The eternal excitement, glory and joy of being a noob

My friend Rick (left) and I at the top of Wheeler Peak, NM, in 2003. Check out that cottony, newbie goodness we're wearing.

My friend Rick (left) and I at the top of Wheeler Peak, NM, in 2003. Check out that cottony, newbie goodness we’re wearing.

If there is a title that nobody wants but everyone’s had, it’s that of being the newbie.

The noob.

A rookie.

We’ve all had our turn at being a beginner, a gaper, or whatever other term that is used to describe someone who is new to climbing, skiing, mountaineering or whatever. Usually we’re desperate to shuck that label, learning the lingo of the sport, buying all the right gear and going for “the look” of someone who has been there and done that, as if wearing/using the right brand of stuff will give us an outdoorsy version of “the thousand-yard stare” or something.

As for me, guilty as charged. Years later I ask myself, why the hell did I do that?

One of the glories of being a noob is the excitement of the “new.” You might remember it: You saw something that looked awesome, and decided you wanted to try it. So you made your plans, prepared for the task, and then got it done. The anticipation of the reaching the goal, and the satisfaction of having done it, is one of the sweetest rewards in life.

I remember a few years ago, I’d just gotten into the peak-bagging thing and was consuming stories and books about it like a starving man at Thanksgiving. Many of the most compelling stories I saw involved ascending on snow, and in my book, I couldn’t be a “real mountaineer” unless I attempted a snow climb. (For the record, I still don’t consider myself a “real mountaineer”).

I hit up my buddy Johnny on the idea. Being the kind of guy he is, he agreed to play along. We picked a mountain, found a date, and let those newbie vibes propel us toward an adventure neither of us had ever done before.

It felt awesome.

***

I’ve been drawn to the mountains ever since I was a kid, growing up in the suburbs of Denver with the Rockies an ever-present visual any time I looked toward the west. But for all the childhood camping, fishing and other adventures in the high country, I never visited to top of one of these titanic piles of rock.

Years later, my brother Mike got into hiking and climbing the Fourteeners, Colorado’s peaks that top 14,000 feet. He’d tell stories of the hardships and rewards of reaching these high summits, and the photographs he showed me – glorious vistas, dizzying drop-offs, and other amazing sights – compelled me to consider taking on that challenge.

But it was one I knew next to nothing about.

I remember going on vacation in Red River, New Mexico, having a good time exploring that town and some of the others in a region called the Enchanted Circle of that state’s Sangre de Cristo range. Included in that was a whitewater rafting trip, which would normally be the highlight of such a vacation.

But what stuck out was the morning I looked outside my window, stared at Red River’s ski mountain, and decided I was going to hike to its summit.

So that’s what I did. I don’t remember how long it took, how lengthy the route was, or anything like that. But I do remember feeling pretty rad hiking to the top – somewhere over 10,000 feet – and waiting on all the people who taken a ski-lift ride to the top. They rode up. I got there under my own power.

My gear: Jeans, a cotton T-shirt, a jacket and a pair of steel-toed work boots, with a dead tree branch used as a walking stick. You know, typical noob stuff.

***

Me on Mount Shavano, going up the summit pitch.

Me on Mount Shavano, going up the summit pitch.

A lot of planning went into that snow climb. I wasn’t so dumb as to pick a mountain that was out of my league. We chose familiar ground – Mount Shavano, a mountain I’d summited five years before in summer conditions with my oldest brother. In the winter and spring, there are three ribbons of snow that look like a stick figure with its arms signaling “touchdown!” in a gully leading to a saddle between Shavano’s summit and another nearby, lesser peak.

It’s called the Angel of Shavano, and if you’re going to pick a first-time snow climb on the Fourteeners, this is the route you choose. It’s not too steep, and in late spring, avalanche danger is minimal. If you catch it early enough in the spring, more snow will be with you all the way to the summit.

Here’s the problem: Johnny and I don’t live anywhere near a mountain where you could practice snow climbing. Sure, you can buy the gear – crampons, an ice axe, a helmet, etc. – but that won’t mean anything unless you get to actually use that gear.

Of course, that didn’t stop us. We bought the gear online and watched videos on how to self-arrest. That would work, right?

So in early June, we packed up my rig and drove to Buena Vista, Colorado, checked into a hotel and tried on our crampons for the first time. The next day, we’d see what this whole “snow climbing” thing was all about.

***

That New Mexico trip lit a bit of a fire in me. The day after hiking that ski mountain, I picked up a brochure on some of the more popular hikes in the Red River area. One of them was Wheeler Peak, the state’s highest mountain, described as “extremely strenuous” and a good 20 miles round-trip from the East Fork trailhead. I hiked a little of that trail that day, clearly not expecting to top out, but just wanting to see what it looked like.

The next year, I was back. I did some serious planning for this one, picking up real hiking boots (as it turns out, steel-toed work boots are not ideal), a day pack (complete with water bladder!) and what more or less qualified as the ten essentials. I recruited my brother Mike and a friend named Rick to give it a shot.

The one thing we had going for us was we were all in excellent shape. It helped that Mike had done hikes like this many times before, so this wouldn’t be the blind leading the blind, so to speak.

But our noob-ness showed. In choosing to return to Wheeler Peak, I’d picked a walk-up (good choice!) but also one with what turned out to be 21 miles of hiking, all of it over 9,000 feet. That’s a big day for anyone, especially for a couple of beginners. And while my footwear choice was good, I was still wearing cotton clothing and sporting a dead tree branch as a walking stick.

But our hubris was rewarded. The weather held out, our conditioning was adequate, and we reached Wheeler’s summit and got back to the car in less than 10 hours. To this day, it ranks as one of my favorite summit hikes, and it turned a curiosity into an obsession. In the months to come, I devoured all things mountaineering.

I was going full-on noob.

***

Johnny and I hiked awhile before we spotted a place where we could traverse and reach the snowfield of the Angel of Shavano Couloir. We’d missed the place where we were supposed to turn, but no matter. We could get there now.

Soon we were at the couloir’s base. We stopped, ate some food, and strapped on our crampons. The helmet came next. Winds were barreling down on us through the gap in the saddle above, but the skies were mostly clear as we, for the first time in our lives, kick-stepped our way up the couloir.

There is a rhythm to this type of hiking that is far different than the normal slog up a trail: Kick, set the ice axe in the snow, step up, then kick again. Traction was good, and we methodically reached the saddle, then turned our attention to the summit pitch. Mixed snow and rock lay before us until we reached the summit slopes, and then a thick blanket of snow all the way to the top. It was as if the lords of winter had set a path upward, covering the rocks and tundra of the mountain with a magical substance that made the climb easier, more interesting, and even a bit more scenic.

It taxed us – neither of us were in great shape, but before long, we’d topped out. Two snow-climbing newbies from Oklahoma showed up and got it done. It felt pretty rad, that I might be able to graduate from being a mere hiker to being christened a “mountaineer.” Years later, I know better. But on that summit, it was a real consideration.

Might we be recognized for our outdoor excellence? Did we finally have that thousand-yard stare? Had we earned the right to be elevated from the ranks of the newbies?

Nope. Not yet. That would become apparent soon enough.

***

So. Much. Noob. And so much awesome. The crew on Mount Belford, 2004.

So. Much. Noob. And so much awesome. The crew on Mount Belford, 2004.

The excitement of the noob takes on many forms, but there are a few common threads. One of those has to do with gear.

A lot of time is spent researching what gear you need, what brands work best, and the kinds of outer wear that will keep you warm and dry during your time in the alpine. I remember spending significant time online, shopping different retailers for all the stuff I wanted: Tents, backpacks, sleeping pads, socks, boots, sleeping bags, camp stoves, and so forth. When not online, I haunted a few local outdoor shops, spending far too long drooling over gear I could never afford but eventually walking out with something I figured I needed. Many lifelong gear junkies are born during this stage of noobism, and I now possess enough stuff to lend to like-minded friends.

I also recall spending hours on online forums and different hiking and mountaineering websites, perusing trip reports, route descriptions and topical discussions, even weighing in a few times when I felt I had enough knowledge to actually add something to the conversation. I believe I reached this level of expertise and wisdom after collecting four summits. Or was it five? Anyway…

You would figure that all this preparation, time and monetary expense would have quickened the learning curve, but it ain’t so. Noobism tends to hang around awhile, sticking to you like a bad cold. And that brings me to a second thread: Learning the hard way.

It took me a few mistakes to get a better handle on how to do the backpacking/hiking/mountaineering thing. I remember being annoyed at the mosquitoes below treeline while hiking Mount Elbert, so I reached into my bag and applied plenty of DEET-infused bug spray to keep the little buggers away. Wanting to be sure every bit of exposed skin was protected, I sprayed some on my hands, then rubbed the stuff onto my neck, cheeks and forehead.

Mike and I on Mount Elbert in 2005. By then, some of the noob had worn off of me, but not much.

Mike and I on Mount Elbert in 2005. By then, some of the noob had worn off of me, but not much.

Total noob move. Anytime I’m hiking uphill (especially at elevation), my body is working hard. I’ve long contended that I’m one of the sweatiest humans on earth, and this is true even on a cool alpine morning. The combination of my sweat and newly applied DEET was not a good one, as the stuff ran down my face and into my mouth. I can tell you through experience that DEET tastes terrible and will make your lips go numb. You can thank me for that pro tip later.

I also learned that when choosing foods for a backpacking trip, canned tuna, MREs and self-heating dinners aren’t the best options. All of them have a good deal of water in them, and that extra weight will make your pack go from a reasonable 35 to 40 pounds to 50 to 60 in a hurry. That, and the extra cotton hoodies and whatever other extra crap I used to bring.

Speaking of crap, it’s also wise to bring toilet paper, and to make sure that your toilet paper is in a waterproof container. Backpacks usually aren’t waterproof, and toilet paper loses its effectiveness when getting drenched by rain. A self-sealing baggie will do wonders to solve that problem, unless you simply omit bringing it altogether.

On the backpacking trip where I was learning these valuable nuggets of knowledge, some of my buddies were getting the hard-knocks treatment as well. For some reason, everyone on the newbie crowd thinks it’s cool – nay, even necessary – to attach as much shit as possible to the outside of your pack. I don’t advise that, especially if your gear is hanging on the bottom of your pack. All that junk swinging around and hitting the back of your legs is no way to hike.

And then there was the gun. Another member of my party sported an enormous pack, strapped a hydration pack to his chest, and a leather holster with a .40-caliber revolver, loaded and ready to roll. Revolvers ain’t light, and it took about a quarter mile of hiking, huffing and puffing before the decision was made to go back to the trailhead, hide the gun in the van and lock it up tight.

We survived all these newbie mistakes. Not only that, but both trips ended up being a good time. Most of us ended up topping out and coming back with good stories about the mountain. Some of us even decided that we should keep doing this stuff, even though camping on the cold ground is decidedly uncomfortable, as is straining for breath above 12,000 feet and running away from afternoon thunderstorms that toss hail and lightning upon you out of the blue. I guess we could just do an all-inclusive tropical vacation in the Caribbean, but really, where is the fun in that?

You can’t summit a beach, and the gear for a week at Sandals isn’t nearly as cool. But that’s probably the noob in me talking.

***

Johnny on Mount Shavano. He's the least noobish noob I've ever known. He did awesome on what was our first snow climb in 2009.

Johnny on Mount Shavano. He’s the least noobish noob I’ve ever known. He did awesome on what was our first snow climb in 2009.

I’d be lying if I said everything went according to plan for Johnny and I. Yes, we did properly use our new-fangled snow gear, and we summited Mount Shavano without skidding down a slope and breaking our necks. It’s not a huge accomplishment, given the ease of this particular snow climb. But we do get credit for a successful outing.

However, we broke a couple of rules. For one, we topped out well after noon. Maybe something like 1:30 in the afternoon, which will get a whole lot of finger-wagging, dismissive looks and maybe a couple of lectures from the non-noob crowd. I’m OK with that. We dodged a bullet, or more precisely, an afternoon storm.

But we were admittedly not in the best shape of our lives, and we felt it going down. Shavano’s trail is rough, and we arrived back at the trailhead beat up. Our knees, backs and ankles were all singing a chorus of “why do you do this crap to us?” in an angry harmony.

But that wasn’t my worst sin (Johnny gets a pass here). Not even close. And it’s something I wouldn’t realize until later that night.

We were far too tired to do the big victory dinner back in Salida. Instead, we opted to hit a Subway, crawl back to the motel in Buena Vista and turn in early. Gluttony at a local pizzeria would have to wait.

But as I was sleeping, I woke up feeling dampness on my face. I figured it might be sweat, but I wasn’t hot, nor did I feel sick. And the stuff was sticky to the touch.

As it turns out, the moisture I was feeling was the gunk that normally appears when you become so sunburned that your skin blisters. And that makes sense, because that’s what happened. Worst of all, it was totally avoidable. Let’s rewind.

Back on the ascent, when we stopped to don our mighty crampons and unhitch our fearsome ice axes from our packs, I left one small detail out. Even though it was in my pack, I forgot to apply sunscreen.

In the words of Rick Perry, “Oops.”

This is a multifaceted problem. First, all noobs are told to bring – and use – sunscreen, because the sun at high altitudes is particularly intense. Thinner air and closer proximity to that giant ball of atomic fire means more radiation is zapping your unsuspecting epidermis. Sunburns are easy to get in the high country.

But wait! There’s more. When you’re on a snowfield, you get double the pleasure as rays from the sun are reflected off the snow. If the direct sunlight doesn’t get you, the reflected sunlight will.

And we’re not done yet! Remember how I said how windy it was that day? As it happens, the wind was blowing right in our face at a steady 35 mph, gusting to over 50. Chafing from wind burns is actually a thing.

The predictable result was my face turning into a blistered, scabbed-up mess that made me look like a monster. An inexperienced, noobified gaper of a monster.

I’m more careful about sunscreen now.

Years later, I’ve tackled more peaks, done tougher ascents and perhaps, in the minds of some, finally moved on from the newbie stage. But in my mind, I’m still there. I don’t feel too far removed from noobland because I know where I stand in comparison to some of my friends who have climbed most or all 58 of the Fourteeners (I’m not even halfway there). And for them, they are a few steps behind those who climb these things in winter. Or those who have climbed the glaciated giants of the Cascades, Alaska, Mexico and South America. And those people look like lightweights compared to the mountaineers who ply their skills in the Alps, the Himalayas and the Karakoram.

Besides, there are benefits to keeping the newbie spirit alive. I’d hate to get to the point where some mountain hikes are “beneath me,” or I get too jaded because of the growing crowds of first-timers clogging the trails. I never want to lose the enthusiasm I had when I hiked Wheeler Peak back in 2003, or when my friends joined me a year later on our Colorado backpacking trip.

The mountains offer varying degrees of sufferfests – sometimes by their nature, other times by our own hand – but for a bunch of us, the allure never dies unless we let it. And I don’t want to. Experience is awesome, and it makes you safer, more capable, and able to do more in the peaks. My wish, no matter how many mountains I climb, is to keep the sense of wonder alive as long as I can, to view each summit through the eyes of a guy who is a newcomer to the high country, much like I was years ago in northern New Mexico on a fine July day.

I’ll just remember to leave the cotton T-shirt at home and to apply the sunscreen. Liberally.

Want to read more great newbie stories? Lose yourself in this glorious thread.

Bob Doucette

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What it’s like to be the World’s Sweatiest Human

What I'm like, an hour after a run. No joke. Well, sort of a joke.

What I’m like, an hour after a run. No joke. Well, sort of a joke.

As I’m writing this, the high temperature here in the Southern Plains hit 97 degrees. Yeah, while most of you are talking about fall foliage and pumpkin spice, summer still has a firm grip on my environs.

And that brings me to the subject here. I think I might be the World’s Sweatiest Human. Not really kidding about that, either. When the outside temps hit 70 or more, it doesn’t take much more than a casual stroll to get my sweat glands working.

(Now I know there are people with medical conditions of various sorts who are actually sweatier than me, but hey, just go with it.)

I’m a pretty active person, and most of my activity takes me outside. So this, combined with the fact that it’s been anywhere from very warm to hellishly hot/humid over the past four to five months, has given me plenty of time and experience to contemplate the woes of being the World’s Sweatiest Human (WSH for short). And because I exist, in some form or another, to entertain you, I feel compelled (if not outright mandated) to overshare this experience. So here we go, with some observations of being the WSH:

Cold water, please: I can count the number of hot showers I’ve taken this summer on one hand. Work schedules mean that I train before my shift starts, and that means cleaning up for the job is an exercise not only in hygiene, but also cooling off. Cold showers are mandatory, even if they’re uncomfortable. I probably won’t regularly take hot (or even warm) showers for another month.

Longest hour ever:  The process of cooling down after a summer run usually takes 50 minutes. I’m not joking. Almost an hour before I stop sweating. And this creates logistical challenges…

Dress code:  It’s not unusual for me to wear a raggedy T-shirt to work, using the commute time to cool down and then change out of that sweat-soaked shirt into work attire. Fun, huh?

Can I get an amen?  It also means that when I first get to the office, I’m  fanning myself like grandma during the old-time gospel hour at Country Road Baptist Church. Lawd, help me.

Drip factor = extreme: After any given outdoor workout, I can wring the sweat from my clothes like I’d just gotten caught in a downpour. Puddles ensue. It’s kinda gross.

Constant spin cycle: During the course of the week, I generate more laundry than three normal people combined. Also kinda gross.

Me > tech fabrics:  Moisture-wicking fabrics have no power over me. They just get very wet and stinky instead of merely stinky.

Hot and cold: This is a problem during alpine hikes, where profuse sweat, cold temps and windy conditions leave me vulnerable to hypothermia. Yes, I layer. No, it doesn’t help that much on the uphill. Apparently, I am immune to layering.

I could go on, but you get the point. I suppose I could run shirtless, thus cutting my laundry volume in half, but I’m not sure anyone wants to see that.

But such is life for the World’s Sweatiest Human. I’m not about to stop, and I’m glad that my body works the it’s supposed to and that I manage to stay hydrated. Just know that if you want to give me a hug, a chest bump or even a high-five after a workout, you’re gonna up your daily “ewww” factor a couple of notches.

You’ve been warned.

Bob Doucette

Seven of the most annoying behaviors on the trail

We love and revere the outdoors. It’s the place where we play, relax, recharge and find some peace. Usually, it’s a combination of all of those things, and a good escape from that which annoys us in our non-outdoors world.

But all too often, those annoyances follow us to our outdoor happy places. Getting outside is becoming more popular, and it would seem the newbies sometimes don’t know the rules, or like to transfer, shall we say, certain behaviors from the ‘burbs to the backcountry.

So let’s take a look at our top outdoor annoyances…

An embarrassing collection of summit signs.

An embarrassing collection of summit signs, thankfully hauled out by this guy (Ben Perry photo/14ers.com Facebook page).

Summit signs being left behind. It’s cool to bag peaks, especially the high ones, the tough ones, or even your first ones. A lot of folks will bring a piece of paper or cardboard with the name of the peak, its elevation and the date it was climbed and use it to pose for a summit victory photo. No problems so far, unless these people decide to leave their signs behind. This is littering, and a serious sin in the backcountry. Even if you’re leaving it for someone else to make their own bragging-rights shot, it’s still wrong. Bring that sign, make that photograph, slap it on Facebook. But don’t you dare leave it there. Pack that thing out.

Whether it's chalk art or something more permanent, this grates on me. Leave the rocks alone.

Whether it’s chalk art or something more permanent, this grates on me. Leave the rocks alone.

Defacing rocks. I really hate this one. I see this too often where I run trails, and I’ve seen plenty of photos of people making their own “art” on ancient rocks, or writing messages on stones. This can even be combined with the summit sign thing, where people will write, with a Sharpie, the name of the peak and its elevation, then pose for a photograph. Whether you’re this douche, or Casey Nocket (the Creepytings “artist”) or just some fool tagging rocks, please stop. No one wants to see your markings, even if it’s in chalk. Plus, defacing rocks is actually a crime.

That bear selfie might get you hundreds of likes in Instagram, but is it worth it?

That bear selfie might get you hundreds of likes on Instagram, but is it worth it?

Wildlife selfies. Talk about needless risks. I’ve come to grips with the fact that people are addicted to selfies of all sorts, and even carry selfie sticks for the purpose of making those epic self portraits more epic-er. Gag, but I get it. But next-level gag — the wildlife selfie — is dangerous. People who spot bears, buffalo, moose or other creatures of the woods have gone out of their way to get close, turn their back to the animal, then grin for their camera, only to get attacked by the creature. In two cases in California, a couple of guys took selfies with rattlesnakes. Both got bit, and were lucky to live. But they also got tagged with six-figure medical bills. Keep your distance, respect wildlife, and don’t take your eye off a wild creature until you’re a safe distance away.

Funny in a text. Not funny if you step in it on the trail.

Funny in a text. Not funny if you step in it on the trail.

Defecating/urinating on the route. I’m not sure this needs to be said, but since it happens, well, don’t take a crap on the trail. Don’t pee on a climbing route. Don’t leave your waste where other people are hiking or seeking handholds and footholds.

One day, 150 people, and this is what those people collected in trash on a recent trail cleanup day.

One day, 150 people, and this is part what those people collected in trash on a recent trail cleanup day.

Littering in general. You might not think your lone water bottle, soda cup or candy bar wrapper will make much difference. But it does, especially if enough of you knuckleheads feel the same way. It’s not nearly as bad in the deep backcountry, but in places closer to highways or otherwise easily accessible it’s a massive problem. In a few trail cleanup days, I’ve personally carried out a good 100 pounds of trash. And that’s just me. Yet I still see discarded water bottles, cups and other bits of garbage. Oh, and wildlife sometimes try to eat your junk, which can cause illness and even death. If you can hold on to that drink on the way in, you can carry it out.

Not really my thing, but if you're going to have music on the trail, confine it to your earbuds.

Not really my thing, but if you’re going to have music on the trail, confine it to your earbuds.

Music on the trail. It’s OK to jam to your favorite tunes in the trail. Runners and hikers do it all the time. It’s not really my thing — I’d rather hear the sounds of the woods. But I don’t fault people wanting to hear their playlists or podcasts. But here’s the thing — no one else wants to hear it. So keep the music flowing… through your earbuds. When I’m trying to bag a peak or run some miles, I don’t want to hear you Whip and Nae Nae.

Too. Many. Cairns. (downeast.com photo)

Too. Many. Cairns. (downeast.com photo)

Excessive cairn-building. Building cairns has been a practice that dates back centuries, usually to mark territory or places of significance. In more recent times, cairns are used to show people what direction a route is going. But people like stacking rocks. Rock-stacking has become sort of hipster cool, like quadruple IPAs, fancy lattes or vinyl records. That’s fine and all, but it’s getting out of hand in some places (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). A beautiful lakeshore can be riddled with people’s rock “art,” spoiling an otherwise notable view. Worse yet, a random cairn made for your enjoyment might confuse a hiker and send him or her the wrong way. This is a serious issue in the backcountry. So come on, people. Let’s give the optional cairn thing a rest.

Those are a few of mine. How about you? Feel free to share your gripes and groans in the comments.

NOTE: A couple of readers noted that a “bear selfie” image was actually a digitally altered photo. It’s been replaced with an actual “bear selfie” image. Thanks for the heads up!

Bob Doucette

A shameless plug to be your outdoor NASCAR

The message in this thoughtfully posed photograph: LET ME PIMP YOUR STUFFFF!!!!

The message in this thoughtfully posed photograph: LET ME PIMP YOUR STUFFFF!!!!

So I’ve been regularly writing about outdoorsy stuff for more than six years now. First, for a blog at a former employer (I dare you to find the Out There blog on NewsOK.com), and for the past three-plus years, here on this site. Beyond just enjoying the subject matter, I’ve learned a bunch about how social media plays a part in how these sites work.

Corporate America has paid attention, too. Some of my favorite outdoor writers get decent advertising on their sites and sponsorship deals do to rad things. I’ve had a small slice of that pie (thank you, Salomon!), but for the most part, I really think all those gear companies and travel outfits are missing out. I’m what they call in the biz “unsponsored.” But I could be a better billboard for your stuff than a NASCAR driver.

Don’t believe me? Let me just give you a rundown of the stuff I had with me and the role it all played in my latest outing, paired with clever slogans that took me an entire five seconds to compose:

Nissan Murano: Even though it’s 11 years old, it’ll get you there. And serve as your shelter.

The North Face: We’ll keep you warm. Even in the back of an old-ish car.

Thermarest: We’ll make the back of that car comfy.

Columbia: Maker of the Omni-Wick and Omni-Shield. We’ll keep you warm when you’re walking.

The U.S. Defense Department: Our “hiking pants” are better than yours. OORAH!

Merrell: The Goodyear of foot-powered locomotion since, well, awhile. Or should Goodyear be called the Merrell of car-powered travel since… I dunno. Whatever. They’re my shoes.

Smith & Wesson: We make knives, too!

Mossberg: Peace through superior firepower for car campers nationwide. #ClickClickBoom

Remington: Got buckshot? We do.

Icebreaker: Keepin’ noggins warm for generations of wanderers everywhere. Even Oklahoma.

Bass Pro Shops: Maker of Red Head socks, which keep your tootsies just as warm as stuff three times the price.

Apple: The iPhone 5: It’s a camera. It’s a phone. It’s the raddest electronic ball-and-chain on the planet. Well, until we put out the 6. And the 6-plus. Yeah, those are better.

Tecate: The official beer of post-hike dinosaur-track observing.

Now I figure I could hastag my way into outdoor social media stardom and become the next “it guy” for outdoor retailers everywhere. But I prefer to cut to the chase. Just read those pitches. Bask in their glory (but don’t steal ‘em; that would be rude). Just listen to the cha-ching that would go along with a picture of your product worn/carried/driven/pimped out by me; I’ll do my best to look all pensive/serious/rad/epic. Maybe do all that with a selfie stick.

As much as this will be a game-changer for you, it will be life-changing for me. Hopefully I’ll have time between all these sponsorship deals and guest appearances to, you know, do stuff.

Maybe I need an agent…

Bob Doucette

The list: Pros and cons of backpacking

Backpacking is awesome. Sometimes. (Matt Carver photo)

Backpacking is awesome. Sometimes. (Matt Carver photo)

If you’ve ever spent any time in a wilderness, you know there are good and bad sides of the experience. All of it makes for some fun stories, fond memories and more than a few laughs.

I just got back from a short backpacking trip in the San Juan Range of Colorado. Aside from not being used to the backpacking thing (it’s been awhile since I’ve truly been “backpacking”), there are a lot of little things that stand out to me. So what follows is a list of pros and cons to leaving home and heading out into the bush for awhile…

Pro: Leaving behind all the bad news you get inundated with via TV, websites and social media. For four days, I didn’t hear a word about war, Obamacare, shootings, the tea party or any of that other crap that drives people a little crazy. My biggest debate was whether or not I would dare to leave my tent and go out in the rain to go pee or just hold it awhile longer.

Con: Coming back to civilization and being run over by war, crime, Obamacare, the tea party and all of the other crap that drives people crazy.

Pro: Not really having to worry about what you look like or smell like for several days.

Con: Smelling yourself in your clothes and sleeping bag, and then seeing what you look like when you come back into civilization. Nothing quite as unsexy as the underbeard, otherwise known as the neck beard.

Pro: Being overjoyed by the little things, like the taste of summer sausage your campmate shared, the sound of a nearby creek, and nailing it when it comes to taking the perfect poop (don’t judge until you’ve done it).

Con: Having to poop in the woods. Eww.

Seeing wildlife is cool. But sometimes wildlife is annoying. And gross.

Seeing wildlife is cool. But sometimes wildlife is annoying. And gross.

Pro: Seeing wildlife, like mountain goats, marmots, deer and other critters you otherwise might see outside of a zoo.

Con: Putting up with their behavior in camp, whether it be marmots stealing food/clothes (they do that) or mountain goats ravaging that bush you peed on just for a taste of salt. Again, eww.

Seeing stuff like this is why I hike and climb mountains. I kinda wish it wasn't so hard, though.

Seeing stuff like this is why I hike and climb mountains. I kinda wish it wasn’t so hard, though.

Pro: Summit  views. No explanation needed.

Con: The physical thrashing it takes to earn that summit view. Nothing quite like being out of breath for three hours straight. Note to self: Next time, run more and run more hills. Sheesh!

Pro: Having awesome gear that keeps you warm and dry during an alpine downpour.

Con: Being stuck in a dry but cramped tent for 12 hours during an alpine downpour.

There are many, many more. So I invite you to share your list. What are your pros and cons to backpacking? Share ’em!

Bob Doucette

Alas, no love for the lonely marmot

It’s lonely at the top. Especially at the tops of mountains. Just ask a marmot.

Hours on end with no one to visit with except other alpine rodents. And when folks come along, well, this is how it goes down.

The marmot approaches. Looking for company, conversation, or perhaps a bite or ten from whatever’s in your backpack, this adorable little furball turns on all his charms.

marmot1

Their eyes meet. “Come to me, my love, and bring your Clif Bar.”

marmot2

And then it gets awkward. The little guy’s fuzzy advances are blown off. No cute pet talk, no freebies from the GORP sack, barely any acknowledgement from the target of his affection. Or greed. Or whatever. The pain of being spurned must be unbearable… wait a minute. Is that thing looking at me? Oh hell no, you little mountain rat. Stay away from my stash!

marmot3

(In all seriousness, look, but don’t touch. And definitely do not feed them. It just emboldens them to shred your pack, tent or car looking for treats.)

Bob Doucette

Three new gym characters who annoy the crap out of me

weights

Every now and then, I use this space to air my gym grievances. You can read a past installment here.

Well, folks, now it’s that time again. There have been a few characters of late that have earned my ire.

Let’s just begin…

The gang of talkers. These are the buddies who lift together at the gym, which on paper is a good thing. If you get the right training partner, you can push each other and hold each other accountable. But it goes bad when these folks tag-team a station for their own personal gabfest. If it happened on some military press machine or ab crunch contraption, no biggie. Do it at the squat rack? That’s where I draw the line. High-demand stations are not meant for conversation. If you and your buddy wanna yuck it up, go to a freakin’ coffee shop. When you’re at the gym, do your work, cut the chit-chat and get a move-on because some of us might be waiting to get under a bar on the rack.

The pungently self-unaware. For a couple of weeks straight, some poor sap has walked into the gym and lingered for awhile with a stench that can only be described as that of a wet dog. My guess is he lives in a home with a lot of unbathed dogs and pet dander. If that’s your thing, fine. But do us a favor and head to the gym clean. This goes for any potential stink. If you think you might have an air of funk, you probably have funk. Do something about it and spare us your eu de sleeping-bag-mank.

The lifter with “passion.” Not long ago, a fella was in the gym doing lightweight deadlifts, but he was giving it his all. And to hear his grunts, it seemed like he was loving every minute of it. Let me just get to the point: His verbalized exertions sounded more like throes of passion, and I’m not down with that. Lift, and lift hard. If a grunt comes out, fine. But it ain’t rut season, folks. I don’t want to hear your mating call mid-rep. Don’t make me tell you and your barbell to get a room.

There. I feel better. But I’m sure something will happen in the future that will drive me to follow up on this post of annoying gym behaviors.

Bob Doucette