Halfway across the country and back in 35 days- Part 1
By: Michael Grice
First three things you think of when you hear the words road and trip? Freedom, best friends, or maybe a mini vacation? Well you’re wrong! I’m not talking about a long holiday weekend or a weekend warrior trip; I’m talking about a month long, breathtaking, home is where you park it kind of road trip. First three things that personally come to mind are two songs and a book. The greatest book about freedom, “On the road” by Jack Kerouac, “Running on empty” by Jackson Browne and “Take it easy” by The Eagles.
June 2017, I quit my full-time job/career of thirteen years to go back to school and begin a new career path. Venturing on my new path in life, I decided to buy a cap for my truck and built it out for sleeping. I started researching places to visit with my portable home, which lead to a short conversation with a friend about the adventure that could await us. A couple weeks of last minute planning took the idea of a road trip to a fully loaded truck, two stand up paddleboard, a cooler full of beer, snacks and grilled cheese necessities.
I left New Jersey on Sunday July 23rd, picked up Natalie at her family’s house in New Hampshire and set out route for Niagara Falls. After a quick picture of the falls we drove for what felt like hours to Michigan for night number one of camping in the truck. Michigan was okay; it did include a few hours on the paddleboard. Our time in Michigan was short, to skip through the BS we drove from NH through VT, NY, Canada, MI, WI, MN, to SD. The true adventure began in South Dakota with a Couple of hours in the Badlands National Park with some breathtaking views and incredible photo opportunities. This was followed by a quick stop at Mount Rushmore for yet some more amazing photo ops before hunting down a place to park and set up camp in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands for night number two. We parked, set up camp and made a fire just in time for an incredible sunset that included an even better sunrise the following day.
We packed up the next morning and drove through some of the most incredible National Forests Wyoming has to offer! Bighorn, Ten Sleep, and Shoshone National Forests had some of the most picturesque views I had ever seen. The next three days expressed everything this road trip was about and why it was worth every minute on the road. Yellowstone, one of the most over-rated and overly crowded National Park I had ever been to. The springs were gorgeous on the other hand and made the crowds well worth it. We ended our day outside the National Park in Shoshone National Forest for camp. This location was surreal with no cell service for three days making it one of the best parts of the trip. Completely free of distractions and zero reasons to worry about anything, except if a grizzly was nearby.
Yellowstone was an amazing experience but came nowhere close to the views, camping and the overall experience of Grand Teton National Park! The jagged outline of the Tetons across the horizon was and is probably the greatest single view I have ever witnessed in person. We spent day one paddle boarding Jackson Lake with the Tetons looming high above us reflecting off the early morning glassy water. We finished up our day wandering around the town of Jackson for dinner and driving up to the summit to catch a glimpse of the sunset before trekking back into the unknown in search of a campsite. We came across an area by map in Bridger-Teton National Forest and set up camp for both nights in an area off a winding dirt road along a semi dried up riverbed, nowhere near civilization with nothing but endless stars, great company and a campfire that would make any weekend camper envious.
Day two in Grand Teton National Park and the final day of this road trip resulted in wandering around Teton Village and Jackson Hole. This was followed by a long drive to Boulder Colorado to part ways as I continued my road trip adventure and my friend went back to reality. This unforgettable trip of seven days may have been coming to an end, but the journey and the drive to travel had only just begun for me. Stay tuned for part two to find out where the next twenty-eight days takes me on the best road trip of my life!
“All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.”
‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac
You can follow Mike’s adventures on Instagram
Written by: Josh Ryan
I have always been into the great outdoors, I grew up in a small town in Vermont and try to do things outside as much as I can. A couple of years ago I decided to get into hiking in the Adirondacks and ultimately, hike the Long Trail in Vermont. I knew I was going to have to find and buy gear that will last and perform the way I hoped it would. If you haven’t found the site yet, you should check it out, OutdoorGearLab.com, they review a lot of gear and its a good place to start. I started with OGL (Outdoor Gear Lab) for most of my gear except a handful of items.
I also don’t like to pay retail for gear. When I first started hiking, I bought used gear from replay sports and Craigslist. I had a pair of Keen boots I used for work and an old Kelty bag I had from high school. I like to think that you get what you pay for, and most of the time I feel like it’s true, but not always. I am by no means telling anyone to go out and spend tons of money on brand name gear, I just want people to enjoy the outdoors and find stuff they’ll like. I am slowly upgrading gear and finding what works and doesn’t work for me. I have found some great gear and some that just wasn’t worth the time of day. My big thing is, I read a lot…gear reviews, gear tests, gear this and gear that, I just like to know what works for others that used it in the same way I intend on using it. When I was planning my Long Trail hike, I started following AT hikers on Instagram and talking to them to see what worked for them on their 2000+ mile adventure. Everyone I talked to seemed to be happy to help and I learned some good things. All of that is easy, when you talk about it, but when it comes down to using everything, that’s when you see what actually works. Please do not go buy gear and never use it before you go into the wilderness. I can’t say it enough, use your gear before going out, just do it. Go to the park, go to your best friends, go anywhere you can and try it out and get to know it and how it works before you go out and actually need to use it. I bought a WBBB (warbonnet black bird xlc hammock and mamajamba tarp) for hiking the Long Trail and overnights in the ADK. I only used it a couple of times outside of hiking in the park but I am glad I used it beforehand. I had to set it up a few times in the dark, thank god for headlamps and patience.
I find myself rambling on about things but I do hope someone can take something away from this blog. I will be writing more and the more I write the better my info will be, and I will try to touch on a bunch of different subjects. Feel free to hit me up on my IG as well and maybe I can answer some direct questions on there.
Josh is 35, resides in Vermont, The Green Mountain State, and home of The Long Trail. He likes to spend as much time outdoors as he can, be it snowmobiling, working on becoming an Adirondack 46er(12 of 46) or just walking a back road. He has a Redbone Coonhound, named Cooper and is a Visual Merchandising Specialist at Hubbardton Forge, in Castleton, VT. Follow Josh’s adventures on Instagram.
Mountains inspire opposing feelings. Feelings of being tall and small simultaneously. Ego can reveal itself while mountaineering and in my experience, any extreme sport for that matter. In contrast, there are also opportunities to become vulnerable, trekking on the outside of our comfort zone. How do you find balance when there is so much going on externally and internally when attempting an unknown summit (Direction, safety, maslow’s hierarchy of needs, beauty and nature, photos, meeting like-minded folks,etc)?
In the last 10 years, I’ve finally started to realize while summiting and not summiting, I’ve become a risk manager. Although my parents describe my brother (we go on a lot of hikes together) and I as risk takers. We are aware of the risks, but we push ourselves anyway. The stories about having to bail out on a hike, I believe are my favorite stories. The last time this happened that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face because it was blizzarding so hard.(Last year, December 22nd on Pikes peak). My brother is born on the winter solstice and he always plans a “death march” as he calls it. This year we just went camping and stayed up to watch the meteor shower! Everyone thought we were nuts when packing up the car and it being snowing and freezing outside. We got to Penitente Canyon, presently a beautiful popular climbing spot with American Indian petroglyphs and Virgin of Guadalupe painted high on a canyon wall left there by Los Hermanos Penitentes, a Spanish religious sect that favored Penitente Canyon for its solace in the 1880s. This is how the canyon got its name. Anyway, it was like the heavens opened up, the sky was clear, and it really wasn’t that cold (-4 degrees).
The last major trekking trip I went on was to hike two 14ers in the same weekend… Wetterhorn (class 3) and Handies (class 1) with my best friend Nikki. Needless to say we rocked it on Wetterhorn, on the top it got sketchy. In fact a gentlemen, thank goodness for him, caught us going up the class 4 route. He said “where are you guys going.” And I was like” uh, to the top!” On the right trail we approached the top by climbing up a steep wall, definitely stepping/crawling outside our comfort zone. At the top we took real selfies of our bare butts.
The next day we had planned to do our first sunrise summit on Handies peak, a considerably shorter hike than Wetterhorn. We got lost in the dark, took a wrong turn and felt pretty dumb. We couldn’t bag an easy class one … whoops! The sunrise was gorgeous, we were safe and we were still very high up. You never know exactly what will happen in life as mountaineers and risk managers but we are aware of the outcomes. Keep pushing your comfort zone but know when to bail. Also, learn how to read a map, bring one, know where you’re going! Understanding your ability and what your level of acceptable risk is, is an important first step before heading out on your next adventure.
Follow MK’s adventures on Instagram!
Bidding 2017 adieu wasn’t a difficult task for the general population, and we are stoked about the possibilities of awesomeness that 2018 will hopefully bring. Our family has some amazing (A.Maz.Ing.) adventures already planned this year that we are excited to share with you and we have some fun stuff coming to Live and Let Wander as well!
We’ve enlisted the help of some fellow wanderers, adventurers, photographers, travelers, and all around cool folks from all around North America to contribute to the blog and share their general badassery with us all. We’ve either enjoyed following their stories via the interwebs, adventured with them IRL, or admired them from afar, so we are thrilled and appreciative that they are going to be sharing their outdoor love with Live and Let Wander.
Here’s to many new adventures, good memories, and a lot of love in 2018!
Elisa & Matt (& the crew…)
Every few weeks we realize that our list of short term adventures is beginning to run out and we have to sit down to plan the next dozen. I always schedule a fall hike because well it’s the best time of year. The bugs are not as nagging, the nights are cool and the views are stunning! This year instead of adventuring in one of our usual north east locations we decided to use up a few of those airline miles that were burning a hole in our pockets and head to Colorado.
The trip included myself, Poria (my trail wife, ha), and his questionable friend. It’s not that I question whether or not Poria was friends with him but more the decisions that his friend made. That being said, once you generally understand him and his decisions begin to make more sense the more you’re around him.
Since we booked for early October we knew every destination was dependant upon the weather. Snow on top of a 14er was a real concern for some of the more challenging routes. We also tossed around the idea of visiting a backcountry hot spring, sand dunes, and squeezing in some rock climbing. As the date got closer snow started to alter our decisions more and more. Luckily I stumbled across an invaluable resource, 14ers.com. To add a boat load of luck into the mix, they were having a meet up during the same time we were scheduled to head out there. Snow basically cleared up in the San Juan wilderness (location of the meet-up) and options really opened up.
We landed and drove through the night to Lake City, which didn’t feel much like a city, but did have the nicest people I have ever met in my life. We snacked on what little food we had and headed up our first CO 14er, Wetterhorn. Yes… we went from sea level to 14K+ with little sleep and little food. Yes… we know it wasn’t the best idea, but we did take our time and planned to turn around if anyone had bad altitude sickness. The trek was beautiful and we met some awesome locals. All in all- a huge success.
On day two, we decided we take the advice of our new friends and bagged Redcloud and Sunshine Peak. The wind was tremendous but thankfully there were only a few clouds in the sky. Due to a late start we ended up hitting Redcloud much later than we had hoped to but both the weather report and the sky said we’d have clear skies for the remainder of the day so we pushed on. Instead of backtracking, we followed the route on 14ers.com into the bowl on the North West side of Sunshine. and back to the trail head.
The snow rolled in early on day 3 and we drove slowly back to Denver for a city day, which is out of our norm but there wasn’t enough snow to play in and there was too much to summit in without proper gear. The city day included an escape room which proved to be intensely exciting.
On the last day we headed up to Boulder and Eldorado Spring to hike and hang out before shipping back home. This trip was much different from our normal fall backpacking but hey… different is good!
Some people find backpacking gear a logistical nightmare. When you first start backpacking you try to pack for unexpected weather, and every situations under the sun or storm clouds. After backpacking for a few years you begin to trim down the gear you thought you needed when you started because you released you can get through so many situations without every piece of gear. That works great until you decide to bring along a 5 year old and a 3 year old and your dog. With kids you have to keep them comfortable and good gear can go a long way to help with that. The only problem is that all of that gear has to be carried.
Our carry situation included a 5 year old who can only carry only 4 lbs. Mom who had to carry the majority of the gear and dad who had to carry a 3 year old and the tent.
We had just enough room for all of the gear and and everyone was excited to get on the trail. We reminded ourselves that kids don’t particularly want to walk for miles on end but instead play and adventure. On our trip we stopped often. We stopped at the first river crossing about 30 minutes in to drop packs and throw some rocks. We soaked our hats to keep cool and our pup jumped into the river. We snacked and headed out. Short breaks will help raise their spirits and keep them excited. We kept that order going and let the boys set the pace and decided the length of our breaks. Keeping them involved in the decision making process helps to keep them interested.
If you cared enough to read this then you probably have not taken your children backpacking before which means you are probably in need of gear. Here is what we did for some gear. Weight was the single most important factor, followed closely by cost. We went to our local family owned outdoor store (Ramsey Outdoor store for those in NJ) for some new gear for us and picked up a few cheap no namers off Amazon for the kids because let’s face it they don’t know the difference. You can get the kids lightweight summer sleeping bags and inflatable sleeping pads(essentially pool rafts) off Amazon on the cheap. To be honest we opted for thermarest pro-light sleeping pads not as cheap but much better quality and they come in kids sizes. For a hiking family it was a worthy investment.
Car camping would have been much easier but we decided to give our boys the real experience of going deep into the wilderness and spending the night with no one around. They got a taste of backpacking and they can’t wait to get back on the trail!
I really like to consider myself as someone who lives in the now. I try to cherish the precious moments in the present, not dwell on the past, and just take things as they come. But, I also can’t deny that I am a bit of a type A planner when it comes to our adventuring schedule. It’s not uncommon for me to start planning our next trip while a few days into the one we are on. I am always thinking about places I want to see and things I want to experience! And, as each year comes to an end, I tend to revisit and add on to my bucket list. My long list is, well…long. But, here are a few on my short list that I thought I’d share. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for adventures to put on your own list in 2018!