Please don’t go out there on your own…


I was perusing Amazon for hiking stuff earlier today. I ran across the standard orange poop-hole digging trowel. It’s funny what people “also bought” sometimes while buying other stuff.

So I started reading the comment for some reason, and I ran across the gem above. The question was ridiculous and the response was simple and to the point. But how often have you wondered something silly and obvious, only to come up with the solution later and thought, “Boy was I stupid!”

It’s easy to respond to stupid questions with condescending answers. For some of us, cynicism is an art form, cultivated over years, nurtured and developed into something with its own mind. Often when an opportunity presents itself, our joking, cynical side spews forth an answer before our rational brain can come up with a decent response.

I’m not picking on Elizabeth, above. Not in the least. I laughed and laughed. I reposted her response on Facebook. It was funny and perfectly logical. Someone that doesn’t understand the simple practicalities of pooping in the woods probably shouldn’t be out in the woods alone, yet. If taking a dump is so confusing, then how would the same person handle falling into a 35 degree creek in 45 degree weather? Would they know not to carry a raw steak in their pack and cook it over their camp stove in the vestibule of their tent? Would they assume trail shelters have wi-fi, power outlets, running water and HBO?

I used to take flying lessons, many years ago. There was a quote on the wall in the office:

Whenever we talk about a pilot who has been killed in a flying accident, we should all keep one thing in mind. He called upon the sum of all his knowledge and made a judgment. He believed in it so strongly that he knowingly bet his life on it. That his judgment was faulty is a tragedy, not stupidity. Every instructor, supervisor, and contemporary who ever spoke to him had an opportunity to influence his judgment, so a little bit of all of us goes with every pilot we lose.

Those of us who have been out a few times have an opportunity to help the newbies. I was on a newbie hiking trip a year or so ago. I had hung my bear bag, and one of the new guys had finished eating and walked over to where my bag was hung, PCT Style. He started messing with the rope with his right hand, because he had a wad of stuff in his left. He was just as confused as a bear might have been. The more he pulled on the rope, the higher the bag went. I asked him what he was doing, and he said, “I’m trying to get the bag down so I can put my trash in it.” I responded maybe a little bit sharper than I should have, “Not in MY food bag you’re not!”

I took the opportunity to educate him, that we all carry out the remains of what we carry in. We don’t litter, we don’t burn trash (okay maybe paper towels or napkins, but that’s it), and we don’t put our trash in other people’s bear bags. He had assumed that somewhere there would be a trash bag or can.

Even hiking for a while, we can all learn something. There aren’t many hikes that I don’t learn something, or at least watch a different way of doing something and think “Oh! I didn’t know you could do it that way.” Recently I watched a couple trying to pump filter some water out of a puddle. They were having a terrible time at it, and I was exhausted and just sat and watched. When they finished, I plunked my silicone squishy bowl down under the trickling pipe, and waited so I could pour fresh clean water into my “dirty” bag before squeezing it through a filter. They looked at my bowl of water, mouths open. Then I realized – had I put my bowl out for them, it would have saved us all a lot of time. They could have pumped from the bowl, out of the mud, and cleared out of there faster leaving the source open for me.

It was a missed opportunity, for me to be a friendlier hiker to my fellow trail-marchers. But they learned something just by watching me. I’m sure the idea of a fill bowl won’t escape their memory for a while.

Someone may say silly things, ask stupid questions (they DO exist!) or even do things that make us stare and ask “What the hell was he thinking?” but if we can help someone learn something (even if we have to make a snarky response before answering the question for real), it makes us all look better, and improves the woods experience for all of us.

Imagine if the original poster of the question above never asked. You’re walking along the trail one day when you’re hit by flying poo from behind a bush. The person comes out with their orange trowel in hand and says, “No one told me to dig a hole, I just bought this thing on Amazon…”. So, Snark first, then educate. We’ll all get along better out there.

Now I’m going to go read some more silly questions.


About to lose my shit…

Sorry for two posts in two days. This is kind of a Rambling one, but I’m really frustrated.

I’m totally about to lose my shit. First: My 4 year old refrigerator is dying. I can’t find anyone that will fix it because it’s an LG model. Sears won’t even look at it until December 12th. It won’t make ice, the food in the freezer section is mushy, not solid, and my thermometer says the top section is 44 degrees instead of the 36 I have it set on.
I put my complaint on the Pastafarian Wailing Wall on Facebook. Pastafarians are good people. They didn’t just offer up thoughts and prayers. They actually made suggestions, which, because of my personal relationship with reality, and they were something that I figured might be of real help. I took the back cover off and vacuumed the fuzz off the coils. I  took the drawer off the front and removed the back panel. Nothing was frozen up. There is some corrosion on the copper connectors at the compressor that I didn’t like. It was some white powdery stuff just like you see on a car battery when you finally lift the hood after owning the car for four years and it won’t crank on a cold morning. I’m hoping the freon pipes aren’t leaking, slowly poisoning us.  I looked for a blockage in the fridge’s air system but couldn’t find anything. It all looks rather normal. Nothing I did seemed to help.
So I go to Lowes, where no one is around to talk to. I then call them and get a pricing runaround and finally give up and look online (Mental Note: ALWAYS start online. Screw “Shop Local” and phone calls and all that bullshit. If you can’t find it online, you don’t need it). I say Phuck It and order a new fridge. Next Thursday is the day we sacrifice Turkeys to the gods in thanks for a bountiful harvest and that our weapons were much better than the Native Americans – I NEED a fridge.
So, pissed yet satiated in new-fridge buying, I try and relax and edit my AT Supermoon pics. Lowes calls. The “In Stock” fridge – is not. They’re out. The fridge is in Florence, but that’s not the local area. I’m shaking with anger at this point, and I’m three breaths away from inventing new swear words to use on the poor unfortunate Lowes clerk. I tell her that I ordered an in-stock fridge, and it’s not my fault they can’t count: 1 fridge in stock – 1 fridge in stock means 0 fridges in stock, and they need to get it to me for the ordered price.
She finally tells me they can do a store-to-store transfer and my fridge should be at the house Wednesday.
Hold it right there, Willis.
Should be? SHOULD be? My Damn fridge BETTER be here Wednesday. I tell her to make absolutely damn sure. I don’t want any shit Wednesday about the truck being out of town or they being short on drivers, that they can bring their happy butts here by then or not at all. Another hold call later and she says she can confirm with certainty that it WILL be here Wednesday.
Although something tells me that I might be looking for a truck Wednesday at 5:30.
I apologize in advance to the neighborhood, because Wednesday I’m going to take a shotgun to my old fridge. They aren’t going to “Refurb” something I paid $1500 for, four years ago, and pass it off to someone else at an extreme markup. Screw that. It’s going to have big holes in it.
I then did what any reasonable person would do. I turned to the Scriptures for an answer. In the Loose Canon: Old Pastament, Pastalm IX talks about having food around, after all:

Pastalm IX — The Holy Ponderance

1. Oh Great Noodly One. To thee I doth ponder,
for thy presence inspires much rumbling of my tummy. 2. And after repeated rumbling and grumbling
of thy digestive system, shall I sunder forth
to the Holy Refrigerator in search of your fulfilment. 3. And after much fumbling and bumbling
through the empty shelves, shall I surrender
thy wishful thinking and retreat to the holy ATM
to replenish thy monetary stocks.

And since the Book of Piraticus mentions Rum as the preferred drink of Pirates, and that once you imbibe enough Rum, his noddlyness will push you to the floor, encouraging you not to get up again, I decided that I should partake. This being Friday, the Sabbath, why the Hell not.

It’s been a stressful week, after all.

So Join me, fellow pirates, in restocking your refrigerators, or ordering new ones that then must be restocked, and in drinking of thy holy grog.


Yeah yeah yeah, hiking. I know.

A hike into the fire

Ive been gone a while. Nothing of note has really been occurring. A Disney trip, a hike screwed up by work… but I finally got in some time this week. And it turned out to be quite interesting.

On Monday November 14th, I found myself in Marion, NC for a class for work. I’d previosuly been into this area before, a few months ago hiking from Carver’s Gap to 19E near Mountain Harbor Hostel.

I arrived near Marion early enough to make the AT before sunset. I figured, since if I checked into my hotel room there would be nothing to do, why not go ahead up into the mountains and maybe take some time lapse of the sunset. I had anticipated the possibility of getting in a little trail time and brought along my tabletop tripod and SLR digital camera.

Unfortunately, Google Maps was not quite up to the task. Oh sure, when I looked at google on the phone before leaving town, it looked like it was basically a straight shot through the hills on two or three major roads for an hour. An hour and fifteen minutes later, I’m driving into some hillside development back in the sticks thinking “I should have been there by now.”

Google and my phone have of course lost their signal, and although it still shows me on the right road, according to it, I know I’m nowhere near the right place. I pull out my portable GPS that I use for Hiking. It has the roads on it too, thankfully, and shows me I’m 20 minutes from my destination. In fact, Google led me astray and has me up in Tennessee now.

So I leave the neighborhood, find the main road and come into Carver’s gap, 30 minutes after sunset. Disgusted, I want to just go home, but figure I didn’t just drive over an hour to turn around. So I jump out of the car and SHIT IT’S COLD. I pull on my coat, gloves and quickly throw my little pack on my back and start up the hill in the near darkness. There were several cars in the parking area, and some people, like me, heading up the hill. I passed a few hunters going down the hill in orange vests, and I was glad to be going into the woods after hunting time was over. It’s easy to forget the same trails we hike are used by deer hunters.

It’s only a half or three fourths of a mile to the lookout at the top of the first hill. Along the way, hiking was an interesting experience. I’ve never hiked the AT in the dark before, I was glad I had walked this section or it would have been a little confusing. The path is well worn and even gravelled along the first part, as its a popular area, but on the grassy hilltops it’s easy to get turned around if you step off the path.

I passed the first section where I could see off to the west, but other than where the Sun just set there was not much to see. Finally I could see off to the East, and noticed what everyone was looking at.

For a few weeks, there have been a number of fires in North Carolina. The smoke was pretty bad in places, hanging in a pall over the area. Tonight a lot of the smoke had cleared off to the East, although to the North and West it was still bad. There were a few clouds in the sky, and out in front of us was the Supermoon.

I was listening to the radio on the way up, and because the only stations I could get in the mountains were country music, jesus stations, and NPR, I wound up listening to a lot of NPR. Oddly enough they were talking about the fact that Supermoon is actually an astrology term, and that science types call it a Peak Perigee moon or something like that. The moon was going to be very slightly bigger in the sky, and a few percent brighter. It was a distance difference of only a few hundred miles (out of the 250,000 miles it is normally from us).

But the effect on us shaved apes in clothing was astounding. It was easily the second best trail night I’ve had. The best is still Walnut Mountain when we all watched the sunset. But this was right up there. It’s easy to see how primitive man created religions around celestial bodies.

The moon was halfway out from behind Mount Mitchell I am guessing, when I got to the top of my hill. I found a small rock no bigger around than maybe three fett, and plopped my tripod down. I fixed the camera in place, sitting there on the ground. There were maybe a dozen people spread out all over several acres. I got a few pictures of the moon, but there wasn’t much to see, just the moon in the sky. And it was just a pinpoint because I hadnt brought my big lens, just a 50mm zoom.

So I took several long exposures of the sky as viewed from the top of the hill, looking west at Venus, and almost straight up, and then back at the moon. I had brought some Gatorade and Ritz crackers, and I sat there eating them just watching the moon go up. It finally reached a point where it was lighting up some clouds pretty well, and interacting with the clouds by going partially behind them. People walked by while the shutter was open, providing some interesting camera effects.

I got out my headlamp and wrote the word Moon across the sky, and played around with it. At one point I made a red ghost of myself. Sitting on the ground was making me cold, and after a few more shots I started to pack up. I got one with a group of people standing there looking at the moon (I did ask them to stand still for 15 seconds) and another which looked funnier than it was. This person walked near me and turned on their phone camera to take a picture. But in my shot, because of the timing, all you see is the moon and someone at the top of the hill on their phone. It was an unintended social commentary.

Ritz in my stomach and camera in my bag, it was time for a short hike down to the car. I packed up and headed down the mountain. About a mile down the road into North Carolina there was a truck on the wrong side of the road half in the ditch, and a guy stomping out a fire. It was almost completely out, but I stopped to help him, stomping on embers and trying to rub out coals and little flames with my boots. The fire had scorched an area about 30 feet wide, and ten to fifteen feet up the side of the hill. The man had lost his cell phone, and despite looking with a flashlight, we couldn’t find it. He said someone had just set the fire.

While I was helping him look for his phone, another truck pulled up. A man got out and said he had gone to a house down the hill and called the fire department. No one had cell service on this part of the mountain. I had to get down the hill, so with the two of them there, I left. My wife had texted me during a brief period of service and the text was “Call me”, which sounded urgent. I wasn’t, I would find out later, but I needed to get to service and find out what was up.

As I drove down the hill I thought about how lucky those people on top were. If the fire had escaped and burned up the hill, the place where I was watching the moon would have been a perfect place to get burned up. A dry bald grassland with no trees to slow the fire, and a slight wind, may have made it hard for the people on top to get out of the way, especially in the dark. I don’t know who you were, mysterious Hispanic guy, but the hikers on the hill owe you a debt of gratitude.

Pictures to come later, they’re stuck in my camera because I forgot to bring my card reader on my trip, and I’m writing this in my hotel room on my Raspberry Pi, plugged into the hotel TV. Oops.