Backpacking Trip

This past weekend Sunny and I used our driveway as a trailhead. We loaded up our backpacks at the kitchen table and walked to Fay Bainbridge Park (about 3.2 miles away). Once we arrived in the park, we camped overnight, packed up camp and returned home. We called it a “test trip.” We had built up two backpacks with a lot of new things. I had been collecting a pack, a moderately light tent, a small and light sleeping bag and some lightweight cookware. It was also a test for Sunny, who hadn’t camped in a couple of years and had never backpacked, to see if she would like backpacking.

I found it difficult to pack gear for Sunny. On the one hand, I didn’t want to go out and buy a bunch of top-of-the-line backpacking equipment for her, only to find that she didn’t like it and never use the equipment again. On the other hand, I didn’t want her to hate backpacking because she had a heavy pack with substandard gear. I packed the gear so that she had a lighter load, about 15 lbs (compared to mine at 31 lbs).

I brought my APRS tracker to test it out for walking pace. I’d run it a few times in the truck on a magnetic mobile antenna (which is why I use the car icon on the APRS map), but hadn’t yet run it in my pack with the little rubber antenna that came with it. Also, while the beaconing pace that I’d set was insufficient for a car, I felt that it might be the right pace for walking. I didn’t need a tracker for this trip but felt it might be necessary if Sunny didn’t like backpacking and I decided to hike alone on more harsh terrain.

Building a fire was a challenge. It was like the wind was only blowing while we were trying to get the fire going. We had this fuel cube that you dice into powder and then set aflame. Sunny was able to do this with the flint and steel set that was in our packs. The problem was, the wood supplied at the campground was only tinder and fuel. Without kindling (which you aren’t supposed to collect in the park), this cube didn’t burn fast enough to burn the wood. I used three cubes of fuel. After we got the fire burning, the wind died down. The weather was enjoyable, although the wind blew heavily later. We didn’t let the fire go out until bedtime, with some wood that Kelley brought by from the house (Ok, yeah, that was cheating).

We tuned into the 9 o’clock net. Sunny was going to work the radio. At the last second, she asked me to check-in instead. The net lasted for over an hour. Sunny went to bed while I tended the fire and listened to the net.

Sleeping didn’t go well for either of us. The tent was a $17 sellout deal on Woot.com. It is a two person tent with a weight of just over 3 lbs. It rolls down to a small size so that it doesn’t dominate my pack. It would be a great tent if I were on a solo trip. For the two of us, on a rainy day, it was a pretty close situation. The lack of a vestibule area had us trying to sleep around our packs. A miss on the instructions for the sleeping pads, had us become one with earth (ok, a euphemism for sleeping on hard ground). At 3 am, I climbed under my sleeping pad and blew it up. After that, I slept for a couple of hours.

In the morning, around 5 am, I got out of the tent and drank a couple of cups of coffee. Sunny was still sleeping. Making breakfast would have to wait a little while. So, I walked down to the end of the beach access boardwalk. While I was taking a few snapshots of the city, I noticed something moving in the water. It was a sea lion. I tried to get a picture of it. It went underwater. Then I checked my original picture and saw that I had accidentally captured it in my last photo.

While I was doing that, I saw dolphins off to my left. Swimming dolphins don’t make good photos if you’re above the water. They make a good video. So, I changed the camera into video and recorded the two dolphins in a short clip.

Then I went back to the campsite and grabbed the water bottle to refill it. I went up to the pavilion on the hillside. From there, I could see most of the lower park. I snapped some pictures and noticed that Sunny was awake.

We cooked breakfast, packed up camp and walked home. When we got home, Kelley asked me if the trip was a success. In the “See if Sunny likes backpacking” category, success. In the “See what equipment works” category, success again.

And now, on to planning the next adventure.

CampingSelfie

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On Watching Chess…

I recently found myself with a case of the flu which kept me home from work for a week. Most of the week was wasted, with episodes of round-the-clock napping. When I was starting to feel recovered I checked in on my chess.com games. I had several games going when I became ill, and needed to make a move soon (or else, lose on time). 

When I navigated to chess.com, I saw an alert on the video tab. I never see these. So, curiousity prevailed and I clicked on it. The alert said that round 9 of the US Chess championships was being broadcast online. With the exception of the 2015 World Championship (that I watched on a Russian web site while I was in India), I haven’t watched a chess tournament since the last time I lived in Seattle. When I did watch them, I enjoyed the commentary a lot. 

Back then, you had your browser tuned to Chess.fm, while you watched the board on Internet Chess Club. Now, its different. This was like watching Sportcenter for chess. There were two GMs, Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan, sitting at a studio desk, discussing the games and positions, while a third GM, Maurice Ashley, was standing in front of a large board like a chess meteorologist. This led to some robust discussion and positional debates between the three GMs.

What really made it interesting, was that Maurice Ashley would often refer to “the engines” during the conversations. Back when I used to play and watch chess, there were alway articles about how chess computers were going to ruin chess. This was a case where the engines enhanced chess. With several engines and three GMs, the broadcast team usually saw things that the players didn’t. They’d discuss a line and then wait to see if the players would see the optimal line. This amped up the drama of the broadcast. All of the sudden, as a viewer of a game between 2 players that see the board differently than most of humanity, you were able to see the dynamics of the game as they played out. 

On rare occasions, there were surprises. But, when they happened, they were something special, as several engines and 3 GMs didn’t see them coming. Wesley So’s win in round 9 was a good example of this.

At the end of the weekend, I was excited about chess again. I really want to play again, like enough to start working on my game again.