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Other Outdoorsy Stuff

How to Make Your Fall Outdoor Photography Pop

September 10, 2017
fall photography

Fall is great time for photography…but it’s hard to make images that haven’t been made a million times before.

The tricks fall into two categories: artistic and technical. As photographers, we operate gizmos with lots of buttons that connect to our computers, so it’s really easy to focus on the technical aspects: exposure, white balance, and depth of field. But at the end of the day, we’re telling stories—and that’s about creativity, meaning, and art. We’ll handle the artistic ideas first, and then the technical tricks.

Fall is More than Colorful Leaves
Everyone takes photos of colorful leaves. And that’s the signature image of the season, especially if you live in an area full of maples or Aspen. But those images have been done a million times, so if you’re going to shoot colorful leaves, do it in a creative way and make sure your images stand out. Even more importantly, don’t forget the other stories of fall. In the Pacific Northwest, fall is when salmon spawn and die in the rivers on the west side of the Cascades, when the mornings are suddenly crisp and cool, when gangs of geese form giant Vs and stage for heading south. Every region has its fall traditions, and colorful leaves are just one of them.

Tell Transition Stories
Photography is about telling stories, not just about recording what’s in front of the camera. Think in terms of transition themes: the end of summer can be about the kids going back to school, the last gasp of summer activities, a break from the humidity, or when the mountains empty out and you have them to yourselves. It could be about the mad dash to finish summer projects, or looking forward to ski season just around the corner, or brown hills turning back to green when the rain finally provides some drought relief.

fall photography

Now we go from the artistic topics to the technical ones.

Fall images call for a polarizing filter. What’s a polarizing filter? It’s a circular gray filter composed of two rings. The effect is to darken the sky, cut glare, and increase saturation slightly. The inner ring screws into the lens; the outer one adjusts the effect, which is strongest at 90 degrees to the sun. It’s great for darkening skies, making fall colors pop, and cutting the glare of light reflected off water. They’re designed to screw onto DLSR lenses, but can also be held carefully in front of the lenses of point and shoots and phone cameras.

Use Colors Wisely
Fall color is spectacular, but to be truly spectacular it has to be paired with something else. Think red leaves against the green needles of evergreens, or the yellow-blue contrast between leaves and water or sky. If you remember your art classes from middle school, these are complimentary colors that make each other look more saturated when they’re next to each other.

Move the Camera
When you’re wandering around on your two feet, it’s easy to always put the camera at eye level. This works sometimes when you’re shooting grand vistas, but it definitely doesn’t work in fall, when you’re likely either shooting up or down. Get close to the edge of leaves, the color of water at sunset, and kneel down or climb high to get a perspective other than the usual.

Get Stable
In the days of film, serious photographers always used tripods because the only way to get a decent image was to use slow-speed film. In the digital world, we have more flexibility because of adjustable ISO. But tripods—even small tabletop ones or Gorillapods help make sure your images are sharp. They let you shoot at low ISO, which means less pixelization. They also help you control focus when shooting close-up: less camera movement ensures that things close to the camera are sharp.

Control Depth of Field
Learn how to adjust the f-stop on your camera. Many point and shoots allow this, or have picture modes that have different pre-set depths of field. F-stop controls depth of field: the smaller the opening, the more of the field of view is in focus—but the harder it’s to hold the camera still, since the shutter has to be open to let more light in. Shallow depths of field are great when you want a soft background free of distracting elements. Deep depth of field is great when you want to establish a relationship between elements in a frame. Since fall photography involves lots of leaf edges, you want depth of field under your control, not the camera’s automatic settings.

Say goodbye to summer, but say hello to one of the richest photographic seasons we’ve got.

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How Camping Became Cool

August 8, 2017


When you think about it, camping is a pretty weird pursuit. We voluntarily give up creature comforts that we’ve worked hard to earn and expose ourselves to hardships like cold, heat, rain and bugs. How did this become a pastime?

Camping’s journey from an uncomfortable necessity to a hobby for millions of Americans goes back a long way. A few centuries ago, the only reason to go into the woods or hang out in the countryside was hard work—forestry, farming and herding. “Outdoor sports” like hunting, riding, and fishing were the province of the wealthy landed gentry on their estates. The outdoors wasn’t cool. Being tan meant you worked the fields. Pale and plump was in. But somehow camping became a $646 billion dollar industry and one of the most popular things to do on vacation.

A Virginia Politician Looks West
From his comfortable tidewater plantation, a young politician looked toward the Ohio Valley opening up to settlement after the British victory in the French & Indian War. He believed that the openness of land in the west would be an opportunity for independent-minded, self-governing farmers to migrate west and break the power of an aristocratic elite of bankers and merchants in cities. The politician was Thomas Jefferson. His philosophy linked open land, independence, and the American national character for centuries to come. Ironically enough, Jefferson himself never traveled west of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains: his imaginings of the west occurred entirely in his head. But by connecting independence, wilderness, and national virtue, he shaped an American identity with the outdoors at it’s core.

Wordsworth, Byron, Coleridge and Shelly
The era of English romantic poets was a response to the industrialism and urbanism of the English Industrial Revolution, with its’ coal mines, steam power and “dark satanic mills.” The romantic poets promoted returning to nature for awe, inspiration, and the divine. They took long rambles in the Lake and Peak districts, and later in the Alps. Jefferson saw the west as the pressure valve for American politics: the British saw rugged nature doing the same for the human soul.

The Golden Spike and the Aftermath
On May 10, 1869, in Northern Utah, the last railroad spike was driven into the transcontinental railroad linking New York and San Francisco. In the decades that followed, the American West would be transformed from isolated frontier to urbanized society where most people lived in cities, conducted commerce with people far away, and lived lives removed from the natural world. In 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner would declare the frontier “closed.” As soon as westerners moved into cities, they started to wax nostalgic for the frontier world, and that included appreciating the natural world more. Excursions to the mountains and rivers for fun, rather than to trap furs, grew in popularity.

“The Vigorous Life”
A few decades after the Golden Spike, an asthmatic New York state assemblyman was grieving from the death of his wife and mother sought rebirth in the hard work of ranching in the Dakota Territory. His name was Teddy Roosevelt. The hard work of sleeping outside and herding cattle in the Badlands cleansed him, and Roosevelt went on to popularize the “vigorous life”: hiking, horseback riding, camping, hunting and just about everything that cold be done outside, even as president. Today’s backpackers and climbers, who voluntarily sweat up mountains with a 50-pound pack, are direct descendants of Roosevelt’s idea of becoming a better person through hard work outside.

The Counterculture and the Car
Camping grew into a major pastime between the 1950s and 1970s. Climbers began gathering in Yosemite’s now-legendary Camp 4. National Parks became major destinations like never before. People started running commercial trips rafting western rivers like the Colorado, or backpacking deep into the wilderness….and, like Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner, writing about it. Two things made this possible. The first was the automobile, which, combined with the Interstate highways, made getting to the mountains and exploring off the beaten path much easier. The second was the back-to-nature ethos of the 1960s and ’70s. This massive interest in nature also led to a wide range of protecting wild places, such as the Wilderness Act and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The Nature Health Connection
By 2005, America had urbanized even further. We started spending huge chunks of online, and smartphones were creating ever-present internet addiction. In 2005, Richard Louv published his groundbreaking book, The Last Child In the Woods, which depicted how nature is essential to the development of healthy kids, both mentally and physically. The book launched a wave of concern that kits weren’t getting enough “Vitamin N”: enough nature to stay healthy, active and smart.

Our interest in camping can seem odd: a nostalgic yearning for how it was “back then” in a simpler time. For some, it does seem odd to plan your vacation to carry your own weight on your back, sleep on the ground, and eat freeze dried food while being bitten by bugs. But if we think about it a different way—as Louv and Edward Wilson contend—nature is deep in our genes. When we’re backpacking, we’re going back to our evolutionary origins. We’re once again a small band of nomads traveling through the landscape with deep connections to nature’s rhythms. Seen in that light, it’s no wonder camping feels cool.

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Stansport Helps Get Families Outside, 4th Annual Castaic Lake Campout

July 24, 2017

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

Stansport is committed to what matters most. This year’s fourth annual campout took their promise to make camping fun and blew it out of the water, literally. Underprivileged families connected and expressed the purest form of joy on kayaks, canoes, stand up paddle boards, and a sailboat!

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

I had the pleasure of speaking with Robert Lafferty from Stansport who explained why the company goes all out every year from the intricate details and planned games to the financing required to throw such a massive event year after year.

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

“We as a company wanted to find a way to give back to our community and provide for sustainability for the camping world. Since we’re based in Los Angeles, we thought why don’t we take under privileged families camping? We can provide these kids a way to connect with their parents and nature and disconnect from their devices at the same time.”
~ Robert Lafferty

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

The Event
Stansport brought their A game to every minute of this campout. The day began with check in, or what I’d call a midyear Christmas for approximately 80 lucky people. Each member of the family was given a cool new Stansport shirt, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, lantern, and a backpack for each child filled with cool stuff like glow sticks and headlamps; plus the whole family gets a tent, of course. Did I mention they get to keep all of the brand new gear at the end of the event?

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

After unwrapping all of their new gifts, each family found the perfect spot to set up their new gear. This was the first of countless ways families connected. I witnesses many endearing parental moments where mom or dad helped a little one pound the tent stakes into the ground. This was just the beginning of many team building exercises over the weekend. Police cadets stood by to help any families who had questions.

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

After the camps were set up, we all enjoyed lunch, generously supplied by SOS Survival Products. Then everyone escaped to the water. Temperatures soared to 103 ºF! This may have deflated some events, but not so here. Families lined the shores of glassy Castaic Lagoon where California State University of Northridge Aquatics Manager, Chris Whiteside and his staff enthusiastically greeted us.

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

They taught us about water safety and how to operate a kayak, canoe, and standup paddle board, then it was a fun free for all! CSUN staff even offered rides on their sailboat where families were elated, their kids laid out, extending their fingers down to the water as the boat glided across the lagoon. No electronics could evoke the displays of joy I witnessed.

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

Then came the obstacle course. It was enormous! Stansport made it clear they go big or go home. It was a long relay involving a potato race, a blind fold trust obstacle field, crawl tunnels, a bean bag toss, and much more. While Stansport team members fried up countless burgers and hotdogs the kids enjoyed some free time climbing trees and checking out lady bugs, earwigs, and the variety of life around them.

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

The eyes on seven year old Maria Santos were enormous when she found a ladybug. Maria said she loves to be outside. When asked about her favorite part of the campout she quickly answered, “Swimming!” She said her favorite part about the outdoors was “All of the open space!” When she saw an earwig she cocked her head, eyes glued and asked “What is that? It looks like a tiny dinosaur!”

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

After dinner, families circled up around a huge bon fire and enjoyed s’mores. Things slowed down, and the families snuggled up together in their new tents. The next morning, Stansport provided breakfast along with a strong sense of connection and togetherness which made leaving even more difficult.

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

“Stansport really does a great job with these events, the kids really have an amazing time. We are so fortunate they picked our group to share this experience with.”
~ Sue Brunso, Director of LAPD Devonshire PALS

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

How You Can Help
Stansport pulls off this massive campout through key partnerships with LAPD Devonshire PALS and CSUN’s Aquatic Center at Castaic Lake, along with support from their loyal customers. Stansport has dedicated 5% of all website sales towards community building events like this one and they’ve made it transparent.

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

When you purchase an item from their online store you’ll see the breakdown (i.e. If I purchase a tent for $100 I’ll see in my cart that $5 of that hundred is headed to fund this campout. This means while you square away your camping gear you’re also helping under privileged youth do the same! What a breath of fresh air.

Stansport Castaic Lake California campout

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How To Dress For A Day Hike

July 14, 2017
How To Dress For A Day Hike

Day hikes are a great way to get some fresh air while taking in stunning views, and you can even bring along friends for a chat as you wander. And let’s not forget one of the main benefits of going on a long day hike: you will sleep like a log afterwards.

It’s important to wear the right clothing head to toe when embarking on a hike. Weather conditions can change quickly, so be prepared for the mood swings of Mother Nature.

This guide will cover all of the essential apparel you’ll need for a day hike—and be sure to customize, ensuring your hiking wardrobe is suited to any temperature, climate or weather condition.

Here’s how to dress for a day hike:

Layer Up
The way you dress will depend on the weather, but you should always dress in layers. In cold weather, lots of layers will help hold your body heat and will also protect your body from the wind and rain if you wear a top layer that is windproof and waterproof. If you are hiking somewhere very cold you should wear at least one insulating layer.

Even if you are hiking in warm weather you should still wear a few layers—just make sure to wear loose clothes that ventilate using zippers. You may initially think that layers will make you warmer, but in reality a few thin, light-colored layers will help regulate your body heat. The layers will also help protect you from sunburn.

Choose The Right Fabric
Hiking specific clothes are made in a variety of different fabrics, typically synthetics, and each fabric is designed to do a different job. You should definitely invest in a good raincoat made from waterproof-breathable material. And if you live in a hot or humid area, buy hiking clothes that help to move moisture away from your skin. Look for apparel that feature wicking and anti-microbial properties. And don’t be afraid of wool, even for warm weather activities, modern Merino is packed with performance benefits.

HatHats are critical for both sun and rain. Most people don’t wear hats on hikes at night time in summer as the sun isn’t out so it can’t burn them, but during the day time you will need to wear a hat so that you don’t burn. A wide-brimmed hat is recommended as this will protect your head, shoulders and neck. Hats also keep sweat from running down into your face!

If it is likely that it will rain during your hike, pack a waterproof hat and a jacket with a hood. You can even buy hiking hats specifically designed to repel water so that the rain doesn’t run down your face in a storm.

A jacket is an essential piece of hiking gear, pretty much year round. Even in the desert, temps can drop, morning air is crisp, and the wind can howl. If you are hiking somewhere warm you should pack a lightweight jacket that is windproof and that has UPF protection. When hiking somewhere cold, layering becomes even more important, and you should invest in a jacket or coat with a removable fleece lining to keep you warm, or a shell that you can layer down or synthetic fleece underneath.

One of the big debates among hikers is the best choice of footwear. Some hikers will only wear hiking boots, while others prefer hiking shoes or trail running shoes. Boots are heavier, more durable, have better ankle support, and are more often waterproof. Better traction means they are well-suited to wet, rocky or slippy trails. However, they add weight, so many people prefer to wear low top hikers or hiking shoes instead. Boots are also preferred when hiking with a pack. Equip yourself with breathable wool and synthetic socks to help prevent blisters and increase comfort when hiking.

Essential Extras
You should always pack water, snacks, sunscreen/lipbalm, a map, compass and a headlamp. Refer to the “Ten Essentials” and customize this list to your own situation.

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Questions to Consider Before Camping with a Canine

July 12, 2017


We all want to take our precious pooch wherever we go, especially when heading out on a great adventure. But before you grab the leash and water dish, ask yourself these five questions to determine whether your dog is a suitable wilderness companion.

What are the Regulations of the Camp Site or Park?
Here’s an obvious one: some camp spots frown upon furry visitors. There can be a number of good reasons for this. Dogs have the capacity to disturb delicate environments with their snuffling, hunting and excrement. What’s more, many places aren’t safe for dogs. The local wildlife might include species that would find Fido to be a tasty snack. Even if you are allowed to bring your dog, she might not be allowed in certain areas, like environmentally sensitive trails. Always respect the guidelines of the place you’ll be visiting.

Is Your Pooch Medically Clear for the Adventure?
Some animals are fragile, others have compromised immunities, others just haven’t yet completed all the necessary shots to let them explore too far afield. Whatever the case, some dogs aren’t currently in a place where they can play the role of adventure buddy. Be aware of your dog’s needs. Never compromise her health for any reason. Safe is better than sorry.

Is Your Dog a Polite Camper?
In new environments, some canines flip. It’s sensory overload with all the new smells and sights. Anxiety, excitement and fear can all inspire your dog to behave in a rowdy manner. Most likely, people will want to pet her and play, so make sure she’s good with new people of all types, including rambunctious kids.

Bear in mind the types of activities you’re planning. Are they dog-friendly? Hikes on trails where dogs are welcome? Swims in lakes or rivers that dogs are allowed and safe? A dog behaves differently when mom and dad are around. If you’ll be leaving her at camp while you go out on excursions all day, her barking and boredom might get her into trouble. If you don’t think your favorite dog is trained and mature enough to handle it, leave her at home.

Does Your Four-Legged Friend Really Want to Go?
The great outdoors isn’t everyone’s thing. Your dog is no less of a dog for preferring to hang in the back yard. Be attuned to her needs and avoid stressing your pet.

Will a Canine Cramp Your Style?
Your pet is as precious to you as your child, and sharing new experiences creates great bonds. But sometimes we want to get away from home to escape all our daily pressures—including our cherished pets. Will letting your dog ride along restrict your activities, or stress you out? It’s okay to make her sit it out this time. Make it up to her when you get back with plenty of extra time at the dog park.

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8 of America’s Best Summer Swimming Holes

July 10, 2017

The summer heat can be downright oppressive. Scoping out the nearest swimming holes for you and your family is one of the best things you can do. Forget about crowded public pools and venture out into nature, where you’ll find an abundance of beautiful lakes, creeks and rivers to wade into. Here are some of the best natural swimming holes in the country.

Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Santa Rosa is often deemed the City of Natural Lakes. The region is chock full of pristine swimming holes to choose from, but one stands out from the rest. Blue Hole is a spring-fed natural pool of water that runs roughly 80 feet deep. Water temperatures stay around 64 degrees all year long, so you don’t have to stick to summer if you want to take a dip. Divers come to this desert location often to see what’s lurking beneath the surface.

Beaver Falls, Havasu Creek Waterfalls, Arizona


Six miles downstream from the village of Supai lies one of the most picturesque swimming holes in the nation. Beaver Falls, part of the Havasu Creek Waterfalls, lies smack dab in the middle of the Grand Canyon. It provides some fairly epic views of the surrounding landscape as well as plenty of seclusion. Getting there requires quite the hike in, but the turquoise waters and stunning falls make it well worth the effort.

Sliding Rock, North Carolina

Sliding Rock might not be the warmest body of water on the list, but it does provide the most fun. This family friendly attraction is a 60-foot-long slab of rock that forms the perfect natural waterslide. The ride down is quite an epic adventure, though you and the kids might be waiting in line a little while to try it out. The rocky slide deposits you right into a cool lake of water at the bottom, in the middle of the Pisgah National Forest.

Cummins Falls, Tennessee

Cummins Falls is a true treasure located deep within the heart of Jackson County that provides some spectacular views and a great dipping spot for the kids. It’s the eighth largest waterfall in the state of Tennessee with a cascading array of water providing the perfect backdrop against a pool of warm water. You’ll have to hike a ways in to reach it, but the views of the surrounding Blackburn Fork State Scenic River are some of the best the American South has to offer.

Aztec Falls, California

The Aztec Falls are a natural wonder hidden deep within the San Bernardino Mountains, just a few hours outside of Los Angeles. Wind your way along a six-mile loop located just off the Pacific Crest Trail and you’ll come across a beautiful swimming hole made of high cliffs and astonishingly deep waters. If you’re the adventurous type you’ll really enjoy the jumps; the cliffs run up to 60 feet high around the water and are great for those into taking risks.

Redfish Lake, Stanley, Idaho


A rugged trip into the backcountry will often lead to the most promising natural wonders. That’s certainly true with Redfish Lake. Located just outside the town of Stanley, this beautiful piece of untouched wilderness was once a prominent swimming ground for so many sockeye salmon that it supposedly turned the lake red. Nowadays birds and people willing to make the trek to reach it mostly populate the area. Imagine swimming in crystal clear waters with awe-inspiring reflections of the snowcapped Sawtooth Range glistening back at you, surrounded by peregrine falcons and ruby-crowned kinglets. That’s Redfish Lake.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Reynolds County, Missouri

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park serves as a prime swimming hole for the entire state of Missouri and is touted as the unofficial state water park. It’s crowded for sure, but still tons of fun for adults and kids. The East Fork of the Black River converges on a slim channel of rock formations at Johnson’s Shut-Ins, creating a series of small swimming pools to splash in. The joy lies in trying to hop from eddy to eddy without getting wiped out. It’s perfectly safe to slide around on the volcanic stone while staying cool.

Echo Lake, Franconia State Park, New Hampshire


The 39-acre Echo Lake provides ample opportunity for families to enjoy their own little patch of water along the Franconia Range. The lake is nestled right where the Franconia Range and Kinsman Range meet, creating a notch enclosed by the slopes of the Cannon Mountain ski area. The views are extraordinary and the shores are lined with sand, making them perfect for weekend getaways and building sandcastles.

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6 Types of Camping You Need to Try at Least Once

June 30, 2017


Camping is an incredibly diverse activity with endless locations, styles and sleeping systems to be tried. While some types of camping (mountains vs. desert, for example) just come down to personal preference, these six varieties of roughing it should be part of every adventurer’s life goals. Even if you try them only once, don’t forget about these six important camping types.

Solo Survival Mode
Leave the plushy accessories at home and say goodbye to your loved ones. It’s time to test yourself against the elements. Everyone deserves the opportunity to meet mother nature on the closest terms possible—minimal comforts and only the essentials. For a hardcore wilderness lover, this might be your preferred manner of communing with nature. But even those who usually create a more homey experience for their expeditions need to feel the rush of independence at least once in their lives.

Mentor Style
Whether you’re a parent, family member or volunteer counselor, everybody should get at least one chance to be the expert guide for a group of youngsters. Be an introduction to the joys of the outdoors for a generation that’s more accustomed to email spam than camp recipe spam. It’s an incredible way to strengthen your bond and improve kids’ self-esteem and peace of mind.

Super Luxe
Sometimes you want all the trappings of the good life and the rugged beauty of the wild all at once. Give glamping a shot. Don’t worry, you needn’t abandon your more rough-and-ready preparations on every trip. But give luxury a chance just once. From shockingly comfortable accommodations to staff on hand for your every whim, there are lots of options for a pampered camping experience. Fish all day and let the chef prepare your catch while you relax with a glass of wine. What’s not to like?

Wild Adventure Seeker
Sleep dangling from a cliff side. Pitch your tent in arctic conditions. Find shelter in a bat-filled cave, get your adrenaline pumping. Find that intersection between curiosity and trepidation, and you’ve uncovered your next adventure destination. If you’re hesitant to go it alone—and in many wilder locales, you should always have a buddy—seek a guided tour or the company of other seasoned adventurers to enjoy the event with you.

Spontaneous Nature Lover
As a true outdoorsperson, you’ve got some gear packed in your car for last-minute trips: emergency seeping bag, first aid kit, pre-packaged food stash, and shelter. Sometimes you just need to escape. Immediately. Without notice. Take advantage of your supplies and hit the road. There’s an unmatched thrill in retreating to nature at the spur of the moment.

Romantic Couples Getaway
The great thing is, you can make your campout romantic no matter which style you’re pursuing. Climbing mountains together and roughing it, or relaxing in a luxury tent, a flask, some deodorant—any trip is romantic as long as you’ve got the one you love by your side.

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Camping During the Total Solar Eclipse

June 23, 2017


On August 21st, the sun will go out. The temperature will drop 20 degrees. Animals will think it’s night and go to sleep. Massive streamers of light will arc across the sky. It will last about two minutes and 40 seconds if you’re in the path of the last total solar eclipse in North America until 2044.

Across the American west, campers have been laying plans for watching the solar eclipse. If you haven’t made plans yet, it’s time to get on get on the ball. You don’t want to miss this.

What Is It?
A total eclipse is when the moon blocks the entirety of the sun. Unlike a lunar eclipse (where the earth’s shadow falls across the moon) in a solar eclipse, the moon simply gets in the sun’s way. It won’t last long—the whole process of the eclipse will last two hours, and the totality just under three minutes.

Eclipse Day is Monday, August 21st. The time of the eclipse depends on where you are on the planet. It moves in a West-to-East arc from the Oregon Coast to South Carolina. The eclipse path includes some stunning spots: Cape Lookout, the Oregon Cascades, Smith Rock, and Grand Teton National Park, to name a few. The time depends on where you are, beginning at 9:06 a.m. in Central Oregon, and 1 p.m. in Columbia, South Carolina.

Where to Camp?
Obviously you’ll want to camp somewhere within or near the path of the totality, and an open spot without a lot of trees or obstructions will give the best viewing. You’ll also want to get away from city lights. There are plenty of scenic spots along the path of the totality and camping is the best way to experience the eclipse.

What If You Didn’t Plan?
Many people made reservations for key campgrounds months or years ago, and reservable campgrounds along the path have been fully booked for a long time. So have motel rooms, and hoteliers have taken advantage of the demand to raise prices. Many towns have hired “eclipse coordinators” to make sure they can put up with the influx of people. Some people are renting out camp spots on their farms or in their yards. First-come, first-serve campgrounds are likely to be full of folks who are staking out their spot.

The eclipse coordinators may be able to help you find a camp spot. Another option is to drive into federal land that allows dispersed primitive camping, as is legal on much of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Land. Just be sure to bring your own water, portable toilet system, and pack out your waste.

Avoid driving on Eclipse Day: it’s expected to be a snarl of traffic as people rush to get into position: after all, you’ll only be able to see it for a couple minutes, so don’t be late.

How to Watch It Safely
The Eclipse can blind you. Looking at the sun without some sort of Eclipse glasses—through a camera, binoculars, or with the naked eye—will damage your eyes. Solar filters should be put over telescopes and other optics. The only time it’s safe to look at it directly is during the totality.

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Great Camping Spots Around the U.S. for Seasonal Allergy Sufferers

June 19, 2017

Living with seasonal allergies is no fun. But it can be especially excruciating for people who love the outdoors.

Camping isn’t quite as enjoyable dealing with blistering headaches and the inability to breathe through your nose. There are, however, some safe havens across the U.S. for those looking to avoid high pollen counts.

Lake Michigan | ©istockphoto/ehrlif

The Midwest
The Midwest is admittedly one of the worst places in the United States for camping when you have seasonal allergies. The pollen counts here tend to be off the charts. If you live in this region and need something close to home, there is one place you might try.

Lake Michigan is the closest thing the Midwest has to a real beach, which means it’s also one of the best options for camping with allergies. With any luck, the water will pull the pollen down and keep it from reaching your nose. Pitch your tent downwind.

Florida Beach | ©istockphoto/cdwheatley

The South
The American South isn’t well known for its friendliness toward allergy sufferers, thanks to high amounts of pollen and low elevations. However, the further south you head the better your chances of finding a little reprieve.

The Florida coastline is a haven for seasonal allergy sufferers throughout much of the year, thanks to low pollen counts and the ocean breeze pulling out potential threats. It’s not perfect, but there are a lot of options to choose from. Grayton Beach State Park is a wonderful place to visit during the winter. It’s still warm while the rest of the country is freezing, but pollen counts are low.

Adirondacks | ©istockphoto/AnthonyPaladino

The Northeast
We won’t blow smoke and pretend that spring and summer camping is going to be comfortable in the Northeast if you have allergies. In fact, the best time to camp out here might be the dead of winter.

One of the best places to camp is right in the heart of the Adirondacks in Olde Forge, New York. The Olde Forge Camping Resort lies right on Lake Serene and offers up spectacular views and epic snowmobiling in the winter, plus it’s allergy free and open all year.

Telluride | ©istockphoto/shaferaphoto

Out West
Your best chance at avoiding seasonal allergies is to head west. High elevations and dry landscapes make for low pollen counts and astounding views. The region is large enough that there’s no shortage of great camping spots.

Telluride has one of the highest elevations in the U.S., so of course it’s going to have less allergens floating through the air. During the summer there’s possibly no better place to hunker down in a tent and enjoy the breeze. Sunshine and Priest Gulch are great options that aren’t too far from town.

Palm Springs | ©istockphoto/Wildroze

Another great option is Palm Springs, California. The town is surrounded primarily by rocky terrain, making it the perfect getaway for those combating allergies. The pollen count is generally low, except for when the winter grass is switched out in the spring, but stick to the rocky areas near Joshua Tree and you should be able to sleep peacefully under the stars.

Arizona also has one of the lowest ragweed and pollen counts in the country, and right outside of Tucson lies the perfect place for a weekend getaway: Saguaro National Park. There isn’t much in the way of greenery, unless you count the cacti, but the landscape is still pretty breathtaking and makes for a unique trip.

Saguaro National Park | ©istockphoto/KenCanning

For more information on local pollen counts be sure to check out the the website for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Other Outdoorsy Stuff

Is Connectedness Ruining Camping?

June 16, 2017


From my phone I can follow Dave and Karen’s journey along the rugged Brooks Peninsula of British Columbia. I get Facebook feeds from Jay and Justine’s satellite uplink while in Antarctica, literally the farthest you can get from civilization without going to the Moon.

Is this a good thing? I’m not so sure.

I started camping as a kid, long before we had a newfangled piece of technology called an “answering machine.” In our daily lives, let alone in the wilderness, being out of touch was normal. If baseball practice was cancelled after school and my parents were working, I’d figure out how to let hem know and act accordingly if I couldn’t reach them. Wilderness journeys, which I started young, meant being entirely out of touch. If you had an emergency, you had to hike out.

In a few short decades we’ve gone from hiking out to cell phones, satellite uplinks, and locator beacons that notify mountain rescue at the push of a button and that can also send emails and update social media. This connectedness does strange things to both our safety and our ability to escape from the modern world—which is why we explore the wilderness in the first place, isn’t it?

Safety First
There’s no doubt that being able to communicate when you need a rescue can be critical. I remember an evacuation in the Olympic Mountains before cell phones—getting word to mountain rescue took a day and a half of hiking instead of a minute and a half of a phone call. And connectedness has a second safety benefit: access to extended weather info that can help wilderness travelers stay out of trouble to begin with.

But there may be a double-edge to that sword. Just like SatNav in cars has atrophied our ability to navigate s without a computerized voice telling us where to turn, we may not be able to use a map and compass if our GPS batteries die. And on wilderness trips, things happen. Cell phone signals are sketchy.

And technology creates a strange set of expectations. On many of my remote trips, some friend or another pulls out a satellite messenger every night and presses the “OK” button. It tells his family that he’s ok, and where he is. The nervousness beings when we pick a steep-walled canyon for a campsite where a signal can’t get out. Will his friends assume that he’s in trouble and activate a rescue? When we rely on connectedness, we need a plan for when it doesn’t work—just like we need to be able to fix leaky tent fly or start a fire if it’s colder than we expected.

Why We Go
The second challenge is a sense of security. Knowing we can dial for help can become a crutch. It can make us lackadaisical about noticing that a storm is moving in, or we might leave the serious first aid kit at home. Those are big mistakes that a rescue in the wilderness may not be able to fix. Even if you can call them at the push of a button, it will take rescuers a long time to get to you, often at risk to themselves. Emergency communications are like the airbag on your car: it may save your bacon if things get really hairy, but you still need to know how to drive.

The second reason to be skeptical about wilderness connectivity is why we go in the first place—to get away. When I’m camping, I turn my phone off and bury it deep in my pack. I don’t even use it as a camera, because I have a Pavlovian association of my phone with work and meetings and checking email. And if I wanted to do that, I would have stayed home.

Other Outdoorsy Stuff

9 Tips for Hiking With Seasonal Allergies

June 14, 2017


Seasonal allergies aren’t an excuse to stay indoors. Sniffling, sneezing and swollen glands can put a damper on your trip, but there are ways to head them off. If you’re worried about how pollen might affect your hiking trips, here are a few ways you can help calm those sneezing fits.

Know the Pollen Count
Pollen counts are routinely added to weather forecasts so as long as you do your homework you can avoid hiking on days that’ll seriously affect your allergies. Aim for low pollen counts that tend to come with cloudy, rainy days. It sounds a little gloomy, but you can still get in a great hike without the sun.

Know Your Allergen
You’re probably aware of what causes your nose to congest during the spring, but do you know what it looks like in the wild? Do your research and study your allergens so you can spot them before they knock you on your butt. There are many books available that detail plants found on most hikes, so head to your local bookstore, outdoor retailer or online for a guide with allergen information.

Time it Right
Different allergens tend to pollenate at varying points throughout the day. For instance, trees pollenate during dusk and dawn, so if that’s your weak point head out during the middle of the day. Grass, on the other hand, pollenates in the afternoon so those with grass allergies might be better off hiking in the morning.

Keep it Short
The more strenuous the activity, the harder you’ll breathe, which means the more likely you are to take allergens into your lungs. Keep your hikes short on days when the pollen count is particularly high to help avoid setting your allergies off.

Wear a Mask
You’re probably going to look a little goofy doing it, but wearing a mask is a great way to keep allergens from reaching your face. The eyes, nose and mouth are most susceptible to allergens so protecting them while on a hike can help you get through the day without an attack. If you don’t want to wear a face mask, a Buff or a bandana tied around the lower half of your face, paired with sunglasses, is a good alternative.

While some folks are apprehensive about relying on drugs to keep their allergies at bay, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors you might not have a choice. Speak with your doctor about which medications are safest and most effective. Downing a few pills every now and then is a small price to pay in order to enjoy the outdoors. 

Hike Rocky Terrain
Most outdoor allergens are found below tree line, so consider keeping your hikes high above sea level. Rocky terrain is the optimal choice for those suffering from seasonal allergies. Desert landscapes are also a great escape from pollen and other triggers, so set up your tent someplace where you won’t be surrounded by greenery.

Bathe Nightly
If you’re taking an extended hike lasting more than one day, be sure to bathe after a day on the trail. Pollen tends to collect on clothes and in your hair so falling asleep without washing off will inundate your system with harmful allergens. Clean off and start the new day fresh and allergy free.

Camp Downwind (From Water)
If you find yourself camping near a lake try to pitch your tent downstream, when the wind picks up there’s a good chance the water will collect any pollens floating overtop, which could keep them from reaching you. Otherwise it would be wise to try the opposite of this: camp upwind from any large green areas so that you get the fresh wind before it hits the plants.

Other Outdoorsy Stuff

7 Incredible Beachside Camping Experiences in the USA

June 7, 2017

You’ll be happy to know you don’t need to stay at a pricey four-star resort to enjoy waking up to the sound of the surf.

There’s a cheaper (and arguably way more awesome) way to sleep by the sea—just pitch your tent at one of the following amazing beach campsites. You may not be able to get room service, but we have a feeling you’ll be okay with that.

Anapaca Island, California


Anapaca Island, California | ©istockphoto/yenwen

Catch a boat ride to Anapaca Island then hike in (and up the 157 steps) to one of only seven campsites tucked away on this little respite. The campsite is on the rugged side. For instance, there is no shade on the island and you have to BYO drinking water—but it has quite possibly the most Instragrammable campsite views in the whole country. There are trails to explore, a lighthouse to check out, and cliffs to peer over—and when the day visitors leave at night, you’ll practically have the entire island to yourself.

Olympic National Park, Washington


Olympic National Park, Washington | ©istockphoto/Samson1976

If ruggedness, wilderness, and wildlife are what you’re after, hurry to Kalaloch Campground in Washington’s Olympic National Park. The campsite offers the best of Pacific Northwest Camping—incredible coastal forest, a mile-long beach to explore, and sunsets that will blow your mind. From late spring to early fall, you may even catch a glimpse of a migrating whale from your tent flap.

Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland


Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland | ©istockphoto/JeninVA

For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, pitch your tent along the Assateague Island National seashore. You’ll want to spend as little time as possible inside your tent, since you’ll be scouring the horizon for a chance to spot some of the wild horses that call the island home. We know what you’re thinking—yes, this is real life. Escape the crowds by booking one of the hike-in or paddle-access backcountry oceanside camping sites. Don’t forget the bug spray—the flies can be relentless in the summer.

Ninilchik State Recreation Area, Alaska

Ninilchik State Recreation Area, Alaska |

When you think of camping by the beach, Alaska probably isn’t the first place that pops into your mind—but hear us out. If you want a beachside camping experience like no other, this is it. With mountains looming in the distance and eagles soaring overhead, this is the perfect place to experience Mother Nature’s finest work. When the tide recedes, the beach combing is second to none.

Bahia Honda State Park, Florida


Bahia Honda State Park, Florida | ©istockphoto/bririemoments

Here’s an option for those seeking warmer waters: nab a spacious waterfront site in the Sandspur Camping Area along this 500-acre park and take in the Florida Keys as they ought to be enjoyed. Try to spot the fish jumping out of water in the harbor, then head over to one of the beaches to do a little snorkeling. This is beach camping at its finest.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas


Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | ©istockphoto/YinYang

Feel the impossibly soft white sand between your toes the moment you step out of your tent on Padre Island’s North Beach campground. With the Gulf of Mexico in front of you and white sand dunes behind, you’ll be forgiven if you mistake your campsite for paradise. North Beach is a primitive campsite, which many believe is exactly how camping on the beach should be experienced.

Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hawaii


Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hawaii | ©istockphoto/7Michael

You’ve never experienced Maui’s Road to Hana quite like this before. Hop out of the car and set up camp on the black volcanic sand beach. Explore the lava arch and plan a hike to experience the lava caves up close and personal. We probably don’t need to remind you, but definitely remember to bring your bathing suit to this one.