Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Definitions: Acute Mountain Sickness

(1) Commonly referred to as "AMS". The mildest and most common form of altitude sickness. It develops when a too-quick ascent outpaces the body's ability to adjust.

Uncommon among hikers and backpackers, it normally happens only well above 5000 feet (1524 m), and does show up as shortness of breath, dizziness, lack of appetite, swollen extremities, insomnia, fatigue, headache, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms.

AMS's cause is unknown but may be due to swollen brain tissue starved of oxygen.

The best way to avoid mountain sickness is to take it easy, drink plenty of water, and allow the body to adjust through a slow ascent.

(2) Psychological disorder arising after months on the trail.

One manifestation is a crazy-sick desire to eat pizza, drink beer, see a movie, and sleep between sheets until well after sunrise.

Another is a crazy-sick desire to remain on the trail permanently, drifting north and south with the seasons, sleeping in vacant lots or under picnic tables, bathing in streams, eating dinner out of plastic bags, and admiring every sunset that happens.

Each type of disorder may begin subtly, but then typically advances rapidly into an acute phase which occasionally becomes permanent.

Some hikers return home and never again set foot on any trail while others disappear forever into the woods, grow increasingly hairy, and eventually lose the power of speech, though they can still whip up supper over even the tiniest of stoves, and seem to be aware of what they've become, and like it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Definitions: Closed-Ended Zipper

This is a zipper that is not infinite in length.

This style of zipper has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

When you close this zipper, it closes.

When you open this zipper it opens, but only so far, and then that's it, you can't take it any farther. At least with this kind of zipper you know what you can get away with.

You often find these zippers in pants, in the fly.

The fly is also called the "access port", "redneck air conditioning", "pickle hole" (maybe because of the warts), or "worm trap".

Originally the fly was just a flap but that wasn't good enough for city wear, so someone added teeth.

Likewise, toothiness is a characteristic of one of the other major uses of the closed-ended zipper, and that is on pullover shirts and such. Catching yourself in this upper-level zipper doesn't grab your attention in the same way the fly zipper does, but is exceptionally thrilling if you have a beard.

Most sleeping bags have a closed-ended zipper too, only there the real thrill is getting it jammed halfway up as you return to bed in the dark, on a freezing night, just after you've gotten up to go pee and have accidentally wet yourself in the wind.

This is called "adventure", which is a related topic, in case you couldn't tell. But it is.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Definitions: Bear Wire

A metal clothesline for food. Some people call it a "Bear Cable". (As if bears even knew about TV.)

A permanent wire or cable hung between two trees, usually at least 10 feet high (3 m).

Other wires descend from this, sometimes hanging from pulleys, so food bags can be raised to and lowered from the safe height of the bear wire.

It's all metal so critters (mice, skunks, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, bears, and so on) can't gnaw through it easily.

Easily is the key word, since one or more of them might succeed in gnawing through it if given enough time, but generally, for any animal that hungry, it's easier to eat you instead of going through all that painful gnawing.

Hey, it's all about hunger in the back country.

In some places the "bear wire" might be a metal contraption something like a tall coat rack with hooks at the top, which requires you to raise your food up to it by using a (provided) metal pole, which is yet another reason never to go backpacking.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Definitions: Aiming Off

(1) In orienteering, to deliberately aim to one side of a feature so that you definitely know which way to turn when you get near it.

(2) Used when following a compass bearing.

Aiming off is like deliberately missing a target.

You probably won't hit the bullseye no matter how hard you try. Honestly. You're not that good.

So if you go ahead and aim for it anyway because you're ornery, you will still miss. You're really, seriously not that good. We've seen you, and it's obvious. But aiming off can make you seem smart. So smart that people will finally pretend to respect you, so listen up.

With aiming off you secretly make your target much bigger and then deliberately miss to one side.

That's step one, and any fool can do it, even you. Step two is even easier.

Step Two: You know you missed your bullseye to one side, and which side that was, so you know how to correct for your mistake. So you do. Bingo. You can suddenly navigate like Columbus.

Example: Say you want to get back to camp, which is by a river. If you aim for your tent and come to the river without seeing the tent, then you have no idea which way to go from there, or how far.

But if you deliberately aim upstream then you know that when you get to the river you have to go downstream from there. Maybe not how far, but you know your tent is definitely downstream.

You will look like a genius.

You can't lose.

Unless the normal error in walking (which will knock you off course about three to five degrees), coupled with your natural incompetence (could be huge), lumpy ground, annoying large trees, and general woodland untidiness conspire to actually take you somewhere else entirely.

Or someone steals your tent while you're out mooning around.

Then when you confidently turn to walk that last short leg directly to your tent (where your tasty food and fresh puffy sleeping bag should be expectantly waiting for you), you will in reality be sailing blindly off into the outer darkness and will die a miserable and lonely death in the cold.

Poor you. What a dope. Maybe you should just stay home and watch TV.

Remember Columbus? The guy who aimed at Asia and missed?