Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Sounds Like A Disease

Sounds Like A Disease

But one that is both sweet and crunchy.

Traditionally, scroggin is a combination of dried fruit, grains, nuts, sometimes chocolate, and other random elements, informally developed as a snack food taken along on hikes by those who dare.

1. Gorp? Right. Gorp. Right?

You may know this stuff as "gorp", or you may know "gorp" only as a sound that your body makes when it is happy, sad, angry, a bit under the weather, or simply when it is operating normally (sad but true for some of us).

Yeah, well.

2. Scroggin is New-Zealand-Speak for chocolate, nuts and dried fruits mixed together and coated in sugar. Sugar.

Sugar. Coated in sugar.

The name (scroggin) may have come from the list of supposed ingredients:

  • Sultanas (white grapes, presumably dried, i.e., raisins)
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins (again, but this time appearing as dark wrinkly things)
  • candied Orange peels
  • candied Ginger
  • Glucose (sugar, more of it)
  • Improvisation
  • Nuts

And then again maybe not. Who can say?

Scroggin is in fact probably a "backronym", a word created to explain the term "scroggin" long after that same "scroggin" came into use (note that raisin-like things appear twice (veeery suspicious), and that even though the supposed etymology contains "improvisation", you can't eat improvisation, no matter how clever you are, because it is a technique, not an ingredient .

3. A scroggin could also be one of those little things that crawls around on your skin, under your clothes or in your hair, makes you itch, and is too small to find, but continues to drive you nuts. A cootie. Often imaginary. Works for me.

Fear of cooties stands in for fear of bears in those places where you know there are no bears, because what is life without fear?

4. Maybe a scroggin might be anybody who has cooties, or whom you wish would get them. Because that would work too.

So, how about a scroggin as a pariah, an outcast, crackpot, crank, exile, kook, oddball, solitudinarian, nut job, maybe even a former friend or loved one.

This latter attitude can develop among the best of friends who spend too much time together in a proximity that is simply too close, too tight, too airless. (Long distance backpacking trips are not recommended for honeymooners. By those who have found out the hard way.)


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Me? Still waiting to get unvaccinated, because contrary.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Definitions: Fall Line

Fall Line

Fall line (wet phase), Mt Adams, upper Big Muddy valley, 2016.


(1) The fall line is the track that your pack follows when you get pooped, stop for a break, let it slide off your back onto the ground, and which it then tumbles along as you watch it head off on its own, downward, over the edge, ever downward, toward some hidden evil that sucks it deep into the brushy darkness where it is consumed by dirt monsters. Bye, pack. So sorry, but I'm not going there, 'K?

Fun fact: If you have a basketball with you, and drop it, or even just set it down, it will follow the same route as your pack. Why you'd be carrying a basketball on a backpacking trip is a great question, but one that no sane person can find a reasonable answer for, so think about it if you want, but on your own time, please.

(2) The fall line is the most direct route downhill from any point. This is why building a trail along the fall line is so great. It immediately shows you the effects of soil erosion since water just loves to run along the fall line, and as it does so, giggling madly, it rips out great swaths of your new, carefully-crafted trail. So more repair work for you then. Job security and all that as well. (See? Even the stupid can find a certain kind of tedious success in life.)

(3) Another kind of fall line, a sort of horizontal one, separates upland and coastal areas. The upland part may be rocky and generally lumpy, with the coastal bits being flat and goopy. This fall line can often be dramatic too, in its own way.

Say a stream crosses it. Fine.

If so, you'll usually see at least rapids, and maybe waterfalls, sometimes dramatic waterfalls. In the eastern U.S. the cities of Boston, MA, Pawtucket, RI, Troy, NY, Trenton, NJ, Washington, D.C., Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Petersburg, VA, Raleigh, NC, Columbia, SC, and Augusta, GA are all at the fall line, but on the flat, goopy side where it's easier to build cities.

On one side there be dragons, jersey devils, the wendigo, your sidehill gougers, scattered wild haggis, wandering wapaloosies, sliderock bolters, snoligosters, mosquitoes, and tourists, while on the other, goopier side, well, you have civilization (such as it is these days): parking lots, airports, traffic jams, smog, and random gunfire.

(4) The fall line is the steepest line across a given contour, which is the direction water flows down a slope if left unmolested, as noted above. This is sometimes called "the path of least resistance", usually defined as straight up or straight down a slope, though in the real world that "least resistance" thing is never up a slope, ever, in any way, shape, or form. (Figuring out why is left as an exercise for the reader.)

(5) A root that trips everyone in a line of hikers naturally forms a fall line — it's like a chorus line but uglier, with more swearing, and is composed wholly of the inept and stinky. Just as amusing though.


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Me? Still trying to remain upright.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Pasayten Bush Bear

Pasayten Bush Bear

come around bush
right there
big one
big bear
munching grass
clueless yet
so far
so now
what to do?

Pasayten Bush Bear

watch bear munch
munch munch unaware
now what?
use camera
use camera
and, well? a good day
a good day to die

Pasayten Bush Bear

time is up
one of us
one of us moves
bear goes
or I go
a long way home
way long way
click poles
click click
click click
bear hears
step up one step
and now bear sees
little alone me

Pasayten Bush Bear

your move bear
go off or go off
run away or attack
the little guy
attack the little guy
with clicky sticks?
bear runs
up way up
higher up
so no grizz
after all
black bear, brown phase
lucky boy, me
lucky little dumbnuts me
lucky, lucky, lucky



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Me? Just sitting here, trying to get the fur out of my teeth.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Definitions: Giardiasis


(1) Free time off from work, possibly involuntarily if they kick you out for displaying unprofessional behavior (fever, chills, vomiting, explosive diarrhea, foul gas), if your workplace is on the fussy side.

(2) An intestinal illness consisting of fever, chills, vomiting, explosive diarrhea, foul gas, and abdominal cramping caused by the protozoan parasite Giardia duodenalis (also known as Giardia lamblia and Giardia intestinalis). See the unwanted poster down by the post office for more information, and wash your hands after just to be safe.

Beavers get it. Weavers get it. Even some bleeping fuzzy sheeps get it. Don't get it — it's nooo fun. (La-la-la.)

(3) Common slander spread about Giardia lamblia, a tiny, quiet and shy protozoan who just wants to get to know you, whoever you are. It's not fussy either — if you're a mammal or can pass for one, and are identifiable as still alive, you'll do.

(4) Nastiness that they say you get "via the fecal-oral route", which, to be honest, is way outside our comfort zone, but we don't judge. (Yes we do, if you want honesty. So don't invite us over for dinner, and stay far away, 'K?)

And there's more: "Primary routes are personal contact and contaminated water and food." Personal contact? As in OMG, no, don't tell me any more. Some innocent accident with water or food, maybe: OK, got it. Accident.

Personal contact? Nope. Halt. Stop. Freeze. Go away. Die whimpering in the corner — anything, just leave us out.

The nominal culprit, Giardia lamblia, is a parasitic protozoan (single-celled creepy thing) that infects and then reproduces in the intestines, causing you-know-what. It hangs out there for weeks or months, mucking around and inspiring all sorts of internal microbial imbalances but doesn't infect the bloodstream or other parts of the body. And that's the only good news. Eventually, in most cases, most of the time, the body manages to kill it off. But don't count on that either, if you're a realist.


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Me? Just now found my other leg. Handy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Great Hikes I Have Never Done (And Don't Care About)

Great Hikes I Have Never Done (And Don't Care About)

I once read M.J. (Nimblewill Nomad) Eberhart's "Ten Million Steps". This is a good book. Not great literature, and not excessively well written, but I didn't expect a diary to be, and this is essentially a trail diary. He has spirit though, and I learned a lot. It would have been good to hike with him.

Even if the book isn't great literature you can't fault the man. He did what almost no one else could do. Go ahead. Raise an objection here. Lift your hand and wave it. Stand up and shout. Tell me about others who have hiked farther in a lifetime, or in a season, who have gone faster or lighter. Tell me something, and then watch me ignore you. All of that is good. That's all good, but irrelevant.

In 2007 Andrew Skurka hiked the The Great Western Loop, "a 6,875-mile footpath that links together five existing long-distance trails — including the Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and Arizona Trail — and a trail-less segment through the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts."

OK. I will never do that. That doesn't mean that I hate anyone. I am incapable of it.

I admire the determination and mental toughness needed, not to mention the insane level of physical conditioning required. That said, I still say that Eberhart did what almost no one else can do. There are some like Skurka who have done "better" (farther, faster, flashier, with better public relations — categorize it any way you want) but they haven't really, I think. The pool of those who can hike from Florida to Quebec in one year at age 59 is so vanishingly small that I have to consider all of them as superior beings, members of a clan comprised of superhuman entities I can barely comprehend.

I'd like to see those who are now in their early 20s to mid 30s pass by about 30 years from now, heading out on 10-month trips that no one else has done. Given the way that people are leaping at new things every minute, virgin backpacking trips will be scarce as 60-year-old transcontinental trekkers by then.

Maybe what's most important is not major league sports or the extreme niches within a sport but what people do of, by, and for themselves, on their own. In other words, if you're looking for something to do, it might be that the way to go about it is to do what feels good. To you. I think so.

Sleeping in feels good, but only on some days, and only for a while. I'm not saying you should aim for that. You need a challenge, something useful for defining yourself and making you feel good about life while you're doing it and after you've done it. In the middle of it though, maybe not quite so much, not that often. Not everything that is good or worthwhile is always fun while it's happening. As an aside here, you've probably learned by now that it's many of life's little disasters and minor calamities that make the best and funniest stories, but only later, often much later, following an appropriate amount of reflection. And healing.

OK, challenging and interesting. After that, what then? Be specific. Trust your innards. They will let you know.

If you decide something with your head, it's probably wrong. If you think about something that you heard about, that's probably wrong too. Take Andrew Skurka. He finished The Great Western Loop. If you hadn't heard of it earlier, you have now. It's an impressive accomplishment. Does that mean that you should go and do it too? Probably not.

Notice that Skurka eventually began referring to himself as a "professional backpacker". In other words, though he may have liked his work, he ended up doing a job. The bigger and flashier he was able to make something, the more likely he could get sponsorship and be able to earn a living. OK for him. I'm not saying that it's bad, but as another example consider whether you want to be a government employee because the attorney general of your state just broke up a price-fixing ring. How much sense does that really make? Same with choosing the right backpacking trip for yourself.

If you hear about something, and if you've always kinda-sorta had it in the back of your mind, and this is the last shove over the edge and you can't help yourself anymore, then I'd say you have a winner. Go for it. Not necessarily elsewise.

Kick back. Give things a rest for a while. Ruminate. Let something come to you.

Assuming that you have experience at backpacking, and are comfortable with backpacking, and know about what you can handle, and have a feeling for places you have been, then you have a good base. Let those experiences talk to you. An idea or two will come along. Reading is good, and talking to people you know is good. If someone like Skurka is speaking nearby, go have a listen. Keep an ear open for the small sounds, the little mouse-like ultrasonic squeaks that everyone else misses. Look for the door that's open only a crack, letting a bit of intriguing light in. Investigate those things.

Look for the oddball, out of the way place, the trail you hear about that everyone seems to pass by, saying they'd maybe like to get back there some day, but don't. Feel your way into it. You're looking for yourself in the world, for a place that needs you and where you will feel at home. It may not be the famous trail where everyone else goes. The best experiences after all are the ones that tell you the most about who you are and what life is all about, and the less overhead the better.

I've always wondered about people who hike one of the really big trails. The Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail. What are they after? I understand the idea of international borders. An international border is a useful concept, but I still don't quite understand the idea of starting at the Mexican border, touching it, and then hiking for months to go and touch the Canadian border. For those hiking the two westernmost of these three trails, that is the story, but why, exactly?

The Appalachian Trail seems to make more sense. It is still arbitrary but is also much more focused on actual geography: Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin, no political boundaries really involved. It is all about place. Going from Atlantic to Pacific makes sense too, or traveling the same route in the other direction. Loop trails make sense to me, as do trips to experience particular seasons. Political boundaries and timetables do not.

True, if you want to do something you have to plan, and schedule, but scheduling down to the minute destroys a trip. Racing is wrong. Racing is a thing that I'm not talking about here. Racing is complex and done for other reasons. Backpacking is done for itself, in its own time, in its own way. There are hours and days and weeks and resupply points and there is always a limited amount of time, and you have to obey the limits but marching along the dotted line with a stopwatch in hand is going too far.

FTK kills the experience. Dead.

Keep it simple and you will be right. You get up in the morning, and after that you do the right things in the right order to get home again, but other than that you don't need to play along. Don't give yourself over to the rules of the game for the sake of the rules, or of the game. Steer an easy course while remaining in control. Maintain an even strain.

I used to know someone who scheduled things a year or two in advance, and hiked with a guidebook and map constantly in hand. She was precise about always hiking the "official" trail. She had been a lot of places over several decades and yet her life didn't seem to have a soul. Not to me. Maybe I'm too small to understand, but her experience on the trail seemed to be a lot more about bagging things in the proper time in the proper order by the proper, official rules than about finding joy.

And as I see it, that's what this is really about, the joy, and to find joy you have to keep things simple, and open, at least a bit.

I'm not in the big leagues, and not headed there. Maybe I truly am an idiot, but here's an idiot's advice if you want it: look for the small stuff. Go where others don't. Be quiet. Make yourself tiny. Move slowly. Stay humble. Keep your eyes open. Listen. Wait.

Some of my best times ever have been the unexpected ones, in places other people just don't go. Sometimes this is only a few feet off a trail. Cut away from the trail, get out of sight, sit on a log and have lunch, then see what happens. If you're patient and quiet, things do happen. You can have the same sort of experience while hiking on any non-name-brand trail. Simply follow the same ideas.

I haven't been able to explain this to anyone, not really — they don't want to listen. No one knows what the hell I'm talking about. They are blinded by the bright flashing lights and the dayglo colors. But many of my small trips have felt like they were the culmination of a dream long gestating, and that tells me that they were right. I haven't had to fly between continents or hire guides. I just go somewhere that might maybe be interesting and see what happens. If I try to stay light then I almost always come out ahead.



Nimblewill Nomad web site

Ten Million Steps

Nimblewill Nomad, the perpetual hiker (Wikipedia)

Andrew Skurka web site

Andrew Skurka (Wikipedia)

2007 Adventurer of the Year: The Walking Man (National Geographic Adventure)



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Me? Amounting to nothing. As usual.