Previous Walk It Off Post:  Walk It Off


So, Strayed’s “Wild” is now a movie. The memoirs of thru hikers have hit sorta kinda close to mainstream. There is some rejoicing. This blog, however, is not the sort of memoir you’ll pull off the shelf and read. I’m not like the rest of the writers out there. There is no mid life crisis journey to discover myself for me. I did that as a kid. My story isn’t a good one in that regard and is filled with bitterness and betrayal. I didn’t need a PCT or a AT to discover myself and make something of my life, I just did it as I went. I don’t look at the woods as a pilgrimage, or as a place of discovery. To me, much like Muir, it’s home. I guess at this point I should warn you; what follows isn’t tame. But then again, I’m not much for tame.

This world, with its bills and cars and culture and traffic and politics, that’s YOUR world. I live here, sure, but it’s not HOME to me. The house I live in? It’s a bit of an oasis. As I found out when my wife went down south on a conference a few weeks back, this house is completely different without her. It’s not MY home, it’s OUR home, and without that other, it’s just a house. That brought me back to a stark reminder. My home, the home I know best, was hanging on a rack in my garage. I’m surprised I didn’t ruck up for the time she was gone, or sleep in the hammock in the back yard, despite being sick. I’m Just as surprised I didn’t return to sleeping on the floor (only in the last decade have I returned to sleeping in a bed as opposed to a bedroll, but I’m not the only vet for whom this is a thing).

Home, for me, was the place where all your memoirs take place. It’s the place YOU visit and wonder about and find yourself. Me, it’s where I lived. Unlike Strayed, I didn’t grow up wild, I grew up Feral. And sometimes, that’s a bit of a strain when I live here in what a lot of people call the “real” world. Me, I don’t consider the back country a place to go to learn something, it’s a place I go to in order to recharge, to gain some peace and quiet, not some personal identity. I read about people who do stupid things in the woods and call it a learning experience. I learned these things as a child, not as a mid life crisis. My Christmas and birthdays were filled with requests for sleeping bags and tents and packs as a kid. My initial gear was all Wall Mart and K-Mart specials.

I spent more time out of doors when I turned 18 than most people my age. When I went into the Army, the recruiter told me “You like hiking and camping, right? I have just the job for you.” It was an outstanding concept that I could get paid for doing what I did to live.

And like most people out of their element, sometimes the things I learn in MY mid life crisis are for THIS world, not the one I call home. I don’t do as well with a job and traffic and people and people and PEOPLE. Sometimes, getting to a place that you have to walk five or ten days to get to is less a learning experience and more a relief that can leave me sobbing. Tenaya understands part of this. She understands that when I go out, it’s a recharge time. The problems that other people have out in the woods and wilds with the elements and the animals and the pain they put themselves through are all old and familiar to me. I know my way around the wilds like most people would know their way around their hometown. She has her hometown, I have the back country.

Tenaya going out for that conference was a stark reminder of this. The house felt empty and odd the days she was gone. It’s a place I’ve lived and slept in for almost 8 years. I haven’t had to live out of doors in more than a decade. The packs I owned back then have been given away to friends in favor of newer and better. My gear has gone through several upgrades from the initial Wal Mart special, through military surplus, to REI gear and Campmor purchases. I’m not one for the gear fetish of most people, I look for what works. I look to travel in the manner I’m used to; not too light and not too heavy. I pack things others consider luxury, and I consider living (like a hammock and fly).

The other lesson that I’ve learned here over the past few weeks is this. My home is not a place. Not like it was in any sense anyway. Anywhere I could hang my hat was home for me. This place could have been home, but Tenaya being gone taught me the error of my perspective. Home is no longer a place for me, but a person.

Home is wherever Tenaya is.

And as much as this is Her world, I’m willing to live here in it with her, and she’s willing to go out back to MY home of old and walk around and learn what it is to live like I do. It’s not something I can easily explain. People who walk the long trails come to find themselves because there is no place for you to hide From yourself anymore. You come to terms with yourself whether you like it or not because you’re really not given much choice in the matter. The thing that people go out to the wilds looking for is something I’ve lived with for more than half of my life now. I KNOW who I am, and I know What I am. That’s not what I go back out to the wilds for. I go back out to the wilds so I can be that person again. Feral and fey and wanderer and ways. It grounds and centers me when the world of work and jobs shoves me off of center.

And this is what I want to show Tenaya. I want to show her what living like I’ve lived is like. I want her to experience that mirror of the soul and I want her to find herself and be sure of that person.

Walk it Off…

Previous Walk It Off Entry:  Lifehacked.

The Silent War and the Invisible Wounds

The death of Robin Williams has made the current media du jour and again did a toe in the water on the topic of mental health and depression. The news seems to want to talk around the issue to death and more importantly as a disservice, to the weariness of the general public. I skimmed the headlines on the paper this morning saying how his friends saw the signs of depression in him. And on the inside, I want to scream. How many friends in Hollywood did Williams have? They’re still coming out of the woodwork. So the fifteen ton elephant in the room is: how did someone who meant so much to so many people manage to actually commit suicide? Answer: Easily.

The problem is, nobody wants to talk about that part. Nobody wants to admit anything of the sort could ever happen. Everything I’ve seen in the media and on Facebook for the past two days has said “Well, maybe we’ll get a discussion about depression now.” And to wit, I ask; “What’s kept you so far?”

What’s kept us as a culture, as a nation, through two world wars, almost a dozen or so conflicts, each scarring and each with hundreds of thousands of people that came out of them with PTSD/ Depression/ Anxiety/ borderline or manic Anti-social from talking about it? Really? Seriously? What? No, we as a culture carry that sort of thing as an invisible shame. We actively don’t want to look at people in need in this country. Think I’m wrong? Take a look at our immigration policies. Too political? All right, just go to a VA hospital and see the vets. Too much work? Go to your street corner, and see who’s begging. Bet you don’t want to, and that’s normal.

And that’s the counter argument right there. If you suffer from it, there are people out there who tell you that you’re faking. You need to just get over it and pull yourself together. Stop being so negative or unhappy and just be better. SMILE! And that’s if you’re even acknowledged at all. If you come out and say you have a mental condition, the kindest thing people in general are is politically correct. They’re so painfully politically correct, and it’s obvious they would rather pet a leper than talk to you. And if you already have depression, and you’re struggling with it to the point where you can no longer hide it, seeing yourself put into the same category as a leper in the eyes of someone else does absolute wonders for your struggle. Killing someone with kindness? I’ve seen it done. Suicide is a mercy after that sort of collective cultural rejection.

Me, I live with (I don’t often “Suffer” from, but occasionally) Dysthymia. For the layman out there, it means that I live with a chronic low level depression that spikes and can become manic under stress. I was diagnosed by the VA about fifteen years ago. To say I have a bit of experience with it is a wry understatement at best. If you want to have a discussion about what it’s like to live with this, both the low level and the manic, I’ll tell you here. That conversation can start right now.

Silent Scream

Start with this: Imagine you wake up one day and you come to the sudden and horrible realization that there’s something wrong with you. You are NOT NORMAL. And not in the cool counter culture way that rocks guyliner and sneers at conventional behavior while dressed all in black leather. This is not the sort of thing that can cause one joy. In fact, the first thing that struck me was when someone asked me when my last good day was, when I was last happy. And I had to think about it. And I couldn’t honestly answer. THAT’S when it hit me.

Imagine that if you will. Imagine your last good day. Now imagine not being able to. Imagine that you have to fight with your brain to remember something, anything good. That’s every day for me. Every Day. And I’m not currently manic. That’s just Low Level Depression. Out of the last seven years, the one good memory, the one happy time that I can recall, is getting down on one knee to tell the world my vows to my wife. And even then, sometimes I have to look at pictures to remember it better. Does that sound sad to you? It’s life for me.

That’s depression in its simplest form. It makes your normal life sad, and the worst part is when you actually realize that it’s happening. It’s when you fully understand that your brain literally isn’t wired for happiness. It doesn’t know what to do with it. It’s been preconditioned to be able to handle things that would give normal people fits of spontaneous suicide, but happiness? Does not compute. And if you’re living with depression, that’s just your day, and you live through it. And you will again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And that’s just what you come to believe. I think people who live with depression constantly are stronger than most normal people. A normal person having to live in my head would be dead by the end of the week and consider it a mercy. THAT’S depression.

The good news is, you can still laugh. You can still smile. But happiness for someone with depression is like speaking English as a second language. You can learn to be fluent. You can understand it. But it’s not your default emotion. You can laugh, but the reason behind it is just about forgotten as soon as your done. You can smile, but it’s an effort to do it. You get an honest smile out of someone in manic depression, you treasure it. It’s rarer than diamonds. It’s rarer than a Cubs World Series.

But living with it in blissful ignorance is one thing. KNOWING you are…. Other. That’s something else. Acknowledging that there is something wrong with you, that’s infinitely worse. It’s like Airborne school and jumping out of an airplane for the first time. The first step is the hardest. You’re not right, not normal, will never fit in, are broken, can’t get fixed, there is no cure. Take out the commas and that’s a pretty common stream of thought that spirals downward until you’re hanging at the end of a rope yourself. Knowing is hard. Knowing is worse. Doing something after that is harder.

And then in mocking glee of your anguish, you see before you the long stretch of days you’ll have to endure living with this condition. How can you live the rest of your life with something like this so wrong with you? Short answer: You shorten your life expectancy. Because if you had to choose between that much misery and oblivion, then you know exactly what Hamlet was talking about when he was asking about “To Be, or Not To Be..” After that stark realization, is suicide such a surprise?


Floating on quicksand.

But what about happiness? What about normal? Is it really that far out of reach? That’s the trick question of depression. Because it’s not. The trick of it is, you have to want it. You have to keep at it. It’s an effort, and a drain on resources and will. I heard the story about how someone with Lupus described to a friend what it was like. About how they handed their friend a bunch of spoons and then told them that every thing they wanted to do for the day cost them spoons. When you run out, you’re out. That’s it. You’re done for the day. Depression is like that. Doing something that makes you happy is an effort. It costs you. If you see me on Facebook and I say I’m out of spoons, it’s a bad day.

The better way to describe it, to me, is that it’s like trying to float on quicksand. Depression wants to suck you down, and to stay level, you have to expend effort. You’re not able to get out of the quicksand, but you can, with a little effort, float on it. You can fight it all you want, and all you end up doing is tiring yourself out and getting sucked down into oblivion. So you don’t fight it much. You manage your efforts to conserve your will and your emotional strength, and you float as long as you can. Your choices are float, or sink. Some days, floating is easy. Some days, you need a life line thrown your way. And some days, you have to swim while you’re sinking to get to that line.


The Dangerous Quiet.

I’m also a pretty pegged-out-on-the-scale introvert. In type, I’m a motor mouth. On Facebook, I can be charming. In person, I’m the guy on the edge of things. I don’t say much. I watch before I join. When I was first diagnosed, the VA wanted to put me in group therapy. I blinked at them, and told them I didn’t really feel comfortable with group therapy as a concept. I was told that the first one on one councilor would be a year’s wait time. That, from what the news tells me these days, is VA speak for “Go away, you’re bothering me.”

But there’s quiet, and there’s QUIET. If you’re a vet, you know the dangerous quiet. It’s when some idiot displays his firm grasp of the obvious and summons Murphy in the same sentence and says “It’s TOO quiet.” Introverts with depression know that quiet. People who know introverts with depression well know that quiet too. It’s a danger sign. It’s a warning that things are not right. I’ll make small talk with people, though I don’t much enjoy it. Give me a deep and meaningful meaty conversation any day over small talk. But when I Don’t answer even casual questions? It’s because in my mental jungle, the demons are hunting me and I’m hunting them. Don’t worry, though, they’re not hunting you. The dangerous quiet is a withdrawal. You’re out of spoons, you’re out of effort, and you’re sinking. What do you do? You try your damnedest not to let anyone know, because that will just make things Worse. Letting people Know means you’ll get the Political Correctness. You’ll be the leper of the hour. So you hide it. You do your best, and you try to escape to a place where you can deal with it. And if you can’t? Your body will be found later.

This is the thing that friends see, but don’t comment on. Not until later. Some may ask what was wrong. Some may know. Not many do anything about it. And that’s where you get those infuriating headlines of friends who saw the depression in so and so, but they ended up tragically dead anyway. Because what can YOU do about it? Blow false cheer and sunshine up someone’s backside? Believe me, depression does not affect IQ adversely. The person out of spoons knows first and foremost that you’re faking it. And trust me, it’s not helping.

The other common reply is to go up and say “I know what you’re going through.” And this is exactly wrong for the reason that the last thing someone sinking needs is Your baggage dragging them down faster.

So, what’s right? How do you handle the dangerous quiet? This is. Just be there. Let them choose how to help, because one answer does NOT fit all. Just being there quietly yourself is enough to prevent someone from going to that oblivion. The dangerous quiet does not require words.


The right people.

In his Hawaiian special, Gabriel Iglesias told people his secret for keeping it together. He said that people keep him together. But it has to be the Right people. He said that when you see famous people going off the rails, it’s because they’re with the wrong people. For people with depression, this isn’t just a matter of social circles. It can be a matter of life, and death. The right people are hard to find, though. In the case of Robin Williams, I can see the truth of Gabe’s outlook. Three marriages. I imagine it was hard for him to find those right people. I don’t think he did in San Fran.

The wrong people are easy enough to find. They want a friend, they want to share misery, and in doing so add to your own load. They like to party and drink and do drugs and the rest is a tabloid staple. You’ve read the headlines so many times by now it’s a trope all its own. And Robin found that. The wrong people will kill you.

What qualifies right, though? You’d think a friend, a therapist, your spouse, a priest, someone like that, right? Yes, and no. I’m incredibly lucky in one aspect. I have my wife. She is my right people. She knows me better than everyone else on this planet. She knows my inner demons and has stood back to back with me against them. And even she doesn’t always know when I’m feeling bad, and has told me so.

Therapist? When I was diagnosed by the VA, they wanted to get me into group therapy, in about two months from the time they told me. In the meantime, have some meds. I never got into group therapy (it’s really NOT for introverts with depression). Meds, I’ll touch on in a bit. I want to talk about people first. The first time my depression really hit manic, my wife urged me and got me to go talk to a therapist. That first visit was a disaster. The therapist at the end of my hour told me they were “stuck” and “couldn’t help me.” My wife had to pick up the pieces.

You know that old joke “What do you call the guy who graduates last in his class in medical school? Answer: Doctor.”? Yea. I know the therapist version of it all too well. It took a LOT of effort from my wife for me to work up the courage to try again. But try I did.

The therapist I ended up with, and ended up doing some actual good with, has MS. I knew they’d understand my situation in life because they would have to wake up with the same choices I did, sink or float. And that therapist did get me back on my feet, after a year and a half. I’m not going to say that therapy isn’t going to work. It can, it does, but you have to find the RIGHT therapist for you. And yes, that’s a hard thing to do, to walk into the office of a complete stranger and lay out your faults and flaws and have to ask to be healed. And healing? It isn’t easy. It isn’t quick. It’s damn hard some days. And it’s worth it.

But finding someone like that? That may be more spoons than you have to spend for that day. Even that week. It has to be someone you can trust, otherwise there’s no way in hell you’re going to open up to them enough to be able to do any good. Yea. Trust. Like that’s easy in this day and age. That’s the hardest part of finding help, is finding help you can trust, when being wrong may end up with you curled up in a ball in a closet in a puddle, rocking and crying and seriously pondering oblivion. Not a choice to be made lightly. You have to let go of your fear (that friend that’s always with you) and your own self loathing (because misery Loves company) and hope for the best. I could probably hike the PCT with less effort and courage.

Finding someone to love, and trust them enough to Let them love you? I won the lottery. Not everyone does. That’s actually harder than trusting a licensed professional. That other person IS going to see you at your worst. You can’t hide it. And driving them away is all too easy if it’s choosing between suffering alone, and letting someone see that suffering and finding out they don’t know how to handle it or what to do about it. And They have to KNOW how to handle it, the first time, the worst time, and Every time. That’s not the sort of person you just bump into every day. But that sort of person IS out there. Finding them is a quest well worth it.


Walk it Off.

So what’s the answer to depression? There isn’t just one. Each person living with depression has to have an answer that’s as individual as they themselves are. One key does NOT fit all. Sometimes it’s therapy. Sometimes it’s medication.

Oh. Medication. I was going to talk about that too. There are a lot of arguments for and against meds. I think people need to stop looking at meds as a blanket concept, either for OR against. Meds Can work in individual cases. Just because they weren’t MY cup of tea doesn’t mean they don’t work for others. When the VA was trying to go the easy road with me, they gave me Zoloft. It was a case of good news/ bad news. The good news was that for my emotional landscape, it was a leveler. I no longer had to worry about the shadowed valleys, but it also took from me any hope of the peaks of a good day. I was level. I got back off it later because I wanted to be closer to happy. But sometimes, Level is Good. Sometimes, it’s not. You have to choose what you need.

But how do *I* deal with depression? Any way I can. Most days, I just live with it. I’ve adjusted my life to be able to handle it without venturing or risking dangerous emotional territory. I’m economical with my emotional stability. I’m not that social because being around people costs spoons. I’m damn careful with who I let be my friend because the other option is being around the Wrong people, and Knowing where that’ll end up. I hike, and I get into the wilderness to get some color back in my world. I camp and find peace and equilibrium in my solitude. I listen to music. The right music can help me carry on regardless. It can lift me right back out of a bad mood. I lean on my wife, because I know I can, and I don’t ever take that for granted.

In fact, I’m conducting a bit of an experiment right now with my own social life, to see if I Can be social. I joined a fan club of sci fi geeks like myself. I’m hopeful it’ll work out. But even that will require work. And some days, I may not be as into it as others. Luckily, the group I’ve joined has people in it that understand.

But if you’re suffering from depression, what’s Your answer? You’re going to have to do something that sounds really hard, but really isn’t. You’re going to have to trust someone you Know understands. You’re going to have to get help if it gets too bad. And that’s okay. I know it sounds cliché. But in the end, you have a choice. You can sink, or you can float. Or, with the right means of doing so, you can climb out of that quicksand.


Next Walk It Off Post:  Feral


Previous Post:  Respect the Bouncer


So I got linked on Facebook to a lifehack article about backpacking.   My friend Garry said I probably either knew them or something better, but I thought I’d offer a few comments on things I’ve seen here. I will admit that after reading the article I found that most of the tricks there are not things most hikers/back country people would use. Or, they’d use those tricks differently and for different purposes.

So, let’s start at the top of the list.

Good ole #1, the aluminum can stove. They say it works well off of alcohol, and they’re right. It’s a dangerous stove by most back country standards though as most gas or liquid stoves have an off valve that makes them safer. The alternate to this is the old Boy Scout oven.   One tuna fish can (cleaned out); cardboard strip (cut to the depth of the can), and candle wax. Be sure you know your fire regulations if you’re using this sort of improvised stove as a lot of park rangers tend to frown on fire in the parks (Especially during Fire Season In California).

2.   The hand span trick for knowing how much light you have left. On the surface, this trick seems clever, until you realize that not all days are the same length. If you try this in winter and want to time getting back by sundown, you’re going to be doing a bit of walking in the dark.

3.   Instant Lantern: Great car camping trick. But for back country, you’d use a smaller bottle if you used it at all. Better trick: Put the head lamp on the fabric of your tent on the outside. You still light up the whole tent on the inside, and don’t silhouette yourself if you need to change or just get out of your dirty clothes.   Aaand I just ruined camping with your girlfriend for a lot of guys. I’m not sorry.

4.   Duct Tape. Oh yea. Duct tape is great for a lot of dry repairs. It’s also great to use in the construction of dry bags for your socks and whatnot, but do you really need the whole roll? No. In fact, duct tape is only going to be a good fix for something so long as that something stays dry. Get it wet, and you have non stick tape. Most SOL kits have a small roll that they started without the cardboard.

5.   Medicine Bottle Storage. Old prescription bottles are great dry bottles for any number of things (I use ’em for matches and firestarter kits).   Pocket survival kits are good, IF you’ve trained with your tools and know what you’re doing with them.

6.   Cotton pads for firestarters.   Good idea, but the cheaper and easier way to go is to get the lint out of the lint trap in your dryer and spray it down with hairspray, and or allowed to soak in mineral spirits.   Done properly, it’s almost a poor mans gun cotton. Upside, it WILL light. Downside, it WILL burn quickly. Also another great use for that medicine bottle is to store lint and a bit of alcohol or Vaseline.

7.   Chips make great tinder, but you’ll never catch a back country hiker using calories for fire. NEVER. Food is better used for food when you have a dozen miles to go before your next resupply drop point. That said, Doritos crushed into crumbs make a good… Um, I’m not allowed to tell you. Nor how to do it… :p

8.   Altoids tins… Rust. Otherwise they’d be a good idea. And putting batteries in one?? BAD IDEA.

9.   Waterproofing your backpack with a trash bag liner. This is actually a good idea if done right. For the Inside of the pack, you want the most durable trash bag you can find, and put your clean clothes in it to keep them dry. Outside your pack, the thick plastic garbage bags work best as a poor man’s ruck rain fly. Works for grunts. Want the best, though? Get one trash bag, and two cans of spray on rubber. Coat the trash bag with the spray on rubber and keep doing it until you get about 1/8 ” thick. You now have a military spec wet weather bag.

10.   Ruck Sack Physics. The diagram is basic backpacking 101. The video is an amusing masterwork. What I do to my Osprey Kestral?

PhD Ruck Sack Physics

PhD level Ruck Sack Physics


11.   I’ve seen a million and one uses for an empty toilet paper roll. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen one for an Ipod speaker. I know someone out there is going “Tagg, welcome to the new millennium.”

12.   Toothpaste (and ointments) in a straw.   Okay, here’s where my dentist is going to kill me. Kids, carrying toothpaste into the back country is not often a good idea.   Why? A. Most animals think it smells like food or sweets and will go after it for that scent.   B. It’s poisonous in large quantities (that’s why there’s a warning Not To Swallow It..). And when you’re talking about a ground squirrel or a raccoon, a regular tube IS a large quantity. C.   Bears that eat it are then confused for rabid and put down by the local rangers. D. Knowing all this, it’s usually advised that if you carry tooth paste, that you do so in the smallest tubes (the straws are good) and keep it in your bear vault. Downside is that the tubes may explode with either altitude change, after freezing, or after getting too hot, and toothpaste then in your food is NOT a good idea.   How do you brush your teeth? With a tooth brush and mouthwash (rum works well for this and you CAN swallow it…).

13.   Tic Tac Spice Rack: Is actually a good idea. It’s better to stagger them top to bottom in a row, label on the tops of the containers, and duct tape the whole row together to keep the integrity of the containers. This way if you jar it or drop it, you only lose half your spices.

14.   Crayon candle…. Okay, you’re out in the woods, surrounded by wood in all shapes and sizes, and you light a CRAYON!?!? Aside from pissing your kids off, I don’t really see this one as a regular use sort of thing. Most hikers won’t bring crayons when other things work better.

15.   Waterproofing with beeswax is an oldie but goodie. It works great with seams in your boots, tent, pack. It also makes you a bit attractive to insects. Use with caution. DON’T use it on your sleeping bag, and only use it on the sleeping bag of someone you really really hate. Stuck out in the field and don’t have beeswax? Pine sap works just as well for waterproofing and glue. Pine sap also works really well as a natural adhesive in case your duct tape isn’t sticking.

16.     The stuff sack pillow. Another oldie but goodie. Variants include: The Camelback Bladder Waterbed Pillow, The Stuffed Jacket Pillow, The Jacket Stuffed Into It’s Own Sleeve Pillow, and The Leaf Bag.   The inflated ziplock pillow is only good for about three minutes.   They leak.

17.   Toothpaste dots. See toothpaste entry from earlier. Same thing.

18.   Okay Maps. I’m going to have to do a whole other entry on why I prefer the good old map, compass, and land nav/orienteering skills. For starters, the skills don’t run out of batteries.   For second, Okay Maps Don’t Include Trail Maps. Kinda important there.

19.   Coffee coffee, buzz buzz buzz…   Listen, I’ve seen (and done) so many ways to get coffee out in the field, I literally can’t count them all.   I’ve seen filters made out of socks (don’t recommend it), panty hose (works better than socks, but barely, and better for tea than coffee), wax paper (NOT a good idea), and canvas (weak coffee, tastes horrible). The people who make gear know this, and as such you get a metric ton of gizmos and gadgets to get you a cuppa joe. Starbucks?   If you want Starbucks, Stay In Town.   I pack Dunkin.. :p You want to go hardcore? Try pine needle tea. Now you’re a survivalist.

20.   Microfiber towels. Also great as ground cover. If you get (and are willing to carry) a few more, you can stuff them down your pants and in your shirt as extra insulation. They’re softer and better than pine needles (which also make great insulation as well as tea..).

21.   Soap in the Outback. I find it amusing that they say to bring soap FOR the bugbites, when scented soap is often the CAUSE for the bug bites. If you want to bring soap and have it Double as bug spray, get it in cayenne pepper, or garlic, or get the most antiseptic smelling medicinal soap you can find (tea try oil works well). You’ll keep the bugs off better and keep cleaner that way.

22.   Upcycling. Field tested. Not great with coffee (melted spoon) and not great with hot food/fire (same reason plus plastic BURNS well too..). Good intent, fails unless you’re going cold food.

23.   The lanyard shower caddy…. Is for Air Force camping. You’re not going to see this back country.

24.   Dental Floss. Okay, I do carry dental floss out in my pack, but it’s not for dental reasons. But they show it as good for sewing gear back together. To this I say: Try 550 cord guts. It works better, stays stronger, and doesn’t waste your sterile stitching material on things other than stitches. You see, the reason *I* keep dental floss (only the unflavored variety works for this trick) in my first aid kit is for emergency stitches. It’s the only stitching material that you can get over the counter that ships sterile. Thank you to the combat medics that showed me that trick.

25.   Lifestraw. Ah.. Product placement. Once again, there’s a whole industry that focuses on the filtering and purifying of water to make it safe for you to drink. This industry completely ignores the old sense that is boiling water to make it safe. Little known secret; there have been back country hikers that have done both the JMT (John Muir Trail) and the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) that have gone through the Sierra Nevadas without filtering water. They were fine. The trick is knowing where to get your water and what to do with it. Lifestraw? Don’t need it.

Next Walk It Off Post:  Walk It Off.

Respect the Bouncer, or She Will Kill You

Previous Walk It Off post: Lost Trails

So earlier this week, an acquaintance of mine wanted to call me up and ask me where to go in Yosemite. They had already been there once or twice before, but they wanted my insiders information of where to go with the family. I had a problem with this, so I didn’t answer their calls. They’re not the sort that takes “No” for an answer very easily.

The problem that I have is that this acquaintance and family are tourists, trying to go someplace they have neither the gear nor the know-how to go safely, so while what my acquaintance said was “Scott! I’m going to Yosemite, tell me where to go!” What I heard was “Scott! I’m going to imperil myself and my family doing something incredibly dangerous and stupid! Please Help!” Acquaintance knows I’m a back country guy. They want to drag the family out there and do a nice day hike and be pleasant and enjoy it.   Problem is, Acquaintance doesn’t know what they’re asking. Acquaint is a tourist. I’m a back country guy. I don’t do tourist, and Acquaint doesn’t have the gear, the training, or the ability do back country.

So yea…   I told them via channels to go buy a guide book. And I was, even for me, rather curt about the whole affair.

It’s not that I have a problem with tourists. Quite the opposite. I know tourists like to get out in the woods and go experience nature and perhaps even learn something from it, and all of those things are things I tend to encourage.   What I Don’t encourage is when a tourist wants to go see the place where this neat picture was taken, not knowing that it’s a back country place, and getting there requires gear, experience, and training that your average tourist doesn’t have. What usually follows ends up headlines on the news as a cautionary tale of why people shouldn’t go up into those dangerous mountains, cue the sensationalism, and video that the news will gleefully warn you might not be suitable for all audiences.

And it’s not like my acquaintance has gone out and gotten the entire family outfitted and trained to go back country, either. I know this. If they had, it’d have been bragged about.

Let me explain it another way that will likely be easier to understand for all the city peeps.

This is Yosemite Park

This is Yosemite Park

This is Yosemite. All of it.  Yes, I have it hanging on my wall.   Take a gander for a moment…

And this is the spot for tourists...

And this is the spot for tourists…

Aaaand this is Yosemite Valley. This is the area in Yosemite for tourists. Actually, it’s the Valley, and the Sequoia grove at the south entrance.   But that’s about it. These are the places with ROADS going in and out of them. Ah, but “Tagg” you say, “There’s a lot more to Yosemite than the places that roads go to.” Yes, Grasshopper, you are indeed observant. There are more miles of trails than there are road in Yosemite.   But think of it this way. Think of Yosemite like a Dance Club. The Valley is the main floor. You pay your cover charge to get in, and it’s where the dance floor and the bar is. It’s the spot where tourists go for a good time. But everything else??

That’s the VIP lounge. And much like any other VIP lounge, to get there, you have to have a few things more than the average guy on the floor (AKA, your average tourist..). To go to the VIP lounge in most places, you need money or prestige. The VIP lounge for back country is different, in that the criteria for admission is Gear and Knowledge.

And the Bouncer for this VIP lounge is Mother Nature. She has her own set of rules, and if you break them, she has no problems either kicking you out of the club, or on a whim killing you. She doesn’t care about your cash, or your prestige. Her rules are Gear and Knowledge. You don’t have those? Get out.   Respect the Bouncer, Or She Will Kill You. Think I’m kidding?? Search for Yosemite Deaths, and it gives it to you BY YEAR.

And it’s not just tourists. It’s experienced back country people that do things they KNOW they’re not supposed to do. (Hint, climbing a smooth granite dome when it’s wet is generally NOT a good idea….) You break the rules, the bouncer breaks you. It doesn’t care who you think you are, what you think you have, or how smart you think you are. Remember a bit back when I said the most dangerous thing you can take on the trail is an expectation? I wasn’t kidding.

In the Valley, if you get a bear, it’s controlled by the quick response of a park ranger. There’s lots of “oohs” and “aaahs” and a few small traffic jams as a battalion of tourists armed with flash cameras are getting shutter happy with the “rare” glimpse of wildlife. Back country? There is no ranger, the bear is probably not as well fed as one in the valley, probably hungry, and probably thinks you’re a meal. And don’t even think about bear cubs. Your kids may want to snuggle them, but their mother has other ideas.   And after a bit of screaming, you end up the news of the day. As a note; Yosemite has a black bear population of 350 plus, mostly in the camp areas, so “Rare” wildlife isn’t as rare as you’d like to think.   The last few times I’ve been there, the rangers are really hard on speeders in the park because the number of black bears killed by speeders has spiked with the population.

In the Valley, if the weather turns suddenly inclement (as it quite often does, spontaneously), you can hop into one of the shopping centers, the museum, and the five star hotel and get out of the rain. High country? You won’t get rain, you’ll likely get snow, or a snow and rain mix depending on how high you are. Do you have a pancho, or a parka? No?   Do you know not only HOW to start a fire, but where you’re allowed to in the back country? No?? Your cause of death will likely be a draw for hypothermia and your ego writing a check your gear couldn’t cash. Note; in Yosemite, fires are restricted to areas Under 10,000 ft. Above 10k? Don’t do it.   There isn’t enough oxygen up there, and being around a fire up there may lead to death by asphyxiation.

In the Valley, there are a dozen or so places to get food, and just about any kind you’d like. Over Tioga pass? Two.   Tuolumne Meadows and Crane Flats, at either end of the pass. The former is a through hiker restock point, so expect high calorie low weight food, and nothing you have to cook. Crane Flats has a convenience store and gas station.

The valley is for tourists. Back country is NOT. You go back there unprepared and the Bouncer will treat you like an ant to a boot.

And even *I* am guilty of this and have had a recent reminder of the rules. Last month I went up to Tahoe with New Stick and Tenaya to show New Stick part of where he now lives. The day was nice and sunny in the morning, and a little chilly and breezy when we got up there. But of the three of us, only my wife had a proper gear load out. Most of my gear was still in the wash from the week before. So I was up there in bare bones gear and shorts and short sleeves. It was a bit chilly, but not bad.

About a quarter to three in the afternoon, clouds blew in, and it looked like rain.   That wasn’t good, so we made our way back up to the parking lot of D. L. Bliss State park. That was when Mother Nature reminded me of a few things.   Thing one was that when you’re above 7k feet and the temp is low enough (like it was then) you don’t get rain.  You get snow. Thing two was that even in late spring, you can get snow enough to get white out conditions getting back to the highway. Thing three was a not at all subtle reminder that I was NOT PREPARED FOR SNOW OR COLD WEATHER SURVIVAL. What followed was 45 minutes of white knuckle driving racing to get down out of the mountains before it snowed us in. I say race because we didn’t have chains either, and as we were coming down off of Donner Pass, the signs started changing on 80 to “Snow at pass, carry chains.” The bouncer bounced us right out of the club. We did Not have the gear to be there. Are you on Facebook? The video of the beginning of the bad weather is here. By the time we got past Squaw Valley, it looked like this.

The whole episode was a none too subtle Trial By Error that thankfully we survived, made worse by the fact that I should have known better. Out of the three of us, tenderfooted Tenaya was the best prepared.   She followed what she’d been taught but what one of her teachers was idiotically ignoring (that’d be me, and yea, I’ll take my lumps..). She had a jacket. She was prepared. She did it right.

But back to my acquaintance. My acquaintance has a choice to make here. They can stay a tourist, pay the cover, get in the club, and have a good time, metaphorically. But if they wants to take their family back country, to go have a nice day hike in the high country? They’ve got some work to do. I can’t tell them how to get up there and do a day hike safely with little gear and no knowledge because there simply IS NO WAY to do that safely. I’ve been bounced out of the high country for not being prepared for it. I lived, not because I’m hard to kill, or macho, or anything other than stupidly lucky and intimately familiar with my own contingency planning (which helps loads).   Believe me, I’m not going to shoot my mouth off around the Bouncer. Her message was well received, thank you and may I NOT have another…

And anyone else who asks?? Hey, if you have a real interest in going there and learning that, I’ll do everything I can to either teach you or put you where you need to be to learn. I try to be nice about it that way. But if you’re going to ask me how to get away with doing something really stupid or unsafe?? Then no, I won’t hold your beer, and no, I won’t “watch this.”   You’re walkin’ with Darwin, not me.   I respect the Bouncer.

Next Walk It Off post:  Lifehacked

Lost Trails

Previous Walk It Off post:  30 Pounds

Not too long ago, I read that the US government is officially going to clear it’s first East/West cross continental trail, the American Discovery Trail. It got me thinking on a couple of other trails that America’s had in its history and I went to try and find them on current maps. Given that there are already a lot of historical trails in this state, you’d figure it’d be easy to find quite a few of them. Contrary to this, and contrary to the extensive map coverage that I have of the Sierra Nevada via National Geographic’s topographical map series, you’d figure I could find quite a few of them. Not so.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard about or read about the Pony Express. This should be about everyone above the age of fifteen in this country. It was a famous part of the wild west, the mail trail that riders took from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The END of the Pony Express trail is in the Wells Fargo bank that’s Still in Old Sacramento right on the river. The beginning is fairly well documented. This would be a very good, historically relevant east/west trail for the US. But the trail itself for either equestrians or hikers?? Would you believe that the extensive map coverage I have only has Portions of the trail marked out?

It seems to follow Highway 50 up the Sierras to Tahoe, and then it disappears. It does not appear to overlap any other trail that it comes across (and it’d have to cross the PCT at Tahoe around Echo Peak).   National Geographic doesn’t really cover it. The trail way isn’t officially marked anywhere around Sacramento other than the mention that it Ends in Old Sac.   I have yet to see a historical marker for it on any trail in the American River Valleys, though according to some (but oddly not all) of my National Geographic maps of the areas, it does and does NOT exist.


The National Parks Service has a somewhat accurate Historic Trails Interactive Map. I’m not at all certain how accurate it is as I have found no correlation with other maps of the area. Nat Geo, I’m afraid, has a few inconsistencies itself. Observe…

The Emigrant Gap trail is a historic California trail.   It’s the pass that 49ers took in Getting to California’s Mother Load region. It’s also the trail that Kristin’s ancestors likely took over the mountains before they settled in what is present day Rocklin and Roseville.   It’s supposed to go over Donner Pass and drop back down. The historic marker for it is along Highway 80. However, according to National Geographic, it’s down south of Lake Tahoe.



Unless that’s the Carson Pass Trail. Notice Grover Hot Springs State Park there on the lower right?? Yea, it’s about *pulls up Google Earth to get a distance…* 18 miles and change south of South Lake Tahoe, and a couple of miles west of a very small town called Markleeville. This image is taken from the National Geographic map number 803. It’s the older map in the series, but has that Carson Emigrant Trail going out of a trail head a bit west of Grover Hot Springs State Park. Ah, but watch as time goes forward a little bit, National Geographic does the map just south of the area and heading west…


This picture is of a later map that overlaps the same area.   Notice what’s missing?? Carson Emigrant is nowhere to be found where it was on the earlier map. So, where is the Emigrant Gap trail? From what I’ve been reading, it’s along I-80 and breaks off on the western slope of the Sierras. Is there a map for it? Sort of.   Not that Nat Geo has covered it.   That map does have A trail marked for it, but not very well, and only around the Emigrant Gap itself. The rest of the foot trail is pretty much left to the choice of other foot trails in the area that connect up with it and head west.   The people that came over the Sierras didn’t start that trek from the middle of the range, they started from around what’s now Reno. That National Parks Service has a trail marked, but the path itself isn’t labeled.   Is that the trail?

I guess in some ways, there really is no one set trail for some of the historical routes.   The 49ers took just about any route they could find, get a guide for, or stumble across to get to the gold rush territory a little faster. They went over any pass they could find. Not all of them made it.

Next Walk It Off post: Respect the Bouncer

30 Pounds…

Previous Walk It Off post: Every Nugget Needs a Name

When I put my last blog post up on the Facebook page that my wife and I have for our adventures (and where we post all the video from those adventures), a friend commented that I must be a glutton for punishment for having and carrying a 35 pound day pack.

And yea, I laughed a bit at that.

So Waynard! This post is for YOU. 🙂

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Every Nugget Needs A Name….

Previous Walk It Off post:  Armstrong, Take Two

It’s a long standing tradition among hikers; the trail name.  It’s a thing that is always given, never assumed.  You can never choose your own.  Someone will invariably choose one for you and everyone else will take it to heart.  I’ve had a few nicknames over the years.

In the Infantry, the first name you get is a one syllable shortening of your last name.  That’s your first team name.  That’s where I get Tagg, and why I’ve gone by it for so long.  It’s the running joke that infantry grunts aren’t the smartest people, and so they can only read the first part of your last name on your uniform.  Thus, it becomes your name.

But over the course of my weekend out in Armstrong and Guerneville, I got handed a new one:  Two Trees.  And thus we come to the second truth about trail names:  Most of them come with a story.  Mine’s short.  I got called Two Trees by New Stick because I keep saying that all I need to go camping is two trees to hang up the hammock.

It might have something to do with pictures like this:



I learned about hammock camping back in Panama, where camping on the wet ground in the jungle is really NOT a smart idea.  It can be adapted for four season camping, and is generally lighter than tent camping.  And yes, all I need is two trees.  :p

Of course, I put that out on Facebook, and now the name’s gaining popularity.  What have I done to myself??

Next Walk It Off post: 30 Pounds

Adventure Log: Armstrong Take Two

Previous Walk It Off post:  Waypoint, Armstrong Redwoods State Preserve

Or, why the plan never survives initial contact INTACT…

So, over the weekend, Tenaya and I and a friend of ours (and possibly our newest Stick), decided to get out of town and go out to Armstrong Redwoods reserve for a well deserved weekend of big trees, s’mores, some ocean time, possibly some Chicago Deep Dish and European Sipping Chocolate. It was well planned to avoid most of the known hang-ups with going out there. Alas, when man makes plans, Murphy is busy cackling about it.

We knew about the race day event at the Sonoma Raceway, so we bypassed it by going 80 west to 12 and cutting through Napa and Sonoma the north route. We detoured briefly to Glen Ellen to stop off at our usual chocolate spot to get some 78% chocolate and a few truffles. Mmmmm. NS (Newest Stick, until I can figure out a trail name for him…) got his first taste of life west of Sac and a lovely tour of the north bay and Napa and Sonoma. From Glen Ellen we got back on 12 heading toward Santa Rosa, passing by lovely wine country and the state parks along the way.

In Santa Rosa, however, I made a mistake in navigation and instead of getting on 101 north, I continued on 12 to Sebastopol. Once in Sebastopol, we got on 116 north and got into Guerneville at about 1PM. This was part of the plan. We tried to get reservations for the camp sites at Armstrong, but found out when we went to do the deed that all the reservable camp sites were claimed. There were 8 that were first come, first served, and they didn’t open the claims for those until 2 PM. So we were there early.

It didn’t matter.

There was a trail race put on by some group that had the entire place booked up by the time we got there on the down low. Nobody had even bothered to tell the guy in the visitors center who was helping us out. Suddenly faced with a glorified day trip, we hastened to explore other options. After a bit of good information from the volunteer there, we opted for a place just south of town called Johnson’s Beach.

And here I have to give good credit to where it’s due. The volunteer at Armstrong not only provided us with a list of alternate campsites that had all the relevant contact info, he allowed us to borrow the phone there to make the calls as nobody had cell signal at the park. He was every bit as helpful as you could possibly wish for.

Johnson’s Beach is a wonderful alternative to camping in the redwoods. It’s exactly one block south of downtown Guerneville. It’s also right on the Russian River with an excellent beach right there, and a camp site with full facilities. We had three electrical outlets and a cable splice for our camp site. It cost us 27$ for the night. It was a two block walk to the gear store and a three block walk to the grocery store. They’re set up for tent and trailer camping, RV, and have cabins for rent as well. Score!

We picked a perfect spot, set up tents, and then headed into town for lunch. After a bit of Subway, we went back to Armstrong to walk it off. Remember that new day pack I got?? I packed it up for a night out camping trip. When I got done, the pack looked like this:


It weighed in at about 30 pounds. I walked through the better part of the grove with that. It was worth every bit of effort putting the pack together. NS and Tenaya got to play around a bit in Redwoods and NS got his first introduction to them. He’d never seen trees so big.


Nor had he ever been IN trees so big…..


After a mostly nice hike around the grove, we went back to Johnson Beach and got the rest of camp set up, the air mattress inflated, and dinner started. Tenaya went down to the water and came back quickly to report that there were a lot of birds and raptors down there and that she’d seen something carrying off a fish. I went down to the observation deck by the office and had a look around. What I spotted immediately was a large osprey nest across the river and up one of the redwoods there. It was about a five or six hundred meter shot with the camera, and so I borrowed Tenaya’s 300mm lens with focal doubler and set it up on the tripod. However, the wind was blowing in good off the coast, so I couldn’t get the tripod to stop shaking while I dialed in the focus.

We resolved to get the shot if we could the next morning.


When me and Tenaya walked back to camp, NS was already starting the fire for dinner. Even though we were car camping, we had planned for getting supplies in Guerneville. We got firewood, and some veggies for the rather tasty marinated chicken I’d brought along. We had s’mores fixings for later, and I had a flask of Springbank in my pack. NS did the cooking that evening in the cast iron skillet that he brought, and the cinnamon honey and green chili jelly marinated chicken breasts were drool worthy.

We played Fluxx by lantern light and passed around the flask before turning in for the night.

Thus, we found out about the downside to Johnson Beach. The club and the live music on Saturday night that didn’t end until after midnight. That made getting to sleep a bit interesting but otherwise wasn’t that bad.

The next morning, after breaking camp, we tootled down 116 towards the coast.  There we spent a bit of time letting Tenaya have her ocean time, which is always a good idea.  From there we headed back through Bodega Bay and into Petaluma.  The idea was to get some good Chicago deep dish style pizza, but the pizzeria was closed on Sundays.  So we went down and got some European sipping chocolate from one of the stores downtown.  From there, we headed back to Sac, all road tripped out.  It was a weekend that didn’t go entirely as planned, but it was still salvaged multiple times over.

Next Walk It Off post: Every Nugget Needs a Name

Waypoint: Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Previous Walk It Off post:  You Will Carry Your Own Weight

If you come to the west coast, especially the central and northern portions, you will gain the great opportunity to visit trees that tower taller than city skyscrapers and are older than this country by a fair span. I don’t care where you come from, you haven’t seen trees until you’ve seen redwoods and sequoias.

If you find yourself in the Central Valley like I do, the best place with the least amount of driving to visit a calm and old grove is to go out to Sonoma County about four miles north of a small town called Guerneville.   There, nestled amidst the rolling coastal hills, is Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.

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You Will Carry Your Own Weight

Previous Walk It Off post:  Your Mileage Will Vary

Tagg’s Law:  You will carry your own weight.

This one’s a bit of a play on words and has a few different meanings.  If you read that as an admonishment, it’s not.  It’s truth, pure and simple.  The story that inspired it actually comes from my honeymoon.

You see, on the eve of my honeymoon, I was packing my back packs with clothes and gear.  We were going to do the first half of the week in Monterey and have a few stops down in Big Sur.  Second half of the week we were going down to Disneyland.  But because we were going to rompy in some wild areas, I packed gear as normal for me.  I packed MY own weight, and when my wife saw me stuffing my rope log into my pack she tsked at me and asked what I really thought I was going to need a rope log for.  Admonished, I took it back out, explaining that it’s habit.  We were going to a state park, I pack my normal gear.  She told me I wouldn’t need it and I then left it out of my pack.

Fast forward to a bit later that week as we were on Highway 1 heading north back toward Monterey from Julia Phiefer-Burns state park.  There was a little old lady that was flagging us down.  Her husband was standing by the edge of a coastal cliff when the cliff side gave out from under him.  He was being held on to the cliff by the barbwire fence that had gone along the edge of the cliff and a bit of a branch from an overhanging tree.  If I’d had my rope log, this would have been an easy rescue.*  As it was, we were out of cell phone signal, and the nearest fire department/rescue team was a good fifteen minutes of white knuckle driving back up the windy two lane coastal highway.  There was no way this guy was going to hang around for another thirty minutes.

To give my wife credit where it is most deservedly due, she was the one that came up with the idea to use battery jumper cables in lieu of rope.  We pulled the old man up off the cliff with a bit of help from another tourist from Germany that was also flagged down, and I treated the old man with my first aid kit.  To this day, when I go to throw my rope log into my pack, my wife says not a word.  It’s my weight to carry.

Carrying your own weight means more than just how much your pack weighs.  It means that if you have additional training and you’re in a spot to help someone, you help.  About a year ago as I write this, we were walking in Auburn State Rec area when we ran into a couple who was asking us where the water fountain was.  Short answer, there wasn’t one.  It was a hot summer day and they were carrying very little water.  I was carrying three liters in my bladder, my wife had another two, and she’d brought along a few extra bottles of water.  We gave the couple who was working quickly to dehydration the extra bottles that we had.  If you have something you’re carrying that helps, that’s your weight.  You help.  If it’s a first aid situation, you help.  If it’s something as simple and life savingly important as getting to an area with cell signal and calling in the Calvary, You Do So.

Also in my case, I went camping about a year ago with a friend of mine.  They’d gotten to the camp site the day before and set up shop, and when I rolled in to the site, they asked me if I had a first aid kit (I did) and I dug it out of my ruck.  My friend was de-boning chicken the evening before and had sliced the tip of his middle finger rather impressively.  He and his wife had tried their best to dress the wound, but they didn’t have a really good kit with them and had no antibiotics.  I stripped the old dressing off, cleaned the wound, and re dressed it properly with antibiotics and wound sealant.  When asked why I carry such an overstocked first aid kit, it’s from my Army days.  I wasn’t a combat life saver in the Infantry.  I have a severe dislike of needles and couldn’t see myself letting someone practice an IV push into me.  But when I went to go work range, I carried extra supplies for the medics.  Why?  I saw my company have a helicopter wreck while conducting a training scenario.  I thought it would best to be prepared.  I talked with a lot of medics for lessons on advanced first aid.  Later in life, that would serve me well.  My friend still has his finger.  I may not be a paramedic, but I can stop bleeding and dress a wound with the best of ’em.

Carrying your own weight means you pack that gear when you go.  Are you a comms guy?  Bring your radio gear in case you need to call in that nine line to dust off a medivac bird. Photographer?  You might see the neat wild animal, and you might see the idiot poaching it.  Shoot the poacher too, and turn it into the park rangers.  First aid/paramedic?  Bring your kit.  Ex 101st Airborne infantry grunt?  Bring your rope log.  You never know, you may just need it.  And leaving it at home?  If you Do run into a point where you need it, you will bitterly regret not having it.  Is it extra weight?  Yeap.  But is it worth it if you get to do some good?  Let me tell you, there is NOTHING like rescuing a total stranger off a cliff with a Gerber multi tool, a first aid kit, and a set of battery cables on your Honeymoon.  Not.  One.  Damned.  Thing.  If you’d asked me how much my pack weighed about then, it wouldn’t have been one ounce.

But in addition to gear, it’s more than that.  It’s also carrying the person who wants to learn to a place of knowledge.  It’s in gently reminding someone to pick up after themselves and ruck out their trash.  It’s in reminding people politely that this is not a trail that allows pets (and to be polite, recommend one that Does).  It’s not a get in your face sort of guardianship, but it’s not turning a blind eye to things either.  It’s in picking up trash when you find it on the trail.  It’s in Leave No Trace ethics.  It’s teaching the next generation how to care for the world that you’ve brought them into and will be leaving them with.  The weight you carry is also the weight of the world you live in and walk.  Yea, that’s a lot, but would you rather have it, or not?

*  Kids, seriously, Do Not attempt a cliff side rescue unless you have/are one of the following:

1.  You are a member of a fire department cliffside rescue team and you have rappelling training.

2.  You are a member of a SAR mountain team and you have rappelling training.

3.  You are a member of the Coast Guard SAR and you have rappelling training.

4.  You are a 101st Airborne vet and Air Assault School graduate who has Rappelling Training.


If you’re sensing a theme there, you get a cookie.  If you’re wondering which one I am, it’s the last one..  And yes, I’m used to hanging around like that.  See for yourself.    That’s me with a J-rack and harness going down Moaning Cavern for my birthday.  It was *ahem* not as fast as I’m used to going down a rope, but it was fun.  Air Assault!

Tagg on a line

Next Walk It Off post:  Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve


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