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Monday, April 21st, 2003

armstrong redux

We returned to Armstrong Woods on Sunday to tackle that tough 9-miler again. I credit my wife for keeping me on a training plan. Without her, I’d probably lay around all weekend eating soysage.

I’d finally aquired the lumbar pack I intend to use to haul my clothes and food to the summit of Pike’s Peak. I’m breaking with tradition by not using a backpack, but it makes more sense to me to keep the weight low on my body. Also, if I have too large a pack, I’m afraid somebody in the group might ask me to carry something for them. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’ll need all my strength to finish that climb… I wouldn’t carry someone else’s insulin.

Anyway, within a hundred steps of the Armstrong Woods parking lot, my fancy new pack was bouncing around like a politician’s ethics at a fundraiser. This was an irritating development, to have a thoughtfully-considered, well-reviewed, highly recommended, store-tested, prized new piece of gear fail so miserably in the first moments of a three-hour hike. Not only would I have to endure the bouncing for the rest of the day, I thought, I’d have to return the thing and buy a backpack after all.

But I hadn’t fully appreciated the gloriously complex support harness built into this Mountainsmith Cairn lumbar pack. It has four “Delta compression” straps which, when tightened properly, are designed specifically to prevent bouncing. Had I read the booklet that accompanied the pack, I’d have known this from the start. (For as often as I’m annoyed by people who don’t read the documentation I write, I too rarely read the documentation provided by others. If you think about it, both are manifestations of the same core belief. But I digress.)

So the bouncing was under control, but the profile was not. Like scuba diving, trekking is a sport where the gear does not complement the man: it’s just as hard to look cool in a snorkel as it is to look cool with a 1100-cubic-inch sack strapped to one’s butt. I am consoled by the notion that I didn’t look cool before attaching the pack.

We began the hike along the same route as last time, up the East Ridge Trail toward Bullfrog Pond. On the return, we tried a new descent, using the Pool Ridge trail. Halfway down we learned that there’s an even more discomforting feeling than not knowing which way to turn. The worse feeling is: “we’ve been here before.” Trail maps, like IRS documents, have an ability to make me feel dumb. At the point where we thought we’d finally be back on the map, we learned that instead we’d circled back to the place where we first realized we were lost. Argh!

The feeling of frustration was compounded by the fact that we were standing at a three-way intersection, and we’d been up or down all three of the trails. We’d initially arrived here from one leg, then set out on a second, and returned on the third. There was no escape! We were stuck backstage in Cleveland!

Overall, though, it was a nice hike. The gear worked well. My knees worked well.

posted to channel: Travel
updated: 2004-02-22 22:49:16

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