Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Getting "Out" From the Comforts of My Own Home

I've been extraordinarily busy for the last several weeks and my outdoor time whether hiking or merely seeing the light of day has been dwindling. Whether it is the strains of working for a new boss who recently hired one of his former employees who strangely enough does exactly what I do (dusting off the resume and hoping for the best) or the fact that I'm pretty sure I tore my MCL, I feel like I'm missing summer. Course, the few times I've braved the day, I was met with triple digit temperatures which singularly made me dream about fall and winter as I camped out in my refrigerator.

When I can't get out, I try to at least keep my spirit alive by checking in on some backpacking or outdoor programming to include many of the blogs listed on the right -------- >. Consequently, I've also watched a few DVD's.

Many of you know about Richard "Dick" Proenneke who quite literally lived in a homemade Alaskan cabin for nearly 30 years. His life during this adventure is documented in a video called "Alone in the Wilderness" by Bob Swerer Productions. His story is really great and he is a product of the World War II generation for which I have a tremendous amount of respect, admiration, and gratitude. For anyone that watched his documentary, they likely learned that he nearly lost his eye in an accident which contributed towards his need to seek refuge in the beautiful wilderness. Likely the thing that stood out most was both his self-sufficiency and his amazing ability to build just about anything, and build it well, with merely an axe, saw, a couple chisels, and some glue. Dick passed away in 2003 and his cabin is now under control of the U.S. Park Service.

Fortunately for those of us that couldn't get enough of Proenneke's escapades, Bob Swerer Productions came out with a sequel (Part II) of Alone in the Wilderness. It can be purchased at for $21.95. It has additional footage, shows Proenneke a little later in his life and a little more hardened from the environment. He reminded me of a trapper the more I watched his very experienced and mechanical actions, very much the mentality of a lightweight backpacker in the sense that he had only what he needed and was quite resourceful with that.

I also picked up "Alaska - Silence and Solitude" which covered a couple weeks in Alaska with Bob Swerer Sr. and Jr. which was interesting watching their child-like enthusiasm for the wild and their firsthand experiences which attempted to echo that of Proenneke.

I also picked up two backpacking DVD's which focused on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I personally have no desire to thru-hike the PCT principally because of the desert areas, but I do like the scenery of the central and northern parts in addition to watching the exchanges between hikers, gear choices, and just experiencing the trail vicariously.

The first was Wizards of the PCT ( which was narrated and was directed by a backpacker named Jester. The DVD was $20. This was one of those purchases which was a donation to the backpacking community. In my opinion, the footage was shaky and showed the less polished side of backpackers. It was pretty underwhelming in comparison to other backpacking videos I've seen and came with a heavy dose of snarky attitude which I assume has something to do with how Jester got his trail name. Nonetheless, it serves as a nice documentation of his personal experience and surely will entice some.

The second was a series of four DVD's called "Walk", "Still Walking", "Even More Walking", and "Walked" ( Although I wasn't thrilled to pay for four DVD's ($45 total) for something that could have been better paired down to just one DVD, the reality is that it is understandable because the narrator and director, a backpacker named Squatch only intended on making a single video. It was his goal to merely bounce around the PCT, talk to backpackers, and get a general idea of the lore of the path so close to his own home. After the first video, it was clear he got the backpacking bug and hiked a 150 mile section as he continued to bounce around and shoot more footage. By the third and following videos it was clear he became a backpacker and continued his trek along the PCT until he finished it. His fourth DVD "Walked" was the best production and quality by far and it served as a who's-who of the backpacker community with appearances from Jester, Joe Valesko (Samurai) from Z-Packs, Disco and Princess of Darkness from the great PCT documentary "The Walkumentry", and even The Onion (one of the first people to yo-yo the CDT along with Francis Tapon (Mr. Magoo) in the same year. I also noticed that ULA-Equipment packs were the most common, followed by Gossamer Gear in a close second, with some people carrying Osprey packs. The production and video quality improved towards the later DVD's and his personality was child-like initially and always inquisitive. I think it represented the "common man's" video of backpacking and serves as a good learning tool. If you decide you want to purchase one, go for the fourth installment (Walked).

I'd also like to take a moment to thank everyone to contributed to the Ultralight A-Z video series mentioned in my last blog. This project was fully funded and you and I can look forward to what will hopefully be a mainstay in lightweight backpacking DVD's.


Anonymous said...

Hiya Jolly Green Giant!

Some thoughts:

Firstly, nice blog site!

The AT is a great trail, I had a lot of fun meeting other hikers; quite the social experience. And the AT, being a dedicated footpath, is an uphill/downhill ass kicker for sure; I was in great shape when I finished. If you wish solitude, though, the PCT is the place to start. In the desert, there are things that sting, things that bite, things with thorns, and it gets hot as hell and windy too…. in other words, not too different from the AT! The only things missing are the tremendous inclines and the heat rash inducing humidity. ;0) (The PCT is graded for livestock, though you will hardly ever encounter them.)

And there is life in the desert; beautiful and abundant, especially when most thrus traverse in the mild season. And there is water, natural and cached, and hundreds make it through the dry stretches just peachy. I highly recommend the PCT. Give it a shot. If you don’t like a section, the answer is simple: skip ahead!

And then, with the AT and PCT under your belt, you’ll be ready for holy cow out there walk’en, on the CDT. That’s my next trail! (BTW: The "Walkumentry” covers the CDT.) And after that, when you are comfy with cross-country navigation, and near complete self-reliance, and absolutely no blazes or signage whatsoever, there is, waiting for the wanderers out there, the Hayduke.

There are so many places, so many, beyond the AT to explore. Thanks to the ATC and plenty of awesome volunteers, the AT is going nowhere; it’ll be waiting for you when you return.

So break the mold: hike the PCT! =)

~ HR HuffnPuff
Team Bad Wizard
JMT '06
PCT '08
ECT '10: Key West, FL -> Lubec, Maine
CDT Anticipated '12

Jolly Green Giant said...

@HuffnPuff - Thanks for stopping by and offering your tested experience and HUGE congrats on both your accomplishments and those that are ahead. Very impressive and I truly hope you recognize the gravity your accomplishments.