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!

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Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness – An Oasis In The Desert!

It’s monsoon season in Arizona and that time of year, time for backpacking and revisiting the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aravaipa_Canyon_Wilderness. Due to the fragile nature of this exceptional perennial creek, watershed, riparian zone and breathtaking oasis, nestled deep within a very arid, discrepant desert environment, monsoon season is possibly the best time of year to visit Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, and potentially the time of year these summer storms may add a bit of dramatic adventure to your life.

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Aravaipa Canyon

An Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness adventure begins with a click to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/arolrsmain/aravaipa.html. Once there, maneuver your way to the permit page and decided which entrance, East or West, is more suitable to begin your expedition. I chose the West entrance due to its proximity to Tucson, an approximate 2.5 hour drive, https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Tucson,+AZ/Aravaipa+Canyon+Wilderness,+San+Manuel,+AZ+85192/@32.8190051,-111.5041325,9z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x86d665410b2ced2b:0x73c32d384d16c715!2m2!1d-110.926479!2d32.2217429!1m5!1m1!1s0x8729d0ef15cc3141:0xa639361cb454315a!2m2!1d-110.487596!2d32.89701. Now that you’ve decided on an entrance and you have your date(s) of adventure in mind, you’re ready to pay for and print your permit directly from the website (you’ll also receive a copy via email). Upon arrival at the trailhead you’ll need to record your permit number on the register and post a copy (materials are provided for you at the trailhead) on your vehicle dashboard within plain sight and, you’re ready to begin your quest.

Aravaipa Chalet
Aravaipa Chalet & West Trailhead Parking Lot

Aravaipa creek is just minutes from the trailhead, therefore there’s no need to carry water in providing you have purification equipment, and once you’re in the creek (for the most part the creek is your trail) and within tree canopy the temperature may easily drop by a refreshing 10 degrees, more if a monsoon is passing through.

Immediately, take notice of the carsonite trailhead sign at the junction of the creek and the trailhead, and it’s location. If you have a GPS system, use it, however it’s not absolutely necessary. Finding your way out of the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness may be a daunting task, especially if it’s raining, it’s dark, or you’re not exactly sure where the trailhead is. I can tell you that if you’re on your way out of the canyon, and you’re lost or it’s dark, you’ll eventually come across the parking lot lamppost that will appear directly in your field of vision, just above the creek. Once you see the lamppost, you’re just a couple on minutes from the trailhead.

Carsonite Trailhead Sign
Carsonite Trailhead Sign

Now that you’re in the canyon you may or may not be immediately in the creek, depending on conditions that may change on a constant basis due to weather, rainwater and watershed variables and channeling conditions as the water riffles wherever water wishes to go. I’ve been there twice and neither time was I beginning immediately in the creek, this second time in several inches of rich, silky mud (hiking poles can be useful for balance). Not only did this extraordinary earthy mud made life amusing but left indelible fauna tracks of all kinds to appreciate. Thank goodness the creek meandered just feet away. Initially you’ll begin passing through wilderness on your right and ranch land on your left.  This area is where I saw the most beautiful dapple-colored bear I have ever seen, traversing the creek only 60 feet in front of me. Unfortunately, the bear was swifter than the time it took to wake my camera to snap a photo of this majestic creature. Before I knew it it was out of eyesight. Next time, my camera will remain on.

Initially, you’ll begin passing through wilderness on your right and ranch land on your left. This area is where I saw the most beautiful dapple-colored bear I have ever seen (not that I’ve ever seen a dapple-colored bear), traversing the creek only 60 feet in front of me. Unfortunately, the bear was swifter than the time it took for me to wake my camera to snap a photo of this majestic creature. Before I knew it it was unfortunately out of eyesight. Next time, I’ll be sure to maintain my camera or video camera in the “on” mode.

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Murky Water
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Looking Forward to the Canyon
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Mud Beginning the Adventure
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Mud was unavoidable
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Creek Before the Canyons
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Canyon Walls

Before long, and you’ll be able to see them as soon as you enter the creek, you’ll begin passing through slot canyons the creek has, for millions of years, carved through volcanic and bed rock. The majority of the creek, however, is not slot canyon, with exception of a few side canyons that are almost entirely composed of slot canyon, and you may find trails that run in concert along side of the creek, intersecting the creek many times. Taking advantage of the trails is highly recommended in some of the rougher, turbid water, although, when the water is clear and rather docile, I prefer to traipse directly through the water even swimming in larger pools every chance possible, before continuing on my journey. The first time I visited the wilderness, July of 2013, I found the water level to average less than a foot in depth, and this second visit a foot to eighteen inches in depth, considerably higher this second visit. There were several fast-water flows that needed to be avoided for safety by going terra firma, making use of trails due to excessive turbidity and depths greater than waist high. In fact, the water saturation and turbidity this adventure was entirely opaque, making each step deliberate, slowing my pace and along with the abundance of silken mud along the embankment that extended upward approximately two to four feet above the current water table, led me to believe I missed a fantastic monsoon confluence that must have passed through only one day before. Two days later, on my way out of the wilderness, a considerable amount of this silty deposit had already baked in the hot Arizona sun forming the most beautiful mosaic of thick, rich, feathery terrain in which to travel.

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Creek Meandering Through the Canyon
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Notice the Desert and Saguaros just Above the Rocks
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Slot Canyon
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Trails were Utilized to Avoid this Area
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Aravaipa Canyon
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Almost Whitewater
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Aravaipa Canyon just East of booger Canyon. Camp is Immediately to the Right.
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Aravaipa Canyon just West of Booger Canyon. Camp is Immediately to the Left
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Portion of Booger Canyon looking down upon Aravaipa Canyon Creek
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Aravaipa Creek Below Booger Canyon
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Booger Canyon
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Aravaipa / Booger Canyon Confluence
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Aravaipa Canyon
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Saguaro’s Lining the Canyon Walls
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Aravaipa Creek
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Aravaipa (right) / Booger (left) Canyon
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Saguaro’s Holding the Cliff Above Aravaipa Canyon
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Aravaipa Canyon

I happened to be a lone soul, with the exception of an abundance of wildlife, in the canyon wilderness this sojourn and I thoroughly enjoyed every peaceful moment. I sauntered where I wished, climbed and negotiated and non-competitively contemplated what to do and when to do it. My only hinderance was the mandatory three-day limit bestowed upon me by the BLM, which I respectfully accepted given the grandiose beauty surrounding me. With a cheerful gleam I parted the water as I walked, soaked in the wonderful weather, photographed spectacular scenery, spoke to the wildlife, listened intently to the sounds of nature and relished my surroundings thinking, this is how life is meant to be lived. With pause, I quickly thought to myself, I’m home, before I shook myself back to reality knowing my primal stay here is unfortunately, limited. Incidentally, this canyon wilderness has been home for indigenous people and cultures for more time than we can possibly conceptualize, a way of life not too much different than the life I so desperately desire to ingress, if only for this very brief period of time.

Wild Drake
Wild Drake
Wild Drake
Wild Drake
Camp
Camp

Along on my journey, modern conveniences such as a waterproof backpack, sil-nylon tent and hammock, titanium stove and cookware, and a modern fire-starter had all added a bit of luxury to wilderness life, and a good old-fashioned beloved, non-fiction paperback book was pleasantly absorbed page after page while lying in my hammock, as if by osmosis, word after word, collectively ensnared each and every one of my senses, adding waves of confluence to the gentle warmth of my already immersed wilderness spirit. From the bear and I fortuitously crossing paths, and birds of amazing beauty and elegance sharing with me their exotic refuge, to the two young bucks that visited my campsite, all of us enjoying the surreal landscape, and rewarding me with their kind, unpretentious demeanor and trusting me to encroach their personal space to within a few feet. The gorgeous and wise old owl, wise enough to know I meant it no harm. The insects I intently observed doing their best, but to no avail, to construct a home for themselves in the finely-sifted dirt that kept falling back into their prospective home. The tiny native fish, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_species_of_Aravaipa_Canyon, inhabiting the creek whom were bold enough to nibble my fingertips as I lay naked, supinely in the shallow portion of the creek near my campsite as the gently flowing water brushed and soothed the entire breadth of my body. This is Aravaipa, an oasis in the desert!

Bear print
Bear print
Bear prints
Bear prints
Deer
Deer
Deer
Deer
Deer
Deer
Owl
Owl
Owl
Owl

Plan Ahead…

Please do not disregard the permit system, it exists to encourage the long-term growth of the canyon flora and fauna and to prevent overuse and abuse. Once again, this is a very fragile ecosystem that needs care and consideration for it to thrive. There is a three day maximum limit or you may reserve for an overnight or a day hike. Please carry out all trash and dispose of properly after you’ve returned home and, kindly follow the Leave No Trace principles, https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles. Any further questions in regard to what you may need? You may possibly find your answer here: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/info/regulations.html.

The Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness creek bed is evidently composed of small stones to large boulders. While the water in Aravaipa is constantly in motion, be prepared with footwear that best prevents these small stones from entering your shoes, otherwise you’ll have sore feet and an awful experience. I learned the hard way and limped away from my initial experience in Aravaipa with an abundance of foot sores almost too sore to walk on. This past week I wore a Vibram brand FiveFinger shoe that prevented quite a bit of material from entering my footwear but not all of it. I still had to stop once over a span of almost seven miles to empty unwanted debris from my shoes, but a far cry from last years choice of footwear, having to empty them several times every mile. My suggestion would be a low-cut shoe that contains a neoprene cuff such as the Vibram FiveFingers KSO model, however, this shoe has a smooth sole that may not be conducive to travel along the bottom of a slippery creek bed. I wore the Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon model that was adequate for the job. A taller water shoe with a lugged sole may work out if one exists, I’m not aware of one. During my first visit to Aravaipa I went along with a friend whom wore a regular runner-style shoe with gaiters. He seemed to be able to prevent most of the smaller debris from entering with this set-up.

Be safe!… Be aware that because this is an excitingly active ecosystem there may be rocks falling from cliffs or canyon walls on a regular basis. Do not linger directly below any cliff, especially during inclement weather and high winds. In addition, inclement weather including rainfall or monsoon may empty into the Aravaipa canyon watershed, suddenly and by surprise, even if there are no clouds within sight, causing a destructive wall of water rolling down the canyon. Stay alert, always scan the terrain for a way out or up if this happens and do your best not to linger long in any of the slot canyons where there may be no escape.

Aravaipa Canyon
Aravaipa Canyon

There is an abundance of wildlife in the canyon wilderness and because the wilderness is not much more than miles of riparian wetland you will encounter this wildlife. It is in my experience that this wildlife is conditioned to encountering humans and therefore skittish but not too vastly afraid and when startled or happened upon quietly may decide to protect itself. It is in your best interest to remain alert and make some kind of noise during travel to avoid a tragic encounter. In any case, you will encounter wildlife. For your benefit do not attempt to feed or follow. There have been numerous bear and cub sightings in the Aravaipa wilderness, your best defense against an attack is to prevent being caught between a mother and her cub, once again, make as much noise (talking, walking through the water, etc.) as possible and they will saunter off without incident. Observe from a distance only and give them their space.

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Gorgeous Sky Above Aravaipa Canyon

Necessary and Precautionary Equipment and Awareness You May Find Useful…

• Appropriate footwear… Shoes that prevent the creek bed from entering is of utmost concern.
• Shelter… If staying overnight it would behoove you to pitch your shelter above possible watershed high water mark.
• Food containment system… A food containment system is essential equipment unless you want to lose your food and face the possibility of coming face to face with a bear or other uninvited guests late in the evening. I recommend the Ursack S29 AllWhite system http://wilddrake.com/2014/03/13/the-tied-and-true-bear-discouragement-food-containment-system-the-ursack-spectra-29-s29-allwhite-may-very-well-be-your-best-available-option-for-your-safety-food-containment-food-protection-and-food-s/, it has worked very well for me for several years with not a single animal incident, to date.
• Hiking poles… Not necessary and I’ve never used them yet may come in handy for a number of uses, especially if you’re comfortable with them, such as testing the depth of water, staying vertical, buoyant and above water, possibly preventing life-threatening falls in the water and slipping on mud.
• First-aid… Always carry a comprehensive first-aid kit (first-aid kits are always very personalized) including a whistle. Let friends and loved ones know where you are and when you’re expected to return home, and of course the BLM will investigate, providing you obtained the mandatory permit and you haven’t left the wilderness in a timely manner. Cell phones will not work in this canyon wilderness area.
• Sun protection… Although this is a riparian area with plenty of water and tree-cover, the desert is just feet away. A combination of direct sunlight and sun reflection off the water may warrant a need for sun protection.
• Be aware of your current location… Falling rocks from high cliffs is not unusual in Aravaipa Canyon. Do not linger directly below any cliff, especially during inclement weather and high winds.
• Bear deterrent… Although I have not ever had any issues with bears nor have I heard of anyone having issues with bears it’s always best to stay alert and carry bear spray, if that may make you feel more comfortable.
• Bug spray… Not absolutely necessary but, precautionary. Bees were not much of an issue but should always be taken seriously and precautionary measures followed.

Reach Your Summit, or in this case, Your Riparian Canyon Wilderness!

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 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!

Change can elicit numerous reactions when presented to the human spirit. We might respond by…

Change can elicit numerous reactions when presented to the human spirit. We might respond by firmly planting our feet and struggling against it; sometimes we may be a bit more cooperative, and it assuredly feels like we are moving in the proper direction. David and I are going through a moment of prolific growth, and experiencing a sense that we are aligning with our principles and desires, and through our expansion, goal orientation and project creativity, we are discovering our true selves.

Our recent name change is one of those realignments and becoming WildDrake was a natural and authentic transition. Additionally, we are both indulging in our personal pursuits and have decided to incorporate them into our business as a means of sharing more of ourselves, and as a method of living a holistic and synergistic life.

As demonstrated by our recent posts, David has been occupied with product reviews and this has earned him the honor of February 2014 Reviewer of the Month on @Trailspace. He thoroughly expands on his personal interactions with each product and crafts outstandingly comprehensive and honest reviews. The best part is how much he enjoys doing them and the positive feedback and comments of appreciation that he is receiving. As outdoor enthusiasts and cautious consumers, we have scoured product reviews before making a purchase, and understand the critical importance of the experiences and opinions of people who have used the products and can articulate the pros and cons. David is conscientiously devoted to offering information that is impartial and not impacted by vendors and, adequately expresses his conclusions as assistance to those considering an investment.

I love to be in the kitchen and experimenting with ingredients and while this satisfies some of my creative tendencies, it doesn’t fulfill them entirely. Healthy food is a vital centerpiece to my ideology but I also am a stalwart believer in the importance of what is applied externally as well. My background in natural medicine and years as an herbal practitioner, combined with my innate love of research, has left me with an expansive base of knowledge and resources, and a passion for developing the highest quality and most effective line of body products and teas. We knew that several of our teas would be coming to market with our foods and beverages and have decided to come forth with some additional offerings that we frequently use and believe will be enthusiastically welcomed by other travelers and trekkers. We are still finalizing our selections and trying to decide upon names but are happy to say that our WildDrake Travel Savvy™, all-purpose salve will be one of the items. The other candidates include our natural bug repellent, our Savvy Recovery™, moisturizing body butter to compensate for our exposure to the elements, and several more contenders.

David and I have decided to open our WildDrake Gallery pages, as well, and you can now see a selection of David’s photos with many more to come. Some of them will be available for purchase and he has been working on his custom framing ideas and will offer both prints and ready-to-hang options. There will be another page that is devoted to my found object/assemblage/mixed media artwork which is based on pieces that we have found during our forays and journeys. The wild variety is consistently amazing regarding the unusual objects that we can find miles away from anywhere, and my recent work towards my Master’s in anthropology enables me to view them from a perspective of both the humanistic side of what is essentially trash, to the shared geography of space through time. How did a pen labelled Anchorage Police Department get to an isolated section of the southern Arizona desert? I am fascinated by the old railroad campsites and early homesteads, which are laden with rusty metal pieces and one day, David brought home half of a corroded and partially crushed bicycle from a spot near the tracks. I like imagining the stories behind our finds and we regale each other with embellished tales of the people who left them behind. Nearly every outing provides evidence of undocumented migrants and at times we have found more than half a dozen discarded backpacks and bags.

It all really comes back around to change. People and communities are not static and even when we seem mired in inertia, there are continuous alterations going on around us. David and I tend to embrace change and find it to be somewhat exhilarating and liberating. We enjoy new adventures and the unpredictable aspects of our hiking and backpacking. David records the metamorphosis of our environment and the beauty and seasonality of our natural world through his inspired photos, and I lean towards displaying the transformation and movement of our cultures and beliefs in my art.

But not to worry, we haven’t wandered too far from our kitchen and will have the first of our edible selections available very soon! Our food is the axis of everything that we do, and by adding our other endeavors to our site, we are striving to be fully engaged in our complete lifestyle and to not have compartmentalized limits. What we do, the manner in which we choose to live, is an integral part of bringing the very best in trail and travel products to market. It is about integrity I suppose, and of living your principles and by sharing a wider vision of ourselves, we hope that you will see our inspiration and standards. We are trying to live a healthy, active, and creative life which leaves a very light footprint behind. Our name change and the evolving appearance of our blog are reflections of refining our presentation, a more adequate representation of who we are, and a demonstration of our fundamental hope that we can reach our summit in every aspect of our existence.

The “Tied” and True, Bear Discouragement, Food Containment System, the Ursack Spectra 29 (S29) AllWhite, May Very Well Be Your Best Available Option For Your Safety, Food Containment, Food Protection, and Food Safety, as Well as, Ease of Use, Weight and Volume Consideration, While On the Trail…

Ursack Spectra 29 AllWhite Bear Containment and Protection Bag

The “tied” and true, Bear discouragement, food containment system, the Ursack Spectra 29 AllWhite, may very well be your best available option for food containment, food protection, and food safety, as well as, ease of use, weight and volume consideration, while on the trail…

Pros

Trail-Necessary Weight, 242g

Strongly Voluminous, 10.65L, with Little Mass

Compressible & Malleable

Simple to Use, Easy to Pack

Cost, Not Too Bad with a Price Tag of $67.89

Functions Well with LOKSAK’s OPSak bag

Cons

Proprietary system… not all that bad!

For Best Results the Ursack Must Be Combined with LOKSAK’s OPSak bag

If you opt-out of using the LOKSAK OPSak bag you may very well attract vermin

If Optional Aluminum Liner is not used, Food Stands the Risk of Being Crushed

Sharp, Lengthy, Small-Diameter Teeth May Find Their Way Through the Spectra Material

Bag is not IGBC Certified, and Not Approved in Certain Wilderness Areas

Update May 13, 2014…

April 11, 2014… The IGBC test of the S29 passed.

April 18, 2014… “We are still awaiting the official certification letter and number from the IGBC, but can share some of the details. At IGBC insistence, we baited an Ursack S29 AllWhite, knotted it securely and placed it on the ground with no aluminum liner and not tied to a tree. The first two grizzlies went at it for an active 57 minutes. One of the bears was nick-named “The Destroyer,” but neither he nor his sister were able to compromise the Ursack. The Grizzly Wolf and Discovery Center rotates bears in and out at approximately one hour intervals. So the Destroyer went back to his quarters and five, count ’em, five more grizzlies came out to work on the same Ursack. The IGBC testing protocol requires a total of 60 minutes of active bear encounters, so even though we needed just a few minutes more to pass the test, there was no way to get the Ursack out until the five bears finished their shift. Not to worry. Ursack made if for another hour. A total of seven grizzly bears and two hours of active clawing, biting and scratching–yet Ursack survived. After washing the Ursack one could barely (bearly?) tell that it had been attacked.”

More information here… http://www.ursack.com/ursack-update.htm

To date, I continue to enjoy the convenience, security and functionality of the Ursack S29 to keep myself and my food safe, and my S29 has yet to be attacked by any woodland friend!

end May 13, 2014 update. More coming when available.

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No wildlife attacks, to date, and counting…

Whether I’ve suspended this bag from a branch a couple fathoms from the ground, or a bush several feet above the ground, this bag has yet to invite a single visitor, as far as I can tell…

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Finger Rock Saddle, Santa Catalina Range
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Wilderness or Rocks Santa Catalina Range (S29 hung from a tree, in a wash, ~12′ from the ground).

In comparison to a canister style containment system, the Ursack Spectra 29 AllWhite (S29) has performed very well, and far exceeded my volume expectation, an innately, categorically, unpretentious concern, which incidentally is 10.65L (650 cubic inches). The S29 exhibits enough volume, I’ve found, to accommodate a considerable amount of food, for one person, for ~7 days, pushing hard and consciously eating!

The S29, purchased early April 2012, was indeed acquired based entirely on two factors… First, and specifically, Bear, particularly, but all fauna in general, population and their investigating curiosity have reportedly been getting quite comfortable with campers in Arizona. Of course, though, why else would you purchase one? In fact, I’ve spent many nights listening to wildlife rummage and/or sprint by the tent at night prompting this necessary safety assurance purchase. Second, and this one is personal, I needed an additional prop for exercising while on the trail and the Ursack is a good fit.

Propositioned with the decision that I must now research and purchase a bear-proof food protection and containment system, the S29 kept rising to the top of my analytical discussion and benefit spreadsheet. These were my concerns… and, for further analyzation, “bear” with me while I discuss each of these criterion in greater detail…

  • Volume Control and Capacity for ~7 days… check
    • Sporting a volume greater than 10L, I felt the S29 would serve me well for better than ~97% of my backpacking expeditions. Even on a thru-hike, I may be able to compensate with hermetically sealed packaged goods, before they’ve been opened, by storing them in my pack overnight. This allow’s me to use the S29 for hanging food that has only been opened and in danger of attracting wildlife. By these means, I may be able to thru-hike consistently and conservatively using nothing but the substantial volume of the S29 and whatever available space I have in balance, in my pack.
  • Soft-Sided, Malleable S29 vs. Leading Rigid Brand Containment… check
    • The S29 can be stuffed, rolled, compressed, dropped, washed and converted into anything else (if need be, to your imagination). Try doing all that with a rigid canister.
  • Closure Comfort and Security… check
    • “Tied” and true! Tied well, and to a tree, a bear may submit to defeat before he makes a meal of your meal. Who knows where your can of food, if utilizing a rigid container, may be after the bear is done playing with it (may I suggest GPS).
    • The Included LOKSAK OPSak Odor-Proof bag (further discussed below) closes tightly and securely with care. I have yet to have a problem with Ravens or rodents damaging this system, or for that matter, even discovering/recognizing it as a source of potential food.
  • Ease of Use… check
    • The S29 is easy to carry, adds relatively little bulk, concedes forgiveness inside your pack in consideration of other gear, lightweight enough at 207g, molds to the volume of food within it and compresses and/or molds in any position you need it when not in use, is not at all easily damaged, and the knotting/securing procedure is… easy! Ursack makes it even easier, offering knotting guides and instructions on their website. And, I really like this… you may purchase the S29, online, directly from Ursack without going through a retailer (however, you’ll probably not get a sale price)… easy!
  • Weight vs. Volume vs. Compression vs. Malleability… check
    • In lieu of all benefits discussed above, highlighting is necessary without repeating.
  • Ease of Carry… check
    • Compared to a rigid containment container, the S29 may be you best option considering all cited benefits.
  • Strength/Weight Ratio… check
    • Ursack uses a Spectra material to create the S29. Spectra, similar to Dyneema, is a thermoplastic polyethylene, specifically, an ultra high-molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), also known as high-performance polyethylene (HPPE) and high-modulus polyethylene (HMPE), which evidently claims to boast the highest strength-to-weight ratio, 8 to 15 times higher than steel, than any other thermoplastic. Has anyone informed their resident wildlife of this unbeatable fabric?
    • The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) is currently testing this theory at the time I’m posting this review… so, keep yourselves informed. Ursack has a news link on their site (link below).
  • Damage Control… check
    • How easy is it for vermin to make a meal of your meal? Not likely, considering the information offered above.
  • IGBC Approved… negative
    • According to Ursack, the IGBC is currently re-evaluating the S29 due to previous ambiguous information, and may be releasing their findings as early as April 2014.
  • Approved for Additional Use or Actions… check
    • Yes, although this one is personal. I use the bag as a fitness training tool while out on the trail and it works perfectly for me! I carry three gallon size ziploc bags, fill them with sand or stones, place them in the S29 and I’m ready to go. I’ve noted no profound damage, whatsoever, from using the S29 in my fitness routine.
  • Options… check
    • The S29 features the LOKSAK OPSak Odor-Proof bag, a 35g, 12.25″ x 20.75″ odor barrier bag, locking similar to a Ziploc, that LOKSAK claims is 17,000 times more odor resistant than HDPE and, is 100% water and air tight (when correctly closed, LOKSAK adds), preventing curious olfactories from discovering your stash. A 3-pack from Ursack sells for $13.99. One OPSak bag, not a 3-pack, is included with the sale of the S29.
    • Purchased separately, I love that fact that if I needed further critter protection I can purchase Ursack’s aluminum liner, a 306g addition, also adding some degree of crush resistance to the S29.

Prior to my S29 purchase, I foolishly kept my, although packaged well, food inside my tent. Finally, after hearing too many stories of bears attacking tents, I knew a containment system was next in line for gear necessity. In fact, I had the oh-so-foolish attitude that if I package it well enough it won’t attract wildlife. Once again, I have never experienced any problems regarding wildlife and food, but further risk was not my best option, nor was this a position I decided to chance. Besides, our primary objective is to explore our wonderful woodlands, deserts, waterways, flora and fauna, and without capriciously becoming a victim, an attitude that will eventually fail if well exploited.

The S29 is a system, a good system! I have not employed the use of Ursack’s aluminum liner and have not needed to. If I’m heading into wilderness that may require or suggest a need to do so, or the IGBC reports otherwise, I may or may not make the purchase, considering my particular experience, and further discussion and contemplation. With that said, you could heed any safety warning and dependably warrant, if geographically permissible, an OPSak with your S29, and I truly believe it would behoove you to do so, if at all you’ve decided the Ursack is a good choice, but ziploc’s are efficient enough. I have, fortuitously, not recognized any sign of attack upon the S29 and believe it may be because of the performance of the OPSak; I have moved to completely trust LOKSAK Sak’s! Ursack has indeed produced quite a significant food containment, protection and safety system and I’m proud to carry it! As an added bonus, Ursack is “1% for the planet”!

Finally, the Ursack, made in the USA of Spectra “bullet-proof” fabric, and a clear, considerable alternative to rigid containment, remains, to this day, a choice I would not hesitate to competitively conceive again.

Colossal Cave Mt. Park. First Night During a Four Day Section-Backpacking Adventure on the Arizona Trail (AZT).
Rincon Mt. Range, Quilter Trail. Second Night on the AZT. Rincon Peak in the Background.
Ursack S29 AllWhite; Resting on the S29 is the 650ml Capacity Vargo Ti Water bottle with Ti Lid (http://wilddrake.com/2014/02/08/one-bottle-to-rule-them-all/).
Ursack… “Don’t keep food in your tent, store food near your tent or cook where you camp. If you do, you’ll have company.”
OPSak Odor Barrier Bag – Incorporated to be Used, as a Team, in Conjunction with the S29.
Dimensionally, the S29 is 13″ x 8″, with a Capacity of ~650 Cubic Inches. It Will Fold Down to This Impressive Size, However, Folding the S29 in This Manner May Damage the OPSak inside. I Recommend Folding Only Once In-Half with the OPSak Inside.
S29 Exhibiting Their Optional Aluminum Liner. Photo Courtesy, Ursack! I Do Not Personally Use the Aluminum Liner!

Reach Your Summit!

A Few Important Links from Ursack

http://www.ursack.com/ursack-catalog.htm

http://www.ursack.com/product8.html

http://www.ursack.com/ursack-faq.htm

Interesting News and Updates You May Wish to Consider Before Purchasing

http://www.ursack.com/ursack-update.htm

S29 Recommended Closure Knot and Hanging Technique

http://www.ursack.com/ursack-knots.htm

http://www.ursack.com/proper-hang.htm

Ursack recommends a figure 8 knot around a branch because it is easy to untie even after S29 has been pulled on by a 500 pound bear. At this time, I am unsure of the exact tensile strength of the rope, however, I’m sure it yields the maximum strength-to-weight ratio, and most likely in the thousands of lbs. range. I’ll bet the rope withstands a Bear far sooner than the damage a Bear may cause the branch I’ve tied it to. The rope is easily replaceable if needed!

The LOKSAK OPSak Odor-Proof Barrier Bag is an Integral Component of the Ursack

http://www.loksak.com/products/opsak

OPSak Specifications

  • Certified waterproof to 60 meters / 200 feet
  • Tested and approved by Scuba Schools International (SSI)
  • Safe. Our medical grade film is FDA approved
  • Temperature rated -40F to 170F
  • Ecologically smart. Highly reusable and 100% made of recyclable Polyethylene.

http://www.loksak.com/about-loksak/performance-test-certifications

http://www.loksak.com/pdf/MarketingSheets_2013%5Benglish%5D.pdf

Interesting Facts

Spectra 29 (S29) contains 29 yarns per inch!

LOKSAK claims food may be rehydrated, using boiling water, in the OPSak bag, however, they also state the bags cannot withstand temperatures above 170º… thus, I phoned LOKSAK customer service… LOKSAK informed me the inside temperatures of the 5ml OPSak bag will, indeed, handle temperatures of 212º for rehydrating food. Of course the temperature begins to drop rapidly following initial introduction of boiling water to food. They also informed me that it is the exterior layer of the 5ml, five thousandths of an inch, OPSak bag that cannot handle temperatures above 170º. In regard to the exact type of polyethylene film, when asked, LOKSAK customer service had, no idea, he “didn’t know”! Now, 5ml would imply a measure of length so I’m not positively sure if he meant there are 5 layers, or the bag is in fact 5ml, considering his answer regarding the “outer layer”. In any case, the bag is meant to and has been tested to boiling temperatures. Whether it is safe to do so, avoiding chemical leaching, at this time, I don’t know either, considering his answer. I’m not holding this against Ursack, as it is LOKSAK customer service that I spoke to. I, unequivocally, will never be rehydrating food in any polyethylene bag, for safety reasons, unless I have no other choice!

Ziploc bags, if you’re still considering using these because they’re cheaper than the OPSak, and they indeed are, are composed of a mixture of low-density and linear-low-density polyethylene (LDPE), plastic grade/recycle code 4. The OPSak, according to LOKSAK, can be used to rehydrate food with boiling water. I would NEVER do this with a Ziploc! Not only are Ziploc’s not designed to withstand boiling temperature but you will emphatically run the risk of harmful chemicals leaching into your food.

Significant Analytical Data:

1 cubic inch = 16.38ml

1 ounce ≈ 28g

650 cubic inches = 2.4gal (dry) = 2.8gal (liquid) = 10.65L = 360oz

 

Purchased April 2, 2012 for  $67.89 + shipping! I’ve utilized the Ursack only in the State of Arizona at temperatures ranging between freezing and the high 80’s, ºF; and elevations ranging from ~2500′ through 9000″.

 

All photos, with exception of one noted, copyright WildDrake!

 

This is an Independent Gear Review of the Ursack S29 AllWhite. I paid full retail price for this product as a consumer and, I am not affiliated, whatsoever, with Ursack, LOKSAK or Ziploc, or affiliates!