Because of poor planning—well really the inability to plan ahead this weekend—I picked up the backpack and headed out to Granite Mountain again. And it was a great morning. First, a little bit about that backpack because I know that’s what you are really interested in.
All of the parts of this day hiking pack make sense, but there are a few flaws that I find just supremely annoying. The first is strange. In an otherwise well designed pack, the tube through which water is delivered into your dehydrated body, which I have dubbed the “water sucking tube,” emerges from the pack right behind the wearer’s neck. The upshot of this supremely unnecessary, dubious design decision is no matter how much you fiddle with it, the plastic water sucking tube will rub your neck. Now, this isn’t painful the way wetsuit rash is painful. It’s just really goddamn annoying.
The second is really a nit pick, but the bladder section of the pack is strangely oversized. There is tons of room to maneuver the bladder into the pocket designed to hold it, but there is overabundance of space around this pocket which seems otherwise useless. You would’t put anything hard in there since it would be sitting directly against your back, or any clean/dry clothes, dirty clothes or food that would get crushed. It’s just wasted space.
Finally, the padded portion of the waist straps are too short. Most of the time this probably wouldn’t really bother me, but if you happen to hike with your shirt off on a hot day (or your gear rides up on you a bit) the crossover between pad and compression strap hits at exactly the point the pack seems to bounce the most. This can get a bit uncomfortable, but again, it wasn’t enough to cause any sort of rash or painful enough for me to stop and jury-rig a fix.
I give the Camelback Alpine Explorer Three out of Five Chafed Thighs.
So, what was I talking about? Oh that’s right: Granite Mountain. It was a great morning. I had a Powerbar and Surf Sweets for second breakfast at the summit which I’m pretty sure is just about the worst thing I could have done nutritionally. If you don’t know, Surf Sweets are the best gummy bears on the planet. They are sweetened with fruit juice instead of HFCS, and are awesome. And gummy bears are just the best way to get sugar in your system, should that be something you are trying to do.
The only downside on this hike was getting run over by some dude who had done a Century last weekend and basically ran the trail. This actually made me feel better because when I caught him at the summit, it turned out I was only 17 minutes off his pace. Anyhoo… The images above are from the summit Outlook. The first times I went up this hill, the Outlook was closed, and I had assumed it was never open to the public. This is not true (which I would have known had I read the guide-book more carefully). There were two volunteers up there this morning (a man and woman who’s names I did not get and I’m kicking myself for my poor manners) and they invited us up the minute we hit the summit. And what a view these folks have from their office. You simply could not imagine two folks happier to be where they were. The trick appears being getting to the summit early when the Outlook is most likely to be staffed. They had plenty of interesting tidbits to share. Without making me feel like an idiot, they educated me on the names of a few of the summits. Evidently the big white one in a couple of the pics above is Mt. Rainer. I had been wondering.
On perhaps a more educational note, the Outlook is essentially a Faraday Cage: an obvious necessity given its location. There is actually 4G mobile service on the summit, but I wasn’t getting any bars inside the building. I had asked if either of them had been on the summit a few nights ago during the huge lightning storm. The answer was no, but the gentleman had in fact been up there during another big storm and it sounded incredible. Evidently another volunteer at some point in the past had neglected his training, stepped outside of an Outlook and learned a terminal lesson about the conduction of electricity through the human body.
Ah, one final note. As you approach the summit you a have a choice. The frontside approach is over large granite boulders. There is only one very small section that can be intimidating if you have issues with heights. Once you get past it, the scramble is fun and non-technical. If you aren’t digging the boulders, the backside trail is great and as non-intimidating as the earlier parts of the hike. So enjoy.