Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Follow-Up: It's All Random

Jakes Creek Trail - GSMNP
February 25, 2013

With not much on my mind today, but a desire to write, it'll be interesting to see what comes out.......

It's been a fun week that started with my longest and most difficult hike since returning from Florida.  Gene, Judi and I hiked 3.7 miles from the Elkmont area of the park to Jakes Gap and then followed an old manway another mile to Blanket Mountain, the site of an old firetower and caretaker's cabin.  The operative word here was UP - 1700 feet of UP to be exact and that was just to the gap.  Another 600 feet of UP along an unmaintained trail that is threatening to become extinct.  There are no views from the summit of Blanket Mountain, but it's always exciting to find evidence of the past within the park and a fun source of conversation to discuss why that particular site wasn't chosen to be maintained while others were. 

From the Gap, we followed a faint, but easily seen trail (not shown on the map) to the right which led to the top of Blanket Mountain.

Picture on the left shows where we were headed and picture on the right is what remains of the chimney from the old caretaker's cabin.

Some terrific thoughts, feedback and questions came from my last post specifically about carrying water while hiking and my boots.   Thankfully, no one suggested NOT carrying water!  In my years of hiking, I have seen many woefully unprepared people much further back in the backcountry than they should've been given that they appeared to be carrying nothing in the way of supplies INCLUDING water.  I've had people that I didn't know well plan to hike with my group and when asked about the absence of water have said they didn't need it.  My answer is this, "you hike with me, you carry water."  

I mentioned that water is heavy and several of you agreed.  Some said they prefer carrying their water via a "camelback" or some other reservoir system which lets you spread the weight on your back and drink from a tube at any time.  Others suggested a waist belt with water on either side.   All are excellent methods and it boils down to personal preference.  Technically, the water weighs the same no matter which way you choose to carry it.  I prefer to carry one liter Nalgene water bottles in each pocket of my waist strap so my hips are carrying the weight.  If the hike is long enough that a third bottle is needed, I place another in the bottom of my backpack so that it also rests on my hips.  I love my backpack and consider it an investment, so I think it's just a matter of finding the right way to carry everything that puts the least amount of pressure on my neck.

My hiking boots are made by Vasque, a well known and highly respected maker of outdoor footwear.  They are the "Breeze" style and I cannot say enough good things about them.  Expensive?  Yes, but worth every dime.  These are the most comfortable shoes I've ever had and if I could get by with it, I'd wear them to church on Sunday mornings!!  This is a popular style and easy to find at most any outdoor fitter, Amazon, Bass Pro Shop, etc.  Trust me when I say my feet are a mess from Rheumatoid Disease, but at the end of a hike, my feet are usually what is the LEAST tired.  These boots  are 100% waterproof (believe me, that's been tested...LOL!) and have kept my feet dry as a bone.

Changing the subject entirely..................

I'm having lots of fun with the Two-Ingredient Crockpot Dinners and have tried several of the options you guys suggested.  We have not had a failure yet, although some combinations are better than others.  I loved Debby's idea to head to Trader Joe's and just wander the aisles looking for marinades and sauces that might be worth a try.  Believe me, TJ's is loaded with possibilities and I've had fun doing that.  

One week from today, Bill will leave for a week in Spain with his wonderful choral group of amazing college kids (I might be a tad bit partial here).  He is so grateful to be employed by a college whose administration understands the importance of experiences such as these for their college students.  Not every community college does!  Believe me, this is no vacation - there are days when they have THREE concerts.  And no day where there are none!  They work hard and come back exhausted, but overwhelmed with the experience they've had.  I will miss him, but have some adventures of my own planned for the time he is gone.

We spent last evening with my MIL and enjoyed cheering our Tennessee Lady Vols on to the regular season SEC Championship during their first year under new head coach, Holly Warlick, who succeeded legendary Pat Summitt earlier this year.  The Lady Vols were picked to finish FIFTH in the preseason polls, but we all knew they deserved better.  Holly may be a new head coach, but she learned everything she knows from Pat Summitt and any Tennessean will tell you she's no novice!  

No big plans for the weekend, but you can bet we'll find plenty to do and find a way to make it fun.

What Random Thoughts Are Swirling Around In Your Head Today?


  1. Today snow thoughts are swirling because we may get some snow. I like your suggestions about carrying water while hiking - it is so important to be prepared.

  2. I have biking thoughts swirling in my head because temps are in the mid 30s and it is getting close for me to get the bike on the road.

    Music tours aren't the fun they sound sometimes. We did a tour in Japan and there were rehearsals and concerts scheduled every single day so there was hardly any time for sight seeing, which was really a bummer.

  3. I was also rooting for our Lady Vols last night. We bleed orange here! Have a nice weekend.

  4. I'm about to head over to my blog and to a random post as well. I'm sure it won't be this cohesive! I always enjoy what you have to say.

  5. Wow--I could NEVER do that hike, and really wouldn't want to do it... When I hike, I want to see something when I get there (like a waterfall, or a good view).. Of course, unlike you, I'm more of a photographer in nature and not a 'real' hiker. ha

    Bill's trip sounds awesome. I'm sure--as busy as they will be--that they WILL have a tiny bit of time for sight-seeing. You will have to share some of his photos with us.

    Snowing up here this morning---but not much, just some flurries... They even cancelled school before it even started. GOSH--why do they do that? We have nothing much at all. ha

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  6. Random thought "she said water... I haven't drank nearly enough today...I need to grab my water bottle." ha!

    Glad you guys had a good hike. I've been to the gap, but never to the top of blanket mountain. I started to go once, but was alone and decided against it. Someday I'll go check out the top.

    Yay for the Lady Vols!! They have done well, and I'm sure Holly felt the pressure for a good season.

  7. Interesting post, even if random! Here's a question from a non
    - hiker: how do you keep from getting lost? Especially on unmaintained trails? If you've talked about this in previous posts, I've missed it, and often wonder about it.

  8. Random thought #1: I think I'm sending snow your way, but not too much. We're supposed to only get a dusting on this end of the state.

    Random thought #2: Wishing you a great weekend!

  9. It's hard to believe people go hiking without water, but I've seen it myself many times hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. My random thought(s): Just finished a wonderful day skiing with my friends the Tele Ladies. I purchased new ski boots and got to try them out today. It's an adjustment that's for sure! Glad you like your calendar - I had fun choosing photos and putting it together. yeah, I may have to do it again next year...... Have a great weekend!

  10. Your water plan sounds good. I personally don't like a camelback because it's impossible to get it clean so that the water doesn't start to taste "off." Glad you're hiking. Is it still too early for bears?

    1. Tish, if you store the camelback (or even the cheaper versions by other manufacturers) in the freezer with a little water in it, it prevents the problem you describe. I've had mine for over two years now, and the water still tastes great. I just rinse it out when I get home, refill it with some fresh water, and put it in the freezer. I love mine!

  11. I have never heard of Vasque before. Now I MUST find a pair! I just bought some New Balance hiking shoes and so far they aren't Wowing me.

  12. I had wondered what kind of boots you were wearing. I have two pairs of Merrells that I really love. I wear them all the time. I am looking for a pair of water proof boots and will probably try the Vasques on. Those boots look very similar to my Merrells.

    You did not tell me where Bill will travel in Spain. I was there a few years ago to supervise student teachers in Sotogrande. It was a lovely place.