A barefoot climb of Mt. St. Helens
Barefoot hiking has never caused the kind of controversy and acrimony that barefoot running has. Perhaps it’s because hiking doesn’t come so overloaded with notions about proper form and “performance.” People generally go hiking for recreation and sightseeing — any exercise or positive health effects hikers get are side benefits. Most runners participate in races of some kind, but hiking is less competitive — unless you get two diehard “peak baggers” on the same trail. (Count me out, man, I’d rather stop and smell the flowers.)
So barefoot hiking should be a lot like barefoot trail running — not so much about performance as about the experience. I thought I’d give it a try when my friend Ron Krull invited me to climb Mt. St. Helens late in the summer. The photos are by him unless otherwise noted. And a special note: FWIW here barefoot means actually barefoot. There is nothing wrong with minimal shoes — or any shoes you want — but, dude, it’s not the same thing.
I’ve done Mt. St. Helens before, so I knew what I was getting into. …more
Thanksgiving toast (after two football games and four glasses of wine)
You know what, dog? You are far more than an opportunistic commensalist to me.
You are ALL RIGHT, you know what I mean? You’re like, the ONLY holiday guest who gets JUST HOW FUNNY that story about the stupid squirrel is.
I promise to give you the whole turkey pan and take you camping again, as soon as we wake up from this trypto.. trypto.. STUFF.
(back with something of substance after the holiday)
Zen and the art of trail maintenance
The tools of trail work: the Pulaski, a Janus-headed half-axe, half-adze; the adze hoe (ain’t gardening); the pick mattock, which will pick your eye out if you lose your footing. Hard metal tools, forged in fire and originally designed for wildfire-fighting.
The tools are hard, but the work is soft. You can’t just hack a trail up the side of a mountain. According to to the Student Conservation Association’s trail manual, Lightly on the Land, early trails in the Northeast U.S. used to be built this way–hacked hurriedly straight up to the summit. This was because in the Eastern U.S., most of the trails being built were recreational, e.g. from a Catskill inn up to a viewpoint, and because people had to worry more about staying within property lines.
But now the “horizontal vision”–winding, low-grade trails that obey the contours of the land–of the Western U.S., where trails were originally more logging- or mining-related, is the favored method of trail building.
Goosebumps in summer
No, it’s not from the thrill of warm-weather romance (unfortunately).
In summer, I always have two outfits on hand (or on body). One is cotton and as skimpy as societal norms will allow; the other is woolen and as long as long-sleeved can be. The former is for walking to my destination, whether it be a movie theater, a library, or an office; the latter is for being in my destination. The drastic temperature differential between indoor and outdoor spaces leads to much bothersome, chafing, and eyeglass-discombobulating donning and undonning on my part.
To be fair, I err on the chilly side. (My mom, when I was new to this world, asked the pediatrician why I always looked slightly purple. The doctor responded that I had not yet adjusted to postnatal circulation. But nothing ever changed, so I guess Iâ€™m still adjusting.) But I also grew up in the Northeastern United States, so I am used to frigid, snowy weather. And though I have no official data, I have heard, over the years, similar reports from people of various body types and stages of fetal development: air-conditioned buildings are too freakinâ€™ cold!
I love those goofy b*st*rds: MOTHS!!
No matter how conscientious you are, no matter how hard you try to prevent it, it occasionally happens: you eat a moth.
It happened to me one summer evening on what, within the protected confines of a planet-destroying automobile, might have been one of the loveliest stretches of time and place in the history of the universe.