National scenic status sought for Pacific Northwest Trail

February 16th, 2009

I for one am glad this is happening. It means the section of the pnt nearby on blanchard wont be logged at all, which is what the hiking community around here has wanted for years.

This view of the Oyster dome from the Bat caves is amazing.  To bad there wasn’t more sun that day.

“The designation is sought in a sweeping public lands bill pending before the U.S. House of Representatives, and is intended to bring better maintenance, funding, signage and visibility to the trail, which stretches from Glacier National Park in Montana to Cape Alava, winding through three national parks — Olympic, North Cascades and Glacier — and seven national forests.

Along the way, hikers take in the Rocky and Selkirk mountains, the Pasayten Wilderness, the North Cascades and Olympic Mountains, ending at a wild beach on the Pacific Coast.

Designation would bring national recognition to the trail, and put it among its better known peers including the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails.”

This view from the top of the oyster dome is a part of the pnt and one of the great views one can get on the trail.   The samish overlook is about 2 miles away near the wedge cut you can see in the trees on the next hill over.

Coleman Exponent Xpert Stove

January 31st, 2009

“”This 4-season stove operates a butane-propane cartridge that has a patented fuel extraction system that delivers steady performance at all temperatures and altitudes. Lightweight and durable aluminum and magnesium alloy components. The aluminum cartridges can be punctured when empty with the included “Green Key” and then crushed and recycled. The stoves are adjustable from simmer to high.”"

That’s what another website has to say about it anyway. You can’t get this stove from the Coleman store anymore since its an older model. I got it on a clearance sale for 20$ a few years ago and have used it many times since then.  The only beef I have with it is you have to use the powermax fuel if you don’t buy their adapter.  And powermax fuel isn’t the easiest thing to come by, it took me a year to find a store around here that had it.  So I had this stove just sitting there for the longest time that I couldn’t use.  I eventually broke down and bought the adapter for it so I could use the standard fuel canisters, shortly after that I was looking around in my local sporting goods store and noticed they had the powermax fuel that I had searched for so diligently.  Go figure, at least now I have the option to use either fuel type.
Other than the fuel issue its a great little stove. pretty lightweight, and durable. Though not the smallest stove, it gets the job done quickly and efficiently, boiling water in just over 3 minutes.  I cant remember the exact times the canisters are rated for. but you can run it full blast for an hour and not run out of fuel.  Which comes in handy for those long simmering back country stews that are so good.

Overall if your looking for a cheaper stove that gets the job done and if your store carrys the powermax fuel canisters than its a good buy.  But if your looking for something more lightweight and more multi-fuel then I would look elsewhere.

Delorme Earthmate PN-20 GPS

January 28th, 2009

I purchased the Earthmate PN-20 recently and it is the best gps unit I have ever used.  Mind you I haven’t used that many, but still.  The main things I like about the PN-20 is its high accuracy and the ability to upload satellite, aerial, topo, and whatever maps I might come across, as long as they are properly formatted, onto it for use in the field.  There are 2 different handheld gps units Delorme offers, the PN-20 and the PN-40, I opted for the cheaper of the two and found a great deal on the PN-20 at for around $160, whereas if I had bought it directly from Delorme it would have cost me $200.  Still it was kinda pricey but I sold my old gps so I needed a new one preferably with better features than the old and the PN-20 fits the bill.

So far I haven’t Logged that many miles with it, barely 8 miles in fact, but the ease of use has surprised me.  It comes with topo 7 software you load on your computer and it allows you to download maps from the Delorme server for a price, fortunately it comes with $140 in free map downloads so hopefully I wont have to pay for downloads for quite some time.  I loaded some Satellite and Aerial Maps of Blanchard Mountain near my house and went out there the next day and hiked around the mountain to test the accuracy of the gps and the maps it contains.  It tracked my miles as 2.41 but in the parking lot before we left I noticed it had .38 miles already on it.  I couldn’t figure out how to clear it soon enough as the people I was with were eager to hit the trail, so I just subtracted that from the final mileage.  Also this thing drains batteries like no other, It takes 2 AA batteries, I had put some Energizer Max batteries in it that it came with and they died up at the bat caves.  I have yet to try my NiMH 2500 mAh Energizer rechargeable’s in it but hopefully they last a lot longer than the 3 hours I estimate it was on from the time I got it to when it died.  I am amazed at the amount of imagery and different map types it can use.  I can even upload pictures to it and it will auto-sync the pics up to my tracks and provide me with a good way to figure out exactly where I took that picture of a squirrel or bear.

These are the different map types it can use:

  • » USGS 1:24,000 quad maps
  • » NOAA nautical charts
  • » High-resolution color aerial imagery – U.S. States
  • » High-resolution color aerial imagery – Select U.S. Cities
  • » Black-and-white aerial imagery
  • » 10-meter color satellite imagery

From what I was reading you can upload your own scanned maps and have them work but I have yet to get that to work.

This thing also keeps track alot of other data that my old gps unit didn’t, such as how long I have been moving or stopped, usefull to see where I have to take breaks later on.  it keeps track of your current speed, speed max, and speed average along with the usual coords and trip odometer.  Elevation of course is a standard feature of most gps units but as this one is loaded with topo maps its a hell of alot more acurate than most road gps’.  Another fun feature is the Sun/Moon rise and set, also the tide chart will come in handy when I hike around at the beach.  It has alot more data info fields but I cant list them all as this paragraph would be way to large.

I cant rave enough about this, the only drawback I can see is the short battery life which my rechargeables will hopefully remedy.

The Oyster Dome and Bellingham Bat Caves

January 20th, 2009

The bat caves and oyster dome have to be one of my favorite hiking destinations.  I usually try and get up there at least once a month in the summer, sometimes as often as 2 times a week.  It helps a lot that its only half an hour from my house.  The trail ranges from flat to scrambles up very steep slopes.


There are multiple ways up the mountain in a car but I like driving up most of the way to give my legs a break, the trail is hard enough without adding another thousand feet of elevation gain.  To get to the Samish overlook drive north on I-5 till you get to the Alger Exit #240, take a left and head west on Lake Samish Road. Take the first Left onto Barrel Springs Road and follow it for 3/4 of a mile till you see a large gravel road on the Right and a sign that says “blanchard hill trail system”.   Follow this gravel road up the mountain. there are 3 parking lots. The first one fairly close to the paved road, this is where you can find maps  and info about the trail system on a bulletin board in the parking lot. Even if you are planning on starting from one of the other parking lots pick up a map here for reference. the other lot is 1/4 of the way up on the right fork of the road. If you follow the left fork for about 3 miles it leads you to the Samish Overlook.  From here the trailhead is at the north-west corner of the parking lot.  Just keep to the right fork at the first 2 trail junctions and a sharp left onto the trail that leads to the caves.  Be sure to look around on the steep sections as this last trail junction is in the middle of one and easy to miss if your looking at the ground alot.   Or if your in for the famous view from the oyster dome then youl want to continue on up that last grueling hill gaining nearly 400 feet in elevation where at the top you take a left and go on up the hill a bit more to the oyster dome.

This is easily one of the most grueling hikes I have ever been on, and yet it also has one of the most rewarding views in the entire north cascade range.  I usually chicken out and take the trail from the Samish Overlook parking lot where the hang gliders and para guys take off from.  there are 3 noticeably steep sections on the trail which nearly require you to scramble up using your hands as well as just foot power.  Also if its been raining recently there’s usually a creek running down part of the trail as well as the 3 or 4 regular creek crossings you have to negotiate. although none of them large enough to worry about, the biggest crossing is probably 4 feet across in 4-6 inches of water.  Most of these crossings are completely dried up by late summer but in the early spring they can be very fast moving (though still shallow).


the Caves are on a short offshoot trail with a sign saying “Bat Caves” and someone just happened to put a batman sticker on this sign.  A ways past this sign you get to the boulder field known as the bat caves.  sorry about the photo, its the only one I have showing a layout of the boulders, even though its only showing the lower 1/4 of the area i still think its a fair representation of the area.  there are 3 “main” caves known as the upper, lower, and middle caves.  The biggest cave has to be the middle cave although it could be alot bigger since it ends at the bottom in a murky subterranean lake.  The other two are fairly easy to find, when you hike into the area the trail widens and nearly disappears then narrows again into 2 separate trails going to the different caves.  The best “lookout” spot to see most of the area would be to the right but you have to scramble over a few of the boulders to get to it.

My most recent foray up there was a great training hike as I am trying to carry more weight in a pack on all my hikes to make it easier when I have to lug a larger pack around.  My bag wasn’t to heavy in the 10lb range.  But it was heavy enough to make my legs sore the day after.  There was a bit of snow on the sides of the road and a spot on the uphill section that was slick enough that I wasn’t sure if my car was going to make it.   But we did and the hike was great as usual, bit more snow at the bat caves but mostly in the crevasses in between boulders.  There were 2 other people with on my hike, Clinton is a good friend that usually comes with me on these trips, and he brought along a girl who’s name escapes me right now.  She had a much harder time than we did mainly because she was about a foot shorter than us tall guys (both Clinton and I are about 6’2″) plus she just wasn’t used to hiking up burly trails.

There were quite a few other people on the mountain besides us.  10 cars in the upper lot and we passed at least 20 people going up and down on various trails.  But it wasn’t nearly as busy as the event they have up there, once a year or so when they fill up the parking lot with cars and have pavilions set up everywhere.

The trail is pretty well maintained although after big storms there are blowdowns on parts of the trail that stay there for 6 months or so till they get cut out by the pnt trail maintence guys.  Its all DNR land so there are signs everywhere and more recently logging survey markers. THEY WANT TO LOG THIS MOUNTAIN!  If you ever want to hike this trail in the best condition you’d best do it soon as they want to start logging by 2010, there will be  a core 2000 acres on the top of the mountain by the lakes and oyster dome they will preserve (supposidly) but they want to log the rest.  When this starts to happen you will deffinetly see posts up here about it and my efforts to deter loggers.  I’m sure at least a few people from Bellingham will go chain themselvs to trees up there, we call Bellingham the hippie town around here for good reason.

Heres a good map of the mountain for refrence and whatnot

I got this image from the PNT website if you want to see their other maps of the pnt go there.

The Many Uses of ParaCord

January 3rd, 2009
detail of inner cordage

detail of inner cordage

Ahh Paracord. I always carry at least 50ft of this whenever I go hiking, you never know when it might come in handy.

10 uses for ParaCord

1. bundle it up and replace that cheap “camping twine” you always carry when you go backpacking. it might weigh a bit more but it also holds up over 500 pounds on a single cord.

2. wrap your hiking stick with it to make it more durable and so you’ll always have some cord when you need it.

3. wrap your knife handle or machete handle with it to soften the grip and avoid blisters.

4. make a bracelet out of it so you’ll always have strong cord with you. a Turks head knot works great for this if you weave in extra knots.

5. use it to hang up your tarp or shelter when camping or in an emergency.

6. use it to hang your bear bag or backpack.

7. use it to do an impromptu rappel into a cave (be extremely careful when doing this – don’t bounce on the end of the cord or anything) or down a steep ledge. Alternately you could use it to help yourself or companions up a steep slope.

8. use the inner cord to make snares and catch yourself dinner.

9. use the inner cord as a fishing line to catch dinner.

10. use a length of cord to hold your camping pad onto your backpack.

The uses of paracord are endless. Don’t be fooled by cheap parachute cord knockoffs. Real parachute cordage has a tensile strength of 550 pounds. As a Kerrnmantle rope type, its interior core (the kern) is protected with a woven exterior sheath or mantle that optimizes strength, durability, and flexibility.

The number of strands in 550 paracord is usually stated as 7, there are actually 14. The strands are twisted in groups of two to form the 7 strands commonly known. A braided nylon outer sheath contains and protects the cordage inside.

550 paracord is rated to hold 550 pounds. Individually, the components of this parachute cord consist of

* The paracord sheath is rated at about 300-pounds
* 14 inner strings, each of which have a rating of about 17.5 pounds
* 7 strands made up on two strings each for a rating of 35 pounds.

So as you can see there are a multitude of uses for paracord and the ones I listed are a very few of the many many things I have personally used it for.  I bought mine from the only drawback I see to ordering from them is you can only buy 1,000 foot spools of it.  They don’t have any smaller lengths, unfortunately.  You can find alot of other places to buy it from, but it might not be the “real” thing.  Alot of sporting goods stores that sell paracord don’t sell the mill spec cord rated at 550 pounds.  When your buying it make sure it has 7 twisted pairs inside the outer sheath as that’s the only sure way to make sure your buying the good stuff.

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