Category Archives: Hiking


Colonial SurveyorMaps and charts of all kinds have fascinated me as far back as I can remember. Some of my fondest memories are of time spent using or making maps. I have had numerous occasions where my skills with maps and charts have allowed me the pleasure of teaching others the art and science of navigation; on land, sea, and in the air.

As a Boy Scout I used topographical maps frequently in a wide variety of environments. As a Search and Rescue team member I used them almost daily and was an instructor for land navigation from time to time. As a pilot and ground instructor I have worked with students on chart reading and all aspects of aviation navigation. Throughout my life I have used maps and charts in my day to day work. Being a navigator with all of these experiences I have noticed a trend over the years (much like the societal trend) to rely on electronics. In this case, reliance on electronic navigation aids.

GPS is an awesome tool! I have been working with GPS systems since the 80s and I love using them with all of their advanced tracking, trip calculating, and time/distance features. They can help navigation by taking on the simple and tedious calculations and displaying the results in an easy-to-use format. As a pilot I use other radio navigational aids as well as GPS. All of them are fantastic tools, but they do share a common down side; they breed laziness, complacency, and a degradation of basic navigation skills.

It would be fair to say that well over half of the people using GPS in recreational navigation, if forced by circumstances to use a map or chart, a compass, and having an initial bearing and heading, would find it very difficult to get from point A to point B, let alone points C, D, E, and F. Even in aviation where navigation and situational awareness are critical, the advances in safety through electronic navigation have come at a potential cost: the disuse and thereby degradation of basic navigation skills.

A disheartening indicator of this complacency and loss of basic skills comes from an unlikely source, the USGS. Due to budget constraints, rapidly changing technologies and rapidly changing topography, topographical maps have gone out of use at an alarming rate. As a USGS Earth Science Corps volunteer, I supported the USGS efforts as a map annotator for many years. Several years ago the ESC was disbanded and a new organization put in its place with a new task for its volunteers; providing GPS coordinates for prominent structures. This change happened at about the same time Google Earth hit the open market, making the new USGS project seem a bit superfluous.

Even before the technological and organizational changes at USGS came the changes in product cycle. It seems that the only topos being updated were ones needed for special projects. The rest of the catalog was ignored entirely, despite vast amounts of changes taking place in the Quads. A prime example of the neglect in the new cycle is the San Jose West quadrangle. The current version is dated 1 JAN 1980. This map is now almost 30 years old. I live near this quad, I can assure you that a few things have changed, including the addition of a six-lane freeway.

I firmly believe that terrestrial navigation should be a regular subject in primary education. It leads to proficiency in so many other areas that it should be considered a foundation skill set, but with the tools available, one has to ask… Has the USGS completely lost it’s focus? Should it be retasked? Or has it become so useless, like the Census Bureau, that it should just be eliminated all together. I would hate to see the service abandon, but I think the service should be seriously reevaluated. It has become a clearing house for demographics and basic geodetic data with little real unique value due to the proliferation of GIS services offered by private companies like ESRI; a task I might add that is duplicated by the GIA and other TLA agencies. However, an increase in topographic map consumers to meet the needs of basic navigation education might drive a better product response from the USGS and generate a revitalized commercial market for there topographical products.

My apologies for the soap box here. Government waste has been piling up, and I get frustrated seeing services like the USGS destroyed with scaled-back funds rather than retasking and developing a new fiscal plan. It makes no sense to reduce budgets and staff, then expect the same workload and quality. Something has to give, and it’s usually the product. It would be better to disband the organization all together. Ether elimination or retasking would produce a better budget reduction.

But back on the subject of navigation basics. A good understanding of the basic principals of navigation can be a strong character building skill. The tasks in navigation quickly and easily become analogues to the skills in navigating life.

So what does all of this posturing mean? I guess it is thinking out loud. I have been developing projects for so long that I have gotten into the habit of thinking of projects first from the cloud perspective, then deconstructing to the smallest elements then reconstructing from the ground up.

While putting together plans for some short adventures I began working on a Basic Survival Kit (a story in and of itself) but it got me thinking – more important than the basic kit, is the foundation knowledge behind it. The tools are of little benefit unless you know how to use them. In some cases the tools will do more harm than good without proper background knowledge. The same is true for navigation, and navigation is in the top five of primary skills in a survival situation: fire, shelter, water/food, navigation, communication.

From the adventure perspective, I am looking at the basic skills needed for a successful adventure where navigation moves to the top of the list in the planing phase. You need to know your route before you can asses the equipment and materials you will need. Even the Basic Survival Kit is determined to some extent by the navigation/planning.

From a navigation sense, it is back to the basics; a topo, compass, straightedge and a pencil. Time for some back to basics thinking.

Until next time,
Trek Safe

Where is he going with this?

Taking NoteA fair question, indeed.

When I started this iteration of the website as a blog in March of 2008, the idea was to use it as a personal site only. Later it migrated to an idea of a purely commercial/organizational site, and has morphed into several variations since. In the most recent morph, I closed down a couple of other sites, redirected them to this site and cross-posted the entries from those sites here. Sounds like a mess, doesn’t it? I spent a lot of time on this site planing and preparing for this grand Aviation Adventure program (which I have not given up on, by the way) that was to become my primary focus professionally. Due to many circumstances, that plan has not born any fruit.

This post is a “clear the air” article, more for me than anyone else, though it may contain tidbits useful to others. I wanted to put the new plans out there for the universe to see, and to be a personal motivator and reference point.

Shortcomings in personality have much to do with the lack of forward motion on several plans for the site. I am a born puppeteer leader. I lead from the wings, not on stage. Getting things done is much easier for me if there is a “face man” to motivate the masses and sell the product. I am a skilled sales person and I do have the interpersonal skills to get the job done, I just don’t like to be the face man. I can do the jobs of a good sized team in the background; just don’t throw me out on stage and things will work out fine. This is my biggest hurdle in getting projects moving forward. This is also a contributing factor in this most recent change of direction.

The last few posts have been about me, not just in the subject sense but in the personal sense, and this is part of the new direction I am moving to with this site. It is a change of perspective and attitude, to view the adventures more the way I see them. The plan then is to do the adventure stuff but approach it from the back stage perspective. Go through the planing, plotting and set up, then into the training phase, on to the execution, and the grand finale, the post production documentation phase. With this perspective I will be able to do and share all of the things I love, the planing, training, adventure, and production.

As much as I would love to start building that Nieuport right away, that just aint gonna happen. As a kid I was never in shape; I was an active person, I was just an active fat person. Over the years, I have abused my body with long hours, little sleep and lots of burst activities. The kinds of things that put high strain on the body. Now, as I reach for middle age, I realize there are a lot of things I miss doing that are adventures in and of themselves. I want to get myself in better physical condition to do some of the more infrequently done adventures. One thing I have wanted to do most of my life is fly around the world as pilot in command (PIC). To do that I need to be in good physical condition, certainly better condition than I am now.

So, this is where the adventures begin. I am embarking on a physical fitness program, still in development, that is my first adventure. This change in direction began with the 5k my wife and I participated in a week ago, and moved forward in the preparation of yesterdays article on shoes. Last night I plotted out a 5k through my neighborhood and that is my new training ground, until I bump it up to a 10k.

This is the beginning of my basic fitness program. As I put together more of a program I will put up a Basic Fitness page to elaborate on what I am doing in that arena. At present, the first Adventure, with a capital A, will most likely be the Skyline To The Sea trail, from Skyline down into Big Basin State Park. As soon as I get more on the planing of that trip I will start the Adventure page. As I accumulate more Adventures, I will sort them out a bit, but the blog will contain posts about all.

Monetization is where the biggest change in plan for the site takes place. I had always planned for the site to be monetized, it was originally intended to be very early in the game. Now that element is taking a back seat. I plan on acquiring sponsors and selling advertising at some point. For now that is an incidental, not a driving factor. This is a huge shift in the sites initial concept. Where it was originally money driven, it is now a personal thing. Don’t get me wrong, I will be pimping the site in short order, it just wont be the driving force. I think that this change in attitude about the site will help to over come my personal obstacles about being the face man.


Walking ShoesShoes, shoes, shoes, shoes… shoes!

As a young kid I learned about foot care. I remember as a small child, going to the Buster Brown shoe store with my mom. The salesman at the store had been there for a long time and seemed to be much older than my mom, and I can remember him telling her about arch support and proper foot alignment and how important they where for a young child’s feet. This would have been somewhere around 1975.

Foot care took the spotlight again when I was a Boy Scout. One of my Scoutmasters regaled us with stories of the British troops and how important foot care was to the military; officers that had let foot problems develop were even court marshaled. Hmmm…. a dishonorable foot discharge… Anyway, It was made clear on many occasions that taking care of your feet on hiking trips was very important. I recall more than one instance where I, or another scout, had slacked on our foot care and regretted it most strongly.

Over the years it had just become a part of the routine to take care of my feet. When I was in search and rescue, I was often the one to remind some of the other team members about taking care of there feet. On several survival course trips I was one of the few that fared toward the top of the class. On more than one expedition I have been very thankful for my scouting experiences in foot care.

As I got older I took on responsibilities that did not require the durable footwear I had grown up using. I had also become so busy with work that weekends just turned into more workdays. The activities that I participated in, mostly Renaissance faires, required ‘alternative’ footwear and my work shoes were cheap seekers. I got out of the habit of taking care of my feet.

The last time I bought ‘good’ shoes was in 2002. I bought a pair of Wolverine work boots, and they were very comfortable, they fit well and offered a lot of ground shock absorption. Just what I needed at the time. As the years wore on, the boots slowly deteriorated, unfortunately for me, it was very slowly. I had grown attached to them and wore them all the time. I bought $10-20 shoes at Wal-mart or Target for general ware but the boots were the primary footwear. The cheap shoes usually lasted 6 months or less, compressing and becoming uncomfortable or just falling apart. Us big guys are hard on shoes, they break down on us rather quickly. The Wolverines had broken down but I hadn’t noticed until I realized that they were now causing foot problems.

After realizing that my boots were now causing problems, I decided to bite the bullet and spend a little more for a ‘decent’ pair of shoes, not good shoes, those are too expensive, just decent. Bad move. I know better, but I have gotten cheap in my old age.

The 5k that my wife and I participated in last weekend was the first ‘real’ walk in the new shoes. They didn’t hold up all that well. I got away with 3 blisters, 2 large but not bad blisters on my left foot were on the pads of my foot under clauses. They healed back up without any attention in just a few of days. The small one on my right foot was on the little toe and after 2 days I had to peel it away. All and all not too bad, but the reason for them in the first place was my choice of shoe. A size a little too long to accommodate the width of my foot allowed my foot to slide a bit in the shoe and the ‘spring’ heel floats around in all directions a little also contributing to the movement inside the shoe. The heel has broken down some and is now very squishy, because I am a big guy.

Some discussion on footwear with my wife over the last week and the decision to make some marked improvements in our out-and-about time prompted a walk over to the new Sports Authority store, so conveniently located in the same center as our usual Starbucks haunt. Turned out, they were having a big 4th of July sale including, you guessed it, shoes. My intent was to get a pair of hiking/walking boots that we had seen on one of our scouting expeditions in the store earlier. I did get the boots, but I also found a pair of walking shoes in the clearance aisle at close to 50% off. While we spent a little more than I had planned on, I am now in much better shape to embark on the new walking/hiking plan for this summer.

Old BootsI retired my Wolverines along with some cheap slip-ons I bought last summer as soon as we got home.

As a small preview of a day adventure to come, we are planning a day hike from HWY 9/HWY 35 down into Big Basin. Some of the old timers from my scouting days will remember this as the Skyline to the Sea hike. We will only be doing the Skyline in to Big Basin part, but it is still a good day hike. I will be setting up some interesting stuff for the post on that soon.

Until then, may every day be filled with adventure!