Email From the Trail? Tales from Alaska

Do you email from the trail? Tweet about the birds you’ve just heard? Check your iphone or Blackberry while out in nature?

Do you find it unbearable to be disconnected? Or do you happily take a break from technology when you go for a hike?

A few years ago I spent two weeks rafting the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers in the Yukon and Alaska. Once we launched at Dalton Post, we had no contact with the “outside world” except for a couple of brief interactions with other rafters. Continue reading

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Posted in Alaska, Rafting, Technology, Utah, Wildlife, Yukon | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Outdoor Contests: Share Your Photos (or Just Your Name), Win Trips and Gear

Three cool contests that hikers and other outdoors people are sure to like:

The Leave No Trace Trailhead Sign Contest wants your Indian Peaks Wilderness Trailheadphotos of trailhead signs that mention the Leave No Trace program. Post them on the Leave No Trace Facebook page. (And “Like” the page while you’re there.) The winner gets a pair of Keen shoes. The drawing is this Monday, August 16, at noon, Mountain time, so enter now.

The National Park Foundation is running a Passport to the Parks Sweepstakes with Sunset magazine and Merrell shoes. Enter your name to win a National Parks and Federal Recreation Land Annual Pass, a $200 Merrell gift certificate, a subscription to Sunset magazine and more. Enter through September 10, 2010.

Olympus cameras and the National Park Foundation are having a photo contest called Share the Experience. The Grand Prize winning photo will be featured on the 2012 Federal Recreation Lands Pass, and the photographer will get an Olympus camera plus a five-day trip to the Federal Recreation Area of his or her choice. Second prize is not bad either: an Olympus camera plus a three-day trip. There are several more prizes as well. Submit your photos by December 31, 2010. Check out the submitted photos and vote for your favorites, January 16-31, 2011. Those who vote for their favorite photos are also eligible to win a camera.

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Posted in Colorado, Contest, Environmental Impact, Gear, National Parks, Photographs, U.S. Forest Service, Wilderness Area | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Outdoor Contests: Share Your Photos (or Just Your Name), Win Trips and Gear

Free Admission to National Parks

Time to plan a hike!

The National Park Service announced two more free-admission days –August 14 and 15 — at the 146 parks that normally charge an entrance fee (nearly 250 others never charge a fee). Rocky Mountain National Park, my “home” park, which usually charges $20 per automobile for a seven-day pass, is included.Rocky Mountain National Park

In addition, many of the park concessioners will be offering their own deals during the freebie days.

Here’s a state-by-state list of the parks that will be free on August 14-15. The National Park Service also has a nice page where you can search for a park anytime, by name, location, activity or topic.

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Posted in Colorado, Hikes, National Parks | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Free Admission to National Parks

How Do Search and Rescue Dogs Find People?

[This is a reprint of an article I wrote for Smithsonian magazine a few years ago. My all-time favorite freelance assignment. Longer than your average blog post, but that’s what writers did in those days.]

Elbow by elbow, like a tiny Marine, Tasha is crawling across the dirt. Her task is simple: slither under a pickup truck on the driver’s side, crawl out on the passenger side. She’s made it halfway, guided by the enthusiastic calls of her owner, Sue Purvis, who is Smithsonian Magazine coversquatting in the dirt near the passenger door. Underneath the axle, though, the black Labrador puppy pauses, looks around and abandons her mission, scrambling instead toward the tailpipe and out into the sunshine. Purvis quickly hustles her back to the driver’s side, and again gives her the command: “Go through!” Tasha drops to her elbows. Purvis runs around the truck, shouting encouragement. “Come on, Tasha! Let’s go, girl!” This time, Tasha crawls straight across, causing her owner to explode in praise. Thrilled to have made Purvis so happy, Tasha wriggles the entire back half of her body in delight.

Tasha’s teammates soon follow: Jazz, an Australian shepherd; Ranger, a chocolate Lab; and Odie, a mixed breed, each do a flawless truck crawl. Amid hugs, praise, high fives and wagging tails, the dogs and their owners then move on to other events in this doggy Olympics being held just outside Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado. One by one, the dogs politely walk on leash while a human at the other end carries an egg in a spoon. They sit patiently in a beached, rocking canoe while the crazy humans jump in and out. And in a new twist on the wet T-shirt contest, each dog dashes under a large tarp with its owner and, after a flurry of flying canvas and wagging behinds, emerges triumphantly wearing a large, drooly T-shirt that moments earlier had been on the human.

Two dozen onlookers alternately cheer wildly and try to trip up the competition. But Tasha’s team proves unbeatable. They trounce three other teams, sending both the dogs and their human handlers into a frenzy that rivals the excitement of the real Olympics.

The games are just one portion of an entire weekend of canine fun. Tasha is also enjoying hikes through the scrubby Colorado desert, sleeping under the stars and mingling with more than a dozen dogs from around the state. How much more fun can a 9-month-old pup have? What Tasha doesn’t know, though, is that all her activities have been designed with a deadly serious goal in mind. Continue reading

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Posted in Colorado, Dogs, Hikes, National Parks, Safety, Search and Rescue | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

What’s in Your Backpack? The 10 Essentials of Hiking…and a Few More

What should you bring on a hike?

I’ve always heard that there are “ten essentials” of hiking – the items you must bring on a hike to stay safe and warm. That list seems to vary a lot, though, depending on who is doing the listing. So here is what’s usually in my backpack, even on a short day hike :

  1. Water – plenty of it
  2. Food – plenty of it (and I usually manage to eat it all!)
  3. Extra clothing – socks, a fleece jacket and a waterproof shell, a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection and a warm hat. (Yes, I usually bring a winter hat with me, even on summer hikes. Years ago, in the middle of May, I went on a quick overnight camping trip in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area just outside of Boulder. We got snowed on that night, and spent several hours trying to find our way back to our car with no trail, and the snow still coming down. My friend fell in a creek and got drenched up to his thighs. And I wore on my very cold head not a hat, because I hadn’t brought one, but a pair of shorts. Really.) [Read on…especially to the suggested #19 in the comments!]
    Continue reading
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Posted in Colorado, Gear, Hikes, Safety, Wilderness Area | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Fiery Furnace Hike in Arches National Park

Hiking in Utah

Hello, Utah!

The Annual Girls’ Adventure Tour took us to Moab, Utah, this year. My sister Lisa and I had camped in the area a very long time ago, at Dead Horse Point State Park, but she hadn’t been back since then. And her two kids, my nieces Katie and Susie, had never been to the desert.

On our second day in Utah, we hiked in the Fiery Furnace area of Arches National Park. While researching the hike before our trip, I found out that visitors are strongly advised to go with a guide, as there is no trail and it’s very easy to get lost among the very high maze-like sandstone walls. Continue reading

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Posted in Hikes, Kids, National Parks, Safety, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Welcome to! is here to help you and the kids in your life to get outdoors and have fun hiking, while also learning about minimizing your impact on the environment — in short, how to have fun, stay safe and tread lightly!

Here in Colorado, we spend a lot of time outdoors. We hike, we ski, we mountainbike. If you grew up doing those activities, you probably have a good idea of what you are are doing — you don’t pick any flowers, you bring lots of extra water, you know you should be “off the summit” by noon, and so on. But if you are new to hiking (and I’m talking adults as well as kids), those guidelines might seem a little, well, crazy. After all, there are thousands of flowers out in that pretty field! What difference does it make if I take a few home? And what’s wrong with taking a late afternoon hike when those dark clouds are rolling in? Continue reading

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Posted in Colorado, Environmental Impact, Everything Else, Good Hiker Certificate, Hikes, Kids, Safety, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments