The First (But Not Last) Time

My first week in Virginia featured little-to-nothing hiking related until my daughter suggested a trip to the Richmond area to shop her favorite HomeGoods store. Well, that would be a five-star yawner for me, except for the fact that HomeGoods shares a parking lot with the Glen Allen location of REI. Where I lived in Maine, the nearest REI was a less-than-leisurely 3.5 hour (traffic permitting, of course) sojourn to (nearby?) Reading, Massachusetts. Given that I had never been in a physical location, and that I had a $9.58 dividend burning a hole in my account pocket, I was thrilled with the invite.

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I was hoping against hope that they might have a Granite Gear Crown 2 in stock so I could set some eyes on one. It was a longshot, for sure; even Granite Gear has been out of them for weeks. And my now-local REI didn’t disappoint. Nary a Crown 2 to be seen anywhere.

Still, they had a pretty solid array of packs, about half of which are represented in this photo:

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I was able to strap on the 48L version of my trusty Kestrel 28, and give consideration to a few others. But by the end of my hour-long trip through the backpacker’s candy store, all I walked away with was some GU hydration tablets which, after my staggeringly huge $9.58 dividend, set me back a grand total of $3.75.

Still, it was great to spend some time in an actual REI store rather than burning through page after page on their website. And I enjoyed the experience of proudly whipping out my membership card when asked if I had one…

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Indoor Camping?

At the end of the month I’ll be moving to Virginia. For a handful of reasons that won’t be spelled out here, I’ll be taking up temporary residence for a few weeks in a family member’s empty apartment. Ever the minimalist, I’ve decided to use my sleeping bag as my bed. Which means that I need to (finally!) order the sleeping pad I’ve been eyeing since March as a buffer between me and the floor.

The only question now is, do I set up the inner portion of my tent to get used to the confining nature of a one person shelter? I mean, I’ve pitched it indoors before, albeit temporarily:

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Of course, I’d much rather see it in a more natural habitat:

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But I’m not sure the property management company at the apartment complex would be too thrilled about having a tent pitched on the lawn next to the building that houses the fitness room and movie theater.

They do have a lazy river that runs into the swimming pool. That would probably be a better spot…

I’m Ready to Sleep in the Wilderness

Yesterday our mail carrier delivered to my doorstep my new home-away-from-home, an REI Passage 1 tent:

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It was tough to get a taut pitch in the living room, of course. And I couldn’t add the rainfly to the photo, as it needs to be staked down, and I was pretty sure my landlord wouldn’t approve of holes in his concrete floor. But there it is. And I can’t wait to get out in the woods north (or south…undecided as of this moment) of Monson on the AT for an overnight.

And in keeping with a theme that has overwhelmed this blog, it was another amazingly inexpensive purchase. I received two REI gift cards totaling $50 for my birthday in May, and after much research and hand-wringing, I decided on the Passage 1 for my first tent. But I was looking for a cheaper-than-a-yard-sale bargain in keeping with the rest of my gear purchases. So I decided to wait for the ubiquitous “Take X% off any REI-branded Product!” coupon-carrying email to land in my inbox. I had seen one earlier in the year, and doing my version of financially-strapped-hiker math figured I could land this $139 shelter for an amazing price if I was patient.

Well, my patience paid off. At the end of last week, the requisite email arrived with a 25% off discount code attached. In conjunction with my untouched gift cards, I walked away with this great starter tent for $54 and some change. Awesome!

Sure, I don’t need a tent to hike the three miles from the Monson trailhead to the Leeman Brook Lean-to and spend the night on the AT. My sleeping bag and a bug bivy would do the trick for that. But who wants to spend sleepytime flicking aggressive shelter mice off their person as part of their first AT overnight?

Not me.

I’m as thrilled as I can be with my sweet little one-person $54 tent…