Getting Started Backpacking (Basic Gear) Part 1

So you have decided you want to try an overnight trip in the outdoors.  What kind of gear are you going to need, and how much will it set you back?  This article should help get you set up with the basic gear.  First of all I would start with reading this REI article on backpacking for beginners.  

You will want to start with the 10 Essentials (which you should already be carrying on every hike).  on top of that you will will want to add the following. 

Nothing beats sleeping under the stars, however, you don’t want to be caught out in a downpour with no shelter.  So you will need to bring some kind of shelter.  Your dads old canvas tent may keep you warm when you are car camping, but it is much to heavy to cary on your back.  You should look for a tent that weighs no more than 5lbs packed.  Many people choose to bring an ultralight tarp weighing only a few ounces and use their hiking poles, and rope to support it.  There are many good used tents available, craigs list, ebay, and rei garage sales are all good places to start looking. 


  • If you are buying used make sure and inspect the tent carefully for holes.  You can repair small holes later.  Also make sure the tent has stakes, poles, rainfly, and guy wires included. Inspect all of these to make sure they are in good condition.  
  • If you are going solo and want to be ultralight there are hammock / shelter combinations that are cost effective and a very light way to travel.  However they do require trees which may not be available everywhere you want to camp. 
  • You may want to consider buying one size up on your tent.  For example if you are buying a tent for two people consider getting a 3 person tent.  This will give you a place to store your gear, or room for your dog.  Most good tents do have vestibules that will allow you to store some gear.  
  • If you will be camping at altitude or in the spring / fall make sure you get a 3 season tent.
  • Don’t buy a really cheep tent new.  It may seem ok at fist but it will likely not last very long. Worst of all it may come apart in a storm.  One of the best ways to determine the quality of a tent is to check out reviews online. Make sure the review is of the exact brand / model you are considering.  Here are some points you should look for regarding quality. 
    • Aluminum poles are stronger and last longer than fiberglass
    • Ensure the rainfly covers all the way to the ground and has guy wires to tie your tent down in high wind 
    • Ensure the zippers operate easily and seem well constructed this is often one of the first areas to break on a cheap tent 
    • Ensure the floor is made of a high denier fabric and has taped seams to prevent leaking. 

Cost: You should expect to pay at least $80 for a good used tent.  If you are buying a new high end tent you should expect to spend $300.  


Sleeping Gear
Now that you are protected from the wind and rain you need to get something to keep you warm and comfy at night.   If you are planning at high altitude it can get quite cold when the sun goes down. At 10,000 temperatures below freezing are common even in the summertime.  With the proper gear you will sleep like a baby in this crisp air.  

Sleeping Bag
The first sleeping item to consider is a sleeping bag. You may already own, or be tempted to purchase, a square car camping bag.  Technically you can bring this bag backpacking, however, this style of bag is usually quite bulky / heavy. Backpacking bags are typically a mummy style bag which provides the best insulation to weight ratio.  You should look for a bag that weighs between 2-3lbs. Make sure you get one that is rated for the coldest temperature you expect to camp in.  I think it is easier to open and vent a bag to make it cooler so I tend to be conservative and buy a bag that is rated to 15-20 degrees celsius. Obviously if you are camping only in low altitudes in the summer you don’t want to waste money or weight on a bag rated this cold. 


  • Go for a mummy style bag even if it seems constricting at first. 
  • Get in the bag in the store and make sure it fits you well.  
  • I would not purchase a two person bag as my only sleeping bag. This basically limits you from ever going without your parter.  
  • Down provides better insulation to weight ratio, and compresses better than synthetic material.  The downside is that it does not insulate when it is wet, and it  

Sleeping Pad 

 Optional Items 

Backpacking the Pecos Wilderness (La Vega)

This Memorial Day weekend we met our friends Erik and Steph to do some backpacking in New Mexico’s Pecos wilderness area.  Erik discovered the area after moving to New Mexico a few years ago, and was excited to show us some of the alpine beauty this state had to offer.  We were originally planning to overnight at a high alpine lake (Lake Katherine), however, we decided it was just to early in the season to camp this high. So we instead targeted La Vega Meadow with a day hike to summit Santa Fe Baldy.  We decided to spend the night in Santa Fe Friday night so we could get an early start Saturday morning.

If you don’t want to read all the details of the trip I would suggest you start with the Video

You can view an interactive map of the trip at Every Trail.  
Or download the GPX file(with routes and lots of useful waypoints)

Lets start off with a quick map of the trip.


Day 1– Ski Santa Fe -> La Vega Meadow.  

We got up early, grabbed breakfast and started the 45-minute drive up Hyde Park Road.   The trail head for Winsor Trail (#254) is at the upper parking lot of Ski Santa Fe (google map).   We took advantage of the last toilet we would see for a few days, and then shouldered our heavy packs.   The trail doesn’t waste anytime; it is steep right off the trailhead.  You climb 600 feet in the first .5 miles of the trail.  You will give most of this back over the next couple of miles.  At around ½ mile in you hit the boundary of the Pecos Wilderness.  We stopped here to sign in.  After entering the wilderness you drop downhill to the Rio Nambe.  I hate loosing elevation close to a trailhead because you know you will have to climb back out when you are tired.  2.4 miles after leaving the trailhead you will hit the intersection with trail Upper Nambe Trail (#101).  This trail serves as a shortcut, and is the most direct route to La Vega.  The trail gently looses elevation and eventually meets up with the Rio Nambe.   You cross the Rio Nambe via a log bridge. This spring had unusually low runoff.  I would bet this crossing could be problematic this time of year.  At around 3 miles we hit the Rio Nambe Trail #160.  (This trail also intersects Winsor trail).  Not to long after joining 160 you will come to a little hill and a clearing in the trees.  As the trail breaks through the trees you are treated to a beautiful view of La Vega Meadow.   

La Vega  (“The Meadow”) is a beautiful high alpine meadow.  It is said to be one of the nicest meadows in the Sangre De Cristos.  Unfortunately we were to early for the wildflower show that paints the meadow from mid June – mid August.  Judging by the amount of aspen around the meadow, fall must be something to see in the area as well.  Providing a nice backdrop to the meadow is tomorrow’s target,  Santa Fe Baldy with its mustache of spruce trees stretching across its bare face.   

La Vega provides at least 5 good camp sites that are spread out enough to provide solitude.  We were there on a busy weekend and only saw three parties come through the meadow.   We selected a site at the very end of the meadow.  The site was well protected from the high winds forecasted for the weekend.   We wasted no time in getting our heavy packs off and setting up our campsite.   After a couple of hours of chores we sat down for a cold lunch.    We spend the remainder of the day exploring the meadow and relaxing around camp. 

We enjoyed conversation and marshmallows around the campfire as we admired the stars in the clear sky.   We headed for bed around 10:30PM.  It was remarkably warm (low 50s) when we went to bed.  The wind kept gusting into camp, which made it hard to sleep.  It would start low in the valley with a sound like an approaching jet.  As it hit the camp the trees would sway and bang against each other, and the rain-fly would make a racket.  So much for restful sleep before our climb.  



Day 2– La Vega Meadow -> Santa Fe Baldy

Due to our poor nights sleep we didn’t get up until after 7AM.  Again it was remarkably warm for this time of year.  I had to take off my fleece shortly after getting up as I was already hot.  We enjoyed breakfast and coffee before getting our gear together for the hike.  After reviewing the map we set off down trail 160 towards Santa Fe Baldy

Santa Fe Baldy is a major peak in the Sangre De Cristo range.  At 12,632 ft there are no higher points south to the New Mexico border, and the peak stands as the highest in the Santa Fe area.  Our plan was to take the Rio Nambe Trail to Windsor and then up to the Skyline trail.  This would make for a round trip of around 8 miles and 2500ft elevation gain.  If it weren’t a holiday weekend we would have moved camp to Puerto Nambe.

Less than a mile into the hike we lost the trail at a river crossing.  We both have Garmens and the map showed a second trail to our north.  We decided to take this route (which doesn’t exist).   So we spent the next 45 minutes bushwhacking our way towards Puerto Nambe.   Finally we broke out into another beautiful meadow called “Puerto Nambe”.  This area is a great choice for camping or taking a lunch break.  At the meadow, Winsor trail hits Skyline #251 which is the route to the top of Baldy.  After leaving the meadow the trail gains 750 ft over 1.3 miles towards a ridge.  You will need to time your hike so that you are back off this ridge before afternoon thunderstorms hit.  So this is a good time to stop, enjoy the view, and evaluate the weather.  In our case we couldn’t even talk in the winds that were howling across this ridge.  It was about 11AM and the winds were forecast to really pick up after noon.  We took shelter behind a tree and talked it over before deciding to continue up the trail.  So we made left turn off the trail (look for the cairn) and simply followed the ridgeline for 1mile 1000ft elevation towards the summit of Santa Fe Baldy.   After ½ mile the winds continued to pick up, and we could see a lot of ice / snow on the trail at the summit.  We decided the smart thing was to turn around 200 vertical feet short of the summit and return to camp.    

We made a hasty retreat down the ridge and back to the protection of the trees below timberline.  We made a quick stop on the ridge to spread some of my brother-in law’s ashes (this was the 4th anniversary of his death).  Soon we were back at Puerto Nambe where we located some shade, and sat down for lunch.  After four hours of hiking it felt great to sit down for a while.  

After lunch we finished hiking back to camp (This time we used a trail).  We arrived back in camp around 3PM, and immediately headed for the stream to soak our tired feet.  We spent the remainder of the day lounging around.    We fired up the stoves and cooked up dinner around 7.  We noticed the wind had changed directions, and it now had a cold bite to it.   We started the campfire before dusk, and headed to bed a little before 10PM.   Our hike and a little calmer winds made for a good nights sleep. 


Day 3– La Vega Meadow -> Ski Santa Fe

The next morning we got up, had breakfast and packed up camp.  We lifted our loads onto our back, and began trudging back down the trail towards Ski Santa Fe.  The hike out was pretty consistent up hill with a few steep places.   We made good time and hit the wilderness boundary in about an hour.   We saw 7-10 parties headed up 254 as we were leaving.  This was by far the most people we saw all weekend.   As we descended the last ½ mile to the parking lot, Steph tripped and scraped up her leg.  Just goes to show how easy it is to get injured when you’re tired and in a hurry on your way home.

We headed toward Santa Fe for some New Mexican lunch and a Margarita before heading for home. 

We noticed a nice looking spa where you could stop for a soak after your long hike.  We were anxious to get home so we skipped this treat, though I did get an earfull from my wife about not going. 


Here is a video report of the trip.


Iphone As An Outdoor Device

This post is about how I use my iphone 3GS to plan, execute, and record my outdoor adventures.   I am a big fan of the iphone, and have found it to be useful in many areas of my life. Hiking and Backpacking are no exception.   With a few apps the iphone can give you nice topo maps with your GPS location, ability to record your route, save notes and pictures about your trip, and entertain yourself while camping. 

For short close to home hikes the ihpone is perfect with out additional hardware. However for multiday trips you may want to consider purchasing a couple of accessories to protect the device and extend its battery life. 

One of the major limitations of the iphone as an outdoor device is that it doesn’t have a removable battery.   In addition using the “location services” (iphone terminology for gps) can be a real battery drain.   To overcome this limitation you should take some steps to extend your battery life, and consider an external battery charger to replenish your battery on longer outings.   External batteries come in a few different varieties.  I have one that cost $3 plus shipping on amazon, it just plugs into the iphone port and recharges the battery. There are also solar chargers available.  

Even if you are using an external battery you should take some steps to extend your battery life in the field. 

  • If you are going to be out of cell range, go ahead and disable the 3G network through your iPhone settings function. [Settings > General > Network > turn off “3G”]
  • Disable the WiFi network as well. [Settings > General > Network > turn off “WiFi”] 
  • Set your screen brightness as low as possible [Settings > General > Brightness] 
  • Turn off Bluetooth (if you have this enabled)

Another consideration is that the iphone was not designed to be a rugged outdoor device.  In order to protect your investment, and to ensure you can access your maps in the field, you need to protect your device from moisture.   In most cases I think it is sufficient to keep your phone in a ziplock bag.  This does mean you will have to remove to use it, and the bag can easily be torn.  There are several waterproof / rugidaztion covers available for the iphone.  These range from $10 to over $100.   Several of them will allow you to operate the device while it is in the case.  

If you are a real gearhead and want the ultimate outdoor case Magellan makes a rugged waterproof case that will also enhance your gps signal.  However, at more than $100 I am unconvinced this is worth the money. 


Apps are what make the iphone a powerful outdoor tool.  These are my favorites for use related to hiking / backpacking. 

Accuterra Unlimited
I think the best outdoor app out there is accuterra unlimited.  I have tried a host of GPS apps and this one provides the best maps, and the best features.   For a one time cost you can download high resolution topographic maps for use offline.  This is key when no cell signal is available, and many gps apps don’t provide this.   Accuterra also provides the following key features.
 Import gps tracks from your favorite websites or using wifi.

  •  Record your tracks for viewing and sharing later.  You can save waypoints and pictures to your track as well.
  • Export tracks as kml (google earth) files.  You can then use  to convert these to any common format.   
  • View your current location on a high resolution topo map. 
  •  View points of interest (campgrounds, summits, fishing areas …) on top of the map.

As useful as this app is for navigation, it is electronic, and it is succeptable to failure.  Any prudent outdoorsmen will advise you to always bring along a paper map, and compass, and learn how to use these as a backup. 

NOTE: This app has been sold to another company.  Current users are being asked to register so they can be notified of a new app download.  Not exactly sure what this means for the future of the app.  Hopefully it will be positive  

    Evernote is just a fantastic service for many areas of my life.   It is basically a great way to take notes from any computer or device, and keep them neatly organized in one place.  You can sign up for a free account and download the iphone app from 

    This is how I use the service to plan and document my adventures. 

    •  I have created a notebook in evernote for keeping my outdoor notes organized.
    •  I keep a running note of day hikes I would like to do with basic information (distance, location, elevation).   When I run across a new hike I add it to this list so I can quickly scan and pick the best option when planning an outing
    •  I keep a separate running note for overnight backpacking trips I would like to do. This has more detailed information I have found about the area.
    •  If I am planning a bigger trip I use the firefox plugin to “clip” information from the web and save it to evernote.  This allows me to collect a note with all of the information about a particular hike.   If you “favorite” this note before you loose signal it will be accessible offline.   It can include pdfs, pictures, trail description….
    •  When I am on the trail I use evernote to record notes.  If I come across a good potential campsite I can snap a picture, type a quick note, or record a voice note about the site.   The app will automatically apply a geotag to the note so I have the exact location of the site.  I can then add a tag “campsite” to the note for easy searching later.  
    •  I also use evernote to keep checklists for my pack both overnite and day packs.  This ensures I am not out on the trail when I realize I forgot my water filter or a jacket. 

    Everytrail is an app that shares more than just maps.  It provides rich guides that include complete descriptions, and points of interest. The POI’s contain rich media including pictures, video, and audio.  At first blush including audio doesn’t seem like a very big deal.  However, some of the trail guides provide some neat location aware audio tours that really enhance your visit to an area.   The app provides users content in the form of “Guides” and “Trips”.  The guides are moderated, and are a much higher quality than the trips. The app also gives the user the ability to record their trip and use this recording to publish guides / trips to other users.   It comes in a free and paid ($3.99) version.  The free version is basically the same with a few restrictions.  The bigest of which is that you can’t download the maps for offline use. 

    Here is what I like about this app

    • Everytrail provides good tools for createing guides / trips.  This means better quality information for the consumers of these guides & trips.
    • Evertrail incentivizes the creation of guides.  This attracts serious bloggers, and ensures they give good content.
    • The inclusion of audio and Video help bring a trip to life.  
    • The seperation of reviewed guides and trips helps sort out the better content. There is also a raiting system.
    • EveryTrail is owned by tripadvisor which means it is backed by a major company.  I see the potential big things in the future of this product.  

    And what I don’t like

    • There are a lot more trips than guides. Many of these are junk or repeats, so it can be hard to sift through them to find the good ones.  Unfortuantly this is the downside of user driven content and it is found in all apps that follow that model.
    • Topo maps are provided by “open terrain”  I have not used them enough to comment on if they are complete and accurate. 
    • I find the process of downloading maps for use offline confusing.  I should be able to manage it directly from the map page.  Instead you have to turn on the downloading and then “favorite” a trip. 
    • Users have complained about maps disapearing.  Certainly not somthing you want to happen in the back country.  I have not personally experienced this. 

    is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location 

    The iphone app allows you to find geocaches, and download the information needed to find these caches.  It provides some additional fun when you are out on a hike. 

    How many times have you gotten to the payoff of a big hike, and as you stand admiring the view you begin wondering what that mounting or hill over there is?   Peakfinder helps you identify what you see on the horizon by giving you a wireframe sketch of the features with labels.  

    Ebook Readers
    There are several good ones available. Ibook, barnes and noble, and kindle.   I like kindle because there is so much good content available for it.

    What ever reader you choose it will allow you do download a book for use offline.   This allows you to have a wealth of reference information such as

    •  Guide books
    •  Survival guides
    •  Wilderness first aid
    •  Mountaineering guide (freedom of the hills) 

    You can also bring along your favorite novel to read as you lounge around camp. Best of all you bring this library with no additional weight added to your pack. 

    There are many more great apps out there for outdoor use.  I don’t use them nearly as often (or not at all) as the ones listed above.  Some of thes include

    •  IBird Explorer
    •  My Nature Animal Tracks
    •  All Trails  – I do use this app it has a lot of content. The quailty of the content is mixed. 
    •   North Face trail head  – this is a user content driven app.   It does have some local trails that are tough to find information on.  But It also has a lot of “bobs walk around the block” and “Joes commute (testing this” 
    • 14er Weather provides convenient links to weather forecasts for 14,000 ft mountains in Colorado.  

    I hope you enjoyed this article.  If you are using a smartphone for outdoor use please share your experience in the comments.   


    Catamount Trail

    The Catamount Reservoirs on Pikes Peak have been among my favorite fishing spots for many years now.  I love them because they are easily accessible, not overcrowded, have the best views of any lake in the area, and are loaded with trout.   The May Saturday we picked to hike the trai, had an outstanding forecast of  80 degrees and Sunny.  Angela and I decided last minute to hike up to the lakes, and take advantage of the weather.  Angela’s knees have been bothering her lately so we weren’t sure we would be able to make this hike happen (You will notice the stylish aqua tape in the pictures).    We are planning to take a back packing trip over Memorial Day, so we decided to take the opportunity to condition our bodies to the extra weight of a full size pack.  We didn’t load them all the way but I had about 25lbs, and Angela about 15.  Our good friend Vanessa decided to join us for the hike as well. 


    Ok so first of all here is the important beta about the trail.

    Length: ~7 mi roudtrip.  Configuration is ‘out and back’
    Elevation Gain:
    ~1600 ft
    Very good
    End of Hondo ave in green mountain falls.  You will need to park and walk up hondo.  Here is a google maps link of the trail head.  
    Great hike.  3 miles of this hike is on the road, which is kind of a bummer.  Trail is steep and rocky in places.   You can drive to the lake so there will be more people there than on the trail. 

     You can access a gps track of the trail here.


    We parked just past the Gazebo in Green Mountain falls.  I would highly recommend a stop at the Pantry for breakfast before or after your hike.  They have a lovely patio and delicious food!!    


    The hiking starts with close to a mile of walking up a steep dirt road (Hondo Ave).  I felt like a fool hiking on a road with a 70L pack on my back!!   The signs along Hondo were pretty funny. There is one warning of a dangerous ice flow pedestrian traffic not recommended,  directly above it is a sign that says foot trafic only.  We got a picture with the dangerous ice flow.  In all fairness it looked as if it could have been gnarly in the wintertime. 


    At the top of Hondo You will then cross over catamount creek on a nice bridge.  Immediately after the small waterfall look for the Blue Dot trail and sign.  It doesn’t really look like it is a trail but start climbing.  The trail is fairly hard to follow but the more confusing places are marked with a blue dot so just follow those signs.  I read somewhere the orange dots get you to the same place, but require more scrambling.   The blue dot trail climbs pretty steeply along catamount creek.   The steep rocky portion of the trail is probably around 1 mile log.   After about an hour of hiking we crested out of the steep part of the trail.  We decided to stop here and devour the subway sandwiches we brought for lunch.   


    After lunch we continued towards the lakes.  The trail flattened to a much gentler climb for the remainder of the time.  We again picked up catamount creek and followed it the whole way.  The trail crosses a lovely meadow area known as “Garden of Eden” this is supposed to have nice wild flowers in the spring.   This area would make a great campsite, however, I don’t know about the legalities of camping here.  I saw no signs of camp so either people have been great at LNT or camping is prohibited.  After another mile or so we hit a road.  You want to stay to the right on the road you will see the dam to south catamount ahead.   You pass a small pump house and then climb up to the damn.  

    We hung and fished for an hour or so.  It was pretty windy so casting wasn’t fun.  I enjoyed kicking back in my butterfly chair.   Nobody was able to catch any fish.  As usual the trip down seemed much quicker.  You have to take care on the rocks to make sure you have good footing, and you need to constantly check to make sure you are on the trail. 

    The slog back to the car on the steep dusty road was the least fun part of the hike. My dog trip peirced his ear with a fishing hook on the way back home.  It wasn’t a good look for him, and a pain in the ass to get out.  

    Overall this is a good hike for scenery and interesting parts of the trail.  It would be excellent except for the road walk on both ends. 


    Flying in a Gobosh

    This isn’t exactly on the main topic of this blog [hiking and camping], but it certainly qualifies as a Colorado Adventure.  This Tuesday I was able to take a “Discovery Flight” with Skyraider aviation out of Centennial Airport (APA) in South Denver.  My wonderful wife got me the lesson for our 5th anniversary this January.   Skyraider specializes in what is known as Light Sport Aircraft.  Sport Pilots and LSA are a fairly new designation with the FAA.  The basic point behind them is to allow people to get into aviation at a much lower cost than was previously available.   At Centennial, Skyraider has two Gobosh 700 planes, as well as a Remos G-3. I got to fly in the Gobosh 700, which is a really cool airplane (see video below).  It has a  “Glass Cockpit” (which means digital instrumentation).  The pilot uses a stick to control the plane instead of the more common yoke.   All of this combined with the easy flight characteristics and great maneuverability makes the gobosh really fun to fly.

    My flight instructor was a guy named Erik Skjerseth, he seemed very knowledgeable and was easy to learn from.   The flight started with a preflight briefing and the standard preflight checks to make sure the plane was ready to fly.  We then pulled the plane out of the hanger (using a little hand truck), and climbed up and into the plane.  Although I have flown a couple of times before this was the first time I got to climb into the “left seat” so that in and of it self was exciting.  Once in the cockpit we turned on the main switches and started the plane.  I taxied to the run-up area. The gobosh doesn’t have a steerable nose wheel so you have to steer using your rudder pedals / brakes this took some getting used to so I swerved around a bit.  I was concentrating on steering and let the plane get going a little fast.  Erik had to tell me to back off the throttle before I set a land speed record. While we sat in the run-up area we revved the engine up to 4500RPM and completed our pre takeoff checklist. 


    After clearing 338 Mike Foxtrot (our tail number) for takeoff we pulled onto the runway and lined up for takeoff.  With my heart beginning to pound a little, I pushed the throttle all the way in, and tried to keep the plane as straight as possible.  We quickly hit 40 kts and Erik instructed me to ‘rotate’ the plane for take off.  I put a little back pressure on the stick, and we were off the ground.  I think Erik was quietly helping me with a little right rudder because the plane didn’t pull to the left nearly as much as it does in the simulator.    I was a little steep on my angle of attack after take off so I had to back off the elevators a little and let us build some airspeed for climbing.   Once in the air I settled down a bit and began to really enjoy the flight.   We spotted parker road ahead and took a right turn to the southeast to follow it.   

    We headed down over the Pinary towards Franktown to practice some maneuvers.  This was great because I live between Franktown and Castle Rock so getting to see the area from 2000 ft AGL was really fun.   We spent 40 minutes or so doing turns, climbs, and descents over Castlewood and Mitchell canyons.  I felt pretty comfortable maneuvering the aircraft, and had a lot of fun flying it around.  For some reason I had a tendency to climb so Erik had to keep asking me to descend.  We had to stay under 8500 feet because there is class B airspace above that.   The instructor complemented me on my handling of the plane, however,  I think he was stroking my ego because I wasn’t really very precise with my maneuvers. In any case the conditions were outstanding and I was having a great time so I took the complement. 


    All to soon it was time to head back up Parker road and begin our decent into APA.  As I made the turn to the north I got one last look at the sun setting behind Pikes Peak what a view!! When we came over the KOA antenna I hit a little bit of turbulence, and the little plane really bounced around.  In the turbulence I got a little close to the antenna and got a warning from the instructor and the garmen.   We got cleared for a straight in approach, and Erik said I could go ahead and land the plane.  My adrenaline definitely went up a notch as I pointed the noise towards the airport and began my final decent.   Everything happened really fast as we made the approach.  I pulled the lever to put the flaps to 15 and then 40 and pulled back on the throttle to slow the plane.  I really didn’t get the plane lined up well early enough so that was a bit stressful. The instructor was very calm and reassuring so I mostly kept my cool.    As we came in I again hit a little turbulence, which startled me, and I over corrected with the stick.   I got the plane lined up and after a bit of a bumpy touch down we were on the ground safe.  While I was happy I got to land the plane I was disappointed it wasn’t a smoother landing.  I had made a bunch of pretty good landings in the simulator and thought I would do better in the real thing.  Man things really happen fast when you are coming in for that landing.  


    After pushing the plane back into the hanger for the night I sat and talked with the instructor for a little bit about what the next steps would be in getting my Sport Pilot Certificate.   Then, after checking my passport (thanks Osama), he took the virginity of my new blue ASA logbook.  I  headed to meet Angela at the “Perfect Landing”.  There we enjoyed a great dinner watching planes take off and land while I excitedly babbled about my experience. 


    Now I can’t stop thinking about it, and I really want to get up and fly again!! 





    Here is a video of one of the Skyraider Instructors flying one of their two Gobosh 700 planes.

    Plymouth Mountain Dear Creek Canyon

    Deer Creek Canyon is a beautiful openspace in southwest Denver.  It is a great place to stretch the legs and get some fresh air with out travling far from home.  This post describes a route up and around plymoth mountain.  There are many trails in the park you can find them here.

    I hiked this route on a chilly april Saturday with my wife and our two dogs.  The pictures are from hiking the trail the previous February.  I would recommend hiking this in the off season, or a weekday as the trail is heavily used.

    The basics of the route are

    Difficutly: Medium
    5.5 miles – plenty of options to extend to longer
    Elevation Gain: ~1300ft
    Dogs:  Allowed, you will encounter plenty of other pooches on a tight trail so make sure their frendly
    TrailHead: The trailhead is just south of 470 & Kippling in Littleton, CO.  Here are directions in Google Maps

    Here is a gps track detailing the hike. 

    Plymouth Mtn (Dear Creek Canyon)


    As you leave the parking lot you can choose to take the multi use trail marked Plymouth Creek trail to the left, or the Hiker only trail Meadow Lark trail to the right.   The hiker only trail is a litle longer, it is a tight single track.  The Plymouth creek trail is rockier / steeper and you will encounter a lot of bikers on the trail.  It is nice and wide with plenty of room to pass. 

    We decided to head up plymouth creek first and return via medowlark.   The trail climbs steeply for the first couple of miles.  After the first mile and 400 ft of climbing you will pass the intersection with meadow lark trail.  The trail soon steepens even climbing 20 or so stairs.  

    At about 1.5 miles you will hit an intersection with plymoth mountain trail.  This is a loop with a quick side trip up to a senic overlook.  The loop can be done in either direction.  If you are looking to the shortest route to the top of the senic overlook continue straight at this intersection.

    We chose to hike by turning left at the plymoth mountain trail.  The trail has some nice views of the valey, you can even see downtown Denver on a clear day. 

    2/3 of the way throught the loop you will hit a 1/4 mile trail to a senic overlook.  The views here are good



    Overall this is a nice hike I would recommend putting it on your list. 


    Golden Gate Canyon Cabins

    This February seven friends and I  rented two cabins and a yurt at Golden Gate Canyon State Park, in Golden Colorado.  This is a really cool state park with tons of good hiking, and not to many people.  We decided to book the cabins to get in some winter camping with out the freezing cold nights.  They are actually really nice cabins.  They have electricity, a gas fire place, bunk beds, and plenty of room.

    You can find out more information and reserve the cabins at the state park webiste

    We arrived around noon on Saturday.  We decided to do a three mile loop near the cabins.  The trail had just the wrong ammount of snow.  There were long bare spots which made snow shoes impractical. There was also pretty deep drifts.

    After we got back to the cabin we got a good camp fire going, and heated some chili in the crock pot.

    Sunday Morning I got up at dawn and went to near by panorama point to get some sunrise pictures.  It was chili but beautiful.   We were hoping to get in some sledding, but due to the poor snow conditions we decided to take another short hike and call it a trip.

    Over all I would highly recommend an overnight trip to this wonderful state park.

    Here are some pictures of our adventure

    Our Friends enjoying some chili

    Tremont peak at sunrise

    Sunrise view from panorama point


    Cabin 5

    Waldo Canyon

    Waldo Canyon is  a very popular trail off highway 24 near Colorado Springs.  I hiked this trail in February with my dog Tripp.

    The trailhead is directly off Highway 24.  After leaving the trail head the trail climbs steeply up and away from 24.  It only takes 20 minutes or so to get out of sight / earshot of the highway.

    Here is the Trail head in google maps

    GPS Track of the hike


    More Detailed information about this hike can be found at 

    Here are some nice pictures of the trip 

    The hike is a nice gradual climb.  You follow a lollipop shaped trail up into the canyon.  In the winter the west side of the canyon can have lots of ice.  I would recommend having microspikes or some other traction device to do this hike in winter.  Near the top of the canyon you are treated to really great views of pikes peak. 

    There is a back country campsite near where the loop starts.  It looks decent but is sure to see tons of daytime traffic as it is directly on the trail.