Sipsey Wilderness Quillan Creek Area Bushwack

My hiking buddy and I went on a little exploratory trip this past weekend to an area I’ve wanted to visit for some time. Neither of us have been in this specific area before but knew the general directions and areas we wanted to visit.

This was a true bushwack trip. We began our hike at the curve in the road heading downhill into Thompson Trailhead. Leaving the vehicle, we quickly saw a trail to our left and took it. It was well trod and easy to follow. That quickly changed as the trail suddenly vanished without a sign of a trail in any direction. We discovered the “flagging fairies” have been having a war in this area. There were orange, pink, blue, green, red, and even a white with orange polka dots flagging tape all over the place. Since this is an official wilderness area, flagging trails with tape is not only frowned upon, but also illegal. I wish people would remove all of this as it’s an eyesore. The flagging didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason so we bushwacked (and I mean bushwacked) in a generally downhill direction because that’s where we were headed.

After some time we began to follow a small stream (still without any real trail in sight) and after some sliding/scampering we FINALLY found ourselves in the splendor of a box canyon. It was beautiful! There were huge icicles hanging from nearly every ledge.

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We continued downstream toward Quillan Creek and found the juction easily. Our route led us upstream, so away we went. Here we found an unofficial trail and followed it quite easily. The walk along the creek was beautiful – I will be coming back to this area to explore more in the future. Since this is an unmaintained and unofficial trail, we had to cross the creek a couple of times. The water was very cold, but thankfully less than knee deep.

Once again, the Sipsey Wilderness has many surprises. This area is amazing!

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We followed Quillan creek upstream to the old Arnold Motorway and followed it uphill and out to the main road. Our vehicle was just downhill from where we exited the forest. It was a great area that I plan to visit again once it’s a bit warmer. This time, I’ll take someone who knows the area a bit better to point out the easier way as well as several items I know are in the area but I missed.

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I survived the cold! Testing gear in the back yard.

I survived the night!   The weather on the phone said 7 degrees,  my Accurate on the ridgeline had a low of 12 with wind gust up to 30 mph. It’s my personal best either way.

I used my Superfly, 20 degree HG TQ and UQ. I had my UPQ underneath and slept in merino tops,  bottoms,  and socks.   I had a fleece toboggan under my black rock hat.  About 4 am I got a bit chilly so I covered my TQ with a poncho liner,  tucking it in underneath me.   I also put a reflector pad in the footbox. I was warm,  but not toasty since I was pushing (exceeded) the limits of my gear.

For the gear I presently own,  I don’t have the desire to try and go lower, but I know how low I can go.

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New Year’s resolutions

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions as I believe one should be willing to make changes to improve at any time. However, I have set some goals this year that should be easy to obtain and next month is a good time to start!

It is my desire to sleep outside in my hammock at least once every month. My challenge will be the hot and muggy summer months as I have the cold weather gear. It may simply be in my back yard instead of the woods, but I think I can do that. In addition to the challenge, I hope to learn about hanging in different conditions that what I presently experience.

I also want to SCUBA dive the USS Oriskany this summer. I’m setting a lofty goal of 25 dives in 2015. Sadly, most will probably be in a rock quarry in Eastern Alabama, but a day blowing bubbles is a good day. My goal here is experience as well.

I have several personal goals that I’ll keep to myself (and my family), but I thought these were OK to share. I hope everyone has a very blessed and happy 2015!

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New wetsuit!

I must have been a good boy this year….

For Christmas I received a new 5 mm wetsuit with matching hood and gloves! It is the Henderson AquaLock (http://hendersonusa.com/series/aqua-lock/).

It’s my very first brand new wetsuit as the one I have been using was a hand-me-down from my father-in-law. I have no complaints as I have used it many times over the past several years including my recent live aboard experience. It works great but it is several (I’d hate to guess how many) years old and is getting pretty worn. The new Henderson wetsuit is a 5 mm versus the 3 mm of the older one. Although since it was a two piece, I really had 6 mm covering my core. I didn’t have my own hood, the gloves I have been wearing were only 1.5 mm, and my boots were 3 mm. Considering this, the Henderson AquaLock set should be much warmer overall.

The Henderson wetsuit is lined with a “golden micro fleece” which feels awesome! It is almost a semi dry suit as the wrist and ankles have tight fitting seals to keep out water. The hood and gloves are also designed to work with this system. Maybe I will be good enough to get the boots for my birthday, so I can be covered head to toe (literally) in 5 mm warmness!

I look forward to diving in the early spring and being warm(er) in the quarry where I usually dive. Look forward to a trip report and review in a few months!

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My new favorite “Free” Stove

I have several stoves that I use and enjoy, but most of my backpacking “cooking” is boiling water for coffee or dehydrated meals. My canister stove is great for trips with several people where we are able to share the stove. The canister stove is also helpful in cold weather (more hot meals) or if someone doesn’t have a stove I have one I can loan them. I have used my canister stove many times and I like it – it performs great. I did a review for another alcohol stove (that I also really like) on this blog. I like to experiment with options, and I recently had an opportunity to try a new stove and it may be my favorite….

I am a member of http://www.hammockforums.net and they have a PIF (Pay It Forward) section.  The basic rules are if you claim something offered by another member, you have to offer something in return.  The sender pays postage.  The PIF is really fun as I have picked up a few odds and ends that I have been wanting to try.

I recently acquired two items that may be the perfect stove set up for me from the PIF – so that’s why I say it’s “free.” I didn’t directly pay for it, but just offered something in return.  I claimed and received a 10 cm Imusa Mug with homemade lid and the materials to build a DIY (Do It Yourself) Alcohol Stove in separate posts.  The alcohol stove was the Fancy Feest wick stove. I assembled the stove last night and tested it this morning.  WOW!

Here’s my entire cook kit including 4.5 oz of fuel (Yellow Heet) weighing a total of 10.05 ounces!

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This is what is included: a 4.5 fl oz fuel bottle in a separate ziplock bag, Titanium long handled spoon, Cuben Fiber Stuff sack, 1/4 of a bandanna to use as a pot grabber, Imusa 10 cm mug with homemade lid, a measuring cup, stove, a circular piece of heavy duty aluminum to act as a base reflector, windscreen, and a mini Bic lighter.

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How does it perform?  I think it’s AMAZING!  I tested it inside (no wind).  I used 1/2 oz of yellow Heet:

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I heated once cup of cold water straight from the dispenser in the refrigerator door (I’m not sure of the temperature):

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I didn’t use the windscreen, but it brought the water to a rolling boil in 4.5 minutes and burned just under 6 minutes before the flame went out.  It burns with a pretty blue flame.

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So if I plan on just boiling water, this stove may go on my trip to be field tested. This combination is super light, efficient, and very easy to use.  In the field, I expect my fuel consumption to go up, but for just over 10 oz in total weight, I should be able to get at least 4 cups of water boiling.  That’s enough for my average trip.

As a note: I usually put my fuel in the bottom of my top quilt so it burns more efficiently in the morning, but this is especially important when using alcohol stoves.

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Sipsey Wilderness Trail 203 Trip Report

First, I have to say – Great job Wild South!!! I have put off doing this trail because I heard it was difficult to find the trail in places. That is not the case. The people with Wild South have done a GREAT job maintaining and marking this trail. It is very clear with very few downed trees and the few places (especially on the northern portion) where it may be confusing they have marked with either a wood pile to keep you from going down the “old” trail or rock cairns to mark turns.

The “old trail” turns off the “new trail” just a few minutes south of the abandoned shooting range. The trail forks and the “old trail” heads downhill but this trail is blocked by a wood pile. From my understanding, this route crossed Borden Creek again before steeply heading up the ridge to the trail. It comes out west of the new trailhead. We didn’t go this route as the water level was up due to the recent rain. The “new trail” gently climbs the hill and is simply marked by the small trail juction sign. It’s easy to miss if you are not looking for it as you go down the road. The trail comes out 1.6 miles from Hwy 33.

As a note, I love the new Dutch Wasp and quilt hooks I recently received. I liked the Dutch Flyz, but the Wasp makes adjusting a breeze! The quilt hooks kept things nice and tidy and I didn’t have to adjust my underquilt at all.

Now on to the trip report…..

A buddy and I headed in Friday night with plans to hike in just far enough to camp and hiking 203 the next day. All went pretty much close to plan. We night hiked from Borden Creek Trailhead and set up camp in a slight drizzle. We waited to see if the rain would stop so we could have a fire. The rain didn’t stop.

My buddy is a ground dweller, so we sat under the Superfly in porch mode and watched the rain and talked. I’m trying to convert him to hanging and he realized how much coverage the Superfly provided. He’s getting closer to losing the t**t. About 11 pm we called it a night and I set up the Superfly in storm mode. I quickly went to sleep listening to the wind and rain.

The next morning I woke up and explored around the camp a bit. I found out we had slightly veered off course. We had taken the turn to 207 and went just past where 207 crossed the water to set up camp. I walked upstream on this trail a bit – it’s pretty worn. It follows Borden Creek upstream, but it’s not on the map. Does anyone know where this goes or where it connects?

I found the 203/207 junction 2 minutes downstream from camp. I was glad I wasn’t crossing to 207 this morning after all of the rain the past 24 hours:

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We took our time and headed toward my car we had dropped at the other end of 203 the night before. If you have never hiked this trail – you are missing out. The views when the leaves are off the trees are spectacular! It’s an easy trail with a few ups and downs, but nothing too bad. 203 is different than any of the other trails I have hiked so far in the Sipsey. Since this is mostly a ridgeline trail, there’s not a lot of water available, so you need to plan accordingly.

We found an old carved Beech Tree, a couple of small waterfalls, and signs warning us of a shooting range. We explored a bit, but didn’t see anything that appeared it would have been a shooting range in years past. On the northern part of the trail, rock cairns mark crucial turns so pay attention to the little piles of rocks. The final water crossing was still deeper than I desired to cross, so we went upstream a bit and found a downed tree and crossed without even getting our feet wet.

Lots of little creatures were out and I was able to catch a few for pictures. Here’s the other random pictures from the trip:

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My Sawyer Squeeze Holder/fill scoop

I LOVE my Sawyer Squeeze filter but I have two issues. First, I’m afraid I’m going to leave a part somewhere and second, the bag is a pain to fill. I actually saw something similiar to this SOMEWHERE but now I can’t find it, so I thought I would post here.

I bought two Hydrogen Peroxide bottles at the Dollar General for a dollar each. The only other item I needed to purchase was a small screen. I picked a pack up at Lowes and I think I paid less than $4. I had everything else I needed at home.

I emptied the Hydrogen Peroxide bottles and removed the labels. From one bottle, I cut off the top third and the second bottle I cut off the bottom third. I then glued two Smartwater bottle lids together to form two female ends as an adapter. I used Gorilla Glue and drilled a large diameter hole in them after the glue was completely dry.

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Once dry, the screen I purchased fits nicely in the lid. Not too snug, but not too loose. The screen acts as a prefilter and actually catches quite a bit – even from the “clean springs” that I use often.

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That’s all there is to it. Confused? Let me help….

I need to filter some water so I grab my bottle sections that have been slid together to form my carrier:

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I pull the bottom section off showing the top portion holding the filter, backflush syringe, 32 oz bag, and the female to female adapter that I made previously.

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I pull everything out and select the items I need

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If the water is shallow, or to fill the bag quickly, I can take off the lid to the top portion of the hydrogen peroxide bottle, grab my female to female adapter and screw it onto the lid. I make sure to put the screen side of the adapter up to the hydrogen peroxide bottle. To me, it will be more difficult to lose this way.

I then attach my 32 oz bag to the other end of the adapter. Simply scoop, lift, and fill. The screen catches the big stuff and it takes mere seconds to fill the entire bag.

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It only takes one or two scoops to completely fill (to the rim) the bag. I personally then filter into my water container, and reverse the process to pack everything away. As a bonus, the “ridges” in the bottles help hold the bottle sections together. Total weight for everything shown in the picture? 7.7 oz!

Hopefully someone will find this useful. Enjoy!

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