Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bear Bag Techniques: PCT Method

One of the necessary things to do while backpacking is to store your food in a place that is safe from animals. Most often this done by hanging your food up in a tree by a rope (a bear bag), though you can use special containers as well. If you ever search the internet for bear bag techniques, you'll quickly find that there are a lot of methods to hang a bear bag.

In my search for an easy bear bag technique, I came across a technique that interested me. It's called the PCT Method (Pacific Crest Trail Method). This weekend I got to try it out.

To do this method you will need the following items

1) Rope (I used 50 feet of para-cord)
2) A carabiner
3) A stuff sack
4) A rock
5) A thumb thick stick

First, you tie your rope to the carabiner. I used a double figure 8 not to tie my rope to the carabiner, as seen below.

Then, you take the rock and put it in the stuff sack.

Next, you hook your stuff sack to the carabiner.

By having the rock filled stuff sack tied to the rope, it makes it easier to get your rope over the necessary branch. You need to find a strong branch that is more than 20 feet high. Next, you throw the stuff sack over the branch. Don't be surprised if it takes a few times to get your rope over the branch in the right position. The rope needs to be at least four feet away from the trunk of the tree. (This keeps an animal from climbing the trunk of the tree and being able to reach the bag) Also, make sure to hold to the end of the rope after you throw it to keep it all from flying over the branch.

Once you get the rope over the branch, you lace the rope through the carabiner, as seen below.

You attach your real food bag to the carabiner instead of the rock filled stuff sack. Then you pull the rope and hoist the food bag up into the air, all the way up to the branch. This is where the stick comes into use. As high as you can reach, you tie the stick to the rope with a clove hitch knot, seen below.

With the stick tied in place, you let go of the rope. As the food bag starts to fall, the stick gets pulled into the air. This is why you laced the rope through the carabiner. The stick gets caught in the carabiner and keeps the food bag from lowering all the way down. It's kind of hard to tell by the picture, Sorry :(

For an easier to follow description of the PCT method, you can watch the following video. He does a very good job of explaining the PCT method and how to tie a clove hitch not.

Pros to this method:

1) You only need one tree
2) You don't need to tie off the second end of the rope. (I believe this method was developed because bears along the Pacific Crest Trail were getting smart enough to cut the ropes to drop the food bags)

Cons to this method:

1) Somewhat difficult to tie the clove hitch while keeping a fully loaded food bag in the air. (Though easier with a second person)
2) To keep the bag how enough out of reach for a bear, you need a really high branch. This weekend we couldn't find a high enough branch for this method, so we just ended up tying off the rope to a nearby tree.

So for any backpackers out there, what bear bag techniques do you recommend?

Manistee River Trail

So as mentioned in my last post, I spent the weekend backpacking up north with my friend Justin. I got up early on Saturday and drove to Justin's house. I picked up him, his dog, and his gear, and we were on the road. Roughly three hours later, we were at the Red River Bridge at the top of Tippy Dam Pond.   Once at the trail head, we geared up and headed to the trail. From the trail head, you can immediately take the North Country Trail on the North side of the river, or you can trek about a half mile down the road to the South side of the river and pick up the Manistee river trail. That was our route for the weekend.  We hiked down the road, over the bridge, and up a hill to where we pick up the trail. 

In terms of trails that I have hiked in the lower peninsula, the Manistee River Trail is probably the most scenic. The trail meanders along the Manistee River, giving great views from tall bluffs above the river.

Here are a few off the views from the trail.

Our goal was to make it to the Hodenpyl Dam, a very  doable distance in a day. But going down the trail, we began to realize that all the good camp sites were filling up fast. At first we thought we would make it to the dam and then back track to a prime camp site. But we decided that the chances of a good camp site being available by the time we made it back from the dam was slim to none. So we stopped hiking early for a sweet spot right next to the river and a babbling brook. Definitely worth it. We set up camp and went for a short swim. The water was cool and refreshing.

When we were done swimming, the sky started to darken and we were quickly caught in a rainstorm. Being that I hadn't seen any rain int he forecast, we had yet to put the rainfly on the tent. We quickly scrambled to get the rainfly and our gear covered. The rain only lasted a little bit, but the sky still looked menacing. Being that we were hoping to spend the night in our hammocks instead of the tent, we were keeping our fingers crossed. By the time it was dark, I decided not to risk it and retreated to the safety of the tent. Justin on the other hand made a go for it in his hammock. That however lasted only a short while, since the skies opened up with a crazy thunderstorm. I've only camped along this river twice, and both times have seen some wild weather. Though I typically sleep pretty well during thunderstorms and this time was no different. Justin described me as dead to the world.

When we got up, the forest was pretty damp. It didn't make much sense to sit around on damp logs, so we packed up and headed back to the truck. We made much better time on the way back, doing the same distance as the day before in about an hour less, which I consider somewhat impressive since I seriously jacked up my ankle on the previous day. We got back to the parking lot at the Red River Bridge. Justin wanted his pack off, so we shed our gear there and he ran to get the car which was still over a half mile down the road. He made the run in good time and before we knew it we were loaded up and on the road home. Justin would later find out that he had forgotten his camera. You can follow his recounting of that incident here. But he wouldn't come to that realization till long after we got home.

Before we had left, a friend of mine had told me about a place up in Shelby, MI that had these really good 1 pound burgers. Now after a backpacking trip, you are usually pretty hungry. So this was a necessary stop after our trip. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the name of the restaurant. But I knew it was in Shelby and I knew it had the word bear in the name. So after a little searching with the smart phone, we found that the restaurant was called the Brown Bear. Let me tell you, it was definitely worth the stop. The burgers were delicious.

After that, we made the rest of the trip home. Unpacked and took a short nap.

All in all, it was a good weekend, and a great trail. I would recommend checking it out if you are ever up in the Manistee National Forest.

Friday, June 15, 2012

AT in 5 Minutes

This weekend, my friend Justin and I are going on a quick overnight backpacking trip. So to get you all excited for us, I'm sharing a video that I stumbled upon a while back. It is a stop motion video of the Appalachian Trail in 5 minutes.

Get excited! and Get outside.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The gift of time

So I realize that my birthday and Christmas are long past. But I'm finally getting around to putting some of the gifts I got to good use.

First, for my birthday, I received an Adirondack Chair from my in-laws. For Christmas, Jamie received one as well, so we could have a pair. They were handmade by a friend of the family and are some of the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat on. But, they were unfinished. So before I could put them outside and let them suffer the wrath of mother nature, I needed to put a few coats of polyurethane on. Since I'm so busy, and not at all lazy, the chairs have been sitting in my basement since Christmas. 

But finally, I've found the time to get them ready to be placed by the fire pit.

Another item that I received for Christmas and haven't had time to put to its full potential is a Satechi Multi-function Timer Remote Control

This nifty little devise is for my camera. It allows you to delay exposures for a set length of time, can set the exposure time for up to 100 hours, and can take a photo after a set interval until your memory card is full. The last feature is one of the main reasons I wanted it. With this feature, you can create your own time lapses. All you do is hook up the controller, set your interval, and let the camera and controller do the work. After enough time has past, you simply load all the photos into a folder on your computer and a mac app will stitch them all into a time lapse movie. 

Below is the first time lapse that I made. For this time lapse, I think I was taking a picture every 5 seconds for almost 3 hours, and I have the frame rate at 30 frames per second. I'm sure as I play around with it more that I will be able to refine the videos. Believe me, a friend of mine and I have some big ideas.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

May Update

In the last post, I mentioned that I was finding myself with long periods in the day with nothing to do. That wasn't because I was just slacking at work. It was because of jury duty. Let's rewind a bit. A month or two ago I got a letter telling me that I was selected for jury duty from the May 1st to the 15th. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that I had a good enough excuse to request out of it. So, time passed and of course I forgot about my civic duty. About 9:45 on May 1st I received a phone call from the court asking if I was going to show up. It was definitely on of those "OH CRUD" moments. So I rushed down to the court house, only about 2-3 hours late. By that time, they had already selected a jury for the trial, so my tardiness actually let me dodge a bullet.

For the remaining time of my jury duty, I remembered to call in. Each time, I was told that I didn't need to show up since there was no trial going on. Each time, that is, until May 15, the last day of my jury term. I ended up having to show up on the last day, since there was a trial scheduled. After 8 hours of jury selection, I found myself sitting in the jury box, selected to be a juror for a three day trial. I'll skip the details of the trial since it probably isn't appropriate to share. While jury duty probably wasn't the favorite thing I ever did, I do have to say that it was interesting to see how the whole process worked. Also, missing four straight days of work wasn't too bad either.

Skipping ahead in May, over Memorial Weekend, Jamie and I went up north to her grandparents cabin with her family. As Jamie mentioned on her blog, we spent part of Saturday taking photos of her pregnant belly. You can see a sample of the pictures here.

But mostly, the weekend was spent just relaxing. So, it was definitely a good weekend

Here's a few pictures from the weekend.