Friday, March 26, 2010

I want a pocket full of these

Behold the design of one of the new National Parks and federally protected areas quarters:

I remember one of those "you know you're from Portland if..." e-mails where one of the criteria was "you can point out where Mount Hood is on the horizon, even though it's covered by clouds".


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ivy League Pop

Researchers at Princeton have found that rats whose diet included high fructose corn syrup gained more weight and had higher concentrations of triglycerides in their blood than other rats whose diet included equivalent calories of sucrose solution.

Meanwhile at Yale Pepsi is opening an independent research laboratory in New Haven and funding a research fellowship at the university to research nutrition and obesity.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

2010 Inaugural Camping Trip

In observance of the first day of spring, and anticipating many busy non-camping weekends soon to come, I set out yesterday for my first overnight backpacking trip of 2010. I'm getting over a cold, so I planned on doing just half of my regular loop at Raccoon Creek State Park.

Having grown up amidst the evergreen forests of the pacific northwest, where winter in the woods is marked mostly by the absence of flowers and a slight thinning of the undergrowth, I am always impressed by the degree to which the eastern deciduous forests vary throughout the year. The trees were still as gray as they were last month when I walked the same route with Otto and there were still patches of snow, but the ground cover is beginning to show signs of life.

There was one exactly one dense patch of what must have been snow-drops. In one spot there were several great big circles of mysterious green sprouts coming up through last year's leaves. Next to the streams and right in the middle of the damper stretches of trail purple lobes of skunk cabbage were pushing up through the mud.

With the clear skies and bare trees the park was as bright and clear as I've ever seen in the last few years. It was dry and cool, perfect weather for hiking, and despite the sniffles I made good time and felt great. I felt so good I thought about pressing on and extending the trip to a full loop, but I decided to take it easy and just enjoy hanging out outside.

I am pleased to report that the new boots I got are working great. They're midweight hiking boots with waterproof breathable goretex and nice stiff thick soles. The beat the heck out of the old freebies I used the last two years. My socks stayed pretty dry, and I had no discomfort or blisters all day. I've been carrying extra socks to be able to change at lunch if I need to, but I think with the new boots I can cut back on those.

There was no rain forecast overnight and none showed up. I experimented with a lean-to style tarp set up, which was mostly useful for privacy from the other group on the other side of the campground. I hit on a good way to tighten a cord between two trees, which I won't attempt to describe and probably already has a name. I'll probably ditch the tent poles next time.

One mistake I made was not putting on my fleece, socks, and long underwear before going to bed. When it got colder in the night I had to get out of the sleeping bag to put them on, and never quite got warmed back up. Also, the bivy sack ended up a little damper than on previous trips, but I'm not sure why. Possibly the cooler temperatures on this trip (compared to summer nights) caused more moisture to precipitate out before escaping through the fabric.

It was a short hike out this morning. I decided not to extend to the whole loop because the last leg is long and hilly, I'm still feeling sniffly, and it's supposed to start raining. Better to end on a high note and enjoy the rest of the weekend in more civilized ways.

I ran into some people doing orienteering, which looks really fun. I spotted one of their markers near the campsite last night, and thought it was a bug trap until I read the tag. I've put off buying a compass (other than the little emergency one) because I stick to well traveled trails that aren't ever far from a road. But I've been reading a little about land navigation and it looks like the Western Pennsylvania Orienteering Club might offer some opportunities to practice doing cross country hiking with map and compass.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happy Spring!

I am pleased to announce the departure of this:

And the arrival of this:

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