Spent two nights by myself at Lake Somerville State Park last weekend. It was my second trip without the guys and it’s getting easier. I’m learning to rely on myself and it feels pretty good. The park has a 13-mile trailway that I thought would be good to practice on without getting myself in too much trouble. The plan was to do an easy 3.5 mile hike the first night to break in my new shoes, pack up in the morning to practice with my tent and go to the next campsite 6.3 miles further, then do the 9.8 back to the car on day three. Thanks to duck hunters and my sense of self-preservation I had to change my plans up a bit. I did the 3.5 the first day and then took a day pack for a 10.7 mile hike the next day, coming back to the same camp for night two. I didn’t get as much time with the full pack as I wanted but I was glad to get in the miles anyway. Considering that I haven’t really gotten off the couch since Thanksgiving, I’m choosing to be proud of myself even if it didn’t work out like I’d planned.
The last time I used my backpack I was 20 lbs heavier. I don’t know if it’s just a psychological thing but everything felt lighter this time. Not having to carry 20 lbs of extra body fat in addition to a 30 lb pack felt great. Plus, rockin’ a hip belt muffin top doesn’t exactly make a girl exude confidence. I’ve still got 20 more lbs to go but I’m happy with my slow and steady progress so far.
I tried out my new Yvette Zip Front Sports Bra. I thought a zip front bra would be easy to take off in crowded shelters without flashing everyone the ladies. The bra is super comfy, has a bit of fabric on the inside to keep the zipper from rubbing against skin, the back doesn’t make you feel like you have some crazy armpit back fat that everyone is staring at, only gives you a mild case of uniboob, and comes off easily like expected. Unfortunately, it’s also really hard to get back on … which defeats the whole stealthy shelter change idea. Oh well. I’m still glad I bought it and will use it to jog around the neighborhood.
The best part of the trip was trying out new gear:
- One of my brothers got me a pair of Black Diamond Trail Back trekking poles. I’ve never used trekking poles before. Once I got the height right, and got into a good rhythm, I was flying down the trail. I always thought they looked dorky but I totally get it now. They’re awesome … like you’re on one of those moving walkways at the airport … which I just Googled and found out are also called autopedescalators. My autopedescalator poles are awesome! I think I’ll get some tip protectors for them, though. After the first couple miles, I looked down to find a nasty leaf/poop kebab at the end of one of the poles. Plus, the tips make bad noises on rocks. A few reviews I read on these said the place where the straps attach to the handles rub your hands raw but I didn’t find that to be the case. The grip was comfortable although I don’t have anything to compare it to since these are the first ones I’ve used.
- I tried the Sawyer Squeeze Filter on some water I pumped from a well meant for horses. It was easy to use, just fill the pouch and squeeze. I’ve heard of some bags breaking but they seem sturdy to me so far. I was kinda concerned about viruses because of the potential for livestock contamination so I saved the water I brought for drinking and boiled the filtered water for dinners. The filter only removes bacteria and protozoa which is just fine for what I’ll need on the AT. Maybe I was being paranoid but I like my gastrointestinal tract intact. I just figured why risk it if I didn’t have to and I was going to boil the water for food anyway so it might as well be the horse water instead of the tap water I brought from home. Oh and I liked that I could roll up the bags once they were empty and tuck them out of the way.
- I got to use my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 tent finally. It was easy to set up and had plenty of room for me to sleep with my pack inside too. The height inside leaves something to be desired but I imagine I’ll get used to it. The temp was in the low 40’s at night so there was an understandable amount of condensation on the inside of the rainfly in the morning but no water inside the tent itself so no biggie … until I tried to put my jacket on and pushed the mesh sides of the tent so they were touching the wet rainfly. It was just a little bit of water but enough to be annoying. The next morning was better but like playing the game Operation trying not to touch the sides. So she’s got some quirks but I’m okay with them. It’s a freestanding lightweight tent and held up in the rain, which is exactly what I was looking for.
- Finally, at the risk of accentuating my noobness, I hung my first food bag! I chose the PCT method of bear bagging because it looked easy. I used the pole splint that came with my tent instead of a stick and it worked out just fine. It looked maybe a little low? I’m not good at judging distances. I couldn’t tell if it was because I picked a branch that was too low or because I tied the stick too low because I’m short. Either way, there’s no bears here so I figured it was fine.
It was a great trip except for the hair on the inside of my camera lens that showed up in all the pictures. No wildlife but thanks to the rain there were lots of fun animal tracks to photograph. I think with all my free time I’ll try to learn what some of them are. I’m never sure if they’re just dog tracks or a funny shaped stick some kid picked up. I, also, assume all dog prints are coyotes because it’s more fun to think that way. The horse is pretty obvious. :)