Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reviews (Equipment, Supplies, Companies) (updated 5/30/17)

(updated 28 May 2017)

My Spot Device has gone on 50 kayaking trips and all hiking trips. 
It will make the 820 mile hike with me as well. Worn like me, but still working.

I am adding a new tab to the top of my Blog where I will be posting reviews of the equipment, supplies and companies I have done (or am doing) business with in hopes it will help others make good choices in the future.
I will be listing reviews by others as well as my own experiences.

1) Outdoor Spirit, Outdoor (avoid this company altogether)


Shoes - Hoka-Mafata - ONE-ONE - REI  (review in progress)

Power Bank made in China, sold by Outdoor Spirit.   DO NOT buy this product. 
I found what appears to be the same product on Amazon called Solar Charger, X-DRAGON Portable 10000mAh Dual USB Battery Charger Power Bank (on left) one I bought from Outdoor Spirit on right).
Here is one review I took off Amazon: 
1.0 out of 5 starsUseless...
BySeanna Quanon March 11, 2017
You have to plug it in to charge it, and then you have to place it in the sunlight to fully charge the solar part of it. Once you do that you can use it. If you plug it up on your phone and it dies, you have to complete the process all over again. I don't know how many times I thought it was charged, and it was not. Plus the clip on the back broke really fast...
I concur with Seanna and most Amazon reviews say the same thing.  You can look up Solar Charger, X-DRAGON Portable 10000mAh on Amazon and read them for yourself.
Outdoor Spirit marketed as being used for backpacking but the clip on the back of the device will not hold the product on a backpack.  It would not even stay on with my figure going gentle under the clip.  And laying in full sun all day, it did not send a charge to my cell phone.
Outdoor Spirit also has a video on their Facebook page with shows how it all works, but they do  not point out this clip on the back… and make it look like you can fasten this to your backpack securely.  You can not.
When I contacted Outdoor Spirit for a return authorization and full refund they denied me saying I to prove it was broken first.  It is NOT broken, just poorly designed and falsely advertised.  I informed the company I would not buy anything more from them and would advise all my Blog and Facebook followers to do the same.  Yet, they continue send me annoying emails trying to give me discounts on more of their junk.
Also, instructions that come with the device are pretty useless. Here they are.  You can see from the penny used for scale, how very small it is. 
Since I can not return it or get a refund, I am trying to peel the Outdoor Spirit label which covers up the entire back of the package to see what information is there.  The label is such that it is design to come apart if someone tampers with it.  I will update what I find.

 I finally got the label peeled off... and the translation is so poor (from Chinese) that I can not even understand what they were trying to say.  Do you?

And here are the specs they had covered up with their big label.   Why would you cover the specs up???

(posted 5/26/17 and updated 5/30/17)

Backpack - REI - Venus (review in progress)

 SPOT-Device (review in progress)

This is a first generation device and still works.  I wrote SPOT to ask how new one differ and got this response on 5/30/17:

Extreme tracking has all of the same features as basic tracking but allows you to vary your track rate down to every 2 1/2 minutes where as basic allows tracking intervals of 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. The device that you have in the photo is the first generation of SPOT satellite GPS Messenger. It is no longer manufactured but is still supported by SPOT. Can we help with anything else? Thanks, The SPOT Team


Arizona Trail Guide - written from South to Northbound.  I am going to suggest that a North to Southbound book be written, as some folks like me, have trouble reversing the directions.  You not only have to reverse each paragraph in each chapter, you have to reverse each sentence in each paragraph.  I get easily confused trying to do that and although I would rather hike North to South, I will have to stick to South to Northbound to keep from getting confused or lost.  I am sure I am not the only person on earth to have such a problem.

(this review is in progress 5/30/17)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Return to the Water–Kayaking the Colorado River. (edited 5/25)


Oh, my, returning to the water is a marvelous thing. I was immediately greeted by this duck couple at Willow Beach Marina. Lots of families hang out here and feed them so they expected me to also.  Willow Beach was nice and a small cove off to the right was suggested by a kayak river guide as a good place for a beginner’s  first lesson/experience. A little tame for me, be nice without a lot of people that day.


Leaving Willow Beach, I paddled upriver toward Hoover Dam. It was windy that day, and being my first day back on the water in months, I didn't want to do too much and it was already after 3pm. If it is windy, the weight of the kayak cart helps hold the front of the kayak down, otherwise, it slaps against each wave, making a very annoying sound.  My brother had described (or tried to) these giant vessels... but I could not imagine – they are motorized rafts. There were maybe a dozen of them here in the Willow Beach Harbor. No people.


Also saw some Stand Up Paddle boarders.  I like that sign. Even so, there was a boat heading out of the Harbor a little too fast. I guess south of the Harbor, they are allowed.


Lots of these little Black-Throated Grebes around, with bright red eyes.  I had never seen one before.  The photo below is one I borrowed from the internet.  Wouldn’t that be something to see – with the baby on board???



Finally caught up with Bev again in Kingman and we went exploring for water nearby where she could have her Maiden Voyage of her brand new kayak. Water was difficult to get to, but we enjoyed exploring desert life along the way. A baby barrel cactus we spotted and there were many in the area… some very large.


Made it all the way down this long road and steep hill to the water's edge at Cottonwood Cove/Arizona Cove, only to find few places to park and a lot of people taking up those few campsites. There was about a six foot drop-off to the water, and no way to safely launch boats there. We kept exploring. Before leaving, Bev Schindler Wooley, just had to dip her toes in the Colorado River. Probably about 60 degrees or so.


Oh, wait, what’s that???? Wild burrows. There was another one off camera to the left. Cool. On the right is Cottonwood Road coming off Highway 93 north of Kingman.  It was the road we had to go down to get to that water probably a drop of about 2,000 ft. in only a few minutes. Way too steep for me to take my van and trailer down and back up again. Linda May had camped down there somewhere, but I could not risk it in my rig. Bev Schindler Wooley had a little trouble getting her 4-wheel drive truck back up it, without a load. We stopped near the top for photos and went on to Topock Marsh.


Bev and I experimented around with loading both kayaks on top of her truck and finally worked it out.  Her’s is the smaller dark boat, and that rack is difficult for one person to load a kayak on alone. 

Photos by Bev Wooley.


Almost sunset and some great photo ops. Finally we made it to the Topock Marsh which is one of the larger bird watching sites found in the Lower Colorado River Valley, located south of Hoover Dam in the Colorado River Delta in Mohave County, Arizona. Still water and a great spot for Lesson #1. Bev Schindler Wooley

Two photos above by Bev Wooley.  My favorite place, Swankie at home in the Toolies.


I sure do like the water, even this murky still water. We did not see a lot of birds, but heard them. Mostly Red-Winged Blackbirds. I got a little video footage I tried to load, but FB and Blogger do not like the format. I will try to figure out how to load it here.


Lesson #2 of kayaking for Bev Schindler Wooley, launching from Willow Beach, AZ, just south of Hoover Dam. There she goes... she is off on her first real kayaking adventure. I am proud to have been a part of this experience. Wonderful to find someone who appreciates this type of activity to the same degree I do.  Along the way we saw a marker on the river for an Historic site, so we came ashore to go check it out. A short walk up the hill and we were there.

Taken from a National Park Service site:

From artifacts found along the Colorado River, Willow Beach might have been a prehistoric trading center. The Basket maker Indians from Lost City started camping at Willow Beach around 250 B.C. For a while, only the Amargosa people, from the areas to the west, came. Possibly by 750 A.D., the late Basket maker people were visiting the area again. Sea shells, steatite, and asphaltum from the Pacific Coast were traded for salt, pottery, textiles and other items from the interior. After 1150 A.D., the Shoshoneans mainly camped at Willow Beach.


Take Out Point to Hike Up to Historic Site


On top the hill we found a plaque saying this was a River Gauge Station, and the Gauge Masters house and garage. Neat.

Photos by Bev Wooley.

He had a cable that went across the river and several times a day he would have to pull himself out over the middle of the river and check the height/depth of the water.  OK, sight-seeing done, we are headed to that gap. Bev Schindler Wooley had set that as her goal for the day.


Another duck. Probably has a nesting female on shore in those bushes.  On the right was an rock overhang, maybe a cave? A whole group of kayakers on a tour had stopped in the shade there for lunch.


We rested a bit in this shade of this very tall rock wall. Bev Schindler Wooley in front of me.  Such interesting rock formations and very clear water.

Photo of me (white hat) by Bev Wooley.


While I was enjoying taking photos this motorized touring raft went zipping by... and the wake almost caught me off guard. I was not even watching Bev Schindler Wooley as she handled her first experience with a large wake... she did it like a pro. She's a natural.  We made it to the Willow Beach Gauging Station.  We were told some goats should be right past it.


The last motorized Colorado River raft was empty, but this one was packed. A guide was giving a talk and I tried to get close enough to hear, but could not make much out.  But the folks on board were having fun. No life jackets. I found that curious. Kayaking guide had told me north of Willow Beach you could get a ticket for not wearing one. Guess that doesn't apply to people who pay to be on the water.


Bev Schindler Wooley going past the Gauge Station. Yes, that is a big wall of rock. 


And there they are. At least four goats in this photo if you can find them. One is in the center on top of the big rock.


Bev Schindler Wooley was like a kid in a candy store... she said she had accomplished all she hoped to for the day. Still in search of the Big Horned Sheep though. 

Photos by Bev Wooley.

On the way back, I did a bit of kayak spelunking.


One of the goats come down to drink until a thoughtless kayaker got too close and scared it away. We are not suppose to disturb wildlife or interrupt what they are doing and where they are going. Getting a drink of water in the desert is key to survival.  On the right, we are heading back south again.


But first we had to check out Emerald Cave or Cove.  Really wasn't very big inside, I am up against the back wall, Bev Schindler Wooley was just inside a bit but I like the way the light was turning the water Emerald all around her.  Lots of photos on line taken at this same location.

Photos by Bev Wooley.


Now, I am brave, but would not walk on that overhanging walkway. Nope. Not in this lifetime.  But the walkway was fascinating and some Barrel cactus were hanging off the side of the mountain. Bev Schindler Wooley had to get a photo of them.


As we got back near our take out point, we saw this mama with six babies.

I can’t really express how very much I enjoyed being back on the water again.  I had been told the paddle from base of Hoover Dam to Willow Beach was about 12 miles and an easy paddle.  I was concerned the current might be too strong for a beginner, but now I wish we had taken that route.  Arizona Hot Springs is inside a cave, on the River, at about mile marker 3.  I would like to have gone there.  We might have to do this next week.  Here is what one blogger posted about the hot springs.

Now preparing my gear list for the Arizona Trail Hike and hope to begin it a little later this summer when I have everything all together.  Also working on the logistics of where to leave the trailer, where to park the van (hoping for maybe six key locations along the route), and where to resupply or send mail drops.  Once I have all that, I will post specifics in case anyone can help with out with gear or ground support.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.