Friday, April 4, 2014

I look at the prices of new outdoor gear and wonder how the hell the average, middle class person can afford to purchase anything new.  Obviously, people are buying the gear because retailers are selling it for those prices, but how can your average dirt-bagger afford to pay $200 for a pack, $250 for a tent, another $100 bucks on a sleeping pad, and still have enough money left over to pay for the gas to get to the trail head?  I've decided to go with ingenuity instead of consumerism.  For example, I saw an ultralight bear bagging kit for $50 online.  It consisted of a stuff sack to put the food in, 50' of light line, a carabiner, a second smaller stuff sack for rocks, and an "odor proof" clear plastic waterproof container.  Seriously?  $50 plus shipping? First of all, there is no odor proof clear plastic bag.  Somewhere in the woods a bear or a raccoon is laughing his ass off after reading that marketing ploy.  I'll pack my trail food in a Ziploc that's already in my pantry and it will be just as useless at keeping animals from smelling the food.  Secondly, I have quite a few stuff sacks that came for free with second hand gear I bought off of eBay.  I've got all kinds of light cordage laying around so I'll just use some of that.  And the last time I went to a conference for my job I got a handful of carabiners that should work just fine.  With all of the great how-to videos online, you could easily modify most techniques to work with what you've already got in the garage or basement.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of solid, affordable, high quality gear that lasts for years and years and I've bought my fair share of those things.  It's just a shame that retailers won't produce a line of useful gear for the weekend warrior that's affordable - they'll have to take a little less in terms of profit margins but they will get normal people like me to shell out some cash on new gear.  Kind of like that old $30 Coleman Sundome tent I have from 15 years ago that is still perfectly serviceable and will be for years to come.  It's great for canoe camping but its just not sexy. Oh, and one more thing while I'm on my soap box.  Living in Ohio, I spend most of my camping and backpacking time in the area.  We don't have many bears to worry about.  It's those sneaky raccoons and mice that destroy your food bag and dig through your pack.  Someone needs to make a cheap, raccoon proof bag that local retailers can sell to those of us around here - I'd pay for that.  Hey, wait a minute, maybe that could be me...then I could cash in.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Look, there's no time for a thru-hike when you've got a job, a wife, kids, and no money left over in the bank account after getting groceries because your 14-year old son eats more than a bear after hibernation.  So what's an old, family-man hiker to do?  You can't just sit around and let your tent turn to nylon dust.  What you do is you find a few hours of free time a week, locate a few nice local trails where you can get a hike of  3 - 15 miles in at a stretch, and you do a lot of day hiking.  OK, so the tent may turn to dust anyway, but you can still put a solid 5lbs. of essentials and a snack in your pack and hit the trail.  Where I live, there are at least 3 or 4 parks and trail systems within 20 minutes of my house that will let me get in a 5 miler.  I can stretch a couple of the parks for about 12 to 14 miles on a weekend.  If you log your miles in a spreadsheet, at the end of the month it starts to look like something.  Then, if you get really lucky and find a free weekend, you might be able to drive into the Appalachian foot hills about 2 hours south and take on a 25 mile backpack trail - if you hike it slow, maybe 8 miles a day, and set up camp early, you might even get to put that ol' tent up twice on the trip.  You know, now that I'm thinking about it, this might be tougher than pat yourself on the back if you're in your 40's and still log over 60 hiking miles a month while holding down a job, keeping your wife (moderately) happy, making it to the kids' games, cooking dinner, building the shelves for the laundry room, etc, etc...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Glen Helen

It's true that Ohio isn't exactly known as an outdoor paradise, but if you look hard enough you can find some pretty slick geology, a bunch of hidden arches, and even a few thigh burning hills in the Appalachian region of the state.  More importantly, though, you can get a good solid outdoor experience within an hour's drive of our "land of the devil winds" any day of the week.  Don't get me wrong, you won't find the Half Dome equivalent near Dayton, but let me give you an example.  There's a great little town just up U.S. Route 68 north of where Tecumseh was born (yes, that Tecumseh) and only 10 minutes from where Simon Kenton ran the gauntlet (yep, that Simon Kenton) called Yellow Springs.  The town is named for a couple of springs that can be found in Glen Helen Nature Preserve, and I mean to tell you, that place is a gem.

You can park at the lot on Cory Street in Yellow Springs  and dive right in to some fantastic geology.  You'll see the springs, a waterfall called "the cascades", a nifty little gorge, a nice pine forest, and a geological pillar if you follow the trip chronicled here.  If you do the 4-5 mile loop, you can get in a really nice day hike that rivals any high quality hike you'd get just about anywhere in the country with the exception of those "high end, name brand, Backpacker magazine wishlist" type hikes that most of us with families don't have time to do anyway.  Give the Glen a shot if you are in the area - you'll have a hard time finding a better 5 mile day hike anywhere in the Midwest. And if you've got the time, turn this trip into a 12-miler by connecting to the John Bryan and Clifton Gorge trail systems.