Thursday, July 30, 2009

Digital looks like a classy lady, slides like a lady of the night
We've been taking digital for five years now, and I finally got back to scanning in a 2004 PCT trip that was originally slides. As I wiled away a few hours doing this, I realized a couple of things. First, how few slides we took on a backpack trip, compared to what we do now. We had to ration ourselves to something like six slides a day. It just cost too much to to more than that, so we missed taking a lot of things I wished we had.

The other thing is that I realized that I like the digital images better. The slides are sort of like the streetwalkers we see in the marginal areas of the city. An in your face attraction to them, but over done. The colors are over bright, the contrasts too great. It makes a good show, but the natural look is more to my taste.

Insert to slow down blog thieves: ©2009 - ok to quote if credit given.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dehydration, Hypothermia, Death and the Darwin Awards

There have been some tragic hiking deaths this last week. Nine seniors died of hypothermia on a guided mountain climbing trip in Japan. The same week two hikers in separate incidents died of hypothermia while hiking in extreme heat near Palm Springs. There were the usual unthinking comments about candidates for the Darwin Awards.

I'm not as harsh on those commenters as some might be. Sometimes in serious situations, a joke helps one deal with it. Remember that line where Butch and Sundance are about to leap off this 100 foot high cliff into a river? "You can't swim? Hell, the fall will probably kill you!". What hiker hasn't thought, "there, but for the grace of God, go I". If they haven't, they are a candidate for the Darwin Awards.If you're going to live, you've got to take some chances. Just try to minimize the risk, and learn from your experiences.

When I first backpacked with Susan, I hadn't done it in a long time. We were going up Forester Pass on the JMT in the afternoon, cold wind blowing, a thunderstorm almost right on top of us, and I just keep pushing on, getting slower and slower, trying to get over the pass. Finally we just stopped and setup the tent right there on a slab of rock beside the trail - took me forever to get it setup, but we got in, warmed up and went over the pass the next day. Looking back now, I know I was hypothermic, but back then I didn't even know the word, didn't know that the loss of brain function creeps up on you, causing an accumulation of bad decisions. Ever since that time we've never come close to having a problem. We always carry enough clothing and emergency shelter material to handle unexpected cold. We have had to stop and make camp in midday, but to avoid hypothermia, not to recover from it.

We haven't come as close on dehydration. I didn't think we could do the PCT for a long time, because I didn't know how we could deal with the desert heat. When we finally did take it on, we were quite aware of the need for water, electrolytes, and sometimes shade and rest. One time early on, I miscalculated the miles and we ran out of water. There were other hikers around who had extra and shared with us, otherwise we would have had to wait till night and then continue to the water a couple of hours ahead. After that one incident, I made sure I always had more than enough to get to the next water source.

Some of the things we do now: We carry umbrellas. If temperature gets over 80F the umbrellas come out. If it goes over 100, we stop, wait in the shade for it to go down. On hot days we try to rest from 2 until 4. We routinely mix Tang and electrolytes with our water. We carry extra collapsible water containers, so we can tank up if needed.

Insert to slow down blog thieves: ©2009 - ok to quote if credit given.

Recently on a local hike by myself, I had plenty of water, but nothing else. The temperature climbed into the 90s, higher that I had expected. My planned hike was about three hours. I finally got home seven hours later, having spent the last few miles in a rest 10 minutes walk 10 minutes pattern. I had water, but was very weak and craving food, craving salt, and had nothing. I could have bailed out, but found that with enough rest I could go a little, so I kept on going till I finally reached my car. As a result of that experience, I modified my first aid kit, which is always in my backpack. It now contains a couple sweet/salty bars, and four packets of those gummy chewy electrolyte packs that they sell in REI or bike shops.

Last story. Earlier this week Susan aka backpack45 and I took a short hike to Joaquin Miller park, about three miles away. It was so close I just grabbed a day pack and put in a liter of water. Nice walk, again enough water, but temperature soared, and our planned two hour trip took six. This time we had a couple of bars, but nothing else. First aid kit was in my backpack. So, lesson learned. Take first aid kit.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Irv's Stroganoff

As long as I'm on a cooking roll, let me pass on this recipe from an old roommate, from whom I learned a fair amount of cooking. One of his more important rules, at least for the single guy trying to make an impression: "If you cook with booze, you can't lose".

No booze in this recipe, but its still a winner. For about six people. Leftovers taste good hot or cold. And re the booze; you can certainly serve it with lots of good red wine and a good time will be had by all.

1 big slab of round steak cut into cubes. This was the original recipe. You can't get those big slabs of round steak anymore, so I pick out a big London Broil and have the butcher cut it into bite sized chunks (about 1/2 in square cubes). They tend to make the chunks too big.
1 pint sour cream
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 can mushroom soup - the original full sodium variety.
one or two big onions, chopped
about 1/2 stick of butter
about 1/4 - 1/2 can of tomato paste
salt, thyme and oregano to taste.

saute mushrooms and onions in butter, and after about 15 minutes add steak cubes
and continue sauteing until steak is rare to medium rare
dump in soup, stir till warm, then dump in sour cream. Add tomato paste at the last moment, stir and season to taste. The tasting is quite important.

Oops, almost forgot to put in ©2009 to stop the blog bandits who take without attribution.

Maybe at some later date, I will share Louie's shredded potato fritters, though he didn't call them that. This was the first thing I ever learned to cook after I left home. I was on a fire crew one summer in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, working at Cedar Grove. We had to feed ourselves. Louie was another member of the fire crew, and shared his cooking skills so I didn't starve. Another thing that kept us going was road kill. One day we heard a deer had been hit just down the road. We zipped down, butchered it, and for the rest of the summer, lived on it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Willie's Fruit Crisp - Wonderful

Ready for dessert?

Backpacking has given us a great appreciation for good food.

We've been making this all year - fall and winter apples & pears, now peaches, plums, you pick the fruit. Always tastes wonderful. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Don't know who to credit for the recipe - it's on an old yellowed newspaper clipping, don't even know the paper.

Turn oven to 375 F, have 8x8 inch baking dish ready. Doesn't need to be oiled or buttered.

Takes 2 medium sized bowls. In one put five or six cups of fruit cut into bite sizes. Don't need to peel, but seeds aren't good.

In the other put 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix dry ingredients.

Pause here to foil those unattributing blog thefts: ©2009

Mix two tablespoons of flour with two or three tablespoons of sugar and pour over the fruit bowl. Mix it all up. Dump the bowl of fruit into the baking dish.

Now, add one beaten egg to bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix it all up. Egg Beaters work fine. Pour the contents over the fruit in the baking dish and spread around evenly.

One more thing to do. Melt 1/4 pound butter (1 stick). Drizzle all over the baking dish contents. I've used a half stick and it still tasted fine.

Put it all into the oven for 40 minutes more or less.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, hot or cold.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Thru-Hiker's Heart by "No Way" Ray Echols - literature from a hiker

There's a little positive bias here, and a fleeting personal connection, just so you know that up front, but about the book.

I love reading hiker narratives, but I almost never read one that I would recommend to my non-hiking friends. This is one of those rare few. This is a collection of tales from the trail, more or less in time sequence, but not always. There is a large amount of what some may call digression from the topic, but I call philosophical insights, prompted by the trail. On these long, long walking days, the mind goes all sorts of places, and Ray has put his thoughts on paper.

His words bring Edward Abbey to mind, though he's not as angry. Maybe closer in the rhythm of his prose to John McPhee. I hesitate to use the word literature, fearing that word might kill some sales among the younger generation. Maybe it's sufficient to say that it is the best hiking book I ever read, that I hated to put it down, that I didn't want it to end?

I should add that there are inserted 16 pages of excellent color photographs on glossy paper. Ray took professional quality photographs, even lugging a large format camera around for years.

You can buy this book directly from Alice at Tuolumne Press. You can buy it from Amazon and I will get a small commission, or ask for it in your local bookstore: ISBN 9780981472201.

Now a diversion to slow down the blog thieves ©2009 and;

As to our fleeting connection with Ray and Alice.

I've been a reader and sometimes contributor on the PCT-L forum for about six years now. No Way Ray was a frequent contributor, and I gradually got sort of a third hand acquaintance with him. Don't think we ever discussed the same topic, and my mental image of him was fairly fuzzy. Around 2004 we decided to make a serious effort to section hike the PCT, and started doing northern California sections. By 2005 we were ready for the desert and knocked off the first two desert sections in March and April. In 2006, we were doing section C in May. Big Bear is coming up. We have enough food, but the idea of a motel room and dinner in a restaurant is compelling, so we go into town, get a room at one of the motels that tolerates hikers. Around dusk the word spreads, everyone is going to Thelma's for supper. A group of us walk up there and fill several tables. Susan and I are at a long table, a gray haired couple of similar vintage sitting next to us. Susan starts talking to the woman about books, printing, etc. and it turns out that she is Alice Tulloch of No Way Ray and Alice, and the bearded guy beside her is Ray. Over the next day, we pass each other on the trail a couple of times. Finally we setup camp on a ridgetop, and see them going by on the trail below us, for the last time.

The next day, as we continue on to Deep Creek, we meet other hiker friends from the dinner, and they tell us Ray has fallen to his death on the section of trail we had just crossed. He was out of sight of Alice, so no one really knows what happened.

Over the next couple of years Alice assembled Ray's manuscript and recently published it. We have corresponded a little bit on publishing, and we have seen Alice at some trail events, but I had no idea how good the book was until I just recently read it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Peach Stories

My grandfather raised peaches in Modesto. Back in my high school days, it was my sentence to spend Augusts at the ranch, helping with the peach harvest, in hopes that it might inspire in me a love for the farm. Sadly for my parents and grandfather, but happily for me, that dream never worked out. The experience of being up on a ladder picking peaches in triple digit heat, with sweat running down, furiously itching peach fuzz down my neck and body, did not convince me that this was a life I wanted.

There were, however, a lot of good things about that month in August. By trial and error, with tractor, truck, ancient Chevy sedan and farm pickup, I learned to drive through the orchards. My aunt and uncle also came for the summer to work and help my grandfather manage the harvest. They were only about ten years older than I, and sometimes allowed me to tag along to the drivein movie, or more frequently take me to this wonderful ice cream parlor in downtown Modesto, name now long forgotten. Bluits maybe? My uncle gave me my first plane ride in a local crop dusting biplane. They gave me glimpses into the larger world, only a blurry image from our remote tv lacking national park home.

I got to sleep on the enclosed porch, the closest thing I ever had to my own room, and had one of those old table radios, shaped like sort of an upside down heart with a flat bottom and flat sides. The dial was about two inches square, but The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid and a myriad of other programs of that era came in well. I liked getting up at 3 am because the irrigation water was available then, and my uncle needed some help or at least pretended he needed it.

The time with my grandfather was something special. He had a stern visage, but it was gone when he taught me about peaches, how to do a bud graft, how to look at the base of the leaf and identify the small glands, how to know the different varieties, how to find the one sweet freestone tree in an orchard of clings. He had a few branches that had turned into new special peaches, sweeter, and/or brighter colors, ripened earlier, later, etc. These he grafted onto other trees, looking for a new variety, maybe one that would carry the family name.

And there were always peaches. We didn't pick them from the trees; those were for the harvest, but we could get the ones that dropped on the ground from ripeness. My grandmother always had a peach something going - pie, cobbler, canning. But the one thing we always did was peel the peaches. Near the harvest time, and throughout the year I can remember the men who lived on the ranch and did the hard work, out on the spray rig in their yellow slickers. I remember the bags of pesticide in the barn, and the repeated caution from the adults: "always peel the peaches, remember, they've been sprayed". This memory and caution has stayed with me all my life. Till Susan. She washes them, but eats them skin and all. I still held back for years, willing to eat nectarines with just washing, but never peaches. Now, finally with the advent of organic peaches, I am finally eating and loving ripe juicy skin enclosed California peaches.

And just to give the blog thieves a little more work: ©2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Backpacking Food - Crunch Time, Gotta Buy

I've been slow getting to this point, but I've got to ship our resupply boxes soon. Since they have isobutane fuel canisters, they have to go ground usps or ups, so I need to allow a couple of weeks to get to Oregon & Washington.

Picked up the freeze dried dinners at REI last night when we did a Camino de Santiago talk (see our camino page if that subject interests you). Today we had a long hike planned but Kaiser's dermatology had a cancelled appointment, so scheduled me at 11 to check a new black spot - turned out to be totally harmless - just a sign of aging, but that did break up the day.

So, back home for a bag lunch (had already packed it for the hike) and then review the backpack food list and off to the first stop. The Food Mill - our local bulk food store where I can pick from a dozen kinds of granola. Settled on four choices, but still know that after the trip it will be months before I can stand to eat granola again. I check my list. Now I need the rest of the stuff, bars, Milkman, PopTarts, jerky, gorp material, etc. So I head off to a large nearby Safeway for the rest. They have most of what I need.

No Milkman, but they do have Nido. However, jerky is another story. They have it, but some is moldy, some is outdated, so I don't trust the rest. Head for a big Longs Drug for Tang and jerky. Much better jerky choices, but no Tang, so I exit there for a final stop (I hope) at the Luckys near home. Yes, they have Tang --- but just the little cans and I need 44 quarts. I pull all their 8 qt cans off the shelf and check them. Five have good dates, two are expired and one is about to expire, so I take the five good ones, put the expired ones on the floor, and grab a packet of sugar loaded Koolaid, which will do for the last 4 quarts.

Now three hours after starting, I finally get home and dump all the stuff in the back bedroom. That's all I can do today. Sorting, measuring, packing, double checking the list will happen in the next few days. Almost forgot, have to put in © 2009 to slow the blog bandits. I don't mind if they give attribution, but there are some spammers that copy legitimate articles and highlight text so a click will go off to their spam.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Rancho Laguna Park via Rocky Ridge Trail to Las Trampas, Cow Chicken & PCT Water

A cold and foggy July 5th morning and a "long hike day". This by our definition is 7 to 12 miles vs a short hike being an hour or two. Looking for new trails, we looked at the EBMUD map again, and saw that just east of the King Canyon loop we did a few weeks ago there was a trailhead. It would let us get on the Rocky Ridge Trail and continue on to Las Trampas from the east edge of the King Canyon loop.

My vision of this was a relatively flat undulating trail, finally taking an abrupt up as it hit the western edge of Las Trampas, similar in terrain to the King Canyon. That's not quite the way it went.

First we park at the Rancho Laguna Park trailhead and search for the trail. Some returning hikers direct us to the southeast corner of the park where there is an EBMUD register and a gate. Then up an access trail to a fire/ranch road cutting south to the Rocky Ridge Trail. We head down this, and then east on the Rocky Ridge trail, taking note of a gate to the right that leads to the King Canyon loop trail.

There are thirty or so Black Angus cattle scattered around the hillsite, including a dozen or so on the trail. This is where we and the cows engage in the game of chicken. I stroll down the trail, Susan lagging behind, keeping me between her and the cows. I'm not doing any cow eye contact, just pretending that they are not there. About ten feet from the first cow - large, maybe 400 lbs, she decides to move along a little farther away, but still on the trail. I keep walking, Susan behind. The cow moves along then turns around, keeping her eye on me. I keep walking a little slower than my normal pace, approaching the cow's nose. Finally as I am about twelve inches away, the nose swings right, followed by the body, up and off the trail, with a huff. We continue on to the next bunch on the trail, this one a group of a half dozen yearlings. This calls for a different approach - conversation. "It's cool you guys", "we're just walking by", "stay cool", etc. etc. etc. till they gradually dispurse and we get to the gate on the far side of the pasture, and are cow free till our return.

As it turns out, Rocky Ridge Trail is a steady 20% grade climb up and over one ridge down to the bottom of the other side, up and over another ridge, now into the EBRPD Las Trampas park to the junction with the Rocky Ridge Loop trail, where we reverse direction. The lower parts of the trail have been thru oak woodlands, and the upper part through open grasslands, obviously grazed in the past, but now lush with golden grasses, the draws with a touch of green where some moisture lies beneath the surface. We cross a couple of fireroads. The first one is near the bottom after crossing the first ridge - Buckhorn Road. A few moments after, we spot what would be good water for any PCT hiker - a trough, still overflowing, and a spot clear enough from surface algae to dip a water container. From what I hear, this would be a wonderful water source for a Continental Divide Trail hiker. An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009

The return trip was a little warm, and the ground in open areas dry and cracked, but enough scattered remnants of the morning fog and clouds to make it tolerable. This would be a better trip earlier in the season.

We had one last cow adventure on the return. As we neared the end of the Rocky Ridge Trail, where we had to get on the cutoff to the trailhead, we noticed that the cows had all settled down, not grazing, but for the most part on the ground, feet folded beneath. The problem was that every cow in that vast pasture had settled on and around the trail right at the junction. We started to circle around them, and then we could see the gate just beyond them - like about three inches beyond them. So, we put on our calm faces and wend our way through them, sort of like Moses parting the water. Finally reach the gate and get through, causing some annoyed getting up and mooing in the process. We walk down the road, noticing some things we hadn't seen on the way in - a bird house with a screened entryway, and then a little farther a roadside bench, and beyond that - a picnic area complete with tables. We had not come this way before.

So, not quite consternation, but dismay. We must have missed our turn where the cows were. We walk back to the gate. Survey the situation. Right, we can see the trail beyond the cows where we should have gone. There must be a trail junction marker right in the middle of that black mass of beef. Susan reconnoiters the fence line. Can we just follow it past the herd and sneak under it? Not possible.

So, thru the gate again, making our way through a less dense part of the herd, up the hillside where we can get around them and back on the trail, talking steadily to the cows all the while.
Finally got back to the car with no further incidents.

Did I mention that Susan has a thing about cows? The blogger of Dangers of An Afternoon Stroll has a sign that Susan thinks is appropriate.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Found it! Rebekah's zucchini fritters recipe

Now that summer is here, and we are home for a change during garden season, the summer squash are thriving, and I can see a need for zucchini recipes.

This flashed by last fall as a comment on The Solitary Walker's blog by Rebekah of the Moratinos Life blog.

Per Rebekah:

I grate them up, squeeze out the excess water, beat them together with a couple of eggs, Parmesan, and breadcrumbs, and fry them up into fritters. Serve them with garlic mayo. YUM.

July 20,2009 - Update. In the interests of cooking science, and to use up an unexpected eggplant, I tried this recipe with eggplant instead of zucchini. My recommendation. Don't try this unless you are fond of eggplant to begin with. Susan liked it, but then she likes eggplant to begin with. I like mine totally disguised with layers of cheese, etc. The fritters have a distinct eggplant flavor. The recipe preparation is the same, including the squeezing out of moisture. The eggplant has a little more. Another note, when you squeeze it, this brown liquid comes out, sort of like you were squeezing the life out of one of the pod people. There are also a lot of tiny seeds left, to remind you that you are eating eggplant and not some innocuous squash.