Hey, that’s useful…

On this page, we’ll have fun, useful, and (hopefully) interesting tidbits about a lot of different topics to share.

  • Plants:

Disclaimer: Unless you are absolutely certain that you know what a plant is, you should never eat it, rub it on yourself, or do anything else with it.

Nettles- Friend of the Mrs. 😉


Brush up against this, and you’ll know it.  Less than a minute after any unfortunate encounter, the burning and stinging will start.  Those delightful sensations are caused by an acid that’s stored in “hairs” on the under-side of the leaves, and on the stalk.  In this picture the stalk is a brownish-purple(first time I’ve seen that), probably because it’s an older plant.  Younger plants have green stalks.  The “tassels” that are growing at the base of the leaves can grow to be about 1.5″, and usually hang down.  Nettles can grow fairly tall.  I’ve seen some that were about 7 feet tall, so watch your face.

Plantain– That doesn’t look like a banana…


This, like most useful plants, grows in everyone’s back yard, and is known as a weed.  There are two types of this plant.  One with broad leaves (pictured), and one with narrower leaves.  Both have very thick veins that run through the leaves.  This lovely little plant can be used topically to help with a few different things.  From bee stings to nettles, this plant can ease the discomfort.  The Mrs. knows from experience, that when she brushes up against some nettles (every time we hike somewhere), that I’ll be on the lookout for some plantain.  Luckily, both nettles and plantain grow in the same areas, so it’s never too far away.  All you do is grab a leaf, tear/crush it up so you have kind of a pulpy mess, and rub it on the affected area.  The Mrs. tells me that one leaf usually relieves about 80% of the discomfort.  If you need more than one though, please find another plant to take from.  No need to kill a plant unnecessarily.

Update: There are two types of Plantain.  The type with broader leaves pictured above, and a type with narrower leaves.  In both types the leaves are very thickly veined.  When we were on the Warrior Rock Lighthouse hike I wondered whether they’re both effective when used to treat Nettles, or if one is more effective than the other.  I rubbed each arm against some Nettles, grabbed a leaf of each type, and applied them as described above, one to each arm.  To my relief, I found that they work equally well, and I can now say from personal experience that it does cut the discomfort by about 80%.


  • C.O.L.D.- When you want to stay warm:

It’s almost Winter, and anyone enjoying the outdoors will undoubtedly be wearing clothes.  Hypothermia (being dangerously cold) is a concern for anyone who ventures out in the Fall and Winter months.  Hypothermia can happen in temperatures as warm as 40-50 degrees fahrenheit, which as we all know is pretty much the norm around here this time of year.  Remembering this acronym (COLD) will help keep your clothing doing what it’s supposed to do, which is retain your body heat.

C- Keep it Clean.  Anyone walking around for any amount of time outside will wind up with sweaty, smelly clothes, but this refers to dirt.  If the dead airspace (insulation) your clothes provide is full of dirt clods, it won’t be as effective.

O- Avoid Overheating.  This might seem counter-intuitive.  “If it’s super cold out, don’t I want to move around to get warm?” Yes, but not to the point where you’re sweating.  Sweat cools you off (stating the obvious).  This goes hand-in-hand with the “D.”

L- Wear it Loose and in Layers.  Clothing traps heat (again, stating the obvious).  Tight clothing traps heat less effectively.  Multiple thin layers are more effective than one thick layer.  Wearing multiple layers also makes it easier to control your temperature, helping you to avoid overheating.  Get too hot, take a layer off.  Who lives in Portland and doesn’t already do this daily?

D- Keep it Dry.  While there are some fabrics that retain their insulating properties when they’re soaking wet, for the most part, this is not the case.  Not only do you want to avoid falling in a lake, you also want to avoid sweating, as was discussed under “O.”



  • Loss Prevention: 

Some tips to help ensure that you end your day with the same number of people who you started it with :-).

Have a map- While it’s not always imperative to have a USGS Topographical map of the area you’re hiking and a compass, you should at least have a map that shows landmarks like streams, rivers, lakes, and trail intersections to help you navigate new areas.  A lot of times you can find these online, and some parks have pamphlets with maps in them.

Lead from the rear- Every group has one or more people who walk a little faster, have a little more experience, or know the area better.  Put those who walk a bit slower, or who are new to the area in front of the group.  This allows them to set the pace, and keeps the group together, as opposed to having some run off ahead, while others lag behind.

Stay within shouting distance- Keeping everyone within eyesight works great until someone needs to pee.  Always make sure people don’t wander so far off trail in search of privacy that they can’t hear your voice.

Leave a Reply