Water treatment

justdrinkitSeveral years ago, I decided to look at trail water like something akin to the way devotees look at the Ganges River—holy and safe to drink.    That worked out okay for me on the Pacific Crest Trail and I can say I’ve hiked the whole PCT and never treated a drop, although sometimes I would filter out the floaties with my bandanna.

chlorinedioxideHours before heading out to hike the Arizona Trail, however, my faith wavered and I stopped in at REI to purchase some chlorine dioxide tablets to throw in my bag—just in case.

I’m glad I did because I encountered a water source that tasted so strongly of cow shit that I couldn’t keep it down.    I broke out my tablets and poof my water tasted good.

I encountered worse sources on the Arizona Trail.   One was an almost dried up pond fully surrounded with acres of cow shit.  If that wasn’t discouraging enough, there was a guy with a jet ski in the little pond going around and around stirring up the muck.  He kept getting stuck because it was so shallow.

It would have been a funny sight if it wasn’t the last water for 40 miles and I wasn’t hot and water stressed.    I walked up to him and asked him to quit spinning around while I get my water.   He said, “I wouldn’t drink that if I was you.”    He said the pond usually had a lot more water in it.

I was hoping he might offer me some water but he didn’t.   He had a gallon of water on the tailgate of his pickup and I should have offered to buy it from him for any price but I was feeling too emotionally fragile to risk getting turned down.

I walked on with my muddy, cow shit water hoping that maybe I would find something better.   Several miles later, when I came to a road crossing.  I walked up to a house in the distance, told the guy that I was very disappointed with the last water source, and asked if I could have some water.   I worried he would say no but I later heard that in Arizona, if someone asks for water you have to give them some.   I don’t know if that’s true but it sounds like a good law to me.  Anyway, he gave me some water and got me out of that pickle.

I met a water treatment worker hiking the Arizona Trail.   One of the ways he treated his water was to use a pinch of alum to settle the mud.   I looked it up on Wikipedia and apparently this is an ancient water treatment method that clears the water by making the fine molecules clump together and sink.    Here is the science behind this.

alumSo heading out to the Continental Divide Trail, later that same year, I brought a little container of alum with me.   You can buy it in the baking aisle at the grocery store.

In the Great Basin in Wyoming,  I came to a water source that was little more than a mud puddle,   I strained it through my bandanna, put a pinch of alum in it,  took a nap, and when I woke up it had cleared.  img-arcade-792

When I first gave up treating my water I carried giardia meds with me– just in case.  I bought them from a pet supply store.

How to turn your table into a standing desk

diy standing desk
TA DA! A DIY standing desk

Because a couch and high-speed internet can be a deadly combination, I have converted my table into a standing desk.   I bought 8- six inch blocks at the building supply store and ta-da, I have a standing desk.  Probably 4- twelve inch blocks would have worked just as well, but first I was going for a counter height table and then changed my mind to a standing desk.

I bought a drafting chair off  amazon for when I would like to sit.   I like the chair but the chrome was too shiny so I took some 120 grit sandpaper to it and now I’m much happier with it.

I drilled a couple of holes in my floor and ran a 12 volt plug and an ethernet cable under my cabin and up to where they need to be hooked up, so I don’t have cables running all over my cabin.  I wrapped weather stripping around the cables and stuffed it in the holes so it won’t let in cold air.

the egg and I

This is how I get high speed internet in my remote off grid cabin.
This is how I get high speed internet in my remote off grid cabin.

After years of fighting my attraction to the internet, I’ve given up and embraced it.

There’s a big egg attached to the front of my cabin now.  It magically delivers high-speed wireless broadband into my cabin.

High speed as in, faster than the Co-op in town where I would usually have to go to, to get my internet fix and buy overpriced stuff so they wouldn’t resent me taking up space.

Faster than the motel rooms I would sometimes get just to enjoy some internet.

Faster than the visitor’s center, I would sit outside of in my truck, soaking up the internet till my battery died or I got too cold—well, maybe not faster than the visitor’s center, but the view is better and it’s certainly more comfortable.

I can stream movies with no lag time and there isn’t any data limits.

It won’t cost me anymore than having a land-line, dial-up internet, and scrounging off other people’s service. In fact it will be cheaper–considering a trip into town is 50 miles round trip and 5 of those miles are on a very rough unimproved dirt road that beats up my old truck.

It’s been 14 years since I’ve had my own high-speed internet connection.  It’s so exciting to relax on my couch and leisurely sip the net instead of gulping down as much as I can, quickly, before leaving town.

Wild fires came close to my cabin this year.  I was under a level 3 evacuation order for a month but only left for a week, when it got too smoky to breathe.  During that time, I relished having internet in motels.  I learned how to fold a dollar bill into a heart, watching a YouTube video, and I thought, “See this is the kind of thing you could do all day, if you had high-speed internet.”

Internet or no internet–I waste a lot of time on technology.  With internet I can wander a wider world with my technology.

Note:   You need line-of-sight to get broadband wireless.   The tower is 10 miles away and that’s why I need such a big egg.   Broadband wireless is much cheaper and much faster than satellite.   There also isn’t any data limit.

Internet hermit is an oxymoron

I’ve been to the backcountry of my mind—but not this year.  This year I drove to the trail head and spent 5 months doing dough-nuts in the parking lot.

The Internet is to blame.  New hermit rule—no Internet in the hermitage.

The thing with the Internet is you are never alone and without solitude you always just hang out on in the front country of your mind.

The decision to turn off the Internet has been assisted by my laptop dying—and this one is not under warranty.   Since my laptop is also my entertainment system, it means no music, no videos, no spider solitaire.

There are some logistical problems with living a life without a computer.  Like loading my GPS for hikes, getting maps, and ordering stuff.   But I’m happy and excited to be returning to a life of peace and solitude.

I’m writing this from the public library in town which gives me 2-30 minute sessions a day–no loitering on this Internet.

Home modified 0 degree quilt

I did it.  I sliced into my new Marmot Helium and turned it in to something worthy of being in the mountains in September.  It weighs 31 oz, is chocked full of down, has not one cold spot, and is luxuriously wide.

First the bag weighed 35 oz.    Then I cut off the hood, the first baffle, the full length zipper, and the zipper baffle.    Then it weighed 24oz.  Next I took all the down from what I had cut off and stuffed it in to the quilt.   Then I took down from my old Marmot Helium  and stuffed even more down into it.   Then it weighed 34 oz.   Then I sewed the seams up and  took it to the laundry and washed it.   Now it weighs 31 oz. *

This isn’t the ethereal kind of loft you get from having  just washed your bag, this is the solid kind of loft  you get when your baffles are full of down.    If you slept in a shelter with this bag you’d have to say, “Please excuse my loft.”

For this project you will need: thread, pins, scissors, sewing machine, and a mummy bag.    Also a vacuum cleaner to clean up with.

To make the seams,  I just turned both edges inward, pinned them, and then sewed them up.

Difficulty rating: easy.  Tip: I did this with the down dirty—dirty down is much easier to handle than clean down.

*I brought two bags to the laundry and they both came back  3 oz lighter.   Which seems like it might justify the weight of a silk liner.

Update:  I headed out to the PCT with new quilt in late May.  In the  mountains above Idyllwild, less than 200 miles from the Mexican border, the temperature dropped to well below freezing, the wind was blowing 50-80 mph gusts and it snowed.

I was camping in Z-pack Heximid tarp which let in a lot of the wind.   The bag kept me warm till I rolled over and then I would get cold—I missed the zipper.   I think quilts are better for people how don’t move around much while they sleep.  Maybe if I had put elastic straps to hold it around my pad or ties…..

Now I carry a Z-packs 10 degree bag with a stretchy  liner.   Mostly I sleep with it as a quilt but when it is very cold I zip it.   I also went to using the Gatewood Cape as a tent because it blocks the wind better than the Heximid.

Improving my trashbag rain skirt

I improved the cinch strap on my trash bag rain skirt by tying a piece of string to a safety pin and pushing it through  the cinch strap pocket.    When I got to the places where the pocket was welded together, I pushed the safety pin through one side of the plastic pocket and back in to the cinch pocket on the other side of the weld.    When I got to the end I  removed the safety pin and put a toggle on the string.

A person could improve a trash bag rain cover the same way.

Building a meditation bench

I’m signed up to attend a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat at the end of this month.      You sit silently  for 10 days from 4am to 9:30pm watching your breath go in and out.

Under what to bring, they list a meditation cushion or a meditation bench.    I found some cedar under my cabin and these instructions on the Internet and in about 10 minutes had built my meditation bench.   It’s  ingenious the way you cut both  legs in one cut.   I didn’t have any hinges so I screwed it together.  Then I put support pieces around the legs.

Converting my mummy bag into a backpacking quilt

After spending a September in the Sierra’s, I want to be in the mountains every September.     Only problem is my sleeping  bag is too cold to be in the mountains in September.   I’ve decided I need a warmer bag, only, the only way to do that and not increase my weight  is to go with a 0 or 5degree  backpacking quilt.    Only problem with that is they are crazy expensive.  For instance the Nunatak Arc Expedition would cost me over 750 dollars once I factored in shipping,  over fill, light weight fabric surcharge and sales tax and it’s not like REI where you can just return it if you don’t like it.    Also I’d have to wait 6-8 week to get my bag.    You’d think not having a hood or a zipper it would be fast and cheap.

Then I had the epiphany to turn my old Marmot Helium into a backpacking quilt.    Searching the Internet I found another hiker who did this.   Purebound turned a 110 dollar– 2Lb 4oz mummy bag into a 400 dollar– 24oz sleep quilt.

I cut off the zipper baffle, the 3/4 zipper, the hood and the first baffle and used the down from them to stuff into the rest of the bag.   Then I slit the opening all the way down leaving a little foot box to stick my feet in and sewed everything back up.     It went from 34 ounces to 28 ounces and I kept all the down.

I like it  but every time I look at it there is another rip in it.  It has about 20 patches and repairs done to it and I ripped a baffle one night when I slept close to a sharp rock.    Also I think it could still use some more down.

So now I’m eyeing my new Marmot Helium and thinking about doing the same thing to it.  Only this time I’m thinking of slicing open up my old Marmot Helium and stuffing a lot more down into the new one.   One thing I learned doing this is there is a whole lot of down in a sleeping bag and it hardly weighs anything.  So if I, say, added 3 or 4 more ounces of down to the new bag and cut away all the stuff I didn’t need, I think I could have a seriously big fluffy quilt for  2 lbs.

If you want a down hood you can save the hood piece and wear it on your head.   I decided that I would rather have the down from the hood on my body because I already carry a fleece balaclava and there is still enough length to throw the bag over my head if it’s really cold.

I may put some straps on it to cinch the bag around me, but right now I’m  thinking that won’t  be necessary as I left the bag fairly wide.

Some people may say that I’m taking 750.00 dollars in mummy bags and trying to turn them into a 750.00 dollar quilt. 🙂

Live at a hot spring off the PCT and get Paid for it.

I found this on the Goldmyer Hotsprings website and thought someone might be interested in it.

Caretakers needed for the Goldmyer Hotsprings.

Northwest Wilderness Programs maintains caretakers at the Goldmyer property all year round to assure our preservation goals for the property. Caretakers live on the property 24/7.  Duties include check-in and management of our visitors and cleaning and maintenance of facilities.  This is a unique opportunity to live and work in one of the last remaining old-growth forested areas in the Pacific Northwest.

We require a 2-person couple or team who have a time-tested and good working relationship.  There is a small off the grid, well-endowed cabin for the caretakers to live in (utilities provided).  The salary is $1500 per month per couple.  Various time periods are available depending on experience and need.  Candidates must have good people and communication skills, have a positive attitude and clean well-kept appearance, have a basic mechanical aptitude, be self motivated and willing to work hard, and able to live in a remote (and at times isolated) mountainous location.

Address inquiries and questions to our office at 206-789-5631 (office hours are Tuesday 1 till 6, and Friday 3 till 8). Please mail resumes and references to: NWWP, 202 N. 85th St. #106, Seattle WA 98103.  Also include a cover letter that explains your past experiences that could relate to living and working in a back-country setting, and if you have visited Goldmyer.

New PCT guidebook

I asked my library to purchase this new PCT hiking guide I wanted to check out:   “The Pacific Crest Trail–from Mexico to Canada on foot” by Brian Johnson aka Ancient Brit.    He’s hiked the PCT 3 times.

It’s a  small book of 350 glossy pages wrapped in a sturdy vinyl cover measuring 7″ x 4 1/2″ , weighing less than a pound, and costing less than 20 bucks.   I think it’s just what was needed.

The first 90 pages covers prep, equipment, planning, what the hiking is like, resupplying, permits, getting to trail, everything.      The next 229 pages are  maps, data, resupply info, trail angel info, water caches, alternate routes, elevation  profiles, town info, birds and plants you are likely to see,  interesting facts about the sites you pass, inspiring quotes, this book has it all.   The final 20 pages are appendixes covering useful websites, books written by PCT hikers, sample hiking schedules and more.

The maps aren’t topo maps and they wouldn’t help much if you got off trail,  but  here’s the thing: the book cost 18.95 16.47 from Amazon and covers the whole trail.

Hiking Barefoot/ Vibram Five Fingers on the Pacific Crest Trail

After reading “Born to Run“, I had high hopes of never buying another pair of shoes.   I had visions of flitting down the trail like a fairy in bare-feet with nothing in my food bag but chia seeds.

But the reality didn’t measure up in the long haul.   I don’t know if barefoot hiking is compatible with  hiking 10-12 hours a day, month after month. When I get tired,  I want  to take nice long strides and slap those feet down anywhere and make some miles.    I also get  clumsy at the end of the day and that doesn’t mix well with bare-feet.   It takes a mental adjustment to hike in barefeet  that I sometimes found hard to make when I got tired.  It was slow and sometimes painful.

I then switched to Vibram Five Fingers. Though they offer some protection, if you step on a rock or a stick with your arch,  the pain reverberates through your body.    Another thing is your toes are all separated which offers the opportunity for each toe to individually snag on something and get wrenched.

I put them away for good when I caught my little toe, which I think I may have broken a few days earlier,  and it caused me so much pain I thought I was going to pass out.

You can hit miles of fist size rocks that would be nothing to hike across in shoes and those sections become tedious and exhausting in Vibram Five Fingers.

While wearing my Vibram Five Fingers and hiking south I met many northbound thru-hikers who had started the hike with them but quickly abandoned them.

The one thing I learned from going barefoot is a gratitude for shoes.    If you like hiking day after day for months, taking long carefree strides; I highly recommend shoes or hiking sandals.

My trail tested compo is Chaco Z-1 woman’s size 9 wide and New Balance 817’s mens size 9.5 EEEE with NB IPR3010 Pressure Relief insoles with the metatarsal rise. Switching shoes all day long I can hike 30 mile days.   The only problem I have with this set up is the shoes are like ballet slippers when they hit snow and it’s a lot of money to shell out on shoes for every thru-hike.    I also don’t like having to carry two pairs of shoes…. but with my feet I know it’s what I need to do.

I was really optimistic about going barefoot and gave it my best shot but it didn’t work.

Gear review:BearVault 450 bear canister

It was  4am and I was lying in my frosty tent in the Sierras, thinking how splendid a hot beverage would be right now.  I was hungry as I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before because I was low on food and one of the ways I ration my food is to skip dinner.

I was thinking: for the same weight as the bear canister I could have brought my stove, pot, fuel canister, and 5 snicker bars.   Right now, I could be drinking a hot beverage and eating a snicker bar.   That would be good, but instead I have a bear canister.

I reached out of my tent, grabbed my frosty bear canister, tried to open it—it didn’t budge.     I straddled it and tried to open it,  it wouldn’t turn a bit—it was completely locked up.   And that is when I renamed my BearVault 450 bear canister: my “Goddamn, Piece of Shit!” bear canister.

The next food was 50 miles a way and it wasn’t 50 easy miles.  It was 50 of the hardest miles on the PCT.    I angrily broke camp, stuffed my  icy tent into my pack, and stomped off into the darkness.

Although I was mad and hungry there was a little part of me excited about the challenge of hiking 50 miles without food.

About 10am  I met a couple that I had been seeing off and on since Ashland.   I told them my bear can story.   He tried to open it but couldn’t get it to budge.    He brought out a big pocket knife and tried to pry it open with the can opener.   He brought out a tent stake and picked up a big rock and tried to break open the lid.     Nothing.   Then his wife straddled it and he tried turning it with all his might.   It finally, to my great joy,  opened.

I never locked it again.  From then on I slept with my unlocked can next to me.

I told someone I met on the trail  my bear can story.  He told me he had to take a lighter to his lid to soften up the plastic.

I bought the bear canister in ’07.  When it arrived at Kennedy Meadows, I couldn’t open it.   Someone else wrestled it open for me.      A couple days later the same thing happened but again someone else was able to open it.   I thought then that this bear can could be trouble, but after that I didn’t have a problem with it.

I used it again in ’08 through the Sierra’s and didn’t have any problems with it but then I usually sleep with it and leave it unlocked.

Billy Goat carried a bear can for the first time this year.  The same one as mine but  his was the new one with 2 locks.  I warned him not to lock it but he accidentally locked the first lock and couldn’t get it opened.   I tried to open it but I accidentally locked the second lock.   Another hiker was able to open it using some tool.  He was mindful of never locking it again.

On the Bearvault website they say they will send you a free tube of lube for your canister.  Maybe that would help but I’m not sure I would risk being locked out of my food again.   And since I’m not going to lock it, why carry it.

BearVault 450 info: weighs 32.04 ounces (918 grams) I have fit 200 miles of food in it– 18,500 calories.

Do it yourself iron supplement

I suspect I’m anemic.   In the Hesperian books “Where there is No Doctor” and “Where Women have no Doctor”, they recommend putting a clean piece of iron, like an iron nail, in a little lemon juice for a few hours.  Then making lemonade with the juice and drinking it.

I wasn’t sure if my nails were all iron so I’ve been soaking water and lemon juice in my cast iron skillet and drinking the water.  I’m feeling less anemic now.

Note: You can download all of Hesperian’s books at http://www.hesperian.org/ for free.