Roads Rivers and Trails

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Our Community

By: Ben Shaw

If you would have asked me to describe the outdoors community a few years ago, I would have had no idea how to do that.  I probably would have guessed something along the lines of a rugged lumberjack or described a scene you might find on the front of a Mountain House Meal packet.  The truth is, it’s a much larger group than what most people think.  There are people all over the place, falling into different niches within the greater community.  There are backpackers, climbers, mountaineers, kayakers, day hikers, rafters, bikers, beach bums, and everything else you can think of. Then, even within these activities, you have more of a breakdown. For example, with backpackers you have weekend warriors, ultra-light minimalists, long distance through hikers, and probably a few more I’m forgetting about…

My First Community

What it comes down to is the fact that this is an extremely large but fragmented community.  There are people everywhere doing everything: kayakers hanging out on the river, backpackers clogging the trails, and mountaineers racing to the summit. If you never take the time to meet others on the river, trail, or climb, you find yourself staying around the same little bubble in the community.  Luckily, if you look hard enough you can find the things and places that bring this community of bubbles together.  For example, every time RRT hosts a presentation, or any other event, it brings together all sorts of different niches within the outdoors community and gives one a chance to meet others and possibly learn something about another part of the community or make new friends with similar interests.

Our RRT Community

Another nice thing about the outdoors community is that we tend to be open and outgoing people, ready to talk and visit with others, I can’t tell you how many times this has proven itself on the trail.  People have given me directions, pointed to hidden spots, donated gear and supplies, and so much more (often called “trail magic”).  Every time something along those lines happened it always made me feel a better sense of community with the people I’m sharing the outdoors with.  It also made me want to do the same things for others I came across out there and spread some of the “magic.”

Outside of RRT, I’m a student at the University of Cincinnati and am an active member in the University of Cincinnati Mountaineering Club.  For me, this has been where I’ve learned the bulk of what I know about the outdoor community as a whole, “whole” meaning each separate niche: climbers, hikers, bikers, kayakers, mountaineers, etc.  Each block has its own unique characteristics, but they all have a few things in common, they love the outdoors. They’re usually down to make friends and they always want to brag and teach their skills.  Even UCMC and RRT are a niche within the outdoors community, they’re vessels for people to meet, acquire gear, and learn new skills to get outside.

UCMC Whitewater Rafting Group

This is the unique way our community has developed, an unspoken understanding that if you share a trail, a story, or even just a similar interest, you have mutual respect and a chance for friendship. One of my favorite stories about this kind of experience happened about a year ago. I was hiking down in Red River Gorge with a group of people I didn’t really know. One of the guys who I had just met started telling me about his time on the Ozark Trail and we swapped stories and contacts, then we didn’t see each other for a little while.  A few months later I got back in touch and invited him out to the Wind River Range in Wyoming on a backpacking trip having simply bonded with him once on the trail and enjoying his stories and his company.  He came along with me and some friends and I couldn’t have been happier with it, we all had an amazing time filled with fun, laughter, and adventure.

Aaron and I in Wyoming

As I said above, this community is vast in its size, expansive in its hobbies, and fragmented in its communication but we all share so many common interests.  Everyone in this community appreciates the natural world and many of us strive to protect it so that we, and those after us, can continue to enjoy it.  For the most part we’re looking for others to adventure and share stories with. Above all, we enjoy what we do and can’t imagine spending our time any other way.  So, next time you’re on the trail, attending a presentation, or trading a hiking story with a stranger, think about the community you and the people around you are a part of, strike up a conversation and make a new friend.  You never know what adventure you’ll have or what part of this community you’ll end up in. Enjoy every trip, keep my young words of wisdom in mind and hopefully I’ll see you on the trail!

Sharing Adventures on the Trail with Friends in the Community


Outdoor Communities in the Greater Cincinnati Area

 

Caving: The Greater Cincinnati Grotto

Kayaking and Canoeing: Cincypaddlers & Tri-State Kayakers

Cycling and Mountain Biking: Cincinnati Cycle Club

Local Day Hiking: Cincinnati Parks Foundation

Day Hiking and Backpacking: Tri-State Hiking Club

Volunteering In Beautiful Spaces – Maintaining Perspective

by: Emma Littmann

Though I am often told that I don’t look much older than a high school student, it turns out that I have a few years of post-colligete experience. My first two years after undergrad were spent volunteering through an organization called Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. From August 2015 through June 2016 I lived and served in Ashland, MT, and then spent August 2016 through July 2017 in Juneau, AK. These years, though potentially cliché sounding, changed my life and have given me a new perspective. There was more to these places then the beautiful scenery, there was also pain and suffering deeply rooted with its people. But before I could see more deeply than what was in plain sight, I had to take it in fully.

Arriving in Montana was surreal. We (myself and several volunteers serving throughout Montana and Washington) traveled for 22 hours on a Greyhound bus from Portland, OR across the arid, open country of Eastern Washington and the rugged sections of Western Montana. Dropping off other volunteers in their respective cities along the way, our group was the last to get off the bus in Billings, MT. From there we drove two more hours eastward out into the plains toward what would quickly become our new home in both a physical and spiritual way. The final stretch into Ashland is along Route 212, known locally as The Flats. I sat in the front seat of our community car, a Chevy Suburban, squished in between the driver and one of my new housemates. The driver, a former volunteer and Ashland resident, was telling us about the area, but all I could take in was the sky. It stretched on for miles in every direction, holding the trees against the distant blue, some of them old and some newly growing from the aftermath of a 2012 fire. Our home, settled into a hill was situated facing almost perfectly south. The hills to the east often blocked the sunrise, but were perfect to climb and to spot passing deer. The open plains to the west gave our porch a front row seat to some of the most stunning sunsets, lightning storms and meteor showers I’ve ever seen.

The isolation of Ashland made it special in my eyes. The volunteers didn’t often travel away from home to explore other areas of the state. We could drive almost 100 miles in any direction and not come across a large town. Rather we found a close connection with the people in the town of 400 in which we lived. Many of us served at the same place, St. Labre Indian School, in some capacity. When we weren’t working, we organized Ultimate Frisbee with students and staff. We stayed late on campus, volunteered with the fire department, played in the school band, chaperoned the prom, and coached soccer, cross-country, track, and basketball. Each of us found a personal niche in the community either at the school or at the Heritage Living Center up the road. In the time away from the local community, we rested by spending time on our porch, our roof, and our yard (if I’m being honest, I mostly napped a lot).

It was easy to find the beauty of nature in Ashland. Outside of the sky and the wide plains, the culture of the Northern Cheyenne people created a sacredness and a sense of mystery around the plants and animals that surrounded our home. Suddenly the smell of sage and the sounds of dripping water were more than just sensations, but were a part of me. The horses outside of our yard every morning were familiar not just as animals, but also as individuals. Standing in the pouring rain felt like a cleansing, like coming home. I’ve never felt closer to the core of my being and to my connection with my surroundings than I have in this place. But I know that this is not a continuous experience for everyone living there.

There is more to say about that after an explanation of my time in Juneau.

After one year of Montana living, I decided that I wasn’t finished with the Northwest. After pushing to be placed in Alaska (because it’s ALASKA), I found myself in a new home in the rainforest of Juneau. When our plane from Seattle touched down, it was a typical August day in Southeast Alaska. The silhouettes of the mountains were quickly visible then swallowed up by ever-thicker clouds. What felt like the last ten minutes of our descent were spent shrouded in 2pm darkness. As we were driven home we were told that on a good day we would be able to clearly see the mountains across the channel through our living room windows. The next morning, on a semi-clear and less cloudy day, we were welcomed to that view of what makes living in Southeast Alaska worth it even with occasional months without sun. Cradled in between multiple summits within walking distance of downtown and the Tongass National Forest, Juneau is a place of magic. Even when I could not see it, to know what was there surrounding me just past my line of sight was mystical in its own way. It truly felt as if I were being held by the earth.

With less than fifty miles of road, Juneau boasts its own version of isolation. Many of the people live within three distinct areas and the next twenty or so miles after that are covered by a single road that runs above the shoreline and then dead ends into a beach. Whale tails rise out from the water and you can’t go a day without seeing at least a dozen eagles. These creatures are so present that they too are part of the community. It is also nearly impossible to go into public without seeing someone you know. Though much larger than Ashland, the community here retains a closeness in its own way. Many days ended with fires on the beach just a few miles down the road, or with a walk downtown (and still more naps). A place of warmth even in its sometimes limited 6 hour winter days, Juneau’s ability to blend nature and the city is unparalleled.

Living in a city of 33,000 (with roughly one million visiting during the cruise season) felt much different than living in a town of 400. We had to walk a little further than our own backyard to find the silence and tranquility of what still feels like the wild even so close to a capital city. But wilderness is there in the massive glacier and its blue-ceiling caves, the blue and salmonberry bushes that wind up the mountain paths, and the deep green trees with mists hovering between branches (that remind me a little too much of Middle Earth). Especially mysterious and elusive was the Aurora Borealis that could be seen swirling above the mountains on rare occasions. I’m not sure I’ll be able to say I can watch the Northern Lights from my living room again anytime soon. It is nearly impossible to sit under the aurora or to whistle to an eagle and have it respond (that happened!) and not feel a connection to the earth. The lessons I learned from the Northern Cheyenne stayed with me and I continued to feel a deep sense of oneness with the rocks scattered on the shore, the fleeting Southeast sunlight, and the lone rush of wings of a raven amidst a silent sky.

The physical and spiritual beauty of Ashland and Juneau isn’t difficult to describe. When I discuss my time living in Southeast Alaska and remote Montana, many people immediately mention my luck in living in such beautiful and culturally rich places. Admittedly, when I applied to JVC NW, one of my reasons for wanting to be in Montana in the first place was to explore. I would be lying if I said I wanted to be placed in Alaska purely for the attached service position. However, the past two years have given me a lot more wisdom regarding being a guest in communities such as these. Many people there don’t see their home as a vacation spot or place of relaxation. Rather, it is a complicated mixture of love of the land, of home, and of memories of pain and stress.

As I mentioned before, both of these communities are isolated in their own way. Many people in Ashland have to drive 2 hours to Billings for groceries that do not cost an excessive amount of money. In Juneau, groceries cost more than in the lower 48 regardless because everything has to be brought into the city by barge. When I lived there, I was living simply, but had other finances to fall back on if I ran out of my volunteer stipend. My main concerns were not about food, shelter, or safety. However, many of my students in Juneau at Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School worried about these things daily. It was easy for me to talk about the natural beauty of Juneau when I was miles deep in the forest, far away from the dark corners of the city where many teenagers that I knew and cared for were couch surfing, never finding long-term housing. Further, I imagine that it’s sometimes harder to see the beauty in the long stretches of road crossing Crow country into the Northern Cheyenne reservation when these roads hold the memories of so many deadly accidents.

As a guest in these communities, I straddled a strange line of belonging. I shared in sadness in the passing of life and joy in basketball victories, but those emotions were never fully my own. They were stronger because of my connection to the people who felt them with their whole being, but I could also push those feelings away if I needed to. I could escape to the mountains or the hills and meditate without the guttural feeling of losing a loved one, only eating one meal that day, or being kicked out of home. As a social work student, I remember the importance of self-care. I know that I can’t completely immerse myself in someone else’s story or I will cease to exist as myself. But when living (and especially volunteering) in places like Ashland and Juneau I encourage entering into those stories. For some, Juneau is a one-day stop on a cruise ship, a place to take in the sights and leave as quickly as an effortless inhale and exhale, but to others it is suffocating and inescapable. These places aren’t perfect and it is valuable to remember the experience of those who may be suffering even under a dancing aurora or two miles down the road from my peaceful camp-out on the porch. This is not to say that we can’t enjoy the surrounding beauty, but rather that part of the spiritual beauty of these places lies in the people and communities you can encounter.

The Triple Bottom Line Part 2: Social Sustainability

By: Mackenzie Griesser

The first blog of this series discussed the most obvious factor when determining a company’s sustainability: their environmental awareness.  Another important element that contributes to the triple bottom line of sustainability is social sustainability. This can be defined many ways, but for the purposes of this blog we will define it as a company’s efforts to give back to the communities in which they operate. This can be done several ways. Some companies organize fundraising events and donate the money to local environmental groups while others send volunteers to help with ongoing projects. No matter their level of involvement however, every brand we carry invests in their community in some way. Part two of a three part series on sustainability in the outdoor industry, this blog will highlight some of the social sustainability initiatives that different brands we carry at Roads Rivers and Trails have to offer.

Patagonia definitely takes the cake when it comes to community involvement and outreach. They work closely with several environmental organizations and donate 1% of all profits to nonprofit groups across the globe. Another way they raise funds for these groups is by organizing the Salmon Run, a 5k community “fun run” in Ventura, California. They also created an environmental internship program for their employees, which is one of the best internship programs I’ve ever seen. Not only do they allow the inteexte842rns to work with whatever environmental group they want, they continue to pay and offer benefits for the duration of the internship, which can be up to two months! Patagonia also takes steps to give back to its namesake, Chilean Patagonia, by sending employees at the company’s expense to help create a new National Park from a former sheep and cattle ranch. Volunteers help remove non-native plants and restore grasslands, build trails, and even built a visitors’ center and other necessary infrastructure. When it is finished the park will span 173,000 acres and be a home for over a hundred species of native fauna, including the four-eyed Patagonian frog and the near extinct huemul deer.

While Patagonia’s community outreach and dedication to environmental protection is truly astounding, Arc’Teryx is right behind them in giving back to communities and protecting beloved wilderness areas. However, they differ from Patagonia in that most of their involvement and outreach is through partnerships with other organizations. For example, they partner with the North Shore Mountain Bike Association to help maintain and protect mountain biking trails on Canada’s North Shore. They are also a sponsor of the Trail Builders Academy, which utilizes both on-site and classroom settings to teach proper trail building and maintenance techniques. They are also members of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, which requires a membership fee that directly funds projects that Arc’Teryx employees regularly volunteer time towards, and the Conservation Alliance, which engages businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild plaArcteryx_BirdNestCape_Delivery_Day_1ces. The membership fees for this organization also go towards funding projects that are voted on by members. One project that Arc’Teryx created and organizes itself is the Bird’s Nest Project. Staff members volunteer time to sew discontinued Gore-Tex fabrics into garments for homeless citizens in Vancouver, which are distributed by local police departments and homeless shelters.

Another brand that invests a lot in their community and organizations across the country is Osprey. Like Arc’teryx, many of their social sustainability initiatives are through partnerships with other organizations. They helped Conservation Next organize and execute an event where volunteers spent the day removing invasive species and performing much needed restoration work on trails in Eldorado Canyon State Park. They also act as a sponsor for Telluride by financing renewable power for Lift 12, as well as sponsoring the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival. On their own, they donate $2 of every pro deal sale to non-profit organizations, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Continental Divide Trail Alliance, and donate 5% of profits from their biannual community “Locals Sale” to nearby non-profit organizations. Donations from these two fundraisers totalled around $7,000 in 2009. Financial donations aside, they also allow employees to do 8 hours of volunteer work on their clock, racking up 200 hours of paid volunteer work in 2009 alone.

These three companies definiteindexly do the most when it comes to social sustainability, but all of the brands we carry give back in one way or another. Rab and Prana contribute to multiple service projects, including restoration work at Peak District National Park (UK) and sending aid to natural disaster sites. Big Agnes and Sea to Summit support Leave No Trace, an international organization that teaches outdoor ethics. These two also support several other environment-focused organizations such as the Conservation Alliance, the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and the Outdoor Industry Association.

Some businesses see giving back to nearby communities as a great PR move, but it’s incredibly important to account for how their operations affect local people. Companies benefit from these communities and everything they have to offer, so it is crucial that they invest in them to ensure their longevity. Social sustainability is often overlooked or assumed, but the brands we carry here at RRT do an awesome job of making sure local neighborhoods and the organizations that support them are taken care of. However, they cannot truly be sustainable unless they follow the criteria of the triple bottom line, which includes social as well as environmental and economic sustainability. You can read about our apparel brands’ environmental sustainability here . Stay tuned for the final blog of this series, which will discuss the thrilling world of economic sustainability, coming soon!

Historic Milford Association

There was no other place for RRT to start their story; Milford was to be our home without question. Owners Joe and Emily are Milford residents, Joe being born and raised here. Nature Outfitters, which was our predecessor, had a home here for about 20 years before us. The downtown area is special, hosting unique shops, unique restaurants, and a very unique position as a trail junction. We wanted to have a positive impact on the city and its economic development and also on its image and reputation across the tristate.

The Historic Milford Association is a not-for-profit that helps the small businesses in Historic Milford unite and to showcase themselves. The association fights to protect business owners’ interest with local government and allows for a stronger singular voice as a collective. HMA focuses on marketing the downtown, including several festivals and events every year like Hometown Holidays and the Longstone Street Festival.

Both Emily and Bryan have held several board positions since becoming members in 2010. Emily has taken on a larger role and expanded responsibilities, acting as the Longstone chair for both 2013 and 2014. Today, Emily helps push social media and website content while also being the treasurer for the organization. All of these responsibilities are of course done as an unpaid volunteer to benefit the city in which we operate. In 2016 RRT was officially recognized by the Milford Miami Chamber of Commerce with an award for outstanding achievement with-in the community in “Environment and Education”.

Together with HMA we hope to continue to build the historic area of Milford to be an ever growing and beautiful place to eat, shop, and play. For more information on the Historic Milford Association, please visit the HMA website below. For more information on the “Trail Junction” and Milford as a trail town please read the RRT blog by clicking the link below.

Historic Milford Association

Read “The Best Trail Town” Blog

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Boy Scouts of America

RRT owner Joe White grew up with the Scouts. His father used the Scouting program to teach them character and discipline. Joe would reach the highest ranking of Eagle Scout. With Scouting, Philmont trips, and a 150 acre backyard, Joe was glued to the outdoors. He joined a High Adventure trip to Alaska just after High School, and then landed a summer job guiding trips for the High Adventure Base. For 6 summers, he enjoyed backpacking, canoeing, sea kayaking, and road tripping all over Alaska while leading Scout programs.

We understand how important the Scouts are and we also understand the financial burden of any extracurricular on a family. That is why we immediately implemented a Scout discount. We also immediately started reaching out to local Boy Scout troops and hosting presentations, demonstrations, pack shakedowns, and merit badges. RRT wanted to reach out and assure that the troops had the information and resources they would need.

Joe and Bryan have taught at the University of Scouting since 2012, hosting up to six classes to prepare leaders of all levels. RRT has also had a presence at Peterloon since 2012, teaching through survival games and giveaways. Looking for more ways to help financially, we started two new programs in 2012: the 10+5 Program as well as a boot trade in program.

The 10+5 program offers registered troops an automatic same-day 10% discount, but also creates a troop account to cut back on additional expenses the troop has, there-in cutting back on the additional financial burden on families. RRT takes an additional 5% of all troop purchases and creates a spending account for the troop use. Successful troops have cashed in on new stoves, filters, and tents at no expense to the troop.

Moving forward, RRT hopes to grow the boot program that offers a more affordable footwear option for growing Boy Scouts and an avenue for reselling the used footwear. If you or your troop would like to register for 10+5 or need more information on how RRT can help your troop, please contact us at rrt@roadsriversandtrails.com. For more information on the Boy Scouts, please visit their website:

Boy Scouts of America

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Camping and Education Foundation

The Camping and Education Foundation

The Camping and Education Foundation was one of RRT’s first community partners. The Foundation would hold occasional meetings in RRT’s lounge and have RRT owner Emily sit in for feedback. The relationship grew and so did RRT’s involvement with the Foundation, from silent auction donations to working directly with the kids.

The Foundation started to work with local schools like Gamble Montessori along with attendees of Stepping Stones to provide an educational outdoor experience. This experience would include a canoe trip along the Ohio River provided by The Wilderness Inquiry as well as educational stations at city parks along the way. From 2012 to 2014, RRT store owner Bryan would dedicate a week to volunteering with the students in this program. Bryan would set up tents, show them how to purify water using a pump, cook using a backpacker’s stove, and of course he would bring dehydrated meals and ice cream bars for the kids to try afterward. The lesson often ended with each child taking a swing in the hammock.

This has been one of the most rewarding things that I’ve done through RRT” recalls Bryan. “It is amazing to see their excitement to simply crawl into a tent”. It is this kind of experience that drives RRT. Roads Rivers and Trails looks forward to future activities and events that the Foundation holds and to being a lifelong partner. For more information on the Camping and Education Foundation please visit the link below:

Camping and Education Foundation

Read “From the Beginning” Blog

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Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition

The more we personally visit the Red, the more in love with it we become. This place captivates all of its visitors, both hiker and climber alike. We all enjoy the break from the city, where the skies shine bright with stars, the wind and rain have been allowed to carve the landscape, and the true beauty of nature surrounds you. For the adventure seeker it is often the first place we point out for your next weekend jaunt and for the climber it is where to find world class climbing at all levels. The gorge is unique and breathe-taking. It is also precious, delicate, and sometimes dangerous.

It is important to educate the people who want to enjoy these areas and to work our best to provide safe, reliable, and sustainable solutions to our outdoor recreation. That is why RRT makes a strong effort to support the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition. The Coalition focuses on exactly that. In July of 2018 RRT hosted their first annual in-store fundraiser for the coalition, bringing local craft beer, an awesome raffle from Rab and Black Diamond, and a coalition update all together to raise almost $700 year one!

RRT has been a member of the RRGCC since 2015. We support the coalition with our yearly sponsorship and attendance and promotion of their annual Rocktoberfest fundraiser. Still, we wanted to do more for this organization and broaden our fundraising. That is why that same year we designed and created a series of shirts and stickers that celebrate the Red but also have a portion of proceeds that continually contribute to the RRGCC. If you love the Red like we do, I think you’ll appreciate the design and the mission. You can currently find shirts, trucker hats and stickers at RRT and Quest Outdoors.

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Our fundraising efforts and sponsorship has totaled over $7,000 in contributions so far. If you want to learn more about the RRGCC or their Rocktoberfest festival (which is amazing!) please click the link below:

Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition

Read “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Red River Gorge”

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