Friday, November 30, 2012

Rambling Thoughts

This is what my computer desktop looks like.  That line of weather widgets going up the middle of the screen are basically the way of the Appalachian Trail.  I thought it quite clever to use a screen shot of a map of the local area with the weather widgets placed in their (somewhat) proper place.  I also include a few nearby places of interest to get a quick snapshot of what is happening weather wise around here.

I like to see what conditions are like on my obsession (The AT) at all times.  This morning looks a mite cool.

At least a few times a day, I dream of getting back on the trail and just walking away.  It obsesses me to no end.  I'm always looking at other's gear lists and seeing what I can add to mine to make it lighter or better equipped.  I read trail journals all the time, living vicariously through them until I can write my own entries.

I have several sections planned.  All I need is the time off to do them. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Simple Woodcraft - Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

Simple Woodcraft
By Joe Harold

First, an Introduction

I’m Joe Harold.  I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and have been in the Coast Guard for over 29 years.  From the time I was very small my parents would pack up the station wagon and head for the woods.  I developed a healthy respect and devoted love for nature from that early age and now I spend as much time as I can in the bush getting my dirt time.  I have always loved camping and woodcraft.  Backpacking the Appalachian Trail is my latest obsession.  I learned early that cooperating with nature instead of trying to compete with it was the way to be successful and to have a good time in the woods. 

Simple Woodcraft is going to be a collection of my thoughts and experiences as I spend time in the woods.  I am by no means an expert.  I am not here to dictate the ONE way a thing is to be done.  Simple Woodcraft’s purpose is to virtually bring you along on a little hike with me.  Maybe start a fire and talk about the things that can be done out here, simply, that make being in the woods a positive experience.

So, come on along, let’s start our first little journey into Simple Woodcraft. 

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

We have all heard this mantra.  It has been explained countless times by many people.  Here is my take on these great words of wisdom. 
When I first heard Gunny Highway rasp out these momentous words, I took heart.  They immediately felt right.  I found that these three words could sum up how to deal with just about every situation a person could encounter in the wild and I saw the potential for these ideas to work well with survival situations in particular.
You have probably also heard it said that the most important tool you can take with you into the bush is the one between your ears.  Applying improvisation and adaptability by using your brain will help you overcome any situation.
What is improvisation?  The definition is ‘To make or provide from available materials’.  It is simply taking things you have with you or around you and using them to accomplish the tasks needed to not only stay alive, but to be comfortable in your environment and to thrive.  Adaptability is simply changing your environment to fit your needs or your attitude to deal with your environment, so that you can be successful in staying alive.  To overcome is to find a way to make your current situation either better or at least bearable. 
The final goal is to always overcome.  You overcome your situation, you don’t beat nature.  Finding a way to work with nature and not against it is the trick to overcoming a bad situation.
I always try to have at least a few items with me at all times when I enter the woods that will help me improvise, adapt or overcome just about any situation.  At the very least I try to have a cutting tool and a means to make fire.  There are times though that you can unexpectedly be thrust into a survival situation with nothing at all.  Using that most important tool, your brain, which hopefully you can never leave behind, is what you will need to overcome. 
For me, as I improvise items at camp, my attitude improves greatly.  “My” forest is about eleven acres that are surrounded by housing developments.  There is no natural water flowing through these woods, but I really enjoy spending time here and practicing my woodcraft skills.  In these woods, there are really no natural rocks in the ground or on the surface.  I like to have a rock fire ring and also to build a nice reflector that blocks the prevailing wind and bounces that heat towards me.   People like to dump their yard waste at the edge of the forest and for some wise guy; a bunch of broken cement was considered yard waste.  I like to call it urbanite and it works fine as a fire ring/reflector. 

For me, adaptation is usually in my head.  I can make just about any situation better by going through a few mind exercises to align my attitude and make my situation better.  Keeping a positive attitude can’t be emphasized enough.  If you can see the bright side and the possibilities of any situation, you can overcome the obstacles that are in your way.  I never let weather get me down.  If I’m not dressed completely perfect and it is cold out, I will build a debris hut and snuggle down with the leaf litter to keep my core temperature where it needs to be.  Fire is always our friend.  I know you all have noticed how your spirits will raise up as you warm your hands over a nice crackling fire.  Not only is it a morale booster, but it is an integral part of keeping you alive, with a multitude of uses such as keeping you warm, sterilizing your water and cooking our food.  Fire should always be a top priority when you are in a situation that needs taking care of.
So, find a place to play in the dirt.  Remember to use what you have and what you can find to improvise and adapt your environment to what you need it to be, and you will overcome each time.  Just remember that without that “most important tool”, you may get yourself in trouble, so exercise it every chance you get. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Wish A Day

I think I am going to counter the numerous selfless posters who expressed something they were thankful for each day of November by expressing a selfish Christmas wish each day of December.  There are a lot of things I would love to have, but I don't plan on getting any of this stuff.  A guy can make all the wishes he wants.  Wish me luck...

Friday, November 16, 2012

30 Things

I was looking through my work laptop yesterday as I get ready to clean it up for my relief and I found this document that I must have written quite some time ago.  Time to share it with... well, since no one reads this, I'm just sharing it with the Interwebs.  Enjoy.

  1. I secretly hope for something to happen so I can use my self-reliant/survival skills.
  2. I think the best survival tool you have is the one that you have had your whole life and it resides in your cranium. 
  3. I like making fires
  4. I like smelling like smoke.  (Campfire smoke, not cigarette smoke).
  5. I have learned from adventure racing that a person can do a lot more then they think they can.
  6. There is nothing better than a sharp knife.
  7. I am an early morning person.
  8. I really like the moon.
  9. The more you know the less you need.
  10. Two is one and one means you may need to improvise.
  11. The best tasting beer from your batch of home brew is the last one of the batch.
  12. I love four seasons. 
  13. My wife is my best friend.
  14. I don’t like watercraft with engines.  Human powered all the way.
  15. Mountain biking takes a sense of gravity and a faith that it will take you the right way.
  16. Falling off a mountain bike due to gravity hurts.
  17. I find peace in the sound of running water.
  18. I love the smell of new fallen leaves
  19. I was a major slacker in high school. 
  20. I have learned since high school that it takes work to advance in life.
  21. I hate all Geico commercials.
  22. I know how to make fire with a bow drill.
  23. My superpower is cooking by instinct.
  24. I would love to move to the country and live simply.
  25. My favorite sport (to play) is Wallyball.
  26. My favorite sport (to watch) is Steeler Football.
  27. I hate when Facebook statuses try to command or guilt you into re-posting their post.  Be creative and original please.
  28. I haven’t lived in Pennsylvania for over 27 years, but I’m still “from” Pittsburgh and it will always be “home”.
  29. I just realized that each of the people in my family have been born in a different season.  Me – Fall, Lisa – Spring, Shauni – Winter, Brandi – Summer.  Cool!
  30. I don’t believe in religion.  The Divine is in all of us…

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Standing on the Stump

After the election, when everyone was predicting all that gloom and doom, I decided it was my turn to speak my mind on the old FaceBook.  I rarely converse in the language of politics, but I have been thinking about this for a while, so here is what I posted:

It is my turn to jump up on the stump for a minute. It will probably be TLDR, so if your attention span is short (like mine), go look for some pictures of puppies instead of reading this.

(TLDR: Politics suck-Don't blame one person-quit yr whining and get back to work-I may be Jaded)

I'm not going to Google a bunch of useless stats to prove my point. This is just my opinion and we all know th
ose are just like assholes, everyone has one and they usually stink. But here we go.

I have had five different commanders-in-chief (CIC) during my 29 plus years of serving my country. I have to say that I can't completely complain about any of them. Some were better than others, but I think being in the military, a lot of the bad was buffered in some ways. I kept getting annual pay raises, although sometimes not as much as I wanted, and my life has generally improved each year of my service.

Now, this improvement really has nothing to do with who my CIC was. It has everything to do with having a steady job, getting a decent wage and not living beyond my means. I can't see how some people think ONE person can affect so many others. It just isn't so in my book.

The CIC is the top of the top. Only in the most dire circumstances does the CIC get involved in the leading of the troops. He has plenty of leaders who usually handle that job, but ultimately we all answer to the CIC, and we all serve him, no matter which political party he (or we) affiliate with.

I abhor politics. Having been pretty close to the political process for quite a few years here in DC, I have seen the messy, ugly underbelly of politics. I don't like what I see. First of all, politicians don't truly serve the public. They serve their own power. This is super quid-pro-quo land. Nothing gets done unless the politician with the power is going to get something for his or her cooperation. The losers in most of these "deals" are usually the public. Now, I won't say EVERY politician is corrupt, but finding a good one is harder than finding Waldo in a candy cane factory.

The world isn't going to end in the next four years (but if it does, I'm prepared, as everyone should be). Please stop spouting your gloom and doom (you know who you are). Just learn how to keep getting on and you will get on. In four years, you can start posting your negative propaganda against the person you perceive as your enemy and I will promptly mark your posts as spam and move on. (a new hobby of mine). I challenge everyone to not post ANYTHING negative. Try to post ONLY the positive things your candidate will do. I bet you can't do it.

Over the years I have registered as a Republican, Democrat, an Independent and a Libertarian. As you can see, I really don't "Belong" to any one party. I HATE the duopoly of the two party system and since I am all for Liberty and smaller Government, my latest and longest affiliation has been as a Libertarian. Also, don't get me started on the Electoral College. I don't like how that works, but it is what it is, so I'm not going to dwell on it. I will continue to vote for the person I want to have a chance of leading our country, no matter what the odds are of him or her actually getting elected. When you vote for the "lesser of two evils" you are still voting for evil, so think about that the next time you advise someone to do that.

Each of us is given a vote to use as we see fit. No one can tell us how to use it. It is ours alone. We can "waste" it or not even cast it if that is what we want to do. It is our decision. Before you go all "if you don't vote, you can't complain", I call BULLSHIT. No matter what you do with your one true vote, you never give up any of your rights and that includes the 1st Amendment right of free speech. So spare me the whining. In the awesome words of Rush (The Rock Group, not Limbaugh) - "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice" (I know they are Canadians, but I love Rush). It's called Free Will.

I may be jaded. I have had it pretty easy being in the Military for the last three decades. My pay is ok, I get tax free money to help pay for my house, my food and a few other things. My healthcare for myself and my family has been very reasonable and we are so used to the Primary Care Manager way of doing healthcare, that nothing fazes us anymore. I may be in for a very rude awakening come next September when I take off my uniform for the last time and finally enter the scary world of the civilian. Who knows, maybe I'll be one of those rabid political commentators who feel so strong about who gets elected (but I will try to follow my own rule of only posting the POSITIVE things my candidate will do and never post or even "like" any NEGATIVE Shit) Tune in next year to see if I eat crow or maybe, just maybe, find a way to keep on living a decent life no matter who lives in the White House.

If you are still reading, I commend you for sticking with my blather. I welcome your comments, but there is no need to repost, like, share or anything else you don't feel like doing.

Carry on,

Gifts to the Voters

I have lately been getting a kick out of going over to and reading all the funny petitions that people have started demanding to secede from the union.  It's just too funny.  First Louisiana wanted out,  then Texas (which has been wanting out ever since we "forced" them in), then all manner of other states.  Did we learn nothing from the Civil War so long ago?  Do these states understand what seceding from the union means?  Nothing like that is ever done peacefully and when you are out, all the wonderful things that being a part of the United States means goes away too.  Get a grip and get real.

After a day or two a few other petitions popped up calling for the immediate deportation of all those who signed any petition to secede.  This just keeps getting better and better.

This morning I heard that Mittens is still a little bitter about losing.  He was trying to explain to these sad republicans that Obama won because he offered "gifts" to certain groups to vote for him.  I can't wait to see where this one goes.  When do these gifts arrive in the mail?