Birthdays, Backpacking, & Olympics…

I wonder if I can adequately cover the three topics introduced above in a relatively concise posting…. sure hope so, otherwise I will bore myself!

Last Thursday, August 4th, Billy Bob Thornton, my buddy Garrick, and I all celebrated our birthdays. Billy Bob couldn’t make the party here in Springfield, so Garrick & I had to party on without him! My celebrations lasted for a couple days, which is funny because I really am happy not spending too much energy getting excited about another birthday. Nevertheless, I got a fair pile of loot, including Dr. Who stuff, Deadpool stuff, Archer stuff, socks, boat stuff, camping stuff, and…. a WOOBIE !!! Here are two links that pretty much cover everything there is to know about a Woobie:  Military Perspective   Civilian Perspective  .

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My new Woobie!!! It is presented tastefully in USMC Woodland Marpat and  Coyote pattern. And below is my other loot haul!!

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Not bad considering all I asked for was a Back-hoe, preferably one with metal tracks… And just for the sake of disclosure, this stuff was all given to a 59 year old guy!

Let’s talk about backpacking for a moment now. I haven’t backpacked seriously since I was in my twenties, the last time probably being when I spent 10 days in the Colorado  Weminuche Wilderness backpacking. I have camped and hiked and traveled a lot since then, but that was the last time I packed everything on my back and took off on foot. Until this weekend. My buddy (and adoptive brother cuz we adopted each other) Garrick & I decided to go backpacking at Ramsey Lake State Park, which is about midway between Pana and Vandalia, Illinois off US Rte 51. We had been preparing for a few weeks, getting gear bought, or found, and organized. Coordinating food and water supplies. And we both decided to try Hammock Camping, which meant we didn’t need a tent, just a couple trees each. And a camping hammock. Garrick bought a hammock and a separate mosquito netting add-on, while I bought a hammock with an attached netting… We did a trial set up in the back yard a week or so ago, which motivated us to change the hanging system to a strap system because it would be less stress on the tree bark. Here we are in our hammocks at Ramsey Lake…

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Ramsey Lake !  Saturday morning I drove over to Garrick’s just after 8 am in the TSV (Tactical Scooby Van), we sat and had a cup of coffee. Well 2 or 3, and chatted merrily away and then hit the road at the crack of, hmmmm 10-ish or so… I had already programmed the GPS for Ramsey Lake so we drove merrily along doing whatever the GPS told us to do until we got to Taylorville and stopped for coffee and a quick potty stop. All seemed to be going well until the GPS started taking us on very small and mostly unused little two-lane paths… The ranger at the park later told us that for some reason GPS devices are notorious for adding 6 miles to the trip from Taylorville area to the Park. We finally got to the Ranger station at the park about noon.

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We checked in at the Ranger Station, paid for my overnight camping fee (Garrick gets to camp free cuz he is an Army Vet), used the flush toilet, then headed out to park the TSV at the Horse Campground area. In no time at all we had our packs on, and Garrick started to try to figure out the Garmin eTrex GPS. He does like his toys! The Ranger had given us a route suggestion that kept us off the most used horse paths, and would guide us into some quiet wooded areas, so we took his suggestion and between the eTrex, our maps, and my compass … we were golden!

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Consulting the eTrex, Garrick is…

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Minnows in a small, clear creek in case we run out of food…

004We did encounter a fair bit of mud on the trail from recent rains, but fortunately, very very few mosquitoes!

A couple miles in and we got off the horse path and onto a walking path. We stopped to enjoy the butterflies fluttering among the wildflowers. We walked another 30 minutes and stopped at the top of a hill, in the shade, for a light lunch. We both brought tuna salad snack-boxes (a 3 ounce can of tuna and 6 crackers – 23 grams of carbs) and I brought a couple packages of fig newtons and pureed fruit/veggie pouches. A perfect light and nutritious trail lunch!

According to the GPS, we hiked a bit over 3 1/2 miles, although it was pretty hilly, so we didn’t break any land speed records. We found a nice wooded area a little distance from a fire road and walked into the brambles looking for some trees sturdy enough and spaced just right to hang our hammocks.

So we spent a little time clearing the brambles from under our hammock areas, hung the hammocks, then settled down for a quick cup of coffee.  I could have easily fallen asleep and taken a long nap! But we needed to do some more training with the eTrex. So, leaving everything but water and some snacks, we headed back out onto the trail. We logged a couple more miles on our “training hike”, and found some brackish water along the trail, and some potable water to refill our canteens.

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This is NOT the potable water, believe it or not…

By the time we returned to our campsite, we were hungry and tired. Fortunately, supper consisted of a package of dehydrated camping food…. Mexican Style Chicken & Rice. Just needed to add boiling water, which was easy because I brought along my “SoloStove“, a great little stainless steel wood burning base unit with a 60 ounce water pot on top. It is amazing how fast we were able to boil water using just twigs and small sticks for fuel! (This is a wonderful present The Mrs gave me last year, thinking we could take it on our Wales hiking trip. We opted to only take folding Esbit stoves for that trip, because all we needed to heat was water for our trail-side afternoon tea… and 60 ounces was a bit of overkill…)

{UPDATE: 8/13/2016 – Garrick was so impressed with my SoloStove that he just bought a smaller version of mine and is on his back deck right now boiling water for coffee for his bride and himself with it!}

We finished eating and cleaning up by 6:00, and I think I fell asleep around 7. I think it was 7:30 when I awoke enough to zip my mosquito netting closed, tuck my woobie under my head for a pillow, and started snoring. By about 1:30 am it was getting quite cool, so I got up, found my sleeping bag, and crawled back into my hammock cocoon, wrapped warmly up in the SB and my woobie. I lay there listening to the incredible cacophony of the various insects and owls owning the nighttime with their sounds. I slept soundly until about 6:30 am or so.

Sunday morning… quiet, cool, the woods gently brightening with the sunrise. I got out of my hammock, set the billy to boil, made coffee, and we sat in our hammocks just chillin’.

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We had a simple breakfast of golden oat biscuits and clover honey sticks, followed by a couple handfuls of trail mix (the kind with cashews, raisins, and chocolate! YUM!) We were in no hurry, so we drank coffee and told stories for a while, then we both decided it was time to break camp. Taking down and packing the hammocks & sleeping bags took all of about 6 minutes…

We eventually got our packs closed up… Oh, the packs! I forgot to mention that we had each weighed our packs before we started this adventure. Garrick’s with water in his camelback and side pocket bottle tipped the scale at just under 30 pounds. When The Mrs & I were walking the Wales Coast Path, my day pack was about 25 pounds, with water. Well, my medium ruck, with water, scaled out around 48 pounds! When we were sitting around in our campsite, I was comparing our respective equipment to see where I carried so much more weight… Food, first aid gear, and diabetic supplies. Don’t want to run out of food on the trail so have lots of quick carb snacks & glucose tablets. And carry two extras of everything for the insulin pump and blood glucose meter. And I want enough emergency first aid stuff to handle anything that we might encounter on the trail… I don’t pack my EMT gear, but I come close to my First Responder kit… I took pictures of my gear for comparison based on used and not used on this trip.  I will discuss that in my next posting.

So I’ll wrap up with a photo of the little path we came to as we walked out of our bramble patch to head back to the horse trail and then back to the TSV… more tomorrow! Olympics get to wait too…

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Grocery detail ! Sept 13

We have been home just a week and finally, today, Sunday, we hit the point of NEEDING GROCERIES! Grace’s sister, Amy, had done a quick stock-up for us so on our return we would have milk & creamer and some meals ready to pop in the oven, but today I faced the sad truth that we desperately needed some more essentials. Like laundry detergent, and margarine, hazelnut coffee, and cookies/fig bars!!! Oh the Catmanity!!!

Soooo…. The Mrs had to work today (she has a meeting in Peoria) so I found myself sitting at home herding the kitties and contemplating the lack of hazelnut coffee and fig bars. Finally I got motivated enough to put shorts & t-shirt on, pull on my hiking boots, and head out the door to go shopping at WalMart.

I walked through the soccer fields at UIS to avoid having to walk on the roadway to get to South 11th Street. While The Mrs & I were stumbling around Wales & Ireland for the month of August, UIS installed what they labelled a Challenge Course on the grounds of the Spencer House and along the perimeter of the fields. Interesting!!Ch course

Challenge sign

So the first part of my 5.5 mile walk was on the grass and fields of UIS. It was a warm sunny day, perfect actually…. Just like everyday in Wales! I continued through campus until I got to 11th Street and headed north. Nice walking this area is… sidewalks on both sides of the street, 2 lanes each direction, mostly fields to the left and right…

11th Street, Springfield
11th Street, Springfield

The walking here was smooth and level and I was having a great stroll. Before I knew it, I was at the front door to the South 6th Street WalMart. I looked at my watch and it was exactly 46 minutes. When I got home (just under 45 minutes on the return, I entered the route into MapMyRun and it put me at a total distance of 5 .5 miles and about 3.3 miles per hour.

I spent about 30 minutes picking up the essentials, checked out my 14 items, packed them all into my hiking knapsack, and headed home.  Here is a photo of everything I bought… although I see I had already moved the bananas and I had gotten a bottle of water at the checkout and drank that on the way home…. and so the empty bottle was already in the recycle bin.

Grocery essentials
Grocery essentials

G, if you are reading this on your smartphone… note I bought you CHOCOLATE Belvitas!!!!!

On my return trip, I took a photo of the UIS sign at the corner of 11th & Hemingway Drive. This sign was installed years after I had graduated from UIS…

UIS sign
UIS sign

Preparations for Blue Water time…

We are starting to organize our trip logistics including snack items and boredom deflectors.  Amazon has proven to be a really great source for finding packaged food items that we can carry in our packs and/or pockets for a quick carbo boost. And at reasonable cost. This is important as:  1) I am a type 1 diabetic wearing an insulin pump, and 2) our hiking trips will be pretty much done all day in countryside without passing through any towns/villages.

One new item I just tried is an Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze by Munk Pack.  I read about these on another hiking blog and thought they sounded just about perfect. I got Apple Quinoa Cinnamon. Ingredients are pretty simple:  oatmeal, apple, apple juice, flax, quinoa, cinnamon, & citric & ascorbic acids. 19 carbs (3g of that is fiber), 2g protein, 80 mg potassium.  I like the flavor, it is easy to pack, and easy to ingest. These are going in my pack! And I checked the UK regulations to make sure I can bring with me… No Worries!!!

Munk Pack... yum!
Munk Pack… yum!

I have finished the arduous task of selecting reading material for the transatlantic voyage and the down-time during our hiking.  Eight books made the final cut. The toughest part now is not reading them before we travel!!!  The first two at the top of the list were written by Jean Reinhardt, an Irish writer I met through mutual blogging.

Jean's first 2 books
Jean’s first 2 books

These are historical novels set during the time of the Great Hunger in Ireland and afterwards. Some of my Irish ancestors came to the States at this time, so this holds a special fascination for me. I bought these copies on Amazon, and they are also available on AmazonUK. Jean’s 3 other published books are also available, which I intend to purchase after I read these first two.  Our Ireland walks will be a couple hours north of Jean’s location, so I will have to wait for our next trip over to get her to autograph my copies!  🙂

The Bad Tempered Gardener
The Bad Tempered Gardener

This next book is by a Welsh author, Anne Wareham, with photos by her husband, Charles Hawes. I found Charles first as he is an avid hiker and has a great blog about hiking in Wales. He has been my “answer man” throughout our struggles to organize our trip to Wales. Anne is an accomplished author on the subject of gardening, and her gardens (Veddw) are open for tours. We will be visiting their gardens on our trip!!  I am hoping to convince/cajole/bribe Anne into autographing my copy….

Enough about books… I was hoping to take the Hilu out on the lake today, but storms were threatening early this morning, then as the temperature and humidity rose, the wind petered out to a galeforce of 2 mph.  Now it is clouding over again, and the radar is indicating more rain.  I guess I might try to mow the lawn instead…

Watching the skies, and no wind...
Watching the skies, and no wind…

Follow up from yesterday

No  steak last night… The Mrs & I went to dinner with our neighbors (Rich & Bernice) last night. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, Abe’s Hideout. They serve a nice varied menu, and even some good healthy stuff! Their special last night was Plank Salmon, which all 4 of us ordered!!! The salmon is marinated in an apple and lemon juice bath, then grilled on top of cedar planks. I enjoyed mine, it was tasty and HEALTHY! Bernice said it was the best salmon she had ever had, Rich said his was fabulous, and The Mrs said my plank salmon on the grill was better…. I love that woman!!!!

Abes’ Hideout – The video!!