Wednesday, June 29, 2022



(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.


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Me? Chuffed about something.



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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



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



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?