“Weight is Training”


This morning as my stove top espresso maker was completing it’s brewing task, and it made that volcano about to erupt sound that means coffee is imminent, I declared, “There’s that sound!” like I’ve said a thousand times before.

But this coffee brewer is new.  I’ve been using a different method for years. So my instinctual reaction, the words, the anticipation in my pores, is a throwback to a time in my life I can barely remember in my old age.

Working in “the field.”

As I poured my hot drink into my mug I said to MCB, “This is how I used to make coffee in the field.  I love that sound.”

“You carried one of those in the field? No wonder your shoulders hurt.”

Well, duh, of course that’s part of the problem, but was it worth it to have a decent brew at 4 am before climbing the Wham Ridge with a bunch of whiney, incompetent teenagers?

Most definitely, yes.

What I didn’t say was, “Don’t forget to add in the 2 pounds of coffee to get me through until the next resupply.”

And the down jacket, the 30-below down sleeping bag, hammock for a 3-day solo, geology and natural history books, climbing gear (rope, rack, shoes), ice axe, helmet, stove, fuel, clothes, mid (shelter), various and sundry other items (journal, chacos, chocolate), and enough food to keep this scrawny little body from completely wasting away at 13,000 ft.

If I could fit it into my Astralplane, I carried it.


Big mother-fucker isn't it?

7000 cu. in. Big mother-fucker isn’t it?


And anything and everything could fit into that pack.

I once carried 90 lbs.

At 20,000 ft.

I lost an inch in height.

This was before plastic french presses. I did carry a glass one for a summer but finally broke it over a fire ring trying to knock the grinds out of the bottom and had to drink cowboy coffee for 3 days.

It was horrid.

Besides cowboy coffee (swirling the grinds around in a pot of boiling water then tap-tap-tapping the sides to get the grinds to settle enough to pour it into a mug) the other options were:

The Gold Filter, which, while light to carry, made light coffee and had a tendency to tip over just as the last of the water made it through and into the mug.

There was The Sock. Some fucking genius thought that one could make coffee in a large cotton condom, over and over, each and every day, and that it would actually taste good.

coffeesock1Just looking at the flaccid, stained, sad little resevior, made me consider options other than coffee.

I tried some of those.

Tea? Blech. Tea is fine before bed or after being caught in a storm – it serves its purpose when one needs to warm up but it definitely doesn’t satisfy in the dark and the cold when one has to motivate to put on a heavy pack and climb to the top of a mountain.

In other words, as a motivator, it sucks.

But what sucked even worse were coffee substitutes.

Double blech.

contains: barley, chicory, rye

contains: barley, chicory, rye

Pero, the substitute of choice, especially in my militant vegan days, was vile, although I pretended to love it just as I pretended to enjoy Textured Vegetable Protein.

A little chicory and barley powder mixed with a little powdered soy milk and voila! you have a morning drink that will make you want to hide back in your sleeping bag.

After you hurl.

I realize that there are many other options out there nowadays; that brewing up is still the pleasure that it always was, just a lot lighter and easier.

For one, someone came up with the idea of small, lightweight, backpacking stoves instead of a Whisperlite and 60 oz of white gas.

But back in the old days, the 9-cup, aluminum (which is why I barely remember those days and will soon forget them all together) ultra heavy, ultra noisy pot was the best option.

So when I hear that sound in my kitchen in the morning, coming from a stainless pot, no longer aluminum, it brings a smile to my face; memories flood my not yet awake brain.

And my shoulders start to hurt.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  

haruki murakami


The Dildo House

Not a place that sells dildos.

Not a home built out of dildos.

And if dildos are currently being used there, I don’t know or need to know.

But, this house will always be the dildo house.

It’s an old house, generations old, and many a person has lived there.

When the current owner bought it, he was young, relatively innocent, and ambitious about a total overhaul of the place.

He even had some of his youthful friends come and help with the gutting, replumbing, rewiring, and rebuilding of the still-stuck-in-the-1800’s house.

Well, almost stuck there, with a small nod towards modern day amenities.

One of these sweet young (25?) young men was sitting on the floor in the basement of the house pulling electrical wires from a hole in the wall.

The wires got a little caught on something causing him to give a feisty tug.

The wire pulled loose and with it, a great surprise.


A giant, pink, dildo landed in his lap.

I am not kidding.


Pink flesh colored.

With a tube of lube.

I so wish that I had been there at that moment, but I wasn’t. But I do imagine him jumping out of his skin when an unrealistically sized silicone penis landed right next to his real one.

I might have missed that scene, but what I did get to see was the found item resting on a piece of OSB in the backyard waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it.

That will never be unseen.

In case you want more info on dildos



Gear Review

So I mentioned last night that I was climbing into my Backcountry Bed. And I realize that probably not a lot of folks out there know what that is. Because it is a proper noun, not just my name for sleeping on the couch when my child is sick.

Here is what it looks like:645images

It’s made by Sierra Designs.

It is zipperless.

It’s purple.

I needed a new sleeping bag. Over the years the quality of my bag(s) had diminished to the point that I finally let the boys sleep in them. And once a teenage boy sleeps in your bag, you’ll never want to again.

They had tears repaired with hair elastics and duct tape. They had been washed so many times that no quantity of tennis balls in the dryer could break up the down-clumps. They were stained. They stunk, and no matter how much duct tape I used, feathers still flew everywhere.

I decided that it was time for me to get a new bag – to treat myself, because who doesn’t get excited about a brand spanking new sleeping bag.

I began my search: Marmot, North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and then, Sierra Designs, the old standby.

They’re the old standby for a reason, (look again at the photo above).

They have Bed, Mummy and Garment styles. Since I am no longer winter camping, I didn’t need a bag that I can wear, thus eliminating the Garment. Then I went to the Mummy page since one look from my skeptical self eliminated the Bed style.

Here’s what it says: “Not ready to upgrade? Here are our traditional mummies.”

It was like a dare – an irresistible one.

I went to the Bed page.

And here’s what it says:

Back, side and stomach sleepers rejoice!

Could be good marketing, or maybe there was something to it.

I looked. I left the page. I returned. I looked a bit more closely. I left again. I went back again and saw that there was a video.

A video? For a sleeping bag?


Go to 1 min, 50 seconds for the deal clincher.

So I ordered the thing. Had it shipped to my office.

When it arrived, I pulled it out of the bag for my (outdoor professional) office mates to critique.

We all tried it. We all had a 1 minute 50 second moment, although ours were a bit more animated. And Bam! I was sold.

Any sleeping bag that provides that much fun is worth it.

I. Love. This. Bag.

It’s comfortable on the couch, on the ground, in the front seat of the truck (don’t ask), in a dust storm, under a crystal clear, freezing, desert sky, full of stars.

This actually really is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And, NO ZIPPERS. How great is that?

So, here is my plug for Sierra Designs. I may sleep on the couch from now on.