Friday, December 25, 2015

My Saturday hike with Walk2Connect

Walk2Connect at the Spruce Mountain Trailhead
Jonathan reads from his red book with Kanoa, Polly wears a Santa hat
I hiked last Saturday morning with the Colorado group Walk2Connect. Led by Jonathon Stalls, the Spruce Mountain Trail hike was very enjoyable.  Just over a dozen walkers and one fine dog named Kanoa made up the trip.
Jonathon has walked across America with Kanoa while generating support for, and hiked the Camino De Santiago in Spain with his dad. He also has spoken at a TEDx event in Colorado and started Walk2Connect as a "Colorado-based social enterprise group to create whole health outcomes through innovative walking programs focused on connection to others, to place, and to self." He is an outgoing Walking Movement Leader and a really nice guy. Kanoa is a great dog too!
Walk2Connect is all about inclusiveness and communication. Their goal is to get you outside and talking with them while also allowing you some space and time for reflection. I like the mix.
Also on the hike was Polly Letofsky who became the first woman to walk around the world in 1999, walking over 14,000 miles in 5 years. Polly also raised money on the trip for Breast Cancer. She wrote an award-winning book "3MPH" (on my library list), and an audio book. A documentary video was made about the fundraising side of her trip. Polly's walk started by just walking out the door of her home in Vail, CO.
Ben Clagett this year (2015) walked across America and created Walk for 60 to encourage people to walk for sixty minutes daily, modelling what his mom (who was in the group today) already did every day. Ben just finished his trip last month.

Photo break of the surrounding open space
Spruce Mountain Trail, just south of Larkspur was covered in snow, with depths anywhere from clear wind-swept earth to mid-thigh deep cold white.  Mostly the hiking was uneven and slippery. A couple hikers donned cleats over their boots like YakTrax or Katoola Micro Spikes which helped much with traction. Hiking poles helped a lot. Most of the rest of us just slipped along wearing anything on our feet from snow boots to tennis shoes.
We broke into bunches along the trail, talking about trips, asking questions of Ben, Polly and Jonathon and meeting other hikers in the group as we walked. Ben stopped for short breaks often and provided us with snacks and quiet time to enjoy the rocks and views of the surrounding Douglas County Open Space along the trail.
At one break, Jonathon read a post from Paul Salopek, a National Geographic journalist walking around the world on a 7 year journey, following the ascent of mankind in his Out of Eden Blog. The post was very well written and it made me think for a moment as if I were a discoverer. The link to the story is HERE if you are interested. I noticed nodding heads, listened to deep questions and saw thoughtful looks around the group. Ahh, my peeps, people who enjoy hiking AND intellectual writing : )

Beautiful weather with views north along the front range
The climb was fairly easy, the skies clear with the temperatures near the mid-50's.  It did get a little windy at Windy Point on the mountain top loop where Jonathon took photos of us, but was warm enough to begin melting snow on the return trip. I must say the weather was perfect for hiking!
All three Leaders were very interesting to talk with and like to share about the details of their respective trips. I, on the other hand, am shy in groups and do not typically engage with others I do not know. I usually just nod or say hi to another hiker I pass along the trail, so this is what has been missing for me. Communication with other people who enjoy the outdoors as I do; who also understand that solitude is a welcome caller, and who smile to the sound of the wind in the trees; who easily talk about places they have been, people they met, experiences they cherish.
Of course I had to leave the group before they went to lunch together and go in to work, and could not continue the communication we had all started. But I will return and hike more with Walk2Connect. They are running as many as 15 to 45 walks each week in Colorado, depending on the season. Check out their event calendar HERE to find a local walk for you.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Walking with 1000s of Miles tomorrow

I plan to walk with a group called 1000s of Miles and Life @3MPH tomorrow, Saturday December 19th from 9am to 3pm. We will meet at the Spruce Mountain Trailhead south of Larkspur and hike the trail together.  There is a $20 charge for this event.
This will be my first hike with this continental and global crossing group so I am excited.
There is some snow on the trail so plan accordingly.  Check out the Facebook post for a map and more information.
If you live in Colorado and have not yet planned to walk with this group, check out the groups Facebook site and join us for some fun!  You can sign up at the link above.  If you are a Life@3MPH member, there is a reduced charge.
See you on the trail.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A new cup and a half

I needed a new drinking cup for my daypack so I don't have to constantly move my one cup from my cooking gear in my backpack to my daypack and back every trip. 
While browsing at REI, I found the GSI Infinity Clear Polypropylene Stacking Cup. Available in both green and blue, the clear cup holds 14.2 fluid ounces, has one and a half cup measurements/mil liters molded on the side in a food grade polypropylene. BPA-Free and weighing 1.8 ounces this cup is lightweight, stackable, non-leaching and is 100% recyclable. The cup's handle is shaped like a hook, with an opening to mimic a steel/wire cup of old. Being polypro, it won't burn your lips when the tea is hot. The cup is also a bit flexible, so it will travel well jammed into a backpack. GSI makes a lot of really good gear for camping, and this cup, priced at $2.95, is another great low priced backpacking and camping item.
I like the light weight and comfortable feel. The handle keeps you from being burned with hot contents. Mine is green. If you have a camping partner, the two colors will help keep them "owned" during trips.
Disclaimer: I purchased this item at the Denver REI using my own money.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Candle Lanterns Now and Then

ECO Micro Candle Lantern outdoors
I have been using candle lanterns for many years as my outdoor light or lantern when backpacking. My first candle lantern was a simple one, without springs or fancy mechanisms. Just a glass jar with a bail to hang it in my tent or on a branch, with a metal bottom that screwed on and a small candle inside with an open top. I used this lantern for years during college when backpacking around Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. It warmed up the picnic table, the tent or the log I was sitting on. Not really bright enough to read by (though I did anyway), it did light the way for late cooking and when I didn't have a fire, it gave me something flickering to stare at until bedtime.
In the 1980's when I started upgrading my backpacking gear, I purchased a modern spring assisted candle lantern, one that was guaranteed to burn all the wax away. I used it to read Tolkien and science fiction paperbacks inside my tent. I kept the lantern inside a fleece pouch for safety and used it quite a lot. It was still in use in the early 2000's when I camped out with my son in the Boy Scout Troop. 

Collapsed to fit inside my pack
My most recent candle lantern is simpler and much lighter. It is a UCO Micro Candle Lantern which uses one tea light candle. Blue, it won't blend in with the leaves on the trees or on the ground (so it shouldn't get lost) and it is much smaller and lighter than the other ones I have owned. 
It gives me around 4 hours burn time per candle which is enough for a couple weekend trips (about 8 hours of light from both tea light candles), has a bail with a chain and hook for hanging, and has a glass chimney that stores inside the base. A feature I like is that it carries a spare tea light candle in the base.  It weighs only 4.2 ounces on my scale (3.9 ounces on the package) including the 2 tea light candles. I have not used it yet in the south so I have little experience with it reducing humidity in the tent. You could use citronella candles to keep the bugs away, clear plastic base candles for more light, or even beeswax tea lights for longer, gentle light. If dripping wax is too much for you, try a battery powered flickering plastic LED candle you can buy at Target. With candle tea lights it can warm up the tent just a little with an output of 450 BTU. 

All 3 peices
I have not tried to boil water over a candle like others online have. I say try it if you need to, but you are on your own.
The 15 lumens of light shines downward, (1 candle = 12.5 lumens or LUX) reflected from the top cap/vent, so hang it above your working/eating/reading area. Nowadays, I like to read about tomorrows trail and look at maps and maybe even write some notes about today's hike, who I met, etc.
It seems the best use for this candle lantern is in places where campfires are prohibited, as it gives you flickering "camper TV" to stare at until bedtime.
Much more earthy to use around the camp site than an LED headlamp (which I still carry), it is one of those few inexpensive camping gear purchases, costing under $14. At 4.2 ounces it is light and small enough to easily fit inside my ultralight backpack in the top pocket. The collapsed aluminum case covers the glass chimney, so it will be protected.
To use, twist the plastic bottom to the left.  This will allow you to separate the lantern to light the tea light candle. The tea light sits on a small aluminum stand above the plastic base. To get to the spare candle, hold the plastic base at the top and twist the bottom to the left to separate those bases. 

Weighs 4.2 ounces on my scale, 3.9 ounces is listed on the package
My trick is to pull apart the aluminum frame to extend the globe first before lighting the candle. The three supports will lock in place. To put the base back on the aluminum frame, twist it to the right. Remember to do this carefully without spilling any wax on your gear. Hang the bail on a branch or clip it inside your tent. 
To blow out the candle, blow in from the top while holding your hand behind the top to direct your breath inside the globe. Never leave the candle burning near children or pets and blow it out before leaving your tent. You can get burned by touching the glass chimney or the aluminum frame, so beware!

Hook and bail
The height opened is 3.5 inches, width is 2.25 inches, collapsed height is 2.5 inches. There are 2 accessories available; a top reflector and a Cocoon protective case. The top reflector may help prevent some temporary blindness when the candle lantern is placed on a table or log. I don't carry the cocoon since the glass is enclosed inside the aluminum frame. The UCO website has lots of other interesting items you should check out.
For durability, I give it only a barely passing grade. The aluminum frame can be bent, the glass chimney can be broken. You must be careful when using this. I am very gentle with all my gear. If it breaks and cannot be fixed, I will replace it at a later time. Yes, my older candle lantern was much better built and weighed 9-10 ounces, about what my whole cooking kit weighs now. It was bigger and made with thicker aluminum, plus the candle would last around 9 hours. For a similar burn time I have reduced the overall weight by over 5 ounces, and saved 2 inches of backpack pocket space.
Disclosure: I bought the UCO Micro Candle Lantern at REI using my own funds.