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Showing posts with the label walkingHiking

Making Hiking Sexier than Oatmeal

If done thoughtlessly or imitatively, the sport of hiking is about as exciting as a breakfast of store-brand instant oatmeal that is prepared with luke-warm, soft water. Of course oatmeal can be sexed-up with more texture, fruit, nuts, and yogurt. Learning how to do the same to hiking has been a long-term project for me.

One of the tricks of the trade is to take a more "naturalistic" approach. Recently I had an opportunity to do an unusually fine job of that with two boondocking friends, of bus crash fame. We walked toward some jagged Yuma mountains, right from the front door, at sunrise, with tribal "associate members," aka dogs. 

But we weren't on our way to a stereotypical peak-bagging hike on an official list of Top Ten hikes in the area.Rather, we were headed up a large arroyo, delineated by harsh brown mountains. When you look at the area on Google maps, you can't tell ridgelines from declivities. It's as if the land was a piece of crumpled aluminum…

Make Room for Mistakes and Surprises in Your Sport

It was surprisingly chilly this morning so I switched from a mountain bike ride to a hike down some canyons, right outside my trailer door, on some BLM land near Torrey, UT. But what if they turned out to be nothing more than uninteresting gullies? 

This must be a surprise to the other hikers in our camping group, since I squirm out of just about every hike that they propose. But this is the right kind of hike. And once again it worked beautifully, but with a gratifying twist at the end. 

At the risk of sounding like the Judi Dench character in "Room with a View", here is the exact science of an interesting hike:

1. Start from the the trailer, early enough for chilly weather. Don't drive an hour to some trailhead; by the time you would get there, you are already lost "spiritually."

2. Choose ordinary scenery, not some tourist attraction that is written up and photographed to death in a guide book, probably entitled "Top Ten Hikes in Capital Reef National Park…

Walking off Trail

I love the geology and topography of this spot, on the eastern edge of the San Juan's, near Little Mexico, CO. It's a land of decomposed laccoliths, with just the perfect balance of the Horizontal and the Vertical; of partly cloudy September skies; and of cliffs and ridgelines in the foreground, and big mountains in the distance. Even the vegetation is balanced between grass, small cactus, and junipers. 

My dog was picking up stickers the first day or two, but then she learned how to avoid them. How is that even possible? Dogs are gifted animals when it comes to any kind of motion.

As is often the case, I imitated my dog. There are no hiking trails as such around here, and the mountain bike was in the shop getting new brakes, so I decided to go bushwhacking across the grass/cactus fields. It was cool enough on these September mornings that I wasn't too worried about rattlesnakes. Over 80 F they are a consideration around here.

There is something liberating about walking off t…

Hiking Should Be More Interesting and Less Donkey-like

Clearly it has benefited me to do a fair bit of hiking during my years as a full-time RVer. It would have been easy to underestimate the pleasure of hiking and to get discouraged. I'm glad I didn't let that happen. Still, it would be nice if people who enjoy the sport even more than I do would divulge a few of their secrets and principles.

This would be far more helpful than the typical hiking blog post. Why even read the post if you already know what it is going to say: that they walked X miles and climbed Y feet along the Pioneer Trek trail; and that it took Z number of hours; and they walked to Emerald Lake, by way of Bridal Veil Falls; along the way there were some breathtakingly-beautiful wildflowers, sunsets, bunnies and Bambis, etc. Yawn.

Too harsh? Because 'the medium is the message,' the internet favors chirpy posts, globbed over with Photoshopped digital postcards. Must I throw in the sugar pill that 'there is nothing wrong with any of this?' But it is …

A Brilliantly Successful Group Hike

Rumors are floating around that several RV bloggers were recently involved in an outdoorsy comedy-of-errors: a hike full of mistakes and misadventures. Oh sure it seemed like that at the time. But without any undue contrarianism or facetiousness, I'm here to tell you that it was a great success, and is worthy of emulation.

There is one bit of facetiousness that I would like to play with: instead of ridiculing the "Naturalistic Fallacy", I would like to pretend that I agree with it, that is, that everything "natural" is "good", and unnatural is bad.  I am going to argue that misadventure during an outing, whatever be the cause, brings on a more natural -- and better -- experience. 

Consider first how unnatural hiking is. What natural purpose does it serve? None that I can see.  Is this not ironic, considering the demographic and self-image of hikers? They see themselves as environmentally-correct nature lovers. They think that their sport is the "gr…

Lessons From Today's Outdoors Success Story

The other day I was asking for reader's examples of exercise success stories. Today provided one for me to describe. It is especially worth writing about because it was a hike, and it takes some effort and finesse to make hiking fun. 

1) Homo Sapiens is a tribal animal. Hike with others. Solitude and nature sometimes get connected in preachy sentimentalisms, but this just isn't accurate. In fact, solitude sucks for us, as it does for a dog -- and for the same reason. Don't detract from the social interaction by focusing on only one person, or by going exactly at the perfect pace for you, as if other people don't matter.

2) Emphasize intensity, not duration. Intensity stimulates you to do your best; it is inherently interesting and dramatic. (And, brother, hiking could use a little drama.) Lotsa miles and hours are merely things to be endured.

3) Lean against the big disadvantages of hiking: heat and still air. Look for coolish conditions. Don't start too late in the d…

Can You Pass-on Your Exercise Success Story?

I don't mind admitting that other people have helped to give me good ideas, where exercise is concerned. Over the course of a lifetime, it has happened four-to-six times, and it would help me out if it happened again. Specifically, I need some help with hiking. There are people who blog about hiking, and they do a good job of it; but it doesn't seem to help me visualize the sport as interesting.

Isn't it odd how people never get around to discussing the philosophy of exercise? By 'philosophy' I mean the basic questions. What are you trying to accomplish? Why does one sport work better than another, and why does this vary with the person? What is the biggest drawback to the sport, and how do you overcome it? 

And most of all: How do you turn this kind of exercise into something that you actually want to do, instead of something that you are forcing yourself to do? This has been the secret to most of my success with exercise. I've emphasized hedonism, rather than …

How Can a Traveler Best "Lie Fallow" in Winter?

You've heard me advertise that a traveler should take a couple months off in the winter, and live differently that the rest of the year. Even if you don't agree, I ask you to pretend that you do, so that we can play ball and see where it goes.

We need a metaphor, lest we drown in petty details and verbosity. Consider the remarkable statement that the Wikipedia article on "Crop Rotation" starts off with:
Middle Eastern farmers practiced crop rotation in 6000 BC without understanding the chemistry, alternately planting legumes and cereals. Then the three crop rotation became the tradition, by adding a fallow field as one of the three "crops." Wikipedia was vague on how a fallow field was actually helpful.  Did it just sit there, doing nothing?

Fallow fields were replaced later by growing turnips and clover (a legume) in a four crop rotation. Thus the amount of food increased. (See the Wikipedia article on the "British Agricultural Revolution.") Today…

'Best in Show:' Wild Canids in the Canyon

The reader might be familiar with the semi-recent movie, "Best in Show." The spine of the plot is a dog show, but it is not really a 'dog movie.' Rather, it's a comedic mockumentary about their neurotic human owners.

Today's hike in Zion country (southwestern Utah) turned out the opposite: it was the humans who were acting sensibly, and the dogs who were nuts. We had five dogs in our party, eight humanoid-companion-units, and a neighborhood dawg, Blue, who tends to join any frolic taking place on her BLM land.

As we drove up, I thought my kelpie, Coffee Girl, was going to crash through the windshield with excitement when she saw all these playmates. All of the dogs, no two alike and weighing from 10 to 80 pounds, got along beautifully. I get really charged up by the frantic synergy of dogs. You could think of this walk as a linear-BLM-version of a dog park.

Up we all went, up the arroyo towards one of the famous mesas of the area. I was surprised to see puddles …

Why Climb Mountains? (II)

Long before Jon Krakauer was around to write about climbing mountains, others did, although not necessarily as well. It wasn't so long ago that mountaineering was an adventure for gentlemen. Before that era, little was written about climbing mountains.

What's the oldest? Oldness is not good in itself, but something could be gained by reading something written when the idea was fresh to Civilization. 

And we're lucky, too. Apparently the first written record of a mountain climbing expedition was left by the "father of the Renaissance," Francesco Petrarca, aka Petrarch. In the 1330's, just a few years before the Black Death hit Europe, he got it into his head to climb Mt. Ventoux, aka Windy Peak. (You might recognize the mountain as a famous stage in the annual Tour de France.) Even odder, he then blogged about it.

When I came to look about for a companion I found, strangely enough, that hardly one among my friends seemed suitable, so rarely do we meet with jus…

Why Climb Mountains?

" is not sufficiently considered that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed."  [Samuel Johnson, Rambler #2, available at]Few better examples of that aphorism could be found than that of a traveler, moving up into Colorado for the summer, who rereads Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air."  And so I did, just before climbing Mt. Taylor near Grants, NM.

It might seem silly to read about somebody's hard-core adventure before heading off to our own soft-core adventure. But is it silly for somebody walking along an ocean beach to wade out, ankle-deep, into the incoming foam? It helps them connect mentally and philosophically with the ocean. 

I haven't enjoyed a hike this much, in years. Although Mt. Taylor is only 11,300 feet high, it completely lords over a large section of New Mexico. It was oddly calm on top. The lack of wind made for visibility of 70 miles in all directions.

There are certain conditions that almost guarantee a…

Avoiding 'the Medium is the Message' Outdoors

What's this? So early in September and only at 10,000 feet?

Oh dear. Soon the travel blogs will be falling all over themselves trying to bury the readers/viewers with fall colors. Their Photoshop software will be burning holes in the computer's LED screen. Consider getting a pair of safety goggles.

But that's not really a complaint. I was delighted to run into these aspens so early. Of course most of the fun wasn't coming from the 'blazing golds', but from the under-rated sport of mountain-bike-based saddlebagging -- that is, bagging saddles, mountain passes. It takes a close look to spot daylight through the trees on the road ahead, and sense that you're nearing the top. That happened when the yellow aspens surprised me. What a treat!

The world suddenly doubles at a saddle. There you get the Big Picture, as you stare Janus-faced at the Atlantic and Pacific watersheds of North America.

This summer I had two opportunities to camp and hike with fellow RVers at e…

Where is the Outdoorsy Athletic Middle Class?

These days there is quite a bit of discussion on business and investing blogs about the slow decline of the once-mighty American middle class; we are splitting into losers -- 99% of us -- and a 1% who are benefiting from bankster and Washington DC corruption. That is, we are becoming a kleptocracy of the kind that is common in Latin American or third world countries. Indeed, it is in such countries that an American traveler might first notice that "most in the middle" is not the global norm, and that he has been taking it for granted all his life.
How long has this phenomenon have been noticeable? Boswell reported an outline made by Samuel Johnson after his one and only trip to France, near the end of his life. Johnson remarked that everybody in France appeared desperately poor except for the few who were unbelievably rich, and how different that was from England. A historian would probably explain this in the context of the rising bourgeoisie in the late Middle Ages in Europ…

Arguing My Case on Courthouse Mountain

I hate to admit it but it would be nice to carry a smartphone with a flower, tree, or bird "app" when hiking in the mountains. As an alternative, hike with Bobbie. (Besides, she doesn't require batteries. She is a battery on the trail.) Seriously I'd rather just ask somebody a question than play with some distracting gadget. For instance, the shape of this flower was reminiscent of Indian paintbrush, but the color was wrong. She explained that Indian paintbrush does come in more than one color.

Mark and Bobbie complained about my wisecracks (on my blog) against eye candy, postcards, pretty-poo scenery worship, etc. It surprised me that I'd given offense. Perhaps they underestimate the difference between a part-time RVer (in vacation/tourist mode) and a full-time RVer who must expand his interests in other directions.
At any rate I was making a certain amount of progress mending my fences on the way up Courthouse Mountain, just past Chimney Rock where they shot the …

A Quartzsite Refuse-nik

Near Quartzsite AZ a couple winters ago. A cynic might say that the big RV gathering in Quartzsite every January is a testament to herd-like behavior in human beings more than anything else. Still, it probably makes sense for any RVer to go there once, at least for a reason that might sound snide or facetious at first: the experience of Quartzsite will enhance your appreciation of camping somewhere -- anywhere -- else, in January.

After all aren't you always making a comparison of some kind when you appreciate the goodness or badness of any place? The comparison might be silent or implicit, but it's still there and it colors the whole situation. Your appreciation of anywhere-but-Quartzsite can be quite intense after experiencing that dreadful mess once.

The dogs and I had an especially good example of that a couple years ago. We boondocked a few dozen miles east of Quartzsite, with world-class hiking and scenery, a good wireless internet signal, and complete privacy. We were tu…

Mystery Truck

Life has become a social whirl for the dogs and me here in Ajo, AZ. We had a reunion with Ed Frey and the new gal in his life, Patches. I was a bit nervous about my Coffee Girl (kelpie) meeting a muscular American Staffordshire bull terrier, but it went OK after the first couple minutes. Soon we were walking off leash on a small patch of BLM land near town. It is a rare treat for me to become acquainted with an RVer who likes long walks, especially with a dog. I predict great success between Ed and Patches.

Ed has an interesting and practical RV lifestyle. He travels full-time in a moderate-sized Class C motorhome, with no small-towed-car behind it. He'll live in an RV park for one month, pay a reasonable monthly rate, and then move on. For entertainment and exercise, he is a walker, not a hiker; he simply begins walking from his own front door. A dog along will make his walks much more fun.

Then I went on a couple hikes with an old RV friend who dropped out to become a townie in …

Camping with Somebody Else?

The other day a retired man approached me in a big box parking lot. Initially I tensed up. That's the instinctive response these days, since you expect to be panhandled. But he said that he had noticed bicycling on my tee-shirt. As it turned out, he was a newbie van camper who went on bicycle tours all over the world in previous years. I listened to his stories for an hour or two, as we stood in the lee of my trailer in the cold New Mexican wind. He cycled through third world countries. When he approached a village he was received like an alien from a UFO that had just landed. He never camped in normal campgrounds. (Sigh, I just don't like tent camping or cycling highways enough to do cycle touring like him.)

How strange. No encounter has ever happened like this to me before, as an RV traveler. Of course I gave up trying to socialize with RVers years ago, so it's my own fault in a way. RVers are nice middle-class folks who have worked hard all their lives. They are respons…