Carnival Cruise, Most Active, Royal Caribbean, Best Food, sort of

I took two cruises recently. Both were out of Galveston, Royal Caribbean, 4-day Vision of the Seas and Carnival 5-day Valor. Both were very enjoyable and both were needed breaks from the routine and the stress of day to day work. We had very different experiences on both and hopefully our experiences will enhance or help you decide on your next cruise or 1st cruise.

Royal Caribbean had the best boarding process and “drink” package. We received our Sea Card as at checkin. Go to the dock when your scheduled time is, we did and walked right up to the counter, checked in and when we finished checkin, they called our boarding group to board. We weren’t in the terminal for more than 5 minutes. Since we had our Sea Card our “drink” package began immediately. We used a parking service that carries you in a van, right up to the terminal.

Carnival’s boarding process was even faster, but they did not take our pictures and did not give us our Sea Card. We boarded with our boarding passes and had to pay for every drink we ordered, even though we had purchased a drink package. We used a parking service for this cruise as well, which also took us right up to the terminal.

Royal Caribbean had high quality food in the dining room and average food at their other locations. They charged for room service, which is the only source of 24 hour food. They also had tremendous service, never letting you sit long before some asked you if you needed anything. Our rooms were kept clean with fresh towels daily. The entertainment was OK. The outdoor movies were dated and not appealing. The main show was great, one out of 4 times. The comedian was terrible. The music around the ship was average. The activities stopped around 10:30 or 11:00 and the ship closed up, nothing opened. For many that is great, for me, I am a nite owl and love late night snacks…Pizza, Sandwiches, Ice Cream, but they were not available 24 hours on Royal. There were not a lot of activities either, that were free and alluring. My wife loved the cruise, I thought it was boring.

Carnival had average food in the dining room. Great hamburgers at Guy’s Hamburgers. Fresh sandwiches at the deli. An assortment of great food filled the buffet and good stir fry was available at the Mongolian Grill. Great street tacos and burritos were put together as ordered daily. They were good too. Carnival also had BBQ at another location, which I did not get around to. Pizza, Ice Cream and cookies are available 24 hours. The deli is open late as well. The food was better than average at all the locations, the dining room was the only average food. I didn’t use room service, but it looked like it was free and 24 hours.

Carnival’s activities continued past midnight and were fun and entertaining. The main shows were average, except the last one, it was great. The music around the ship was exceptional. The whole atmosphere was much more upbeat. Of course there are louder cruisers on Carnival and some that were a little over “baring” and they didn’t enforce the dress code in the dining room. The outdoor movies were good. All in all the entertainment was much better on Carnival, for me anyway. And since they went into the night, I was not bored. And fun activities on Carnival were free.

When we got home at departed the ship, Royal Caribbean was much faster and organized than Carnival. But we got off both ships fairly quickly and with no problems at all.

You will enjoy both Royal Caribbean and Carnival. If you are looking for a peaceful retreat with less activity, Royal might be your best choice. If you are looking for entertainment, excitement and fun while getting away, then Carnival might be your best choice.

We have one more this year. I’ll let you know about it when we take it.

How to Clean Internal Locking Trekking Poles!!

I was surfing the web this morning, looking at Backpacking items, blogs and articles. I ran across this and said, WOW! I needed this video. I use internal locking trekking poles and have been worried that when they stop working, what will I do. I much prefer internal locking poles, but so many of my friends say that once they start slipping, there is nothing you can do, but purchase new poles. Wrong, I now know how to fix and maintain them if they start to slip. I have years of backpacking on my REI poles and look forward to more.

Youtube video on maintaining or cleaning internal lock trekking poles.

Pay Attention to Pain!!

I’m back running…

Pay attention to pain. I was doing very well running, increasing distance, bettering my pace, lowering my heart rate and pressure…preparing for 3 different 1/2 marathon events. But, because I didn’t pay attention to pain, I was out for 3 weeks of recovery.

My injury started with helping some people move their household goods to a different home. I didn’t notice it at the time, but through the lifting and twisting and turning, I threw my hip out of alignment.

About 4 days after the move, I noticed a pulling sensation in my right leg when I was running. After about 2 miles, the sensation eased, and I was able to continue running. I noticed this sensation each time I ran, but like any runner, I ran through it. I noticed pain in my abductor muscle, my right quadricep, and tendons or muscles attached to my right knee. I kept running until the pain no longer subsided. The pain increased as I ran and stayed around after I finished. I iced, but that didn’t take the pain away. I had also noticed a pain at the point of my hip. This was actually the first pain I had felt running, but before that I had experienced a familiar lower back pain, that should have caused me to pay attention and do something about the pain.

Finally, I went to the chiropractor for my lower back pain. My hip was out of alignment which caused the pulling of the tendons and muscles over my hip and caused my gate to be different. The chiropractor made several adjustments over the next week. WOW, instant relief. I ran to see how I felt. The pulling that started from my hip was gone, but too late, I had injured my quadricep and abductor beyond strains, I had pulled them.

I iced daily, twice per day, 15 minutes at each injured location. I used a Soft Comfort CorPack made by Core Product. It is frost-free, stays cold or hot, and does not get wet. Great product for icing.

I rested and didn’t lift any thing heavy. I walked, but slowly. I did this for 3 weeks. I also bought new shoes, mine were close to maximum mileage. Same shoes, Altra Torin 3.0

I’m back. I ran this morning, 2.5 miles, a long way from the distance I normally run, but I ran. I ran a slower pace and iced immediately following my run. 15 minutes on each area of concern. I felt some low-level pain, so I will be careful and only run short distances every other day until I fully recover.

Pay attention to pain!! I probably would not have had to rest or ice for nearly as long, had I taken care of my hip alignment and pain immediately. If you experience pain when exercising, running, biking, hiking, etc., take care of it immediately. You may have to stay out for a short period of time, but it will keep you from being sidelined for an extended period of time.

Next post, I will share my recovery smoothie, that I drink daily.

Committing to Clean Eating, Sort of…

I have been reading a lot of articles and blogs on Clean Eating. Some of what I read makes sense, but some seems impractical and almost impossible to practice. I like the approach, but 6 meals per day each being 3 hours apart, for most of us is at the very least impractical. So, I am going to adapt the principles so I am able to apply them in a practical way in my life.
I found two great sources, Tosca Reno and The Gracious Pantry. Tosca advocates eating 6 meals per day. Both have great information on Clean Eating food and principles. Plus, I’m not sure how healthy it really is to eat 6 meals per day 2-3 hours apart. Some say, including The Gracious Pantry, eating small meals more often increases your chance of diabetes, since your insulin stays spiked all day.

Anyway, here is what I am going to do. I will eat 3 meals per day, with snacks throughout, to keep me from getting “famished.” I will shop for and seek to eat only “clean” foods. I will stay with MFP, MyFitness Pal, recommended calorie intake for my goals. I will continue my physical activities and exercising. So, I am going to Sort-of take the Clean Eating approach, adapting to my situation and life.

Here are the basic principles of Clean Eating that I will implement:
1. Eat Lean Protein, Complex Carbs and Healthy Fat at Each Meal.
2. Never Skip a Meal. Make sure you eat breakfast daily!!
3. Read Labels. No more than 5 ingredients for the item. No “chemical” wording accepted. No preservatives. No processed ingredients. No added salt/sodium. No added sugar of any type. If you don’t understand or know what the ingredient is, don’t use it. (Organic is best)
4. No Refined Ingredients or Foods. (No sugar, refined grains, refined fats). Ezekiel Bread is a great bread source, it is in the freezer section due to no preservatives.
5. Eat Fresh Vegitables, Fruits, and Nuts. Stay away from juices.
6. Eat Lean Protein. Cold water fish is best. Skinless chicken breast. Skinless turkey breast. Grass fed beef. Venison. Pork tenderloin. (No ham, no processed meats, no deli meat).
7. Drink 8 Cups of Water, Daily.
8. Portion Size and Calorie Intake Suitable for Your Physical Type and Goal.
9. Plan. If you do not plan your meals, even going out, you will not be successful. If you do not plan your grocery store trips, you will not purchase what you will need or eat.
10. Freeze Food. Learn how to freeze fresh vegetables, fruits and meat. Most people give up, because it is expensive when fresh food ruins in the refrigerator.

There are plenty of resources to find lists of healthy fats, complex carbs and proteins. However, I provide a short list of nuts (some of the healthy fats), complex carbs and fish protein below.

Notice the Raw Nut list shows number of nuts and calories in 1 ounce.
Type of Nut # of Nuts in 1-ounce Calories
*Almonds 22 170
*Brazil nuts 6 to 8 185
*Cashews 18 160
*Hazelnuts 20 175
*Macadamias 10 to 12 200
*Peanuts 18 165
*Pecan halves 20 200
*Pistachios (shelled) 47 160
*Walnut halves 14 185

High Water Content Complex Carbs
*Beet Greens
*Brussel Sprouts
*Turnip Greens

Complex Carbs
*Citrus Fruit

Best Fish
*Mahi Mahi

Introspection of My New Year’s Eve with Friends

When I was sitting in a stool at our kitchen island, about 11:00 p.m. New Years Eve, I contemplated how we spent that evening. We had just finished an evening that included playing a game of “Hand and Foot” and eating homemade chili, tortillas and quesadillas with two friends, a couple we have grown to know well.

We had a wonderful evening. We quit early, before midnight, because my wife was ill. She would not have been able to last till midnight. Our friends noticed, so they left in order to allow her to get her needed rest. They noticed this, because they are friends, not acquaintances, not companions, not peers or just fun people. They are authentic friends.

We said our goodbyes and our friends drove home.

Whole living includes friends with whom you are able to enjoy a meal, talk about dreams, share relaxing entertainment and laugh at each other (with each other). Then, even after spending so much time together, you still look forward to the time you are able to do it again.

Friends are unique treasures, not often found. There are plenty of acquaintances, companions, peers and fun people, but not many genuine friends. Friends are dependable, empathetic, and encouraging. They are able to challenge you and be truthful (even when being truthful is remedial). Because, friends truly want what is best for you, always.

Friends develop strong bonds with you. Friends are there for you, without an agenda or desire for reward. Friends find joy in your joy, and pain in your pain. Friends however, don’t let their friends campout in their pain or joy for too long. Friends help you move forward in healthy ways, not let us hang on to the past.

We have some friends, not many, because being a true friend cost…cost time, heart ache, resources and openness and transparency. Friendship exposes one’s heart, leaving it vulnerable. Yet, friendship has the greatest benefits and advantages for one’s total well-being. We are made for relationships, and the best relationships (outside of marital) are real friends.

Spending time with acquaintances, companions, peers or just fun people is enjoyable. But, spending time with real friends is soulful, empowering and life-giving.

Don’t be too quick to make “friends,” but make sure you find those treasures who are real friends. Life is far less than full without them.

A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
—Proverbs 18:24

Sometimes, Time Alone and Away is Needed

I went to Lake Brownwood State Park for 4 days. I rented one of their rustic cabins. I stayed there spending time alone with God, nature and “myself.” I needed the break, the withdrawal, the rest. However, I didn’t just need a “retreat,” but a retreat with a purpose. A retreat without a purpose is just that, a retreat with no intentional desired result, just a rest. With a purpose, one is able to reorient, reprioritize, and renew. A purposeful retreat helps move forward with a new vigor, a new drive, a new energy for life. Without a purpose, nothing is gained, not even real rest. My method, retreat with a Bible, 2 books focused on my present challenges, plenty of water, a secluded site and no food. Yes I fasted for 4 days. I’ll explain fasting fuller in a future blog, but suffice it to say, fasting intensifies one’s experience.

After my purposeful retreat, I came back with clarity–having recommitted to my spiritual, emotional and physical priorities,goals and needs. My goal was to clearly understand the direction my ministry needed to go, how to improve my relationships, and how to be healthy in every aspect as I live day-to-day.

I went to Lake Brownwood State Park, because during mid-December, mid-week, no one is at the park. The cabins are empty, the park is empty and the campgrounds are empty. I am able to spend 4-days walking all over the park, by the lake, through the walking trails and down the roads, without coming in contact with anyone, but an occasional Park Ranger driving by.

Everyone needs some time alone and away from his or her normal environment. But it is only a “rest,” without having a specific purpose and desired result. General purposes are clarity, new energy, and reorientation. My purpose this time had to do with my stage in life and the new launch of a ministry I am involved in, Heart to Heart Christian Fellowship. I needed clarity as to what kind of church God wants Heart to Heart to be, on upcoming decisions concerning Heart to Heart and to let go of feelings and emotions that are hindering my progress in life. All this happened!!

Here are some pointers on taking a “retreat” with a purpose:

1. Find a place you are able to go where you will be away from people and your normal environment. Plan to be gone 4 full days, so make all the arrangements before hand letting people know you will not be using your phone or answering any communication for 4 days. Turn off your phone!! I call my wife each evening, but leave it off before and turn it off after the call.
2. Begin your fast the day you leave by eating a large healthy breakfast. I fast completely except I drink water and coffee. If you are not use to fasting, prepare yourself in advance by fasting 24 hours to 48 hours several times before your fasting retreat.
3. Take plenty of bottled water, because you do not know how the water will be wherever you go. I took a case so I could drink at least 8 cups per day. Do not take food! You will be tempted to cheat. Plan where you will eat breakfast when you are finished.
4. Answer, why do you need a retreat and what area of life do you want to improve. Answer what major decisions, challenges and changes you have ahead. Decide what focus you want to make, before you leave.
5. Take reading material based on the focus you want to have. Example: I wanted to focus on the upcoming ministry decisions, my relationships, and letting go of hindering feelings. I took my Bible (I always take my Bible). I took two books recommended to me, Circle Maker, and Beginners Guide to the Gift of Prophecy. I took another but didn’t read it, feeling I had come to clarity and needed to read the last book at a later date. I also took a blank spiral notebook for note taking and several writing instruments, pens and pencils.
6. Spend each day praying, reading, note-taking, walking, contemplating and meditating on what you have read. I do not follow any “daily” plan. I read as I want to, pray at the beginning of the day and through the day as well as take notes about my thoughts, dreams, visions and my readings. I do not start planning or writing down my strategy for the future until I have had time for reflecting. I usually start writing down my future plans, strategies and actions on my 3rd day.
7. Turn off your phone! I did already say this, but it needed to be said again.
8. Talk out loud to yourself, you are not crazy, that helps work things out.
9. Be open.
10. I usually leave on Sunday afternoon (having eaten a large breakfast that morning). I head back on Thursday morning, finding a great restaurant to eat breakfast on the way home.

I am going to do this 2 times per year. I use to do it 1 time per year, but this purposeful retreat is so beneficial, I am increasing it for 2018. I’ll go in June or July then again in December. I will look for a different place for my summer retreat.

Running for My Life

I am running for my life…seeking to keep physically fit, mentally astute, and spiritually attune. I am one of those that has to have something other than keeping fit to motivate me, so I run in events. My two favorite are Miracle Match in Waco and Cowtown in Fort Worth. I have run in the past without training, and that was brutal. I train now, which makes me feel better on a daily basis and helps me in my effort to lose weight (maintain once I make my goal of 165 lbs).

I have found that many over train (or incorrectly train), use the wrong shoe, and don’t take time to find the best sock. I was one of those. Each one of these can contribute or even cause injuries. I went through 4 different types of shoes as well as one foot injury, knee issues and ankle issues. I ended up with blisters and sore bottoms of my feet, thinking that socks were just socks. I couldn’t increase my pace nor lower my heart rate average. I now run without injuries, am increasing my pace and lowering my average heart rate.

I found my running shoe, the Altra Torin 2.5 (I think they now have a 3.0). I found my sock, the Balega Second Skin Fit Ultralight. I also follow expertly planned training schedules. The Cowtown provided one designed to prepare for the Cowtown 1/2 marathon. I am following it now.

I have problems with Metatarsalgia on my right foot. I tried Saucony, Newton and Hoka One One shoes, each aggravated my problem. My local running store owner directed me to the Altra Torin 2.5 shoes for an ample toe box and cushioning for longer runs. I am sold!!! I have run over 200 miles in them and 2 Half Marathons. I am able to run long distances now without the pain I experienced before. Take time to find your shoe!! Go to a local store with a real running expert who takes his or her time with you. DON’T BUY ONLINE!!

My socks came from talking with the same running store expert. After I explained my issues, he recommended Balega socks. After trying 3 different thicknesses, I now run solely in Second Skin Fit Ultralights. No blisters and no more sore bottoms of my feet.

I have read enough recently to know that over training is a problem with many older runners. We think that we have to catch on all that lost time, when we didn’t run. I recently read an article that pointed out, runners and cyclist who improve, do not run everyday and follow a training schedule that includes different distances, intervals and types. I now follow a schedule prepared by a professional where I run 4 times a week (M,T,T,S). Each run is a different distance and a different type of run (flat, easy, fast, climbs, etc.) Before I run, I stretch and briefly do aerobic exercises to get my heart rate up. When I get my heart rate up to 130+, I stop the exercising to stretch while my heart rate goes back down. When my heart rate goes back down, I start running. All this has improved my pace, average heart rate, recovery and how I feel. I have also come to enjoy running much more than I did. I use to see running as a necessary evil, but now I look forward to each run, actually notice my surroundings while I run, and have great conversations with God and myself in stride. I do not listen to music while I run, I want to be able to think and hear traffic.

Run for your life, but do it with the right equipment and best training schedule.

Sorry I’ve Been Absent. Catching Up.

I have been working on reducing my tasks and responsibilities, in order to live better. I reduced my positions at multiple organizations. I focused on getting urgent tasks done so I could concentrate on significant and life altering tasks and roles. Years ago I read, Ordering Your Private World, by Gordon McDonald. I also read several Steven Covey books as well as some resource I cannot remember, that suggested dividing your life into your most important roles (I think 7 was suggested) and make sure you balance your life around those roles.

All this was helpful, but actually I found that when I am looking for a system to get me out of a system, I end up busy all over again.

So, I am just reducing to what is important. I am narrowing down what I want to do, to what I am able to do. This includes my roles, my tasks, and my hobbies. I am a husband, father, “family-member,” friend, pastor/director, and athlete (adventurer). My priorities are relationships (1st God, then all others), serving other people with God’s grace, and staying physically active and healthy.

IT IS OK TO SAY NO TO SOMETHING GOOD, EVEN GREAT!!! I have to tell myself that often.

I am able to say no, because always saying yes is really somewhat arrogant and prideful, thinking either I am the only one who is able, or that I am always the one who ought to do it. There is always someone else who is more than able to do all the tasks that are not related to my personal relationships. Someone else is more than able to be used by God to fulfill any role I serve in ministry. I have to make sure, I do not shirk off something he is calling me to, but more times than not, I jump before I make sure he is calling me, instead of seeing He just might be showing me something I just need to be aware of or help someone else heed the call to do it.

Here are just a few questions I ask myself…Is this something that directly affects my relationships, that I am able to do something about? Is this something that directly affects my calling? Is this something that is my responsibility, or am I able to delegate it more effectively? Do I have any Sabbath time or recreation time, and why not? Are there some urgent needs, that are keeping my from my priorities? How does it affect my roles or does it fall into one of my roles?

One of the effects of being overly busy, was I let my health get away from me. I gained 20 pounds and lost my ability to run or cycle any long distances. So, I began to focus on my health, as an urgent need. My attitude, abilities and mental status were affected.

So, I downloaded MyFitnessPal and started tracking my calories. I read several articles on Clean Eating. I downloaded a schedule for preparing to run the Cowtown 1/2 Marathon. I blocked off time each day to take care of these efforts. I do not schedule appointments or find reasons not to do each of these tasks. I faithfully track my calories and stay within the projected calorie count MyFitnessPal set for me. I faithfully run the scheduled distances, 4 times per week, early in the morning. I pay attention to ingredients and seek to eat clean. I have lost over 10 lbs to date and have increased my pace where I am running right at 10 min/mile for 7+ miles. My BP is down. My weight is down. My heart rate is slower. My attitude has changed and I am mentally clearer.

I am working on my relationships…1st with my wife, with my children, with my grandchildren and with the rest of my family. I am taking time to get with my friends. I am spending more time doing the tasks that will directly affect my ministry. And I am making sure I have time to be an adventurer in the areas I enjoy the most…running, cycling, sailing and vacationing with my wife.

I will keep you posted. Oh, and by the way, my new Altra Torin running shoes are the best!!! And my Oboz Hiking boots really did their job and are holding up well as I use them for Backpacking and going to Honduras.

Walk to Emmaus, A Spiritual Journey in San Angelo

Whole Living includes spiritual centeredness, spiritual awareness and spiritual direction. I was renewed and refreshed in these areas at a Walk to Emmaus in San Angelo, TX. My brother-in-law was my sponsor.

When Mel asked me if I would go to Walk to Emmaus, I agreed, but reluctantly. I really didn’t want to go. However, I went, because I had seen a change in Mel. He credited his change to his Walk, and I didn’t want to disappoint him or dampen his excitement.

I really enjoyed the drive to San Angelo with him. I was, in a way, looking forward to 3 days of a retreat, away from the busyness of life. I also, deep down, knew I needed something spiritual, something that would rekindle and recenter my heart. I have been experiencing spiritually depressing and suppressing influences for a while. I have been allowing those influences to keep me from moving forward, they have been causing me to move sluggishly, languishing along.

The Walk to Emmaus was exactly what I needed at exactly the right moment. The Walk is like a conference, workshop, personal retreat wrapped up with surprises that move and encourage you in God’s grace, love and call to service. What an experience, what a renewal, what refreshment! I was moved to smiles, laughs and tears. I was convicted, comforted, encouraged and empowered. I was released and rejuvenated. I left knowing I am loved, forgiven and have an important role in God’s purpose and mission. I knew this at one time. Maybe your knew this or maybe not. Either way, The Walk to Emmaus will either remind you or instill in you these truths in a living active way. The Walk to Emmaus will center you spiritually.

Whole living will not happen unless you are centered spiritually. Being centered, for me, means understanding God’s love, because he has poured it into my heart (Romans 5:5). Being centered, for me, means being continually connected to the life giving Christ in a relationship (John 15:5). Being centered, for me, means being continually transformed by continually “beholding” Christ’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Being centered, for me, means using the gifts God has given me for him and others (1 Peter 4:10). Being centered, for me, means being an active part of a community of faith (Hebrews 10:25).

Make sure you are spiritually centered. Whole Living comes out of a spiritually centered life, no other way. I highly recommend Walk to Emmaus, especially if you need to be centered or re-centered, the Walk might just be what will help you get there, or better said, the vehicle that God might use to get you there.

Backpacking, Equipment Reviews, WOW! What 10 Days in the Wilderness Will Do.

My annual backpacking trip took on a new and deeper meaning this year. I pay much closer attention to my equipment, wanting to provide reviews of the products, and I am much more aware of my spiritual, emotional and psychological experiences than before. I have always been acutely aware of the physical, which have become increasingly noticeable. I have become much more reflective. For example: We were experiencing an amazing sunset by Harriet Lake, about 9600 feet above sea level, when a profound realization came over me. My nephew took a picture of the sunset, as we stood, staring into the West. Oranges, pinks, purples, sun rays, blue sky, all making for a beautiful site. But when we looked at the picture, it came to me, if a picture is worth 1000 words, the experience is priceless.

Whole living at any age includes common experiences with others. Looking at that picture of that particular sunrise on that particular day at that particular place will bring back memories of the experience for those of us who stood there together, seeing it, experiencing it, sharing it. Someone else looking at that picture might think it is a beautiful sunset, but that’s it. We will remember the scent of the campfire, the feel of the cool breeze from the snow banks, the sound of the water lapping on the banks of the lake, and the site of the colors that cannot be described or captured in a digital picture. We will recall the hike that brought us to that place, the meal we ate as we laughed together. We will smile, look at each other with feelings no-one else will have.

This made me reconsider my desire to do a through hike on the Appalachian Trail. Do I really want to do that? Some, if not a major portion, will be by myself. What kind of experience is that? No one to share it with, no one to remember it with, no one to laugh or smile with who shared the experience with me.

I still may do the Appalachian Trail, but we will see. I really enjoy these hikes with people with whom I am able to reminisce.

Our hike was great! We entered Hoover Wilderness through the Leavitt Meadows Trailhead. We parked our truck at the free parking area provided by the National Park. Our trip was planned for 11 days, but because we were not able to cross the river farther up the trail around 9600 ft, our trip was 9 days. We weren’t able to get to two lakes we intended to visit, Dorothy and Bonnie. There was still a lot of snow and mud at Dorothy Pass and the snow melt caused the river to be too high and swift for us to cross safely. Our trip can be mapped on National Geographic’s #807 map. We hiked about 5 miles in and camped by the Walker River. The next day we hiked to Fremont Lake, staying there for 2 nights. We caught several trout and believe it or not, 5 traps full of crawdads. We met a 15-year-old guide who was setting up for a group coming in by mules and horses. He loaned us a trap. We ate very well at Fremont Lake.

When we left we camped at Upper Long Lake for 1 night and ate trout there as well. Our plan was to go to Bonnie Lake, but we weren’t able to cross the river and ended up camping at Lake Harriet. Snow came down to the banks of the lake, and the mosquitoes were terrible. We ate trout there as well, though. We stayed only one night and hiked down a different trail by Cascade Falls stopping to camp at the Walker River again, just up river from the hiker crossing to get to Fremont Lake. The fishing was not good in the river our whole trip. It was just running too swift and was too high.

Now for the reviews: For clothes, I wore REI Silk One Liners, REI Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Socks Crew, REI Classic Sahara Convertible Pants and Oboz Bridger boots. For sleeping, I used an Osprey Aether 70 pack, a Mountain Hardware Sprite 1 tent, a Thermarest self-inflating full mat, and a Teton Trailhead +20F sleeping bag. For cooking, I used an Etekcity Ultralight stove with Piezo Ignition, MSR fuel, a Primus Pot & Pan set that isn’t available anymore, a Sea to Summit collapsible coffee mug, a Sea to Summit 5 Liter Kitchen sink, and an REI long handled spoon. I ate mostly Mountain House meals, single tuna packets and single Spam packets. I use REI Traverse Trekking Poles, a Counter Assault Bear Can, a Katadyn Hiker Pro Filter, and a Spot GPS system with subscription. I also took a Helinox Ground Chair, which is a vital addition to my packing.

There are other equipment that I take, but that is a list of the items I’ll take time to give a quick review. REI socks and liners were terrific!! I had no blisters. I do change my socks and liners daily. Having no blisters might be due to the boots as well. I cannot say enough good about the Oboz boots. Great grip, comfort, fit. We had a mixture of trails, sand, dirt, granite, solid rock, snow, and sharp granite rock due to the horse traffic. The boots came out strong, no deep cuts, no separation of soul or rubber from shoe. I found my boots!!!

The REI pants were great. Much better than the Columbias I had the previous year. Those ended up with a rip in the seat. The REI are much more durable, comfortable and do not make noise when I walk in them. I will get more of these.

I have been using my Sprite 1 tent for 5 years, great easy to set up, very little condensation, plenty of room for me. Lightweight, durable, no holes or leaks over the years.

The Teton Trailhead sleeping bag also has been going for 5 years, keeps me comfortable even when we experienced temps in the 20’s. Does get warm, though in temps above the 70’s. Lightweight and easy to pack in compartment in my backpack.

The jury is still out on the Thermarest self-inflating mat. It is better than the inflatable I had 2 years ago. That one was noisy when I rolled around. This one isn’t and gives me some comfort on the ground.

The ultralight stove I use…I have had it for 5 years. I spent about $10 on it. I bought 2 more this year for $18 total, thinking that this inexpensive (cheap) stove might quit on me this year. NOPE!! I packed an extra stove for nothing. These are the best, most reliable, best packing away stoves on the market. I can pack my stove, medium size MSR fuel cylinder, and collapsible coffee cup in my Primus camping set, and put it in the sack provided for the Primus. Compact, lightweight and durable. You cannot go wrong with this.

The Osprey Aether 70 is a great pack. I am not sold on the way the top section is attached so you can detach it as a day pack, but it did well. I like the bladder compartment being on the outside. It held all my gear and packed well. My bear can is big, so it is a tight fit, but does go down in the pack. If I ever buy another bear can it will be slightly smaller.

I love my Sea to Summit kitchen sink. I used it multiple times for multiple reasons. You are able to get water to wash dishes, your body (body parts like feet), put out the fire and other uses. My tent is big enough, I have a towel and wash rag, that I was able to wash each morning in my tent using bio soap, staying away from mosquitos and the cold. The water was cold though. You are able to dump the water on the ground or in the fire ring instead of the stream or lake.

My poles are also 5 years old and going strong. They are the twist to lock style. Never any problems. Easy to adjust. And my Katadyn filter, no need to review it, plenty has already been said about how great they are.

The only piece of equipment I was total disappointed in and only used it once, because of its total ineffectiveness was my Thermacell. I was so excited when the backpacking version came out. I ran and bought one at REI. I used it and got eaten up by mosquitos. I had to bath in Deet, just like any other time. I would not waste my money on the new backpacking version of the Thermocell Mosquito repelling apparatus.

Well, that’s it. I will include my own backpacking equipment and food checklist for those of you who want it. I will do that in the next few days.

Remember, whole living must have shared experiences.