Study vs. Action ? Improve Your Backpacking Success

People get better by putting time and effort into understanding and practicing the components that are necessary to complete a task,  job, or even a sport, like backpacking.  I recently read an article by Tim Herrera in his NYTimes Smarter Living column that challenged my thinking about improving my long distance backpacking skills.     Here’s the article:  Just Working Harder Won’t Get You Ahead. Working Smarter Will.    In sum, Herrera postultates about variables that affect skill levels in advanced  performers. Herrera claims that the strongest predictor of skill wasn’t time spent practicing; rather, it was time spent in serious study.  Unfortunately, Herrera draws on just one example- the “sport” of chess, as his example.

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In my experience hugely more productive to engage in the activities and practice the basic principles that bolster one’s chances of success than spend that equal time in serious study of backpacking books, websites, and videos.

Backpacking and hiking are activities that should be as natural as waking up or going to sleep- after all, once we learn to walk as babies, life is just putting one foot in front of the other, right?   Well, yes and no.

Walking is easy until you turn your ankle and sprain it, or worse.  It’s easy unless you find yourself off-trail in a unfamiliar area, or if you need to cross a raging stream that has the power to sweep your feet out from under you.

Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

Walking is no problem, until you are walking on ice slanted on an impossibly steep slope, or a bear rips into your backpack at night and absconds with your food.

Experience trumps familiarity, which brings up another pitfall of trying to master a set of physical and mental skills by reading, listening to,  or observing others engaged in the practice.   You fall into the pit when you follow up unreliable advice that comes your way  due to the ability of media to make a pitch look polished and professional when in fact it may even be uninformed ofreven false.  For example, I attended a workshop in April 2010 in Southern California as I was starting my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail  dubbed ” the foot talk” where a former PCT-thru hiker told us anxious group of wanna-bees that blisters were inevitable.  At the time, I had just switched to a pair of military issue desert boots that were supplied by New Balance that were loaded with mesh panels to dump moisture.  I was fortunate to complete that hike blister free, as I have with any other long distance hike since then.  Sure there were a few more things that I had learned bout taking care of my feet that I applied on my hikes, but the point is that experts don’t know what is best for you, and maybe not even themselves.

Edward tells me that , ” It’s still not right”

I bought a new tent this year- a 12′ diameter tipi , with one 6’10” pole, that required  serious study and practice to set up.  I brought my new tent to Florida this past January where I was camping with my best friend Edward.   I had watched two videos about setting the unit up as well as read the instruction sheet that accompanied the tent.  I also read all the customer comments on the website about setting it up.  I laughed when I read the comment about the poor guy who took 2 hours to set his tipi up the first time  in an actual snowstorm.   Would you believe that it also took Edward and me two hours to set up the tent, and that was in warm weather on perfectly flat ground ?  The written instructions were confusing, and we ended up devising a much simpler method for doing the job right, getting the setup down to 10 minutes after two hours of actual engagement in the act of putting the thing up taught and secure.

In Zen Body-Being, Peter Ralston writes about developing physical skills, power, and even grace.   In 1978 Ralston  became the first non-Asian ever to win the World Championship full-contact martial arts tournament held in the Republic of China.

Ralston writes about the wisdom of experience:  ” Studying techniques and training ritualized movement may be useful, but these are ‘details’ within a larger picture.  We need to  be able to discern the sometimes-subtle difference between just thinking about something and truly experiencing something.  One of the simplest ways to bridge this gap is to involve ourselves with hand-on experimentation and investigation.”

So,  make 2018 the year you experience the outdoors and engage in hiking and backpacking more than you spend those same hours on screen while sitting on the couch.  Set a goal to get out for many hours, where you might be blessed enough to be able to walk though rain, snow, wind, cold, and dark and have the realization that walking might just be putting one foot in front of the other, but it isn’t easy, and it doesn’t have to be done on blistered feet.

Book Release Talk – Thru-Hiking the Continental Divide Trail

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Next Tuesday night!

Feb 27, 2018  6:00-8:00 PM

Camden ( Maine ) Public Library

Full Information —>>>>In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail | Camden Public Library

In 2013, the 63-year-old Jamrog completed a 5-month long backpacking journey over the Rocky Mountains through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

In the Path of Young Bulls is the story of that desolate, yet majestic 2,500-mile journey, an effort achieved in the company of hiking partners half his age. Tom wrote the initial manuscript of the book on an iPhone while hiking. The 267-page book features over 50 full-color photographs.   Copies will be on sale via assistance of Camden’s Sherman’s Bookstore.

 

 

L.L. Bean’s Lifetime Returns Policy gone, while Patagonia Seeks to Stitch Up Rips

The news broke this weekend.

“In a letter to customers Friday, the Freeport-based outerwear giant said it would no longer honor a lifetime replacement guarantee that had become an integral part of its reputation. Instead, it will only replace items that are returned within 12 months, and for which customers can provide proof of purchase. After a year, it will replace items that have defects, on a case-by-case basis.”- via L.L. Bean’s Legendary Return Policy Has Ended – Boston Magazine

The returns policy change follows discouraging news from last week that LLBean is laying off 10 percent of its 5,000 employees and implementing other belt-tightening  procedures.  The measures, announced last February, started Jan. 1, with the aim of reducing its workforce by 500 full-time people.

In 2017,  Maine’s fifth largest employer took a political hit when one of the heirs and board member, Linda Bean, came under investigation by the Federal Election Commission for political donations that she made to the pro–Donald Trump organization Making America Great Again.

Unfortunately, Linda Bean’s support for Donald Trump backfired when President Trump Tweeted her up:

screenshot 7“Trump’s message landed with the subtlety of a hand grenade. Suddenly, the brand had been hijacked, those tote bags now symbols of political partisanship. In an anti-Trump frenzy, longtime customers cut up their L.L. Bean credit cards, returned orders, and pledged allegiance on Facebook to competitors Patagonia and REI.”-via Boston Magazine ( 2/21/2017).

At the same time that yesterday’s LLBean news arrived in my computer’s in-box, I received a pleasant surprise in my  rural mailbox- a package from Patagonia that contained my 10 year old pair of tights with a sticker and a thank you note.

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Sticker

A Thank You note was also included, which read, in part:

“Thank you for fixing your gear. As consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer, thereby reducing the need to buy more.  Thank you for sending your gear into us for repair and for being loyal to the threads that have carried you of mountains and maybe even been passed down through generations. If you’d like to share your Worn Wear story or learn how to fix your own gear, visit: patagonia.com/wornwear

I was pleasantly surprised at the level of service I obtained on my repair.  I originally brought the tights back to the Patagonia Outlet (Freeport, Maine) where I bought them to see if they would repair a short leg zipper that allowed the tights to be put on and off while wearing shoes.  The salesperson volunteered to send the garment into Patagonia in Reno, Nevada, where they would assess the damages and determine if the garment was able to be fixed.

Not only did they put in a brand new zipper, they repaired an assorted 12 holes/tears that had accumulated over 10 years of year round use.

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I have always been a lifelong customer of LLBean, and have only used their return policy in a reasonable manner.  I decry the abuses that the returns sales agents have had to endure, but I regret they have dropped the lifetime return for those of us who don’t abuse it.

L.L. Bean’s foundation policy is strongly linked to its brand , so it remains to be seen whether this change will assist in improving the last two years of LLBean’s flat sales.

 

 

 

 

Thomas Jamrog’s review of On Trails: An Exploration | Goodreads

On Trails: An ExplorationOn Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mr. Moore thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2009.
The 27 page Prologue focuses on that hike and leads to Moore’s interest in paths and trails in general.
The 39 page Epilogue is a highly interesting report of the latter life habits ( both on and off trail ) of a legendary thru-hiker, M.J. Eberhart, better knows as Nimblewill Nomad. At the age of 60, Eberhard retires as an eye doctor specializing in cataract surgery and is reborn as The Nomad. He then hikes over 34,000 miles in 15 years and is still out there. Moore tracks The Nomad down and spends a few days hiking with him through Texas and shares those experiences along with direct quotes of Nomad philosophy with the reader.
In between the Prologue and the Epilogue is Moore’s research on trails and paths, human, and animal in a scholarly, razor-like analysis of why movement matters, and what movement means.
Moore is young guy who is already a a huge writer, who has won multiple awards for his nonfiction work. Thinking as a hiker, I found the whole book interesting, but the Prologue and Epilogue holds the best writing about long distance hiking and “hiker-trash” philosophy that this hiker has ever read.

View all my reviews

Blue Hill Library presents THRU-HIKING THE CDT (CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL )

TOM JAMROG – – THRU-HIKING THE CDT (CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL )

FEBRUARY 1 @ 6:30 PM-  8:00 PM

Tom Jamrog will present on Thursday, February 1 at 6:30 PM on his 5 months of experiences on the CDT, one of the toughest long distance hikes in the world.

The 2,500 mile National Scenic Trail is now 70% completed.  It starts at the Mexico border and travels along the spine of the Rockies as it winds through New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Montana into Canada.  The presentation  will draw on images and stories from his newly released book:  In the Path of Young Bulls:  An Odyssey Along America’s Continental Divide Trail.

Blue Hill Books will assist with book sales at the event.

I’m Walking down South- NOT on the FLA Trail !

I’m spending  a week in Disney World where I’m sharing a tent site at Fort Wilderness Campground.  I was in shirt sleeves and shorts yesterday and racked up 13 miles of walking on day 1 and 10 more on day 2.  I’m hanging with my best friend, Edward, who lets me stay at his campsite here any time for as long as I want and he won’t take any $$ from me.  Of course, I have have no rental car.

Edward checks out my new tipi

Edward has  been here from November and will stay until early March, as he has done for every single winter for the last 40 years.  When March comes, he’ll head back to his fruit and vegetable farm in Masschusetts  where a 100  hour per week schedule awaits him for the rest of the calendar year.

I ‘m  testing out a brand new tent,  made by SeekOutside. It is 6’10” high and 12′ in diameter, weighing in at 4 and a half pounds.  There’s just a single telescoping carbon fiber pole.  Here is a a picture of the unit from Seek Outside set up with interior heat with a titanium stove and stove pipe, probably somewhere during elk hunting season  in the Rockies.

-Seek Outside 12′ tipi

From the website:  “The Four-Person Tipi is roomy and storm worthy. Extremely lightweight for the square footage, this tipi is a palace for solo use. It is capable of sleeping up to four with minimal gear, but is better suited to the luxurious solo trucker, or for two with late-season or winter gear.   Handmade in Grand Junction,  Colorado,  the tipi features:  Dual zipper doors with storm flaps, Single peak vent, stove jack with rain flap, 6 inch sod skirt with rain flap, ultra robust stake loops, interior hang hoops for tying clothes line for hanging gear, and external guy-out  loops to steepen walls, or pitch the shelter down in tight spots.”

I am awaiting shipment of a custom titanium stove and stove pipe from Don Kivelus, owner of Four Dog Stove out of St. Francis, MN.

I have  been using one of Don’s full size titanium stoves for 15 years of winter camping and it is still like new.  The big stove pairs with with a much larger, custom 9 x 12 foot Egyptian cotton wall tent that stands 7′ high.  It easily houses 4 winter campers and all gear.

This tent is targeted for personal use, and will hold only one more camper and all the accompanying gear in winter.  I plan to experiment with this tipi and stove later this February on a multi day winter camping trip in Acadia National Park. If everything works out,  I should be able to transport the tipi and stove on racks bolted to the rear of my Surly Pugsley fat tire bicycle and embrace winter riding and camping in style.

3/17 trip into Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Stay tuned for the updates on this project.

 

 

 

Book Release Presentation- Backpacking the Continental Divide Trail

via –>> Thomas Jamrog: In the Path of Young Bulls – Blue Hill Public Library

February 1, 2018 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

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Licensed Maine Guide and author Thomas Jamrog will do a presentation and read from his recent book, In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail, at the Blue Hill Public Library on Thursday February 1st at 6:30 PM. The book details how, after thru-hikes on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, he left his rocking chair to hike the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail with a multi-generational team for five months on one of the country’s toughest long-distance treks.

Uncle Tom’s Adventures Looks at 2018

Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures slides into the first week of a frozen, record cold 2018.

Cold at Camp

Within a week of record breaking cold, the thermometer never got above zero for a couple of days.

I am still nursing my right shoulder after a fall I had off my fat tire back in The Bog on Dec. 9. I think I can get back on the saddle in a couple of days, when the winter’s course appears to turn another rough weather corner.  Right now there is a two foot thick snow cover on the open fields .

Heading home, sinking.

It’s been so cold that the snow hasn’t really compressed or refrozen, even on the snowmobile trails that have had a bit of traffic on them. Some winter riders have reported great conditions, but others have floundered a bit in the softer stretches.   That should all change in a couple of days. The forecast is for it to warm up to 50 degrees in two days and the rain from 4 AM on Friday until 4PM on Saturday when the melted mess will freeze solid when temperature tanks again into single numbers. Sheesh!

I just spent my first 2018 night out at camp.

Hobbs Pond camp

The place was a mess and needed tending. Last week I trailered over a used gas cook stove and a couple hundred linear feet of used pressure treated boards that will help upgrade the setting here. I  parked the trailer in front of the camp and left it.   I just managed to beat the latest snowstorm, with my shoveling and hacking a path for Maritime Energy to install the propane tank and gas cook stove. The moving dolly was still inside as the strewn about contents of the tiny kitchen, which had to be moved into the rest of the camp in order to haul the old electric range out and the gas unit in.  So, with Marcia still in Florida basking in the sun of Vero Beach this week, I put the Tempwood stove to use and got the camp up to a comfortable temperature for the night.

Main room w/ Tempwood on right

I must admit that split dry oak chunks seal the heat deal. With such a tiny camp, a couple of hours of attention puts things back into order. It feels good to get away and live lean, even if it is just for part of a day.

This week, I will likely sell out the few copies I have left from the first printing of my new book, “In the Path of Young Bulls”.

Front and center

I am lining up the second printing.  My wife Marcia uncovered several typos in the first press run. I made those minor changes as well as a text alteration to improve the ending. I plan to run a couple of “incentives” to launch sales of the next press run in 2018.

In the meantime, I continue to learn about heart rate variability as a training aid, because rest appears as important as activity in maintaining fitness.

I am also continuing my research into genetic testing and its application to training and fitness. I have just sent off a saliva sample to 23andme.com . I already have received genetic results from FitnessGenes.com and am very interested in seeing similarities and possible difference in those sets of results.

I am checking out info on the micro biome : —>>”No Gut, No Glory: Scientists are calling the human micro-biome the forgotten organ.

-OutsideOnilne.com

And their discoveries about the trillions of bacteria living inside us may revolutionize how we think about diet, performance, and endurance. So in the name of citizen science, we subjected ourselves and seven elite athletes—including skier Cody Townsend—to microbial analysis, with eye-opening results.” —David Ferry, in Outside Magazine January/February 2018

I am also interested in drawing when I am outdoors. I received some sketchbooks, watercolors, and writing tools as Xmas presents.

I plan to head down to Florida in late January to camp out with my friend Edward for a week.

In February, I plan to spend several nights of winter camping at Blackwoods campground  in Acadia, testing out a new tent and custom titanium wood stove to heat it.  I hope I can get some pals to come along.  February will also feature me attending a Kimchi workshop with Hanji Chan and her mother, Sammai Choi, who will walk us through how to make authentic Korean Kimchi, the famous fermented cabbage dish served with all Korean meals.

The first weekend in March is set up for winter camping at Camden Hills State Park. I also plan to return to some winter activities in the Katahdin Woods and waters National Monument in March.  Here’s winter fat biking that happened there last March.

I have signed up for a mushroom identification class at Camden Hills High School with David L. Spahr in May. David is the author of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada: A Photographic Guidebook to Finding and Using Key Species.

I’m not sure what my commercial backpacking schedule will be for the 2018 season. The 2017 schedule was a bust for me. Marcia and I had to cancel our June Denali trip due to illness. I also had to cancel a full 100 Mile Wilderness Trip that was scheduled for early September , due to a sudden decline in the functioning of my 91 year old mother Isabel. She had exhausted the family in caring for her while I was off in Newfoundland on a two week thru hike in late August. No longer able to live in the home where she has spent the past 85 years, I stepped off the plane from Newfoundland in Boston to spend a week with her in her house. I then packed her up and moved her to Maine, but not for long.

Activity goals in 2018:
– via Strava: 1,000 miles on the bike, and another 1,000 miles of hiking.
– To read 35 books in 2018.
– Write outline and draft of new book.
-Post at least 2 blog entries/week in 2018

Let’s get going,  let’s get out there.

I’m “In it for the long haul”

Check out today’s  Sports section of the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Retired psychologist from Midcoast amasses major hiking resume – via Portland Press Herald

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A big thanks to Deirdre Fleming, journalist/reporter, Gregory Rec for his photos, and anyone else who helped me keep walking!

Read on –>> Retired psychologist from Midcoast amasses major hiking resume – Portland Press Herald