Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Things to Add to the List

Instead of writing this paper about Kenyan elections that's due in a couple weeks, I've been reading about adventures that I have to add to the list.

1-Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic. Skurka's running it this year.

2-Barkley. I found this great Post article about the race from last year. Brian Robinson broke the course record this year.

3-Nolan's 14. And to think I wussily only bagged one 14er on the whole CDT. The next time I do it, I'll have to include this in my route.

Thank Goodness

Score one for public transit.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Only Lame Part

The Fence(s)

The only lame part of the entire weekend was a short drive to see the monument at the border. In the last year or so, extra fencing has been added. Instead of just a 15-foot high solid wall built of old containers or train car walls, there is now a meter-high 3-strand barb-wire plus chicken-wire fence 10 yards beyond the first, and it has little placards on it so that xenophobes that helped pay for the fence can brag about their xenophobia.


This brings up something important. This fence is on BLM land, right? I assume so based on the fact that the trail goes right through here, but I suppose I could be wrong. If it is public land, then am I right that the government is allowing private organizations to build fences with xenophobic shit written on it on public land?

I love it when stupid stuff has typos to confirm the ignorance.



Umm, What?


It'll be better in 266 days, right?

The Adze Picket Co. (I Love the PCT)

Me at the Border

I spent the weekend at the ADZPCTKO with Nitro, Tatu Joe, Ducky (the Wise), Tomato, BearCan't, Mattress, Love Barge, Nano, Sly, Disco, WeatherCarrot, Too Obtuse, Nacho, Tall Paul, Mags, and Wildflower (AKA Icognito Cheeto Bandito). I got a ride down with Firefly.

I'm tempted to just end my post there, as it would seem like complete gibberish to many of you. But I won't. The ADZPCTKO is the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff, held the last weekend in April (also known as NFL Draft weekend, where, miracle of miracles, the Redskins, despite Dan Snyder's best attempts to screw it up, actually managed to avoid throwing away multiple draft picks on Chad Johnson and instead traded for more picks. Hallelujah!) at Lake Morena campground, 20 miles north by trail from the Mexican border near Campo, CA. Conventional wisdom says that the weather window on the PCT is such that there's not much point to starting earlier thanks to snow in the Sierras, and starting late might not get you to Canada before snow in the fall, so a lot of people start at the same time in late April. There are those that oppose the Kickoff because they think it creates a herd of hikers that overwhelm small resupply towns, but I won't get into that.

I went to the PCTA's TrailFest last month, but that's more of a convention, and Kickoff is more of a party for thru-hikers. I don't hike with other people or hang out with other hikers very often, so this was new and a ton of fun. I got a ride down from Georgi (Firefly) the trail angel from Old Station, CA. Friday I ran on the trail for a couple hours, but mostly I just spent the weekend chilling with friends, watching slideshows, drinking beer while commenting on how hot it was, and making jokes about a several-pound phallic statue that people were going to plant in an unsuspecting hiker's pack. Best. Weekend. Ever.

Perhaps the best part was seeing Eric Ryback's presentations. In 1970, Eric became the first person to thru-hike the PCT. He did the AT in 1969 between his junior and senior year of high school, and at age 18, skipped his high school graduation to start the PCT. He did two presentations: one with several other older folks that have been doing long-distance backpacking for decades or did the PCT in the 70's, and one show of his photos from 1970. In the roundtable discussion, some of the older hikers had slightly negative "you young whipper-snappers with your cell-phones and your GPS and your running shoes...when I hiked we carried wooden ice-axes and 7-pound boots" attitudes, but Eric was totally upbeat. There was a lawsuit and a falling out back in the day (we backpackers seem to enjoy getting in arguments about the minutia of our mutually held passion, probably like any other slightly obsessive sub-culture) and he had no idea what had happened with the trail since. His nephews happened to hike the PCT last year, and they basically told him, "There's this huge awesome community and they want you to be part of the party." They gave his info to the ADZ director (Strider, PCT '77) who'd been trying to track Eric down for years, and Strider got Eric to come.

His slides were great. He did the trail in four months with a 75-pound pack, and only 5 food resupplies the entire time, which is pretty amazing. He was doing something so new that the Forest Service actually sent a ranger out to hike with him for the last week to make sure he could get through some forest fires. Instead of telling us we were all doing it wrong these days, he said, "I'm tempted to call my wife and tell her 'Honey, I'll see you in five months; I'm going hiking.'"
PCT Thru-Hikers from the 70's (Eric third from right, front row)

I feel the same way. Two of my friends are going for the PCT speed record this year, hoping to do it in 70-something days and they told me I should come along. This year was an average snow year in the Sierras, so they're not starting until Mid-June, and they'll be done in two months, so it's conceivable that I could do the hike and take the Law & Econ field exam in August. If I did that, however, having not studied for the exam a single day, I would most certainly fail, get kicked out of grad school, and move to Alaska. I can't seem to remember which part of that sentence was supposed to be the bad part. Just kidding. Sort of. This would be an awesome opportunity to actually hike with some other people, but I guess I did hike 1/3 of the AT with my good buddy Fillmore, so that will have to do. I've probably got enough cash to do it, but I have a bunch of student loans that I don't want to have to start paying back any time soon, so it's not going to happen. Enough trail-pining/whining for now, I have some midterms to grade.
PCT Class of '04

Me & Tatu Joe

Here's an article from the San Diego Union Tribune about the kickoff.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Administration Is Squashing My Hiking Dreams

I'm pretty much over This American Life (I am a tad tired of it, a la this Onion article, but mostly it's just because I think that constantly listening to my iPod has decreased my attention span to the detriment of school work, and I got that ticket a while ago for wearing headphones while riding my bike, which is when I did most of my listening) but anyway, a couple weeks ago's aggravating show had a story that related to something I've seen on all my big hikes--the slash, pictured above.

It's the cleared area along the border between the US and Canada. I hiked along it for several miles after finishing the AT (and, oops, accidentally crossed into Canada for a couple minutes until getting picked up by the Mounties), crossed the slash on the PCT, and turned around there on the CDT. Someday I'd like to investigate the possibility of a long hike along the slash. It's always seemed like an accidental freebie when it came to trails with public access--no need for parks or national forests or permission; it's just the border and nobody owns it so nobody could keep me off of it. But the TAL story makes me less optimistic about that, as the administration is violating treaties to let private construction take place right on the border.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Book Review: The World Without Us

I just finished reading Alan Weisman's The World Without Us. He imagines what would happen to Earth if humans were to all the sudden disappear completely. The outdoorsy misanthrope in me has always loved stuff like this (28 Days Later, Children of Men, that line from Fight Club where Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) talks about drying venison in the empty lanes of an abandoned superhighway, and I Am Legend had it not sucked) so I was really looking forward to this book. I of course knew that it would be totally different than any of those movies because it's all about the environment, but still.

I wasn't amazed, but it was worth reading. There were discussions of New York City subways filling with water and the future of the plains of Africa (complete with a long history of human evolution) that didn't really do it for me, but discussions of the Texas-sized pile of trash in the middle of the Pacific, how long all our plastic crap will last, how all our nuclear plants will melt down, what messages the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 satellites are carrying in case intelligent life ever finds them, and what has happened in places like the Korean DMZ, part of Cyprus, and Chernobyl since humans abandoned them, that were pretty interesting.

Also, it was pretty interesting to learn about the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Homemade Energy Bars

I ate a bunch of my friend's homemade energy bars when I went and visited him in Truckee over Spring Break, and they were delicious. I've tried to become a foodie (i.e. eat vegetables) in the past few months, so I basically haven't eaten any food in bar form since I finished the hike (where I consumed 90+% of my calories in bar or Little Debbie form). Anyway, I figured making my own bars would be a reasonable way to get the ease of bar-form food without eating processed stuff or paying a bunch for Odwalla or ProBars. So over the last couple weeks, I amassed the following:

Sunflower Seed Nut Butter*
Peanut Butter*
Almond Nut Butter

Brown Rice Syrup
Blue Agave*

dried mixed fruit
raw pumpkin seeds
crispy brown rice
nutty rice
date pieces
rolled oats*
brown flax seed*
chocolate chips*
wheat germ


I got most of the ingredients from the Berkeley Bowl, and a lot of it from the bulk aisle. I'm guessing it's pretty difficult to find brown rice syrup (the only sweetener that has good amounts of complex carbs) or agave nectar (which, although still sugar, is supposedly low glycemic index, meaning less abrupt sugar highs and lows). I also have some whey protein powder I meant to put in, but I forgot. Plus, the powder is sweetened with Splenda, so I'm not that excited about including it.

The basic deal is to mix together between 1/4 to 1/2 cup each of the "Stuff," dump in a whole container of the nut butter, and maybe half that in combos of the sweeteners. Add salt, mix it all together with your hands, smash it flat on a cookie sheet, cut it into bars, wrap them in wax paper, and toss them in the fridge. One batch is about 20 bars.

I think they taste really good, and it's pretty obvious that they are ridiculously calorically dense, which is what I'm shooting for.

The jury is still out on shelf-life, and none of the ingredients have any preservatives, but I bet if you baked them for 10-15 minutes that might help, and it would certainly make them a little stiffer (they currently get pretty wobbly in heat). You might think they'd end up being really sticky thanks to the sweeteners, but if anything, I think they turn out a little oily thanks to all the nuts.

The jury is also still out on the cost. I'll probably try and figure it out once I make two or three more batches and hopefully use up the ingredients (Today I really only made sunflower/agave and peanut/molasses/honey bars). The economist in me thinks that I failed if they turn out to be more than $1 per since that's what I can buy Odwalla bars for at Safeway, and that I should include not only the cost of the ingredients but also the cost of my time at $15 an hour, or whatever I get paid to be a GSI at school. But the rest of me tells that part of me to shut up because I neither want to nor am able to consistently get paid for working at 9 PM on a Sunday night.

Comments or suggestions are most welcome.

Wilderness First Aid

I spent the weekend doing a two-day Wilderness First Aid course taught by the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS on Cal campus. I generally have a very strong aversion to paying for anything having to do with the outdoors, and I've gone to great lengths to avoid getting a guide to lead me on any backpacking trips (except for Kilimanjaro, where it's completely unavoidable and probably guarded by AK-47-wielding Tanzanian police, and even then we still hiked so fast our porter couldn't catch up, but I digress). I was actually worried that the course would be full of people that didn't know the first thing about first aid, but in fact, I was probably one of the least-informed people there, as a good portion of the class was using it to re-certify as a Wilderness First Responder. And as far as the material went, I did learn a few symptoms or methods of treatment that I didn't really know, but mostly it was good to learn a systematic approach (full of lots of acronyms) to assessing what's wrong with somebody so that I can be reasonably sure I don't miss something. And my fellow classmates were all very cool; all very outdoorsy people often involved with outdoor education programs. So other than the fact that the weekend painfully reminded me that I am a completely gutless wuss when it comes to asking for girls' phone numbers, I had a great time. And it made me slightly re-think my aversion to paying to learn anything about the outdoors. I'd still totally hate to pay anyone to take me backpacking, and I'm still slightly opposed to paying somebody to teach me to climb, but I think I'd love to pay somebody to teach me to sea kayak or sail.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Book Review: Orchid Thief

I listened to Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief on tape, mostly while running the 50-miler last weekend. There are some pretty crazy stories about orchid hunters exploring wild jungles back in the day, so half-way through I was thinking "I want to be a crazy obsessed orchid nut," just like reading Michael Pollan's books made me wish I knew about wild mushrooms. It probably didn't help that Mt. Diablo was covered in beautiful California poppies. But the book got really tiresome by the end. If you read it, seriously, stop after the main court case is resolved. Nothing happens in the rest of the book. Or better yet, just go watch Adaptation instead.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Problem of Mass Action, Solved

OK, maybe not completely solved, but this website that I heard about on Marketplace seems like a decent idea.

If you're still reading after checking out the story/site, my first reaction is that the boycotts or threats might not be that great an innovation, but the idea of raising funds for public goods (but not charging anyone's credit card until the necessary amount has been raised) is pretty interesting. And maybe after the site's been around for a while and has some data maybe there'll be a dissertation topic hiding in there somewhere.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Diablo 50 Miler

I just got back from setting a PR in the Diablo 50 miler. I finished in about 13:32, beating my previous best of 14:49. The usual 50 miles with 13,340 feet of vertical gain, but today it decided to be 83 degrees, and I got really nauseous and tried to vomit, but I felt great for all but those vomity miles 37-42. One of my big goals for the year was to break 14:00, and I did it. Good thing too, because I realized that thanks to the CDT hike, I've literally spent over half of my waking hours in the past year training for this. Thanks to Marcus for altering his Saturday bike ride to run into me on the course once, and thanks to Zack for an excellent job of pacing for the last 12 miles.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Olympic Sized Fake-Out

My roommates and I went to the city to see the Olympic torch, and like everyone else, we got faked out. Oh well, at least we ate good Thai food on the way back. I'd tell you what I thought about Tibet, Taiwan, Darfur, the Olympics, Iraq, Cuba, and everything else, including how maybe one solution would be to go back in time and get Jimmy Carter and Zbignew Brzezinski to get China to recognize an independent Taiwan in exchange for the UN and the rest of the world recognizing China if only I didn't have such a big headache.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Theater Review: Carrie Fisher

I saw Carrie Fisher's one woman autobiographical show Wishful Drinking this afternoon at the Berkeley Rep. In addition to the obvious fact that I loved her as Princess Leia, I have this vague memory that my mom thought she was pretty cool when I was a kid, and I viewed her as this recluse genius, like JD Salinger or Bobby Fischer (without the anti-semitism). Or sort of like Tina Fey before there was Tina Fey. So that's why I wanted to see it, and I wasn't disappointed.

There were definitely times when her delivery came off as stale (the show's been going for a while), but when she ranted about not being able to get the "Help me Obe Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope," speech out of her head, she did the turn of her head and switching off the hologram recorder spot on. All her stories about her being the child of movie stars, being turned into a Pez dispenser and a shampoo bottle, being married to Paul Simon, having her second husband leave her for a man, her drug abuse, and her manic depression were generally both hilarious and uplifting without being sappy. I generally find self-deprecating humor to be the best kind (thus Conan is funnier than Letterman), and this was nothing if not open, honest, self-deprecating humor. The average celebrity train-wreck is pathetic and annoying, but when somebody can be so honest and funny about it (and actually has to deal with real problems like mental illness), it's actually worthwhile.

Book Review: Steve Martin

I just finished listening to Steve Martin's Born Standing Up. It was not funny.

OK, it was absolutely hilarious when he told jokes from his old stand-up routine, but he didn't tell good jokes about his routine or life as a stand-up. Mostly it's him describing his childhood, how his father took a spanking too far once and only once told him he loved him, how his parents' deaths brought him and his sister closer together, how he was very lonely on the road, and how he had anxiety attacks, and thus mostly it's very not funny. Of course not everything has to be funny, but I think it's clear that Steve Martin's comparative advantage is in funniness and not in introspective narratives about how hard it is to grow up. It did make me really want to go watch The Jerk, though.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

All My CDT Alernates

Next to none of you will find this interesting, because you need a good set of maps and detailed knowledge of the CDT to make sense of it, but I just put up a complete list of the alternates that I took and/or made up on my yo-yo of the CDT last year.