Category Archives: Outdoors

Time Outdoors In Childhood Prevents Myopia (Nearsightedness)

Steve Parker MD, paleobetic diet,

Should have spent more time outdoors

I’ve worn glasses since the third grade (about 8 years old) and I’ve always wondered why.

I suspect that myopia (nearsightedness) is a modern phenomenon. If you don’t see well, you’re more likely to get bitten by a poisonous snake or overcome by a predator that you should have seen coming. Or you simply trip and fall over obstacles, incurring cuts or fractures. In prehistoric times, these circumstances would lessen your chances of passing your genes on to the next generation. In other words, there was strong selection pressure in favor of good vision.

(For now, I’ll ignore the possibility that poor vision may have beneficial aspects. “Parker, you don’t see good. Stay here with the women while we chase down that ibex.”)

Steve Parker MD, eye chart, eye exam

My eyes are this bad

According to an article at PopSci, I may have avoided myopia by spending more time outside when I was a youngster:

A team of Australian researchers recently reviewed major studies since 1993 of kids, myopia and time spent outdoors. They found more than a dozen studies, examining more than 16,000 school-age kids in total, that found children were more likely to be nearsighted or to develop nearsightedness if they spent less time outdoors. A few of the later studies also found that being outdoors protected even those kids who did a lot of near work or had myopic parents. The studies included kids living in Europe, the U.S., Asia, the Middle East and Australia.

Read the rest.

Steve Parker MD, paleo diet, paleobetic

Nubian ibex in Israel

So get your kids outside. They may even benefit just from the sunshine.

And for my fellow myopics out there, note that your risk of a retinal detachment is higher than average. By the time that usually happens, our children are already grown, so there’s little or no selection pressure against it.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Troop 131 Snow Campout at Camp Raymond

Snow Campout Location West of Flagstaff, Arizona

Snow Campout Location West of Flagstaff, Arizona

Our Boy Scout troop had its annual snow campout at Camp Raymond this last weekend.  It was the first snow camp for me and my son, Paul.  Most of us camped Saturday night although four campers came up for Friday night as well.  Seven adults and 11 scouts participated.

Camp Raymond is at 6,700 feet above sea level and roughly 20 miles west of Flagstaff.  It’s in a Ponderosa pine forest.  The Camp had received a good amount of snow over the last month although none within the last week.  Still, we had a base of six inches of snow and ran across drifts 2-feet deep.  Recent daily high temps have been in the 40s (°F) and the lows in the teens or less.  After the sun goes down, you’re at freezing or below.  The low temp Sunday morning was 13.

Paul On His Sled

Paul On His Sled

I’ve been in temperatures close to zero before, but never camped overnight below 25°.  Knowing that the temp would be in the teens was intimidating.  Paul and I had decided to wimp out this year, but then he changed his mind after hearing that a snow campout (or simply cold-weather?) was necessary for the camping merit badge, which in turn is necessary for Eagle rank.

After arrival on Saturday, one group of us took a hike up a hill while the others explored Camp Raymond and played around a frozen lake.  Later, the boys had snowball fights with each other and another group of scouts.  The adults sat that out.

The key to surviving the cold temps is to come prepared.  In particular, it’s important to stay dry.  Once your feet get cold and chilled, you’re starting to lose the battle and will be miserable until you turn it around.  Wool socks and other clothing may be ideal, if you can afford it.  You need specific cold-weather gear:

  • multiple pairs of socks (you always want a dry pair available)
  • multiple pairs of gloves (if you plan on getting your one good pair wet)
  • thermal underwear
  • good cover for the your head, neck, and face (a balaclava may be ideal)
  • coats and sweaters
  • boots (ideally waterproof; best to bring two pair in case one gets wet)
  • snow pants like skiers wear
  • something to keep you off the snow when you sleep (some of us had “thermal pads,” others didn’t)
The Balaclava: Thermal Protection for Head, Neck, and Face

The Balaclava: Thermal Protection for Head, Neck, and Face

If you attempt a cold-weather campout, do your own thorough research beforehand or you could die.

You’ll want to dress in layers.  For instance, during the sub-freezing evening, I had on thermal underwear (top and bottom), a non-cotton T-shirt, a cotton long-sleeved knit shirt, a sweater, a balaclava, and a coat.  My lower half had the thermal underwear, my  scouting pants, then snow pants.  For my feet, I like a thin “liner sock” (non-cotton) under a thick wool or wool-blend sock.

The problem with cotton is that it loses it’s insulating property when it’s wet with sweat, rain, or melted snow.  This is where wool shines.  Don’t get wet if you can avoid it!

My Three-Season Tent From REI

My Three-Season Tent From REI

You can buy or rent winter-grade tents, but we just used our usual tents.  Theoretically, a smaller tent might retain more heat than a larger tent.  With our thin-walled tents at 13°, I question whether that works.

This was an expensive trip.  We spent several hundred dollars acquiring clothing that would keep us alive with all our fingers and toes.  I’m sure we’ll use this clothing again.

I slept in a synthetic-material mummy bag (rated for zero degree weather) which I had put inside a rectangular bag rated for 30–40 degrees.  Furthermore, I started out with most of my clothes on.  By morning, I had removed my thick socks, snow pants, and sweater.  Turns out I just needed some socks, thermal underwear, my scouting pants, a cotton knit long-sleeve shirt, and a hat that covered my head and ears.  I slept on a 4–inch thick air mattress, which was fine.

Steve Parker, Happy About Surviving 13 Degrees F.

Steve Parker, Happy About Surviving 13 Degrees F.

It took me at least an hour to fall asleep, and I woke up every hour or two.  Maybe slept three hours for one stretch.  This was a typical pattern among the four adults I surveyed.  My problem wasn’t the temperature.  I think it may have been the altitude, wearing too much clothing, or anxiety about freezing.

A camp caretaker told me she had seen bear tracks recently; a female adult and juvenile are in the area.  So much for hibernation.  An experienced hunter with us said the bears would be bedded down at night at these temperatures.

The only interesting wildlife we saw on the trip was a bald eagle eating roadkill.  Saw plenty of elk tracks.

It was a great trip and I’m proud of the scouts for facing and overcoming the challenges.


Sunday Morning Sunlight Filtered Through Campfire Smoke

Sunday Morning Sunlight Filtered Through Campfire Smoke

Camping at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

Last month my son’s Boy Scout troop had it’s annual family campout at the Grapevine Group Campsite at Theodore Roosevelt Lake in Arizona.  By “family campout,”, I mean that the scout’s siblings could attend.  Parents are welcome to come along throughout the year.

Roosevelt Lake is the largest lake contained within the borders of Arizona.  Lakes Powell and Mead are larger, but share borders with other states.

The campsite was on a high hill on a peninsula overlooking the lake in three directions.  Fantastic views!  We were about a hundred feet above lake level.  The water’s edge was a half mile away.  This group site had eight or 10 loops for specific groups.  We were in Goose Loop, I think.  This has to be one of the best one.  The loop had restrooms with running water and a shower was nearby.  It reportedly had a sports field, but I never saw it.  Cost of the site was only $80/night and the loop could service over 100 campers.

It’s about a two hour drive from Scottsdale, about an hour of which is quite scenic.  Many thanks to Kathy S. for taking the lead on this campout.

We had about 15 yutes and 10 adults.  I wish more scout siblings had come.

We made an effort to catch fish, with no luck.  Probably the wrong time of day (middle of the afternoon) and no one tried live bait.

As usual for Arizona, the weather was perfect.  The most memorable parts for me were the views, camaraderie, and evening fireside skits put on by the boys.  All had a good time and no one got hurt!

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: On the way back home from the lake, my wife, son, and daughter stopped at Vineyard Canyon Picnic Site.  It’s on Highway 188, north of the dam.  Paul and I tried our best to catch fish with artificial lures, again with no luck.  The worms I brought had died and liquified—they probably got too warm.  Paul latched onto a small bass with a 2″ Rapala minnow, but his line broke off and he lost the fish.  We saw lots of 6-8″ (18 cm) largemouth bass in the clear green water.   Surprisingly, we didn’t see any perch/bluegills.  My wife struck up a conversation with some vacationing Mexicans there who had caught a couple 3-lb (1.4kg) bass on worms fished on the bottom.  I’d like to go back there and be on the water at daybreak with live worms or minnows.