Sunday, December 16, 2018

Reflecting On The Sports Watch and Wilderness Navigation

Dale Matson

Back in the day, I wore an Altitude/Barometer/Compass (ABC) watch by Suunto. This was a dependable backwoods companion. I eventually gave it to my younger son. The plastic case was partially melted by 100% Deet overspray. At that time the basic GPS device was available but there were no internal maps so a paper map was essential.
Later, I backpacked with an individual who used only an ABC watch and a Topo map exclusively even when off trail. He was confident and skilled (I am not). At that time, I had added the Garmin 60csx (which is still a great GPS but no longer supported by Garmin). It utilized a detailed 24K memory chip for my area (CA). Where I had an advantage over my friend was the ability to determine how far we were to the next water source or point of interest indicated on a paper map. It also provided, based on average speed, time estimates to destinations.
As I traveled more by myself off trail hiking and backpacking, I felt the need to add a Satellite Phone for possible emergencies. Global Star worked until their satellites began to fail. I then went to Iridium. I began to think more about backup in terms of navigation if my GPS malfunctioned or the batteries died. Suunto came out with the GPS watch which provided exact GPS locations, heart rate and track back/find back features. In a sense, I had a 2nd GPS device without the maps. The subsequent Ambits (2 and 3) added performance features for fitness training. I keep a daily eye on my “steps” count.
One nagging problem was a need for a chest strap for heart rate data to ensure I kept my HR at a reasonable limit. Previously, I used one for training for marathons, Triathlons and ultra-marathons but not on hikes and backpacking. This became important after a diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). This is where Garmin set the standard with wrist-based heart rate data which no longer required a chest strap. I recently bought a used Garmin Fenix 3 HR and hope it will be accurate enough. If so, it will be much more convenient and include the same navigational options as the Ambit 3.
Another change is going to the Spot Gen 3 and selling my Satellite Phone. The annual minimum fee is now $700,00. I found my use did not justify this kind of money. As I think about it now, after my year is up with Spot (Globalstar), I will buy a Garmin inReach Explorer+ which combines a map GPS with two-way text communication (Iridium) for much less airtime cost than my Satellite phone and a smaller package.
The current Garmin Fenix 5 series watches all have map capabilities and would make a nicer package but I want to see if wrist HR technology will work for me. If so, I would probably get the Fenix 5X not a newer 5 plus watch.
What would I like to see in a future wilderness watch? I would like to see a “peak finder”, which is already available as a smart phone app. oxygen saturation level (already available in the 5 plus). I would also like to see a solar recharge feature instead of squeezing more battery life by sacrificing accuracy. I would love to have voice communication too, via satellite.
I am not that concerned about the social network, tunes, photos and connectivity with a smart phone. I am willing to accept the weight of my cameras and lenses. I want a stand-alone device that does not need connectivity with a smart phone for full functionality.
As I look back many years to my 50’s this is all quite a contrast to the basic trail running equipment of shorts, tee shirt, running shoes, hammer gel flask, water bottle and water purification pills.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tamarack Ski With Sharon And Duke

Dale Matson

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Tamarack Snow Park

This was our first C.C. Ski of the new snow season and Duke, our younger Airedale’s first ski in a few years. He was diagnosed with a thyroid condition and wasn’t suited to the trails till he was at a good energy level and proper weight. Because of limited snow last season, we did not ski at all.
His older sister Susie is too long in the tooth and arthritic to participate. She knew where we were headed and only lifted her head from her pillow. She did not protest as we left without her. Her spirit was wiling but her flesh was week. She has hundreds of trail miles under her belt in her 14 years however. Let’s just say she is retired from active duty. Here is a story about her adventures with me.
Outbound we stopped in Shaver Lake to buy an annual snow park pass and some Maxie Glide for our skis. Tamarack Snow Park is about 15 miles further between Shaver and Huntington Lakes. Coyote Snow Park is another quarter mile further than Tamarack with no snowmobiles allowed on the trails. The Tamarack Snow Park is around 7,500’ in elevation and we skied about 3 miles. Sharon and I weren’t that steady on our feet either and limited our ski to about 1.5 hours. The snow was firm with a fresh 3-inch layer which made for decent skiing. Duke was active the entire time and didn’t need to lay down and cool off even with his winter coat. He went about 6 miles. The snow is deep enough off the trail that Duke didn’t do too much exploring.
We sat down on the edge of the trail for a noontime snack of trail mix. Ah yes, this is one of my favorite parts of the ski experience. Sharon, who is pretty smart about things managed to sit under a tree that was dripping snow melt from the last storm that was still overhead in the trees.
I feel so blessed that at our ages, we are still able to have the health and opportunity to do these kinds of things. I took the photos and brief video clips with the very portable Sony RXIR2.
Of course, part of our tradition is to stop at Norm Kato’s store and Deli and get snacks. I’s a “happening place”.

Photos Of Dale By Sharon

Shaver Lake

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sequoia National Park South Entrance Area

Dale Matson

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Hospital Rock

I have driven into Sequoia Park via the southern entrance (past the town of Three Rivers) a number of times. In the Spring, one is greeted with beautiful Yucca Plants lining both sides of the road called “The Generals’ Highway". And there is the roaring Marble Fork of the Kaweah River alongside. I have a photo on my wall of the Yuccas on a misty morning.
I was there yesterday during free time from a clergy retreat at St. Anthony’s Retreat Center. I was thinking because it was a relatively clear day, that I would climb Moro Rock for photographs. As it turned out, there was a construction blockage before Moro Rock.
I found a sweet spot prior to that near what is called “Hospital Rock”. Hospital Rock is a favorite of local climbers. By the time you get to that spot, you have already gotten glimpses of Mono Rock and Alta Peak. There is a parking and picnic area below Hospital Rock which was named by Hale Tharp an early explorer because of two accidents that needed   medical treatment. There is a large monolithic rock along the strenuous climb to Alta Peak (11,207’) named after Tharp.
This area was inhabited by the Potwisha Native Americans. In fact, there were two other tribes in the area, the Mono and Yokut.
In addition to the view of the rock, there is a pictograph right across the Generals’ Highway from the parking area. On that same side of the highway, there is a trail down to the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. At the trailhead, there is an informational sign and several grinding holes in a large rock used by the Native Americans.
There is a lovely viewing platform constructed of river rock which would be quite a sight in the Spring when the river is flowing at its height. There are about three other forks to the Kaweah River that all flow into Lake Kaweah.
Once again, our parks encircle and preserve both beauty and history. Even a short stop can provide quite an experience.  Photos taken with the Sony RX1R2.

 Moro Rock