Walking with mountain lions: four backcountry survival tips

The other day, I went on a twilight run through mountain lion territory. It was scary! Every time I heard something stalking around in the bushes, I thought a puma was going to leap out and bite me in half. It always turned out to be a quail, a woodrat or a sparrow, but still. From now on, I will remember these words of wisdom every time I’m walking through cougar territory: 1. Always hike in a group. The mountain lion will only eat your slow-moving, chubby friends and leave you alone.2. If you see a mountain lion, stand on your tip-toes and stretch your arms high in the air to make yourself look larger. That way, the mountain lion will think there‚Äôs more to eat. 3. If you see a mountain lion, make as much noise as possible! That way, every cougar in the forest will know where you…


I just had a great conversation on KFOG about The Cactus Eaters and living in the backcountry. Many thanks to the listeners who called in or emailed questions during the broadcast. http://cactuseaters.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Upcoming Cactus readings (with one date change…)

I will be reading — and going on the radio — very soon in San Francisco, the East Bay, in San Jose and other locations. Here is what I have lined up so far for the near future. Please note the changed date (same time) for the San Jose State reading below. Saint Mary’s College of California, Creative Writing Reading SeriesMoraga, CASoda Activity Center7:30 p.m., September 24 (Wednesday) San Jose State UniversitySan Jose, CAnew date: 7:30 p.m., September 30, TuesdayReading at the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck StudiesFifth floor, Martin Luther King Jr. LibraryReception to follow. Books Inc In The CastroSan Francisco, CA(2275 Market Street) 7:30 pm, October 2 (Thursday)Books Inc. in the CastroReading and signing Livermore Public LibraryLivermore, Ca2 p.m., October 5 (Sunday.)Reading and signing http://cactuseaters.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

The day I climbed Mount Whatever

More advice for travel writers … Summer is coming to a close, which means one thing: you are probably contemplating one last serious backpacking or day hiking trip before the cold weather and September obligations come slamming down. You will probably bring a digital camera out into the woods with you and take thousands of pictures of mountains, lakes, streams, people and woodland creatures. But if you decide to take pictures, do me one favor. Label your photos! I am speaking from sad personal experience. During my wilderness sojourns, I took approximately 3,000 pictures — and I did not label a single one of them!! Now, I am at a total loss about the pictures. I have forgotten the identities of almost all the people in the photos. I cannot tell any of the crags, lakelets, streams and sylvan landscapes apart. Now, when people look through my photos and slides,…

Smut give-away in Noe Valley (updated.)

Run, don’t walk, to the corner of Castro and Clipper today. There (unless some mean person has removed it) you will notice a large box of free books that someone has left on the sidewalk right next to the bus stop near the coin-op laundromat. The box is filled to the brim with such books as “The Ninety Days of Genevieve,” “The Romance of Lust,” and “My Darling Dominatrix.” I even overheard someone with a very dramatic voice, loudly reading such passages as “whimpering in tight-lipped grunts,” “straining sinews,” and “both girls awaited tensely, knowing that a spanking was imminent.” Whoever left this box removed all of the covers, which was a very cruel thing to do. However, the person left a helpful sign on the top of the box, lest there be any confusion. “SMUT!” it says. (Addendum: I drove past the intersection yesterday, and noticed that someone has…

A bear in Silicon Valley?

This is old news for many of you at this point, but I was surprised to read, in Tom Stienstra’s column, that two Bay Area hikers saw a black bear this week at Rancho San Antonio near Cupertino. It’s a beautiful open space area where you always see vitamin-D deprived programmers going on long runs with “Got Code?” T-shirts. By the way, there is a slight connection between my book and Rancho San Antonio, once the home of the unfortunate Elisha Stephens, a pioneer and homesteader who appears in The Cactus Eaters(Stephens helped open up what became known as “Donner Pass,” got zero credit, and died a bee-keeping, bitter grump in Kern County. Apparently he’s in an unmarked grave.) Rancho San Antonio is my big escape every time I feel like going to points south and warming up but don’t have the time to get to my beloved Santa Cruz….

Brave New Traveler Interview: “Dan White Eats Cactus And Loses His Mind.”

This just in, an interview with the writer Alexis Wolff, in Brave New Traveler magazine. And yes, the bearded scarecrow holding the knife in front of Mount Shasta is me. (That photo is living proof that you need to eat quite a lot of calories on the trail or you will look like a walking skeleton after a while. You can burn 6,000 calories a day out there. When I started out on the trail, I weighed around 200 pounds. When it was all over, I weighed about 160!!) P.S. — see entry below for reading/signing appearance list, updated today with a new SF appearance. http://cactuseaters.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Outstanding in my field of dirt

I used to be known as the “Pigpen of the Trail” or “Dirty Dan.” This nickname came from the simple fact that dirt, dust, gnats and trail grime clung to me, my gear and my clothes. In many photos from that period of my life, it looked as if someone used my T-shirts to scrub the dirt off a bison or a water buffalo. However, I am not taking my title, or my trail name, for granted. If you can provide visual evidence (i.e. an emailed jpeg photo) that you or any of your hiking friends are bigger dirt magnets than I was, feel free to send them here — but let me know if I have your permission to put them on the blog. (If this happens, I will also have to change my trail name into something else.)Meanwhile, here is some visual evidence: http://cactuseaters.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default