Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cover Up.

This is just a reminder about how important it is to cover up and take the proper precautionary measures against ticks.

Ticks are most often known for carrying Lyme disease, but do not be fooled. Ticks carry a multitude of illnesses, often infecting victims with more than one at a time. This results in an illness that is particularly hard to diagnose and to treat. Here's a list of the Center of Disease Control's tick-borne diseases with links to each one:

In the United States, some ticks carry pathogens that can cause human disease, including:
  • Anaplasmosis is transmitted to humans by tick bites primarily from the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern and upper midwestern U.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
  • Babesiosis is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and is found primarily in the eastern U.S.
  • Ehrlichiosis is transmitted to humans by the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), found primarily in the southcentral and eastern U.S.
  • Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern U.S. and upper Midwestern U.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
  • Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis is transmitted to humans by the Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum).
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is transmitted by the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sangunineus) in the U.S. The brown dog tick and other tick species are associated with RMSF in Central and South America.
  • STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) is transmitted via bites from the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), found in the southeastern and eastern U.S.
  • Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks. TBRF has been reported in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes.
  • Tularemia is transmitted to humans by the dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), the wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum). Tularemia occurs throughout the U.S.
  • 364D Rickettsiosis (Rickettsia phillipi, proposed) is transmitted to humans by the Pacific Coast tick (Dermacentor occidentalis ticks). This is a new disease that has been found in
It is important that you seek professional help at the earliest time possible. If possible, save any ticks you pull off of yourself and send them to the proper professionals for testing. The results will tell if you should be tested for the infection.

The best way to fight tick-borne illnesses is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Here are a few tips:
  • Where light colored clothing so ticks are easily spotted when crawling on you.
  • Where long sleeves and pants. Blouse boots or tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Tie back or braid loose long hair. Even with short hair, a hat or bandanna is recommended to cover your head.
  • Apply insect repellent to cuffs of pants and shirts. (DEET has been known to have adverse effects on synthetic fabrics)
  • When coming in from an environment that has potential ticks, throw your clothes in a drier on high heat. This ensures all ticks on your clothing will be killed. 
  • Conduct a tick check. Be sure to check your hair, ears, neck, armpits, groin, inner thighs, back of the knees, and everywhere else. A mirror is helpful for this if alone.
If a tick is found, remove it with tweezers promptly. Do this by grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and pulling straight out. You do not want to crush the tick. Do not burn or cover with Vaseline. This may cause them to borrow deeper or to regurgitate saliva, increasing chances of infection.

Do not take the tick threat lightly. They are more than an annoyance, they are dangerous. I am currently fighting Lyme Disease and I can tell you from experience, it is not fun. It has caused my right knee to become inflamed, which prevents me from walking or even fully extending my leg. I have a very heavy limp and am actually using crutches to get around to reduce strain on that leg. I have already had 90cc's of bacterial fluid sucked out of my  knee and it is again swollen to twice it's size. I have started the antibiotic treatment and am icing it everyday. In two weeks is my hiking groups departure date for a ten-day backpacking/canoe trip in Maine. Because of my Lyme disease and joint inflammation I am now unsure if I'll be able to go on this trip that I've been looking forward to all year. Needless to say, I'm heartbroken. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Using your watch as a compass.

So there you are, hiking along on your merry way until you realize that you have no idea where you are. It's not a problem though, you just take out your map, your compass, and- whats that? you say you forgot your compass? Okay, okay not a problem. Are you wearing a watch? You say you are? Terrific, I have a trick for you that will get you back on track. (Or back on trail in this case.)

For this trick to work easily, it's best to have an analog watch. (The kind with the minute and hour hands) If you have a digital watch, draw a watch face on the ground showing the current time.

If your in the northern hemisphere what you do is point the hour hand on your watch towards the sun. From there simply bisect the angle of the hour hand pointing towards the sun and the 12 with an imaginary line. The imaginary line points south.

With this information you now also know which way the other directions are.

If your in the southern hemisphere, point the 12 toward the sun and bisect the angle between the 12 and the hour hand with an imaginary line. This line points north.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Photo of the Week

I'm beginning a new post series that I'm simply calling Photo of the Week! It will be posted every Wednesday. These photos will only be taken by either myself or friends of mine. Each post will also include what the photo is of and who took it if it wasn't myself. Now that your aware, lets get started!

High Point State Park Obelisk in the Distance

Friday, June 3, 2011

Overview: Minimalist Backpacking Load-Out Refined

Overview: Minimalist backpacking load-out refined

Earlier back in February I posted about a minimalist backpack load-out that I planned on fielding in the warmer weather. Well, here we are in May and I’m happy to say that I did just that. Prior to fielding this load-out I assessed its contents on necessity and trip circumstances; I was surprised what I ended up with.

Allow me to elaborate on my thoughts while packing. I had a 6 mile in 6 mile out route planned with moderate terrain mapped out so the terrain and distance wouldn’t be an issue. I did this purposely because I was taking out a friend who had never backpacked before and another who had this trip as his second time backpacking. The fact that I was taking out inexperienced people who may have possible problems with comfort, be it on the trail or at camp, convinced me to pack light. The logic behind this was that if they needed me to take weight from their pack and put it into mine it was possible and if they were uncomfortable with their shelter conditions they could look over to me in my “minimalist” shelter and say, “Well, that nut-job has it worse then me, so I can suck it up.”

So there I was, standing over this strange load-out that I breathed life into. I was half impressed and half shocked.

I began with my father’s military issue web gear. It looked very trail-commando, but it was just what I was looking for. For those unfamiliar, web gear is a term used to address the Load Bearing Equipment (LBE) that the military uses to supply service members with a system that can hold ammunition, rations, and basic supplies on their person and readily available.

On the LBE I had:

  • A canteen pouch holding my canteen cup, canteen, and some chlorine dioxide tablets for secondary water purification.

  • A canvas pouch designed to hold M16 magazines. I used this to hold my wallet, cell phone, and car keys.

  • A butt pack that contained a first aid kit, change of socks, water filtration pump, and my General Preparedness Kit. Underneath the butt pack I had a poncho for raingear/poncho shelter with two 50ft lengths of paracord. On the side I had lashed my Becker-Ka-Bar BK11.

  • My food was stored in a stuff sack that was then lashed to the top of the butt pack.

  • A small pouch with my camera on the left shoulder strap

Altogether the whole system weighed 14 pounds. That is a huge difference in comparison to my original minimalist backpacking load-out that weight 23 pounds without food.
Items cut from original load-out:

  • Medium ALICE pack

  • One 1-quart canteen

  • 100ft rope and stakes

  • Trowel and toilet paper

  • Change of clothes

  • Sleeping clothes

  • Wool blanket

 The LBE makes this very comfortable, so comfortable that you barely feel any weight at all. When you begin to get tired the LBE load-out has one small problem: since the butt pack has the most weight and your muscles are sore, you feel as if someone is gently pulling down on the back of the LBE belt. As I stated, this is a very small problem that is easily ignorable.

Close up on the main part of the system: the butt pack.

The benefits of the LBE load-out far outweigh the drawbacks. Not only is it lighter than a framed backpack, but it provides a greater and more comfortable range of motion as well. Hiking with the LBE was much easier on my shoulders, back, knees, and ankles than hiking with a framed pack and I had everything I needed right within arms reach, opposed to having to stop and dig into my pack. When taking breaks I actually chose to keep the LBE on. I did this not because it was more comfortable, but simply because it felt as if you’re weren’t wearing anything at all once you sat.

As a “minimalist” shelter I used my rain poncho and paracord to construct a lean-to. I did this by tying a line between two trees that passed through the top grommet holes in the poncho and staked the bottom two grommet holes out with sapling branches. Possible thunder storms were forecasted but did not come so I cannot report on how it would have performed in rain. It did fine in moderate wind once I anchored down the middle of the bottom portion between the stakes.

Tempur-Pedic my butt, this is real comfort.

To keep me insulated from the ground I used a bed of dry leaves which worked quite well. Being that it was warmer I decided that I would sleep in a fleece and leave the sleep system’s home. As luck would have it, I forgot my fleece at home and I spent the night with sporadic shivers and turning to press each part of my body into the warm leaves. I fell asleep around 11:00pm and woke back up at 12:40am. From 12:40am to a little after 3:00am I sat up, watched the leaves blow in the trees, and enjoyed the peace. After falling asleep a little after 3:00am I woke back up at 4:00am and dozed in and out of consciousness as I watched the overcast sky grow into a shade of dark blue and listened to the faint chirping of birds that seemed to get closer and closer. Eventually I got up, got a nice fire going, and watched the fog lift off the mountains in the distance. Lack of sleep aside, it wasn’t a bad night.