It’s the last weekend of summer (the season officially cedes to fall next Wednesday). Give it a fitting sendoff in Wilmington by tubing 900 (or maybe 1,000) feet through downtown; by celebrating the Catawba River at Lake James State Park; or by checking out the last in cool outdoor gear in Asheville.
If I wasn’t cheap, you’d be looking at a picture of a pig on a leash.
A quick tale of gear regret in the hopes it may help you avoid the same.
For the past two years, I’ve been coveting a pair of trail running shorts. But as is my parsimonious practice when it comes to gear, I tend to wait until a thing has been marked down. Then marked down again. And usually a third time.
There was a pair of trail running shoes with neoprene uppers that Nike came out with about 15 years ago. Initial price: $120. After three years of diligent monitoring, I nabbed them when they dropped below $70 — and were being replaced by something more hi-tech. A North Face vest I’d coveted for four years I finally got for half it’s original price (though by then what I really wanted was a Mountain Hardwear puffy vest, which would come into my possession in another three years, once the new micro vests were popular). Every tent I’ve bought, pretty much every hiking boot and running shoe — if it’s been on the market for at least three years, it’s new to me.
And so silly, because once I do buy a piece of gear, I use the life out of it.
About two years ago, the Patagonia Baggies entered my consciousness. My running buddy Chuck wore a pair; on the surface, they looked like most other trail shorts — with one key exception: they have a rear pocket that comfortably holds an iPhone.
This is important not because I need to be in constant contact with my bffs on Facebook, or because my thumbs must constantly be texting. Rather, one of the ways I make a living is by making people want to get out and explore. And one way to do that is by visually capturing those moments on the trail that either make people, chuckle, gasp or say, “Dang, I wish I were there!”
Moments such as spotting the first copperhead of the season stretched across the trail. Or coming upon a thin layer of fog over Umstead’s Big Lake — with brilliant blue sky above. Or yesterday at Lake Johnson, when I encountered two girls who had strung a hammock across the trail (mid-teens, I assumed, their minds still wrestling with the concept of common sense). Or the two runners who stopped to do dips on a bench (nicely illustrating, for GetGoing purposes, cross-training).
Those misses I could live with. But not a pig-on-a-leash.
On the same run at Lake Johnson I glanced up the trail and thought I was seeing a yappy, micro lap dog, the type becoming increasingly common on the trail. Then I looked again. I reached for my camera phone.
That was it: I’m not missing another leashed pig. That afternoon I drove to Great Outdoor Provision Co. and, full retail be darned, made sure that the next leashed pig I see on the trail, you will see as well.
I took my first Baggie run at Umstead yesterday and happened upon this secluded lake deep in the park, off the Loblolly Trail. Thinking of you, I reached into my rear pocket. It may not be a leashed pig, but I think I know what you’re thinking.
Dang. I wish I were there.
I love to do stuff in the dark. I also love to see what I’m doing when I do stuff in the dark.
Thus, over the years I’ve become a fan of powerful headlamps — powerful headlamps that don’t cost a powerful lot.
Actually, “powerful” isn’t always what I need. When I’m mountain biking, yes. I like a torch that maintains a solid, wide, bright beam: At 20 miles per hour, the last thing I need on a windy, twisty, rocky, rooty trail is a surprise hiding in the shadows. But for hiking and backpacking, our focus today, I want a lamp that lets me confidently navigate the trail, but also doesn’t obliterate the cozy experience of a night hike.
The forecast for this weekend?
Here in the Triangle, the high is expected to drop from a high near 80 today to 57 on Saturday, with a 50 percent chance of rain. Sunday, the high is only supposed to hit the mid-30s, with a 70 percent chance of “wintry mix.” The outlook is similar in Charlotte, the Triad, and the Asheville area.
We understand your reluctance to venture out ion the roads if Sunday’s “mix” turns toward the wintry side. But if the roads are just wet, you shouldn’t let a little cold drizzle keep you from enjoying an otherwise … invigorating adventure. You just need to know how to dress for it. That said, we direct you to two previous posts on topic.
My favorite correspondent reported in from Colorado that she’d been hiking an area known as the hogback, a geologic formation that constitutes a precursor to the foothills of the Front Range. Having once lived near the hogback, she knew that in itself would interest me. Then she sweetened the pot.
“A lot of the hikers were using hiking poles,” she said. And no, she confirmed, they weren’t all older hikers. “It was a mix.”
It struck us both ironic that in the fitest state in the nation hikers are quick to use the aid, while here in one of the least fit states we continue to wobble along poleless. One thing those Coloradans may know that we don’t: using poles makes for a better workout.
“Walking poles work your arms, shoulders, chest and upper back muscles through a functional range of motion as you walk — which can help you turn your daily walk into a full-body workout,” according to Dr. Edward R. Laskowski with the Mayo Clinic. “The arm movement associated with walking poles adds intensity to your aerobic workout, which helps you burn more calories.”
I lead a couple of hiking groups, including GetHiking! Triangle. Courtesy of Great Outdoor Provision Co., I keep six loaner hiking poles in my car trunk. Before every hike I announce their availability. On a recent outing with 43 hikers, four took me up on the offer, with two making comments to the effect of, “Guess this makes me old now.”
No, using doesn’t make you old. In fact, it keeps you from getting old, at least parts of you. Other advantages to poles, according to Dr. Laskowski: