Friday, March 27, 2009

10 days in the wilderness

I'm leaving tomorrow at 7:30 AM for a 10 day backpacking trip. I'm so excited. I will get to try out some Gossamer Gear, too, since I'll be hiking with an official GG gear tester. I'll try their hiking poles and possibly a Mariposa Plus pack, if it fits me.

I'm not bringing a tent. Just a tarp.

I hope my camera batteries hold up!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guide book

I went through my torn up guide books and put the pages back in order. I seem to be missing one page from the area around Ash Camp in Northern California. I have two N. Cal guide books, but I hate to tear up the other one just for that page. I guess I will xerox it.

As I put the pages back in order I felt overwhelmed at the effort of getting ready once again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rent free on the PCT

I finally did my taxes. I haven't gotten a refund in a long time. With my refund and the two "get out of rent free" cards my boyfriend gave me for my birthday, I'll be able to hike the PCT without paying any rent.

It's a bummer to see how little money I made last year. It's even worse this year.

I am starting to miss having a good job. I'm missing having any job at all. I like my database class. Maybe when I return from the PCT I'll be able to get something more technical than what I had in the past. Maybe not right away. What do I have to show for my time off other than a lot of walking and listening to whales?

Sigh. Gotta always be thinking about that darn resume.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lots of hiking coming up

I had fun last weekend on a car-camping/hiking trip with Tony. We explored part of my route to the PCT. Some of it was in good condition. Some of it no longer exists. I have to forge a new route. Looks like there will be a lot of arduous road walking.

This weekend I'm going to hike in to Southfork Station with the Volunteer Wilderness Rangers, do some kind of volunteer work which I do not know, then a week later Tony and our friend Paul will hike in and the three of us will do the Sisquoc loop together.

That means I'll be out in the wilderness for 10 days in a row. That's a long time without a resupply. My food weighs more than my gear and my pack fits horribly with so much weight. I'm not too sure about this ultralight pack. I hope the weather will be good the whole time.

Meanwhile, I made a sunshade for my backpack. It's going to be really hot walking all those roads around I5 and Highway 138 around the beginning of June. I don't think I will try it out on our trip. Maybe on some day hikes. It looks like a big silver hat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Poof. I'm unemployed.

Just like that it's all over. I walked in to work today with about 20 minutes of tape left to analyze. After 5 hours, I marked my last whale and that was it. No more job.

Now my job is to hike every day. I may also run.

I plotted on the google maps satellite view some of the trail I may do on my walk from Santa Barbara to the PCT. This weekend Tony and I will go out and examine the area to get a better sense.

Monday, March 16, 2009


They are letting me hike the PCT again and they're letting me into Canada. Thank goodness I'm still worthy of Canada.

I have my permits. I have my gear. I'm all set except for the resupply issue. I suppose I should think about that a little bit.

Mostly I'll just wing it, but I need to plan out the resupply for the beginning and maybe take some notes about Oregon and Washington so I'm not completely in the dark.

Next weekend Tony and I are going to preview the area where my proposed route meets the PCT, around Pyramid Lake and I5. A friend of mine suggested hiking more toward highway 138. He seemed to think that I could walk comfortably along the road, or that there might be a trail near the road. Perhaps there's something leading to Pine Mountain Road. Tony and I will try to check it out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

One year ago today

It has been one year that I have been out of work. Well, I do have a job, but I mean, one year ago today was my last day at my high-paying tech job. Since then I've managed to survive without a high salary, and part of the time without a salary at all. That's what saving your money can do for you.

Sigh, I guess I'll get back to studying for my SQL class. Just because I don't have a tech job now doesn't mean I won't have one again. Saving money isn't really possible when you are as low-paid as I am now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shelter for the PCT

Trying to figure out which shelter/rain gear system is the best for me this year. Basically my choices are to use a tent and an umbrella, a large tarp and an umbrella or a small poncho with a bivy sack and no umbrella. All these systems also make use of my Houdini windshirt, which is not capable of keeping you dry in a downpour, yet has kept me dry riding my Vespa on rainy days in Santa Barbara.

Here's the weight breakdown. Looks like the poncho system wins on weight. The guy lines couldn't possibly make up for the weight of the other options. It is, however, less luxurious in the rain. Fortunately the PCT doesn't experience a lot of rain. I suppose I could toss the 8x10 tarp into my gear for Washington where it's likely to be the rainiest. Having some extra space when you're hunkered down against the rain would be nice.

None of these includes seam sealing weight.

Shelter/Rain Gear
Option 1
The One tent 16 oz
Houdini windshirt (not waterproof) 4 oz
umbrella 10 oz
+A16 Bug Net as an extra 6 oz
Total: 36 oz
Option 2
8x10 tarp 14 oz
guy lines ?
A16 Bug Net 6 oz
Houdini windshirt (not waterproof) 4 oz
umbrella 10 oz
Total: 34 oz + guy lines
Option 3
Poncho tarp 10 oz
guy lines ?
A16 Bug Net 6 oz
Houdini Windshirt (not waterproof) 4 oz
Equinox bivy sack 6.5 oz
Total: 26.5 oz + guy lines

It pleases me the poncho system is the lightest. A goal I have for this year's hike is to be closer to the natural world, to sleep more outdoors. Another goal is to lessen my pack weight. The poncho system does both!

Here's another way to look at this:
Pros and cons

Generous shelter in rainGenerous shelter against mosquitosSun protectionOption to sleep outside
Option 1: The tent option, 36 ozxxx
Option 2: The tarp option, 34 ozxx
Option 3: The poncho option, 26.5 oz


So the question is, with a half pound to 3/4 pound advantage in weight over the tent system, is the relative deprivation of the poncho worth it? Will its advantages make up for the disadvantages?

Since I did not outline the advantages of the poncho, here they are. These are advantages the poncho system has that the others do not:
  1. Campsite selection requires less space
  2. Half a pound or more less weight
  3. Quicker to put up and take down
  4. Closest to nature
  5. Ultralight chic

Monday, March 09, 2009

Made my own mosquito netting for my poncho

I bought a piece of mosquito netting in Lone Pine last year hoping I could use it somehow to eat my dinner in peace from the buzzing swarms of mosquitos. It never did work out. I saved it hoping to find a use someday.

It occurred to me that I could possibly fashion some kind of mosquito netting for my poncho tarp. Well, after fiddling with it, I managed to create something that might work. I will have to set the tarp up very low to the ground because the netting only covers the front. I will have to make sure all three sides are right against the ground so that mosquitos can't fly in under. Fortunately I am short so I still fit inside.

Here is what it looks like:

It wraps around the front and attaches to the tent pegs in the far corners with some elastic that I threaded through a seam.

Here's a close up of where it attaches.

The elastic holds the netting on snug and yet the netting is easily removed if I do not need it. I did not have to sew or glue on anything new to the poncho itself.

I can get in and out relatively easily, too. I added more elastic cordage to the front bottom corners so that I can loop them through the front tent pegs and ensure the netting stays put.

I will have to find an opportunity to test it where there are mosquitos.

The poncho with the netting is lighter than my tent and almost as comfortable inside. All I need now is a way to make an attachable front panel that is rain resistant, similar to the netting. Then my poncho would be decent, comfortable shelter in the rain. I bet I could use a polycro ground sheet.

This is fun.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Tested some gear last night

Me in my Golite poncho tent
I went for a gear testing overnighter last night. I hiked up the Romero trail and over to Blue Canyon. I camped in Blue Canyon. In the morning I hiked up the trail to Forbush Flat and then up and over the Cold Spring trail. Tony dropped me off and picked me up, finding me ambling down Hot Springs road, having been unsuccessful in my attempt to meet the Sierra Club on their hike. I was going to try to Yogi a ride from them.

Gear I tested:

Gossamer Gear G4 backpack

I put most of the gear I would theoretically take on the PCT (theoretically since I was testing some other gear, too) and only one day of food and water in the pack and set off. Measured unscientifically on the bathroom scale, my pack weighed about 9lbs without the food and water. It felt like nothing. It was relatively small, too. Nobody once asked me where I was going as they would if my pack had been more obviously a backpacking pack. Going ultralight is actually a bonus for the single female backpacker. I ought to get an even more stealth-looking pack than the G4.

I put the foam that comes with the pack in the shoulder straps instead of extra socks. I didn't want to carry any extra socks. I don't see a need for padding in the waist straps. They feel fine without it.

I did not like how my back got all sweaty. I tried putting my pad in the sleeve and then inside the pack but either way, it was just too sweaty. Then I thought what if I put my camelback bladder against my back instead. That worked great! The cold water cooled my back and it only pressed against a narrow strip of my back, meaning I got much less sweaty. I will try to fashion something to hold the camelback in place.

One thing that definitely was bad was cutting my z-rest in half. It doesn't work with my sleeping quilt having two halves to try to keep together. I would have stayed a lot warmer with a whole pad. I had cut it in half so it would fit in my pack in the sleeve, but since I don't like it in there, I can go back to a whole pad.

Golite poncho tarp with a bivy sack and A16 bug bivy

Many ultralighters swear by this system of carrying a poncho to do double-duty as shelter and rain gear. I decided I would try it out to see if I even like it.

Well, I really liked it. The poncho formed a cozy little hidey-hole for me to sleep under. It felt pretty spacious. If it had sprinkled a little light rain, I would have stayed dry. If it had rained some real rain with wind and everything, I think I would have gotten miserably wet. I could set it up differently for that kind of situation and probably survive, but that's what it would be: survival.

Still, it felt freeing to not need a tent at all and know that I was protected from most of the elements.

The bivy sack was nice to have. It was unexpectedly cold last night. Below freezing. I used my down quilt, which is rated to 20 degrees, but if there are any gaps, the micro-breezes get in and make me cold. The bivy helped add a little warmth and protection from the micro-breezes. Not a lot, but enough. I was cold a few times, but most of the time I was toasty warm.

There weren't any bugs to speak of. A few spiders and beetles and a cute little inchworm ambled around my stuff, but no mosquitos. I tried the bug bivy anyway just to see if I would be happy in it.

I was able to read my book in bed for a while, so there was enough room for that. Sleeping under it I never even noticed it was there. But if that was the only space I could have relief from the swarms, I think I might go nuts. I think in the heavy mosquito country my The One tent is a better choice than the poncho/bivy/bug bivy option.

So, I think I will start out hiking with the poncho and send the tent to myself for the mosquito months. I am not sure what to do about the rainiest parts of the trail. Perhaps the Equinox tarp would work for that. I will have to see if I can wear it as a poncho somehow.

Why even bother to go without a tent? I just really like the feeling of not having a tent, not being inside, and being closer to nature. In truth, I thought the poncho was too much between me and nature, but I did want to test out the whole enchilada, and it probably helped keep me warm on what turned out to be quite a chilly night.

Homemade alcohol stove

I made an alcohol stove out of red bull cans the other day. I tested it in the back yard and it worked. I got to use it in the field and it worked great. The only downside to it is that it's hard to see if I've put too much alcohol in it until the alcohol is running out of the holes in the side. Maybe I will learn its capacity after a while.


Nido is powdered whole milk. I have always used Milkman, which is powdered 2% milk. Milkman is just palatable enough with that little extra fat in it. But they are no longer making it.

I found Nido at a grocery store in a latino neighborhood. Oh my god! It's delicious! I think I will stop putting soy milk on my cereal and use Nido instead. It's good enough to be real food, not just backpacking rations.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Permit requests are in the mail

I mailed in my PCT permit application and my request for permission to enter Canada today. I also printed out my campfire permit.

As I walked down to Kinko's to xerox my passport I thought about how much I would love to be out on the trail right now.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


I received a Golite poncho. I practiced setting it up as a tarp tent in the backyard. I have doubts I could stay dry and be comfortable at the same time. Here is a picture.

There's not a lot of room under there. The roof is very close to my body, even without a sleeping bag. I think I would constantly touch the roof and knock off any condensation onto myself. But I do have a bivy sack, so if I brought this poncho on a trip to use as shelter in the rain, I would also have to make sure I have the bivy. Fortunately it does not rain much where I live. You can usually believe the weather report when no rain is forecast. It's when rain is forecast that the weather report is hard to trust. Might rain, might not, or it might be the next Noah's flood.

As a little half-pyramid, the poncho makes a happy little home. This would provide me with shelter from the wind and privacy. Not much shelter from rain, however.

I will practice some more with the poncho if I can. Hopefully I can practice in real-world conditions. Not in the rain in my back yard but out on a real camping trip.

My Equinox 8x10 tarp is much more comfortable as a shelter. And it weighs close to the same as the poncho. When I hold each one in my hands I can barely tell the difference in weight. The poncho serves double-duty as rain gear, so that's its only benefit over the Equinox tarp. I think I could probably wear the Equinox tarp as a cape, though, in a pinch. If it rained that much, I might as well just set up the tarp and wait inside for the rain to stop.

Here's a picture of my Equinox palace. My back yard is a little too small to set it up. It's very cozy inside. I would not need a bivy sack inside this tarp. There's almost no way to get wet with so much space.

I am now faced with trying to decide what kind of sleeping/camping experience to have on the PCT this year. Neither of these two shelters provides any bug protection. My tent does. It's very comfortable. But last year I wanted to sleep in the open more and bugs prevented me from doing that, as did a desire for privacy.

Probably my best option is to take my tent for weather, privacy and bugs and my new bug bivy for bugs only and leave both these tarps at home. But I'm still trying to decide. There is a fun factor with the tarp that the tent does not provide.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Waiting for the PCT

Something wonderful awaits me out there and the waiting is killing me.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Got a raise

Red letter day: I got a raise at work.

I can't remember the last time I got a raise. In the corporate world, they don't give raises anymore. They give excuses, pay cuts and lay offs. Sometimes they even give you raisins, which don't fool me. The word "raisins" sounds like "raise", but raisins are not the same as a raise. When I was in the corporate world, despite all the praise, which again sounds like "raise" but is not the same, I had not seen a raise in years. But I got one at my humble job listening to whales.

They told me I get a raise because I am reliable, work more than the hours I committed to, I make good decisions (about what calls to count and how to classify them) and because I don't create more work for them. How about that? A merit raise for doing a good job. It's like the good old days again.

I built a chimney stove

Well, it took me two tries, but I managed to make a chimney stove just like the one on Zen Stoves. I think mine came out a little shorter. On the first try, I put the top part on before I punched the holes. Oops.

I filled my pot and put it on the pot stand and put the wind screen around it. It boiled water and seemed to be capable of holding enough fuel to boil enough water for noodles.

It's lighter than the other one I made and it smelled a bit like raspberry candy as it burned. That is because of the Red Bull that was in it. I poured that nasty stuff down the drain rather than drink it.

My stove cost me $5.25 to make since I used two Red Bull cans and bought them from a gas station. I had hoped someone at work drank Red Bull and I could fish some cans from the recycling. No luck.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Making stoves

I took a stab at making an aluminum alcohol stove today. It did not work very well.

I'm going to try again with smaller cans like the tiny V-8 cans. I compared the one I made today with the stove I made a few weeks ago and the weight difference is large enough that I would like to try again.

I bought a poncho

So, I decided to buy someone's used poncho. I am going to practice setting it up as a tarp tent in my yard and hopefully on some overnight trips, too.

I have a large tarp that weighs as much as my The One tent, so I can't see any advantage to bringing my large tarp just for myself. It's only a plus when Tony will be there and we need to sleep two under it.

I couldn't see any advantage to using a poncho tarp instead of The One, either. The One is well-built, comfortable, spacious, easy to set up, and keeps me dry and warm. But for a mere $35 I can at least have a little fun with a poncho.

The poncho system has some advantages over a tent. It appeals to me to have the option of either having roof or not, adding a bivy (for rain or added warmth) or not, using the bivy without the sleeping bag when it's hot (I remember some really hot nights when even having the bag next to me was uncomfortable) and using the bug net without any of the other items when conditions fit. It is hard to justify carring two shelter systems when one or the other will do. So I kind of see this as having to decide between a system with many options vs. a system with fewer options.

Fun with my gear is part of what I enjoy about hiking anyway. A friend was telling me about a trip where everyone carried some of the cooking gear and food, but the trip leader did all the cooking. I would rather play with my own stove than have someone do my cooking.

So even though I really love my The One, I think it will be fun to play with this other system, too. We'll see what I end up liking the best after giving all this a try.