Posted by: davepidgeon | December 7, 2009

Change direction

Whiteoak Canyon 008

You’re at the old Compass Points blog. You want the NEW Compass Points blog.

Let me set a bearing to help you out. Click on the link below.

Compass Points Media

Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds. See you over at the new Compass Points!

Posted by: davepidgeon | December 4, 2009

Changes are coming

Profile Pic

Compass Points anticipates an impressive 2010. (Compass Points Media / flickr) / CC BY-ND 2.0

Compass Points is about to undergo some serious growth spurts.

Life as a blogger and freelance journalist wouldn’t be half as compelling without the drive to pursue creative endeavors. And quietly here at base camp for Compass Points, I and my closest advisors (okay, by advisors I mean Mrs. Compass Points, my best man and some insightful friends) have been plotting for a monumental 2010.

Here’s a hint of what’s ahead:

  • As you might have seen on CP‘s Facebook and Twitter page this week, the first major change will come this Monday. Compass Points will move to a Web site, which means it will have a more kickass layout. Friend CP at Facebook or follow CP at Twitter to discover the new URL.
  • The first season of Compass Points TV left many viewers wanting more than a mere three episodes. I agree. There’s an Internet drought out there of quality outdoor programming – there are a few standout exceptions – and CP would like to provide the relief with Compass Points TV. Filming began in earnest last month for the second season of Compass Points TV. And I’d like to announce today that the first episode will air Wednesday, March 3 at the new Compass Points blog – just in time for spring to start breaking out across the country, when people need to free themselves of winter-induced cabin fever.
  • There’s an ultra-cool, technologically advanced, top secret program underway here at CP‘s base camp in Lititz, Pa. The program’s codename is “TRAIL BLAZES.” The goal of this underground project is to uniquely enhance the hiking experience starting in 2010. TRAIL BLAZES will be unveiled and made available to the outdoor community this spring. I’m sorry, but to reveal more details would mean compromising the integrity of this secretive project. As TRAIL BLAZES develops, more will be revealed at the new Compass Points blog.

Positively pumped for 2010. Feel the same sort of anticipation you get standing at a trail head before starting an ambitious backpack.

Well, Pointers, it’s Friday, and the weather people are predicted snow for these parts tomorrow. Not enough to break out the MSR Denali Ascents, but enough snow to hopefully make an attractive Compass Points TV episode for next year.

Join the passion for trails and adventure travel by friending CP at Facebook. And the tweet marches on at Twitter.

Now, like a catchy and inspiring motto, everybody say in unison as we close out this week:

Hike On!

Posted by: davepidgeon | December 2, 2009

TRAIL TUNES: What Peter said to Paul

Lake Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan

A crystal blue lake rests in the Band-e-Amir region of Afghanistan. (Carl Montgomery / flickr) / CC BY 2.0

The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq never quite inspired the sort of anti-establishment music the way Vietnam did during the 1960s and 1970s. I suppose that’s due in part to how our involvement in Afghanistan was prompted by a horrific attack on thie homeland, which justified a war. But Iraq in 2003? Not so much. Still, while there was plenty of outrage about the Iraq War, that upswell of protest never really took on the same intensity as was seen in a previous generation.

This week’s TRAIL TUNES is inspired by two events, one momentous and the other significant maybe only to me – President Barack Obama delivered at West Point a fascinating case for a troop surge in Afghanistan; and tonight, I’ll be attending the Josh Ritter concert in Philadelphia.

Josh Ritter, the 33-year-old bard from Idaho, penned in 2006 what I thought was the best war song of our generation, full of religious innuendo and angst against the corrupted message of Christianity:

Peter said to Paul

“You know all those words we wrote?

“They’re just the rules of the game

“And the rules are the first to go.”

“Girl In the War” came off Ritter’s Animal Years album at a time Iraq was spiraling into a hellish cauldron of civil war with us both the instigator and the ones trying to prevent the bloodshed. Meanwhile, Afghanistan also began slipping far away from U.S. objectives to establish a trustworthy democracy free of tyranny and terrorism.

When he performs “Girl In the War” tonight, that song will drip thick with more pathos than ever before.

Posted by: davepidgeon | November 30, 2009

The ghostly heart of Shenandoah

Hughes River, Shenandoah National Park

Chris Seiple attempts to ford the Hughes River in Shenandoah National Park, Va. (Compass Points Media / flickr) / CC BY-ND 2.0

About 50 yards – that’s all. That’s all the further Jason Stevenson, Chris Seiple and I had come down the Nicholson Hollow Trail before we met trouble.

A stream out of Weakley Hollow tumbled into the Hughes River at a confluence amongst the folds of brown Virginia mountains – Old Rag, Corbin and Thorofare – where the three of us hoped to explore Shenandoah National Park’s lesser-visited wildereness. Where the rivers converged started the Nicholson Hollow Trail, and while we managed to rock hop across the first crossing, the Hughes River rushed over the second crossing, submerging in fast flowing water the rocks by which we would have normally passed.

“Well, this trip turned FUBAR rather fast,” I said to my companions, using the old military term that harshly assesses a seriously screwed up situation. Read More…

Posted by: davepidgeon | November 30, 2009

Blue Ridge memories and Rocky’s future

Blue Ridge

The peaks of Shenandoah National Park fade into a blue horizon. (Compass Points Media / flickr) / CC BY-ND 2.0

Good morning, Pointers. How was Thanksgiving vacation?

I spent mine in Ohio visiting my parents, but my thoughts occasionally drifted back to the two-day backpack I completed with two friends in Shenandoah National Park, Va., last weekend. Look later today for a trip report that has an air of spookiness about it.

USA Today published Monday a piece about what threatens Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado:

Just over five years before its 2015 centennial, Rocky Mountain National Park — nicknamed “Rocky” among park staff — is in a state of flux as climate change bears down on it, deferred maintenance projects rack up a price tag greater than $50 million in the down economy, and industry-tainted air quality becomes a primary concern among park biologists.

The chemical composition of both tundra soil and mountain lake water is becoming more toxic for plants and animals because agricultural and industrial pollution deposit nitrogen in sensitive areas, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Populations of pika — tiny rabbitlike mammals — are disappearing in the park’s newly designated wilderness.

It’s a sobering article about one of the National Park Service’s icons. But I’ll do what I can to brighten the mood by suggesting this stunning 19-mile out-and-back hike to Lost Lake inside “Rocky.” Try it, fall for Rocky Mountain’s charms and get inspired to protect the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Peaks ornamented with snow rise in Rocky Mountain National Park, Co. (roadman22 / flickr) / CC BY 2.0

Posted by: davepidgeon | November 25, 2009

TRAIL TUNES: Blessed is this life

Rose River in Shenandoah

Enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving either with your family, on the trail or both. (Compass Points Media / flickr) / CC BY-ND 2.0

A quick stop at Compass Points to deliver Thanksgiving wishes and this week’s Trail Tunes from Brett Dennen. Have a great holiday.

Posted by: davepidgeon | November 24, 2009

Have an Ansel Adams Thanksgiving

Yosemite Valley (Feb. 2009)

Yosemite Valley in California beneath a layer of snow. (azdiaz1002 / flickr) / CC BY 2.0

I have some ideas for where you can hike this Thanksgiving weekend, that is unless you prefer to stand in a frigid line outside of Wal-Mart at 4:30 a.m. on Black Friday.

Yeah, me neither.

Backpacker has posted at its Web site my story about the Top 3 places to hike based on Ansel Adams photos – above the Yosemite Valley, Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico (based on the famous moonrise photo) and Denali National Park in Alaska.

The idea behind this article was to look at several Ansel Adams photos and ask – What trails exist there? That’s how I discovered and included the hike to Serpent Lake in New Mexico’s San de Cristo Mountains. If you look at Adams’s most famous photo – Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico – those snow-capped peaks are just begging for people like us to come explore, and the hike I’ve outlined takes you deep into that photo.

Hope you enjoy!

Posted by: davepidgeon | November 23, 2009

Grand changes coming for canyon camping

Grand Canyon 3

The system for backcountry camping permits in the Grand Canyon will undergo changes. (andrewcparnell / flickr) / CC BY 2.0

Word about pending changes to the camping permit system at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona have been making the Twitter rounds, and here at Compass Points, we want to make clear what’s going to happen.

Are changes coming? Most definitely, this February. These changes will most impact those who enjoy the privilege of walking up to park offices, applying for a camping permit and finding out that day whether they can start planning for a trip four months away, i.e. guides and residents who live close to the Grand Canyon. They have an advantage over backpackers who apply by fax or old fashion mail because those can take weeks to sort through and approve or deny.

Coming soon? A more equitable system for everyone, even if it raises the ire of local guide companies.

Here’s what you need to know about the coming system alterations, from the National Park Service’s press release:

  • Backcountry camping in Grand Canyon National Park will still require a permit.
  • Starting Feb. 1, 2010, the park system will “only accept written” requests via mail, fax or in person. Request must be made four months out, so if you want to camp on May 1, put your request in January 1.
  • This means after Feb. 1, no longer will you be able to apply for a backcountry camping permit in person without a written request. You will be able to apply for a permit in person, but your request must be in writing and will go into the pile of other written requests received that day.
  • All requests received by 5 p.m. daily will be put in random order by a computer and considered for approval in that new order.
  • NPS is moving toward an online registration system for camping permits, but it has not yet implemented this change. No word on when that online system will start.

Basically, the NPS is leveling the playing field since the current system favors those who show up in person.

As you can imagine, some are just not caught up in Thanksgiving warmth for the proposed changes. From the L.A. Times:

Some of the 26 outfitters who take customers on backpacking trips in the canyon say the proposal will cost people their jobs. If they can’t guarantee faraway customers choice destinations in advance, they’ll lose business, they say.

Wayne Ranney, who guides some trips commercially and backpacks the canyon in his free time, said he thought locals should have the best chance of hiking the canyon.

“To think of somebody from Cape Town, South Africa, having just as equal a chance as someone from Arizona or the United States — I know it sounds weird, but I don’t think that’s fair,” he said.

I hear their concerns, and if this was an Arizona state park, they may have a legal leg upon which to stand.

But there’s a counterpoint with equal validity. The Grand Canyon is a national park, and as a citizen of the United States and am ambitious backpacker, I’d like to apply one day for a backcountry camping permit. And if my status as a U.S. citizen is equal to a guide company CEO in Arizona, we should have equal consideration under the law.

Your thoughts? Add ’em to the comments section. I would love to hear from both sides.

Posted by: davepidgeon | November 23, 2009

The Heart of Shenandoah

Nicholson Hollow Trail Shenandoah

A blue blaze marks the Nicholson Hollow Trail in Shenandoah National Park, Va. (Compass Points Media / flickr) / CC BY-ND 2.0

Hey Pointers! How were your weekend trips?

This adventure blogger is spending Monday morning swallowing copious amounts of Vitamin Advil following a two-day, 20-mile journey into the furthest reaches of Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia. These leg joints and muscles seem to absorb the physical demands of backpacking more and more the older I get, and this trip with its scenic rewards seemed to grind pretty hard. In summary – waking up this morning turned out to be a difficult painful endeavor.

And it seems today more than in years past, extra work awaits during the post-hike aftermath. Cleaning the gear and washing the clothes has always been part of the chores, but as we become more sophisticated and in touch through technology, the post-hike work can seem as stressful as an actual job. There are photos to download, blog posts to write, Twitter status updates to compose, GPS waypoints and tracks to manage … What would Earl Shaffer think about it all?

Someone just give me a relaxing cup of hot coffee. And another pill of Vitamin Advil.

Ah, well. If we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t do it, right? Check back today and later in the week for trip reports and information about the less-visited portions of Shenandoah. We earned our turkey dinner for certain. Tales of harrowing adventure, tales of chasing ghosts, tales of following ferocious bears, exciting gear reviews …

And I’m announcing this week when the new Compass Points blog will be launched. Friend Compass Points at Facebook to be among the first to find out, and if you become our Facebook friend, you’ll see it first, too. Looking great so far.

See you back here later today.

Posted by: davepidgeon | November 20, 2009

A weekend hiking assignment

Old Rag 41

Heading for those brown mountains beneath that rock. (Compass Points Media / flickr) / CC BY-ND 2.0

Two words I absolutely love – On assignment.

Starting as soon as this post is published, I’m on assignment, working on an article for Backpacker regarding a remote section of Shenandoah National Park, Va. Heading down with good friends Jason Stevenson and Chris Seiple for two days and one night in search of bears, mountain streams, early winter vistas and the quiet ghosts of the park’s past.

Even before departing for the Shennies, this has been a watershed week for me, if you don’t mind me saying so.

If you live in Pennsylvania, please check out the latest edition of Pennsylvania Magazine. The cover story – “Tending the Iron Horses” – I authored and peers into the working lives of laborers at a historic rail road. I wanted to know what motivates people to work on antiquated rail roads, especially one that mundanely runs back and forth over the same 3.5 miles of track, passing the same ol’ farm fields every day, as opposed to working at a better-paying modern-day rail road. And what about a generation that’s entering the workforce now, who came of age when passenger rail was merely an echo of its glorious past? Can they be taught to see the value of steam engines when modern electric versions criss-cross the nation?

In another arena, Backpacker published its readers’ choice edition. The ‘zine divided the country into regions, chose 4 to 6 readers in each region to form a committee, and then asked them questions such as what was everybody’s favorite day hike or mountain in that region. Then, we wrote it up. I had the privilege of putting together the Northeast Committee and writing the prose. The piece looks great, the reward of a lot of hard work over a short period of time. Everyone involved from the committee members to the editors should be commended for an excellent magazine.

If you happen to have the November 2009 edition, the one with the Gear Guide supplement, please check out the Ansel Adams article I contributed. And in the Gear Guide, you can find a short piece I wrote about the lack of temperature rating standards of sleeping bags in the United States.

The tweeting goes on at CompassPointsDP, so come on over and say hello. And don’t forget to friend Compass Points at Facebook. Facebook subscribers will be alerted first (and given the first look) about when the new Compass Points blog will launch. I have to say, it’s looking sharp, and I find it increasingly difficult not to share it yet.

Alright, everyone in one loud chorus of voices, as we stand at the trailhead of another great weekend, you know the words:

Hike on, Pointers!

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