Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pebble Tools

Today my house was being shown to some potential buyers so I had to get out for awhile. I decided to go to the park for another barefoot run. It was a great day. There was light rain so almost no one was at the park. I pretty much had the place to myself except for a couple custodians. I felt quite wild running in the rain with no one around.

After I finished I had some more time to kill so I started into the woods to my usual spot. As I crawled in on all fours a pile of pebbles caught my eye. I recalled the newsletter I got from Practical Primitive. The skill of the month was Pebble Tools. It's a skill that was taught to me a couple years ago in the Advanced Standard class at the Tracker School. I hadn't really used the skill since then.

The technique is called Bipolar Percussion, but as Tom says, "Bash two f***ing rocks together!". Simply put, you place the object rock on top of a larger rock known as an anvil and then hammer it with another big rock until it breaks.

You end up with pieces like those in the picture below. I'm hoping to try to carve up a fireboard for a bow drill with these pieces. I also grabbed a couple stones for burnishing. Those are the smooth round ones in the bottom right of the picture.

This is an easy but important skill to have considering that you may not always have a knife and it can be hard to find knappable rock. It's usually easy to find pebbles.

For a full lesson with picture on how to do this, check out Eddie's page.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Backpacking the Smokies

Last week I went backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my family. My brother and I were surprised when we heard that our mom was coming. She has never really wanted anything to do with camping let alone backpacking. In all there were 7 of us including my parents, brother and his girlfriend, two nieces and me. In summary we covered about 30 miles in 4 days and 3 nights.

Left to Right (Natasha, Brianna, me, mom, Andrew, dad)

My mom and nieces had no experience at all. We planned a route that would be mostly downhill and also along rivers a lot of the way since the temperature was in the 90s. Our route took us from Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park at 6,643 feet about sea level, to the trail head at Tremont in Tennessee.

We got off to a rocky start. Because we had to drop a car off, we didn't get started till 2:30pm the first day. A couple hours into it my niece Brianna sprained her ankle on a rocky downhill portion of the trail. My brother and I traded off carrying her piggyback while the other carried both backpacks. This went on for a mile or so until she was able to hobble at a decent pace. We made it to camp with enough light to put up our tents, eat and get settled in.

Although struggling and complaining a lot, she was able to hike the rest of the trip (with a lightened backpack) which is pretty impressive especially for a first timer. My mom did very well and never complained.

Another scary moment was when my brother got stung by a bee. He is allergic and nearly died once. He had epi-pens on hand, but we were probably 5 miles from a car at the time. He applied his homemade plantain salve and we waited to see if he was allergic to that particular sting. Thankfully he didn't have a major reaction. His arm did swell up pretty big though.

4 out of 7 of us got stung by some form of flying insect over the course of the trip. I took one upside my head. They were everywhere. There is no worry of CCD in the Smokies!

Laura, my brother's girlfriend

Here you can see Brianna hobbling along using two walking sticks.

The weather was pleasant while we were there. It was supposed to be really hot, but we only really felt the heat a few times. There was of course a lot of sweating on uphill sections, but not so much from the heat or sun. 95% of the trails we were on were shaded. Being a temperate rain forest, the vegetation is very lush even in a drought year. It rained but a few drops while we were there.

My brother and I thought it would be a pretty nice place to be if/when TSHTF and MZBs (Mutant Zombie Bikers) are running a muck. A month ago I happened to be looking at population density and precipitation maps for the US to see what places would be good for this scenario.

On this US precipitation map I noticed a circle of area around Tennessee and the Carolinas that got a lot more rain than most of the country. I didn't investigate further to see what cities were in that area. As it turns out, the Smokies comprise the northern portion of that rainy spot.

On the same map you can see the brownish-red area in southern California where I will be spending 8 months starting at the beginning of October.