Friday, March 20, 2015

Devil's Postpile National Monument - California

On our second Day (click here for day one) in California we woke up absurdly early to head to Yosemite from San Francisco. We were so ready to get out of the city and experience the part of California that had called us onto this adventure. We drove about six hours from the city to our campsite. Along the drive, while we were enjoying an amazing first view of the iconic granite monoliths, we were trying to make final plans about where to park our car and set up camp. We finally decided on a plan that would allow us to keep our car overnight and drive to the shuttle bus parking up at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

Devil's Postpile
My Wife and I at Devil's Postpile
Devil's Postpile
Once we picked up our backcountry permits we had a few hours to enjoy the area, set up camp, and enjoy a last non-dehydrated dinner. We had seen some pictures of The Devil's Postpile and decided to take a look.

Devil's Postpile
My wife on top of Devil's Postpile
Hex shape at Devil's Postpile
The Devil's Postpile was truly fascinating. I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like these hexagonal tubes that appear neatly stacked against one another. Truly worth seeing.

According to the National park service:
 “Devils Postpile National Monument's landscape is a reflection of fire and ice. The eruption and uniform cooling of basalt lava created an impressive wall of columns. Later a glacial event exposed the columns and polished smooth the top of this formation enhancing the pattern of hexagons that are a result of the mineral composition of the lava” 
Two strangers atop Devil's Postpile
The view from atop the postpile gave us a taste of what our next few days hike might offer. Clear streams, giant trees. beautiful mountain views, and lush green meadows offered views that simply stole your breath away.

View from Devil's Postpile
After we poked around the postpile and ate dinner we headed back to our campsite at Reds Meadow. Tomorrow we would begin a four night hike through Ansel Adams Wilderness into Yosemite National Park. We set the hammock up and swayed with the anticipation of what this week would hold. As the stars began to peek out of the night sky we knew we were in for an unforgettable journey.

In our hammock back at camp. 


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Monday, March 16, 2015

Montane Atomic Rain Jacket - Review

One of the best pieces of rain gear I have ever owned are the Montane Astro Ascent pants with Event. Most rain gear I have used leaves you more wet from your own sweat than you would be if you just faced the rain. Montane’s event pants are the only rain gear I have ever owned that made me think, “this is what breathable fabric must feel like.” Unwilling to fork out $300+ dollars I have never found a jacket that works quite as well as these pants.


Having such great success with their pants I figured Montane must know what they are doing. So when NightGear offered to send me Montane’s Atomic Jacket, I thought I would give it a try. Since owning this jacket I have not had a good downpour on an overnight hike. (Much to my donator's dismay). So I cannot say I have given this jacket a real good testing. In an effort to make good on my promise to review I took the Atomic jacket out on a run one rainy day around my block. Trying to simulate the same effort I would make on an uphill hike in a downpour I ran around my block 3 times. Rain was coming down hard and I worked up a good sweat. I stopped to take off the jacket and to my delight I was relatively dry. The jacket kept out the rain and breathed well enough to vent. The hood is adjustable and has a wired brim allows for an unobstructed view, while sufficiently blocking the rain.



The Atomic has become the only shell I take backpacking, even if I have yet to experience a good downpour with it, I trust the jacket when it counts most. The Atomic uses PERTEX Shield fabric which according to the manufacture “is not only waterproof, windproof and breathable, it also has a hardwearing nylon face with a durable water repellent finish that will keep on performing no matter what the activity.” The jacket weighs in at 11.3 oz, has mesh venting in the pockets (which are situated high enough to clear a packs hip belt) and a helmet compatible hood.

Everything I know says this is a very affordable, good preforming, good featured jacket. Next time I hike in a good downpour I will update this review. In the meantime you might consider supporting my donator and buy your’s at NightGear.co.uk.
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Muir Woods and San Francisco - California Trip - Day One

Last year sometime my wife and I decided that we wanted to take a trip to California. She had never been, and my parents tell me that I visited as a child but I only vaguely recollect this event. We were excited to spend a few days in San Francisco and several days in the Yosemite National Park area. We were ready for an adventure of good food, iconic sights, and some peaceful trail time. California wouldn’t disappoint.

Muir Woods
 We began our adventure in Sacramento. The first thing we noticed as we strolled towards the rental car kiosk was how nice the weather was. Man, Californians have it all…beaches, mountains, skiing, and amazing August weather. We had just left the scorching, 115-degree heat of a Texas summer. We marveled at how nice it was to need a light jacket. I could get used to this.

Muir Woods
Muir Woods
Muir Woods
Muir Woods
Driving our rental car from Sacramento to San Francisco was underwhelming. We fought the traffic and began to realize there was a small piece of justice in the world. Traffic in our smallish Texas town is having to sit through a red light more than once. We spent hours trying to snake through San Francisco. We quickly realized that we only had 5-6 hours to see San Francisco and snaked back over the Golden Gate Bridge in hopes to catch a small glimpse of Muir Woods.


Light was fastly fading when we arrived at Muir Woods. My wife and I hopped out and walked a quick loop through the forest. This was the best piece of our San Francisco experience. These towering giants of the forest seem to exist only to remind us that we are miniscule. You feel irrelevant standing under their creaking sway. I could have spent hours here. Light was fading and our stomachs were growling, we reluctantly left the woods and headed back towards the city.

Lombard Street - The Straight Side
We were told that we had to eat a bowl of clam chowder with accompanying sour dough bread. I wish we had taken time to research some off the beaten path options, because we ended up on the tourist trap of The Pier. This experience only made us long for the woods even more. However, just like our trek down Lombard Street, The Pier is a piece of San Francisco you can’t help but have.

Sea Lions on Pier 39
By the time we reached our sketchy city hotel room, where I seriously thought I would have to use my bear spray for the first time on some not too trustworthy looking folks, my wife and I were yearning for Yosemite. We thought we would relish the hotel stay, but instead found ourselves bitten by the lure of wilderness. Wishing for a starry sky, we laid our heads down in a questionable section of city, buzzing with the excitement of an adventure lying out before us. The next day we would be in Yosemite, picking up our permits for a backcountry experience that was sure to not disappoint.
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

All About The Kayak Skeg

We all know how tough it can be fighting the elements just to paddle in a straight line. We all know that familiar feeling when the wind starts blowing—some of the most experienced paddlers have issues keeping their bow pointed in the direction they want. Of course, there are plenty of ways to prep a kayak to deter the effects of a windy day (for example: distributing weight along your kayak, packing items away, bringing the right shape and size kayak, etc.) but even after doing all of that, there’s one feature to think about when shopping for your kayak—a skeg. 



For those of you who aren’t familiar, a skeg is quite similar to a rudder (learn more here) in a lot of ways. It’s a small blade built in and deployed beneath the rear of the hull. Dissimilar to a rudder however, the skeg does not pivot from side to side. In fact, most skegs only offer two settings: not deployed and deployed. So what good does it do? 

What it boils down to is tracking. Tracking is a word that refers to keeping your bow in a straight line as you paddle. A skeg will you track by lessening the effects of wind or rough waters as they push on the hull by connecting it to deeper, more stable water. Why do only some kayaks have a skeg? 

Not every kayak has a skeg built in. Skegs are usually found on those that are meant for touring or longer distance paddling and for boats that need the extra assistance. Some kayaks offer it as an add-on option for boats that may be used for playing around rapids but may also need help for long distance paddling. If you happen to find yourself without a skeg and in need of one, you aren’t necessarily out of luck. There are plenty of kayaks on the market that do offer optional skegs that can be purchased and installed separately. Another, more common optional feature is a rudder, which can offer even more directional control of your kayak. 

In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether or not a skeg is right for your kayak. For first time shoppers, consider the benefits and for long time paddlers who find themselves consistently frustrated and over exerting oneself just to keep straight, a skeg might be something to consider when deciding on your next kayak. Visit Austin Kayak for more info on some of the different types of skegs available!

All About The Kayak Skeg is a guest post provided by Austin Kayak
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Monday, August 12, 2013

Grand Trunk Parachute Nylon Double Hammock - Review

I’ve never been much interested in a backcountry hammock. For one, I’m a stomach sleeper (actually I like to flop around) and a hammock just doesn't seem like it would be comfortable for extended sleep. I changed my mind when Grand Trunk offered me the Grand Trunk Parachute Nylon Double Hammock. Well, my wife changed my mind for me. She convinced me to give it a try, after all that’s what reviewing is all about.
Grand Trunk Double Hammock
Grand Trunk Double Hammock
When the hammock first arrived I was excited to try it out. I had my new hammock shipped to my office and didn’t want to wait till I got home to experience it. I popped open a couple of celling tiles and found some nice sturdy rafters. The supplied tree slings where way too short, so I grabbed some 1/4 inch rope and quickly tied a suitable rig. I was a little uneasy to sit the first time, but it was pure heaven. I grabbed my computer and a drink and finished the rest of the days work in the hammock. It is now a permeant (and popular) fixture in my office.

Grand Trunk Hammock in my Office
That is, of course, when I’m not taking it into the backcountry. I recently finished a four day backpacking trip in Yosemite NP and the Ansel Adams Wilderness. At the end of each day my wife and I would string up the hammock and have what we have affectionately come to call "Hammock Time." After a long day on the trail sitting in the hammock was absolutely heavenly. Although we never slept overnight in the hammock, it felt good to be able to rest our sore bones on something other than a rock or the ground. The hammock is a luxury we will never backpack without.

Enjoying Grand Trunk Hammock
The Hammock itself is made of lightweight but strong parachute nylon. It is plenty strong to hold two people. The tree slings are two looped lengths of heavy duty rope (a little thicker than paracord) about 2-3 feet long. To hang the hammock you loop a hitch knot around a tree. The other end of the sling has several knots tied into the end at diffrent lengths. You simply clip the nautical-grade steal carabiners into the desired knot and you are ready to go.
Grand Trunk Tree Sling
The only downside (and it's a big one) is the short length of the tree slings. You really have to find two trees at the perfect distance apart and with small enough trunks that the slings will reach around. Which, even in the middle of thick forest, is pretty difficult. Trees larger than a foot in diameter are two thick for the small treeslings. Our first night on the trail we ended up using some paracord to not only span the distance between two trees but to help the slings reach all the way around the trunks. With two of us sitting in the hammock I was pretty nervous trusting our weight to the paracord, but it held. The next night I found some thicker rope at our campsite. It was long and thick and I used it to tie a long tree sling. It was a mistake to use a rope I found on the ground. With two of us, the rope broke and threw my wife's back against some jagged rocks. After that we didn't use anything but the provided treeslings, which left us looking (for what seemed like hours) for two trees that would work. Needless to say it put a real damper on hammock time. To make the hammock work in the backcountry you need to carry long, sturdy, and heavy rope, which just isn't practical. It definitely makes the hammock a real luxury choice, which may not appeal to every backpacker. 

I had to rig some paracord just to get the tree sling to reach around some trees
Their website says the Grand Trunk Double weighs 20 oz. My scale showed 28 oz with slings and carabiners all packed inside the stuff sack. The tree slings by themselves weigh 3.6 oz together. I think some high quality aluminum carabiners would be a nice upgrade. The nautical-grade steal carabiners weighed in at 2.1 oz each.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Grand Trunk Double Hammock for free from Grand Trunk as coordinated by Deep Creek PR an Outdoor Industry Public Relations Company in consideration for review publication.
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