Wednesday, July 17, 2019


How about a story?

How about a long story about a long walk?

How about the best long story about the most interesting of all long walks?

You can grab it.

It's the BBC audio presentation of J. R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" (LOTR).

I bought this on cassette tapes when it first came out. It's still available, at various prices, in various conditions, on CD or even on tape, if you want to spend enough time digging around on or elsewhere.

But CD? Tape?

When I gave up the apartment I had lived in for 18 years and 11 months and moved out of the U.S., I had a little cassette player that I had bought after my $2000 stereo system died. It was one of the last in the world it seemed. I had bought it as insurance, and before moving I wanted to digitize my tapes while I could, but the player decided not to work any more either, so I had a box of tapes, useless, and now long discarded (donated to the local "Friends of the Library").

So what then?

A few weeks ago I decided to search around online because why not?


I grabbed the whole 13-hour series. Twice. Thirteen hours worth of BBC-quality dramatization, performed by real talent. Such as...

Michael Hordern as Gandalf
Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum
Ian Holm as Frodo
John Le Mesurier as Bilbo
Robert Stephens as Aragorn
All the way down to Shagrat and Gorbag

I found this on SoundCloud, and another full copy at the Internet Archive. I downloaded both to be sure I got it everything at the best quality available. (I have only one working ear, and that used to be my bad ear. Life, it can bite.)

The quality is not the best, when listened to online, through my browser (boo). But. I found that the sound quality is excellent off the downloaded mp3 files when played through the VLC media player that I use, even for me (yay) with seriously degraded hearing (nother boo). The total file size for both sets together came to 974 MB, about half that if you choose only one set. The SoundCloud files are larger, and so might be better quality.

Recommended for anyone who may have read the book, and who thought that the movie series was pretty good. Compared the the BBC's work though, the movie series is complete crap. Comic book level crap. This is the actual real adult-level deal.



LOTR at SoundCloud: 'Lord of the Rings Full Episodes for Radio'
LOTR at 'Lord Of The Rings by J R R Tolkein' [sic]

The Daily Dot: 'The simple way to download anything from SoundCloud'
Two SoundCloud download options from The Daily Dot
(1) This worked for me: 'SingleMango'
(2) Didn't try this one: 'KlickAud'
General LOTR info
Review of the BBC series
'The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series)' at Wikipedia
VLC media player

VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.


Just as an unrelated teaser, I also found 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' a year or two back, and grabbed those audio files as well, while they were available. Stellar production. Now mostly forgotten. Very little walking in the story, but much intelligence. Douglas Adams


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Me? Still wondering if monkeys really have more fun.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I Wonder About Magic


Yesterday I saw a YouTube video about hiking the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in Washington State (NordAmerika, US-of-A).

It was about a three-day hike of the 93-mile (150km) trail. But what it really was about was stuff: how light the guy's stuff was. That started me thinking. About stuff.

A long time ago in hamster years I accidentally found out about ultralight backpacking. It started with seeing a guy cooking for two on a Trangia alcohol stove. After that I went loping across the interwebs tracking down information and found more than I'd imagined. Before long I became frantic, ever more obsessed by ever less weight and the stuff that could make it happen. I spent a few years buying things, trying them out, discarding them, making my own things, and so on.

It seems like it should be over now but it isn't. That's the trouble with being one person. You don't realize that even if you've done it and recovered, not everyone else has. People are still tripping over the same door sill that I did, falling flat into Wonderland, and seeing stars.

I can understand that, but I don't care anymore.

I can understand the focus of the video I watched. I've been there. The geography is familiar. I can understand how a person gets swept up. I can understand going out and pulling down mile after mile, simply because you can. I understand watching the landscape unwind as you walk it, how you make it obey.



But you know, I had to feel sorry for the narrator. He hiked the Wonderland Trail in three days. It was sad to hear that. Sometimes you do things because you can, and if you're a backpacker newly escaped from the universe where every trip is a black hole of infinite mass, then you cut loose and run wild for a time.

But I still feel sorry for him. I hope he's been there before and has already seen it, or goes back later and moves more slowly. The trail deserves it, and so does he. The Wonderland Trail is an entirely complete world and is worthy of one's dedicated attention. Three days are not enough.

And a focus on toys isn't really the point of backpacking, I think.

One of my most vivid images since I began backpacking was of someone I saw on that Wonderland Trail. I was tripping lightly down a modest slope, in dappled shade, and came across a party going up. Well, going up is more work, granted, but they were making it really hard for themselves. One guy in particular. His pack — well I'm not sure what make and model it was, but it was huge. Huge and black, the size of a small refrigerator. And then he had another sub-pack on his front side, and auxiliary pouches strapped on. All black, everything. And a towel so he could mop sweat.

Poor guy.

Meanwhile, I had to be careful not to bounce too much as I walked past, or I would have risked floating away on a random puff of air.



But in a way we both had it wrong. He was burdened by I know not what, a huge and dark evil weight, and I was burdened by whiffs of smugness. That memory is really all about stuff after all.

I don't think that backpacking is about stuff. Whether it's quantity or quality, how big, how small, how shiny, how useful, how clever, how new, how old. It's only stuff after all. The fun is in realizing that you went out one day and someone else came home in your place, someone new and enriched.

Let me tell you something, a thing or two that happened to me.

A while ago, long after leaving North Dakota, I went back to visit the Badlands. They had put in a long trail right through the middle, north to south. I'd been there before, but if you live there you sort of drive up to something and look at it, and then drive home. By 2004 I was a different person, so I wanted to walk into it and touch it.

But that isn't the point. That wasn't the real experience. It was more like this...

At the end of my first day on the trail I needed to find a camp. So I went off the trail and paused, looking around. After a bit I thought I'd move on a few feet but looked down, and there was a rattlesnake. Its tail anyway.

The two of us were in a shallow, flat dry wash, bordered by sage. While I had stood there with my tongue hanging out, mind in neutral, the snake had made a break for it, but once its head got into the shade under a bush it forgot about its tail and left that hanging out.

This was a little startling, but that isn't the point either.

The point also isn't that I didn't see this happen, though I wish I had.

And just to be clear, the point isn't about fear of a fangy death.

The point is that it happened and I was there.



This was a blessed magic moment, and I have the memory. I wanted to touch the snake, to say hello, to shake its hand, but that would have been rude, so instead, after admiring the situation, I moved on. Respectfully. Quietly. Uninvited guests should mind their manners. Anyway, snakes don't have hands.

Another time, in the Olympic Mountains of western Washington I crossed a stream narrow enough to toss a cotton ball across. It was summer.

Wading is always a nuisance, but it makes a person stop, so I stopped, and sat, and waited to dry. And then the stream's surface suddenly erupted. Right in front of me. A small dark thing splashed on the surface for an instant, dancing crazily. Dancing upstream, right there. And then it vanished, beneath the surface I thought. I was not sure. What. What it was.

So I waited.

After a bit this thing leapt back into the world of air and light, skimming the water, splashing small splashes. The thing, it was, whatever it was, skittered another foot or two before plunking back. Into. The water.

How could this be? What sort of magic? Was. It?

And again. It happened. This thing. Like a mouse. Moving so fast I could see only a thing. Flash. Splash. Gone. My world was not behaving. But it was my fault.



See, I was on a long loop hike that had gotten too complex and dangerous and so I was headed back the way I had come. Because it was prudent. And now this mystery. I should have been tens of miles from there, but wasn't. I should have been tramping out long days but wasn't. I was there for the miracle because I had failed, and turned back, and crossed into a different story where they weren't expecting visitors.

If I had made other choices I wouldn't have been a backpacker at all. Nor would I have been there that day to see a water shrew impossibly running atop that stream. That was a blessing. Miles did not matter. Gear does not matter. Blessings do not comprehend scales or dollar signs.

I used to know someone who unashamedly confessed to a steep delight on entering an outdoor shop, where all the shiny things were displayed in long aisles of tidy shelves in a clean and well-lit order. I understand that. It can be fun, fun like doing an impossible number of miles in one day, because you suddenly find that you can, even though before, you couldn't. Fun like looking at things and thinking "What if?" Fun like knowing that you have money to throw, at whatever.

We all have those feelings.

An uncle of mine bought a cheap little exercise thingy. A stand with a bent metal bar running through it, like bicycle pedals. He bought it so he could exercise while sitting in his soft chair, watching TV, and smoking. He tried it once.

I heard about someone else like that. Who fanatically loved the Home Shopping Channel. Enough to buy two stationary exercise bicycles and not use either, and then to buy a third because it folded for easy storage in even the smallest closet.



That's the thing.

It's the difference between reality and imagination, between a mathematically perfect plan and the dangerous wet kiss of serendipity.

You can look at things and imagine yourself among the gods. You can decide to crown yourself a newly minted god and plan a mega-hike. And complete it, on schedule. And that's fine.

There is nothing so fine, though, as being awakened in the dead of night, hanging all trussed and helpless in your backpacking hammock, by a barking elk suddenly mad with fear, only a few hand's breadths away, when it walks into your scent.

As watching a solitary bee-fly hover endlessly over a nondescript flower, attacking anything and everything that comes near, except you.

As realizing that a herd of deer has coalesced around your shelter, to fight over your urine.

As noticing that, through a gap in the shrubbery across a small meadow, a bear is quietly watching, to see if you behave.



It is easy to want things and to buy things, but wanting them and buying them, and even using them don't always change you, and I think it might be more important to change, even in random, unpredictable ways, than to always be in control. It might not always be good to be strong and drive those arrows right into the center of that target. After all, that bullseye is a very small and soulless thing to be obsessed with.

So if you go to Mt. Rainier, take time to enjoy it.

Many people plan two weeks. A lot don't finish the hike. Knees. There is some up and down, but if you are in reasonable shape, and don't carry too much weight, then you shouldn't have a problem. The biggest problem is making reservations.

The good news is that you can to do this by long distance, but then you can't be sure of the weather and all that. The worst part though is having to commit to specific camp sites on specific days. Some of these places have the trail running through them, and none offer privacy. You are registered, and have a tag, and are expected to be somewhere, on time.

But if you are somewhere that you can do it, are mildly devious and yet responsible (as in taking responsibility for your own actions), especially if you camp lightly, as in using a backpacking hammock, you can do a thing.

You can hide.

Assuming that where you are going has enough campsites open in approximately the right places, on roughly the right dates, you can register appropriately. Then each day you stop near to where you should be, in case you meet anyone who wants to check your tag. And then, and then, you disappear.

The next day you quietly return from inivisibility.

This is called stealth camping, and is more fun than a titanium cook pot. But you need to be clean and careful. Careful to not make a mess, to clean up exactly everything, to be quiet and respectful, and never to set the place on fire. And also, if you get arrested, hey. Them's the rules. Federal offense and all, if you are in a place like a national park. Which is why I prefer traveling through national forests to national parks.

But there is room out there, lots.

In Mount Rainier National Park alone you have 368 square miles (950 square km) to roam in, and aside from the tall pointy glacier-covered part in the middle, most of it is comfy, spacious forest. So when you're moseying along, it's magic no matter what.

No need to rush.


You can't rush magic.

Especially if you try.




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Me? Leaving behind only failures, carrying away only regrets.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How To Stay Alive In The Woods.


Ten tips from the experts.


1. Don't panic unless you are chilled.

Why waste your breath running around? Exercise sucks anyway. Unless you are chilled that is. Then, if you are chilled, really chilled, it is OK to run around.

Or instead you can dance. Ever thought of that?

Dance to the funky beat of your racing heart. No one is there to laugh at you, so why not? You're lost, remember? Practice until you are an expert, then moon walk your way home and attain fame and glory. This is your time to shine, my friend!

If you can't dance without lyrics, then memorize this simple upbeat song before your next trip:

When in trouble!
When in doubt!
Run in circles!
Scream and shout!


2. Stand still and look around carefully.

Obvious but often missed, and less like exercise than dancing, so it could be even more fun.

Look, and if you see someone you know, you are not lost, they are! At worst you have found a source of spare clothes and protein, maybe some pocket change. Meanwhile there's someone to talk to.


3. Stay in one place.

If you move you will lose your place in the rescue queue and have to start over. A real pisser if you are hungry, so stay put. No one likes a loser. Try humming, or swearing vengeance at God or whatever. Shaking your fist at the sky works sometimes. Thunderbolts aimed at you will at least show you which way is up.


4. Signal your location.

First, it helps to know where you are, but if you knew that you wouldn't have to signal that you are lost, so try signaling then. Signaling is always a terrific Plan B and will look good on your resume.

Start small, with hand gestures. If there is direct sunlight and a smooth surface nearby, make shadow puppets. Shadow puppets attract children, whose parents are sure to be near. Find a parent with a large car, and hide in it. When home again, pretend you fell asleep in the back and offer a few bucks for gas. Cash-strapped parents always appreciate a little help.


5. Start scouting your area.

This is a long shot if you flunked scouting the first time, but you are getting desperate by now, so give it a try. Scouting was invented to keep not-so-bright boys out of trouble so it is perfect for you because:

(1) No thinking, no headaches, and;

(2) If it works you are automatically out of trouble, and

(3) Bonus here, you will probably look good in one of those crisp and cute little uniforms, with the scarf and all. Maybe!


6. Find or create shelter.

A cave is great but may be occupied already.

Get a long stick and poke around in the cave until you hear a loud growl. Then try the next cave over. They can't all be full of bears!

If you find a cave full of bats instead, then make fur clothes from their hides, and a fur-lined sleeping bag too, and you'll be comfy. Little-known fact — bat fur is the warmest there is, though it takes lots of stitching, so here's hoping you're up to date on your sewing skills!

If you find a cave occupied by homeless people, promise to send help if they'll give you some food. They always fall for this.


7. Find a good source of water.

This can be a tough one, since in the woods there are no brand names, and even bottles are scarce. But keep looking. You'll find one eventually.

When you do, fill it from the nearest stream and you're all set. If it's not your favorite brand, so what? Find another bottle and change brands. So simple.

When there are no streams around, try lapping dew from butterfly wings.


8. Purify your water.

There is no water purer than the tears of angels, but butterfly dew is a damn close second, so no sweat.


9. Build a fire.

And if you can't build one from scratch, steal one. No one counts coals any more. Act nonchalant, like you're just wandering by. A smile and a nod are often enough to distract.

After you have grabbed your coals, look for wood. Trees are a good bet. Try there.

When you have a mound of wood as high as a man and as wide as the sky, go back to that first cave with the bear in it. Pile the wood in front of it, blocking the entrance. To help things along, sprinkle a little gasoline on top and wait. It can take a while, so now is a great time to practice your dance moves. Pretend the howling is a punk band, and you are on stage in the warm, warm spotlight.

When the flames abate, guess what? Roast bear!


10. Find safe food.

Most healthy adults can survive up to three weeks without food but why bother? You have a whole bear! Remove the head, legs, and wings and eat the rest. You deserve it, and it will keep you strong and make you smell good.

But is it safe, you ask. Of course! You just cooked it!

When satiated, rub any leftover fat into your hair and over all your skin, to prevent chapping and to repel mosquitoes. If you've gotten tired of your bat outfit, make a fresh one using the bear hide, which is now nicely de-furred.

After you've had enough of this, return to the campground, get in your car, and drive home.


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Me? Exploring exercise as a spectator sport.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Recipe For Disaster

Just add birds.

Sunday, 6:45 p.m.: Bob, Elli, and the kids fold up their tent and pack their camping gear back into the car for the trip home. A small bag of biscuit mix goes missing, but it's overlooked and the family leaves without it.

Monday, 5:37 a.m.: Daylight begins to break. The sound of snoring resounds from most tents. Meanwhile, the formerly missing bag of biscuit mix has been found by two magpies who are dragging it around, creating complex, almost geometric patterns as they tussle with the leaking package.

Monday, 6:27 a.m.: A woman named Christina, visiting the campground for her morning jog, sees two magpies making a mess. They seem to be scattering biscuit mix from a bag all over the parking area. She chases the birds off, deposits the nearly-empty bag into a trash can, and heads out on her run.

Monday, 8:42 a.m.: Josh Finkle, a local policeman on vacation with his family, sleepily emerges from his tent and begins crossing the parking area, headed for the toilet, then freezes. Something is wrong. Very wrong. There is a suspicious white powder scattered widely, in an odd pattern resembling a giant, warped pentagram. The hair on his neck bristles. He calls his office and reports what he has found.

Monday, 9:17 a.m.: Finished with her relaxing morning run, Christina gets into her car and drives home for breakfast. Shortly after leaving, from across the lake, she sees two fire trucks, three police cars, and several large vans entering the campground, with all lights flashing.

Monday, 9:24 a.m.: Twelve police officers, a SWAT team, 14 firefighters, and a hazmat team lock down the campground. All campers are rousted from their tents, the showers, the toilets, and isolated inside a temporary fence erected in the playground. Armed officers in respirators guard them to make sure that no terrorists escape.

Monday, 8:51 p.m.: Preliminary analysis carried out on-site by the hazmat team indicates that the white powder found at the campground is a complex mixture of biologically-active materials, including complex proteins, starches, sugars, and many other unidentified substances. In addition, a scrap of paper is found. It bears the single word "Snickerdoodle", along with what appears to be a coded set of instructions written in German. The authorities immediately suspect a resurgence of the Baader-Meinhof "Rote Armee Fraktion", thought to have been defunct since 1993.

Tuesday, 2:17 a.m.: Several black helicopters descend from the sky, absorb all campers and staff, including the part-time janitor, Bob, despite his claims that he was only there to clean the toilets, and vanish into the overhead darkness. By the next day everyone is safely in isolation cells inside several undisclosed democracy friendly countries, except for recurring rounds of enhanced interrogation. Surprisingly, none of the terrorists confesses to the plot, or even admits that there is one, which causes the interrogation to escalate to super-double-plus enhancification.

Thursday, 6:02 a.m.: Christina, returning to the campground for another morning jog, discovers that it is no longer there. Not only that, but there is no longer a road leading to the campground. Puzzled, she pulls her car over and looks around. Nothing. Just the forest and a huge pile of brush covering what used to be the turnoff. Above and to her right, high in a tree, she sees two magpies. They almost seem to be laughing about something.

Schneckennudeln (Snickerdoodle) Terrorist Campground Cookies


  • butter: 1 cup
  • sugar: 1.5 cups
  • eggs: 2
  • flour: 2.75 cups
  • cream of tartar: 2 teaspoons
  • baking soda: 1 teaspoon
  • salt: 0.25 teaspoon


  • sugar: 1 cup
  • ground cinnamon: 1 tablespoon


  • Mix wet ingredients.
  • Stir in dry ingredients.
  • Chill, form into balls, then roll in cinnamon and sugar dust.
  • Bake: 8-10 minutes on greased cookie sheet at 400°F.

More: 2 crows plus a bag of flour equals a hazmat scene.


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Me? Headed out for cookies and milk.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

What Now? Meat training for winter strength!


As everyone knows, backpacking season ends all too soon, and so begins another winter, the season of our discontent.

The sky grays, leaves fall, and the cold hand of winter advances toward our throats.

This is the off-season, the doorway to months of inaction. Though some make up for the lack of trail tromping by skiing or snowshoeing, it is not the same as actual, real, true backpacking.

Muscle tone fades, and joints lose their hard-won toughness. Bellies soften and enlarge.

What to do?

Well, how about strength training?

With very simple equipment you can make at home, it's easy to overcome winter's assault on your strength. If this sounds interesting, then here's how:

Prepare your equipment.


  • 1 sheep stomach, liver, heart, and tongue
  • 1/2 pound minced suet (227 g)
  • 3 medium onions, minced
  • 1/2 pound dry oats, toasted (227 g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (2.5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground herbs (5 ml)

After soaking the sheep stomach overnight in salted water, boil the other sheep parts and mince them.

In a bowl, mix in the other ingredients, stuff the stomach with the mix, and tie it off.

If you are a cautious sort, puncture the stomach with a fork. This will prevent an explosion during cooking.

Place the stuffed stomach into a pot and boil for three hours, then remove it and allow it to cool and air dry.

Now you have a solid, thoroughly cooked, dry, and pleasantly rubbery Exercise Haggis, or Exer-Haggis as the strength training professionals call it.

Face it, you can walk all year, even if it's not really hiking. Your greatest problem in the off-season is loss of upper-body strength. Exer-Haggis is ideal for combating this.

Upward sausage press.

If you've properly prepared your Exer-Haggis, it should be as long as your arm, which makes it easy to hold.

Lie flat and face-up. Use a bench or the floor. Either works.

Start with your Exer-Haggis resting lightly on your forehead.

At this point some dripping can show up if you chose the puncturing option, but keeping an Exer-Haggis refrigerated a few days before use ought to coagulate it and forestall problems.

Firmly but gently grasping your Exer-Haggis, push it upward until your arms are fully extended.

Then slowly lower the Exer-Haggis until it again rests on your forehead.

Repeat until exhausted. If possible, do not drool. (I know, hard not to!)

Horsie goes a-prancing.

Start on the floor, face-down, with your Exer-Haggis resting in the small of your back, like a small cowboy on a friendly horse. (You.)

Push against floor with the flats of your hands until your body is raised and your arms are extended.

Slowly lower yourself back to the floor without letting your Exer-Haggis buddy fall off. The larger and heavier your Exer-Haggis, the more exercise you get.

Repeat until you can't stand it any more.

Around-town carry.

Put on your coat, and, while carrying your Exer-Haggis comfortably in the crook of your arm, walk around town, frequently shifting it from one arm to the other.

Do your shopping, go out for coffee, or visit friends. It's all good exercise.

This, of course, will tire you, which is fine. That is the point. It means that you needed a workout, and got one.

An especially nice thing about having an Exer-Haggis with you is that it is naturally curved like a meat-filled travel pillow.

If tired, find any convenient chair and recline with the Exer-Haggis behind your neck. After a few minutes of comfy power-napping you will be fully recharged and ready to continue your carry.

What's next?

Sadly, no Exer-Haggis lasts forever. Yours will finally wear out, and begin leaking. If you are lucky, or if you planned ahead, you have a pet, or children, and they aren't fussy about what they eat, especially if you lock them in a room for a day or two.

Just slice up your worn out Exer-Haggis and dish it out. Before very long you'll have space in your fridge for a new one.

And since the Exer-Haggis is made from things other people never eat, it's really cheap to make. Go ahead, make two while you're at it!

No pets? No children? No problem!

Relax. Here's what you do.

Just toss each worn out Exer-Haggis into the freezer. By the the time the freezer is full, backpacking season has almost returned again. And that means it's time for some leg work.

Empty the freezer, and hitch all your used (and still solidly frozen) Exer-Haggis to a line tied around your waist.

Then start walking. All that weight dragging behind you will give your legs a stiff workout. You'll be way ahead of your friends on your first backpacking trip.

When your collection of Exer-Haggis thaws or you become tired of all the dragging, cut them loose and leave them for forest critters. They need to eat too, so it's OK. Bio-degradable and all.

And then?

If you really get into it there is always Haggis hurling. And no, this is not part of the dining experience.

You throw haggis.

Or, if that part is not for you, you can be an official such as a Hagrarian, Clerk of the Heather, Peater, Barrel Master, Haggis Hooter, or Distance Referee.

You might even be so enchanted after a season with your Exer-Haggis that you give up backpacking and begin hurling full time.

It can happen.


Haggis Hurling, The Revival of a Traditional Scottish Sport
Glen Haggis
Lorne is haggis world record-breaker
Haggis gets a bashing from fakes
Address to a Haggis:

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his sturdy fist a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
And legs and arms, and heads will cut,
Like tops of thistle.
You Pow'rs, that make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery ware
That slops in bowls:
But, if You wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!



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Me? Wondering. Oh, OK — Haggis. It's what's for dinner.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Definitions: Map Time

A normally wildly inaccurate estimate of the time needed to hike a route, based on the hallucinogenic toxicity of shiny new equipment and fresh, crinkly boots, screaming optimism, inexperience, cabin fever, and absolutely blind, naive faith in the truthfulness of maps.

Also known as "Book Time".


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Me? Trying to find my map with both hands.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Definitions: Established Camp Site

A basic established camp site is obvious because of devegetated ground.

Bonus features of the basic camp: noisy neighbors coming in late, leaving early, or staying up all night. Or all of the above.

Spilled or discarded food, human and pet feces, used toilet paper, crumpled beer cans, shreds of waste paper, lack of privacy, discarded plastic bags, and prowling night vermin are also available at no extra charge.

A deluxe established camp site has: convenience stores, fireplaces or fire pits, garbage cans or dumpsters, road access, marked parking spaces with gravel, asphalt, or concrete paving, picnic tables, piped in and potable water, raised platforms to set up tents on, reservation systems, restrooms with sinks and mirrors, showers (with or without hot water), toilets (pit or flush), utility hookups (gas, propane, water, electricity, sewer), and firewood (either free or for sale).

Extra-super-special bonus features: multi-lane highway noise, flashing headlights, sirens, aircraft racket, passing freight trains, gangs, wandering aggressive pets, random gunfire.

No mint on your pillow.


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Me? Plotting another escape attempt.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Proper Clothing For Hiking Fung

Look good out there. Avoid evil spirits, etc.


According to the founding precepts of Fung Shway, there are five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. To create and maintain harmony according to the Ruling Fung Principles, these various elements must be properly employed.

But Backpacking Fung is a little different. Wood and fire you can understand — carefully place the wood into position, apply the fire element, and stand back. If the wood and the fire are comfortable with one another, and decide that you're OK too, you get to cook supper.

Likewise with water. Perform the proper ritual dance moves and you can cross just about any stream you find, without losing it.

Earth — OK, but metal? Kinda off to the edge, don't you think, for backpacking?

You got to realize that those traditional Five Elements are mostly a city tradition. Backpackers require a different focus because of their specific needs. Especially when it comes to clothing. So therefore we have our own slightly more expansive angle on Fung — the "Six Clothings".

These six clothing elements embody the principles that permeate backpacking. They deal with dirt, bugs, wind, rain, cold, and stink. Like so...

  • Dirt: Black, when put next to food, may make it look less appealing, but it'll do the opposite for you, especially if you're feculant and therefore naturally attractive to the dirt principle. And after a few days on the trail we all are. So wear black. Black may dampen your inner chi, but we're talking about your outside here, and anything that hides signs of excess foulness is a good deal.
  • Bugs: It's well-known that bugs can see things we can't, because each of them is born with a tiny evil eye, and that's how they find us. Happy clothing is your pal, especially anything covered in smiley faces. Bugs can't stand all the joy so they go bite the people behind you. (Always walk in front. Or bring a bug zapper. There's now an app for that.)
  • Wind: Everyone knows about wind chimes. It's how you attract cooling breezes on a hot day and annoy the hell out of your neighbors. But what's the opposite? How to use Essential Fung Principles to make wind go bother someone else? By making anti-wind chimes out of chicken bones, and hanging them from your pack. True, it's not clothing, but when wind hears the telltale sound and comes looking for lunch, and finds only dry, picked-clean bones, it'll go away disappointed, and leave you the hell alone. Cozy. Cheap too. Still annoying.
  • Rain: A tough one. The term "Fung Shway" literally means "sloppy wet", which makes you wonder how this stuff got to be so appealing to trendy new-age idiots, but backpackers are smart enough to know about rain, and most are willing to try anything. It is a fact that all major civilizations were built near water, but you don't want it running down your backside all day, do you? With that in mind, look for striped clothing. Vertical stripes resemble rain gutters and give a subtle hint to the rain that you wish it would go somewhere else. Might work. Who knows? Try it once.
  • Cold: Easy to deal with. Just wear red clothes, preferably with the color side next to your skin. This always works, but you can think warm thoughts as well. If blisters develop then you overdid it. Peel off a layer. Think less. Just walk. (Grunting is still OK if is suits you.)
  • Stink: There are very few ailments that can't be alleviated (or completely cured) by using the power of Fung and a bit of color. Hiker stink is one of them. Until you can actually bathe, try carrying a picture of Uncle Wu's All Organic Fung-Skrub™ pinned to your shirt and think clean thoughts. If you're past that stage, then wearing bio-hazard orange may at least keep others a safe distance away. (Especially good if they're carrying sticks.) As a last resort, blame it on the dog.

OK. Now you're good to go. Please go. Far.


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Me? Just thinking about this makes me fart with excitement.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wubilya Pee Bee And Thee

Shedding simplified.

Yep. Marketing has done gone and won.

You ask anybody what to do when it rains, and they say "gortecks", like a bug got caught in their throat, or they start swearing or something, and you ain't smart enough to catch up.

But after a while you do. I thought that flying saucer robot guy, that it was about him, Gort, and his former wife Techx, maybe. But not.

Not Gort and his ex but Randolph William Gort or something and his fancy cloth stuff, which he invented, and what was patented by his son R.W., and usually referred to by the name "Gore-Tex". Which explains the gortecks sound. For Gort Texnology I guess.

Anyway it's all about miracles and not getting wet. I always thought Randolph William Gort was the newspaper guy behind that whole Rosebud thing but stand corrected. He was a man obsessed by jackets. And pants. Outdoor stuff. Rainwear.

This is about rainwear.

Rainwear and miracles. And the miracle is waterproof-while-breathable (WPB), as seen from the inside, where you are. Put this on and you can hike about forever, stay dry, and not sweat nor suffer from rotting pits.

However, there is problems in Pitsville nevertheless. Like the waterproof part is OK. And the rest is...spotty. You wear some Tex de Gore clothes and you find out the meaning of 3% breathable. Which leaves the other 97% in the not-so-much category. Compared to what, you wonder, which is the main question, and the answer is prolly naked.

However hiking naked tends toward the chilly. And is not so dry neither.

There have been those that considered alternatives. Which are the usual: ponchos or jackets built like plastic bags, 10-gauge double-rubber-coated stinkwear, umbrellas, other miracle Texes, like eVentLess, H2Nope, NoCip, and so on. Or like going with regular clothes and dying quite soon and miserable. Or going bare naked, which is even worse for all sorts of reasons.

Though now you wonder about bears. And deer. And even raccoons. All in hair shirts, and somehow they get by. No Gort. No Tex. No Tex-Mex. Nothing fancy. So there must be a thing there, something going on.

Which might be the clue.

Here's what you can try, and prolly save money too. I'd like to see it. All you need is a family-size bottle of Hair-B-Thick Pelt Stimulator™ pills. And maybe some Nikwax for the finish. And disposable razors for afterward, when you need to go in to the office again.

Hair-B-Thick Pelt Stimulator™

  • Stimulates new growth, revives old growth.
  • Promotes shinier, thicker, faster-growing hair and/or pelage.
  • Works for women and men and so on.
  • Effective for all pelt types.
  • Doctor-formulated.
  • Gluten-free.

Start with the pills a couple weeks before hiking season. After you get a nice even coat started (at least an inch, all over), brush it every night. And use a good quality pet wash. This will keep it glossy.

Then, the night before your trip, massage in a bottle of Nikwax, let 'er dry, and then rinse.

That should do for a week. And now you can hike naked too if you want. By this point no one can tell anyhow. And due to the fur, you won't need a heavy sleeping bag or extra clothes. While hiking, if you seem to be taking on water, give yourself a good dog shake and you ought to be fine.


  • Spooking other backpackers, but quite a few are naturally hairy so this is nothing new.
  • Spooking day hikers (like we care).
  • Unfortunate incidents during hunting season. (Be sure to dye yourself bright orange first.)
  • Getting cited for excessive shedding.

Might be worth a try. You go first. Send pictures. Keep off the sofa.


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Me? Trying to figure out who sent me a gift bag of cockroaches.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Fung Your Way Into Spring, Part 3

Finishing up with Fung.

So far, we've covered the first five of the ten things you really want to know about before you dare set up camp. Knowledge of Fung Shway and chi-wrangling are important. They will keep your brain occupied and out of the way whenever you go camping.

So read on then, 'K?

6. Extend heavenward. This is also known as pitching a tent, or accomplishing erection. If you are not actually camping on top of those energy-releasing waters (preferred) but only near them (a distant second) at least face your tent toward water. If there is no water, advance two paces and urinate, but in buffalo country be prepared for thundering herds drawn to your salt. (Though after the first few tramplings you'll hardly even notice any more.)

7. Decorate. Wind chimes are great. Everybody loves wind chimes, and some of us need them, especially those with personality disorders. If your campground neighbors came in on Harleys, wind chimes will do them good, and eventually they will thank you. If not immediately, then certainly at some point during the subsequent murder trial. Be patient. Cooling your heels waiting for your next rebirth will give you lots of time to appreciate the clever wisdom of your deeds.

8. Illuminate. "We'll leave the light on for you" is more than an advertising slogan for a cheap-ass chain of dumpy motels — it's a recipe for remaining alive, assuming that you made it past the wind-chime phase. Not only leave the lights on, but set up a decent defense perimeter before retiring. At least. When things get dark, you can count on something creepy going on out there. You don't want that, and at times the High Chi needs a little help. A good 1.5 kw generator and a few flood lights are a good bet. And if you're going that far, why not throw up an electric fence too? The gentle clanging of your wind chimes will completely mask any putty-putt engine sounds and will put your neighbors at ease, as noted earlier. If not, you've got your sidearm. May the chi be with you.

9. Be a Mr/Ms TidyBowl. If there is one thing that chi hates, it's dust bunnies. Keep your campsite clean and uncluttered at all times. Bring a tape measure and lightweight carpenter's square (Now available in ultralight titanium!) for precision placement of all particulars. This will please the chi, which tends toward the anal at times. But hey. Also, shuffle all clutter to the inside of your tent. This includes excess shrubberies if your camp site is especially bushy, but do not uproot anything. Simply seduce your leafy friends in with treats and a gentle tone of voice. If you prove adept, you yourself may have to sleep outside, but the chi will probably look out for you. (Midnight nose pokes to the ear or anything biting into your face during the dark hours will of course indicate otherwise.)

10. Spiff up your chi before leaving. Sure, you can always leave a mess behind for someone else to deal with but it is much better to pick up after yourself. This creates positive chi for the next wave of campers. Pretend they deserve it.

The pros go for a ChiHome 2-in-1 Steam Vac with Microfiber Pads, but generally a simple trash bag and a number six goat-grooming comb will do. For especially tough situations you might need a portable, battery-powered chi straightener, but probably not. Take a practical approach. Simply replace any relocated shrubberies, sweep up errant shredded clothing and tattered food bags that evil spirits may have gotten into, collect loose detritus and used bandages, and then give the rest a quick once-over with your goat comb or chi straightener.

In case your campsite does need a more extensive cleaning, try this...

  • First up, Discharge & Drain. This procedure removes residual static chi voltage buildup. (If you see sparks shooting out anywhere, then be sure not to skip this step.) D&D, as it's called, uses the pull of ectoplasmic gravity flommulation to fluff up and relax all that chi stuff — kind of like a cat shampoo, but tends to result in less residual scarring if you are lucky.
  • Second, reconnect your yin to your yang, but mind your polarities and keep an eye open for short circuits. If you have trouble telling your yin from your yang, spring for one of Ed "Big Daddy" Ng's Pocket YinYang guides. They're worth it. When done correctly, this reconnection process points earth-energy upward, transforming it to sky-energy, or something like that. If you get it right. Otherwise you get knocked on your keister. Don't worry though — it's a stage we all have to go through, and gives you a good story to tell while you wait for the bandages to come off.
  • Third then, pull any residual energy up and over your crown-point. (You might have to feel around for it, but you'll know it when you find it.) Then tug gently to move the energy down along the meridians in your chest. (If you can find any. Good luck with that. Meridians can be downright vague little buggers.) Anyway, the result is to remove internal blockages and free negative energy to move down to your Dan Tian (Euphemism or what?) for elimination and recycling. Dig a cat hole first or you'll be sorry. And again, watch out for sparks or sudden explosive events.

If all this sounds too complicated, it is, but it does give you a feeling that life, after all, does have a purpose, no matter how misguided that feeling is, and otherwise you'd have nothing to do but sit in the dirt and bang rocks together. So Fung away then.


Fung Your Way Into Spring, Part 1
Fung Your Way Into Spring, Part 2


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Me? Planning to investigate those mysterious slime trails you find all over. Pretty soon now.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fung Your Way Into Spring, Part 2

Your handy intro on how to maintain an even campsite strain.

Now that you've got your elementary chi bits in order for sleeping and basic survival (Fung Your Way Into Spring, Part 1), you're ready for some advanced techniques.

No, wait — don't go running off just yet. You have to stay with us for a bit. Fung Shway is not a game and you can't start when you're only half ready. You must follow the full course or suffer the (sometimes severe) consequences for wimping out. The Heavenly Chi Beings (sometimes affectionately referred to as the High ChiBees, or HeeBeeChiBees) get pissed at mere mortals who think that they can dip into Fung Shway, skim the cream for personal gain, and not pay their dues.

As Ed "Big Daddy" Ng, of the Fung Speakers Service Bureau and House Flippers International, Inc., says "There are ten fundamental campsite aspects that must be attended to. Screw up and the HeeBeeChiBees may decide to whup yo ass." So, with that in mind, let's see what we can do to prevent unfortunate events.

1. Clear away nubbins. This is easy. If you sleep on the ground, you already know how. Little pine cones, annoying twigs, small stones, stray demons and nippy evil spirits — just respectfully remove all of them, but first sketch up a simple map so you can put each one back exactly where it was. (Important!) Nubbin-tidying ensures good sleep, which is important, as you will swear so much less in your sleep, and you need your rest too, you do. The Heavenly Chi Beings get pissed if ordinary mortals curse on their turf and wake up cranky.

2. Go green. Healthy vegetation means good chi. Healthy vegetation is green. Therefore, think green chi. If camping in a desert or on snow, simply bring along a few plastic plants, or hang a green bandanna on a bush. You'll probably be OK. Active wildlife is a good sign too. Anything works — birds, squirrels, fish, bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes — whatever walks through camp is good, and then you don't have to set out any stupid fake bushes. Just spray paint the critters as they pass by.

3. Mind your water. The ideal campsite is on or near water. Oceans, rivers, lakes, ponds, waterfalls — they all work, but you may have problems at first with actually sleeping on water, let alone pitching your tent there. This does take practice, and requires good breath-holding skills, but you'll need these skills eventually, so start now. Bring a wetsuit and a fresh tank of pure air until you achieve the proper confidence level.

4. Choose neighbors with care. If these are wild animals, you'll be OK as long as they aren't hungry, but with humans you can never be sure. Since it's now legal to pack a gun in national parks, do that. The ancient Fung Masters did use swords, bows, and bamboo whack-staffs when necessary, but none of these has the range or stopping power required in modern times. You can't go wrong with that old standby, a Browning Model 1911 plus a good supply of .45 ACP ammo. Retrieve all your spent cartridge casings to please the chi's tidiness requirements.

5. Apply the smell test. Right after your initial nubbin-hunt, get down on your hands and knees and give your potential campsite a good sniffing. Cover every square inch. What you're doing is locating pockets of negative chi. When you find some, stick a small flag there and keep moving. Negative chi, N-Chi, or enchi, can be anything left behind, like trash, rotten food, or turds. Collect all such items and mail them to their rightful owners at the end of your stay. This gets you huge bonus points, sometimes called good karma, though your gag reflexes may require re-training.

Next time, more Fungie Goodness. Tune in for our dramatic conclusion.


Part 3

Me? Right now, trying to defeat unwanted attention from overly-persistent flies.
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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Not Available In Your Country

So hey — I was out of oat powder and went looking for more, because yummy. But I wanted a bigger bag this time, and I found a 500 gram bag of the Quaker stuff at Supermaxi, for $1.68. But it was only 500 grams. Decent, but I wanted more, you know? As in more.

And then, a couple of items over, there was some other stuff, in a 1000 gram bag for, um, $1.68. Heh.

Never heard of YA before, but it came in that fine big bag, so how bad is that? So enjoyably bad. Oh, yes.

Purchase time, my friend.

I couldn't find much info on this, and the product photo isn't great, but it gets the idea across. You get the idea.

It's a product of Moderna Alimentos, which in turn makes YaYaYa products.

If you care.

Cut to the chase already, 'K?


The cut being that Quaker, a U.S. company, makes all kinds of powdered, pre-cooked oatmeal that is sold in large, convenient bags, in public places here, and none of it is available in the U.S. (I checked. The U.S. Quaker web site has about a hundred product pages, give or take a few dozen, and nope.) And lots of other companies make the same stuff, and it's available all over, here in Ecuador. And cheap.

There is one outfit that I could find that sells powdered oatmeal for body builders in the U.S., and it's available for around $3.65 a pound. Put that up against $1.68 per kilo here (2.2 pounds), or 76¢ a pound. Nurk.

Other than that, I found various places giving tips on how to make your own, because you can't buy it in the U.S. I find that unjust. Or stupid. Really.

I'm getting to like this a lot and don't want to give it up if/when I spend time back in the U.S. Mix it up 1:1 with full-fat powdered milk and cold water and you've got a deal. Rich, smooth, mild-flavored, very slightly sweet, satisfying.

There is some killer chocolate syrup here too, better than the Hershey stuff I grew up with, but I decided to start leaving it out because I was losing control and didn't want someone to find my body surrounded by empty chocolate syrup bottles a few days after I failed to show up with the rent money. That good.

But oats and milk — fine. Fine. Wonderful. Sustaining.

Not available in your country.


Me? Not recently attacked by lizards.
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As always, Effort or Eff it. No sniveling.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Fading Thoughts Of Winter Past

Web cam shots from the east side of Washington's Cascade Range, February 22, 2019.

Downtown Leavenworth.


Campbell's resort on Lake Chelan. Cool but no wind. (-6°C)


Campbell's resort on Lake Chelan. Just about sunset.


Campbell's resort on Lake Chelan. Everyone out of the pool now. No exceptions.


I thought it was about time to post these before I forgot about them forever.


Me? Just wondering how long my heart's going to keep beating.
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As always, Effort or Eff it. No sniveling.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Fung Your Way Into Spring, Part 1

Campsite tips & techniques the Fung Shway way.

You may think that a good night's sleep is important, but what you may not know is that having a proper campsite is much more important.

Chi is king.

In the world of Camp Fung, chi is the Life-Force-Energy thingy that circulates through all things, even dirt, so it is imperative find the best campsite. It would seem like a good idea to pick a campsite with a rip-snorting great flood of roaring chi running around in circles, cackling and charging things up to the point that you can hardly take a step without shooting sparks from your fingertips.

Probably not, though. It's more complicated than that, and here's why...

Once you're out in the forest, or in the mountains, or even in the desert, what you find when you go to bed is that you want to sleep, right?


This usually happens. It is normal.

In order to sleep then, you need to enter a state of suspended animation but still remain alive. To remain alive, you need a plentiful flow of good chi, but not too much. Like too-strong coffee, too much chi will overwhelm you and every living thing in the area, making all of you twitchy, and will keep you up half the night. The critters too. Only if you desire a stampede of elk thundering through camp around 1:37 a.m., bellowing like demons, is this a good thing, unless they aim for your tent, which can be unfortunate, so you may regret going whole-hog on that chi stuff.

Also, ignorant planners locate most campsites on level ground, ostensibly to facilitate the sleeping process. This is also not so good.

Chi prefers slopes, and goes stale when it collects in pockets down in those hollows where the flat spots are. Stale chi is damp and cold. It attracts biting insects and causes bad dreams and stinky feet, so it is best to go higher. Halfway up the nearest hill or mountain is about right. That is where you'll find freshest, crispest chi, and the greatest selection to boot.

Go too far though, and you get all sparky again, so halfway is about right.

Now, you may think to yourself Hey, steep. Never mind what the slope is like — this will be good for you. If you begin rolling, it is because you need more practice. We have classes that can help you with that.

While you sleep, try to keep your head pointing at your Lucky Charm Star. Every person's Lucky Charm Star is different, so you need to find yours and know where it is. If you are aligned properly and your head is pointing uphill, this is called the Puffy Foot Orientation, which will ensure cushy walking the next day, though it may also be awkward during some activities, like putting on shoes.

And if your head points downhill, you experience the effects of the Balloon Head Orientation. During the night this posture stores extra blood in your head, which is a good place to keep it — handy for emergencies because it's right there, waiting to jump into action, though it may also make distracting sounds as it sloshes during walking maneuvers.

If you share your tent with another, then the other person's Lucky Charm Star is likely different from yours, and sometimes the two Influences will fight. You could fall asleep quickly, only to be awakened later in the night because you are being pounded. It could be your tent-mate's fists, or, if you camped too close to the uncut chi, it might be that herd of elk trampling your tent with their hammering hooves, so keep this possibility in mind.

The short version then: Sleeping in an inauspicious directional orientation causes problems. Problems like fly bites, excessive bloating, sunburn, bad relationships, poor grades, and blisters. So smart-up and always exercise caution.

But let's say that you did everything right, and you awaken the next morning, still alive. Good. So, next?

Well, if you are down at the foot of the hill, one of two things happened. Either you rolled during the night — in which case you need more sleeping stakes — or the local chi spirits gave you the boot, maybe because you're a dick or you fart too much.

So what then?

Refuse to lose. Appease the chi. This is about your only chance to make it home alive anyway, so you might as well go for it. Follow these handy instructions:

  • Clean up. Comb your hair. Shave, even if you are a woman (most female backpackers need it too).
  • Create a shrine. Twigs are OK. Rocks too. It's the thought that counts. Spirits don't know any better anyway, unless you try making your shrine out of poo like some smartass. If so, you will get what you deserve. Promise. They are on to that trick.
  • Make offerings. Chi spirits really like peanut butter and whiskey, especially together, but most anything edible will do. Once again, no poop, not even an artful and clever sculpture made from it, even if that just happens to be your only talent.
  • Meditate. You don't have to do anything special aside from making it look authentic, but try not to snore. Think you got problems now? Try snoring on meditation watch. Then you'll see.
  • Walk at least half a mile (0.8 km) before snickering, after you conclude that this is all crap. Chi spirits enjoy following people like you to see if their first opinion was right. Uh — no. Better make that a full mile to be safe.
  • Watch the sky for flying monkeys.


Part 2


Me? Right now, trying to keep my nose hairs under control.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Hurricane's Backside

Looking away off west.


So, much effort for little result, i.e., this blog post.

I'm faking it while cleaning out old photo files, and being a little mouse of a blogger way off to the side of what is currently the internet, well shucks then. What more do you need? It's a gesture, isn't it? A gesture to show you that I still love you, even if we'd get along for no more than four seconds in real life, you and I. But since I live in the abstract, gestures count.


To the southwest, toward the heart of Olympic National Park.


Living in paradise as I'm doing at the moment, wouldn't we expect that there is ever so much going on, to do, to share, to experience? Yep, I think so. But since reality don't give a snit what I think, no. It's dead here. Things were better six years ago when I first got to Cuenca. (That's in Ecuador.) More squirrelly, less predictable, odder.


I've never understood this place. That seems right, the way you never understand home.


Since I can't seem to keep away, I was back in the U.S. from the start of March, 2018 until the end of July. Had big ideas. Uck fupt big time. Bailed. Figured I'd make up for it here in Ecuador. I've been back over eight months, watching, checking every day, looking, and still have not found a single person wanting to go out hiking. At least there used to be a few people. Maybe they saw me coming.


Hikers. One man, two girls. They came in peace and left with no trace.


This place is getting settled.

It's a lot more "civilized" than it was in November, 2012, when I first stepped off the shuttle van from Guayaquil, looked around and thought "grubby". My first impression. Grubby. Not quite so much any more.


This grassy swathe appears blank or even snowy on the Google Earth images below. Anything but. Lovely, don't you think?


Six years on, there is still construction going on everywhere. New buildings. Remodeled old buildings. More traffic lights. Better internet. Retired gringos getting over their wonder and settling into brain-dead old age. Less experimentation, more suburbanization, if we can call it that. (Smells like it.) No hiking groups. At all.


From above and to the right of the rocky outcrop in the previous two images.


Anyway, I myself am not dead yet, but any day now I could wake up dead, so maybe I'll be back in the U.S. for one very last ultimate try at being a gnarly backpacker and traveling around and stuff. Possibly. Am I just old and stupid? Also possibly.


The now free-flowing Elwha.


Last year definitely did not work out, though 2014/2015 was not all that bad, when I was living in Port Angeles, WA, right underneath Olympic National Park, and going there quite a bit, and this is where today's photos came from. (July, 2014.)


And they, far ahead, prepare to vanish into forest.


Drive up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, go right for a mile or two, and you get to the Hurricane Hill parking lot and trailhead. Everything in the U.S. has a parking lot, doesn't it? That's how you can tell you're there. If not, then it isn't real.


Another view off west.


Anyway, hike up and look over the top to the Strait of Juan de Fuca or hike farther west, or do both. Go far enough and first you're on the backside of Hurricane Hill and later on, if you keep going, you're about a mile (1600 m) lower, and just about able to spit into the Elwha River, if that's your specialty. Don't go that far and you don't have to sweat so much, and can sort of noodle around and feel on top of the world because you are. If that isn't enough, and you get bored, you can whistle back at the marmots or take a nap on the grass. Nice.


Southwest. Summer here always seems like forever.


So here's what I've got out of it. The photos look a little impressionistic because that's what happens when you take a tiny little camera and point it at infinity and then try to make sense of it. But you get the idea. Forgive me.


Toward Olympus. I think. Sky and peaks and snow and sky.


The start and the end. Start there and hike this way. Lots of "up". And then hike down again when it's all over. And then go home remembering that it's about more than just you.


Area map. Hurricane Hill in relation to Hurricane Ridge. Port Angeles is just off the map toward the top.


From Google Earth. Looking approximately ENE. The sort of "snowy" area is actually mostly grass.


From Google Earth. Looking roughly north. The long left-right light area near the top is Hurricane Hill. To the lower left is the former Lake Mills.


From Google Earth. Straight down, showing the trail from way up high down to the Elwha River


From Google Earth. Looking roughly west. Where you see "Windy Arm" is the former Lake Mills, now the restored Elwha river. Foreground is Hurricane Hill.



Elwha River Restoration

Restoration of the Elwha River


Remember, flies are nature's way of saying that you're still yummy.
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As always, Effort or Eff it. No sniveling.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Definitions: Bollard

A fat, stubby and sturdy post that provides a small safety buffer between an area of high and fast traffic (like a street full of cars) and one of low and slow traffic (like a sidewalk full of pedestrians).

Bollards are typically placed near corners at intersections or where a trail or walkway meets a road.

You can also find them on high-traffic trails, where troops of thru-hikers in colorful spandex outfits roar past, four or six abreast in competitive attempts to set new cross-continent land speed records.

This is a relatively new development, and few trails have yet been upgraded with the latest safety features.

The better trails, though few in number, have divided lanes, designated rest stops and parking areas, on and off ramps, overpasses, and passing zones.

The unwary weekend hiking yokel, ignorant of the recent desperate developments in the sport, may inadvertently stroll out into traffic on a high-intensity but unimproved trail and get flattened without warning.

Bollards separating recreational-level side trails from professional trails are a good first step (and a warning to duffers) but by no means sufficient.

Hiker beware!



Remember: It could be that the purpose of your life may only be to serve as a warning to others. (Thanks to for this eternal wisdom.)
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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Marmot Olympics

"Marmota olympus". That's what they say, a big squirrel. I didn't know that. Them. Them facts. I didn't know them. Now I do.


Just up one side of Hurricane Hill and a little down the other, there be marmots.

Not Hurricane Hillary or Tropical Depression Hilary. None of that. Part-time hurricanes come and go up topside, but no depressions. No depressions because you feel good there, but occasional hurricanes, and not tropical either. "Temperate latitude" hurricanes. They come through every now and then.


This would be in Olympic National Park in western Washington state. I didn't know about temperate latitude hurricanes until a couple of years ago. True. Cliff Mass of the University of Washington mentioned it on one of his weekly weather talks, but oddly, the term "temperate latitude hurricane" does not occur on his blog.


Maybe he changed his mind about the term, or hasn't gotten around to writing about it, but there have been some big storms blowing through the area. (See link below.)


Anyhow, marmots are sleeping by then. Come winter, they sleep. Come summer, they munch grass and whistle. November is usually the stormiest month, but by then there wouldn't be much to eat, and normally there would be significant snow on the ground. Both good reasons to try sleeping it off.


"Whistle pigs", "woodchucks", "hoary marmots" — all closely related. I didn't know until yesterday that the olympic marmot was distinct: "it occurs only in the U.S. state of Washington, on the middle elevations of the Olympic Peninsula", according to Wikipedia. But I guess so, it is distinct, a little.


Hurricane Hill is off a bit to the west of Hurricane Ridge and its visitor center, which is accessible by paved road from the city of Port Angeles. The trip is about 15 miles (24km), though the direct distance is around a third of that. (A windy road to a windy spot.)


From Hurricane Hill there are good views of the Elwha River valley, including part of what used to be Lake Mills behind Glines Canyon Dam before the dam got taken down. You can look at the Bailey Range and peek at Mt Olympus, but I've never seen any gods over there, just more pointy rocks and snow. Might be worth another look some day.


Marmots is mostly it. Get out on the grassy parts, see something lumpy moving around, get whistled at, and maybe it's a marmot. If not, then that's a good time to turn around and go home, but so far it's been marmots and they've minded their own business and I've never tried to tickle any.


The trail does continue west, down a long slope to the Elwha Ranger Station, and on the day I grabbed these photos there was a group of three or so headed that way. Looked like a dad and two daughters.


I followed for a while, but the trail gets really steep after it enters the forest on the west side, and I didn't have any reason to go way down there, so I returned to hanging with the marmots. Might be a fun trip to do sometime.

The Olympic marmot is thought to have originated during the last glacial period as an isolated relict population of the hoary marmot in the Pleistocene ice-free refugia...The Olympic marmot is about the size of a domestic cat; adults weigh from 3.1 to 11 kg (6.8 to 24.3 lb) and are from 67 to 75 cm (26 to 30 in) in length, with the average being 71 cm (28 in). It is the largest marmot...The coat is double-layered, consisting of soft thick underfur, for warmth, and coarser outer hairs.

Olympic marmots eat meadow flora such as avalanche and glacier lilies, heather blossoms, subalpine lupine, mountain buckwheat, harebells, sedges, and mosses. They prefer green, tender, flowering plants over other sources of food, but roots are a large part of their diets in the early spring when other plants have not yet appeared.

And so on. (Info from Wikipedia.) Pretty nice for squirrels.


Olympic marmot

Columbus Day Storm, 1962

  • Winds exceeding 150 mph and a storm equal to Hurricane Katrina.
  • Huge forests leveled.
  • Dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.
  • Thousands of homes and buildings destroyed or seriously damaged.


Me? Breathing. Still breathing. Working on that today.
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