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The battle of the sheets

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Before I talk about the neat things I saw today, I want to vent a bit about my personal battle with bed sheets.  Changing the sheets on a queen sized bed has always been a struggle for me, but the skinny passageway around my bed in the rig enhances the battle.  I’ve generally had to be frugal in my life, and sometimes that has been my downfall.  I’ve always purchased on sale sheets in the twenty to thirty dollar range.  I choose only those sheets with deep pockets since I have a foam topper on my mattress.  Well, deep pockets in a cheap set of sheets doesn’t really mean deep in my opinion, hence the battle to stretch them to fit.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine suggested I buy a set of sheets that were more than 500 count threading (whatever that means).  So I did, and paid somewhere around $100 for them.  They turned out to have sufficiently deep pockets and were very silky to sleep on.  I’ve had my cheap sheets for over seven years.  Then the other night as I was asleep and rolling over, I heard a loud rrrrip!!  My foot had gone through the bottom sheet.  It wasn’t a huge tear, so I tried to ignore it.  Then last night my foot got stuck in the tear, got entangled in some threads, and was a bear to extract. 

So today, I put the other sheets on, and the battle returned.  With fitted bottom sheets I know you’re supposed to pick a corner to put on and then put on the corner diagonal from it.  Why is it I always pick the wrong first corner, get to the diagonal, and figure out I have to rotate the sheet around?  I didn’t have that problem with the expensive sheets because it was more obvious which way the sheet was supposed to go.  I finally got it done, but it took me over a half hour to make the dang bed.  So now my dilemma is, do I buy another set of expensive sheets that don’t last very long, or go with a set of cheap sheets and continue the battle?  This is probably more than anyone ever wanted to read about bed sheets, but that’s how it is while I wait for the fridge to get fixed.


Maybe some of you remember when I took this picture of one of the ponds on the refuge back in early August.


Well this is what it looks like six weeks later.  The grasses have done their thing, and the deciduous trees are starting to come into color.

Co. Rd 26

I headed out this morning for Detroit Lakes for a couple of errands, but took some time on the refuge first to enjoy the blue skies and colorful foliage.  I started out driving along county road 26 that bisects the refuge.  The speed limit is 40 mph, but I drove much slower to soak up the beauty.  Yesterday’s rain meant that the gravel road wasn’t dusty at all.


       As I got to the Chippewa Picnic Area, I stopped to have a look at the waterfowl in the Otter Tail River.


                            Among the Canada geese was an adult trumpeter swan with its two young.


                    Being inquisitive youngsters, they made their way toward me to see what was up.


They only approached so far, and mom was starting to get a little nervous in the background so I moved on.

My main reason for going to Detroit Lakes was to purchase some more bird seed since I’ll be here at least another week or so.  The little birds had been letting my know their displeasure with the empty bird feeders.  Embarrassed smile  After that, and picking up some ice, you know I had to stop at Mr. Smith’s for some more home grown tomatoes.  Last week I had stopped along the way to Fargo at a vegetable stand, but their tomatoes just can’t compare in taste with Mr. Smith’s.  As usual, he was shirtless and wearing the same velour sweatpants and Crocs.  I was in long pants with a sweatshirt on.  Makes me wonder if he ever changes his clothes.  Disappointed smile  Maybe he puts on socks for winter…

Pine Lake

I liked this view of Pine Lake this morning.  While I was out and about, I got to thinking what I would do if I was incredibly rich.  I decided I’d probably continue to volunteer at National Wildlife Refuges, but I’d hire someone to drive my rig and change my sheets!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Still here at Tamarac

Saturday, 28 September 2013

What a dreary day today was.  It started raining last night and didn’t stop until late this afternoon.  Ugh! 


This was the view out my table window most of the day.  The wind was whipping around too, so I hope all the leaves aren’t blown off of the trees.


Yesterday while Emma was outside, she started barking in a most unusual way.  I hopped outside to find this big salamander trying to cross the patio.  Emma didn’t harm it, but really didn’t know what to do about it.  It eventually made its way across the patio and under the rig.

As for the refrigerator, I’m going to be here for a while longer.  I really don’t want to go into all of the details, but the first available date for someone to come out and fix it is October 7.  I’ve decided to sit and wait instead of trying to travel somewhere else and wait there.  I have the fridge and freezer up in the bunkhouse to use here in the meantime, and the staff will help me get the thing out of where it is installed and onto my floor so the repair person can work on it easily.  I think it is the best decision for me.


So, I’ve got several days before the repair person arrives, and I’m feeling that parts will probably need to be ordered before I can leave.  I’ll probably be late to my next assignment in Louisiana, but that’s the way it goes.  Sometimes life gets in the way of the best plans.


The sun finally returned about five this afternoon, so Emma and I made a quick run up the hill to take a look at Flat Lake.  Not as many swans were around as usual, but the pair of bald eagles was there along with about 20 ring-billed gulls.  With the passing of the front, I’m thinking temps will be dipping a bit tonight. 

It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow, so I’m hoping to get some nice views of the fall colors on the refuge while I’m making my trip to buy more ice.  According to the news, colors are about 75% peak right now.  That’s the positive thing about this delay.  I’ll get to see the peak colors up here.  There’s also the Tamarac Fall Festival next weekend that I’ll be able to help out with.


                                                                              THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: The Colors of Autumn

Friday, 27 September 2013

Now that autumn is officially here we can all take a bit of time to breathe in the fresh, crisp air and enjoy the lovely colors of the season. The leaves may not be turning crimson and orange just yet, but we can get a sneak peek at whats to come in the video below. There are some nice shots of wildlife as well, including a great clip of an elk bugling. This is a nice reintroduction to the season ahead and a good way to head into the weekend.

Autumn from Thomas Rasel on Vimeo.

Adventure Tech: Nikon 1 AW1 Ruggedized Interchangeable Lens Camera

The fastest growing segment of the camera market over the past few years has been in the area of interchangeable lens systems. These cameras offer the compact design of point and shoot with the ability to swap out lenses and other accessories like an SLR. The result is a versatile camera for adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts who don't want to be weighed down by bulky gear.

Last week Nikon introduced an exciting new product to the interchangeable lens market when they announced the latest addition to the 1 series. The new Nikon 1 AW1 seems to have been built with outdoor adventurers in mind. It features a ruggedized body that makes it the first waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof camera in the category. Additionally, a series of new lenses were also introduced for the AW1 that offer the same level of resistance to the elements making this camera an excellent choice when heading into extreme environments.

The specs on the AW1 are quite impressive for a camera that is lightweight (11.1 oz/313g), packed with features and offers the ability to swap out lenses. Out of the box it is waterproof down to 49 feet (15 meters) and shockproof to 6.6 feet (2 meters). It can also withstand temperatures as low as 14ºF/-10ºC without suffering an effect on its performance. It also has built in GPS technology for geotagging images and includes an altimeter, depth gauge, electronic compass and a virtual horizon indicator. The built-in pop up flash is even waterproof to help shed a little light on your subject no matter where you are. An optional WiFi adapter will even let you automatically share images to your iPhone or Android device.

Under the hood the AW1 is packing a 14.2-megapixel CX-format CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 160 to 6400. It has a 73-point AF array and is capable of capturing stunning photos as well as full 1080p HD video including modes to record slow-motion action at 400 fps or 1200 fps.

As an owner of the original Nikon 1 V1, I have to say that I'm really intrigued by what this new offering brings to the table. My V1 is a great little camera that takes excellent photos. It is also just plain fun to use. The AW1 looks like it will take all of that to the next level and it could just be the best option for outdoor adventurers on the market today. It's small size and rugged body make it an excellent travel companion and I know I for one would love to have one in my pack for my next adventure.

The Nikon 1 AW1 will be available in October in a single lens kit (AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6) for $799.95 or in a two lens kit (11-2.5mm and 10mm) for $999.95. Those lenses are all water, freeze and shockproof as well, which really completes the entire system.

Gear Closet: Mongoose Beast All Terrain Fat Tire Bike

If you're a self-proclaimed bike snob like myself your first reaction to being asked to ride a bike sold at Walmart is probably to turn up your nose and shudder in fear. After all, I own helmets that cost more than most of the bike sold in the big box stores. So when I was asked to test out the the Beast from Mongoose a agreed, although with a bit of trepidation. I wasn't sure what to expect from a bike that is almost completely devoid of features  and it's most notable calling card is a set of fat tires that are unlike anything most of us have ever seen before. Despite my reservations however, I ended up having a great time on this bike, proving that when you put aside your preconceptions, even a $200 bike can surprise you.

If their is a more aptly named bike on the market today, I don't know what it could possibly be. The Beast is big and bulky and its fat tires definitely make it a stand out from nearly any other bike you'll come across on the road or the trail. When fully assembled, including kickstand and old-school chain guard, the bike tips the scales at about 48 pounds (22 kg). That is absolutely massive. So much so, that I don't believe that my current road bike and mountain bike weigh that much combined. The Beast is built like a tank and its steel frame feels incredibly solid. That means it can survive just about any road or trail conditions that you can throw at it. In my time with the bike I didn't get the sense that it was in danger of falling apart or that Mongoose had cut corners on its construction.

Riding the Beast is certainly a no-frills affair. It is a single speed bike with 26" wheels and cruiser brakes. I haven't rode a bike that didn't have hand operated brakes since I was a kid and actually momentarily wondered how I was going to stop the Beast once I got it going. It didn't take long to adjust to the old school breaking system, but I'll admit there was a moment of panic before it dawned on me how the brakes worked.

The most notable feature on the Beast, at least from a visual stand point, are the massive 4-1/4" tires. They actually look like they've come off a small car and on more than one occasion I had someone stop me to take a look at them. Those tires provide a bit of a floaty ride but they also allow this bike to simply roll over just about any obstacle. They're designed to roll through snow and sand without any problems and I'd say they perform surprisingly well. I can't attest to how well it rides in the snow (It's still quite warm here in Austin), but I did ride through sand and deep sawdust, without missing a beat. Those big tires practically ignore rocks and logs on the trail too and they still manage to transition back to the road without too much of problem.

As you can imagine, a bike with a heavy frame and gigantic tires isn't exactly a speed demon. If you're looking for a fast ride, you'll want to look elsewhere. Likewise, this isn't the most agile of bikes either. Those big tires won't turn on a dime and they certainly wont take the sharpest of corners. But then again, when they are capable of simply rolling over just about anything that gets in their way, the point is mostly moot anyway.

Clearly Mongoose didn't have high performance in mind when they built the Beast, they were simply looking to create a bike that is fun to ride. If that was indeed their aim from the outset, I'd say they succeeded. While riding the Beast I found myself pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it was to roll down a trail with relative ease. I'm sure that on more than one occasion I pedaled along with a goofy grin on my face as my big, oversized tires crushed everything that dared to get in their way. It's a pretty satisfying feeling.

That isn't to say the ride was all sunshine and roses. There were a couple of aspects of the Beast that made it a challenge to ride for extended periods of time. For instance, I wasn't overly fond of the stock seat that comes with the bike. After an hour or so I found myself getting very uncomfortable in the saddle, even while wearing padded shorts. The lack of gears and heavy weight make it tough to pedal the bike up any kind of substantial hill as well and on top of that the frame doesn't feel like it is designed with taller riders in mind. I'm over 6'2" in height and often felt kind of cramped, even with the seat extended to its highest point.

Despite these issues though, I did find myself enjoying the Beast far more than I would have expected. Sure, its big, heavy and ponderous and yes it lacks any kind of amenities that I'm use to on a bike. But in spite of all of that, it is still fun to ride, and isn't that one cycling should be all about? Sometimes in our rush to get the lightest, fastest and most tricked out bikes, we forget how important it is to enjoy riding just for the sake of riding. The Beast strips away all of the features typically found on a bike and just gives you pure two-wheeled experience. There is something to be said for that and I think a lot of riders will have the same experience with this bike that I had. And since it only costs $198, you won't break the bank adding a Beast to a garage already filled with bikes.

It's hard not to like this Beast, even when you try.

Introducing OutdoorX4!

I wanted to kick off the day today by introducing readers to a new project that I'll be collaborating on in the months ahead. It's called OutdoorX4 and it is a website and magazine that will be available both digitally and on local newsstands soon. The focus of the magazine will be outdoor adventure in all of its forms but with a decided slant towards off-road vehicles.

The team behind the magazine is currently working towards getting the first issue ready for print and if all goes right it should become available in January. OutdoorX4 will naturally feature articles about exploring jeep trails and other off-road expeditions, but it will also have stories about the activities that we all enjoy as well, including hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, adventure travel and more. Gear reviews will also play a role in both traditional outdoor products and those that are made specifically for 4x4 vehicles.

Personally I'm not much of an off-road enthusiast so I'll be contributing adventure travel stories, gear reviews and other pieces that are more in tune with what you find here on the Adventure Blog. The editors of the publication are hoping to make it more than just a 4x4 mag however and they do want to appeal to a wide variety of fans who share an affinity for the outdoors. I think it holds a lot of promise and I'm excited to see the first copy in a couple of months time.

You can get a preview of what OutdoorX4 will be like by checking out our sample issue. Then head over to OutdoorX4.com to see some examples of the kind of content we're bringing to the website as well. I think you'll like what you find there.

Video: Ask The Mountains By Vangelis

Thursday, 26 September 2013

If you're looking for a mixture of beautiful scenery and music, you can't beat the video below. It provides lots of great scenes of the high places of our planet with the sounds of "Ask the Mountains" from Vangelis playing in the background. It is eight minutes of pure alpine porn that you won't want to miss.

Adventure Tech: New Options For Hammerhead Bike Navigator

Remember the Hammerhead bike navigation system that I wrote about last week? It's the handlebar-mounted electronic device that when paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth will give visual clues on how to navigate through a route by using integrated LED lights. The system can also be used a rechargeable headlight and it uses route sharing to create a social element to your rides as well. It is certainly a unique and interesting product that has potential, particularly with commuter cyclists.

The Hammerhead Kickstarter campaign is now a couple of weeks from wrapping up and in an effort to jumpstart the fundraising options the designers of the device are now offering some new incentives to draw in potential customers. First, they're offering an "early bird" special for the first 500 people who contribute to the campaign that will allow them to purchase the Hammerhead for $68. Considering the navigator is expected to retail for $100 when it hits production that is a substantial savings for those who want to back the device now.

The other, perhaps more intriguing incentive, is a new limited edition version of the Hammerhead that will be available in translucent slate gray. Only 500 of this model will be available as well and they will come with their own unique serial numbers and will be engraved with the cyclists personal information such as name, address, emergency contact number and so on. The limited edition model is available from the Kickstarter page as well for a price of $78.

The designers of the Hammerhead are looking to raise $145,000 to get their device into production. Right now, with 16 days to go, they're sitting at about $48,000 in funding. If you're interested in this navigation system at all, this is a good opportunity for you to pre-order one before they are built and get it a substantial discount. The limited edition version with the engraving would make a great gift for your favorite cyclist by the way, giving them a cool, high tech navigation tool while showing you care about their safety at the same time.

In case you missed last week's post, here is a video of the Hammerhead in action. It helps explain what it does much better than I can.

Video: Exploring Canada's Jasper National Park

I often write about the amazing national parks that we've been blessed with her in the U.S. but we're not the only ones who have some spectacular outdoor playgrounds to explore. Our neighbors to the north also have an abundance of amazing landscapes at their disposal. Take for example Jasper National Park, located in Alberta, Canada. The park covers 10,878 square km (4200 sq. miles) and features more than 1000 km (620 miles) of trail. It has an abundance of wildlife, plenty of snow capped peaks and numerous lakes and rivers as well. In short, it is a wilderness paradise, which I'm sure you'll agree with after seeing the video below. Start planning your own visit soon.

Jasper National Park from Roadtrippers on Vimeo.

Himalaya Fall 2013: Summits On Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma!

It was a very productive day in the Himalaya yesterday as the projected weather window remained open long enough for teams to top out on several mountains. That window is expected to slam shut today with high winds and snowstorms expected across the region. But the climbers who arrived early in the season, worked hard to complete the acclimatization process and patiently waited for their opportunity were rewarded with successful summit bids. 

We'll start on Manaslu where the majority of the action took place yesterday. The Altitude Junkies confirmed that their team started to top out at about 8:30 AM local time yesterday morning. First to the top were Pasang Nima Sherpa and team leader Phil Crampton, but not far behind was the rest of the crew that included Alan Arnette, whom I'm sure will pass along a detailed account of the summit push in the next day or two As they approached the top, the final 100 meters of rope still needed to be fixed and Pasang Nima joined with the Sherpas from the Himex squad to complete that work. Russell Brice's team had a good day on the mountain too, putting 13 of their clients on top and a total of 29 climbers overall. Reportedly it was a good day on the summit with warm temperatures and calm winds. Both teams report that everyone has now descended safely and after spending the night in Camp 1 they should arrive back in BC today. 

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that there have been summits on Cho Oyu as well. Four climbers topped out there at around 12:40 PM yesterday afternoon. That group included American climber Adrian Ballinger, Russian Sergey Baranov, Passang Bhote Sherpa and Namygal Sherpa. The two westerners than proceeded to make a ski descent and were back in Camp 2 early in the afternoon. ExWeb also indicates that there are a number of other teams poised to make summit bids today before the change in weather arrives. 

Apparently there has also been a successful summit on Shishapangma as well. Details are still a bit light but it is being reported that Hungarian climber Lestak Erzsebet reached the summit of that mountain yesterday and then safely returned to ABC. If we get more details on the climb I'll be sure to share them.

While we're on the subject of Shishapangma, 74-year old Carlos Soria is still in Base Camp there and keeping a close eye on the weather. The hope is that once the current weather system passes a new window will open giving the teams enough time to make their push. That could come as early as next week, but for now everyone sits and waits. 

Finally, there hasn't been any updates from Ueli Steck or Don Bowie in about a week but presumably they have reached Annupurna Base Camp now and are setting up shop for the climb ahead. These two talented and very experienced mountaineers will likely go to work very quickly and I wouldn't be surprised to hear them start their acclimatization rotations immediately, weather permitting. Hopefully once they are settled in we'll start to get regular updates on their progress. 

I want to offer a big congratulations to all the climbers who were able to summit over the past couple of days. Job well done all around and I'm glad to hear that it seems everyone got up and down safely. 

More updates to come in the days ahead. Things will likely quiet down now for a few days while the weather moves in and out of the Himalaya. After that, there will be a host of climbers ready to make their move. 

Gear Closet: Balega Running Socks For Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As many of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to show their support for for the event sock maker Balega is launching a line of socks to help in those efforts. Those socks come in the traditional pink color that is so closely associated with the Breast Cancer Awareness movement and feature inspirational slogans such as "Don't Tell Me I Can't" and "Never Give Up." Sales from these limited edition socks will benefit the Breast Cancer Fund with $1 from each purchase going directly to the organization.

If you're not familiar with Balega socks, they are specifically designed for runners and other athletes who are looking for comfort and performance from every piece of their running gear. The socks feature a blend of soft, natural fibers and synthetic fabrics that help your feet breathe while also keeping them comfortable dry, even in warm, demanding conditions.

I have to admit, I'm one of those runners who doesn't think much about the socks that he puts on his feet. Sure, I wear socks that are suppose to have been designed with the athlete in mind, but I've always felt that my shoes were far more important to the comfort of my feet. That may still be true, but it turns out a good sock can have some benefits too. I took a pair of the Balega socks out for some test runs recently and found that my feet were more comfortable in the same pair of running shoes that I wore with my more generic running socks. The thicker Balega socks provided more comfort on my daily workouts but actually kept my feet cooler and drier. That is certainly something I can appreciate in the Texas heat. Even in the fall we're still approaching triple digit temperatures.

Of course, like all good athletic gear the Balega socks don't come cheap. They'll set you back anywhere from $10 - $18 per pair, which obviously makes them an investment if you're an everyday runner like myself. But, much like most other gear that we buy, you get what you pay for and the investment in a good pair of socks is no different. Not only do they perform better than what you're probably wearing now, they're also more durable and will last longer too. Considering how much I spend on running shoes every three months, buying a few pairs of really good socks doesn't seem like much of an issue.

It is tough to write a review about socks. There is nothing fancy about them and they don't exactly have a lot of features. But if you're looking for something comfortable that also happens to perform well, it is tough to beat what Balega has to offer. And if you want to help the fight against cancer while picking yourself up some quality footwear, than be sure to look for Balega's Cancer Awareness line. You'll get all the performance that I spoke about above and you'll benefit a good cause at the same time. What more could you ask for?

Last workday this season

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

I finished the last day of my commitment to Tamarac NWR today, and said, “I quit!” on my way out of the office this afternoon.  I have enjoyed my time here, but I’m ready for a little vacation.  Of course, I’m returning next year, so you know I must have liked it here.


That being said, I’m not leaving here in the morning.  Let’s just say that the fridge hasn’t been fixed yet.  I really don’t want to go into that tonight.  So I’ll just show you some pictures I took yesterday as I worked on an assignment to gather ‘treasures’ that might be found along the trails by kindergartners later this week.

IMG_0279 IMG_0277

The milkweed pods are sending out their seeds for next year, so I thought collecting some of these pods would work with the little ones to compare soft to hard.  When I was little, my mother always called these seeds that blew around on the winds ‘money stealers’.  Don’t know where that came from, but that’s what I’ve always called them too.  With the expenses I’ve had this summer, I guess they’ll leave me alone.  Winking smile


I found other treasures along the way, but some of them I couldn’t collect.  After our rains last week, mushrooms are popping up all over.


I decided yesterday to just use my little Canon Power Shot X280.  I’m not totally comfortable with it, and will probably always prefer my Canon Rebel DSLR’s, but I was pretty happy with the results.

IMG_0305It’s just on the edge of prime leaf peeper season here, and the sumac was just brilliant yesterday.  With my repair delay, I just might be here through the prime time for fall colors.  I’m thankful that the refuge is allowing me to stay as long as necessary to get things taken care of.  I’m trying to go out each day to notice the changes and sooth my anxieties.


While Emma and I took a stroll through the woods in the afternoon, we encountered some interesting shelf fungi.  Tomorrow’s another day, and I hope to make some progress towards my departure.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: Mountain Biking A Dream Trail

The video below is brought to us via the Trailbusters, a team of mountain bikers who travel with a philosophy of challenging themselves to ride in some interesting and impressive places. They've crossed the Swiss Alps, rode the Rockies and the Carpathian Mountains in Romanian, just to name a few. In the video below they're riding what they describe as a "dream trail" and after taking one look at it, it is easy to understand why. The riding looks like it would be fun and the setting is absolutely gorgeous. What a place to take your bike out for a spin.

JUST A DREAM TRAIL from Slavik Petr on Vimeo.

Video: The Making of an Adventure Film (Part 4)

This is Backcountry is the adventure video that keeps on giving. Not only is it an amazing short film in its own right it has also spawned a series of behind the scenes clips that give us insight into how these kinds of movies are made. The latest of those can be found below with the creative team behind This is Backcountry heading to the desert to get some awesome climbing shots. These guys have to go to great lengths to try to get the footage they need. Aspiring filmmakers in this genre need to have a lot more skills than just how to handle a camera and make edits in Final Cut Pro, that much is certain.

Himalaya Fall 2013: No Summits on Shisha, Waiting For News Elsewhere

The waiting game continues in the Himalaya where we know that summit pushes are underway amidst good weather. But the forecast calls for a change starting tomorrow, with snow and high winds predicted. That means that teams are on the move today with news of successful summits to come shortly.

One team that we've been keeping a close eye on this week is the Ski Shishapangma squad. They made an attempt on the summit on Monday with the hopes of completing a ski descent of that mountain. Since then we hadn't heard any word on their progress, but a dispatch this morning tells us that Rich Emerson and Dave Etherington turned back 450 meters (1476 ft) below the summit. They are safely back in Base Camp now and Dave says that his climb is over. Rich, on the other hand, seems to be weighing his options and may consider giving it another go once he has had the chance to rest and recover his strength.

If the weather forecast holds as many as 60 climbers could top out on Manaslu today including groups from both the Altitude Junkies and Himex. Our friend Alan Arnette is a part of that group as well and I expected we'll get an excellent account of the climb once he he safely back in BC.

The other peak that should see plenty of action today is Cho Oyu where several teams should be closing in on the summit as well. The IMG squad isn't among them however as their latest dispatch indicates that they have now completed their second acclimatization rotation to Camp 2 and have descended to Base Camp as well. With the change in weather coming tomorrow they'll take the time to rest and eat lots of good food as they wait for a weather window to open to start their eventual summit bids. That looks like it won't happen until sometime next week at the earliest.

The Italian team on Lhotse has moved down the Khumbu Valley to Gorak Shep where they are taking a break as well. The sent a length dispatch today discussing the trash situation on Everest and Lhotse, where overcrowding have turned the mountain into a bit of a junk heap. Conditions in BC have improved considerably since the Nepalese government started imposing fines, but further up the mountain there is still plenty of trash to be cleaned up. The boys have a proposal on how to solve the issue, which would in a sense do away with commercial climbing on Everest altogether and put severe restrictions on who climbs the mountain. There ideas would never fly as they would be economically disastrous for Nepal, but it certainly makes for an interesting read and discussion.

That's all the news I have from the Himalaya today. Mostly we sit and wait for confirmation of successful summits today. With a shift in the weather coming, things will quiet down there heading into the weekend, but the season is far from over and there are still plenty of interesting developments to come I'm sure.

Ultrarunner Prepares to Run the Length of the Great Himalayan Trail

There are long distance hiking trails and then there is the Great Himalaya Trail. The GHT is a beast of a route stretches for more than 1700 km (1056 miles) through the High Himalaya in Nepal, challenging hikers with its thin air, high altitudes and challenging paths. Walking it end to end takes weeks to complete but rewards trekkers with some of the most spectacular views on the planet. Starting today, ultrarunner Philippe Gatta will attempt to run the length of the GHT with the intent of finishing it in record time.

Philippe is currently in the village of Simikot in Nepal where he has spent some time acclimatizing to the altitude while scouting the route ahead. Today he will launch his bid to become the first person to run the entire length of the Great Himalaya Trail, a feat that he hopes to complete in just 40 days. As an ultrarunner, Gatta has trained for these kinds of extreme challenges but the numbers on the GHT are simply staggering.

While the 1700 km length of the trail is impressive, it is hardly amongst the longest routes in the world. But no other trail can match the GHT in terms of vertical gain. Over the course of the run, Philippe will face 88 km (55 miles) of vertical. That is an incredible number to consider. Along the way he'll face a temperature variation that ranges from -25ºC (-13ºF) up to 35ºC (95ºF) as he passes through jungle, desert, forests and glaciers. He'll also run at altitudes of just 880 meters (2887 ft) to well above 7000 meters (22,965 ft).

Philippe will be joined on this journey by his wife Anna who will run at least some of the sections with him. Along the way they'll be testing out some new gear for Berghaus, including new lightweight equipment designed to move fast in the mountains. You can follow their progress on the expedition's Facebook page, where you'll find regular updates over the next six weeks. I'll post updates on their progress over that time as well. In the meantime, check out the video below that shows the couple training for this epic challenge.

Video: Spring Waterfall Hunt

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

How about a nice shot of adrenaline to close out the day? Our friends over at EpicTV have just the thing in the form of this excellent paddling video that was shot on location in Washington and British Columbia, where a group of talented kayakers find plenty of action in the form of wild whitewater and some massive drops over raging waterfalls. This is one activity I prefer to watch on YouTube rather than attempt myself. Scary but exhilarating stuff!

Video: Conrad Anker in Denali: National Parks Epic Challenge

Last week I shared an excellent video that featured Alex Honnold climbing in Yosemite that came our way courtesy of the National Park Foundation. It turns out it was just the first of a series of videos that will feature some well known outdoor personalities doing the things that they – and we – love. You'll find the latest of those videos below. This time we get to travel to Denali National Park in Alaska to go climbing with mountaineering legend Conrad Anker. If you need any other reason beyond that to press the play button, I can't help you. Enjoy!

Conrad Anker in Denali: National Parks Epic Challenge from National Park Foundation on Vimeo.

Himalaya Fall 2013: Weather Window Opens Across The Himalaya, Summits In Sight

As noted yesterday, the first real summit push of the fall Himalayan climbing season is now underway and we wait anxiously for word on the whereabouts of the numerous teams that are currently on the move. The weather forecast across the region seems favorable, at least for a few more days, and the climbers are now getting themselves into position to make a push to the top of their respective mountains within the next day or two. After that, it seems the window will close once again and those who aren't able to take advantage of it will wait for their turn in the days ahead. For now though, there is quite a bit of activity taking place.

Yesterday I noted that Rich Emerson and Dave Etherington of the Ski Shishapangma expedition were planning on making their summit bid. The weather was reportedly quite good and it was thought that they would go to the top, then attempt a ski descent. There has been no update on their progress since then however so it is unclear weather or not they did indeed summit and ski or if they ended up descending for some reason. We'll have to wait and watch their Facebook page for updates on their progress.

On Manaslu the summit push is in full swing with most expecting to top out tomorrow. As reported yesterday, the Altitude Junkies squad is amongst them with Alan Arnette part of that team. It seems that the Himex climbers have also joined the summit party and their team is on the way up as well. The forecast says that there should be little wind on Manaslu tomorrow, which should give the teams perfect conditions to top out. After that, rain and snow are expected on the mountain with the potential for some heavy powder to fall at higher altitudes. At the moment, as many as 60 climbers are in Camp 4 and waiting to launch their final push.

According to ExWeb, the summit bids have begun on Cho Oyu as well with the first climbers possibly topping out as early as tomorrow as well. The forecast there is the same as elsewhere: good conditions through Wednesday with heavy snow moving in afterwards. Considering that no one has been above Camp 2 yet on the mountain, it is unclear what conditions will be like on the way to the summit, but after tomorrow they are expected to get a whole lot more challenging. Amongst those hoping to top out are American mountain guide Adrian Ballinger and Russian climber Sergei Baranov.

The Italian team of Edmond Joyeusaz and Federico Colli are back in Base Camp on Lhotse where they have enjoyed a warm shower and some much needed rest. They intend to descend to Gorak Shep for a bit of a break and to get an Internet connection to post some more detailed updates. The boys are no longer alone in BC however as a Korean team has arrived in the past day or two and has begun to set up shop. It is unclear at this point whether or not the Koreans will be attempting Lhotse as well or if they are there to make a rare attempt on Everest in the fall. We'll just have to wait to see what exactly their objectives are.

Finally, Ueli Steck and Don Bowie should now be settled into Base Camp on Annapurna and will most likely be scouting the route that they'll take to the summit. There have been no updates yet from the dynamic duo but it is their hope that they'll be able to find success on one of the world's toughest mountains where both have had their struggles in the past. Even if they don't manage to climb Annapurna this fall however, it is good to see Ueli back in the Himalaya following the unfortunate events of this past spring.

That's all for now. Hopefully my next update will contain good news of successful summits.

Dedicated Everyman Puts Up Two First Ascents In The Indian Himalaya

Mountaineers Bryan Hylenski, Jake Preston, Jonn Jeanneret, Dan Kopperud and Gabriel Thomas, collectively known as the Dedicated Everyman, had quite a summer in the Indian Himalaya. In July of this year, the five men traveled to three remote and unclimbed peaks in the Hagshu Glacier region with the hopes of putting up the first ascent on each of those peaks. The team ended up having quite an adventure while still managing to accomplish several of their goals.

The original target of the Everman squad was an unclimbed peak in the Uttarkhand province. But back in June, that part of the world was hit by one of the worst floods in recorded history. Those floods destroyed buildings, wiped out crops and killed more than 10,000 people. This unmitigated natural disaster caused the team to alter their plans, heading to the Hagshu Glacier instead.

Due to that shift in plans, the squad was looking for something to attract their attention and provide a new challenge. Arriving in Base Camp on July 8, the boys decided that they wanted to attempt to bag three unclimbed peaks in the region. With that in mind, they set their sights on Hagshu (6520 m/21,391 ft) and two mountains that didn't even have names – Peaks 6035 and 6191.

After a couple of weeks working the mountain, acclimatizing and establishing their high camps, the team was finally ready to start their first push. That began on July 15 with an attempt on Peak 6191 but due to bad weather and poor health conditions, they were forced to turn back. A few days later, the team made an attempt on Peak 6035 and while three of them turned back, Bryan and Jonn managed to reach the summit, completing the first ascent of the mountain, which they then dubbed "Under Moonlight."

With their first successful summit out of the way, the men moved on to Hagshu on July 25. Despite their best efforts however, they were forced to turn back less than 80 meters fro the top. Undaunted by the failure to reach the summit, they decided to make a second attempt on Peak 6191. On July 28, Bryan, Jonn and Dan topped out giving them their second first ascent of the expedition. As is their right after becoming the first to climb the mountain, they named the peak "Hana's Men," after Bryan's five-year old daughter.

All in all, it was a successful adventure for the entire team and next February the intend to head back to India to attempt the first winter ascent of a mountain that hasn't been climbed in 20 years. To find out more about their summer expedition, visit DedicatedEveryman.com.

I’m getting over the shock

Monday, 23 September 2013

I have to tell you that the fridge breaking down again really threw me for a loop.  I didn’t sleep well last night, and I woke up with a lot of anxiety and thoughts streaming through my head over this.  Things like worst case scenarios, finances, when can I leave here, etc., etc.…

73 Tamarac NWR, 201331

Attending the staff meeting first thing this morning didn’t help one bit as there was talk of things that needed to be accomplished before freeze up. Disappointed smile  That made my nervous stomach do a loop-de-loop.  I busied myself with refilling all of the kiosks with pamphlets and other things on a list I’d been given for chores this week.  It helped some to be busy, but not enough.

IMG_0266My state of mind improved some in the afternoon.  As I was going to the maintenance shop to do some more laminating, John and Bridget (who visited me on Saturday) were outside on the ramp talking to Janice about volunteering here next summer.  That would be nice.  When I finished the laminating, all four of us were chatting, and John volunteered to take a look at my fridge.  He is a man of many talents.

His diagnosis was that he thought the compressor had died, and he thought it could be replaced through the outside access so I wouldn’t have to round up some help to take the fridge out of the cabinet area it is ensconced in.  I sure hope he is right, as this means there is a real possibility that it could be fixed here.

Of course, I didn’t get a call from any repair place today, but I’m hopeful for tomorrow.  John really helped relieve a lot of my anxiety.  I think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.  One of the disadvantages of travelling solo is that you don’t have anyone to share your fears and anxieties with.  Sad smile

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After making my 20 mile round trip run for bags of ice, Emma and I sat outside this evening.  I’d been too upset during the day to take any photos, so as I relaxed I found tonight’s pics in my yard outside the rig.  Since last week’s rains, all sorts of mushrooms are popping up, and there are some small wildflowers giving their last hurrah before colder weather sets in. 

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I’ll leave you tonight with a couple of shots of Emma on squirrel watch duty.  See how her ears are standing up?  It’s been very windy around here the last two days with gusts up to 45 mph.  It blows her ears straight up on edge.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: Who Am I?

It isn't often that we come across a video that is as beautiful as it is philosophical. That is exactly what we have however in an amazing looking short film that combines stunning timelapse images with the intriguing words of philosopher Alan Watts. This is a thoughtful piece that will leave you thinking about yourself and your relationship to the world around us long after you finish watching it. This is a feast for the eyes as well as the soul. Powerful stuff to be sure.

WHO AM I? from Bodhi Films on Vimeo.

Adventure Tech: Microsoft Surface Pro 2

When I reviewed the Surface Pro tablet from Microsoft last month I lauded it for being a lightweight and compact device that didn't compromise performance. It is, for all intents and purposes, a full-powered touchscreen laptop in tablet form. I wasn't so impressed with battery life however, which I felt was the main limiting factor for using the device in the field. I wasn't the only one who felt the Surface Pro was a great product that was hindered by its lack of battery however and Microsoft certainly took note. Earlier today the announced the new Surface Pro 2 with a lot of upgrades and enhancements. The result is a more refined piece of technology that just might be the ultimate adventure travel/expedition computer.

Amongst the improvements on the the Surface Pro 2 are a 20% increase in it's already fast processor performance, an improved screen with better color accuracy and improved graphics and sound as well. Microsoft is using Intel's new Haswell chip to increase battery life and claims that the new model has a 75% increase in the amount of time it can run without needing a recharge. That would put it into the 8-9 hour category, which is certainly a significant upgrade over the first generation product. A new Power Cover integrates a battery as well, increasing the life by an astounding 2.5x the tablets stand alone performance. That's enough to keep you going all day and then some.

Cosmetically speaking, the Surface Pro 2 looks exactly the same as the original model with the exception of a new integrated kickstand that now features two positions for propping up the display. Last year's model only had one, which didn't always work in every situation.

The Surface tablets get some new accessories this year as well. In addition to the Power Cover keyboard mentioned above, the new Type and Touch Cover keyboards are both 1 mm thinner and features backlit keys. A docking station adds additional USB ports (including a single USB 3.0 option), as well as a mini DisplayPort. Headphone and microphone jacks and gigabit Ethernet are also built in.

The Surface Pro 2 will be available for preorder starting tomorrow with the entry level model starting at $899 for 64GB of storage. It begins shipping on October 22.

Remember, this is a tablet that runs full Windows 8 and when paired with one of its keyboard covers, it really does become a pretty awesome tablet/laptop hybrid. You can literally run all of your software on this device and still have access to an app environment that is not unlike what you find on other tablets from competitors. With its ruggedized case, compact design and relatively lightweight, the Surface Pro is an amazing device for adventure travelers or those heading out on an extended expedition. It has a feature set that is unmatched in any other tablet and really does bring a lot to the table. The new model really looks like it is upping the ante in terms of performance.

Microsoft also announced the non-pro Surface 2, dropping the "RT" that was part of the title last year. This model runs a simplified version of Windows that doesn't grant you access to the desktop and won't let you install any software that you like. It is instead confined to the app environment, which is still quite good but doesn't offer the versatility available in its Pro counterpart. This model will start at $449 with 32GB of storage. It is also a little thinner and lighter than the previous Surface RT and includes the two-step kickstand as well.

To entice customers even further, Microsoft is offering Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro buyers 200GB of storage on Skydrive – their cloud storage system – and free international Skype calls for a year as well. Those are both excellent options to have at your disposal while traveling too.

Video: A Month On The Colorado Trail

Backpacker Wesley Trimble spent a month hiking the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango, covering 486-miles along the way. He took his GoPro camera with him for the hike and then put the footage together in the video below. It took him 31 days to hike the entire distance through a wilderness that looks both beautiful and varied.

From the 16th to the 16th from Wesley Trimble on Vimeo.

Himalaya Fall 2013: Summit Bids Underway!

It was a busy weekend in the Himalaya where most of the teams continued their acclimatization rotations in an effort to prepare for the challenges ahead. While those squads dutifully marched up and down the mountain in an effort to get their bodies accustomed to the thinner air, other teams launched their summit bids at long last. If the weather stays calm and things go according to plan, we could see our first successful summits of the season later today.

One of the teams that is now in position to top out is the Ski Shishapangma squad. They started their summit push last Friday and should top out today, hopefully putting both Dave Etherington and Rich Emerson on the summit. The weather report indicates clear skies and tranquil conditions on the mountain, so provided any unforeseen changes, it seems summit day will be a good one. As the name of the expedition implies however, climbing the mountain is only part of the plan. Dave and Rich also intend to ski back down Shisha, which is the shortest of the 8000-meter peaks at 8013 meters (26,289 ft). Good luck to the team as they make this final push and ski descent.

Also on Shishapangma, 74-year old Carlos Soria is biding his time and waiting for his opportunity to summit. With his acclimatization rotations done, he is now resting in Base Camp, watching the weather and waiting for the right time to move. He is estimating that he'll get on the move around the middle of the week with a possible summit on Sept. 28, which would be Saturday. A savvy veteran of the Himalaya, Soria also says that his team is patient and they will wait for the right opportunity to being their bid for the summit.

The Altitude Junkies have also launched their summit bid on Manaslu setting out on Saturday for their final push. The team, which includes our friend Alan Arnette, spent the night in Camp 2 last night and will proceed to Camp 3 today. Tomorrow they'll move up to C4 and be in position for a potential summit bid on Wednesday of this week. The weather window looks promising at the moment and it seems that the route to the top is in good shape. Over the weekend the Sherpas had to replace three ladders that went missing in avalanche, but all is good now. Hopefully we'll hear news of their success in the middle of the week.

On Cho Oyu the IMG team has moved up to Camp 2 where they spent the night last night as part of their normal acclimatization process. The climbers have now been in Tibet for three weeks and their bodies should begin responding positively to the higher altitudes. The weather is reported good on the mountain and everyone is expected to descend back to Base Camp today for a couple days rest before proceeding back up.

The Italian team of Edmond Joyeusaz and Federico Colli had a tough climb up to Camp 1 on Lhotse over the weekend. As much as 40 cm (15.8 inches) of fresh snow had fallen and it made what should typically be a relatively easy climb into a very tough slog. As they moved higher, the snow started falling again and soon the found themselves in a blizzard that ended up dropping as much as 70-80 cm (27-31 inches) of new powder. With conditions deteriorating rapidly, they were forced to continue up to C1 rather than turn back. They spent an cold, wet and generally uncomfortable night at that spot, waking up the next day to find that the skies had cleared and conditions had improved dramatically. This gave them the opportunity to return to BC for some much needed rest. While on the hike up to Camp 1, Edmond displayed some signs of altitude sickness which could be troubling. Hopefully the rest in Base Camp will help alleviate the issue and he can continue with the expedition as planned.

Finally, Ueli Steck and Don Bowie were expected to reach Annapurna Base Camp yesterday, which means they have probably already gone to work today. The duo planned on scouting various routes to the top once they arrived in BC. It is there belief that Annapurna, which is amongst the most dangerous mountains in the world, will be more stable in the fall with colder conditions and less snow. Both men have tried this mountain in the past and the summit has eluded them thus far. Hopefully this season will be a little different.

Stay tuned for more updates as they come in.

London2London Via The World Update: Sarah To Make Landfall In Alaska Today

Sarah Outen's bid to complete an entirely human powered circumnavigation of the planet will reach another milestone today when she makes landfall in Alaska. For the past several days she has been rowing towards the Aleutian Islands where she will wrap up the current stage of her London2London expedition during which she has been paddling, rowing and cycling around the world.

As you may recall, Sarah has been rowing across the Northern Pacific for the past several months having set out from Japan this past spring. A few weeks back the decision was made to turn towards the Aleutians rather than to risk traveling all the way to Canada as originally planned. Bad weather, slower than expected progress and the onset of fall have all played a part in this decision and if all goes according to plan, she should reach remote Adak island sometime later today. A support team and a guide boat are already on hand to greet her and help her reach land safely.

This row across the Pacific is just the latest stage of the London2London adventure. Sarah first set out from London back on April 1, 2011 by first paddling her kayak under the Tower Bridge on the Thames River. From there she crossed the English Channel, made landfall in France and began riding her bike across Europe and Asia. In the spring of last year she set out in a rowboat from Chosi, Japan with the hopes of eventually reaching Canada. A few weeks into that stage of the journey a tropical storm hit hard, forcing Outen to abandon that attempt. This spring she returned to Japan with a new rowboat and started the crossing once again.

Once she reaches the Aleutian Islands, Sarah will take another break from her travels and wait for the calmer weather of spring to arrive. She'll then island hop in a kayak all the way to the Alaskan mainland where she'll get back on her bike and begin ridding across the U.S. and Canada. Eventually she'll return to the water however and attempt to row across the Northern Atlantic as she eventually returns to where she started back in London.

As of this writing, Sarah is still a few hours from reaching land. Everything is going according to plan however and while the weather is less than ideal, there is no reason to believe that she won't soon be safe and sound with her support team. After 150 days at sea, I'm sure she's more than ready to get off the water for awhile.

More updates as needed.

Here we go again

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Remember last night when I mentioned I was a little nervous about the ice maker in the fridge?  Well, my worst fears came true last night.  Not only was the fridge not making ice, but the temps were creeping upwards.  Along about 10:00 pm, I emptied most of the food from the freezer that I had been stockpiling for my journey and took them up to the bunkhouse freezer section of that refrigerator.  I’m sure glad I did.  By this morning the freezer was at 50* and the fridge part was at 70*.

I’ll be doing battle with Samsung once again.  It is almost two years ago that the same thing happened to me while I was traveling.  At least this time, I’m at a place where I could move my freezer contents to a safe place. 

I called Samsung this morning, and they are supposedly finding someone to repair it.  Of course it will take up to 2 days for them to get a hold of me to set up an appointment.  If I receive no contact, I’m to call Samsung back.  I don’t have a very good feeling about this in the pit of my stomach.  I’m not exactly close to a metropolitan area.

I reread all of my blog posts from two years ago to refresh my memory on what happened last time with the same situation.  I would just like to say that this sucks!  In the meantime, I’m once again using my bottom freezer area as a cooler.  I’ll be making trips to town each day to buy ice. 

I really doubt I’ll be able to leave by Thursday, and that makes me feel bad.  My plans included stopping at Sam and Donna’s place near St. Louis to visit for a few days, and Donna has already arranged some time off from work.  Last time, no one would consider fixing the fridge, and I had to hot foot it to my favorite repair place in Scott, LA, for a replacement.  I can’t believe I got two lemons in a row!

I sure hope ‘Minnesota Nice’ means someone will fix my refrigerator…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Yahoo! The sun returned.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

There was fog when I woke up this morning, but the power of the sun with no clouds in the sky soon burned it off.  Hot dog!  I hung out a load of laundry, and then got ready to greet my morning visitors.


Bridget and John of Travels of John and Bridget….and Fred, finished their camp host volunteer assignment in North Dakota and stopped by for a visit while spending some time in Detroit Lakes.  What a beautiful morning we had for a tour of the refuge.


My friend, the young bald eagle, was perched as if on cue by the Chippewa Picnic Area.  I parked the refuge truck, and we were able to walk right under its favorite perch without it spooking off.  It only screamed at us a few times.  We even witnessed a small kettle of northern harriers catching a thermal to spiral up over the Otter Tail River so they could attain altitude to continue their migration south. 

IMG_9458It was a stellar morning to be out and about.  We could hear the far off guns of the waterfowl hunters, but we stayed in areas that were closed to hunting.  The trees are just beginning to turn their fall colors, the Chippewa rice harvest is over, and it just felt good to enjoy the scenes without overcast skies and sprinkles.


I was hoping to see the brilliant reds and oranges of fall leaves before I headed south, but I’m not sure that will happen in the next several days.  I’m scheduled to pull out on Thursday, but tonight I’m a little nervous about my refrigerator.  Even though the freezer says it’s –2*, it doesn’t seem that cold to me, and I’ve suddenly been having trouble with the ice maker.  It’s reminding me of the troubles I had in 2011. 


During out tour, I spotted this caterpillar.  Isn’t this the one that predicts how long the winter is going to be?   I think the size and place of the brown is supposed to tell the length and severity of the winter, but I just can’t remember.  Can anybody help me with this?

I did want to announce that there was a winner to last night’s little bird identification contest.  While three people came close to identifying the ten species, one person got them all correct.  That person is Brigitta!  She got all ten species correct by guessing white-throated sparrow, ruffed grouse, black-billed cuckoo, brown thrasher, indigo bunting, rose-breasted grosbeak, golden-winged warbler, woodcock, veery, and mourning warbler.  I think Brigitta writes a wonderful blog, but viewing it is by invitation only.  I’ll be getting in contact with her about the little prize.

Tomorrow, I’ll be checking to see how my freezer is doing, and continuing to get ready for departure.  I sure did have a nice visit with John and Bridget, and they are thinking about volunteering here at Tamarac next summer.  Perhaps we’ll meet again?


                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy


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