Entries to Win Afghan

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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Updated Review of Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt

  I reviewed this "sleep system" over a year ago, and expressed being very unhappy with it. That has not changed. I took a lot of flack from some in the hiking community for saying how I feel about it, but it's my right to have an opinion.

You should read the original review in the link below. That details the specific problems I find with this product.

I did add a zipper to turn this into a sleeping bag instead of the quilt. It helps. However, even with a liner this product does not keep me warm at 30 degrees, and I am a warm sleeper, usually needing fewer covers than any of my friends. This is barely a 3-season "bag."

It cost around $300- a major expense. I don't think I've ever been as disgusted with a piece of equipment as I am with this Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt.

I give it a rating of 2 out of 10 stars.

See Enlightened Equipment Revelation

Friday, December 30, 2022

Review of Oboz Mt. Ranier Boots

  I managed to get some work done (sorting through stuff) today at a very moderate pace. I'm in no rush and the mess is impressive. The house doesn't smell like it, but it pretty much looks like a dumpster.

So, I'm going to start reviewing some of my gear. On a scale of 10 stars, I give these 8. Pretty good. Very good, in fact, since I'm a real grump about expensive gear that doesn't perform as promised. These are Oboz Mt. Ranier boots. Of course, they've already tinkered with the design a bit, so I suppose my comments might not be pertinent to the new design. But perhaps the overall design from Oboz is still good.

I got these for Christmas 2020. Here they are brand new. The link below was my initial reaction.

It's difficult to say exactly how many hiking days I've worn these. They were too hot to wear if the temperature was about 35 or above. I also tried not to wear them for a whole lot of days in a row- see below why I knocked off one star. But they've probably got about 500 miles on them.

These are winter boots. They would be much too warm to wear year round. In fact, my feet are usually too hot, and I found I could not even wear wool socks with these boots or my feet were boiling. This probably means they are just warm enough for a lot of people.

Here's how they look now. They've still got lots of use in them.
Oboz boots

The first negative comment is that my left foot never got used to the boot. This finally got a little better after loosening the laces a LOT. But the ball of that foot hurts most of the time when I'm wearing the boot. I have no particular explanation for this. It's not a place I usually experience foot pain. But I tried to switch back to trail runners for a day after wearing the boots for about 3 days. When the snow was deep, this wasn't an option and I just had to put up with the sore foot. The boots were especially troublesome doing road walks.

The second star got knocked off because these are supposed to be waterproof, but that feature didn't last long. I had to keep spraying them with silicone every other day. They aren't really suede, but neither are they really smooth leather, so I didn't think something like mink oil was a good option. Plus, I didn't want to deal with the mess of that product inside the trailer.

One of the reasons I gave up on boots for 3-season use was that they kept irritating my Achilles tendon. These boots threatened to do this a couple of times, but it never became a problem.

Overall, given how much difficulty I have finding shoes/boots that my feet will tolerate, I am quite pleased with these. Footwear is a very subjective topic. You may not find these comfortable at all, and I will always tell people they should wear whatever makes their feet happy. However, these boots are a quality product and if they fit, I think they are worth the price. I paid $175 for them in 2020. (Actually they were a gift, but that's what they cost.)

8 of 10 stars.

See Maybe I've Grown Up

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Little Treats, Random Thoughts

  I managed to get myself off my rear end today enough to go to Ludington and do some critical errands. You know I absolutelly hate errands on a good day, and they are especially hateful on a day when I'd rather just sit and vegetate. The enticement to actually do them was that I would get to buy my favorite ice cream on the way home.

I did it all.
ice cream

One of the really hard parts of coming off a hike is that your body thinks it wants enough food to walk 15 miles, but then it's not really walking 15 miles. I'm trying really hard to drop back to real-life calories, but I'm not there yet. I did manage to hold myself to one dish of the ice cream.

What kind? Moose Tracks, and the best one I've found is the Meijer Purple Cow brand. It's creamier than any others. I haven't had this particular ice cream for 13 months. So it's a big deal that I only ate one bowl, OK?
ice cream

I started reading a book about an Appalachian Trail hike, and it has sparked some thoughts. The story is one of those where a person just decides, out of the blue, to hike the AT. She was a 51-year-old empty nester, and felt compelled, even called to do this.

Comparing her descriptions of the experience to my own hikes is interesting.

For starters, she was not comfortable alone in the outdoors. She tells how she had to get used to the nights, the mice, the snakes, etc. I can't even relate to feelings like that, let alone describe them.

But one of the results of her inexperience was that she probably found even more joy and beauty in the spectacular places along the trail than I do. Not that I don't feel that hitch of breath as I look out over the immense waters of Lake Superior or realize that George Washington really did walk that piece of trail before me. But, at this point, I'm so familiar with the North Country Trail that these encounters are more like re-establishing bonds with old friends than like falling in love at first sight with someone.

She didn't really know how to use her equipment when she started. I don't get that at all. I can understand needing to make adjustments to the details of using something day after day on the trail, but I'm much too persnickety to take off on any kind of trip without understanding what my gear does.

Perhaps what I've thought about most is that I'll never be able to go back and see the NCT through the eyes of a first-time hiker. Sure, there were pieces of new trail, but even where the treadway was new, I usually know the people who built it, maybe even who designed it, what kinds of permissions and political struggles it took to put the trail there, and maybe even conflicts and compromises required to get it on the ground. I often know specifically why maintenance is difficult or lacking in a particular area. Yeah, there are 4800 miles of this trail, but I've come to know them in a truly personal way.

In the early days of my hiking, I just saw the trail and whether it was well-marked and maintained or not. I had some of those knee-jerk reactions we still see from hikers. "Why don't they get this cleaned up?" "Why is this trail still on the road?" "What on earth were they thinking to cross this creek without a bridge?" Etc.

I don't really have any thoughts here with a conclusion. I do know that questions like these are why I chose to get involved with the North Country Trail so many years ago. It's a big trail that may never have enough volunteers to keep things perfect. I felt it was a trail organization where I could make a difference.

It was weird to not go hiking this morning. I'm starting to feel somewhat recovered, although not enough to put a serious dent in my work list. And I needed more books. I came home from the library with six more and 2 DVDs. There seems to be a big book black hole in my system that is sucking in words. Gotta go read some more!

See Heat, Light, Water, Salad

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Heat, Light, Water, Salad

  I am safely home and up the driveway. The house has the big three: heat, water, electricity. So often I arrive to one of those being missing. Thus having the full set is impressive and more than satisfactory. Add to that my usual (when I'm home) big salad for dinner, and LIFE IS GOOD. I've really missed the salads, but it's not enough food when mega-hiking.

Thanks to Doug (the one here, not the one where I just was), the driveway was clear and there was enough space plowed at the top to swing the trailer around.

I brought in just enough stuff for tonight and the groceries I bought- for the salad. I'll start on the big cleanup tomorrow.

See Moonlighting in the Daylihght

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Moonlighting in the Daylight

  I'm still in Petoskey. My friends have 2 Air BnB units, and they had to juggle the schedule, and their regular cleaning person is on vacation. So I stayed for a little extra cash to clean one of the units.

I've been making a good dent in my promise to myself to spend as much time as I want reading books for as long as I want to since I'm taking a break from hiking. It's probably the thing I've missed most while hiking. That said, I've managed to read maybe 10-15 in the past year, but that's way off my usual mark of 100ish.

But here I am at a house with shelves full of books I haven't yet read. I managed one children's book (research), one book about George Washington (my favorite historical period), one history of the 1936 U.S. rowing team that took the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics (it was riveting!), and 3 thrillers just for fun. I read parts of the book about Mother Theresa. I really wanted to like it because I wanted to know more about her, but it was pretty dry reading.

I'm really and truly going home tomorrow.

See Rope Lights
See the joke about me cleaning kitchens

Monday, December 26, 2022

Rope Lights

  I mentioned that Pam had a little project she wanted done, and we were working on it. Actually, today I'm housesitting while they are away for a couple of days. I took advantage of being the only one here to get this project done.

Pam had rope lights around the upper edges of the rooms on the main floor. But they were mostly burned out and needed to be replaced. Of course the new ones are a different size, so all the fittings had to be replaced too.
rope lights

Most of this was not difficult, but it meant moving a ton of stuff and making a mess that had to be cleaned up. So it created a fair amount of chaos which bothers me a lot less than Pam, so this was a good day to do it!

The one tedious part was the decision to drill through a decorative cornice. Well, the decision was not tedious, but the drilling was. It looks pretty good.
rope lights

I got it all done, the mess cleaned up, and everything put back, except for putting the tools away in the morning. I'll have that all done before they get home. These lights make Pam really happy, so it makes me happy too.
rope lights

rope lights

I'm probably heading home tomorrow.

See Chores and Fun

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Day 2022

  I'm posting early today, as I anticipate a quiet day which will be perfect for me this year. I hope your holiday will be just what you need too, whether it is filled with children and chaos, special rememberances and traditions, something wild and crazy, or just quiet time. Perhaps you don't celebrate Christmas, but prefer to just call this the holiday season. I do believe in the "Reason for the Season," and pray for special blessings for you all.

For those of you who have followed my hike for a year, I'll definitely be taking a break till spring. There are 8-20 inches of snow everywhere I need to finish hiking the North Country Trail. Thanks for following along, for your encouragement and friendship. Often you've provided actual concrete help to speed me on my way. I have blogged almost every day for 14 years, and I'll continue to do so. Keep reading if you wish, or come back when I pick up the hike.

Merry and blessed Christmas!

See Christmas Party

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Party

  Tonight we were invited to a Christmas dinner and party at Doug's brother's house. I didn't ask anyone if it was OK to post their pictures, so I'll just show you the lovely table setting.
party table

The food was delicious, I managed to hold my own socially with at least a couple of people, and we sang Christmas carols. Doug played harmonica and Pam led on guitar.
couple playing music

Just for fun, they ended with an Elvis song!

I hope each of you is having just the kind of Christmas you need.

See Chores and Fun

Friday, December 23, 2022

Chores and Fun

  One of the things I find particularly satisfying is to work with other people to accomplish things that need to be done. Today, that translated into helping my friends with chores. Let me first say that it was amazing to be sleeping in a house where I didn't even know that the wind was blowing, the temperature dropping, and the snow accumulating outside. There were about 14 magical inches of white stuff to be removed. Doug and Pam have 2 Air BnB units and one had renters coming today, so we needed to clean things up. Pam and I shoveled the foot paths.
shoveling snow

Doug, however, gets out the big guns to clear the driveways!

Later the neighbors stopped by, and their little boy was waiting with great anticipation for Doug to put on some music and sing with him. It was very cute.
toddler watching an adult

Pam and I worked on a little fix-it project in the house that we hope to finish tomorrow. I love helping people with things like this. I also got to read some more, and then we did music again in the evening. Tonight was guitar and accordion. With Pam you never know what instrument it will be the next night. I love it!

I can't really tell you how much these people mean to me. They are two of my dearest friends. They say they are so happy to have me with them for Christmas this year, and it couldn't possibly be a better place for me.

See Buck, Buck, Pluck

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Buck, Buck, Pluck

  I'm just letting the peace of not having a schedule rule while I am here. The day was a lot like the one linked below from 5 years ago. I really can't believe it's been that long since I spent time with these friends.

There were some chores, the most picturesque one of which was feeding the chickens and collecting eggs.
nest of eggs

Pam went shopping, and didn't need me to come. That was perfect because I hate shopping. So I read books. After dinner we did some music- one of the best things about being with these friends, and then we played a game.

I'm sure that these laid back days sound very dull compared to my 385 days of hiking and seeing something different every day, but I am in sloth and recovery mode. This is just what I need right now.
woman playing harp

See Harp

Wednesday, December 21, 2022


  I am safely with my friends, and their church had a Christmas service this evening. It was just what I needed. Joy abounds!
JOY decoration

My friend Doug played harmonica with the pianist. We sang a whole bunch of Christmas carols and read the Christmas story.
man playing harmonica

They ended with what has become a somewhat traditional ending of singing Silent Night with candles.
lighting candles

I loved all the singing, and there was a video with something very interesting to think about. You can see it at Lineage of Majesty

Big thanks to my previous hosts, long-time friends, Kay and Stan. They have each volunteered more than 10,000 hours for the trail!

We didn't manage to quite finish the puzzle, but it's in good hands for completion.

For those of you who have started following the blog because of the hike, I blog every day about something that provides quality for the day. Feel free to tag along, or come back when I pick up the hike again.

See Goodbye Snowy Trail

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Goodbye Snowy Trail - Day 385

  This is the last picture of a snowy trail corridor you'll see from me for a while. I hiked today, tomorrow I'm going to some friends in Petoskey to hunker down for the big storm. Then I'll see if there is anywhere left that I need to hike that doesn't require snowshoes. I've decided I'm fine with this. My hip is kiling me, and although I'm often even oblivious to pain, I'm not going to keep snowshoeing on it when it hurts constantly to do so. The big gift of the day was that in many places the snow was crustier than yesterday so that I didn't sink in as much. That helped a lot.
snowy trai

Today did have a few features other than snow. There were a couple of small bridges and this larger one over the Pine River. (Not the one in the Lower Peninsula)
trail bridge

Long time readers may recall that I love stripes and polka dots together. A red pine plantation nicely obliged today.
red pines in snow

I got to spend the rest of the day clean and warm in a house with a jigsaw puzzle, dinner served on a table, with good friends.

Miles today: 5.1. Total miles so far: 4374.2.

See Snow and Botany

Monday, December 19, 2022

Snow and Botany - Day 384

  It's still lovely outside. The wet snow that fell days ago is solidly clinging to the trees. It's so pretty, but it's going to bring down lots more trees when the big storm hits in a couple of days. The weight of it all will be just too much.
snowy vista

I spent a lot of time trying to think about anything other than how difficult the walking was. For one thing, there was a mystery to be solved. Amiya and I had been discussing it yesterday. It's called "name that tree." Let me say up front that my knowledge of conifers is less than that of deciduous trees. But I may now have added a real piece of ID info to my store.

Amiya and I knew that these trees are spruce, and we could easily eliminate a couple of them from the list. But here's where I went awry. Although I thought black spruce were predominant here, these needles seemed too short. So the other choices were red or white. I thought white. I thought white even after looking up pictures of the needles. But these are only about 3/8 inch long. I've been seeing spruce with these short needles for days.
black spruce

I found a sniff test that I hope to remember. When the needles are crushed, white spruce smells like skunk or cat urine. (So I'm picturing a white cat and a skunk with a big white stripe for white spruce). Red spruce may smell sligtly citrusy, like an orange. (So orange is close to red.) Black spruce smells like menthol.

Today I crushed some needles. Menthol. Definitely Picea mariana, black spruce. And I see that red spruce isn't even found in Michigan. I also learned that black has the shortest needles, usually under 1/2 inch long. So these are not oddball at all. Now I have to wonder which spruce I've been calling black for years. Extra healthy ones, or were they really white?

In other botany news, this is Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina. In summer, the leaves are aromatic with a spicy smell. But I had never noticed how the dried leaves curl in the winter. I love the curliques.
sweetfern in winter

Today was a long hard slog. I'm going to hike tomorrow and then hunker down to wait out the coming storm. We'll see what I do after that. The deep snow is very difficult and I'm not going to keep doing short days.

Miles today: 7.1. Total miles so far: 4369.1.

See Snow with Amiya

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Snow with Amiya - Day 383

  Today I hiked with my youngest companion of this journey. Amiya is a college student. I was a little concerned that I'd be way too slow for her and that my six puny miles on snowshoes would not satisfy.
winter hiker

The feature of the day was... can you believe it? Snow. However, a weak sun worked hard at breaking through, and just for a while we had almost blue sky.
winter sky

Much to my delight *smily face wink*, Amiya said six miles was plenty and that her hips ached too!

My trail angel for the past two days has been Dave. It turns out we went to the same college (just a "few" years apart), so that was fun to talk about.

I want to share one more contrast picture. This is the area near Soldier Lake in 2010. There had been a fire just one or two years previous.
burned area

Twelve years later, there is a healthy little field of jackpine. Not my favorite tree, but it has ecological purposes.
jackpine stand

Miles today: 6.2. Total miles so far: 4362.0.

See More Snow and More...