This year feels different. I’ve never been big on planning out hikes, or any thing for that matter. I’ve literally lived most of my adult life jumping from one cold pool into the next wondering if each successive body of water might be warmer than the last. That, my dear friends, is an integral character aspect of yours truly. Even when I’ve tried to break the pattern, first interesting unplanned thing I get a hint of I’m likely gonna jump.
But this year, with tight resources and a really meaningful personal goal in mind, I feel differently about the whole planning thing. Not only do I have a lot of miles to tread but I’ve got to cross those miles, alone, with little outside support now with the added challenge of filming. I know better, I’d better work some shit out.
As of this writing I have three major trips planned and a good collection of smaller, closer trips that can happen in between. Most of these can be multi-day affairs if I set them up correctly.
The Big Three
The Uintas Highline Trail: The trails roughly 83 miles covers some scenic high country in a little known corner of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest that’s been getting both increasing attention and foot traffic in recent memory. Back in 1992 I did a crew stop-over and mop-up on the forest as part of a wildland fire crew, but I’ve never really made it back to the Uintas since. Because the fire we worked on was beyond the wilderness boundary, we hiked in and used hand tools, then hiked back out. I don’t recall much more than that, and really wanting to go back there.
Depending on snow pack and melt rates I’m likely going to need to wait until at least June to make this trip. I’m estimating I can complete the trail between four or five days, and I’m going to have to look into a shuttle between its start and end *or* yo-yo. Not sure yet.
Flat Tops Wilderness Loop: There are literally hundreds of miles of often untouched trails in the Flat Tops Wilderness located north of Glenwood Springs, Colorado in the White River National Forest. I know about this place because I worked on this forest between 1991 and 1994 as a backcountry wilderness guard and firefighter. It’s also where I wore out a small mountain of running shoes.
Again, high country means later start. June or July at best and timing for wild flowers seems crucial. Also, I’ve been there when the whole Top is nothing but mile up mile of post hole and that’s no fun, so I’d like to avoid that experience. As far as trail choices are concerned I’m not really certain yet. A loop, from South Fork to North would be great for old times sake, but I’m also considering a Devils Causeway/China Wall circumnavigation. If I’ve got the time and funds, maybe I can do both.
Pacific Crest Trail Section J: This section of the PCT is about 75 miles and runs between Snoqualmie and Steven’s Passes. I’ve completed it more times than I can remember and even done some noteworthy things along the way. Why then, would I want to do it again? Welp, back in 2009 I was running J when I discovered a section hiker who had fallen about 250′ down a steep scree slope above Alaska Lake. Jim “Tazul” Knee was rescued about 15 hours after his fall, and later because of our chance encounter became my friend. Last year, however, he passed away. COVID conspired to keep us separate as he passed, but we still had plenty of trail stuff to talk about. I’d like to complete the segment and dedicate the trip to his memory.
Big deal here. Right now I’m using a GoPro Hero 7 Silver which, even when it was brand spankin’ new, was just an “okay” camera. My chief complaint so far is that will not record in 16:9 aspect ratio. I’ve been unable to smash 4:3 into anything usable in post. This leaves my videos with those weird black bars on the left and right sides. Worse, the camera also bends edges pretty bad (even though it’s only shooting 4:3). Honestly, at this point, my impression is that GoPro was trying to sell a lower cost helmet ornament adrenalin junkies. The camera’s dumbed down aspect ratio was only mentioned as a footnote. Argh!
So I’ve been shopping around and reading a metric crap ton of reviews. Right now, I’ve pretty much decided that I want to move forward with the Insta360 One x2 for a variety of reasons.
true 16:9 or 360° aspect ratio
best software vibration compensation
excellent contrast and color
replaceable batteries for longer run-times
invisible selfie stick effect
variety of post-effects and
The good news is that my new One x2 is on order. Once it arrives I’m going to have to work out some new workflows, but I’m certain that the end product will improve, so that’s something to look forward to along with the spring.