Craig Wisner

Archive for June, 2011

Thoreau on Clothes

“I sometimes try my acquaintances by tests such as this, — Who could wear a patch, or two extra seams only, over the knee?  Most behave as if they believed that their prospects for life would be ruined if they should do it.  It would be easier for them to hobble to town with a broken leg than with a broken pantaloon.  Often if an accident happens to a gentleman’s legs, they can be mended; but if a similar accident happens to the legs of his pantaloons, there is no help for it; for he considers, not what is truly respectable, but what is respected.  We know but few men, a great many coats and breeches.”

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes…”

Both excerpts from Walden.

Scott Haefner Photography

Recently came across a link to his work…Fascinating explorations of abandoned structures, military vessels, theme parks…

Worth a look.

Scott Haefner

Old-School Ultralight

Stuff.  Too much expensive stuff and too many choices to weigh us down.  While our gear may be the lightest money can buy, a different sort of burden comes with it:  My stuff!  Don’t get that Western Mountaineering bag dirty!  Don’t leave it compressed too long or you just might ruin your stuff.  Watch that fire man, lest you want holes in that tissue-thin windshirt or 900 fill down floating everywhere!

Ever notice that John Muir never really talked about his stuff ?  He talked about light and rocks and grasshoppers and trees.  But he didn’t seem to care much about stuff.  The stuff he carried was a means to an end, not an end in itself.  John Muir didn’t need a spreadsheet.

I like the term Adan uses:  Lightness of mind.  Lightness of mind, as in not having to think about your gear, not having to baby things, not obsessing over choices.  As opposed to lightness of pack.  The two do not necessarily coincide.

This Saturday Adan and I had the chance to try some “new” things on an overnight up the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, the theme of the trip being to simply carry a minimal, traditional kit, a kit not focused on modern synthetics and hi-tech gear, but a simple kit that would loosely resemble what people might have carried 100 years ago.   Flannel shirts and canvas pants would replace nylon and spandex, wool would replace Pertex.  The goal was not historical accuracy, but to get a feel for what this sort of gear was like, functionally speaking.  We were fully prepared to do a little suffering, to rough it.  But that just never happened.  It was actually one of the easiest, most comfortable trips I’ve had in some time.  There was simply no stuff to worry about.

Go forth little dog!

Our camp. East Fork, San Gabriel River.

My gear.

Adan's bedroll.

Lounging by the fire, roasting hot dogs and cooking ramen and vegetables on the coals, sipping sotol and whiskey- without our expensive, hi-tech gear, we waited for the hardship to begin.   Nope, nothing yet.  Purifying water by boiling, staying warm by staying close to fire.  No headlamps, no ditty bags full of little odds and ends.  No unnecessary or delicate stuff.  The night carried on, drinks and food were consumed, Adan finished carving the spoon he’d use for breakfast (he forgot his), and we made our way to our beds: wool blankets atop canvas military half-shelters as groundcloths, right next to the fire ring, sand beneath us.  I wrapped up tight, dog curled under the blankets beside me.  No worries about being in the sand and dirt, about ashes or sparks from the fire, only warmth and drifting to sleep.   Still no hardship to be found as the temperature dropped into the 40s and the clouds rolled in.  A few hours later I caught a bad wind shift and the smoke from the fire was too much for me, so I got up and drug my whole bed 20 feet away.  The sand was colder away from the fire, but I slept fine; I’ve had far worse nights with sleeping bags and inflatable pads.  In true old-school style, Adan was using hot rocks from the fire to warm up inside the blankets.  I was using my dog.

I woke to dim light and Adan stoking the fire back up to boil water for coffee, draped in his wool blanket.

Nope.  Still no hardship to be found.  Nothing but a beautiful night beside the river.


My carried gear (not including food/clothing worn):

Golite Jam2  (Simple and durable.  I see no sense in buying a canvas rucksack just to prove a point/imitate a style at this time. )

2 wool blankets

Steel fork/knife/spoon (not necessary to carry them all, but it’s a cool, older nesting set I have)

Mora w/sheath

Wooden matches

Cookpot w/foil lid

Kupilka cup (not necessary, but for fun)

Wool cap

Wool gloves

Wool socks

Flannel shirt

Hooded sweatshirt

Twine (never used it)

Aluminum water bottle


That’s it. 

Adan’s kit was nearly identical to mine, though he carried both canvas shelter halves in.  I suspect our base weights were around 10 lbs.

What was especially interesting about this trip was packing: It felt like there was nothing to pack and hardly any choices to make, no little stuff sacks full of odds and ends, toiletries, “essentials”.  Just grab some blankets, a pot…and you’re gone.  In addition, there was nothing to worry about.  Everything was durable, fire-resistant, leaving us with no concerns about just throwing down in the dirt.  With this system, everything can be left packed, ready to go, indefinitely.

Lightness of mind; the gear became invisible, nothing to get in the way of the experience.

Now to start extending this style into more difficult weather and onto longer trips.

…and stop thinking about stuff.


Eating a 100% homegrown breakfast this morning.  Everything is coming together.

Two backyard chicken eggs, scrambled with yellow chard, topped with fresh tomato and cilantro  (Yes, we already have tomatoes; a few popped up early from last season’s fallen seed and are producing already).

Homegrown, self-sufficient goodness!


Kids and their technology.  I had no idea I was being filmed, let alone being put on Youtube.

The pieces got much better as the day went on, as this was my first by foot in years.

Anyhow, this is why I get paid the big bucks.

Glory, Glory!

A pain-free run today!  While it was only 2 miles of flat road, it felt like a completely normal run!

I was highly tempted to pull off onto the trails and make it 4 miles but I’m trying to play it smart.

So disregard the previous manic hypochondriac postings about being out of the game.

And it couldn’t have happened sooner; I was going stir crazy working out in the garage and backyard for the past few weeks.  It’s just not the same as running.

So now the plan is to see if I can take it slow and run 2 miles of flats every day for the rest of the week.  If that’s working out, I’ll go for 3 miles per day next week.

My running is over…

…at least for a little while.

Who knows, time will tell.

What I though was some minor aggravation in my left knee at the end of my 50K doesn’t seem to want to leave me alone.  It’s now actually worse than what I experienced during the 50K.

At roughly mile 30, I started to feel a tendinitis-like burning on the inside edge of my kneecap.  It got worse over the next 4 miles, but I shoved it to the back of my mind, finished, and it promptly went away.

The day after, however, it was persistent all day, despite stretching and ice.   There was even a bit of a tearing sensation when I squatted- odd, because there was no feeling of trauma or tearing during the run.

By day 4, after days of regular icing, I was certain it had gone away, having absolutely no pain.   I tried to run an easy 5K with the dog…but didn’t make it 200 meters before I was limping again.

So I waited over a week.  Again, zero pain during any daily activity.  I was able to do a crossfit workout, including body weight squats.  So I tried another easy 5K.  This time I thought I was fine, the first mile rolling by comfortably.  But by 1.25 miles a slight burn started.  By 1.5 miles, I was limping again, with a painful 1.5 miles to get home.  That night, the pain strangely migrated from the side of my kneecap to just above it.

So it looks like I’m out for a while.  Whatever it is seems to only be bothered by running.  At times it feels like tendinitis, but others there is a tearing sensation.

It looks like I have to find something else to keep me busy for a few months.  Of course now that I can’t run, it’s all I want to do.

I’m thinking about going full-on crossfit and rock climbing for the summer, coupled with a strict paleo diet…I’ve got to get on some sort of regimen.  But I’ll be damned if trying to get motivated about pumping iron in the garage isn’t hard when compared to a setting sun and wind in the face on a nice stretch of singletrack.