Thursday, July 1, 2010

Testing out Wordpress

In the constant search for a better blogging site/tool I have stumbled onto Wordpress. I will be running my blog off of Wordpress for now to see how I like it. You can check out my newly designed, but not lacking, blog at:

Let me know what you think! Sorry to those who are already subscribed via Blogger =(

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rawr! Bear!

This image was forwarded to me today in an e-mail. I sat there, read the whole thing, laughed and then got to thinking. From my experience of practically growing up in Yosemite, people for the most part do not know how to act around bears. So lets take the time to learn a little bit about the bear we will most likely come across in California.

If you are familiar with our state flag you will notice we have a bear on it. Now that isn't just any bear. The bear residing on our state flag is the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). Sadly the grizzly bear is now extinct in California. Back in in the early 1900's grizzly bears were hunted and killed as people moved their families and business out west. Grizzly bears being violent in nature posed a major threat to many people back in a time with limited science, technology and absolutely no regulations. Thus the bear was driven completely out of California. California does how ever have flourishing population of Black Bears (Ursus Americanus.) The black bear is a crafty little bear that seems to be making headlines across the state. Whether he is breaking into a Volkswagon Vanagon looking for Costco muffins, or being part of a huge controversial expansion plan headed by the California Department of Fish and Game (SLO County know what I'm talking about). 

Okay, so what do we need to know about this bear? Well first off if you plan on doing any camping or hiking in California's forested areas chances are you will be hearing about these guys. Black bears pose problems to people because people are generally not bear aware. Black bears are opportunistic scavengers. This means if they see an opportunity to snag some food, well by golly they will. As mentioned above they will break into cars just to find some sweet smelling grub. So please, if you go into bear country remember to keep anything that has a scent stored properly in bear proof containers and lockers. This is not only for your protection, but the bears health and safety rely on this as well. Lastly, what do you do if you are encountered by a black bear? Well who knows what your first instinct is. Maybe it's to snap a picture, maybe it's to scream like a school child and run. Regardless of what you may feel inclined to do, the proper reaction to any black bear encounter is the following:
  1. Stand your ground
  2. Make your self appear as large and as intimidating as possible
  3. Make loud noises. For example: Bang your trekking poles together or yell
  4. Throw sticks and stones at the bear if it will not move away from you
You should only attack the bear if it is a last resort and the bear attacks you. In this case you should aim for its nose and eyes. Like I mentioned, this is a last resort as it will most likely not happen. Black bears by nature will usually retreat if it feels threatened and will only attack if it feel like it has no escape or it is protecting cubs. Always leave a bear with an escape route.

The California black bear is a beautiful creature and should be treated with respect. Do your best to reduce the impact that we have on bears by properly storing your food and anything with a scent properly. If you know anything about Yosemite's bear regulations then you will know this is for the bears health and well being.

I now leave you with a video I grabbed from about how to survive a 1 on 1 encounter with a bear. Be safe!

**Video was set to a permanent auto play, heres the link for you to click on instead:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Backpacking Food: Think Outside The Pouch

  *Warning, this post is large and may take a while to read through. If you are interested in just the recipes and don't care to listen to me gab about my experience then please jump to the end of the post.

One of the essentials of any trip whether it be backpacking or travel in general, is food and preparation of said food. Only thing is with most backpackers you are limited to the supplies you bring with you. This includes ingredients and cooking tools. Wouldn't it be nice that after a long day of hiking you came into camp and had a nice pot roast with mashed potatoes and mom's homemade gravy, followed by a hefty portion of dessert? Well this most likely won't be the case. Instead you will come into camp after a long 15 mile day of high altitude hiking just to boil some water, pour it into a pouch, wait 20mins and then slurp down what was suppose to be "authentic" lasagna. In this post I will go over some very basic steps you can take to make that pot roast and mashed potatoes and closer to reality than you may think. I will help you think outside the pouch.

Freeze-dried foods have come a long way from their first commercial debut back in the '60s are actually quite tasty depending on the brand you buy. Some of my personal favorite brands are Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry. Mountain House for example also comes in convenient pre-vacuumed packed pouches that help you save on room. If you have a vegetarian in your group then Backpacker's Pantry offers a wide range of vegan and vegetarian meals. As nice and convenient as these pre-made, pre-packed meals are, they do get kind of old after chowing down on them for one to three weeks straight. So what kind of alternatives do we have? How about making your own meal? With everything that you want. You don't need to own your own freeze drying technology to make instant meals. You just need to be able to spot opportunities and utilize them. In our world today they have come up with an instant version of just about anything, and the awesome part is all you need to do is add water! Now go out and pick that winning combination of instant foods that you like at your local store and bring them home. We have work to do.

Last year I got really tired of slurping down freeze dried scrambled eggs for breakfast. The taste was bland, the eggs resembled something that my dog sneezed up and was overall unsatisfying. Thankfully in my resupply bucket I had packed some instant oatmeal. Now I cannot take credit for coming up with the idea of taking instant oatmeal with me, but the point is you don't have to be limited to buying special backpacking food. Now my oatmeal wasn't just plain oatmeal, that would be boring. I added a little bit of class to the mix by throwing in some dried blue berries. Hopefully you won't be in the same situation as I was when you have your epiphany. Try different combinations at home before you are solid on the idea. Make yourself breakfast one morning with instant oatmeal and add other things to it and see if the other ingredients are packable and will hold for a period of time with out refrigeration. Almost every type of fruit comes in a dried form and will generally last the duration of your trip. As always though, make sure you read the package and confirm that it does not need refrigeration. Maybe the idea of cooking breakfast isn't your thing at all, maybe you want a cold breakfast. Do not worry, there are options for that as well! Try a medley of granola and dried fruit instead! Want cereal? Try packing your granola with dried milk. Just add water and you have the best resemblance to Saturday morning cartoons meal you are going to get!

Okay, so you went to the store and picked up an entire arsenal of instant foods. What are you going to do with them all now? At the end of this post I will provide a link to some recipes that I have either come across or made up on my own. Make sure to check this out so you can see what to shop for or search your pantry for. Lets take for example you went out and bought all the fixings for your "pot roast and mashed potatoes" meal. You roughly have the following packages: Box-o-mashed potatoes (just add hot water), packet of instant dried gravy mix, sealed bag of pre-cooked meat (chicken, fish or beef), and for dessert you spoiled yourself and picked up a pouch of Mountain House Raspberry Crumble. Now put the pouch-o-dessert off to the side, that's already packaged for you. As for the rest of the stuff, start opening it. If you are super suave you will have a vacuum packer and it will make this all super easy, if not, no biggie. When ever you are packing your own food it is important that you save the cooking directions for the food. Cut out the directions and set them aside. In this example both the gravy mix and meat should not be removed from their packages. The gravy will get everywhere and the meat might spoil. Fear not though these items are usually already in nice small packages that don't weigh much and will not take up room. The potatoes however will need to be put in there own bag. Like I mentioned before, if you have a vacuum sealer then use this, if not a thick Ziploc bag (preferably one that can handle boiling water) will work just fine. Just remember to squeeze out all the air and include your cooking directions. You now have the backpackers version of meat, potatoes and gravy. To make this meal you simply just add the hot water directly into the bag you have your potatoes in and let it sit till its ready. Boil more water and add the gravy mix to it. Wait. Combine the gravy with potatoes and put meat on top. Yum! This is a very simple meal that can be put together by anyone and executed just the same as brand name backpacking food. Utilize these skills with a variety of foods to make your own meal combinations.

Okay I think I rambled on for long enough. Hopefully you got something useful out of all the jibber jabber. As always please feel free to comment and ask questions. You can also contact me via e-mail at

Now here are the recipe links I said I would provide. Feel free to do what you will with the recipes.

*Click Here for Food*

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Unorthodox: An Introduction

Sometimes when people see the word 'unorthodox' they think taboo or bad. This is not the case with me or with my blog. As defined by most dictionaries, Unorthodox simply means: independent in behavior or thought. There are certain standards that every backpacker follows, such as bring a backpack, bring food, bring water. If you break away from those things and try to 'free think' and do something non-conforming then you will likely end up dead or in really bad shape. Way to be a free thinker on that one. However, there are certain aspects of backpacking that can be allowed the privilege of unorthodox thinking. That will be the basis of this blog along with added content about my trip and other things backpacking that come to mind.

This upcoming summer I will be doing the John Muir Trail, again. I have done this trail several times now and with the combined experience from my dad I will be writing on ideas and concepts that might make your backpacking experience more enjoyable, functional and unorthodox. What happens when unorthodox becomes the orthodox? What happens when thinking outside the box becomes the norm?