Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2 Weeks and Counting

"Extreme Hikers on the AT" - Mt. Rogers NRA, VA (2009)

There's just under two weeks left in the 2nd annual Wilderness Volunteers photo contest and we've received some great submissions (see them here). There's still time left to rummage through your photos and send us your best shots of folks working, hiking, hanging out, inventing "trail zambonis" - you name it.

Submit up to four photos from any WV trips you've participated in, and include the name and date of the project, as well as a brief caption describing the photo (humor appreciated :). Email your entries to Mike Leonard.

"The Showdown" - Gila National Forest, NM (2000)

Prizes will be awarded for the top three submissions (maximum of one prize per entrant). First place wins a newly-issued WV hooded sweatshirt, second place a WV Klean Kanteen, and third place a WV baseball cap. The contest runs until May 30th.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kitchen Corner

Many of us who lead backcountry service trips like to serve as many meals with fresh ingredients as possible, but preserving fresh ingredients poses challenges. Those challenges can vary depending on the area where the group is working, the agency the group is working with, and whether or not the agency offers pack support. Even if the agency does offer pack support, what the packers are willing to carry in and what type of panniers they use can be factors in fresh food storage. I’ve worked with horse and mule packers in several areas (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Texas, and Colorado). Some packers work directly for the agency, others are volunteers, and some are independent packers who have contracts with the agency. The pack equipment the different packers have varies widely, so if I am working with an agency for the first time I always ask what type of panniers the packers use. If I can speak directly to the packer, that is even better for me. Once I have determined what type of packing equipment the packers have, I can plan accordingly.

The best backcountry cold storage system I have used is provided on the Sawtooth Wilderness trip in central Idaho. Working with this agency is the ideal situation because the packer, Deb Peters, is a Forest Service employee and she also remains with the group and works on our projects with us. For cold storage, Deb provides two large canvas and metal panniers that have removable form insulation on the inside. Two or three blocks of ice fit easily on the bottom of each pannier, and we put cardboard on top of the ice. We then place food on top of the ice/cardboard base. As the ice melts, the water drains out the bottom of the pannier. Ice generally lasts for five to six days, so I feel pretty safe in taking a variety of fresh ingredients with the above system. If an agency does not provide something such as I have described above, I always ask if the packer would be willing to haul in a small ice chest. No packer has ever refused this request. I use the same packing system as described above (block ice on bottom, cardboard, then food), and I make sure to drain the water from the ice chest at least twice a day.

Here’s a recipe using lots of fresh ingredients. I also pre-clean and chop all the veggies in order to save myself time in camp, and I pack fragile veggies such as spinach in hard plastic containers.

Vegetable and Soba Noodle Bowl for Twelve

20 oz soba noodles
4 tablespoons sesame oil
3 red peppers, sliced
1 pkg dried mushrooms, reconstituted
½ cup fresh ginger, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 yellow squash, sliced
2 pkgs. snow pea pods
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cups vegetable broth (use 2 veggie cubes)
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 green onions, sliced
1 bunch cilantro

Cook noodles al dente. Heat sesame oil with other oil and sauté bell peppers, mushrooms, ginger, and garlic for about 4 minutes. Add squash, soy sauce, broth, and vinegar, and cook another 4 minutes. Stir in snow peas, cilantro, and green onions and cook until bright green. Mix with drained noodles.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mama Knows Best

I was traveling through New Mexico this week and caught this on the evening news. Needless to say, I feel compelled to share.

Think she's got impressive moves? Check out her competition, featured on this blog last spring.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Backpacking in the Siskiyou: Filtered Water and Root Beer Floats

2009 marked the first time since 2001 that Wilderness Volunteers had a project in the Siskiyou Wilderness. The 2009 trip was led by Gayle and Bunny Marechal, and here is their report:

"The Siskiyou Wilderness is located in the Klamath National Forest, just south of the Oregon border in California, making this a convenient trip for the three Californians and the four Portland Oregonians who made up the WV group. From the trailhead, we enjoyed a short four-and-a-half mile hike (mostly downhill) to our campsite, which the Forest Service had already prepared for the group.

And what a campsite it was! We had filtered water on demand, supplied by hoses running from a creek to a filtering system, a kitchen area with counters, log seats and a freshly dug latrine with a seat! This was luxury backpacking at its finest! (Did I mention that our worksite was only a ten-minute walk from camp?)

Our primary work project was to build a raised causeway in a muddy area where water seeps across the trail. This project required that the area first be prepared, so some group members began digging out the causeway while others began crushing rocks for the base layer of the causeway and looking for logs to line the sides. The rest of the group went to work on a secondary project brushing the Young’s Valley Trail near our campsite.

We worked with several Forest Service trail crew members, and they supplied us with expert guidance in using a vintage 1930’s crosscut saw, as well as technical assistance in constructing the causeway. We expected to spend three days building the causeway, leaving us one day to do some brushing and tread work on the trail. But the causeway came together surprisingly quickly, and we finished in only a day-and-a-half, allowing us to do some extra work for the Forest Service.

The brushing continued, but others in the group began cleaning out a clogged drainage along a section of the trail, which was causing the trail to erode. We fixed this in no time at all.

That said, the trip wasn’t "all work, no play." On our day off, we had ample opportunity to explore the wilderness. Some hiked to the top of El Capitan and enjoyed views of the Pacific Ocean. Others hiked directly to Raspberry Lake and enjoyed a swim in its clear, refreshing waters.

Before we knew it, the week was over and we were packing up for the hike back to civilization. As we waited for the horse packers to arrive, we dismantled the camp, filled in the latrine, disassembled the water-filtering system, and removed any evidence of our presence in the camping area that week. Once the packers arrived, we all got on the trail for the short hike back to our cars, where we were treated to Root Beer floats courtesy of the Forest Service. Now that’s the way to end a trip!"