Inch By Inch, Step By Step…

Another installment of my long, slow crawl to Katahdin is now complete.  Links to all of the pics here.  My total AT miles now stands at about 690.  Once again, we were blessed with great weather during the hike…and some nice shelters for when the skies opened up and rain began to fall.  We didn’t get those brilliant blue skies we were hoping for on most days but I’m not complaining.   All of the rock we experienced in Maryland is likely a sign of things to come in Pennsylvania, though I’m expecting much worse.  Rock aside, the grade was easy and there were some really nice, smooth sections of trail.  If you’re looking for something remote to get away from it all, I doubt this section will satisfy your thirst.  You’re never far from major road crossings and can expect traffic noise.  You’ll likely encounter a lot of people as well, especially as the weekend draws near or at the major view points and historic attractions along the way, in particular in and around Harpers Ferry.

And maybe a train or two!

If you’re into history, though, you won’t be disappointed.  Very cool!

Looking ahead, I don’t think we’ll see any trail time until next spring.  Loonie expressed interest in doing some overnight or weekend trips closer to home.  Awesome!  Unfortunately, I’ve drawn my vacation time down to critical status!  Need to get some days back in the bank for next season.  Come April or May, Deep Woods and I will pick up where we left off in Virginia this past May, Bear Garden Hostel just north of Atkins, and shoot for Pearisburg.  Loonie and I will then drive north and do the Pen Mar Road to Pine Grove Furnace State Park section in Pennsylvania.  Pine Grove Furnace is pretty much the half way point so if we make it there I’ll just need to wrap up Virginia.  I’ll be halfway to Katahdin.  Fingers crossed.  Come August, Loonie wants to head to Rocky Mountain National Park so I’m starting to research that now to insure we land the reservations and permits needed before they’re gone.

Also coming, I hope to pick back up on the new pack project.  Loonie and I put together a simple mockup made from craft paper earlier this year.  That looked good.  We then cut all of the pieces out of some cheap nylon left over from another project and were into the early stages of sewing things together when we had to stop.  More pressing matters came up.  Regardless, we’ll hold back on cutting and sewing any of the DCF until we’re absolutely certain things are dialed in.

Some further experiments with stoves and pots are on the horizon as well.  As I talked about in some previous posts, my trials with the MSR Pocket Rocket II confirmed that canister stoves of this type are neither practical nor safe when you factor in my tremors.  My hands are all over the place and moving any size or type of pot on and off of the stove is tricky at best.  The position of the regulator immediately below the burner and a pot of boiling water is a recipe for disaster!

MSR Pocket Rocket II

I’m becoming less comfortable using the JetBoil, fearing a severe scalding at any moment.  Alcohol stoves were ruled out almost immediately due to the difficulty in handling/dispensing of the alcohol.

The JetBoil Sol Ti (discontinued)

Denatured alcohol winds up all over the place and that means carrying yet more fuel, not to mention the fire hazard it presents.  I certainly don’t want my name associated with the next wildfire.

I really like the weight savings and simplicity of solid fuel such as Esbit.  A little hand sanitizer or Vaseline goes a long way in making it easier to light and using a shorter yet larger diameter pot or kettle along with a simple windscreen/pot support combo would be much easier and safer for me to handle.

My old Heineken keg / Titanium windscreen Esbit kit

The downfall of course with solid fuel, besides the greater length of time to reach a boil (if that’s even a concern) is the diminishing return with respect to weight as the trip gets longer.  At some point you’re carrying more weight in Esbit than a canister of Isobutane.  Loonie and I were doing multiple 2-cup boils each morning for breakfast and coffee and then again each evening for dinner and tea.  We also started boiling additional water in the morning to prepare a 700ml bottle of tea to sip throughout the day.  We burned though a lot of Isobutane on this last trip…and that was using the JetBoil.  Using Esbit would have been totally impractical.  Considering ever-widening burn bans and restrictions on the types of stoves you can use, going with a canister stove seemed to be the most logical choice but the crux is finding something safe to use.  I think I may have found a setup that’s suitable for our needs and spares me from going stove-less but I’ll share that in an upcoming post.

Last thing of note: Loonie did not carry the 35mm on this trip.  We strictly used our phones…ancient Samsung Galaxy Note 3’s.  These continue to perform just fine but I have to think that the cameras on the newer phones are infinitely better.  Neither of us relishes the thought of laying down the ridiculous amount of money to replace them but they won’t last forever.  Not that it would matter with my shaky hands but I’m sure she could do wonders.  She has an eye for capturing things I miss.  The small things that make up such a large part of the world we live in but never take the time to stop and look close enough to see.  Things we take for granted.

I regret not seeing what amazing things she could have captured with the Canon but it’s not exactly light (no, it’s downright heavy).  That said, I don’t think I could bring myself to ask her to carry it again.  In fact, at one point she turned to me and said “I don’t miss having to carry the camera”.  Enough said.

More to come…

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