FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lighten Up, America

Watching the high school kids tottering up the hiking trail under ridiculous burdens I was reminded of the studies of GIs who jumped into the surf in the Normandy landings with 80 pound packs on their backs and promptly drowned. These days the overloaded back pack is coming under scrutiny as kids totter home from school hefting 30 pound loads. I’ve become a devotee of the famous long distance hiker Ray Jardine, whose philosophy of life and loads is set forth in his 1992 classic Beyond Backpacking, which should be nestling next to the works of John Muir on your book shelf.

Jardine and his wife Jenny have hiked all the major trails, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian, and watched with horror as overloaded plodders lost any sense of pleasure and often quit the trail altogether. After thousands of miles and much experimentation, the couple ended up with a total packweight each, minus food and water, of around eight pounds.

I read the book in the spring and was convinced. Out went the heavy hiker boots and in came modestly priced sneakers. (Jardine counsels you to tear out their tongues.) Out went the elaborate back pack with scores of irritating pockets and a metal frame. In came the simple Jardine-designed pack, weighing l4 ounces.

Jardine is persuasive in his denunciations of tents and sleeping bags as weighty traps for moisture. His tarp tent and sleeping cover plus pad, plus the tarp tent are undr 4 pounds overall. In the end I took to the trail along the Sinkyone Wilderness on a glorious weekend on California’s North Coast without tent under a pack weighing 15 pounds including food and white spirit stove and pan.

What a difference! Each stop to drink water and enjoy the wonderful vistas of redwood stands, Doug fir, and rock-girt seashore wasn’t prelude to the grim business of once again hoisting a 40 pound load onto sore shoulders. Going up the up steep grades was a breeze. I gloried in nature’s temple rather than feeling I was on the uphill slope to the morgue.

I was hiking with Bruce Anderson, supreme commander of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, beacon of freedom in Mendocino county and in fact America’s greatest newspaper. As we clambered out of sea level inlets up the trail to the 1,400 foot contour level three, four, five, six times across an overall hiking time along l6 miles of about eleven hours (plus a night under the stars) Bruce groaned beneath his old fashioned pack, thick sleeping sack and self-inflating mattress pad. Pad and bag were abandoned at dawn the second day and his spirits improved markedly.

Except for that party of high schoolers trekking up out of the Usal campground at the south end of the Sinkyone near the end of our hike we saw no one. We had about ten miles of the most beautiful trail on the Pacific coast all to ourselves. A neighbor took his grandson on Memorial Day weekend to camp for a couple of days along a well known trail some twenty miles north of Eureka. It runs along Redwood Creek and is far from punishing. They saw no one. Americans have given up hiking. They stay at home watching Fox or CNN and getting fat. Or punishing their bodies with Dr Atkins’ diet.

I’ve plenty of agreeable memories from that outing in the Sinkyone Wilderness: A stately elk, as encumbered with his vast rack of antlers as so many hikers with their loads; the bare vestige of Wheeler, a little logging town burned down by Georgia Pacific for reasons of liability back in the 1950s, now surrounded by triumphant stands of redwood.

But one image that will stay with me is of a young, plumpish fellow in that group heading north on the first steep climb up out of Usal. Already he was tired and lagging. His pack was large. It was easy to predict that after five or six miles his life-time pledge to avoid all hiking trails. There should be a new standard: no back pack over twenty pounds including food and water and if possible, under 5 pounds. No American over Well, you figure the appropriate weight to height standard. We make our stand against the food industry (America’s biggest killer) and the recreation industry, which mostly takes the fun out of the great outdoors.

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail