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!

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!

The Dappled Shade was a Refreshing Change from…

Saturday has arrived. We’ve been incredibly busy, too busy in fact to post our last hike in a timely manner. But today is indeed Saturday and time to relax, time to consider the past week’s events, time to lean back and enjoy the progression we’ve made with WildDrake.com and, time to blog. Last Sunday we completed an all-day ~18 mile loop hike and as we were taking our final steps back to our vehicle at the trailhead (the trail had seemingly generated much enthusiasm, energy and exuberance), we were pondering our next great adventure, a magical difference from the rather than expected exhausted feeling one would normally experience following an entire day-long hike. We had so much fun we were already planning our next hike before returning to the trailhead and back to our vehicle. What a spectacular day we had…

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Oracle Ridge Trail / Trailhead
Oracle Ridge Trail #1 to Catalina Camp Trail #401
Oracle Ridge Trail #1 to Catalina Camp Trail #401
Northwest View from Oracle Ridge Trail
Northwest View from Oracle Ridge Trail
Northeastern View from Oracle Ridge Trail
Northeastern View from Oracle Ridge Trail
University of Arizona's Biosphere
University of Arizona’s Biosphere
Catalina Camp Trail #401, which is a Portion of the Arizona Trail (AZT), passing Catalina Camp and Continuing on Red Ridge Trail #2, also a Portion of the AZT.
Red Ridge Trail #2 Intersection Awaiting Us Near the Bottom
Red Ridge Trail #2 Intersection Awaiting Us Near the Bottom

The dappled shade was a refreshing change from the scorching blast that radiates from the blond sands of the open desert. Hiking along the Canada del Oro (CDO) trail was a supremely pleasant surprise and we’re certain that we will soon return to this charming destination. Perhaps we should have begun our blog post beginning with the trailhead, however, because the entire route held a variety of unexpected treasures we could have commenced at just about every turn of the trail, a trail that quickly became one of our favorite hikes, and one we will gladly repeat.

We did not arrive at the starting point of the Oracle Ridge/CDO circuit until 7am (in spite of waking at 3am) because we wanted to have a good breakfast, a pack full of delicious snacks and a nutritious lunch, and we have to filter all of our house water because of the high mineral content and taste. We may have been a couple of hours behind schedule but later in the day, as we perched on boulders near a small meandering stream and enjoyed our meal and replenished our bodies, it was worth the time invested. Considering that our planned route was 18.6 miles, keeping fed and hydrated was vital to our success in completion.

The Oracle Ridge Trail is part of the Arizona Trail and we started at about 8000 feet in elevation, before winding our way down to the valley floor, dipping to just under 5000 feet at the lowest point. The ridge enables expansive views of the San Pedro Valley and the north side of the Catalinas with the town of Oracle only about 12 miles away. Other than the Coos deer that was nibbling on greenery, the trail was bereft of other travelers and actually, we did not see anyone else until we crested Mt. Lemmon, nearly at the end of our trip.

Coos Deer
Coos Deer

As we twisted our way down from the Oracle Ridge Trail, we could see remnants of mines tucked in along the hillsides and upon nearing the bottom, there was a heavily traversed trail that seemed like a random spur but the amount of traffic it had sustained made us want to explore it further. This led us to a heap of deserted old mining equipment, including rails, a water pump, and assorted fuel cans and tools, and just around the corner was the mouth of the mine itself. Intrigued, David clambered down the entrance to have a better look (of course he did) with me following right behind. There was a vent that allowed light into the tunnel and air circulation, and we could follow the connected pipes for water movement into and out of the mine, and there were lines of mining rail that extended in several directions into the darkness of the mountain’s inner sanctum, in addition to deeper passageways we didn’t dare venture further with our limited headlamp lumen. The temperature change was remarkable and the coolness was a striking change considering that the mouth of the mine was only feet away. We were inspected by several members of the local bat population but their brief forays and flybys were not frightening and merely added to the atmosphere of the moment. We were seized by the spelunking bug and by using our headlamps, we could see that there were many offshoots and an implied maze of tunnels, beckoning further exploration. I must admit that I was singing the Hi Ho song from Snow White to myself, but we knew that we were not adequately prepared and would have to return at a later date.

Mining Equipment and Dreams of Yesterday
Mining Equipment and Dreams of Yesterday
I’m Not Going First, You Go First. I’m Not Going First, You Go First. Well, Someone Has to Go Into the Deep, Dark Mine First? Hmmm…
Equipment Residing Inside the Entrance of the Mine
Equipment Residing Inside the Entrance of the Mine
Catalina Camp. Now a Hikers Retreat.
Catalina Camp. Now a Hikers Retreat.

Resuming our trek, we passed by several old miner’s shacks, one of which has been commandeered by hikers and campers and is a very quirky and creative stop. There is a register inside and after taking photos and signing, we wondered what else the day would have in store for us. As we reached the valley floor, walking through fairly typical Sonoran Desert terrain, the heat was increasing and it was very warm, even at 5000 feet. The trail was well-kept and easily traversed and soon we welcomed a break and our lunch. As we sipped on a bottle of our refreshingly energizing Hydraulic™ hydration beverage, we reached an intersection of the CDO Trail and headed back towards the interior of Catalinas, which brought us through dramatic changes in vegetation as we climbed in elevation.

More Mining Equipment from Another Abandoned Mine.
More Mining Equipment from Another Abandoned Mine.
The Intersection of Catalina Camp #401 and Red Ridge Trail #2. We Begin Red Ridge Trail here with the CDO Trail in our Sights, 1.5 Miles Ahead. At this Intersection the Red Ridge Trail will also Lead You 3.1 Miles into the Town of Summerhaven.
Janice Preparing a Wonderful Lunch.
Janice Preparing a Wonderful Lunch.
Bark Scorpion and our Guest of Honor at Lunch.
Bark Scorpion and our Guest of Honor at Lunch.
No Complaints whatsoever from our Party Crashing Guest of Honor.
No Complaints whatsoever from our Party Crashing Guest of Honor.
A Face Only Mother Could Love.
A Face Only Mother Could Love.
Red Ridge Trail #2 Intersection to Samaniego Ridge Trail #7 Via the CDO Trail #4. Our Journey Via the CDO Trail Winds through a very Healthy Deciduous Forest and Past the Attractive “Reef of Rock” Ridge.

This section of the loop was slated at 6.1 miles and for both of us, it was the most enjoyable trail by far. The path traced the CDO Creek which tumbles and flows through a boulder strewn bed and requires crossing numerous times, and surprisingly, it contained a fair amount of water considering this is a very dry season. This constant supply of moisture has given rise to many bordering deciduous trees the entire length of the stream, a very pleasant and attractive feature. It is such a rarity to hike in this kind of environment in Arizona and we both thoroughly appreciated our surroundings. We made plans to return for a more extended period and potential campsites were plentiful. This went on for several miles, slightly gaining elevation and we startled three more deer who were imbibing of the cool creek water. Eventually the trail separates from the creek and begins to get steeper and leads up to the ridge where we connected to the trail that brought us up towards the summit of Mt. Lemmon. At this point, the rustling leaves had given way to pine forest and the smell was refreshing (except for when we encountered Pepé Le Pew) and the pine needles provided a fabulously cushioned carpet on which to trek. Breaks in the trees provided a glimpse of the valley behind us and we were slightly amazed at how far we had travelled in what seemed so short a time period since our last compass change.

"Reef of Rock" Ridge
“Reef of Rock” Ridge
The Lower Elevation of Mt. Lemmon on the Left and the Samaniego Ridge on the Right, We're Hiking South on The CDO Trail #4, Beginning at an Elevation of 4880', through a Healthy Deciduous Forest up to  Samaniego Ridge Trail #7 and this Saddle, 7680' in Elevation and 6.1 Miles.
The Lower Elevation of Mt. Lemmon on the Left and the Samaniego Ridge on the Right, We’re Hiking South on The CDO Trail #4, Beginning at an Elevation of 4880′, through a Healthy Deciduous Forest up to Samaniego Ridge Trail #7 and this Saddle, 7680′ in Elevation and 6.1 Miles.
Purple Lupin
Purple Lupin
Intersection of the CDO and Samaniego Trails Looking North Down the CDO Trail and at the Beautiful CDO Valley from which we came.
Intersection of the CDO and Samaniego Trails Looking North Down the CDO Trail and at the Beautiful CDO Valley from which we came.
The 0.7 mile CDO Shortcut Trail #4A completing the 6.1 Mile CDO Trail #4 up to the Samaniego Ridge Trail #7.
The 0.7 mile CDO Shortcut Trail #4A completing the 6.1 Mile CDO Trail #4 up to the Samaniego Ridge Trail #7.
Prior to Reaching the Mt. Lemmon Trail We're Rewarded with a Great Southern View of Cathedral Rock (on the left) and the Southern Most Perimeter Ridge of the Santa Catalinas
Prior to Reaching the Mt. Lemmon Trail We’re Rewarded with a Great Southern View of Cathedral Rock (on the left) and the Southern Most Perimeter Ridge of the Santa Catalinas
Now on the Samaniego, We're on our Way Up to Mt. Lemmon Trail #5.
Now on the Samaniego, We’re on our Way Up to Mt. Lemmon Trail #5.

As we approached the top of Mt. Lemmon, we were rewarded with incredible views of Oro Valley and the southern most perimeter ridge of the Catalinas including Cathedral Rock, the sun eagerly and effortlessly lighting the western sky, reminding us that we still had miles to cross before completing our day-long circular adventure. Soon we found ourselves at 9080 feet, the highest point that we traversed that day and as we began to negotiate the peak, we caught a spectacular view of Lemmon Rock and the fire lookout cabin that we’ve seen many times from the Wilderness of Rocks area. Fortunately, we reached all of the best scenic portions of our adventure as daylight waned and the final leg of our trek meant walking paved roadway, but as nightfall enveloped us, we knew that while we both would have desperately preferred to avoid roadways, it was a sensible choice. Now at our vehicle, following a few well deserved stretches, we rolled down the mountain continuing with our discussion of, when and where will our next summit adventure be?

The Summit of Mt. Lemmon, 1.5 Miles Ahead.
The Summit of Mt. Lemmon, 1.5 Miles Ahead.
Lemmon Rock
Lemmon Rock
View Southeast from Mt. Lemmon Trail. Rincon Range and Rincon Peak Visible (right center).
View Southeast from Mt. Lemmon Trail. Rincon Range and Rincon Peak Visible (right center).
Last Glimpse of Cathedral Rock as Sunset Approaches.
Last Glimpse of Cathedral Rock as Sunset Approaches.

Reach Your Summit!

WildDrake Earth Day ’14 Photo Collage

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Mint Springs Trail
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Santa Catalina Mountains, Aspen Fire 2003
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Mint Spring
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Janice @ Mint Spring
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Mint Springs / Aspen Trail, Day Hike; This area has been impacted by overuse, please practice WildDrake.com
Aspen Trail
David Planning His Next Hike
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Rattlesnake Peak (left) to Cathedral Rock (right). Wonderful Ridge Hike!
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Horned Toad Lizard
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Mt. Wrightson w/ Thimble Peak and Saddleback Ridge in the foreground
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Wilderness of Rocks
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Thimble Peak and Saddleback Ridge w/ Tucson in the background
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Janice on Her Way Down the Aspen Trail

Happy Earth Day 2014!

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!