Landing at DCA … the trail tomorrow

I am so looking forward to it all.

The hurricane will get to DC after we’ve left and looks to be not affecting weather too much.

Wednesday: A slight chance of rain after 1pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 59. Light north wind. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Wednesday Night: Rain likely, mainly after 2am. Cloudy, with a low around 51. Northeast wind 3 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New precipitation amounts between 1 and 2 inches possible.

Thursday: Rain likely, mainly before 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 60. Northwest wind 7 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Thursday Night: A slight chance of rain before 8pm, then a slight chance of showers between 8pm and 2am. Partly cloudy, with a low around 46. North wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

This is a fateful time for us. The anniversary of Robin’s death. She died August 31, 1997.

A time of hope as well.

I’m filled with a lot of emotions.

But I know I love my wife and children and look forward to many tomorrows with hope.

Two days and we leave for Manchester Center

Then we heard South bound (SOBO) to Bear Mountain. 250 miles to finish the trail.

A long way from when we started. The picture is from October 9, 2018. We started hiking sections of the trail before then, but that was when we hiked with the intent to finish.

In that hike, we hiked from Springer to the NOC (sat out the hurricane at Enota). That developed into a plan to continue from the NOC onward to Katahdin in March of 2019 with a goal of finishing before October—thus completing the trail within 365 days.

My trail journal at the time covered the hike.—multiple entries.

The Springer to the NOC section gave us a great shakedown and was the final shakedown step in dialing gear in (though we’ve made major changes since).

Then we started up March 17.

Our hike went well, but things happened

  • Our night at the NOC our air pillows failed. We’d had them for years. Which was the problem.
  • There were more important things that came up.

Then it was “we like Georgia but do I want to hike it a fourth time” and section hikes last fall and this year.

So our plan was to return in 2020 and … Covid 19 happened. At that point we had done Georgia three times and decided to just section hike the rest of the trail. for the next stage in 2020.

Lots is sections follow March 2020.

We made good progress. If every thing works out we now only this one last trip to wrap it up, I hope.

Then lots of time with the grand kids. I really enjoy them. I try not to get to sappy, but I do.

Our hope is to do the PCT next year.

Life will do what it does, but that is my hope.


I sunburn easily and do not like glare. I have often backpacked or hiked with a hat or a visor.

So I’m writing about (a) which hat and (b) why a hat. And why I settled on a cheap hat.

Which hat?

Since I’ve become more bald I’ve given up the visor. That has meant using a hat. And not a cowboy hat you might wear around local hikes if you live in Texas.

For backpacking I started with a Costco hat on a backpacking trip and liked it before I managed to lose it.

The hat I’m using now.

I switched to a Tilley Hat.


  • It looks nice.
  • Lifetime guarantee covers losing it or it getting stolen.
  • People recognize them and are positive.
  • Ear and neck protection from the sun.


  • It is heavy.
  • It is not waterproof and even with a lot of waterproofing it does not get waterproof.
  • It is hot. The airflow system is better than not having it, but not good enough.
  • Expensive if you don’t get it at the REI garage sale.
  • Banged into my backpack too often.

I tried an outdoor research hat that we had (so no additional cost).


  • Very pretty blue color like my wife’s eyes.
  • Deep. Many “ball cap” style hats are not deep enough. Since I like to put my phone and headlamp in my hat at night deeper is better, not to mention it fits my head better.
  • Light.
  • Fits well under the hood of rain gear and the brim sheds water well.
  • Dries quickly.


  • When the hostel laundry gets it, it disappears forever and no one can account for why.
  • No ear protection.

Replacement ball caps have not been as deep, or have stayed wet forever. None look good enough to disappear.

Me with my old hat.

Currently I use a Frogg Toggs hat.

Waterproof. Very light. Inexpensive. breathes well. Protects my neck and ears. So light I’m not bothered by the weight if conditions work out so I don’t need to wear it.

Cheap enough that if it disappeared I’d be willing to buy a replacement. Did I mention it is light?

Why a hat?

Some trails make sunglasses and hats redundant and a waste of effort. I’ve been so much happier since I gave up on sunglasses on the Appalachian Trail.

On the other hand, some trails you will go snow blind without sunglasses and you will burn without sungloves and a hat.

Hats can often help with rain. A lot of raingear could use much better brims or head gear. Even great rain gear sometimes feels better and breathes better with a wider brim.

Hats provide warmth. Admittedly much less with my current choice.

They are also a great place to stash your headlamp at night when you go to sleep.

But the truth is that a hat is often not justified and can readily be replaced with a buff or even just long hair in many circumstances.

Everyone finds what works for them.

Making a shoulder bag

The back with the clip
The front with zPacks chest bag for comparison
The template

I used to use a zPacks chest bag. It took extra time when I took my pack on and off and it was a little large.

That led me to think about just getting a Fanny pack style bag that would attach to just my chest strap. That way I wouldn’t have extra steps to unhook it when I took my pack off.

I looked at a lot of options. What I found was $13.50. It is a DIY kit:

However, chest bags also add warmth. Usually I notice because my chest is sweating. So I started thinking of looking for an alternative.

I couldn’t do without because I did need something to hold some food and my reading glasses in.

After my wife got a shoulder pouch it became obvious that that was what I needed too. I looked at alternatives and finally I decided on a shoulder pouch.

The template for a belt pouch can be resized easily, not by calculating and redrawing it, but just by choosing what size to print it out at.

10” across? Just print in landscape mode and set the size at 10”. No math or drawing or drafting skills needed.

You can enlarge or shrink the bag from the template that way as many times as you want and just fold the pattern up to see what it will look like.

When you are ready, it is time to just match the template printout to the Dyneema.

Once it is sewn, use some seam tape to seem seal it. Add a “slick clip” on the back instead of belt loops and it hangs vertically from your shoulder as a shoulder pouch instead of horizontally from your belt.

My dear wife did the hard work. And made me one that is slightly larger than the one in the picture that I hang from the shoulder strap on my Hyperlite backpack.

The Dyneema (DCF) it is made from is both light and waterproof. It was a great Father’s Day present.

And it is the newest item of gear I’m using.

Gear carried:

  • In left hip belt pocket, water treatment. Bic lighter for fire. Face mask.
  • In right hip belt pocket, head lamp, rain gloves.
  • In shoulder pouch, reading glasses, snacks.
  • In pants/shorts pockets, my phone and my wallet (a DCF zippered pouch).
My DCF waterproof wallet, with credit card for size comparison.

The rest of the gear is in my pack, except a smart water bottle hanging from the other shoulder.

There are lots of options.

Tarps on the trail

Tarp used in driving rain

I’ve had good luck with polycro (window film) tarps.

I use clear Gorilla Tape for mine or I just tie a sheet bend knot in each corner with shock cord.

The heavy duty polycro lasts pretty well. A guy on put one up in his backyard to see how long it would last.

It made 100 days before his wife lost patience with him and he had to take it down.

Until we had a DCF (Dyneema/Cuben Fiber) tent I would set up our tent under the polycro tarp since polycro doesn’t absorb water.

So one night of rain and the tent + tarp weighed less than a wet tent.

It also let me set up in the rain and keep my tent dry.

With a single wall DCF tent that is a non-issue.

Though I still carry a small tarp—to block a shelter opening, or cover our sleeping bag feet. Or use as a tent footprint.

Pretty useful on the Appalachian Trail. Not sure if I’ll keep it for the PCT next year.

For someone else’s tarp:

Used with permission. Here is the credit with additional details.