Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Update on Brooks-Range Tarp

After returning home to Georgia, I tested my tarp in the pouring rain. I tested it in the desert environment of Zion, and found 5 workable, shade providing pitches for it.
has a series of short videos showing this.

This tarp shed rain very well, and even the center reinforced hole didn't leak as I expected. It felt wet, but no drops made their way through. I think a better application for this hole is a loop or tab for guy out points. Right now, I haven't decided to sew it shut, though, and will continue to experiment with using it.

More photos and specs are listed on my other blog

I plan to keep this tarp for other uses as well, namely a vapor barrier because of the Velcro sewn around the perimeter facilitates a bag construction.

I definitely enjoyed testing it, and making the videos. It lends itself to creativity. The more you can play with it, the more uses you will find. A fast packer or day hiker could have this as their sole/emergency shelter.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Chef's Knife

Today I volunteered at the Habitat For Humanity Thrift store. I'm a big believer in recycling and using what we have here in America, especially before we buy cheap junk from China.

I sorted bins of toys, unpacked and shelved donations, cleaned furniture, and was rewarded by the trail gods with these two magnificent chef knives. True, one is a cleaver, but both had the blade going the length of the handle and had a hefty balanced feel. I asked the price and was told 50 cents each. Plus tax. I love it. I brought them home, cleaned them with oil and steel wool, and my partner sharpened them. I tested them while cooking supper. Perfect!

People sometimes call this karma. What goes around comes around.
On my way home from the thrift store, I stopped at the recycling center to drop off cardboard boxes, broken down from the donations at the thrift store.
Its always good to chat with the elderly gentlemen who work there.
They remember the old days when people used stuff and knew how to make just about everything they needed, including liquor.

Maybe this terrible economy will help us relearn some of the old skills.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Decluttering and Renewal

I read an article yesterday in yahoo news about a woman who had been missing for 4 months. The husband had set up search teams, there were billboards and people looking everywhere for her. Rescue dogs and rescue teams had even searched the house, but according to a spokesperson, the environmental challenges prevented the successful location of said person.

Woman Lost in Clutter

Then, one day her husband sees feet sticking out from under a pile of Stuff.
The Wife! Oh my goodness.
Now, of course the question arises how did she get under the stuff, and then die? Was she searching for something, and it fell on her? Did she collapse from a heart attack, and the stuff fall on her?

Anytime you can lose a person for 4 months in a home its time to declutter.

I'm taking this opportunity to declutter as well. My stuff is very limited: I'm a minimalist. But, this computer has tons of photos and raw video footage that could use some "recycle bin" time.

I'm going to approach it like a person's home that has been turned over for my assistance:
One bin for the "donate to charity"
One bin for the "recycling bin" (metals, plastic, paper), but in my case, the recycle bin on this hard drive.
One bin for "good stuff", which I will back it up on a disk.
And finally One bin for just throw it away, delete.

Experts say that a decluttering of homes, lifestyles, schedules and probably computers bring freedom. By decluttering actual stuff, we make room for a renewal of spirit and bring a more focused simplicity to our lives.

I believe that is the case. When a person knows what they have, and can actually find it, the search and rescue phases of personal lives disappears. creating more time to spend on the important things.

I even heard where one lady found a piano in her decluttering. Now that's its found, perhaps she can make music again.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Biggest Offenders

Today I walked the back road and picked up trash. Mostly it was beer cans. A few soda cans, a few plastics, one glass beer bottle, but beer cans by far dominated the road trash.

This gravel road is only maintained because it leads up to an old cemetery. There are a few stray houses back here, and then 4 miles more is just switchbacks up to this ancient burial ground. Some crews were cutting blow downs, another mowing, still another hauling gravel to keep it drivable.

Every once in awhile you'll see a hunter back in there. A campsite seldom used is near the creek.
A person's got to wonder about all these beer cans. Seems like it would be easy enough to throw the empties back in the truck and take them home.
A friend suggested that if caught, an open container would bring a fine or worse. For this reason the beer drinkers ditch the can once its open.

There's got to be an answer. Maybe like a "sharps" container or "hazardous waste" container we have at hospitals. Once empty, the beer can gets put in a container that meets the law. A person would be allowed to have unopened alcoholic beverages in the vehicle, or empties in the safety zone. This is way too complicated.
What matters to me is if people are driving drunk and/or littering. Having empties in the vehicle doesn't mean a person is drunk. Not having empties doesn't mean they are sober.
Just smash the thing, put it in an empty Walmart bag and take it home. Add it to the recycling efforts.

Seriously, for those of us who live back in the boonies, we appreciate it very much if people don't throw their empties in our yard.

A big thanks to everyone who helps keep our road ways clean by recycling. Also, to those clubs and groups which adopt sections of road sincere appreciation.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Webcams for National Parks

This link will take you to views of our national parks. Its actual purpose is to show the air quality.

Some parks, like Yellowstone, are so large the weather varies within it. Lake Yellowstone is a couple thousand feet higher than Old Faithful, and always cooler.

Climate Friendly Parks link will help you plan a trip according to weather and has information on what we can do to help along with learning opportunities.

I found the http://www.nps.gov/ website has a lot of good information on it. There are ranger podcasts, upcoming events, search for a park, news and events.

We have a lot of really beautiful National Parks which should be protected, enjoyed and passed on to our children. I've worked in two, cooking at fancy lodges. My most memorable times were spent in the back country, viewing animals, hiking trails.

From desert, to oceans, mountains, canyons, rivers, or glaciers, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Networking at the Thrift Store

Town day is an adventure at times. Its a Walmart-Post Office event, coupled with a visit to at least one of the three thrift stores. Sometimes I also stop at the library, check out books for sale, and read the papers.

One thrift store gives away all magazines. I got three Os (Oprah's magazine). One was a 2003, another 2007, and one a 2008. Now, who has kept these Oprah magazines for all these years? I feel like I'm on a history lesson reading what was called bad economic times in 2003.

Well, one thing led to another and I went down to Habitat for Humanity thrift store. They, like every other non profit place, could use some volunteer help. I said, sign me up for one day a week. The manager and I got to talking about saving stuff, recycling, and reusing stuff.
"Just seems silly to buy all this Chinese plastic crap and throw this good stuff in the landfill", I remarked. She looked at me, and replied, "Maybe the Lord sent you to us!"

Now, that kind of talk makes me nervous. She's a baptist. I'm leaning towards reincarnation, Zen and trail gods. Not sure what that makes me.

But we have some important things in common. Save the planet. Reuse, repair, recycle, reclaim all the good stuff in life.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Play at the Lake

Today David and I went to Lake Joccasse to swim, snorkel and scuba dive.

Going through the local town we could see 14 businesses closed within just 1/2 a mile. A Tuesday afternoon should have been busier in town, some traffic, a few shoppers, maybe tourists.

We hear on the news things aren't looking too good for the housing market, and jobs are still very hard to come by. Will there be an economic recovery that could ever bring back "the good old days?"

Maybe the question is what makes good days? Is it money, or confidence in our future, or just enjoying life?

Today was a lot of fun, good simple fun. I don't scuba so my part was simple. Just swiming, playing with the small fish schooling by the diver's ramp, walking on the trail along the shore. I made a simple backpacking stove, and read a chapter in a book.

We stopped to buy fruits and vegetables from the local produce store. Vine ripened tomatoes, local cantaloupe, cabbage from nearby farm, and some apples. I like to support the small markets when possible.

None of this cost much and was peaceful and rewarding. Those are my goals for the future. Today I just enjoyed life.

Thoreau once wrote "What demon has possessed me that I have behaved so well?".
Perhaps, like today, the demon of contentment.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No Eggs Needed

Today I tested my new slow-burner soda can stove. The stove is a prototype which weighs just 12 grams (3/8th ounce). My video of the first corn bread and pancakes can be viewed on YouTube

First, I used a corn muffin mix which asked for milk and eggs to be added. I only added just enough water to make a stiff batter. No eggs. It tasted wonderful. The first two tries stuck to the bottom of the pan. My final try worked much better because I took it off the heat and just let it finish with the lid on.
The pancake mix only required water. They tasted fantastic. I can really see using this mix and stove on the trail. After backpacking for a week, one thing I miss is real bread. This is a light weight and very packable option.
I plan on using some dehydrated black beans, and making corn bread to go with it. That would be yummy.
Other possibilities would be pancakes with wild berries, cake, or instant soup with hot bread.
I plan to post as I go.
Nutritional stats for the cornbread mix:
8.5 ounce box
6 servings, each 1/4 cup
calories 150
protein 2 grams
That's 12 grams of protein for this product, 900 calories.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Nearly Vegan

Now that I'm home and back on the healthy eating track, Nearly Vegan is my food preferences.

Last night for supper we had salads, boiled red potatoes, and black bean tacos with salsa.

Its the tacos I want to write about today. They were really tasty and seriously healthy.

You start by heating a cast iron skillet with about a tablespoon of canola oil in it.
Place two corn tortillas side by side in it. When they start getting slightly crispy, place one fourth cup of drained black beans mixed with diced onions in the center of each one.
Then fold the sides up over the middle, forming a nice little taco package.
Continue to fry until golden brown. Serve warm with salsa.
We each ate two tacos.

Canola oil is stable and full of omega 3 fatty acids, necessary for good heart and arteries.
Black beans have a lot of fiber and protein.
Onions have antioxidants and just taste good.
Salsa has no fat, vitamin C and many other good things for you.

The new page on this blog Nearly Vegan will have more tips and recipes as I continue to eliminate animal products from my diet.

I'm doing this purely for health reasons, not religious or moral concerns
I feel if people knew about all the chemicals, antibiotics, overcrowding, and inhumane treatment used , it is possible the meat and dairy industries would suffer a big hit.
That's not my goal. My goal is to live a long, healthy life and share what I learn with my readers.

Bon Appetite!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Good Memories

I'm going to miss Zion: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The days off were filled with solo adventures. The days working were filled with learning, compromise, and interaction.

I'm glad I took a lot of photos and footage with my little camera. These memories will last forever. As I age and these crazy explorations are a thing of the past, there will be digital record of my travels.

We seek understanding. I hope my family understands why, yet even I don't. The vast western landscape is a glimpse of heaven. Not a mythical heaven that is preached every Sunday, but a literal heaven we can experience now.

The yin and yang is we can also experience hell. Thirst, exhaustion, bewilderment, confusion of directions. Finding the answers brings elation . It is where I feel myself.

After days of driving home to Georgia I wonder that I forgot how beautiful it is here. Its a forest, damp and enclosed with deep green vegetation. Mushrooms have taken the place of cactus. There are black bears instead of mountain lions. Ticks instead of scorpions. Hornets instead of tarantulas. Still have rattlesnakes, foxes and mice.

Always growing, always changing, challenges are the gateway to glory.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Smoking and Food and Beverage

I've noticed that nearly all food and beverage employees smoke.
It doesn't seem to matter that cigarettes cost a fortune, stinks, and causes cancer. The main concern is getting through the day, the night, the meal service.

Has smoking actually increased? A guy driving in front of me rolled his window down to tip his ashes outside. This used to be cool, I guess. Maybe I'm the one out of touch. The main character in Sex and the City smoked, in spite of her girlfriends encouragement to quit.
We get a lot of bad boy images, images of handsome dudes who smoke.
But listen.
Smoking isn't cool. It stinks. Kissing a smoker stinks. It costs money, pollutes the planet, pollutes the air we breathe. Its optional.

I'm told that it really helps to lower stress. Some people eat to lower stress. That can get out of hand as well. Obesity is on the rise. I read two thirds of Americans are either over weight or obese. Health care costs are rising to meet the demands of an ever sickening society.
What's up with Americans that we have so much stress? Bad economy. Quit spending so much on cigarettes and junk food!
No jobs.
Killing ourselves with cancer and diabetes doesn't solve that either.
I think the answer is in exercise, the free kind that comes with walking and gardening.

Family and friends, enjoying outdoors together, lowering stress naturally.
Cigarettes and overeating is not good for the children, either.
We need sustainable methods that benefit ourselves and the children.

Taking the family camping, teaching love for nature, the simplicity of being and doing, not owning stuff is my recipe for a greener, peaceful life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Economy Driven by Consumerism

Most of our economy is based on consumer goods. In order for our economy to recover, I'm told, we're expected to start consuming.

Whereas some countries have the bulk of their economy based on tourism or exports such as oil, ours is apparently based on its citizens consuming vast amounts of Stuff.

We consume electricity, durable goods, expendable goods and food. We shop, have elective surgeries, redecorate, upgrade and party.
What happens when there are no jobs, houses are in foreclosure and savings have disappeared?
We have to pull back on consumerism. This is a good thing for the planet. Hopefully our landfills will get a breather from the constant contributions made endlessly.
One job households will have to become the norm instead of the thing our grandparents lived in.
Can we do it? Can we actually say enough to advertisers of new and better electronics, new fall collections and the gluttony of Christmas spending sprees?
But, then what of our economy? When gas was $4 a gallon, we learned to do with less. At some point there's a consumer revolt and prices have to go down to attract buyers.
Thats why we can get clothes for next to nothing at Walmart now. Especially if a person waits til the end of season, when they start switching to the next season's collections, good deals can be had for short term clothing. They won't hold up to long term use, but after awhile we get sick of that style anyways.
But, will this type of spending save our Economy?

I have no answers. For me, I've learned the money I don't spend is the money I don't have to earn.
So if the economy and the good old days depend on me, it just ain't looking good.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Not for Wimps

Driving cross country is not for wimps. Neither is it cheap.

The gas in Utah can be so rare, a lone station is welcomed regardless of the price. Nearly a dollar more per gallon than what I've found in eastern Wyoming, I gladly paid it rather than suffer stress as the needle neared empty. And, plus, everyone has to make a living, and the out post gas station is like a gold strike when needed.

Of course, there's the summer road construction, the cross winds and huge RVs and semi trailers three deep that cause consternation. A person just does their best, listening to good music, eating chips and drinking ice water.

I find that gas stations will generally give you free ice in your mug when you buy a tank of gas. I have water in the car.

Motels are another story. Sure, I could camp, but with no trees near I-80 and temperatures hovering in the 90s, a shower will feel wonderful. TV, coffee, and soft bed aren't to be shunned either. Just my luck I pick the exit with more construction. I'll deal in the morning. Everything is easier when you're rested.

I had a good summer in Zion. Family matters have called me home and the managers are very understanding. Of course I must see my son before he heads to Iraq.

New adventures are for next season. I never really know whats coming up next. A spontaneous life has its benefits and disadvantages.
I can only be who I am.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Skills and Passion

I have one day left at work in Zion National Park. I will be training my replacement, a young cook stationed on the saute section of the Line.

One of my most rewarding tasks in Life is teaching, especially when the student is ready and has passion, when its not just their job or an obligation.

Some people just bring passion to whatever they're doing. Maybe they're the kind that don't jump into the things they're not interested in. These people listen, have an open mind, are friendly, but can be very driven.

Driven is good.
Motivating students and employees just takes extra time away from teaching. I would rather have an unskilled person with passion than a skilled person who doesn't care. There are plenty of those. The ones Thoreau said were living lives of desperation, laying up for a sick day while making themselves sick simultaneously.

Give me passion any day, a desire to improve and make the most of every moment.

You can teach skills. You can't teach passion.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fall Is In The Air

The blossoms have turned to fruit. Tiny grapes on grapevines, tiny acorns in scrub oak trees, gourds on the ground vines.

Its been cloudy many days. Yesterday morning I used my cell phone, but reception was difficult. This morning it sprinkled, and clouds again cover the northern skies.

I'm not sure where all the deer have gone. Only one was foraging on the lawn. I only saw a few on my hike. Soon it will be mating season. Perhaps that is done away from the tourists of Zion.

Its been a good summer, but I'm ready to go home. The ups and downs of living in a National Park make good memories.
It helps me appreciate all there is in the real world. It brings a new perspective to the tourist industry. A person can build skills in their field while meeting interesting people from around the world and enjoying fabulous hikes on days off.

Fall is a time of bringing fruit to maturity. This can be taken both literally and spiritually.
The shorter days, cooler nights remind us that to everything there is a time and season. The fruit matures so animals can feed and gain weight for winter, and new plants will sprout in the spring.

Fall is in the air. Kids are heading back to school. I'm getting ready to enjoy a winter by the fireplace.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Last Week in Zion

In one week I'll be handing in my uniforms, badge, name tag and keys. I'm leaving Zion, having cooked for employees and then on the Line for fine dining. This was my goal. I really loved and hated it.

The love is all about the fine food, learning new recipes and skills. Hiking on days off, meeting new people. I walk around the kitchen realizing it all will soon be memories:
all the dirty rags and the "dungeon" where we have our own kitchen washer and dryer.
The walk-in cooler, rapid chill, freezer and produce walk-in.
The various ovens, each with their own idiosyncrasy. The warmers , each set correctly, but having different levels of accuracy.
The co-workers with their skills, moods, and peculiar tendencies.

I've worked in many kitchens in my life time. Some are so large, it really takes awhile to figure out where everything is kept. Some so small, it all fits on one side of a room.

Its not the amenities of a kitchen that make one happy. Its the camaraderie of the employees and the pride taken in a job well done.
Without that, and with a clashing of egos, everyday becomes a battle. I have hated the battles and the belief that to raise up one's selfesteem one must lower anther's.

One does not have to fight the battle. One must learn to disengage.
I read Every Step is Peace while here in Zion. A Buddhist munk from Vietnam wrote it. He teaches how to smile, and believe in interconnectedness.
I'm taking that to work with me this last week.
I'm collecting memories for the rest of life's journey.