When you start backpacking, chances are you will consult a trail guide to help you choose your destination. Trail guides are great but they are often written for people who are “in the know” about backcountry etiquette. After reviewing this Glossary for Schmucks, you too will know what in the hell a trail guide is talking about.
Back Country: anywhere there is no sign of civilization and beyond the range of Day Hikers.
Bear Box: large, lockable cabinets generally painted brown and located in developed campgrounds such as the Whitney Portal; designed to keep bears from consuming your toothpaste.
Boulder Hopping: a required activity for the purposes of negotiating streams, creeks, rivers, and ponds; requires balance and; in many cases, a towel.
Coniferous: evergreen trees such as pines
Day Hike: a hike that generally takes only a day (4 hours or less) to complete.
Day Hikers: individuals who carry only a small bottle of water, just stepped off of a chartered bus, and are dressed suitably for the nearest strip mall coffee shop; aka Tourists.
Deciduous: trees that lose their leaves in the fall, such as oaks and maples.
Fire Permit: a piece of paper you acquire online to present to a Forest Ranger so they can blame you in the event of a fire.
Foot Bridge: replaces boulder hopping and sometimes spans larger rivers and streams; designs vary between a complex structure that can accommodate trucks to a single plank of wood over a damp rut.
Forest Ranger: identified by funny hats, these creatures can be found in their natural habitat of Ranger Stations; activities include selling books, issuing bear canisters, and signing wilderness permits that will be discarded as soon as backpackers leave the station.
Gentle Rise in the Trail: damn lies from trail guide authors.
GPS: global positioning system; curious location device that requires a master’s degree in geography and computer science to operate.
Interpretive Loop/Trail: a short hiking trail that features markers where tourists can look at both coniferous and deciduous trees as well as wildlife such as Forest Rangers.
Leave No Trace: a backcountry concept that mandates backpackers leave a campsite with no trace of human activity…such as a discarded bear canister.
Loop: a trail that takes you in a big circle.
Out and Back: a trail that is not a loop, but goes in two directions: out and back.
Ranger Station: conspicuously marked with large yellow signs that reads: Ranger Station; contains trail maps and bear canisters for backpackers as well as displays of stuffed wildlife such as foxes, birds, and Forest Rangers.
Switchbacks: zigzag portions on trails that reportedly to make it easier to climb an aggressive hill; results in dizziness, profuse sweating, and strings of obscenity-laced rants.
Trailhead: starting point for any trail and usually features a parking lot.
Trail Junction: the place where two trails meet and usually have signs with direction and estimated mileage to destination or next junction; designed to confuse backpackers as to which way to go.
Trail Map: an area map that will show where backcountry trails start, end, and meet; sometimes contains topographical information on ridgelines and elevation or may be scrawled on a napkin.
Topographical Map: apparently written in hieroglyphics, sometimes allows backpackers to discern their elevation and location; the closer the lines are together, the more misery you will suffer; aka Topo Map.
USGS: United States Geological Survey; creates Topo maps for specific areas, scales, and backpackers who can read hieroglyphics; available at Ranger Stations and most camping specialty stores, can also be downloaded from the internet…Google Translate is of no help.
Wilderness Campsite: any undeveloped campsite in the backcountry; generally indicated by a crude fire ring and usually recognized with glee after a day of backpacking.
Wilderness Permit: the scrap of paper that allows you to backpack in the wilderness; aka fire starting material.
I get asked that all the time. Ok, I don’t really because the word “schmuck” is pretty universal. But, for Cam and me, it means something different. While it does retain a heaping helping of its traditional definition, it also goes a step further. For us, and as it pertains to our journey, a Schmuck is someone who is willing to throw themselves headlong into a life adventure without the slightest regard for obstacles or the fear of failure. Schmucks don’t fail. They learn. Schmucks don’t experience fear…OK that one is a stretch; but Schmucks don’t let fear get in the way.
Whether it’s a new job, learning a new skill, or like this entertaining little book will attest, in the wilderness; Schmucks are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone and push themselves beyond what they think is possible. As you will read in Vito’s Maxim: unless you are a little cold, a little tired, a little hungry, a little wet, a lot uncomfortable, and question why you are even doing this, then you are not on an adventure. You are on a vacation. And if you find yourself in the middle of a wilderness, whatever that may be for you, and you keep pressing on through the howling winds of discouragement and frustration; when all around are shaking their heads and scoffing; you punch through the looks and laughs and ridicule: then you, my friend, are a Schmuck.
We hope you enjoy this quick little read and find humor in our failures and successes…
I see things in numbers. Must be the engineer in me. It was no different when a few members of the 234th Intelligence Squadron and I hit the trail determined to hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. So here are the numbers of our Half Dome hike:
33, 319 number of steps to top of Half Dome and back (Sam counted)
9,600 elevation, in feet, gained and lost to top of Half Dome and back
16 number of miles to top of Half Dome and back
9 number of hours to top of Half Dome and back
1 numbers of time I feel it necessary, in my life, to go to top of Half Dome and back
0410 time we left the house
10 number of minutes we left late
0700 time we hit the trail
90 number of minutes we hit the trail late
1 number of couples lost (left) in parking lot so we would no longer be late
45.24 money I spent on gas because someone forgot their wallet
28.32 money I spent on pizza and soda because someone forgot their wallet
12.18 money I spent on refreshments because someone forgot their wallet
1 number of people that, in the future, will ensure no one forgets their wallet
16 liters of water drank by three of us
3 additional liters of water one of the three should have drank to prevent passing out due to dehydration
1 amount of ‘good’ smacks it took to bring dehydrated person back to reality
400 distance in feet of the final ascent of half dome
2 number of cables the average person needs to make the final ascent and descend half dome
1 number of cables one of us needed to descend half dome (obviously not having a wallet makes it easier to descend half dome)
5 hikers spent 9 hours crossing 16 miles, reaching a summit of 8,694 feet and returning to the valley floor, resulting in 1 glorious trip.
We are pleased to introduce the newest member to our team. Our mascot – Schmuckicon!!
In the future, look for Schmuckicon on your favorite hiking and backpacking products as we begin “Trail Rating” everything from shoes, to food, to tents, to backpacks and more. You’ll even be able to find Shmuckicon on shirts and hats.
Schmuckicon is the symbol of the everyday schmuck that’s willing to hit the trail with nothing more than unfounded confidence, misguided perseverance and unhealthy intestinal fortitude. At the end of the day, Schumuckicon may be battered and bruised, but he takes great pride in concluding the hike and is better for the experience.
Keep an eye out for Schmuckicon in your area. Once you see him, you know Two Schmucks can’t be far behind.
Schmuckicon is a registered trademark, not to mention a mascot, of Two Schmucks. Any attempt to use or sell Schmuckicon for monetary gain will be met with swift and severe punishment from one or both of the Two Schmucks.