What are my hiking plans for the New Year?

Good question!

Today is the 28th December and we don’t have long to go before we see in the New Year, and all that it will bring.

So if you haven’t yet decided what your hiking plans are, myself included, well, we’d better get on with it and decide real quick.

Living in BC, I’m blessed with a wonderful choice of hiking; I can either choose to hike locally or strike out miles away from civilisation, as there so much land here. and most of it is uninhabited.

For the coming season, I think I’d like to go much further north, way up into the Yukon if I can, as my heart hankers for some lonesome walking, amongst snow and ice, rather than the forest and woodland I have been accustomed to.

Though it seems a nice thought, once you are in the true north, you have to be ultra careful, as help will be many, many miles away, if available at all.

And that will mean kitting myself out with as much fail-safe equipment as I can afford to carry.

As we all know, my kit will consist of those essentials that can mean the difference between survival or death, should the unforeseen happen. That means food, first aid, clothing/bedding, fire-starting equipment, cooking apparatus and anything else that I can think of.

I will be camping out in the open, so a good, solid, easily assembled/disassembled tent will be an absolute must.

Talking about camping in cold regions just reminded me about arrangements for a person’s, shall we say, daily ablutions? Normally, experienced hikers and walkers usually rely on a rough hole in the ground, which can be quickly filled in with soil etc when the job is finished. But in cold areas, where the ground is either frozen due to permafrost or is just too hard, digging holes in the ground can become laborious.

So what is the best way to take care of this very necessary task? Well, it all depends upon how long you are planning to stay in that particular site. Myself, if I know I’m going to be camped in one area for more than a week, I usually dig myself a proper “loo”, as it’s no fun sitting over a hole in the ground in the open air, with a cold, biting wind blowing all around your “undercarriage”, not to mention down your neck, too!

And believe it or not, there are certain rules you need to follow if your toilet in the open is to be properly managed. Again, depending upon the temperature, you will notice that after every visit, the waste products will freeze almost straight away. So what happens over time is that all your waste will tend to build itself into a very large icicle, albeit a rather very smelly one!

If you don’t manage it on a daily basis, that icicle will soon reach your nether regions and the only way to control it will be to chop it down to a smaller size with an axe or something. Of course, being what it is, that will inevitably leave small chunks of it on your clothing or hands, meaning as soon as you get back to your tent or shelter, all those chunks will melt, releasing an obvious, and very noxious smell, and one which you will never get out of your clothes until you get back home…to be avoided at all costs!

How do you construct the shelter around your loo? I’ve used whatever is close at hand. If in the woods, you can use a quick shelter made of twigs and branches, or if you are in very cold terrain, a shelter made of snow blocks is again very easy to construct.

What you should be doing daily, is to take a look down the hole and see how high the icicle has become….soon as it gets over 6 inches high, knock it down with a large stick or branch. That way, you can spend your time in your toilet in peace, knowing that once the time has come to move on, the hole can be filled in with snow or soil.


What to wear when hiking and why…

Sometimes, when I’m on a hike in cold areas, I mean REAL cold areas, where temperatures regularly reach -35 to -45C, I feel thankful for all the advice I was given to me years ago by my friend Yutai, who had lived all his life in the land that has now been named Nunavut.

Yutai was blessed in 2 ways–he knew how to clothe himself with skins as well as modern-day textiles, and best of all, he knew how to combine the two to ensure you were never in trouble if caught out in a snowstorm or blizzard.

What Yutai taught me is now universal, or should be, amongst us hikers, and that’s layering.

Up in the North, unlike anywhere else on earth, it’s not healthy to sweat. For those of you who don’t know the answer, let me tell you why. As Yutai said, in cold weather, you must at all costs try and avoid sweating, as when you stop your work, that moisture that has settled in your clothes will freeze, and that frozen moisture can kill you with hypothermia just as soon as not wearing any clothes will.

So in order to beat that, he taught me to wear my clothes in layers…as an example, I wear a vest first, then a full sleeve fleece, on top of that I will wear another fleece with a hood and then on top of that, I will wear a fur hat and waterproof/windproof jacket, with thermal gloves on my hands.

For my lower torso, I wear thermal long johns, two pairs if it’s really evil out there, then outer waterproof pants.

Once I’m on the hike, and if I find myself beginning to sweat, I stop and take off 1 layer and restart the hike and so on….it’s real funny sometimes, as you may see me walking on thick snow with ice all around, wearing just my base fleece, as once you’re on the move, you get pretty damn warm!

Following Yutai’s advice, I have never had to hang up my clothes once I’m at camp, in order to dry out the sweat. Remember this….it may help save your life!

Bigfoot really exists!

I don’t know whether any of you guys has ever seen anything unusual whilst hiking in the woods, but I certainly have.

I can recount several instances during my hikes in BC that I have glimpsed a large human-shaped animal that somehow seems to melt into the background once you set eyes upon it.

At other times, and many readers who are regular hikers will agree with this, is that I have felt as if I was being watched whilst camping in such thick wilderness that nobody could get in without leaving traces.

The other thing I have experienced is hearing sounds which are not part of the night-time rituals normal nocturnal animals make, ranging from weird grunts and groans to strange scream-like sounds. having been a hiker for more than 30 years, I think I’m familiar with most sounds of the wilderness and these sounds are not what you’d expect to hear from moose, bears, pigs, etc that roam around there.

Ok, I cannot say with absolute certainty that what I have seen, but yesterday came the news that scientists doing DNA research on hair samples found where suspected Bigfoot or Sasquatch activity has been seen, have confirmed that the results prove conclusively that there indeed is a sub-human species that has been living alongside us for more than 15000 years or so.

Apparently, Bigfoot is a cross between a human and another ape-like species, and they say it is possible that the other species somehow managed to mate with a human female thousands of years ago, producing a hybrid we know as Sasquatch or Yeti.

My own opinion is that now we know such a creature may exist, it is pretty damn sure that the poor things will be driven out of existence, hounded by press, researchers and others.

So what can we, as hikers, the people most likely to come up against such creatures do?

My suggestion is leave well alone…sure, experience what you can from the sounds or sightings, but keep it to yourselves. That’s the only way to prevent endangering the existence of what appears to be at least, a harmless creature who likes nothing better than to be left alone.

Kudos to that, I say!