Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fresh, January 25

 Texas Highways:  Exploring the Mesa de Anguila.  Big Bend's Ultimate Backcountry Getaway is Packed with Gorgeous Views High Above Santa Elena Canyon  Read this...

 fubiz:  Frozen Trees Photography.  Dans les montagnes de l'Oural en Russie, les tombées de neige recouvrent les arbres, formant comme des sculptures aux formes abstraites.  Read this...

 Adventure Inspired:  Overnight Winter Backpacking Trip Prep Tips and Gear List.  Crazy or not, I enjoy putting myself in situations that can be uncomfortable; it's how we learn and grow.  Read this...

 Walking Womad:  Catwoman — The story of my trailname.  Getting a trailname feels a bit like a "welcome to the community"-thing. You now are a real hiker.  Read this...

 LotsaFreshAir:  Australian Defence Force Ratpack MRE — Taste Test.  Overall, I think the feeling that I had most throughout the test was disappointment  Read this...

 Father Nature Outdoors:  Wanderlust Wednesday: Antelope Canyon.  This canyon is located on Navajo lands and is therefore managed by Navajo Parks and Recreation.  Read this...

 Queenstown:  A summers hike to Sam Summers.  I once managed to get lost while walking along a straight road. Seriously.  Read this...

 The Traveling Mandolin:  What Do You Do? (or, Resisting a Career-Obsessed Culture).  "I wash dishes in a sink and go out to lunch with my family."  Read this...

 Lite Packer:  Garden of the Gods.  Forever free to the public.  Read this...

 Alice Hikes:  PCT gear review: the Big Three.  In this PCT gear review, I'll discuss the items I used during my 2014 thru-hike for the Big Three: pack, shelter, and sleep system.  Read this...

 La Vida Locavore:  John Muir Trail Planning: Getting My Permit.  Here's the dirt on how to get a permit.  Read this...

 Summit Hiking in New England:  Mt. Cube 1/17/15.  According to The White Mountains: a Handbook for Travellers, Mt. Cube is so named to honor a hunting dog named "Cuba," killed while fighting a bear near the summit of the mountain.  Read this...

 Traveling Ted:  Hiking Santa Elena Reserve in a misty rain.  I did not think it was possible to find a more lush jungle than Monteverde, but we were now hiking in one.  Read this...

 A Backpacker's Life:  Decisions, Decisions.  When I got mugged a couple nights ago, it should come as no surprise that I stood still with the tip of my hiking pole pointed at a man holding a stun gun, considering all my options.  Read this...

 The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog:  Throwback Thursday.  They told the media that it was just "a cheap vacation that got a little out of hand."  Read this...

Ad: Fire In Your Hand: Ultralight backpacking stoves.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Trends For 2015

Things change. The old has to make way for the new because retailers wouldn't be able to sell you more of what you already have. The coming year will be no different. Here's what to look for in 2015.


Probably the biggest trend is Ultralight, and it's most notable in packs. Every backpack manufacturer these days has not only an ultralight pack, but a whole line of them. In fact, every pack by every maker is now ultralight.

And don't think that by going ultralight you're leaving anything out. That's totally 20th century.

Here are typical Packbag Features these days:

Top lid, main packbag access zipper, auxiliary packbag access zipper, stretch mesh belt pockets, stretch mesh water bottle pockets, ice ax loops, trekking pole loops, hydration ports, spindrift collar, carry handle, front pocket, Perfect-O-Fit adjustable suspension, dual aluminum stays, framesheet, reinforced waistbelt, lumbar support, two layer padded waistbelt, two layer padded shoulder straps, load lifter straps, belt stabilizer straps, bear canister compatibility, zippered interior stash pocket for storing valuables and an interior security pocket, also for storing valuables, key fob.

Weights? Only 3.5 to 5 pounds (1.6 to 2.3 kg). Empty. Practically nothing, and if you think a few inconsequential pounds to make your pack idiot-proof is too much, you can join the lunatic fringe and find a pack in the 2.5 to 3 pound range. If you dare. But do it fast, because weights of ultralight packs will continue to climb all year, and who knows where they'll end up.


Remember how tents developed? Remember tents? Hello?

Back when people wore armor, rode horses, and had hair coming out their ears and noses, tents were all cotton, held up by wooden frames, and every guy was named Clint.

Some time after that the Double-Wall era arrived, blossoming into colorful sheets of nylon and polyester, tensioned over flexible wand thingies, with an an outer tent to shed rain and an inner tent to do something or other that the outer one didn't.

Then one day someone dared to try a Single-Wall tent, using only that rain-shedding part.

But that's getting stale too, so look for Zero-Wall tents a little later this year.

Advantages of going to Zero:

  • Quicker setup. (I.e., none.)
  • Less confusing teardown — No need to count the walls when you break camp because there aren't any.
  • Lighter — Zero is the number with the big hole in its middle, and so is your shelter.
  • Unparalleled ventilation. (Duh!)
  • Helps you work on your grim determination to survive, especially on windy, rainy nights.


Quilts continue to grow in popularity. After all, most of them have no zippers, no flaps, no straps, no strings, no turnbuckles or ties. Just insulation sandwiched between two layers of gauze. So simple — roll yourself in your quilt and shiver the night away.

But even the best piece of equipment can be improved, so look for things. Expect them to go in two different directions.

  • The Li'l-Tucker auto-puckering self-tucking quilt that helps you slide into unconsciousness by cooing gentle nothings at you once you're all snug in there. With a teddy-bear attachment if you're one of those people. (Batteries extra. Impervious to bed-wetting incidents.)
  • The All-In-Wunder. Use it as a flat quilt, or yank on the hidden zippers and drawstrings, and quickly turn it into insulated coveralls or PuffPants and matching Therm-O-Vest or even a pseudo-bag if you're feeling nostalgic. Black on one side, rescue orange on the other in case you need to signal to aliens that you want to be abducted the hell out of the woods already.


Freeze-dried is, face it — like stale pet droppings.

We're gonna move beyond that real soon now, with Kozi-Eats Hiker Treats, a new kind of self-heating meal pak. Just throw a package of your favorite dinner on the ground, trample it gently to fracture the chemical reservoirs inside and initiate the thermal process, wait two minutes, tear open, and squeeze the now-warm contents into your gullet. Or just stick your head inside the pouch if you're eating a meal for six all by yourself.

Each package comes with a dose of anti-emetic and an industrial-strength fart-attenuator, in case you have (a) trouble keeping it down, or (b) you don't.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fresh, January 18

 NW News Network:  Adventurers Attempt Winter Thru-Hike Of Pacific Crest Trail.  "No forest fires or fire reroutes. Bountiful, clear, cold water, a mosquito-less Oregon and a beautiful coating of snow on every tree."  Read this...

 Wood Trekker:  Lonnie Dupre Successfully Completes Solo January Summit of Denali.  If cold weather travel is your thing, his book Life on Ice is excellent in my opinion and well worth a look.  Read this...

 Winter Campers:  Tipi Camping.  If you want to be warm — it can get very warm.  Read this...

 While Out Riding:  Fatbiking the Cusquenan Railtrail; Bolivia to Peru.  The more I tour, the more I'm smitten by these remarkable bikes, and the unparalleled scope they offer in terms of exploration — ample reward in my mind for their inevitable compromises on pavement and their extra heft.  Read this...

 Wenatchee Outdoors:  Wolves on Walkabout.  Biologist David Moskowitz recounted his adventure of following the 1200-mile-long trail of a wild wolf, from its birth place to its new territory in the hills near Ashland.  Read this...

 Wandering Virginia:  Hiking Shenandoah in Winter — One Southern Option.  You can substitute a really peaceful walk on the Skyline Drive for your planned hike. This can be great when there is snow on the ground.  Read this...

 Trail To Summit:  Dehydrate Sun Dried Tomatoes.  I know they're not really sun dried, but air dried doesn't sound as nice!  Read this...

 Trail Kit:  Being Above the Birds.  But then sometimes we are given a glance, just a moment, to stand on a mountaintop and look down at a bird.  Read this...

 The New Nomads:  What Does it Mean to be a Hiker Chick/Queen/Trash?  I'm not trash, I'm absolutely badass royalty out there.  Read this...

 SoCalHiker:  Inman 300: The World's First Urban Thru-Hike.  There is no trail or signs to follow, but there is a more-or-less official route.  Read this...

 Sobo-Hobo:  Done Did It.  I've made some funny decisions in life, but this one takes the cake for BEST in show.  Read this...

 Shepherd on the Trail:  Past thoughts on packing for a long hike.  Your backpack and what it contains is a very important part of your hike, as it will mostly be your home for a long period of time.  Read this...

 Seattle Backpackers Magazine:  SOL Escape Lite Bivvy Review.  It is not rugged, waterproof, or warm enough to be used for many of its intended purposes.  Read this...

 Faith is Torment:  Diamond Nights: Photos by Beth Moon.  Beautiful photos of ancient trees set against long-exposure backdrops of the Milky Way.  Read this...

 Rambling Hemlock:  How to have a successful hike.  It's not about planning. It's not about food. It's not about gear. Sorry.  Read this...

Ad: Fire In Your Hand: Ultralight backpacking stoves.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Getting down to the dirt.

Hills over rain forest way. I didn't go there.

After stomping around on top of the dam I drove south to Whiskey Bend, and hiked on from there.

Along the trail south.

The trail was nice, but the day was cold, though sunny enough.

Past Whiskey Bend, at the so-called overlook.

At the overlook, I looked over. Nice place but there really isn't much to see.

Goblin's Gate, where the Elwha takes a turn to the right.

Then, at Goblin's Gate, we see some drama. Here's where the river makes a tight right turn through a pair of stone teeth.

Going full bore.

A peek upstream shows how full the river really was — lots of rain in the preceding days, all headed toward the ocean.

River thrashing the rocks.

Just a few feet under the overlook the river was doing its best to drag the rest of the world down into its drama. But the rocks are solid.

Just past the Gate.

Just past Goblin's Gate the river settles down a bit. I've always been tempted not to jump in. I think I'll stay that way.

The far shore.

And then, while shooting the far bank, I finally realized that I'd accidentally reset the camera's while balance to tungsten, or indoor lighting. But the effect is kind of fun anyway.

Winter alders.

Meanwhile, downstream, the leafless alders were waiting for spring. They still are, but they look nice.

Rock pocket with resident grinder.

A large boulder with a top pocket, with evidence of how the pocket got there.

Beach rocks.

Everyone takes a photo of beach cobbles. Me too. Why break a tradition?

Shore to shore.

Some things are hard to photograph. Forests. Rivers. Forests and rivers in winter. It was nicer in person. True!

Forest floor.

The forest floor is fully clothed. Leaves and moss and leaves and twigs and moss and stuff.

Trailside slope.

There was a bit of fog, which made itself evident toward late afternoon when a few stray sunbeams poked through.

Quiet trail.

The trail is nice though — not many people out on it Xmas Day, though they did seem to be coming in as I was leaving.

Looks warm and sunny. Not warm.

Up higher the sun was still bright, though down in the bottom of the valley things were beginning to get dark.

Near sundown.

And back up near the dam again, I took the trail upstream. It leads to the river bottom, which used to be roughly 200 feet (61 m) under water.

Meanwhile, back near the dam...

There were about 10 or 15 others out there, all of us gawking.

Showing the gap.

There is still lots and lots of silt, clay, sand, and gravel waiting to work its way downstream.

Free to wander.

Overall, though, it's a pleasant place to walk. Where the access trail meets the former reservoir, it's a little awkward to make the transition due to a couple of small streams and mud.

More thrashing — the river was full-up.

Once you get out on the bottom though, it's easy to wander wherever you want to go. And the river is impressive.

Finally — a good view of the dam.

It's surprisingly easy to get almost all the way up to the dam. Anyway, close enough to get a great view of all 205 feet that aren't there any more.

Slightly upstream.

For the second time, since I stayed long enough, I saw the last rays of the sun illuminating the scattered logs and crumbling, sliding banks.

Second sunset.

The place does have a sort of quiet beauty, for those of us who like noodling around water. I always like looking under rocks for friends.

While the dam gets the last shot of sun for the day.

I guess they're leaving the western half of the dam, where the spillway is. I heard last night that the western side will be open within a month or so, so there must not be any more work planned, which means that this stuff will stay as-is.

One of the young trees in the valley floor.

Some trees were planted, some volunteered. I don't know which is which, but there were lots of these little guys out there.

West bank.

And a few yahoos ignoring the warning signs and goofing around the construction equipment in the area that's still closed.


Previous post: Dam-B-Gone

Elwha Ecosystem Restoration

Elwha River Restoration

American Rivers' DamNation Film Guide

Return of the River A film about the largest dam removal project in the history of the united states, and the extraordinary effort to restore an eco-system and set a river free.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fresh, January 11

 National Geographic Proof:  Shooting Chauvet: Photographing the World's Oldest Cave Art.  We share no language, no culture. The lives of those first European hunter-gatherers are so far removed from mine that they are unimaginable.  Read this...

 Italian Ways:  Fanes.  Born and raised in South Tyrol, Gustav Willeit photographs the massifs of the Fanes-Senes-Braies with rare sensitivity.  Read this...

 Nate in New Zealand:  Emberson Residence, Christhurch NZ.  If I can't safely finish this thing do I even want to continue?  Read this...

 The Mountains Are Calling:  Big Bend Outer Mountain Loop Part II: The desert.  There have been a few perfect campsites in my life...This site ranked right up there, five small clearings in the cactus, the Mexican mountains in the distance.  Read this...

 One Swedish Summer:  My Year And Gear 2014.  I'm surprised by the end of 2014 as to how much stuff I've acquired and run through!  Read this...

 BrawnyView:  Winter Survival Training In McCall.  Many forgot to chose one of several sleeping pads on display, though they elected to carry a 9 pound four season tent over a tarp or single wall.  Read this...

 The Uncalculated Life:  Tapon's Teton Route (TTR).  First the disclaimers: THIS IS MY BEST GUESS!  Read this...

 AnOther:  Elephant Foot Glacier.  The Elephant Foot glacier, found off the northeast coast of Greenland, is the result of the country being encrusted with a 2.565 quadrillion tonne ice sheet.  Read this...

 Adventure Inspired:  Trip Report: Winter Backpacking, Green Mountain National Forest.  The last and most important lesson? Attitude is everything.  Read this...

 Wood Trekker:  Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 Tent Long Term Review.  I have now been using the Direkt 2 tent for over a year, and wanted to give you some of my reasoning for choosing the tent, and my experience with it.  Read this...

 Appalachian Trials:  Tiny Terrors of the AT: Everything You Need To Know About Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease.  The real terror on the Appalachian Trail is the size of a sesame seed — or smaller.  Read this...

 Whiteburn's Wanderings:  More meals.  I've taken to just producing sauces rather than complete meals; I'll simply add 125g of pasta or quick cook rice to the ziploc just prior to going out to create a complete meal.  Read this...

 Going up the Khyber - My travels in the NZ bush:  Hiking Shoes vs. Hiking Boots: My personal thoughts on the boots vs. hiking shoe discussion..  Heavy boots are, well, heavy!  Read this...

 PilgrimChris:  Book Review: Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles – Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail by Chris Townsend.  To write a book of events over 30 years after experiencing them is no mean feat.  Read this...

 Keith Foskett:  The Pros ↦ Cons of using an Umbrella for Hiking.  A brolly can provide an excellent visual barrier for toilet stops. Doing your business in private is easy.  Read this...

 Hike Now, Work Later:  Trail Report - Willis Creek at the Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument.  The slot canyons looks completely different in the winter time, the frozen ice really gives it a more dramatic look!  Read this...

 Hiker Adventures:  5 Ways to Make Hiking With a Hangover Bearable.  5. Come Up With A Better Idea  Read this...

 A Taste For The Woods:  Interview: Austin, sightless backpacker.  Q: Austin, I understand you hunt. Could you explain what's involved in hunting for a blind person?  Read this...

 Bored Panda:  15+ Breathtaking Frozen Lakes, Oceans And Ponds, That Look Like Art.  How surreal is the fact that you can walk over this beauty!  Read this...

 Fubiz:  A Year of Photos of The Day by National Geographic.  "Follow the Water: Journey to the Heart of Norway," November 2013, Photographs by Erlend and Orsolya Haarberg.  Read this...

Ad: Fire In Your Hand: Ultralight backpacking stoves.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Gline me a river.

Parking lot, Xmas Day, about 10:30 a.m.

It was time.

This way to the former lake.

Time to get out, now that I could, and see where the dam used to be.

Walkway to the former Glines Canyon Dam's top.

Since Xmas Day was nice (no rain, no wind, some sun), I went then.

Where Lake Mills used to be.

And the dam site had recently been opened to gawkers.

All calm and clear, with a light dusting of snow.

It's pleasant. Civilized.

The Elwha River's new channel.

Only the eastern side is open for now, but that is well done.

Across the gap, the former spillway.

The parking lot and railings that were set up are nice. A but rustic but simple and low-key.

Eighty years worth of sediments, on their way out.

Just as they should be.

Not much use for these any more.

And even though I got a deliberately late start, I was the first there.

Lots of sediment still pouring down from the mountains, by the look of the water.

There's a clear view upstream, into the valley that used to be full of lake.

Almost viscous with rock flour.

It's surprising how much vegetation has popped up in the roughly year or two since this project has been under way.

What's left of the dam, still clawing at the earth.

And it is interesting, in a different way than before.

The west (far) side is still closed to public access.

Thirty-five years back, when I was first here, the dam was roaring. And scary.

Decidedly chilly, especially above a critical elevation, though sunny below.

I went over the fence and leaned out into the canyon for a look at the downstream face of the dam. That was in summer.

More sand, gravel, and silt.


Toward the upper end of the former lake bed.

Now you can simply stand at the railing and look straight down at where the dam used to plug the river, and it's still impressive, though the water is churning through the chute and not shooting out of an exit tunnel.

More water eager to get out, now that it can.

I imagine they'll leave what's left of the dam, since it won't interfere with the river, and leaving a few scraps gives a hint of what the dam was like.

Still, and for some time yet, a land of little color.

In a few years there will be forest on what used to be the lake bottom.

Meanwhile, back at the dam, things look elegant in the slanting light.

Forest, and trails, and campsites, and it will all seem pretty well normal.

A warning sign from the old days.

At the moment it's still raw. And muddy.

Now only a tourist curiosity.

But they've done a good job. It's a pleasant sight. Next time, I'll finish this post with a walk upstream.


Next post in this two-part series.

Elwha Ecosystem Restoration

Elwha River Restoration

American Rivers' DamNation Film Guide

Return of the River A film about the largest dam removal project in the history of the united states, and the extraordinary effort to restore an eco-system and set a river free.