"Trekking Afoot: Stroll, Ski, Scramble, Snowshoe" Archives

Nov 24 2017

It’s Alimentary: From Soup to Nuts to Soup Again —
A Cornucopia of Seasonal Treats by Tamia Nelson

Now that the shopping holiday season has begun in earnest, few of us are thinking about paddling — or cycling, come to that. (So many HyperMarts, so little time!) But we still have to eat, right?

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds —
November!
— Thomas Hood, “No!”

November is an indecisive month, teetering on the cusp between autumn and winter. At least that’s how it is in Canoe Country, and while the New Model Climate is now pushing the thermostat higher with every passing year, November is still full of surprises. On one day, we wake to summer‑like temperatures and balmy breezes. On the next, we look out on three inches of new snow.

And then there’s the sky. Gray is the dominant color note, a theme echoed by the gray hills and reflected in the ominously gray water. Only the stands of spruce and pine provide an occasional, and very welcome, visual respite. All in all, November doesn’t invite us to linger out of doors. Day trips are fun, but it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for anything more ambitious. A little bit of gray goes a long, long way. I’d rather camp in the drifts on a mountain col on a sunny (if arctic) February weekend than pitch a tent by the shore of a gunmetal gray pond on a monochrome November day. Yet the relentlessly gray days of November have their compensations. Thanksgiving comes in November, for one thing. (That’s for paddlers living in the bits of Canoe Country lying south of the Webster–Ashburton Treaty line, of course. Our neighbors to the north celebrated the holiday last month.) And Thanksgiving is a good time to sample the fruits of the year… Read more…

Nov 17 2017

The Other Ten Essentials, Part 2: From Patience to Joy by Farwell Forrest

When, in an earlier column devoted to the Ten Essentials, Tamia made reference to a couple of pieces that Farwell wrote for In the Same Boat back in 2006, he figured he ought to revisit them, making whatever tweaks and tucks he thought warranted. This he has now done, and you see the result before you. (Are you looking for Part 1? It’s here.)

Many years ago, the Seattle Mountaineers hit upon a clever way to remind ounce‑paring climbers that there were some things they simply couldn’t afford to leave behind: The Mountaineers compiled a list of must‑have gear, the aptly named “Ten Essentials.” It was a very good list, too, containing — in an accolade borrowed from an early 19th‑century seaman’s handbook — nothing that was superfluous, yet including all things that were useful. Not surprisingly, then, this list remains as valuable today as it was when first published, for climbers and paddlers alike. But it has its limitations. As important as the Ten Essentials are, there are other things even more vital. And you won’t find them on the Mountaineers’ list.

What are these mysterious essentials? Nothing you’ll see offered for sale in any store, that’s for certain. They’re intangible assets, you see — qualities of mind and body, not things you can put in a pack. But they’re no less important for all that. I call them the Other Ten Essentials, and I listed five of them earlier in the week. Now it’s time to round off the roster.

In a hurry? Want me to cut to the chase? Then you may need more of the first Essential on this week’s list: Patience… Read more…

Nov 10 2017

A Lust for Lists: Is the Ultimate Obtainable? by Tamia Nelson

Earlier this week, Tamia described her take on the Ten Essentials, those vital items of gear that no paddler should leave home without. And it will come as no surprise that a list lay at the heart of her article. Now she’s revisiting an article from the earliest days of In the Same Boat. The subject? Lists, of course — and the curious delight to be had in perusing them.

I have a confession to make. I love lists. When I pick up any book of traveler’s tales, the first thing I look for is the author’s gear list, and if I don’t find one, I feel let down. But whenever my search is rewarded, the effect is magical. I’m immediately transported from the here and now to somewhere else — somewhere remote in time or place.

Many years ago, on a visit to my local library in a predictably futile search for a technical monograph, I made a serendipitous discovery, a book that would carry me a very long way from my home in the Adirondack foothills, at least in spirit. The faded cover bore the one‑word title South, and the author was Ernest Shackleton, perhaps the hardest of all the hard men who headed for the high latitudes during the “heroic age” of polar exploration. Intrigued, I took the book down from the shelf and started to read. It proved to be Shackleton’s account of his ill‑fated attempt to cross the Antarctic continent in the years between 1914 and 1917. That expedition — it was styled “The Imperial Trans‑Antarctic Expedition” — failed in its objective, but it was indeed a heroic failure, accurately described by Shackleton himself as “a story … unique in the history of Antarctic exploration.” So compelling was the tale, in fact, that the expedition was the subject of a 1998 best‑seller, Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance.

I was sorely tempted to settle down in one of the library’s comfortable wing‑backed chairs and continue reading (those chairs have now been replaced by computer kiosks, I’m sorry to say), but I had work to do, and I was just about to put the book back when my eyes fell on — you guessed it — The List.… Read more…

Nov 07 2017

Ten Times Two, Plus One: Essential(s) Reading by Tamia Nelson

How much gear is too much? How little is enough? When deciding what to take and what to leave behind, many trekkers find themselves mired in indecision. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of a celebrated list: the Ten Essentials. But unlike other celebrated decalogues, this list has evolved over the years. Moreover, each of us has her own ideas about what is really essential. Tamia is no exception. She has two lists, in fact — her Top Ten and her Second Eleven. And today she’s counting them down.

Back in 1974, a mountaineering textbook stuck the label “Ten Essentials” on a short list of vital items of gear. That description was apt. The Essentials were light enough not to burden anyone who needed to climb high and fast, but if you had them in your pack, you knew you had everything you needed to survive a short, unplanned bivouac. To borrow a testimonial from a 19th‑century manual of seamanship, the Ten Essentials contained nothing that was superfluous and all things that were useful. The idea wasn’t new, of course. Similar lists had been kicking about since the 1930s. But the “Ten Essentials” tag had legs. The list was soon embraced by all manner of backcountry travelers, including canoeists and kayakers, and it survives to this day. Its latest incarnation has been rechristened the “Ten Essential Systems,” however, and to distinguish the old from the new, the original list has also been rebranded. It is now the Classic Ten Essentials.

Call me old‑fashioned, if you will, but I was perfectly happy with the original list, though I’ve modified it from time to time to suit my own perceived needs. I’ve even gone so far as to add eleven additional items. But first, here’s my take on the Top Ten:… Read more…

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