Friday, August 5, 2011

My Dream Hike

     Appalachia and Beyond is hosting this month's Outdoor Blog Carnival. The theme for the month is "Dream Hike".  The apparent founder of the OBC, Ross from Pure Outside invited me to participate. By Twitter direct message no less. I was thrilled with the opportunity to participate.
     The theme was posted like bait from a giant fishing hook from the sky. Basically, no dream is too big. If money and time weren't obstacles to interfere with your relationship with nature. For me, this wasn't as easy as it seemed. I guess I've never allowed myself to dream about something like that. I mean, it's one thing to dream of seeing Antarctica, which won't happen for me. So why dwell on it? It's another entirely to dream of a Scottish trip. That one just takes more planning and saving than my normal adventures. The dream hike needs to be one that stretches the boundaries of my financial and physical abilities. THE TRIP. Once in a lifetime. The one that grandchildren will tell their kids about.
     So out came the bucket list. Careful thought removed some of my plans. Then, as the un-original guy that I am, the hair pulling that is creative thought. Alaska, Peru, the Alps? The Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, or the Pacific Crest Trail as thru-hikes? Really, why wasn't there an easy answer? So out came the iPhone with a handy voice recorder. I'm more creative when talking.
     So I came up with more trips than my life will ever accommodate. Encompassing most of the Earth. In all seasons. Then pared it down to two ideas. Then one. My dream hike would be the Oregon Trail(now called the Oregon National Historic Trail).  Originally called the Oregon-California Trail, it was about 2130 miles long, beginning in one of four locations in Missouri and Nebraska. The trail followed the Platte River to its headwaters in Wyoming, crossed the Rockies. Then, it followed the Snake River to the Columbia River, which pours into the Pacific.
Ezra Meeker, 1907. Public Domain

     This is the first vastly traveled overland route from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. In 25 years(1843-1868), an estimated 50,000 pioneers traveled it on foot or in wagon trains. Their trip lasted 4-6 months. They endured all of the elements, including man caused. Westward travel in that period was deadly.  Of the 400,000 emigrants to travel the westward trails, between 10-20,000 died from disease, Indian attacks, freezing, drowning, and Scurvy. Add murder and being run over by a wagon to that list. Fortunately most of those things wouldn't worry me!
     I would attempt to follow the historical path. Not the one created for motorists to symbolically recreate the voyage. My reason is to contemplate what they went through. The drudgery of the plains for several months. Following up with a triumphant ascent of the Rockies and descending the treacherous Snake River Valley. I can imagine nearly losing my mind while dealing with grasshoppers and chiggers. But being able to watch native prairie grass bending to the wind. To be amused by entire villages of Prairie Dogs. Then to gradually increase in elevation from the low plains to the high, then over the grandeur of the Rockies. I could experience nature's wrath in entirely different ways. Wind and dust storms, snow and ice storms, rain and dry.
Matthew Trump, 2004 by Creative Commons Licensing

     The main difference is that it could be done safely. I'd carry better gear and be better prepared. I could revel in my success when the Willamette Valley had been reached. There is no blazed trail for this. But the landmarks still exist. It would take months to plan, and would be a lesson in compromise. Avoiding private property and Interstate highways would be a challenge in its own. If it was a solo trip, the mind-bending solace could nix the whole plan. But I'd be among very few in my generation to ever accomplish this trip. The world would bow to me. Just as it was for the original travelers of the trail, it would be the beginning of something new within me. I would think back on the journey every day until death.
     After all of this dreaming, it occurs to me that any time spent on the trail is my "dream hike". Maybe that is the purpose to this little exercise. To remind dimwits like me that every step glorifies life. What is your dream hike?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gear Review: Goosefeet Down Socks

Gear Review: Goosefeet Down Socks

Product Information

Manufacturer: Goosefeet
Year of Manufacture: 2011

Listed weight: Size Large (Men's 10-12) 2.4 oz.
Weight as delivered with +25% down: 2.65 oz. (77g)
Length: 12 Inches (30.48cm)
Width: 5.5 Inches (14cm)
Packed Size: 7" X 3.5" X 3.5"
Loft with +25% down; +/- 1 inch (2.54cm)
MSRP: $60, add $4 for +25% down
Reviewer purchased this item

Outer Material: .9 oz. Ripstop Nylon
Insulating Fill: 800+ Premium Goose Down
Colors Available: Black, or (Gray, Royal Blue, Denim Blue, Red, Olive) for an additional $5
Sizes Available: XS, S, M, L, XL all in unisex, but check site for shoe size conversion
Cottage Manufactured in the U.S.A.

Manufacturer description:
These Down Socks are made from lightweight 0.9 ounce per square yard Ripstop nylon and 800+ fill premium goose down. They have elastic ankle cuffs and come with a stuffsack.

Each pair of socks is stuffed with 1 ounce of 800 fill power down. You can add extra down for increased loft and warmth if you wish. Extra down fill in the L and XL is recommended but not required.

Initial Review:
I ordered these from the website. There was a warning that there would likely be a shipping delay because each pair was made to order. I had no problem with this, but it needs to be said. I reviewed the order confirmation email several days later and noticed that I had mistakenly ordered the size XS. I contacted the manufacturer and was able to get my order switched at no additional cost. My item arrived about 2 weeks after ordering. The booties were well sewn, with no loose stitching. The cuffs were of good snugness and the interior seams were unnoticeable(by my feet). I tested them in my bed that night and my feet sweated slightly. Keep in mind that the room temperature was about 67F degrees.

Field Test:
I used them on an overnighter at Devil's Den State Park (AR) where the low temperature was 36F degrees, in conjuntion with my Western Mountaineering Summerlite 32. Since my body fills out the bag snugly, I was essentially looking to achieve warm feet even if I compressed the down in my bag. It worked. I was happy enough with this product to use this combination on a week long AT trip in late March.

Long Range Report:
I have used these Down Socks/Booties on about a 12-15 nights, with temperatures ranging from 25F to 50F. The thing that never changed was that my feet were consistently warmer than my rear end. The loft has not changed at all, even after packing them repeatedly into the small stuff sack. I recommend storing them in a much larger stuff sack between uses. I hang mine in my closet. These are not meant to be walked on, so do not think of them as a camp shoe. If that is your objective, look elsewhere. These are simply a lounge/sleep sock.


Goosefeet impressed me with service and quality. I really liked that they have created a specialty item and are unabashed by it. The quality is unmatched by any down bootie that I have seen elsewhere. This is the kind of item that I had previously considered making myself, but there is no way that I could have created such a professionally sewn item. This will be in my pack any time the temperature will be below 45F degrees.

Things I like:

1. Durable. (for an item made of SUL materials)

2. Well designed
3. Small and SuperUltraLight
4. Cottage made by an actual backpacker

Things I don't like:

1. Slower arrival than could be had from companies keeping the item in stock 24/7
2. Not designed to be used as a camp shoe