Jun 23 2016

The Little Things That Mean So Much: My Go-To Go-Light Mess Kit

Better than a spork

I try to store and organize gear in such a way that it’s ready to be found and packed at a moment’s notice. This allows a quick getaway, which is important, because as we all know, every minute spent packing is a minute taken away from precious away time.

So far so good. But when the gear list for canoeing differs from the gear list for kayaking, and when the gear list for amphibious treks differs from both of those, then organization and packing get complicated. Clearly, if you enjoy many flavors of outdoor exploration, you can go quietly mad trying to sort gear for quick getaways while also maintaining a segregation between gear lists.

That’s why I’ve decided on a master gear list to suit all the types of no-octane trips I enjoy. This assures that I’ve got the basics with me no matter what the mode of travel. Extras are, well, extras. They can be tossed into packs and bags if there’s time and inclination. And if they’re forgotten? No biggie.

This is all leading to what is a mundane subject for some, but an important one for me. Because when meal time comes around, it’s a comfort to know that I’ve got a mess kit suitable for every trip… Read more…


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Jun 16 2016

You Just Bought a Boat. Now What?

As I made my way across the parking lot fronting the local Mallmart, I couldn’t help noticing that the fenced‑in “mitigation wetland” was filling up with plastic shopping bags. The watery trashscape didn’t tempt me to linger, but when I resumed my march, I walked right into a scene that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 1950’s sitcom. Just ahead of me, two women were struggling to force a short kayak into the back of a van. And it looked like the kayak was winning.

It was obvious that the battle had been going on for some time. Both women were red‑faced and sweaty. One — I took her to be the owner of the new kayak — still managed to look happy. But the other — her brightly colored tabard identified her as a Mallmart “associate” — did not. I figured a third pair of hands wouldn’t go amiss. So I offered to help. Hearing this, the owner’s smile grew broader. Even the associate permitted herself a relieved sigh. And sure enough, the extra womanpower turned the tide. In less than a minute, the kayak was tucked safely inside the van.

The associate then returned to her till, while the new owner and I exchanged a few pleasantries. I learned that the kayak was destined for a waterfront camp. The owner figured her grandkids — she described them as “regular water‑rats” — would use it every day. She didn’t think she would, though. She’d never paddled a kayak. “And I wouldn’t know how to begin,” she added, almost as an afterthought.

I thought I heard a somewhat wistful note in her voice, so I presumed on our short acquaintance to the extent of suggesting she consider taking the non‑credit kayaking course offered by a nearby college. I’m happy to say my diffident suggestion was well received. But what about all the other new kayak owners who’ll be hitting the beaches in the months to come? They won’t all have a college on the doorstep. How can they gentle the climb up the learning curve?… Read more…


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Jun 09 2016

A Tick(ing) Time Bomb? Tick‑Borne Disease Comes North

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

On a cool but sunny day in mid‑April I undertook a quick scouting trip to a favorite haunt: a nearby beaver pond. I’d hoped to find it ice‑free, and I wasn’t disappointed. Though a raft of rotting ice clung stubbornly to one tucked‑away cove, most of the pond was open. I saw foraging ducks, basking turtles (in April!), and a swimming otter who, contrary to received wisdom, was drifting along on his back when I first spotted him. (No picture, I’m afraid. He was too fast for me.)

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the preternaturally clement spring weather, and I was tempted to linger, doing nothing in particular and loving every minute of it. But I had work to do, so I headed homeward. And after a quick shower — the trip into the beaver pond and back out again requires a bushwhack over a steep ridge, and despite the cool temperature, I’d worked myself into a muck sweat — I was seated at my desk. That, I thought, was that. Unbeknownst to me, however, I’d picked up a hitchhiker, and if I’d known my companion’s identity, I’d have been pretty ticked off… Read more…


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