Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Weather and New Gear

Fall is here!
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy passing us by, Florida is enjoying a respite from the summer's 90 degree heat.  Saturday it was in the low 70's and Sunday it dropped to highs in the low 60's.  Low temperatures are in the 40's with humidity in the 30% range for a few days this week.  The windows are open and the breeze is cool.  It can stay this way!  For the northeast US, however, they didn't fare so well.  Sandy was a monster storm and has heavily impacted a huge land area with multiple problems.
Florida Trail Maintenance Crew - Seated:, Jon, Virginia, Scotty, Rachael, & Lou Standing: Americorp Park worker Dan, Connie, Bryce, Park Ranger Jeff, Brian, Doug, Jim & Bo
Photo courtesy Rachael.

Saturday was trail maintenance day at Wekiva Springs State Park where the Florida Trail Association handles all the trail work with volunteers.  I volunteered for trail maintenance work.  The group broke into two crews, one built a bridge and the other crew cleared the trails with a mower and cut back plants and branches.  Rachel did a fine job leading both groups.  The work went well and both crews had finished by lunch time.  We had a nice lunch at the trail head and it felt nice giving back.  I plan to volunteer with the FTA throughout the winter.  The weather was overcast and cool enough to make it enjoyable to be working outside.  You can say my desire to backpack and sleep outdoors is now very high!  
The Florida Trail monthly meeting is next week and the program is local author Sandra Friend, who wrote the great hiking books I blogged about back in June.  It will be good to meet her, hear about her trips and see the slide show.
So my gear has been trickling in a few pieces at a time.  Two items that didn't get ordered at this time were the tarptent Notch and the new hiking shoes.  I'll be using my current Alps Mountaineering Zephyr tent and New Balance trail running shoes through the winter holidays, at least.  Two items that had to be returned were the Sunday Afternoon Hat (didn't like the look), and the small containers because I received a much larger size than I expected.  I'm looking at getting a Columbia Bora Bora hat soon and will pick up the right sized containers locally.
The Gossamer Gear Kumo backpack is pretty neat!  I'm trying different load combinations now to get the pack setup right.  The wider pack straps are the first thing I noticed and they were quite comfortable, even with the pack not loaded right.  The weight-defying features like using the EZC2 line instead of web strapping work just fine.  I also received the Thermarest Z lite Sol sleeping pad and was trying to fit it inside the pack with all my gear.  It was too thick to place on the back pad area of the pack (pushed everything out too far) and inside the pack it fills it up quickly.  I'm trying to use the supplied sit pad for the pack frame.  Online, I've seen these Z Lite pads strapped on the outside of ultralight backpacks, and will try that next.  My sleeping quilt fits nicely stuffed into its own just-larger-than-grapefruit-size sack.  Everything seems to fit fine once I get the pad figured out.  My cool weather clothing is Polar Plus, so it takes lots of space to pack but seems to compress enough to fit.  I'll have a packing list finished in the next few weeks.
I did get some OpSacs for food and smellables, Body Glide for blisters, a new 1.2 ounce knife and a Sawyer Squeeze water filter.  The Body Glide worked fine on my feet Saturday, but I don't usually get blisters with my trail running shoes.  I'll let you know how the Sawyer Squeeze works when I use it on my next trip.  I do like the simplicity of the Gerber LST knife, it fits my hand and pocket well and it is SO light at less than one third the weight of my old Swiss Army knife.
As for the upcoming trip, I'm planning an overnighter in Florida by the end of the year, provided my friend can go at that time.  The emails are flying and I'll let you know when I know.

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