A Fresh Start…

It’s a new year and here’s hoping that we’ll be able to spend more time on the trail.  2018 was not so good in that respect.  Loonie has completed her physical therapy and is doing much better but neither of us is ready to shoulder a pack and hit the trail.  We decided to kick off the new year by doing a short walk up to McAdams Peak overlook in Pere Marquette State Park.  More of a symbolic hike than a true adventure but hopefully it marks a new and fruitful season of outdoor endeavors.  It was a brisk 35° and the sun was no where to be found but it was nice to be out all the same.

View from McAdams Peak

Since Loonie wasn’t physically up to any trail adventures this fall, we spent a week in Florida for our anniversary and the weather there wasn’t much better there than it was today here in the Midwest.  We made the best of it and spent an entire day at Kennedy Space Center (TOTALLY AWESOME) and a day at Florida Botanical Gardens and Heritage Village in Largo.  Went to Canaveral National Seashore and after being nearly blown off the beach and swept out to sea, we retreated to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Saw a few gators and various birds.  When the weather did permit, we spent some time walking the beach in St Pete.  Other than Kennedy Space Center, I don’t have any pics up yet.

Rocket Garden

Saturn 5 Rocket

Apollo Command and Service Modules

Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit

Space Shuttle “Atlantis”

In the meantime, after reading numerous reviews that suggest the Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air sleeping pad isn’t all that warm, I settled on the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm.  At 15 oz, it’s just 3.1 oz heavier than my current pad, a non-insulated Exped UL 7.5, and the XTherm is highly regarded as being warm.  An extra 3.1 oz for a much warmer pad is not a bad trade-off.  Receiving a 20% off coupon from REI in the mail sealed the deal, as I didn’t expect getting a better discount anytime soon.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

I’ve always inflated my one-person Exped by mouth.  For our Exped Dou pad, we use Exped’s Schnozzel pump sack, which serves double duty as a dry sack.  I really should be using it for both.  Helps to prevents moisture from accumulating and funk growing on the inside of the pad.

Exped Schnozzel inflation bag/dry sack

Compared to the Schozzel, Therm-a-Rest’s pump sack sucks.  It doesn’t want to stay attached to the pad during inflation and since the Therm-a-Rest valve is not a check valve, it takes a bit more effort to inflate the pad.  Air wants to escape when you go to refill the pump sack.  Works but FAR from ideal.  Seeing as how so many people are equally frustrated by Therm-a-Rest’s pump sack/valve design, a variety of methods have been devised to deal with it.  I’ll see if one of those will work and go from there.  Here’s a slick way of adapting the Schozzel to work with the Therm-a-Rest that solves the blow-back issue and retains the ability to use the Schozzel with your Exped.

Loonie and I hope to make a return to the Ozark Trail in MO sometime in March.  Just a long weekend to try to wrap up the Taum Sauk section before moving on to the Courtois section at a later date.  Late April, Deep Woods and I will head back to the AT to pick up our trek North from Damascus, VA.  In the Fall, Loonie and I are looking at possibly returning to the AT to do another section in the North.  Things are pretty crazy on the home front right now so we’ll just have to wait and see what we can squeeze in. 

More to come…

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