Craig Wisner

Archive for February, 2012

PCT, Cloudburst Summit to Cooper Canyon, 2/18-19/2012

Disclaimer:  Wild adventure, high mileage, gear geekery, and tall tales will not be found in this trip report.  It is a short story of a father and son, taking a quick break from the world, retreating into a land of rock, tree, and snow, and simply being together for a night.  And maybe a little gear geekery.

This particular trailhead is exactly one hour from our door heading north on HWY 2.  We reached the trail by 2PM, anticipating hiking on the PCT for an hour or two to get to Cooper Canyon.  My son was ecstatic about the snow; I knew some would be left from recent storms, but there was more than he was expecting.

Our pace slows every time we find snow- he is absolutely compelled to pelt me with it every chance he gets.  In only 15 minutes of hiking I was already hit in the back of the head, powder trickling down my shirt.

The pack I sewed my son a few years ago is still going strong.  It’s a simple rucksack, roll top closure, no frame (we use his 3/4 Prolite), with two large mesh bottle pockets on the sides and a larger rear mesh pocket.  I rarely have him carry more than 12-15 pounds (usually more like 10- just his sleeping bag, pad, water, cookpot, spare clothes, and snacks/books).

Trail camp at Cooper Canyon, a little less than three miles in.  Easy living; fire pits, woodstoves, and picnic tables.  The ShangriLa 3 is still my favorite shelter when I’m with my kids; it’s about 4 years old now.  Probably one of the roomiest and most weather-worthy options out there for the weight.  Great for kids as they can easily stand inside to change.

We did some climbing on a neighboring ridge and grabbed two small summits before coming back to get the fire going.

Ramen cooking for my boy, grape juice for dad.  Aidells italian sausages waiting for the fire.  I have learned not to fuss with alcohol stoves or other “fidgety” cooking systems when with my kids.  When they want to eat, they want to eat.  It makes life easier for everyone involved if this can be accomplished quickly and easily; not to mention the fact that canister stoves are pretty child-friendly in the event I tell my son to turn it on/off.

Temps dropped off pretty quickly by sundown; my keychain thermometer read 25 degrees at 3AM.    I’ve found I’m fine in my WM Summerlite as this temperature, but was getting chilled from below on my Synmat UL7.  I think just below freezing is about its lower limit.  I had it paired with a 1/8″ Gossamer Gear Thinlite, but I think the insulation value isn’t too noticeable (I usually have used it for puncture resistance).  I’m going to upgrade to pairing it with a 1/4″ thick pad for colder weather (for real cold I use a Ridgerest Solar). My son used my old EMS Mountainlight 20 with a 3/4 Prolite and 3/4 Ridgerest underneath it.  He slept fine.  I woke him to a good fire and cup of hot tea at 5:45AM.  What service.

After coffee, tea, and cookies for breakfast, as well as my son joyfully smothering the fire with snow and ice for a good 30 minutes, we climbed a ridge to get out in the morning.  It’s funny; I find that my son lags when on trails but has boundless energy for climbing anything steep.  He gets bored quick with easy walking but will happily bushwhack or climb for most of a day.

One of the greatest benefits of lightweight, simple gear has to be the ability to be packed and out the door for a trip in less than an hour.  I’m continually impressed with how it allows me to so easily take the kids; it makes the experience fun for them (never having to suffer under too much weight), while still leaving me carrying 25 lbs or less for an overnight…and that’s with luxury food and some extra comforts.  It seems to me that many people don’t get ut as often as they could because they get bogged down in logistics; I keep my gear organized, basic dried foods on hand, and keep everything pretty simple.  It never feels like an ordeal to pack for myself and my kids for a night or two.

If I can only keep the kids interested in doing this with me I will be a very happy man.  I don’t see why not, as we’ve gotten this far.  I owe my daughter the next two trips; both are starting to frequently ask to go.   Aside from the time I get to spend alone with them, which I truly love, trips with one or both of them help me get out more often- my wife is not left alone at home with both kids while I’m off playing by myself.  She gets to spend one on one time with whoever didn’t go with me and it works out to be a good scenario for everyone.