So, out com
So, out com
The answer is always no. However, I have recently discovered another weed which might prove quite lucrative in the future. Yerba Santo, the holy weed. Used in a variety of methods such a direct chewing or steeped as a tea it is widely hailed to relive respiratory problems, such as asthma and bronchitis. It can be applied directly to inflammations to ease hives, rashes and swelling or combined with other plants can be used to make a salve to alive these symptoms. Until I read this, I had more interesting names than holy weed reserved for the thousands of yerba santo plants littering the area around the cabin, which could miraculously re-grow in days after clearing an entire area. We have thousands of these plants.
In my Guerrilla Camping articles, many often commented on my avoidance of the topic of foraging. The reason has been because there are dozens of authoritative books on the subject with great illustrations and written by experts with a profound understanding of poisonous look-alikes, seasonal uses and a vast catalog of plants they understand. My foraging and wildcrafting abilities are narrow, yet regularly grow as I find myself living in new places, exposed to new flora. In short, I don’t want somebody to read something I write and then go and poison themselves with a poisonous fennel look-a-like.
One interesting piece of wildcrafted lore is that whenever one finds a poison in the wilds, you will find it’s antidote within fifty paces. So when I read that Yerba Santo, combined with a weedy yellow flower called San Francisco Gum Weed, is an excellent southing agent for the rashes of poison oak, I banged my head against the table. Of course! I have thousands of poison oak plants and thousands of Yerba Santo plants.
Yerba Santo, the ubiquitous weed up here is actually quite useful and grows out of control. The weed is sold, dried and powdered, online for $40 a pound, and 365 capsules (presumably a year’s supply) sell for slightly less. Yet my interest is in preparing a poison oak salve for the use of my WWOOFers, my guests and myself. Should it prove effective, I might try to prepare it for sale at the farmer’s market, combining it with Aloe and other soothing agents.
The lesson is this: before you go ripping plants out of the ground in hopes of growing something profitable, find out what earth has given you first. It will be easier (or unnecessary) to cultivate, will grow within the confines of your available water and soil condition and hopefully someday, when somebody asks what I do, I’ll be able to blow their minds by saying, “I grow the holy weed”. . .
On their last day there, I promised something different than the incessant clearing and foundation work we had been doing. With three able bodied young men to assist me, I knew the time was ripe for some serious salvage.
Looking down off the side of the hill approaching the cabin, you can see an impressive length of ¾ inch PVC running from a culvert to a deeply wooded spot nearly half a mile away. There, overgrown by poison oak, surrounded by decade old trees was a thousand gallon water tank, doubtlessly used by the previous tenant’s marijuana cultivation system. Shaded by a grove of madrone, the tank was in remarkable condition and I had been figuring out how to get it out of the woods and next to the cabin where it would be the main storage for my rain catchment and fog harvesting systems.
We began the morning by walking tooless up to the tank, amazed at how invisible the road had become. The poison oak was everywhere, ranging from little spouts springing up from the duff to enormous vines, brushing dangerously close to our faces. After a winding trip up the hill, we found the tank and proceeded to scout out the path of least resistance.
The easiest way to get it out involved clearing a six foot wide swath through the woods, then abruptly turning west towards the drive way. Of course, once we got set to clear, the chain saw wouldn’t work, so I grabbed my cordless reciprocating saw, a brush cutter, a set of loppers and strapped my hatchet to my belt. An hour later, we had a passable road to the tank, which led to a six foot drop off beside the drive way. All that was left was to free the tank from the poison oak, and the thirty five foot madrone that had sprung up between the tank and the clearing.
The chainsaw would have made the task simple, but since we didn’t have it, I told the boys to go relax a hundred feet down hill and proceeded to get down to work with the hatchet. Now, this is not your standard deep woods hatchet, it’s an ultra light gerber camping hatchet. Fortunately, it’s light weight and short handle is offset by the fact that I keep it razor sharp, so wedging the tree and girdling down to the heartwood was easy. However, upon reaching the hardwood, the work slowed. Hearing my pauses become more and more frequent as my shoulder began to ache and a blister formed on my hand, the boys shouted up, “need some help?” I told them to send up one person, and a few seconds later, Tim arrived with his wry smile.
I showed him what we were doing and explained how the tree would fall. I pointed to a large tree to the left of the path of the fall to run to when he heard the crack. And we started at it again. Five minutes later, we shoved on the tree and Tom let out a bellowing “TIMBER” that echoed through the valley below as the tree fell neatly across a strand of brush I had decided not the clear for just that reason.
I limbed the tree and tied some of my climbing rope into a harness around the tank. Pulling it free from it’s foundation, we set it on end and used the downed tree to get the tank up and onto the trail we had cleared. It wasn’t easy work, but compared to clearing the trail, it was simple and not as exhausting. Once we reached the main trail, it became a downhill battle, and we split up, two men to push it down hill, two to make sure it didn’t go careening into a stump or branch and puncture.
Our goal had been to get it right to the edge of the roadside, and leave it there until Creek returned with the big brown truck. Looking down at my truck and back at the trail we created, I asked the guys if they wanted to give it a go and take it all the way. Their response was an immediate and resounding “YES!”
To get the tank onto the truck, we had to stop rolling it, and instead begin to tumble it, end over end until we could slide it onto the roof of my SUV, a 94 chevy blazer, which could have easily parked inside the tank. As we worked, we joked how the story would improve with age, about how the mountain lion that moved into the tank had chased us, how the tank and started to roll down the hill prompting a Raiders of the Lost Ark Moment and how the tank would get larger and the car smaller until we were pulling down a 20,000 gallon tank and slapping it on the roof of a Mini.
It took four 25 foot tie downs to get the beast strapped on properly and then the cameras came out. The appearance is farcical. My truck, which I once considered large was dwarfed by the immense tank and the only thing that let us know it was safe was knowing that the tank probably only weighed 100 lbs. I had used low four wheel drive to back my truck up the side of the driveway, and had only two feet of road between us and the hillside below. I carefully maneuvered the truck back onto the driveway, and Tom hopped in.
A few minutes later, we were parked in front of the cabin, still laughing at the absurdity of the incredibly large tank on my now dwarf sized truck. We maneuvered the truck around for a few pictures of the group before unstrapping it and rolling it off the side.
In place, we clapped and patted each other on the back. It was the Brits’ last day at work with me, and we had accomplished a lot, though this was the crowning grace, as we had started the project together, worked past various obstacles and completed it. Our spirits were high, through we were quite tired, and I drove everyone up the hill for a much needed Tecnu shower to rinse off the poison oak that covered us from head to toe.
Huge thanks to Dave, Tom and Stu who spent way more hours than they needed to, working way harder than they needed to to help make my dream of living in the cabin in the woods a reality. I'll miss you guys and look forward to the kind of trouble we can get into when I get out to the other side of the pond for a visit. Another game of Kings Cup is definitely in order.
With a morbid creak, the cabin started to move. Slowly, I pumped the handle to the 30 ton bottle jack I had propped between redwood slabs, cautiously peering between the concrete and the wood of our foundation. With each pump of the handle, the cabin raised a few more millimeters, the wooden supports groaning precariously, until I saw a fingernail of sunlight through the opposite side. Working quickly, I took a maul and knocked out the old wooden shim, and banged in an identically cut block into its place. Checking to make sure the alignment was perfect, I pulled the handle from the jack and using it to release the pressure, I slowly lowered the cabin back onto its concrete piling as the wood gave a sickening, stressful moan.
I was sitting under the cabin with Gabe, a WWOOFer from Washington who was on the first leg of a motorcycle trip around the continental
The cabin now supported by a piece of wood that did not look like swiss cheese, we hollered off the measurements for the side blocks as Creek worked rapidly to cut the blocks on the chop saw in the shop. The difficulty of cutting 16x9 inch blocks of wood with a chop saw should be obvious, but the table saw killed the generator, so it was our only choice. We marked the eighth of an inch metal straps that would secure the cabin on the foundation, and sent them up to the shop to get drilled by Creek. We hammer drilled through the pilings, fit the blocks and straps together, drilled through them, using a 50 year old auger bit that belonged to my father, and slipped ¼ inch bolts through the whole shebang, binding them together with an impact driver.
There were 12 foundation pilings to support and by the last one, I was lying prone next to a small patch of poison oak, with barely a foot of clearance as Dave handed me tools, and worked from the outside to get it all together. But now, the foundation is secure, the rebuilding can begin in earnest, and I will hopefully never have to pick up another house again. Whew!
At a local mutual support meeting a couple of weeks ago, we did the round robin bit where we each explained “what we do”. My mention of this blog caused a bit of confusion. “You write about trespassing?” “Illegal camping?” So I decided to explain what Guerrilla Camping is.
Guerrilla Camping is simply camping where you aren’t supposed to. The term is in vogue with cross country cyclists, while distance hikers seem to prefer the term stealth camping. Either way, it is an option that allows a more direct experience of the wilds we find ourselves retreating to. It is also an option forced upon the increasing numbers of people who set out to bike or walk incredibly long distances.
The act of guerrilla camping comes with great responsibility. As you are often camping in pristine environs, it is your duty to assure that when you leave, no trace is left of your presence. No burn scars from cook fires, no mounds from cat holes, to trash and only the flattened grass gently rising for a day after you depart to hint at the one time presence of your tent or sleeping bag.
I adopted the practice in the mid ninties when I spent my long weekends hitchhiking and walking throughout the deep south. I discovered that the best nights in towns were spent camped out with the resident street artists and hobos who knew the back sides of the cities. I found that camping in a hidden corner of some farm’s grain field was always quieter than that developed campsites on national forests, lacking the throngs of RV driving loudmouths who must live in war zones to consider a night in the woods with a generator, camped out next to a dozen others with generators to be relaxing.
To me, the act of guerrilla camping is one of empowerment. Especially when on foot. Increasingly today, there are places that are legally unreachable on foot, boxed off by no pedestrian signs, freeways, no-trespassing signs and other imaginary lines. The first time you walk someplace distant, without a trail, without an authorized path, you realize how much we have forgotten about our land and about ourselves. Weather you are camping in a hidden clearing in a national forest hoping to avoid the rangers, or camping behind an abandoned paper mill in a half forgotten boomtown hoping to avoid the sheriff, guerrilla camping shows you that the world is not the place of ownership and fences we believe it is. Going guerrilla teaches you that camping is what you can get away with.
After sundown, the silence is dense and heavy. The weight of the star filled sky comes down on the cabin like a lead shroud, and the daytime sounds of lizards, frantic tow-truck bugs and overhead hawks fade away, leaving nothing but the vague hints of distant animals. On moonless nights the silence is accompanied by an impenetrable darkness. Huddled around the campfire in our front yard we see nothing.
"Then pull this forward… and yank…"
"Then just slide the choke back to here.."
As the generator steadied into a consistent roar,
We spent a long time living in a tent with solar charged batteries providing our light though small LED headlamps, and standing there in front of the cabin, bathed in the bleach white glow of the lamp I was struck by how far we had come. The campfire, only fifteen feet away seemed ancient and the shattered silence, obnoxious in its volume, spoke of futures of civilization, of finished walls and conveniences.
We barbequed burgers on a cheap grill as I sautéed mushrooms on our faithful campstove. We chased the burgers down with beer, joking about how we no longer needed to go to town for cold beer and hot burgers.
"How far have we surpassed car camping?" I laughed, looking sideways at our bags sitting in the middle of the shop, bags that less than a year ago had carried our lives' possessions to the spot where we now stood, bathed for the first time in artificial light, surrounded by the sparking promise of electricity.
Ere… ere… ere… ere…er….
Cast back into darkness the forest was alive. Moths battered themselves against our battery powered lanterns, forcing me to ponder what Darwinian trick had lured their kind to ancient lights; provided only by fire assuring a scorching and immediate death to their ancestors. Instead, their shadows played at the edges of the tent, alluding to monstrous fifteen pound moths, with foot long wingspans.
Our noise, our light and our cooking changed the place subtly, and that night we would listen to moths bat gently against the tent, as packrats looted our trash can.
Civilization had come to the mountain.
Not wanting to wake my fiance, I spent an hour or so pulling out coyote brush and making plans to clear the area housing the animal pens. The prior residents left the place a fabulous disaster, with trash ranging from a Volkswagen clutch to three camper shells in various states of dissolution. I flipped one camper shell onto it’s side, revealing an intricate network of tunnels dug out by carpenter ants, along with two ringneck snakes and a garter snake. The ringnecks are gorgeous snakes, dark emerald green with a crimson stomach and a slender serpentine grace. Talking to neighbors up on the hill, they are apparently quite rare, though my boss has video shot at our property of three of them in an intricate intertwined mating.
So far, I have done lots of road clearing and trimming. In two months, the well goes in. Yesterday, we got our first generator a 4500 watt screamer that will serve to run our tools as I finish reinforcing the foundation. I’ve sorted out maps, resources, and a list of likely materials I will need to start getting the cabin up to modern living standards.
Coming down the hill, Venezuela has privatized the last of its oil fields, bush is vetoing the war spending bill, more static is coming up about the Virginia shootings and the overpass in San Francisco is likely to suffer delays to rebuilding caused by steel shortages. I shrug. None of it seems to effect me anymore. It’s not laziness of apathy, more a creeping sense of “I told you so.” that plays on my conscience. I tried to change the world, now I try to make my own; far enough down a dirt road that none of this will bother me, though the only broadcast entertainment that comes in clearly at the cabin is NPR. The sea level would have to rise about 2000 feet to give me beachfront property, the bees, wasps and butterflies are voluminous and the other wild animals leave hints to their presence, bear scat, a deer antler, the soft gobble of wild turkeys shaking through the trees. No, politics is someone else’s game now. I have to worry about water, power and heat before winter arrives. Worrying about winter before summer officially arrives gives you a sense of perspective you seldom have living in the city. I don’t have to worry about heating bills, just limbing trees to stop forest fires and getting this old woodstove fixed up. I don’t have to worry about a facist crackdown, the paddywagon would never make it down my road, and if it did, I doubt it would make it past my neighbors.
No, there is nothing for me to be angry about anymore. I know the world has problems, and I might still try to fix them, but for now, they are yours. I’ve got my own. Simpler, easier to fix, easy to understand, hard to figure out why we left such simple living behind, no matter how hard the work may be.
Anyways, I have to go, I have design work to do before heading back up the mountain and the soundtrack I’m working on is about rendered and therefore ready to send. Yeah, some mountain man. ;)
Guerrilla Camping 101.1 Revisited – The Red Pack
Ah gear. At no time do I enjoy the materialistic and consumerist routine of cataloging my possessions like when I make a pack list. But it is an obligatory post. It determines what kind of pack one carries and shows where one is coming from.
Since writing the first GC blog nearly two years ago, my pack has refined itself into a more professional rig as I prepared to start walking hundreds of miles rather than dozens. The pack below is not a small financial commitment and is overkill for most pedestrian adventures. It is a pack that can be carried alone, but which was prepared for two person trips with certain items dispersed. (One person carries the kitchen, the other carries the bedroom.) It is also, as described below, capable of supporting me comfortably in desert heat, or winter snow. Much of this gear gets boxed or left behind for normal climates. If you are looking for a cheap single person bug-out-bag, see my previous blog.
Yes, I carry a heavy pack. I like the exercise, and except for that foot injury that happened when I had the entire thing confined to one pack while walking down a rocky mountain road in the dark in old shoes, it has done well for me. If I could run with the old pack, I can sprint with this one when it is properly adjusted, and has taught me why molly replaced
His: Gregory Palisades (5100 cubic inches)
Hers: Gregory Forester (4000 cubic inces)
MSR Whisperlite International with stainless pot, screen cleaning kit and diffuser
(2) 1 liter SIGG fuel bottles
Titanium Fork and Spoon
Titanium lid Lifter
Assorted baggies and nalgenes for spices. (I never use film canisters any more. TAP plastics sells VERY cheep small plastic bottles which DO NOT SHOOT PEPPER IN YOUR FACE!)
MSR Mini-Works Pump
Platypus 3 liter hydration bag
1 Litre Nalgene
3 gallon sil-nylon water bag (Collapses to size of tennis ball)
Portable Aqua tablets, no PA plus
Sierra Designs Omega (4 season convertible with fast pack ultra-light option
MAC Donner 20 degree rated bag (How do you give up on a sleeping bag called the donner?)
Thermarest Pro-Lite 3
2 dickies over shirts
2 duo-fold inners.
1 pair transformer shorts/pants
1 Pair jeans
1 Pair rain pants
1 pair light long johns.
1 Polar Fleece sweat shirt
1 Ultra-Light shell coat
1 long sleeve t-shirt
1 pair polar fleece liner gloves
1 pair thinsulate lined leather gloves (fire proof, very important for me)
Map / Journal bag with mechanical pencil, leads, and pen.
First Aid Kit in a small canvas pouch. Includes splinting and suture materials.
First Aid Kit (provided by Red Cross on shoulder strap)
Gerber Camp Hatchet (Fiskars makes a lighter one I wish I had though)
Leatherman Blast multi-tool.
Sewing Kit with fish line, hooks and lures
100 Feet of 550 parachute cord in various lengths
The 100 feet of 3000lb test climbing rope w/ two carabiners and 8 foot section for Swiss seat usually stays at the cabin.
I've probably left a few things out as I typed this without turning around to look at it, but is is still packed by the door from my office, ready to head to the hills at the slightest whim...
I promised Guerilla Backpacking 101. Here is my first blog to that effect. Below is a semi-complete pack list I wrote up this weekend while I was out in the woods.
I have spoken to a number of long distance hikers who consider my pack immature, meaning I haven’t spent the time nor money paring my pack down a laughable 20lbs. If the ribbing gets too much, I simply challenge them to a race. “You carry that 20lbs maybe 4-8 weeks a year. I carry my 45lbs 52 weeks a year.” Yes, I can run five or six miles straight with this thing on. That always shuts them up.
As a caveat emptor, this pack is something I have been carrying and evolving for 9 years now. If you go out and buy or make all this stuff, throw it in a pack and expect to be happy as you bounce along the trail; think again. Start minimally during the late spring and summer, and gradually add gear and weight to your pack. During the summer, I have gone out with a blanket, a boat tarp, a bag of fruit and a pocket knife and had a great time.
May I present:
(1)15 degree rated Synthetic Fill Sleeping Bag
(1)Thermarest Matress Pad (Sleeping on really cold ground CAN kill you and it makes the hammock sleep flatter)
(1)Silk Sleeping Bag Liner (This was expensive, but lets me sleep comfortably even in the snow, even with my 15 degree bag)
(1)Guatemalan Jungle Hammock. (Good enough for Che, good enough for me)
(2) US Army camouflage Ponchos (tents, hammock cocoons, snow cave roofs, bivy sacks, River Rafts (I’m not joking) these things do it all.)
(12) tent stakes (3 inch long aluminum gutter nails)
(12) 1 foot lengths of 550lb parachute cord.
(2 each) 12, 25, 50 foot lengths of parachute cord
(1)Homemade Can Stove
(1)Thrift Store Aluminum Pot
(1)Coat Hanger Pot Holder
(1)Aluminum Foil Windscreen
(1)Flint and Steel Striker (You’ll run out of matches in a month)
(1)240z metal energy drink bottle filled with denatured alcohol
The Food Bag: (canvas laundry bag with steel sack trash bag liner and 50 feet of nylon cord for hanging away from the coons)
Usually, 1lb of rye, whole wheat, or a blend of flours
1-2lbs of corn pasta (Way more filling)
.5lb instant rice
2oz plastic bottles of Salt, Pepper, Garlic and Baking Soda
4oz plastic bottles of Chicken Bullion, Mustard and Oregano
8oz plastic bottle of olive oil
2 yards 300tc silk screen with plastic grommets to use for drying food or making bread
(In addition to this, I often carry things like bollion cubes, couscous, etc. The stuff listed above is just my core stuff I always keep packed.)
(1) used adidas (All Day I Distress About Socialists) polyester sport shirt. (You can wash it out in cold water and it dries in minutes, I love this shirt)
(1) pairs light brown khaki cargo pants (Denim is way to heavy to lug around)
(1) T-Shirt from a band I used to be in.
(1) pair of cutoff shorts.
(1) set polypro long johns.
(1) pair wool socks
(1) pair of women’s knee high nylons (If you need to cover 30 miles in a day, these can keep you from getting blisters doing it, wear them inside your wool socks and wrap the top around the outside of the sock and boot to hold it in place.)
(1) set army surplus gortex park and shell pants (Rain and show gear)
(1) pair of lightweight mountaineering boots (Fuck combat boots or jungle boots)
(4) 1”x4” solar panels attached to a 6”x6” piece of canvas, wired to a multi-adapter with a 4AA/AAA charger.
(6) NiMH rechargeable Batteries (4aaa, 2aa)
(1) Sony Sports MP3 Minidisc Recorder (sorry, I hate branding, but 7 hours of recording per disc, runs off 1aa battery and I dropped it off a cliff. And mini discs don’t scratch)
(1) really small watch battery condenser mic.
(1) aaa powered headlamp/flashlight.
(I want to get a digital camera, but can’t decide if I want the extra batteries, or if I want a real film camera.)
1 oz backpackers first aid kit w/ added suture kit and space blanket.
(1)Firestarting kit: Flint and Steel, Matches, 4 Birthday Candles.
(1)MSR porcelain filter water filtration pump.
(100 ft) (Now about 30) of 550 cord braided with a grommeted dispenser
(1)3qt hydration bladder
(2) lexan plastic water bottles
About 50 yards of duct tape, wrapped around every bottle I carry.
(1) small spool of fishing line and a few hooks and sinkers.
(1) Small Spool of Black Thread and 2 needles.
(1 each)Lexan Plastic Fork and Spoon (Hard as metal, lighter than paper)
Notebook, pen, pencil.
Local Map and Compass if possible.
(1) bar of soap and a small hand towel.
(1) A little travel thing of deodorant.
The Wallet and Passport:
Keep $40, an ATM card, a Drivers License, a library card and a passport. If you have the chance, get business cards made that allow you to show a means of support. I spent nearly a week in jail on vagrancy charges while walking through Texas, and since then, while I have been stopped many times, a reasonable cover story that I’m simply a businessman taking a vacation to walk someplace has kept me out of the poke. And no matter how bad the mosquitoes may be out there, the bailiff is probably a lot more annoying.
The Moving Box:
If I’m moving from one city to another or living without a door to lock my stuff for any period of time, I also have a plastic tool chest I strap to the bottom of my bag to carry my laptop and a few precious don’t-breakables. Generally, rather than taking all my stuff with me when I move I set aside 40 dollars to buy new city clothes, sheets and toiletries from thrift stores when I get there, but I do have a few favorite shirts that I keep. My Moving Pack is probably closer to 65 lbs but the extra stuff can be mailed if need be.