Summer Trip Planning

Lots of talk about where to get our Epic hike in this year. Head to California and do the JMT? Re-do the West Coast Trail? Short run to Goat Rocks?

Reality is that it will probably be something modest this year. Theresa is pregnant again with Kid 2.0 and due in early August, so I'll have to squeeze this one in early. With such low snow cover, shouldn't be a problem. Lots of talk earlier this week with Tim and again this evening with Nigel on doing the PCT section between Snoqualmie and Stevens. It's about 70 miles with ~ 12k feet up and down. Tim is wanting to make it a 3-day long weekend (temporary insanity), Nigel is wanting a more leisurely 5-day trip.

If you're thinking of an epic trip this summer, what is on the top of your list? Shoot me a comment and let me know…

MontBell Extremely Light Down Jacket


Occasionally something comes along in the outdoor industry that re-invents your previous perception on the world.

For me, this is one of them. At first sight it's a nice looking puffy jacket. But that's a winter thing right? They're heavy. Then someone picks up said puffy jacket and throws it at you. You put you hand out ready to catch a pound or so of duck-filled garment and them – boom. Not what you expected. It's like a helium balloon just brushed against your hand. Where did the weight go? This doesn't make sense. It's thick and puffy, and warm – but it doesn't weigh anything. Huh?

And so began my $160 love affair with the Montbell Ex Light Jacket. Not to be confused with its heavier cousin the Montbell UL Jacket, this sucker weighs in at a scant 5.7 oz for a Medium. But don't expect any frills – like pockets or hemmed waists.

I wore this whenever I had a chance on the Wonderland Trail. Rest stops – camp, heck I even slept in it on most nights. It's a perfect compliment to my lightweight summer bag when things get a little chilly at night to ensure I'm snug as a bug in a rug.

Granted, I've spent more time in this Jacket off the mountain at this point. It's so snug, so cozy that I've been living in it for most of the winter.

This jacket replaces my Bozeman Cocoon Vest, as for 0.4 oz more it packs a whole lot more warmth. The trade-off is that I'm more vulnerable to rain as the Cocoon was synthetic and this is down, but one I'm willing to risk.

Wonderland Trail Trip Report – Day 7

South Puyallup River -> Mowich Lake

Total Distance: 21.7 mi
Date: 9/5/2009

Indoor Swimming Pool

I woke up around 6:30 to the feel of wet feet. It rained hard in the night, and the area we pitched the Tarp Tent was not a good one. A huge puddle of standing water formed at the bottom of the tent and because I have a 1st generation Cloudburst without the bathtub floor – it overflowed the ground sheet and came a few feet into the tent. With a lightweight down sleeping bag, this would have been unfortunate. Luckily for us – we were planning on being off the trail tonight – so it didn't matter too much.

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Wonderland Trail Trip Report – Day 6

Paradise River to South Puyallup River

Total Distance: 14.6 mi
Date: 9/4/2009


A Stir in Camp

The morning started average enough. Wake up, go for a pee, get the stove going start to make breakfast etc etc. That is, until Dave decide that it would be a brilliant idea to accidentally knock his cup over, next to the wasp nest entrance – and watched it tumble into the opening.

Almost every wasp in the nest decided to come for a little visit to see what the commotion was. We backed away and kept a little distance. After five minutes or so, they decided that Daves cup wasn’t a big threat and slowly started flying back into the nest. Whew.

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And the winner is…

I received 25 comments on the post – so entered the number into and let it do the hard work for me….

The lucky number came up as …. 3

So… the winner is: Lighthiker.

Congrats to the winner and thanks to everyone for participating and the kind words.

I really purged my gear pile – so more freebies to come in the near future…

Free Gear – GoLite Breeze Backpack

I'm spring cleaning . (yes – I know it's Fall ) and sorting through my outdoor gear. I have a GoLite Breeze up for grabs. This pack was the predecessor to the Jam and based on Ray Jardine's original design in Beyond Backpacking. It's a very light no frill pack and in excellent (used) condition.


Read this GoLite Breeze Review for more info.

How do you win? Simply submit a comment on this post and include your email address (so I can contact you for sending info…) when you do. I'll pick a lucky winner at random on Friday.

Oh – and you have to agree to reimburse me for postage costs.

[Read Lucky Winner to see who won]

Wonderland Trail Trip Report – Day 5

Maple Creek -> Paradise River

Total Distance: 7.4 mi (10.6 mi Unofficial)

A Soggy Start

The rain slowed to a trickle in the early morning so we hopped up and took advantage of the lull to grab some breakfast. The toilets were so overflowing in Maple Creek that we decided not to contribute to the problem and broke out the trowel and set up camp  in the nearby clearing.

After packing away the soggy tent, we broke camp around 9:30.

The trail started out innocent enough – traversing Stevens Creek in the woods. Soon we came across badly conditioned sections of the trail – lots of washouts and erosion from flooding with make-shift paths around.

The overgrowth was wet and made for a soggy morning stroll. We powered on and soon put the easy miles to the lakes behind us. The trail crossed the road several times on the way to Reflection lakes – with the occasional car rolling by.

At Myrtle Falls a bridge was out and a big tree had been felled to create a temporary bridge.

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Wonderland Trail Trip Report – Day 4

Indian Bar -> Maple Creek

Total Distance: 10.0 mi

A Nibble Free Night

We woke up at 6:30 to a full view of the other side of the river from the missing wall of the shelter. Phew – we made it through the night without getting pooped on or nibbled by mice.

I stepped outside to assess the situation. Given the low cloud and changing weather in the evening I thought we might be in for a rough day. Outside the shelter at first the skies seemed grey, but as my eyes adjusted to the light I realized that they were crystal clear and blue and the valley was out in all it's glory. It was going to be a good one.

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Blog Action Day – Climate Change

Climate Change is undisputedly upon us, and while the exact future ramifications are uncertain – some of the predictions are scary. If they hold true – some amazing coastal hikes like the West Coast Trail simple won't be there for future generations to enjoy?

The wilderness forests that we walk in when backpacking not only give us immense visual and environmental pleasure, but are working hard to pull Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere and pump Oxygen back in, but we're cranking out way more CO2 than is fair for them to cope with. So what small things can we do to help combat the emission of CO2 into our environment?

One thing I looked at recently was my desktop computer. We have two of them in our home – and they are energy hogs. With the advent of broadband, it's convenient to be able to walk up-to a computer and search for answers – so they stay on. 24×7, 365 days a year. Even when we sleep. Laptops are less of an issue as they go into low-power mode, but desktops are hogs.

I admire the disciplined people in the world that turn on and off their PCs each morning and evening – but I'm just not that structured 🙂 So I dug in a little to figure out how I could automate things, and I thought I would share my findings with others on Blog Action Day.

The idea is simple – automatically turn off my computer when I go to sleep, and turn it on again in the morning before I am out of bed. This way, I never experience my computer being ˜off' – and it's always on when I want it. So what are the steps? Read on and find out:

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Wonderland Trail Trip Report – Day 3

White River Campground -> Indian Bar

Total Distance: 10.2 mi

Ready to Rumble

Refreshed after our long half-day rest, we got up early and were treated to an excellent alpenglow on the mountain as we tucked into breakfast. After cleaning up and packing, we hit the road around 7:50 am.

Finding the continuation of the Wonderland Trail was a little tricky – turned out it was on the other side of the car camp ground close to a toilet block.

There was a big tree chopped down over the river with a branch-made handrail for us to cross over. After the crossing – the trail out of White River was more or less level for a while and them started up a very sustained climb to Summerland.

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Wonderland Trail Trip Report – Day 1


Trail Name: The Wonderland Trail

Distance: 93 mile loop + Side Trips

Elevation Gain: 22,000+ ft

Date of Trip: August 30th, 2009

Permit Info: An advanced permit/reservation is required, although a limited number of permits are reserved for walk-ins. Applications can be made around mid-march each year. Permit information here.

Getting There: There are several routes into Mount Rainier National Park. Depending on where you decide to start your trip – you should figure out which ranger station you plan to pick up your permit from. A permit reservation letter will be mailed to you before your start, but you need to use this to pick up your permit before 10am on the start of your hike, otherwise your slots will be given away to walk-ins.

Trail Map:

Map from National Park Service.

Don't forget to click on the thumbnails to see larger images!

The Backpackers:

For this trip – we had a group of four – Nigel, Tim, Dave and myself. Tim, Nige and I did the Pasayten together last year and since then Nige completed the TGO in Scotland to hone his Ultralight skills (Or develop some contraband habits as we'll discover later ). Tim was a good sport spending a week with three brits. Dave was the newcomer and showed up to Nigel's house the day before with a five pound sleeping bag that more or less filled the entire Jam backpack Nigel lent him. Fortunately, Nigel has a gear surplus and was able to kit him out to be in the ballpark. Our start packs with 5 days of food and full water, weighed in at 23lbs (Brett), 25lbs (Nigel) 26 lbs (Tim), and 27 lbs (Dave). Dave scoffed at our running shoes and opted for more sturdy boots without poles as he had a shoulder injury and didn't want to impact it too much.


Tim Ahlers


Brett Marl


Nigel Ellis


Dave Nettleton

Mowich Lake -> Mystic Camp (13 miles)

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Back from Wonderland

We're back! We had a stunning trip on the trail. Thanks to Tim lugging his huge SLR around the trail – we ought to have some excellent photos to show also once he processes (digitally, in lightroom) them. A big storm is heading for Rainier this weekend – with 1-2 ft of snow down to 6,000 ft. Trail-finding in snow around Klapatche didn't sound much fun – so we compressed the last few days and got out 2 days ahead of schedule. The trail was spectacular, every day brought something unique and different. Including a few side trips – we figure we cleared over 100 miles and about 24,000 ft of elevation. I definitely want to go back and section hike some of the areas that we're socked in due to the storm yesterday – but they we're still pretty none the less. Oh – and I think my teeth are stained from all the blueberries I ate. 🙂

I'm looking forward to going over the notes and writing up a trip report in the coming weeks…

Banana-Mango Chocolate Almond Wraps

With our Wonderland Trail start just five days away, it's time to start thinking about food. Breakfasts and dinner are always easy – but I always struggle for that perfect lunch. Salami, aged cheese and crackers is my staple – but I want something different some days.

So here we go with some more kitchen experiments

First lets meet the band

The rock star of this recipe is the good old dried banana.

This rather revolting slug-looking creature can be found in the bulk food section of Whole Foods. Despite its rotten appearance, they are exceptionally tasty little chaps.

Backing vocals are provided by the delicious Nutella hazelnut spread, easily found in most US grocery stores. QFC carries this in the Seattle area.

On base we have the mighty fine Almond Butter, also found at Whole Foods – in very convenient little 6g squeeze packs.

And finally, on percussion we have Harmony House Foods freeze dried Mango Slices.

So lets put it all together we take our dried banana and chop it into little chunks like so:

We then spread out the Nutella and Almond Butter onto a Tortilla.

Sprinkle the Bananas and mango on top.

Roll and devour.

Not bad. These suckers are going to make their debut somewhere on Day 3 – halfway between Sunrise and Indian Bar.

Happy Birthday Chester

Our little guy turns one year old today. We celebrated on Sunday while Theresa's family were in town.

Over the last year, he's done a handful of hikes with us, (mostly asleep on Theresa's chest) and we hope to get in many more in the coming year including a short (Wet diapers aren't exactly ultralight!) overnight.