Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review - Tenkara, Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing

Rating: 3 out of 5 - Average

As the first book written in English about Tenkara, many will consider this a breakthrough and a big win for those involved in the sport. It's exciting to see this ancient Japanese version of fly fishing spreading to the west. With rods weighing less than 3 ounces, and complete fishing kits as light as 6 ounces, Tenkara is a perfect fit for the ultralight backpacker who enjoys a distraction from walking with minimal weight penalty.

The author does a nice job of touching on several different topics on the subject, but he doesn't get too in depth on any one. If you haven't read about Tenkara's history, you might find it interesting that it dates back hundreds of years to commercial anglers fishing small mountain streams in Japan. They used long lightweight bamboo rods to extend their reach, lightweight horsehair lines, and a simple artificial fly as their main source of income and sustenance.

Gear simplicity, rigging, and casting techniques are covered pretty well with good descriptions and illustrations. He even touches on entomology, fly tying, and how to make furled and level lines, which I found interesting but left me wanting more.

Don't let the less than flattering rating stop you from reading this book...if you are new to Tenkara, it has some very good information. There were just no big "ah ha" moments in it for me. Being new to the sport, I am glad I read it, but I guess I expected to get more out of it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Moroccan Delight - Dehydrated Super Food

My love of couscous has inspired me to experiment with various different sauces in an effort to include it in more of my backpacking menus. After much trial and error, this one got the nod from the entire family, and it has quickly become one of our favorite backcountry comfort foods. With just 6 main ingredients, it is super simple to make and packed full of spicy bold flavor.

1 package Hot Italian Sausage
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
3 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 medium onion
2 green bell peppers
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups couscous

Heat EVOO in large pot on high, squeeze sausage out of casings and drop into pot, discarding casings. Brown sausage for a few minutes until firm.

Chop browned sausages in your food processor or blender, then return to pot to continue browning. Finely chop or puree bell peppers and onion (I like to puree them in the food processor), then add to pot along with tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water.

Add some of your favorite spices...salt, pepper, oregano, bay leaves, some crushed red pepper to make it even hotter, and stir. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for an hour or two, stirring occasionally. Stir in couscous, turn off heat, cover, let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

If you can save enough from your hungry family, or if you make a batch just for hiking, now is the time to dehydrate it. I use parchment paper to cover the dehydrator trays, but you can substitute plastic wrap as well. Spread out on tray, set at 145 degrees F, and let it go over night.

When it's done it will be crispy and break easily. A entire batch will fit into a gallon zip top bag...break it up so it will travel and rehydrate better.

When you're ready to eat, simply add a cup or two to your pot, cover with water, and heat for a few minutes. This method really saves on fuel consumption vs freezer bag cooking.

At 109 calories per ounce, 53% carbs, 28% fat, and 15% protein, this is one UltraLight power packed meal!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inspired by a Photo

The photo below is from a post I did 3 1/2 months ago called Snow in the Desert - Zion National Park West Rim Trail. It's still the background image on my computer, and I just realized how long it's been there. In all this time I have not taken a photo that inspired me to change it. Is this because my photography has suffered since, or was this just a great composition and an exception for me?

I love how the trail is cut into the snow and meanders up the gentle slope of the hillside, disappearing into the distance, how the desert succulent in the lower left hand corner is filled with fresh snow, how the normally jagged outcropping to the right is bulbous and soft, how the trees create the framework that draws your eyes into the scene, and how the tall mountains can be seen in the distance.

Now I'm feeling sentimental, and I want to go back. Zion is calling me!

Monday, March 14, 2011


...the act of breaking through the top layer of snow crust into the soft mushy stuff below, typically up above the knees and into the crotch.

It was another beautiful day in sunny Las Vegas, with the spring time temps forecasted in the upper 70's F, and we decided to venture up high above the desert floor to Mt. Charleston. Most people don't expect to see the natural beauty of our local mountains just 40 minutes from downtown Las Vegas.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guest Post at Backcountry Bliss - Going Ultralight

Today Chris from Backcountry Bliss posted up a Guest Post from yours truly...head on over and check it out along with the rest of his great site!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How Not To Dehydrate Yams

(Yes, you read the title correctly)

Yams are a very good source of potassium and fiber, as well as vitamins B1, B6, and C. In addition, yams are a good source of manganese and carbohydrates. Besides all of the reasons they are good for you, they just plain taste great...naturally sweet and full of flavor. I found a recipe for dehydrated yams, and decided it would make a wonderful backpacking meal, so I excitedly went and bought 10 pounds at the grocery store. You get some funny looks when you buy so many yams!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A 25 Mile Day Hike in a Storm

When I used to read reports about people backpacking 20, 25, even 30 miles per day, I thought that kind of mileage was reserved for the icons in our sport such as Ray Jardine, Ryan Jordan, and Andrew Skurka. I now know you don't have to be an athlete to hike long distances in a day.

Saturday started out much like the weekend before, with rain in the forecast, and Juggy and I deciding to do the same hike I wrote about in my It's Just Walking post from last week. This time we intended on adding a 6 mile loop around White Rock Mountain to make it a 25 mile day, so we got an early start at 6:30am. This week we were well rested and energized from our pasta dinner the night before.