Jul 30, 2010

The 4 Android Apps that all backpackers should carry

If you go backpacking or even hiking and use an android phone, here is a list of the Android Apps you should be carrying.

My Tracks: Record GPS tracks of where you hiked, view elevation profiles, and upload to Google Maps.  Tip: To keep battery low, change the settings for coordinate frequency to "battery miser".  This is what I use to generate nifty maps and elevation profiles of my hikes that I post on this blog.
Google Skymap:  Augmented reality for showing the stars in the sky.  Hold your phone up to the starry sky and see whether that bright thing is a planet or a star, and which one.  Works even without data access.
Peak.AR: Augmented reality that will tell you the name of every mountain peak you are looking at.
Rainy Days: Overlays moving weather images over google maps to show you live weather around you.  Obviously only works if you have data coverage.

I'm headed to Kilimanjaro on Tuesday, what are some other good backpacking Apps?

Jul 18, 2010

Epic but Easy Backpacking: Lassen Cinder Cone and Snag Lake

I didn't actually get around to posting this until September, but I'm backdating it.  In mid-July, Cristin and I went and tried her first backpacking trip.  My goal was to find a route that would be both relatively easy, but also fairly epic.  I wanted to show her that backpacking gave you access to areas that you wouldn't necessarily otherwise get a chance to see, but I didn't want to make the trip terribly difficult.

I had backpacked in this area once before and knew roughly what to expect, so my selected route was to hike in from the separate northern (Butte Lake) entrance to Lassen Park, down past the Cinder Cone Volcano, over the Fantastic Lava Beds, camp and swim alongside the crystal clear Snag Lake (poorly named), and then back again alongside Butte Lake the whole way.

The trip went very well.  The Cinder Cone was the only real elevation, and while it's quite steep and difficult (loose scree), it's only about 800 ft of climbing and it's optional.  You can walk around the base of it instead very easily.  The route is ~6 miles the first day and I think around 8 or so the second (ignore the mileage that MyTracks returns as usual).  Below is a quick map of the trail we took.  The blue line cut out just a little before returning to the start point because my phone ran out of juice, but the trail follows along Butte Lake all the way around.

View Lassen: Cinder Cone and Snag Lake in a larger map

I'd recommend clicking through to the map and viewing it in Google Earth.  The most interesting features are around the halfway point on Day 1 (red line): namely the Cinder Cone and Fantastic Lava Beds.  Cristin was also particularly excited about being able to clean off some via a swim in Snag Lake, although some fishermen did report seeing some leeches, so do be careful.  Also, the eastern side of Snag Lake was much wetter, a little mud, but mostly this caused us some mosquito problems on day 2.  Very minimal mosquitos at our camp though, not a big deal.

Anyway, if you are looking for a good easy backpacking trip that is certainly Epic, I'd definitely recommend this one.