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

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.

September 18, 2011

At Yellowstone: Why Close So Many Campgrounds in Early September?

At Madison CG, Yellowstone National Park
On Friday we arrived at the big Madison Campground at Yellowstone. Like all park lodging and most of the bigger campgrounds, it is operated by a concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

At this time of year, campgrounds are closing—too fast, I think. Madison (85 sites) was full every night of the four that we stayed there. Norris Campground (100 sites) was full too.

My old favorite, Slough Creek, has become impossible since the advent of the wolf cult.

Canyon CG was already closed, although the weather was warm, and the Canyon lodge-restaurant-visitor center area was swarming with people. It seems to me like they could make money keeping it open—I would have preferred to stay on the east side of the park.

One thing M. and I had anticipated was being spared all the news media navel-gazing over the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But right across from our campsite someone had draped their motorhome with the banners pictured. Like we needed their help to "never forget." Sheesh.

September 17, 2011

Second Night Out: Gros Ventre Campground

Young bull moose sparring at the Gros Ventre CG, Grand Teton National Park
On Thursday, Sept. 8, after breakfast and a little exploration of one corner of Colorado State Forest State Park, we continued north into Wyoming: Saratoga to Walcott  to Rawlins to Rock Springs to Pinedale (burger stop at the Wind River Brewing Co.)  to Jackson to Grand Teton National Park.

We passed our usual North Park campsite: Cowdrey Lake State Wildlife Area north of Walden, Colo. If you want the basics—a flat place to park, an outhouse, and a small lake in which to fish—it meets the bill.

North of Cowdrey, some volunteer firefighters and the Jackson County sheriff's office were dealing with a fresh one-minivan rollover wreck. M. is still talking about the luxuriant black handlebar mustache worn by one of the deputies. Very 1890s.

Once through Jackson, we took the road that leads to Kelly, Wyo., the hamlet closely described in Ted Kerasote's Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.

Before Kelly, you pass by the Gros Ventre Campground, which the park's website describes as rarely filling—a good thing, since you cannot make a reservation.

Its 350 sites extend through a big grove of narrowleaf cottonwoods. A river runs through it.

The only downside we could see is that the campground is somewhat in the approach/departure corridor for aircraft using Jackson Hole Airport, the only commercial airport located in a national park.

As the sun peeked over the mountains, I got up to use the restroom and encountered moose—two young bulls alternately feeding and play-sparring.
Moose stalkers and bear-proof (or bear-resistant) dumpster.
As the two moose moved through the campground, they were stalked by early-rising photographers—from a safe distance.

On Friday morning, we ate breakfast, took a stroll through the campground, then packed up our pop-up camping trailer and continued north into the weird and the wonderful that is Yellowstone National Park.

September 16, 2011

First Night Out: Ranger Lakes Campground

One of the small Ranger Lakes. The streak at right is a swimming beaver.
First in a series of rambling and disconnected posts about our recent trip to Yellowstone.

The first night out, we stopped at the Ranger Lakes Campground in the Colorado State Forest State Park (not a misprint) at the edge of North Park, a high valley or basin.

A trail from the campground goes along the Michigan River, where moose were reintroduced to Colorado a generation ago. (That's human generation, not moose generation). But we did not see any. The next campsite would be different.

Just down the road is the tiny community of Gould, where my parents lived as newlyweds, first in a tent and then a log cabin—Forest Service housing for a newly qualified assistant district ranger on the Routt National Forest. It was more of a logging town then.

The area must have seemed truly isolated then. Now Colorado 14 is paved, and in good weather you can cover the 75 miles from Fort Collins (over Cameron Pass) fairly quickly.

The campsites have electrical hookups. The campground used to be heavily treed, but since the epidemic of beetle-kill, most of the lodgepole pine has been cut down—so that dead trees don't fall on someone's tent or trailer, I suppose. And the fire danger.

If I were making a longer stay in the park, I would pick a campsite more in the middle. Ranger Lakes CG is right beside the highway—but there is not a lot of traffic in the middle of the night.

March 06, 2011

Fashionistas and Gearheads

I am returned from camping in the snows of the Gore Range with a manly group of men: military veterans, mountain climbers, entrepreneurs, backcountry skiers, schoolteachers, wildlife researchers, big-game hunters, firefighters.

What did we talk about?

Sure, there was the expected:
"If I use the 100-grain bullet in the .260, will I have ballistic stability on a 1,000-yard shot?"
"Where's the rest of the beer?"
But a lot more of,
"Where did you get that?"
"At a thrift shop!"
"Is it [this specialized fabric] or [that specialized fabric]?
"I wish I had a sewing machine."
"So-and-so has one. He can do bar tacks and everything!"
"I'd love it if it were six inches longer."
"It needs another zipper here."
"I hardly wear any other label."
"I shortened it and put the trim on myself."
"What are you making?
"Did you dehydrate it yourself?"
"What model dehydrator do you use?"
"The lime juice really helps!"
"I think I'm going to gain weight on this trip."

In my best Carrie Bradshaw voice I ask, "If there any line at all between gearheads, fashionistas, and foodies?"

June 05, 2010

Quick Review: K-Light Solar Lantern

M. saw this solar-powered LED lantern mentioned in Audubon magazine and wanted to try it as a summer alternative to the Coleman lanterns (both liquid and gas-fueled*) that we use in the camping trailer.

The maker, PiSAT Solar, has been working with a foundation to make these lanterns available in African villages "where people still rely mostly on air polluting and potentially dangerous kerosene lamps to light up their homes after dark."

Does it "cast a brilliant light" as the company claims? Yes and no.

Our test is whether or not we can read by it. The K-Light's design sends light up from LEDs to reflect off a mirrored cone and spread sideways and down. But even at the high setting, the light is too dim for comfortable reading unless the lantern is tipped over to give extra light on one side, leaving the person sitting opposite in the shadow.

As a flashlight--held horizontally by the legs--it will help you find your tent, but the lantern's top casts a big round shadow in the center of the beam. If you want a focused beam for searching, get a Maglite or something.

For just sitting around, dressing and undressing, cooking and eating, the lantern light would be adequate.

But in terms of light output, I do not think LED technology has caught up with the good old single-mantle Coleman lantern yet.

 My other worry is the solar panel itself, which measures about 3.5 x 6.5 inches. I had already experimented with small solar panels to serve as 12-volt trickle chargers, and I learned that those panels are fragile. You would have to pack the panel carefully when traveling and treat it like a precious jewel.

K-Light solar lantern, $59.95 with solar panel. AC charger $19.95.

* The gas canisters are convenient but do not last long. The only place that I have ever seen a recycling drop-off for them was at Yellowstone National Park—and who knows what campground-operator Xanterra actually does with them after the park visitors go home?

March 07, 2010

Pix, Pulks, and Plinking

February 26-28 I went winter camping for the first time in a very long time, skiing in to a site on the Arapho National Forest north of Silverthorne, Colorado.

Blogger Sawtooth has put together a slide show about it.

It was a good trip, but my old down sleeping bag is not adequate for -18 F. (-26 C), and if I am going to repeat the experience, I need to upgrade!

February 25, 2010

Going Camping

Blogging will cease for a few day while I take a trip. It should involve snow, skis, and tipis. Other people are in charge, so I get to ride along, try to be cheerful, and pull my weight (literally, as there is sledging involved).

No, that is not me in the photo. He is a competitor in one of the original primitive biathlons at Smugglers' Notch, Vermont.

We might be able to figure out some kind of biathlon too.

Right now the study floor is littered with gear, and Fisher, the young Chessie, has discovered the fleece sleeping-bag liner.

September 13, 2008

Where Did the Axes Go?

When my father died five years ago, I inherited all of his tools, many of which I kept.

They included a double-bitted ax (ex-Forest Service, from the red paint on the handle) and a True Temper hatchet, perhaps 1960s vintage -- I remember the camping trip when both of them last were used.

The hatchet's leather sheath was falling apart, so I went looking for a new one. I tried in four states and, briefly, Vancouver, B.C. I found nothing good.

I tried some of the mail-order logging and forestry-supply outfits, and came away with new sheaths for the double-bitted ax and for the pulaski that came with it, but nothing for the hatchet.

Finally I found a sheath in the Campmor catalog that worked.

Somehow, in the years since I had to pass a basic axmanship test at Boy Scout camp, axes of all sizes seem to have become obsolete.

Half the ax-stuff in the forestry catalogs is aimed at the competitors in various logging derbies -- they are the only people nowadays who can stand on a spring board up off the ground and whack away with the ol' double-bit.

Before those tools arrived, I owned a chainsaw and two bucksaws, but the only ax I had was a single-bit model, and I used it only for splitting kindling.

Recreationally, I suppose axes and hatchets are relics of the "wood and canvas" era of camping.

Recently I have been studying the history of the Allied interventions in the Russian Civil War, 1918-1919, particularly the experiences of the "Polar Bears," American soldiers involved near Archangel.

These men of the 339th Infantry were mostly from Michigan. One historian describes their building of log blockhouses, etc., and casually mentioned that many were country boys and "handy with an axe."

That was then, apparently. Do we not need them anymore?

July 10, 2008

Blog Stew with Wiener Dogs

Dachshunds are the most aggressive species. One of the main dogs of my childhood was a dachshund: truly a Doberman in a 15-pound package. One day he decided to take on a Lab and a boxer. A two-week stay in vet hospital ensued, and he always limped in cold weather after that -- but he still went backpacking with Dad and me.

Patrick Burns disagrees with the study, which conflicts with his experience and some other studies on canine aggressiveness.

¶ Noise ruining the experience in some national parks.

¶ And the Park Service tries to reach people who think that the parks "aren't about them."

"Some people are startled by butterflies," [NPS social scientist James] Gramman said. "It's not like that can't be overcome, but if you don't do something, it will persist and it won't be overcome for generations."

It's sort of like the 1920s again: how do you get certain population groups to go camping and escape the baneful influence of "agitators."

My former student Ben Manzanares knows the story now.

¶ Jenny Shank interviews mammalogist David Armstrong for New West on climate change and Rocky Mountain mammals.

October 10, 2007

Entry-Level Camping

Campers of the 1930s at Lake Isabel, San Isabel National Forest, southern Colorado (US Forest Service photo).

Last December Kristyn Econome (vice president of the Backcountry Snowsports Alliance) wrote in a letter to the editor of the Denver Post:

I long for a back-to-basics campground with minimal facilities. I can't remember a time within the last few years that I've stayed in a "Forest Service" campground that wasn't run by a concessionaire. For some reason, a while back, the higher-ups in the Forest Service thought that its visitors wanted more amenities, such as flushable toilets, running water, trash cans and even paved roads in campgrounds. Thus, they decided to essentially rent out the campsite facilities to concessionaires who "improve" the campgrounds and charge higher fees so that I may camp there.

It's the same point that I made about ski areas: the well-heeled and experienced have lots of choices, but how can you get started for not too much money? (Many Colorado ski areas are on land leased from the Forest Service as well.)

You could start with a copy of Camp Out! The Ultimate Kid's Guide. I have not actually seen a copy, just the linked blog entry, but the premise is good.

People who do not experience the back country, preferably as children, never come love the back country.