Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hell Hike and Raft 2015

Hell Hike and Raft

Yesterday, it was announced that I would be the 3rd crew member (of 12) for this year's Hell Hike and Raft. What is that? Glad you asked. Hell Hike and Raft is a 6 day backpacking and white water rafting adventure. Last year, for the first edition, 12 social media influencers and bloggers backpacked through the Seven Devils mountain range and whitewater rafted down the Snake River through Hells Canyon.

Americas Rafting CompanyEpic Social Adventures

How it started: Parker from Americas Rafting Company emailed Adam from Hiking The Trail with a simple idea: get a group of outdoor adventure enthusiasts who are active on social media together and take them on an epic adventure. Thus, the first Hell Hike and Raft. The 2014 Adventure was such a huge success that Epic Social Adventures was formed as an organization dedicated to recreating the Hell Hike and Raft experience. And so, Hell Hike and Raft 2015!

Here's a video from last year's trip:

Hell Hike and Raft Day 1 Video

As you can guess, I'm pretty excited about this. An additional amazing thing is that Hell Hike and Raft is the week following the Outdoor Retailer Summer Show, so I might be getting up to 2 weeks of unadulterated outdoors bliss - hell yeah!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#Hikerchat Snowshoe

#Hikerchat Snowshoe

Last week, I was in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Winter Show. While the show was great (many posts forthcoming), one of the events I was most looking forward to was the #Hikerchat snowshoe outing organized by Teton Sports and Tubbs Snowshoes. I've been participating in #Hikerchat (a Twitter chat for outdoor enthusiasts) for a few months, so it was exciting to think that I'd be meeting some of those folks and putting a face to a handle.

We cruised out of SLC, head for the Little Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride, to meet up with other people who were part of the experience. (I'll say right here that Shawn of Teton Sports went above and beyond what could be expected of anyone, gifting me a sleeping bag for the week, making me feel welcome, then chauffeuring me to the snowshoe outing and then to the airport - thanks Shawn!) After some nervous (and cold) banter, we introduced ourselves, hopped back into the cars, and headed up the canyon.

#Hikerchat Snowshoe

Kelsey of Tubbs explained the basics of snowshoeing to those of us who were beginners, then passed out equipment to all. I got to test out their forthcoming commemorative Boundary Peak model (out for next season) and would definitely recommend it to any beginner - one of their ambassadors, a seasoned snowshoer, said that they worked fine for him, so clearly they're onto something with the design (beautiful and functional). I also opted for poles, which I would skip next time unless the terrain was more technical - the poles were just a nuisance when I wanted to stop and take photos (which was a LOT).

After literally getting your feet under us, we trekked through the woods over to explore Little Cottonwood Creek. We headed upstream along trails (and off - the beauty of snowshoeing) until we got to the turnaround point, the ruins of an old mill or similar building. A group photo of the nicest people you could meet, then we headed back to the cars, tired but exhilarated.

#Hikerchat Snowshoe

Unfortunately, I had to head to the airport rather than the Taco Fest at the new Teton Sports showroom and offices, maybe the biggest disappointment of the week. I'm glad I took the safe route in terms of time, however, as the security lines were so long they actually moved a group of us to another terminal to speed things along. Hoping that I'll get to the Summer OR Show and get to be involved with the next #Hikerchat outing, I'm sure it'll be a blast.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Winter Camping: Starved Rock State Park

The polar vortices came, we hunkered down, but when they momentarily left, we took the opportunity a few weekends ago to head over to Starved Rock State Park to see some bald eagles and do some winter camping as a family.


The weather turned out to be quite warm, enough to soften the snow and thin the ice, but the waterfalls we've come to love in Spring were now icefalls, simply gorgeous. We hiked three new-to-us canyons this time, with the kids taking every opportunity to scamper up side paths, glissade down hills, and generally enjoy themselves immensely. There were a few moments of grumpiness as we hiked, nothing that couldn't be overcome with trail mix.


This was the first time for us to plan a winter camping (we didn't expect our trip over Thanksgiving to the Garden of the Gods to be so cold) and though we thought we had it all planned out, adventure happened. No problems setting up the tent, besides the ground being so frozen we couldn't get the stakes in completely (note to self: research how to stake a tent in frozen ground). Dinner was good, though what seemed like a huge amount of mac 'n' cheese seemed woefully inadequate after a few hours of hiking. Post-S'Mores, it was time for bed. After the Thanksgiving trip, I had bought a tent heater in order to make the cold more bearable (a necessity for the family to come along with me again), but it turned out I had miscalculated how much time each propane canister would give us - partway through the night, no more heat. I had one canister left, so after a few hours of cold, I turned the heat back on, turned it off for a few more hours, then re-lit it as everyone got up. Not ideal, but workable.


After a breakfast of sausage, blinis, blueberry syrup (aaaah, the joys of car camping), along with coffee and hot cocoa, it was time to pack up and head home. Car packed, we're ready to go and.....nothing. The car wouldn't start. We covered up the engine with some blankets, waited a bit, but still nothing. Come on, AAA. Our helper showed up, jumped the car and no more worries, we were headed home. Mini fiascoes, beautiful scenery, and a weekend of family fun - minus the problems, hopefully we'll have many more to come.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 Bucket List

If you're like most people, you probably have some sort of Bucket List, with dream destinations or activities you hope to get to at some point in your life. This can be as simple as learning to swim or ride a bike all the way to running a marathon on every continent. Time, money, and preparation are are things that might be standing in your way. But one day...

2015 Bucket List

Recently, during a #Hikerchat (an online Twitter chat for outdoors-minded folks, Fridays at noon Eastern) Teton Sports challenged me to publish a Bucket List for this year. After some hemming and hawing, I finally posted my 2015 Bucket List on Instagram. It's composed of 7 items, arranged in order from likely to stretch goals.

Likely to Happen:
  • Run 3 Half Marathons - as a #RocknBlog Ambassador, this is already pretty much a given, as I've signed up for 3 races already. But with running being so problematic for me over the last few years, I'm not taking anything for granted.
  • Create 12 video gear reviews - I have a real fear of being photographed, so standing in front of a video camera is really tough for me. At the end of 2014, after many, many years of procrastination, I finally did a review of the Goal Zero Lighthouse 250 Lantern and posted it to YouTube.  If you've watched it, you know improvement is needed, but I'm pretty proud of myself. This year I'd like to push myself and create and post a gear review video a month.
Possibly, maybe:
  • Canoe Camping - this is something Munchkin and I discussed last fall, started planning, then it fell by the wayside. This year I'd like to make it happen; there's something so appealing about staying someplace that you can't get to by car. I once camped on an island that was accessible only by ferry and that remove from the mainland was very liberating. I'd love to expose my kids to that an earlier age. Also, canoeing!
  • Family Rafting Trip - we watched the documentary "DamNation" the other night, and it really got me excited about getting back on a river. Many years ago, I got to float a Missouri River in canoes over a few days, still one of the coolest memories I have. I'd love to take the kids and get them on a raft this year - I found a place in Michigan where we could camp and also float down a river that wouldn't be too difficult for a 5 year old.
  • Learn to XC Ski - when I was young, we lived in Finland, so I cross country skied at a young age (everyone did there). Growing up in Southern California for the most part, however, wasn't particularly conducive to the sport. I'd love to get back on the planks and enjoy the nature preserves in a different manner.  Te only reason this is in the Possible and not Likely list is that there are only a few places around here that give instruction and rent the gear, so it's going to come down to proper weather and time available coinciding. We'll see.
Stretch Goals:
  • Family camping trip to Mount Rushmore - too expensive for us to fly as a family, 13.5 hours by car, this is a trip that is one I'm determined to get done one day, just not sure it's going to happen this year.   When I visited the Badlands and Mount Rushmore as a youth, it left an indelible impression - the juxtaposition of endless nature and man's impact on it (the sculpture was a huge undertaking) was something I'll never forget.
  • Hike the River to River Trail - when we visited the Garden of the Gods last Thanksgiving, the kids were entranced with the very un-Illinois like scenery. Gaigai of all people became interested in thru-hiking the trail. As a father, I can't imagine anything better than spending an extended period of time with my only daughter, but, at 160 miles, it would take a solid week or more to hike, so that's a big investment of vacation time. Could happen, want it to happen, it will happen, just maybe not this year.
Do you have a Bucket List?
What item is on your wish list that's the biggest stretch?

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