Wednesday, December 31, 2014

10 Backpacking Resolutions For The Coming Year.

I'll do it so you don't have to.

  1. Bring a map next time.

    This sounds obvious, but the obvious thing is often wrong. According to those in the know.

    Like "Everything Mom taught you about drinking pesticides is wrong," and "All you ever learned about keeping dynamite in your trunk is wrong." Well sometimes it isn't.

    Speaking as someone who spent a solid week finding his way home from the city park across town, I'd say go with that map is a needless crutch mindset if you want, but ease into it.

    I know I will. From here on out. If I can find my way home again so I can put it on my ToDo list.

  2. Before camping somewhere, I'm getting permission.

    It's not fun waking up to find a 2000-candlepower beam from a BushBurner Tactical Everlight punching you in the eyes, and a 12-gauge shotgun poking you in the nose. And an angry beefy guy doing the yelling.

    In the past this was mainly for camping on private land, but these days there are lots of jumpy guys with badges running around too. So maybe get permission first, and don't count on apologizing later.

    When stealth camping works, it works, but when it doesn't — hoboy. I hate getting my tent shot up.

  3. I'll wait longer before climbing on the latest trend.

    With that in mind, I'm ditching the hiking turban.

    And I'll never ever even think about wearing one and a hiking kilt any more. Not at the same time. (See previous note about people with badges.)

  4. No more camping next to bears.

    These guys are not as cute as they look. No way. They're sloppy eaters, and they fart a lot. Along with a bunch of other bad habits.

  5. I'll think about getting a job.

    I can use the money, for one thing. And it might help me with Number Six, which is...

  6. Get a girlfriend. Even a crummy one.

    It's lonely out here. I'm not fussy any more. I'd even put up with your cat. Really. Call me. I'm always home. Alone.

  7. Lose weight.

    Everyone else does, so why can't I?

    So all those backpackers who go and and scarf down a half-gallon of ice cream? For a appetizer? And then eat two dinners on their way to the hospital for intravenous feeding to fight off starvation?

    Not me. I'm still waddling. Go figure.

    Starting next week it's two laps around the park every other week. Not just one. No matter how long it takes to go around twice. Then we'll see what happens.

  8. Stop procrastinating.

    Pretty soon now.

(9 & 10) Eh. Time for a break. TV, a beer, and a plate of nachos. I'm tired. I'll work on the rest next year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hello From Way Out West East

The gang is currently aft agley.

Happy Holidays, everyone! It's been an eventful year. Time for the annual "Status Report" that I send out to my family and all you people without whose support I couldn't be doing this.

As you may recall, I did set out last spring to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, hoping to get it done before Cheryl Strayed's movie came out and everyone in the world started going Wild next year.

And things did go well for a while. I was covering lots of ground until this one day. I'd had this growing feeling that something was off, so I finally had to stop and ask for directions. That's when I found out I was in Colorado.

Don't know how that happened. Well so anyway, being that far off the route and all, it doesn't look like I'll be making it to Canada this year. I'm too busy anyhow.

For the time being I'm spending my days in a little snow-filled town not all that far from the Continental Divide. It specializes in winter tourism — skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and all that, so at least I get to do some people-watching, but I got a job to tide me over too. I think it will. I think it will work out.

I met a woman here. Her name is Jane Saw. She's pretty special — tough but nice. Smart too. She paints watercolor scenes on card stock. Some gnarly ones. They appeal to the snowbirds who spend their winter vacations here. I write up some text to go with the pictures and we sell them for $10 a crack, and it isn't a bad business. Some people buy a whole box at a time. Mostly apologies. Apologies seem to be hot for some reason.

For example, our biggest seller so far is "I'm sorry I peed on the carpet," and it comes with your choice of images. A lot are cats and dogs but some are people too, which makes sense in a party town I guess.

Some you wouldn't much expect though, like "Insincere Apology Letter for Plagiarism", but we cover shoplifting, car accidents, drunkenness, slander, trespassing, infidelities of all kinds, minor acts of vandalism (mostly unintentional), and apologies to the court and to police as well.

So I guess it's my turn then. I'm sorry. I screwed up somewhere. Ed, if you're still out there, I will return your tent, but as you know by now, not on schedule, my friend. I need to be more organized for next year so I'm making a list. I'll try to follow it when I pick up the trail again next spring.

To myself:

  1. Do your research: You need more than a compass to find Canada. At least one that's better than what you get on a zipper-pull. Now I know for sure.
  2. Write up an itinerary: So you can check where you are, for sure, at least once in a while. Western Colorado is nice, but the winters are hard. I'm just lucky that Jane lets me sleep with the cat. (His name is Buzzer.)
  3. Keep people updated: Mom told me to call, but did I listen? No. I think I started to veer right at about Agua Dulce, down in southern California. Mom would have caught that.
  4. Keep on top of details: Given the above, I guess I should have gotten suspicious when the sun seemed to be rising in a more northerly direction than was healthy, and it did seem odd, but I was committed by then. Luckily I didn't make it all the way to Denver.
  5. Don't immerse yourself in the experience: That isn't natural. After all, they call it wilderness for a reason, so keep your guard up.
  6. Reevaluate: I.e., pay attention. Now that I look back on the experience, I realize that I spent way too many uncritical miles hiking along the shoulder of I-70.
  7. Taking zero days doesn't mean zeroing out: Don't just turn off your brain and shove food into your head when you stop walking. Although it does feel good.
  8. Do enjoy your hike: But not too much — you actually have to get somewhere.
  9. Follow a trail map and/or guide: So, older and wiser.

Come spring I'll be heading out again, and will myself be offering guiding services for anyone who wants to avoid making the same old mistakes. Jane and I are working on a whole new map set and we'll have note cards all printed up and ready to go for any and all eventualities. Sign up early!

Bye for now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Zipper History

Pull me — see what happens.

Time for some general background info.

A zipper consists of two strips of fabric tape, each permanently attached to one of the two flaps that it joins together.

Each zipper has from tens to hundreds of metal or plastic teeth.

The slider, the part that gets pulled by hand, rides up and down the two sets of teeth.

Inside the slider is a Y-shaped channel that pushes the opposing set of teeth together (forward) or pulls them apart (reverse).

Friction of the slider against the teeth produces that characteristic buzzing sound. (And it may be where the name zipper came from.)

Some zippers have slides on both ends, which allows for varying the size and position of the opening.

Elias Howe, the American inventor of the first practical sewing machine, developed an early zipper-like device he called an Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure, which he patented in 1851, but it was never commercialized.

In 1891 (or possibly 1893), Whitcomb Judson patented a similar Clasp Locker, for fastening shoes, and marketed it through his Universal Fastener company.

Both his and Howe's designs used hooks and eyes rather than the now-familiar teeth.

Today's design, based on interlocking teeth, was invented in 1913 by one of Judson's employees, the Swedish scientist Gideon Sundback.

It was originally called the Hookless Fastener, though patented in 1917 as the Separable Fastener.

The B. F. Goodrich Company coined the name Zipper in 1923, and used it in tobacco pouches and on boots.

It wasn't until the 1920s that the zipper was first used in clothing, specifically for men's trousers and in clothes for children.

And here we are.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Definitions: Backwater

If it tastes bad, maybe there's a reason for that.

(1) As with so many problems, this one can be caused by food. Too much food, food too raw, dirty food, food too ripe, the wrong kind of food and the like. We could go on, but right now, if you have this problem, you don't want to hear any more about going, let alone about gurgling, rumbling, spewing, spraying, trotting, running, doing the two-step, or telltale stains on your pants. Backwater is a sign that your body has something going on that shouldn't be going on, and is trying to get rid of it, and will keep doing that, and that you need to pay attention. Because, really, no one else will want to even think about it.

(2) Where there is water, and it is flowing, or could flow if it wanted to, and there is a channel, then probably there is also a little bit of water in what looks like a sort of appendix stuck onto the main channel. This stuck-on channel probably doesn't have any current at all, and sometimes it is only damp earth, with no real water in it. That's a backwater kind of place, so it's called a backwater. This is where mosquitoes come from, and in-laws.

(3) A resupply town. Nirvana. Metropolis. Civilization. Maybe it's a backwater compared to where you came from, but right now, with you out of food and fuel and looking for a post office and a bed, it's The Big City. Especially if it has pizza and beer, ice cream and beer, or just beer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Definitions: Accident

Oopsie time.

Singular of accidense, an accident being one thing and accidense being a bunch of them, often noticeable as a swarm.

An accident is nature's way of demonstrating that you still have things to learn.

It is an occurrence, an incident, an event, and sometimes a good excuse for a party, though not often. Mostly it's something that happens or something that just falls out, like maybe an anvil falling out of a window and landing on your shadow (a good excuse for a party), or your head (not!).

Fortunately, on hiking trails, anvils are rare and second story windows even rarer. So on the trail your accident (if you are lucky enough to have one) is more likely to be setting your pants on fire, or having someone do it for you. Accidentally.

Which means you can't legally kill them. Neener, neener, neener.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Klomping Up Klahhane

First up — a critter.

Then some mountains.

Then some sky.

Looks nice, eh?

Well, it was nice.

Top shot. Port Angeles, WA down below.

And more sky.

Meanwhile, back to the southwest, some geology.

It gets pointy and craggy at the top.

But over the ridge it looks softer, but only down lower.

The wind up here was 35 mph (56 kmph)

Didn't we see this before? Anyway, less windy on this side.

My hat blew away, but few of the trees did.

Serious uplift.

I wanted to go over and touch it, but it was too windy — couldn't stand up on the slope.

It's all under snow by now. In fact, this was the very last day before the snow.

Pretty, though.

Looked inviting, but seriously — too steep, windy and cold to navigate.

The mountains do have strong bones, which is why wind blows few of them away.

See these rocks? Maybe the wind blew some of them here.

Very gnarly. A lot of this stuff formed under water (pillow basalt).

Oh-oh. Clouds coming.

Meanwhile, back in the trees, more bending going on.

And stuff was coming.

The void, in case you ever wondered where it hangs out.

Meanwhile, more stuff was coming.


But after I got back to my car, the first sprays of oncoming rain quit. Then things got sunny the rest of the day.

But by morning there was snow up high.


Klahhane Ridge

Visiting Hurricane Ridge

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wet Week, Day 5

We go left from here.

So then, Enchanted Valley is downslope, along the east fork of the Quinault River, and the rest is all the other way (back uphill). We take a left here.

Another lingering snow-pocket on the south-facing valley wall.

Even though the north side of the valley is obviously facing the sun, and is mostly bare rock, there are pockets there that hang onto their winter allotment of snow. Such as this.

See? Way up there.

Even though this trip was in mid-August, and the weather, after the rains, was getting seriously hot, the rocks kept their patches of white, all inaccessible save for the occasional passing superhuman. I.e., off-limits for me at least.

And this is the famous "chalet" in Enchanted Valley.

Finally, after three or so miles (4.8 km) of descending along the river, we get to the flattest and widest part of the valley, Enchanted Valley. Most backpackers hike in and don't go above this point, around 13.5 miles (22 km) in from the trailhead.

Looks kind of nice, doesn't it?

This is the location of the locally-famous "chalet". Which is a beat-up old log structure.

Go left some more...

(The signs around here could use some maintenance, eh?)

And get another view of the chalet...

Normally part of the chalet's main floor is accessible, with the upstairs and the south side remaining locked. I guess it's a refuge for campers and hikers, in case they need more shelter than tents provide.

...and then see the reality of the situation.

But this year it was locked up tight, for good reason. It seems that the river had gotten frisky over-winter, and had removed some of the surrounding real estate for its own use, leaving the chalet literally hanging on the edge of its seat.

It seems that the river has had some fun.

No, seriously. Right at the effin edge.

And has removed quite a bit of the local landscape.

I hear that they moved it a bit later, at the end of summer. Or were going to move it. (Yep, they did — just found some info — see links, below.)

But downstream, all is placid, complete with a cozy bridge.

Once past Enchanted Valley, and the chalet, we get into flat-valley forest for the rest of the trip out. The trail has changed a lot since 2003, when I hiked a bunch of it after dark — up until 11:30 p.m., without using a light.

Now we get into the realm of large trees.

It's not like that any more. Too rough, too unpredictable these days, but in its own way, still in great shape. Since it's so often used, the trail is maintained well, as you can see by the cut through the fallen tree, above. This sucker was a good six or seven feet thick. (1.8 to 2 m)

Like this cedar. Got one near where you live?

And if you don't believe that, take a look at the size of a still-standing tree. This one must be about 15 feet thick at ground level. That's 4.6 m, even without flexing any of its muscles.

A hot day. Plenty o' sun.

But there are lots of mostly-open park areas along the way too — alder, big-leaf maple, and other deciduous species. It's a world of sunny green.

Timber acne, before and after views.

Some of the trees are live and some aren't, but they all have their parts to play.

Looks like hemlock to me.

Like these young'uns. I think they're hemlock, but whatever they happen to actually be, well, it doesn't matter a whole lot. They're another fresh sight to behold.

Quinault River from Pony Bridge, near the end of the trail.

Most of the trip downriver from Enchanted Valley is either above or away from the river, but at Pony Bridge you get a good look at it again. This day, just around the bend, a group was in the water swimming. I hadn't known that there was an access point. Unfortunately, even though the day was hot, the fierceness of the heat didn't make it down to the river's level, so things would have been a tad bit chilly there. I kept walking.

The actual end of the trail.

Finally, back at the parking lot you can dig out your calculator and watch and see if you really make good time.


Wet Week, Days 1 & 2

Wet Week, Day 3

Wet Week, Day 4

Watch the Enchanted Valley Chalet Slide to Safety

ONP's Enchanted Valley Chalet Moving, Temporarily

Enchanted Valley Chalet Relocation (Flickr)

Enchanted Valley Chalet moved out of harm's way