Thursday, May 28, 2015

Throwback Thursday

In order to reach their traditional hunting grounds on the Great Plains, the Arapaho and Ute Indians traveled across Rocky Mountain National Park using east-west routes such as Trail Ridge, Forest Canyon, Fall River and Flattop Mountain. To the Arapaho Indians, the Flattop Mountain corridor was known as “The Big Trail”. A modern pathway was formally constructed in 1925, was rehabilitated by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940, and is now currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Flattop Mountain Trail is considered to be one of the most popular day hikes in the national park.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Climbing Longs Peak

It dominates the horizon in northern Colorado. It's been photographed by Ansel Adams, has been featured on the Colorado state quarter, and is the most-climbed fourteener in Colorado. At 14,259 feet Longs Peak is also the highest point in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is the only mountain in the park to exceed 14,000 feet.

I once "attempted" to summit Longs Peak. I got about two hundred yards or so above The Keyhole and discovered that I really wasn't a mountaineer. I thought the sheer drop-offs from the trail along that narrow stretch were downright frightening. Although many people summit the mountain each summer, many others are satisfied just to reach The Keyhole. Although a very tough day hike, the views are quite spectacular along the way, as well as from The Keyhole itself. Moreover, hikers don't have to worry about falling off the mountain to get there!

In the video below the editors of Backpacker Magazine take viewers on a vicarious climb to the top of Longs Peak. You be the judge - would you do this?


Monday, May 25, 2015

Gear Review: The New Dare 2B Stalwart Jacket

This morning I finally had the opportunity to test the Stalwart Jacket, a new line of outdoor apparel from Dare 2B, an outdoor clothing company out of the United Kingdom. In addition to cycling, running and snow sports, the clothing company also focuses on apparel for hikers.

And, just in time for the spring and summer season, Dare 2B has launched a new line of active wear which now includes its new Body Seamless technology, which is designed to reduce friction in critical areas during active sports, while ensuring that you'll have maximum comfort at all times and at all levels of activity. As part of this new line is the brand new Stalwart Jacket.

Dare 2B touts the jacket as "the ultimate fast and light defense from the elements". This 4-way stretch shell is waterproof, breathable and is super lightweight. The jacket features taped seams, has a full front zip and underarm zips for ventilation, an adjustable shockcord hem system, multiple pockets, adjustable cuffs, a shaped hood with a technical wired peak to keep the rain out, and has a roll away hood function.

So after hanging in my closet for a couple of weeks, I finally had the opportunity to give the jacket a real live field test this morning. I was waiting for the opportunity to take a walk in the rain to see if the jacket lived up to its billing. Overall I was very pleased.

During my somewhat brisk half-hour walk around the neighborhood in a steady rain, the jacket kept me completely dry. Moreover, at 65 degrees, I worried that I was going to overheat inside the jacket. To my surprise this didn't happen. In fact, I felt completely comfortable during the entire circuit. This surprised me because the jacket is thicker than a standard shell, and even has a light lining. Now, if I had to climb some substantial elevation in these same conditions, the result might be a little different. That, however, remains to be seen.

I also thought that the wired peak feature on the hood was a plus, acting similarly to that of a baseball cap.

My only real complaint with the Stalwart Jacket is with the design of the hood. When turning my head from side to side, the hood wouldn't move. To remedy this I had to pull the hood with my hand in order to see on either side of me.

Americans will also have to get used to the zipper being switched to the opposite side. Maybe its because I'm left-handed, but it takes a little practice to get used to the English/European version. Potential customers should also note that the Stalwart Jacket is cut a little more slimmer than their American cousins.

All in all I thought this was a great jacket, and look forward to using it in the mountains when the weather turns sour.

Grand Teton Hikes

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Celebrate National Trails Day 2015 at Shenandoah National Park

Celebrate American Hiking Society's National Trails Day® in Shenandoah National Park on Saturday, June 6, 2015. In partnership with Shenandoah National Park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) invites new hikers and experienced backpackers to learn new trail skills at PATC Trail Patrol's "Beyond the Trailhead" event at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51 on Skyline Drive) from 9:15 am to 3:30 pm. Come join guided hikes and hands-on demonstrations throughout the day.

With over 500 miles of trails, Shenandoah is a paradise for hikers. There are trails for every goal, from a stroll on the Limberlost Trail to an excursion on the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy the rewards and challenges of hiking to mountain summits and cascading waterfalls, while reconnecting with family, friends and yourself.

The National Trails Day® event is designed to give novice hikers the information they need to leave their cars behind and venture beyond the trailhead to enjoy Shenandoah National Park's numerous hiking trails. Experienced hikers can discuss new ideas with PATC members at displays on Leave No Trace outdoor ethics and wilderness first aid techniques. Everyone can participate in a hands-on demonstration of the traditional tools used to maintain trails in wilderness, such as crosscut saws, provided by the Shenandoah National Park trail crew throughout the day.

A variety of hikes guided by experienced Trail Patrol members will be offered for people of all ages and experience levels: hikes suitable for families with children as well as easy, moderate, and advanced hikes for adults. Hikers will need to meet at the registration table at Byrd Visitor Center 15 minutes before the hike time to sign in. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the season, and bring food and plenty of water for all hikes and a trail lunch for the advanced hikes.

The following hikes will meet at Byrd Visitor Center. Vehicle shuttles may be involved.

* Story of the Forest Trail / Easy / 1.8 miles / 10:00 a.m.

* Appalachian Trail Ramble / Easy / 2.0 miles / 10:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

* Dark Hollow Falls Hike / Moderate / 2.0 miles / 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

* Rose River-Dark Hollow Falls / Advanced / 4.0 miles / 10:00 a.m.

* Rapidan Camp National Historic Landmark / Advanced / 4.0 miles / 9:45 a.m.

Pre-registration is encouraged but you may also register on June 6 at Byrd Visitor Center. To pre-register, send an email to by June 3. Please include your name and which hike you wish to join.

PATC and Trail Patrol are charging no fees to attend or participate in any hike, workshop, or demonstration connected with the event;however, there is a $20-per-car entrance fee to the park (good for seven days). Byrd Visitor Center lies within the park at milepost 51 on Skyline Drive. For more information about the event, visit the PATC website at or contact Trail Patrol at For more information on the park, visit the park's website at To see a list of scheduled ranger programs, please click here.

Grand Teton Hikes

Big South Fork Presents Healthy Hike on May 29th on the Middle Creek Trail

In celebration of the National Park Service's upcoming centennial, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will host a Healthy Hike on Friday, May 29, on the Middle Creek Trail. Participants should meet at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) at the Middle Creek Trailhead off the Divide Road. This ranger-led hike of 3.5 miles will traverse mild to moderate terrain on one of Big South Fork's first trails. Middle Creek holds some of the park's most beautiful rock shelters and some threatened plant species. Participants should wear weather appropriate clothing and bring plenty of water. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are always welcome.

Healthy Hikes provide the public with ranger-led activities that will allow park visitors to improve their fitness and provide the opportunity to further discover national parks. For more information, please contact the visitor center at (423) 286-7275.

Grand Teton Hikes

Throwback Thursday

At one time (and may continue today) there was an old Swiss custom of placing bells on mountain tops and passes in order to allow hikers and horseback riders to ring loud bells in the mountains. During the early years of the park, Glacier National Park was promoted as the answer to Americans leaving the country to vacation in the Swiss Alps. In addition to building several Swiss style chalets around the park, the Great Northern Railway and the Glacier Park Hotel Company requested permission to place locomotive bells on the summits of several passes in Glacier. In September of 1926 the request was finally granted to place bells at Swiftcurrent Pass, Piegan Pass and Siyeh Pass. Three years later a fourth bell was added at Scenic Point. The bells remained in place until the fall of 1943, at which point they were removed by the hotel company and donated to a World War II scrap metal drive. Today, each of those four passes remain as some of the best hiking destinations in the park.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Aggressive Bear Forces Closure of Mt. LeConte Backcountry Shelter and Cliff Tops Trail

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have closed Mt. Le Conte Backcountry Shelter and trails to the popular Cliff Tops area due to bear activity until further notice. At this time, trails leading to the summit of Mt. Le Conte remain open, but hikers are strongly encouraged to hike in tight groups of three or more and carry bear spray. Park wildlife staff are currently stationed onsite to monitor the situation.

On Sunday, May 17, one of the park's Wildlife Technicians encountered an aggressive bear near the trail to Cliff Tops that persistently approached and followed him for 0.3 mile. Loud noises and attempts from the trained ranger to scare the bear did not deter the bear’s repeated threatening advance. The bear followed him to the LeConte Lodge area before retreating into the forest.

"Hiking in bear country requires caution at all times," said Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan. "We seldom fully close trail areas, but the unusually aggressive behavior exhibited by this bear warrants action by staff and special precautions by hikers."

Park officials urge everyone to exercise caution while hiking, camping, and picnicking to ensure their personal safety and to protect bears. Black bears in the park are wild and unpredictable. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, causing injuries or death. Hikers are always encouraged hike in groups, closely control children, and carry bear spray. Taking these precautions become especially important when a notably aggressive bear is identified by park officials in an area.

Bears should never be fed and all food waste should be properly disposed to discourage bears from approaching people. Feeding, touching, disturbing, and willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, are illegal in the park. If approached by a bear, visitors should slowly back away to put distance between the animal and themselves, creating space for the animal to pass. If the bear continues to approach, rangers recommend that you stand your ground together as a group and do not run. Hikers should make themselves look large and throw rocks or sticks at the bear. If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available and remember that the bear may view you as prey.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.

Grand Teton Hikes