise is every time they move.  While Big Agnes doesn’t list the R-value for the insulated AXL, I gotta believe that it’s comparable to the Therm-a-Rest Neo-Air XLite, which is supposed to be 3.2.  The AXL pads are thicker and have a beam on either side to help keep you positioned on the pad.  All of this and it’s supposed to be better than an ounce lighter (10.9 oz vs 12 oz)!  Price is a bit more than the Neo-Air…about  $180.  Not cheap!   Maybe Santa will leave one in my stocking next Christmas.  It’s worth noting that if you’re ok going with an un-insulated pad, the Regular length mummy AXL Air weighs a mere 9.6 oz!

In other news, I gave it my best shot with the new Toaks 750ml pot on the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 and decided my hands simply shake too much to safely grab and hold the pot after boiling water.  Part of the problem is the small diameter of the pot and how it rests on the pot supports.  It’s pretty precarious.  For the vast majority of people this wouldn’t be an issue but I literally have to grab my left hand with my right to steady it enough to lift the pot off.  Doing this exercise with cold hands would be a recipe for disaster!  The Ledmark kettle seemed to work fine but I don’t want to haul it so I think we’ll try a larger diameter pot, such as the Toaks 950ml, once I get back from this trip and see if I can manage that safely.  I’ll take the Jet Boil and she’ll use the MSR and kettle on her trip this time around.  With the Jet Boil, I can forego locking the pot onto the pot support and safely lift it off using both hands.  At least for now.  I was really looking forward to using the Pocket Rocket 2/Toaks pot setup on this trip but it is what it is.  Regardless, you don’t want to be anywhere near me when I’m going through the exercise of fixing dinner!

Speaking of shaky hands, Loonie and I met with the neurosurgeon at SLU a couple of weeks ago and as far as they’re concerned, they’re ready to go.  In their opinion, there’s no question that the tremors have advanced to the point that it’s either surgery or live with it.  I’m out of options with respect to medications so the ball is in mine and Loonie’s court now.  We’ll take a couple of months to think it over and go from there.

I suppose that wraps it up for now.  I’ll try to put something up here once we’re on the trail, maybe once we reach Mountain Harbour.  I am SO ready to get back on the trail!

More to come…


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