02 June 2014

Everything's Better When Wet...

Well, mostly.

I returned alone to Manitou, I wanted to hike down to the steeper section where the terrain fluctuates even more dramatically.  The forecast wasn't kind, rain, thunderstorms and nothing but, still I wanted to go. The woods were calling...

It was startling to see what a week's passing had done to the forest. Where there were small buds now were leaves, where the forest floor was brown leaves were now ferns and green mosses. Spring had unfurled finally.

The trail was rugged, the terrain here presents plenty of challenges even dry. With everything soaked the footing was precarious at best. I've got about forty miles on a new pair of boots, they're close to broke in and get more comfortable with each outing. This trip would be a good test of them. I purchased this pair of Asolo Sasslong around a month or so ago and so far have nothing bad to say about them, quite the opposite actually but I haven't had them long enough to give a final evaluation.

The scenery down to the dead end camp was breathtaking at times, both for the beauty and the lung busting inclines. Probably the most treacherous footing was the slick wooden structures, many of which are significantly degraded and rotting out. When you get those greenish wooden stairs wet they're slick as ice. My trekking poles saved me from what would have been a couple nasty spills.

Some one had defaced this sign, never will understand why folks feel the need to do things like this. 

I did find the remains of several more deer. Most of them appear to have died in late winter, only one of the four I found showed signs of predation. Though I did find a lot of wolf signed, complete with bones in the scat.

Note the deer hair on the log, likely the deer died when the snow was still deep, as it melted the hair ended up on the downed log.

This was what was left of a very large buck, his pedical were cleared so he died sometime after he dropped his antlers.

The final leg to the camp has a nice flat open area but that doesn't last long, the next is a steep incline with an overlook followed by some nasty declines that bottom out along the river.

Finally at camp, tired wet and hungry, desperately seeing shelter from the marauding mosquitoes  so I set about getting camp set as quickly as possible.

Shelter this time was a combination of a 10x7 UL BCUSA tarp over part of a GSX 2 person. I ditched the fly on that old tent a long time ago. I wanted to try it in conjunction with a tarp. I've got a Bear Paw Wilderness 1.5 net tent on the way for use with a tarp and figured this set up would give me a good idea as to how that's going to work out.

Once that was done I needed to drive the little bloodthirsty bastards out of camp for a awhile. I used a tin can and some horse hoof fungus to get the done. I believe I first got wind of this from Mors Kochanski, and it does indeed work.

The fungus needs to be dry. Light a corner of it and get a good coal going. It won't burn without an active flame. Once it is smoldering put it into a tin can with perhaps some other smolder-ables. The smoke absolutely drives insects away from camp.

Once smoldering it produces steady smoke and worked exceedingly well at keeping the biters at bay.

Next up was dinner, I didn't feel like building a fire so I hit the Pocket Rocket to get water boiling.

One of the things I do like about the GSX are the attachment points in the roof of the tent. There are 5 total, one in each corner and a large center. The big one makes an excellent place to hang your pot from to let it cool. Keeps it out of the way while you're sorting gear and whatnot.

While supper was cooling I broke open my pack and started pulling gear out to get set up for the evening. I carry all of my gear in organizational bags, in this case pullouts from Kifaru.

The mega has my HPG Mountain Serape which I use for a sleeping bag when temps are mild to warm.

The XL has a Kuiu Spindrift jacket in it, it doubles as my pillow when I don't need to use the jacket. Just stuff the pullout with the jacket in it into a cotton t-shirt making it a improvised pillowcase.

My cook kit is in one of the medium and the other has a 'kill kit' which is basically the items I'd use to clean and animal. While not hunting on this trip I do always have this kit in my pack because it has some items I might would need under certain circumstances.

I also wanted to try my Static V pad on top of a Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest closed cell mat. I liked the combo. The Static V on its own seemed to develop cold spots in some locations, usually where the heaviest weight was. Combining it with the mat resulted in no cold spots. Same thing can be accomplished by carrying an insulated air mat but by carrying these separately I have more versatility. I can use the closed cell mat for anything and without fear of damaging my air mat. It also serves to protect the air mat not that the Static V needed that, I've had it on every surface you can find and the bottom has been very durable.

 The Hill People Gear Mountain Serape is a versatile piece of gear indeed. From poncho liner, quilt, great coat, and sleeping bag all in one package. This is my third year with this one and it has become a staple in my kit. I've found it is all I need for overnight stays in temps of 50f and above, when I add a wool beanie and socks I've been comfortable down to high 30s to low 40s. If I were to don a full base layer I believe this thing could carry me down into the low 30s but that's pushing it. Anything below 36f and I'd switch over to my down bag.

Camp fully set and dinner out of the way I headed out to do a little exploring along the river banks, first to the more rugged terrain in the North then to the South.

Heading back to the south along the river the clouds fell into the valley, wet foggy mist enveloped everything.

The rain began to fall heavily not long after I returned to camp. A breeze kicked up too and dropped the temps into the 50s. I settled in for what might be a long night.

I woke a couple times through the night to the sound of rain pelting the shelter, a couple bolts of lightening and thunder in the distance. I crawled a little deeper into the Mountain Serape and slept well over all. I stayed plenty warm and dry throughout the night, no leaks despite ten plus hours of steady rain.

Time for coffee and breakfast. I've started carrying the Starbucks Via coffees, not a huge fan of Starbucks but this is a nice convenient way of carrying and making coffee. Breakfast was oatmeal in a bag. It's pretty straightforward, heat enough water in the HC canteen for 25oz of water plus enough for a couple services of oatmeal. Put the oatmeal in a ziplock bag and add the water. Eat it right out of the bag.

The trail out was wet and foggy, slippery and hard going in some places.

And just like that I was back at the truck. Like most of my trips there was a bit of melancholia for the trip coming to an end, yet also fulfillment. I go to the wild for all sorts of reasons, and always find something that makes me feel more centered, more complete. This one did not disappoint.

The video incorporates some of the highlights of the trip.



  1. awesome pics man. i never really take pics when im just out and about, but need to start getting into now that im taking my son out.

    how you liking that kuiu gear, you should get some reviews of that up.

    1. I'm going to, probably later this Summer or early Fall for the packs. Clothing is within a month.

      So far so good.

    2. great, im in desperate need of updating my hunting clothes, and keep going back to kuiu, but yet to pullt he trigger, looking forward to your thoughts.

  2. Nice one!
    This is the Great Outdoors too. Love the images as usual, despite, or maybe because of, the grey and gloomy atmosphere.
    Interesting patterns you're wearing by the way.

    1. Thanks Ron. I sometimes find I prefer to be out in weather like this over dry and sunny.

      The patterns are pretty good at outline displacement. I wear this kind of stuff in the woods year round because it helps with getting close to critters for photography opportunities and usually these types of clothing have features that are conducive to comfort and functionality in the woods. These have a DWS finish for example and I stayed dry on the inside regardless of rain. The pants also have zippers that open vertically on the quads on the sides with mesh interiors. This allows air to wash over the legs and keeps me cool during strenuous activity etc.

    2. I often prefer a little grey over bright sunlight too. That often means lower temps. I just do not do well in temps over 25C.
      Clothing sounds interesting too, especially since my old armypants are starting to fall apart. Any brandname I could google?

    3. Kuiu, both the Tiburon and the Attack pants. http://store.kuiu.com/outerwear-s/1817.htm

      Spendy but I find them worth it.

  3. Hi I notice you have a very long, you have a great blog. Thank you for your videos and photos. I'm sorry with my English is so bad, I have to write all over the compiler, so I apologize for possible irregularities. What did you have for knives? I have a blog in the Czech Republic www.bushcraftportal.cz
     Regards  Thom

    1. In this case I had my Turley Whelen which I wrote about briefly, here;


      And a Victorinox Huntsman.