Gut Rumbles
 

March 20, 2008

Things I learned backpacking

Originally published April 25, 2003

* I read about this fact in some Jack London short story when I was a kid, but I never was desperate enough to try it until I thought my feet were going to freeze off one really cold day on the trail. I took off my boots and socks, then stuck my feet into a mountain stream with icicles hanging hanging off the rocks. I almost lost my breath, but when I dried my feet, donned fresh socks and put my boots back on, my feet were toasty warm for hours after that. It really works.

* If you need to build a fire in the rain when all the deadfall wood is soaked, find a hemlock tree. They always have dead branches at the bottom that have enough sap in them to burn like fatlighter if you stick them to a decent flame. Hemlock branches have served to build many a fire for me when no one else could make one.

* A racoon can pull down every zipper on your backpack and steal you blind if given the chance. I've seen the crafty bastards do it. From having exactly that kind of coon-theft happen to ME one night, I can testify that they don't like cigarettes but they WILL eat a Three Musketeers candy bar, wrapping paper and all.

* A bear will not attempt to unzip anything on your pack. If a bear gets your pack, the bear will rip the whole thing to shreds and take whatever he wants. You will cower in the tent and let him do it, too. That's never happened to me, but it DID to COP 3. He needed a new pack after that experience.

* A porcupine pays no attention to you if you walk up on one in the woods. You will not intimidate him. Wake up hearing a noise at night, turn on your flashlight and look dead into the business end of a skunk, and YOU WILL be intimidated. Trust me on that.

* If you build a campfire near a stream in the mountains, the heat or the light attracts some kind of salamander that will come tearing through the leaves, making a noise that scares the shit out of you, then run right into the fire. They'll never slow down until they cook themselves to a crisp. I don't know why they do that, but I've watched a dozen or more do it in a single night everywhere I've been in the mountains.

* No matter how far off the beaten path think you are, somebody has been there before you and left litter behind. I HATE walking a trail that seems as if no once has hiked it in years, only to find a couple of empty beer cans laying in the dead leaves next to the trail. That's why I pack OUT or bury whatever I pack IN. Leave the place the way you found it.

And I AM NOT and environmentalist.

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