Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finally: Hiking Billy Goat A And The $0.38 Game Changing Piece of Gear

It took us 16 years, but we finally did it: hiked Billy Goat Trail, Section A. This is one of DC's most treasured hikes, and after doing it yesterday morning, I can fully appreciate why. The views are stunning and the rock scrambling is just challenging enough to be fun.

So what took us 16 years to do this bad boy? Well, we've been busy. And there are so many other hikes in the area. Also, it's typically super crowded; Shira tells me that one of her friends is going with a 140+ person Church event. Yikes, that will be wall to wall people. But mostly we didn't do the hike because I was scared to. I've got a pretty healthy fear of heights, and when I hear phrases like climbing a 50ft traverse palms get all sweaty and I start looking for other hikes to tackle.

In the end, the same strategy that I used for tackling Old Rag worked on Billy Goat A: I listened to my brother David. He told me ahead of time that I'd have no problem with the hike; and throughout the hike I replayed his advice. And it turns out, the 50ft traverse looks worse than it is.

We started the hike in cold, foggy conditions at around 7am. And our reward was to have the trail all to ourselves. By about half way, we started seeing people, and by the end of the trail, the evidence of just how busy the trail could be was showing. I'm really glad we started when we did.

Here's a few photos that give a sense of what the day started like:

Of course, lots more photos below.

This is my second hike using my new favorite piece of trail gear: Nitrile dipped work gloves. I was inspired to try these gloves by AlfieAesthetics, who wears a similar pair in all his YouTube videos. I bought them so I could do this:

That is, pick up random objects on the trail without making a mess (or poisoning myself). And they serve that function well. But on our last backpacking trip they proved they can do so much more. They made fire prep much easier, allowing me to fearlessly gather wood and debris. And while they aren't heat resistant, they allowed me a few seconds of handling really hot items that I wouldn't normally get.

On the Billy Goat Trail, they saved my hands from all the rock scrambling, and the rubberized surface gave me a bit of extra grip. Heck, they're nice for allowing you to reach out and move a branch without worrying about whether or not it has prickers. This particular style of glove works with smartphones, so I can snap photos without taking them off. The gloves are lightweight with a breathable back, so they're wearable in the heat.

And the best part: they're dirt cheap. On Amazon, I paid $9.77 for 3 pairs. They had essentially the same model at Cost Co. for the ridiculous price of ~$4.50 for 12 pairs. They are technically disposable, though after the Billy Goat hike the pair I brought looked good as new. I found the Amazon version was slightly smaller, which gave me more dexterity.

These days it's not often a gear purchase is a game changer, especially one that cost $0.38. But these gloves really do change how you can experience the outdoors. Definitely worth a try.

I picked up this version for Shira, which is the same style glove but in girly gardening colors. She used them on the trail yesterday and she thought they were a win for dealing with all the rocks, too.

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