I Can Haz Camping?

I took my son camping this weekend - just me and him - and we had a blast. I think that getting out in the woods and doing things, rather than watch other people do things on TV, is very important. And I get to - slowly - teach him some skills and values that will be helpful later in life. Doing it while camping just makes it more fun for both of us!

We stayed one night in Raccoon Creek State Park, just about 45 minutes west of Pittsburgh. The campground there has quite a few nice, somewhat secluded, campsites for a modest fee. I can't wait for him to be a little older so we can go backpacking, but for now we'll use a tent at a real campsite until he's ready.

After setting up our tent, we headed down to the lake and rented a canoe. We paddled downstream for the first twenty minutes or so and stopped often to investigate anything and everything. Several branches from a submerged tree broke the surface and quite a variety of marine life was darting in and out. Paddling beneath a willow tree that angled out over the river was a treat – it became our fort and we staged several attacks on the ducks that attempted to invade. After an hour or so of cruising around the lake (paddling solo is definitely more work!) we headed back to the campsite and got our fire going.

We bought a few bundles of firewood but there wasn't enough dry kindling to scavenge, so I got to show him how to use a knife - Benchmade Rant 515 - to baton some of the logs into various size pieces for kindling. Possibly overkill for what we needed, but he got to see different ways that knives can be used as tools. He is very familiar with knives as I always have at least one on me. He will be the first to tell you that knives and firearms are tools, not toys, and that they should not be played with – only used when needed. It was awesome letting him help use them correctly and help him get some tangible experience to back up the verbal lessons he gets at home.

After dinner we sat by the fire and toasted some marshmallows before heading to sleep.

One of the highlights of the trip - for both of us - was when I gave John his first knife - a Kershaw Squaw Creek with a two-inch blade and rosewood inlaid in the handle. He was very excited and wanted to use it to cut everything. I reiterated the dangers of a knife and how to use it safely and he was thrilled when he got to use it to cut up his hot dogs at dinner. It now lives in his tackle box at home.

I'm proud of the kind of guy John is becoming and hope that he continues to be interested in camping, hiking, and boating in the years to come!

Mother Nature Has Rights Too!

I honestly don't even know what to say to this. Only two things come to mind:
  2. Are you fucking kidding me?
LTE: A planet's rights
A planet's rights

The June 20 article "Defending Mother Earth" reports on the Bolivian president and Parliament passing a "Bill of Rights for Mother Nature." But this is only the first step in a process of getting the United Nations to make a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, during the World People's Conference on Climate Change in April, Bolivia and other Third World countries passed a resolution to move the process to the world forum at the United Nations.

The PG article quotes "local stakeholders" such as Matt Pitzarella of Range Resources, who states that the Bolivian policy "is a little out there." Also quoted is Joe Osborne, who states that "the practical effects will probably not be very significant."

My opinion, however, is that this is a development of monumental significance for humanity and the planet. Further, the passing of such a universal declaration is well nigh a necessity if the planet is to be saved from the depredation enshrined in our economic and social policies. It is possible to dismiss this movement as rhetoric, but could one not say the same of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1947? But in the aftermath of that declaration came the decolonization of the world, the civil rights movement and the feminist movement, to name just a few of its profound effects.

To get a perspective other than the kind of voices quoted in the article, the Thomas Merton Center is bringing to Pittsburgh on Nov. 3 Vandana Shiva of India, one of the pioneers for the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. She will be receiving the annual Thomas Merton Award and giving this movement a jump start in Pittsburgh.


The writer is a board member of the Thomas Merton Center.
Props to Matt Pitzarella for the understatement of the day.

Blaming the tool ... again

Experts Warn of 'Death by GPS' as More People Visit Remote Wildernesses
"It's what I'm beginning to call death by GPS," Callagan told the Sacramento Bee. "People are renting vehicles with GPS and they have no idea how it works -- and they are willing to trust the GPS to lead them into the middle of nowhere." Over the past 15 years, at least a dozen people have died in Death Valley from heat-related illnesses, thanks to summer temperatures that can (and do) exceed 120 degrees. Travelers are increasingly lead astray by GPS, the paper said.
Or, as Bugs Bunny would say, what a bunch of maroons. This isn't a case of "Death by GPS" - it's a case of "Death by Stupidity." These people weren't killed by their GPS units. They were killed by ignorance and stupidly assuming that the wilderness wasn't truly wild. These are the same people that get gored by bison in Yellowstone while walking up close for pictures.

With all the technology available today, there's no excuse for not researching an area you plan on exploring. And with websites like mytopo.com, you can get a topographic map of just about anywhere. Carrying a map, a compass, some basic supplies like food and water, a knife, some rope/paracord, and a light-weight tarp is incredibly simple and often all you'd need to survive an unexpected situation.