Goody, goody…my package from REI is here. A visit to a real REI store has always been a treat, going all the way back to the days when my kids were little and the Timonium, MD store was the carrot (at least for Mom) on the long drive from VA to PA. Last weekend I discovered one just on the outskirts of Richmond, in Short Pump!
I spent lots of travel time researching shoes and thought I had found the ones…Chaco Outcross Evo 1 water shoes … a brand I have never owned before.
But they’re light (their 1 lb. 2 oz. weight saves 7 oz.), with good padding, support, traction and a totally closed heel. Plus the color is simply lovely. The biggest debate was not whether to buy them, but in what size. Finally, going by the “true to size” reviews and the saleswoman who said Merrells and Chacos run similar and looking down at the well-loved size 8 Merrell trail shoes on my feet, I chose 8’s. Not sure how much I will wear them barefoot or with liners or Smartwool socks.
Then there’s my hat. I am stubborn, and last summer I lost my favorite paddling hat. Sometimes it can just be incredibly difficult to find a replacement for something! This is true, of course, not just for hats but for all manner of things. The difficulty, I believe, is directly proportional to how much you loved the item. I simply wanted a baseball style tan cap, quick-drying and WITHOUT a stiff brim. Finally, in the Short Pump REI I found one. Happy day! It does have mesh ventilation on either side but that is all to the good. So now a new hat for the top of me and new shoes for the bottom and most of the stuff in the middle will not be new.
(This is my first post composed on my iPad rather than my laptop!)
Found my green grass on Richmond’s capitol lawn, found Megan in her new cubicle, found beauty at the VMFA
Loving RVA (Richmond, Virginia) more with each visit. Megan was tickled with my excitement over the public buses, particularly the app on my phone that would send me walking two blocks ahead, then 500 feet left until I met the proper bus at exactly 2:14 p.m. Thanks to Jacob for treating us to an IMAX film on prehistoric monsters of the sea and to Megan for some awesome Thai food. Also enjoyed the First Freedom Center, a tribute to our nation’s history of religious freedom, a historical treasure right across from the Randall Branding office. I promise more news later when the box arrives from our shopping excursion at REI!
Fusion…the process of combining two or more distinct entities into a new whole. Like the Western cowboy and his horse, a paddler and her boat should become one. This fall, therefore, I set out in search of my missing half, a boat that might be faster and lighter than my kayak, while retaining many of the qualities I love about my old boat. Let me introduce you to the Wenonah Fusion, a 13-foot solo canoe weighing just 30 pounds in Kevlar, shown below.
By the way, among the many types of fusion (like nuclear), I discovered binaural fusion, the cognitive process of combining the auditory information received by both ears and binocular fusion, the cognitive process of combining the visual information received by both eyes. So even hearing distant rapids and spotting a bear (which I have yet to do on the river) involve fusion!
My new boat will arrive at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockland in early May at the latest. The folks there were kind enough to arrange for a loaner of the same model in the heavier Royalex, which handled well on a surprisingly warm Christmas paddle on the Pemaquid River. So about a week ago I paid the hefty deposit, guaranteeing a place for my canoe in their large spring shipment. So now I wait, about as patiently as a small child nearing Christmas, for the chance to carry and pack and paddle my new Fusion.
The warmer weather (upper 20’s) and sunny skies made for sparkling snow and early morning shadows to highlight tracks in the woods out back. I was out several times this weekend for 1 to 1 1/2 hours each, getting in some cardiac endurance training. These photos from Saturday morning show what I think are moose tracks. We do not often see moose here in Lincoln County. In fact, in the twelve years we have lived here, our family members have only seen one or two or three “local” moose, depending on the individual. In contrast, 20 is our record for a short Allagash paddling trip of less than a week! This afternoon I said goodbye to the snowy beauty for a week, as I am off to Virginia to visit Megan. And take advantage of her graphic design skills to spruce up this blog, I hope.
Strategic planning. Right up there with faith and courage, good decisions up front will help me go the distance this summer. And strategic planning is ideal for a long, cold, snowy Maine winter anyway. One goal has been to reduce the weight, volume, and sheer number of items in my gear. Even eliminating a tiny unused item reduces the number of things to scramble through in the search for whatever I am looking for (usually found at the very bottom of the dry bag). Today’s focus: Tent, fly, and footprint (another term for a groundcloth)
Old: Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, purchased in 2000 for a backcountry camping trip with my 7-year-old son in Shenandoah National Park (weight 5 lbs., 6 oz. including footprint.; packed size 6″ x 18″; peak height 43″, 2 poles)
New: Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 UL…yes, it’s the same model, updated and in the one-person version (weight 2 lbs., 15 oz. without a groundcloth; packed size 5″ x 13″ without poles; peak height 46″, 3 poles)
Major changes: Lighter (good), smaller stuff sack (good), poles too long for stuff sack (bad), attached fly (good), side entrance (good), plastic sheet replacing footprint (untested)
Cost: $178 from REI with member’s discount and free shipping (Christmas present anyway…thanks, Dad!)
To do list: Seam sealing is recommended, cut plastic sheet for inside tent rather than having a footprint, figure out where to pack poles
One winter evening, we had fun setting up my new tent in our living room, staked out to furniture and some metal weights Dad had in his workshop. I crawled inside and was delighted that it felt roomy and there was plenty of space in its long length to put my gear bags. I like to bring as much as possible inside my tent at night to keep it dry and clean (everything but food, cooking gear, and boat stuff). The side entrance makes for easier access and creates a small vestibule similar in size to my old tent’s. For future backpacking, trekking poles can be used in place of 2 of the tent’s 3 poles. Lastly, the color works for me. I was afraid it would be too bright, as I like to blend in with my surroundings. My little tent will be the color of bright green baby leaves or grass…she sighs wistfully, thinking that is has been months since she has seen any green grass…
I promised myself and I try to keep my promises. I would start my new blog at the beginning of March and not a moment later. So here it is, a blank journal to fill with my thoughts and adventures, a chance to share my life with you.
If you have been a recipient of this epic winter deluge of snow and frigid air, perhaps you share my joy at finding myself on the doorstep of March. Spring and longer days are assured and such wistful dreams as green grass, new leaves and gently lapping waters are drawing closer. Late this afternoon I crunched my way over the crisscrossing snowshoe trails in the woods behind my house. They are my winter creation and my tether to the outdoors in this bitter cold. As the light dimmed homeward, the calming rustle of beech leaves gave way to the heart thump of an owl’s sudden flight from above.
March also brings me ever closer to my summer journey, a solo through-paddle of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. This 740-mile trail winds its way from Old Forge, NY to Fort Kent, ME, following historic paddling routes through waters large and small, still and turbulent, all connected by good old-fashioned portages. The half in Maine I have paddled before (except for seven elusive miles) and half I have never seen. Trip planning is gaining momentum, as I shop for a boat, test new recipes, upgrade equipment, and try to picture the NY, VT, Quebec, and NH portions of the NFCT. Much more on all that later!