A bit of magic for Monday morning!

A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.

The mature and immature seeds, which had been entirely encased in ice, were unearthed from 124 feet (38 meters) below the permafrost, surrounded by layers that included mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros bones.

The mature seeds had been damaged—perhaps by the squirrel itself, to prevent them from germinating in the burrow. But some of the immature seeds retained viable plant material.

The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants…and here’s the result! You are looking at a plant that grew 32,000 years ago….






Backpacking, climbing, walking and hiking safety

While nothing makes a more memorable backpacking, hiking, or mountain climbing trip that a genuine emergency, ending up dead is not a good story for those involved.

Growing up in the sticks and spending a lot of time outside, I have had a few real emergencies in my life.

I’ve been lost once. I’ve overreached on a hunting trip in cold weather and ended up huddled over a fire to thaw out myself.

Fortunately, I knew where I was as the only thing that I had to start a fire with was my map! However, I am not an expert on mountain climbing, but these tips will work for those brave souls who do participate in this sport.

The first thing that all backpackers, mountain climbers and hikers need is a first aid kit. While most of the stuff in a first aid kit purchased at a large retailer is junk, you do need some antibiotic ointment, sterile bandages, and other first aid items.

You also need the knowledge to make splints for broken legs, treat hypothermia, and more. Knowing the signs of problems and addressing it before it gets out of hand is indispensable, especially in the outdoors.

The second thing that all backpackers, hikers, and mountain climbers need is a way to signal for help. Cell phones are unreliable in the middle of nowhere. Not only can there be signal problems, but also batteries die and phones can become broken.

A pocket sized signal mirror is a great item to have in case of emergency. Signal mirrors only cost a few bucks and take up very little space in a backpack or pocket.

The third item is a note. Yes, a note. Not only should people back home know where you are going and when you are coming back, but first responders need help finding you as well.

When going on a mountain climbing, hiking, or backpacking expedition leave information on your route and planned return with a park ranger or other responsible person. If this is not an option, leave this info in plain sight on the dashboard of your vehicle. If theft is a concern (you might not want everyone knowing that you won’t be back to your car in three days) only leave location information in plain sight.

Backpacking, hiking, and mountain climbing are all great ways to enjoy the outdoors, but you want to come home safely. Remember these three items along with the obvious ones to assure a safe return.

This is not a definitive article by all means, but if the information given here can save even one life, then it is worth it’s weight in gold.

A copy of this article also appears in the “Safety and First Aid” page of this blog.

Always buy the best equipment you can afford….

I was just watching that film about the guy who fell down and trapped his arm in a rock fissure in Colorado whilst walking alone in the desert…guy called Aron Ralston.

If you look past the gory bits and the movie scenes, you can learn an awful lot from that film I think.

Like always letting everyone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back etc. That guy, in his self-assured manner, failed this first essential of going out walking, hiking or climbing in remote areas. So when he fell into trouble, nobody knew what had happened to him ro where.

The second very important point is to try and have a partner with you if at all possible. I’m afraid I must put up my hands here on this one, as I rarely have anyone with me; my reason, silly as it may seem to you, is that having someone with me somehow robs me of the solitude, the silence I am constantly seeking. The funny thing is, it is that silence and solitude that could, if things went wrong, work against me one day. having a partner can be of enormous help if you get into difficulties.

Thirdly, Aron didn’t have a cellphone with him. Much as I hate the relentless march of technology and how it continues to intrude into our daily lives, a cellphone is a virtual necessity these days, and if you are injured or stuck in dire circumstances during a hike or climbing session, a phone call can mean the difference between life and death. So always, always, always try and carry at least one working, fully charged cellphone. I know of friends who carry 2 cellphones with them, in case one fails.

Finally, regarding what happened with Aron in that rocky fissure. Because he was unlucky enough to get his arm trapped between a falling rock etc, he had no choice but to actually hack his own arm off….yes, you read right…he made the agonizing decision to cut his arm off, or face certain death within days.

And when it came to carrying out the grisly task, he used the only thing available, the knife in his multi-tool. that unfortunately proved to be of inferior quality and he had a lot of trouble cutting through his flesh, as he joked about his in a recording he made with his camcorder, “..always make sure the multi tool you buy is not Made in China!

The moral there of course is to buy equipment that has proven reliability and is durable. Again, talking about Aron….if his tool had broken up in use, and he had failed to sever his arm, he would not be alive today.



These plants will save your life…..

Isn’t it sad to see that we as mankind are bent on destroying what Nature, god, The Force or whatever you wanna call it, has bestowed upon us, in order to make our stay here as easy as possible.

By this, I mean the relentless march of progress…progress to what?

By it’s very nature, we are forcing Nature within parcels of land, boxes, places in which and within which it was never ever designed to be.

And besides that, what of the poor animals? We have carved up their migration routes that have existed for millenia, so much that they have been forced to re-organize themselves in order to survive. Alas, some have failed, and have disappeared from sight.

If only we could all reason that we are all one, the animals, the wilderness, the trees, the plants…all one. Only then can we all survive.

Anyway, I digress. My main reason for posting this is to bring some rare knowledge of plants that I picked up from my time in the bush.

It was given to me by an old man in the Nunavut areas. I will only list 5 of them today, as any more and it will be just information overload for many readers!

1 DWARF FIREWEED          PAUNNAIT        tea, medicine and food

2 CROWBERRY                      PAURNGAIT      food

3 ARCTIC WILLOW           UQPI SUPUTILLU    medicine, tea, food, bedding

4 MOUNTAIN SORREL       QUNGULIIT       medicine, food

5 ARCTIC COTTON               PUALUNNGUAT  lamp wick, insulation, cleaner

I well remember what that guy told me about plants. He said that if we love them, even talk to them, they will flourish…just like us. At that moment I laughed, thinking about what people think about Prince Charles of England, when it was announced that he regularly talks to his plants….they think he’s a weirdo!

Never mind, let the world think what they like, I mean, we hikers are sometimes classified as weirdos too, right?

I will expand on these plants in my next post, how and where to find them and how to use them.

See you quite soon!




What if it all turns out like this….then what?

I read somewhere about a guy who had just come back from the brink of death, that is, he had an out-of-body experience as they say (OBE).

Now I have a very keen interest in this, as so far, nobody who has died has been reliably able to contact any living people to tell them what happens “over on the other side”.

I have reached the stage where I am beginning to doubt what the religions say about what happens when we die.

I think most of what religion says is a form of sooth-saying, for want of a better word. In other words, it offers us the possibility of a better life, everlasting or not after we die. I suppose it’s the ultimate form of balm for bereaved souls.

But this guy I read about, he says that what he saw when he had technically died, has led him to his present conclusions.

What he says is this; whatever we believe in, is exactly what we will see when we die. In other words, if we believe in a heaven (providing we have been good boys and girls whilst on earth!), we will see a heaven where we will live forever.

If we believe in a hell (and have been naughty boys and girls), we will see hell and get a privileged seat forever there.

If we believe in a god who came to earth as Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha etc, that is what we will see. If we are christians, we will see Jesus, if muslims we will see Mohammed and so on.

And he also has mentioned one other thing that he saw quite clearly; each of us have our own place to go after death. A christian will not find himself in a place where Hindus have gathered nor will a muslim find himself where christians have their place etc. So whatever our beliefs whilst we are living, is exactly what will be manifested before us after death.

So to me….that sounds like a game! Maybe, as I have postulated before here…maybe that’s all there is to it! It’s just dependant upon what we think and what we retain in our little heads at the instant of death.

Another quick story that comes to mind here…it’s from the Sikh faith…and serves to illustrate what we are talking about here.

It relates the story of an old ascetic, a holy man, lying outside on his bed, under the shade of an apple tree. The man is dying and is on his last few breaths…when his eye spots an beautiful apple, so red and luscious, on the tree. At that very moment, the man wishes if he could taste the thing and savour the sweet flavour. Whilst thinking so, he takes his final breath and dies. Immediately, his soul reaches the “other side”, wherever that is…and he his given the chance to savour his apple….as he reincarnates as a maggot in that very same apple!

True or not, it shows you what I mean.

I leave you with another thought…what if…just before dying, we think there is nothing after death..just quiet..then what?

Will we be met by nothing more than total silence…forever? In which case, all those hymns we heard as children or adults were a waste of time?

Is that the meaning of life?


Only on our deathbed, and only when we give up on living, we realize that everything we did was to comply with the imperatives of our ego.

Call it work, family, your children, reputation or social status.

It’s the script encoded in our DNA and that’s the script we follow blindly till the day we die.

We are fortunate to have that bit of conscience that allows us to acknowledge this a few minutes before we pass away.

No other animal has that privilege.