To prepare for my trip to Arizona, I started laying out on the guest bed everything I wanted to take with me and stepped away for a moment. I came back to find an extra item that I couldn’t bring with me, much as I would have loved to, but which will come along to wherever we end up.
A quick shot of my travel bags after I got back from my trip to Arizona. I meant to photograph them together while on either my trip to California or Arizona but I kept forgetting, they were stressful trips as both travels were for job interviews. The bags worked a charm, as they always have, and were both easy to carry around the airport and easy to live out of during my stay. For the photo I didn’t take out all of the little accessory bags that kept me organized. On the left is the Tom Bihn ID laptop bag that I used as my personal item, carrying my MacBook Pro and iPad, and on the right is the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 which I used as my carry-on. I love not only that it has backpack straps that can pull out to make carrying the bag easy, and be put away when you don’t need them, but that the whole process can be done so quickly and easily. Both of these bags were clearly designed and manufactured with a lot of care, which is why I love my Tom Bihn bags.
Also, love that aubergine!
In early August I started an 11-day trip, the longest I’ve ever taken, that included three cross-country flights (thankfully all non-stop) and a two-day drive. I started off flying to Baltimore to visit my brother’s family and help sort through my dad’s papers, then flew to Texas to help my mom finish packing for her move to Georgia where she’ll be near my sister, drove with my mom from Austin to Atlanta, then flew back home from Atlanta to Portland. I was going to constantly be on the move and didn’t want to risk lost luggage, and I also didn’t want to take up much room in the car, and I was going to be walking home from the train at the end of the trip, so I took just two bags, my Tom Bihn ID messenger bag that went under the plane seat, and my Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 travel bag that went in the overhead bin.
Inside the two bags were an array of smaller bags that kept me organized, most also from Tom Bihn. The big bags have o-rings inside for attaching key straps so my keys, a small flashlight, and a USB drive were easily found. I used one of my mesh organizer bags in the ID for cables, medicine, and food that I wanted on the flight, while the other in the Aeronaut held cables and other items I wouldn’t need until I landed. Travel stuff sacks held a raincoat (which didn’t get used) and my camera and lens (which did). My daily pills went in a clear organizer and smaller items went into the flat organizer pouches. The organizers worked well in the side pockets of the Aeronaut, making it easy to get to my 3-1-1 bag at the airport, and also provide easy access to food or medicine or cables without having to open the main compartment.
The Aeronaut I’ve used before, both while flying and driving, but it really shone on this trip. I used the backpack straps while moving through the airport, then neatly tucked them away for the plane rides and at my destination, but they were most handy when walking home from the train station. Rolling bags have their uses, but since the Aeronaut wasn’t heavy it was much nicer to just slip it onto my back. I’ve been surprised at how using the mesh packing cubes for clothes and the organizer bags for other items makes living out of a suitcase so much more enjoyable, everything stays organized and it was always easy to find what I wanted. Despite staying somewhere new about every other night, by the end of the trip everything was still in its place, which is not normal for me but will be from now on. The Aeronaut is well-built and I could have checked it if I needed to, but it was easy to carry and so easily fit in the overhead bins that it was never an issue.
The trip didn’t get off to the best start as I had a miserable headache the first morning, one of the worst in recent memory, but by evening medicine was keeping it at bay and it was never that severe again. It was a tiring but productive trip and I enjoyed getting to see most of my family, even a cousin and his son I hadn’t seen in years. Coming home I even got a cheap upgrade to first class, a welcome treat as I despise flying. While I’m never going to enjoy flying I am thankful that all the flights went off without issue, as did our drive, and I’m thankful for the little company that designs and makes the bags that I love so much (all a bit to my north in Seattle).
For my trip to the Olympic peninsula this spring, more than anything I wanted to visit the Hoh Rain Forest when it was raining, which you wouldn’t think would be too hard given that it is an actual rain forest. But for me the Hoh has always been the Hoh Rain Adjacent Forest, as I’ve gotten drenched in many parts of the park but the rain always stopped before I reached the Hoh. This time I waited until rain was predicted for the weekend, made my reservations, loaded up the Subaru and set off.
There was no rain as I drove into Washington but not long after I pointed the car towards the peninsula the heavens opened and it poured. By the time I reached the Quinault Rain Forest the rain had lessened but I was pleased to see I would get rain in this rain forest at the very least. As I put on my rain pants and walked to the trailhead, the rain stopped literally as I stepped onto the trail. Did Mother Nature think I was amused? In truth I was, wondering if I’d get rain the next day or if the Hoh was to be my Wet Whale.
I had been drenched in the Quinault before so the suddenly dry skies weren’t too much of a disappointment and I started up the Maple Glade Loop Trail and the Kestner Homestead Trail, stopping at the homestead to photograph this dilapidated old moving van with trees growing inside, an old favorite from a previous visit. They keep the area around the truck mowed but are letting nature reclaim the truck. Ashes to ashes, dust to rust.
As I photographed the truck I was caught off guard when the rain began pounding down once more. I took a few more pictures before retreating to a covered picnic area. The large drops made a racket as they pelted the corrugated metal roof and then somehow it rained even harder. As I admired the rain I realized I was laughing out loud, not with a chuckle, but a good loud belly laugh. I immediately stopped and looked self-consciously around but there was no one else around, apparently not everyone loves the rain.
I ventured out for a few more pictures but suddenly realized my biggest mistake in my desire to pack lightly, as I hadn’t brought a backup camera or lens. The camera is weather sealed but the lens isn’t and makes them both vulnerable where they connect. So mostly I just stood there and reveled in the rain, soaking it in in case tomorrow dawned dry.
The next morning I drove to the Hoh, knowing the weather was going to improve throughout the weekend, if improve means more and more sun, so I wasn’t sure if I’d finally get my rain. As I drove towards the park in a heavy overcast, the sun suddenly appeared and I said out loud, “You are not welcome here!” It quickly disappeared behind the clouds and, a bit surprised and a little terrified at my sudden powers, I continued on to the trailhead as a gentle rain began to fall.
At long last, rain in the Hoh.
I used one of my Tom Bihn Stuff Sacks to cover the camera and lens while hiking, and when taking pictures the material is pliant enough that I could lay the bag over the top of the camera and keep rain from hitting the lens. The outside of the bag was damp from the rain, but it was drops of rain I was worried about. That worked fine and kept the gear dry both days it rained.
One of the Hoh trails was closed, a bit of a shame as it was one where I wanted to photograph moss, so instead I spent the afternoon hiking to Sol Duc Falls in the rain. The next morning the sun rose and never yielded, but I had fun visiting a few beaches, two of which I had never been to before, and headed back to Portland. I got home in time to take Ellie for her walk, always one of my favorite parts of the day. As I walked to the train station the next morning to go back to work, still reveling in three days of hiking in such a beautiful place, I couldn’t help but reflect on the many blessings in my life.
I ordered my Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 in December 2014 to use as my main travel bag but it had been sitting idle for a year and a half. Not because I didn’t like the bag, but because I wasn’t taking trips. Understandable at first, as Emma died soon after and left me broken-hearted, then we adopted Trixie and there was much work to be done getting her introduced and accepted by the others. And late in 2015 and early in 2016 my project at work left me too tired to want to drive anywhere.
But mostly I was just not dealing with the daily stresses of life as well as I should have. So after my project finished up I decided it was time to put things to right. Since the commute to work had gotten more and more stressful the past few years, the last thing I wanted to do on weekends was get back in the car, so I quit driving to work and went back to taking the light rail. It takes longer but (most days) is less stressful and I added a few things that make the train time more enjoyable than it used to be. My goal was not just to reduce the daily stress but also to make me more willing to get in the car to go hiking.
I’ve long wanted is to have a handful of places within a day’s drive that I visit frequently enough that I can schedule a trip without much planning at any time of the year, so the next step was to start taking some short trips. In April I chose the easiest such place, the lower elevations of Olympic National Park, a place I had been to a handful of times. I deliberately chose a weekend where rain was expected as I wanted it to rain while I was in the rain forests, so I made my plans on a promising weekend, loaded up the Subaru, and I was off to the Olympics.
The Aeronaut (the Aubergine bag in the middle) was joined on its inaugural trip by my beloved Tom Bihn ID carrying my computer, as it has every day for 13 years. Joining them were my Tom Bihn Guide’s Pack as my backpack (I’ve had the bag for a while but this was my first chance to test its new padded hip belts), the Tom Bihn Tripod Quiver carrying my tripod, plus a variety of smaller Tom Bihn bags like organizers and stuff sacks. And even a few non-Bihn bags, a couple of which I’ve had for decades. Most notably my Tamrac camera bag holding my camera gear as it has for every hike for the past couple of decades, but which may finally be approaching the end of its active use. Also a Nike duffel that carried extra clothes since it was hard to tell how warm or cold or wet or dry the weekend was going to be. This one is also decades old but it’s led an easy life, mostly either storing extra gear on trips like this from spring to fall, and during the winter storing a small army of old towels that I use when photographing at Ridgefield on rainy days. Rounding out the crew of bags was my Domke F-5XB camera bag, a small bag that normally I use for short little trips like when walking our dog Ellie, and while I don’t take it hiking it is handy for storing overflow camera gear on trips like this.
The bags worked well and took some of the friction out of packing and traveling and a couple of months later I packed them up again for my second hiking trip, with more to come soon. The Aeronaut got its first real test when it joined the ID and Domke bags on a trip to visit family, my first flight in years and my first time with all carry-on, the backpack straps and grab handles on the Aeronaut really showed their worth on that trip. I fell in love with it on the first trip, it’s not an inexpensive bag but like all my Tom Bihn bags it’s thoughtfully designed and manufactured and I expect it will join the ranks of bags I use happily for many years.
And I love that color.
I ordered Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut 45 in December with an Aubergine exterior and Wasabi interior. I was hoping to first use it on a trip to the Hoh Rain Forest, as I’m determined to finally visit when it’s actually raining, but life intervened. I’m still hoping to get up there this spring, but in the meantime I took a macro shot of the ballistic nylon fabric.