One Hundred

This was written four years ago while watching the sun rise from a hospital room.  I do apologize for the length, but read it all, please.  Thank you.

One Hundred. What is it? Is it just a number? Is it different than any other number? I mean, one hundred dollars really won’t set you up for life financially. Most people have more than one hundred friends on Facebook. Some people can hold their breath for more than one hundred seconds. Most movies are longer than one hundred minutes. So why is one hundred different? Let me tell you about a very special one hundred.

This story begins as a tale of two people. Although not related by birth, they had formed a special bond as “step-sisters,” and this is where our story begins. Skylar and Lauren had one of those love/hate relationships that was really all love – it was just too much fun to pick on each other. One would play jokes on the other, and the other would respond with a friendly insult or two. They grew so close that they referred to themselves as “sisters for life.”

On Friday, October 7, 2011 the story takes a turn, and this is really where the story begins. Skylar was taking Lauren to her car so they could both go to their respective jobs. This was probably something that they had done more times than they could count. It was just another day doing another thing that didn’t seem any different than any other day. They probably made plans for that night after work, or the next day, or even next week. I can guarantee that what happened instead was NOT in either one of their plans. It wasn’t in their friends, family, or community plans either. But sometimes things happen we don’t plan for or want to happen, and those things can turn your world upside down. This did.

Without giving the details (because they really don’t matter), there was a horrific accident. In that single vehicle accident were two very special people – Lauren and Skylar. Both Lauren and Skylar were ejected from the vehicle by the force of the accident. In the aftermath of the accident, two things were immediately clear. First, all of the plans they made were suddenly changed. Secondly, there were two very seemingly different outcomes of the “SFL.”

It seems that Skylar was killed instantly by the impact, and somehow Lauren’s life was spared. Why? I can’t understand the reason behind it. But I can explain what happens next. The normal accident things happen. Police and medical experts were called to the scene, and they probably responded and did their jobs like they do every day, repeating duties that they could repeat in their sleep. They were living their lives not knowing that they were witnessing the very beginning of something that can only be described as a miracle. I’m sure that there are aspects and things about this story that I don’t know. I’m just telling you my version and what I know.

So I’m eating a late lunch on Friday at 2 PM. My phone rings, and I receive the news of a wreck, and there are no details. I start praying because that’s all I know I can do. A few minutes later, I get another call and hear that Lauren is being transported by Med Flight. I work less than 10 minutes from the hospital – so I leave work, assuming we are headed to the same place. On the way I am praying because all I know is that there has been a wreck, and my daughter is in serious condition. I am in baby panic mode. I just need to see her and know how she is.

I arrive at the hospital, go to the emergency room, and inquire about Lauren. Of course I have to wait a few minutes. After what seemed like hours, they send someone out to get me, and they take me back to another mini waiting room. It’s just the nurse and I. She sits down, and I fear the worse. She informs me that Lauren in getting a CAT scan and that Lauren has multiple serious injuries, but that she is responsive. Another seemingly forever goes by and they come and get me to take me to Lauren. We meet in the hall coming from different directions. I will never forget the sight of Lauren when I first saw her. Daddies should never have to see their daughters like that. I go to her, touch the bottom of her foot – at this time the only area I figure is not hurt — and gently say, “Hey Lauren.” To my surprise, she looks over, sees me and replies, “Hey, Dad.” I ask her how she feels and how is she doing. Her reply is “I’m just chilling.”

“Just chilling?” Seriously? Does she know she’s been in a serious accident and ejected from the vehicle with injuries serious enough to require med flight? Does she know she is lying in an emergency room? Yep, she does. As the onslaught of doctors, tests, and activities ensues, one thing becomes very clear. Lauren has been blessed. I can’t explain why. I have more questions than answers. I’m hurting. In one way, I am so relieved, but at the same time in mourning for her best friend.

As the doctors and the results start pouring in, I am in shock. Lauren, who is “just chilling” has injuries that are unbelievable. She has a fractured skull, broken ribs – three of them — a broken collarbone, and a broken pelvic bone. Her liver has small tears, and she is bleeding internally, She has a bruised kidney and bruised lung. A small section of her lung has collapsed, her eye is nearly swollen shut,  and she has more scrapes and bruises than I can count. But then other results follow the initial report. EVERY injury that she has IS serious, but in some way it is “ideal.” For instance, you really don’t want a fractured skull. But if you HAVE to have one, you want one like Lauren has that is very small and can vent pressure as needed so to reduce the chances of surgery. The list and examples go on and on. The injuries – all of them – are serious injuries, but they have happened in such a way that they are the “best case scenario” for that particular type of injury. More results continue to come back and they are the same. It is serious. Many of her injuries could turn bad very quickly and require surgery, but right now, the doctors want to wait, see what happens, and do more tests. They inform me that about five or six hours after being admitted to the hospital, they are moving Lauren  to the surgical intensive care unit. She’s no longer a trauma case, but  she needs to be monitored very closely so she can be whisked away at a moment’s notice to the operating room if that is needed.

I have to leave my daughter’s side, knowing I won’t be able to see her for hours – and then only for a few minutes at a time. I’m hurting emotionally, and she’s hurting mostly physically, and we are forced to say our goodbyes. She tells me, “Dad, I’m gonna be OK – I’m a fighter.” I walk out into the waiting area and am shocked by the outpouring of love and support from friends, family, classmates, and community. It appears as if we are having a revolt in the hospital. We have taken over the place there are so many people there. We have our first visitation hours in ICU, and I go see Lauren. She already seems to look better. I tell her that there are tons of people outside that want to see her, and she says that she wants to see as many as possible. The nurses and staff are wonderful – they allow us some extra time to allow many friends and family to see her.

After countless visitors, it is time to do and witness one of the toughest things I’ve ever seen. After hours of her asking, Lauren is informed by Skylar’s Dad that Skylar did not make it. It wasn’t fun to see, and I can’t imagine what he felt when he had to tell Lauren. She takes the news in typical Lauren fashion. After a few tears, she starts making us laugh as she tells us of things that the two sisters for life had discussed.

I have a conversation with the doctor, and he gives me an update on Lauren. They are still very worried about the injury to her head and liver, but if everything continues as it has been, there is a possibility that Lauren may not have to have any surgery. None. This is almost unexplainable with her injuries. By Saturday morning, this is confirmed by the various specialists treating Lauren. She will make a full recovery, and I prepare for an extended stay at the hospital. As expected, the next few days are a blur: visits with friends and family, short visits with Lauren, and coordinating as many people seeing Lauren as possible because that is what Lauren wants. By lunchtime on Saturday, it becomes official – unless something drastic changes, Lauren should be able to heal completely without any surgery.

Every time I see Lauren over the next couple of visits, she shocks me. The rate at which she is healing is unexplainable – a word I have used a lot this week. By Sunday morning – IN THE ICU – I am told that Lauren will be moved to a normal room AND should be able to attend her best friend’s funeral. I am so thankful but absolutely shocked. Of course, the word spreads quickly, and Sunday is a flurry. Flowers, balloons, cards, pictures, friends, and family come pouring in – but just right so it doesn’t overwhelm Lauren.

On Monday as we are prepping to take Lauren on a very difficult trip, the doctor comes in, and we discuss the details. He gives me very direct and precise directions. I ask the doctor if there is a “curfew” or time she needs to be back. He looks at me and says, “I don’t know that she has to come back.” WHAT? Are you freaking kidding me? Unexplainable. We decide (actually Lauren decided) that it would be best to return to the hospital after the funeral for the night and leave the next day, so that’s our plan.

We take Lauren and she does great. Keep in mind, she has only walked to the bathroom from her bed – a distance of about ten feet – since being in the hospital. That is amazing in itself. She gets to the funeral and decides she is walking with her family, and she doesn’t need the wheelchair. And she does it. She walks in and out of the church and to the car unassisted (but with a very nervous dad watching very closely). Unexplainable.

By Tuesday morning I’m sitting here typing this as I’m watching my last sunrise from this room. I’ve had many conversations in the past couple of days and have seen many things that I don’t understand and can’t explain. They are truly unexplainable. Although this has been lengthy, it doesn’t even begin to include everything. It would take too much time but I can tell you this: I have seen multiple miracles in the past few days.

One hundred. What is it? It’s just a number. Why is this one hundred different than any other one hundred? Because God was in TOTAL control, and I saw how He can orchestrate the universe and use tragedy for His good. It’s something I have heard about over and over again, but when you see it, it is unexplainable. Everything that has happened since Friday afternoon has taken less than 100 hours. The effects of the past 100 hours reach much further than my family and my daughter’s friends. Their story has literally spread all around the world thanks to prayer chains and the internet, and the message it shares should not be taken lightly.

One hundred hours ago my daughter and her best friend were acting like they would on any other day. Since then, there has been tragedy, triumph, victory, and miracles beyond belief. One earthly body was lost while the other was protected from serious injury and injected with healing power that does not come from this world. As one wise man has said more than once – “I can’t prove it, but you can’t prove me wrong, either.” Lauren has endured more pain and suffering than I have ever endured while cheering those who come to comfort her. I have heard more laughter than tears.

In the past 100 hours, my daughter has healed at rates that are unexplainable. Medicine and science can’t explain it. Yes, God has given individuals the knowledge and skills need to test and treat the broken, and I really appreciate that. But in the big picture, the doctors have only run some tests and prescribed medicine. That is very important and I’m thankful, but THE doctor has done the healing. It can’t be explained any other way.

In the past 100 hours, I have seen relationships instantly healed where there has been years of bitterness. In the past 100 hours, I have seen a community realize that this world is not the prize and that this afternoon is not guaranteed. In the past 100 hours, I have seen the most perfect funeral where at least twenty people have made a decision to follow Christ and search for the real prize. I have seen how we are to take what this world gives us – imperfect and painful –  and filter it through God and reflect His Glory.

In the past 100 hours, I have felt the comforting effect of prayer more than I have at any time in my life. I know this situation has been soaked in prayer, and it shows. Yes, we will miss Skylar Ann Mays, and that hurts. But Skylar lives on. Her legacy and story continue. It has made eternal changes, and she’s up dancing and singing with God and rejoicing with us that we are here to share her story.

In the past 100 hours, I have been changed. We should all have been changed by what we have seen. That’s what Skylar would want. Her leaving this world for the next is painful, but in the end, it has brought healing, reconciliation, and more miracles than I can count, and it all reflects the awesome power of God.

Please don’t let your next 100 hours be like your last 100 hours.

Trust me, one hundred – it’s much more than a number.

Posted in Faith, God, Tradegy | Leave a comment

How NOT to pack like a Noob for an Overnight (or two) Backpacking Trip

During the first several backpacking trips I found myself digging through my backpack looking for an item that I “knew” was in there, but didn’t know where. Believe it or not, there have even been a few items that I thought I had packed but I had not, while having unnecessary duplicates of other items. I quickly realized my backpack was packed incorrectly – or at the very least – inefficiently. Hopefully what I share below will keep you from making some of the silly mistakes I made in the beginning. Also, if you have additional ideas or questions, please feel free to use the comment section. I welcome your comments on any of my posts. I like feedback!

First, make a packing list. This may seem too simple, but it’s really the most important step. It is important to write the list down and go over it several times (and even the next day) to ensure nothing is missed. One method is to make the initial list in chronological order from the time of getting dressed for the trip to the moment of return to the ride home. List EVERY item “skin out” (This means items things are worn/carried, not only the items put into the backpack.) Don’t forget emergency items such as a first aid kit and signaling devices. Some people chose to make a comprehensive list on Excel that can be easily adjusted according to the season and length of the trip and there are several web based programs as well. Either electronic method may be time consuming initially, but because the information is already assembled it is very quick and easy to plan for future trips.

If reducing your pack weight is an idea of interest, the first step would include buying a cheap digital scale and listing the weight of EVERYTHING on your packing list. This will be a huge assistance when cutting down the total pack weight – something that may be addressed in a later blog post. Another advantage to weighing EVERYTHING is knowing the total pack weight before packing the very first item. THAT’S helpful!

Second, (after the complete packing list is made) and just before starting to pack, gather everything together in one location and organize as much as possible, not forgetting to include carried/worn items in a separate pile. Basic categories such as Packing/Storage, Shelter, Cooking, Clothes, Tools, Health Items, Water, and Food are good basic categories to use. By looking at everything in categories, it has been helpful to remember items such as batteries, knife, light, etc and to ensure I only carry the items needed. Before the first item is packed, plan where each item will be located for the most convenient access at the needed time and always carry items in the same location unless you decide to make a change. This will reduce the amount of time spent searching for items when they are needed.

Third, pack in reverse order, checking items off the packing list as you place them in the pack. The items needed last (sleeping insulation, spare clothes, etc) should be at the bottom of your pack and the items that may be needed first/quickly should be on top or somewhere with easy access. Also consider the center of gravity of your backpack. Heavier items should be carried from the middle of your back toward your head packing it closest to your body within the backpack.

Finally, your packing list should be all checked with the exception hiking clothes and items not carried in the backpack. Be sure to check around and make sure nothing fell out.

Below is an example basic load and placement and are listed in the order of being placed in the backpack, from first to last:

Backpack: Ohm 2.0 with sweat bandanna on right shoulder strap

Pack Liner: Trash Compactor Bag. Everything that needs to stay dry gets packed in here.

Main compartment – (inside trash compactor bag)

  • stuff sack containing sleep shorts, sleep shirt, spare socks, and spare underwear

  • Top Quilt in stuff sack

  • Bottom Quilt (loose)

  • Hammock and suspension

  • If these are all the items that MUST stay dry, the trash compactor back is then purged of air and the top is twisted and folded over.

Main compartment – (on top of the sealed trash compactor bag)

  • Bag containing First Aid kit, Emergency signal device, Health and Beauty Aids, etc)

  • Food in a gallon Ziploc bag inside the Ursack food bag (with any hiking snacks removed)

  • Cook kit minus fuel

  • Rain gear/light jacket if needed

  • Tarp on very top.

Small mesh pocket inside pack

  • Small insect repellent

  • Fire kit

  • Head Lamp (unless dusk/night hiking)

Back mesh pocket

  • “poop kit” consisting of hand sanitizer and toilet paper/wipes in a waterproof bag

  • Tarp Stakes in bag

  • Map

Right Back Pack Pocket

  • Water bottle (Gatorade Bottle)

  • Refletix Sit Pad (secured by strings on the side of the pack)

Left Back Pack Pocket

  • Water Filter (Sawyer Squeeze)

  • Fuel (denatured alcohol in a sealed container stored in a Ziploc bag)

Right Hip Belt Pocket

  • Camera with Stick Pic

  • Compass (attached to pack)

Left Hip Belt Pocket

  • Hiking Snacks

Attached to outside of pack

  • Temperature Gauge (top left side)

  • GPS (top for best signal)

By packing this way, every item has a “home” and it is very easy to find. Also, all of the items that may be needed first/quickly are on top or easily accessible, while the items that won’t be needed until it’s time to set up camp are further down in the pack.

How do you pack? Suggestions? Comments?

Posted in Backpacking, Hammock Camping, Hiking, Report | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

PADI Rescue Diver Class and real world application

In my never ending quest of learning and becoming a better SCUBA diver, I took the PADI Rescue Diver course several weekends ago. I learned and practiced skills that I hoped I never would have to use.

During the course, we learned self-rescue (don’t become another victim), recognizing and managing stress in other divers, emergency management and equipment, assisting tired divers, assisting panicked divers, and finding/rescuing unresponsive divers underwater.

Two of the things we learned (and practiced) were bringing a diver up from underwater and “towing” a diver in on the surface. I used both of these skills this past weekend. I’m sure I could have handled the situation without the training, but I was more prepared and confident in my ability to provide assistance and I reacted calmly and effectively because I knew what to do and how to handle the situation.

The first real scenario was diving with another diver for the first time. She had stated previously she was working on her buoyancy, but had done well during the dive maintaining the same depth and had stayed close to me the whole time. We arrived at the surface toward the end of our dive a short distance away from the exit point. We had been monitoring our air during the dive and I knew we both had around 800 psi remaining. Since I dislike surface swimming in SCUBA gear, I suggested we descend to around 10-15 feet and swim toward the dock and she agreed. As I descended, she passed me and descended to the bottom of the quarry – a depth of over 50 ft. I waited for her to establish her buoyancy and ascend back up to 15 ft.

I observed her at the bottom of the quarry. She was kicking quickly while remaining on the bottom. I knew with the amount of air she had remaining, her current depth, and with her physical exertion she would run out of air rather quickly if she didn’t ascend. I waited for a minute and she had not made any progress.

Was this situation life threatening? Probably not, but it could have been rather quickly considering the amount of air we both had remaining. As her buddy, I should have been within an arm’s reach in case she needed assistance. With these factors in mind, I made the decision to provide assistance. I used the training I obtained during the Rescue Diver course to act quickly, descend, assist, and we safely ascended to the surface where we swam back to the exit point.

Scenario number two was assisting a diver at the surface. She (another diver) had experienced a regulator malfunction while at depth and it (rightly) spooked her since this was not her normal regulator. She was shaken by the experience more than usual because during her last dive several weeks prior she had experienced a regulator malfunction with a different regulator set.

She ascended with another diver and was ready to come out of the water while he needed to remain with the other divers. She wasn’t panicked, but could use some assistance swimming in and could use some verbal reassurance. I was still wearing my wetsuit from the previous dive. Once I confirmed my intention to provide assistance, the other diver descended and I communicated with the diver on the surface while I put on my fins. I swam toward her on the surface communicating the whole way. Once I arrived at her location, I fully inflated her BC and used one of the towing techniques I had learned to bring her to the exit point.

Life threatening? Definitely not. But I knew how to handle the situation and had practiced the procedures for providing assistance at the surface and towing another diver and didn’t have to improvise or wonder what to do. Once again, because I knew WHAT to do, it made the process much easier.

So, do I consider myself some type of hero for these actions? Not in any way, shape, form, or fashion. I give all the credit to my instructor and the PADI Rescue Diver course for teaching me what the appropriate actions are and practicing them until they became second nature. Because I had the knowledge and skills, I knew how and what to do and it made these two situations second nature.

I am always striving to be better and SCUBA diving is not any different. I can always learn, improve, and be a better diver in the future than I am now. I highly encourage all divers to take the Rescue Diver Class as you will be more prepared and confident in your ability to provide assistance calmly and effectively should there be a situation when these skills are needed.

Posted in Report, SCUBA | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My first DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Project – A hammock stand!

After reading about a portable and easy to make hammock stand, I finally decided to make one. There are several threads about this on – the original thread is here: There are many other threads that incorporate different options although the basic construction is the same. The advantages are that this stand is relatively light, easy to make, and the materials are affordable. There are also several disadvantages as well. It is not built for swinging in the hammock, it can be unstable in high winds unless staked down, and care must be taken (several methods are available) to ensure the legs don’t spread out too far because you will find yourself on the ground….

I am not a carpenter or handyman. My tool selection is rather small and this is actually the first thing I have made as an adult “from scratch.” So I did LOTS of research and planning prior to construction. Here is a list of the items I purchased from my local Lowe’s Home Improvement Store.


The cost of the materials was $57.31 not including tax.

I began by trimming each board to 7 feet long. While this is higher than the recommended length of around 6 feet, it gave me some flexibility when I use the longer pole (more on that later). I can always trim off the bottom of the poles if they are too long.

Once I had the poles the correct length, I marked and cut the angles for the ends of the boards. By using the correct angles, the poles support each other and do not allow the poles to spread out any further than the desired 45 degree angle. The end result is that the distance between the feet of the poles are equally spaced 5 ft apart and the angles between each poles are also 60 degrees each. By all the spacing and angles being the same, this spreads out the force equally. The two poles that rest against each other are cut at a 22.50 degree angle and the third pole that rest on the other two legs is cut at a 45 degree angle. That allows all three to fit snugly together.

1 2

I then marked and drilled the holes in each board to match up to the placement of the gate hinges. Having another set of hands and plenty of space makes this step easier. I first connected the two poles that rest against each other and then attached the third pole. (measuring and checking twice and drilling once was very important here). I did have to slightly enlarge the holes in the gate hinge with a 5/16′ drill bit to allow the bolts and quick link to easily fit through the holes. As a note, the bolts on the poles that rest on each other (the ones with the 22.5 degree cuts) do not need to be tightened too tight if you plan on transporting the stand as pivoting the legs become difficult.

Once each tripod was assembled, I attached the quick link to one of the holes in the gate hinge and used some spare cordage I had at the house and tied a loop using a blood knot. I then used the loop to form a prusik knot on the pole and used the quick link to secure the other end of the loop. The pole was then suspended under the tripod. It is important that the pole attaches directly underneath the hinge to keep the force directed straight down when weight is applied.

I then suspended my Warbonnet Blackbird ( by running the straps around the pole on the outside of the cordage and used a Dutch Clip ( to secure the strap back to itself. I tested outside on the grass just in case there was a failure. I slept in it several times and it feels very solid. After this picture was taken, I have sprayed the pole with flat black paint and also stained and sealed the wood just for appearance.


My original plan was to use two 6’ sections of top rail, but my local stores didn’t carry it in stock and I didn’t want to pay the shipping cost. The 10.6’ section works well for one of my hammocks, but is too short for my tarp (for outside testing) and my other hammock. I’m still searching for two 6’ sections for use with those items. By using two six foot sections, I can easily disassemble and transport in my car with the back seat folded down.

As a note, care must be taken that the legs are placed on a nonslip surface (in my case either grass or carpet). If this stand is set on slick surfaces such as concrete, tile, hardwood, etc, stress will be added to the tripod possibly causing failure. Some people suggest placing rubber chair/table tips on the ends of the poles to prevent this but I have been unable to find any the correct size.

If you decide to make one, PLEASE do your homework and research first. And of course, hang no further than you are willing to fall….

Posted in DIY, Hammock Camping, Report, Testing | Leave a comment

Video trip report 

Last weekend I went on a hiking trip and have already posted the written trip report from that experience.  I wanted to try a video trip report, so I filmed some footage and have edited it into my very first video posting.

You may see it here

Comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Posted in Backpacking, Hammock Camping, Hiking, Report | Leave a comment

Sipsey Wilderness Loop Hike Trip Report (2 nights, 22.5 miles)

Summary: We parked one vehicle at the Braziel Trailhead, took trail 223 south to trail 208. We went east on trail 208 a short distance to trail 224. Turning southeast on trail 224 we traveled to trail 204 Friday afternoon and camped about halfway to East Bee Falls that night. On Saturday, we hiked trail 204 back to trail 224 and followed trail 224 all the way to the Borden Creek trailhead for lunch. After lunch, we hiked northeast on trail 207 to the Gum Pond Trailhead where my vehicle was located and camped. Sunday morning we finished the loop by taking trail 210 northwest back to trail 223 and followed trail 223 back out to the Braziel Trailhead.

The purpose of this hike was to knock out some of the official trails I have not yet completed in the Sipsey Wilderness. The only trail(s) I have not completed is trail 208 and 209 between Fall Creek Falls and the junction of trail 202. I will complete it this fall. Although we were tempted quite a few times, we did not venture off on any side trails as we knew we already had plenty of miles planned. There are several areas I will revisit once the cooler temperatures return.

Before we started hiking, we were going between vehicles from the Gum Pond Trailhead and Braziel Trailhead and saw three wild turkeys just walking down the road. We got rather close before they took off flying to the trees. This was not the last of the wild animals we saw during the hike. Friday afternoon at 6:19 pm in 88 degree weather we left the Braziel Trailhead and made our way down to our planned camping area on the ridgeline of trail 204. We made the 4.6 miles easily not too long before sundown. After dropping our packs, we walked down to East Bee Falls. There was not ANY water running over the falls but with some rain expected overnight and a deep pool just upstream from the edge of the falls, we knew we would be ok for water. After setting up camp, relaxing a bit, ate dinner (Mountain House sweet and sour pork), and it was quickly time for bed as a light rain began to fall. The low Friday night was 72 degrees.


I awoke about daybreak to a light rain, but went back to sleep for a bit more rest. We ate breakfast (Mountain House Eggs and Bacon) and made a run to East Bee Falls to gather water for the hike. The tiniest of trickles was going over the edge of the falls – but there was water to filter. The day was hot and humid with periods of rain without any water on the trail until lunch so I packed 64 oz. of water to take me to Borden Creek – which was enough. We left our campsite just before 9 am. To our surprise, we found ripe blackberries along trail 224 and had an unplanned snack several times.


I have heard horror stories about hiking the horse trails and this is why I have saved them to hike last. I was very pleased to find them in great shape and without any recent rain, there were no muddy areas to trudge through. Trail 224 has to be the flattest and straightest trail in the wilderness.


As I stated earlier, there are several places of interest that call for exploration at a later date. Although the temperature Saturday was below 80, it was extremely humid – I’m not sure what part of my shirt was sweat and which part was from the periodic rain showers. Although it was overcast with some rain, the humidity was out of control and we needed lots of fluids. We made great time on trail 224 arriving at Borden Creek at 11:13. We had to climb up to the new trailhead where my friend had stashed a cooler filled with cold beverages the night before. IT WAS WORTH THE CLIMB from the creek to the trailhead! The distance from our camp on trail 204 to the Borden Creek Trailhead was 5.07 miles.

After a nice long lunch break was taken, we knew we still have several miles to cover before sundown. Traveling back downhill to Borden Creek, we took a right and turned on trail 207 at 12:50 pm. FYI – once you cross Borden Creek, trial 207 goes to the left. There’s no sign, and the trail seems to go either direction on an old road. If you go to the right, it is quickly evident this is not an official trail as it’s not cleared of blowdown and other foliage is covering the trail. At one point on the trail (somewhere around halfway), we spotted 2 wild hogs down the trail. We stopped and quietly inched forward but before I could capture a video or picture of them, they ran off downhill. That was the first time I have seen hogs while hiking in the Sipsey Wilderness. I also saw an interesting tree carving as well.


There was one portion that the briars covered the trail and it appeared to be good territory for the slithering ground dwellers. That stretch was my least favorite section of the whole loop. We took it slow through this section checking for snakes before we progressed forward. While none was spotted during this section, just a mile or so before the trailhead at Gum Pond, we spotted a slithering snake in the middle of the trail and it took a few minutes to get past that area. After 5.25 miles, we arrived at the Gum Pond Trailhead at 4:00 pm where my car containing a stocked cooler waited for us. We decided to use the vehicle and make a food run to Moulton for a late lunch/early dinner. That was also a great decision. Since the “hiker funk” was in full force, we were nice and just went through the drive-thru. We sat in the parking lot and inhaled a Frisco Burger combo meal from Hardee’s. I figured we deserved since we had hiked over 10 miles earlier…. A decision was made to “car camp” and a spot was found close to Flannigan Creek. After setting up camp just before 7 pm, a much appreciated wash-down was in order and dry clothes were donned. It was heavenly. It was heavenly until the frogs on Flannigan Creek started making noise and another strange noise – it almost sounded like a turkey but it went on well after dark and never moved. I should have recorded it but didn’t. Regardless, I quickly fell asleep in the hammock. I believe the high that day was 80 and the low during the night was near 60.

Sunday morning, we dropped everything but the essentials (food, water, navigation) in the car as we drove back to Gum Pond Trailhead. We headed out on trail 210 at 8:12 am. Knowing this was another trail away from water, I carried another 64 oz. of water for the hike. We kept our eyes open on the way to trail 210 passing the spot where Mr. No Shoulders had been spotted the day before but thankfully we didn’t see another one. After the bridge over Hagood Creek, we turned off trail 208.


Trail 210 follows the bottom of a bluff containing some very pretty rock formations for the first portion.



Eventually a switchback is discovered and uphill we go. Thankfully, the trail maintainers have built some stone steps here allowing an easier climb. Thank you! The rest of the trail meanders the ridge and would be very pretty when there are no leaves on the trees. This is a nice ridgeline trail that flirts with an old road(s) many times along the way. Beside the trail there were several interesting items. One was what appeared to be an Indian Marker tree, and another old tree carving.



There are many switchbacks on this trail through the draws on the ridge. You can see either where you are going or where you had just walked from for much of the last half of this trail. Even so, the trail was enjoyable as most of the elevation gain and loss was gentle rolling hills. The high was around 80 degrees but since the sun was out the humidity was much lower. I sweated much less than on Saturday. Unfortunately, about 2.5 miles from the trailhead, we spotted/almost stepped on another Mr. No Shoulders. I was now ready to be out of the woods! We were more than happy when we finally hiked the 7.58 miles to return to the Braziel Trailhead arriving at 12:37.

Overall, we had a great trip. We covered the miles we planned – actually a couple of miles more than my estimate of 20.5, had plenty of food and water, made great time, no ticks, and no equipment issues. The trails were easy to follow – even trails 207 and 210 except for a spot or two and even then it was easy to figure out which way the trail went. The predicted storms never materialized and it was pleasant – although humid – hiking weather. If we had seen just a few less wild animals the trip would have been perfect. We only saw two other people on the trail out for a day hike. I have decided that my next hiking trip will be in the Fall/early winter when less wildlife is out and about. Except this guy – he can stay there and I won’t mind:

Posted in Backpacking, Hammock Camping, Hiking, Report | 3 Comments

Lightweight 2 night, 20 mile hiking backpacking packing list and description

It seems that some people cannot figure out how to lighten the load when backpacking. While this is totally subjective to the individual, I created this blog post detailing my load for a two night, 20 day hike in a couple of weeks. Yes, I have upgraded gear (no Cuben Fiber) and I’m using very common items found in the backpacking/hammock camping world.

Spoiler alert: with food and water I’ll be leaving the trailhead with 20.04 pounds on my back. I do have a food drop (in a car left at another trailhead for a bail-out if needed) that weighs 33.6 oz, but I could carry that easily from the start if needed.

This is my longest hike so far and it will take place at the end of June. Saying it will be warm is an understatement. I’m predicting hot and humid weather so I’m traveling about as light as I ever have. Hopefully packing light (but still having everything I need) will help the miles fly by.

Everything will be packed my ULA Ohm 2.0 that weighs 27.45 oz. Instead of the stock backpad insert, I use a blue foam pad from Wal-Mart that I traced the stock pad onto and cut out. This has multiple uses (back pad, sit pad, etc) and weighs 2.45 oz. I also hang a bandana from my strap to wipe the sweat from my face, soak in water to cool down, etc and it weighs 0.9 oz. For a pack liner, I use a trash compactor bag weighing in at 2.4 oz. I ALWAYS use the trash compactor bag – not only for rain, but there are a lot of water crossings where I hike in the Sipsey Wilderness and I like to keep my stuff dry. I consider all of the above items “backpack weight” and it totals 33.20 oz or 2.08 lbs.

In my “Shelter” category, I will be taking my Warbonnet Blackbird 1.1 SL with bishop bag, Dutch Clips, and Dutch Cinch Buckles that all weigh 21.9 oz. I’m taking my Hammock Gear 20 degree Burrow topquilt because it weighs several ounces less than my Army Surplus Poncho Liner at 16.5 oz. For my underquilt I’m using the Arrowhead Equipment 1 season Jarbridge weighing 15.5 oz. My Superfly will be making the trip with Mountaingoat Mesh Sleeves, Dutch continuous ridgeline, and Lawson Glowire for tie out in a Zpacks cuben fiber bishop bag. All of the tarp related items weigh a total of 23.85 as I have it rigged. The only item not listed are 8 titanium tarp stakes from Lawson equipment weighing a total of 2.45 oz in a stuff sack. That brings my Shelter weight to a total of 80.2 oz or 5.01 lbs. I’d love to lighten this, but cuben fiber is so dang expensive and a bug net is required during the summer in Alabama!

Next I’ll address my “Cook kit” weight. I have a fire rod and striker (1.4 oz) , cuben fiber stuff sack (0.2 oz), long handled titanium spoon (0.55 oz), aluminum flashing windscreen (0.5 oz), Zelph Fancee Feest wick stove (0.9 oz), Fancee Feest Simmer ring by Zelph (0.65 oz), full fuel bottle – about 4.5 fluid oz of denatured alcohol (4.10 oz), Imusa 10 cm mug (2.8 oz), Imusa lid from Zelph (0.3 0z) and a Refletix cozy. Total weight with fuel is 11.8 oz or 0.74 lbs.

For clothing, I’m not taking much as this can add a LOT of weight quickly. Cuben fiber stuff sack (0.25 oz), 1 spare synthetic boxer brief underwear (3.7 oz), and 1 spare set of Darn Tough socks (2.8 oz). I’m also taking synthetic shorts (4.4 oz) and a short sleeve synthetic top (5.4 oz) to have a dry set of clothes once I set up camp and for sleeping. Currently there are storms predicted, so I have my Golite Tumalo rain jacket listed at 12.0 oz, but may leave it out if the weather forecast clears. My Patagonia Nano Puff jacket (12.35 oz) is on the list but I’m considering leaving my Nanopuff at home – but I may appreciate it once I cool down from hiking and I use it as my pillow. Taking everything listed brings my clothing weight up to 40.90 oz or 2.56 lbs. By leaving both jackets at home, I’ll save 24.35 oz, but it will largely depend on the weather.

Next I’ll address what I call “Tools/Misc.” The Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS with batteries and tie on cord (so I don’t lose it) is 4.95 oz. I use this mostly for tracking, but I like to have it with me JUST IN CASE. Of course I take a compass (1.7 oz) and a map (1.85 oz) as well as my primary means of navigation. I take a camera that’s a bit heavy, but it’s waterproof and shockproof – the Olympus TG-1 weighing 8.1 oz. My Princeton Tec Remix headlamp with batteries weighs 3.0 oz. I also pack a 32″ Amsteel dogbone that I mostly use to hang my pack. The dogbone weighs 0.35 oz with a small metal s biner. Although I treat my clothes with Permitherin, I have a small container of bug spray weighing 1.15 oz to treat any trouble spots. I have an AcuRite thermometer that weighs 1.25 oz and my luxury item is a DIY Jerry Chair (thanks Secret Santa!) that I can use for a pack cover, but it is mostly used to sit around camp and have some back support. The Jerry Chair weighs 4 oz. That brings my total Tools/Misc weight to 26.35 oz or 1.65 lbs.

What I consider “HBA” or “Health and Beauty Aids” consists of a small first aid kit weighing 3.0 oz, lip balm (0.4 oz) because my lips always seem to get chapped, a keyring that has a small back up light, whistle, and tick key for a total weight of 0.9 oz, my “poop kit” consisting of wipes and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in a ziplock bag. The total weight on the poop kit is 1.6 oz. Finally, I have a small bag holding a small toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, a small container of dental floss, a small section of a camp towel, a small container of Dr. Bonners peppermint soap, a small container of powder (because sometimes you REALLY need it) and a small container of deodorant. The weight of my personal cleaning supplies is 4.5 oz. The total weight of all HBA items is 10.40 oz or 0.65 lbs.

For water, I carry an old Gatorade bottle (1.65 oz) and the Sawyer Squeeze with container that I covered in a previous blog post. The filter including the container, flush syringe, and 32 fluid oz bag weighs 8.1 oz. I plan on using the additional 32 oz bag to carry water between water sources in addition to the Gatorade bottle. I plan on carrying 64 fluid oz of water. Total water/filter weight is 73.75 oz or 4.61 lbs. This weight will drop rapidly as I hike and drink water.

All that is left is food. I will be using the Ursack Minor (rodent proof) food bag weighing 5.10 oz. My food for Friday night to Saturday afternoon weighs 38.9 oz. We’ll have a car parked close to our camping spot for Saturday night, so I’ll pick up my Saturday night/Sunday food as we pass by. That total weight is 33.6 oz. Leaving the trailhead Friday afternoon, I’ll be carrying a total weight of 44.0 oz for food/food storage. Of course, this weight will decrease as I eat each meal/snack.

In summary:

Backpack 33.20 oz or 2.08 lbs
Shelter 80.20 oz or 5.01 lbs
Cooking 11.80 oz or 0.74 lbs
Clothes 40.90 oz or 2.56 lbs
Tools/Misc 26.35 oz or 1.65 lbs
HBA 10.40 oz or 0.65 lbs
Water 73.75 oz or 4.61 lbs
Food 44.00 oz or 2.75 lbs

That brings my total weight leaving the trailhead as 20.04 lbs. Not too shabby in my opinion….

Not included in this is things I consider “worn.” This would be my Merino short sleeve shirt (6.05 oz), Columbia zip off pants (10.15 oz), Cinch Buckle Belt (1.9 oz), synthetic boxer brief underwear (3.7 oz), Darn Tough Wool socks (2.8 oz), hiking shoes (Moab Ventilators – 37.35 oz), Gerber Evo knife (1.85 0z), watch (Casio G Shock – 2.15 oz), my “summer hat” 2.55 oz, and my Komperdell trekking poles (19.0 oz). That is a total weight of 87.50 oz or 5.47 lbs.

If you would like to count the “skin out” weight, it would be my pack weight of 20.04 lbs plus “worn” items weighing 5.47 lbs for a total carried weight of 25.51 lbs.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section.

I’ll see you between the trees…

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