Posts Tagged ‘Lost Brook Dispatches’

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Cooking in the Back Country

For hard core backpackers pack weight is a serious game, especially in challenging and endurance-taxing terrain like the Adirondacks.  Every pound you take on the trail is additional effort.  Every extra handful of ounces somehow magnifies the inevitable crushing drain on personal will that, after an extended day with miles yet to go, can cause you to feel as Jacob Marley must have, shambling on through eternity.

For some, saving weight elevates to a competitive and expensive sport, with ultra-light this and featherweight that.  Lemme tell you, that gear costs.   For the most extreme disciples of light-weight backpacking the quest becomes quasi-religious (and I can arguably drop the “quasi” part).   I’ve known people to cut down pencils to save a tenth of an ounce.

We all join the faithful at one time or another: who among we Adirondack hikers has not at least once felt a surge of joy and self-congratulatory satisfaction all out of keeping with the situation when we drained our last water, feeling and hearing our bottles jiggling around oh-so empty, oh-so mercifully airy?  “Ha!  I’m light now, thank God,” we say to ourselves. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: A May Visit

Praise the fates!  Throw your arms skyward!  Since we last got together I have undergone one of the greatest miracles of this or any other life, a staggering experience, a profoundly humbling event, a happening that left me weeping with joy and gratefulness, trembling with disbelief and awe almost beyond description: I just spent three days on Lost Brook Tract, in late May, with unseasonably warm, sunny, humid and windless conditions and as far as I can tell I suffered two black fly bites.

Those of you who do not understand why I am raving about that should forget the Almanack and go peruse the Perez Hilton website instead. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Essential First Aid Kit

When last we met I devoted a column to essential equipment and in the process invited a plethora of opposing views.  Now let me get into even deeper trouble with the one essential item for which I left the details to this week’s column: the first aid kit.

Let me first preface my list by saying that safety in the back country to me implies an indefinite period of time.  My first aid kit reflects the possibility of being stuck for days facing a serious illness or injury.  As always, discomfort or inconvenience don’t matter much to me.  This is about potentially saving a life. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Essential Back Country Gear

It seems that everyone who loves backpacking has their beloved equipment list.  I am no exception.  My list, informed by my experience, attitude and views on comfort, has evolved over the years to something a little different than many lists I see.

Having spent two Dispatches on the general subject of back country safety I thought I’d offer my version for the fun of it and perhaps see how many arguments I can start.  I claim to have no definitive anything in this game, just an opinion.  So the more substantive disagreements I generate the better.

If you are new to backpacking you might think to rely upon an expert authority. There are lots of lists from expert authorities; many lists are presented as “ten essentials.” Organizations from the Sierra Club to REI have them and they are all different from each other, though they have many things in common.  I made a typical hybrid for comparative purposes.  I started with the current version of one of the first such lists, the Mountaineers’ Ten Essentials, which you can see on Wikipedia. I then made some typical backpacking-friendly modifications by perusing a couple of well-known lists such as the one you can see here on the web site of REI, my favorite chain store in the world. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches:
Safety, Comfort and Back Country Attitude

Last week I began a short series of Dispatches about safety in the back country.  I suggested that safety depended upon taking three things into the woods, the right experience, the right attitude and essential gear.  I wrote a little bit about experience first.

This week I’d like to focus on attitude, which is all too often overlooked in safety guides.  It is likely the most important factor: a strong attitude in a dangerous situation can prevail over a lack of experience and/or poor or missing gear, but all the experience and gear in the world cannot overcome a destructive attitude.   After all, attitude is about human psychology.  There is nothing more debilitating than personal psychology gone wrong and the Adirondack wilderness has an uncanny knack for accomplishing that. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Safety in the Back Country

Because of my extensive experience in back county adventures I am asked from time to time for advice on gear, preparation, priorities and so forth.  It’s pleasurable to write about such things, to make lists, to engage in (somewhat inane) discussions about favorite this and necessary that.  It’s an idle passing of time, a way to do a little daydreaming.  And yet there is good advice to give too.

Today I begin a short series of Dispatches that will allow me to get on to one of my favorite subjects: food… but not yet.  At first I thought I’d start right off with it but as I began I realized I needed to cover safety first, because the topic of food in the back country is directly related to what one carries into the wilderness.   The decision on what to carry into the wilderness must begin with safety; every other consideration is secondary. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches:
Blogging, Comments and The Almanack

This morning I am going to be taking a little detour from my usual subject matter, that being Lost Brook Tract and the Adirondack wilderness.  This detour was prompted by the reaction to last week’s Dispatch about trailblazing.

The comments on that Dispatch included a couple of entries that a good friend of the Almanack described to me in a private email as “vitriolic.” A number of other regular Dispatch readers also weighed in with concerns about the comments and their author. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Trailblazing

Of all the deep, wild urges rooting around in my head (god knows there is a subject that could turn away scores of readers), said urges being imbued in every way with the powerful, primeval pull of the Adirondack landscape, the strongest has always been trailblazing.

The fantasy of traveling on foot into parts unknown, marking a path like a scout of lore, has been the adventure that has most fired my imagination and passion. It is simply the most romantic thing of which I can conceive. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Forever Wild

In this week’s dispatch we take up the remainder of the story that delivered Lost Brook Tract intact and pristine into the 21st century. When we last left it smoke was hanging in the air and one edge of the parcel was singed, courtesy of the 1903 fires. Logging and paper companies were moving into the area to salvage lumber from the vast amounts of burned acreage.

Adirondack residents and workers were returning to normal life. Hikers were encountering and documenting the tremendous devastation in the back country, decrying the “acts of God” that caused them. Amazingly, while the damage to the forests was horrific, by and large population centers were spared. That may be a reason why people continued to see these fires as fate instead of folly. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Fires of 1903

Dear Dispatch Readers, take a little journey with me back to the year 1903, just after the turn of the century and less than a decade after Forever Wild. Construct if you will a picture, an imagination of the events I am about to relate. I myself cannot conceive of what it was really like to live through this time in the Adirondacks. It is even harder – and quite painful – to visualize the aftermath. Thank goodness with the passage of more than a century the forest has recovered for the most part. But the landscape was forever altered.

I will, as always, claim to be a storyteller, not a historian. But lest you think that this account is fanciful, especially the climax as it relates to Lost Brook Tract, I assure you that it is not. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: How is Lost Brook Still Wild?

As a boy in the Adirondacks I would explore the undeveloped woods on or near Blue Mountain Lake with all sorts of wilderness fantasies as my companions. Being as imaginative as the next kid I was certain that most of the islands and shoreline were akin to the Yukon. I particularly relished imagining that my footfalls were landing when no human foot had trod before.

A few years ago as a man in my forties I enjoyed the same kind of fantasy on a bushwhack to Redfield Mountain with my son Adam. After navigating blowdown too horrible to describe we came to a small streamlet with green, grassy banks that fed the gorgeous tarn at Redfield’s southern base. It was so far away from anything, so isolated and difficult to get to that it was easy to imagine we had stopped to eat a sandwich where no one had ever stopped before. Given that this basin was logged, the water courses mapped long ago and – as it turns out – there was even a trail to Redfield from this direction early in the twentieth century, that imagination was certainly fiction. But such fantasies are not easily outgrown. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Lost Brook in March

I just returned from an impromptu March visit to Lost Brook Tract, having had a reason to come to New York State on business. Short but sweet, the visit began in winter and ended in spring. Given the winter weather the Adirondacks have had I was happy to encounter any significant snow at all.

Accompanying me was my brother Michael. Michael is roughly my age and is actually my nephew but we call each other brothers; that’s the kind of relationship we have. .. and despite the tough slog in, still have, thankfully.

We began the trip on a property owned by a friend where we are allowed to park our cars. We strapped our snowshoes to our packs as there was little more than a dusting. It was sunny and crystal clear but cool and crisp; the forecast had promised winter temperatures that day and night. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Essential Wilderness

Over the last two weeks I have been involved in quite a discussion in another venue about wilderness as a matter of subjective point of view versus wilderness as an objective designation. Simply put is wilderness only a matter of opinion? Are we left with one person’s wilderness being another’s spoiled back country Grand Central?

At the same time in my last Dispatch I explored Joe Hackett’s point of view about the “stamp of man” being unavoidable in the Adirondacks. The vehicle for that exploration was a trip to Flowed Lands which, for all its seeming primeval beauty and remoteness, has been thoroughly altered by industry of one kind or another. There is no doubt that the imprint of humanity is omnipresent in the Adirondacks, if not always noticed. But does that mean that wilderness is nothing more than an idea in the mind? » Continue Reading.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Wilderness Experience

In these dispatches and in other Almanack posts over the last two weeks there has been quite debate going about wilderness. Is there really such a thing in the Adirondacks? It is only in the eye of the beholder? Has it been defined primarily by 19th-century aesthetic paradigms? Would a more substantial version of wilderness be “rescue-free?” These and other issues illustrate the complexity of how we experience our park.

In last week’s dispatch I suggested three different ways to frame the question: the ecological, the anecdotal and the experiential. I devoted most of that post to the anecdotal perspective, having as I do a predilection for good stories, of which there is no shortage in the Adirondacks. Whatever the truths about wilderness, our experience of it is deeply engaging, romantic in a broad sense. I think that’s why the anecdotal perspective is valuable. Stories of the wilderness feed our romantic notions, inspire us, remind us of our own stories and evoke memories and images that are part of our history, both real and imagined. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: How Wild is the Adirondacks?

For some time I have been musing about the question of what we call wilderness, how we deem an area to be wilderness, what it means in the Adirondacks and what it means to me. Is Lost Brook Tract really wild? Can I think of something as wilderness when it is possible for me to run from the heart of it to a warm car and a coffee shop in an hour if I have to? This is complicated question.

Several weeks ago when I began these dispatches I resolved to write about the question of wilderness. Then last week came the most recent post from Steve Signell, our resident mapping expert, his topic being Adirondack land classifications. The debate it engendered in the comments section addressed the very subject I was just beginning to write about. Serendipity! » Continue Reading.