Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Definitions: Canted Hip Belt

(1) A hip belt on a big fancy pack.

A hip belt with attitude and its own slant on things.

A hip belt that's street wise and savvy to the ways of supporting a heavy load, though it does not necessarily have its own high school diploma.

May be well-contoured but overly stiff. A hip belt like this has to be stiff, because it's carrying all the weight of a heavy pack. No wait — you are. The belt is the mechanism that transfers all the weight of a big heavy pack onto your very own soft tender hips. The hips that belong to you, the hips made of living tissue.

It's true that a canted hip belt, being angled, conforms better to your body and therefore hurts less under laboratory conditions, but you have to keep in mind that less is only less, and isn't the same as not at all.

If your pack has a canted hip belt then it's probably very well made, having been designed by engineers who intended it to be adjustable to fit a wide variety of body types. Like you when you were slim, or now, after you've gained some weight, and also your next door neighbor, who isn't anything like you (at least you hope not), but whom the belt still has to fit, as well as it fits you, which may not be exactly perfectly.

A canted hip belt may flex and move with you like a good dance partner, sweeping across the landscape, keeping time with your every twist and turn, hip and hop, swivel and sway.

But the hip belt is still the point where your fragile body connects to a heavy pack, and canted or not, there's no incantation that can take the weight away.

(2) A hip belt on a pack that you just can't face carrying any more. This is usually because your pack is too heavy, or doesn't seem to taste good any more when you kiss it, or snores thunderously in its sleep, and you canted face it any longer.

Try thinking of good and delicious yummy things like powdered sugar on crispy donuts. Or imagine what life would be like if you had a candied hip belt, or even an entire pack made of ice cream.

Think about Christmas, the fairies, the sugar plums. Try to imagine what a sugar plum might be and what you would do with it in private, if only you had one, and time enough to bend it to your will, and enough privacy so you would not ever, ever have to explain anything you thought of doing, and then did.

But why stop there?

Think about what life would be like if you had a genuine pair of Sparkle Dots Ballet Slippers from the Sugar Plum Princess Boutique.

Or a set of fairy wings. Eh?

Or a shiny, glinting, flashing tiara and matching Hello Kitty kite?

Then there's the Jingle Bells Pastel Tutu that you could wear comfortably in bear country on even the hottest day. Because it's so light, and short, and shows off your legs. And has bells.

Heck, you could spring for a Wholesale Fairy Princess Party Units Business Start Up Kit and get off the damn trail and out from under that horrible old smelly painful pack and spend all day, every day doing fun and gentle girly things like you used to do when you were young and played dress-up with your Mommy, though you'd most likely have to lose the beard.

There are worse things, maybe.

Like the one on your back.

Have a nice day if possible.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Definitions: Grizzly Bear

(1) A notoriously messy eater among bears, scientific name Ursus arctos horribilis. Is commonly known as griz or silvertip after its often "grizzled" or grayed-out pelt. Size: large, six to nine feet long, three to four feet high at the shoulder, weighing from 300 up to 1400 pounds. (Or 2 to 3 meters long, 1 to 1.2 meters high, 135 to 635kg). Color can vary from blond in the Los Angeles / Hollywood / Florida areas to almost black in less hip regions like New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis. Diet is mostly vegetation (i.e., grasses, nuts, berries, and roots), plus small mammals, salmon, bison, elk, caribou, carrion, and backpackers (when they are in season).

Current grizzly populations have been documented only in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington, but they are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in all 48 of the contiguous states. Scat usually occurs in large mounds, often filled with berry seeds or fish scales, sometimes revealing cans of pepper spray or hiker's warning bells.

(2) Giant hamster. Also known as the giant mountain hamster, it is an exceedingly large, extraordinarily rare, but entirely harmless beast often mistaken for an impossibly gigantic grizzly bear, when seen at all, which is vanishingly seldom, or you'd have heard of it.

But since they, like all hamsters, are nocturnal, they are, when sighted at all, seen at night, and may appear only as a vast, shuffling and silent shadow off in the darkness, which can make them seem all the more frightening.

If encountered, which is almost never (seriously — really and truly almost never), one of these creatures may accidentally and absent-mindedly stuff an unwary backpacker into one of its capacious cheek pouches and carry the person home to its tidy and clean underground nest, but will release the backpacker immediately after recognizing its mistake, especially if offered a snack such as a handful peanuts or a slice of dried apple. (This is a good reason to carry snacks.)

Hamsters are well known as both solitary and territorial and may fight to the death when encountering one of their own kind, but harbor no innate animosity toward humans at all, and have some of the softest and cleanest fur of all mammals.

So if you happen to be accidentally abducted by one of these beasts and find yourself in its sweet-smelling, grass-lined nest, then relax. Chill for a while. Your schedules will mesh perfectly. You'll be out and about during the day and your host will conveniently be gone all night, so that works.

You will be safe there, and may even decide to stay a few days, but be sure to do all your cooking outside, well away from the nest, and please try to remain polite and respectful of your host, who will treat you as a friend unless you go out of your way to be annoying, in which case it may nip your head off and suck out your blood. Before eating the rest of you. Just something to keep in mind.

We few, we grumpy few, we rumply-hat geezers say to you Effort or Eff it. No sniveling.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Definitions: Alpine

(1) The region where people eat Alpo or other food from cans.

(2) A colloquialism for "alpen line", a kind of traditional, all-natural, hypo-allergenic climbing and utility rope made from the twisted stems of mountain flowers braided together with strands of flaxen hair removed from high-altitude meadow wenches (the Heidi is preferred).

For a 30-foot (10 m) rope: Take one bushel each of American Bistort, Bracted Lousewort, Fendlers Waterleaf, Sickletop Lousewort, Tall Mountain Shooting Star, Western Hedysarum, Cusicks Speedwell, and Scarlet Gilia. Showy Locoweed, Mountain Oxytropis, Sulpher Cinquefoil, or Rosy Pussytoes may stand in as alternate selections.

Pull off all blossoms and leaves and feed them to your goat.

Lay the stems out to begin drying in the sun, turning frequently.

Meanwhile shear three Heidis, but only their heads.

Save the hair and then gently release the girls back into the wild.

Exercise care in choosing only from the longhaired varieties as the shorthaired breeds, though they may be comely, will not suffice for this purpose. Locks of less than 20 inches (50 cm) make inferior alpen lines. Longer is always better, so keep that in mind.

When the flower stems are nearly dry but still supple and flexible, begin weaving them together, taking care to alternate stalks from different flowers, and mixing in a generous number of golden hairs as your work progresses.

Experience with macrame will help you here, but if you are new to this you may find it advantageous to first experiment with goat hair and grass stalks. (Another reason to keep goats, and they are also edible.)

When you are done weaving your line, stretch and pull it gently to tighten the braiding, store it in a cool and dry place for several days to set, then whip-finish the ends.

Give your rope an occasional gentle brushing to keep it glossy.

Remove soil with a quality shampoo (anti-dandruff is best, unscented).

If treated with care your rope should serve you well for many years.

(3) Alpine also refers to mountain geography residing above timberline, of varying elevation depending on the exact location, but reminiscent of Europe's Alps.

In the United States "alpine" refers to areas high in the Rocky Mountains, the Cascades, or the Sierra Nevada.

The Appalachians also have alpine areas, (regionally known as "homers") but these occur only in small, isolated pockets.

Remember, every alpine zone is delicate. A simple stroll that wanders off an established trail combined with an unsupervised elbow inadvertently colliding with the environment in one of these areas can knock the whole delicate ecology off its pedestal and send it crashing to the floor, so always walk with care. Treat all Heidis with respect.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Definitions: Defensible Space

An area of at least 30 or so feet (10 m) around a structure or maybe around you, cleared of flammable stuff, so the structure doesn't burn (maybe you too).

If you get into a situation while backpacking where you need defensible space, then you've made your campfire too big. Cut back already.

In case of free range fire (that is, one that is not your fault) then such a space may be one you make to save your hide, or a defensible space can be the result of a natural barrier, such as an ocean.

Very few fires get big enough to jump an ocean. On the first try.

Which should give you enough time to do some more running away.

Screaming is allowed in this sort of situation.