Archive for the 'Mountains' Category



Mountain Biking Payoff

BY Herschel Smith
3 weeks ago

After you’ve done the workout, put in the effort, and sweat several liters of water doing the climb, it’s good to get the payoff.  For me, it was downhill singletrack heaven pretty much the rest of the way out to the trailhead.  I earned this payoff.

Have a great Labor Day!

 

Mountain Biking Croft State Park

BY Herschel Smith
1 month, 2 weeks ago

The Southside Trail Loop in Croft State Park runs up the side of a mountain in one direction, and along a river in the other, and which part you do first depends on whether you go clockwise or counterclockwise.  The uphill is strenuous to the point of being grueling, and the downhill part is very fast and technical.  The total loop is about nine miles, but it feels like fifteen.

Along the river there is some relatively flat terrain in an old growth forest that is absolutely enchanting.

Memorial Day Mountain Biking At Lake James State Park

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 4 weeks ago

It’s very challenging to try to stay up with someone whose thighs and heart makes it seem like they’ve got rockets attached to their bike.

Mountain Biking, Cicadas And Tree Grubs

BY Herschel Smith
4 months ago

We always try to stay physically active.  You never know when you’ll need to be in shape.  This past weekend we mountain biked at James Lake State Park.  As we stepped out of the truck to hit the trails, we heard an almost deafening sound coming from the forest.  For those of you who know this sound, it’s a bit like listening to an admixture of a dying calf and a cavitating pump.

It happened to be Cicadas – tens of thousands of them.  This was their year, and I suppose their week, to come up in this region.

It was a good day to mountain bike, but it reminds me of an event several years ago where I once lived.  I saw Heidi with a live Cicada caught between her paws, licking the innards and juice out of the insect.  I said to her, “Things like this are why I have to deworm you, bitch.”  She briefly looked up at me and then returned to lapping up her delicacy.

That reminds me of an event a number of years ago when my oldest son, Josh, sold me a bill of goods.  We were chopping wood and came up on a bunch of tree grubs.  He popped a small one in his mouth and ate it.  Then he dared me to, and of course I couldn’t let my oldest son show me up.  After all, Les Stroud eats tree grubs.

Then Josh handed me a tree grub that dwarfed the one he ate.  I dutifully ate the thing.  It tasted like wood, just wet and squishy.  But I don’t think I’ll be eating any more tree grubs unless I’m in the wilderness in a survival situation.

Hiker Fights For Survival After Getting Lost In Arizona

BY Herschel Smith
9 months, 3 weeks ago

AZFamily.com:

I was going up to Mount Lemmon to spend Monday night in a hammock that I was modifying for cold weather, and to enjoy looking at the super moon.

I was going to have lunch with a friend then proceed to the campsite near the top of Mt. Lemmon. The last time I spoke with my friend regarding lunch was Saturday, we were to speak about it again sometime Sunday. We did not do that, and I assumed that lunch was confirmed.

That was the first of several mistakes I made.

I started up Catalina Highway and had plenty of time to stop along the way.

I decided to check out a trail that I had not hiked in several years, Upper Green Mountain. It was about 11 a.m., I decided to go up the trail for about 20 minutes and then back down.

It is a pretty steep trail and pine needles made it difficult to see the trail. I had on a light long-sleeve cotton shirt, my hat, fishing vest (lots of pockets for stuff) and my water bottle with about 25 ounces.

Near the top I remembered that the trail went down the other side. I saw a path that went off trail to an interesting rock formation.

I went there for a little exploration, and headed back.

When I got back to where I went off trail, I had a major unexpected urge to have a BM.

I had taken a little extra magnesium that morning for some left leg cramps. So I got off-trail again, dug a hole, pooped and used about 1/2 of my water to wash my hands.

I looked around but did not see anything that looked like a trail. I thought I got here by going up, so to get back all I needed to do is go down.

Really big mistake.

I headed down for about 15 minutes and did not see the highway as expected. So I picked up my pace and decided to maintain one direction — I kept the sun on my back and headed north.

The terrain was very steep, and starting to get difficult to hike through. After about 1/2 an hour I thought I have to be near the road. Then I came to an area with a impassable cliff on the right and left. I was convinced this was the point of no return, no back tracking. I kept up a fast pace through some pretty difficult terrain, thick areas of shrub oaks and sticker bushes.

But I was still thinking I would find the highway.

After about 1 1/2 to 2 hours of going down the wrong side of the mountain, I realized that I was in really big trouble.

I was lost and would need to spend the night.

I was up on a ridge, looked down and saw a flat area somewhat clear of trees.

I remembered thinking about one of the most important things to do in a survival situation — keep a positive mental attitude. It would not help to be thinking about the mistakes I made that got me lost. I needed to focus on the present.

I started down to the clearing, came across a prickly pear cactus and cut off some pads for food, Great, I had a food source.

I arrived at my campsite and started gathering wood for a fire. I always carry a lighter in my vest, thank God!

While gathering wood I noticed bear poop, many very large piles of it, all around the campsite.

OK, positive mental attitude, fire will keep them away. And in case it didn’t, I tied the larger of my two knives to one of my ski poles.

The fire was in a water erosion ditch so there was no need to build a fire pit and could put longer logs in it and move them towards the fire as needed.

I had about 10 ounces of water left when I remembered another survival technique — I would have to start drinking my own urine.

Eating prickly pear pads have a side effect of diarrhea, which I found out the next day. To borrow a line from the pharmaceutical industry — ask your doctor if prickly pear pads and pee is right for you.

Having a sense of humor helps with positive mental attitude.

Anyway I had a collapsible camping cup in my vest so there was no need to pee in my water bottle while it still had water.

That night it was pretty cold, with a very cool breeze coming down the canyon.

I did not have a flashlight. I had to keep close to the fire, and rotated keeping my back, buttocks and legs warm.

The ground was cold and I couldn’t lay on my back for very long.

Also, I had to keep the fire going so I did not sleep that night

Sometime that night I saw what looked like several bright lights on the east side of the canyon. Could it be people? I shouted out hey, but in a little while realized it was that super moon coming up shining a little light through the pines.

Wow, the super moon was beautiful. I enjoyed the beauty and kept a positive mental attitude.

Time passed incredibly slowly that night.

He managed to make his way out and you can read the rest for yourself if you’re inclined.  But listen to me.  Drinking your own urine IS NOT a survival technique.  It’s a death technique.

Even on day hikes, I take at least the following in a day pack: cordage (550), gun, knife (serrated edge), tactical light, multiple fire starters, rubberized poncho, water, clothing for warmth (some sort of parka even in the summer), usually a light Mylar blanket, and energy bars.  At times I’ve carried a compass and maps if I don’t know the area.

Don’t do what he did.  If you escape into the wilderness in the Western U.S., your gun needs to be a big boy like a .44 Magnum or .454 Casull.  I sure wouldn’t carry anything less than .357 magnum.

The View From Chestnut Knob

BY Herschel Smith
1 year ago

Chestnut_Knob

This is what the view looks like at Chestnut Knob Lookout on a partly cloudy day.

Hiking Arizona

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 1 month ago

Hiking_Arizona

The view in Wilson Canyon, Sedona, Az.

Los Alamos Summer Storm

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 1 month ago

Here’s what Los Alamos, New Mexico looks like with a summer storm in the distance.

Los_Alamos

It’s called virga.

How To Pack For A Day Hike

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 1 month ago

This is another report of folks who needed to do some work to survive in the wilderness, albeit for a short time.  From this article comes this video.

Don’t listen to her advice.  What is she leaving out?  We cover this frequently here.  Also make sure to take trekking poles, a tarp (or heavy rubberized poncho) and 550 cordage (from which three items you can have virtually instant shelter).  Take a container that can be used to boil water, a knife, a tactical light, and a gun.  Oh, and don’t leave out the fire starter.

Unlike this very unwise man and his son, don’t keep on pushing in the hopes that something good will happen.

We heard waterfalls, one after another, but the mind tends to latch onto something it yearns to believe. A waterfall, Jack and I had been told, marked a faint fisherman’s trail out of the gorge, and we’d been searching for it now for the last few hours. We were no longer thinking of trout; our fly rods were broken down and tucked under our arms. We were trying to get out of the woods before dark, but each waterfall we heard turned out to be the wind coursing through the trees or the creek rushing by boulders. It was one false summit after another. And now worry began to gnaw at my gut, because I’d broken every rule when we left the truck.

We had no map, compass, or flashlight. No shelter, signaling device, or fire starter. No firsthand knowledge of where we were. No clue how to beat the dropping sun back to the trail. I had ignored 40 years of knowing better.

This situation can be dealt with by building a debris hut for protection against the rain and wind, and pine bows or straw to get your bodies off of the ground, along with finding a potable water source.  But in order to pull this off, you have to stop in time and quit hoping that civilization is just around the bend.

Lost In The Wilderness: One Man’s Five Day Fight For Survival

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

California:

For one California man, what began as a day fishing trip quickly turned into a five-day fight for survival.

Mike Vilhauer, 58, went fishing Aug. 6 at Lower Sunset Lake in Alpine County when he noticed he wasn’t catching any fish. Deciding he needed more bait, Vilhauer, butterfly net in hand, left on what he thought would be a short trip to find some grasshoppers.

“I was just zigzagging up and down the mountain,” Vilhauer told ABC News. “I didn’t see anyone for quite a while.”

After a few hours, Vilhauer said it began to get late, and he decided he should probably head back to the fishing site. “That’s when the fun began,” he said.

Vilhauer began to make his way towards what he thought was the fishing site. But with darkness upon him at about 8 p.m., he decided to make shelter under a pine tree, covering himself with pine needles and willow branches in an attempt to stay warm. Vilhauer attempted to call 911, but a weak signal thwarted his efforts.

Vilhauer continued his search for the help on Thursday. Weak from his lack of food and water, he adapted what he called his “survivor man routine,” drinking water out of puddles, regardless of what else was in the puddle.

“I thought ‘I’m going to keep walking, I’m going to get back to my wife,’” said Vilhauer, who lives in West Sacramento.

After trying to find a way back the whole day, Vilhauer came across a stream and began to follow it before the sun began to set. Setting up a camp of tree bark and needles, he slept for another night in the open wilderness.

He was crushed to find on Friday morning that the stream came to a dead end. “At this point I’m thinking ‘Man, this is looking bad,’” Vilhauer said.

Vilhauer continued to wander in circles on Friday, unsure of where he was or where to go next. Exhausted and hungry, he set up camp under a large rock.

“I hadn’t slept at all,” said Villhauer, “It was cold and I just tried to keep moving around. It rained every night.”

Saturday morning brought no relief.

“I hadn’t eaten since Wednesday morning,” said Villhauer, “I was so weak, I could only do so much before getting too exhausted and having to lie down.”

Grounding himself underneath the rock, Villhauer tried to build up his strength. He decided he would try to climb up the side of the ridge, only to find out that every time he thought he had reached the top, there ended up just being another peak ahead.

Suddenly, Villhauer could hear helicopters in the distance. One flew overhead, but kept going, leaving Villhauer “disheartened.”

“It was a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Villhauer, “I thought, ‘You know what? I’m done. This is it.’”

“I was thinking about my family and my wife and all of the stupid things I’d done to get myself into that position,” said Villhauer.

“And then, after 10 to 15 minutes I decided ‘No. Hell no. I’m not going to give up, I’m going to get down to that stream and I’m going to sit there and wait until somebody finds me,’” he added.

Villhauer made his way back down the stream, drinking out of puddles along the way, and made his way back to the rock.

He picked up a piece of driftwood and began writing his last words to his wife.

“I put all of these thoughts down, I had to continue on another piece of drift wood,” Villhauer said.

He then used cypress needles to spell out “HELP”, saying “I figured if I don’t make it, at least I gave it my best shot.”

Sunday morning, Villhauer had just had his first meal in five days – a dandelion – when he heard the helicopters again.

“I got excited, I started waving around my blue shirt on a stick,” said Villhauer as the helicopter kept repeatedly flying over and then leaving.

“It was a big rush, and then the letdown. A big rush, and the letdown,” described Villhauer, who assumed that the choppers were operating on a grid system, so once they deemed the area clear they would not be returning.

“I figured, if they hadn’t seen me yet, I was in here for the long haul.”

The choppers returned and began circling Villhauer, when he suddenly heard a bark from behind him. It was a search dog leading one of the rescue teams that had been looking for Villhauer since Friday.

After five days in the wilderness, he had been saved.

Folks, as I have pointed out so many times, carry a day pack / patrol bag.  Twenty pounds can save your life.  You need: (a) a gun, (b) fire starter, (c) a tactical light, (d) 550 cord, (e) water, (f) a heavy rubberized poncho, and (g) a compass.

With the gun you can protect yourself, with the light you can see at night, with the fire you can prevent hypothermia, with the poncho and 550 cord you can make shelter in under two minutes, you need the water to live and you need the compass to navigate.  You may even go comfortable and carry along a few energy bars.

Why is this so hard?  Why do people go into the wilderness unprepared?


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