Jun 05 2015

Road Work Ahead at TN Outside

Remember the Information Superhighway? Well, TN Outside has never been more than a byway on that great thoroughfare. But even byways need regular maintenance, and as work crews attend to long-deferred chores, signs like the one in the photo below are popping up all over northern North America.

TN Outside is no exception. For the next few months, we’ll be trimming our overgrown verges, regrading our base course, and laying a new reading surface. We’ll also be surveying rights of way for a couple of new routes. This will keep us pretty busy — too busy to maintain our regular schedule of articles. So don’t look for much that’s new until later in the year. We’ll keep posting links to current Paddling.net columns on Thursdays, however, and most of what’s now on the site will remain, though it will likely end up in a different place.

The bottom line? If you’re looking for something you saw here in the past, and you can’t find it, just let us know. We’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. And in the meantime, check “below the fold” for any breaking news.

Work Ahead

 

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Aug 27 2015

In a Worst-Case Scenario, Let Dog Tags Speak for You

ID Est

Who am I? That’s a question we all ask ourselves from time to time. Usually, it arises in connection with a fork in life’s road: a new job, a new love, a new home… The list is as long as it is varied. But every now and then the question assumes immediate, practical importance. A while back, Farwell went over the ‘bars of his bike. He wasn’t going very fast at the time — 20 mph or thereabouts — but he landed hard, scrubbing off much of one cheek on the asphalt and ripping an eyelid in the process. These were the least of his problems, however. Notwithstanding his helmet, his brain‑housing group took most of the impact, and he lay unconscious in the road for several minutes.

The real trouble began when he came to. For one thing, he couldn’t see. Blood obscured the vision in his “good” eye. But that wasn’t his worst problem. Try as he might, he couldn’t remember his name. Who am I? he asked himself. And answer came there none. Nor did he have any idea where he was, or why he was lying in the road, surrounded by bits of broken bicycle.

Luckily, Farwell’s story had a happy ending. After several more minutes, during which he staggered around more or less aimlessly, the fog that had settled over his wits began to lift. He remembered who he was. He found his cell phone (and miracle of miracles, the cell phone found a network). And he got himself to hospital, where a nimble‑fingered surgeon stitched his torn eyelid back in place. Then, over the next several weeks, his face healed. But his predicament during those first few minutes after regaining consciousness was a salutary reminder. Every time any of us ventures off the beaten track, we’re gambling with fate, and if we lose the bet, we may be unable to answer even the simplest questions about ourselves. This could be more than embarrassing.

It’s something I often think about. With millions of acres of well‑watered, densely forested public land almost on my doorstep, I have a wide choice of places to explore. So I make the most of my good fortune by straying far from the madding crowd. I leave the popular, publicized destinations to the folks who don’t have time to pioneer. Pack canoe, bicycle, and compass give me the freedom of the hills, a freedom denied once‑a‑year holiday‑makers with a schedule to keep and a long drive home to look forward to. But the freedom that I enjoy isn’t free. It carries a hefty price tag. If I get into trouble, and if I happen to be alone at the time, I can’t rely on someone coming down the trail (or over the portage) in the next few minutes. Nor can I rely on cell phone coverage. I also know I might be unable to give a good account of myself should a stranger find me. I might not even be able to remember my name.

And I do enough solo wandering for this concern to weigh heavily, particularly with friends and family. I take reasonable steps to keep the odds on my side, of course. I expect that things will go badly wrong now and then, and I prepare for those times. I stay on the qui vive, too, even when I’m on my home waters. But this may not be enough. All activities involve an irreducible element of risk, and nemesis delights in confounding any mortal whose pride outstrips her prudence.

That being said, what else can I (or anyone) do? … Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Aug 20 2015

Muesli for Breakfast: Is It Just What the Doctor Ordered?

What the Doctor Ordered

For several months now, I’ve been researching a waterborne route that will take me across the Adirondack Mountains. It promises to be a strenuous journey, involving a fair bit of upstream work, a modicum of wading and tracking, a couple of open water crossings, and many miles of portaging, some of them along established trails and some involving bushwhacks. The trip will probably take me 20 to 25 days in all, and in the process I’ll traverse the wildest country in northern New York. But at least I won’t have to load 50+ pounds of food in my little pack canoe. Why not? Because my route will touch at a number of ports of call along the way, rural towns and hamlets boasting convenience stores (or even small mom‑and‑pop groceries) that carry a full range of staple foods. So I’ll be able to stock up on fresh produce and dairy products. I may even splurge on fresh meat or a frozen treat from time to time.

That being the case, my menu is starting to take shape. Dried foods will still be the mainstay of my diet, but I’ll supplement these with store‑bought extras whenever they’re available, and I’ll also carry a few canned heat‑and‑eat meals for emergencies. Yet one nagging uncertainty remains: What’s for breakfast?… Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Aug 13 2015

Little Things That Mean So Much: John Wayne to the Rescue

John Wayne to the Rescue

Back in 2010, I wrote the first article in what would become an irregular series of columns. My theme? The little luxuries that Farwell and I bring with us on backcountry trips. These small and unprepossessing items may not get much attention in gearheads’ blogs, but they can do a lot to enhance comfort and promote efficiency. For those reasons alone they’re well worth their negligible weight and trifling cost. My series turned out to be a popular one, too, and not only with readers: To my surprise, the theme was also picked up by other hacks. Which goes to show that imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

In any event, there was a noteworthy omission in my first “Little Luxuries” column, even if that omission was deliberate. Why “deliberate,” you ask? Because the item in question is not — in my view, at any rate — a luxury at all. It’s an essential, something whose utility is belied by its diminutive size. And as such, it accompanies me on all my amphibious treks.

Can you guess what it is? Well, if you glanced, however briefly, at the picture at the head of this column, I’m sure you can. My littlest essential is the P‑38 can opener… Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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