Craig Wisner

Archive for December, 2010

Tattoo Color

Finally had some color added to my left chest plate two nights ago.  I’m really happy with this piece so far.

By Paul Stottler at True Tattoo in Hollywood.


Trekking Pole Connector

I was looking for a simple way connect my trekking poles to pitch my Shangri La 3.

I used:
18″ of 1″ tubular webbing (get it at a climbing shop)
2 double-sided hook and loop wraps
pole connector

Insert pole tips into the tubular webbing (the bite of the carbide tip on the nylon holds it really well).

Wrap ends tight.
connector 3

I can place 100lbs of body weight on this easy…I’m pretty sure the poles will break before the connection fails.
Everything weighs just under 0.8 oz.
I tried it with a shorter length of webbing, but 18″ seems the minimum necessary to keep the poles from bending at the connection under heavy pressure.

Brook Trout, Kearsarge Lakes, CA

Brook Trout, Kearsarge Lakes, CA.


Golite Shangri La 3: Hex to Mid Conversion

A very versatile shelter, the Shangri La 3 has been my go-to for everything from fast solo trips to trips with the kids.  At only 23oz. for the body, it’s light enough to justify carrying solo yet easily large enough for 2 adults and plenty of gear, 1 adult and two kids, or three adults in a pinch.  The only issue I’ve had with it is the large footprint, especially when traveling alone.  The huge hex shape requires a large site, limiting solo site selection opportunities.  Some time ago I found that by staking four corners (as opposed to six), I had a mid almost identical in dimensions to the Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid, only ~6″ shorter in length and width.  The Shangri La 3 in mid configuration is ~4’6″ x 8’6″.  In it’s original hex configuration, it’s about 8-9′ in diameter…a large footprint indeed.  The mid setup nearly halves it’s footprint.  The only thing it is lacking in mid configuration is a stake loop in the center of the long wall.  As this long wall is 8.5′ long, it certainly needs a mid anchor point for wind stability.  I sewed two on today using 3/4″ webbing and a 2″ square of cordura, seam sealing with silicone.

Here are some images:

1.  Prior to sewing on stake loop, green arrow pointing to where it’s attached.  The excess fabric is rolled up inside in this view.

2. This photo shows the stake loop sewn onto the fly, outside:

3.  This photo shows the interior and the stitching pattern; I used an x-box inside of a square for the reinforcement.

4.  Finally, a photo showing the location of the new stake loop relative to the factory loop used for the hex configuration:

I’m pleased with the results and anxious to get out with it.  In addition to creating a more versatile shelter in regards to pitching options, I believe it will also handle snow loads better in the mid configuration due to increased wall steepness.  If the MLD Duomid is considered decent in this regard, I don’t see why this wouldn’t work just as well; I believe the walls are slightly steeper.  Another advantage is a faster pitch.  Staking the front two corners, then the back two, and finally the side midpoints,  it’s far easier to achieve the geometry of a rectangle than a hex, resulting in a faster, better pitch with less tensioning/re-staking.

The only additional modification I’m considering is sewing on 4-6 additional high guy out points (identical to the stake loop I just did) for increased wind stability/snow load handling.

Kearsarge Pinnacles

Kearsarge Pinnacles, CA.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout. East Fork, San Gabriel River

Some old writing….

I found these on a hard drive earlier, memories restored, I like them.



Park, lace up, strap the headlamp on, and hike in.

Keys stashed in a tree; ready to fly through the dark.

Echo Mountain waits above, 2,000 feet of climbing, a good hill to stoke the fire.

Dancing through the rocky sections, climbing, climbing, the city lights falling away into clouds and drizzle.

Silence now; the cloud and fog smothering sound.  Crickets alive, a chirping horde, just them and my breathing.

The occasional rustle in the bush.

Is it her, the mountain lion, watching from above?

Do I look like a wounded animal or a warrior?

Keep running.

At the summit, harder rain.

The weather has completely covered the city, no lights, no sound not a trace.

The way it was, the way it will be again.

It’ll always win, no need to worry.

It’s got the time to wait us out.

Panting, I let loose with three of my best howls;

all hail the Dreamtime


Untitled (Trouble)

Awakening to the sound of raindrops on my tarp, I feel a small amount of spray wetting my head.  Cursing the tree root that was poking me in the ribs all night, I sit up as far as I can and begin to wiggle myself out of the bivy, straining my neck to look at the sky.  A glance at my watch says it’s just after 5 AM.   A low growl of thunder rolls through a canyon beyond.  My entire world is shrouded in thick fog, rain coming steadily.  Surely there is snow and ice forming in the higher reaches of the peaks.  My stomach knots slightly thinking about the weather and the tasks that lay ahead.

I chose to be here, alone, doing this?  It was one of those moments of doubt that can be part of trips in the mountains.  It was a small dose of fear, a realization that the day would bring hard work, cold, and the real possibility of trouble.  Not trouble in a civilized sense, not trouble as mere nuisance.  No.  This is a different kind of trouble; possibly getting thoroughly wet and hypothermic, caught in an electrical storm on a ridge, or taking a fall off something high and jagged.  I’m talking about real trouble, the kind that can, on occasion, cause people not to return.  How many of us get to experience this feeling anymore?  I’m not sure many people ever want to.  So many of us have it so good that I’m afraid we’re losing our edge.  But we were built for trouble.

I know because I am here writing this, because I made it over the ridge that morning.  I put my head to the wind and ice, hands frozen, and I kept going when I could have turned back, trudged upward when fear was telling me to go down.  I went into the mountains alone when I could have stayed home.  Despite terribly blistered feet and a fatigue so deep it hurt, I made it.  Looking back, it was even enjoyable. Today I can only remember vast, beautiful horizons, crisp wind in my face, and the colors of the sunset when the storm began to break that evening.  I don’t remember the discomfort, at least not in a way that would prevent me from going again.

Every year new plans are hatched for the next journey, the next climb, another goal.  I keep going back, trying to push harder and further each time.  It seems to be what I’m supposed to do.


In the West

In the West

I sit atop a boulder

and eat an orange.

(this was actually part of a larger poem, but I like it on its own better).


Water Jugs

Used throughout the Southwest as irrigation devices, water jugs help conserve water in garden beds.  Bisque fired, porous clay is used, fired to a relatively low temperature to ensure greater porosity.  I used a fairly porous high fire clay body, Soldate 60, and fired to only cone 017 (~1400 F).  The first batch are all wheel thrown approximately 1 gallon in volume, a second batch waiting to fire are all ~2 gallons.  Watering jugs are buried to their necks in the soil, staggered throughout a bed, plants put in around them.  When filled, water will slowly seep through the porous clay, ensuring continuous moisture, less watering runoff and evaporative loss, and less frequent watering.   A 1 gallon jug should be sufficient for plants about in a 2-3 foot radius around it.  I haven’t buried the first batch yet, waiting for spring and drier weather; our soil stay plenty moist throughout winter.

My first jugs in the rain, awaiting burial.

Look at them beautiful veggies in the background….

Covington Flats, Joshua Tree, 12/17/10

Fleeing L.A., navigating a sea of cars, idling and lurching, the 10 Freeway a river of bodies, lights, and machines. Office Max’s and BJ’s Breweries, one after another, the day fast approaching that we will be able to get the same great products and customer service that we’ve come to expect anywhere on the globe. I’m not a praying man, but a prayer unconsciously escapes my lips nonetheless: Please just let me get to the desert and everything will be alright.

Clouds thickening, darkening, speeding to the trailhead Change clothes, shoulder pack, go. Tightening cuffs, drawing up hood, leaning into a freezing spray of fine rain, the desert slowly darkening, sky whited out, a steel blue-gray light; I’m lost in a world of wind, water, dirt, plants, I can see sheets of rain approaching on the horizon, wind-whipped yuccas in the gusts. Undoubtedly others have walked this valley, long before the age of machines.

How old could this footpath be? Pondering how trails are passed from animal to human, human to human, one generation to the next, disappearing between floods and droughts, reforming, nobody knowing with any certainty how long they’ve been there.

Darkness now, I keep walking, cross-country, headlamp held low, beginning to fear I’ll get lost in the thick cloud cover.

Suddenly crashing, ripping, cracking. I freeze, ripping off my hood to hear better. A flash flood, somewhere close, now panicked because I can’t see, unsure if I’m on high ground. It sounds like rockfall but it doesn’t stop, the bass of tumbling boulders, surprising absent of the sound of water. Half a minute passes, the sound dies down and I calm my nerves, sensing with my feet which way is uphill, only knowing I have to get there for the night.


Spartan Race, 12/12/10

I originally learned of this race through one of my students, Juan, a Navy SEAL recruit, who in in turn heard about it through some of his instructors.  The idea floated around that we should start a school team to compete; most that we invited shied away.  The final lineup became Juan, his father Luis (we all ran the 2009 LA Marathon together), another fit student, Colin, and myself.  I’m very proud of everyone’s effort, especially Colin, who despite his obvious fitness, was pretty psyched out as it was his first event and he’s not really a runner, doing mostly cross training/martial arts.  Turned out Colin led much of the race….

A great race it was…What started out looking like a “fun” 5k full of obstacles and silly looking challenges turned out to be one of the hardest races I’ve run in a long time.  I didn’t train specifically for it, just doing my usual running and climbing, figuring I’d just go out, take it easy, and get left in the dust by the kids I was running with.  But it turned out I’m not as old and tired as I thought, all of us finishing together, literally in order, without waiting for each other.  My finish time was a little over 44:58, placing me at 14th in my heat of 100 people.  Overall, I placed 150 out of nearly 1,400 entrants.  I was honestly shocked, given how many very fit looking folks were out there with us.  Colin was right in front of me at the finish, Juan right behind.  His father was a bit further back, around ~27th place in our heat.

At the start: Colin, our Spartan MC, myself, Juan.

At 10:30 we gathered in the starting corral, nervously waiting to get the go ahead.  After a countdown, the race was on.  Within 50 meters of leaving the start, we were sprayed with fire hoses; completely soaked, head to toe.  50 meters later, we’re  jumping one of the first “fun” obstacles, a wall of 3 foot flames in a trench.  WHile not hard, it was a nice psychological touch to begin the race.

Everything is going great for the next 100 meters…until we turn the corner onto the first climb…suddenly realizing it was all going to be uphill.  All of us assumed it was a fairly flat course.  There were some serious grades in this race.  Within 5 minutes 50% of the field is reduced to walking.  I was dizzy at only 10 minutes in, realizing that this was going to be far more than the “fun run” I thought it would be if I wanted to finish decently.  I’m no stranger to running hills…but not at 5k pace with obstacles.  Most of the running proved to be stacked up front;  steep climbing, followed by steep descents.  I lost Colin and Juan at this point, someone stepping on my shoe and pulling it completely off (but only costing me a second or two.  I was  not sure I’d see them again, resigning myself to being the last across the finish from our group.  SO I settled into as good a rhythm as I could.   However, as I suspected (and hoped)  might happen, I caught them a little while later; they had gone out too fast and slowed considerably on some climbs.  We stayed together for the remainder of the race, Colin maintaining a 50 meter lead until the very last obstacles.

At one point we were pretty much off trail, bushwhacking down a canyon, ducking limbs and jumping off ledges.  I saw a guy that pretty certainly rolled and broke his ankle here.  After about 25 minutes of running/hiking the hills, the obstacles started becoming more frequent; some of the first were ~4 foot walls that had to be hurdled.  This led to more climbing and scrambling, through terrain steep enough to require use of all four limbs.  I believe the first main obstacle was a balance section: a maze of 2x6s to negotiate.  If you failed, you had to do 25 squats.  I was set on not failing; right when you you finished the balance section you had to climb the steepest hill of the event…I did not care to do it after 25 squats.   More running now.

After the race: Luis, his son Juan, Myself, Colin

After descending on a fire road, we hit our first crawl, about 30 yards underneath a tarp tunnel that was about 2′ off the ground.  I resorted to hands and knees, scraping myself up pretty good.  Juan was just ahead of me going spider-style, low on all fours.  Colin had finished about 30 seconds ahead of us.  Juan’s dad was somewhere further behind now.

Now more obstacles were getting thrown in, I forget the exact order.  A cargo net climb (after a steep hill), followed by another  steep descent ending in an 8′ tall wall to be climbed.  The wall thwarted quite a few people; all of us were over in a single leap and mantle.   Descending further, we now were hitting the canyon bottom for our first swim.  I’d say it was about 50 meters, a freezing cold pond about 5-6′ deep, totally unexpected.  Out of breath from the cold, I waded the first part but ended up swimming freestyle through the rest.  I saw many people panic here; poor swimmers, caught off guard by the cold, some were franticly grabbing for their partners when hitting spots over their heads.

After a bit more running  was a 10-15 yard mud crawl under barbed wire.  Things were getting filthy now, I was completely covered in black, sticky, smelly pond-scum type mud.  Another crawl was ahead, this time through 1′ – 2′ deep muddy water and ropes, my knees trashed at this point.  50 yards beyond this was a climbing traverse of about 30′ on artificial holds- all covered in mud from previous racers.  I cruised it quickly, climbing experience coming to my aid, egged on by my students yelling “You’re a climber, you better not fall here!!!”.  Colin and Juan both fell.  I believe they had to do 25 pushups and 25 crunches to continue.  Up next was a sandy maze area; I got backed up behind a slow group here and lost good time.  It was composed of 6′ high piles of loose sand that had to be navigated- over, between, whatever was fastest, all within the confines of roped-off maze walls.


Colin and Juan, finished.Surpised I kept up with these lean youngn's!

And finally, the home stretch; a spear throw (I overshot the target and had to do 15 pushups here) and the inclined slippery wall with rope.  The wall was easy for all of us.  Leaning back, it was a simple hand over hand climb up a rope.  Poor technique, however,  thwarted person after person here, many slipping back to the bottom.  And now the finish, guarded by two Spartans with padded staffs trying to knock you down.  I hurdled the first, got hit,  and then shoved myself by the second.


Unfortunately, no photos during the event, but a few before and after shots I took.  Definitely worth it, a very fun race, far different from what I’m used to.  My heart rate was completely jacked up from start to finish, head spinning, out of breath.  I’m far more used to the pacing of distance races…settling in and hitting a groove.  No such thing here.  The organizers did a great job of throwing in just the right obstacles at vulnerable moments, keeping you continuously worried you’d be reduced to a crawl at any moment.

I think I’ll be looking into doing the Super Spartan at the end of February.  Same idea, ~9 mile course.  And then there’s the Death Race, the big brother of them all, something I’ve had my sights set on for some time.


Urban Homestead- Path to Freedom

I have to give a big shout out to this site and the Dervaes family.  I ride by the house whenever I have a chance (only a few miles from me),  just to see if anything new is going on out front.

A wealth of knowledge and ideas here…right in my neighborhood.

Truly an inspiration on many different levels, especially the fact that everything is being approached from a positive perspective.  I’ve yet to come across any rants or raves against the world or society; they simply go on doing what they see as right and stay away from the negativity (at least from what I see publicly)  Something to think about.

I’ve added their site to the Links section.

Homesteadin’ December

Need to get some pictures up but the camera is down…

I finished building the chicken coop/run over my last break.  Built of 100% salvaged and recycled wood (read: pulling shitloads of nails and re-squaring on the table saw), I only had to purchase the wire and corrugate for the roof.  Pretty proud of a near 100% salvage job, even had plenty of leftover paint to trick it out.  The ladies will live in style.   We were out looking for chickens today; one supplier, Wes’s in El Monte, is out of stock (winter being a bad time), another, Azteca pets in East Los Angeles, didn’ t have any good laying breeds, most being bantams and roosters.  Wes’s is getting a delivery of chicks and pullets sometime this week, so we’re looking to get in on that.  My picks thus far are a Black Orpington, an Ameraucana, a Rhode Island Red, and a b/w Barred Rock hen.  We’ll see what he has; I know I can easily get the RIRs, Barred Rocks, and Ameraucanas, not sure about the Orpington.

As for the garden, I’ve just put in another ~30 square foot planter box in the back.  I think our planter totals are now ~250 square feet, still with plenty room to expand.  I’m amazed at how productive they are, it seems we’ve got really good soil at this house.  Even in summer, it retains good moisture.  I attribute most of this to being so close to the mountains; we’re pretty much living on an old alluvial fan, there has to be a good deal of underground water movement here.Winter crops are in; spinach, 3 variety of lettuce, bok choy, carrot, radish, onions, cabbage, more herbs.  Crazy thing is, we still have plenty of summer crops producing.  I pulled easily 10 pounds of tomatoes (mainly yellow pear and sweet 100s) just yesterday.  The Swiss Chard is still going strong, as are peppers.  Eggplant is done and needs to come out.

Another project: rounding up enough scrap to build the compost bin.  Our pile is getting out of control.

Pictures soon to follow.


Ever just look around and want to throw everything out, wondering how the hell you ended up with any of it anyway?  What good any of it is doing you?

Get rid of one thing every day.

Every time you get a new thing, two things have to go.

Now I’ve heard of getting rid of something every time something new comes in (primarily from folks living on boats), but getting rid of something on a daily basis appeals to me as well.  I believe I first heard this idea from Dr. Ryan Jordan of Backpacking Light.  He mentioned a conscious effort of getting rid of even the smallest and most trivial of things; a broken mechanical pencil that’s been sitting in a container, etc.  Yet aren’t these “little things” what mountains of junk are ultimately made of?

I’ve gotten rid of 2 months worth of stuff today (at least 60 items!)  and a giant pile of clothes sits ready to go to a shelter sit in the living room.  I’d like to see how far I can take this idea.  My logic tells me that there’s obviously a mathematical end-point here.  But my gut fears there’s not.  With the amount of things we accumulate in this society, this very well could be an endless process.

I’ll post the occasional progress report here.

I feel better already.

Bloody Hell!!!

Here’s my foot after a trail run on Sunday night.  7-8 stream crossings, rain, no socks, and plenty of sand and gravel getting in.  I had a taped cut from two days ago; notice the white spot on the Leukotape where it was worn down to the gauze.  That’s a first.

These new shoes obviously aren’t working.  I never had this problem with New Balance MT100s, I suppose the MT101s have changed their cut slightly, I have a funky pair, or they just need more breaking in.