AXP Survival Kits

Long time readers of this blog know that while I am the first to proffer a sarcastic comment, joke, or weird quip about everyday life, or some of my experiences in the wild, I take wilderness safety and preparedness very seriously. In my opinion, being prepared in the wild is the only way to live and survive. This belief was inculcated in me at an early age as I journeyed through the Scout programs; and only grew stronger during my time working for both the State and Federal Park systems when I was called upon on many occasions to rescue and aid people who were not prepared. Aside from my professional experiences, a lifetime of travels and adventures in the outdoors on several continents has convinced me that in order to be a successful outdoorsperson, people need two things: the knowledge of how to respond in an emergency, and the proper gear to do so.

With respect to the gear, for most of my life I've used a modified version of the "10 Essentials" that I had created on my own; but for the next month - or longer, I'll be trying something new, as I'll be testing out the Wilderness Hiking Survival Kit for AXP. In terms of full disclosure, I was contacted by AXP to test out this gear - but after doing my due diligence about AXP, I was excited to do so, because I could see that they were a company that shares my opinions about wilderness preparedness. Plus, they've got a pretty cool motto - "AXP:Anti-Extinction". At this point, I've received my kit, and have gone through it the safe, controlled setting of my house. What's impressed me so far about it are two things: a) the hyperlight AXP roll bag it comes in; and b) the compartmentalization and organization of the kit. In my experience, when a disaster strikes, you need to know where the tools are to respond to it, and you need to be able to get at those tools immediately. The kit I have clearly breaks out items in separate compartments based on different needs.

Obviously, reviewing a kit in a controlled setting is one thing, but to me, the real test of any set of gear is to take it into the wild, so stay tuned as I take my kit on a variety of adventures before issuing my final review in the next month of how the component items hold up under real life conditions. Until then - see you in the wild, be prepared, and don't go extinct!

Clearwater Falls, Oregon

Clearwater River, July 2014

One of the best places to see waterfalls in the United States is relatively unknown, and a little off the beaten track. However, if you are willing to explore a bit, and have the flexibility to spend at least a day adventuring about without a set schedule, you will be amazed by what you will see; and by what you can discover. The location is the North Umpqua River, located in South-central Oregon. The North Umpqua is a tributary of the Umpqua River, and it flows 110 miles from its source in the Mount Thielsen Wilderness to the Pacific Ocean. One hundred and ten miles of river is a lot of terrain to cover - more than one person can reasonably expect to see in a day, but the region of the river I'm talking about is a much smaller area, which is the area along Highway 138 from Idleyd Park to Diamond Lake. This area is part of the Umpqua National Forest, and is known for its emerald green waters and great fishing. The Forest Service, which manages the area, calls it the area of "Thundering Waters", as there are over seventeen waterfalls that can be visited in the region. (Check out this map here). Although there is not a bad waterfall in the group, my favorite is Clearwater Falls. 

Directions: Clearwater Falls is closest to Diamond Lake off of Highway 138. The Falls are located to the South on a Forest Service access road at mile-marker 69.5 along Highway 138. The Falls are clearly marked on both the East and West directions of Highway 138. From the parking area, it is a quarter-mile (.25) walk to the top of the falls, on a developed trail. The trail starts alongside the Clearwater River, and meanders up to the base of the falls, before ascending the remainder of the way to the top of the falls. Although this is a hike that contains minimal elevation gain, and a relatively short distance, it is one of my favorite hikes in the region because it provides great opportunities for exploration. Among the many things present to explore are a crossing at the Clearwater River near the parking area that allows access to both sides of the river; and a large pool at the top of the falls that partially feeds the falls itself. Best of all, this is an area that is usually free of visitors, and one that provides a great amount of solitude.  


Tips/Facts. As part of the Cascade Range, Clearwater Falls, and the area around it has a great deal of volcanic rock. Like Burney Falls in California, much of this rock has eroded over time to store giant underground aquifers, which help feed the waterfall. Like Burney, Clearwater Falls has an impressive rate of flow. Unlike Burney, however, visitors can enter the water above the falls - which I did - only to find that this water (and the water from the Clearwater River) is extraordinarily cold (slightly above freezing). But, if it is a hot day, or if your feet are tired, the pool above the falls is a great spot for a restorative dip. 


2014 Perseid Meteor Shower and August Supermoon

Once again, it's that time of year, when the  sons of Perseus streak across the nighttime sky. Generally, this is a great meteor shower to watch, as the Perseids are one of the larger showers that have been observed continuously from 36 A.D. through the present day. This year, however, the annual Perseid Meteor Shower coincides with a supermoon. The supermoon of August 10, 2014, is not just any supermoon - it's the largest supermoon of all of 2014. It also has a number of names, such as the Sturgeon moon; the Green Corn Moon; and the Grain Moon. This supermoon will also be 14% closer and 30% brighter than all of the other full moons of 2014. And, in terms of hard numbers, the August 10 full moon will be 221,675 miles away from the Earth; and while this may seem far, this is actually the closest the moon will be to the Earth until the full moon of September 28, 2015.

Unfortunately, the arrival of the supermoon on August 10, 2014 means that this year, the Perseid Meteor Shower will be hard to see, as its peak days will be August 12-13, 2014, and during those nights, the light of the supermoon will flood the sky. If you are still interested trying to see the Perseids this year, the best time to view is anytime from August 6, 2014 to August 13, 2014 during the pre-dawn hours, after the moon has set, from 2am until dawn.

The other thing that will aid you in catching a glimpse of the Perseids is to get away from unnatural light sources. The best thing you can to do to improve your chances to see the Perseids is to get outside. Cities generate a lot of light pollution, which makes it harder to see everything in the night sky, including the Perseids. Secondly, as the supermoon is bright in 2014, and will not set until the pre-dawn hours, you will need to have lots of patience. Even if you wake up in around 2am, your eyes will need a little bit of time to adjust to the dark; so sit back; relax, and enjoy watching the universe move in inscrutable and beautiful ways. Finally, be sure to have fun! If you're heading out to watch the Perseids - or the supermoon, bring food, drinks, and plenty of blankets and pillows to stay comfortable and warm. 

Interested in science? You might like this NASA app HERE; and about the dust passing through our atmosphere during the shower here. And, if your interested in the Perseids, here's ten facts about the meteor shower.