Wednesday, July 27, 2022

WTF Blazing

WTF Blazing

(1) A trail whose route was marked by splashes of paint applied by the Wooty Woot Trail Forgery Brigade.

(2) Hiking while drunk, determining direction not so much by watching the blazes, or by sight at all, but by bonking into obstacles with your head. Involves frequent face plants and unceasing profanity.

(3) Spirit hiking. Ghost wandering. The Continental Divide Trail being the pinnacle of this sport, though any trail that braids into a myriad of potential routes, all of which prove false, before vanishing entirely, also qualifies.

(4) Aimless stumbling in any or all directions while outdoors.

(5) A type of trail marking found on the Continental Divide Trail, the Hayduke Trail, and some other places where the trail (or at least its markers) often vanishes. Wooo.

 


Have anything worth adding? Then try sosayseff+eff@nullabigmail.com
Me? Still lost somewhere in the basement.

 

Etc...

so says eff: sporadic spurts of grade eff distraction
definitions: outdoor terms
fiyh: dave's little guide to ultralight backpacking stoves
boyb: dave's little guide to backpacks
snorpy bits: nibbling away at your sanity
last seen receding: missives from a certain mobile homer
noseyjoe: purposefully poking my proboscis into technicals

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Bearable Lightness Of Shades

The Bearable Lightness Of Shades

Clever, eh? They fit comfortably behind glasses. [left] They also work without glasses, and you can shoot out a slightly smug look too. [right]

 

Are you still looking for the ultimate in post-mydriatic and dental procedure protective eyewear?

Or could you use some really light sunglasses? You can now have both.

While having an eye exam several years ago I realized that I'd found the perfect sunglasses. This was when I was redoing my whole approach to backpacking and getting wicked light.

I already had a pair of clip-on sunglasses. Those are great. They're polarized, so they cut reflections and glare, and let me see into pools of water. I like that. I always want to know what's in there, breathing water and watching me back. Can't hurt.

And the polarized lenses interact with sunlight and reflections and make the world a little sparkly and shimmery at times. I'm not sure quite how this happens but it can be fun on a boring day.

But these sunglasses aren't perfect. The little clipper thingies always end up scratching my expensive lenses where they touch. And the clip-on lenses get scratched too. It's awkward to take them off because they themselves pick up scratches even if I keep them in a soft cloth. And taking them off means that I can lose the suckers, or break them. They break. Breaking isn't good.

OK, done with that subject.

Besides the clip-ons I had a couple pair of giant goggle-like things. These are all plastic, all transparent, all tinted, and will fit over glasses. You can wear them with or without your own glasses underneath. This is good. I think some models come with polarized lenses too, which is a plus. You've probably seen geezers wearing these around. Geezers take to them the way kids go after candy.

But they're big and heavy, they can break, they get scratched, they're relatively expensive, and it isn't harder to lose them than to lose anything else.

I wear glasses all the time. I can't wear contact lenses, don't want pre$cription sungla$$es, and am not likely to get my eyeballs carved by laser beams.

So I can't wear a pair of dark glasses unless I want to stick them on over my real glasses and scratch the snot out of them and look enormously entertaining to normal people.

Looking goofy isn't too big a problem. I've got that pretty well nailed anyway. The real problem is finding cheap, light sun protection that works, and that doesn't destroy my prescription lenses.

So back to paragraph three: While having an eye exam several years ago I realized that I'd found the perfect sunglasses. This was when I was redoing my whole approach to backpacking.

I hate these exams. They are the ones where you get the eye drops that burn like crazy, and then after a few minutes your pupils get so big that people start backing away, if not turning to run for their lives. Well that part is kind of cool, but by the time your eyes are that dilated you can't see what's going on anyway. You have to go over the surveillance tapes with the police after they show up.

But that's kind of fun sometimes, except for the burning eye part.

Right, so there I was with these buggy eyes and then my eye doctor handed me a roll of dark plastic in a paper sleeve. Rollens. Damn. I was so much in love, like instantly. Like totally.

Rollens is a single piece of flexible plastic. It's a springy plastic sheet, fairly sturdy, but completely flexible, transparent, and tinted. It's a piece cut out in the shape of my big goggles — at least the front part. If you unroll it and hold it flat on a table it looks like goggles without the pieces that go around the side of your head and over your ears.

It doesn't look too weird until you put it on.

Then, if you don't wear glasses it still looks pretty much OK, even sexy on some people. At least I think so, though not on me of course..

If you do wear glasses, you put the Rollens on, and the springiness and curl of the plastic holds it in place on your head, but then you put your glasses on over it and get a second chance to scare the bejeebers out of everyone. And you also can't scratch the lenses of your gla$$es.

For an ultralighter everything is fine as long as it's light. We're all about weight and utility, and Rollens is great. I've laid one of these down on a table, all rolled up, and pounded it with my fist to demonstrate how good they are. No problem. A slight crease is all, and that didn't even amount to much.

They get scratched but who cares? They don't contact the lenses of your real glasses, and even if you just wear the Rollens without any glasses, they stay on your face because of the inherent springiness of the material.

Rollens offers 80% ultraviolet protection, the design is full-coverage (almost no light leaks in around the edges), it doesn't break, and you can't tear it, it's small, it's cheap. And of course it's light.

I can't tell you how light one of these is because the postal scale where I live doesn't even twitch when I drop one of these onto it. So that's less than a tenth of an ounce each (less than 3 g). Rollens doesn't register. At all.

The bad part is that you can't really buy these, sort of. I bought a box of 50 at 50 cents each, shipping included, from the maker. That was a good enough deal. But they sell only in bulk. On the other hand this is roughly a lifetime supply. I hardly ever use sunglasses anyway, but it's no problem bringing one of these, and a spare too, just in case.

Highly recommended. By me.

Colors: amber, gray, and clear. Clear won't work for sunglasses (Duh!) but you still have the UV protection. The gray is a good dark shade and makes a huge difference. Don't know about amber.

I have a whole bag full of empty plastic 35mm canisters. I use one of these to carry my Rollens. The canister is a little too short but if I was fussy I could trim the Rollens down with a scissors (you can do that, no problem). I roll them up really tight and fit two into one canister. Small package. Stows easily.

If you want to try Rollens without ordering a bunch, you could check around at offices of nearby optometrists or ophthalmologists. If you already do business at one they might toss you a couple for free.

Check it out: Rollens

 


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Me? Recently painted myself blue. Now I'm blue.

 

Etc...

so says eff: sporadic spurts of grade eff distraction
definitions: outdoor terms
fiyh: dave's little guide to ultralight backpacking stoves
boyb: dave's little guide to backpacks
snorpy bits: nibbling away at your sanity
last seen receding: missives from a certain mobile homer
noseyjoe: purposefully poking my proboscis into technicals

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Vent

Vent

Vent. It's a slit in a garment, usually in the lower edge of the back of a coat, to allow easier movement.

Or maybe it's an opening through which gases, especially air, can pass. Or the opening of a volcano from which lava flows. In other words, a conduit and/or orifice through which volcanic materials (lava, gas, and water vapor) reach the earth's surface, with that distinctive, characteristic sound.

Here are a couple further thoughts to shove you along...

(1) If the vent in your jacket is emitting lava, then you've overheated.

(2) I let it out at the vent, or it let me out, depending on the point of view. Anyway, it fits better now and I don't feel bloated any more.

Take your pick, based on how you feel today, and what you've eaten lately.

 


Have anything worth adding? Then try sosayseff+eff@nullabigmail.com
Me? Recently got blown off. (The usual.)

 

Etc...

so says eff: sporadic spurts of grade eff distraction
definitions: outdoor terms
fiyh: dave's little guide to ultralight backpacking stoves
boyb: dave's little guide to backpacks
snorpy bits: nibbling away at your sanity
last seen receding: missives from a certain mobile homer
noseyjoe: purposefully poking my proboscis into technicals

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Thru-Hiker

Thru-hiker

(1) A hiker who completes a long trail from end to end. The term usually refers to someone who has hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail or any other, less-well-known but still really long route, especially one requiring careful planning and grim determination.

(2) A hiker who intended to complete a long trail from end to end (one like the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail) but couldn't make it, and instead decided to be through with hiking.

(3) One who completes the hiking of an the entire trail in one year, whether that hike matches a calendar year or not, as long as the actual walking is an unbroken journey. Or one who completes an entire trail in the allotted slice of time, whether that division of time meets anyone else's standards or not. A thru-hiker just goes all the way. Simple. Done.

 


Have anything worth adding? Then try sosayseff+eff@nullabigmail.com
Me? Chuffed about something.

 

Etc...

so says eff sporadic spurts of grade eff distraction
definitions outdoor terms
fiyh dave's little guide to ultralight backpacking stoves
boyb dave's little guide to backpacks
snorpy bits nibbling away at your sanity
last seen receding missives from a certain mobile homer
nosey joe purposefully poking my proboscis into technicals

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Retaining Wall

Retaining Wall

Like training wheels for dirt.
Won't help keep your pants up though.

 

A retaining wall is...

(1) A structure that prevents soil from slumping, sliding, or falling onto a trail. A retaining wall is usually made of logs, stone, soil-filled bags, blocks, or paving materials. Retaining walls are often used to provide stability and strength to the edge of a trail or stream bank.

Also known as: Revetment, Cribwall, Cribbing, Mono-Wall, Multi-Tier Wall.

(2) A structure intended to prevent trail incontinence. Since most trails are built up from or cut out of the landscape, they typically need some help keeping themselves together. Retaining walls do this. Retaining walls retain. They are like trail diapers. They keep soil from creeping out and messing things up when no one is looking, because once it starts it can get nasty, and then you have to look, and no one likes looking at nasty. The landscape enjoys doing this unauthorized creeping and will keep doing it, and before you know there will be no more trail, only a nasty mess. Which you will have to walk through. So there's where the "retaining" part comes in. And as for the "wall", look it up.

(3) A retaining wall is an anti-creep device. So far, retaining walls work only on dirt, which moves at a pace somewhere between glacial and geological, both of which are tediously boring. To see this process in action go look at a hill. Bring lunch and something to sit on. Within a scant several hundred years you will begin to notice the first faint signs that the entire hill is slowly glooping downward under the force of gravity, lubricated by rain. If that's where you are, down below somewhere, don't worry. You still have several hundred more years before it gets anywhere near you, and even then it probably will only gum you gently and spit you out because you don't taste good. Though this process could take several hundred millennia longer to reach completion, leaving you seriously late for any appointments you might have scheduled, it can be fun to observe if you don't have that much else going on. So yes, folks, it's true, all hills do move. Slowly. So very slowly. But go in and dig around and you disturb the whole balance of nature situation, and then everything speeds up, probably because it's pissed. Like if you cut a trail into the side of a hill and instead of waiting several hundred years to see anything at all (Anything! At all!), the whole shebang may spring a huge surprise by slumping over on top of you even before you have a chance to wipe off your shovel and pretend that you were only out there standing around doing nothing at all, just like every other innocent idiot in the vicinity.

So in this sense (of keeping disturbed soil from getting unpleasantly uppity, not to mention rapid), retaining walls are good. They are A Good Thing, and work well as anti-creep devices. But only for dirt.

They (so far) don't work on the kind of creep that might glom onto you while you are out backpacking and spoil what was otherwise a pretty decent day. So for now, you still have to carry a stick and know how to use it.

 

Another view, below, temporarily borrowed from the kindly Forest Service (slightly modified).

Retaining Wall

 

 


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Me? Been out doin' some slow creepin'. (Can be fun!).

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Pants

Pants

A happy camper wearing truncated pants.

 

(1) Pants: Plural of pant. May indicate either exhaustion or excitement as signified by rapid action of the lungs. Or from exhaustion following anything even remotely exciting, if you're getting older.

(2) Pants are also an article of clothing worn over the lower body. May be called "trousers" by some. They have two legs, just like most of us. Each leg consists of a separate tubular fabric compartment, open at the bottom, which allows the occasional ingress of unwanted visitors such as the trouser snake, which sometimes enters the pants in search of its most-desired prey, the wrinkly pants worm, which may be found hiding in there.

(3) Worn by both men and women, pants are an outer garment that clothe the body below the waist. Pants cover each leg separately, from the crotch to the ankle. They are also known as "trousers", which was already mentioned as you know by now, if you were paying attention.

"Hot pants", a kind of "short-shorts" for young women, were released to the world by marketing geniuses in the 1970s but the term actually dates to 1927 for some reason. Shorts are a kind of pants, but shorter, and the memories of the hot pants days can still induce panting in those who were male teenagers then. With good reason, maybe. Works for me.

But wow, hot pants go back to 1927? That leaves me panting. My breath comes in pants, with cuffs, a zippered fly, and a watch pocket. But you don't have to hike in pants. You can use a kilt, albeit a manly one. Unless you are a woman, in which case you can do anything you want without having to explain yourself.

Getting into further explaining, the word "pants" originally came from "pantaloons", a word based on Pantaloun, an old man character in an Italian comedy of the 1580s. He was a guy who wore tight trousers over his skinny legs. Probably a thing back then. Who can say?

(4) Pants: The sounds that hikers make when going uphill. Or "gasps", if you are actually doing it right. Short, labored intakes of breath with the mouth open, so's you're always ready to yell for help at any instant. Or swear, whichever seems like it might do the most good in any particular situation. Sometimes both.

 


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Me? Recently seen gasping in embarrassment (fly open again).

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

O-Ring

O-Ring

Closeup of a torus being eaten by ice cream.

 

(1) An O-ring is a gasket consisting of a flat ring of rubber or plastic shaped like a doughnut, but not really a doughnut. Only shaped like a doughnut. A little one. An overly-chewy little one.

It is used to seal a connection against high pressure gases or liquids.

So pressurized stoves use them. To seal connections against high pressure gases or liquids.

You can think of an O-ring as your personal ring of power. With it, your stove works and you can make supper. Without it you're only cold and hungry again. Your choice. Remain alert! Mind your torus, Horace!

(2) Also known as a packing, or a toric joint, an O-ring is a mechanical gasket in the shape of a torus, a doughnut, or if you lack imagination, the letter O. (Lions! and Tigers! Or Owes. Meh.)

This thingy is a loop of elastomer (rubbery stuff) made to be seated in a groove and squeezed in tight between two or more parts during assembly, creating a seal between them. And so it is used in pressurized stoves, of course. To seal its connections against high pressure gases or liquids.

The Dark Lord didn't need an O-Ring, but his stove did.

Come to think of it, he didn't need a stove either.

Never mind that then.

(3) An O-ring is a stove part that forms a seal, in stoves that need seals. These rings are usually made of some sort of flexible material, like silicone-based rubber. They are not needed in simple alcohol-burning stoves.

Like every other complex thing, your O-ring usually fails at the worst possible time, and can't be replaced by any old whatever that you might find lying around. So keep in mind how well O-rings served that space shuttle, then maybe take another look at alcohol stoves. You could do worse, mate. And the onus is back on you.

 


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Me? O Mama! Presently surrounded by rats, some of them educated.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Navigational Error Recovery

Navigational Error Recovery

Navigational Error Recovery is an important skill that involves first recognizing that you are not where you want to be.

Q: But how?
A: The features around you do not align with those on the map.

Q: What map?
A: The one you should have brought.

Q: Oh.
A: Go home and get one then. We'll wait here.

Q: Mmmm. First tell me more. I'll have to think about it.
A: You recover by identifying the features around you and pinpointing your exact map position. So easy!

Q: Ungh.
A: But every situation is different.

Q: Seriously?
A: Yes, and since every situation is different, each new situation requires a different recovery method.

Q: Mrrrph.
A: First you backtrack to a previous feature you can identify, stand still, look all around, and piece together a mental picture of the terrain by comparing what you see to what your map shows that you ought to see.

Q: Identify it how?
A: Or if you can't do that, continue walking, hoping to come to a new identifiable feature.

Q: And get more lost?
A: Right! Maybe! Even experts get disorientated, some of them on nearly every trip, but the ability to recognize early on that you have a problem, when it can still be fixed, is the sign of an expert, so not to worry. Being lost can be fun too.

Q: Can I be a living expert who keeps on living?
A: Ideally. That's mostly the point. Not everyone can quite manage it though, sadly.

Q: So how often do I have to do this?
A: Keep in mind that this is something you will need to do often because on every trip there is a slight disorientation at every stage.

Q: For real?
A: Yep. Now get lost.

 


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Me? Can't find my pants. Again?

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Merino Wool

Merino Wool

(1) A kind of wool that provides a good balance of insulation, durability, odor resistance, and moisture absorption. Due to its fine fibers it feels soft and does not itch like normal wool. Often used in socks and some brands of underwear.

(2) Sheep fuzz of such insanely high quality that it very nearly has its own religion.

It is warm in the cold and cool in the heat. It wicks away sweat. It sheds water, retains its warmth when wet, and doesn't stink even when given permission to. And it is soft.

And not itchy. And has a great warmth to weight ratio. And a knack for regulating body temperature. And repels flies, mosquitoes, ticks, mad dogs, and unpleasant hiking partners.

True merino also adds a spicy yet clean almost peppery dimension to salads, though when stir-fried with vegetables or added to stews it paradoxically produces an unexpectedly rich, deep, mushroom-like flavor.

If combined with a little fresh fruit and yeast, tightly corked and left in a cool dark place, merino brews itself into a stimulating lightly carbonated drink that is hopping with vitamins and anti-oxidants yet surprisingly never intoxicates.

Besides all that, merino makes great socks that wear almost forever, and are so single-mindedly committed to keeping you safe and comfy that if you ever really do get deep into trouble, just kick off your shoes, tap your woolly heels together three times, and repeat "There's no place like home."

If you are wearing Genuine Merino Wool FuzzySocks, you'll instantly be whisked back to the safety of your very own childhood bed, even if you were a homeless orphan and fended for yourself in the streets and alleys from age five, and never even had a bed, only a pointy stick.

Of course if your socks say Genuine Merino Wool but are actually Genuine Fake Merino Wool, well then you're probably screwed. Might as well eat the socks to at least get a little roughage and some salt back into your system, and then hope for the best, if that is even possible any more.

 


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Me? Guess. Just try once.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Lichen Woodland

Lichen Woodland

And there it is, maybe slowly creeping this way, even.
(Map stolen from Wikipedia.)

 

1) Sparse taiga.

Trees are well-spaced and lichen covers the ground.

In far northern taiga, the forest cover is more sparse and also stunted.

Ice-pruned trees are common.

Thoughts you might have there: "I'm likin' this lichen woodland 'cuz it's sparse an' ice-pruned. Too bad the flies got Ed though."

2) A woodland, definitely, but what about this other thing? How do we fit it in? This lichen thing. What is a lichen anyway?

The ancient Greeks called it what eats around itself. Yeep! I know, it's supposed to be a "symbiotic organism", one that is composed of two or more different and unlike organisms, one living inside the other, with both benefiting from the arrangement. They say. They say this is how it is, but is it?

The pod people claim it is so, at those times when they speak. When they speak. Without enthusiasm. Without any noticeable emotion at all, at those times when they speak, but still looking through you the way they do.

"It is good" is what you hear, if you hear anything. Aside from that odd tinny buzz. Even though silent and emotionless, you see them wandering everywhere. Wandering by day, wandering by night, with wires dangling from their ears. Is the pod in control or the person? Is it even a person any more?

And those wires, what are they doing in there? Seeing pod people makes you wonder about these things and about many more things. Likely you won't even think about lichens, but they are just as strange, comprised as they are of an outer, shell-like fungus wrapped around and sheltering some inner algae.

Lichens aren't even vascular plants. If they are plants. Are they? No, not really, one supposes.

Vascular plants stand up and have roots and leaves and internal plumbing that moves water and nutrients around, but lichens, no. They lie there, flat, crusty, almost inert, waiting among the trees, or on rocks, with that little dead zone around them.

Waiting for something, it seems, whatever it might be. And then there you are. Oh, yes. You come hiking along, in this pleasant, open woodland with colorful, licheny patches on the trees, listening to your music player, with those wires coming out of your ears. And the lichens, then they perk up. Yes? Yes. They perk up then.

They may even follow you for a bit, but discreetly, of course. Silently. Through the woodland. You don't even notice. And who knows what may come next?

Indeed.

 


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Me? Seem to be leafing out again.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Kelly kettle

Kelly kettle

Boiler in a bottle: Shiny, contains fire, makes hotness.

 

This is also often called a volcano kettle. It's a one-piece pot and stove thingy, designed vaguely like a thermos bottle, but these things are useful only for heating water.

Some were used by Irish fishermen in the early 20th century, though other versions of the story vary. Anyway, damn clever lot, they. Another reason to love the Irish, if you're so inclined.

The place where you'd have your coffee stored is a firebox. The part around that, where the thermos bottle would have an insulating vacuum chamber, is actually a water jacket surrounding the firebox. Hot gases from a fire of burning twigs heat water in the water jacket as they rise through the central chimney and escape out the top. Kettles like these can rapidly boil water even in windy weather.

More names: Benghazi Boiler, Storm Kettle, Ghillie Kettle, Thermette, Survival Kettle, and so on.

More: "How the Kelly Kettle Works", and what is it, really? And some other stuff...
Company site., Internet Archive, Wikipedia.

 


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Me? Getting all hotted up.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Jet

Jet

1) A small opening designed into a stove through which pressurized fuel passes so it can mix with air and burn efficiently. Jets were slowly developed over centuries by legions of engineers patiently working through a deliberate process of trial and error just so you could have a backpacking stove, you selfish, thoughtless bastard.

2) An opening in the burner of a stove where the flame is produced. Also, the flame itself. (Ffffft!)

3) Still not sure? It's like a snot rocket, but hotter, though generally should not be fitted nasally.

 


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Me? Looking for my pipe cleaner.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Zip Me Up, Jaque

Jacket

Mind the peasants. They have jackets.

 

From the French for jaque, a kind of tunic, possibly based on the generic term for French peasants. Maybe even some of your more distant relatives.

A short, tight-fitting, sleeved coat, waist-length to hip-length, worn on the upper body, as is proper for such garments. If only a shell, it keeps out wind and some cold by forming a bubble of retained, body-heated air next to the body, but can just as well be insulated. May also be breathable, non-breathable, windproof, waterproof, or a combination. Or not. Confused yet?

Example: Jane put on her jacket to keep out mosquitoes and found that it worked. Since it was camo, she instantly became invisible.

And...The outer skin of a potato, sometimes worn as clothing, if the potato is big enough, though less useful in bear country.

 


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Me? Recently drenched in butter and covered with sour cream. The cat now likes me. Worse has happened.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Instant Coffee

Instant Coffee

1) An industrial food having "speed of preparation and long shelf life" but few other redeeming qualities.

2) Dehydrated coffee that can be brewed simply by adding hot water.

3) The beverage variant of freeze-dried food, but not made from pet droppings. Made instead from the dried body fluids of ticks and fleas removed from pets that have been misbehaving.

The bugs are first separated from the target animals and squashed.

After that, the solid parts (feelers, eye stalks, scratchy little feet, shells, and abdominal plates) are removed, and the resulting fluids are dried.

No matter how bad it tastes, it's still high in caffeine, and that's the point. Since this product contains no water whatsoever, it is a useful backpacking food, or a food-like substance, or a drug, or whatever it is.*

The best way of consuming instant coffee is to take a deep breath, put a tablespoonful of the powder on your tongue, and then wash it down with warm water before you resume breathing, or before you start retching, whichever comes first.

If done properly, you won't have to taste a thing but will still get a nice buzz. Which may, of course, turn out to be incipient esophageal Lyme disease.

* Word on the street is that caffeine was developed by plants as an insecticide, so if you're drinking this stuff, it came from bugs that were, however briefly, insecticide addicts.

 


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Me? Not instantly tasty either.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Half Bench

Half Bench

This is a stretch of trail where half the width of the trail tread (the uphill part) is dug out of the original hillside and the outside half of the trail tread is created with the excavated material, which then gets compacted to make it walkable. (And safe, mostly.)

The finished trail tread is part original hillside and part fill, doncha see. This is a way of creating trail tread consisting of equal parts dirt and good intentions. Hard to get right. But then there are sometimes big immovable objects in the way, so what else can you do?

A half bench trail is built half on firm old ground and half on new packed fill, and is a good fit for half-fast hikers.

 


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Me? Recently unearthed. Again.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Glacial Drift

Glacial Drift

Ice dandruff. Frost droppings. Phase-change dust bunnies.

What glaciers leave behind when they become airborne.

It can be anything, but — wouldn't you know — it's most likely to be sand, gravel, gritty sludge, cobbles, small boulders, medium boulders, large boulders, and giant boulders.

Some of this stuff comes from whatever it is that a glacier is pushing around, some falls into streams flowing under a glacier, some collects in ponds or lakes near or beneath a glacier, a certain amount comes from a glacier's back, and, well...like that.

"Glacial till" (another name for this stuff) falls directly out of the ice (as it melts, just before it gets all liquid and runs away downhill or before it evaporates into the sky and flies away on teenytiny molecular wings), and so glacial till isn't nicely layered or sorted by size and weight the way stream debris is by water flowing at different speeds.

And, what's more (Yay! Love this stuff! Free facts!), even in otherwise glaciated country there are areas without drift, such as the southwestern quarter of Wisconsin, a pretty heavily glaciated state (and home of the Ice Age Trail, for crying out loud). There, in the southwest, undisturbed streams have sluiced, ice-free, for hundreds of millions of years and have cut the landscape into myriads of narrow ancient valleys and ridges. And there is no glacial drift at all, because the land there has never been invaded by glaciers. True! Ever so true!

Wow.

 


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Me? Just got my semi-annual scraping. Feels good.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Fabric Calendering

Fabric Calendering

If today is Thursday, we must be in ripstop.

 

Calendering is a process that compacts the fibers in a fabric to make it more wind resistant, among other things, "other things" being, for example, more lustrous, having a glazed appearance, and embossing with various patterns, none of which are the least bit interesting to backpackers. All they want is supper and a cozy place to sleep, so shiny surfaces come in at about 476th place.

Calendering is usually done by running fabric between pressure rollers, sometimes with heat. Usually with heat. It's a technical thing.

Kinda makes me sleepy just hearing about it. You too? So let's quit here.

 


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Me? I suddenly seem to have some pressing business to attend to. Bye.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Funnel Cloud

Funnel Cloud

(1) A "condensation funnel" extending from the base of a towering cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud, associated with a rotating column of air that is not in contact with the ground (and hence different from a tornado).

A "condensation funnel" is a tornado, and not a funnel cloud, if it is either
A) In contact with the ground, and seriously sucking soil, or
B) A "debris cloud" or "dust whirl" (Wheeeee!) is visible beneath it. (Which pretty much means that it is in contact with the ground, eh? Kinda?)

(2) A tornado-like extension hanging down from the base of a towering cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud, and part of a rotating column of air not in contact with the ground. Once it is in contact with the ground or a debris cloud or dust whirl is visible beneath it, it is defined as a tornado. (Totally clear yet?)

(3) The supreme being's suckstraw, juicer of the gods.

Stay away from this one if you can. Don't go up to the railing for a peek.

This is the closest thing we have to an atmospheric black hole, and if it doesn't kill you the flying anvils might. The ones you see swirling around up there. Yes, those are really anvils. Didn't I just tell you not to try getting closer? Man, how dumb are you?

If you had any sense at all you would have turned your bung end toward it and begun moving away smartly, with vehicular assistance if at all possible. Which it usually isn't, if you are in the middle of a backpacking trip, which is why, every now and then, some J. Random Backpacker sort of puckers out of existence entirely, maybe to re-enter reality space near the far edge of a neighboring county, or maybe not. Usually no one cares, but...

The good thing about most funnel clouds is that, like, first, they're clouds, so you can see them, and second, they have this distinctive funnel shape so you can tell them from the other clouds that look like clowns or horsies and such. "Hey, I've heard all about tornadoes," you might say. But no. These are not tornadoes.

The sucking sound is the same, and the flying anvils and all, but funnel clouds are called that because they don't touch the ground. If one touches the ground, then you have a tornado along with all that dust and whatnot that gets in your eyes (in addition to the anvils).

But tornadoes can be surprisingly stealthy. Even invisible. Tornadoes don't need condensation to be tornadoes, which is the thing that makes funnel clouds visible. Which in turn is odd because most tornadoes begin as funnel clouds, in thunderstorms. Oh, life — so surprising at times, innit? Maybe it's time for another beer.

 


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Me? Still spinning in my grave.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Vitamin I

Vitamin I

So, Ibuprofen, or Vitamin I (pronounced as "vitamin eye") — what's the deal?

Well, Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter inflammation-fighter and at some point became the first drug of choice for many hikers.

Considered necessary by some as a form of nourishment for the first week or two of a long distance hike, mostly Ibuprofen helps to buffer the level of excitement associated with the pain of sore muscles and creaking knee joints. It's often thought of as one of the essentials by heavy-duty trampers.

Unfortunate side effects include nausea, dyspepsia, diarrhea, constipation, gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding, headache, dizziness, rash, salt and fluid retention, high blood pressure, esophageal ulceration, heart failure, high blood potassium, kidney impairment, confusion, bronchospasm, and anaphylactic shock.

Can also exacerbate asthma, sometimes fatally.

But hey — how many drugs are perfect, really, even supposedly boring ones?

 


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Me? Totally committed to staying away from legal drugs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Paleozoic Era

Paleozoic Era

The time of "ancient life", way before the backpacking era, from about 250 to 542 million years ago in fact. It saw the development of all classes of invertebrates (except for insects, somehow), the appearance of seed-bearing plants, and of amphibians and reptiles (like some of your high school classmates). Basically it had left the stage of pure slime behind, but wasn't yet up to current standards, and extended from the age of trilobites to that of reptiles (all stuff with legs — still creepy but with legs). Evidently it was considered progress, then.

An era slightly before my time, but I found some good fossils from there crawling around in the closet of a place I rented once. And my uncle Ed kinda remembers it. Says he does. Better him than me. Just being around him usually makes me itch.

 

From Desert Geological Terms Kinda.

 


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Me? Suddenly feeling extinct.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Smoke

Smoke

(1) Gassified food. Made so by overcooking.

(2) Byproduct of making charcoal. (See previous definition.)

(3) Airborne solid and liquid particles and gases emitted by a material undergoing combustion or pyrolysis, and/or/maybe an unwanted by-product of fires from stoves, candles, oil lamps, and fireplaces.

(4) The visible vapor, gases, and fine particles given off by burning or smoldering material. So really, the stuff that comes out of a wood fire, along with light and heat. What gets in your eyes when you try to cook supper. Makes you smell kind of OK, even if you've been on the trail for a week or more without bathing, but does not improve your taste.

(5) What mosquitoes don't like, because it makes them think you've been overcooked.

 


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Me? Still outgassing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Trail Shung And Fwei Too

Trail Shung, And Fwei Too

Trail Shung, And Fwei Too.

By Pat

As you know if you are attuned to Shung Fwei, this is the Year of the Flaming Weasel. What does this mean for prosperous and harmonious backpacking? If anything?

Well, I am here to tell you, being a Certified Practitioner of the Ancient Art of Shung Fwei, holder of a Third-Degree Purple Belt (with tassels), and what I say is "Kung Hei Fat Boy! May you have blister free walking now!"

Armed with my frequently-updated analysis of what the Heavenly Energies have in store for us, and having been recently moved out of a very successful marketing career with assistant duties in purse sales, I think I can say I know what you need as a backpacker. In fact, it is so obvious that anyone should be able to tell, just by a glance in your general direction, or a quick throw of the sticks.

For example, focusing on individual animal signs, with one eye on what the Flaming Weasel is up to these days, it is clear that the next 12 months will be good for those born under the signs of the Chipmunk, Manatee, Sidehill Gouger, Hoedad, Chub-Chub, or Moo-Cow. I mean, obvious, right? Everyone knows that.

On the other hand, if you are a Rabbit, Sheep, Monkey, Ox, Doofus, Dik-Dik, or Dildo, then you may well see some challenging times coming your way. But again, how surprising should that be?

Your Shung Fwei Chart fully illustrates each detail of this and should have alerted you by now. If you don't have a personalized Shung Fwei Chart yet, just drop by, OK? We will soon get you beyond any seductive negativity, into a curing regime of self-enhancement, by preparing a Chart. I also offer family discounts, so stop by soon.

Of the five elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal), we need to decide which is most relevant in the area of backpacks and backpacking. Note that there is no Nylon Ripstop Element, no Spectra or Dyneema, no Cordura, not even a hint of Ballistic Cloth or even a Canvas Element to be found anywhere in the above list.

Do not be dismayed.

At first you may feel distressed, but this is why you need a Certified Practitioner of the Ancient Art of Shung Fwei, for whom everything impossibly confusing is actually trivial. The Elements have come to us from ancient times, when there was not even the dream of Silnylon, let alone Cuben Fiber, but the fundamental principles still do apply. These principles tell us that what your backpack is made of (or even its size, weight, and style) is truly much less important than its color.

For example, Brown is friendly, rich, and grounded, like dirt, or poop (which belongs on the ground), right?

Blue may be the color of water and peace, but it is also the color of adventure and exploration.

Green of course represents life, growing energy, and a mellow, organic high.

And let's not forget Gray. Gray is the color of security, reliability, and durability. Durability is important in a backpack, don't you think? I do, sometimes.

You may surmise that if you weld together a backpack from thick Metal plates, then it will be durable, but not if it is Pink. Pink is the color of love, baby girls, feminine allure, and slumber parties, not backpacks. Pink will defeat all backpacking attempts unless you are a genuinely girly girl. Is this you?

Likewise, White.

White represents marriage, peace, union, and translucent draperies.

So White is then a timely but sad reminder if you are in sore need of new draperies, or have just seen your marriage crash and burn. Your seemingly invincible White welded Metal pack would then feel depressingly heavy and would not serve your needs well at all. It would only bum you out.

Or say your pack was Silver. Well, trustworthiness is not bad, and that is a quality of the Silver color, but do you need romance, glamor, a high tech feel, or a dreamlike experience on the trail? Probably not, especially if you are watching out for snakes.

We Certified Practitioners of the Ancient Art of Shung Fwei are aware of these subtleties and can be of great service for an actually nominal fee, if averaged out over your hiking lifetime, may it be long, as it will be if you keep your monthly payments up to date.

Recently in a relaxing, pre-event dinner attended by many other energetic Practitioners, Yours Truly enjoyed the company of similarly Highly Accomplished Individuals who also straddle the worlds of Shung Fwei and backpacking, just as Myself does. This should be a hint. After dinner was the event, an exposition on the Primary Element for the Year of the Flaming Weasel.

That Element is Metal.

Back to Metal we go! Could you guess?

How surprising is that? Not!

Of all the five elements, Metal is by far the most important this year because the Flaming Weasel is both a natural force and a dangerous one, as you know if one has ever run through camp and into your tent.

The Flaming Weasel's most serious characteristics (the flames, of course, but also its teeth and claws) are inflicted on the Earth element, so necessary to support your backpacking, but they are also significant hazards to the Wood element, not to mention your tent, no matter how precisely it is aligned with the Force. And then there is the skin of your face and arms to think about.

A good way to ensure protection against such afflictions this year is first, as noted, to choose a pack of the proper color. The proper color serves to deflect weasels of all kinds, not just the flaming ones, and does not even require batteries to work. This should be a strong hint right there.

Beyond color, ensure the proper balance of Elements. For your pack, and luckily for you, only one is needed: Metal.

But it does not have to be Heavy Metal, or even Middle Metal, though for maximum self-defense purposes a bar of solid iron is always handy to carry, such as a two foot length of re-bar. But for a pack, no, do this instead: Guarantee that your pack contains sufficient quantities of Metal in a Propitious Surrounding Configuration, and this does not need to be heavy at all.

Vain hikers often try using jewelry or decorative chains strung here and there, but jewelry is ineffective on most trails, not being specifically designed for backpacking, and looks cheap as well, and may clash with your outfit.

It is much better to lightly coat your new pack with an all-organic adhesive and then sprinkle liberally with pure powered aluminum. Or to save money, use boob glitter.

Both of these deflect sunlight, in effect symbolically protecting you from both the Heat of the Sun, and the Hairy Eye of the Flaming Weasel. Because of my divinations deep into the Shung Fwei Esotery (nothing of which I am allowed to share here, so sorry), I have determined that actual Metal is not in fact even necessary as long as the appearance of Metal is maintained.

Thus the suggestion about boob glitter, which is not, as is often thought, even Metal, though it appears so, which is good enough. And it is much less costly. Besides, who even knows what they're putting into aluminum these days anyway?

As in so many aspects of life, appearances are all that really matter, which gets us right back to color, so you may be beginning to get a feel for circular reasoning, the very foundation of Shung Fwei, and why we Certified Practitioners of the Ancient Art of Shung Fwei need to charge what we do.

So, this is all to the good but Metal is only one third of the story. The other two parts are, as in most endeavors, entirely Luck.

Luck comes in two flavors, Heavenly Luck and Mankind Luck.

Heavenly Luck is often the only thing you have to save the place where your tail resides, when you otherwise have no hope at all, so try to stay on the good side of Heaven if you value your tail, and the place it grows from.

Unlike Heavenly Luck though, Mankind Luck comes to individuals who work hard at enhancing their true Fwei-Nature, by constant practice, by doing good deeds, by hard work, by learning and using proper food hanging techniques, and by paying consulting fees on time to their Certified Practitioners of the Ancient Art of Shung Fwei.

Slight cheating is also acceptable in certain circumstances, but never with regard to the invoice.

Beyond all that, get a decent pack from an established company, keep it clean and in good repair, and as always, try before you buy. Keep your receipt.

Other services I provide include in-home or online consultations, corporate seminars, laying on of hands, Shung Fwei slumber parties, gift certificates, marital, investment, and fashion advice, real estate sales, and upbeat, tear-free no-cry funerals.

To receive a free Shung Fwei Tips Brochure, just think good thoughts. Need a website designed? I do that too. Also house-sitting and dog walking, day or night. Just whistle. (Two long and one short. I'll come running.)

 

One of the stories from Bag on your back.

 


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Me? Trying to get this geomancy thing working.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Fung Shway

Fung Shway

Feng Shui

Literally, "Wind and Water" (but pronounced "fung shway", because Chinese). The Chinese art of arranging spaces and elements in an area to create harmonious energy flows and patterns, tempering or enhancing the energy where necessary. Yup, sounds about right.

Fung Shway

The ancient art of flinging bullsnit at the wall, but with a fancy, kinky new name. In case you don't believe it then wallow in these quotes from the back cover of "Feng Shui For Dummies"...

(a) "If you've ever wanted to know anything about Feng Shui, this IS the book to read." — Deborah Rachel Kagan, President, Sacred Interiors.

(b) "David Kennedy has certainly come up with a gem with Feng Shui for Dummies. I highly recommend this read." — James Moser, CEO, Feng Shui Warehouse.

(c) "David has a unique way of organizing the incredible amounts of Feng Shui information into clear, concise, easy to understand principles..." — Ileen Nelson, Director of the Feng Shui Studies Department, The Metropolitan Institute of Interior Design. Available at all fine bookstores. (Look for the sign of the giant bull.)

But back to the F.

As it relates to backpacking, Fung Shway is the esoteric process of breaking down and folding up your backpacking stove and fitting it into a space smaller than the individual parts require. Also called trail shway or stove shway. Spellings vary. It is similar to but distinct from Ray-Way, which, however, is a whole nother and much pricklier universe to explore.

Is also, Fung Shway is, the process of setting up your stove and cook set in such a way as to take the best advantage of the terrain, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and other features such as natural wind breaks and how the spirits are feeling right then. In this application, it is frequently known as cook shway or pot shway. But if pot shway too much, pot tip over, spilling noodles, and supper become ruin. Most unfortunate then.

 


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Me? Brushing up on my noodle sucking, in case.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Abdomen

Abdomen

(1) When applied to an insect, this term refers to the squishy back-end part that contains the digestive, sexual and pooping organs. And the breathing apparatus, if you can believe that. Basically, insects breathe with their butts. But then so do some of us, I guess. We know them as buttheads.

(2) The abdomen is the second most favorite body part of backpackers. It is home to the tummy region, which is where the beer and hamburgers go, or if you're still on the trail as you read this, the noodles and Snickers bars.

(3) Abdomen is a fancy word for gut, which is what you have if your mileage has been too low lately, because you're spending a lot of time in front of the TV keeping up with the Kardashians, but your appetite still thinks that it's way out there somewhere, all sweaty and huffing, on the verge of discovering a new continent.

(4) On the other hand, for hair fetishists, the abdomen is thought of with excitement as the soft expanse below the ribs and yet above the pubic area, strictly speaking, a virtual nature preserve for excess hair. What particularly stimulates them is that this hair sometimes arranges itself into a sort of line connecting the shoal of fuzziness surrounding the belly button to the potentially risky pubic hair triangle, a region fraught with complex and conflicting emotions, and seldom sighted in public.

(5) Not amoebas, not at all. Nothing to do with amoebas. Amoebas, shy little critters that they are, have enough trouble just spelling their name right side up, and don't need or want the extra complexity of dealing with either your abdominal regions or with hair, anyone's hair, and certainly not with hairy abdomens, now or ever.

 


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Me? Still trying to live down that incident with the lava lamp.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Slackpacker

Slackpacker

(1) A laid-back-packer, someone who has a casual attitude toward long-distance backpacking and who is also usually self-sufficient, sometimes carrying a relatively heavy pack just because he wants to have certain important things along, like books.

But actually, no — far more to be like one of the following...

(2) The same as the above, in a way, kinda, but lazier. Someone who has his pack transported to the next campsite so he doesn't have to carry it. A backpacker who isn't really. Isn't really a backpacker. May carry a day pack while someone else shuttles his actual backpack for him. Some call this cheating. Others call it smart.

For instance: "Ed's a slackpacker. He'll take any shortcut, ride, or whatever to keep from walking, but he likes it that way."

(3) Anyone who fits between being a casual day hiker and a serious backpacker, whatever those terms mean. Expect your grade to reflect on the creativity of your answer.

(4) Someone who does a day's worth of hiking without a pack, and then hops in a car and drives home, maybe to finish the rest of the trail later. A form of section hiking but without the effort of carrying a pack.

(5) Someone who already ate all his food, whose pack is empty, and has his head stuck into your pack, looking for something tasty. A parasite, an obligate yogi. Someone who only wants to be your friend, while you want him only to be someone else's friend.

 


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Me? Been there, but then they moved it on me and left no forwarding address.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Gait Cycle

Gait Cycle

The period of time from the heel contact of one foot to the following heel contact of the same foot. (Is usually complete during any 24-hour period.)

Example: Ed's gait cycle was lunar, which was OK since he only hiked in the dark.

And if you want more, for some unhealthy reason, see the "Terminology of Human Walking" at (PDF)

 


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Me? Hard to say. Really hard to say. Probably best not to ask.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Hard-Surface Trail

Hard-Surface Trail

(1) "Hard-Surface Trail" is a euphemism for "Paved Trail", which is a euphemism for "Urban Wasteland Unit". One of these is optimistically defined as a trail tread surfaced with some kind of hard, stabilized material. Lovely, right?

(2) A trail intended to serve multiple uses by providing stable, firm and slip-resistant surfaces, which are always the bestest. Surfacing materials include concrete, asphalt, crushed stones, or native soil with binders. True. Some call that a "trail".

These "trail" things have smooth enough surfaces for street bicycles, in-line skates, and strollers. Many of them are also classed as bicycle pathways which are intended to serve exclusively for pedestrians and bicyclists and form a right-of-way completely separate from motor vehicles. Unless you also get skateboarders, electric scooters, motor scooters, motorcycles, and so on.

(3) A thing longer than it is wide (which makes it a trail-like thing), connecting two points (the beginning and the end). Without the middle part doing the connecting, the ends tend to drift off and get into trouble, but the middle part sometimes has a life all its own as well, especially where "trail" and "multiple-use" and "paved" meet for a showdown.

A hard-surface trail is one that has a tread finished with asphalt, concrete, or anything else that won't wash away or wear down without a fight, and tends to be found in (yes) or near (still yes) cities. (If in doubt about how close you are to a city, you can look for broken glass and used needles.)

If you are interested in sharing your walking experience with street bicyclists, in-line skaters, baby-stroller-pushers, leashed and unleashed dogs, passed-out drunks, panhandlers, and lurking creeps, then a paved trail is a place where you can find excitement.

Hard-surface trails run in what are called "corridors", have pretty-well-defined design and construction requirements, and may close at night, or whenever either the drug dealing or gunfire reach unacceptable levels. But when all that subsides and you get out there you normally find something with a minimum width of 8 feet (2.4 m) having 2-foot wide (0.6 m) shoulders, and enough fit and polish to rank as a Class One Bicycle Pathway. Think about that, a Class One Bicycle Pathway, for your walking pleasure.

Paved trails may even have painted lanes. Think about that too.

And the shoulders, ah. Shoulders, as on a highway. Got it? Shoulders. Another defining characteristic. Shoulders.

(4) Similar alternate multiple-use recreational areas: Interstate Highways. Airport runways. Strip mall parking lots.

Go have fun then. See you later, maybe.

 


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Me? Still searching for that one soft, quiet space not already claimed by cats.