Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Definitions: Cistern

Also known as: Water tank, pool, reservoir, storage tank.

A cistern is a water quality protecting catchment for runoff on heavily used trails.

A cistern will sit off to one side of the trail and quietly wait for water to come along, sometimes remaining perfectly still for months and months and months. You probably won't even notice it.

Then, faster than the eye can see, it will snap up any water that comes near it without even seeming to move.

Looking twice won't help.

It's actually that fast.

You won't even see a blur.

And, once a cistern eats all the water in its vicinity, it keeps that water in its pouch.

Water that a cistern keeps can't run downhill and get muddy and drain into a nearby stream and mess it up, so a cistern does that, and also serves as a swimming pool for bugs and a hangout for frogs, salamanders, and slime.

If you put your ear down real close to a cistern you might be able to hear all those things humming, because they like to sing, but they have really small voices, so get your ear close.

And look out because some of the stuff down there likes to bite off ears.

But judging by your looks, maybe you already know that.

The way to find out for sure is to look in a mirror and if you have only one ear or no ears at all then you've tried this already, so you can skip the listening thing. You probably can't hear that well anymore, anyhow.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Definitions: Data Book


A data book is a collection of largely useless facts and numbers, fascinating to those stomping around in the middle of nowhere, or, for the less adventurous, one of the places right next to nowhere.

Those who happen to be doing that very thing because they want to. And are curious to have facts with them. On their way from one arbitrary line on a map to some other arbitrary whatever. For some reason. Or other.

Well, OK.

To them, these stompers, these gritty shufflers, these backpackers, these thru-hikers, to them all facts are useful. Even facts detailing the locations and peculiarities of resupply stops and where said stops used to be. Unless they are no longer, any more, because the place silently dried up and the wind caught it by one corner and and blew it off the map on a dry, overcast, empty dead Thursday.

Even facts, getting back to facts, that state mileage between any two random, boring points on the trail ... are important ... to backpackers ... who have ... nothing ... else to, uh ... think about.

How cool is that then? How? Think.

Even facts. More facts. About how. Steep. The trail gets. And where exactly that happens. That happens. Steep. And where shelters and camp sites are. Road crossings. Water sources. Various facilities. Various. And major features. Features. Major ones.

Major features, whatever major features are, like those stores that sell only gasoline, whiskey, and moth balls? And ammo? Some of them? But apparently remain relevant to long distance hikers who need something to think about, to keep them from going nuts and gnawing off a leg. Even more nuts. Which would make it tough to keep walking. Though more interesting, in a way, due to the challenge though.

Which is another fact, if you will. Which is why data books were invented, to carry around facts. And are still popular among the challenged. Thru-hikers. Challenged in many ways, they.

Like the data book for the Appalachian Trail, a data book published for over 25 years now, and one or more for the Pacific Crest Trail, and so on and so on, for trails all over. The place. Of which there are oh, so many. So many. Trails and places that need facts to be put into books and carried. Another fact.

Go figure, etc.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Definitions: Canoe Trail

Wanna learn sompin?

I got four definitions of this.

(1) A canoe trail is a designated route for aqua blazing, though no such route holds paint especially well.

(2) A canoe trail is one reserved for canoe use.Unfortunately, though canoes have good lateral and longitudinal stiffness and superb structural integrity they have no feet, muscles, or brains, and so these trails go unused.Canoes don't even know about them for crying out loud, because canoes are only empty, water-tight shells, yet thousands of trail-deprived hikers have to mill around in parking lots kicking gravel, waiting for their numbers to be called while all these so-called canoe trails sit idle and unused, quietly becoming overgrown and smothered by unlicensed shrubbery.A shame. Such a shame.

(3) A canoe trail is a continuous meandering groove left in squishy mud, resembling the keel mark of a canoe that was dragged along, but look closer and you'll see giant three-toed tracks there as well, say one every 10 or 20 feet (3 to 7 m), on alternating sides of that groove.So that isn't where someone dragged a canoe for the heck of it, really, it's a (fresh) dinosaur track and the groove is where its meaty tail left a mark.Hey Bub, you've wandered way too far off the space-time continuum. Time to get back home before something weird happens. Something with teeth, standing there, looking at you. Thinking about lunch.Use a map next time, dope.

(4) Canoe trails involve gloppy wet areas called lakes, connected by thinner, shallower gloppy wet areas called streams, which are used by guys named Pierre (who all have huge shoulders, bulging arm muscles, and wear berets) to paddle around by water, collecting the furry hides of innocent animals who never hurt anybody except at mealtimes when they eat each other.Real hikers call this cheating, this here kind of travel, but these Pierre guys can be a bunch of fun to watch when they run out of water and have to stand up on their tiny atrophied hind legs and wear their canoes on their heads and stagger between lakes, because that's when the animals close in, nibble them to death, and skin them for their hides in turn.Nuff said on that topic.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Definitions: Cell

This is another one of those navigation terms.

A cell is a box. A cell seems nice because it is a box of your own choosing that in turn defines you.

A cell keeps you thinking inside the box, where it's all warm and tidy and you have your food and nest and your water bottle and nothing ever changes except that eventually you find that you've gotten old and you can't hardly get around anymore and one day this giant hand comes in from the top and lifts you up and carries you through a vast space into another vast but somewhat smaller space where you are dropped into a gigantic white thing that has lots of water in it and then you get flushed and that's it for you, kid.

But if you have escaped somehow and made it out into the country far, far away, and want to sort of keep that box idea handy because it still makes you feel safe somehow, then you can turn it into a virtual box and use it for navigation.

This is good because the word virtual is really trendy now and can help you pretend that you're not all that old and/or stupid after all. (Or half as ugly as you really are.)

A cell is a virtual box in your mind, which is where a lot of people would prefer you to stay, given the choice. If you're an artsy type, then you can call this virtual box a conceptual box and feel extra smug, but it's all the same. Really. All of it.

This virtual box's walls are streams, ridge lines, roads, trails, fences, fields and so on. Real landscape features, but you decide which ones you're going to pay attention to.

Here's how it's done: First you make a box in your mind and then you walk inside it for real.

As long as you don't walk through one of your imaginary walls you know roughly where you are by relating the cell (your virtual box) to your map (your virtual landscape) to the world (the real landscape).

When you cross a cell boundary (by walking through a virtual wall) then it's time to define the next cell using the next set of identifiable features you see, and continue to maintain a sense of where you are.

Breaking the landscape down into smaller sets of features like this makes it easier to keep track of where you are and simultaneously makes it harder to get lost.

Until you see that giant hand descending toward you.

And then there isn't too much you can really do except to pee on it one last time.