Hanging around the Bitterroots


After some trial and error, I have found the perfect footpad for my hammock: a piece of classic blue foam. Sometimes, like here, you need to put some weight on it, like a rock, to make sure it does not blow away. This is scored and taped so I can fold it, and so fits perfectly in either my camping box or my backpack.


TinyTip for Those With Athlete’s Foot

Have athlete’s foot on one foot only?

If so, then one way to keep your socks straight on a long hike is to buy two pairs of the same sock but each with different colors, then wear them as a mismatched set.

In the example below, I use the red socks for the left foot and the other for my right foot. That way I don’t have to worry about putting my fungally sock on the clean foot.


Hanging Around

Hanging, as hammockers call their activity, is a cult within a cult. I tried it once before a few years ago, with a Hennessey, but it was neither warm nor comfortable. But, after meeting three different hammock hikers on sections of the PCT this summer, I decided to look back into it.

Below is the Whisper hammock I purchased recently from Bonefire Gear.

I’ll post a full review later but let’s just say I love it and had fantastic customer service from Jeremy at Bonefire.

It has solved three large problems for me: pain in my left hip from sleeping night after night after night on hard ground; reducing the time to set up and take down camp; and reducing the time looking for a good sleeping camp spot.

Shown here in “porch mode” with a Hammock Gear cat tarp and tarp sleeve.




Newberry Crater

Took a few days trip camping and hiking out to Newberry Crater, aka Newberry Caldera, aka Newberry Volcanic National Monument, aka Newberry National Volcanic Monument, aka Newberry Volcano, which contains Paulina and East Lakes, as well as the “Big Obsidian Flow”, all in lovely central Oregon. Here’s some pics.

Newberry Crater - East Lake

Remnants of central caldera dome, from East Lake, on a sunny afternoon.

Newberry Crater - View of Mt Bachelor and South Sister over Paulina Lake from the Big Obsidian Flow

View of Mt. Bachelor and South Sister just below the clouds, over Paulina Lake, from the Big Obsidian Flow in foreground.


Warm springs on the north shore of Paulina Lake. You can sit in them. Most were rather lukewarm, but a couple were nice and toasty.

Experiments that Failed: RailRiders

Some things don’t work out.

You hear a lot of people swear by gear they use: this is great, I love this, I would never hike without it. But what works for others may not work for you. Here’s one that did not work for me.

RailRiders shirts are legendary, mostly for their breathability. But what they are also legendary for is stinkiness.

They stink.

More accurately, they retain your own underarm odor, noticeably, through many a washing, through sprays and spritzes, and even through MiraZyme Odor Elminator.

They stink. Apparently, from my experience, they stink forever.

I ordered an Equator top and once I got it, I discovered the other thing about Railriders that is legendary: the bizarre sizing and fit of their clothes. I exchanged it for the one size I am not (Small), which despite some odd corners on the shirt that feel weird, it pretty much fit overall. Quality is high, and most important for me, has Insect Shield (ie permethrin) infusing.

Unfortunately, after it’s very first hike, a 20 miler up and around Eagle Creek in the Gorge one sunny Spring day, it got The Stink.

Then began a month or two long process of trying to find a way to eliminate The Stink. Various washings, soaps and detergents failed. When finally I resorted to Odor Eliminator and even that failed, I gave up. I realized it would stink forever.

And you can’t resell it, because it stinks. And you can’t give it away, because it stinks.

And the quality after some use is not at all what I expected. Here’s a picture of the obvious piling under the arms with only about 40 trail miles of use on it:


I wrote it off as a total loss. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that this failure got me to try an Icebreaker merino wool shirt instead, and that is a great piece of gear, in every respect. It was the only shirt I had on my first 101 mile section of the PCT and I know I can count on it in both chill and sun.

Combining that with my long time hiking buddy (and Goodwill find), a Columbia PFG fishing shirt (which does not quite as breathe as well as a Railrider, but also does not stink), I have a good combination now for three seasons of hiking.

I do have to spray both of those myself with permethrin, but I do that to a lot of clothes now, so that’s just part of the job of getting them ready for the trail each time.

So now not only are my shirts dialed in, but I have discovered that merino has made leaps of progress – especially in durability – since I first tried it out a few years ago with some Smartwool base layer pants (which performed great while they lasted, which was not very long at all, and put me off of using merino since then.)

My next experiment is Icebreaker shorts – could they both eliminate oder and be as breathable as a kilt? The miles will tell.


Oregon PCT: Timberline to Olallie Lake

I continued south on Oregon PCT from Timberline Lodge down to Olallie Lake this week. Now completed 101 miles.

All water sources on Halfmile’s PCT maps are active and have water. The formerly broken water pump at Frog Lake campsite is working; located between camp sites 4 and 6. There’s a couple water gaps of 8 to 10 miles between Timothy Lake & Lemiti Meadow. Water quality at Lemiti Creek is getting stagnant and murky, but plenty of water. Look for more details at trail conditions update page on PCT Oregon.com site.

I bivied first night at north end of Timothy Lake and the mosquitoes were surprisingly not a serous problem at all. Similarly at Warm Springs River, which has some excellent cold clear water. Weather excellent at night; never needed to get out my tarp.

Afternoon of my second day I met thru-hiker Slingblade on trail who had an encounter with a bear around mile 2047 just north of Jude Lake.

The bear started to leave when it saw him, but then came back and bluff charged Slingblade on the trail. He showed me a picture of it. There was lots of bear scat on trail around there. Huckleberries are ripe everywhere along the trail between Timothy and Olallie Lakes. Berries means bears.

About a dozen hikers were hosted at Olallie Lake by trail angels Daniel & Brenda who are there this week. Wonderful hosts they were, to about a dozen or more hikers, mostly section hikers, mostly going north, but several south. As Daniel is a graduate from St. Johns College, we had some wonderful conversations around the campfire. It’s not often you get to talk classics, Greek literature, and even Kierkegaard on the trail :)

Staff and owners at the Olallie Lake Resort Store were friendly and seemed glad to have hikers around. The store has some nice cold beverages, various camping supplies, and several types of backpacker meals, including a nice selection of Paleo Meals To Go – sweet!

Best of all I got a ride home from there by another hiker and his wife who were staying at a cabin at the resort. He had hiked Oregon on the PCT last year and loved the lake so much, he came back to rent a cabin for a few days. Had great conversation on the ride home to Portland with them both. Trail people are great people.

This is an excellent portion of the trail, but it gets rather sunny and dry as you approach Olallie from the north, with the forest thinning out and turning from mostly Douglas fir to mostly Lodgepole pine. Water management is important here, with gaps of 10 and 8 miles from Timothy Lake south to Lemiti Creek with the lovely Warm Springs River between, resp.

Some pics:

Looking north at Mt Hood from the ridge south of Frog Lake, mile 2082.


Timothy Lake Sunset from the north end of the lake, mile 2075
Timothy Lake sunset from the north end of the lake, mile 2075.


Lemiti Meadow
Lemiti Meadow, mile 2052.


Mt Jefferson from Olallie Lake
Mt Jefferson from Olallie Lake.


Mt Jefferson sunrise from Olallie Lake
Mt Jefferson sunrise from Olallie Lake from my bivy bedroom. Not a bad way to wake up.


Oregon PCT: Cascade Locks to Timberline

Did first part of my PCT hike from Cascade Locks to Timberline Lodge. Stayed overnights at Wahtum Lake, near Lolo Pass, and above Little Zigzag Canyon, ambling into Timberline Lodge early morning the fourth day for their breakfast buffet :)

Here’s some pics.

Day one was cloudy and misty, threatening to rain. Hiking across Benson plateau was literally walking in the clouds. Evening arrival at Wahtum Lake brought the first sun breaks all day.


Sun breaks continue early day two and finally a view of Mt Hood peaking out from the clouds.


Lost Lake peaking through the trees.


Over the hills and far away. Day three ascending from Ramona Falls up to Timberline, looking west.


Mt Hood from the south side, looking at Paradise Branch Falls from Zigzag Glacier that soon join the main Sandy River.


Sunset reflecting off Mt Hood, from east side of Zigzag Canyon.


Sunset reflecting off Mt Hood, from east side of Zigzag Canyon. Hiked until after sunset today.


Gear on morning four. Bivied out for night three on east side above Little Zigzag Canyon.


Obligatory, yet elusive selfie, with trusty Tilley hat.


‘Worth the weight’

worththeweight3thingsAs we age, sometimes gear list ‘Wants’ turn into gear list ‘Needs’ .

Some odd things become worth the weight in our packs, when years before we would have considered them heavy luxuries.

Here’s three of mine:

Backup Glasses / Magnifier

I’ve worn glasses since starting grad school, but only recently did I really, really need them to read small print; as in, I can’t read map details clearly without them.

A map you can’t read isn’t much better than no map at all.

So I need a backup.

I have always carried a map and a compass, and now I carry something to magnify with too. Having a backup to glasses on the trail could mean the difference between being lost and found.

For several years now, I have carried and used i4ulenses.

i4ulenses are lightweight but strong plastic, fit on the bridge of your nose like old-fashioned Pince-nez, and come with a small protective case for storage. You can order them in different magnification strengths.

Worth the weight? At 1/2 oz (14 g), to me, yes.

(And that’s the weight with case; if you are willing to skip the case and store them without, then half that weight.)

Foot Massage Ball

To help with some issues caused by a bruise on one of my feet, I recently got a Trigger Point Massage Ball as suggested by my PT.

It’s the perfect end-of-the-hiking day tool to help you massage those tired puppies.

Here a nice video showing some “Therapy Ball Exercises to Release Your Fascia”  and I find these good exercises for my hiking feet.

The ball also works great on other muscles as well. I massage my legs with it after a hike, too, especially the calves.

Worth the weight? At 3/4 oz (23 g), to me, yes.

The Uribag

The Uribag, aka the urinal bag, aka the better pee bottle.

At a certain point in a man’s life, the most important organ in the crotch area, the one that since puberty has been the focus of all his thoughts and life, ceases its role as the man’s master; a role then usurped by the humble prostate gland.

I first got a Uribag for road trips, where it works great, and then used it car camping in my tent to replace my traditional pee bottle.

For years I used a pee bottle for car camping, just a large plastic jar I found at Goodwill. It has a wide opening and a tight lid. When you live in the Pacific Northwest, you live with rain. And so you learn to stay dry in your tent at night. Pee bottles rule.

For backpacking, I use a tarp and bivy usually, and the Uribag is the perfect answer to not having to get out and get wet at night to pee – or, in Summer, to get out and get bit by bugs. And I really, really hate bugs, esp. mosquitoes.

The Uribag holds one liter. It packs small, expands and contracts easily, and the rubber balloon container is tough. It’s easy to clean, too: put in some water, maybe a tiny squirt of soap, shake it around and dispose of it properly (ie dispersed, not near a water source of any kind!)

Best of all, it is pretty easy to pee into while lying on your side: no more getting up on your knees to pee down into a bottle.

Worth the weight? At 2.0 oz, to me, yes.