Friday, January 31, 2014

Death Valley: Panamint City...planning phase

Next week, I will be joining a group for a 2-night trip to Panamint City in Death Valley National Park.  The plan is to hike starting from Surprise Canyon and then cover the 6 miles to Panamint City.  This hike, from my understanding, is a bit strenuous and has an approximate 4000 foot elevation gain.  This means, my pack has to be light, compact, and agile.  The hike may require stream crossings and a possibility for some scrambling.  Having a light pack will be crucial for my comfort as well as safety.

Here's the catch though, not only does it have to be light, I also have to be prepared for the possibility of cold and snowy weather.  I know my typical 3 season gear can take me down well in the 20's but below that? Never tried.  I wanted to outline what I plan to bring as far as gear.  For food, I still have to plan my menu for the 3 days/2 nights we're going to be there - I expect my food weight to be an average 1.5lbs. per day which close to 5 lbs.

Luckily, gear and food are all ready and I no longer need to hit the local outfitting shop for any items.  So let's break this down shall we?

Big 3 Items +1:
Item Name Category QTY Weight Unit
MYOG Backpack Big 3 (+1) 1 11 ounce
32 Degree 800FP Down Mummy Big 3 (+1) 1 25 ounce
Thermarest Prolite Small Big 3 (+1) 1 11 ounce
SMD Wild Oasis Big 3 (+1) 1 14 ounce
Mountain Hardwear X Stakes Big 3 (+1) 6 0.6 ounce

Total Weight: 3.85 Lbs.

NOTE: I might need to replace my current tent stakes with a set of DIY stakes made with old Bike Spokes. I am also debating if I should take my GoLite Jam 50...which may add a pound to my Big 3.

SMD Wild Oasis courtesy my buddy Don A. with all my gear inside.
Cooking Essentials:
Item Name Category QTY Weight Unit
IMUSA 10cm w/ DIY Esbit Stove Cooking 1 8 ounce
Cotton Bandana Cooking 1 1 ounce
Mini Bic Lighter Cooking 1 0.34 ounce
Dr. Bronners (Mini Bottle) Cooking 1 0.6 ounce

Total Weight: 0.6 Lbs.

Imusa 10cm w/ Ti Esbit Stove
Clothing (Packed)
Item Name Category QTY Weight Unit
Uniqlo Down Hoody Clothing (Packed) 1 10.12 ounce
Old Navy Synthetic Long Johns Clothing (Packed) 1 6 ounce
SynWool Socks (Long) Clothing (Packed) 1 2.25 ounce
Fleece Gloves Clothing (Packed) 1 2 ounce
Fleece Beanie Clothing (Packed) 1 1.2 ounce
Blue Buff Clothing (Packed) 1 1.3 ounce

Total Weight: 1.42 Lbs.

What I typically wear on backpacking trips
NOTE: Due to the cold weather, I might bring my TNF Half Zip Fleece, Insulated Pants for added warmth, and Water Shoes for stream crossings - potentially adding an extra pound or so.

First Aid Kit, Hygiene, H2O Treatment, Rain Gear, etc.:
Item Name Category QTY Weight Unit
Assorted First Aide Kit First Aide/911 1 3 ounce
DIY Sewing kit First Aide/911 1 0.5 ounce
Suunto M-2D Locator Compass First Aide/911 1 1.2 ounce
Repackaged Wipes/TP Hygiene 1 2 ounce
Wisp Disposable Toothbrush Hygiene 1 0.45 ounce
Aquamira Frontier Pro Water Treatment 1 2 ounce
2L Platypus Water Treatment 1 1.2 ounce
20 oz. Playtpus Water Treatment 1 0.5 ounce
LED Headlamp Misc. Items 1 3 ounce
Leatherman Squirt PS4 Misc. Items 1 2 ounce
Bug Headnet Misc. Items 1 0.5 ounce
Flex Air Pillow Misc. Items 1 0.85 ounce
Montane Minimus Smock Rain Gear 1 5 ounce
GoLite Chrome Dome Rain Gear 1 9 ounce

Total Weight: 2.23 Lbs.

So where are we with the math?  If my brain is calculating this correctly, we're around 8.04 pounds (not counting the extra pound or so for additional clothes for warmth) without food and water...just a base weight.  Not bad but there's still room for improvement here.

I'm really looking forward to this trip and I can only imagine the photos I'm coming back with.  If you have any tips on how I can lighten up my gear or if you see something missing, feel free to comment below.  I am, by no means, an expert...I am still learning :)

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

An inspiration and a pair of jello legs.


Not even three hours of sleep the night before will stop me from finally hiking to Mt. Lowe.  I have hiked to Henninger Flats, Idlehour, and around Eaton Canyon but for some reason, Mt. Lowe just never seemed to agree to my schedule for some time.

When this trip got scheduled, I made sure to clear my weekend just so I won't have to miss another opportunity to hike this section...and I once again, I almost missed it.  Coming home late Friday night (or early Saturday morning) almost prevented me from going.  Luckily, it did not.  I was determined to do this hike.

Arriving at the trail head having only slept for three hours, I relied on my supplements to get me through the hike...and I am so glad it did.  After meeting everyone at the trail head, we depart shortly after and begin our hike.

The first part of this trail before arriving at Echo Mountain is really a well-used trail.  The traffic here is very similar to the traffic at Chantry Flats and Icehouse Canyon.  Despite the number of people, this was still a nice hike that treats you with wonderful views and photo-ops at almost every turn.

Less than an hour into the hike, we arrive at the intersection close to Echo Mountain.  I've seen many photos of this place and it feels good that I now get to scratch this off my list.  I've read and even watched a movie about this area at Henninger Flats but it's nice to have finally made it here.

Having taken a quick stop to tour the area, we press on and continue.  We take the old railroad to our main destination, Mt. Lowe Campground.  Taking this trail instead of instead of Sam Merrill or Castle Canyon, offers a gentler approach and the elevation gain from this side is not as severe as the aforementioned two.  However, taking the old railway will add additional mileage to your hike - I didn't mind additional was a treat to hike this section there was just so many things to see.

Three hours later and close to 7 miles hiked, we arrive at Mt. Lowe Trail Camp and relax.  This was a fun trail that offered a lot of history and beautiful vistas.  I almost took 500 photos on this trip was nice.  Aside from the views, the photographs, it was also treat to see so many Cuben Fiber shelters and packs on this trip...felt like an Ultralight Convention! A gear junkie like me, I felt like a kid at a candy store.

ZPacks and Lighthear Gear represented at camp
It's good to be out on the trail and this would be my second trip for this month so far.  After having lunch and catching up with backpackers who I haven't seen in some time, we head to Inspiration Point to complete our hikes for the afternoon.

Not satisfied with the hike to Inspiration Point, my buddy Pete decided to push my legs a little further and tempts me with glorious evening views over by Panorama Point.  Luckily, it was all flat and once we got there, he wasn't kidding.  Just around the bend from the trail heading to Muir Peak, the city lights greet you and I sure wish I had a better camera to capture what my eyes could see.

Heading back to camp, I look forward to dinner and stories around the campfire.  It's been a wonderful trip so far seriously, nothing beats a night in the woods...

The following morning, sad to leave but back to reality we all must go.  We eat our breakfasts and pack up our gear, we soon leave to head back to our cars.  For the trip back down, we decide to take the Sam Merrill trail to form a small loop.  We only came across a handful of people on this trail and this was good since this trail was mostly narrow with steep drop-offs.  An overcast sky throughout our hike down which was good since this section would have been sun-baked and that would've have made a miserable walk.

We all make quick work of the hike down and soon we arrive back from where we started.  Tired and hungry, we all say our goodbyes and I know we will all be hiking together again soon.

So till the next adventure, thanks for reading...see you on the trails.

For more information on the history of this area, please go to:


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A hike, a new pack, and a rescue...all in one!

Photo Courtesy of John A.
Oh what a year it has been! 2013 was a great outdoor year for me.  I've managed to achieve many goals...some of which I never thought would be possible.  From losing weight, bagging my first 10K peak, and to hiking in the Sierra Nevada just to name a few.  So before we begin, I want to say a huge "Thank You" to all my family and friends who have helped challenge me to achieve these goals.

For my first hike of the year, I joined the usual suspects and headed to Chantry Flats to spend a weekend at Hoegees Campground.  This is a very easy hike to get to and always fun when you are joined by close friends.  Aside from getting really early to park, I like coming to this place.  Lots of things to see, lots of loop combinations to complete, and so close to home.

We all met at the parking lot not-so-bright and early at 6AM to guarantee a good parking spot.  Shortly after, we began our hike in the dark.

We took the Upper Winter Creek trail to Hoegees and arrived at camp in about an hour.  Surprisingly, the camp was actually full but most of the people were packing up to head out as we got to camp.  It's been a while since I've gone here and it's sad to see that the downed tree was still there and that no maintenance was done to clear the fallen tree.  Water was low as expected but more than enough to meet our needs for the day.

Aside from wanting to get out for the weekend, I also wanted to test out a new pack that I made a while back that was never brought to the field.  This pack was a reiteration of my first MYOG Backpack that I made in March 2013.  I wanted to make a new pack complete with a Hip Belt and a smaller volume just enough for overnight camping.

So far so good, the pack held great, rode wonderfully, and quite comfortable.  My total pack weight for this trip was 11.3 lbs. - it would have been lighter but I decided to bring my full tent instead of my tarp and I also brought some creature comforts like a tablet for reading and watching a movie.  If I didn't bring the tablet and the tent, I would have been at 9 lbs. with food and water.

Back to the hike! After waiting for the other campers to clear out, we selected our sites for the day and set up camp.  We pretty much had a lazy day enjoying the perfect weather and each others company.  A few hours of lollygagging never hurt anyone!

After sitting around at camp, some decided to hit up the Adams Packstation for a cold brew and some went off to Mt. Zion.  At this point, it was 2 PM and I'm feeling lazy but decided to go to Mt. Zion after being coerced :)  The hike to Zion was a short 1.25 miles but all uphill.  After a few weeks of not hiking, this short hike can be a thigh-buster and an ass-kicker! My legs never cramped up but boy where they tired...good times good times.

We hung around the peak for a few minutes then headed back down to camp.  As we were headed back down the trail, we came across two guys hanging out at a corner of a switchback - we actually passed them earlier as we climbed up. We noticed one of them just sitting down and I saw that he was shaking.  We asked if he was okay and we found out that he twisted his ankle severely.  He then told us that it was his first time hiking the trail and based on where they were, it appears they took the Gabrielino Trail from the Chantry Flats parking lot then headed to Mt. Zion.  If you've ever hiked some of the loops here, and you're a beginner, it can be tough. We asked if they needed anything but luckily, they were able to get in touch with the Ranger Station to get help.  Shortly after we parted ways, we heard and saw the SAR team and hoisted the gentleman to safety.  Lesson here is know your own abilities and don't underestimate any trail despite how easy someone says it is.  If you've read any of my reports, you know that I had to back out of a dayhike because of cramping and me being out of shape.  No shame in's definitely better than a rescue.

Seeing the SAR team in action was a treat and all-in-all I am glad they got that person to safety.  I can only imagine the fear and how it can affect someone knowing they can't extract themselves out of a situation they cannot control.

After a bit of excitement, we all make it back to camp and enjoyed a comedy show, some whiskey, and stories.  It was another fun trip and a great start to the year.  Woke up the following morning and had some coffee and oatmeal before hiking out.  We ended our hike with Chili Cheese Fries at the Packstation and it was a good day.

Next weekend, I head to Mt. Lowe for the first on the lookout for that report.  Till the next time, thank you for reading and see you on the trails...

Happy New Year!