It was time.
The Camelbak Blowfish hydration pack that I have taken with me nearly every time I threw a leg over a mountain bike for the past 8 years is dead. The Blowfish was laid to rest in a stainless steel cylindrical garbage can at approximately 1:30pm yesterday afternoon. It awaits final internment Friday morning. The ushers expected in attendance are the fine men of Allied Waste Management.
The Blowfish was a great pack. Compact enough to snugly store the essentials one needs for a short local ride, but easily expandable with the capacity to swallow a rain jacket, first-aid kit, and extra food and/or camera that are so desirable on an all-day epic. I've resisted replacing the Blowfish for the past two years on account of a distaste for the new design Camelbak came out with. It lacks the mesh outer pocket that was so perfect for wet gloves, Cliff bars, and -- especially during this time of year -- the oversized NiMH battery to my headlamp.
But alas, it was time. I needed to buy a new 100oz bladder for the bag and at $30 just for the bladder, I decided I might as well finally replace the entire pack. After all, it had tears, a thick film of aged sweat and dirt, and had a scent that was beyond Febreeze's abilities to resuscitate. So I replaced it with the North Face Hammerhead. I felt a bit odd buying a hydration pack not made by Camelbak -- it just seemed so unnatural since Camelbak has one of those brand/product/noun things going for it not unlike what Xerox and Nintendo used to have. Remember when you used to just refer to playing videogames as "playing Nintendo" even if you were playing a Sega or Atari product? Or when you would be making "Xeroxes" on a Canon photocopier? Yeah, something like that. Times change and now "wearing a Camelbak" doesn't necessarily mean you're wearing a Camelbak. But I digress... horribly.
The North Face Hammerhead is superior in every way to my older Blowfish. It fits a 100oz bladder, but also contains an inner hook to hang it on so the bladder won't jumble up in the bottom of your bag when its nearly emptied. It has a much larger outer mesh pocket complete with bungie cords to lash things too and to ensure your items are held snugly. The large inner compartment can be filled without intruding on the space needed for the bladder (kept in a separate seemingly insulated compartment) and the smaller innner comparment has many pouches and zippered pockets to facillitate organization.
Externally, the pack looks sharp and has comfortable and easily adjustable straps and belts. The bladder hose can be routed out either the left or right shoulder and features a powerful magnet clip that keeps the bite-valve firmly in place on the sternum strap. The hose on the North Face bladder is a larger diameter than the standard Camelbak hose and, I'm hoping, this prevents freezing as my Camelbak hose froze up on me in the first 4 miles of a ride two weeks ago. Lastly, I should point out that the bite-valve on the North Face bladder has a very effective on/off design and, based on my 2.5 hours with it yesterday, doesn't so much as drip a single drop. Not to mention that it's also much easier to drink from than the Platypus brand bladder/valve that Kristin lent me this past weekend. I'd rather lick from a puddle than try to drink out of that thing while biking.
Two species down, one to go!
I was out biking yesterday and just as I was heading out of Snoqualmie and about to hop onto the Snoqualmie Valley Trail near the golf course, I noticed about 50 elk grazing in a meadow. It was an awesome sight. They were everywhere. And huge too! The elk were probably about 150 yards away, not straying too far from the treeline, but knowing that this herd of elk is lurking about within the town limits is pretty cool. There were only about 30 or so when I passed by an hour later on my return trip, but a few of them were standing atop large mulch piles and staring out at people photographing them from afar. What a regal sight! Definitely the highlight of my day yesterday.