May
01
2014
0

Backpacking near Blood Mountain Cove

We went backpacking near blood mountain cove. 6.3 miles and 550 Meters elevation gain. (This meets one of the camping merit badge requirements.)

Trail map for the April 26/27 trip

Beware of the locals at the spring by the loop near Jarrard gap. There is something going on there, possibly involving the growth of herbaceous substances, and they are willing to fire warning shots. We missed the turn to the cove proper as it was plowed up for planting deer food and decided to head for nice areas near the gap. Given that we would have had to cross the trigger-happy private land to get back to the rest of the troop on Sunday morning this was probably a blessing.

Scouts on the trail

The woods were just leafing out, and we had nearly ideal weather. The wild flowers were coming out.  The scouts did extremely well, and worked together as a team. Since we hit the trail just before lunch, the distance was on the short side. We met the rest of the troop at Lake Winfield Scott in the morning. The hike was probably a bit hard for the youngest scouts (12 yro), but they made it and more importantly are willing to go again.

Trilliums

A trillium

Another kind of trillium

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting,trail map |
Dec
19
2013
0

Neat piece of gear

I’ve been using an REI windshirt for the last few months. There’s nothing particularly special about it (cheap, decent quality). It’s a permeable wind-resistant outer layer that’s not quite water proof.

The beauty is that it combines well with almost any layering system for most more or less temperate conditions. (We don’t get winter in Georgia, really, but it does get into the 20′s (-2 to -3)). So I can wear it with a sweater or fleece when it’s not too cold, on it’s own when it’s just barely chilly and over a primaloft jacket for the rare days when it is sort of like winter.

It’s also really great for biking – the “ipod” pocket is fantastic for car keys. Of course our conservative neighbors don’t like anything that can go as fast as a recumbent trike and doesn’t use gasoline – but that’s another story.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting |
Oct
28
2013
0

Standing Indian Hike

Just back from a hike with troop 77 on the Appalachian trail.  Troop 77 is quite large and has a good number of dedicated, skilled and trained leaders so we were able to hold three simultaneous outings: a base camp for the youngest scouts, a relatively easy backpacking trip for the intermediate scouts, and a more difficult trip for the older scouts. That’s the one I’m reporting.

The troop booked the kimsey creek group campsite from the national forest service.  We were then shuttled to the Beech Gap trail and walked via the mountain back to the group site. The GPX track is here .

Snapshot from google earch

Snapshot from google earch

The profile is shown here.
profile

The view from the top is spectacular:view from the top

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting,trail map |
Mar
21
2013
0

What is the length of a trail?

Last weekend, I went with the scouts to pine mountain.  We did a loop I’d done before . I expected about a twelve mile loop based on an old GPS track I’d made. The new GPS gave 10.1!  We stayed at the new Jenkins Spring campsite which was excellent.  One the chief volunteers in the Pine Mountain Trail association came by and said that there were a lot of Eagle projects to be done on the trail (which is entirely built and maintained with volunteer labor).

new map of the loop

new map of the loop

What’s going on?

The new GPS uses both the Russian and US satellite systems as well as having a more sensitive antenna and thus simply more satellites.  Therefore the distances are more accurate – with less wobble. Also the two systems have different and less correlated systematic errors so that the estimated precision is more accurate with the combination than with either. Thus the ruler used to measure the distance was smaller than before.

On the surface this is sort of an “anti-fractal”. It’s well known, or at least should be, that as rulers get smaller the distances measured gets larger. One simply measures more of the little in and outs on the curve and hence arrives at a longer distance. With the GPS estimates, which depend on point measurements, the idea is a little different. Here there is a swarm of (we can pretend in the limit of large numbers) normally distributed points drawn around a true track. Hence the calculated distance includes the sum of a bunch of random “wobble vectors”. The spread of the wobble is smaller with the new system and so the distance is more accurate. So the fractal measure in this case is actually in the statistics of the sampling and not the curve being measured.

Dec
24
2012
0

one of these is not like the others

I found my self thinking about the differences between “adult-centered” and “youth-centered” organizations. Which of these most reflections what your organization is like?

  1. I, (last name, first name), joining the ranks of the  Pioneer Organization, in the presence of my comrades solemnly promise: to passionately love and cherish my Motherland, to live as we were taught, as required by the laws of the Pioneers.  (slightly edited)
  2. I am a member of the Young Pioneers. Under the Flag of the Young Pioneers I promise that: I love <my nation>, the motherland, and the people; I will study well and keep myself fit, and to prepare for: contributing my effort to the cause. (slightly edited)
  3. In the presence of this blood banner which represents our nation, I swear to devote all my energies and my strength to the  our country. I am willing and ready to give up my life for it, so help me God. (slightly edited)
  4. In the name of God and <my leader>, I swear that I will execute his orders and serve the cause of the revolution with all my strength and, if necessary, with my blood. (slightly edited)
  5. From this day forward, I sincerely promise to set an example for all youth to follow. I shall never do anything to bring disgrace or dishonor upon my God, my country, its flag, my parents, myself or the <organization>. These I will honor and respect in a manner that will reflect credit upon them and myself.  (slightly edited)
    1. Obey my parents and all others in charge of me whether young or old.
    2. Keep myself neat at all times without other people telling me to.
    3. Keep myself clean in mind by attending the church of my faith.
    4. Keep my mind alert to learn in school, at home, or at play.
    5. Remember having self-discipline will enable me to control my body and mind in case of an emergency.
  6. On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight.

      A Scout is:

    1. Trustworthy,
    2. Loyal,
    3. Helpful,
    4. Friendly,
    5. Courteous,
    6. Kind,
    7. Obedient,
    8. Cheerful,
    9. Thrifty,
    10. Brave,
    11. Clean,
    12. Reverent

There is only one of these that focuses at all on our duty to help each other. The others focus much more on obedience. There is something different about that.  Only one of these organizations tries to develop the kind of person that is a citizen of a democracy.

You can probably guess (young poineers (1,2), Itallian Fascist (4), Hitler youth (3), Young Marines with creed(5), and Boy Scouts (6)).

Written by Rob in: pedagogy,rant,scouting |
Dec
10
2012
0

Low-complexity Backpacking.

I’ve begun to think about what light-weight backpacking means.  This is partially because I’ve been helping to teach scouts about it, and partially to help myself understand what is special about it.  I’ve never been an especially ultra-light sort of backpacker – usually due to what I call “leader tax”, but have used many of the techniques and equipment quite successfully.

It occurs to me that light-weight is not the issue, in reality, but that it is a by-product of a different design process. Low-complexity implies that the kinds and numbers of things you bring are small.  If you bring fewer things then you automatically have lighter weight.  (well at least if you are vaguely careful.  One dutch oven is a highly multi-purpose item, but no one would ever consider one a part of light-weight backpacking (even if they were made in titanium)).

A good example that comes to my mind is the guy I teach backpacking with to scout leaders.  He’s a great guy, but a conventional backpacker.  His tent is light, only 3 lbs or so, has 2 layers, a complex pole system and so has a raw parts count of 14-15.  While he may be able to get away with leaving a few parts  behind, most of those are critical parts.  I use a trailstar or a luna solo (depending on whether I want space or need to worry about bugs).  So my parts count, including hiking sticks, is 7-8.  Here in the southeastern United States, my critical parts count is one (the tarp) as everything else can be improvised.  He carries very light weight camp shoes. I just loosen my hiking boots.  He has a neat stacking plastic bowl and lightweight cutlery.  I use the same titanium pot and plastic spoon to cook and eat. He has a crazy creek chair for his pad (2 parts). I have a small pad from my pack (1 part).  However we both carry very similar first aid kits because it’s hard to skimp on those.

The point behind this is that we’re both very comfortable in the woods.  I just bring fewer things, and therefore carry less, have a lighter footprint, and have fewer things to lose.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,engineering,outdoors,scouting |
Oct
17
2012
1

Fast and Light cooking system

Based on a review from section hiker, I wanted to test out the olicamp heat exchanger pot. While I’ve found esbit stoves to be the lightest for a solo weekend, they just won’t work as well for a group. In my hands alcohol stoves have been too touchy, and white gas – while very good – is a bit complex and heavy. I’ve never been keen on canister gas as the canisters are a pain when empty and the stoves I’ve seen have been, to put it politely, rubbish.

I was wrong.

The combination of an olicamp heat exchanger pot with an MSR microrocket worked extremely well. It took about two minutes to boil 3/4 of a liter of water for dinner – on the trail. It took less than a minute for smaller amounts for tea. Everything folds up and can fit into the pot. (though I did wrap the stove in a bandanna rather than the case MSR supplies).

The pot itself is not particularly expensive (about $20 from Amazon), nor is the stove. There are less expensive stoves than the MSR one that have similar heat outputs, but I needed a stove and it was what REI had.

This system is robust enough to be useful for scouts and is safer and lighter than white gas.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,gear lists,scouting |
Oct
17
2012
0

Another Pinhoti Trip with the scouts

Last weekend I helped lead a backpacking trip for scouts from my son’s and my new troop (which is much better run than the old one – but that is the subject of a different post). This troop, being huge, splits up into patrol-based or crew-based activities occasionally and this was one of them.

The younger scouts and most of the adults base camped at the chief ladiga campground which sits astride the intersection of the chief ladiga bike trail and the pinhoti trail in north east alabama. Another crew (mostly the Moose patrol) went backpacking on the pinhoti.

We walked just about 6 miles (5.92 by the GPS) to a campsite by the Terrapin creek flood control lake. There is a big field for camping there – so that several crews could camp at once. Fortunately, since we had a scout injure himself with a knife, there is good road access in an emergency.

Trip map.

Trip map.


It is not an insignificant climb as is shown in the profile.
Profile of the trail

Profile of the trail

This hike is a good simalcrum of the trails in Philmont, although it is generally less rocky and a bit more of a single track. There is a fair bit of poison ivy and poison oak so some care is needed – though I wore shorts and didn’t get any so it isn’t too bad. There are a couple of places to pump water.

There were no bears, despite seeing plenty of “sign”, but we did see a yearling timber rattler perched on a small hickory.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting,trail map |
Jul
20
2012
0

Little Rock City Alabama

I had a chance to look at little rock city park near Leesburg Alabama. It is a popular rock-climbing venue that is readily available from the Atlanta area.

GPS track

GPS track

We visited on a typical spring weekend, and had to cut short our explorations due to a thunderstorm (it is an exposed ridge after all, and I had no interest in practical electroshock).

rocks
The rocks are decidedly spectacular and it is easy to see why they are attractive for climbing. Hightower trail troop 266 has even had a few eagle projects there.

More Rocks

More Rocks

There is even a good view of Lake Weiss.

View of Lake Weiss

View of Lake Weiss


The county is “upgrading” the park. This has it’s good parts and bad parts.

They are building defined campsites, with a defined ranger station. Currently people simply camp among the rocks, which is OK sort of, but they haven’t exactly been following good leave no trace guidelines. The sites are away from the rocks and more sheltered in the event of a storm.
There will be water, toilets, and services.
There will be parking.
It will be available to more people

It also will have it’s bad sides:

There will be defined campsites and you will have to use them.
The campsites are set up for trailers.
There will be a charge to use the site.
There will be more “just campers”

I think, on average it will be a good thing. The current users, by camping among the rocks, and being less than good stewards are endangering the park. While I wouldn’t be concerned with a scout troop – since it is big enough – I might feel a little out of place with a family or small group.

There is also some hiking in the area and we followed a woods road down to a spring house foundation about 1/4 mile from the rocks. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to do too much more exploring as the weather was problematic.

Written by Rob in: outdoors,scouting |
Apr
16
2012
0

Benefits of Walking

The BBC had an article about the benefits of walking for depression. More evidence, if any were needed, that getting outside is good for you.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,rant,scouting |

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