Thursday, December 22, 2011

Argos's Gear Blog: Part Deux

Hey guys it's me, Argos, again! Momma said I could write another gear review blog (she's typing of course). Momma surprised me the other day with a brand spankin' new RuffWear Pack for an early Birthday/Christmas gift. I'll be three years old in three days! Momma says I'm a "big boy" even though she still calls me her "Little Man".

The other day I saw Momma folding my pack into a box and sealing it shut. I threw a complete whining fit trying to figure out what this all meant. Where is my pack going? Why wasn't she putting it on me to go for a run? Does this mean no more runs ever?!? She finally explained it all to me and then I was ok with it, though it did sadden me a little to part with the pack.

A hot chick named Cierra is now wearing my RuffWear Pack and wow-zah is she a spicy cat in that pack!

Anyways, we went to The Green Paw  (I love Sunnie & Alex) where my dried dog food comes from and tried on all sorts of packs. Momma cinched straps and tugged on me, and had me walk around (momma asked me not to pee on anything, which is irritating because I never peed on anything inside before. Ok there was this one time...) before she tugged on me some more. It was exhausting; I just wanted to sniff the other dogs and play. Daddy sympathized with me and told me all women are like this while shopping. 

Next thing I know we are walking out of the store with a brand new RuffWear Approach pack! Momma said I looked handsome and Daddy agreed. 

Today Momma picked up my pack and I knew it was time for a run!! YES!! She loaded me into the car and off we went!

When the back hatch opened I saw we were at Mount Galbraith and it was really overcast. I saw a huge pile of snow and headed right for it but Momma caught me in time to slip the pack over my head and leash me up.  Off we went, down the trail! There was only one car in the lot so after we got within a decent distance from the trailhead, Momma slipped the leash off and I got to prance around in the snow. It was about 30 degrees out and starting to snow big fluffy flakes. Snow is my favorite!

There are just a few differences between my old pack and my new one. I feel they have improved the pack but only by small margins. Hey when you have a near perfect pack, why change much?!

 Changes:
1. There are webbing loops on the top sides of each bag. What would Momma clip to these? She has no idea...but they are kinda tacti-cool.
2. The heavy-duty zippers are now weatherproof/seam sealed instead of a flap that covers the zipper. Time will tell if mud and gunk booger up the zipper or if this is an improvement.
3. The bags themselves are more "aerodynamic" and smaller, hugging them to my body better. They are made out of stiffer material (unless my old pack just lost stiffness over use, I can't remember) that keep the form of the bag better. This prevents "bag bounce".
4. The underside of each bag has a small loopie thingie that the chest strap threads through to, again, hold the pack tighter to the body to stop bag bounce. Momma said this was a great idea and thinks if she had the old pack still she would have sewn a bit of heavy duty elastic or loop on the bags for the same effect.
 

5. The D-ring on top is a bit sturdier.
6. The chest strap, where it makes a "Y" binding the neck to the underbelly strap (connecting the straps that go behind my armpits), is well constructed with a touch of elastic.
7. The underbelly and armpit straps are thicker (a touch more padding- not sure if this makes a big difference but it looks nice) and has a small patch of velcro on it. This adheres to the webbing so the padding doesn't slosh around and rub. This is very nice BUT Momma says it is a "Pain in the A**" (I'm not allowed to say that word or the few others she mumbled when sizing the pack to me) when it comes to adjusting the straps to fit. The velcro kept sticking, making it hard to adjust the straps. Once they were in place with a perfect fit, however, it is nice to not have it move around.

The sun was starting to set. Look at how reflective I am in the camera flash!

The pack fit both of my water bottles with a bit of room to spare. We tried out the SingleTrack Pack but
A) saw there were a TON of reviewers who were disgusted with the pack and how much it moved around/un-cinched while hiking. They had to stop quite frequently to tighten up the straps that had come undone. Not cool and would become quickly irritating for me during a run, not to mention probability of rubbing if not paid close attention to.
B) Had way too little room for Momma's likes. They fit the water bottle just barely. What if I were to go on a longer hike would I need several different packs for each activity? I didn't see a problem with that, but Momma said "At $80-$125 a pack: No Way."

We also tried out the Palisades Pack. Momma really liked this one a lot, however after much contemplation (and me trying it on a few dozen times) she decided the Approach pack was the right fit overall. The Palisades pack was cool because: 
A) bags were big, but not too big. Would come in handy during camping trips.
B) Load compression system, another way to cinch up.
C) The outer pack (with bags) had a quick-attach/detach system that allowed Momma to quickly take off the saddle bags from my back, while a neat harness remained on my body. This would have been cool (Momma said) for an impromptu swim or when I got tired. She could remove the pack but leave a harness that still had a handle attached and a D-ring. The attachment points were fast buckles and easy to clip to the pack.

In the end, Momma said she really couldn't justify spending $125 for the Palisades pack when there really wasn't a significant need for the bells and whistles. She didn't think she would really utilize the buckle system, it was just a cool idea. The bladder that came with the pack was just okay, she preferred the bottles so she didn't have to carry a collapsable bowl. It was also a touch too big and significantly heavier for running compared to the Approach Pack. 

The Approach Pack fit great (I got a Large for my notoriously deep German Shepherd chest). I romped and played in the snow and ran with Momma today. It was so much FUN!

Excitement on Mount Galbraith

Today's Mount Galbraith run was both exhilarating and a touch more drama than I had intended. I had run some errands during the day that I lost track of time. By the time I headed out for a run with the pup I hadn't even glanced at the clock.

The sky was dreary and gray with warnings of oncoming snowfall. For most, this type of sky coaxes people back inside to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and a book (I am one of those tempted to do such things). But today I found an absolute beauty in the weather. The trailhead was void of cars except one, the silence in the air was deafening, and big full flakes of snow started to fall in slow motion.

I strapped Argos's new pack on him and we started up the mountain, footsteps light and dancing. It didn't take long to realize I needed my Kahtoola spikes. They were amazing, as always, and I felt like I had superpowers as I gripped into the side of trails and hammered my way through the ice and snow. I didn't slip once. I wondered if I could climb a wall with these things! By far the best $60 I've spent in a long time.


I cruised up the mountain and came to the "four corners" junction in no time. I turned right and headed up the mountain further. At this point I realized the sky was quite a bit darker than just a few short minutes before. I glanced down at my watch and realized it was 1630. Woops! I debated for a minute whether or not to just turn around and head back or burn some fuel tearing up the trail double speed. I half-hazardly decided to keep going. This was not the brightest choice as I found out a little bit later.

As the sky darkened and the snow started to fall faster, I thought about how quickly the sun sets now with the time change and how terribly I miscalculated my run. About this time I also realized I had completely forgotten to pack my headlamp. Not smart...

I knew I had enough clothes on and food with me, and I knew the mountain well enough that I could get off and into civilization even if I had to hike it; eventually I would get back to my car without physical discomfort. No problema. The "problema" I encountered is the fact that just the day before I started reading a book called "The Beast In the Garden" by David Burton:


This wonderful tale is about those lovely furry creatures we call Mountain Lions that slink stealthily through our Colorado mountains. The book mainly discusses the lions that inhabit the Front Range/Foothills...i.e. where I run. 

A quick description from Amazon.com:
The true tale of an edenic Rocky Mountain town and what transpired when a predatory species returned to its ancestral home.

When, in the late 1980s, residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their yards, it became clear that the cats had repopulated the land after decades of persecution. Here, in a riveting environmental fable that recalls Peter Benchley's thriller Jaws, journalist David Baron traces the history of the mountain lion and chronicles Boulder's effort to coexist with its new neighbors. A parable for our times, The Beast in the Garden is a scientific detective story and a real-life drama, a tragic tale of the struggle between two highly evolved predators: man and beast.

The book opens by describing the search for a lost jogger on one of the local trails. They find the jogger, or should I say his remains as his entire torso was gutted and devoured. The "criminal" was spotted just a few yards away quietly watching the search and rescue team discover the body. The criminal was identified by the human heart dug out from the large cat's stomach...

Awesome.

So here I am, running in the the Front Range Mountains, and it's now dusk. Dusk, I have been informed by the book, is prime noshing time for the mountain lions. 

Double awesome.

As a child, my imagination was legendary. Stick me in my backyard full of trees and suddenly I transformed into Sheena, the Warrior Princess. A swimming pool? Now a mermaid, undiscovered by man but sure to make them swoon if they saw me, transfixed by my magical powers. Sometimes my imaginary world seemed so true that I would talk to my parents about my escapades as if they really happened. "Today I was running through the woods and a handful of really bad guys were chasing me so I flew up into the air and jumped from tree to tree. They tried to fly after me but I was too fast!"

Yeah, not much has changed over the years. 

So, running (or do I call it sprinting) around the face of the mountain in desperate attempt to get back to the car before pitch dark hits, I now begin to feel my imagination erupting full force from the depths of my mind. I try really hard to not think of the book and how the cats like to stalk their prey before they pounce, aiming for the neck and spine. That running, to a lion, stimulates their instinct to chase (like a mouse's fleeing movements to a house cat). I stay alert to Argos's body language and feel a flutter of adrenaline tickle my gut every single time he even slightly glances off the trail to bushes beyond. Argos seems entirely too happy to be out in the dark, prancing about in the snow and wilderness, totally oblivious to the dark thoughts I am having. 


I finally have to stop, catch my breath, bent over with my hands upon my knees, and take a long second to think things through to calm my overactive cognition. "I'm totally fine," I tell myself.

I have my cell phone for light, if I absolutely need it, and that I am not nearly as far from the car as my imagination would have me believe. I remind myself exactly how frequently I used to do night runs and this entire panic-state I have wound myself into is all due to a book! Ok. I reset my internal thoughts and come to a conclusion. If I haul ass for the next twenty minutes I will make it with just enough light. And haul ass I do. 

The light fades every second and soon I am having a hard time seeing the trail's rocks and ruts under the slight shimmer of the snow. I curse my unpreparedness and I turn to Argos for help. I closely watch his body as we run to determine where and how to step. It's amazing how much in tune I am with his body language. As he gracefully lifts his legs a bit higher to avoid a rock, I do the same. He skirts left around a tree root or rock step, so do I. Soon enough I realize we are in synch and I am doing my damnedest to keep up with him. He seems to understand this and doesn't sprint ahead like he enjoys doing, but stays just within a few feet ahead of me, showing me the way. 

About 2/3rds of a mile away from the car we pass a young girl coming up the mountain with her dog. For some reason this brings me joy to see another human and lessens my anxiety. After I pass her I think, "what the heck is she doing heading out now, in weather like this, and dressed like that?!" She was dressed very lightly and not what I would consider "outdoor appropriate" attire. Odd. Really really odd. 

We continue down the last stretch of trail and cruise into the parking lot. This is exactly how I saw the car...without a single source of light.




and with the help of the camera flash...

As soon as I got home I stuffed not one, but two headlamps into my pack. For sure.

On a side note, the book so far is excellent...just not recommended reading right before an evening trail run.