Outside with Charlie: Gear inspection time

By From page B3 | April 26, 2011


Spring break is over, the days are longer, the storms aren’t quite as cold and it rains more than it snows. Spring has sprung, mostly.

Spring is very different from one end of El Dorado County to the other. Flowers and trees are in full bloom on the western edge; fewer flowers are blooming and the trees are just beginning to show leaves on the eastern side.

There’s still a large snow pack in the high country — there will probably be snow in some areas all year until it starts falling again this autumn.

Some ski resorts will stay open until Memorial Day. For bragging rights, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley will offer some skiing as long as they can, perhaps into mid-June or longer.

Back country ski touring and telemark skiers will have quite an extended season. Since there are no lifts to operate, runs to groom or employees to pay, cross country enthusiasts have as much territory to ski as the snow allows.

We have seen skiers on the high, back end of Forestdale Creek Road, off  Highway 88, in early July. It’s not epic skiing, but it’s skiing. It has been a fantastic season for skiers, boarders and snowshoers.

Early spring is a nice time to be out and about. Depending on where you go, you should still take tire chains, warm clothing and rain gear. The hallmark of spring around here is changeable weather.

This is a good time to prepare your gear for next ski season. Clean and wax your skis, clean your poles, boots, snowshoes and helmet. They need a rest.

Inventory your hiking gear. Check the soles of your boots and shoes for worn tread. It may be time to look for new ones, or good, serviceable used ones. Make sure the shoe laces are strong and not fraying.

Is your wet weather gear still waterproof? Patch small holes, check the zippers, drawstrings and Velcro closures. If everything works, keep it. If you need new, there is always newer and better gear waiting for you and your wallet to show up.

Is your pack still serviceable? Is your first aid stash up to date? Replace anything with an expired date. Ropes you carry deserve a good look. Frayed ropes are unsafe, even for very simple tasks. Extend and test your hiking poles.

Check over canoes and kayaks if you are headed to lakes or rivers. Clean out the bugs, spiders and leftover sand from your last trip. Make sure your personal flotation device (life jacket) fits and is in one piece.

If it’s really old, it should be replaced with a better one. It’s one piece of equipment that really needs to work well when the time comes. Since you never know when that will be, make certain it will function properly.

Thoroughly inspect canoe and kayak paddles and repair any cracks. If that’s not possible, replace them. Broken paddles can ruin a day on the water.

For tent campers, now is the time set it up and check it — just because you thought it was in good shape when you put it away last October doesn’t mean it is. Find out now what needs fixing.

The outdoor season in El Dorado County is year round. There is much to do right now, especially at the lower elevations. But do check out your gear. You’ll have a better time when you do go out if everything is in good shape.

Charlie Ferris

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