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Ho Rain Forest 2020

Ho Rain Forest 2020

Took an overnight trip October 20-21 to Ho Rain Forest. Drove up Tuesday morning and did a little exploring close to the ranger station. Spent the night in Forks Motel and got an early start so I could hike a little way along the Ho River. Drove back in the afternoon and evening. Takes a little over 5 hours each way. A little drizzle every now and then but overall pretty nice weather. Temps in the 40’s and 50’s – good shirtsleeve weather so I can keep dry. Really need to spend 2 nights so I have the full day for enjoying the woods and can get further up the valley. Hip slowed me down some.

Used the Garmin InReach to keep SJ updated via satellite texting.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. These were taken with a Nikon D5300 and a OnePlus 5 phone. Last picture shows my circular light attachment I use with the phone camera. I also have a bracket that can attach it to the Nikon. The power supply is a standard 5V backup pack I can also use to recharge the phone or GPS.

A little video of Mineral Creek Falls about 4 miles in:

Salmon Butte Trail

Salmon Butte Trail

Salmon Butte Trail starts where the South Fork of the Salmon River meets the main course of the Salmon River, and is in my main hiking area, the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness portion of Mount Hood Forest. Overall the trail is smooth and rises steadily along its length. The total length is 6.1 miles and climbs 3490 feet. Compare that to Cool Creek which rises 3200 feet in 3.3 miles.

On December 22, 2018, I headed out to give it a try. I got a late start and arrived at the trail head at 12:30. Sunset is at 4:30 this time of year, and in the mountains it would get dark even sooner. I didn’t have much time.

The trail starts out by crossing an old concrete bridge and follows what appears to be an old logging road. The roadway is covered with only light growth, probably owing to a thick and well-packed layer of gravel. It would be hard to drive now, however, due to the number of stream-worn little canyons crossing it. After 1.5 miles, the trail goes off on its own, while the old road continues off in another direction. Up to this point you can hear the South Fork in the distance.

Once I turned off the road into the trees, it was less windy and felt warmer. The path is soft and smooth. About 2 miles in there was a light dusting of snow in the clearings, and at about 3 miles there was a little bit of snow under the trees. I was passed by a young man in shorts with a dog. At 3.5 miles I was still in good shape but knew that there was not enough time to get to the top. I did not want to be stuck hiking in the forest after dark. I turned around and had a late lunch when I reached the campsite. I reached the car at 4:00 and the sun was far behind the mountains.

On New Years Day of 2019 I headed out at sunrise to try again. The sky was clear and I had the whole day to try this. I arrived at the trail head at 8:40 and started. The old road follows the river for a while and there is a strong, cold breeze blowing along it. I was glad to get to the trail and out of the wind. There wasn’t any snow on the road portion but once I headed into the trees and got a little more altitude, there was snow. After about 3 miles there was several inches on the path and that made hiking a bit more strenuous. I also had trouble keeping my hands and fingers warm. Gloves that are fine in town are not warm enough up here. I made it a little more than 4 miles and had to turn around. I just couldn’t keep my hands warm enough, and I was getting pooped out. Perhaps not getting much sleep the night before had something to do with that. Hiking in even a few inches of snow is also hard work, a little bit like walking uphill in sand.

Oh well, it will be here in the Spring.

I started back and made lunch at a convenient spot along the trail. The Indian Vegetable Korma is very good but takes half an hour to soften all the vegetables. I had to set the fuel canister on a glove. If they get too cold the fuel doesn’t expand properly. Ideally I would have a small piece of foam padding to set it on. (That is why I practice cooking on these hikes. I have to remember or relearn all the tricks I’ve forgotten.)

I found some small animal tracks. These looked like cat tracks, more like a house cat than a cougar(!) and are probably raccoon tracks.

I explored some strange ice crystals in the moss along the trail, and explored what at first looked like strange clumps of snow on some dead sticks. Looking closely at them I found ice crystals growing under the bark of some dead branches. These crystals literally peeled the bark off the branches. The ice crystals were very fine, like cotton candy, and melted at the merest breath.

I got back to the car about 3pm.

Clothes: Duluth light thermal underwear, top & bottom. REI pants and Duluth poly longsleeve shirt. Brimmed wool hat with integral earmuffs. Duluth socks.
On the first hike I wore a heavy windbreaker. Second hike was colder and I used my Duluth hoodie. Hoodie and hat were sweat soaked from the inside and always hard to put back on after resting. Only had work gloves. Need to get ski gloves. I have a small spur on the outside of left foot which has been rubbing the boot on the last few hikes. Finally thought to put a bunion ring on it and that helps a lot.

No injuries, not even to pride.

There are some other exploring options: 1) Follow along the South Fork upstream from the bridge. It looks like a trail starts here, it would be nice to see how far it goes. 2) Follow the road instead of going onto the trail at the 1.5 mile point.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.


Cool Creek Trail to Devil’s Peak

Cool Creek Trail to Devil’s Peak

According to the locals, we were having some unusually nice weather for October. I grabbed one of the nice days to see if I could make it up to Devil’s Peak Lookout again, up Cool Creek Trail this time: over 3000 feet up in just 3.5 miles. The hike map is shown below.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.

As usual, I drove out US Highway 26 toward Mt Hood, starting at 8am. About 9 I arrived at Still Creek Road (also National Forest Development Rd 2612). This turned almost immediately into a single lane road, with only a few places where vehicles could pass. It is a very pretty drive and I would have been at trail head in a few minutes except for the line crew which blocked the road while it repaired a downed power line.

I took the opportunity to explore a foot bridge I passed. After I returned from that the way was clear and I arrived at the trail at 10:10 and started up.

The trail is relentless! There are very few gentle slopes, much less level portions. The views are fantastic. I allowed 3 hours and it took four, with many stops and much huffing and puffing. I did make it to the top and climbed into the lookout. It was already occupied by a nursing student who’d made it up earlier in the day. She was settled in, planning on spending the night, so she made it up with a full pack. I only carried my usual 25# adventure pack. We chatted a little while I made my lunch and rested. About 3 I headed back down. I would have explored a little bit, and rested longer, but I was already 2 hours later arriving than planned. Because of the steepness of the trail, getting down would not be much faster than going up. And it was getting dark soon. I made it down in about 2 hours and it was getting pretty dusky at the bottom of the valley where I was parked.

My new boots worked well. They’re a bit clunky and stumbled over things a bit – I’ll just have to get used to them. The main thing is that there was no damage to my toes after that steep downhill hike.

No injuries. The trekking poles helped some. They are good for resting while standing. They do get tangled in vegetation because they’re so light. I’m not sure they are better than my heavy walking stick.

Note: read the instructions on the freeze-dried food packages. They are not all the same. I was pretty tired and mentally fogged when I got to the top and made my lunch on automatic. The Turkey Casserole dinner (see picture) takes less water and a shorter steep time than the others I’ve had. It was still good and I ate both servings without any trouble.

Temperature was in the 40’s. I wore light hiking pants and long-sleeve hiking shirt. I started out with a jacket but warmed up quickly. At the top I put the jacket back on.

I took 2 liters in my hydration pack and 750ml in a bottle. I used every drop. I only took 1 Pemmican bar, ate that along the way and was starving when I got to the top.

For next time: Take more snacks and water. Start earlier.

Will I do this again? Absolutely! I want to spend a night up there and see the stars.


Devil’s Peak Lookout

Devil’s Peak Lookout

On Thursday, August 23, 2018 I went exploring to see how close I could drive to Kinzel Lake. Looking at the map, the forest roads should get me very close. Also, after reviewing the maps and trails around my last hike along the Salmon River, I discovered a lookout tower on Devil’s Peak, just above Kinzel Lake. While I did not expect to actually make it to the lookout, my plan was to see how far I could get.

The trip map is shown below. As usual, I drove out US Highway 26 toward Mt Hood. Just beyond Government Camp is a turnoff to Still Creek Campground, which I had explored in May. The orange line follows the road I took from the highway, through the campground to Forest Road 2613. This starts out as a rough gravel road and gets progressively worse. It is passable, slowly and carefully, all the way to the end where the Hunchback Trail starts. My hikes are along the green and blue lines. The purple line heading north-west is the Cool Creek Trail #794. It’s another way to get to the lookout. (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.

I arrived at Still Creek Campground at 10:17. Driving through the campground I realized this would be a nice place to practice some overnights and try out different tent setups. The sites are a bit more spread out than the ones at Oxbow.

There are some roads that lead out from the south end of the campground and eventually I arrived at the beginning of Forest Road 2613. The road is rough with huge potholes, ridges, and random rocks. I didn’t scrape bottom once, “Yeah Orion.” 8.9 miles and one and one-half hour later I arrived at the end. I had not expected to be able to get all the way to the end of the road, but now that I was here I had to climb up to the lookout tower! It should be less than 2 miles and just 500 or 600 feet up. I shrugged into my pack, tightened my shoelaces, locked the car, and headed out.

The trail is Hunchback Trail and follows the ridge, all the way to the Zig Zag ranger station 10 miles away. Much of the way the ground falls away to both sides and you get nice views in both directions. Unfortunately there is still a lot of smoke in the air from forest fires in California and eastern Oregon, which interferes with the view. After 1 mile there is the junction with Cool Creek Trail which goes down to Still Creek Road 3.5 miles away, all downhill. Another half mile along and I’m at the lookout! See the pictures!

The lookout tower is not very high off the ground, but does give a good view of the surroundings. There are heavy shutters all around that protect the plexiglass windows. There are assorted boards available to prop up the shutters. Watch out for protruding nails! The interior is quite spacious with tables, chairs, cots and a cast iron stove. There are plenty of tools and some supplies, including several canisters of isobutane fuel. A file case contains log books full of visitor comments and stories. Some entries limit themselves to name and date while others include some excellent drawings. The current notebook was full and the latest entries were made on the back of a map page. Someone had already been there earlier in the day. I signed in as well.

While I was there three other hikers and a dog showed up, all (except for the dog) apparently older than I. They had come up the Cool Creek Trail, a bit over 3 miles one-way, 3000 feet up! The rating is “Most Difficult.” I was chatting with one of the hikers and he said he was celebrating his 70th birthday that day. None of them looked particularly exhausted. It looks like a lot more practice on Gresham Butte with a full pack is in order.

I prepared lunch from a double serving of Good-To-Go Thai Curry. It says to let it steep 20 minutes but 30 minutes or even longer is better. It is really good and has lots of veggies. No pieces of TVP (textured vegetable protein). This was too much to eat, I could only eat 2/3 of it. A single serve packet with some extras would be better, but they cost more per serving – the double serving costs $12 and the single serving packet costs $10. I do love the packaging – just pour hot water into the pouches, let them sit and then eat from the pouch. Zip the empty pouch and pack it out. No pot or dishes to clean. All I need is a pot for boiling water for the meal and drink. While I waited for lunch to rehydrate I took some more pictures and tossed out some trail mix to a chipmunk that showed up. It was quite happy to join me for lunch.

The adventure was taking longer than I expected and it was time to go. I closed the shutters, made a note of supplies I should bring next time (a weather-proof journal, toilet paper) and headed back. The return to the car was pretty quick since it was mostly downhill.

Once I got back to the car, I decided to check out Kinzel Lake. According to the map it should be just a short distance away. I walked down the trail looking for the lake or a turn-off to it. After a while I checked my GPS and discovered I had gone past the lake. The map showed a trail to the lake campground but I couldn’t find it. Too tired to explore further, I returned to the car to start the drive home. I’ll find it another time. Maybe the staff at the ranger station has some information for finding it.

In summary…
No injuries – I only hiked 4 miles.
Yellow jackets were out. There were several about while I was eating. I had to be careful they didn’t crawl through gaps in my clothing and get trapped. Sometimes I had to blow them off my spoon to avoid eating one.
I had cell reception all along the trail, probably because it was on a ridge. Good, because I could easily keep SJ up to date on my status. Bad, because it doesn’t count as being in the wilderness if I have bars on the phone.

I definitely have to come back to the lookout. Am I ready to tackle Cool Creek Trail?

Salmon River: Take 1

Salmon River: Take 1

On Thursday, August 2, 2018 I hiked along the Salmon River.

This is further preparation for an overnight hike to Lake Kinzel. This picture shows the route I took. On the far right you can see a blue dot. That is Lake Kinzel, 1700 feet above my turn-around point. From there a trail parallells the Salmon River trail along a ridge and then ends a little northwest of the starting point. Next time… (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Total Distance: 13.1 miles (21km)
Total climb: 3699 feet (1128m)
Total time on the trail: 8.5 hours

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with OnePlus 5 phone. Some with a Canon G10.

The Salmon River trailhead is about an hour from the house. It is located in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness which has some large areas of old-growth forest. Considering how rugged and steep some of the canyons are, it is no wonder that loggers would look for easier pickings.

The weather forecast was for cool, cloudy, and possibly some rain, which suited me just fine. I’m usually soaked anyway so a little rain would help me keep cool.

Here is how it went:
07:20 Left house. Some drizzle and hilltops wreathed in clouds.
08:00 Turned off highway onto Salmon River Road (at the Subway)
08:25 Arrived at the parking area by the bridge beyond Green Canyon Campground. Only two other cars here. Start hiking.
09:19 About 2 miles in, at sign-in station. Moving along easily and in no rush so I can check out some of the campsites and some side trails. Trail starts heading up-hill and away from the river at this point. Weather started to clear up. None of the hoped-for rain arrived.
13:00 At Kinzel Lake Trail beginning. According Runkeeper I’ve come 6.78 miles. The map says it’s 6 miles so my side explorations have added a bit to that. Walked a little way up the trail. It looks pretty and the map says it is only 2.2 miles to the lake, however it climbs another 1700 feet! That would take a few more hours and there’d be no time or energy to return. Definitely an overnight trip. Woohoo!
Settled down for lunch. There was a campsite a little ways back, but no view. I just stayed here, spread a ground sheet on a level area and heated some soup. I could have eaten the soup cold, out of the box, but having it hot is much more pleasant, and refreshing. Had a pack of Belvita crackers to go with it.
13:45 Prepared to head back. Oops!!! Very stiff getting up, sat too long in one position and right hip didn’t want to work. Finally got loosened up and headed back.
14:20 Stopped at a stream to soak feet. I had some very sore toes and discovered three bruised toenails. Arrgh! I trimmed them all back last night, hoping to avoid this. I need to get new boots! Water was cold! Could only keep feet in a few seconds at a time, but it felt really good.
Further on I started to get tired and knees were getting sore, so I was taking frequent breaks. No more detours or sightseeing. Skies got pretty clear and I was on the hillside facing the sun so it got pretty warm. Probably just in the 70’s but still…
17:00 Back at the car. Changed shirt, put on sandals and waded in the water. The river is a bit warmer than stream I put my feet into. It felt good on feet and knees.

Bear pack with 3L Bladder (holding 2.5L) and the usual stuff, some just for weight. Total: 25lbs (11kg)
Usual clothes & wooden staff

Had banana and müsli for breakfast before I left
Luna protein bar about 10:00
Soup box and crackers for lunch
Latte and Tomato/Mozzarella sandwich on way home
Took 2.5L water in bladder. 0.5L remained when I got home

It was a weekday so I hoped for light traffic. There were day-campers in the camp sites. Only met one group of hikers past the 2-mile sign-in station. Met a lone hiker at about 4 miles in. Chatted briefly and agreed that hiking alone in the wilderness is our “church”, and we do it in spite of our families’ bewilderment. She was accompanied by a miniature Italian greyhound (Frankie).
More traffic on the way back, again inside the 2-mile mark. Several groups. About 8 cars in the lot.

I used the Garmin inReach Explorer+ extensively. I’ve used it in the past for tracking and navigation but haven’t had much luck using the messaging function. This time I tested extensively before the trip and reread the instructions.
I did the self test in the parking lot and it took a few minutes to complete. I sent messages to SJ along the way, usually whenever I had an open space beside the river or on an outcropping. I also stayed still while I waited for the message to get through. It worked pretty well and took about 10 to 20 minutes for a message to go out. Replies would come in while I was hiking again. I kept the unit on top of the pack and used a phone app to send and receive messages via BT connection. The Garmin has a 3 to 4 day battery life but the phone was at 30% when I got back to the car. I will need a backup battery or charging system for longer hikes.

Bruised toenails. Looks like at least three will be coming out, maybe a fourth.
Knees started to get painful after about 10 miles. Needed to take frequent breaks after that.

For next time…
The water bladder works great while hiking but is not so good when I stop and take the pack off. Need some water in a bottle for sipping while resting, cooking and washing. Forgot cup.
Bring a few paper towels to wipe out the pot in case I’m not near water.
Left thermometer behind, again! Want to record air and water temps.
Bring more headbands and bandanas.
Need a piece of stiff foam 12″ x 12″ (expanded PVC?) as a stove base for uneven ground.
Schedule more rests, even if not tired.

Other notes…
Mosquitoes: Wasn’t bothered by them while hiking but I did notice a few gathering while I stopped for lunch. So, while I didn’t need any repellent on the hike, they might be a problem when I camp, especially if I stop by a lake.

I like the wooden staff better than a trekking pole

I’m writing this an the Saturday after and have only slight soreness left, Yeah!

And great fun was had by all!

Going Around Mt Hood

Going Around Mt Hood

Some projects are finished and it’s time to go adventuring again!

The plan is to head down US Highway 26 toward Y’East (Mt Hood) and check out the trail head for an overnight hike I’m planning in mid-June. After that, just follow my hiking muse, or wherever Orion (my car) steers me. Ultimately, here is the track I followed: (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate the pictures.

There are 5 major areas I explored. These are noted with the yellow numbers on the topographic map.

The drive from the house to Salmon River Road takes about 1 hour (Marker 1). Then it takes another 20 minutes or so to get to the trail head. I checked out the beginning of trail 793A, which starts opposite the sign to the Green Canyons campground. It has a (very) brief level section and them goes up, and up, and up. I went only 3/4 mile and climbed over 500 feet. Ultimately the climb is about 3000 feet! With an overnight pack that will be fun. After my quick mile and a half round trip, I went to the absolute end of Salmon River Road, which ends at the trailhead to Salmon Butte. That hike is 8 miles, round trip, and also climbs about 3000 feet. The main parking lot for the Salmon River trail was overflowing and there were plenty of cars here as well.

I wanted to stop at the ranger station at Zig Zag, but it was closed, so I continued along 26 and stopped at Mirror Lake (Marker 2). This can only be accessed from the uphill, or eastbound side of the highway. According to the signs, this is one of the most popular places to visit around Y’East. It is about 1 1/2 miles each way, with gentle switchbacks. You can see more comments in the picture descriptions. There was a lot of two- and four-legged traffic.

At Marker 3 I checked out Still Creek Campground. About half way around the campsites I noticed a dirt road and Orion pulled the wheel in that direction. This went through a strange collection of what looked like unofficial campsites that seem to be occupied for long durations. Eventually I found a sign leading me to Trillium Lake which was on my list of places to check out. My NW Forest Pass saved me the $5 entrance fee. It was a pretty busy place with lots of anglers, picnickers, and people enjoying the official beginning of summer that is marked by the Memorial Day weekend. I found an out-of-the-way picnic bench and made my lunch. I do not recommend the freeze-dried Pad Thai from Backpacker’s Pantry. It’s just noodles and textured soy protein and flavoring. It tastes fine but the textured soy protein has the consistency of bits of pencil eraser! Well, that’s why I’m trying it out on day trips like this. Even though it’s almost June, it’s in the low 40’s and I’m glad of the many layers of clothing. Hands were pretty cold. Another thing about the food packets: they never tear open the way they’re supposed to, and cold fingers have a hard time grabbing the tough plastic. Having a multi-tool with scissors is essential. It is unlikely that I will have a reason to revisit this park.

I returned to Highway 26 and had a choice of following it south toward some other lakes, or taking State Highway 35 north around Y’East. I chose 35 as the route that would still get me home that day. Shortly after turning onto 35 there was an unmarked dirt road off to the right (FR3560, according to the map). Again, Orion tugged that way and off we went at Marker 4 . A cliff-hanger of a drive with great views of Y’East. Eventually we were stopped by too much snow on the road. Definitely will come here again later in the summer, perhaps with Little Bear.

Marker 5 We headed home via the towns of Mt Hood and Hood River, and then west along the Columbia River. There were some nice views of Y’East along the way.

Overall, a very productive exploration. I know a little more about my planned overnight to Kinzel Lake and found a nice forest road to explore. The contrast between the west and east side of Y’East is interesting. As I came back west around the north side it got cooler and cloudy again. The town of Mt Hood on the north-east side had been sunny and warm.

Coming back along the gorge I could see the damage done by the Eagle Creek fire last summer.

Here is the day pack I prepared:

Adjustments for the future are:

  • Get a smaller tripod!
  • Don’t forget the lens filters!
Visit to Robert

Visit to Robert


In August 2017 I met up with Robert, a friend from grade school whom I had seen last in 1973. Shirley Jean and I attended a conference in Seattle and I stayed with Robert and met his friends Clémentine and Adrien, the founders of Wings for Science.

We hiked along the Wallace River, visited Rosario Beach, drove down Whidbey Island and took the ferry to Mukilteo. After some seafood at Ivar’s we returned to Bothell.

Robert’s airplane is an experimental, painted Subaru Blue, the same as Orion (my Forester), and white. We had a pleasant flight over the San Juan Islands.

What’s in Your Pack?

What’s in Your Pack?

The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared!” and I’ve taken this to heart ever since I first heard it. For example, when I wear contacts, I always keep my glasses with me because you never know when you might lose a contact or need to take them out. My eyes get dry, so I usually have a bottle of eye drops in my pocket. There’s also an extra bottle in my desk and one in the car center console. Things like this are easy to do, and if you overlook them, while they’re not life threatening, they can be a nuisance.

When you go for a walk in the local park, there is little reason to take more than your house keys and a few bucks for a coffee on the way home. Maybe take some nuts or bread crumbs for the squirrels. But if you go for a longer hike in wilderness where you could end up with a sprained ankle several miles from your car, you might want to take some extra precautions. Here’s what I have in my day pack: (I also have most of these on my bike, along with the spare tube, tools, and pump.)

  1. Small First Aid kit with:
    • Insect repellent! Don’t let some mosquitoes, no-seeums, or horseflies ruin your outing.
    • Assorted sizes of band aids, some big enough to cover a good-sized blister.
    • Small tube of Neosporin (original formula) This is a good antiseptic cream, and, because it’s mostly petroleum jelly (Vaseline), it can serve as lip balm, hand lotion, lubricant, de-squeaker, etc. It’s also great for rubbing inside the nostrils in very dry climates.
    • Needle for draining blisters
    • Eye drops, ibuprofen
    • Cold pack for heat stroke, sprains, and snake bites.
    • Emergency Whistle – these are extra loud (ear-splitting up close) and can attract attention a lot better than calling for help.

    I like to buy the stock first aid kits you can get at sporting goods stores and then modify them. I get them big enough so that after I take out the fluff (excess small bandaids, first aid manuals, etc.) I can put a lot of the stuff listed below into it. Be sure to check the contents regularly and replace tablets, ointments and dried out bandaids.
    First Aid Kit

  2. Pocket Tool: I used to carry a standard scouting knife for many years. This had a single blade, can opener, bottle opener and awl (a pointed thingy for punching holes in leather or canvas.) Then I carried Swiss Army knives with a few more tools, like scissors and files. I especially loved the tooth pick and tweezers they had. Unfortunately, my collection of Swiss Army knives is collecting dust now because I can’t open them anymore – they require younger, stronger fingernails. Now I have a collection of multi-tools. These are easier for me to open and have some extra tools I can use on my bike. I usually wear this on my belt so it is always close. I also put a miniature one in the first aid kit as a backup.
  3. Fire-starter: There are basically three kinds: matches, butane lighters, and magnesium blocks. Ordinary matches can deteriorate after a while, particularly in damp climates. The flint in butane lighters can crumble to dust in the same conditions, and magnesium blocks are only suitable for starting camp fires. They don’t work well for lighting candles or camp stoves. So, for matches get some good quality ones from you adventure supplier (sporting goods store). For butane lighters, get the electronic kind. The piezo spark generator will never wear out. If you also bring a magnesium block, be sure you know how to use it. Practice with the same knife you’ll be taking. I carry the magnesium block as a backup to one of the other two. It’s unbreakable, waterproof and can start hundreds of fires. Here are some videos showing how to use the magnesium fire starter:

  4. Space Blanket: This is a super strong sheet of aluminized Mylar that can be used to keep you warm and dry. It can be used as a shelter. I’ve tested it as a stretcher by rolling opposite ends around walking sticks, and grabbing the Mylar and the sticks at the same time. Clearly, you’ll need two people to carry the injured one. One drawback to Mylar is that a tiny nick can quickly tear all the way across the sheet. A blanket-sized sheet folds down to the size of a handkerchief.
  5. Strong cord: You’re not going mountain climbing with it, but you need enough to turn your poncho or space blanket into a shelter. It should also be thin enough to be used as a replacement shoelace.
  6. Toilet paper or pocket-size package of facial tissue: You can get special small packs of TP at your sporting goods store, or take a roll that’s about 3/4 used, flatten it, and stick it into a durable sandwich bag. It comes in handy when the local facilities are out, or for field emergencies. Other uses include starting fires, blowing noses and cleaning wounds. Make sure it stays dry and bring a spare bag to pack out the used paper.
  7. Extra water: This is in addition to your other water. Always carry extra, especially in hot, dry climates.
  8. Extra bandanas: These can be made into sweat bands, bandages, towels and bathing suits. The bathing suit trick requires several.
  9. Sun screen, depending on the season and locale.
  10. Poncho: Get the kind that’s made from a plastic fabric instead of vinyl sheet. It will be lighter and stronger. Most come with grommets at the corners for attaching string. Potential uses are almost infinite: raincoat, windbreaker, sun shade, picnic blanket, tent, privacy screen, and so on.
  11. Flashlight: While a flashlight may seem excessive for a day hike, I’ve come across enough caves, hollow trees, abandoned huts, and interesting culverts to appreciate having one handy.
  12. And last, but not least, a plastic bag for collecting trash you might find along the way.

Day Pack
Yes, I know, it seems like a lot. All this goes in my day pack along with my regular supply of food and water for the day, camera, and any other mission-specific gear, and most of the time, they just stay at the bottom of the pack. However, you just never know when some of this might come in handy.

Happy and safe wandering, and BE PREPARED!

Foggy Day for a Foggy Mind

Foggy Day for a Foggy Mind

My head and heart are still in a turmoil and I’ve not had a chance to really resolve anything yet, but I did need to take a break, just to rest! I declared a “Run Screaming for the Hills” mental health activity and spent half a day at Government Canyon State Natural Area.

I went early, arriving before 8:00 and found the area shrouded in fog. Cool! Everything was dripping, almost Pacific Northwest-like. The parking lot was already full and the lower trails were infested with people, so I quickly headed to the higher and rougher sections. The rocks were pretty slick and the bikes that passed me were slipping and sliding along.

I followed all the Bluff Spurs hiking-only sections, had a late breakfast, continued up Sendero Balcones, and came down Wildcat Canyon.

Good rest for the mind and great workout for the body.