Monday, May 16, 2011

End of the world and nothing to wear?

So May 21, 2011 has been predicted to be the end of the world as we know it or “TEOTWAWKI” in common survivalist vernacular.

Those "in the know" have said the end will “begin” with a monster earthquake that will rumble through at 6:00pm sharp.

I’m not sure if the quake is supposed to occur on Eastern Standard Time, Mountain Standard Time, or Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time, but I figured I would set all of my clocks at different times to ensure that I covered all of my disaster time zone bases. (As you can never be too prepared)

While I probably don’t fit the definition of the traditional survivalist, I do have a few “end times' nuggets of wisdom” for people who might not be as well versed or mentally prepared for such calamity.

I should first point out that my survival of the “Y2-K” end of the world scenario is my prerequisite resume to being considered an “expert” on this subject matter.

I also realize that people are looking for an all inclusive list of provisions and while it’s hard for someone of my knowledge base to cover every variable I made this easy to follow guide for what you will need MOST for the end of the world.

1) Contrary to conventional wisdom, dressing for the end times doesn’t need to be a stress filled endeavor.

I suggest something fun and flirty like this “Republic of Jamaica” island T-shirt made with 100% polyester. NOTE: Do not stand too close to lava flows, flame throwers, or open air fires with this piece as it’s all about end time fashion not function and it will shrink wrap the wearer at high temps.

I also prefer a nice pair of shorts over traditional Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs) like these Patagonia “Thrift Store” shorts, which can be rocked from the golf course to the survival colony that gets established in upstate Vermont after the big shake.

As a side note; I suggest you throw in something camouflaged to complete your ensemble should you want to be taken seriously by other like minded survivalist.

2) You will need a gun…In fact you will need several guns, the more the better, if possible get 2 guns to shoot simultaneously which also builds “survival credo” with the rest of your group. It doesn’t matter if you hit anything; just make a lot of noise to scare off looters, zombies, Para- military wankers, and government troops.

3) Facebook is another must have during the end times as you will invariably build on your ever growing friends list (The amount of request will be predicated on the proximity to fault lines) "200 people like this".

4) A grill, because opossum road kill is always better cooked medium well.

5) Get your hands on as many Starbucks gift cards as possible as they will become the new form of global currency after the quake.

6) Last but certainly not least; pick up the newly released Blue Ray anthology of Star wars. (Chewbacca never gets old)

If it’s not on this list, then you don’t need it.

Cheers to the end of the world! and I will see you on Sunday…

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Return to the Highlands

“Spring Break 2011” marked our 6th backpacking trip to the Grayson Highlands/ Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.


We would ultimately spend 4 days in the backcountry as we traveled in and out of designated wilderness areas via multiple trails systems and spur trails with the Appalachian Trail being the most recognized among them.

Our outing would see us cover 17 miles of trail as it twisted through varying terrain including the Grayson area “high country” and the Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest that blankets Mount Roger’s peak.

While each of our excursions into the Highlands has been a unique experience unto themselves, we resolved from the beginning that all of our trips to the Highlands would be centered on the experience of being “in” the Highlands and not to simply transverse them.

That being said, the point of this trip, or of the previous ones for that matter, has never been to travel as far as possible at a frenetic pace in the vein of “Ultra light backpacking”.

We always travel “heavy” with our pack weights tipping the scales at an estimated 30 to 35 pounds.


We packed in wine, because frankly there is nothing more awe inspiring than to toast one another in the vast openness of the Highlands, or as this trip would dictate from the confines of our MSR “Hubba Hubba” as we sought shelter from both high winds on one evening to spitting skies and encroaching darkness on another.

My wife carried items that you might find on a gourmet menu, like her smoked salmon with tomato sauce over sweet potato gnocchi, a meal which was so rudely interrupted by the alpha male pony who I engaged in a staring and posturing contest with as my food grew cold.

The wild ponies of the Highlands
In other words, we bring items that we feel enhance the experience.
Could we exist for days on Cliff bars? Sure, but then that’s not the point.

It’s still primitive wilderness camping, and as such we filtered water out of mountain streams and springs that crisscrossed the trail, and built camp fires for warmth and “back country ambiance”.

Filtering water at one of many springs that dot the AT

The MSR by the camp fire light on our 3rd night
The Highlands never fail to impress with their erratic weather patterns, and this trip was no exception in that it brought sunshine, which would ultimately yield to howling winds that spawned bands of heavy rain.
This place can go from unlimited visibility to fog so thick that you could cut it with Bear Grylls’ survival knife in a matter of minutes.

Into the mist as we move towards Mount Rogers
It can be quite intense, and this particular trip gave us one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever experienced.

One of those profound instances where everything comes together and Mother Nature reveals some of her most majestic attributes in a subtle acknowledgement to the wayward traveler.


We made a point to summit Mount Rogers on this trip, which is something we had woefully omitted on past outings and as we meandered towards the peak we passed many gorgeous camp sites on the “AT” prior to the spur trail which leads to the top of Virginia.

Through thickening fog and periodic rain bans we made our way into the canopy of firs that blanket Mount Rogers and conceal its peak.

The forest did not fail to impress.

After the trek up to Mount Rogers we made our way back down and across Wilburn Ridge to a secluded site nestled beneath a group of pines just off of Spring Trail which doesn’t appear to get the same amount of foot or hoof traffic as the primary routes as it is a “path to nowhere” that fades into obscurity with the scenery a short way in, but the intrepid traveler will find a lively namesake spring amongst the rhododendron a few minutes’ walk from the campsite.

It is impossible for me to convey in words the vastness and indescribable beauty that we find in the Highlands and I can only imagine what others must feel when they travel to that special place in their own lives that reignites the fire that reminds us all of what is…(or is not) important.

It’s incredible that such a diverse and wild place exists only 5 hours from our home and no matter how many times we go it continues to goad us into exploring it further.