You may recall that Loonie and I had the privilege to meet hiking legend Nimblewill Nomad back in April. He’s was passing through Fontana Village on his way to becoming the oldest person to ever thru hike the Appalachian Trail. I’ve been following along with his adventures for many years now, so to say that I was over-the-top elated to talk with him would be an understatement. Congrats to Nimblewill for successfully completing his trek on November 7th. Pretty remarkable!
Now then, here’s a quick recap from this year’s trips:
- Loonie and I got to spend a brief amount of time at the end of April exploring the SE quadrant of GSMNP, an area we hadn’t seen that much of. That was amazing and turned out to be quite an adventure. As mentioned above, we also got to meet Nimblewill.
- Deep Woods and I knocked off another small chunk of the AT, ending the trip just south of McAfee Knob. While it got a bit too warm for my liking, it was still a great hike. One I would gladly do again in cooler weather.
- And of course, this latest trip to GSMNP. Wasn’t what we originally planned to do but I’m sure glad we did. I don’t know that I can add anymore to what’s already been said. The weather was spectacular and we got to do a lot of nice trail. And we had a lot of time to ourselves, which was something sorely needed. Loonie struggled a bit but she’ll tell you that it was a remarkable trip as well.
As for what’s ahead, no sooner than I say that we’re going to do “A”, something will happen or we’ll change our minds and we’ll wind up doing “B”. One thing seems certain: Deep Woods and I will part ways for a time. Loonie really wants to be a part of this AT adventure Deep Woods and I have been on and I don’t want to exclude her. Nor do I want to hold Deep Woods back. Neither does Loonie. The three of us will likely hike together up to McAfee Knob and possibly Tinker Cliffs, at which point he’ll blaze ahead. She and I will then settle into our typical “mosey mode” and take our own sweet time. We’ll shoot for ending the trip at Glasgow, breaking the trip up into short sections over a two week period. A snail could make better time but we could care less! Since I’ve done everything from the start of the Shenandoahs up to Boiling Springs PA, roughly 260 miles, Deep Woods has a bit of catching up to do anyway. Maybe we’ll get the opportunity to do some of the trail together again someday. I sure hope so because its been a lot of fun.
Beyond that trip, your guess is as good as mine. We still hope to do the Buffalo River Trail in Arkansas. That would probably happen in November. We’ve talked about doing more sections of the Ozark Trail in Missouri or the River to River Trail in Illinois. Those are so much closer to home that it’s a no-brainer. However, before we even started walking on this last trip, I was already thinking of more trail in GSMNP that I would love to do. If only I could retire.
We decided to take advantage of the recent 20% off deal going on at REI to upgrade the JetBoil. The old SolTi is showing it’s age. About 1/3 of the heat exchanger fins have come apart and fallen off. That can’t be helping our fuel consumption rates. Loonie loves the JetBoil so we went with the the Flash. I’m not wild about the weight but it is what it is. The larger pot will come in handy. I suppose we’ll use the SolTi for 1-2 night trips until the burner itself gives up the ghost.
I also picked up a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Hoodie at a decent discount from REI. The Ghost Shadow is the synthetic cousin of the ever-popular down Ghost Whisperer. I love my old Montbell Thermawrap but have been wanting a hooded jacket. Either the Thermawrap Parka or the Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex jacket would fit the bill but the Ghost Shadow was a great deal and the weight penalty was so negligible that I couldn’t pass it up. We’ll see how it performs.
A few other upgrades we’re considering…
- We go through a ridiculous amount of water each day and the whole “squeeze” thing gets to be pretty time consuming. A gravity system would make more sense but I need to do more research. Possibly a Platypus Gravity Works? It’s tried and true. I’m currently playing with our Sawyer Squeeze, using a couple of fittings, tubing and a 2L Platypus to come up with a gravity feed setup. If the flow rate is acceptable, we’ll look for a larger “dirty” water bag and leave it at that.
- We’re contemplating sending the dual quilt back to Enlightened Equipment to have more down added. We’ll give it a gentle washing in the tub and see how well the down bounces back. Probably wouldn’t hurt to contact EE to get their input as well. We love that quilt!!!
- The Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo has served us well. Plenty of space. But…since it’s the cheaper “Outfitter” model, at 3.5 lbs, it’s heavy. The other thing that concerns me is the fact that you have to expose the inner of the tent to insert the short, curved ridge poles. So far, we’ve never been caught setting it up in a downpour but if we ever did, the inner would get drenched. The ridge poles add to the fiddle-factor of pitching the tent as well. I like simplicity!!! One option may be the Durston X-Mid 2P. It’s roomy, simple to pitch, reasonably priced and 1.5 lbs lighter. And it goes up fly-first, meaning no drenched inner should it start pouring. There’s a DCF version of the 2P coming and it’s supposed to weigh a tad over 20 oz. That would shave a whopping 2.25 lbs off of our current shelter weight! Of course, that won’t come cheap and I don’t know that Loonie would go for that.
I suppose that’s about it. My Osprey pack will probably be mothballed and I’ll switch over to using the ULA Catalyst going forward. The Catalyst is better than 2 lbs lighter and has just as much volume. I’ve been very salivating over the packs SWD (Superior Wilderness Designs) is now making using the Ultra200 & 400 Ecopak material. One of those would be nearly $400 though. So long as the ULA is functional, I simply can’t justify the expense.
Beyond that, there’s not really anything we need besides more food and fuel to get back out there. Ahhh…more vacation time. Unfortunately, I don’t have any days to spare for now. It’s gonna be a LONG winter!
More to come…