Northwest editor Michael Lanza meditates on the pains and price of living the hardcore outdoor lifestyle into middle age
In the 1990s, I owned a Geo Prizm for several years, running the odometer up over 197,000 miles. I eventually gave it away to a social-service agency because I didn’t think it would survive a cross-country move. (By then, the car was worth less than the tax deduction for donating it.) Otherwise, I’d have kept on driving it. I grew attached to that vehicle because, though it was falling apart, it refused to die.
Our resident trip planning expert shares where to camp, how to plan, and other tips for the John Muir Trail.
Q:I’m planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail this summer. How many days should I plan on, what do I need to know, and where are the best campsites?
A: Thru-hiking the JMT should be on every backpacker’s tick list—its amazing scenery really earns it the nickname “America’s most beautiful trail.” And at 221 miles total—when you include the 10-mile hike off Mt. Whitney’s summit, where the JMT ends (or begins, depending on your perspective)—it can be done in three weeks or less, so you don’t have to quit your job or abandon your family for it.
I took this shot of my friend Todd Arndt above Marie Lake, near Selden Pass:
Video from my recent Wilderness First Responder course
Hey gang. I'm finally back on the blog train after three weeks of field time, guiding hikes in Zion and taking an intense 80-hour Wilderness First Responder course taught by the Wilderness Medicine Institute at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School in Boulder, Utah.
Both Zion and the "Woofer" course were grand, but together they formed a long string of 16-hour days, hence my skimpy blogging.
The Woofer seminar was nine days of full-tilt instruction - and very useful, even for an ex-EMT like myself who went into it with a smugly casual attitude. Above you'll see footage from one short field exercise that required traction splinting a femur and backboarding two patients. We'll post more First Aid videos in the future....and I'll try to stay more current on the dispatches from here forward. Stay tuned. --Steve HoweRead Full Story...
Monday, May 03, 2010 in:
Survival, Skills and Tips
Last in a series of over-sharing dispatches on musculoskeletal health
Hey campers, here's a quick last update on my post-hip-surgery recovery for the half-handful of you who've been following along - and readers who may be facing a similar operation in the future.
Last Wednesday I had a three-week follow-up doctor's appointment. The X-ray (at right) shows the implant is aligned and calcifying into place. Cool! I was worried because, as I began to get more mobile after 11 days of bed rest, I could feel shifting in the joint. I was worried that the implants were breaking loose.
Apparently it was just the stretched tendons, ligaments and muscles that result from surgery. "No problem, that's normal," said Dr. Poole. It'll all tighten up quickly if I rehab conscientiously. The main thing I've got to be careful of is dislocating the joint because of the loose ligaments. So the doc lifted most of my activity restrictions. Read Full Story...
Sunday, March 21, 2010 in:
Survival, Skills & tips
After a week and a half of intense searching by helicopter, canine, and ground teams, two ATV riders found the body of missing Portland hiker Katherine Heuther (24) on Saturday afternoon. She was discovered at the base of a cliff face on Table Mountain, north of the Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington. Our condolences go out to Huether's family and friends.
Table Mountain (3,417 feet) is a 15-mile round-trip hike with steep and exposed trail sections. From the PCT trailhead near Bonneville Dam, where Huether set out about 1 p.m. on March 4th, it is considered a stout day-long endeavor.
The two local four-wheelers, a father and son who were intimately familiar with the area, went out specifically to look for Huether because they felt the most probable mishap site, a rugged region bordering an ancient landslide, had not been combed extensively. According to Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox, they "parked their 4 wheelers and...hiked some distance before finding Ms. Huether wedged behind rocks at the base of an over-800-foot cliff." She was clad in dark blue clothing and difficult to spot even at close range. Read Full Story...
Sunday, March 14, 2010 in:
Survival, News & events, Tips & skills
BACKPACKER cover photographer Seth Hughes shares the tricks and tips that helped him land the cover for our 2010 Gear Guide.
Selecting the perfect shot for BACKPACKER's annual Gear Guide means a lot more than taking a pretty picture. Boulder-based photographer Seth Hughes shares his secrets for capturing gear lust in photographic form.
Julia Vandenoever: How did you make this photo?
Seth Hughes: I used a Canon 5D with a 90mm lens to photograph the cover image. ISO 50, f/11, 1/125. A tripod was used. (In a studio environment, the camera’s settings can pretty much be whatever you want since the lighting is controlled).
JV: What were the conditions needed to create this image?
SH: The image was photographed in a studio environment on a curved silver poster board. Three strobe lights were used. A diffused key light was placed on the front, left side of the pack. A light with a softbox was placed behind and to the right of the pack to serve as a kicker light that wraps around the side from behind. A ring light was used around the lens of the camera as a shadowless fill light. Also, a silver reflector card was hand-held to strategically bounce light into the darker area towards the bottom of the pack. Read Full Story...
Friday, March 12, 2010 in:
BACKPACKER Photo School, Skills
A "hallelujah!" solution to telephoto stills and video pans on the run.
Greetings from my recovery bed, readers! While I've got zero pain after my recent hip resurfacing, I'm ordered to lie flat (not sitting up) for the next 9 days. So life sucks, but self-pity is boring, so instead I'll pass along this gear tip to all you fellow photo-holics.
One of the biggest challenges to being a real trail photographer/videographer is how to carry your gear at the ready, and minimize camera deployment and tripod hassles, while still getting sharp shots and steady footage.
Even if you're a nature shooter who concentrates on landscapes and wildlife, cumbersome photo equipment (virtually all of it designed for street and studio shooters) can make you miss fast-changing light and brief wildife encounters. It's an unfortunate truth that most great images are taken in spite of the gear, not because of it.
And then there's video, a whole new medium that's never been more appropriate for backcountry image capture. Unfortunately, video can bring a whole new hassle level, especially when shooting telephoto sequences that are impossible to handhold. Setting up a video tripod level enough for flat, smooth pans on uneven terrain makes the most exacting still photogrphy seem simple. And if you get a video tripod with a "leveling ball" for the head, it'll weigh5 to 6 lbs minimum.
Wake up to freshly baked muffins with a DIY Dutch oven, built from two trail pans and a handful of gravel.
Is there anything better than fresh-baked muffins on the trail? That question is rhetorical because there isn’t anything better. Although it’s not practical to huff your Dutch oven along the John Muir Trail, you can get the same results from the trail pans you already carry. Forego your usual cold Gu and oatmeal offerings, and impress your friends with this fluffy delicacy. Read Full Story...
Thursday, February 25, 2010 in:
Trail Chef, Skills
Senior Editor Shannon Davis gives you an inside look at avalanche training
First off, winter vacation is a misnomer. It was more of a long weekend, and it consisted of 10-hour days filled with lectures, power point presentations, snowshoeing, “strategic shoveling,” shovel tap tests, signal searching, probing, and eating lots and lots of donut holes. Can you guess what I was doing?
Here's a multiple-choice quiz to help you narrow your guesses:
1.Taking an American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Level 1 Avalanche Course.
2. Auditioning for a new reality television program called Norwegian Idol.
3. Actually in Mexico drinking on the beach. He made up the stuff on this list so his boss would think his absence was work-related and not dock a personal day. Read Full Story...
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 in:
Hey readers. This may seem incongruous while we’re all watching the Olympics and wishing we were hurtling down luge runs or throwing triple-back-twisting-quad-layouts, but I’m here to talk about caution, and how it relates to having a long career in sports.
There’s a phenomenon that rescue rangers in the Tetons call YMIS, young men’s immortality syndrome. (This is a gender-equal term since women are quickly catching up in athletic performance - and injury, and rescue statistics.) To put it simply, YMIS is really cool these days. Just watch any ski or mountain bike film if you don't believe me. And when everybody’s out getting’ radical, raging downhill mountain bike courses and sketching up 40-foot-high boulder problems, it’s easy to get pulled along by the lycra sportster frenzy. It’s like drafting the leader in a me-too race, earning your place on the Facebook adulation party circuit.
But there’s a downside to X-Games risk and weekend one-upsmanship, and that is injury. Oh sure, you can stump around in a cast and recover later. After all, plaster on your leg is a sign of authenticity these days. But here’s the rub: In the end, no injury is temporary. They all come back to haunt you. Read Full Story...
Sunday, February 21, 2010 in:
Survival, Tips & skills