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Monday, April 1, 2013

Spot II Personal Tracker


The Spot II personal Tracker has been on the market for a while now but after getting out into the wilderness last year and hiking through Yosemite with ZERO ability to call for help should the need arise, I decided that I would invest in a little bit of piece of mind.

There are a lot of TERRIBLE reviews for the Spot II but being as that very few people actually take the time to give things that work well a positive review, I went ahead and bought a unit used on Ebay.

Once I got the device I was happy to see just how small it actually was.  It easily fits into that palm of your hand and really takes up very little room and weight in a pack.  I just look at it as an extra piece of 1st aid gear.  The Spot II takes 4 AAA lithium batteries but the website claims that it should last a long time on standby, 19000 check-in/update messages, and like 72hrs on SOS.  More than enough to actually get the word out.

I activated the Spot II after having it forspring because you purchase in 1 year time frames.  The activation was simple and took maybe 10 minutes.  Just to activate and have functionality you need to purchase the $99/year plan that includes everything EXCEPT for tracking.  I chose to NOT get the tracking function because it only updates a spot eery 10 minutes and really there are TONS of apps for most smart phones that will track better for free.  I also opted for the $12 supplemental rescue insurance. This is a supplimental insureance policy that covers you up to $100,000 in search and Rescue costs.  So after it was all said and done, $112 for 1 year of service.

Spending the next 30 or so minutes looking through the website and customizing the messages and contacts so that when I press certain buttons it sends different messages to up to 10 contacts, via email or SMS.

Then it was time to take it out in the field and see what it had to offer.  Our first trip where I got to use it was on Mt. Baldy.  Once we got to the parking lot I decided to see if it worked.  I turned it in and sent a check-in/ok message.  I had set two of the contacts as my cellphone and my email so that I could see if I was getting the messages and if they had gone through.  Of course out in the Mountains there was no cell service so I could not see if I got the message. (later I once we got reception the messages came through).   Every message that I sent had made it that day.

There are reports of people who don't get the messages, or that they send them out and then they never get received.  Basically, I found that if you just leave the unit on and let it run its course, it sends just fine.  Dont worry about batteries and just leave the unit on while it sends the message.  There really is no indicator of a successful send unless it cannot get a GPS location.

Pros:
  1. light weight and small
  2. relatively small price for the cost.
  3. piece of mind for freinds and family and yourself
Cons:
  1. Not really clear at first until you use the devise for awhile
  2. Auto renew for service 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mt. Whitney Successful Lottery Notification

Today I got an email from recreation.gov saying that my lottery application for 2013 was successful!  We have a weekend date in mid July for 2 nights!  The plan will be to pick up our permit on Saturday, head up to horseshoe meadows campground for Saturday night, relax there, acclimate to the altitude, and MAYBE a short hike.  The next day, pack up, head to Whitney Portal, and begin the 2 day trek. 

The plan will be to hike to trail camp, spend the night, the next day, hike to the summit and then back to trail camp where will we relax and spend the night again.  The next morning, break camp and head home!


So now that we have a date, it is time for all the planning, prepping, and training!!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Upcoming 2013 Trips

So its been awhile since I have updated this blog.  I have been slowly getting back out on the trail after the short days and the long cold nights have hindered my time on the trail.  I left a few posts back talking about all the plans the new year had to offer.  Here are where all the plans stand as of now;

First up on the list of adventures is possibly making the summit of Mt. Baldy this weekend!  While I have already done this hike last year, it will be early in the hiking season to attempt this 4200' Elevation gain.  I am excited and I know that I can do it, it's just a question of if I take my full pack or opt for the simple hydration pack.

My hiking group and I have Submitted applications for the Mt. Whitney Lottery so we are all anxious to hear back from that sometime this week.  We chose dates heavy on the Monday's and Sundays hoping that we will have a better shot to get our preferred date.  Our group chose to attempt it in 2 nights so this is going to be a 4 day adventure; one day at Horseshoe meadows, the next day at trail camp, summit the following day and spend the last night at trail camp, then return to the car and home the next day.  I have found a great deal of  information and useful trip reports along with a live webcam of Mt. Whitney at Whitneyzone.com

Coming the 2nd week in April will be our Zion National Park trip.  We have campground reservations for the 12-15 and in that time we are going to hike angels landing, maybe take a trip up the 15 to Bryce National Park, and then camp the last night and head home!

Our entire hiking season is basically geared around training for Mt. Whitney.  To name a few of the hikes that are going to hit, San Jacinto, San Gregonio, White Mt.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tar Creek in the Los Padres National Forest

Starting the 2013 hiking season off early this year we decided to go and check out some of the nearby Los Padres National Forest outside the Fillmore area.  This hike took us up to the edge of the Sespe Condor Reserve so we were hopeful that maybe we would see a California Condor.  This hike also promised some natural pools where, if you were brave enough, you could jumb 20' or upt  80'!

After a 20 or so minute drive along a dirt road that is used to get to oil drilling sites we arrived at the parking lot.  We got our gear together and started up the trail. The hike would start out uphill to get to the top of the ridge but then start to descend into the valley towards the creek bed. 

Our Group getting ready to go!
Here are some of the views that we saw along the way.


The trail is very easy to follow but a little washed out in some areas.
Washed out section of trail.  Trail continues in upper right of photo


 Once we got down to the creek bed we followed it for about 15 mintues till we found the first set of pools
.Rock Scrambling down we were able to look back and the cascades.
Then another 20 minutes further of rack scrambling and hopping we got to the 80' falls.
Then we hiked back.  The way back was not as difficult or time consuming as expected since we basically knew the way back and already had done the route once.  There is rumored of a 200' falls further down the creek but that will have to wait for the next trip out there.




Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gear Review: REI Flash 62 Ultralight Backpack



Today's gear review is going to be on the REI Flash 62 ultralight backpacking pack.  I got this pack after trying many different packs to see what worked for me the best.


Alittle background on my use with the pack:
      I used this pack for many of the training hikes leading up to my summit of Mt. Whitney and also to backpack through Yosemite.  The training hikes that this was used on included Mt. Baldy, Mt San Jacinto, and I used it car camping to see if everything fit that I would need.  The pack got alot of trail miles this year and nothing has failed or ripped.

First impressions are that it is a great fitting pack with tons of storage and great features.  Below is the description from the REI website www.REI.com
  • Superior load transfer and stability allows you to comfortably carry hefty loads; it's achieved with a new perimeter frame and structured hipbelt, all with no added weight
  • Precurved shoulder straps match your anatomy for nonbinding comfort and stability; perforated foam allows body vapor to pass through for improved comfort
  • Updated, fully structured hipbelt cradles the hips for a natural fit and offers impressive comfort and load transfer for an ultralight pack
  • Hipbelt webbing system lets you use a natural forward pulling motion for quick, easy cinching and precise adjustment
  • New molded, mesh-covered EVA back panel offers comfortable, ventilating performance that rivals heavier packs
  • New tubular aluminum perimeter frame provides excellent load support and stability while minimizing weight
  • Top-loading main compartment can also be accessed from a zippered opening at the bottom; floating top lid can be extended to create additional volume
  • Hydration pocket holds a reservoir of your choice (sold separately) for drinking water on the go
  • Floating front pocket maintains volume even when the main compartment is fully loaded; it offers convenient storage and allows more compressible gear to be stored behind it
  • Large mesh side pockets hold items for quick access
  • Hipbelt has zippered pockets on both sides for on-the-go access to essentials such as snacks and lip balm
  • Water-resistant zippers let you stash valuables away from the elements
  • Lightweight Speed Hook attachment points let you strap tools and bulky gear to the pack; quick-release straps at the bottom offer easy attachment of a sleeping bag or pad
  • Side compression straps help secure both large and small loads for increased stability
  • The Flash 62 is made with ripstop nylon that provides durability without increased weight; polyurethane coating adds weather resistance
While I feel that this pack DOES live up to the description from the REI website here are some of my observations of this pack.  While hiking the straps seem to get loose with time and that starts to cause your back to get tired.  The hip belt seems to be the biggest offender in that I am almost constantly adjusting how the pack fits.  I typically carry about 40Lb's (Fully loaded including food and water) so I am thinking that this pack just is not built to handle more than 30lbs.

Here are the list of pros and cons on the pack;
Pros:
  1. Lightweight
  2. Lots of space to store gear and other accesories
  3. built in hydration sleeve
  4. external hip belt pockets (BIG PLUS)
 Some of the Cons

  1. Does not do well with heavy loads (above 30lbs)
  2. straps seem to loosen as you hike
  3. built for ultralight backpacking
Overall I would recomend this pack because it is REI brand and if you dont like it after you use it or if it does indeed fail they will take it back with a smile.  I have not had anything fail, but if it does I know that I will be covered under REI's great policy.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Trip Report: Mt. Whitney Summit on 07/17/12

So I know this is a little overdue as it was almost 2 months ago now but here it goes so I hope you all enjoy.

The first part is the back story and the 2nd part is the trip report if you care to skip around!

I'm 25 now but just about 2 year ago I decided that I wanted to climb Mount Whitney. I think that a friends facebook update from the summit is what made me want to do it myself but I am not sure. At this time I was overweight and out of shape. Talking a lot about it I received a bunch of hiking gear for Christmas with the hopes of getting in shape and making it to the summit. Well, I didn't get in shape, didn't enter the lottery, and didn't make it to Whitney that year. However, that was 2011, Jan. 2012, 234lb, and still just as out of shape I made the decision that this was the year. I went on a diet and started to train, Hike every weekend, run during the week to get my endurance up, and enter the lottery (now online so much easier for me). With my Uncle and Aunt applying for permits and the training continuing and already down from my 234lb to a remarkable 170lb's we came up on the week of July 16th when we had our overnight permits.

After Hiking White Mt. just the weekend before I was quite confident that the Altitude would not effect me to bad. We drove up from our hometown of Thousand Oaks on Sunday, got our permits in Lone Pine and then Drove up to Horseshoe Meadows campground to spend the night and acclimate at 10,000". Hiked around there a bit but basically just relaxed and thought quietly about the enormous climb we had the next day.

We were up at 6 that Monday morning and had the car and gear packed by 8. Got to the trail head, fought for parking, stored the excess gear and food in lockers, and headed up the trail. It was clear that training with a fully loaded pack was the way to go. When we got started we of course weighed our packs on the hanging scale and mine weighed in with 3L of water and WAY TOO much food at 43lb. Starting off on the trail I quickly saw that this was probably the most scenic hike that I have been on and wondered why anyone would want to miss all this beautiful scenery starting on a day hike! Making our way to Lone Pine Lake I quickly was able to outpace my uncle, who on every other hike I would struggle to stay with. The full pack, that he DID NOT train with weighed him down heavily. It took about 2 hours to get to lone pine lake, when we went to the lake shore to have a snack my uncle laid down and took a nap. Not wanting to wait, and having walkie talkies I went ahead of them. Making my way up the trail I came to Bighorn Park and was in awe, Probably the best part of the hike for me (maybe because it is flat? lol). Continuing on I finally made it trail camp in just about 6hrs. Found 2 perfect spots to camp and sat down to wait out my Aunt and Uncles arrival.

1hr went by and no sign of them, No big deal he did take a nap...

2hrs went by and I am starting to panic a little bit....

2.5hrs go by and I guess I was visibly panicked because a guy and girl about my age came up to me and asked if I was alright and if I was waiting for a couple? I said yeah and told them their names and they said "oh, that kinda sounds like who we ran into and they said they were going to camp at outpost and wait for you tomorrow."

My heart sank, I PROMISED my mom and girlfriend that I would not go it alone so I had a choice to make... Stay and break the promise or turn around and go back to them. I grabbed the walkie talkie and headed off down the mountain to try to reach them on the radio. I ran (actually ran!) down to the overlook just below trail camp, just before it heads down to the meadow, and called on my radio, they were able to hear me the whole time as I was up high but they were not able to send a message back.

Finally they got me on the radio and they were on their way, not stopping at all and continuing as planned to trail camp. I was happy and hiked back to camp.

Made it an early night and got about 10hrs of sleep! for the next morning. Got up at sunrise and packed my day pack. My Uncle was suffering from dehydration so he BARLEY ate. We made it off to a late start but we still made it off. Got to trail crest and my Aunt was not making it very fast due to a hidden injury. My uncle decided to call it quits at trail crest, told me to continue on to the summit. With TONS of energy I continued on.

Made it to the summit at 12:30, tried to call everyone and nobody answered their phones but that's probably for the best as I was so emotional that I had made it. Just 6 months earlier I could barley make it up a flight of stairs without losing my breathe and here I am, Standing on top of the tallest Mt. in the Contiguous USA! I'd be lying if I said it didn't bring a tear or two to my eye.

Made my way back down after 30 minutes on the summit and passed my Aunt, who was supposed to wait at trail crest for my return. It was already 1:30 when I met her and we had to turn around THEN or we would risk hiking in the dark on the way down. After some words were exchanged she reluctantly turned around and headed back.

We got back to trail camp, broke camp and at 4:30 headed back down. Got to the portal store at 7:30 and started our drive back home.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Winter 2012 and 2013 Trip ideas

So now that summer of 2012 is coming to an end and the hiking season is slowly edging away I am starting to mentally plan out where the next adventure will take us.

Some places that I have in mind for the remainder of this year are Redwood Nation Forest to see the Giant Redwood trees.  These trees are some of the tallest on earth and so large that you can even drive through some of them!

Redwood National Forest would offer camping and easy day hiking to see some of the trees and wonderful Northern California scenery.

For the early part of 2013 I would like to visit Zion National Park.  Zion offers a vast wilderness to explore and a 4  or 5 day backpacking trip I think would be in order.  That would allow our group to see the narrows (pictured Below) and Angels landing (also pictured below) as well as an escape surrounded by majestic sandstone and vast expanses.
The Narrows in Zion National Park

Angels Landing in Zion
 For the summer of 2013 I plan to make it to the summit of Mt. Whitney again!  I will have to apply in the lottery during February but even if I dont get selected I can always get canceled permits or look online for cancellations.

The later part of 2013 I want to hike the Grand Canyon or maybe attempt Mt. Whitney in the winter time.  Hopefully there will be lots of camping and hiking opportunities the rest of this year and through 2013!

Feel free to share some places that you plan to go or would like to go in the comment section!