Infographic: Adventures in Mountain Climbing

This infographic of the tallest peaks in the world is seriously worth a minute of your time today.

Just Your Average Hiker

The infographic of the week, this week, comes to us again from EMS, one of my favorite outfitters. Covering the topic of the “7 Summits”, as well as the top 10 highest mountains in the United States.

More for the life list?

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Music for the ol’ Dusty Trail – Peggy Honeywell

I spend so much time talking about hidden trails, local swimming holes, and analyzing why we need the outdoors in our lives, that I’ve completely overlooked an integral part of the outdoors experience, music!

Music can set the mood for any outdoors excursion, whether you’re headed up the mountains, out to the desert, or searching for that perfect beach bungalow.  I’m not sure about you, but when I pack my bags and head outdoors, I usually feel like listening to some folk tunes.

Today I plan to talk about Peggy Honeywell.  I first learned of Peggy from the video above.  I was a young little skate rat and thought the calming folk-sy tune didn’t belong in a skate video.

But somehow that song stuck with me and I remember taking a trip to Kern River shortly after and wanting to assemble a play list of tunes suitable for the forest.  This song stuck out to me, and I felt inclined to purchase her album.

That was 7 years ago, and that album is still on my iPod in heavy rotation.  Her guitar is extremely calming, while the banjo driven melody always intrigues my interest.

Next time you’re mountain bound, try putting this album on as soon as you get out of civilization, and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported into another era.

How to develop the perfect bucket-list…

During a recent trip up to northern California with my brother, we got on the topic of bucket-lists.  We embarked on a trip, one I’ve taken several times, but at some point I realized I had never walked on the Golden Gate Bridge.  As a native Californian, I realized I was missing out on a quintessential part of American culture.

So during one of my days there, I ran around on the Golden Gate and got a chance to check something off every tourist’s bucket-list.  But this got me thinking about future accomplishments.  At first, my list was a mile long and I began to wonder the basis for some of these accomplishments.  “Climb Mt. Whitney” is a reasonable request, but other accomplishments like “learn to play the harmonica” seemed noble but expendable.

So, below you will find a handful of tips and suggestions for developing the perfect bucket-list…

1.  Know the purpose for developing a bucket-list list:

See, introverts need a bucket-list to push themselves outside of their boundaries, to challenge themselves and do something the otherwise wouldn’t.  But for extroverts, people who pride themselves on being adventurous and daring, extroverts need bucket-lists as an exercise in exclusion.  Extroverts shouldn’t approach bucket-lists as a chance to add more notches in your belt, but as an exercise in saying no and excluding

2.  Push your boundries:

With our society inching closer to a more sedentary lifestyle each day, a successful bucket-list should spark some sort of physical demand.  As we age, a bucket-list can encourage us to run a marathon, increasing our cardiovascular strength or take up surfing, which builds upper body strength.

3.  Dream big:

Perfecting career goals should also be included on the list.  Job specific goals can set you up for failure, but open ended career goals like “Own my own business” or “Work in the movie industry” give you flexibility to job on any opportunity that comes along, while keeping you focused and ambitious.

4.  Always leave room for more…

That’s right, the point of a bucket-list is to grow as an individual, and part of that growth process is trying new things.  By pushing yourself to add new items casually to your bucket-list, you’re forcing yourself to grow.

5.  Include something bigger than yourself

Most bucket-lists are ego-centric road maps for our own personal lives, but one common mistake by most is the exclusion of goals that will leave a lasting impact with our society.  This could of course be as straight forward as volunteering regularly, but could also include starting a non-profit, sending someone to college, or being a committed grandfather.  So many of our lists include feats that would either satisfy or scare our ego, but how many lists really include selfless acts of generosity.  How many lists include goals that will leave your footprint?

 

I’m hoping this will open up a discussion, and change the way you look at bucket-lists.  Feel free to leave a comment below with any thoughts or opinions.

How Gluten Free is Changing Camp Food…

I’m always behind on two things in life, diet trends and technology.  I never got onboard the Diet Coke bandwagon, somehow missed all the Trans-Fat hysteria, and never understood the Atkins diet craze, especially when Dr. Atkins ate slabs of bacon every day yet convinced people to follow his stupid diet.

I honestly thought Gluten Free was another one of those trends, because it seemed like suddenly everyone had a gluten intolerance.  But I digress.

Rewind to last summer, July 2012 when I took a trip deep into the Ansel Adams Wilderness near Mammoth Lakes.  I had previously done my usual REI pilgrimage to pick up supplies, a can of fuel, 4 freeze dried meals, some water purification tabs, and a new knife.

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I didn’t have any sort of method for picking out my meals for the trip, I think I just grabbed whatever sounded good.  But I do remember looking on the back of the package and seeing tons of chemicals that I didn’t understand.  “well there’s no way it’ll kill me” was my likely thought process.

While it didn’t kill me, twice during the trip I remember feeling borderline sick, bloated, slightly dehydrated but not as a result of hiking.  I recognized the feeling and realized it was not a symptom of altitude sickness, but this was how I felt after eating a large, cheap meal from the Chinese place a couple blocks over.

Fast forward to this summer, when I took a trip to the Channel Islands.  My girlfriend had recently gone Gluten Free and I noticed a couple brands that were sporting labels that state Gluten Free.

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This had me a little curious, so we picked up all of our meals from Gluten Free options.  Later on during the trip, I noticed a huge difference in the quality of ingredients.  But what really drew my attention was how great I felt after eating these meals.  While prior meals had left me feeling sick to my stomach or bloated, the Gluten Free meals left me feeling energized and ready to continue on my our adventure.

See, prior to the gluten free revolution in camp food, freeze dried meals such as backpackers pantry contained a cocktail of preservatives.  But this silent revolution has started to debunk the myth that backpacker’s meals need high levels of sodium because of the amount of calories due to your active lifestyle.

I encourage all of you to try this sometime.  Next outdoors chance you get, try comparing how you feel after a bag of Pad Thai (usually very high in sodium, preservatives, MSG) vs a bag of gluten free AlpineAire bliss.

Why we need more people like Harrison Milanian in the world today…

Meet Harrison, a chef from Tampa who took upon himself to walk across America.  That’s 3,000 miles.  And it was all accomplished between May – August 2013.  For those poor with math, you’re looking at 30-40 miles a day.  

A trip like this teaches perseverance.  Never giving up, facing obstacles head on, rather than look back.  Qualities like this are vital for outdoor adventure, but our modern world places little value on these things.

 I have an immense respect for people who do accomplish something great without any financial compensation or fanfare.  This is why we need bucket lists.  Financial accomplishments create financial security, but does little towards developing one’s character.  

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Escape LA – Anacapa Island

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.

Just west of the Ventura coast lies Channel Island National Park.  You’ve likely heard of one of the islands, Catalina.   The national park is made up of Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Miguel, and Santa Barabara islands.  The remaining Channel islands are used for a variety of purposes.  San Clemente and San Nicolas islands are owned by the Navy and used for training purposes, while Catalina is a tourist trap a privatized island for the more luxurious travelers.  I have some choice words for Catalina, but that will have to wait for another day.

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Catalina, Santa Cruz and Anacapa all provide great day trips with accommodation options.  The smallest of the two, Anacapa, makes the perfect day trip, because of it’s proximity to Ventura harbor and easy trails.

The trademark rock formation of the Channel Islands

The trademark rock formation of the Channel Islands

The island itself is divided into 3 different islands, East, Middle and West island.  The only island you’re able to visit is the Eastern island, about 1 square mile around, and has no beach access.  Anacapa sits high up on a plateau, about 100 feet to the ocean.  There’s little shade, several flights of stairs to climb, and lots of birds.  Lots of birds.

Visitor's Center

Visitor’s Center

Get There: The island can be reached by taking a 2 hour ferry ride.  Anacapa and Santa Cruz both have two ferry rides a day, so most people will ride out in the morning and head home at night without staying the night.  If you decide to camp, you must bring your own water, and conditions are rough.  The lack of shade gets a little annoying, and the wind gets really intense at night.  But if you’re up for the adventure, Anacapa doesn’t disappoint.

The island serves as a breeding ground for the Western Gull, as well as a dozen other endangered species of birds.  Nesting months are between May and July, and seeing these small birds hatch is a pretty incredible experience, especially from someone who hates birds.

Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island

Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island

The island has one particular amazing view.  Hiking to the eastern most point of the island gives way to views of middle and west Anacapa Island, with Santa Cruz island off in the distance.  This view alone makes the entire trip worth it.  It’s dirty, hot, cold, windy, dry, but the island’s scenery makes it all worth it.

Escape LA – Dawn Mine

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.

 

Most people don’t think of the Angeles National Forest as a hot spot for gold in the 19th century, but deep in Millard Canyon, just west of Echo Mountain, lies Dawn Mine.

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Dawn Mine was active between 1890 and 1950.  The mine is about 500 feet deep, with an additional entrance blasted shut about 20 years ago.  The historical use of this mine has little evidence, as little remains from these days aside from a giant water pump on the outside of the mine.

But the mine has about 500 feet worth of exploration, including an underground water fall, some class 3 climbing, and a 50 foot abyss filled with water.  Flash lights are strongly encouraged!!

dawn mineTo get there: 

You’re looking at a strenuous 6 mile round trip hike.  Its not that the hike is strenuous from altitude or hills, the hike is difficult from about 1.5 miles of brush to cut through, or boulders to scramble up.  The trail itself gets difficult to see at this point, and then canyon has a few other turns that could lead you astray.  The best way to find your way from the dozens of rocks with arrows spray painted.

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Long story short, this trail is challenging for even experienced hikers.  With that said, it’s an incredibly rewarding hike, and with ample foliage, you’ll find yourself shaded from direct sunlight for most of the hike.

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If you’re still reading at this point, then sounds like you’re up for the challenge.  To start, the trail head begins at Millard Camp.  Park in the lot and start walking towards the camp.  As the road turns left toward the entrance of camp, take the trail up hill towards the right.

This part is fairly easy.  The trail will wind up a hill to a paved fire service road with a great view of Pasadena below.  After you follow the road for about 500 feet, you’ll come to the trail marker below.

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Follow this trail along a ridge for another quarter mile, as it heads downhill.  As the trail descends into the canyon, you’ll come to another fork with a trail marker that states the trail is closed.  Take this route.

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Ignore my group walking right.  We actually went uphill to the right for a while before turning around and going down the ‘Closed’ trail.  This portion of the trail is beautiful, as it winds along a stream.  The main portion of this trail will lead to Millard Falls, which may or may not actually have water flowing.

This is when the trail splits off and begins to get difficult.  Follow this trail through some foliage and across the stream.  At some point, you’ll reach the first trail marker photo (pictured above).

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At this point, you’re about half way and the canyon starts scrambling up boulders.  The trail will pick up from time to time, however it is broken up by sections of boulders.  Fortunately the rocky sections have arrows painted on them, and as trail gets more difficult, more arrows will appear.  Make sure you take some time to leave trail markers otherwise finding your way home will be just as difficult.

Just as you begin to question where you’re going, you’ll come to a shaded dead end in the canyon.  Up a small hill you’ll see a large, turn of the century piece of machinery with two huge wheels.  If you walk about 10 feet past it, you’ll come to the entrance of the mine.  It will be tucked behind a large rock, and will require some crawling.

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As soon as you enter, you’ll notice the temperature drop about 15 degrees.  You’ll have to cross a small puddle using some planks on the ground.  At about 50 feet in, the mine will take a sharp left turn.  To the right, you’ll notice a puddle.  This puddle doesn’t look like much, but this will go down about 55 feet.

To the left, you’ll notice a shaft climbing up at about a 45 degree angle.  Further down on ground level, the mine come to a underground water fall.  It’s a pretty incredible sight, however at this point I felt a little uncomfortable being this deep in the mountain, so we turned around.  Being in a mine is different than being in a cave that was formed naturally.  I’ve been in caves, but this was something different, and I wanted to get out just as much as I wanted to explore further.

All in all, the hike is amazing and I would recommend it.  Be smart, plan to spend at least 5 hours on the trail, bring lots of water, and expect to get dirty, sore and a little beat up.

Escape LA – Salvation Mountain / Slab City

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.

The deserts in Southern California are often overlooked as a recreation hot spot, but the area is full of beauty (Joshua Tree), relaxation (Palm Springs), and freedom (Anza Borrego).

About an hour south of Palm Springs along the 111 highway, lies the Salton Sea, a desolate wasteland full of abandoned yacht clubs, dead fish, flooded neighborhoods, and nudist colonies.

Among this lies Salvation Mountain, a 70 foot tall mountain made of adobe mud, hay bales, sticks and an unlimited supply of paint.  The project is the life’s work of creator Leonard Knight.

The mountain serves as a pilgrimage for Christians, hippies, and adventurers.  While the mountain has a certain amount of lore, it remains relatively unnoticed.  The biggest stage Knight’s mountain has been featured on, was ‘Into The Wild’ when Emile Hirsch tour’s the landmark while staying in nearby Slab City.

salvation mountain

As you follow the 111 highway as it wraps around the east side of Salton Sea, you’ll come to Niland, CA.  Once you reach Main st, head east away from the lake.  After about 5 minutes, the mountain will come into view.

Leonard’s work is breath taking.  There are few words that can describe the mountain’s power, and the mutli-colored giant has so many intricate details, it’s worthy of several repeat visits.  What makes this trip even better, is the mountain features a ‘yellow brick road’ that climbs to the top of the mountain.

salvation mountain

Behind the mountain, you’ll find a series of huts constructed of hay bales and paint with the roof constructed on scattered driftwood from the sea.  Leonard is the epitome of conservation, reusing literally every piece of plastic, wood or metal that comes to his property.  The man’s creativity is unending, which he credits to God’s everlasting love.  As soon as you walk into these huts, you’ll notice the temperature drop about 50 degrees.

About 1/4 mile down the road is Slab City.  A former Air Force base, Slab city is a drifter’s town named after the concrete slabs left over from the Military.  The shanty town can feel a little rough, but revolves around the local’s impromptu flea markets and yard sales for passing travelers.

slab city

Saturdays bring out the best in Slab City, a weekly stage show called “The Range at Slab City”.  Patrons toting six-packs, whiskey and cigarettes spend this weekly celebration dancing and proclaiming their freedom from the rest of the world.

Given the timing of this post, Leonard Knight has been staying in an assisted living home for the past couple years, so maintenance of the mountain relies heavily on volunteers.  Given that the mountain no longer has a passionate groundskeeper, the location’s future is fairly undetermined, making this day trip a must for Southern California travelers, photographers and adventurers.

Debunked: Dehydration urban myths

 

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Dehydration has a number of urban myths surrounding it.  Here’s a handy little infographic debunking a few of the most common myths.

Eating snow can actually dehydrate and lower your body temperature, increasing the likelihood of hypothermia.

Drinking urine is a common misconception.  Urine develops bacteria the moment it comes in contact with oxygen, causing more harm for a body entering dehydration.

While cacti occasionally contain excess water, reaching this water will likely take more energy than what it’s worth.  Chances are, you will have cut through 5 or 6 cacti before reaching one with water, and at that point, you’ve used up more energy than what it’s worth.

Why we spend so much, to live so simply

Last weekend as I was driving up the Kern River late at night, I began to wonder, why do we put ourselves through so much, all in the name of camping.  I remember my girlfriend asking me what drew me to camping and it got me thinking late into the night.

Comparing motives for camping is like comparing tastes in music.  We don’t really know why we do it, we just go with it because it feels good.  For most of us, it’s an escape from the daily To-Do list or routine, but for others it’s a necessity for our personal emotional well being.

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I’ve been camping since I was a kid, and whether I was with my family or scouts, the outdoors is a irrevocable element in my life.

As human beings, we are naturally drawn to fire, to water, and to the earth.  Camping is to homemaking, as BBQing is to cooking.  It’s not that a rack of ribs can’t be made indoors, but it tastes so much better outside.

This same principle applies to camping, hiking and backpacking.  Jogging through our home neighborhood would give us the same cardiovascular benefits as hike, but that added element of curiosity into the unknown, wanderlust, or thrill of leaving one’s sense of security is what keeps us human.

But whether we’re backpacking or luxury camping (aka ‘Glamping’), there comes a point after the first meal has been consumed, or after somebody finally figured out how to start the fire, that we realize there’s nothing left to do but sit and do nothing.

I’d like to argue with you, that this moment is the most important part of camping.  The tent stakes that you left behind, those have already left your mind.  Your cell phone has already died. The fact that you didn’t buy the -30 degrees mummy bag, and opted to go with a cheaper bag, this no longer matters.

But when all the travelling has ceased, we’re forced to live in the moment, and this is why you should be adventuring in the outdoors.