Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stumphouse Tunnel Park and Trail

I've driven by this place for over 11 years. It was about time I stopped and checked it out.
There are lots of picnic tables, a very cool, albeit somewhat dry, waterfall. Its called Issaqueena Falls, and named for an Indian Maiden who hid from her Cherokee captors way back when.

The double yellow blazes warn of a turn in the trail. Many have cut the switch backs so this was needed.

Because its still hot enough for poisonous snakes and bees, and I didn't bring my bear spray, I've elected to come back in the fall when color is better and its also not so hot.

There were many garbage bins designed to be bear proof. This is an excellent clue to how many problem bears must be in the area.

The steep trails climbing up the mountain are well worn, and very lush. Its hot and humid still.

Apparently before the Civil War, there was to be a railroad built to connect Charleston, S.C to Cinncinati Ohio. It would have been over 5,000 feet long when completed, and 260 feet at the deepest place. Slow progress due to the incredibly hard rock left the tunnel unfinished and without funding at the onset of the War. Afterwards, the tunnel was never completed.

There are several trail displays detailing the history of the area. This park is open 10 a.m to 5 p.m then the gates close. Its about 5 miles east of Wallahala, S.Carolina. The picnic pavillion and abundant picnic tables make it a great place for locals to enjoy an outdoor gathering.

I definitly plan a second day long excursion into this tunnel. I had a solar powered LED with me, not nearly bright enough for the 1,600 feet available to its end. The plaque warns not to wear the same clothes or shoes into this cave as another because fungus can infect each caves bats. Bats.
Well, I'll keep that in mind and come prepared.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My First Novel Is Published

Several years back I wrote and published my first book, My Journey to Freedom and Ultralight Backpacking.
It was all completely true account of my hikes and completion of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. As non fiction and a discussion of my ultralight techniques, it felt fairly straightforward, albeit, emotional at times.

Then I did the cookbook, Everything Except Corn Pasta. It too is non fiction. Both are available world wide via Kindle, and Kindle for PC at

On my drive home from the Tetons this summer, a story began fermenting in my mind. It took on a life of its own, and it is the first fiction novel I've published. You can see it at Kindle by clicking on this link:
Measured Response (Book 1 of the trilogy:End of Days)

Needless to say, I've learned a lot with this first book. It became an emotional out of body experience nearly. Well, like I said, nearly. This photo below sort of fits, so I inserted it for your amusement.

I found that each morning while hiking on my normal jaunts, the best ideas and "corrections" would take place. I started bringing a tiny notebook, and stopped mid stride to jot down  notes. Then, I'd go home and write. But it's not over.
The second book, Journey North, due out end of October, is a continuation of  this trilogy I call  End of Days. I've had to research and develop skills to incorporate them in these works of fiction, a passion of mine anyways.

May all your trails have meaning.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Innovations and the Lowly Bleach Bottle

Innovation is the Ultralighter's best friend.

A common technique for teaching innovation involves the use of one lowly empty gallon jug, I personally prefer the bleach bottle for this.

Everyone has a bleach bottle at some point in time. If not, you can use an empty laundry soap jug, a milk jug or other bottle, preferably with a built in handle. It helps individuals get creative to add this feature.

Think of as many ways as possible to use the jug. An obvious starting place is to store clean water in case of power outage. In winter, don't fill the jug all the way or it could burst if the water freezes. I use laundry soap bottles for storing water only meant for washing. Seems it never looses that slightly soapy taste, no matter how many times it gets rinsed.

Ok, that was easy. Another way is to cut a square out of the middle front panel, and make a bird feeder. Screw the cap on so it sheds the rain. Hang it by the handle.

Cut the bottom off and turn it upside down to create a funnel.
Cut either end off at a wide angle, leaving the handle to create a scoop. Use at the beach in the sand, or in the garden, for cat litter, to bail water, etc.

Cut the bottom off and use to protect delicate seedling transplants in spring.

Cut the top off to create a bowl, or wash basin. Add some holes to allow drainage and it becomes a planter. Decorate with magic markers for a cool kids project. Cut  evenly spaced 3 inch slits into the sides to weave colorful cloth or yarn and it becomes an art project.

Fill with sand or pebbles and create an anchor for tarps or tie downs.

Cut 3 x 6 strips out of the bleach bottle to create trail markers. I saw that on the northern section of the Appalachian Trail. Makes sense. They last forever, easy to install, exact dimensions and never fade.

Cut them into exact height to use for drawer deviders. I would go with a rectangluar soap bottle. Round is ok, but the colored bottles might be cuter.

Ok, you got the idea. By cutting off the things we don't need, we fashion what we already have (and might have thrown away if not recycled) into valuable items. We decide the correct demensions and end up with custom gear.

Ultralighters take this same approach when paring down their gear, designing new stuff, and reworking camping equipment to function for long trails.

I've been invited to share my passion and teach some classes this fall. This is going to be a lot of fun for me because I've been doing this a long time and it never gets old.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Please Translate this Study Result

Found in the Local Food Guide, Georgia Organics 2011-2012

"Adolescents who participated in garden-based nutrition intervention increased their servings of fruits and vegetables more than students in two other groups. Although further research is needed, the results of this study seem to indicate the efficacy of using garden-based nutrition education to increase adolescents consumption of fruits and vegetables. (Mcaleese, J.D. & L.L. Ranklin 2007)"

This lends itself to a  series of questions:

What is a garden based nutrition intervention? (Put that stinking twinkie down, here, eat this cucumber?)

What two other groups? (Latch key kids, free range kids, kids who pack their own lunches?)

How long did this study go on? (Please don't tell me we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to find out that kids who had adult supervision and encouragement to eat more garden foods did so.)

The study seems to indicate? ( The data must be pretty shabby if that's all it accomplished)

I find this kind of thing misleading and ridiculous. Kids who become involved in their own health will do better than kids without leadership and opportunity. Garden based nutrition intervention? I wonder if this is being done in the school cafeteria, with real food on the menu.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Using a Compass-Review Skills

After awhile if a person doesn't use a skill they forget how, or else, it takes awhile to reorient oneself to that skill. This is a great link, among others, to get a person comfortable with map and compass again.

A lot of folks take a GPS with them, or a cell phone. Relying on batteries or satellite delivery can leave a person in deep trouble. The most important equipment we have is our brain.

I'm doing some refreshing myself.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bears Behaving Badly, or Normally, Basecampers Beware

Here's a link for the bear story outside Helen, Georgia. This town is not far from the Appalachian Trail, although many hikers don't visit it because they just finished going through Neels Gap, a store right on the trail.
The video is very good, and you'll enjoy listening to these local people.
Of course, cell phone coverage is spotty at best, and there are a lot of black bears. Many bears are becoming used to people, especially on the trail. Hang your food decently, and be aware of smells on clothing and gear.
I marveled that the report would say food was scarce this time of year. Its fall, its actually harvest time, seeds and acorns, roots and fruits are mature.
Interesting stuff.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rechargeable Solar Lights-Gear Review

This yard light has batteries which are recharged by solar power. Each night when it gets dark, they come on automatically. The darker it gets, the better the light shows up. These photos don't really do them justice.
We have 6 stationed in the front parking area, a nice way to light up the yard at night without costing anything except the initial few bucks apiece. These are Westinghouse, and weigh 4.5 ounces each. I thought they might even be nice for a base camp.

I found this half ounce "forever" solar powered flash light at Walmart. I bought two, one for backpacking and one for the key ring. My only suggestion for the manufacturer-a switch to keep it on. Right now, a person has to hold the button down for the light to stay on. Sometimes that can be tricky when you're hunting a piece of gear at night.

I love the weight, the durability, and the brightness. I've had it 18 months and its still going strong. My friend had one that quit on him. He laid it out on the table for three days. It seemed to be just what it needed, and it started working fine.

The brand name of the flash light is Rayovac.
Sometimes battery powered gear works better than solar.
I like to support the solar industry.

As we see with personal computers and cell phones, widespread public usage increases profitability for the industry. I believe the technology will become more affordable and deliver greater service as competition for the consumer dollar increases.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Still Waters Run Dangerously

After reading the story here about the brain eating amoeba found in warm, calm waters, I just thought I'd share it with you.

One of our favorite trail things to do was find a nice pool of water and take a swim. Sometimes a person can time that just right. The heat of the day, after a light lunch, which is the norm, actually, a person would be so tempted to chuck the pack and wade right in, trail clothes and all.

These nice warm pools are more likely to harbor rapidly growing bacteria, though. Snakes could be swimming, yes, amazingly copper heads do swim near shorelines, as well as rattlers.

The most dangerous critters I've come across, however, are bees, especially those that build their nest under rotted logs. I've been stung six times while running away from a weed cutting expedition. Trail maintenance can become hazardous unless its very cold and the bees are sluggish or dormant.

Whats so aggravating is they don't even bother to buzz a warning before stinging. I would run if I heard them buzzing.

At first I thought maybe I'd grabbed a pricker, like a raspberry bramble, until suddenly several were stinging me. Off I run, shedding clothes like a boy bound for skinny dipping.

The other day I was working in the garden oblivious to them peacefully swarming my ankles. My friend pointed them out and I backed away from the entrance to their underground home. I avoid that place now.

There are a lot of dangers out there, but like Thoreau said, We sit more risks than we run. Its not even the big things that can kill a person, like bears or snakes.

Sometimes I wonder how the human race has survived so long.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Coleman Solar Shower Test

I found its much easier to take a solar shower if you have an easy way to raise it high.
I installed this heavy duty hook years ago, and decided to use it for my shower hook.
Sling it just as you would a bear bag, raise it to the height desired, and anchor the rope.

I put the water in the bag at 10 a.m. By 1 p.m. it was too warm! There is a warning printed right on the bag itself that temperatures may reach over 120. They have that right. I waited for it to cool a little, then enjoyed a nice shower. I had plenty of water to wash my hair as well.

This piece of gear is good for base camping or dry docking in remote areas. I didn't install a shower curtain because this area is very private already.

For $8 at Walmart, I can enjoy a hot shower, cost free.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Off On a Novel Adventure

I'm writing my new book, a novel this time. Its fun, hard work, all consuming and becoming a lifestyle. Scary.

Based on an End Time scenario of survival and betrayal, I find myself learning many skills. I realized that being able to render fat into usable lard from wild hogs and bears would come in handy. Native American skills of brain tanning and net fishing would be advantageous.

I've thought much about various types of personalities and how they would handle the crisis. How many people would become subservient just to have food for the belly? How many would turn in their best friend for a seat at the table?

Then what if you found out stuff about your neighbor that left you tossing awake at night?

I'm pondering all the skills, emotional aspects, and warfare my people must go through. I'm learning about the research that's needed just to write a decent novel.

Anyways, that's what I'm up to lately, and my other blog, the female survivalist, is documenting some of my research into the skills aspect.

I plan to have it available at Kindle end of September.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fine Art of Failure

The is an unlikely place perhaps to glean inspiration. This guy named Schumpeter wrote an article  called Fail Often, Fail Well.

He quotes A.G Lafley, a successful ex-boss from Procter and Gable as saying that "we learn much more from failure than we do from success."

And its true. Failure can teach things that success takes much longer to instill. My best friend's dad always taught him that bought experience was the best kind, meaning if it hits you in the wallet (time or money) you'd remember that lesson forever.

The main thing with a successful failure is stepping back and analyzing what happened.

"Thomas Edison performed 9,000 experiments before coming up with a successful version of the light bulb," Schumpeter wrote. I didn't know that. Imagine how discouraged he could have become. Probably T. Edison wouldn't have blogged on all those failures either. Somethings just have to be done in private.

All the new ideas we see for gear, tents, equipment and extreme sports are exciting. We can expect to see failures due to all this creativity, and if this guy is right,  it will be followed by great success.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Women Sets Record Of Fastest Hike

I'm all about empowering women. This story tells about a 28 year old female who sets a record hiking the Appalachian Trail . This is her third thru hike. I'm glad she did her first one the old fashioned way: backpack, tent, and food, an "unsupported" journey of self discovery.,ga

I have some fond memories of nights spent in trail shelters. Wondering who would pull in and how bad they'd smell. Wondering if I would find space in a shelter on a rainy night, or if I would have it all to myself. I learned if I didn't set up my tent, I could pack up in minutes and not worry about condensation either.

I fondly remember hikers spread across the shelter, laying like so many peas in a pod while Radio Flyerr asked How much would you need to be paid to eat a night crawler? He ended up with the lowest bid, and if it hadn't been so late, we'd probably have pooled our money to come up with the $20 bucks and someone would have found the worm for him. Course, Radio Flyer was a Tennessean dude, and probably had experience eating worms.

I fondly remember that last night trying to sleep while my stomach growled in anticipation of the morning hike into town. A resupply meant eating as soon as I got to anyplace selling food, grocery shopping, another snack before heading out. It probably meant running into trail friends I'd met and lost track of along the way. Not all of signed the same trail registers or slept in the same trail shelters.

I fondly remember peeling off socks and shoes in a trail shelter in Maine and the grandmother pleading with me to let her massage my thru hiker feet. Her grandkids were maybe a bit embarrassed, but they also wanted to listen to everything we talked about.

The miles of pain and agony I seldom even think about. Thats why I kept a good journal. I fondly remember so much of it that I would gloss it over when telling the stories, stories that hopefully will also inspire women to get out there and enjoy life.

I'm not against slack packing. One guy had his wife meet him every 20 miles and take him to a motel or established camp. Like our record setter, he made good time, saw his family every night. We scrounges called the white van she drove The Slack Mobile. I think he missed out, maybe we're the ones who did.
We'd live on ramen and oatmeal and slept on the dirt, made cups of coffee instead of pots of the brew.
The same clothes worn daily for months on end. Who knew one pair of shorts could last five months.

I post this just to give hikers the memories side of the story, and a warning, don't try to set the new record. I heard a few other kinds of records: Ed Garvey visited every shelter on his thru hike, my life partner had the longest thru hike in '92, how about the cheapest thru hike? How about the most nights out without seeing a person. On the PCT we went 10 days without seeing another soul up in section O, I believe it was.

Anyways, happy trails. Just saying.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Solar Shower by Coleman-A Trail Story and Review

I hiked the Colorado Trail, all 468 miles at the time. Its been rerouted a little so its somewhat longer. Do it if you get a chance. Its a marvelous above treeline experience.
Nearing a resupply point, we came upon a trail crew by Copper Mountain. They invited us to stay for supper, enjoy a hot solar shower and spend the night. We accepted and had a great time of companionship. The shower held five gallons, and was plenty warm. Amazing experience. Many thanks to the Colorado Trail crew for their generosity.

Today I bought a solar shower made by Coleman. Surprisingly it only cost $7.88 at Walmart. Holds 5 gallons, and the directions say it takes about 3 hours to heat.
I have plans to use it for outdoor showers this summer, washing dishes, and basically have it for base camping.

This heat wave we've been going through made me think of turning this "lemon" into lemonade by utilizing the constant sunshine. I have it laid across the trunk of my Geo, a naturally hot spot anyways.

The red shower end is adjustable. I'll report back after more testing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to Send a Box Without the Post Office

Amazingly, this USA story had it right. Long distance hikers on trails do love the Post Office. We come to view it as standard procedure for shipping transitional supplies to ourselves. No one is needed as a support person back home if we do this via Bounce Boxes.
Read this article for a very realistic picture of how it goes, ideally.
There are places on the trail that have no readily accessible post offices. At those times, a person knows they'll be resupplying at the nearest gas station for enough to make it to a decent road where they can hitchhike to a nearby town. Some hitch hikes involve 20 miles in one direction. You want to choose a town on a busy road  or  you could be standing there a very long time.
There are trail towns with hiker hostels nearby. Sometimes the owners will let you mail yourself a package with their address on it. Vermillion Valley, on John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail, and the Sauffley's in Aqua Dulce are just two examples. Every year these places can change their policies so its always wise to check first as you plan your hike.
There are motels along the highways which will allow you to mail a package to yourself if you have a reservation with them. I saw several hikers making up resupply boxes to ship to themselves at these places instead of post offices mainly because the motels are open 24-7 whereas tiny post offices had unusual hours.
No doubt long distance hikers and section hikers will determine these key spots and everything will go on just fine. The Pacific Crest Trail has a dedicated website and there are many forums for Appalachian Trail questions.
If you chose to mail yourself extra clothing to get through the Whites on the AT, or through the John Muir higher elevations, if you can ship something that you are willing to donate to the hiker boxes at the end of that section, you can eliminate the need to ship it back home. North and South bounding hikers on the AT can take advantage of these hiker boxes and generosity much easier than those on the PCT because the traffic and common towns are much fewer on the PCT.