Phield Notes

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.” — “Cactus” Ed Abbey

Book Learnin’

I was trying to explain to someone why I had so many copies of Colin Fletcher’s Complete Walker series. It started in 1984 while I was working offshore. One of my trainees, an experienced backpacker whom I had been grilling for information on the hows and wheres of backpacking, noticed my subscription book club had the new, third edition of The Complete Walker available and suggested I order it. So I did.

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GEAR: Hydration Upgrade

After my somewhat unfortunate experience with water on my Shumard backcountry trip, I reconsidered my hydration options and decided to look into upgrading. Not only the technology/materials of the reservoirs themselves, but also strategy. E.g. is it wise to store critical water in a single point of failure reservoir, or spread it out in several containers? Or is it worthwhile sometimes to pre-cache emergency supplies?

My old Platypus 3 liter reservoir, which had performed admirably for years (including my 2002 John Muir Trail through hike) didn’t seal properly and dumped quite a bit of precious water in my pack. While it was fine technology-wise for ca. 2000, it is a bit unwieldy. old Platypus hydration reservoir

The material is stiff, and the press-together seal can be difficult to manage.

I’ve since acquired two more reservoirs–an MSR 4 liter DromeLite,

and a Gregory 3D (3L) Hydro Reservoir.

I’ve been using both on conditioning hikes and have a few observations:

Continue reading GEAR: Hydration Upgrade

Grand canyon camping January 2011

(There is a separate Trip Report for my backpack to the bottom that trip here.)

Work in progress…

I headed out to Grand Canyon National Park in January of 2011 to camp and do an overnight backpack to the bottom of the canyon. Why January? Well, less crowded. I had overheard a Ranger telling another visitor seeking a backcountry permit on that 2007 trip that aside from New Years’ Eve and New Years’ Day, it was very unlikely they’d have a problem securing a first-come first-serve permit for Bright Angel campground (at the bottom). Hmm, I thought at the time, I’ll come back. And I did.

Continue reading Grand canyon camping January 2011

TR-Guadalupe Mountains NP Backpacking Feb-March 1986 (working Draft)

I believe this was my first backpacking trip ever. I’ll have to go through my notes and photos to recollect exactly what I did, and will update this post accordingly.

Pretty sure the route was Pine Spring TH up to Pine Top for first night; thence to Tejas backcountry site after exploring over to Hunter Peak, then maybe back along Tejas Trail and over to Bush Mountain, then back to Pine Top again for the last night.

GUMO permit feb1986
Continue reading TR-Guadalupe Mountains NP Backpacking Feb-March 1986 (working Draft)

TR-Guadalupe Mountains NP Backpack Sept 1986

Trip report written some thirty-four years after the fact, relying on photos, map notes, and memory.

GUMO permit Sept 1986

Starting from Pine Spring Campground, I got up to the crest at the trail junction near Pine Top where I met Ranger Craig. Turns out he was doing a backcountry stint, and we hiked together for the next two days. He was quite the naturalist and helped me identify a lot of flora and fauna.

We stayed one night at Tejas backcountry site, then over to McKittrick Ridge for the next night. Somewhere along the McKittrick Trail we came across an angry rattlesnake.

Rock rattler that surprised us along the McKittrick trail
1983 Trails Illustrated map of GUMO with notes from three 1986 backpacking trips. Lower section. Note that the park HQ was still in the old shed at Frijole. There are a couple of errors in my hand-written notes there; please hold your calls. The plane site says “B-29” and not “B-24” and it’s in the wrong location.
McKittrick Canyon
Above McKittrick Canyon

In the morning, Craig left for elsewhere, and I returned back toward the Tejas trail.

Continue reading TR-Guadalupe Mountains NP Backpack Sept 1986

TR-Big Bend NP Backpack South Rim Feb/March 1999

This is a trip report copied almost verbatim from what I wrote in 2000.

I took this trip on what I figured to be the last non-busy week before Spring Break; however, it was already getting crowded in the campsites (the Basin was full). I had arrived the night before around midnight; seeing that the other campsites were full I simply napped in the cab of my truck. It was fairly chilly, probably around 35-40, so I bundled up pretty well. I did see a coyote exploring the trash cans once early in the morning.

  • Trail distances for Pinnacles Trail to South Rim, return
  • via Laguna Meadows (from Basin trailhead): 
  • 3.5 miles to Emory Peak trail 
  • 4.5 miles to Boot Canyon campsites 
  • 4.8 miles to Boot Spring 
  • 5.3 miles to Southeast Rim Trail jct. 
  • 6.3 miles to Southeast Rim Trail jct. at the South Rim 
  • 8.0 miles to Colima trail jct. 
  • 8.8 miles to Blue Cr. trail jct. 
  • 12.1 miles to Basin trailhead


A bit after sunrise I went on into the Chisos Mountains to the Basin and the ranger HQ to get a backcountry permit. The nice older couple behind the counter, apparently camp hosts, pulled out a notebook with photos of the various campsites in the backcountry to help me to determine where I would go. Seeing the full campsite status, I was more concerned with getting away from crowds than a scenic site, but finally decided on Boot Canyon #4 and SW #3 just off the South Rim.

Continue reading TR-Big Bend NP Backpack South Rim Feb/March 1999

TR-Big Bend NP Family Trip April 1968

I don’t have any notes saved from this trip. I was only nine years old. I really fell in love with Big Bend during that trip; actually, with the whole idea of deserts and mountains. I’d been to Colorado on a family trip a few years earlier and recall being amazed at the mountains and the abandoned mines we saw high up on the slopes; and the scary drives over the unpaved roads along the mountainsides. But for some reason, on our trip to Big Bend something clicked.

I know this trip was around Easter Sunday, in 1968. Looking at a calendar I see that fell on April 14 that year; I’m guessing we were there for the week prior. I don’t think we got spring break in those days, either at my elementary school or for Dad’s job at UT.

I don’t remember the long drive out there on highway 290, although I can assume I was probably getting bored. But to this day I have a vivid recollection of the drive approaching the Chisos, as we began to ascend up The Basin road, past some drums full of water for overheated radiators. I kept staring at the rugged cliffs and thinking “Wow, I wonder what it’s like up there! Wandering around up there would be the greatest thing ever!”

Turns out I was right!

Cabins in the Basin (April 1968)
Continue reading TR-Big Bend NP Family Trip April 1968

TR-Guadalupe Peak February 2000

This is mostly a stub, holding a spot for a more complete trip report later. I don’t have all the photos from that trip digitized yet but am in the process of doing so.

After two previous hikes up to the summit of Texas’ highest point, I realized that the spectacular vista from the top of Texas was not that spectacular under the midday sun. So I resolved to make a summit trip that was a backpack, including a night at the backcountry site “near” (a mile away from) the summmit and spend the dawn hour photographing the views.

New Gear: Tent MSR Hubba Hubba NX (2019)

Hubba Hubba NX (2019)

$299 from Enwild (formerly Backcountry Edge)

This was a really good price on a pretty much state of the art tent. It’s not super light, but I thought I’d give it a try. If I want to go really light and am confident in the weather, I’ll just use my bivy. The Hubba Hubba will be for times when I really want to bring a tent.

I seam sealed the fly myself. I set it up a few times to familiarize myself with it. It was a little confusing because the instructions included refer to the previous version of the tent which had a bit different looking tent pole spoke and also color coded webbed straps; this one has NO color coding, which is fine, except I kept comparing the instructions to how my tent looked and finally asked MSR support about it; whoever handles the MSR social media support link had no idea what I was talking about and kept telling me “No, you don’t need color coding!” (The instructions shouldn’t say so then, if you ask me.)

Go outside! Go!