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The Leonids Return

Heads up night owls! Killer meteor shower on Monday night!

   Meteors over Capitol Reef. The small streaks are shooting stars; the red streak is Mars.  pic: Howe

Start napping now, so you can stay awake on Monday night, when this old, well-used Earth is getting ready to hurtle at 147,000 miles per hour through the thickest section of tail debris left by comet Tempel-Tuttle. The collision could generate one of the best meteor showers in recent history - or maybe even a disaster of blockbuster proportions, kind of a lead-up to 2012 or whatever Nostradumus catastrophe is currently fashionable for cable TV 'history' channels.

But it'll probably just be a great sky show. And even if it does presage the end of the world by explosion, invasion, or alien viruses showering from the heavens, wouldn't you rather watch it all from atop some scenic ridgetop, wrapped in a blanket with your honey and a few bottles, instead of chewing your nails on the couch and listening to talking newsheads screech about stock market implications of the apocalypse?

Yes! Obviously! So here's your field-trip assignment campers: Read Full Story...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 in: Survival, Skills & tips, Wierd/funny
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Sigh. The "iTent," it had to happen sometime

Ponderings on concept gadgetry and deeply conflicted gear lust

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Sometimes I'm a neo-Luddite who hates high tech gear, and sometimes I'm a total sucker for it. Sometimes I just want to live in a teepee, and sometimes I'd slay to live in Bill Gates' uber-tech 40,000-square-foot totally wired house - assuming I didn't have to pay the utility bills or suffer the karmic consequences of such a huge environmental footprint.

Well, this Solar Concept Tent from UK telecom company Orange might be the solution, minus about 39,950 square feet, anyway. They developed the concept for England's Glastonbury Festival (think Burning Man-cum-Woodstock with a serious Druid jones). It's a honed-up version of their previous Text Me Home Dome.
Read Full Story...
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 in: Survival, Wierd/Funny
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Cheating Darwin; A Brief Memoir

Cats may get nine lives, but I'd call that tight rationing

  The author taking repeated, staged falls to illustrate a technique article.

The recent spate of climbing and kayaking deaths got me thinking about how many close calls I've had over the years. But trying to recall them all, and figuring out which ones were "almost died" versus "merely scary" got confusing, so I decided to write down a list. It was a sobering exercise. We always hear about the searches, rescues and fatalities, but every weekend thousands of outdoor adventurers luck out, take a deep breath, and probably never mention the scrape further. Here's my pared-down tally of incidents where the Grim Reaper rightly felt ripped off, and it's way longer than nine:

[] 1977 - I almost fell 100 feet to the ground from a poorly protected rock climb near Aspen, Colorado. I managed to re-grab a hold, barely. None of my pro would have held.

[] 1978 - I had two surprise, waist-deep avalanche burials while skiing in-bounds at Aspen Highlands ski area in CO. This was back in the days when avalanche control wasn't so intensive.

[] 1979 - I took a direct hit from a 15-pound rock while belaying on the North Face of Capitol Peak (Grade IV, 5.9), one of Colorado's most difficult Fourteeners. My partner and I took one helmet and traded off so the second had it on each pitch. Good thing too. The heavy, fiberglass Joe Brown helmet was destroyed. I had a stiff neck for days.

[] 1979 - I almost drowned while trying to cross snowmelt-swollen Snowmass Creek near the Snowmass/Bear Creek confluence, while descending from very rugged Pierre Lakes Basin in Colorado's Elk Range. Short version: I slipped off a log five feet above the water, and managed to pull myself from the raging, ice-cold creek after 150 yards. Read Full Story...
Monday, June 15, 2009 in: Survival, Wierd/Funny
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Backpacker warriors raid the Man-Hatt-Ans. Return with loot.

News that bears repeating: Damn, we just won three National Magazine Awards!

                                            "We heard there were statues"

Greetings, oh campers, from the wastelands of post-literate bloggernet hipsterism. It's cool to be surfin' the New Media wave. And being on the e-publishing forefront just got a lot cooler since Backpacker won three National Magazine Awards last week, and two of them were for Backpacker Dot Com right here. Yeehaw!

Yeah, you might have read about it late last week, but I thought I'd provide a little background.

Now, this may not mean much to you media consumers (aka 'sheeple'), but to us content providers (aka 'elites') it's a gigantically huge deal, basically the Oscars for glossy print periodicals but without the free jewelry and red carpet cleavage. Still, everybody (else on staff, sulk) gets all dressed up and rubs elbows uptown with the GQ/Cosmo/Rolling Stone set. And then, in front of this big Jumbo-tron like they have at the Super Bowl, assorted TV celebs put on the rubber diaper and get down to it, handing out burnished metal sculptures called Ellies.

Since backpackers are simple creatures, lets put this in terms we can all understand here: Having little Backpacker win three Ellies is cool because it's the closest you can get in modern life to raiding the big bad tribe next door and stealing lots of their horses. The raiding party just returned. We're still waiting to hear about scalps. Apparently no liquor made it back to the village. Read Full Story...
Monday, May 04, 2009 in: Wierd/funny, News & events
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Caturday Big Cat Blog

Felines from kitties to cougars keep appearing in my life. Something's up.

Housecats, lynx, cougars, jaguars - I've got some sort of cat karma going on. Bear with me briefly while I elucidate.

Firstly, my spouse, Mistress Betty is a cat person. That's cool by me. I like cats, although I'm deathly allergic to them courtesy of severe childhood asthma. So we've got outdoor cats. My rule was always "two cats, no more," but rules are a one-way street in the Howe household and Betty's a sucker for charity cases, so we soon had three.

When you feed pets outside in a rural setting, other things often show up for dinner. Skunks and racoons roll through occasionally, and several years ago a cougar nailed two peacocks from the yard next door (for which I'm eternally grateful, since they shrieked non-stop like roosters on crack). But often as not, the uninvited guests are feline ronin, masterless cats looking to sell their dubious loyalty in return for Tasty Vittles and a warm lap on which to sharpen their claws. So suddenly we became the orbital center for seven freelance cats. Read Full Story...
Friday, March 20, 2009 in: Survival, Wierd/Funny, Skills & Tips
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Of Outdoor Accidents and Dancing Bears

This Thursday's Round-up brings a trio of instructional accidents, serious tech anticipation, and black bears with mojo

Welcome to Thursday, beginning with my usual apology about slow postings. Life, work and blogging can be an interesting juggle. Here's a smattering of hiker-relevant media that hit my radar screen over the last week. First the downer news, then the happy-happy:

Climbing Injuries and 'Failed' Equipment
Two climbing-related incidents offer a chance to examine how the media covers mountaineering mishaps.

On Tuesday the 17th, an unidentified 30-ish rock climber in Colorado's Clear Creek Canyon along Highway 6 near Denver took a 40-foot fall when - according to news reports - his 'equipment failed.' He was hospitalized with serious head and other injuries, but is expected to survive. The man was not wearing a helmet at the time, although this can be standard procedure on well-traveled sport climbs. Translation to climber-speak means some of his intermediate protection points (chocks, cams, pitons, or expansion bolts) pulled out of the rock. Technically this is a failure of the 'placement,' not the equipment. Non-climbers should realize this is a common mistake in mainstream news reporting.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009 in: Survival, Wierd/Funny, Skills & Tips
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Looking for Adrenalin in the Muslim World

For those who think our Middle Eastern bruddahs can't rock out X Games style

There's an attitude out there that Muslims are stodgy, dour, no fun and - unless you're having a war against them - not very exciting. Violent cultural conflict can do that. And fundamentalist clerics of any faith tend to be killjoys. So when you think of high action car stunts and teen lemming craziness, Saudis don't automatically come to mind.

But, as these two Youtube videos clearly show, some Islamic dudes could give any Jackass star or X Games stuntmonkey a run for their money. Evidence below the jump.

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Friday, March 06, 2009 in: Wierd/funny
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Uncool Foods

In which we examine the unseemly link between backpacking and nasty junk food.

What is it about junk food and backpacking? I mean sure, anyone gets hungry after exercise, but do marathoners immediately head to the nearest 7-11 for Doritos? Does a session at the gym automatically lead to a dead pint of Haagen Daz? Such gastronomic atrocities are the norm for hikers and backpackers. On the trail, you'll hog down stuff you'd never deign to taste in civilized surroundings, and even the average weekend stroll with friends usually results in a Sunday evening pizza and beer binge somewhere between trailhead and home.
Read Full Story...
Thursday, March 05, 2009 in: Survival, Wierd/Funny
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Kilimanjaro Gets a Serious Dose of Reality

Humor on Africa's high point courtesy of the British tabloids

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009 in: News& events, Wierd/funny
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Fremont Indian Beer Commercials, Who Knew?

Project Backyard researcher uncovers ancient rock art endorsement

Saturday, January 24th, 2009. Torrey, Utah.

special to The Pulse

A writer-photographer pursuing backyard research in the deserts of Utah uncovered a prehistoric Fremont Indian rock art panel  that conclusively shows a warrior or sports celebrity in the act of endorsing a bottled product, probably beer.

Steve Howe, a subsistence journalist residing in nearby Torrey, located the image while scouting off-trail hikes for Project Backyard, a self-assigned mapping effort of nearby adventures. Howe characterizes the image as "earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting, like Schlieman discovering Troy, or Carter in the Valley of the Kings. It overturns our whole body of scientific knowledge regarding the history of alcohol marketing."

Howe avoided summarizing his findings on the panel's exact age and culture pending journal publication. However, he suspects the 50- by 10-foot series of drawings was pecked into the Navajo sandstone sometime between 700 and 1400 A.D. by Fremont Indians, a more nomadic - and artistic- culture than the contemporary Anasazi who neighbored them to the south. The panel includes four anthropomorphic figures, the largest one with headdress and bottle, and three smaller, more ephemeral figures that have heads and limbs, but no bodies. Howe theorizes that the three smaller figures are cheerleaders whose painted-on clothing has washed off with time.

Howe credits his discovery to aimless wandering."Look what laziness did for Newton," he explains. "Sir Isaac discovered gravity sacked out beneath an apple tree. Archimedes discovered how to measure volume while lounging in the tub. Considering my efforts I should displace Einstein soon, as this casual yet important discovery proves."

To further his research, Howe is asking for help from expert readers who can identify which beer brand is being shown. Publish your well-researched findings in the comments section below. Expect rigorous peer review.
Sunday, January 25, 2009 in: Survival, Wierd/Funny
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