Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

You are currently browsing the archives for July, 2011.

The Clymb

Just a quick heads up.  TheClymb.com just posted some great deals on some Salomon footwear and Lole workout apparel.  Act quick because the deals on TheClimb only last a day or two.  Check em out here.

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Climb for Water – Kilimanjaro 2011

Did you know, nearly a Billion people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water?  Clean drinking water organizations and causes have been growing rapidly over the past few years as people become educated about conditions in the developing world.  Perhaps it’s because it’s been in the forefront of my mind during that time, but it seems like I can hardly blink before discovering another organization promoting clean drinking water.  Like all charities, I look hard at these organizations, making sure their hearts are in the right place.  One of the highest caliber organizations I’ve discovered has been Water for People.  If you don’t know about Water for People, go check out their page.

The Climb for Water team has committed to raising $1 for Water for People for every foot they climb on their Kilimanjaro expedition this August.  Raising nearly $20,000 will be enough to give hundreds of people clean water for many years through the use of water filtration, well drilling and rain capture devices.  The life changing effects clean water will bring are incalculable.

Check out the Water for People organization, and please visit the Climb for Water team’s web-site to make a secure donation of any amount.  Having fundraised several thousands of dollars for worthy causes, I know firsthand that every $1 makes a huge difference, and everyone can afford at least a $5 donation.  For more team info and regular updates visit their Facebook page here.

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More Car Camping Food Recipes

A little while ago I posted about our favorite car camping recipe, Hobo’s.  Well, as promised here’s a couple more of our favorites! 

1.)  Tacos in a bag.  This one comes from Veronicas family, and has quickly become one of Jake’s favorites as well.  It’s SUPER easy with very little prep and almost no cleanup, key features for good camping food in our mind.  The end product is basically taco salad in a bag. 

Start with a lunch size bag of Dorritos (whatever flavor you like, and you can experiment with other kinds of chips as well) and add to that some taco meat, cheese, chopped up tomatoes, a little lettuce, onion, sour cream, salsa, ect… Dump it all into the bag on top of the chips, stir, and eat with a fork.

2.)  Churro on a Stick.  Perfect for a creative campfire dessert.  Similar to roasting a hotdog on a stick, for this one you bake a churro on a stick.  Ok, ok, by definition if it’s baked instead of fried it’s not a churro, but these are pretty darn good and easy to make anyways.  Jake learned about these on his first backpacking trip as a teenager.  As most things do, these certainly taste better after a long hard day of hiking.

Take some Bisquick biscuit mix (the stuff that you “just add water”) and mix in a bit of water till it’s a thick doughy consistency (add just a little water at a time because you don’t want it too runny).  Take a golf ball sized chunk of dough from the mix and roll it out and wrap it around the end of a stick, hotdog style.  You want the dough to end up pretty thin, but not so thin you burn right through it.  Next, hold it near some coals, out of the flames and out of the smoke as you want the heat of the fire to bake the bread.  Rotate as needed till the entire circumference of the dough is a golden brown.  With the proper heat, this should take more than a couple minutes, but less than 10 minutes.  Add some butter, cinnamon and sugar, or honey, and enjoy! 

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Outdoor Photography — From an Amateur’s Perspective

Post by:  Guest Author Harry C.

From time to time we like to have friends and local experts contribute their writings and experiences.  This piece is from our friend and the best outdoor photographer we know, Harry C. from Washington.  If you are interested in contributing a guest article please let us know here. (Click the pictures to view larger sizes)

Jake asked me to write an article on taking photographs in the back country.  I’ll try and offer a few points that I’ve learned over the last 40 + years of picture taking.  Anyone can take a picture, but to take a good picture requires following a few simple rules and photography skills will improve with practice.  I believe a good outdoor photographer needs four basic tools: 1) a fairly descent camera, 2) good physical condition to get you to a desired place of beauty, 3) an eye for composing a picture, and 4) pure chance that is controlled by the weather and whatever happens to appear before the camera’s viewing screen.

1) Digital is definitely the way to go in our changing times.  Any good point and shoot camera that is rated well will take a good digital picture.  You don’t have to have an SLR camera with interchangeable lenses.  Most outdoor pictures, excluding wildlife photography, are taken in the range between 18 mm to 70 mm.  I currently am using a Nikon 5000 with an 18 – 55 mm lens.  Unless my hike is a day hike, I never bring along a telephoto lens, because I rarely have opportunity to use one.  Bring your camera in a waterproof bag.  It is an asset worth protecting.

One of the disadvantages of digital pictures is dealing with variability of light.  In high contrast settings where a scene contains bright sunlight as well as shade, the overexposed parts of a digital photograph may turn completely white.  This is a problem in pictures taken in a shaded forest with sunlight filtering through in bright areas.  For me that is the only real drawback I see switching from film to digital.  Just learn to work around this drawback.  The pluses with digital far outweigh this one negative downside.

2) I like to take photographs where others rarely go.  You will not be able to do this if you are not in good physical shape, capable of hiking and climbing long distances.  The views just aren’t as good from roadside viewpoints.  The photographs I’ve included for this article with the exception of the mossy stream and two goats were all taken June 20th of this year in a climb I made to Lake of the Angels and Mt. Stone in Olympic National Park.  The hike was 6 miles in, and 4000 feet elevation gain to reach my camp.  The route was completely snow covered, crossing multiple steep slopes, and ridges, but the scenery was spectacular.  There was no sign of any human presence where I camped and the high mountain cirque was mine alone to photograph and enjoy.  Crampons and an ice axe kept me safe on my approach in, the climb and my exit.  Be in shape or be content with taking pictures with others, similar to combat fishing a popular stream.  I know from experience that great photographs are often hidden deep within mountain valleys or found on lofty peaks.  That is part of the adventure of combining photography with spending time in the backcountry.

3) Now for a few tips on taking a good picture.  The basic rule for a good photograph is to divide a picture into thirds, both vertically, as well as horizontally.  I placed a grid on a photograph I took of my tent where I set up camp, as an example.  Our mind likes to see objects set up in an organized fashion and thirds is what pleases our mind’s eye.  Photographs with the object directly in center, such as a central horizon or a person exactly in the center aren’t appealing.  It is best to have the central object offset a little like I did with my tent or the slope I climbed up Mt. Stone.  You can also see that the tent picture has the sky in the upper third and a snow slope in the lower third.  My trekking poles just happen to be in the right third.  With practice this is the way you will naturally begin to set up a photograph.  Remember the rule of threes: pictures should be composed keeping this rule in mind.

If a person is being photographed, have them look into the picture, rather than out of the picture and definitely do not place people in the exact center—always offset the subject matter.  The flower picture I included from my exit hike is blooming into the photograph not out of the photograph.  Our mind does not like to look at pictures that lead us to wonder what is outside the viewing screen.

Don’t get discouraged when the weather turns nasty: inclement weather is a photographer’s friend.  Flower and forest pictures turn out much better in shaded light with no sun, than ones taken on beautiful sunny days.  Ethereal fog and clouds enhance a photograph; they don’t detract from a photograph.  Too much fog will rob a photograph of color, but it can also give a wonderful mood to the photo.  Take note of my tent in the whiteout that I set up my camp in.

I often use a tripod, generally my ice or trekking pole with an attachment my camera can sit upon.  Taking a picture using the higher f stops on your camera will increase the area that is in focus of the photograph being taken.  Higher f stops take more light and often require a tripod to avoid blur.  I like to slow down water movement so that it looks silky by using slower speed such as one or two second exposure for waterfalls and rivers.  The flower picture is taken intentionally with a lower f stop, decreasing the depth of field, so that the background remains out of focus, making the flower the central point of interest.  Pay attention to what is in the background.  Flowers look best with a dark background that accentuates their color.

After a photograph is taken I generally do not manipulate the color, but I often deepen the contrast and lower the light.  Sometimes I also will sharpen the focus, but that is about all the manipulation I do.  I do enjoy taking HDR or high dynamic range photographs.  These are three pictures that get taken simultaneously with a tripod: one over exposed, one normal, and one underexposed.  A computer program such as “Photomatix” combines the three exposures into one.  This creates a crisp picture that brings out more minute details.  The view of the snow slope is an HDR picture.

4)  Being in the right place at the right time is also part of outdoor photography.  This past fall I was resting at a spot I climbed called St. Peter’s Gate, when a group of 10 mountain goats came up the rocky cliff behind my lofty perch.  I was able to take several excellent pictures of them without even getting out of my rest spot.  My cousin had a picture published of an avalanche that came down Willis Wall on Mt. Rainier.  I was reloading film in my camera when the avalanche broke off.  All I was able to photograph was the ice cloud that enveloped us, as the force of the avalanche sent a cold blast up to our safe viewing point.  Be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice, because you never know what might suddenly appear.

That’s my short list of photography tips.  Keep in mind that pictures are capturing an actual moment in time.  Photographs save that special moment for memories, as well as to share with others.  Photography and good picture taking is an art, but is also a gift we have been given to cherish.

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Glacier National Park — Mountain Biking Beyond the Barriers

Post by:  Jake

Over the 4th of July holiday weekend Veronica and I joined a couple other family members on our annual trip to Glacier National Park.  My family has had a cabin near Glacier for over twenty years and I’ve spent countless summers up there exploring as much of the park as possible. Despite my best efforts there is still so much in the park I have yet to see or experience.  This recent trip was a great example of that.  The famous Going-To-The-Sun-Road is still closed to vehicle traffic and likely will be for the next several weeks as an unbelievable amount of snow is still blanketing the park.  In some areas they’ve seen as much as 300-400% of the average snowpack, and it simply isn’t melting as fast as it would during a “normal” year.

Knowing the road would likely still be closed to vehicle traffic, we thought we’d try something new this year and bring our mountain bikes to bike the section of Logan Pass (Going-To-The-Sun-Road) open to hikers and bikers. Upon arrival, the ranger at the entrance stated there were no restrictions to bike/hiker traffic that morning since the plows were not running.  She stated we could go all the way up to “the big drift” if we wanted, but we’d probably want to turn around there.  I could hardly believe what I was hearing and thought to myself how incredible it will be to bike one of the most beautiful roads in the nation, with zero traffic!

Although the grade is between 6-7%, we never tired out as we could hardly bike 500 feet before stopping for more pictures.  Familiar sites took on a completely new look as we slowly pedaled by, examining the landscape in detail instead of through the windshield or sunroof of a fast moving car. Countless times we stopped right in the middle of the road and set down our bikes wherever we pleased so we could walk a few feet and touch the snow, peer over a cliff, or feel the cascading water dripping down over rocky faces.

Once at “The Big Drift” we locked up our bikes and continued on foot through the last 1/2-mile to the visitors center on top of Logan Pass.  As we walked around the deserted visitor center and empty parking lot, we had an eerie feeling as if we were being filmed in one of those “end of the world” type movies.  I was half expecting a heard of zombies to start chasing us off the mountain.  Instead, we were greeted by unusually shy ground squirrels that hadn’t seen humans in nearly 10 months.

Back on our bikes we started to descend the twisted path.  Speeding around one of the first corners we slammed on our brakes, nearly running head on into a couple very large big horn sheep that were walking up the vacant road.  Not really knowing what to do, our party stared at the sheep while they stared back in similar apprehension.  We scooted over as much as we could on the two-lane road while they simply walked passed in the other lane.  It was truly an up-close once-in-a-lifetime encounter we won’t soon forget.

The next day we biked the west side of Logan Pass, however this time hikers/bikers were restricted to the first 11 miles past the vehicle closure, a few miles shy of the roads summit.  A different landscape, and another unique experience, the west side of Logan Pass proved to be just as incredible as the east side.  While the east side of the park felt relatively deserted, the west side was packed with hikers and bikers traveling up and down the road.  Even with crowds of people we were still able to enjoy the park in a slower, up close and personal fashion, and we enjoyed every second of it!

Even though we’ve visited the park countless times, each trip brings exciting new adventures and experiences.  Biking Going-to-the-Sun-Road without vehicle traffic is truly an incredible experience.  If you ever get the opportunity to do it, jump at the chance.  Unless we can get the parks department to close the road to private vehicle traffic (they can keep running the buss shuttles) one day a week, you’ll have to hit it just before they are done plowing, but before serious road construction starts.  There’s a window of about 2 weeks each year while they are finishing up plowing operations.  Keep an eye on the parks updates to the plowing status and try and plan a trip for a weekend date that falls near the end of the plowing season.  It’s incredibly challenging to plan since the snowpack is different every year, but on normal years the months of May and June are typically the plowing season.  The earliest I’ve ever seen the road open to vehicle traffic is on Memorial Day weekend.  And the latest… well, check back in a few weeks as this year has shattered all previous records. 


July Contest

In honor of all the nice weather we’re finally getting in Montana, this month’s give-away contest will be for some great gear to keep you cool.  It’s super easy to enter and everyone’s welcome.  To enter, we’re asking you to do 2 things. 1.)  Subscribe to our blog (and confirm) by entering your e-mail address in the little green box at the top left corner of this page.  You’ll be sent a confirmation e-mail (from Feedburner) as soon as you subscribe.  If you’re already a subscriber, great, your 1/2 way there.  2.)  Post a comment at the bottom of this notice telling us where your favorite camping spot is?  That’s it.  Super easy.  Winners will be chosen using Random.org.

And the prizes are:

#1.  A $50 REI gift card.

#2. A pair of Ryders Sunglasses of your choice (we’ll try to accommodate between a few of your choices).

#3. Hydrapak Gel-Bot

This contest ends 11:59 p.m. Mountain time July 31st and winners will be announced shortly thereafter.   And as always, we reserve the right to give more stuff away at random so keep your eyes peeled.


And The Winners Are…

Thanks again so much for making this such a successful promotion!  Veronica and I loved reading your e-mails and comments about the contest.  So, without further delay… Here’s the list of winners for all the prizes.

Contest #1        1st Place.  Pearl Izumi PRO Tri Singlet and Triathlon Shorts.

                                    Winner:  Cooper B.

                        2nd Place.  Pearl Izumi STREAK II Road running shoes.

                                    Winner:  Ehretja

Contest #2       1st Place. Pearl Izumi Syncro Fuel XC running shoes.

                                    Winner:  Dustin M.

                        2nd Place. GU Energy Performance Energy Sampler Pack.

                                    Winner:  Mark K.

                        3rd Place.  Road ID product of your choice.

                                    Winner:  Amanda R.

If you didn’t win, no worries – stay tuned for our next give-away coming up soon!  I’ll be posting more about the next promotion when we get back from 4th of July festivities up in Glacier National Park!

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