I provided trail magic one day this week but it wasn’t of the sort your thinking. I wasn’t close to a trail and I didn’t help a hiker. I was at a grocery store and she was asking for a little extra food.
I ran to the grocery store not even to pick up groceries but buy a book of stamps. On my way out there was a young woman standing on the side-walk that was shyly asking a young man a question. He shook his head and walked on. This all happened in a matter of seconds. Me tra-la-la-ing to an Alanis Morissette song in my head, didn’t really register what I was witness of until half way out to the Stallion. I backed out and circled the parking lot more to avoid my own embarrassment, to make sure she was still there asking someone else a question. Yes, there she was now sitting on the side walk concern etched in her face. She now sat and watched people walk out of the store; not one even seeing her.
After I recircled the lot I parked and found an empty grocery sack floating around in the stallion. I then threw in a couple of bags of chips left over from actual trail magic from Darwin’s CDT hike. I grabbed a hand full of loose change and threw it in too. I made my way up to the front of the store and found her still sitting, now looking at her feet. I knelt down to her and asked if she needed some food and she said yes. I told her I seen her on my way out but hadn’t bought any food. I handed over the bag and explained to her all I had were a few bags of chips from my car and some loose change but I hoped it would help. She said thank you and that it would definitely help her.
A few things happened during our brief exchange. When I knelt down I acknowledged her as a human and I couldn’t help but notice the look of surprise on her face. I acknowledged her existence and came down to her level, not looking down on her, I spoke with her. Then the fact that I giving her a bag of stuff let alone anything seemed to catch her completely off guard. When she thanked me, I saw her relief. Whatever I was giving her would get her a little further down the path she was on; I hoped to better circumstances.
As I returned to the Stallion, I looked back in the rear-view mirror and noticed someone talking with the young woman and handing her something. Then another person did the same after that. As I drove off I saw her now standing her head raised up.
Could she have been someone who drove to that grocery store in a brand new car simply to pan handle money off some suckers? Yes. Could she turn around and throw those chips away? Yep. Could she accumulate all the loose change of the day for drugs? Sure. All I could think of though was when I was hiking and needing a hitch. The people who stopped for Darwin and I could have thought the same thing and kept driving. The people that took us in or bought us food could have questioned the same. Why are they really hiking the AT? What are they hiding? When Darwin was on the AZT a nice couple made him dinner and housed him for the night when he really needed it. No questions asked. When we first moved to Albuquerque we were at one time very close to tenting and asking for help from strangers too. Sometimes you can’t question everything or you’ll never do anything.
The trail community is a beautiful thing, people give with no questions. They help each other through the worst of circumstances. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be in society like that? If you have never been on trail and experienced trail magic, I’m not sure if you will understand this post, but I hope you can connect to it in some way. I don’t always have the capability to help but that day I did. I shared a few bags of chips that I had the money to buy and the choice not to eat. Some people are not as fortunate.
Provide some trail magic this week no matter if the trail is dirt, concrete, or asphalt. I would love to hear about it!
Things To Expect In Up Coming Blog Posts/Website Posts:
Updates on My TP Challenge – Unsuccessful! (we ran out of tp this week and resorted to tissues and paper towels until payday, sad but true. Updates will be given next week.)
(DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links! This means that if you click on one of the product links and buy something, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps supports Darwin’s YouTube Channel and allows us to continue to make content via the Snuggle Diaries! Thank you for the support!)
Water Filter & Bucket Set Up Kit (Tubing, Hose Clamp & Bucket Connector)
The HydroBlu Versa Flow to be a great option when choosing a water filtering system for any type of adventure from car camping to backpacking. The initial cost of the filter is low at only $19.95 for the full package. The filter body itself is small measuring 1.6″ by 5.25″. This small size allows for easy storage in a backpack, car, bag, or possibly even a deep pocket. The Versa Flow is a true light weight option with the body weighing in at 1.4oz dry (before first filtering).
I used the Versa Flow for this review in a bottle filter and in-line (hydration reservoir) set up which are common for backpacking. The Versa Flow does have the capability to be used with a bucket (or other water container) setup and is primarily advertised as being used this way.
The Versa Flow uses medical grade ultrafiltration membranes to remove particles as small as 0.1 micron. It uses a hollow fiber design that allows a faster flow rate (around 20oz per minute) compared to competitor filters. HydroBlu also advertises this filter as being 99.99% effective against bacteria, protozoa, and cysts such as e-coli, staph, salmonella, giardia, cryptosporidium and other harmful contaminants. It however does not remove chemicals or viruses. The filter cartridge has a 10,000 gallon filtering life which unfortunately is a significantly shorter life span when compared to other filters similar in size, weight, and function.
I found the bottle filter set-up to be the easiest and most efficient method for use. The filter features a 28mm female connector that easily threads onto most water bottles such a “Smart Water” bottle or plastic soda bottle. When connected to a bottle of dirty water and or dirty bag, I was able to simply squeeze the bottle and easily recieved clean water or utilized the clean end of the filter like straw for the same outcome.
During each use I considered the silicon cap/cover on filter body to be useless. The cover would constantly curl and move around during use. Although I understand the thought behind this piece (to keep clean water end free of outside debris) I found this feature an unnecessary annoyance and I removed it after only a few uses.
If using the Versa Flow primarily as a bottle filter or in-line set up, you will be at a disadvantage. Similar filters on the market include at least one small dirty water bag and the Versa Flow does not. I personally prefer to have a dirty bag to store more dirty water when in the field. While testing in the field, I simply utilized a dirty bag from a competitors filter which worked sufficiently. It however should be mentioned that the Versa Flow is marketed as a filter used for a bucket setup and HydroBlu does provide the necessary attachments to use the filter in this manner.
Cleaning and maintenance on the Versa Flow I found pretty standard for a filter of this design. Back-flushing is the recommended cleaning process for this filter and directions are given on this with filtering kit. Similar filters on the market include a back flushing syringe with kit, HydroBlu does not. This would not neccassarily sway me from purchasing this filter as backflashing can be easly done without a syringe.
As with most filters, the Versa Flow will work best when filtering water with minimal sediment and when sediment has been allowed to settle. The more debris in dirty water the slower the flow rate. An abundance of sediment in the dirty water will most likely clog the filter regardless of set up. Try your best to keep large floaties out!
Overall I feel the HydraBlue Versa Flow is very useful and a light weight option to filtering water. The filter is small and easy to maintain and store. It’s design allows for multiple filtering set ups for a minimal initial cost compared to other filters on the market.
The following list is some of the resources I found helpful when researching and preparing for my Thru-Hike of the AT. I took a little information from each (some more than others). I have provided links for each to help you find them but please also check out your local library! I present this to you as resources I personally found helpful. I’m sure you will find more. Happy Reading! – Snuggles
Women Specific Books On Hiking The AT (or just backpacking):
Women & Thru-Hiking on the Appalachian Trail – Author: Beverly “Maine Rose” Hugo
Into The Wild (2007) – great movie to show how nature can heal and a reminder that everyone has their reasons to seek solitude (yes, the book is better.. I just did a review on the follow-up book “The Wild Truth” by Carine McCandless)
(DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links! This means that if you click on one of the product links and buy something, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Darwin’s YouTube Channel and allows us to continue to make content such as the Snuggle Diaries! Thank you for the support!)
Take Tramway Blvd. heading north. Once you pass Academy, keep an eye out for a sign to the east alerting you of the Elena Gallegos Open Space Area. Once on this paved turn off watch out for cyclists! Take this road down to the Guard Building and pay a small fee for parking ($1 to $2). Before you go check out the website to verify fees and hours of operation via this link Elena-Gallegos. There are multiple parking areas however I would recommend the small lots to the Northeast. Some of these are reserved for events and blocked off however you will find additional parking that is always open to the public.
Depending on your starting location this hike will be around seven or eight miles total (out and back). It would be wise to carry lots of water and snacks. This trip report will describe around a 7 mile to 7.5 mile hike.
I would highly suggest starting this hike early as to avoid excessive heat and sun exposure. The first major section from parking lot to the last step of the Domingo Baca Trail is completely exposed leaving sunscreen and water a must. As you continue up into the canyon you will be primarily in tree coverage and hiking along a small stream so a water filter could be used if needed.
During this hike you will be surrounded by a variety of flora and fauna from barrel cactus to aspens and from lizards to deer. As you hike through a variety of environments you are increasingly gaining in elevation which makes some sections extremely steep. Most of the trail is clear and easy to locate however the closer you get to the actual crash site the trail becomes more overgrown and less defined. A GPS could be used however this hike can still be done without one (I did not take one on this trip, hence the lack of exact mileage of trail markers, intersections, total hike, etc.) however taking a friend along with you would be recommended for overall safety.
The crash site itself is both amazing and humbling. Please show respect for the persons that perished at this site and respect the debris that was left behind. Check out this link for more information on the crash: TWA.
There are several ways to start your hike to the TWA Canyon (unofficial name) however during the trip my hiking partner Abigayl and I started out on The Nature Trail. Sections on this trail are partially paved. Depending on your parking location or how much open space hiking you would like to do, there are other options to starting this hike besides The Nature Trail such as Trail 341, 342, or again 230. Check out this link for a detailed map of the area.
We took a small section on the Nature Trail to Trail 342. Trail 342 heading northeast will intersect with Trail 230A. Trail 230A then intersects with the Domingo Baca Trail. Once you step on the Domingo Baca Trail you have officially left the Open Space and have entered Wilderness Area. The Domingo Baca Trail terrain is primarily open desert with no tree coverage. The trail is very clear and very easy to identify as you hike alongside the beautiful Sandia Mountains and various desert flora. As the trail turns east towards the mountains you will start to notice more rocks within the trail and large boulders along side it. The trail will also start to climb slowly as you hike closer to the canyon.
You will hike by the ruins of an old rock shelter which will be on the left of the trail at the very mouth of the canyon. Past this rock shelter consider yourself off officially marked trail. From here you will follow the trail right making your first stream crossing. Finding water is very surprising for the very dry environment the Sandia’s provide. Finding flowing water was even more of a surprise for both Abigayl and I. Once crossing the small stream you will notice a big difference in your surroundings as you now continue east following alongside the stream. You will now be surrounded and covered by shady trees, bushes and various other floras causing you to forget you are in New Mexico.
Eventually you will arrive at a split in the trail around a half mile away from the old rock shelter. At this noticeable split, you can take a very steep left to a dead-end view of the surrounding area or a right, up a rocky five foot embankment. This embankment can be slippery so use caution!
You will continue deeper into the canyon crossing the stream occasionally. The trail is well-worn and easy to travel but does have a few boulder crossings and or will be littered with rocks in other sections. This will not be a problem for most hikers and even smaller children. You will notice along your way small off shoot trails that will lead you to a few campsites on both your right and left. The trail will become noticeably steeper in sections as you continue gaining elevation the further into the canyon you hike.
The trail will again split slightly while on the well-worn section of trail. This split will usually be marked by a rock cairn on or against a log to the right of the trail (you may also notice with a few larger branches laid down in the stream bed further to the right of the rock cairn designed to function as a bridge of sorts). If you take this less defined trail you will be hiking around a very steep sandy embankment that awaits you on the main trail. Abigayl and I chose the main trail towards the sandy embankment but took this go-around trail on our way back from the plane crash site.
If you stay on the main trail you can’t miss the large and very steep sandy embankment as you will be fully exposed, free of tree cover. From here the trail will not as defined and goes in and out of tree coverage. I would recommend occasionally stopping and evaluating your surroundings to ensure you are on an actual path. Abigayl and I found ourselves at times unclear if we were heading in the right direction or on the right path. We would at times utilize visuals of the tram for direction and luckily the occasional sounds of small talk from other hikers ahead of us..
Finally the trail returns into tree coverage running closely alongside the canyon walls (to your right) here it will noticeably dead-end running into what looks like a stack of branches and logs. Look to your left and you will see the trail continues up another stream bed that transitions into another desert like setting. This section is again less defined and you may find other trails taking you to the same location, and exposed area with a large rock cairn. When we arrived at this point there was an old red sweatshirt placed on the cairn making it very obvious we were heading in the right direction. At this point you are maybe a half mile away from the crash site. From the rock cairn you see the trail continues up and to the right. At this point you are almost directly below the wires of the tram and may see it pass depending on tree foliage, regardless you will hear the tram if you haven’t already at this point.
The trail leaving the rock cairn is very over grown taking you through dense foliage. You will soon see two tires on your left then a few steps more you will notice the first large piece of wreckage. This first piece of wreckage has a plaque mounted on it with information on the crash and its crew. Following the trail further up and you will see other various pieces of the plane including stairs and engine pieces. The trail takes you along three levels of wreckage the first being the large piece with the plaque, the second various scattered pieces and the third is the largest collection of scattered pieces along with the largest fully intact piece in a concave section of canyon wall.
To get to the third section of wreckage you must do a small bit of bouldering as the trail goes up a 10 foot boulder that is lying against one side of the canyon wall. You can also locate a small steep path that goes around this small rock obstacle. We went up the boulder but did have to throw up trekking poles and packs ahead of ourselves. On our return we did take the trail around the boulder.
Overall the terrain to the crash site is amazing leaving one to forget they are in New Mexico. It will take the average hiker several hours to complete the hike (out and back) so allowing a full day to hike would be would be best. I personally found the hike refreshing enjoying both the steeper sections and small rock scrambles some however may find this hike somewhat difficult (more so the last mile and a half before the crash site). The crash site itself was very humbling and I was glad to have researched the event prior to hiking having a better understanding on what happened.
This week has been full of beautiful happenings. It rained in ABQ which caused me to break out my clothes bag in order to keep my work uniform dry on my ride in for my shift. I also busted out my pack cover which took on more of a parachute look when I covered my day pack with it (this was even funnier when riding). It’s been awhile since I have used either piece of gear and I found both very nostalgic. I unrolled my clothes bag, peeled apart the Velcro and was overcome by the smell of sweat, dirt, and tears. I was instantly taken back to trail life. I am sure I looked like one of those people in the Folgers Coffee commercials except I was closing my eyes and smiling while enjoying the smell of my own funk, not coffee. By the time I rode to work and removed my uniform from the bag it had taken on the smell of hiker funk. I’m not sure if my coworkers loved it but I felt right at home in my hiker stank and my head was filled with sweet and sour trail memories the rest of the day. Sigh….
Mid week Abigail and I headed out again to complete our attempt at the TWA Canyon Hike and finally made it! We started out early around 8:30am and were back at the car by 3:00pm. It proved to be a great hike and was a very humbling scene at the crash site. I completed a written trip report including pictures which will be up on the website by the end of the week.
Abigail and I have also started planning an overnight backpacking trip. During our day hikes I have discovered that she has never actually went on an overnight backpacking trip. I feel it is my hiker trash responsibility to take her out on her first trip and show her the ropes. I have plans on journaling this experience along with possibly filming it once further details are finalized. I think she is catching the hiking bug.
Towards the end of the week I met a friend of Darwin’s whom he has been talking about since coming home from the CDT, Doug the Hermit. Doug came into ABQ for his yearly resupply and I was able to meet him. I immediately loved him. He is beyond down to earth and has the most amazing stories. Doug reminded me how much we complicate our lives with gizmos and gadgets, forgetting that we don’t really need any of those things to live a full and happy life. Those gizmos easily distract us from experiencing what’s all around us. While we are worried about getting a “selfie” with something to share later, the moment passes.
Doug also reminded me that I use way to much toilet paper. My goal this week is to go down to three squares for a poop and one for a pee. I’ll keep you updated on how this goes.
Things To Expect In Up Coming Blog Posts/Website Posts:
Updates on My TP Challenge
Snuggles’ AT Mental Prep List
Trip Report on TWA Canyon Hike
Snuggles’ AT Gear List (Written)
(Section Of Trail Leading Into TWA Canyon, Complete With Sun Beams!)
My friend Abigail and I met up earlier this week for a day hike. It is always a nice change of pace (literally) when hiking with Abigail compared to hiking with Darwin. We both enjoy time with Mother Nature and always feel refreshed afterwards. Lets also not deny the fact we are both girls so we giggle and of course talk about girl stuff.
Abagail and I take turns picking hiking locations and this time she picked a well known trail out in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness/Cibola National Wilderness, The Domingo Baca Trail. The original plan was to take the trail all the way out to the TWA Flight 260 crash site however we never made it. Where we started we had to hike sections of three other trails before landing on the Domingo Baca. We like to make frequent stops of nature admiration and with a time restraint on the day we had to stop early. Neither of us really didn’t care that we didn’t finish our hike. We enjoyed chatting about books, life, jobs, relationships, etc. and just simply our time together with Mother Nature. We are both extremely easy going.
Being out with nature is a great way to bond more with a friend. Out in the wilds all distractions of tv, people and noise are gone and it’s usually free to do as well. Friends, family, signifant others, etc. can focus on just each other and be in the present tense. So often even in the comfort of our homes our bodies are present but our minds are at work, with a movie, with a book, in the future, in the past, or just plan zombied out leaving our loved ones with whats left of our very divided attention.
I challenge you this week to take some time out with a friend or loved one and spend some time with them without distractions. Find a nice trail and let Mother Nature lead you on a small adventure. Mother Nature can bring us together and heal all of our wounds.
***Keep an eye out for a future trip report on this trail once Abigail and I venture out on it again and finally complete it! ***
We were way excited to finally get to the Domingo Baca Trail so we took a pic with the sign. Abagail is way cooler then me.
Outdoorsman Lab’s UL Sleeping Pad is a noticeably light pad weighing in at 15oz and is very packable for being 21 inches wide and 6ft long (standard size). It comes with its own drawstring stuff sack and once removed is easily unrolled with out any static build up. The material the pad is made of is smooth and relatively soft to the touch.
The pad itself is made up of quilted air cells, which allows for easy airflow when inflating. The 2-way valve system used for inflation is easily located on the underside of pad. Once valve lid is pulled,any air blown into pad will not escape due to airlock design. This allows the user to inflate at a leisurely pace which is a very convenient feature. Once inflated to desired firmness, valve cap is easily pushed back in and the pad is ready for use. Deflation for the pad is simple as well having only to open valve lid and press on the trap door to start air release.
Due to the quilted design, I did not have any issues with the inner baffling becoming undone as I have had with other sleeping pads. When weight is shifted on the pad, the quilt design allows for air to fill another quilt pocket. Nothing is worse than a popped baffle leaving a large uneven lump to sleep on. While in a sitting a position on the pad I found even full inflation did not hold up to weight as I would sink to the ground surface.
The Outdoorsman Lab’s UL Sleeping Pad, unfortunately, has a low R-value of 1.3 and even though the pad is 2.2 inches thick when fully inflated I would only consider it a summer pad. It was not specifically tested in a colder environment because of this low rating. It seems that the pad would work best in environments no colder than 50 degrees.
The pad was used on a variety of different surfaces including pine needles, uneven ground, rocks, etc. and could occasionally feel ground surface. Occasionally while side sleeping the pad would sink underweight causing my hipbone to become flush with the ground surface. Although light, the Outdoorsman is very similar to other pads in durability. It can be used on bare ground but as with other inflatables, it is recommended that a ground tarp of some kind is laid down first for protection.
I found the Outdoorsman Lab’s UL Sleeping Pad to be a great option for the budget backpacker. The pad is light and well made and being priced at $47 USD is a cheaper alternative compared to other pads on the market. The only flaw I could find currently was the low R-rating again making this pad seemingly more reliable for summer use but no the less efficient.
This week has been a busy one. We have been making steps towards our next adventure for a while but this week we really worked our buns off and made some adult decisions about a few things.
First off I will be posting The Snuggles Diary on Wednesday’s now. This is due to other social media posts Darwin does during the week and my time issues.
Secondly, we officially launched our Etsy Store “Travel & Trail” which surprisingly has been a lot of work. We are selling a lot of old patches, pennants and jewelry. Eventually we will have some homemade pieces from the AT, AZT, CDT, and more. You can check it out at Travel&Trail. Darwin has launched a new venture with SpreadShirt. We decided to start out small with only a few designs but you can now purchase your very own Darwin Onthetrail T-shirt. WooHoo! You can visit this new venture by clicking this SpreadShirt link. I have also started a few freelance jobs which have slowly started to pay off. Very slowly….We thus are testing the waters for web-based income for life on the road. We will keep you posted on how this progresses…
Along with Travel&Trail and SpreadShirt we have started to turn some of our focus back on the website. Darwin has updated a few things as far as gear lists and we will soon be adding a few new gear reviews. We have felt our website needed some love, so love it shall receive. Keep an eye out for more changes and updates!
Darwin and I have also decided to de clutter our minds and time and cancelled both Netflix and Amazon Prime. As much as I hate to admit it I really enjoy coming home from the nine to five, plopping down on the couch and zoning out with a random show until I find myself in a puddle of drool two hours later still on the couch. This as you may have already thought, is a total waste of time. I have been completely unproductive knowing that Netflix is waiting for me. After a hectic day at work I never want to do much of anything. We thus got rid of temptation. Within the last week I feel so much better. My brain is clear and not zombified by all the crap I found myself watching.
We have also started purging physical things. It always amazes me to see how much shit we can accumulate in a short amount of time. Even though we are very comfortable living out of a pack or the van, once we settled in the ABQ we started filling the empty spaces of our small apartment. Some would still see our place as empty as our only pieces of furniture are a small bookshelf, coffee table and couch but even these are starting to become too much. If we haven’t used it within a week we are donating or selling it.
Finally we have made a few adult decisions on how we are going to be traveling when leaving Albuquerque which will be announced soon. Some times what seems like a good idea isn’t a good idea after all.
For those of you who read my last post, You are aware I’ve been looking for some inspiration of sorts lately. I looked back last week at an author who has inspired me from the start, Helen Hoover. This week I’ve looked back on a story that inspired me long ago as it has many other people, the story of Christopher McCandless also known as Alexander Supertramp. Chris’ story was brought into the public’s eye with Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book “Into The Wild” and the 2007 movie of the same name written, co produced and directed by Sean Penn.
Instead of rereading the book I picked up a copy of the “The Wild Truth” by Carine McCandless at the library. Carine is Chris’s sister and gives another perspective on Chris’ two year venture off grid that led him to that now famous bus in the Alaskan Wilderness. Although I am still in the middle of reading her book, I have found it very eye-opening. It seems that every story has multiple sides and Carine tells a side that most people will not like to hear.
Just when you thought your family was screwed up, Carine introduces you to hers and the emotional roller coaster that was her and Chris’s upbringing. Their story really made me appreciate the love and support I receive from my family. They may not always agree or understand me but I know they are there if I need them. Every family has their issues and most work through those issues the best they can, this was not the case for Carine or her siblings. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse seemed to be the norm in their childhood.
When Darwin and I left to travel and hike the Appalachian Trail we knew we were looking for something but not really sure what. We chose to leave our known comforts for the unknown. Carine presents her and Chris’s lives as a series of choices made as more as an escape from their destructive parents and home life. The life she describes in her book gives the reader a better understanding of who Chris was and why he was.
On the AT you would see graffiti of “Alexander Supertramp was here” on shelter walls or quotes from the book written in the shelter and campsite logs. Chris’ story has inspired so many people but none of us really know him and we never really will. In The Wild Truth, Carine tells a side of the story that was not presented in Krakauer’s book or the movie. She allows you in to see the dark and personal secrets that made Chris into the man he was and why he started out on a path that would unknowingly lead him to the bus.
Chris was not some spoiled brat, he wasn’t selfish, he wasn’t a myth, or misguided, it seems to me that he was just like us, a human being that forged his own way. A person like most of us that sought out the solitude of the wilds to find peace. His story and Carine’s helped remind me that we should be grateful for the positive people in our lives and ditch the negative ones. Her book will give you perspective on how unhealthy relationships (which come in different forms, not just a dating relationship) and negativity can affect your life. How we allow these influences to affect us is up to us. We can use them as a motivator or be bogged down by them; neither options are easy ones.
If you would like to check out Carine’s book “The Wild Truth” and discover more about Chris McCandless and his family, you can find it online using the link provided on Amazon- http://amzn.to/2p1vOVB or you can utilize your local library!
“The constant misconceptions about my brother made me want to cry out the real reasons why walking in to the wild was far from crazy, but the sanest thing Chris could have done.”