Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reaction to hiking in Arches National Park (PCT d - 21)

Coming back to work again after being away for three extra days was an anticlimax. I would have loved to have stayed in southeastern Utah for a few more days and really explored the national and state parks in that area. The conditions were nearly perfect for the visit - not unbearably hot during the day or cold at night; not wet but breezy. 

I would definitely contemplate going again some time, not in 2016 but maybe in a couple of years time. I would go for a whole week instead of just three or four days, and make it in late March or early April, not the end of April, when everything is already in full swing down there. To break up the 11 hour car journey from Montana, I would try to find somewhere in Salt Lake City to do something fun on the way. 

You can read more about my Arches trip at this link: Hiking in Arches national park. Photos can be found at these links: and

Now (Wednesday, April 27th) there are only three weeks until Birdie and I head off to Oregon (on May 18th). I've been preparing for that for the past seven months, and soon it will become a reality. Soon, we will be dodging black bears, and getting soaked in the rain, and tending to blistered feet - or, we might not see any bears at all, we might have glorious sunshine, and we might escape with NO blisters whatsoever. And that's part of the fun - pitting ourselves against nature and the elements, and overcoming adversity to triumph in our 100-mile journey. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Weather looking good for Utah trip (PCT d - 30 on Monday)

With just over four weeks to go until the big Pacific Crest Trail section hike in Oregon, the next stage of preparation is really close - my three-night trip to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. The weather is looking pretty good for that:
No precipitation, little wind until Friday, not freezing at night.
Since I didn't get to actually sleep in my hammock while hiking near Norris last weekend, this will be the first proper test of that. The terrain is high desert, with not many trees, except 2,000 feet lower down, next to the Colorado River. The hazards may not include bears or mountain lions this time, but they still include rattlesnakes, plus scorpions and black widow spiders! I expect we'll actually see a lot of ravens and geckos.

There will be some late food shopping on Monday, plus some bulk water shopping and truck packing on Tuesday evening, so that we can make an early (6 am) start on Wednesday morning. We should be in Moab well before sunset so, after staking out our campsite for the evening, we'll drive into one of the parks to capture the magical lights and colors of the setting sun on the iron-tinted sandstone landscape. On Thursday and Friday there will be a number of short hikes to see more of the sandstone arches, spires, fins and balanced rocks, and the mesas of southeastern Utah.

The near-real time map will be available again at although, of course, there won't be any data to see there until after Wednesday afternoon. (p/w is the small town with the short name mentioned in the previous paragraph).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bought train tickets today for Oregon trip (PCT d - 35)

Two days on a train to get there
With only five weeks to go until our 100-mile PCT adventure around Crater Lake in Oregon, I bought our train tickets today.

After the "excitement" of the Norris hike last weekend, there's not long before the Utah trip. This time next week I'll be on Interstate-15 heading south approaching Salt Lake City. We'll be camping outside the national parks near Moab (only because they don't have enough trees to hang a hammock - a bitter lesson learned), but the plan is to see the sunrises and sunsets in the Arches and Canyonlands national parks, and take lots of photos of the sandstone arches and needles. There'll be many miles of hiking too. It should be great!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Beware of ticks (an important message)

I wrote about it in my description of the Norris hike, but it's worth repeating: 
There were some creatures that got a bit too friendly and wanted to come home with me - ticks. I found one on my arm when I was at the trailhead, waiting for my ride home. It was quickly and easily removed. When I got home, I took all my clothes and dumped them in the dry bathtub overnight until I had the energy to look for more. I checked myself for more ticks, as much as I could.
A tick (this one was tired, so it was lying on its
back! Not really, it couldn't run away from the
camera when it was on its back)
Allegedly, they like the color white, and they can't crawl up the side of the tub, so, on Sunday morning there was the one above, sitting there. I had to play de-tick-tive and look through the rest of my clothing and gear, inside and out and along all the seams. This was the only other one. ** UPDATE - there was a second one which found its way onto my shoulder but didn't bite me, possibly via my backpack ** 
TickEncounter Resource Center
The University of Rhode Island has a most authoritative TickEncounter Resource Center at You should check it out.

I reported mine to URI, with the photo above. I suspect it's an American Dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), but I'm not the expert. After reading about them, and having seen three, I became super itchy and paranoid (kind of). I'm pretty sure I wasn't bitten - it's been 48 hours now since I finished my hike. Still, that large bottle of 0.5% Permethrin spray that my daughter bought for me will come in really handy soon! (

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Weekly average steps keeps going up

My weekly average number of steps keeps going up!
Three-week moving average is almost 60,000 steps now
That's good, because I'll be needing to do 30,000 a day for seven straight days when I'm in Oregon in less than six weeks time!

308 lbs today (PCT d - 38)

I knew this would be a good one:
308.4 lb (139.9 kg)
After the strenuous hike on Friday/Saturday, I'm down to 308.4 lbs. That's more than four pounds less than Friday morning. Now, 303 lbs by the end of April looks doable.

My reaction to hiking the Bear Trap Canyon

HOLY SHIT! No apologies for the language. Holy shit!

That was probably the most physically demanding thing I've done in 20 years. It ended up being nearly a mile shorter than the 7.5 miles I'd intended to hike on Friday, so the round trip was about 13.6 miles, but still not bad.

It was very much a tale of two halves. One half was gentle and rolling and not too difficult. The second half was the complete opposite. I've posted a full description elsewhere on this blog ( with a couple of photos and a link to an online album with more pictures.

In the second half, the way was covered with fallen trees and branches, rock slides (and we're talking some VERY large rocks), and all kinds of different undergrowth and shrubbery ( The path was very narrow in places. So narrow, in fact, in some places that a small slip would have consigned you to the bottom of the ravine. It's a good job it hadn't been raining recently, else it would have been too slippery and dangerous (not that it wasn't already dangerous enough!) The other thing that made it difficult was the constantly changing elevation. This is not something you'd undertake lightly, or with the wrong equipment, or if you were in any way lacking in physical fitness and stamina.

You can read the rest of the account at the aforementioned page:

I was so sore and tired afterwards that I sat down at a bench/table at the trailhead and didn't move for an hour. If I could have slept there, I would have (not having slept much the night before).

I was really glad for the opportunity to soak in the Hot Springs at Norris for a couple of hours afterwards.

Now that I've made it out of there alive and I survived, I'm glad I did it. At the time, I was cursing and swearing a few times. I wouldn't do it again unless the conditions were absolutely perfect: good gear, good weather, the right time of year to avoid the snakes, a well-honed body to cope with the physical demands, etc. In short, those circumstances are unlikely to all be present (for me) at the same time in a very long time.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Bear Trap Canyon hike is today and tomorrow

In just over an hour I'll be setting off on a 100 mile drive towards Norris, MT, to start an 8-mile hike in Bear Trap Canyon by the Madison river. It's part of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, a recreation area created by an act of Congress in 1983. After hiking down the canyon (there's only one way in for hikers), I'll hang my hammock overnight, then hike the 8 miles back again the next morning. It'll be my first night out under the stars in my new hammock - a good test for what's to come in six weeks time when Birdie (my daughter) and I go to Oregon to hike 100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail near Crater Lake.

Some of the gear I'm taking with me.
I've got some home-made food, plus some Mountain House freeze-dried food; an MSR Micro Rocket stove with isobutane fuel; anodized aluminum cookware; a Sawyer Mini water filter, Aquamira chlorine dioxide water purification drops (as a backup); a First Aid kit with extra blister treatment supplies; Luci solar powered LED light; a couple of chemiluminescent light sticks; a trowel and toilet paper; 100 ft of 550 lb-rated Type-III paracord; a couple of 50 ft lengths of thinner cord for hanging tarps and fly sheets; sunglasses; bug repellent bracelet (no DEET); 130 dB ear-piercing Storm whistle; bear spray; spare laces for my hiking shoes; Gorilla tape; my camera and spare batteries; solar charging panel with cables; Leatherman multi-tool; Anker battery pack for charging devices; my Moto X Android phone; my new Delorme inReach GPS locator/communicator; a notepad and pen for writing; reading glasses; daily medication; my wallet with (not much) money and ID; (maybe a thermometer, and maybe a Bluetooth battery-powered speaker for listening to tunes this evening). 

Holy cow! That's a lot of sh**..tuff. There's also a backpack, with hammock, bug net and fly sheet; a thermal sleeping pad; a down top quilt; a hydration bladder with 2 liters of fresh water, and a drinking bottle for more water. I'm sure I've forgotten to list something (a spoon and fork, a towel of some sort). 

It'll be a good test of my preparedness for the great outdoors. It'll be a great hike, communing with nature. It'll be a great time to get away from the phones ringing at work, and clear my mind of any of that stuff. It'll be great to have time to think about my future, reflect on the successes of the past ten months (losing 92 pounds is a success, I'd say!), and to contemplate what I want in the coming months and years. 

To see my progress, later today and tomorrow, you can go to and enter the password (the name of the neaby town with Hot Spings - I mentioned it in the first sentence). Initially, there'll be blue dots (and a blue line connecting them) every 10 minutes once I start walking. After I get home and transfer the recorded data, you'll see the dots every minute (closer together). 

There'll be lots of photos after I get back, of course, and a full description of the journey itself. Have a great weekend, everyone! I will!

Six in a row 313 (PCT d - 40)

For the sixth day in a row, I've lost a fraction of a pound. It's not much, but six times 0.2 or 0.4 pounds is still 2 pounds at the end of the week, right? Whether it's coming off quickly or slowly (and maybe more sustainably, I don't know), it's still progress.

312.8 lbs (141.9 kg) - down six days in a row
With some long hikes and outdoor adventures coming up in the next few weeks, starting with Bear Trap Canyon near Norris, MT, later today and tomorrow; then Moab, Utah, in two weeks; and 100 miles near Crater Lake/on the PCT in Oregon in six weeks, there's going to be a lot of calorie burning coming up. Even though it still seems a long way away, my 303 lb target for the end of April looks achievable, and breaking through the psychological 300 lb barrier looks doable before the Pacific Crest Trail hike.

Every morning, I wake up thankful for the support and encouragement of all my friends, and everyone who made this journey happen.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

313 Slow and steady wins the race (PCT d - 42)

Another new recent low weight this morning, 313.6 lbs.
313.6 lbs (142.2 kg)
With some big hikes coming up in the next couple of months, I feel like the momentum is with me. As the weather improves, and the lighter evenings are here, things can only get better.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Missed it by that much 314 lb (PCT d - 44)

So, I missed my end-of-March weight target, but only by a smidgen, even after a couple of days of bad eating and excess carbs in the past week. Onward and downward towards 303 lbs now!
314.2 pounds (142.5 kg)

I'm excited because I'll be taking the day off work on Friday to go hiking next to the Madison River (Bear Trap Canyon) near Norris. It's about 8 miles from the trailhead to the powerhouse, past some excellent fishing and kayaking spots. I'll camp out there overnight, and do the 8 miles back up again the following morning. My reward will be to have a nice long soak in the Norris Hot Springs. For those who would like to follow my progress, you can go to and use the correct password (it's the name of the town I'll be near on Friday, with a capital 'N' - I've already mentioned it twice in this post). The weather forecast calls for a high at 4.00 pm on Friday of 74 °F, cooling down to 46 °F by 6.00 am on Saturday, but most of the night will be in the 50s (hooray!) The rain will stay away until 5-ish in the afternoon on Saturday, so I should be on my way home by then. It's set to be a great trip. It'll be a New Moon that night, so I'll be sure to take my head lamp with me, and it'll be great for star-gazing too.

Planning for the Utah trip, two weeks later, is also going well. Thanks to the power of the Internet, and YouTube, we've been able to check out the campgrounds that have trees suitable for hanging hammocks from (not that many actually INSIDE the Arches and Canyonlands national parks). It'll be a good test of the electronics that will be use on my Oregon trip four weeks afterwards.

For the third week in a row, I increased my weekly step count to a new personal best. After 57,400 and 57,800, last week I walked 58,500 steps. With the upcoming hike next weekend, I should be able to surpass 60,000 this week too.