i am restless. i can’t wait to pack the truck (i love a well packed pre trip truck, its almost as good as the trip itself. neat, clean, and organized) and just go, get out there and explore whatever but it never fails. i no more than clear cordes junction or sunflower and i start to miss the constant noise and commotion of my family. i have the urge to turn around and go home but i push through it because I need to get out as much as they need slash want me to get out. though my daughter torey has become a good day hiking partner for some strange reason the idea of a bivy on the highest point in the state of arizona didn’t sound as good to the new college freshman (my second kid in college) as it did to me. i know, strange right? kids today.
- bandana run through the end loop on the upper tightening strap of my eberlestock hunting half track lays nicely and is handy for sweat/snot
- check the best by date on your food/snacks-old nutter butters had me throwing up like a sig ep pledge during rush (az alpha fall 83 when men were men and fiji sheep ran scared). yea they tasted bad but you gotta keep the furnace burning with something and when you are running a super lean load out you don’t have a lot of choice. check the dates dumas or pay for it later
- put the clip on the sternum strap instead of the hat-when i am huffing and puffing i like to take my hat off to vent heat but there never seems to be a good place to put my hat so i added a little clip on the back
- when I use some of the duct tape that I have keep around my hiking pole make sure I check that there is enough for next time
- i need a small lightweight accurate thermometer. it isn’t necessary but it helps when testing gear
- swap in a couple new snack items, something with more substance to it like an odwalla banana nut bar. nutter butters are out i think
- add a medium food piece like a bagel for mid day fueling
- put a few stiches in the cargo pocket of my arbor wear ascender pants cargo pocket to keep my chap stick in the right place
- when choosing which insulation layer to bring, resist the urge to go with the lighter one and always go with the thicker one. yes it will add a few ounces but you might need it. go light and freeze at night is not a lot of fun and you will pay for the lack of good rest/sleep the next day. it is always easier to cool down than warm up in a cold weather bivy situation and running in a circle all night to keep warm sucks
- carry a couple of 20s with you. it makes hitching a ride with strangers a lot easier. remember the 60s adage “gas, grass, or ass…nobody rides for free” and don’t warn them how bad you smell before but be sure to apologize once you are in the car and moving
- your costco unscented butt wipes will dry out even if they are in a zip lock so check them periodically. they lack the necessary gription needed to be effective tp when they are dried out
- update the iTunes on your iphone and add some short books or podcasts, it helps the time go by when you are running around in a circle all night to keep warm
- make sure you have a bic lighter with you because that little piezo sparker thing on your jetboil will not work when you need it most. works great anytime i test it at home but it wouldn’t work at altitude and in the wind. w/o the bic my beef strog would have been cold
- when you are out there far from help you need to really concentrate on not doing something stupid like rolling an ankle, spilling your water, or letting your sleeping pad blow over the side. all it takes for a situation to go from a good story to a no shit survival situation is a little bit of absent minded carelessness so stay sharp if you are going to play on the ragged edge by yourself.
so i called my friends at the little ski lift lodge that sits at the base of the san fran peaks nw of flag and got myself a cheap room. it is not exactly the four seasons but it helps me acclimatize, they pour a mean crown and seven at happy hour, the food is tasty, and the service is good so i like it.
this time i had the bright idea of hitchhiking from the bottom parking lot to the trailhead seven miles up the road. so the morning after the night before i finished a quick breakfast and walked across the two lane. I set my pack down, took a 20 out of my zippered pocket, turned around and stuck my hand up in the air at the first car i saw. the next thing I know i am buzzing up the hill and dodging deer in a little car i wasn’t sure would make it. i will admit there was a little part of my brain that kept flashing a headline that read phoenix business executive robbed, killed, and tossed on side of skill hill road but everything turned out ok. I figure between the udap bear spray on my pack belt, the benchmade auto in my pocket, and three years of gracie training I could have at least made it sporting. anyway, from what i could get out of them (Indians, feathers not dots, i have known are not terribly talkative) these three guys work as day labors around flagstaff during the week (sleep in their car) then drive 2 and half hours back to some little town on the Navajo res for the weekend. they weren’t even going my way they just stopped because they thought I needed a ride and i thanked them for it. i got out, waved good by and hit the trail.
i had a few things i wanted to do on this trip. one, i wanted to take my time. i am by no means speedy anyway but i really wanted to take it all in because i don’t do that enough. and i wanted to work on controlling my perspiration ie how wet with sweat i allow my clothes to get so i stopped a lot to look around and i slowed my pace way down. two, I wanted to bivy at the summit and catch the sunset and sunrise from the highest point in arizona. third I wanted to give this version of my system a good shake out before hunting slash hiking season. I watch people on these hunting shows turn back and head for camp just as they find what they are looking for because it is too late in the day. Why don’t they just bivy and wake up in ’em the next morning? I will tell you why, they can’t do it. it is too much for them to handle and i understand. bivy hunting isn’t easy but it is the way i think it should be done and what I like to do. last, i wanted to do the loop which would mean coming off the top by way of the weatherford trail down to where it intersects with the kachina trail then take that back up to the trailhead in the snowbowl parking where I got dropped me off. that’s a pretty good hump.
all was going according plan until i met two of the most angry, sour, unhappy old liberals ever in of all places the summit. you have to be joking, right? first i was pretty impressed they were even up there, i didn’t say that, because they had to be at least 65 y/o and while the humphrys summit trail is not an everest ascent it isn’t easy either. any way, polite salutations barely even out of my mouth when she busts out a petition for some sedona issue she insists i sign. at the same time he is telling me how the whole damn town has been taken over by tea party people and that this country has gone to hell in a hand basket because of right wing conservatives. now i am about as strict constructionist small government low taxes less government speak softly and carry a big ass stick pro military as they come but the last thing in the world i wanted in that beautiful place was a political conversation so i bit my tongue and tried to change the subject or find a graceful exit. except i couldn’t help but ask this retired intel engineer one question. since he was old enough to remember what things were like in this country before kennedy was president, who has influenced american society and culture more over the past 50 years, the left or the right? his wife answered immediately and emphatically the left of course had but the right has fought them every step of the way. her phd husband understood at ocne what the honest answer to that question meant to his position on where the country had gone and he didn’t say another word. instead he gathered his things up and left (pun intended). how do you like them apples there mr. mensa.
one interesting thing. i used the delorme inreach explorer and it worked perfectly well except for the elevation reading. as you can plainly see the sign reads 12,633 (its actually 12,637) but what is not so easy to see is that even after being on for 30 minutes the explorer says we are at 12,066 (it varied but never showed anything higher than that). Not sure what the problem (maybe some kind of calibration is in order) is with that but i will talk to the delorme folks toot sweet. yes, terry, i know that is not how it is spelled but chitty chitty bang bang was one of my favorite movies when i was a little kid. another was angel in my pocket with andy Griffith. anybody ever seen that? i bet not.
the shadows got longer, the sun sank lower in the sky, and all the other hikers headed back down the trail. i was all by myself up there and it was wonderful. 360 degree 50+ mile view. when it got dark i fired up my jet boil and made dinner. problem is that the built in piezo igniter wouldn’t work so I couldn’t get the stripped down super lightweight water boiler to start. that’s why i also carry a bic lighter. a good lineman will always, no matter what, find a way to either get to your ball carrier or keep you from getting to mine. the water was boiling and rehydrating my two servings of mountain house freeze dried beef stroganoff in very short order..
speaking of rumblies in my tumblies, some how i got an old package of nutter butters in my snack pack. I ate one cookie and it didn’t taste right but i ate the rest later because i didn’t have anything else to replace them with. it made me sick. rookie mistake, i should have checked the best by date. by the way, those are the same snacks we give to our players at half time based partially on the advice of Dr. Schamadan and his research with the Phoenix Fire Department. Wanna know why these work? a ton of other things offer better nutritional ingredients but these have a lot of what the body is looking for when it is working hard and most importantly they are what we will eat in those situations. and getting small amounts of fuel in your system is a big part of the battle.
i was wearing
- Sitka traverse zip t neck long sleeve
- under armor 6 inch boxer briefs
- arbor wear ascender pants
- bates instructor rappel belt
- danner wool merino socks
- hanwag Cheyenne gtx boots
when the sun went down i added
- wool radar o’reily hat
- western mountaineering goose down flight jacket
- hanz fr gloves
- kuiu chugach nx rain jacket and pants
- bandana across my face
its a bivy, right, so no sleeping bag or tent. i have to make do tonight with the clothes on my back, and the contents of my pack namely a 3/4 thermarest pad and a wiggys pillow. no problem. until about 1030pm when i swear the temp dropped significantly and the wind kicked up a few notches. i went from laying down comfortably watching satellites zip across the sky and being strafed by some kind of angry bird to seeing my breath and shivering my ass off inside of 15 minutes. no clouds or rain but it got cold and windy fast. i wish i could tell you how cold exactly, i did not have a thermometer with me, but if I had to guess I would say 20ish with consistent 30 to 40 mph winds and very little natural features to break them.
I was taught that you can survive a cold night by running around in a circle but nobody ever said that it would be fun. it was a long, sleepless night. I should not have been as cold as i was considering what i was wearing but i think i know what the problem was. first, that kuiu shell has kept the rain out throughout all my trials and it is very breathable which is great for venting heat but it might be a problem in strong dry winds. i was at 12,600 and the only thing between me and the wind was a few layers so i needed all the protection my shell layer could provide. i think that the chugach nx is so breathable that it is not completely windproof. i could feel not just the physical wind but the cold as well. I wish i had had one of my arcteryx shells with me to compare but that is what i was thinking while I was in it. the second thing is that the western mountaineering flight is so light and puffy that the relatively snug fit (there is that size issue again) of the xxl kuiu jacket compressed some of the dead air space out of it and it lost some insulating power. less dead airspace is going to result in less insulation and when you are walking a thin line that makes a difference. you can’t do anything about that until next time with a different set up. Am i suggesting that the kuiu chugach shell made the western mountaineering flight jacket less effective? yes, substantially. look, i agree, that stretch is a good thing in a shell but it is no substitute for proper fit. you don’t shrink the size of your shell gear because your wife likes the way it makes you look in the company promo pics. it crushes the effectiveness out of the insulation layer underneath and that goes against everything that we are trying to accomplish. it is about function not fashion.
see this is the kind of thing i wish magazine writers and podcasters would ask jason hairston instead of a bunch of pandering please send me something for free softballs. why don’t you ask him why he changed the cut and sizing regime of his shell pieces. ask him what really happened with jonathan hart, Sitka gear and Gore-Tex. did he get screwed or was it a blessing and a great opportunity because he has written both things separately. could he have used Gore-Tex in the kuiu line if he wanted or did he have to go find another company/technology like toray because he was barred from using gore products? I would also like to know why I can’t find his name on any nfl team roster or the nflpa member list but that is another conversation.
I headed down when the sun came up, completed the loop, and caught a ride to the bottom with a nice young couple completing their last Arizona adventure before moving to ogden, Utah. i hope it all works out for them. I think maybe I should hitchhike more often, it has a restorative effect on my faith in people.
anyway, it was another good learning experience for me that results in adjustments to my gear system.
REMINDER – RAW NOTES FROM THE FIELD IS JUST THAT, A BRAIN DUMP SO IT ISN’T YOUR BROWSER AND DON’T SEND ME ANY MESSAGES ABOUT SPELLING, GRAMMAR ETC. I KNOW AND I DON’T CARE.