Monday, November 21, 2016

Reduction of Southern Wind River route

Well, we spent some time looking over my scheduled vacation for 2017.  Because of my youngest son's Type I diabetes, I've had to commit more days to following him around while he's doing things like out of town field trips, Scout camp, etc., which has reduced my available vacation considerably.  While I earlier had thought that I had some days to spare, it looks like I'll have to keep my hike down to a good, solid week alone.  If I use the weekends on either side of the week to travel out west, that gives me exactly 5 days.  The only way I could potentially resurrect a slightly longer hike is to use the Labor Day Weekend as the final bookend, but even then, that only buys me one additional day.  So, I had to get my very ambitious 7-day southern Wind River hike reduced by two days.  This meant 1) cutting out either the Bonneville Basin and Pronghorn Lake spur, the Baptiste Lake spur, or the Deep Lake and Temple area spur (I've elected the first), 2) spend a little bit less time just exploring, i.e., no two-day stop in the Cirque of the Towers area, and 3) do a little bit of backtracking to maximize travel time rather than maximize spending as many trail miles as possible on a different trail.

Here's how it turns out:

Day 0 (Sunday): After spending the night in mid-Nebraska, I head out west into Wyoming again.  At Rock Springs, instead of turning south for Vernal like I did the last two backpacking trips, I head north towards Pinedale.  Curiously, the distance is almost exactly the same, which means that I might yet have some time to go see Scott's Bluff one more time, or better yet, do some exploring of the Oregon Buttes or some other features of the Great Divide Basin area, since I've now seen Scott's Bluff twice. I don't want to take too long, though, as my goal would be to actually spend Night 0 at the Trailhead, which is Big Sandy campground.  If I go try to go see Oregon Buttes or something like that, it actually will take me off the interstate earlier, at Rawlins.  And I don't quite go all the way to Pinedale before turning off to get to the Big Sandy campground.

Day 1 (Monday): A relatively big 11½ mile day, but since I'm sleeping literally at the TH, I can be up really early and take my time.  Although it does gain some elevation, it's mostly very gradual.  I get, at the end of the day, to Mae's Lake, the last area along the way to Pyramid Lake where there are trees near a lake, making it an ideal camping area.

Day 2 (Tuesday): Leaving the campsite without breaking camp yet, I can continue on to Pyramid Lake and into the East Fork valley to have a look around and explore.  I mapped the little blue spur all the way to the high lake at the cirque walls, but chances are I won't actually walk that far before turning back around.  I plan to be back at camp around lunchtime to eat a bit, break camp, and then go over Hailey Pass with my gear.  This part of the day is just shy of 4 miles, and gets me to the Baptiste Lake area, where I want to have some time to look around before the sun sets, and take pictures of the huge rock wall of Mount Hooker.

Day 3 (Wednesday): This is mostly a day of backtracking; a concession I had to make due to my shortened itinerary.  I could go around and see new trails, new valleys, new peaks, etc.—but it would add miles and therefore time.  This is an 8½ mile day, so long, but not terribly so, and other than gaining 900 or so feet to go over Hailey Pass again, it's actually mostly downhill.  Near the end of the hiking day, I turn and head towards Shadow Lake where I set up camp.  If I'm making better time than I think I'm likely to be making, and I still have some energy and some more daylight, I could keep going up and over Texas Pass at the end of the day and come in to camp in the Cirque of the Towers area; a highly desirable outcome... but I'm not planning on it, necessarily.  It would add more than 2 and probably closer to 3 miles to my day.  But maybe it's worth it to push on Wednesday so I can have a better Thursday, with some time to explore the Cirque area before having to move again.  I did add the Lonesome Lake area as an alternate Night 3, at least.

Day 4 (Thursday): At almost 8 miles, this is a decent sized day with two big passes; although if I have pushed it on Wednesday, it's down to only about 5 miles and one pass.  Either way, it's where I get to see the Cirque of the Towers, either mid morning after crossing Texas Pass, or first thing in the morning, where I can walk around it before even breaking camp.  Then I go back over Jackass Pass and head towards the car.  Rather than going all the way, though, I turn east at Big Sandy Lake and make camp at Clear Lake, with views of the Temple area.  Cirque of the Towers exploration will probably make this day longer than it appears to be just based on miles that need to be crossed, but if I somehow have time, I'd like to climb just a bit further up the trail after setting up camp to see Deep Lake too.  Although according to the map, camping at Deep Lake looks iffy, I've seen plenty of pictures of people who have done it.  Maybe I'll just go all the way there for the night.  It's not even another full mile after Clear Lake, and the views are certainly better.

Day 5 (Friday): Continue the loop, either from Clear Lake or Deep Lake, around the little x10,980 massif without a name, and back to Big Sandy Lake.  From there, get back to the car. It's just shy of 10 miles today, although really only 9 if I make it closer to Deep Lake the night before.  This should give me time to get back to the car with some time to spare, so I can drive out of the mountains, check into a hotel and take a shower before heading home.  If that ends up not flying, well, I can always take a quick dip in a lake somewhere and then just change into some clean clothes at the car for the next day.  Saturday and Sunday are, again, driving back home days.

What does this route miss that my bigger route had?  I lost the area beyond the East Fork Basin.  That's a real shame. I'll want to come back for that some day.  I also don't get to see Grave Lake, Ranger Park, Valentine Lake, Payson Peak, Lizard Head Peak, and the whole eastern approach into Cirque of the Towers.  I'm worried about feeling rushed at the Cirque, which really should be the headline destination of the whole trip.  If I pushed it more, I could maybe get a little bit of that back, but I'm wary of having too many too big days.  I'm not as young or spry as I used to be, and I live at a lot lower elevation; closer to sea level.  Having hiking days that are less than 10 mile minimums is a good thing, and if I get more miles out of some of the days where I have the option to do that, that's a surprise and delight bonus rather than something that I have to do.

Total Backpacking mileage: 41.84
Total Potential mapped Dayhiking mileage: 7.82
Total total: 49.66

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

And why not pants?

I recently went on a search for some good hiking blogs, and found some poll that was conducted of hiking blogs and it had picked a Top 10 list (with an additional half dozen or so runners-up.)  I looked at them, and hated the formatting of almost all of them.  In addition, most of them were literally crying about the election, because in the catechism of their bizarre, nihilistic Green cult beliefs, the election of a Republican is a sign of the End Times.

Sigh.  It was a nice try, I suppose, to find some good hiking discussion.  The best one of the ones I saw was pretty nifty, but it was specifically relegated to southern California hiking locations.  If I could find a similar blogs for various spots in the Rockies, I'd be very happy.  But I didn't; so since I'm lacking in good hiking sites to read, I guess I'll keep writing about it.  I don't have anything in particular to write about right now, so let me continue, I suppose, my series with regards to gear that I'd like to get, starting with more clothes.  My last post was on boots.  I'd also like a bunch of new hiking pants, and as with the boots, I'd like to wear them day to day even when not hiking as part of a "wilderness chic" look.  Which are some of the ones that I'd really like to have?

Cabela's XPG Trekker Pants: This is my first pick.  I'd love all four colors.  For the last several months, supply has been limited in my size.  They're sold out of most colors in my size for the season, but they should be back in action in a few months.  Grr...

Cabela's Great Trail Pants: Although I'm not necessary a big fan of zip-off pants, and the zip-off feature isn't one that I'd use very often (if at all) these are still pretty darn nice looking pants, and they do have all of the other technical features that I'd want (with one exception: insect defense.)

Cabela's Grand Mesa Trail Pants: Cabela's, curiously, has a lot of pants that I wouldn't ever want to actually take into the backwoods, because they're made of thick, jean-material like cotton or canvas.  These are some good cargoes that I could use, however.

Cabela's Guidewear Insect Defense System Pants: The last of the Cabela's pants that I'd want.  Although I still tend to shy away from the "trendy" brands like Columbia, The North Face, Patagonia, etc. whenever possible, I do have to admit that Cabela's doesn't meet my needs quite as well as I'd like in regards to pants to hike in.  Sigh.  So, I have to dig a little deeper for this category.

Luke Bryan's 32 Bridge Huntin' Fishin' and Lovin' Every Day Performance Pants:  OK, I'll probably not seriously consider these.  I'm not really a country music fan, to be honest, and even if I was, it's even more dubious that I'd be a Luke Bryan fan.  And the name is so cheesy.  But, performance pants are performance pants, right?  And I do like to patronize Cabela's whenever possible, rather than hippy places like REI.    In this case, I think going to REI is probably for the best, though—I'm iffy on these pants.

prAna Stretch Zion Pants: OK, so the roll up and snap your pants in place is pretty gay unless you're walking barefoot on the beach or something, but these otherwise look like decent, if over-priced, hiking pants.  In fact, they seem rather stylish for a functional article of clothing.  If your idea of style was formed when parachute pants were in.  Which isn't actually meant to be an insult, because it applies very well to me.  Their Brion pants are a bit cheaper (although still overpriced) and have the look of a pair of jeans that are made of a nylon and spandex blend rather than cotton.

REI Classic Sahara Convertible Pants: Sigh.  Yeah, convertible pants.  These are kind of the classic.  Good price, too.  I still don't care about the convertible function, but what can you do?

REI Screeline Pants: These are just good pants and reasonably well priced.  As much as I find the aggressively hippyish REI to be grating as a corporate entity, I have to admit that they've got the goods when it comes to the kinds of outdoor clothes that I'd really want to wear.

Kühl Renegade Jeans: Are a bit misnamed; there's no cotton in them thar hills.  I really like the look of these pants, though, I have to admit.  Kühl, which is a horribly pretentious name, since they're from Portland or some place like that, not Europe, also have some grossly over-priced convertible pants. (UPDATE: Turns out that the company is actually based in SLC, UT. And it's probably the Renegade Pants that I want more than the Renegade Jeans; the only difference being the "full" vs. the slightly more tapered "klassic" cut.)

Marmot Arch Rock Pants: Another pair of pants that I could conceivably wear to work in my "business casual" environment are these Marmot Arch Rock Pants.  I actually prefer my outdoor pants to have a cut that makes them look different than regular pants; some kind of "utilitarian" vibe; extra pockets, or zippers, or a cuff that opens up so they can be pulled on over shoes, etc.  And if Patagonia, The North Face and Columbia are trendy, Marmot is one of those brands (along with Arc'teryx, maybe ExOfficio, Mountain Hardwear, and a few others) that is just over the top trendy among the hiker set, which I find a turn-off.  These don't look like bad pants, though, and it's not a bad price.  I should confront the possibility that in my anti-snobbishness I've actually developed a kind of reverse snobbishness that's just as ridiculous.

Eddie Bauer First Ascent Guide Pro Pants: A friend of mine, who's also into hiking and other outdoor sports, has some of these and loves them.  In fact, I think he loved them so much, he went back and bought more of them.  I've actually put them near the top of my list for desired pants, to be honest with you.  And they come in several colors, which means I could get 4-5 pairs of them without feeling like I'm just stuffing my collection.

L. L. Bean Cresta Hiking Pants: Growing up, I always thought of L. L. Bean and Eddie Bauer as similar; even comparable.  The Cresta Hiking Pants seem to be their best competitor to the Guide Pro pants—and they're cheaper!  These also come in several colors, making the idea of stocking up with several not a bad notion.

Railriders Bushwhacker Weatherpants: These have great reviews, but they may be the priciest of the bunch, and I really dislike that style of sizing (just give me regular waist and inseam measurements please!)  Still, I can't argue with their reputation.

As with the footwear; what will I end up settling on here?  I'm kinda thinking of getting some pairs of the Cresta Hiking Pants, the First Ascent Guide Pro pants, the Kühl Renegade Jeans and the REI Screeline Pants.  One of each, first, to see how they fit and how I like them, and then more colors of the ones that I really like.  And then maybe a pair or two of the XPG Trekkers.

Ideally, I'd replace my entire casual and business casual wardrobe with pants from this list: Of the Kühl Renegade pants, I'd pick up Carbon, Khaki, Breen and Gun Metal—four pairs (all except the Pirate Blue.)  Of the L. L. Bean Cresta Hiking Pants, I'd get another four—Classic Black, Dark Driftwood, Dark Loden and Granite.  Of the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Guide Pro Pants, I'd buy another four or five—Aged Brass, Dark Smoke, Saddle, Slate Green and maybe Black.  Of the Cabela's XPG Trekker Pants, I'd buy three—Foliage, Timberwolf Grey, and Gunpowder (all of them except Baltic Blue) and I'd buy both Army Cot Green and Burlap of the REI Screeline pants.  That's eighteen pairs of pants; close to twice what I wear on a regular basis right now, so that's certainly overdoing it.  But... man, I like them all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Obsession with footwear

Seriously; you could be excused for thinking I'm a woman sometimes.  I love footwear.  A good pair of comfortable hikers is one of my favorite things in the world, and I need to figure out, honestly, how to quit my cubicle day job and find some work where wearing them all of the time is just what I do.

And then, of course, I'd need at least half a dozen pair at a time so I can mix them up and have plenty to go on.  Add to that a pair of really good and tall (8"-10") hunting boots, a pair of cowboy boots, and a 6"-8" pair of black duty boots, and I'd be good to go.  Heck, I'd even wear those duty boots to church if I thought I could get away with it.  I probably can get away with cowboy boots to church, especially if I switch to a slightly more "casual" chino style pants instead of dress slacks.

Anyway, I'm quite happy with the boots that I have now, and I'm honestly not likely to wear them out any time soon, because I don't really wear them as much as I'd like—plus they seem like real keepers that'll be good for a long time anyway.  But I'd like to have some spares, and every so often, I like to go through various catalogs and see which ones I'd like to get.

And again; I'm talking actual boots.  I wouldn't mind some hiking shoes, or trail runners, or whatever you want to call them too, and honestly I'd probably wear them just as much.  But for mid-height (or more) hikers, my top choices would be the following:

Cabela's Men's DPX Hikers: These are the same as the boots that I have, actually.  They rebranded them slightly (got rid of the XPG sub-brand) and replaced the GORE-TEX lining with their own Cabela's 4MOST Dry Plus lining, but otherwise, the boots are practically identical.  Since I like the ones I have, replacing them with another pair of the same (the colors vary somewhat) seems smart.

Cabela's Men's XPG 2.0 Hikers: On the other hand, these are the XPG 2.0s.  A little heavier than mine, but probably not noticeably so.  This seems to be because the toe-box has been widened to allow for a more comfortable fit after the feet swell a bit on long hikes.

Cabelas's Instinct Men's Pursuitz Hunting Boots: Are actually exactly the same as the XPG 1.0 Hikers, except with a camo pattern.  Actually, the rand around the edge may be bigger.  I need to actually look at these in person again, while wearing my older boots.  Anyway, all of these options are very similar (if not practically identical in the case of two of them) to my existing boots, except for color and the brand of the water-proof liner.  These remain near the top of my list, if nothing else, because they're already the same as a pair of shoes that I own and like.  Don't rock the boat if it's working, and all that.

New Balance 703 Country Walking Shoes: Not sure if these are on the way out or not.  There used to be two colors, now there's one, and the larger sizes (including what I'd need) don't seem to be in stock.  This is often a sign of a shoe that they're just selling their existing inventory of, and then not reordering, either because it's out of production, or they're just not going to carry it anymore.  If so; that's a shame.  I came very close to picking these instead of the ones I did get.  And I think I'd have liked them, too.

Danner 453: I really like the Danner brand; another American icon.  The 453s are some that I've tried on in the past and really liked.  They are a bit more boot-like rather than hybrid shoe-like, like the Cabela's stuff and New Balance shoes are (by which I guess I mean that they have mostly leather uppers and a more boot-like appearance, whereas the others look like beefy, off-road hi-tops.)  Although not listed at Cabela's, this all leather option is the best looking of the bunch, I think.

Danner Radical 452: This is a slightly lighter and slightly less expensive pair of boots.  I honestly don't know how much I'd hike in these kind of old-school hiking boots, no matter how well made they are, when hi-top trail runners are so in vogue for rather obvious reasons.  But they're nice.

Danner TrailTrek: I like these too.  Beautiful looking boot.  The Danners are a bit on the pricey side, and they're a bit on the heavy side, and they're a bit on the traditional boot side.  Sigh.  I wish the Extroverts were still in production.

Under Armour Speedfit Hikers: I find these an interesting boot, too—with an almost combat boot appearance, but with very lightweight, hi-top tennis shoe like construction, they don't have a "waterproof" lining, but they do have a water resistant finish.  And they sell for a good price, and have very high review scores.

Meindl Perfekt 7" Hikers: Although they're too heavy and too traditional (and too expensive) to ever be something that I'd favor for much actual hiking, you can't deny the fashion statement that traditional all-leather boots make, and the Meindl ones are supposed to be about the best of the best.  The Perfekt Hikers are probably the best hoice, although see below...

Meindl Perfekt Light Hikers: The Perfekt Light Hikers (or even the vented ones with mesh panels) are a good alternative.  Missing a toe guard or any kind of rand to protect the leather, I think I prefer the former.  And "light" here is relative; they're still way over 3 lbs. a pair (my boots are listed as under 2 lbs, although the default listing is for size 9s, I think.  I wear size 12, so I probably go over the 2 lbs. mark.)

Meindl Air Revolution Backpacking Boots: This is a beautiful pair of tall, traditional, leather hiking boots.  I'm not much of a fashion maven, but I really love the concept of "wilderness chic" and you're only partly there without a traditional pair of hiking boots.  Hiking boots and work boots are also nearly indistinguishable in many ways; both are designed to give your feet support and comfort when you're on them all day, but the latter have (sometimes) safety toes and their soles are designed for no slip on wet or oily surface, not for off-road trekking.  And who doesn't like the concept of dressing like you're ready to work?  Lazy scum, that's who.

Meindl Uninsulated Ultralight Hunting Boots:  This is a very, very classic look; old fashioned combat boots in brown leather and made to be as lightweight as boots this tall can possibly be.  Love 'em.  The Danner Pronghorns are very similar, but I suspect that these are better made.

Cabela's Silent Stalker Sneaker Hunting Boots: Are even lighter, and therefore probably more comfortable to hike in.  I like how in the description they're called both "rugged and sensitive."  What is this, their profile?

Cabela's Outfitter Series Hunting Boots: Another very classic look.  I don't know how many such "classic" brown leather combat boots I would ever need, but I also don't know which one I'd most want to actually have.  I like the price on this one compared to the Meindl boots, which aren't even full leather like these are.

Under Armour All-Leather Wall-Hanger Hunting Boots: I'm actually intrigued by Under Armour.  It seems a bit like a "boutique" brand for weekend warriors who are more worried about fashion than anything else (I used to laugh at the gym seeing people in Under Armor and Nike Pro Combat workout clothes while I wore C9, Old Navy or some other brand that was identical, but which cost half as much) but their boots (at least the ones sold at Cabela's) are a good price and have good reviews.  I do kind of dislike the prominent oddly colored logo, though.

Meindl Western Slope Hunting Boots: These boots look like the kind that are made for bushwhacking in very rough terrain.  As do the Meindl Western Guide Hunting Boots.  They, in fact, look very similar, but the Western Slopes are considerably less expensive.

Cabela's Instinct Backcountry Hunting Boots: Come in 6" and 8" height.  I quite like the look of them, but I have to admit that reviews are a bit mixed.  Lots of people like them, but there are a rather higher than I'd like number of reviews complaining about the boots falling apart.  Regardless, I'm not likely to buy them, and even less likely to use them on long hikes even if I did.

Cabela's Roughneck Ledger Wellington Work Boots: Man, I'd wear the crap outta these things.  Not for hiking, though.

Cabela's Roughneck Ledger  Plain Toe Work Boots: In 6" and 8" height; these are more traditional (i.e., less "western.")

Cabela's Roughneck S.A.W. 7" Plain Toe Work Boots: Famous as some of the most comfortable boots on the market is a good sales pitch, but honestly, I doubt that those soles are what I'm looking for.

Cabela's Roughneck Plain Toe Work Hikers: In 5" and 7" heights.  These are just rugged hiking boots, really—meant to be used in rough, outdoor projects like construction sites, landscaping, etc.

Cabela's Black Duty Boots: And you've got to throw in some tactical law enforcement boots of the kind that the military used to use not that long ago.  In 6" and 8" (gotta go 8") heights, this purely would be for style; I'd wear it with my black leather biker jacket.

What do I make of all of this; this big, massive list of boots that I like?  Obviously, I'm not getting all of them or even most of them.  I may not end up getting any of them any time soon.  But what would I honestly want to get?

Hmm... I would like two switch-out alternatives to my existing hiking boots.  Either the Cabela's DPX Hikers or the Instinct Pursuitz Hunting boots are at the top of the list, because they are design equivalents to what I have now, which I like.  But probably not both; maybe the Under Armour Speedfit Hikers is the second alternative so I can have something that at least looks a little different and feel a little lighter.  I'd also like a really good "classic" brown leather hiking boot to wear... not necessarily while hiking, but just all over the place.  The Meindl Perfekt hikers fit that bill perfektly.

The Wellington work boots can sub for Western boots; heck; I'd even wear those to church, and the Duty Boots are, again, a stylish necessity.  I might like some good, rugged actual work boots too; maybe the 8" Roughneck work hikers, which I could wear while doing work outside; a not terribly uncommon feature of my life sometimes.

My boys tell me that I should take up hunting as a hobby; it not only seems right up my alley, but they'd also get to eat venison and other game meat a lot more often if I did.  Assuming that I do, one of these days, those Roughneck work hikers can probably double as hunting boots too; boots that I take outside and beat up, essentially.  If I get mud and blood on them from working and hunting, well, that's OK; in fact, that's the whole reason that I have them.

There.  I've reduced that bit list down to six pairs of boots that I'd most like to get.  How about that?