Why “The Revenant” feels like the real deal 

Because Canada’s Mors Kochanski was technical adviser to the movie, that’s why.  If you don’t know about Mors, you don’t know much about the increasingly popular subset of outdoor adventuring known as Bushcraft.   Wikipedia says that, “Bushcraft is about thriving in the natural environment, and the acquisition of the skills and knowledge to do so. Bushcraft skills include firecraft, tracking, hunting, fishing, shelter-building, the use of tools such as knives and axes, foraging, hand-carving wood, container construction from natural materials, and rope and twine-making, among others.”

Here’s the back story about Mors and his part to play in ensuring that actual bushcraft is portrayed in The Revenant.  I particularly like the part where he talks about making good money in consulting to the movie.

I am headed back to the theater tonight for a second viewing  of The Revenant.  I don’t go much.  The last movie that I saw before this was The Hobbit.

I shun any horror movie, and generally turn off the TV when shows get unnecessarily gory.   However, I am intrigued by the rough, soiled, and worn quality of this movie.  Yes, the violent parts are hard to take, but the acts that are carried out are characteristic of daily life of that era.  Someone else wrote that these folks ate meat, wore skins and furs, and therefore killed large animals on a regular basis.  They were also in total fight or flight mode, due to the constant threat of hostile natives.

Here’s the trailer for The Revenant.

Flashback to today’s date in 2013

I’m in Montana again for a week!

It feels so good to be here- mostly due to waking up to 43 degrees outside our room here at the Lewis and Clark Motel.  I am so pleased to be out of the heat and humidity in maine this week.

It snowed last night in the Gallatins.  The Beartooth Highway was closed as well.  I see snow capping the mountains outside my window.

Bozeman
Bozeman

This morning, my consciousness harkened back to wondering where I was on this exact date in 2013, when I was moving north along the Continental Divide Trail. Here’s the entry from that date. It’s from the Wind River Range in Wyoming, where we were dodging wolves, grizzlies, and being lost.

Uncle Tom’s 2013 Continental Divide Trail Journal, Part of Trail Journals’ Backpacking and Hiking Journals.

Throwback Thursday- Continental Divide Trail- July 15, 2013

I have been able to spend 1-2 hours a day, each morning this summer, as I plod through  finishing a book about my 2013 CDT hike.  The process involves me editing  all my Trailjournal entries from that trip,  reviewing my walk via my map collection, as well as checking photos.

I am also doing additional research and background collection on historical data.  I am having a great time doing this each morning.  There is no way I am able to write later in the day.  I am fresh and coffeed up when the light is just starting each day.

Train and Dick Wizard on the CDT in northern Colorado
Train and Dick Wizard on the CDT in northern Colorado

Here’s my freshly revised entry from exactly two years ago, after a 28 mile day in northern Colorado, two days before crossing into Wyoming.

 

Missed Part 1 ? Check out my Triple Crown of Hiking TV interview

Somewhere in Southern California
Somewhere in Southern California

WCSH’s  Maine-based TV news magazine “207” interviewed me at my kitchen table two weeks ago.

If you were not able to watch the broadcast last night, the link to Part 1 of the interview is now up on WCSH’s web site.  <<-

The second half of the interview is Tonight, Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7 PM.  Catch it at 7:00 p.m. on channels 6 in Portland and  2 in Bangor.

I’m talking adventure, about walking for months on end at a time, and what’s next after being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.

My interview will also be posted in the 207 section of www.WCSH6.com, where it will remain online for approximately 6 months.

I’d like to thank all the hundreds of hikers, neighbors, family members, and even those complete strangers who assisted me during my year and a half of backpacking.

Tom Jamrog on Channel 2 and 6 tonight at 7 PM

Uncle Tom on the Long Falls Dam Road in Maine
Uncle Tom on the Long Falls Dam Road in Maine

Rob Caldwell’s Maine-based TV news magazine “207” (named after Maine’s one and only area code) interviewed me at my kitchen table two weeks ago. Rob’s program will feature a conversation we had about adventures, walking for months on end at a time, and being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.

The interview is airing tonight: November 24 —part 1. Part 2 airs on Tuesday. Catch it at 7:00 p.m. on channel 6 in Portland and channel 2 in Bangor. It will also be posted in the 207 section of www.WCSH6.com, where it will remain online for approximately 6 months.

Rob told me to, “Tell everyone you’ve ever met. We want even people on hiking trails who are fifty miles away from the nearest TV to watch.”  I’m trying!

Midwest Winter Camping Symposium- my take

The big event on the shore of Sturgeon Lake in Minnesota was a huge success. My travel from Maine was originally scheduled in order for me to work in the vendor area at Don Kevilus’ Four Dog Stove booth.

Don Kevilus steering the Four Dog Stove operation
Don Kevilus steering the Four Dog Stove operation

I worked the Four Dog Stove booth in 2011 at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, where twenty thousand hikers converged at the Appalachian Trail’s biggest weekend event. It’s fun being front and center at a major event where there are so many people who are excited about getting out in the woods and trails and walking for day, weeks, and even months at a time.

The days were all sunny, the night cold but not frigid, and the sleeping was delicious, or was that deciduous?  Lots of trees nearby, just like back at home in Maine.

We are here at the Midwest Winter camping Skills Symposium.

Here is a video journal from Four Dog Stove that captures the energy and the experience of the weekend’s festivities.

Here’s a Facebook page for the Winter Camping Symposium.

And the link for the schedule–> See the wide variety of workshops  and seminars presented at this event.

I was Saturday’s Keynote Presenter

P1040551  Here’s my biography, with a pic of me walking white winter in Acadia National park: Thomas Jamrog has been backpacking, riding mountain bikes, and living in the outdoors for close to 50 years.  Tom maintains his popular blog: Living Large While Walking The Big Trail, and Tom’s Trailjournals have amassed close to one million web visits.   Tom is a member of the Iron Butt Association, a long-distance motorcycling community whose basic entry requirement is to ride 1,000 miles in one day. Tom rides mountain bikes year round in Maine. For one calendar year, Tom commuted 32 miles a day to work, on a bicycle, through the winter. Tom’s winter camping experiences have recently expanded to include winter fat-tire biking.From 2007 to 2013, Tom backpacked over 8,000 miles in the United States. On October 24, 2014 The American Long Distance Hiking Association-West awarded Tom the Triple Crown of Hiking, for having completed continuous through hikes of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails, joining a relatively small club of 200 people who have received the award to date.  
Tom has completed winter walking trips in Canada and conducts yearly trips in Maine, where he has lived with his wife, Marcia, for the past 40 years.Tom Jamrog

This was the topic for my presentation:

Winter Walking the West: Preparing and Adapting to Snow Travel in the High Sierras and Rocky Mountains–Tom Jamrog has recently completed 400 miles of walking on snow and ice over the High Sierra in California and several hundred miles above 10,000 feet in Colorado.  He will discuss his physical and mental preparation and how he adapted the skills learned from traditional “Winterwalking” in New England and Northern Canada to succeed in being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.

I also made some new friends.

I was camped right next door to Kevin and Beth Kinney, who are making a very respectable go at it sewing super well-designed winter outer ware from traditional textiles like cotton and fur. We’re talking Empire Canvas Works.

The big needle at Empire Canvas
The big needle at Empire Canvas

 

At the Four Dog Stove booth, we provided some table space for Ben’s Backwoods. I liked hanging with Ben Piersma and am reading through his authoritative blog right now.  His bio reads:  “Ben’s full time job is testing, researching, and selling tools and outdoor goods for life in the north woods. He uses hand tools like axes, hand-saws, and knives daily for fishing, hunting, foraging, self reliance, and primitive bushcraft. His goods can be found at Bensbackwoods.com

Did you know that that residents of other states can be licensed as Registered Maine Guides. I enjoyed talking trail and skills with Scott Oeth, from Minnesota, who had passed all the testing requirements for the Maine Guide license last year. Scott’s blog is tops, and full of interesting outdoor angles.

Scott checking out some very warm custom mittens
Scott checking out some very warm custom mittens

I was impressed with the camaraderie here.  For example, Don Kivelus invited Ben to set up a his Ben’s Backwoods goods table at Don’s Four Dog Stove booth, making for many grand choices on one long table full of shiny metal , or polished wooden stuff.  These two guys are in effect  direct competitors, supplying the bushcraft public with a number of the same items, but sometimes work together, like this. I also know that both Ben and Don live in the sticks, and at least Don has an actual farmstead, with animals running around a wide expanse of Minnesota.  Don prefers cutting and hauling his firewood with some of the five mules he tends on the back forty.  He sometimes posts pics of mules plowing up a field, not something you see everyday, even way out in rural areas where tractors rule.  Any product these two guys consider to sell is first used, abused, and sometimes refused before it goes up for sale. A true American business experience, a rare occurrence these days.

In the next few weeks, I plan to post a few Four Dog Stove Youtube videos related to this event and also highlight some of the products I am evaluating that I picked up out in Minnesota. Stay tuned.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2014

Tent City at Snow Walkers' (2013)
Tent City at Snow Walkers’ (2013)

I am presenting a talk in Vermont at this event, upcoming in November..

My talk/ photo display will be : Winter Walking the West: Preparing and Adapting for Snow Travel in the Sierras and the Rockies

It’ a great weekend of all things winter foot- travel related.  It sells out at 100 registrants every year so far, so get in touch with Lynn if you are interested in going.

Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous 2014
November 7-9
Hulbert Outdoor Center
Fairlee, Vermont
Friday, November 7 – 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Saturday, November 8– 8:45 am- 9:00pm
Sunday, November 9 – morning – workshops & informal hike/ bike

Join us for our 20th informal gathering of friends (and friends of friends) who love to travel traditionally in the winter wilderness. We’ll have slides, and films and lots of information to exchange. Bring your favorite items from the North to display: maps, books, photo albums, sleds, tools, etc. All are welcome to display tents and share traditional camp set-ups.

Partial list of folks sharing their experiences:
Katherine Donahue NH Steaming North: 1st Cruise of US Revenue Cutter Bear,Alaska & Siberia,1886
Ruth Heindel VT Stories from the Poles: Science and Adventure in Greenland and Antarctica
Paul Sveum NH 21 Day Snowshoe Trip on the Boundary Waters
Mirelle Bouliano QU Skiing Northern Quebec
Craig MacDonald ON Richmond Gulf Traverse 1979
Bruce Lindwall NH Back Country Skiing the Sierra Crest Trail
Tom Jamrog ME Winter Walk the West: Preparing & Adapting on the Pacific Crest & Continental Divide
Scott Ellis VT Finding Simplicity in Winter Camping

WORKSHOPS:
Alex Medlicott NH First Aid for the Winter Trail – Cold Injuries; prevention,recognition;treatment
Ann Ingerson VT Sewing Your Own Winter Gear
Tim Smith NH Axe Handling
Ross Morgan VT Knots for the Trail
Paul Sveum NH Food Planning for the Trail
David & Anna Bosum QU (Tentative) Cree Culture
Film – “On the Wings of Mighty Horses” – Sakha Republic
Geoffrey Burke NH Build your Own Toboggan
Loranne Carey Block NH Felted & Knitted Sock Fiber Arts for Camping
Tour of the Tents & Stoves Traditional Equipment Display
Used Equipment – Sale/Swap Bring your fiddle, guitar or musical instrument for evening fun…
AND MUCH MORE…………………………..

Meals & Lodging: Simple lodging is available at the Hulbert Outdoor Center. Cozy 3-4 bedroom heated cabins provide comfortable accommodations. (As well as your tent!) Meals served buffet style in dining hall. The Center is located on Lake Morey, and is easily accessible from I-91.
Program registration -$60; student/limited income-$45. Registrations accepted until program is full.
Meals & lodging package for the weekend (Fri. Dinner through Sun. Breakfast, 3-4 occupancy/room)
Commuter & tent rates available (see registration form) Thanks for mailing or faxing your registration after Oct 1. Sorry we cannot accept phone registrations.

Registration Questions: Lynn_Daly@alohafoundation.org

My Book Review of Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park

Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National ParkDeath in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee H. Whittlesey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don’t be reading this book just before a vacation to Yellowstone National Park. You just might cancel your reservations.

Death in Yellowstone details the 350 violent deaths that occurred from the period of 1839-2012. When you have 750 bears, 4,000 buffaloes, and 10,000 hot springs, and precipitous mountain locations things go wrong, occasionally deadly wrong, and this book chronicles approximately 350 of those end game scenarios.

It’s a well researched, 2014 second edition effort, with close to 100 pages of notes, and additional bibliography, and extensive index.

Nature Can Kill is the book’s slogan.

Here’s a representative list of the ways you could get terminated: Stumbling (or diving!) into hot springs, falling off high places, crushed by a falling tree, freezing /hypothermia, grizzly bears, murders, suicides, accidental shootings, drownings, and a few lesser tier deaths under the noxious fumes/poisonous gasses cluster. There’s more, if you can get your imagination flowing into the macabre direction.

Some segments didn’t work for me, like the drowning chapter. It quickly became repetitive to detail who drowned, how they drowned, who found them, etc.

I found the Death in Hot Water, and Human Deaths from Bears and How to Keep Them From Happening chapters the most interesting. They are also the longest chapters. I have actually backpacked for a week through Yellowstone, which was a unique experience for me, one which gave me confidence and practice in avoiding mishaps from the few bear encounters that I have experienced. I saw grizzlies and I am here to tell about it, as are most of the many millions of individuals who have enjoyed their visits in the Park. The best part of the book was on pages 87-90 at the end of the bear chapter. The author summarizes all the data from bear attacks and reduces the advice to this sentences, ”The worst possible situation is a person hiking alone, who surprises a bear that is feeding ( as on a carcass) and also has cubs.”

I was just back in Yellowstone this week, where federal cuts resulted in no rangers observed supervising the hordes of summer tourists doing their best to illustrate stupid behaviors in the wilderness. I expect a thicker revision of this popular book, and sooner than later. Some of those people walking around the Park with their eyes glued onto their smart phones are going to figure into this.

View all my reviews

Big Miles in Montana

Today we drove 300 miles north to East Glacier, where we had a room at the Whistling Swan Inn. My mom and I took a different route than we took on our way down to the southern part of Montana last week. It’s a heck of a vacation- bouncing from Glacier to Yellowstone Park and back, but what’s 300 miles when you have a brand new rental car, with the wide open spaces calling us out again?

The sparse population of Montana stunned us today, and we were traveling on some of the more frequented highways in the state.
“Montana is ranked 4th in size, but 44th in population and 48th in population density of the 50 United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. In total, 77 named ranges are part of the Rocky Mountains. “ – Wikipedia. I’d add that three of my favorite big National reserves are in the state, with the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument following up on Glacier and Yellowstone ( which is mostly in Wyoming).

It would be very difficult for anyone from the eastern US to really appreciate the feeling of vastness without visiting Montana.

I have been here several times now, and today’s drive found me startled with the vastness of the countryside, a term that is not restricted to any particular part of the state.

Montana plains
Montana plains

Sure, the western portion of the state has all the mountain ranges, including the two National Parks, but huge visual expanses of green vastness were omnipresent as we motored north today.

The highlight of the day was revisiting the tiny community of Augusta, MT. I backpacked as far as Benchmark, MT, some 30 miles up and west with Train, and Dick Wizard last September 3. We had a most difficult time with getting to Augusta in order to buy food for the next 130 mile segment through the Bob Marshall Wilderness. You can read about our most interesting adventures in Augusta here, on my Trailjournal. I loved reuniting with Aimee today, the owner of The Bunkhouse, who did so much last year when we were in Augusta. She remembered my name, and even asked about Train and Wizard.

We had the rental car until 8 PM, so after we checked into our room at 5 pm, we hightailed it from East Glacier up to St. Mary, here we went as far on the Going to the Sun Highway (GSH) as we could, with our ride stopped at around the 10 mile mark. The the middle section of the GSH is still not fully plowed at the highest point around Logan Pass and the Big Drift. Two weeks ago, Glacier was reporting 50-70 foot snow depths around that area.

Here are some photos of the park from our evening ride.

West into GNP
West into GNP

The drive back was quite exciting, with no guardrails on the outside lane of the extremely twisty, uneven, and elevated roadways through that portion of the Park. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It got so bad that my mom, who was sitting even closer to the edges that I was, resorted to closing her eyes, and faintly whispering her Hail Marys as she pointed her clasped hands to heaven.

Yellowstone Revisited

Spent the day at Yellowstone National Park. It is the fourth time that I have visited there, and the first time that I have been in the Park in early summer, when the landscape is still green and not in shades of brown from the lack of rain, as the summers here move on, with day after day of pure blue skies.

I was last here in August (2013) when I spent a week backpacking north through Yellowstone, when it was hot and I was frustrated with trying to make dictated mileages between assigned campsites that were chosen for us without car transport in mind.  8.09 Old Faithful This time, I was driving around in a brand new rental car, and life is much different, so easy.   Today it’s mostly in the mid-50’s out, with showers coming and going, all day long. Who cares, we’re in Yellowstone !

Pleased to display to the Gardiner entrance ranger my lifetime National Parks Pass.

Senior benefit, finally!
Senior benefit, finally!

“Hold on to you $25 car fee, sir- pass right through. Have a great day in Yellowstone.”

Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468 square miles. “Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent. The caldera is considered an active volcano.”- from Wikipedia.

Given the relatively early date, the Park was packed. All the lots were all full, and required jousting with packs of motorcyclists, RV’s, and apparently clueless individuals who would stop their rented SUV’s right in the middle of key highway turns as they consulted their media maps.
We aimed at focusing our visit, and not try to do too much in one day. Our goal was to do the Fountain Paint Pots and the Midway Geyser Basin walks. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was thickly clouded, frequently showering, with the air holding that sulfur smell reeking from these fumaroles, bubbling mud pits, and geysers.

I really wanted to show my mom, Isabel, and son Lincoln the Grand Prismatic Spring.

Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring

Such a cool name for a geographical formation. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world. It is 300 feet in diameter and 160 fet deep. I have seen it four times, and while the obscured sun and the thick white clouds of vapor reduced the vibrancy of the colors, it still floored me.

Grand Prismatic Spring today
Grand Prismatic Spring today

Its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue

I picked up a new book about Yellowstone here- Death in Yellowstone. 51d90Sg2MuL._AA160_      It’s the type of book that you absolutely can’t read just before you visit the park, lest you are so frightened by the stories of all the ways hundreds of people have perished from non-natural causes in the Park.
On the boardwalk around Grand Prismatic, we witnessed a young Asian family nearly become yet another dumb-hurt statistic. The wind was really whipping up, and we were walking on an elevated boardwalk bordering the spring that had no guardrails, with a walking surface a bit slippery due to the rain. Mind you, there is super boiling water flowing underneath us. The mom and dad were pushing a baby in a stroller that was draped with a heavy plastic sheet. Suddenly, the three-wheeled stroller escaped the grip of the dad and pitched completely over and crash to the boardwalk. It landed just a foot from the edge of the walkway, throwing the parents into a panic, while the little five year old sister started laughing uncontrollably pointing at the downed stroller and the little upside-down child that was smacked down on the deck. It was a miracle that the baby didn’t get catapulted off the boardwalk into the boiling water and also that one of those parents didn’t have to jump into the same cauldron to extract the baby.  What were they thinking?

We made the right choice to call it a day and headed back north through the Gardiner gate toward Livingston. We saw deer, buffalo, and elk today. I’ll be back again sometime to check out more of this most remarkable place. I’ll still  have my National Parks Pass !