Wilderness Medicine- Trip Planning – Weather Digital


Weather! Cold, hot, rainy, windy, lightning.. It all effects whether we will go out into the wilderness and how we will dress and prepare. But other than your local weather person (they really have gotten better at making predictions!), how do you know what the weather will be where you are going?

Rebecca hates the idea of smart phones ( well, at least her using one) but I love my iPhone6. I used to be glued to the Weather Channel before I was going out to have some idea about the weather. But once out there, I had no direct contact with any weather service ( other than carrying a NOAA weather radio for storm alerts!). With my smartphone, I can have current radar at my fingertips, as long as I’m connected.

So this first installment on weather will be about digital access to weather info. The next installment will be about other ways to read weather.

 The weather Apps I like are My-Cast,Weather UndergroundNOAA Radar , and Lightning Finder.

Pick an app and learn to use it well. I like the map functions which give me a choice between radar and IR and Visible clouds. This allows me to look at weather and get some idea of speed and direction and intensity. I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting when weather will hit my location from the moving map 4-6 hours out. Am I always right? No, but pretty close most of the time. The Forecast feature is sometimes useful, but take the forecast at 5-10 days out with a grain of salt. But 1-4 days out is pretty good.


Conditions gives you current conditions.


Forecast gives up to 7 days at a glance and then you can click on the day for more details.



Maps is the tab I use most. Within the Maps Tab, you can choose from Radar, Vis Clouds, IR clouds, and Stormwatch. I don’t use the WeatherMap feature or the Tropical feature.

Radar: this gives you a moving map and the time interval depends on how much you are zoomed in. With the entire US visible, the radar shows 8 hours of data in 1 hour blocks, zoomed in to just the state of Tennessee, you get 2 hours in 15 minute blocks. Zoom in closer and you only see an hour, but the interval stays at 15 minutes.


Vis Clouds: moving map with the same parameters as Radar, but it gives you a look at cloud coverage. Useful during daylight hours.

IR clouds: is useful at night and also gives you a little better idea of the density of the clouds.

 Stormwatch: is useful because you can click on the colored warning area and it will tell you the specific warning.


 Weather Underground wunder

reports data from personal weather stations that people have set up at their home or farm or business. If you have a station close to you, it is really good for getting really local data.


NOAA Radar:FullSizeRender

I use if My Cast radar not working well. Not often.

 Lightning Finder:lightningfinder

considering that Lightning injuries are significant and potentially life threatening, having some idea about lightning in your area or a storm approaching is a good thing. I also like that that you can set an alert for your location or your zip code, so if a lightning strike occurs within 10 miles of your location, you will receive a text alert. I wish the parameters were 20 miles, but they didn’t ask me!


And if you looked up from last week, you can find the location your are going to and click on a point and it will show the GPS coordinates and Elevation and underneath this will be a link to which takes you to NOAA National Weather Service conditions and forecast for that specific spot. We use this in trip planning in Avalanche country, but it works for general wilderness travel too!

Becoming proficient as using your weather app will take some practice, but it is a skill well worth sharpening if you like to be prepared.. Or you can use a Weather Rock.. To be explained next blog installment on Planning- Weather- Natural!

Wilderness Medicine- Trip planning- Navigation


Have you ever started hiking into a new area and got to a fork in the trail, with no signs, and wondered “which way do I go from here?“.

Most of us have and that’s what I want to help you with today in our Planning section on navigation. I will admit, I’ve been obsessed with maps since I was in college. I also wanted to have a “map room” in my house, to display some of the maps I’ve collected over the years.. But many of the maps have been bought for use and not display. I learned early on in my outdoor career to always take a map with me and also learn how to read and use a map and compass.

Relying on sayings like “moss grows on the North side of a tree” is no substitute for a compass!

Before you hike (or paddle or off-road bike) into wilderness area, make sure you have a map and a compass.. Even if you are primarily using a GPS, always have a map as a backup. Batteries can die or your GPS can malfunction.

You can find maps of local areas at a local adventure outfitting store. You can also print maps off on your own printer. One of the best websites for backcountry trip planning and also print specific maps is And you can find waterproof paper to print on the web. iGage seems to be a good brand and has up to 13×19 paper for large maps. Rite in the Rain paper looked good but they said you couldn’t use inkjet printers.

Here is what I carry with me:


Compasses: I have a variety that I have used over the years. I have settled on a Suunto MC-2G which has a site mirror and clinometer ( which I learned in my AIARE 1 class on avalanches is invaluable for reading slope angles for predicting slopes prone to sliding snow). It is has a “global” needle thanks to Suunto.. For more info from Suunto, click here..  BTW, the Compass in the pic above is the Suunto M-3 Global compass. Works on the same principle, but without a site mirror. The mirror attached to the lanyard is a signaling mirror..

GPS: my trusted GPS is a Garmin Oregon 400t which is 7 years old and still working well and has been all,over the US ( and into Canada) without a problem.)

PLB (Personal Locator Beacon): Since I hike alone for my photography often (I don’t want to hear it from you guys, I know it is not as safe as hiking with at least one other person, but that is the reality of what I do.. Any consolation , I do not dive alone!) my PLB is a DeLorme InReach Explorer. It can be used as a simple Electronic SOS device. It can also track points and even send simple texts and messages ( yes, and even update to Facebook) from anywhere in the world. This has become my communication with home when I am abroad device. I was even able to text Rebecca from Antartica and the Bering Strait. It pairs with my iPhone 6 to make it easier to compose text and even gives you a map.

Here are links for training from REI (yeah, they know have a store in Knoxville!)

REI map and compass.

REI GPS navigation..

Remember the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.BMC_20141204_1230504

Ready for Spring and Summer Adventures? Medicine for the Outdoors

20150312 ice climbing

Most outdoor adventurers (photographers, climbers, paddlers, hikers, cyclists) start their preparation for an upcoming season of nice weather adventure by sorting, cleaning, organizing and buying new gear. Some forward thinking individuals also consider physical conditioning in preparation for increased physical demands from their outdoor activities. Also reading through guide books and magazines and making plans for shorter and longer excursions into the wilderness. All necessary endeavors. But have they considered emergency preparation?

For many people, emergency preparation is making sure their cell phone is charged and functioning. Isn’t that the job of EMS, to come “rescue” them if an emergency happens? Unfortunately, this seems to be a prevalent thought of numerous backcountry travelers in this day and age of instantaneous communication and immediate gratification. “Be Prepared” seems to have lost emphasis in the era of the cell phone.

So what should you do to prepare for your ventures into the wild, besides maintaining your regular equipment? I’m glad you asked! This series of presentations will help you gain some insight into what to carry, how to use it and how to respond to specific dangers in the backcountry. Stayed tuned to learn about trip preparation, kits to carry ( first aid and survival), and specific environmental hazards (lightning, flood, cold, heat, insects, plants).

If you want to stay abreast of SAR events globally, go visit Andrew Herrington’s Big Pig Blog. Probably the best collection of weekly SAR and survival events from around the globe. And one of the best instructors in survival techniques.

Next week I will cover planning for weather.. Using weather apps and internet and some sites for learning more about weather.




Antarctic Chronicles- Clothing



Clothing Preparation:

  • boots
  • waterproof pants
  • waterproof gloves
  • liner gloves and mittens or outer gloves
  • long underwear
  • deck shoes for ship
  • fleece or wool sweater
  • wool boot socks and liners
  • pants and shirts for wear on ship (very casual)
  • workout gear if you are so inclined
  • Balaclava or cover for neck and ears and head


Having an idea that Antarctica is cold makes you want to prepare like going to Yellowstone in the winter. The coldest weather I’ve been in there was -40°F(which happens to be -40°C) and that was pretty cold. The Antarctic Peninsula, where most cruises go and the most wildlife is seen, doesn’t get quite that cold during the summer time (which runs Nov/ Dec/ Jan). The temperatures got down to mid 20’sF at times and up to about 32°F at the highest. But since there was little humidity, the air never felt that cold.
Boots are the most important as you will be making “wet landings” which means you step out of the Zodiac at times into water that may come up to your knees. If you will never need these type of waterproof boots again, you can rent them and they will be supplied to you on the boat. Cost was about $75. Or you can buy them and take them with you for about $165 (Dan Cox suggested these Muck Boots from Cabela’s and they worked great and are great to walk in the streams in east TN while I’m shooting there also!)


For most landings, I wore long underwear (I have converted to wool such as SmartWool or Icebreaker from Polypro) and pants and a sweater. Usually over the sweater I wore the parka given to us by Linblad/ National Geographic as part of the package. It was plenty warm and plenty of pockets and the orange color will fit right in to East TN and all of the UT Volunteer people.. Over my pants, I wore my GoreTex rainpants. These fit over the boots and to make sure no water crept up between boots and bottom of rainpants, I used a bungee cord to seal them off. This worked well and pretty much turned the combo into waders. You can see that Katrine did something similar with a sturdy set of rubber bands!



For hands I used heavy liner gloves that allow touch screen capability, something I never thought I would need until I started shooting my Panasonic Lumix GH4. I had a pair of waterproof gloves that I used when we were cruising in the Zodiac or in the kayaks. I took a number of handwarmers, but those were mainly used by my Norwegian/ Australian friend who can never be too warm! For my head, I used a balaclava which worked well.

For on ship wear, the dress is casual, so jeans and a shirt or sweater worked fine and then I used my running shoes as deck shoes.

Clothing preparation wasn’t difficult except deciding on the boots and the uncertainty of the temperature. I was prepared for even colder weather, but I guess it is better to be prepared than to be cold!

Antarctica Chronicles: Camera Preparation


Since I have started traveling with a Panasonic system (GH4), my camera equipment weight has been drastically reduced without reducing the quality of images that I capture! My system below (with Laptop and IPad) weighed in at 16.5 pounds because I was given the communication that the chartered flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia was limited to one 17 pound carryon.. The 17 pounds was true as several of the photographers in the group had to check or manipulate the system (ie, hide their camera bag). But I could have had my computer bag and split the weight up some more.


You see that I carried extra cards and extra batteries and duplicates of battery chargers and card readers. I didn’t use my big tripod but did use the Gorilla Pod that I have. The GoPro works fine for UW capture, if you leave it in the housing! My iPhone with a waterproof LifeProof case also works UW, but only down to a couple of feet.. But I never stuck my phone in the water as I usually just hold it in my hand and with a water temperature of about 29 degrees F, my hand said NO WAY..
I took hand warmers but never used them for myself or my camera equipment. But my cold natured friend used them anytime we went ashore!
I carried my equipment in my Guru Gear Uinta backpack but when I went onshore, I just took 1 camera body and 2-3 lenses in a ThinkTank SpeedRacer V2.0 shoulder bag, which worked fantastic. And the waterproof cover was all I needed to keep the bag dry.. And the cover WAS needed!


  • Camera body x2 (always carry a backup on a trip like this) Panasonic GH4
  • 8mm Fisheye
  • 7-14mm
  • 14-35mm
  • 35-100mm
  • 100-300mm
  • Circ Pol and Vari ND Filters
  • extra batteries and 2 battery chargers
  • extra Cards
  • GoPro Hero4 Black x 2
  • Visible Dust Loupe and Eyelead Cleaner
  • Lens cleaner and lens clothes
  • Laptop with multiple HD backups
  • Card readers (multiple as always need a backup)
  • I didn’t use tripod but I did use clamp and GorillaPod for GoPros.
  • Underwater housing or UW camera and way to stick it UW.

Antartica Interlude: Beach Ice

In between portions of my Antarctica Chronicles, I will be posting video and timelapse from the trip.

Today’s interlude is from a “wet” landing surrounded by penguins. I hiked up the first pitch and decided to hang around the penguin rookery while Katrine and others hiked further up the mountainside. Back at the beach, I decided to set up my GoPro to record the movement of the ice just off the beach. Looks like I recorded much more movement than just ice.. Enjoy.

Antarctic Cruise Chronicles Part 2


In continuing my preparation notes for Antarctica Cruise, these are some tips for getting into the right frame of mind to visit the Place of Penguins and Ice.


Mental Preparation:

This should get you started on your way to the proper attitude for exploring Antarctica on your next cruise!

National Geographic Explorer

National Geographic Explorer

Bill’s Antarctic Chronicles: Preparation – Administrative



My trip to the Antarctic Peninsula was one of my “Rocker List” items.. Not my bucket list because I don’t plan on kicking the bucket any time soon.. A “Rocker List” is a list of things to do and places to go before all travel is confined to sway of a rocker and adventures are just memories to be savored.

Our trip was two fold.. Visit the Antarctic Peninsula and participate in Expedition and Wilderness Medicine’s Expedition Medicine course aboard ship. My friend Katrine, another like minded Wilderness Medicine physician, had found this trip and suggested we go.. Katrine is an adventuresome Norwegian who is now practicing Anesthesiology in Australia.. Seems that she much prefers warmer climates to snow covered landscape.

My friend Katrine on a sea ice walk!

My friend Katrine on a sea ice walk!

We booked the trip in March and started preparing for the trip of a lifetime. For many it is a trip of the lifetime and an adventure they will never repeat. For me it is just another great adventure to add to the list.. But monumental nonetheless. After receiving conformation and further instructions, I started gathering advice from other photographer friends who have gone and lead trips to Antarctica.

I will break down my preparation tips since they are rather extensive (especially with comments!) This will be a series of multiple entries that I may turn into an electronic book for fun!

Administrative Preparation:

–       Check Passport

–       Get flights (I could have booked through Linblad who runs the Expeditions for the National Geographic Explorer ship but I prefer Delta).

–       Pay Argentina entrance fee (Applicable to US citizens, Katrine didn’t have to pay as she is Norwegian).

Passport stamp for Port Lockroy!

Passport stamp for Port Lockroy!

OMG Smokies Fall Color

What a difference 2 days has made! From Thursday until Saturday the colors in the Smokies have gone from ho hum to OMG. Everything above 3000 foot elevation is ablaze with color. For all who were looking for the post from a few days ago, my apologies. That problem has now been remedied!

Unfortunately Clingmans Dome was completely socked in with clouds as the ceiling was about 6000 feet. But from just below the parking lot all the way to Chimneys Picnic area, the trees were popping yellow and red.. And not the subtle varieties of color but the intense hues reserved for postcards and front covers of magazines!


Since there has been rain coming through the area, the streams were running at more than a trickle ( but not up to winter time levels when we see most of our rain).
Even the area around Roaring Fork was good (lower elevation) and colors there will peak in less than 10 days.

My thoughts are that color above 3000 foot elevation will peak in the Smokies within the next 7 days (think above Chimneys Picnic Area). If you wait until the last week of October to catch fall color this year, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

I will be out around the Gatlinburg side most of the this week teaching for Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Say hi if you see me in the field!

Nature Photgraphy Day 2014

My images for this blog take you from Alaska to Florida to California and a secret ( well, not so much now) spot in between)!

In 2006 NANPA established Nature Photography Day to be celebrated each June 15. This celebration day has caught on with more than just NANPA members, and many people who love to be outside and capture images of nature are celebrating also. Locally (Knoxville TN area), Paul Hassell is setting up an outing of the NANPA Nature Photography Meetup Group to go to Roan Mountain to enjoy the rhododendrons.

I like to think that I get to celebrate Nature Photography Day each time I venture outside with my camera. My love for nature started an a very early age and I really do not remember a time when I wasn’t drawn to the beauty and solitude of nature. My early exposure was hunting and fishing in the Mississippi Delta, but gradually my outdoor endeavors were converted to photography, and by the end of college, my camera was my constant companion, documenting trips into the wilderness, from Maine to California.


So, for each one of us, the experience of nature is different, coming from different values and different experiences, both as youth and adult. Many people enjoy nature for the beauty and solitude that they find. Others enjoy watching the unfolding of the seasons and the anticipation of the next season. Still others revel in the activity of wildlife, whether birds or mammals or reptile or insects..


My hope is that each person who is drawn to nature, whether to sit and bask in the beauty or attempt to capture a representation with their camera, also develops a heart of stewardship for our world. If each one of us changes just one thing in our lives that can effect nature ( using less gas, not using plastic bags at grocery store, conserving water at home, etc) then maybe we can make a change in the continued destruction of our environment and maybe future generations will enjoy the same beauty in nature that we enjoy now.