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.

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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 – 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.

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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.

Five Household Items That Can Save Your Life

We’ve all heard it.  Two backpackers went out on a seemingly easy hiking trip but fail to return.  This situation is more common than not, and can happen even on a trail you may have visited once or twice.  While there’s no remedy to prevent getting lost, there are remedies to improve your survival odds.

Rather than preaching the preparation of an ’emergency kit’, I’d like to tell you about five small everyday items that can be used to increase your survival odds.  Emergency kits are often cumbersome and overlooked because of the additional weight they add to a backpackers payload.  In total, these items should weigh less then half a pound and fit inside a pill box.

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Condoms

Aside from their intended use (which is also helpful while camping), Condoms are a vital survival tool.  Most utensils used for storing water are bulky and inconvenient, but condoms come in a small package (pun!) and can hold up to a gallon of water without breaking.  It’s still unknown whether the flavored condoms will actually make the water taste better, but this will help prolongue dehydration nonetheless.

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Glasses

Whether you wear them or not, glasses are the Swiss Army Knife of this blog post.  Aside from making you see better, a pair of glasses can be used as a distress signal.  By holding the glasses at an angle relative to the sun, the glasses can grab the attention of somebody up to a mile away.

But that’s not all… glasses can be used to start a fire.  Remember lighting ants on fire with a magnifying glass as a kid?  Same concept, just gather some kindling, get a good angle under the sun, and hold the glasses about an inch above the kindling.  The glasses must be convex (usually prescription), and made of glass.  One of the most potent sources of kindling can be found using the lint in your socks, and this generally burns quickly, so make sure to have something that burns a little slower below.  You’ll have to be a little patient, and need to blow on the ashes to give it a little oxygen.

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Dental Floss

We all know you have some of this buried deep in your bathroom.  You’ll remember this as that stringy stuff your dentist always gives you, but you always forget to use.  To quote my favorite comedian, the late and great Mitch Hedberg “People who smoke cigarettes, they say ‘Man you don’t know how hard it is to quit smoking’ Yes I do – It’s as hard as it is to start flossing!”

Dental floss is another multi tool.  It’s importnat to note, that floss is extremely valuable as fishing line.  Dental floss can also be used as a belt or shoestring.  But most importantly, floss is a vital tool to adhere sticks together for shelter.  By weaving inbetween poles, floss can hold wilderness shelters together with enough strength to lay brush on top to help preserve heat.

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Fritos

That’s right, Fritos can increase your survival odds.  Corn chips are generally made from dough that’s derived from corn or maize and then deep fried, making these chips caked in oil.  Corn chips burn unlike anything else.  They light as easily as kindling, but they burn slowly, making for the ideal fire starter.

By building a fire with larger logs on top and smaller sticks towards the bottom, you can place a few corn chips near the smaller stuff and let them slowly start the remaining logs.  You might have to feed the fire some smaller sticks until the larger logs light, but if the flame goes out, you can just as easily light another corn chip.

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Paper Clips

Paper clips make for the perfect emergency fish hooks, should you find yourself stranded near a body of water.  Fasten together a long pole and your dental floss, and you’ll have yourself a nice makeshift fishing pole.  Paper clips are small and add almost no weight, making this tool a near necessity for any backpacker.

Escape LA – Hermit Falls

Welcome to Sixty Eight West, dedicated to inspiring outdoor adventure.

This is the beginning of a blog which requires a little audience participation.  This is a blog which requires some creativity on your end.  And if read correctly, this blog will inspire you to get outside and explore the world around you.

Eighty Six West will routinely visit a few different columns.  Based in Southern California, we’ll visit day hikes just a stones throw from the urbal sprawl of Los Angeles.  We’ll provide insightful equipment reviews, resources for planning the big backpacking excursion, and MacGyver-like camping inventions that are borderline genius.  Expect some music reviews for the dusty trail, and maybe some interviews as well.

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For our first installment of Escape LA, we’ll discuss Hermit Falls.

Santa Anita

Less than 25 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles (no traffic) sits Big Anta Anita Canyon in the hills overlooking Arcadia.  Head east toward Pasadena, and continue along the 210 to Santa Anita Blvd, exit and make a left.  Stay on Santa Anita as the road begins to climb into the canyon and park once you reach the Chantry Flats Pack Station.  Before you park, remember to buy an Adventure pass ($5), otherwise the ranger will ticket your car!

chantry falts

From the parking area, follow the asphalt utility road downhill.  After about half a mile, look for a small dirt trail with a sign labeled ‘Hermit Falls’ that breaks off from the main road.  Although it does not look like much, this trail descends deep into Santa Anita Canyon.

As you wind into the canyon, it’s easy to forget how close to Los Angeles you are.  The foliage is lush, water is plentiful, and animals are abundant.  Once you reach the bottom of the descent, you’ll find a couple cabins.

These historic landmarks were constructed between 1890 and 1920,  and are remnants from the recreation era of the San Gabriel mountains.  While many more existed at the time, these remaining cabins have eluded wildfires and flooding for nearly a century.

Today, they are privately owned and exist much as they did 100 years ago, with supplies hauled in on the backs of burros.

To reach the falls, follow the creek downstream.  As the trail crosses over the river, the trail will be ambiguous but picks up just before the first dam.  As this trail winds around another cabin and some vibrant wetlands, you can help but feel at peace.  The air is cooler this deep in the canyon, and the stream provides subtle tranquility.

After about a half a mile, you’ll come to the main swimming area.  Two natural water slides and three cliff-jump spots (20 ft, 30 ft, and 40-45 ft) provide ample opportunity to cool off from the summer heat.  Bring a couple beers and some goodies, this is a great summer hang out spot and you will not be alone.  MAKE SURE TO PACK OUT ALL OF YOUR TRASH.