Monday, April 26, 2010

Swamp Time

I've been running short on time for getting out in the woods and for posting here lately, with all the work I've had to do getting started on the new book I'll be writing this summer, as well as finalizing details with my editor on Bug Out, which is now out of my hands and in the process of being printed.  I did manage to spend some quality swamp time yesterday, however, poking around an old oxbow lake off the Pearl River with my camera.  There's no doubt that some of the best bug-out hideaways to be found in Mississippi are located in these river bottom swamps.  Here's a few shots from yesterday:

These lakes with standing tupelo and cypress are full of fish and other aquatic wildlife, like this young gator who never bothered to leave his perch on a partially-submerged log the whole time I watched and photographed him. Where there are babies, there's got to be a big mama around somewhere, but I didn't see her.  This little guy is about three feet long.

Swamps like these are magical places - cool and shady even in the middle of the day.  I love camping in these places too, especially when traveling by canoe.  I hope it won't be long before I can take a few days off to do that again. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Great Price on a Bug Out Machine

I drove to the coast yesterday to pick up some stuff I needed for my boatbuilding project at one of the marine supplies down there, since I'm building the boat in a small town two hours inland where things like 1-inch O.D. stainless steel tubing is unheard of.  I also looked at something else: 

While killing some time driving along the beach and other areas in some old neighborhoods I used to spend a lot of time in, I stopped by one of my favorite motorcycle shops just to look around a minute and sure enough, back in the far corner, away from the shiny street cruisers and four-wheeler hunting ATVs, there was something that caught my interest.  It was a brand new, black 2009 Kawasaki KLR 650 - a dual sport bike I have long coveted for it's reputation as a versatile traveling machine - able to take you long distances on the pavement to wherever you want to explore, and then off road onto dirt forest service roads and jeep trails and the like.  With a large fuel tank, super efficient single cylinder engine and little to go wrong, the KLR 650 is a dependable machine with a long range.  Lots of aftermarket accessories are available to turn into a real touring or bug out vehicle.

This new bike in the dealership was sitting there neglected under a coating of light dust.  Though the KLR 650 is really popular with a select group of enthusiasts, it doesn't appeal to everyone, especially the cruiser type looking for shiny chrome and all that other bling to impress others on the boulevard.  No, the KLR is in another class all together, including price.  I was surprised to see the tag hanging from the handlebar was marked at just over $5K.  I was even more surprised when the owner of the store came by and said that he had several new '09 models in the back, still in boxes, and that he would sell one for $4750.  Now that's a deal on a brand new KLR.  I mean what else you can buy brand new for that kind of money and hop on it and ride to Alaska? I have to say I was tempted.   What better way to clear my head after a long session of working on my next book than to go blow down some winding Mississippi backroads looking for dirt roads?  I didn't ride out of there on one, but it's hard not to think about it. 

Here's video with more about these bikes if you're not familiar with them.  This is a 2008 model, which is the year several changes were introduced.  The 2009 model is the same.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Which Bug-Out Region Do You Live In?

The feasibility of any bug out plan depends a lot on your starting point.  Obviously, some regions of the country have more to offer than others in terms of places to go.  But every part of the Lower 48 has its share of potential bug out locations.  The map below shows eight major regions as I've divided them for the purposes of my book: Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late.

There is some crossover between the regions shown here, but the illustrator has done a pretty good job of placing the demarcation lines approximately the way I have divided the bug out locations described in the book.  Note the page numbers that will correspond to the beginning of each regional chapter.  The first four chapters are on general information and planning, including gear and methods of transportation.

My reasoning for these divisions is that these specific regions offer distinct variations in terrain, climate and plant and animal communities.  Again, there is some crossover in some areas, but anyone familiar with all these areas of the U.S. will see how survival skills and gear can be different from one region to the next.  Natural hazards including everything from weather to dangerous wildlife vary according to these regions, as do resources such as the availability or lack or water, edible plants and game animals.  It is this variation that made working on this book such an interesting project for me over the past several months, not to mention the real time I've spent out there backpacking, canoeing and kayaking in all of these regions at various times during the past 25 years.  Writing each chapter made me reminiscence about past trips and long to load up a canoe or backpack and go again. 

My home base is in the Gulf Coast region, and I stay here because of family ties as well as my love of the water - both the rivers and the Gulf itself.  I'm lucky to have a large number of bug out options close by because I live in one of the least populated states east of the Mississippi River.  Those of us living in small towns or rural areas are the least likely to need to bug out to begin with, but each region on the above map has its share of densely populated cities where the residents would do well to have a working knowledge of where to go if the SHTF and they have to get out.  Keep in mind that the vast majority of the populations of those cities are not going to have this knowledge and most will not even try to leave, but will instead wait for outside help that may or may not come.  Out here in the small towns and rural areas of America, most of us would pull together in such a situation and help each other out, as has been proven time and time again when the big Gulf hurricanes have hit the nearby coast.  In the aftermath of Katrina, the media covered the chaos and violence going down in New Orleans, while people along the even harder hit Mississippi Coast quietly rolled up their sleeves and went to work digging out of the rubble and rebuilding.

So it's obvious that where you live has a lot to do with how you should formulate your survival plans and can be a big factor in your chances of success or at least the degree of difficulty you would face.  But one thing we are blessed with here in the U.S. is plenty of undeveloped and uninhabited lands.  It may not seem so when you're driving past mile after mile of strip malls and suburban sprawl, but compared to so many other countries in the world there is a lot of unused land here - both public and private.  Have you explored all the potential bug out locations near you?  What if you travel a lot for your job or for pleasure?  Do you know where the big uninhabited areas are in other regions you frequent?  If not, you should think about it.  I hope that this kind of information detailed in my new book will be of use not only for bug out planning, but to encourage readers to get out and explore the great wild places available their own region and other parts of the country.  


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