North to Fontana 3 + obsessive AAR

Journal entry:

January 21, 2013

Brown Fork Gap Shelter, 12:00 PM.  Lunch.  Freezing my *alls off.  Temp says 39, but with a stiff howling wind up from the valley.  Sitting in the back corner of the shelter to hide from the wind. (Gear note:  1 Esbit cube did not boil 16 oz. of water!. )

Today’s hike:
6:30  – hit snooze
7:30 – up with “first light” – funny no bird songs at sunrise this time of year.  Breakfast: coffee x2, mashed potatoes with cinnamon, sweetener, and some trail mix thrown in (meant to bring raisins) – makes a decent ersatz cream-of-wheat-ish dish.
9:00 – hike on
10:20-30 – Cody Gap, stopped for water.  Boy am I glad I did not sleep here.  The gap is a wind draw and freezing.  100 yards down the trail in the shadow of the mountain it feels 10 degrees warmer
12:00-1:00 – Brown Fork Gap shelter for lunch.  Hot tea, salami & cheese.  Almond butter.
2:07 arrive at car – end of hike.

Cooking with Esbit

Cooking with EsbitTea for one

Tea for one


Gear notes & observations for this trip:

  • I switched to old-stand-by alcohol stove for this trip – Jason was using the cannister stove for a Boy Scout canoe trip (they do not allow liquid fuel for safety reasons).  For short trips an alcohol setup is much lighter, but the reason I switched to cannister gas is the amount of fuel you would have to carry for longer trips. Isobutane is so much more efficient that it offsets the weight of the cannister after only a few days on the trail, by my math.  It is also more convenient, with easy & instant  on/off, simmer capabilities, and faster boil times.  That said, alcohol can be an excellent choice, especially for a 2-nighter such as this.  With alcohol you have to watch & manage your fuel consumption, and I was a bit rusty on matching up the fuel to water boiling ratio.  Along with boiling water for a hot water bottle to sleep with, I ran out of fuel on the last day, even though I brought more than enough.
  • Lipton Sides: WAY TOO SALTY!  I try different flavors with each campout or hike, and so far the only ones that are tolerable are Teriyaki Noodles and (since I am off noodles) Broccoli and Cheddar Rice.  I need to come up with a solution.  Homemade chili has consistently been the best trail food, but involves a lot of work.  Also my first time to try the hiking staple instant mashed potato flakes, and I wholeheartedly approve.  Much easier (and lighter) than homemade dehydrated baked potatoes.  If only there were instant sweet potato flakes.
  • Esbit – I brought along a couple of cubes as backup, and used one to make tea at lunch on the last day.  These work fine in normal conditions, are just about the lightest and most compact form of fuel.  They do leave a nasty sticky smelly residue on the bottom of pots.  It’s this residue that ruled them out for me.  As it turns out I was not able to boil even one mug of water in near freezing temps with 1 whole Esbit cube.
  • Convertible mittens, fleece – Full coverage mittens which fold back to become fingerless gloves.  To these I give all available stars.  Even on the trail with temps in the 30s they help with temp management and regulation.
  • Chem Vial – My own invention: When I switched from pumping/filtering water to using Aqua Mira chemical drops, I was annoyed by having to wait around for 5 minutes for the parts A and B to activate.  Especially when preparing water for 2 people.  So I got one of those aluminum keychain pill (or “secret stash”) vials and clipped it to my pack.  This way I can pre-prep the chemicals as I am approaching a water source, or hike on without having to carry the open cap of 14 chlorine drops.  Works perfectly.
  • Big knife – Typically one uses a folding pocket knife on the AT.  (Leatherman C33 for me) It’s all you really need, for opening Spam Singles, slicing salami, and cutting the occasional para cord.  But this trip I wanted to try a larger fixed blade knife.  For cutting wood, batoning, splitting, as needed to build a fire or what have you.  And in anticipation of deeper wilderness hikes upcoming.  The one I got is the Kershaw Whiplash, which I purchased based solely on its good looks.  And the Kershaw name, of course.  I have to say, in cold weather, the square-ish handle is annoyingly uncomfortable when performing normal knife tasks such as shaving wood or twisting the handle when splitting.   And I am unenthusiastic about the sheath.  The other option I looked at was the Gerber Big Rock.  It has a really comfortable handle by all accounts, and a better sheath in my opinion.  But I hate Gerber (for no real reason – Bear Grylls perhaps?).  Nevertheless, I am considering giving the Gerber a shake next time.  But it is not as if the Kershaw has “failed me”.

My god am I OCD.  (or anal, as we used to say)


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