Where Did A Month Go?

Slipped over here and realized that it’s been a month since my last post. Granted, lots has happened in the last month, and I did have some minor hiking-related news I could have shared, but in the interest of, well, interest (or lack thereof) I decided to skip a tedious “Look what I bought!” piece on the three-pack of 32oz. Sawyer water bottles I purchased to replace the functionally marginal 16oz. one that came with my Mini.

For regular readers: You’re welcome.

May is the most brutal month of the year for me, life-wise. Every year. So many birthdays, holidays, graduations, etc. Worse even than that torrid stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. By a long shot. Factor gearing up for a move into a new place into the equation, and May became a hiking disaster, salvaged only in part by my Lutsen 55 shake-out on the 3rd.

And here I sit, at the end of June, wondering how I can sneak in a quick trip to the AT before this month becomes July. Hikes in June so far? Zero. Again, unpacking after the move and juggling that around work and obligations has killed the hiking motivation/schedule.

And the blogging one, apparently.

At least I got a nice new storage spot for my gear:

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Maybe next Thursday I’ll grab some chips and candy bars and take a quick southbound on the AT from Thunder Ridge Overlook to see if I can drop a little spontaneous trail magic on some thru hikers…

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A New “Follow”

As I’ve posted here in the past, every spring I pick out two people/couples to follow as they attempt their AT thru-hike. Or through-hike, for you language purists (When I see a “Drive-Through” at a fast food joint, I’ll change my thinking AND my spelling. Promise). On occasion I’ve had to switch “follows” as my chosen intrepid explorers meet with various trials that pull them from the trail before they even set foot in Tennessee.

This year marks a new experience for me. Now, before I comment, let me state for the record that I’m as much a believer in “Journal your own journal” as I am in “Hike your own hike.” Having said that, I’m a reader and, as such, I like to…read. And while one of the people I’m following is a wonderful journal keeper and is getting and giving so much on the trail, the other is the Cliff Notes version of “Cliff Notes for Hiking the AT.”

Seriously.

Many days he puts up nothing but miles hiked. His “long” entries are two sentences. On the practical side, he’s motivated, covering good miles and seems like he’ll have a legitimate shot at finishing.

But his journal is mind-numbingly boring. Assuming emptiness can be considered boring. Maybe he’s too focused on the mission? He seems to be very efficient in every way, which bodes well for him as a hiker. But the written record of his journey doesn’t capture the imagination of anyone outside his hiking bubble. Again, I’ll gladly defend his right to HYOH and JYOJ, but…I want to read exploits!

On my birthday (May 8th) I chatted briefly with a thru-hiker on the James River Foot Bridge, and managed to stumble across his journal yesterday quite by accident. He, like the other hiker I’m following, is a conscientious journal keeper, and I gleefully read the last two weeks of his adventures so I’d be caught up. Then, I swapped him into the fold, and the other hiker (I wish him well!) out…

So I’m still following two hikers. And I look forward to their continued success!

Granite Gear Lutsen 55 – First Impressions

That multi-day pack I finally broke down and ordered arrived, and I couldn’t wait to unbox it and toss some of my stuff into it for a quick trek around the living room:

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These are my rookie backpacker, still-haven’t-taken-it-out-into-the-woods impressions of this pack…

  1. Fit: With both an adjustable torso length AND a rare adjustable hip belt, I was able to dial in a flawless fit, with one additional bonus: I could make the hip belt size a bit larger than my actual waist size, which pushed the pockets forward to a more reachable position. Sweet! Seriously, if you can’t fiddle your way to a perfect fit with this pack, you’re not trying hard enough.
  2. Flexibility: There’s lots to love here. The top lid floats, has zippered storage, and is removable. The lower side compression straps have the ability to run UNDER the side pockets, a big deal for those who, like me, prefer not to battle those straps when trying to replace a water bottle into a side pocket while on the move. I’m not sure why every pack isn’t built this way. Of course, to those who use a bladder, that’s not a biggie. But to bottle carriers, it’s a very nice feature. And speaking of those pockets, they swallow a 1L Smartwater bottle, which helps with keeping them from slipping out. There’s a cavernous front pocket for wet gear/stuff to be accessed quickly, and two decently sized hip belt pockets for the on-the-go stuff (my Google Pixel with case slides around in one, so a plus-sized phone should fit. YMMV). There are also a sufficient number of lashing spots on the pack, for those who like to hang gear all over their bag.
  3. Filling: The Lutsen 55 is one giant, open cave. I tossed my tent, sleeping bag and self-inflating pad into it without concern for efficient packing, and I still had room in this roll-top to add enough extra gear for a weekend hike. A more effective packing job, and I could go for a week with ease living out of this thing. And I have a reputation for being an effective and efficient packer, so…
  4. Feel: This is the only semi-rub, no pun intended. With nothing inside, the combination of the incredibly stiff frame sheet and solid lumbar pad was a bit harder than I’m used to. Adding a dozen pounds to the pack mitigated it somewhat, and I could see where a heavier load might improve it…or make it feel harder. Of course, a bit of break-in might soften the system a bit too. The only way to know is to pack it up with a decent load of 20-25 pounds and take in out on the AT for 5 or 6 miles. I’m planning to do so next week. Having said that, the load transfer to my hips was perfect; the pack did “sit” correctly on my frame.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the look, fit and function of the pack, especially when factoring in the price I paid. I’m looking forward to taking it for a cruise out of Big Island next week to try it in real world conditions!