02 October 2020


Click for map.

After hiking around Russ Park, I went on to wander Ferndale. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was founded in 1852 and prospered in the diary industry. I actually started by walking just outside the city limits to Saint Mary's Cemetery since I had passed distinctive cemetery on the way to Russ Park and noticed the smaller one right next to it.

cemetery in the curve of the hill
Saint Mary's Cemetery just outside Ferndale.

Some of the family plots date back to the 1850s based on the dates. I quickly found Etter and Russ among them. I noted them because those names can also be found on the map. I climbed the hill and took a quick loop through the cemetery.

a lot of concrete
There's quite a lot of concrete use.

cypress trees
Monterey cypress line the edges along with Douglas firs.

I headed over to the Ferndale Cemetery for a similar stroll. It also dates back to the 1850s although there are a few earlier who were reburied from plots near homes. It is similarly constructed. A few of the plots have nice trees growing or other live flowers.

entry to Ferndale Cemetery has a metal arch saying so
Entry to the Ferndale Cemetery. The gates close at 6PM.

Russ Park

Ferndale City Park

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Russ Park was donated to the city of Ferndale in 1920, so should be marking its 100th this year. There's a little written about it in many places, but the best I see is by Michael Kauffmann who has made parts of his guidebook available online. My research prior to going was more along the lines of noting there is trail out there and I'll go and try it. I probably would have seen a little more trees of the forest, but that Sitka spruce next to the kiosk needed no introduction and made me very happy I had come to see a little city park.

Russ Park has a gravel lot and a sign. More information is on a kiosk up the trail.

The park is kept as a "primitive wilderness and bird sanctuary", but the trails through it are very well maintained. My source for seeing that there were trails was a bit incomplete about them. It had a lollipop loop shown but there are three different trails to climb but the ridge to get to the loop at the top. I decided I would come back via the right hand (Village Trail (or Pacific View Trail, the map in the kiosk and the ones along the trail have different name opinions)) one. Maybe.

lots of trees
Just a little bit of that forest.

I started to climb via Lytel Ridge Trail (or Main Trail). It starts gradually, but then chugs through a bunch of little switchbacks determinedly upward. The grey air kept making me think of smoke. I took some deep breaths but could only detect water. Just ordinary fog, thick and damp.

down to a leafy valley
There's more green past the park edge and a long way down the steep slope of the ridge.

The trail relents in the climb and meanders to a junction. I went straight, starting on the Daddy Bush Trail (or Maple Leaf Loop Trail). It drops through another valley.

different trees
The forest composition changes on the other side of the ridge.

01 October 2020

Redwood Park to Loop 8 and more wandering

Arcata Community Forest

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I got myself over to Redwood Park and wandered the Arcata Community Forest for a bit. The wander generally took me around Loop 8 and a little of Loop 9 and Fickle Hill. Here are a few pictures.

trees and a stump
The forest around Redwood Park is particularly cleared by the stomping action of those who are playing among rather than hiking past.

For the first time, I hiked the road past the parking on Fickle Hill. It promptly passes a sign that mentions, among other things, that the forest is kept in a sustainable way meaning that logging is balanced by growing. Logging?

road and trail are available
The trails are a mixture of roads, used and not, and narrower trails.

And then I found the fresh stumps and the long ribbons printed with "timber sale boundary". Yep. Logging.

big, broken stump
Big broken stumps are very old, but very old redwood so they stick around for a long time.

30 September 2020

Tents, what was and what will be?

 My day pack is developing holes in the bottom, so I'm looking for a new one. I have some thoughts on what, but not a lot of feeling like I can actually afford anything at the moment. If I'm honest, those holes are tiny and in a very thick nylon and it'll probably last another couple years before it starts dropping my gear. Also, I'm not using the side pockets anymore so it doesn't matter that they've completely shredded. In classic mission creep fashion, I've found myself looking at tents instead. With no budget, I get to think about what I would really like if money were no object. That's definitely Dyneema. (Formerly Cuben Fiber.)

What follows is a bit of random mussing about the tents of my childhood followed by a little on tent materials, and a catalog of sorts of the tents offered in Dyneema. Oh, and bonus bad sketches of tents from memory.

When we were little, there was the umbrella tent. I have no idea why it is called an umbrella tent and it certainly isn't what comes up in a search for the term today. Add in "canvas" and there are a few hits for old cabin tents that are closer, some even with the same pole structure. It was a heavy canvas thing. You don't set it up, you raise it like a barn. The center piece was two short, shaped pipes bolted together with a hook on the bottom. That hooked a loop in the top of the tent and then the poles are carefully added one by one. Hopefully you've got four people to do each corner simultaneously. If not, it was possible with great care to circle around gently lifting each corner in turn without dropping the polls off the other corners.

I have very few memories of actually camping with it. One afternoon in Idaho when a heavy thunderstorm would not let up and we got it up so we would have more room to live in than a car stands out particularly. While it was heavy normally, that's not so bad compared to it wet. Most of the time, it was a backyard camper. There was a lot of backyard camping. When just us kids could raise this tent, that was a marked life stage. When one managed to do it on our own, that was another. Heck, even managing to haul it out for ourselves was an accomplishment.

Don't touch the sides! This was a single walled canvas tent. When it was raining, touching the sides would bring the water in. We eventually stopped just believing it and experimented with it. It really did do that. We didn't have to experiment long. The thing is, to make sure you don't touch the sides when it is wet, you have to practice not touching them when they are dry too. If you allow yourself to be sloppy when it is unnecessary, you will neglect to be careful when it is necessary.

What I actually remember more from the early days of camping was a much smaller system of two different tents, one for adults and one for kids. The adults had a pup tent. The basic sort is a simple affair with a pole at either end an a guy line and the tent stakes to hold it up. Theirs was more complicated. I think it had two poles so the entry wasn't split down the middle, but I'm not sure. The details about it that I do remember are the ones I didn't understand. There was a half moon zipper in the bottom that gave you a place to put a stove for cooking on rainy days and there was a tunnel entry in the back. I could never figure out how it was supposed to work. It looked too small to me. I was told it was for when it was particularly stormy, but that tent had a nice, big vestibule on the front that should work better.

There was a dome tent for the kids and we had to set it up and take it down. The first one was a three man in the traditional six sided style. Domes can come with two styles of rain fly. There are short ones with very little purpose and there are ones that go nearly all the way to the ground. Ours always were the big ones. (As such, I've drawn it wrong. They only have windows on the front and back.) After the zipper needed replaced a few times, it got replaced too. I think there was another six sided one, but there was eventually a larger four sided one. It was simple and once we could reliably figure out which sleeves went together, it went up rather quickly. We would go camping for an entire month at a time, changing location every one or two days, so we had to set up and strike camp efficiently.

Through camp and Girl Scouts and various other things, and just having a few other tents, we ended up setting up quite a variety. I even put up a canvas teepee that slept at least 12 once. You just lash the main three poles and set them up, lay most of the rest on it and run around with the rest the rope to tie those down, then tie the rope to a stake. The last two poles help get the tent fabric up and then there's some wooden pins to hold the edges together in the front. I did once meet a tent that was difficult to understand, but we finally sorted out the first and the other two made it up quickly enough.

On Tent Materials

One thing you find out about when camping for a month straight is how tents perform in the rain. The thing about nylon is, it stretches and sags when it gets wet. There were multiple times when a storm was bad enough that it was important to take care of this stretch. In the case of the free standing domes, it wasn't enough just to make sure the fly was tight to the attachment points by the poles. Often we absolutely had to stake that fly out away from the tent to keep it from contacting the tent and bringing the water in just as well as when we touched the sides of that old single walled canvas umbrella tent.

I often consider this the Myth of the Free Standing Tent. Basically, all tents will one day need stakes for the fly. It's certainly not a problem every day, but it will happen some day. It makes the free standing tent less attractive to me. My current tent is a Big Agnes Fly Creek, which is "semi-free standing", which mostly means that if you treat it as free standing, there will be more days you wish you had staked it. It also has seams in ways that make it difficult to tension well once the nylon is soaked.

Polyester does not stretch quite so bad as nylon. In a bad storm, it will still need some adjustment. The thing is, it's weaker and will be heavier.

Dyneema is not just about saving weight. Dyneema does not stretch at all. It barely even gets wet and doesn't absorb water. It's stronger and tents can usually be 1/3 to 1/2 the weight. You set it and it is set. Well, as long as the stakes hold.

Dyneema Tents Available

I'm focusing on two man tents. There's usually a similar single available for those who can exist without elbow space. Since the lore about Dyneema is you want it to save weight, most have some version of a pup tent that can be set up with trekking poles instead of poles you carry just for the tent. Carbon fiber poles (4-5 oz) are often offered as an add-on for those who don't carry trekking poles. I'm focusing on the more budget friendly ones that only cost twice as much as my tent (ignoring that the particular one I got was significantly reduced in price). I never can quite get past thinking of the price. Photos here are by the manufacturers. None of these links are affiliate links.

Tarptent is producing a few Dyneema tents and adding "Li" to the name to distinguish them. Because lithium is the lightest metal? What's in a name? The StratoSpire Li is a double walled tent with doors on the sides held up by trekking poles. The doors don't open up the entire side, which seems to get complaints. I find myself thinking in the same way as the designers probably did. It opens to the pole and that's going to block you anyway. Zippers are heavy, so if you are worried about weight, this is the way to go with the zipper. It comes in a solid version that is warmer for winter camping, slightly lighter, and slightly more expensive. Most people would probably go for the mesh version at 29.1 oz including stakes and "just" $689. The double wall design does give options to leave the tarp at home when not expecting rain or to leave the inner tent at home when not expecting bugs, which is the lightest way to go.

Six Moon Designs has a couple options too, noted by adding "Zero-G" to the name. Because it's like gravity doesn't affect you? What's in a name? The Haven Zero-G tarp combined with the Haven NetTent (currently the only closeout version is compatible) makes a double walled tent with doors in the sides. They don't open up the entire side either, but seriously, if you want that much opening, maybe you didn't really want the inner tent along at all? The bottom of this is not Dyneema, but it's also not where the stretch problems happen. Together, the pieces make a 28 oz tent not including stakes that will cost $675 ($640 currently since one piece is closeout). Forgetting the stakes is a bit of a theme. Bigger stakes hold better, but are heavier, so tradeoffs make it hard to get people to agree on what stakes should be included. If you just want the tarp and then use a smaller mesh like this, it'll only be 12 oz and cost $500.

Hyperlight Mountain Gear only does Dyneema. They have a lot of options. The offering in this standard style is the Echo 2 Ultralight Shelter System, and is the one I'm frankly having a lot of difficulty understanding. It is even more modular than the ones above, because the "beak" at the front is also removable. It has a single door at the front What I'm having difficulty with is the fact that the back is open. In a wind blown rain, one would generally want to put the back into that, giving the wind the least area to blow at. You could put the beak into the wind and hang the inner tent backwards, but if the wind changes, that leaves you more vulnerable to water than if pitched as designed. On the other hand, pitched as designed leaves you trying to get in on the side where the wind is blowing. The beak has attachments only on one side, so it can't be moved. They have lots of things that do make sense, but this isn't one for me. All the pieces come to 28.6 oz without stakes at a cost of $695.

Z-packs takes the weight savings up a notch by going single walled with their Duplex Tent. The drawback with single walled tents is that condensation gathers more on the inside. You would be surprised how much water oozes from you breathing and sweating all night in a tent. It has side doors that open up the entire wall. I would expect the pole to get in the way of using a single motion to unzip the door entirely. If you don't unzip it entirely, it will have stresses that cause it die more quickly. I mentioned many zipper replacements above. Those got less frequent when children were convinced to stop squeezing through partly opened doors. Bigger zippers also help, but these tents striving to be the lightest generally go for the smallest they can get away with. There is no question that people like it, though. The single wall construction drops around 10 oz, so this is just 19.0 oz without stakes and a cost of $599. They also make it interesting by offering poles that can make it free standing. It does add those 10 oz back in. The Free Duo Tent is 30.1 oz without stakes and costs $699. It'll still need some anchors in high wind and it doesn't actually hold out the door flaps of the fly.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear also have a single wall offering. The Dirigo 2 has two doors on the sides that open up half the side. They have chosen to let the sides come in as the go up and use a spreader bar to help stabilize the top. It's still not something I think I would go for, but it is getting closer. They say it is 28 oz without stakes, but even with a spreaer bar (it is short and carbon fiber) it shouldn't be that heavy. Cost is $795.

Now, Tarptent have a particularly interesting option. The Double Rainbow Li is pretty much a semi-free standing tent and is "free standing capable" with trekking poles that are used at the ends. It is single wall and has two doors on the sides. The vestibules still need staked out. The arch pole and spreader bar are carbon fiber and the whole thing still comes in at only 28.6 oz without any stakes. They direct customers to the StratoSpire Li mentioned above for something lighter, but that actually is ever so slightly heavier. That is only lighter if parts are left behind. This single wall doesn't have that kind of versatility. It costs $649, so it's actually cheaper too.

Another thing to specially mention is by Locus Gear in Japan: the Djedi DCF-eVent Dome. This is a single door at the front. It is a single walled dome tent, so free standing with the only consideration that one wouldn't like it to go blowing away. This is actually out of a different fabric. They say: "The main fabric is DCF-eVent, which is a non-woven fabric of Dyneema fiber laminated with eVent membrane." Now, eVent is a treatment generally applied to a breathable fabric that is not particularly waterproof naturally. Putting that same treatment on a fabric that is not breathable and is waterproof naturally shouldn't make a waterproof, breathable fabric. I think there's some details missing from the description. They do include ratings for both waterproofness and breathability. The door comes with and without a mesh panel. With is heavier and more expensive, of course, but definitely how I would get it. It comes in at 30.96 oz without stakes. (At least in this case, that's probably how you'll carry it too.) The price is ¥142,000, which is currently about $1350. They also make a variety of pyramid shelters in both this fabric and the usual Dyneema. This and the pyramids are 4 season tents, which puts them in a different class than the ones above.

I've also found some more dome style tents that claim to be made of a fabric "made by Dyneema/Cuben/Cubic" which is a rather odd turn of phrase and not helping me trust the information on the web site. Their tents come in at the $1000 range.

One more Hyperlite Mountain Gear offering is their Ultramid 2. This has a single entry and only needs a single pole for 4 season protection. For paranoid people like me who want the end of the Echo 2 locked down, this is the solution. It's ready for any way the wind blows. This is just the tarp, which is to say, the rain fly. To make it a tent like those above, there are half inserts an floorless mesh inserts and full inserts for all kinds of options. Admittedly, in that fourth season, one rarely needs insect protection, so I'm a little surprised not to see a bathtub floor without mesh. The tarp is 18.85 oz and costs $735. To make it a double walled tent like what is found above, you need to add an Ultramid 2 Mesh Insert with Floor, which brings the total to 40.93 oz and costs $1140. But remember, 4 season tent.

Of all those, what might I want? If I was feeling mildly rich, that is? I'm not really sure.

Double walled tents let you leave the bits you don't need at home making them the lightest option sometimes. Light is very tempting. Double walled tents let you adjust to the needs of the day. You can keep the bugs off and still see the stars. Well, for certain values of seeing the stars since it is still through a mesh that blocks a lot of the light. The stars always look better without mesh. Double walled tents should be a less soggy experience due to condensation. For me, this isn't much of a concern if I'm honest. I'm Just one person and the tents are roomy for one. I have synthetic insulation that doesn't suffer so much when it gets wet and particularly doesn't suffer if just moist.

Single wall tents are good if one really isn't going to leave bits at home or bits off no matter what the weather is looking like. They're good for the long trip where the weather is too far off to be predicted and all will come eventually. While there's a lot more to choose from in the double walled, I think it is the single walled that are most tempting.

No matter what I say about the Myth of the Free Standing Tent, the Double Rainbow Li is super tempting. Yeah, it weighs as much as the double walled tents, but the details about the setup can't be overlooked. There is no fiddling with trekking poles to get it up and no poles in the middle of the door once it is up.

Just going lightest available is also tempting. That's the Duplex Tent, at least for a tent. Then again, I do know lighter ways to do mesh to keep the bugs off at night that doubles for a headnet, so maybe tarp is where I should be looking anyway.

There's much to think about. I should just stop, since I'm not getting any of them at all.