Recent Readings: Book Reviews
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Been almost 6 months since I’ve mentioned any books but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. Here’s a lengthy list to consider as summer starts leaning towards fall. Fall – WOW – Colorado elk hunt in less than 3 weeks.

Good book, not great. Spoiler alert – he didn’t actually through hike the AT. Everyone else I’ve talked to about the book was equally disappointed with that one small facet. Still, great writer, obviously one of America’s most popular in his genre. A little tough on the US Forest Service and some other federal land management agencies but that’s what happens sometimes.

Great book. The 2nd Pollan book I’ve read (Omnivore’s Dilemma was the first) and he’s also got a fantastic 3-part Netflix original called Cooked. This is a history of 4 plants that have intertwined their evolution with humans to ensure a successful march through recent history. Tulips, marijuana, potatoes, and apples – very interesting read.

Also a great book. Written by someone with parents who sold off the family property’s mineral rights to a door knocking “landman” in the height of the fracking boom in Pennsylvania. Written by someone who is a senior energy reporter for one of the biggest newspapers in the world. Same guy, great perspective on the history of oil and gas development as it leads into the current gas boom enabled by horizontal fracturing technology. Very readable, very interesting.

I love Rick Bass. Read it. The feature story is one of the best I’ve read. Have tissues handy. (Other Rick Bass books I’ve read and reviewed: The Book of Yaak, The Lost Grizzlies, The New Wolves, The Hermit’s Story).

A timeless classic written from the perspective of a boy’s relationship with his granddad. From eastern North Carolina, this retelling of the author’s childhood is one you won’t ever forget. A MUST READ!!!

Among Grizzlies is a ridiculous book – mostly for all the wrong reasons. This guy was a nut and the only reason to keep reading was to find out what happened next. We all know how this ended. Definitely loved grizzlies but misdirected energy if you ask me.

This one will stretch you mentally and personally. The premise is that the vast majority of us do not fully appreciate biased tendencies within our own selves and how our interpersonal interactions leverage into challenging pressures experienced by others. It’s fully grounded in scientific studies but still very readable. For someone who interacts with a student body that is oftentimes very different than myself, I found it extremely helpful.

Similar to Bill Bryson’s book except way better. A personal memoir of a young solo woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Excellent.

Caltopo / Google Earth Mapping Integration
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I’ve sang the praises of Caltopo before on the blog and it’s time to do an update on a couple things.

“Maps on the Cheap”

“Caltopo – More Online Mapping Features”

First off, they’ve gone to a “free to try/pay to play” approach. Paying the $20 annual fee for complete services – a Jackson I’ll happily part with – enables you to print PDFs larger than 8.5″x11″, save more than 10 maps online, and a few other critical features.

Second, I’ve recently begun utilizing the built-in integration features with other mapping applications – handheld GPS units (import .GPX extension files) and Google Earth (import .KML extension files).

For users who are more comfortable with Google Earth’s map navigation functionality, this opens the door to use Google Earth as your primary map exploring device and then connecting into Caltopo to utilize its superior map management and printing capabilities.

I estimate Caltopo will save our Wyoming antelope hunting crew at least $50 in map expenses this fall, all while putting better maps that are fully customized and higher resolution into our hands.

Elk Bed = My Bed (Gatewood Cape Tent/Poncho)
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I’ve had some really good nights of sleep on the top of a mountain, I’ve also had some terrible ones. Occasionally, the reason for a lackluster night of shuteye is because lightning threatens to vaporize you and all your belongings or perhaps there is a nosy mouse that is continually rummaging through your Ziploc of trash (all the while sounding as if it’s a 300 pound bear). But most of the time, it’s because you’re trying to stay on top of your sleeping mat without rolling down the mountain or there is a root that will not stop jabbing you in the kidneys. The frustrating thing is that finding an optimal spot for one person to sleep isn’t generally the problem, it’s that finding a spot big enough for 2 comfortable sleepers often seems impossible.

Enter the Gatewood Cape.

Now every elk bed is a potential human bed, every spot that used to be frustratingly perfect for a single person but insufficient for the needs of a two-person tent approach – those issues are resolved. The weight savings are exciting too as it replaces a heavier tent, replaces my rain gear, and serves as an effective pack cover. To be almost 5 years deep into a minimalist approach to backpack hunting and be able to shave a whole pound from my gear list is huge. All at a reasonable price tag too – a Happy Meal over $100.

Shoot over to Pete’s blog for a more complete “backyard” review that he posted last week.

Wildlife Management Field Course – Lake Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology
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Just got done with my second tour of duty at the University of Pittsburgh’s Ecology Lab teaching a 3 week field course in Wildlife Management. I recounted last year’s adventure in painstaking detail but will spare you the nitty gritty this time around. Click through from the Day 1 link above to read about last year’s activities.

For this year, I’ll just submit a bunch of photos that I snapped throughout the course of our comings and goings. Many of the same activities plus a couple subtractions and new additions for this year. Just a great time of interaction with students who are genuinely interested in knowing more and experiencing more of the world of wildlife management.

Butterfly weed

Curly maple is not an actual tree species but rather a unique growth pattern that is often used in the necks of violins, guitars, and other instruments. Here it is in its rawest form – still standing in the woods.

Beautiful mural painted on the wall of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center. The project was completed by a local college’s art major. It took him 5 weeks from start to finish and is absolutely beautiful covering two whole walls of the facility.

Sampling for macro-invertebrates

Milkweed beetle

Fruiting bodies of a wetland sedge

Antique seed separator still in use at Ernst Conservation Seeds – an agricultural company that propagates seeds of native plant species for habitat conservation work across the eastern US.

Soil profile taken from the oldest beech/maple forest in Pennsylvania.

Infinitesimally small seeds extracted from a huge pile of inert plant material.

2016 Archery Elk Gear List
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September is creeping closer and with that slowing advancing calendar is the onset of dreams filled with steep beetle-killed timber slopes and bugling bull elk. Last night I emptied out the tupperware containers and did some minor revising to the gear list. Major additions since our 2014 adventure…(click on links below to check out our last archery elk hunting adventure)…

Day 1
Day 2, AM
Day 2, PM
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

…include the Kifaru Mountain Rambler pack (which comes at a significant weight cost but infinitely more comfortable and bomb-proof than my Badlands 2800), Clip-Shot camera accessory, exchanging a roll-out Tyvek groundcloth for a Tyvek-constructed bivy sack, trading my Stoic merino 1/4 zip for a MEC quilted hoodie, and going improv on my whiffle bat bugle.

All told, my naked carry weight is 40.78 pounds for a 7-day pack. Minus a minimum wearing weight (boots + base layer + outers; 5.09 weight) and bow (5.56 weight), pack weight is within ounces of 30 pounds flat. That includes a pound and a half daily allotment of food (x7) and a liter of water. If you’re wondering where the stove, kettle, and fire starting materials are, Pete is carrying that – I’ve got the shelter.

Infolinks 2013