Pre-Shenandoah Update

A quick update before we set off.  Loonie and I are heading to the Shenandoahs soon, the plan being to complete the AT through the park as well as fill in the gap between there and Bears Den Hostel.  We’ll then jump up to Boiling Springs, PA and stroll back to Pine Grove Furnace SP.  If all goes well, I’ll have everything from Rockfish Gap in VA all the way up to Boiling Springs, PA.  Then it will be up to Deep Woods and I to plug up the hole between Pearisburg and Rockfish Gap over the next couple of years.  Roughly 230 or so miles.  I’m not counting chickens just yet.  Any number of things could happen between now and then and if they were going to happen, this would be the year!

Now, some thoughts about this last hike with Deep Woods.  First, a couple of gear-related things.  One, I believe we’ve both given up on the BeFree filter.  Each of our filters succumbed to sediments picked up from having to draw water from some less than desirable sources.  And I think we were as cautious as one could expect under the circumstances not to stir up any sediments.  The flow rate of each filter became abysmal and had the trip gone on much longer, I’m relatively certain they would have reached the point of being unusable.  No amount of “swishing” or “shaking”, Katadyn’s approved methods of restoring flow, did the trick.  Once back home, I tried soaking it in distilled water and vinegar.  No better.  Loonie messed with it for a bit, resorting to poking a skewer through the slots in the plastic housing and gently moving the filter fibers around while letting water run over it.  Mind you, Katadyn specifically states in the manual to NOT DO THIS!  Upon describing what she had done, I knew there was no way we could take the chance of using the filter again.  However, her little experiment really shed some light on what is possibly the BeFree’s Achilles Heel.  A lot of sediment ran out of the filter in the process.  Seems that sediment becomes lodged in and between the filter fibers, so much so that no amount of swishing or shaking will dislodge it.  I always carry chlorine dioxide tablets as a backup so had the BeFree failed we would have been fine.  But, I think that for the time being I’ll stick with the Sawyer Micro or pick up a Sawyer Squeeze.  The flow rate of either of those is decent and they can be back flushed.  Tried and true.

Another gear-related item: you may have noticed from the pics from this last trip with Deep Woods that I used the boat anchor Osprey pack.  In a previous post, I mentioned that Loonie and I had assembled a craft paper mockup of a new frame-less pack.  All of the materials and hardware necessary to build both the cheap prototype and final product were purchased.  I was good to go.  Then I came to the conclusion that with the various changes I had made in gear over time, a frame-less pack was simply unsuitable, especially considering the fact that I’m typically starting off each trip with seven or more days worth of consumables.  A simple, lightweight framed pack would better suit my needs.  I have the ULA Catalyst that I purchased as the replacement for the Osprey.  At a little over 2 lbs, its less than half the weight of the Osprey and that will be my go to for now.  For solo trips though, even it is WAY more pack than I require.  It’s cavernous!  So, since I already have the materials necessary to build a pack, I’ll make some design changes to incorporate a frame.  It’s either that or find something off the shelf.  We’ll see.

As for non-gear related thoughts, it basically boils down to this: I’m not getting any younger and the notion that I can simply sit on my butt, not exercise and eat junk day in and day out and then get up and hike miles over challenging terrain is ridiculous.  Oh, I somehow manage to do it but it becomes more difficult each time and the time I spend actually enjoying myself becomes less and less.  That’s NOT what this is supposed to be about.  There are some deep-rooted issues that are part of my aversion to eating well and exercising and those certainly need to be dealt with.  Deep Woods always says it comes down to a complete change in lifestyle.  I’m the type that is resistant to change.  I simply don’t like it and will often fight it in spite of the fact that I may be miserable in my current state.  Maybe it’s fear.  Regardless, some things need to change!

It should come as no surprise that the two years I made a concerted effort to lose weight and get into shape were FAR more enjoyable hikes.  There will always be challenging terrain and there will typically be some degree of pain during a serious hike on the Appalachian Trail.  That’s just how it is.  But each of the two years that I stepped on the trail physically prepared were, not surprisingly, much easier.  That translated into more time to observe all of the amazing things around me.  And that is exactly why I’m out there.

Note: I had to put down a chocolate cupcake to finish typing this.  Not off to a good start.

More to come…

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