Centennial Trail 2012–Practice through-hike

On August 20, 2012, Dragonfly and I started our first (just the two of us) through-hike. The 110-mile Centennial Trail through the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Back in the 1990’s I had hike most of the trail as a day hikes–driving to the trail head, hiking, getting picked up at the next trail head and then going back to get my car.  Tuffy (my dog) and I had great fun doing it.

So when we (DF and PD) needed to test ourselves as a hiking team, I suggested the Centennial Trail.  Dragonfly agreed.  My parents (Ma and Pa Prairie Dog) were working in the Hills and could be trail support.

August 20, 2012 was a Monday.  Ma and Pa Prairie Dog picked us up at the hotel and drove us to Sturgis, where we bought fuel for our stove.  We then had lunch in a diner and headed up Highway 79 to Bear Butte State Park.

The Trail starts at the top of Bear Butte, so you have to climb up, and then back down to start.  The four of us started out early afternoon.  It was an hard climb and we left Pa Prairie Dog about half way up because of his ankle.

The three of us (Dragonfly, Ma Prairie Dog and me) reached the summit took some pictures and then headed back down.  Once we were back at the Visitor’s Center we signed in and then headed to the Bear Butte Lake Campground, where Dragonfly and I set up camp while Ma and Pa Prairie Dog set out a picnic dinner.  After dinner, M&PPD headed back to their work, and we settled in for the night.

On our final trip to the outhouse, we stopped and stared up at the stars. It was such a clear night and there were a million stars.


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Finishing the Fjallraven Classic Aug. 14, 2014

Three years ago, we finished the Fjallraven Classic–in the rain!

We woke to a cloudy morning, ate our breakfast in the tent and dressed in rain gear.  Before leaving we talked with our neighbors about their tent,  turns out it was a Fjallraven Keb Endurance 2.  It has a huge vestibule, which I think would be great, especially in very rainy weather.

Once we got started, we headed down the rocky and muddy mountain.  At one point it was very warm and we took our raingear off.  Then it got cold again and rainy while we were eating lunch.

5 Kilometers from the end, there was an surprise!!!  The Fjallraven company had a tent set up where they were giving away the Flapjack Bar.  We both got one and saved it for later.

Finally we walked through the archway to the Kungsladen Trail, the finish line was up ahead.  It was still raining steadily as we crossed the finish line to clapping and cheers.  Volunteers quickly wisked us off to the final checkpoint where are passports were stamped and we were all given a sweet beverage.  Was it alcohol or something else?  I never found out.

Standing in the rain we talked with our Fjallraven ambassador Alex on what to do next. Did we have a room at the Inn (Abisko Mountain Station)?  We stood in line to see.  No room at the Inn!  We could stay for free in a Fjallraven model tent.  Dragonfly wanted to do that.  I wanted to get out of the rain.  If we had to do it over—we would stay in the tent.

Andreas found a room for us at the Abisko Mountain Lodge  —3 km away.  He drove us there and paid for the room and dinner, then left to go back to the Abisko Mountain Station.

We cleaned up, ate dinner (see photos), then got a ride back to the Mountain Station.  At the Trekker’s Bar, we stayed for the raffle (didn’t win anything, but our new friend Anton did), then went into the Inn and talked with our new friends until 11.  When we were ready to return to the Lodge, Andreas wouldn’t drive us back, but found someone else who would.  When we got there all the doors were locked!!!!  We started to walk around the building and tried every door until one opened.  We made it!!

Went to sleep after midnight.

We finished the Fjallraven Classic.  When can we do it again?

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The Day It Rained So Hard

Three years ago today, August 12, 2014, we were hiking in Sweden at the Fjallraven Classic.  An all expenses paid trip we had won!!!!

The day started out cloudy and by mid-day was a constant hard driving rain.  Right before crossing a bridge, we came across this meditation place.  The quote is from Dag Hammarskjold’s book Markings (english).  I can’t find a translation for the quote.

After we crossed the bridge, we saw snow next to the river.  And another signpost, showing us which way to go.

As we approached the Alesjaure checkpoint, we saw this sign. 20140812_081626


Telling us that Reindeer wraps and Coca Cola were ahead.  We had to stop!!  But it was still raining.  When we arrived at the spot, there were several lean-to’s made out of logs and tarps, a kitchen tent and a fire pit.

This couple bought one for their dog, who ate everything but the carrots, which she spit out.  The plate was licked clean, except for the pile of carrots!  That is our friends Jim and Steve from the United States next to the fire pit.  You can’t really tell in the photos, but it is pouring rain.

We then continued up to the checkpoint, where we got our passport stamped, a food resupply and a cup of tea in a warm dry space.  While we sat inside, our group of friends was at another table in deep discussion about whether or not they would stop, set up camp in the rain, or continue on.  20140812_104913

That is our new friend Alexander, from Germany, who is deep in thought.

We decided that we would set up camp in the rain.  After the tent was set up, we headed over to the sauna.  I know it doesn’t make much sense to get in a sauna, especially when you are already wet from the rain, but it was nice to be warm!!!!  Loved the sauna even though it was very crowded.  We weren’t as brave as some, as we didn’t run down to the lake, jump in and come back.  That was too much for me.

After the sauna, it was back to the tent to make dinner.  If you look closely at the photo with the red tent, you can see across the lake a group of buildings-which is a town.  After making dinner we settle in for the night.

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Book Review–7 Tips to make the most of the Camino de Santiago by Cheri Powell

7 tips camino book coverI checked this book out of the library.  I started reading it to myself, then stopped and read it out loud to Dragonfly.  We have talked several times since coming back from hiking the AT, about hiking the “El Camino”, so this was a good first book to read.

The author and her husband hiked the pilgrimage in 2010 (seven years ago), so I found that much of the information to be a bit dated.  However, the 7 tips are a good reminder for any hiking trip.

Here are her tips:

  1. Know the history of the El Camino
  2. Know what to take and what to leave behind
  3. Know how to set expectations and goals
  4. Know how to get there, get around and get back
  5. Some good things to know
  6. Know the etiquette on the path and in the albergues
  7. Know how to stay healthy on the Camino

I found that much of what was described would be for any long distance hiking odyssy or pilgrimage.  Common sense, manners, kindness, all things to remember.

I was most interested in how to get to Spain, and how to get back.  Several suggestions were offered and I am making further inquiries into how that all works today.

I have tried to read a couple other books about people who have walked the El Camino and have not finished either (The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit by Shirley Maclaine and Joyce Rupp’s Walk in a Relaxed Manner).  So I was pleased to actually finish a book about walking the Camino.

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Happy Anniversary Dragonfly and Prairie Dog

Today, April 3, 2013 was the day we started hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Our family and friends (support team) drove us to the airport early in the morning.  We arrived in Atlanta, greeted by our wonderful friend Kathy and her brother who drove us to the trailhead, at the top of Springer Mountain.  The four of us walked to the start .9 from the trailhead and then back to the trailhead where they left us.  We hiked another couple of miles to the Stover Creek Shelter where we made camp for the first night.

I always knew we would complete the journey.  What an adventure it was, being outside all day long, sleeping in a tent, watching the seasons change, and seeing ourselves change too.  It was a life changing adventure, one I would take again.  So many good things have happened because of this journey we took together.

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Book Review-The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, Second Edition: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail by Andrew Skurka

gear guide book coverThere is nothing like looking at gear when the weather is to bad to be out hiking.  I have known about this book for quite awhile, but never wanted to spend the money to buy it.  I checked it out of the library and I am glad that I did.

Andrew Skurka is an ultra-lightweight hiker and has hiked all over the world, taught classes and workshops, and written this book.

I was disappointed with the book.  I felt that the focus was on ultra-lightweight and many of the suggestions were dangerous, most especially those involving clothing.  As someone who hikes in the New England area, where ticks and Lyme disease are rampant, wearing long sleeves and long pants, with a hat, is a must if you want to stay disease free.  Maybe it is different in the Western States, but not in the east.

My other issue with the book, was the idea that hiking 30 miles a day was a preferred way.  My body is not designed for speed, never has been, never will be.  While hiking the AT in 2013, a big day for us was 21 miles and we didn’t do that to often.  What is the hurry?

The photos and the descriptions would be helpful for a beginner who is trying to figure out gear, so in that regard it is a good starting point.  It has been my experience that you find out what kind of gear works for you by buying and using it.  Hence my having had 3 different backpack.

I am sure there is a place for this book in the backpacking world, I just didn’t like it in mine.

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RECAP–New Gear

I am recapping our great adventure of winning a free trip to hike in the 10th Annual Fjallraven Classic which took place August 8 to 15, 2014.

Part of the winning package included free gear from Fjallraven.  We would each receive the Abisko 65 (backpack), the EcoTrail (rain) jacket and a pair of Hanwag Tatra hiking boots.

Because we lived close enough to a Fjallraven store, in New York City,


we would be able to go and try some things on.  I can’t imagine choosing sizes through on-line ordering.  Not only might we pick the wrong size, especially with the boots, but would they arrive on-time before our plane took off to Sweden?

We contacted the store manager, Ty, 20140731_151936 and made a plan to visit the store five days before our flight left.

Both Dragonfly and I thought that the Abisko 65 backpack would be too big.  The backpacks we used on the Appalachian Trail were smaller, Dragonfly’s Osprey Kestrel 48 and my Osprey Ariel 55.  We asked for the smaller size, Abisko 55.

Dragonfly got one in red.  20140731_151845

I got one in black.  20140731_151714

Hiking boots gave Dragonfly blisters, so after 30 miles on the AT, she had switched to trail shoes.  I had switched to trail shoes somewhere in Virginia after 857 miles.  Could we get Hanwag trail shoes, instead of the boots?  Yes! We both decided to get the Hanwag Escalator.

The EcoTrail jacket looked to be ideal just the way that it was.  Dragonfly gets one in yellow (they didn’t have orange) and I get one in green.  We were both looking forward to trying out this new rain jacket, as the ones we had used on the AT didn’t work so well.

Because some of our choices of gear had been less money than they allotted for us, we were able to get a flight bag for our new backpacks.  These flight bags surround the backpack so that no straps can get caught in the conveyer belts at the airport.  Plus they double as raincovers.

Reviews of the new gear will come later.

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