Caribou Peak

I’m still pinching myself… some days (today, for example) it still seems like we’re vacationing in Colorado. It hasn’t completely sunk in that we LIVE HERE now.

The plan was to double-summit two 14ers (a peak that is 14,000′ or higher in elevation.) But, I’m that person that doesn’t care much for gambling and a 50% chance of thunderstorms by noon was too much of a gamble for me. Rule #1: You do NOT want to be on a mountain, above tree line, during a thunderstorm!!! This is why “alpine starts” are so important. You start your hike at sunrise so you can be OFF the mountain before the afternoon storms roll in. So, instead, we decided to summit a 12,300′ peak called “Caribou Peak.” It may not have been a 14er but it was undisappointingly (woohoo! made up word!) gorgeous.

We drove up to the trailhead to find that the trails were closed for reconstruction. There went our alpine start. After an alternate route that involved some 4WD, we drove the Kia as far as we were willing to take it – just short of running it into a river.

The detour tacked on an extra mile onto our already 6.5 mile hike but we didn’t mind. We crossed a river – thank goodness for hiking poles and gortex boots…

… and encountered a moose. A MOOSE!!! It stared at us for awhile, we stared at it…. while it continued to chew on grass. And then it just walked off. It must’ve weighed 800 pounds easy. That was the highlight of our hike. I mean, we saw a MOOSE! In the wild!

We hiked for a mile on a rocky road. Yes, this is a road that certain capable cars drive on!

Then we happened upon a nice, wide, meadow that led to the peak. It’s amazing how little these geological features can make you feel. We made sure to keep Rogue close because, you know, mountain lions and stuff.

After the meadow it was more or less a trek uphill, past another high altitude meadow with snow fields, rocks (so many rocks) and wild flowers:

There was really no trail leading up to the summit and this afforded me the opportunity to practice orienteering. After a while of just walking and walking and walking, it was, “Ooooh! SUMMIT!!:

We reached the top around 10:00 am, right on schedule. And within 30 minutes, we started seeing some clouds roll in:

Knowing thunderstorms were in the forecast, we decided it was time to jet. After quick get-oriented session and we were on our way downhill and back over a couple of streams.

Rogue was very afraid of crossing the river, but she made it out alright:

I seriously love this place. Seriously. Love.

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Winter In The Wiss

Going Off the Grid

First off, Rogue and I went backpacking last weekend.  Just the two of us.  (Blurry pic, I know, but it was the best I could do with a wild dog wanting to see everything)It wasn’t exactly planned and we probably could have done a better job at the whole telling someone where your going thing (right Jess?) but we didn’t and we did.  Jess went out of town for the past week, out to California to visit a bunch of family that was coming into town and that left just Rogue and me to fend for ourselves and keep ourselves entertained.  So with the weekend coming up we didn’t really think about making plans (Jess is the planner of the family anyway). 

The day on Saturday actually started at the beach.  I went surfing for a couple hours that morning and Rogue got to play on her favorite dog beach.  It was an incredibly nice day… actually sunny in Philadelphia after all the rain we had all week, so I pretty much decided that I did NOT want to sleep inside that night.  So in last minute fashion, Rogue and I raced home gathered some gear in our packs and ran out the door.  Jess wasn’t there so of course, the food issue was a problem… I had no dinner to pack, but that won’t stop us, a quick trip to REI on the way solved it with a freeze dried dinner, a power bar and pack of powerbar protein ball thingies. 

We drove about 2:20 up to the Lackawanna state forest where a fun little trail system called the “Pinchot” is located and hit the trail.  It was about 1700 by the time we got started with just over an hour or so of good light.  We hiked about 1.5miles and found a nice little spot off the trail to call home for the night. 

From here Rogue went exploring the area and I set up to boil some water for dinner:  Yum Chilli mac with beef from Mountain House.  Not exactly trail gourmet like Jess makes but it worked and it was easy. 

As the sun set, we tied up our bear bag and started to head toward the tent for the night.  (Of course, Rogue didn’t want to go in at all, she could have pounced around all night if I let her.

It was actually a much colder night than we expected so I put Rogue’s softshell on her for the night and we did alright until about 0100, then she came walking over and curled up right next to me.  I felt her ears and they were pretty cold so I did my best to get her in the sleeping bag with me… that was something.  She just let me flip her around and move her paws wherever in order to fit her in my mummy bag but it was pretty tight with the two of us in there.  She seemed to sleep just fine after that while I just layed there waiting for the sun to rise.  That’s the problem sometimes when you go camping out in the backcountry, you end up going to sleep so early that you wake up before the sunrise and just have to wait for what feels like forever.

So the next morning we packed up camp, ate my powerbar breakfast and headed out on the trail for a nice 7 mile hike looping around back to the car.  The day turned out to be absolutely perfect, just a nice crisp coolness that makes for perfect hiking.  We had to take a few breaks for Rogue to go chase sticks since she would get all crazy hiking and start trying to bite my shoe laces so I would play with her. 

 

Jess and I are planning a multi-day thru hike of a couple sections of the Applachian Trail that we are going to do in a couple weeks, so this was a good warm up for Rogue and I think I figured out a few issues with gear (like bring Rogue her own blanket) that will help for our trip.

French Creek

Ryan, Rogue, and I had a much-needed, way-too-short, weekend getaway.  Sometimes living in a congested city wears us out; sometimes it feels like there’s no… space, nowhere to decompress, nowhere to be alone.  So, it’s good to be able to throw the packs in the Kia and sleep in a tent – away from it all.  I was amazed to hear birds and crickets!  Ah, the little things in life…

We went to French Creek State Park… we hiked, played in the lake (well, Rogue did), read books, RE-laxed!!

We never really get a great night’s rest while camping.  I mean, Rogue, Ryan and I are in a 2 person tent and Rogue is UP and ready to go RIGHT when dawn breaks.  We’re talking 5 am here.  At exactly the break of dawn, everyone must wake up and go run, jump, sniff around, chew sticks, and roll in the dirt.  That’s what Rogue seems to think.  Even so, it’s still a relaxing time.

Campfires are my favorite part of camping… Ohhh, I love campfires.  We have a great system:  Rogue loves to look for kindling and firewood, Ryan loves to build fires, and I like to sit up close to the fire and toast my entire body and let the campfire smoke get all over me ’cause I think it smells SOOO good.  (I’m obviously getting carried away here.)

More pics!!! (All these were taken with Ry’s iPhone.)

Gone Geocaching

It’s been YEARS since Ryan and I went geocaching so we gave it a go last weekend. Geocaching is just a scavenger hunt. There are official geocaching game pieces hidden all over, most people miss them and walk right by. We prefer to geocache on hikes and out in nature but there are some caches hidden in urban settings.

Basically, the key clues you are given are latitude and longitude points. You use a GPS to find said points and seek out the cache. (All pics taken with my Google phone… sometimes I just don’t feel like carrying a camera around. Imagine that.)

The caches are creatively hidden so even with the lat and longitude points, you still have to actively seek them out:

The particular cache we were trying to find was called “Bat Cave” so we assumed it was in this cool cave. It was not in the cave; they were trying to throw us off! This is also how we discovered that Rogue does not like going into dark, cold, enclosed caves. She refused to follow us in and waited for us outside the cave:

With the help of our Super Sniffer and Ryan’s 20/20 eagle eyes, we eventually caught glimpse of the hidden cache… see it??

It was under a pile of rocks! We almost missed it and walked right by it:

Once you find the cache, which is sort of like a time capsule, you’re supposed to take something and leave something. But most of the items in the cache are eh, junk. So we opt to take nothing and leave nothing. We do, however, log our “discovery” in the log. This particular cache had been hidden since late 2007:

Pretty cool. I’m not sure how far we hiked… over 2 miles, I’m sure. And of course Rogue had to be a hot hyper mess for the entire journey. She NEVER runs out of energy. In fact, when she’s not hyper it’s usually a good indication that she’s feeling ill. Lucky us.

Backpacking the Pinchot

Rundown of our trip to the Lackawanna State Forrest for an overnight backpacking trip along the Pinchot Trail.
The decision was between the Jersey Shore and going camping. Jess made the call last week and it was “camping.” So the natural question was well “Car Camping” or Backpacking. Backpacking it was. Now came the distribution of responsibilities. I immediately started going through a mental checklist of our gear and what we had and what we would need. Also, I took on the “Where” question. Jess rogered up to figure out how to feed us three which led to the challenge of what to feed a pup that eats a raw diet when you are miles from a refrigerator and hunting season is closed.
That’s when jess found this stuff from natures kitchen. It’s dehydrated raw dog food… just add water and voila! Who would have thought.
I started looking at where these east coast types go backpacking and lucky enough for me there are quite a few places. Of course the appalachian trail (AT) goes through Pennsylvania and that was an option. I bought a book called Backpacking Pennsylvania. I found a great hike that looked like it would fit my needs perfectly. It is called the Pinchot Trail. It was a fairly easy trail with plenty of scenery and low crowds. We couldn’t take our pup on a crazy trail not knowing how she would do. More info on the trail can be found here.
Gear prep began. We pulled the packs out of storage, dusted them off and set off to check off the list of necessities.
Here is Jess trying on her pack the night before. We weighed them out and I don’t remember exactly but Jess weighed like 35lb and mine was maybe 45 or so. Jess said that these weights were way dispraportionate to our body weights but when I offered to take some of hers of course she said “no way… I can handle it”

DAY 1:
Day one started just as every other Saturday has started here: RUN Drills. Jess ran well getting another sub 8/mi run and some fast sprints. After a shower, breakfast, grabbing everything and a sandwich for the road we took off for the trailhead. A couple hours later we arrive at a beautiful spot in a shaded tree filled area of greenness. Living in the city makes you forget the beauty of trees and green nature. We ate the rest of our sandwiches put Rogue on her leash and took off.
It was a bit of a learning curve on how best to handle the rogue pup on the trail. She would run up ahead, find something to sniff, stop (in the middle of the trail of course), we would pass her and then she would come zooming up around us back up to the front. She was waaaay too excited… “I love nature!”

We started with a gently uphill until we hit the trail register, signed in and continued on until we came to the junction of the Powder Magazine Trail (which we were on) and the Big Pine Hill Trail (which we would come back on). Jess and I both kept figiting with our straps and belts trying to find that sweet spot for our packs (it has been a while).

Rogue finally started to settle down and we picked up some momentum. The trail itself is fairly level with a few rocky sections and creek crossings. Eventually we made it to a big meadow and decided to take a break and let Rogue do some running around. Of course she went crazy. Jess and I snacked on some of J’s homemade trail mix and then we set off again.

Our camp area for the night was supposed to be around Painter Creek which was about halfway around the loop. We crossed a pretty soggy area and saw some running water at around the 4-5 mile mark and figured that it must be Painter Creek so we looked for a campsite found one and started to settle in. We found a nice area with some piled up rocks next to a tree and decided that would be our cooking/eating area

We then went about 100′ away and set up our sleeping area where we set up the tent and stored our packs. There were really no people around so we let Rogue roam free and skip around like a deer from the cook site and the campsite.
We started cooking up some dinner (i.e. boiling water to put into J’s premade dehydro dinner) with our headlamps on and the last of the natural light fading away. Rogue was pretty pooped so she found a nice cozy place next to us and layed down. As it got darker and a little colder you could tell Jess was starting to get on edge. To make matters worse, at one point, out of nowhere, Rogue stands up looking intently into the darkness, the fur on her back stood up and she starts growling. Of course this freaks Jess out and she is pointing her headlamp everywhere to try and see what’s out there. Let’s just say that that was about it for the being outside time that night. We took all of our scented items, double bagged them in trashbags and hung them up in a tree then called it a night (so we thought).
NOTE TO SELF: Don’t expect to sleep well with a big o’ puppy in your tent. We tried every spot possible but she just kept figeting and waking us up. Luckily we went to bed at like 1900 so we had plenty of sleep by the time morning rolled around, even if it was 20 minutes at a time.
Next thing, it’s morning wake up get some breakfast break camp and head back on the trail. We move along and about half a mile in we come across… Painters Creek (the real one). Oh well, we had a good site and there was another set of backpackers there anyway.

We cruised along with great weather and a fairly cooperative pup until we got to the Big Pine Hill Overlook and lunchtime. There is a tower built on top of the hill at the overlook where you can get 360 degree views of the surrounding hills of the Poconos. We took in the view and decided to grab some lunch so we pulled out the pocket rocket our new cookset and our homemade dehydro chilli mac and chowed down while taking in the view.
From there we descended the hill and made our way back to the trailhead.

Overall, it was a great intro trip. Nice mellow terrain, low crowds and some pretty scenery. The pup did well and we only had to pull a few ticks off of her.