Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pause

Dear Readers,

It looks like I don't have the time to maintain an active blog. I'm graduating college, looking for a job, and playing outdoors too much to devote time to this venture. I'm also taking off for twenty days sea kayaking in Baja on which I'll be blissfully unplugged. While I'd love to keep this up, I'm not sure I'm ready to do it. I might keep up the occasional posts but don't expect much.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Doing the Duty

I recently wrote a paper explaining how to properly defecate in the woods. It's not comprehensive but I think that it's practical, readable and a good introduction. I've posted it in the comments (see below) because it is quite long.

Fun Underground

Last Sunday I spent the day crawling around in mud. My brother and I joined the a handful of other members of the Diablo Grotto of the National Speleological Society for a day in Hell Hole cave. This cave is fairly popular as it virtually located on the UC Santa Cruz campus.

While it's an activity that isn't suitable for people with fear of tight spaces, caving is a ton of fun. The feeling of passing through a "squeeze" provides one of the most calming forms of adrenaline I've ever experienced. This particular cave doesn't have many formations partly due to it's small size but largely due to the fact that so many people pass through it. It trends down and away from the entrance to, I was told, six or so feet from the other side of the mountain. There are some 20-25 foot sections of slithering on your belly or back and some small drops. There are also some really cool things that people have left behind but I won't reveal what they are.

As a hiker, I was particularly astounded by the power of caving headlamps. Some of the fellows on this trip had headlamps with 20+ LEDs. One guy even smelled and looked a little like a mole...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Wild Commodification

The Outdoor Industry Association released what I consider a somewhat gloomy report detailing retail sales during the spring/summer season. Their data shows that equipment sales continue to decline while apparel sales grow. This reflects poorly on the state of outdoor recreation. Fewer people are actually participating in outdoor sports but more people are buying the "image". Companies are starting to rely more and more on image apparel and less on equipment sales.
According to OIA's report, sales in the Outdoor Specialty and Outdoor Chain channels increased 3.5% during the spring / summer season compared to the same period in 2004. The majority of growth was driven by increased sales in the apparel category (up 3.1% in Outdoor Specialty and 16% in Outdoor Chain) and footwear categories (up 16.5% in Outdoor Specialty and 6.7% in Outdoor Chain). At the same time, equipment sales fell 12.3% in Outdoor Specialty stores and 7% in Outdoor Chain stores.
This trend is also seen in the declining use of National Parks and other public lands.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wilderness Medicine Lecture

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the last in a two part lecture series by wilderness medicine legend and guidebook author Ben Schiffrin. The three and a half hour free presentation hosted by Outdoor Adventures, UC Davis covered heat illnesses, snake bites and lightning strikes. Two weeks before the topics included hypothermia, frostbite and altitude sicknesses. Schiffrin's a great lecturer and it was a good call to focus on a few of the most important topics and do it in detail.

Just a few of the more interesting (not necessarily the most useful) things I learned:
When sweating from your forehead, you're losing about 1 liter per hour. People who are acclimatized to hot temperatures actually sweat more. Up to 4 liters per hour! Marrathon runners lose on average 9 liters of water. You brain reacts primarily to skin temperature when deciding whether it's hot. This has huge implications such as placing ice on a hyperthermia patient will make them shiver and produce more heat.
Exertional Heat Stroke has a mortality rate of 50% which is very, very high! Rapidly cool by any means. In the wilderness, a light layer of wet clothes is a good tactic.

Only one person has been killed in California (except the Mojave) by a snake bite since 1980.
Don't use suction, ice or constriction. Just use your car keys and get them out.

Death rate by lightning is probably less than 10%; because most strikes are "splash type" not direct hits. If the victim is alive, they're likely to remain that way.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"The only powder to get high on, falls from the sky."

I'm not sure if I really want to start this up but I'm going to give it a shot.

I admit it, I'm a gear junkie. No really, I have TONS of gear. Well, not tons, maybe only a single ton or so. I have enough stuff to completely outfit 3-4 people for a wide variety of conditions and sports. And guess what? I'm going to make public all new significant purchases. It's not healthy to continue hiding my actions from those who love me. Seriously, I'm not doing this to brag.

Yesterday, I bought a new snowboard off of SteepandCheap.com. It's a big honkin' Winterstick Severe Terrain and it's one of the oldest, most highly regarded boards on the market. One that's built for big mountain, hard charging riding. Paid $125 for a board that retails for $550. Ahhhhhh.....

Pacific Crest Trailway

One of the most interesting ebooks I've come across in a long time is a copy of the Pacific Crest Trailway. Published in 1945, this rare book chronicles a trail that is 510 miles shorter and has many miles of road walking. The author talks about the wilderness qualities, the backpacking experience and the details of the journey in language that is easily readable but a little unusual for today's audience. I enjoyed how Mount Rainier was declared "the most inspiring mountain in the United States" (p. 43) and the introduction to the chapter on Backpacking Exploration is praiseworthy as well.
Backpacking provides ... a cross-country exploring program of romance and adventure that creates self-reliance, personality and leadership. It comes into close companionship with the wilderness in an environment of deep solitude, free from the sights and sounds of a mechanically disturbed Nature. It arouses a love for nature and hardy pioneering that is vitally needed in our too artificial civilization.
Yes, Yes, Yes!
Credit goes to lonetrail on PCT-L for pointing this out.

Guide Life

The Seattle Times printed a worthwhile piece on working as a wilderness guide. Some of the article is a little bland but there are some good points. The article focuses on NOLS which, if you didn't know, is the biggest in the business.

I learned that "of the 520 NOLS instructors, only 36 work 25 weeks a year"?. Sounds like a lot of free time for playing right?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Slowing Down on the Trail

Tom over at Two-Heel Drive has a great piece On Stillness. He points out how many of the most amazing things in nature are only seen when one stops moving and takes a break.

Recently, in an attempt to reconnect to the outdoors, I've started bringing art supplies. Water colors, drawing pencils and paper don't cost much and their worth their weight in gold. Sit down on a log and paint a landscape or a leaf and you'll see how the act of making art forces one to look at the details around you. Drawing and painting lets you see in a way that photography doesn't.

Sporks-a-lot

It's always nice to be able to satisfy gearlust at an affordable price. One such instance is the Light My Fire Spork. This gizmo is a plastic fork/spoon/knife hybrid.

I like to carry a minimal amount of gear on backpacking trips so this new toy is a nice addition. Since the age of twelve I've made do with only a spoon. You can eat everything with a spoon that you can with a fork I preached. But heck, if you can carry a fork at no extra weight, why not? I've been a resister to the spork in the past because I couldn't justify paying $10-15 dollars for a single utensil. So when I saw the Light My Fire Spork over at BackpackingLight I was intrigued. When I saw that it's lighter, and it's cheaper: I bought. It's in the mail, free shipping too.