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Ready to Camp on the Moon

   [From National Geographic Traveler, September 2005]

   The vacation, I vowed, would be a raw, rugged, authentic camping trip among the rangelands and mountains of Utah and Wyoming and Montana. Ideally I would have taken no gear at all - just my wits, brio and brawn.

    We did pack a few things: tent, sleeping bags, a camp stove, matches. Oh yes, and mosquito repellent. Four small backpacks for day hikes. Sunblock and sunglasses. A head-mounted caving lantern. Pots and pans and Sierra cups and bungee cords and flashlights and backup batteries and camp soap and tinfoil and plastic bags. Inflatable pads for those rocky, uncomfortable surfaces. A Swiss Army Knife with every conceivable feature this side of a garlic press. Groceries, firewood, jugs of water, camp chairs, emergency disposable ponchos (incredibly, only a buck a pop, from Kmart), propane, a grill, grilling tools, a hatchet, a tarp, a wax tablecloth, garbage bags, a kitchen knife, a cooler. A heroic supply of beer and wine.Two bags of darkroasted gourmet coffee - Kenya beans ground extra fine. Premium Dominican cigars. In other words, we brought just the bare essentials.

   I had the whole thing pretty well mapped out, logistically, technologically, philosophically. There was just one hitch: The other seven people on the trip thought I was insane.These other seven people are the members of my immediate family. Each has his or her own technology philosophy, and the kind of technology that many of them favor is that thing we refer to in America as a "motel room."

   There was my wife, who was willing to camp so long as there were no bugs, precipitation, lightning, or creepy Deliverance-type people wandering around; my three daughters, lovely orchid-like creatures who will invariably embark on a hike with great enthusiasm before being halted, ten paces later, by thirst, hunger, bloatedness from overeating, insect-inspired terror, footwear disasters, gear problems, exhaustion, ennui, schadenfreude, or a disabling spasm of jealousy triggered by one sister's possession of, for example, a twig;my mother and stepfather, the most "outdoorsy" people in the party, who have worked hard as landscapers and farmers for many decades to ensure that they will never again have to do anything as unpleasant as sleep in a tent; and my brother Kevin, who got off the plane with enough additional equipment for a moon landing.

    Click here to read the entire story. The text is republished with permission from the September 2005 issue of National Geographic Traveler.

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 19, 2005; 7:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

Bravo on the camping trip, Joel. I must confess that everyday living for me is like a camping trip, without all the supplies you mentioned. Camping I have to admit is not one of those "situations" I'd like to be in, although it appeals to many. I can imagine sleeping in houses where one could see the ground while inside, may have tainted any appeal for the great outdoors.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 19, 2005 9:00 AM | Report abuse

What, no firearms, welding equipment, generator, compressor, etc.?

Bah.

I've found that bringing a dog or two keeps bears away from a campsite, at least on the east coast.

One more thing - biodegradeable toilet paper. Things can be unpredictable on vacation (and I see you brought a lot of coffee); the first time you have to sacrifice a sock, you swear to yourself there will *never* be a next time.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 19, 2005 9:08 AM | Report abuse

If I had sons, I would be a camping fool. Alas with daughters our vacations are usually some city where I follow them around the shopping haunts. I gave up on anything other than day trips to state parks years ago, and you can count all of the ones we took on one hand.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Traveling in bear country it's important to let the wuzzies know where you are. Most experienced hikers carry capsecum spray for defense and small bells so that Ursus arctos horribilis and his buds know you're about. It's also important to be able to recognize the locals both by sight and by scat. Black bears are smaller and less dangerous than griz. Their stool usually is composed of vegetable matter and may smell of berries with perhaps a few small animal bones intermixed. Grizzly bear stool many times contains small bells and smells strongly of capsecum.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 19, 2005 9:23 AM | Report abuse

If you go to a camping area with port-a-potties you can get a really nifty container (small, like the poncho) of flushable toilet seat covers from the Wal-Mart sample aisle in the toiletries area.

I've never been camping the way you have, JA. Only the kind where I have to carry 50 lbs on my back, canoe and portage into the camping area, get stuck in a storm, get lost because of the storm, get soaking wet because of the storm, eventually find the other canoeing party, find an emergency place to illegally camp because I'm close to having hypothermia and then spending the night in a soaking wet sleeping bag that isn't as good it claims to be because it didn't keep you warm even when it was wet.

We do this every year. At some point in the 5 day hike/canoe/camp I'm stuck on a boulder on the shore of a boulder-y island in an army issued poncho that doesn't actually keep you dry (but hey, at least it's camoflauged and I can snap all the ends together and become a Camoflauged Sara Hot-Pocket), in flip flops, wearing a canoe as a hat (to keep it from blowing away I just hook it over my head, it's easier than bending over for an hour or so with a pack on your back) in the middle of a storm while my step-dad says something like, "I know it's taken us 5 tries to canoe out of this bay, but I have a feeling on the 6th try we're gonna make it! We'll beat that wind!"

I didn't go this year. Had to work.

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 9:24 AM | Report abuse

LB, I've three daughters, and they enjoy camping at least in weekend-level doses.

They've all been camping since they were babies, so even though we only go once or twice a year, they're used to it.

And my oldest would indeed rather go to the Mall of America or 5th Avenue, but knows how to pitch a tent and handle firewood.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 19, 2005 9:30 AM | Report abuse

some womens likes it and some womens don't. Mines don't.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Kurosawaguy, I thought your post was so funny. Little bells, indeed!

Posted by: suecris | October 19, 2005 9:32 AM | Report abuse

bc, has she been to the Mall of America? It's highly overrated. It's filled with stores like MagnetWorld and has about 8 frozen yogurt stands. I go to the other Minneapolis/St. Paul malls now that the novelty of going shopping around an amusement park has worn off.

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 9:33 AM | Report abuse

The authoritative guide to backwoods elimination:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0898156270?v=glance

Posted by: jarmuschguy | October 19, 2005 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Michigan Ave in Chicago is where my eldest would want to camp out.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 9:45 AM | Report abuse

One of my father's heroes was John Muir, so we camped often in California, and far more rustically than you describe, Joel. Of course, our family has lots and lots of bear stories--my mother and father have their stories, we have our family stories, and my husband and I have our stories.

Once, we took my closest lifetime friend, Marie, with us on a camping trip to Yosemite Valley. We had stopped at some tourist lookout on the Valley floor, and Marie had to pee. Our family recommended that she go behind a clump of trees. She did, but ran back to us in a panic several moments later. "I saw a bear there!" she exclaimed. We replied, "Marie, we're sure you may have seen something, but not a BEAR!"

Marie now teaches kindergarten, and about two years ago wrote her first children's poem, "There's a Bear There," based, in part, on her Yosemite experience. On Monday night this week, she called to read to me her two latest efforts, "Where Does the Garbage Go at Night" and "Gopher Giggles." Work on getting them published, I advised. (But I am secretly touched by the bear poem.)

Of course, the scariest moment was at Sequoia National Park when a bear ambled into our campsite just after my father had removed thick steaks from over an open fire. My mother, sis and I headed for our '57 Chevy station wagon, where we huddled inside with windows rolled up, and doors locked.

My father stood his ground--he on one side of the picnic table with a wire fork--extended, used mostly by us for roasting marshmallows. The bear was on the other side of the table, its front paws on the seating bench. The steaks were between the two of them. My father, with a slightly aggressive, forward-leaning stance, stood his ground. For about one or two tense moments, the bear and my father just loked at each other. Finally, the bear turned tail. "I stared him down," my father would always say with immense pride, every time he recounted the story over the years.

Posted by: Loomis | October 19, 2005 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Great story, Achenbach.

I got stuck in a thunderstorm camping out in the plains by the cheyenne river once, in a little one-man tent, woke up with one side plastered to me while the other side was blown WAY far out. realizing I was the only thing holding the tent down, i managed to squirm out of it on my belly and get the stakes back down without losing life or limb. I was like Xena, warrior princess for the rest of the trip; I was invincible!

Posted by: LP | October 19, 2005 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Sara

Hah! Your story is almost as good as JA's. Admit it. You're a better person because you've braved the wild, right?

Posted by: CowTown | October 19, 2005 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Uncle Sam paid for all of the camping that I did. I've "camped" in sand storms, thunderstorms woke up with ice on my poncho, all kinds of neat enviornments.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 9:59 AM | Report abuse

When our family camped in Michigan when I was a very young child, I remember my Mom feeding the bears lemon drops and canned soup. These were the old days before the ADA when the mauling victims hid in their houses, so no one was aware of the danger. The bears would come down to the parking lot and kids would wait in the car while parents fed the (large brown) beasts.

Posted by: suecris | October 19, 2005 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Grizzly bear poop also contains little bells.

We camped at the North end of Vancouver Island this summer near Port Hardy. The campground had a large stream flowing through it which was filled with salmon of all kinds. Every morning and every evening like clockwork, a mamma and 3 cubs came out to have dinner on the breeding salmon. The campground was filled with people who came to see the bears, but who were so patently naive about bears it was amazing to watch. There is just something about photographers who want to get so close that they come between a mamma and cub. I of course always followed the first rule of bear watching. Make sure there is someone in the group who runs slower than you.

Posted by: dr | October 19, 2005 10:06 AM | Report abuse

oops, my fine version of eyesite did not cathc the bells part of Kguys post.

Posted by: dr | October 19, 2005 10:07 AM | Report abuse

LindaLoo

Your dad's like mine. No dumb animal is going to deprive our family of a meal, dammit.

I camped in Yosemite Valley near the Merced River with some friends many years ago. One night, a black bear ambled from the river and strolled down the road separating the camp sites. A number of campers took out their pots and pans and escorted the bear back to the river (keeping a respectful distance) while playing a pot & pan accompaniment. My friends and I watched the spectacle in the twilight, while a racoon took advantage of our distraction and feasted on our fish dinner.

Posted by: CowTown | October 19, 2005 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Linda, somewhere the bear was telling his family that the steaks were overcooked and not worth eating.

One of my best camping memories occured in about 5 0r 6 B.C. (before child). We were canoe camping with friends on the Buffalo River in northern Arkansas on the July 4 weekend. After we stopped for the night we caught a dozen bullfrogs- no gigging, just brightlight 'em from the bow of the canoe and grab 'em, pop 'em in a sack. After it got really dark we could see fireworks in the distance. Must have been some little town nearby. No sound, just the sight. A little jug wine and into the bag. Then when we got up we had frog legs and pan biscuits and gravy for breakfast! Perfecto. Oh, and everybody had to promise to actually eat the frogs before we killed them. The surplus Kermits were released.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 19, 2005 10:14 AM | Report abuse

rotflmao!!!! i snickered and giggled through that whole kit and the boodle! mom and i have done the camping thing since i was a little little girl... but mostly cape hattaras or chincotegue (sp?) - not so many bears there (hah!)... we've had our camping mishaps - once we were stuck in a hurricane whilst in a tent. I don't remember it cuz i was a little girl and slept through the whole thing (i can sleep like the dead!) but mom recounts having to scramble to keep the tent from blowing away. once we were in hattaras and mom decided she wanted to turn the nissan stanza into a 4-wheel drive and drowned the car on ocacrock (again sp?) island so we had to rent bikes for three days to get around till her sister rescued us and got us back to DC. but the most memorable camping trip was with me, mom, her fiance, 2 aunts, 2 uncles, and 5 cousins on an island off of moorhead city... supposedly there were water spickets on the island (um none to be found) and when one cousin and i went exploring around the island we found a cute little gathering of cows - my cousin said "look, that cow is dancing!" i said "um... that's not a cow, thats a BULL! RUNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!", oh, and then came a hurricane so we had to get off the island FAST in my uncles tiny boat... fun times, fun times...

Posted by: mo | October 19, 2005 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Ha! CowTown, you see right through me.

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 10:29 AM | Report abuse

oh, and one time we planned a trip to martha's vineyard and rented a cabin to "camp" in... i was thinking of all the cabins i had ever scene on tv - with, you know, the fireplace and the cozy couches and seperate rooms with big beds and fluffy comforters... um... not so much! this was a tiny one room cabin with a tri-bunk bed (smaller than a single size bed!) and one double bed - i've had tissue paper thicker than the mattresses! there was a camp fire circle outside next to the stove/grill... we ended up having a great time tho'... got a bunch of lobsters for a song and a dance... and entertained ourselves with the skunks... i don't know how they got to the island but they are all over. and they are apparently very smart - we were warned to make sure to keep all food very tightly locked up cuz they've figured out how to open up coolers and such... the couple next to us fed this one skunk marshmellows and he got his feet all sticky (the skunk) and was trying to walk on the gravel that kept sticking to him... entertaining!!!

Posted by: mo | October 19, 2005 10:31 AM | Report abuse

and no, fortunately, we didn't get showered in skunk perfume... guess they weren't scared of us... they are cute buggers tho!

Posted by: mo | October 19, 2005 10:35 AM | Report abuse

My backwoods high point was a few too many years back when my "anything worth doing is worth overdoing" friend decided that hiking would be fun, and why don't we go to the Grand Canyon and do North rim to South rim and back. The trip was hard but the scenery was stunning.

My girlfriend is not a camper, I suppose if I ever manage to make it up Old Rag it'll be solo...

Posted by: Les | October 19, 2005 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I have two young sons; one a Cub Scout, the other a Boy Scout.
There is no better quality time with them than the time we spend camping.

Back to Sara's spiders. At Scout camps, the tents are 'military style' and do not zip up. Anything can crwl in at any time. You certainly do not want to keep food in there. Both of my boys have an aversion to spiders. I tried to explain to them both why I do not kill the spiders living in the tops of those tents. I instead make a deal with them. I leave them alone and, in turn, they get all of the mosquitoes that they can eat. I suppose I am westnileaphobic!

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 10:44 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Crawl

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 10:48 AM | Report abuse

hah! esskay - do you shake on it? i dunno... spiders or mosquitoes... mosquitoes or spiders... i'm torn there... i hate spiders but mosquitoes love me so... whomever is was that stepped on that tarancula - EEP!!! i had goose bumps for 5 min after i read that!

Posted by: mo | October 19, 2005 10:51 AM | Report abuse

My favorite part about camping is snipe hunting.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 10:51 AM | Report abuse

You have spiders living in the top of your tent?

I'm all for camping, but that's going too far. They could drop down on you during the night and crawl on you.

I'm all shivery now.

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 10:54 AM | Report abuse

so peanut, have you ever held the bag waiting for the snipe?

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Snipe hunting was a favorite until Scouts banned anything that seemed like hazing.

An odd thing I found when I moved from DC so PA was that some folks, north of the Mason-Dixon line, hunt for eldibridge. I had never heard that one before

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Eldibridge?

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Dropping spiders have more appeal to me than being feasted on by mosquitoes.

My boys can't handle it though. I have to go and eliminate all eight-legged creatures from their tents.

It's not like they are huge spiders...

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Eldibridge seems to be South-Central Pennsylvannia's version of Snipe. Go figure?!

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 10:58 AM | Report abuse

LB: only the first time. Now I tell tales of the great snipe hunts of yesteryear to the uninitiated campers of tomorrow.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 11:02 AM | Report abuse

well I'm glad you didn't do it more than once.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Size doesn't matter, esskay.

Though the big ones are more frightening than the little ones, I'm still not about to make deals with the little ones.

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 11:07 AM | Report abuse

ok - i'm missing something here - what the heck is snipe hunting? i keep thinking sniper hunting which doesn't sound like pgm - what bag is it that you hold?

Posted by: mo | October 19, 2005 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like Karl/Tom and Scooter/Rick may need some camping tips...

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I never got to hold the bag. I had to bang on a can with a stick to scare the snipe (snipes?) out of the underbrush. This, of course, herded them toward the bagholder...

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Some of my more memorable camping moments involved slightly creepy/"ecentric" humans, not scary animals.

When I was about 12 years old, my family went camping on Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia. (Maybe it wasn't *really* "camping" as such; we stayed in a caravan park.) There was this bloke who either lived at the park or just liked to hang around there a lot, and he would ride his bicycle back and forth, back and forth, along the dirt road behind our campsite. He was one of those couple-of-sandwiches-short-of-a-picnic types, which my younger siblings and I found terribly funny back then -- during daylight hours, at least. Nighttime was a different story. I would scare the bejeebus (sp?) out of my sister by telling her bedtime stories with titles such as "The Night of the Bike." (I wasn't scared myself, of course. Well, not much.) I don't recall what my parents thought of this guy; if they had any concerns, they probably didn't share them with us.

When I was older, I went camping with my boyfriend (again, in a wimpy caravan park, although we did have a no-frills tent, which we pitched by a river, so I guess you could call it camping). We attracted the attention of an individual similar to the one described above (I seem to be a magnet for these types). He was quite the chatterbox, and we really felt we'd accomplished something when we finally managed to extricate ourselves from the "conversation" (it was more like a monologue) in order to retire for the evening. However, a handwritten religious/philosophical missive was soon slipped through the tent flap for our perusal. I found it kind of hard to sleep that night -- I was never really sure whether the guy had gone away or if he was still lurking outside the tent. Now that I think about it, I probably should have been more scared than I actually was at the time. Well, maybe not; he was probably harmless.

Posted by: Achenfan | October 19, 2005 11:10 AM | Report abuse

mo
its a secret, you have to experience it.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 11:12 AM | Report abuse

LB, did you use the bang-can method or the stealth method?

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

You see mo, snipes are these small woodland creatures that while are not edible, are not harmful to humans and great fun to catch and release. They are small, gentle and fleet-footed flightless birds. Should one go camping in a group situation (scouts, field trips and whatnot) there is usually an organized snipe hunt scheduled for an evening as dusk is their most active time of day. Now, it is illegal to kill or harm snipes, so what happens is that the quicker folks run around herding snipes into bags held by the stronger (generally older and more experienced) folk. It is an excellent way to spend an evening and great fun to release all caught snipes at the end of the day. If you have managed to catch any at all that is. Like I said, they are quick little buggers.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Spiders are the worst. I don't like spiders, and where I live, we have more than our share. The big ones and the little ones. The big ones are usually harmless, but there is a tiny one called the brown recluse, if bitten by this piece of nature, hospital or death. Baddddddddddddd.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 19, 2005 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Fortunately I've never been snipe hunting. Just didn't have the patience for it.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Rats, I didn't see your post LB until after I had posted. Do you think I've said too much?

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 11:17 AM | Report abuse

peanut, you are full of it

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 11:17 AM | Report abuse

We adopted the bang-can method because we rarely, if ever, saw any when trying to sneek around quietly.

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

LB, I aim to please.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Kurosawaguy writes:
"Linda, somewhere the bear was telling his family that the steaks were overcooked and not worth eating."

Kurosawaguy,
You're just the guy I wanted to run into today. As far as my dad's "grinning down the b'ar" story, I think it was a she-bear with two cubs, but I'd have to check with my sis on that, since my mother has very little memory left.

But it raises a great question for you, oh great intellect of order, phyla and class (I've always said that you've got class...):

Are bears carnivores, omnivores or herbivores? Does eating fish count as carnivore?

This is what I found on the net regarding brown bears, but I do recall your gentle and helpful correction to me re: civet "cats" being placental mammals. Thanks for your help--in advance--today, too.
Class: Mammalia (mammal)
Order: Carnivora (meat-eating mammals)
Family: Ursidae (bears)

And you're right, my father did prefer his muscle meat more thoroughly cooked than my husband and I now prefer ours. But I liked Cowtown's reply better--how I remember the bears raiding trash cans, coolers at the campsite, coolers and food stashes in station wagons at Sequoia. At Yosemite when we were small, my dad would drive to the trash dump at sunset, with us in tow, just to watch numerous bears graze.

Posted by: Loomis | October 19, 2005 11:24 AM | Report abuse

We were camped in Watoga State Park in West Virginia and a large group of Mennonites came in and camped across the road. They were "plain" but not Amish- black sedans and pickups, long skirts, headcoverings. They set up a big rain fly and cooked communally and after dinner they sang. It was beautiful. Some of the hymns and songs I knew, most I didn't, but the unaccompanied singing in the woods at night around a fire was something I'll never forget.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 19, 2005 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Your Mennonite camping story reminds me of Hawaii--the native Hawaiians coming down on the beach to "camp" for the day--bringing their foods, instruments, dance, and ancient and modern songs. The treat of a lifetime.

Posted by: Loomis | October 19, 2005 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I used to camp when I was a kid -- Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior was a highlight (until we got back to "camp", which was on Lake Huron, whereupon I lost my cookies for a couple of days, which I know is more than anyboodler needs to know -- besides, it was way in the middle of the last century, so who cares?). Unfortunately, due to completely shot knees (the medical terminology used by my orthopedist), I can't do the camping thing anymore, and with regret. Those were nice times.

When I was in Africa two years ago, in one of my safari places, I stayed in a tent camp just outside the Serengeti, which was magnificent. And in this one, the toilet was indoors and the entire tent was a zipped one (don't want any surprises during the night) and had a nice wood floor. Not all of the tent camps were like this one. It was on the banks of the Grumeti River, full of hippos during the day and crocodiles (which are HUGE). At night there were the sounds of the hippos, lions roaring, and my all time favorite -- the trumpeting of elephants. It's called the African Lullaby, and is truly well named.

I learned from the rangers (who honestly know every single blade of grass over there) that there are about 108 muscles in the trunk of an elephant, and that it takes a couple of years before the youngsters can control them and work them right. Before that time, the babies have to crouch down to the water to drink (which makes them very vulnerable), and they get so frustrated at not being able to control their trunks they stomp their feet in protest.

Whence come earthquakes. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 19, 2005 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I used to camp when I was a kid -- Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior was a highlight (until we got back to "camp", which was on Lake Huron, whereupon I lost my cookies for a couple of days, which I know is more than anyboodler needs to know -- besides, it was way in the middle of the last century, so who cares?). Unfortunately, due to completely shot knees (the medical terminology used by my orthopedist), I can't do the camping thing anymore, and with regret. Those were nice times.

When I was in Africa two years ago, in one of my safari places, I stayed in a tent camp just outside the Serengeti, which was magnificent. And in this one, the toilet was indoors and the entire tent was a zipped one (don't want any surprises during the night) and had a nice wood floor. Not all of the tent camps were like this one. It was on the banks of the Grumeti River, full of hippos during the day and crocodiles (which are HUGE). At night there were the sounds of the hippos, lions roaring, and my all time favorite -- the trumpeting of elephants. It's called the African Lullaby, and is truly well named.

I learned from the rangers (who honestly know every single blade of grass over there) that there are about 108 muscles in the trunk of an elephant, and that it takes a couple of years before the youngsters can control them and work them right. Before that time, the babies have to crouch down to the water to drink (which makes them very vulnerable), and they get so frustrated at not being able to control their trunks they stomp their feet in protest.

Whence come earthquakes. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 19, 2005 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Wow. That's the first time I've been double-posted. Don't know what to think abt it. Guess I'll look upon it as a badge of honor.

Say, anybody ever seen a badger?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 19, 2005 11:32 AM | Report abuse

k-guy and firsttime, your camping stories are really touching. Makes me miss heading off into the great outdoors to be at the mercy of mother nature, my wits and my fellow campers.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I was once roaming the deep-dark forest in Rockville, Md and a strange sound slowly rose in the woodland. It grew louder as it got closer. It turned out to be a man, in full Scottish attire, playing a bagpipe. He approached and walked by me without eye contact or missing a beat. It was very unusual and out-of-place. But, the sound through the trees was very cool in an eerie sort of way. I think I was about 14 at the time...

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

K-guy, great post! It reminded me of that TV show a few years back, Northern something, with the Canadian Mountie in Chicago. He'd always be picking up anything off the street -- poop, chewed gum, etc. -- and sniffing it and licking it to come up with clues.

I've been camping more times than I can count and have never been anywhere near a bear. But there were some talented racoons and -- one time -- a frisky armadillo that was sniffing around our tent in the middle of the night. My wife was in fear for her life. I calmly explained that I hadn't read in recent days of any people getting killed by armadillos.

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 19, 2005 11:39 AM | Report abuse

esskay
that sounds like a dream with some sort of deep seated meaning

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 11:41 AM | Report abuse

peanut - tanx! *phhttthhh* to you LB! *smiley emoticon*

firsttime - that sounds absolutely wonderful!!!! one of my "must do" travel aspirations is a safari! did you see a baby elephant? what other animals did you see there and how was it seeing them up close and personal-like? anyone else been on safari?

Posted by: mo | October 19, 2005 11:41 AM | Report abuse

armadillos are the only animal other than man that carries leprosy .

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 11:43 AM | Report abuse

peanut, mo bought it hook line and sinker. Now we just need to get her a bag

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Hmm, I think I remember being awake.
Anybody know a Scotsman living near the Rockville Civic Center?

As it turns out, that is the very same stretch of woods that I saw my one and only ghost. However, that one was at 2am, not in the middle of the day...
I suppose that adds to the analysis

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Cooking on a fire is one of the best things ever. I used to work in a restoration village, civil-war era, (like williamsburg)and in the fall we'd do huge cook-outs by the bonfire. There was a troop of older women that prided themselves on their ability to cook over open fires, and would do a HUGE thanksgiving dinner, all cooked over open flames all day. Nothing beats sitting around a camp fire with a bunch of civil-war re-enactors, eating some of the best food you can imagine. The hard part was just resisting the urge to wipe the grease off on your petticoats.

Posted by: LP | October 19, 2005 11:47 AM | Report abuse

oh, man, i'm hungry now.

Posted by: LP | October 19, 2005 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I learned how to cook using a dutch-oven last year. Very cool! My Cub Scouts have taken first place for their desserts at our spring campout both in our rookie season and again this year...

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I find that coarse burlap bags do the trick nicely.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Hey mo, want to go camping? We can go Achencamping and snipe hunting!

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 11:54 AM | Report abuse

or a 55 gal plastic trash bag in case you get a big one.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 11:58 AM | Report abuse

don't suffocate the poor things!

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I know this is very weird but I just added a Kit on a reader who hates the Post magazine columnists (it's a funny letter -- "hates" may be a bit strong), but for Typepad software quirky reasons, it is the second item and not the first item. But whatever. No one cares. Please do not die, Boodle.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 19, 2005 12:00 PM | Report abuse

we sent a kid out with a bag one time and after it got dark we heard a lot of screaming. When we went to check in the morning, all we found were shards of clothing and an empty bag. Never found the kid, although I do see his face on milk cartons occasionally.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Dear Joel,
Due to my immense inability to multitask, I will apologize now for any pauses my boodling for a short time to read and catch up to new kits. I vow that I will not abandon and/or aid in the death of this boodle. Also, would you come snipe hunting with us?
Yours always,
Peanutgallerymember

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 12:06 PM | Report abuse

mo -- you gotta go. And that goes for everyone else.

To me, Africa is beyond magic! Everyone I met, both in Kampala, Uganda (where I was teaching for a week) as well as in Tanzania, were so warm and friendly. They treated me as if I were a long lost family member. I was moved to tears on many occasions.

Well, I never saw a leopard (which means that I must go back, of course), but I saw a lot of lions, with absolutely adorable cubs, one of whom tried to stalk one of the older males. It was so cute, when she (I think it was a "she") crouched down and crept really close. Just as she was about to pounce, she sat up and scratched herself. I burst out laughing.

I also saw a cheetah with four cubs (who were maybe close to a year old). Cheetahs (and leopards) are solitary, but I don't know how much time it takes for the cubs to strike out on their own. I have a wonderful picture of mom and one of her cubs leaning gracefully back against a termite mound. Her ears were relaxed (not so, the cub), and the ranger and I figured she had eaten recently (so I wouldn't be quite so appetizing to her). It was in the late afternoon (and one has to be out of the Serengeti by 7 pm), and while it was still pretty hot out, it wasn't quite so bad as it would have been in the stark sun of midday. The cubs were curious, but also felt protected by their mother, and they didn't venture at all close to the jeep. But we got pretty close, anyway.

I saw some small elephants, but they and the females in the herd were pretty shy, so as soon as they saw us, they started moving. I got pretty good at reading elephant dung (I think all my years in DC has CERTAINLY prepared me for that job!), though. I also saw a lot of pregnant zebras. The zebras have a hierarchical pecking order, and woe to the zebra who steps out of line. The wildebeest (gnus) don't, however, so that when one goes running, they all do.

I also learned of the symbiotic relationship many of the herbivores have with one another. Apparently (and I hope I've remembered correctly), the zebras eat the tops of the grass, the wildebeest eat the middle part and the gazelles/antelopes eat the bottom part. You always see them grazing together.

The hyenas are interesting, too. I seem to think that they have sweet faces, but that's all that's sweet about them. They are pretty vicious scavengers. The packs are only females. They, um, entertain male presence only for breeding purposes and then kick them out.

I saw a rhinocerous in the Ngorongoro Crater, but far off (and my then I had figured out the zoom on my camera (whew!)), and we couldn't go off-road there. The rhinos are few and far between in Tanzania because of all of the poaching.

I did see some young giraffes, who were really cute. The big ones seem to emanate out of the treetops. Simply magnificent. The young adolescents challenge the older males by flinging their necks against them. When I saw it in action, I was struck by the nonchalance with which the older males took it -- almost laughing it off. Giraffes have been known to kick lions to death, so lions are pretty wary of them.

One of my students, who is Zambian, has told me stories of his family and tribe and that one of his uncles is a reformed poacher. We've had long email discussions about it all.

Africa is such a welcoming place, and it will completely obliviate everyone's preconceptions. If I were 30 years younger and still had knees that worked, I would be over there for extended periods of time.

My heart is there, waiting somewhat impatiently, for my return.

go go go go go !!!!!

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 19, 2005 12:06 PM | Report abuse

mo, LB and peanutgallerymember:

Information on the Common snipe Gallinago gallinago can be found here:

http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i2300id.html

Posted by: TV Presenter | October 19, 2005 12:08 PM | Report abuse

*frowning emoticon* hahaha so the joke is on me now eh? hey, i was never in the scouts so i have no idea what you guys are talking about! *grumble grumble grumble*

LB - that armadillo reminds me of the line from "happy texas" "did you just hit me with a dead armadillo?" i got a picture of an armadillo at chichen itza in the yucatan jungle in mexico... they look so cool!!

Posted by: mo | October 19, 2005 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Linda, as a practical matter I'd class bears as omnivores because they do eat just about anything, but taxonomically they are carnivora. Bears who hibernate will eat a lot of vegetation in the fall to constipate themselves. This enables their system to extract the max nutrition from what's in them when they nod off for the winter. In spring they go for lots of berries to blow out the fecal plug and get things moving again. There is an interesting documentary called "Grizzly Man" about a guy in Alaska who lived with bears for over a dozen years. Very strange dude. He and his GF were killed and eaten by a bear who was not habituated to their presence.

FTblogger, Isle Royale is great but the skeeters are fearsome! We were hiking one afternoon near dusk and I spotted a cow moose about 15 yards off the trail. I tried to get my wife to stop for photography- "Hey babe, stand over next to that 8 foot high moose, willya?"- but she just said that she wasn't going to stand still until the tent was pitched and she was inside. These miniature vampires are big and slow, but they fly into your nose and ears and bite any exposed flesh. They seemed to think DEET was some kind of marinade.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 19, 2005 12:11 PM | Report abuse

armadillos tear up your yard digging for grubs. I shoot them whenever I see them. I kicked one once and darn near broke my foot.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Ironically, my first snipe hunt was on a church sponsored youth camping trip. So don't feel so bad mo. At least you were duped by people who care about you.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

We have an armadillo living near the corner of our property (outside our fence). They stink like you wouldn't believe, but are fun to watch waddling. They can dig faster than you can blink.

We have a West Highland Terrier who loves to sit at the edge of the fence and watch the armadillo. I'm sure he dreams that one day he'll get loose while the armadillo is foraging. Hopefully that will never happen. You'd know why if you've ever seen their claws.

Posted by: TV Presenter | October 19, 2005 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Firsttime: You certainly make me want to run out to the zoo at lunchtime. Too bad its two-and-a-half hours from me now.

Once I get the boys off to college (9 more years), I will have to go over there, it sounds wonderful.

The tent you talked about can be found for sale in the Cabella's catalogue (a campers bible!). Now that's camping!

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 12:15 PM | Report abuse

With apologies to Stanley Kubrick and Slim Whitman:

"Geez, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all THAT stuff."

Posted by: bob | October 19, 2005 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I love the smell of deet in the morning...

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 12:17 PM | Report abuse

It's dead, Joel.

Posted by: TV Presenter | October 19, 2005 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of sleeping in tents and roughing it, I hate to go off topic (I know how this Boodle hates it when somebody does that) but Hurricane Wilma is now reported to be the most intense hurricane EVER RECORDED, and appears to be headed toward Florida. Do you think maybe one of us ought to, you know, e-mail FEMA and let them know it's coming, or do you think they've finally learned to turn on the weather channel? I'd hate for them to be unprepared for THE WORST HURRICANE EVER RECORDED, which is, like headed toward the United States. Perhaps they shopuld start rounding up ice, in case the power might go out, due to THE WORST, MOST INTENSE HURRICANE EVER RECORDED.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 19, 2005 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I heard that by the time Wilma hits Florida it will have been downgraded to a breeze and drizzle.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 12:29 PM | Report abuse

peanut - it seems the snipe is a rite of passage... thanx for the initiation and the good natured ribbing! *smiley emoticon*

firsttime - man, i'm ready to book my trip right this second! i'm definetly going to go (ok, not right this second, but soon!)

LB - i spit water on my monitor when you said you kicked an armadillo... i can just see it!

esskay - my mum lives right across the street from the civic center! i love all those old cemetaries right there - it prolly was a ghost you saw - i mean, you have a plethora of cemetaries right there... but more likely it was a deer and you need to stop smokin that wacky weed! hah!

Posted by: mo | October 19, 2005 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I work at FEMA

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Deet is my favourite perfume.

Bayou Self, the show was called Due South. Mounties really do that you know. They have this sixth sense thing going on or so the 2 former mounties in my office tell me. Of course they assume I have never been snipe hunting.

Just in case you noted yesterday, my note about engineers, I work in a very diverse office. We have engineers, surveyors, welders, ex-mounites, ex-city cops, ex-military, a guy who writes dangerous goods handling materials, computer geeks in marketing, and the guy who repairs blood and urine sample equipment for hospitals and labs (We have a very exciting fridge, and no we do not mess with his stuff, EVER.).

Posted by: dr | October 19, 2005 12:40 PM | Report abuse

LB: You work at FEMA? No lie? That's great. My work here is done. Assume you've sent a memo upstairs, right?

Joel: to get a Swiss Army Knife with a garlic press, you have to buy the Emeril Lagasse Signature Model. It comes with a little built-in Essence dispenser next to the toothpick and combination tweezers/zesting rasp.

Hurricane Wilma is supposed to be measured at 882 millibars (Katrina went down to 902, or something like that). Perhaps Joel can explain to us layman what millibars are: a kind of campfire desert, like 'Smores, aren't they? (Perhaps Loomis will give us the recipe, since she won't divulge the pancake formula.)Are millibars good or bad? Do grizzlies eat them (and are they found in grizzly stool next to the bells?)?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 19, 2005 12:47 PM | Report abuse

re: "One dollar at KMart!"

This is off-topic, but it's kind of funny and related to the punchline quoted above.

My daughter is a very imaginative dresser--I really can't even describe her outfits, let it suffice to say when you see her, you are seeing a clothing combination/creation that you have never seen before. She likes to be noticed. I, on the other hand, like to be low-key to the point of invisibility. Beige is my color, and everything I wear is conservative. When we are out together, over and over people will pass us and say, "Great outfit!" "Cool!" and so on. And I generally turn to them, smile and say, "Thanks! I got it at WalMart!"

My daughter is so cool that she thinks that is funny--she thinks her corny old mom is funny. It's what I love most about her.

Posted by: Reader | October 19, 2005 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Here's my on-topic comment:

When I was in high school, my dad and I hiked the Continental Divide Trail from Wolf Creek Pass to Silverton, Colorado. About a week, very high trail. Lots of up and down. Usually, on a mountain hike, coming to a pass means you hike up and over it. On the Divide Trail, when you come to a pass, it's downhill to the pass and then uphill after you get by it. We didn't take a tent. We didn't take a stove. BUT, we both took books. (that's the one item that was left off the long list of necessaries in Joel's article.)

Posted by: Reader | October 19, 2005 12:59 PM | Report abuse

The lower the millibars, the greater the low pressure, the more energy gets sucked into the low pressure system, the stronger the storm. So if you're in a thunderstorm and the millibar pressure starts dropping, you should seek shelter immediately because it means the storm is intensifying.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Um, sorry, but it was Slim Pickens, not Slim Whitman who played Major Kong in "Doctor Strangelove". Peter Sellers was supposed to play that part as well as the title role and Major Mandrake of the RAF and President Muflin, but he hurt his foot rehearsing the bomb riding scene and they were never happy with his attempts at a Texas accent anyway, so they brought in Pickens and told him to be himself. Trivia- this was James Earl Jones' first film.

As far as millibars, they're just like minibars, only ten times smaller.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 19, 2005 1:12 PM | Report abuse

But minibars come in flavors like Milky Way, Snickers, Jack Daniels and tequila. The chocolate based minibars are especially prevalent this time of year. Millibars come in flavors like mercury and that red water-like substance found in thermometers. I must now go hunt down a pack of Snickers minibars.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 1:22 PM | Report abuse

One more camping story; please stop me if I've boodled on it before.

A friend of mine and I went camping in Ohio some years ago. I packed all the camping gear and a big (7'x 14' IIRC) tent we nicknamed "Taj Mahal" since it was HUGE when set up. We drove my car the 7 hours to Ohio, then when we got there decided to see some sights and enjoy the rest of a nice summer's day, rather than do the logical thing and set up camp right away.

Well, we get back to our site, unpack the stuff, and realize that I forgot something rather important: the tent poles.

While I sat down and began castigating myself (OK, and drinking a beer), my buddy pulled out his Swiss army knife and went into the woods. Some time later, he dragged a bunch of branches and saplings into camp, and began removing the limbs from them.

A light went on in my head, and I pulled out the twine and duct tape I keep in the camping equipment. We used the branches and saplings as tent poles, held all the intersections together with duct tape, and used the twine to add tension to stakes where necessary to keep the entire enterprise upright.

We were so (perhaps inordinately) pleased with ourselves that we flew a pair of boxers from the tall center pole as our Flag of Manliness. The tent stayed up the entire weekend, including weathering a thunderstorm.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 19, 2005 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I'll say it again: it's very tough to beat well-applied duct tape for many emergency situations.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 19, 2005 1:32 PM | Report abuse

The Flag of Manliness! Another new concept born here in the Boodle. Well done, sir!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 19, 2005 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Mo - The house I grew up in is about a mile from the Civic Center. A few of my anscestors are buried in the St.Mary's cemetery there on old Baltimore Road.

One of the things that I absolutely miss about living down there is sledding on the Civic Center hill. You will have to try it one night (don't hit any snipes). On a good night, we used to have 200 people there sledding. I once fell into the creek and had to walk the mile home in sub-zero temperatures.

I will tell my ghost story at a later time. I do not necessarily believe in ghosts, but there was no other explanation that night (including mind-altering natural or chemical substanes!).

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Duct tape is indeed a wonderful thing.

But a while back I found out about gaffer's tape. It'll set you back up to $30-$40 a roll at theater supply shops. But it's stronger, rips by hand more readily, and leaves little or no residue behind.

I suppose it's not greatly superior to the high-end duct tape, but sure beats the cheaper stuff I've found in my kit sometimes when I needed better.

(Also, you can't leave home without bailing twine....)

Posted by: Les | October 19, 2005 1:44 PM | Report abuse

My dad often said that if it can't be fixed with a hammer or duct tape, it ain't worth fixin'

Gaffers tape is great and seems to be more cloth based. I am not sure how it would hold up to a big rain.
Duct tape should be in the trunk of every car. However, cheap duct tape tends to melt in hot weather.

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 1:49 PM | Report abuse

And as a side note, I was exposed to gaffer's tape at said Rockville civic center theater.... After a hiatus I'm finally back in a show there but I think I've successfully bowed out of the setbuilding business. Took me long enough, though.

One set I was building a few years back we had a heavy snow one weekend. While I was in the set bay at the bottom of the hill you'd get one or two 'whoomp's on the back wall per hour as someone would fail to keep left.

Posted by: Les | October 19, 2005 1:51 PM | Report abuse

[Do all you 'boodlers realize there's a new Kit? (It's listed in a very unorthodox position on the menu, so you might not have noticed it. It's called "Reader Hates Neurotic Columnists.")]

Posted by: Tom fan | October 19, 2005 1:53 PM | Report abuse

my working at FEMA is inded a lie.

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 1:55 PM | Report abuse

indeed

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I like inded. Contains character.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 2:00 PM | Report abuse

contained one too few characters

Posted by: LB | October 19, 2005 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush camped out in Bakersfield for awhile.

They lived 4.03 miles from our family house, a drive of 8 minutes and 30 seconds. (I used MapQuest.) And Kern County officials (the sods) are going to turn the house into a MUSEUM.

(My initial, private reaction is EEEeeeeuuuuWwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!)

But wonder if my dad's path ever crossed George H.W.'s path...unlikely, but entirely possible, given the oil field equipment connection. (Of course, our antecedents mixed in up in a courtroom in New Town, Mass., in 1637-8.)

From Froomkin's column today...
A Bush Museum

Steve Chawkins writes for the Los Angeles Times: "For about three months in 1949, an oil-field equipment salesman named George Bush lived on a quiet street in east Bakersfield with his pregnant wife, Barbara, and their 3-year-old son, also named George. Last month, Kern County officials approved the transformation of the family's modest rental -- a two-bedroom white-frame house in a neighborhood now heavily Latino -- into a museum.

" 'We thought it was important that the house do some good,' said its owner, Republican political consultant Mark Abernathy, who plans to build a reading center for neighborhood children in the museum's back yard. 'It's almost like a duty.' "

Posted by: Loomis | October 19, 2005 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Sara, please forgive my lapse in responding to your comment re. MOA at 9:33 AM.

To a 13 year old American female, could there possibly be anything better than a combination shopping mall and amusement park?

That place is like el Dorado to some people...

bc

Posted by: bc | October 19, 2005 2:18 PM | Report abuse

No worries, bc. I had forgotten I'd asked. I guess when I was 13 it was really exciting for me, too. Though I was never really that interested in the amusement park. The rides aren't all that great. I think the fact that they're limited to the size of the center of the mall has something to do with it. Though the log ride is always a treat. But by the time I was 16 or 17 I had moved on to the smaller malls. The MOA is actually one of the lower-end malls of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Especially since gangs and violence have been on the rise. Now they have age limits and curfews at the mall.

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Sara, Do they still erect the Ice Castle in St.Paul for the Winter Carnival(?)? I saw it from a train going into Minneapolis for Super Bowl XXVI. It was night and it was lighted. It looked real cool (no pun), I am sorry I did not get a chance to actually visit it...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 19, 2005 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, they do. They make a different one every year. It's huge and it's really cold.

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I'll pass that info on, Sara.

Thanks.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 19, 2005 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Here's hoping for another blog on good Ol' Wilma.

882 millibars is very intense-- Typhoon Tip (look it up on wikipedia) didn't get that low and it was huge enough to have eaten half of the United states from the map.

Of course, Wilma is smaller, just nastier at this point in time. They're forecasting Wilma could trip over Florida and still be around force 3 on the other side... and the trajectory suggests it then could stroll up near the coast. They forecast weakening because the gulf waters are colder, and the atlantic waters should be a little cooler, too

Not to alarm anybody in the Carolinas or anything, but a force 1-3 hurricane is STILL A HURRICANE!!!

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 19, 2005 2:47 PM | Report abuse

mWilbrod,

Wilma very much like Rita. Rapid intensification to a Cat 5, then degraded/downgraded to a Cat 3. Since it hit the East Texas piney woods, not much news coverage of afternath, despite being Cat 3.

Posted by: Loomis | October 19, 2005 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Katrina was a catagory 1 when it passed over Miami and still managed to kill a fool or two.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 19, 2005 2:58 PM | Report abuse

My family has been to Glacier Nat'l Park, but only "motel camped" as my then teen-aged sons had rebelled against any more backpacking excursions. There's nothing to compete with seeing wild animals in their habitat (not yours), although the collar on the female bear would be a bit of a disappointment. I close with the old story about the two hikers who accidently get between a grizzly sow and her cubs, and, as the she rears up prepatory to charging, one hiker frantically pulls out tennis shoes and starts taking off his boots. "You fool," the other hiker says, "you can't outrun a grizzly!" As the now tennis-shoe wearing hiker starts to run, he says "I don't have to outrun her, I just have to outrun you!"

Posted by: steve | October 19, 2005 3:19 PM | Report abuse

re: MOA & Ice Palace

Mall of America: While not my personal choice for shopping (even in the winter I prefer a little bit of fresh air), the fact is that gang violence has actually gone down quite a bit in the last few years due to the curfew. Right now the biggest problem the mall has is that all the nightlife (which was pretty lame to begin with) departed due to the smoking ban. That and all the lewd behavior that took place at Fat Tuesdays...

Ice Palace: The St. Paul Winter Carnival takes place every year, but they only do a palace every 10 years or so. The last time they did it the biggest problem that they ran into is that it was just too warm to keep it frozen. In January. In Minnesota. Rock solid proof of global warming for us Minnesotans.

Posted by: pipermkd | October 19, 2005 3:32 PM | Report abuse

So was the Super Bowl XXVI (Jan 1992) Ice Palace a regulaly scheduled one, or a special castle for the influx of eastern tourists?

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 3:54 PM | Report abuse

SCC: regularly

Posted by: esskay | October 19, 2005 3:55 PM | Report abuse

pipermkd,

Wasn't the last time for the ice palace about 2 or 3 years ago?

Posted by: Sara | October 19, 2005 3:55 PM | Report abuse

The Moon? Good, let's send the Maharushi there by his lonesome with a several years supply of O'Reilly Factor videos and Savage Nation audios.

Posted by: Al Finken Sr. | October 19, 2005 4:30 PM | Report abuse

esskay - yes, they definitely planned that one around the Super Bowl. I guess they figured that since all the tourists were being subjected to the miserable cold, they should offer something fun to look at. The palaces really are pretty impressive to see.

Sara - you're right, they just had one in 2004. Here's the link to the palace site: http://www.2004icepalace.com/.

Posted by: pipermkd | October 19, 2005 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Appropos of nothing but in tune with the original outdoorsy tone of this Kit, I was reading something about the largest salamander in North America, commonly known as the hellbender. I've turned over a great many West Virginia stream rocks looking for one of these guys, but without success. Well, along with a lot of other more relevant information- maximum length is about two and a half feet(!)- I came upon a list of other common names, mudpuppy, Allegheny alligator, etc., but one just leapt off the page, the snot otter. This is poetry. "Ed, fetch me that double bladed ax off the truck. We got us a snot otter!" or "You folks come on in and set a spell. Ma's just put a brace of snot otters in the pot and supper'll be ready in about an hour."

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 19, 2005 5:58 PM | Report abuse

dr - Yes, Due South. Thanks!

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 19, 2005 6:06 PM | Report abuse

When I was boy, my family would take our vintage "Brady-Bunch" camper to Pt. Defiance State park. Pt Defiance had it all: Douglas Fir trees, rocky shores, and, of course, coin operated showers. I still recall the hiss of a propane lantern, the rumble of a sleeping bag zipper, and the smell of the highly volatile accelerant used by my father to ignite our campfire in a procedure best left undocumented. Eventually, however, our eyesight always came back.
Alas, my own family is of the "If our standard of living doesn't increase why bother?" school of thought. But that is what memories are for. Memories, which, curiously, do not include bears. Slugs large enough to carry off a small child, but no bears. I suspect the fireball may have frightened them off.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 19, 2005 6:53 PM | Report abuse

SCC: I suddenly remembered that the park was called Penrose Point. Point Defiance is someplace totally different. But there were still no bears.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 19, 2005 7:01 PM | Report abuse

All this snipe hunt stuff brought back another memory - left-handed smoke shifters. They were very important around campfires. Any of you send someone off to look for those?

Posted by: pj | October 19, 2005 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Camping. I camped a lot when I was growing up. Scouts, church groups, family. On the beach and in the mountains. In tents and in a pop-up camper my folks bought. From Virginia to Colorado and Wyoming and South Dakota and back again. Grand Teton National Park is a great, great place. We had lots of fun.

One thing I'll never forget is camping in Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Lots and lots of black bears around. They strolled through the campground in the evening investigating coolers that were outside tents and campers. Following behind them were these damn fool campers taking pictures with flash cameras! Luckily they were black bears, but you would have no idea what would have set one of them off to take a swipe at one of the humans. They weren't thinking that way. They just wanted the picture.

Posted by: pj | October 19, 2005 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Joel's Kit today made me think of the two schools of camping aficianados: The Take Everything But the Kitchen Sink and The Take Just the Kitchen Sink. I enjoyed camping with my cousin and her hubby on the upper Marin County coast about 15 years ago. The back of her vehicle was stuffed--we did love the smoked herring with cream cheese on crackers, and the gourmet coffee in the morning.

But "Stuff" just keeps you at the campsite longer, sitting in whatever type of chairs you bring along. Me, I say pack light--very light--then get up and get going--to explore, hike, swim, whatever.

Funniest moment at the campground at Winsted, Conn. a year ago May, by myself, on my research trip. I hiked down to the river at sunset to take a look-see. What did I find? A dozen Eddie Bauer or Land's End wannabes--all decked out with scads of the latest clothing and fishing gear--most of it looking very little worn or used. Fake, pretentious outdoor he-men--the call of the wild as near as their closest outdoor catalog.

Posted by: Loomis | October 19, 2005 8:52 PM | Report abuse

PJ, on the trip that I wrote about in this NGT piece, we went to Grand Teton N.P. and at 3 in the morning heard a noise outside our tent at Jackson Lake campground. It was a moose! Through the screened opening of the tent it was a giant mooselike shape against a galactic sky. That is an image I'll never forget. And here's another: 1978, August, I'm hitchhiking at a tender age through the Smokey Mtns. -- a manhood ritual, to be honest -- and decide to camp in high country in the national park. I hike for many miles to a remote campground, where I see black bears. They're just hangin' bangin' and slangin', you know? Not doing much. I decide to take pictures of aforementioned black bears. Through the viewfinder I see a black bear go from 0 to 60 in my precise direction: It is charging me. I am instantly running away at speeds that can be described by physicists as "relativistic." Afterburners kick in, I swear I'm very close to FLYING. I am running away so fast I actually experience time dilation. Over my shoulder in the last pathetic moments of my mortal existence I see that the bear has stopped, just stopped cold, the whole thing a feint, a gesture, almost a prank, a scare-the-geek move that the bear has probably used in those mountains a thousand times. But a move seared into memory. You tend to remember being charged by a bear.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 19, 2005 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of The Take Everything But the Kitchen Sink method of camping:

Our camping is limited to state park cabins. The ones in West Virginia are the best. Some were built by the CCC and some are newer. They are just beautiful. Big stone fireplaces and rough hewn beam logs. Full kitchen and bathroom (some even have heat). Just bring yourself and your food and you're all set. My own state of Virginia has some really nice cabins, although not with the same character.

The Maryland state parks require you to bring your own linens, something we didn't know the first time we went to one. Arrived at Janes Island State Park at 9 pm only to have to turn around and look for an all-night Wal-mart. Boy, that was fun.

But the other day I was looking to find another state to visit. The Pennsylvania state parks have some beautiful cabins. They call them "modern cabins" and they are heated, air conditioned, carpeted. Everything you'd want.. ah, but that's what you think. Turns out, you not only have to take your own sheets and towels, but your own dishes, flatware and pots and pans! All this for about a hundred bucks a night.

I imagine after filling your trunk with sheets, towels and all that kitchenware, you'd have to take a second car just to get the family there.

No thanks.

Posted by: TBG | October 19, 2005 10:15 PM | Report abuse

There's the bear's Go To Move: charge and see who runs.

No doubt that your time dilation was forward, and while at a tender age, probably still capable of a grey hair.

Moose. Cool.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 19, 2005 10:23 PM | Report abuse

We hogged space or drove away
Anyone outside our group today!!

Congrats!

Posted by: Stilton | October 19, 2005 10:37 PM | Report abuse

I realize I have Kaboodled out of order because of the Kit placement. Sheesh!

firsttimeblogger, your African trip sounded wonderful. Glad you got to see elephants, giraffes, cheetahs!

RD Padouk, I have camped in Penrose Point. I was imagining you camping in Point Defiance Park - figured it must have been more rural in Tacoma when you were a kid! It's a pretty park, though, with a nice zoo.

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 19, 2005 10:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm SO proud of myself for not jumping in with the Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park "marmot that ate my Tang" story, or the Grand Canyon "strange guy in the trench coat" story, or the Sierra Nevada "Fred stuck on the 12-foot cliff" story, or the...

If a camping trip doesn't become rather unpleasant and at least mildly wierd at some point, then it's FAR too well orchestrated for my tastes! (but then I'm masochistic like that!)

Posted by: Bob S | October 19, 2005 11:42 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "weird", dammit! (sigh)

Posted by: Bob S. | October 19, 2005 11:44 PM | Report abuse

To L. Loomis:

I'm reading between & behind the lines here, but:

I've been reading the blog since the day it started as a sort of replacement for the chat which didn't work out so well. I've read everything that you (and all the regulars) have ever posted, and I've never seen a remark by you which was gratuitously contemptuous of folks who were apparently doing no harm until your remark above: "Fake, pretentious outdoor he-men..."

While I myself am the sort of shallow jackass is often amused by an observation of that sort, this is so at odds with your typically thoughtful outlook on people and life that I must assume that something utterly unconnected to that subject (especially given that the incident is well over a year in the past)is distressing you. My thoughts and hopes go out to you!

On the actual subject of outdoorsy stuff, I'm with you. While I don't mind a drive-up weekend with all the trimmings, I have been known (fairly recently, and to the perplexed concern of some acquaintances) to spend a few days out with just a large canteen and the contents of a bag smaller than one from a standard grocery store run.

Posted by: Bob S. | October 20, 2005 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Just to minimize the possible deluge of ridicule:

It occurs to me that I don't actually recall with certainty that the Achenchat came first. That's how I THINK I remember it, but I'm getting older, and sometimes these things are a little fuzzy!

Posted by: Bob S. | October 20, 2005 12:57 AM | Report abuse

Okay-late comment here from a lurker:
You all joke about needing linens and food for camping trips...but think about this...you need to bring just as much stuff for camping as you do a week at the beach. And you get sand everywhere.

I'd still rather have the beach. That's my style of camping.

Posted by: jlw | October 20, 2005 6:20 AM | Report abuse

Linda Loomis, I too noticed your contempt for the Eddie Bauer, Lands End "wannabes". My wardrobe is mostly LL Bean, because of the fit, comfort and quality of material. Does that make me fake and pretentious too?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2005 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I loved Tina Brown's piece in today's WasPost:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/19/AR2005101901963.html

"...Manichaean...", "... starring Miller as the alpha Heather.", I'm still giggling over those.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 20, 2005 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Linda wasn't disapproving of all who wear Eddie Bauer, Lands End, LL Bean, etc . . . type clothing. She was merely stating that these men only go camping so that they can buy the latest gear and therefore look like they are true to the bone campers. Every true to the bone camper knows that most of that stuff isn't required, however, and usually broken in stuff is better than new stuff when in the wilderness. When we go camping I tend to shun the new stuff for the broken in stuff because it's more comfortable, usually lighter weight and doesn't have all the unnecessary bells and whistles. (Which makes the new stuff always "new" because no one uses it, unfortunately.)

So people who go camping with new everything are either greenie campers (in which case they'd most likely be young and it's natural for them to have all new stuff that they will eventually break in) or they're not true campers and just like to have an excuse to get new stuff that will make them look like the true to the bone, cutting edge campers that they want you to think they are.

It's a cynical view of the camping world, but there you go. I'm willing to bet Linda was right on the mark in this case. I'll bet had she talked to them they would have tried to show their camping and wilderness skills somehow. Such as identifying a tree, only they'd get it wrong.

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, that kind of sounded a little off to me too. Kind of like me scorning that 250-lb guy on the running trail because he's wearing an old concert t-shirt and can't run more than 2 miles at a time.

Don't hate--celebrate!

Posted by: jw | October 20, 2005 9:40 AM | Report abuse

But Sara, all that comfortable, broken-in stuff was new once. Are you saying that the only people who can go camping are the people who were born into a camping family? What about that guy who wakes up one morning and decides that he'd like to be outdoors, so he goes to EMS and buys a new tent and a new sleeping bag and a new pack...does he have less of a right to enjoy the woods?

Like I said above, just because someone's new at something and doesn't quite know what they're doing, the fact that they are learning to enjoy something that you enjoy should encourage you to welcome them, not look down at their "L.L. Bean" clothing (which can be quite comfy, affordable, and practical, I might add, as someone who has made many a pilgrimage to Freeport.)

Posted by: jw | October 20, 2005 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I can't run more than 1 mile at a time. I get bored. I go about 10 feet and then I say, "Well, the fun level of that activity hasn't risen, I'm gonna do something else."

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I recently purchased a new propane cook stove (the old reliable was completely shot). I had to use it a few times at home and make sure it got greasy and scorched before taking it out camping.

All of this out of peer-pressure fear of giving the appearance that I was a 'Wally-World Camper'!

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 9:51 AM | Report abuse

That's why I included the "greenie clause." If they're greenies, that's fine and shouldn't be judged.

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 9:52 AM | Report abuse

And I know I said they'd "most likely be young," but most likely isn't always.

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Being involved with Cub Scouts I work with a lot of families who are camping for the first time. What a great experience it is getting them involved in an activity that their kids will look back on with fond memories for a lifetime.

However, Being a 30 year veteran of tailgating at 'Skins games, I do think it amusing to see rookies pull up with their 'Tailgating-in-a-box' kits. But hey, you gotta start somewhere...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Tailgating is fun. I've only been a participant though, and at college games, not pro. I don't think I have the skills to be a tailgating leader. Less pressure being just a participant, too.

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Bob S. writes:
To L. Loomis:

I'm reading between & behind the lines here, but:

I've been reading the blog since the day it started as a sort of replacement for the chat which didn't work out so well. I've read everything that you (and all the regulars) have ever posted, and I've never seen a remark by you which was gratuitously contemptuous of folks who were apparently doing no harm until your remark above: "Fake, pretentious outdoor he-men..."

While I myself am the sort of shallow jackass is often amused by an observation of that sort, this is so at odds with your typically thoughtful outlook on people and life that I must assume that something utterly unconnected to that subject (especially given that the incident is well over a year in the past)is distressing you. My thoughts and hopes go out to you!

Anonymous continues:
Linda Loomis, I too noticed your contempt for the Eddie Bauer, Lands End "wannabes". My wardrobe is mostly LL Bean, because of the fit, comfort and quality of material. Does that make me fake and pretentious too?


I reply:
I worked for more than six months right before our move to Texas as an assistant manager for an Eddie Bauer store in Pleasanton, Calif., so I can attest to the fit and comfort and quality of the material of much outdoor clothing. Actually, Eddie Bauer was a far better clothier until Spiegel took them over, cheapened everything, and ran Eddie Bauer into the ground.

Perhaps it was a test of emoticons? Should I have used one after "fake, pretentious, outdoor he-men?" I had problems with Typepad yesterday when I tried to post the following, which I saved:

Achenbach writes:
Can I just say something. This is tween us and doesn't leave the blog. I have never used an emoticon. Indeed I object to them on deep philosophical grounds (in the same way that I claim to abjure italics, while actually using them promiscuously, due to a catastrophic lack of self-discipline). An emoticon should be unnecessary in almost every conceivable instance. If crafted correctly the meaning of a sentence is unambiguous.

Yes, yes, yes...Aaron Brown had the same argument at CNN about emoticons. Then he started using them occasionally in his nightly e-mail about his broadcast lineup for his show. The history of the use of emoticons goes back 20 years to the early history of Silicon Valley and the Internet. Had to be there, I guess. In everyday communique, who cares? [But I grant, they can be overused.] Joel, I bet there're many fun things you haven't done or tried... ;-)
***

But, Bob S., haven't you ever seen fashionistas who adorn themselves to the hilt in the pursuit of a new sport or passion? I think of women who play tennis. If you need new gear, then by all means buy it. But to buy lots of gear, just to enhance one's own image?

Let me just add to the Winsted, Conn., story. The man who was furthest out in the Farmington River the night I ambled down was a handsome old-timer. His gear and clothing was the most worn-in (or worn-out)--and he was the one furthest out in the icy waters doing the most active fishing. I can only presume he was the one getting the most bites and perhaps the most fish. But something about the looks and character of this attractive old gentleman appealed to me in ways I can't describe--versus the younger men with their noveau head-to-toe trappings. I think it harkens back to my need for the genuine--or the genuine passion for something.

Clothes and gear don't make the man--the man makes the man.

Posted by: Loomis | October 20, 2005 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I have tailgated in all kinds of weather but, I could see how it may be a challenge in Minnesota. When I went out for the Super Bowl, it was about 15-below outside but a comfy 70 degrees inside the dome. So, how would you dress?
I decided to freeze outside so that i did not have to carry a parka inside...

...and being a participant is fine. Too many leaders makes for confusion (or leaks?)...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 10:04 AM | Report abuse

esskay - Isn't it just the best thing to bring cubbies camping and breaking in those green parents?!!!

I've been a camper for 43 years (45 years old), my son went camping when he was 4 weeks old, my husband has camped for 43 years as well, and we own lots and lots of well broken in camping gear!!! Its just the best!

We're looking forward to this coming weekend of camping -- everybody do a sun dance for us!!! (keep the rain away!)

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I tailgate in Utah for the most part when I'm out at college. Not nearly as cold. Tailgating in Minnesota would require a long sleeve shirt under a button down long sleeve shirt under a bulky sweater under a jacket under a coat with a blanket. And three pairs of socks.

I jest. That might be overkill. It's actually been incredibly nice in Minnesota lately. Until today, I think winter has finally hit.

And Linda said it much better than I did. Which makes sense because it was her statement in the first place.

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Sorry. Still comes across as snobby and elitist to me.

Posted by: jw | October 20, 2005 10:19 AM | Report abuse

My camping experience is nil, save those summer nights when my sis and I would "camp out" in the back yard. No tent or even sleeping bags, but Mother had an old quilt she let us use and Dad's old army blanket (which itched and made my eyes water) to sleep on. She wouldn't allow a campfire, but let us poke a candle in the ground so we could roast marshmallows on a straightened wire clotheshanger. No bears or other wildlife, just june bugs, lightnin' bugs and the kittykats sniffing us and "kneading bread" on our heads. We never made it thru the night, the ground was lumpy, we'd start aggravating each other "Quit touching me!" and ended up going back in the house before midnight. But hey, it was loads of fun anyway.

Posted by: Nani | October 20, 2005 10:24 AM | Report abuse

jw - I think that what most of the people here are referring to when they talk about the Eddie Bauer bunch are the "gear hounds" -- NOT the new greenie who obviously must start out with new gear.

Its more the attitude of the "gear hounds" that get to us experienced campers - not their actual new gear.

One of my most valued experiences is taking greenies camping for their first couple of times. It is so enjoyable to spend time teaching people the ropes of spending time outdoors.

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 10:34 AM | Report abuse

But that's what I don't get. What's the problem with the gear hounds? What gear is ok, and what gear is not ok? There's always going to be someone more seasoned or rustic than you. You use a stove? They cook on a fire. You sleep in a tent? They build a lean-to. You wear Gortex? They wear the skin of a bear they killed with their own hands.

So what if someone's got a bunch of gadgets and whatnot. They're still out there, right? Apparently trying to enjoy themselves and the outdoors the best they can. If they're still "leaving no trace" then what good is it to think that you're somehow better than them and giving them a label just because you've had your camp stove for 20 years.

Posted by: jw | October 20, 2005 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I cannot speak for everyone but, I never said I had a problem with anyone. I just think they are funny and they amuse me. But I am easily amused. I have a blast sitting in an airport and watching different levels of stress (I know, that is probably mean).

I would not begrudge anyone for spending time outdoors. As Janet said, it is not the gear or clothing, but attitudes. No matter their attitude, they have every much a right as me to be out there. But, I still have a right to chuckle at them as they are rushing to their gate with a brand-new camp table. Oops, I'm mixing my examples...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 11:05 AM | Report abuse


Usually, and I emphasize usually, my own experience has been with the "gear hounds" is that their over inflated ego preceeds them down the trail.

Their ATTITUDE is one of scoffing at us "seasoned" campers. That they are more proficient, their knives are sharper, their GPS is better than our compass, their titanium spork is better than our old fork and spoon, etc. etc.

These are the guys that do not follow LNT (Leave No Trace). These are the guys that interrupt the quiet woods with radio chatter and static.

These are the guys who cannot sit around a campfire and socialize about what they saw on the trail, or the beautiful canoeing on the lake, or the gorge they explored without turning it into a show and tell of their gear!

I have no problem at all with people who have new gear - even modern gizmos - but they are the ones who forget about where they are and what they are doing. Instead it becomes a trade show for all the latest gear!

Again - I emphasize the word usually. There are always exceptions to the rule and I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions.

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Like esskay and janet said, it's the attitudes of the gear hounds. Not the gear itself. You know them when you meet them because they launch into a speech about the outdoors in which they say a bunch of gibberish that doesn't make sense and they try to take over every aspect of the camping trip. Last time I went camping we went with one of these kinds of guys and he insisted on teaching me a new way to pitch the tent that would be "so much better" and I didn't want to say, "No, really, I'm fine" because it was just easier not to argue with him. At about 3 a.m. my tent fell down on top of me. I had to get out and put it up the original way. In the morning he offered to help me put it back up "his right way." If that's not the most annoying attitude on earth (his RIGHT way?) I don't know what is. It's one of those "if the shoe fits" kind of situations.

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 11:23 AM | Report abuse

lol - rushing to the gate with a brand new camp table!!!

And you're right esskay, it is more amusing that anything else. I agree, that no matter -- they do have the right to be out there as much as anybody else.

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 11:24 AM | Report abuse

See, but these people are just jerks. I'm sure there are just as many seasoned campers who are jerks.

I guess all I'm saying is, just categorizing someone by the fact that they got their stuff out of the J. Peterman catalogue might be a little harsh.

Posted by: jw | October 20, 2005 11:31 AM | Report abuse

And I have to admit, the shot about L.L. Bean made me a little over-sensitive. I used to love my L.L. Bean bookbag when I was a kid!

And most of there camping stuff is good quality, and about half as much as what you'd pay in EMS or another outdoors store.

Posted by: jw | October 20, 2005 11:35 AM | Report abuse

You're right jw - there are jerks in abundance in all walks of life - even I dare say with experienced campers.

But I add - they are only jerks if they are unwilling to learn, unable to listen to others, and unyielding in their attitude.

Which is exactly why I love taking new campers out and teaching and showing about camping! It is absolutely one of the best things to do - when you get someone who wants to learn about camping! It reminds us of just how precious the outdoors really is - bears, slugs, skunks and jerks included.

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 11:37 AM | Report abuse

You are correct, JW. A jerk, is a jerk, is a jerk.
I know plenty of 'seasoned veterans' who try to make me feel small because I cannot tie a double-whipped camel knot. I chuckle at them as well.
Just to be fair, I laugh at myself more than anyone else...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Why are we even concentrating on where the gear was purchased? That's irrelevant. There's absolutely nothing wrong with LL Bean or Lands End or Eddie Bauer.

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 11:43 AM | Report abuse


It doesn't matter where its purchased is correct. However, I warn that whatever gear you have it is appropriate and suitable for the situation you are getting yourself into.

Some stores sell gear that appears to be the same - but it is not. Different fabrics, stitching, construction, etc. These flaws can be lethal when out in extreme circumstances.

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 11:52 AM | Report abuse

esskay - a double-whipped camel knot? Is that a real knot?

Wow! I have trouble with the figure 8, butterfly knots.

Give me the old clove hitch, square knot, 2 1/2 hitches, the tautline, the bowline, sheet bend, -- well you must know where I'm coming from -- First Class knots they all are!

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 11:56 AM | Report abuse

So it's like people who buy a $40,000 off-road vehicle that never goes off the highway?

Or people who rush out to buy the newest $500 driver and still can't hit the ball more than 200 yards or in the fairway?

Kinda like what Thorstein Veblen called conspicuous consumption?

Posted by: pj | October 20, 2005 11:57 AM | Report abuse

No, I have to admit that there is no such thing as a "a double-whipped camel knot".
It just sounded cool as it was flowing from my fingertips.

Maybe these vets would get off my back if I could just remember the knots names...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I can't hit the golf ball more than a couple dozen feet. And it never leaves the ground. Luckily my clubs were free because my middle school principal didn't want them anymore. Apparently she looked at me and decided (incorrectly, might I add) that I would make a good golfer and should join the golf team. So she gave them to me and had me sign up. I was the worst player on the team.

Posted by: Sara | October 20, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I was incredibly proud of myself when I learned the tautline. It is still my favorite knot and I use it all of the time.

My son is working towards becoming an Eagle Scout. I will have to get him to teach me some of these (am I supposed to be teaching him?).

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

My father and four brothers (not to mention my father-in-law) are very much into golf. I am the only one who has not taken it up. This has to do with some childhood trauma on a driving range...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 12:15 PM | Report abuse

esskay - I gave up with the knot thing. I know the knots I mentioned and it gets me through perfectly fine.

Similar to the gear hounds, there is the knot police.

Sheesh!!

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Good wishes to your son on his trail. My son is an Eagle and my husband is an Eagle.

and I am a good ole Eagle too . .

Posted by: janet | October 20, 2005 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Achenbach, do you really have no idea who Cass Sunstein is? Oh dear.

Posted by: angela | October 20, 2005 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I went on an organized bicycle tour of New Hampshire and Vermont when I was 15. About a dozen teenagers, from all over the country, mostly "preppies" (my first experience with that species). We were all proud of ourselves for being such rugged outdoorspersons--we carried all our gear on our bikes and bought food along the way--we hiked up Mount Mansfield and Mount Washington on side excursions. At one campground there was a guy with an RV and he had little plastic Japanese lanterns around the outside and we thought he was silly. We found out that his name was Harvey, so from then on whenever we saw people we thought were, like, greenhorns, wannabes or whatever, we would call them "Harvey." We thought it was hilarious. But then we thought we were the ultimate in cool, witty, intelligent, and tough dudes and dudettes. What strikes me now is how relative it all is. We probably were cooler than "Harvey," but there would have been other people who thought we were not so tough after all, riding in our little group with our keeper/babysitter there to watch out for us and the home office sitting by the phone in case somebody acted up and had to be sent home (it happened) or fell off a bike and broke an arm (yep, that happened too). I agree with the general sentiment that there's room in the Great Outdoors for Everybody. Harveys and all.

Posted by: Reader | October 20, 2005 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Yes, my son just became a Life Scout and now has to work toward Eagle. The problem is that he is now 14, has just enetered High School, made the JV soccer team, and has a girlfriend. This whole Scout thing may be coming to an abrupt halt.
I do keep mentioning to him how important this will be later in life; and he is pretty responsible. So, we wil see...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Yes, my son just became a Life Scout and now has to work toward Eagle. The problem is that he is now 14, has just enetered High School, made the JV soccer team, and has a girlfriend. This whole Scout thing may be coming to an abrupt halt.
I do keep mentioning to him how important this will be later in life; and he is pretty responsible. So, we wil see...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Yes, my son just became a Life Scout and now has to work toward Eagle. The problem is that he is now 14, has just enetered High School, made the JV soccer team, and has a girlfriend. This whole Scout thing may be coming to an abrupt halt.
I do keep mentioning to him how important this will be later in life; and he is pretty responsible. So, we wil see...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 4:40 PM | Report abuse

You know what bugs me most when camping? Other people who play their music loud enough for a whole side of the campground to hear. That is so impolite, Downright tacky.

BUT for next season, I am going to take along a CD of something opera. Big, loud. In the running is anything Wagnerian, and anything operatic by Mozart. Fair is fair, and next summer I am on the warpath and I will have some reasonable quiet. My theory is if they hate my music they will understand how impolite they have been.

After all, if you go out to the woods, shouldn't you be listening to the woods?

Posted by: dr | October 20, 2005 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, my son just became a Life Scout and now has to work toward Eagle. The problem is that he is now 14, has just enetered High School, made the JV soccer team, and has a girlfriend. This whole Scout thing may be coming to an abrupt halt.

I do keep mentioning to him how important this will be later in life; and he is pretty responsible. So, we wil see...

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 6:28 PM | Report abuse

wacky triple-blog!

Posted by: esskay | October 20, 2005 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I've been thinking about it a bit, and I decided that I can deal with bear, moose, coyotes, wolves, mosquitos, biting flies, etc.

The scariest camping experience I've ever had was at NASCAR race weekend.

Oh, the humanity.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 20, 2005 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I've got a pair of fishing boots I got from LL Bean about 30 years ago. I take them on a fishing trip for two weeks every year and still work well. If the rubber bottoms wear out they will replace them. LL Bean stuff is durable and functional.

Linda L.
Glad to hear your comments about Eddie Bauer. I used to buy stuff there but did think quality was going down.

Esskay:
The "double-whipped camel knot" really sounded useful. You ought to figure out how it would be tied.

bdl

Posted by: boondocklurker | October 21, 2005 1:30 AM | Report abuse

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