Autumn, leaves

The third and best season is upon us.

The autumnal equinox seemed an auspicious occasion for the flushing out of headgear.

I hadn’t left the confines of Bernalillo County since October 2019, and the walls of El Rancho Pendejo had passed the time by slowly creeping inward. Most people wouldn’t notice. But I am a Professional Journalist and know a hoodoo when I see one (our mantra is hoodoo, what, when, where, and why).

So I got out of Dodge. Threw too much camping gear into Sue Baroo the Fearsome Furster, left the MacBook Pro where it sat, and sputtered off to see if all my long-neglected outdoorsy stuff still worked. Just in case something didn’t, I planned to be gone for not too long, to nowhere too remote, and not too far away. I favor multiple redundancy systems, but still, just because you’re paranoid, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.


The great thing about car camping is you can overpack without flattening your tires, feet, and/or spinal column. So I took two sleeping pads (Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp and ProLite Plus), and I layered them sumbitches between me, the tent floor, and the ground, just because I could.

You wouldn’t want to backpack that BaseCamp, which goes about 3.6 elbees in the large model, but it is the shit for car camping.

I didn’t double up on tents, going with one Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. Big Agnes says you can fit two people in there, but not if one of them is me. The voices in my head take up a lot of square footage when they come out at night. But what a great one-person tent. Sets up fast, comes down even faster. Just the thing for that third season, which is my favorite.

The bag was a Marmot Elite 30, which is plenty toasty for a hot sleeper like Your Humble Narrator, but a tad on the snug side. It’s kind of like wearing a puffy coat with a hood, but in a duster length.

For a backpack, I chose the Gregory Stout 45. If I need to carry any more gear than fits in a Stout 45, I ain’t going. I may be a jackass, but I ain’t no burro. This is one comfortable pack for traveling fast and light (or for fetching your gear from the car to the campsite to minimize the back-and-forth).

However, since I was car camping, not backpacking, I brought along two items that didn’t fit in the Gregory: a camp chair from L.L. Bean and my elderly Coleman two-burner propane stove.

Now, I have had more than a few camp stoves over the years, from an MSR RapidFire isobutane burner that for years was my main road-trip rest-area stove, to itty-bitty bikepacking boogers like the Soto Micro Regulator, which fits with its canister in a Snow Peak Trek 700 titanium pot. But man, that old Coleman does the business. It was our backup cooker for when the utilities went south up Weirdcliffe way.

Like everything and everyone else, the Coleman two-burner has been through some changes over the years — my old model has a piezo igniter — but it’s still getting rave reviews, and it’s still as cheap as the dirt you’ll sleep on.

And the Subie? Glad you asked. Seventeen years old and she’s still kickin’. If I don’t drive like the Road Warrior, she won’t set me afoot in the desert. That’s the deal we struck, and so far so good. But sometimes I take a bicycle along just in case (see paranoid, above).

An ominous rattle developed on the return trip, but it turned out to be coming from the plastic garage-door opener clipped to the driver’s side visor.

They say you can’t go home again, but it opened the door for me just like always, so in I went.

Hello, sunshine.

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33 Responses to “Autumn, leaves”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    So where did you go?

  2. Shawn Says:

    Gudonya ole Pog ! I hope that you had clear air, fine sun and brisk Fall weather to relish in. May you (we) discover in the future the opportunity for similar escapes on a more frequent basis.


  3. khal spencer Says:

    I got in a nice “First Fall Ride” on Friday and today managed to sprain my foot. Geeze.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Aw, man, that sucks. It must be going around. While I was hiking on Thursday I met up with a young lady who had (wait for it) probably broken her ankle. She had two male companions, one of whom asked me if I had any medical experience. “Boy, do I ever,” I thought, thinking of my own busted ankle from 2020 and how I heard it go “pop.”

      But I’m not a doctor, don’t even play one on the TV. However, I did have a small first-aid kit with some acetaminophen, gauze and tape, plus a bandana to bind the ankle while the guys helped her get back to their car. I offered my walking stick, too, but after a couple halting steps she said it was too much for her to manage, gave it back, and off they went.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Got in a short ride today after doing some errands on the bike. No idea what happened on Friday. I was walking across a parking lot while doing some of the week’s shopping and something went pop in my foot and it was excruciating. I hobbled over to the car and just sat there for a while. The pain slowly subsided over the course of the day.

        I stayed off my feet on Saturday but had a day-long club commitment on Sunday that had me on my feet from ten to vie so I wore heavy hiking boots for support. Seems better now. Just one of those “getting old and falling apart” deals.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Ain’t it fun? Best I can say about getting older is that it beats the alternative.

        I do a short series of stretching exercises before I even get out of bed in the ayem. Saves me from hobbling to the crapper like Chester from “Gunsmoke.”

  4. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Three nights under canvas, and one job as trail medic, should have flushed out the brain pan. So, what was on the camp menu? One of our camp stove one pot solutions was boil up some penne, pour off the water, add alfredo sauce, some green beans, and red bell pepper, heat to bubbling, and Bob’s your uncle. Add some sourdough bread, and Fanny’s your aunt.

  5. Hurben Says:

    I’m envious,

    We’ve been in lockdown for 6 weeks now.

    Auckland tighter than the rest of the country due to the majority of the Delta cases being here, police road blocks at all the roads out so you can’t leave unless you’re an essential service.

    Stay home, (unless you’re an essential worker), only leave for exercise, groceries or medical, masks outside & stay within a 5 km radius.

    Last week things eased a bit, I could go to work because I can’t work from home.

    Most shops closed except for Click & collect.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Damn, Hurben, I’m sorry to hear that. We have some friends in France who had similar rules to follow in round one of this mess.

      We have fewer restrictions and the correspondingly high body count to go with ’em. This is one of the reasons I chose camping for my brief getaway. A couple of gas stations (pay at the pump), one restaurant (outdoor seating), no hotel rooms. Masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer.

      Here’s to better days.

    • SAO' Says:

      I’m amazed that y’all down that way can still put collective survival ahead of personal (and mostly petty) preferences. I had forgotten about the limited radius of travel restrictions from way back when. Lordy, we’d never put up with that again. ICUs at 110%? Not my problem, until it is.

      To better days, indeed.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I know people — all y’all probably do, too — who have been charging around and about via plane, train, and automobile as if there were no Bug® to be caught. A few of them have learned differently.

      I suppose we will all catch some form of it sooner or later. But given the state of the ICUs and ERs, one might deduce that later is betterer.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        In February of 2020, we went to a concert. One of the women we know was coughing continuously. She finally left, but not before she sat by us, and I gave here a cough drop. Within a week, we were also coughing and had moderate symptoms for 1 or 2 days. This “flu” went through our neighborhood quickly. In hindsight, we all concluded we had it. That might explain our good fortune in not getting it during the time before we were vaccinated, almost a year. I have a hunch that if you all think back to fall 2019 and early 2020, you might have had it too. I think it was circulating in the US in October or November of 2019. Good news is that if you caught it, and the received the Moderna vaccine, you may have “super immunity.”

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        The only bug Herself and I have had since 2019 was a hideous gastrointestinal wallop that hit both of us like a runaway truck in late November of that year, about 10 days after she came home from a visit to her sis and mom in Florida.

        Sis and mom arrived a week later, and in three days Herself and I were running at both ends. Couldn’t keep anything down for a couple days, and I lost five pounds. All we could do was sleep.

        I suspected food poisoning from an undistinguished Mexican restaurant, but neither mom nor sis caught it. There was no respiratory distress involved, no symptoms of cold or flu.

        So who knows? It would be swell if that were our brush with El Buggo. But I’m not betting the ranch on it.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      Better days ahead for you Hurben. And, I will trade you a Biden for Jacinda. Jacinda and Kamala has a ring to it, no?

      • Hurben Says:

        Hi Pat,

        No, she’s a national treasure so she’s staying here. It’s getting interesting how the opposition parties are trying to deal with her, (badly, in my opinion).

        I’ve always been a firm believer that the only person that ever entered parliament with honest intentions was Guy Fawkes, but I’m mellowing towards Jazza.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Re: Guy Fawkes, hee, and also haw. I like this Mark Twain quote, too: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”

  6. SAO' Says:

    Asked the kids what they thought of your “third and best season” claim. Two girls, so of course, five different opinions.

    Pros: not waking up in the dark, splashing in rain puddles, and not needing so many warm clothes
    Cons: the sun feels like it’s trying hard to catch up but it doesn’t have enough juice to stay out long enough

    Pros: swimming pools, cooking on the grill, playing outside after dinner
    Cons: too much sunscreen and Mom makes us wear hats all the time

    Pros: snow.
    Cons: snow

    Pros: chili season
    Cons: you start off the day in a t-shirt, hoodie, and jacket or vest, then take off one layer as soon as you get to school, then lose the hoodie by lunch time, then around dinner time to put them back on all over again.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Chile season is a big, big pro. Might be the best argument for fall ever.

      Con: Starting every ride in knee and arm warmers, and occasionally a tuque, then finishing with jersey pockets so full of discarded cold-weather gear that it’s a guaranteed frisk for suspected shoplifting in any convenience store you enter looking for refreshment.

    • Shawn Says:

      I enjoyed the Two Girls review. It makes me reminisce on the perspective of seasonal changes in Fairbanks, AK.

      Pros: Oh yeah the sun is coming back and it’s getting warmer. Wow it’s great!
      Cons: Break up. All the snow is melting and the streets, parking lots and driveways are deep with cold water and slush.

      Pros: Riding and playing late into the night under the late evening sunshine. Trails drying out and warmer temperatures.
      Cons: Mosquitos and late August rains.

      Pros: Brisk temperatures. Bright Yellow Birch Tree leaves. The Equinox Marathon. Preparing for XC ski season. Moose Chili.
      Cons: Not having everything (house / cabin, car, wood for heat, etc) ready for winter.

      Pros: Snow and frozen landscape and mushing trails for splendid trail riding. Knowing that it’s going to get cold as hell and you enjoy the novelty of enduring it.
      Cons: The cold is really cold. You wonder if the world has frozen over and if it will ever thaw out again. Your truck battery is dying and you’re worrying about if it will start your truck the next time you are parked out of town at a trailhead. You made the mistake of buying #2 heating oil and it’s the second week of -35F weather – I sure hope that anti-gel additive works.

      The seasons just aren’t as exciting down here where I live now. But the chili still tastes good !

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