Time to hit the Trail

IMG_5610UPDATE: seems that the new trail shoes I wore need more than a day break in.  They are ZeroDrop and might be the reason I had hip pain after the trail turned uphill at 9 miles. Fortunately Stanna was still in Denver the next day and picked me up after 17 miles.  Another day for the CT.

Original Post: In the spirt of “how many summers … left,” it’s time to hit the trail again. The CT has been a nagging specter in my backyard ever since I started UltraLight hiking. And since summer is more than half over for some of us, now is the time to get that ogre taken care of. The hike shouldn’t be a problem: it’s the prep and logistics that is so onerous.

Matt Zion – Version 6It’s first presence was that young fellow I met 17 days out of Denver with a base weight of 7 pounds. With his UL zPacks pack and umbrella tucked in the side sleeve it, he made the the trail seem easy. He was zipping along the Colorado Trail making 33 miles a day. I tried to see what that pace was like a couple years back, and don’t want to try that again. It was easier to mimic his base weight than do that back-to-back mileage, but he had 50 years on me, or better said, “off me”.

Here’s the trail, since it’s hard to imagine.

CT One Line

IMG_5613Food; the quantity and logistics of arranging “drops” is the most work, especially if you decide to hike the CT at the last minute. A sensible thru-hiker would plan this 24+ day adventure well in advance, packing and sorting caches for various stages along the route. But…

Some of us UberLite HDD types try to sort it in a weekend.  Fortunately I’ve got a previously arranged commitment two weeks into the trail so arranging for half the drops could be postponed, but all the meals got packed from the stores covering two table tops.

The Menu honed over many other UL trips:


There won’t be many blog posts while I’m in the backcountry, however you can follow the track live by watching my Spot track.






IMG_1686We’ve been up in Portland to give Daniel’s family a new set of aprons as well as a little help with his new house remodel. Stanna made the aprons in the Thai style with cloth she brought back this spring. The house is 125 years old and if you go back a year in the blog you’ll see what we did to the house last year before they moved in. The main floor is virtually finished and now the concentration is on the full basement and second floor.

IMG_1685We razed the entire second floor last year. Now a second bathroom is the priority not to mention using that upstairs for a third bedroom. As with all “fixer-uppers” it’s been a tour d’ force working full-time, managing a large family and doing a major renovation. A week’s worth of help goes a long way toward the project even when it’s one old man doing nuisance tasks.

IMG_1687In just that week the old victorian home went from two to four useable bedrooms. For those who think assembly of IKEA furniture is a breeze, just look at how many it took to put together Julia’s new bed.

Fun to help, see the grand girls and Traci’s twin six-year-olds.



Fast Track


It’s been awhile since I’ve done a “Show & Tell” or “science fair” display but it seemed appropriate for the UL talk for the San Juan Mountain Association talk I gave with my mentor Will Rietveld last week.  Six years ago I attended one of his annual seminars on Ultralight backpacking, swallowing more Kool-Aide than anyone else.

When I joined Don Ahlert on the Southern Tier for a self-supported ride to Florida from Austin his recommendations influenced my first purchases of ultralight gear: a 30° MontBell SS 3 at 18oz and a NeoAir pad weighing 8oz. This gave me half the essentials for Utralight backpacking and over the next couple of years hiking with Will I’ve converted entirely to that UL sect.


One of the “props” used in the presentation was the 5 Gallon Bucket Rule: showing folks that all your gear, your base weight, should fit into a 5 gallon bucket.  So as Will pulled gear out of a conventional 40-pound pack and a Lightweight 20-pound pack, I pulled gear out of the bucket.

We didn’t expect everyone, or even anyone, to rise up and join the 10-pound Base Weight clan, but there were a few that showed interest in adopting the maximum threshold weights on basic gear for their next purchase.

IMG_5594This talk followed one the week before on GaiaGPS which was given to a similar crowd of Wilderness Information Specialists.  That app for a smartphone was an easier idea to “sell” since comes in at a far lower cost.  I’ll post a review of that GPS tracking software once I complete the draft.

Right now we’re in Portland working on Daniel’s house.

Grand Ol’ Time


What goes on on the river, stays on the river, until the photos start showing up in Dropbox, that is. It probably isn’t hard to tell who didn’t get the memo about bringing a costume for the traditional costume party, but the gals anticipated it with a few extra tutu’s and a kimono.

P1010899Rafting the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River is one of the “must do’s” on most outdoor recreation people’s bucket list.  I’ve been fortunately enough to have done it six times now and it’s still awe-inspiring in it’s majesty and constantly thought-provoking in it’s creation. Relative concepts of time are shattered contemplating what’s transpired on earth as evidenced in it’s exposed layers and fossils.

P1420709Having lost the use of my iPhone camera has limited the accompanying photos to those posted in Dropbox so far.  Suffice it to say, our Maravia raft flipped (I wasn’t on the oars) early in the trip in a “hole” at Tanner Rapid.  Nothing was lost off the boat other than the two guys that swam the remaining ¾’s of that white-water rapid. The rafts are typically “rigged to flip” by lashing all the gear down with river straps and nets. In the time that it takes to corral the raft to the shore-line and get 10 people on top to “right” the raft, my iPhone (which was inside a small water-tight bag, inside a water-tight day bag) got swamped probably due to the weight and pressure underwater.


A good time was had by all as you can see by the waterfall hike up to Elves Chasm where our group enjoyed jumping out of the cavern into the pool.  The 15-day trip was designed to maximize our hiking opportunities which are some of the best experiences along the P1010888river.  Many trails and slot canyons are only accessible from the river and as such, provide somewhat unique experiences, if you forget that 30,000 people get to float the “Grand” each year.  Since the traffic on the river is limited by permits, we often hiked without other groups and the camps are such that you might never see another group near your river camp.

The Little Colorado River confluence, Matkatamiba, Havasu and Deer Creek are the exceptions where the large commercial rafting companies always take their clients each day.  During the summer season there is only one private trip and four commercial trips launched each day.  The commercial trips are 7 to 10 days and move their clients quickly down the 225-mile river; many clients are helicoptered out after the famous Lava Falls Rapid experience at mile 179.

P1010900 (1)

Since this trip was primarily to support kayakers, the group rented five 18′ commercial-sized rafts with all the trip gear from Moenkopi Riverworks out of Flagstaff. Normally we’d bring our own 16′ rafts and gear but the group opted for a fully outfitted package: boats, gear and food.  Since it was a private trip we didn’t have any guides, cooks or swampers, providing all the “man-power” ourselves.  It was a new experience to see how a commercial trip is provisioned and outfitted.  Food and menus were great and our 16 members divided into crews of 4 to take turns preparing each day’s repast.

Google Earth Map shows approximately 225 miles from below the Hoover Dam at Marble Falls to Diamond takeout on the Hualapai Reservation.

Happy to be back home, but if you ever get an chance to “do the Grand” — private or even on a commercial trip — don’t pass it up.  It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

And I’ve now invested in a LifeProof case for my replacement iPhone.