Della & I (combined age then 120) heading
off from Freney Lagoon on the second day of our walk across
All about light weight, ultra light hiking, backpacking, bushwalking, hunting, tracks, trails, adventures, gear, reviews…
I have been hiking/hunting now for over sixty years, a little more
slowly than I once did, walking in the Victorian
This is a ‘work in progress’. I will be adding to it on a regular basis adding new photos, adventures, product/ideas, suggestions, etc. You should also look at HIKING ADVICE also a section of gear advice for my son written in 2011 WORLD TRAVEL KIT FOR SON. You can also see my older posts above, eg Hiking 2017. Hope you find something interesting.
PS: UPPER YARRA TRACK: I have recently created this site The Upper Yarra Walking Track Australia’s oldest (& best), an approx. 10-14 day walk with numerous resupply points, plentiful water and camping spots now extending from Moe railway Station @ 150 kilometres up the Latrobe, Tyers & Thomson River valleys, via Yallourn North, Erica & Walhalla, across the Baw Baw Plateau, along the Upper Thomson River, past the Yarra Falls & Mt Horsefall, along the Little Ada, Ada and Yarra valleys via Warburton to Lilydale Railway Station. Now, complete with Track Instructions
ULTRALIGHT HIKING BLOG:
27/12/2018: Gully Walking: Most of the ‘great’ walking tracks (like the Alps’ for example) head along the tops where I admit the views outward and downwards can be truly awe inspiring. They do lack for water (and fish) however, are often windy and/or with very changeable weather that can be a challenge for tents and even survival. Often they even lack for firewood for a nice cheery fire too.
Myself I prefer the valleys though they seldom for some reason have any track at all. Mind you this means you can mostly have them all to yourself. I prefer the view looking up anyway. I am laid up at the moment but that does not prevent me from dreaming of just such journeys.
And as you can see, Spot is dreaming too:
Let me hint at a route you might follow up the Freestone Creek (Briagalong) from the beautiful ‘Blue Pools’ for example. All the way up. Here and there are walking tracks, 4WD tracks, old abandoned logging tracks, deer trails and just plain bush-bashing.
The beautiful ‘Blue Pool’:
Two dogs eager to start the journey – how young Spot was in May 2013:
But he was keen to lead on up the valley
Past a remarkable bird’s nest:
For just a journey of 3-4 days I guess you could (eg) leave your mountain bike at the top of the unnamed track that drops down from the Rim Track above Mt Blomford (above the Lees Creek Track) and return to your car (at the Blue Pools) via the Marathon Rd – quite a pleasant down hill journey.
The Freestone Creek is a beautiful watercourse (with trout, blackfish, crays, freshwater mussels, etc) and you will find many wonderful campsites along the way. I guess over the years (deer hunting, etc) I have walked pretty much all of it coming out at the top onto the Marathon Rd or the McDonald Gap Track perhaps.Many people who love the Blue Pools have never seen the Upper Freestone (which is even better) and is accessed by the delightful Lees Creek Track which criss-crosses it many times,
What a delightful stream the Freestone is. You can walk in or beside it for many, many kilometres.
The road used to follow the creek all the way but a substantial length now diverts from the river. The old road can still be walked however (as you will find out). Quite a lot of it I would have walked in the dark either trying to get to a twilit bail-up or attempting to round up stray hounds after just such a missed bail-up. I know I have a couple of times walked into a large tired stag the dogs still had bailed up in the dark.
The Upper Freestone:
This is a heart-starting experience I can tell you. Much like dropping onto
the back of a large shark or porpoise body-surfing when you are a mile out from
the beach on the ‘Groper Break’ at Nobby’s near the Newcastle Heads for
example. Something which used to happen to me when I was a teenager. It’s a
wonder I grew to be a man. There used to be a song about such growing up in
A shark’s skin (called ‘shagreen’) is much more like sandpaper than a
dolphin’s (smooth) so it certainly alerts you when to be scared if you should
touch it. A mile out to sea there is not much to be done about it. Hard to believe
that at 14-15 years old we swam out there to surf (and stayed all day in the
water) to swim back in in the afternoon, then catch the train home (to
Fassifern). Much better than taking illicit drugs, violent video games or
whatever it is the youth risk themselves at these days. We also often rode our
bikes up into the
Once you cross the divide (McDonalds Gap Track) you would head down the Little River to the Moroka. This is likely to be tough going after the fires, but might be OK if you walk in the middle of the ‘river’. It is not much more than a gutter really, yet it still held live trout (miraculously) after the fires burnt to the very water’s edge – and even though every fish and eel in the Macalister died! We were one of the first vehicles in after the fires. That was practically the only life we saw in a hundred miles of driving – save for many deer tracks around the deepest waterholes. It is no wonder there are so many deer now – and so little else. Such (wildfire) management is a crime! You might find the going better on the ridges or even sticking to the roads. This is an adventure for you. I can’t do everything there is left to do. (I am 70). You will find out for yourselves.
There is plenty of fairly easy walking along the Moroka wherever you hit it – eg from the Moroka Hut down to Horseyard Flat. There is a fine track from Horseyard Flat down to the first waterfall at least. The main set of waterfalls further on is awesome, especially when there is enough water to canoe the river (if you are suicidal!)
You may find it more congenial to cross the river in the vicinity of the main falls and climb to the other side for a better view. Then you might find it easier to walk down the ridges aiming for the Moroka in the vicinity of Higgins’ old cattle yards above the Moroka Creek Track. There are some drops to avoid, as you will find out. However I have beaten my way down through the Gorge itself when I was younger crossing back and forth. It certainly is beautiful and entertaining.
The Upper falls:
The way gets a bit rougher from here on:
When you are walking along the Moroka (below the Gorge) ignore the so-called track. Criss-cross in such a way as to make for the flattest walking. From Higgins Yards to the Moroka Creek for example the ‘track’ is on the true left bank but it is choked with blackberries. You can walk along the clear ridge on the true right bank. From the Carey down it is pretty clear on the true left bank even though the ‘track’ is usually on the other side. Ignore the ‘track’ Parks Victoria will never do any real work – not so long as they have air-conditioned offices and 4WDs and can have meetings.
From the Moroka Creek Track (at least) the river is ‘canoeable’ (when there is enough water – perhaps 2 metres on the Waterford gauge) though intrepid adventurers have come down it all the way from the bridge on the Moroka Road! Truly. But it is not recommended to come over those falls (though people have)!
So it might have been a good idea to bring along your pack raft because when there is sufficient water (eg above 1.8 metres on the Waterford Gauge on the Wonnangatta) you can raft all the way down – to the Castleburn Creek confluence in this scenario about seven days lying about on your raft like Huck and Tom, say from the Moroka Creek Track down – which would be the safest put in, but there are some interesting rapids between there and the Wonnangatta – and some lovely grassy camps too. If you put in at the confluence (six days) it would be safest There are plenty of beautiful campsites on the Wonnangatta too. See (for hundreds of photos and precise canoeing instructions) eg:
Of course you can walk all the way mainly on the true right bank, sometimes in the water,sometimes criss-crossing along over bends and loops, sometimes walking along on beautiful river flats replete with bell-birds, wood swallows and bee-eaters – and there are roads too in places.
Castleburn Creek Confluence:
If you walk up the Castleburn Creek (there is a lovely campsite at the confluence, but vehicles can get there) you will swing away from the main road till you hit the Black Range Track which you will follow till you hit the walking track that runs down from Pretty Boys Hill via the Lees Creek to the Freestone once again – thence down it as before in the opposite direction to the Blue Pools.
Of course I am assuming you will make this journey in the warmer months but still when the mighty Wonnangatta has enough water to make for an interesting pack raft trip from the confluence down. Some day you may even be lucky enough to find enough water in the Freestone to make it canoeable, or some other side gully might provide an adventure when the rains pour down – something which no man has ever enjoyed The Scorpion or the Castleburn for example. Who knows what delights await in some shady grove deep in the mountain’s heart? I know I have often thrilled to some unexpected ephemeral delight deep in the wilderness.
As a deer hunter I can never neglect the many side gullies which join the main stream. My journey would be likely to take much longer than yours as I spied my way up them. Often they contain hidden wonders which you would otherwise miss in this life: it might be a rare tree or orchid in bloom, or some wildlife or another caught in a surprising way: Baby deer frolicking like lambs for example. Watching a huge goanna fold itself into a miniature tree hole high in some forest giant. A beautiful miniature waterfall or just a perspective (maybe when a rainbow winks into existence) looking up or down the gully which brings joy to your heart. Take your time. You will not pass this way again. And you will pass surprisingly soon. I have seen so many good friends come and go. People whose faces come to me as I see a remembered path or tree in some hidden gully where we once stood, perhaps sharing an orange together long ago..
You would have to make a couple of food drops (along the Wonnangatta –
Moroka Glen and Castleburn confluence perhaps?) somewhere perhaps if you
intended to do this trip. The old fellas in the C19th would have traveled the
land like this with just an axe, a billy, a bag of flour, some salt, a fishing
line and a rifle – and mostly lived off the land. Of course you could too
(barring legalities!). I favour a .410 myself for its lightness and
versatility. Some models such as Rossi’s ‘Circuit Judge’ can be dismantled so
they will fit in your pack but can also take a .45 calibre pistol round or a
solid in .410 – either big enough to take surprisingly large game. A sambar
would have to be quite close and carefully targeted. A wallaby would be easy.
Just across the way in
Ducks are plentiful along our rivers. Likewise native pigeons (though illegal) are a culinary delight. People tell me lyre birds are as tasty as any bantam. And so on. The game will still be there long after the laws and the people who made them are dust. Some years you will find rabbits plentiful, echidna, brush-tailed possums, goannas, water dragons and so on. A PS: The ‘Tea Tree which is found in various spots along the way was so named because the early settlers used to use an infusion from it as a substitute for tea.
I guess it would take me nearly a week (on my 70 year old legs, but enjoying the trip immensely as I go) to reach the Wonnagatta-Moroka confluence from the Blue Pools. I would then have about a week drifting down the Wonnagatta then 3-4 days making my way back to the Blue Pools, so it is not a weekend trip by any means. You are no doubt much younger (and perhaps in a dreadful hurry to get to the grave!) so you can/will be much faster. I only hope you learn and enjoy along the way…
A couple of other ideas:
First a short one:
Up the Nicholson (from around Bairnsdale) to say Marthavale (some bastards
burned down the wonderful hut there but it is still a lovely place to camp
(although vehicles) with fresh trout in the river nearby. Over (via ‘Steve’s
Track’ – Yes!)’ into the
I used to love walking up the Deep Creek – a tributary of the Thomson (years ago) then down the Aberfeldy to the Thomson, sometimes by boat. I could raft down the Thomson to Deep Creek and exit via the (now closed) D10 track which used to take me to within a chain of deep Creek just upstream from the Thomson confluence.
I’m sure if you have read this far, you get the point. There are many wonderful valley walking/pack rafting trips to be enjoyed in the Gippsland mountains. All I can say is: ‘Get out there’. Soon you too will be 70 – or worse!
Can I recommend Rooftop’s Dargo-Wonnangatta Adventure Map for this (and many other like) fascinating expeditions?
The lightest appears to be: The Davek Mini: https://au.davekny.com/collections/umbrellas/products/the-davek-mini under 1 lb ie 453 grams. Comes in lots of colours – at least seven anyway..
‘The Davek Mini is our smallest, most compact umbrella. This incredibly convenient umbrella fits in literally any compartment, from a handbag or clutch to your pants pocket. The stylish Mini is the perfect “just in case” umbrella, hardly noticeable when it’s not in use. Keep it with you always—never be caught without an umbrella again. Measures less than 7 inches when closed. Pocket-sized protection, with style to spare. Manual open/close system.’
It costs $A75 (Dec 2018), so it is certainly worth finding out. You are always better off to have good things than cheap things. This is a piece of wisdom which seems to have been lost. For example we drive 1995-6 cars which we expect to last us for the rest of our lives. Most everything we own is like that. We are proud of that fact. We never wanted to be a part of the throw away society.
38 in (arc-diam); 34 in (straight-diam)
Under 1 lb—ultra lightweight
Fiberglass reinforced 6-rib frame system
190 thread-count microweave fabric
Unconditional lifetime guarantee
I carry this Montbell one for emergencies which weighs 85 grams, but I doubt it will last me for life – though I admit the last few weeks have made me think that might not be so long as I might wish! So perhaps it would! It might be more sensible to carry this rather heavier one which I could be confident would never fail me as a roof – so I could perhaps dispense with a raincoat altogether – so the weight difference would be negligible – but how much weight is your life worth in grams?
I have seen a man dead in the rain when I was comfortable nearby. I would not want to be the one who is dead. Rain is deadly. You must have shelter. You must have a roof. There is no such thing as a safe walk. Following a defined trail is really no safer than forging your way through the trackless bush, which I would rather do anyway. How often have I ‘found’ walkers who have followed a deer trail off into the bush and who then can’t find their way back to the marked trail. Some I don’t find!
On a lighter note, here is a genius idea for any hiking umbrella: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/2017/12/14/a-hands-free-umbrella/
23/12/2018: Wild Journeys: https://www.amazon.com.au/Wild-Journeys-Bruce-Ansley-ebook/dp/B07BVHRZLZ#reader_B07BVHRZLZ
21/12/2018: Their Torn and Rugged Battlements on High : ‘Where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky’
'The Man from
As you know I am a bit laid up at the mountain, but a young friend of mine has been out and about, and shared this guest post for you:
Kobie Notting: 'Dear Victorian Alps, you really cemented a place in my heart this weekend. Your bipolar weather makes me love and respect you even more, even though you tried to kill me Saturday night. How lucky we are to live within a couple hours drive of this. P.S. Go hike the Crosscut Saw people.
You start from the Mt Howitt carpark. You can do a day trip or an overnighter.. there’s a hut an hour in from the carpark that you camp at the night.. so basically drop your bags there and keep going to the crosscut. It’s a section between Mt Howitt and Mt Buggery where you’re just walking on the top of the ridge.
Views are just epic; just make sure it’s not going to be windy as there’s some sketchy sections like half a footpath wide with sheer drops, wouldn’t want it to be gusty. You could easy get to the view part and back in half a day. It’s only an hour to the hut, then from the hut another hour to the start of the crosscut saw. With a light day pack you’d kill it. It’s hilly but if you took your time you would be fine.
A reader writes: ‘Got stuck on the cross cut saw in a total white out and had to sit it out behind a rock for several hours. The clouds can move in on you very quickly. Take care. The drop below is called the Terrible Hollow for a reason’
Yeah it changes soooo quickly up there! See eg: https://www.trailhiking.com.au/crosscut-saw-mt-speculation/?fbclid=IwAR10nHuvI9Cb7lfLxLRvpCKLs3OoSXgNi3EPNkNoszvhKQovTdmJisrTGFY'
The High Country is always ablaze with wldflowers:
Kobie also posted this video to give a bit of an idea of how a living 360 degrees up there is like: https://www.facebook.com/kobie.notting/videos/10157010309837658/
Chilling out on the roof rack of the Troopie:
Don’t know the full poem? One of the best ever written. Here it is:
The Man from
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.
There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up-
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.
And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.
But so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, "That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop-lad, you'd better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you."
So he waited sad and wistful - only Clancy stood his friend -
"I think we ought to let him come," he said;
"I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred."
"He hails from
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."
So he went - they found the horses by the big mimosa clump -
They raced away towards the mountain's brow,
And the old man gave his orders, "Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills."
So Clancy rode to wheel them - he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stockhorse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.
Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their sway,
Were mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side."
When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.
He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timbers in his stride,
And the man from
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.
He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from
And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound in their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.
And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.
Have you seen the film? Here is the short version to whet your appetite
Can you imagine galloping a horse down these precipitous slopes. This view (featured image) all used to be Wonnangatta Station type country and not so long ago stockmen droved cattle and horses all over it - just as I used to did when I was a youngster.
How could you not love these mountains?
Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AZl_N4Q5Io
Other people's opinions about it: http://theultimatehang.com/tag/loopalien/
Many other items of interesting hardware are out there, such as this one: https://dutchwaregear.com/product/fleaz/ which weighs less than a gram. There will be a future post about cord knick knacks.
Of course there are plenty of copies out there from US$ .29 cents each.
I am still using the micro clam cleats for my guy lines: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/2014/12/14/the-perfect-guy-line-for-a-hiking-tenttarp/
and I am using whoopie slings for many other uses such as attaching my hammock, centreline and tarp, eg: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/2017/06/02/whoopie-slings-what-a-great-idea/
14/12/2018: Telstra’s Go Repeaters: Your mobile connectivity problems solved: You need: https://exchange.telstra.com.au/new-telstra-go-repeaters-bring-mobile-coverage-to-more-places/ plus https://www.telcoantennas.com.au/antennas/home-office/outdoor/
29/11/2018: Spinal Fusion: This week I am having four-level spinal fusion on my lumbar spine (irrevocably damaged by tough hard heavy work from when I was only a child). However, the surgeons have found one disc which is sound so I can have this done, be free of pain and just be a little stiffer getting out of my sleeping bag in the mornings – indeed I might even move to a quilt as the docs are limiting me to 5kg for the next couple of months. That will certainly make me the ultralight hiker! I will find an X-ray of my spine to illustrate this post, but I am in hospital suffering all manner of indignities and cruelties just now so posts are a bit light. Sorry.
I have two of the best spinal surgeons in
By the time the moose are calling in Fiordland (28th February) the back should be healed enough to carry 8-10 kg so I can hopefully go there with Della and try to get a photograph of that elusive moose.I will keep you posted…
PS (15 Dec): After the op I had a fortnight of absolute nightmare. I will never go anywhere near the Valley Private Mulgrave again. They literally made every effort to kill me and to torture me they could – all this accompanied by deliberate sleep deprivation. Day after day with no (or too little) pain medication. It was awful. I will be making official complaints about my treatment. Finally (we) discharged myself, went home and put myself in the hands of my own reliable GP Fred Edwards here in Churchill whom I have known for thirty years. Finally home, with family to care for me, without (much) pain and learning to walk again.
I still hope to meet the moose deadline though. (Very) slowly cranking up the steps per day. A long while yet to get to my usual 10,000+ per day,but I will make it. Plenty of work to do here on the farm which should substitute for physiotherapy! Wish me luck!
PS: The trees which Merrin and I have been planting (over Spring) are starting to peek over the tops of the tree guards (1.5 metres tall). We will have a sheep forest before many years have passed: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2018/10/13/electric-drill-earth-auger/
30/11/2018: At Last an E-ink Smart Phone: I think e ink is all you need in a hiking phone as long as it has a reasonable camera (or perhaps none at all) and can display maps and books well enough. The trade-off of not having to charge for say a month is enormous value.
This one weighs only 47 grams:https://www.e-ink-info.com/e-ink-devices/mobile-phones
HiSense A6 is a new smartphone with an E Ink screen: https://goodereader.com/blog/smartphones-2/hisense-a6-is-a-new-smartphone-with-an-e-ink-screen
This one’s main screen is e-ink (which probably means the battery will last you a month: https://www.pcmag.com/feature/313023/hands-on-with-the-onyx-boox-e-ink-smartphone/1
More about this when I get out of hospital!
24/11/2018: Shadowland – Fiordland Video:
If you wonder why I return again & again to Fiordland (& the Dusky Track) maybe this excerpt from ‘Shadowland’ will whet your appetite. (Della’s favourite part, the kakapo @ 37secs in). You may have to buy the complete video as no-one seems to have uploaded it, but it will be worth it. Even more worthwhile is to tramp the Fiordland wilderness. If you feel you are not as fit as we geriatrics, treat yourself to a heli or plane tour out of Te Anau. I/we have been back again several times since I first posted this back in 2014 – but alas not this year. If my back fusion operation next week is successful we may yet walk the Dusky together in 2019.
First Published on: Jan 21, 2014
23/11/2018: Largest built structure on earth: https://www.yahoo.com/news/termite-colony-size-great-britain-built-since-dawn-pyramids-132724663.html
22/11/2018: Launch Pad Water Deluge System Test at
Happiness Trick: I am indebted for this to Randi Skaug the first Norwegian
woman to climb Everest. First thing in the morning, clasp one hand over the
other then raise your hands above your head – and smile. It is just about
automatic. Hold for a few seconds to a minute. The smile will kick in serotonin
production and actually produce happiness. As Randi says, ‘You are only here on
earth a little while, a century at most. Why not be happy?’ Couldn’t agree more.
You can catch her story on Ben Fogle’s ‘New Lives in the Wild’ Series 7,
Episode 4, ‘
20/11/2018: Whitetail Hunting in 1810: ‘Forty-four Years of the Life of a Hunter’, Meshach Browning 1859. Lots of wonderful books are available free below (if you look for them). This is from Chapter 6: ‘Whitetail Hunting in 1810’. What a treasure! Six deer taken in a single day with a muzzle-loader. Great hunting!
‘Shortly after returning to my home, three hunters and myself agreed to go to the glades to hunt deer. We all started for what was called the piney cabin and met at the place, but it was too late to hunt that evening, and there was no snow on the ground.
A light snow having fallen during the night, I said in the morning that I would bet any man a gallon of whiskey I would kill two deer that day.
“I’ll take that bet,” said a man by the name of James.
It was agreed on; and I told them to pick their course, and I would take the ground that was left. So they all made choice of a locality for that day, leaving me the very ground I wished for.
Everyone set out in great spirits, but while going to the place assigned me, I heard a buck bleat, which they will do in mating-time when they smell other deer. I walked quickly to the leeward side of him in order that he should not smell me. In doing so, I crossed a number of deer tracks.
Knowing that the buck was after them, I stood close to the tracks, where I could still hear him bleating and every time the sound was nearer. In a short time, I saw him following the tracks. I let him come within eight steps, and then stopped him by bleating as he did, when I shot him in his tracks.
I skinned him very rapidly and went on, but I had proceeded only a short distance when I saw a small buck trot along the top of a steep hill, then disappear down the opposite side.
I ran to the top, and looking down, saw him going leisurely along, whereupon I snorted like a deer, which I could do very naturally. As soon as he heard the snort, thinking it came from the other deer, which he expected to see, he stopped to look round for them.
I had with me a deer’s tail, which I showed him from behind a tree, and then exposed a small portion of my clothes which were about the color of a deer. Uncertain what to do, he stood there, occasionally stamping his foot on the ground, all the while holding his head as high as he could. Then I would show the tail quietly, and as if I was not scared, and at last seeing him lick his mouth, I knew he would come to ascertain what was there.
He came on little by little, still stamping his feet on the ground, until he came within range of my rifle, when I shot at his breast and broke his shoulder. I set my dog on him, and when the deer soon turned to make fight, I shot him again.
I then skinned him, and as I was in the glades without a hat, and it was blowing and snowing as fast as the snow could fall, I started to run across a glade, out of the storm.
As I ran through the ferns, about half-a-leg high, up sprang a large buck, which, after making two or three jumps, stopped in the middle of the open glade. He had scarcely stopped before my rifle sent a ball through him. He jumped forward a few yards and fell over dead.
The storm was so severe that I was obliged to seek shelter in a grove of thick pines. After it abated, I started for camp again, still looking for deer.
I was about halfway in when I saw approaching what I took to be another buck. I stood still, but the deer saw me too, though it could not make out what I was. Each stood perfectly still, looking at the other, until I became tired.
There was between us a large fallen tree, which hid the body of the deer, so that I could see nothing but the head. Finding no other chance, I raised my gun and fired at the head. After the report, seeing nothing of the deer, I hurried forward, and there lay as fine a doe as I ever killed, with her brains blown out.
I commenced skinning her as fast as possible, as it was getting late, and I was quite ready to leave for the camp when I saw on the entrails so much tallow that I stopped to save it. As I was picking off the tallow, it occurred to me that it was a wonder a buck had not been on her track, for she was in that peculiar condition when the males will follow them, wherever they find their track.
So I raised my head to look, and there stood a stout buck within ten steps, staring at myself and the dog as I was sitting at my work, with the dog licking up the blood and eating the small pieces which fell to his share.
I dared not rise to get my gun, which was standing against a tree out of my reach. Finally, I began to creep towards it, all the time being afraid to look at the deer, lest the sight of my face should scare him, for I knew it was not pretty.
When I had secured my gun, I looked around and saw him walking off, and as I did not wish to spoil his saddle, I delayed shooting until I could get his side toward me.
All of a sudden he stopped, turned round and came walking back to look for the doe, stopping at the same place where I first saw him. That moment I pulled my trigger, and the ball, striking in the middle of the breast, killed him at once. He never attempted to jump, but reared up so high that he fell flat on his back. I skinned him, put him on the same pole with the other, and then started off for the camp.
When I arrived there, all hands seemed astonished at my good luck, but James disputed the fact, saying that I had been there the week previous and had hid those skins in the woods. But a Mr. Frazee, who had hunted with me all the previous week, during which time I had killed some eight or ten deer, told James that my boys and his had come out the last of the week with horses, and carried in all the meat both of us had killed, together with the skins. James was satisfied that there was no foul play in the matter. I told James that I could kill a deer yet that night. He was anxious to take another bet, and in order to give him a chance for his whiskey, I closed with him, for when I left the camp in the morning, I had observed a spot where a great many deer had been feeding on thorn-berries, and I knew that they would be there again at dusk after the berries.
Seizing my gun, I made for the leeward side of the thorn nursery in order that the deer should not smell me. The dog scented the deer, and therefore I crept along very cautiously, though I could see no game. Presently, a very large buck made his appearance, and I said to myself: “That will make the sixth deer, beside two gallons of whiskey, and the reputation of being the best hunter in the woods.”
It will be seen that my vanity began to rise. The buck gradually drew nearer, but the pine trees stood so close together that it was a hard matter to secure a good aim, and beside, I found I was becoming so much excited that my hand was growing unsteady.
So I waited till the buck came opposite the space between two trees, when I called to him to stop, which he did, but not until he had so far passed the open space that his ribs were hid from my view. I tried to take aim, but as I could not hold my rifle steady, I waited to get rid of the shakes, though to no purpose, for the longer I delayed, the worse I became. At last, observing the buck’s tail beginning to spread, I knew he was about to make off.
As this was my last chance, I put my gun against a tree, thinking thus to brace myself, but my gun absolutely knocked against the tree. As I was then compelled to shoot or to let the buck run off unharmed, I fired at his hips, at a distance of not more than 20 steps, without ever touching either hide or hair of him.
At any other time, I could have sent 20 shots into a space the size of a dollar, but the idea of a great reputation gave me the ague; and through my vanity, I lost both the buck and the whiskey.
When the report of my gun was heard at the camp, Mr. Frazee exclaimed: “There, James, you have another gallon of whiskey to pay for, as Browning never misses.”
But when I returned empty-handed, the whole company enjoyed a hearty laugh at my expense.’
Full text (available for download here: https://archive.org/details/fortyfouryearsof00browuoft/page/n5
20/11/2018: The greatest slingshot ever: ‘Hunt down bigger game with arguably the baddest looking slingshot without venturing into full on crossbow territory. This unit features a built-in magazine allowing you to pre-load up to 40 rounds of 8mm ball bearings or a single crossbow bolt.
The position of the front handle can be adjusted, allowing you to reduce/increase the level of power as needed. The rear handle includes a 12mm mounting rail so you can install a scope with laser sight or a tactical flashlight.
This slingshot has been built to withstand the toughest conditions. Full stainless steel construction with a matte black finish. How many slingshots have you seen recently with a steel cable attached to EIGHT sets of high tension rubber bands?
They are obviously a lot of fun, aren’t they? And might even be enough to
put a bunny or two on the table. They do ship direct to
15/11/2018: Thindown: A new down insulation material. Thindown creates this fabric by adding an adhesive to the down after it has expanded which then traps the down between two ultralight layers of fabric so what it can no longer move around. This means that the resulting product can be used in many different ways to create a range of new down garments and products which do not require channels or quilting. It also makes the down garment much more washable or even dry-cleanable. It is a brilliant idea, and will seriously challenge synthetic insulation.
One of the first manufactures to use this product is Eddie Bauer. Below their beautiful ‘Evertherm’ jacket.12.64 oz. US$299 (Nov 2018)
LOW ACTIVITY RATING 40°F.
MODERATE ACTIVITY RATING -20°F.
13/11/2018: The Fastest Hiker:
12/11/2018: Ultralight Cigar Case: Something for the ultralight hiker who has everything (with Xmas always coming up). But these might also be quite serviceable as ultralight glasses cases, if you can’t afford a plastic jar of Hormel Bacon Pieces at 33 grams (which I keep my spare pair in) or this free idea at 12 grams!
10/11/2018: Why Miriam Lancewood lives in the wild, hunting her own food: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-07/miriam-lancewood-woman-in-the-wilderness/10460704?fbclid=IwAR3bjo_QQZg8HPyko9hEb0mQFrozvtAX6VfXhBFGiHL7J2Ut01ODXzhaX0c
08/11/2018: I Just Love Hats: I guess you’ve noticed I am almost always wearing a lid of one kind or another. Here are two I think would be good for the outdoor life (hiking or hunting): Enlightened Equipment’ s Hooligan and Sealskinz’ Waterproof Beanie.
This is the Hooligan at .85 ounce (21 grams – A$76.24). It is very similar to the ‘Bomber Hat’ Della sewed me from a kit bought from Ray Jardine (the ‘father of ultralight’) many years ago – and which has seen excellent service over the years. Such a hat is the best weight-for-warmth investment you can possibly make. I am never without mine. Now you can buy one just like it – even the same colour as mine! On wet.cold days it fits snugly under your raincoat hood. Even if it gets a little damp the synthetic insulation dries ourt very quickly. Usually I reserve the hat for sleeping on cold nights or for keeping my head warm in camp. You have probably noticed the Icebreaker cap I usually wear during the day.
Their 1.3 oz (32 grams - $A83.17) Hoodlum below is their synthetic insulated answer to keeping your head and neck warm in your sleepiong bag or quilt. You just need a Buff to keep your nose warm and you’re good to go.
I also like these waterproof and windproof offerings from Sealskinz. I have owned their waterproof socks for many years. I used to wear them as night socks before I made myself a pair of ultralight booties. Thie beauty was that you could put your wet boots back on when you wer wearing them when you had to go outside to answer one of nature’s calls.
This waterproof beanie looks just the thing for going around he sheep eg when they are lambing on those cold, wet winter’s days they like to choose. Fortunately for me I have sold of the vast flocks we used to have and only keep a hundred or so for companionship and sentimental reasons! Someone who has been a ‘sheep husband’ for over thirty years has to have something to do in retirement! UKL25.
This waterproof cap may be even better than my Icebreaker obne (especially as they may have discontinued it! You need a peak like this on any hunting cap so that you aren’t dazzled by the light when shooting into the sun. You can guarantee that the best stag you have ever been will have the sun at his back – and soon be gone! UKL28.
This one is a real foul weather hunter’s hat. It’s going to you’re your head dry and your ears warm, as well as shading your eyes from sun and rain. What a beauty! UKL30.
Below is another great idea for a ‘sleeping hat’ - but you will have to make it yourself from a kit for US$14.95. This hat is also intended to keep your nose warm (like the Buff).
08/11/2018: Longevity only 7% genetics: https://www.wired.com/story/the-key-to-a-long-life-has-little-to-do-with-good-genes/
05/11/2018: Liptrap to the Five Mile: Fit young people might complete this walk in a single day, but folks with more age or sense will take two or more. It is a beautiful, isolated part of our coastline which we plan to walk again as soon as/if my back is better. Then I hope for an extended foray to Mt Darling this time with my darling, Della. You will need to leave a second vehicle at the beginning of the Five Mile Track (or a bicycle) so you can return to your car at Liptrap lighthouse.
Nonetheless it can be walked, but going around the bottom of Liptrap can be tricky. People used to come up this goat track then down another one just below Evan Walker’s driveway – which can still be done. Lots of wonderful surfing ‘breaks’ used to be enjoyed down there on Maitland Beach in the past, campfires on the beach, etc.
You are looking to come out where that gully below meets the sea:
There is a path across that gully.
After you pass by the locked gate and a bit of dense shrubbery you will come to an open ‘lookout’ which used to be a camping area – one of many which have been closed as the public continue to be denied access to their lands. You can see the grassy path along the other side of the gully to your right from the top. You have to get down and over to it. There are only a couple of ways. The best is to take the path down to your right and cross high. If you take the path to your left and down you can still cross but it is steeper and thicker. If you are coming back, pay close attention, as it can be tricky finding the right wallaby track to ascend on! Hint: both could use a little bit of machete work (See: Nuts to Leave no Trace).
You were looking across the gully for a clear grassy walk like this.
As I explained in the earlier post, there is a goat track down to the beach
starting at the locked gate 100 metres back along the road from the lighthouse
carpark. Parks Victoria plan to have a continuous walk from
Once you are on the beach the going is splendid (even with a crook knee and back). To your left you will see a sea cave in the beetling cliffs. It contains a rock bivy you could use for an overnight camp (if you have brought water with you).
It is well above the level of the sea, as you can see:
And has a nice dry flat spot to hang out:
And beautiful views to the West:
Or like this:
The beach looked like it had been painted by a scarlet Jackson Pollock:
You see what I mean by 'beetling cliffs'?
They have spectacular synclines embedded in them.
The view around the corner to the east towards Liptrap.
You should check before you begin this through hike that the Ten Mile Creek which you cross just east of the Buffalo-Ten Mile intersection has water flowing in it, as you will need this water for an overnight camp. There is usually/often water at Mueller’s Creek and from rock seeps along the way. Some may even be found in the very small gully at the Five Mile in wetter weather. There is a patch of cumbungi about 150 metres inland from the beach which is a sure indication of underground water – but water cannot be counted on in very hot weather, so check the Ten Mile Creek before you begin!
We head West.
Lots of sponges in the sea wrack today. This one could have been the inside of a motor-bike seat.
This could be a leftover of one of Christo's wrapped coasts:
The sea has ploughed these furrows very straight.
Around the corner looking West
Still looking West
There is a lovely little beach here. Looking East along it towards where the previous shot was taken.
And closer up
The pigface was putting on a splendid display.
One of the seeps of fresh water I mentioned coming from the rocks. Such a phenomenon is common along the (Gippsland) coast and can be a lifesaver. You need to be prepared to harvest the water though. And maybe even filter it if it is muddy.
Another day when my back is better I will walk all the way again. There are many other delights to see before tracks end...
At the Five Mile looking back towards Liptrap:
Walking out the Five Mile Track:
I realize you could continue along the beach and exit at
Of course everyone comes home with a few trophies. The sea is depositing
hundreds of semi-trailers worth every day, and we maybe take away a small
bucketful. The most interesting thing I found was an old iron ship's rivet
which had become encrusted on one end with barnacles.The plants which had used
stones as anchors were pretty special too. And the coral which has no trouble
growing in these 10C colder waters just as they have no trouble growing in the
10C hotter waters of the
05/11/2018: Alex Honnold Free Solo Climbing Capitan. Just about impossible to watch – but then I’m not good with heights, or watching people die…The good news is he doesn’t. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=53&v=urRVZ4SW7WU or here: https://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000006186870/what-if-he-falls.html?action=click>ype=vhs&version=vhs-heading&module=vhs®ion=title-area&cview=true&t=21
05/11/2018: Beginning Hiking: (or
hunting). Too many people are 'gear junkies' or 'gear snobs’. However, remember
Gatewood completed the
Often I see novices crying out for advice on various forums - usually in the form, 'What should I buy/'. They are almost universally answered with expensive alternatives which must at least work as a disincentive for many to begin the wonderful sports of hiking or hunting - which otherwise would be of such benefit to them, and great fun! Essential to both anyway is developing the skills required for camping out overnight safely, but what to take - not what to buy?
The traditional advice to young brides seems appropriate to me: ‘Something old something new, something borrowed and something blue’. (Incidentally, blue is a really good colour for small camping equipment as there is practically nothing blue in the bush - save things found in bower birds bowers - so that if you drop them they will be easily found, at least by bower birds anyway!) In any case don’t rush out and buy everything ‘new’. Your purchase decision is almost certain to be the wrong one. You will have wasted money, though you may have learned something about whose advice it is best to follow!
If you should visit a 'hiking' store' with such a question in mind, be sure to have a very full wallet - and a strong back, as you are likely to come out with a camel's load of expensive junk you almost certainly do not need. Few such shop assistants will know (or care about) how much the items weigh for example, or even have any extensive experience themselves with such equipment.
It is also quite true that you have something ‘old’ lying about which will do. Take Grandma Gatewood’s shower screen raincoat as a case in point. You really don’t need the latest ‘ultralight’ $500 rain coat when you are unlikely to venture out (the first time – if you are wise) when it is going to rain anyway! A pocket sized space blanket which you will find somewhere for $2-4 is quite waterproof (and warm) and will keep you quite dry – as well as doubling as a ground sheet. It is a bit of a nuisance holding it closed at the front – but so is parting with $500! You can worry too much. Still, you may prefer one of these: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/if-you-could-only-carry-two-things-in-the-bush-what-would-they-be/ You probably already have a $5 umbrella which will suffice anyway.
There are plenty of things in your cupboard will do fine for your first (warm weather anyway) hike. I camped for many years with just a wool blanket on the ground or in a hollow log if it was raining, and a billy. Not much else – and I am still here. The swagmen of yore rolled all their possessions in such a blanket and carried a billy in their hand – and there were once hundreds of thousands of them. Such a ‘swag’
was called a ‘bindle’
One advantage of a wool blanket is how it will save your life in a forest fire if you roll yourself in it (and particularly if you can wet it down) and get yourself eg into a hollow in the ground - when all your friends with their synthetics will die horribly, poor dears! When the disastrous fires occurred here (I mean coming as close as 200 yards away from us) in 2009 (and killing lots of people) an old man in his nineties (just over the hill from us) saved his own life a second time in this way. In a street where several people died and all the houses burned down he rolled himself in a wet blanket and lay in the same drain he had in the incredible 1939 fires. ‘Live and learn or you won’t live long’.
We were better prepared than that. We were able to sit on the verandah, drink beer and watch it all burn. Lots of fire pumps, generators, dams, sprinkler systems and acres of short green grass surround our house once you move outward from our lush green garden of mostly introduced trees. Friends and children flocked around to help out, mostly with the beer as it turned out!
If you don't own a blanket, you almost certainly have a quilt. For a beginner's mattress try this idea or this. If you must buy something, try a search above right for 'quilt', 'bag', 'mat', or 'pad'. You will find many cheaper ideas which are also very light.
For cooking, the 3 stone fire has worked fine for centuries. Where there is plenty of wood, it will still do, but be careful. Don't burn yourself and don't let it get away. People are always trying to improve it, people like me: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-egg-ring-ultralight-wood-burner-stove/ - and you have to watch out as some stones explode! Or, you can spend hours of fun and enjoyment playing around creating your own alcohol stove.
You can carry the alcohol in a used soft drink bottle (lightest option) or you can use a Platypus bottle as I do (more durable, less space). I saved a medicine measure from the hospital when I had my back operation in 2013 which I use to add just exactly the amount of alcohol I will need to boil eg 1 cup of water (7 mls when I use a windscreen). I tote up all my meals and cups of hot drink before I set out and take just the amount of fuel I will need. This measure replaced one I had borrowed from an unused pack of herbicide saving me a few precious grams actually. Both were free anyway - the best kind of gear!
For free gear Jim Woods’ genius ‘super cat’ stove is a good place to start, as is Ray Garlington’s Yacc stove you can make from an empty soft drink can with just a pair of scissors. You can start with a billy made from a large used can (such as a coffee can) and a coat hanger as the swagmen and hobos did, or an inexpensive aluminium one for under $10 say from Aussie Disposals where I bought my first one - which I still have sixty years later (in a drum up the bush at one of my winter camps actually).
These caches are such a delight to me. When I open one it is a trip down memory lane. I find a teaspoon I used to feed my first-born - or my last! A poncho I bought thirty years ago. A worn enamel plate which dates back to my childhood and my parents' bee-keeping days, and so on. I often become nostalgic when I am camping alone in the bush a few days' walk from any other soul - I can't imagine why. Old is good. On every hiking trip I am still using the same plastic cup I bought over 20 years ago from a $2 store (for $1). I am yet to find a lighter one, though I could do this I suppose.
Only you know what you have in the cupboard or can ‘beg, borrow or steal’, so I will leave that up to your imagination. Most people already have a backpack of some sort, for example. If it is just an overnight hike (which your first should be) 25-40 litres is going to be quite adequate. If you do not, a duffel like Grandma Gatewood's will suffice, or even a simple bedroll - or swag.
I go away for 7-10 day trips carrying all my food and necessaries in just a 50 litre pack which weighs under 400 grams empty! If my wife Della is with me (as we both prefer anyway even after 50 years) she carries a pack of only around 30 litres. Between us we might have 15-18 kgs at the absolute max at the beginning of a 10 day hike (with no tracks or huts). I bought these quite serviceable 40+ litre packs from Amazon for under $20. If you do a search at the top of the page for ‘cheap’ and ‘budget’ and ‘DIY’ you will find many other ways of saving money. I just did, and believe me, you are in for some surprises! I have been busy! You will find several cheap lightweight shelter/tent alternatives, sleeping mats, sleeping ‘bag’s, etc, etc. Have a look.
It will certainly save you money if you don’t plan to hike/camp out when it is wet or cold. Once the temperature gets below freezing the danger obviously increases so that the level of your preparedness needs to be better. It is also crucially important to stay warm and dry – or at least warm. It is the rate of heat loss which is a danger, not the temperature or even how wet you are. And I cannot repeat too often you must practice lighting a fire in such conditions again and again until you are certain you can both light and maintain a fire in the wet.
I know an old (late) friend Ray Quinney told me that he spent a night marching in a river in near freezing water during the Korean War because his sergeant had worked out that our soldiers would be warmer and survive better there than in the monstrously cold blizzarding air inadequately clothed – as they were; Australia (everyone probably) has a record of sending their soldiers off in emergencies without quite the right equipment. Napoleon’s (lost) army in Russia (and Hitler’s) are cases in point. I found Ray's story hard to believe, as I would have thought that water would strip heat from you quicker than air, but I guess they were clad in wool which insulates pretty well when it is wet, so if perhaps the water was not very cold as compared with the air - and if they were wet anyway…Whatever, he lived through it. I did not!
It is preferable to stay dry. There is no reason to add yourself to a statistic by freezing to death, which is much less likely to happen in the warmer months. Still and all, I always prepare for sub-zero conditions, as I usually walk (off-track) and camp eg in the Victorian mountains whose changeable weather is notorious, and whose weather bureau’s forecasts are just as notoriously unreliable!
Where you live might be similar. I have encountered the coldest conditions (relatively) on a ‘warm’ autumn day at Wilson’s Prom Vic, coming back from the lighthouse where we were walking in shirt sleeves one minute and then in freezing rain the next. It was pretty much the only time my fingers have gone white with cold even though I have been outdoors in winter weather all my life (being a farmer), and frequently in snow. A quick slip under the tea-trees for shelter, a bit of a rearrange of gear (for one of us a change into my spare dry clothes and emergency poncho - an expensive 'guaranteed' raincoat failed dismally), a hot cuppa and we were right to go again.
I know my wife, Della nearly ‘froze’ in a light drizzle that came up one warmish day when we were climbing the South face of Mt Whitelaw on the Baw Baw Plateau across the valley from here. I had to get a shelter up quickly and a fire going to thaw her out. Again it was highly unexpected. Having a tarp or poncho which you can use for shelter, (or being able to construct one) and light a fire are essentials. I repeat you need to practice these skills in some local bushland in poor weather conditions before you venture too far from home – eg before you set off on something like the South Coast Track in Tasmania (which will take you 7-8 days). In an emergency you can use your raincoat as a shelter. It may save your life: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/raincoat-shelter/
Some places (like Fiordland) it is very difficult (if not impossible) to light a fire, so you have to be able to get a shelter up quickly and use body heat and clothing etc to warm up. This is one reason why I often travel (in such places) with a light tarp (150-200 grams) and a hammock of a similar weight. I always sleep on an insulated inflatable pad of some kind. Once you are under the roof, up off the ground, out of the wind, on top of the mat and snuggled into your clothes and sleeping bag you will be alright. I have encountered such conditions (and employed such a strategy on (and off) the Dusky and South Coast Tracks in Fiordland, for example in my search for the elusive moose. A blue poly tarp will do as a shelter, and a cheap hammock will also suffice. You need to learn how (not) to tie it to a tree, otherwise you will be leaving it there. (Check out some of my posts about hammocks).
If you already own some solid wool clothing, though it might not be ultralight it is also likely to be ultra-safe when you are alone in the wilderness. You do not need to overdo clothing. Here is an idea what to take: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/how-many-clothes-should-i-take-in-my-pack/
Choosing where to go. As you probably realise I almost never walk tracks or trails (with a few exceptions - as previously mentioned). I prefer off-trail travel which guarantees greater freedom and peace of mind (if crowds are not your thing). They are certainly not mine! I have been doing this since before I went to primary school - over 65 years now! My advantage here is that I grew up on a farm surrounded on all sides pretty much by trackless bush. From when I was a toddler I was allowed to just roam at will, and to find my own way home when I was hungry. The older I grew the further I traveled - and I always managed to get home by tea-time!
If you are just starting out you will have to learn a few skills that I mastered before I was in kindergarten! Not staying lost is the most important lesson. If you begin your explorations in a patch of bush nearby which has clearly defined boundaries you will (eventually) find your own way out at the same time as finding out a thing or three as well - one with a river or stream at the bottom will be best so you will have water for your evening cuppa
Sometime you should invest a little money in some topographical maps (our Vicmaps are only A$8ea to download to your phone and can be paired with the Pdf maps - as explained here). Other countries/states have other systems, but something comparable. In any case it is a good idea to get a feel for the lie of the land at the same time as familiarising yourself with navigating by map. Backcountry Navigator is another excellent App.
You might on your first trip plan to circumnavigate a largish valley, say one something like 3-5 kms long. If you can chose one which as a road or 4WD track at the top a stream at the bottom and a number of ridges running more or less straight down to the stream that would be excellent. There are millions of spots which fit this description.There is very often a tiny flat at the bottom of a ridge or adjacent to the main stream. The topographic map will indicate this.
If you start out with the hammock + tarp I recommended before you will be either able to camp in the trees or on the ground. You might take a small saw or a machete to make a clearing big enough for a tent. If the fishing is good, you will probably be back! Remember the water in your drink bottle is always level. Use that fact to select a (parallel) level(ish) spot to camp. You don't want to be sliding down the hill or rolling sideways all night.
You might walk down one ridge the first day, camp at the river or stream at the bottom the first night (catch a few fish or crays - or both), then travel up or down the river to the bottom of the next ridge and walk back up it to the road at the top, thence back to your vehicle. This should guarantee a pleasant peaceful couple of days away from people and away from tracks. I hope you begin like this instead of starting out as a track walker. Too many never progress from track walking. If the weather is cooler and the bush not too dry, you can even have a cheery fire to warm your camp - and cook your fish. Do take some Alfoil to cook them in - much lighter than a frying pan!
Have a great time. PS: The links in the text are there for a reason, just like the ones below. They will lead you to many other posts with advice for the novice, or the person on a budget. I have been on a budget all my life which is one reason why I make so much of my own gear - besides 'making do' is both fun and character building.
am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul’. These are the words
which should be engraved above every school gate. I know most learned them there
when I was young. No-one else, nothing else is to blame. You alone are
responsible for what you are, what you can become. Today’s technology and
wealth ensures that the possibilities are endless…
Invictus William Ernest Henley (1849-1902)
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell
clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
04/11/2018: These Down-Filled Quilts are So Light: Filled with hydrophobic down the Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilts start at 272 grams for a 30F/-2C quilt in 5’6” Regular and cost from US229.99 on Massdrop. This would be Della’s size though she would go for a warmer version (20F) at 347 grams which would still ave her over 50 grams on the one she uses now (also cheaper) – which I find astonishing. In my size (5’6’ to 6’) it would weigh 287 grams (Regular/Wide) around 300 grams less than my beloved Montbell – or if I wanted a warmer (20F) quilt in Regular/Wide it would weigh 388 grams, still a saving of over 200 grams but with a temperature rating 10F (7C) lower. If I can get comfortable sleeping on my back again (if I ever get it better!) probably on a 4” mat such as this or this, I will buy one of these. A saving of 200 grams is not to be sneezed at, plus the added ease of getting in/out of bed which is an important factor at my age – as you will learn sooner than you think!
It is hard to believe that manufacturers have now whittled a comfy summer weight hiking bed down to under 500 grams (quilt plus mattress) ie 40F quilt (Regular/Regular) 232 grams plus Thermarest Uberlite 250 grams. Total = 482 grams. Given that you can get a shelter under 250 grams and a pack of not much more, you can now have the ‘Big Four’ at under a kilo. Stupendous!
03/11/2018: The Ultralight Comb: No longer happy with your old plastic comb to ensure you always look beautiful in the wilderness? ‘Vanity, thy name is man’ as Hamlet says. I know mine which has been in my pack for over twenty years has a tooth missing (courtesy of my daughter, Irralee on the Dusky Track c 2007), so perhaps I should consider replacing it with a true ‘Rolls Royce’ of combs.
Naturally I am attracted to their Titanium Models as I have become a titanium fetishist (as you might have noticed - much like the rubber fetishist in Spike Milligan’s wonderful movie, ‘The Bed-Sitting Room’ - Watch on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=de0w8tU0j1U) However the carbon fibre model is much lighter, though in fact not lighter than my old plastic one, but 10X the price – you can’t take it with you! After a while you wonder what you can spend it on; your house is so full of amazing things you just can’t resist! Tip: Don’t let your pack go the same way though. You will suffer! BTW my ancient Priceline $1 comb weighs 4 grams (albeit with a tooth missing).
Weights: ‘For the stainless steel combs, the Model No. 1 and Model No. 3 weigh 1.7 ounces (similar to a candy bar), but they feel much more substantial in hand than any plastic comb. The stainless steel Model No. 2 comb weighs 1.1 ounces, and the Model 4 weighs 1.3 ounces. Model 5 combs weigh under one ounce. All of the Titanium combs also weigh less than one ounce. (For our international customers' reference, 1 ounce = approximately 28 grams). The Carbon Fiber Model 1 weighs 10 grams (about 1/3 of an ounce) and the Model 6 weighs just slightly more’. (NB Models 1 Top & 6 Bottom shown) https://www.chicagocomb.com/store/c25/Professional_Grade_Carbon_Fiber_%28Model_No._1_%26_No._6%29_Starting_at_%2414.99.html
02/11/2018: What a Beautiful Knife: The CRKT Eros K455TXP Titanium Gentleman's Folder available on Massdrop this morning for US$ 109.99 instead of the regular price of US$225 – over 50% off! What a bargain. Love this site! I know I don’t either need or deserve a new pocket knife but I am seriously temted (for Xmas perhaps?) It comes with a ‘flipper’ for easy one-handed opening and a frame lock (the model shown is right-handed).
‘The CRKT Eros earned a spot in the pockets of many due to its slim build, sleek appearance, and overall utility. Now it’s back, this time with a lighter, stronger 6AL4V titanium handle and a designation of Imported Knife of the Year at Blade Show. Blending the best aspects of a tactical folder and a gentleman’s knife, this new type of hybrid is larger than the original Eros, with a 3-inch blade. Made from Acuto 440 stainless steel, it features a satin finish to complement the handle. The blade’s elongated tip makes it great for piercing tasks and adds to its angular, tapered aesthetic. Deployment is a breeze, too: Just press on the flipper and it rotates open smoothly thanks to the IKBS bearing system. Also notable is the unique V-shaped pocket clip for right-handed tip-down carry.’
01/11/2018: Everest: Two years ago today. Facebook is reminding me, ‘First view of Everest. These lovely blue flowers were everywhere. Garlic soup for lunch and dinner. With Steve Hutcheson’: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/i-followed-my-footsteps/
29/10/2018: Anti Aging – Probably you should begin now with Metformin and NMN (increase your life expectancy by 10-25%) and wait for the next major breakthrough – which apparently will be along in about three years: ‘The interventions include: dietary restriction, exercise, mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors, metformin and acarbose, NAD precursors and sirtuin activators, modifiers of senescence and telomore dysfunction, hormonal and circulating factors, and mitochondria-targeted therapeutics.’ https://www.nature.com/articles/npjamd201621
26/10/2018: DIY Air Frame Pack: This will make your frameless pack more comfortable, transfer load to your waist belt and help keep your back dry. You can still buy an ‘air beam’ from Granite Gear for US$50. You will need to make a 3D wicking mesh pocket on the back of your frameless pack (one like this or this for example) to help keep your back dry – and to make the load transfer from the air beam work.
For best results get a piece of mesh that is slightly wider than the air beam ( and slightly longer). Sew it as a pocket on the back of the pack so that it covers the entire pack. You will have to leave an unsewn space on each side for taking it in and out. In other words sew each end to the pack, then each side about 6” up at either end. Hope that is clear. You can buy the mesh eg here or here - see 3D Spacer Mesh: PS: You can use two layers of the 3ml mesh to get extra cushioning, drying, wicking if the thicker material isn’t available.
The Vapor Air Beam comes with a handy pump which will get it very tight, but you can do this to save a little weight. You can also cut it to the size you need in the same way you would with a sleeping pad. You can cut down this Air Beam to fit a Gossamer gear Pack such as this Gorilla. For best wicking results you will need to construct a mesh cover or modify the pack a bit.
26/10/2018: Heinlein’s ‘Space Elevator’ just became real. This development will liberate mankind from the prison of earth’s gravity, and having a single home. ‘Tomorrow the Stars’ – as was the title of one of his famous books: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/10/26/space-race-game-changer-chinese-space-elevator-breakthrough/
24/10/2018: Alps Walk: This short post is courtesy of Gerard White. I have meant to post it earlier. He and a friend walked this wonderful track a couple of years back. It is a long way from Melbourne to Canberra, but you can do this bit in a little over a week. These three wonderful shots fairly make one drool with longing. He reckons one of the best bits is this section – and I have been meaning to fit it in as a mini-adventure ever since – and we will! Here’s the ‘teaser’ Gerard sent me back when they finished it
‘It’s a shot from last year Steve…The Rolling Ground 20k NE of Kosci. Beautiful remote area and very exposed. Probably covered in snow after this cold blast. I’m home and just about to light a nice fire.
No deer on the Main Range Steve but quite a few horses in northern KNP and Dead Horse Gap. There were baits for pig and dog/fox eradication in some areas of Namadgi and KNP. Rabbits around Kiandra and a greeting party on the last day…
Kiandra to Thredbo is a great section Steve ~100k. Not as difficult as Victoria and the elevation graph is a lot smoother. Mostly follows fire trails but you can take alternate routes. There’s some good off-track areas to visit huts/mountains/waterways throughout Jagungal…If the weather’s good the Main Range from White’s River Hut to Kosci is like another planet. It took us 8 days but we did a lot of side trips and I placed a food drop at Derschko’s Hut near Jagungal and had a 1/2 day rest so you could probably do it in 6-7 days.
23/10/2018: Ramble On: I like the title. It sounds like something I would use myself! These folks have written a history of hiking. So far it is only available in paperback at US$18.95 from Amazon which is a bit of a problem for folks like me in Oz – but remember you can use Shipito. Perhaps there will be an electronic version available soon, because looking inside it you will find many interesting snippet – and some wonderful photos. Historical curios such as hikes by Alexander or the Emperor Hadrian intrigue me. I suggest you have a close look at this fascinating new book.
20/10/2018: Nuts to ‘Leave No Trace’: Leave No Trace Extremism vs Vandalism: There is a better way. I view this (mainly urban) ‘philosophy’ (‘Leave No Trace’) as yet another example of green extremism and of statist efforts to further alienate public land from the people. Prior to sometime in the C12th ‘the public’ owned the ‘public land’ where they had pretty much unfettered rights to roam, hunt, collect (firewood, food, flowers, materials, gemstones, etc), shelter, live and generally enjoy its amenity. The Crown Land Act basically appropriated all the public land to the King, and the public were ever after forbidden its every use on pain of death (so this was a big change, back then) – so that Robin Hood and his ‘merry men’ (who lived there) became ‘criminals’ and could be hanged for ‘taking’ one of the ‘King’s deer’ for example – as in the old Television show, available to download free on the Internet Archive. (They are gold!) I would see the Crown Land Law Act repealed everywhere – and the land returned to the people.
After the settlement of the various British colonies (Australia, New Zealand America, etc) the ‘Crown Land’ became the (State) Government’s land onto which the public might only venture under specified circumstances. Mainly (eg in Victoria) the majority of this ‘unalienated’ ‘crown land’ was in the form of ‘state forests’ (some crown land was leased to private landowners on 100 year leases). The public pretty much enjoyed the ‘freedom’ of the state forests until quite recently. Many other activities could be enjoyed there under liberal licence terms (forestry, grazing, mining. firewood collection, fishing etc).
Otherwise you could pretty much walk, camp, hunt, light a campfire etc almost anywhere within the state forests which were nonetheless preserved in perpetuity for public use as crown land and forest. The Government retained the right to make special rules as circumstances required, so that some such activities could be circumscribed in specially ‘sensitive’ areas or areas with heavy use, (or times, etc) – and were. For example, there were duck ‘seasons’ and rules on taking fish, crayfish, deer, native animals, wildflowers etc – so that the resource could be preserved for future generations. This system of management preserved all the creatures and flora we still enjoy today for over 100 years – I would argue much better than the present ‘system’ of ‘conservation’.
Then came ‘National Parks’, ‘State Parks’, ‘Reference Areas’ and other such alienations of the public lands from the public. Interestingly these things came simultaneously as fewer and fewer people lived , worked in or used these wild areas. I suppose ‘everyone knows’ that Wilsons Prom was ‘pretty much’ the first ‘National Park’ declared anywhere in the world. Probably the majority of citizens of Victoria know how onerous the rules and regulations there are – though some no doubt help preserve ‘delicate’ areas from too much human traffic. In very busy areas more rules and regulations no doubt are needed – whether the area be ‘National Park’ or ‘State Forest’.
There remain vast areas of the Park though which one might well want to venture (off-track) but may not, and which it is hard to see how the solitary hiker would/could cause much disturbance by wanting just to see them. One might well want to walk along the beach (for example) from the public access at Shallow Inlet to the Darby River (where there is also access), or along Corner Inlet from Miller’s Landing to Foster. Many more remote possibilities are obvious, but excluded by bureaucracy.
Most other ‘National Parks’ are more remote and much less ‘busy’ so that it defies all reason why they need to be ‘National Parks’ – or have any rules at all. However in the vast ‘Alpine National Park’ for example, it is illegal to walk off-track anywhere (unless you are a deer hunter) – or to camp anywhere other than at ‘designated camp sites’ (few enough of them anyway). Some places there are ‘designated walking tracks’ it would be impossible to traverse in a single day but without ‘designated camp sites’ – so that it is both ‘permitted’ to venture there, but ‘illegal’ at the same time!
There appears to be pretty much zero maintenance of tracks both walking and vehicular by the tens of thousands of state employees of those government bodies responsible for the State Forests, National Parks etc. Deer hunters, 4WDers, fishers and loggers appear to do the lion’s share of any work carried out. Instead every year more and more tracks and roads are closed to public access (or even all access – including so-called ‘Management’ – hundreds of kilometers pretty much every single year). It is clear what the intention of all these track closures is: the total alienation of the public lands from the public whose (future) enjoyment was the intention of their ‘preservation’.
This has been happening ‘progressively’ since the 1970s. The amalgamation of the Forestry and Land Depts into various new super Depts with ever-changing fancy names only heralded the take-over of these Depts by green activists particularly since the 1980s. The focus of all ‘management’ has shifted from managing the actual land for which they are responsible to managing meetings, the office and the 4WD vehicles with road tyres they use to go from one meeting to another – and of course to the creation of more and more rules to micro-manage or further restrict public access to ‘their’ lands. As an example, the spread of sambar deer was clearly explained and identified by Max Downes as early as 1980 (before he and anyone else who did not suit the new ‘green’ philosophy was squeezed out).
The need to manage that spread by increasing hunting opportunities was clear, yet track access has been closed to vast areas (making any management of anything at all impossible) access to huge areas for hunting remained forbidden. Now that the deer have increased very substantially (mostly due to poorly controlled wildfires that their lack of management basically caused), the deer are so numerous in places they are now being shot from helicopters (and wasted) rather than being the premium hunting opportunity for recreational hunters that they ought to be, yet there remain large swathes of country hunters still may not go (or be able to go – due to track closures). Hunters, hikers, campers etc are adjured to ‘leave no trace’ yet even if they acted like the worst yobbos and vandals you have ever encountered in the bush they would do much less damage than the new ‘green’ management has resulted in – with millions of hectares ruined for decades by out-of-control wildfires (in the absence of any policy of regular fuel reduction, for example – or just the ability to drive on tracks which no longer exist to where the fires started).
Any ‘philosophy’ which aids this rabid theft of public land (by the bureaucracy) is reprehensible. Rather than ‘leave no trace’ I think it is the public’s responsibility (as they use the public land) to make improvements to it for future users. Clearing and maintaining vehicular and walking tracks, (including re-opening closed tracks) building and maintaining huts and campsites is an obvious place to start. At the moment it is actually illegal to ‘cut or lop’ any native vegetation without a permit – so that when a tree or plant encroaches on a track or falls over a road you may not cut it with your machete, pruning saw, axe, or chainsaw so that you can continue on your way. You are obliged by law to ‘leave no trace’. This is a ridiculous situation – and is sensibly disobeyed by most users.
At the same time the so-called ‘managers’ of these areas totally neglect them so that they are over-run by pest animals such as foxes, rabbits and cats and weeds such as the thousands of acres of blackberries in the Alpine National Park. There is zero fire prevention or fire break maintenance – indeed there are no firebreaks or even fire access roads. They have all been closed – so that episodically the whole vast area is swept ‘clean’ by shocking disastrous bushfires which far from leaving no trace, erase all life within them. Yet this is what the Green extremists and the bureaucrats who have stolen the land from the public seem to want – so long as the public can be totally excluded from those areas!
It seems perfectly reasonable to me help keep any tracks or roads clear, fill any vehicular holes with stones, to whipper-snip the grass in a camping area, (tidy up any rubbish vandals have left behind), and improve the amenity of the site generally eg by keeping a (non-designated) walking track to the river/stream clear, spraying any invasive weeds which have grown up nearby, throwing the cursed rings of stones back into the river and so on. None of these sensible activities would be allowed under the green extremist, ‘Leave No Trace’ ‘philosophy’. It is just another deplorable ‘religious’ mantra – and should be avoided, like all the others!
The human interface between ‘man’ and nature starts as soon as we open our eyes wherever we are, and every interaction leaves a ‘trace’ – on both parts. In suburbia we have the swallows nesting under our verandahs or in our garages who ‘paint’ interesting designs down our walls and on our cars. Some folks are so annoyed by this they knock the swallows’ nests down or even attempt to kill them eg with tennis rackets. I know I had a friend who acted so. Bad karma got him in the end and he died young! So beware! Myself, I love the swallows and eagerly await their return. If they are a day late (around 20th August here) I start to worry that someone in their other home (I guess in North Asia somewhere) has harmed them – but they must have nice human friends there too, as they return every year and help clear the air of mosquitoes over Spring and Summer.
Most folks have a small (or large) garden I suppose (or wish for one) where they can plant a beautiful tree (or a thousand) and watch with delight as insects, birds and other creatures visit their garden. Many have ponds for frogs and other creatures to enjoy, and also bird feeders so the local inhabitants can stave off seasonal scarcity and fill the air with wonderful birdsong. In helping construct the natural environment which begins right outside their bedroom window (as ours does), they are doing just the reverse of ‘Leave No Trace’ – and doing so quite properly. May all gardeners prosper – and the world become one vast garden which we share with every living thing!
The dams that beavers build, the bowers of birds and the termites’ mounds are all works of nature – just as our houses and gardens are. The line between ourselves and nature is not clear and stark but very blurry – as it should be. Nature is enormously resilient. We must all have seen photographs of ruined cities such as Ankor and Macchu and wondered at the way nature is ‘reclaiming them’ – or just melding with them, as it ever does. All the CO2 folks have produced over the last thirty years or so has created forests greater than two Australia’s somewhere. The area of wilderness is growing and growing. It will not be harmed overmuch if you should stoop to pick the odd wild daisy for your coat lapel – or your sweetheart! Neither will the world end if you should feed the ducks!
As we move further out from suburbia we begin to interact more and more with the natural world. Our farms and roadsides teem with wildlife which farmers are careful to nurture and encourage by building dams, shelter-belts and providing nest boxes for wildlife to live and breed in, for example. You can observe some of our own modest efforts here. If all we did was ‘leave no trace’ we would do nothing. Then there are the hordes of people who spend their leisure time in one way or another caring for the land. The duck hunters who acquire, create and re-vegetate swamps and fill them with nesting opportunities, for example, the thousands of fox hunters who spend every winter weekend out in the cold and rain attempting to reduce or eliminate the plague of these terrible destroyers of wildlife, and so on.
Most people venture out from suburbia every now and then to vehicular campsites, caravan parks, beaches etc where they interact with nature in various ways. It is common for them to pick wildflowers, or take a feather or pretty stone or piece of driftwood home with them. The kids build sandcastles, or gather sticks and driftwood and make cubbies (Everyone takes a few seashells, an interesting skull or a few pretty stones home). They children may dig pools in a stream or heap stones to dam it. Everyone plays at skipping stones (how wicked!) Various objects find their way into the stream to see how fast they will race. Many are lost forever. All also like to gather wood and have a campfire; they may even burn some rubbish in the fire – and may even feed the ducks! All this outrageous everyday behaviour is anathema to the ‘leave no trace’ brigade. How silly and authoritarian they are!
There are vast areas of wilderness where no-one is ever likely to live – but which one might visit. Here in the East of Victoria there are literally millions of wild acres – and ever will be. These Gippsland mountains have been my playground now for most of my life – though I came here from elsewhere long ago – from forests, rivers and deserts which now in my old age have become strangers to me. I have wandered the hills and valleys of Gippsland with one excuse or another now for over 40 years – and hope to do so for long yet – though I am in my seventieth year, so it might not be that long. There are many vistas still these old eyes have not peered into. Mostly I have roamed the trackless wilderness, but in doing so I have ever made my own ‘tracks’.
If I failed to return for only a little while (a couple of years is enough) my ‘track’ would be gone – and I would have to make a new one. I am speaking here only of opening up an existing ‘game trail’ so a person may walk without stooping overmuch. Sometimes others followed my ‘tracks’ and also enjoyed the camping spots I found and ‘improved’. Most folk are too blind to ever notice such ‘game trails’ at all. To make such trails and camps is a ‘public service’ and many more should do so, far from ‘leaving no trace’.
I would see a path leading down every ridge and up every valley, and a soft, pleasant camp on every cool, shady level spot. There are scarcely enough people in the whole world to simultaneously occupy every such path and spot as exist just here in the East of Victoria. Certainly there are not so many folk in Australia or in Victoria, or ever will be – or even many who would want to do so. Therefore largely every such route and pleasant bower will ever be deserted. When you venture thence you will have it to yourself as if it was ‘the first morning of creation’. What wilderness experience is all about! It will not be ill if folk do this everywhere there is a wild place.
I am talking here about breaking off the odd bough or sapling – with your hands is enough, so that a single person can freely pass, bending this way and that between the trees. I do not mean ploughing vast tracks under the treads of countless dozers. Where a level camp can be made beside a cool stream, it is enough to cut a half dozen saplings at most so a small pup tent can shelter one from a mountain storm. It would overgrow in a couple of seasons at most if left unused, or make a tiny clearing where wildlife might lie in the sun on a cool afternoon or nibble a sweet shoot or two. I am talking about removing a few twigs in a whole forest. Scarce anyone would notice my passing. The ‘butterfly effect’ is not reality. A broken twig does not shake the forest.
Mostly I carry a machete and a pruning saw to help me in this work. The two that I recommend here and here are mighty tools – plus light and inexpensive. Hand tools are best for this type of work so folks don’t become too enthusiastic! The tracks my Gerber machete has cleared though are very long – hundreds of kilometers are down to me. You might have encountered some over the years. I know I have encountered ones that others have cleared and breathed a word of thanks that they had so thoughtfully eased my way. Or enjoyed a night in a camp they made – and replaced what firewood I used in a pile leaned against a log to keep it dry – as you should.
As I canoe our rivers as I often do in summer , I stop to clear a path where there is an obstruction in the river, or sometime a side path where you can portage around a dangerous rapid. If there is an overhanging branch which would have you out on a fast inside bend (or possibly cause a drowning) I take it out. As I often camp overnight, naturally I chose a level spot which is already clear, but if it needs a nip here or there so you can put up a small tent and sit on a chair or hiking mat in the cool shade of a hot summer’s day – off it goes. These prunings will only be someone else’s campfire after all. I have cleared many rivers like this over the years. Of course it is only ‘stream improvement’. The work needs to be done again and again. I encourage others to take up where I left off. I also move a few stones betimes to make a rapid or a pebble race easier or safer to navigate. Sometimes, because things weigh less under water, the rocks I have moved are larger than myself – it is no wonder perhaps I have this back trouble which keeps me restively home of late. I love it when I come to a deep pool where someone has thoughtfully climbed a huge tree to tie a stout rope for swinging and perhaps cut some steps to aid your ascent. Or where people have thoughtfully cleared a path and/or cut steps down from some beautiful campsite amongst glorious shade trees.
Many remote waterfalls are marked on topographical maps, yet few have walking tracks to handy viewing spots so you can visit them. Such falls are surely a delight to all. Surely too it is a public duty to carefully make such a path, and create steps too to get folks down to lovely swimming pools or fishing holes? So too places with delightful views perhaps of yawning precipices or vast horizons. These wonders are being ‘saved for future generations’ but it would be bizarre indeed if the current one could not enjoy them too! I am certainly not going to be held back from doing so by some silly current law or absurd quasi religious belief! My handy machete will continue to go snicker-snack for many years yet, and open them up to searching eyes that yearn for wide vistas.
Oh, and mostly I take a dog or two with me wherever I go, whether they are allowed or not. I will pay their fine if I have to, as their price of admission. They pay their taxes too (on dog feed, collars, flea medicine etc), so they deserve to see all these wonders the Government (?) provides which otherwise would only be seen by their descendants whom the areas are being ‘saved for’. They enjoy!
A reader wrote me this letter – which provoked this post. He is obviously young and has been indoctrinated all his life – but he also needs to learn there are other ways of thinking, which are really not downright wickedness! I was hard on him I guess, but you must remember I came up through the ‘school of hard knocks’ not the cosseted insulated namby-pamby nonsense that has been the lot of young people today. I am used to ‘calling a spade a bloody shovel’ as my mother used to say,
My name is ——, and I am working on my final project for my Outdoor Environment and Sustainability Education degree. The goal of my project is to encourage outdoor activity and spread awareness for reducing the environmental impact while outdoors.
Thank you for your input. Unfortunately the bits I agree with are time honoured truths; while the green religo bits are anathema to me, as I happen to think Greens are the most evil people on the planet – rather worse than the Nazis and Communists even – as they want to kill at least a third of the world’s people, probably more: they would take out 25% just if ‘organic farming’ was implemented everywhere, for example. I would not buy Patagonia just because it chooses to make its stuff out of ‘organic’ cotton which uses 27% more land, for example. Nothing could be more environmentally destructive!
I am saddened that you are wasting your life studying for such a degree when you could be doing science, engineering or business all of which have a far better chance of improving both the human and natural environment (and have) than silly retrograde and ‘distributionist’ notions. I hope it is not too late for you to change courses. You should not spend your life ‘preaching’ such evil nonsense!
I am an ‘avid camper’ myself though I almost never do most of the things in the guide. For example, I almost never walk on paths or camp where others have camped. I own this might be harder in the UK which has a plague of people (We have been given a free return ticket there, but I doubt I will ever go; just too many people) – nonetheless world-wide the area of wilderness has expanded by 20%+ over the last quarter century because of the success of Western farming methods freeing up so much land, so there really are increasingly more places to go.
Also, I almost always have a fire (I never camp in summer) and I have observed that it is better for the environment if you have fires on fresh spots each time, as this maximises interesting regrowth. I often clear a path for others to follow (I admit this is largely because my wife is partially sighted) and I think this is a good thing to do, as it is better entirely if people are more spread out, rather than localised in formal camping spots.
I notice the guide omitted the idea of making your own camping gear (which is what I usually do). Surely this is much ‘greener’ than nearly all the other options? It doesn’t seem to encourage hunting either (which I have always done). Surely hunting is much ‘greener’ than consumerism. I also always make, rather than buy my own meals. Why not try the Nepali Dahl meal I just posted about?
I know you will probably find the above awfully rude. I just hope that it is not too late for you to change your very wrong thinking. We were all young once, and if when we were impressionable we came under the evil influence of bad ‘teachers’ we might all have gone where you seem to be headed. However, I have known many who were able to see through the fog of propaganda they have been served, and who have mended their ways entirely. I hope you become one such.
PS2: I see no reason why folks who chose to live in the wilderness far from any track or road should be prevented from doing so…Watch these films: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leave_No_Trace_(film) & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/dick-proenneke-alone-in-the-wilderness/
Australia has been able to meet all its Kyoto CO2 mitigatiion targets since 1990 by the increase in tree area alone alone! I daresay America too would go close to that – as would the rest of the world.
In another fifty years – when I am long gone, 3-4 more Australia’s of wilderness will have been added to the world for all you who come after to wander in. You will be able to tread a little less lightly. How wonderful it will be!
Nate: I think a lot of this controversy over land management has to do with differences in what is appropriate for different places and our failure (mine included) to recognize this. Clearly, what’s appropriate for Gippsland would not be appropriate for Yosemite Valley or vice versa. ‘LNT’ makes sense for Yosemite (at least on the part of the patrons) because of it’s huge number of visitors over a relatively small area; it’s the best way of minimizing the negative impact of so much traffic. Whereas, you are fortunate to live and play in places that are a lot more, truly, wild, and strict LNT doesn’t make sense there. Yet, we set these mental rules for ourselves that fit the places we are familiar with, and the philosophies bleed over where they shouldn’t.
I’m really appreciative of you showing me a different perspective than what I typically hear hawked over and over. Granted, I still won’t be bringing outside firewood to a state park, because rules like that exist for good reason, but maybe I won’t be so worried about cutting a few saplings or having a small fire outside of an established ring in rural national forest areas.
Steve: I haven’t been to the States but I gather there are a lot of wild places away from established trails and that these areas are increasing as land has been abandoned for farming etc and CO2 fuels their growth. (Further reading: Gossamer Gear Blog) Apparently lots of people other than hunters are ‘bushwhacking’ as you call it – or going off track and camping away from hard-pressed areas. I think this is a good thing. This policy of designating camping areas which then become over-run by people is questionable. Likewise trails funnel people who would otherwise be dispersed.
Of course I dislike vandals, people who leave rubbish, people who make rings of stones, chop down large live trees, leave campfires burning, light campfires in warm weather, chop up tracks with their 4WDs, let off guns unnecessarily or have poor gun safety, kill game and leave it to rot…Bizarrely some of these things are permitted or practiced by current land managers – even though they are clearly nothing like ‘leave no trace’ which they religiously preach at everyone else to practice, eg don’t move a stone in a river or pick up a piece of wood, or tie your hammock to a tree, etc, etc.
There needs to be a bit of rethinking, eg about people’s access to the land, fire management and especially fuel reduction, fire breaks, etc. In fact the natural landscape would benefit from more disturbance like logging, mining and grazing – if it prevents large-scale destruction from wildfires for example, or increases species diversity – which it does. There are more species in secondary growth than old growth, for example.
Most people have become far too religious in their attitudes to ‘conservation’. When I was young ‘conservationists’ were people who planted (thousands) of trees on their land (as I have done all my life – I must have planted out square miles by now!) I think this allows me to chop up a dead tree for my winter firewood for example – which is our only source of winter warmth, and has been all my life, or have a campfire up the bush.
I have never lived in a city or town. Most of my life I have never even lived where I can see another house, but instead where within minutes I can step into ‘untouched ‘forest either on my own land or adjacent to it!) I can show you a photograph looking up our valley in as little ago as 1983. You can pretty much count the trees in the (couple of square miles of valley behind us (which then used to be a large sheep grazing property – and before 1968 small dairy farms).
Now it is mostly unbroken forest from here to Yarram, about 40 miles away. Before 1968 it was all grassy paddocks. Over a thousand square miles of forest has sprung up right behind us in that (to me) short time. Now (evidently) I am being told by ‘conservationists’ that I may not even walk off the edge of my own property into that forest (I must ‘leave no trace’) when, as I pass through it, I can still recall the names and faces of people who lived and worked it (milked cows etc) in what to me is the recent past. Some of the (new) streets and older roads around here are named after them too.
I remember another area (near Barrington in NSW – which is now a National Park). At European settlement this area was clear grassland, and was ‘granted’ to the AA Company for (sheep) grazing (100,000) acres by Governor Macquarie (around 1815). My wife, Della had over a dozen relatives living in NSW back then, four of them having arrived on the First Fleet in 1788 (the family father was a soldier).
The company found it unsuitable after a few years. Copper deficiency in the soil rendered it poor land for sheep. They (successfully) applied to have their grant moved to near ‘Goonoo Goonoo’ near Tamworth in NSW where they still have the property (I think). After they left, it regrew to be a forest. Later, after the Second World War the Government ‘granted’ this forest to ex-soldiers as ‘Soldier Settlement’ blocks to clear and turn into dairy farms – which they did.
I can remember as a child visiting my father’s old mates on these blocks in the 1950s. Mile upon mile of ring-barked forest turning into grassland – which it did. After Britain joined the ‘Common Market’ in 1968 Australia could no longer sell dairy produce, so that all over Australia these dairy farms were abandoned to the bush (like the land behind us). It regrew to forest. I remember visiting my uncle at Barrington in about 1990. He had retired there because the Barrington River is great for white water canoeing (he took me). By then the regrowth forest was so ‘pristine’ that the Government had decided to make it into a National Park – yet I could remember it as clear land!
The Blue Mountains (including the iconic Blue Mountains national Park) were a barrier to the early colony of NSW. The sandstone massifs seemed to prevent expansion to the West for many years. The colonial Government offered a rich prize to anyone who could break through this immense wilderness of mountain and forest – and discover, as it turned out immense rich sloes and plains to the West that stretched forever – and made Australia rich in sheep, wool and wheat. The prize was eventually won in 1813, as every schoolchild used to know by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson. They kept a careful diary of their route with observations taken every 15 minutes (as others had to be able to follow – with wagons and such).
Today’s road does not take their exact routs – as an even routes were found (Cox’s, Bell’s), however you can obviously still follow their route on foot – as many have. In their day the present tree cover over the whole area was largely absent, and you could see broad vistas of mountain grassland pretty much all the way. Of course there were some trees, but the scene was much more like early colonial paintings, ie park-like. Today, you can see none of the features their 15 minute diary entries richly described, as the whole route is covered by thick bush – which did not exist in 1788 or 1813. So, all over Australia, despite the most vigorous attempt to eliminate it, forest cover has continued to advance for over 200 years. We can forget about ‘leaving no trace’. The bush is extremely hardy!
I will give you another example: the Pilliga National Park near Moree is the largest in NSW (over a million ‘wild’ acres). I used to roam it as a boy, as my parents were itinerant bee-keepers who followed the ‘honey flow’ all over Western NSW. Then there was still a major logging industry (mainly native pine) which had been going on for nearly a century – and could have continued rotationally with sensible management forever – as is the case with forestry everywhere.
When the first settlers arrived there (in the 1840s) the whole area was a clear plain as far as the eye could see, with at most one tree per hectare/2 acres. It was surveyed and divided into 320 acre (half square mile) blocks for ‘selectors’ to farm, which they did, felling the few trees to build fences and houses. They and their sheep dogs quickly gobbled up the innumerable rat-kangaroos.
In the 1860s there was a drought which forced them to move away for 7 years. When they returned there was a forest coming up everywhere which every effort for 100 years failed to remove! They brought in huge traction engines from America and built vast sawmills, etc, but all their efforts failed and the forest grew. Eventually they declared it a National Park.
Just across the (Latrobe) Valley from us is the Baw Baw Plateau . I can see it out my study window as I type – Mt Baw Baw itself still snow-capped today. (It holds one of the best walks in the world, the Upper Yarra Track) The whole area is now the Baw Baw National Park (and I may not take my small Jack Russell dogs for a walk there, though I would likely never meet another person there ever).
In 1914 the Long Tunnel gold mine at Walhalla had cleared every tree for nearly thirty miles around Walhalla – ie most of the ‘Park’. today. Back then it looked like the surface of the moon as innumerable miners had turned it completely upside-down. There was a road right along the top of the plateau and much of it was clear land for grazing bullocks to feed the miners.
After the gold mine closed (after WW1) the land was abandoned and regrew to forest. The Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus Regnans – the king of the eucalypts, and the tallest tree in the world – over 300 ‘ or 100 metres!) can grow at an astonishing rate. Trees which were seedlings after the 1939 fire were logged in the 1980s. Each single trunk was more than a log truck could carry!)
We used to hunt the whole area with hounds for sambar deer until the Park was declared in the early 1980s – well, after that actually! The government eventually chased us out with helicopters! Now I may not even take my Jack Russell, Spot for a walk there. Stuff and Nonsense!
It gets worse: I have watched a much larger area, the size of Victoria (100,000 square miles!) grow to be forest in Western NSW after having to be abandoned by farmers in a drought in the 1970s. I think you can see that these are very large changes, so perhaps you can understand why I view the very small changes implicit in ‘leave no trace’ to be the merest ‘butterfly effect’ fantasies.
17/10/2018: Kill Wasp Queens Now: Spring and the wasp queens are out and about. If you don’t kill them now there will be hundreds of worker wasps everywhere come summer to spoil your barbecue or sting your kids. Last year I managed to tread on a European wasp’s nest and was bitten dozens of tiems. Let me tell you it was not ppleasant, and the swelling and irritation from the bites lasted for many days. People who are allergic could easily be killed, likewise pets.
You can easily kill them with simple milk bottle traps. You can use the recipe below (btu you will kill some other insects too, such as bees. A poisoned meat baiot is better as it will only kill wasps and the occasional blow-fly (if the wasps allow it near the rotting meat. You can easily make a poisoned meat bait from mince and a readiy available spot-on (dog) flea chemical. If only one household per suburban block did this we would eradicate the wasp from our cities.
‘For those who would like queen lure here it is again
Use a 1.25 L soft drink bottle with 3, 10mm holes, approx. 150mm from bottom of bottle
Make up a solution 8 tablespoons of honey in hot water with a 2 teaspoons pure vanilla essence Queen red label 35% alcohol this will do 4-5 traps, divide bait between traps, top up with water to just below holes replace cap and hang in a sunny spot in garden, near water. Fruit trees with curly leaf is a good place, bait will take a week or so to activate. Shake every few days to let bait dribble out .keep in place until January. Strain out when full, reuse and top up bait with water. Replace bait every 4-5 weeks
Will also catch workers Jan-April plus flies.’ European Wasp Control Project Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/927515897312332/
I bought one 2.68ml pipette of Frontine (large dog) from my local Safeway store for A$17 (April 2018). Diluted 100 times (268 mls) with water this was (or will be) enough to prepare 52 x 20 gram minced meat baits (I bought 24 x 20 grams meatballs from safeway for $6) which I simply slipped into a used plastic milk bottle I had drilled a few 12mm holes in and hung in the garden after training the wasps for a couple of days with unbaited mince. That single purchase should kill very wasp within 200 metres of our property for several years!
14/10/2018: Electric Drill Earth Auger: I have been substantially laid up with this back (slipped disc then back op. – basically since July dammit!). Slowly getting better I hope (?) Meanwhile however my daughter Merrin and I have planted about 300 trees mainly using this method which costs at most a couple of dollars ($A) and at least A$1 when you get to re-use the conduit a couple of years later when the tree has grown enough so that the sheep will not bother it any more.
evergreen alder has already grown a foot in the month since we planted it. In
the background you can see the tree guards we used to use (last year’s
planting) which cost over $20 each instead of $2.
Some of those we have put in we will be able to re-use the conduit next autumn! Willows, poplars and evergreen alders (for example) really get up. We have growth out the top of the plastic guards (5’ up!) already in less than a month! We expect similar results from some other trees eg prunus (esp suckers), elm suckers, pawlonia (suckers), ash…I will add to the list). Mostly we are using plant material we can get for free eg from roadsides and other bits of rough or wild, so the total cost of those planted trees is $A1 and our labour – and it is fun planting trees with your daughter – when she can get a break from her infant son.
Maple. It’s amazing how much growth you can slip the tube over when the
branches are bare. Of course she may have planted this the other way, ie
slipping the root ball through the tube. In either case, this is quite a tree given
that it has only been in the ground a couple of weeks. (Aside: the thistles are
out of control this year due to my not being able to spray them. We have a
contractor coming next week – and hopefully a couple of inches of rain too!)
I bought a 2” x 9” (long) earth auger from these folk (because I wanted it in a hurry) which cost me around $A50 delivered. I believed it would have a standard hex head which I could attach to a drill extension, but it ended up being a much larger hex head which I could not buy an extension for (locally) so I cut off a length of a long M12 bolt and welded the two together to give me a drill around 18” long, which was about what we wanted for the hole. (PS: It would have cost me closer to A$200 for one that long!) If the soil is nice and moist at that depth it will give the cutting a good start and leave pretty close to the 5’ of conduit (and plastic tube) sticking out of the ground to protect the growing plant from maraudering sheep. We have been using an 18 volt rechargeable Makita Drill Model DHP 481. It is very suitable for the purpose as it has a long handle which is great for resisting the turning force of the auger.
We have pruned quite a variety of other (potted) trees (mainly tube stock and bare-rooted trees) to a single leader and planted them in the tubes too. Lots of them are doing well. The longest has been in the soil for less than a month. Others we planted just yesterday. They included English Oak, Holm Oak, Black Walnut, Chestnut, Red Oak, Pin Oak, Lilypilly, Magnolia, Maple…
The old blackwoods are near the end of their life. This one has fallen down. Winter wood for next year. When all those tree tubes have grown their trees Merrin will have quite a little forest there just above our bottom dam.
It is as simple as this: Drill the hole to 16-18”. Put the conduit in the hole. Give it a couple of taps with a mason’s hammer to secure it in the bottom. If planting a cutting place it in the hole next to it. If a potted tree dig a big enough hole right next to the conduit so you can fit the tree (pruned back to a single leader) inside the plastic tube, refill the hole making sure that there is loose moist dirt the full length of the hole. Slip the plastic sleeve over the tree and conduit (carefully so you don’t snap the tree). Pull the sleeve out in the middle (not the edge as the tree will get more air this way) and make three double rows of holes with the hole punch. Secure the plastic sleeve to the conduit with three cable ties. (Water in if necessary when you finish). Move on to the next tree.
This Magnolia and Japanese Maple arte already above their protective tubes after less than a month. These trees will be over 10′ high (3 metres) by autumn. Instant forest. This planting will both beautify and stabilise this old slip above our top dam.
We are going to have some very nice walks right here on our home farm – and in the bush up the creek behind us where there is a waterfall, fern gullies, giant mountain ash forest, eagles’ nests and etc.
I have been looking up some other (cheaper) earth augers you might also use. A couple from the States which typically cost less than $US20 plus maybe $US10 (max) delivery to a US address. If you have to use Shipito to get it to Oz you are going to be set back another $10-20 – but you have a drill closer to 2’ long.
You may be better with these offerings from Aliexpress. This one for example is 43mm x 370 mm and costs US$20 inc shipping (This will be long enough if you give the conduit a couple of taps with the hammer): or you can buy 5 for US$90 – and sell four to your friends for $22.50ea and get yours for nothing!:
If you want a longer one (800 mm) you could buy this one US$36.67: Note that you will need the electric drill adapter for US$ 13.32 Also free shipping to Australia. You might want a longer hole (then backfill) to get the plant’s taproot down to where the groundwater is in a hurry or you might want to drill for water (adding a few extensions). It is an appealing idea drilling a water well with your electric drill!)
13/10/2018: Shepherd’s Crook: I bought one of these in Hawick during our trip to Scotland in May. The local feed and grain store had any number of excellent products and gadgets for caring for and saving the lives of sheep which are not available here. Goodness knows why. You would attach this to the end of a pole 4′-6′ long (1.2-1.8m) and use it to catch ‘loose’ sheep. When you only want one out of a mob (eg it has wire caught up in its fleece; it is limping; its lamb is ‘flat’ so both need shedding…) it should prove a real boon.It is available online http://www.coxagri.com/breeding-equipment/crooks/shepherds-crook-head-aluminium
Also available above are these ‘gambrels’ used for restraining sheep (eg ewes giving birth). I have had one of these in my ‘lambing bag’ for 30+ years. I can’t imagine how many ewes/lambs it has helped save the lives of:
The large space in the middle goes over the neck then you lift the two front legs into the other two spaces. The string is never needed. You can use a piece of cord of the appropriate length in each end of which you have tied an overhand knot. You place the middle of the cord over the neck (as above) and pull the front legs through the loops.
09/10/2018: Minnow Gripper: What’s not to like about these little beauties? https://countycomm.com/products/minnow-gripper Made in the U.S.A. ‘Hold up to 175 lb (80 kg) & weigh only .35 Ounce (10 grams). These heavy duty tarp clips create a grommet instantly on any material. Powerful cross-hatch surface gripping jaws clinch tighter as tension is applied. Great for fastening plastic sheeting, drop cloths, tarps. etc. Holds fast to canopies, awnings, pool covers, towels, BBQ covers, sails, cables and bags, netting and hunting blinds. They open wide enough for clamping any material up to ¼” thick and are crack resistant to 35° below zero’. US$2.75ea – email the store if you want a bulk order.
If you haven’t discovered Countycomm before you are in for a treat (and a lighter wallet). They have a bewildering variety of interesting an ultralight goodies. I have often posted about their wonderful Maratac torches, for example. Their Peanut Lighter is an ultralight and indestructible beauty. These Titanium Keychains would be worth a look. Enjoy your visit!
07/10/2018: Riding on the Sheeps’s Back: Or vice versa. Patagonia’s Woolyester Fleece (US$139 – Oct 2018) might be a great mid-layer addition to your other wool clothing, your Kathmandu/Columbia thermal for example, and your Kathmandu or Columbia wool shirt. I rarely get cold enough (even in winter) when I am walking to need such a layer. I have probably put one on only once or twice in over sixty years tramping through the wilderness. Della however hot she may be in other ways runs cold in such weather – and needs to rug up, so this might be just the thing for her. (Aside: It will be interesting to see whether her new heart ‘cures’ this problem too – she can certainly fairly zoom up hills now).
Mind you it would have to be comparable in weight and insulative value to our Montbell Superior Down jackets (at 208 grams Mens Medium $A199 – Oct 2018) – though it might well be a little more durable. I can’t get any info on its weight. Fleece tends to be somewhat heavy though. You might think about something like a cashmere wool vest as an alternative.
The advantage I see it having over your run-of-the-mill fleece is that the wool should make it smell better after prolonged heavy exertion. I would have to buy one to confirm this – but I already have a cupboard full of old fleece garments for use around the farm. Anyway it will want to be better as it costs more. For example you can buy a good brand (like Columbia for US$79.99 and you can do much better than that at eg Harris Scarfe – A$25- Oct 2018 – or this one from Anaconda for $A24 – Oct 2018!
‘Patagonia recreated the modern fleece with recycled wool that retains classic fleece fuzziness. The Woolyester fleece is made with 46 percent recycled wool, 46 percent polyester, 4 percent nylon, and 4 percent other fibers. Patagonia claims these fleeces feel soft, dry quickly, and manage moisture well. ‘ (Gear Junkie)
‘With heritage design lines, a warm fleece jacket made with a modern blend of recycled wool, polyester and nylon fabric that’s Fair Trade Certified™ sewn. This classic style is rendered in a recycled wool/polyester/nylon fabric blend, moving us one step closer to a zero-waste apparel industry. Because this classic, every day, all around layer is rendered in a recycled wool/polyester/nylon fabric blend, it is a better choice when buying new, and moves us one step closer to a zero-waste apparel industry’. (Patagonia) You can read the full liturgy here: https://www.patagonia.com/blog/2018/09/introducing-woolyester/ It is enough to put you off! As a sheep farmer for over 40 years it does me!
I imagine others will be along with wool/poly fleeces which actually benefit sheep farmers like us before long. Meanwhile we continue to treat our Finnsheep quite humanely. And, listen up: their fleece is the very best in the world for making fine felt – which Della does often. I may try to entice her to make me an anorak yet. I have been trying for years. And a hat! Her Finn wool felt is also very nearly waterproof.
You won’t be getting something like these from Paragonia (or anywhere else in a hurry! You probably won’t be getting a wife nearly as good as this either – and we have been together nigh on 50 years! Eat your heart out!
06/10/2018: Most of you reading this already have sarcopenia. Listen up, you have to do something about it. Here’s what: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/03/well/live/preventing-muscle-loss-among-the-elderly.html
06/10/2018: 1200th Post: Every hundred posts or so I take time to highlight significant posts on the website over the last few months. In this case it is 200 posts since 6th October 2017 and my 1000th Post. In that time I have made some belated posts about our Qld trip back in September including our ascent of Mt Bartle Frère Qld’s tallest mountain over 1600 metres – and you begin at about 100 metres above sea level – so it is quite a contrast of climates in a single day.
I have been making some efforts to Speed up the website which have resulted in faster loading times. There is still much more to do but some of it is quite technical, time consuming – and fraught with pitfalls. I have loading times down to a bit over a second. I think I can more than halve that in the future for people who are every impatient – apparently many are.
I made a couple of new tents I am very happy with. This wonderful Siligloo which is vast yet only weighs 385 grams and my Pocket Poncho which weighs only 185. I plan a new version of the latter to accommodate two. It should increase its weight by only about 50 grams.
Lots of other DIY ideas including a great way to sleep two under one tarp in a Hammock Double Up and other hammock ideas New DIY: an ultralight New stove, some advice about ultracheap backpacking, pack mods, ultralight cups, hearing aid clips, cheap pads and cheap quilts, cheap tents and an ultralight saw – and how to eradicate wasps. There are posts about Cold season pads and others and cheaper alternatives.
06/10/2018: Ultralight Pocket Lockpick: 54 grams: The SouthOrd Jackknife Lockpick. How could you go anywhere without one? Why bother to carry keys at all? They are probably heavier then this anyway. A great substitute for the Keychain Reinvented. Of course it might take a little practice to actually open your front door with it – and it may be highly illegal in some jurisdictions. In Victoria our Government are awful kill-joys who won’t even allow us to make a shanghai, let along carry a pocket shanghai when hiking, should we want to knock over a coney or scare away some nasty like a dingo perhaps, so carrying one of these would most likely incur the death penalty or something. Usual price US$39.95 from South Ord. Available on Massdrop for US$32.99. Instructions are also available from South Ord.
04/10/2018: It’s Not My Fault: On 02/10/2018 I had this post The Parting of the Ways (Below) in which I hinted that not only may there be a small group of themes which inform our lives but that there may be a small group of delusions which drag them down. As an example of that, let me suggest the delusion, ‘It’s not my fault’. I am a child. It is the world that is wicked and unfair. I am helpless in a world I can’t control, and it is depressing and terrifying. I can’t express just how much I must terribilise it so that I can justify continuing to do nothing…you know how it prattles on and on.
The sane reply? ‘I can do it’. ‘Can do’. The motto of the 15th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army, a ‘parent’ regiment which dates back to the American Civil War – and beyond. One of the reasons for the ‘success’ of Christianity is that its principal tenet helps to focus such troubled spirits outwards. If they can ‘love’ their neighbours (others), they can stop obsessing about themselves – and their woes. This is a good strategy.
‘Happiness’ is not some external thing (no more than misery is). Happiness is an internal thing. You might start with the adage, ‘Smile and the world smiles with you. Cry, and you cry alone.’ A primer for such sufferers is to do just that: ‘Smile’. Smiling actually causes the associated feeling, happiness. Even if you feel that you are going through the day with a rictus. Try this. It will help to banish those internal gyrations where you circle and circle, coming back to the same scab to pick each time.
There is nothing at all you can do about the past. You must learn to pass on. To let ‘it’ go, whatever ‘it’ is. Tell yourself over and over ‘Let it pass’. Move on – and focus on the external world, not as the source of your misery. Not as something to blame. But as an adventure to be had. Something to work with.
Today perhaps is the time to fix that tap, plant that vegetable, service the car, sort your camping gear, plan for that long hike you will begin tomorrow…It is your fault if you are unhappy. No-one else is the slightest bit interested, or to blame. And the only person who can lift you out of that unhappiness is yourself. Smile right now. That is the beginning of sanity – and happiness. Have a happy day!
The Parting of the Ways: Perhaps it is true and there are just a limited number of themes which inform life. The Journey is certainly one such. Re-reading ‘The Odyssey’ or “Robinson Crusoe’ ever regenerates that thrill of the eternal journey, echoed so brilliantly in Tennyson’s wonderful poem, ‘Ulysses’: ‘To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die.… To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’ Another recurring theme is ‘the parting of the ways.’ How often have we traveled with comrades on some distant adventure, or held a dying friend’s hand for comfort till we come to that penultimate end when we must part, perhaps be sundered forever. I’m sure everyone’s heart rings to Robert Frost’s lines from ‘A Road Not Taken’ ‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both… I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference’. How many themes inform one’s life? I’m sure it is far from infinite – it may be less than a dozen even. I will try to work it out. It may be the same with madness: that there is a small number of types of delusion which inform all mental illness…(See above)
There's a lot of truth in that sentiment. As a man grows old, he learns that young love is one of the things you leave behind, that are lost to you. Other kinds of love take its place - warmer love, deeper love. But there will be moments when a head turns and her hair sways and you'll be momentarily reminded of when such fancies made a heart of leap. But it's not about romantic appetite anymore, just a wistful, warm nostalgia for something that can never come again. Sinatra was moved by the tenderness and sensitivity of that fragment from a Gordon Jenkins lyric, and with it was born the idea for an entire album of songs in an autumnal hue’. https://www.steynonline.com/8883/this-is-all-i-ask The Sacroiliac: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacroiliac_joint
03/10/2018: Cure Back Pain: Yes, it will! This is a summary of the ‘McKenzie Method. I have just had a laminectomy which has ‘gone wrong’. The 2/3 junction which had a disc bulge has been ‘decompressed’ successfully but that has transferred the pain to a misalignment at the ¾ junction which is impacting several nerves and producing exquisite agony – much worse than the original disc bulge which had very nearly gort better before the operation – but I feared it would ‘slip’ again sometime when I was in the wilderness. (We all make mistakes – there is no sense regretting them), so that I wish I had discovered this method before surgery as I would then (certainly) have been able to cure myself.
Now I may need spinal fusion if the McKenzie methoid does not work. However, I can report on Day Two of beginning it that I can now control the pain and banish it for extended periods of time. The pain is also slowly moving inwards (from my legs) towards the centre of my back. McKenzie claims it will slowly do that, and then vanish. I certainly hope so. I think it is worth a shot if you have back pain. The first two/three exercises definitely banish the pain for a time, so they are worth trying for that reason alone.
I bought the book in ebook from from Amazon for US$11.99: https://www.amazon.com.au/Treat-Your-Back-Robin-McKenzie-ebook/dp/B00UM2O264 I downloaded the book. It then appears in a new place on your computer, something Like this: ‘C:\Users\Steve\Documents\My Kindle Content’
If you download a programme called: https://www.epubsoft.com/kindle-drm-removal.html?c=KIEDR1 you can remove the proprietary ‘drm’ protection from it, so it can be copied – which is what I did (Easy). Then you can convert it into epub or pdf form so it can be read or even printed out. Obviously you save the converted copy in an appropriate file.
Then you can copy it to your phone and read it eg with the Coolreader App (epub) or (I use) the qPDF Viewer App – if you prefer Pdf. You can print out sections – like the exercises (I have) and eg highlight the important bits you want to remember.
Additionally you could ‘lend’ it to a friend who also had a bad back, though this might break copyright, even if you have made a printed copy – I don’t know. I do know that I have a friend who has a bad back and very little money – or computer savvy – such that if I were to help him with this book I would have to buy/make him a printed copy.
Stay in this position, take a few deep breaths, and then relax completely for two or three minutes. Start each session with this exercise. Repeat the sessions about every two hours. In addition, you may lie face down whenever you are resting.
Remain lying face down. Place your hands under your shoulders in the press-up position Now you are ready to begin as you straighten your elbows, push the top half of your body up as far as pain permits
It is important that you completely relax the pelvis, hips and legs as you do this, and remember to keep breathing. Maintain this position for a second or two, then lower yourself to the starting position. Repeat this movement cycle in a smooth rhythmical motion and try to raise your upper body a little higher each time, so that in the end your back is extended as much as possible, with your arms as straight as possible. Once your arms are straight, remember to hold the sag for a second or two as this is the most important part of the exercise. The sag may be maintained for longer than one or two seconds if you feel the pain is reducing or centralising. Never be satisfied that you have moved as far as possible. Say to yourself each time you push up, “further, further, further”. Perform this exercise ten times per session.
• Use The Original McKenzie® Night Roll around your waist when resting in bed. A piece of sponge rubber or a rolled towel if you do not have a ‘Night Roll’. Aside: I have found a pillow under the knees (but none under the head) works for me.
02/10/2018: The Parting of the Ways: Perhaps it is true and there are just a limited number of themes which inform life. The Journey is certainly one such. Re-reading ‘The Odyssey’ or “Robinson Crusoe’ ever regenerates that thrill of the eternal journey, echoed so brilliantly in Tennyson’s wonderful poem, ‘Ulysses’: ‘To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die.… To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’ Another recurring theme is ‘the parting of the ways.’ How often have we traveled with comrades on some distant adventure, or held a dying friend’s hand for comfort till we come to that penultimate end when we must part, perhaps be sundered forever. I’m sure everyone’s heart rings to Robert Frost’s lines from ‘A Road Not Taken’ ‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both… I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference’. How many themes inform one’s life? I’m sure it is far from infinite – it may be less than a dozen even. It may be the same with madness: that there is a small number of types of delusion which inform all mental illness...
01/10/2018: Cheap Insulated Pad: US$69.99 (Sept 2018) Paria Outdoors a Texas-based company (Denver) have these excellent mats in stock at almost half the price of a Neoair: https://www.pariaoutdoorproducts.com/products/recharge-ul-sleeping-pad
‘The ReCharge UL camping pad is the perfect size (72 x 20 x 2.5 – 189 x 50x 6 cm) and weight (20 ounces – 570 grams) for ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers’. It has 90 grams/ square metre microfiber insulation laminated inside which make for an R-value of 3.5 and they are good down to about -10C. Perfect 3- season capability. Of course the Noeair Womens is only 340 grams – but if you are on a budget, and young and strong…
Mind you their Sanctuary Siltarps are good value too at US79.99 (Sept 2018) as are their Thermodown 30 down quilts at US$ 144.99 and 32 oz (912 grams) or these cheap folding Trekking Poles at US$49.99 (20 oz – 600 grams) and 15”/40cm folded – so they’ll fit easily into your pack.
01/10/2018: I do love steam trains – and coal; the Chinese certainly put ours to good effect – I remember when they replaced the steam trains in NSW; a family friend Wayne Thompson was a fireman on the railways. He used often to give me a ride in the engine on the way to/from schools. A treat which ended then. Still, they had to retain a steam train on stand-by at our local station (Fassifern) for years because it had one of the longest, steepest grades in NSW, and none of the new diesel-electrics had enough ‘oomph’ to get a heavy goods train up the incline. Perhaps that is what is happening here: the night-time sweeps are particularly brilliant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8grHpQAB1jA
30/09/2018: The Ultralight Barista: So you would like a decent cup of coffee on the trail. I know that this is a problem for Della. Me? I am a philistine. I actually prefer instant. There are some little luxuries though where you might want to add a few grams to your otherwise ultralight outfit so that you can savour the comforts of home. I think, for Della this is one of them. I have been searching for an ultralight way to make a decent cup of coffee and this is it:
This is Vargo’s Titanium Travel Coffee Filter. It weighs 1.27 ounces (36 grams). Its dimensions are 3.5″D x 2.8″ (87 mm x 71 mm). It would clearly also be suitable for other kinds of travel applications – in your hotel room, & etc. They are listing it at US$49.95 (Sept 2018).
Here is what they have to say about it: ‘Don’t let anything come between you and a fresh cup of pure coffee. The Vargo Titanium Travel Coffee Filter is a solo pour-over coffee maker that easily fits and nests with your favorite mug. Made from pure titanium, it’s reusable, eco-friendly, and biocompatible so that the only thing you taste is delicious hot coffee in your cup whether at home or on the trail.
Anyway it will surely make for a wonderful luxury addition to your hiking ‘kitchen’. If you have made all the other ultralight changes I have suggested over the years, you probably won’t mind this small addition to your kit particularly if you hanker after a decent cup of java. I will be purchasing one for Della for sure. A Xmas gift perhaps for her, or for your beloved hiker/hunter?
28/09/2018: How much weight in fuel? Alcohol weighs 0.789 gram per cubic centimeter (or per millilitre – same thing). I use about 7 ml to boil one (250 ml) cup of water or about 5-6 grams. If I used butane I would use perhaps only 4 grams as it has a higher heat coefficient.
However once I count carrying around the heavy metal canister and the much heavier gas stove, alcohol becomes significantly lighter than a canister stove especially on shorter (eg weekend) trips when I can perhaps carry as little as 100 mls of alcohol in a bottle which weighs maybe 10 grams. On longer trips I usually use a 500ml or 1 litre Platypus bottle which weighs about 20 grams.
For example, on my Dusky Track Walk last year which took ten days (unsupplied), I started with less then 600 mls of fuel. I had worked out exactly how much water I would need to boil. At the end I had less than 30 mls left over – I must have missed a cup of coffee there somewhere. Well, actually I also had three sachets of porridge – my emergency supplies in case I took another day!
The empty canister of a butane stove can weigh 150 grams, then there is the stove weight. A simple alcohol stove like this (or this) can weigh as little as 7 grams – if you only want to boil. A canister stove typically weighs around 80-100 grams. It is also impossible to take just the right amount of butane, and you never know when you are going to run out as it is impossible to judge how much is in the canister. Sometimes therefore you need to carry two canisters. This is just silly even if the gas is slightly quicker, more controllable and ‘looks’ more ‘professional’.
Apparently the only more weight efficient fuel – than alcohol) is hexamine (esbits). They are a lttle slower to cook with, but you can simmer with them though you might not realize it –as mentioned here. Generally I prefer a simmer type alcohol stove like this one – or this even lighter one you can make yourself.
The only lighter fuel option is a wood burner stove. I usually carry one as well as the alcohol stove – in case I run out of fuel (eg bottle leak – it has never happened to me) or I decide to stay longer than I thought (which has – often) or if I stupidly did not have a windscreen and it was very windy (everyone makes mistakes) so that I used twice as much fuel as I intended (We were all young once!).
I have a variety of choices here. In my hunting day pack (which is super-minimal I carry only my egg-ring stove (as I am only staying out in an emergency – or (planned) overnight. If I am somewhere open fires are banned and enclosed type stoves are mandated (some National Parks – though I believe the rule only exists to protect us from idiots – and nothing will!) then I have a gasifier type stove like the Bushbuddy or Suluk.
My everyday carry is a bare Caldera Cone – I do not worry about leaving a tiny burnt spot; I only camp in the trackless wilderness anyway – which only weighs at most 30 grams and doubles as a windscreen for the alcohol stove. I always carry a couple of spare tent pegs anyway which is all that is needed to sit your billy on. Wherever I go there are always twigs. Hope you enjoy your dinner as much as I do.
28/09/2018: A Wind Shell and an Umbrella Might be your best choice combo for keeping dry in unexpected squalls without the need to carry a heavy rain coat. (You would be looking at around 5 oz/160 grams). A wind shell such a Montbell’s famous Tachyon is also the lightest way to add a little warmth on a cool day. (at 2.5 0z/ 72 grams (US$99 – Sept 2018). My umbrella of choice is also a Montbell (at 85 grams and US$52 – Sept 2018.
Massdrop’s ultralight ultra cheap wind shirt for US59.99 (Sept 2018): ‘the Massdrop Veil wind shell is ideal for hiking, biking, running, traveling, and more. Along with being totally windproof, the 15d ripstop nylon fabric is breathable to keep you comfortable longer—so you can kiss that sweaty, clammy feeling goodbye. The DWR (durable water repellent) finish provides some protection against light precipitation, while the antimicrobial treatment prevents stink from lingering after a long run. Plus, this wind shell looks and feels great: It’s soft to the touch, drapes well, and isn’t noisy like most other wind shells. Wear your Veil while warming up, all day for low-intensity activities, or as an emergency jacket you can always have around. Packed down into its own chest pocket, it’s easy to bring everywhere.
The Veil is equipped with only the critical features to keep from weighing you down. We worked with one of the world’s foremost mills for high-end performance materials to develop a fabric that’s ultralight, breathable, and durable. It’s performance focused for the trails and good looking enough, with its matte finish, to wear around town. The front has a YKK full-length zipper, as well as a zippered chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack for the jacket and is large enough to fit a cell phone when you’re wearing it. When not in use, the three-panel contoured hood can be rolled up and stowed using the Velcro strip at its base. Finally, elastic trim around the cuffs, hem, and hood creates a seal when the breeze picks up.’
27/09/2018: Eagle Poisoning Instructions: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-24/man-poisoned-wedge-tailed-eagles-in-gippsland-jailed/10298426 Lannate methomyl $139.95 for 5 litres! Cheap at half the price. That would be enough to kill several thousand eagles! A few quick jabs around the neck of a dead lamb and you have a dead eagle not twenty yards away – as in the picture! I was surprised when I attended a ‘farm chemical users’ refresher course a few years ago (a certification I need so that I can kill foxes) to be advised by the instructor that you needed six times as much fox bait to kill an eagle. At the time I thought this was a useful piece of information, though I wondered how you would get the eagle to eat them! He also advised snares and traps for foxes which I also thought useful advice. The snares cost only about $3 ea and work a treat. The ‘break-neck’ snares are best. Unfortunately their use occasions a $60,000 ‘aggravated cruelty’ penalty in Victoria. Apparently foxes are not cruel! Our own strategy has been to construct a wildlife proof fence to keep the foxes and other pests out. When this is complete (so that we can keep them in) we will go back to having a Maremma who (experience tells us) will (largely) prevent eagles from taking our lambs. I would prefer that there was a (Government) scheme to recompense farmers for stock/crop losses from ‘protected’ wildlife. We too love to admire eagles soaring, but we do not want to be the only ones responsible for the cost of their upkeep! There has not been a single year in the last thirty when we have not lost several thousand dollars to eagles! Of course you can easily obtain a permit to shoot five eagles at a time, though I would rather not actually. They are, however (like crows) very difficult to shoot. It is nothing like shooting ducks - or fish in a barrel! They have enormously acute eyesight and are vastly alert. You would not get a shot at one at less than 200 metres. Also, the instant they see someone with a ‘stick’ in their hands they are aloft. They have clearly been shot at before. They are also, no doubt much smaller targets (because the feathers bulk them up) than they appear to be. I very much doubt I could bag one at (eg) 300m metres with a ‘clean kill’ shot. I certainly would not want anything to be wounded so as to suffer a painful, lingering death. I am just astonished at the reproduction rate of eagles. You would have thought that killing say 10-20 eagles would mean no eagles anywhere near you for years and years - yet these guys could keep killing hundreds of eagles a year - in the same spot! More eagles came. There must be lots of eagles. A better strategy is to train the resident eagles not to take lambs. When we had Maremmas they did just that. When we began our first lambing on the Hazelwood Flats property I arrived one morning to see that a young eagle had killed a lamb but had been chased off the kill into the next paddock by the dog, Brandy. I thought I might need to get my gun to shoot the eagle before it killed any more of my lambs. As it turned out I did not need it. When I returned later the eagle had stupidly come back to its kill and the dog had eaten the eagle. Other eagles in the sky clearly witnessed this. For the following ten years they never took a single lamb!
23/09/2018: Tick Eliminator: These little pests are becoming more common in Australia. Of course in the States they carry the dreaded Lyme Disease. Carrying a safe means of removing them and/or treating tick bites on self/companion animals is becoming more urgent than ever. Paralysis ticks have even spread to Southern Victoria. a couple of them (undetected for too long) were what ultimately took out our darling old pet Tiny back in February at the fine old age of 18. A number of products are on the market, and there is much wise advice out there too…
The main point is not to squeeze the tick so that it injects more nastiness into the wound. You have to ease it out. Something must lift it from the front. If you can coax it to let go first is a good idea. Some Permethrin is what my vet recommends. Some interesting gadgets:
The irrepressible Brian Green has ‘hacked the tick key bringing it down from the unwieldy 5.4 grams to a more acceptable 1.6! Well done Brian. It is an ingenious solution. I hope he doesn’t mind me ‘copying’ his photo of it:
PS: It seems to me, looking at the various credit card tick removal tools (for example) that a couple of (different sized) v-shaped nicks in your normal credit card (titanium wind screen, etc) might create a tool which would have negative weight(in that you would have removed a tiny portion of the weight of the credit card/game licence (or similar) you would have had to carry anyway. Just saying…
22/09/2018: How Light Can a Tent Be? Well, let’s talk about a tarp really. You will ned about an ounce I guess for the smallest Polycro groundsheet (unless you don’t use one, because you are perhaps desert hiking). To that you have to add the weight of a fly. I calculated that I could make my Pocket Poncho Tent (which weighed 185 grams in the silpoly I used) in .32oz/yd2 cuben fibre, in which case it would weigh about 75 grams. It gives a reasonable shelter on at least three sides (which I think is desirable). There are some tarps out there available commercially which push close to that.
For example there is Mountain Laurel Designs ‘Grace’ Tarp in cuben at 140 grams for a roof which is 5’ at one end, 7’ at the other and 9’ long: https://mountainlaureldesigns.com/product/mld-grace-tarp/ It will set you back US$270 (Sept 2018)
Zpacks have the http://www.zpacks.com/shelter/hexamid_pocket.shtml again in .51 cuben fibre with a claimed weight of 96 grams. These weights are for the tarps alone without guys, stakes, etc. Its price is US199 (Sept 2018) which seems very reasonable.
A firm called Lightwave seem to make a couple of very light tarps. The Starlight 2 at a claimed weight of 96 grams (The site also says 130 grams) and the Starlight 1 at a claimed 77 grams (or 100!) This one is UK304.99 (Sept 2018) making it just about the most I have seen anything quoted on a per gram basis!
There are a few other folk have a variety of cuben tarps (.51oz/yd2) around the 100 grams, so I think that is about the limit for now. Given that you could make your own in say a .9 oz Silpoly eg from Dutchware at US$5.20 /yd (Sept 2018) for around US$20 – I like the Dark Olive colour myself - (Minimum required for an 8’ x 8’ square tarp would be 3.6 yards), and that it is only just straight sewing (plus tie-outs) I think you should. It should weigh about 190 grams.
Such a tarp can do double duty as a hammock tarp with the addition of a 150-200 (inc suspension) hammock for a super-flexible camping system - you can use the hammock as a groundsheet when you are camping on the ground, so you don't need the Polycro. You will notice I have sewn an extra couple of wings on my cuben one which weighed around 150 grams before I put the guys on it to provide just a little bit of extra shelter. This has added less than 50 grams to its weight (ie 8'/2.4 metres of .51oz/yd2 cuben). The 'wings' are the width of the cuben wide at the widest end - a bit over 4'6". You can see it here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/hammock-camping-double-bunking/ but this is a better method of double bunking:http://www.theultralighthiker.com/simple-hammock-double-up/
22/09/2018: Whoopie Sling Guy Line Tensioners: I am surprised you can’t buy whoopie sling guy lines. I am even more surprised that high-end tents don’t come with them as standard. They have to be the lightest and most elegant option. You will have to make your own. I would say that the 1.75mm ‘Zing It’ would be an ideal size for the novice to work with. They are an elegant solution, and an interesting hobby to wile away the idle hours of a night (when you aren’t camping/hiking). Here is an informational: ‘How to make a whoopie sling’: https://www.animatedknots.com/whoopiesling/index.php It is really quite straightforward. All you need is a largish needle.
Some other information about dyneema cord: https://www.arrowhead-equipment.com/blog/the-dope-on-rope For DIY, cord available eg here: https://dutchwaregear.com/product/zing-it-or-lash-it/ or here: https://www.tiergear.com.au/shop/shelter-systems/guylines-ridgelines-and-hardware/mallee-wire-1-75mm-dyneema-cord-per-metre
21/09/2018: Bird Feeder: Della is happy at least with her new feeder: ‘New view out my kitchen window! Thank you to everyone for this wonderful Birthday gift. The voucher for my choice of bird-house had been waiting months for me to redeem…but there were so many choices, and I wanted to find the best style and garden placement. Well, eventually I got there, and this is just perfect! The native garden is already a bird haven and the seed eaters will very quickly suss out the new feeder. The steps provide easy access for seed scattering and when the bottlebrush blooms above it open, it will be a real treat to see! Thanks also to Steve Jones for installing it despite the pain in his back the day before his operation!’ My back is still giving me hell now a week after my op. I trust that it is all just a part of the healing process. I have been poring over maps of places to go when I am back on my feet. I will not be allowed to lift more than 2kg until the end of October! By then we will have to concentrate on high country hikes like this or canoeing like this.
Posts are Light as I said back when as I just can’t sit up or stand for any length of time yet. But (hopefully) I will get better, and be better than I have been for a long time! Many thanks for all the kind wishes.
21/09/2018: An astonishing optical illusion. We don’t see things with our eyes; we see them with our brain, and sometimes (?) our brains are wrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=327&v=DkVOIJAaWO0
21/09/2018: So, what if old age is a disease? ‘The largest overall longevity increase has been found using a combination of rapamycin and metformin, indicating that combination therapy may be applied for synergistic effects. A remarkable finding from these and other such studies suggests that interventions as late as the mouse-equivalent of older than 70 years of age could significantly extend life by more than 20 years and increase health span even more substantially’ https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2703112?utm_source=silverchair&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=article_alert-jama&utm_content=olf&utm_term=091718
18/09/2018: Two Great Cheap Tents: Two weeks ago I posted a suggestion that you could get a pretty good tent from Aliexpress for around A$50. I was so impressed by my own hype I ordered two of them on the 2nd September and they were in my mailbox on the 12th – all the way from China! I am still recuperating (slowly) from spinal surgery so I haven’t had a chance to test them out properly, but with the help a couple or three assistants we have had them all up on the front lawn for a ‘look-see’ today. And I am most impressed.
The first is this little floorless mid weighing 410 grams which cost me US$43,50 or A$ 59.98 delivered! It came with reflective guy lines and tensioners already attached, and with some quite sturdy lightweight aluminium stakes (and a tube of seam sealer). All you need is a piece of fabric (eg Polycro or a mylar space blanket – I have lots of Tyvek lying around from other projects) for a groundsheet/floor and a stick or two which I can cut with this @ 28 grams – and away you go.
I erected it with a couple of cheap hiking poles I had lying around. It is a sweet little tent to put up. Almost puts itself up. Nothing to go wrong. You need just three pegs to locate the back wall. First the two ends, with just enough slack to pull the centre out and back into position. Slip a single trekking pole inside to start at what seems a suitable height (about a metre) and see if the front three pegs meet the ground neatly. When they just do tension up a little with the adjusters and you are done.
Like almost all mids, it is going to rain inside the tent with the door opened. A problem I have solved. You would be able to largely prevent this by having the flaps zipped down about a foot from the top and with the flaps pegged out high. You would do that if you were wanting to sit in the tent (during some drizzle) but enjoy the warmth of a fire out the front. You do have to be very careful of fire around nylon tents: they will burn, and sparks will melt holes in them. Easily enough repaired with this though. When the tent only costs $50 I would not worry overmuch. Better a bit of warmth and comfort – if you are careful!
This tent is clearly a good solid silnylon about 1.50 oz/yd2 is my guess. It is going to be plenty waterproof enough once you seam seal it. Rain will not get in. A tent is not a submarine! It is also clearly well made. There is lots of stitching and it is done well. The reinforcing of the tie outs is solid, and the zipper is a tough model. I think you will get many years of use out of this tent. It will certainly last you a ‘through hike’ for example – or many winter hunts in rough country! I cannot imagine what you might think you are going to get from a $500 tent that you don’t get with this little $50 one!
The other tent I tried was this one. A Trailstar. An even A$50 delivered to my door. I am only sorry I didn’t squander another $30 and get the lighter model, as this could easily be your go anywhere hunting tent for a couple of keen deer shooters. 760 versus 590 grams. Still, I am mightily impressed by this tent and it is wonderfully solid. You are not going to trash this beauty which you might do with a lighter one if you are rough. And you are likely young and strong enough to carry a couple of hundred grams extra between the two of you. For that 200 grams you get a fabric that is at least 2 oz/yd2 and clearly very watertight.
This one came complete with reflective guy lines and tensioners attached too, and with quite good diamond shaped pegs. I erect such a tent as a sort of igloo, (as you can see) so that the only direction any rain can get in is through the door, and then only if it’s blowing very flat. As the wind scarce ever turns around this much overnight it should not be much of a worry. You could always tie a raincoat up over the door if you were worried.
Rear view. I am sitting down. It was a really big effort getting down on all fours and putting this tent up by myself when only days ago I was cut in half. We are made tough here in Jeeralang! I could probably have got the tent even tauter, but it’s not too bad, you’ll have to admit. That shape is going to cleave the wind and sit there nice and stably.
Front view.That is a standard 6 x 4′ tarp my daughter Merrin is sitting on. Can you see the huge amount of free space around her? This tent is a ‘circle’ of nearly 10′ in diameter! Plenty of room for two and a heap of gear. Not enough room to stand as in my Siligloo – but what can you expect for $50? There is sitting room for us, but we are a bit vertically challenged. Your head may touch the roof.
‘Were you born in a tent’ which would be addressed to people who were poor at closing doors and letting drafts in in winter. I was not born in a tent though is was very nearly born in a rowboat during the 1949 Hunter River floods. I did however grow up in a tent spending much of my infancy in one as my parents were itinerant beekeepers on the Western slopes and plains of NSW.
I do love the quality of light in this tent. That is something to watch for. You can get an awful garish light from a dark blue tent will make you want to puke. Cuben fibre, though it has an interesting frosted light produces almost no shade so that it is often hot and sweaty inside. Probably therefore not worth the cost or weight saving. I find you do want a measure of ventilation as well as relaxing shade from a tent. I favour dark colours, particularly dark brown myself – but nonetheless this green is very pleasing.
No-one I would want to know would be unhappy to receive either of these tents as a gift for either birthday or Xmas. I recommend you think of buying one of them – particularly if you are just starting out hunting or hiking.
PS: There may well be other ways to erect this tent. The photos on the Aliexpress website indicate there are. Della spent some time trying to get it to sit well under my over-critical ‘supervision’ I must say. You make little discoveries all the time. This one, that whilst we have been together for half a century and spent very many nights sleeping in a tent but that Della had never put one up before was frankly surprising. In any case she did not succeed. You might not either.
I have set the tent up with the windward side close to the ground as I envisage you will want the shelter in the cool mountain air and in squally conditions. First I tied another cord tensioner on the other end of the ‘door’ guy line so I could tension it at the bottom and tie the pole at the top. Then I put the first rear stake in, stretched the material out gently and put in the other two rear stakes, then I attached a hiking pole to the door and tensioned that guy. Then I went inside and erected the centre pole till I judged the four main sides were taut, the readjusted the front pole. The result is as you see.
The heights I ended up with for the poles are 45’/115cm centre and 43 1/2″/110cm door. I would mark these lengths on the door edge with indelible texta so I could cut poles just so, so that it would work perfectly every time. I imagine if you wanted more ventilation you could just add 6″ to the dimensions all around and it would come out right too – but my back will not allow me to experiment just now. It is as much as I can do to sit up for a while and type this. I will be lying back down after I have finished the post.
17/09/2018: Mac Cat Tarp: If you are looking for a lightweight intelligently designed tarp which will keep you safe and dry in the back country I think you should try one of these. I would probably go for the MacCat Standard Silpro model myself – 285 grams, US$117.95 (including seam sealing – Sept 2018).
This low-stretch material which Brian says will not need any guyline tensioners yet will stay put just exactly so sells me. I would choose the Coyote Brown as I reckon the colour attracts deer. Whenever I have been out camped in one of my own creations in this sort of colour eg the Pocket Poncho or the Siligloo I have had deer pretty much walk right up to it!
SilPro: ‘New with our Gen4 redesign, OES now offers a SilPro version of all of our MacCats, available for the ultimate in performance. These versions of our tarps feature a 20D x 50D ripstop silicone impregnated polyester for a huge reduction in tarp stretch when exposed to rain. Strong, lightweight and super quiet. Leave the tarp tensioners at home, this tarp will stay taught. Cuben fiber performance for half the price and without the drawbacks. Seam sealing is included by default for these premium offerings.’
They come in three different sizes. I think you could manage to stay dry with the ‘standard’ one in pretty much any situation though – and you could also use it as a tarp to sleep under on the ground when not hammocking. A hammock would only add a couple of hundred grams to this set-up. You would want a slightly wider one if you were going to double up: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/simple-hammock-double-up/
16/09/2018: Laminectomy Update: The surgery went well (I hope) and my back should be all repaired (when it heals). For the last few days though I have been suffering horribly from the effects of the opiate they put me on. (You don’t want to know!) I have now taken myself off it. Pain is better. Hope that things will start to look up in another 24 hours.
10/09/2018: Make Your Sleep Pad Warmer: For the ‘budget hiker’ the sleeping pad and bag are no doubt the most expensive items. Such a pad need cost no more than US$13! If your expeditions are likely to only occur in the warmer months you can improve the insulative ability of a cheaper pad enough by simple expedients. In this post I noted that you can purchase an entry level pad from approx A$20. A search like this on Aliexpress will find you a range of other options under from US$4 , $10.28 to US$20. Some of these at least will be inflatable pads up tpo 4” thickand possibly under 400 grams. They should have an approx R-rating of 2.0 which should be fine for summer.
To increase that rating, you could add a cheap (from $5.86) foam pad under. A ½” closed foam pad should have an R-rating of approximately 1.0. It need not go all the way under you. You could shorten it to torso length (but you risk having cold legs if the temperature really falls. You lose more heat where your body exerts the mst pressure so that all forms of heat loss (conduction, radiation and convection) are accentuated – but obviously in this case conduction. The same thing (pressure) is why your ultralight ‘waterproof’ groundsheet might leak through at your hips. The extra pressure there may have the effect of increasing the ‘head’ to over the rating (in millimeters) of the might sheet.
Some people will argue that you should place the foam pad on top of the inflatable on the theory that the stiffness of the foam will reduce the compression of the inflatable thus leading to greater insulation than the other way around. I believe that the pad on the ground will perform better (and will certainly be more comfortable) as it will much more greatly reduce the conduction from the inflatable pad which is where you would otherwise lose the most heat.
Another way you can increase the R-rating of this cheap pad is to place it (but not yourself- because of teh condensation) inside a space blanket bag. These are very cheap (from around US$2.67) and weigh less than 90 grams. Because it will reduce radiative heat loss (particularly if you are also using the foam pad) this should add about another 1.0 to that R-rating. Now you have an R-rating of 4.0 enough for a night down to -5C or so, fine for three season use. The total cost, from $13 to say $40!
To that US$13 pad I would add a DIY Cosco Quilt (US$20ea), a budget backpack (US$17.99), and an ultra cheap tent (A$50). Some Polycro for a groundsheet (US$4.23) and a cheap poncho and a DIY stove nearly completes your kit.
NB: Too many people are ‘gear junkies’ or ‘gear snobs. Grandma Gatewood completed the AT (twice – at 67 the first time!) equipped with a shower curtain as a raincoat (& etc). I’m sure John Colter and Daniel Boone crossed the continent with considerably less – though they may have carried a rifle.
10/09/2018: The Word for World is Forest: Up 2.24 million square kilometers (865,000 square miles) between 1982 and 2016: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/09/07/study-global-tree-cover-on-the-rise-thanks-to-co2-induced-global-greening/
09/09/2018: How To Carry a Saw: A 31 gram 6″ hiking/hunting saw sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Complete with handle and sheath it cost me less then $A9. The Diablo saw blades are A$17.47 per pair in the Tools section of Bunnings. Holding it in the vice I carefully cut just enough of the teeth off with the angle grinder so I could hold it comfortably. A pruning saw cuts on the ‘pull’ stroke so it should be fairly safe to use.
Of course I will have to be careful using it but it will cut me a tent pole which would otherwise weigh much much more than the saw does – and enable me to take the antlers off a stag, If I had had it with me on our Bartle Frere walk (below) I would have trimmed off half a dozen small saplings at most to make a similar number of tent sites on the summit saddle we camped on. Perhaps next time. I think it is a worthwhile carry. The same situation occurred on the South Coast Walk (Tasmania). There just weren’t enough clearings you could stop and make a camp – often only a handful of small branches/shrubs needed to be removed to make for a much increased amenity.
A 1″ strip of aluminium flashing works well to protect my pack from the blade when I am carrying it. Some duct tape on the handle will be enough to protect my hand. I had been having difficulty acquiring the Darlac folding pruning saw (35 grams) that I recommended here and here at a reasonable price and freight out of the UK, so I thought I would try this. It works a treat! They may have missed out on some sales now! I imagine other things could be used to make a sheath. You can buy pieces of Kydex for example which can be heat-shaped to fit any knife/saw. It is widely available eg here.
You can see that it is a useful little saw. Surely you can afford an ounce in your pack for such a useful thing? Whoops – my nails need a bit of a scrub; you can see I have been crutching sheep today.
It occurs to me you could sharpen the back of this saw blade so it also doubled as a knife! It is obviously good steel. You would have to go easy with the angle grinder when you were shaping it or you would ruin its temper. A knife and saw for 30 grams…sounds good! Well, a little bit of trimming and it has finger holds and come in under an ounce at 28 grams!
09/09/2018: Wire Tricks: Cobb & Co Hitch: This is a wire variation of the Spanish Windlass whose name harks back to the C19th days of Chris Cobb and his wonderful coach service which opened up outback Australia. Do you remember the 60s TV programme ‘Whiplash’ based on his adventures? Surprising they haven’t remade that one. I can imagine he or his coach drivers at times having to affect repairs in just such a way when they had a broken shaft, for example. It is a truly wonderful knot – which everyone should know. Just place the wires like this and turn until tight.
I came across an old gold miner friend of mine Dennis Renowden one day on the Aberfeldy River who had used it to ‘replace ‘ a broken axle on his trailer. The wheel had completely gone, (probably close to a thousand metres in the valley below!) so he had secured a bush pole under one side with several such hitches and was towing the trailer using the pole on one side as a skid. His family used to be one of only three in the entire Aberfeldy Valley. There are even fewer today.
I have used it myself around the farm (and elsewhere) hundreds of times to secure two things together with ‘just a bit of wire’. I remember my grandfather, George had a saying that many things were held together with ‘just a bit of wire and some chewing gum’ which I’m sure from my own experience was true of his makeshifts and those of many other folks. The bushman must needs improvise with the materials at hand. I remember his old hammer shotgun’s stock was carefully wired up with many careful turningss of fine copper wire. As it was an ancient ‘Damascus Twist’ barrel worn to such paper thinness I wonder that it did not blow his head off. I would dearly have liked it as a keepsake but it went to a cousin of mine who handed it in years ago in one of those ‘gun amnesties’.
As you can see from the diagram above, it can be done with either a double strand (stronger) or a single strand (if you are short of wire!). It was traditionally tightened with a file or a rasp as everyone had these tools in their kit. Nowadays folks probably don’t understand the phrase, ‘S/he had a rasping voice’! Any bar will do the trick. A Phillips Head screwdriver works well. You have to be careful not to over tighten it or the wire will snap. The Spanish Windlass is capable of developing awesome power!
There is a trick to winding that ‘tail’ of wire around the other. After you have passed it through the loop, bend the wire 90 degrees (twice) to make a ‘crank’, then it is a simple matter to wind the wire neatly and tightly around the other.
Here is a great way to use the Spanish Windlass method to strain a piece of fence, if you have no tools. As you can see, you slip one branch through the loop behind the other, then turn it to strain the wore. When it is taut enough you can bend the wire 90 degrees to secure it, then unwind the sticks from the wire and wind up the end of the wire like the one below to finish the knot.
I have ‘helped’ an old (late) friend Ray Quinney pull a flooded Land Cruiser from a river with this method. It had inadvertently dropped into an ‘invisible’ deep hole in a river crossing we should probably not have been making. I thought it would need to be abandoned there and we would have to walk out. It took a while, but as we had no winch it was a godsend – well, a Ray-send actually! Then he took the glow plugs out, cranked the engine until all the water was out, restarted the truck and off we went again.
It is wonderful to have hunted, traveled and learned from such wonderful old bushmen. Ray was a Korean War veteran. He had lived and worked in the bush most of his life, a ‘jack-of-all-trades’. There was not much of a practical nature he did not know, from constructing his own house to rebuilding a bulldozer, distilling his own hooch, or operating a gold mine. You should also understand this: that such people who were willing to fight your battles for you, or able to rescue you from a tight spot in an emergency or fix the brakes on your car (and etc) were just as likely to be right with financial and political advice too.
Those (much admired!) completely impractical ‘academics’ for example such as you meet at University who would run away from a man with a gun and be dead in a day if left to their own devices in the wilderness – where your practical man would be enjoying himself and growing fat – are just as useless when it comes to economic or political advice! See: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-compleat-survival-guide/ Alas, I only learned a fraction of what they had to teach before they were gone. Don’t make the same mistake yourself. Surround yourself with practical people, not armchair theorists – or worse, keyboard warriors!
I have moved a log (that fell on the fence) with this method when neither the Land Rover nor the tractor could budge it. This goes to show how much force you can create. I have also used it to tighten a sagging fence (when I had no tools – see top illustration), to securely tie down a load on the back of the truck (and on the Della’s roof rack just yesterday), and in its wire iteration, (The Cobb and Co Hitch) to secure innumerable things around the farm and ‘up the bush’. It is a very useful piece of bush lore. You can also use it to hoist a heavy carcass up into a tree to ‘set’ overnight as I saw another (late) old friend Max Saunders do many years ago – when I was droving with him in the 60s. Maybe you will one day find yourself in a tight spot (but having about you that piece of rope you always ought) will be able to use this wonderful mechanical invention to ‘save the day’.
Della: I was planning on keeping this old heart of mine firmly in line, but it has been well and truly playing up again over the last couple of months. So yesterday I underwent a second angiogram (Just to take a look at things) and had my usual run of luck in being one of the statistical oddballs that attracts complications. The routine angiogram turned into a loudspeaker call-out for the medical emergency team to assist. (Sorry to bother you, poor Steve Jones in the waiting room) Fortunately I am still here with no lasting damage done, and scheduled for another angiogram tomorrow to finish stress- testing and possibly add a stent or two. I was quite blase about angiograms before this…so hopefully I will still be able to put on a brave face in tomorrow’s Cath-Lab!
Steve: There but for fortune go you or I! I am very lucky to still have Della today. Last night I really thought I was going to lose her for more than an hour, the worst hour of my life so far. She was very sick indeed:<30 beats per minute and < 50 systolic pressure with a pacemaker wire from her groin to her heart keeping her going. I would have given her my heart if I could. Well, in a sense I did that long ago. Here I mean literally. Needless to say we are both anxious about tomorrow’s repeat which we hope will have a successful outcome! Thanks for all your kind thoughts. My turn under the knife next week!
Update 6/09: Della now has a very long stent in the LAD artery (the ‘widow-maker’). It is amazing the difference this has made to blood flow on the scan of her heart. Lots of blood vessels are now clearly (at least) twice as wide as before, ie sectional area (Pi r squared) carrying 4 times the flow! The upstream of the blockages is also improved – clearly the heart ‘knows’ when extra pumping will avail nought!
An interesting thing: My experience with plumbing was telling me that small narrowings would likely create much larger pressure/flow drops than that envisaged by the conventional (surgeon’s) wisdom. I kept on mentioning this to the specialist. He was at one point amused by my reliance on plumbing/river flow/canoeing ‘analogies’ (as he called it), but he did get the point! Fortunately.
The two restrictions in this artery were below the level which they would normally stent, but the pressure test they were persuaded to do (to prove me wrong actually) showed such a significant drop in pressure/flow after the second narrowing that the cardiac surgeon stented all the way from before the first narrowing to after the second. The improvement is astonishing – but not if you understand that r squared rule!.
I knew this from all my mucking around with irrigation fittings trying to get some acres on the Hazelwood Flats well watered from 10+ underground bores we dug by hand some years back! Not many couples have hand dug 6″ bores to a total collective depth of half a kilometre!
It seems astonishing to me that cardiologists would not normally stent until the narrowing was well over 50% (70 actually) when clearly the flow rate from a 50% narrowing would be only one quarter (ie 1/2 squared!) and that they do not follow the rules set out in Davy’s (free) Pump brochures (my source) about the effects of friction/pressure/flow on the diameter of pipes/number of junctions/bends/restrictions, etc. The circulatory system is obviously (to me) just a piece of plumbing.
This information enabled us to solve the weird situation we had (years ago now) of putting lots of water under enormous pressure into this end of the irrigation pipe only to have (pretty much) nothing at all come out that end – even though there was no blockage at all! I will send a copy of Davy’s brochure to any cardiac specialist I can. Doubtless it will save lives – if they read it.
I am now suspecting that ‘micro-vascular disease’ ie the hardening or blockage of small blood vessels in the absence of any blockage in the major vessels (what we thought Della must have if the major vessels were not at fault) is not what Della was suffering from at all. The enormous increase in size of these tiny blood vessels in Della’s heart is astonishing. Some have gone from being invisible to very thick black lines on the scan. Clearly low blood flow was allowing them to shrink away and ‘dry up’ .
I am now expecting a major improvement in turbulence in Della’s veins and arteries which should clean out lots of her plumbing – in much the same way as when I cure a pump of some suction problem it had, resulting in a huge increase in flow volume. All sorts of black gunk which had been sitting around in the pipes sluggishly for years (what the heart surgeons call ‘plaques’) suddenly comes flushing out the taps! Perhaps cardiac specialists might find a course in plumbing and pump maintenance of interest?
The two arrows on the left hand image are where the artery was most blocked – just see how much more blood is getting through after stenting beyond the second blockage. (Sorry for the poor quality image). But notice also how much more blood is now arriving at the point the blockage started. The heart sure knows its job!
Anyway, with any luck Della will be fit for hiking again soon. I will need my back fixed (next week) and possibly my knee as well. However, though we had expected a second ascent of Mt Bartle Frere (see below) and an excursion on the (Qld) Misty Mountains walk in September as well as a couple of weeks in the Wonnangatta (for me at least) while the gates are closed, some of these activities at least have had to be curtailed or postponed. But, we will be back! Another month could make a big difference. Unfortunately it is obviously also going to be a ‘good’ year for thistles, I notice as I go around the sheep!
31/08/2018: 3F Ultra Cheap Tents: Some of these look very impressive both as to weight and price such that they should be worth a go if you are in the market for a cheap, light tent. A$50 for a 2 person ultralight shelter is hard to beat! For example, this 740 gram single person tent which is very similar to this one costs only US67.05 (less $10 if you are a new customer) plus about $15 shipping to Australia – so around $100 all up, not bad at all. There is plenty of room for one person and their gear, and you can set it up with a verandah as I did the Big Sky tent. It is a fully lined tent with a waterproof floor.
This two person tent is interesting. It is just a fly (at 500 grams) but is 8’6” long by 5’6” wide and 4’6” high (265 x 170 x 135) and weighs 500 grams. US$58.65. You could easily add some Polycro as a groundsheet. Certainly plenty of room for two people and a lot of gear.
This is a copy of the MLD Trailstar but only costs US$35.71 for a huge two person shelter weighing 760 grams. You can't even buy a tarp for that! Again you would have to add eg some Polycro for a floor. I think this is cheap enough I would risk a fire to warm it out the front for a deer-hunting camp shelter though sparks would no doubt burn small holes in it over time. You could repair them with this. The price includes free shipping to Australia, so total cost is A$49.24 I would seriously think about trying one of these out!
29/08/2018: Spring at Jeeralang: (Della) ‘Well, the minus 2 temperature did feel a bit intimidating this morning, but looking out the bedroom window to a little spring blossom certainly cheers the heart to start the day! This is just a wild plum that grew up in the hedge outside the window as a result of total inattention during the busy years of full-time work. Now that I enjoy its no-nonsense life-force every morning upon waking, I wouldn't swap it for a more dramatic yet fussier specimen. It brings a host of birds to entertain me as they eat its summer fruit and squabble over territory and I do love the subtle harmony its spring blossom creates with the enthusiastic flowers of the native hibiscus. I have been watching the buds preparing for spring launch over the last 10 days or so and can now announce that it is officially spring in Jeeralang Junction’
26/08/2018: A Sand County Almanac: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.” — Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Thank You Michael. I see I have made a mistake. Of course I own the book. I will try to find a link that works. In the meantime, people will have to content themselves with a free look inside at Amazon here, or buy the ebook for a mere US$6.29:
Some see Leopold as the founder of the 'modern' conservation movement (ie pre-WW2), and the father of wilderness conservation. That he was also a keen hunter of many types of game will surprise some - but not many real hunters, eg particularly Field and Game members (which I have been for over thirty years) and the like - who have bought, reclaimed and donated so many thousands of acres of wildlife areas to the public here in Victoria, areas such as the Clydebank Morass for example at the mouth of the Avon River, which if you have not visited, put it on your 'bucket list'.
24/08/2018: All Flesh is Grass: How many deer are out there in the bush? The study below looks at an area in the Upper Yarra (Dam) catchment (you may not – legally – hunt) where the author has performed transects and other measurements to estimate 200 sambar deer per square kilometer in this small area of good feed. That’s two per hectare or about 1 per acre. An acre is roughly 70 yards by 70 yards, so that if they were uniformly distributed, at any one time you ought always to be able to see one in thin to medium forest cover.
A sambar deer eats roughly twice what a sheep eats. On good pasture on the Hazelwood Flats we ran 6 ewes per acre (with stored silage we were able to cut for out-of season rations) and raised on average 12 lambs. This represented nearly a tonne of quality meat produced annually per hectare! This is about as good as it gets in Australia – I don’t know whether anyone has ever done better without bought in feed or irrigation.
Studies have found that an acre of good pasture will 'carry' a certain weight of 'meat'. It does not matter a jot whether it is mice or elephants, the same quantity of pasture will sustain the same weight of meat. All flesh is grass: or sward anyway. Many other plants make up a nutritious pasture. The indication that it is nutritious is that it has been eaten down. You will notice that such grasses (or other plants) as for example Poa Tussock will not be eaten by anything - save a small moth. One of the reasons that the white ant is the most common grazing animal in Australia is that so much vegetation is unpalatable to anything else - a result of thousands of year of burning reducing the Phosphorus and Potassium levels in the 'soils' to nearly zero. This is why so many Australian birds are insectivores, od course.
Our home farm where we are now ‘retired’ is not nearly such good country (but we are steadily improving it) and does not lend itself to hay-making (too steep) so that we are limited to closer to 4 ewes per acre. The trees we are planting will help. That would represent approximately two sambar hinds per acre – if nearly all the stags were removed (Go for it fellas!) so that it could produce 2-4 poddies a year to harvest, probably in late Spring would be best.
Along many of the rivers and fertie valleys in Gippsland there is just as good feed as on our home farm – in some places considerably better. Where you see grassy areas eaten down (as if mown) the area is clearly supporting something like that 2 hinds per acre – but the deer disperse during the day to the poorer country on the ridges which would only support perhaps ¼ to 1/10th of what the good feed along the bottoms would feed.
Suppose you are walking through a kilometer of grassy well-mown flat say 50 metres wide along the valley bottom (a common enough experience, surely) you have a feed area of 5 hectares or about 10 acres. Somewhere adjacent to that there are 20 deer plus what the intervening ridge would support. If the deer walk back another 1 kilometre from the valley to camp (as is normal), that area of 1 square kilometer or 100 hectares could easily be supporting 50 deer, probably more. I arrive at that figure like this:
Once you get away from the better watered valley bottoms the soil usually gets worse and the vegetation is also often less palatable. Dry, steep shaley or rocky sides with large trees frequently has little feed being dominated by prickly or coarse vegetation with very little nutritional value. But not all slopes are like this and particularly after some disturnbance such as logging or a bushfire when young succulent vegetation usually dominates for a few years. Clearly this will support more animals.
If we assume that the 95 hectares of ridges can only support say 1 deer per three hectares, that is still 50 deer in that square kilometer. Some county is better than this and some far worse. Clearly though there are plenty of accessible areas which can support 100 deer per square kilometer – if there is little competition from other herbivores – which has frequently been the case since the disastrous fires of ten years or so ago.
Most of my hound hunting was done before those fires. Even so I sometimes found a small valley where the deer numbers were like this. You could return again and again to the same small area yet take a deer pretty much every weekend more or less forever (till someone else discovered it!) At the same time, when starting the dogs (or early in the hunt before the deer had dispersed) it was quite normal to see groups of 10-20 deer camped together in an area smaller than a suburban house block!
There are no doubt areas where there are too many deer, large herbivores in general – here at Jeeralang Junction for example the wombats and grey kangaroos have bred up to the detriment of everything else. We are now seeing mobs of 100 roos on the land adjacent to us. That and the fox problem is why we are building fences to keep them out – else there would be no feed at all for our sheep – or ourselves. Yet, though they have eaten out all the vegetation in the neighbouring bush so that the soil is completely exposed – and eroding, thus critically endangering small marsupials a cull is somehow impossible.
This is just poor land management. There has to be room for everything. Where there are large numbers of deer there needs to be much more hunting pressure (and there will be) which means that your treasured dream of discovering that ‘Valley of the Deer’ which is your very own is largely fanciful – though the further you are willing to journey from your car the more likely you are to find substantially undisturbed hunting areas.
If you are not seeing them somewhere in that square kilometre, you are walking too fast, too noisily, or you have not learned to keep a careful look-out through the trees. If you truly had it to yourself ou could hunt that same spot all year and harvest perhaps 25 of them without having much impact on their numbers!
The impacts of sambar (Cervus unicolor) in the Yarra Ranges National Park: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/35277/125263_Bennett%2c%20A.%202008%20PhD%20Thesis.pdf?sequence=1
I am very pleased – as my back was so bad a couple of days ago I had trouble walking or standing for more than a couple of minutes. I have now been incapacitated for six weeks. Damn-it! but after the last few days I am hoping that we may get a couple of hundred more trees planted before Spring. This method is really great: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/trees-and-tree-guards/ and this: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/what-tree-wont-sheep-eat/
We have ‘retired’ from farming onto our long-neglected home 25 acres having sold all our other farms in 2012 and invested the proceeds so we have something to (modestly) live on. We will not take charity from the Government – or anyone! We plan that before we ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’ it will be a sheep-forest with useful and nutritious trees every 15 yards or so, and fox-proofed so that the birds and (small) wildlife which will benefit can proliferate.
PS: We built our own (mud-brick) house here making every brick ourselves by hand, cutting every piece of wood and driving every nail ourselves. We even did the plumbing and wiring ourselves. We have also been self-sufficient in meat, fruit and vegetables for nearly thirty years. This is where we raised the kids so we don’t ever want to leave. To get a better idea what it looks like round here see: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/drone-hunting/
21/08/2018: They are a day late; so looking forward to their return this year. Here is my post for the same date six years ago: 'The swallows are back: a good dozen of them were scything the air above me this morning as I went round the lambs on the hill. I do love their aerial agility; the quick flash of deepest blue as the sun darts off their backs as they sweep by. They always nest in the garage and make Jackson Pollock's of the cars. I will finish the wall and lock them out some day; then I will make ledges for them around the inside edges of the verandahs. They have multiplied greatly since we have been here; now we are seldom troubled by mosquitoes. A friend used to kill his: bad karma I think - and he is no longer with us. I just wonder what they think of us 'stick in the muds': lingering here when they have been to Siberia and back!' Merrin just commented to me yesterday that they were back. Like clockwork, these wonderful little critters!
19/8/2018: London in 1924 in colour: when Della’s mother, Dorothy was a little girl. Just before the end there is a little blonde girl being carried through the streets by her dad who might even have been her: https://twitter.com/StuartHumphryes/status/1030236577891594241
19/8/2018: Ultralight Camp Shower: While we are on the subject of cleanliness, you should know that Sea to Summit make an excellent ultralight camp shower. They have reduced its weight over the years so that it now weighs a mere 120 grams. I suspect that this weight inclues the bag so you might subtract perhaps ten grams from that. I know this was the case with my older model.
For that weight you get a 10 litre shower which will give you about 7-8 minuetes of shower time, plus the rope/suspension system. As you can easily turn it on and off with the shower rose this gives you plenty of time. Simply wet yourself down, then turn it off, lather up, rinse. Do the same with your hair. I find I have no trouble getting sparkling clean long before the water runs out.
Thing is you need to heat about 5 litres of boilng water. An ‘ideal’ temp I find is about 50:50 boiling to cold water. (Put the cold water in first!) Della and I used to carry two billies of about 1.4 litres each which gave us 2.8 litres of hot - so 5.6 litres altogether. This was ample. We carry slightly smaller billies now (100 and 900) but it is enough.
If this seems like too much to carry, (which it is for me - I still use my Sea to Summit one when we are car camping – as in Scotland here), you might do what I do and shower with your 2 litre Platypus bottle. Here are my instructions how to do just that: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/bathtime-on-the-trail-the-one-gram-platypus-shower/ The advantage of this system is it only weighs 1 gram and doubles as a water bottle!
18/8/2018: Hiking Washing Machine: In my last post I talked about what clothes I take with me hiking and mentioned that I usually wash them every day. I probably don’t get them as clean as one could (I usually just wash them in a river or stream without soap or detergent). And I usually just put them back on wet. My back is my best ultralight clothes drier!
However if you want to be meticulous about this you may want to try this interesting invention, the Scrubba Wash Bag. Basically it is just a waterproof bag (such as Sea to Summit make – and which you probably carry your clothes, sleeping bag etc in – if you don’t want them to get soaked – a pack liner bag is a good idea too).
This one has been modified though so that it has welts of ridges on the inside so that when you knead your clothes in it it has the same effect as those old wash boards folks used to use before the advent of washing machines. This agitation (in the presence of a small amount of detergent - and well away from waterways) will definitely get you clothes much cleaner. Of course you can also use it to carry your sleeping bag in at other times. I weighs 145 grams and costs approx from A$64.96 eg https://www.backpackinglight.com.au/
17/8/2018: How Many Clothes Should I Take in My Pack? I’m sure many people take far too many – just as they take far too much of everything else – and yet often enough not enough survival equipment, such as a knife or a roof or a satellite messenger, for example.
I don’t think it matters whether you are just away for the weekend, or for a month. I probably take exactly the same items. I just don’t believe unless you are off hunting/hiking in some exceptional circumstances I have not envisaged/experienced that you need heaps of changes of clothes. I have been doing this for sixty years or more, so if there is any danger it is not much.
For example, I go to Fiordland NZ most years in late autumn. It is likely the wettest place on earth. Nighttime temperatures are usually below freezing and much colder than that on the mountain tops. The thick bush (I do a lot of off-track exploration) means I can be pretty sure I will be soaked by the end of the day. Even there I only take one dry change.
I am now in my 70th year. Here I am (moose hunting) having lunch on the Hauroko Burn on the second day (of 8 needed) walking the Dusky Track in Fiordland in late May 2017. As you can see, no-one else about (which suits me!) My wife (alas) was not feeling well enough for the trip (angina), but we are hoping for better health in future. However I was able to message her (back and forth) at breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and at day’s end – and of course we also had a goodnight chat on the sat phone before bed. (The Sat Messenger includes location with each message, and has an epirb, if needed). All this communication after very nearly 50 years together – perhaps there may be something to be learned from us after all!
All my gear and food for 10 days (plus emergency supplies for a further two) fitted easily in a 400 gram 50 litre (inc pockets) Zpacks Dyneema pack I have had for many years. They no longer make such a one, though Mountain Laurel Designs do. The couple of folk I encountered labouring along under their mountain of gear (yet as it turned out not having enough food – I had to give them some!) thought I was carrying just a day pack! They were even more surprised when they learned I was intending to camp out (something they were foolishly completely unprepared for!)
My normal behaviour wherever I am is to take a light change of dry clothes to sleep in – so either a pair of wind pants and matching top (summer) or wool long top and long johns winter, plus a light down coat and vest, down socks and an insulated hat – and of course my Buff to keep my nose warm on cold nights. If there are going to be lots of people about I might take a pair of light shorts for swimming/bathing (Yes, even at daytime temps of 5-10C) or for wearing when I am washing my clothes.
Usually there is no-one apart from my wife so I usually just take my clothes off and wash them (naked) wring them out and put them straight back on again sometime during the day. Body heat dries them in less than 15 minutes.
Elsewhere (eg winter hunting in the Gippsland moutians, Victoria) if I have a fire (and it is not raining) I will wash them out whilst wearing my dry change then hang them in front of the fire so that they will be dry and clean for the next day. I make open shelters for camping in which I can enjoy the pleasure of a fire out front. As nearly all of my camping is wilderness (bushwacking) there is always plenty of fuel, and in the cooler months there is little or no danger of the fire escaping. If there were I would not have or need a fire.
I have found that a light down coat and vest is all one needs to supplement a -1C sleeping bag down to temperatures of -10 to -15C. I would wear the vest on my lower body. The down socks and insulated hat are an added luxury.
My day clothes are a pair of Columbia Silver Ridge trous (or the like). I have found them very serviceable for many years now, though I have ripped some. I carry a needle and thread for such repairs or fror sewing up the occasional wound. In the winter I would wear a wool shirt such as Kathmandu’s or Icebreaker’s and probably carry a wool T-short or singlet if it is a little colder. In summer I have ligher wool shirts such as Kathmandu’s wool polo.
Wool underpants (Icebreaker) are excellent, though I have pretty much never needed long johns during the day. In NZ folks almost invariably wear shorts during the day no matter what the weather. Wet longs or waterproofs trous do impede your progress and consune much more energy walking. I find the light Columbias are a reasonable compromise, protecting the lower legs from lots of scratches you would definitely get in the Australian bush anyway.
I usually only wear light socks such as Holeproof’s ‘Heroes’ as sneakers are pretty warm – anyway I don’t suffer from cold feet. I usually carry a dry/spare pair for when the down socks are too warm, or for when you wear a hole in your main pair of socks. As you have probably noticed I have a homemade pair of dyneema moccasins which weigh 12 grams each for dry camp shoes.
I carry two handkerchiefs cut down from a microfiber towel as I suffer from sinusitis especially in the morning. I also carry a microfiber towel cut in half lengthwise (so I can dry my back). The half towel doesn’t get you quite as dry as a whole one would, but the time difference is probably less than a minute after you put your clothes back on, so I don’t see the point of hauling the extra 50 grams or so. My wife takes a whole towel. Sissy! I admit if you are drying yourself at less than freezing such as on the Everest Base Camp trip the larger towel would have been an acceptable luxury.
I have a pair of Mountain Laurel Designs Event mitts and a thin pair of wool Icebreaker liner gloves for when it is very cold and wet. Though most of my camping out is in the winter (and in the mountains) I doubt I ever put them on more than once a year. I guess I don’t suffer from cold extremities in general. My wife Della uses hers much more than I do.
Of course I carry a light raincoat. I now own a pair of light breathable waterproof trous, but I would only take them if I was going to Fiordland or somewhere which is going to be very wet and cold. Again, my wife suffers from the cold more than I do and wears hers much more. They do keep your legs and trous much warmer and drier in inclement weather. Usually too warm for me. For somewhere it is going to rain a lot (like Fiordland or Southern Tasmania) we now have an ultralight umbrella each.
In very wet places like this I would usually take a hammock and light tarp (the two together weighing less than 350 grams). You can hang two hammocks under one tarp, but when stopping for lunch the two of us can sit side by side and even boil the billy for a hut cuppa during lunch-stops or when we need another break. In Fiordland especially it is frequently too wet or the ground too uneven (or both) to put up a tent where you may need to stop. Because the area is heavily forested it is never very difficult to find a couple of suitable trees however.
My -1C sleeping bag (compressed to 2 litres) and all my (spare) clothes (compressed) take up less than 6 litres in my pack. See: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-tardis-folding-space/ My tarp and hammock take up less than a litre. I know these are not clothes, but remember what I said right at the start about folks carrying too much other stuff but not enough survival equipment. You should never count on getting to shelter. The very next step you take you might turn your ankle for example, then where will you spend the night?
14/8/2018: Topper EzLift turns your SUV canopy into a camper: This looks like a great addition to your truck (at least if you are only a couple). They have a DIY kit for US$1995 (Aug 2018) PS: You have to supply your own 'Lacey'. https://www.topperezlift.com/
11/8/2018: The Compleat Survival Guide: Over the years I have written lots of posts about this. To summarise, if you have no air, you have only about a minute to live. The absence of shelter and warmth may kill you in a few hours, lack of water in a few days, lack of food in weeks. Therefore it is clear where your priorities should lie, yet every year many folks perish/suffer mostly for the want of some elementary survival knowledge.
I guess death from lack of air is most likely to happen in the wilderness by drowning, but avalanches and other forms of asphyxiation can catch people out – injudiciously entering caves and mines for example. Mostly though, it is folks’ approach to river and lake crossings that gets them into trouble.
If you are crossing a lake, traverse the margins no more than 20 metres from shore even though it will take much longer. Do not cut across. Lakes frequently have a warm layer floating on an icy layer. They are also prey to unexpected (and unexplained) large standing waves which can overset whatever craft you are using. If you find yourself suddenly pitched into deep water far offshore you will need to keep horizontal near the surface and head for the quickest route to shore as you can quickly die from hypothermia. Better still do not cross lakes.
As for rivers the advice here might help: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/river-crossings/, http://www.theultralighthiker.com/river-crossings-2/ and http://www.theultralighthiker.com/why-you-should-get-your-feet-wet-when-hiking/ To summarise, undo your shest and waist belts on your backpack. Your backpack is more use as a flotation device than strapped to your back to drag you down. Don’t cross on (slippet) logs. Don’t’t try to use rocks as stepping stones. Don’t jump. If in doubt don’t cross. Find a slow wide section which will give you plenty of time to cross. Better to swim across a wide slow section using your pack strapped to your inflated mat as a kickboard than to attempt to wade a fast-moving stream whewre you can’t even see arounfd the next corner…and etc.
Fire and shelter are the next two important survival needs, but especially shelter. Somehow you need to stay as warm and dry as possible. A raincoat will not necessarily keep you dry and warm. Water carries away body heat around 20 times as quickly as dry air, so that icy rain running over the outside of your raincoat can kill you if you don’t get out from under direct contact with it. You need some shelter. It might be as simple as a hollow tree or log (or under a log) or the lee of a large rock or cliff face. Just getting behind a large tree will help. If you can use your raincoat for shelter or construct a debris hut that will be even better: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/raincoat-shelter/
If you can do so it is really good to be able to light a fire. These two posts are vital in this regard: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/carry-a-knife/ and http://www.theultralighthiker.com/how-to-light-a-fire-in-the-wet/
Before you get into difficulty begin your preparations for spending the night outside in the wet. For example, hurrying to a camp/hut you are unlikely to make until after dark may not be the wisest decision. Stopping when you first have doubts that you will make it especially when you are passing some desirable sheltered spot with plenty of time still to add to its advantages (eg by gathering fire lighting, insulation and waterproofing (roofing) materials, would be a better, perhaps a life-saving decision. Every day you read about someone who is dead basically because they did not value their own life enough and had though something else to be more important. Don’s make that decision – unless your life is worthless!
Many people carry an umbrella for just such an eventuality and for those days when it ‘rains’ inside your raincoat because of the humidity. If you spend enough time outdoors, eventually you will encounter this phenomenon. If the weather is cold when this happens the consequences can be truly unpleasant, or even catastrophic: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-importance-of-a-roof/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/how-to-avoid-being-wet-cold-while-camping/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/hiking-in-the-rain/ I have several other posts about umbrellas eg: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-hands-free-umbrella/
Lack of water is unlikely to be a problem (unless you are somewhere very hot and dry) for several days. Lack of food is only a major problem after weeks! Most people die on the first night out. Most do not thirst or starve to death. Keeping warm and dry are your most important considerations. In my post Hatchet I pointed out some ways of obtaining water, and why carrying a titanium trowel might be a very good idea.
You can eat practically anything, but eating stuff which might be poisonous or at least make you sick might make your situation worse, so if in doubt, don’t. You are unlikely to be many days by foot from help anyway, so that missing a few meals should not matter. That being said however, there is not much that is flesh which is not edible (save some toads and non-scaley fish for example). Similarly the fresh growth of most plants, particularly grasses is quite edible and will stave off the unpleasantness of hunger even if it does not provide enough to fatten! There are many plants which are much more nutritious but of course you need to now what they are. Look for a future post about wild food.
I am imagining you will find yourself in this situation because you have misjudged how long it will take to reach your destination, because the way ahead is blocked (eg the river has risen) or because you have lost the path ahead. Of course there are many other disasters which can befall you. One chap was driving through the Gibson Desert and stopped to pick up hitch-hikers. After a little while they hijacked his car, stripped him naked and left him in the middle of the desert. Walking at night only after a few days he found a dam. He stayed by that dam without food or water for more than a month before someone came along and rescued him! If you have read the book ''The Long Walk' by Slavomir Rawicz (book available free here) or watched the film 'The Way Back' you will be amazed at what human beings can survive pretty much just with their bare hands. I posted about a similar incident here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/thrilling-tales-37-days-of-peril/
If you can avoid getting stuck in the wilds it might be preferable. Learning to find your way with just the tools you were born with is a good idea. Some of these posts might help: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/finding-your-way/, http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-lie-of-the-land/, http://www.theultralighthiker.com/walking-the-line/. Each of these posts has a number of others linked to it. It is also a good idea to be prepared. You might for example consider the advisability of carrying 'The Poor Man's Satellite Phone' for instance.
06/08/2018: Hope for me yet: A record number of folks age 85 and older are working. Here's what they're doing. https://www.lmtonline.com/business/article/A-record-number-of-folks-age-85-and-older-are-13051373.php
06/08/2018: Half a billion to six guys who never asked for it (none of them farmers). This is Turnbull’s latest ‘Captain’s Call’. Turnbull has got to go! 05/08/2018: Thermarest Vesper Quilt: Thermarest have a new down quilt, the Vesper, available soon. It comes in 32F at 15 oz (0C & 428 grams) and 20F at 19 oz (-7C & 542 grams) and insulated with Nikwax treated down. I would pair one with either their new Uber mat at 8.8 oz (250 grams) for summer or with a Neoair X-Lite Womens (340 grams at R=3.9 & 5’6”/168 cm) or an X-Therm (430 grams at R = 5.7 & 6’0” /183 cm – 394 grams at 5’6”) for cooler weather.
04/08/2018: Poacher’s Moon: The poachers of yore endowed us with so many gems of wisdom such as, ‘Stolen fruit taste best,’ ‘Little fish are sweet,’ ‘Putting meat on the table’, ‘Feeding the family’, etc. Traditionally the ‘poacher’s moon’ in the UK is the first full moon after the autumn equinox, when poachers could get out and harvest wounded deer left over from the massed autumn hunt. The bright moonlight would enable them to see their quarry and find their way undetected in the dark.
Here in Southern Victoria such a ‘poacher’s moon’ would be a late March, early April full moon. It’s true also that this is usually an ideal time to begin hunting game here, particularly sambar deer. Many creatures (ducks for example) need to be harvested then if they are not to cruelly suffer and starve to death over winter.
The days are cool enough that you can walk all day without getting up a sweat and the nights are just so a fire is a delight without the biting chill we sometimes find in late winter. Mind you I have usually found that you rarely see a deer during the day if the night is to be a full moon. To crepuscular animals moonlight is twilight. It is very difficult (apart from being illegal) to shoot a deer by moonlight.
Poaching and game management ought properly be antithetical notions, but the explosion of various ‘wildlife reserves’ such as National and State Parks, ‘land for wildlife’ and etc means that exactly the opposite is the case. Here ‘game’ and vermin breed up in an uncontrolled manner alike with no attempt at management at all, and in most cases any idea of a sustainable harvest of animals or other food is banned – save that in some areas of the Alpine National Park in Victoria limited hunting of sambar deer by stalking is permitted.
Such rules are just a ‘red rag’ to poachers to get out their kit and begin their harvest. Who can really blame them, especially if the ‘meat’ so obtained is destined for the family table? This used even to be the ‘traditional’ motive of spotlighters, much as I deplore their unethical behaviour – though I suspect that nowadays their main motive is commercial, ie supplying illicit venison to the restaurant trade.
You will have noticed perhaps (in my recent post) that the 1966 party who walked the Westies Hut to Cromarty section of the South Coast Track, New Zealand (Ah, what a trip to look forward to!) took with them fishing tackle and rifles so that they could supply much of the food they needed on the trail. This used to be the normal behaviour of ‘hikers’ or wilderness folks in general in the past.
One only has to read that early book Woodcraft to learn that. Do. Too many today are ‘environmentalists’ without any understanding about how the natural systems (such as game) might best be managed. Everything has to be managed. There is no land which does not require work. Reading the works of Aldo Leopold, such as ‘A Sand County Almanac’ might help. You can download it for free here: https://archive.org/details/ASandCountyAlmanacTheAldoLeopoldFoundation It is a gem of true wildlife conservation - such as that ever practiced by hunters and fisherfolk.
In any case, I think it is a good idea to be able to supplement your hiking rations with things hunted, fished for, or otherwise collected on the trail, both animal and vegetable – and don’t forget the tinder! You may call this ‘poaching’ – which it will be in most places, but mostly it is making good use of things which would otherwise go to waste or be consumed only by vermin. It also makes your pack even more 'ultralight'.
I have elsewhere suggested a range of different firearms (such as this one or this) which might suit the ultralight lifestyle. If carrying a firearm is either too heavy or not an option, you might consider a shanghai
I think the fishing kit shown in my post The Ultralight Fisherman at less than 30 grams will reward you with many times its weight in fish or crayfish. It has me. You can easily cast it accurately thirty yards! In any case always carry a piece of cordage. It has many uses including to construct shelters or traps and snares.
A fixed blade knife which you should carry anyway for firelighting, is also necessary for safely opening many kinds of shellfish – or prying them off the rocks. (All kinds of shellfish are edible, by the way – indeed pretty much all flesh and fish are - with few exceptions), and of course it is much better and safer for ‘dressing’ game or filleting a fish than a folder.
I recommend the Ka-Bar Johnson Adventure Piggyback at 23 grams myself. I always carry one. The Gerber knife sharpener at 17 grams is just the trick for keeping an edge on it. (You need the fixed blade knife for splitting wood to get at the dry stuff which you shave to create ‘excelcior’, the acme of firelighting ‘stuff’).
I have spent many, many moonlit nights hunting or fishing. A very fortunate life indeed it has been. When I was a lad it was (still) legal to take and sell the skins of many (native) animals – so not just rabbits, as today. If it was not legal, we might not have known (or cared) anyway. Somehow we eluded gaol anyway.
The skin of the water rat was I recall the most prized. What a fine sleek pelt they have. With the near total dominance of the fox over almost every small beast it would be hard indeed to get enough of them today to make a beautiful handkerchief with, yet when I was young, before Myxomatosis conferred such dominance on the fox, the streams were alive with them. Glorious creatures they were too. So like an otter. We used to take them with a floating rat trap baited as I think with pumpkin seeds – which seems unlikely! I would not do so now. I doubt I see more than one a year!
I remember as a lad shooting possums out of trees with .22 shorts (they are the quietest – and cheapest). The technique we used was to so walk along beneath the tree as to run the full moon along the branches until we spotted one, then it was a simple matter to plink it down. You skin them just like a rabbit, the work of a minute. Good eating they were too. I wonder that folks don’t add a few more brushtails to the pot here (they are in plague proportions in our cities) – as they do in NZ! Some places there 'Possum Pie' is on the menu - 'Straight from the roadside to you' the sign says!
The .22 Long Rifle round was the most common used in Australia for at least a century. It was so cheap - and was what ordinary folk could afford. Everyone had (at least) one, and they probably still do, despite draconian firearms laws, amnesties and what-not. I know I had mine (a Lithgow bolt action) as my father's last present to me for my 14th birthday, two weeks after his death. It is my most treasured possession. It had belonged to his sister Emeline, and had been made by my mother's brother, Bill who worked at the Lithgow Small Arms factory where they were manufactured.
I doubt there is any game in Australia which has not been taken with a .22. Certainly many sambar have been. You have to be a very good shot, but you get to be when every round counts - and you are shooting for the pot! There are not many creatures which will not fall as if pole-axed if hit squarely between the eyes. The newer .22 magnum is an even better round. It would be my choice for a survival or packable rifle (as above). For one thing it has a better range.
As a youth I killed hundreds of grey kangaroos and thousands of rabbits with mine which otherwise would have devastated the wheat fields. I got so I could head shoot a rabbit on the run or even (still shoot one) out at 200 yards. (And you wonder why I still don't use a telescopic sight?) I have shot wild goats scrambling around precipitous cliffs of the Great Dividing Range (near Quirindi). I have whistled up hundreds of foxes and dispatched them with it. I have dropped a wild bull in its tracks. Once six foxes came to my whistle at once. They must have been very hungry for that quasi coney! I managed to bowl three of them over, which is a pretty good average!
Seasonally ‘Poddy’ mullet used to swarm in the backwater creek behind our house in Fassifern (Lake Macquarie) when I was at High School (at Morriset). They are much tastier than large mullet, as the saying reveals. I have often taken a dozen of them at a time with a two-penny bunger – a large kind of fireworks, banned today - as what is not? It was a risky business as you had to hold the ‘cracker’ until the wick disappeared then quickly throw it in the creek – otherwise the water would extinguish it.
You held it at the very tip between thumb and forefinger. You had to rid yourself of it in a twinkling or it would explode in your hand and hurt like hell! If you held it in any other way it would blow fingers off! Young people today are not allowed any risk taking at all – so there is a plague of them taken by drug overdoses. The risk of losing the tip of a finger seems like a better idea to me. And the ‘forbidden fruit’ of an illicitly taken mullet is safer and better for them than heroin or crack cocaine.
Lake Macquarie had many shallow backwaters, nursery areas for small fish and greasyback prawns, my personal crustacean favourite. Many a moonlit night I spent with my father and his brother (Uncle Ken) trolling prawns with a seine net strung between two tomato stakes. My father was also very partial to the ‘drift’ oysters which frequent the littoral of the lake, No doubt it was then and is now illegal to take them, but I took many from the waist deep water feeling for them with my naked toes. Some were near as large as a bread and butter plate. How he adored them!
He has been gone now (when I was but 13) these 55 years this week, yet I miss him dearly still. Fortunately I have these many recollections eg of him sitting by a moonlit fire, yarning, his face aglow with the hot coals, grabbing a handful of prawns from the 4 gallon drum bubbling over the fire and shelling them as quickly as he could devour them. Perhaps finishing off his meal with a cup of billy tea and a song accompanied by the harmonica – both brothers played ‘by ear’. I wish I had inherited that ability. Ken never bothered to shell his prawns: he ate them whole. You can do this with small greasybacks, much as you can eat sardines whole.
Sometimes when we were dragging the net through the lukewarm waters (of Lake Eraring perhaps) a ‘Fisheries’ boat would come put-putting by, attracted no doubt by the light of our ‘Tilley’ lantern on shore (quickly extinguished). On such occasions we would have to just submerge ourselves in the water and hold our breath until he was far enough away – you could still see his riding lights from underwater. An old poacher’s trick no doubt. In any case we were never caught, and those undersized prawns certainly did taste sweet. We would also take small flatfish by the light of the lantern on a nail fastened to the end of another tomato stake. They made a pleasant accompaniment.
On days off (there weren’t that many in my father’s short life) he loved to go hunting with his hound, Felix. I have written about him before. No doubt most of what we hunted (save foxes and hares) was and is illegal. Wallabies for example. On such hard-scrabble farms as ours they were a pest which would devour whatever meagre crops my parents managed to grow (with immense effort) for our dairy cows (milked by hand).
The hounds enjoyed the chasing and the eating of them both anyway. We enjoyed the ‘sport’. I notice our old property (between Martin’s Creek and Paterson) is still called ‘The Chase’ on topographic maps, few knowing now that this was in memorial of my father’s passion of hunting – or ‘poaching’ as many would rather call it.
My father, Lawrence Jones died horribly from brain cancer 55 years ago this week when he was only 48 and I was 13. Nonetheless despite the passage of time, that event remains poignant and pivotal for me. If I seem a little more somber than usual today, I’m sure you will understand. I have no good photographs of him, indeed less than half a dozen in total. I remember this one was taken at Gresford Rd, Paterson NSW in 1960. He was holding my first hound ‘George’, named after my grandfather, George Jones. There are very few alive today who remember him, but I know he was one of the finest of men.
PS: I guess long before that day I came to understand all should, and since that day (I) needs must shift for myself, stand on my own two feet, blame no-one or nothing, but make of the world what I might. So, for example I completed High School at 15 with the aid of scholarships which I earned from just that, then I completed a number of full-time degrees at university whilst also working full-time, the first four years seven day roster shift work in a heavy metal refinery.
I have worked from that day to this (well over 50 yearsnow) probably hardly ever earning today's 'minimum wage', but we have been able to provide for ourselves and our family and set aside savings which we can continue to live on, and never take a cent from the Government – or our fellow men, as we understand it.
I am wholly against the 'entitlement' society. I also think it is tantamount to a crime against humanity that so many today are growing up without a father - or with the State as their family. At least I had one, if only for a short, precious time.
PS: When I began this post I was thinking that the title was the same as one of Peter Capstick’s wonderful hunting books. Not so, I’m afraid. Nonetheless it is a good title. However, you should read some of his books eg ‘Death in the Long Grass’ one of my personal favourites. You may find a copy here: https://archive.org/details/deathinlonggrass00caps
'PRK is short for Pack Rifle Kit. The PRK converts your Crickett or Chipmunk youth rifle into a light weight, take down pack rifle. The PRK replaces the barrel and stock of of your Crickett or Chipmunk rifle with light weight alternatives, shaving 1 pound 10 ounces out of the OEM version. The barrel is constructed of a carbon fiber outer, with aluminum components joining the carbon fiber outer to the Cro-Moly steel, button rifled barrel liner.
The carbon fiber tube stock is simple and functional, it is made of carbon fiber and aluminum tube. The stock is hollow, with an ID of .875 Inches by 11 Inches deep for storage. The PRK has 13-5/8 Inch length of pull for adult frames. We recommend having a gunsmith install the PRK, but for those of you that are mechanically inclined, it is relatively simple. This is a Kit that consists of a barrel and a stock, it is not a complete rifle. You have to provide a Crickett or Chipmunk rifle to put this kit on.
I'm sure ingenious DIY Gunsmiths could think of a couple of ways to either cut the weight down a bit more (eg shorten the barrel, hollow out the bolt) or to increase its hitting power a mite eg by moving it up to .22 magnum. I notice that Rotalocura (aka The Titanium Goat - he has lots of wonderful stuff) supply a carbon fibre 4.25 oz (121 grams) barrel for US$200 (Aug 2018) as well as the kit.
02/08/2018: Count Dracula Had It Right: Hanging upside down is the best thing you can do for a herniated disc. I bought this machine to get some relief from the agonies I suffered for years when I had bony arthritic spurs growing into my spinal cord and I had to wait for farms to sell before I could have an operation to rid myself of them. I also slept each night in a hammock stretched across the living room. That helped a lot too.
Lately I have had a herniated disc. Core exercises have helped, but since my knee problems I have been limping and have put a lot more weight on one side of my body than the other (especially whilst building the new vermin proof fences on our steep hillsides - the sheep are also lambing) such that the disc had popped out and was giving me exquisite pain.
I had tried everything including the chiropractor when I remembered I still had the Inversion Table in the shed. Yesterday lunchtime we dragged it out and set it up in the living room. Instant relief. What bliss. I no longer feel quite such a twisted wreck of a man - no matter what others may think!
This is a great contraption. It cost me less than A$150 on eBay. It folds up out of the way against a wall when you are not using it. You need to hang there for a while until you feel things in your back popping back into place. 2-3 times a day brings immense relief.
My knee is also recovering. I may yet get to continue my adventures. For example I may manage to use my wilderness cache before the end of this winter. Time will tell. I also hope to get back to Fiordland early next year, perhaps to walk the Dusky Track again, perhaps this continuation of the South Coast Track (now complete with instructions).
29/07/2018: NZ's South Coast Track: Westies Hut to Cromarty: After you have completed the wonderful journey on the South Coast Track from the Rarakau Car Park to the magical Westies Hut it is possible to continue the journey all the way to Puysegur Point Lighthouse, the Te Oneroa shelter and the ruins of the old mining town of Cromarty way out at Preservation Inlet - as well as the 'fabulous' Kisbee Wilderness Resort which you will no doubt not be able to afford to stay at! At least I wouldn't.
Conversely you might do better to get dropped out there by float plane or chopper and make your way back. The advantage of a helicopter would be that you could leave supplies at Westies (for example) so you didn't have to carry them all the ay back. Then you could spend a few days resting and enjoying yourself at that incredible spot. I wish we had. I would /will walk back there sometime so we can do just that!
This account in NZ Geographic: https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/walking-the-line/ by Kennedy Warne is almost encyclopedic. There is lots of interesting history of what used to be the "telegraph track' built to create and maintain a line out to the lighthouse at Puysegur Point. You come across sections of this wire here and there and see old insulators nailed to tree trunks on the way out from the Wairaurahiri. The detail in Kennedy's account should provide an excellent guide for anyone young and adventurous enough to try this track. There is not much detail in Moir's. I will not spoil your reading of it by saying more - only do read it. It was clearly a wonderful trip.
The other one is by Tristan Riley (https://web.archive.org/web/20170406113730/http://www.tristanriley.co.nz/blog/archives/149) Tristan's website seems to be broken so I have copied the contents from the internet archive's version of it. I hope he doesn't mind. What it is to be young and fit. I would dearly like to do this trip, but at just shy of 70 (and having taken 4 long days to get to Westies in 2016 - which took Tristan two! - I doubt my ability). Still I am (maybe) getting fitter every day, so maybe I will yet.
Puysegur Point at last! Thunder rolls, lightning strikes the ocean and waterfalls fly upward in the wind. Titi wheel out to sea as Tasman rollers pound the point. A dramatic arrival at one of New Zealand’s most remote spots. Matt and I carried on to the welcome shelter of the old landing shed at Otago Retreat, to enjoy the taste of fresh rainwater after days of Fiordland tea.
We had arrived at Puysegur following the 1908 telegraph line route along the coast from Big River. Expecting days of diabolical, tight coastal scrub I was surprised by the ease of travel. The telegraph line adds interest, popping up in unexpected places with lengths of steel wire, trees cut off as poles, and porcelain insulators. Old gold mines, wild beaches, sea caves and fantastic coastal forest made for a great trip. Map and compass were in constant use, to navigate the wild expanse of plateau on our return via the inland route from Kisbee Bay to Hill E.
Day 3 – Westy’s Cave to Andrew’s Cave
After two-day’s walk along the South Coast track we arrived at Westy’s Cave, a character hut tucked into a sea cave. With wild seas and few visitors, Westy’s is a great place to hide out. An hour on, Big River is a spectacular spot, the junction of lake and coast. Rounded boulder and orange pingao frame a view to Green Islets, our day’s journey away.
Big River provides the main obstacle to Puysegur. The 50m wide, deep crossing is affected by the tide and could easily flood and block an exit. On our return trip we found the lake had dropped by 50cm. Wading along the shore among beds of freshwater mussels is fun. The biggest climb of the trip is the 300m scramble up and over to Cavendish River. The swampy flats, tangled bush lawyer and swampy guts remind us that yes, we are still in Fiordland!
Day 4 – Around the Coast to Gates Harbour
After a night in a sea-cave, we wandered around the coast to Green Islets. A fur seal colony provides comedy in the posturing of the beach master bull. Crossing the peninsula to the west, the force of the wind hits and a truly wild coast appears. Orange pingao dunes are covered in rare Euphorbia glauca. Cooks Turban, catseye and massive paua shells lie among the kelp, polished to mother-of-pearl.
A compass bearing carries us west, through orange Halocarpus scrub to a crossing of Kiwi Burn at the mouth. More beach, gravel and boulder to Long Reef, then easy travel (and a brief swim in the sea for Matt) to a pleasant camp at the head of Gates Harbour.
Day 5 – Wilson River, Macnamara Creek, Sealers Creek to Puysegur Point
Open coastal forest became flatter and easier, cut in by steep sided creeks. Kaka and kakariki cackle and big rata impress, though the undergrowth is sadly depleted by deer. Despite the carnage we bless the deer as we walk, following trails around obstacles. Rain floods the bush creeks, but the bigger crossings are fine at the river mouth. A karearea calls our arrival at Sealers Creek, the river cutting between three impressive islets. From here a track leads to Puysegur.
Day 6 – Te Oneroa shelter
Our rest day, a return to the lighthouse in fine sunny weather revealed an impressive vista of Coal Island and Preservation Inlet. 3 hours walk took us to the Te Oneroa A-frame, swarms of sandflies and a big feed of mussels.
Day 7 – Plateau between The Knob and Lake Kiwi
Popping in to visit the caretaker at Kisbee Lodge, the only people for miles around, we found a pretty flash setup. Carrying on up the wooden-railed bush tramway, munching our bag of crayfish legs, we soon passed The Knob.
A wide manuka covered plateau, dissected with squiggling creeks, offers fantastic views of the ocean, Solander Island and Bald Peaks. It was a strange feeling to be on the flat, in Fiordland! Travel and navigation are easy, with some tree climbing to obtain bearings. In bad weather this stretch would be miserable.
Hitch-hike a Jetboat ride up Wairaurahiri River to Lake Hauroko
Matt had met a team of adventurers from South Coast Jet at Waitutu Hut. Hearing about our trip they kindly offered a ride out on their jetboats. The trip along the coast in 2m swell was white knuckle stuff, fantastic! Blasting up the Wairaurahiri into the mighty Lake Hauroko was excellent. Thanks to Vaughn, Steve, Vaughn, Stuart, Nick and the boys for the trip and kaimoana!
PS: Another account from 1966 here: https://issuu.com/cleangreen/docs/southcoasttrip This trip was undertaken before ever there was a South Coast Track. The team went on past Puysegur Point to Lake Monk (from where they flew out by float plane). It is very detailed and should be read carefully by anyone contemplating such a trip. It should be noted that they carried rifles and fishing tackle so they could supply themselves with plentiful fish, pig and deer. One of the great Southern adventures!
27/07/2018: ThermaRest NeoAir Uberlite: Thermarest has taken up the challenge of Big Agnes 270 gram AXL Air Pad and presented their new offering a 250 gram Uberlite pad at the Outdoor retailer Summer show in Denver. Of course it is also an uninsulated pad and so comes with a R-rating of 2.0 which would be fine for most summer nights. I imagine it too will find a following amongst the ultralight crowd who only go camping in the warmest weather. It seems that it is mostly a Noeair Xlite in a slightly lighter material and with the internal reflective barrier deleted to save weight. It is likely to retail for approx US$180. Available in 2019. Clearly you could cut this down to 230 grams at 5' 6" or 208 at 5'. Next year they will have a pad so light it carries you.
26/07/2018: Great Scot: Interesting things we saw on our Scotland trip. The massed cumulus clouds outside our plane window as we flew over the Nullarbor were the most breathtaking I have ever witnessed. They were miles high, yet somehow the lens does not do them justice.
The (back) roads are exceedingly narrow. This one was nearby the Fortingall Standing Stones and Yew tree. They are single lane, then there is a stone wall. Believe it or not between the road and this wall there is a 3' deep drain only about 1' wide. You have to be paying very careful attention to your driving particularly if folks behind you are wanting to push you to go faster (all too common) - which is a pity as you miss some pretty scenery which there is almost nowhere to pull over to admire. Private property gateways mostly. An ever-present grouse in the field beyond the wall.
This is the ancient yew tree reputed to be the 'oldest tree in Europe' - thousands of years anyway. It used to be much larger (a largish church sheltered under it). The circumference of the trunk is marked by a circle of round pegs. 6-8 metres diameter anyway. You can see a couple of them in the photo. Unfortunately it was hollow and some idiot burned it down. Astonishingly it came back to life and has since seeded! So seedlings exist.
Somewhere along Loch Tay there was this wonderful shop selling a bewildering variety of home-made horn and antler ornaments where we maxed out our credit cards with souvenir gifts for the kids, sock knives, fancy spoons and such.
These amazing slugs were ubiquitous. This one was up one of those small white roads which I highly recommend at Loch Bad a' Bhathaich above Alness. It was thriving on a large dog dropping left behind perhaps by one of the Baskerville hounds - at least the dog had killed and eaten a red deer.
Canoeing at Glencoe. I often do this sort of thing! There is an 'entertaining' three metre drop just like this on the Thomson (Gippsland) above the Walhalla Road bridge. The weird thing about these guys is that was all they were doing (and in very cold water), no beautiful river trip downstream. No cold beers or glasses of wine on sunny banks below...
A delightful stone bridge on a quiet back road near Plodda Falls above Drumnadrochit via Loch Ness. 'Drum' as they call it has perhaps the worst fish and chips shop in the whole world! Naturally that was where we 'chose' to introduce ourselves to that supposedly wonderful British staple for tea. Never again! Fortunately we had the makings of sandwiches in the cooler bag in our hire car!
A jackdaw amid the interesting C19th industrial ruins at Castletown - some good campsites here. No-one in Scotland could name this bird for me - a 'crow' was their best guess. I thought it was called a 'jackdaw' but they could not confirm this. Thanks internet. So many folks everywhere are city people, aren't they?
The Red Priest's Stone on the Strathnaver Trail (near Tongue) has links to St Columba. Only the sheep are interested in this bit of 'holy' reliquary now - as a scratching post for their behinds. May all such nonsense pass away just so. In times past folks were killed on account of this stone. Weird stuff!
One of the crofts which was 'cleared'; on the Strathnaver trail at Grumbeg. Its only use now is as a rubbish tip. There was an interesting old motor car decaying into the pasture behind it too. Adjacent was the ruin of a brock 6,000 years old. Such a desolate and depressing place where 300 people had lived on 50 acres (for endless centuries) only to be evicted by their 'laird' c1820 (for sheep - which are still there). No doubt they lamented for a time - until they saw how much better NZ, Oz and Canada were than this awful place they had been condemned to for centuries! The laird can't be bothered spraying out the rushes and other weedy rubbish which would allow him to run more sheep than evicting the people did! At least double the number I would guess.
Harvesting peat just out of Durness amid an absolutely awful desolation. God what a depressing place! Near there an old woman drowned harvesting peat in just such a gully (the compulsory informational sign opined). I imagined she drowned herself. I would.
PS: It is very easy to find suitable car camping spots in Scotland. This is a good thing as accommodation is mostly pre-booked and booked out in all the warmer weather (which is why everyone is hurrying on the terribly narrow roads). I do hate (mass) tourism actually. I would agree to go nowhere except my own 'back yard' if everyone else would agree!
There is no need to pay for accommodation, though you may need to pay for washing - yourself or your clothes. A Sea to Suummit camp shower can take care of the former, and a simple canoe drum the latter. You could also consider this interesting hiking washbag, the Scrubba.
Mostly you can camp alone (particularly on the back roads) but Scotland (like everywhere else) suffers from that peculiar 'disease' where as soon as you pull over (even to 'go' behind a tree - well, there are not as many trees as I would like actually), some idiot pulls over right behind you 'thinking' perhaps there is something interesting to photograph! Perhaps there is! The 'B' and most minor white 2WD roads are most worth exploring even though they will almost all be dead ends leading to hunting/fishing lodges perhaps or just forestry blocks. The forestry blocks merited much greater exploration instead of the touristy things. Another time perhaps.
25/07/2018: Hands Free Hammock Media Viewer: The Hangtime Hook: This is a neat little gadget for watching a movie when you are lying back in the wilderness somewhere in your hammock. I can’t say I am so addicted to TV that I do this often, but I have done so a couple of times. It requires a ridgeline, which is a good idea anyway if you want your hammock to hang a little ‘flatter’. I also makes for a handy place to hang various bits and pieces.: https://ridgelinemediasystems.com/ I suspect it will soon be available from Tassie hammock manufacturer Tier Gear.
24/07/2018: What Tree Won't Sheep Eat? For years I have been planting trees in expensive guards to prevent the sheep from eating them. More recently I have started planting large cuttings in cheaper plastic guards which seems to work quite well. But I should really have been going round with my eyes open as there was a kind of tree I have planted a number of now which the sheep just simply won't eat. I had always assiduously planted them in the expensive guards, but I realised about three weeks ago that they probably didn't need a guard at all (as they had hardly troubled the guards, so I planted one out just to see. Next day there was a tiny bit of exploratory nibbling, then nothing. This tree is going to grow tall in the middle of a sheep paddock without any guard at all. This is wonderful!
The tree is the Bunya Bunya Pine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucaria_bidwillii) which once covered most of Eastern of Australia (before human burning almost made them extinct over the last few thousand years). They grow to be a large tree to 50 metres tall and produce huge cones up to a foot in diameter and 18 kilograms in weight - quite dangerous if they fall on you - full of tasty and nutritious nuts about the size of the first knuckle of your thumb. Underneath them is really great dry shelter for sheep. Their prickly nature (and abundant food source) also makes them a great wildlife habitat tree. Birds and possums nesting/roosting in them are pretty much safe from hawks and other predators. Our largest (nearly thirty years old now has been home to many creatures for many years. They can live for 500 years!
I suspect their relative, the Monkey Puzzle Tree (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucaria_araucana) would perform the same service. They too are very prickly (as well as interesting) yield highly nutritious nuts & etc. Both are remnants of when Australia, Antarctica and South America were one continent, Gondwanaland. I have planted two of these over the years and both have died,. I suspect they are (like Chestnuts) enormously susceptible to certain weedicides. A tiny drift from thistle spray will kill your chestnuts and this might have been what happened too to my Monkey Puzzles. I will get hold of some seeds (instead of live trees at >$50 each for my next experiment with them! http://www.natif.com.au/all-products/bunya-nutshttps://bunyanurseries.com.au/ & http://www.natif.com.au/all-products/bunya-nuts
23/07/2018: Delightful: The Secret Life of Sea Birds: eg: ‘An Arctic tern that my friend John Walton ringed on the Farne Islands off Northumberland in 1980 was recaptured and photographed with him in 2010. In those years it had migrated to Antarctic seas every winter, returning to Northumberland each spring, covering almost a million miles. Unlike John, it looked as young as ever.’ http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/seabirds/
21/07/2018: Ultralight Multi-Tool: ‘Do you need a knife you barely notice it’s in your pocket because it is so unbelievable light and thin? German steel and Swiss precision work makes it to a great tool.’ https://www.swiss-advance.com/product/swiss-pocket-knife/
Weight: 41 g
Measures: 9.5 x 1.6 x 0.6 cm
Features: Bottle opener, fish scaler, wire stripper, cm-scale, hexagon (4x), wing nut opener, cheese knife blade, bradawl and sewing, square (2x), fork, screwdriver
21/07/2018: The Thermal Conductivity of Gases: It appears you can nearly double the R-rating of hiking mats or other gear by filling them with eg CO2 which is cheap and readily available instead of eg air or nitrogen. I can see how this can easily be done eg with closed cell foams, but for an inflatable mat you would either need to carry a (heavy) canister) or have some way of re-compressing the CO2 into an acceptably small enough space. Still, an interesting idea.
21/07/2018: Car Camping Scotland: As you know we have spent ten days car camping there. As this was Della’s trip, I will mostly let her tell it: ‘And so we have been to Scotland...Such a trip, to the land that bore my parents and countless generations of ancestors before them, has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. Bryn, who is without doubt the best son in the world, gifted us with the return air fare several Christmases ago, so all that was left for us to do was to master our procrastination!
We have finally done that and now returned, having driven around most of the country and avoided most of the cities. We have seen beautiful countryside, barren and forbidding highland landscapes and countless picturesque ruins of generations past: My camera has recorded amazing panoramas of it all! But the tourism thing, while interesting, had little impact on us. So much driving ( almost all of it generously undertaken by Steve)!
For me, what mattered above all else was the time spent in the small town that was home to my father and his people for at least as long as records have been kept. I have always told people that my father was Scottish, but until now, I have had no real sense of what that statement meant. Now, after spending some time in Hawick, I have gained a stronger sense of family and, more strangely, a sense of belonging to a place that I have not experienced as a first generation Australian. To stand on the same soil and see the same hills as my forebears saw every day - now that is really something: A life-changing shift in the perspective of who I am!
And so it is a different me who has returned to our relatively new home of Australia: To the children ( and grandchild!) who have worked hard to care for our farm and beloved dogs, sheep and birds in our absence, and for whom it has ever been important for me to create a home in this wonderful new country to which we all now belong!
I will share some pics over the next few days as time permits!
Some photos of Hawick, the town in the Scottish border country which has been home to my father and his people for innumerable generations: A solid town with beautiful vistas of the fertile sheep country that encircles it. It is now falling on hard times as many of the woollen mills that made it a prosperous centre for centuries have closed. So many of my forebears worked in these mills as knitting frame workers, who were artisans skilled in the production of knitted stockings, underwear and outerwear for much of Britain. More recently (and still) the town is renowned for its cashmere and lambswool luxury items and my father also worked in one of the major mills before heading off to serve during WW2.
So many of my forebears buried here, but despite hours of walking up and down we were unable to locate any family headstones. I suspect my family ghosts were happier to have me wander in their presence for longer, and I confess that it was a very congenial occupation in the warm spring sunshine.
"Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."
From "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard", by Thomas Gray.
This is the older part of Hawick, the west end, and the censuses reveal that all my recorded forebears lived here for generations within a stone's throw of each other. Of course, the houses have all been demolished and rebuilt since then, but the streets remain the same and this is the view of the town that would have been a part of their daily lives.
I had planned to post some of our Scotland pics after getting back home around 10 days ago...but normal life kicks in and dredging through countless photos saved in ridiculous places on various media is easy to put off! After posting about my reaction to Hawick, the rest of the country seemed less important, but there were lovely things to see nevertheless! Here is a little selection of the first couple of days - some snaps through the car windscreen to illustrate how impossible it is to actually stop anywhere to take a picture in Scotland due to a combination of narrow roads, too much traffic plus the ubiquitous stone walls and deep ditches! And 2 shots from our "bedroom windows" - well, one was our hotel on the first night in Scotland and the other was our campsite on the second where we car-camped! I will note the locations on the individual shots.
Falls of Dochart - this was in the heart of town and I had to scramble out of the car while Steve went on to find somewhere to wait for me. I had to stand on a one lane bridge to grab this pic - being harassed by tourist buses and cars thundering past at a gallop and threatening to mow me down! Photos are hard-won in Scotland!
Into the Scottish highlands: The northeast coast. This was a delightful section of the trip. The Camster cairns were amazing, 5000 year old dwellings, one large complex of which has been reconstructed and into which it is necessary to crawl to inspect the large inner chambers. We also climbed the Whaligoe Steps (all 365 of them) at Lybster to access the tiny fishing harbour which had a long history of herring fishing. We camped overnight at Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point in Scotland (not the oft-cited John o' Groats).
Scotland's north coast- Dunnet Head to Tongue (with an excursion inland). Some picturesque coastal scenery to be found in this section, which was a welcome relief from the rather bleak outlook along the main coastal highway (unavoidable when traversing this part of the country). A brief turnoff towards the sea did reveal wonderful coastal farms with crofter ruins suggesting centuries of habitation. Scotland's "Right to Roam" laws allowed us the freedom to climb stiles here and enjoy the vistas. We also headed inland for a while on what was called the "Strathnaver Trail" and were rewarded with less tourist traffic and excellent historical sites of ancient brocks and other stone relics still in situ dating from neolithic times. The area also abounded in stone ruins registering the lives of countless generations that were uprooted in the highland clearances.
Steve: We found the West Coast rather bleak and forbidding. No doubt it's OK of you like treeless hills covered with weeds (heather, gorse, fern) but having been farmers most of our lives we felt that they needed to spend some money on 'Brushoff, and plant a few trees.Of course it is hard for trees to grow when even the forestry blocks have to be deer fenced else they too would be barren wastelands.
We stopped to take a pic of a depressing small castle on a dismal lake - somewhere it was hard to imagine anyone would ever have wanted to fight over, and there was a brace of mangy stags sitting on a crag by the roadside watching us.
We camped for the night on Skye next the best stream we could find. Again this island was bare neglected and barren but utterly overrun by tourists. We had intended to visit Harris and Lewis, but the barrenness and the innumerable tourists put us off. At the point we turned around(with some difficulty) we could see the road ahead for many miles wending its way across bare hills and dotted all the way with a double string of vehicles.
We do like to get away from folks more than that. Besides, Steve had fallen and dislocated his hip, which remained very painful, so we decided to foreshorten our trip and flee home via Hawick, Della's father's birthplace. It is a bit ironic when he goes to all sorts of truly wild places and comes back whole, yet falls on a virtual lawn in a paddock near the ruined keep above and hurts himself badly...We had planned to be away too long anyway. We should stick to a maximum of ten days, I think. Three weeks is just too long. I worry about the sheep - and the dogs.
'I love old traditions and pride! Hawick, the little Scottish border town of my forebears, is currently holding its annual Common Riding, a festival dating back centuries that celebrates the annual tradition of riding out to check the security of the town borders as well as a famous historical victory when a group of youths overcame an English raiding party and seized their standard whilst the men of the town were all off at war. The celebratory events are spread over several weeks, reaching a peak this weekend. I just love this little video of yesterday's pomp and splendour, compiled by the local newspaper. What a wonderfully joyous town to be part of!
20/07/2018: How Warm a Bag or Quilt Do I Need? I was asked this by a friend of mine who was planning his first overnight hunt (in winter) years ago in an area I often visit too. I have never needed a bag warmer than -1 to -3 C (and weighing just over half a kilo) even though I often sleep out in winter - indeed I prefer winter camping. The weather is usually drier and more stable, the night sky clear and brilliant with a billion stars, birdsong and the wild dingo's call carry so much farther on the frosty air - and you can have a cheery toasty fire with perfect safety. Once you are away from vehicle tracks there is no shortage of firewood, so you can build your fire as large as you wish. You can always put a few more clothes on if it gets a bit colder, or get up and put another log on the fire!
He bought the biggest warmest sleeping bag available. probably something like -15 or 20C and weighing several kilos - and he froze. He was so unhappy about it, he threw the bag, the tent and the back pack in his breakfast fire and never went winter camping again! He is like that: pig-headed. Some people have an aversion to learning from their mistakes.
I had told him also what mat I normally used - back then it was a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core which they claimed (correctly) was good for around 15F, so I had always been warm enough with it. Back then they only cost about US$50! And what did my friend take? You guessed it. A blue foamy! He had spent literally hundreds of dollars on the warmest sleeping bag he could find, and went away with a $5 mat which had practically no insulative quality at all!
Winters here in Victoria it rarely gets below about -10C, mostly not that cold. Of course high up is worse. The general rule is that temperature drops by .6-.8 of a degree Celsius for every 100 metre increase in elevation - and windier spots are worse of course - why you have a shelter of some sort, such as a tent really, rather than a bivy bag or swag. However, there is a 'sweet spot' neither at the bottom nor at the top which is the 'ideal' place to camp - provided there is water and a flat spot (unless you are hammock camping) where you get the warmest conditions of all. The cold from the top does flow down the hill and pool at the bottoms in the mornings, so you often have a frosty morn just before daybreak along the river bottoms.
The human body makes something like 150 watts of heat which is quickly dispersed unless it is covered by some kind of insulation. Insulation just slows this heat loss by a certain number of watts per square metre per unit of time. The higher the 'R' or 'Clo' rating the more that heat loss is slowed. Thinking only about the rating of your bag ignores where your body is losing heat. It is possible (even likely) that the ground is colder than the air and/or that conduction of heat may mean that you lose more heat to the ground to the air (radiation and convection). Further your body weight compresses the insulation in your bag and reduces its insulative ability so that it may approach zero where you are heaviest - and that is just where you will lose the most heat, and be coldest.
So, the most important thing to have is not the warmest bag, but the warmest mat! Obviously you are going to lose at least half your heat downwards, probably more. If you can substantially stop or slow this, you will not need such a warm bag or quilt. A brush or fern bed will help enormously at little cost or effort. Further, as you can wear some clothes to supplement the bag, clothes which you would need anyway, you can reduce the weight of the bag in this way.
I usually carry a down vest and coat, and of course wool longsleeve top and longjohns (in winter). I also own down trousers, though it would have to be very cold indeed for me to need them. However, as they only weigh around 200 grams they are a better (weight-wise) investment than the same (increased) weight of sleeping bag would be, particularly as clothes keep you warm too when you are not in bed. When it gets colder, I usually put on the down coat and slip my legs into the down vest. I also have a pair of down socks, which I heartily recommend. This strategy allows me to be comfortable down to probably -15C.
If I were to use a warmer mat than my normal Thermarest Neoair Xlite Womens, I would be comfy down to a much lower temperature, say -20C. That is one of the reasons why I am investigating the Thermarest X-Therm and some other cold weather pads - not to mention that I have a birthday coming up! With only half the heat loss, your bag will feel at least 5C warmer - and a warmer mat adds much less weight than a warmer bag or quilt. For example. a 5'6" Womens weighs 340 grams (R=3.9) . An X-therm (R= 5.7) cut down to the same length will weigh 394 grams. Only 54 grams for probably a 10-15C increase in warmth! That 5.7 r-rating equates to comfort at around -24C or -20F. Warm enough for you? Another way to think about it is that if you are not losing heat to the ground you can 'afford' to lose twice as much heat to the air - and it is harder to lose heat to the air. Air is itself a good insulator. That is, if you have been cold outdoors (like my friend was), there's a very good chance it was your mat's fault, not your bag's.
Of course it is also true that the insulation in the bottom of your bag doesn't do much good (being compressed) so that you might be better off with a bag which has no insulation there at all (eg the Zpacks bag - but more in the top) or even a quilt - same principle. Some bags also have more insulation at the leg end on the theory that you can put a warm coat on the top half of your body.
In either case down is still warmer weight for weight than any synthetic insulation available. it pays to keep your sleeping bag dry anyway (eg by not breathing or sweating in it) as it will both become heavier and lose some of its insulative ability - though the myth that down has no insulation effect when wet is simply not true.
I encountered a girl on the Dusky Track in 2009 (when I pack rafted the Seaforth River) traveling with someone with the remarkable name 'Caspar' who simply could not be broken of the habit of having her head inside her sleeping bag and breathing in it to warm it up. During one afternoon and evening I loaned her all my warm clothes and sleeping bag whilst her partner tried to dry her bag out before a very measly fire at the Lake Roe Hut where there is just about zero firewood. I even let her use my coat and vest overnight, but she was still not convinced that she was causing the problem by breathing inside her bag. She was having a very miserable trip of it and I much doubt she has gone hiking often again.
Just a reflection: My sleeping bag, mat and (poncho) tent (including groundsheet) take up about 3 litres of space in my pack and weigh less than a kilo altogether. I am almost without a doubt warmer, drier and more comfortable in them than someone with one of those giant canvas swags you see piled up on the back of every SUV ute heading 'up the bush' on weekends. Here I was set up on the upper Wonnangatta which I pack rafted back in November. (Plenty of firewood and no-one else there!)
Those guys with their swags usually have a 'comfortable' 2" open cell mattress. How bad is that? What sort of R-rating do you suppose? Nowhere near the X-Lite Women's even. Then, if it rains, that cold water (a much better conductor than air - as much as twenty times better), is stripping their body's warmth away as quick as thought. A swag is just the most dreadful device and an awful encumbrance to boot. I made one once in my early years of hound hunting. After an awful cold night in a puddle on a mountaintop waiting for dogs, I went back to my K-Mart $20 dome tent. Much warmer, more spacious, drier and cheerier. But the set-up above (including the Cyclone Chair), is superior by far.
19/07/2018: Fox Airlite 100 Series Air Chamber Pad: This pad is on sale right now for US$0.00 (18 July 2018 - you will have to pay freight) which has to be pretty much an unbeatable price! Because of its integrated foot pump it may be an excellent candidate to add some down to (as I posted about here) if you want to make yourself a cheap cold season pad: https://www.foxoutfitters.com/airlite-100-series-air-chamber-pad/ As you can see it comes in a 24" width (and 3 1/2" thickness) and could easily be cut down to length.
17/07/2018: DIY firearms success in the US: The guy who invented the printable gun has had a huge win in court. Interesting times: https://www.wired.com/story/a-landmark-legal-shift-opens-pandoras-box-for-diy-guns/
16/07/2018: White Moose: Just as the ‘polar bear’ is only a ‘sport’ of the grizzly bear, so every now and then nature throws up another white creature better adapted to an environment of snow and ice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JoHGwSdRak In a similar vein, over the years I have seen both a striped fox and a dingo. (With thanks to Marg Tustin for the video)
15/07/2018: The Mountain Gnomad: This young Kiwi chap Arash Tahan contacted me recently about his plan to spend a couple of years tramping and hunting the South Island of New Zealand. What an admirable idea. If I was 40-50 years younger (and unattached) I can imagine doing so too, but I have had my own adventures and continue to have the odd one still! Anyway, he has now started out. I thought you might like to check on his progress from time to time. Currently he is in one of my favourite places, Fiordland. May he see a live moose! And hopefully not shoot it.
'18 months of
solo hunting on public land; for either red deer, chamois, or Tahr. All the
while embracing the spirit of adventure, the dirt-bag lifestyle, and the
utterly refreshing freedoms which accompany them - such as being broke, growing
unruly, lice-infested facial hair, eating road-kill whenever my efforts in the
bush aren’t rewarded, and wearing the same pair of underwear for months on
end…mum will be proud.
I’ll live on the road between hunting trips and work odd jobs for farmers and other rural folk, in return for brief accommodation or petrol/food...'