Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Q & A With Standing Bear 7-31-12

Mike & Brooke are in the home stretch on their journey along the Appalachian Trail - they have less than 400 miles to go!!  I think that's incredible and so inspiring.

Last week they achieved another milestone - they reached the summit of Mt. Moosilauke, which is 4800 ft. high!  To read Mike's exhilarating account of their climb and to see some really cool photos, go to his blog.   And if you want to read about Mike's latest "Day in the Life of a Thru Hiker" experience, go here.

Here's a little teaser photo or 2....

Now on to this weeks Q & A......

We had a huge Midwest heat wave the beginning of July, where temperatures were in the 100’s. Did you experience any of that? If so, how do you tolerate it?

It got up into the 90's many times, but never topped 100.  I think we were lucky because we were pretty far north when the heat wave hit.  Even so, hiking uphill on a 97 degree day is not fun!  We tried to keep an eye on the weather reports, and if we saw a really hot day on the horizon we'd take a day off in town.  Humidity plays a big role too, as sometimes when you're hiking on a really muggy day it feels like it's hard to breathe. 

Some people will hike at night to avoid the heat, and other people like Tortoise Chef will jump into every pond they see.  Brooke and I just tried to plow through it, taking frequent breaks and fantasizing about air conditioning at a motel or hostel in the next town. 

How far off the trail do you have to go to get to most towns?
Towns are usually at least 4 or 5 miles off the trail, which makes hitchhiking so important.  There are a few towns that are directly on the trail, and these towns are known as "trail towns."  For example, the Appalachian Trail passes directly through the downtown area of Hanover, New Hampshire, and we were able to grab lunch at a Subway and watch the new Batman movie!

How do the town people treat you?
Many people in town treat you like a mini-celebrity.  They frequently come right up to you and start asking questions about your hike, what it's like to be a thru-hiker, etc.  Many hikers love this, and it's one of the main reasons they hike the trail.  For my part, I get a little bothered by it.  I am fine with it when people are friendly and polite, but sometimes people are kind of rude.  For example, when I popped into Skyland Resort in the Shenandoah National Forest to check my wifi and call Brooke, this couple came up and started asking all kinds of questions about how long the trail is, where it starts, where it ends, etc.  I was in a hurry as I was running out of daylight and needed to do my errands and get to the next shelter, so I answered their questions and then explained why I needed to leave.  But they kept asking questions anyways.  They didn't seem to care about me or Hike4Kids but just wanted information about the AT, so I felt like they were treating me like an information kiosk so they could avoid doing the research themselves!  But when people are friendly and courteous it's always nice to chat with them about the hike, and I've had some great experiences with people in towns.  After watching the 4th of July parade in Williamstown, MA, I chatted with a very friendly lady who was kind enough to donate $40 to Hike4Kids as well as provide lots of encouragement!

Some hikers like to start at the south end and go north, while others choose to start north and work their way down. What are the advantages of each and why did you choose to hike the direction you did?
Most people start in Georgia and head north for several reasons.  (1) Mt. Katahdin in Maine is seen as a more dramatic ending because you can see it for miles in the distance as you're hiking toward it, and it's a 4,000 foot climb to the top.  (2) The terrain in the north is brutal and a rough place for novice hikers to start.  There are few towns in Maine to resupply at, and you have to do the "100 Mile Wilderness" (100 miles with no towns, hostels, etc.) right off the bat.  It's easier on your body and spirit to start in Georgia, where you can more easily get off the trail to resupply or take a break in town.  (3) Black flies are really bad in Maine and thus you have a very small window of time to start up there (most southbound hikers start in June).

I started in Georgia for these reasons.  It seems that many people who start in Maine are wanting to buck the trend, be unique, or show that they're hardcore.  There are also some people who have scheduling conflicts and need to start in June. 

There is a small but growing number of people who flip-flop or leapfrog the trail.  This means they start in the middle at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and hike north, then flip back down to Harpers Ferry and hike south.  This kind of hike has the advantage that you start with the easiest terrain (the middle of the AT is the flattest!) but it introduces the logistical issue of having to get a long hitch or bus ride in the middle of your hike to return to Harpers Ferry.  Plus, it psychologically doesn't seem the same as one long, continuous hike from Georgia to Maine, even though you're doing the same mileage. 

But to each his own!   

You hike for days on end eating very little food. When you go to town, do you tend to gorge yourselves? Is there a favorite thing you like to eat in town?
I often feel like I'm starving and this is something I'm concerned about.  When I lay down I can feel my hip bone, and when I scratch my back I can really feel my shoulder blades.  I'm glad to have lost weight but I think I'm starting to lose a little too much.  I get very hungry on the trail but I try not to think about it. 

I do gorge myself in town.  At the beginning of the hike, I craved fruit- melons, pineapples, anything I could get my hands on.  Now I crave chocolate milk and lemonade.  I think it's the sugar!!  I can easily drink a half gallon of chocolate milk and a thing of lemonade like it's nothing.  I could literally just sit in town and drink stuff all day!

Go to the Hike4Kids page to read Mike's post about what's ahead for them on the last 400 miles.  It sounds grueling and I applaud their grit and determination.  Please consider making a donation to their cause.

You can also check out their FB page for more news as well.


Lightload towels is sponsoring another giveaway of their amazing towels.  Click on this link to leave comments under the original giveaway post to be entered.  The giveaway runs thru Saturday August 4th and you have multiple chances to enter and win!

(All photos courtesy of Mike McLaughlin. Do not use without permission)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gear Review - Vasque Ultradry Hiking Boots

Gear Review - Vasque Ultradry Boots

I was recently asked by the Vasque Company to gear test a pair of their new Talus Ultradry Hiking Boots.  I currently own a pair of Coleman boots and a pair of Ozark Trail boots, neither of which are waterproof.  The waterproof technology of the Vasque boots was going to be a huge plus for me.  I had recently been on a day long hike where we spent a great deal of time fording several streams and by the end of the day, my feet were a soaking wet, muddy, uncomfortable mess.  I was in serious need of some good waterproof boots.

From the Vasque website I am providing this information:

A heritage styled boot without the old-school weight.Underneath its classic shape, the Talus UD uses a polyurethane midsole with Vibram® outsole, and combines nubuck with mesh uppers for premium fit. Fully waterproof with an UltraDry™ membrane.  
  • Weight: 2lb. 2 oz. (974g)
  • Outsole: Vibram® Nuasi
  • Last: Perpetuum
  • Midsole: Molded PU

Straight out of the box I was impressed with how they looked - strong and sturdy, but yet lightweight.  Personally I prefer a high ankle on my boots and these have a nice high, padded collar.  A generous heel-pull afforded an easy grip while pulling them on.  Really a nice looking boot.  Plus they came with 2 pairs of laces - one set in brown and another in purple.  Of course I chose the purple ones!

The Vibram Nuasi outsole promised good traction on a wide variety of surfaces.  We'll see about that!

Since I was getting the boots without trying them on first, I was concerned about getting the proper fit.  I normally wear a size 6 shoe.  I also have a rather wide foot.  Figuring that I'd always have socks on with the boots and I dislike a tight fit, I opted for a size 6 1/2.  It turned out to be the wise choice.  The cushioned insole was comfortable and cushy.  The boots actually fit me like a glove!  You can't tell, but my toes are doing a happy dance!

When I told my sister that I was testing a pair of Vasque boots, this is the email I got from her in reply...  "When I worked at REI (in the 80's I think) I bought myself a pair of Vasque hiking boots that I have worn every year hiking. I still have them. I've since gotten a lighter weight pair of Vasques so I bring them both to Tennessee and switch off as my older pair come up higher around the ankle and sometimes you want that. I recently found another pair at a garage or rummage sale that happen to be my size so now I have 3 pair. I will not wear them out in my lifetime, Vasques are great shoes."  How's that for an unsolicited testimonial?  I couldn't wait to try them out!

We were getting ready to leave for vacation and I wanted to take the boots along.  Thinking that I should break them in a little before our trip, I wore them around town for several hours for a few days while I went shopping and ran errands.  I have to say, pretty comfortable and lightweight.  The only adjusting they needed was loosening and tightening the laces so the boots properly hugged my feet.  

I promised the folks at Vasque that I'd put the boots through the mill on a wide variety of activities.  Before we left on our trip we drove over to a nearby creek bed where I gingerly splashed around in the shallow water, testing the waterproofing.  So far so good....

The next test was on a hike that involved crossing a stream and then hiking up and down a trail and scrambling over some rocks and trees.....

So far I was really happy with the Vasque Boots and I was amazed that they didn't really seem to need that "breaking in" period.  They felt very comfortable and I never got a blister or had sore feet.

We left for our trip to Kentucky and I wore the boots every time we went outdoors.  I wore them horseback riding.....


Climbing on the bluffs.....


Testing them on a variety of terrain by the lake....

Walking on hard packed dirt.....

And of course....  hiking everywhere!

The day finally came to really put them to the test -the water test.  Ok, I'm ready....

Splashing around.....

Look how nicely the water beads up on the outside of the boots....

Look at how high the water level is here.  And guess what???  My feet were still completely dry!  

Then I had to get cocky, so I stepped further out into the water and just then a series of waves rolled up and over my ankles...  Well, just to keep it honest, I will tell you that then my feet got wet.  But you honestly cannot fault the boots for that.  No boot is going to keep water from running inside the top of the collar.  But I will show you this so you can see how the toes and bottom of my feet were still completely dry....

I feel that the waterproof boots performed beautifully.  The sock dampness you see is totally from the wave rolling over the top of the boots and I don't feel they can be faulted for that.  I think they delivered on the waterproofing as promised.  

Judging by the wide variety of activities, I also think the soles provided excellent traction.  The boots are comfortable, lightweight and durable.  And after 6 weeks of extensive testing and wear, I think they look great.  This photo was taken after I tried to drown them on the last day of testing....

Founded in 1965, Vasque takes its name in honor of Ft. Vasquez of Colorado.  Vasque has a long history of producing quality boots and shoes.  Whether your outdoor activity of choice is hiking, backpacking, or trail running I believe you’d be hard pressed to not find footwear to your liking in their product line.  They have an extensive variety of styles and colors for men, women and children.   If you’re even thinking of investing in a new pair of outdoor shoes or boots, I urge you to check out Vasque

In conclusion, I was very pleased with these boots.  I honestly don't know why I would ever wear another pair of boots again when I have these to slip on.  From a fashion viewpoint, I think they look great with hiking shorts or jeans.  They are crafted with the outdoors in mind and they are appropriate for a wide variety of activities.   These boots were made for walkin' baby!  See you on the trail!

I'd like to thank Vasque for giving me this opportunity to review the Ultradry boot.  These boots were given to me for free to review by Vasque.  I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information supplied from the company website, the opinions are my own.


Lightload towels is sponsoring another giveaway of their amazing towels.  Click on this link to leave comments under the original giveaway post to be entered.  The giveaway runs thru Saturday August 4th and you have multiple chances to enter and win!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

August Lightload Towel Giveaway

The dog days of summer are just around the corner, which is hard to believe, because with the excessive heat we've been experiencing this June and July, I feel like the dogs have trampled me already!  One item that I keep with me at all times is a lightload towel.  Check it out.....

Hard to believe, but these compact little disc's open up to a generous 12" x 12" square.

I did a gear review on these babies last February and I liked them for a variety of reasons.  First off, they are super absorbent.  Second, they are really convenient because of their size.  You can toss one almost anywhere - a pocket, the glove compartment, on the boat, in a tackle box, in your backpack, baby bag, purse, a suitcase.  The possibilities are endless.

Lightload sent me one of their beach size towels to try and I've been using it at the lake all summer.  The beach towels measure a generous 36" x 60".  According to the Lightload website they come in a variety of colors.

I used mine mostly on the pontoon boat and to sit on in the kayak.  It was perfect to use for drying off after  impromptu leaps into the lake.  The beach size towel sells on the Lightload website for $ 9.95.

The Lightload towels come in a variety of sizes - the 12" x 12",  12" x 24" and of course, the full size beach towel.  

They are also extremely affordable - the 12" x 12" package of 2 is only $ 2.75.  Plus, you can get them custom designed with your own logo, which would be a fun idea for a give-away or a company promo.  They sell them on their website and in different stores around the country.

But the towels I really like the most are the 12" x 12" ones.  I tell you, I have used these towels for everything.  I personally keep them in my car, on the boat, in my backpack, my tackle box and in my kitchen.  We've used them to wash dishes, clean the boat, wipe our hands when fishing, sit on when the car seats are hot, in my kayak.   Chablis even keeps one in her purse and when I asked her for it, the first thing she did when we got back home was make me give her another one to stick back in her purse.  She's very possessive about her lightload towels.  They are great!

Are you intrigued?  Would you like to check them out for yourself?  Lightload has generously given me some samples to give away.  Starting today and running until next Saturday, August 4th at 5 pm central time, I'm having a giveaway and 4 lucky people are going to win a package of towels.

How would you like to win a pack?  I'm going to pick 4 winners - It could be you.  It's super easy....

  • Be a current follower of my blog or become a new follower.  Leave a comment telling me which one you are.
  • Please leave another comment in the comments section below, telling me what you'd like to use Light Load Towels for.   That gives you a second chance to win.
  • Go LIKE my Facebook page, post a message on your timeline about the contest and then come back here and leave a separate comment telling me you did.  That gets you a third chance to win.  
I'd like to thank the folks over at Light Load Towels for sponsoring the giveaway.  I love their towels!  I think you will too.  Visit their website for more information.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Geocaching - Gobbler's Knob

While we were in Kentucky we grabbed a few more caches.  One of the ones I enjoyed was the last of a series that highlighted Kentucky Dam Village.  We had grabbed the other ones back in April and I posted about them here.  This particular cache was called "KDV-Gobbler's Knob."

We had put this last one off for a day when we had a little more time.  We drove to the dam and parked at Pinnacle cemetery, which is a really old cemetery back in the woods.  I like these old cemeteries because a lot of them have Civil War soldiers buried in them.

It was almost a mile hike to the cache, but it took us down a nice, wide trail through the woods.  There's been very little rain at the lake this year and all the dirt underfoot is hard packed.  We kicked up pufts of thick dust as we hiked along.

Somebody obviously tried to drive down the road last spring after the rains.  It looks like they had a tough time of it....

Chablis stayed on higher ground while I climbed down and searched for the cache.  I also realized that we could have taken the pontoon boat there if we had wanted to do that.

Once I signed the log book, Chablis and I decided to walk out onto the breakwater wall and take some pictures...

The views of the dam and the lake were really pretty.  It was a crystal clear day and a lot of people were out enjoying the lake.  There was a steady stream of boat traffic in and out of the marina.

Once out at the end of the wall, we had to take some pictures of ourselves standing underneath the signs.  After all, how many times will we possibly be out there??

We enjoyed doing this cache because it was a nice size cache container and it was an enjoyable hike to get to it.  Plus it took us to a spot on the lake that we had never been to before - the breakwater wall.
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