Friday, December 30, 2011

Blanket Bog

When "fen" just won't cover it.

This is a British term for a bog covering undulating semi-uplands, such as bogs of cool temperate regions formed under a maritime rainfall at lower elevations, or bogs on hills developed under high rainfall and low temperatures as in southeastern Alaska.

Alternate names: Fen, Mire.

Mire is a nice word. It can't be mistaken for anything else. And there's only the one syllable to remember as you sink.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hiking With The ATDOT

Pacemakers for the rest of us.

Backpacking is getting more popular all the time.

With the rising cost of living on top of a crashed economy and widespread job loss, more annoying people than ever are taking to the trails. And most are even more ignorant than the average backpacker.

This is easy to see on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, for decades one of the most heavily traveled trails in the country. And it's getting worse.

The AT as it's called is 2181 miles (3510 km) long, and passes through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Virginia, Northwest Virginia, North-northwest Virginia, Far North Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and several Yankee states.

"So what?" you say. "I done that there a few years back. Let's have some more ribs and beer."

Sure, you can say that.

You think, maybe, this summer, you'll go on out there and do a tad bit more a that there trompin', iffn' you has the itch.

Maybe not, Scooter. Pretty soon you will need a license.

All those new people? Causing problems.

Problems beyond even the normal stray garbage, flies, human droppings, random gunfire, and mentally defective animals attracted by armpit smell.

There's new stuff now. Congestion. Weekend and holiday pileups are common.

Rush-hours, pranged trekking poles, dented backpacks, scuffed Gore-Tex, trail rage. Now it's all yokels, all over, all the time, and they're killing the trail.

Managers have a multi-year plan for improvements, beginning soon, with an end to construction in 2020.

Old timers, especially the slow ones, will say the trail is good enough. Wide enough. Smooth enough for two people to walk side by side while having a friendly chat.

Nope. Not any more. That will soon be illegal.

The old single dirt track will soon be four lanes, two north, two south, separated by a median, paved and striped. Professionals and competitive hikers with commercial sponsors will be free to use the inside (fast) lanes. Average, unlicensed, unpaid amateurs and wandering Sunday strollers will have to stick to the slow lanes or get ticketed, maybe jailed for obstruction.

Soon you'll see multi-level trails with ramps, passing lanes, and 24-hour rest areas.

But until then, starting in June, watch for uniformed "Pace Patrols" marching two abreast, directing traffic, answering questions, and writing the occasional warning citation.

Enjoy the experience of rolling speed harmonization as you follow the Pace Patrols' bright flashing lights and flow along with them at a steady 2.5 mph (4 kph), no more, no less. Right away you'll notice improved safety, smoother traffic, and fewer fistfights, especially around parks and beer kegs.


They kinda do it in Colorado...CDOT Tests I-70 Pace Cars With Ski Traffic Sunday.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Zombie Zone

A world where brains are lunch.

How you hike when your mind is somewhere else than your body, which is hiking without you.


Footnote: Or vice versa. You never can quite tell.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Beginner Trail

This route for sale.

Beginner Trail: A Well-maintained, safe trail with a good walking surface. The route is well defined and probably signed.


Footnote: Trails signed by Elvis go for a premium.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Me and Poly Down by the Beach

Can a weird loner guy have fun in the dark with a piece of plastic?


Smaller is lighter. Lighter is usually better.

It was a dark and stormy night. There I was on the ground in the dark, under a transparent sheet of plastic, wrapped in a home-made backpacking quilt, all alone at Christmas, in a hail storm.

Perfect. I am nuts and this is my story.

I used to visit the beaches of Olympic National Park at Thanksgiving, when I had four days free of work, when it was just the tides, the storms, the birds and me. And maybe some dead things on the beach.

X is for Xmas.

One year I tried Christmas instead, and pushed the limits a little by taking my first shot at tarp camping. Ray Jardine's "Beyond Backpacking" (now out of print) covered the subject pretty well, but he had a newer book available, just about tarps, and I bought it. It inspired wild thoughts.

I pitched an 8 X 10 foot (244 by 305 cm) piece of 3-mil (0.076 mm) transparent polyethylene, with another 40-inch by 7-foot (102 by 213 cm) sheet to go under me as a combination floor and ground sheet. Cost: about $3.50. And though crazy I'm not stupid, at least not in public if I can avoid it, so I took another shelter as a backup.

This tarp setup was a bit heavy at 25 ounces (709 g), but much lighter than even my single-lonely-guy's lightweight tent, and nearly as light as my Hennessy Adventure-Racer hammock. What was missing was netting to keep out teeny creeping critters or biting flying nighttime nippers, and any ability to zip it shut and make the world go away.

Howdy, world.

What I gained was a full-sky view of the world through a transparent roof, and 360-degree ventilation.

First-night's impressions: Drafty. The temperature was barely above freezing, the walls ended a hand's width above the ground, and the air was unsettled all night, changing direction frequently and finding all my unprotected spots.

Take two.

I lowered the sides to the ground for night two and stuffed my open umbrella into the drafty end. There was only a lick of condensation right above my blow hole. How about rain? Yes, it rained. And sleeted. And hailed, for hours on end. Lightning and thunder too.

Second-night's impression: Not too bad. Because of the weather it was a whole lot like sleeping inside a snare drum during a parade, but the tarp held.

No wet, no splashing, plenty of room to move around. Lots of room to wave my arms and swear, to curse various things, and wonder if I'd ever make it home again. But camped back in the forest as I was, away from the open beach, there was no wind, only a steady gentle draft that kept condensation at bay.

Teeth and claws.

Critters? Everything with wings and blood lust was already dead for the season, so mosquito netting was irrelevant.

I had a bigger worry though -- what if one of the larger, more clever locals felt like having a midnight snack, felt like moseying on over to eat my face, for example?

My first two backpacking nights in 1980 had been inside a plastic tube tent where I kept panicking all night, dreaming I'd wake to find my scalp full of teeth and my face full of claws, hearing a distressing munching sound. Ray Jardine insisted that was safe to sleep wide open. So, I figured, it must be, and went for it.

But I had an idea. As a test I tried leaving three peanuts on the ground near my head before saying my prayers.

The next morning in their place was half a cheese doodle with tooth marks on it. Hmmm.

Second night: I left a couple of raisins and a pretzel. Got back half a stick of chewing gum and six sesame seeds.

So, OK.

Then, third night, I laid out a broken wristwatch and a $10 bill. On the final morning I got the watch back, in perfect working order, 43 cents in change and a receipt from Mikey's Fixit Shop saying that it was a pleasure doing business with me, signed with a minuscule paw print.

Hey. I'm cool. You?

So, no complaints on this score, either. All mellow.

Now let's review. The plastic tarp was heavier and noisier than a silnylon one would have been, but much lighter than a tent, and is an easy way to try this way of camping. Hey, anything is noisy in hail. Besides, I could see the stars through my roof, and make a decision about the new day as morning approached without having to leave my nest.

Pitched low, the tarp was a awkward to enter and leave from the narrow end, but cleaning the floor was easy -- just sweep things off the ground sheet. I stowed my footwear inside without making a mess, because my shoes were out on the ground, but still protected from rain.

Ventilation? Great. I guessed that this setup would be much more comfortable in warm weather though. But in warm weather there would be bugs, so I couldn't complain.

Easy to set up and easy to repack. Cheap. Lo-tech. I was sold on the experiment. Pretty soon I ordered a bunch of fabric and designed a smaller, lighter and much more expensive tarp that ultimately worked out pretty well.

So this trip was fun for me, but I'm kinda weird anyway, so use your own judgment. Mikey was sure nice, though. Gotta say that. I'd like to meet him some day.


The Ray-Way Tarp Book Essential, by Ray Jardine

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not Sleeping In The Air, 4

Morning. Warm. Calm. Bright

This was way back in June already. I haven't done much at all this year, but it was fun, if not the sleeping on the ground part. I missed my hammock.


Castle Peak up north. A bit colder.

But it was dandy getting up to sunshine. The first day had been dense with fog. The second, still gray. And there was snow all over. Didn't like that much, not at the end of June.


I don't know if these were cut before or after the eruption.

There are lots of stumps in some areas, lots of dead standing trees in others, and downed trees everywhere. Most are getting soft and crumbly 30 years after the eruption.


Divide between two canyons. More photos below.

So there I was, having wanted to descend west into Castle Lake but meeting deep snow, turning back and then wondering. Might as well trudge up the side of the mountain to where the shoulder meets the cinder cone.


Same area later, looking a little cheerier.

I'll probably never get back here, so this was a good time to go see it. I headed for the divide between two canyons.


Heading off, still early, to visit the mountain.

From below it looked easy. A short stroll up a shallow slope. Go there, touch the side of the mountain, and turn left, and hit the trail out. Right?


Melted-out elk tracks.

Maybe not. The 20 to 30 minute hop up the mountain took well over an hour. Surprise! It's hard walking uphill. Steeper than it looks. Lumpier. Unreasonable even.


Cheery little blossom people hiding out.

Snow here. Snow there. Small ravines. Logs. Elk poo. And always uphill, with no break, in the soft, sandy soil.


High up the divide, looking into the south-side chasm.

Eventually I got to within a couple hundred meters of the actual mountain, and then...and then all my short hairs began standing up, getting ready to run for their lives. Things got scary.


Same place, showing both slopes.

Because, right up near the top, where it looks really interesting, it is. Too interesting. Interesting on the right, and interesting on the left, in a dropoff, sudden death sort of way. Left, to the north, it would be a nasty tumble into the ravine, but right, to the south, it would be a sliding tumble followed by a screaming drop followed by more screaming and falling, followed by an unfortunately and all too sudden stop on the rocks far below. Maybe 500 feet (150 m). Not fun. Not at all.


Panorama from the divide's high point, looking west.

Sure, it's all soft and pliable, and you could (maybe) continue up a goodly distance. But maybe not. The land on this mountain has a way of deciding on its own to relocate, for no particular reason. So I stopped short. And turned around, and played with the camera, getting a pretty decent panorama that unfortunately makes it all look flat. But there were some odd clouds there too.

Clouds with tails hanging down. Hard to photograph but maybe you can get a sense of them.


Clouds with hanging tails.

And then, looking north, there is the immense Rainier peeking over the ridge, offhandedly, slightly amuse, watching the way it does.


Looking north toward Mt Rainier.

Hike out here, at this season, and though there is snow everywhere, there is no flowing water until late in the day.


Alder blossoms, I think.

The native plants know how to get down to what they need, but for us up on the surface it's surprisingly dry. Water gurgles all night in little streams and then by morning it's all gone away again. Still, it's nice to see fresh young greens here and there.


Ditto.

And another thing. Even though there wasn't much water available most of the day, the soil was decently moist. This makes a huge difference.


Castle Creek, Studebaker Creek flats.

The reason is that there is no soil in the normal sense. It's all sand and dust and assorted knobby stones. Later in the year parts of the landscape almost explode when gravity overcomes friction. I've seen enough of it to be wary, which is why I didn't get as high up the mountain as I wanted. Too unpredictable.


South-side "trail" above Castle Creek.

There is a broad, flat valley between the drainages of Studebaker Creek and Castle Creek. There is what looks like a trail going up the southern side, but it's an illusion. Even ten years ago the trails here were good, but now they have either been washed away or have withered into faint traces. Which is a bunch of fun when you are halfway up a slope and there is no footing, only a steep drop into a world of pain.


Closeup. The "trail" is only hypothetical.

But, having experienced this place for over 15 years, I've figured out when not to hike, where not to, and how to bypass most of the rest.


Heading north. More clouds with tails.

Back farther north things level out somewhat. There is a nice but short stretch of rolling hills at the northwest shoulder of the mountain before the trail declines back to the confused mess of the sandy pumice plain under the mountain's mouth.


A few lingering flattened trees.

There are long-dead trees here, showing without a doubt which way the wind blew that day 30 years ago.


Across the pumice plain NE to Spirit Lake.

And then there is the long vista over the flats to Spirit Lake.


The trail that goes there.

This always looks nice, but the reality of covering the distance is other than a stroll. The whole landscape is a series of ravines and gullies that are in the process of growing up to be canyons and death traps.


Trail detail.

But hey. If you grew up in open country you kind of feel at home.


A bit of green in the barren sand.

Everything here is loose, and on a windy day, which can be a hugely windy day, it's all dust, all the time.


Pattern in a boulder's side along the way.

And then, every so often, you see a bit of green, or a field of flowers at the right time of year, or you're crossing a seep and see frogs. Or the ravens are out, doing barrel rolls and croaking. It's a place.


Along the trail, looking toward the waterfalls...

There used to be a trail on the pumice plain, and cairns, and somehow some of that remains but mostly you have to go over it a few times and learn which major landmarks to aim for and forget about trails and markers. Because mostly there aren't any. Anymore.


...which are pretty gnarly. This is hundreds of vertical feet.

But in a way the area right below the drooling mouth of the mountain gets more interesting. Places where a stream crossing used to be a matter of a couple steps down, a couple of steps across, and a couple of steps up are now more like short courses in mountain climbing. Sometimes there is an easy way down into a stream's course, but then you can't find a way out the other side.


Much later, higher up, evening, looking south.

Partly it's the depth, partly the sand, but you just keep going. At least, as on trips like this, there is the higher country on the way out, where a person can gain a bit of altitude again, turn, and have a good look at it all.


A peek into the pit.

I've got a few views here of parts of the mountain that are normally not too visible.


Panoramic, only partly worked out. (enlarge)

That's the good news. The bad news is that I've never before tried panoramas using a long focal length. These two photos didn't turn out quite right, but since they let a person get right up into the crater, I decided to include them.


Panoramic, only partly worked out. (enlarge)

If you look closely you can see some huge crevasses in the crater. On the last panorama I also notice two bright specks toward the lower left, visible on maximum enlargement. They look like geophysical stations. You see these here and there. Self-contained, solar powered, bristling with wires and antennas. And now I think I've seen two in the crater itself.


The final morning, on the way out.

And then the last night, camped, let us say, less than legally, I spent a quiet night, though damp, with the earth's exhalations that seem to come forth only at night.


Downstream watercourses in morning light.

But the final morning was fine. A bit of early fog blew through far below, ruffling the landscape, and the sun was fresh but not too bright, and no one was on the trails yet.


Loowit Creek well downstream from the crater.

So the result is that you get more views into the watercourses flowing out from the mountain, places which look fine and smooth from a distance, so fine and smooth and clean that you ache to go there, but which are, if they get you to come in, to fall for the trap, the worst hell holes imaginable, with vertical sides, landslides, clouds of dust, and ground so uneven and choked with stones that walking is nearly impossible. And I always want to go back.



The mountain from the air, as seen at Garrett Murray's Maniacal Rage.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wheedle Music

Dear Tifany:

I hope this helps clear things up. I mean now that I got acquitted and all. The judge was really a pretty nice guy and all, but he scared me. I got scared a lot while all this was going on. You get scared in court. I never been to court before. It aint like the TV shows. I didn't know. I guess you know that, since you was there too some a the time.

I really miss you. I hope we can talk sometime. After a while. I won't come around no more, for a while, I guess. I better not. I mean just so you know. Sure, there's that restraining order you got and all, I know that, I aint that dumb no matter what people say, and I respect you. You need your space. You always did, but I still want to come by some time. After this all settles down, maybe, and you take down the electrical fence.

I guess I'm lucky I know Chris. He's a pretty good lawyer for around here. I guess it pays to keep your high school friends after high school and all, and he aint chargin much. I'm gonna fix his car and do some carpentry and stuff, and we'll see. Which is pretty good for a verdict of Not Guilty Of Burglary, which I truly believe, I know you think otherwise.

I just got excited is all, comin back from my trip. I wish you'd a been there like the old days but I guess that it may be some things don't always work out the way you want. Even without the police keeping a eye on me so I stay away from your place I spose you wouldn't go backpacking with a guy who got drunk and wrecked his car so much but you know all about that I guess.

Without the car and all it makes it hard to go out backpacking, which is funny when you think of it, havin to walk to the trail, and then go backpacking, and then when that's over, you have to walk back to town from the trail and all, but I wanted to surprise you, because that's how I found the mink, walking home. He was kind of flat from the log truck and all but in real good shape overall, with some shampoo and a little water and some care is all it needed, it would of made a nice fur for you, though I thought it was a marten I guess I was wrong there, huh?

I know how you like your furs.

So sure I knew we wernt together anymore but I got excited, I forgot, and the papers your lawyer filed and all that stuff, I forgot that too, I was just excited, I didn't mean no harm when I come over to your place with the mink. Though I thought it was a marten, which would of been a real prize, as you know. I know you got one already, now you'd have another even if I did find it out on 101 in the rain, it was still lookin pretty good despite all that and just a couple of tread marks which you could a smoothed out pretty easy I think.

And there was this guy at your place. I just wanted to drop off the mink or marten and you know how to skin it and all, I know, and I thought you'd take it the right way and I would go back home and everything would be fine, but there was this strange guy at your place, see? I didn't break in or nothin I just asked if you was home and this guy gets all gnarly on me, he started it, asks me what the hell I'm doing there, and with a dead weasel besides.

Boy, what a dope, you can do better Tifany, I have to say, I know I aint the right one for you though, probly, but if you'd reconsider I think we could do better next time if we give it another try. That guy though, I don't know. Some thing wrong with him, for sure.

Gets all in my face right away. Weasel this, weasel that, I thought I had a high class marten and I wanted you to have it and he's in my face wavin his arms, and why are you carrying a weasel, dope? He says this. To me. And I'm just tryin to calm the waters and do you a favor, bring you a present and I guess I lost it about then, sure may be I was jealous, you know me, but I aint that bad. Not like him.

I just kinda tossed the mink. I didn't hit him, not with my fists, hardly, he coulda took it like a man anyway, you would think.

Guys like that, dumb as a block of wood but mean, they don't feel much of any thing, and I hope you have moved on since then, but as you know I am unaware of how you are living your life on account of this other court order and all, and to tell the truth I'm just glad I'm not in jail, and it wasn't no burglary I just got a little upset seeing that Derek guy there gettin all disrespectful so I tossed him the mink (which I thought was a marten, as noted) and meanwhile kind of hung on to the tail while doing that, and so it was the mink that hit him not me. Twice, if I counted right.

But I guess that's all over now. I just wanted you to know.

I really miss you and I will always love you, your the only one for me, Tifany and I hope some day, sooner rather than later we can get back together again even if you don't think so now.

I'll be down at the lunchette most every noon for the special and as soon as I get another car I'll be doing some more real backpacking again, may be some down by Oregon, and will quit drinking if at all possible and may go into taxidermy or something that pays good because I need to get things in my life worked out once and for all, as you are aware, but I'm working at it, so here's all my love though I know you don't want it too much, but at least all this weasel business is behind us now.

Love As Always, Jobie J.


More:

Jury acquitts Hoquiam man.

Weasel Assault

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

419 Xmas

Shop our holiday cattalog.

Please to co-opterate, my good Friend. I am student in Nirobia close to finish my busy studies in Universitty. So youre name had come to me as an person of Fine Repute therefore I making these offer to-you-only in private as a person.

I am needing samples for my Studies in the Graduate Department of Banking Account Numbers such as you excellent persons are aware of as being printed on your personal checks, and so.

Please to forward some - you, friends, your family and employer, etc. etc., for which I will ge grateful, the moore the better. I also grant you footnote in my distertation to be publish very soon now on paper.

And become I know of you from your write things often on the blog, upon direct receipt of such as name, sociable securnity numbers, bank name and account, date from your birth, address, etc. etc., you are also thereby sudden eligibal for free drawing of useful outdoor goods to use.

I am fellow backpacker too you see. Gleefull!

As you are aware no doubt we in Nirobia are always do the many hike. To work, to the well, to war and so on. All the time hikeing, we. And so we know the things how to make them. We have now big Store full of thes Authenttic Goods together forsale which we manufacture of heightest qualities, and you can win from it!

Send name, etc. etc., for proper identification and quickmail delivery upon wining and pretty soon you can have new sandals to hikeing in (free!)and still also be feature with honour in my distertation too as I mention previous.

i am direct son of DR. Albert Fredthe Chief Accounting Officer of a bank, to prove my safe identity for you reassurance. The financial statement of our bank is over US$130,000,000,000.00 (one hundred and thirty Dollars United States) and the current prospects of our bank is pretty good now.

Trust and Honesty. This is no doubt a pending mutual beneficiary transaction. It that will benefit both. To be sure. Kindly send me your privates as requested. May God Bless and so on.

I am expecting.

Ps, Friends too, just supply name, account, etc. etc. and win also, why not have them joinin right now OK? All can win! Upon win the drawing of Backpacking Goods, you get also fat discount of each order for life following, from our compleat catalogue with every time you wire moore cash by Western Union.

My most profound thanks to you, Sir or Madam.

Mr. Oswald Aptona Mnbamo, M.A., Department of the Studies, Nirobia.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No More Crystal-I, Bub

Feds smell something old. Might be him.

Soon after the recent destruction of eighty-eight year old retired metallurgist Bob Wallace's business, the Feds have decided to get tough on anyone old and harmless, especially if they could be hikers.

Wallace, and his main squeeze (and reputed moll) Marjorie Ottenberg (85), have been packaging and selling crystalline iodine for 30 years, touting it as a drinking water disinfectant for hikers and backpackers.

They call it "Polar Pure".

The authorities beg to differ, having heard a rumor someone passed on that this stuff might possibly be used by methamphetamine lab operators, somehow or other, every now and then. To maybe do some kind of stuff.

That was good enough.

Although Wallace and Ottenberg (a chemist by trade) have repeatedly eluded authorities by the fiendishly devious ruse of staying home and minding their own business (which is manufacturing Polar Pure), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency finally caught up with them last week, after looking up Wallace's name in the phone book and driving over to his house.

Once there the Feds were at first flummoxed by Wallace's security system -- his dog Buddy asleep on the front porch. But, faithful to their oath to "Look Real Busy!", the Feds eventually overcame their fear and sidled around to the garage where they nabbed Wallace, busily filling orders for his customers.

Wallace, a Stanford University-educated engineer, greeted the Men in Blue with a cheery "This old couple, barely surviving old farts, and we're supposed to be meth dealers? This is just plain stupid," before he was stuffed into a gunny sack and beaten with rubber hoses to relieve boredom for the agents, who also needed to work up an appetite for their mid-morning donut break.

DEA spokeswoman Bethany-Anne Cramphole said later, primarily through hand gestures and grimaces in addition to a few rudimentary grunts, that if Mr. Wallace hadn't wanted to get hurt then he shouldn't have been standing around looking old.

Special Agent Tracy Dickhead, a Narcotics Special Task Force Commandante-Enforcer, said he was currently on the lookout for "Beavis and Butt-Head" types, the kind of people who might just go off into the mountains and do unsupervised things out there.

"Cops are the most humorless knotheads on the planet," Wallace said, after which they surrounded him and pulled out all his nose hairs to prove it wasn't so.

After taking out Wallace and Ottenberg, the DEA agents swarmed the Gentle Acres Home for the Aged, and confiscated anything that looked suspicious.

Since they didn't understand what was going on out there, they took everything.


Federal agents say 88-year-old Saratoga man's invention is being used by meth labs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nibbly Bits To Be A Hit

Whether you want them to be or not.

Because resources are becoming scarcer, along with fresh clean water, and breathable air, we've decided to make the best of a bad situation.

Starting this week, in selected stores nationwide, we will be selling a new kind of backpacking snack food. We're calling it HikrNibbles.

What's in it?

Well, good stuff. It's all good. But mostly fish lips.

Decades of research into pet food has taught us a thing or two about what we can sell, and this is no exception. Design a colorful box, come up with a marketing plan, add salt, grease, assorted artificial flavors, and you have a winner.

Right now we're test-marketing fish lips to hikers, but this could go huge.

Right, you say to yourself, that's sounds pretty good, but I've never had fish lips and I'm not sure I want some, thank you for asking. But you would be missing the point.

This isn't about what you want, it's about what we can sell you. And how much we can charge. Fish lips are an untapped resource, up to now used only in low-end pet foods, and school lunch programs, and as fertilizer.

We think we can do better, and you can help.

Just try a few cases and see.

We're betting that before long you'll discover you can't get through even one day without having a box of our new HikrNibbles snack product within reach. That's due to our extensive market research, and a few "special" ingredients, which are all perfectly legal in some countries.

Enjoy the the mild smoky flavor, the salty tang, the way our fishy nuggets just seem to slide down your gullet. You'll keep coming back for more. And due to our "special" ingredients, we think you'll do that whether or not you want to.

Worried about sustainability? Don't be.

HikrNibbles aren't made from salmon, or tuna, or any of those other fish you've heard of. You know, the ones that are getting scarce.

Nope. We deal strictly in what the industry calls "by-catch".

By-catch or by-golly, there is more of this stuff than we know what to do with, and now you can eat it for us.

Whether you know what's in it or not, we are confident that our brilliant marketing research minds, honed to a sharp edge by years of selling to discerning pet owners from every level of society, have found a product that will keep your feet a-trompin' down that trail.

Just remember to carry an ample supply of HikrNibbles with you at all times to avoid any of those nasty "withdrawal symptoms", which are so easily avoidable. Just munch a bunch of nibbly bits.

Fido loves 'em too! $10 per 4-oz. pack. Practically no bitter aftertaste.

From In-Continent Foods.


More: Saving Salmon by Eating Them

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hazbro EZ-Bake UL

A new trail boy toy.

You aren't a girly man - you're smart!

When it crashed onto the scene in 2004 the TurboBoil Mach4 CookSystem looked majorly major.

Fuel-efficient, wind-resistant, trendy, costing less than a pair of snow tires, it took every backpacker's attention off that nasty hiking stuff and kept it stuck on salesroom shelves.

The TurboBoil Mach4 was a huge step toward hot soup anywhere. Before that, too many hikers wasted precious hours hacking at beer cans only to get feeble alcohol stoves that could barely warm up a dish of cat food.

But all too soon the TurboBoil Mach4 itself became dated. There was that whole retro "fossil fuel", 20th-century aspect. And all those half-empty fuel canisters in the closet. And so on.

Well, backpacking stoves have now hit the bigtime.

Ta Da!

Today Hazbro, maker of the revolutionary EZ-Bake Oven, has entered the backpacking stove market. You heard it right, folks. As of today, Hazbro is on our side, with a new backcountry cooker.

Now you can look anyone in the eye and say with pride, "I hike like a girl." Because you can have tasty hot meals wherever, whenever, without burning lunch, your beard, or anything else. And how many of your friends can say that with a straight face?

The EZ-Bake goes anywhere a TurboBoil, SnowPoke, or SRM WhiskerLite can go. And because it's all electric you don't need old-style fuel. Of any kind!

Fumble-fingered? No problemo. Without flames you have zero chance of setting even one national park on fire.

Can't cook? Another non-issue. Just take along a supply of HikrChow PreMix Food-Paks, add water, heat, and swallow. As often as you want.

Practically completely bug-free!

Each PreMix Food-Pak is safely sealed off from air, sunlight, bugs, rats, mice, toads, bush weasels, flies, and basically anything with an appetite. Except you! And your friends!

And if you're shy about carrying bags of batteries, just pony up a few extra bucks for a couple of ChargeMor Batry Paks. Fit one Batry Pak on each knee and store up those kilozots as you hike. When you're set to cook, simply plug one into your EZ-Bake and have at it.

OK, you're more traditional? Bring a few EZ-Cellz Baker Batrys, alkaline or lithium. Your choice. They work just fine.

Wet it! Heat it! Eat it!

Want toast? Use the optional EZ-Broylr attachment.

Bowl of hot soup? Use the optional LektriKoyl heating unit up top. Hot drinks are ready almost as fast as you can pour water.

And though the standard EZ-Bake is only cupcake-sized, it is quick. Really quick. Especially with Hazbro's HikrChow PreMix Food-Paks. Wet it, heat it, eat it. That's what we say.

You can have a whole basket of baked goodies before you know it. Great for entertaining.

Colors? The EZ-Bake Oven comes in SnowWhite, PrettyPink, or AmmoKammo, with or without sparkles.


Technical details:

  • Size: 4x4x6 inches / 10x10x15 cm
  • Weight: 6 oz. / 170 g (without batteries)
  • Suggested retail: $19.95
  • ChargeMor Batry Pak (each): 7 lb / 3.18 kg, 9x11.5x4 in / 23x29x10cm, 75.32 volts, 10 amps, $187.59
  • EZ-Cellz Baker Batrys (each): 12 lb / 5.5 kg, 75.32 volts, 10 amps, $71.64
  • EZ-Broylr: 4 lb / 1.8 kg, $187.43
  • LektriKoyl: 1.5 lb / 0.7 kg, $93.26


HikrChow PreMix Food-Paks

  • Fudgie ChocoLike Chip Cookie Circles
  • SuprSugry ChocoLike Brownie Puddles
  • Hot-N-Sweet Sugry Pretzl Chews
  • GoopyChoco Snackie Pies
  • Mak-N-Cheez-N-Syrup (Maypl, RazlBerry, Proon)
  • FishyChips (with PynAppl chunks) *
  • Sausage-N-Spuds (with RazlBerry topping) *
  • CowMeat-N-Cabbage (with ChocoLike FlavrSprinklz) *
  • GeneriChow (misc. animal parts and animal part byproducts with SparklSprinklz) *

* (Makes its own gravy!)

Great for slumber parties too! You'll never be a "has-been" with Hazbro.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Backpacking: In Or Out?

Six simple questions for your mind.

Let's talk concepts

Backpackers aren't the world's dumbest people.

No really, think about it.

If you are truly dumb, are you going to put some stuff into a bag and go out hiking in the rain? I mean, you can't call that exactly dumb. Can you?

The word dumb has only four letters. This is actually too small to capture a big idea. Like whether hiking is dumb, or hiking in the rain is dumb, even.

You need at least five letters for a big idea. Take death, for example. Get my drift? Much bigger territory already, and only one more letter.

As words go, dumb is not that useful, and if you are a backpacker traveling light, maybe you don't even have it with you. True, dumb has only the one syllable, but on the other hand...

It's. Uh. Forgot where I was going with that.

So ideas. Can be tough, right? Let's talk about something else.

Hey! What's in and what's out this year?


1 - Dirty Underwear

A perennial topic. If you wear it, it will get dirty. But if you don't wear it, it can't! So, in or out?


2 - Toilet Paper

Another favorite. I bet you've seen this stuff at home, but did you use it? And if you did, did you wash it and use it again, or just toss it after the first time? I bet I know the answer!

But say you're backpacking, what then? A little tougher, isn't it? I mean, you've already got stuff to bury, but do you want even more stuff to bury?

Depends on how you feel about moss, leaves, and pine cones. So, in or out?


3 - Eating Other People's Food

Call it unguarded or call it temporarily available, it's still food, it's there, and you're always hungry.

Can you blame the missing food on chipmunks? Bobcats? Alligators? It depends on what's out in the bushes. And how fast you can eat. And if you are good at stories. So, in or out?


4 - Washing Your Butt In The Creek

OK, we all know the rules, but some rules are more equal than others. Like they say cleanliness is next to godliness. Want to argue that one, Buster?

Sure, it makes a difference whose butt is being washed.

And whether your drinking water comes from upstream or downstream. And which end of this butt you are on.

And if anyone is around to see you. So, in or out?


5 - Lying About Your Mileage

Maybe you're thinking that lying is always bad. If so, when bedtime comes, think about standing up all night.

See?

And if you "slip up" and "accidentally" switch to kilometers you can multiply your miles by two and round up, and sound extra gnarly. Who said the metric system was no good? Some dope, right?

You're a hiker after all, and you're damn tired and you can't always remember how to carry the semicolon or whatever the hell they use in that metric stuff anyway, and who cares? So, in or out?


6 - Sleeping 10 In A Motel Room

This is for long distance hikers and party animals.

Generally, long distance hikers (or thru-hikers) are just about the most tedious, boring, dead-headed, dull-witted, ho-hum, irksome, slow, uninteresting, wearying, and least fun people in the world.

But cheap. So they often try this.

Does that justify splitting the cost of a $75 motel room 10 ways? Or would you rather party with some actual humans who scratch less and don't snore? Just sayin. So, in or out?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Case Of The Foamy Bats

Call me. I'm under "A. Dick For Hire".

It was a dark and stormy night when I got the call.

I had just finished retrieving a pair of conjoined Siamese cats who had somehow gotten separated from each other and then from their owner.

That owner was an elderly collector of rare books and odd cats. He never went out himself and had no idea how his cats had come apart or where they'd gone afterward. Once free of each other the cats hightailed it off in opposite directions.

Cats. You know the story.

All I had to do was drag a sardine around the neighborhood on a string and after a couple of minutes I had more cats than I could count.

I picked the two best looking ones and delivered them to my antiquarian friend. He looked happy. I must have guessed right. Or he was ready for new cats.

Either way it was all over pretty fast, so I didn't bother charging him. I just shook his hand, wished him a more interesting life, and headed back to the office after brushing the fur off my tie.

When I got to the office the phone was ringing off the hook. I answered it. On the other end of the line was a woman. I could tell by the voice.

Her name was Craft, Jo-Ann Craft. She ran a shop. A fabric shop. One that also sold hobby supplies. The kinds of hobby supplies that appeal to people. The kind of people who buy zippers and buttons.

Jo-Ann had problems.

She had bats.

Rabid bats.

Dead rabid bats.

Bats had been turning up in her shop lately and she wanted to know where they came from. And how to get rid of them. She asked if I could investigate.

I said sure, that's what I do.

I'm Richard A. Dick, but I go by my middle initial: "A. Dick For Hire". It's on my business card.

Shortly after entering Jo-Ann's fabric shop I noticed something odd. Dusty tracks on the linoleum.

The tracks led straight to the bins of ripstop nylon, and then they looped around to the thread department, ending with a flyby of the cash register after skimming the Halloween display.

I asked Jo-Ann if she'd seen any odd customers lately. She said they were all odd, so I asked about any odd customers that were new.

She remembered one. A guy. He had lots of hair, all over, and had a thing for the outdoor fabrics. And he was dusty.

I had a hunch so I decided to wait, and see this guy.

Before long there he was. You couldn't miss him. I was pretty sure I was on to something.

I went over to talk.

When I introduced myself he said his name was Maggot, Dirty Maggot. That was his trail name. His real name was Joe Periwinkle, but on the trail he was Dirty Maggot. He was what they call a "thru-hiker".

He looked the part. Whatever that was.

He looked like he hadn't had a bath in years, or changed his clothes either. And had no idea what a fixed address was.

While I stood there and shot the breeze, trying to get a fix on his m.o., I noticed something. Right away I saw a couple of spiders jump ship and scuttle off. They went straight for the lace trimmings and burrowed in.

Then there was a small avalanche of dust. Several of them. I was afraid that if all the dust fell off this guy, he'd be standing there naked.

And that was one sightseeing tour I didn't want to be on.

So I told him that the owner, Jo-Ann Craft, had been having a few odd problems over by the Halloween supplies.

Then I popped the question.

How about him?

Ever been over there?

Sure, he said. He was thinking of decorating the tent for his girlfriend, Snake. But he hadn't decided anything for sure, so he cruised by there every time he was in the store.

Despite all this he seemed like a decent enough guy.

We strolled over and stood in front of the cotton ball spiders and cardboard ghouls. Just as we turned away again I saw something move. In his hair.

It was a bat.

It fluttered out of his dreadlocks and attacked some crepe paper bats hanging from the ceiling. Tore them up pretty bad too. Then it fell down the wall behind the display. After that everything was quiet except for a few flecks of foam drifting in the air.

I was sure I had my man.

"Buddy," I said, "Here's my advice. Hiking season is over. Get a haircut. Take a bath. Lose the bats."

After he left the store I talked to Jo-Ann again.

I said if she locked the door when she saw him coming she'd be done with the rabid bats.

She seemed grateful to have the mystery solved, but then she did a funny thing.

She went and stood by the door, and watched Mr. Maggot hike back down the road.

Well, that seemed to be the end of the story. Another case solved and I even managed to make a profit. Rabid bats are bad for business, so Jo-Ann was glad to toss a few bills my way.

I didn't see her again after that, until one day.

I was in the neighborhood.

So I dropped in.

Guess what?

No, not more bats. The bats were gone. For good.

But I was met by a pleasant young gentleman who seemed to recognize me. "Joe," he said, "I'm Joe. You probably don't recognize me."

He was right. I didn't.

I've see a lot of guys named Joe in my time but this appeared to be a new one.

Cleaned up, he had no resemblance to the former Mr. Dirty Maggot. Dirty Maggot was now Joe Periwinkle, and he was working at the store. He and Jo-Ann had fallen in love too.

His former girlfriend Snake had slithered back to college when he got tidied up. Something about selling out, I guess. He said she's working on Wall Street now.

Joe has a new life too.

He and Jo-Ann are planning to go backpacking soon. She got him interested in business and he got her interested in dirt.

Another match made in heaven.

And free of bats.

Just one of those stories you run into.

If you're a Dick like me. Give me a call. Just check the phone book for "A. Dick For Hire".

More...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Camping Made Easy

Do you know how????

Number One: Where to camp?

Though it can be exotic and fun, most of us are not quite sure about the whole "camping" idea.

Say you drive to a forest camp ground. OK so far, but what then?

You may expect to find an expanse of clean pavement and modern facilities, but few so-called camp grounds are this well equipped, even in today's world, and expect you to put your tent somewhere in the dirt.

Try to adjust by slowly easing off the pavement. Allow plenty of time to avoid vertigo or panic episodes. Eventually you will overcome your revulsion.

Now once you are past the "yuck" factor and are ready to put up your tent on dirt, things get easier. (True!)

One step that "pros" use is locating a "Park Ranger", a kind of hired help. These are the ones wearing uniforms. Your "Park Ranger" will gladly offer you a selection of camp sites for perusal. Take your time and don't be shy about asking for an upgrade. Rangers are there to serve you.

Once you have your site you are ready to start camping, like in olden times.


What to look out for.

Forest water is not house-broken. It can be unreliable. Rain even in faraway mountains can make the water near you rise up and do strange things. Stay well back from it. Do not touch anything but bottled water.

Dead things may be present. Like trees and stuff. They are also known to fall on people, especially while changing clothes in their tents, for some reason. If you smell a bad thing, it may also be dead. If you have had a pet, you probably know about this. So if you find a dead thing, even a bush, ask your Ranger to tend to it immediately.

Wandering hungry animals are a sign that lazy camp ground staff did not feed them properly. Well-fed animals won't come and bother you. Your Ranger can verify that all animals will be back in their cages by nightfall.


Putting up your tent.

Some use the location of the latrine as a factor in siting a tent. Since this is not a topic we like to think about, we will avoid it.

Preferably you will be in a nice meadow with soft grass. If the grass is too high you have a problem so trample it flat, then start a big fire.

The fire will be cheery and show which way the wind is blowing because things "down wind" will start burning from the sparks. Put your tent on the other side.

Ideally you should have practiced putting up your tent at home, but this is not practical in most apartments, so leave yourself plenty of time. Pound those big nail things into the ground and then put the rod things inside the special things sewn into the tent and pretty soon you are done. It couldn't be easier, really.

Finally, just to be safe in case some of the animals forgot to go back in their cages, start another fire, but far away from your tent. This is where you will cook to "throw them off the scent". (Animals are dumb.)

Cooking is easier than at home because camping food comes in colorful pouches. After supper throw a rope over a tree and "hang" your food and dirty dishes to keep other campers from being tempted.


Relax and enjoy the wilderness.

It's probably getting dark by now, so put on your gortecks camping sweater and break out the booze.

Ingredients for Camping Drinks:

  • Alcohol - Tequila, Vodka, or Gin
  • Juice - Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Coca-Cola, or Kool-Aid
  • Syrup - Maple Syrup is traditional for campers, but Karo or Mrs. Butterworth's is OK, or some Jam
  • Salt - (In case you sweated too much while getting your tent to work.)

Combine the ingredients and drink.

Traditionally, camping drinks are stirred with a stick of jerky. If this does not soften the jerky enough so you can eat it, try relieving the boredom by using it to stage sword fights. This is handy because if the alcohol and altitude go to your head, it is much harder to kill or maim any of your friends with jerky sticks than real swords (speaking from experience).

When the booze runs out it's time for bed. Luckily you drove here, so you can crawl into the back of your SUV, roll out your sleeping bag, and have a cozy night safe from all the kooks out there in the woods. Keep a loaded gun under your pillow, of course.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two Old Guys Lost On The Knob

Doing what they do best.

Shortly after the rescue...

Jim: Well, what the damn hell. I don't know how we ended up lost.

John: I believe it was when you decided to go left. That was the point right there, you ask me. I told you "Don't go left." Did you listen to me? No.

Jim: You old coot! I been hiking that mountain for 30, 40 years, and I don't make wrong turns. There ain't no turn up there I ain't been over a hundred times. Put on your glasses, man.

John: Where's the map? Let's have a looksee. Let me get my glasses on and I'll show you. Hey now look at this here. There it is, right there. See the junction? See one trail goes left and one goes right? If you'd a listened to me we would a been home yesterday for supper.

Jim: You can't prove nothin if you're flat out wrong, no matter how hard you talk it. Every time I look, there you are fumbling with those damn glasses and a map. That's probly what did it. You got us turned around.

John: Now here on the map it says on the left, here, right here it says this trail leads to Gobblers Knob and you said don't pay no nevermind to the map because you knew it was the way to Noble Knob. That's what you said, and look what happened. I almost froze my butt off last night because of that.

Jim: You know it didn't happen that way. You can't fool me. You had that map upside down again. I learned the difference between Gobblers Knob and Noble Nob while you were still pooping in your diapers. You went and got me confused. All that fussing around and stopping to take pictures and all, rattling that damn map of yours you keep pulling out every two minutes.

John: Now I distinctly remember you said go left. Insisted, you did. And that was it. I had the map out right in front of your nose, and my compass too, but no you was too smart for that. You didn't need no map you said. You didn't need no map because you been coming up here all your life. So there we was then, lost, and it's getting dark. Now that was a pisser.

Jim: Well I brought the whiskey, didn't I? We couldn't a made it without that. I pretty near saved your cussed fuzzy old tail, I guess, and now what? You act like this?

John: Damn right straight, you old fool. Whiskey or no, you would a froze up solid if I hadn't a had my emergency blanket with me. I should a let you go wander off and then you would a seen. Don't think I had a whole bunch a fun wrapped up with you in that thing all night, listening to you snore. I didn't even get a wink of sleep.

Jim: What the hell? I didn't sleep a full minute all night. I just dozed off now and then from boredom sitting there next you mumbling about stuff, all wrapped up in that crinkly damn thing. All that whining you got into about how you missed your wife and wishing you'd a stayed home and all. Maybe I should a kept walking. We could a got home sooner, dark or no.

John: Sure. Right. In the dark. You make enough wrong turns in broad daylight for a whole troop of boy scouts. I'd like to see you find your way to the end of your own driveway after dark. And without my helpful map skills. And I had the flashlight too.

Jim: Piss.

John: Here, have another donut you old fart. Earl here brought enough so's even you can't eat em all.

Jim: I got a little taste of whiskey left. Want some?

John: You held out on me? We could a died without enough whiskey for warmth. What kind of friend are you?

Jim: Well, if it came to that, I wanted us to go out in style, so I saved a bit. Where's your cup then?

John: Right here. Don't short me this time, you old cuss.

Jim: Piss.

More: Missing Hikers Found Safe Near Rainier

Monday, October 10, 2011

Frikinzero

 Frikinzero:  Outdoor cartoons by Doug. 

I sign my work "Frikinzero". I am a freelance artist.  Go > 



More:

Frikoutdoors complete set on Webshots

Frikinzero's Channel - YouTube

FRIKINZERO art at Facebook

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Now?

Meat training for winter strength.

And so begins the season of our discontent.

The sky grays, leaves fall, and the cold hand of winter advances toward our throats.

This is the off-season, the doorway to months of inaction. Though some make up for the lack of trail tromping by skiing or snowshoeing, it is not the same as actual, real, true backpacking.

Muscle tone fades, and joints lose their hard-won toughness. Bellies soften and enlarge.

What to do?

Well, how about strength training?

With simple equipment you can make at home, it's easy to overcome winter's assault on your strength. If this sounds interesting, then here's how:

Prepare your equipment.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheep stomach, liver, heart, and tongue
  • 1/2 pound minced suet (227 g)
  • 3 medium onions, minced
  • 1/2 pound dry oats, toasted (227 g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (2.5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground herbs (5 ml)

After soaking the sheep stomach overnight in salted water, boil the other sheep parts and mince them.

In a bowl, mix in the other ingredients, stuff the stomach with the mix, and tie it off.

If you are a cautious sort, puncture the stomach with a fork. This will prevent an explosion during cooking.

Place the stuffed stomach into a pot and boil for three hours, then remove it and allow it to cool and air dry.

Now you have a solid, thoroughly cooked, dry, and pleasantly rubbery Exercise Haggis, or Exer-Haggis as the strength training professionals call it.

Face it, you can walk all year, even if it's not really hiking. Your greatest problem in the off-season is loss of upper-body strength. Exer-Haggis is ideal for combating this.

Upward sausage press.

If you've properly prepared your Exer-Haggis, it should be as long as your arm, which makes it easy to hold.

Lie flat and face-up. Use a bench or the floor. Either works.

Start with your Exer-Haggis resting lightly on your forehead.

At this point some dripping can show up if you chose the puncturing option, but keeping an Exer-Haggis refrigerated a few days before use ought to coagulate it and forestall problems.

Firmly but gently grasping your Exer-Haggis, push it upward until your arms are fully extended.

Then slowly lower the Exer-Haggis until it again rests on your forehead.

Repeat until exhausted. If possible, do not drool. (I know, hard not to!)

Horsie goes a-prancing.

Start on the floor, face-down, with your Exer-Haggis resting in the small of your back, like a small cowboy on a friendly horse. (You.)

Push against floor with the flats of your hands until your body is raised and your arms are extended.

Slowly lower yourself back to the floor without letting your Exer-Haggis buddy fall off. The larger and heavier your Exer-Haggis, the more exercise you get.

Repeat until you can't stand it any more.

Around-town carry.

Put on your coat, and, while carrying your Exer-Haggis comfortably in the crook of your arm, walk around town, frequently shifting it from one arm to the other.

Do your shopping, go out for coffee, or visit friends. It's all good exercise.

This, of course, will tire you, which is fine. That is the point. It means that you needed a workout, and got one.

An especially nice thing about having an Exer-Haggis with you is that it is naturally curved like a meat-filled travel pillow.

If tired, find any convenient chair and recline with the Exer-Haggis behind your neck. After a few minutes of comfy power-napping you will be fully recharged and ready to continue your carry.

What's next?

Sadly, no Exer-Haggis lasts forever. Yours will finally wear out, and begin leaking. If you are lucky, or if you planned ahead, you have a pet, or children, and they aren't fussy about what they eat, especially if you lock them in a room for a day or two.

Just slice up your worn out Exer-Haggis and dish it out. Before very long you'll have space in your fridge for a new one.

And since the Exer-Haggis is made from things other people never eat, it's really cheap to make. Go ahead, make two while you're at it!

No pets? No children? No problem!

Relax. Here's what you do.

Just toss each worn out Exer-Haggis into the freezer. By the the time the freezer is full, backpacking season has almost returned again. And that means it's time for some leg work.

Empty the freezer, and hitch all your used (and still solidly frozen) Exer-Haggis to a line tied around your waist.

Then start walking. All that weight dragging behind you will give your legs a stiff workout. You'll be way ahead of your friends on your first backpacking trip.

When your collection of Exer-Haggis thaws or you become tired of all the dragging, cut them loose and leave them for forest critters. They need to eat too, so it's OK. Bio-degradable and all.

And then?

If you really get into it there is always Haggis hurling. And no, this is not part of the dining experience.

You throw haggis.

Or, if that part is not for you, you can be an official such as a Hagrarian, Clerk of the Heather, Peater, Barrel Master, Haggis Hooter, or Distance Referee.

You might even be so enchanted after a season with your Exer-Haggis that you give up backpacking and begin hurling full time.

It can happen.

More:

Haggis Hurling, The Revival of a Traditional Scottish Sport

Glen Haggis

Lorne is haggis world record-breaker

Haggis gets a bashing from fakes

Address to a Haggis

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his sturdy fist a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
And legs and arms, and heads will cut,
Like tops of thistle.
You Pow'rs, that make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery ware
That slops in bowls:
But, if You wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!