An adventurer’s classic adage of “What’s Next?” and it’s origin.

Written by Jared Heath

I have a vivid memory from my first road trip of staring down into a Colorado Canyon in the middle of a moonlit night.  Much to the dismay of my parents, I hit the road just before Christmas, a few months after a surprise graduation from my unconventional college experience.  Younger ,and slightly more sure of how the world worked than I am now, on a whim, I packed the majority of my few possessions into the back of a small pickup truck and took off, chasing sunsets, and this ephemeral feeling of freedom with no real destination except, maybe, Joshua Tree California where I’d heard rumors of desert climbing.  After twenty hours of driving across the plains states in a blur, my cracked window simultaneously cooled my coffee and ripped the smoke from my cheap gas station cigar out the window. This trifecta was working it’s hardest to keep me awake as the cold mountain wind mixed with the stale air from my dashboard heater. I cut around a sharp bend, and the road opened up into a black scar in the earth, lit up by a nearly full moon.  Pulling to the side of the road I turn the ignition in my truck to off stepping outside in the cold, Rocky Mountain night. I’m unsure of how long I stood there watching the moon illuminate this canyon, and reflect off of the fresh ice on the road, but I am sure this was the start of the evolution of a familiar feeling. The feeling of a wave, rising up out of the ether and building enough momentum to crash down and tumble the way that I had viewed the world up until that very moment.  A wave,that if I caught right I could ride the crest, to a place that I needed to be, wherever, or whatever, that was.

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Jared Ice bouldering high above Chimney Pond. (photo credit Nightmute)

After a few months of riding this hard, climbing and meeting friends along the way.  Eventually this upsurge crested then receded back into the firmament leaving me with five dollars cash to my name and a starter credit card with a $500 limit, just barely enough to get back East.  For the next few months my nose was back to the grindstone making custom flooring in an unheated mill building, and working landscape jobs just to bank enough money so that when I could spot the next set of on the horizon I’d be set up to catch them.

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Jamison battles the sleet cyclone!

Since that initial feeling on a cold Colorado night I’ve driven across the country ten times in almost as many years always exploring, and never wanting to slow my momentum.  Yet somehow during my rest periods I always find my way back to the Northeast saving and searching for adventures here to keep me on point for wherever the current next carries me.  On the days where cold north wind wraps me in spinning snow, and I catch myself screaming song lyrics at the top of my lungs to stave off the screaming barfies, and I question my sanity for returning to this small corner of the world.  But sometimes those clouds will lift just enough to reveal golden alpenglow, vibrant azure ice, and windswept ridge lines tracing a path between craggy peaks. Other times the fog and the cold lingers for weeks cutting though all of my layers, chilling me to the bone.

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Descending during a brief clearing Baxter State Park.

One of these weeks was spent on the flanks of Mount Katahdin in Northern Maine with a group of friends on a trip organized by my friend Chris. All of us climbers, of different abilities and backgrounds, as well as photographers we drove North; chasing rumors of stunning alpine climbs and beautiful landscapes.  Instead we were gifted with a week’s worth of spiraling sleet in gale force winds stinging our faces, loading the gullies we sought to climb, and obscuring the view. We spent our days exploring the small nooks and crevices, bailing off of climbs, and laughing almost as much as we bitched about the weather. Some nights we slept in the comfort of a wood stove heated cabin.  Others, some of us were delegated to a lean to amidst the spindrift and subzero cold, spending the night staying warm by company and whiskey before waking up to 3 inches of snow blown on top of our sleeping bags. The summit was obscured in visibility zero the entire time, and I’m still not entirely sure that it exist. This still remains one of the best trips of my life. As we parted ways a small group of us sectioned off and ventured towards Acadia National Park to recoup our losses in the forecasted January sun.  Waking up in our cars the next day to a vibrant sunrise reflecting off the Atlantic Coast joined by bluebird skies above, I think we all felt slightly out of place and disconnected from our recent stint in the harsh alpine. As the sun crested it’s highpoint in the sky and began to sink towards the afternoon I found myself unencumbered scrambling amongst seaside cliffs. I looked down at the sea-foam green waves crashing and receding beneath my feet and felt the warm sun loosen my muscles, tight from hauling a sled 16 miles through the backcountry the previous day.  The ocean breeze stinging on a small patch of frostbite on the corner of my face as I shake a build up of lactic acid out of my arms. I look up from my feet and over the ocean then towards the cliffs where Matt and Jessie are shooting photographs, and wonder if they’re as taken aback as I am about the contrast from just 24 hours earlier. This too is burned into my memory.

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Jamison, Matt, and Jessie finding creative ways to keep warm.

When I begin to question myself for sticking around this part of the country sprinkled with bipolar weather patterns, and constantly less than ideal conditions I recall these memories along with the local adage: “There’s no such thing as bad conditions, just bad attitudes.”

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Jared soloing brochure crack Acadia National Park (photo credit Nightmute)

No matter where I’ve climbed I’ve found almost all summits exactly the same.  The scenery may be different but they all seem to carry an inexplicable feeling of “What’s Next?”  When I’m sitting perched on my home summits, however, I recall this adage more frequently, and if I listen to the howling wind with the right set of ears it seems that I can hear the laughter of those who embrace the mantra carried to my ears, audible in the silence between gales.  These quiet moments after slogging through less than ideal conditions, finding creative uses for hand warmers, and exhausting every reserve of energy that my body has teaches me lessons that I know will carry me further the next time the wave comes to whisk me away on my next adventure.

Jared Heathjaredheath

Jared is a photographer and climber from the New England area.  He is well practiced in an art of ascents that can most aptly be described as “blissfully lost scrambleneering.”  When not climbing, or working odd jobs to fund trips, in his home state of New Hampshire he can be found living the life of luxury out of the back of a 2005 Kia Sedona minivan; shooting photos and climbing across the country. Follow Jared’s adventures on instagram.

 

Gettin’ after it! Riding the best of Lake Placid’s growing mountain bike trail network.

Written by – Bill Hynes – Mountain biker/outdoor enthusiast/contractor

The Village of Lake Placid is the center of an ever-expanding mountain bike trail network. The rapid development of quality mountain biking trails has also led to an expansion and acceptance of mountain biking within the culture of sport. Whether exploring the wares behind luxurious storefronts or dining out on the main drag, one is no more than a mile from numerous trailheads. Trails around town vary from beginner to advanced level, consisting of crushed stone paths or narrow technical single tracks that twist their way through surrounding forests. Founded and operated by Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), the network provides options for all ages and abilities. BETA has created magic in the woodlands that surround Lake Placid, thanks to the efforts of dedicated, passionate volunteers, as well as local riders who have voiced support for crafting more trails and expanding the presence of mountain biking in the area. All told, BETA has designed and mapped over 50 miles of trail throughout the surrounding acreage.

For the ambitious rider, an ideal trek can cover the most notable trails around town in about four hours. A quality, full-suspension mountain bike, basic mountain bike knowledge and skills, plus plenty of drinking water are required. If you are fit and geared for the challenge, there is a particular loop which provides most all that Lake Placid’s most notable trail networks have to offer. Take note that the following ride as a whole is not intended for families with young children who are unable to pedal for long stretches, inexperienced bicyclists, or anybody cruising on a ‘Walmart special.’ However, people who fit into that mold can find plenty of adventure riding from these trailheads individually. The specific trails in this loop include, but are not limited to, Lussi/Loggers, Craig Wood, and Henry’s Woods networks. This particular loop can be easily manipulated as all three trailheads lead to various terrain and riding styles. The trip starts and ends on Main Street in Lake Placid. The loop encompasses 85% trail, 15% road, and covers roughly twelve miles. Whether a rider is seeking varying trail lengths or degrees of technicality, much can be accomplished by utilizing this basic loop as a model. Again, manipulation is at the rider’s discretion. During the brief period in which I worked at High Peaks Cyclery, I had the pleasure of guiding this loop and it quickly became my go-to. When Matt (of Live and Let Wander) came into the cyclery looking to experience mountain biking in Lake Placid, we rode this same loop turn by turn together in approximately 4 hours, including several breaks for water, snacks, and scenic photo ops.

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Beginning on Main Street, riders will head out of town going downhill, past the Olympic Oval (officially known as the James B. Sheffield Olympic Skating Rink) on the right and High Peaks Cyclery on the left. Riders will continue straight through the light at the Route 73 intersection and will follow the right-hand shoulder as it curves to the left and continues on towards Whiteface Mountain. Just beyond the curve, the horizon opens up to reveal a spectacular view of the mountains and the Lake Placid Club golf course. At the end of the curve is a parking lot that appears on the right. This is the location of the Lussi/Loggers trailhead where riders will ascend through a playful warm-up style single track with a light downhill grade. The first trail to take is called Cinderella Story, which carries riders through varying cross country style single track. The path is surprisingly littered with man made obstacles for the daring to test their skills. About a mile into the trail, one will encounter an impressively long log ride. Try to send it! Trust me- the reward far outweighs the risk. At this point, one should keep his or her head on a swivel for the next trailhead, christened Flying Wasp. This trailhead will appear on the right after a few short, though noticeable, climbs. From Flying Wasp, the rider will eventually run into the Jackrabbit ski trail sign (red with white letters). Follow this sign to the right, going downhill. The Jackrabbit Trail will ultimately lead the rider over a single-lane bridge and out to River Road. To the right, just over the bridge, is a parking area that offers great scenery for a water break. After rejuvenating with water and that bonus granola bar, proceed by turning right out of the parking area onto River Road. Keeping the mountain vista on the right, continue down the right-hand shoulder to the red barn. At the red barn make a left onto the dirt road where the now-familiar Jackrabbit Trail sign will be waiting. After a short burst up the dirt road, the rider’s eyes will catch a farm gate off the right shoulder of the road, with just enough gap to pass the handlebars through. With one’s handlebars successfully through the gate, or an embarrassing hiccup, Craig Wood is next. This particular section will warm the rider right up, as some say it climbs endlessly. I promise, it is not that long. Just as the trail crests the final hill, a place to rest lies in front of a trailhead breaking off to the right. The sign to this trail reads, ‘The Back 9,’ as an ode to the section of Craig Wood golf course around which it navigates. The Back 9 loop can be followed back to the junction after about a mile of meandering through rolling terrain with a few built-in features along the way. From here, the trail will lead to some of the most fun riding the village has to offer, involving hidden spur trails that the extremely serious athletes ride. Those looking for airtime should try to ‘pop a wheelie’ on the aggressive banked out loop track that contains an intimidating drop right at the start. A rider can couple these trails together over and over, then simply head back down the trail at the main junction to journey back towards River Road.

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Enjoy the long downhill cruise, and prepare for a cooldown while riding Henry’s Woods. Exiting onto River Road, riders will now turn left and head back towards Route 73. Once at 73, riders will go right towards the Village and bear left at the fork onto Old Military Road. Over the first rise on Old Military Road, riders will approach Bear Cub Lane, on the left, opposite the blue hospital sign.  Two hundred feet onto Bear Cub Lane there is a sign for Henry’s Woods on the right. Henry’s Woods is owned and maintained by the Uihlein foundation. The trails are mostly double wide crushed stone paths frequented by dog walkers and hikers, some daring single track can be found up high (red trail). All trails here are well marked with colors and distances, with the kiosk at the trailhead providing a map. This network is a great way to end the ride as it is less technical and demanding compared to the first two networks. The green connector trail (Plateau) is a two-mile loop back to the parking lot with rewarding lookout points. From here, riders will catch a breathtaking view of the Village of Lake Placid with Whiteface Mountain towering in the distance. Spin a few more leisurely loops around the park before heading back down to the trailhead parking area. The village can be found by crossing Old Military Road, skirting the neighborhood back towards 73, which will lead right back to Main Street, wherever the rider’s terminus may be.

At this point, having circled the belly of Lake Placid sampling the best trail networks in town, riders will experience two states: exhaustion and deep satisfaction. In a mere four hours, riders will have covered a minimum of fifteen miles of terrain ranging from manicured crushed gravel paths to technical pinner single track and countless man-made berms, roll overs, and drops. Lake Placid is truly unique in that riders can experience diverse terrain on carefully maintained trails without ever leaving the Village or driving to one specific trailhead. Readers and riders, please use this article as a source of reference in your research while planning your own Lake Placid mountain bike adventure.

As mentioned earlier, while most of these routes are customizable for riders of all abilities and ambitions, thorough planning and research is strongly advised. Trail maps and further information can be accessed on the BETA Trails webpage (www.betatrails.org). Be safe, ride happy, and I hope to see you out on the trail!

A first hike (ever!) in the Canadian Rockies. Bumps, bruises, lessons learned & a few epic photos for proof.

Written by: Jolena Hove

I’m 30 and went on my first hike 3 years ago. A friend invited me to hike Allstones Creek in Nordegg, Alberta. Not knowing what to expect; I packed a lunch and some Nikes, picked up my friend from Edmonton and we drove for three hours listening to every genre of 90’s music on the way. 

About 5 minutes into the hike our group was going down a steep embankment covered in loose rock. The kind of steep that you should descend one of two ways: slide on your butt and grab every piece of anchored foliage on the way down, or if you’re over 6’2 and very athletic- just run down it. I chose option two like the person before me, but unfortunately I’m not really either of those things and ended up tumbling head over feet most of the way down.

I was surprisingly unscathed, despite a few gashes and scrapes. After crisscrossing and rock hopping through a creek for another kilometer or so, we shortly found ourselves at a little waterfall. I was airing out my scrapes and enjoying a handful of trail mix when when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to find a lady with a concerned look on her face and a finger full of Polysporin.

“I’m sorry… but I’m a mom and can’t help myself- can you please put some of this on?”

Welcome to the Canadian Rockies.

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Intrigued by the brilliant turquoise water of Abraham Lake, my teacher-friend and I strapped our paddle boards to the top of my Volvo station wagon and set off for Nordegg the next summer. I was secretly anticipating the initial view of the lake as we drove the David Thompson, glad I could witness the awe of an Abraham Lake virgin. Our excitement was soon diminished when we couldn’t seem to find a way onto the lake. Sure there were some accesses to the shore, but the wind was so strong on the lake, after a quick and scary paddle out, we decided we didn’t want to die that day.

We were eating lunch at the David Thompson Resort when a man pulled into the parking lot, paddle board on his roof racks. We ran out and asked him where we could get onto the lake safely. He looked at us hesitantly, then explained:

“No. You don’t paddle this lake. I work with search and rescue and people die here all the time.”

But we had come all this way and damned if we weren’t leaving with some pictures of us on the lake.

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Somebody did die that that day. A wind gust took Krista’s paddle board off the roof of the Volvo. It was never to be paddled again.

Two years later I returned to Nordegg with another group of friends to do the same trek. I had discovered a love for hiking and the outdoors, had more than a few decent hikes and much more experience now. Or so I thought. Turns out a creek in the Rockies is much different in May than late summer. There was still a bed of snow and ice at the fall and the water was fast, high and freezing cold. It was difficult to maneuver across the rocky bed with numb feet and a strong current, but the towering rock faces and blazing spring sunshine suppressed any complaints our group might have considered.

If you ever find yourself in the Canadian Rockies and want a more primitive hiking experience, follow the David Thompson to Nordegg. Don’t worry about reservations, but remember your head lamp. Maybe a map too. And your dog.

 

 

Jolena lives in Rich Valley, Alberta- an extra small place you’ve never heard of. She is a teacher who loves to spend weekends and summers outdoors in places without cell service. She loves backpacking with her husband, friends, beef jerky and St.Bernard, Norma. Follow Jolena’s adventure’s on Instagram!

 

“All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.” Some inspiration to just get up and go…

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.   

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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.  

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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.  

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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.  

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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!

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“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

You can also follow Mike’s friend Natalie on Instagram too!

Risk managers: Taking calculated risks to live a life of adventure. Written by MK McDonald

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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.

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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.

MK is an Art Educator, Yogi, Colorado Native, Snowboard Instructor in the winter and Raft Guide in the summer. On her free days she is often travelling, trekking, camping, backpacking, taking a walk with hippopotamus (a special brown dog) hot springing, and all the outdoor things.  In the summer months you’ll find her in a foreign country or living in her 1970 red VW van down by the river! 

Follow MK’s adventures on Instagram!

October in Colorado!

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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Making backpacking fun for toddlers!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Preparing for the trek up Mt. Whitney

I have been backpacking on and off for over 15 years. Throughout college, it was something we did occasionally but it was when I finished college and started working full time that the trail really began calling me. Backpacking was always my thing and when we became ambassadors for Deuter, doors into the outdoor industry opened up for us.  We now had contacts with other amazing ambassadors from around the country. So, when fellow ambassador Benny Haddad of Sea to Summit Productions put out an open invitation for a mountaineering trek up to the summit of Mt Whitney, it was a quick yes… and then a quick realization that I knew very little about mountaineering. Here are some of steps I took to prepare for this journey.

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Those who know me and have gone backpacking with me know that I do everything I can to not be the one the holds everyone up. Immediately after agreeing to take part in the trip, I decided to take a two day beginners mountaineering course to get the basics under my belt. For those in the northeast, New Hampshire’s White Mountains provide the most severe conditions available, so I decided to take my training there. I had to act fast to get my training with an ice axe and crampons while there was still snow available. Google quickly pointed me in the direction of NorthEast Mountaineering, who offers guided services, training and even lodging in their bunk house.

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The two day course started off in the Bunk House with how to dress and pack for a cold weather expedition which I was mostly familiar with and then it moved outside. Outside, they went over proper fitting of the crampons, how to hold and walk with the ice axe, general spacing while walking and how to keep a slow but steady pace. From there, we went over self arrest techniques from multiple positions and different techniques for walking with crampons both up and down the mountain. We skipped the bunk house and decided to camp at a local fire tower. The views were amazing and the 6 miles out and back was worth every step.  Day two went into some more advanced techniques that we probably weren’t going to need for Whitney but it was good to be be opened up to the concepts.  They included repelling, building snow anchors and glacier travel. The course did not disappoint. The basic techniques were reviewed enough times that even five months later, when it came time to climb Whitney, we remembered them well.  

 

 

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My everyday life is lived at around 700 ft elevation, which makes climbing to 14500+ ft a real concern for altitude sickness. From what I’ve read, the only things you can really do to try to avoid it is drink more water and eat more than usual on your trip.  The last tip was to breath faster than normal to increase the oxygen you’re taking in. Aside from learning the basics, I began physical training 6 days a week. Before I started training, I considered myself an active person, but I never exercised. I built myself up to 3 and 6 mile runs. I would do a 3+ mile run on Monday and Wednesday. The 6 mile run took place on Saturday mornings.  On my runs, I would add interval sprints up hills and they try to continue jogging on the flats.  On Tuesday and Thursday I would head out on the mountain bike and try to hit trails with decent climbs to engage different muscles in my legs.  Finally, on Wednesday I hit the gym. I focused more on a circuit style of training that involved push ups, pull ups, weighted step ups (30lbs), squats (30lbs), crunches, planks, supermans, and leg presses. The focus was mostly legs followed by core/back with sets of 20 in each exercise.

 

 

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You’ll never be able to plan for everything you’re going to experience on the trail but if you put the effort in before hand you can at least feel confident that you will be able to get yourself through the majority of the issues that arise.

Amazing pictures captured on our Mt. Whitney trek by Benny of Sea to Summit Productions.

–Matt

Why is traveling with my children so important?

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I want you to close your eyes and fantasize about going on the vacation of your dreams with your family…your husband, your wife, your kids….

Are you day dreaming of a tropical beach, and laying on a lounge chair drinking a frozen daiquiri while the kids play for hours in the white sand? Or, are you picturing your beautiful family smiling in front of the Arc de Triomphe while noshing on a perfect croissant?

Now, open your eyes and remember this is real life. And, in real life, when traveling with your family, and especially young children, your strawberry daiquiri is most likely watery because you didn’t drink it fast enough due to separating non stop sand fights between your kids, and your toddler is most likely having an epic meltdown in front of that epic Arc.

So, you ask, if this is the case, and this is the reality of traveling with young kids, then why the heck have we traveled with our children over 20 times in the past few years?! The answer is simple: although it might not always be easy, or “picture perfect”, the experiences and memories made as a family far outweigh anything else.

Our day-to-day lives are filled with school drop offs, appointments, cell phones, meal preps, household maintenance and work. We go, go, go. When we travel, even if we are only a few hours from home, we slow down. We talk uninterrupted. We make eye contact. We laugh more. We connect. Without fail, I always find out something new about my kids each time we travel.

And, possibly, moreover the family connection and memories, we travel because it affects our children in such a profound way. Each and every place we visit raises questions of culture, future adventures, and personal discovery. I can see them grow on each new trip, and their “where are we going next” excitement in between in each trip is infectious, and drives us to never stop adventuring.

Although they might not remember all of our trips when they get older, I know that they are forever changed for the better for having the experiences. And, I am forever changed by experiencing the new adventures through their eyes.

xo Elisa