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My Expedition Vehicle & Trailer

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Hike In The Woods

It was high time to head to the woods, try out some new gear in the cool weather and test a portable HF transceiver. The local national forests still offer many places to escape to, especially in cold weather that causes others to stay home. I like the forests even more when there is snow afoot.

The roads were deserted so no issues with parking where I wanted to go.

There are lots of deep canyons with dense forests.

Let's hit the trail!

Sometimes I would cut cross-country based on what I saw on my map or GPS.

Lots of steep terrain with untouched snow

Old forestry roads made for quick traverses of some areas

I found a small clearing with some fallen trees and limbs that would allow me to try out some edged tools and then set up the radio.


This is a Bahco Laplander folding saw and can be purchased for a little over $20.  It weighs less than 7 ounces, measures 9" when closed and 16" when open. The 7" blade is coated to minimize rusting and has 7 teeth per inch. The handle has a safety lock for engaging the blade in a closed or open position.

Let's try it out on this handy log.

It was surprisingly easy to use and provided a clean cut without the dangers of wielding an axe.

I found that a military pouch designed for pop flares made a perfect carrying case for the saw and can be found for $3 to $6

The temperature had come up about 10 degrees at my test location making it much more comfortable. Not quite at 8,000 feet of elevation but close enough!

This next tool is a bit different from the Kbar knives or folding knife that I have carried before. The ESEE-6 is more of a bushcraft tool and not designed as a combat knife. This 11.75" ESEE has been the subject of many reviews on the internet and has both detractors and fanboys. It has a full tang, 1095 high carbon steel blade measuring 6.5" long and 3/16" thick with a black powder coated surface. The handles or "scales" are made of a grey linen Micarta and are quite robust. Never pay full price for one as they frequently go on sale when retailers try to slash inventory.

It is not designed to be wielded as a "chopper" as that is the role of a good axe or a specialty blade. But if you don't have an axe handy you'll have to know how to work with what you have whether chopping or batoning wood. If you need to process wood for a survival fire you cannot be picky about the exact method so it pays to practice various techniques and have a good idea of how to get the job done.

I did not need to chop all the way through but the stout blade easily took chunks out of the log.

It would be much slower than using the Laplander saw but if you had only the knife you could chop your way through this log. I like this knife a lot and have carried it quite a bit. I plan to keep subjecting it to more testing and seek better familiarization with its capabilities.

Now on to the radio test. HF radios allow you to communicate vast distances without the assistance of any sort of infrastructure between you and the other radio operator. Operating one does require some technical skills but modern radios have made that so much easier. The radio I packed along for this hike is the KX3 from Elecraft. It features internal batteries, antenna tuner and a host of smart features that enable it to achieve high regard for it's performance.

It measures 7.5" x 3.5"x 3" and weighs about 1.5 pounds. All that is needed is the appropriate antenna for the frequencies that you wish to talk on. In the past an equivalent portable radio would have weighed twice as much, had less than half the transmit power and not had the same receiver performance.

I used a very lightweight longwire antenna fed at one end by a small matching transformer. It was very easy to set up and allowed me to easily talk to another person in New Mexico. That was a distance of 775 miles on just 10 watts of transmit power from a radio I can easily carry in my pack.

Each end of the antenna was anchored with lengths of lightweight paracord and the radio has an internal tuner that can automatically optimize the transfer of the transmitted signal to the antenna.

 As the shadows lengthened and the temperature dropped again it was time to pack up the gear and head out.

I hope that you enjoyed our hike together and thank you for visiting my blog. If you like what you see please share it with your friends who also enjoy the outdoors.

Monday, December 5, 2016

First Aid In The Wilderness

Owning all of the fanciest off-road or back country gear in the world may not save someone from a death due to a treatable injury. No one wants to be faced with asking themselves why they stood by helplessly watching someone suffer during a backwoods emergency.

Wilderness First Aid (WFA) skills can apply in any location whether back country or during an earthquake because we may have to wait hours for help from EMTs or Paramedics.

I took the first step to improving my skills and signed up for the excellent Wilderness Medical Institute course offered under the umbrella of the National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS. Successful completion of the course earns you the WMI certification for WFA which also includes meeting the training standards for administering EPIPens (epinephrine auto-injectors) in California. Next year I plan to build on these WFA skills by taking the 10 day Wilderness EMT course.

Here is an outline of the 16 hour WFA course:
  • Learn how to administer first aid in a wilderness context. 
  • The Patient Assessment System
  • Creating evacuation plans and wilderness emergency procedures
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Shock
  • Head injuries
  • Wilderness wound management
  • Athletic injuries
  • Fracture management
  • Cold injuries
  • Heat injuries
  • Altitude sickness
  • Lightning
  • The Medical Patient
  • Anaphylaxis.

What sorts of instructors do they offer to guide you through the topics? The best! Danny is a 25 year EMT veteran, Dan brings 30 years of Paramedic experience and both are skilled outdoorsmen. They worked as a very effective team to provide spirited lectures, hands-on practice with medical supplies, solutions improvised from materials on hand and numerous medical emergency scenarios that students had to resolve..

The two days were jam packed to say the least yet the pace was perfect. It helps that everyone attending was keenly interested in leaving the class with a good handle on the course material. Unlike public schools, no one sat in the back hoping to get by unnoticed. Everyone took a turn at playing the role of the patient within the context of providing rescuers with a valid learning scenario. Students readily volunteered when the instructors needed a live "victim" to demonstrate solutions to particular medical challenges.

Danny provided a rundown on musculoskelatal injuries and involved the class in discussing the treatment (Tx) for various common cases. His left knee is sporting a wrap that dealt with addressing a knee injury.

Dan explained the key points of employing padding and compression which add up to the rigidity needed to protect fractures from further damage.

At various times my class roles included a head injury with mock blood dripping from my ear, Altitude Mountain Sickness effects on Mount Whitney or a broken leg due to a climbing accident.

These are some of my fellow students brainstorming to quickly improvise a way to immobilize my leg "injury". All of these scenarios were timed in order to add some urgency to the situation..

Dan stopped by to inspect and approve their solution, bringing smiles to everyone's faces.

Danny provided some real life insights during a class demonstration involving the treatment of a dislocated shoulder

Here is Dan giving us pointers on dealing with arm fractures.

He followed this with demonstrating how to employ material at hand as well as the common shortfalls of commercial foam and wire splints.

Another eye opening lecture and hands-on exercise revolved around foot injuries. I was very impressed with the wrapping techniques that employed adhesive cloth tape to stabilize an injured foot.

To add to the class handouts I took twenty-three pages of notes and included quick sketches or items to follow up on. 

Each day left me tired but also quite wondrous at the door that I had just opened into the world of wilderness first aid. I cannot say too often that I am glad that I finally took this important step! You should take it too.

I hope that this brief article gives you a good idea of what you can gain from the WFA course. Whether you are in an urban or wilderness setting the course can give you the confidence to address traumatic, medical, and environmental emergencies. You want to prepare to act if an accident occurs because waiting too long may have unwanted consequences.

Thanks for tagging along on this awesome classroom adventure! See you soon in the wide open spaces!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2016 Expedition Trailer Back in Death Valley

The deserts began cooling off and it was time to plan another trip to visit some of my favorite places. This time I would be testing the trailer's new spare tire carrier, meeting friends for some desert hikes, watch for fighter jets and try out some radio gear. No plan goes exactly as conceived and pleasant surprises always lay in wait.

I left early on a Thursday and used local surface streets to avoid the initial weekday freeway jams. Between the trailer and the 4Runner I carried 25 extra gallons of gas, 25 gallons of water and two full-sized spare tires.

My first stop along the way would be an eerie abandoned facility that started life in 1952 as a USAF radar station located near Boron, California.

It was a cold war Air Force Radar Station first established as Atolia Air Force Station and renamed Boron Air Force Station in 1953. It went through many upgrades for accuracy and efficiency and the station was eventually abandoned by the Air Force and the radar tower transferred to the FAA in 1975.

The complex was divided into a main site, enlisted personnel living area, a married personnel housing area and a radio site. The main site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The enlisted personnel area comprised the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool and various support buildings. The married personnel housing area was a small 27 unit housing complex . 

The area outside of the main radar tower was converted into a minimum security Federal Prison in 1979 and was closed in 2000. The buildings have been heavily vandalized.

As the dome of the radar tower faded in my rear view mirror I enjoyed temperatures in the 70's and drove northward across the barren expanses of the Mojave.

After a total of 244 miles I was ready to leave pavement with my first stop at an abandoned mine complex where the exterior walls of the two largest buildings are made up of sturdy railroad ties.

The mine featured an inclined shaft arrangement for extracting the ore

 Some military jets announced their presence with a loud roar but they were moving too fast and away from me to get a good shot. To me it looks like a T-38.

Time to continue on to Saline Valley!

After traversing many miles of dirt roads and descending through South Pass,...

I made my way across Saline Valley to camp near the hot springs.

The next day would prove to be much warmer but the thunderous air show of fast flying jets kept me captivated for the rest of the day!

 The following shots are all of F-18s

My favorite shot! I had to watch carefully for the right moment to capture this image.

As the day got hotter I added some blue tarps to increase the trailer awning's shaded area. 

I also deployed a second 60 watt solar panel and then watched some more jets fly past.

During the air activities I enjoyed some fresh made-from-scratch pumpkin bread given to me by a close friend.

The day ended with angry red-lit skies due to smoke emanating from fires on the western slopes of the Sierras.

Shortly before sunset Alan and Edgar arrived! Mike and his Jeep did not roll in until 11:30 PM

On Saturday I joined Alan, Mike, Edgar and Nancy for two hikes. One was a long climb up an old mining road in Steel Pass and the second was to a little known location of ancient petroglyphs. Some of the pictures have been enhanced to highlight the figures. Please do not ask me where they are located.

The next day I packed up everything and said my goodbyes to my friends both new and old.

 Even the burros came out to wish me safe travels with their patented stink-eye stare.

Heading back up South Pass was a long steep climb. Windy and hot too.

Up ahead it became very scenic as the storm clouds were gathering and the vegetation near the springs were starting to change color.


I decided to stop by another well preserved miner's cabin and get out of the increasingly gusty winds to have a quick lunch. The chances of rain were also getting much better.

As I looked around the interior of the cabin I heard the sound of approaching engines and tires on the dirt road.

It turned out to be a mobile contingent of the group known as the Underground Explorers who I have come across on previous trips. 

They had also stopped by to have lunch and air their tires back up. Soon the air was filled with the sound of a number of small air compressors that sounded like a chorus of bullfrogs on a vibrating platform.

It was getting late in the afternoon and we all had to navigate the last miles of dirt roads before hitting pavement.

I hope that you have enjoyed the adventure and I thank you for riding along with me! I'll be back out in the desert soon and promise many more pictures. Until then stay safe and enjoy the outdoors!