Posts Tagged With: outdoors

Cornholio Goes Hiking in Desiccated Colorado

If I can impart any wisdom at all to those of you out there dragging children around the earth let this be the one bit you remember:

When visiting Silverton, Colorado and getting yourself an icy cold mocha latte at the fabulous Avalanche Coffee House to chemically bolster your afternoon spirits (because it isn’t quite happy hour), do not let your cherub-faced monster-in-disguise commandeer that drink for any length of time.  You will end up with this on your hands:

Addy?

and you will still have that on your hands at 11 pm, ricocheting off of the interior of your (insert camping dwelling of choice).

Fire, FIRE!

Hey, guess what?  After having done some expert field studies the past two weekends at high elevations where moose and elk are supposed to be frolicking in lush greenness, I have a highly scientific report to make:  If Colorado doesn’t get a shitload of rain soon, the first thunderstorm that rolls through is going to burn the whole state down.  So don’t delay visiting if you want to see the pretty trees.  Anyone remember 2002?  Rodeo-Chedeski, Missionary Ridge, Valley, Hayman?  Mother Nature is throwing a bitchin’ 10-year anniversary party with 120,000 acres burned already.  The governor has gone so far as to implement a state-wide fire ban.

Standing our ground in 2002, the Long Mesa Fire – Charlie Peterson’s photo

While there is currently no nuclear plume out the window (never mind, I am told there is now a mushroom cloud care of the Little Sand fire) here in the SW corner of the state, the only thing missing is an ignition.

so much for no fire

With the humidity bottoming out consistently around 5% and dry hot winds blowing, it is shocking that no one has accidentally lit the place up.  The last time it rained at our house was April 26th; we got a whoppin’ .02″ which followed .07″ April 19th.  The last ‘significant’ rainfall we got was April 15th when we got .23″.  April was a big month…we were the happy recipients of a third of an inch altogether.  2.79″ on the year.  Prime up your sump pumps, people.

the 2002 Long Mesa Fire at Mesa Verde gets after it

Those of us that were living here in 2002 are having flashbacks because it looked just like it does outside today, except that I had two fewer children, was working fire 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, and somehow was still way less tired.  My brother came to visit in 2002, the hottest, driest June in decades and it was miserable – it never got below 90 degrees during the day and even Telluride was unbearable because it was 85 there and none of the shops had air conditioning.  He and his friend had flown into Phoenix and rented a convertible because they were cheaper even than the Ford Fiestas on the lot.  About 10 seconds into the 110-degree Phoenix heat they quickly realized why.   He has been reluctant to repeat the trip ever since.

Hurry up and go stare at the wildflowers…they’re a month early

So, anxious to put the desiccation problem out of sight, out of mind, we headed up to Silverton and the South Mineral campground for the weekend.  We decided Friday morning on this plan and then maniacally starting throwing crap into the back of the pickup.  It reminded me why I love backpacking; every time we car camp it looks like we’re never coming back home.

what it basically looks like when we go car camping

For all the STUFF we managed to bring, in our haste to get out the door we forgot to pack the camera, two pillows and two sleeping bags.  For a family that owns 8 sleeping bags that was mildly humorous.  Kind of.  Luckily the tenement on wheels had two big thick comforters in it so no one froze to death.  I don’t want to talk about the camera part.

the Silverton Gun Fight – loud bangs are seriously annoying

We spent Friday evening in Silverton, Addy chugging a double shot of espresso, me hating the gun fight thing (you’d think I had some serious PTSD issues…I about shit my pants every time they shot their guns which was approximately 1,000 times).  Ugh.  Get me out of there.  We saw the train off, filled the kids full of ice cream (because who doesn’t love the science experiment of ice cream and espresso in a 3 year old?) and then went to visit the cool mining and historical museum.  There was something quite satisfying about putting the children in the old jail that is there. They’ve only called once; I choose to believe it’s because they’re settling in nicely and not because that was their one and only phone call.

WAY better than a naughty bench though not terribly soundproof

Todd with his ole ball ‘n chain

We hiked up the Ice Lake Basin trail on Saturday, soaking up the cloud cover that threatened to mist the area.  Alas, though it snowed on us a bit, little if anything made it all the way to the ground.  The wildflowers appear to be peaking about a month early and are pretty thin.  The ground at 11,500′ is NOT supposed to crunch when you walk on it.  Just sayin’.

my favorite flower, the green gentian as taken by Maisy’s iTouch

We didn’t make it all the way to the upper lake this time but this is what it looks like:  Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Ice Ice (Lake) Baby

In the evening I talked the family into bouncing down the Rico-Silverton trailhead road to an old mine so that I could bang on some rocks.  I know nothing about rock-hounding, had no idea what I was looking for or what I was doing.  Todd loves my ignorance-driven projects.  But after a while I started seeing rocks that were different from the rest, whacked them with the butt end of my axe and lo and behold, found some fun stuff, crystals and gold and silver flakes.  Maisy got into the act and seemed to like slugging rocks as much as I did.  Hey, what kid doesn’t love a good treasure hunt?

pretty treasures

little sparkly chunks of gold!

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Categories: Camping with Kids, Hiking, Hiking with Kids, Trip Reports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Xanax, 2 Eviscerated Mice and A Picnic at 12,000′

Our house went on the market this week and with that came the reality of the maddening effort it will take to leave the house every day looking like no one actually lives in it.  And hey, a 3 and an 8 year old can fully absorb the situation and will pitch in in an effort to keep me from going insane, right?  Someone please just shoot me now.

It was a week where our kittens had a coming of age ceremony whereby we were each presented with our own maimed but very much alive field mouse, a week of juggling two kids casting about in the black hole between when school ends and summer programs begin, a week where I planted 20 of what are likely going to be someone else’s tomatoes and a week that was so stressful that a friend took one look at me and very seriously offered up her Xanax.  Stress and I are unfamiliar bedfellows; I wear it poorly.

However, with this totally crap week in the rear-view mirror and a perfect Colorado day on tap (although we’re starting to redefine perfect around here with the need for rain becoming quite pronounced), oh, and having to be out of my house between 9:30 and 11am so that it could be shown, I figured what better way to waste away a Saturday than to take the girls and go on a nice relaxing picnic.

still snow, but it’s sublimating quickly

Yeahhh…picnics…the only problem is that parks are not my scene.  Pushing my kid on a swing is fun for about 8 seconds.  In 92 degree heat maybe 2 seconds.  Sue me.  Instead we stuffed the pack full of junk food and down jackets, vacuumed the rug AGAIN and ran screaming out the door with 5 minutes to spare.  We threw the neglected dog in the truck and pointed it east towards Sharkstooth Pass, another one of those benign local favorites that gets you big giggles for your buck if you can find your way to the trailhead.

examining every bug, rock and molecule of dirt takes time

The most entertaining part of the day was negotiating the blind curves on the forest road heading up to Sharkstooth.  Each one came factory-installed with mouth-breathing, helmet-less idiots doing 50mph on the wrong side of the road on their ATVs.  Listen, I’m driving a Tundra.  I’m probably not going to FEEL you under my tires if your normally cat-like reflexes are dulled by your day-after Schlitz headache and the grace of the divine timing intervention that has kept you alive to this point fails.  I’ll just think it’s another bumpy washboard moment and continue on to my picnic.  And yet still you test that fate, large, soft-headed person coming around every corner through blinding, choking dust on your little machine.  Luckily for you, today was your day.  On two occasions I did the math and with 3-4 seconds of head-start, if I had not let Addy buckle her own belt and been on that road 3 seconds earlier, I would probably be cleaning your teeth out of my radiator and be up to my eyeballs in aggravating paperwork right now.

look, they’re not fighting

Anyhoo…

Having avoided vehicular homicide as something to cross off of my bucket list, we finally got to the last turn to the trailhead, a punishing mile and a half of  ‘road’ that you really only want to attack with a high clearance vehicle or a rental car.  Once upon a time I took my Matrix up there when it still had new car sticker residue on the window.  And it made it just fine, thank you.  I only lost one plastic piece but the nice person behind me stopped and picked it up and handed it to me at the trailhead.  Hey, I had to test the mettle of the thing.  Todd considers it a defining moment of what he was going to have to deal with till death do us part.

big air in the shadow of mighty Hesperus

It’s a measly 2 miles from the trailhead to the pass.  Getting to the trailhead is far more trying than the hike.  Even with a 3 year old.  The girls were in a good mood other than having to walk up a hill instead of being pushed on a swing.   Maisy hikes like an adult.  Her legs are already longer than mine (not a huge feat, so are the legs of most 8 year olds).  Addy hikes like a 3 year old.  She likes to really examine things.  She likes to wax poetic about the efforts of going uphill.  They both REALLY wanted to know where the lunch spot was going to be and if we were getting closer.  The answer is always yes, we’re getting closer.  It’s noncommittal.

taunting the dog is a marmot olympic sport

27 animal, fairy and dinosaur stories and a social marmot later we came to the pass where the wind was blowing at about 30mph.  We ducked into the lee side, covered ourselves in down and kicked back to enjoy the view.  A nice couple came to the top  a bit later and marveled that there was a 3 year old there.  The girls and I just looked at each other and laughed.  Please, sister.  This ain’t nothin’.  This is a walk to a picnic, not a hike.  She asked Addy ‘How did you get up here young lady?’ Addy smiled and looked at me.  I told the nice lady that a helicopter had dropped us off and would be back to pick us up momentarily.  Right on cue a helicopter (that we hadn’t seen yet in the day) came roaring up from the south.  I just smiled, pointed and said ‘see, there they are now’.  I think they walked away believing we were using a helicopter to get around the San Juans.

a raven fighting a dragon, according to Maisy. See it?

We lingered longer than usual with, luxuriously, nothing to rush off to and soaked up the sun as the kids licked every molecule of food out of the baggies.  For some reason they continued to choose to not spend the time efficiently trying to kill each other.  We grudgingly ducked back into the wind and started down after about an hour of being lazy.  Gravity is the friend of all children hikers and I gleefully hiked full-stride to keep up.  The only price to pay was making train noises all the way down the hill (as demanded by Addy).  Being last I had to invent the noise that a caboose makes.  Use your imagination.

sister snuggles at 12,000. still not trying to kill each other. maybe the lack of oxygen is a good thing

That’s all she wrote.  No burned limbs, no screeching hissy fits, just a beautiful day in the mountains.  Todd’s foot is about healed up enough where we might get out for a backpacking trip next weekend and create more Scarred for Life family memories.

look they’re TOUCHING each other and not crying

Categories: Hiking, Hiking with Kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gear Review: the Six Moon Design Lunar Duo

Here we go with tent #3, the Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo.  When I read on Brett’s Blog that four grown men were able to sit in this tent playing cards while riding out a rain storm on the Wonderland Trail I had to see it in person.   Especially since it comes in at under three pounds (41 oz without stakes or poles).  It does require 4-6 stakes so add another couple of ounces if you’re counting.  Another 4 oz if you’re not using hiking poles and want to buy the optional carbon fiber poles.

This tent is able to deliver massive interior space by using only two small spacer poles curving at the roof and relying on two hiking poles (or optionally two carbon fiber poles that can be purchased separately for those that don’t hike with poles) to be the bones of the tent.

Similar to the Double Rainbow this is a single-walled tent meaning that the mesh sides are sewn directly into the silicon-nylon roof.  It has a bathtub floor, gets staked out at the corners and by adjusting the height of the trekking poles you can create tension where you need it instead of with your tent-mate since there is enough room for the whole family.  You will likely want to add a few guy lines to this set-up; there are two guy points from which you can add some stability.

While the Lunar Duo doesn’t have a porch option like the Double Rainbow, it does have vestibules on each side large enough for gear.  I would be curious to know how this sheds water and wind with its surface area being so large, but it is the same surface area that creates such a huge and comfortable interior so I guess there are tradeoffs.  With good staking there is no reason to doubt that this tent can hold up to quite a bit of abuse.  Again, a great comparison review has been done of this tent and two others here.  All in all this seems like a fantastic option for claustrophobic backpackers who want to make everyone around them envious of their living space.

Cost: (as of May 18th, 2012) the Tent is $310, optional carbon fiber poles are $30 each, optional seam sealing is $30, a Tyvek ground cloth is $12, and a set of 6 stakes is $10.50

Preliminary Pros

Massive.  No complaints about the size of this tent.  It is the largest of the three reviewed.

Easy to set up once you get the hang of it.

The zippers are the sturdiest (#5s) of any of the three tents.

Made in the USA

Preliminary Cons

Unless you have good firm dirt to plant your stakes in, keeping it tensioned might be a problem.  I guess that’s where rocks come in.

Relies on hiking poles or extra carbon fiber poles which add to the weight by about 4 oz.

Click HERE for my review of the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2

Click HERE for my review of the Tarp Tent Double Rainbow

Categories: Backpacking, Backpacking with Kids, Gear | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gear Review: the Tarptent Double Rainbow

I found this tent via Brettonstuff.com (a great site for ultralight backpacking tips and trip reports from the NW) who mentioned the Lunar Duo in a Wonderland Trail trip report (my review of the Lunar Duo).  His mention of the Lunar Duo led me to THIS website which does a way better job of reviewing the Lunar Duo and Double Rainbow than I will here.  Why reinvent the wheel?  I’ll just add my 2 cents.

Tarptent has been lightening the loads of backpackers since 1999 and they are still a cottage industry gear supplier; all tents are made in Seattle.  The Double Rainbow is their mid-sized two person tent and, in my humble opinion, brilliantly designed.  It has one pole that runs lengthwise in an arc, through a sleeve.

With the four corners staked out it is just about set up.  Two vestibules on either side have the options of being simply tied up for maximum air flow on beautiful days, staked out for vestibule area, or set up with hiking poles into a porch option.  Two doors make getting in and out easy and the interior feels positively palatial compared to the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 (my review is here).  6’2″ Todd was much happier in this tent; plenty of extra length in it.

The floor is a rectangle instead of the tapered design of the Big Agnes.  Here is a shot of the Big Agnes footprint laid on top of the Double Rainbow floor for comparison.  While it doesn’t look like a big difference, those 4-6 extra inches in width at the foot SEEM like a lot.  Maybe it’s the mammoth head room that helps complete the feeling of grandeur.

We ordered the extra liner – not sure how it will work once we’re camping in condensation-making parts of the country but it’s a 4 oz piece of nylon that clips into the corners and along the ridge to form a second wall in a single wall tent.  It adds warmth in the winter and I can attest to it cutting down on the heat from direct sun as when I was setting this thing up it felt like it was probably 150 degrees out.  I’m sure it was more like 78 but my comfort zone is pretty small.  Ask Todd, I do a lot of bitching.  Anyway, once the liner was clipped in it was noticeably cooler in the tent. The liner is decidedly hard to illustrate with a picture but here is a shot of part of it:

The two vestibules and doors are a slam dunk for me.  Camping with kids means they’re ALWAYS moving, having to pee in the middle of the night, spreading their stuff everywhere.  With their own side to get in and out of and a patch of vestibule to keep their stinky socks and shoes so they’re not right in MY face…perfect.  Here is a shot of the profile, vestibule staked on the left, porch out on the right:

And this porch option, how cool is that?  Allows for great airflow, lets you open up the view in a light drizzle…if you’re hiking with trekking poles this is an easy sell.  If not you can certainly guy the porch out with a couple of sticks.  A triangular piece of fabric attaches the two vestibule triangles with velcro to create the porch.  You’ll need a couple of extra guy lines to stake it out from the hiking sticks.

One last cool thing they’ve done is allow you to use your hiking poles in order to make this a free-standing tent.  It should be noted that not all hiking poles will be long enough (my superlight Leki Makalu’s were a few inches too short).  I remedied this by taking the pole repair sleeve from another tent and putting it on the tip of the hiking pole to extend it to the required length.  It didn’t make for the strongest option but would work in a pinch.  With proper length poles, which we had a set of in the garage, it was sturdier.  It isn’t as good an option as staking the tent out but it is there when you need it, if you have hiking sticks.  Options are good.

All in all I think that this tent will prove to be my favorite.  It feels solid when set up, doesn’t require hiking poles, has great doors and vestibule room and is enormous on the inside compared to the Big Agnes.

Tent Specs:

Tent body, pole and 6 Easton stakes: 41 oz or 2 lbs 9 oz

Clip in liner: 4 oz

2 extra stakes: 1 oz

2 extra guy lines: 1 oz

total weight that we will be carrying: 2 lbs 15.8 oz

Cost: (as of May 18th, 2012) Tent is $275, the Liner is $30, they’ll seam-seal it for you for $30, you can buy a Tyvek ground sheet for $12

Preliminary Pros

Roomy.  Long.  Vestibules. Porch.  Etc.  It rules.

Super easy to set up

Made in the USA

Preliminary Cons

Hmm…

I’ll work on thinking of one.  I guess we’ll see how it does when we get into humidity, but I’m hoping the liner will help with that.

OO, I thought of one.  It’s slippery as a greased-up pig.  Getting it back into the stuff-sack was the hardest part of this experiment!  I can live with that.

Click HERE for my review of the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2

Click HERE for my review of the Six Moon Design Lunar Duo

Categories: Backpacking, Backpacking with Kids, Gear | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gear Review: the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 tent

In our efforts to significantly reduce pack weights we have been systematically sending bricks of cash to various gear-makers in exchange for shaving pounds off of our current stash.  Choosing two tents for the four of us has been an interesting hunt and revealed that a lot has changed in the tent universe since I last cared about how much one weighed.

The Walrus Swift that I used in ’97 was a great little tent, but from what I remember that little bitty 1- person tent weighed 3 1/2 pounds.  This time around the goal was to get two 2-person tents under 3lbs each.  Here is the first of 3 preliminary reviews (read: we haven’t started beating the crap out of these things yet) of tents that are in house and under consideration:

The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2

This is the only one of the three tents that is a traditional double-walled tent, meaning it has the standard mesh/floor body and a separate fly.  It weighs in at 2lbs 10oz with 10 stakes and guys.  The ground sheet adds another 4oz (and $40) so we’ll put the total at 2lbs 14.8oz.  They list the minimum weight as 2lbs 2oz but honestly, I have no idea how on earth they’re cutting out 8oz.  It has one hubbed pole that, when connected, is in a Y-shape;  this shape allows for a ‘freestanding’, if not totally ideal, option.  Yes, it will stand up by itself without stakes but two stakes are necessary in the foot of the tent to make it liveable.  Here is what it looks like in freestanding mode; you can see how the hiney end needs a little stake help.

The fly attaches to the corners with buckle clips and to the tent body itself so that when the sides are guyed out, the tent is also pulled taught.  Good design.  The vestibule is just barely big enough for one pack and maybe a couple pairs of boots but don’t plan to set your lawn chair up in it.  I’m not sure that you could successfully get two packs in it either but then putting two adults in this tent would be equally tight.  Our plan for this tent was for Addy and I to use it.  Addy is 3 years old and I am 5’6″ which leaves enough room INSIDE the tent for my pack.  Todd (6’2″) found the tent too short; technically he fit in it but his feet were brushing the end of the tent uncomfortably.  Here are 2 78″ long pads to give you an idea of the interior size:

Yes, we have gotten our money’s worth out of that old z-rest.  The other thing to consider, if you are thinking about using this tent for 2 people, is that it only has one door and whatever is in the vestibule will be between you and the exit.  If it’s raining and you have wet nasty gear the vestibule, this will be a pain in the ass.

When you buy the ground cloth you have the additional option of ditching the tent body and just using the fly.  This could be a good lightweight option where bugs or sideways rain are not a concern.  Here is a shot of the pole/footprint set-up before the fly is on and then the view from inside once the fly is up:

All in all this seems like a good little tent and may just work for wee Addy and I.  Because it is lightweight I am sure that durability, both in materials and zippers, is not that of your standard issue canvas hunting tent and only time will tell how it stands up to the abuse of family chaos.

Tent specs (using my scale):

Tent body 14.5oz

Tent fly  11.8oz

Stakes (10 titanium with stuff sack)  and pole repair sleeve 4.6oz

Pole  10.7oz

Footprint 5.4oz

Total weight whole tent (with all stakes)  2lb 14.8oz

Total weight fly-footprint option (5 stakes)  24.5oz or 1lb 8.5oz

Cost: (as of May 18th, 2012) Retails for $369 but saw it recently at REI for $269 on sale.  You can find the footprint for $40 out there.

Preliminary Pros:

Traditional 2-wall design may mean less condensation should we actually go somewhere where things condense.

Sturdy design with the most pole of all three choices.

The tent-body-free option could be great in bug-free, nicer-than-miserable weather situations.

Preliminary Cons:

Least amount of interior space of all three tents.  Two good-sized adults will be tight.

Small vestibule

Only one door

The zippers seem awfully dainty.  I guess we’ll see how they hold up.  This tent will probably not be allowed in Utah where Sand Destroys Everything.

Not made in the US as the other two are

**We’ll report back after seeing what this tent can handle under the tender, gentle care of a 3 year old.

Click HERE for the review of the Tarp Tent Double Rainbow Review

Click HERE for the review of the Six Moon Design Lunar Duo Review

Categories: Backpacking, Backpacking with Kids, Gear | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bringing Crazy Back to the Backcountry

While Travelblog is a wonderful home for our international travels we needed a new place for the next chapter of Crazy we think we’re entering into. We noticed last fall that our 3-year-old was suddenly willing and able to hike 5 miles. Somewhere in there we talked about doing the John Muir Trail some day and that quickly became a desperate need to get back into our backpacks ASAP. The Wonderland Trail jumped out as something that maybe, with a lot of medication and deep breathing, we might be able to bribe the kids around. I mean really, it’s only 93 miles.

We dove head-first into our 1200 square foot gear emporium and started digging out the old backpacking gear which, since our 8-year-old was born, has largely become a spider-infested compost pile.  She and I had been out on two overnight trips in the past two summers which were awesome reminders of What I Love and led to tiny discoveries about backpacking with a child. It was also a reminder that my gear is old, smelly, and in the case of my beloved ancient Whisperlite, a bomb waiting to go off.

This blog will be dedicated to the tales of taking our kids Out There, not only on family backpacking death-marches but also documenting the rafting and hiking that we have done with them for years and what we have learned from those experiences.  There will be gratuitous jumping pictures.  Who knows, maybe Someone out there will find it marginally useful or inspiring as they too decide their once-mobile and adventurous lives don’t have to be re-explored only when the kids bounce off to college.  More likely, if I’m writing it honestly, it may serve as a dire warning to just stay home and vacuum.

We are not uber-adventurers, just semi-rad parents that don’t feel like retiring the idea of doing what WE love to do because we happen to have kids that (occasionally) don’t always have the same Idea for their weekends.  We’ll admit our failures, carry on about our successes, put in disclaimers when there was lots of crying and yelling, and review gear that sucks or doesn’t suck.

And it will evolve from there.

Categories: Backpacking with Kids, Other Drivel, Rafting with Kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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