May 31, 2006

From an editorial in the Asheville Citizen-Times:

"Early this month, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by our own Rep. Charles Taylor, “zeroed out” of the federal budget money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund grants that states have used for local parks and recreation projects.

"The subcommittee also approved only $26.8 million for federal land acquisition projects, less than one-third of the $83 million in the Bush administration budget and far short of the $220 million called for by more than 120 bipartisan members of Congress."

And that, my friends, is what we call "compassionate conservatism." 

Warning: Your GPS can kill you

May 30, 2006

Well, sorta.

GPS game: Men drive off cliff, die

Via GPS Tracklog.

Amen, brother

May 29, 2006

Freelance writer Thomas Funke has a sensible editorial in the Battle Creek Enquirer called The wrong hikers always get the press.

"…our national media would rather cover oddities such as "Fat Man" or make heroes out of ill-prepared day hikers."

Full disclosure: I work for a local media outlet. Just the same, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Funke.

UPDATE: Tom Mangan read the same piece and came away with a different view.

"Actually, if things get so bad that proper behavior becomes newsworthy, then we'll have problems. News is everything that departs from the norm."

As an editor at the San Jose Mercury News, Tom knows news.

I understand his point and I don't disagree. Safe plane landings aren't news.

When I read Funke's essay, I didn't think he was arguing that the news media should report on safe hiker stories instead of stranded hiker stories, but Tom read it that way. Rereading it now, I can see how Tom came to that conclusion.

My agreement with Funke stems from his comments about the achievements of people like Andrew Skurka and Sue Lockewood. We ought to be able to cover stories that involve noteworthy acts, not just stupid acts.

UPDATE II: I just stumbled on this article. It explains a lot.

More for the gear list

May 29, 2006

I've hammered out more of the gear list for a backpacking trip in Colorado that my son's Boy Scout troop will be taking in July.

Here are some of the items to be carried. (As before, * means the item is optional. § means the item will be shared with a partner.)

Extra Clothing in Waterproof Stuff Sack or Ziplock Plastic Bag
light jacket thin wind shirt or windbreaker
insulation layer synthetic pullover, fleece or long underwear top
rain jacket waterproof-breathable, simple jacket
rain pants waterproof-breathable, simple pull-on; can double for long pants in cool weather
warm hat wool or synthetic beanie cap
warm gloves wool or fleece gloves
extra socks one spare pair each of hiking socks and liner socks
underwear* one spare pair
Shelter and Sleeping
shelter§ two person tarp or tent, recommend no heavier than 4 lbs.
tent stakes§ sufficient number to completely stake out shelter
ground cloth*§ lightweight waterproof barrier, needed only if tarp is used
sleeping bag recommend no heavier than 3 lbs.; 20-30º rating is sufficient
stuff sack waterproof, for sleeping bag
sleeping pad inflatable or closed-cell

Most controversial, at least with some moms, will be the lack of extra clothing.


Next I'll post the items on the list for cooking, hydration, and personal hygiene. I've also tweaked the first part of the list, which I posted a couple days ago.

I added a bandana and liner socks. I elected to make the liner socks option, though I've always used them and feel they help a lot to prevent blisters.

One note: I need to offer thanks to Backpackinglight.com for publishing several packing lists. They have been helpful in this project.
Feel free to offer suggestions for my list. 

Packing list preps

May 27, 2006

I have an assignment and I've discovered it's not as easy as I first thought.

I've been asked to put together a new packing list for my son's Boy Scout troop as we prepare for our week-long backpacking and climbing trip this summer to Weminuche Wilderness Area in Colorado.

The task isn't so easy because packing lists can be subjective. What's essential for one person may be unimportant to another.

We decided we needed a new packing list because the one we've used on previous long distance hikes was seeming a little bloated these days. And I guess because I've been one of the primary proponents of lightweight backpacking, the task fell to me.

One consideration I must weigh is the experience the boys have with lighter gear and doing without some gear. For example, I've ruled out alcohol stoves. Though they've become popular among lightweight backpackers, they require special care and skill. It's best not to risk a week in the backcountry on something the boys have no experience with.

So I thought I'd share the list-making process here and see if anyone wants to weigh in on suggestions. For starters, here's what I have on the list of items to wear and carry. And by carry, I mean besides the items packed deep in a backpack.

Items Worn
hiking shirt lightweight, wicking short-sleeve crew
underwear best: trim-fitting support shorts, boxer or boxer-briefs
hiking shorts lightweight, synthetic
hiking socks lightweight merino wool or synthetic
hiking boots make sure these have been broken in well!
hat * best: wide-brimmed, water-resistant
watch * make sure batteries are fresh
Items Carried
sunglasses 100% UV blocking, plastic lenses/frames
whistle best: pealess, plastic
compass even if you have a GPS, this is a must!
trekking poles * not essential, but many hikers find these helpful

By the way, the asterisk indicates the item is optional. Everything else is require.

I'll post more parts of the packing list later. Any thoughts on what I have so far?


May 27, 2006

This is cool.

From Google Maps Mania:

"This one gets the "awesome" label from Google Maps Mania for top notch interface, great idea, and concept stikiness (sic). The only thing lacking is the Internet Explorer interoperability."

Slammed with spam

May 23, 2006

I wouldn't claim a lot of people have found this blog, but the spammerbots sure have.

In the last few days I've received dozens of spam comments. Apparently, I'm not the only one to experience this.

Fortunately, one of the features of WordPress is an awesome spam blocker, Akismet.

All but a couple spam comments have been captured and destroyed before they reached public view.

Does anyone really order a mortgage from one of these spam sites? And just exactly what is phentermine, anyway? 

Dark underbelly of the AT

May 23, 2006

A few days ago I was going to mention this, but got distracted by life and other stuff…

Les Jones, standing in for Michael Silence at No Silence Here, found by way of Jim Fletcher (how's that for attribution?), a cool photo of what may be an artifact of the Appalachian Trail in days gone by. 

Influence peddling

May 23, 2006

I started writing this blog about six months ago for several reasons.

The main reason was to document and share some of the hikes I've taken. I thought my experiences might be interesting or even helpful to others.

I also thought this blog would be a chance to see the world of blogging firsthand. In my job I spend a lot of effort keeping track of trends on the Internet, but reading about them and being a part of them are two entirely different experiences.

One trend I saw but didn't expect to happen to me was attempts to influence what bloggers write.

Much has been written about companies trying to use bloggers to spread the word about their products. (For an interesting discussion of these practices, read a post J.D. Lasica wrote a few months ago.) Public relations companies have figured out that some bloggers are gaining a large audience, so they've tried to make use of this audience to sell products.

This goes beyond simply buying ad space in a blog to asking the blogger to write about the product or even endorse it. You might argue that's good marketing. But there are serious ethical issues involved. Sometimes the bloggers don't disclose when they've been paid or offered some other kind of perk for what they've written.

It doesn't surprise me that this happens. What surprised me was how quickly these p.r. people found me and my little, low-traffic, no-influence blog.

In March I received a message from someone who identified himself as an online organizer for a non-profit advocacy group.

"I work with Environmental Action, and this morning we kicked off Our Online Rally to Save the Forests."

Okay, harmless enough. I wasn't being offered anything, so had I written about it I wouldn't have crossed an ethical line. I wasn't offered any benefits for my words. The message I received was little more than a news tip.

The next day, I received an offer from the social network site, Gather.

"I recently came across your travel blog and I thought your postings were great and your approach to travel blogging is really unique. I wanted to reach out to you with an opportunity to enhance your readership and web traffic, and a chance to win a 7-night Mediterranean cruise!"

A little flattery doesn't hurt, though it's a stretch to call this a travel blog. But was this message an offer to influence me to promote the site?

Probably not. I was being asked to contribute content to the site. Yes, a contest was offered as an attempted inducement to to write, but the writing was not to be on my site and I wasn't asked to blog about Gather.com.

Soon I got wrapped up in other things and never wrote about Environmental Action or submit any writing to Gather.com. I didn't think much more about them until a few days ago I received a similar message.

"I’m writing to tell you about a new web site and a contest that might interest you and your readers."

With this there was a difference.

"Bloggers who visit the site, use it and blog about it can enroll to win an all expenses paid trip…"

I checked out the site and even registered to use it. It's an interesting social networking/Google map mashup site geared for outdoors enthusiasts.

Though I didn't enter the bloggers contest, I wouldn't have had a problem with it if I had and then blogged about the site, so long as I made it clear I was entering the contest.

So why didn't I blog about it?

Had I discovered the site on my own or if the p.r. person had sent me a message pointing out the new site, okay. Blog away.

The thing is, I can't control whether or not other bloggers who received the same offer will disclose their participation in the contest.

So my only recourse is to draw the line where I can, and that's to not write about the site at all. (Well, okay, I mentioned it, but I didn't say the name of it or provide a link to it.)

I fear this sort of blogger-baiting will become more and more common. Or at least the offers will become more common. As bloggers, we need to recognize our words have value and influence, and not do anything to compromise our credibility.

Off trail

May 17, 2006

I'm taking a few zero days from blogging while attending a conference in St. Petersburg. The Internet connection in my hotel is miserable, so I'm lucky just to be able to add this brief post. 


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