The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

Backpacking practice in Balboa Park April 22, 2012

Filed under: outdoors,PCT — Amanda @ 13:53
Tags: , ,

On Sunday I took my tent, hiking poles, rope and stuff sacks full of stuff to Balboa Park to practice setting up my tent and hanging a food bag from a tree to keep it away from bears. Since it was Earth Day, there were a lot of people at the park, most giving me strange looks, and some stopping to ask what I was doing. A park ranger drove up while I was hanging my “food bag” from the tree, and when I explained that it was practice for an upcoming backpacking trip, he said “I’ve never seen anyone doing that before!” hmmm. I wonder where other city-dwellers practice this stuff?
Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Pay attention to the wind when pitching the tent – even in a light wind, the narrow side of the tent should face the wind
  • The tent stakes need to be as far into the ground as possible. I think I was running into a tree root on Sunday, and the stakes kept coming out of the ground.
  • If the stakes can’t be flush to the ground, tying the guy lines around the stake with a clove hitch helps make it more secure.
  • Throwing a stuff sack containing a rock over a 15 foot high branch is harder than you’d think
  • When hanging a food bag using the “PCT method”, keep knot loops and stuff sacks as close to the carabiner as possible to maximize hanging efficiency.
  • It’s possible to get your rope caught on the branch, suspending your food sack many feet in the air with no way to get it down unless a bear comes along, climbs out on the branch, and eats it. This would be considered ineffective bear-bagging technique, and should be avoided.
  • My food bag hanging practice kit:


    A (mostly) successfully suspended food bag:



    In Which My Hiking Boots Fall Apart June 6, 2009



    One week before our backpacking adventure to San Jacinto Peak, Chuck and I went for a training hike in Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the best hiking locales in San Diego. We hiked up Cowles Mountain, one of the most popular trails in the county, and then added another three miles to our hike by taking the trail to Pyles Peak, which is 200 feet lower than Cowles but accessed by a trail that goes down and up, and then climbs steeply to reach the summit. It was a little warmer than I would have preferred that morning, but the trails were fun and I was happy to see that wild flowers were still in bloom in the park in late May. Despite the crowds on the main trail to Cowles, the extension to Pyles Peak was almost empty – the only other people we saw on the way out were members of the San Diego triathlon club, and they were trail-running all the major peaks in the park in one day (wow! and also, crazy!).

    The most significant part of the day for me however, was the disintegration of my hiking boots. I usually wear a pair of lightweight Merrils for day hikes, but on this hike I was wearing my more hard-core hikers, an eight-year-old pair from LLBean. By the time we reached Pyles, I noticed that the soles were separating from the boot on the inside of both boots; by the time we reached the bottom, a four-inch long piece of metal had fallen out of one shoe and I felt lucky to make it to the bottom with the soles still attached, even if I did almost trip on them a few times!

    Old boots!

    Old boots!

    Sole barely attached...

    From fine to falling apart in one day!

    Hmmm…so I definitely wasn’t wearing these boots on our trip to San Jacinto! I was just glad they fell apart on the training hike instead of during our three-day weekend trip – I’d last worn them on our Yosemite trip last year, and hiking 3 miles with falling apart shoes was bad enough – if we were on the ten-miler it might have been better just to switch to bare feet (or the flip-flops I brought along as camp shoes).

    So, one week to go until our hardest weekend of hiking EVER, my hard-core hiking boots have fallen apart, and my comfy lightweight Merrils are not quite backpacking caliber. Luckily, there was still one day left in the REI Anniversary sale, and I had a 20% off one item coupon to burn. So I headed off to my local REI and tried on three types of hiking boots, finding my almost-perfect match in the Asolo Power Matic 250. They were ultra-comfy when I tried them on in the store, and didn’t feel too bulky or heavy despite being a pretty serious pair of backpacking boots. There was no way I was wearing these on a big trip without at least attempting to break them in (a few websites recommended wearing new boots for 50 miles of dayhiking before using them for backpacking, but that certainly wasn’t going to happen in one week!), so I woke up early that week and went hiking twice in the mornings before I went to work. I first tried out my new boots at Florida Canyon in Balboa Park, a pretty easy three mile trek, but enough to start getting a feel for them. (Also, I got to see the velodrome – smaller and more run-down looking than I was expecting, but I still want to go watch the racing there!) I also went out to Mission Trails again and hiked Kwaay Paay peak, a short-but-steep hike starting accross the street from the Mission Dam parking lot (it took about an hour and a half, but only because I wandered around the summit trails for a while trying to figure out where the true summit was…).  I got in enough hiking to know that my new boots are pretty comfy, but need to be tightened often, and tend to give me blisters on my pinky toes if not well-tightened while going downhill – just enough info to get me through our three day adventure!


    My New Asolos


    Memorial Day at the Zoo June 4, 2008

    One of the great things about living in San Diego is having a Zoological Society membership. Not only do we get to learn about and contribute to the conservation and education efforts of the zoological society, but we also get unlimited access to visit one of the best zoos in the world. For me, visiting the zoo (or Wild Animal Park in Escondido) is a nice, relaxing weekend morning activity, like a stroll in the park or a light hike. So when I found myself with a free day on Memorial Day while Chuck had to work, I headed over to the zoo for a leisurely morning. It was a beautiful morning, a little cool and grey to start out with, but sunny with dramatic clouds later on, perfect for a nice long walk to enjoy the flora and fauna.

    The zoo was a bit crowded, especially on the Panda – Polar Bear Highway, where everyone crowds in to see the most popular exhibits. The line for panda viewing was so long that I skipped the exhibit, but I did see some amazingly cute baby Red River Hogs along the way – I think there were four hoglets, and as I walked up they were following their mother to the back of the exhibit – they practically ran her down and knocked her over so they could nurse. I wandered off and came back a few minutes later, hoping they were close enough for a picture, but by then they were asleep in the hay, tiny striped bundles of cuteness so well-camouflaged that most passers-by didn’t even notice.

    It wasn’t a very good day for okapi pictures – there were three okapis in the enclosure, so it was good okapi viewing day, but they stayed too far away for me to get good pictures. (By the way, if you’re in the market for a stuffed okapi, has an excellent selection right now – seven varieties of okapis! The minis and the giant one are my favorites.) I did get some good pictures of the other animals though – check it out:

    Giraffes In Symmetrical Poses:
    Giraffes in Symmetrical Pose

    Baird’s Tapir, Sleeping Under a Tree:

    Malayan Tapir eating breakfast:

    Koala – surprisingly active (which is to say, not yet asleep in his chosen tree!):

    Wombat – I think wombats are my new animal obsession! This was the first time I’ve seen them on exhibit at the zoo (where had they been hiding before?) Aren’t they cuddly?!?!?!? Must buy stuffed wombat.

    Warthog – the warthogs were not very active when I stopped by, but there were five of them out, and I got a good sleeping-in-dirt picture:

    Meerkat – Like the red river hogs, the meerkats seemed to be enjoying a baby boom – there were probably 6 or 8 young meerkats in the back enclosure (the one past the kopje, rather than the one on elephant mesa, if you know the zoo), and a few of them posed for me:

    Klipspringer – Speaking of the kopje, it was a good day there as well – I got to see all of the residents – mongeese and klipspringers relaxing in plain sight, and rock hyraxes peeking out from the rocks above. My best klipspringer shot:

    Polar Bear: Saving the best picture for last! It was VERY crowded at Polar Bear Plunge, and for good reason! The bears were quite playful, chasing each other around the exhibit, diving into the pool to escape, and then play-fighting back on land. Like all animals at the zoo, these guys are often just sleeping or lounging around, so it’s a real treat to see them displaying different behaviors, and I had very good timing:

    After two hours at the zoo, I headed into Hillcrest for another treat on my day off – lunch at Bread & Cie. I had a delicious mozzarella, tomato, red pepper and olive-spread sandwich on focaccia, and took a mini-loaf of seeded sourdough home with me to enjoy with my ginger and golden carrot soup. Yum!

    PS – Another great site for plush animals is They’re in the UK, so prices can be a little bit daunting for those of us in the US with the current exchange rates, but their selection and quality is excellent. I’ve purchased two okapis and several tapirs from them in the past, they’re highly recommended.


    Mission Accomplished! March 30, 2008

    Filed under: Balboa Park,outdoors,running,San Diego — Amanda @ 21:23
    Tags: , ,

    Yesterday I accomplished my first goal for 2008 – to run a 5K. With the help of the CoolRunning couch-to-5K training program, I finished my first ever race in just under 35 minutes. The race was a fund-raiser for the National Foundation for Autism research, and it was pretty exciting to be part of such a big event.

    I’d been nervous about the race for two days – as soon as I finished my last training run on Thursday morning, I began to feel anxious about the race and worried about silly things like getting lost on the course or not being officially timed or being the very last one to finish. From the previous year’s results, I was expecting a hundred or two runners in the race, but I think it must have been closer to a thousand. I was nervous right up until the start, but then we were off! and I was carried away by the crowd. I got off to a quick start since I tend to try to match the pace of people around me and almost everyone runs faster than I do, but I tried to stay focused on a running at my own pace and on enjoying the experience of running with a crowd and looping through Balboa Park. I hit the one-mile split at just under 11 minutes, a full minute better than my training pace, and midway through the second mile I started noticing that I was passing people who had preciously blown by me at a brisk run but were now walking to catch their breath. I hit the second mile split at just over 22 minutes, but then lost a little time in the final stretch – a combination of tiring out from my quick pace and a vicious uphill finish to the race. Or, maybe I just got a little distracted – Team Twinkie was running just ahead of me, and while they were spreading the snack-cake love, a passer-by was apparently hit by a flying twinkie. The resulting altercation – much shouting, some death threats issued toward the twinkie-tosser – certainly made for a bizzare ending to an otherwise idyllic run through the park. By the time I hit the finish line though, all was forgotten – I beat my best training time by almost two minutes, so it was a victorious ending to the morning for me!



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