Panning for Gold, 1977

Colorado 1977

As we’re in the midst of our own family adventure traveling around the world , I can’t help but think of an family adventure I went on nearly four decades ago …

Family Trip to Colorado

In 1977 my dad piled a mess of gear into the family Buick Apollo and drove from Wisconsin to Colorado. We went through Minnesota, South Dakota, and a little corner of Nebraska, camping along the way.

When it was all over, my dad put together a photo album for my brother and I full of pictures from the trip that he’d taken (on film!). Over the years, the sticky stuff that kept the photos in place had stopped being sticky and the plastic protective sheets have worn out, torn, and stopped holding the photos in place.

So I scanned the images in with the Doxie Flip (which I heartily recommend) and added them to a set Flickr.


Spotted Ass Ranch

A donkey ranch in South Dakota. When we stopped, there were some donkeys fornicating. My dad took some photos, but somehow they didn’t end up in my scrapbook.

I vaguely remember a dream I had about this place a few nights later when we camped in Colorado. It was weird, and I think I can attribute it to sleeping at a higher altitude for the first time in my life. The only real detail that I can recall is me rolling out of the pipes below a sink. And there was a girl, of course.

Disappointed Park Ranger

Our first night out we stayed in a Minnesota State Park. After we pitched camp and got dinner started, the park ranger came up to us to tell us all the great, kid-friendly activities that the park had going on that week.

My dad thanked her, and told her we were only going to be there for one night.

“Oh, you’re no fun,” she said.

“We’re heading out in the morning to go to Colorado,” my dad replied.

“Okay, you’re fun! You’re fun,” she said.

And that was that.

Water Purification

We’d done a good amount of camping prior to this, but this was the first time I remember using Potable Aqua to purify water. It tasted terrible.

Video Games

I wandered off to play video games at a KOA in South Dakota. The problem was, I didn’t tell anyone. To my dad’s credit, he didn’t yell at me, but he explained the perils of wandering off when we were so far from home. I felt terrible about it. I did get grounded to the campsite picnic table for awhile, though.

Panning for Gold

My brother and I spent a lot of time panning for gold in Colorado streams. We didn’t get any, but we sure had a lot of fun.

Flying Citroen by jacobmunkhammar

The Flying Cars of Jacob Munkhammar

I’ve talked about my future nostalgia for flying cars before. They were the great artistic promise made to my generation,and I’ve always had a certain fondness for them. And I’m not the only one.

Artist Jacob Munkhammar has a gallery of great flying cars on Deviant Art. Here’s one of them:

Flying Citroen GS by Jacob Munkhammar
Flying Citroen GS by Jacob Munkhammar

Check out Munkhammar’s whole Flying Cars gallery. It’s spectacular.

And, in related news, after all these years, we could see flying cars by the end of 2016. I’ll believe it when I see it.



Your Smartphone as a Backcountry Survival Tool

Leaning on Apps for a Little Support

If your life depends on it then why not seek a little advice?

Even the most experienced outdoor adventurers can use digital tools to help bridge the gap between potential catastrophe and survival. When I hiked the John Muir Trail, I carried my iPhone, using it mostly in conjunction with my Spot Connect GPS to record my position so my family would know I was safe — or if I wasn’t.

Obviously, there’s not always (seldom, in fact) reliable access to the Internet when you’re in the middle of nowhere, but that hasn’t stopped app developers from finding ways around such problems.

Access to digital tools is often overlooked by the most veteran outdoorsmen, but if you want to make your adventures more efficient (and even a little safer) then there are some great apps on the market for use in your backcountry exploits. For example, tech and pop culture website Mashable published an article entitled 8 Ways Your Phone Doubles Up as a Survival Tool.

camping1I’m not sure how many die-hard survivalists actually read the article, but it does show that, with smartphone usage increasing to around 1 billion of the population (as reported by Gaming Realms, the company behind online portal Pocket Fruity) more and more, electronically-savvy adventurers of the younger generation will be relying on such apps to help help them in their outdoor travels.

Internet connectivity isn’t essential when using your smartphone for things such as a flashlight, reading maps, using it as a compass, or referencing useful downloadable databases of animal tracks or edible plants. The need for such tools while on trails and adventures is that much more important if you are traveling with children or inexperienced people, so here are two really good outdoor apps which you can utilize on your next adventure.

MotionX GPS

MotionX GPS Xcreens

With MotionX GPS (one of the Best Outdoor Apps as named by, you can download all the topographical maps (worldwide!) you need before you start any backcountry adventure. So, you don’t have to rely on poor 3G or Edge connectivity, all the maps will be available even if you cannot connect to the Internet. You will also have the ability to track your adventure, so, if you get lost you’ll be able to see where you have come from and find the the route back to your basecamp or someplace safe. MotionX GPS is only $1.99 in the App Store.

Wild Edibles App

Wild Edibles ScreensIf ever there comes a time when you have no food left and you are on the brink of starvation, Wild Edibles is your best friend. The app offers detailed descriptions and as many as eight different images of more than 200 wild plants so you locate and, more importantly, identify possible food sources that won’t get you sick or kill you just by eating them. It has an easy-to-use interface that will help you identify, harvest, and prepare wild plants utilizing the know-how of noted outdoorsmen Steve “Wildman” Brill, “America’s Go-to Guy for Foraging.” It also offers more than 100 different recipes from Wildman’s own edibles cookbook. Wild Edibles is available in the App Store for $7.99.

It’s always a good idea to be prepared when you head off into the backcountry, and these two apps can help the modern-day adventurer be ready for whatever comes their way.

This is a a contributed post.


S.H.O.V.E.L — The Open-Source, All-Purpose Spork

Semi-Horned Oblong Versatile Eating Ladle

From the good folks at SparkFun, best known as an (excellent) online electronics shop, comes the S.H.O.V.E.L, a cool, slightly offbeat eating utensil.

The S.H.O.V.E.L is a sturdy, titanium fork/spoon combo, complete with a serrated cutting edge (that works really well) and bottle opener along with a good amount (six feet) of red paracord wrapped around the handle.

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John Muir Trail

Another Great John Muir Trail Report

On August 9, 2014 hiker Allison Nadler completed a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail.

It took her 15 days, and the trail conditions she encountered were pretty different from what I experienced when I hiked the JMT in 2012.

She’ll be posting her trail journal at Trail to Summit over the next few weeks. She just posted day one yesterday, and it’s a great read. I’m looking forward to the rest!

And while you’re there, check out the rest of her site. It’s full of great tips, recipes, and techniques for backcountry adventuring.



The Exos 58 in Action

On Pack Weight: How to Lighten Your Pack

One of the most surreal moments I had while hiking the JMT came at the very end. As I descended the trail from Mt. Whitney, many hikers were ascending, and many of these wore big, gear-stuffed packs like the Osprey Aether 70. It wasn’t a pack I’d seen too many times on my hike, and these folks wearing it looked like they were really struggling under the weight of such a heavy pack.

Every so often one of these folks and I would start up a little trail chatter. I’d ask what they were doing, and nearly every one answered they were doing an overnight to Mt. Whitney. It seemed like a pretty big pack to carry for an overnight trip.

My pack, on the other hand, which I’d had on my back for upwards of 12 hours a day for the past 13 days, was an Osprey Exos 58. It weighed no more than 30 pounds but carried everything I needed for nearly two weeks of hiking.

The Aether on the right. The Exos on the left.
The Aether on the left. The Exos on the right. Photos via Osprey.

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Taking on the World

Taking on the World

The Next Adventure

As you likely know, I really enjoyed my solo hike of the John Muir Trail in 2012. But even though I enjoyed it, I really missed my family during my two weeks on the trail.

So when I started thinking about my next adventure, I wanted to do something that I could try with the entire family. None of the regular family trips seemed grand enough, though.

After some conversations with my wife, we decided to go big. Real big. Think global proportions big.

That’s right, starting August 19, our family of four will be departing the United States to begin our year-long trip around the world.

And you are hereby invited and encouraged to follow along with us at Taking on the World.

Gibbon Slackline in action

Slacking Off: A Slacklining Story

Amateur Slacklining

On a recent family camping trip, I brought along a Gibbon Slackline I picked up from The Clymb. (Note: if you’re an adventurous type and like good deals on great gear, do yourself a favor and join The Clymb — it’s free).

I set it up between two trees, and over the course of the weekend almost everyone gave slacklining a try … kid and adult alike. Despite numerous strategies and techniques (fast, slow, sideways, tightrope-walker style), no one could really get the hang of it — except one of the kids who has mad skateboarding skills.

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