Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Trip or Treat?

As Halloween approaches, the 2010 WV trip season comes to an end. Thanks to all our trip leaders and volunteers who "gave something back" and contributed to another successful year. We're tallying up the final numbers of trails cleared, bridges built, rocks hauled, waterbars installed, plants planted - you name it. All in all, we accomplished a lot and our national parks, forests, and wilderness areas have you to thank!

And though trip season may be over, it's not time to put those boots away just yet. So when the pumpkins have been carved, the tricks have been played, and the candy is long gone, head out for a Halloween hike. Check out the list of hikes happening across the country this Halloween.

My wife and I will be doing just that - and trying to keep our heads about us - as we hike through Sleepy Hollow this Saturday.

Happy Trails!

And Happy Halloween from WV!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

12 More iPhone Apps for the Outdoors

Whether you're taking your iPhone with you on a dayhike or a full-blown backpacking trip, here are some apps that could come in handy. Includes park maps, a neat flash-light feature, bird and tree guides, survival techniques, even a guide to animal tracks and scat!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Project Noah

I don't own an iPhone and don't plan to buy one anytime soon. I was slow to purchase a cell-phone, prefer a simple roadmap to a GPS system, and don't understand all the excitement about eBooks and eReaders. My friends and siblings - hot on the trail of new technology and all its bells and whistles - call me "old fashioned" and, despite being just 29 years young, an old man. (Note: I do own a used iPod and am computer savvy, so I would argue that those labels are at best only half-true - and not necessarily a bad thing.)

That's not to say that new technology doesn't have its merits. In many cases, I'm just not interested in paying for something that I already have ("Why buy a GPS when I own a road atlas?"), can get for less ("Library books are free!"), or can do without ("An iPhone"). In addition to being called an old man by those closest to me, I've also been called cheap. Fair enough. I call it a virtue.

That said, here's a neat iPhone application that, if I owned an iPhone, would be in my toolkit. Developed by two university students, Project Noah is a tool that nature lovers can use to explore and document local wildlife, and add their findings to a global database which scientists and like-minded organizations can use to support their research. Surprisingly - and here's the key - it's simple enough for amateurs to record the specimens they find, but detailed enough that professionals can use the information in their research.

Here's how it works:

1) Users photograph bugs, plants, and wildlife, label the images, and submit them to Noah's site. Location details are automatically captured by the system, and all information is stored in a database.

2) Scientists, research groups, and your average nature lover can access the database to learn about what's living in the area, track migrating birds and invasive species, document endangered species, and more. Information can be used for a variety of purposes: to support scientific research, enhance a simple day hike, or bring nature into the classroom.

And in keeping with the spirit of the "citizen science" movement popularized by traditions such as the Audobon Society's Christmas Bird Count, Noah is currently working with a variety of groups to gather critical information about the environmental impacts of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, and is coordinating efforts to save endangered wildlife in the impacted areas.

I think Project Noah certainly could come in handy - and be a lot of fun - in the backcountry.

And better yet - it's free!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spring Trips are on the Website!

Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, ID (2010)

That's right. Just as the 2010 trip season concludes with a week of trail-building along Arkansas' Buffalo National River, the 2011 spring trip schedule is up and ready to go.

Highlights include two alternative spring break trips featuring students from the University of Minnesota and DePaul University, half-a-dozen trips maintaining trails and battling invasive Russian olive and tamarisk throughout Utah, as well as adventures in Yosemite, the White Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest.

Click here for the full list.

As always, we're seeking volunteers from all walks of life, all parts of the country, and all levels of experience. Sign up here.

And stay tuned for summer and fall projects, which will be posted in December.

(Note that only supporters of Wilderness Volunteers can sign up during the months of October and December. Applications from non-Supporters will be kept until Nov 1st and Jan 1st, and accepted if space is still available. To become a supporter, click here.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Quote of the Day

Forest Park - Portland, OR (2009)

This one comes from one of the great outdoor reads of our time, A Walk in the Woods, courtesy of Bill Bryson.

“All the books tell you that if the grizzly comes for you, on no account should you run. This is the sort of advice you get from someone who is sitting at a keyboard when he gives it. Take it from me, if you are in an open space with no weapons and a grizzly comes for you, run. You may as well. If nothing else, it will give you something to do with the last seven seconds of your life."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Measuring Old-Growth, Using Your Inseam

Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, ID (2010)

Open any outdoor magazine and you can find countless gadgets and gizmos that will make your backpacking trip more pleasant. The options range from the simple and obvious - Leatherman, headlamp, Duct Tape - to the advanced and luxurious - GPS, solar powered battery chargers, ultraviolet water purifiers - to the downright strange and unusual - think thermoelectric galoshes and wearable windmills. (Yes, these things do exist.)

Yet despite the onslaught and advances of modern technology, backcountry resourcefulness and ingenuity is not dead. Not even close. Anyone who's ever "used leaves" can attest to that. (As can anyone who's ever been hiking above treeline, without a pack, in a burn zone, heard nature's call, and turned to his Leatherman and T-shirt for salvation. Sleeveless anyone?)

In some cases, our ingenuity has even been helped along by this very technological progress. (Ever taken a picture on your digital camera of a serious backcountry injury and given it to someone who's headed for help?) Still, there exists a strong - and contentious - argument that our survival skills have been hampered by the very technology designed to make our lives easier and safer. (See these New York Times and Slate articles for point and counterpoint in that debate.)

Regardless of where you stand on that issue, it is indisputable that one of the great joys of backpacking is the unique opportunity it provides people of all backgrounds and experience levels to exercise creativity and resourcefulness in their efforts to be self-reliant and solve problems - no matter how big or small.

And with that, here's one volunteer's creative approach to problem-solving on WV's Mount Rainier National Park service trip. Read about it here.

Have any tips or creative tales of your own to share? Share them here.