Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Hiker lingo and vocabulary for the PCT thru-hike

Like any hobby or a pastime, hiking has its own lingo and vocabulary. Here’s a short introduction to some of the terms and acronyms used in thru-hiking and hiking in general.

Please enjoy!

AYCE (acronym): All-You-Can-Eat. For when you get the hiker hunger.

Base-weight (noun): The weight of your pack excluding food, water, and other consumables. Very important for Gram Weenies like me.

Bear Box (noun): Bear boxes are generally found in established campgrounds along areas of high bear activity. They are lockable bear proof boxes where you can store food and anything else that might smell attractive to a bear (cooking pots, toiletries etc.). The boxes are usually located a safe distance from tent sites.

Bear Can (noun): Short for a bear canister. Similar to a bear box except that it is portable and designed to be carried by hikers. A bear can is mandatory in several sections of the PCT, mostly through the High Sierras. It should be stored at least 100 feet (30m) from your campsite but also well away from cliffs, ledges, and rivers. Bear cans are typically loathed by hikers because they are bulky, rigid and heavy. But they do make a convenient camp stool.

Bonus Miles (noun): These are all the extra miles that aren’t officially part of the PCT but will nevertheless need to be hiked during the course of a typical thru-hike. These include miles to and from resupply points, post offices, lodgings, off-trail water sources, scouting for sheltered and/or flat campsites, prospecting for a nice Cat Hole and the inevitable navigational mishaps.

Boink (verb): Running out of energy to hike due to eating too few calories.

Bounce Box (noun): The Bounce Box is a package that you continually mail to your future self as you travel along the trail. Not all hikers use this.

Bubble (noun): Also known as the Herd (check below).

Cache (noun): Stuff that is stored or squirreled away in a secret or inaccessible location, for use at some point in the future. Trail Angels and hikers themselves have increasingly cached food and water along the trail, particularly in the dry desert sections of Southern California.

Cairn (noun): A man-made stack of stones indicating where the trail continues.

Camel Up (verb): The act of drinking as much water as you physically can when you are at a water source. The theory is that you over-hydrate yourself as much as possible to lessen the need for carrying heavy water. “Cameling Up” at a cache is not considered good trail etiquette. Instead, hikers should only take what they really need, leaving as much of this precious commodity for a potentially more desperate hiker behind them.

Cat Hole (noun): One of the cornerstones of LNT (Leave No Trace) philosophy, and also, considered good trail etiquette. It's a hole you dig to not leave your poop out on the trail. Cat hole should be 6-8 inches deep, 200 feet from campsites or trail, and far away from all water sources. You should always carry out your TP (and for the love of god, do NOT burn it!).

Cowboy Camping (verb): Sleeping outside in the wilderness without an overhead shelter (i.e. no tent or tarp). If weather, crawlies, and bugs permit, this is a fast way to setup and take down your camp. Also, a good way to enjoy the stars on a clear night.

Day Hiker (noun): A hiker who is only hiking for a day.

Dry Camping (verb): Camping without a nearby water source. For the most part, thru-hikers will want to camp close to a water source to save the hassle of lugging water to cook or to drink. In bear country, hikers often cook their dinner close to a water source and then carry on hiking for a few hours after dinner.

FKT (acronym): Fastest Known Time. Every few years someone will test themselves by attempting to hike from one end of the trail to the other, faster than anyone else has ever hiked it. If they accomplish this goal, they have the fastest known time. Current supported FKT is held by Karel Sabbe, who in 2016 finished the 2659 mile PCT in 52 days, 8 hours, and 25 minutes. That’s averaging over 50 miles (81km) per day.

Flip-Flop (noun): A tactic used to complete the trail in a single season whereby you do a section of the trail, then skip a section with the intention of going back and doing that section later. For example, in a heavy snow year, a thru-hiker might skip the Sierras, finish the rest of the trail and then return to the Sierras once the conditions are more favorable to finish off the missing part.

Floaties (noun): Any item found floating in your water after filling up your water bottles. Usually, poop.

Giardia (noun): A nasty intestinal parasite that causes acute stomach upset, chronic diarrhea, nausea, and all of the other associated unpleasantries. This unsavory little character is transmitted outside of the body via feces and seems to somehow always find its way into water sources. Giardia is a major incentive for thru-hikers to practice good trail hygiene, adhere to the LNT philosophy and always filter or treat questionable drinking water.

Glissade (verb): From the French word for sliding. In theory, glissading is a controlled way to expedite one‘s path down a steep slope of snow or ice by gliding gracefully on the feet or buttocks. In practice, it’s hikers sliding down snowy or ice-covered hills on their asses while having an incredible time. Also known as ass-path.

Gorp (noun): Another term for trail mix.

Gram Weenie (noun): A hiker who becomes obsessed with reducing his or her Base Weight. I would consider myself to be a Gram Weenie.

Herd, The (noun): A large group of thru-hikers that sets off together along the trail. Usually happens in the Southern California and thins out by the time hikers reach Northern California. The herd can cause congestion, overcrowding, and damage to the trail. Being behind the herd has the benefit of bountiful Hiker Boxes.

Hiker Box (noun): A box where hikers donate unwanted food or gear for other hikers. Typically found at resupply points along the trail.

Hiker Funk (noun): This obnoxious smell is the result of a unique combination of excessive sweat, economical use of laundry, irregular showering and a generally scant regard for personal hygiene.

Hiker Hunger (noun): Walking dozens of miles per day, every day, up and down mountain passes burns a lot of calories. Since you can only carry so many calories on your back, your body is constantly running a deficit and you are constantly hungry. This insatiable, bottomless hunger that torments thru-hikers is called Hiker Hunger.

Hiker Hobble (noun): A phenomenon where once the hiker removes his or hers backpack, he/she starts to limp and wobble. Usually, develops after the first hundred miles, and doesn’t let up.

Hiker Midnight (noun): 9:00 pm (although hotly debated). Most serious and well-mannered thru-hikers will be tucked up by this time so that they can get a good 8 hours of sleep and still be up at the crack of dawn.

Hiker Trash (noun): Hiker Trash is a term used to describes the consequences of living in the wilderness, surrounded by your own funk for months on end. Often confused with homeless.

HYOH (acronym): Hike Your Own Hike. Everyone's hike is different so be respectful of other people‘s needs, gear choices, pace, and so on. Not meant to be used as an excuse for acting like an asshole on the trail.

JMT (acronym): The John Muir Trail which overlaps the PCT for almost 200 miles / 322 km in the Sierra. JMT hikers typically head southbound while most PCT hikers head northbound.

LNT (acronym): Leave No Trace.

Mail Drop (noun): One of the ways for thru-hikers to resupply themselves with food, equipment, and other essentials while on the trail. Packages are sent for general delivery to post offices in towns along the trail where they are held until collected by the hungry hiker. As this method of resupplying depends on the inconvenient opening hours of post offices, many thru-hikers choose to resupply as they go and only send mail drops to locations where groceries are not available.

NoBo (noun): Northbound hiker.

Nero (noun): Nearly a Zero. A day when you only hike very few miles. Neros often occur when a thru-hiker arrives in a trail town and needs to take care of resupply, laundry, and other town activities before heading back on the trail.

Pee Rag (noun): A small piece of fast drying, absorbent fabric that some/most female thru-hikers carry on the outside of their packs. Helps to keep the Hiker Funk at bay.

Pink Blaze (verb): The act of hiking more quickly than you normally would, with the intention of catching up to a certain female hiker; to hike according to the schedule of a female hiker.

Postholing (verb): The term is derived from the hole that would be dug to sink a fence post into. When hiking across snow and your feet break through the snow your legs look like aforementioned fence poles sticking out of the snow. Postholing slows movement to an agonizing crawl, takes a ludicrous amount of energy and can be dangerous because it’s often impossible to know what's hidden beneath the surface. Postholing is one of the things hikers dread as they head into the Sierra. Can be mitigated by timing snow travel to early morning when the surface of the snow is still frozen from the night before.

Puffy (noun): A name for a down jacket.

Ray Day (noun): June 15th. In an average snow year in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Ray Day is the best date to leave Kennedy Meadows on a northbound thru-hike. Named for Ray Jardine, the Author of the Pacific Crest Trail Hikers Handbook. This date is based on two factors: it’s late enough to allow sufficient snowmelt in the Sierras for a safe hike, and it’s early enough to allow time to reach Canada before winter.

Resupply (noun): When a hiker hobbles out of the wilderness and back into town to get food and electricity.

Ride Bride (noun): A female hiker accompanying a male hiker when attempting to hitch a ride to town. A male thru-hiker who is accompanied by a female is far more likely to pick up a ride.

Section Hiker (noun): A hiker who's only hiking a section/sections of the PCT.

SoBo (noun): Southbound hiker.

Stealth Camping (verb): The term given to camping in an unestablished site or on land without permission from the landowner with the intention of not being seen. Offers a greater degree of solitude and can also reduce the chances of bear encounters.

Sun Cups (noun): An uneven surface of snow resembling a giant egg carton. As the snow melts in the spring, pockets of water form on the surface of the snow. This water warms up in the sun and causes the snow under it to melt faster than the surrounding snow. The resulting uneven surface is difficult to walk on.

Thru-Hike (noun): Traditionally a contiguous hike from one end of a trail to another. Usually, the term is only applied to hikes longer than 1,000 miles /1,609 km.

Thru-Hiker (noun): A hiker who is attempting to complete a Thru-Hike.

TP (acronym): Short for toilet paper. LNT code of conduct requires that if you pack it in, you must always pack it out.

Trail Angel (noun): A person who performs acts of Trail Magic and assists hikers expecting nothing in return, monetary or otherwise.

Trail Family (noun): A group of hikers that stick together and become very close as a result of their shared experiences along the trail.

Trail Legs (noun): About 4-5 weeks into a thru-hike your legs start to get used to the grueling long days and become incredibly strong, allowing you to hike for miles and miles.

Trail Magic (noun): Any random act of kindness that is offered or provided to thru-hikers. These amazingly generous deeds are like magic because they seem to always occur at a time or in a place when they are most needed; a water cache in a desert, a ride into town on a rainy day, or otherwise awesome occurrence.

Trail Name (noun): A nickname used by a hiker during their thru-hike, given by other hikers. An easier way of identifying hikers instead of their actual names, especially if you have numerous John’s on the trail. There are few unwritten rules when it comes to trail names. Generally, you don’t get to choose your own trail name, it is given to you by other thru-hikers and it will reflect your personality, appearance, style of hiking or some quirky thing that you do on the trail.

Trail Register (noun): A logbook, piece of paper, or otherwise inscribe-able object used for documenting hikers passing of a point on the trail.

Triple Crown (noun): The Triple Crown of Hiking is an informal title awarded to those who complete all three of the major U.S. long-distance hiking trails; The Appalachian Trail (AT), The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and The Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Only about 500 people have completed this 7,910 mile / 12,730 km feat of endurance. Only a small handful of hikers have managed to get the job done in a single calendar year.

Ultralight hiker (noun): A hiker who’s base weight is under 10lbs / 4,54kg.

Vitamin I (noun): Trail name for Ibuprofen.

Vortex (noun): Anything off of the trail that sucks a hiker in and is difficult to leave. A vortex will keep a hiker off the trail for an extended period of time.

Yogi (verb): The act of cleverly soliciting food, drink, rides, or otherwise useful things from unsuspecting strangers hikers meet along the trail, often without directly asking. From Yogi the Bear who managed to obtain picnic baskets from unsuspecting campers, though Yogi’ing doesn’t involve the same techniques. Yogi’ing is often done "Columbo style”, by striking up a conversation with a non-hiker, asking leading questions, and allowing the person to decide whether he wants to offer help.

Yo-Yo (verb): Whereupon reaching the end of the trail you simply turn around and head back to where you started. This is pretty rare but does happen.

Zero (noun): A rest day when zero trail miles are walked. Zeros are typically spent in trail towns or at the home of a Trail Angel but can sometimes be taken on the trail. Some zeros are planned, others are forced upon the hiker by injury or exhaustion.

So, I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer

pacific-crest-trail-blaze

There, I can say it out loud: I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer. It’s been a bumpy 5 months of organizing, but I finally have all my permits in check, flights booked, work sorted out, apartment packed up with all my stuff in boxes, and I'm ready to head out to the trail.

I’ve planned for this for the past 1,5 years and on 25th of April, I’m flying from Helsinki to San Diego where I'm staying for a few days with a good friend of mine. And if everything goes well, I'll be standing on the southern terminus of the PCT in Campo, California, on the 30th of April, ready to take my first steps along the 2,659 mile long trail – hoping my feet will carry me all the way to Manning Park, Canada.

What is this Pacific Crest Trail?

The Pacific Crest Trail (commonly abbreviated as the PCT) is a long-distance hiking trail located on the U.S. west coast. The trail starts on the U.S.–Mexico border, just south of Campo, California, and ends on the U.S.–Canada border, on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia.

The 2,659 mile/4,279 km long PCT corridor spans through California, Oregon, and Washington, passing through 26 national forests, 7 national parks, 48 wilderness areas, 5 State Parks, and 4 National Monuments. The trail closely aligns with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, and ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon–Washington border, to 13,153 feet (4,009 m) at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevada.

Usually, the PCT is hiked from the southern terminus in Campo, to the northern terminus in Manning Park. For most thru-hikers hiking through the PCT takes about 5-6 months. Those that complete the thru-hike have climbed up 428,011 feet (130,458m) and descended 426,486 feet (129,993m) – that is the equivalent of almost 15 ascents and descents of Mt. Everest from sea level.

PCT sections

The PCT is typically divided into 5 sections:

  • Southern California: some nice higher mountains, mostly dry desert mountains, some flat desert areas, some really hot places (Mojave Desert).
  • Sierras: gigantic granite mountains carved by glaciers, snow, no roads, huge glacial valleys, lots of mosquitoes, bears.
  • Northern California: less dramatic mountains (except for Mt. Shasta), lots of massive river valleys to climb in and out of, fewer mosquitoes. Transitions into the Cascade Range (i.e. volcanoes).
  • Oregon: mostly flatter trails, lots of lakes, lots of mosquitoes, larger volcanoes.
  • Washington: lots of climbing, massive mountains, gorgeous views.

Timing

Due to the terrain, seasonal weather patterns, and the length of the trail, there’s only a short window for northbound thru-hikers to start their hike. They need to start their hike early enough to make it out of the desert before it gets too hot, get to the Sierra late enough for the snow to have melted for the high mountain passes to be passable and still have enough time to make it to the northern terminus before the on-coming winter. During a regular year, this means that most hikers start from the middle of April to early May and aim to get to Sierra by June 15th.

Southbound thru-hikers start a month or two later. They can start once the high mountain passes in Washington are safe to pass through.

Most common questions and answers

The more I talk to people about the trail, the more I find myself answering a lot of similar questions. To help out a little, here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers to them. If I didn’t answer some question, please ask me in the comments and I’ll update this list.

Are there any [insert dangerous animal] there?

In the desert, you will meet rattlesnakes, scorpions, spiders and other desert critters. All of them want nothing to do with you. Having your ears and eyes open and being extra careful around dusk and you can avoid any unpleasant confrontations with rattlesnakes.

Further up north, there will be black bears and mountain lions. Abiding by good bear etiquette (not leaving food around, using bear canisters, not getting between mommy and her cubs…) and traveling in groups when in mountain lion country is more than enough. If you'll see these animals, they are most likely running away from you. Fatal animal encounters along the PCT are almost non-existent.

Most animal problems I'll encounter will be caused by mice, marmots, dogs, cows, bees, ticks, and deer who like to eat the ends of hiking poles for the salt.

Are you going to carry a gun/bear spray?

While the bear spray is useful in brown bear country, black bears are more mellow and less aggressive and usually need just a little yelling to spook away. Also as far as I can tell, bear spray is illegal at least in Yosemite.

Gun? Hell no.

Are you afraid of [insert a fear here]?

I'm most certainly afraid, but usually, it's not by the things most people think. What I'm most afraid of are things like hypothermia, lightning, bees, giardia, river crossings, falling through a snow bridge, postholing endlessly in the Sierra snow, running out of water in the desert, and mostly, my body failing on me mid-hike.

How are you connecting with family/friends from the trail? Is there cell phone coverage?

My main contact with my family is going to be my DeLorme inReach satellite messenger. This way my parents can follow my hike using the satellite pings on a map and we can send messages through the satellite network. This will work anywhere with a clear view of the sky.

There’s also an S.O.S. button on the inReach that allows me to contact SAR if I, or any other hiker, needs to be rescued from the trail.

I'll also carry my iPhone and use it when there's coverage, meaning mainly close to trail towns and few others spots.

Are you going to carry all your food?/where do you get your food?/are you going to forage/hunt your own food?

I will be resupplying from small trail towns along the way and when there are no towns available, I'll send resupply drops or hitchhike to towns further from the trail. Generally, I will be resupplying every five to seven days, but my longest stretch between resupplies is 9 days.

Where are you going to sleep?

I carry my own shelter. Depending on the weather and bugs/crawlies, on most nights I will sleep in my shelter or cowboy camp (sleep on the ground). Sometimes I need to stay in trail towns and then I'll sleep in a hotel/hostel.

Is Fire coming with you?

Sadly I can't take Fire (my Australian Shepherd and hiking partner) with me. Instead, he's staying home in Finland with really awesome caregivers.

Why can't you take Fire with you?

For multiple reasons, but mostly logistics and his own safety and welfare. Along the PCT corridor, there are many areas where dogs are not allowed. Working around this as a non-US hiker would be a real headache.

Secondly, the food and water carriages would be too much. There are long waterless stretches on the trail and carrying his food and water would be too much.

Thirdly, I know him well enough to know that he wouldn't enjoy hiking for 20-30 miles per day for 5-6 months. And for a dog who doesn’t like heat, 800 miles/1,200 km of desert hiking is not the most inviting idea.

Are you going to keep a journal? Can I follow your hike?

I will be updating this blog as I go along, and also updating photos to my Instagram account.

Why are you doing this?

First and foremost, I love hiking. While I love sitting around the camp, by the fire, chilling, I actually like the hiking part more. And while there are some great trails in Finland and surrounding countries, I’ve always felt I wanted to do a longer trail. Hike longer days. Really push myself to the limit.

I originally wanted to do a longer hike in Europe, or in New Zealand, but the more I’ve hiked, the more I’ve learned what I like, and once I started studying the PCT, I immediately knew it was the trail I wanted to hike. I hate hiking in a “green tunnel” and love being high in the mountains and open vistas.

On a more personal level, this April marks the ten year anniversary of working in the advertising industry. For some time now, I’ve felt that I’ve been doing the same thing for too long, and felt like a little pause – taking some distance – would be a good thing. Is there anything better than spending 5 months in the wilderness, away from emails, meetings, and deadlines to charge one’s mental batteries?

HMG UltaMid 2 and UltaMid 4 size comparison

I had been wanting to lighten my shelter for a while now and when Hyperlite Mountain Gear had a -25% sale in December, it was finally time to pull the trigger. Since my brother needed a shelter as well, we joined and bought the UltaMid 2 and UltaMid 4.

My brother needs a bigger shelter as he often hikes with his family (wife + two kids), and I usually need a smaller shelter as I hike solo with my dog, Fire.

When looking at reviews online, we never found any size comparisons between the two, either when packed or when pitched. So once we finally received our mid's a side-by-side comparison was in order.

Outer dimensions

Just by looking at the specs you can see there's an obvious size difference between the two. The four-person UltaMid 4 is 281.9cm × 281.9cm (111'' × 111'') wide and 190.5cm (75'') tall, whereas the two-person UltaMid 2 is 210.8cm × 271.8cm (83'' × 107'') wide and 162.6cm (64'') tall.

While this will give you some idea about their sizes, I find it hard to capture the size of a shelter just by looking at the specs.

When pitched side-by-side, you can clearly see the UltaMid 4 is quite a lot larger than the UltaMid 2. The larger dimensions also mean the UltaMid 4 requires a larger area to pitch.

Interior space

While the two-person UltaMid 2 is very spacious for its weight and packed size, the four-person UltaMid 4 is humongous. You could almost park a car in there.

The UltaMid 2 is a palace for me and Fire. You can easily get all your gear inside, and there's ample room for Fire to roam around during the night (he likes to switch spots every few hours).

The UltaMid 4 will easily fit three-person plus their gear, even four. If you value space in your shelter, or you need something that'll fit a family, this is perfect for the size and weight. The 190cm (75'') center height means you can almost stand up inside.

Packed size and weight

As I mostly need a shelter that fits me + my dog, the UltaMid 2 seemed just the perfect size for us, plus our gear. And it's still big enough to fit an extra person if I was hiking with a buddy who wasn't carrying a shelter. Also, while the UltaMid 4 seemed too big for most of my needs, the biggest reason for going with the two-person version was the weight and what I thought would be a smaller package in your backpack.

HMG states the weights for the UltaMid 2 and 4 with guidelines as 499g (16.6 oz) and 618g (20.8 oz), respectively. In real life, I had a hard time telling them apart by their weight.

Originally I had thought that as the UltaMid 4 has much more fabric, it would also require a lot more space in the backpack. Imagine how surprised I was when I picked both of them up and on my way to take the picture above, I couldn't tell which one was which. I literally turned around and asked "wait, which one is the four-person one?". The weight difference is so small, and they come in the same size stuff sacks, that unless you compress them properly down, you can't tell a difference.

While I was really impressed by the weight, size and space of the UltaMid 2, what really surprised me was how packable and light the humongous four-person UltaMid 4 is. It's easily small and light enough to carry as a solo shelter, still spacious enough to fit a family of four.

Two thumbs up for both of them!

15 life lessons I've learned in 2015

As we’re wrapping up this year, here’s one last post. These are the fifteen life lessons I learned in 2015:

  1. Never compare yourself to others, there are always people who are better or worse off than you.
  2. You’re never too old to start something new. Thinking “this will take me, at least, a year to learn” might sound intimidating now, but if you wait, you’re going to look back in a year and think “man I wish I had started this a year ago”.
  3. Never say anything when angry. Words said in anger can only be forgiven, not forgotten.
  4. There’s a great quote by Jon Acuff: “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”. It's very tempting to compare the start of your new adventure to the middle of someone else’s. And it’s demoralising. Just remember that this is your beginning and you’re going to suck at it for a while. Just give it time.
  5. If you have any doubt about committing, something's missing. When you know, you know, and there will be no doubt.
  6. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time. You’re giving a portion of your life that you will never get back.
  7. If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.
  8. Never ever say anything bad about your Ex. Nothing good comes out of it. If you have something to say, write it down on a letter and address it to yourself in the future. All those things are going to seem petty and meaningless later on.
  9. It’s better to spend more time listening than talking.
  10. If you think highly of a person, tell it to them immediately. Don’t wait until their funeral because by then they won’t be around to hear it.
  11. Never try to win a fight or an argument with your loved one. While you might win the fight, you’ll end up losing something way more valuable. 
  12. Sometimes good things do happen after 2 am.  
  13. Always choose personality over looks, style, and hype.
  14. Confidence is a funny thing. Too little confidence and you’re unable to act; too much confidence, and you’re unable to hear. Finding the right balance is the key.
  15. It’s much better to be interested than to be interesting.

That’s it, let’s hope 2016 is a more eventful year. Happy New Years everybody!

Red Wing Style No. 3140 Heritage Work Chukka boots

Over the past few years I've grown from only wearing sneakers to a lover of leather shoes. This all started few winters back when I bought a pair of Saint Vacant Derby boots and fell in love with them. I loved how they felt and how, even with all the slosh and mud, you could make them look like new with just a little bit of spit and elbow grease. 

Last winter, to adhere to the "never wear the same leather shoes for two days in a row" rule, I wanted to find another pair of shoes. While searching online for high-quality leather shoes, the Red Wing brand kept coming up again and again and again. It seemed that everyone had nothing but great things to say about their shoes.

So when I happened to notice that our local shoemaker and general store Pinkomo was stocking a really nice selection of Red Wing boots, I had to go over and try them on.

I immediately fell in love with the No. 3140 Heritage Work Chukka boots.

red-wing-heritage-3140

Fit

The second I put these on, I knew I wanted them. They fit perfectly and were extremely comfortable to wear. This despite the many warnings online, and from Pinkomo, that these shoes require a long breaking-in period.

So, after I purchased these, and since they felt so comfortable to wear, of course I disregarded all the warnings and took them on a weekend trip to St. Petersburg. As my only shoes.

Big mistake.

As a word of warning: these boots do require a long breaking-in period! It took me a good month or two of wearing these to get them properly worn in. Now, after being properly broken-in, they are the most comfortable shoes I own.

isko-salminen

Quality

I really enjoy the quality of my Saint Vacant shoes, but the Red Wings are on a whole new level! I've worn these almost exclusively for the entire past winter and they still look like new. And they've seen some pretty hard use: I've worn them in dog-parks, had my dog scratch them, stand on them and generally do everything you're not supposed to do with nice leather shoes. I've walked in mud, slush, rain, forest and almost every kind of foul weather you see during a typical shitty Finnish winter.

No matter what I've thrown at these shoes, after a year of heavy use they still look like new and they feel like they will be around for many winters to come. Actually, with a proper care, they will be around for decades.

Conclusion

What I like: The Red Wing No 3140 chukka boots look and feel amazing, they are actually one of my most comfortable shoes. They are long lasting and keep looking like new with just a little care and maintenance. No need to buy new winter boots every year. 

What I don’t like: Only thing I can think of is that they need a long breaking-in period.

Weekend in Nauvo

We spend this past weekend in Nauvo at my friends new summer place. He needed a pair of extra hands to build few things and I was happy to spend a weekend in a new place. Between building and working, we left our names and few easter eggs to be found for the persons who in the future work on this building.

I’ve never been to Nauvo and I have to say, it’s beautiful! Exploring this area of Finland is definitely on my to-do list for next summer!

Fire and the baby bird

This summer we – like thousands of others Finns – traveled to our summer cabin to celebrate Midsummer. 

This is also the time of year when birds start to leave their nests and learn to fly. So while doing the usual yard work, we weren’t surprised to find a baby bird resting on the ground.

Later during the day, we noticed that the baby bird was in a really bad shape. She was clearly not strong enough to fly, and by the looks of it, was already abandoned by her mother.

Few hours later we were checking on her from afar and noticed she had wobbled to an area in our yard which is covered by ants and they had already attacked her and were about to eat her alive. As she was too weak to even move anymore, we simply could not stand by and watch this.

We gently picked her up, moved her on a moss covered rock closer to her nest, and gently brushed the ants away so she could be in peace.

This was when Fire saw her and, as we were brushing the last of the ants away, curled up on the rock next to her like this. I quickly took these photos of the two unlikely companions and then asked Fire to come down so that we’d leave the little bird alone.

Sadly, few hours later we found her dead :( hopefully we managed to make her short life on this earth even just a little bit more enjoyable.

---

Notice:

You should never touch or interfere with a baby bird that has fallen to the ground. Even if they might seem like they are alone, their mother is usually around and your actions might cause them to abandon the little bird.

In this instance, as soon as our parents noticed the baby bird, we notified everyone and actively avoided the area where she was last seen as much as we possibly could. We only intervened as we saw her totally helpless, covered by ants. 

She was in such a bad condition, and by this point clearly abandoned by her mother, that we knew we couldn’t rescue her but also couldn’t just stand by and watch her being eaten alive. We made a judgement call that if her short life had to come to an end, it would be nicer for her to spend her last moments in peace and comfort. This isn’t always the case so, unless you know what you’re doing, it’s better not to interfere!

Also, unless you really, REALLY, know how your dog is going to react, you should never allow them this close to wild animals! We’ve encountered many baby birds and other small animals by accident while hiking and I’ve seen how Fire reacts to them so I was sure he wasn’t going to harm the little bird. But while he saw a helpless animal in need of help, other dogs might see a quick and easy snack.

This wasn’t staged. We avoided touching or moving the bird as much as possible. Fire curled up this close to her on his own and was clearly protective of her.