Roads Rivers and Trails

Dream. Plan. Live.

Tag Archives: Adventure


North West Circuit Track, Stewart Island, New Zealand

Isabel Allende — ‘We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test.’

North West Circuit Track, Stewart Island, New Zealand: Allow 9–11 days to walk the full 125 km circuit. This track is suitable for fit, well equipped and experienced backpackers. Track times are an indication only and extra time should be allowed in adverse conditions.  This is a personal account of the circuit along Stewart Island written primarily on the trek, as done in February 2017. This report includes all personal photos except for the island map and elevation chart.

Two of the 54 treks featured in the Lonely Planet New Zealand Trekking guide are listed as the “difficult” and the North West Circuit on Stewart Island is one of them. The description reads, “Coastal epic around a remote island featuring isolated beaches, sand dunes, birds galore, and miles of mud.” This island is a wild beauty and tested me more than any trek I’ve done before.

This is a hut to hut trek, or “tramp” in the local New Zealander dialect. You can buy a pass for the huts once on Stewart island and they are first come first serve. However, the first and last two huts of the circuit, Port William Hut and Northarm Hut can and should be reserved in advance because they tend to fill up as part of the popular Rakiura loop.

For official information: visit the New Zealand Department of Conservation website including what to pack, what to know before you go and all relevant information:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/southland/places/stewart-island-rakiura/rakiura-national-park/things-to-do/north-west-circuit-stewart-island-rakiura/

nwc

590

The Tramp:

Day 1: Oban to Port William Hut – 13km

We started from town early with full bellies from the beer and salmon dinner the night before. We were there to hike so opted out for taking a taxi to the trailhead 6km down the road. As we strapped on our packs to set out we were greeted with a heavy downpour. Thankfully, our indomitable spirits weren’t dampened by the rain and we enjoyed a wet day of easy mud-free boardwalks to Port William Hut. We arrived just before dinner time, hung up our wet clothes and Shannon and I headed to the ocean for a post hike dip in the frigid water (despite the rain).

day1 dayy1

 

Day 2: Port William Hut to Bungaree Hut – 6km

We woke to sunshine and quickly realized that the boardwalks were gone and the rain from the day before had turned the trail to mud. I was told about the mud but until you trek for nearly a full 6km through it – and not horizontally – mostly vertical with wet roots – it turns your mind clearing jaunt in the wilderness into a fully physical and mental struggle. Though there were no major climbs the constant roller coaster of roots and knee deep mud challenged our bodies just as much as our minds while navigating the maze. The shell shock of what we were up for fully kicked in. Thankfully we were greeted at the end of the day with the beautifully isolated Bungaree Beach where we searched for shells, swam in the cool waters, and enjoyed the warm sunshine.

day2

da2

daayy2

Day 3: Bungaree Hut to Christmas Village – 12km

We rose early with the daylight and packed up prepared for another tough day of roots and mud. We immediately resumed a large climb followed by a series of hills and gullies full of mud. This was the first day that I started to take in the awe of the wonders around me. The landscape was marshy and lush and covered in unfamiliar ferns, spiky grasses, purple thistles, and tiny flowers. As we navigated the steep descent to Murray Beach we were rewarded with golden sand and sunshine which we took advantage of with a long lunch. After another full afternoon of constant up and downs we landed for the night in Christmas Bay at Christmas Village Hut. We found out through another tramper that from this point the trek was to get progressively harder aaaannndd this would be our last opportunity for cell service and a ferry out. There was a lengthy discussion about whether the risk outweighed the reward. Stewart Island had had one of the coldest and wettest summers in 20 years meaning this difficult trek would be more difficult than usual. We opted to sleep in and decide in the morning.

day3 dayyyy3 dayyyy3or4

Day 4: Christmas Village to Yankee River – 12km

We slept in, ate a long breakfast, and enjoyed hot coffee. We called the ferry serviced and found out that they could pick us up at 5:30pm. It was like a switch went off – as soon as we found out we could get out then we didn’t want to. We knew we could do it – we just had to prepare ourselves for the challenge. We loaded up our packs and set out for one of our biggest climbs of the entire trek. A couple dry days meant that the trail was slightly less dangerous as we wound through a stunning rimu forest. We hit Lucky Beach in the early afternoon and pushed to navigate the large boulders before the tides came in and blocked the path. After a quick lunch we hit a shorter climb with some undulated terrain before finding our stride and making it early to Yankee River Hut.

da4 daaaa4

day4

dayyy4

 

Day 5: Yankee River to Long Harry Hut – 9km

Looking forward to a shorter day we started out with a skip in our step as we climbed an undulated 200m to Black Rock Point before a very steep descent on to Smoky Beach. The steep climb and descent took all the power from our legs and just when we thought we had no juice left we were met on the beach by a towering sand dune that sunk 1ft for every 2ft high step. I would best compare it to running up a down-escalator except double it’s height. A true example of how much further you can go when you tap into your reserve tank. We were ready for lunch and a refuel but needed to cross the 2km long soft sand beach before high tide came in. By the time we reached the end of the beach slog we had missed the low tide route and decided to stop and eat. Instantly, sand flies and bumble bees attacked us. We would later find out that they are attracted to the color blue, which Shannon and I were so fashionably donning, but not before Shannon was surrounded by over a half dozen bees and stung on the leg. We raced to a local hunters cabin (that are sparsely located on the island) to doctor up the large sting and finish our snacks before moving on. The high tide route added an extra climb to the day but we hunkered down and moved forward onto Long Harry Hut. When we finally caught view of the hut it gave us the fuel we needed to descend and ascend the steep drop down to the ocean needed to get there. Fortunately, the sun was shining and it gave us a nice afternoon to dry out all of our waterlogged boots and clothing.

daayyy5 day5 dayy5

Day 6: Long Harry Hut to East Ruggedy – 9.5km

We started out slow with the hopes of not losing our “juice” midway through the day like we had the day before. This day would be much like the others and best described by the Lonely Planet guide: “Tough tramping continues as you climb in and out of four more bush-clad gullies and streams, until descending near the north end of Long Harry Beach.” We pushed to get through Long Harry Beach (again) before the tides came up. We barely made it through one section, I found my boots being washed by the incoming tide as I waited my turn to climb the steep rocks ahead. Fortunately after leaving the beach, three days without rain brought us one of our easiest and most pleasurable days on the trek. Graduated climbs, beautiful viewpoints on the northern coast, and kiwis greeted us before descending to East Ruggedy Beach. We had been warned to not cross at high tide and to move fast through the quicksand. I must admit I was excited – I had never experienced quicksand before. The D.O.C. ranger told us days earlier, before we set out, that if we did sink it would only be down to our hips and we would need a friend to pull us out. Thankfully I had two friends and was ready to forge ahead. With my boots tied around my neck and my water shoes on I set out to cross at the mouth of Ruggedy Stream. I kept waiting for my feet to sink but only felt a slight sucking on my feet as I expediently tramped my way through. After a short celebration I set down my pack and headed back towards the stream looking for a soft spot. “I found some,” I exclaimed to Joe and Shannon! As my feet sank I felt so excited to check this off my proverbial bucket list. Joe yelled back, “get out of it.” Not wanting to have to pull me out – he was always the sensible one. Joe washed our feet before putting our boots back on to finish the 45 minute trek to the hut. We ended the day with smiles and a big dinner.

da5

d6

day6

daay5

dayy6

Day 7: East Ruggedy to Big Hellfire Hut – 15km

After a day off to heal our aching muscles, we headed out at dawn with headlights expecting one of our longest and most difficult days of the trip. We made it in record time to the scenic West Ruggedy Beach. We followed the beach before a steep ascent to Ruggedy pass and a steep d

escent into Waituna Bay. After a quick touch and go on the beach we began our gradual ascent to Hellfire Pass. We ended the day after 11 hours of hiking at the top of one of the longest sand dunes in the world at 200m above sea level. The rain hit us on and off all day so we tried our best to light a fire and dry things out but the hut was so cold and the wood was so wet we had to hunker down for our coldest night on the trek. All in all it was a good day.

da7 day7

Day 8: Big Hellfire to Mason Bay Hut – 15km

Since we were looking at another long day we got an early start and were treated to a morning call from a female kiwi. We were looking forward to some lovely ridge walking and beach walking but were deeply disappointed by the near constant mud. It rained all night and most of the day before and wasn’t letting up yet. The mud was deeper and constant. Our boots were instantly wet. As we were coming down from the Ruggedy Mountains we found ourselves descending steep puddle after puddle grasping trees and trekking poles to keep our feet from going out from underneath us (which happened multiple times). We finally arrived at  Little Hellfire Beach. We were immediately pummeled by high winds that tore off our pack covers and swept at our feet. We hurried across the beach as a large storm was looming on the horizon and took shelter under some trees. We decided to grab lunch here and wait out the storm which ended up being pea size hail. According to the map we had a 150m climb over Mason Bay Head and were hopeful that this would be an easy climb. Due to the extreme weather and mud from days of rain this ended up taking nearly twice the time if should have. We were excited to finally make our way to Mason Bay but due to the high tide and the storm the beach was nearly impassable. We attempted to dry out our boots but had to take shelter under my emergency rain cover to keep ourselves dry and warm while we waited out the storm and the tides. Finally, the tide lowered enough for us to begin our 4.5km trek down Mason Bay towards the hut. We were blocked by a steep rocky outcrop and had to add another hour onto our day by taking the high tide route. We were met with more wind, rain, and hail. Finally we left the beach and enjoyed a sunny trek to Mason Bay Hut after a 13 hour day of hiking.

da6

d8 da8 day8 Day 9: Mason Bay to Freshwater – 16km

We slept hard and woke with sore feet in the morning. We grabbed breakfast and were happy to have a nice flat day ahead of us. Some people can do this route in 3 hours. Being sore from the days before we took our time and finished in 5.  The scenery was constantly changing as we made our way across the middle of the island back to where we started. Due to flooding we took the water taxi from Freshwater back to Oban. There was a calm sense of accomplishment and we looked forward to beers, dinner and sweets at the local pub.

da9

day9

Written by Emily White, additional writing and editing by Kayla McKinney and photos by Joe White.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Local Explorers: Tom and Sarah Swallow

by: Brandon Behymer

For most of us riding a bike is a fun, relaxing thing to do. A lot more people these days are choosing to commute by way of two wheels instead of four. Some others have discovered the freedom that their bikes provide to see the faraway places we all dream about. The Swallows’ are a prime example of the ‘some others’.

The couple, native to Cincinnati, operated a bike shop in Loveland for five years before deciding to pursue adventure by bicycle. I first learned of them by stopping in their shop and then again a few years later after reading an article about the owners who closed a profitable business to ride the Trans American Trail.  Their reasoning? “To gain a fresh perspective about what we were doing and what we wanted.” In the summer of 2015 they rode the TAT; a dual sport motorcycle route that spans roughly five thousand miles from North Carolina to the Pacific coast of Oregon. The Swallows are the first known people to complete the route by bicycle.

Though this is their longest ride to date it is definitely not the only extended ride they’ve completed. From crossing the state of Ohio, to riding in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Hawaii, California… You get the point. Most recently Washington and British Columbia piqued their interest and every picture is incredible.

With so much experience already I couldn’t help but ask for some friendly advice for getting started in bikepacking.  “There is so much to bikepacking! First you actually have to ride the route you want to do fully loaded with all of your stuff, but then you have to find a camp spot, filter your water, set up camp, then cook your food! It’s a lot of work in a day so our best advice is to start off with half as many miles as you would normally ride unloaded and enjoy the day. Go swimming or fishing, take pictures, talk to people, and camp early. Don’t be in a rush.”

You may ask someone who has seen so many places from the soft, ever comfortable saddle of a bicycle, where their favorite trip has been so far. Understandably the Swallows couldn’t mention just one. “The Great Basin of Nevada, Northwestern Oklahoma (No Man’s Land), The Manti La Sal Mountains of Utah, The Canadian Rockies, The San Juan Mountains, South Central Washington, and Southwest Virginia”, are among the top picks.

As far as the future goes for this young couple, I can only imagine success and adventure. They’ve proven they can run and manage a profitable bike shop as well as wrangle any unpaved route in the United States. You can check out their website swallowbicycleworks.com to read about all the awesome rides they’ve done.

P.S. @swallowbicycleworks is a pretty killer Instagram account.

Read more of Brandon’s Local Explorer Series here.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Readers Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

zenZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance   Robert Pirsig

This book was published in 1974. Told through the frame of a long motorcycle trip across America, the book explores life and how to best live it.   Perspectives from Eastern and Western philosophy and religion are referenced, highlighted, and explored, and through this exploration, the narrator addresses the pivotal question of how to pursue technology in a way that enriches human life as opposed to degrading it. The motorcycle trip starts in Minneapolis, Minnesota and concludes near San Francisco, CA. The narrator and his son, Chris, are accompanied by a couple, the Sutherlands. As a contrast to the narrator, John and Sylvia Sutherland represent people who are uncomfortable with technology. They feel oppressed by it and use motorcycle trips to escape. At the same time, however, they are dependent on technology. This conflict hints at a larger conflict in society and life. The narrator aims to explore this conflict with technology and get to its root.

In Bozeman, Montana, the Sutherlands decide to turn back and not continue on their journey.  The narrator and his son then decide to embark on a hiking trip in the mountains nearby and a lot is revealed about their complex relationship and about the narrator’s troubled past.  Coincidentally enough, I read this book while on a 3 week road trip out west a few years ago and could not think of a more perfect place to have read it.  Both for getting to actively live and experiment with the ideals of introspection on the road and for the simple fact I love, love, love reading while traveling.  At the end of a long day of driving and sight seeing, nothing is more relaxing then reclining in a hammock at a brand new campsite.  Although this book has been around for decades, I still find a lot of friends who have not read it yet!

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

Iceland: RRT on the Laugavegur Trail

In August of 2016 a group from RRT explored the ring road around Iceland and hiked the Laugavegur from Landmannalaugar to Skogar. Here is a sample of what they saw:

 

Readers Review: The Wild Places

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

0093278_coverimage_168470_wildplaces_jkt_300The Wild Places Robert MacFarlane

Robert Macfarlane is looking for his wild in England, Ireland and Wales, territory that for most of us evokes words like “manicured,” “turf” or, at the very least, “domesticated.” His book about a series of pilgrimages to the moors, islands, lochs, capes and holloways that season the British Isles might seem quaint or even confusing (a holloway?) to those whose notion of wildness demands “rock, altitude and ice,” as he puts it.

Ideas about wildness change. Macfarlane’s original plan — to find and map stashes of untouched wild — isn’t panning out. That “chaste land” in the British Isles doesn’t exist (ah, we were right!), and he comes to believe that the human and the wild cannot be mutually exclusive. He now feels that his “old sense of the wild was to an ideal of tutelary harshness” and geologic past. Meanwhile, down in the gryke he notices some lusty new vegetable life, bristling with “nowness,” existing in a “constant and fecund present.”

The wild, now a quality of organic vigor that lives in his urban beechwood as much as on remote summits, “prefaced us, and it will outlive us,” he writes.  And it hones our faith. For those of us disinclined toward religion — we who find our values, our hereafter, our happiness in the rhythms, the “fizz and riot” of the natural world — Macfarlane’s map, which is this book, is a kindred, bewitching tract. And like the wild it parses, it quietly returns us to ourselves.  This is a book I found on a whim and what a whim it was (try saying that 5 times fast).  I am planning an Iceland/UK/Ireland trip with my partner in 2018 and this served as a great guide for some places off the beaten path to travel and see.

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

Readers Review: Walking with Spring

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

Walking with Spring  Earl V. Shaffer.

For those of you who are unaware, Earl Shaffer was the first person ever to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one go, or “thru-hike.” Before this, even the Appalachian Trail Conservancy thought this was an impossible feat. Not a long book by any means, this great read is only about 150 pages. Walking with Spring is an invaluable resource for those interested in history, geography and the natural world. Shaffer completed his legendary “Lone Expedition” as he called it in the year 1947. The trail was in a state of minor disarray for lack of maintenance during the War years, but he was able to trudge along armed with nothing but a road map and a compass. There were no guide books or trail maps back then so he had to make his way with guessing, word of mouth and trail instinct.

The book reads just as if Earl Shaffer was telling you in person about his hike. Highlighting the ups of trail, but still touching on some of the downsides so you are able to maintain a realistic view of the kind of undertaking hiking the AT is. Scattered in the stories are snippets of his poetic side. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone looking for inspiration to hike the AT or even to just get into backpacking in general. He offers a simplistic, practical view of backpacking that is often lost in today’s world of solar chargers, technical fabrics and cell phone service along most the trail.

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

Readers Review: Shantaram

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

Shantaram Gregory David Roberts

This is actually another novel I read while on a 2 week road trip out to Montana and Wyoming about 4 years ago, did I mention before that the road is a great place to read?  This book is based on the life its author and written while he was serving time in prison.  The slightly fictionalized character based on himself, is an Australian convict who leaves the “down under” and travels to India in hopes of evading authorities.  While in Bombay, he makes a personal connection with a man who acts as a guide for tourists.  In doing so, he eventually finds a semi-permanent home in one of the many city slums after being robbed of all his money.  While living in the slums, he becomes the unofficial slum doctor because of some previous medical training he had undertaken.  After becoming a respected man of his small community, bigger fish begin to take notice and he gets involved with local mafia officials, movie stars, guerrilla freedom fighters in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and has a myriad of adventures.  Although it should be noted that this book is slightly fictitious, it is based on the author’s life during the 60’s and 70’s while on the run from the law in India and other part of Central Asia.  (Spoiler alert: In the end he was caught, but that’s okay, otherwise this book may have never been written!)

How I first heard about this book? A fellow I worked with in college mentioned it one night while we were packing boxes.  Who knew during a night in which I was packing advertisements for cologne into boxes, I’d learn about one of my favorite adventure packed books?  A lesson to be learned both from this book and from that night, keep your head down and sure things will be easy and you don’t have to ever worry about being without routine, but when you look up and your eyes adjust to how bright it really is out, you will surprise yourself with what you are able to find.  This man arrived in India hoping to remain unnoticed and evade police, but in the end he became an important man in his community and was respected both by his many new friends and all the others whom he met or heard his tale.  It’s like my grandpappy always told me, “Life is funny, yo!”

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

Reader’s Review: The Snow Leopard

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

 

The Snow Leopard Peter Matthiessen

 

91gsahsjwslThis is a recount of the author’s trek on foot, deep into the Himalayas to the inner Dolpo region of Nepal.  Which at this time in the early 1970’s had not been completely infected with Western culture.  Matthiessen is invited on an expedition by the preeminent field biologist George Schaller who was going into the mountains to further study a rare breed of Himalayan blue sheep of which not much was known at the time.  Accompanied by Nepalese sherpas and porters, the party makes its way to Shey Gompa over a period of a few weeks filled with dissenting porters, approaching winter weather conditions in a high alpine environment, sometimes challenging hiking conditions, and other obstacles.  In addition to observing the blue sheep, Matthiessen and Schaller also hope to catch a sight of the elusive snow leopard.  Which at the time, there was only believed to be 6 of on the entire Nepal side of the Himalayas.  Along the way, Matthiessen also does much pondering on life and death, grief and loss, as he uses the Zen Buddhist beliefs to recover from the sudden death of his wife the year before from cancer after a long, slightly tumultuous relationship.

This book appealed to me on so many levels, it is definitely a huge favorite of mine.  I learned so much about Zen Buddhism, the geography and native peoples of Nepal, flora and fauna found in the Himalayas, and gained some insight on how someone else dealt with huge loss as he trekked in what were sometimes inhospitable environs in a new land.  It is such a unique blend of travel writing, field notes, and spiritual essay that I have never read a book like it.  I know I have taken some travels after some difficult times and it has been the best way I like to clear my head during periods which require deep thought and fresh means of gaining perspective.  I think perhaps the best foundation of his story is the aspect of the journey.  There are days when he wakes up soaked in near freezing conditions in his tent and they have to wait around a small Nepalese town due to an inability to find porters, but in spite of these he is able to take joy from a long trek he feels he is physically unprepared for by learning about the culture of the world around him, studying the natural environment around him, and maintaining an air of excitement as every mile reveals new sights and sounds and maybe even a glimpse of one of the rarest big cats on planet Earth.  His was a spiritual pilgrimage worth joining.

More of Louie’s suggestions to come.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Desert Solitaire Edward Abbey
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Annie Dillard
  • Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees Roger Deakin
  • The Last Season Eric Blehm
  • The Dharma Bums Jack Kerouac
  • On Desert Trails with Everett Ruess Everett Ruess
  • The Alchemist Paulo Coelho
  • Walden Henry David Thoreau
  • Siddhartha Herman Hesse
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush Eric Newby
  • A Walk Across America Peter Jenkins

Planning the Trip of a Lifetime

By: Mackenzie Griesser

When I was a junior in high school, my dad promised me that when I graduated college he would take me to either Australia or New Zealand. 7 years later, as I’m beginning my final semester of college, I get a text that reads simply: “So which is it going to be: New Zealand or Australia?” I was instantly in tears. And then the reality sunk in: I gotta plan this thing! So, I have spent the past 6 months planning every detail of this trip, from researching trails to hike to figuring out where to buy fuel for my camp stove. I even made up a powerpoint for the itinerary, complete with pictures! In this blog I will discuss my planning strategy, the tools I used, and any issues or concerns I ran into.

capture

An example slide from my itinerary

Of course the first thing we had to do was figure out logistics. When did we want to go? For how long? How are we going to get around while we’re there? What restrictions are there on what I can bring into the country? We decided to leave at the end of September, right after my birthday, and stay for two weeks so we’d have plenty of time to explore. The weather would be perfect- still snow on the Southern Alps! The cheapest flights were in and out of Auckland, so that’s where we decided to begin our journey.

My dad, being the brilliant man that he is, decided to let me plan everything. First I had to figure out what I even wanted to do! I have never left the country, let alone travel to such a pristine and interesting environment as New Zealand. I knew for sure I wanted to see as much of the country as possible, so we decided right off the bat to rent a car and drive around the South Island for the majority of the trip. I also knew that I wanted to do a short backpacking trip on Stewart island, per recommendation of my super cool boss Joe White. The island is off the southern tip of the South Island, so I figured we could end with that and do some sightseeing along the way there. This is where Google Maps came in clutch. I was able to figure out distances between locations and how long it would take to drive from place to place to see if this idea was even feasible (it was). I utilized that,

A handy tool on the Department of Conservation website for finding activities in different regions

along with a National Geographic Adventure Map, to figure out where to stay along the highway that follows the Southern Alps down the west coast of the island. Once I established how many days this would take and what a reasonable driving distance was per day, the rest was actually pretty simple!

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has an AWESOME, super easy to navigate website. This is where I found all of the trails we plan to hike. The website offers lots of great information about where to stay in every region of the country and what to do while you’re there. They even have maps and descriptions for each individual trail, including mileage, approximately how long it takes to hike it, and what you should expect to see. This is also where we found information on campgrounds, AKA “campervan parks”, to stay at and what amenities they have. Using all this information, I was able to build the basic structure of the trip- where to start, where to end, and what to do along the way. The end result of this planning stage was the following: we would fly into Auckland, pick up our rental car, hang out in the city for a day, take a week to travel down to Invercargill (the southernmost large city on the South Island), spend 3 days backpacking on Stewart Island, then return to Auckland via airplane. This plan left us with an extra day, so I let my dad choose what to do that day.

Once we finalized the structure of the trip, we had to work out the logistics. There was a lot of booking to be done! We decided to stay in Airbnb’s 4 nights throughout the trip. We booked those, plus a handful of nights at different campgrounds. We also had to buy tickets for a couple different ferries and reserve sites on Stewart Island. On my itinerary, I highlighted the date (at the top of each slide, one slide per day) in red if there were still logistical details to work out for that day. Once everything was booked and confirmed, I unhighlighted the date and could rest assured knowing all we had to do was show up and do the stuff and everything else was taken care of!

1-passenger-arrival-card-noresize

Passenger Arrival Card for declaring “at risk” items

The only thing left to do was make sure travel to and from the country would be as smooth as possible. New Zealand has a lot of restrictions on what can be brought in. I learned in my research that we have to declare every “risk” item we bring. This includes items such as camping gear, sports equipment, and food. I also heard from a few customers that visited the shop that they will not let items with any amount of dirt on them into the country to prevent the spread of invasive species, so I had to make sure to clean all of my gear before leaving. I also emailed the Ministry for Primary Industries to make sure all the food I planned on bringing was allowed into the country. I’ve heard from a few people that they have odd restrictions on certain ingredients but I was not able to find any information that specific on any official website. Luckily, nothing I plan on bringing (ramen, instant mashed potatoes, trail mix, pasta, etc.) raised any red flags.

The very last thing I had to do was figure out where to keep our extra luggage when we go on our backpacking trip. We are dropping off the rental car prior to taking the ferry to Stewart Island, so we do not have a place to keep the items we don’t need for the trek. I emailed the service we are using for the ferry and they said they have a few small lockers available to rent, but they were unable to provide exact dimensions so there is no way to know for sure if our duffels will fit until we get there. Aside from that detail, everything else is accounted for! Stay tuned to hear how it all turned out!

Back Country Baking in Action: ICELAND

Back Country Baking in Action: ICELAND

By: Olivia Eads

 

 

 

 

During my recent adventure in Iceland, I decided to test out a few techniques in the field! Before we get to the processes and the final products created, here are a few tips that I learned through these experiments:

– make a recipe you know well and has turned out before

– measuring out liquids is difficult without a container that has specific regiments

– don’t have the fuel line attached when you depressurize the stove

– small flat rocks are rare unless near a sedimentary or slate/schistose rock formation

– figure out beforehand how you will clean your hands

 

MONKEY BREAD

Recipe:

basic yeast dough

  • 1 rounded tsp rapid rise yeast
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour

Mix salt and flour together in a plastic bag before going into the back country.

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil**
  • ½ cup warm water

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Mix those two together in a plastic bag prior to adventure.

1/8 cup walnuts

2-3 Tbsp softened butter

Heat water until it is a little more than body temperature, then add sugar. Dissolve sugar then add yeast. Mix dry ingredients along with vegetable oil to the yeast mixtures then allow to proof (double in size.) Once proofed, butter hands and create little balls, cover in cinnamon sugar, throw into cooking pot. Throw the excess butter and cinnamon sugar into the pot along with walnuts. With depressurized fuel, bake ~20 minutes (check at 10 minutes and stir) at low temperature. Enjoy!

 

** I used butter instead of oil for my recipes because it was easier to carry in my pack and already planned on using it for other recipes.**

 

bake1Dough mixed, a little too cold for rapid rising.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake2Heating up water to create a warm environment for the dough to rise. ~2 mm of warm water kept in the pot and the green silicon bowl placed on top then covered to proof.

 

 

 

 

 

bake3Creating dough balls and coating each individually with butter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake4After coated in butter, toss around in cinnamon sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake5Place balls into the pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake6Be prepared for messy hands!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake7Breaking apart the hard chunks of cinnamon sugar. Add the rest of the butter and sugar mix to the balls in the pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake8Add the walnuts to the baking mixture. Allow a few minutes to settle and proof a bit 5-10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake9At a very low temperature, start baking! I fried the dough balls keeping the lid on to allow some circulation of heat. Stirred after 10 minutes and continue baking.

 

 

 

 

bake10Remember: first ‘test’ bites are really hot…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finished product!

bake11bake12

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake13bake14

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where did they all go? Gone!

I messed up on this recipe a bit. Added too much water to the dough and the dough fell apart rather easily because of that. That’s why a measuring utensil would be nice in practice. Also, a bit of aluminum foil wrapped around the pot would have been nice to get more heat circulating around the dough. However, my ceramic pot has plastic handles on the lid/grips. Since those would melt, I decided to fry them at a low heat and it worked out pretty well. It was relatively cold in Iceland. Due to that fact, the butter was never really soft so I had to use body heat to make it soft. Afterwards the butter was very cold and stuck to my hands. It was hard to get off with cold water too. Moving on…

 

 

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

I will not add this recipe into the blog as I was not a fan. Suppose that’s why one should test the recipes before going out into the field. However, for viewing pleasure, here is the steam baking process documented!

bake15Rehydrate the blueberries!

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake16MELT THE BUTTER! Again, I used butter instead of oil for these recipes because it was easier for me to backpack with.

 

 

 

 

 

bake17Melting all nice like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake18Add the butter to the rehydrated blueberries. Also line the pot with flat rocks and add water just below the rocks. Start boiling that while the next few steps take place.

 

 

 

 

 

bake19Adding the dry mixture to the wet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake20Mix, mix, mix, until just combined. *Sorry, I’m not sorry for the proximity of my feet to the muffin batter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake21Fill silicon baking dishes with batter. Once the water is at a boil, put the baking dishes on top of the rocks and cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake22Time to kick back, relax, and wait. These puppies take about 20 minutes to bake.

 

 

 

 

 

Almost dobakle23ne!

 

 

 

 

 

 

bake25

ENJOY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The problems that I ran into with this recipe could have easily been avoided had I made the muffins previous to going on the trail. However, I was lazy and found a recipe with as few ingredients as possible and called it a day… Not sure why I didn’t use my simple muffin recipe I use frequently, but oh well. These guys turned out quite dense because there was too much flour. Also the recipe could have a used a little more sugar and baking powder to get sweeter, fluffier muffins. Overall, both were a great success. Baking is a great addition to the trail for very happy campers!