GSI Pack Grater for Camping

Each year a group of friends heads out for a week of hiking and camping.

Each year they compare gear.  And consider adding something NEW to their kit.

In 2020 I was very impressed with Karen’s GSI Pack Grater.  Less than $10.

Very lightweight and compact, it did a terrific job grating cheese for our traditional Trail Quesadillas.

We typically make the Rockin’ Ronnie Shewchuk version including fresh apple and Rosemary.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I’m purchasing a GSI Pack Grater for myself.

Ursack Quick Release Knot

I recall being reluctant to buy an Ursack to protect my food from bears and other critters — but finally got one in 2011.

This was the first time I used it, on the Howe Sound Crest Trail out of Vancouver.


I was won over instantly.

Though I own two Bear Vaults, I always carry the Ursack instead if it’s allowed where I’m hiking.

It’s much less bulky.

Though my old white one is going strong, Ursack has newer models in black . And a quicker way of tying the bag to the tree.

Ursack AllMitey bear bag

I’ll probably get the larger capacity URSACK MAJOR XL when I eventually have to replace my old white one.

On my recent cycling / hiking trip through Vancouver Island I tented 6 nights.

There are PLENTY of black bears. I’d never seen so much scat anywhere as on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, for example.

You absolutely MUST PROTECT YOUR SMELLIES in this part of the world.

For the first time I used the new recommended quick release knot to attach the Ursack to a tree.  It is a big improvement.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Southern Sierra High Route

Pie on the Trail:

The Southern Sierra High Route (SSHR) was developed by Alan Dixon and Don Wilson in 2014.

It is 100 miles long and the majority is off-trail travel mixed with sections on the JMT. Elevation loss and gain are high and the going is hard.

2019 Backpacking Trip Report

Blake Bole’s 2019 trip report was posted in rhyming verse!

Vidette Meadow

Hiking this route requires a wilderness permit from Inyo National Forest.

Bear canister(s) required. There are no easy re-supply points. Snow is an issue some years.

Khopra Ridge trek, Nepal – day 6

Naya Pul to Ghandruk trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles. 

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Nov 5, 2019 – Tadapani to Ghandruk 

The end of the Khopra Ridge trek (according to Lonely Planet) is Tadapani

Unexpected rain resulted in a power failure for most of the night.

For trekkers that means Kindle light dinner.

Did you see what I did there? 😀

As usual on this trip, next morning skies were clear.

Annapurna South

This has been the best vista so far of my favourite peak – Machapuchare.


After evening rain, the village was washed clean.

Lodges in Nepal are very similar. There’s not much difference between yours and HOTEL MAGNIFICENT.

From Tadapani it’s easy to get back to Pokhara in a day. But I decided, instead, to spend one more mountain night in Ghandruk, a  Gurung village, famed starting point for many treks.

Ghandruk was only a couple of hours downhill stroll. A very easy day for me.

Lonely Planet recommended Hotel Trekkers Inn in Ghandruk which had won many hospitality awards over the years. It’s good, but not much different than any other IMHO.

As prices are fixed at all lodges in each village, they try to match each other in features, as well.

Hotel Trekkers Inn did have good food including some menu items I’d not seen anywhere else. I tried the Moussaka … tasty, but unrelated in any way to Moussaka.

And also the local smoked, dried, spiced meat called sukuti,

In the restaurant I met a young American who will be volunteer teaching at the largest school in the area. She’ll be living at Hotel Trekkers Inn for the next 2 months.

We both met a Brit who’s an old Nepal hand. This trip he’s come to photograph the Kulung’ honey hunters‘, men who climb bamboo rope ladders to harvest the world’s largest bees. An interesting man.

Pro tip – bring a tiny luggage lock for your room. What they provide are bulky and awkward.

The Khopra Ridge Trek I just finished is excellent.

In fact, Nepal needs more like it. And there is plenty of opportunity to develop more trails in higher, less developed spurs of the Annapurna massif.

Widely circulated in local lodges is this 2014 article by Donatella Lorch who lives in Kathmandu:

… The tea-houses and lodges are packed. Hikers have to share the stone steps with Nepal tourism’s unsung heroes: the unending series of mule convoys, loaded down with everything from water and food to cooking propane, kerosene, mattresses, stones and bags of cement to feed the mountain region’s lodge construction boom. …

ACAP faces socio-economic, ecological and political challenges. New roads have jeeps and trucks competing with trekkers and brings with it increased risk of landslides. There is little variety as the vast majority of trekkers stick to a small number of routes that are at times crowded walking highways …

Many trekkers along the route are willing to pay more for a more Nepali experience, and were in search of less crowded trails. …

Value-added hiking

Nepal’s trekking is at a cross-road, in need of a quality upgrade
It’s nice to wander Ghandruk’s narrow old stone trails.
But that experience is being lost in the clutter of new construction and added solar water heaters.
Ghandruk 2019

Next morning — day 7 —dawned, as usual, clear. I never tire of looking at these peaks.

Annapurna South from Ghandruk
Fishtail from Ghandruk

I saw my first monkeys of this trip. Always entertaining.

Gray Langur

As the bus stand below town looked good, I decided to take a chance on the local bus to get back to Pokhara.

Yeesh. Getting to and from trailheads in the Himalaya is by far the most dangerous part of trekking.

Looking down from the bus window

The only good news about this ride was the cost — $5 for 5 hours of very rough going.

Back in Pokhara, I took a couple of showers. Then headed for Utopia for Chicken Sizzler.

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

related – Click PLAY or watch another trip on YouTube.  (30min)

Khopra Ridge trek, Nepal – day 3

Naya Pul to Ghandruk trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles. 

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Nov 2, 2019 – Ghorepani to Dhan Kharka

I set an early alarm. BUT everyone in my lodge had already headed up to Poon Hill before I awoke.

Not having people to follow, I used trusty offline to find the trail.

It takes about an hour from Ghorepani (2870m) to climb to the famous Poon Hill viewpoint (3210m).

Though I’d heard plenty of complaints about the crowds, I really enjoyed dawn looking over at Dhalagiri and Annapurna.

An ideal time to use my PeakFinder app: Dhaulagiri I (8167m), Tukuche (6920m), Nilgiri (6940m), Annapurna South, Annapurna I (8091m), Hiunchuli (6441m) and Tarke Kang (formerly known as Glacier Dome; 7193m). And Fishtail, of course.

The Pokhara – Jomson planes zipped past frequently.

One of the last to arrive, I was also one of the last to leave.

My $4 room in Ghorepani had a million dollar view.

After climbing all the way UP to Ghorepani yesterday, I now dropped 900m to the Ghar Khola river. It was fast and enjoyable to descend instead of climbing. The non-motorized trail stays far away from new road building.

And Interesting seeing where the farms were at with winter coming.

Many are trying to encourage farmers to switch to petrotoxin fuels. But everywhere I looked, families and lodges were using free firewood, instead.

Up to Ghorepani the buildings all had blue corrugated iron roofs. Here they have more stone houses, many retaining traditional rock-slab shingles.

After crossing the Ghar Khola it was UP again to Swanta (2270m).

Lonely Planet:

The increasing popularity of Khopra Ridge is evident here with the number of new lodges recently built or under construction.

Swanta is the prettiest village so far. Super clean.

But I carried on up the mountain on a narrow path through bamboo forrest.

I was hungry by the time I reached Evergreen Rest Cottage (2540m) for lunch.

Egg noodle soup is my regular lunch feed.

The restaurant is in an isolated, lovely spot close to waterfall, hydroelectric and lumber cutting yard.

I reached Dhan Kharka (3020m) by about 3:30pm. Happy to stop, I lay down for siesta.

Though Ghoripani had no mobile phone reception for my network, Dhan Kharka did — IF I walked out to a rocky point away from the lodge. I was able to post some things online celebrating my 62nd birthday — November 2nd.

62 birthday

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Ursack AllMitey bear bag

I use an Ursack on every overnight trip — except where a Bear Vault is required.

In fact I have two Ursacks and have carried both on longer trips for greater capacity.

Next time I need to replace one of those I’ll go with the best of their product line, the Ursack AllMitey.

  • 10.6 liters
  • Spectra (ballistic polyethylene), Kevlar
  • 13 ounces

Ursack recommends using an odour-barrier bag as a liner (sold separately).


Click PLAY or watch it in action on YouTube.

Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 6

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Another fantastic campsite. Great weather again.

Here are views looking up from my tent.


I’d been steadily descending from the snowy heights. Vegetation now changing rapidly.

My only health worry was hot foot. Would I get blisters?

Just in case I took off the shoes every hour or two.

I’ve used the same pack for many a year – the super light frameless Granite Gear Virga 2.

The similar Granite Gear Crown2 is the 5th most popular on the PCT. My next pack will be a Hyperlite, the 3rd most popular. It’s heavier but near waterproof. And more durable, I reckon.


Here’s one of the main reason people buy the Guthook app — to find off-trail water in the desert.

Though I treated this pipe water, it did look and smell great in April.

Water is scarce. Researchers use watering holes to check on the health of mammals in the area.

Successful in the desert are birds, snakes and lizards.

Down, down.

Into the trees.

Here’s where PCT hikers often get their water. GIFTS from Trail Angels.

I finally reached the first road. Would the mini-resupply I’d hung in a tree still be there?


I had enough food for the final 40 miles to Warner Springs. Yet I diverted one mile down the highway to famed Paradise Cafe.

My camp fuel was running low. I didn’t think I could make it two more days.

Unfortunately Paradise does not sell camp fuel. I returned to the trail hoping my Jetboil Flash would run on fumes.

Back on the PCT, I made it another couple of miles.

It looked like wind and rain so I set up my broken tent high enough in the wash to avoid flash flood.

As I feared, my stove fuel ran out before I could boil water for dinner. 😞

___ day 7

Weather forecast for today was for rain and very big winds. Not good.

I started south. Stopped. Then turned around and headed back towards Paradise.

Skipping the next 40 miles meant missing most of the desert wildflower bloom. Too bad.

Three reasons for quitting on my intended route:

  • broken tent
  • no stove fuel
  • weather forecast

The restaurant was packed. As usual.

I ended up seated with a tourist couple from Philly. As they were headed for Palm Springs I offered to pay for breakfast in exchange for a lift to town.

My PCT week was over. After breakfast.

Despite glitches — I really enjoyed hiking southbound on the PCT during peak season. The highlight was seeing hundreds and speaking with dozens of normal people whom — for one reason or another — wanted to try to hike from Mexico to Canada.

They are inspiring.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

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