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Meghan Hicks Wednesday, 18 April 2012 13:24 TWEET COMMENTS 3

Light, Lighter, Lighest - Page 6

Our travels are soon intersected by the tracks of a small mountain lion. They are pressed into the trail’s long-dried dirt, indicating that this feline passed by quite some time ago. We look closely at the trail and find more non-human tracks. “Hoof prints here. Mule deer?” Bryon says from about 50 meters down the trail. We also note a wrinkled “S” sign that a snake slithered through. I find these prints contrary to my instinct that little can survive in a desert. With the aridity, the heat and the scarcity of food, what would even want to? Then I remember that I am doing just fine, so perhaps my logic is illogical.

Another of the day’s highlights is playing like kids on the Joint Trail. For a mile, singletrack passes through a couple of different joints between rocks that are, in some places, just hip wide. Though it’s the middle of the day, the joints are shaded and the rock is cool. While I wouldn’t want to be in these deep slots during a raging rainstorm, with Bryon’s company and stable weather, it feels like the perfect spot for now.

Chesler Park, an almost-circle of waist-high grasses surrounded by rock needles, wows us along the last couple miles back to our campsite. The contrast of hard rock and soft grass is striking, stark. “It’s a playground for the eyes,” I say to Bryon, but the breeze carries my unheard words into the wilderness. When we arrive back to our campsite, we lie on the slickrock and snack on soy jerky. We re-set our camp, too, including our tent’s fly after noting the first incoming clouds. Then we take a pack-less jog to and from the spring for a resupply of liquid gold before settling into a silent Canyonlands night.

Our third day is a 10-mile, circuitous jaunt back to the Elephant Hill Trailhead. The route flips eastbound for a few miles before hooking north, and we leave the needles behind. Here, the view grows wide and long. We can see for 50 or more miles and the rock on which we run seems to platform itself from here to way over there. With this space and perspective, as well as the knowledge that I have everything I need on my back, I feel the lightest yet.

The clouds have been thickening all morning, tumbling rain onto us in spells. When they fall, the raindrops splat audibly on the slickrock. The storm arrives in full force just as we catch sight of the car. We toss our fastpacks into the backseat and drive away from one adventure and toward the next, carrying with us a lightness that makes me certain we can go anywhere and do anything.



The Fastpacking Need-to-Know

Most ultralight packs provide few ways to adjust for fit and comfort. So, choose a pack that feels good the moment you try it on. If running is a part of your plan, keep size on the small side (25 liters maximum for ladies and 30 for men is a good standard). My favorite fastpack is the Inov-8 Race Pro 22 (inov-8.com).

Tent. While mild-weather trips may not require a sleeping structure, an ultralight tent is welcomed in the cold, rain and snow. Ultralight tents often sacrifice living space and breathability for weight, so shop wisely. We use Big Agnes products, the Copper Spur UL2 for spring/summer/fall and the String Ridge 2 for winter (bigagnes.com).


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