The real title of this entry should be Grayson Highlands. Since there were actually wild ponies where we were hiking the other title just felt more fitting.
Grayson Highlands is the site of the trek David and I undertook in early June. We had the privilege of hiking with Brant, a friend of David’s who lives in Abingdon, VA.
Brant is quite an experienced hiker. He understands about ultra-light hiking, and I feel like he advanced our knowledge by many, many years.
David and I have talked about how to get our packs lighter, much lighter off and on. Every time we take a look at it we seemed to walk away with the feeling that it just can’t be done. Brant let us borrow a book Beyond Backpacking which has a lot of good information about how to lighten your pack.
I’ve figured out that my base pack weight without food, clothing, or water is 23lbs. My goal now is to get this weight to 10lbs or less. I believe picking the low hanging fruit will get my weight down to about 14.4lbs. I think the last 4.4lbs is going to be hard to get rid of, but I haven’t yet taken a serious look at where I might be able to shave off the ounces and grams.
One of the big places I believe I can drop weight is by changing my pack. My current pack weights 5.56lbs (or 88.96 oz). I found a site that talks about making your own gear. A few people have designed backpacks, but there is one in particular, the G4 that weighs in at 12 oz and has the same amount of space as my current pack. It has gotten attention from a couple of companies and been commercialized to varying degrees. Quest Outfitters has put together a build it yourself kit. I am going to attempt this and have already purchased the kit. If I fail miserably at making my own, then another company, Gossamer Gear, has the pack for sale pre-assembled.
All of that is to say, I am really starting to understand how to lessen the load, and am very excited about trying to get there. One of the best quotes from the hike came from Brant, “You can easily have 80lbs of light weight hiking gear.” The point is you have to be judicious about what you bring, and the things you do bring should have more than one function.
Grayson Highlands was great place. The AT intersects it in places, and as I said in the beginning of the post there were wild ponies. There was one group in particular that was right on the trail. None of the ponies we saw were skittish around people. One of them came right up to me and tried to eat my shoes, hiking poles, and shorts. It was quite amusing considering there was a sign when we entered the park that said, “Do not molest the ponies.”
Brant was a great guide, and we ended up hiking about a 17 mile loop around the park. The first day was overcast, but that was nice since we were exposed most of the day. We found an awesome camp site. We setup camp; drank a bottle of wine; played around on a guitar Brant brought; and built a fire. Who would have thought you could bring wine and a guitar on a backpacking trip — such luxuries.
Sometime in the early morning the rain came, and it was hard and steady all day. It turned out to be great because David and I had never really had to deal with rain on a backpacking trip. Since we were hiking out that day, it gave us a chance to experiment and gain some experience without any consequences. I was able to tie my hammock up to the guy wire and sit under its rain cover on a garbage bag, and stay completely dry. I was able to cook breakfast, and do my morning things without getting wet. I was unable to really get my hammock put away without it getting wet, but I now have a good idea of how to approach this in the future.
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