Gear Woes and (Off-Trail) Solutions

All my stress is gone.

I finally got that belt returned and was trapped in Portland with my kids afterward, which led to donuts. Could’ve been worse. So now my small pack with its medium hipbelt is ready to hit the trail again, and actually pull its weight. Lift? Hold? Support? In any case, I’m confident it’s just right and will no longer slip down my hips. REI was relieved I hadn’t had the returned belt custom molded. I’d had an inkling it might be back, so I didn’t even consider it.

My KEEN Targhee II Mids are the best hiking boots I’ve ever worn, perfect right out of the box. This particular pair has one peeling sole, however, and KEEN honored their warranty, no questions asked, with a coupon code for a free pair. Curious about low tops, I got a pair of Targhee II Lows. Well, that didn’t work out so well. They don’t have lace locks like the Mids and slide like crazy, leading to pain and blisters. This problem led me to discover some neat sock liners made with silver, and they certainly help, but not enough to compensate for the inevitable slip and slide party going on at ground level. I never had any fun at those parties, so I’m back to wearing the Mids for hiking, which still have a lot of life in them despite the peeling, and the Lows for almost everything else. The blisters take miles to get started, so I can enjoy comfort and versatility without the penalty. I did read somewhere there is a way to lock your own laces with creative tying, but I haven’t tried it.

Globally controversial, but nevertheless my main transportation, my biggest gear failure was my vehicle. On the way to a day hike near Hood River, my engine started making a loud knocking noise. We went ahead a few more miles to the trail and hoped we could get home. We did, but that was the end of that Santa Fe. My own mechanic and even the dealership said the only solution was a replacement engine which, in a 2007, cost as much as its total worth. How about not? Barely out of warranty, the dealership took pity on me and offered several thousand in trade for my car that could sputter its last cough at any moment. That left me at the mercy of their stock on hand, but they just happened to have my little Stella there, fresh on the used lot, a couple of days before. On the third day, she drove again…with more clearance, more capability, better gas mileage, and yes, a little less space.

But she didn’t come with cross bars. The best-known rack companies wanted more green than I’d tolerate, so I thought again. My Malone J-hooks for my kayak are great, easy to use, and the company offered advice on picking out a model a few years back. So I checked them out and found they have new aluminum aero bars out this year for a third of the price of the other guys. Done! It wasn’t until I was placing the last end cap, because I couldn’t, that I realized the end of the bar was bent out of shape, no doubt in transit. I sent Malone pictures, and Malone sent me a new bar. Just like that. I couldn’t be happier with them. Now if only I could be bothered to switch out that bar…definitely this week.


My most recent gear failure was rather maddening. My dog met my tent. I had set it up to dry in the back yard, and this is the last time it looked pretty. Husky vs. Tent wasn’t a fair fight.


She ripped several holes in the mesh door and bent the front pole out of shape. Hours of sewing yielded ugly results, and I packed it away for a while. But this Friday, Stoic and I are headed for the woods again and the tent is coming out of hiding to see if the repairs hold up.

Monday morning I’m pointing Stella toward Idaho. More adventures coming soon!





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