Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Definitions: Bog Hole

(1) A bog hole is, of course, a typical bureaucratically-determined sleep feasibility site. Look for the telltale sign that says "Designated Camping Area". Prepare your bug defense perimeter. Accept the damp. Keep your official permit at the ready in case of a snap inspection.

(2) A bog hole is the preferred habitat of the plant known as bog myrtle, named after the famous and rugged (though some say mythical) female backpacker, Bog "BM" Myrtle, "The Honkin', Stompin', Stoopin', Poopin' Princess of the Backcountry", who had a soft spot for soft spots and also left liberally fertilized pocks scattered throughout each of the moist landscapes she traversed.

"BM" was the granddaughter of, and possibly gained some of her energy from, Josephene Myrtle Corbin, the Four-Legged Woman and noted dipygus dibrachius tetrapus, who was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee in 1868, and had two of everything from the waist down, including pairs of legs, but was otherwise pretty forgettable, though an intimidating square dancer in her day.

Not so for "BM". No. She was different in a different way.

"BM" had only the one pair of legs but she used them like nobody's business, though only outdoors. (She wasn't a great dancer.)

But she was big. And she was strong. She ate like a lumberjack, and possessed a fearsome speedy digestive system that kept her hopping at all hours.

Because of this physiological quirk she was unable ever to remain still and so managed to cover huge sections of trail in short order, setting several land speed records for foot travel during her short lifetime.

It could be that her unnatural hiking cadence did her in, or the toxic effects of the excess vitamins and minerals contained in her enormous lunches, or that, as is sometimes said, she was pursued one day too far into the wet, peaty, acidic reaches of a forb-infested quivering bog by pestilential clouds of savage biting midges, and was ultimately sucked deep down into the soft damp darkness, to expire there and at last find some peace.

No one knows, but to this day such landscapes are favored by bog myrtle ("sweetgale" or "myrica gale") a pleasantly-scented traditional enemy of midges and horseflies of all descriptions. Does that sound believable? (Say yes!)

(3) And finally, a bog hole is Town (any town), where zero days happen, where zero days form, collect, pile up, and spontaneously glomerate one to another, tending to mire and restrain you, the thru-hiker, from ever getting back on the trail and finishing anything, at all, ever, especially if there is ice cream. To go with your beer.

Source: How to talk in the woods.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Fresh, April 24

 Backpacking North:  Ultralight Makeover Overview.  Let's take a look at what ultralight backpacking is all about.  Read this...


 Walks With Moss:  Camp Pleasant and "Darky" Mine.  My daughter was brave enough to crawl into one of the caves.  Read this...


 Sage to Summit:  Chainsen Light mini-crampon review.  I found some snow. I ran for it. I reached it.  Read this...


 Outdoor Herbivore Blog:  Harmless or Deadly? How to Identify Common Spiders.  Find a giant furry spider nestled in your backpacking gear?  Read this...


 The TrekkingIn blog:  TrekkingIn's 12 Picks for Trekking in Chile.  The avid hiker could not help but be captivated by the opportunities Chile has to offer.  Read this...


 Old School Outfitter:  Ask Me: Questions From a 55-Year-Old Woman First Time Hiking the John Muir Trail.  I am 55 years old and this trip is my way of celebrating this milestone along with 25 years of sobriety!  Read this...


 The Hiking Life:  Tips for Hiking in Snake Country.  Snakes aren't interested in biting hikers.  Read this...


 Trail Recipes:  Trail Cooking With Nettles.  Nettles are not only good for you, but also tasty and can be used in many backpacking recipes from omelettes to baked goods.  Read this...


 The Ultralight Hiker:  Catenary Curves.  The solution to tarp/tent problems.  Read this...


 joebeckerphoto:  Georgia O'Keeffe Country.  Exploring the work of Georgia O'Keeffe in a museum is one thing, but seeing the places she painted with your own camera lens is another.  Read this...


 lotsafreshair:  How to Waterproof a Backpack.  1. Forget about a pack or rain cover  Read this...


 The Ultimate Hang:  Hennessy Hyperlite Hammock Asym Zip Review.  Over the past year, it has slowly become my "go-to" hammock that really fits my backpacking and hammock style: lightweight, streamlined, easy-to-use, and complete.  Read this...


 Another Long Walk:  The End of the TMB.  I hadn't realized just how cold it really got until I got up the next morning to find ice on my tarp.  Read this...


 Life Less Ordinary:  Backpacking New Mexico: Bandelier National Monument.  The Native Americans built their homes into the rock and lived off the land.  Read this...


 National Outdoor Leadership School:  How to Make Your Own Instant Backpacking Meals.  Now, just eat and enjoy!  Read this...


 Hikers For Life:  Alpine Butterfly.  Have you ever encountered this problem?  Read this...


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Definitions: Denier

Denier is a measurement of fuzz weight.

It is roughly a pennyweight, depending on the weight of your penny and the heft of your fuzz. How about that?

Fine, maybe, but we can go deeper.

First off, "denier" was the name of a French coin created by Charlemagne (the old French king dude guy) in the Early Middle Ages, which, compared to now, were pretty early and long, long ago, timewise.

People liked the idea of coins so much that they stole it for other European money systems. Charlemagne though was not an original thinker — he got his idea from the earlier Roman "denarius", which was worth roughly a day's wages.

In today's money a denarius would buy around 20 dollars of stuff. Back in Roman times the basic unit of stuffness was bread and the Roman denarius was about 20 dollars worth of bread. They were big eaters in the olden days.

But back to Charlemagne, also known as "Carolus Magnus", or "Charles the Great". He was a great guy in those days, in the sense that if he told someone to pinch your head off, it was as good as done. So Charlemagne's ideas were potent, and his coinage inspired the Arab and Yugoslavian coins called "dinars". Italians called theirs the "denaro". The Spanish? "Dinero". The Portuguese, "dinheiro". Even the Republic of Macedonia has its own version, the "denar".

Ah, yes then, the British. Now we come to the British. The British were a little different. Sometimes they are. In many ways.

The British equivalent of the denier was the "penny", though the British persisted in using the letter "d" to represent it, as you might expect from them. It took 240 pennies to make one British pound, which used to be a lump of silver weighing a pound.

Are ya still with us? Fine then. We'll eventually get back to fuzz, so hang in there if you have nothing else to do.

Then the British, instead of carrying around big lumps of silver, they, the folk of the green isles, learned to fashion each lump of silver into 240 "sterlings" beginning about the year 775 (or possibly 774 ½ — no one knows for sure anymore).

"Sterlings", in case you were wondering, were silver coins based on those used by the Saxons, some early German refugees who had skipped westward across the North Sea in search of greener pastures. Some of these Saxons later got bent through various accidents and wars and things and became angled, or "Angles", which, due to interbreeding, which was common even then, is where we got the Angled Saxons, or Anglo-Saxons of today, who are now best known for the things they do involving tea.

If one of these guys had to pay off a really big gambling debt he did it in pounds of sterlings. Since they were lazy just like us, they later shortened this to "pounds sterling", and then, getting even lazier, to "pounds". And now they've gone decimal and things have gone totally to hell, though decimal numbers are easier for pocket calculators to figure out.

The original silver penny though, that was introduced by King Offa of Mercia in middle England way back when. He copied Charlemagne's denier and his coin contained about what we would call 1.5 grams of silver, to make it worth something. That amount of silver equaled a fair bit of fuzz back in the day.

So fuzz already, you may wonder, eh? Shetland cows are the cutely-kinky furry ones, with the bangs and the bushy coats and all. Also from the British Isles.

The story we're sticking with here is that intrepid knitters, during silver shortages, were able to make do by fashioning penny coins from cow fuzz, and getting them just good enough to pass as currency. King Offa's wife Cynethryth may have kicked off this trend. Let's call her "Cynthia" and avoid a bunch of lisping, which is hard to do without the guidance of a professional tutor. Cynthia it is, then.

This particular Cynthia was a wicked mad knitter, she. The weight of her fuzz coins, if she used dense fuzz, was about the same as the silver ones, which was handy, and after the conversion of the world to the metric system (except for Liberia, Myanmar, and the United Arfing States), the pennyweight became standardized at one gram. Handy.

OK for weight, but since fuzz no longer comes in tight, hefty wads and most of us have trouble running out and grabbing a cow whenever we need cash, how much is that in yarn then? We use yarn now, you know. To measure our fuzz. It is said to be a more civilized way.

Well, that would be for your 9000 meter length of yarn. (That rounds up to an even 5.59234073 miles, by the way.)

So now one denier is no longer a coin but a number representing a piece of fiber (or thread, or yarn) 9000 meters long and weighing one gram. A U.S. nickel coin is about five grams. One slim yarn there, folks.

Not tough enough all by itself to make backpacks from.

Some fabrics used in backpacks are woven from 500 to 1000 denier yarns, which means they're pretty heavy, which they need to be, to make durable-enough packs for use by clueless idiots. Stands to reason. Get your fabric heavy enough and it's even bullet proof, though everyday stuff is not 500 to 1000 denier, but around maybe 50 to 100 denier.

Thread count is another thing entirely, in case you were wondering about that. Thread count is a measure of how coarse or fine a fabric is, measured by counting the number of threads contained in one square inch of fabric, regardless of each thread's weight. (Did you notice how we just fell right back off the metric system? And landed back in the English system? Didja? We did.)

Fine quality bed sheets for example start at a thread count of 180 and go up to 250 or more threads per square inch.

So if Romans measured stuff in units of bread, then how did the British measure value in their society? (Since we seem to be stuck with them.)

Well John Heywood, a 16th century British poet once said "I shall geat a fart of a dead man as soone as a farthyng of him."

A farthing was ¼ penny, so that means a penny was worth four farts.

Who was it said that Roman civilization was the degenerate one then?

Yeeg, the British.

Source: How to talk in the woods.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fresh, April 17

 Hyperlite Mountain Gear Blog:  America To America.  Our ultralight gear has given us an unexpected advantage; it has brought us into a small and conscientious group of travelers.  Read this...


 Another Long Walk:  Day 7: Weather Tease.  "The crossing should not be attempted other than in good conditions and with a forecast of settled weather."  Read this...


 Adventure Alan:  The Best Hydration - Drink When Thirsty.  It turns out that your body's natural thirst mechanism works well to keep you hydrated and healthy during exercise.  Read this...


 Section Hiker:  Appalachian Trail Section Hike Gear List.  This will also be the heaviest base weight I've ever carried on a 3 season trip - approximately 16.5 pounds, which I plan to compensate for by carrying less food and resupplying more often.  Read this...


 Pacific Crest Trailside Reader:  Wind and Rain with a Vengeance.  I re-hydrate an unlabeled ziplock dinner I nabbed from a hiker box. It tastes like soap...Is it soap?  Read this...


 The Outdoor Society:  My Favorite Pacific Northwest Trail Is Too Crowded. Now What?.  All fall and winter... we had the wilderness to ourselves. That is no longer the case.  Read this...


 Section Hiker:  Writing the Wind River High Route Guide: Three Takeaways by Andrew Skurka.  Content is king.  Read this...


 Whiteburn's Wanderings:  Another MYO stove.  Sounds too good to be true; an alcohol that's efficient; simple to build; really cheap.  Read this...


 Bearfoot Theory:  The Best Tents For Backpacking.  I share some of the most important factors to consider.  Read this...


 SoCalHiker:  10 Overnight Backpack Trips in Southern California.  The word is out. Southern California has a veritable plethora of hiking trails.  Read this...


 Hike Of The Week:  Clallam Bay Spit — Explore Washington's deserted and spectacular North Coast.  Stick around for sunset. It is absolutely radiant from this wild and stunningly beautiful stretch of beach.  Read this...


 Sprinkles Hikes:  Got Dirty Laundry? Clean it Up with Scrubba!.  This dry bag has a built in "washing board" for scrubbing your laundry.  Read this...


 The Huckleberry Hiker:  Grizzly Survivor Reflects on Attack.  Iit really wasn't the bear's fault.  Read this...


 Adventure Alan:  10 Pound Backpack to Hike 100 Miles.  That's the total weight of everything in my backpack-gear, food, water, and stove fuel.  Read this...


 The Dirtbag Diaries:  Trespassers.  You have to imagine that you're on the frozen Arctic Ocean.  Read this...


 Pacific Crest Trailside Reader:  8 Badass Older Hikers.  As I came out of the water, I could just feel the freezing take place in my hair.  Read this...


 The Art of Manliness:  How to Survive a Mountain Lion Encounter.  Coming face-to-face with a 220-pound cat can turn a walk in the woods into a fight for your life.  Read this...


 Hike Bike Travel:  The Most Unforgettable Walk You'll Do — In Golden, BC.  Walking with wolves.  Read this...


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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Customize Me, Pleez



When I was a little kid, shoe stores had x-ray machines. True.

You don't remember this because I'm older than you are, but I remember. Sticking my feet into the machine and watching myself wiggling my toes around inside a potential new pair of shoes was the best part of buying shoes.

The idea was that customers could check the fit, see it for themselves, and be sure that everything was A-OK, but I liked to see the wiggling bones. That was the part I liked. This was before TV, and almost better than TV was when we got it, years later. Watching your own feet move around inside your shoes was almost better than seeing 30 minutes of Howdy Doody squirming around with Buffalo Bob's hand stuck up his back.

Almost. X-rays were a modern miracle of merchandise marketing, and the time I spent looking at my feet was definitely a loop of time forever unreachable by the intensely (creepily) unsettling Clarabell the Clown. I still don't understood why a man in a terror-suit was named Clarabell, and what the hell his connection was to Howdy Doody, and I don't want to know. Not today. Tomorrow, ever. He/it be dead now forever, we hope, and gone.

And then they took all the x-ray machines away. They were called "shoe-fitting fluoroscopes", according to Wikipedia. Buggers. All gone.

"The bones of the feet were clearly visible, as was the outline of the shoe, including the stitching around the edges." Yep. That was it. Including "two other viewing portholes on either side [enabling] the parent and a sales assistant to observe the child's toes being wiggled." And then they took all the x-ray machines away. Up to then the early 1950s had been a lot of fun.

And what if "there was not enough data to quantify the level of risk until atomic bomb survivors began to experience the long-term effects of radiation in the late 1940s"? They survived, didn't they? But the machines disappeared anyway. What's a little radiation burn here and there? Kids grow out of stuff all the time, pretty quick too, mostly.

Well, a few years later television came to town, and the rest is misery. Until then I ran around outside, played baseball, fed peanuts to squirrels, watched ants crawl around on peonies, and entered grade school. Very few if any of my toes fell off, and my shoe fit didn't seem to suffer the loss of x-rays, but I missed the scientific method as applied by gimmicky machinery to an annual footwear purchase ritual.

Choice matters.

Especially for older merchandise consumers, like adults. Especially cranky ones like me. Especially cranky ones carrying backpacks around and grunting inside clouds of flies. That's why custom packs are a good idea. There's a custom pack to fit the hump of every grump. Because. That's what custom means, doncha see?

I tried last year about this time. Heard good things and contacted Mr. Sam Jepsen of JepPaks. He got confused. And backed away. Now if I try to go back to the JepPaks web site and see what he's up to, I get only "Website Expired. This account has expired. If you are the site owner, click below to login." So I guess that's over. No more Sam, no more JepPaks.

This year I contacted Mr. Christopher Zimmer of Zimmerbuilt. Sounded good. Got a positive response. He's even made a pack that was sort of vaguely related to what I want, the "ZB2 - Gowler". So I figured he'd be open to trying to do something off the beaten track and back in the bushes about half a mile, which is what my design is like — odd but very simple to make. So I pulled together my specs and dug up a bunch of photos of my original self-made pack, and. Haven't heard a damn thing back from him.

Two possibilities: He's either otherwise occupied, with illness, a vacation, his real job, a crisis in the family, or whatever, or he's blowing me off by playing dead.

"Effort or effit." That's my new motto. I'm not going to whine and beg, so effit then. I'll find a way to make the pack I need, maybe next winter. Meanwhile, I've got a pack on order from a real company, a Mountain Laurel Designs "Prophet". It's close enough to what I can put up with to work for me. I can fudge a little, find a way to stiffen it, add capacity flexibly, add compression. Its relatively generous design should let me move the furniture around, depending on which party I'm headed for.

Hey, I did set off in the summer of 2013 on a 12-day, no-resupply trip carrying a North Face 26L "Verto". And came home again. It can be done. With some fudging. Though that was not fun.

What I did was to customize it. Get the drift here? Customize.

I sewed on two ginormous side pockets which together equaled about a third the volume of the pack bag. Then I added another pocket in front (confusingly, the "front" is the side of the pack that's way out back). This contributed another big boost to the pack's volume. And then I started off carrying my hammock, tarp, and under-quilt in a largish stuff sack lashed on top. I probably had about 45L to work with in the modified pack, and even more in the stuff sack, and stowed more and more things back inside the pack bag as I ate my way through the trip's provisions.

So things can be done.

Also, mistakes were made, lessons were learned, pain was encountered. Such is life among those living desperately.

Which is why I want to get back to where I left off, with a really good and really custom pack. And it looks like I'll have to do it all myself. Such is life, period. OK, fine. I'll do it then. But not at this moment, I guess, because I don't have materials here, or time, or a sewing machine. Right now.

And yes, this is really necessary. Necessary and normal. We're all different even in the midst of our seeming sameness. Last year I tried two different packs. Both worked. Both were wrong. The first was an REI "Flash 45" and it had all sorts of confusing little straps routing themselves here and there and beyond, and the shoulder straps made me howl in pain. The second was a Granite Gear "Crown 60". Tighter, lighter, bigger, better-designed, kinda, but the shoulder straps also made me howl in pain. And a pocket ripped the first time out. And the hip belt was permanently too big.

And I'm a good fit. If I buy clothes in my size, they fit. Like they were made right for me, you know? Pants, shirts, socks, underwear — all OK. Not so much with packs. I don't know. Something's off. If you can't fight 'em, can't join 'em, then effit, 's what I say. Eff-M-All, and make your own. Which I guess I'll have to do when I can, if I can.

Which brings us around to actual evidence. Because I'm not making up all of this. Not all of it. I have the U.S. of A.'s own Force d'Air on my side here. Right here. On my very own side. And them fellas is smart some of the time. "In the late 1940s, the United States air force had a serious problem: its pilots could not keep control of their planes." See? That's Step One, observe symptoms. "'You never knew if you were going to end up in the dirt.' At its worst point, 17 pilots crashed in a single day. The two government designations for these noncombat mishaps were incidents and accidents, and they ranged from unintended dives and bungled landings to aircraft-obliterating fatalities." Check.

Step Two is to locate the cause of said symptoms. This can be hard. "After multiple inquiries ended with no answers, officials turned their attention to the design of the cockpit." Hmmm. Maybe if we take sort-of average pilots, and measure the hell out of them, and average all the measurements, we'll be able to design a cockpit that will fit...all pilots, they thought. So. What? Then what?

Zero. "Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions. There was no such thing as an average pilot. If you've designed a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you've actually designed it to fit no one." A true WTF moment, folks, sponsored by your tax dollars, or those of your parents, or your grandparents, depending, of course.

Step Three is solving the actual problem. Which for the Air Force was not the crashing planes (that was a symptom), or pilots that didn't fit the planes (that was another symptom), but the lack of understanding that "there was no such thing as an average person". And to solve the problem the Air Force had to actually do something. Because "any system designed around the average person is doomed to fail." Rather than finding hikers or pilots average enough to fit the ideal backpack or fighter-plane cockpit, the solution is to customize the hardware so it will fit actual humans.

As for the Air Force, "they were able to focus on fitting the cockpit to the individual pilot. That's when things started getting better...They designed adjustable seats, technology now standard in all automobiles. They created adjustable foot pedals. They developed adjustable helmet straps and flight suits."

As for the outdoor industry?

What. We have 16 different packs from one company, all made on the same basic plan, all in your choice of Medium or Large, so take your pick. You're sure to find a great fit, assuming that you like a three-foot-tall, six-pound, top-loading pack (empty weight) with two tiny mesh pockets outside, no noticeable compression, and a hip belt that fits anyone with a waist size from 32 inches to 48 inches. And you can stand shoulder straps carved from wood. And you think maroon and yellow go well with the outdoors.

And if you're a woman, well this year they're introducing a special model just for you. It's exactly the same as their real pack, except it costs more and has a tiny label over on the side that says "Designed Especially for Women".

Love it or effit.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: "By discarding the average as their reference standard, the air force initiated a quantum leap in its design philosophy, centered on a new guiding principle: individual fit. Rather than fitting the individual to the system, the military began fitting the system to the individual...it was a practical solution to an urgent problem.." Pretty good for government work, right?

Step Four Let's see more custom-designed and custom-made backpacks because I've got a body and goals and attitude that aren't exactly like yours, and I don't like being ornery out on the trail. Are ya with me or agin' me? (Hint: I don't really care what you think, though I'm not actually too scary in person most of the time, and not all that hard to get along with, and if you get bothered you can push me down and take my lunch money and make me cry, if that's what you like. True. So don't worry.)

Criteria (There are two.): (1) My pack has to fit me. (2) It also has to suit me: durable, comfortable, capable.

That's all then. Is this really, truly impossible? More difficult than building supersonic warplanes?

More:

When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages

Review: Granite Gear Crown 60

Shoe-fitting fluoroscope

Desperate Living

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fresh, April 10

 The Outdoor Society:  Find yourself in Olympic National Park this Summer.  Here is the official update which dropped into our mailbox today on what is open and what's closed.  Read this...


 Rambling Hemlock:  Three Months of Two Miles.  There is just this one two-mile long trail at the park where I lived this winter. Did it ever get boring?  Read this...


 Alan Sloman's Big Walk:  Panthers, Bears & Moor! Part III.  A month or so back, the good folk of Eglwyswrw, a small village in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales famous for not managing to attract more than a single vowel to its name and just about as far from civilisation that you can get, were disappointed when it didn't rain after 85 days of raining every single day.  Read this...


 Pacific Crest Trail Association:  The single biggest mistake made while preparing for a thru-hike.  The most important and challenging aspect of a thru-hike: the mental grind.  Read this...


 Another Long Walk:  Day 6: Switzerland!.  I didn't make any campfires--I'm too lazy to do that anyhow, but knowing I was camping illegally, it seemed prudent not to.  Read this...


 Sectionhiker:  Kelty Ruckus Roll Top 28 Backpack Review.  A very good value for a technical day pack with this capacity.  Read this...


 A Skirt In The Dirt:  Lower Sisquoc Loop.  A different kind of adventure: a beautiful, savage, and cruel one, and it broke my heart.  Read this...


 Onna Voellmer:  I PROMISED THE TREES MY RELIGION (~85 miles on the Hayduke trail).  I wondered what I had learned, and then I let go, stopped thinking, and just walked...  Read this...


 PopUpBackpacker:  Today is National Walking Day.  How did this happen?  Read this...


 Hike Bike Travel:  Hiking Among the Zapatecas in Mexico's Sierra Norte Mountains.  A hike is not just a hike when it's a "caminata" in Mexico's Sierra Norte.  Read this...


 Liz Thomas: Long Distance Adventure Hiking:  Hiking among Mansions and Treehouse Cathedrals.  I've dreamed of the day I'd be on those stairs as a Portland Urban Thru-Hiker.  Read this...


 Trail Cooking:  Hiking Canyonlands National Park.  Island In The Sky is the section of Canyonlands NP that is close to Moab.  Read this...


 Willis Wall Blog:  How to Experience Mt. Rainier NP in Short Segments.  These five loop hikes will take you over 125 miles and 32,000 feet, sampling the best Mt. Rainier National Park has to offer...  Read this...


 The Huckleberry Hiker:  6 Great Hikes in Colorado.  Here are six hikes that I think you'll find to be quite amazing, and may want to consider for your hiking bucket list.  Read this...


 The Mountains Are Calling:  Not a Loner.  So no, internet friends, I am not a "loner". In fact, I never really feel lonely in the woods.  Read this...


 Going Wherever It Leads:  Post Trail Update: Finding Passion in the "Real World".  I have a passion for passionate people.  Read this...


 Signpost Blog.:  How to Hike in Tick Country.  Tick prevention starts by covering up  Read this...


 Black Coffee at Sunrise:  Badlands National Park 2015.  Road trip to another planet.  Read this...


 Signpost Blog:  6 Tips to Stay Happy When Its Wet on Trail.  6. Pack a happy bag.  Read this...


 The Traveling Mandolin:  Three Ways to Eat Kefir.  Kefir... excellent low-maintenance bacteria pet.  Read this...


 Fix:  How to Pack for Your First Backpacking Trip.  Learn the Art of Balance, Compression, and Accessibility!  Read this...


 Out there with Tom:  Climbing Crown Butte between Cascade and Simms.  The winds beat us down, but the grasses that waved in the wind, the 360 views, and easy walking more than compensated.  Read this...


 Signpost Blog:  Meet the Trail Community: Chocolatier.  The Hot Cakes owner is bringing nature into her cakeries, and sending the profits back out to help the trails she loves.  Read this...


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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Definitions: Deciduous

(1) Deciduous means anything that falls off.

This can be something that falls off your body or someone else's body, or a thing that falls from some other place and lands on your head. So keep one eye on that hanging stuff up there. Someone gets whacked every so often, and in the woods no one can hear you scream, or cares if you do. Lots of weird stuff goes on out there all the time and none of us pay much attention unless it looks good to eat or happens to be coming right at us with personal intent. Especially if it's getting dark and we just want to close our little eyes and get on with our snoring.

And then if the something that falls is a thing that falls from your body, well don't tell. Don't tell us, anyway, and we won't ask. Keep it secret and keep it covered at all times if at all possible. Don't scratch that spot it in public. Don't brag and don't whine. It happens to all of us now and again, and tends to happen more to people who look like you. It's probably genetic but if not then the rest of us really truly don't want to catch it from you. Wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you cough. Keep away. Wear clean underpants just in case. (You know what Mom said.)

If you are a tree, and your leaves change from that boring flat green color to lots of nice acid-trip versions, and the season is autumn, then you get a pass. This is not only supposed to happen, but everyone absolutely loves it for some reason. You should know this by now so settle down, stop your rustling, and do it already. It's what you were put here for.

If you stand still and look majestic (and are a tree or other certified vegetable) we'll even take pictures of you and put them up on the internet, which is a thing you don't need to know about. Lots of people do this and we don't want to be any different. They tell us it's normal.

So relax. We are children of the universe and no doubt something is either gracefully unfolding as it should or is headed this way to destroy us. Either way it's life — well-known as a definite crap shoot.

(2) "Deciduous", a prose poem by Max Ehrmann, a minor poet and lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana.

Although some originally claimed that this poem was ancient and profound, and was miraculously found entirely by accident taped to an obscure church basement wall, that's the sort of thing that Aunt Martha says every time she finds some some random newspaper clipping slapped on the church basement wall, and you know what she's like.

The rather mundane and awkward original poem of this name, about being stuck in a world full of crimps and spungs and feebs (to use Faulkner's words), was actually heavily edited by some anonymous fool before it was prank-published under the title "Desiderata" before it then got shared around by an army of Aunt Martha clones and slapped on myriads of church basement walls and their greeting card equivalents, but the original was much edgier and boils down to something closer to:

You are trash along the freeway of life. Remember, you have the right to remain silent, and we will ask for your opinion only if we want it. But as far as we are concerned you should just surrender now.

Listen — seriously — you are dull and ignorant. We can tell even from across the room. Any room. No matter how big. You have no story that needs to be told, or that anyone wants to hear.

If you compare yourself with others you will come up short, so don't start. Instead, try to enjoy being a runt, for not everyone can be, and at least you know which hole is yours to fill.

No matter how short the line, you will be at its end, and allowed in last, if at all, especially considering the way you dress. So fake it with caution, if you feel you must try, but you actually have nothing to gain.

Be yourself then, and embrace your loserhood, for that is how we see you. Realize that the world is full of tricks, and all of them will be played on you, for you are also a sucker.

Especially do not feign intelligence, for we know what it looks like, and it does not look like you, not even a little.

And while love may be a perennial flower spreading joy to the entire world, no joyous bee will be coming over to pollinate you. Forever and a day.

So heed the advice of your betters, who are also much smarter than you. Which is just about everyone, your relatives excluded of course.

We mean it. Give up. The sooner the better. You deserve misfortune, and fatigue, and loneliness, because, if for no other reason, we enjoy watching your clumsy efforts to deal with it.

Be gentle with yourself because no one else has the time right now. Or ever, truth be told.

OK, you probably do have a right to be here, if only to serve as a warning to others. And whether or not this is clear to you, it is increasingly clear to us as your life unfolds.

Therefore be cheerful, for everyone loves a genial idiot, for they are endlessly amusing. (Just switch on the TV for crying out loud — you'll see.)

So strive to be happy. If nothing else your doomed struggles to appear even adequate only enhance your entertainment value.

Source: How to talk in the woods.