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awanderingknight – Meet the Outdoor Bloggers

Name –  Ken Knight

 Blogawanderingknight

Twitter profile – kenknight

Age –  44

Home Town – Ann Arbor, MI 

Where do you spend most of your time outdoors? Mostly in the States. If I get out for weekends it is almost certainly going to be somewhere in Michigan. I manage to get a few backpacking trips in per year and also do a fair bit of day hiking sometimes with those trips being organized by a third party company.

Where did outdoor passion come from?  .  I am not really sure I have a good answer for this. I have been a day hiker for much longer than a backpacker and I did that with my parents. However, my backpacking experience really dates back to a first 5 day trip on the Appalachian Trail with two friends including one who was attempting a thru-hike a little over a decade ago.

Favourite spot to camp ? While I certainly enjoy campsites that have good vistas I think I care most that the site have good access to water and not feel overwhelmingly crowded. This does mean that the classic “Caravan campgrounds” are low on my list of places to be unless, of course, I am doing a car camping trip. I certainly have stayed at some campsites that I would be happy to return too like Lane Cove on Isle Royale; Death Canyon Shelf in Grand Teton National Park; places in the High Sierras are almost always attractive; and, many others that I return to year after year but more because the area is fun to visit rather than the specific campsite such as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or Nordhouse Dunes especially in the winter.

Favourite hill? I don’t think I have a favorite hill.

 Biggest achievement in the outdoors ? That’s a tough one. I’ve done some very long trips in the past like The Great Outdoor Challenge in 2008 and 2010. I’ve done some very lengthy stretches of the Appalachian Trail. At some point I want to take a big whack at the Pcific Crest Trail. There are many places outside the United States I want to visit and given the amount of effort some of those will entail they could qualify as a biggest achievement in the outdoors too.

Any burning desires ? I do intend to do the TGO Challenge again though I want to do it with a group. I’d like to tackle more of the North Country Trail here in Michigan and elsewhere. The NCT lacks the eye-candy of western trails and in many places the hilliness of a trail like the AT (which has more elevation change than the longer PCT) is still a trail worth exploring. Other long-distance trails in the US area also of interest. I am not against going off-trail but those types of trips definitely will be with others.

Boots or trainers ? Typically I wear a shoe more akin to a trainer than a boot. In milder weather a shoe like the Keen sandal is a favorite though I wish the sole were a bit grippier. I’ve had a soft spot for some of the very light trainers like those from Innov-8. In colder and/or wetter months I do tend towards more of a boot perhaps with a waterproof lining though on the whole I’ve had limited success with such linings.

Down or synthetic ? Down. Some of my puffy clothing is synthetic but overall I feel down is a far better choice even when the weather gets in that horrible temperature range just above freezing and you start to get freezing rain or sleet instead of snow.

Ale or lager ? Ber is good in most forms.

Going up or down? I prefer going up but that is probably because going down requires more use of depth perception which I do not possess.

Trail or TGO ? While I have done the TGO Challenge I don’t subscribe to TGO or Trail. Nor do I subscribe to Backpacker.

Compass or GPS  ? I carry a compass but am not against the use of GPS as long as you understand the limitations. I think GPS is a very useful tool.

Other blogs you like to read ? This is a list that is probably too long to cite. Many UK-based hikers have some fine blogs like Alan Sloman and M&G; Hendrik Merkel (sp) from Finland is worthwhile reading; and, of course, numerous US-based sites exist that I enjoy for gear reviews as well as trip reports like Backpacking Light and Section Hiker to name just two.

Funniest thing you’ve seen on the hills ? Probably some of the trail dogs that I’ve met over the years. The mid-sized dog that I met 11 years ago in southern Virginia who had a magically vanishing limp that only appeared when his owner was in view. By following that strategy the dog managed to get his owner to carry his gear for several day as the rest of us who knew the truth kept the dog’s secret.

Favourite bit of kit ? Well I seem to have a lot of backpacks so I suppose that they lead the way. I’ve a definite soft spot for my Goosamer Gear Mariposa and I suspect my new Murmur will become well used. I also like my Mountain Laurel Design Trailstar.

Favourite tipple ? What is a tipple?

What do you like about blogging ? I enjoy sharing my experiences and trips with others. Of course to really do that I get to play with some pretty advanced electronics which is always fun.

Give me your best outdoor relatedt rant? To be honest I am not sure I have a big rant. Perhaps my biggest complaint about the outdoors is the encroachment of noise-pollution into the wilderness. For example, you could be trekking through the Grand Canyon and the solitude is shattered by the sound of a helicopter flying overhead. Or snowshoeing through the deep woods in Michigan you are pulled out of your reverie by the sound and worse smell of a group of people zooming by on their snow machines. While I understand that motorized travel in the wilds is important especially to the rural economies that are in thise regions I still find them irritating. I actually am far less bothered by the fact that communications has become far more ubiquitous in the backcountry. I suppose a cell tower in the back woods can be an eyesore but as long as I don’t hear a person talking loudly on their phone or the trills of notifications I am not bothered by such technological intrusions. In fact, I have taken advantage o such technology to share aspects of a trip in a near real-time fashion. I don’t want people to adversely affect the habitat of the wildlife that is already living out there (i.e., keep roads down) in the backcountry.

Something good about the outdoors ? YOu have the chance to explore and see something new every time when you go outdoors. You also, if traveling with others, have a chance to deepen relationships with friends in ways that you aren’t likely to be able to do when staying in a familiar and comfortable place like your hometown.

Favourite sports team? That’a a toughie. Of course, being a non-European it sure isn’t going to be a soccer (sorry, football) team. I’m definitely more of a baseball fan and I suppose these days the Tigers have to be a favorite but that’s more because I have lived in Michigan for 20 years now.

Thanks Ken, just for your info a tipple is a UK term for a alcoholic drink, if my memory serves me correct you enjoyed quite a few Whiskies when we bumped into each other on the TGO challenge.


How not to hike a National Trail

My first ever attempt at a National Trail was back in July 2008. I hiked for three days along the Cleveland Way and reached the coast before quiting because of a foot injury. I learned plenty of lessons from this trip although i came close to quitting hiking altogether after my failure to complete the trail.

I wont bore you with too much detail but here are a few areas i got totally wrong, hopefully other people thinking of doing a National Trail can learn from my mistakes.

Pack weight

I carried far too much weight and although i had no problem carrying the pack, the weight eventually caused a foot injury. The 70 litre pack I usedwas full to brim.

  • FOOD  This accounted for most of my weight. I  had opted to take army ration packs which are extremely heavy compared to a say a wayfarers meal, but carrying 5 days worth of food was stupid, I could have easily bought food on the trail each day. Planning  your restocking points is vital when thru hiking.
  • WATER Each day I would fill up my 3 litre platypus with water which seems like madness now, a bit of planning each day on refill points would have saved me lugging an extra 2 litres of water.
  • CLOTHING Carrying 3 changes of clothes is a luxury hikers cannot afford.
  • EQUIPMENT –  My 2-3 man tent was twice the weight of a solo tent. Down sleeping bags are half the weight of the cheap bulky synthetic bag I carried.
  • 

Planning

Dont under-estimate the effects a thru hike can have on your body if you are not prepared.

  • TRAINING – I thought I could just turn up on the day and get straight into hiking, 20+ miles per day. If you are going to do high mileage you need to train and the only way to do this is by putting miles on your feet.
  • MILEAGE –  Unless you have trained to walk long distances I would not recommend hiking over 15 miles in a day. Think about adding a rest day to play with and keep it in the bank just in case you need it.
  • RESTOCKING Plan where you need to stop to restock supplies you could also think about sending a parcel ahead to pick up on route.
  • NO YOUR LIMITS And stick to them, you’re not going to get any extra recognition for hiking a trail in 5 days when your body can handle it in 7. If you want to push yourself do some extra training preparation.
  • WHICH TRAIL Dont go for a big hike for your first National Trail try something shorter like the Wolds Way or the Hadrian’s Wall.

I hope you found these tips handy, they will be second nature to experienced hikers but I hope they find their way to a beginner who may find them useful.

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TGO Challenge Day 9 – White Bridge to Braemar

We awoke early with a plan, we split into two groups and myself and Gill heading off early with the GPS on a mission to find a replacement for my old friends the NorthFace Hedgehogs. We really did cover some ground (see here)on our way to Braemar, I think Gill would do quite well at a mountain marathon event.

On the way we stopped at the Linn of Dee to take some pics, another quite beautiful spot that Scotland has to offer. As we closed in on Braemar challengers were dropping down off the hills from all angles and all heading for one place The Fife Arms. We arrived for opening and sat outside in the amazing sun with hordes of other challengers. I managed to convince Gill that it would be a good idea to hydrate ourselves after the mornings fast paced walk, she agreed it was a good idea, I came back with 2 pints of lager and the days debauchery had begun.

Andy Howell dragged me over for a podcast interview for backpackinglight.com, after a few uneasy moments it was all over. Andy and Shirley talked me into buying some trail trainers as a replacement for my now knackered boots. So off I went to the local gear shop and 20 minutes later I was returning to the Fife with some brand new sneakers.

Pete and Paddy turned up and the drinking accelerated to a canter as the cider now flowed in the glorious sun. Humphrey Weightman joined us and we gained instant kudos with our tales of being barred from LFTO. Life really was great and we chatted with many challengers all enjoying the fabulous weather on this years crossing.

Some time around 6 I seem to remember Paddy getting a bit of a wobble on, now this really is the time to either stop drinking or find some food. So on the recommendation of many challengers we headed for the hungry highlander for fish and wips. Myself and Gill pitched the tents at the local campsite then headed back to the gang, on our way out of the campsite we bumped into the internet hiking legend that is Mr Mike Knipe who somehow recognised us instantly, after a few hugs and handshakes we rounded up the troops and decided to get ready for the evenings events. Paddy commented as only he can on the tent situation.

A question was posed, how do you rid yourself of the effects of drink and freshen up at the same time? Peter found the ideal solution with his amazing fully clothed shower technique that left him dripping like a broken tap. At the Breamar party we shared drinks with Mike and Peiter and foot tapped along to the sounds of bingo wings the local rock group. We watched on as a rendition of the Proclaimers “500 miles” blasted out of the party tent, I seem to remember Shirley, Alan Sloman and Andy Howell doing the 500 mile dance  as the party closed.

When we reached the tents Mike Knipe gathered us all together for a wee-nip of whisky, I awoke in the morning half in and half out of my tent with a mouth as dry as Gandi’s flip flop.


Detox – Whats the point

Day 19 without cigs and booze and I have caught Swine flu….I got my free pandemic tablets yesterday and its a 5 day course. I reckon I am 5 days into the virus so hopefully i will be fit for the weekend, although I am struggling to get out of bed at the moment. My body feels like its been done over by the Chelsea Headhunters.


Rant about jeans

After reading a few outdoor forums this weekend there seems to be a recurring theme with posts from forum users condemning anyone who they see 50m above sea level with jeans on or what they deem unsuitable clothing. For Pete’s sake give it a rest !!

 I don’t know if it’s a way of gaining your stripes on an outdoor forum these days but everyone seems to be at it. Personally if I see someone in the outdoors I don’t look them up and down to see if they pass my kit list test. I have better to things to worry about and wouldn’t patronise someone by even mentioning it let alone feel the need to air my frustration with the unholy turn of events on an internet forum.

Not everyone needs to be dressed with enough gear to tackle an alpine peak every time they set foot on a hillside. This was hammered home to me when I was in Morocco. A Dutch couple who had no previous experience with mountains tackled Toubkal at the same time as our group. The girl was dressed in jeans – shock horror. Anyway they beat us to the summit by an hour and where chilling back at Mohammad’s hours before we trudged through the door.

There is a place in the hills for everyone, don’t buy into the magazines views that you must conform to their kit recommendations before you set foot on the hills for the first time.


Plan B

So with Wales a no go because of the roads I have drawn up a rough route from Roseberry Topping again, this time going to Captains Cook monument and the top of Guisborough Moor. It should take about 5 hours, but with the amount of snow that has fallen today I reckon 6 – 7 hours maybe more reasonable.


Cold front continues

So the text message reads….”Dude, snowdon is avalanching and getting worse. I’m watching weather, a lot depends on the ability to get there, but its starting to look epic”

Which makes me wonder just what kind of lunatics do I hold company with.

So plans are being hatched for a weekend Snowdonia trip with me old mate Paul – so in preparation for the weekend I thought I better test out some kit in my back garden to make sure it all works. I spent last night in the tent at -3 to test out my Pipedream 400 sleeping bags rating (passed with flying colours) and also my mats. It turns out it was a good job I tested them as my sleeping mat has a puncture so I will be making some repairs tonight.

My back problem seems to have fixed itself with a night under the canvas, thank god, I thought I had picked up my old football injury which put me out for 4 months a few years ago.

The NF Tadpole footprint sorted out the problem with dampness on the groundsheet, setup is really easy and takes no extra time,  hopefully it will extend my tent life as well.

Tonight I will get my kit together, with the emphasis being on warmth and reliability, screw lightweight philosophies when it comes to conditions like this.

My sister Gemm and boyfriend Nigel skyped me from Australia earlier – they couldn’t understand why I was getting excited about huge snow dumps and high pressure over the polar reasons. I will let them enjoy the sun in Australia – I’m heading to the mountains for some real fun.


Resolutions

So as I lay here in my bed hung over and regretting drinking too much again i start to ponder my resolutions again. Obviously this is not the best time to make such decisions but a beggar can’t be a chooser. I can’t really think of any life changing resolutions that have ever stuck, so no doubt when i look back on this post in a years time i will rue another missed opportunity. But if you don’t buy a ticket you cant win the lottery so here we go.

  • Quit smoking – I don’t smoke much but when I do I always regret it…..so this should be the easiest resolution of the lot, lol, he says as the first nicotine craving of the day hits.
  • Quit drinking – With the exception of stag nights and wedding parties its game over for  me with drink for 2010. It may sound ridiculous but I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I’ve been partying hard for 10 years, and by hard I mean hard, some weekends I could tell you about beggar belief.  It’s not anything to do with health, its more to do with lost days….full of regret. I wonder just what I could achieve in a year without drink….so lets give it a shot.
  • Learn to climb – The Cullin Ridge has been on my radar for a while now and I know a man who might just get me round.

We shall see, we shall see.


Ho ho ho Merry Christmas

Santa delivered an amazing little border collie that will be joining me on many an outdoor adventure. I also got given a few  pieces of kit to play with which include.

  • Berghaus Paclite pants
  • Tadpole 23 footprint
  • Paddy Dillon’s National Trail’s book
  • Wind up torch from Unicom
  • Spare pair of thinsulate gloves

I can’t wait to get through new year and hit the mountains, I am itching to go and 2010 plans are shaping up nicely. I also took delivery of a Iron gym workout bar to get me ready for some climbing. This has given me a real wake up call with regards to upper body strength, i have literally turned into an aerobic fairy. 2010 will bring in more core and upper body training to give me the all round strength i will need to achieve my goals.

On the 2010 target front i am still pondering over the year-long alcohol ban, the cigarettes getting binned is a must. A mate of mine has asked my to take him to Toubkal after seeing the pics from this years trip. I  may well take up this opportunity if things pan out.

The TGO is still buzzing around my head and thoughts have turned to route planning as i have just about got my kit sorted. Twitter has been a great source of TGO banter in the last few weeks, i have found plenty of blogs as well to get the info i need and to put a few well known names to faces.

Until then i leave myself pondering over the Yorkshire Wolds  Way…..4 days or 3 ??? hmmmmm


Look what we built