Tent Life from West to East

White River National Forest- a cook tent

            I graduated from 3 programs at The Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School (https://guideschool.com/) and worked for a short time for the school’s owner. It was October and the snow had begun to fall on the Grand Mesa and Battlement Mesa where my adventures were located. That particular adventure may have been ending, but as Robert Earl Keen says, “The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends”. Before my introduction to the world of Rocky Mountain outfitters and guiding, I was living on a ranch with a family on a mesa in south west Colorado. The woman who I was dating at the time said that she was putting the teepee up that we were living in and moving back into the house with her son, but that I could keep camping if I wanted to.

            On my way home to the ranch, I stopped at the Cabela’s store in Grand Junction, CO. I was very excited to be purchasing the (Cabela’s Big Horn III Tent – Swan Hikes) tent that I had dreamed about for a few years. The old man who grabbed a cart for me shared in my glee at my new home. It was nice to be standing there with a fellow outdoorsman who was happy for me. Although a store employee, he was not making a commission, he works at Cabela’s because the outdoors is his passion. We talked for a bit as I also picked out my new Colorado Mesa Stove. The store employee told me about a Cabela’s tent that he had recently purchased. It was a great day for an outdoorsman with a paycheck in hand.

http://www.rustyartist.com

            When I got back to the ranch, everyone was excited. The ranch hand and the foreman’s brother-in-law and nephew came down to help me set it up. Once it was set, I added a mattress, portable wire armoire, some black and yellow totes from Home Depot, rugs, and then off to work. It was October and I had no firewood. There was a couple down the road who had a lot of wood that was starting to rot. There was also a lot of pine that they would not burn in their house. I spent days going back and forth in my light, short-bed truck picking up 3 or 4 cords of wood to get me through the winter. Soon, the snow would have everything covered up.

            I stacked the wood on the north west side of the tent to protect it from the cold winds that blow across the Mesa. On the other side was a stand of scrub oak that made a nice wind block. The family that I lived with, regularly had people come to camp and had made tent pads. It was the perfect spot. The rugs on the floor and my Cabela’s 0-degree flannel and canvas sleeping bag helped to take the edge off of the freezing cold.

            It was lonely when I was camping by myself. I still took pride in the fact that I was trying to live outside through a Colorado winter at 9,000 feet elevation. I had been working at 10,000 feet. There is a big difference that 1000 feet can make. The foreman of the ranch had become my EX-girlfriend, but I continued living there because I got along with the family. I was part of the circle. That was nice, because I greatly respected her father who I learned a lot from. I am very grateful to her and her family. Never-the-less, an ex-girlfriend is an ex-girlfriend and I felt the need to get away.

            In January, I moved across the state to a small mountain town on the front range. I was couch surfing at high elevation, but spent some nights sleeping in a mine shaft, because my new room-mate, a stranger, was doing some things that did not groove with my conscience. Around the same time that I met him, I began dating another woman who wanted to move, but needed a room-mate. We got an apartment in the city together and broke up a month later, which was right on time, because I did not like living in the city.

            I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was that I wanted to be outside and that I did not want to settle down anywhere. Before I bought the fancy tent, I was going to do a winter hike of the Appalachian Trail, but my ex-girlfriends father convinced me to stay with them and wait until Spring for such a journey. Most of my stuff was still on the ranch. I took the tent down, but was unable to pull it up due to the frozen ground. My friends at the ranch used the tractor to pull the stakes out of the ground and I met with them down in Montrose to get it. It would have been difficult for me to get a 2-wheel drive box truck up that Mesa. It was a scary drive taking a box truck across the frozen continental divide twice. I drove straight through a winter storm front that had my booty puckered like all-get-out! Hah!

            I made the 2000-mile journey home to a storage unit in Georgia, packed my backpack and got dropped off at Amicalola Falls State Park on April 1st 2019 and began hiking north. I didn’t know how far I would go. All I knew was that I could not sit still. Before heading out, I sent my resume’ out to several Rocky Mountain outfitters hoping for employment as a camp cook. I thought that I would hike to Pennsylvania and then turn around and walk back to Georgia, unless I got hired, in which case I would go west again. I got dropped off at the top of the falls and set out on the busy approach trail. To read about my hike, please start here: The Walk-A-Bout Continues – Swan Hikes. Thanks for reading!

Osprey Stratos 50

First week on the A.T. with too much stuff. Eventually, I moved my tent roll to the top, got rid of the hat, and water bladder. It isn’t a good idea to have your pack looking like a Christmas tree.

I bought my Osprey Stratos 50 in April of 2019 and lived out of it full-time for 8 months. Actually, I went through 2 in those 8 months. My first one lasted 2 months before I broke the clip on the cinch strap. Typically, I would repair something like that on my own, but on a long distance hike like that, I didn’t have the resources and I bought an Osprey because of their customer service. I emailed them, they called me, told me where to swap my pack out at no cost to me. I was able to do so about a week up the trail.

I took the brain off of it as soon as I got it and cut those straps off. I have also cut off a lot of little bungees, straps, etc. that I didn’t need, to save on weight. I never used the side zipper on it. The straps at the bottom were used to carry my seat pad. I used a contractor bag for a liner and used the rain cover that came with the pack. I never had an issue with the contents of my pack getting wet. The suspension system on it is very nice and makes for a comfortable carry. During 100 degree weather, I took my shirt off for a day and the mesh acted like a cheese grater on my back. It was gnarly. Keep your shirt on, Hot Shot!

I was never gentle on this pack. When I first started the trail, I had a full resupply weight of 42lbs, which means I was carrying 38lbs inside of the Stratos 50! I often picked it up by the shoulder strap and swung it onto my back. There have been many boulders that I dropped my pack off of or threw my pack on top of to facilitate easier movement. It has been used as a pillow and an ottoman inside my tent. I would often hang it by the top handle that is between the shoulder straps while having lunch at shelters. It has been rained on more than I can count and in the elements for 32 weeks. The rain cover that came with the pack held up the entire time. This is a VERY TOUGH pack that rides easy on the back. After about 500 miles, I had my full weight down to about 36lbs. Once this pack (or any pack) has been used on something like a thru-hike attempt, you can count on the perma-stank being too bad to continue using. Currently, I am experimenting with getting the smell out. Any tips?

At less than $200 and under 4lbs, I would highly recommend this pack.

Eventually I moved my tent to the top of the pack for more stability.
I am on the far left with my pet Osprey. Picture courtesy of http://www.thewanderingkiltsman.com. This is mostly how my pack looked. The clothes hanging from it were drying.

Specs

Load Range 20 – 40 lbs.

 VolumeDimensionsWeight
S/M2868 in3 / 47 l25.6h x 14.2w x 15d in.3.557 lbs.
M/L3051 in3 / 50 l27.6h x 14.2w x 15d in.3.682 lbs.

Fabric Main 210D Nylon

Crosshatch Accent 420HD Nylon Packcloth

Bottom 420HD Nylon Packcloth

https://www.osprey.com/us/en/product/stratos-50-STRATOS50.html