Monday, January 30, 2012

It Was One Of Those Days

Guaranteed clear, with widely-scattered slots.

Clear Slot: A local region of clearing skies or reduced cloud cover, indicating an intrusion of drier air. Often appears as a bright area with higher cloud bases on the west or southwest side of a wall cloud. Believed to be a visual indication of a rear flank downdraft.


List of cloud types
Rear flank downdraft
Wall cloud

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hey, Look What I Got!

When life exceeds capacity.

I knew this ultralight stuff wasn't going to work out. I just knew it.

I don't know how I could have been so stupid, but here I am. It's at least 10 miles back to the car, wherever that is, and these lightweight so-called hiking shoes I have won't boot up. I've tried everything and I can't get them to respond.

The battery check is good. Full charge. The diagnostics all come up positive. Still, no go.

When I try to fire up the built-in GPS to get my bearings, all I get is a screen full of error messages. I can't even tell how many, they just scroll off the bottom and keep going until I flip the switch back to "off".

Now I'm looking at a long hike in some random direction without being able to talk to my shoes. The voice input seems to be working, sort of -- at least I can see the LCD VU meter responding when I talk into the mic, but no rational response. And the left shoe seems to be off somewhere in la-la land. It's reporting a totally different frequency range than my actual voice carries, not to mention a bunch of noise showing up on the dynamic range function.

So where do I go? I've got these $800 shoes and all they are now is things that go on my feet. Even the heater quit working. How can anyone hike in shoes with no electric heater? I mean, get real here.

I'm at a junction of three trails. Sure, I just pick one and hike, right? But which one? I have a 66.7% chance of going in the wrong direction. How can that be good?

I need my shoes to give me some intelligence.

Things might be a little different if I'd been carrying one of those old-fashioned paper maps, if I could read one. I paid lots of attention coming in, but who needs to look where they're going any more? Isn't it enough to admire the scenery? Isn't this what it's all about? Why should I have to think? This is 2012.

Well, now I have to think. I'm not used to this. I paid good money so I wouldn't have to. Now I have to.

If I'd stuck with my old gear I'd be carrying a whole lot more weight but there's nothing like redundancy. I'd have GPS in my camera, cell phone, radio, and e-reader. They wouldn't all fail at once.

Now I'm stuck with a pair of shoes that won't quit beeping at me. Even the interactive map function is hosed. It keeps showing me the best route through Las Vegas.

If only.

The good news is that I brought an extra day's worth of food, weight be damned, so I can eat. For a while.

And my knife is working. Bless you, little Victorinox.

To save weight I did get the entry-level model with the small screen and no GPS. I can cut stuff with it, but that's really primitive. Who cuts anymore?

I don't have anything to cut anyway. All my food is powdered and freeze-dried. About all I can do besides walk is sit down every now and then and play a few minutes of Angry Bugs on my knife.

But that is a real life saver.

I'd for sure go nuts without the knife.

Surrounded by these trees and rocks, and nothing else. It's pretty creepy out here, all green and gray and brown and black, and barely 3-D, and that's only the old kind you have to see with your own eyes, like the dinosaurs did.

I'll have to go easy on the knife. Be careful not to run the battery down. If I lose that connection to reality I'm gone for sure.


Technology marches on: Victorinox squeezes 1TB of high-speed storage into a Swiss Army Knife

Friday, January 20, 2012

Definitions: I Only Have Strands For You

Cheerfully wrapped in stickiness and dead bugs.

Webface: What the first person on the trail each morning gets as they clear away spider webs across the trail. (Also known as "web face".)

Web Master: The first person on the trail each morning. The one who catches the spider webs.

Web-Walking: Being the first hiker on the trail in the morning, meaning that person will be the one whose face clears spider webs from across the trail.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Elusive Rogue Glacier Threatens Northwest

"It just vanished!"

By Barry Dinkhorn, Port Angeles, WA, for Borderline Security News

Olympic National Park's GICE (Glacial Ice Containment Enforcement) Office announced today that there may be a rogue glacier loose somewhere in the Park.

Although there is little chance of an encounter between those enjoying backcountry recreation and the missing Ferry Glacier, visitors are urged to use extreme caution. No one should approach, attempt to feed, or worst of all, tease any frozen feature they find, especially if it is extremely large and moving toward them, no matter how slowly.

Glaciers are generally regarded as sluggish and may seem docile, even dim-witted, but they have enough strength to reshape entire landscapes, tearing at mountains, rerouting rivers, even creating whole new valleys where none existed before, so they are nothing to fool with.

Ferry Glacier was one of the largest glaciers in the entire Park but for some unknown reason has abandoned its rocky lair in the Bailey Range.

This may sound surprising but glaciers, while kept under close surveillance, measured, and mapped regularly, have normally been visited only infrequently since they are both solitary and highly territorial.

Up to now at least, all have remained solidly anchored well within narrowly circumscribed areas. Most have in fact, over the last few decades, been retreating to the highest reaches of their home ranges and avoiding almost all contact with humans.

And underfunding, with resultant staff shortages the last few years, has reduced the frequency of glacial observation team visits even more.

Bert Gleason, Chief of GICE for the last 17 years, said of Ferry, "The first time I passed it, I didn't know it was even supposed to be a glacier. It was raining heavily, and I couldn't see exactly where I was. That was my first ever experience with a glacier, and now somehow it's gone," he said.

Several years after that first meeting, while on a routine check-up trip around the Park, Gleason saw the glacier again, but it seemed to be much smaller than it appeared on maps. "That should have been our wake-up call," he said. "The last time I got out there, just last week, there was nothing more than a lake and a bit of snow," he said. "We have no idea where the glacier might be by now, although it probably hasn't gotten far," he continued.

"We're warning everyone to be on the lookout just in case," he said. "This is something the size and mass of 20 trillion ice cubes, so it can't stay out of sight forever. Right now were focusing mainly on roads traversing the Park and on nearby highways. If you're a trucker or motorist passing through, we urge you not to pick up hitchhikers, especially if they are bright white, shedding tons of boulders and gravel everywhere, and cover several square miles. That could be trouble. And that goes double for night-time travel," he noted.

Even as rangers and GICE SWAT teams scour the Park for clues to the whereabouts of Ferry Glacier, there have been numerous reports in the last few hours of massive snowstorms covering the entire region. This has some wondering if Ferry Glacier hasn't already made it past Park boundaries and perhaps has decided to split up and try as many escape routes as possible.

There's even been a report in the last few minutes of a truck rollover on I-90 which has blocked the highway and left it covered in frozen tomato paste.

Area residents are urged to stay home and venture forth only cautiously until this situation has been resolved.


Cliff Mass weather blog: Wednesday Snow Storm

News: Olympic National Park glaciers continue to shrink, most recent study finds

ONP: Glaciers and Climate Change

Photos: Glaciers Of Olympic National Park

Friday, January 13, 2012

An Uprooting Phenomenon

Oh, snap!

Windthrow: A phenomenon of gale or hurricane force winds that blow down acres of trees in uncut stands and along cut boundaries and roads. Windsnap. Windthrown timber can create a fire hazard and can produce habitat for harmful insect pests.

Windthrow: One or more trees felled by wind, common with shallow-rooted species and in areas where cutting has reduced density.

Windthrow: Trees uprooted by wind, or from some other cause. This often breaks the tree trunks as well, which is called windsnap.

Windthrow: When trees are uprooted by wind. This is a concern in recently thinned timber stands. Shallow rooted trees are more affected.

More: Windthrow >

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Special D Diet

Tasty drink and rodenticide - all in one can!

The Central Asian Connecton

It is said that the foods of Central Asia fall into three categories:

  • The nomadic diet, such as that of the Kruzbyz peoples (boiled meat, steamed meat, fried meat, fermented milk, bugs, bread sticks)
  • The farmer's diet (vegetables, roots, grains mixed with sand, noodles mixed with dust, bread sticks, grubs, dried rodents)
  • Foreign dishes (bottled and canned foods from lands such as Jamaica, Burkina Faso, and California, plus chocolate-covered bugs)

The most traditional of these is of course the nomadic diet, based as it is on tradition, and nomads, many of whom are still wandering around outdoors, and are slow to learn.

But perhaps the most interesting is a combination of all three categories. This would be mice fermented in Mountain Dew.

The Backpacking Connecton

Interestingly, this exotic dish also has a use in backpacking.

As any backpacker knows, mice can be a bitch. They get into your food, gnaw through packs, and every now and then you'll wake up from a perfectly good dream about Angelina Jolie, or Tom Cruise (depending of course on your personal tastes) to find a mouse running across your face.

Or worse, lots of mice.

Or worse yet, lots of mice trying to tunnel up your nostrils to get at boogers.

Now people often react to this. Some go straight home and lobby to outlaw backpacking for everyone.

Some are emotionally scarred for life, or until years later, when they start forgetting pretty much everything anyway.

Others you meet during job interviews, and only find out the truth later, after you've accepted the job, moved across the country, put your kids into school, and are then introduced to your new boss.


But science marches on. Science and diet. Food science and pest control. Whatever you want to call it.

See, the trick is that, when you cross the border into mouse country, take Mountain Dew. Take plenty. It's cheap. Sure, heavy to carry but really good at killing vermin, and makes them edible too. So think of Mountain Dew as an addition to your tool kit, and a possible culinary weapon.


Here's how.

In the evening, just pop open a Dew, pour it into an open container, and slither down into your bag. You'll sleep OK.

Any critters that come along will jump right into The Dew, drown, and by morning they'll not only be way dead, but almost fully digested. You can swallow them whole for breakfast, washed down by your morning coffee, hang the remains in a mesh bag on the back of your pack until they get dry and crunchy, or just toss them into the bushes.

It all works.

Burial is not necessary in case you choose the final option, so don't get fussy.

Why? Do we want to know?

But why? How?

Mountain Dew contains citric acid, a substance naturally found in citrus fruits and Mafia body-disposal vats. Now it also comes in 12-ounce cans.

Neon green drinks like The Dew use citric acid for that characteristic tooth-enamel-stripping "tangy bite". Contrarian drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi use phosphoric acid, but the result is the same. Because of their acid content, all these concoctions have a pH of around 3, which in science lingo is "very acidic".

Think serious rodent killers.

Safe to swallow? Not to worry. Your stomach and intestines are built to withstand a variety of acidic digestive juices and industrial chemicals. For a hungry backpacker with a healthy digestive tract an occasional Mountain Dew with its corrosive acid load is probably not an issue.

Especially if the stuff you swallow contains a partially-gelled mouse carcass, which acts as a natural buffering agent. The residual, undissolved fur may even help clean your teeth.

Remember, "It'll tickle yore innards" is not just idle advertising drivel, which so many had assumed up to now.

What else could possibly be true?


How Long Do Mafia Victims Take to Dissolve In Acid? >

Can Mountain Dew Really Dissolve a Mouse Carcass? >

Monday, January 9, 2012

Got Milk?

Got cookies? Got ham sandwich? Anything?

Yogi-ing: Asking other hikers for food.

Yogi-ing: Hikers "yogi" when they cajole a non-hiker out of something they need or want without actually asking for it. Named after Yogi Bear of cartoon fame because of his habit of making off with people's picnic baskets.

Yogi-ing: Mooching food, a ride, or something else from locals or day hikers. To Yogi one looks pathetic enough so people will want to help. If you ask, it is begging and not yogi-ing. Also defined as the "innocent" or "accidental" theft of another hiker's food, snacks, or rare treats, especially while on tight rations due to the thief's poor planning. Sometimes the logic used is "you just left it there", or "I didn't think you wanted it", or "I thought you were done with it".

Yogi-ing: The art of "letting" food be offered cheerfully by strangers without actually asking them directly.

Yogi-ing: The art of getting other hikers, picnickers, or others to offer you food, drink or rides. It requires the hiker to communicate a need without actually asking for something. Limping, wistfully staring, or similar hints are allowed, but actually asking, begging, or stealing is not.

Yogi Bear >

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ignore The Fuzz

Just keep your eyes on the tail.

Animal Trail: A trail created as animals travel (usually large grazing animals such as deer, elk, and moose).

These trails often intersect with or spur off of other trails or roads because animals will frequently use these as part of their transportation system. Animal trails generally lead to food or water and tend to not go very far in any one direction.

These are also called "game trails".

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Einar Alderin And SnowShoeGear

Cottage-Manufacturer Interviews #37

This week, in tune with the season, we'll switch from packs and tarps to something just as important, footwear. And not any ordinary footwear, but something designed specifically for winter hiking and backpacking.

Our guest this time is Einar Alderin, founder of SnowShoeGear.

Hoofist:  Hello, Einar. Can you tell us how you got the idea for your company, SnowShoeGear?

Einar Alderin:  Oh, sure. I was out to the barn one day when this here big blizzard come along. It took me right by surprise, that one did, and there I was, stranded. I could a froze to death out there you know. It happens around here.

Hoofist:  So you were in your barn in a blizzard? And how did you get from there to SnowShoeGear?

Einar Alderin:  Well, it took a while, that's for sure. I was sitting there in the barn about to freeze most a my tender parts off and who knows what. Because you know, around here, you don't take it too light whenever a blizzard comes along, you know. They got that phrase there, the quick and the dead, and if a blizzard decides to run you down, you find you ain't so quick as you think, and probably you will end up dead to boot. So I took to sitting so I could think through my options once. Does that make sense?

Hoofist:  Sure does. I can relate. And then SnowShoeGear?

Einar Alderin:  Well, that took a while. That was way later. I ain't all that bright, but good enough for farm work. Most days. Slow but steady brings in the wheat. Kinda like that. But that's how you got to be around here. We all are, mostly. No fancy stuff for us. It's the ones with all the fancy ideas that go bust the fastest. I seen some a them come and go, and the ones that are left after all the fuss are the straight shooters that work steady and don't get too big for their britches. Which is why I sat down in the barn and kinda decided to think about things around that time.

Hoofist:  And the barn is your workshop?

Einar Alderin:  Well, it is now, since the wife kicked me out of the kitchen. I used to work in there but the wife she didn't take to that much. Said I got on her nerves. And made too much of a mess and all, so I had to find another place to work. Well, there ain't too many places around here. You can't go out in the fields or nothin', you know, not when it's cold and all, so the barn was about it, so that's where I ended up.

I made a little place there, with a light bulb hanging from a wire, and that works pretty good. I don't need too much. One thing you don't want to do is get a unhappy wife. No telling what a woman might to when she gets in one a her moods, so I had to back off, if you know what I mean.

Hoofist:  So where did the idea of SnowShoeGear come from?

Einar Alderin:  Well that one I don't know, you know. Ideas. What's an idea? They come, they go. That's a tough one, but as I was sitting there in that blizzard waiting to figure something out or freeze dead I had a couple ideas come to me. You know, around here we don't get much rain. Mostly in June and July. Starts in the middle a May, pretty regular, then through June, and then it kinda tapers off through July. And that's about it.

Then again, in the winter, it's snow, which is what you'd expect when the temperature is fifteen, twenty, twenty-five below. Or colder, which happens more often than you'd think if you weren't from around here. But it don't really snow all that much really, just stays all winter and blows around. That's how we get snirt. And then every few years we get a real blizzard where you gotta stay inside for a few days. If you don't it'll just grab you by the collar and take you off somewheres and they don't find the body until sometime in spring, if ever.

In the old days lotta folks got lost just between the house and the barn. You can't see nothin' but you got to go out and check on the livestock, and then you don't come back, and then when spring comes around, maybe they find the body. Happened a lot in the old days. The wind blows so hard and there's all that snow in the air, you can't see a damn thing. Some people took to stringing a rope from the house to the barn so they could be sure where they were going and how to get back, but we don't have enough blizzards for that. Lately anyhow.

Maybe it was different in the old days. Well anyway, I was in the barn and I was busy and all and didn't mind the wind and then I looked out and it was all white out there. So I thought, hey. If you can get lost from the house to the barn, maybe it works the other way too, so I sat down there for a while and had a think. Damn it was cold out there. The barn is pretty drafty, you know. This was way before I had a workshop out there or nothin'. It was just a barn then. Drafty as hell.

Hoofist:  And then you came up with the idea for SnowShoeGear, to get you safely back home?

Einar Alderin:  No, not quite yet. It took a while yet.

Hoofist:  So what happened next?

Einar Alderin:  Well, I sat there a long time.

Hoofist:  But you got back to the house, and you came up with the idea of SnowShoeGear. So how did that happen?

Einar Alderin:  Well, I didn't know what in the hell I was gonna do. Sometimes it gets like that, you know? Cripes, I thought I was about done for. I started walking around the barn to keep warm and looking in boxes and stuff because it was still daylight, and that was about all I had to do, walking around and such. I figured maybe something would come to me so I nosed around in a bunch of old boxes out there. And dang, don't ya know, there was one a them boxes I hadn't never looked in. It was some a my grandfather's stuff.

He didn't have much, you know. He got a jackknife for his fourteenth birthday but before that he didn't have nothin', and that's about the last thing he did get too, so he had to make do with that. Out here on the plains we don't have no wood or nothin', neither, so he wanted to take up carving but didn't have no wood, so he took to horse apples and carved around on them. So that's what I found in the box. He had little soldiers and cowboys and stuff like that, all carved out of horse apples. That's what he played with when he was a kid, and he must a put it all in this box one day for safe keeping and there it was, still in the barn, all forgot about. His name was Stone. Stone Alderin, my grandfather.

He was a tough old guy. All hide and hair. He could work for a week straight and never have to take a rest or nothin'. He was still pitching hay and shoveling manure into his eighties. Well, once I saw his old railroad train set carved out of horse apples, I figured if he could make something out of nothin' then I could too. And that there was about the time I heard my wife.

It was all dark by then and when I looked out the barn door I could just barely see a light from the kitchen. The wife was over there, with her head out the back door and yelling for me to come and eat once or I'd have hell to pay if it got cold. She had dinner all set and there I was, somewhere all hell and gone goofing off again as far as she was concerned and she never took to that, so she had her head out the door, hollering for me, so that was how I got back to the house. It was either get back for dinner or I knew she would come out hunting for me.

Freezing to death in the yard wouldn't a been a way out. You don't get away from her, not that woman, so I made a run for the light. I hear that happens sometimes. They call it a near death experience. If you met my wife you'd get the picture. And then there I was, just like nothin' happened. Back in the world of the living, and supper still warm too.

Hoofist:  So, one thing. What are "horse apples"?

Einar Alderin:  Oh. That would be the part of the horse that comes out the back end. So maybe being from the city and all, maybe you never seen them, but out in the country it's different.

Hoofist:  And your grandfather carved on this?

Einar Alderin:  Sure. He didn't have nothin' else, like I said. It wasn't that bad. They dry out pretty fast in the summer, and in the winter they are all froze solid anyway, and no flies then neither. Better than wood in a way. No slivers, you know. But that was the deal right there. Once I found Granddad's toys I started to do some thinking and began some foolin' around with stuff, and pretty soon I had my prototype footwear.

Hoofist:  And this was the inspiration for SnowShoeGear?

Einar Alderin:  Yep. A course I use snow, not manure. Some people, you know. I have to say it right out, because they don't get it. But if Stone Alderin could make his own toys out of horse droppings, then Einar Alderin his grandson can damn well make winter-time footwear out of snow. So that's about it. It took some tinkering and such, but you know, they ain't all that fancy. And some people really like what I make. "Biodegradable", they say. They like that stuff nowadays, so that's how I advertise. "No cleaning or repairs needed, ever." I say that too.

And then I have to pick the right customers. And it's really just a winter business, but guys in Michigan like them OK. Minnesota too. Montana. So on. Some clown in Florida kept emailing me. Got pretty nasty after I told him like four or five times I couldn't fill his order. I returned his money and all but that wasn't near good enough for him. Got real ornery, that guy. Well, let him come by in person. See how he handles thirty below in a twenty mile an hour wind. Freeze his god damn Mr. Bojangles right off. Then he'll have something to think about besides some damn snow boots in Florida. But most people are pretty good.

I use top quality snow and I got molds for all size feet, so most are happy with the fit. Got a bunch of lasts cheap from a guy who used to have a hunting boot factory in the family from back in the old days, and they work real good. So mostly people are happy. Right now I'm working on colors. White is all I got for now but not everybody likes that. I do have a hell of a time some years. Not every year is good for snow you know, so I got to do a bit of careful scraping at times, but so far I get by OK. Keeps me busy between deer season and spring planting so I guess it's OK there.

Hoofist:  And how should people take care of their SnowShoeGear footwear? How many miles do your customers get on a pair, for example?

Einar Alderin:  Well, don't try wearing them in the house. That would be the first thing I guess. Keep them out back if you can, on the north side a the house, or in the mud porch. This is if you can be sure the weather is staying good and cold, otherwise keep them in the freezer and don't wear them in the car. I can't tell you how many people forget and get into the car with their snow boots on and crank up the heat.

Well, that's about all she wrote right there. Don't take more than a minute, tops, and your snow boots are ruined, so keep that in mind. A foam cooler is fine. Put them in there and put that in the trunk of your car or in the pickup and all is well. Socks too. At least two pairs, wool, good and thick. That way your feet stay warm and the boots don't melt out. Some people go all winter. It ain't like summer hiking anyways.

People go out every month or two at most, and pretty soon it's spring and that's it, so mileage ain't a big deal. You know. Kind of a specialty item. It don't take much to make these here boots. It's mostly plain snow and I use a putty knife and a couple a scrapers and I have the lasts, so I ain't sure why nobody else hasn't got into the business. I think maybe somebody tried, but I'm still the only one that has made it so far as I know. Could be the snirt. You don't see that anywhere else.

Hoofist:  Snirt? What's that?

Einar Alderin:  Kind of my secret ingredient I guess. Leastways I can't think of anything else. This here is something like our secret sauce, kinda what makes North Dakota the place it is. See, there's lots a farm land here, and lots a it is laying fallow, and after harvest you also got all that land that got plowed up in the spring and grew crops and it's still exposed, so the dust don't stop blowing around just because a winter.

You get snow, you get dirt, and pretty soon they are all mixed up together and what you got is snirt. We're known for it, leastways locally. I think that's what holds my snow boots together. Nobody else has made it work and I think it's the snirt. Could be. I don't worry a bunch. The business ain't like my real job anyways you know. Just something I do in the winter. I'm happy.

Hoofist:  Well thank you for sharing your experiences with us. We really appreciated it.

Einar Alderin:  Well sure. Come by some day and I'll whip up a pair a snow boots for you and we can hike out and have a look at the horizon for a while. It's real pretty some days. The wife won't leave the house all winter and it can get so I'm afraid to come back in so it would be nice to see a new face and all. Just give me a call a couple of hours ahead and we'll be square. Any time. I'm free for about four months now. How about next week?

Hoofist:  Well, I'll let you know next time I'm in the state.

Einar Alderin:  OK. Or any friends a yours. They're welcome too. We don't see too many outsiders here. Not too much a anybody. Just send them right straight up here, OK?

Hoofist:  Thanks again. I'll do that.

Einar Alderin:  Or you could send me their names and addresses. I can write to them. Anybody you know. Just about any time. Don't be shy. It would do us good to see some new faces. Lots a them.

Hoofist:  Once again, thanks. Oops. Looks like my internet connection just went down. I guess I'll have to post what I have. Our guest this time has been the cottage ultralight manufacturer Einar Alderin, founder of SnowShoeGear in Beulah, North Dakota, near the shores of the lovely Lake Sakakawea reservoir, where you can find the best snirt on earth. Thanks, Einar.