Hello all and welcome to the first (of 2) edition of Trail Posts. Thank you to all who have contributed. This
could never have been done without the wonderful people of the backpacker.com forums. Inside, you will find
nothing but information. No ads, no politics (except for the requested debate), I hope you enjoy it because
I had fun putting it together. If anyone would like to contribute to the next one (coming soon!) email me.
Six Days, and A Lifetime, In Death Valley
Pine Mt Trail, Georgia
Sand Ridge State Forest
The Fees Debate
And the Seasons Changed
Waking up to a Fuzzy Brown Muzzle
The Stealth Backpacker
First Time at REI
The Ten Essentials
Coleman Cimmaron Tent
Wal-Mart Grease Pot
A How-To on Group Hikes
Liquid Courage on the Trail
Backpacking Cooking Contest Gets Intense
Hypothermia: Prevention, Recognition and Treatment
More than an activityâ€¦a Feeling
A little Ditty
Hiding in Plain Sight
Six Days, and A Lifetime, In Death Valley
Sunday morning, and we are leaving Las Vegas. Zach and I depart early, leaving Sue on the balcony, showing
signs of missing him already. We find the necessary open grocery, stock up on water and high tail it for the
desert. Once on the road, we enjoy easy conversation about our upcoming adventure.
First stop is the visitorâ€™s center to check in, get our back country permit, and inquire about some
possible routes the maps havenâ€™t answered. We talk to a Ranger Vicki, and tell her we will check back in
when we leave. She tells us they have no real way to track anyone and to call someone back home. â€œYou
mean, call somebody who cares,â€� I quip. She chuckles and says something to the effect that she â€œhopes
I have someone back home to call who might care.â€� Off we go to our first hike, a short 6 mile stroll
through the borax minefields to acclimate ourselves to the area. It is hot and dry, and wonderful to be
finally doing this. We leave the Zabriske Point area and drive to Danteâ€™s View, where we don our
backpacks and spend the night on the ridge above. There, we enjoy a lovely sunset, a hot meal, and our first
view of the planets lining up.
We anticipate seeing this phenomenon many times during the week, but that is not to be. A windy night
falls, an omen we leave unheeded. The next morning we hike back to the car, eat breakfast, chat leisurely
about the weekâ€™s plans, and drive to Telescope Peak. One of the few wise decisions we make this week is
in omitting the day hike of Mosaic Canyon. Zach has been having some trouble with the rental carâ€™s tire
holding air on rough roads, so he chooses not to drive up beyond the Charcoal Kilns. We load our backpacks
at 11 am and walk the mile and a half and 1100â€™ elevation rise, to the trailhead, where we take a short
break. I am feeling the effects of the thin air, and am slowing us down decidedly. After barely more than an
hour more up the trail, I speak of the need to drop our packs and day hike up to the top if we are going to
make it to the top at all. We search around for a flat spot. Failing this, we drop our packs at the base of a
group of trees we feel it will be easy to find later. I take a GPS reading, we gather our stuff, and off we
go. A large, prominent rock is to be our signpost for our chosen campsite.
As we continue our hike uphill, the temperatures begin to drop, and the wind begins to howl. We put on our
jackets, and Zach puts on his fleece vest under his parka. My own choice to not bring a vest, or long
underwear, on this trip will bite me in the butt later that day. In fact, my choice of jackets is a light wind
shell and it is to be sorely tested.
Because the elevation is going from the parking lot at 6900â€™ to the top of the mountain at 11,000â€™,
this is to be our most arduous endeavor. It is 17 miles round trip. Sometime around 3:30 or 4 pm, we round
the ridge at Rogerâ€™s peak, and are greeted with a gale force wind of at least 60 mph. It is at our backs
and actually helps us walk up the ridge towards Telescope. We meet several hikers coming down who envy us
our hooded attire. We agree on hiking until 4:30, then gauging where we are and if we should continue. By
the allotted time, we can see we need about an hour more to get to the top, and a decision is reached to
continue on. Sunset is at 7:25 and we have our headlamps with us if needed. After much struggling with the
lack of air and my own general level of fitness, or the lack thereof, we arrive at the top at 5:40 and are
greeted with more heavy winds. Much of the climb has been on the leeward side, and this latest wind
literally drives us off the top. Now we have to walk across the ridge to Rogerâ€™s peak with the wind in
our faces, knocking us off our feet, and often forcing us off the trail. We have to turn our heads so the
inside of our hoods is often all we see from our left eyes. The wind would have beaten us blind, except we
both wear glasses. As it is, we are surprised not to be sporting major facial bruising for the week. The
drawstrings from our hoods are beating us that severely. I hug my arms about me, as much for warmth as to
try to keep my thin parka from being torn from my body and ripped to shreds.
Finally, we drop down the leeward side of Rogerâ€™s Peak, just in time for the sun to set. We make good
time on our descent, but light is beginning to wane. After an hour more downhill, we have to put on our
lights, and try to find the backpacks in the dark. We are cold and stumbling about in the dark. I cannot
truly tell where we are in relation to our packs, and get the impression Zach is no better off. Several
times I stop, and try to gather my thoughts, ascertain where we are. Zach asks frequently about my health,
how I am doing. We continue downhill, vainly looking about for that prominent rock, and a tree Zach thinks
he visually earmarked as a locator. Now cold and shaking, I am beginning to have concern for our safety.
We come upon a rock set into a fallen tree, with the inscription, â€œBe Careful.â€� I canâ€™t seem to
remember if we had spotted this rock before, or after, we dropped packs. Zach wanders downhill a few more
steps while I finally turn the GPS back on. The batteries are low and I had turned it off to try to
conserve them. It tells us we have traveled a half mile too far downhill. We turn back uphill and I watch
the screen as it tells me we need to make a large sweeping right hand turn before we get to the packs.
It seems an interminable traipse back to the campsite, and I monitor our progress constantly. Finally, the
GPS unit says we are in the right area, but still we see no rock, or anything else that looks familiar. Now
the batteries completely give out. We begin to cast about, uphill, looking for the right set of trees. I send
Zach off to investigate, but to no avail. Both of us are becoming genuinely worried. Each of us think, this
is no time for consensus building, just rely on our own instinctual sense of where things should be. Zach
starts further uphill, while I leave to search a bit further downhill. In the second set of trees I
stumblingly search, I find the packs. Quickly, I turn my pack over and grab my whistle. I give it a burst,
then another. Not sure if it was heard over the wind, I start to open my pack to remove my sleeping bag. I
could now see ZachÂ¹s headlight moving my way in a hurried manner. I yell out to him that I wasnâ€™t
injured, as my whistle might have signaled, but that I have found the packs. We both are relieved, but not
out of danger just yet. I have started uncontrollable body shakes, shivering like crazy. Zach says for me to
eat something, I tell him that I am just going to crawl into my bag for now. He tosses me a box of
chocolate Girl Scout cookies and tells me to eat the entire box. I crawl down into my bag and begin to
breathe into the enclosed bag. I am trembling too much to get warm, and I knew I need fuel for my internal
stove. I attempt to open the cookies, but the plastic wrapper is stronger than I am. I use my teeth, to no
avail. Zach asks what I am up to, and I admit not having much success getting into the cookies. Finally, the
plastic gives way. The chocolate has partially melted and then re-congealed, gluing the cookies into a row of
coconut and chocolate. I pull them apart with my teeth and eat a third of the box. I put the rest aside and
wait for them to take effect. Soon, my bag is warming me up, and all I have to do is try to find a
comfortable way to sleep. I put my backpack against a low lying branch and pin myself, really wedge myself,
up against the trunk of a tree. Lying on my side, with my ribs jammed into a tree trunk, I drift off to a
fitful nightâ€™s sleep. I awake several times, trying to get more comfortable, without success. I am
surprised come morning just how warm and rested I am. Not Zach. He has had a bigger struggle getting
warm and has not slept much at all. We break camp, as such, and start back to the car. While descending,
Zach canÂ¹t remember packing away his headlamp. Not wanting to return to locate it, since we are more
than half way back to the car, I tell him to continue to the car, give his pack a thorough search there, and
we would return uphill, in our sneakers, if needed, to retrieve his light. At the car, he locates his light, and
while he reorganizes his pack, I sit in the comfort of the sun warmed car and eat my cereal.
It is only Tuesday morning, and we have nearly killed ourselves already. We drive to the next proposed hike,
a 3000â€™ climb up Corkscrew Peak. It is 11:30am and we are just getting started. I suggest we do this as
a day hike, and plan for an assault of Titanothere Canyon tomorrow. We have an 8 mile hike ahead of us, and
I do not look forward to carrying a pack all the way up the hill. After very little deliberation, Zach agrees.
A day hike it will be. Off we go in search of the faint, obscure trail to the top of Corkscrew. It starts in
a wash, with much loose gravel. This is to be our mode of walking for the rest of the week, but that is
unknown to us at this time. After struggling for 3 and 1/2 hours, we find ourselves still at least an hour
from the top, and it is 3pm. I rationalize that if we take the time to get to the top, and return at a similar
rate, we will be reaching the car in the dark. No one wants to go through that again, so we abort the
mission, and return to the car. Zach has had much trouble keeping up today. Claims he is â€œleg weary.â€�
I am now aware of the toll that was taken from him on the mountain. He will be lagging behind for several
days while he doggedly completes our itinerary. That night we stay in the campground. It is aggravating to
be so close to wilderness and still have to put up with the doofuses in their RVs. Lucky for us, there are
only about 5 others in the entire camp.
By 8 am Wednesday morning, we are on our way to Bighorn Gulch. It starts with a wide boulevard of sun
baked adobe, harder than a city sidewalk. A couple of miles later, we pick up the wash we need to ascend to
reach the Gulch. I announce we started at 8 and I expect a morning break at 10, like a good union job. We
are hiking uphill, in gravel the size of softballs, in hot weather. Shade is located for our break. We restart
at 10:15 and I sight the headland as my target for lunch. Zach has been falling behind at a somewhat
alarming rate, but he insists I continue galloping off at my own â€œgazelle- like pace.â€� I frequently
check over my shoulder, keeping him in sight. At 11:17 I reach the headland.
Setting my pack out in the sun, in plain view, I retire to the shade and await my partner. At 11:25 he joins
me in the shade for a moment, then retreats to the sun, as he is cold in the shade. Stretching out on his
pack, he asks me where my pack is. When I point it out to him, barely 20 feet away, in plain view, he flips
me off. I now know not to worry too much, as his sense of humor is still there. After an hour break, and
some munchies, we set off for further up the wash, where we will make camp for the night. At some point, I
realize I can no longer spot him, and wonder if he is OK. I walk until 1:15pm, and then sit down to wait for
him. I figure this is about where he will be by 1:30.
A few minutes go by, without me catching sight of him, so I climb a nearby hillside to watch for him. A few
more minutes pass before he comes into view. He was further behind than I was aware, and now I am
uncomfortable with myself for allowing him to fall that far back. What if he had hurt an ankle or
something? When he finally catches up, he explains why he fell so far behind. Nature had called, and it
takes a while to dig a hole in this rock. We rest for a bit, when I suggest we plan on camping here tonight.
We can explore further up canyon, with day packs.
We set off, and are soon treated to 2 bighorn females. They are up above us by about 20 feet, but in plain
view. Shortly after that, we begin to see the walls close in on us and we enter the Gulch. Narrow, winding,
smooth worn rock face that tells many tales of flash flooding. We see hundreds, thousands, perhaps, of
markings on the walls. As we examine them closer, we realize they are nautilus fossils. This turns out to be
the best scenery of the entire trip. The afternoon is coming to a close and we move back to our packs.
Resting there, I now want to move back down hill, to where the headland is, for the night. It will reduce our
hike out tomorrow, and we still have plenty of light tonight. Zach agrees, and we move off. Reaching the
headland, we pick a sandy spot on the rocks, and spread out our sleeping bags. The sky is clear blue, yet we
are aware we are sleeping in a wash. A discussion is held about our escape route, and where to try to stash
our stuff, should it rain buckets. After dinner, it begins to cloud up, with obvious rain in the distance. We
are not in our sleeping bags 10 minutes when it begins to sprinkle on us. We wrap our ground cover around
us like a taco shell, and settle in for the night. Soon enough the rain stops and we sleep peacefully.
Thursday morning, we pack up, eat breakfast, and get on our way by 7:45. The gravel has its own way of
getting to you. We walk along, with me talking, for a while. I notice Zach is still falling behind, so I slow
my pace. To no avail. I decide to let matters take their own course, and he has constantly encouraged me to
walk my own pace, so I do. Downhill, for an hour and a half, until I am close to the adobe wash. Then I wait
for him so he knows where I enter this portion of the return trip. We walk along together for a bit more,
me talking again. As we slowly separate, I keep a closer eye on him. He seems to be OK, just slower than Iâ
€™ve ever seen him. When I get close to camp, I wait in a wash so we can walk up to the car together. We
move it into some shade and relax a while before cleaning up some trash and driving on to Fall Canyon.
It seems a constant trait this week that we start our hikes in the midday sun. And that we walk in gravel.
This day is no different. Soon we are plodding along, in stifling heat. This time, Zach has no trouble keeping
up, as I do not fare well in heat. We both are seeking out shade at nearly every opportunity. We must camp
at least 2 miles from the road, and I am using the new batteries in the GPS to make sure we walk no
further than necessary. But the canyon walls close in on us too much for the GPS to function, so we ball
park where the 2 mile boundary is and drop our packs. We wander up canyon for several more hours,
enjoying some close narrows, and a dry falls. Still, walking in fine, loose gravel gets to be tiring, so we
turn back. We take a long rest, in the shade of the narrows, and talk of ZachÂ¹s upcoming marriage to Sue.
It is blatantly obvious from his conversation, that this is right for him. I tell him what little I know about
the marriage relationship, as if that will help him. 20 years with April, and I still am not sure what to do
My big piece of advice? â€œPay attention.â€� Weâ€™ll see how he fares. An eagle soars overhead. We head
back to the waiting packs and spread out before dinner. He discovers for himself the difference between
my Thermorest Guidelite, and his Thermoridge Sucks. We eat dinner, and crash early. In the early morning,
the eagle screeches, and Zach says he even heard bighorn sheep clattering about. We pack up and walk out
of the canyon.
It is early, and we do not want to leave this place quite yet, so we decide on the short day hike in Mosaic
Canyon. A 4 mile round trip up an easy walk to see more polished marble walls. This is one of the most
popular hikes, as it is easily accessible, and we see plenty of people starting their trip as we are finishing
ours. We have spent nearly a week in the park, mostly to ourselves, and we resent this intrusion on our last
moments. We stop for gas and a coke before continuing to the ranger station. We do not find anything to
buy at the station but we do leave them our remaining fuel and ask them to say Hi for us to Kyle and Kari, 2
rangers we knew from Arches that are now stationed at Death Valley.
That night in Las Vegas is anticlimactic. After checking in with Sue and April, we go to dinner. It is my
last opportunity to give him a bachelor party, and what better town to go crazy in, but it is just not his
style, or our type of relationship. I call April again, and she tells me to go play cards, rather than have
some stripper come to the room for a mere $189. In her opinion, I stand a better chance at the card table,
of coming out ahead. Maybe that is why I am still married. I take advice well.
Pine Mountain Trail
Harris County and Meriwether County, Georgia
See photos at: http://www.roblester.com/rob/pine_mtn_2002/index.htm
The Pine Mountain Trail is a 23-mile footpath that follows the Pine Mountain ridge in West Central
Georgia. The most noteworthy aspect of this trail is that a significant portion of the land at the eastern
end once belonged to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The trail was built and is maintained by the Pine
Mountain Trail Association, Inc.
Although Iâ€™d been â€œcar campingâ€� a few times prior to this trip, this was my first true backpacking
experience. As such, I had been meticulously researching the topic and purchasing gear for several months,
and was full of anticipation in the weeks leading up to our departure to see how it would all work out.
During this process, I learned that completely outfitting yourself with quality gear for your first
backpacking trip is an expense best spread out over several months. This lessens the impact on personal
finances, not to mention household harmony. My brother-in-law, Pete, is my usual companion on such outdoor
Friday, May 24, 2002:
Since we wanted to get an early start, as is the custom with such adventures, I awoke at 5:00 am. I had
already meticulously packed all my supplies over the course of the week, so all that was needed was the last
shower I would have for the next 72 hours, and some breakfast. I drove to Peteâ€™s house for us to ride
together to the trailhead, arriving at his house at about 7:00 am. After about an hourâ€™s drive, we
arrived at the park office, where we met Carl Carlson. Carl is a retired airline pilot who agrees to shuttle
young whippersnappers like us to the end of the trail, so we donâ€™t have to drive two cars. All he asks is
that a donation be given to the trail association. So, we loaded up his pickup and were deposited at the
western end about 20 minutes and $20 later. It was amazing to realize that we covered the distance of 23
miles in the truck in less than half an hour, but we would take the next 2 days to hike it. After
shouldering our packs, we set out on the hike at 9:00 am in beautiful Georgia spring weather.
After a few hours of hiking, we stopped for lunch back at the park office. Strange, since we had left there
in Carlâ€™s truck just that morning, but we wanted to cover the entire 23 miles of the trail, and the
office is about 4 miles from the western end. We had some peanut butter bagels on the picnic tables, took
a few minutes to enjoy the weather, and then set off for Big Knot campsite. Along the way we spotted
many brown toads, skinks, hawks, and several white-tailed deer.
Big Knot Campsite:
We arrived at Big Knot at about 1:30 pm, sooner than we had expected, I think. Pete and I had taken some
care to have as lightweight a pack as we were comfortable carrying for our level of experience (about 30-
35 lbs.), and it hadnâ€™t actually killed us to carry it for the 8 miles to Big Knot! (Well, we had built up
some level of fitness doing day hikes and cycling.) The site on a small ridge with 3 fire rings and a spring
for water about 100 yards away. We set up camp leisurely, and were the only folks at the campsite. We
were told that water might be scarce at Big Knot, but we managed to find enough to collect and filter for
our needs. We prepared supper at about 5:00, which, for me, consisted of a Mountain House freeze-dried
beef stroganoff dinner. Perhaps it was the 8 miles we had hiked, but that was some surprisingly good
stroganoff! I always enjoy mealtime on outdoor excursions, not only for obvious reasons, but also because
it provides me the opportunity to fiddle with cooking gear, which I enjoy. After hanging around the
campsite until about 9:30, we declared lights out and got to bed.
This was the first night I would spend in my Kelty Dart 2 ultralight solo tent, and I was interested to see
how it would work out. Turns out it suited me just fine as far as comfort, but thereâ€™s always
something about that first night sleeping outdoors that makes me sleep very lightly. Pete had the same
problem, and we found out one reason why in the morning.
Saturday, May 25, 2002:
During the night, we had both heard what we thought was the other person noisily sorting cooking pots.
When we investigated in the morning, we discovered that some nocturnal creature had managed to get into
our trash bag, which was hung in a tree, and extracted a small can that had contained chicken. This
raccoon, opossum, or whatever it was had rolled the can around amongst the rocks and roots, making the
banging noise. From that experience, we learned a lesson about keeping trash even more secure from
marauding bands of scavengers.
After a breakfast of oatmeal and a Clif Bar, we set out again about 9:00 am. We stopped at about 1:00 pm
at the Dowdell Knob parking area for lunch, about 14 miles into the hike. After spending the night in the
wilderness, our haggard, dusty appearance was an amusing visual contrast to the clean and pressed folks
emerging from convertibles and minivans to explore this historic site. We chose a picnic table for a lunch
of bagels and Clif Bars, and spoke with a guy about our age who had some backpacking experience. He was
having a nice time there with his family, but he seemed to covet our adventure just a bit. We explored the
famous grill that FDR had built overlooking the landscape and fielded some questions from folks curious
about our journey. We would learn that the folks at these more tourist-oriented areas were intrigued at
the thought of hiking all day and then actually spending the night in the woods. We saw several scouts
along the way, however, with whom we felt a little more kinship. We also spotted some turkeys, males by
their behavior and display of plumage.
Brown Dog Campsite:
Now 16 miles into our trip, we arrived at Brown Dog campsite at about 3:30 pm. A young couple had
selected a site about 50 yards away from where we decided to camp, but we had no other guests. Water at
the Brown Dog site was scarce indeed, and our filters had to work pretty hard to eke out water from the
trickle we found. At least it was a steady trickle. For dinner this night, I had decided when planning the
trip to depart from the predictable freeze-dried meal and try something less expensive. It turns out that
Kraftâ€™s Easy Mac is just about as easy in the wilderness as it is in the microwave. I did wish for some
chicken or frank slices to give it some character, however. Sometime after dinner, but before dark, we
heard what sounded like a pack of howling monkeys in the distance. It was a loud and sustained racket, and
sounded completely inhuman to us. We listened for a repeat performance, but never heard the noises again.
Lights out came at about 9:30 as before. I slept more soundly that the previous night, despite the threat
of marauding howler monkeys.
Sunday, May 26, 2002:
Todayâ€™s journey would be the last leg of our hike, about 7 miles to the WJSP-TV tower, the most
prominent landmark on the western terminus of the trail. Along the way, we saw the path for Wolfden
Loop, a 6.7 mile loop that we had done as a day hike in December of 2001. We didnâ€™t include the loop on
this trip, but we remembered the spectacular waterfalls and an immense rock formation appropriately
named Wolf Den. Wolfden Loop is probably the most scenic part of the entire trail, and makes an excellent
day hike. Upon emerging from the wilderness, we spotted the WJSP-TV tower, signaling the end of our
journey. Since we had gotten Carl to shuttle us to the western terminus on Friday, Peteâ€™s truck was
there waiting for us. Getting the shuttle service is definitely the way to go!
The trip was very enjoyable, and a great learning experience. We did fine with what we had, but also
learned some lessons that will help us streamline future trips.
Background Information: http://www.pinemountaintrail.org/
Sand Ridge State Forest
We left Shelbyville IL, 10 scouts (aged 11-15yrs) and 4 adults at 7:30am and drove to 2 1/2hr. to Sand
Ridge State Forest.
Sand Ridge S.F. is located about 25mi. southeast of Peoria IL. There are 44 miles of marked trails and 7
color coded trails to choose from. We checked in at the ranger station and asked about water sources.
There are so many trail options that the scouts decided to pick our route as we went, picking trails
according to where we were and the time of day. The only thing we (the adults) told them was that we had
to be at our campsite (BC6) by 4pm. Backcountry 6 was one of the campsites closest to a source of water,
about 3/4mi. from the Horsemanâ€™s Campground.
We started from the parking area, on the east edge of the forest, and headed South on the Yellow trail.
The yellow trail started out with tall grass and spots of prickly pear cactus and soon turned into hardwood
trees. The trails are very wide, 3 horses could ride side by side, mostly sand with stretches of mowed
grass. When we got to the Yellow, Red and Orange trail junction, we followed the Orange trail to the south
edge of Pine Campground, where we filled up with water.
We then followed the Orange Trail past the Horsemanâ€™s Camp to the Orange, Blue, White, and Red trail
and followed it to where it connected to the Blue Trail, where after 20 minutes of looking we found BC6.
Our campsite was in the middle of a big stand of pine trees, with a fire ring to cook on. The pine needles
made for a nice soft place to sleep.
Sunday morning we broke camp, took the OBWR trail back to the HC, and followed the Sand Ridge Road (the
road is made of compacted sand) to the Blue Trail. We followed the Blue trail to the Red trail, the Red
trail to the Yellow trail and the Yellow trail back to our bus.
Sounds like a pretty colorful trip, doesn't it? The trees were starting to turn, so the colors were a nice
mixture of reds, yellows and greens, sounds like the trail names.
The trails are wide and fairly moderate as far as terrain goes, but the sand is soft and 4"to6"in the
middle. We hiked mainly on the edges and tried not to step on the cactus. I was surprised that there werenâ
€™t many horse apples on the trails.
Our menus, consisted of deer sausage with E-Z cheese and crackers for lunches,
Lipton noodles with tuna and Jell-O Cherry Cheesecake for supper and instant oatmeal and fried Spam for
breakfast. Some of the scouts weren't sure about the Spam, but decided it was NOT too bad after they
The Fees Debate
When the National Parks Service was founded in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson its purpose was to
preserve Americaâ€™s natural treasures for the enjoyment of future generations. Images of our natural
wonders soon began spreading across the globe, drawing visitors from near and far with a desire to see the
magnificence that only nature and time can build. National parks and monuments began springing up across
the nation, preserving not only the nationâ€™s natural beauties but also our historical legacies for our
children. As the nationâ€™s interstate roadways grew, so did the visitor count every year to our parks,
monuments, and forests. As our national treasures became more and more popular while funding shrank
further and further, maintenance efforts to keep these icons of America running and usable became
harder. The money wasnâ€™t there, but the work had to continue; volunteerism was growing, but there are
any number of jobs that were required and projects that had to be done that couldnâ€™t (or more
accurately wouldnâ€™t let be allowed to be done) by volunteers. The best way to solve some of these
problems local to the parks was through local funding. Thatâ€™s where the Fee Demo program and other
entrance and use fees come into play.
First, we need to know what this issue is not about. This isnâ€™t about federal mismanagement of tax
dollars that weâ€™d all like to see directed to the National Parks, Forests, and Monuments. While GAO
audits have shown that hundreds of millions of dollars have been squandered in past years in programs such
as fire protection and management, all the tax dollars in the world wonâ€™t do any good unless they get to
where they can do some good.
This issue isnâ€™t about â€œIâ€™m already paying my taxes; why do I have to pay again?â€�
Appropriation of our tax dollars never go where we want them to go, but rather where Congress deems they
should go. If that means more tax dollars to social programs and entitlements when parks and forests are
being closed several months of the year, then thatâ€™s where the tax dollars go. If that means several
million dollars go toward studying the mating habits of trout instead of saving a historical landmark like
the LaConte Lodge in Yosemite Valley, then thatâ€™s where the tax dollars go. According to one source, in
past years only $1.80 per $10,000 of tax dollars went to Interior Department programs such as the Parks
Service. Thatâ€™s less than two ten-thousandths of a percent (.00018%) of the tax dollars collected in
any given year. At this time, receiving a federal disbursement for a local park or forest doesnâ€™t seem
to be working. Take the argument to Congress, absolutely; but what happens to our Parks and Monuments
while the issue is being hashed out?
This isnâ€™t an issue of commercialization of the Parks by big business: every Park and Monument engages
in commercial ventures, whether as small as selling a park map or as significant as operating a general
store (such as that in Yosemite Valley). Is the commercialization acceptable if itâ€™s only a map being
sold, but not acceptable if itâ€™s to sell a loaf of bread or manage the renting of tents and cabins? The
commercialization issue only solves an already-existing problem of manpower and management of limited
resources, and does nothing substantive to solve the real problem: funding.
In the year 2000 fee programs provided $176.5 million that would not have been otherwise available
through just tax dollars. Improvements provided by these funds include extended park hours, trail
maintenance, retrofitting of facilities and campsites for the disabled, interpretive signs and postings, and
increased public safety programs. Once again: these are services that would not have been performed had
it not been for the fee programs at our Parks and Forests.
Our passive concern for the preservation of Americaâ€™s natural wonders, even our very history, is no
longer enough. Protection of those places and things that made America what it is today now requires our
active participation, more so than just what miniscule fraction of our tax dollars go toward the effort.
Many contribute already by volunteerism, through maintaining trails, acting as guides and human
information kiosks, promoting these wonders through writing and photography around the world, and in
dedicating their very lives in working for the Parks and Forests, often for salaries below a living wage.
What we must commit to do in the coming years must go beyond mere volunteerism; it must go beyond good
wishes, and inspired debate in public forums. What we must each do is choose to look beyond what
immeasurably tiny amount weâ€™ve already paid in taxes for the Parks and Forests, and gratefully pay that
small entrance fee and backcountry permit cost. Whether you visit only rarely and just enjoy the views
from your vehicle or load up your backpack every weekend for a trip down a different trail, those fees you
pay go directly to the Park or Forest youâ€™ve entered, helping to keep the trails maintained, campgrounds
clean and safe, preserve the natural fauna and flora, and ensure the protection of wildlife through
educational efforts. In 2002, 95% of the fees obtained through the nationâ€™s Fee Demo program went
back to the Forests and Parks that took those fees; your local support does make a difference. How often
have you traveled to a particular national forest, hopped out of your car at a particularly spectacular
vista, and read a marquee, plaque, or bill describing the view, or local wildlife? Chances are those creative
placards describing this peak or the other, or the habitats of this bird of prey versus another were paid
for in part by that fee you handed the Ranger when you entered the Park. Would you or your children have
learned as much if those signs hadnâ€™t been there? Would your son or daughter have known that the
reason why this canyon is sharply carved versus that canyon being curved was because of erosion instead of
glaciation? The next time you see one of these signs, stop and read it. When you see that tiny, out of the
way print that reads â€œYour entrance fees helped pay for this sign,â€� youâ€™ll feel the same pride
that I do when I see these. I know Iâ€™m doing my part to protect the land that I love, with the hopes
that my efforts will pay off for my children and their children.
The issue of paying entrances fees and backcountry permit costs isnâ€™t a black-and-white tax issue.
This is an issue about preserving what we have by doing our part at the local level because doing it at the
federal level doesnâ€™t get the job done. This is an issue of emotion, and not plain, hard facts: do you
want these places and their legacies to be here for future generations? If an over-burdened federal
system canâ€™t do enough to protect the natural wonders and historical legacies of our country, then we
as citizens must step in locally and take up the slack where needed. The National Forests, Parks, and
Monuments are a legacy provided by our past generations for our future generations. We are here to enjoy
these magnificent treasures and to ensure that they are here and available for our children. Pay the
entrance fees, permit costs, and yearly pass fees: your children will thank you when their time comes to
enjoy these forests and historic monuments, and will gladly pay their own fees in turn through your example.
From Hither to Yonder: The National Park Fee System
By Karma Police
A couple of good friends, Wendy and Keith, traveled through Yosemite last summer, spending two days
exploring and hiking through the park, enjoying the scenery and a reasonable amount of solitude. Making
their way toward the entrance, they tolerated the traffic knowing it was only temporary, and theyâ€™d
soon be beyond the crowds, the paved roads and all of the â€œimprovementsâ€� the National Park Service
had erected on their land.
About the only thing they couldnâ€™t tolerate was paying the â€œDemo Feeâ€� to enter the park;
however, in the end, they acquiesced, although proclaiming objections, and rightly so, to its imposition.
Apparently, Wendy was kind enough to swallow her strong principles so Keith could have a chance to see a
part of the world she had enjoyed so many times in her youth.
At this point, you might ask â€˜whatâ€™s the problem with the fee? Arenâ€™t the collected fees being
used for the good of the parks?â€™ In some ways, yes, but overall, careful examination of the practice
shows that the fees are a complete failure at helping solve fiscal issues, and they are frequently used in
ways that are harmful to the parks. In other words, the majority of the money goes toward the increased
development and industrialization of the parks, something completely unnecessary.
Now called "Demo Fees," entrance fees represent a minute part of the overall park system budget. Costs
have increased by eighty-one percent since 1996, and in some years, the Demo Fees cover as little as one
fourteenth to one twentieth of the total cost. In other words, although there has been a consistent and
increasing obloquy both inside and outside the Park Service against the practice of charging entrance fees,
the program contributes little to the fiscal health of the parks and will never be able to keep pace with
the increased cost to manage the parks. If park fees increased and kept pace with annual budget increases,
no one other than the rich would be able to afford the parks. But the real problem isnâ€™t necessarily
rising costs and budgets, as much as it is how the collected fees are used.
To understand the real problem, you have to examine the history of the National Parks and understand the
mind-set that crafts and implements the policies that create park overcrowding, noise, pollution and budget
deficits. It is a mind-set that believes the parks, which have successfully existed for millions of years on
their own, not only need â€œimprovement,â€� but they are also sources of revenue and profit, as opposed
to a place where we can escape the growing, baneful cacophony of the industrialized world. After being
secured from its indigenous people, the first national park was established in 1872 under the assumption
that the parks would be self supporting from profits derived from concessions and wouldnâ€™t need
appropriated funds from Congress. This system apparently worked well until 1916, when Stephen Mather, a
special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior and director of the newly established National Park
Service, began to view park income as a way to gain full control of the parks and push an agenda of
promoting tourism and development of the public lands.
At once, cries of â€œfoulâ€� rose in the gallery from a few noble souls willing to rise up on their hind legs
and stand against the current of increasing fees and expanding development. Representative Louis Crampton
of Michigan attempted to reduce the burden of auto fees as early as 1917 and remarked that â€œThe
American idea is not that there is going to be somebody with a collection box every time you turn around in
a publicly owned enterprise.â€� Unfortunately, his cries, as well as those of others, fell on deaf ears and
the industrialization of the parks was in full swing by 1920 as the federal government moved to â
€œestablish camps where there are sewers, where there is hot water for tourists, where there are
laundries for the women, and kitchens and camps and all the other facilities provided in an ordinary hotel,â
€� including roads for the purpose of making the public lands accessible to all.
This mind-set remains the popular view unto the present day. While reading a fairly recent NPS publication
on its history, I noticed that it is the position of the Park Service that the parks â€œrepresent major
financial investments by the Federal Governmentâ€� and they require â€œextensive development for
visitor access and accommodation.â€� Please note that â€œaccessibilityâ€� generally means making the
parks friendlier to cars and to tourism.
So, from roughly 1920 to the present day, thereâ€™s been a quasi official policy of â€œdeveloping and
improving the parksâ€� and charging the user a modest fee for the privilege of enjoying their land. What
this really boils down to is the commoditization of public lands for the furtherance of increasing profits in
the private domain. One should note the 1990 economic model developed by Dr. Ken Hornback of the Denver
Statistical Office of the National Park Service, a tool used to estimate the economic benefits of parks
for local economies. The model is commonly referred to as the Money Generation Model or MGM. You pay
the fees and the fees go toward the continued development of the parks, thereby bringing more cars and
more people to the parks. The automobile is extremely important in this equation, since the automobile
bound traveler is more likely to spend time in the surrounding towns spending money in hotels, theme parks,
strip malls, and fast food restaurants than say, a backpacker, who will most likely buy some gas and perhaps
a meal or two before and after he or she enters and leaves the backcountry, eschewing the clutter of the
industrialized park perimeter.
This isnâ€™t some sort of new revelation that I can take credit for. Ed Abbey wrote eloquently about the
industrialization of the national parks in his â€œPolemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Parks,â€�
found in his now classic work, Desert Solitaire. Writers are judged in many ways, but one sure way to
measure them is how their words stand the test of time. In this regard, Iâ€™m consistently amazed at how
relevant Abbeyâ€™s writing is nearly thirty years after it was first published. Abbey accurately pointed
out all of the issues and problems associated with developing and commoditizing the national parks,
including the plight of the tourist, the chief victim of the system, since thereâ€™s nothing compelling the
tourists to get out of their cars. The expedient side effect being they miss seeing the real treasures in
the parks, often found only a few miles from the road.
The Park Service would have you believe that the majority of the fees are used for such noble projects as
the restoration of the Big Lagoon Wetland in Muir Woods National Monument, but if you peer beyond the
simulacrum you find a different story. One of the largest projects funded by the current Demo Fee
program at Muir Woods is the Big Lagoon project, but a large portion of the restoration is building and
constructing â€œpublic access.â€� Another example is in the Castillo de Dan Marcos National Monument,
where one of the more heavily funded projects is devoted to â€œaccessibility.â€� One should be wary when
hearing or seeing the words â€œaccessibilityâ€� and â€œconstructionâ€� when the accessibility and
construction are going to take place in wild, natural areas, since it always follows that pavement,
automobiles and crowds follow shortly thereafter.
But letâ€™s get back to the money and the history of failures by the government to adequately fund the
parks through the fee system.
By 1947, once the funds had been diverted into the general fund of the Department of the Interior, park
revenues totaled only about one-ninth of appropriations for the National Park System, and by 1953, higher
fees were put in place to offset increasing costs. By 1956, park receipts were about one-tenth of
appropriations, and by 1959, receipts had declined to one-fourteenth of the level of appropriations. The
Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was supposed to realize an average of $65 million a year over the
first ten years from visitor fees; however, it was a complete failure, and in 1968, the House and Senate
Interior committees held hearings on the issue and considered bills amending the Fund Act. There
conclusion is worth quoting directly:
â€œThe committee recognizes the fact that, in practice, the fee system under the Land Water
Conservation Fund Act has called forth public opposition and been the subject of controversy in some
areas. It has been asserted that the costs of collection exceed the amount of revenues derived from them.â
Attempts to abandon the Government-wide fee system ultimately failed and President Johnson saved the
Fund in 1968 by authorizing the addition of revenues from, ironically, Outer Continental Shelf Oil leases,
netting the fund an additional $200 million annually.
Despite this, the inability of the government to return the parks to their pre-1920 fiscal self sufficiency
continued throughout the 70â€™s and 80â€™s, although the mantra of raising fees and expanding the fee
collection operation continued, most notably by the Department of the Interiorâ€™s Policy, Budget and
Administration secretariat and James Watt which maintained:
The User Fee Program must be established in such a way that the NPS, from top to bottom, has the
maximum incentive possible to both increase and collect fees. If those fees are completely offset against
appropriations, such an incentive disappears.
The User Fee Program has not worked well in the past because NPS personnel have not seen any benefits to
the Park Service from the fees and often have viewed a fee program as a liability.
With proper development, a User Fee Program can move the NPS in the direction of self-sufficiency and
substantially, or entirely, free the Park System from the appropriation process.
In 1996, Congress authorized the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program, ostensibly to address funding
shortfalls for federal agencies by returning the collected fees, entrance and usage, to the direct control
of the National Park Service, as opposed to the U.S. Treasury, as had been the case since 1918. Under this
arrangement, the Park Service would be able to collect fees locally and make decisions at the local level
concerning their use for various projects and improvements (thereâ€™s that word again) to the public
lands. However, as previously noted, the growth of the National Park budget authority far outpaces
acceptable fee increases, so fees remain a very small, almost insignificant part of the total budget and
One can only conclude that not only is the fee collection process a failure, it is dangerous to the
preservation of the parks since it supports and seeks to expand an auto-bilious culture that most
wilderness loving people would see as an anathema to preservation. That said, what are the alternatives?
How do we protect and preserve our parks for future generations without charging entrance fees that
many argue represent unconstitutional double taxation?
To begin, we need to redefine the purpose of the National Park Service and what it truly means to
administer the parks and â€œprovide for the enjoyment of same in such manner and by such means as will
leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.â€� Does this mean preservation of
wilderness, or does this mean we continue to view the parks as revenue generating opportunities and
further commoditize them to the point of destruction? Does the slogan â€œparks are for peopleâ€� really
mean for people, or as Abbey succinctly pointed out, does it mean â€œpeople-in-automobiles?â€�
Iâ€™m of the opinion that we can reduce the overall budget expenditures once we alter our basic values
regarding park administration and preservation. The parks can be adequately maintained from the general
fund, provided, of course, the legislature and executive branch make some much needed cuts in other areas
of the federal budget. With the additional funds, we can be more effective fighting environmental
stresses such as air and water quality, and pests and disease that also threaten ecosystems, like the
balsam woolly adelgid in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Ed Abbeyâ€™s vaticinal Desert Solitaire suggested we abolish cars from the national parks, and I believe
itâ€™s time this be giving serious consideration, since it would prove beneficial to park ecosystems and
eliminate the need for the fee system. Build mass transit for people that canâ€™t walk, refuse to walk, or
refuse to cycle. Use the savings on road maintenance and expansion for wise purposes and get rid of the
entrance fees. For more than eighty years, the fee program has failed, yet for the past ten years, NPS
budgets have increased eighty percent, while the National Parks Conservation Associationâ€™s Endangered
List expands. The benefits to the park, its remaining indigenous inhabitants and its visitors far outnumber
the reasons seemingly innumerable administrators, politicians and developers will tell you it wonâ€™t work.
The Natural World
And the Seasons Changed
One week ago, October 27, I woke up to sunshine and 75 degrees here in the southern Sierra Nevada
Mountains. Today I woke up to heavy snow and 26 degrees. It seems that in my neck of the woods it turned
from summer to winter overnight. I am amazed at the swift change, but I think I prefer a more gradual
The changing of the seasons is a magical event, one I prefer to contemplate and enjoy slowly, to ponder and
muse. Whether it is the change from summer to fall to winter, or winter to spring to summer, I like to sit
back and watch for the changes. This time of year the changes I watch for are the oak and aspen leaves
changing color, the mountain air turning colder and damper, and the nights getting longer. I like to watch
the mule deer come out and gather together, the bucks meet up with the does, and the gray squirrels
frantically gather up their last acorns. All these familiar changes instill a sense of solace within me. They
signal an urge to finish up all my active pursuits and then stop and turn in. I begin to think about sleep,
about hibernating, until spring when I can wake up renewed and watch the new green leaves bud on the
trees, listen to the birds begin their early morning songs, and feel the air warm up with the coming of the
This year the oak leaves had just begun to turn yellow, rust, and brown, but before they fell off they were
coated with white. There are still thousands of unclaimed acorns littering the forest floor but now they
are buried under a white carpet. All the forest dwellers have ceased to move and have taken shelter. The
activity of fall has been swiftly cut off and is hushed by the falling snow.
I have to remind myself that the wonderful thing about nature is that it's unpredictable. Just when you
think you know what to expect, it does the unexpected. And although I prefer the comfort and solace of
what I know, the surprise and amazement of what I don't know make me appreciate everything nature has
to offer. So tonight as I drive home on the icy road and lament the fall that never really was, I'll begin to
look for the delights of a new season.
Waking Up to a Fuzzy Brown Muzzle
We were in the Tetons, again. Such a spectacular area, it just pulls us back. A quick boat ride across
Jenny Lake, a few miles up Cascade Canyon, left at the fork and soon we arrived at the first group of
campsites for the night.
We found a campsite close to the bear box, and after setting up the tent and tending to dinner, we stashed
most of our gear and all of our food into that bear box. We were enjoying the pink sunset on the mountains
across the canyon, when a couple came into camp asking if we had any bear spray. They said a bear had come
into their camp while they were cooking their dinner and when they moved away from their stove the bear
went right in and licked the Alfredo noodles right out of the hot pan. They were cooking away from their
tent site, but this didn't stop the bear from moving on to inspecting the tent and then mess around with it
enough to bend one of the tent poles and bite holes into water bottles. We didn't have any bear spray, but
we did show them where the bear box was.
Knowing there was a bear in the area, Bill and I placed our boots right outside the tent door and kept our
poles handy for making noise if a bear came near. Snuggled down into our sleeping bags, in the cool Teton
air, we slept well. I would peak out of the tent door whenever I heard a twig snap or strange noise, but it
was just the wind through the trees.
About 5:30 in the morning I heard another snap, and did the usual look out through the tent door. This
time I caught site of a black bear about 10' out in front of the tent. I hollered, "Shoo Bear!" and hurried
to get my boots on waking Bill and telling him there was a bear in camp. The bear was a nice black color
with brown nose and he donned a tag in one ear. Bill rolled over and looked out as I was already exiting the
tent. I sure didn't want to be in there with a bear roaming around outside. I wanted to be out
and know just what the bear and I both stood. Standing up I grabbed my hiking poles and smacked them
together. The bear looked at me and choose to mosey off around the side of the tent, slowly making his way
towards the back. When he was away from the front of the tent, I started collecting the sleeping bags and
sundries from Bill, who was still in the tent, to put into the bear box. Figuring this bear was surely a well
acquainted visitor with these campsites and possibly any delicious smells coming from the bear box, I was
hesitant about unclipping the lock on the bear box to put our gear in, thinking this would be a signal to the
bear to head straight for the food in the bear box. By now, Bill was out of the tent and the black bear had
found a nice seat among the big rocks in boulder field in back of the tent. The bear looked around and
scratched his ear with a hind foot.
He wasn't worried about us at all and I feel he could have come right into camp and messed with our tent if
he had wanted to. We were just lucky he wasn't very interested. We watched as he moseyed on up the hill
through the bushes.
We did not Mr. Bear again, but, later that morning, as we day hiked up the trail to Hurricane Pass, we did
hear tales of his visiting every camp along the trail. Mountains and bears.... pretty good day, I'd say.
The Stealth Backpacker
I'd been walking all day, up and down the seesawing trail from early morning with the wet dew still on the
grass, through the blazing hot afternoon sun and now I was ready to rest for the night at Forest Service
campground just a mile ahead.
As I forded, then stopped, turned around, knelt down and drank, from a small rivulet a hundred yards away
from the campground, loud distinct sounds reached my ears, wiping away all the peace the forest had given
me throughout the day. No longer did I hear my own thoughts, or hear the wind rearrange the leaves, nor
smell the forest, instead my peace was shattered by some loud squawking coming out of very large black box
secured to a picnic table, surrounded by a platoon of listeners imbibing freely of some liquid in dark amber
bottles. The sound of a bottle breaking in their fire pit remained in my ears for what seemed hours.
Pushing on I made my way through the carnage and noise and found myself at the reserved site for thru-
hikers only to find a knee high grassy, trashy piece of black and green earth, with a picnic table which was
rather wobbly on it's remaining three legs and a fireplace whose bottom hadn't been seen in years. Dotted
amongst the blackened remains of old fires were blue milk caps, silver pull tabs, rusty nails and a crushed
can of some type.
Wearily looking about I headed back to the trail. After hiking another half mile I found what I was looking
for. A thick stand of Manzanita, rabbit bush and trees amongst a tumble of large rocks. Furtively looking
about, I made my way through the almost impassable foliage to find myself in a small cul-de-sac about a
hundred yards from the trail. Home at last, as I took a deep breathe and sighed. I could smell and hear the
forest again. I wearily slide off my pack and sat down. From the pack I took out my knife, with it's nifty
little saw, and pruned the canopy around me until I had a neat little place to sit up in. I then brushed aside
some of the forest duff and spread out my mattress and sleeping bag. Finding a flat rock I set up my
kitchen and boiled water for some instant soup. I opened up and MRE pack and then measured out the water,
just enough, to fill to the line of the MRE heater and proceeded to "cook" dinner. Nibbling on some
crackers and peanut butter I laid back on my bed, sat up and removed a tiny lump or two from under the pad
and laid back down and studied my surroundings.
Finishing my dinner I stuffed all the leftovers back into the MRE pack which went into a zip lock bag and
went back to listening to the soft sounds of night fall. Soon I could see the stars through the canopy. I
arose and peeked out from my hideaway and was comforted in seeing the North Star and the big dipper was
in their usual spots.
Going back into my little cubby, I climbed into my sleeping bag, hung my mini-mag on a branch, laid back and
was soon asleep.
The morning sun sneaking it's way through the foliage soon found me and awoke me with it's warmth on my
nose. Unzipping the bag, I reached over and started the stove which was ready and waiting for the match to
bring it to life. Rolling up my bag and pad I was ready to go in the time it took for the water to boil. This
morning it would be Hot Chocolate and oatmeal, apples and cinnamon my favorite. Swishing water around and
then drinking it all down I put the kitchen away, stood up and lifted my pack back to it's accustomed place.
I scattered the duff around a bit and made my way back to the trail.
A short time later I came upon a Ranger on a horse riding towards me. She stopped and asked me how I was
doing, did I sleep well? Yes I responded very well, like a log.
On down the trail I went ready to take on another day on the trail.
First time at REI
Occasionally, I have to make a trip into the office on the weekend. As regular train commuters know,
weekend trains run less frequently than during the week, so I opted to drive in, and Iâ€™m glad I did.
Considering that I grew up in New England, my favorite haunts for outdoor equipment and clothing since
the mid-1960â€™s have been LL Bean and EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports.) Donâ€™t get me wrong, I am
not an elitist by any means when it comes to outdoor â€œstuffâ€� â€“ Iâ€™ve picked up my share of
bargains from all over. I simply like the quality of the goods I get from LL Bean and EMS. You know the
old saying, â€œYou get what you pay for.â€�
Many of you folks on the backpacker.com forums have mentioned REI in your posts. Iâ€™ve visited their
web site, but I thought Iâ€™d take some time and check out their store in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, just
a short distance from Philadelphia and only a minor detour on my way home. I needed a map for planning my
Glacier National Park trip next summer anyway.
Even though the staff informed me that this was one of their smaller shops, I felt like a â€œkid in a candy
store.â€� They had a terrific selection of clothing and gear, and I didnâ€™t find the prices out of line.
The fellow that helped me find the map section offered to answer any questions I had about the store or
any of their products and we got into a discussion about tents and the different trips we had taken or
those being planned. It was great! Just like conversing on â€œthe boardsâ€� only I didnâ€™t have to wait
for the responses to my questions â€“ he had them right away. He also gave me an application to join their
co-op (a real deal â€“ for only $15 you get a lifetime membership), and told me about their gear rental
program, specials and yearly member refunds. He also told me that if you want to save money on shipping
charges when ordering online, you can designate which of their stores you would like to have your
merchandise shipped to and pick it up yourself. Each of the staff I came in contact with was pleasant and
I discovered that some of their stores have climbing walls (this one does) and some even have â€œcold
roomsâ€� (this one does not) for testing equipment and clothing in specific temperature ranges. What a
great idea! You can try out a 20-degree sleeping bag in a 20-degree cold room and see if keeps you warm.
After over an hour of browsing I went to the checkout desk and learned all about how REI started â€“ a
very interesting story. Back in 1938, a group of 23 Seattle-area mountaineers decided to form a buying
cooperative for climbing and outdoor equipment. They wanted to be able to purchase reliable gear for a
decent price as most mountaineering equipment at that time was being imported from Europe. So their idea
took hold and REI is now the nationâ€™s largest co-op.
For any readers who are fortunate enough to live within an hourâ€™s drive of one of these stores, it is
well worth the drive to go. I know Iâ€™ll be going back. I need new tent anywayâ€¦ hmmmâ€¦ should I opt
for the REI Half Dome +2 or the MSR Fury? All in good timeâ€¦
Check REI out online at: http://www.rei.com and http://rei.outlet.com
The Ten Essential Systems
The following list is made up of items that everyone who ventures onto a trail or into the backcountry
should have. You could add more, possibly, but these are the basics.
1. Navigation (map and compass)
2. Sun protection
3. Insulation (extra clothing)
4. Illumination (flashlight/headlamp)
5. First-aid supplies
7. Repair kit and tools
8. Nutrition (extra food)
9. Hydration (extra water)
10. Emergency shelter
Coleman CimmaronÃ¤ Tent
Gear Review by Squilax
Back in August, I was at one of our local Wal-Mart stores and when I passed by their Sporting Goods
section an item that caught my eye was the Cimmaron tent, one of a few models that Coleman exclusively
produces for distribution at Wal-Mart.
The Cimmaron has several features that should be mentioned. First of all is the roominess. This model is
touted as a 3-person, 3-season tent. With a 49 square feet (7â€™x7â€™) floor and a peak center height of
59 inches, this model fits the bill for anyone who prefers a non-confining shelter against the elements. A
good piece of advice to consider is donâ€™t skimp on elbow or head room if you expect a lot of tent time.
Treated with Colemanâ€™s proprietary WeatherTecÃ¤ system, I found it to be fully water- and windproof
on the several outings when Iâ€™ve toted it along. By the way, I should mention that the manufacturer
guarantees this weatherproofing, so if for any reason you are not satisfied they will replace it.
To test it out, I set it up in the backyard and turned the sprinkler on it for about an hour. When I checked
later, there were no leaks anywhere inside. As a result, I decided not to take the time to seal the seams. Iâ
€™ve had the tent out for three trips since, twice to Shenandoah and once on an overnight Scout trip. The
full coverage fly repels rain and moisture like water off a duckâ€™s back. On the overnight, we had nine
continuous hours of steady rain, and did not have one drop of water inside, which brings up another issue of
concern: Condensation. With no-see-um mesh panels in the roof, rear window and spacious D-shaped door,
combined with the low guy-out points on the full coverage rain fly, airflow is not a problem. The 800mm
polyurethane coated rain fly also features front and rear see through window panels and a vestibule for
gear and wet clothing storage with a double-zipper roll back door and triangular side panels that can also
be retracted to provide a terrific view when the weather is nice. In addition, the door panel can be
supported as a front porch roof with trekking poles or stout sticks. A mesh gear loft affixes to four
ceiling loops with ABS hooks to keep gear clutter off the floor.
Set up is quick and easy with the pole sleeve-and-clip combination. With practice, you could have this tent
fully up and ready for use in about 10 minutes. Even thought the tent is freestanding, the fly must be
secured so stakes, snow or sand anchors, or rocks would be required to attach the guy lines. Weight-wise
this tent is definitely not in the either of the light or ultra light categories. The Cimmaron checks in at
just a little over 8 pounds including tent, fly, poles, stakes and storage bags, but it does compact into a
The three poles are fiberglass (I would have preferred aluminum for weight reduction and cold weather
reliability), and the 13 stakes are the bent-wire variety that usually come as standard equipment with
tents of this type. I replaced six of these with aluminum â€œshepherdâ€™s crookâ€� style stakes for the
four corners and vestibule stake-down points an