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.
You’re an average Joe (or Jo) and you want to go backpacking. Good for you. But how to start, that is the question. You find plenty of information for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or heading off cross-country on a 50 mile, 5 day excursion. But what about an overnighter? What about leaving early on Saturday and returning Sunday evening? You want to know what trail mix is best not how to prepare a gourmet meal at 10,000 feet. You want to know how much water might be needed, not how to purify urine. You want to know how to start backpacking, maybe going 10 to 15 miles round trip, how to ensure you won’t die your first night out and how to keep backpacking from busting your wallet, just in-case you determine that the struggle isn’t worth the victory.
Us schmucks had the same questions and issues. Fortunately for you, we found the answers to all your questions and we found those answers by plunging into backpacking head-first (literally). We know the right way and the wrong way because we did things the wrong way. We know the right equipment and the wrong equipment because we purchased the wrong equipment.
So take a few minutes to check out the list below as well as their links and all your questions will be answered. Remember, WE SUFFERED, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO!
In my humble opinion, the bear canister is the most useless thing in your backpacking arsenal. I understand the reasoning behind the bear canister; I’m just not sure if I believe there’s a need for the bear canister. After all, it is rare to run into a bear and if you do, I think you and the bear will have a lot more on your minds besides the bears craving for your toothpaste.
With that being said, I would still be willing to haul a bear canister if the cost/benefit ratio was in the favor of hauling the canister; but it’s not.
The benefit side of the ratio includes the extremely rare chance of a bear stumbling into your camp site and then wanting to eat or taste items that smell appealing to you. Not to mention, if these two occurrences were to meet and you had a canister, the only benefit would be to the bear and I’m guessing if you asked the bear, he would not see the benefit. In other words, benefit side = low.
Whereas the cost side of the ratio is high and only affects you, not the bear. I mean you have to haul the heavy, unpackable, unattachable, unwieldy canister up the mountain. And just because you’re in bear country, doesn’t mean you’re heading towards a bear. After all, a bear’s territory is acres or square miles. The chances of me heading towards a bear are just as good as me heading away from a bear.
However, as stated earlier, I would be willing to haul the canister if the cost/benefit ratio were tipped in the benefit’s favor. Perhaps in order to tip the equation, the park rangers would consider marketing the bear canister for other purposes, such as:
A stool to sit upon around the campfire
A floatation device in the event I fall into a raging river or lake
A portable bathroom (after all, we are supposed to pack out our waste)
A water heater. It is black and plastic and would get quite toasty in the sun
Fuel for the fire. It’s larger than any log I’ve stumbled upon
A rather large fishing bob (but you will need high test line)