[at-l] Wow, a for real flame war

JPL jplynch at crosslink.net
Thu Dec 27 13:50:07 CST 2012

Post away, and thanks.  I’m sure the flames of derision will descend upon you but your true buddies and AT aficionados can’t get enough!  

From: Richard Calkins 
Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2012 2:35 PM
To: trailr at aol.com ; mpsignore at gmail.com 
Cc: at-l ; pfornof at sbcglobal.net 
Subject: Re: [at-l] Wow, a for real flame war

Trail Journals entry 
March 17,2005

Posted because, well, because I can.  Gosh, I sure hope I don't annoy nobody....

I got a late start out of Neels Gap this morning. There was only one vehicle available to shuttle us from the cabin back up to the Gap, so I let some others go first and stayed to catch up a bit with my journal. As we drove from our cabin, lower down the mountain, up to Neels Gap, I watched the outside temperature gauge drop from 34 degrees to 30, and the drizzle turn to snow. 
The delay, however, turned out to have an additional benefit, as I ran into some really good M company friends who were a day behind me but had arrived early from Wood’s Hole Shelter for their overnight in Neels Gap and were in collecting packages when I got there.

I met Scholar and Cuppa Joe, followed shortly thereafter by Mike Shine and James Kenny. They told me that Breakaleg was not far behind, and I waited another half an hour, but she didn't show up. By then it was 10:30, and I had ten miles ahead of me, so I took off. Not a bad idea, as it turned out, as there were a couple of pretty good mountains awaiting me. One in particular was the climb out of Tesnatee Gap - straight up about a thousand feet.

You couldn't see very far ahead due to the clouds and snow, but it was really beautiful and kind of fun to hike in. The good news was that my new pack worked great. I ended up not even taking it off the whole ten miles, and it was very comfortable. Other than that, however, I think you could probably best describe my afternoon as “the misadventures of Private 2nd Class Walter M. Longhaul."

It began when the bite valve on the sip tube of my new water bladder somehow malfunctioned. The one it replaced had a small lever to open and close the tube; with this one, you just bite down on the mouth piece to allow the water to flow. As usual, I had the tube stuck under the sternum strap of my pack, and resting against my shirt. I did not notice it at first as the tube began to leak water onto my shirt, since it was already soaked with sweat from my climb up the last mountain. It pretty much saturated the two shirts I was wearing, but was held in check for a while by the belt to my pack. At a certain point, however, the volume of accumulated, chilled water reached a critical mass and the dam burst. Given the forces of gravity, there was only one place for it to go, and thus the icy cold water cascaded joyfully into my drawers.

"Oh YOWEE - yowee, yowee, yowee" screamed the right side of my brain.

"Attention, Private Longhaul - Attention, Private Longhaul," said the more rational voice from the left side of my brain. "Our sensors indicate a serious temperature drop accompanied by unexplainable volumes of a liquid substance in your lower quarters. You are advised to investigate immediately and take whatever corrective action may be appropriate!"

"Yowee!" screamed the right side of my brain again. "Shut the dang water off, NOW!” which, of course, I did. And eventually, with the body heat generated by continued climbs before reaching Low Gap Shelter, the excess water began to evaporate away. Let’s hear it for "wicking" long johns!

I arrived at the shelter and attended to the usual chores. Before long I was ready to try out my new alcohol stove by cooking dinner - and that's when my second misadventure began.

Note to self: in future, always field test gear before taking it into the back country where your life - or at least your dinner - may depend on having all of the right pieces and knowing how they work....

The stove consists of a small can with a lid with holes in it that you fill with alcohol, which sits within a second open can which acts as a wind screen and on which two cross pieces fit together forming a base on which you set your pot.

The trouble started when I realized that I could not get the two cross pieces to fit together. At first I thought I was just doing it wrong, but then I realized they had given me two identical cross pieces and there was no way to get them to work.

I spent the next 20 minutes improvising a pot base using titanium tent stakes and duct tape. When that was done, I prepared to fill the stove with fuel. I looked around for my alcohol bottle, but it seemed to have disappeared. After a bit of searching, a hiker friend reminded me that I had tucked it under my belt to warm it up, since alcohol doesn't burn well when it's cold. (Hey, I just forgot, ok. I was concentrating on improvising the thing!)

So I filled the small can with fuel, put the lid on, and poured about table spoon of alcohol onto the lid of the can - as per the instructions - which acts as a primer, and lit it with my handy-dandy candle lighter.

The primer alcohol burned down, but the stove did not seem to have caught. I held my hand directly over the lid, and felt no heat coming out whatsoever. (You can't necessarily see an alcohol flame in daylight, so that's the only way to be sure.)

I figured maybe the fuel was still too cold to burn, so I poured some more priming alcohol onto the lid. That was when I discovered - to my amazement - that I had indeed managed to light it the first time. Apparently, the flame was still weak, and confined to the inside of the can. My second dose of primer was all it needed to fully ignite, which it did, including the bottle of alcohol I was still holding in my right hand.

I now had two stoves going--one intentionally and one not. I proceeded to try to blow out the flame coming out of my fuel bottle to no avail. After several heroic attempts, and not knowing what else to do, I set the bottle on the ground.

I heard another hiker inside the shelter yell "your water bottle - your water bottle,", referring to my plastic one liter water bag. Great idea, I thought - I'll pour water on the fuel bottle and put out the fire. Why didn't I think of that!

So I pick up my water bottle and head toward my fuel bottle, only to discover that he was trying to tell me that I had splashed alcohol on to my water bottle which was itself on fire. This time, however, I was able to blow out the flames and, through the hole I had burned in the water bottle, managed to splash enough water to extinguish the flames coming from my fuel bottle - much to my relief, and much to the amusement of the twenty or so other hikers there assembled. Needless to say, my dinner was somewhat delayed...

Stay tuned, Longhaul

GA->ME '05

Richard A. Calkins (Home) 703 437-4240 (Cell) 703 901-5981

> From: trailr at aol.com
> Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2012 10:44:21 -0500
> To: mpsignore at gmail.com
> CC: at-l at backcountry.net; pfornof at sbcglobal.net
> Subject: Re: [at-l] Wow, a for real flame war
> I know Felix, and like reading his trail entries, and his old AT magazine stories, and everyone's trail and non trail experiences.... Because I know most of these people, and have for almost 20 years. Who are you, and why should we care?
> Hotdog AT 03
> Trail Journals entry
> March 1, 2003. Springer to Hawk Mt.
> Posted for no reason at all.
> Well, last night was very interesting. The wind changed direction and blew into the “not as weather-proof” side of the tent. Did I mention that it was raining ? So my sleeping bag got kind of wet, but I stayed pretty warm until 7 AM. I was wiping water off things most of the night. Temp. probably was in the upper 30’s. Went up to Springer again this morning for fog pictures, then hit the trail north. We are officially Pack 31 now (3/1/03). Ate lunch after long falls at the Hickory Flatts pavilion. Laid my gear out to dry, but forget it. Hiked a little farther to Hawk Mountain Shelter (at 3:30PM) and set up shop in the loft, all my gear hanging out to dry again. Hiked with Liteshoe, Wench, Happy, Bumpkin, and Kevin. Feels good to sit back and relax for a while. Everything aches a little, nothing too bad. Got really cold up in the shelter loft, started shivering, wrapped in my space blanket, put on layers. Got dressed and started dinner at the picnic back in the rain. Only off by a little on my alcohol, drank some scotch, relit the stove. Freeze dried spaghetti is ok, with hot sauce, parmesan, salt and pepper (and more scotch), with coffee. I’ve eaten a ton today, feels good, had a hiker playing cool banjo and tell stories ( I took his picture so people would believe me), Bone Dancer. Sleeping bag is mostly dry, but I’m warm now, it will be ok. I’ll let you know about bears and mice tomorrow. Update: Mouse activity last night, found turds in and on my coffee cup. (Best cup I’ve had so far).
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