Thursday, July 30, 2009

25 Best IPhone Apps for Outdoors

I love my iPhone. I take it on every trip, even if there is no cell service. I load a few movies and a couple of books and I'm good to go. It's lighter then a paperback book, will hold enough music for a long trip and, if I plan on being out more than a day all I need is some extra power. Some may cringe at the invasion of technology into the great outdoors, but I have never been one to be able to fall asleep at dusk and have anything close to a good nights sleep, so having something to occupy a few hours until I'm really tired is great.
But the fact is, the iPhone has many other great Apps for the outdoor enthusiast, with more on the way all the time. Over on the Adventure Life Blog, they have put together a good list of Apps that should appeal to those of us who like to frequent nature and keep our Precious close at hand. I would personally have included Stanza(iTunes), as I have found nothing helps me fall asleep in a tent as well as reading a few pages of obscure 19th Century dime store Western novels.

25 best iPhone Apps for outdoors (via the Adventure Life)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lessons from New Hampshire's Pemigewasset Wilderness

Wilderness Volunteers just completed its second trip to the Pemigewasset Wilderness in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Volunteer leaders Robin and Carter Bland report:

"One thing we enjoy about WV trips is the opportunity to get to know the rangers, trail crew and other professionals who manage our national forests and parks. Working side by side for a week, not to mention camping together on backcountry trips, affords frequent occasions to shoot the breeze between shovelsful or saw cuts and to have in-depth conversations at lunch and dinner. In addition to great jokes and stories, we always come away with a richer appreciation of the area we’re visiting than could ever be gained from a few minutes in a visitor center.

On our recent trip into the Pemigewasset Wilderness in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), we enjoyed informal trail-side chat, long discussions, and even formal presentations by WMNF staff on numerous topics including the natural - flora and fauna - and human history of the Pemi. Unlike many wilderness areas out west, the Pemi once bustled with human activity as the center of a huge logging operation.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an elaborate railroad network, technologically advanced for its time, spread through the steep-sided drainages that feed the main river canyon, and hundreds of loggers lived in year-round camps cutting spruce and other valuable timber. Most evidence of this activity disappeared decades ago; indeed the Pemi is an encouraging case study in nature’s ability to heal itself. But WMNF staff pointed out signs of the area’s human past that might elude a casual hiker and told interesting stories about life in a logging camp.

Another topic of lively conversation was the Forest Service’s proposal to remove a badly deteriorated bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River at the end of the 2009 summer season. The bridge, a large suspension structure, is approximately 5 ½ miles from the main Pemi trailhead and connects a loop of trails that is popular with hikers and Nordic skiers.. Removing the bridge will limit day hikers and skiers to simple out-and-back routes unless they are willing to ford the river. Needless to say, this plan has stirred controversy with local outdoors people, and it was fascinating to see the bridge, to listen to Pemi Supervisor John Marunowski explain how the Forest Service has wrestled with this issue, and to share our thoughts about the meaning and value of wilderness."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Get That Song Out of My Head!

In the classic tale of survival, Touching the Void, Joe Simpson recounts being stuck in a crevasse, hurt and thinking he was dying, and he had a song by the British band, Boney M, stuck in his head. "Bloody hell," he remembers thinking, "I'm going to die to Boney M." When he tells the story in the movie based on the book, that part always gets a laugh from the audience. Because we all know what it’s like to have a bad song stuck in our heads, endlessly repeating.

But it's no laughing matter when you have an inane song in your head, and no matter how many times you try to think about something else, it keeps popping up. And sometimes songs can be suggested by fellow hikers that then become stuck in your head. My worst experience with this was a girl telling me that she had the song, The Gambler, stuck in her head. For miles, I couldn't stop thinking about it. That has to be one of the worst songs around to be saddled with, and I'm not going to repeat any of the lyrics here.

My plan this year was to learn the words to some songs that I really like so I would have something to distract me from bad song hell. The rule was that the song had to be complex enough to be interesting -- no endless repetition of the chorus please. This is my current favorite distraction song:

Got out of town on a boat for the southern islands
Sailing a reach before a following sea
She was making for the trades on the outside
On the downhill run to Papeete

Water songs are always good, whether they are old Irish chanteys or river songs.

Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of the water line -- nicely making way
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away

Songs with mystery and longing are always good.

Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me; larger voices calling
What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten
I have been around the world, looking for that woman/girl
Who knows love can endure -- And you know it will

Songs with tight harmonies give you lots of options to practice different parts. Air guitar helps.

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You'll understand just why you came this way
Cause the truth you might be running from is so small
But it's as big as the promise - the promise of a coming day

This song was written by Stephen Stills and the Curtis brothers and covered by Jimmy Buffet; I prefer the original Crosby, Stills & Nash version. You can find a great YouTube video of them performing this song at this link.

So I'm sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a'dying
My love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain
I have my ship and all her flags are flying
She might be all that I have left, and Music is her name

I first saw the Southern Cross (the constellation) on a Wilderness Volunteers project at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on the Big Island of Hawaii. It barely came up over the horizon and didn't stay there long.

So we cheated and we lied and tested
And we never failed to fail -- it was the easiest thing to do
You will survive being bested
Somebody fine is gonna come along, make me forget about loving you.
In the Southern Cross.

What are some of your favorite songs to while away the time while hiking?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Come Learn about WV at Salt Lake City's REI!

Wilderness Volunteers fans in Utah are encouraged to attend a presentation at REI in Salt Lake City titled "Giving Something Back in 2009." The photo presentation encourages attendees to get involved in upcoming wild-land service opportunities.

Program Manager Dave Pacheco will present on July 22nd, 7:00pm at the Salt Lake City REI, 3285 E 3300 S.

More information at

Monday, July 06, 2009

In Need of Nature

Pemigewassett Wilderness, White Mountain Nat'l Forest, NH

Do you ever get that feeling that you just need to get outside and head for the hills? Go for a hike? Hit the beach? Climb a mountain? Get lost in the woods?

I do. It happens all the time. I need nature, plain and simple. I need to get outside, run around, scan the trees for birds and the meadows for deer, even skip a rock or two. Many of us do. But why? What is it about the great outdoors that beckons us?

We've all got our reasons, and just needing nature in itself counts as one of them. But interestingly, as some recent studies have suggested, we need nature because it is good for us - and our bodies know it. It's in our genes.

Moreover, it turns out that what is good for the planet is good for us, and vice versa. Not bad.

Paul Bloom of the New York Times, Wray Herbert of Newsweek, and Andrea Thompson of LiveScience help to explain why.

Okay - that's enough time at the computer for now. I'm heading out for a hike. Bellevale Mountain, NY, here I come!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Search the Net, Help a Charity

While most of us tend to just "Google" whenever we search for something on the internet, there are actually many other search engines out there. Good Search is one that, along with helping you find stuff on the net, also tries to help out charities. For every search, Good Search donates a small amount to the charity of your choice (WV is among the 81,000 listed). $0.01 might not seem like a lot but, 100 supporters making 2 searches per day would add up to $730 a year and, with Search industry revenue adding up to 8 Billion a year, there is the potential to do some real good. So, next time you're looking for the best deal on a new pair of hiking boots or Tent, try searching for them with a little extra purpose.