Tag Archives: hiking

Wayfinding

If you like to spend time exploring outside, chances are you’ve at some point wandered off trail or gotten disoriented enough to experience that frantic, heart-buzzing feeling of being lost. I know I have. The first time I felt that panic was on a teenage backpacking trip in the blue ridge mountains. I took Stanley, our latrine-digging spade, on a too-ambitious ramble in search of privacy, and nearly lost my group, and my mind. I can still recall the relief of hearing their voices calling my name. Damn that Stanley. Since then I’ve been disoriented in white-out blizzards, and stumbled around in high brush off trail, but I’ve never really been dangerously lost without a map and compass.

Retracing your steps, looking for landmarks, hiking to a high point, or even following the flow of water may get you out of the woods (literally), but there are lots of other options — including using birds, trees, and celestial bodies — to consider when wayfinding.

Check out Atlas Obscura’s gorgeous collaboration with expert nature navigator Tristan Gooley and illustrator Chelsea Beck and learn a thing or two about wood craft!

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The Ice Queen Cometh

How sweet is Ice? It cools our gin in the summer. It gives us endless recreational opportunities in the winter. It graciously provides us with synonyms for Smirnoff‘s malted beverages, righteous bling, meth, murder, in case of emergency, and Ned Stark’s justice-dealing greatsword, (which, when you think about it, fit together a bit too perfectly)… You just take water, cool it down, and boom! You’ve got yourself something to interpret. All summer long the hike to Glacier’s Avalanche Lake is unbearably busy, but come late fall, it is your own private glittering little diamond trail of wonders…

Avalanche Creek: Curator of Icy Delights

Your Typical Icicle Action (See: Textbook, Jingle Bells)

The Labyrinth (See: David Bowie)

The Dust Ruffle (See: Car Wash, Classy Mud Flap Alternative to Naked Lady Silhouette )

The Trumpet Bell (See: Angels We Have Heard On High)
The Hand-Dipped Candle (See: Renaissance Festival, Rembrandt)

The Blorb (See: Cauliflower. Do Not See: Growths)

The Eruption (See: Death Spikes, Sea Urchin)

The Forest Ninja (See: Death Widow, Nakamura and Slavin)
The Vanilla (See: Flattop, Collaborate and Listen, Terrible Mistake)

A Farewell to Arms

Where giants have walked, apparently

Well, my field season is finally over. This was the last year of this incarnation of the Bear DNA project round these parts, and we had a good run, but the end was bittersweet. Taking down all of the barbed wire and nails and such from trees in which they’ve been embedded in for four years necessitated semi-Herculean efforts.

And also sound effects. A whole lot of sound effects. And talking to those trees. And yourself. And cursing all things metal. And cursing the very tall people who put the tags in too high. And cursing the trees themselves, but then feeling really guilty and taking back those particular curses, and putting a bare palm against the sticky, hairy truck and apologizing.

A person walking down the trail blindfolded may have thought one of many things:

(1) that an Olympic dead-weight lifter had moved to the area to train;

(2) that James Brown was back from the dead and enjoying more rustic huh-hahs;

(3) that George Carlin was back from the dead and testing new cussing combinations;

(4) that a sadistic dentist was administering a root canal (just relax, help me, help you…):

or (5), that a deeply conflicted Smeagol was waging a schizophrenic war of morality…
(f*#k you!…I’m sorry…dammit!…it’s okay…arrghgh!…sorry, sorry, sorry)…

In short, the whole process turned each of us into a bit of a weirdo.

Cleaning up the forest

Meanwhile, such efforts worked their physical magic on our bodies… making us that much more tired at the end of the day. Our arms, so accustomed to hanging uselessly at our sides all summer, were finally called to… um, arms… as it were. They got all strong. They developed lines and bulges we’d never seen before. They lead us to delusions of grandeur–mainly day dreams of careers in arm-wrestling or can-crushing or ripping off doorknobs for fun. But we asked too much of the poor lazy things. They got tired, weak. They began to rebel… went numb while we slept, hands curling into clawed shapes. They started to seriously complain when lifted above chest-level. They did not want to help remove so much sap from our hair. They started talking to our knees, who got all cranky again, and began to imitate crumpled cellophane and creaky stairs and Rice Krispies freshly doused in milk.

Then the weather got in on the torment. Snow then rain then slush then rain then snow. 60 mile and hour wind gusts pushing us backward, tearing maps from our hands, and slamming car doors with authority. Cold air freezing our shoes and toes and fingers and noses. All of it briskly escorting us out of the woods. Call it a night, folks. And then we were done.

And while a week later I am still enjoying the fact that the decision to venture out into the wintry mix is now optional, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it already. I guess I’ll be seeing you around, bears. Enjoy your long nap. I think I’ll have one too.

Hiking the Nyack Loop

Reasons for and advantages of getting up early
Paperback writer
Chilled frills
Beargrass resembles a bear not at all
Sigil
Charcoal scales do shimmer still
Pearly everlasting
Ring around and around and around the mountain
And when I shall die, take him and cut him up into little stars
Running through it
Castaways and cutouts
You’ve got to take water to make water
Dewshine
Not all bread crumbs are made of bread
Some fine faerie riding glove
You can find me at da club
One side will make you grow taller
Symphoricarpos
Soldiers in their caps of red
Cipher, decipher
At a attention
One thousand silent sparklers
Traditionally, berserkers do mean business