Los Padres NF, La Jolla Trail 2022

But people started flying again and things started looking up; 2022 was going to be a great year! Then, unfortunately in January I sprained my knee in a skiing tumble in January so needed to recover. Gas prices went through the roof discouraging longer trips...but I still got out a little cramponing in the snow in Canada and was waiting to do more.

With a nice long delayed planned trip upcoming, why not start with trying out new gear that had just been waiting around all this time? Trying things out in little city parks around the house is one thing, but being on the trail is another...

Saturday had excessive heat warnings down here, but I wanted to get out hiking in the Los Padres again. So I figured I'd leave and get a nice early morning start on Sunday when it should be cool. I got up to Figueroa Mountain around 9:30 AM, but the Jeep already thought that it was 93 outside! Well, that's OK, I've been hiking in the heat before so no big deal. I got ready and went out for a little jaunt on the top of the La Jolla Springs trail. I hadn't been on this trail in years and had a pretty time. Aside from a few picnickers at the side of the road I didn't see a soul. It was wonderfully quiet for the late morning and early afternoon I was out, only a few terroritorial Western jays and only two planes. No sound of people or of cars, wonderful! The trail was partially shaded, but there was no breeze. As it got warmer and I was halfway out of water I turned around and climbed back up to the road, happy to get out again. By then it was 98 at the Jeep, and down at the bottom of the mountain it was 107. So after some great Greek food at Petros and a pickup at Foxen it was time to head back home to the coast and its comfortable mid-70s and lounge on a beach.

Although the hike was great by itself, it really was a short trial run of new equipment for my upcoming month long trip. Always a good idea to learn new gear before the trail. Some things I was testing out were...

(Mostly) Healed Knee

Well, I had sprained my right knee fairly badly with a few spills at Snow Summit in early January. I had been excited to ski again after a short 2020 season and staying away in 2021 with all the silly restrictions and reservations. After a fun time on Halloween at Mammoth, over Christmas new snow finally fell in Big Bear so I went on out. Well, I took a tumble partially as I should have reset my DIN settings for being a bit heavier, but also bad trail signage. As I was ending the day I decided to try out a new trail at Snow Summit that the signs marked as easy, but it turned into a mid-grade intermediate right as it was heading into the lift zone! So, I did manage to stop without hitting anyone but tumbled (not a full yard sale...I managed to retain both poles and one glove).

Anyway, it just takes a long time for sprained knees to heal. I had to spend time doing nothing, then a few months in a big carbon fiber brace just to walk around, graduated to a neoprene brace, then finally was able to get back doing walks outside up and down hills to get things stronger for my upcoming trip. So, finally at the point where I can scale the hill by my house without a brace it was time to do a good test

No brace, no Advil, boots, my full camera setup (probably about 30 pounds), and a trail and things were good for the knee even with the 300 foot ascent in about a third of a mile. Granted, I was using poles, but still I give the mostly healed knee a good score!

Custom Limmers

Well, back in 2004 after hearing about them I got my first pair of factory Limmers. I quickly fell in love with the boots and took them everywhere for countless miles on the trail. But after many great years of service the soles were starting to wear out to the point where I was losing grip on the rocks. So after my trip to Denali in 2018 I knew I loved these boots and signed up to get a custom pair of Limmers. The waitlist for them was years long but I did my best to outline my feet, put in my deposit and got in line.

Fast forward to 2020...the pandemic had started and everything was locked down, so I was working from home and not really going anywhere except briefly to the store and to pick up my mail. Then, in June, unexpectedly a letter came in. I was suddenly at the top of the list for getting my custom Limmers! This means traveling to the shop in Intervale to get measured! In August 2020. Well, darn, of course it would have to be right at the height of the start of the pandemic. But I had one year to get there before I would be again placed at the back of the line.

Thankfully in 2021 vaccines came around and I was able to get my initial regimen. Summer was a nice lull in the virus, so I booked my trip in July to get to Intervale with one month to spare. What a beautiful area of New Hampshire right there with the White Mountains. The Limmer shop itself was wonderful; generations of the family were all hanging out, the smell of leather in the air, rows of boots in progress of their leather being molded and adapting. I got measured and also dropped off my old factory pair to get resoled. So now it was going to be a while before I could even think of getting back out with a heavy pack.

At the end of October of that year my custom boots arrived and fit wonderfully. So now it was time to break them in, but with all the wildfires and overrun parks and winter coming, it wasn't a great time to get out on the trail. And my factory boots came in with brand new soles. Since those were already broken in I wound up just going to them for short day hikes and occassionally walking around the house in the customs. Well, recently I got a nice note from Adam, the cordwainer who made my custom boots, hoping they were working out well and that they were broken in. So that helped kick me back onto the trail...

I must say that on the trail the custom boots are absolutely wonderful. Although they are a great fit they still feel nice and roomy, not a single overly tight point pinching or anything at all, just great support so much so that they feel nice and roomy. Stable as anything. The comfort on the trail compared even to my broken in factory pair is like night and day. Now I definitely have motivation to get back out on the trail and get them nice and broken in. I still need a little moleskin at areas and it&ll take a year or two for them to really settle in, but after this short first trail with them I think I&ll just need to help them, and me, get up to speed again!


Way back when I first got an Apple Watch, I was looking around for various apps that really took advantage of it and fell in love with a GPS app called ViewRanger. While I had a Garmin epix watch, the screen was so small that realistically it was more of a compass and a very, very localized display. ViewRanger was great. Full access to USGS topo maps, a nice big display on the iPhone, record workouts for a newfound fitnerss nut, and best of all it could show statistics and even maps on the Apple Watch so I could leave my phone in my pack!

Unfortunately in January this year as I was going through some updates, I saw the bad news...ViewRanger was being discontinued! It had been bought by another company and all of the online services and maps were being discontinued. That was the final nail; I had to upgrade off of my favorite iOS 10. The new company and app was Outdooractive. They still had Apple Watch support, could import all of the tracks nad statistics from the old ViewRanger servers and, thankfully, also provided access to the lifetime subscription maps that were purchased previously.

Still, it was something new and took some time to set up. It seemed to work OK in the local parks around my house, but of course here there&s cellphone service. Would it work in the bush like ViewRanger did?

After going through the website to learn how to choose new maps and download them (too bad it didn&t import my old set of cached offline maps) I was able to get the downloaded USGS topos of the La Jolla trail to the campground. I got to the trailhead and put my phone and watch in airplane mode, and Outdooractive picked up that I was in a location that had a downloaded map and didn&t even need to choose it specifically! It worked out quite nicely and the zoom display on the watch was quite welcome, especially when tromping uphill to see where the next flat section would come. I must say that it seems like a nice replacement.

Garmin inReach

Well, a bit of history here...after a bit of a heatstroke scare in the backcountry I finally started thinking about getting a satellite phone. Back in the day I priced things out and a nice TerreStar subscription would cost just the same as my old Verizon copper land line per month! The Genus phone was wonderful technology and still hasn&t been matched to this day, in my opinion. It was a single phone number and could switch between a 3G cell network and satellite, maintaining calls, text and voicemail seamlessly across both. Running Windows Mobile 6 it was a full smartphone able to get e-mail from any server and a full Opera web browser that was perfect for getting to NOAA forecasts in the backcountry or seeing if that really was a bad thunderstorm just on the horizon. Unfortunately, TerreStar went bankrupt, was purchased by Dish Network who soon shut down the service of the best communication device made to date.

When the service was shut down they offered a free Globalstar phone as a replacement. I picked it up, but again it was just a phone and had none of the smarts or shared phone number or anything. But it was still fairly inexpensive. It has sometimes spotty coverage, but at least it had a data service known as Sat-Fi that would make a WiFi hotspot you could use with an iPhone app to send and receive e-mail. I was carrying my iPhone for GPS anyway, so it worked out and was more reliable to write something and just send/receive at any spot where there was coverage.

The Globalstar service kept getting more and more expensive and, then, after I renewed my contract last year and was getting ready to go out, suddenly I found that Sat-Fi wasn≈t connecting. The company had just discontinued it in March without sending a notice to any of their customers! Had I known that I never would have renewed; now the phone (which they no longer even manufactured) was just that...a spotty phone.

After some research I settled on a Garmin inReach mini 2. The inReach system checked off many of the boxes that I really wanted. It is on the Iridium network which is more reliable and has much better coverage. Though it kind of requires a phone for really full functionality, I carry one anyway and you can still get by a little without it. There is e-mail and text support. A nice feature unlike the Globalstar phone is that it also has a nice SOS button. The service is much less expensive too.

The maps were a nice unexpected side to it which I did not find out about until I really was checking it out on the trail. Having been a Garmin customer for a while, I suspected like their older devices they would be charging for maps as I had paid them a lot of money for topos over the years. However, the phone app downloaded the maps automatically. The inReach tracked the GPS signal and, when I opened the phone app in offline mode to tes out texting on the trail, it popped up a topo showing where I was any my track! A nice little feature to have. It's not as high resolution as Outdooractive but certainly is an unexpected and very welcome feature. I was even able to download maps for Canada to prepare. A very nifty little device and a very welcome and recommended gear change.

Sony 135mm STF Lens

OK, while not necessarily hiking gear, this was a new lens that I got and wanted to test it out on the trail. When getting into photography I adopted a vintage Minolta film system. Many of the lenses quickly turned into my favorites and some were really unique to Minolta. One of those was the 85mm Varisoft lens. With variable soft focus it produced some very nice and interesting pictures, particularly for taking &qout;portraits" of things like flowers, rocks and trees that could pop against their background or sometimes even seem to have a glow. Once Kodachrome was discontinued and E200 also was discontinued, I changed over to digital. Sony had purchased the Minolta camera assets and there were adapter mounts for the old Minolta lenses, but I have only used them very infrequently.

Although I have a nice set of high quality lenses, I still missed having something like the Varisoft. Looking online and seeing that the alpha mount was becoming essentially obsolete, I went ahead and ordered an STF lens. The Sony 135mm STF is the spiritual successor to the Varisoft and also seems to be similarly unique. It took a long time to come back in stock so they may not make many. When not in the transition focus mode it might even make a reasonable prime lens in aperture mode. It will definitely take practice to get proficient with this lens, but hopefully it will make some unique pictures.

The Photographs

Not too many pictures this trip as it was more gear testing and short.

Picutres were from the a900 system primarily with the 24-70 lens but also with a few tries using the 135 STF, 100 Macro, a couple 16-33 and an old circular fisheye whose manufacturer I've forgotten.

Click "Next" in the upper right to begin.