Nov 29

BergerPCT

The Pacific Crest Trail: A Hiker’s Companion, by Karen Berger and Daniel R. Smith ★★★★

I had previously read and reviewed Berger’s book on hiking the triple crown. She is trained as a classical pianist, but has written numerous hiking and scuba diving books. This is an updated text, with the help of Dan Smith, of a previous edition that she authored. Rather than offering strategies for hiking the trail, this is a book offering more descriptive aspects of the trail itself. She goes section by section, starting in Campo and ending in Manning, BC, describing the trail, the wildlife, plants, geology and other items of interest. She gives suggestions on sites to see, where to do layovers, problems that one might expect, as well as short hikes in each section for the week-end PCT’er. She writes well, and this book was quite an easy read, yet giving solid advice about the trail. Since I am quite familiar with many segments of the Oregon/Washington trail, she seemed to be right on about her descriptions. She’s honest about telling one about the great as well as horrible segments of the trail, giving advice on how to deal with that. I liked her writing style. Though the subtitle suggests that this is a book that one would bring with them, that would not be a good idea at all. Read it before, know its contents, and then bring your maps as the accompaniment.

JardinePCT

The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker’s Handbook, by Ray Jardine ★★★★★

For those in the know, Ray Jardine is the godfather of ultralight backpacking. At first I thought it to be a foolhardy and dangerous way to manage a backpacking trip. Since reading many books on ultralight backpacking, I am now realizing that it is the smart way to go for long-distance hiking, though with a few exceptions. Jardine writes well, and he reads well. He started life professionally as an aeronautical engineer, but is quite experienced with the outdoors, being into rock climbing, having hiked the entire PCT both north ways and south ways multiple times, and having taught for many years as an Outward Bound instructor. This book was an invaluable read, offering page after page of sage advice. Ray tends to be a little bit nutty in spots. His methods of hygiene, especially in restaurants, is rather strange. His dietary habits are peculiar, especially with his love for corn pasta. (Yes, I will try corn pasta on my next pack trip, but fail to find it physiologically superior to other forms of nutrition). Oftentimes, Ray offers advice that he doesn’t follow, but he will usually give you an explanation as to why he is different. Toward the end of the book, there is invaluable advice on how to strategize your PCT hike in both a south and northbound direction. Sadly, his advice on PCT planning is not reproduced in his subsequent publications, and this text, written in 1992 and updated in 1996 is somewhat outdated. I wish he would update his PCT specific book. Other bits of advice need to be taken as advice only. For example, I do agree that the lightest shoes possible are imperative, yet, my Vasque hiking books are the only backpacking shoes I’ve ever been able to wear and not get blisters. I recently tried some trail running shoes for a backpack trip that was quite short and flat, and was cripple up with foot (arch) pain for weeks afterwards, though I never got blisters. He advises sewing your own backpack, sleeping quilt and some clothing, which I will have to pass on. As an older hiker, some attention to sleeping comfort is in order, which might add a few more ounces to the pack. Hopefully, I can keep my basic pack to under 12 lbs, rather than 8.5 lbs that Jardine shoots for. That 12 lb weight would still be an advantage to me. Of course, having somebody to hike with allows one to unload some stuff on the partner, like the tent or the stove and stove fuel, which seems to be the way to go. I appreciate Jardine’s stance against horses on the trail, which truly destroy any footpath, and remove the true wilderness experience for the adventurer. I disagree with Jardine regarding safety aspects for the trail, such as signage, and occasional shelters in high risk areas. I also have no issue with occasionally creating a trail with dynamite. I am quite sure that Jardine has enjoyed the Eagle Creek alternate to the PCT in northern Oregon, or the Kendall catwalk, both of which required a few sticks of dynamite to our betterment. Perhaps an explanation for my stance is that we are required to care for the earth, but that the earth was created for our enjoyment– it is an anthropocentric view of the universe, but which doesn’t give us license to pollute or destroy earth as we have. In all, this is one of the “must-reads” before attacking the PCT.

Of the three books that I’ve found most helpful, this, Berger’s, and Yogi’s handbooks, Yogi’s rates #1, with this in second place, good for its ultralight advice, but outdated regarding PCT planning advice. Berger’s is a close third.

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Nov 29

BikeTouring

Bike Touring and Bikepacking, A Falcon Guide, by Justin Lichter and Justin Kline ★★★★

I recently reviewed several books that Justin Lichter had written on ultralight backpacking, and so found this book of interest since I also love bicycle touring. It is easy to read, and very well illustrated. The emphasis seems to be mostly on cycle touring off of the pavement, and often in unusual situations, such as through the snow, or in remote foreign countries. The book has helpful advice on food, camping, and how to maintain your bicycle. Much of the advice was repeated from his other hiking textbooks. Though he has several chapters on choices for bicycles and panniers, these are insufficiently detailed to be at all meaningful. I appreciated the book since it is taking bicycle touring to further levels, with off the road or gravel road excursions. I find the book not entirely satisfying since it is very cursory on bicycle details, and the camping aspects could be found in any backpacking book, including his own books.

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Nov 14

HillPCT

Are You Ready to Hike the Pacific Crest Trail? by Jim Hill ★★★ Read on Kindle
I have already read (and reviewed) several chronicles of people who hiked the PCT. I selected this since it was highly recommended on Amazon.com, and was done by a person close to my age. Jim had already hiked the Appalachian Trail, and wrote a book on it. I presume he will next hike the Continental Divide Trail and write a book. Jim writes well, and it is fun to follow his story. He doesn’t talk much about planning the hike or decision making during the hike, and tends to lapse on details about the trail that would have been quite easy to chronicle. He spends minimal time describing how he approached various problems on the hike, such as water in the desert (just “toughed it out since I was from New Mexico”)  food issues, bear and critter issues, river fording, or issues of communication. You learn a lot about a dental problem half way through the hike, and other trivial problems that Jim deals with. The result is book that is not terribly helpful at helping one plan a complete hike. The story is fairly uneventful (which one would want when the thru-hike the PCT) and so lacks in those qualities which make a book a gripping tale.  It is nice to see that an old goat like myself can comfortably do the PCT, and for that, it was an inspiration.

Lipsmaking

Lip-Smackin’ Backpackin’, by Christine and Tim Conners ★★★★
This book is mostly a cookbook for trail food. Many of the recipes called for much home preparation, including using a food dehydrator, and a few expected a modest amount of attention to the stove while on the trail. Many of the recipes were not particularly appealing to me, but probably would do fine on a hike, as we all learn that one’s appetite changes quite extremely once one is in on a trail for more than a week. Thus, some of these recipes will definitely be worth trying out. The greatest value in this book is the first 42 pages, where the authors talk about planning and preparing meals for the “big” hike. With those concepts in mind, it would not be challenging to come up with a set of one’s own recipes for a successful trail gourmet.

WildWild, starring Reese Witherspoon, based on the book by the same name, authored by Cheryl Strayed★★★
This is movie that Betsy and I watched on DVD, and is apparently based on a true story. Reese does a good acting job, and quite hilarious at times, such as her first attempt to put on her massively overweight backpack. I give the movie four stars for the acting and cinema photography, and one star for the story line itself. It  is not a book that I would be interested in reading. Cheryl apparently was living a rather screwed up life in Minnesota, and decided to take a long hike on the PCT to resolve issues such as problem marital and sexual relationships, the death of a mother, and drug addiction. In spite of very poor mechanisms for resolving problems (such as losing a shoe), she amazingly survives the trail, and completes the PCT from Mojave to Cascade Locks. I did not enjoy watching a pathological person behaving in a pathological fashion… it wasn’t cute. I did enjoy Reese’s acting, and the filming was phenomenal. It makes me want to do the trail some day before I get too old.

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Nov 14

SnappingKupelian

The Snapping of the American Mind, by David Kupelian ★★★★★

The title of this book had an immediate appeal to me, since I also think that we are now witnessing mass insanity with the American public. Kupelian works for an internet news site called World Net Daily, and is one of the contributing editors to the site. He also has written several other books, one that I have previously reviewed, “The Marketing of Evil”.

Kupelian takes aim at a number of aspects of American “group-think” that has gone off the deep end. These include…

a) The media is the first subject of attack, noting how it has become malignant in its attack against what they consider outside of their personal worldview. Whether it be promoting hate for conservative politicians, or obscene anti-religious erotic art, or labeling conservatives as terrorists, the loss of civility in the media has been heavily influential on snapping the minds of its audience.

b) We have blurred our historical values to be unrecognizable and definitely anti-Judeo-Christian. A replacement with Marxist philosophy has happened almost unnoticeably, and is often confused with just another variety of Christianity, a kinder and gentler version.

c) Government and other movements sowing seeds of disinformation in society that is intended to unsettle the foundations of our current government and bend the minds of the hoi polloi into a socialistic mindset. Discussion about the Alinsky revolutionary methods of confusing the public and breeding revolt are explained and developed.

d) Words have become meaningless. The traditional meaning for normal words no longer mean what we “think” they mean. This has bred such confusions as the movement for political correctness and Orwellian opposite definitions (eg freedom is slavery, war is peace, etc.).

e) Urban vs. rural issues. Kupelian notes that the radical division is not with conservatives vs liberals, or Democrats vs Republicans, but almost entirely urban vs rural. The way our nation votes and acts can almost be predicted on whether you live in the big city, or out in the countryside. Cities have become the hotbeds of confused ideology.

f) Kupelian discusses the drug wars, in which I slightly disagree with him, in that he labors long over marijuana, which has been a silly drug to outlaw, and certainly not as destructive as alcohol. Yet, he is correct that drugs are a problem in American society with our massive use of anti-psychotic, antidepressant, anti-ADH, anti-whatever drugs that are hawked on the public.

g) America seems to be addicted to anything and everything, from drugs, to overeating, to pornography, to alcohol, to whatever, and that rather than call it a “sin”, it becomes medicalized and treated as an illness like the chickenpox.

h) America has allowed itself to become entirely confused as to gender issues. Developing the idea that kids can mis-interpret themselves in the problem of anorexia nervosa, it seems to follow that gender identity issues may be similar. Except that the new American public thought sewer, children should be allowed to be confused regarding sexual identity. How sexual identity issues could be promoted and institutionalized  remains a massive delusion.

Solution? Kupelian first argues that America needs to get a grip on themselves and wake up to the problem. He frets at a solution, since “while a deluded president can be replaced at the next election, one cannot replace a deluded population”. Kupelian discourages defeatism and encourages making one’s voice noted, whether at the voting booth or in public forum, or in acts of public disobedience. He encourages taking care of the self, whether it be by nutrition and exercise, meditation or rest. The gist of his encouragement is to rise above anger and bitterness, and combat the current world system as a faithful Christian.

This summary is very short, and the book is loaded with facts, figures and stories of either the mindlessness of our society, or ways in which people have enacted to “fix” our system. I agree with his analysis of the problem. His stated solution is weak.

One item that might be contended with in this book is that when he argues that the American mind has snapped, he makes the bold assumption that his own mind hasn’t snapped.  Without a reference point, it is impossible to know whether one is personally insane, or the remainder of the world is insane. David provides (without actually using this terminology) that his reference point is the Almighty God as found in the Judeo-Christian Bible. The ultimate judge of mankind will be eternity, and I believe that that judgement will be a personal judgement by an infinite personal God. Thus, though many devout Christians with a liberal political mindset will take offense of much of what Kupelian has to say in this book, I appreciate that Kupelian argues from a Scriptural base without a strain on Scriptural interpretation, and that most conservative Christians regardless of theological or denominational stance would agree with the Scriptural spin that Kupelian offers. The only disagreements may be in the solution(s) to the problem, and not identification of the American problem.

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Nov 12

ClarkCornet

Cornet Soloist of the Sousa Band Herbert L. Clarke ★★★★

Herbert Clarke was among the first few generations of trumpet players with a modern three-valved trumpet, and he helped define the nature of virtuosity in trumpet playing. HL Clarke has written many of the trumpet lesson books that exist, and several of which I use on a regular basis. This is a very old historic recording, and the sound is horrid on many of the tracks. The producer admits that they did their best to clean up the recordings and to remove record scratchiness, but it is still a fairly prominent part of the background noise. Even still, it is a delight to hear an early master of the trumpet. While virtuosity today has well exceeded what Clarke demonstrates in these recordings, the Clarke recordings still demonstrate a great mastery of the instrument achieved by few even today.

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