Mother and Daughter Forever Connected through the Trail

Mother and Daughter Forever Connected through the Trail

By: Kathy Vaughan


She disappeared into the ancient grove of giant trees, following the trail as it twisted into the drizzly forest. It all felt like a dream from which I hoped I would not awaken. I felt an inner sense of joy, relief, awe, and pride. As hard as it was to believe, the lithe, tanned-skin, beautiful young lady running through the woods, strides ahead of me, was indeed my daughter, Angela.

mother and daughter on trail

Angela will turn 25 next month. She returned just last week from having spent 27 months in Madagascar, serving in the Peace Corps. As I sit here in the dappled spring evening sunlight, I view the picture she just sent me on my phone, of her in front of a lovely tulip field in full bloom. Some of my earliest pictures of her capture her amongst flowers, trees, mountainscapes, and streams. She is a nature lover. She graduated with a degree in Environmental Science, and her service in Madagascar was as an agricultural volunteer, helping to grow food in the small village where she served. She specialized in Soil Sciences and taught the Malagasy people she lived amongst how to improve their soil to optimize the quality and quantity of foods that could grow in their surroundings.

When she returned home, she suggested to Ras that they arrange a surprise for me, by having her show up at the trailhead where I thought Ras and I were just going for our regular afternoon run. I should have known that our reunion after two years apart would be at a trail.

Before Angela was born, I spent afternoons taking long walks. I was strong and healthy during my pregnancy, giving birth to a 9 lb. 21 oz. baby naturally. I remember putting her in a stroller and taking her on a packed gravel trail, about two weeks after she was born. When she became unhappy, I lifted her from the buggy and hugged her close to me. This little one was going to have positive experiences on the trail, and comforting her was the upmost priority to me, to ensure this. She relaxed into my chest as I pushed the stroller clumsily with one hand. This first four-mile hike together, along the Padilla Bay Estuary in the Anacortes area of Washington, was the beginning of a relationship with Angela that, to this day, still includes shared time on trails.

mother daughter and father on trail

My husband, Ras, and I, took Angela on her first extended backpacking trip when she was seven years old. We took on the 93-mile Wonderland Trail that circumambulates Mt. Rainer. We allowed 21 days for the hike, taking two complete rest days in camps so that she could just simply play and explore all day long. Before this, our young family had enjoyed riding bikes together and shorter day hikes, but we had not yet taken on overnight hikes seriously. I had always been the one to initiate family outings like this, and I spearheaded this Wonderland Trail thru-hike. I envisioned gentle trail meandering through lush forests that broke out into mountain views, reading a paperback book out loud to the family in the tent at night, and enjoying camp food after a long day of hiking. All of these experiences did happen, and so much more.

Angela hiked along humming gently and soothingly to herself. She carried her own pack with her clothing and trail food. She used a walking stick that she had made in summer camp. Ras helped her fit a rubber foot on the bottom and she hand-drilled a hole in the top so she could pull a piece of red webbing through it. She collected discarded bamboo trail marking wands from the alpine zone; she was given sunglasses by an older mountaineering couple after crossing the permanent snow fields caused sun damage to her sensitive, doe-green eyes; and she lost one of her two front teeth while on the trail, making it so the Tooth Fairy came in the night for a visit. The trail took us by a couple of the National Visitor's Centers and she chose a canteen in a suede satchel for a souvenir. She carried that on many hikes to come.

daughter with walking stick

We went on to hike the Wonderland Trail as a family six more times. The summer when Angela was nine, she and I hiked the trail together with family friends while Ras was away working on a tugboat. Angela worked on trail crews during the summers throughout high school and college, followed suit when Ras and I started trail and ultrarunning, and continues to find time to share the trails with us when she is around. When she took off for college, I knew I would miss her like crazy. I started training to run ultras so that I could fill that empty spot, to overflow it with the strong thread that had always been a part of "us." Ultrarunning expanded into long trail thru-hikes and going after Only Known Times. As a 51-year-old mom to this amazing young woman, I can honestly say that she has been my underlying inspiration for wanting to spend my time in the outdoors.

Life Changing Experience of Thru-Hiking: Brand Ambassador Arlette Laan

For many people, long distance hiking is a life changing experience. I am one of those people. I finished my first thru-hike in 2003 at the Canadian border after completing the Pacific Crest Trail. At the time, I didn't know about post-trail depression, and it hit me hard. I missed my trail friends, and all I wanted to do was keep hiking–so, I did. I completed the Continental Divide Trail in 2004 and the Appalachian Trail in 2005. Not wanting to spend more money, but still wanting to hike, I spent the next summer as a volunteer ranger in the High Uintas Wilderness in Utah with free housing and a small stipend. However, when the ranger season ended, I was lost again.

My first marriage fell apart after the Pacific Crest Trail. Without a work permit, I was headed home to the Netherlands, a country without mountains. Luckily, however, I was able to stay with friends and save up some money working at a department store. I started planning for another hike, and felt the excitement this brought back into my life. I was able to get another travel visa, and had AT friends starting their PCT hike. I was looking forward to the next life changing experience. I was looking forward to joining them and then hopping on the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) once I hit Tuolumne Meadows. And, that's where I met Greenleaf.

gossamer gear tent on a life changing experience

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 1998, Greenleaf, like me, decided he wanted more flexibility in his life to go hiking. With a degree in plant science and lots of tree climbing experience, he started up his own business, Greenleaf's Tree Service and Garden Design. When he needed a break from the business, he decided to hike the PCT. And as luck would have it, he had gotten ahead of his hiking friends when he hiked into Tahoe and wanted to kill some time. He had rented a car, and I just happened to need a ride to Glacier National Park to start my PNT hike. Long story short, he gave me a ride, we stayed in touch, quit our hikes, and now we're happily married.

Long distance hiking brought our lives together, and helped me find my way out of feeling so lost. My husband inspired me to start my own business, as well–to honor my creative pursuits. I'm now the owner of Arlette Laan Fiber Creations and make and sell sock dolls (aka: hiking mascots!). Today, Greenleaf and I are lucky in that both our businesses are seasonal and we can take January and February off to hike and travel. Together, we've since hiked the Arizona Trail, the Grand Enchantment Trail, sections of the Pacific Crest trail, through Patagonia, the Florida Trail, around the south island of New Zealand, and 500 miles in New Mexico along the CDT.

One of Arlette's sock dolls in mariposa backpack partaking in the life changing experience

This winter, we combined the Benton MacKaye Trail with the AT for a 550-mile loop and then added the Pinhoti Trail for a total of close to 900 miles. Whereas most of our other hikes have been desert hikes or in opposite seasons, the Benton MacKaye and AT loop was definitely a winter hike. There may have been less snow in the south compared to our trusty White Mountains in New Hampshire, but we still had some brutally cold days. It was fun for us to backpack in such cold temperatures and test our skills and equipment. We only saw one other hiker on the BMT, and even on the AT we didn't see many. But, that wasn't the only advantage of being out there so early.

The trees were still bare, so we had views for days. On several occasions, rime ice would form on trees and grass and turn our surroundings into a magical fairy land. Fording creeks in the ice cold was less fun, but we hit those in warmer temperatures and just kept on walking to keep the blood flowing. On the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains, we encountered snow drifts and freezing temperatures, but the winter boots we had mailed ourselves ahead of time kept our feet warm and cozy. Thank goodness we carried our Hillsound trail crampons with us. On several occasions, the trail turned into a veritable skating rink. But, the views were amazing and the solitude with one another was wonderful.

winter views on a snowy life changing experience on the trail

Once we started on the Pinhoti trail, we used up all our good weather luck and it started pouring on us. We were in Georgia planning to hike south, but streams were flooding and the churning water could not be easily crossed. With more heavy rain in the forecast, we decided to flip south and hike back up northbound to where we got off. This worked out fine until we got hit by an unseasonable heat wave. The Pinhoti trail is a nice, woodsy walk with some fine ridgeviews, but after the heat wave, we got more rain, and that definitely put a damper on things. I would highly recommend this trail, but maybe pick some nice spring or fall days for your hiking.

All in all, our winter trip was another great one together. We now feel more confident in cold weather backpacking and discovered ever more beautiful countryside. Thru-hiking was a life changing experience. We wouldn't have it any other way. We live in a small apartment, budget our money wisely, and count ourselves very lucky–lucky to have found each other, and lucky to be able hike as much as we do.

Gossamer Gear staff picks for the trail

Gossamer Gear staff picks for the trail

It's that time of year again, trail wanderers. The snow is melting, and as the wildflowers peep through the ground, so too we emerge and hit the trails!

As the Gossamer Gear team and community make moves on large and small objectives for the Spring and Summer seasons, we've put together a list of some of our favorite gear staff picks.

  1. Liteflex Chrome Hiking Umbrella
Flexlite Chrome Hiking Umbrella

"It's such a practical option, combining all the benefits of light rain gear and sunblock in one affordable piece of gear" (Jonathan S)

  1. The LT4s
Gossamer Gear LT4s

"Pick one up and you'll see why. Robust, brutally simple, wonderfully light, still nothing like them out there."(Grant S.)

  1. The Gorilla 40L
Gorilla 40L

"It's named after me and the size is in the sweet spot for most trips, simple, great weight transfer, it all makes sense" (Grant S.)

  1. The Kumo 36L
Kumo 36L

"I love how it forces you to take only what you need." (Jonathan S.… he's not much a talker. We keep all things minimal here at Gossamer Gear HQ)

  1. Soto Windmaster

"This thing has handled cooking in some of the windiest possible conditions I could've imagined. It really is the windmaster. Nothing better than to know you can rely on this stove when all you want is a quick meal at the end of a long day." (Ian A.)

  1. Green Goo

"For everything skin related. I absolutely love using this to rub my feet at night after a long day. Any irritated or chafed skin gets a thin layer of green goo overnight and it helps significantly. There is no doubt about bringing at least one tiny container of this on every trip." (Ian A.)

  1. Bamboo Spoon

" It's the only piece of gear I've taken on every single trip for the last 10 years. It's simple, elegant, light, sustainable, the long handle rules and it's so much nicer to eat with than titanium or plastic." (Grant S.)

** Highly Recommended :: The Mariposa 60L

Mariposa 60L

And of course, not to be forgotten, the Mariposa 60L. This pack has been racking up the accolades. Most recently from our friends at Backpacker magazine! See the full write up from this years Editors Choice Awards here!

Celebrating Trails with a Calendar Year Triple Crown

Celebrating Trails with a Calendar Year Triple Crown

It's a coveted pursuit in the world of backpacking–comprised of the 2,100+ mile Appalachian Trail, the 2,600+ mile Pacific Crest Trail, and the 3,000+ mile Continental Divide Trail. It crosses three spines of the United States through myriad biomes from Basin and Range to Mojave Desert and lush pine and deciduous forests. Wolves, grizzly bears, porcupines, rattlesnakes, and a host of other animal life make these trails an incredible experience to walk.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act, which set the precedent for the formation of all three of these paths (and 18,000 miles of National Trail altogether). To celebrate this incredible act of preservation which makes remote and wild places widely accessible I am attempting to hike the 7,000+ miles of the Triple Crown in one Calendar Year.

Anish on the trail

This will be a huge undertaking–completed only three times by four men: Flyin' Brian, Squeaky, Cam "Swami" Honan and Legend. I hope to be the first woman to successfully complete not only the Calendar Year Triple Crown, but also the Triple Crown for a third time in total. More importantly, I hope to fulfill a dream that I've had since I was 22 years old. I read about Flyin' Brian's achievement as a young woman with only one long distance hike under my belt. I remember vividly in my mom's sewing room–on the bench of the old upright piano–telling her with excitement how I was going to finish my Triple Crown and then do it again in one year. "A practice triple," I called it. How naive I was!

Anish on the trail looking at camera

Life takes you down so many paths and seldom do we get a chance to circle back to something our younger selves conceived and still have desire and ability for it. I count myself blessed beyond measure to even be here now with a living room full of boxes and stacks of spreadsheets and maps. There was a great sense of accomplishment for me in 2006 when I stood at the Mexican Border with a Burger King crown on my head. There was an equally rich sense of accomplishment when I stood at the Canadian Border in 2013, Springer Mountain in 2015 and once again at the Mexican Border in 2016. Every thru-hike has been memorable and I've achieved different goals and learned different things about myself. I've amassed skills and knowledge of these landscapes far more intimate than my 22-year-old self could have imagined while "practicing."

I will be allocating approximately 9 months to the task which will require me to hike continuously at an average of 25 miles per day or more including transition time from trail to trail. This will be more than double the amount of time I've ever spent backpacking in one year. I will be doing this in a thru-hiker style, without a crew or support team. This is the kind of challenge that leaves me excited, nervous, and a little scared–sure indicators that I am truly pushing my limits and preparing for a grand adventure!

Nearly Halfway on the Pacific Crest Trail

More than that, I am preparing to experience these trails–especially the AT and CDT–in seasons I have never explored them in. I anticipate that they will be ripe with challenge and beauty, the things that fuel any adventure. Most importantly, I will get to go on three very long walks.

And walking is my most favorite thing.

Follow along at

A Personal Connection to the Diversify Outdoors Coalition's Mission

A Personal Connection to the Diversify Outdoors Coalition's Mission

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs with immigrant parents - my dad is from India and my mom from Italy. In the summertime, they'd load my brothers and me into a station wagon and we'd go on the typical American vacation. Sometimes, these vacations included trips to public lands - Smoky Mountains National Park, Lake Superior, and the Ozarks. Yet, I never heard the word hiking until I was in my late teens. As my mom said when I recently asked her, "It just wasn't something we did." We'd walk, but never very far; we'd go on scenic drives, and my dad would do photography.

Growing up in India, my dad walked all the time. When I visited the village as a child, it was a necessity to walk because the bus stop was quite far and it was before cars were common. India is where I discovered the outdoors; my family are farmers of mustard and sugar cane. We'd walk along canals with monkeys playing nearby. At night, we slept on cots covered with mosquito nets. It's where I first saw brilliant stars, so much brighter than at my suburban home.

When my dad immigrated to the U. S. in 1968 at the age of 26, he was shocked to hear about camping. "Are these people crazy? They leave their nice house to go sleep in the woods?" He's still not a big fan of the idea, and prefers a hotel. My mother was raised strict Italian and had to stay home, clean the house, and was hardly allowed to go anywhere growing up.

Right before I moved to Arizona to attend college (many years ago), I went on my first day hike to Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin. When I got to Arizona, it was just something that people did and I heard about hiking all the time. For many reasons, hiking became my lifestyle and has taken me to places I never imagined possible. My dad has since come out from Chicago to be my support crew on several long-distance hikes.

I'll never forget the time he said to me, incredulous, "If I would have known about hiking, I would have done this when we went to the parks!"

Sirena, the author, reflects on Diversify Outdoors, which includes her father, pictured here

I feel a little envious of those who have grown up hiking, backpacking, and camping. When I was a kid, I always wanted to stay outside, whether it was at the park, the pool, or a picnic at the forest preserve. One of my greatest passions is inspiring new people to try backpacking and hiking who, like me, might not have grown up with it.

That's why I'm so thrilled about the Diversify Outdoors Coalition: "We are a coalition of social media influencers – bloggers, athletes, activists, and entrepreneurs – who share the goal of promoting diversity in outdoor spaces where people of color, LGBTQIA, and other diverse identities have historically been underrepresented."

Diversify Outdoors Coalition Photo

The coalition members include some of the internet's most active and vocal advocates for diversity: Danielle Williams of Melanin Basecamp, Ambreen Tariq from @brownpeoplecamping, Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers, Elyse Rylander of OUT There Adventures, Len Necefer of Natives Outdoors, Bethany Lebewitz of Brown Girls Climb, and many more.

These groups are organizing hikes, backpacking trips, skydiving groups, climbing festivals, producing films and creating online groups to advance a sense of community: "We are passionate about promoting equity and access to the outdoors for all, that includes being body positive and celebrating people of all skill levels and abilities."

Diversify Outdoors is 25 coalition members strong, each with their own sphere of influence, committed to getting people outside and spreading the word about why diversity and representation in media matter. There is also a page on the website for "allyship" with directions on how businesses, organizations, media outlets, and individuals can be more inclusive and promote diversity.

I could go on for pages about the great work that is being done, but I'd recommend exploring the Diversify Outdoors website to learn more–and join the movement by using #DiversifyOutdoors on social media!

Here's a video produced by Project Diversify Outdoors to highlight Women of Color in adventure sports:

February 28, 2018 — Brian Fryer
Beauty, Adventure, & the Right Gear on an Off-Trail Grand Canyon Route

Beauty, Adventure, & the Right Gear on an Off-Trail Grand Canyon Route

The Grand Canyon is my favorite place of all - the more I see, the deeper appreciation I have for this Wonder of the World. I am currently working on traversing the length of the Canyon in sections. The Colorado River through the Canyon is 277 miles long, but once I'm done I will have hiked over 600 miles.

Photo: Redwall Overlook - Tanner Trail

The extra miles are from weaving in and out of side canyons, hiking in and out for access, and changing from one layer of travel to another. To date, I've completed 71 river miles. One of my favorite parts of this project is that there are often several routes to choose from, depending on what my preferred line of travel is and what I want to see. So the first step is deciding which route to take.

For this week-long solo trip, I hiked from the Nankoweap Trail on the North Rim to the Tanner Trail on the South Rim. I had a couple of options after descending Nankoweap: the river route, which is what the Hayduke Trail uses, or the Horsethief/Butte Fault Route. Each had its challenges.

The river route sounds like it might be a stroll along the beaches, but in reality it is often a thrashfest through shoreline tamarisk and thorny mesquite and acacia, combined with travel on the rocky slopes above, contouring in and out of countless small ravines and drainages. The Horsethief/Butte Fault option was more strenuous and logistically challenging due to having to climb and descend numerous passes and a dry camp, but has unique geology on a historic route. Both routes require a boat shuttle across the river (or a packraft if you're so inclined).

Photo: Thumbing a ride across the Colorado River

The Butte Fault, which contributes to the depth of Grand Canyon, creates a weakness in the layers that allows travel behind a series of buttes and side canyons. This route was used first by Native peoples, then by rustlers moving their stolen horses from one rim to another, and also by miners and cowboys. I used to work as a river guide and had floated by the river route over 20 times, plus I'm a huge geology, archaeology, and history geek, so I chose the 41-mile Horsethief/Butte Fault Route.

Photo: Kwagunt Butte shows the uplift of the Butte Fault


All the research, permits, and a shuttle fell into place and I started my hike at the upper Saddle Mountain Trailhead on October 16th. The Nankoweap Trail is billed as the hardest named trail in the canyon, due to its 6,000-foot descent and exposure. There are spots on the trail where travel is between a cliff and a sheer drop and others where the trail is thin, steep, exposed, and covered in ball-bearing gravel. After my night at Nankoweap Creek, I was off-trail until I reached the Colorado River on day 4.

Photo: Saddle Mountain Trailhead

Photo: Edge of the Kaibab Plateau

Photo: First glimpse of the inner Canyon

Photo: Nankoweap Trail

Photo: Nankoweap exposure

Photo: Butte Fault

Photo: Thin trail in the Bright Angel Shale

The Horsethief/Butte Fault Route ascends and descends the fault line through a series of six side canyons: Kwagunt, Malgosa, Awatubi, Sixtymile, Carbon, and Lava/Chuar. The climbs and descents ranged from 500-1,600 feet each. It was a fun puzzle to pick a line of travel in and out of each one. I spent my next night at Kwagunt Creek, temperatures were in the 40's at night and the 80's during the day, any hotter and I would have had to take the river route instead.

Photo: Nankoweap Creek

Photo: Nankoweap camp sunrise

Photo: Hiking up to the Nankoweap-Kwagunt divide

Photo: Tilted Supergroup Strata

The next morning, I loaded up with nine liters of water for a dry camp. Nine liters added twenty pounds to my Mariposa, but as long as I took regular breaks with it off, it wasn't too uncomfortable. The star of the show this trip were my LT5 trekking poles, I couldn't imagine it without them. The terrain was often steep and loose and with the extra weight in my pack, the poles helped to keep me stable.

Photo: Nine liters of water -ouch!

Photo: Looking back at Nankoweap Butte

Photo: Off-trail Terrain

Navigation was made a bit easier by the fact that I could study the next line of travel while coming down the opposite side of the canyons. I only made one mistake, turning left too early coming out of Malgosa Canyon and ascending a steep and loose chute that put me above the saddle I was aiming for. A sketchy traverse got me to where I needed to be to continue. I passed a historic coffee pot on the route before spending night 3 in Awatubi Canyon.

Photo: Artifacts from Ancient Travelers

The next day, I had 4.5 liters remaining and had eaten most of my food, so my pack was quite a bit lighter. I had friends place a bucket cache at the Colorado River for me so that I didn't have to carry the full week's worth of food on top of all my gear and water for a dry camp. It was overcast and cooler which helped on the climbs. The Butte Fault creates a spectacular bending and uplift of the layers, it was one of the most interesting parts of the Canyon I'd been to so far. This is what I love about the place, you could explore every day for the rest of your life and never run out of amazing sights to see.

Photo: Hiking up to Awatubi-Sixtymile Saddle

I hiked in and out of Sixtymile Canyon, reaching the saddle with the East Fork of Carbon Canyon and my first views of the South Rim in days. The familiar buttes and temples were a welcome sight. There was a small piece of historic trail construction on the descent down Carbon.

Photo: Views to South Rim from Carbon Saddle

Photo: Historic Trail Construction

Several bypasses to avoid steep pouroffs in the bed of the drainage were required, typical Grand Canyon. Eventually the obstacles ended and it was just a pleasant walk in a streambed. I picked up a river runner trail between Carbon and Lava/Chuar Canyon and reached the Colorado River around 2:30 in the afternoon. My concerns about water were over!

Photo: Micro Chicken in the Carbon Canyon Narrows

Photo: Hiking to Lava Chuar

I located my bucket cache with my food for the next three days and some treats like coconut water and a can of mandarin oranges. I kept my eyes peeled for boats, I needed a ride across the river so I could continue my journey on the south side. It was a spectacular sunset and I spent the night doing light painting and enjoying the sounds of the rapid.

Photo: Lava/Chuar Sunset

Photo: Party Lights!

On Day 5, I waited for a boat that never came. It was surprisingly enjoyable - I had enough food and water to wait and made the most of the day. My own personal beach in the Canyon.

Photo: Truth.

After waiting 44 hours on the beach, I finally spotted boats at 10:30am on Day 6 and enthusiastically waved them over. I was so happy to see them and they were curious about where I'd come from. I rode through the rapid and got dropped off on the beach. The rafters took my bucket and my garbage out with them, they were the first people I'd seen since noon on my first day. I hiked the Beamer Trail west to the Tanner Trail and connected my line.

Photo: My ride across the Colorado River

Photo: I'm on a Boat

The hike out was awesome. Tanner Trail was fancy compared to the terrain I'd been on. I took most of the day, taking several really long breaks, and savoring every last second. I reached the rim feeling strong, fulfilled, and grateful that I have the ability to take on such an adventure. Each piece of the traverse brings its own challenges, and the rewards are spectacular.

Photo: Top of the Tanner Trail - success!

Off-Trail Grand CAnyon Gear List

Here's my gear list for this trip. Read more details about this trip and my other adventures at Sirena's Wanderings or on Instagram at @desertsirena.

Photo: Grand Canyon Horsethief/Butte Fault Gear

Item Weight (oz) Notes
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (medium with hipbelt) 32.7
RikSak 17 packable backpack 5
Shoulder Strap Pocket (Large) 1.5
Trash compactor bag liner 1.5
Shelter/Sleeping System
Gossamer Gear The One 22 Carried, not used - I slept under the stars
Titanium tent Stakes (6) 1.8
Gossamer Gear/Klymit 3/4 length inflatable pad 12 No longer available
Gossamer Gear Thinlite Foam Pad 2.5
Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 degree 29
Exped pillow UL (Large) 2.1
Large Polycryo groundsheet 3.6
Snow Peak Gigapower Stove 3.7
Gossamer Gear Bamboo Spoon 0.5
Snow Peak Titanium pot (not pictured) 5 MSR pot in photo
Ursack 6 Lots of mice and ravens in Grand Canyon
Hydration Dry camp required lots of carrying capacity
Platypus 4L gravity filter 11.5
3L Platypus hoser 3.8
Platypus shutoff valve 0.2
2L Platypus (2) 2.6
LIFEWTR Bottle 1
First Aid/Hygene/Repair
Personal Hygiene (Glasses, soap, toothbrush/paste, mirror/brush) 4.5
Toilet Kit (Deuce of Spades, TP, hand sanitizer, wipes, baggies) 4
First Aid Kit (list below) 12
Epi Pen
Vet wrap
ACE bandage
Sawyer Sunscreen
Trail Toes (anti-chafe)
Lip Balm
Rubber gloves
Band-Aid Blister Bandages
First aid cream
Band-Aids (multiple sizes)
Glacier Gel
Needle and thread
Pinyon cream
Medications (Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Pepto-Bismol, Immodium, Allegra, emergency Percoset)
Clothes Temperatures ranged from 40-80 degrees
Thrift store skirt 7
Columbia Fleece tights 6
Shorts to wear under skirt 2
Columbia Fleece pullover 1/4 zip 5
Marmot Precip rainjacket 9.6
Silk scarf 0.1
Fleece Gloves 0.5
Gloves for brush 2
Thrift store button-up shirt 3
Underwear (2) 2
Injinji liner socks (2) 2
Darn Tough long socks 2
Knit warm hat 1
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (hooded) 7
Xero Z-Trail camp shoes 9
Bandanna 0.5
Garmin InReach Explorer 5
Sony A6000 camera with 16-55mm lens 16.5
Anker rechargeable battery (PowerCore 13400) 10.7 Night photos take lots of battery
Iphone 5S with LifeProof Nuud case 4.5 Used Gaia for mapping and GPS
Sansa Clip Mp3 and earbuds 1.5
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp 3.2
LED camp lights 4 Campsite lighting and photography
Extra camera battery, lens cleaning kit, extra SD card, USB cords 4
Gossamer Gear Umbrella 8
Gossamer Gear LT5 3-piece trekking poles (2) 9.2
Tripod 12 For long-exposure night photography
Gossamer Gear Swiss Army knife 0.8
Notebook, pens and maps 4
Cuben Q-Storage Sacks (small and large) 0.5
Micro Chicken, my faithful adventure companion 0.1
Base Weight
Total (oz) 311.2 19.5 lbs.
Clothes Items/Worn
Columbia Just Right Pants 9 Pants for off-trail, skirt for on trail
Stonewear Sun hoodie 8
Dirty Girl Gaiters 0.5
Altra Olympus (size 10) 24
Scunci visor 1
Buff 1
Injinji liner socks 1
Point 6 socks 1.5
Sports Bra 4
Sunglasses from Target 0.5
Patellar Tendon straps (2) 2
Total Worn (oz) 52.5
Total worn and carried (oz) 363.7 22.7 lbs.
Peak Bagging in the Weminuche Wilderness with the Kumo 36 Superlight Backpack

Peak Bagging in the Weminuche Wilderness with the Kumo 36 Superlight Backpack

Passions come in waves for me; I get washed up in obsession, only to see that excitement subside when newer, shinier desires appear. This has been a cycle my whole life in the outdoors. I got fixated on multi-week backpacks, only for that to be overtaken by the thrill of climbing high peaks. Then I dreamed of thru-hiking the long trails. When I was nearly complete with the triple crown, I climbed the Grand Teton, and my focus again shifted to mountaineering, this time more technical peaks. This past year, I've begun to combine my two passions: pushing three- to six-day trips that mesh those long days in the backcountry that you get while thru-hiking with technical ascents, which add excitement, learning, and growth. I call these "Mini-Epics."

My most recent venture brought me to the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado. At just shy of 500,000 acres, it is the largest Wilderness Area in Colorado. This area caught my eyes ten years ago while hiking the Highland Mary Lakes Loop outside of Silverton. Across the valley, large quartzite slabs lift in a wave-like pattern, forming towering peaks with solid north-facing walls. Inspiring and intimidating, these peaks will draw you in!

For this adventure, I focused on two difficult-to-reach sub-regions of the Weminuche; the Grenadier Range and the Needles Range. We would be attempting several class 3 and 4 peaks, as well as two airy, low 5th class routes. Due to this, the planning for the trip required more than the standard backpacking kit. In addition to the traditional kit, I also had to have the following gear items:

  • 30m rope
  • Harness
  • Climbing Helmet
  • Locking Carabiners (2)
  • Belay device
  • 3 small CAM's

Two of my good friends, Andy and Juddson, joined me. I hiked most of the CDT with Andy in 2015. He's a sharp kid with a strong wall climbing background. He's fearless and bold, but knows when to take the proper precautions. He's also blazingly fast (current John Muir Trail unsupported Fastest Known Time record holder) and seems to never slow, making him the perfect candidate to haul the rope the entire trip! Juddson is a fellow Colorado peakbagger, also looking to climb the 100 highest summits in the state. He's young, in a great shape, and has a strong desire to get to the tippy-tops of tall piles of rocks. We're wired the same. He's also full of positive energy, which is a key to success in the backcountry.

After meeting around midnight at Molas Pass, we slept through heavy rain, waking up at 4am. In the dark of night, the Colorado Trail led us down to the Animas River. After crossing the river and the railroad tracks, the trail heads up Elk Creek and into the Weminuche. From small reflecting ponds, we left the trail and headed up a faint social trail to the heart of Vestal Basin. We quickly set up camp under a pocket of pines and packed for Vestal's iconic Wham Ridge. A near-vertical slab of intact quartz bedrock offers not only a beautiful setting, but rare solid rock for an aesthetic climb at 12,000 feet above sea level. We worked our way up, easing into the increasingly steep face via a series of small shelves before reaching the crux of the route. We eyed the crack in the wall (the 5.4 crux of the route), and Andy decided to take the lead without the rope, and set up protection if Juddson or I desired.

With no hesitation, Andy was quickly 30 feet above us, moving quickly on the exposed face. Juddson and I soon followed, going one at a time to avoid any small rockfall. A few hundred feet later, the three of us were on the summit of Vestal Peak. We had no time to celebrate, as storm clouds were building in the West. We descended the crumbly choss fest on the south side of the slope in haste. We had hoped to climb Vestal's lower neighbor to the west, Arrow Peak. However, the rain rolled in, and the rock was far too slick for a safe attempt. It was back to the tents for the evening, catching up on sleep.

The following morning, we broke camp and set out for an unnamed pass between Vestal and West Trinity Peak. I dropped most of my gear at the pass, hung our food from the rocks, and began the Trinity Traverse. The three Trinity Mountains shared the same quartzite bedrock uplift as Vestal and Arrow, all ranked summits above 13,745 feet. The traverse stays on the ridge line with continuous class 3 and 4 terrain. These three peaks are often overlooked due to Wham Ridge on Vestal, but this should not be the case!

After completing the long traverse, we had to ascend back to the saddle to retrieve our gear before dropping over a thousand feet, following faint game trails to the glacial blue Balsam Lake. Andy made his best attempt at fishing (it was still very poor, without a single bite) before backpacking up and over another tall pass between Peaks 5 and 6. We had hoped to climb Peak 6, as we were only 1,000 feet from the summit. However, an electrical storm had us moving down and setting up camp in a more sheltered location. For the second day in a row, weather foiled our grandiose plans. This is the norm in these parts, as the high plateau causes a vortex of electricity, rain, hail, and high winds.

On the third day, our plan was to get Jagged peak, and hike over Ruby Pass and camp in Ruby Basin. Jagged Peak is known in the Colorado mountaineering community as the best climb in the state due to its sharp granite rock, remoteness, and classic standard route running at low 5th class. Well before dawn, we left our camp at No Name Lake and made the cold bushwhack to Jagged Pass. From there, we eyed the route on the north face of the mountain.

Soon, the sun rose above Rio Grande Pyramid to the East, and we began picking our way through the 4th class terrain, only to be surprised by a mountain goat high across a little nook, not more than 15 yards from us. We must have startled it, as it shot across the very narrow ledge, defying gravity and making seemingly impossible moves look easy. Those guys are kings of this terrain. After some tricky route finding, we nearly circled the summit, starting on the north side and reaching the top from the south slopes due to Jagged Mountains' Tetris-like maze of a summit.

Once on top we were welcomed to the most expansive summit view I've had–mountains in all directions as far as you can see. I felt as though I was in the very heart of Colorado. I've been on summits all over the U.S. and Canada, yet this summit was distinctly different than any other. There were no huge valleys, nor any signs of civilization or human impact. Thirteen- and fourteen-thousand-foot peaks reigned as far as you could see in all directions. To get to the nearest dirt two-track would take over a day from here for most people. A paved road even longer. There's no place in the lower 48 that has more vast mountains than this summit! It was an inspiring occasion, and we were #blessed with blue skies and a light breeze.

The climb down included a pitch we decided to rappel from rather than downclimb. Andy blew right by it with the rope… kids these days. Juddson and I called down to him, and he came back up and we set up an anchor to rappel from. A short scree ski off the saddle and we were back to our camp at No Name Lake to break down and keep heading down No Name basin toward the Animas. Halfway to the Animas, we cut south on a finger of No Name basin, and bushwhacked over toward Ruby Pass. Once on the pass, we had a clear view down to the basin with Turret Peak and Pigeon Peak shooting sharply above the basin. The saddle between the two peaks was not far. However, it involved going down nearly 2,000 feet and then back up another 2,500. We eyed it, checked the time, and decided to make a push for them that day rather than saving the peaks for the following morning.

Andy ran down the pass. Seriously, he was running. Like a wild animal, arms flailing down the steep, loose slope. There was a grouping of mountain goats down below. Juddson and I were dying laughing as we watched Andy bull rush the heard, unknowingly. When he got within 20 or so yards, they scattered up the slopes and away. When we finally caught up to him, he had no idea there were any goats. Too focused on not breaking a leg, I guess!

We had to hustle if we were going to make the summits of Turret and Pigeon before daylight, and we were going to have to get lucky with weather–but things were looking good! After a long, steep climb to the saddle, we dropped our bags and headed towards Turret Peak, one of Colorado's 100 highest peaks. Grapple started falling just before we reached the summit, but the weather further west didn't look too intimidating. We dropped over a thousand feet back to the saddle with Pigeon and picked up our bags. We dropped another fifteen-hundred feet, skirting around from the east side of Pigeon to the west side. Before starting to ascend to Pigeon, we again dropped our packs, put a few snacks in the pockets, and made our way up a steep slope with no trail.

After over 6,500 feet of gain already that day, we were so excited to get Pigeon that we barely noticed the tired legs and made the summit in short order. It's rare to be on a remote summit at 6:30pm, but that's when we reached the top. The lighting was perfect, and we could see Jagged Peak far in the distance, as well as the Vestal Group. It seemed unreal that we had traveled so far in just a few days. We never moved faster than three and a half miles an hour, but if you just keep at it, you can really cover some ground. In addition to the seven summits we got, Juddson and I looked out and were naming even more summits we wished to return to (Animas, Monitor, Vallecito, Leviathan, Storm King, and many, many more). That's typically how it works out here. Go get all the mountains you've been planning, only to add more to your list. It just keeps growing and growing!

After a good time on the summit we hurried off, descending towards the Animas River as the sun beamed rays through the valley. We made it to camp in an unnamed hanging basin just after dark. We set up camp and laid outside the tent as the stars began to show, reminiscing about the best parts of the day.

The following morning, we pushed through a dense forest with no trail, towards the Animas. After several thousand feet, we reached a trail along the Animas that leads up to Ruby Basin from Needleton. We took it south along the Animas River to the Needleton stop on the Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Several hikers were camped up waiting for the train to take them from this remote location back to Durango. They likely did the Chicago Basin 14ers, another great little trip. It was a cruise back to the Elk Meadows stop, and then back up to Molas Pass. We had huge burgers at Maggie's Kitchen in Ouray before we parted ways; Andy heading back to Provo, and Juddson and I going east to Golden.In all, we were only out in the Weminuche for just over three days, yet we climbed seven of Colorado's highest and most remote summits with several exhilarating technical sections, and over 50 miles of backpacking, most with no trail at all.

Yet, even with the technical gear and backpacking gear, I only needed one pack while in the Weminuche–The Kumo. It fit everything comfortably while backpacking (I even carried the rope some of the time), and is small and durable enough to take on the technical peaks without getting in the way. The Kumo is perfect for "Mini-Epics."

Check out the video below to see what gear I carry in it!

Brand Ambassador Gear List: Erin "Wired" Saver

Brand Ambassador Gear List: Erin "Wired" Saver

By: Erin "Wired" Saver

The Pyrenees mountain range, which creates a natural border between Spain and France, runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. There are multiple routes that can be traveled along the length of the Pyrenees, but I wanted the one that would stay higher and not dive down to villages as often. The Haute Route Pyrenees (HRP) is about a 500-mile route that traverses the Pyrenees while trying to stay high and closer to the crest as much as possible. After having done some other high routes in the U.S., this one caught my eye. Since there can be a great range in weather at anytime in the Pyrenees, I wanted gear that could handle all that I might encounter.

Haute Route Pyrenees Map

My gear evolves slightly each year, with most of the main items rarely changing. I have used the Gossamer Gear Mariposa since 2013, and it's become like a security blanket. I feel unlucky without it. I know I could carry the smaller and lighter Gossamer Gear Gorilla, but I like the flexibility of having more space to pack in more if I want.

Mariposa backpack on the Haute Route Pyrenees

I tend to pack conservatively, so packing for a wide range of weather really wasn't much of a change from the gear I would bring on the long trails I've hiked in the U.S. The key was to be aware of the weather. The Pyrenees is mostly above treeline, so I knew I needed to be in low locations if fronts came through.

Eyeing the traverse above Lago de Literole

In recent years, I've migrated towards always carrying a slightly heavier rain jacket (now the Montbell Torrent Flier) and the Liteflex Hiking (Chrome) umbrella. I know I can get cold quickly in rain, so I also carry rain paints that some would consider overkill. They also work well for general warmth on cold nights.

Foggy trail on the way to the village of Gavarnie

An unexpected challenge in the Pyrenees was the strength of the wind at times. I likened it to hiking with a jet engine with the force and noise it could make. I often used my buff over my ears more for silence than warmth.

Refuge de Pombie on the Haute Route Pyrenees

My major gear change for this year was ditching the camera and using my smartphone instead. As a blogger, this was a big step. I never used the camera to its full ability, so found this to be an easy transition. It gave me one less thing to carry, was more time efficient, and even saved me enough weight to reason upgrading my external battery. This gave me even more flexibility in the length of time I could be out between charges.

Cell Phone adapter and tripod

With the chances of high winds and precipitation at night, I was very aware of where I pitched my tent. I did have a surprise thunderstorm one night when I camped up high, and a brief hail storm where I had to find shelter one day, but other than that, I did well with getting low or being in a village when storms came through. I usually don't use a ground cloth under my tent, but I brought one for the Pyrenees, and was glad I did. Camping, rather than using refuges, is less popular out there, so the camp spots were often on rough ground and had a lot of sheep droppings. Beautiful locations though!

The Pyrenees have to be one of the most scenic places to hike in the world. The view to mile ratio is the best I've had on any route or trail, but it isn't without hard work. The route is rarely level, and the elevation changes are quite steep with long stretches on rocky terrain. The path is generally well marked, so navigation is not very difficult. Due to how strenuous the route can be and the weather's unpredictability, there is a fair amount of solitude along the HRP. That adds to the magic of it all, and I highly recommend this route for anyone looking for a rewarding challenge in the mountains.

Alpine lakes on the Haute Route Pyrenees

You can find a detailed daily blog of my thru-hike of the Haute Route Pyrenees from July 2nd to August 5th on my website. You can also find my upcoming list of presentations to learn more about my recent travels here:

Wired's Current Gear List

Item Specific Item Cost Weight Weight (oz)
Backpack Gossamer Gear Mariposa $235 1 lbs 14.7 oz 30.7
Waterproof Liner Trash Compactor Bag 1 oz 1.00
Tent ZPacks Solplex w/8 Titanium V Stakes $535 1 lbs 0.2 oz 16.20
Tent Stakes Tite-Lite Titanium V Stakes (8) $24
Stake Bag Gossamer Gear Q Stake Bag $15 0.1 oz 0.06
Sleeping Bag ZPacks 10 Degree $390 1 lbs 3.8 oz 19.80
Sleeping Pad Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women's $160 11 oz 11.00
Sleeping Pad Stuff Sack Therm-a-Rest $15 0.5 oz 0.50
Alcohol Stove Toaks Titanium Siphon $40 .7 oz .7
Cooking setup/windscreen Caldera Cone Set $35 3.2 oz 3.2
Pot Evernew Titanium .9L $41 4.1 oz 4.10
Spoon Gossamer Gear Long-Handle Bamboo Spoon $10 0.6 oz 0.55
Food Bag ZPacks Roll Top Blast Food Bag $30 1.4 oz 1.40
Water Filter Sawyer Squeeze $40 3 oz 3.00
Mini Dropper for Bleach Gossamer Gear Mini Dropper w/bleach $4 0.4 oz 0.40
Water Bag Platypus SoftBottle 34oz $9 1.2 oz 1.20
Water Bag Platypus Platy Bottle 70oz $13 1.3 oz 1.30
Water Bottle Smart Water Plastic Disposable 1.7 oz 1.70
First Aid Band-aids, cloth tape, mini lighter $36 3 oz 3.00
Knife Gossamer Gear Pocket Knife $20 0.8 oz 0.80
Toiletries Chapstick, toothbrush/paste, floss, bodyglide, wet wipes, razor 4 oz 4.00
Stuff Sack Gossamer Gear-Sm/3L $10 0.3 oz 0.3
Brush ALAZCO Folding Brush (customized w/out mirror) $4 0.5 oz 0.50
Sunscreen Sawyer Sunscreen $3 1.2 oz 1.20
Menstrual Cup Diva Cup $20 0.7 oz 0.70
Potty Bag Toilet paper, ziplocs, hand sanitizer 2 oz 2.00
Trowel Deuce Backpacking Trowel $20 0.6 oz 0.6
Stuff Sack Gossamer Gear-Sm/3L $10 0.3 oz 0.3
Camera iPhone SE 64GB
Headlamp Petzel e+Lite (Ultralight) Headlamp $17 1 oz 1.00
MP3 Player SanDisk Sansa Clip $50 1 oz 1.00
Headphones Apple Earbuds 0.4 oz 0.40
Phone iPhone SE 64GB $500 4 oz 4.00
Phone Charger Cord Apple 5W USB Power Adapter 1.4 oz 1.40
Flash Drive SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive(64GB) $100 1.1 oz 1.10
USB Travel Charger Adapt. NooQee 27W 5.4A 4-port wall charger $11 3 oz 3.00
External Portable Battery Anker PowerCore 20100mAh $42 12.6 oz 12.6
USB Cords in Reach, MP3, & Extern Charg. USBs 2 oz 2.00
Personal Locator Device DeLorme inReach SE $300 6.7 oz 6.7
Watch w/alarm Head of a generic watch with alarm in tent
Selfie Stick Camera Mounter StickPic $9 0.8oz 0.80
Selfie Phone Adapter StickPic Cell Phone Adapter $8 .9oz .90
Sewing Kit Mini Travel Sewing Kit $7 0.1 oz 0.10
Field Repair Tape Tenacious Tape (clear) $5 0.2 oz 0.20
Umbrella Liteflex Hiking (Chrome) Umbrella $39 8 oz 8.00
Hanging Rope Dynaglide Bear Hanging Line 50' $16 1.3 oz 1.3
Compass Suunto A-10 Compass $20 1.1 oz 1.1
Wallet Gossamer Gear Cuben Q-Storage Sack $5 0.1 oz 0.05
Tripod Pedco UltraPod Mini Tripod $15 1.6oz 1.6
Sit Pad Back Pad on Pack Doubles as Sit Pad 0 oz
Mosquito Head Net Sea to Summit Insect Shield $11 1.3 oz 1.3
GPS Phone App GAIA GPS $10/yr
Extra Clothing (in pack)
Stuff Sack Gossamer Gear-Lg/10.5L $14 0.5 oz 0.5
Heavier Rain Jacket (heavier) Montbell Torrent Rain Jacket $225 8 oz 8.00
Rain Pants Sierra Designs Hurricane HP Pants $50 6.2 oz 6.2
Insulating Jacket Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer $350 7.2 oz 7.2
Waterproof Rain Gloves Disposable Nitrile Medical Gloves $0.40 0.4
2nd Pair of Socks Balega Enduro VTech Quarter $10 1.2 oz 1.20
Pajama Top Smartwool Microweight Crew Long Sleeve $65 5 oz 5.00
Pajama Bottom Smartwool Microweight Long Underwear Bottoms $75 5 oz 5.00
Gloves Seirus Hyperlite All-Weather Gloves $30 1.8 oz 1.80
Warm Hat Outdoor Research Flurry Beanie $20 2.2 oz 2.20
Buff Buff Original Buff $20 1.3 oz 1.30
Sleep Socks Lotion Infused soft socks $10 1.5 oz 1.50
2nd Pair of Underwear ExOfficio $12 1 oz 1.00
Ankle Brace Walgreens Ankle Support $9 1 oz 1.00
Camp Shoes Teva Mush II Flip Flops $12 5.3 oz 5.30
Sub Total $3,746 12lbs 12.8 oz 200.71
Worn Clothing (not in pack)
Sunglasses Road Runner Sports Sunglasses $30 0.6 oz 0.60
Shoes La Sportiva Bushido (men's) $120 11.3 oz 11.30
Hiking Poles Fizan Compact Trekking Poles $60 11 oz 11.00
Sports Bra Nike Pro Core $28 3.7 oz 3.70
Underwear ExOfficio $12 1 oz 1.00
Top Mizuno Short Sleeved Tech Shirt $39 3.7 oz 3.70
Top Adidas Long Sleeved Tech Shirt $40 4.6 oz 4.60
Pants White Sierra Teton Trail Convertible $35 10.6 oz 10.60
Socks Balega Enduro VTech Quarter $10 1.2 oz 1.20
Skins (under pants) Andiamo skins (unpadded) $15 1.9 oz 1.90
Hat Nike Feather Light Hat $20 1.9 oz 1.90
Gaiters Dirty Girl Gaiters $17 1 oz 1.00
Sub Total $426
Other Gear Used on Various Trips When Needed (not in total BPW below)
Rain Jacket (lighter) Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket $150 5.8 oz 5.8
Bear Canister BearVault BV500 or BV450 $80 2 lbs 9 oz 41.00
Odor Proof Food Bags Loksak OPSAK $13 1.7 oz 1.70
Bear Bag Ursack Major S29.3 AllWhite $90 8.7 oz 8.70
GPS Garmin eTrex 30 $300 5 oz 5.00
Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS25 $300 6.5oz 6.50
Wi-Fi SD Camera Card Toshiba 32G FlashAir III $40
Shoulder Strap Pocket Gossamer Gear Shoulder Strap Pocket $16 1.5oz 1.5
Ice Axe Black Diamond Raven $80 15.9oz
Microspikes Kahtoola MICROspikes $70 11oz 11.0
Bug Spray Sawyer Insect Repellent $3 1 oz 1.00
Sub Total $1,132
Combined Total $5,304

Erin "Wired" Saver is a Gossamer Gear Brand Ambassador and long distance thru-hiker. Learn more about her adventures on her website.

Brand Ambassador Gear List - Ras and Kathy "Team Ultra Pedestrian" Vaughan

Brand Ambassador Gear List - Ras and Kathy "Team Ultra Pedestrian" Vaughan

Gossamer Gear would like to welcome Team UltraPedestrian, Ras and Kathy Vaughan as our newest Brand Ambassadors! Read below about their spring attempt to hike the Grand Enchantment Trail from Phoenix to Albuquerque and back again.

A Double Dose of The Grand Enchantment Trail

By Ras Vaughan

When Kathy and I attempted to become the first people to yo-yo the Grand Enchantment Trail in the spring of 2017 we knew we would be facing a limited window of opportunity, with extreme weather likely on either end, and certainly possible in the middle as well. But rather than Newton's Laws governing the conditions we faced on this adventure, it seemed Murphy's Law was instead at work.

Team UltraPedestrian began our Grand Enchantment Trail Yo-yo attempt in unseasonably hot triple digit weather on the homophonically inspirational date of March 4th in the low deserts of Arizona east of Phoenix. There were not the moderate early spring temperatures we had hoped for this year, and we were treated to two weeks of 90 to 100 degree days.

Ras in the Santa Teresas - photo Kathy Vaughan/

Then, almost overnight, we found ourselves postholing through hip deep snow at 10,000 feet in the Pinaleño Mountains. The very next day we dropped down into Safford, Arizona, and were once again in 100 degree heat.

Umbrella shade break - photo by Ras Vaughan/

We were battered by thunderstorms along the Wild Bunch Trail heading east into across the New Mexico state line into Alma. Continuing west, the numerous fords of Mineral Creek were so cold we were forced to stop repeatedly to make coffee and warm up painfully cold toes. When we reached the junction to begin climbing up over Mogollon Baldy and a heavy, wet snow began falling and accumulating, we were forced to retreat and take the High Country Bypass around Mogollon Baldy as well as the High Water Bypass around the West Fork of the Gila River due to reports of dangerously fast and deep ford we received from a local mule packer. We thought this was turning out to be a very cold and wet Southwestern Hike, and we didn't know the half of it.

Snowy day on the GET - photo by Ras Vaughan/

Filtering foul water, using a Sawyer Squeeze filter set up in-line to gravity filter. Near Alma, New Mexico - photo by Kathy Vaughan/

On Day 56, on a section of the GET rerouted along state road NM337 (due to access issues), a heavy rain squall hit just as we entered the Chilili Land Grant. We scrambled down off the shoulder of the road into a culvert to wait it out, then watched the rain turn to snow, and the snow begin to accumulate. We reemerged from "Culvert Camp" more than 36 hours later, having sheltered there from a record setting blizzard that closed freeways in Albuquerque just north of us.

Culvert Camp -Photo by Ras Vaughan/

Leaving Culvert Camp after the storm to continue the Highway 377 shoulder walk. - Photo Kathy Vaughan/

When we reached Albuquerque a few days later, the snow from that storm was still knee deep as we postholed over the top of the Sandia Mountains to descend into ABQ and complete our first yo.

The Sandia Crest after bouncing at the Sanida Aerial Tram - Photo by Kathy Vaughan/

And the weather didn't cut us any slack on the second yo either. Within a few days of bouncing at Albuquerque rain and snow had us holed up in a Forest Service shitter for dinner. Rain, lightning and hail forced us into our tent early day after day, minimizing our progress. Then when warm, dry weather came, there was no shoulder season, and summer roared in with it's jaws snapping at our heels. During the journey Kathy's pack ranged between 15-20 lbs and mine from 40-60 lbs.

Sitting out the heat as the temperatures began to reach triple digits. Diamond Creek drainage, Gila Wilderness, New Mexico. Photo by Kathy Vaughan/

Our stubbornness and drive proved to be for naught, and on Day 97, when Kathy inadvertently left her sleeping pad in the direct sun and it melted, we knew we were done. A forest fire on the route ultimately ended the attempt. On Day 98 we quit the trail and ended our GET Yo-yo attempt 300 miles short of our goal.

Eagle Creek drainage, our final day of hiking. Near Morenci, Arizona - photo Kathy Vaughan/

Ras' setup for half the trip: Gossamer Gear Mariposa, LT4 trekking poles, Gossamer Gear bag liner - photo by Ras Vaughan/

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (switched packs halfway through)
Gossamer Gear Walker 75 (prototype)
Six Moons Designs Haven Net Tent & Tarp
Tarptent Saddle Two (switched to Tarptent halfway through)
Sleeping System
Feathered Friends Penguin Nano 20 down bag with Penguin Groundsheet for use as a two person quilt with bottom sheet
Gossamer Gear Nightlight Sleeping Pad
Jetboil Flash Cooking System
Cheap plastic container with watertight lid
Snowpeak titanium spork
Water System
Sawyer Squeeze Filter
Nathan 2 liter bladders x 4 = 2 for dirty 2 for clean
Nathan Flexshot 1 liter x 2
Nathan Fire & Ice 2 750 ml Hydration Bottle x 2
First Aid/Hygene/Repair
Cheap collapsable toothbrush
Sample size tube of toothpaste
Toenail clippers
Leather sewing needles x 3
Upholstery thread - 1 spool
12' duct tape
Tenacious Tape precut patches
Tenacious Tape roll
Chemical handwarmers - 1 pack for emergency
Toilet paper
Sunscreen - stick type
Altra running shorts - 1 pair
Cheap long sleeve button up shirt
Synthethic buff
Trail Butter "Be Trail Ready" trucker cap
Cheap fleece hat
Synthetic earflap hat
Smartwool armsleeves
Zensah wool calf sleeves
Black Diamond mountaineering gloves
Zensah lightweight gloves
Injinji midweight socks x 2 pairs
Injini lightweight wool socks, 1 pair
Smartwool midweight socks
Western Mountaineering puffy pants
Mont Bell synthetic puffy
Western Mountaineering ultralight puffy
Altra Lone Peak shoes/Altra Lone Peak NeoShell Insulated shoes
Altra Trail Gaiters
Homemade Puffy Down Slippers made from the sleeves off an old down coat
Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
Nokia 930 Windows Phone
Garmin eTrex 20 handheld GPS
24000 mAh battery pack/charger
Sony Walkman mp3 player
SPOT Gen 1 Satellite Transponder
GoPro Hero 3+ Silver edition
Black Diamond Polar Icon headlamp
Gossamer Gear Cuben Q-Storage Sacks x 3
Gossamer Gear Pack Liner

Kathy GET Gear Layout

20 liter Backpack
Sleeping System
Gossamer Gear Nightlight Sleeping Pad
Titanium cup & spork
Water System
Nathan Fire & Ice 2 750 ml Hydration Bottle x 2
First Aid/Hygene/Repair
Cheap collapsable toothbrush
Sample size tube of toothpaste
Bandana x 2
Hairbrush and hair ties
Chemical handwarmers
Toilet paper
Lip balm
Altra perfomance skirt
Altra T-shirt
Altra buff
Smartwool buff
Trail Butter "Be Trail Ready" trucker cap
Cheap fleece jacket
Synthetic earflap hat
Smartwool armsleeves
Eddie Bauer puffy vest
Cross-country skiing gloves
Knee high wool socks
Injinji midweight socks x 2 pairs
Smartwool thigh high socks
Montbell puffy pants
Mountain Hardwear puffy jacket
Altra Lone Peak 3.0 shoes/Altra Lone Peak NeoShell 3.0 Insulated shoes
Altra Trail Gaiters
Altra Zoned Heat pants
Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
BLU smartphone
Sony Walkman mp3 player
Black Diamond Polar Icon headlamp
Gossamer Gear Cuben Q-Storage Sacks x 2

Read more about the adventures of Ras and Kathy at

September 14, 2017 — Brian Fryer

Ryan "Dirtmonger" Sylva: Backpacker to Bikepacker

Gossamer Gear Brand Ambassador Ryan "Dirtmonger" Sylva has logged thousands of miles both on long-distance hiking trails and routes of his own design. Here's his story about how an injury forced a change of perspective from backpacker to bikepacker.

Dirtmonger at the finish of his 5200-mile "Poop Loop" bikepacking trip

The last thing I will do is wait, to wait for time to pass, for time spent in the outdoors to slip on by. After all, this is not a part-time passion fueled by what others think nor any popular trend. This is what I do. And the thought of me not doing it seems unfathomable; the thought just brings pain to me. So, how can I do things differently, to experience and enjoy life differently while feeling like I had accomplished something and spent what I considered enough time outside?

At some point this past winter I had to come to terms with the notion that I wouldn't be able to hike due to an injury. My left foot suffered from plantar fasciitis, not only in the heel but also where the smallest metatarsal bone meets the fascia. My whole foot felt handicapped with pain. I recall thinking that you can love something so much that it can hurt you, that I simply did not rest my body and mind enough from last year's 6000 miles and 6.5 months of hiking.

I stymied my emotion, refusing to heal and/or feel anything during this time, solely looking through one side of a murky prism that dimmed any hope of striving for something. But that unending, perpetual muck grew deeper. I took a hard look at myself after making an announcement of a planned hike for this summer, which was something I instantly regretted because doing something like that is not me although I felt it was the right thing to do at the time. However, because of that announcement I had to look at my injured foot realistically. I mean, despite some intestinal issues last hiking season, my legs felt great at the end, like I could have kept going. Then, I looked inward honestly and I had to ask myself: What's next and how am I going be happy in my life without hiking?

Grateful for my experience in the outdoors from long distance hiking- the harsh humility, the patience, the gift of flexibility and malleability- I knew deep down inside the storm would pass and I had to reassess my situation and not make a decision on what I wanted to do but rather what I needed to do. I feel I see things differently, that I have very different motivations than a typical person, that my problem of not being able to hike due to an injury and spending that down time working was not going to cut it.

In very many ways I live a self-centered life. Walking thousands of miles, not getting paid for it, drifting back into society only to work for a short while just to save up enough money only to go hiking again. I mean, does my long-distance hiking in faraway places do any good in the world? No, I don't think so. However, long distance hiking is my life entirely. With that in mind, I knew my problem would be difficult for another person to comprehend. And, the only way for me to get out of my emotional bogging was for me to take control of my own situation. I really tried to change my perspective, to look through a different edge of the prism, while maintaining a strident positivity, one that would bully my emotions and steer them towards a solution.

In my changing of perspective I prioritized my goals for being outside. My thoughts boiled down to the fact that hiking is simply a medium, a canvas to paint a picture, for my time outdoors. Yes, the action itself provides fulfillment within me, but the landscape, the skies, the rivers and mountains, the deserts, the trees, the dirt; that was all I wanted. If I cannot walk, I will do something else to be outside.

If I cannot walk, I still need a way to push myself, I still need a way to burn my skin, to lay in the dirt, to feel thirsty under a hot sun, hungry within a frigid environment, and endure miles upon miles. After the de-announcement of my long distance hiking endeavor I went down to the local mountain bike shop and after about an hour or so of conversing about my needs and my idea, I bought a bikepacking rig. During the two weeks to order and build the bike, I was filled with anticipation and excitement, and I began to put a plan of a bikepacking route together.

To preface, my experience in this bikepacking realm is scant, none whatsoever. However, I have so many hours and field days in the wilds. A tremendous advantage for me before embarking on an unknown bikepacking adventure was my endurance level both physically and mentally. I know what pain feels like, my comfort level is very low, I know what being cold, hot, hungry, thirsty, feels like; I had a gear system from backpacking that was supremely dialed in to my needs and the harsh environs I had hiked through, and, most importantly, I had an immense desire to be outside exploring and a deep familiarity with the open land of the vast western U.S.

My lack of knowledge in the bicycle maintenance realm would only be bolstered by my backpacking and route planning experience. These aspects left me room to build a route in places I otherwise hadn't seen by foot before. I started route planning with a notorious >bikepacking route already in place that I knew would be challenging while being safe for a first time >bikepacker. The Arizona Trail, with a designated mountain bike route, had a safety net in place with bike shops near the trail, towns not so far apart, and I had friends near the trail. What I have also neglected to say so far: my left foot did not hurt while riding the bike.

The goals I set up with >bikepacking:

  • Set up attainable goals and a plan to help me enjoy the >bikepacking endeavor and the summer, as well as making a huge effort to lower my expectations to focus on fun more than making an endurance adventure like the previous year.
  • Ride the AZT using my >thru-hiking ethics, assess and take care of my foot by working my way into riding shape, and stretching and icing the foot.
  • Hike across the Grand Canyon. This would be the first huge hurdle to test my foot, to see where the next step of the trip would take me.
  • Plan a next-step-route tree. For example, if my foot feels great after the AZT, I would go hiking. If I did not feel comfortable and/or confident with my foot after the AZT, then I would continue riding one state at a time. Every state, then, became a goal. My foot and the pain ultimately dictated the route north.
  • Not only would my time on the saddle help me get familiar with the bike, watch as much YouTube videos on bike maintenance, as well as research >bikepacking set-ups and tips before heading out.
  • Try not to dwell on the foot and embrace a different type of experience.

The biggest pitfall during an injury seemed to be the perpetual waiting. The healing process, the non-hiking season ending and the pressing urge of my established routines as the hiking season neared, the pain itself, among many other factors, all seemed to bog me down. One way I ">bided my time and emotional turmoil was to continue with route planning, to keep my brain occupied with what makes me curious and hopeful. Frankly, I love maps. Digging into maps and routes fascinates me, makes me happy and keeps me dreaming. So, to plan a ">bikepacking route didn't seem too far-fetched, especially having hiked and explored so many western areas. All I needed to do was ride.

When the bike became ready I took 2 training rides, before a week long Spring storm put my riding training to end. During that storm, I prepped my gear and got my ">bikepacking carrying system set up. In fact, I practiced every day to load and latch the bags on the bike and to the frame. To me, this habit is similar to testing out your backpacking systems, like setting up your tent before you go out, loading and unloading your backpack until you get things down pat. This whole process took my mind off my injury, and, suddenly, my mindset became focused on the ">bikepacking adventure. Essentially, I became committed. And I began to move past from my injury-plagued situation.

On my drive down from Colorado to the AZT terminus at the AZ/Mexico border I had some nerves. I truly did not know what to expect. But, again, my ">thru-hiking experiences kicked in. I had been in moments like that before. Plus, with the bike set-up being relatively simple, all I really had to do was pedal. Day by day, riding progressed, just like ">thru-hiking. Mountain biking the ">Sonoran Desert and the Sky Island Ranges brought a different perspective to my mind. I liked it because it WAS different than ">thru-hiking.

Start of the AZT Bike Route at the Mexico Border

I liked it because I saw the landscapes I loved while still being human-powered faster and powerfully, roughly at 15-20mph rather than 3mph. My mindset focused and narrowed between 30-50 feet in front of me, holding on to the bike feeling strong and in the moment. To be honest, my incessant thought of my injury quickly exhumed itself from the bog it had been in in my head. I became free from that stranglehold.

My eyes widened and heart opened and I saw the big ol' West from the saddle of a mountain bike. State after state, Arizona, then Utah, Nevada, Idaho and eventually Montana, I went, I pedaled, I had fun, and I experienced a new adventure only to get to the Canada border at ">Roosville, MT and decide to turn south and ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route back to where I started.

The 5200 mile Poop Loop is a creative adventure built on an injury, created whimsically north because of my enjoyment of being outside. That is what matters to me: just to be outside. I called it the Poop Loop because it didn't mean shit to anyone but me. Sure, I will be honest with you, I am very happy with myself for what I accomplished. Probably because the new ">bikepacking adventure helped me start over and provided me with a blank slate.

Why weigh myself down and pout about my situation because of a debilitating hiking injury that prevented me from hiking when I can experience a life differently if only for a moment? My advice, and I know everyone reading this has been injured at some point, is to turn the lens of one side of the prism, to see your ">situation from a different perspective, find the will power to be staunchly positive, and utilize your experiences and the lessons the out-of-doors has given you. We all have the tools to conquer an obstacle.

For the full details on the Poop Loop, visit Dirtmonger's blog.

Brand Ambassador Gear List - Anish on the Oregon Desert Trail

Brand Ambassador Gear List - Anish on the Oregon Desert Trail

For this month's Ambassador Gear List, we return to Heather "Anish" Anderson and her recent hike of the Oregon Desert Trail.

Trout Mountains, Oregon Desert Trail

About the Oregon Desert Trail:

The Oregon Desert Trail is a conceptual route created in 2011 by the Oregon Natural Desert Association. It connects some of the most spectacular scenery Oregon has to offer including the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, the Steens Mountains, the Pueblo Mountains, and the Owyhee Canyonlands. The Western Terminus is in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and the Eastern Terminus is in the Lake Owyhee State Park near Ontario, Oregon on the Idaho border.

Since the Oregon Desert Trail is a route, there is very little "trail on the ground," no ODT markings, and much of it follows old jeep roads or is cross-country. Users are encouraged to make their own route choices through public lands, following the GPS track and waypoints developed and provided by the Oregon Natural Desert Association. You can read more about the ODT as well as many Eastern Oregon natural features at

Sunset over Hart Lake

Trip Stats:

Distance Hiked: 715 miles Start: Tumulus Trailhead Finish: Owyhee Overlook, Lake Owyhee State Park Time: 22 days 22 hours Daily Average: 31 miles


This route wasn't as physically demanding as it was mentally demanding. Because there was little marked trail and a lot of cross country navigation was nearly constant.

Honeycomb Rock of Dago Canyon

Because there are extensive dry sections one must also be aware of water sources and availability. I carried up to 2 gallons of water.

Canyon in the Trout Mountains

Since I went in the spring following a wet winter snow was an issue at higher elevations and the water crossings in the Owyhee Canyonlands were treacherous.

Riverside camp along the Owyhee after a thunderstorm

Since it was spring the nights were still cold (at or below freezing), and daytime temperatures were relatively comfortable (70-80 most days).

Confluence of the Little West Owyhee and Owyhee Rivers

Item Notes Weight (oz) Worn (oz)
Backpacking Buddy Pinky 0.5
Gossamer Gear Silverback Size small with small hipbelt backpad replaced with nitelite pad 33
Gossamer Gear Shoulder Pockets (one of each size) 2.8
Compass 1.75
Beta 3
Gossamer Gear Pack Liner 2.5
Loksack Opsack one large and one medium 2
Swiss Army Classic knife 0.8
Toothpaste 1
Hot Hands (2) hand warmers 1.7
Sewing kit 0.1
.5 oz Neosporin 0.5
Immodium, Benadryl, Aleve 0.3
gauze bandages 0.1
mini floss 0.1
toothbrush 0.3
Cuben Q-Storage stuff sacks 0.5
Leuko Tape 0.3
Wet Wipes Individually wrapped. one per day 0.2
hand sani 0.3
Sawyer Sunscreen 0.5
picaridin bug spray by Sawyer 0.3
eyedrops/extra contact lenses 0.6
Bamboo spoon 0.7
Imbue Patches 1
Gossamer Gear Crotch Pot For hydration of food 0.5
Sleeping System
fleece pants 3.7
fleece shirt 4.7
Nightlite Torso Length sleeping pad 4.6
Point 6 compression socks 2.6
Thinlite Foam Pad sit pad in day/extra padding at night 2.4
Montbell 0 Degree Down Hugger 800 Sleeping bag 46
Luna Tabu Booties camp shoes 2.5
Gossamer Gear The One with carbon poles 25
Gossamer Gear Polycryo Groundsheet 1.6
Gossamer Gear LT5 Trekking poles Straps removed 4.6
Hats, Gloves, Buffs, Bandanas, Sleeves, etc
Backcountry Ninjas Hat 2
Sunglasses 0.8
Half Bandana 0.6
Seirus Warm Mitts 5
Fleece Gloves 1.4
Jackets and Rain Protection
Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket 7.5
Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket 6
Montbell U.L. Stretch Wind Parka 3.5
Montbell Stretch Full Zip Rain Pants 10.5
Hiking Clothes
Point 6 Socks 1.5
hiking dress 4.3
Ibex Balance Bra 1.7
Socks and Shoes
2pr Point 6 extra light mini crew hiking socks 3
Altra Trail Gaiters 1.6
Altra Lone Peak 25
Ultimate Direction 70 oz hydration bladder with Sawyer All in One In Line Filter 10
Ultimate Direction Body Bottle Plus 1.7
backflush syringe 1.1
Sawyer 64 oz pouches (2) 2.8
Suntactics 5 cell solar panel 8
Smart Phone with charger cord and wall plug 10
External rechargable phone charger 3
OR Sensor Dry Envelope 0.8
Black Diamond Spot headlamp 2.9
Extra Batteries Lithium AAA 3
Total Carried (oz) 233.85
Total Worn (oz) 36.9
Brand Ambassador Gear List - Arlette "Apple Pie" Laan

Brand Ambassador Gear List - Arlette "Apple Pie" Laan

Continuing our series on what's in our Brand Ambassador's packs, one of our new Ambassadors, Arlette "Apple Pie" Laan shares her gear list for her spring hike of the Hayduke Trail.

Arlette "Apple Pie" Laan

The Hayduke is one of the more challenging long distance trails I've hiked. There was hardly ever any actual trail to follow. I was mostly walking and scrambling in washes and canyons and when I was up higher it was often exposed terrain where a slip could be fatal.

Walking Tapeats ledges in the Grand Canyon

Sunrise in the Grand Canyon

There are no trail markers. Sometimes there would be cairns to follow but most of the times I had to pay close attention to the terrain and my maps. The track on my Gaia GPS made things a bit easier but in actuality I still had to pick which ledge to walk on and what boulder to scramble over.

Scrambling around a pouroff

There was also early snowmelt and high water because of rain which made some of the narrows challenging. Feet would become numb fording many cold streams and I found myself swimming in freezing water of the East Fork of the Virgin River to get around a boulder choked section.

On the flanks of Mt Ellen

Climbing the water pocket fold, stormy sky over Lake Powell

Luckily I had the company of two other hikers there as opposed to when I found myself in the Bull Valley Gorge trying to get up and over slippery boulders standing in cold knee deep water or sinking in mud. I surprised myself by managing the canyoneering moves required, hauling my pack out with a rope and making it out safely.

Dark Canyon

At Wire pass

Going a bit early in the season (start date March 1) the nights were freezing cold for most of the trip and there was the occasional snow storm. This meant that I had to carry more gear to keep me warm. The Mariposa backpack was perfect for carrying it all.

Zion NP

Finish at Lee Pass (Zion extension).

Gear weight carried (oz) weight worn (oz)
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 35
Sea to Summit pack liner 4
Six Moon Design Lunar solo 25.3
Stakes 3
Z-rest (minus two sections) 11.6
Gossamer Gear Polycryo Groundsheet 1.5
Saywer Squeeze filter plus syringe 4.3
Stuff sacks x 3 3.7
Montbell Down Hugger 34
Sundress 4
Merino wool long sleeve 5.3
Patagonia Houdini 3.6
Smart wool long johns 6.5
Owl buff 1
Icebreaker wool bra 2
Silk dress 2.8
Frogg Togg rain suit 10
Champion compression shorts 2.6
Patagonia down jacket 9.2
Lightweight wool gloves 1.9
OR over mitts 3.4
Injinji socks 2 pairs 1.6 1.6
Thick sleeping socks 4.5
Down booties 5.3
Monster hat 3.3
Gaiters 0.9
Bandanna 1
Hydro socks 2.9
Visor 1.6
Suntactics 5 solar panel 7.3
2 pairs of sunglasses 2.1
Umbrella 5.4
Petzl head lamp 3
Titanium spork 0.3
Titanium cup 600ml 2.8
P cord 3.5
Shammy 0.6
Inreach explorer 7
Lumix camera 17.6
Universal back up battery 4.3
misc chargers/cords 4.5
Knife 0.5
Diva cup 0.6
First Aid kit 5
mp3 player 2
Teva Tirra Sandals 18
Altra King MT 19.6
Back pack buddies sock dolls 1.1
Iphone 6 6.7
Maps guidebook pages etc
Leki Trekking Poles 18
Totals 277.6 31.7
June 23, 2017 — Brian Fryer