Lightning Bugs

I received this email yesterday from Cold Splinters reader, Jeff. Had to share it...This isn't blog-worthy but I thought you'd just appreciate it as an extracurricular activity.  I always love the first early weeks of summer when the lightning bugs first hatch.  I was sitting outside yesterday around dusk just enjoying the weather with a few friends when they started lighting up my backyard.  I grabbed a mason jar and collected about 15 of them.  I hadn't done that since I was about ten and it's still fun.  We had plans to go to see Star Trek later on that evening so we brought the jar with us.  I released the bugs in the theater and was thoroughly entertained watching them flash about and people confusedly point to them.  The people in front of me got up and moved when I opened the jar.  I was worried they were going to narc me out but all turned out well.I did have twinges of remorse this morning when I realized they probably all perished in the heavily air-conditioned theater, but part of me thinks it was a pretty fortunate way for them to go.

Arc'Teryx Factory Tour

arcteryx_factory_17A Continuous Lean went on up to British Columbia and took a tour of the Arc'teryx factory. Go take a look at his photos:

It was remarkable to see the amount of research and development that goes into the manufacture of the Arc’teryx goods. Not only does the company develop many of its own materials and components, it also engineers the tools and machines that physically make the gear. It was also interesting to see how highly involved GORE-TEX is in every step of the way. In addition to the main line merchandise, Arc’teryx has a few other interesting projects going on. More to come on that later.

MP3: Arthur Alexander - Everyday I Have To Cry Some

Appalachian Trail 2009

The 2009 AT thru hikers have already begun their journey from Georgia to Maine or Maine to Georgia. (Good Luck!) It's always a pleasure sleeping out with someone who is hiking the trail all the way through and listening to a few stories. Last year I brought a bag of Twizzlers with me and within seconds of asking if they'd like one, Goat and Turtle (most thru hikers have nicknames) had devoured the whole bag. Dicks. Check out the Class of 2009 on White Blaze, the online AT message board, and then check out White Blaze's Trail Terms and Slang. A few of our favorites below..AYCE - 'All You Can Eat' Restaurants that offer all you can eat buffets are very popular with hungry hikers.Hicker - a person who is still trying to figure out the whole hiker/gear thing while on the trail.Trail Angel - Someone who provides unexpected help or food to a hiker.

Big Agnes

pitchpine-zmsavery-zm1Steamboat, Colorado's Big Agnes was nice enough to send Cold Splinters one of their great sleeping bags to test out. More to come on these, but for now, read about their integrated bag and pad system:

Spend a night with Big Agnes and you'll look forward to sleeping in the backcountry. The Big Agnes System is different than the traditional sleeping bag on top of a sleeping pad. Instead, we unite the two.With Big Agnes, the pad slides into an integrated sleeve on the bottom of the bag, and the top two-thirds of the bag is insulated in the traditional style. When insulation material is compressed under your body, it loses most of its ability to insulate. We eliminate the unnecessary bottom insulation and replace it with a sleeve to accommodate the pad which provides the insulation. This design provides a secure foundation and keeps you on the pad all night.

Benefits of the system include: weight savings, reduced packed size, increased girth and comfort and the ability to roll and twist without rolling off your pad or waking to the feel of a zipper across your face. We make sleeping bags and matching pads in a variety of shapes and lengths, constructed from an assortment of fabrics and fills. Whether your plans call for lightweight backpacking, bike or motorcycle touring, car camping, mountaineering, hunting or just couch surfing, we have a bag for you. Sleeping in our system is similar to sleeping in your bed at home with a mattress under you for comfort and the covers on top for insulation. With our sleeping system you won't long for your own bed next time you sleep outside. We employ the Big Agnes System, the integrated pad sleeve, throughout our line of sleeping bags.

Environmental Sounds

Below are the liner notes from Environmental Sounds, an LP of two side-long recordings of "nature's music..recorded live on this planet." Download the two very long tracks at Closet of Curiosities. A Mid-Summer's ThunderstormThis was recorded in mid-July, near Saratoga, New York. It was one of those hot, heavy summer days when the air pressure increases until your veins are about to burst.In the blackness forming to the Southwest came the first rumblings. We ran to the studio and set up our microphones. The storm continued to build, the rumblings increased and lightning ignited the horizon. Though it was early afternoon, it appeared to be nearly nighttime. The wind began to blow, the leaves of the maple trees outside began to rustle, and the first drops began to fall. It was incredibly exciting.The rumblings continued to build slowly, the rain fell quietly. Then suddenly it came, from across the field you could see a wall of rain coming. And it engulfed everything. But the rumblings continued. Then as the rumblings were beginning to die out - lightning struck a tree only a few hundred yards away. There was so much power behind it, it was enough to make your hair stand on end. This was followed by several other sharp cracks, but far less threatening.Eventually the storm subsided, the sky became light, the rain lessened to a pleasant shower, and the first bird began to tweet. A dog could be heard and the sun came out. Other birds joined in and finally in the Northeast an amazing rainbow appeared against the dark sky.The record finally ends with a single bird that perched near our microphones warbling through the most amazing repertoire of songs, paying homage to the fresh new world."The Wind in the Autumn Woods" liner notes after the jump...The Wind In The Autumn WoodsThis was also recorded in upstate New York near Saratoga, but in late October. We were fortunate enough to record this on one of those quiet sunny afternoons, the last few days of Indian summer. The leaves, all red and orange and golden were beginning to fall, and the wind, in the tree tops above was shaking them loose (you may be able to hear some landing near our microphones). As we recorded this, lying on our backs on a bed of leaves and looking up through the lacework of branches above, we found ourselves amazed at how little we'd heard before; the wind coming in such unpredictable gusts, rising and falling with no perceptible pattern; the groups of geese from Canada headed south; the loud squawks of bluejays arriving to spend the winter; birds gathering in flocks preparing to move South (these were a little late, most had left by then); a dog barking and a cow mooing on a farm a half a mile off; a single engine airplane passing over; later a train far off in the distance; and the lonesome cry of crows in an open field about a quarter mile away. The wind subsided and we switched for a close-up to a set of microphones set very close to the leaves - dry and rustling quite loudly. With this close-up you can also hear flies buzzing, playing in the warm sun chasing each other, doing loop-de-loops, and one even landing on the microphone, sitting for a spell then zinging off again.The wind whistled and whispered, and did all those beautiful things poets celebrate as nature's most intimate music.Perhaps what fascinates us most about this recording is the purifying effect the wind has. There are times when I listen to this that I can feel that all negative stuff in me that's been collected during the day is being blown away. Whatever it is, it leaves me with a good cleansed feeling and makes a nice background environment, bringing the autumn woods into my room.


screenshot_046I have a friend named Jay who, up until about a year ago when he moved out West, was on 99% of the camping trips I went on for the past four years. I don't see Jay much anymore, but I did manage to meet up with him this last Christmas when we drove down to Joshua Tree from his new home in San Francisco. Point of the story is this - whenever Jay gets to a campsite, no matter how hot or cold it is outside, he has a ritual that he may or may not be aware of. Dude takes off whatever he's wearing, puts on a pair of beaten khaki Carhartt overalls and proceeds to comment on how comfortable they are and how much he loves them. It's wonderful and I've yet to see him not do this, so I hope he doesn't read this and get self-conscious of it.After the first year of seeing "The Jay" performed so many times, I decided that I too would have to get a pair of overalls to put on while lounging around the campsite. The last thing I wanted to be was a poseur, so I found a pair of conductor overalls from Round House, who have been making their clothes in the United States since for over 100 years. Suppose that's a bonus. (Unfortunately, still a poseur.) I'll tell you what, those things are the most comfortable pair of anything I think I ever owned, so comfortable that I bought another friend a pair to put on with me whenever we went looking for a place to sleep outside. And with "workwear" becoming such a big part of the big-city fashion lexicon, it'd probably be a safe bet to wear them whenever you damn please. Go buy a pair.Round House

Free National Parks

Free weekends at the National Parks!

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the initiative Tuesday at a news conference at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio."National parks also serve as powerful economic engines for local communities, and we hope that promoting visitation will give a small shot in the arm to businesses in the area," Salazar said.All 147 National Park Service sites that charge entry fees will wave them for June 20 and 21, July 18 and 19, and August 15 and 16. Those fees range from $3 to $25.

Tons more old National Park signs from the amazing Piedmont Fossil after the jump..

We'll Live To Piss On Their Graves

screenshot_045We know we spend too much time here talking about Edward Abbey, but with news about The Monkey Wrench Gang movie, it seems like a good idea to take a look at a video from 1981 of Abbey speaking at the Glen Canyon Dam protest where he and other protesters infamously displayed the "crack" banner. One of the most memorable scenes in The Monkey Wrench Gang involves Seldon Seen Smith on his knees at the dam praying for an earthquake to ruin it."Surely no man made structure in modern American history has been hated so much by so many for so long with such good reason as Glen Canyon Dam." - Ed AbbeyThe video is after the jump...

Lumbee Tribe Seeks Federal Recognition

screenshot_019The House is considering two bills today that will grant the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and six Virginia tribes hundreds of millions of tax dollars in housing, education, and health benefits. The name "Lumbee" is derived from the region near the Lumber River in Robeson County, North Carolina. In 1956, the United States Congress passed House Resolution 4656, know as the Lumbee Act, which recognized the Lumbee as American Indians but prohibited them from receiving federal services ordinarily provided to federally recognized tribes. The Lumbee is the only American Indian tribe caught in these circumstances and there has been lots of opposition from other tribes, especially the eastern branch of the Cherokee, who do not consider the Lumbee's genetic make-up pure enough for full Native American status. Obama's administration has pledged to support recognition of the Lumbee tribe, but has yet to pledge support for recognition of the Virginia tribes. (AP)MP3: Andy Griffith - North Carolina, My Home State

Mammut Smart

mammutReview by Brendan Oates"I reckon this thing be weird looking." When I first locked in my rope and carabiner with the Mammut Smart, I was slightly baffled by the design.  My climbing partner and I stared at the thing for a moment figuring out the best way to function the lightweight device.  After questioning our cognitive ability, the Smart decided to cooperate with us. The mechanics of the device are similar to the Grigri and Cinch devices, but with those you can choose your belay grip. I belay the traditional, underhand style and the Smart is designed for reverse grip belaying. No questions asked.Keep reading for the rest of the review....Grigri and Cinch belay devices are definitely a nice option when holding your partner's weight while they're resting during a lead climb, but the Mammut Smart cuts cost (it's $29.95) and weight considerably, and though it's not auto locking, it provides an assisted-catch for dealing with hard falls.  Top rope belaying is actually quite comfortable and smooth once you get the hang of the Smart.  Feeding slack while lead belaying is fast and clean. It's suitable for all ropes between 8.5 and 10.5mm.Down sides: not for use on multi pitch climbs; rappelling can only be done with a single line.Mammut HomepageBuy: Mammut Smart on