Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Free Backpack! Or, how I hiked 31 miles by accident

Ultra runners do it all the time. Thru-hikers do too. But let's face it, 22 miles up and down, holding a GPS and a map to find the actual trail, sliding on eroded, ball-bearing rocks, climbing across washouts, and crossing the same darn creek seven times with an uncomfortable backpack, is a long way.

Can you see the trail here?
Just to clarify things, I didn't intend to cover 22 miles in one day and nine the next. I hiked out the ridge with good intentions of doing a shorter out and back. But two things intervened. Lack of water and plenty of bear sign. A dry camp, I'm okay with. Bears in camp, not so much.

So I looked at the map and thought, Hey! I can make this a big loop if I drop down Saddle Gulch (losing 3000 feet in elevation), hike along Horse Creek until I find a good campsite, and then climb back up Monument Ridge!

What I didn't know was that campsites along Horse Creek are a scarce commodity. The river canyon narrows to a steep gorge; elsewhere the creek has changed course, chewing away at the banks until the trail is in fact the river. On I plodded. I had two mini tantrums, but without anyone to witness them, tantrums just seem silly. I stumbled into an okay but dark camp at 8 pm.

My oh-so expensive Osprey pack was on thin ice, having rubbed my back raw in three previous outings. I discovered that it had done it again, to the point where it was painful to even lie on my back. This pack has to go. More on this later.

What else? I sat in sap. I got my feet wet because I gave up on taking on and off the sandals. I got a blister. No bears showed up. The moon was bright. The next day I climbed painfully out of the canyon and back on the ridge.

Luckily there were big cairns on top of the ridge, because the trail disappeared.

I thought I was home free up there as I headed to a road labeled 4WD. Mistake! It was completely logged in. I crashed around in the woods for awhile before admitting defeat and heading back down the ridge to a connector trail. This added four miles to my “easy” second day.
Okay. About the pack. It’s an Osprey Aura 65 women’s. Read about it at Unfortunately it does not work for me. In making the pack light, the manufacturers have taken away the cushy hip and shoulder padding. I am giving this pack away to someone who can use it, not hang it on a wall. It’s been used four times. There’s a mysterious stain (coleman fuel?) on one pocket. The pack retails for $239. If you want it, post a comment. In the comment say how you found this blog and what you like reading about. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner. If you win it and it doesn’t work for you, all I ask is that you give it away to someone who will use it, not sell it. Pass on the trail gear! If nobody wants it, I will donate it to a kids’ backpacking program here.

Hike on, friends.

Look at Osprey, sitting there all pretty and innocent.


  1. I'll give the pack a try. If my number comes up a winner and I try the pack and like it, I'll trade you for mine. I've got a Jansport Big Bear 63. Heavier, but more padding too.

    I don't remember how I found your blog, but I love hearing about your job taking you all over the wilderness like that. I like that your blog isn't dedicated to one specific thing but a mix of running, backpacking, and some personal stories.

    31 miles by accident in a pack that shreds your skin, ouch.

  2. count me in the contest! i found your blog because I SUBSCRIBE and it appears magically in my inbox twice a week, a fact that i love. you know i'll use it, especially since i could be heading off into the while who knows where this fall...

  3. Count me in. Though I must admit that your description of it would certainly make me think twice about buying one if I were out in the market looking for an ultralight pack (which I have been researching recently in fact).
    I found your blog also because I Subscribe, I really love getting the emails because otherwise I would rarely get out here (I just rarely remember to go check all the blogs I have in my favorites list).
    I love reading everything you post here. Mostly, since I live in the same area, I really like hearing your specific adventures because I may be going those same places too!
    i.e. Knowing that the 4Wd rd out on Monument ridge is completely logged in is a great piece of info!
    I also really like that you put it all out there. The mistakes, the tantrums, the fears, in addition to the successes.

  4. I have a smaller Osprey (a little too small actually, so it sounds like this one would work well for me on 4+ night trips) that fits me really well, so I like to think of it is "my" brand...not that that's a hint or anything..*cough*

    I started reading after following a link from Jill Outside. I'm hooked on blogs from strong, outdoorsy women, it's become a big source of inspiration for me to push myself.

    And wow, 22 unintentional miles whilst being molested by your pack? Luckily one of the things I love about hiking is that even the "bad" trips eventually fade into memory as funny stories...

  5. I'll throw my hat in to give that pack a try. I found your blog through Katey's blog and am now a subscriber. I love reading your posts because you spend a lot of time in the county that, living on the other end, I don't see as often. I also love your mix of hiking,running and just life topics. Wonderful writing from a wonderful spirit!

  6. Loved this post, but
    Don't want a pack
    That did mean things
    To my Knees's back!

  7. Ok, I don't really need a pack. I only day hike. Because let's face it I'm a Chicken when it comes to darkness in the forest.

    I know how I found this blog. My bestest friend in the whole wide world (Marre) recommended it to me. So I could follow her wonderful stories and live vicariously through her. *wink-wink*

    Glad to hear no bears paid you a visit.

  8. Greetings from the Amish community of Lebanon,Pa

  9. Oh yeah, I know all about throwing a tantrum up in the mountains and then fizzling out 'cause there's no one to witness my dramatics, hee, hee.
    Count me in for the pack lottery--thanks! I also discovered your blog from a link at Jill Outside and been reading ever since. Love (and am terribly jealous) of the gorgeous photos and great writing.

  10. I would also like to put my name in for the backpack : )

    Love hiking and hope to do more : )

    Love your blog!

  11. Heard about your blog from a girl at REI in NV. I just commented on a posting about one of your solo trips. At this moment that one is my favorite. I came to your blog in search of inspiration and you have delivered!

    I'd like to get my name in there for the pack if it's not too late. I just tried this pack on last week. I know I fit an xsmall-small ..hopefully you do too!

    -Anne Marie

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