Archives for category: backpacking food

I love fire. Not in the pyromaniac sense, but in the appreciation for how valuable fire is to this earth’s existence. Fire has played a role in shaping our landscape and society since the beginning of time. Today, in our modern, post-industrialized society we actually take fire for granted. In fact, some members of our species have abused fire.

My first encounter with an actual fire was when I was about 4 years old. Our family would head into the woods on camping trips. I remember my dad, joking around, telling me and my 2 y.o. brother he was going to show me the best way to start a fire. He carefully built this mound of wood, then poured something on top. Then he threw a match and WHOOOSH!!!

I was standing a bit close and it scared me. I have no idea how my brother reacted, but somehow I could tell that my mother wasn’t impressed. The opposite, actually.

I often wonder if my respect for fire began that evening when the smell of fossil fuel immediately combusting became ingrained in my brain. Despite that explosive moment, my father really was a decent outdoorsman and taught us to be vigilant when it came to campfires. Over the years we’d go into the forests and he’d show us how to build the proper base, then gradually add larger and larger pieces of wood until you had a sustainable flame.

Then, the family moved to Colorado. My dad met a commercial hunting outfitter and took on as a lead guide. My mom helped out as the camp cook. Some of the greatest meals I’ve ever had were in those camps. But that’s another story.

My dad was always a very early riser…so am I, come to think of it. Sleeping in was an opulent luxury and when enjoyed, meant sleeping until 8 or 9a.m. Anyway, hunting camps get very early starts, like 6am or earlier. My dad would always get up before the other hunters, stir my brother or I, and we’d make a fire. The paying hunters would always start to come alive as the big, military GP tent would start to get toasty. My mom had coffee and breakfast ready too.

Today, I love fire for myriad reasons. I love to cook over an open flame and coals. There really is a nuance to it, you don’t just stick a piece of meat over a roaring flame, and you have to pay attention to what kind of fuel you’re using. Pine wood is horrible for grilling because it’s so damned pitchy. Your food will taste like pine-char.

I also love fire because of what it has meant to the human race. I saw this movie when I was a kid, called Quest for Fire. It was the story of this population of prehistoric humans (why are they prehistoric; like there was no history for them?) and how hard they worked to collect and protect the ability to make a fire. There was this one scene where the guy tasked with carrying and caring for the ember fell into the water. The ember died, and you could see the absoluteness of the situation in the faces of those affected.

Camping is almost synonymous with campfire. It’s one of the most important thing to some campers. I’ve met more than one person who’s evening would have been ruined if we couldn’t have a fire to sit around.

When I sit around a fire with friends, I’m always struck by the depth of the conversations that emanate from those circles. It’s as if the light of the fire, contrasted with the backdrop of “the wild”, conjures up serious conversations. There’s also that sense of entertainment when I sit by the fire. When I talk to people I usually try to look them in the eye when we converse. However, when I’m fireside I invariably stare into the flames.

Bluebird & Flame

Not a Caveman

Caveman TV.

The best part of Caveman TV is that it also smells great. Everyone’s got their opinion as to the best wood for a campfire and if you don’t think Juniper/Cedar is the best then you’re working off Fake News…i.e. you’re wrong. J/K – pine smells pretty good too. It’s the most common wood in my fire-rings if only because it’s usually the most prolific in the areas I camp. But when I have cedar or juniper I generally bathe in the smoke.

That would make a great cologne – Juniper Fire!

Smoky BearThe problem with fire is when people don’t respect the flame. Sure, we all know about Smokey Bear. He started off as a real bear when a cub was saved by a forest dude, then turned into an anthropomorphic Ursidae to warn people about the dangers of fire. Unfortunately not everyone is as careful or knowledgeable about how long a campfire will remain dangerous.

I’ve seen many people be surprised at how hot the embers are the morning after, when they invariably didn’t actually extinguish the coals. Shit, I’ve been guilty of going to bed w/o properly dealing with the fireplace. Today, I’m far more cognizant about the dangers.

While I’m out here playing the part of homeless gypsy I met the Fire Prevention Supervisor for Coconino County. What I take for granted, fire safety, he has to constantly deal with. Mostly in the summers though, when things are warm and dry. I spoke with him just the other day and apparently there were 34 fires during the fire-ban. One of them was left unattended and it started a small fire. Luckily the fire-crews are on top of shit right now.

And that’s just from some idiots that didn’t respect the potential for fire. The result of this apathy and ignorance is forest fires. Some are easily contained, others aren’t; in fact, sometimes they cost people their lives and property. All because of someone not giving enough of a shit.

I still love fire though. Most, if not all, of the national forests have fire restrictions in place. I don’t mind though. As much as I love a fire, it isn’t just about the flame. It’s about what a campfire does – it brings people together, to cook and communicate.

See you outside.

I have this coffee pot.  Well, it’s no longer, technically, a coffee pot.  By that, I mean, it doesn’t have its guts.  The percolator and coffee basket are long gone.  But, from the outside, it looks just like one of those old Coleman coffee pots your dad used to have.  I still make coffee with it, only now I am far more sophisticated…I use a French press (insert snobby-nasal “hoh hoh hoh” here).

I got out of the Marine Corp in mid-1991.  I had asked to be stationed in Yuma for my last duty station because it was close to home.  My mom, brother and sister lived in Tempe, or thereabouts.  When I got out, I moved into my mom’s house, until I could get on my feet.  I took various odd-jobs including telemarketing and door-to-door sales.  In fact, one of my favorite post-service jobs was that door-to-door sales.

Fast forward a year or two and I’m staying in a condo in Tempe, working in restaurants and at REI.  I got into camping as a kid on family trips and continued “camping” when in the Marines.  I was hooked.  So it was natural for me to start accumulating camping equipment.  That’s where I purchased this coffee pot.

Most of my first camping trips were car-camping at bike races.  I’d use this pot to make coffee for my teammates.  We were really into coffee…primarily because it suppressed the hunger-pangs.  We were poor and the less we thought about food the easier our days would be.  I remember at one race, I and one of my teammates were coming around this turn and there was Jim Huntley.  He was in a different class so he had some time before his start.

Anyway, he was making a pot of coffee, and the aroma was wafting along the trail for about 50’.  More than a few racers mentioned it later.  “Did you smell that coffee that guy was making?” “Yea man, I almost stopped to have a cup”.

We loved coffee.

Some years later I was on a long, cross-country trip with my future ex-wife.  We decided to drive through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and eventually back home to Arizona.  We had stopped at some high-mountain camp in Idaho, right next to a fast running, cold stream.  It was iconic.  I can still see the place in my memories.  I distinctly remember that Idaho was so beautiful that I HAD to come back some day.  I will, someday.

One morning I wanted to rinse out my coffee pot.  I went to the river and dunked it a few times.  At one point I realized that I’d lost the innards of the pot.  I have no recollection of the precise moment they disappeared, but I came to realize it, and I was pissed.  I remember that I threw a bit of a tantrum.  I looked up and down that bank trying to guess how far it might be swept down in the rushing water.

It was gone.

The next trip I took it on was a backpacking trip into the Superstition Mountains.  I was brand-new to “civilian” backpacking and this was my inaugural trip.  We were driving along the AZ-60 and I must have been going too fast because all of the sudden there was a police officer on my tail, lights-a-flashin’.

He saw my wallet and noticed that it had a rasta-marijuana leaf embroidered on it.  He used that as probable cause and asked me if I had any drugs on me.  Instead of lying to him, I volunteered to show him where my meager bag of brown-frown pot was.  His next question was “do you have any meth?”  I immediately said “NO!  I’m going to out there to relax, not clean up the forest.”

Well, he thought I was a good guy, so he wrote me a ticket and sent me on my way.  I was a bit shaken but intent on going backpacking.  We continued on.  I remember this first hike into Angel Basin.  We’d lost the trail at the top of the big descent down into the spot.  We bushwhacked our asses off and arrived at the basin only to find that the Scottsdale Community College Outdoor Club was already there.  The club seemed to be mostly young girls.  Bonanza, right!?  NO – again, I was with my future ex-wife.  The only time I’ve ever encountered a gaggle of girls in the woods was when I was with a girlfriend.

Anyway, it’s not worth dwelling on.

We set up camp, made our (looking back), horrible dinner and retired.  The next morning we awoke to the Girls-Gone-Wild leaving.  We were just getting our day started when a guy walked by, without a pack.  He was one of the chaperones of the trip but had to stay back at the trailhead with a girl that had sprained her ankle early in the trip.  He was trying to catch up to the rest of the party for some reason I can’t remember.

Coffee Pot2I started a pot of coffee.  By now I was going all Cowboy on my Java.  Boil water, add coffee grounds, stir and set; pour a little cold water on the top to sink the grounds and pour gently.  Well, this chaperone came back through and the smell of coffee brought him into our camp.  We shared our magical-black liquid and started chatting.

Within 5 minutes he offered to smoke pot with us.  I looked at Patricia and said “I told you we’d still find a way to get high in the woods!”.

There have been more than one magical moment in my life as a result of this coffee pot.

Today, my backpacking skills have progressed.  I’ve probably walked a couple thousand miles across Arizona’s amazing landscapes.  Deserts, forests, canyons and mountains.  I even tried to do a thru-hike of the AZT.  As part of my learning curve I’ve cut untold pounds out of my pack.

This coffee pot only makes it into a few of my backpacks; it all depends on the trip.  One one annual foray it’s the “water-heater”.  It resides somewhere on the fire heating water for someone.  When you want water, just go fill it up and put it on the flame.

On this sojourn it has taken its place, central on my stovetop.  It sees daily use in making my coffee, oatmeal and evening tea.  It’s a comfortable friend that’s been with me for over 20 years.

Like the Tinman of Oz, it never really needed guts or a heart because it performs its job perfectly as is.

This is my Linus-blanket and I intend to use this pot until I die, or it falls apart, whichever comes first.

Can I pour you a cup?

 

 

Remember when you were a little kid?  I do…well, at least parts of it.  I was a pretty shitty kid so I try to block a lot of memories; no – I wasn’t an unlawful or mean kid.  I was just an insecure, hypermotherfuckingactive, in-my-own-world kinda’ kid that threw tantrums.

SIDE NOTE: To all of my close friends, STFU…I’m working on it.

Anyway, I have few flashbacks of my earlier years; hell, I’m so good at blocking out memories I need Google reminders to inform me of my wife’s birthday and our anniversary.  No, I’m not good at remembering things…but I do remember it taking geological time to get from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  I mean, fuck…how long should a month really take (rhetorical question)?

Well, that’s the time-warp-hell I’m living in right now.  I have only two weeks until I’m able to pack up my castle-on-wheels and head up north to play trail angel again.  It actually keeps me up at night…not the waiting, no that just makes me antsy to GTFO.  What keeps me up is how much fun it is, and how much reward I get, to be in a place where a tired, broken down hiker could use just a little love.

What keeps me up is that I’m plagued with trying to find a place that has a strong enough mobile signal to maintain my real façade (a guy that’s living the dream by starting a guide company that now FINALLY pays bills), be close enough to the trail that a hiker is willing to make the trek (SOMEBODY has to eat these oranges and drink these beers), and remote enough that I don’t have to share the space with the diaper-leaving-Bush beer-drinking-turd-burglar-families that seem to permeate our “wilderness”.

I know…you’re probably thinking “what a bitch; this is a first-world, white-person, living-the-dream kinda’ problem”!  Probably because I typed it and you’ve just read it, but you might have pre-thought it…I don’t know.

Anyway, the shortened version of this long-winded, first-world, white-person, living-the-dream kinda’ problem story is that I should be able to get out of hell-oven-Africa-hotville (Phoenix) sometime after May 10th-ish.

I know that my last post indicated that I’d be heading straight to Jacob Lake but two things have transpired since then.  First, is that the people that I was hoping to get in front of are moving fast and will most likely be done by then.  Second, is that I re-realized that there is a 14 day limit for camping in our public lands.

I can only stay in a place for 14 days, then I have to “be gone!”  Each management area is different, AND interprets their rules differently (yea, it’s a commercial-operator permit nightmare…ask me how I know!). What this basically boils down to is that I can’t stay in any 25-mile radius for more than 14 days.

This all adds up to me having to move around quite a bit more than I want to.  Also, I don’t want to piss off the already-overworked-underpaid forest service workers, by June.  I’m hoping to wear out my welcome by, at the earliest, August or something.

The final result is that I might head to Pine or Flagstaff…I don’t know.  I’m going to play it by ear.  Because while a plan is useless, planning is everything.

Anyway, Mousie – The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley!

I’ll keep you updated as to my whereabouts…mostly because my mom gets worried.

See you outside…

Sequioa Log 03302017

Hikers continue to pass through. So do other trail users; mountain bikers, people scouting the trailheads for future endeavors, and even trail stewards doing routine maintenance on the trail. Oh, and Marney, from Chalet Village. Not a day goes by without someone stopping by. The best part is that by now, thru-hikers know I’m here.

But most of the time I’m alone, with Kika and Emmie (backup). The sun has been shining but the temperatures have been sublime. The nights are perfect sleeping temperatures. The wind picks up, usually after noon but they’re not constant. They’re just enough to keep it cool. Every once in a while a ranch truck drives by at about 70.

During the days I’m “at work”. There’s plenty to do but there’s still a lot of “quiet” time. So what I’ve been doing, to break up the day, is to check out the local flora; there is no shortage. In fact, I’m willing to wager that every single hiker that’s hiked this section would agree: this desert is lush!

Not only is the desert wide open out here, it’s a sea of rolling green. Crest a hill and look around, in addition to endless mountain ranges in the distance you’ll see more vegetation than dirt or rock. It’s f’n LUSH I’m tellin’ ya!

Interspersed with the myriad shades of green are reds, oranges, purples, whites . . . and sinews of yellow, weaving through other plants. If you’re up early, you’ll see golden sun-rays illuminating these red-silvery puffs of flowers. It’s truly a kaleidoscope of color!

So, what are these wondrous species? Are they edible or do they have any medicinal benefits? Not that they have to…flowers this beautiful don’t have to do anything more than just BE. Seeing them makes me happy, which in-itself is soul-nourishing enough.  But still, what are these happy plants that make it look like Walt Disney came through with leaky paint cans?

Well, I’m here to tell ya’!  And yes, a couple of them do have edible/medicinal benefit…

Yummy in my tummy

Let’s start with one of my favorites – the banana yucca.  I wrote about this a while ago, but this is one of the sweets of the Sonoran Desert.  The flower buds, fruits and leaf-bases are edible.  The natives would pit roast some parts or they might dry the flowers. For example, they would roast the fruits then remove the skins and seeds.  The resulting pulp was formed into dry cakes.  Then, they might reconstitute them into sweet drinks.  The flowers can be cooked into soups or dried and formed into burgers with acorns.

 Hmmm, that almost sounds good…minus all of the labor involved.

People often ask “how did the natives survive?”  My response is always “they didn’t just survive, they thrived!”.

I once heard a statistic: that of the 3400 species native to the Sonoran Desert, 550 of them are edible.  I admit that I have never verified either of those numbers, but it sounds reasonable enough.  When you start digging into edible plants you’ll discover that there are quite a few…probably 550.

These ain’t one of them…at least not for us.

The Fairy Duster

One of the many species of penstemon

Not sure…Chinese Lantern

Sanddune Wallflower

This is just a small collection of photos from my morning coffee-walks.  There are more, like the Desert Globemallow.  The globemallow is also known as “mal de ojo”, which is Spanish for “bad for the eyes”.  It got this name because it’s one hell of an allergen – it’s pollen strands are long, and when observed in cross-section looks like a star…bad for eyes.
The hedgehogs are starting to flower too.  Pretty soon the palo verdes will explode in yellow, so will the brittle bush.  In just a few weeks you’ll look across the desert and it’ll be aglow in yellow.

I think it’s pretty universal to assume that because it’s a harsh desert that not many plants exist.  Not in the Sonoran Desert though…being the warmest & wettest desert in the world we have quite a few plants.  In fact, this is one of the most bio-diverse locations on the globe.

And if there really ARE 550 edible plants in this desert than it’s not a stretch to think the natives really did thrive.  They sure didn’t know any better.

HOWEVER – I’m willing to bet that none of these edible species tastes as good as a pizza delivered to the trailhead by Old Time Pizza in Kearney, or a burrito the size of a donkey at Casa Rivera’s Taco Express in Oracle.  I can vouch for the pizza…I’ll be chompin’ on the burrito this Friday night.

See you outside…or at Casa Rivera’s

 

There has been quite a bit of activity at this trailhead. As I mentioned last time, I saw my first thru-hiker on Monday night, only 3-hours after I arrived. Then, the next day, Ralph’s wife & sister(?) were my first mule-rider-thru-hikers.

Since then I’ve seen Aaron (no trail name) who is hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail…see below.

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Then “Slow Bro” and Mike made their way through heading north.

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Later that day “Farmer” and “HD Momma” rolled up to cache some personal water. At the same time Marney, the owner of the Chalet Village stopped by to drop off Public water AND some for specific hikers. It was nice to meet her. She’s really invested a lot of time & effort into helping hikers. I mentioned how some bottles with initials and a date, that was in the future, were empty. Her look said it all “what a shitty thing to do”. Since they were already crushed I had to fill some other bottles and mark them again.

When I posted this on Facebook some guy suggested that there might be some confusion because on the PCT all of the water is “public” and on the CDT it’s all personal because there is no culture of magic. I guess that the AZT is somewhere in between – we have people caching their own water and volunteers like me and Marney, who cache water for strangers.

Anyway, later that night “Sage Brush” stopped in. He came too late to take a photo because it was dark, and I wasn’t in the frame of mind to figure out the flash. Anyway, he came in and sat for quite a while. He was also hiking the GET. This is a 770-mile trail that goes east-to-west from Albuquerque to Phoenix. Come to find out there are quite a few “National Scenic Trails”.

So far, today (Friday) I’ve already had some visitors…Jamie & Rebecca are two of three people that will be unicycling the AZT. Apparently someone already became the first, but Rebecca is the first female to attempt it on a unicycle. Then, two hikers bagging sections parked their truck at the TH and are hiking north to Florence-Kelvin TH…where I’m picking up two friends this evening and shuttling them back to my pad so they can also complete section 15.

Jamie & Rebecca givin’ it the thumbs up..

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Pirate two-sticks and CC heading north; they’ll be back Sunday to get their truck.

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In all this whole experiment has been fun, so far. I wonder when it’s going to start to suck…I hope never. I think my biggest challenge will be finding spots with good mobile service. Right now I have 4-bars of 4G…I have better service out here than in my own living room or office. I wonder how much money Verizon spends to make sure your mobile device doesn’t work in the places you go most. It’s like they’re trying to chase you outside so they can help collect big data…where’s my foil hat?

So, it’s “Sequoia Log 032517” now… Last night I went to the Florence-Kelvin trailhead to pick up Brian and Melanie; they’re hiking section 15.

Here’s Brian & Melanie…she doesn’t like her trail name so I won’t repeat it.  He doesn’t have one…yet.

20170325_073644.jpgAnyway, there’s this pizza place in Kearney called Old Time Pizza. Apparently they are willing to deliver pizza to the FK trailhead. So I stopped in and patronized them, to show support. I had the teriyaki pizza…it was decent. If you were hiking along the trail then it would be a royal feast.

So far, things are going smoothly. I’m having a great time.  I am enjoying the solitude broken by bouts of trail camaraderie.  I could get used to this.

So, today I filled a bunch of empty gallons of water at the Freeman Road trailhead cache.  You see, at a few of the trailheads there are these brown boxes; they’re used by hikers/cyclists to cache water at key points along the trail.  See below.

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In fact, here’s the trail head as you approach from the south.

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Anyway I opened the box yesterday to discover that about 12 gallons were empty.  And since I am heading to the Florence-Kelvin TH this Friday to meet some hikers and shuttle them back to Freeman, I can re-fill my bottles.  So, I decided to fill these gallons and re-up later.

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I pulled out this one, particular gallon.  It was empty, but still sealed.  In fact, it had the pull-tab intact.  Instead of water inside, though, it had some papers.  In fact, it appeared to be a thesis, published in the Philosophical Quarterly in 2003 (Vol. 53, No. 211, pp. 243-255; http://simulation-argument.com/) by Nick Bostrom.

It was rather old; the first version was May, 2001, and the final version was done in July 2002.  So, this paper was at least 15 years old.  Ancient in the world of technology.  It discussed the possibility of “posthumans” running simulated existences of their ancestors.  It argued that at least one of the following propositions was true:

  1. the human species is most likely going to go extinct before the “superhuman” stage.
  2. any post human civilizations is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof).
  3. we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

It was a rather deep paper, eliciting visions of “The Matrix”, as I tried to grasp the discussion.  I’ll let you read the paper if you’re interested but I found it to be rather creepy…to get a sealed, empty water bottle with this paper inside.

As I read into the subject, I realized that there were a few assumptions being made in order to arrive at one of the three scenarios being true.  Either we ARE real and are headed toward extinction at some point; we are real and will never run those simulations; OR, that we WERE real and now we’re just part of some 3rd-grade science project created by the superhumans we turned out to be.

I decided not to make too much of this because thinking on this topic is nothing more than a rabbit hole of “WTFs”.  I decided to step outside of my trailer-in-the-desert and look around.  I actually touched a cholla, just to feel the pain.  If I’m not real, then the 1’s and 0’s I’m made of are pretty damned sophisticated.  Ouch!

I also decided to let life play out.  To make choices and live the results.  To make the best out of this game and not take it more seriously than any scenario presented (I’ll be more serious if I’m getting shot at than when I’m trying to merge on to a freeway full of assholes).  At least that’s my plan.

If this is a simulation then whomever created the software is one, massively geeky mother fucker that’s yet to be born, because DAMN, they’re good.  No delay in the “ouch” of a cactus.

Anyway, I am not really into video games, but I don’t mind being a character in one of them.

See you outside.

Well, I pulled up at 5:30-ish to find Ralph. He was waiting for his wife who was tramping mules from Oracle to Freeman.  He was originally  expecting them in tonight, but they didn’t make it.  So I shared a beer with him and we chatted about how wonderful Arizona sunsets were.  We talked about how people think that the paintings of Arizona sunsets are fake, but they are real.  Seriously.

Interesting guy.  He’s a retired dentist that teaches at a community college… giving back.   I guess he was also in the Air Force because he mentioned “moving armies across time zones”.  Apparently the logistics are b**** when you flight from Hawaii to Guam.  You’re either losing or gaining a day and that throws  a monkey wrench in the plans.

Anyway, at about 7:30 or so my first thru hiker showed up. His name was Bear Tripper. Well, that was his Trail name. I think it’s real name was Aaron but I’m not positive.  Anyway, the whole reason I came out here was to support the thru-hikers. And I’m a first night I got one.  Oranges, hot sauce packets, some water and a Snickers bar… this is easy.

So fun!

Here’s my camp.  It’s cozy. I can’t put out my shade because it’s a tad windy.  The last thing I need is a dust-devil to come by and rip it out. 

There are apparently quite a few hikers south of me that are delayed due to a bushfire.  They’re supposedly stuck in Patagonia.   Still no word on how they’re doing.  Oh, and the ladies on the mules finally showed up today.

I’ll try to keep you updated as to how many hikers I get, and try to take pictures of the next ones. I forgot to get pictures of Bear Tripper. 😕

My plan is to be out here until about April 4th or 5th. Unless it gets too hot, then I’ll have to move up north somewhere.   I know I’ll be here at least for the next five or ten days. It should go back to normal temperatures and I’m at 3900 feet so I got that Goin for me which is nice.

If you get bored and want to come out here and play, let me know and I’ll send you some directions. Otherwise stay tuned.