Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trinity Alps Redux

The Trinity Alps were so nice, I was happy to have a chance to visit them again. Joined a trip with a few other BPL folks for a three day excursion up Canyon Creek trail.

Got a ride up with Jacob and Sandra on Friday, we didn't hit the trail until about 3 pm but with only five miles to hike, we had plenty of time before dark.

Sandra and Jacob

The fall colors are coming out, it isn't New England but still lovely none the less. We hiked up the same trail from my previous trip on Labor Day.

Most of the trail is through the forest and we found the side trail that led to where we were going to camp. It was a beautiful spot on the river and near a meadow that was well hidden from the trail.

We chilled in camp for the evening, drinking beer and enjoying the fire.

Saturday's agenda was to hike up the Boulder Creek trail to a couple of lakes. It was a pretty steep climb and the trail was quite rocky. Justin was hiking in his five finger shoes and must have had sore feet, although he didn't complain once.

Justin sporting his five finger shoes

Rest stop on the way up

We had a quick lunch at Boulder Creek Lake and then headed up to Forbidden Lakes. It was a nice little hike with a bit of bushwhacking to keep it interesting.

Looking over Boulder Creek Lake

The Forbidden Lakes were not quite as picturesque as Boulder Creek Lake but still worth the effort.

Forbidden Lake (upper)
We headed back down to camp, somehow losing Justin along the way. Fortunately, he found his way back to camp solo.

Another nice evening in camp enjoying the fresh air and good company.

All too soon it was time to hike out.

The Sinks

The Cast of Characters:




Sandra and Jacob


Thanks to Ken for organizing the trip and thanks to everyone for making it a great time.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sea to Summit Nano Pyramid Net Review

This piece of gear seems to have gone under the radar of many in the ultralight community. I have only found one review (Backpacking North) and very little discussion (Backpacking Light) about what is potentially the lightest and cheapest mosquito net option for pyramid style shelters. So, what is there not to love about a 3 oz pyramid style net that costs $50?

I bought mine from REI with a 20% discount, so it cost me $40 and I figured it was worth trying out. Other netting options for my Zpacks hexamid are quite expensive and I couldn't really justify the expense. Of course, it is hard to put a price on peace of mind, which becomes very valuable when being attacked by hungry, persistant and horribly annoying mosquitoes.

I don't recall where I first heard about the Sea to Summit Nano Pyramid Net but you can get the specs here:

Sea to Summit Nano at REI

I decided to take the net out on my last backpacking trip, not because I expected any bugs but just to see how it worked with my hexamid tarp.

The first thing I did was weigh it, many times manufacturers claims about weight are off but in this case it weighed in exactly at 3 oz. I think I can reduce this a little bit by trimming off the immensley long stretchy cord that is used to hang the apex of the net. Make sure you get the Nano, there is another non-nano version that weighs 3 times more.

Bug net set up under Hexamid
There are corner loops that can be used to attach the net to your tarp, if your tarp has loops or clips to attach to. The hexamid has these, as do many other pyramid style tarps.

I had to do some field modifications to keep the net from being too droopy and laying over my face. This net is not specifically designed for use with the hexamid, so I wasn't surprised that it didn't fit exactly. In fact, it fit a bit funny and I had to play around with it for a bit to get it into decent form. I found that clipping all four corners of the net to the tarp did not work out very well, so I ended up only clipping in 2 corners.

Rubber band and stick to take up slack

The elastic around the bottom of the net did an ok job of sealing off my sleeping bag, pad and bivy from the outside. There were a few small gaps that a persistant mosquito could get into. With some more fiddling these could probably be sealed but it is not a perfect fit.

I keep mentioning mosquitos because the netting is definately not fine enough to keep out noseeums and other really small insects. For me, in the West, this is not a big deal but those of you in the East, this might reduce the effectiveness of the netting. There is a bug repellent treatment applied to the netting, so this might provide some protection, but I am just speculating.

What came to mind for me as I was playing around with the netting was that it actually could be quite versatile. For example, if you want to eat your meal in peace, just drape the net over yourself and keep those pesky mosquitoes away. I can see this being very useful when stopping for lunch and you don't necessarily want to set up your shelter for a short period of time. Draping the net, takes almost no time and provides 100% mosquito protection.

And, perhaps more importantly, it can be used when Nature calls. You know there is almost nothing worse than trying to do your business, squatting over a freshly dug hole, and being ruthlessly bombarded, in very sensitive areas, by hundreds of mosquitoes that have been following you around. With some care, OK a lot of care, you could drape the netting over yourself and have a few minutes of peace with a nice relaxing poo.

So relaxing

That almost makes it worth the price right there and is one definite advantage this net has over many others which come with attached floors. As I carry a ground sheet, I do not require any floor with the net and so this allows it to be much more versatile.

To summarize, I think this net has a lot of potential. If you want a light, cheap bug net option and are willing to accept that it might not fit your shelter perfectly, I don't think you can go wrong with the Sea to Summit Nano Pyramid Net. Add to that, the ability to provide yourself a mosquito free zone when eating and excreting and you have a winner.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rae Lakes Loop

I managed to slip into Kings Canyon National Park just before my annual park pass expired. Definitely an $80 well spent. This trip was planned at the last minute, which seems to be the way I roll these days. I had originally planned to yo-yo the Lost Coast Trail but as the departure date got closer I wasn't feeling very well prepared. On top of that, I picked up a cold from Lori a few days  before I was supposed to leave. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do any trip but after a couple of days the cold didn't get any worse and I felt good enough for something mellow.

DAY 1 ~ 7 miles

I left the house on Sunday at 8:30 and made it to the trailhead by 3:00. Spent about a half hour lost in Fresno looking for a couple of items. The road into Kings Canyon is pretty awesome, it is a really steep, windy road that descends down into the canyon. The trailhead is at the very end of highway 180 (Road's End) so I just kept going until the road ran out.

Rae Lakes Loop

Be careful!
Going around the loop clockwise is a little easier than counterclockwise. There is a total elevation gain of 8000 feet but it is more of a gentle climb. I made my way out of the parking area and took a left into Paradise Valley. At about 4.5 miles I stopped for a bite to eat at Mist Falls. I think it must be much more spectacular in the spring, this time of year the water was fairly low.

Mist Falls

Looking up into Paradise Valley

A few miles after the falls I came across the first of 3 campsites. Camping is not allowed south of these campsites. It was about 6 pm and I was feeling like stopping so I threw down my gear and took care of camp chores before it got dark. A couple came into camp about a half hour after me. It was nice to have some company and we had an enjoyable chat.

Sara and Adam

There were plenty of deer and they were not too concerned with us being there.

Actually, I probably saw the most deer of any trip I have taken over the course of the hike. All of them looked quite young, perhaps there was a population boom a couple of years ago.

Toilet near camp, nice not to have to dig a hole but it was a little wonky

Day 2 ~ 7 miles

Slept in and was slow to get going. I knew I only had to hike about 7 miles so I wasn't too concerned about the time.

Meadow below Castle Domes

I don't usually make a fire but it seemed like the perfect moment. What a great way to spend the evening, sitting by the fire, reading a book and watching the stars go by.

Castle Domes under the starry sky

Temperatures were near ideal, highs in the mid 70's and just hovering around freezing at night. A little frost on my bivy in the morning but I was warm and snug.

Day 3 ~ 8 miles

I hooked up with the PCT/JMT, this is normally a very busy trail but at this time of year there was almost nobody. I really can't say enough how lovely the weather was, the timing was perfect. Early October can be hit or miss in the Sierras.

Fin Dome in the distance

The ranger station is really well hidden, I totally missed it on my way by. But I happened to look back when wetting my bandana in a stream so I went back to check it out.

Rae Lakes Ranger Station

I watched the sunset over Rae Lakes and enjoyed the blue hour before dark.

Day 4 ~ 9 miles

I was excited to go over Glen pass, the highest point on my trip at just under 12,000 feet. It is really cool to go over passes, I put myself into granny gear and climb. The feeling of taking step after step, breathing rhythmically and slowly ascending is my kind of meditation. Forget sitting on a cushion indoors somewhere, I will take fresh air and exercise any day.

View North from the top of Glen Pass

This is the view going down switchbacks towards Vidette Meadow
 At the junction with Bubb's Creek trail I turn right and head west back towards Road's End.

That night I camped at Junction Meadow, I had the place to myself, along with the deer of course.

I will admit, I got a bit lonely towards the end and considered pulling a long day and hiking back to the car. Fortunately, common sense overruled my momentary weakness. Who knows when I will be back here, I should enjoy it while I can.

Day 5 ~ 10 miles

Today, I wanted to get an early start, so I was on trail by 7:30 and cruising downhill the whole way. Dropped about 4000 feet back into Kings Canyon, which is why going clockwise is really much easier.

Cool water spigot at the trailhead

I was a little surprised as I started to get closer to the park that I wasn't seeing anybody. In fact, I didn't see a single person on the way down from Junction Meadow. I understood why when I reached the trailhead and saw these signs posted:

Our Government at work (not)

 Apparently, I missed the budget deadline while in the mountains and I am glad I got into the park when I did.  Isn't Government great?