By Kathy Duggan – Manager, Denali Old Saybrook
My son Brian is preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) come next March. He was planning on doing a solo Pemigewasset Loop backpacking trip (28+ miles and twelve 4000ft peaks) when I casually mentioned that if he toned it down a little his mother would come along. Ten minutes later he came back and had a new plan to explore Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts. I now was about to go on my first backpacking trip. Part of my plan for the weekend, in addition to spending some awesome mother/son quality time, was to do some product training on gear that we sell in our Old Saybrook location that I previously had no real world experience using.
I was covered in products we sell from head to toe…Pistil headband, Ben’s Bug Spray, The North Face Aphrodite 2 Capri, ExOfficio undergarment, Darn Tough Socks, Oboz Emerald Peak Hiking Boots, Deuter Futura 40 Backpack, and Black Diamond trekking poles. I may have at times felt like my body was failing me out there but not once did any of my gear let me down.
We used the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Best Backpacking in New England guide to find our perfect hike. Brian chose an 11(ish) mile loop which the book called “challenging.” I would agree whole heartedly with that assessment. Our hike took us up Money Brook Trail to a beautiful cascading 60 ft waterfall. Just the right spot for a photo op with Brian. We then continued on to the AT and took a little detour to Mt. Prospect for a view well worth the mile it added to our trip. We then summited Mt. Williams (2,957ft) and headed down to our shelter on the Bellows Pipe Trail. This would add another 2.2 miles round trip to our hike as we would be headed right back UP in the morning before hitting the summit of Mt. Greylock (3,491ft) and the Bascom Lodge. To finish our loop we continued on the AT until we intersected The Hopper Trail which took us back to the trailhead on Hopper Rd. Total mileage…just shy of 15 miles.
My two main areas for gear testing were going to be water filtration and stove use. I had with me an MSR Pocket Rocket 2 as well as the Optimus Crux. Both performed perfectly and I had boiling water to prepare my Good To-Go Pad Thai dinner in minutes. I had never lit a stove before or used a flint and was pleasantly surprised at how easy using both were. I can’t say that I preferred one stove over the other but I can say that they worked well, were easy to use, compact and light weight.
Before using the stoves we had to find a water source and filter the water. We passed over two very dry stream beds before finding just the right one with a nice flow and clear(ish) water. I was using the Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter system. There were a lot of parts but after a little lesson, I was ready to give it a try. I dropped the “dirty” hose into the stream and within minutes with almost no effort at all, I had three 32 oz bottles filled with clean, drinkable water free from micro-organisms, particles, and chemicals. Brian was using a filtration system that we do not carry which was lighter (Katadyn was 11oz) but I was done filling my bottles first.
Other products that were put into use on our trip…Smartwool NTS 250 Mid Layer ¼ zip, The North Face Thermoball Jacket (makes a great pillow), Marmot Scandium 20 degree sleeping bag, Sea to Summitt “X” Mug, Spork, moleskin (not needed due to perfect hiking boot/sock set up) and a 30-year-old Thermarest Sleeping Pad! They have a lifetime warranty and we have certainly gotten our money’s worth out of this one.
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend for my first backpacking trip along with spending time walking/talking with Brian and playing with some gear. There are so many beautiful places to visit and some are so very close to home. There is no bad age to go out and explore new things so now it’s your turn to get outside and play!!