In September, I attended the Water Education Summit in Asheville, NC. The Summit is a gathering of water resources professionals from across the southeastern USA. This was my second year attending and I grow to love this conference more every time I do! The Summit is held in a different southeastern state every year and this year was in Asheville, North Carolina; last year, 2013, was in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga and Asheville have something in common besides complex water resource issues though; a passion for local food and sustainable growth management. I really loved Asheville; I'm surprised I've never visited before!
The summit featured a wonderful poster session and some truly inspiring speakers but my favorite part was the abstract sessions. Abstract sessions, in case you don't know what I'm talking about, are sort of like speed dating for ideas and programming. You shuffle between topic-focused rooms to catch 10-15 minutes presentations which summarize an event, program, or idea from another organization or educator. The Water Education Summit featured several interesting topics but my favorite presentation came out of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and featured, "Innovative Stormwater Floating Islands as Wetland Plant Nurseries." The basic idea being that we can create small floating gardens for wetland species and get the benefit of new plants and nutrient reduction. These plants, at the end of the season, can be given away to residents who are interested in re-vegetating their lakefront or wetland area.
The crown jewel of the field day (day 2) was a tour of the new Sierra Nevada Brewery complex just outside of the Asheville Regional airport. The brewery really was impressive and smelled amazing due to the brewing process.
In addition to being sustainable brewers, Sierra Nevada captures all the rainfall that lands on the Asheville structure and stores it underground in a massive cistern for use in the complex's toilets. There aren't many employees to use all that water but soon they are opening a brewery restaurant and a gift shop for the public. At which point, I imagine the rainfall collection will go a long way to reducing their use of potable water and thereby, reducing their impact on the water resources around them.
One of my favorite parts of the Water Education Summit is that evenings are to yourself; giving you at least two evenings to explore the city in which the Summit is hosted. Both Chattanooga and Asheville are fantastic cities with loads of personality and flare. In Asheville, I was astounded at the number of small craft breweries found in downtown and overwhelmed by the number of highly rated restaurants within walking distance. As an occasional home-brewer, it was incredibly interesting to see the culture of micro-breweries sprinkled all over town. Some are open only two nights a week and feature a handful of micro-batches while others are open 7 days a week and have full dinner service.
In my post, "Preparing for my Return to Philmont" I promised a gear review upon my return. I purchased a lot of new gear to prepare for a week in the woods, and boy am I glad I did! Some of it, I wouldn't have enjoyed the program without; while other things, I could have left behind. Before flying to Philmont via Colorado, I purchased: a Colombia fleece, Columbia hiking shorts, a Leatherman multi-tool, an Osprey pack raincover, an Osprey travel duffle, and new dry bags.
This was the first time I've bought new backpacking gear since my last trip to Philmont in 2006. Why? Because I was in college and gear is expensive.
Besides, I had gear that worked... well, it worked well enough. Since this was the start of a new chapter in my camping and backpacking life, I wanted to start off with great new equipment. I am so glad I did. I also purchased some new Merrell hiking boots. After a few more miles, I'll post a review of those too.
Columbia Women's Trek II Full-Zip Fleece:
This fleece was a steal for me! I happen to love bright colors and the Fuchsia, shown to the right, was $20 less than the other colors. If you don't love pink don't worry, there were at least ten other colors available including black and white.
I love this fleece because it fit true to size, stayed relatively clean looking through 10 days of wear without washing, and resisted starting to smell. Oh yea, it was incredibly warm too! The collar and sleeves are both long enough to be cozy and warm without being in the way or uncomfortable. I really liked the zip pockets, they kept my essentials safe and didn't get in the way. The upper arm small zip pocket was a nice surprise. I didn't expect to like it but it was a great place to keep chapstick.
Columbia Saturday Trail Shorts:
These shorts fit the bill for hiking and longer camping trips, if you ask me! I have struggled for years, not kidding, to find suitable hiking shorts. These fit well, are true to size, and are extremely comfortable for long wear. Lightweight, quick to dry, and comfortably long so they don't 'ride up' when hiking. Like the Columbia Fleece (above), these shorts resisted smell and dirt for several days without washing. These are a must have for my next three day hike.
Osprey Airporter LZ Duffle:
Anyone who has flown with their pack knows you need a great duffle with a removable strap to protect your gear. If you're flying somewhere you plan to take public transportation to the trailhead, you need one that is also lightweight and compactable. This airport duffle does the trick. It compacts to a very small size into a built in pocket, has a removable cross-body shoulder strap which hides in the same pocket, and the zipper is conveniently placed to aid in putting a full pack into the bag. That said, this duffle isn't perfect. I found the strap way too large for my petite frame as I lugged it across the Denver airport and the duffle was slightly too tall and thin for my full pack. The former was much more trouble than the latter as I can fix the pack dimensions by repacking. Had I tested this at the house and not the airport, it would have been an easy fix. If you are taller than 5'2" the shoulder strap likely will not be an issue for you.
Osprey UL Raincover:
I am very pleased with this raincover! It is easy to put on in a hurry, has elastic that you can attach via snap in the middle of your pack (under your back), is lightweight, and compacts well. My only wish is that it came in a bright color. The dark grey is attractive and the Osprey logo is reflective; however, I find it is safer to hike in wilderness areas with Blaze Orange or similarly bright color. In case you are interested, the "Medium" fit my Osprey Women's Ariel 65 with some room for clip on gear.
Leatherman Sidekick Multitool:
I love this Multitool. As a petite lady with small hands, this tool is perfect for any situation I may face on the trail. The edges are rounded, making clamping down on something much more comfortable than the squared ones, the knife and saw are accessible without opening the multitool and lock in place, and the tool features spring-assist pliers. My only wishes are for a scissor and a corkscrew. Both of which are available on larger multitools that I wouldn't likely carry.
Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack:
I am moderately pleased with these dry bags. I purchased them partly as gear dividers for in my pack and partially as insurance that my cell phone, underwear, and socks would stay dry no matter what conditions I encountered. I am not confident that my gear will stay dry in these but for most rain events, they should work fine. They were inexpensive; you get what you pay for.
All of these items were purchased online at various retailers, with no compensation for my review.
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