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The queen of litter

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Yep, that’s what I’ve been so far this week.  My sidekick, Rachel, finished her internship last Friday, and headed back to Cincinnati.  That means there’s no more raucous drive-by grabbings for litter pick up.  I’m on my own and slowly plod down the refuge roads gathering refuse. 73 Tamarac NWR, 201320

Considering how thoughtless and uncaring many people are about our refuges, I suppose it’s job security.  No matter how many bottles, cans, and other garbage I pick up along the roadsides, there seems to be a never ending supply. 

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Luckily, when I get fed up with this ‘crap’, I can take a slight detour down a few roads that are gated and not open to the public at this time of the year.  It’s here that I enjoy the unspoiled nature, and find indications that summer is waning.  The goldenrod has begun to flower, and the vibrant reds of the Sumac fruits are beginning to appear.  Sumac is one of the first trees to turn color in the fall, and today I found the first red leaves.

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It seems that summer was a little late in coming to northern Minnesota this year, and already I’m noticing signs of fall.  Berries are ripening, the birds have finished nesting and are done singing, and the post breeding quiet is descending.  I still hear the haunting call of the loon occasionally, but time is moving on. 

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I’ve been watching the progress of several pairs of Trumpeter Swans.  One pair still has two signets, another has three signets surviving.  Sadly, the pair that frequents the Chippewa picnic area along the Otter Tail River seems to have lost their young.  Life isn’t always easy out in the wild.

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Tomorrow, I get a break from picking up litter.  I’ll be leading a tour of the refuge.  The tour is scheduled each Thursday during the summer, but you never know if anyone will show up for it.  I hope some folks show up tomorrow so I can show them what a great place this is.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Off To Outdoor Retailer

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

As I've mentioned in a few posts over the past week or so, the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market gets underway in Salt Lake City, Utah tomorrow and for the next few days I'll be up to my eyeballs in new backpacks, tents, boots and other assorted gear. It is an incredibly fun show to attend although also very busy and packed full with more things that you can possibly see in the allotted time. Still, you won't find me complaining because it is four days of total immersion in the outdoor and adventure culture.

Since I'll be otherwise indisposed over the next few days there won't be any updates to the blog for the rest of the week. I will however be sharing my OR experience on social media. That usually involves posting photos of some cool new gear and maybe snapping a shot of a personality from the world of outdoor adventure. In the past, I've rubbed elbows with the likes of Conrad Anker, Ueli Steck, Alex Honnold and similar folks who go completely unnoticed in the regular world but are rock stars while at Outdoor Retailer. If you'd like to join in on the fun, follow me on Twitter or Facebook to get a glimpse of the show.

Regular updates to the Adventure Blog will resume next Monday when I'm sure I'll have plenty of thoughts on new gear and other things announced at the convention. Until then, make sure you get outside and find a little adventure of your own.

Adventure Tech: Eddie Bauer And Goal Zero Collaborate On Solar Powered Tent

A day before the start of the 2013 Outdoor Retailer convention the Gear Junkie brings us the scoop on yet another interesting new product that should be arriving later this year. This time it is new tent from Eddie Bauer that integrates a solar charging solution from Goal Zero to create a shelter that can also power your outdoor gadgets.

The new tent doesn't have a release day or price just yet, but we do know that it is an update on EB's Katabatic four-sason model. The upgrade comes in the form of a built in solar panel on the roof that links internally to a Goal Zero charging system that uses the company's Sherpa 50 battery pack. The Sherpa 50 is capable of charing a number of devices, including laptops, and is a fantastic mobile power source. So much so that I gave it high marks when I reviewed one earlier this year.

The combination of these products should make for a great mobile base camp for the outdoor adventurer and professional alike. The Katabatic tent weighs in at a little over 10 pounds and the Sherpa will adds another couple of pounds to that, so this isn't exactly an ultra-lightweight option. But if you're setting up camp in a single location for some time and need to keep your satellite phone, GPS, laptop and other gear charged, this is an interesting option.

As mentioned above, there is no release date or price yet, but Eddie Bauer sells the tent at $599 on its own and Goal Zero retail the Sherpa 50 system for $360. A little math will tell you this will be an expensive alternative but potentially a very good one for those who need this kind of set-up. The possibilities look promising anyway.

Eddie Bauer and First Ascent aren't at Outdoor Retailer traditionally but I'm hoping Goal Zero will have one of these on display in their booth. I'll try to drop by and take a peek and see if I can find out a few more details. I'm sure more than a few of you will be wondering how well the solar-tent performs and when you might be able to order one.

Video: What Happens In Nature When We're Not Around?

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the wilderness when we're not there to watch? The video below will give you a little insight. It was shot by a wildlife camera stationed in Kananaskis Country located in Alberta, Canada. It starts off relatively simple enough. A bear wanders by and later a deer. After that another bear takes a liking to one of the trees, which serves as a great scratching post. But about 55 seconds in a bear party breaks out around that same tree that is simply comical to watch. Funny stuff for sure and will likely put a smile on your face.

Thanks to The Goat for sharing this one.

Rowing The Northwest Passage: Last First Team Struggle To Make Progress

It has been a few weeks since we checked in with the Last First crew. You may recall, they're the group of four rowers (Kevin Vallely, Paul Gleeson, Frank Wolf and Denis Barnett) who are attempting to cross through the Northwest Passage this summer. They set out from Inuvik in Canada a few weeks back and are now hoping to row more than 3000 km (1865 miles) through freezing waters choked with ice bergs and other obstacles to reach Pond Inlet. If successful, they'll be the first to row this route in a single season.

So far it has been anything but easy for the crew. Despite the fact that it is summer, the only time of the year that the Northwest Passage is open at all, the weather conditions have been poor with high winds making it difficult to make substantial progress. In fact, some of the days have been so rough that the team has manned the oars for hours just so they don't lose any ground. Throw in the constant threat of icebergs, which could trap their boat or even break its hull, and you begin to understand just how difficult this undertaking has been.

With the wind at their backs, the boys can make excellent time however, as evidenced just a few days ago. While rowing near Franklin Bay they managed to cover 120 km (74.5 miles) in a 24 hour period. That was more than double what they had done on their best day previously. They paid for it yesterday however when headwinds and shifting ice kept them pinned down for most of the day, seeking refuge from the weather as best they could. After scrambling for most of the day just to avoid being dashed against the shoreline, the crew learned that it is best if they wait out the poor weather rather than expending a lot of energy to go nowhere. How well that plan will work remains to be seen as they still have the bulk of their journey ahead of them and the summer is passing quickly.

You can follow their progress on the expedition's official website and Facebook page as it unfolds in the weeks ahead.

Adventurer Making Human Powered Circumnavigation Of The Globe

Dimitri Kieffer is a lot of things. Born in France, he now holds dual citizenship in that country and the U.S. He is an international businessman, member of the Explorers Club, an ultrarunner and adventure racer, amongst other things. He also happens to be making a human powered circumnavigation of the globe, a journey he is making in stages as he explorers the cultures and histories of the places that he visits along the way.

Dimitri's adventure began in Alaska back in 2005 when he set out on foot from Anchorage. Walking west he eventually reached the Bering Strait, which he trekked, skied and swam across in order to reach Russia at Uelen, Chukotka Okrug in April 2006. From there he continued on foot through the remote eastern regions of that country before reaching Omsukchan where he decided to take a break from the expedition to pursue other goals. He returned to that city in 2011 and began the next phase of the journey on a bike. He, and his then girlfriend and now wife Gulnara, rode 1962 km (1219 miles) along the infamous "road of bones" to reach the town of Yakutsk. Last year, Dimitri returned to that city and rode another 4049 km (2515 miles) to Khakhorin, Mongolia. He is currently in Ulaanbaatar preparing to resume his journey aboard his bike once again. He now has his sights set on China and Kazakhstan.

So far, over the course of his travels, Kieffer has covered 11,391 km (7078 miles) with a total of 409 days of riding, walking and skiing.  Of those, 5230 km (3250 miles) were covered over six winters stretching from 2005-2008 and again in 2010. The past two summers he has covered an additional 6161 km (3828 miles), primarily on his bike. Of course, he has a long way to go before he is completely done, but you have to admire Dimitri's focus and dedication to seeing this project through to completion.

You can follow his updates on both his website and Facebook page. Since he will be departing on the next leg of the journey very soon, you should start to see regular dispatches on his progress in the near future. It should be interesting to read about the expedition as it continues to unfold.


A couple of gems in Little Falls, MN

Monday, 29 July 2013

After visiting Crane Meadows and Sherburne National Wildlife Refuges yesterday, I headed back to the rig with a stop in Little Falls along the way.  I had seen a sign along the roads advertising the Minnesota Fishing Museum.  I’ve heard of a lot of different kinds of museums, but a fishing museum?  I decided I had to check it out.

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I took their invitation to “Stop in and step back in time to experience the evolution of fresh water fishing in Minnesota.”  This small museum contains over 10,000 fishing artifacts.

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The lady volunteer who greeted me on my arrival was most enthusiastic about what I was about to see.  There are all kinds of lures, fishing poles, and motors dating back to 1913.  The folks working there truly have a love for what they are preserving.

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Among my favorite displays were the Minnesota record size fish, where they were caught, and by whom that were displayed along the walls.  These taxidermied fish and replicas covered every kind of fresh fish caught in the state.  I don’t ever expect to catch a 54 lb. Muskie, but I sure would enjoy hooking a big old sunfish.  Open-mouthed smile 

I’m not much into the history and evolution of boat motors or lures for that matter, but I did get a chuckle out of the lighter side of their displays like the ‘record’ fish, and big bobber.  There was also a large diorama that depicted a spearing dark house on a frozen lake.  Carving lifelike wooden fish decoys to lure big fish in to spear through a hole in the ice is something I didn’t even know existed.  It’s not likely I’d ever do ice fishing…too cold for me…, but the story I read of a twelve year old ‘coming of age’ in a dark house was riveting. 

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My absolute favorite lure display was this one depicting the history of the fishing lure from one million B.C. to the present.  I sure hope if you click on this pic that you will be able to read the captions.  They are a real hoot!  I even remember carving one of those red and white lures like the second one from the bottom when I was about 17 years old.  Never caught anything with it, but what fun I had, way back when, dreaming about catching a ‘big one’.  Living in the city of Chicago at that time, I thought northern Wisconsin with all of its lakes was heaven.  I even talked my best friend, Carolyn (aka: bigfoot), into letting me cut off several locks of her brilliant red hair to use on one of my lures.  Those lures that I carved and tied are long gone, but their dreams still remain.  Some day, I’ll land that big one… if only in my dreams.

The $4.00 fee to see the museum was well worth it for me.  It brought back many happy memories from my youth.  By the time I got there, I had less than an hour to visit before they closed, but they allowed me to stay parked in their lot after closing so I could take advantage of a celebration that was going on very nearby.  The Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church next door was having an old time bazaar going on.

There was a huge crowd attending, and parking spaces were at a premium.  There was a live Polish Polka Band performing, and that kind of surprised me for a northern Minnesota community.  I would have expected a Norwegian festival.  However, I had one thing in mind when thinking of a church bazaar.

IMG_9265I don’t sew or crochet, and I have been in need of some of those dish towels that have a method of hanging around a fridge or stove handle.  The best place I know of to find them is at a church bazaar.  I was not disappointed.  I bought these three towels from (I hesitate to say) a little older ladies group that supports the church.  They do such fine work, and these were just what I was looking for.

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I also found these hand embroidered pillow cases at a reasonable price.  I don’t have the patience or talent for this kind of work, but I sure do appreciate it.  The fishing museum and a church bazaar.  With those two gems and my visits to two refuges, the day was a resounding success from my point of view.

Last, but not least, I added a new tee shirt to my collection at the MN Fishing Museum.  I just couldn’t pass it up.  As I purchased it, I thought of Where are the Dixons Today?  I think it would be the perfect shirt for Jim.

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(As an aside, crappie is a fish whose name is pronounced differently depending on where you live in this country.  In Minnesota, it’s pronounced ‘croppie’, but in New York it’s called ‘crappie’.  The NY pronunciation is how I interpret this shirt. Winking smile)

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: Bodhi - Silent Meditation With Nature

Looking to commune with nature but don't have time to escape your desk today? Then you'll want to checkout the video below which captures some stunning images from the Catskills Mountains that will go a long way towards getting your fix. Filmmaker Savva Svet called this wonderful little film "Bodhi" in honor of the tree under which the Buddha found ultimate enlightenment. This video may not achieve the same effect but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Simply wonderful.

Bodhi from Savva Svet on Vimeo.

Outdoor Retailer Preview From The Gear Junkie

As I mentioned earlier, the Outdoor Retailer show is set to get underway tomorrow in Salt Lake City with the Open Air Demo, followed by the launch of the convention itself on Wednesday. Over the next few days, gear companies, retail buyers, media and a swarm of outdoor personalities will descend on SLC in what is one of the most outdoor and adventure focused events that you could ever imagine. Gear hounds in particular would love spending a few days at OR. There is literally acres of new equipment to sift through ranging from tents, backpacks and boots to stand-up paddleboards, camp stoves and just about anything else you can think of that is suitable for the outdoors. In short, it is gear nirvana with the latest and greatest products that will be filling our store shelves in the months ahead.

As usual, the Gear Junkie has done a good job of previewing some of the products that will be at the show in a few days. In a post that went up last week, and I'm only just now getting a chance to share, GJ gives us a nice glimpse of a few of the items that may be of interest to outdoor enthusiasts. For instance, there is a sneak peek at new sleeping bags coming from Sierra Designs. What sets these bags apart from the crowd is that one features waterproof down – a vast improvement over traditional down fill – while the other has a zipperless design with a built in "comforter." Other gear items in the preview include SUP boards that have built in lights powered be a rechargeable battery, a new tent from Big Agnes and a super-lightweight shell jacket from Bergans.

This is all just scratching the surface however and there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of new products on display. If you're in the market for an expensive new piece of gear, you'll probably want to delay your purchase at least through this week so that you can see what the gear companies have in the pipeline. You may be able to get older models at substantially reduced prices or the next big thing could very well be exactly what you're looking for.

I arrive in Salt Lake City on Wednesday morning and have appointments with many gear companies running through Saturday. As I have in the past, I intend to share some thoughts from the show floor, including photos, on both Facebook and Twitter. If you're interested in seeing what's new from the outdoor industry, you may want to give me a follow. Hopefully I'll have plenty of good stuff to show.

Adventure Tech: SPOT Announces Third Generation Satellite Messenger

On the eve of the start of the summer Outdoor Retailer gear convention, SPOT has announced the release of its new third generation Satellite Messenger. The new device, which is available at retail now, features some significant upgrades over previous SPOT devices, allowing outdoor enthusiasts to travel through the backcountry more safely then ever before.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade with the SPOT Gen3 is in the area of battery life. The new model can operate twice as long between charges as compared to previous models, which were already fairly energy efficient. That extra battery life is put to good use in terms of tracking as well, allowing this new device to update its location more regularly. The SPOT Gen3 is capable of sharing its location every 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes, allowing friends and family to trace your path while out on an outdoor adventure. There is even a new mode that will allow the unit to share precise locations every 2.5 minutes, which my friends who are race directors for adventure races will surely appreciate. There is even a new mode that automatically sends tracking information when the SPOT Gen3 is moving but quits transmitting when it has stopped. This motion sensor will help save battery life while still providing regular updates on the users progress.

Speaking of battery life, the new SPOT device has improved in that department while also adding more ways to keep it powered. It can be operated using standard AAA batteries of course but the device now has the option for using rechargeable power cells or run off a direct connection from a USB power source as well. This lends a nice level of versatility to the Gen3 Messenger and means that there are more ways for us to keep it functioning while out in the field.

As with previous versions of the device, the new model allows users to send an S.O.S. message when they get into trouble or send pre-canned message to let friends and family know that they are okay. This simple, yet effective, messaging system is at the heart of what SPOT was intended for and the company claims that since it's launch a few years back, SPOT Messengers have been responsible for more than 2300 rescues worldwide.

The Gen3 model looks a bit larger than the older versions of the Messenger. It has also received a redesign that includes larger buttons and integrated loops designed to make it easer to use and carry. The unit remains waterproof and ruggedized of course, allowing it to take plenty of abuse while in the field.

I have an appointment to meet with the folks at SPOT while I'm at OR in a few days. I'll post some impressions on their new products, including the new SPOT Global Phone when I get the chance.

Expedition Gobi Update: Ray Completes Gobi Crossing!

There was good news from the Gobi Desert this weekend as ultrarunner Ray Zahab has successfully completed Expedition Gobi, his 2300 km (1430 mile) crossing of the desert on foot. It took him 34 days to complete the journey, averaging nearly 68 km (42 miles) per day during that time.

As with any expedition of this nature, the run included a number of major challenges. For instance, when he first set out, Ray was running with Kevin Lin, a fellow ultrarunner from Taiwan. Kevin was hampered by injuries however and eventually had to abandon his attempt at crossing the Gobi. That forced Ray to carry on by himself, which required a great deal of mental toughness. Covering all of those miles on a daily basis is tough enough, but to do it mostly by yourself is even more difficult.

The terrain in the Gobi certainly lived up to its billing, particularly near the end. Ray ran through all kinds of varying conditions along the way, but his final days were often spent running up and down massive sand dunes. Those conditions made it tough going in those last few days, but with a little help from some local military officials, Ray and his support team were able to find a faster and more efficient route to get them through the final leg.

The team is now en route back to Ulaanbataar, a journey that will take three days to complete in a 4x4 vehicle. That alone should tell you how remote the Gobi is and how difficult the conditions there are. Despite all of those miles and challenging environments, our intrepid runner managed to complete the expedition without a single blister, which is an impressive accomplishment on its own.

Ray can now add the Gobi to his growing list of deserts that he has run across. Previously the Canadian adventurer has also run across the Sahara and Atacama Deserts, as well traveled to the South Pole and across Death Valley on foot. Not bad for a guy who use to smoke a pack of cigarettes per day.

Congrats Ray! Well done once again!

Pakistan 2013: K2 Claims Two More Lives, Expeditions Cancelled

The climbing season in Pakistan is now coming to a rapid end as it appears that all attempts on K2 have now been cancelled. Summit bids had originally been expected this weekend but poor conditions on the mountain have made it impossible for teams to move forward. Unfortunately, not all of the teams heeded the warning signs and turned back and now two climbers have paid the ultimate price on one of the most dangerous mountains on the planet.

Late last week almost every team on K2 turned back at Camp 2 when they discovered that more than seven feet  (2.1 meters) of snow was blocking the route. Not only would that snow make it extremely difficult to climb any higher but it was also making things very unstable. Avalanches could be seen taking place on the upper slopes and that was enough to force most of the climbers to go back down. But the father and son team of Marty and Denali Schmidt, fresh off a successful summit on Broad Peak, decided to continue up to Camp 3 where they hoped to find less snow and improved route conditions. That wasn't the case however and ExWeb is now reporting that the two men have been killed in an avalanche.

It seems that the Schmidts did indeed manage to reach C3 last Friday as expected and they radioed back to Base Camp indicating that they had settled in for the night. But sometime after their last radio check-in the entire camp was swept off the mountain by a powerful avalanche. This was discovered yesterday when a team of Sherpas climbed up to Camp 3 and discovered that it was completely destroyed. There was no trace of the father and son.

My condolences go out to Marty and Denali's friends and family for their loss. I'm sure this is even more shocking after their fantastic success on Broad Peak a few weeks back.

Even before the sad news of the loss of two of their companions the other teams on K2 had already decided to go home. It seems that when they climbed up to C2 last week most of them saw the writing on the wall and that successful summits weren't going to be in the cards this season. K2 is an incredibly difficult mountain to climb even under the best of circumstances. Throw in unstable conditions and a penchant for avalanches and it just didn't seem like a recipe for success. By Saturday most of the climbers had already started packing their gear and planning their trek back civilization. That will take a few days and they'll now go with heavy hearts for the loss of their companions.

Elsewhere in Pakistan most of the other climbing teams on other mountains are wrapping up their expeditions as well. It has been a season with some good success stories, particularly on the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak and a Nanga Parbat. But it has also been a season of incredible sadness and loss. 11 climbers lost their lives on Nanga Parbat when armed gunmen stormed the camp and killed them execution style. A few weeks later, Polish climbing legend Artur Hajzer was lost while descending Gasherbrum I and three Iranian climbers perished after opening a new route on BP. Just this past weekend we also received word that the search has ended for three missing Spanish climbers on GI as well. Add in the deaths on K2 and you have far too many climbers losing their lives in just a matter of a few weeks in Pakistan. This will be a season that will be long remembered, but unfortunately it will be for all of the wrong reasons.

The mountaineering community will mourn the loss of their friends for years to come. Lets hope we don't see another season like this in our lifetimes.

Being a tourist

Sunday, 28 July 2013

On my trip to Rochester and back last week, I passed several places along the road that I wanted to investigate further.  I had packed a lunch last night, so I headed out early to visit a couple of them.  Only problem was, when I got up, my left ankle was giving me fits.  How in the world does a person get what feels like a sprained ankle while they’re asleep?  That painful limp persisted all day, so it put a damper on some of my plans.

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First up was Crane Meadows NWR down near Little Falls, MN.  It turned out that the only public access to this refuge at this time of the year is the 3.7 mile hiking trail along the Platte River.

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That wasn’t going to work for me today, but I did make it to the first overlook of the Platte.  This refuge doesn’t have a wildlife drive, so I was a bit disappointed considering I couldn’t walk very far.  I’d driven about 120 miles to get here, so now what to do?

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I plugged the address for Sherburne NWR into Jack-in-the-Box, and found out it was a further 54 miles down the road.  What the heck!  I’d come this far, so I might as well drive another hour to see what this refuge had to offer.

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I’m very glad I did.  There’s a seven mile wildlife drive on this refuge, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Even though it’s not that far as the crow flies from Tamarac, the habitat is quite a bit different.

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This refuge is all about wetlands, not the big lakes that Tamarac has.  They do have a few things in common though.

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Bald eagles and trumpeter swans nest here just as they do at Tamarac.  This young bald eagle was occasionally screeching, as it waited for its parents to come feed it.  It’s about ready to be out on its own very soon.

IMG_9224It took me a couple of hours to do that seven mile wildlife drive.  It was the middle of the day, and not the best time to see wildlife, but I enjoyed my tour non the less. 

IMG_3934There is a lot more native prairie land on this refuge, and the blooming prairie flowers were vibrant.  I could just envision the first settlers coming to this area and being in awe of the beauty.

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I was surprised by the number of overlooks provided for visitors.  I’m guessing there’s an overlook for almost every mile of the wildlife drive.  I probably encountered about a half a dozen other vehicles along the route.  It was good to see people out taking advantage of this peaceful drive.

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Since it’s almost August, many of the wildflowers are sending their seeds out for the next generation.  Life marches on.  It’s all a grand circle, isn’t it?

As I headed back north, I stopped in Little Falls and had another little adventure.  I’ll save what happened there for tomorrow’s post.  Sometimes being a tourist and going with the flow works out just right.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

First tomato

Saturday, 27 July 2013

It’s been kind of chilly since I returned to Tamarac.  Highs in the 60’s during the day, and I’ve used the furnace each morning.  There have been rather brisk winds as well.  Some storms moved through the day after I got back, which afforded me another chance to exercise the generator as we lost electricity for a number of hours.

This morning dawned bright but cool, so I headed out for the farmer’s market in Detroit Lakes.

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Most of the local venders had to hang onto their canopies so they wouldn’t blow away.  Just about everyone was bundled up.  Seems a little early for such cool temperatures.  I got in line to wait for my rustic Italian loaf of bread from the Breadsmith booth.  I think it’s the most popular booth here.

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I got there pretty early, so I was able to snatch up a small basket of home grown tomatoes.  They were pretty small, but so delicious.  I’ve been waiting a year for that wonderful taste.  Raspberries are now in season, but I had bought a pint at a stand on my way back from Rochester the other day.  I got them for a much better price too. 

After a few other errands in town, I headed to Frazee, MN, for Turkey Days.  That’s the town where I got that picture of the World’s Largest Turkey in May.  Well, as far as small town festivals go, I’d say this one wasn’t worth stopping for, so I didn’t.  Thumbs down  As I slowly drove through town, it seemed that it mostly consisted of craft booths.  Not my cup of tea, so I headed back home.

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I took the round about way home through the refuge, and spotted a nice bunch of wildflowers.   I haven’t got the desire to identify them right now since it took me hours to figure out how to get my pictures uploaded to Picasa 3.  I said in the last post that I was liking Windows 8, but today’s experience almost had me tearing my hair out. 

At one point, all 19,000 of my pictures disappeared again, and I ended up calling Daniel several times.  Of course, he told me it had to be user error (which didn’t help my disposition at all!).  Eventually we (he) figured it out, and my pictures were back.  The last time I called, he told me I had reached my limit of help calls for the day.  Disappointed smile  I then reminded him, that if it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t be here!  Nyah-Nyah  I just hope I can remember the convoluted method he showed me for getting pictures uploaded tomorrow.

If the weather is good in the morning, my plan is to visit a couple of interesting places in Little Falls, MN.  Think Charles Lindberg, fishing, and a crane meadow….

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Video: A Timelapse Journey To Everest Base Camp

Friday, 26 July 2013

Not planning on visiting Everest Base Camp soon? Better yet, want to relive a previous journey to EBC? Then check out this wonderful timelapse video of the trek from Lukla to Base Camp that will give a great sense of what it is like to make that hike. I think this is a perfect way to end the week.

The Himalayan - Mt.Everest Base Camp trek HD Time Lapse from Amit Haware on Vimeo.

World's First Travel Documentary To Be Aired At Film Fest

The Guardian has a really interesting story today about two Iranian brothers who are credited with creating the first travel documentary films. The movies, which were made in the 1950's, had fallen off the radar for most fans of the genre, but thanks to a the curator of an upcoming film festival focused on adventure travel, the film will be shown to a new generation of fans.

Back in 1954, Abdullah and Issa Omidvar set out on a grand adventure. The two brothers wanted to ride their motorcycles to some of the most remote places possible, while learning more about the cultures they visited along the way. With just $90 in each of their pockets, they packed up their filmmaking equipment and hit the road. They're route took them through Pakistan and India, across Southeast Asia and into Australia. From there they hopped across the Pacific, rode the length of the Andes north and continued on all the way to Alaska and Canada where they crossed above the Arctic Circle. After that, they returned home briefly before returning to the road for another adventure in Africa. All the while they filmed their exploits, capturing some incredible footage of an evolving world that was still reeling from the changes brought on by a post-World War II shift in politics and imperialism.

The Omidvar spent ten years traveling the world, taking in as much culture, history and adventure as they could. And when they were finished, one went to Chile to found a film company while the other returned home to Iran, where he became a celebrity for his works. But over time, the western world had mostly forgotten about their contribution to cinema as their documentary films haven't been seen in years.

But Lois Pryce, who has ridden her motorcycle the length of the Americas and Africa, and written two wonderful books about the experience, learned about Abdullah and Issa's story and went searching for copies of some of their films for the Adventure Travel Film Festival which she co-founded. Pryce called in many favors and went to great lengths to find the films, eventually ending up with copies being sent her way from Issa himself. Those films will be shown at the fest, which will take place in Dorset in the U.K. on August 16-18. It will be a rare opportunity to see these vintage travel films, which are a time capsule of sorts, giving us a window into the past.

It must have been quite the adventure for the two brothers to travel the world during the 50's and early 60's. The planet was evolving a lot back then and some of the places that they visited aren't even there any more. It would be fun to see these films and compare the conditions for travel back then with now. We've come a long way since those films were made, but we've lost much along the way as well.

Thanks to CuChullaine for sharing this fascinating story.

Video: A Father-Son Motorcycle Adventure In The Himalaya

Here's a great story of a father and son duo who traveled through the Himalaya with one another on motorcycles, covering 4500 km (2800 miles) in the process. The son is an experienced motocross rider to whom being on the back of a bike is second nature. The father was new this type of travel but the pair bonded over their shared adventure through some pretty amazing landscapes. The entire journey was captured on GoPro cameras of course and makes for quite the compelling short film.

Pakistan 2013: Search Officially Ends On Broad Peak, Continues On Gasherbrum I

It has been another very difficult week in the mountains of Pakistan where one search operation came to a tragic end, another is on going and a third has saved a life. All the while that these dramas have been unfolding, other teams have been making summit bids, some successful and some not.

Starting on Broad Peak, the search for the three missing Iranian climbers has been officially canceled. Bad weather has moved onto the mountain making it impossible for anyone to go up to 7800 meters (25,590 ft), which is where the men were last believed to have been camped. After more than a week at that altitude – without food and water no less – the climbers' friends and family have decided that it was time to let them go. They are presumed dead at this point.

The three men who have given their lives while opening a new route on BP are: Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi. My sincere condolences to their loved ones in their time of need.

Over on Gasherbrum I the search for missing climbers Xevi Gomez, Alvaro Paredes and Abel Alonso is still on going at this time. Bad weather has grounded the helicopter and hampered efforts there thus far, but the SAR teams haven't given up hope just yet. The three men topped out on GI last Sunday and were expected to descend to C2 the following day, but no word has been heard from them since. While the outlook is not good, some of the Spanish climbers friends are still holding out hope.

There was some good news from GI yesterday however, as Alfredo Garcia was located on the mountain and assisted down from Camp 3 by Mariano Galvan. Garcia turned back from the summit this past weekend as well but struggled on the descent. He has now gone down to Camp 1 and should be resting there for a time before proceed to Base Camp.

Meanwhile, summit pushes are now underway on both Gasherbrum I and II. Amongst those looking to top out is Jon Kedrowski, whose team should be in position to summit GII later today or tomorrow. Also on the move is Chris Jensen Burke, who fresh off a successful climb on that peak will now maker her way to the summit of GI. It would seem, weather permitting, there is the potential for several summits on these peaks in the next few days.

Finally, the summit push on K2 that was expected to be taking place as I write this has been called off. Poor conditions are to blame for stalling out the attempt which was to coincide with a weather window opening tomorrow. But when the first climbers reached Camp 3 on the mountain they discovered heavy snow higher on the slopes. As much as seven feet (2.1 meters) of snow to be exact. That fresh powder is believed to be unstable and avalanches have been observed higher on the slopes. For now, the teams will retreat, let things settle and regroup again next week.

There is no need to panic just yet on K2. It would have been an early summit had they topped out this weekend as expected. It is not uncommon for climbers to complete their K2 expeditions in the first week or so of August. Hopefully patience and persistence will pay off this year as well.

Alex Honnold To Free Solo A Building On Live Television

Alex Honnold just might be the best rock climber in the world. Over the past few years he has earned himself a reputation for free climbing some incredibly tough routes and doing so in record time. Now, National Geographic has announced that Alex will turn his considerable skills on a new challenge later this fall when he will attempt to free solo a building on live television.

For safety reasons, exactly which building Honnold will be climbing remains a mystery at this time. But what we do know is that the climb will air live on the Nat Geo Channel later this year. Much of the camera work for that event will be handled by Sender Films, who have worked closely with Alex on several climbing films in the past.

The announcement of the event that I linked to above comes with a brief interview with Honnold, who says that he is very much looking forward to the challenge. He says he hasn't climbed a building since he was a kid but feels that it is very much like climbing a rock face in Yosemite with the same movements involved. When asked if he thought doing the climb on live television would change anything for him, Alex said that it wouldn't. He'd simply be focused in as on any other climb, without even really noticing that it was being broadcasted for the world to see.

Personally, I'm not sure what to make of this event. On the one hand, it is an opportunity for a non-climbing audience to see what Alex can do, but then again I feel that would be better served with a straight climbing film on his achievements. Climbing a building feels like a bit of a gimmick to me and watching the entire thing live lends it a voyeuristic quality that seems a bit unsettling as well. There will obviously be a lot of people tuning in just to see if he will fall and that seems just wrong. I'll wait to learn more about the details of the event before I pass too much judgement, but so far I don't think this is something I'd go out of my way to tune into.

Windows 8, first impression

Thursday, 25 July 2013

I thought when I fell into my bed last night, I’d be so comfortable that I’d instantly be asleep.  That was not to happen.  I tossed and turned until after 3:00 in the morning before I finally succumbed.  By the time I woke up at 7:30, my plans to get back on the job and start mowing had flown out the window.  I just couldn’t do it.  I guess recuperation takes longer the older you get, and my birthday on Monday just added another notch to the stick.

73 Tamarac NWR, 201313

I fiddled with the new computer for a while, and came up with this collage of pictures that my daughter Robyn took on Saturday afternoon.  It was a hot day, and when one of those ice cream trucks with the incessant song ringing came by, she treated everyone to a refreshing snack. 

I haven’t heard one of those trucks in a long time.  When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, a guy on a bicycle might pedal through the neighborhood ringing his bell.  The front of his bike had a big metal cooler on it with the sweet frozen treats inside.  It sure was more exciting to me than hearing the Rags-A-Lion man shouting with his horse and wagon as he made his way down the alleys in the city!

I suggested to Dan that everyone eat their treats outside, and he agreed.  All colors of ice cream and sherbet were squishing through those little fingers as the sun and heat helped melt everything.  I don't know smile  Robyn didn’t get pictures of everyone, but the five grandkids are represented.  Had I not been ill, I would have been clicking away myself.

Anyway, I digress.  This post is supposed to be about Windows 8.  When Dan and I were looking into a new laptop to order for me on Sunday night, he assured me that that any hesitations I had about using Windows 8 were not grounded in reality, but were all opinions I had heard in the blogosphere.  You know, sometimes we mature folks speak one language, and our children speak another.  However, I took his advice and ordered a new Dell 17.3” screen laptop with Windows 8.  He knows about all those numbers about RAM and such that are a mystery to me, so I relied upon him to not lead me astray.

Often, when he is trying to teach me something technical about my computer, we both become very frustrated.  That’s where the different language stuff comes into play.  He can’t understand why I’m not getting what he’s saying, and I can’t understand why he doesn’t understand my repeated questions.  I don’t think I’m stupid, you know. Annoyed

After all that I’ve said, here’s my first impression of Windows 8… I like it!  I like those big squares with things I can click on once.  I’ve eliminated those I’ll never use, and added my favorites like Live Writer and Picasa, and if you click on the ‘desktop’ you get right to a screen that’s familiar like Windows 7.  Yes, there’s a learning curve, but then I had someone to take me (a little tersely at times) through the basics.  Repeated prompts by Daniel helped a lot, but I was on my own once I left a few hours later.  I think it’s working out, and I’m sure anyone with questions about it would get a calm reply from RickSmile

I did have to call Dan once today though, because try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to shut the dang computer down correctly since there wasn’t that familiar start button (that also included a shut down/restart option).  It took him less than 30 seconds to walk me through that procedure.  Perhaps now I’ve left the 90’s and entered the new millennium??  Time will tell…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

The North Face Announces New Line Of Training Gear - Mountain Athletics

Outdoor Retailer is less than a week away and the product announcements are already arriving in my email inbox with surprising regularity. One of the latest press releases to catch my attention comes our way courtesy of The North Face, which has announced a new line of apparel specifically designed to meet the training needs of outdoor athletes.

The new line of gear will be available starting in January 2014 and will fall under the "Mountain Athletics" brand which will include both clothing and shoes. TNF will offer four products at launch including the Kilowatt Jacket, short sleeve shirt and shorts. The Killowatt Ultra, a lightweight minimalist training shoe will released later in the spring of 2014.

Each of these products is the result of a collaboration between The North Face and Mountain Athlete gym located in Jackson, Wyoming. The facility is a strength and conditioning center that focuses on preparing outdoor athletes for big challenges, with a particular focus on skiing and snowboarding, rock and ice climbing, mountaineering and ultrarunning. A number of TNF sponsored athletes train at the gym and played a role in creating and testing the Mountain Athletics line.

The new gear will get a tough field test later this fall when ultrarunner Mike Wolfe will attempt to set a new speed record on the John Muir Trail. The current record was set by Brett Muane, who completed the 211 mile (340 km) route in just 3 days and 9 hours back in 2009. Brett, who will be joined by fellow endurance athlete Hal Koerner, will be training for the record-setting attempt using the new Kilowatt gear. The rest of us will have to wait for it to be released next year before we can give it a go.

I'll be on hand at OR next week to check out the gear for myself. I'm looking forward to seeing the new line and what it brings to the table for outdoor athletes. I'll try to snag some photos that I can share on Facebook and Twitter while I'm there.

Video: Drone Captures Awesome Surf Footage

It wasn't all that long ago that drones seemed like something out of a science fiction movie. Now they're common place and even average people can own one for personal use. We've seen them becoming increasingly popular with adventure filmmakers, who can now attach a lightweight GoPro camera and capture ariel footage of just about anything. Case in point, check out the beautiful and mesmerizing footage that was shot from a small drone at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. The video simply looks amazing and I'm happy that photographers now have these tools at their disposal. Great stuff!

Aerial footage of surfers at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz (DJI Phantom) from Eric Cheng on Vimeo.

Adventurer Bags Britain's Six Peaks While Cycling Between Mountains

British adventurer Leon McCarron has just completed a very cool expedition. Leon, who has walked 3000 miles (4828 km) from Mongolia to Hong Kong and trekked through the Empty Quarter from Oman to the UAE, as now completed a climb of the "Six Peaks," which consists of the tallest mountain in each of the major regions of the British Isles. And in doing so, he also rode a folding bike between each of his destinations, covering 750 miles (1207 km) in the process.

Leon shares some of the details of his expedition in a recent blog post on his site, although he promises more updates in the days ahead. The entire journey took 19 days to complete and like any good adventure it didn't always go as planned. Still, it seems like he managed to improvise quite nicely and ended up having a fun and incredibly satisfying adventure during which he rode his bike between the mountains and carried it on his back when he trekked to the summits.

So exactly which peaks did he climb? The list looks like this: Slieve Donard (850 m/2789 ft) in Northern Ireland; Carrantoohill (1038 m/3406 ft) in the Republic of Ireland; Snowdon (1085 m/3560 ft) in Wales; Snaefell (620 m/2034 ft) on the Isle of Man; Scafell Pike (978 m/3209 ft) in England and Ben Nevis (1344 m/4409 ft) in Scotland. Leon says that each of the climbs was completed in unusually warm and sunny weather, with the exception of Ben Nevis, which can be notoriously foggy, damp and cold. In this case, it continued to live up to that reputation.

Aside from the peak bagging, Leon also says that he had a fantastic time riding his bike between each of the mountains. The landscapes that he passed through were scenic and made for some of the best cycling he's ever encountered. The fantastic summer that the U.K. is experiencing didn't hurt the situation either.

Reading the text of his blog post, it is clear that this was an enjoyable experience all around and it is another example of finding adventure in your own backyard. He didn't have to travel off to some far flung locale for this expedition and yet it was still very satisfying. Well done Leon!

20 Famous Hikers Pick Their Favorite Trails

Looking for a new backpacking or hiking challenge? Want to experience some of the best trails in the world? Then you'll definitely want to check out the list of 20 top trails as picked by 20 famous hikers that was put together by the team over at National Geographic Adventure. They poled some well known figures from the world of exploration and adventure and shared their selections for their ultimate dream hikes. The results are a list of hikes that range from legendary to those you may not even have heard of.

Some of the walking routes that earn a place on the list include the Sierra High Route in California, which was selected by ├╝ber-hiker Andrew Skurka and the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a favorite of ultrarunning phenom Scott Jurek. Unsurprisingly, American mountaineer Jim Whittaker names the trek to Everest Base Camp as his favorite hike, while Sally McCoy, the CEO of CamelBak loves the 200-mile (321 km) Snowman Trek in Bhutan.

As you can tell, there are some very diverse and interesting hikes on the list that were selected by a very diverse and interesting group of people. But one of the hikes isn't even officially open yet, although it continues to evolve into a true world-class trekking route that will draw backpackers from around the globe. That is the Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail that runs through South Sudan and Uganda. This route, which I first told you about several months back, is 360 miles (580 km) in length and runs from Gondokora near Juba, in South Sudan, to Baker’s View, which overlooks Lake Albert in Uganda. This particular trail was suggested for the Nat Geo list by explorer Julian Monroe Fisher, who has been instrumental in its creation. It is set to open in 2014 with the first trekkers walking its length shortly there after. The photo above is actually a shot of an existing plaque commemorating the Bakers in one of the villages along the trail. Official trail markers will be added alongside it soon.

If you're planning a new treking adventure in the near future then you'll certainly want to check-out the trails that made Nat Geo's list. There are some excellent options for sure and whether you want to hike a well known classic route or take on a complete new one, there is a little something for everyone.
 

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