Tag Archives: How To

Have you hiked today?

This is the question that elicits our desire not only to say yes I have hiked today, but also to tell our story.

We are a community of comrades bound by our love for the out-of-doors and particularly that of hiking, backpacking, trekking, etc.

As many of you know already, my particular niche in this wonderful lifestyle is adventure or discovery hiking.

It is to that end that my hiking this last week has been focused on what I originally thought was trail riders (horse people tramping the trails). I was aware that there were some range mules roaming the thousands of acres of open country where I was hiking but their presence was not apparent except for the find of an occasional neck bell. These critters apparently often have large bells attached around their neck to make their presence known.

During my last two hikes this week, I was, as always, asking myself what I was seeing, hearing, smelling, etc.

Continually striving to perceive what was going on around me. One of the inquiries that often open my mind to seeing more clearly is to ask myself what is incongruous about what I am seeing. I had been hiking  two days this wee and seeing lots of horse signs but what I was not seeing was man signs. Not only no man signs but the horse travel was often through brush and in areas not normal for the trail riders.

My prior supposition, based on little to no evidence, was that the occasional bell sounds usually far off were the singular ringing of a small band of range mules. My proper deduction should only have been that there were range mules in the area with no hypothesis as to their number, their activity, etc.

This week I went off trail, which is my particular delight in hiking and particularly in investigating the activity in the habitat. I followed a spoor of prints so obvious and plentiful that you would trip over them. As I came around a blind of trees I saw movement. One of the key principles in adventure hiking is to be present but not manifest. So I dress in colors that blend with the habitat that includes my pack, hat and shoes. I am cognizant of the noisemakers in my hiking and I am constantly asking what am I hearing, seeing, perceiving, smelling, etc. Over time I have found that the questioning becomes a behind the scene activity taking place in my head and almost unconsciously. I am often even aware of the wind direction.

As I was following the tracks before me I saw a slight movement, which at first I could not discern. It was 6:30 AM and I was in a relatively heavily wooded area so it was dusk like. As I watched and waited a large mule appeared, it was grazing within 40 feet me. As I was taking a picture, which turned out quite indistinct due to my turning off the flash, I saw further movement behind the mule. To my delight I was in the midst of some 20 to 30 mules and horses milling about in a treed area. I did not hear a single ding or jingle.

After taking some further pictures, I passed on intending to revisit the site later in the day. After further review of the trails throughout the area, most of which were shared both by the equus caballus (horse/mule) and the mule deer, the evidence further demonstrated that it was a rare occurrence that trail horses were ridden in this area. Most all this activity was from a range version of a solid-hoofed plant-eating domesticated mammal with a flowing mane and tail.

It is in this arena of seeing, not just looking, that is so important as we hike the hills with the purpose of entering into the activity about us.

There were two distinct clues as to what I was looking at that I did not immediately see. Part of that takes place in us because we often don’t spend time studying Ethology…the study of animals and their behavior in their natural environment and Botany…the study of plants. I am here not talking about some formal education but that of being aware (studying up a bit) on the animals that live in the habitat we are hiking and also understanding the various plant types and their interrelationship (who eats what). For example, when I am hiking in an area that I am aware that porcupines live, and I hike in the early morning (porcupines are largely nocturnal but often feed in the early morning) I am automatically looking for signs of porcupines. If I see small fresh prints in an area where there are willow or similar deciduous stands of trees about or I see fresh nibbles on new shoots of low greens or grunt sounds, I am likely seeing the signs of a porcupine. By following the grunts or prints you may just be invited to observe their breakfast meal that is if you can be present but not manifest. It is also a great help if you have a basic animal prints and scat chart with you for reference.

The two signs I alluded to above were first that the hoof prints did not display any sign of shoes (horse shoes). The second, as I noted earlier, was that nowhere were their signs of man associated with the hoof prints. I found no shoe or boot prints, no paper or other associated debris or signs. Lastly, the movement through heavily brushed or treed trails with downfalls etc. isn’t the pattern for the normal trail rider.

The goal is to think through all of the alternatives to what you are seeing. Eliminate all that are not confirmed, and likely the remaining alternative is the correct one.

If you keep working on your seeing, your evaluating, and your discerning, you will likely enter into a world of activity heretofore unavailable to your past hiking experience. The eyes of the forest are watching but it is to our cunning to discover who they are and what they are up to. This is what hiking is all about for me.

I hope to meet you on the trails of adventure.

With hiking stick in hand,



Packing your Backpack

Packing your backpack is a follow up to last weeks discussion on how to choose, fit, and adjust a backpack to meet your needs.

You now have chosen a backpack and you are ready to embark on a journey. What do you put into the backpack and how much do you put in, where do you put it and why do you put it where you do? These are the next key questions you want answered to be assured that you will have a great experience and that you are prepared for an adventure. These same principles apply to the day hike because all of the above attributes are our desires for every trip. We want to be comfortable, not painful; safe not short sighted, and prepared not to miss any opportunity to engage in the providential adventures offered on each trip out.

In addition to how and why to pack what you pack, we will discuss the care and feeding of your backpack, storing it, and waterproofing. I will also discuss hydration, though it is not directly a part of the backpack question; it is an optional item that can be included in your backpack selection and packing preparation.

Last, but by far not the least, I want to impart the concern of weight. The lighter the gear and supplies the lighter the pack, the lighter the pack the lighter the shoes/boots required. The issues of balance in difficult terrain goes down and the stamina goes up and so does the experience of freedom. The process of going light is developed individually by evaluating your gear and supplies after each trek. First, always include the 11 essentials. This is your safety net. Then make two piles of your gear and supplies. One pile for those items you used and one for those you just carried around. Decide if you really need all of the items in pile two and discard what you can. When your next buying season comes around evaluate what you can replace that is lighter and more efficient. Over time you will discover two things. The first is you will develop a list of gear and supplies that are essential to you and likely must be on every adventure. The second is that you will discover you can become quite creative in meeting your needs and going lighter. A lighter backpack makes hiking a ton more fun.


Loading an External-Frame Pack. The major consideration in loading a pack is how best to distribute the weight.

There are two basic principles: for trail hiking over flat ground, the weight of the pack should be high and relatively close to the body. The heavier items should sit between your shoulder blades. For consistently steep or rough terrain, carry the weight lower to give you better balance and avoid falls from having a higher center of gravity. In this case, heavier things should be placed more toward the middle of your back. To achieve either arrangement, load the heavier, bulky items into the large top compartment in the position where you want most of the weight. Then fill this and the remaining compartments with lighter items. Tents and tarps can be lashed to the extender bars at the top of the pack and sleeping bags can usually be lashed to the frame at the bottom of the pack. In either case, the horizontal weight distribution should be balanced so that the left side of the pack is in balance with the right. A woman’s center of gravity is generally lower than a man’s. So, for women, the heavier items should be placed close to the body but lower in the pack, as in the case for rough terrain, described above. Packs designed especially for women take this into account by lowering the pack bag on the frame. Load these packs as described above and then lash sleeping bags and tents or tarps to the extender bars at the top and bottom of the pack.

Loading an Internal-Frame Pack. The key thing to remember is that you can’t fight the basic laws of physics. Try and keep the heavyweight as close to your body as possible.

The further the weight moves from your body the heavier it feels and the more difficult it is to control. For easy, level hiking, a high center of gravity is best. To achieve this, load bulky, light gear (e.g. your sleeping bag) low in the pack and stack heavier gear on top of it. For steeper terrain, a lower center of gravity is best because it lessens the chance of falls from a top-heavy pack. In this case, place heavier items a little lower in the pack and closer to your back than normal. Women may prefer this arrangement under all circumstances.


A well-loaded pack is as skinny as possible. A skinny pack is easier to carry and control. Use every compression strap and pull it as tightly as possible. A poorly loaded pack will cause you to spend far more energy and endure unnecessary pain.

Packing a backpack


Develop a color-coded packing system. There is nothing more frustrating than having to go through your whole pack to find the gear you need.

I suggest you use colored stuff sacks. Red is for an emergency. Pack your medical kit and survival kit in red bags and mark them on the outside. Put clothes into another color, food into a separate color, etc. This not only identifies your contents but it helps fill all the voids and avoids content shifting.

  1. Develop a pocket strategy. My day hiking backpack, for example, has about 8 pockets. I carry the same gear in the same pockets all the time. Within the pockets are stuff sacks where practical. So my navigation gear is always in X pocket, my snacks, my camera, etc. Most often the priority is based on a need-strategy so, for example, in my case, I have my camera in my most accessible pocket.
  2. The horizontal weight distribution should be balanced so that the left side of the pack is in balance with the right side.
  3. Avoid hanging things all over the outside of your pack—no one wants to listen to you clank and clang your way down the trail; also, all that junk can snag branches. If you find yourself having to tie things on all the time, either your pack is too small or you are carrying too much (or both). This is also a direct violation of the principle of stealth. Being present but not manifest.
  4. For protection from rain, line your sleeping bag stuff sack and main pack compartments with plastic garbage bags. They also work as emergency shelters.
  5. Fuel bottles should be placed below any food items or in pockets on the outside of your pack.


How much weight you should carry depends on your size, weight, and physical condition. It also depends on your need and hiking strategy.

The general rule for a multi day backpacking trip is to carry no more than 15 to 25 percent of your body weight. On longer expeditions or trips with more gear (such as winter camping), this figure may go up. The bottom line is, don’t carry more than you need or more than you can handle. Many a hiker has blown out knees, ankles, or backs by hauling more weight than they could handle. Here are some things to do to make your trip as comfortable as possible:

TIPS…Before you hit the trail

  1. Try on your loaded pack at home before you leave and, if possible, do a mini hike to evaluate. An hour climbing through some brush and up a hill or two will tell you a lot about your pack weight.
  2. Fiddle with the pack and adjust it at home (you probably won’t take the time to do this at the trailhead while your friends are waiting).
  3. Weigh your pack and compare that to your body weight. Figure out the percent of your body weight that you are carrying. Is it too much?
  4. Take a good look at what you are bringing. Prune out the nonessentials.
  5. Look and see what other people are carrying and how the whole group can share the load in a way that makes sense for each member, given size, weight, physical condition, and experience.
  6. Checking Your Pack Before a Trip:
    1. Take a look at the shoulder straps, hip belt, and other compression and load-carrying straps. Check all buckles, zippers and seams.
    2. Check the pack itself for rips or tears.
    3. If the pack is an external frame pack with a pack bag mounted onto the frame, check the attachment pins (typically clevis pins and split rings).


With this in mind, when the season is over, place your pack in the tub with warm water and some scent free laundry detergent and let it soak for a while. Rinse it and hang it upside down so it can air dry. This is the perfect time to inspect the pack for any loose strap or signs of problems. DO NOT PLACE YOUR PACK IN THE WASHING MACHINE OR THE DRYER.


After each time the pack is used, turn it upside down and shake out all the crumbs and other remnants of all things edible. During a long cold winter, mice will smell those little morsels. (FYI, we only have one documented case were a mouse has unzipped the pack to enter.)


Your pack, unless it is made of rubber, is stitched together. Normally off the shelf a backpack will have the seams and zippers sealed and taped, and reasonably waterproof. Reasonably waterproof means, in most cases, that they can withstand rain for 1 to 3 hours and then things start getting wet. If you have an older pack, you’re in trouble likely within a half hour. The reason is that your seams are made of threads and threads act like small wicks which absorb water and eventually soak through and, guess what, you have wet gear, clothes and food. The plastic bag liner I mentioned earlier will assist to keep things dry and the stuff bags, if water repellent, will also be a good line of defense against moisture. But tramping along on a multiday trip with a wet bag is just asking for trouble; extra weight and dirt sticking to everything. So, each season as you pull your backpack out in preparation of that year’s adventures, spray it, spray your stuff bags, and anything else that needs it (like boots and clothing, tents and hats) with a nonchemical waterproof spray. The key here is to get a waterproof spray that smells like dirt! If you don’t do the dirt smell you’re going to have a tough time being present but not manifest if you smell like daisies. I am not here discounting your first line of defense, which is to put on your waterproof cover that most modern internal frame packs have built in. The trouble in relying solely on the cover is that it can be a pain to work with when you need to access your gear or while taking a rest break and forgetting to put it back on or putting your pack down on soaked ground. The opportunities for forgetting to adequately protect your sponge, which is what an unprotected non-waterproofed backpack becomes, is not worth the potential impact on your trek. You may need to recoat your backpack during the year if you are using it a lot, especially under wet conditions. A dry pack interior is a bit like dry clothes, for then everything works better.


Dehydration is one of the most preventable backcountry problems but also one of the most ignored. Do not allow yourself any excuse to keep you from proper hydration and proper hydration properly.

Failure to stay hydrated can lead to serious and even life-threatening problems including heat-related illnesses, hypothermia, hyponatremia, and death. Stay Hydrated. So what does that mean? We will get into an extensive discussion about hydration in another venue but as related to picking a backpack a good standard is 10 to 12 ounces of water every 1/2 hour. But taking it properly means you don’t just stop every half hour and drink down 12 ounces of water and then press on. You will feel crummy and it is not meeting the bodies need. You really want to be consistently taking in water with the goal of consuming the allotted quantity of water every half hour. The most efficient means of doing this is to use a water bladder. Consider getting a backpack that has a bladder compartment built into your backpack. Not only is it accessible for constant use but also moving back to one of our key principles of discovery hiking and that of being present but not manifest, water bottles are noisy particularly when half empty along with being inconvenient. Remember our pocket strategy! See if you can find a pocket that allows you to conveniently, and without lots of movement including taking your pack off, access your water every 10 minutes without undue noise and distraction.

The ultimate goal of adventure hiking is to have your equipment be a facilitator of discovery, not a deterrent.

You want that pack to fit comfortably both on the trail or in the backcountry where there is no man made trail and you are laying on your stomach watching porcupines (baby porcupines) enjoying their morning munch.

I hope to meet you on the trails of adventure.

With Hiking Stick in Hand,







We have moved from the day hike to an overnight or multi-day adventure and backcountry trip planning is the agenda. The strategy for success is being prepared, being equipped, and traveling light.

There is no universal blueprint by which each and every multi-day hike can be planned but there are certain basic questions and issues that need to be addressed that are common to backcountry trip planning:

  1. Purpose
  2. Alone or with a group
  3. Conditioning
  4. Research
  5. Equipment
  6. Food
  7. Weather
  8. Leave trip details
  9. The Unexpected


The fundamental question for each of us as we head out to the trailhead or backcountry is; Why are we going? What are our goals and expectations for making the trip and are we achieving them?

A key first step in “Backcountry Trip Planning” is to set out the goals for the trip. During the trip it is good to review those goals and evaluate how you are progressing. By reflecting on your situation you can maximize your opportunities to achieve your goals, or if appropriate, making mid-course adjustments, as needed.

If you are with a buddy or a group, check in with your companions and get their read on the progress; are we going at too fast a pace? How are you feeling? Etc. Lunch break is a great time to get into an informal discussion on progress. If you are alone, this is a good time to write in your trip journal and reflect on progress.

The key, as we discussed in the prior blog on planning, is to have a plan for your hike and have a plan with a purpose. The goal will greatly enhance the accomplishment of the plan and greatly increase the satisfaction in the achievement.

Back at home base, after gear clean up; take the time for some reflection. Ask the questions: What happened on the trip? If there were others on the trail with you, discuss the highlights; bring back the memories about the experience.

Then ask So What? Asking the question as to why certain events were important or had an impact. What did I or we learn? Why am I reacting to the experience the way I am? How did I grow in some skill or insight from the trip?

Lastly ask yourself and your companions; Now What? What comes next after this experience, how can I or we take what we have learned back to other parts of our lives. How will I apply what I have learned, discovered and been challenged by to enhance my next trip or my next week?

Taking time for reflection puts the pieces of life back into a whole and allows your experiences to become both the teacher for the next time out and the inquirer as to why you do what you do and is it what you want from it.

Alone or with a Group?

The mantra of the day is “Walk not your own path but come follow us”.

There is clear wisdom being expressed as it relates to hiking if you are a beginner or even an experienced hiker facing unfamiliar circumstance or challenges. This is not however the only all-encompassing truth. Your choice of solo or with companions ultimately largely depends, as one world traveler stated it, on three principal factors:

  1. Your level of experience
  2. The prevailing conditions
  3. Personal preference

Walking alone in the wilderness can be immensely rewarding. However, problems can occur when hikers venture solo into terrain and conditions for which they are not prepared. It is, therefore important to always balance intangible considerations such as freedom, self-determination, and connection with nature, with a realistic assessment of your backcountry skill set.


You will either take it in or it will take you out. An essential of multi-day hiking preparation is to have yourself physically and mentally fit for the trip. Why? The fitter you are the less of a struggle both physically and mentally. Plan the time to be ready and the best way to be fit is progressive hiking. Start early in the year with the day hikes and slowly build up distance, difficulty, and pack-weight. Supplement with the gym if needed, working on your weak points.

You will find fitness of particular advantage during the first few days of a backpack trip. The last thing you will want from an adventure is to be so exhausted you can’t enjoy your surroundings, missing not only the beauty of it all but the mental acumen to be focusing on the discovery that is lying before you.

Your pre-hike conditioning will also minimize the likelihood of injury.


One of the keys to a safe and enjoyable backcountry experience is pre-hike research.

The first research is to get a clear footing of where you are going, what you are going to face along the way as far as physical challenges, and what preparation is needed to accommodate the route.

Guidebooks, maps, historical weather data, trip reports of other hikers and checking in with the local forest service all provide foundational information to build your route upon.

Backcountry travel can be unpredictable, but by arming yourself with the necessary knowledge before setting out, you improve your chances of successfully dealing with whatever providence may throw your way.

Your research then leads to the planning of the trip. The key element of trip planning is to work out the details of the proposed route; research and route details drive equipment, food, safety issues, skill sets etc.

Once you have obtained all the general information pertinent to your journey, it’s time to work out the details of your proposed route:

  • Estimate times and distances; break this down into the various legs of the trip.
  • Evaluate opportunities for campsite locations.
  • Identify your options for water and if possible the quality of the water.
  • A key to map reading and thus staying on course is identifying key landmarks and points of reference along your route.
  • Natural and not so natural hazardous areas such as spires and rock falls should be identified and likely avoided. If you chose to or must pass through them make sure you have a what if plan in place to cover worst case situations.
  • Check out regulations, restrictions and permits required for your route.


Your research will drive your equipment choice. Pack according to terrain and conditions you expect to encounter. Keep it simple, keep it light and keep it fun. Your starting point is the 11 Essentials.

Ask the two gear questions as you go through your final inventory for the trip. Do I need it? What will happen if I don’t have it? Ultimately your own backcountry experience and personal philosophy of hiking will be your best guide.

Pre trip preparation: Test run your key equipment to make sure it is all working and that includes your water filter and boots. A clogged filter or new boots can be a harbinger for a difficult trip.


Food, as with equipment, function under the same model: keep it good and keep it light. Based upon three season backpacking requirements in general, you will consume 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day. This mix, depending on the length and difficulty of the trip will run 50% Carbs, 25% fats, and 25% protein. Remember to be regularly snacking and drinking water to replenish your energy supply and keep you hydrated. The key accident times are 11 AM and 3 PM due to low blood sugar and dehydration. I like a good mixture of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits as a trail mix. Fluid intake should average 10 to 12 ounces every half hour or more under strenuous or hot conditions.

Weather & Weather Hazards

On trip day, check the weather before you head out. From your prior route evaluation consider your options and challenges if weather conditions turn to the worst.

  • Emergency shelters or campsites.
  • Emergency food supplies if you are delayed days due to weather.
  • River crossings that may become impassable during heavy rains.
  • Canyons that may pose a flash flood danger.
  • Exposed areas during a lightening storm. Where is accessible cover and how do we get there with an impending storm?
  • Evacuation route options.
  • Communication options.

Leave Trip Details

Who knows your destination, route, and expected return time? Include also the name of all parties on the trip and cell phone numbers and as much of your literary as possible.

What: 1.Leave this information with a contact person who will be concerned of your situation and checking that you return on time. 2. Leave it in your vehicle where parked at trailhead.

When you return make sure to inform your contact person that you have returned.

Expect The Unexpected

No matter how confident you are that you have covered all bases, nature has forces beyond your predictability or your capacity. When entering the wilderness as with any adventure be aware of what is going on around you. Adjust your agenda and schedule both to accomplish your goals and accommodate your conditions. Safety is a prime consideration  in your backcountry trip planning and reasoned forward progress is far more profitable than stubborn determination.

Spring Hiking Preparation

Spring hiking season is just around the corner, it is time to get your self into the process of preparation.

For some, that means getting in shape and for others it is remembering where their gear is stored and getting it cleaned up and stocked. For yet others it is starting the search for the special places they have not hiked yet and getting to those places on the bucket list of this year’s treks.

So, where do we start in our spring hiking preparation if we are not only looking for a great year of hiking but also putting some real adventure into it?

Adventure Hiking is much like developing your skills at flying a plane. You start off with safety before you get into the air. Once in the air in the early stages of flight, you go around in circles and do a lot of landing and taking off. Then, as you hone your skills at navigation, you head off to destinations that you are familiar with but take some skill to get there. By this stage you have become familiar with understanding and using waypoints (markers of significant physical characteristics of the area you are traveling through) and, with the aid of navigation and experience, you will start investigating new routes and new techniques. Then all of a sudden you discover pontoons and from there the vision of mountain lakes seldom visited by man become a goal as well as emergency fields in remote locations. Then, almost by magic, you realize that these skills have become apart of you.

Your routine checkpoints become habit, and you are all about experiencing the adventure of flying instead of just the mechanics of flight, yet with a wholesome respect for aerodynamics. You start flying down the canyons of adventure and over the hills of discovery; investigating unique and spellbinding places. Thus is the stimulation of uncovering the heartbeat of the Super-cub airplane and, equally so, the exploits of Discovery Hiking.

You start flying down the canyons of adventure and over the hills of discovery; investigating unique and spellbinding places. Thus is the stimulation of uncovering the heartbeat of the Super-cub airplane and, equally so, the exploits of Discovery Hiking.

Over the upcoming weeks we will be going through the key processes of developing the skills of hiking with both body and mind. Starting with safety and on to getting familiar with planning, navigation, the process of discovery, gear and how to use it, mapping and how to find your way, keep your course and get off the trail. In the process of honing your skills and techniques you will find that deductive reasoning is not only useful in your hiking but that it equips you to see and become apart of what is happening around you. You will all of a sudden be aware of things you missed in the past. You will hear sounds that alert you to activities heretofore lost in the fog of daydreams. And as these clues become signals to the activities in the forest you will start uncovering mysteries that will astound you. You will find habitats and caves and family activities that have only crossed your eyes within the pages of the National Geographic. Your love of hiking will proceed to a passion for experience. With the aid of your camera, with the discovery of the skill of being present but not manifest, and with experience and insight, you will start participating in the lives and treasures of the creation at its fullest. Discovering the simplicity of nature and the haunt of those that live free both flora and fauna.

You are invited to keep tuned to the HTA channel as we together dig into the process of Discovery Hiking skill by skill. For some of us this will be a tune-up in the hiking skills category. For most, the skills of discovery, which is largely a lost art, will be, with some exercise, the door to a new world of hiking. There is no tale that is as exciting to relay as the one you just experienced.

I hope to see you on the trails of adventure.

With hiking stick in hand,


An Introduction to Outdoors Adventure

I met Rupert fresh out of the ranks of an Afghanistan experience where, after receiving my degree as Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, I resided as a guest of the US military for three years. I was slow in moving through my education as my interests were deeply impacted by my love of outdoors adventure, which ultimately led me to Afghanistan and a close call with eternity.

While recovering, I set out for the west and ended up hiking through an enchanting land far north in the states of Washington and Idaho and eventually visiting the Haunt and discovering the person of Rupert H. Walker. Rupert is an extraordinary woodsman and of that particular breed that live out their convictions openly and consequentially. His zealousness for adventure in the context of the natural world is punctuated by an amazingly trained mind that can focus so intently on an issue, a mystery, or an event and deduce effect-to-cause so succinctly that to follow his course of reasoning has become an apt pursuit.

In the course of our year or so since meeting, I have grown to covet our times of hiking and outdoors adventure together. He has, for his part, allowed me into his confidence as a collaborator of sorts. I am often both a fellow adventurer as well as a chronicler of these adventures which, as consented, will be published as they provide instructive fodder for those seeking to uncover the mysteries of our creation. I have watched with wonder as this master detective and master woodsman has developed not only an unbelievable knowledge base for facts about our natural world and its workings but also his application of this knowledge to the science of discovery.

Of the bloodline and genealogy of one S. Holmes, Rupert’s grandfather migrated from England looking for adventure and fell in love with the “wild west”. This love infected Rupert and by age ten he was a constant companion of the byways and trails of the north woods. Following his linage, which comes from his mother’s side, whose grandmother was a beekeeper and, through the sting of the bee, Rupert’s great-grandfather found her an admirable companion. From that union, third generation, from the clan of the Walkers, appeared Rupert Holmes Walker. He is a master woodsman, adventurer, and detective. His mastery of deductive reasoning combined with his command of the ways of nature joins to make an adventure of even the simplest of treks.

Rupert is a musician of sorts; a strong thin man with a hawkish nose and keen eyes. He has bouts of melancholy at times, moving from excited with the flow of activity yet when not on a trail scent, capable of the dumps. He sees what I can’t even envision and puts together clues that often leave me in a bit of a mare’s nest. Though tending to be a loner and not keen on social relationships, there are some of us that have gained access to this unusual man. I, his scribe, have been allowed to publish a portion of his accounts. Soon with the assistance of fellow woodsman and editor Scott Wallace we will publish one of Rupert’s first adventures in which I accompanied him.

One insight I discovered very quickly was that knowing your neighbors and their habits can be both consequential and adds immensely to travel through their domain. One of the first and most insightful investigations when one prepares to go into a new territory or even to start really getting to know the environs of your common hiking area is to discover who lives there, their habits, traits and impact. Because, as you will see, this is foundational to many of our future exploits. Getting to know your neighbors is in Rupert’s eyes, the beginning, the starting point, and the footprints to discovery. I will keep you posted on progress as well as content. I plan, to the degree possible, to include with each chronicle, instructive tools and resources to sharpen your skills at discovery.

J. Jonathan

Hiking to Discover the Mystery of the mountains

Hiking to discover the Mystery

Discovering the Secrets to the doors of Adventure

Have you ever hiked, backpacked, sea kayaked, or pursued similar recreational activities including prospecting, rock hounding, or mushroom hunting and wondered what am I missing, what are the secrets of this place, or how do I hike to discover the mystery?

I have hiked the Olympic and Cascade mountains of Washington State; I have sea-kayaked from south Puget Sound to the front door of Alaska including the discovery islands of Canada. I have fished in, and sailed these same environs. In the process we have floated in our kayaks alongside whales, hiked in lands where the floor matt was three feet thick, fished in lakes and ponds with incredible catches, hunted and haunted wonderful and enchanting places; entered caves with piles of bones inside, ate things that were strange, and laid on big flat warm rocks far north in the dark mesmerized by the greens and reds of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) for hours.

At the end of each of our adventures the question keeps arising, what was it that really enticed us, what was the big Ah Ha of our trip? It always came down to the discoveries we made/found. The grave yards of some coastal Indians. The spectacular display as we paddled our kayaks up a channel, where the Bounty (as in Mutiny) was re-rigged, in rain stormed darkness and saw the water come alive with streams of fire as hundreds of fish appeared to be coming at our kayaks large and small as flaming swords due to the iridescent plankton that filled the pitch black waters. It was the discovery of an old mine, the hull of a sunken ship, the cave full of stalagmites and bats, the mountain lion tracks outside our tent. It was the gold flecks in the steam. It is our spectacular discoveries that filled our minds with both the vivid memories of the past and the expectations of our next time out.

So, how do we live an adventure every time we head out, hiking to discover the mysteries, and for me to find a way  even to pull from these mountains, seas, and plains resources to expand my opportunities to hike the great and wondrous places I haven’t yet escaped to.

This is not a call to the macho man or extreme hiker/backpacker It is an approach to our pursuit of the creation before us that is based on some planning, some observation/investigation and some getting off the beaten path at times. How often have you taken a trip and discovered that even just a little planning and research done before the trip was almost the best part of the trip? The next step is to combine your knowledge gained before hand with a process of investigation to turn your hike from walk in the woods to unlocking the secrets of your own discoveries.

The adventure you are about to enter into is a change of mind set in both how you approach your next hike or trek or walk in the woods and how you observe what you see, sense, feel, smell, hear and taste. You will move from casual observer to detective, from seeing what appears, to looking for what is hidden in the obvious. You will discover how to read the treasure map of the terrain and find the gold, the cave of hibernation, the rare mushroom, the feasts among the bounty of the fields and woods. Whatever your focus may be from that of a naturalist looking for a plant or bird, to a prospector looking for gold or gem stones, the approach to discovery, the principals of finding, the seeking of the adventure are the same or very similar.

In upcoming blog posts we will be delving into the “how to” of discovery hiking. However even more you will be exposed to keen training in the skills of Off-Trail Hiking.

In our next post I will be introducing you to Dr. Jonathan and Rupert Walker whose narratives and hiking adventures using the principles of discovery will wind your clock as they uncover the Mystery of The Mountains.

I look forward to seeing you on the trail, it is amazing what you will find.


Joy of hiking to discover the mystery

With Hiking Stick in Hand,


Scott Wallace

Uncovering Mystery/ who did it?



In my last Blog Post I relayed the discovery of hide & hair, bones, bear scat and a harness and bell. All were found within a 200’ radius of the bear scat. I also mentioned that in the area I was hiking there are range-mules that wear bells to warn people of their presence. Now we will focus on uncovering the mystery. You may want to review my prior Blog Post Hiking Off Trail to get the full context of this post.

So when we hike with a focus on discovery we look for what is present but not necessarily obvious. We evaluate our finds using a process that is easy but uncommon for us today. It is the process called deductive reasoning (the how to of uncovering mystery) . We go from effect to cause, which, for most of us, is foreign. One of the primary rules in deductive reasoning is to view the evidence only as evidence and draw no conclusions until all the facts available are fully understood to the degree possible. Only then can you connect the dots. So very important to the process is being able to discern between relevant events (clue/evidence) and not relevant events (feint/diversion).

The normal inductive reasoning that we are accustom to using assumes the evidences will lead us from cause to effect not effect to cause. Our minds would quickly conclude that a bear killed a range mule, consumed its appendages and drug off the balance of the carcass for future consumption. We found the harness and bell meaning somehow it was removed from the mule. We found some leg bones and hide and the presence of the bear so, viola, we solved the mystery.

The enchanting part about discovery is that thinking through deductively leads you away from general assumptions and quick conclusions based on a hypothetical or gut reaction hypothesis. It does so because we first investigate and understand the effect and then gather evidence as to the cause. The evidence was hair and hide, bones, a harness and bell, and bear scat.

So now let us look at the facts deductively to really uncover the mystery.

What do we see?

  1. Hide & hair
    1. It was a dry not a moist hide.
    2. There were only two small samples.
    3. The hair was very long.
    4. There was no sinew present.
    5. There was no carcass found in the area.
  2. Appendage bones
    1. They were scattered about.
    2. They were smaller not larger.
    3. They showed signs of both deterioration and weathering.
    4. There was no sinew present.
  3. Harness & bell
    1. It showed no signs of teeth marks or claw marks or blood.
    2. The harness was a buckled piece of heavy leather almost 2’ in diameter.
  4. Bear Scat
    1. It had not lost its moisture thus was at most weeks old.
    2. It was made up largely of bark, berries, seeds and other similar items.

What do we know that impacts our consideration?

  1. The weight range for a full-grown mule is 800 to 1000 lbs.
  2. The weight range for an adult mule deer is 200 to 400 lbs. The most common deer in the habitat are mule deer.
  3. The weight of black bears in the region is generally in the range of 150 to 400lbs, with the upper weight limit not characteristic.
  4. The summer hair on both animals (deer and mule) is short and in winter it is long.
  5. It is not uncommon to have harness and bell get caught in underbrush and come off over the head of the mules. We have found similar finds (bell and harness) in the areas where the mules roam.
  6. Bear scat can easily dry up within a week in the warm Eastern Washington summer weather.
  7. Black bears, in general, do not actively hunt deer, particularly when they have abundant alternate food sources. The black bear is an omnivore and over 85% of its food intake is vegetarian in nature. They generally attempt chase off, if possible, the predator that kills the game and then proceed to enjoy its find.

Thus looking at our preliminary findings we start connecting the dots.

  1. The bear scat is more recent, not older.
  2. The bones don’t fit a Mule.
  3. The hair is winter hair not summer hair.
  4. The lack of a carcass or more bones suggests a “long time ago” event.
  5. The aging of the bones suggest a “long time ago” event.
  6. Take away the bell which appears coincidental (non-relevant event/feint), and the bear scat which appears coincidental (non-relevant event/feint) and you have a deer that met it death likely at the earliest last winter.

What else do we know? Last winter was a particularly severe winter for the deer due in part to massive wild fires that destroyed much of their winter food and prolonged cold weather including a February with heavy snow which is late for the area. There are numerous predators including wolf and bear in the area that would take down a weak and helpless deer. It may have been a bear but not this bear.

Moving from “effect” to “cause” we have a logical conclusion derived from facts that tell us what, if any, relationship the “indications” we found have to do with the mystery we discovered (parts of a dead animal). What was the cause of the effect.

Stay tuned as we lead you through the process of discovery hiking. We will be providing ongoing training in the application of deductive reasoning as applied to the process of discovery hiking which is the substance of Hiking To Adventure. If you are into hiking, backpacking, wondering in the woods, geocaching, kayaking or any other outdoor adventure activities Hiking To Adventure (HTA) is your backwoods investigatory training institute. The hills are alive with the sound of critters, and all sorts of wonders to be discovered.

With Hiking Stick in Hand,







It is a beautiful morning to be hiking off  the trail. Today much like the one last week when I put on my ankle high boots and, as if driving, I put them in “4-wheel drive” and went off the trail. For me most of my real discoveries take place when hiking off-trail following the paths and animal highways looking for the action that is taking place in the habitat that I am hiking through. If you are like me, the more adventure in my outings the better I like them. So I escaped from the green trails map and started following the deer paths through the woods. Somehow when I get off-trail my mind changes gears and I start applying my senses of discovery to my surroundings much more naturally. I more purposely look to see. I am subconsciously asking the questions of investigation into what I am viewing; the “who, what, when, where, why & how” questions. Much like Sherlock Holmes or his predecessor and woodsman, Rupert Walker might say… “Read the story that is laid out before you by seeing the evidence that is left for your inquiring eyes”. I love these adventures and this one was no disappointment. In the area I was hiking there are semi wild mules, really range mules, whose owners put bells around their necks with thick harnesses. The clanging announces their presence. The mules will take down a dog instantly if it gets close enough, I am told.

As I was generally following a trail it broadened into an open area much like a funnel and as I was entering the narrow neck of the funnel I spied black bear scat and stopped to investigate it. The scat was not recent but also not well dried out either. As I proceeded, now looking for evidence of the omnivore’s earlier presence, the trail opened up into a broader area amongst a grove of decaying deciduous trees, leaves covering the ground an inch or more thick. Within a short distance I discovered both a bone and a small scrap of hair-covered hide some distance apart amongst the fall leaves. I carry small plastic “evidence” bags and I put the hide into one for future identification and study. Upon further searching the site I found bones scattered, each quite separate from the other, and all being leg bones, no body parts were to be found. I took pictures of each of my finds and noted in my field manual locations of the finds, posture, and any other details that appeared relevant. Sometimes I need to look again and again to see what is obvious but not clear to my eyes. I eventually concluded that I had found all that I could see for the time being and moved on down the trail.

On my return an hour or so later, I decided to spend a little more effort on the site. All of the activity, including the scattered bones, were within a 200’ circle from the bear scat. Now, looking at the site from a totally different direction and therefore a different perspective, I saw things that were not apparent on my prior investigation. I also noted that there were no paw prints or hoof prints. I found no stains, no messed up areas where a scuffle might have taken place, and no discovery of the balance of the body parts or hide. But, lying within the 200’ circle of evidence, unnoticed at my prior “looking”, was a harness and bell.

There was much to ponder from this day’s hike. It is oft the case that the action is beyond the borders of the man made trails.

I hope to see you along one of the paths to adventure.

With Hiking Stick in Hand,


PS.   My follow up Blog Post entitled Uncovering Mystery engages where we left off here. It covers the full analysis of the evidence.

Listening To Your Hike

Sometimes the little guy wins. Champions come in all sizes and shapes and there is so much about life that we can learn if we approach our hike as adventures, purposely looking for the evidence of “effect” to “cause”. We often need to engage our minds beyond just observing the beauty of our surroundings and getting some exercise.

I was on a trail early one morning last week. I was traveling an adjunct trail, not one traveled by hunters, for it was bow season. Somehow, at times, it seems that the inhabitants of the habitat perceive our intent. It is so curious how the prey can comprehend in some fashion the presence and intent of the predator. The weather was overcast and the morning light was gray as I passed without disturbance 5 mule deer over a quarter mile stretch all bedded down and watching but not running. One of which was a beautiful 2-point buck.

As I hiked, one of the sentries of the woods, a red squirrel was chattering loudly and anxiously down in a hollow. A squirrel in a tree barking at you is telling everyone of your coming along. A squirrel in anxious activity not focusing on you is likely announcing the presence of something else of concern. In this case the little feller was scampering back and forth across a log and virtually screaming while watching in the direction of an apparent stump. The “effect” was anxious activity, but not so anxious that escape was perceived as immediately necessary. The cause was the point of interest. I understood the sign, a signal of great concern. I settled in to observe and hopefully perceive his source of angst. As I watched in the direction of his focus and as my eyes adjusted to the dim light I finally saw movement, ever so slight. I kept focused and still. I was, as Rupert would say, present but not manifest. Eventually I saw, not 10 feet from our furry sentry, a head moving ever so slowly in what appeared to be almost a circle. I knew instantly that there was an owl present. After careful and quiet observation I was able to get a picture of a great horned owl sitting on a stump not ten feet from the squirrel. Obviously from the squirrels perspective Mr. Owl was too close to take flight and get him but to dangerous to himself and his fellow critters to allow it to stay put without a strong discussion.

(Great Horned Owl, the squirrel was on the log at bottom of the circle.)

Great Horned Owl

The “effect” was an anxious squirrel.

The “signs” (1) an unusually anxious squirrel & (2) movement of a unique “kind.”

The “tools” were (1) awareness of the unusual character of the activity, (2) silence, (3) being present without being observed, and (4) patience that my observation was relevant and not incidental.

The “cause” was a great horned owl that liked to eat squirrels.

The “activity” was (1) to notify the forest creatures that danger lurked, and (2) to irritate the predator hoping he would move on and leave them alone.

The “hero” was a spry squirrel risking his hide to notify his compatriots.

The “results” were (1) our sentry notified me of the presence of a crafty and quiet predator that was closing out his day of hunting. (Great horned owls hunt mostly in the shadow hours before dark and just after dawn.) (2) The owl got fed up with all the publicity and moved on. I watched as his six-foot wingspan silently glided through the trees likely to find roost for the day.

As we study the signs and sounds of the woods there is often a story to enter into and a tale to tell if we are present but not manifest.

Discovering the activity?

When you discover an area of activity, the first thing Rupert would do is to gain a sense of what is going on. He looks for what is where it should not be and what isn’t where it should be. He would observe the footprints, scat and other tell tale signs of activity, what has been left behind and what has been taken. He would then seek to find the paths of coming and going and ask himself, “are there any smells or sounds? Is it quiet or are the critters of the forest active”? Investigate the activity, fact upon fact, then consider your next step. Each observation is taken in context and in consideration of the others…each adds to the understanding of the whole. Your object is discovering the activity, its source, its meaning, and ultimately its story.

With Hiking Stick in hand.


Don’t forget to forage, there are some delightful treats out there.