Sunday, September 28, 2008

Walking Sticks

I will admit it. I am a consummate consumer. I love collecting all types of rubbish, and I will part with hard-earned dollars for the purpose of doing so.

That admission made, I have always loved walking sticks. This affection is in part due to the fact that I have battled with gout ever since I was sixteen years of age, and I did not care for the aluminum cane provided by the hospital. For the last several years I have used the blackthorn stick that belonged to my father and his father before him. It is a particularly beautiful example of an Irish blackthorn, and it is one of my most cherished belongings. My particular fondness of that ancient warrior is exactly what led me to this post – I am far too fond of it to risk damaging it in the wild! When in the wilderness, you need to have a stout companion of a stick with you that you are willing to stick into holes and beat up a bit, and grandpa's blackthorn is not the one.

So I went on-line to see what is currently available. After sifting through a bunch of trash, I stumbled upon a site called The Stick Man. The stick man himself, Keith Pickering, is an elegant soul who is very willing to talk you through stick repair, and, further, his sight hosts a stick-making forum! This could be a wicked new obsession for me. I am toying with the idea of buying old knobby cane heads off of eBay and making luscious new walking sticks to go with them!

If only I were rich. . . .

Saturday, September 27, 2008


We all know that a hat is a necessity in the outdoors. It is a bit of common wisdom that most modern folk ignore unless they work in the blazing sun, and then they don't. In fact, I really like hats, from a fashion perspective as well as a functional one. Sadly, Indiana Jones ruined the fedora for most of us. In the summer I still don a good straw hat, either fedora style or, most recently, a lovely Monte Cristi Panama straw, which is handsome and summery. It works well with shorts and a t-shirt or with a blue blazer and white flannels.

But what about autumnal outdoorsy hats? When I was a Scout, I was really perturbed that the Montana Peak had disappeared from Scoutdom many years before. I had photographs of my dear old dad (b. 1913 and a Scout in the early and middle 1920s) wearing breeches and leggings and a Montana Peak, but my Scouting years were somewhat later. I was a Scout in the polyester 1970s - it was all ball caps and sneakers by the time I got there.

Nowadays, with the prevalence of Cowboy Action Shooting and various types of reenacting, there are a wide variety of great quality, authentic Montana Peaks around. What Price Glory carries a couple from different eras, and there are a number of others, such as Dirty Billy's Hats and the Tonto Rim Trading Company. So availability is not an issue. The issue comes down to convincing my darling wife that it is a reasonable expense. When I was shooting in CAS, a few years back, I nearly got one on a couple of occasions, but never quite made the leap. We shall see. . . .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Additional Equipment

Some additional stuff for the letterboxing pack:
  • Work gloves
  • Canteen
  • Stout Walking Stick
Also, I really want to trade my backpack in on a satchel of some sort. Initially I wanted to get an Indiana Jones style satchel as recreated by What Price Glory. It is beautifully done and it appeals to my aesthetics, but it does not compensate for my organizational shortfallings. Currently I am contemplating the Maxpedition Fatboy Versipack if I can find one cheap. The fact that I cannot find these for bargain prices may indicate that are really good, but I am holding out. I may just go back to the Indiana Jones satchel.

UPDATE: Since I was able to find one in Maxpedition's least militaristic color-scheme, the khaki and foliage two-tone, I opted for the Fatboy. The Indy satchel will have to wait for another day! All-in-all, I really think that this is the best choice for the job.

Additionally, I have been carrying one of my most prized possessions whilst letterboxing, my grandfather's Irish blackthorn walking stick. It is the finest example of a blackthorn stick that I have ever seen, and it is a stout and trusty walking companion. The stick that I use for letterboxing, however, will need to be subjected to some minor abuse, and I want to feel comfortable so abusing it, so I think that the blackthorn will go back into reserve for gentler walks, and I will find a replacement for letterboxing purposes. More to come on that later.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Folsom Prison

With the lovely Mrs. Wandering Walker off awandering on her own this week, Maggie, the intrepid Boxhound, and I decided to take on a local orphaned box in her absence. The box is local to us and it is very easy to find, though satisfying for beginners. The instructions are such that I had an excuse to use my compass, though there are no azimuth readings to be done on this adventure. The hiding place is very pretty, and it was a fun twenty minute excursion! Should you be in the neighborhood, I recommend it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Garmin Oregon 400t

I am diverting from my chosen topic of letterboxing for a brief detour into the realm of geocaching. As I mentioned elsewhere, geocaching is a sibling sport to letterboxing, the main difference being that geocaching leverages modern technology in the form of a Global Positioning System (GPS) device rather than the old-fashioned clues and compass readings. Personally, I am an old fashioned kind of guy, and I like old stuff. And compasses. As a result, letterboxing is my outdoor activity of choice. I am also something of a wannabe technoscentus, and I love playing with new tech toys, so I can hardly resist the urge to spend a chunk of change on a GPS unit, if for no other reason but to have it. I would probably use it in the car far more than in the field, but no matter. I want one.

The consensus of the geocaching cognoscenti (I am into my Latin roots today, it seems), one GPS unit is pretty much as good as the next, when it comes to geocaching. There are, of course, slight preferances one way and another for various units. Generally, Garmin is considered the choice for the brand, as the maps are more reliable and the units are, perhaps, of slightly better quality. The Garmin Oregon 400t is considered by many to be the current state of the art for geocachers. This device is a delight. It has all kinds of high-tech features to be found on sundry Garmin instruments, and, perhaps most importantly, it supports wirelessly! After you have found your geocach of the day, you can immediately move onto your next conquest without getting to your Internet connection and loading the next set of instructions. You may, instead, just have your 400t take care of it for you, and you are on your way!

Ok I will admit, there is a certain possibility that I don't actually need this device, but, I really want one.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Old Boy Scout Compass

To be perfectly honest, if you have one of these lying about the house, you are not only very fortunate to have such a lovely memento of the Scouts, but you have plenty of compass for purposes of letterboxing. Just because of my affinity for all sorts of old stuff, I really love this trinket of the earlier days of Scouting, and have little need for anything else.

The Lensatic Compass

I don't know if I mentioned it before, but I love compasses. This one is, aesthetically, one of my all-time favorites. This is the lensatic compass used by the United States military since the Korean War, and it is essentially unchanged from when it was first issued. The biggest noticeable change is that since September of 1992 it has been manufactured with Tritium markings, making it very readable in the dark.

As I said, aesthetically speaking, this is one of my all-time favorite compasses. It is, however, difficult to read and temperamental. When sighting, three different users will produce three different azimuth readings. Also, as a letterboxer, it is far more compass than you will ever need.

The main reason I include this compass in this little list is because they are available as used military surplus for very modest prices. Be wary, however, as there are many inferior replicas of this compass, so be certain that you are getting genuine military surplus.The current U.S. manufacturer is Cammenga, and they are stellar. I like old stuff, and will usually give old stuff the benefit of the doubt, but, in this case, you cannot do better than the current issue. Previously they were made by Stocker & Yale, Jay Bee Corp., Union Instrament Corp., Waltham Precision Instraments, Marine Compass Company and Lee and Stemwedel Inc. Though available inexpensively, the genuine article will rarely be cheaper than the Suunto baseplate model discussed below, and, for purposes of letterboxing, that is a much better choice. This one does look cool though. . . .

Suunto A-10 Partner II Baseplate Compass

Much like the Suunto MC-2G discussed below, the little A-10 Partner II compass is a beautifully finished piece of industrial art. Unlike the $75 price tag on the MC-2G, this little baseplate model can be had through The Compass Store (my favorite new place to window shop) for just about $11. In this day and age, I cannot imagine a better value. This is a simple and well made unit. It has a very modern ergonomic baseplate with a 1:24,000 map scale, a fixed declination correction scale and a snap-lock lanyard that allows easy separation of the compass. For the money, in my humble opinion, you cannot get a better compass for purposes of letterboxing or teaching your kids about how to use a compass.