Preparing for Hiking and Camping as Winter Ends
The last remnants of snow are finally melting here in our part of New England – so it’s time to get serious about preparing for our Spring, Summer and Fall Hiking and Camping adventures. Given that we did some casual Winter hiking, in both the snow (to see the beauty of Nature after the big snowfalls) and on days when the trails were mostly clear between snowfalls, we’re not totally out of shape – but we’re also probably not ready to hike the most challenging parts of Mount Washington. So what’s our plan?
Like most of you, we’re not professional hikers and consequently don’t have days of spare time each week to dedicate to training for our Hiking or Camping trips. So we try to train as efficiently as we can in the time that our schedules allow. And that training isn’t just for leg endurance – it also has to include strength and balance. So here’s what we do:
1) We start walking outside as soon as the snow melts and the local sidewalks and trails clear. It’s never too early to start Spring training – we just prefer to do it when there’s no snow on the ground since we find that it’s more efficient and we’re more motivated since we can watch Spring arrive as we walk. Try to take walks and short hikes at least three times a week.
2) Any walking is better than no walking. So we walk whenever we can – and we take the stairs where ever possible. After all, we’ve all seen those rocky uphill trails that look just like stairs – and leg-based cardio is a critical part of your training.
3) Since you’ll probably have a variety of different adventures during the upcoming months, it pays to give yourself up to a month to initially train. That way you can cover all your bases and be in reasonable shape (e.g. leg strength, arm strength, core strength, endurance, etc.,) before you hit the trails for the first time.
4) Since two of the most common hiking injuries are ankle sprains and rolling an ankle we try to make sure that we don’t just walk on flat terrain – especially since that’s not what you will find on your “real” hikes. We like to mix up our training terrain walks so that some of them are on flat ground, some hilly, some rocky, some uphill and some downhill. The better you can replicate the type of terrain that you will ultimately be hiking on during your training walks – the more prepared your body will be for what’s to come.
5) As with number #4, you need to walk in different weather conditions too – since that’s going to be the reality of your real adventures. Although this isn’t always the most exciting proposition, think of it as a great way to test out your gear. Are your boots waterproof enough? Does your jacket breathe when it gets wet? Do you need more or less layers of clothes? Do you need different socks for different weather conditions? Finding these things out on a short walk close to home is a lot better than dealing with them in the outback.
6) Wear the same boots that you plan on wearing on your Hiking adventures. This serves two purposes a) it makes sure that your boots are broken in and adapted to your feet, and b) it gets your legs used to the weight of the boots. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people complain on the trails that their boots feel so heavy only to find out that’s because they did all their training in lightweight running shoes.
7) In addition to walking you should probably plan on doing some crunches to build your core strength, some push-ups to build your upper body/arm strength, some step-ups to build up your quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings, and any other exercises that you think are applicable to the type of adventures you are planning (i.e. training for rock climbing requires different exercises than kayaking).
8) And finally, you should train with your backpack. Yes this might look a little odd when you are walking around your neighborhood, but trust us – you need to do this since the last thing you want to do is put on a 40 pound backpack for the first time when you hit the trail for that 3-day camping trip. Hint: A fully loaded backpack should probably not weigh more than 20% of your body weight.
As always, there are lots of great articles out there on the internet that will give you all sorts of ideas about how to get ready for Hiking and Camping season. Here are six that we found interesting:
1) How to Get in Shape and Train for Hiking
2) Training for Hiking
3) Quick and Efficient Training for Backpacking and Hiking
4) How to Train for Hiking
5) Ultimate Hiking Workout: 6 Best Training Exercises for Hiking
6) How to Prepare for Your Trekking Adventure: Our 10-Step Training Guide
How Do You Say “Hi”?
We all pass people on the trails as we hike – so this was too funny not to post.
Last Resort Protection from Bears – Will a Handgun Save You?
Across the wooded parts of the United States and Canada, there are bears. Here in New England we have Black Bears; lots of Black Bears. Black Bears prefer large forested areas with a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees with a mix of wetlands, thick vegetation and a wide variety of food to include berries, beechnuts and acorns. Since Black Bears are omnivores, in addition to nuts and berries they also eat carrion, small animals and insects. They like to stay in areas that are relatively undisturbed by humans and are without high traffic roads. Their dens range from hollowed out or fallen trees, rocky ledges, small caves and brush piles. Most Black Bears camouflage the entrance to their den with wood, leaves and brush to make it hard to find them during the winter.
The Black Bear is the largest meat-eating mammal in New England with males weighing from 130 to 600 pounds and females weighing from 100 to 400 pounds. Based on the latest estimates Maine has ~30,000 Black Bears, New Hampshire has ~5,700, Vermont has ~5,150 and Massachusetts has ~4,500 - and their population is growing.
So if you are out in the woods hiking or camping this Spring, you will certainly see signs of bear activity – and you might even run into one of them. Because of the potential danger bears pose most of us know that if you encounter a Black Bear you should make your presence known by making loud noises and waving your arms. If you surprise a Black Bear, walk away slowly, while facing the bear. Do not turn your back and run, which may trigger them to give chase. Never look a bear straight in the eye. The bear may perceive this as a threat and charge. Sometimes a Black Bear will bluff charge you to within a few feet. If this happens, try to stay calm and slowly retreat, waving and shouting as loudly as possible.
Even though most of us know about the danger that Bears present twenty-five fatal Black Bear attacks have occurred in North America during the past 20 years (1997 - 2017). If you want the details on these fatal attacks you can find them in this great article from Wide Open Spaces:
So what if you take all of the precautions and actions listed above and none of it works? What then? Well if you’re really in Bear Country then you should probably have a firearm with you. If you’re hunting that firearm is probably a rifle – and that will certainly dispatch a Black Bear if used properly (e.g. you shoot the bear before it gets close to you). But, if you are just hiking or camping, chances are that it’s not a rifle – it’s probably a handgun. So the age old question is “Will a handgun save you from a bear attack”? Well now there’s an answer to that question thanks to Dean Weingarten’s recent detailed analysis of 63 bear attacks where a handgun was used to fend off the bear. Contrary to many myths, Dean’s analysis found that handguns were 95% effective in defending against a bear attack.
Dean’s bottomline is that of the 63 pistol defense cases, 60 were successful and three were failures. The three pistol defense cases that were categorized as failures were:
Based on Dean’s detailed analysis of these 63 bear attacks it’s clear that using a pistol to defend against bear attacks is a very viable option. You can read the complete Ammoland article here:
A Pocket Guide and Smart Phone App to Help You Identify Animal Tracks
Are you wondering who made all those tracks in the fresh snow? If so here's a great pocket guide to animal tracks. It shows both the track pattern (e.g. how the wildlife walks) and what the front and hind footprints look like. It even has a ruler so that you can measure the prints. It's a lot of great information on a single page.
If you want even more information about animal tracks - here's a link to the iPhone app that we use - "iTrack Wildlife Pro" by Jonah Evans. The app has detailed photos and information for 70 common mammals of North America, to include over 700 high quality track (with precise front and hind track drawings and detailed track, gait, and “similar species” descriptions for every animal), sign and animal photos with detailed captions. It even has 120 detailed skull photos for 41 of the species just in case you run across a skeleton during your adventures. The app also stores the Wikipedia page for each species so that no internet connection is required to obtain even more details about the animals.
The app allows you to search by the following criteria:
The 70 animals currently covered by the app are:
You can learn more about the app, and see more information about tracking, at the “Nature Tracking” website: http://www.naturetracking.com/
If you want to purchase this app you can get it at the Apple App Store or Google Play store. You can download the “iTrack Wildlife Lite“ app for free, the “iTrack Wildlife Basic” app for $4.99 or the “iTrack Wildlife Pro” app for $14.99. The Pro app may seem a little expensive – but if you’re serious about animal tracks you should spring for the extra cash because it's good.
Here’s the link to the Apple Store for iTrack Wildlife Pro:
Here’s the link to the Google Play Store for iTrack Wildlife Pro:
Video by Alex Hommes - Operations Manager for the Silverado Shooting Academy
We’re always learning and looking for new sources of knowledge about both our gear and our techniques for all facets of Hiking, Camping and Shooting. Recently we came across a great video by Alex Hommes, the Operations Manager for the Silverado Shooting Academy (www.SilveradoShootingAcademy.com) in Orange County California about “The Secret to Mastering the Handgun”.
In the 18:57 minute video Alex covers the essential facts about shooting a handgun, and what you need to do to consistently hit what you are aiming at. The core of Alex’s video is that mechanical technique is 10% of the shooting process and that mental discipline is the other 90%. The problem that most people have with the mental part is due to the fact that we all have a natural aversion to holding onto things that explode. This aversion causes many people to lose their sight picture at the exact moment that they reach the trigger breakpoint – causing them to pull their aim off target. Alex calls this “reactive interference”.
This point of view really resonated with us – so we thought that we would share Alex’s video and some of the key points that he makes. The video covers the following topics:
1) What is Handgun Mastery?
2) Why Handgun Shooting is Difficult
2a) Freeze the sight picture
2b) Squeeze the trigger without disrupting the sight picture
2c) Realign the sights on the target
2d) Reset the trigger
3) Neurophysiology 101
4) The "First Shot" Phenomenon
5) Classical Conditioning or "Reactive Interference"
6) The Paradox of the Handgun
7) Urban Legends of Handgun Shooting
8) The Problem with Conventional Training
9) The Zen of the Handgun
10) The Silverado Method
11) The Alternative Method: Habituation
Here are some of the key points from Alex’s video that match our beliefs on what you need to do to enhance your handgun shooting abilities and increase you shooting accuracy.
“The handgun is the most difficult of all firearms to shoot effectively.”
“Don't rely on ‘spray and pray’.“
“Mastering the handgun is about controlling shot placement to the limit of your physical ability.”
“Shot placement is determined by one thing, and only one thing - the direction of the muzzle at the instant the bullet clears it. Your ability to control the shot depends on how well you can stabilize the gun while pulling the trigger.”
“We all have a natural aversion to holding on to things that explode. The lower animal part of our brain doesn't like concussion and tries to move us away from the gun at the same time our higher thinking brain is trying to carry out a new skill. This high brain - low brain conflict is why handguns are difficult to master.”
“A flinch will never mess up a shot because it is a reflex that happens after a loud sound. By the time the sound wave reaches you the bullet is already two feet out of the barrel. Nothing you do at that point will affect the shot.”
“After the first shot we will associate the trigger brake pressure applied by our trigger finger with the concussion of the gun. When we fire the gun again our anxiety level will increase as we increase pressure on the trigger. We will reflexively brace for the shot. Our reactive animal brain will have us take defensive action against the expected explosion right at the trigger breakpoint. These reactions interfere with the skill of handgun shooting. We call this ‘reactive interference’.”
“Reactive interference has nothing to do with good technique. It's the effect of the animal getting into the shooting process. If you can't control the animal your skill won't matter. You won't be able to apply that skill.”
“Conventional handgun training focuses on shooting as a mechanical technique and not a mental discipline. It applies technique to the problem of reactive interference leading to solutions that don't work very well.”
“….……..illusion that bad trigger technique is the major cause of handgun inaccuracy. In reality bad trigger pull will only produce minor variations in shot placement.”
“No technique is going to solve the problem of reactive interference.”
“Mastery of the handgun means eliminating reactive interference; getting the animal out of the shooting process. We can't eliminate our reflexes, but we can suppress them. All of the muscle movements involved with reactive interference are subject to voluntary control.”
“It's important that the closer you get to the trigger break the slower you increase the trigger pressure so that you can stop the trigger pull at the instant you become aware of bracing for the shot.”
“Once you can bring the trigger all the way back without bracing for the shot it's just a matter of being consistent while repeating this until you can do it faster.."
Like most of you we’ve watched way too many online videos. But we really liked this one. So, if you’re interested in improving your handgun shooting abilities, we highly recommend watching the Silverado Shooting Academy’s video on “The Secret to Mastering the Handgun”.
Glacier Point vs Horsetail Fall
This week you might have seen news about the "Firefall" at Yosemite National Park.
Technically this is the natural phenomena caused by the light hitting Horsetail Fall at just the right angle - not the manmade "Firefall" that was conducted at Glacier Point from 1872 until 1968 when people pushed glowing embers over the edge in a steady, controlled manner, resulting in a prolonged glittering cascade.
After the activities at Glacier Point were stopped in 1968 there were no Firefalls seen in Yosemite until February of 1973 when Galen Rowell took a photograph of sun light hitting Horsetail Fall in just the right manner that it caused what appeared to be a natural Firefall. It took a while for the Horsetail Fall Firefall to gain notoriety – but once the internet started publishing the stunning photos - people from all over the world started traveling to Yosemite to see the sight.
But, as we all know, Nature can be fickle, so the Horsetail Fall sight doesn’t always appear; the conditions have to be just right. There has to be enough snowpack for Horsetail Fall to be flowing and the daytime temperatures have to be warm enough to melt the snowpack. If the water is actually flowing over Horsetail Fall then the western sky has to be clear at sunset so that the sun’s rays hit the water as it flows over the falls. Even with perfect conditions the Firefall is only visible for approximately 10 minutes.
Whatever it is - it's stunning.
If you want to read more about both Glacier Point and Horsetail Fall here's a website by James Kaiser with a great write-up on both.
Inputs from the Field
Recently one of our readers, Michael Bourke, the Founder of SciCamps.org, dropped us a note with links to several articles that he's found useful in his outback adventures with his son and family. In Michael’s own words:
“I’ve always been a fan of being outside because I’ve always been a science guy, but since my son has been old enough to go camping, I’ve really taken advantage of exploring the great outdoors. Being in nature, and especially camping, has been a great way to spark my child’s interest in natural sciences, not to mention it’s just plain fun and a great way to spend time with my favorite kid. Regardless of the type of camper you choose to be, one thing is true for all, camping is a moment to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and a time to appreciate nature and create lasting memories.”
Since the main purpose of our website is to spread knowledge about Hiking, Camping and Shooting, we thought that we would pass the links to these interesting articles from Michael along to all of you.
Camping Gear and Apps
Camping Gear Checklist
Trekking: Stay connected with our favorite outdoor apps
Camping with Kids
25 Camping Hacks to Teach Your Kids
Backyard Camping for Kids with Disabilities
20 Fun Camping Games for Kids
Camping with Dogs
Camping with Dogs: An in Depth Guide to Doing It Right
13 Insider Tips for The Perfect Winter Camping Experience
On his website Michael has a "growing list of sortable science camps across the United States”. So, if you have a minute, and are interested in camps that have a scientific slant, you might want to check out the SciCamps website that’s in the early stages of currently being built out: http://scicamps.org/
If any of you have any interesting articles, or comments, for us – please send them along. We’re always happy to hear from our readers from around the world!
Amazing Artistic Maps of the World’s Rivers and Forests
Like most of you we love nature and the breathtaking views that we routinely see outdoors. So much so that we like to bring those views indoors with paintings and photographs.
Always on the lookout for great nature images, we recently ran across the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs who has made breathtaking maps showing the world’s rivers and forests by artistically colorizing the data from Geographic Information Systems.
Robert's river maps are detailed watershed maps (grouped together by color) showing the flow of all the tributary streams into main rivers, and these rivers flowing out to the sea. Note how large the Mississippi River basin is in the map of the United States.
Robert's forest maps are stunning two color (green and black) relief maps highlighting the density of the forests in the specific geographic region.
If you want some stunning art, you should really checkout Robert Szucs' Grasshopper Geography website where you can purchase his works as paper prints, wall art, desk art or other nicknacks to “decorate your home or office with some unique new maps”:
Unimi Professional Sharpening Water Stones (600/1,000 Grit and 2,000/6,000 Grit)
Keeping your knives and other blades sharp is critical since a sharp blade really reduces the effort you need to expend to cut something. In our experience, to really sharpen your blades correctly you need three sharpening stones - one to rough-grind, one to sharpen and one to hone. So, although we already have a file for when we’ve really nicked up our machete, hatchet or axe blades, a dedicated sharpening stone (325/750 grit) for normal sharpening, and a small sharpening stone (120/400 grit) for on the spot touchups, and backup in the outback, we decided to add some finer (e.g. higher grit number) sharpening stones to our gear – especially for our knives. To that end, for medium to fine sharpening and honing we purchased two different dual-sided Unimi Professional sharpening water stones; one with 600/1,000 grit and the other with 2,000/6,000 grit – both for use before we head out on any adventure.
You can find the details about the Unimi Professional Sharpening Water Stones on the Camping/Tools page.
Super Blood Wolf Moon Lunar Eclipse
Well, yesterday (20 January 2019) here in New England, we had 12 new inches of snow dumped on us between 5:00 PM Saturday and 6:00 PM Sunday, so we thought that we wouldn’t be able to see any of the Lunar Eclipse of the Super Blood Wolf Moon. Luckily, the storm ended and the sky cleared up (mostly) just before the eclipse started.
The lunar eclipse started at 9:39 PM ET when the edge of the Moon began to enter the Earth’s penumbra (the outer section of the shadow). At 10:33 PM. ET, the Moon reached the umbra and the Moon became significantly darker. By 11:41 PM ET the Moon was all the way inside the umbra and the eclipse really started. The edge of the Moon began exiting the umbra at 12:43 AM ET and the eclipse completely ended at 2:48 AM ET.
Although the snow storm had passed there was still a little haze in the air and, with the temperature at 5 degrees (wind chill of -7 degrees), although we could see the eclipse quite well – it was difficult to take any great photos. Here’s the best of what we captured
If you missed the eclipse, and want to see what it looked like without watching a replay of one of the 5 hour livestreams, here’s a great 1:23 minute time lapse video of the whole event from a Skywatcher (Wouter van Bernebeek) in the Netherlands:
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