Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017 happenings, ECPS, NWM, and a new book!

I am just going to gloss over how crap the last half of 2016 was, and slide right into some things I am excited about for 2017.

I was asked to represent WMI - sorry,  NOLS Wilderness Medicine, we have had a name change and new branding - at the East Coast Paddle Symposium in Charleston South Carolina. This is super exciting. I will be teaching four, one hour classes as well as manning the NWM booth for three days. During the process of setting everything up, I was asked to send them a Bio, and shortly after that, I got another request.

I was asked by the group running the event to do a fifth class. This time not medicine related. They wanted to hear about my book, and the trips I have done. Honestly, I didn't want host a talk directly about my book. Seeing an empty tent for that would be too depressing. So I told them I would talk about trip planning, and overcoming the obstacles to make big trips happen.

I am really excited to get to take part in a really wonderful event. So here's the deal. Ill be wearing something that says Paddling Otaku on it, or maybe you will just recognize my bearded face. Either way, come and say hi, and Ill give you a download code for a free copy of my book. How does that sound?

The other thing I have decided that I am excited about is I have made a new years intention. I hate the word resolution, lets try intention. My intention for 2017 is to finish the writing for my next book, which is titled "Expedition planning: From weekend trips to month long adventures" Initially my intention was to have it finished, but then I came to my senses and I know the writing will be a big enough challenge.

I am happy with some of the things I accomplished in 2016, but saddened that I wasn't able to make some things happen. It was a really lousy year. Going into 2017 I am particularly concerned about the environment and the state of our planet. I am worried that what little progress we were making on climate change will be quickly erased. The only thing on that front that I am optimistic about is that perhaps people will realize that we can't wait for governments and we have to make the changes ourselves. Renewable energy, way less meat eating, decrease waste. I think that is what we have to be faced with.

That is where I am as 2016 comes to a close. I hope you are doing well...

Ill be writing, and paddling. and teaching.

Let's go!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

GoPro Hero5 Black and Hero4 Silver Comparison.

Here is my first comparison video between the two. I simply held them next to each other, almost touching. Identical settings, 1080p (this is a 720 output from FCPX) 60 FPS, wide field of view. Protune off, video stabilization on for the 5. 

HERO Comparison from Brett Friedman on Vimeo.

I've barely used the five. I got one two days before release and had to return it. There was a power issue. I finally got one yesterday. Even though both cameras use the same chip, and lens, the 5 black has a better look. A bit more contrast. It is now waterproof without a housing, which is cool, but it makes a few things difficult to do.

Because the ports are behind a waterproof door, I can't power the camera externally. I also can't run an external microphone, which I only did a few times and I have a work around for. The mount it comes with, which is sort of like a frame housing feels a little fragile. These are the only negatives I have found so far.

I love the new user interface. I love voice control.

The voice control is a game changer. I used to take my GoPro paddling and turn it on and let it run. Because it would be mounted on the bow, short of using a remote this is the only thing I could do. Now, to have the ability to tell it what to do?! Amazing.

Ill put up a more detailed review when I have had a chance to really shoot with it. But so far I am pretty excited.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The overuse of Epinephrine

It's pretty much the nightmare scenario. You are out for a lovely hike. Then, all of a sudden someone gets stung by a bee. a minute later, they can't breath. This has two outcomes. Outcome A) You have an epipen which you administer saving your friends life. Option B) you don't, and you witness your friend die in front of you while you sit helplessly watching. Scary right? Anaphylaxis is the last topic taught on the WFA classes I teach. We regularly get the question, well, can I just buy an epipen and have it in my first aid kit? The answer, as I am sure you know, is no you can't. It is of course a prescription drug, that you need an allergy and a prescription for. (You know this because the Epipen has been in the news for the last six months as the price has skyrocketed, and the manufacturer has come under scrutiny for essentially price gouging.)

I taught two WFA classes in the last month, and between the two of them, I got to thinking. How common is this scenario? I started looking, and I learned a lot. 

Now, for the record, I am currently certified at the Wilderness First Responder level. But I have been an active working Paramedic and EMT. I know a lot about this drug, and have pushed it a handful of times when working on the ambulance. A handful of times, meaning 3. 3 times in 5 years. Doing 8 to 15 calls a day. I have also been teaching in the outdoors for sliding up on 20 years. Okay, I am at 17 years. I have taught day long courses, and month long courses. I have had thousands of students. Outdoor programs always carry Epipens, to avoid the scenario above. I have never pushed epi on an outdoor course. I have never even come close. 

I really should title this post, the over fear of anaphylaxis. Because that is what we have. For clarity sake, Of course anaphylactic reactions to allergens are a real and scary thing. If you have an allergy you need to carry an Epipen and you need to know how to use it. But the problem is we have convinced the world - or at least the population of the United States - that this happens a fair percentage of the time when adventuring. The problem is, there aren't any real studies about deaths from anaphylaxis in the backcountry. 

But there are studies for the front country, and they are very interesting. There are three studies that people use, two of them lasted ten years, and the third was 4 years. They looked at death certificates and Hospital and ED discharge information. Here is what they found. 

The authors found that case fatality rates were between 0.25% and 0.33% among hospitalizations or ED presentations with anaphylaxis as the principal diagnosis. These rates represent a total of between 63 and 99 deaths per year in the US, ~77% of which occurred in hospitalized patients. Rate of anaphylaxis hospitalizations rose from 21.0 to 25.1 per million population between 1999 and 2009. However, overall mortality rates appeared stable in the last decade and ranged from 0.63 to 0.76 per million population (186 to 225 deaths per year).

The primary cause of Anaphylaxis is reactions to medication - usually antibiotics. These numbers are staggeringly low. This is just not something that is happening that frequently. Despite what we are told, this really isn't something we need to be worried about. 

But, those numbers are for the front country. What about us enjoying the back country where we are exposed to the elements, and more importantly, Bees! There just isn't data... 

Or is there? I work for two very large outdoor companies. surely they keep records? right? They do. I emailed them both, and I am not going to share whose information I am relaying, frankly because I don't know if I am allowed to. But here is what I was told. For the decade prior to last year, instructors pushed epinephrine 5 times. 5 times in ten years averaging about 4000 students a year. That is .0125%. But importantly, I don't know what the cause of anaphylaxis was. But why does this exclude last year? because last year was an anomaly. Last year there were 11 instances of epi being pushed on a course. 

Almost all were the students own Epipens being used. Again I have no data as to signs or symptoms of the patient. But 11 instances in one year is .275% - It is statistically impossible for that many students to have gotten Anaphylaxis in one year on courses. Which means, Epi was pushed when a life threat wasn't occurring. 

Why would that happen? Because we have made everyone afraid of Anaphylaxis, and we think it occurs all the time. We are confronted by someone telling us they are allergic, and had an exposure. They will get an anaphylaxis reaction, and they will die. So we push epi. The big give away, that they are worried about something that isn't going to happen, is they can tell us. If you can say "I need my Epipen", you don't need your Epipen. Here are signs and symptoms of Anaphylaxis


The first signs of an anaphylactic reaction may look like typical allergy symptoms: a runny nose or a skin rash. But within about 30 minutes, more serious signs appear.
There is usually more than one of these:
  • Coughing; wheezing; and pain, itching, or tightness in your chest
  • Fainting, dizziness, confusion, or weakness
  • Hives; a rash; and itchy, swollen, or red skin
  • Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing and rapid heartbeat
  • Swollen or itchy lips or tongue
  • Swollen or itchy throat, hoarse voice, trouble swallowing, tightness in your throat
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps
  • Weak pulse, paleness

We also used to think that it was common to have what is called a biphasic reaction, meaning you have a reaction, get hit with Epi, then you get better and up to 24 hours later you get a second reaction. We used to think it happened close to 30% of the time. Now we know it happens less than 1% of the time. (though web MD says otherwise, I trust my medical directors more!)

We live in a culture of fear. We are told to be afraid of something, and then told what to do about it, which invariably leads to us spending money. I am not saying you shouldn't carry an Epipen if you have an allergy. But if you don't have an allergy, you don't need one. 

The other thing you don't need is quick clot or a tourniquet. But I will leave that for another day.. 

Link 1 for data
Link 2 for data
Link 3 for early evidence of the culture of fear we live in. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hard to believe it was five years ago.

Paddle North - Episode 2 from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Five years ago today I posted this to this website.

The Inside Passage trip was conceived on 9/11, as I was sitting in my office trying to think of something better that a world literally collapsing around me. I thought about where I would like to be at that moment. It was Alaska.

I planned it on and off for a decade, and then got serious, and spent a year and a half almost full time making it happen. At one point, ten people were going with. For a little while no one was going with me. Then Sarah had a change of heart, and decided to make the trip. She was very trusting as I had done all the planning, she just stepped into the trip with blind faith. We planned on it taking us 30 days. We did it in 21 with 3 rest days (and the rest days were mostly because I got the flu!)

I came home and produced the videos (all shot on an original GoPro Hero HD, I am about to upgrade to a Hero 5 black) Then got to work on the books.

I wrote and produced Enlightened Kayaking which is available on iTunes, and then about a year later I realized I didn't like the forward stroke section, so I created Forward which is a free book that just covered the forward stroke.

I am in the planning stage for a third book about expedition planning. But I am having a hard time getting it started for real. I know from experience just how hard it is to write a book, and at the end of the day I don't make a whole lot of money from them.

I don't have plans for another big trip, though I am constantly flattered by the people who ask me. And a surprising number of people ask me. This past week I had a woman that I know only as an acquaintance tell me if I go back to Alaska, she wants to go. The problem is I know from experience that people say that, but then when they hear the sacrifices involved they end up changing their minds. But still, it's flattering.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What I've been up to

I am actually still here. I am just not writing much lately.

I am teaching a lot, and surprisingly teaching a lot of stand up paddle boarding - which is only humorous because at the beginning of the season I was told to focus my energies on kayaking. I am teaching other things as well. Wilderness First Aid continues to be a big course for me, usually teaching one a month.

Much to many people chagrin, I don't have a big trip planned, though I am living vicariously through Gecko paddlers San Juan trips. I do frequently get asked where I would like to paddle that I haven't. The list for me is short, primarily because I have been good about making paddle trips a reality in the past. I would like to go to Patagonia. I would also like to paddle Iceland. Any of the Northern European countries actually, Finland, Norway, or Sweden. Nova Scotia? That is really about it.

Tomorrow I have an opportunity to paddle a newer version of my Delta Seventeen. Curious to see the changes.

But what I have really been working on is this:

the month from Brett Friedman on Vimeo.

About 6 months ago I realized it was time to jump into aerial imagery via an Unmanned Aircraft System - which is what the FAA calls a drone. Two days ago I passed my FAA Remote Pilot Airman certification test. I hope to do some commercial work, but right now I am just having fun. And shooting a lot.

I have a book I want to write, I think that will become my fall project as teaching season slows down.  That is what I have been working on. I am very active on Instagram, and that is really the best place to see what I am shooting at any given time. Check me out there, or on Facebook.

Ill keep paddling, you should do the same.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pack and Go! or Hell NO! Sawyer Mini Gear Review

I think water treatment is one of the more important things we deal with in the back country, and it is one of the things that most people have misconceptions about. I wrote about it in great detail here.

But today, I want to talk about the Sawyer Mini. I have now been using the Sawyer mini for a couple of years, I used the sawyer squeeze before that (the squeeze is the mini's slightly larger cousin) and I used a sawyer gravity system even before that. I have a lot of experience with this filter and this review is way overdue. It may even be late, as the sawyer mini is one of the most popular filters on the market.

Weighing in at a mere 2 ounces, and with a lifespan of 100,000 gallons (that is around 275 years of use if you were wondering) The sawyer mini is a game changer. Filtering to .1 micron it gets all the nasties out of the water, and is simple to use.

Okay, you are on a hiking trip, your reservoir runs dry and up ahead there is a stream. You stop, take off your pack and retrieve your filter, and a small 16 ounce bag. Holding the bag under water, with the mouth facing up stream, it will quickly fill. Then screw the bag onto the bottom of the sawyer mini, and squeeze. Squeezing the bag forces the contents through the hollow fiber membrane and into what ever receptacle you choose. That's it. Your done.

It generally takes me about 45 seconds to squeeze out a liter. which is the traditional way to use the device. But if you don't want to stick with tradition, the sawyer mini is extremely versatile. It comes with a small straw so you could use directly in a water bottle (like a life straw with much longer lifespan) You can cut your hydration reservoir hose and put the sawyer mini inline and filter as you drink.

Don't want to use the bag that came with the mini, you can screw most non-reusable water bottles onto it, and squeeze that - I have been told that it is compatible with Pepsi brand bottles, and not coke brand. Apparently the thread pitch is different. With a little ingenuity you can even turn this into a gravity system, which is what I did with a pair of MSR dromedary's on our last Alaska trip. 

They sell a small box of adapter parts essentially turning this into the lego of filter systems, build what you want. 

But, it isn't without faults. In non moving water the bags can be hard to fill. There is no charcoal or carbon aspect which means the filter doesn't get out odors and flavors. But that is really about it. 

Pluses - Lightweight, long life span, adaptable

Minuses - Doesn't get out odors and flavors, the bags can be hard to fill. 

But at $24.95 this is a PACK AND GO! all the way. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Pack and Go! or Hell NO! Jetboil Genesis Gear review

This past weekend I finally got my butt in a tent, and in the process I got to test out some gear that has been sitting for way too long. So here is the first gear review in a while.

I am a long time user of the Jetboil- I still have a Jetboil PCS (older than the current Flash) - and it is my go to stove when my plan involves just boiling water. I have an MSR whisperlite for longer trips or when I am cooking actual food. I have long been skeptical when jetboil tries to release a more cooking centric stove system. I think this may be the third attempt at such a project (the helios, the sumo and now the Genesis). Essentially this is jetboil trying to expand it's market base. They already have a huge presence in lightweight water boilers, time to expand into basecamp cookers as well.

The product I tested was the Genesis basecamp system and it is a beautiful package.  A large pot, a matching fry pan, and the two burner stove in a nice black carry bag.

The large pot has an associated lid with an integrated water strainer. The 10 inch fry pain is ceramic coated for non-stick performance. The massive 5 liter pot has the Jetboil flux ring to offer wind protection. The carry bag also has a spot for the fuel connection hose, making the entire kit fairly compact.

The stove set up in a breeze, and ignites quickly with the two separate igniter switches. You can run either burner separately or both together. The package I had weighed in at just under 10 pounds, but construction of the stove was meticulous and well thought out

This Jetboil is propane, unlike every other Jetboil I have used. Clearly attempting to compete with the large two burner campchef/coleman/everest/brunton two burner basecamp stoves. I set it up and got to cooking. Dinner would be Mussels in a spicy red sauce with linguini, and a crusty baguette for dipping in the tomato sauce. For starters I needed to saute a diced onion and pepper, and the stove offered great flame control. I flicked the igniter switch on one of the burners (after opening the control valve) and I had good flame control with easy to reach access. Once the peppers and onions were sauteed I added tomatoes and spices and turned my attention to boiling water for linguini. I chose to do this in my own pot - not the jetboil pot with the flux ring. I needed no adapter to do this - as you would in other Jetboil stoves. My 3 liter pot was dwarfed next to the behemoth that comes with this stove. 


With 1.5 liters of water in my pot, I cranked up burner two, to the maximum. I wanted to see how fast this would boil water, and it did not disappoint. I didn't time it, but it was pretty incredibly fast - they say a liter in 3 minutes 15 seconds but it seemed faster than that. I added my pasta and let it do it's thing. Both pots fit easily on the two burners, but the pot without the flux ring left me concerned for performance in high wind. Most two burner stoves offer some sort of wind screen and this one doesn't - though the burners are slightly recessed, which should offer some protection. Though there was no wind when I was using it, so this may be a non issue.

This stove offers a Jetlink, stove linking system, with an optional cable ($35) you can link two of these stoves together, or the genesis to certain eureka stoves giving you 4 burners. I am not sure when I would need 4 burners in the woods, but nice to have the option. There is also the option to add the Luna stove to the Jetlink port. The Luna is a $59 water boiler that looks like a jetfoil flash adapted to run propane. Initially I thought I could connect my Jetboil PCS (or if you had one, a Flash, Sol, Zip or MiniMo.) But this isn't the case, I was a little disappointed.

The remainder of my evening cooking was uneventful - though the following morning I once again had fun boiling water for coffee - with 10,000 BTU's of power it didn't take long! My overall impression with this stove was extremely favorable.

Actually, that is an understatement. I loved it. I have used a lot of two burner camp stoves. I used to do Thanksgiving every year in this same campground, and I would cook the big parts of the meal in Dutch ovens but all the sides on a two burner coleman. I wish I had this back then.

The Pluses - Beautiful design, and build quality. Fast boiler, with good flame control. Convenient carry case. Huge pot, and frypan. Great power output.

The Minuses - The potential for wind issues, as the stove doesn't offer a wind screen. Here is the big one. Price.

Lets talk about Price. This stove as tested is $350. It is available without the pots and pans and carry bag for $239. That is still $79 more than the next most expensive competitor on and that stove, while it weighs more, also puts out more power (12000 BTU's compared to the Genesis 10000)

I think this is a great stove, and may even buy one - this kit is a loaner - it is really wonderful. But also wonderfully expensive.

Based on the price alone, I am afraid I have to call this a....

Hell NO!

It is simply too much money, when you can get a $89 coleman two burner with push button start, running the same fuel and 11,000 BTU's of power. The Jetboil Genesis is without a doubt the best made two burner camp stove I have ever used. It is also the coolest looking stove I have ever used. But at $239 for the stove, and $350 for the kit I just used, for me, it is a Hell No!


There is in fact a windscreen in the case with this stove. It is a clear plastic barrier that goes around the stove. I still haven't used it, but it is in there if you need it. Also, on a recent trip the fuel regulator - which is the brass fitting that connects the propane to the stove - started violently leaking propane. We stopped using it for the remainder of the trip and when I got home I made a phone call to Jetboil. It was a short and wonderful conversation. They had a new regulator on its way to me that day, I had it a couple of days later, all at no charge. They never asked me for proof of purchase, they didn't try and second guess what occurred. It was amazing customer service

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thank You Patton Oswalt

On the last Alaska expedition we were generally off the water in the late afternoon. We would settle into camp, put up a tent and a cook tarp. Filter water, make beds, cook dinner. All the things that you do on an extended trip. Generally around 4 o'clock or so, we would have a whiskey. We thought of this as the "cocktail hour". On this trip I finally got to do something I had been planning for almost a decade. I had whiskey on the rocks, with the rocks being naturally purified, hundreds of years old (or maybe thousands....probably not thousands, but it sounds good) glacier ice. It was spectacular.

At cocktail time, we would also listen to something. We would listen to comedian Patton Oswalt. I am not sure how it started, but everyday we listened to him. We had most of his albums on my iPhone, and we would listen using the tiny built in speakers.

We joked that because he had done such a good job of keeping us sane while we laughed every afternoon, that we would dedicate the film to him, and since the film is currently standing still I will publicly thank him here.

But here is the thing, this week, unexpectedly, at the age of 46, Patton Oswalts wife passed away. While I know he will never see this, I just wanted to express my sadness, and condolences to Mr. Oswalt and his daughter. Losing a spouse, particularly at such a young age is nightmarish.

Thanks Patton.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Tow Hook - Seemed Like a good idea at the time.

My trusty Toyota Yaris has been replaced, by a slightly newer  and hopefully just as trusty Yaris. It is like she never left, except of course, she has. I hope I fall as in love with this little car as my last one, but I doubt that will occur as I don't plan on driving her to Alaska Twice.

Something that a lot of people asked me about was the tow hook on the front right side of the yaris that I used to secure my bow line. I got the idea of using it from a friend who works for NOLS. It seemed brilliant, and I did for literally 100,000 miles.

Then someone ran a red light, I hit them in the middle of an intersection, and the first point of contact was that tow hook. The impact was sudden, jarring and scary, but what didn't happen was an airbag deploy. I was going somewhere between 20 and 30 miles an hour, more than fast enough to trigger a discharge.

The fire department was concerned about it, and mentioned several times that they were surprised they didn't deploy, they were disconnecting the battery (normal procedure is to cut the battery cables, as a courtesy they took the time to simply disconnect them, I think because I identified myself as a former medic) and they told me not to drive the car. Not that I could.

I commented to many people that I was surprised that the airbags didn't deploy - most resulting in funny comments like "oh on the yaris, you have too blow up the airbags yourself." I even went as far to mention it here on the blog.

Then I got this comment from a reader named Kiradale:

I recently purchased a VW Golf wagon. The owners manual warns against driving with the tow eye in place on the front bumper as it may affect deployment of the air bags in the event of a collision.

I did some research, but couldn't find anything online, linking tow hook usage to a lack of airbag deployment on the Yaris, but honestly, it makes complete sense that having that hook could alter airbag deployment. In this case anecdotal evidence is enough. 

So please, don't use the tow hook on the front of your car - any car - as a method for securing your bow lines. If there is even a chance it will keep your airbags from deploying it isn't worth the convenience. 

Instead I will be using these:

The Seattle Sports quick loops is one of those things I wish I had invented. Put the rubber tube part under your hood, and let the loop part stick out. Tie off to that, and you are good to go. At least I hope you are good to go, I haven't used them yet. Ill keep you posted. 

And do me a favor. Drive carefully!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Some cool things I have seen.

With all that is going on, I have seen  bunch of things that I thought were super cool. Check this out.

A few weeks ago I taught a class - yes I had to use a powerpoint, I hate them but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do - with an iPad mini. that is right an iPad mini can drive a projector. Who knew? All I had to do was spend $50 on an adapter. You can even charge your iPad while driving the projector. To make this even better you can then control your powerpoint (actually it was a keynote) with your phone. I think that is super cool, and it really appeals to my minimalist side. 

Check out this Casey Neistat footage from the new DJI Phantom 4 jump to 6 minutes and 14 seconds!

I really think this footage is incredible, and not just because Casey didn't crash into the ocean - which he has a habit of doing - but this just looks sensational. I have been waiting patiently for the GoPro Karma drone, particularly because I don't like the idea of buying a drone with a  camera - I already have a camera - but this really has me intrigued.

Last night I watched the big short. Which opened with a  great quote:

This quote should be burned in the brains of everyone who is active in the outdoors. the number of times that I have been told "of course it is safe, I have done it this way hundreds of times!"

Finally I am reading the new NOLS book Lightning. It is sensational, and finally brings some real science to this topic. Check it out, it is worth the read.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A new certification

I am generally not a fan of certifications for outdoor skills. I tend to feel that it creates instructors with more skills than experience. (Read about it here.) But when opportunity arises to get a certification for free, you take it. Unfortunately, this will not be a kayaking certification, that opportunity arose last year and then quickly vanished. Next month I will be taking part in a two day ACA Stand Up Paddle boarding instructor course.

Last season I taught a couple of SUP classes and enjoyed it. It will never replace kayaking for me, but it is a fun change.

This was my view a couple of times last season, and I think it will be a regular view this season. Ill let you know how the training goes, there will certainly be video and photos on instagram.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

End of an Era

If you don't already know, a week ago, on my way home from the gym I was involved in a car accident. I was traveling west, and someone on a cross street ran a red light and ended up in front of me. I couldn't stop in time to avoid the collision.

I'm not sure how fast I was going at the moment of impact, but the first thing to take the brunt of the blow was the tow hook in my front bumper which had a permanent position for securing kayaks. If you look closely you can see it folded flat against the front of my car. Everything in front of the wheels is flat, though oddly the airbags didn't deploy. I was fine, the driver of the other car was fine, but I asked EMS to check me out. My Blood pressure and pulse were both - understandably - very high, but within 15 minutes they were back where they should have been. 

Incidentally, I had interactions with 6 different EMS people, both basics and paramedics and not one of them did a physical exam. Shame on you all. Other than that they were great. My car was towed away, and I started the upsetting process of dealing with insurance. 

For the record, while I was sore immediately after, and really sore the next day, I am fine and have no significant injuries.

Unfortunately my car can't say the same thing. The damage didn't look bad to me, but alas my insurance company decided she was a total loss. I was immediately depressed at the loss of this object. She was purchased in 2011 with 9000 miles with the primary goal of driving to Alaska to do the inside passage. She did the Alaska trip twice. 

Paddle North - Episode 1 from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

getting there from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

But she also took part in literally hundreds of other trips. From the beach, to family in New York to teaching dozens of WFA's, and hundreds of other classes. I truly loved this little car, and she will be very missed.

We have a two fold plan for replacing her. First, in the next week I am going to buy another yaris, but this time the 4 door hatchback version - it turns out the sedan version (particularly in manual transmission) is hard to find. The 4 door hatchback will allow my roof rack to make a seamless move to the new car. Then in the next few months we are going to shop for a used Sprinter cargo van.

Something like this. With the goal of turning it into the ultimate road trip/adventure vehicle. They are very tall, and I am going to have to figure out the best way to get a kayak or two on the roof. That is the plan. stay tuned for updates. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Someone on Reddit requested my gear list.

A couple of days ago I posted a comment In response to a post on reddit called "Our Ultimate tour kayaking gear list", what I said was that while I wouldn't go as far as to say Ultimate, it was a good list. Someone in the comments asked me to post my list - I think his quote was something along the lines of 'for trips that are more badassery." I don't know how bad ass I am, but here is my list.  (excluding a few changes, this is my gear list from the Inside Passage and the AGAP trip in 2014, It also doesn't include solar gear/batteries, and cameras)

Paddle Clothing
Seattle Sombrero
Ball cap
Fingerless Gloves
Wool hat

Underneath my drysuit I wear a base layer (Top and bottom) which are listed down the page. I only wear fingerless paddling gloves on REALLY long day. 20 plus mile days. I hate neoprene paddling gloves. I find it really hard to get them on and off while paddling, I much prefer pogies. The seattle sombrero from OR is the best rain hat in the world.

Paddle Gear
Back up Paddle
Spray Skirt
Bilge Pump
Paddle Float
Short tow
Long tow
Deck Compass

I am a firm believer that your primary paddle should be the same as your back up paddle, but I can't afford to do two werner carbon paddles every few years. I get about 5 years out of a paddle. I use a whitewater spray skirt. I want a skirt that doesn't come off the boat. It says deck compass on my list, which I used on the IP, but for AGAP I had a mounted deck compass - which is far better!

In the front pocket of my PFD I have a bunch of things.
Signal mirror
Chemical light stick
Rescue strobe
Compass (listed above)
power food

I actually use the spot connect, which I don't like. I would do an ACR PLB in the future. On long trips I like to keep Jolly ranchers in my vest pocket as well.

Chart case
VHF Radio
Handheld compass
a 1 foot piece of climbing cord

On long trips I pack both nautical charts and topo maps. I print my own topo's using the all trails website, on National Geographic Adventure paper (which is waterproof) and then have it spiral bound. I use a Garmin Oregon handheld GPS which I like because it's small. I have used the same handheld compass for decades and love it. My VHF radio is a waterproof uniden that lives in a pelican case. I can be seen in a lot of my short films. Ive used every chart case on the market (I think) and the one I use is the only one I like.

Cooking Tarp
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad

I actually use the REI version of that TNF tent (and the three person version) I use a four season tent in Alaska and it is a beast. It weighs 11 pounds and is bomb proof. It is important to have a tarp for both sun and rain protection. And yes, I pack a table and chair, and use them every day. There is no reason we can't be civilized.

Pot set
Fry Pan
Spice Kit
Kitchen Kit
Stove repair kit
10 liter Dromedary
4 liter dromedary
Sponge/Dr Bronners
Insulated Mug
Fairshare Mug
Cup for whiskey
Sawyer Mini
Sawyer Squeeze
Bear spray

I think it is all pretty self explanatory. I pack both Sawyers on big trips, one set up as a gravity system, and the other in the cockpit with me so we can get water on the go. I love the fairshare mug, because it can hold leftovers and won't leak (Make a big meal for dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.) Yes, Whiskey goes on every trip.

Shell Jacket
Shell pants
midweight base layer bottoms x 2
Midweight base layer top (crew neck)
Quick dry, light colored, long sleeve wicking layer. 
Fleece pants
Synthetic Puffy Jacket
long sleeve cotton t shirt
quick dry pants 
Wool hiking socks x 3
Camp shoes
Glove liners

That's it. I don't ever pack more clothes than that. While I am paddling I am wearing a pair of base layer bottoms and one of the tops under my drysuit, as well as one pair of socks. The fourth pair of socks never leave my sleeping bag. I don't really use those prana pants, but something similar. My camp shoes are a minimalist running shoe. I pack one cotton t shirt because it is nice to sleep in. Sometimes, if I know it is going to be really cold, I swap one pair of midnight bottoms for a pair of heavy weight bottoms. This all fits in a 20 liter dry bag.

Personal Gear
Paperback book
bug dope
lip balm

Yes, I pack deodorant. People that say not to because of bears are crazy. It's nice to have when you catch a whiff of yourself on day 12. I always pack a paperback. Something like Dogs of war, or the day of the Jackal. I use an old version of the iPod Nano which is pretty tiny and the battery lasts forever.

Headlamp with extra batteries.
Fire starting kit
First aid kit
Multi towels x 3
1 liter nalgene
repair kit

The repair kit is a small water proof case - like pelican case - that has plastic weld and other materials for fixing thermoform boats. A pole sleeve. Patches for outerwear/tent/sleeping pads. Aqua seal (which will fix anything) and screw eyes (Go ahead, figure that one out!) Currently I am using Sea to Summit dry bags, but I have used just about every type available. They all work well, but the clear vinyl ones have shorter life spans, they crack. The video below is a test pack before the inside passage.

Packing from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

That's really all you need to paddle for a month in Alaska. That, and a lot of food and fuel.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A day of meditation.

I think I have mentioned a few times that I would like to get certified to teach mindfulness meditation. I think its popularity is approaching critical mass, and it would be a good thing for me to add to my skill set. With that in mind, I have to do two things.

I have to decide on a program to get certified with. This is proving difficult because of where I live. I need to do something online, but I also want something of quality. Of course you also have to add to the mix that I need to be able to afford it. 

The second thing I want do is to take part in as many meditation classes as possible. I have been meditating on and off for almost ten years, but I have done almost no meditation classes - only where they are part of some other class I am already taking, like a yoga class. 

So while I try and decide on problem one, today I started working on problem two. Actually, problem is the wrong word. How about obstacle? Today I did two free meditation classes. 

The first was this morning. It was scheduled from 9 to 10, and was run by a Buddhist center at a book store. I arrived at 8:45 and was greeted at the door of the closed store. I nice older gentleman welcomed me, and started to ask why I was there, I told him I was there for the meditation class. I also said I wasn't sure what I needed to do. 

He explained that if I walked to the back of the store I would see where people were taking off their shoes, and that I could take a cushion (they were already out in a circle) or I could sit in a chair if I chose. He also said that they normally do a 20 minutes silent meditation, followed by walking mediation, then a reading, and another 20 minutes of silent meditation. I walked to the back of the store and did indeed see where my shoes and jacket should go. I then walked toward the circle and was surprised to see people already in meditation. 

I found an empty cushion in the circle, and sat down. I had never used a cushion before - I can sit in full lotus for a long time, and never thought I needed one - but it was really quite nice. It was much easier to keep a correct posture. I was just about the last one to sit, there ended up being 13 of us. I slid into a mindfulness meditation, focusing on my breathing. 

It proved a little difficult, I am thinking it was new surroundings and a new group. I also wasn't sure if this was a "warm up" or the actual first 20 minutes since it wasn't 9 yet.. After an indeterminate amount of time, the woman leading the sit clapped her hands once. Did THAT signify the start of the 20? the end? I wasn't sure. After another indeterminate amount of time she clapped again. Brought her hands together, bowed, and said good morning. Then we all rose, and formed a circle, then turned to the left. 

I had never done walking meditation before, and it took me a few minutes to get into a groove. We walked slowly clock-wise, advancing when the person in front of us advanced. Just as I was getting in the spirit of the circle, it was done. I think it lasted about 5 minutes. A shame, because I was starting to enjoy it. 

I followed everyones lead, and returned to my cushion. We sat in silence for a moment and then the woman leading the group announced that there would be a reading by the student to her right, a young man who I came to learn has been studying Buddhism for some time, he was quite knowledgable. His reading was about the whirlpools in rivers, and that they are formed by some small obstruction in the water. They form and things are drawn into them, and spin through the whirlpool and then move out of them. The whirlpools disappear as they had formed, with no discernible reason. This was used as an allegory for life, and that bad things - or good things - flow into your life like things drawn into a whirlpool. I thought it was a good lesson in both attachment, and being present. It was a really lovely reading, and as someone who would like to teach meditation, I immediately wondered where it had been found. Is there an online resource for readings? The woman leading the group then said that we would take five minutes in silence, but if anyone had any thoughts based on the reading they should feel free to share. a few moments later people started throwing out ideas in what as an outdoor educator I would call popcorn style. They were all pretty simple ideas, until the woman immediately to my right said "so if garbage flows into your whirlpool and brings sadness, that can become depression. How do you keep it from killing you?" The answer from the woman leading the sit answered "by embracing it with loving kindness"

I think this is an incredibly important question, and a dreadful answer. While I am a Buddhist and I do believe you have to embrace the world with loving kindness - and I am not nearly as learned as the woman leading the sit, not even close! - This, in my experience is a dangerous question. Perhaps it was my years on an ambulance, but when someone talks about depression killing you, it needs to be addressed. I think from the Buddhist tradition the answer should be something like, By not holding onto the sadness and depression. Just like the garbage that is drawn into the whirlpool you have to allow it to flow back out, or your whirlpool will be full of garbage. Don't hold onto the depression (or hatred, or anger, or whatever negative emotion you are feeling.) Observe it and move on. And then as a medical practitioner I have to say this requires some follow up after class. Which can be facilitated by something like "lets talk about this one on one when we are done" to insure that the student gets the help they may need.

Shortly after this exchange - which took seconds but stayed in my head for hours - the woman leading the sit said, Do we have tea? which meant we were done. I was a little upset, I really wanted the second 20 minutes of meditation. I joined a small subset of the group for tea, and then as I was leaving, I was putting on my shoes and mentioned to someone how nice it was to meditate with a  group, and a woman to my right pronounced "the best group!" - which struck me as odd. Pride is great, but in Buddhism, attachment isn't.

I enjoyed this meditation group, but I prefer a little more secular meditation, with a little more instruction or guidance. This was serious Buddhist meditation, and I prefer a more simple, mindfulness meditation.

about 4 hours later I found myself in a dimly lit yoga studio, for a second free meditation. I had taken a few yoga classes here, and I knew the woman who runs the class, if only a little. I thought this might give me a different perspective and I was right.

I was walked into the studio, and shown where all the yoga props were - I was told I could choose a mat (the floor was cold) a bolster, pillow or any combination. In the back of the studio I was told there were meditation cushions - called a zafu - I used a combination of a yoga mat, a blanket and a zafu to make myself a small spot opposite the teacher (in retrospect I inadvertently sat almost directly opposite both of the leaders of the my meditation classes) I looked at the spot the teacher, or leader of this sit had created. A yoga mat with a single yoga block. At the head of her mat she had a book, a tibetan singing bowl, a timer, and a couple of small figures and talismans, all on a metal tray. In the back of the studio was a small Buddhist shrine. The room slowly filled - 8 in total - and everyone took a space on yoga mats with a couple of props of their choice. Andrea, the woman leading the sit, clearly knew most everyone in the room.

She told us that since it was valentines day she had a reading for us on the subject of self love. She explained that we would do a 20 minute guided meditation, followed by a 20 minute silent meditation, and we began.

She interwove the the reading with guided meditation, and it was really quite lovely. She paid a lot of attention to guiding us to remove tension from our bodies. To find a natural seated position. To find spots that were tight, and relax them, all the while teaching that to love and embrace the world we needed to love and embrace ourselves.

At the end of the guided meditation she told us to move around, shake out the tightness, and in a few moments we would start the silent meditation. She said that if we chose to we could lie down, cover ourselves with a yoga blanket - which everyone in the studio did with the exception of myself. She also said to be careful not to fall asleep, I toyed with the idea of making  joke about 'snoring will not be tolerated', but decided against it. Several minutes later I am sure the woman next to me was asleep.

She brought us out of the meditation with a gentle strike of her tibetan singing bowl, and then instructed us to gently move our bodies, and bring circulation back to our hands and feet. Then to work our way to sitting - I already was. We were told to have a nice day and departed with a  Namaste.

It was a lovely day with close to two hours of meditation in two very different surroundings. I thought it was interesting that the meditation in the Yoga class had more of the trappings of Buddhism than the meditation lead by a Buddhist. A couple of times Andrea had to pause her reading because of a cell phone vibrating in the other room - which really upset me, the intrusion of the digital world into a quiet space - I think I heard one phone receive a notification in the book store. We really need to be better about making that separation. I envision teaching meditation outdoors, so the sounds we can hear are natural, not the sounds of people and machinery. I enjoyed Andreas class more, as I felt it was closer to the way I would like to teach it. But it may have also been that I knew the surroundings and to a degree the instructor. The morning session was fine, and the people very kind, but the meditation was a little stern - and the leader of that sit loses points with me for her non answer to a serious question.

It definitely helped my practice, and I will continue to go to both when possible. But of course, the next two sundays I am out of town teaching WFA's. I would have liked to have taken pictures for instagram, but didn't feel it was right. Stay tuned for more on this meditation path. A decision on a school is coming soon. and thanks to both groups for being so welcoming. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Karna - From GoPro

I have been waiting, and debating with myself, the drone question for a long time. You can do absolutely amazing things with them. They are somewhat reasonably priced. But they offer incredible flexibility in terms of what can be shot. Today we can do things with a drone that 5 years ago required a multi-million dollar helicopter with a several thousand dollar an hour pilot on the controls. That is an incredible thought.

I knew drones were for real when I saw the first DJI Phantom. The Phantom 2 was a nice upgrade, but the Phantom 3 and the Inspire really kicked it up a notch. I was very tempted with the Phantom 3, but when that was released I already knew GoPro was working on a drone. Now that drone has a name - Karma - and a release date, 2016, albeit a little vague.

But Nick Woodman just sent me an email.

You're getting a first look at the latest Karma video ... check it out. While I can't share much prior to launch, I can say this about Karma: it works in mysterious ways and not always as you think.

Many thanks and get fired up! 


All right, in fairness he didn't send it just to me. It probably went to a couple of million people. I think what Nick is saying, is that while the Karma drone will do what we expect, it is going to do some things we don't expect. I expect it will not come with a camera, as they want it to work with your existing GoPro Camera - they have millions of cameras in use, and their goal - I think - is to help you use them better. This was the thinking for GoPro Studio. I think that it will have a traditional controller - like an RC airplane - that is paired with a phone or tablet. I would like the gimbal to be removable, to attach to something like the handler (this might be a pipe dream, why would they sell one product that does two things when they can sell two products?)

I would like Karma to be $1000. This is low, but after their admitted mistake with pricing for the Session, I think they are going to try and come in low, to get quick adoption. This is how the original Hero HD took off so fast.

But what of the "mysterious way and not always as you think" statement. I think we are going to have a drone with amazing autonomous modes. I think it will follow you, I think it will orbit around you. I think they have found a way to make this simple, safe (terrain avoiding? tree avoiding? building avoiding) and usable by the masses.

Oh, and when Nick sent me the email there was a link to a video. There is a reason they aren't showing us what it looks like. I just haven't figured out what it is yet.

Thank Nick, I am fired up.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Goodbye Land Rover Defender.

January 28th 2016 marked the last day of production of the Land Rover Defender. Why does this warrant mention? Because it is the most adventure worthy vehicle in the history of adventure vehicles.

While inspired by the original U.S. army jeep they were far more simple. Their square bodies was due to a lack of tools to create curves. They had no real creature comforts - some of the Defender era rovers added more comfortable seats, and a stereo. But the early models "air conditioner" were flaps at the bottom of the windshield that could be opened. The early ones were extremely underpowered, topping out around 50 miles an hour. But when crossing Africa, that was just fine.

They have been under construction non-stop since 1947. Not sold as year models, they were originally produced with a series designator. Series I, Series II then IIA then III in the 1970's. Later models followed the more common model years, and they finally picked up the name Defender, to separate them from other models Land Rover was making. In 1996 Land Rover stopped importing the Land Rover Defender to the U.S. because they couldn't meet the safety standards - in particular, airbags.

This vehicle is so ubiquitous that it has been from war, to UN peace keeping missions. It has been driven by dictators to royalty - This is literally the Queens daily drive when she visits Scotland, though where the Queen drives I have no idea. I can't list the number of films that Land rovers have been in. In 1992 Land Rover estimated that 70% of all vehicles produced were still on the road (or off road as the case may be). Despite all this love, crash test limitations and emissions laws are bringing it to an end.

All I wanted was a Land Rover Series IIA - from around the year I was born - with a kayak under it. The best I could come up with was this.
My beloved Isuzu Trooper 2 had a similar boxy shape and simple engine. I bought that truck when I lived in Manhattan and had to get to my kayak on Long Island and then get to the water. It costs a little bit more than the boat under it. Someone once told me it looked like Africa - someone who had been to Africa - and it was my proudest moment. I cried a little when that truck died. I got no closer to a Rover than that Isuzu, and while I love my Yaris, I still dream of an old uncomfortable Series. Or maybe an early 90's Defender - which unremarkably sell for more now then they did when released.

Goodbye Land Rover. You will be missed.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Instagram. I love you. And I hate you.

If you haven't been paying attention I am working a lot on instagram. As I have all but ditched Facebook (it is another post that you can read here) I have decided to focus my social media energy on Instagram.

And I love it.

I love the simplicity of the interface. I love that I can slide through photos and the occasional video and nothing ever pisses me off. I have full control over the feed, and there is very little advertising. It helps me see what people are up to, which is what I really used (or tried to use) Facebook for. I can now see a quick snapshot of what is happening in the lives of a handful of friends in distant states or countries. There are definitely people missing, who I wish were on Instagram, or who would post as frequently as they do on Facebook - and since you can link the two there is no reason not to post as often.

I spent a week just after Christmas posting videos clips from the last Alaska trip, and it was a fun way to show people some imagery from that trip. I have a lot of video, that will eventually make it's way to the web.

I have been having fun with hashtags, and in particular have been using #outdoorinstructorlife. If you seek out that hashtag it is mostly my work - though if you are an instructor feel free to use it.

I am really loving how quick it is, in terms of deciding to post something, and something being posted, it takes about 30 seconds. While I don't generally ask for features to be added to my GoPro I would like to be able to post to instagram from it. I know I can post to Facebook, but I will have to check on Instagram. Just thought of that....

In General, I am absolutely loving my time on Instagram. I have set the goal of posting 1000 images or videos by the close of 2016.

But the flip side is, I absolutely hate parts of Instagram, and most of them would be easily fixable. They are all bugs or design flaws within the App itself. First, can we bump the length of videos from 15 seconds to 30 seconds? It is hard to say something in 15 seconds, everything feels rushed. 30 seconds would be just fine. But why is there a limit at all?

I would also like to be able to schedule posts. Why can't I schedule an image or a video to post to my account at a desired time. It would make the professional aspect of instagram much better. And really there could be a "Pro" version of Instagram, I would gladly pay for it. Maybe also give me the ability to post from my computer - I know instagram, you want to stay a mobile platform.

A key interaction with mobile devices is pinch to zoom. This ability isn't supported in the instagram app. This is the sort of backwards thinking that drives me crazy. There is also no support for changing the orientation of the screen.

Finally, that there isn't an iPad specific version of the app is completely ridiculous. I do most of my viewing, and a lot of my posting from an iPad mini. Using an app designed for an iPhone. It simply blows up the size of the app to make it fill the screen. Can you imagine if I had an iPad Pro? Which I almost did! It would be ridiculous to waste all that real estate.

Fix these things for me, and I will be eternally grateful. But now, I have to post something to Instagram. 

Friday, January 22, 2016


As I write this, I am sitting at my desk with most of the lights off. It is warm and cozy in my house with a fire going in the other room,  the puppies are contentedly chewing bones. Out the window I can see the kayaks slowly getting covered with a North Carolina mix of snow and sleet. It is 3:15 in the afternoon, and I am contemplating a whiskey. It is that kind of day.

Dark Sky says 9 to 14 inches, and makes no mention of the sleet and freezing rain. It has been "snowing" since 5:30 am - I know this because I have a puppy that doesn't let me sleep in - and we have about 1.5 inches of snow, and a steady flow of sleet. I suspect when the sun drops the temperature will go with it, and it will become snow again. Here in the south this kind of weather is crippling. I think my little city of 250,000 has about 2 snow plows. People don't really know how to drive in bad weather. Everyone freaks out and buys milk, bread and eggs. I think they stay home and make french toast. This combination of weather, and what occurred yesterday is why I have no problem sitting here in front of a fire with a whiskey in hand. So here is what happened yesterday. 

I awoke at six to the above mentioned puppy, and made coffee. I kept the dogs occupied while I packed a backpack. I was going to a class, my first real class of the year and I wasn't teaching it. It was a wilderness survival class and I wanted to take it for a second time to experience it with a different instructor. When I took it the first time it was taught by a guy who taught survival for the military, so the class had a very military 'feel' to it. This time it was being taught by another instructor who wasn't former military. I wanted to see the difference. The problem was that they were calling for really cold weather, so I had to pile on the layers. I grabbed my pack and started pulling gear from the monolith. Matilda was a big help. 

I grabbed a 48 liter pack - the one I use when I am teaching, and first dropped in some extra layers. then a liter of water and a sawyer water filter. My fire starting kit (which should be a post unto itself) a headlamp, a compass, a GPS and a small first aid kit. A jet boil, and a freeze dried meal for lunch. A multi tool. A small Alite folding camp chair. The FIELD NOTES book I use to take notes in and a blackwing 602. 

I finished getting dressed. midweight base layer, windproof fleece pants, and rain pants over them - there is a good chance in this class I would end up lying on the ground. Up top I wore a midweight base layer top, primaloft jacket, and a rain shell. I added a wool hat, gloves and my buff. Finally I grabbed my go pro and three extra batteries which would be in an inside jacket pocket to keep them warm. The temp was hovering around 30 with a steady wind. When I arrived to class I saw that there was still a little snow on the ground. 

The class went really well, and I had a bunch of fun. I worked hard to keep my mouth shut - as I wasn't the instructor - but at the same time I wanted to take part and be engaged with the instructor and the other participants. It is a difficult balance at times. It was definitely a different class without the military angle, and even though it was a venue I had taught at many times, I ended up seeing some things I hadn't seen before, getting to experience a class through someone else's eyes. At the conclusion of class I headed home, and dutifully unpacked my bag. Putting everything back into the monolith, and stowing the pack. I changed into normal human clothes and cooked dinner. Just as we were sitting down to eat my wife's phone rang. You know how you can tell from the tone in someones voice that it is a bad phone call? Without even being able to hear the words? That is what I heard. I knew something was up. She sat down at the table and said we needed to eat quickly. A friend of hers was out trail running, and her dog got off leash and ran away, chasing a deer. She had been looking for an hour, the sun had already set and she was freaking out - just a little. She said we needed to eat and head out to help her find the dog. In the dark. 

There are two pieces of this story that make it slightly more interesting. The first, she had been running on the very trail I had been working on earlier in the day. A trail I have hiked for fun and for work around 500 times.  The second, we were hours away from what people were calling potentially the worst snow storm in the history of the state. My brain immediately said if we didn't find the dog in the next 5 hours it wouldn't survive the storm. 

I went back to the gear monolith and repacked almost exactly as I had that morning. I added a few things I hadn't brought for the morning class. Two headlamps with fresh batteries, a large maglight flashlight. Two chemical light sticks, ten feet of rope (for a makeshift leash, I was optimistic!) and a much larger first aid kit. We raced out the door to head back to my teaching venue. We got a surprise as soon as we arrived. The road approaches the lake from above, you head down a driveway to the lake. But there was a second parking lot just outside the park gates. I could see lights in the parking lot. A lot of lights. As we stopped driving, I started counting. I hadn't planned on other people being there, I figured the park would be closed and locked - it closes at dusk normally- we would walk in ( I know a way ) and get on the trail she had been running on. But as I said, as we arrived I started counting. I counted lights, lots of lights. 4 fire trucks, and a handful  of police cars. All had their lights spinning, and the sound of big diesel engines filled the air. If the fire department was there I knew they wouldn't let us on the trail. I made a quick phone call to the guy who runs the park and asked if he was there. He wasn't - home sick - but he told me who was. But without him there I knew the police wouldn't care that I knew the trail so well I could walk it blindfolded. He told me not to enter the park, and not to get on the trail. I said okay and hung up. Then I shouldered my pack and my wife and I walked into the woods in the dark. We used lights but never let them point towards the parking light (and as much light as the fire trucks were putting out I doubt they could have seen us) at one point where the trail switchbacked towards the parking lot I switched to a red light. Then back to white when we switched back to the other direction. What we did was walk in on a mountain biking trail that was closed due to bad weather, about a quarter mile down the trail I knew where we could cut through the woods and get on the hiking trail, the two trails ran vaguely parallel to each other. We made the switch without incident and as we got some distance from the parking lot the sound of diesel trucks faded, and the sounds of the forest came to life. Every now and then we would just stop and listen. I know how to look for missing hikers. Every time I get trained by a new company it is discussed. We had discussed in the class that very morning - on this very trail! - what to do if you get lost. Stop moving and make noise. But I had no idea what a lost dog would do. I figured he would circle the area looking for warmth or food or owner. At one point I am positive I heard a dog yelp, twice. I felt like he was in front of us and on our right side, somewhere between us - on the trail - and the lake on the right. Maybe he was near the water, drinking. That was when our sneaky little plan went south. I saw the lights first. Just one. Maybe it was our friend coming back down the trail. But then I saw two, three, four lights. It was some sort of group walking the trail. If it was the fire department there was a chance they would let us continue, but I knew if it was police they wouldn't allow it. It turned out it was four firefighters who walked the trail out and back. One of them recognized me as being an outdoor instructor - he knows the company I work for, and I know a number of firemen. They were actually an engine company that a friend of mine works on, but he was off duty. I asked If we could continue to walk the trail and he said he would need to check. As I chatted with the other fire fighters he walked a few steps away to talk who was in charge. I made small talk with the other firefighters. I noticed that why were very well equipped for a rescue, but not really for the environment, and I didn't think any of them had water. 

He came back a few minutes later saying the police department was in charge and they wanted everyone off the trail. They were concerned about someone getting hurt, and the pending storm. The six of us walked slowly back to the parking lot. They told us our friend was with three policemen who were walking the trail as well, and would be back to the parking lot soon. 

we waited an hour and a half, they must have walked very slowly. When they did get back there were many discussions, but all of them involved the park gates being locked and no one was allowed on the trails - sort of. The park would be locked, but the trails had other access points, and legally the trails never closed, except for when there was bad weather. At this point the weather was fine. It was supposed to start snowing in about 6 hours at about 4 am. But realistically I didn't think we would find the dog, in the dark. I was thinking it was probably huddled somewhere cold and scared. We could have probably walked right past it and not seen or heard it. 

We decided to call it a night, but our friend couldn't leave her dog out there, and I completely understood. I gave her a printed satellite map of the area - I teach map and compass on that trail, so I had a stack of maps printed on waterproof paper in my car - and offered her extra lights and layers. I showed her where we were, and she showed me where she had been when the dog got away, and what she had done to find him. Her plan was to  drive through the neighboring houses and into the school that bordered the park. We went home and I unloaded my pack for the second time that day. 

I took a hot shower, the kind of shower where as soon as you hit the water you realize you have been cold all day. I stood under the hot water and thought about the dog. If it had been my dog I wouldn't have stopped either. I would have gone all night. I laid in bed trying to fall asleep, thinking about the dog. Thinking about the snow. 

At 12:15, as I was staring at the ceiling trying to sleep, my wife's phone lit up. It cast blue light on the ceiling, and then went dark. I didn't think much about it, but I should have. The dog had been found. While we had been walking the trail in the dark, working to avoid the police the dog had been found by someone. Our friend somehow found this person and got the dog, the facts are still coming out. My guess is the dog chased the deer and just kept on running until it left the park. All is well that ends well I suppose. But it was a long day. 

Now, a whiskey awaits. I will sit in front of the fire, with my puppy. Promising myself to never let her off leash, and if she gets away and doesn't come back that I will never stop looking for her. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Plans for January


As the end of the year approached I got excited for a clean start. Time to put the things that occurred in 2015 that I didn't enjoy in the past and to look to the future (which as I read this I realize isn't being in the moment*). A new year. A clean start. I don't really like resolutions - they are always the same, eat better, go to the gym, etc. But what I do like are lists. And so I have made some lists of things to do or accomplish for 2016. Things to continue to do throughout the year. to be consistent. 

In 2016 I would like to get certified to be a mindfulness meditation instructor. I think it would be a good thing to add to the list of things I teach, and it would force me into a more regular meditation practice.

I would also like to make a short film for each month of the year, focusing on my work as an outdoor educator. Which means I am shooting a lot of things and just banking them for future use. 

In regards to filming, January is proving tough. Simply because I am not working a lot, and what I am working on is a lot of 'behind the scenes' stuff. I am in communication with the instructors I am working with on my upcoming WFA classes - and I am doing a lot of those. WFA classes are by far the hardest thing I teach. There is a lot of material to cover, a lot of gear, many students, not enough time and always involve travel. I am on track to do ten this year which would be a personal record. WFA's also mean prepping my gear, making schedules, and figuring out curriculum changes that occurred that I somehow missed. It also means making sure everyone who schedules my time to know when I am teaching WFA, so they don't schedule me to teach something else at the same time. 

Yesterday I met up with the senior instructor for the big program I work with. I teach out of a location that is separate from the main area - which gives us a little bit of a wild west feel compared to the main program. We have our own gear in a storage container and we needed to do an inventory. This is what it looks like. 

GearClean from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

January is a time when I practice my skills, and do it in bad weather. I spend a lot of time in my drysuit practicing skills with numb fingers. I am about 8 weeks away from teaching water courses and need to make sure my skills are as close to perfect on day 1 as possible.

If the weather would cooperate I would also be working on mountain bike skills and using my longboard - which is a new addition this year - But alas, rain, rain rain.

The year of teaching really begins January 29th when I head to my first WFA.

Also on my list this year is to build an audience on Instagram. I post at least once a day, and I have been posting a lot of short videos. Head on over and check it out. I just decided I would like to post 1000 images by the end of the year. That is something to work on, while keeping the quality standards high. No airplane wing photos... I promise.

That is where I am halfway through the month. Where are you?

*I have been watching (or listening) to a lot of Alan Watts