When I start a camping trip, the Van Halen song "Panama" [Video on YouTube] often pops into my head — I wish I could represent Eddie Van Halen's reverby guitar opening in words, but I was humming it and singing the chorus — Pa-neh-ma … Pa-neh-ma-ha — as this picture was taken. That's the Wind River Range coming into view beyond my friend Nick. For the next 10 days, it would dominate us. In fact, this photo represents the last few moments of peaceful hiking. Our packs were really, really heavy, and soon enough the hurt would begin. Then, we would get rained on pretty often, and (for my part) suffer too many black fly bites and a few altitude-related headaches. Still, totally, totally worth it.
I could go on and on here, but my pictures on Flickr really tell the story better than I can.
I'm a shameless sucker for gear, so here's some shout-outs:
- Bridgedale socks. They were really wet, really often. But they stayed warm and they maintained some spring, even when soaked.
- Tarptent. I visited Tarptent designer Henry Shires at his house on the Peninsula, and I bought the Squall [PDF] last spring. Since then, I've put it to the test in the Gila Wilderness, Yosemite, and the Yuba River. I was still skeptical about its ability to really keep me warm and dry, but I must testify that, even when it rains hard all afternoon (and even when the rain really comes down), the Tarptent abides. Everything people say is true: It's a really good, reasonably light backpacking shelter, and it's got everything you need to anchor and adjust it to respond to changing weather and wind.
- Blistoban. Part of the reason for the shout-out to Bridgedale was that, halfway through, I switched to thinner Smartwool socks, and they absolutely killed my feet in the matter of a couple of hours. Nick loaned me some Blistoban strips, though, and they ruled. How does Blistoban compare to my old backpacking blister-control remedy: antibiotic ointment covered by bandaid which is then covered by duct tape which is then smeared with Vaseline? Jury's still out here.
- Patagonia Dragonfly. They call it the Houdini now, and it's a little different, but I bought one of the early models in 2003, and it still impresses me. I wore it almost everyday, and it admirably repelled rain without ever becoming oppressively warm.