Showing posts with label camping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label camping. Show all posts

August 31, 2018

I Was Here, Where Were You?


Encountered in the Wet Mountains

I feel like I have been somewhere, that is for sure. I was on-deadline the second half of August, and while the grass grew and the dog's walks were a little shorter than they should have been, I bashed out the 8,000 words required. But I missed blogging.

Now I am at a Secret Location in far-northern New Mexico, clearing out my emails. It's nice when Secret Locations have decent wifi.

Meanwhile: here are a few things of interest.

How they used to burn the prairies. Not just the prairies. As I ride Amtrak through the Midwest, I often mentally conjure a dry, breezy day and a line of people with drip torches. (Link goes to video.) I mean, there used to be buffalo in Kentucky.

• I remember my dad walking through our garden in the Black Hills, pulling the husks off ears of corn, and tossing them away with a curse if they were infected with smut. Sadly, he did not know that the Ancestral Puebloans (and the Aztecs) considered Ustilago maydis to be a delicacy and derived nutritional benefits from eating it!

• From Women's Outdoor News, some tips and hacks for better family car-camping. With S'mores, so you know it is family-friendly.

June 09, 2017

It's Time to Fire Up the Coleman Lantern

Last weekend at Sylvan Lake State Park, the solar lantern just was not bright enough for both M's and my reading, so I fired up the single-mantle Coleman lantern to illuminate the trailer.

Coast to coast, this lantern has illuminated many campsites. It heated my old van on waterfowling trips in the San Luis Valley as the temperature plunged well below freezing.

As best I recall, it came from the garage of an old smelter worker's cottage on Cañon City's unfashionable south side, after a co-worker rented it.

(I lived next door. Those were not shining times.)

With new washers in the pump and a new globe, it was back in operation.

The special pungency of Coleman's blended white gas, poured through the distinctive filter funnel — bright red, so you don't leave it sitting on the picnic table, as I almost did last Sunday.

You spin the cleaning lever, pump it, light it, pump some more, open the gas — OK, I admit it sounds like starting a Model T Ford or something like that.

Apparently an ad for the British market.
I never heard of the "Empire" model.
Maybe it's that early-20th-century technology. But it works — and you don't send empty gas canisters to the landfill or let them pile up at Base Camp for someone else to deal with.
Some people say Aladdin lanterns are quieter and better, but growing up in Colorado and South Dakota, I never saw one.

Back in the 1980s when I occasionally served as a camp hand for a local outfitter in return for free outdoor adventure, I heard this story from one of the clients.

He had been looking for a little store that existed or was supposed to exist near Red Wing in Huerfano County because we were low on Coleman mantles, the original kind that you tie on with cold-numbed fingers.
 
As the client stood by his truck, he recalled, this ranchman rode up on horseback. When he learned what the problem was, the horseman pulled out his billfold, opened it, and extracted a mantle, which he handed down, saying, "Some fellows carry condoms, but up here, these are more valuable."

Or maybe he said "carry rubbers." Anyhow, if it's not true, it should be.

May 24, 2015

On Attracting and Repelling Bears

• Illegal campsites are usually trashy. Yes, that's a stereotype, but stereotypes have to come from somewhere. And when you have trash in the Colorado mountains, you have bears. Hungry bears. Bears that don't want you to get between them and the food.

Man gives bear the angry-hominid treatment in a Swedish forest  (You Tube).

I have been told that Eurasian brown bears, Ursos arctos artos, like North American black bears, are generally shy of people. Is that because they both primarily live in forests? (But some live on steppes, I know.)

Likewise, some argue that grizzly bears, Ursos artocs horribilis, which were originally found on the prairies (although often in riparian corridors) and polar bears have a "take no prisoners" attitude because they have nowhere to seek refugre if, for instance, their cubs are threatened.

Evolution or adaptation to pressure from humans?

Black bear mamas — and I have seen this a couple of times — will send the cubs up a tree and run away themselves. Whether that is for self-preservation or to lure away the perceived threatening agent, I will let someone else decide.

• If you have read this far, you too are fascinated by people's complex relationship with bears. One takeaway from David Rockwell's Giving Voice to Bear — which includes some northern European as well as North American cultural material — is that bear-hunting must be the most ritualized of all hunting.

More than any other animal, Bear is not only quarry but teacher. A great deal of "bear magic" is not just hunting stuff but herbalism. People say that they or their ancestors learned how to cure from watching bears — or from getting the power of bears.

But can bears teach them how to live in the woods?

October 06, 2014

"Someone" Was Living in that Hole

Nine years after the big fire.
Monday we hiked one of our favorite old trails, severely burned over in 2005. That fire was followed by a flash flood the same summer, wiping out parts of the trail, and then came an influx of invasive weeds. The weeds are not so bad now — there is more grass — but you still have to pick your way over trunks of dead trees that have toppled in the intervening years.

More linkage

M. is enough of an animist that of course she would say, "Someone is living in that hole," as opposed to "an animal of some sort." Isn't an animal "someone"? (It's the second item under "Sept. 15.")

Recent severe forest fires in Colorado are not a "departure from the norm," say University of Colorado researchers. " Modern fires in these Front Range forests are not radically different from the fire severity of the region prior to any effects of fire suppression." In other words, we are still feeling the effects of the 1910–present regime of fire suppression.

Bicycle commuting supposedly skyrockets — but in Colorado Springs, it's all about fun, not about going to work. "The Springs is probably the best city along the Front Range for mountain biking," said Tim Halfpop, manager of Old Town Bike Shop on South Tejon Street. "But we're the worst for road riding and getting around town."

The founder of Wiggy's, the low-profile but respected outdoor gear maker in Grand Junction, is promoting lamilite, a continuous-fiber synthelic insulation. I am just re-reading Ernest Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, set in the mid-1930s during the Spanish Civil War, in which the American protagonist, Robert Jordan, extolls the virtues of his eiderdown-insulated "robe," for which he paid $65 — more than $1,000 today, according to one calculator. Makes Wiggy's bags look like a deal.

Rich French diners are still chowing down on endangered birds. It's tradition, you see. "Captured Ortolans are kept and fed heavily for at least three weeks until they resemble a small fat ball. Once they reach a specific weight, the unfortunate birds are drowned in a French liqueur called Armagnac, before being prepared or sold. In France, the price for such a peculiar 'delicacy' easily reaches 150 Euros ($189 US)."

Did I mention that ze artiste Christo has admitted that his plan to hang plastic panels over the Arkansas River is "at a standstill"? No doubt some art auction house will sell copies of his legal filings. It's all conceptual, you see.

July 07, 2014

Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge - Part 4

Missouri-Pacific Railroad tourism brochure, 1927

Selling the San Isabel to Out-of-State Visitors

The first post in this series described Arthur Carhart's vision for scenic roads connecting campgrounds, picnic grounds, and private resorts in the Wet Mountains, the "cradle of car camping."

But what about out-of-state visitors? From the designation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 into the 20th century, many North American tourists arrived at the nearest railway station to their destinations.

Then they might walk or take a coach to the nearest hotel. Some were grand, like the Banff Springs Hotel, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1888–89. From the hotel, they could self-guided or escorted tours, such as by stagecoach from Livingston, Mont., into Yellowstone under U. S. Army escort (the Army patrolled the park until 1918, when the National Park Service took over). 

The Baver Li Lodge on Highway 165, late 1920s or 1930s.
The Missouri Pacific RR operated a route west from St. Louis to Pueblo, Cañon City, and on to Salt Lake City via Grand Junction. Eager to attract passengers, it provided this 16-page brochure about the San Isabel National Forest, "Colorado's newest playground." 

According to the grandson of the Baver Li Lodge's founders, the Missouri Pacific tried to buy the lodge (built in 1927) in 1929, but his grandparents would not sell. (It closed as a lodge in the 1960s but is still in the family.)

The brochure offered numerous one, two, and three-day automobile tours, for example, this one booked through the San Isabel Forest Tours Co. of Pueblo: 
"No. 1" — One day. Includes automobile transportation and mid-day dinner. From Pueblo via Rye and Willow Creek Camp to Squirrel Creek Community House [Lodge] for dinner; returning through Squirrel Creek Canyon [Colorado 76], Pine Drive to Pueblo. Fare, $8.00 per person.
Another day trip went from Pueblo to Wetmore and Westcliffe, included a meal at the Alpine Lodge, and returned through the Arkansas River canyon and Cañon City to Pueblo. When you consider that was almost all on gravel roads with a maximum possible top speed of perhaps 40–45 mph, it would have been a long day's car ride for your $10.50 fare.

In today's dollars, that trip cost $142 per person, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics site. A cabin plus meals (fireplace heat, no plumbing) at the Baver Li Lodge cost $40–$50 in today's money (I would book one, definitely). I have not yet seen a menu for the Squirrel Creek Lodge, but I suspect that it featured fried chicken, since the archaeologists identified one foundation nearby as the chicken house.

The Missouri Pacific's brochure gushed about "Mountain Trout," "History and Romance," "The Wooliness of the West," "Altruistic Purposes" ("exorbitant charges for accommodation and services will not be countenanced"), "Scenic Grandeur," and "Special Vacation Summer Fares," among other headings.

One section, "The Hospitality of Colorado, reads as follows:
The spirit of wholesome friendliness is one of the refreshing pleasure to be anticipated in a visit to Colorado, and particularly to the San Isabel. The inhabitants of this country seem to be imbued with the bigness of their environs and manifest a sincere cordiality. In Colorado, all class distinction seems to be neutralized.
I wonder what areas we were being compared to.

To be continued at some point.

June 29, 2014

Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge - Part 3

It's not just an incinerator, it is a "Kernerator,"
by the Kern Incinerator Co. of Milwaukee.

The US Forest Service's remaking of Davenport Campground into something like Arthur Carhart's original vision, as mentioned in my last post, was praise-worthy.

But does it make up for the Service's obliteration of much of Carhart's original vision for recreational faciltiies? Not really.

Under the supervision of Carhart and his former landscape-architecture professor-turned-business partner, Frank Culley, Boy Scouts and other workers built facilities on South Hardscrabble Creek — the Florence Picnic Ground — and on North Creek, just north of Beulah. Another picnic ground was built at Smith Creek, in Hardscrabble Canyon above Wetmore.

In the late 1970s, the Forest Service demolished them all. According to a friend of mine, a life-long area resident who attended a public meeting about this decision held in Beulah, the USFS representative claimed these facilities were "inacessible" and "rarely visited."

Another friend, a Westcliffe resident, said he had heard they were demolished due to vandalism problems. In any case, the Forest Service no longer wanted to maintain them.

Instead of picnic tables, trash receptacles, outhouses, etc., the new model was "dispersed camping." Tack up a sign saying "Pack in it, pack it out," and all is good. Of course, no one packs out human shit.

A lot of this dispersed camping takes place in very locations where Carhart laid out picnic and campgrounds!

We have come full circle back to 1919, except that the standard of environmental education among forest visitors is a little higher. Sometimes.

The incinerator built to burn trash from the 1920s Squirrel Creek campsites slowly crumbles away.

Arthur Carhart's contract with the Forest Service lasted only from 1920–1922, after which time funding was . . . lost. He went into private practice and did other interesting work, but eventually became a full-time writer of fiction and nonfiction with outdoor themes.

Just tonight, I heard a professional chef praising his The Outdoorsman's Cookbook. Of course, this praise was from a guy who has walked the Squirrel Creek Trail himself.

Until recently, recreation was not truly a Forest Service priority — at least that was my perception. As a specialty, it lacked prestige. From its early twentieth-century creation onward, the Forest Service was all about timber management — and also grazing management — and firefighting to protect those two priorities.

I remember Dad when he was a USFS district ranger in the Black Hills saying (without irony), "We're tree farmers."

As opposed, it did not need to be said, to the pressed-pants-wearing, somewhat sissified  (Dept. of the Interior) National Park Service rangers who led tourists around by the hand, (Dept. of Agriculture) Forest Service rangers did real stuff with horses, axes, increment borers, cruising rods, and log-scaling rules.

Recreation on his district was handled by one man, a "recreation guard," who lived in a cabin off away from the work center and had a crew of seasonal workers in the summer.

People who rose in the hierarchy came from a forestry background, not a recreation background, although that has changed some in the last generation.

But thanks to the San Isabel Public Recreation Association and Carhart's and Culley's work, private interests began pushing tourism in and around the San Isabel National Forest, something I will look at next.

June 26, 2014

Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge, Part 2

Here are the 1947 flood waters one drainage north of Davenport Campground, near Baver Li Lodge.
What was then described as the Davenport Camp-Picnic Ground evidently survived the flood of 1947, which was most destructive in the narrow canyon of Squirrel Creek.

This photo is probably Davenport Picnic Ground in the 1920s, as the valley here is wider.
1920s-style cooking shelter recreated at today's Davenport Campground.
In 2004, Forest Service archaeologists Steve Seguin and Jennifer Cordova, together with historian Jack McCrory, prepared documentation to place the "Squirrel Creek Recreational Unit, " otherwise known as the "cradle of car camping," on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bases of guard rail posts at scenic overlook
on what was Colorado 76.

They listed all manner of remaining relics, down to guard rails and sign posts, but did not (so far as I noticed) say anything about a telephone line. But I found two mentions of a line that connected the Baver Li Lodge (of which more later), built in 1927, to the town of Beulah, running mostly along Squirrel Creek and the now-vanished Colorado Highway 76.

According to a 1967 article in the Pueblo Chieftain, summarized on this site,
The telephone line had been installed through Squirrel Creek by the Forest Service in the 1920’s. As their private line, Tena and later, grandson, Chuck, had to maintain it. Every spring one of them would ‘walk the line’ to find where the breaks had occurred and repair them. One year the Boy Scouts from Rye came up to help.
A short historical article about Beulah's Pine Drive Telephone Co. mentions it too:
One notable line was the one maintained from Baver-Li Lodge in Ophir Creek down Squirrel Creek. It took great fortitude to maintain that line after the ‘47 flood!

In 2009, as part of the U.S. Forest Service's centennial, Davenport was remodeled into a "retro" tents-only campground—and it remains popular.

You have to drive down into the campground (trailers and motorhomes should park above the entrance, in the Second MaceTrailhead parking lot) to see the interpretive signs.

There is nothing about Arthur Carhart's vision for forest recreation in any historical marker on any highway at this time. More signage, including a panel about him, has been proposed for the junction of Colorado 67 and 96 in Wetmore, part of the Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway.

June 19, 2014

Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge, Part 1

It is 1923, you are suffering the summer heat in Pueblo, Colorado, and you want to go car-camping up in the cooler Wet Mountains. So you load your blankets, quilts, and canvas tent in and on the Ford, pack some flour and bacon, maybe grab a fishing pole, and off you go. You take Colorado State Highway 76 (a gravel road) southwest to the foothills town of Beulah, then stay on 76 as it enters Squirrel Creek Canyon and the San Isabel National Forest.
1948 San Isabel National Forest map shows Colorado 76 coming southwest from Pueblo.
Bridge dated 1916 on Squirrel Creek Road, formerly Colorado 76, in Beulah.
You know this part of the road is new — in fact,  it was laid out by Forest Service landscape architect Arthur Carhart. His former professor from Iowa State, Frank Culley, was involved too on the project to design numerous campsites along the road, all with hand pumps, designated concrete garbage pits, and "sanitaries" (outdoor toilets) — all a response to the trash and piles of human waste that popular campsites had been attracting.

The first picnic and camping sites there had been designated in 1919. That was just five years after the southern Colorado Coalfield War that culminated in the 1914 Ludlow Massacre. It was two years after the Russian Revolution, which had segued into civil war, and one year after the end of World War One.

Private money — the San Isabel Public Recreation Association (SIPRA) — helped pay for the first improvements. Colorado Fuel & Iron, southern Colorado's industrial behemoth, with its coal mines, coke ovens, and steel mill, was the largest contributor. Wholesome outdoor recreation will lure its workers away from Red agitators.

Carhart writes,
There is a chance in this sort of [forest] camp to teach better Americanization of the people of foreign blood now living in our midst . . . these men will become better citizens and far less open to insidious suggestions of the radical agitator to strike at this land they have come to know and love.*
Enjoying one of the new campgrounds on Squirrel Creek. Woman takes photo of men by fireplace. Check gen-u-wine ten-gallon hat on man in foreground.
The campgrounds are wildly popular. On summer weekend days, as many as 700 cars pass up Colorado 76, which connects to Colorado 165, the north-south road through the Wet Mountains.

Many people stay or take meals at the privately operated Squirrel Creek Lodge, a two-story log structure in the center of the camping area. It stays popular until the World War II era, when it faces competition from the San Isabel lodge (which also began as a SIPRA project).

But Carhart's cool, winding creekside road is vulnerable. Rockslides menace it from the slopes above, and in 1947, a major flash flood rips down the narrow canyon, destroying all the little bridges, tearing out campsites, and wrecking many parts of the road.

Squirrel Creek Lodge: A central room with two wings, front porch on the left.
Dinner • Refreshment • Lodging • Souvenirs.

Click to enlarge for photos of original lodge.
The lodge falls into disuse and eventually burns in a 1979 forest fire.

The state builds a new highway from Beulah to Colorado 165. Formerly the Twelve-mile Road, it is now designated Colorado 78, and it  takes a higher route up a ridge.

Its last nine miles are still gravel today, and according to a friend on the Custer County Road & Bridge Dept., are the last gravel stretch of a state highway. (Many state highways around here were gravel roads into the 1960s, when there was a big push to pave them.)

Mentally remove the young trees along the trail, and there is the old Colorado 76.
Hiker at mortared wall that marked a scenic pull-off on Colorado 76.
Colorado 76 devolves into a Forest Service trail — one that oddly features mortared-stone retaining walls, log guard rails, and steel culverts. It passes the ruined campsites, where campers improvise new fire pits, and the ruins of the Squirrel Creek Lodge and its associated cabins.

You, meanwhile . . . Dad is in the steelworkers' union and has a new car with a powerful V-8 engine. Mom doesn't wear those 1920s cloche hats anymore.

You can go anywhere — Yellowstone, Banff . . . no more chugging up Squirrel Creek Hill with the Model T threatening to boil over.

Remember those days when you were younger, when the Squirrel Creek campground was the oldest auto campground in the national forest?

Next: Part 2: Davenport, the "Retro" Campground

*Tom Wolf, Arthur Carhart: Wilderness Prophet  (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2008), 55.

February 19, 2014

Testing Tipis in the Jet Stream

16-man tipi and woodpile (Photo: Jamie Marchbank)
The sociologist of religion Peter Berger is known for his 1967 book The Sacred Canopy. I was thinking about it Friday night as I lay in the snow just outside the Eagles Nest Wilderness, as the Jet Stream ripped across the Gore Range.

Berger writes, "The sheltering quality of social order becomes especially evident if one looks at the marginal situations in the life of the individual, that is, at situations in which he is driven close to or beyond the boundaries of the order that determines his routine, everyday existence"

Such as winter camping, for example — definitely not part of my everyday existence.

Ira Chernus, a religious-studies professor at CU-Boulder, summarizes what Berger means by "the canopy":
What we want more than anything else, according to this sociological view, is to be in balance--to have a permanent stable order in our lives, so that we can predict both the environment and the responses to it that we and others around us will choose. Society's main project is to create this sense of stable predictable order and to make all of us believe in it, although in fact it is always a false illusion.
We want a stable order, yes, which means that the tent stays up. But in one sudden 60 mph-or-higher blast, the high-tech "16-man" cooking/dining tipi, centerpiece of the annual Colorado Kifaru Winter Rendezvous, has simply vanished — and I lay in my sleeping bag, looking up at an angry murky sky, semi-illuminated by the Moon.

The canopy, sacred or otherwise, was gone. Stability was a false illusion.

Up, out of the sleeping bag, pulling on my boots, I made sure that the fabric had not snagged on the wood-burning stove — now tipped on its side — that still held a few embers.

Plan A, check with Kevin, my near neighbor, who had an "8-man" tipi set up. I turned that way and—where was the tipi? It was down too, and its stove had tumbled a pot of melting snow onto his sleeping bag. Luckily, the temperature was only slightly below freezing, and so Kevin had covered his sleeping bag with a bivvy sack, zipped it up, and planned to deal with everything in the morning.

Since I had no bivvy sack, my Plan B was to wrap up in the tent fabric like a human tamale and wait out the night. 

Then I saw a head lamp moving over in another direction. Another tent was down. It was Eric's, and he had room, so I traded help in re-rigging his small tipi for shelter space. By shoveling snow around the edges, we cut down on the ground blizzards that were moving through the tent.

Kifaru's tipis should have stood up to that wind, and in fact, not every one of them went down. For the big tent — maybe the others too – I blame the fact that it was erected late in the afternoon, and the snow had not really set up around the long snow pins. We re-did it the next morning, making everything extra-taut and weighting down the edges with snow, and it did fine.

Eric cooking in the snow cave's vestibule.
But Eric had another idea: he had started a snow cave the day before, and on Saturday we spent another hour enlarging it to two-man capacity.

Snow caves are so quiet. You can hear yourself blink.

January 05, 2014

Blog Stew Chopped with Cheap Knives

¶ Peter Grant at Bayou Renaissance Man comes down firmly in the price-versus-quality debate in regard to knives, axes, and machetes. He and I agree on Mora knives— mine are so old they have wooden handles.

¶ In all the news-media fuss over legalized recreational marijuana use in Colorado, not much is being said about the new rules on farming for hemp for industrial uses. I wonder which will be a bigger story in the long run.

¶ "Man Mistaken for Coyote Killed in Southwest Colo. Hunting Accident," said the headline. How, you wonder? Apparently a case of technology being "smarter" than people. Oh brave new world

December 29, 2013

Sleeping in the Cold

A young guy in northern Minnesota decides to try sleeping outdoors for a year in the back yard. He started out in a kind of tree house, but then winter came.
The snow house smelled like straw, which littered the white floor. In this holiday season, Hummel seemed to be occupying his own Nativity scene.
Lots of foam pads, that's the secret. (Via Free Range Kids.)

I have done some winter camping, but a year—I respect that.

M's and my second dwelling was a sort-of-winterized little house in Manitou Springs. We slept in an unheated, uninsulated sun porch. It did have glass windows—jalousies that did not seal too well and let little patches of snow drift in.

But our rule was that when the temperature in our bedroom dipped much below 20° F (-7° C), we would move into the indoor guest room.

December 07, 2013

Winter Camping in the Age of Ignorance

I was skimming this article (and its informed comments) about temperature rating on winter
This looks like my childhood sleeping bag.
sleeping bags
and how many manufacturers (in the writer's opinion) overstate them. In other words, a bag rated to -20° F (-28° C) is really more like a -10° bag for a man — maybe a -5° bag for a woman.

With the temperatures hovering around 0° F. outdoors, I remembered my first serious winter camping trip and sleeping in a Korean War-surplus M1949 "down and feathers" mummy bag.

That was not the worst of it. Compared to the rest of my gear, that was a high-tech sleeping bag.

My Boy Scout troop went to the annual Winter Camporee, held in Rocky Mountain National Park — near Bear Lake, I think. I was about 12 years old.

The troop supplied canvas tents, while we Scouts brought our own personal gear. Maybe if Dad had been around, he could have offered good advice and some of his own stuff — he got me started on camping and backpacking, after all — but at this point, the marriage was dissolving, and he was living elsewhere.

As I recall, I was equipped with cotton long underwear, probably cotton socks, cotton blue jeans, some kind of shirt and sweater (?), a not-great ski parka, knit hat, and mittens. On my feet were oiled leather pull-on boots, "Wellingtons" in the American sense of the word. They leaked.

If you had a down parka back then, you were probably a pro mountaineer, like Jim Whittaker on Mount Everest, or else had the money to pretend to be one.

Under my M1949 sleeping bag was a plastic-covered foam-rubber pad off a patio chaise longue. And maybe a GI poncho.

I shivered through the night and spent part of the morning standing next to the campfire that was slowly sinking down, down into the snow. (We "cooked" on campfires, as I recall).

I learned some things right away, such as that blue jeans freeze, and since there were no outhouses, just the woods, you can spend hours working up the courage to take a shit in the snow.

On the plus side, I spent a lot of time snowshoeing, and that plus the bright Colorado sunshine warmed me up. The snowshoes kept my inadequate boots up out of the snow as well.

The second evening, the Scout leaders loaded us into their cars and took us to some Park Service building where we watched a natural-history movie. I suspected even at the time that the real reason for the trip was to let us spend a couple of hours inside a heated structure.

I made a few improvements to my bed, survived the second night, and ran in the snowshoe races the next day. And then it was time to head home. I thought that I had had a good time overall, and I proudly sewed the Winter Camporee patch onto my uniform.

October 04, 2013

Backcountry Hygiene for Women

Answers to all the difficult questions, from a woman who has backpacked the length of South America — and more.
Even if you’re a guy, it’d be worth reading this article: If you ever want your girlfriend, fiancee, or wife to join you on a backpacking trip, your ignorance on this subject could be major roadblock.
Hat tip: Mountain Matters

July 19, 2013

Coming to Terms with the Pike

A typical view on the Pike's Peak Ranger District
When I lived further north, I spent a lot of time on the Pike National Forest, and by "the Pike" in this context I mean chiefly the Pike's Peak Ranger District and the southern part of the South Platte Ranger District — in other words, an area northwest of Colorado Springs and southwest of Denver.

I camped, hiked, and hunted. I planted trees with the Boy Scouts, trees that probably burned in one of the many forest fires in the Buffalo Creek area since those days.

But I never loved it. When I saw views that opened up after the big Hayman Fire in 2002, I kind of thought that was an improvement, heretical as it may sound.

Signal Butte rises north of Florissant, Colorado.
M. and I went back to the Pike last month — we were camping with friends near Florissant, and we took a day to reacquaint ourselves with that corner of the forest, see some places that we had not seen since our days in Manitou Springs, and just get out and walk in the woods.

A typical forest road in a typical draw on the Pike.
Somehow, driving and walking — and seeing different vistas of the burn — kind of put me at ease. I felt a little more like I knew the place — or could know it, if I wanted to spend the time. But I probably won't. I like it here better.

May 16, 2013

Glamorous Camping the Do-It-Yourself Way



My keypal Cara Schulz has a Kickstarter fundraiser going on for a book on "glamping," titled Martinis and Marshmallows.

With it there is a blog on low-cost approaches to luxury camping, such as her refurbished 1970s icebox (to be distinguished from a mere "cooler").

The Kickstarter deadline is near. Yes, I have contributed.

February 20, 2013

How I Spent Last Weekend



I could describe it, or I could just embed Eric Lynn's video. Hmmm, which is harder?

June 13, 2012

Small Flies, Small Fish, Red Columbines

South Fooses Creek — tangles and pocket water
When I think of South Fooses Creek, a small stream in western Chaffee County, I think of three things. Two of them are pleasant.

Red columbine
One is that in summer I always find red columbines growing in its canyon. I have the hardest time with these at home — granted, home is a little low in altitude, a little dry, and a little alkaline of soil for optimum columbine cultivation, so I have to baby columbines along.

For some reason, the yellow varieties that I have seem more robust than either red ones or the official-state-flower blue-and-whites.

There are other flowers too: I think this one (right) is bitter cress, Cardamine cordifolia, in the mustard family. At least it looks like the picture in the field guide, and the habitat is right: "Grows in wet areas, such as stream banks, meadows, and forest depressions."
Bitter cress

And there are fish, mostly little brook trout, the kind that are mature and reproducing when they are six inches long. Once you venture off the Colorado Trail, which has been cleared of winter's blowdowns, the forest is full of fallen logs, and about every third fishable pool has a dead tree lying across it ready to grab your line with a hundred gnarly hands.

The rest of the pools you sneak up to — "Indian up on them," as Dad used to say — and drop a dry fly in for a short float that might produce a strike from an undersize brookie.

I keep a couple of the "trophies," but I don't photograph them.

When I return to the Jeep, I am standing by where we pitched the tent on Dad's last camping trip.

I had come down the same trail with some fish in my pack, only to find a clothesline rigged above our campfire with some underwear and socks drying on it.

He told me that he had gone down to the creek to fill a water bucket, but even though he had a walking staff, the boggy ground had thrown him off balance, and he ended up sitting in the shallow water. Hence the change of clothes. He seemed a bit annoyed.

And when he dropped me off at home, he opened the tailgate and started unloading stuff — the tent, the Coleman lantern, and so on. "It's yours," he said, "I'm through with camping."

After all those years. But If he couldn't trust himself to walk down to the creek without a fall, it was time to quit.

Sometimes I stand in the basement looking at the shelves of camping gear and I wonder, what should I get rid of?

May 18, 2012

Cooks Agree, Cast Iron is Best

I did not know that mountain lions carried rabies, but one in northern Arizona did and attacked a man's dog while he was camping on the Tonto National Forest.

He knocked it out with a cast-iron frying pan, which is an argument for traditional cookware, isn't it. (Via Patrick Burns, who offers other goodies.)

February 21, 2012

Two Nights in Snow

You come out of the mountains after just a three-day trip, go into a cafe, and everyone is so clean. But it is a mountain cafe, and they do not care that you are not so pristine and that you have been sleeping in your clothes.

RIGHT: An attempt at an artistic shot of my shadow while skiing to camp, pulling a pulk.

More than a dozen employees, freelance designers, and "friends of the family" of a small, Colorado-based outdoor-products company gathered for an annual winter rendezvous in Summit County.

Items under discussion included short-staple synthetic insulation, tent and pack design, the intricacies of bar-tacking, other companies that had gone before (reaching back to Holubar and Gerry), the effects of Jameson's whiskey on conversation, hunting, the reality or not of Bigfoot, cross-country skiing, the relationship of the sexes, sources of digital-camouflage fabric, weather, differing designs of axes and hatchets, and why it was better to be in a tipi with 0° F. (-18 C) temperatures outside instead of the most luxurious ski condo in Breckenridge.

This bottle of beer (left) attempted to escape the camp but died of the cold on its path to freedom. Foolish bottle.
Short-term nomadic camp in the White River National Forest

Also, we ate. The menu included venison, green chile, potica, tamales, homemade Spam-and-egg sushi, hot dogs, breakfast tacos, elk sausage, cheese, homemade burritos, biscuits and gravy, and machaca. A good Southern Colorado-northern New Mexico blend with Hawaiian accents.

I became enamored of a Swedish splitting axe that I do not really need, but it was so elegant.

Afterwards, I always wonder how even though it takes much planning and the assembly of food, gear, etc., produced in many different places, even a short trip into the woods like this feels more real and vital than daily life.

January 19, 2012

SHOT Show: Random Photos (2)


Watching 3-D hunting videos.
Colorful and "affordable" revolvers from Cobra Firearms.
Victorinox representative discusses Swiss Army knives decorated with prehistoric mammoth ivory.
Unglamorous but necessary.