Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hitting the Wall

As anticipated, I have reached the juncture in this little expedition where I begin to question and rationalize my decisions.  And equally as anticipated I am very good at arguing the points of my own folly at taking on such a stress inducing endeavor.  I hate arguing with myself, mainly because I'm usually right.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flip Flop and Try

I anticipated the universe would intrude upon my "ideal" thru hike in some manner, and as expected I am challenged with conforming my ideal with reality.  This is not a bad thing, as I will still traverse the same number of miles and see the same scenery and pass the same white blaze markers of the trail.  It just won't be in the order, direction, or time frame I had originally planned.  Unless I figure out how to bend space-time to my will, this involves

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Lull Between Disasters

As I imagine will be the case on the trail, so I have noted of late the spans of time between things worth mentioning.  I am working the plan, hiking the hike so to speak.  At this point the plan involves paying down the last balances on the credit cards (to the dismay of the credit card companies), and retaining employment without strangling my coworkers so as to accomplish said credit card paying.  In other words, life as usual.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's Make Some Whoopie [Slings]

Tinkering is one of those thing that satisfies the best parts of the human brain, or at the very least the male human brain.  For some it is much like smoking crack, except crack isn't nearly as addictive nor is it as much a burden on ones wallet.  This, I think, is why poor folk tend to do drugs instead of tinkering.  Too many times have I gone beyond my means with trying a new gadget only to be disappointed in what it couldn't do then promptly taking it apart to see if I could fix the perceived deficiency thus voiding the warranty and any chance of getting my money back.

This is why I stay poor and mostly humble.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First Flight of the Blackbird

I spent Saturday night testing my new hammock, the Warbonnet Blackbird I posted about several weeks ago.  Here is what I have to say about the experience.

It was interesting.  Being the first time I'd camped out in a hammock it took some adjustment and finagling to get comfortable.  Add to that my inability to regulate body temperature well and the lack of my CPAP machine for my sleep apnea, and it wasn't what I would call a fully restful night.  But it also wasn't horrible.

I awoke

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hanging Myself - Update

After further deliberation, and a good measure of impatience, I decided today to just purchase a hammock rig and be done with it.  I like the artsy crafty stuff, but sometimes if someone out there already does something well enough, it is better to just shell out the bucks and save oneself the headaches.

I decided on a heavy duty Warbonnet Blackbird double 1.7oz rig with the adjustable suspension system.  I would have gone for one of the lighter models, but I'm fat and need the extra material to hold my wide ass.  It will undoubtedly serve my needs, and comes highly rated by many hangers on Hammock Forums.

Warbonnet Blackbird 1.7
Fortunately I believe my Ray Jardine tarp-tent will serve my needs for the tarp part of this rig, but will know for sure once I set the whole thing up.  If not, my wonderful wife may need to break out the sewing machine again. The double hammock will also permit me to use the Thermarest Neo-air pad for added insulation until such time as I can acquire or make an underquilt.

If all of this sounds a bit confusing, yet at the same time intriguing, I would recommend you head over to the hammock forum site and educate yourself on the finer points of hammock camping.

Meanwhile, I will be impatiently awaiting my new toy.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thinking of Hanging Myself

While researching potential ways of making my carefully researched and chosen sleep system lighter, easier and more comfortable, I discovered a method of camping I had yet to investigate.  I am kinda beating myself up since I had already invested time and money in gear, but since it wasn't a huge investment and can be adapted to this "new" method, I am not overly annoyed.  I am, however, strongly considering hanging myself...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Appalachian Trials - A Review

(11/12/12) NOTE:  Please read the author comments and my response that follow this rant. 

Recently I finished reading a book written by a 2011 thru-hiker named Zach Davis, aka The Good Badger.  The full title of the book is Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking The Appalachian Trail.  What follows is my personal opinion of said work.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Failure is Always an Option

In a never ending struggle to minimize the crushing pack weight on this fat old sage, an experiment was performed on some run of the mill Coleman aluminum extrusion tent pegs.

The theory was to drill small holes at regular intervals to remove extra material without diminishing strength.  It s a simple and common method used in mechanical design.  A familiar use can be seen in bridges, airplanes, and some high end ultralight bicycles.

The problem arises if one makes the holes too big, leaving too little material.  There are fancy strength of material equations I have long since forgotten to determine the optimal proportions, but in this case I was swagging it. (SWAG = Swinging Wild Ass Guess)

Obviously from the photo I guessed wrong.  To my defense, I was pounding the stakes into extremely dense and rocky West Virginia Appalachian clay.

So, what have we learned?

  1. West Virginia has really hard dirt.
  2. Coleman uses cheap-ass aluminum for making cheap-ass tent pegs.
  3. I need to dig out my engineering books. (Duh)
  4. Experimentation leads to useful info, even if it is what not to do.

Back to the drawing board...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gear Report - Open Source Huarache

Edit 8/8/13 - I've noticed this page gets many views and may turn out to be something other than what you were seeking.  This is a pseudo-build your own sandals narrative but is rather light on the "how too" part.  If you want more info on that, please leave a comment or email me.  I'd be happy to help.  Now on to the post:

This is an obvious statement: hiking begins at the feet.  As such, I have been contemplating the current state of my own ten digit wonders of bio-mechanical evolutionary engineering.  In short, they hurt.  I imagine this won't improve when adding 30 pounds of pack to their already sizable burden.  The thought of it makes my toes curl in unpleasant anticipation.

I immediately go with the assumption I am doing something wrong considering this seems the case more often than not.  As with all things I find myself doing wrong, I attempt to find folks who are doing it more right than I under similar circumstances.  Thus far I have discovered or affirmed my suspicions regarding several things.
  1. Contemporary soft cushioned sneakers with raised heels are evil.
  2. Humans are generally built better for running than walking.
  3. The heals of ones feet are intended mainly for balance while stationary.
The way I was raised to think about footwear, and walking in general like many other things in life, has proven to be based mainly on social inertia and general ignorance.  The result has been constant pain in my feet, back, neck, as well as wondering why all my little toes curl toward the big ones.  The later problem results from the continued refusal of my feet to conform anatomy to what the shoe industry has deemed average width for an American foot.  My pinky toes can be such rebels.

The rest I can place squarely on the shoulders of the culture and heritage in which I was raised.  I remember distinctly being ridiculed by my father, whom I do not blame for blindly perpetuating social indoctrination, for walking with an effeminate forefoot strike gate rather than the traditional masculine heel to toe strike.  I was doing, and have had to relearn to do, what feels natural.  I've had to do that with many behaviors, but that's for another blog.  This revitalized philosophy has finally reached the root of things, my feet.  I am learning that going barefoot is the ideal type of footwear, and the forefoot strike stride is better for ones posture, muscle usage, and general well being than walking heal to toe in overly cushioned sneakers.

Being the rational creature I am, many of the changes I initiate in life must be backed with reliable research.  I emphasize "initiate" since being a typical weak willed human I do not always follow through with all things I start.  Lately I have been getting better with the important change of following through on changing, so things are looking up.

But I digress...

Yes, I was speaking of research, facts, repeatable scientific experimentation, proof of concept either published in relevant periodicals or at least broad anecdotal evidence.  Granted that last method of research has lead to many people believing big eyed grey aliens are real (something that big needs more than hearsay for proof IMHO), but in general it can be a useful guidance for what works and what doesn't in everyday life.  In regard to this particular discourse, I have been leaning on those who have taken up the activity of ultra marathons and am attempted to extrapolate the information for use in thru-hiking.

My initial enlightenment on the subject was from an NPR report on a book by Christopher McDougall called Born to Run.  It is a factual account describing the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their little hobby of running 50+ mile marathons in nothing more than a simple pair of sandals (aka Huarache's).  After seeing Mr. McDougall on Jon Stewart (one of my favorite and most credible news shows), I began to seriously formulate an idea regarding my choice of footwear for this hike.  "Hmmmm," I thought....

The next relevant person I came across, on Facebook of all places, goes by the appropriate moniker of Barefoot Ted.  He is not only an avid fan of this concept of shoe-less locomotion, but has literally become a worldwide spokesperson for it.  In addition he has started a business called Luna Sandals that sells a domestically designed and manufactured versions of the Huarache.  "Facinating," I mused...

By now the idea was coming to full maturity, and being the tinkering sort I started to plan my own version of this interesting footwear to prove it's viability for long distance hiking.  Borrowing from those aforementioned and others, I managed to assemble the parts needed to produce my own test pair of hiking sandals.  The finished product is ready to be broken in.
All the components are available online for a reasonable price.  My average final cost was around $40 for a very heavy duty pair of sandals.  They have an 1/8" leather footbed and an 8mm Vibram sole.  The lacing is run of the mill diamond braid soft poly rope that has the center fiber reinforcement removed.  I may upgrade to leather if I can find a reasonable source, or I may just order a set of laces from Luna Sandals for the rather inflated price of $12.  My attempts to find flat braided hemp came up empty, as it would have cost me as much for 10 ft. of lacing as it did for all my other raw materials combined.  It is a sad state when we must import at great expense such a versatile product like hemp that once grew native in our own back yards.

Yet again, I digress...

After a bit of gluing, cutting sanding and drilling, what you see is a very nice and extremely comfortable piece of footwear.  Can't wait to try them out on a long walk.  Feel free to contact me for a list of material sources, and you too can walk like your feet where meant.

For all you non-crafty folk, hop over to Luna Sandals and check out their selection.  As with everything though, don't take my word for it... research.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sweating with the Oldies...

They say (whomever "they" are) that 50 is the new 40.  This is all well and good, but it still doesn't help the fact at 42 my knees make more noise than the brakes on my car, I haven't been able to visually locate certain parts of my anatomy in several years, my digestive system doesn't like being in the horizontal position, and the heaviest thing I lift on a typical day is a coffee cup.

How does one of such spectacularly deficient physic prepare for a hike that is roughly 10 times more strenuous than ones normal daily routine without blowing out a knee or having a coronary?