European tour – Day 1

Kathy and I set off for an epic tour of Italy, France, and Spain this week. We arrived in Italy on Saturday and met up with some friends, Rich and Vally, in Vicenza. We hit the ground running with a quick tour of Vicenza and finished off the evening at a fabulous local restaurant where we sampled some local delicacies and wine.

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Great weekend in Northern Arizona

We decided to meet up with a group to do some off-roading and camping. Great group of folks. Brandon the lead took us up to Sedona where we bounced up Schnebly Hill Road and then crossed I-17 and continued on dirt road toward Flagstaff. Northern Arizona has gotten quite a lot of summer rains so everything was green and gorgeous. We found a power line road and worked our way to Potato Lake. It was getting late so we cut back to Flagstaff for some gas for the thirsty trucks before finding a campground in the Cinders OHV area.

We found a nice big group campsite, and quickly set up our camp. It’s kind of neat with all the work that I put it over the years. It takes about 10 minutes to set everything up. Although with the rain coming, it took a little bit longer for the awning. we just made sandwiches for dinner, and then sit out by the fire until the rains came. The group quickly retreated to the awnings and we lit up our camp box fire. We had been up since about 4 AM that day, so we turned in around 9 PM with all the dogs up in the tent with us.

We got up around 6:30 in the morning, quickly made some coffee and breakfast, and then I think we packed up around 730, 8 o’clock in the group headed out around nine. We did a bunch of trails in the cinders, climbed a pretty steep mountain And did some racing across the cinder field. we spent the day up on the mountain, and then came down and did another cinder cone before peeling off from the group, which was heading back to Phoenix.

We headed back on 89, and turned off at a fourth service road and headed behind the San Francisco peaks. We found a really nice campground, set up camp for the evening, made a delicious Dutch oven enchilada, and then went on a hike. There was no rain this evening, and we turned in and had a great nights sleep.

The next morning we packed up, spent a couple hours four-wheeling, and then hooked up to I-40, on to Ash Fork, and then down into Prescott where we visited some relatives, before finishing off the drive back home.

Lava Box Review

We attended the overland expo in Flagstaff in May of this year and found this really interesting product called the Lava Box. It was a bit of an expensive replacement to the Amazon propane fire pit we used. We decided to drop a huge pot of cash on this product.

Well we had a busy summer and finally got out camping again on labor Day weekend. Up in the mountains of Arizona, a rainy chilly night pushed away from the burning embers and we set this little guy up just outside the awning. It came on, and we felt some heat. But the flame was not adjustable with the dial on the regulator. Kind of weird. We hung out for a while and turned in.

The next night we fired it up again and a little flame entertained us for a while. But it didn’t create a significant amount of heat and sent one of us off to bed to warm up. I fiddled with the regulator a bit and found it to be the defective piece. At some point while turning it up, it will click, and an uncontrolled inferno erupts from the Lava Box. I’m talking 6 foot flames and a roar of gas causing me to lurch back. Several attempts to regulate and I gave up and watched the little flame dance in the breeze while I zipped up my fleece.

The last attempt on our final morning of camping I played with the regulator, vacillating between a minuscule flame and a fireball that chased my girlfriend away until I tweaked it to something that provided heat without signaling the forest service with a heat signature that might indicate danger.

I’ll call their service department and have them send a new regulator. Lesson for me, test equipment at home.

Arizona Spring flowers

Kathy and I decided to do a hike and headed for the 10 mile loop around Picketpost Mountain near Superior, AZ. I think we missed the full bloom by a week or two but there were still tons of poppies and beautiful flowers. We will have to head out again next weekend to catch the fuller bloom. Here are some pics of the hike. We did see a rattlesnake and a desert tortoise.

AT Day 8 and 9

Danny took a 0-Day today and we stayed in this nice hotel on a lake. Before all of this we grabbed some hot dogs, buns, brownies, chips and some beer and did some trail magic. Met some cool folks from Maine that turned out to be friends if friends of Moose’s. And Lily the trail runner was there too. We last saw her at Hawk Mountain. The trail runners watch over the trail and hikers. Hard job yet coveted.

Ate some fried chicken and beans and catfish for dinner. Got to bed around 9 and up at 6. We left Danny at the trail at Dicks Creek Gap at around 8. Happy Trails my friend. (Follow Danny here)

AT Day 7 – Unicoi Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap

We slack packed today. Lightened our load to about 10 lbs and knocked out 18 miles today on done pretty tough trails. It would have taken me two days to finish this section with the pack. It looked flat, but at the end on the day we had climbed over 5000 feet. Again we ended up in town due to rain. Not much tent time on this trip it seems. I was going to do the last 9 miles today to get to the border, but I’m not feeling it. Moose is getting off the trail and offered a ride back to Atlanta. I’ll check if that’s today or tomorrow. I have a plane flight back at 3 tomorrow. It’s been a fun week. Official AT trail miles is 69.2. Actual trail miles was 86.4 miles and 18.5k elevation gain.

AT Day 5 – Neel’s Gap to Poplar Stamp Gap

We started today clean and refreshed and resupplied. My pack weighs 36.5lbs with food and water. I’d like to shave about 6 lbs off but I bought enough food to get me off of the trail Friday. Todays hike had some steep sections, but overall was another beautiful day on the trail. The last two miles were a warm hike along an old road or train line. Tomorrow I’m shooting for Deep Gap Shelter, but that’s a bit far at 21 miles. I will see how tomorrow’s hike goes. Either way, I’ll be getting to Dick’s Creek Gap on Thursday morning. If I get in early enough I can get a slack pack in to the North Carolina border and then head home Friday.

AT Day 4 – Granny Top to Neel’s Gap to Blairsville.

We were all spread out today. Professor and DJ hiked by my tent about 7. Which means they left about 6:00. I think I figured out where Moose camped, but he was on the trail by 5. I left at 7:10 and then had to go back to far my hiking poles. I ran into Dannyboy at around 8. Today we attacked the dreaded Blood Mountains. They are about 1500feet of climbing over about 5 miles with a sharp downhill. I made it to Neel’s Gap at 1:00 for a 9 mile day. It was a perfect day to hike. We got a couple of rooms in Blairsville to shower, restock, and wash clothes.

AT Day 3 – Hawk Shelter to Granny Top

We hiked a pretty leisurely morning. We stopped a couple time for snacks and water. There were a couple of stops that had trail magic, and it was really nice to have a soda and some fruit. We were going to try to make it to Woody gap, which would’ve been 12 miles for the day. But they weren’t very good camping spot so we hiked on the trail. We ended up splitting up again. Carl and DJ stayed back a ways. I made it to a place called granny top, and I think Moose and Danny boy are at. Lance Creek. We are all meeting up at Neels gap today. And the best I can tell I’m about 7 miles out.