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The lighter side of the outdoors

March 2, 2011
By Joe Hackett, News Outdoors Columnist
A few weeks ago, I penned a column titled “Code of the Woods” that was intended to offer a humorous perspective on camping and backwoods etiquette. Some readers understood and some didn’t. Many sent in their own suggestions, some of which I’ve printed here.

Research indicates hiking and camping can be beneficial to a person’s overall physical and mental health. These activities can help to prevent heart disease, reduce hypertension, lower cholesterol levels and help control weight.

These pursuits can improve symptoms of osteoporosis, combat arthritis and control diabetes. These activities are also a great way to relieve stress and prevent back pain.

However, any stress relief provided will promptly return with the back pain that results from sleeping in a small tent on the hard, cold uneven ground.

It has been noted that nothing soothes the human soul like an escape into the mountain wilderness. But few have noted that once you get there, nothing will churn a stomach like the belly full of beaver fever that awaits.

Hiking and camping are considered safe activities, but only if proper precautions are taken. Always wear stiff, sturdy boots to insure you have proper ankle support and get plenty of big blisters.

Wearing a long-sleeved shirt helps to prevent scratches and bug bites and doubles as a handkerchief. Just be sure to use both sleeves.

Remember the design of low-cut hiking boot construction is intended to allow any water and/or mud encountered along the trail to enter the boot only from above. GoreTex, Beeswax and Bear Grease provide no help.

         In the Adirondacks, rain happens and snow can’t be far behind. Snow will continue to fall until accumulations exceed the standard height of conventional hiking boots.

Tested and true

¯ Waterproof isn’t ... one-size fits all, doesn’t ... easy hikes, aren’t ... it will stretch, won’t ... bug-proof, not ... and “it’s a small stream, you can jump across it” equals very wet.

¯ Items guaranteed to be 100 percent waterproof do not provide any protection against rain, sleet or snow, even if worn by a mailman. However, such materials are highly effective at containing human perspiration.

¯ Stones, pebbles, grit or pieces of grime that are provided entry into hiking boots will immediately migrate to a position of maximum irritation.

¯ The law of backcountry equilibrium states that when a blister forms on the heel of one foot, a comparably sore blister will sprout on the big toe of the opposite foot. This is how hikers learn to walk softly and lean on a big stick.

¯ Habitat enhancement means that any tree located within 20 feet of hiking trails will sprout branches at the exact elevation of your nose, ears or eyes. However, if you are a male, they will also grow at approximate groin level.

¯ In a camp situation, a bare human foot will instantly attract pieces of broken glass, thorns, splinters, pine pitch, spiders, dog poo, several curious snakes and an amorous snapping turtle eyeing your big toe with guaranteed attitude. 

¯ Likewise, surrounding stumps, stones, roots, picnic tables or other hard durable surfaces will soon relocate to the appropriate level to ensure a properly stubbed toe.

Total energy utilized while bouncing around on one foot after stubbing said toe will consume calories equal to or greater than those expended while climbing three High Peaks, backwards.

¯ Feet confined to a hiking boot for periods exceeding 24 consecutive hours may not be exposed to the inside of a tent, sleeping bag or small lean-to, regardless of ventilation.

Persons to which such feet are attached should remember an important navigation tip: After a full week on the trail, moss will always grow on the left foot first. This disproportion of weight often causes hikers to list left at trail junctions and ridge tops.

¯ Be prepared for bad weather and miserable kids. What the Lord hath wrought, only duct tape can heal. It is the camp counselor’s friendly helper.

¯ Band-Aids will not stop a nosebleed, but a tourniquet, if placed gently around the person’s neck, will usually help slow the flow of blood.

¯ If you read the directions on a bag of freeze-dried foods, recommended applications do not involve actual consumption by humans. However, the contents can be used to patch a leaky lean-to roof, for mortar, to repair fireplaces and as artificial handholds on dangerous rock climbing routes.

¯ The urge to scratch your nose becomes most urgent immediately after successfully zipping up your mummy bag. Similarly, a need to unzip the bag increases in proportion to the time it took to consume a camp pot of hot pepper and pepperoni chili or a large dish of tofu and vegetable curry.

¯ A fillet knife, when removed from a sheath and left unattended on a picnic table, will always gravitate along the shortest route to a person’s finger. 

¯ No-see-ums are an invisible, natural punishment dispensed directly after black fly season and before the arrival of deer flies.

¯ Deer flies alight for a bite only after their 366th orbit.

¯ The sting of a bite is always inversely proportional to actual size of the insect that administers it.  

¯ A switchback is the name for a short length of sapling that should be applied to one’s backside if they wander off the trail.

¯ Streams are wider, mud is deeper, trails are steeper, rain falls harder and darkness arrives sooner, in corresponding relation to the distance from your proposed camping site.

¯ Efforts expended to suppress public flatulence should not exceed the time it took to eat that extra bowl of beans.  

Stranger ranger requests

After hearing that two climbers recently stranded in the Trap Dike near Avalanche Lake, had insisted forest rangers call in a helicopter for their rescue, I located a list of similarly bizarre requests recorded by National Park Service rangers.

Believe it or not, these are actual requests and suggestions:

“A small deer came into my camp and stole my bag of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?”

“Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.”

“Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands.”

“Found a smoldering cigarette left by a horse.”

“Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.”

“Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs.”

“Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of the pests.”

“Chairlifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.”

“The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.”

“Need more signs to keep area pristine.”

“A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.”

“Too many rocks in the mountains.”

“The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.”


Best Hiking Quotes

“You pick ’em up, O Lord, I’ll put ’em down.” — Author unknown

“We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down.”

— Jacqueline Schiff

“Walking would teach people the quality that youngsters find so hard to learn: patience.”

— Edward P. Weston

“Walking isn’t a lost art — one must, by some means, get to the garage.” — Evan Esar

“People say that losing weight is no walk in the park. When I hear that I think, yeah, that’s the problem.” — Chris Adams

“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.” — G.M. Trevelyan

“A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” — Paul Dudley White

“Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.” — Author unknown


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