Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Definitions: Insect

(1) An insect is an unwanted, odd, intrusive, spookily proportioned, often strikingly eerie hiking partner you suddenly discover has joined you while you are otherwise contentedly tromping down a trail, trying to enjoy yourself.

You discover one of these at your shoulder, or biting your neck, or crawling up your leg, or trying to burrow into your nose, in the same sort of way that you've found some other unexpected hiking partners doing, but those others you could just punch in the face and be done with it.

Insects are harder to deal with.

One reason for this is that many insects hate to leave home alone, so they approach you in squadrons (the flying ones), or in divisions (the crawly ones). If so, you find that you suddenly have dozens of the little buggers to deal with. In addition to this, many insects are armored and hard to neutralize (the crawly ones), or if they are not the crawly ones, then they form flying clouds and carry some annoyingly effective weaponry at the ready, such as pokers, stingers, or nippy-nippers.

Some of the crawly ones also have their own implements of war, and though these ground-based guys are easier to hit with a counter-strike than the often teensy-tiny flying ones, their scaly shells make them tougher to put out of commission, even at those rare times when you can manage to score a direct hit. One upside, however, is that insects can be surprisingly entertaining when introduced to a roaring fire, even in small numbers.

(2) An insect is a life-form that cannot be appeased or negotiated with, one existing below the threshold of rationality, driven only by the most basic instincts to drink your blood, to bite holes in your hide, to lay eggs in you, or to make you insane by buzzing in circles around your head for hours on end, never approaching too close until you finally let down your guard, whereupon it swoops in and makes off with a chunk of your flesh. Insects are easily identifiable because they always have way too many legs and have those weird little solid-state eyes that see in all directions at once without moving, but despite that they never ever manage to notice the other people with you, only you. Sweet, tasty you.

(3) Someone you do not like, even if they are crunchy and taste good.

(4) A person fascinated by Instagram or other modern electronic perversions. This sort always carries a cell phone, extra battery power, stereo speakers and cabling, says things like "ur" and "lol" and "rofl" and "ymmv", broadcasts music across the landscape at every opportunity, and is unaccountably attracted to you, and will find you, and will set up immediately next to you, surely and inevitably, even if you have crawled half a mile off-trail to camp under a bush so you can have the privacy and quiet you so desperately need. Easy to detect, instantly identifiable, infinitely irritating, yet devilishly hard to kill.

(5) Our food future, after all else has withered away. At such time we shall all become insectarians, and though some of us will die gagging during the cut-over, it will be a sort of revenge, will it not?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Not Like The Olden Days

The future has arrived. (Illustration based on the work of Clifford Jago).


So when was the last time you used an elevator driven around by a human? By a human whose job it was to operate the thing. Never, maybe? Never? Do you even have trouble with the concept? I don't.

I remember when. Really.

I has been decades since the last time, and that was when I was in high school, which was a while back, but I do remember, and though that system was hardly ever used even then, it wasn't completely unusual when I was still young to walk into an elevator car and tell the operator which floor you wanted to end up on.

Yes, things have changed, and it's not letting up. (By the way, I was around 10 by the time we got dials on our telephones and could make our own calls without the help of the other kind of operator. I also remember life before television, which was indeed better in some ways.)

I started thinking about this sort of thing last night after seeing the beginnings of a discussion among van dwellers about what self-driving vehicles would be like. Some people thought they'd be nifty, some were afraid, and some doubted that there would ever be such a development. I disagree, with all of them.

We won't know what the future is like until we get there, and when we do get there we won't realize that that's where we were headed. Things will happen but until they do, no one really knows in detail what we'll end up with or how things will have changed.

What we do know is that things will change, and it's like elevators all over again.

First there was muscle power, then combustion engines, then electric motors, and then they eliminated the drivers. So think — when was the last time you took your own elevator to a multi-storey building? When was the last time you even owned an elevator?

Have you even heard of such a thing as owning an elevator? No. You go somewhere, get inside something, push a button, and go back to daydreaming. Then you arrive at your destination and that's it. It's even free.

How about cars then? Are electric cars far off in the future because there's no way to get electricity out where you're going? Nope. Electricity is available in more places than gasoline, let alone diesel, right now. Electricity is everywhere. High-voltage, high-amperage connections need to be installed in thousands of locations for electric vehicles to be practical, but there's no trick to that. It's only a matter of doing it powered by a feedback loop of demand and supply. It will happen.

Electric vehicles are simpler and cheaper to:

  • Design
  • Manufacture
  • Operate
  • Maintain
  • Repair

That part is inevitable. So is the rest.

Electric vehicles will make self-driving vehicles possible, and machine intelligence will make them happen. We'll live in a different world by then.

Two tidal waves will sneak up and sweep us away. The electric vehicle wave will be the first.

Electric vehicles are already flowing into our lives but we hardly notice because they are still expensive, and imperfect, and rare. Look up in a few years and they'll be everywhere. See the 5th Avenue link below for a view of history. No one will be able to imagine how or why anyone put up with combustion-engine vehicles, composed of hundreds of moving parts, having a constant need to be serviced, requiring toxic and explosive fuels, and emitting even more toxins as exhaust. Just as no one now can imagine how or why people once put up with whole cities full of horse manure and flies.

Combustion-engine vehicles will first become impossible to sell, and then impossible to buy, for good reason. Electric vehicles will do everything better, cheaper, and more simply.

When machine learning becomes adequate, and after machines prove they can do the job, which they will, they will steadily take over the work of driving. Because electric vehicles are already computers on wheels, the navigation and control systems will virtually drop right in. Before long, human-driven vehicles will become impossible to sell, then impossible to buy, and then illegal because it will be recognized that it is far too dangerous to let humans remain in charge. And besides, insurance won't be available. And no one will want the expense of actually owning a vehicle. And it will be too much bother, like taking your own elevator along when you go downtown and want to get to the 37th floor. What?

This makes me wonder what all those van dwellers out there will do. Can't afford/don't want to live in an apartment, won't be able to just drive around the country and park in the woods here and there any more. Then what?

And backpackers, not to mention other rural people — what about them? It'll be hard (probably) to summon a car to drive you around when you're 50 miles out, somewhere, but mostly nowhere, and you have to get elsewhere.

It's certain that:

  • Things will be radically different than they are now, and
  • Things will work, even though they'll work differently than now

It's likely that:

  • A lot of things will be easier than they are now
  • Most things will be pre-programmed
  • Life will be less spontaneous
  • Epiphanies will go extinct

When everything becomes possible, everything becomes ordinary, and that "illuminating realization or discovery, often resulting in a personal feeling of elation, awe, or wonder" will be reduced to a blinking light reminding you to either put another coin in the slot or get the hell out of the car.

Nowadays, right now, it looks like we're seeing some other things fade away. Because population continues to grow, and we are all getting relatively richer in capabilities if not in actual coinage, there are more people "getting out there" and doing things. If it's not hard to get "there", and is no longer awkward and dangerous once you are there, then "there" becomes ordinary. The backcountry becomes another city park.

Need to go somewhere? Query the internet, download an app, read some blog posts, see what your Facebook "friends" think. Need stuff? Click on those handy affiliate links, peruse eBay, order shiny things from Amazon. Get news of somebody doing something? Add it to your "bucket list" and do a "me too", or formulate a plan to be faster, louder, more outrageous, and gain more followers by going crazy on YouTube. Start your own channel. Shoot for a world record — maybe the most selfies in the most dangerous places done in the least amount of time, or something.

Not like the olden days.

No, not like the olden days.

I was in my 30s before I made my first backpacking trip. You couldn't find a tent under six pounds (2.7 kg, whatever "kg" were supposed to be). My first pack weighed four pounds, 14 ounces (2.2 kg) all by itself. Boots were big and heavy and leather. Waterproof/breathable promised salvation and was still so new that it wasn't yet considered a joke. The Svea 123R, whose roots go back over a century, was the height of liquid-fueled stove technology. Frostline Kits were still being sewn in the thousands.

Not all that many people did, but if you wanted something, needed something, and it wasn't out there, you made it. You could. You figured "Why the hell not?"

Along around 2000, some ideas began circulating and some new technologies became available. Silicone-coated nylon was one of them. It promoted huge changes. People went nuts, and internetted everything. Sudden experts appeared everywhere. You know the saying, "When the seeker is ready the guru appears." Like that. Everybody had ideas for what you could do with simple, ordinary materials, some ingenuity, and time. It seemed like you could make anything you needed, if you could imagine it, like stoves from used pop cans.

Odd little web sites popped up everywhere. Every week or so plans for some previously impossible thing, mostly things you had never even thought about at all, got published, and then right after that, someone else published their own directions for making an improved version that cost nothing and weighed less.

Gone now, most of it. Lots of ideas have been incorporated into commercial products, most of which are OK, some of which are OK+, and some of which are not anything but still cost money. The watch-phrase is "Buy it and try it", and never be happy any more, because if you set a world record for Fastest Known Time run-walking the Pacific Crest Trail, then someone else will do better next week and you'll be just another random, washed-up loser again. And if you buy the lightest, most experimental, trickiest whatchamacallit today, then tomorrow, if it hasn't fallen apart already, it will be replaced with the Super Double Plus Good Most Trickiest Thing-A-Ma-Bob Ever, and not only will you be a loser once again but you'll be out all that money and people will keep laughing because you're so lame and carry 0.75 grams more than they do.

So maybe when things were harder and slower and backpacking was something you did because it was interesting and not a competitive sport, maybe in a way it was sort of better as well, no?


Some web sites of the Ancients

Ray Garlington

Risk's UltraLight Hiking

Just Jeff's Hiking Page

Penny Wood Stove

Zen Stoves

Frostline Kits

Thru-Hiker Projects

Thru-Hiker Articles

Sgt. Rock's Hiking HQ


Homemade Outdoor Gear

Wings: The home-made stove archives

Rainmaker and Brawny


Other relevant stuff

The future of photography is code

5th Avenue, 1900 Vs. 1913


Svea 123

Ride transit to the trails with Trailhead Direct


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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What Karen Started

What does a Frenchman find when he goes snooping the internet?


The following is an edited discussion around the work of Pierre Dumay, from The original, in French, is at L'Atelier des Bricoleurs [Vêtements] le P.A.P (Peyo Abri Poncho).

If you want an English translation of the full thread, try The Handyman Workshop [Clothes] P.A.P (Peyo Abri Poncho).

I'm posting this because

  • I like it.
  • It's old, in internet years, and could vanish completely at any moment.
  • It's clever — shows good thinking.
  • I can't get it out of my head.
  • I want to make a cloak like this and extend it to a full shelter system.
  • And, let's not forget Scary Karen. (I definitely like her spirit.)

Most of the content here belongs to others, but let's consider this an act of preservation. The quality of the images is bad enough now — guess how hard they'll be to deal with when they're gone entirely.

So let's go then, let's learn about the P.A.P., the Peyo Abri Poncho (or, in English, the Peyo Shelter Poncho / Peyo Poncho Shelter), starting with Pierre "Peyo" Dumay's first comment.

Peyo 11-01-2006 23:42:46

As you may know, I just finished sewing a tarp. Its dimensions are 160X260 and weighs 200 grs (silnylon) [Measurements: 160x260 cm = 63x102" = 5'3"x8'6". Weight: 200g = 7.1 oz. ]

A tarp is good but to gain weight should think of multiple use for the same article.

In this respect the poncho is a beautiful invention because it serves as rain gear, sursac (back) and tarp for the bivouac. [Sursac is literally an "outer bag", or maybe a "bag cover" or "splash bivy", or just "bivy sack", in this case a waterproof one.]

I have long had poncho-tarp views at In silnylon they offer everything I just mentioned.

But besides the price that hurts, these poncho-tarp have the huge disadvantage in my eyes to have a hole (well yes the hood) in their middle when they pose tarp.

It's obvious...

Certainly a hood can close effectively by twisting its cord around. The hole is no longer a problem therefore (or when setting the tension tarp anyway).

I was ready to take the plunge, grab my scissors and make a nice circular hole in my new tarp.

Yes but here ... I had to solve a preliminary technical problem: how to sew cleanly and efficiently a hood while at its base it was circular?

I started to sew (with machine) for a little less than a year and that I still do not know how to do it.

Then there was the problem of the size and the resistance of the hood.

Finally, the sewing and of course the application of a silicone coating on the seam had to be superbly done to avoid that I find myself in a big puddle during my bivouacs in the rain.

So many pitfalls that made me look for an alternative solution (and just as much, if not lighter).

I had thought of fixing the tarp on my skull with various methods, but none were effective.

I found a good track with a thread on the Forum.

And especially on this page. (Even if the lady scares me. wink)

So here I am tonight doing tests.

The tutorial of the second site did not suit me but it allowed me to follow my own way that I will deliver you in image and that I will make mine for my future hike.

Step 1:

The tarp rests on my head in its middle on its longest side (260/2 = 130 cms of each side) [51"] and as I am 173 cms [68"] the 2 back angles drag.

To avoid this I grab the two back angles at the straps.


Ready, set, um...


And I pass these straps in the chest strap of my backpack (as in hiking I do not walk so sporty with my bag is not a problem). The angles are no longer dragging.


Grab the rear corners...


2nd step:

Now it is necessary to effectively close the system and especially to form a hood that will hold well even with wind or at a good pace.

For this you have to use a simple lace and a tankka (a blocker to push as on jackets or sleeping bags).

We draw the fabric well on the head (practice in hiking because during the establishment the walker is protected!) And we put the lace with the tankka around the neck.


And attach them to the sternum strap...


We get up to adjust the cord and hood (playing on the cord and the fabric we can make a hood at his will, a small back and here is a visor) (God, I look stupid ... That's good because it's you! wink )

For those who fear a potential throttle, know that we do not need to tighten too much and that the lace fits perfectly inside the poncho (thus avoiding inadvertent snapping)


Then adjust the hood...


Here is the hood and the poncho are finished! (dressing time less than a minute)

Not a single seam so no escape.

Of course the front is not completely closed but there are two advantages: we can take out the arms if we fall and the fabric folds away against the sides ensuring good resistance to water inlets (it can even be wedged under the shoulder straps of the bag)

In any case, this PAP is made to be used with a jacket windproof and water repellent when there is heavy weather.

But we will gain significantly weight (and money) by taking a jacket that does not need a membrane / coating machine-bidule.

In this case a jacket Pertex Quantum (just water repellent) is perfect for a hike 2/3 seasons (100 grs). [3.5 oz.]


Then wrap yourself in it...


Here a profile view. What more can you ask than to have a shelter, a rain suit (covering head, bust and mid-legs) and a [protected] backpack for all in all for 200 grs!


Take a look from the side, with a pack on...


Here the Peyo quite happy with him (I know it's not good ... big_smile) but especially a nice view on the top closure with the tankka and the departure of the hood.

Besides with or without the hood this poncho is very good in the effort (test intensive gul [no idea what this word should be] with the bag on the back: nothing moves)


Looks tidy, dunnit?


That's it, I think it's squaring my circle in this matter ...

But I'm still looking (perhaps a small scratch at the front closure? Or a strap at the waist for better wind resistance).

Small detail, with a tarp as small I use a bivybag (sursac bivouac) but the Pertex 5 is in command for a sursac even lighter. To follow then.



Peyo 12-01-2006 12:19:24

I consider 4 parameters that make me prefer this method.

1 / The total cost:

the end of silnylon cost me nothing (it was a gift). a jacket loss quantum about 55 euros (at CAMP) and my sursac had cost me 30 euros (they still do at Expe).

So rain suit and bivy protection for cheap.

2 / The big time

In bad weather, I totally trust my sursac and a poncho is a real insurance when you walk (the only technique not to be wet in my opinion).

When there is a lot of wind (and if rain) I do not climb the tarp but I literally put it on me by tying it with its stakes (or stuck with stones or wooden stakes carved on the spot)

3 / The weight:

  • My PAP is 200 grams (go 210 with my kite rope guideline)
  • the jacket in lossx quantum 80 grs in M at Camp (with hood and 1/2 closure)
  • Support in silnylon 1.1 and quantum lossx (or grade 5) 6.5 oz (180 grs)

All this for 470 grs.

4 / Montage

It is clear that it is much more adaptable than a normal shelter, both at the field level (I have often been late looking for a place for my tent when there was room in some places for a sleeper), at the level of the will of the walker.


Peyo 06-05-2006 10:33:11

But honestly he could know some improvements that it would not bother (especially at the level of closure).

Now that I have Gatewood at Sixmoondesigns, it's true that I have something more comfortable.


Peyo 06-05-2006 11:25:44

Versatility, yes that's the key word.

The PAP is in silnylon so there is more resistant.

For improvement, it would be enough to make a closure with Velcro for windy days. After all is possible ...


"Original" photos (or as close as we're ever going to get).


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Saturday, December 8, 2018

All It Ever Does Is Rain

I wish I knew.

But it does look ultralight.


Maybe not now, though.


Maybe next year. Or something. Next lifetime.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Avena, I Need Ya

Too bad.

If you're in the United States, you'll probably never see this stuff.

If you like artificial color, artificial flavor, sugar, and powdered oatmeal, this is your baby. Just add powdered milk and water (or liquid milk), stir, and drink.

I first had some over a year ago. Suits me. Not sure if it has any truly practical use, nutritionally speaking, but I bet if this and the other Natures Heart Terrafertil products were available, the "hiking community" would be all over them. I haven't even tried to ferret out their other products here in Cuenca. There are a few around but not the full line by any means.

People here are big on oats. I've even had oatmeal soup now and then. Still, I had to make two trips to Supermaxi to find out where they were hiding the oat drink these days. Finally got it.

Lots of things are odd here. Take canned fruit. Just try. They have it, but it's five or six different brands of peaches, and that's it. No más, just peaches. You can buy some canned vegetables, but there's nothing like canned soup, let alone beef stew or chili, or any of those other meals-in-a-can. Not worth mourning, but they come in handy every now and then. When I eat at home, I just have some combination of bread, butter, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and fresh fruit, maybe some tuna, and that's enough to get me by when I eat in.

Anyway, for right now I'm happy with my toy oats. I've been having one or two cups of strawberry with lunch, but that's gone now and I've moved to vanilla. And, as I said, though I'm getting a full dose of artificial color and flavor, the packaging alone is so great that it makes up for it.


  • Canela (cinnamon)
  • Fresa (strawberry)
  • Vainilla (vanilla)

Available only in these countries:

Nature's Heart



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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Soylent Again, Etc

I had a cousin who died over 20 years ago. She was born a month before I was. From my perspective now, today, she died young.

My high school class had a reunion last summer. It was their last, most likely, and my final chance to attend at least one high school reunion, which I missed again. But ahead of that they did post the photos from the yearbook, including a section for now-deceased classmates. My photo was in there, and I think I know who they got notice of my death from, but that isn't the point here. The point is that several people I knew well have died off since I last saw them, including one who succumbed 10 years ago, to brain cancer.

So I'm getting up there too. Time to start looking over my shoulder.

As the saying goes "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." I can't say I feel like a banana, though I did earlier today, which is why I ate one. Nevertheless, food is on my mind at the moment.

This is odd, and it isn't just the food (or me) that is odd — it's all odd. We live in an odd world, especially my part of it. Bent and wiggly, with strange little crinkly bits scattered here and there, composed of surprising and at times unsettling components, some of which, in turn, have disturbing smells. There's no telling where this will lead or how it will end. (Though if you know, please write and tell me so I can send you an autographed picture of someone who looks better than I do. Always glad to be of service.)

And the other odd thing (currently) is that I'm thinking about tents and trails and packs again. After last summer I swore off all that nonsense forever, but forever can be a short while. It happens. Just ask anyone who has ever been married.

Last summer then. Last summer I set out to be full of life and fun and to drive around and have lots and lots of interesting backpacking experiences and had none at all. Almost none. I was out for two nights, one night each in two different locations. It was largely a logistical problem.

I bought a bunch of stuff that I'd be needing, and that I really, really wanted, including a car, and found out all too soon that to really live a free and untethered life I needed to be tethered. That I needed an apartment to use as a home base.

What I had was a small hatchback car to live in and a four-foot by five-foot storage space for the stuff that was not in my car.

I slept in the car but couldn't use it in town because there was no privacy and no way to get any. I could have blocked off the windows (and eventually figured out a really good way to do this), but it would still have looked far to suspicious to chance it parking in any city overnight, so I needed to drive 20 to 30 miles outside of town every single night, to park in the woods to sleep. And I could pee there, any time of night, unlike in town, parked in front of someone's house.

That was one problem.

Another was that I was tied to my storage space because if I had kept everything in my car I would not have had enough room in it to sleep, and not even enough room to get into it. So I had to visit my storage space several times a week to stuff away or to retrieve whatever it was that was important at that moment. But there was no room there to lay things out and work with them. It was a constant struggle just to find some little thing that I needed right then. A living-room floor is a necessity.

That was another problem.

And there was weather. Arriving up north in western Washington State at the beginning of March gave me lots of time to buy what I needed and to plan my plans. I thought. It was a typical March — gray, wet, cool, wet, gray, but that is what I expected. Then came April, the wettest April on record. True. I can vouch for that. There were oceans of rain, but I made it through, still mostly undaunted.

Then came May. May was tied for the driest May ever, and it set a new record for heat. It was hot. It was the hottest May ever. Things began to wear on me. I was hiding from the weather and not getting done what I needed to do, but June took care of that. It nearly killed me, and did kill my plans.

June was fierce. Fearsome fierce. No rain and much heat. It was unbearable., and there was no relief. March and April I had spent in the library to avoid the rain. May and June I had spent in the library to avoid the heat. July was far worse — still no rain, yet more heat. Temperatures were in the mid-90s (mid 30s Celsius). It was impossible to go anywhere or to do anything. My best option was to leave, so I did that, at the end of July, completely defeated.

So where am I now?

In Ecuador. I'm living at 8000 feet (2438 m), and it's summer all over again, but it's a good kind of summer. Temperatures here range from 50°F overnight to 70°F on a hot day. I have sun sometimes and rain sometimes, and a fine place to live. I pay $470 a month and they take care of me: a decent apartment, all utilities included, totally secure (and quiet), DirecTV for occasional idle amusement, a solid internet connection, weekly maid service (Sonia), and good food ($3.00 for lunch). I buy bread, fruit, cheese, and yogurt to fill the corners that lunch doesn't reach, and I know two really fine cats who like to bite me.

Still, life is more than sleeping, eating, and bleeding, so I'm thinking again. There is a chance I'll leave again and probably make all the old mistakes again, planning to buy another vehicle and pretend that I'm 30 years old again, and can blithely traipse through life backpacking here and there as my whims dictate, though I may get lucky and die first.

But if I don't, and do go backpacking again, I'll need to eat, and that's what I'm thinking about now.

Among other things, I miss Soylent.

Yeah — synthetic food. I ate a bunch of it last summer. (This year's first summer. I get two this year.) The more I think about it, the more I miss it (Soylent). It would make a really fine backpacking food. We need decent backpacking food.

The more I learn of what other people are eating, the more my skin crawls. The more my teeth grind. Take a look at what Andrew Skurka laid out for a Colorado elk hunting trip. Yucky-poo. Sooper-dooper, gag me yucky-poo.

You'd think that synthetic food would be at the very bottom of any list, above only moldy turds or cold diarrhea soup, but Soylent is far better than what most people eat, especially pop-tarts, candy bars, meal-replacement (candy) bars, candy, and candy. Even the stuff I've thrown together in the past is way better than what most people seem to eat.

So bet on it. If I go back to North America sometime, and backpack sometime, I'm taking Soylent. Not for all my meals, but for some of them.

Here in Cuenca, Ecuador, we've got a white-haired dietitian who writes a blog. About half the time she simply lifts what someone else has written and posts the whole damn thing. The rest of the time she writes her own stuff and says some really crazy things. She's anti-fat, anti-meat, pro-vegetarian, pro-vegan, pro-"Mediterranean" diet. And other unreasonable things.

She's recommended chocolate as a healthy "food" (because anti-oxidants). She's pro-wine (because "science", even though alcohol is a proven carcinogen, and there appears to be zero amount that's safe to consume). She often claims that red meat is dangerous, and processed meat is double-ugly-bad-dangerous. Butter is bad. Dairy products are suspicious. Gluten? Yeah, well... Basically, she's 30 years out of date and accepts every "study" that has ever been published by any food company, unless it is actually rigorous and real science or contradicts her prejudices (i.e., is actually rigorous and real science).

So, a few years ago I came across some interesting info that made me begin to rethink everything (see the Nina Teicholz video, below for something similar), and I've been saving bits and pieces, and every chance I get, I post a response to the dietitian's goofy claims, not expressing my personal opinion as such, but posting a link from a real expert that directly contradicts what she's just said (or plagiarized). So people here have a chance to think for themselves.

Which kind of relates to this whole Soylent subject after all. (In a moment.) Granted, a powdered foodstuff consisting more or less of "appropriate chemical substances" does not seem to be a good bet but I'm a pragmatist, folks. What works is what I'll go with, and Soylent sure seems to work for me.

This dietitian makes a point of asserting her various certifications and memberships and degree(s) and so on, as if that actually mattered, but there are lots of "crimps and spungs and feebs" out there, as William Faulkner put it, and many of them even wear suits and have office walls bearing certificates, licenses, and diplomas. And some, like this dietitian, also frequently cite such well-known scientific journals as "Popular Science", "USA Today", and "Huffington Post".

In general, I find myself agreeing with Rob Rhinehart, the founder of Soylent:

Argument from Authority: "Science", Feynman says, "is the belief in the ignorance of experts." I am not a doctor, biologist, or nutritionist. However, we all have access to the same information. Anyone can read a textbook. One does not have to take a class on something to know it, nor must one fully master a field in order to do something useful with it. From In Defense of New Food)

As soon as I have a reason not to agree with Rhinehart, I'll stop doing so. If I ever have a problem with Soylent or with any of the backpacking foods I've developed and used in the past, I'll drop them too. But while things work, they work, and I'll keep on, pragmatically.

Want a little more from Rhinehart?

This is Just Weird: Look at the current behavior around food in the developed world. Fad diets are in constant rotation, and the food industry follows suit based not on data, but demand. People staple their stomachs, freeze themselves, starve themselves, slavishly clean juicers, and drink weird liquid diets like Odwalla juice, which had a fatal e. coli outbreak due to a refusal to pasteurize (they do now). Eating disorders claim more lives than any other mental condition. Obesity and diabetes are out of control. Diets are unsustainable because they are too difficult. 95% of those that go on a diet quickly gain the weight back. Being healthy is about forming good habits and allowing yourself time off. Every organism makes decisions based on perceived energy expenditure. Humans thus consistently seek the cheapest, easiest solutions. By making the cheapest, easiest option for food the healthiest, and helping maximize the enjoyable aspects of social eating, soylent breaks the cycle of poor diet and makes users healthy by default. Currently health and diet are strongly correlated with income. I wouldn't say it's normal to have a perfectly balanced diet on the cheap. But I wouldn't say it's weird. Worrying about something as simple as food in the digital age is weird. If my behavior is making me happier, healthier, and reducing my environmental impact it should be encouraged, not mocked. (From the same source.)

I agree.

For me, everything is a tool, except living things. Tools do things. Food keeps me alive, healthy, and happy so I can do things.

So food is a tool. It's fuel. I like to eat food, to tank up, but I don't want to waste my life on food. After all, no matter how fine the food or how fancy the setting where I consume it, everything I eat turns to shit. That says something, doesn't it?

But wait — there's more:

Food is the fossil fuel of human energy. It is an enormous market full of waste, regulation, and biased allocation with serious geo-political implications. And we're deeply dependent on it. In some countries people are dying of obesity, others starvation. In my own life I resented the time, money, and effort the purchase, preparation, consumption, and clean-up of food was consuming. I am pretty young, generally in good health, and remain physically and mentally active. I don't want to lose weight. I want to maintain it and spend less energy getting energy.

I hypothesized that the body doesn't need food itself, merely the chemicals and elements it contains. So, I resolved to embark on an experiment. What if I consumed only the raw ingredients the body uses for energy? Would I be healthier or do we need all the other stuff that's in traditional food? If it does work, what would it feel like to have a perfectly balanced diet? I just want to be in good health and spend as little time and money on food as possible.

I haven't eaten a bite of food in 30 days, and it's changed my life. (From 2013's )How I Stopped Eating Food.)

Whether this is rational thinking or not, it seems to be, sort of, maybe, for now, but as I said, I'm adaptable and willing to turn elsewhere as needed.

Beyond that, I've done some things right in the past. (I.e., cutting to the damn chase then.) What worked...

Note: For backpacking, I put all my "hot" food into quart-sized, freezer-weight ziplock bags. At mealtime I add boiling hot water, massage the contents after sealing the bag, wait for it to cool, and then eat the contents by ripping off one corner of the bag with my teeth and squeezing the contents into my mouth. No muss, no fuss, no cooking, no cleanup. The used ziplock bags go into my odor-proof trash bag.

Instant Mashed Potatoes

  • One package Idahoan instant mashed potatoes, with whatever seasoning seems agreeable
  • Four tablespoons butter (about 2 ounces/57g)
  • Four tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Four tablespoons powdered milk


  • About 2/3 to 3/4 cup of quick-cook (1 minute) rolled oats
  • Four tablespoons butter (about 2 ounces/57g)
  • Four tablespoons powdered milk
  • Raisins to taste


  • 1/3 pouch (about 5 ounces/142 g)
  • Four tablespoons butter, about 2 ounces/57g (Walmart now sells powdered butter)
  • Four tablespoons powdered milk

No-Cook Brownies

(Note: I've never recorded the recipe for this, so the following is a rough guide.)

  • 2 cans panko (pre-made dry bread crumbs)
  • Plain (unflavored) instant potato flakes
  • One 36 ounce jar of peanut butter
  • 1 to 2 cups sugar
  • 3 to 4 cups powdered milk
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 bottle vanilla extract
  • Mix dry ingredients, add peanut butter and mix
  • Add enough water to dissolve powdered milk and sugar, then mix
  • Add potato flakes as needed to bulk it up and soak up excess moisture
  • Press into pans and let air-dry in the sun (back window of car)
  • Cut into chunks and bag into meals

Baked Brownies: Read A Few Wee Brown Squares

Pinole: Read Pinole

Shortbread: Read Bite Me, Quick!

Other Stuff

Chips: As mentioned in a previous post, potato chips and nacho corn chips are both good for lunch. Flavorful, greasy, crunchy, salty, quick.

If not chips, then brownies for lunch.

First, determine how much makes a meal. Then buy as many bags as you'll need.

Take a bag, punch a hole into it, and crush the contents with the heels of your hand (or a rolling pin if you have one, and a kitchen to work in). Open the bag and pour one meal's worth into a freezer-weight ziplock bag. At mealtime, open the top of the bag and shake the contents into your mouth without touching the food. This way you'll keep your hands grease-free.

Special note: Given enough time, like a week or so, the oil from potato chips will begin to migrate through even a freezer-weight bag, so watch this. If you make the mistake of using regular-weight bags to keep the chips in, you'll have oil all over the inside of your food bag. Go ahead, try it. See how you feel out in bear country when you discover that the inside of your food bag, or the inside of your pack if you're really clever, is covered in potato-chip oil. Not to mention your hands every time you handle any of your food, no matter how tidily you've parceled it out.

Candy: Black licorice (the real stuff), or hard candy, or raisins. Or some other dried fruit (but that gets expensive).

Multi-Vitamin Pills: Two or three per week, just to be safe.

Drinks: Tea, with breakfast and maybe lunch. Unlike coffee, it's easy to make and cleanup consists of rinsing the cup, and can be skipped if you need to. Dries clean. No oily film.

For me: I notice that I don't need much variety or anything fancy. Mostly it's a matter of what tastes OK and what gives me energy to keep going, with an eye on a reasonably-adequate balance of nutrients. Four pieces of hard candy a day is stimulating — not too much, not too little.

What Else?

Soylent (previous post)

Other Reading: "Eskimos Prove An All-Meat Diet Provides Excellent Health", by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, "Harper's Monthly Magazine", November 1935. (Disclaimer: I am not associated with the web site that hosts the following.)

More-detailed reading: The Fat Of The Land, by Vilhjalmur Stefansson,

Catch a worthwhile video about food in general, by Nina Teicholz: "Women, Low-Fat Diets & Heart Disease" (runtime: 1:10:04 )

Soylent Blog

Soylent Home

DIY "Soylent"


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I got a comment!

Now what do I do? This is so unexpected.

Soylent eh?

Matt S

to me

Greetings from Seattle, WA.

Winter arrived recently (think April replay). Winter isn't like it used to be in the Pacific NW around the turn of the century. Then it rained 1-2 days a year, and the rest of the time it gently precipitated. I used to walk to work 200 days a year and almost never, despite walking in the "rain" often, did my hair get wet. Now we often get rain. Real rain. Like the rain that we'd get back in Michigan where it dumps rain by the bucket.

Glad to see you writing again, I've been following your blog for years. Poignant, witty, and interesting. I haven't been out much for the past few years. I'm living a different chapter (than climbing/hiking) of life right now. Wife, kids, new old (1955) house I've put 2 years of sweat equity into. Lots of over-building everything so it's ultra-durable so I won't have to touch it again for a decade, by which time I'll have my climbing gear dusted off.

You piqued my curiosity so I just ordered a 7-pack of Cacao Soylent.


So I guess I'll try this.

Yeah food. Some day I'll figure it out. Maybe.

My sister just sent me this.

She said she didn't even know why she thought it was funny. So far that makes two of us.

Thanks for writing.

-- Dave

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


I know what you're thinking (not really, but it's a nice hook).



There was a movie once, "Soylent Green", about "a dystopian future of dying oceans and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect, resulting in suffering from pollution, poverty, overpopulation, euthanasia and depleted resources." So says Wiki-The-Pedia.

Anyway, cut to the chase. The movie's protagonist "boards a human disposal truck to the disposal center, where he sees the human corpses converted into Soylent Green." Yep. What they eat. But this ain't that. This here is just "Soylent". It's food too, but won't make you gag, and doesn't contain toenails or pubic hairs.

Soylent is actual food, or "food replacement" if you prefer that term: "20 grams of protein, slow-burning carbs, 21 grams of fats, 26 vitamins + minerals". Etc.

There is stuff in it. How it works is you eat the stuff. Then you do things. Whatever you want.

Soylent was created by a guy who decided that he spent too much time buying, preparing, cooking, eating, and cleaning up food.

I first read about it several years before it became a product. I don't remember when. The oldest mention I can find is six years ago, but it was before that. I've always been curious. Last summer was my chance.

I'm more or less living outside the U.S. these days, so I had to wait until I was back there earlier this year.

First Soylent was an idea, then a proto-product, then a product that could be bought only by subscription, and it was too expensive to bother with, and then along came Soylent 2, but I wasn't in the U.S. so I couldn't buy it, and then eventually everything seemed to click: I was in the U.S., the product was available for a reasonable price, on a one-time order basis, and I wanted to see if it might work as a backpacking food, so I bought some. I bought one order of seven pouches of powder, said to be 35 meals, said to work out to $1.82 per meal. The "original flavor" is sort of vanilla-ish. That's what I got.

I tried it. It works for me. If I ever go backpacking again, I'm going to use it.

Previously, my big meal of the day was a four-serving pouch of instant mashed potatoes, to which I added half a stick of butter, a half-cup of powdered milk, about four tablespoons of parmesan cheese, and hot water. It was good.

Soylent is better.

I prepared my Soylent about the same way, but used powdered butter, now available from Walmart, and no cheese. Soylent is mildly sweet, but I don't know how much of that taste is from actual sugar and how much is from sucralose, a non-food sweetener. I can say that even if all the sweet flavor is from actual sugar, it isn't all that sweet, and it never bothered me. If all the sweetness is from sucralose, I didn't notice any of the usual creepy-nasty aftertaste.

Officially, there were five meals possible from a pouch of powder but I decided that three meals from each pouch was right. With enough butter, that would be about the right amount of energy for a main backpacking meal, and the volume was reasonable. I never felt upset after eating Soylent, or got hungry too soon, had gas or any other problems. For me, in fact, the effects were completely agreeable. I slurped it down and got on with things. Even the type and amount of fiber in Soylent were just exactly perfect for me: once a day, in the morning, nice and solid and clean.

I've read about several people who claim they've lived on nothing but Soylent for over a year at a time, but I wouldn't want to. It's too expensive for my taste, and too limiting. I don't need much variety but more than what a sort of gritty sweetish liquid provides. No complaints though. This stuff is full of vitamins and minerals, tastes good, goes down easily and quickly, can be made either cold or hot (though if you add real butter to it, you'll want to use hot water so the butter melts).

Soylent is also relatively cheap. The way I ate it, three meals per pouch instead of five, the base cost went up from the official $1.82 to $3, plus whatever the powdered milk and butter added. Let's say $4 per meal as an upper limit. That's pretty high for me, but low enough to be reasonable, especially if the rest of my food for a given backpacking day came in at $1 to $2 — maybe $5 to $6 a day, tops, living fairly high on the hog for me.

Various people publish ideas about what they eat/have eaten, and they usually scare the snot out of me. For example, a couple who have been going stoveless for 20 years say that they eat this sort of thing on a daily basis:

  • cheese
  • meat
  • tuna
  • crackers, crunchy things
  • cookies
  • tang/lemonade mix
  • nuts
  • dry fruit
  • mumble bars
  • dark chocolate

The total weight is 24 ounces (680 g), which is good. The total caloric content is 3000, which seems low. (Pet peeve: calories don't actually exist — they are determined based on burning food in oxygen, which has no relationship to biochemical metabolism, except that both are called "oxidation". I go by heft, and volume, and type of foodstuff — i.e., educated guesswork, which is what you have to do anyway even if you use calories.)

Note that "mumble bars" means "Clif, Luna, NuGo, Zone Perfect, ProBar or similar". Check the ingredients some day. Most or all of these are 30% to 40% sugar. Not good in any way. These people must spend $15 to $20 a day on food, per person, and with the cookies and lemonade and chocolate and fruit, they're eating a gigantic amount of sugar as well.

And there are others, like these people who must spend at least that much if not more, using tiny packages of expensive nut butters and similar boutique foods. Lots of packaging waste to deal with too. Doing the Colorado Trail, according to their figures, they spent a total of $2/mile or $23/day on trail food, although some of their food was donated, so the actual cost was higher. Given even today's prices it should be possible to travel for half that, or even a third of that, with some care. And for a solo traveler, cut that in half once more.

A lot of people seem to eat huge quantities of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. I can't handle much of them. They don't digest well, only tending to wave bye-bye on their way out, which comes all to soon.

I need cheese, meat, or eggs, food I can handle gracefully, or if not those, then food that's been powdered. Cheese, meat, and eggs don't carry well, and they're not cheap, so I usually rely on powdered milk for protein and butter for fat, and whatever filler works.

Homemade peanut butter brownies are good (flour, butter, peanut butter, powdered milk, cocoa). Shortbread (butter, flour, and sugar) is acceptable. Quick-cook oatmeal works for some meals (oats, powdered milk, butter, raisins), as does instant mashed potatoes (potato powder, powdered milk, butter, parmesan cheese).

Anything that can serve as a vehicle for peanut butter or butter and powdered milk is great.

Soylent should be even better, because someone has already taken raw ingredients and intelligently blended them into a balanced meal. I would just need to bulk it up a bit with a little more of what I like, and the whole deal would be taken care of. Beyond the main course, I'd need only some little treats like tea, hard candy, raisins, maybe crushed potato chips or crushed nacho cheese chips or crushed cheesy crackers for lunch.

I'll definitely give Soylent a good trial if I ever get into backpacking again. Definitely.


Next post on this subject: Soylent Again, Etc

More info (in no particular order):

The Man Who Would Make Food Obsolete

How Healthy Is Soylent?

My Year with Soylent

Silicon Valley Is Hacking Your Food

Soylent: What Happened When I Stopped Eating For 2 Weeks

Ars does Soylent, the finale: Soylent dreams for people

Reg hack prepares to live off wondergloop Soylent

Soylent: What Happened When I Went 30 Days Without Food

Soylent gets tested, scores a surprisingly wholesome nutritional label

The Man Who Thinks He Never Has to Eat Again Is Probably Going to Be a Billionaire Soon

How Soylent Ships A Trillion Calories Per Month

What's In Soylent



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Monday, November 12, 2018

One Forgettable, One Forgotten

No, really — this is me smiling. (Note happy leg scabs.)

I used to be this person. Once, and upon a time.

Fifteen years back, now, in 2003, September. September 27. Fifteen years, and even another two months beyond that. A while.

I was sick. It was the year that I was sick. I don't know. Something. Maybe giardia, starting at the end of May, just after a routine trip around Mt St Helens. Nothing memorable about that except that was the trip that my spoon broke, so I used a stick. Maybe it was the stick.

I used a stick to finish just that one meal, then realized that I could do without it, and without a spoon, so the end of May, 2003 was the last time I took a spoon backpacking. But maybe it was the stick. I'm careful, and I can't see how I could have infected myself in any way, but I developed something, and it kept getting worse, and then eventually, in October sometime, it got much worse for a day, and then it was over. Over after I spent a whole day sitting on the floor with my back to the wall, trying to hold on to the carpet while intense intestinal cramps fought each other for the rights to my gut.

That was it, except for two days of diarrhea and a couple following weeks of vile outgassings to finish up.

But it wasn't all fun.

And carrying one of my early packs. The very first weighed 9.8 ounces and still hurt. Duct tape is a pack-maker's tool they never mention. But hey — it works.

That was the year that I was sick, from the end of May to the middle of October, and that was the year that I wrote a sample letter that my gastroenterologist thought was so good that he just signed it on the spot. And then I wasn't working any more. No one said good-bye.

I submitted the letter the next day and within about four hours (or a bit less — maybe it was two hours) I was free. Leave-of-absence for medical reasons. By a trick of the personnel system I was able to submit a thick sheaf of leave slips up front and retain my medical insurance, by gradually using accumulated sick leave over a period of up to a year. But I didn't need a year. I lucked. By the middle of October I had a different job — came out of the blue with a fat jump in salary attached, a two-year data-warehouse project, and I could continue working, for more money, and be asshole-free as well.


In 2003 I set off just a day or two ahead of the July 4th weekend on a 14-day, 200-mile trip through Olympic National Park. Even with rumbling guts. Several things did not go quite right and I began backtracking just shy of halfway through. Then in early August I took a week off on medical leave (Hah!) and picked up the route about where I'd abandoned it, and finished the second half of the trip.

Then I got my letter signed and quit. "Quit", in quotes, since I was still an employee, but no longer working. I had a year's worth of nothing, with free health insurance, and money in the bank besides, so I did more hiking, not knowing what would come next. Which, after another eight weeks or so, was a better job at the state agency where I had first started doing computer work, and not the zoo I'd just escaped from. Shortly after that project ended (successfully, early, and under budget) and I reverted to my previous agency, I quit. A "hard reset". I decided I'd rather die than keep working there, so I submitted a resignation with my two-weeks' notice, and a leave slip for two weeks, and walked out. My more-or-less temporary boss at the time was himself off on vacation but he handled it well, and I never did get charged for those last two weeks of leave that I took, which amounted to roughly an extra $2000 in the bank when I cashed out my unused leave. Decent guy.

I always felt bad about suddenly bailing out like that but there was nothing for me to do. They had me just sitting there killing time. Even though management was different from when I went on my leave-of-absence, and they weren't actively hostile, they still had their heads up their butts and there was nothing to do, and then my position was going to be eliminated, and I couldn't stand the pure waste of my life, so that's why I quit, on July 7, 2005.

I haven't worked since.

I made the shirt too. Found the cap on the trail one day. Photos shot with my first digital camera, a Kodak DC4800 (3.1 MP).

Got lucky.

I squeaked by. Now that I'm old enough, I have two separate governments sending me money every month to stay away and not bother them again, which I'm good at. Like a quiet little mousy-mouse. I even have health insurance such as it is, which is better than none, etc.

Last year my high school class had its final reunion. I didn't go. I didn't go to any of them, but I did look them up. I sort-of wished I'd been able to make it last year but I know it would have turned out hellish. I read the programs from previous years with insufferable and stale activities planned out to the exact pointless minute.

They were the same people I had known decades ago but older. No other changes. Older — that's all. The same games and blind mediocrities. The same. The same tiny samenesses.

They had posted the photos from the class yearbook online. I looked through them. There was a separate section for the deceased. I was surprised to find too many holes in my life in the shape of people I'd once known. And my photo was there too. I sent them a comment saying that I was surprised to find myself deceased but that it wasn't all that bad being dead and not to worry, but there was never a reply, so that's about my last contact with all of them, I guess. Even all these years on they still ignore me. Well, you can judge by the photos. One forgotten.

One more.

Me again.


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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Definitions: Wind Chill

(1) Wind chill is a measure of how cold the atmosphere feels, taking into account not just the actual temperature but the wind, which can make the air feel considerably colder than it is.

How? Heat produced by the body radiates out, away from the skin and into the surrounding air. When there is no wind a thin layer of heated air next to the skin partially insulates the skin from the full effect of the surrounding cold. When there is wind, there is no layer of insulating air because it gets blown away.

(2) Wind chill is a quantity expressing the perceived lowering of air temperature caused by the wind, which affects the rate of heat loss from an object or from the human body.

(3) Wind chill is also a pseudo temperature, giving an idea of the cooling effect of both wind and temperature.


(1) Wind chill is just how cold you feel standing out in the wind, no matter what the temperature is.

(2) Wind chill stole my heart, which I found last week in a ditch, frozen solid.

(3) You can identify the effects of wind chill when you leave one of your flaps open — in front, in back, on your tent or your jammies.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Effort or Eff It, my motto. Always a judgment call.

This time it's "eff it". I'm done, at least for now and probably forever. No more backpacking.

What did I say last time? Frequently disappoints. True, and since no one else knows or cares, I'm disappointing myself, which is enough.

I have an intense desire to pursue a rabid level of backpacking while I still can, possibly for years on end, but I have no interest in it. None at all any more.

I can plan, buy maps, choose my equipment, prepare food, drive to the trailhead, and then that's it. I can't do it. I don't want to do it. No arguing. So I go home.

The last time out was nearly three weeks ago. Since the high country was still snowed in, I decided to hike up the Elwha River valley in Olympic National Park and at least tune up my process while visiting a crazy-wonderful area. Got there, registered, checked out the trailhead the day before, slept in my car, got up the next morning and realized that there was no point in trying to do a single thing more. Because the backpacking me wasn't there.

So I drove up to Hurricane Ridge and looked around, then fixed breakfast and stopped at the Klahhane Ridge trailhead and hiked up that. No problems there. Nice hike. Steep. Makes you feel good. I felt good.

And that was the end of it. Is the end of it. I don't know how or why — I just know. It's obvious and inescapable.

Now I'm killing time while waiting to wrap up a couple of things before I head out of the country again in early August. I have no idea what I'll do next.

Toward Port Angeles, WA, and Canada, eh?

Toward the northeast.

Looking southish, toward Hurricane Ridge.

Fellow huffer.

Again, southish, from lower down.

G'bye then.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hells? Oh, noes.

Should be trig. Isn't anymore.

OK, I think I've jumped the shark again.

I was planning on hiking the high trail along the western side of Hells Canyon, something I did four years ago. I drove 475 miles from my hideout in the woods to the edge of Hells Canyon, stayed overnight in my car, and then turned around and drove 475 miles back.

When I got up that morning rain was falling. I couldn't face it. I didn't have much view of the sky, but since I saw stars overnight, I figured that the weather was coming in and was going to get worse, even though the forecast didn't say much either way. And that was it.

I had to decide one way or another and I couldn't face a day of rain.

Made it this far.

About two hours later, after I'd driven well up and away from the canyon area, things looked better though there was a big storm out east. I still couldn't tell if the storm was going farther east, or coming west, or going some other direction. I almost turned around and went back, quit my quitting. But meh. Inertia, once set in motion, becomes self-sustaining.

A day and a half later I was back in Olympia, on Friday, and then it rained all night, and all weekend, and half of Sunday night. That would be the night before last. Still fresh in my short-term memory.

It looks like though I want to go out and go backpacking, I just don't feel like actually doing any backpacking.

Looking back the way I came, toward the lonely guy's hotel (far right).

I did make a short drive out of town on Saturday, up the Skokomish River, and spent the night in the woods trying out my new hammock setup. That was nice enough, especially sleeping in a hammock again (best way to sleep ever), but I almost got drenched before I got it up, and mostly wetted out on the short hike back to my car on Sunday. And didn't much enjoy the hiking part. More of the same, you know? And had no place to go at the end to lay out my gear to dry and clean it. Only a 4x5-foot self-storage locker.

This happens.

For a while I went fishing all the time, then just didn't care any more. Built a couple of rods up from blanks — wound on the line guides, glued on cork rings and shaped them into grips by sanding, made them all shipshape and usable.

I did years worth of film developing and printing in a home darkroom, in a basement, then just didn't care much any more, at least about that end of photography. It dead-ended.

Went backpacking for a short while before returning to college for a second pass, then found bicycling. Built several bikes up, starting from the bare frame, made wheels, did it all. Rode STP (Seattle to Portland — 198 miles) in one day. Did RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier In One Day — 156 miles, 10,000 feet of climbing). Did lots of stuff. And then suddenly I didn't care any more.

So back to backpacking, which I hit like crazy for a couple of decades, and now I'm tired and don't want to fuss so much with anything, not even that.

Yesterday I wrote Henry at the hotel in Cuenca, Ecuador. Asked him to let me know when he has an apartment open. No reply yet. I'm pretty much ready to go any time. Don't know what I'll do there, but living on the road is too much bother. I miss going out for lunch, when lunch was the big event of the day, and I miss seeing people on the streets. I miss being a stranger in a strange land. Around here it's all cars, everywhere, and belligerent angry people, all of whome I've met already, too often.

Example: I spent about an hour in Kennewick, WA, looking for the Costco place to buy gas. Geez.

Gazing into the void. (From a Forest Service poster.)

The three cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland) are nothing but malls, strip malls, and housing tracts. Might have been nice at one time, when the cities were smaller, with two major rivers meeting there, and lots of parks along them, but now it's the worst of modern life. You can hardly walk from one store in a mall to another store in the same mall because of the traffic. Crazy shit. So I'm kind of waiting for when I can back out of this machine world and get back to where people are people.

I gave my dream a shot and it's crap. Poor me. At least it's only a matter of time. November at the latest. I have an official apartment reservation for November 10, in Cuenca. Thanks to you, my previous self, for thinking of that months ago, as a hedge.

Meanwhile, I'll probably have to wait. I got an eye exam scheduled, but it's July 31. I started a course of vaccinations at Wallgreens, and the final dose is due July 22. So, July. At best/worst I'll probably be here until the end of July.

Last night I remembered that I have a "Senior Citizen Limited Income Pass" for Washington State Parks. Half off. I used it. $12.50 for overnight parking isn't that bad — $375 a month. A set of ear plugs kills any chance of being disturbed, and there's no penalty in using them it's safe there, unlike sleeping in the woods in a state forest, where you never know what might happen in the night.

Will be doing more of that state park business. And probably some actual backpacking. The season is still early and I'm still a sucker, and will get seduced by actual rain-free summer weather if I'm still here when it comes along.

Coda: As it ever has been noted on my report card, so it remains — Frequently disappoints.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Palouse Falls

The not-dry falls of Washington State's channeled scablands. These are the other falls. Palouse Falls.

Energetic. Forceful. Downfalling.

There is a slight trail curling around the basin. No idea what made it, but it's not for hiking.

Downstream. Overlook under a big tree (right), parking lot, and "campground" (way right, hardly visible).

The downstream part looks inviting, and I hear that it can be navigated via kayak.

It is possible to scoot around to the north side of the falls to get a different perspective, bit it's also possible to slip off the edge.

Mostly it's safer to stay behind the fence.

Massive though. Massive falls way out here nowhere.

Yeah, so one more try. Still hot though. Still dusty.

From Jackson Creek Fish Camp I headed east again, and took in Palouse Falls. Impressive, but dry, hot, and dusty (more of the same).

There was a campground there, at the state park of the same name, but it was only a small patch of grass, two sides of which were defined by the gravel parking lot, subject to clouds of dust from it, and had no privacy.

Not much choice for me. I headed south, toward Walla Walla. I thought I could camp in the hills east of town and then head west again.

Along the way I stopped at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park and had a shower. Nice looking place but low and overgrown and would have been fatally buggy to stay in.

The roads out of Walla Walla have changed from four years ago. One, going through the mythical community of Kooskooskie, dead ends now, way short of where I wanted to go, as far as I can tell, and the other, north of there, is gated near the top. Anyway, I could at least find the gated part if not the place I once parked along the other road, so I stayed by the gate, above and east of Walla Walla.

And was attacked by bees.

There were hives, about 50 of them, across a fence just ahead of my car, 50 or 60 feet or so (15m - 20m). As soon as I opened my container of Safeway deviled egg potato salad I had a couple of bees flying at me, banging into me. I kept swatting at them. Not much good.

I folded a paper towel into a mitt and caught the more persistent one and crushed it. A bit later another one came along. Much more aggressive. This one slammed into my face several times. I had to pull it off and throw it downwind, but it kept coming back, so I crushed it too.

About then I finished eating and the bees thinned out. Must have been the smell of my food.

No other bugs. Breezy overnight with frequent gusts of gale-force stuff shaking the car. No rain, not cold. Pretty much OK.

The next day I again buzzed through Yakima far to the west, showered there and ate, and headed back to Rimrock Lake, and camped again at the end of the road where I had parked a few days earlier. All quiet. Probably overrun during the summer vacation season, but I was once again alone.

More info:

Palouse Falls (Wikipedia)

Lewis and Clark Trail State Park (Wikipedia)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Crab Creek Again

Evening view.

Secret parking spot slightly off the road.

Could have been fun,, no shade, dusty, buggy.

Jerry-rigged sunshade in rear of car relects at least some son while the hills wait for night.

Local color.

So, Dry Falls and Lenore Lake didn't work too well. Given that, I decided to head south and take a second look at Lower Crab Creek, since it wasn't too far off. Maybe, I thought, evening would be better than the morning had been. Maybe the weather would cool. Maybe magic.

After also checking out Billy Clapp Lake, I headed south through Soap Lake (a town), and Ephrata, and aimed in the general direction of Royal City, but a bit east. The roads were good. Billy Clapp Lake was not, especially. Nowhere to camp without paying a bunch, hot, hostile, and so on, although given the right weather, there is what has been called a decent hike along it west side.

Shortly south of Royal City is the Lower Crab Creek Road, which doesn't seem to have a number. I cruised west on that until I spotted a gap in the Russian olive trees and pulled off the main road (dusty gravel). This was immediately west of what shows up on the map as "Smyrna", where the road takes a jag south before it turns straight west again.

Parking was OK. There was a reasonable level of stealth. I thought it could work.

Sitting in the car's shade the 93°F temperature was not too bad. Surely things would cool after sunset. Nope.

By 7:30 p.m. the sun was low, but then the light breeze died and the bugs came out. Mosquitoes. Hungry. Whining. And the air became heavily humid. Nope. Nope.

Time to scrape the maps with my tired eyeballs. Time to swap back into refugee mode.

Here? There? Where?

OK, Jackson Creek Fish Camp. Back to Jackson Creek Fish Camp. It hadn't been bad. It had been good. Chance it.

I bugged out. Unbugged myself. Left bugginess behind. Drove fast, making my own wind. All the bugs finally fell away.

I got to Jackson Creek by 8:20, with the sun slipping behind the cross-river bluffs a few minutes later. No one there, not even fishers. Wow — I had the whole exact entire place to myself. There was a slight breeze. The air was not humid. The lack of shade did not count because the site was cooler in the evening dimness. Fine. I could even urinate into the fire pit at will, one of my favorite conveniences.

I had a decent sleep.

Before I left in the morning two pickup trucks came in, separately, and each left after a few minutes. Other than that I was totally alone. Deal. I didn't complain. The morning sky was blue. Hope returned.

More info:

Crab Creek (Wikipedia)

Lower Crab Creek Unit, Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Crab Creek (Columbia National Wildlife Refuge) Washington Trails Association

Google View

Elaeagnus angustifolia "Russian Olive" (Wikipedia)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dry Falls

First stop after leaving Wenatchee, and bomb making: Dry Falls. It looked like this.

Not dry at all, and no falls. Bummer.

There is a nice visitor's center at the spot, and it has a good view, with lots of info inside as well, and it isn't hot. All good stuff.

It could be fun to explore this area in early spring or late fall when the weather is more agreeable, but I think I got the point just from hanging my toes over the edge.

Definitely deserty here.

And the country goes on forever.

The visitor's center does allow service animals but not pets. Pets are fed to the resident tiger. I missed that part.

Here's the general area as seen from above in 1935.

If the weather hadn't been so hot I might have found the route down to the water, but as it was — meh.

It was a goodly drive, and I was hoping to find a cozy spot where I could camp. Didn't look like there was any.

There is a state park close by, but the whole area is so wide open and sun blasted that I was not impressed.

I did hope to do some hiking (finally) a bit farther south along Lake Lenore, or "Lenore Lakes", however you say it, and I did find the turnout. The route description said something like "Pull off the road at the turnout and leave your car in the steep parking area," which meant in practice that there was just enough room to pull off the road and hit a tiny patch of dirt angling upward at around 30°, and then leaving your car about 10 feet (3m) from the road, all buttoned up to keep out the clouds of dust whirling around every time a vehicle passed, and hope that nothing happened.

The weather was so hot that I didn't even consider going for a vertical hike right up into the hills. There was no point.

There was a much bigger pullout fairly close by, and I chose to go there, take a few careful steps down to the lake, and rinse out a pair of socks. (They are in short supply right now.) While there I eyeballed my maps frantically. Didn't get much of a clue, though I had to go somewhere.

So I continued driving, to another falls, and then some other uninteresting things happened.

More info:

Dry Falls (Wikipedia)

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park

Lake Lenore