Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Believe It.

This was recorded at the church I go to.  As soon as this service was over, I went and talked about being Baptized.  It wasn't long afterwards that I began my walk in Newness of Life.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that it might do the same for you, or at least set you on that path.

I believe in God the Father,
Almighty Maker of heaven and Maker of earth,
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten son our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary.
Suffered under Pontius Pilot
where he was crucified dead and buried.

And I believe what I believe in
is what makes me what I am.
And I did not make it,
no it is making me
It is the very truth of God
and not the invention of any man.

I believe that He who suffered
was crucified, buried and dead.
He descended into hell
and on the third day He rose again.
He ascended into heaven
where He sits at God's mighty right hand.
I believe that He's returning to judge
the quick and the dead of the sons of men.

I believe it, I believe it. I believe it.
I believe it, I believe it. I believe it.

I believe in God the Father,
Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of earth
And in Jesus Christ His
only begotten Son our Lord.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
one Holy Church
The communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends. 

I Want To Go Backpacking For The First Time

There was a post on Hammock Forums a couple of days ago:
Moving from car camping to backpacking
I'm looking to make the move from car camping to backpacking, but I really have no idea where to start. I love to do hiking, but I've never really trekked longer than a day hike, or very far away from the safety of a base camp.

Looking at all the vast array of gear, hearing all the talk of weight weenies, and figuring out what I actually need makes my head spin. Where did all you guys learn the ropes? Is there a backpacking forum that is as informative and supportive as hammock forums?

I know I have a far way to go from my current setup for it to be backpack friendly, as I'm currently using poncho UQ/TQs. I figure this will give me something to obsess over as I save up some money for gear.

There followed a couple of pages of very good advice---all of which missed the point. The guy didn't know where to start.

I'll have to confess right now that I really can't remember the first time I went backpacking, or camping for that matter.  My Grampa gave my Dad a half acre in the woods as a wedding present and he dragged an old line shack onto it, then built onto it until he had a fairly decent little cabin that we lived in during the summers.  I literally lived in the woods while I was in diapers.

My earliest memory of car camping is a trip my Dad took my brother an I on.  We slept on a mattress in the back of an old Nash Rambler Beachwagon.  I was probably 5 years old.

I remember a frying pan, eggs sunnyside up, and bacon.  We were camped at the base of a mountain in southern NH where Pawtuckaway State Park is now.  At the top of the mountain was a Fire Tower.  When my Dad was a boy he used to hike up there and visit the Ranger.  I remember that before we could eat breakfast Dad said we had to hike to the top of the mountain to watch the sunrise.  It wasn't a long trip, we were parked in what was the parking area for the tower.  It was in that time of the day called "the gloaming," just before the dawn.  My brother and I were hungry and complaining a bit, but Dad told us we'd like the tower.

The sky was just turning purple when we got to the tower and climbed the stairs.  Dad was hoping to get into the observation room, but there was a padlock on the trap door, so we sat on the last couple of steps and I watched the sun rise for the first time in my life.  I remember Dad making a sound like "poop" when the last bit of the sun crossed the horizon on its way up and the sun formed a full circle.  The tower has now been refurbished and is a popular hiking destination at the Park.  I was surprised to find so many pictures of it on the web.  The one below is exactly the view I remember.

We went back down to the Rambler and Dad pulled out that frying pan and some eggs and bacon and made us breakfast.  I remember my brother and I saying that the eggs looked just like the sun rise.  I still think of that when I eat eggs sunny side up.

Now I'm straying off the subject, but Old Men are allowed to do that aren't they?

Here's my advice to folks who want to go backpacking for the first time:

Ignore all the advice you're going to get regarding equipment.  Don't worry about being a noob, and don't worry about going out in the woods looking like a noob.  Here's the ugly truth on that:  you're going to look like a noob no matter what you do gearwise, so don't even bother trying to find the "He doesn't look like a noob." gear before going out.

One of the most famous hikers of all time was a lady named Grandma Gatewood.  The first time she ever took a hike was when she just one day up and decided to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail.  She was 67 years old and her equipment consisted of an old Army blanket, an old shower curtain for shelter, and a raincoat---she carried that stuff in a canvas tote sack.

She carried canned and fresh food, and wore tennis shoes the whole length of the trail---several pair.  Then she went and did it one more time before she died

Now I'm not saying you should do what Grandmam Gatewood did.  Its actually pretty insane, but I mention her just to make the point that the equipment is not the secret.  Its not about the gear, its about the journey.  You're going to be dissatisfied with the first gear you get anyway.  Once you get hit with the bug, you'll always be looking for improvement on gear, technique, destinations, and all sorts of variables impossible to think of ahead of time.  I've been hiking and camping since climbing that fire tower 55 years ago, and I still don't have my gear the way I want it.

So here's what you do:

Set an achievable goal: one night in the woods.  Let's plan for that, OK?

The watchword is KISS:  Keep It Simple Stupid.

First, we're going to go out in Summer.  We're keeping it simple and cold weather camping takes experience in using and selecting your gear for safety.

You will need one lunch, one supper, and one breakfast.  To keep things simple, lets not cook anything.  Lets go to the store and get one of those pre-packaged Lunchables for lunch, make a couple of sammiches for supper, plus maybe a can of mandarin oranges for desert, and some Pop Tarts for breakfast.  Bring about a half gallon of water, and a cup to drink out of.  If you want you can bring some Tang or other drink powders to flavor the water you drink with your meals.

Get a sleeping bag, almost anything will do.  You could get a cheap tent, but keeping it simple really means checking the weather and making sure there's little to no chance of rain.  You could also get a small tarp to put on top of you or to lay on.  You should get a small First Aid kit and a flashlight.  Get a good book.

Now put all that stuff together, look at how much room it takes up, then go to WalMart and buy a backpack that will fit all that stuff.  One good way to figure that out is to put it all in a box, calculate the cubic inches of the box, and buy a pack of roughly the same capacity.

Now.  Stuff all that stuff into the pack, go to a State or National Park that lets you camp on the trail, or has a parking area a mile or so from one of their developed campsites.  Sling the pack on your back and start walking.  If you're camping on the trail, don't go too far from your car, just far enough away that you can't see it, maybe out of earshot of the road. 

Toss your sleeping bag on the ground, lay down on it.  Eat your lunch.  Read your book.  Close your eyes and listen to what's going on around you.  Eat your supper.  Go to sleep.  Wake up.  Eat breakfast.  Walk back to the car and go home.

Congratulations. You've gone backpacking for the first time.

Now come the most important part:

Evaluate your experience.  Think of what you needed and did not have.  Think about what you liked and didn't like.  What mistakes do you think you made?  What did you do that you think you can pat yourself on the back for?

Now, do your research.  Google Andrew Skurka and Ray Jardine. Join Whiteblaze or Hammock Forums.  Look for meet-up groups in your area.  Get gear that will address the results of your evaluation.  One of the great things about hiking and backpacking is that it is an intensely personal experience and each individual tailors his gear to his own needs and desires.  If you really think that pink fur anklets enhance your experience, get some pink fur anklets and wear them on the trail  Criminy, you'll become a frikkin local legend.  (I'm not recommending anklets of any sort here, just making a point, OK?)

If you're like most people, you have set yourself up for a lifetime.  You will never be in want of something to do with your weekend.  You will meet wonderful people and you will see wonderful things.  You will be intensely uncomfortable, and will thank the Lord for the experience.  My worst night in the woods was better than my best day at work.

I'll leave you with two bits of advice that are probably the most important words of wisdom I could impart on you as a first time backpacker:

Get out into the woods.

Hike Your Own Hike.

See you on the trail.

Saturday, July 13, 2013



"Camping" is a term that is used and abused by a lot of folks.  That's mainly because its a very general term for a lot of different outdoor activities.  Below is just my philosophy, an opinion, really.  Take it or leave it, you're the one who clicked on the link. 

There are, according to me, three distinct activities which many people erroneously lump together under the rubric "Camping."

First, there's Hiking.  To me, Hiking is a separate activity from camping, although can be included as a component of "camping" activities.  The folks who I define as "Hikers" are those who's activity on the trail is confined to walking distances with no real purpose at all (as opposed to going to the store), and that walk is planned to begin and end on the same day, usually at the starting point.  A hike is quite simply a long walk, usually in a wild or semi-wild place, but can also be done in urban or sub-urban settings.  It is usually done along a distinct trail or road, public or private.  The duration of the hike is usually long enough that it is necessary to carry along one or two meals and a quantity of water.

When we get to discussing "Camping", there are many different types. While these can be divided up into the various modes of transportation used to get to the campsite, "camping" is generally a sedentary activity.  Sometimes its a means to have a place to eat and sleep between destinations, sometimes the campsite is the destination in and of itself.  Car camping, Bike Camping (motorcycle or human powered), Kayak or Canoe Camping, RV Camping, etc. all fall into the general category of "Camping" as they generally fit that description.  Camping, when defined this way (and its my durn blog so we'll define it that way), allows the participant to bring along as much equipment, food, water, etc. as his mode of transportation will allow, and if he's on a long trip, the ability to re-stock between destinations.  Gas or charcoal grills, boom boxes, TVs, cots, multi-room tents, volleyball nets, coolers, chairs----you get the picture----that's what camping is.  Its popular with families who have children and fat old men who have given up on backpacking because they haven't discovered hammocks yet. Sometimes, Hiking is included as an activity during Camping in that the trip is a mile or two and begins and ends at the cooler on top of the picnic table.  Campsites are generally developed, easily accessed by road with parking nearby, usually with firepits and picnic tables, and there's probably running water and some kind of toilet facility nearby. The campsite can be commercial or public, or it can be on private property.

Now we come to Backpacking. Hikers use backpacks, whether or not they have just left the house that morning and plan to return there the same day, or if they're doing something to keep the kids busy while camping, but they are not backpackers.  The difference between Hikers and Backpackers is that Backpackers intentionally stay overnight after hiking.  The difference between Backpackers and Campers is that the backpacker's mode of transportation between campsites is his feet, and all of the food and equipment he needs is carried on his back.  He has no ability to restock along his route, unless he has pre-planned and pre-located sites to cache supplies.

So.  Are you a Hiker, a Camper, a Backpacker, or a combination of all three?