The Surprising Truth About What Motivates US

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very readable and interesting book. New science questions the traditional concept of external rewards. Interfaces well with The Talent Code, a current favorite book. My friend Dave read it and became inspired to initiate a very challenging project, building an F-4 mandolin. I am now even more fueled to go hiking, in fact, this week! The book explains why the typical incentive systems for teachers to improve will not work. Explains why I have “Megatex” tattooed on my calf. Surround yourself with the best folks that you can assemble, and let them loose: the secret to completing the Pacific Crest Trail.

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The Book of the Hut

The Book of the HutThe Book of the Hut by John Silverio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would like more books to be like this one- brief, impossible to put down, well written, and able to reach into one’s heart and pull the chords that lead to change and richness in present experience.

I’m a bit biased here. I am a fortunate man, living next door to Jack Silverio. Well, not quite the next door you think of- Jack’s place is down on the other end of the Proctor Road. On my end, the road has been abandoned by the town, but there is still a winding path through two stone walls that eventually leads to Jack’s, a pastoral reserve highlighting a life well lived and a home that has been crafted, weathered, and very much treasured.

I found much of myself in this book, particularly the references to the the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960’s (I was a little late for the best deals, for me it was 1973), when we launched our almost-best-ever idea yet- a decision for us to build a small home on this 2 acre south facing field adjacent to a wonderful grove of arrow-straight red oaks that we harvested for the timber frame of our salt-box home.

This book explores the concept and practice (in fascinating detail) of the one room hut, tracing the origins of this remarkably simple design, linking it’s marriage with the fire, cooking and heating, moving on to completely enclosed shelters with containment vessels for the fire (stoves), and sadly bringing us up to the drawbacks of modern life, where the system is generally mired in complexity.

Lately, we have been talking about moving on from this house after 34 years, into a small town where we can walk to a grocery stores and to a library. Maybe not so long a driveway to deal with in the winter time? While reading Jack’s book I found myself sitting at the kitchen table, looking up at the beams I hand crafted, and then I started to cry with wonder and newly recovered appreciation for the treasure we have here. As I closed the book, I’m now convinced that you’d have to carry me out of this home, if and when that time comes.

In the meantime, we do have a camp over on Hobbs Pond about 10 minutes drive away. A couple of years ago I built a 14 foot diameter hexagonal deck there, and have yet to build a structure that suits the setting. I now am invigorated by the thought of raising a little shelter there, and taking up ” the practice of recreational hutting”.

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A 1931 Hike on Vermont’s Long Trail

So Clear, So Cool, So Grand by James Gordon Hindes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

     Subtitled “A 1931 Hike On Vermont’s Long Trail”- what can be more fun than reading an 80 year old trail journal ? Not just any trail journal, but one reeking with history. This $8.95 paperback book comes complete with a 1910 sketch of the Long Trail, some photos of the pages from a 1930 Guide Book of the Long Trail, an Appendix of the dozens of Green Mountain Club and other lodgings mentioned in the journal, 32 footnoted references, a Bibliography, and even an Index.

The Book is available from The Green Mountain Club . It is surprising how close to today the cares are of these two young men as they left Williamstown, MA on July 4 and eventually reached Canada Aug. 8, 1931: black flies, mosquitoes, mud, heat, running out of food, rain, trail angels, twisted ankles, sickness, raisins, apricots, chocolate bars- It’s all the same. Even the cover photo of the young Hindes looks like it could have been taken today- a young fellow in front of a pile of rocks with a big grin and what appears to be sort of a bandanna on his head.

Some challenges of the day are unique to that point in time, such as the phalanxes of porcupines that attack to privies and shelters.  As were the methods of dealing with them- dispatching them with a blow to the head with their axes.

It’s a well written journal as well. It came alive for me as I followed their progress on the new waterproof two sided Long Trail Map, also available from the GMC- a concise tool, with complete elevation profiles of the whole 276 mile trail. I don’t study the profile so much- looks to me like a green tinged version of Dracula’s teeth.

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Big Agnes Air Core pads- Time for a Divorce!

I’m done with using Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pads- after three of those pads developed valve failures over the past several years of backpacking.
I  made the move up to an air mattress in order to avoid the debilitating pain that I experienced with various length and models of Thermarests.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been superbly comfortable sleeping with Big Agnes.  I have two bad shoulders, one of which has been tagged for a complete replacement in one to three years.
I received my first Big Agnes from my friend Chris while I was blogging complaints about wincing shoulder pain on my 2007 AT thru hike.  The pad was pure heaven, until several weeks later when I noticed that it required additional air.  Eventually I was waking up on a flat mattresses that I blew up and dove back into sleep, only to repeat the process several times a night. Again. And again.
Customer service from Big Agnes has been great, and I received replacement pads with no argument.  I was told it was an extremely rare situation to have the leak come out of the valve itself, but later on my 2010 PCT thru hike the exact same situation happened with TWO other brand new pads. I might add that I also spent too much unproductive time trying to patch each of the mattresses, and was shocked when I determined that each failure was from the valve, a problem that was impossible to repair by the user. The valves on the Big Agneses protrude from the mattress.  May be after months of use, the stress on a 200 plus pound guy takes its toll?
I just purchased an Exped Downmat from Four Dog Stove Exped is a Swiss company that is sold in the U.S. Total weight of the short version ( with stuff sack)  is 1 pound 7 ounces, the same weight  as a full length mummy-cut Big Agnes Air Core.
I’ve used it only one night so far, but plan to take it on my upcoming thru-hike of Vermont’s Long Trail.
My first reaction was that the covering appears more substantial than the BA. The Downmat is black on top and grey on the bottom.  The quality looks strong.  The large diameter valves ( there are two) allow quicker inflation and deflation than the Big Agnes, which requires one to blow it up with your mouth and whatever lung power you have left at the end of a hard day on the trail. There are no threads on the valves, you just push down until they secure.  It would be easy to monitor any buildup of dirt on the recess that you would clean it out with a damp cloth.
First you figure out how to blow it up. The fact that the unit is filled with down rather than synthetic insulation means that you keep out any additional moisture, namely water vapor from your lungs. Down would retain the moisture and eventually lose its insulative qualities.   So, what you have here is an ingenious internal pump that you activate by first closing the valve that expels air and place both palms on the pump, which is at the edge of the mat. There is an outline of two hands that guides you. One of your palms covers the open valve, and you soon perfect the pumping technique.  It took me about a minute to fill it up.  When the initial inflation is complete, you explore with your fingers under the “integrated pump” words to find an internal one-way valve underneath.  Squeeze it, and  air is released back into the chamber and the edge of the pad fills out.  Sleeping on the short mat required me to use a pillow that I placed off  the head end of the mat, and I threw some extra clothes down at the foot.  I liked that the outer two tubes are a bit bigger in diameter than the main tubes, helping keep me on the mat and not sliding off.  The texture of the mat was also conducive to staying on the unit. There are also two tabs of the top that allow you to anchor fasteners that can hold your pillow in place.
Deflating is it much quicker than with the BA.
What I did not have the opportunity to experience was the additional warmth that this mat is said to provide, with an insulation value of R 5.9,  and a range down to -11°F (according to the tag).  I was sleeping indoors on a floor.
I’ll have a long -term report posted after the Long Trail hike.  We’ll see how it holds up.

National Get Outdoors Day: Mt. Chocorua

This loop hike up and back to the top of New Hampshire’s Mt. Chocorua ( 3,500’) should be on every hiker’s to-do list. Chocorua is is the easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range, and while not outstanding for its elevation, it is very rugged and has excellent views of the surrounding lakes, mountains, and forests.
     Mount Chocorua is uniquely situated, and its bare summit can be seen from almost every direction and can be easily identified from many points throughout central New Hampshire and western Maine. Chocorua’s summit is a distinct rocky cone, and the mountain is reported to be one of the most photographed in the world.
As soon as we opened the doors to our car at the parking area, we were assaulted by clouds of mosquitoes.  It was bad, and we started moving quickly.  My hiking pal, John Clark and I started up the 3.9 mile Liberty Trail at 6:30 AM.

Remnant of old bridle path

The Liberty Trail has interesting history behind it. The first rocky 3.3 miles is the remnant of a 1892 toll bridle path that led to a two story hotel that blew down in 1915. A stone stable was rebuilt in 1924 and this remaining Jim Liberty shelter is still a safe haven from the rains and snows, and offers bunks and first-come-first-bedspace. The water source is reported to be “mediocre”, with no fires permitted in the area. Here is a shot that conveys the view of where the remaining 0.6 miles to the summit goes up- another 500 vertical feet in elevation.

Jim Liberty cabin and Chocorua summit

Our Dunkin Donuts coffee and breakfast snacks propelled us up the 2,899’ascent to the bare, exposed summit by 9:30 AM, where we found two hikers already on top.


The winds were chilly, air was saturated with condensation and mist, yet we had great views toward the east where we were able to identify Mt. Washington, Mt. Eisehauer, Crawford Notch, the Wildcats and other prominent giants.

Uncle Tom on eastern summit spur

After a bit of time taking some photos on top, we headed down the Brook Trail.

Clarkie prudently descending

We would not have done the loop in this direction if there were ice or rain in the picture, as the descent was much steeper than the Liberty Trail, with sections of bare granite that required wise foot placement and balance.

On the way down, we passed through sections of woodland where there were dozens of Lady Slipper orchids in bloom.  The blooms were mostly pink , but we saw numerous white ones as well.

Even two days later, Clarkie e-mailed me that his thighs felt as if they were beaten with a baseball bat, and that descending stairs was a challenge.  It’s understandable, given the fact that we traversed almost 5,000 vertical feet, up and then down.  It’s an experience any Stairmaster can’t touch- with added mud, mosquitoes, views, and wind.  We vowed to take another hike in July, maybe up the Wildcats?

Brunton Inspire Portable Power Device

From time to time, I’ll repost field reports from other hikers. I met Rockdawg ( AKA Porter Morgan) while in the Smokies on my 2007 AT Thru hike.  We’ve kept in touch since then.  He’s savvy on all sorts of backpacking -related skills and supports.

I use a Solio solar charger right now, but the solar function is really fruitless  in the heavily forested east coast trails where I usually hike.  I mostly use the Solio as a storage battery.  It plugs into the wall , charges up, hen stores that charge for use with iPod, etc. when on the trail. I hope Rockdawg can secure a wall charger for the Brunton.  I would probably replace the Solio with the Brunton is that is the case, as it is lighter and more powerful.

Here’s Rockdawg  :

Had a chance to use the Brunton battery to recharge my cell phone.

Took 2 hours to bring the phone to full charge from a 15% battery condition.  Used about 25% of the battery packs storage according to the LEDs on the pack.  I think I could get 2 more recharges but will have to wait and see. My phone is  a 3G slide by HTC.
Specs for the pack are: 5V output voltage; 1000mA output current; 11.8 Wh capacity; standard and mini USB ports; comes with a micro USB adaptor and car charger.  110V to 12V charger is a separate purchase.  Weight is 4.8 oz.
I tried the Brunton website for a wall cable and could not find one there.  I plan to call them this week and see what their tech folks say.  I suspect at least one commonly used charger with a USB connector might do the trick.  The battery pack can be charged by tapping a computer USB port, but it takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to reach full charge.  About the same with the 12V car charger.
As far as charging my phone, I got 1.5 charges out of the first try.  Not what I expected from the reviews I read.   I’m starting the 2nd testing sequence today to see if I can get 2 full charges.  Was thinking it would carry 3 charges from the reviews, but it just may be the phone I have sucks a lot of juice.
If it will not give at least 2 full charges, I don’t think it would work for really long distance hiking.  It might for me since I don’t run Internet connections while I’m hiking (this current phone really eats juice big time when tied to the internet).  Typically, I usually only turn on my phone once a day when hiking to see if there are messages from home.  That allows me several days of phone charge, generally letting me get to the next town to re-supply, etc.
Will let you know the results of testing next weekend and anything I find out from Brunton:

1)  Brunton is sending me a wall charging unit at no cost.  They said just about any small charger from a cell phone would work, or anything that puts out about 5V and has the proper USB 2 connector.  I have a charger from an older Motorola cell phone that will work.

2) Completed the 2nd phone re-charging test last night and it was same as the first.  Starting at a 10% battery on first attempt, I got a full charge with the Inspire pack showing 3 of the 4 LEDS  still lit after the charging.  On the 2nd re-charge, I started at a 15% battery level in the phone and got to a 60% recharge before the Inspire quit charging.  It still showed 1 LED but did not put out any additional juice to the phone.  My conclusion is that you might get an additional 3 to 5 days usage on the phone by using this Brunton unit, with the phone being on continuously during the daytime – but not being used continuously, if that makes any sense.  This will be somewhat dependent on the particular phone you are using, could be more, could be less.  I also weighed the unit and got 6.0 ozs vs. the 4.8 Brunton advertises.

Brunton sent the wall charging unit for the Inspire, which I received yesterday.  It has a standard USB connection at the charger end, therefore a double-ended USB wire will work with the Inspire for re-charge.  Highly compact, 1.5 x 2.0 inches and about 2 or 3 ozs.  Output is 5V DC.  Has a fold-away wall plug.   I think any unit with this DC voltage will be okay for use.  I’ve used my Motorola phone wall charger (5V DC) to re-charge the Inspire twice and that unit works just fine also.
I think I can use the Inspire similar to what I said earlier – adding 3 to 5 days to my trip time without stopping to find a wall outlet somewhere.  IF I don’t operate in any other manner than to check messages once per day and the occasional call home, this should give me about 8 to 10 days travel time before hitting town for re-supply and re-charging.  Possibly more if I am in areas with no signal.

Clearing the trail up to Old Blue Mountain

“Hey, Uncle Tom, I’m sitting here at trailhead on the South Arm Road ( 1420’) ,  the skies are dark and it looks like the end of the world.  I am not going to go up the trail. Maybe we should go back to Andover and have breakfast at the store and wait for this to blow over.”
This phone call marks the beginning of my experience on National Trails Day,  clearing the three mile section of Appalachian Trail that went relentlessly up from the South Arm Road To the top of Old Blue mountain.
I was there to assist my friend Old Buzzard, as he launched his first time take-over of the volunteering duty to maintain that piece of the AT. He inherited it from another friend, and rabid AT multi-thru hiker Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Assisting us was Buzzard’s son Tom, and his black lab Otis.
It was a tough long day. We started up just after 9 AM, and didn’t get back to our cars until 4 PM.  Buzzard hauled a chain saw, gas can, and oil up there and I carried  a saw and an axe on my back.  We cut over a dozen trees from the trail and hauled the tops into the woods.

Old Buzzard buzzing the blowdown

I forgot how steep parts of the first 50 miles of the northbound Maine AT were.  Our first 3/4 mile of trail went up some 1,300 vertical feet from the road.  We used  iron rods and hand rails to haul ourselves up these steep rock sections that bore no other foot holds.
I had prepared for more of the hot, humid conditions that we were experiencing on the Maine Coast, forgetting that the high western Maine mountains have their own ecology, and if often isn’t what you expect.  I even wore a cotton t-shirt, thinking it would help cool the heat.  Instead of extra clothes, I brought a bug shirt.  I badly miscalculated. By the time we reached the summit of Old Blue ( 3600’), I was cold, my shirt was soaked, and my hands were starting to have problems unwrapping my sandwich.
But we eventually made it back down again, and I was pleased to have hiked a bit with my friend Old Buzzard.

The A team - Old Buzzard, Otis, and Tom

I promised him that he could call upon me to help him the next time he was going to take care of that three miles of real demanding Maine trail.

GPS: getting better !

Today I rode my bicycle from my house down to Camden to buy a coffee to put in my water bottle and a half-dozen bagels at the Bagel Shop. Then I rode over to buy a Sunday paper at the convenience store, and came home. I am still running the Garmin Geko on the initial set of two AAA batteries. I have high hopes for practical use of this waterproof GPS as it only weighs 3.0 ounces, with batteries installed. I paid $60 for the GPS (used) on EBay, but it looked as new when it arrived at my house with original packing material and all manuals included.
I am using a Keyspan Tripp-Lite USB serial adapter from the MacBook to the Garmin serial cable connecting to the back of the Geko 201. The enclosed CR-Rom installed the driver flawlessly.
I am successfully using LoadMyTracks, a piece of free software that will communicate with GPS devices from many manufacturers to send and receive data. A single popup window shows my Garmin device and then a choice can be made to import either .gpx or.kml formats, saved to whatever folder you wish ( mine is labeled GPS).   The software can also be used to translate data between the popular GPX and KML (Google Earth) formats. The software provides support for waypoints (single locations in space), routes (lists of waypoints that can be used as instructions of where to go), and tracks (the breadcrumbs that many GPS devices keep to show where you have been).

After I access the tracks from my recent trip, I load another free program,  GPS Visualizer,  an easy-to-use online utility that creates maps and profiles from GPS data (tracks and waypoints, including GPX files), driving routes, street addresses, or simple coordinates.

We are not done yet, no we aren’t.  After it creates a Google map overlay, I use the Preview program from OS X to clip the map from my Visualizer screen, which I save as a JPG file on my desktop.  From here it is easily pasted into a WordPress post.  Here it is!

I like this map better. It details a 16 mile round trip, 1 hr., 29 minute total time, with max speed of 29.8 mph (coasting downhill) bike ride. I  do believe that engaging in this process somehow fills out  the outdoor experience .

Pulling my Hair Out ! Using GPS! AARHGH!

View from ledges on Levensellar Mountain

Well, I’m sort of embarrassed to display the product of so many hours of my efforts! What I have been working for weeks, and it looks like I am almost successful with, is to:
1.Track on my “new” Garmin Geko GPS any hike, bike, or canoe trip.
2.Download the data into my MacBook.
3.Convert the data into a form that overlays on a map.
4.Display the route on the map that can be viewed on this blog.
I will someday, but not today, for sure, explain why I ended up spending MANY hours of frustration getting here. For now, I got to get a break away from this pursuit, but here is a 5.4 mile out and back hike that I took yesterday up from my house to the top of 1030′ Levensellar Mountain.
It’s good, yes? No?