Colin Fletcher, Author and Backpacker, Has Died at 85

Garret brought this sad fact to my attention…

Colin Fletcher, 85, a Trailblazer of Modern Backpacking, Dies [NY Times]

Colin Fletcher, whose ornate prose and prosaic tips on subjects like choosing the right hiking boots helped start the modern backpacking movement, died June 12 in Monterey, Calif. He was 85. (…)

First published in 1968, the book [The Complete Walker] has sold more than 500,000 copies and remains in print. So, too, have two of the seven other books that Mr. Fletcher offered as paeans to soul-restoring and solitary strolls through the hinterlands. Hiking, he wrote in “The Complete Walker III,” is a “simple, delightful, intended-to-be-liberating-from-the-straight-line-coordinates-of-civilization pastime.”

I read The Complete Walker for the first time in 1971 and own both the II and III editions of the book. I quickly fell in love with his style of writing and eagerly sought out his other books The Thousand Mile Summer and the Man Who Walked through Time. I also read The Winds of Mara and The Man From the Cave when they were published. Chuckwalla Bill, who was The Man From the Cave, left his trunk in a cave in a mountain range just south of here, in fact.

My first encounters with Fletcher’s work coincided with my initial readings of Desert Solitaire, A Sand County Almanac, John Wesley Powell’s Grand Canyon exploration journals, John Muir’s writings and Walden. In my mind they are all intertwined and resonate equally.

Fletcher informed me about being a self-sufficient biped and helped me see how to camp with quite a bit less impact than the various methods I had picked up in my adolescence from several organizations. cough Boy Scouts cough.

I worked in the requisite backpacking and bicycling store near the Land Grant University for three years during my undergraduate career (I think that was my Junior years) and we could all quote from his books. I don’t know that we deified him, but you had to make a good case for deviating from most of his advice.

I remember his ‘Second Law of Thermodynamics Thermodynamic Walking,’ concerning wearing shorts in the summer and ventilation — “Give your balls some air.” [corrected –ed.]

I did not personally know Mr. Fletcher, but like many and especially Garret and Terry G., I can only say, thank you very much Mr. Fletcher, and Rest in Peace.

We Used to Go for Miles, Now They Go to the End of the Block

I rode my bike unsupervised to the swimming pool when I was 8. It was over a mile away. It was also nearly at the very edge of town.

How children lost the right to roam in four generations [Daily Mail]

When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas’s eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home. (…)

The report’s author, Dr William Bird, the health adviser to Natural England and the organiser of a conference on nature and health on Monday, believes children’s long-term mental health is at risk.

He has compiled evidence that people are healthier and better adjusted if they get out into the countryside, parks or gardens.

Stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, he says. Even filling a home with flowers and plants can improve concentration and lower stress.

“If children haven’t had contact with nature, they never develop a relationship with natural environment and they are unable to use it to cope with stress,” he said.

“Studies have shown that people deprived of contact with nature were at greater risk of depression and anxiety. Children are getting less and less unsupervised time in the natural environment.

“They need time playing in the countryside, in parks and in gardens where they can explore, dig up the ground and build dens.”

We used to ride our bikes out to the City Lake — about 3 miles away — by the time I was in 6th grade. You went past about 2 miles of farms before you got to the reservoir. It was a gravel road most of the way. Ian doesn’t go past the mailboxes near the end of the block. I could throw his football that far. [I don’t say that to impress, rather to say it’s not that far. I am a Dad, not an aging athlete.] Of course, Ian is only 5, but I don’t see his unsupervised roaming radius changing much in the coming years. Not while we’re in Las Vegas.

That’s why we strive to go somewhere like Red Rock Canyon with Ian every weekend. I can not imagine growing up with sidewalks. [article link via Ed Bilodeau’s bookmarks]

[] Who Killed the Honeybees?

You’ve been curious about this, as have I. This round table provides some thought fodder, though I’m not sure that it is definitive.

Who killed the honeybees? [usual disclaimer: watch an ad to access]

A round table of experts answer all our pressing questions about the sudden death of the nation’s bees. What they have to say has a bigger sting than we ever expected.

Edward Abbey, b. 1927

One of my favorite authors, Edward Abbey, was born 80 years ago today.

Edward Paul Abbey (January 29, 1927 – March 14, 1989) was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by radical environmental groups, and the non-fiction work Desert Solitaire. Writer Larry McMurtry referred to Abbey as the “Thoreau of the American West”.

I We miss you, Cactus Ed.

Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks the Middle of This Week

Please note that this article appeared on December 8, so this week is the ‘next week’ they’re writing about.

Week-Long Meteor Shower to Dazzle []
The annual Geminid meteor shower is expected to produce a reliable shooting star show that will get going Sunday and peak the middle of next week.

The Geminid event is known for producing one or two meteors every minute during the peak for viewers with dark skies willing to brave chilly nights.

If the Geminid Meteor Shower occurred during a warmer month, it would be as familiar to most people as the famous August Perseids. Indeed, a night all snuggled-up in a sleeping bag under the stars is an attractive proposition in summer. But it’s hard to imagine anything more bone chilling than lying on the ground in mid-December for several hours at night.

But if you are willing to bundle up, late next Wednesday night into early Thursday morning will be when the Geminids are predicted to be at their peak. (more)

There are some great places to view the Geminid Meteor Shower around Las Vegas. You just have to get far enough away from the lights…

links for 2006-11-12

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Florida Boater Stabbed in Chest by Stingray

OK, this has got to stop. The whole “Welcome Squid Overlords” was funny and all that, but as we can see, once they’ve [these denizens of the sea] got a taste of human blood, every thing changes.

Florida boater stabbed in chest by stingray Yahoo! News
An 81-year-old man was in critical condition Thursday after a stingray flopped onto his boat and stung him, leaving a foot-long barb in his chest similar to the accident that killed “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.

First Steve Irwin and now this. It is time for civilization to draw a line. In the beach sand [at the waterline], I guess.


links for 2006-09-06