Wild Drake Product Development and Testing at the Grand Canyon

This season’s Grand Canyon adventure began with an impressive no-sleep marathon that included waking at 1am and departing home at 3am, a ritual that’s worth its value in gold, intuitively avoiding the bustling morning traffic traveling through Phoenix via Interstate 10. I know, from experience, that if I can manage to reach Interstate 17 before the heavy traffic morning commute it’s clear sailing all the way to Flagstaff. Mission accomplished as we blasted through Phoenix reaching the land of plateaus, mesas and the Mogollon (pronounced: mug-ee-yun) Rim just as the sun began to rise. And what’s a vacation without a detour through the fabulous city of Sedona, a hot cup of coffee and a 360º view of Arizona’s stunning red rock country? Following our quick respite we continued on our journey from Sedona up through Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. This was our first time traveling through Oak Creek Canyon (highway 89A) since the Slide Fire that began in Slide Rock State Park back in May and we were pleased that at least most of the canyon was spared of the 21,000+ acre (8500 ha) burn damage. Once in Flagstaff, we enjoyed a bit more downtime before heading up to the Grand Canyon. We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park at approximately 11am and went immediately to the El Tovar hotel restaurant to enjoy the canyon view and culinarily begin celebrating my (David) birthday with a quick lunch. Following our meal we made our way to Mather Campground to begin setting up camp where we excitedly spent the next 4 days of our lives.

Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park

At 3pm, now well awake for 14 hrs, we had our campsite set-up and decided a few minutes of rest were well earned. No more than a few moments later, Janice jumped up and suggested, “if we’re going to hike the canyon Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) why don’t we begin now while your birthday is still relatively young”, also giving us an opportunity to test our nutritional products with less than adequate rest, expecting to hike for a straight 24 hrs. Always game for an adventure and an opportunity to test our products, I agreed. Thus, with little sleep and several hours earlier than our 11:30pm planned departure, we quickly consumed our Hike™ nutritional supplement, packed enough nutritional products to carry us the next 48 miles, and hit the Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at 5:30pm and began descending into the canyon. Before long, Janice and I, along with our nutritional therapy and the Black Diamond brand Icon headlamp (highly recommended) and its 200 lumen ferocity, purchased the day before, together were mercilessly guiding us down the trail towards the mighty Colorado River. We both felt like a million bucks! Along the way, Janice and I stopped many times to enjoy the scenery, replenish our water supply, ingest more Hike™, snap a few photos and tangentially enjoy a few quick canyon side riffs. By the time we arrived at the Colorado the Moon was high and bright enough to partially guide our way to Phantom Ranch.

Bright Angel Trail
Both Janice and I make an appearance in this photo
Bright Angel Trailhead
Bright Angel Trailhead
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail

Ten mi (16 km) into our R2R2R hike we reached the Phantom Ranch at approximately 11:30pm, quite a bit slower than our projected 2 mi/hr (3.3 km/hr) strategy. Janice suggested that my habit of tangentially exploring off-trail should be left for times when we didn’t have any time restraints. As we relaxed down at the Phantom Ranch, prepared more Hike™ and Hydraulic™, and replenished our water supply I looked up to notice that Janice fell fast asleep on the picnic table. Thinking to myself, not a bad idea and since we’ve been awake for a straight 22.5 hrs, I found a second picnic table. An hour and a half later and no longer my birthday, after waking I proposed continuing our night hike back out of the canyon since we were now never going to accomplish our goal of hiking R2R2R in 24 hrs. With both of us in agreement that our R2R2R hike should be attempted within a 24 hr time frame we decidedly ascended the canyon via the Bright Angel Trail arriving once again at the South Rim just before sunrise, stopping, resting and replenishing our nutritional products and water just once at Indian Garden.

Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs

Now, back on the South Rim and with just 90 mins of sleep in the past 29 hrs, we both felt absolutely wonderful, knowing our products and without a question the lack of ambient daytime heat, powered our way from the South Rim down to the Phantom Ranch and back, a total elevation change of approximately ~2 mi (~3.3 km), ~20 mi (~32 km) in length and in unfortunately more time than we hoped considering my meandering, but we had fun.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

For a period of time just greater than one year we’ve been developing and testing our many products, including and particular to this trip our premier natural hydration champion, Hydraulic™, and both our stimulant and recovery beverages, Hike™ in two different mediums. At camp, on the trail and at home, including our daily living, we’re always refining our many fabulous teas (introducing our newest tea, AZTea™), energy bars, Bru.Ja.Va™ coffee beverage(s), natural stimulants and healthy paleo meals and we believe we have quite a few winners ready for public introduction.

Grand Canyon, South Rim
Grand Canyon, South Rim
Janice
Janice

After returning to camp, without any further rest, we both ran over to the shower facilities, prepared breakfast then ran back out to the rim for canyon viewing, walking, photo opportunities and discussion. Conversation was actually Janice lecturing me that I need to focus and remain on the trail rather than wandering off on my little side excursions so that we can actually hike this hike within a 24-hour period. I agreed but it was in fact my birthday and I was fortuitously given a pass. We thus discussed when we figured we’ll make it back out to the Grand Canyon to complete this elusive 24-hour R2R2R hike and we’re hoping to do so this coming Spring, 2015.

Grand Canyon, South Rim
Grand Canyon, South Rim

Between September 10th (my birthday) and September 11th, we completed our ascension out of this immense canyon, must have been the longest day of our lives. After arriving back at camp, showering, eating and running back out to the rim, we realized that it had been only 12 noon when we both thought we were surely cozying up to at least 4pm, all still with only 90 mins of rest behind us and still feeling great. We spent the rest of our day walking the rim, talking and shopping. Finally, 9:30pm, following dinner, a roaring camp fire and product discussion, we crashed. What a fabulous day and a wonderful birthday!

Hang on
Hang on

We may not have accomplished our goal, this time, hiking the Grand Canyon R2R2R but we have something to look forward to for our next Grand Canyon journey. Unlike every other time I’ve hiked Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch (this was my 5th time) we hiked the dark side of day. The temperatures were cooler and travel was slower. The nighttime experience was so pleasurable I would never hesitate to night hike again. Our only regret was missing out on the wonderful views the canyon has to offer. Although I’ve performed this hike many times prior, this was Janice’s first and she would have enjoyed the view. Considering a R2R2R hike entails all of 24-hours, covering close to ~48 mi (~77 km) of hiking and ~21,000 ft (~6400 m) of elevation change, she’ll get to see it soon enough, probably more knowing that I’ll never be able to resist my flanking curiosity and adventure.

David
David

Incidentally and/or to reiterate, the Grand Canyon R2R2R hike from Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim following through to the North Kaibab Trail heading up to the North Rim and back is approximately 48 mi (77 km) of hiking with approximately 21,000 ft (6400 m) of elevation change (sorry for the redundancy), and temperatures that may easily fluctuate from the low 40’s ºF (0 ºC) to much greater than 100 ºF (40 ºC) at the river and within the canyon walls during the hottest part of the day. In fact, within the canyons the temperature rises and varies quite a bit considering a combination of direct, reflective and radiant heat, making night hiking quite pleasant.

Bright Angel Trail / Rim Trail
Bright Angel Trail / Rim Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail

Note to self: For your next R2R2R attempt, be sure to get enough sleep prior to hiking, try as hard as possible to deflect every urge to traipse off-trail (David) at every inviting possibility and walk as fast as possible (Janice) past the oh-so-inviting Phantom Ranch picnic tables.

Note: Because our canyon hike was predominantly during nighttime hours the majority of our posted photos were taken from the rim during our many rim walks.

Reach Your Summit!

This Weekend We Enjoyed a Brief but Very Welcomed Respite in the Catalina Mountains

Ritual behaviors can take many guises, but beneath, there invariably lays an element of forging or strengthening a bond, a renewal of connectedness. It may seem mundane to some, but for us, preparing for a backpacking adventure involves distinctly ritualistic protocol and it is performed in a fairly consistent pattern. It is much more meaningful than simply routine and there is an increasing sense of anticipation that accompanies our performance. We have choreographed tasks that we move through with nearly effortless ease and experience. David always packs the gear and makes sure that we have a stove (or three), fuel, headlamps, cameras, batteries, sleeping bags and pads and any other necessary accessories. I rummage about in the kitchen and ensure that we have our meals, teas (AscenTea™ and DescenTea™), Hydraulic™, Hike™, and that we are well-nourished as we venture forth. Our ritual is comforting, joyful, and one that is practiced with thoughtfulness and attention to detail.

This weekend we enjoyed a brief but very welcomed respite in the Catalina Mountains. I really needed the immersion into nature and there was a beautiful full moon for added incentive. The previously scouted location was perfectly suited to our needs, and we look forward to returning again soon. Our campsite was surrounded by pine trees, with a fragrant needle carpet to provide cushion for our tent and an extremely pleasant redolence triggered by our every step. At the onset, we were frequently inspected by numerous hummingbirds because of our brightly colored clothing and tent but they soon discovered our lack of available nectar. David had to relocate a scorpion to a rock a bit farther from our claimed territory after discovering it while arranging a cooking area. A lone deer wandered nearby, seemingly unconcerned about the new neighbors. We snapped our initial photos and went about setting up camp.

While there was a predicted threat of impending monsoon rains, we were only lightly doused with a bit of moisture on our way up the mountain and magically, just as David zipped the tent door closed for the night, we heard a light tapping on the roof as rain fell again, gentle cascades of percussion to lull us to sleep. By morning, our peaceful locale was dry and crisp, with a multitude of birds going about their daily business and a complete lack of the annoyances of city life. The calm, quiet air was occasionally punctuated by chirps, whistles, and the hammering of woodpeckers, but there was not a barking dog, loud human voice, vehicle noise, or siren to be heard. It was wonderful.

David has a habit on these kinds of mornings to grab the camera and his cup of tea and wander off into the wilderness, encouraging me to lounge in the hammock and try to redeem some of my missed relaxation after a busy week. I admit, it is not difficult for him to convince me, and the slow swaying of the hammock, the view of the surrounding woods with Tucson sprawling far below, and the musical accompaniment of the feathered orchestra soon left me dozing with reckless abandon. David gets some of his best photos during these times and often returns with tales of the animals that he encounters or interesting bits of nature. Typically, we then make our breakfast and this outing meant some tasty Ere the Dawn™ cereal to fuel our day. There is simply nothing like eating your breakfast outside, from a titanium cup, ensconced in the natural world, with the love of your life at your side.

There is a moment from the previous evening that seems appropriate to share and I found it to be quite hilarious in a way. As we happily munched on our dinner, David was obviously finding his to be delicious and he looked at me and said,” This is better than you make at home”. A qualifying statement is in order at this point which is that David loves my cooking and he did not mean this in an adverse manner. I gazed back at him, head tilted slightly in that confused canine type of way and asked for clarification. He told me that the flavor was amazing and got even better as he got to the bottom of his cup and I replied something about perhaps he should have stirred his meal as I suggested to distribute the seasonings. David was perfectly satisfied with having the intensity of his entrée increase as he neared the finale, but I was equally fulfilled by my evenly flavored dish. I thought perhaps it would rehydrate more evenly if stirred but David had an acceptably hydrated dinner without being littered by crunchy bits in spite of just having added the water and ignoring it until he picked up his utensil and dug in. Moral of the story? Stir if you want, don’t if you don’t. Our Wild Drake cuisine is more tolerant of human idiosyncrasies than I realized.

Our short jaunt was exactly what I desperately needed and I feel much more capable of facing the world, empowered and refreshed. I’m sure a nap in the hammock didn’t hurt either. We crave these outings and immediately began planning for the next possibility. Wilderness calls to us in a kind of Thoreau-like voice, and there are undertones of Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, and others that provide background depth. We require the natural world in a way that almost defies explanation and emerge with determination to return as soon as possible. Ostensibly, backpacking is fantastic exercise that leads us to gorgeous vistas and it can be quite an adventure at times. For David and I, hiking, and especially backpacking, are intrinsically linked to our souls and provide a replenishment that is not to be found in our modern lives. We revel in the most diminutive moments, of the footprints of animals, the graceful swooping dives of the bats at dusk, the deepening glow of sunset, the rustling of tree limbs in the breeze, the determination of the ants to gain access into our food supplies, the indignant arching of the tiny worm that was crawling on David’s sleeve as he attempted to move it to safety, and these conjoin to form a saturated, sensual experience. We are going back next weekend, and hope that you can heed the call of the wild soon as well!

Campsite
Campsite
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Campsite Landscape
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Preparing for Dinner
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Preparing Water for Rehydrating our Dinner
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Alcohol Fuel for Stoves
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Alcohol Stoves
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Boiling Water
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Rehydrating our Wild Drake Meals
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Tent Site
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Wild Drake Rehydrated Meals
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Wild Drake Attacking Bear-Proof Food Containment Bag (I didn’t get through it either)
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Perigee Full Moon (SuperMoon), August 9, 2014
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Perigee Full Moon
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SuperMoon
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Cathedral Peak
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Wild Drake
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Wild Sky
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Perigee Full Moon (SuperMoon), August 10, 2014
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Rattlesnake Peak (left most peak); Cathedral Peak (tallest peak)
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Morning View Through the Trees
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Marshall Gulch Trail
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The name of this beautiful wild flower is?
Commelina dianthifolia Birdbill Dayflower
Commelina dianthifolia (Birdbill Dayflower)
Commelina dianthifolia
Commelina dianthifolia (Birdbill Dayflower)

Reach Your Summit!

Hike… Take One!

Hike…Take One!

This is not a statement telling you to get lost although that is occasionally exactly what we recommend. Hike™ is the most recent development in our Wild Drake lineup and David and I are extremely eager to share it with everyone. After countless hours of research and rounds of testing, we have finalized several versions and they are ready to be released!
What is Hike? It is a highly functional and synergistic mixture that may be added to water, juice, smoothies, yogurt, or whatever you like, and is available in specifically targeted blends for different applications. Our flagship compound is Hike Endurance and we are certain that it will help you Reach YOUR Summit. After consuming this tasty combination, our testers all noticed improved endurance, less fatigue, reduced muscle soreness, and a number of secondary effects such as increased awareness and attention to detail. All this and NO caffeine!

This isn’t an energy shot/drink knockoff. This is authentic, feed your body nutrition that is backed by science. We will be posting a complete breakdown of ingredients soon but ultimately, Hike is a combination of herbs, fruit and vegetable juices, amino acids, and other active constituents like d-ribose (helps with energy production and the ATP cycle). As always, we have blurred the boundaries between traditional herbalism, bodybuilding stacks, athletic supplements, and nutrition to bring you a superior option for supporting your endeavors.

Allow me to regale you with an account of one of my personal experiences of taking a Hike. I simply mixed the contents of an Endurance packet with about twelve ounces of water and drank half of it approximately half an hour before getting on the spin bike and sipped the rest while riding. Normally, I put in 30-45 minutes at a decent pace because I want some cardio and am not necessarily looking to burn extra calories but after consuming the Hike Endurance, I was still going strong at 75 minutes and my legs did not get tired or burn at any point. Additionally, I was able to finish my regular workout and then later David and I had a brisk five-mile walk to enjoy our warm evening. I felt great, not wired or jittery, not all jacked up and pacing, but rather like I had energy reserves that were untapped.

Endurance is only one choice in our expanding Wild Drake Hike family. When I know that I have a demanding day ahead, I rely upon Hike Focus to keep my mind working in an optimal state and to enable me to concentrate for longer periods of time. We offer our Hike Rush for times when you need a power spike and this one does contain green coffee bean extract (caffeine) along with other ingredients for those who need or want extra stimulation. After a strenuous adventure, we recommend Hike Revitalize to address post-workout damage and we have Hike Foundation (joint/arthritis) in the testing phase. Wild Drake also features Hike Vitality and Hike Immunity and we have several more still in development. Even on the days that you aren’t on the trail or on the go, you can give yourself some nutritional sustenance to keep your foundation strong.

We are gearing up and are on a non-stop trajectory to full release of the first wave of products. It is exciting and exhausting and I’m glad that we have created Hike to help support our bodies during this exhilarating marathon. From meeting labeling requirements to sourcing ingredients and getting feedback from our testers, we continuously have a pile of things waiting to be completed or addressed. And speaking of details, we need to make sure that we touch upon the topic of safety and effectiveness. We find our products to be both and wouldn’t release them if they weren’t. While we have discussed our ingredients with medical professionals and we have many scientific articles and sources that we used in designing our products none of the statements that we make about them are evaluated or approved by the FDA. If you are pregnant, nursing, or have a medical condition, please consult your doctor or practitioner before taking a Hike.

Whew, glad we got that out of the way and can get back to work. If you are interested in ordering Hike, Hydraulic, our Lame Duck oil for sore muscles, sprains, and bruises, AscenTea, DescenTea, Strawberry Mint Toothpowder, Vanilla Sugar Scrub (for removing trail grime), or our DEET-free, natural bug repellant, please let us know. Our food selections will start to become available in the near future and we should have the full ecommerce website set up for purchasing soon but until then we have some alternatives and we know you are going to love our Wild Drake products as much as we do! What are you waiting for? Take a Hike!

Reach Your Summit!

Enduring Seasonal Consequence, Tolerance and Hostility within the Sonoran Desert

Enduring Seasonal Consequence, Tolerance and Hostility within the Sonoran Desert…

The wilderness surrounding Tucson is fascinating and beautiful to say the least. Within a short distance and a just a few hours from Tucson you can hike through several biotic zones and gorgeous landscape offering some of the best hiking experiences any trail junkie would appreciate. Some come here for the views and landscape, some come here for the geology, and some come for the multitudes (and chance sighting) of wildlife, and many, most in fact, come for the almost perfect weather.

I came for the hiking, the challenging terrain, and to experience the many seasonal pleasures the Sonoran Desert offers. I was fortunate to first arrive in Tucson at the very beginning of monsoon season, a remarkable time of year that some southern Arizonans consider an actual season, myself included. In other words, a twelve-month seasonal life cycle in southern Arizona encompasses summer, fall, winter, spring and monsoon. Although I tend to believe our spring and fall seasons here to be rather short and winter entertainingly mild, monsoon is particularly inviting and without a doubt our most exciting and energetic season. Monsoon, defined by it’s erratic thunderstorms, torrential, horizontal rain, high wind and cool temperatures, also happens dead smack in the middle of summer literally dividing our summer in half, with monsoon temporarily cooling our environment for at least a couple of months, making southern Arizona summers amazingly bearable.

We’re currently in the initial stages of summer, until early July when the monsoons typically arrive, and even though the summer season doesn’t officially begin until June 21st, the average temperature in Tucson these past couple of weeks has been well over 100ºF. The overall yearly average temperature in our little region of the Sonoran Desert ranges from cold to cool evenings in the winter and from warm to extremely hot daytime summer temperatures, making the season changes quite difficult to determine. After eleven years of living in southern Arizona I really have no idea when our winter and spring seasons begin and end judging by seasonal definitions and solstices, it just sort of inconspicuously happens, highlighted by some degree or element related to temperature and barometric pressure. The temperatures tend to blend so well that extreme season and temperature changes just sort of creep up us until we’re fully enveloped. When summer temperatures do arrive, they arrive with abandon and I wish with all my strength and energy and every moment of that time for the beginning of monsoon, and that monsoon would begin earlier than the year before. Monsoon, fortunately, is about as close to clockwork as possible, always something to look forward to, to count on, and although I would really rather enjoy the moment I’m currently experiencing, I anticipate monsoon with every baited breath once summer begins and I’m always grateful for it’s return. Summer in southern Arizona is hot and dry, and famous for the proverb, “but it’s a dry heat”, and monsoon is a wonderful reprieve. When and if monsoon arrives late and not like clockwork, wanes early in the season or presents a rather tranquil season, there’s definitely a sort of mourning that takes place, a harsh reality that I’ve felt before, and at other times, monsoon has released an unforgettable fury. Monsoon is not just important to the sanity of a hiker but to every water-dependent being in the desert.

The negative effects of low humidity and extreme dry heat, temperatures in the 90º’s and well into the 100º’s, is that the desert floor is no place for a warm-blooded hiker, hiking being my favorite activity. Granted I’ve become quite accustomed to hiking in temperatures ranging in the mid-90º’s, but once the temperature splays beyond the mid-90º’s, I immediately acknowledge the fact that I dauntingly consider myself a victim of seasonal consequence, tolerance and hostility; with considerable forethought and caution deliberated before I begin any summer hike. And it’s not just the high, immensely dry heat and exhausting summer temperatures but the amplitude of prickly flora, poisonous reptiles and lack of water, all lending a bit of aggravation to southern Arizona summers. Thus, a hiker’s options or plan so to speak, in southern Arizona, summer edition (and let’s face it we’re going to hike), is simple and includes carrying no less than 2 liters of water per hour (1L of water weighs 2.2 lbs.) of hiking time, arriving at the trailhead before sunrise and returning before 11am, the time before the sun begins to competitively bake the desert floor. Not only is this region hot and the sun excruciatingly exhausting, but the reflective heat off the desert floor makes conditions beyond 11am very near unbearable. My best option (and one I prefer more than hiking) is backpacking and camping into higher elevations, providing there’s a perennial spring nearby. I also tend to map particular perennial springs and carry water purification equipment in the event of an emergency or decision to remain on the trail longer than expected, which I often do. Water is scarce in the desert, including higher elevations and careful planning is essential. Even in the winter I’ve been caught in higher, cooler elevations in southern Arizona without water and the effects were close to disastrous. During the summer months, there is absolutely no room for mistakes. Night hiking is not recommended as the terrain may be quite difficult to traverse, even with a flashlight. Full-moon night hiking, incidentally, is a wonderful experience, with or without a flashlight.

As a result of southern Arizona summer temperatures and the Sonoran Desert, I have not been hiking too often or for distance in several weeks now. There has been little cloud cover, no rain, and sweltering dry heat. This time is apparently a time for rest. However, these hostile temperatures and personal tolerances are only momentarily in mind and monsoon, a particularly favorite season to hike, is coming and although I may be hiking precariously through heavy thunderstorm and rain drenched trail washes, monsoon is every bit a dream. No amount of hostility and personal tolerance can measure up to the beauty and elegance of monsoon. Driving rains for short periods of time between thunder and lightning, intermittent humidity, water, so much wet, wonderful water, and amazing skies make monsoon the perfect hiking companion. Forgo the umbrella, it will be upended. No rain coat or poncho has ever been comfortable. Bring on the wild Monsoon and I’ll ingest every bit of it. Monsoon is coming, a season worth waiting for!

If you’re interested in the Tucson area weather forecast, past, present and future, click on the link below…

http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KDMA/2014/6/10/MonthlyHistory.html#calendar

So what’s a hiker/backpacker do to? Embrace personal tolerance and southern Arizona hospitality (hostility), and venture into the unknown as well prepared as possible, or remain indoors with visions of monsoon dancing in our heads? I say, plan ahead, be careful and get out and hike, we will! You’ll regret it if you don’t.

What have we been doing? We have been working quite a bit and we’re really quite close to beginning our eCommerce website for Wild Drake. Our natural cuisine is tremendously nutritious, fully sustaining our endurance hiking, and our extensive line of trail apothecary, also natural, has been an essential addition on the trail. Our line of tested apothecary items currently includes lotions, salves, scrubs, bug repellant and tooth powder, (many more will be added) are all as essential as life itself on the trail. We’re very excited about initially releasing our hydrator, Hydraulic™, in many nutritionally-boosting flavors; our Bios™ energy bar; our newest creation and nutritionally specific food/beverage enhancement, Hike™; AscenTea™ and DescenTea™ Teas; etc. etc. Hey, and our products are wonderful for in-home use, too!!

Reach Your Summit!

Please observe our Leave No Trace principles and avoid lighting campfires during this hot, dry season in all of Arizona and the Southwest. Thank you!

The Definitive Answer to the Age Old Question…

The Definitive Answer to the Age Old Question… Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods?

The confirmation is a resounding YES! How do we know? Well, to spare you the sordid details and graphic photos, let’s simply say that Dave stepped in it! Avoidance was bear-ly a possibility because of the widespread nature of the umm, evidence. Happy Valley campground in the Rincon Mountain range (http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coronado/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=25596&actid=64), Southern AZ is apparently quite the haven for Black bears, and the manzanita bushes that are in abundance are currently providing a bountiful crop of tasty berries. Bears+berries+Dave’s left foot=proof!

This was far from just a sh*tty backpacking adventure however, and our weekend at Happy Valley campground and ascent of Rincon Peak were magnificent. The trailhead is about 60 miles from our home and as we were leaving Tucson, Dave suddenly swerved sharply, hit the brakes, and pulled over to the shoulder. Just as rapidly, he whipped back out onto the road into the direction from which we just came and was asking me, “Did you see that?” I didn’t have time to reply when he flipped another U-turn and pulled off to the side of the roadway. “It’s a Gila Monster”, he exclaimed as he grabbed the camera and leapt from the car. Urgently I followed, anxious to finally see one of these unique creatures. Though they are well-known, the Gila Monsters are not often seen and even David only sees one a year, on average, which is remarkable given the amount of time that he spends out in the desert. Gorgeous, poisonous, and slow-moving, the reptile was making its way across the pavement. David and I proceeded to plant ourselves in the lane, detouring several cars and a bicyclist until the lizard had time to reach the shoulder safely. It did not seem impressed that we wanted to take photos and kept opening its powerful jaw and waving its black tongue in warning. We kept a respectful distance because we did not want to traumatize it any further, and because they really are dangerous little fellows in spite of the fact that it looked a bit like a hissing newborn kitten.

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Gila Monster

Lizard crossing accomplished, we resumed our journey. Rincon Peak is a rocky protrusion that tops out at 8482 feet and is about an eight mile trek up from the trailhead. We spent our nights at Happy Valley, a campground which lies slightly over halfway. David and I were enthused to be on the inaugural evening of our new Big Agnes, Fly Creek UL2 (UL2) tent. It is noticeably lighter than the Mountain Hardwear EV3 (EV3) tent that we usually carry (okay, Dave carries!), but it is also considerably smaller (cozier) as well since it is constructed for two people instead of three, like the EV3 to which we have grown accustomed. The new structure permits us little room for both our backpacks, my smaller pack found an overnight home inside the UL2 while Dave’s nestled into the available bear-resistant food storage locker along with our food. It would have fit in the spacious vestibule, however, but with the two days of intermittent rain we decided to take full advantage of the dry locker. Overall, the UL2 was a wise purchase, even if it did involve a few moments of Twister as we changed and slid into our sleeping bags. I think we both really hoped and expected that we would get a glimpse of a bear, given all the evidence of their presence, but we did not get the opportunity.

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Happy Valley Campground

The Rincon Peak trail winds through pine forest for the majority of the second half, and the scent of the trees, the pine-needle carpet, the calls of frolicking crows, and the softness of the ground beneath us made indelible impressions on our senses. This trek was a refreshing change as we frequently travel in more open areas, rocky, and without the stands of pine and juniper, crunching on gravel and sand, deprived of the insulation of the forest. Approaching the upper reaches of Rincon Peak, the challenging and precarious trail begins a series of switchbacks and grows incredibly steep, transforming into an exciting ~40% grade testing both our endurance and desire. With sincere determination and willpower David steadfastly climbed, balancing his 45 pound backpack, hiking nimbly towards the summit (I stashed my 25 pound backpack along the way). His physical feat meant that not only did he have an intense perspiring workout, but that we were able to enjoy a delicious lunch and hot, energizing tea on the peak while admiring the 360 degree view from the summit!

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Rincon Peak 3.2 miles ahead

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Pine Forest along Rincon Peak Trail

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~40% slope

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8482′ Rincon Peak

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Rincon Range in the Foreground; Santa Catalinas in the Background

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Looking Southeast from the Summit of Rincon Peak

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David on the Summit of Rincon Peak

The trip back down was cautious due to the extreme slope but the peekaboo views through the pines along the trail gave David a chance to take some wonderful shots of the scenery. Arriving back at camp, we had a scrumptious and nutritious Wild Drake rehydrated meal, followed by our DescenTea™, which we imbibed beside our toasty campfire. The tea worked wonders and we both slept well and awoke rested and refreshed.

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Janice on Her Way Down the Rincon Peak Trail

After drying gear from a short period of overnight rainfall and condensation, we meandered our way back down the scenic Miller Creek trail, reluctant to leave Happy Valley and end our Rincon adventure.

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Our Final Morning at Happy Valley; Drying Gear

We began with a question and we culminate with one. Where will we go to reach our summit next weekend?

Reach Your Summit!

The USPS creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom…” may have been close, but they apparently weren’t referring to the Tilley LTM6, otherwise known as the Airflo Hat, when their proposition was adopted. It would have more closely resembled, “Bring on the blinding snow, drenching rain, and scorching heat…”

The USPS creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom…” may have been close, but they apparently weren’t referring to the Tilley LTM6, otherwise known as the Airflo Hat, when their proposition was adopted. It would have more closely resembled, “Bring on the blinding snow, drenching rain, and scorching heat…”

I’ve respectively boasted upon many hats in my day; the Tilley LTM6 Airflo Hat (Airflo) has outperformed each and every one!

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Cochise Stronghold Hiking

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Oak Creek Canyon, Bassett Peak Hiking

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Aravaipa Canyon Backpacking

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Aravaipa Canyon Backpacking

Handcrafted in Canada, with “persnicketiness”, adds Tilley, of nylon, polyester mesh and polyethylene foam, this hat is designed to perform with outstanding results, or it will be replaced, free of charge! That’s right, if you wear it out you’ll be wearing a new one, on Tilley! Don’t believe me…

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The Finest in All the World! Insured Against Loss, Guaranteed for Life

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Fine Workmanship and Materials

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The Airflo is Easily Reshaped

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Crown Pocket Demonstration, and Wind Cord Tucked into Crown

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Wind Cord Reshaping Brim for Cool Weather Wearing

Consider Tilley’s warranty and guarantee for a moment. Has any other company ever made such a promise? I’m not aware of one. This is truly an investment that you will enjoy for your entire life! They want you to wear their product until you wear it out, and talk about it, such as my cheerful, unpretentious boast. And, that’s exactly why I’m boasting, because I love this hat and, when or if I wear it out, they’ll replace it, free of charge. That is incredible customer service! Without question, Tilley has virtuously won my loyalty, and it’s because they stand behind a product that performs as stated. How great is that? I’ve put this hat through it’s paces and still, I have a hat that performs today, as it did the day I received it. OK, enough celebration, but before I cease, remember the USPS creed? Tilley’s may just be, “it floats, ties on, repels rain, blocks UV rays, won’t shrink, and comes with a four-page owner’s manual”. If only it could calm a vigilant canine…

How Functional is the Airflo

By far, this is the coolest wearing hat I’ve worn in the desert, and it has respectfully and successfully facilitated many more adventures I otherwise may not have made. Prior to this hat, I was often too hot to venture into the wilderness as temperatures approach 105ºF, regardless of sun protection. Now, I’m cooler, comfortable and able to withstand heat beyond my previous limits. My head and face are fully protected, with unrestricted vision, and the hat easily conforms, with the assistance of wind cord, to allow more air and sunlight circulate about my head, if desired.

The Airflo does not overwhelm, nor stick to my head, wearing quite comfortably without undue restriction. I’m able to wear sunglasses without discomfort, an issue I’ve had with many hats, and the chin straps keep the hat taught, on my head, in high winds. When I desire a temporary reprieve from the hat, I’ll either slide it off my head, allowing the wind cord to hang on around my neck, or I’ll take it off completely, roll it up and stuff it in a pocket. When the Airflow is once again desired, simply unroll, give it a quick stretch/reshape and it’s back on your head, like it never left.

This hat offers the benefit of warmth when it’s cool and refreshing cover when it’s hot. I find it perfectly suitable for all weather conditions, including dry heat and high humidity.

The spacious, velcro-enclosed storage pocket inside the crown is plenty large enough for my modest wallet, including contents, and a spare key.

The Airflo Takes its Fair Share of Abuse

I’ve rolled it, folded it, crinkled it, stuffed it, tossed it, thrown it in the lake to see if it indeed floats (it did), sat on it, travelled with it, slept with it on, chased it, dropped it, loaned it, and washed it, all numerous times, which, by the way, numerous washings, in particular, are highly recommended to prevent considerable damage due to perspiration build-up. The Airflo takes it’s fair share of abuse and begs for more.

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A beautiful Day in Bisbee, Arizona

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Janice & David, Wilderness of Rocks

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Pack-off Break in Aravaipa Canyon

It’s All About Us

The balance between material, workmanship, care, warranty and a pleasant North American company, makes the Airflo a very desirable hat. Once they’ve finished with it, they seem to extend their deepest wishes and offer the public their finest product, to make our journey more enjoyable!

Visit Tilley here… http://www.tilley.com/LTM6-AIRFLO-Nylamtium-Hat.aspx

Airflo Features Include

  • Constructed from 100% supplex nylon and 100% polyester mesh.
  • The fabric is certified to block 98% of harmful UVA/UVB radiation and deliver an ultraviolet factor (UPF) of 50+, the maximum rating given.
  • Although it blocks 98% of UV rays, some rays COULD enter through ¾” mesh.
  • ¾” polyester mesh permits quite a bit of air to circulate in and out of the hat.
  • Hand-sewn using very strong thread; all seams are lock-stitched so they won’t unravel.
  • The brass is from Britain and is the best there is.
  • Dark under-brim to reduce glare from water, sand and pavement.
  • Brim repels and channels water away for improved foul-weather protection.
  • A layer of closed-cell foam in the crown, and in the brim, providing positive buoyancy.
  • Tuck-away, adjustable, fore and aft Wind Cord, for wind protection when needed.
  • After washing, smooth and reshape by hand and set it out to air dry. When the Hat is dry, simply re-stretch it.
  • Will not stretch or shrink.
  • Four-page owners manual.
  • A Hydrofil anti-sweat band, which is wicking, soft and comfortable.
  • Hidden velcro-closure pocket in the crown for concealing valuables.
  • Available in thirteen sizes.
  • And, according to Tilley, “those who wear the Airflo usually have innate good taste, creative minds and uncommon intelligence”.

I Prefer to Wear My Airflo

All the time! In fact, there are very few instances, save the necessity for evaporative cooling, I may not need to wear it?

I wear this hat when I leave my home, just about every time, and I particularly prefer to hike and backpack with the Airflo. In fact, hiking and backpacking without it would be a serious misfortune. Head cover is essential in the wilderness, preventing hyperthermia and exhaustion, and the Airflo will always be THE hat I reach for to accompany me! The Airflo wears well, feels wonderful, functions by circulation air superbly, and considering the abuse this hat has endured, it continues to look fantastic. Shopping, fishing, boating, trail running, fitness walking, riding horses, etc., and for attending any local outdoor or out-of-town event, I love this hat, wear it often, and I’ve received many revering compliments.

Specifics

I received the Airflo as a gift, following many months of whining and pining. You could, too!

The Airflo has been worn in all climates and conditions associated with Arizona, from desert, to grassland, spruce/fir forests, both rural and urban events, and throughout all five southern, Arizona seasons (some, including I, consider monsoon a season of itself in southern, Arizona).

Summary

There’s a good possibility that the Airflo may fly off my head, when wind cord have not been engaged, and down into a canyon, lost forever. In such an event, I’m no longer warranted for loss and will, in fact, rush right out to purchase another Tilley! I have no reason to believe that another hat may serve me better, as much as I have shopped. The Tilley Airflo is, in my humble opinion, the best hat on the planet. I’ve worn the Airflo in desert extremes including heat well above 100ºF, freezing temperatures, and for protection against drenching summer monsoon. I’m more than happy to endorse a product that performs phenomenally! The Tilley Airflo is that hat, a hat for life!

Reach Your Summit!

All photos, copyright, WildDrake!

I have no, nor have I ever had any affiliation with Tilley, now or in the past.

The Injinji Performance Sport PED-Length Toe Sock, Composed of Coolmax, Nylon and Lycra, is about as Functional and Hydrodynamic as a Synthetic Sock can be… Especially so with the Laws of Nature Assisting in the Process…

The Injinji Performance Sport PED-Length Toe Sock, Composed of Coolmax, Nylon and Lycra, is about as Functional and Hydrodynamic as a Synthetic Sock can be… Especially so with the Laws of Nature Assisting in the Process…

Injinji on the Web… http://www.injinji.com/sport/sport-original-weight-ped.html/

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

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The Injinji® performance sport PED length toesock® (PED) are structurally produced to perform with the utmost respect of functionality and with as little material as possible. These are PED length socks! This means that they are meant to be hidden below the collar of your shoes. The PED’s feature a welt that is about as flat as possible and maintains as much posture as possible. They simply do not want to be seen and are meant to be hidden from sight.

According to Injinji, These Socks Have a “Five Toe Fit System” with Benefits Including

  • Anatomical five-toe design properly aligns toes (natural toe splay)
  • Seamless, five-toe-sleeve with anti-friction interface
  • Elastic dual welt band with increased compression that holds sock in place
  • Superior moisture management
  • Prevents blisters and promotes proper posture & balance
  • True L/R anatomical secure fit
  • Toe mobility, which allows stronger, healthier feet
  • Reinforced heel and toes to increase durability
  • Better gripping and balance inside shoe
  • Designed to support arch

Fabric/Composition

Injinji combines a mixture of 75% Coolmax® performance polyester, 20% Nylon and 5% Lycra®, a conglomerate of synthetics, to produce the PED, designed for the sole (no pun intended) purpose of seizing perspiration from the surface of your feet, to the exterior of the sock, where your perspiration is exPEDiently precipitated, keeping your feet cool and dry in the warmer months, warm and dry in the cooler months.

The PED is an integral part of my footwear system, and one I’d soon not go without. I’ve been wearing Vibram FiveFinger (VFF) footwear, when I wear footwear, 100% of the time since April 2013, and the PED’s have been worn along with them, each and every time. Considerable discernment has been initiated, over the years, for a sock that would function better for me than the next. With all due respect to the VFF’s, these socks are a perfect functional companion. And, with all due respect to the brand of sock, Injinji, which I’ve been wearing for many years, I probably would not have purchased the VFF’s if Injinji’s PED toe socks didn’t exist. Prior to the VFF’s, I wore a fairly strong hiker, a Kayland hiking boot to assist me in my adventures with not a single blister, in 6 years, credited entirely to Injinji brand toe socks! Prior to toe socks, in general, I suffered enough blisters to dramatically consider a change that would once and for all make a difference, including comfort and function!

Structure, Fit and Performance

Coolmax structural properties, that is, the architectural integrity of the fiber, contains channels, micro-channels that are specially designed to extract, transport , displace and disperse your perspiration over a wide surface area, wicking perspiration while at the same time positioning the perspiration to expeditiously and precipitously expunge perspiration from the surface of your foot. This process continues efficaciously throughout the use of the product, every moment, during performance, while in use, repeating the entire process cyclically, allowing the wearer to, essentially, perform more efficiently, functionally, and comfortably, during exertion and whenever your feet require moisture control.

These PED’s hug my feet! With a very low profile and superior fit, accredited to the seamless design, these toe socks, literally, fit beyond expectation. Once they’re on, they fit me perfectly, like a glove, so to speak, with no shifting. Right out of the package, I never thought they would, just looking at them. There is no loose sock to be found nor is there excess anything. And, because they fit each toe so well, seamlessly, there’s practically zero chance of sock movement, migration and chafing that would otherwise cause blisters. In addition to being a low-profile sock, structurally these fit below or at the crest of my VFF’s, and they are a thinner sock so there’s no bulk to control or behave badly. If these socks have, at all, broken down, after all these months/years, that is, the individual fibers losing their ability to perform as expected, I have not noticed. I continue to use the same PED’s I have since their addition to my sock line-up in April 2013, in conjunction with my VFF’s, with no noticeable wear or damage, with the exception of a small insignificant hole in one single pair. I rotate, the best I can, the same three pair that were originally ordered along with my VFF’s. Quite honestly, there doesn’t seem to be much complexity to this sock, and looks are very deceiving. They are indeed thin in nature but seem to perform as if passion was guiding their way.

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Performance and Temperature Regulation

Why, you ask, if the body’s cooling mechanism is the process of perspiration, do we need a product to transport the perspiration from our body? Wouldn’t the benefit be the perspiration and cooling effect of the resulting solute(water and constituent molecules)? Great question! By transporting accumulated solute, water, sodium and other minerals, from the body, the Coolmax fabric is effectively relieving the body from an over-accumulation of solute that may lead to decreased performance, and particularly, comfort. Coolmax transports solute by-products from the skin, assists in the evaporation of water while, unfortunately but unavoidably, decreasing in performance, over time, due to build-up or accumulation of solute residue. This accumulated, abandoned residue is also the odor we smell as a result of prolonged period of wear, due in part to this accumulated residual residue once part of the solute, additional solute and, while in use, generated body heat, and added organic material kicked up while in motion. Let’s olfactive further into this…

What’s that Ungrateful Smell?

Coolmax, like polypropylene and other natural and synthetic fibers will absorb your perspiration. Once the water is precipitously expunged and evaporated from synthetic performance fabrics you’re left with nothing but, as stated above, solute residue clinging to the garment, in this case, a sock. This resulting build-up of solute residue with the addition of more solute causes odor! Natural fibers, on the other hand, tend to retain more water, significantly diluting or dissolving the solute, preventing as much odor, in my opinion. Natural fibers are, however, by nature, more odoriferous to begin with, but their ability to retain solute is greater, causing dilution. Odor is essentially unavoidable, however, there is a bit more odor with synthetic fibers than natural, I have experienced. The good news is that I find synthetic fibered clothing to clean well, perform well for the entire length of it’s lifespan and, for that matter, survive, in tact, for many many years more than its natural fiber counterpart. The PED is no exception. The only way to avoid a savory synthetic fabric is to wash it! Thus, for example, if I’m on an extended backpacking trek, I may bring two sets of PED’s. I’ll quickly wash a pair and hang them on my pack to dry while wearing the fresh pair. Also, when you’re experiencing a soaking rainfall, a synthetic fiber performs considerably better, overall, greatly liberating the garment of excess water, far more efficiently than a natural fiber, and synthetics dry dramatically faster.

Following a single day of use, my sport PED’s seem to take on a life of their own, more closely resembling a rigid plank than the tiny ball of synthetics that was pulled from the washer and dryer. This, once again, is the residue that has accumulated in the material that cannot escape or precipitate, unless washed, asap. If worn continuously, without washing the accumulated material from the garment, the sock’s structural integrity may begin a process of severe disenchantment, inducing a conditional form of back flow that you may find closely resembling a concrete pad rather than a sock that is a PED. All of us may have experienced this a time or two, of course you have. I know I have, following a few long-distance endurance events and all-day exPEDitions.

More (or Less, Briefly, Off the Subject) on Accumulated Organic Material

Incidentally, to sway slightly from the immediate subject, this is also why we should indeed protect our footwear, and for that matter, our clothing and gear from destruction by utilizing a protective barrier from harmfully grinding organic material that may either induce damage or cause complete breakdown of performance. For the same reason we wear a synthetic sock to protect our feet and shoes, we also need to protect our clothing fibers from incidental damage by utilizing a sit pad such as when we’re resting on the trail, please click link, https://wilddrake.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/therm-a-rests-z-seat-should-be-standard-equipment-in-your-pack-functional-as-a-protective-seat-while-resting-it-may-also-be-useful-for-several-other-innovative-means-while-on-the-trail/, and gear, such as our tent floor by incorporating a ground sheet resting directly on the ground taking the brunt of punishment rather than our expensive tent floor. Respectively, a sit pad will protect and prevent dirt from damaging the fibers of your hiking pants, and a ground sheet to protect and prevent dirt from damaging the fibers of your tent floor. In all instances, preventative measures are always an inexpensive alternative to complacent behavior and avoidably, necessary replacement! Which is why I always wear the PED’s with my VFF’s, and I’ve been asked why a number of times. I care enough to protect my gear, protect my VFF’s from over-exposure. The act of conserving may just be the ultimate in function!

Wearability

I began wearing Injinji’s, in general, this is pre-PED, in approximately 2008, strictly for blister control (once again, I began wearing the PED length socks in April 2013). They were outstanding in performance and fit my feet well, toes well, and with little movement inside my boot, and they rarely or never caused a blister. They performed far better than every other toe-less sock, without question, and my feet couldn’t be happier, that is until the PED’s arrived in 2013. And, the PED’s are so much better… no shifting, no creasing, and, no complaining (for my part). That’s the best part!

And, according to Coolmax, the reviews were similar to mine. Wearers reported a significant degree of moisture control, performing “much better” than rival counterparts, hence, Coolmax is a “much more desirable” product. And, in regard to Coolmax, I, personally, have been using Coolmax products since its introduction in 1986, including running and cycling apparel, with a fairly good feel for the product. The transition to socks, therefore, seemed natural. I do, however, feel more comfortable in a natural wool product, in my experience, but find the quick-natured performance of the Coolmax products to keep me, as stated earlier, warm and dry during cooler months and cool and dry during the warmer months. That’s a hard act to beat.

Can You Say, “Culture Shock”

So, as you could probably imagine the PED’s aren’t too bad as a daily sock. But, how do they perform on the trail? Well, they perform just as well on the trail as they do everywhere else! In fact, on the trail, their reduced weight helps considerably. I went from a Kayland, over-the-ankle, hiking boot, and wearing a far more substantial, above-the-ankle, Injinji sock, to VFF’s and Injinji PED’s. Can you say culture shock, or is it culture sock? What an amazing difference and transition! I was, prior to VFF’s, a firm believer in supportive over-the-ankle, backpacking boots. Now, I will not hike or backpack, with any other foot wear than the VFF’s/PED combination! They’re that comfortable for me.

And, my PED’s have performed flawlessly, with just one complaint. As form-fitting and as well-constructed as they are, at the collar, they still tend to allow the smallest bit of material in. However, these socks are well below my ankles and this must be fully expected considering the shape of our anatomy below our ankle. I can not expect the collar on the Injinji’s to fully fill these vacancies, it would simply defy all laws of dynamics. Despite this, the PED’s are the best sock I have ever worn, and I’ve experienced no other issues, whatsoever!

In the near future, I do intend on making a trail gaiter, compatible with my VFF’s to avoid all material entering through the cuffs of both the VFF’s and PED’s. This will be a fun, do-it-myself project.

Size

My foot size is a US size 10.5, slender with a high arch! The model PED I wear is Injinji’s “OW”, Original Weight and Moderate Interface. Injinji’s medium size is reported to fit US sizes from 8 – 10.5. The medium fits me well, almost tight, with little or no room left, if my foot were slightly larger. The PED has virtually no wiggle room and, in fact, it’s designed not to. Therefore, I find the sizing chart, accurate! Injinji also claims these socks to be quite supportive, and deservingly so. They are indeed, I must admit, very supportive.

Injinji produces socks in several weights and interfaces. My initial preference was not necessarily the PED and was chosen only to correspond with my VFF’s, which seemed a plausible possible fit, coinciding together. I believe this has been a fantastic choice, to begin with, wearing PED’s with my VFF’s.

In general and specifically, for each and every functionality, I’m overly pleased with my PED’s and fully support this choice of toe sock!! You’ll love them as much as I do!

Climate

Since my initial PED purchase back in April 2013, I’ve worn these PED’s  everyday whether I’m in the house, working, walking about town, hiking and backpacking. The climate in southern, AZ, where I live, is a hot, dry heat during the warmer months, cool and dry during the cooler months. Therefore, as much as my feet may perspire, the climate is assisting in the process of evaporation. PED’s are, therefore, not as much a requirement as they may be in a more temperate, humid environment.

My PED’s have been introduced to temperatures as low as freezing, but no less, and temperatures above 100ºF, never experiencing temperatures greater than 110ºF. During the summer months of Monsoon, my feet get wet and the PED’s assist in the process drying quickly!

I’ve hiked in rain, snow and on ice with no laborious drying-out required. These PED’s really have performed well for me!

Price

$10.00/pair

Summary

Thus, the Injinji Performance Sport PED Toe Sock, composed of Coolmax, Nylon and Lycra has performed well, functioned as expected and wears comfortably. The PED’s have kept my feet dry, prevented blisters and have caused no unexpected issues. They have not broken down, nor have they failed to perform. Following more than 11 months of everyday use, the PED’s will remain on my feet, weather permitting, and will continue to be an integral part of my footwear for many months/years to come.

For your convenience, I’ll continue to submit updates in regard to future experiences.

Reach Your Summit!

This is an independent review of the Injinji Performance Sport PED Toe Sock. I am not at all affiliated with Injinji nor am I affiliated with Coolmax or Lycra, or any associated entity. I paid full retail price as a consumer for this product!

All photos, copyright, Wild Drake!