A Bittersweet Shakedown
After most of the 3 feet of snow cleared up, Mother Nature finally decided to grace us with decent weather. Highs in the low 40’s and the nighttime low hit 20. Perfect weather for a shakedown! So on Superbowl weekend, my friend, our 3 dogs, and I set out for a 27 miler on the AT from Port Clinton to route 309. This is 27 miles jam packed with beautiful views ( I should have taken more photos).
This is an important shakedown for me. I needed to see how well Scoober and I held up in the cold. If you read my last post, we didn’t fare too well and needed to step up our game. I had some major upgrades to try out:
Original: Eureka Amari Pass Solo. Upgrade: Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 limited edition
Thoughts: My Eureka was great, but wouldn’t fit the 2 of us and our gear, so an upgrade was necessary. Although there were a few mixed reviews online, the price was good enough to take a chance on. The setup was easy. Perfect size for all of the gear. We set up on snow, and when packing up in the morning I did notice there were a few wet spots under Scoober’s pad. But other than that, I can’t complain yet. I Wanted to test out the rain fly (easier said than done with frozen ground) so I set up shop next to the shelter.
Original: Shitty walmart 40° synthetic bag. Upgrade: Marmot 20° Kenosha 650 Down
Thoughts: Although I didn’t get a synthetic blend, and the bag will probably degrade quickly through heavy use, at the moment, the bag worked great. I warmed up quickly in it, and with just a base layer on I stayed warm in the 20° weather. I put it in a Sea to Summit small compression sack and it fit perfectly in my bag.
*I brought along the walmart bag for Scoober. Last shakedown I was a shitty owner and forgot a pad for him, so he froze until I brought him in my bag. Although it took him a while to get cold, he ended up shaking for an hour or two during this trip. I’ll address that at the end.
Original: none Upgrade: Thermarest NeoAir
Thoughts: I’m a side sleeper, this worked great. I’m not sure how long it will last before a rogue claw from Scoober punctures it, but he listens well when I tell him to stay off of it so far. If he breaks it, I’ll switch to a foam pad, but until then this is great.
Original: Henry & Clemmie’s backpack. Upgrade: Ruffwear Approach Pack
Thoughts: The first time I packed his H&C bag, he ran into the thickets and came back with torn stitching. It was fixable, but before the hike was over, he ran back into the thickets and emerged without a pack on. My friend and I searched for the pack for a while (he was following a deer scent) and couldn’t find it. The saddles barely held anything on top of that. Needless to say, but I’m not too big on H&C anymore. The Ruffwear pack is great! I didn’t opt for the heavy duty pack, and I’m fine with that. I don’t want to stress him with all of his food, I just want him lightening my load a little. The pack stayed centered pretty well (as he ate food, I used rocks to keep the load even). Overall very excited about it.
I’m confident that I can hold up against decently cold weather. I wasn’t wearing all of my layers when I went to sleep, so hopefully lower temperatures will be bearable with my other clothes. We did 24 miles the first day, then a quick 3 the next morning to make sure we got back for the Superbowl (although I fell asleep before halftime). I was expecting to be sore Sunday morning, but felt completely fine! That was a great sign. I know sustained daily hiking will take its toll, but this trip made me feel comfortable with my starting fitness level.
Now for the shitty realization: Scoober can’t take the cold. Even wrapped in a sleeping bag, he was shivering. He won’t jump into my bag with me, and although I could probably get him a better bag and pad, I have to watch my pack weight. So I’ve hit my first major change of plans. I talked to my parents, who love Scoobs as much as (maybe a little more than) me. They will hold on to him until I make it into Virginia, and when the cold weather starts to break, they’ll come visit and drop him off. It’s not perfect…and we’ll still have a few freezing nights, but it’ll help.
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