Thursday, September 11, 2014

My “Big Foot” story


[written 8-28-14]

I was on a hike with my wife and at last two of my kids about 36 or 37 years ago in the Cleveland National Forest. I have a very poor sense of direction but thanks to having been trained by the USMC in maps and compass, I was (almost) always confident about where we were going. We got to one spot where the map said there was a trail, but we couldn't see one. I squatted down and could see the old hard-packed trail underneath the brush. It had grown over the trail. Then up ahead I saw someone coming toward us; so I said, "come one, I see someone coming toward us; so the trail must be open up ahead, let's crawl underneath. So we got down on our hands and knees and crawled along this over grown trail until we got to an open spot. It seemed further along than the spot where I'd seen the guy coming toward us, but when I looked I could see that the trail was overgrown further on as well.

As we stood there the others interrogated me. "Are you sure you saw some one?" "Yes!"

"What did he look like?" "I don't know I just saw his outline. . . but he could have been further away than I thought.  Let's keep going."

I got complaints from my kids who wanted to turn back, but my wife was game so on we went. We did finally come out on an (uncovered) trail but never encountered the man I saw and thought must be coming toward us; so what had I seen?  I occasionally looked for tracks on the trail as we crawled along but never saw any. Neither my kids nor my wife had seen what I saw; so my kids (regularly teased by their father) accused me of making it up. I insisted I had seen someone. Then (always ready to tease my kids) after a bit I said I had figured it out: Big Foot. He probably wasn't on the trail but crossing it. I looked up and saw him. He saw me and stopped for a moment, and we lost sight of him when we went back down onto our hands and knees. My kids scoffed, but when I insisted that I wasn't kidding about seeing someone, they did look round about more than they would on a typical hike.

So what did I see? I don't know. If it was a man, what was he doing out there? There was no trail crossing the one we were on, and the chaparral was dense. Someone could bull their way through it, but it wouldn't have been pleasant, and if a man would try it (I would have thought), he would have made a lot of noise doing it. Of course something larger would have made noise as well, or would he?
My son likes those Big-foot-hunting "reality" shows. I'm not really saying I saw a big foot. All I insist on is that I saw something or someone.

Anthropology and Becker knives

[written 8-29-14]

The predominate view among anthropologists is that homo sapiens as a species has been in existence for about 200,000 years. So what he has been doing for that period is important to us. For example, I wouldn't be going out on much of a limb to say that our ancestors for the bulk of the 190,000 years we have no recorded information about spent most of that time walking. So in choosing hiking as one of my main interests "might" have provided some benefit that I don't know about. If our bodies were design to walk and I do a lot of it, it can't hurt.

Interestingly, the dog, canis familiaris, as a species has been in existence about the same length of time. There is no evidence that he has been domesticated quite that long, but he might have been (IMHO). And we know that having a dog can increase your sense of well being and add years to your life. Did the ancestors who got along best with dogs have an evolutionary advantage over those who didn't? Very probably. Dogs helped us hunt, they guarded our campsites, they stayed back and guarded the women and old people while they "gathered" as the men took the dogs best suited for it and went out hunting.
Also, we know that there was an evolutionary advantage to growing very old because the old people could teach the young about where the water could be found, where the game herds moved to, what herbs were good for what, what unusual weather conditions meant, and how best to make things like spears and knives. Tribes with old people like that had an evolutionary advantage over the tribes that didn't.

Now it might seem that I am reaching very far in looking for a rationalization for buying so many knives, but having a lot of tools and weapons would provide another evolutionary advantage to our ancestors. We know that a big advantage occurred when the bow and arrow were developed, and any improvement in that system would provide an evolutionary advantage to those who had it. But how is that going to provide an evolutionary advantage in this day and age? There might be a slight advantage in that we who have a lot of really good knives receive from them (at least I do) a sense of well being, and after all we are behaving in a way best suited to our evolutionary forebears and their inclinations. Whether having knives will enable us to live longer in the same way that having dogs will, perhaps not, but maybe.

Receipt of the Becker BK10 and other considerations

[written 8-30-14]

I expected to like the BK10 and I do. In terms of weight it is slightly over 12 ounces. My BK7 is slightly over 13 ounces and my BK2 is slightly under 15 ounces. So for hiking the BK10 is moving in the right direction. For the hiker, lighter is better all other things being equal. As I was reminded on a hike this morning some knives just won't do. I took the Schrade SCHF10 for a hike and learned it would only stay in the sheath as long as I remained upright. I came near to taking a tumble and resolved to banish this knife/sheath combination from all future hikes. In the case of the BK10. It will fit in the one sheath I can use (for hiking) for the BK2 But I don't like the idea of just one useable sheath for the two knives; so I sent away for a "slim jim" sheath from Skystorm. It is hard to tell too much about this sheath from the small photos, but it looks nice and minimalist, boding well for being able to ride comfortably on my belt.

Skystorm will be sending my a BK7 sheath late in September. I had initially thought the BK7 would be my primary hiking knife, but it is hard for me to be sure when I haven't actually hiked with the knife/skystorm-sheath yet. It may be that the BK10 with the lighter-looking Slim Jim will be more comfortable.

The BK2 was designed to be the only knife you needed in an Armageddon-type scenario, but for other scenarios other knives are available. My emphasis is hiking; so I don't need a BK5 which is excellent around the camp; nor do I need a BK9 which is an excellent chopper. Actually, now that I have the BK10, BK2 and BK7 I don't really need any other knife, but hovering and being considered for my list is the BK17. It is 6.4 ounces, about half the weight of the BK10. My only hesitation about putting the BK17 on my list is that it is the same weight as the Ka-Bar 1250 and its ilk; which I like a lot. This is 3/4 the size of the USMC fighting knife. The blade of the Ka-Bar 1250 is 5 inches, long, a bit longer than that of the BK17. If anyone has an opinion about the relative worth of the BK17 (or 16) versus the Ka-Bar 1250 et al, I'd be interested. I've already got three of the 1250-type knives; so do I really need a BK17?
If you read any of my observations about the Schrade SCHF10 you would see that I was extremely uncomfortable with that knife. I was on the other hand instantly comfortable with the BK10. The sheaths are another story but since just about everyone else likes them, I'll say no more (at least in this note). Do I feel the same way about the Ka-Bar 1250, that is, comfortable? That is a complicated question. Having been in the Marine Corps I have a fondness for the USMC Ka-Bar fighting knife and the 1250 is a miniature version of it; so yes I like it a lot, but I have to admit that I have my doubts about it. It is so small that I wonder how it would do in an emergency. (How would the BK17 do I might wonder as well.) With the BK2, BK7 and BK10 I have no doubts. I'm completely comfortable. And if Skystorm comes through with some decent sheaths I'll be a happy man.

Deployment with a Becker BK10?

[written on 8-28-14]

Having been an engineer for just about half of my 80 years, I don't like to leave a subject until it is exhausted and so, having found Becker knives, I'm not willing to stop buying them until I have everyone that I think I need. I have the BK2, two of them in fact, and sheaths that if they aren't great are at least serviceable. I have a BK7 which I tend to think I'll hike with more often than the BK2, but I am awaiting delivery of a custom sheath from Skystorm late next month. The BK16 is down in a range already covered by knives I'm happy with, such as the 3/4 sized USMC Ka-Bar. I can't justify the BK11 for hikes. Besides, I already have a Ka-Bar Heavy Bowie.

So just yesterday I took a hard look at the BK10. It stands up to all the tough-stuff Youtube reviewers like to do. Its a bit lighter than either the BK2 or BK7 and might be more comfortable to take on a hike. It is I'm quite sure much better than the Schrade SCHF10 which I looked at as carefully as I could on another thread and found wanting, as anyone can read if they have doubts. I'm not having any doubts about the BK10. At first I didn't like the point, but the idea of it is growing on me. One reviewer went into detail about how the BK10 could be used as a weapon. The point was excellent for that he asserted and demonstrated by thrusting the knife repeatedly into a tree. At this point he recommended the knife to those about to be deployed overseas.

I mentioned in another thread that when I was about to be deployed to Korea during that war, we weren't issued any knives but were allowed to bring our own. I went to a knife store, asked advice and came away with a Case hunting knife with a bone handle (this was in 1952); so the idea that Marines and others about to be deployed to the Middle East today are choosing to take along BK10s intrigues me. Does anyone know anything about that?

On what knife to carry


[written 8-23-14]

I'm enjoying [this was from a Becker Forum] discussion. However somehow we have gotten around to offering me advice about what to watch on Youtube and what knife to carry on hikes. Actually I didn't single out Chris of Prepared Minds [a popular commentator on knives] to watch. I think he is more entertaining than most of the others but I watched every one available on the knives I was interested in and only mentioned Chris in this case because his negative opinion about the BK2 didn't jibe with Amazon's declaring it the best seller in knives. My last job in engineering was to question engineers about changes they proposed to the C17; so I am not a gullible person. But while most of the others weren't as negative about the BK2 neither were they complimentary, at least I didn't run across many that were.  

Also, I'm not in doubt about the knives I intend to carry on hikes. Well, perhaps in a way I am. I live in a rural area with no knife stores so I have to try and figure out whether I want to make a purchase depending upon what I read on the internet, including videos from YouTube. I sometimes buy a knife and am disappointed but I don't think I asked for advice about what to carry on a hike. A few like the BK16. Chris of Prepared Minds said that Ethan Becker advised him to quit focusing on the BK7 and to focus instead on the BK16. Also, Ethan Becker himself said that the bK16 was the knife he always wanted from the time he was 14. He didn't know it then, but he knows it now. So a BK9 plus a BK16 may represent a perfect combination in Becker's (and Chris's) estimation for a camping situation. For my situation the BK16 doesn't sound that interesting.

I have a wide variety of knives I use for hiking, and while I am in a mood to go for a heavier knife at present, later on if I want to go light, I wouldn't go for the BK16. If I can believe Amazon, the knife, or maybe its the knife and sheath, weight 15.2 ounces. I don't know if you have run across them, but Ka-Bar has "miniature" versions of the USMC fighting knife. The knives plus sheath weigh about 9 ounces. The blades are a shade under 5 1/2 inches long. I don't know if anyone has tested these knives, but the tang going through the stacked leather seems to be the same size as that going through the stacked leather of a full-sized USMC fighting knife; so they ought to hold up to some level of abuse before failing. I mentioned the lightweight Kershaw 1010 but am thinking at present that when I want to go light again I will probably opt for the little version of the USMC fighting knife. I often EDC [Every Day Carry] one of these little KaBars around my house and property. Lately however I've been using a RAT-1.
I wrote my first note because I heard Chris of Prepared Minds and there may have been some others speak critically of the BK2 and that contrasted with the fact that it is selling so well at Amazon. Are all those people being misled by someone's false advertising, or are there good and valid reasons why the multitudes are buying the BK2? I was curious about that. I hope I mentioned that none of the criticisms affected my intending to use the BK2 for hiking.

As to the BK2 not being a good knife for batoning, I think what was meant was that with the short blade you would need to find branches of really small diameters in order to have the blade stick through far enough to hit. Chris, I suspect, would find it a batoning failure for that reason. I don't intend to do any batoning; so this matter is moot as far as I'm personally concerned, and in a earlier disclaimer I admitted the possibility that I may not be accurately remembering what Chris said.

I happen to like the BK7. It is about the same length as the KaBar USMC fighting knife. It is the BK7s sheath I don't like and immediately sent away for a custom sheath from Skystorm. If the sheath fits against my leg about the same way my Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife does, I'll be a happy man. I'm also unhappy with the BK2s sheath and sent for (as it happens) 4 leather sheaths. I didn't intend to do that, but some guy was selling a "new" BK2 with 3 custom sheaths. He listed a price but had the "make offer" option available. I made an offer and he accepted it; so that package will arrive next Wednesday. I like the BK2 just fine. I like the BK7 as well. Which one will I end up liking best for hikes? That will depend to a large extent on the sheaths I get and how well the knives ride on my belt.
I won't say I am "constantly buying and trying new knives" like you do, but I periodically do it. I am also interested in photography and take a lot of pictures during my hikes; which I post on my smugmug site.

On knives and preparation


[written 8-23-14]

When I was getting ready to retire from Boeing I attended a company-sponsored series of lectures on retirement. One lady a specialist in gerontology, asked people to hold their hands up if they took 1 medication, then 2, then 3 etc and then said that if there were a pill with no adverse side effects, that would enable them to do away with all their other pills, would they take it? Most people held up their hands. She said it was "exercise." I wonder how many took her advice. I have always been of that mind, but in my case I also exercise with weights so that I strengthen ligaments, muscles even bones. Falling is something that can't be avoided entirely, so the best "preparation" for that is to be properly loosened up before a hike and then pick routes that reduce the chance of tripping or falling -- at least that's what I try to do. Even then I do occasionally wrench something a bit -- but no pain that doesn't eventually go away -- at least so far. But yeah, I used to jump off of things when I was younger and wouldn't do that now.

[Btw, along with those who denigrate the YouTube Survivalist videos, I've noticed that a number of "survivalists" are grossly over-weight and suspect that most of them aren't going to "survive" into their 60s. On the other hand a lot of them provide what seems to be good advice, however long they're going to live.]
As to how I've "evolved," I concede that my hikes aren't as ambitious as they used to be. When I was working in aerospace I'd hike all day on a Saturday: start out before dawn and come home after dark, but now a couple of hours on the soft river sand makes a good hike for me (for my dogs as well, as it turns out). However, I don't do this just once a week. In good weather I'll hike three times a week. In hot weather like we're having now we average twice a week.

I don't hear or see as well as I used to so rely on the dogs for more than companionship, but they seem better at hearing than seeing it turns out. As often as not I will see the coyotes before they do if they are some distance away. If they are nearby in the brush Ben may hear them and go in after them. I'm trying to discourage him from chasing coyotes btw. I actually like the coyotes being down there. I suspect they discourage other hikers and I'd just as soon keep it that way.

In the last few years my gear-head forays have been more into cameras than knives; so I seem to be making up for lost time. I've purchased a couple of small Ka-Bars, the small versions of the USMC Ka-Bar fighting knife, and I also purchased, but don't have it quite yet, the Ka-Bar Heavy Bowie. But actually if its on my belt, the heaviness of a knife doesn't bother me as much as its length -- if it is very long. Hmm. Just now the postman delivered this very knife. I tried it on and the sheath is very stiff. It may be uncomfortable for me unless I can get it to loosen up. I wonder if someone has made an after-market leather sheath for this knife. Is that real leather on the snap braces?

Which takes me to the BK9. I didn't start out looking for a 9-inch bladed knife. I suspected such a knife might be too long to be comfortable on a hike. I don't mind the weight on my very heavy-duty belt as long as it isn't awkwardly moving about as I hike, thus my attraction to the BK2. The BK7 is good as well.

One other thing, the BK2, 7, and 9 are so popular that people are selling after-market sheaths on eBay. That's a big reason for me to favor Becker knives over its competitors (I haven't really checked that, however. I'd be interested if there are other brands that have an equivalent after-market market.)

Becker BK7 vs the Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife

This came up over on the Ka-Bar forum.  A member had his Ka Bar break just above the hilt while chopping down a 3-inch birch tree.  He seemed willing to accept that this wasn't normal for the knife but someone else suggested the "hidden tang" comprised a design flaw.  I bring most of what I said over here because I mention the BK7 a lot:

Yes, the Ka-Bar fighting knife doesn't have a full tang, but the fact that the tang goes all the way to the pommel apparently counts for a lot. This knife went all the way through WWII and the Marines who used it for all sorts of things loved it. Ethan Becker's BK7 was intended to be an improvement over the Ka-Bar fighting knife, and it is in the sense that it can take more abuse without breaking, but the Ka-Bar could take quite a lot of abuse without breaking. In fact I have been on the lookout for comments about this knife over the years and the one [on the Ka-Bar site] is the very first I've heard about its breaking.

I am a former engineer and while I'm not sure all this was taken into consideration by the Marines, the Air Force in buying a weapon system doesn't pay for indestructibility. An airplane that is 100% safe would be so heavy it couldn't get off the ground; so they insist on a set of procedures to compensate for the risk. All structure wears out for example; so they either insist on periodic tests or "R&R," remove and replace at given intervals. But before that they insisted that McDonnell Douglas, for example, demonstrate that the aircraft met the established requirements.

As to the Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife I imagine it satisfied the initial requirements. There would have been some sort of testing and it obviously satisfied the tests. However, it should be borne in mind that the manufacturer couldn't be 100% sure that every knife that came off the assembly-line was as good as the knife or knives tested. So what would the military have asked for in the way of QC?  Testing every knife? Not practical. Sample-testing? More likely. Depending upon how many knives were being churned out back then QC could have looked at an agreed upon number. Or, maybe the military just left it up to Ka-Bar's standard practices which have been pretty good over the years.

So, did this particular knife-break demonstrate that all Ka-Bar knives would break if someone tried to cut through a 3-inch birch tree? I think it more likely that the one that broke was a manufacturing anomaly. Such anomalies probably occurred in WWII as well but must have been pretty rare else this knife wouldn't have come through that war with such a good reputation.

Now, having said all that, Ethan Becker intended the BK7 to be an improvement on the Ka-Bar. It weighs 13 ounces to the Ka-Bar's 11. It is made of thicker steel. I'm not clear on whether the steel is better than that used on the Ka-Bar from WWII but the design is more confidence-inspiring. But to be fair to the Ka-Bar, the BK7 is being tested today (see several Youtube videos) for cutting through things like birch trees. The USMC would have been more concerned about fighting and an 11 ounce 7-inch bladed knife could be wielded more quickly than a 13-inch 7 1/2 bladed knife.

I was in the Korean War and not WWII, but we used the same equipment (minus the Ka-Bars. We were not issued anything other than bayonets). But I just got out both my Ka-Bar and BK7, put them back into their sheaths and have to say that if I were going back into a WWII or Korean-War situation I'd rather carry the Ka-Bar than the BK7. Not only is the Ka-Bar a lighter knife, but the sheath is lighter as well. The knife and sheath at 15 1/2 ounces weigh less than the BK7 and its sheath: 1 pound 2 ounces. If you are going to hike (march) all day than you opt for lightness over indestructibility if you have a choice.  As long as you aren't giving up too much.

In a modern war where you ride to battle in a Humvee and don't have to march all that far, maybe you can afford a bit more indestructibility.

If I had to get in a knife fight today (which I will dearly try to avoid especially since I'll be 80 next month ) I'd probably use my Ka-Bar over my BK-7, or perhaps I'd hope to overawe him with my BK9, but on my hikes, while I am trying out the BK2 at the present time I expect that eventually I'll prefer my BK17.