Largest Serpent Effigy in the World
On Day #27 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio (on State Route 73 near Peebles).
The Great Serpent Mound is a 1,348 foot long, three foot tall prehistoric effigy mound that was first mapped by Euro-Americans as early as 1815, and was documented in surveys by Squire and Davis in their book on “Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley” which was published in 1848 by the Smithsonian Museum.
Thought to have been built between 381 BC and 44 BC, the Serpent Mound is the largest serpent effigy in the world and is made from a layer of yellowish clay and ash reinforced with a layer of rocks, and covered with a layer of soil.
Following the curve of the land on which it was built, the 20-25 foot wide serpent winds back and forth for more than eight hundred feet. The serpent has seven coils in total, with its head facing the cliff above a stream, and it tail ending in triple-coils. The head has an open mouth extending around the east end of a 120-foot hollow oval feature which may represent the snake eating an egg (or potentially the sun).
There is also conjecture that the head area of the serpent is aligned to the summer solstice sunset and that the curves in the serpent's body align with lunar events.
As you can see from the photos below – the Great Serpent Mound is a unique ancient artifact worth taking the time to detour for a visit. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Great Serpent Mound here are a couple of links to check out:
Great Online Resources to Get You Started
Recently one of the assistant troop leaders from a Boy Scout troop in California (thanks Marlene) dropped us a note to comment about the Scouts using the information on our website to assist in their pursuit of the Hiking Merit Badge.
As an Eagle Scout, and Philmont Ranger, I’m always glad to receive positive feedback from Scouts – especially since the main reason we built our website was to pass on some of the knowledge, research, links, and tips that we’ve gathered over the years.
In this case, in addition to their comments about our content, the Scouts (thanks Conner) also sent along the link to another great resource that they found useful; an article from Journeys.com titled "Guide for Beginner Backpackers".
The short article briefly covers the following 4 topics: (1) Choose Your Destination, (2) Gather Essential Gear and Clothing, (3) Plan Food, and (4) Additional Readiness for Your Trip. Then, at the end of the article, there’s a section on "Additional Resources" that lists 25 URLs from a wide variety of sources that contain some more detailed Hiking information:
The article’s recommendations are very much in line with our thoughts – so you should check it out:
And, as always, if you have any comments or suggested additions please send them our way so that we can pass them on to our readers too.
Where the Buffalo Roam and the Skies are Not Cloudy All Day
On Day #15 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.
Named after the 26th President of the United States because of his ties to the region, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a national park located in the western North Dakota badlands with three geographically separated areas; the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The park has 70,446 acres (110.072 square miles) of land.
Teddy Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota to hunt bison in 1883 and subsequently fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and the "perfect freedom" of the West. While in Medora Roosevelt invested in the Maltese Cross Ranch. Then in 1884, following the death of both his wife and mother, Roosevelt returned to North Dakota and purchased the Elkhorn Ranch, located 35 miles north of Medora. A life-long outdoorsman and hunter, Roosevelt's time in the badlands impacted him deeply and helped shape many of the policies that he implemented during his years as President of the United States (1901-1909).
We visited the South Unit of the park on a perfect day – great weather and not many people. During our visit we hiked many of the trails and were able to see, up close and personal, bison, turkeys, prairie dogs, and wild horses (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, or other things to do in the Medora area, here are a couple of links to check out:
As a side note, to get to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park we drove the Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway. The terrain and sights were stunning. This drive is certainly one of the prettiest in North Dakota. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
Here’s are links to all of North Dakota’s scenic highways and some of the specific sights on the Killdeer Byway:
Nature’s Wonderful Colors
Since tomorrow, 19 June, is the last day of Spring I thought that I would post a few of the photos that I took of the gorgeous flowers that bloomed in our neck of the woods this year.
It was almost like nature wanted to show off what she could do to offset all of the other craziness spreading throughout the world. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
There’s nothing else to really say since the beauty of the flowers speak for themselves – so get out there and revel in Nature whenever you can.
Stunning Sights Seen While Hiking
On 29 May we were out hiking when we happened to look up and saw the beautiful “first quarter” Moon hanging in the daytime sky. Since there were no clouds in the bright blue sky, the sunlight glinting off of the moon was radiant – making for some great photos – starting at 5:30 PM and ending at 8:30 PM. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more details about the moon’s daily activities you should check out MoonGiant.com. Here’s their detailed page for 29 May 2020:
…….and the Wild Flowers Know It
These days most of us have lots of free time on our hands – however, for many people the ability to productively use that free time has been constrained by the closure of all of their favorite places; including the outdoor ones.
Luckily for us, we are surrounded by nature and currently the State Parks, Town Parks and most of the privately owned Conservation Reservations and Nature Preserves are still open for hiking.
Since the Spring flowers have started to bloom, this weekend we took a day hike to get out of the house, breath some fresh air and enjoy the beauty of Nature. Here are some of the sights that we saw during our hike. Spring is definitely on its way! (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
The Hierarchy of Survival Actions
Since everyone is currently focused on surviving the COVID-19 (e.g. coronavirus) pandemic we thought that this would be a good time to discuss the hierarchy of survival actions – as dictated by the “Rule of Three”.
For those of you not familiar with the “Rule of Three” it states that you can survive for 3 minutes without air/oxygen or in icy water. You can survive for 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment. You can survive for 3 days without water (if sheltered from a harsh environment). You can survive for 3 weeks without food (if you have water and shelter).
So what does the “Rule of Three” really mean? Well it’s pretty straightforward in directing what you need to focus on and how quickly you need to focus on it. After all, if you can’t breathe - you don’t need shelter. If you get hypothermia from the rain, heatstroke from the sun, or freeze from the cold - you don’t need water. If you are incapacitated or die from dehydration – you don’t need food. And, if you have a shelter and water, then knowing that you have 3 weeks to either improve your wilderness living situation, find a way to trek back to civilization, or help rescuers locate you, should greatly improve your mental condition – while you hunt and gather food.
As a specific example of this survival hierarchy, if you watch the TV “survival” shows (e.g. Naked and Afraid, Alone, Man vs. Wild, Dual Survival, etc.,) you can see that there is often a great difference between the initial actions that the experts and the novices take when dropped into the wilderness. Many of the novices start by trying to build a fire – something that may be important – but can take a significant amount of time and effort – and can prove to be very frustrating; a bad emotion to encounter on your first day in a survival situation. In contrast, you’ll notice that the experts normally try to find a good site for their shelter (near water if possible, sheltered from the wind, away from any flood plain and safe from any “widow maker” trees). Once they have located a good site they immediately try to build the best shelter that they can in the available time that they have before nightfall; knowing that they can always improve their shelter on Day #2 if they survive Day #1. As they collect materials for their shelter they might simultaneously gather materials to make a fire, but the fire is of secondary importance (especially since having a shelter will allow them to more easily build, light and protect a fire and any firewood they gather). Only once they have a shelter do they begin to focus in earnest on their needs for fire, a longer term water supply and how to acquire food.
Rather than write a very long blog that still only superficially covers the vast amount of detail required to really prepare you for a survival situation, here’s a listing of six books that you might want to own so that you have access to the knowledge that the survival experts have honed over the years:
For more information on survival, especially what you might want to do to prepare for a potential short term disaster, you should check out our website’s “Camping/Maps and Books” and “Disaster Preparedness” pages. But, whatever else you do, please remember the “Rule of Three” - since it could save your life.
How to Enjoy the Outback and Leave it in a Condition for the Next Adventurers to do the Same
Last week we received an email from Troop 325 of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) - a troop located near San Diego, California - thanking us for all the camping and hiking tips on our HCS website. It turns out that when the Scouts from Troop 325 were writing their “Outdoor Code” principles they found a lot of ideas and helpful links on our site. As an Eagle Scout, and Philmont ranger, I’m always glad to receive positive feedback from Scouts – especially since the main reason we built our website was to pass on some of the knowledge, research, links, and tips that we’ve gathered over the years. Their email also got us to thinking that the “Outdoor Code”, and the ethos that it embodies, would make a great blog post. So that’s our topic for today.
For those of you not familiar with the “Outdoor Code” it first showed up in Boys' Life magazine’s March 1954 issue, which featured "An Outdoor Code for Americans" and "BSA's Conservation Good Turn". The Good Turn was prompted by a request from President Eisenhower, challenging the Boy Scouts to raise public awareness about the importance of caring for our natural resources.
Now, 66 years later, the Outdoor Code is probably even more relevant to all of our outback activities since there are more people out there enjoying the beauty and challenges that Nature has to offer. Since its initial publication in 1954 the wording of the Outdoor Code has changed slightly to keep up with the times. Here’s the latest version:
As an American, I will do my best to…
For those of you not familiar with the Outdoor Code, you may have seen similar outback principles under the title of “Leave No Trace” – a movement that began in the 1960’s and 70’s when there was a significant increase in the number of visits to US National Parks. This movement eventually drove the United States Forest Service, in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), to develop a national education program on “Leave No Trace” in 1990. Today one of the main drivers of the Leave No Trace activities is the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics with their “The Leave No Trace Seven Principles” (© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org). Their 7 Principles are:
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has even refined their principles into 7 Principles for the Frontcountry:
Obviously, both the Outdoor Code and the Leave No Trace Seven Principles are great guidance for how everyone should act during their activities in the outback; with education hopefully more people will.
So, back to Troop 325 - in addition to suggesting this whole blog topic, as a way of helping spread their knowledge they also sent us the link to an article that we hadn’t seen: "Leave No Trace: Low-Impact Campgrounds" from www.wristband.com, written by Michele Wheat. This article has some great information about “Low-Impact Camping Tips” and “How to Hike and Leave No Trace”. The article also has links to over 20 other websites with additional resources. You should give it a read.
If you want more information on the Outdoor Code, or Leave No Trace, here are several links to other websites that you should check out:
“The Outdoor Code”
“Outdoor Ethics Guide”
“BSA Leave No Trace”
ScoutSmarts – “The Outdoor Code (My Ultimate Guide For Any Scout or Troop)”
“The Outdoor Code”
Leave No Trace
“The 7 Principles”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 1: Plan Ahead and Prepare”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 2: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 4: Leave What You Find”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 6: Respect Wildlife”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors”
“Leave No Trace for Frontcountry”
Leave No Trace Seven Principles
wristband.com - "Leave No Trace: Low-Impact Campgrounds"
We Have Readers from All Over the World
Like most websites, ever since we launched our Hiking, Camping and Shooting website we’ve tracked the statistics to see who our readers are and where they’re located. Recently we’ve had a few people ask who reads our site – so we thought that we would share some of our statistics with all of you.
We have readers from all 50 States - with the largest concentrations being in the following 15 States:
We have readers from over 90 Countries around the world - with the largest concentrations being in the following 20 Countries:
The 20 pages and blog posts that people have read the most over the past 3 years are:
Most of our readers find us either by searching on Google (52.3%) or by previously having been to our website and coming directly to us (31.2%). A much smaller percentage (4.8%) find us through our Hiking, Camping and Shooting Facebook page:
The majority of our users view our website on either Chrome (49.8%) or Safari (27.5%) browsers:
Hopefully this data shows you that you’re in good company as you read through our Hiking, Camping and Shooting gear write-ups and blog posts. Our wish is that they give you some information that will make all your adventures a little more fun. Wherever you’re from, we’re glad that you stopped by to look over our HCS website!
Knots You Need to Know and Help to Remember How to Tie Them
This week we ran across an interesting article discussing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) new mathematical model which predicts a knot's stability; “A New Mathematical Model Predicts a Knot's Stability”
To examine the issue MIT mathematicians and engineers developed a mathematical model that predicts how stable a knot is based on several key properties, including the number of crossings and the direction in which the rope segments twist as the knot is pulled tight. "Empirical knowledge refined over centuries has crystallized out what the best knots are," said Mathias Kolle, the Rockwell International Career Development Associate Professor at MIT. But what exactly makes one knot more stable than another has not been well-understood, until now. "And now the model shows why."
In comparing the diagrams of knots of various strengths, the researchers were able to identify general "counting rules," or characteristics that determine a knot's stability. Basically, a knot is stronger if it has more strand crossings, as well as more "twist fluctuations" - changes in the direction of rotation from one strand segment to another. For instance, if a fiber segment is rotated to the left at one crossing and rotated to the right at a neighboring crossing as a knot is pulled tight, this creates a twist fluctuation and thus opposing friction, which adds stability to a knot. If, however, the segment is rotated in the same direction at two neighboring crossing, there is no twist fluctuation, and the strand is more likely to rotate and slip, producing a weaker knot. They also found that a knot can be made stronger if it has more "circulations," which they define as a region in a knot where two parallel strands loop against each other in opposite directions, like a circular flow.
If you do any Camping, and to a lesser extent Hiking, then a working knowledge of the most commonly used knots is essential. Based on our years of experience the 10 knots that we think it is critical for you to absolutely know are:
The problem is that there’s actually a lot to remember, especially if a significant amount of time passes between you actually tying these knots. So we use two items to help our memory as needed, and to give us information on other knots too. The first is the Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST’s) “Learn & Live” Knots card which has instructions and illustrations on how to tie 11 commonly used knots. You can see the details on this card, and the other 5 credit card sized cards that we think are valuable to have, on our Hiking/Emergency Supplies page.
The second item that we use to help us with knot knowledge is the “Knots 3D” app. What a great tool this is! The $4.99 standalone app (i.e. no internet required) by Nynix is worth every penny since it shows you in detail how to tie 135 knots.
The app includes the following information on each knot: best uses, other names that the knot is also known as, related knots, “Ashley Book of Knots” (ABOK) number, classification, structure, strength and reliability and a 3D animated video showing the knot being tied. In addition, the app allows you to:
The Knots 3d app’s ability to rotate a knot to see the front, back and everything in-between is indispensable and provides interactivity you can't get from a knot book’s static photographs. You can get the app at the Apple Store, Google Play Store, or Amazon Store.
If you’re looking for other good information on knots used for camping, or survival, here are four good online articles that we recommend you take a look at:
5 Best Survival Knots – Strong Life Saving Knots You Need To Know
Camping Knots: 6 Essential Knots Every Camper Needs to Know
The 7 Most Useful Survival Knots You Need to Know
Essential Knots: How to Tie the 20 Knots You Need to Know
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