Let's say I get to the trailhead around 9 AM, put on my pack and start walking. From my research, I know I start crossing year-round streams after 7 miles.
I would be carrying my usual base weight of 9.5 pounds, plus 2 pounds of food and snacks, 4 ounces of Esbit fuel and 2 liters of water at 4.4 pounds. My 35 liter pack's total weight is 16 pounds. It feels like a daypack!
It is a clear, cool day today and I walk at 2.5 to 3 mph, ascending the mountain, my normal pace. At about 40 minutes I stop a couple of minutes to "smell the roses" and eat some snacks. That gives me a nice energy boost, and I crank along another hour and a half to the first stream of water on the map. I check the map and notice I'll cross this stream again in a few yards as I zig and zag my way up the mountain along a switchback because I would rather drink water that has not been hiked through.
I would continue along the trail to the next (and last) crossing of this stream. It is warming up, but not hot enough to start sweating yet. This area is along the side of a mountain, and the 1 foot wide stream flows easily as it drops across rocks and across the trail. From my outside pack pocket, I remove my Sawyer filter bag and an old plastic cup I use for capturing small amounts of water from shallow streams. Using my hiking stick, I check for snakes and poison ivy/oak/sumac (always!) and move a bit upstream and above the trail.
I dip the water slowly from an inch-deep basin, being careful not to stir it up and make the water cloudy. I pour it one cup at a time into the Sawyer bag. Once the bag is full, I return to the trail. Here, I remove the filter from my outside pack pocket, screw it onto the bottom of the bag and allow the water to flow through and into my now-empty water bottle. Once done, I attach the lids, return the filter, bag, cup & bottle to my backpack. Then I reshoulder the backpack. This has only taken a couple minutes.
While the foliage here could be wonderful, there are no views or areas to sit, so I continue hiking along. Presently, I would come to an overlook on the left where I can sit and take a 30 minute break and enjoy the view. And what an awesome view it is of mountains, stacked upon mountains, rolling off endlessly into the haze. I check the map, note my next water availability near a shelter some 5 miles ahead and plan to eat my lunch there. I have hiked about 8 miles so far, 12 or so more miles to go to camp tonight.
I would hike along the ridge line and follow the topography up and down, noting the different trees and plants, stopping to take some photos of wildflowers along the way with my phone. I would have had put my phone in airplane mode and into a waterproof case as I got out of the car, and haven't looked at it for Facebook/Mail/Texts since. There is no cell service here, so I switch it back to airplane mode, return it to the case and pack pocket.
I stop at another overlook and check my map for progress. I would have a couple of miles to go for a lunch stop and the trail is about to get steep with all the contour lines running together. I snack again and head out.
The climb would be enjoyable with such a light backpack, I really don't even notice it is there. My trail runner shoes grip the earth. I would be wearing nylon pants, a wicking T-shirt, a long sleeve nylon fishing shirt, and a wide-brimmed hat. I typically carry one hiking pole which is handy for setting up my tent at night and moving brush aside and poking around in the places I sit to make sure I can see everything there. I finally make it to the top and there, just right of the overlook would be a trail shelter with a picnic table. I like picnic tables outdoors, and along hiking trails with views. And if there is something I would do for all hikers, it would be to build more picnic tables!
It would be about 1 PM now and I'm hungry. I set my pack on the table, pull out my food bag and open my Zip Lock sandwich container for my PB&J. I keep all my food inside a vapor proof bag, and that inside a small zipper bag in my backpack. I also keep a gallon zip-lock bag for trash there. I can hang the bag when in bear territory and the vapor bag makes it waterproof and masks the odors very well. It is peaceful here with birds singing and a light wind blowing, the sun is high and the clouds are few. I enjoy an apple and some trail mix also, and finish my water bottle. A good rest is what I need, so I sit back and watch the sky for 20 minutes. Checking the map shows this next water source will be my last one before camping tonight. I repack my pack and head on down the trail, finding a large stream this time, where I stop and filter my empty water bottle, two Platypus soft bottles and fill the filter bag with stream water (will filter later). My pack now weighs a total of 20 pounds with the additional water, minus lunch.
I would have 7 more miles to go before I sleep, more or less. After crossing the stream using my hiking pole, the time along the trail passes quickly and I stop twice more for quick photo ops and snack on trail mix.
Around 4:45 PM I would stop for dinner at a rock outcropping where I can cook my freezer bag dinner. I setup my Esbit stove with a full fuel tab, fill my titanium pot with 16 ounces of water, light the stove and put the lidded pot right on it (saves fuel). My stove has home-made wind screens and a protector for the base to prevent rock burns. I have a rolling boil in 7 minutes, and pour 8 ounces of hot water in the cozy-wrapped, quart-size freezer bag over the noodles and dried veggies. I put the water back on the stove and close the cozy. Then I make my tea by pouring the remaining 8 ounces of hot water into my cup over the tea bag and I put the lid on that too to keep it warm. I would be cooking with a package of grocery store mac & cheese, previously split into 2 servings. I have gathered my other dinner items like a small can of chicken, the cheese mix and my Cliff Bar desert. I check my watch and at 15 minutes, I drain off the freezer bag water away from the trail, and add the cheese and chicken. After much stirring and mixing, I put it back in the cozy for a few minutes and finish making my tea. Again I am enjoying the fine weather and cool breezes. I put my raincoat on to keep warm and eat my dinner, thoroughly enjoying the carbohydrate load. I clean up afterwards and after a nice break, I brush my teeth.
I packed up, attaching my raincoat to the outside of my pack (because I'll need it again) and hit the trail as the sun sinks lower. The shadows are now long and the sky colors are quite nice. As I'm walking around a turn in the trail I come across 2 deer, one older with antlers, the other one a yearling with none. They are eating the grass alongside the trail about 20 yards away. I freeze in my tracks and don't disturb them. Slowly stepping back, I silently watch as they eat. In a few moments they move on and disappear into the heavy forest on the right. If I had stopped hiking to camp at dinner time, I would have missed this wildlife opportunity.
I would hike for another 2 hours and as the sun is setting, I find a spot just off the trail and along the ridge with wind protection and a flat area in trees. There are no low spots here where water would flow in a storm and the small trees around me are all green with no dead branches to fall. I take my tent from the outside pocket of my pack, unroll it and take out the Tyvek ground cloth. I would lay it on the ground, laying on top of it myself to position it where there are no bumps, roots or holes under where I will sleep. I make sure my feet are pointed into the wind, my body is level and I would pitch my tarptent there in about 2 minutes. I set it high (loosen the stake lines) so I'll get good breezes through it. If it threatened rain, I would pitch the tent low (tighten the stake lines) to the ground to keep dry. Tarptents are quite useful in areas like the south, which have a lot of bugs. It will also do a good job keeping you safe from critters and dry in storms.
I would then climb into the tent with my pack, close the door, rinse off with a couple baby wipes and check for ticks (none!), then get dressed for the night. Planning ahead told me it should be in the lower 50's tonight, so I dress with my sleeping socks and T-shirt for tomorrow and add lightweight long underwear and a hat. It is already cooling off and the sun has sunk below the trees, painting the sky beautiful shades of reds, yellows and oranges. I open the door and enjoy the view from inside the tent, sitting up and watching the stars come out. I'm not watching for long, as I fall asleep quickly.
Morning wakes me early with the sounds of birds chirping and splotches of sunlight moving about the roof of my tent. The sound of the wind was in the trees. I get up, remove my long underwear but keep my hat on, and get dressed for the day. I load my pack and climb out of the tent to a cool, clear morning with temperatures in the lower 60's. There was no back or leg pain from carrying my ULBackpack yesterday. I put on my raincoat for warmth and pack my tent, shaking the dew from it. I double-checked the ground and recounted my tent stakes to make sure I left no trace. When I looked back, I could not tell I slept there. Nice!
I would start walking back the way I came last night, stopping in an hour to eat breakfast and make coffee at a place with a log to sit on beside the trail. My simple breakfast is a couple of energy bars and a banana followed by a nice cup of hot coffee. For heating a single cup of water, I would use only one half of an Esbit tab. I stowed it all away after cleanup and started walking again. Since I had used most of my extra water, I had a significantly lighter pack again.
I stopped to refill both water bottles at yesterday's second water stop, and refilled them again at the first water stop. The hike back was all downhill and very pleasant! I would have spent two fine days on the trail without meeting another soul.
I would reach my car around 3:30 PM. I would drank from the water I had left in my car for this purpose, put my pack in the back and drove to town to find dinner while finishing my trail mix.
When I would get home, I pull out the tent to fully dry before stowing it away. I fluff my sleeping quilt and put it in the loose cotton storage bag. I wash all my clothing and cook gear. I take stock of my trail food stores and make a grocery list for the next trip. When everything has dried fully, I fold it and stow it away, ready to pack for the next trip. I would note anything that I needed to change before the next trip. Also I would blog about this trip, including my photos.
I won't review my made-up ULBackpack trip, I'll leave that to your thoughts. Next week we will cover some additional trail items.