SHT 2019, The Trip Report (‘shrooms)

I’m usually a shutterbug on trail, taking literally thousands of pictures along the way, but I decided this year was going to be different.

I stopped carrying a DSLR camera on my hikes a number of years ago to save on weight and the stress of keeping them clean and dry while hiking.  It’s now just me, a few cellphone pics, and the images in my brain….if that makes any sense.  While I take far fewer photos as I hike, I still can’t erase the shutterbug gene COMPLETELY from my soul.

Last year I focused on capturing the actual trail itself;  the different landscapes in which it weaves in and out change constantly on the SHT.

This year I focused on the fungus.

The sheer number of different types of mushrooms along the trail is always amazing; each section of the trail seems to have it’s own varieties – and this section was no different.

Here are a few of the pics I snapped while wandering in the woods for 5 days.  Enjoy!


SHT 2019, The Trip Report (Day 5/6)

I spent most of the night with my face up against the side of my tent.  My tent pad was on just enough of a slope to make things interesting.   Regardless, it was still my favorite campsite of the trip.  The trees, the river, the lack of mud….ha!

Our campsite was enclosed in a white misty fog when I first climbed out of my tent, but it quickly dissipated, leaving a lingering fog only on the river itself.


We got up, made breakfast, talked with the hiker who shared the site with us, packed up camp, and headed down the trail.  We stopped at the river one last time to fill our water bottles, and stand in silence listening to the sounds of the morning.

Man that trail places a spell over me, I swear!

We were both quiet as we hiked.  Knowing we were nearing the end of our trip l brought a slightly somber mood to the two of us.

The trail took us steadily upwards for the first part of the hike.  As we neared the top, we came to a small trail leading off of the main SHT.  The trail led out onto a large rock bald and a stunning morning view.


So, if you remember back to my gear lists, I packed a small tripod and camera mount for this trip.  And, until this moment, I had used it exactly ZERO times.  I got it out, set it up, lined up the shot with my sister in it, started to hit the timer button…..and from out of the blue behind me comes a voice “do you want me to take that for you?”

I jumped, spun around, and stared at the gentlemen who had snuck up behind us so quietly.  My head was saying “I carried this little tripod for 5 days now, and THIS is the time you show up to take our picture?  The ONE time I get the silly thing out?”  But my mouth said “sure!”

He took our picture, then turned back towards the trail, with only his tiny camera bag and full size tripod in tow.

The woods in the middle of the night are creepy….but this photographer showing up to take our picture then leave without taking any of his own, like some sort of photography ninja, was eerie.

We stopped for lunch at the Mystery Mountain campsite (note:  there are no water sources, make sure you fill up on water if you stay there overnight).

You could tell the section of trail we were entering was popular, as we came across quite a few day hikers (many with dogs) for the next number of miles.  Compared to the barely-there faint blue blazes we’d seen most of the week, the blazes in this section were bright blue and easy to see.

After hiking up up up, then down down down we came to that day’s section of mud and muck.  Most of it (due to the popularity of the trail) had boardwalks and we stayed relatively mud free.



Our plan was to stay at one of the two campsites less than 2 miles from where our vehicle was parked for one last night on the trail.  We’d hike the remaining 2 miles quickly the next morning, get our car, find breakfast, then head home.

But, as were sitting on a log at an overlook with our last “trail view” of Lake Superior, we discussed changing the plan.


The forecast I’d received on my inReach that morning at breakfast told us a system of weather would be moving in that night – and lingering throughout most (if not all) of the next day.  Not wanting to pack up wet tents in the rain on our last day, and not knowing the “mud” conditions on the remaining section of trail, we decided to hike those final 2 miles to the car this afternoon.

In addition to the view of Lake Superior, this overlook also granted us a fairly strong cell signal.  I booked us a night at a cabin near the trailhead where our car was parked.

We still stopped at the campsite where we had originally planned to camp to filer a enough water to get us to the car and to eat our final dinner on trail.  We were dragging our feet, making the miles last as long as we could.

The last 2 miles of the hike were bittersweet for sure.  We didn’t really WANT to get off trail that night, but we also wanted to end this year’s hike on a high (and more importantly dry) note.

We had parked at a very popular trailhead and as we grew closer the sounds of children, adults and pets hiking a spur loop trail near the SHT echoed throughout the woods around us.

We arrived at the car happy to see it was still there, happy to be off of our feet, but sad knowing the hike was done.

We loaded up our gear into the car, rolled down the windows (because, man did we stink!) and headed to the cabin for much needed showers followed by a burger and fries from the nearby bar/grill.

Epilogue – Day 6

The next morning we loaded our gear into the car and headed out for one last North Shore breakfast.  Unfortunately, the car was dead….dead dead.


We walked over to the cabin office to figure out our next move and were blown away with what happened next.  A desk clear, dressed in bright pink camo hip waders greeted us cheerily as we walked through the door…

  • “Checking out?”
  • “Sure are.”  (pause)  “So….do you know anyone we can call….seems our vehicle battery is dead?”

With the words barely out of our mouths, another gentlemen SPRINGS from his chair in the back room and nearly RUNS into the lobby.  He had a huge grin on his face, with body language was screaming “oh, oh, I got this! me, me, me!”

  • “Let me grab my jumper box! Which cabin did you stay in?”

We both live in the Midwest, always have.  The kindness of strangers is something we experience regularly….but the enthusiasm this guy had for helping us was above and beyond.  It was as though jumping dead car batteries was his only passion in life, and he secretly spent his days in that chair waiting (hoping) for the chance to spring into action. (Note:  we also believe he was the bartender at the grill where we’d eaten the night before…I love small towns!!!)

10 minutes later (5 of those minutes spent on Youtube trying to figure out where the second battery terminal on my sister’s car was hidden) we were in our car, driving towards home…

…until we passed three backpackers standing on the side of the highway with their thumbs in the air, who were shocked when we pulled off onto the shoulder and offered them a lift.  They were trying to get to a trailhead a number of miles down the road, and were excited to cram themselves and their packs into the backseat of our vehicle. (Note:  one of them was a fellow Iowa native)

We dropped them off, found a local coffee shop….then a local breakfast spot….then stopped at the SHT office….then spent some time at a local yarn store……THEN drove the 10 hours home.


09/26/19, 7.7 miles, West Poplar River Campsite – Oberg Mountain trailhead

09/27/19, 631 miles, Cascade Lodge – Omaha, NE

SHT 2019, The Trip Report (Day 4)

Even with the storm…and the frog (see my previous post)….I woke up feeling well rested.  This was the first night my tent site wasn’t sloped, forcing me to fight gravity and my slippery sleeping pad sliding on my slippery tent floor.

(Note:  Top of my to-do list is to put stripes of silicone on the bottom side of my sleeping pad.  I’ve put them on the tent floor in the past, but it never seems to work.  Time to try something different.)

We skipped making a hot breakfast that would required more beaver pond water, and left hoping to find a clearer water source down trail.

Breaking down camp went quickly as our tents were dry on the inside, and the rain had stopped soon enough that the outsides were fairly dry as well.

The trail began the same way it ended the day before….tall weeds and mud.  Luckily neither lasted long.  The trail climbed up until we passed some sort of outdoor seating area with an overlook of Caribou Lake, then it went immediately back down to Lake Agnes.


The views from this campsite were amazing, and we spent quite allot of time here talking to other hikers, eating lunch, sitting in the sun along the lake, watching loons, and using the solar charger to add some power into our electronics.


We hated to leave this site, but needed to continue along.  The trail climbed up and away from the lake just in time for us to see the storm rolling in over the exact mountain we were currently climbing.


We dropped our packs, and hurried to put on our rain gear in time….this storm was moving quickly.  Lightning flashed, thunder roared, and then the rain hit…and it hit hard.

Luckily it moved on just as quickly as it arrived.  (this would be the only time we were rained on while hiking for the entire trip)


Around this time, a SOBO thru-hiker caught up to us.  She’d been on the trail for multiple days, and was happy to have people to talk to.  She was a hoot, and talked our ears off (not in a bad way) for a number of hours.

We stopped quickly at E. Poplar River campsite to get water (not wanting to get to W. Poplar River campsite – our goal for the day – and find the water source was horrible – again), but the thru-hiker continued on.  She was hiking many more miles than we had planned for the day, and wanted to keep moving.

The Poplar River, at this campsite, was odd.  I don’t know how to explain it.  It was almost slimy….muddy…..creepy.  Yeah, I’m really not sure how to explain it.  After filling our water bottles, we quickly continued on to the next site.


It’s amazing the difference .6 miles can make.  The Poplar River turned into this stunning beauty!!!


We picked the spots for our tents, got everything set up, then ate dinner.  My tent had a stellar view down the mountain to the river below.


A section hiker going NOBO wandered into our site just as the sun was beginning to set.  We talked backpacking gear for a while, then he left to set up his tent.

I walked back down to the river to catch the sunset…and it did not disappoint.


09/25/19, 6.3 miles, Jonvick Creek Campsite- West Poplar River Campsite


SHT 2019, The Trip Report (Day 3)

I slipped out of my tent around 5:00, as usual.  Something about having a stranger in camp made the darkness seem less creepy.  I know people who would be MORE freaked out with a stranger around, but I’ve never said I’m normal.

The crazy, unimaginable things my brain comes up seem less likely with someone else in camp.  It’s almost as if their presence is grounding.

Because, of course, wild animals and boogeymen aren’t going to attack when there is another person in camp…..right??

(sigh)  I’m nuts, I admit it.

There was quite a bit of condensation on the inside of my tent this morning.  I don’t know if it was the direction my tent was facing, the fact we were down in a depression next to a flowing creek, or if the temperature had anything to do with it (probably all three), but in any case, I put my sleeping bag, pillow, and sleeping pad in my backpack then used my microfiber towel to soak up the water climbing to the inside of my tent before packing it away.  I was sure there would be plenty of time to set it out in the sun along the trail that day, but carrying the extra weight didn’t sound particularly great.

After coffee, breakfast, and breaking down camp we were on the trail once again.

The sun was out first thing, and those blue skies were beautiful!!!


We stopped at Spruce Creek campground for lunch.  I walked down to the creek after eating and found two boulders that were stacked against each other in the perfect natural recliner.  I placed my sit pad against the back boulder, took off my shoes, closed my eyes, leaned back, and enjoyed the sounds of the water rushing all around me.

(and got a little sunburn on my face while I was at it)


Isn’t my sis the cutest??IMG_20190924_123802

From there we continued down the trail.

Crossing this bridge made me nervous.IMG_20190924_125648IMG_20190924_134720IMG_20190924_134731

The further south we progressed, the deeper and wetter the mud became.  I honestly got ZERO pictures of us in the mud…as we spent the whole time trying to not get stuck or lose a shoe.

Near the end of our day, the weeds alongside the trail got taller and taller…and closer and closer….and pokier and pokier.  Weeds + mud = ugh.  I was starting to get a little grumpy, I’ll be honest.

Finally, the weeds fell away, and a very large beaver pond appeared in front of us.  We followed the boardwalk around it’s edge and nearly walked right past the entrance to our campsite.


You can just barely see sis’s pink backpack in this shot.PANO_20190924_144548.vr

The entrance to the campsite was almost completely overgrown.  If it hadn’t been for the sign, we never would have known it was there.

Most of the other hikers we spoke to during the week said they’d walked past the campsite without even checking it out.  And I don’t blame them.  In fact, while we were sitting in camp we heard some hikers on the trail.  They started down the path to the campsite, then turned around and kept going.

Once you pushed your way through the weeds blocking the entrance, you had to follow a very narrow (and muddy) path through the thick foliage.  At one point in the path there was a small wooden “boardwalk”, with multiple boards rotted and broken.

The air felt damp in this little camp nook.  The ground was nothing but roots, but we eventually settled on the places where we’d set up our tents.

After the tents were up, we went looking for water.  Unfortunately, our choices were slim to none.  Sis eventually climbed down off of the boardwalk, and precariously balanced on the side of the beaver dam to get to the ONLY flowing water we could find.  It clogged our water filters horribly, but we needed it.

This was also the only place on trail where we encountered mosquitoes.  When we returned from filtering “water” Sis put her tent up and retreated inside immediately.  I put on my rain coat (mosquito protection) and made myself some dinner.

Clouds had been slowly rolling in, and even though it was late afternoon it felt more like late evening.  We hung our bear bags and headed to bed early.

A quick storm passed over us that night. Thunder rumbled, the wind picked up, and rain fell on the area.  (Note:  my tent performed amazingly, even with the “awning” extended)

Because I went to bed early, I woke up in the middle of the night needing to pee.  There was no getting around it, I was going to have to wrangle my “freaked out in the middle of the woods at night” self out of that tent.  I unzipped the screen and swung my legs out.  I grabbed a shoe and just before putting it on my foot gave it a shake (my shoe, not my foot).

Boy am I glad I did!

There was a frog/toad in my shoe.  It came flying out the second I started to shake the shoe.

I quickly put my headlamp on and carefully inspected both shoes before continuing, making sure I didn’t have any other unwanted guests.

Once my shoes were on I looked around on the ground, to make sure I didn’t step on the little stowaway, but he was nowhere to be seen.  I got of my tent, zipped it behind me, and wandered down the creepy little path to the latrine.

When I got back I unzipped the rain fly of my tent, then leaned down to unzip the inner screen.

Just as I start to climb into my tent…WHAM!!!!!  That little frog leaps from INSIDE my tent, straight at my face.

I screamed like a little girl, arms flailing in front of my face.  When I stopped, the woods were silent.

Well, almost silent.  The snores of my sister never skipped a beat.  It was at this moment I realized I could be carried away by an animal and she’d never know.  I imagined her climbing out of her tent the next morning, and not seeing me in the campsite.  She’d assume I went to the latrine, but grow worried as time passed.  She’d call out my name, wander back to the latrine, walk out to the beaver pond….and I’d be gone.  Without a trace.

(there’s that imagination again folks!)

So….I slip my shoes off, climb into my tent and am just about the turn off my headlamp when I hear a “thump” at the head end of my tent.  I focus the beam of light in the general direction of the sound, and there is my frog (toad?)!!!  He’s sitting, staring at me.   His poor little heart thumping in his body.  

I stare back.  (my heart also thumping)

Finally, I say (outloud) “dude, I can’t sleep with you in here.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t.”

For the next 5 minutes I try to evict him.  I get him herded close to the door, then he’d suddenly jump backwards…and we’d have to start all over.


Finally, frustrated that I’m yet again not getting a great night’s sleep, I use my sit pad to kinda scoop him up and gently “toss” him out the door of my tent.  He lands just outside, and sits there…staring at me.


I quickly zip up my tent….making eye contact the whole time.

09/24/19, 5.5 miles, Indian Camp Creek Campsite – Jonvick Creek Campsite

SHT 2019, The Trip Report (Day 2)

I scrambled from my tent about 5:00 am.  This is the time my body gets me up, every morning….on or off trail.  I’d had VERY little sleep that night (see previous post), but my my bladder was insistent.  I’d been putting it off for as long as I could, but I was nearing emergency status.

Probably TMI, but hey, we all have bladders, right?

I prefer to not leave my tent while it’s dark out (due to that overactive imagination I mentioned in my previous post), but as Annie says “when you gotta go, you gotta go.”

I scurried out, did what needed done, then walked to retrieve our Ursaks.

There isn’t anything better than morning coffee while on trail.  Mmmmmm…..trail coffeeeeeeee……

I made some breakfast then started tearing down my camp.  Sis emerged from her tent at some point, looking just as tired as I felt.

We moved purposefully slow, working to savor and enjoy everything the world had to offer.  Our father, whom we love dearly, is a “let’s get moving” kind of guy.  Once you were up, you needed to be at full speed, with military precision, immediately.   Knowing our daily hiking miles were small on this trip, we fought the urge to rush….successfully, I might add.

Eventually, though, we loaded up our packs and hit the trail.


Clouds had moved in over night, and persisted throughout most of the morning…but by lunch they started to disperse.  We stopped at Cut Log Campsite for lunch, to rest our feet, and enjoy the ‘rays.


We also voted the latrine for this campground as having the best view.


After our break, we continued on…stopping for another break at a water source along the way.


We wandered into camp late in the afternoon….set up our tents, filtered water, and made dinner.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pics (besides this one) at the campsite.  MVIMG_20190923_065102

We shared the campground with a gentlemen who was doing a SOBO thru-hike (thru-hike = hiking the whole trail in one shot).

It took us quite a while to find the latrine at this site.  There were downed trees over the trail, and because the creek flowed right beside the site, the latrine needed to be a good distance away.   I’m sure the other hiker was shaking his head at his fellow campmates wandering around followed by cries of excitement (similar to finding eggs Easter morning) when the “bathroom” was finally found.

Note:  I’d been hearing reports of how muddy the trail was this year, compared to previous years.  We saw (what we thought) was a fair amount of mud this day.  The rocks and roots throughout those sections of trail allowed us to hop over most of the mud.  By the end of the trip we wish the mud we’d seen on Day 2 was the worst we’d experienced.  (Spoiler alert – it wasn’t.)

Note:  Following Leave No Trace principles, hikers are asked to proceed down the middle of the trail…whether it’s muddy or wet.  Proudly “embracing the suck” of wet socks and dirty feet in an effort to not widen the trail by going around those less than desirable conditions.  The rocks and roots I mention above were, thankfully, in the middle of the trail on Day 2.  And the sections we couldn’t avoid were, luckily, never deeper than half way up our shoes.


09/23/19, 6.1 miles, N. Cascade River Campsite – Indian Camp Creek Campsite

SHT 2019, The Trip Report (The drive + Day 1)

Well, I’m back (begrudgingly) from the trip.

Geesh, it’s harder and harder to leave each time I go.

At some point my husband will have to send a search party to bring me home after a trip up there.

We (my sister and I) started our drive to the Minnesota North Shore on Saturday morning around 6:00 am.

(our estimated departure was going to be 8:00, but neither of us could wait any longer)

That’s how we roll.

We arrived at our little motel “suite” (the only available room in the whole town) much later that evening.

10 hours driving time + 1-2 hour stop at REI + 1-2 hours of lunch/dinner/fuel stops = a long day!



The a/c in our room was on, and the knob was stuck.  Stuck stuck.

I don’t mind a cold room, but it was plenty cool outside so the a/c wasn’t really needed.

Rolling with the punches, I decided it would be good white noise and went to bed. (after getting sucked into one episode of A Very Brady Renovation on HGTV)

I was the proverbial ‘kid on Christmas eve’ and slept like crap.

We were scheduled to meet our shuttle driver at 9:00.  Our alarms woke us around 6:00.  We packed up and headed out for fuel (for our vehicle and ourselves), and then drove 30 minutes down the highway to park our car.


The shuttle arrived right on time (well, ten minutes late, but I think that’s technically on time in this amazingly laid back little piece of the world – neither of us minded).  We left our car in the lot where we planned to end our hike, and she drove us up to the spot where we ended last year.

(we’re gradually section hiking the trail, SOBO)

(SOBO = southbound for the non-hikers out there)

Grins PLASTERED on our faces, the shuttle driver drove away…and off we went!

MVIMG_20190922_105127MVIMG_20190922_102932MVIMG_20190922_100244(first blue blaze of the trip!!)

So, a little back story.  Last year we ended our hike a day early.  Sis had some blisters,while I was suffering from some sort of nerve issue in my foot/lower leg (brought on by our pace + roots/rocks + shoes that weren’t big enough to account for foot growth on trail).  By the end of our final day, I was unable to point or flex my foot.  It was like the muscles in my ankle/lower leg refused to function.

Hiking without control of your foot isn’t something I’d recommend – but when you are in the middle of nowhere, there’s not much else you can do.

Each time we stopped for a break, it was more and more difficult to get the foot working again.  Eventually we decided to hike as fast as we could, without stops, to our final campground.  We texted our shuttle driver (via my Garmin inReach) and had her pick us up the next morning at a trailhead less than a mile away, but one full day from where our car was parked.


So….this year we decided to hike fewer daily miles, take more breaks, buy larger sized shoes, and slow the HECK down!  5.5-7.5 miles per day was the plan, and we stuck with it.

For those of you thinking “that’s all??” – stop it!  Don’t be so judgey.  We can’t all hike 20 miles per day.


Our first day’s hike was amazing, as usual.  The trees were changing colors in many areas, they had fallen off completely in places, and some sections were still bright green.

The fresh air was intoxicating.

We arrived at camp ridiculously early (2 pm).  Other hikers stopped by to eat lunch, then continue on with their hike (including Rory ‘Follow Bigfoot‘ doing his FKT attempt – I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to look him up to see if he was successful)….but we’d already reached our destination for the day.  Determined to stick with our plan, we settled into camp.

After lunch we took a small hike down from the campground to the river to filter water.MVIMG_20190922_145020

After finishing our camp chores (filtering water, setting up camp, etc) we walked back out to where the trail to the campground left the main SHT.   At this junction we found not one, but two benches, and a post with a blue mailbox containing a trail journal.  The two of us sat and read the journal for quite some time, then headed back to camp to make dinner.


View of my sister’s tent from my own home away from home.  MVIMG_20190922_150902

We ended up having the campsite to ourselves for the night.

Normally this would be a good thing, but some unfortunate trail journal entries citing wolf and bear activity got into sis’s head.

(sis, obviously shaken) “Did you hear that?”

(me) “Hear what?”

(sis) “That banging?”

(me) “No.”

(sis) “I’m afraid.”

(me) “Don’t be, it’s ok, go back to sleep.”

(sis) “Are you sure?”

(me) “Yup”

Unfortunately, I also have an active imagination..  She got into my head.  Every little twig breaking, chipmunk skittering, and leaf falling had me on edge.

After some time passed, I heard her snoring resume…but I was left wide awake.

09/22/19, 5.5 miles, Bally Creek Road trailhead – N. Cascade River Campsite



Superior Hiking Trail, 2019 – The Gear Series (Part 10, loading up)

I’ve broken down each piece of gear going along on my upcoming trip, and this final post will show you how I load it all into my pack.

(Note:  after each item, I will note which Gear Post the piece of gear is described within)

(also, if you want any more specifics on my gear, my Lighterpack list is here)

Main (largest) Compartment

I use a Zpacks Liner Bag on the inside of my pack.  The pack itself is heavily water-resistant (due to the DCF material it’s made of, the waterproof zipper, and roll-top closure) but I still use an inner bag to protect those things I REEEEALLLLY don’t want to get wet.  These are also the items I will need last when I set up camp each evening.

  • Sleeping Bag (Gear Post, Part 2)
  • Sleeping Pad – as long as it’s dry (Gear Post, Part 2)
  • DIY Pillow (Gear Post, Part 2)
  • Sleeping Bag Liner – if I take one (Gear Post, Part 2)
  • Spare Clothes (Gear Post, Part 7)

Once all items are smooshed (<— highly technical term) into the liner bag, I will roll it up and clip it shut.  It takes up the bottom 1/4 of my pack.


On top of the liner bag lies my tent in it’s stuff sack. (Gear Post, Part 2)


On top of the tent lies my food bag. (Food Post, Part 3)

I try to avoid getting into this bag during the day as much as possible, but I will need in it during my lunch stop – so it sits near the top of the pack.  Putting the heaviest item higher up in the pack goes against the standard “rules of packing a backpack,” but it’s what works for me.  The first few days are slightly uncomfortable, but my food bag gets 1.5-2 lbs lighter each day.


And then, at the very top lies my puffy coat (with eReader wrapped up into it).  (Gear Posts, Parts 6 – puffy, Part 3 – eReader)

(Note:  if it’s pouring rain when we pack up camp, or we know it’s going to pour rain during the day, I will put the puffy and eReader into the liner bag, along with the other items I want to make sure stay dry)


Front Zipper Pocket

This pocket usually holds the items I’ll need access to more frequently during the day.

It’s also the home to one item that just happens to fit here the best – the Tyvek ground sheet I use under my tent.  (Gear Post, Part 2)

It folds flat and slides down into this pocket quite nicely….but, it’s not uncommon for it to be slightly damp.  Having it in this front pocket keeps it away from my most protected dry gear, and it’s quick to grab and lay on during a mid-day break.  Sure, I love the outdoors, and I don’t mind dirt/mud….but something about napping on this ground sheet makes me feel better about putting my guard down around bugs.  I can’t explain the madness, it is what it is.  Don’t judge.


I will then stuff my rain coat/skirt down in front of the ground sheet.  (Gear Post, Part 6)

If it rains, they are quickly accessible….and, if my ground sheet is wet, having rain gear pushing against it it is obviously not a big deal.


Next item in the front pocket is my ditty bag.  This thing holds all of the misc objects in my pack….the junk drawer, so to speak.  It holds most of my electronics, all of my first aid and toiletries, plus those other small things with nowhere better to store.  (Gear Posts, Part 3 – electronics, Part 4 – Misc)


On top of the ditty bag sits my toileting bag.  (Gear Post, part 5)

This is the bag I can grab when mother nature calls for something more urgent than a quick pee.  (I know, I know, there are more professional or technical terms for this process….urination is one….but, come on, we all say pee.)

For the quick pee, I use a Kula cloth (the blue/white object hanging from my pack).  Girls and Guys both use these things, but you’ll primarily see them on the packs of women hikers.  Look, we girls can’t just “shake it off” as easily as men, and staying dry is very important.  Plus, the less TP we have to pack out, the better.  The absorbent side of the cloth is infused with silver for antimicrobial benefits, and the printed side is made of waterproof material (keeping fluid from soaking thru to your hand).  If you want to know more, check out their web page.


Left Side of pack

There are two pockets on each side of my pack.  On this side the solid lower pocket holds most of my cook kit (Gear Post, Part 1).

I would actually rather store it in my food bag, but until I eat a few days worth of food, it makes my food bag too long to fit horizontally in my pack.   Once I’ve eaten for a couple of days, it fits in the food bag nicely.  (and it is stored in my bear bag at night, no matter what)


Above that is this year’s addition of a mesh bag.  In it I store my water filter.  (Gear Post, Part 1)

Having easy access is important, as collecting/filtering water is one reason I stop often on the trail.  It being in it’s own pocket keeps it from getting other items wet….but it also allows it to dry throughout the day.


Right Side of pack

The bottom pocket is where I keep my second water bottle.  Plain and simple.  (Gear Post, Part 1)


Above that is another mesh bag. In it I store my gallon size ziploc used for trash.  During my hikes I pick up trash I find along the trail.  There is only one planet Earth, and trash just uglies the place up.  It’s unfortunate I have to add to my pack weight by picking up the garbage of others…but it is what it is.  While my trash bag is stored in my bear bag at night, it’s nice to have it handy during the day.


Shoulder/Sternum/Hip Straps

I have a pocket that is designed to be used on the sternum strap of my pack….but I’ve actually started carrying it front and center on my hip belt strap.  It’s easier to access the things in it, and it’s not sitting on top of my chest (anyone with breasts will understand).

In it I store a few small objects…

  • Snacks for the day (Food Posts, Part 1 and 3)
  • Tripod for my phone (Gear Post, Part 3)
  • Macro camera lens (Gear Post, Part 3)
  • Head Net and Bug Spray – if needed (Gear Post, Part 4)
  • Ibuprofen – if needed (Gear Post, Part 4)


On my left strap I keep my primary bottle of water.  (Gear Post, Part 1)

The water bottle holder I use is from Justins UL on Etsy.  (one liter size)


On my right strap I hang two objects.

  1. My satellite emergency tracker/communication device (Gear Post, Part 3)
  2. My knife (Gear Post, Part 4)

The knife is usually worn by folks on a cord around their neck, but it honestly bugs the crap of out me there.  Besides the cord being uncomfortable on the back of my neck, the knife bounces around while walking.  You can tuck it down your shirt, or behind your sternum strap, but that makes it unavailable in case of emergency.  So hubby helped me figure out a way to attach it to my strap with a carabiner (so I can remove it from my pack and take it inside my tent or carry it to the latrine with me….if I feel the need)


My sit pad is strapped to the front bottom of my pack.  (Gear Post, Part 4)

Having it there makes it handy, but it also keeps my pack upright while I’m loading and unloading it.


(not pictured)  My hiking pants have a pocket on each thigh.  One side is where I store my phone and the other is where I keep my map(s).  I have a Buff and sunglasses on my head, and a Road ID bracelet on my wrist.  (Gear Posts, Part 3 – phone/case, Part 4 – map, Part 5 – buff/sunglasses)

My total base weight is just under 13.5 without eReader, but including my phone and map.  Every year I try to reduce my base weight more and more – this year’s goal was under 15 lbs.  Success!!

Adding food takes it to 22 lbs. (but this goes down each day)

Adding 2 liters of water takes it to 26.4 lbs.  (ugh)

My apologies for the length of this final pre-hike Gear post – this last one was a doozie.  Ha!

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!!!!  I’d love to hear from fellow hikers.

I’ll report in after the trip to let you know what gear worked, what didn’t, and of course there will be some pictures from the journey.


Superior Hiking Trail, 2019 – The Gear Series (Part 9, pack and poles)

In previous posts I’ve broken down all gear going with me on my September Superior Hiking Trail section hike.  (Say that three times fast.)

I only have a few items left, and funny enough they are usually the items people START with when going through their gear.  But….why be normal, right?



Lexi Enzian:   aluminum, rubber grip, anti-shock (21.6 oz/pair)

For the history of my poles we have to travel wayyyy back in time.   Mot (hubby) and I are hiking in Colorado, fresh after getting married.  We decide to rent some trekking poles from a local outfitter after hiking a few days and seeing so many people using them.  It’s awkward to use them, and I pretty much hated it.  But, when we got back to the outfitter after our hike, we both purchased poles from their used rack.  These are those poles I purchased….nearly 20 years later.  Yep, I’m using 20+ year old hiking poles.

They’ve backpacked in Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks, the Superior Hiking Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the Ozark Highlands Trail…to name a few.  They’ve helped me out of ridiculous mud, ice/snow, uneven shifting rocks, and numerous water crossings.  I love ’em.

  • Could I replace them for poles with lever locks (vs the twist lock these have)?  Yup.
  • With carbon fiber shafts?  Yep.
  • With cork grips? Yep.
  • Will I?  Nope, not until they die and are beyond repair


For the last two years I’ve been using the Zpacks Arc Zip.   (it’s basically the Arc Blast with a solid front pocket, instead of mesh)  I enjoy the cleaner look of a solid front pocket, it seems more minimal somehow.

But, I’ve slightly destroyed the minimal look this year by adding a couple of side mesh pockets.  I’m trying them out, and we’ll see whether they stay on my pack once this trip is done.

I’m using one to hold my water filter.  I like the idea of the filter being easy accessible on the outside of my pack; allowing it to dry in the small mesh pocket and (more importantly) not get other gear wet.

The pocket on the opposite side is basically just a place to put my trash bag while hiking.  Trash is stored in my bear bag at night, but because I make a habit of picking up other’s trash while hiking, it’s nice to have it easily accessible during the day.  The amount of bottle caps, small plastic pieces ripped off of the top of packages, plastic toothpicks, etc I pick out of fire rings in campgrounds is infuriating.

Pack it in, pack it out people!!!!!! 

For the love of……

(ahem, rant over)

(smoothing shirt, adjusting collar, fixing hair)

So, there you have it… gear, in 9 parts.

I’m almost done, I promise.  One post left, talking about how I load it all into my pack.

Catch ya later,



Superior Hiking Trail, 2019 – The Gear Series (Part 8, Hiking Clothes)

This last category of clothes (those to be worn hiking) has been the most evolving part of my gear over the last month.

I’m still on the lookout for those hiking clothes I consistently wear on every trip.  Comfy, functional, etc.  Clothes that eventually fall apart from use.  Clothes that prompt a mourning phase when they finally disintegrate.  I’m not there yet, but maybe this year’s “outfit” will the “the one.”


#1:  Lululemon 19″ Fast and Free Crop (6.4 oz):  1) They are black. 2) They have pockets on each leg that fit my cell phone. 3) They don’t “roll” down when I bend over to tie my shoes.  4) They stay up while hiking, I don’t find myself constantly having to pull them up and adjust.  5) They are made of a slicker material….so they don’t “pill” in high friction areas.  (That’s a nice way of saying my thighs touch, don’t judge.)

#2:  Luluemon Swiftly Tech shirt (3.6 oz):  Their shirts have that “Silverescent” technology, and it seems to actually work.  My shirts are FAR less stinky after wearing them while working out or hiking.  I sweat….allot.  Always have, always will….and by the end of a trip, it’s impossible to stand next to me if you aren’t also stinky.  For example…one year I was hiking the SHT with my hubby, in June.  It’s hot, it’s buggy, it’s (dare I say it?) miserable.  I’m just not a summer gal.  Anyway, the shirt I was wearing…well, after two days, it’s wasn’t good.  Not good at all.  One night, I go to climb into the tent, and all I get is my hubby’s hand in my face, pushing me back.  “That shirt. Does not. Come in here.”

#3:  Exoficcio Give and Go Bikini Brief (1 oz):  my every day underwear aren’t the best about wicking sweat, so I wear these.  They are….”ok”…..but they do ride up more than I’d like.  Wedgies….ugh.

#4:  Lululemon Fine Form Bra (4.1 oz):  Yeah, I probably sound like an ambassador for Lulu by now.  I know it, I hate it, but their stuff fits me well, and it lasts.  (and I own a yoga studio, so I get a discount)  What can I say?  The straps are wide and smooth, there is a hook so you can wear it in a “racer back” fashion.  And it’s comfortable.  Not much else to say.

#5:  Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 – men’s (19.6 oz):  The large local sports retailer NEVER has my size in women’s.  It’s a popular size, and it’s always out of stock…so I bought the men’s version.  Which, by the way, doesn’t bother me, because I HATE the girly colors they make women’s shoes.  What’s wrong with grey, black, blue, yellow, and red.  Why must they all be lavender, teal, pink, etc?????  I mean, dark purple, bring it on.  But lavender…..(sigh)?  I was skeptical of Hoka shoes for quite a while…but after trying them on during a shoe fitting in North Carolina, I’m sold.  I have a pair for working out, and recently purchased these trail runners for the more aggressive tread I’ll need on trail.

#6:  Zensah Compression Sleeves (2 oz):  Last year I had some issues with the mechanics in my foot.  In fact, we cut our trip short one full day because I was no longer able to lift the ball of my foot off the ground while keeping my heel down.  I could barely walk.  Part of it is the mechanics of my foot (I only learned this earlier in the spring.)  When sitting, my foot is a size 8, when standing size 9, but when pushing off during activity, they go up to a size 10-10 1/2.  So….my size 9.5 shoes had grown too small over the course of those 5 days.  And apparently this was causing some sort of nerve issues.  And on top of that, my calves are ridiculously tight and overpower the fronts of my legs.  Anyway…..the combination of wrongs was horrible.  So, with much research, I’ve decided to combat my issues with a two-fold plan.  1) larger size shoes 2) compression sleeves to support my calves.  And….the best part of the compression sleeves – the print on them is a topographic map!!!!!!!!!  Seriously!!!!!!

#7:  Dirty Girl Gaitors (1 oz):  These hook onto my shoes, covering the laces and keep rocks/sand/pine needles/etc from getting into my shoes.  While I love them to death…the image of black capri leggings, over topographic map socks, with lightening bolt gaitors…..well, I know I’m not out there to win any fashion awards, but argh!!!!!  🙂

#8:  Buff (.5 oz):  This isn’t the full length Buff, it’s a Half Buff.  Or, a really really wide headband, if you will.  I have bangs, so it keeps them out of my face and contains them over multiple days of no showers or flat irons.

Not pictured:  Smith Parallel Max sunglasses, and Road ID bracelet.

Catch ya later,


Superior Hiking Trail, 2019 – The Gear Series (Part 7, Spare Clothes)

Today I’m breaking down category #2 of my hiking clothing….the spare clothes.

Hiking clothes, like many other topics, can be a polarizing conversation with backpackers.  Do you take something that you likely will not use?  I mean, sure, you think you’ll get into camp, take off your smelly hiking clothes and put on “camp clothes” each night.  And then your first camp night happens, and you realize you have enough energy to cook food, eat food, crawl into tent.  (heck, I don’t even have the energy to write all of the words in that sentence, that’s how tired I know I’ll be)

You don’t care what you’re wearing, and you don’t care if you’re dirty.  Sleeping bags can be washed.

Then you get home from your trip and empty the camp clothes you never wore out of your bag and onto the floor…..almost in disgust.

OK, maybe it’s just me???

My theory on spare clothes is this.  I sleep in what I hike in.  I could change my underwear, but the new ones will smell just as bad by the end of the next day, and then I’ll just be carrying two pair of smelly underwear.  Who wants to do that?

If it’s pouring rain and I get soaked, I can wear this stuff to sleep in (for warmth), and then put the wet stuff back on in the am.  If it didn’t dry overnight, it will dry faster the next day while worn.  Getting shoved into my pack does nothing for it….and if it rains that second day, I’ll then have two sets of wet clothes, and nothing dry to sleep in.  Again, who want that?

Spare Clothes

#1:  Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily, long sleeve (5.1 oz):  If it’s going to be buggy, or I’m hiking locally where poison ivy is the state flower (not really, but it should be), this is my go-to hiking shirt.  It keeps me cool (well, as cool as I can be with sleeves), and keeps the bugs and plant life away from my skin.  Because poison ivy is “rare” on the SHT (they literally have a sign along the trail pointing it out at one place, that’s how rare is it), and the bugs are usually gone by this time of year, this shirt is now in my spare clothes pile.  If we do happen to come across bugs I have it, and if I don’t need it, at least it’s not as heavy as other shirts in my closet.

#2:  Champion brand sports bra:  So….I should put a big red X across this item….because I took it out of my pack.  This bra is NOT coming with me on this trip. If my hiking bra gets wet, I’ll just sleep without a bra, and put the wet one back on in the am.  I’ll likely be wearing my puffy or rain coat around camp anyway, so no one will be the wiser.

#3:  Body Wrapper Ripstop Pants (3.7 oz):  These are pants you’ll see dancers wearing to keep warm during rehearsal breaks or to and from rehearsal venues.  Super lightweight ripstop nylon pants, elastic waist, and elastic cuffs at the ankles.  Big enough to go over my hiking clothes if I need the extra warmth in camp.  Or I can wear them on their own if my hiking clothes are wet.  They are NOT attractive on me, in any way, shape, or form….but they do the job.

#4:  Merrell Low Zone Hiker Socks (1.7 oz):  Spare socks should always be in your pack.  Consistently wet feat isn’t a good thing.  If the ones you hike in develop a hot spot on your foot (blisters), having an extra set is good.  If your feet get cold at night, and your hiking socks are wet, putting on a dry pair can make or break your night’s rest.  If one pair gets a hole in them, having backups is a life saver.  If a squirrel steals one during the night (don’t laugh, it happens)…..anyway, let’s just say it’s never bad to have an extra set of socks.

#5:  Exoficcicio Give and Go Bikini Brief (1 oz):  I can count the number of times I’ve used my spare underwear during a hiking trip, on one hand.  Look, let’s be honest here folks, you already stink….allot.  A new pair of underwear isn’t going to help.  It might be good for morale, but that’s about it.  That being said, I still always have a pair.

Just over half a pound of spare clothes….worth the weight if you need them.  Annoying as heck if you don’t.

Catch ya later!