Who we are & What we are doing

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

T-3 Weeks

T-3 weeks and counting. Anyone who's been following what's going on on the Continental Divide Trail and Colorado this year knows that it's been a crazy snow-pack year. Not only a big snow year, but a lot of late snow, coupled with a very cool spring. Parts of the San Juan's are still in pretty much winter mountaineering conditions.

Our original plan had been to do the Colorado Trail starting in mid August, including both the Colorado West and Colorado East full Collegiate loop. I'm ready for a break from Ohio and Glide is theoretically retiring from her job this week. Time will tell how many daily phone calls she gets from her former employer to deal with day to day issues. But with that said, we've decided to take a quickie trip to Colorado to get away from Ohio and be a bit of a retirement vacation for Glide. (Isn't retirement permanent vacation?)

So we've decided that while we're out there, we'll do the Collegiate East segment of the Colorado Trail. This will give us a good 70 mile /  four or  five day shakedown cruise to try out our new ULA packs and the new quilt that hopefully (better!) will be done for that trip. This also gives us an opportunity figure out what else needs to be adjusted in our gear before we come back to complete the CT and August.

With less than two weeks before we hit the road. I'm shifting into panic mode with what seems like a million things to do before we leave. We purchased a food dehydrator food dehydrator last weekend at Cabela's (on sale, $50 off!) and are starting to dry some fruits and veggies for the trip.

And our MYOG, two person quilt is still not done. And it's a critical item before we leave. But it will get done as well all the other critical items. And those things that don't get done well, they'll just have to wait.

The good news is the snow is melting fast, especially on the northern sections near Twin Lakes where I was worried about deep and steep snow crossings. But now it looks like the snow will be melted down to manageable levels and we should be able to complete this section without ice axes or snow tracks.

We're both excited. And this should be a fun shakedown cruise for us.

Gear Review: ULA Circuit First Impressions

Glide, and I have our shiny new ULA Circuits. We are excited to get to try them out in Colorado in a few weeks. 

Although we ordered them directly from the company, we initially checked out the packs on two separate trips to Atlanta, where we stopped in at the Little River Trading Company in Maryville, Tennessee. On both trips, the service we receive there was amazing. Dolphin and Bert both spent a lot of time helping us look at packs, try various pack models on and even spent some time fitting the packs correctly so that we knew exactly what size and what system we wanted on the ULA packs. The store also has an amazing amount of other backpacking and ultra light gear at the store. So if you're in the area, I highly recommend that you make the detour and stop in and say hi and see what they have to offer. 

I got a medium Circuit with the standard "J" straps and a medium belt while Glide who is the same height as me, but obviously female and a different body configuration ended up being better fit by a small Circuit using the "S" straps. And since we now obviously have both sizes at our disposal, a quick try on of each other's packs did confirm that the size selections for correct. So pay attention to their sizing recommendations, they seem to be pretty much spot on. 

I ordered mine with the two color customization mostly because it wasn't a lot of money and I wanted a pack that was slightly different than everybody else's. So I have a red pack with a purple top flap. Since it was a custom pack, I asked them to change the top roll flap buckles to the yellow buckles they offer on their higher customization packs. And they did this for no charge. Thank you ULA! An order note:  I place the order late at night and got an order confirmation the next morning.  Several hours later I received a shipping notice. Ummmm, did they miss the customization? Nope. They did the work and shipped same day.

The first thing I did when I got the pack was remove a bunch of extraneous items on the pack.

There's some hand loops on the shoulder straps that I'm just not sure I'm going to use. And along with some elastic water bottle loops that I may or may not use, but more on that later.
On the inside the pack, there's a small zipper pouch, which is actually pretty nice, I took it out but it will probably go back in and get used for small valuable items that get lost in packs like wallets and keys and things like that. 

And there's also a hydration sleeve that I'm positive I will not use as a personal preference. I just don't like putting water inside my pack. I've seen enough water disasters, and I like my sleeping bag and clothes to be dry. Not to mention how hard it is to slide a full water bag in and out of a full pack into the hydration sleeve. 

I also remove the black, 1/8" black elastic cord on the back of the pack and replaced it with some bright pink shock cord that I got from Paracord Planet . A little bling never hurt any pack and the brightly colored shock cord is just easier to find and grab on where the original was black shock cord on a black back panel. It looks spiffy.

I also took some of the same bright shock cord and used it to replace the shock cord on the bottle loops that were on the shoulder harnesses. This is a huge help in reaching down and finding what you're grabbing when you need to grab that cord to put your bottle on or off. The original black with all of its black hardware was pretty much camouflage on the shoulder straps.

On my first impressions, was there anything I didn't like? The answer is yes.

The one inch adjustment webbing on the bottom of the shoulder strap is just a little bit too short. When I take the pack off and loosen one of my shoulder straps, it literally runs all the way out to the end of the strap to be barely loose enough for me to easily slide it off my shoulder. And now I end up with the doubled over end of the adjustment strap being jammed into the buckle, which makes it difficult to pull the strap back tight when I put the pack on. If the straps for a bit longer, I don't think this would be an issue. 

However, I resolved the issue by taking a short section of para-cord and creating a loop at the end of both straps to give me a handle to grab to tighten the strap. I think I may like this better than long straps anyway. It is easier to feel that you are grabbing para-cord versus just another strap when you're tightening the straps. But it also gives me a loop that I could clip something to while I'm hiking (i.e. hat gloves, etc) while I'm doing something else like eating or drinking

The jury's out on the pockets on the waist belt. This is really a personal preference item. But if I'm walking without poles, the swing of my arms will rub against the pockets, especially if they're packed full of stuff. On the other side, it is really convenient to have them to stuff things into. So I'm just gonna have to hike for a while and keep adjusting and figure out what works and doesn't work with the waist belt pockets

And again, a preference item, but the zippers on the pockets open from the back to the front. It is really easy to grab the zipper pulls I added, and pull the zip them forward to open the pocket. However, when you zip the pocket up, the closed end of the zipper is all the way back near your hip. And almost impossible to visually see. If the zippers were oriented in the opposite direction, then it would be easy to visually confirm that the pockets were fully closed.

I have several observations on the side pockets. 

Overall they are fairly large, and I'm certain they will be functional. But I'm a bit concerned that they just aren't deep enough and that things will fall out of them while I'm doing gymnastics over dead fall and other such maneuvers on the trail. Time will tell. 

Also, the design of the bottom of the shoulder straps actually goes through a slot on the side of these pockets all the way to the back of the pack. While this attachment point on the back of the pack is really good engineering to help to pull the weight of the pack forward towards your body, it does result in a several inch long opening on the bottom front side of the pocket. If you're putting a two liter Smart Water bottle in your pack, this probably isn't going to be a problem. If you put something small, like a knife or a compass, then I would say there's a high possibility that it could work its way out through this opening. So I think I will restrict the use of these pockets to big stuff.

There is a pair of shoe lace type ice axe / hiking pole attachment points on the back of the pack.

While they're very lightweight, so far, I think they're a total fail. Since we hiked together, we generally stow or deploy our hiking poles, for each other with out taking our packs off. So something that is fast and easy on the back of the pack is really the solution we're looking for. And the provided straps don't fulfill that. The best solution we found so far is to put the hiking poles with the handles down in the outside pockets. And I will work out a easy attachment loop for the top of them probably using a G hook that I can clip around the existing elastic on the back of the pack. 

I'm also working on a removable top pocket to clip on the top of the pack. For almost 50 years I've always had packs with top pockets. And I've gotten very accustomed to having them there to stash all sorts of smaller fragile items that I need access to during the day. Everything from sunglasses to TP to cameras to sunscreen, gets stuffed up there. I also needed an attachment point for my GPS recorder which needs a clear view of the sky for accurate recording. My design is for removable pocket,  so that when in camp, I can unclip it easily from the pack and use it to gain access to the items I need without running into my pack all the time. I will do a separate post on that.
Overall, I'm happy and excited with my new purchase. I'm really looking forward to give it a giving it a real trail test. 

And to all those gear junkies out there with a dozen packs in their closet. You understand the finer points of the observations in this blog as we're all continuously on that quest for the absolutely perfect pack that probably doesn't exist.

Monday, May 20, 2019


Photography has been a lifelong interest of mine.

My photograph range from moments of brilliance, or more probably luck, to a lot of stuff that isn't worth the bits that they're recorded on.

But I know I would be remiss if we completed this trail, and I didn't take a lot of pictures. I'm certain that many of them will be fairly routine and look like everybody else's pictures in terms of life on the trail, but I'm also hoping to get a few award winning photographs out of the journey.

I have a photographic project I'm pondering for the trial. And that is to photograph and at least briefly interview as many other thru hikers as we can that we meet on the trail. Some 300 miles of the Colorado trail is also shared with the Continental Divide trail. So the hikers we meet could be doing either trail as either a thru hike or section hikes. But nonetheless, it might be an interesting just to see who you meet and take pictures and see what becomes of it.


Why Would Mary "Glide" want to Hike 567 miles with me?

Is she crazy?  Time will tell.


Time for Some Gear Upgrades

My hiking and climbing fashion wardrobe is , maybe, shall we say, a bit dated. Like, a lot of it dates back to the mid 1970s.

Back then, on my meager college student budgets, I bought high quality gear and treated it well. And it has amazingly lasted for a long time.

But now it's time to upgrade.

The old gear, while still a lot of it quite serviceable, is by today's standards, like lugging around lead bricks. So I'm looking forward to to some new lightweight gear to make the trip a lot more enjoyable to gear and fabrics and not only much lighter, but also perform better and a whole lot of ways to breathable fabrics that are probably a lot more breathable than my 30 year old sweat-tex. The old gear lacked DWR coatings so it would wet out fairly quickly. And a lot of the seams were not seam sealed on my old gear. So in a good rainstorm, things got wet. But then it probably didn't matter much because I was sweating so much inside the gear wearing wool and some synthetics that I was going to be soaking wet either way.

Back in the day, a lightweight pack for a three day climbing trip might weigh 45 pounds. If I was really lucky, I could get it down maybe a bit below 40 pounds.  And on some trips that were long and had a lot of technical gear 70 and 80 pounds was not out of the question. But I'm a bit older and wiser now. And playing Pack Mule to 80 pounds worth of gear is not my thing.

So let's go for the ultra-lightweight routine.

Our goal was to get our base pack weights down below 15 pounds. And I think we can do it easily. Keep in mind we're hiking as a couple. So some of the items, we get to split and share the weight. The tent, sleeping pads, two person quilt, cooking gear, all gets split evenly between us. Although if I was a real gentleman, I'd probably take a few extra pounds in my pack. But we'll see.

I should also say that in our gear selection, while weight matters, we are, shall we say, frugal. So cost matters too. If I was Warren Buffett, I would probably just buy out the Mount Bell store and call it a day. But I'm not. So along with buying some new gear, there's also going to be some MYOG make my own gear items thrown in.

So the purpose of this post is really to give you an idea of what's in or going into our packs. It's not really intended to be a long term gear review on any of this stuff. Those those reviews will come later. So in our decision process, here's where we are.
  • For Packs, we're looking at UCLA Circuits.
  • For a tent we have a  Tarp Tent MOTRAIL (2) person tarp tent with a polycro ground cloth to go with it.
  • For sleeping system, we've got an Exped two person the SynMatt with a MYOG two person quilt.
  • We picked up a pair of Sea to Summit pillows. And that completes our sleep system.
  • One thing to keep in mind on a long distance hike, you're probably going to spend half your day in bed so this is not a place to scimp on our quilt. The plan is to use 900 or above fill down and probably overfill it. There's no point in being cold for a couple extra ounces of down.
  • For cooking I think we're going to go with two stoves. First one will be a cat food can alcohol stove really intended as a backup or two just give us a second stove while breakfast or dinner is cooking and we just want to heat some water. The stove is a  Snow Peak LiteMax butane stove 
  • For a pot, I'm using one of my 30 year old aluminum pots because, so far, it seems to have the capacity and be lighter than anything else I can find these days. If I found a nice titanium pot that was bigger, I'd probably jump on it.
  • And we're both carrying a 12 ounce titanium cup and a spork. The Titanium cup gives us the ability to stick it on the stove and reheat your coffee or tea or hot chocolate or boil water in it to purify the water. I'm probably going to make an insulated wrap for it just to keep whatever is in it warm (it cools down quickly). Fortunately, Glide and I happen to like each other. So for dinner and other meals, we pretty much just grab our sporks and dig into the pot that we cooked in and eat directly out of it saves cleaning up extra dishes and cleaning up the cup. So the cups will be pretty much liquids and drinks only.
  • For hiking shoes, we're both going to try out some Altra Lone Peaks and see how they work for us. Truthfully we're both more comfortable with something that more resembles a  sturdy or hiking shoe or lightweight hiking boots. But we're going to go with the flow and try the Lone Peaks because that's what everybody else seems to be hiking and probably will have some MYOG dirty girl type gators to go with.
  • We also picked up some Cascade Mountain Tech carbon fibre hiking poles at Costco last year. The price was more than right I think they were $35 a pair and we use them all last summer. And we love them. I've read some reviews that were less than favorable about the clamps and some other things on them but properly adjusted, they work just fine. And I've held them up to the hundred and $60 Leiki poles. And for the extra hundred and $30 in my pocket. I'm really happy with our purchase because I didn't see much that I liked a whole lot better on the Leiki's.

Eddie Bauer  is a name has been around for forever. I probably have some 30 plus year old Eddie Bauer gear someplace in my gear closet. But I never thought that it would be the place that I would be buying ultra light gear for our through hikes. So a short time ago. We were wandering through the mall on one of my two times a year visits to the mall and decided to wander into the Eddie Bauer store just to see what was going on.

I was kind of surprised.

The quality was certainly everything I've always expected it to be. But they actually had some real outdoor gear there in terms of packs and flowing over on the down jacket rack. Over on the down jacket rack. I spied their Cirrus light down jacket. It looked nice and puffy, looked like it was going to be plenty warm and was on sale.

My only concern was was it going to be too heavy. When your comparison is a 6 oz Mount Bell jacket. I knew we weren't going to be that low. So the question was how much heavier was it going to be went back a couple weeks later with my kitchen scale in hand and stuck it on the scale. The extra large jacket that I got came in at 10 ounces. While it's 70% heavier than the Mount Bell, the Mount Bell is $400. And ultimately, after these jackets went on sale, I paid $50 for it. It's a deal you couldn't pass up. And I'll be happy to carry the extra four ounces and leave the $350 in my wallet. Plus, if anything happens to it, I'll be out 50 bucks and I'll probably be more pissed about whether I'll be able to find a replacement for $50 then I will be for the fact that the jacket got damaged.

For rain gear my original plan was to use my Marmot Precip rain jacket. It works. It's waterproof, but it did tip the scales at 10 ounces. The same as the down jacket. Again at Eddie Bauer, I spied their feather light rain jacket. It was made out of some high tech fancy waterproof fabric, i.e. I'm still going to sweat inside of it. But it tips the scale at 6 ounces, 4 oz lighter than my Marmot and was out the door on sale at a wallet breaking $35. Unless it leaks like a sieve, and it won't, it would have been a bargain at twice that price.

Thank you Eddie Bauer from looking after our cross country cost conscious thru hikers. I'm going to finish up the rain gear with an MYOG rain kilt. Stay tuned for that project, they're going to be killer.
The rest of my gear for clothing is somewhat in the state of flux. So I'm going to sort that out over the next few months,

I'd like to say I'm going to go on a long distance hike with only a paper map and a compass. Some how the electronics seem to creep into the equation. We'll have one cell phone with us where we can run the GutHook app.

And I'm going to be carrying a  Columbus P-1 GPS data recorder. No displays on this other than some flashing lights. Its main purpose is to record where we went and allow me to take that track and match it up to photos after the trip to geo-locate the photos.

I'm also going to carry this Sony Digital Voice Recorder (ICD-PX470) to write blog entries and make other notes.

So there you have it the start of our updated gear list for our hike.

Stay tuned for updates.

Transcribed by Otter.ai voice transcription


Friday, January 25, 2019

Calling Cards

I spent my formative years with a "real" professional job doing computer "stuff".  For all those years, I always carried business cards.  And I collected a huge pile of them. They have proven to be very helpful through the years to remember people and products.

Now that I am a recovering computer professional no longer tied to the computer and phone all day, why would I still need a business card?  Well, this in not my first hike. And you cross paths (trails) with all sorts of people in the wilderness.  And it turns out that exchanging information happens out there too.

So why scramble around to find a pen and scrap of paper to jot down a phone number, email or blog address when you can just hand someone a card with everything already printed (and legible too--my printing sucks)

So Glide & I have a shared business card to pass out. Yea, we will still scramble to find the pen and paper to get YOUR information, but at least half the process is automated.  Ahhh, efficiency on the trail...save those valuable minutes so I can get to my  Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream  quicker :-)

It is a custom design I did in Adobe Photoshop.  I think they are pretty cool.

Since we are doing the Colorado Trail, the card has a CT theme. We "borrowed" the  Colorado Trail Foundation   logo (Please support them) for the front.

And the back has all the links and details.  The QR-Code is a VCard  so you can scan it with your phone (with a QR app) and save the contact information

They were printed by GotPrint  on 2.5" x 2.5" card stock with rounded corners.  I wanted them to be small than typical business cards and the rounded corners make then unique and less prone to dog-eared corners after 500 miles in your pack.

I hope to see you on the trail so you can get your copy!

Monday, January 1, 2018

About Pilot & Glide

Hi, This is Todd "Pilot" Herzog with Mary "Glide" Speer.

We are a retired Sexagenarian couple preparing for our first long distance hike. We both hail from Ohio but relocated to Salida CO in 2019.


Pilot did a four year stint at the University of Denver in the 1970's. I've been a hiker all my life, starting as a young child, on what, at the time, seemed like forced marches with my father. Ultimately this morphed into a lifelong passion for hiking.

Glide on the other hand, has led a more typical Midwestern city life with relatively limited outdoor exposure for most of her life. She picked up the hiking bug after we met in 2015.

Pilot is no stranger to the outdoors. I started hiking and camping as a young child with my family. But later as I got into my early teens, I did extended multi week, canoe trips in Minnesota and Canada. In my late teens, I spent six weeks in the Wind River range in Wyoming.

While while attending college in Colorado, I continued my outdoor pursuits and began climbing all of the 14'ers in Colorado. The 14'er  endeavor was spread out over 10 plus years. Many of them were climbed in what could be considered winter conditions, as I was attending school out there and would climb them in the fall and some of them through the winter and into the spring. However, number we're done in early summer conditions, which still can have significant snow challenges.

So in the end, I'm hardly a novice at this and are more than adequately prepared for at least the hiking technical challenges that the Colorado trail is coming to throw at us.

What Glide lacks and experience she makes up for enthusiasm for this hike. She will shoulder any pack that's given to her and will tirelessly soldier on through even the longest days without a complaint.

Pilot spent his professional years doing computer and IT work. Glide on the other hand, worked as an officer manager and CFO for a mid size sheet metal and HVAC contracting company.

One would think that given our computer backgrounds, we would be gun-ho for all the high tech wizardry to navigate our way through the Colorado trail. But truth be told, I'd like to get rid of all of that. And stick to map and compass skills for our navigation. That being said, I am certain will reach a point in place where we'll reach for the GPS and try to navigate us out of whatever miss direction we've taken.

In the end, our goal for this hike are simple:
  • Have fun, 
  • Be safe, 
  • Enjoy the trip. 
  • And lastly, Complete the Trail.