Dumber than a box of rocks

January 17, 2008

Box of rocksIn an article about Tennessee’s so-far futile efforts to stop unregulated rock mining from stripping the Cumberland Trail bare:

“This is a lot more benign than logging is,” said Rick Hitchcock, a Tennessee attorney who represents Lahiere-Hill LLC, which owns the mineral rights in this area.

Mr. Hitchcock is right, if by benign he means trampling everything is sight, filling creeks with silt, promoting soil erosion, and threatening wildlife with dozers, earth excavators and dump trucks in order to remove rocks that have been there for millions of years.

Tip: Jeffrey Hunter


Distress and stress are not the same thing

January 17, 2008

SARSAT satelliteThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put out a press release to brag that 353 people were rescued in 2007 with the aid of personal locator beacons.

Of the 353 rescues for 2007, 235 people were saved at sea, 30 were rescued from downed aircraft, and 88 were saved with help from their PLBs — the highest total since PLBs became operational nationwide in 2003. The total rescues in 2007 mark an increase from 272 the previous year.

Personal locator beacons have become cheaper and more commonly used by civilians, so it’s not surprising that the number of rescues has increased.

I’m all for safety, and I know that if my life was in peril while in the wilderness, I’d be grateful for a rescue, but I wonder about the effects this technology will have on rescue agencies and volunteer organizations.

One of the rescue “highlights” cited by NOAA is the aid given to a 71-year-old hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail, who was too exhausted to continue his hike.

Admittedly, I don’t know many details of this rescue, so perhaps this was a legitimate, life-threatening situation. But I know there are thousands of cases every year in which hikers get caught ill-prepared for conditions and unaware of the risks.

PLBs may soon do what cellphones and GPS units now do for some people in the wilderness, provide them a false sense of security.

PLB manufacturers include warnings like this:

This Personal Locator Beacon should only be used in situations of grave and imminent danger, and only as a last resort when all means of self-rescue have been exhausted.

But some people seem think their means of self-rescue has been exhausted because they forgot a flashlight or a raincoat.


January 17, 2008

Lane NakajiComments on my last post about ultra-marathoners on the Appalachian Trail generated some interesting responses.

Dave and samh wondered if trail running for records was an appropriate use of the trail.

But AT Class of 2007 thru-hiker Woodstock came to the defense of those who attempt to set speed records on the trail.

While it’s wise to consider appropriate uses of trails like the AT, I’m going to straddle the fence here. To be sure, I think you have to be crazy to run a 100-mile marathon, let alone a 2175-mile trail. I am also frequent to complain about so many people using their thru-hike to champion a cause.

But every time I start to question why someone did this or that on the trail, I always come back to the age-old reminder, “hike your own hike.”

Sometimes we hike for profound, life-changing reasons. Sometimes we hike because it’s fun.

An article about Lane Nakaji’s Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike in today’s Asheville Citizen-Times drove that point home for me.

People attempt long-distance hikes for a variety of reasons. For some, it marks an important moment in life, such as college graduation or retirement from a desk job, according to (PCT Communicator Editor) Angela Ballard.

Others set out with ambitions of writing a book or selling photos from their journey.

But Nakaji had no such plans. Instead, he took the first steps of a journey that wouldn’t end until Sept. 13 for different reasons — to tackle a challenge while connecting with nature.

“Around (Western North Carolina), I go out for a day or two at the most, usually it’s just overnight like most people,” he said. “But you come back, get back to work, and you’re kind of sore. You never really have a complete chance to get immersed into your surroundings. And I think that if you’re out there for more than four or five days, it starts to get easier.”