Blog

Pittsburgh’s Newest City Park

Pittsburgh's Newest City Park

It seems that no matter how long that I have lived in Pittsburgh, the city and its region continues to surprise me.  When I originally moved here, my plan was to stay just two years so that I could complete graduate school.  Then skedaddle.  Twenty-two years later, I am still here.  And I am still making surprising discoveries that remind me of how glad that I am that I stayed. Case in point: Emerald View Park.  Pittsburgh’s newest addition to its family of parks. Even though Emerald View wraps along Mount Washington for the whole world to see, I only just discovered the park this past Sunday thanks to Jennifer Brown and David Bennet of Venture Outdoors.  Jen and David are, like me, members of the Venture Outdoors “Trip Leader Council,” which is comprised of eleven volunteers, with varying skills and specialities, who work to help develop and promote programming for […]

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“Reality Television” is Not Reality – Part II

"Reality Television" is Not Reality - Part II

After too much delay, this post is a follow up to one that I wrote in early August (Part I) wherein I criticized a Bear Grylls video.  In it, Grylls, while “lost” at sea, gave himself an enema in order to stave off the effects of dehydration.  While what he did was technically correct, both biologically and medically, and he did mention that the source of his contaminated water was “freshwater,” it gave many viewers the impression that they could potentially hydrate themselves using a seawater enema. Since I must admit that I was even confused — after all, hydration enemas have, in fact, been successfully used in genuine survival situations at sea — I turned to Jake Griebe of SOWMAS for his professional opinion.  Jake is a paramedic and chief instructor at Wisconsin-based SOWMAS, a school which specializes in combining wilderness medicine and wilderness survival.  Jake is a great friend […]

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Lions, Tigers, and Bears … Relax!

Lions, Tigers, and Bears ... Relax!

You want to spend more time in the Great Outdoors but you are more than a little nervous at the prospect of sharing the forest with vicious animals who are waiting to eat you? Well, all I can say is … Dude, relax!  Trust me, you and your kids are not likely going to end up as an appetizer on the menu of a gastronomic bear (or, for that matter, any creature) the next time you decide to venture to the Laurel Highlands, Allegheny National Forest, or any of the other countless beautiful lands that this region has to offer.  Don’t believe me? … I’ve got the statistics to prove it! Collective Fear I have found that the fear of “wild animals” is one of the biggest ones that people have when considering the prospect of spending time in woods.  Which is unfortunate because, frankly, it is a fear based […]

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Suggested Reading from Erik

Suggested Reading from Erik

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, I hope, that I am not exactly a fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show.  I am sure that Oprah, herself, is a wonderful person, and I have much respect for what she has achieved professionally and personally, but I am not a fan of commercial television in general, especially when it is used as a public confessional to provide mass therapy.  So the idea of reading a book recommended by “Oprah’s Book Club” had never even crossed my mind. That is, at least, until last month. That’s when my friend, Blair Capitano, recommended that I read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. To be fair, though, to write that Blair “recommended” it is a bit of an understatement.  The simple reality is that Blair forced me to read the book!  She had been telling me for weeks how […]

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The Power of PMA

The Power of PMA

In all of his wilderness survival courses, True North instructor, Erik, repeatedly stresses the paramount importance of PMA … Positive Mental Attitude.  As he explains to his students, in a survival situation, it really doesn’t matter how much technical experience and training you have, or even what cool equipment you have in your backpack, that will help determine if you live or die.  Rather, it is what is in your head and heart that most counts.  A video-diary that Lexi Deforest, a Colorado college student, recently recorded when she became trapped in the mountains after her foot became detached from her leg in a climbing accident is an excellent example of the power of PMA. Thanks to Jake Griebe of SOWMAS, a Wisconsin based wilderness medicine and survival school, Erik just watched Lexi’s video which has since gone viral.  We’ve provided a video link below for you to watch.  But […]

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Janée’s Latest Race Report

Janée’s Latest Race Report

Janée filed this report as she prepared last minute details for her adventure race this weekend.  *          *          * A lot of time and energy has gone into preparing for those 24 long and grueling hours!  The race begins at 8:00 AM this morning and will end at 8:00 AM tomorrow. Because I have some final race preparations to complete before the race begins, I have reduced the last several weeks since my first post into a series of bullet points: I spent one weekend in Ohiopyle biking and running the same trails that I will be hitting this weekend. Lessons learned: #1: Wear high socks on race day to protect from the stinging nettle JUNGLES that I will be facing. #2: Blackberry thickets are everywhere in Ohiopyle, and can either be an excellent PMA-booster or the bane of my existence. #3: […]

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“Reality Television” is not Reality

"Reality Television" is not Reality

Learning to survive, even thrive, in harsh environmental conditions is definitely not easy.  As one might expect, I spend a lot of time and effort learning about the art and science of wilderness survival, but sometimes it never seems enough.  No matter how much I learn, sometimes even master, the more I only discover how much I don’t really know!  It is truly a Sisyphean task .  But, heck, just like the Tortoise, I try to focus on keeping my pace slow, but steady, so that one day … maybe, just maybe … I may actually feel like I have crossed the finish line. Lately, then, I have been giving a lot of thought to water.  After all, there are few things more elemental to life than water. So, here is a piece of environmental trivia for you to consider … What is the biggest desert in the world? That’s easy, […]

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Emergency Water Filter

Emergency Water Filter

Here is an unconventional, yet practical, piece of equipment for you to consider adding to your emergency survival kit.  The “HydroPack,” manufactured by  Hydration Technology Innovations, will make any water on the ground, no matter how muddy, brackish, even polluted, absolutely potable. You are not sure at what I am exactly getting?  Okay, then, consider the following emergency scenario: You left your home bright and early to spend a beautiful Summer day hiking.  However, just after lunch you realize that you took a wrong trail.  Initially, you thought that you could easily backtrack, but, hours later, now with the sun beginning to set, you reluctantly acknowledge that you are really lost and will be spending the night.  Complicating the situation is that hours earlier you took the last sip from your water bottle (after all, you only brought enough for a “day” hike), and the afternoon was much hotter than […]

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Outdoor Photography

Outdoor Photography

So as to better inform others of the activities and adventures that are taking place at True North, we make the effort to regularly alternate our various photographs.  Like the ones that currently grace the header and footer of our Facebook page.  Thanks to local professional photographer, Abie Livesay, we are extremely lucky to have more than a few beautiful ones from which to chose. During the weekend of May 26-27, 2012, True North hosted a “Fun” Survival Overnight for a group of individuals who have some of the highest PMA levels that Erik and Larry have ever seen.  True North planned the event in order to help make up for a survival training course for which this group had registered the previous November, but which … How shall we say? … had gone slightly awry thanks to an unplanned abundance of hunters roaming the Laurel Highlands searching for bears. […]

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Wild Edibles: An Introduction

Wild Edibles: An Introduction

In his wilderness survival courses at True North, Erik doesn’t teach about plants as a primary food source.  Instead, he typically discusses a long list of what he calls the “myth of wild edibles.”  This is a slight overstatement, Erik soon admits to students, but he makes it to emphasize two important points.  Primarily, he wants them to begin re-thinking, and re-shaping, the world around them so that they are better prepared for an emergency situation, and not rely on preconceived notions from silly television shows or third-hand sources.  Just as importantly, wild edibles are not Erik’s speciality, and he refuses to pretend that he is an expert where he is not.  After all, our overarching focus at True North is all about giving students the information and training that will help keep them, and their loved ones, safe in the wilderness. So, it is our pleasure to introduce Jake […]

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