Assuming nothing catastrophic happens in the next 48 hours, I will be hiking this weekend. I’m planning to do the loop I intended to do the weekend of July 21st & 22nd – those plans were derailed by my father ending up the ER three days after we brought my mother home from a 6-week stay in Harborview Hospital in Seattle. Given the way my summer has gone, the reader can understand why I’m still a wee bit fearful that my plans may have to take a backseat again.
Planning adventures makes me happy. I drew this route on MapMyFitness several weeks ago. It’s ambitious – almost 30 miles – but taking the loop counter-clockwise gives me eleven miles of descending. At worst, I should have several hours to hike Friday evening before I have to set up my camp, and the descending should allow me to get a good chunk of those eleven miles done.
I’ve been working on getting my gear ready, too. I have a new hammock set-up. It’s half the weight of my previous set-up – about two pounds – but because the bug netting zips to the hammock I cannot use carabineers to hook the sleeping bag I use as an underquilt directly to the hammock itself. I used the hammock when we were camping at the Teanaway Guard Station, so I had the opportunity to try a few different ways to attach the sleeping bag. Neither worked particularly well. Even though the overnight lows were in the 50’s, I could really feel where there were gaps in coverage. Underquilts generally hooks that’ll clip to the loops on the hammock. I debated sewing them onto the sleeping bag, but I was apprehensive about piercing the sleeping bag’s shell. (It’s a down bag. Any hole – even a tiny one – gives the down a means of escape.) I decided to try Velcro strips. I figured if I put the soft, fuzzy side of the Velcro on the bag, I’d still be able to use the bag. I tried it out last night. There are still gaps, so we’ll see how this works in the field. One of the things I tried at Teanaway was using elastic cord secured to the loops on the hammock & strung under the bag. I didn’t keep the bag all the way up along the upper edge of the hammock, thereby creating cold spots. I may use a bit of elastic cord with the Velcro to close some of the looser areas where air may get between the underquilt & the hammock. (I think the sleeping bag is a bigger than a specifically-designed underquilt would be.)
Although it’s unlikely I’ll be in a situation where I’ll have to sleep on the ground, I’ve been pondering how to set up my gear as a bivy. I’ve practiced setting up the hammock as a bivy. It works. The problem remains that I don’t have a sleeping pad. I opted to stop carrying my Z-rest sleeping pad. It’s a pound, and since I’m going to sleep like crap if I have to sleep on the ground I didn’t think it was worth the weight. I bought a couple of Z-rest sit pads. They’re each an ounce, and I figured they’ll do in a pinch. But the problem with the Z-rest sit pads is that my sleeping bag is designed to work with a sleeping pad, and these things are only 16” long. Because they fold, if I try attaching my sleeping bag to them, the pads will squirm all over the place & end up not providing padding where I need it. Again, Velcro to the rescue! I put the soft fuzzy side of the Velcro on the bottom of my sleeping bag where the sleeping pad would go; I figured the scratchy side may degrade the fabric of the hammock over time. I don’t know if I’ll test this out in during this trip – a sleeping pad can take the place of the underquilt in mild weather – or I’ll leave it until I’m actually stuck sleeping on the ground.
And now – food! I’ve always brought along “real” food on hikes. I’d dehydrate tuna & cooked pasta and bring along freeze-dried peas & a package of alfredo sauce mix, and cook up tuna noodle casserole on the trail. Beef stew is another favorite, and last year I added chicken & dumplings to the menu.
These things do best with a stove that simmers, though. Last year marked the demise of my beloved Peak 1 stove. Canister stoves can simmer, but in the interest of saving money – and because fuel canisters cannot be recycled – I decided to adopt The Hubs’ Whisperlite stove. It uses white gas that one carries in a refillable fuel bottle – no fuel canisters to deal with. But these stoves don’t simmer. I was able to cook my tuna noodle casserole but I had to stir it almost constantly. That uses more fuel because the heat escapes, and it wouldn’t work with the chicken & dumplings. I realized that if I carried both of my titanium pots, I could create a double-boiler. I tried it while at the Teanaway Guard Station last February, and it worked great. But that’s even more weight. The pot is only about ten ounces, but weight adds up, y’know. And the stove is heavier than a canister stove…
I’ve been curious about cold-soaking. It requires more preparation, but it’s less work on the trail. I’ve sort-of been doing it with my meals, as the dried potatoes & carrots and meat cook up better if they’d been soaking for a while. And there was a night on the trail last fall I didn’t make dinner – I just ate a bunch of snacks. But hot dinner seems “normal” and a cold dinner seems, well, not.
Last weekend, I chatted with Caterpillar. She was at Pie for the People at Snoqualmie Pass, enroute Canada. She’s a cold-soaker. She says she does it because she’s lazy & she doesn’t like to cook. That set me to thinking that I’d save a fair amount of time if I wasn’t cooking dinner – time I could be hiking, maybe finding a better campsite, or at least getting a few more miles down the trail. (I’ve already given up on cooking breakfast. It takes me too long to break camp in the morning as it is.) And I know that it’s the calories in the food that keep our bodies warm, not the temperature of the food. Hot food is an emotional boost, but it’s not really necessary.
After a bit of pondering, I’ve decided to try cold-soaking the next few hiking trips. After a few weekend trips, I’ll evaluate if I want to try this for the length of Section J in September. It saves me a couple of pounds not bringing the stove & cooking gear. I’ve even picked up a Talenti jar – a favorite in the cold-soaking community – although it only saves a few grams over my sturdier Nalgene 2-cup canister.
Now, as to what I’m actually going to eat: the first night I may bring a sandwich with me for dinner or just snack a lot. Saturday night’s dinner is going to be tuna couscous: apparently couscous rehydrates without cooking – it just takes longer – and I’ll toss in the dehydrated tuna, freeze-dried peas, and alfredo sauce mix to rehydrate along with the pasta. I have two dinners’ worth of the tuna couscous, so I’ll bring both along and hope it’s not horrible. (If it is horrible, I’ll still survive. I’ll just be really looking forward to a post-hike meal!)
I mentioned earlier I no longer cook breakfast. As I’m packing up camp, I put water in my granola & coconut milk mix and I eat some nuts, some trail mix, or a protein bar. The granola goes into my pack; after an hour or so on the trail, I’ll stop to eat breakfast. (I’ve also eaten while hiking. If the trail is flat & relatively smooth, I can manage to eat & walk at the same time.) That just leaves lunches. I’m inclined to go with shelf-stable sausage & cheese and tortillas. It’s quick, it’s tasty, and it’s calorie dense.
Tonight, I’m going to spray the long-lasting insect repellent on my clothes. Tomorrow night, I’ll pack. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that nothing catastrophic happens.