california ecology outdoors

Mommy, where does Capilene come from?

I tend to obsess over out­doors gear. The pin­na­cle (or nadir, as the case may be) of this obses­sion was the spring/summer of 2001, when I hiked the Pacif­ic Crest Trail. Over four months, I sam­pled a ton of gear — six pairs of shoes, a few dif­fer­ent shirts, jack­ets, socks, shel­ters, cook­ware. I had dozens (maybe hun­dreds) of con­ver­sa­tions about this stuff, spent hours dis­cussing the var­i­ous qual­i­ties that dis­tin­guished some lit­tle piece of back­pack­ing equip­ment or appar­el as the light­est, strongest, dri­est, most com­fort­able, most long-last­ing, most whatever.What did I take away from these dis­cus­sions? Two things: (1) At some point, ratio­nal eval­u­a­tion becomes reli­gious debate. Gear nerds have deep, com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships with their hard­ware, and we have a hard time remain­ing lev­el-head­ed about the stuff saves our butt dur­ing a thun­der­storm, or keeps us con­sis­tent­ly com­fort­able as tem­per­a­tures change. And, (2), for me, Patag­o­nia appar­el last­ed longer, bounced back bet­ter, fit bet­ter, dealt with rain bet­ter, and just gen­er­al­ly worked bet­ter than the oth­er stuff I tried. Oth­ers poo-poo-ed it as "Pata-guc­ci." Froofy, high-end cou­ture pos­ing as out­door gear, i.e. stuff that "real thru-hik­ers" wouldn't be caught dead in.All of this is good and well, but I recent­ly came across anoth­er excel­lent aspect of it. (And I still wear it).

Patagonia - Footprint Chronicles - Nano Puff - OverviewCalled the Foot­print Chron­i­cles, they're a series of detailed accounts of how indi­vid­ual pieces of their gear are made — where the mate­r­i­al is sourced, how fair labor prac­tices are ensured, how the gar­ment is assembled.
Patagonia - Footprint Chronicles - Nano PuffThis exam­ple takes you through the design and con­struc­tion of the Nano Puff Pullover, made from recy­cled polyester.

This is a dif­fer­ent kind of mar­ket­ing, clear­ly: Doc­u­men­tary accounts that high­light the qual­i­ties of the com­pa­ny, rather than the per­for­mance of the gear. I'd be inter­est­ed to know how (or if) they mea­sure the return on invest­ment of this kind of thing.

california outdoors

Days of old (growth)

Sarah brought over an excel­lent old book called The Trees of Cal­i­for­nia, by Willis Linn Jep­son. It was pub­lished in 1909, and it had some amaz­ing pho­tos of the red­woods up north.

Redwood - 16 feet in diameter - 1909

The cap­tion reads: "Fig 15. REDWOOD (Sequoia sem­per­virens Endl.) Mak­ing the "under­cut", which deter­mines the direc­tion of the fall, on a tree 16 feet in diam­e­ter. Hum­boldt woods." Pho­to: A.W. Ericson.Amazon sells Trees of Cal­i­for­nia for $75, but you can read it for free at Google Books. Cool.

california san francisco travel

This marimba could be yours

San Juan Bautista - Marimba

If you haven't been to San Juan Bautista, you need to go. It's a lit­tle ways south of San Jose, an hour east of Big Sur, a long but not impos­si­ble trip from San Fran­cis­co. Mara and I were there last win­ter, and I keep mean­ing to spread the word. It's a real get­away with good old-fash­ioned Cal­i­for­nia her­itage and big cac­ti and a nice bak­ery and a good vibe.

San Juan Bautista - Chicken
Chick­ens run­ning around.
San Juan Bautista - White hearse
What can you say? SJB got style.

It's also got a mis­sion, and it's in the heart of arti­choke coun­try. They say that hard times are when the big ideas real­ly take hold. Maybe it's time to get that marim­ba you've always wanted.

california ecology outdoors

Origins & etymologies / Yosemite

Last Fri­day, we impro­vised a par­lor game dur­ing a vis­it to Sarah's par­ents’ house. They've got tons of books on Cal­i­for­nia his­to­ry, includ­ing a gem called Cal­i­for­nia Place Names: The Ori­gin and Ety­mol­o­gy of Cur­rent Geo­graph­i­cal Names by one Erwin Gud­de, a Cal pro­fes­sor and friend of Sarah's fam. There wasn't much "game" to the game; some­one shout­ed out a city or coun­ty or riv­er name, and then we all offered the­o­ries about its ori­gin before flip­ping to its entry in the book and read­ing aloud. A sam­ple. Yosemite:

From the South­ern Sier­ra Miwok yohhe' meti or yosse' meti [mean­ing] "they are killers," derived from yoohu- [mean­ing] "to kill," evi­dent­ly a name giv­en to the Indi­ans of the val­ley by those out­side it … Edwin Sher­man claimed dis­cov­ery of the val­ley in the spring of 1850, nam­ing it "The Devil's Cel­lar." In March of 1851, it was entered by the Mari­posa Bat­tal­ion and named at the sug­ges­tion of LH Bun­nell: "I then pro­posed that we give the val­ley the name of Yo-sem-i-ty, as it was sug­ges­tive, eupho­nious, and cer­tain­ly Amer­i­can; that by so doing, the name of the tribe of Indi­ans which we met leav­ing their homes in this val­ley, per­haps nev­er to return, would be perpetuated."

There's so much infor­ma­tion in here that it's hard to know where to start, but (1) Yes, majes­tic wilder­ness should be called things like "they are killers." This should be a require­ment for any place that is rugged and majes­tic and awe-inspir­ing. What words can match land­scapes like these? Those that involve vio­lent death, for starters. (2) I can guess at why were the Indi­ans leav­ing, "per­haps nev­er to return," but this seems like a detail that should be, say, expand­ed. (3) The "y" at the end, for my mon­ey, makes more sense. It was replaced by an "e" in 1852 by a Lt. Tred­well Moore. No expla­na­tion is giv­en as to why; the impli­ca­tion is, why not? More on Yosemite here, but the whole book is pret­ty great.