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Southbound: episode 5

October 10th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

   It has been a while since you last heard from us in Andover , Maine . I’ll start from the beginning I guess. The first few days out were also our last in Maine . The first day, the weather was incredible and we tackled two 4,000 ft + peaks in 15 miles. We were so excited to have done so much over that terrain, but the following day put us in our place. The Mahoosuc Notch, the hardest mile on the whole trail, took us 3 hours to do a mile. It was nothing but climbing over, in between and under boulders, of course it was wet too. We had a few close calls, but only a bumped head and some scratches. That day we only went 5 miles before we called it a day.the Mahoosuc Notch

The following day was soiled with bad weather, yet crossing into New Hampshire and finishing our first state kept us in good spirits until Ice Man fell into the mud. His right leg missed a board and sunk into the mud up to his thigh. Luckily, his left leg was still on the board, otherwise, I don’t know how he would have gotten out. We called it an early day and stayed dry at the next shelter. We stopped in Gorham , NH for a dollar menu feast at Mcdonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning.White Mountains

We had 2 and a half days until Pinkham Notch, which is the gateway to the Presidential Mountains. They were spectacular mountains to say the least. They are called the “wildcats” and the views the gave of Mt. Washington were incredible. Our second day in the wildcats, there was ice covering the whole north side of the mountains(the pics turned out great). We have had nothing but the best weather since we left Pinkham Notch. Locals say that the weather we had going over the Presidential Mountains and Mt. Washington , was by far the best all year. This was the place we expected to be having the worst weather. We had warm days, clear skies, 120 mile + visibility, and winds of less than 10 mph for days. Not even the Columbus Day weekend crowds and tourists on the mountain could make us wish for better. We were down right spoiled. We hiked 2 and a half days above treeline in the White Mountains with unimaginable weather. Mt. Washington put us over 6,000 feet at exactly one month since we had made the summit of Katahdin, a nice coincidence.Zeacliffs

A couple nights ago, we camped right on some cliffs, watched the sunset after dinner, and relaxed under the stars with hot apple cider. We stayed up swapping trail stories with a going to be “3 time” thru-hiker named Doc Knarley. Oh, he had some crazy stories. Last night, we spent a few hours relaxing on top of Mt. Garfield . We are going to miss these mountains. We rolled into North Woodstock today to refuel, and send you guys an update. We hope you enjoy these pictures. We love you all and wish you could be here. We have to catch a ride back to the trail soon. We figured we would “troll camp” tonight under the I-93 bridge. We hope to update you again in Hanover in less than a week.Troll Camping

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

This is a big section to stop and reflect on and I feel like there are many untold stories. For starters; Mt. Success.  I am over 6 feet tall and almost all legs, when we reached the top of cloudy Mt. Success the last thing I thought I’d encounter was a endless pit of doom trying to swallow me in the mist.  The mountain even at the very top had wood planks to walk on to avoid the swampy mess but even those boards were covered by mud. I found myself poking the ground in front to find the boards before taking each step, to no avail.  I fell (in a very flexible moment) over waist deep in mud while keeping my left foot still on the board ahead.  Joe was up in front and after a try or two I had to shout ahead for help getting out.  The mud and cold water was sinking into my boot making it feel like concrete holding me down.

After getting pried from the depths and retiring to the following shelter, I was quickly warmed up from some trail magic: tequila! This whole section had chance encounters of booze carrying trail angels. Passing a flask of vodka back and forth with “Doc” on top of Zeacliffs near the hut made for one heck of a night! That had to have been the single most entertaining hiker we stayed with on the trail. As far as Washington, I’m not sure I could ever go back. If you ever are lucky enough to have that “perfect moment” than you don’t dare chance ruining it by going back.

Southbound: episode 4

September 29th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

256 miles of the AT in 22 days leaves us 25 miles from the Maine – New Hampshire state line!!!! We are really excited to have made it to Andover , ME. It means we have cranked out a lot of hard miles and we are about to finish the 2nd longest state only to Virginia and 2nd hardest only to New Hampshire . After leaving Stratton on the 23rd, we had to hike through 2 days of cold rain. It was more like walking amongst the clouds and the wet rocks and roots were like walking on ice. We had to climb over Crocker and Sugarloaf Mountain ranges except we couldn’t see anything other than a screen of fog.

There was no rain on the 3rd day as hoped and forecasted, which really helped us get up and over the incredible Saddleback Range . The views from the 4000+ ft mountains were incredible. I think we were able to see Mt. Washington for the first time in the distance. We had plans to put in a lot of miles, but when we came across Piazza Rock lean-to, the best well kept lean-to on the AT, we just had to stop. It was an early day, but we built a nice fire, dried out the tent and some clothes, and just enjoyed the evening. We had a huge owl join us by the campfire just after dark. It was so sweet, I could see the fire in his eyes.Fall on the Appalachian Trail

The next morning, we hiked a couple of miles and hitched a ride into Rangely, so that Tundra Wookie could get some knee braces and grab some grub. It took a couple hours away from our hike, but it was worth it. We still continued to do another 14 miles after our hitch back to the trail head. It feels good to have a good hiking day like that, especially after a long break in the day. Our bodies are becoming more adjusted to the work load that we force on them day-to-day.
The following day was bright, as the sun smiled upon us our whole way over the Bemis Mountain Range. The range was not the highest, but the sun on the fall colors bellow was awesome! We were in-between the several peaks when the two of us stopped dead in our tracks, and in silence, listened. It was obvious, there was either a tank running through the trees, or a moose was approaching? We stared, and watched as a Bull Moose, with a rack that four people could sit on, crumpled the surrounding brush as it slowly walked by. It was crazy to see, it was like a mythical creature until you see it so close in the wild. The day was capped off at a tent site by an old state road and a small brook. There we met a couple that was doing several day hikes on their vacation, and had hiked the AT before. We would enjoy in some “Trail Magic” as the couple volunteered two Red Hook Late Harvest Ales that night, and oatmeal cookies the following morning. We built our fire, enjoyed hot cider and our dehydrated lasagna dishes, yum yums.

We were visited the next morning by a moose as well, unable to get a look, we could only hear it as it ran though the brook splashing like a stampede of horses. The next morning we moved up, over, and around mountains like they were nothing at all. Before we knew it we had done nearly 11 miles to the road to Andover , the afternoon had barely begun! We are staying at the Roadhouse hostel, it is a little weird for us. The place is great, clean, warm, well equipped, and friendly, that is when people are here.White Blaze

We spend so much time it the wilderness, and then come into the smallest of towns, something we are already not very a custom to. We arrived and a general note on the door says to make yourself at home, so we do. One attendant leaves about an hour into our stay and the other never shows up? So its the two of us in a huge three story B&B style/Hostel, internet, kitchen, bath, living room, dining room, laundry, a dozen private rooms, and bunkhouse all to ourselves, all night. We came and went, to the general store and post office and back. It feels like were not supposed to be here, like we broke in or something. We are enjoying our time and gluttonous urges as we restock, and carefully plan out our hike for the days to come. Our next “Zero Day” is planned for Hanover NH , right before we reach Vermont , about 180 miles from here, our bodies will be fully exhausted by then. We miss everyone very much, and thank you for the strength you give us each day. Everyday becomes more amazing!

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Joe and I took off our shirts atop Avery Mountain for a photo op in the chilly breeze.  I feel like this picture summarized our feelings well; we were having fun and enjoying the hike. The Saddleback and Bemis Range have to be two of the most beautiful mountain ranges next to the White Mountains. It is still unreal to think back on some of these days, my heart filled with gratitude to all those that helped us and opened their arms for us. There are a many things and many people that don’t seem to be real anymore. These places and people are far from city life. We had done another gear purge at Andover as well, this took our once 70 pound packs down to the more reasonable 50-55 that we would hike with the rest of the trip.Avery Peak Flex

Gear Review: Osprey Atmos 65

Long Term Test
Gear Review: Osprey Atmos 65
Written by: Bryan Wolf

Its Early Spring 2012, we had just hiked up the Hurricane Trail to the Hurricane Campground. It is late and the rain is coming down fast so we found ourselves with little left to do but set up and consequently stay in our tents. I think we fell asleep still laughing; we were just happy to be out. The next morning we woke at what ended up being the junction of the Hurricane Trail and the AT. What a beautiful way to wake up, the start of a 40 mile trip into Trail Days at Damascus Virginia.

This was my first trip wearing the then newly released Atmos 65. We’ll get to the pack and its features shortly, but before you can recognize what is good and really appreciate it, I feel it is important to look at the category as a whole. Looking back on the trip I quickly remember some perfectly convenient examples of backpacks gone awry and hopefully this mess of stories will somehow defend my love for Osprey packs, but also the importance of a professional pack fitting… by people that wear packs.

The first story happened that same morning. Early risers were jetting down the trail, obvious thru hikers from both the grime and conditioning. Stopping for a break and to simply say hi to the group was a lean and shaggy NOBO (North Bound hiker). Taking off his pack for a while he explained his dilemma. The pack he was wearing had fallen off his waist and consequently dropped to his shoulders. If any of you have dealt with this before you would know that the turn of events next leads you to weakened and soon useless Gumby like arms. What could have gone wrong?

Travel back further, the year is 2006 in deep Appalachian Maine. After 200 miles of grueling trail my buddy Joe and I grab a hitch into Rangley. We pick up a total of 2 knee braces, some fried chicken, Mountain Dews, and Doritos. If you are problem solving here the later 3 items are not related to the issue. Joe had a gap between the pack and his back leaving the entirety of the weight to fall on his hips and impact on his knees with every stride. Then again the guy that sized him up was never really a backpacker…

Why the Atmos?
FROM FIT TO FEATURES

The backpack is one of the most important and customized pieces of gear you’ll need, as important as or maybe even more so than your boots. Sizing doesn’t run like your t-shirts and even if you do get sized, are you sure the pack can accommodate your needs? That brings us to strength number one of the Atmos; the fit.

The pack comes in 3 sizes to match your torso height. From there each pack has an extended range of torso adjustment to meet your EXACT size. The pack should flow with your back, follow your shoulders with the strap yoke ending right under your arms. From there you can make the adjustments to assure the weight is distributed, centered and close to your body. The “Fit On The Go” hip extensions assure that you can both extend or shorten the hip belt to fit your waist in fluctuating circumstances. Does any of this sound helpful to the scenarios above?

If you find multiple packs that fit you perfect then it’s time to break down the features. This is a left or right hose hydration compatible pack with a separate internal sleeve. The top hood, or the “brain” of the pack has one main zipper on the top and one mesh organizer on the bottom. If I had one beef with the product it would be the small zipper opening on the brain limiting access with-in. Through the main duffle you have a removable sleeping bag compartment and bottom zipper for the sleeping bag compartment access.

On the outside of the pack you have well thought out features that will be on competitors’ packs in a few years when they catch up to Osprey’s standards. The Atmos has two fully usable drink pockets and the compression straps on either side can be redone to weave on the outside or inside of the exterior pockets. There is one larger light buckled pouch on the front of the pack and two separate side pockets. The pack rides nice with an exaggerated air scape mesh backing that makes the old school external frame guys drop their jaws. The air scape allows air flow behind your back for four season temperature regulation. Top it off with trekking pole holders and a safety whistle on the sternum strap and you’ve got it.

The packs suspension and framing can hold weight in the 40 pound range comfortably and it will withstand the weight without issue. Another thing to recognize is “The All Mighty Guarantee”. Osprey has an unbeatable warranty and matching customer service.

On The Job
PERSONAL TESTIMONY

bryan rrt osprey

You can see pictures of the pack and read about features on the Osprey website. How about why I like the pack? One of my favorite things is the gear organization and separation. I find it important to be efficient, organized and fully manage moisture in relation to all of my gear. The two hip pockets allow quick access to my headlamp, pocket knife, and a snack. No need to take off the pack for that, I’ve got it. The two vertical zips on the front carry my filter, pack towel, and toilet paper consistently. I have full access to what I need without routing through everything and I’ve separated items like the filter and pack towel that may be wet.

In the large outside pouch I find it is perfect to gorge safely with a rain shell and rain pants. The pocket seems to dry and drain easy with the lighter outer fabric and keeps the items I may need in a hurry there while being the furthest from the rest of my gear. Other reviews label the Air Scape back panel as a summer feature while I find it to be far from that simple. On my recent Mt. LeConte trip in the snow I found it convenient to manage my temperature as a whole. If I was cold in the front and hot on my back I’d otherwise need a Snuggie to figure things out, and I’m sorry but I’m not packing a Snuggie. The Air Scape gives me consistency in my layering.

I feel like 65 liters is perfect for trips other than those needing a bear canister and the weight of the Atmos pack from small to large are all under 4 pounds. I wear a small torso and it weighs in at less than 3 1/2 pounds. There is a size difference in the pack capacity due to the torso size, but it is hardly worth noting.

Please note that the female specific version of the Atmos is the Aura. Please see an experienced staff for a full customized fitting. Otherwise risk being the gimpy Gumby, and nobody likes a gimpy Gumby. To get sized for your pack and get a full run down on other pack features stop by Roads Rivers and Trails in Milford, OH.