I finally got a chance to hit the trail a couple of weeks ago and spend some time with a friend from school, Karen, who I haven’t seen since I graduated back in December. The plan was to go on a relaxing over night, starting at Hogpen Gap, hiking out to Blue Mountain Shelter, and then heading back the same route to the cars the next morning. This was also going to be the third trip that I brought my dog, Layla, on. Since I moved last month, I don’t have anyone to take car of her, so I am trying to turn her into a hiking partner.
It was a nice trip that required little planning and should have been easy. The weather reports were showing a chance of some rain Sunday, so I was ready for some afternoon storms, hoping to be off the trail before they hit. Or that was the plan at least.
It seemed like it might go differently when I got out of my car at the trail head and immediately wished I had worn long pants rather than shorts. In my defense, it is May in Georgia and I would normally be overheating, but I should have checked the weather for something besides the rain forecast.
Once we started hiking, the cool temperatures felt very nice. Saturday afternoon was a pretty uneventful hike. We had the opportunity to meet a lot of thru hikers starting on their way, which is my favorite part of hiking the AT.
Unfortunately, Sunday turned into one of those challenging kinds of days for thru hikers, and Layla. At 2am, it started to rain. The sound of the drops hitting our ‘mid really seemed to frighten Layla. From the way she was pouncing back and forth, you would have thought that a bear was stalking outside. Somehow, the rain continued through the entire day. This left no chance to dry anything out, or even really warm up, through the day. This was pretty hard on Layla, who trudged along, drenched, all day.
So far, it seems like I am taking Layla on trips where she ends up pretty miserably, and also that she just doesn’t want to be much of a hiking dog. May be time to go with plan B and find a dog sitter around here.
One good thing about adverse conditions is that it really gives a good chance to test out gear. This was my first chance to test some store bought and a lot of homemade gear in these kinds of conditions.
- Santa Hat: This was by far the best piece of gear I took on the trip. I was wearing a rain jacket from the moment I woke up Sunday to the moment I got in the car, and wore this along with it. I never pull the hood of my jacket up, felt much more free, sweated a lot less, and (most importantly) never got any rain on my glasses all day. I got some odd lo0ks on Saturday, but on Sunday people couldn’t quit talking about how great the hat was.
- Wool beanie: The low for last night was somewhere in the 50’s, and my head gets cold. I was stoked to have a chance to try this thing out. It was really comfortable to sleep in and breathed well under the Santa Hat while hiking.
- Sin25: I still can’t say enough good things about the Apex insulation. I set up pretty poorly in the tarp and ended up getting the quilt pretty wet. Within 10 minutes of fixing the problem, the quilt was completely dry, and never stopped keeping me warm.
- Sawyer Squeeze filter: With it being chilly and wet all day, collecting water wasn’t really something I looked forward to. With the squeeze filter, I still had to get my hands wet, but I was really happy with how quickly it was all over. It was nice to not have to add drops or tablets, just drink.
- Kringle Pack 2.0: I just finished a new 35L+ version of this pack with some new features, and it carried very well on this trip. I’m definitely happy with this pack and am ready to starting getting rid of some others.