Sad commentary

January 23, 2008

From CanYouSpeakThis Charley Reese at

The young lady recently murdered while hiking the southern tip of the Appalachian Trail might be alive today if she had tucked a pistol into her backpack or fanny pack.

I hope I’m not the only one who thinks you don’t have to pack heat to protect yourself.

UPDATE: In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, the link above was changed. I didn’t realize until later that the post at CanYouSpeakThis was reproduced from another site.


Power to the people

January 18, 2008

Bear Electric Fence SystemI’m no Luddite, but sometimes I rail against over-reliance on technology in the wilderness.

In fact, I’m just as tech-obsessed as the next geek. It’s just that I’d rather not trust my life to a set of AA batteries and a few microchips.

So when I saw this product, I was, well, shocked.

Bear Shock is the first ultra lightweight battery-powered, electric fence system and is designed to provide safety and sound sleep while in bear country and to help protect you and your equipment from curious bears by providing a surprising electrical shock if touched. Bear Shock uses three sets of poly-wire with two hot and one ground. When the energizer is turned on, Bear Shock will distribute an electric charge of about 6,000 volts if touched.

Okay, let’s think about this, folks. You’re going to carry a 3.7 lbs. (with batteries) device so you can forgo the need to properly store food and follow other safety precautions in the wilderness.

And if that does make sense, did anyone think of what’s likely to happen when you get up in the middle of the night to pee?

Tip: The Goat

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.

You never know when you might need them

December 30, 2007

Bert “Wildcat” Emmerson just returned home after having being forced to end his Continental Divide Trail thru-hike a little early.

He got severe frostbite after being stuck in a New Mexico snowstorm.

Emmerson lives in Maryville, just down the road from me. In today’s Daily Times newspaper he describes his ordeal and what he’s doing now.

“I’m playing ‘save the toes’ right now,” Emmerson said. “It looks like I’ll get to keep them.”

Better living through mountain climbing

August 15, 2007

The Guardian reports a group of 15 people in England who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression climbed a 4,406-foot mountain to improve their mental health.

More than three-quarters of the participants report a sense of achievement from the challenge and say they feel more confident. All 15 have reduced their night-time sedatives, five are on less psychiatric medication, and three have had fewer auditory hallucinations.

(Tip: Linda Benschop via AT-L)

I hate ticks

June 5, 2007


I hate emails forwarded by well-meaning but careless people that contain false and misleading information.

And I hate gratuitous exclamation points.

So as you might guess, this email I received today had me reeeeeeally annoyed:

Please forward to anyone with children . or hunters, etc!! thanks!
A School Nurse has written the info below — good enough to share — And it really works!!
I had a pediatrician tell me what she believes is the best way to remove a tick. This is great, because it works in those places where it’s sometimes difficult to get to with tweezers: between toes, in the middle of a head full of dark hair, etc.

The email goes on to say that if you place a cotton ball soaked in liquid soap on a tick embedded into your skin, it will gently back out.

No. No. No. A thousand times no.

Or should I say, No!!!!!

The only reliable way to remove a tick is to gently lift it with tweezers. (see FDA’s How to Remove a Tick)

And to put that email nonsense to rest, here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say:

Do folklore remedies work?
No. Folklore remedies, such as the use of petroleum jelly or hot matches, do little to encourage a tick to detach from skin. In fact, they may make matters worse by irritating the tick and stimulating it to release additional saliva or regurgitate gut contents, increasing the chances of transmitting the pathogen. These methods of tick removal should be avoided.