Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Definitions: Krummholz

(1) Dorleen Krummholz, the first girl who ever agreed to go on a date with me.

She did this out on the playground on a clear September morning during recess.

This would be around sixth grade, which is a bit early to start dating, or at least it was a bit early in my day, but Dorleen was a big girl, forward for her age, and had me in a headlock at the time.

Her technique was, first the headlock of course, and then telling me what to say, and how to make it sound like a request, and then, to wrap it all up, she showed me this big grin full of teeth and said Yes!, with an undue amount of enthusiasm I thought at the time.

I remember the teeth because they were in front of me, right in front of me, really close to my nose, which she said she'd bite off if I didn't do what she said, and then she'd pound me too.

Since I still all too clearly remembered the first time she pounded me, there was no need to go through all that again, and anyway, the teeth.

So you learn to do what you have to.

Shortly after that, at the age of 12, I grew a beard, changed my name, and moved to a different continent, but still wake up in a cold sweat about every third night, or whenever I hear barking.

Dorleen used to bark a lot you see, and it spooks me something fierce, even when it's only my neighbor's dog going off again. His name is Tom. My neighbor's name is Federico, I think.

Anyway, Tom has this disturbing resemblance to you-know-who, so it might be time to move again, at least so I can get some sleep.

(2) Foliage that looks like Dorleen Krummholz. Literally it means crooked wood in German, which sounds about right in German, or in any other language really. Tough. Gnarly. Stunted. Bent. Undead.

(3) Krummholz is a high-altitude stunt-forest found right around treeline, where there is too little moisture, too little soil, too much wind and lots of winter.

It's patchy.

And although those krummholzy things are actually trees, genetically, in practice they are severely dwarfed and misshapen exercises in tortured vegetation due to the climate and the soils they grow in.

Given the barren rocky soils, the short growing season, and the smothering snowfalls, it's no wonder they call these barely alive ratty collections of woody despair procumbent.

Procumbent is a delicate way of describing something that lives a prostrate, beaten-down, and thoroughly unhappy life groveling in the dirt just for the chance to remain in place, suffer through another winter, and do it over again year after year forever, or until a long-delayed death happens to come for a visit.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Definitions: Titanium

(1) Titanium is... The Fairy Queen in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream? Nope. That was Titania. Dang.

(2) Titanium is... Proof that you've spent more money on your cook set (or stove, or boot lace tips) than anyone else in your hiking group (extended family, city, state, province, country, continent).

(3) Titanium is... Proof that you're trendy, and possibly an idiot, though still a trendy one. Let's hope you can dress the part.

(4) Titanium is... A metal incorrectly described by absolutely everyone stupid as "amazingly lightweight and strong, and perhaps the way to go if you're obsessive about ounces."

No, it isn't. But what would you expect to read in Backpacker magazine?

Titanium is a metal. And titanium is light, compared to uranium, but not compared to steel.

Stoveless and cook-pot-less and fuel-less is the way to go if you're obsessive about ounces, and can gag down cold suppers night after night.

Aluminum, however, is the way to go if you're obsessive about ounces and grams and price, and if you like to compare the weight of your tools to the weight of their shadows.

Titanium is only 12% lighter than steel, though it has almost all of steel's strength, while aluminum is 54% lighter than steel and still has 75% of steel's strength (Spot the trend here?), which is enough for a cook pot.

Titanium doesn't ding or dent very easily (because it's tough, which is nice), and titanium is highly resistant to corrosion (which means that it stays pretty). Since it is tough, it can be rolled thin. The thinner the material, the less there is of it, and so the less the finished product weighs, even if it's made from heavy materials, which is the real advantage of titanium.

But if you want a cooking pot and you don't care a lot about exactly how pretty it is, but you do care about how heavy it is, then aluminum is the way to go. You sort of care about how tough a pot is and you probably care a whole lot about how much it costs. You may also kind of care how beat up it's going to end up being, eventually, or not. Your call, eh?

Titanium as a material is significantly heavier and vastly more expensive than aluminum, but tougher, and those who own titanium items feel smarter because titanium looks new longer. A lot of people who feel that way don't go backpacking because if they go backpacking they will get their clothes dirty and they will get tired, and what they really above all want is to keep that just-off-the-shelf, crisply-pressed, newly-unwrapped look, while continuing to smell of aftershave. Titanium will help with that.

Titanium is for them. Titanium is for people who don't ever want to sweat or walk uphill or know that bugs might actually be attracted to them.