Roads Rivers and Trails

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Monthly Archives: October 2016


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.

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Aspire Jacket

by: Kayla McKinney

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Aspire Jacket

I first purchased my Outdoor Research Aspire jacket in 2014 and have worn it extensively since. I have taken it on many trips, in a wide variety of conditions, and therefore I feel credible enough to give you my review of the jacket!

*Note: The women’s version of the jacket is the Aspire, and the men’s version is the Foray. This review can be applied to both versions of the jacket. One main difference: the Foray has a zippered chest pocket, whereas the Aspire has a zippered arm pocket. There is also a shell pant version of the Aspire and Foray.

Let’s begin with a quick run down of the facts and features of the jacket:

Feature Facts:

This jacket is primarily meant to be a hard shell, meaning it is highly water, wind and weather proof. You want to use it as your outside layer to protect you from the elements.

Fabric: GORE-TEX® with Paclite® product technology 2L, 100% polyester 50D plain weave

Weight: 13.7oz / 388g (for size medium)

Awesome Features:

Fabric Performance: Waterproof, Breathable, Fully Seam-Taped, Laminated Construction, Windproof.

Design Features: Fully Adjustable Hood, YKK® AquaGuard® Zippers, Internal Front Stormflap, Hem-To-Bicep TorsoFlo™ Venting, Zip Arm Pocket (chest pocket for the Foray), Zip Hand Pockets, Left-Hand Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack, Carabiner Loop.

Functional Details: Double-Separating Center Front Zipper, Pocket Placement Above Harness, Hook/Loop Cuff Closures, Elastic Cuffs, Elastic Drawcord Hem.

Personal Use and Favorite Features:

So yeah those are the facts but let me tell you about my personal experiences with this jacket and why I think it’s a good choice as a versatile, comfortable, completely dependable hardshell:

So protected while trekking across the Fimmvörðuháls pass in Iceland, June 2016

So protected while trekking across the Fimmvörðuháls pass in Iceland, June 2016

I have worn this jacket in every season, and in every type of weather condition. I am a small, light weight female, 5ft 6in, whose primary outdoor interests are backpacking and rock climbing. I tend to be more sensitive to cold, and don’t sweat as much as my peers. This jacket suits me perfectly because it has been reliable in all weather conditions, meaning I did not get wet to my skin when I hiked all day in the rain, nor did I sweat excessively inside the jacket because of the efficient and well placed ventilation zips! The jacket has zippers from the base of the armpit all the way to the end of the jacket, and can be unzipped from the top and/or bottom. Unzipping from the bottom up allows for “poncho-style ventilation” if you need more than just the armpits unzipped. It’s breezy without letting the rain/snow/hail/dirt/whatever come inside. The pockets are placed high enough that you can wear a harness and still have pocket access. The storm hood is highly adjustable and can be cinched on both sides, and the back, with a visor-like cover for comfortable face protection. They were so nice to even put a soft fleece layer near where the jacket rests on your chin. Basically, the jacket is versatile enough to maintain ideal body temperatures in varying conditions.

Protected in foggy weather in the Gosaukamm, Austria, August 2016

Protected in foggy weather in the Gosaukamm, Austria, August 2016

Another awesome aspect is that the jacket folds into it’s own pocket, on the left side, into it’s own zipped up bag with a carabiner loop. It is easy to stuff and can be stored in a pack easily.

Fit and Other Uses:

The jacket is also lightweight and comfortable to wear, and doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a thick trash bag as I’ve experienced with shells in the past.  It can be cinched on the sides for a closer fit, but is also roomy enough that I can fit several layers underneath the jacket as well. I wear it as a lifestyle jacket in the fall and spring as well because it blocks the wind and is fairly warm as a light jacket on its own. I also wear it on evening bike rides, or almost every time I ride my moped to protect me from the wind.

Long-Term Durability:

Olivia and I both rocking the Aspire on the summit of Mt. Marcy, in New York, late November 2015. Purple may be the coolest color version of the jacket, just saying.

Olivia and I both rocking the Aspire on the summit of Mt. Marcy, in New York, late November 2015. Purple may be the coolest color version of the jacket, just saying.

I have almost worn this jacket for two years now, and I have treated it with Durable Water Repellent, DWR, treatment twice. The jacket was initially created to be waterproof, but with excessive use, dirtiness and aging, this coating can fade. As with any waterproof clothing, I recommend treating your jacket after significant use. I have not seen any rips, tears, broken zippers, or any type of warranty related issue. The jacket is still in high quality shape. But if a problem ever did arise, Outdoor Research has an incredible warranty. It is known as the Infinite Guarantee, which insures and protects your gear forever and regardless of the issue. In my opinion, it is the greatest warranty in the outdoor industry and speaks volumes of the integrity of Outdoor Research as a company and gear producer. For more information and exact language of the Infinite Guarantee refer to this link.

Overall, I highly recommend this jacket to anyone in need of a reliable, versatile waterproof, windproof hard shell that they want to last them in many conditions and over many years.

I would share photos of the countless times I’ve worn this jacket in the rain, but I have never wanted to take my camera out for a photo in such conditions, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

For more information on the Aspire jacket, visit the Outdoor Research website page:

 

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
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