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Dutch Franz has 66 articles published.

Book Review – Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

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Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Washington:  Section Hiking from the Columbia River to Manning Park
By Tami Asars
286 pp. Available through Mountaineers Books for $24.95

hiking the pacific crest trail

Tami Asars is quickly becoming one of the Northwest’s most cherished guidebook writers.  Her latest work will serve as the definitive source for anyone considering hiking Washington’s section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  What makes Tami’s work so great is that she takes her years of experience as a former REI guide and brings that detailed knowledge and expertise to her guidebooks.  She knows what you need to know and what questions you will have before you ever think to ask.  Want to know the reliable water sources between Hope Lake and Stevens Pass?  Tami will show you.  Want to know where to find the best pastries on earth after a long day on the trail?  Tami will give you directions (here is a hint… p. 185).

Tami provides exceptional detail and is a thorough researcher.  Her Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail guidebook breaks down Washington’s portion of the PCT into sections and legs that Tami took years to document.  Each leg is illustrated with a detailed relief map that will tell you much of what you need to know at a quick glance; mileage, water source, trail numbers, camp sites, and elevation gain/loss are all at your fingertips.  Sections itineraries are also suggested to help you plan your time on the trail.

The book is full of guide tricks and knowledge only gained when you lead people around in the wilderness for a living.  She quickly and easily demystifies the web of rules, permits, and land management agencies you encounter on the trail.  She also provides advice and helpful hints about camping spots during busy seasons along the trial.  Besides this very specific advice, Tami also gently reminds you of trail etiquette and hygiene considerations.

While Tami’s book it packed full of must-have PCT knowledge and entertaining writing, the information is not the only reason to purchase the book.  Tami is also an accomplished professional photographer and her book is beautifully illustrated by her own photos.  Glimpse into the wild through Tami’s lens and see the sights you can hope to see when you take your own journey on Washington’s PCT.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Tami Asars is a Washington based writer and photographer. Her latest guidebook – Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is available through Mountaineers Books.

Future PCT publications by Mountaineers Books

hiking the pacific crest trail

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon by Eli Boschetto (January 2017)

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California by Phillip Kramer (Fall 2017)

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California by Shawnte Salabert (Fall 2017)

Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 Gear Review

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Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
Taking the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 to extreme places and testing it against precision instruments.

Tackling high places with the Casio Pro Trek  PRW3500T-7.  With most people swapping out their watch for time keeping on a smart phone, we often forget that a timepiece is not only a way to make sure you make it to your next meeting, it is a tool to make sure you make it home.

I had my first experience with Casio watches in the early 90s while participating in an intensive wilderness leadership program.  My Seiko dive watch fogged over and was unreadable.  I asked a fellow student how he liked his Casio G-Shock.  The man took the watch off his wrist and threw it as hard as he could at a brick wall…not a scratch!  The man said it was bombproof, and it was (is).

So I was intrigued to test Casio’s latest foray into the outdoor expedition market and put the three sensor Casio Pro Trek PRW3500-7T to the test.  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 features tough solar power and three sensor technology.  This means that lifesaving and navigational features are more accurate and are continuously powered.  That’s right, you don’t have to worry about batteries or if your altimeter will lose power while peak-bagging.

The Test. To test the durability and functionality of the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7, I took the watch on a recent climb on the nation’s premier alpine climbing test laboratory – Washington State’s Mount Rainier.  In the mountains, accuracy of navigation and decision making technology can mean the difference between life and death.  In addition, the tools you are using have to be robust to extended power challenges, extreme weather, and physical abuse.

Functionality.  The expedition features of the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 include an altimeter, barometer, and compass.  To test the accuracy of the altimeter, I compared the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 data on ascent and decent against a Garmin GPS and a German made climbing altimeter.  I indexed the Pro Trek and German altimeter to the surveyed benchmark at Paradise.  The GPS altitude was low by 60ft from the benchmark.  Over the next several hours and thousands of feet, I repeatedly check the altitude of all three instruments.  What I found was that the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 had the least amount of swing in altitude readings than the other instruments, generally indicating more accurate functionality.  The other instruments would be either significantly high or low compared to the other two.

Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 tracking elevation gain while glacier traveling on Mount Rainier.

The barometer function gives both a reading of barometric pressure and a graphic that tracks the barometric pressure over the period of your climb.  The barometer was checked against relevant weather data and found to be very accurate.  In addition, the tracking graphic was great for quickly seeing the weather trend and helping to make weather related climbing decisions.  The temperature reading was accurate within 10 degrees, but was often influenced by body temperature.

The compass function was checked against a military grade lensatic compass.  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 user manual alerts the user that the compass is only accurate to +/- 11 degrees.  I found this degree range unacceptable for wilderness navigation.  During the test, the watch displayed azimuth directions dramatically different from the lensatic compass.  The watch compass was also slow to react to changing directions of the user.  Where the compass feature could be helpful is as a back-up compass to indicate general direction.  I always believe in the redundancy rule when in wild country, I would trust the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 to point me in the right cardinal direction if my primary compass became inoperable.

Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 compass test.

The Band.  This model of Casio comes with a metal watch band similar to popular high-end dive watches.  A problem I encountered is that the watch needs to be uncovered to allow the sensors to operate properly and for the best accuracy.  However, if you adjust the band for your wrist, it is unlikely to fit over layered clothing (like a puffy or a parka) worn on expeditions.  The models with a rubber watch band don’t have this problem as these types of bands can be adjusted.  A recommendation to Casio is to make the metal bands with an extension, like dive watches do to adjust for wetsuits.

Expedition Features.  Need to know what time the sun is going to rise over a temple in Bhutan?  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 will tell you; this watch is full of nice to have features for when you are adventuring across the globe or just across the country.  Other features include; water resistant to 200m, world time in 31 time zones, sunrise/sunset data, stopwatch, auto calendar through 2099, five daily alarms, battery power indicator,  and an incredible battery that will last for seven months on a single full charge.

Durability.  The durability of the watch was tested through first-rate abuse.  I conducted the throw test against volcanic rock – not a scratch or impairment of functionality.  I wore it rock climbing and it performed without a hitch.  Finally, I used the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7  in extreme weather conditions while ice axing my way across a glacier and it performed like a champ…well, like a Casio.

Five North Cascades Fall Destinations You Can’t Miss

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North Cascades Fall Destinations
Looking for great North Cascades fall destinations? Nothing beats the historic town of Stehekin for fall adventure. Photo by John Chao, courtesy of The National Park Service.

Before the winter snow (and cold rain) starts to make outdoor excursions more a practice of survival than outdoor recreation, checkout Washington’s North Cascades region for wild recreation, wine tasting, and magnificent sightseeing opportunities.  The North Cascades National Park serves as the recreational hub, but outside the park the area comes alive with magical experiences from the wild to the refined.  Come with Seattle Backpackers Magazine as we take a tour of the area, stopping to highlight some of the special places adventurers can find in this gem of the northwest.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 1:  Mount Baker

Starting our trip in the north and approximately 31 miles east of Bellingham, Wash., you will find picturesque Mount Baker.  At 10,781 ft., Baker is one of many active volcanos in the Cascade Range and the second most active after Mount Saint Helens.  The mountain is a favorite of climbers, hikers, and snow sport enthusiasts.  Baker offers downhill skiing in the winter months with the season normally running from late November to early spring.  When ski season is over, the mountaineers arrive to attempt one of the premier alpine climbing experiences in the Northwest.  Hikers and backpackers can enjoy the unspoiled wilderness and dramatic fall colors throughout November. White water rafting is also available in the area on the Nooksack River.  Stop at the Glacier Public Service Center to plan your trip into the northern reaches of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

North Cascades fall destinations
Fire lookouts are a part of Washington’s history. Let your North Cascades fall destinations take you to some of the region’s best views. Copper Ridge Fire Lookout, photo courtesy of The National Park Service.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 2:  North Cascades Scenic Byway (Highway 20)

They say “getting there is half the fun,” and with the North Cascades Scenic Byway this is true. After enjoying Mount Baker, head south and catch the North Cascades Scenic Byway.  The byway winds 140 miles from Sedro-Woolley to Twisp and is part of the 400 mile scenic Cascade Loop.  Stop at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount for the latest conditions and for help planning your fall adventure.  Continuing east, skirt the translucent green waters of Ross Lake before heading up into the mountains and awe-inspiring views of rock spires, hanging valleys, waterfalls, and alpine glaciers that give this area the nickname, the “North American Alps.” Reaching the high desert of the Methow Valley, enjoy all types of outdoor recreation, charming restaurants, and vibrant nightlife.  The byway is a favorite with cyclists looking to test themselves on the steep inclines.  Many of the popular hiking and climbing routes in the area start on trailheads adjacent to the byway.   This road truly traverses wild places and is therefore a seasonal road.  Check the latest travel advisories because the byway closes in late November when heavy snow hits the pass.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 3:  Ross Lake

Our next stop is the Ross Lake National Recreation Area for fall kayaking, camping, and a visit to the famous Ross Lake Resort.  Ross Lake is approximately 20-miles long from Ross Dam in Washington State to southern British Columbia.  Enjoy off-season quiet and watching the changing colors from the seat of your kayak or canoe.  Kayaking and canoeing are popular fall activities on the lake and the area features 19 boat-in campsites available along the shores for adventurous paddlers with a backcountry camping permit.  There is no direct road access to the Ross Lake; canoes, kayaks, and other portable craft can be launched on Diablo Lake and paddled five miles to the end of the lake and then ported over a mile around Ross Dam (that will get your heart pumping!).  Visitors can also hike to Ross Lake or take the Diablo Ferry.  Ross Lake Resort provides portage and water taxi service on the lake and rents out small power boats, canoes, and kayaks.  The resort was established around 1952 from an old floating logging camp.  The resort offers 12 individual cabins and three bunkhouses built on log floats. Guests can enjoy the scenic mountain views and kayak from their front door at this one-of-a-kind remote resort. Accommodations are available by reservation from mid-June to October 31, so put this destination on your list for next year.

North Cascades fall destinations
Kayaking Ross Lake is one of the fun North Cascades fall destinations for the whole family. Photo courtesy of The National Park Service.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 4:  Methow Valley Towns

Continuing down the North Cascades Scenic Byway will take travelers through Mazama, Winthrop, and Twisp.  These towns serve as the cultural and recreational hubs of the North Cascades.  Mazama is on the Methow trail system and near well-maintained rock climbing routes.  Mazama is a popular stop year-round to fuel-up with great food and supplies at the Mazama Store while cross-country skiing, mountain biking, fishing, or hiking the Pasayton Wilderness.  Pedal power is a great way to enjoy fall colors, bike rentals are available in Mazama along with outdoor supplies and friendly local advice about the best places to go. The Old West town of Winthrop is next on the list of stops.  Winthrop has great restaurants and eclectic shops.  Outdoor gear and bikes can be purchased or rented at many of the outfitters that call Winthrop home.  Finally, at the confluence of the Twisp and Methow Rivers is the town of Twisp.  Twisp is home of a thriving artistic community that draws inspiration from the region’s natural beauty.  Stop for lunch and watch the golden leaves sway in the breeze on the banks of the Methow River.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 5:  Lake Chelan

Our tour ends at Stehekin, the quiet lake town nestled into the headwaters of Lake Chelan.  The remote town is connected to the outside world by foot, boat, or float plane.  The journey to Stehekin is part of the charm and ensures a quintessential North Cascades experience.  Early settlers established homesteads in Stehekin in the late 1800s and engaged in logging and agriculture.  Today there are several lodges and restaurants in town and approximately 78 campsites.  Free backcountry passes are required for most campsites; check with the Golden West Visitor Center for details.  Stehekin serves as a hub to explore the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and offers hikes for all abilities.  Visitors can also rent bikes and kayaks in town and even go horseback riding.  No trip to Stehekin is complete without visiting the Stehekin Pastry Company for amazing pies and cinnamon rolls. While it is possible to hike into the town, most visitors arrive on the Lady of the Lake ferry from Chelan.  Lake Chelan is over 50-miles long and the third deepest lake in the United States.  The lake hosts all types of water sports and fishing and is a great fall destination.  After a day hiking and taking in the fall colors, try one of Lake Chelan’s 24 shore side wineries and enjoy placid lake views while sipping some of the best wines in the country.

Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX Approach Shoe – Gear Review

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Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX Approach Shoe
Garmont DragonTail
The Garmont Dragontail handles all the varieties of rugged terrain found on the long approaches in Pacific Northwest climbing.

Approach any challenge with the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX.  If you are climbing on one of the Pacific Northwest’s magnificent peaks, you might find yourself on long approach hikes that take you through rain forests, scrambling over sketchy rock outcroppings, and through numerous creeks and snowfields.  One solution to this problem is to wear your alpine boots during the entire ascent – and many do this.  While this may seem like an easy solution, additional hours in heavy alpine boots can tire your legs and create friction points on the foot as the boot negotiates terrain it was not made to handle.

In my search for the perfect PNW approach shoe, I first looked at a light approach version by Scarpa.  The lightweight construction didn’t provide much support on mixed terrain under a moderate to heavy climbing load.  The smooth rock-climbing type sole also wore out and became slick in just over a year of use and was not good in the mud and wet forest floor found in the PNW.

Fortunately, I found the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX.  This Gortex approach shoe has traction Vibram soles and a sturdy construction that is perfect for the wet mixed terrain approach found here.  The Vibram traction sole and sturdy construction gives great support under the heavier load of an alpine pack.  In the wet conditions of the Pacific Northwest, dry feet are important.  This was no problem for the Gortex Garmont Dragontail, the shoe kept my feet dry over several streams and hours in soggy snow melt.  Another great feature is the oversized toe box; the toe box was super comfortable with plenty of room for my toes without squishing them together and allowing room enough for mid-weight socks.

Garmont Dragontail
Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX is sturdy enough to handle kick-stepping into moderate glacial terrain.

 

Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX has an extended rubber toe box and rubber heel backstay to protect the upper and provide traction while scrambling.  In addition, the shoe has heel lock features that reduce heel slip and prevent blisters.  Garmont uses a proprietary moisture and odor management in the footbed to reduce odor after long treks.  Be sure to check the size when purchasing, I normally wear a size 10, but took a size 11 in the Garmont Dragontail.

Garmont Dragontail
The Garmont Dragontail tackles mixed terrain and rock like a champ.

Scrambling over tough approaches is easy with the versatile Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX.  The sole and extended rubber toe box provided excellent traction on rock.  One downside of the solid construction is additional weight.  The Dragontail is a little heavier than other approach shoes, light hikers, or trail runners.  For those that like ultralight shoes, this may not be for you.  For me, the versatility and the Garmont Dragontail’s ability to crush all the terrain I threw at it make it well worth the few extra ounces.

The Hiking Brain – Boost Your Creativity and Happiness

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hiking brain
Recent research shows how the hiking brain can boost our creativity, cognitive skills, and actually make us happy. Time to lace-up your hiking boots! Photo Source: letsgoplayoutside.com

 

Outdoor exercise can do more for your brain than just the familiar runners-high.  Most of us have experienced a euphoric feeling while on the trail or reaching the summit of a difficult climb.  These pleasurable feelings are a result of a complex interaction of chemicals in the brain.  The hiking brain uses endorphins to mask pain and dopamine to motivate goal attainment that combines to give you an exhilarated high that lasts for hours after the hike has stopped.  However, recent research has shown that the hiking brain might also boost your creativity and attention.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, researchers at Stanford University wanted to see how walking inspired the creative centers of the brain.  To do this, participants were tested under three conditions; seated, walking, and walking outdoors.  The participants were then given tests to measure creative thinking.  An example question from the study included finding alternate uses for a button, one participant answered, “as a doorknob for a dollhouse, an eye for a doll, and a tiny strainer.”

What the researchers found was that creative thinking improved by an average of 60 percent while walking, and improved even more when walking outdoors.  The reason for these findings is still unclear. Researchers think that hiking in nature may relax competition among different brain activities.  This relaxation is believed to allow for the opening of flexible new ways of thinking that increase the hiking brain creativity.

hiking brain
Scan shows how the hiking brain is energized, boosting creativity and cognitive skills. Photo Source: exotichikes.com

 

Reboot and be Happy

Besides increasing creativity, the outdoors can also improve mental and emotional renewal while increasing positive feelings. A study published in the Journal of Psychological Science conducted at the University of Michigan found that walking outdoors improved attention and performance on difficult mental tasks.  Researchers believe that walking in the city requires so much attention that the brain cannot relax.  Crowded sidewalks, honking horns, and careening cars demand active attention to avoid bodily harm.  This study found that natural environments offer what researchers called a, “soft fascination” that is in sharp contrast to the attention grabbing aspect of our normal urban experience.  The relaxing scenes of nature allow the brain to reset and ultimately restore focus.  To test this theory, researchers had participants walk a 2.8 mile wooded path.  Participants were then given a series of numbers that they had to repeat backwards.  These scores were then compared to scores after a similar walk in a busy urban area. The researchers found that participants scored significantly higher on the test after walking in nature.  Researchers also found that the participants’ feelings of emotional refreshment after the nature walk were related to higher scores on the test.

In a related study, Iowa State University further tested the relationship between outdoor walking and emotions to determine if participants needed to walk a particular pace or time to feel good.  In a study published in the journal of Psychology of Sport and Exercise, participants walked for 15 minutes at a moderate pace to test the effects of outdoor exercise on mood.  Previous research assumed that exercise had to be done for an extended time to experience improved emotional states.  The study found that participants walking outdoors still experienced increases in both energy and positive emotions, even when conducted for a limited duration of just 15 minutes.

What these studies are telling us are things we already know, but often forget in our busy lives. We know hiking makes us feel good, we have amazing epiphanies on the trail, and we feel more energized and peaceful after a hike; even though our thighs are burning.  An unanticipated finding in the Stanford study was that participants also talked more and had better conversations while walking in the outdoors. The conclusion here is that people are funny social animals born of nature, we remember this connection the second our feet hit the trail. So this weekend conduct your own experiment, grab a friend or two and go for a hike.  You will not only become more interesting, you will have fun doing it.

Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks – Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories

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outdoor-retailer-summer-market
Read about the best Outdoor Retailer inspiring stories and learn how these companies are disrupting an industry. Photo Source: handshake.com

There are thousands of vendors at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market exposition.  And while it is easy to get lost in the crowd, some companies are so unusual that it is impossible not to acknowledge their positive disruption of the outdoor industry.  This week, Seattle Backpackers Magazine reviews four outdoor retailer inspiring stories and how these companies are changing the world for the better.

 

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Photo courtesy of nuun.

nuun.  On the outside, Seattle based nuun (pronounced noon) is an electrolyte replace and hydration company.  nuun packs a complete electrolyte profile in a small tablet that is dissolved in water and supports active lifestyles.  Electrolytes play a key function in maintaining fluid balance, preventing muscle cramping, and aids in muscle contractions and movement.  Most electrolyte powders or pre-made drinks are packed with sugar, the innovative effervescent technology, plant-based ingredients, and lack of sugar in nuun makes it a disruptive force in the outdoor and sport performance market.

On the inside, nuun is just as disruptive.  From organizational culture to a well-developed social conscious; nuun shakes things up…sometimes, literally.  The organization embraces what CEO Kevin Rutherford describes as the nuun life.  The nuun life recognizes the individual and social benefit of activity and is dedicated to an active lifestyle in and out of the office.  This dedication takes the form of supporting employee activities outside the office and 5-minute workout sessions three times a week during the workday called the five minutes of fitness.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
The staff and wonder dog Yukon at nuun taking five minutes to live the nuun life during work. nuun’s five minutes of fitness fosters social bonding and creativity while reducing stress and encouraging healthy living. Photo courtesy of nuun.

Social responsibility is a big part of the way nuun operates.  The nuun principles include clean product, clean planet, and clean sport.  The company supports socially conscious causes like The Conservation Alliance and other pro-green initiatives with financial donations from sales and volunteerism.

 

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Photo courtesy of MiiR.

MiiR.  MiiR, another Seattle based company, makes outdoor bottles, bikes, and bags.  The company’s flagship store is in the trendy Fremont neighborhood known for microbrews and a giant troll that lives under the Aurora Bridge.  The products are elegantly designed, functional, and rugged. From the camp cup to the food canister to vacuum insulated bottles, MiiR has high quality containers for every aspect of your outdoor life.  MiiR also features a line of bikes for kids and adults.  The bikes are commuter style bikes great for getting to the office or a slow Sunday morning coffee crawl.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
MiiR’s flagship store is also a coffee and beer house. Photo courtesy of MiiR.

Besides great outdoor products, what makes MiiR truly inspirational is the company’s commitment to making the world a better place to live.  Every MiiR product funds a trackable giving project as part of the product to project program.  The program is unique in corporate giving and allows customers to fully understand the impact of their purchase.  Simply register the MiiR product online and enter the product tracking code and you can track where and what project your purchase is supporting.  MiiR gives five percent of revenue annually to different giving projects around the world focusing on water, education, and bicycle projects.  These ventures have led to 55 water projects, over 4,500 bikes given, and the building of a school.  Come down to the Fremont store and enjoy a handcrafted Counter Culture Coffee or one of over 25 beers currently on tap and see what MiiR is doing to make the world a better place.

 

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring StoriesSherpa.  The character, strength, and generosity of the Sherpa people have made the exploration of the Himalayas possible.  The bravery and heroics of Sherpa guides is legendary, as is the economic challenges of the people.  The company Sherpa makes adventure gear for the exploration of the wilder places on earth.  The gear is designed and tested for Sherpas by Sherpas in one of the most extreme environments imaginable.  From trekking to alpine climbing, the gear is made to be bombproof, functional in movement, and provide state-of-the-art thermal and cooling qualities.

While the gear is amazing, the story behind the gear is what makes Sherpa one of the outdoor retailer inspiring stories.  The company was founded by Tashi Sherpa, nephew of Ang Gyalzen Sherpa, one of the original Sherpa on Sir Edmund Hillary’s famous Everest expedition in 1953.  Tashi Sherpa’s goal was to create economic stability and opportunity for the Sherpa that supported the recreational industry in Nepal and often lived in poverty.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Tashi Sherpa’s daughters are now guiding the business. On the right is Pema Chalmatsang-Sherpa and on the left in the green is Tsedo Sherpa-Ednalino, Chief Operating Officer. Photo by dutch franz.

Now, Tashi Sherpa’s daughters Tsedo Sherpa-Ednalino and  Pema Chalmatsang-Sherpa guide the company and employ over 1,000 skilled women to hand-knit many of the company’s signature products.  The company focuses on keeping things local, a large portion of Sherpa’s products are designed and manufactured in Nepal.  In addition to the economic opportunity Sherpa fosters, the company also supports the Paldorje Education Fund.  This educational fund allows disadvantaged Nepalese children living in remote villages the opportunity to attend school.  Find out more about how you can help support the scholarship fund and Sherpa’s innovative commitment to rural economic development and sustainable manufacturing at the Sherpa website.

 

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Bedrock Sandals Co-founder Dan Opalacz and Chief Experience Officer Naresh Kumar. Photo by dutch franz.

Bedrock Sandals.  This Richmond, California company believes in big adventure and simple living.  Bedrock’s innovative materials and minimalist design is genius, giving you just what you need to explore the world.   Co-founder Dan Opalacz started making sandals while living in his VW van traveling the country in search of great outdoor adventures.  Co-founder Nick Pence is chief designer and heads Bedrock’s 1% For The Planet environmental non-profit.

The sandal design takes a disruptive approach to traditional footwear concepts.   Bedrock’s goal is to harness the natural human-inherited flow of movement.  They attempt to do this with a zero drop sole profile as well as creating a sole platform that provides comfort and grip across terrain without unnaturally forcing your feet out of alignment.  Bedrock attempts to design footwear to mold over time to your individual foot profile, not the other way around.  The sandals reflect the founders’ vision of harmony and simplicity.

While Bedrock’s sandals are innovative, it is the company’s commitment to simple living and building an awareness of social responsibility that makes it one of the outdoor retailer inspiring stories.   Many companies have corporate giving or sponsorship programs, but few show the personal commitment that Bedrock shows to making a difference in the world.  This philosophy is personified in Naresh Kumar, Bedrock’s Chief Experience Officer.  Naresh left a high paying software engineering job in Palo Alto to live the simple Bedrock life and raise awareness for social justice issues around the world.  Taking this mission and Bedrock sandals on the road, Naresh trekked 3,800 miles through five countries and three continents.  The herculean effort included a stretch of 280 miles on a broken foot.  The efforts of Bedrock and Naresh helped bring much needed attention to the issues of human trafficking and the economic exploitation of vulnerable populations.  Few companies are willing to put so much skin in the game to live their values.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
A well-worn Bedrock sandal from Naresh Kumar’s 3,800 mile three continent trek. The ballistic insole of the sandal was rubbed bare by Naresh’s foot. Photo by dutch franz.

 

Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks – Main Floor Review

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Outdoor Retailer 2016
Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks from Seattle Backpackers Magazine. Photo by dutch franz.

The Outdoor Retailer 2016 Summer Market was a chance for some of the biggest manufacturers in the business to show what is new in the outdoor gear industry.  Read Seattle Backpackers Magazine Editor’s picks and get the inside scoop of what’s to come.

If you have never been to the Outdoor Retailer exposition,”OR” for short, then you can’t imagine the sheer size and volume of gear, clothing, and accessories available.  Being an OR virgin, I had not anticipated what I would find when I went to Salt Lake City for my first OR experience.  What I found was both inspiring and a little overwhelming as marketing and marketers attempted to define and shape the outdoor experience for profit.

The floor space at OR is mostly segregated by company size.  Large, or well-funded, companies have exhibits on the main floor.  Smaller companies, or companies that don’t want to spend the cash, have booths in pavilions adjacent to the main convention center.  This bifurcation of the industry seems like a natural place for me to segment my Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s picks.  This review will focus on gear found on the main convention floor from mostly larger companies.  Since there is just way too much gear to conduct a comprehensive review, I will focus on gear that stood out as exceptional or unique.

Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks  

outdoor retailer 2016
Arc’teryx

Multi-Day Backpacking Packs.  Arc’teryx Bora AR50.  This pack is large, solidly constructed, and built to carry heavy loads a long way.  The revolutionary RotoGlide moving hip-belt allows the hip-belt to twist as your torso twists and moves up and down as you stride or ascend steep inclines.  The durability of the hard-plastic components is still suspect and needs testing, but the concept is revolutionary and could improve balance while reducing fatigue and lumbar and hip discomfort.  No other pack on the floor was thinking that far out of the box.

 

 

outdoor retailer 2016
Mountain Hardwear

Alpine/Mountaineering Pack

Mountain Hardwear continues to make the best expedition mountaineering pack on the market.  The South Col 70 OutDry Backpack is substantial and build to take a beating that only crampons and ice axes will give a pack.  The pack uses innovative OutDry construction that bonds a durable waterproof membrane to the main compartment so that your gear stays safe and dry in even the wettest conditions.  The pack keeps all the convenient features that mountaineers have come to expect and rely on.  My favorite feature is the outside reinforced crampon stash pouch.  This pouch allows me to quickly stuff my crampons into a pocket without fear of punching a hole through the pack, a simple design that has yet to be copied.

 

outdoor retailer 2016
Osprey Packs

Multi-Use Pack

Osprey leads the industry in versatile lightweight packs for trekking, day hikes, or trail running.  Osprey showcased a new ergonomic line of multi-use packs designed to be better fitting and functional on the move.  Osprey packs are full of features like Bio-Stretch technology, the Ergo-Pull hip belt, and the Airspeed suspension and spacer mesh harness system that will keep the load stable and comfortably positioned off your back while assisting in ventilation.  Many packs also include an integrate rain cover.  Osprey has a large selection of packs for all occasions, I recommend finding an authorized dealer and taking the time to find the right fit and features for what you like to do.

 

Outdoor retailer 2016
Hilleberg Tents

All-Season Tents

The best tents on the convention floor were made by Hilleberg.  Forget the more well-known tent manufacturers, Hilleberg makes the most bomb-proof, best designed all-season tents in the consumer market.  The tents are relatively lightweight and easy to put up, even in a storm.  The integrated rainfly allows you to pack-up the tent under the fly keeping the tent and you dry.  I also encourage you to take the Hilleberg challenge and try to rip a swatch made from the tent material. The swatches are cut nearly in half and you are challenged to try and rip the fabric further…good luck.

 

outdoor retailer 2016
North Face

Outdoor Clothing Systems

Nobody makes, or markets, an integrated outdoor clothing system like North Face.  From base layer to parka the North Face Summit Series uses high-tech material and design that ingeniously integrates each layer into a performance system.  Other expedition clothing companies attempt to integrate layers as well, but North Face simply does it better, and more importantly, they knew how to display it at the expo.  The Summit Series at the expo was on active manikins showing each layer as it would be combined and used in the outdoors.  Other manufacturers left the clothing on racks making it difficult to identify how the clothing systems worked together.  It may be only marketing savvy, but give it to North Face for helping customers understand how the clothing system is integrated into the activity.

 

Outdoor Retailer 2016
Garmont USA

Boots

Garmont is entering the U.S. market again with an innovative line of hiking and climbing boots.  The boot design breaks new ground with unique anatomical construction for greater comfort and performance.  Bigger toe boxes and heel lock technology add to comfort and the Intelligent Flex System accommodates natural forefoot flex and shin mobility.  Check out the entire line of hiking boots and fast hikers, Garmont has much to offer your outdoor pursuits.

Next week be sure to catch Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s picks for the smaller innovative outdoor companies that are changing the industry.

Part 2 – Tami Asars PCT Experience in Her Own Words

in Community/Trails by
PCT Sign
Tami Asars
Hiker on the PCT enjoys the view above Joe Lake north of Snoqualmie Pass. Photo by Tami Asars.

Last week we introduced a two-part interview with guidebook writer and photographer Tami Asars.  This week we complete the series with Tami Asars giving us expert advice for trekking Washington’s PCT.  From shoes to pastries, Tami Asars tells us what we need to know to make the most of our own PCT experience.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing the Washington part of the PCT?  If someone is stage hiking is there a “must do” section?

As I always say, that the feather in your cap is not that you hiked X amount of miles along the PCT, but rather that you experienced the wild backcountry with the muscle and mental power of your beautiful, human self.

Every single section of the PCT has something to see.  Near the Columbia River the landscape occasionally echoes our east coast neighbors with deciduous trees, riparian brush, quiet forests, dribbling creeks and view of Mount Adams and Mount Hood.

As you head north the trail curves around the broad shoulders of the giant Mount Adams and truly introduces “purple mountain majesty” with meadows of lupine and aster lining the rocky soil. Volcanic views make you realize just how tiny you are in the grand scheme of the universe.

From there, it’s up and over to Goat Rocks Wilderness where an ancient strata volcano guides hikers into subalpine meadows, spectacular views and alpine landscapes before crossing one of the most exhilarating and somewhat nerve wracking stretches on the entire Pacific Crest Trail- the Goat Rocks Knife Edge or The Spine. The cliffs below you drop off into valleys up to 3,000 feet below the trail.  Goat herds click and clack along the exposed rocks while grassy meadows below the trail offer rich grazing grounds for elk and deer. This view will knock off your socks and maybe even your boots.

Tami Asars
Dramatic open views are provided at Cispus Basin in Goat Rocks Wilderness. Photo by Tami Asars.

North of White Pass the grade is gentle to moderate and lakes and tarns abound.  There are so many in fact, that you might lose count of how many you’ve passed.  The peacefulness of the place attracts visitors who wish to saturate themselves in backcountry magic on the many shorelines of this tranquil landscape.

Rumors you may have heard about the trail between Chinook Pass and Snoqualmie Pass being all clear cuts is just not true. Sure there are a few here and there, but the trail also crosses the grand backcountry near Crystal Mountain ski area and the beautiful meadows and historic cabin near Government Meadow. When clear cuts present themselves, there are often herds of elk grazing on the young, green shoots.

Snoqualmie Pass to Steven Pass is one of the most popular sections for a reason!  The vast views of jagged peaks such as Mount Daniel, Bears Breast, and Cathedral Rock will have you reaching for your camera over and over again. Tranquil lakes, green meadows and running rivers provide hikers a brilliant opportunity to metaphorically take a load off.

From Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass the countryside looms large, rugged and breathtaking. From the high country of Glacier Peak Wilderness to the rumbling, deep valleys there is something for everyone, provided you are motivated, as this is the longest section in the guide. The tiny town of Stehekin is in the mix of this stretch, giving hikers an opportunity for a side trip.  The ponderosa pines of the east side of the Cascade Crest make more of an appearance and at times you feel like someone has dropped you into the set of a John Wayne movie.

North of Rainy Pass the trail hits one of the most majestic stretches of the North Cascades- the vast area known as Cutthroat Pass with sweeping views of mountains as far as the eye can see. Staying on the eastern side of the crest, the trail eventually meets up with the car camping area of Harts Pass, a popular access spot for those looking to sync up with friends.  From there, it’s more peaks and valleys until you arrive at Monument 78, also known as the wide swath of cleared land differentiating the US and Canadian borders. Folks looking to travel into Canada and end up in Manning Park, B. C. must have appropriate paperwork arranged in advance. With that in hand, you’ll sleep like a baby once you reach the cozy Manning Park Lodge off Highway 3, the final destination for many weary hikers.

I really love the North Cascades from Rainy Pass to Manning Park, B. C.! That stretch is extremely panoramic and, if you can wait until fall, you’ll be in the thick of yellow larch trees and fewer people in the backcountry.  When you get closer to the Canadian Border, the only evidence of people is the trail you are following. Simply put, it’s undisturbed serenity.

How did your experience guiding the Wonderland help with this project?

I actually guided on the Northern Loop Trail in Mount Rainier National Park which connects in with the Wonderland. During that experience, I saw people with a variety of athletic abilities carrying a pack, many for the first time, over challenging terrain. I made a few notes of ways to make this guidebook extremely useful.

  1. Water sources. Folks new to backpacking will often carry way too much water, fearing that they may not find more up ahead. Carrying too much heavy water can weigh the most athletic hikers down to a snail’s pace and create potential for injuries. A good guidebook, like my PCT guide, will have information on where water sources are found and can be a tremendous asset in your planning. When you are training, learn your body’s hydration needs and carry only the amount you require until your next water source. Also, when you get to your water source, fill a bottle and drink it before you leave. As a guide, we helped people do the delicate dance between carrying too much water and carrying too little.
  1. Camping challenges. While the Northern Loop and Wonderland Trails have prearranged designated camps, the PCT does not.  In the beating heart of the summer, on some of the most popular PCT sections, camps get very full. When this happens, section hikers have no idea how far they need to keep hiking on tired feet and sore shoulders until they reach the next viable flat spot to call home for the night. I spent two years documenting all the camps along the trail including them in the guide’s elevation profile, maps and trail descriptions so that folks know exactly how far it is from one to the next. There is even a camp to camp distance chart at the end of each leg to further help those folks who want hard numbers.

Are there any pieces of gear you would recommend as a “must have?”

There are many, but if I had to pick one, I’d say my Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes.  Years ago everyone wore heavy backpacking boots, but these days it’s much more common to see folks traipsing down the trail wearing a lightweight, sneaker-style shoes designed to handle off- road terrain with reinforced foot protection and more aggressive stability.

The trail shoes were a game changer with respects to foot and leg fatigue and allowed me to cover much more ground than traditional hiking boots. Not only are they lighter, but the wide toe box provides plenty of room for my swollen, weary feet to spread-out without rubbing, pinching or impeding in anyway. Since I’ve started wearing them, I’ve gone from 15 mile days to over 20 with very little foot pain or exhaustion and for a professional hiker like myself, those are precious, deadline miles!

Any places off the trail (towns, restaurants, coffee shops, post offices) that you would recommend?

Don’t even think of missing the town of Stehekin! It’s one of the most amazing micro-towns you’ll ever get the chance to visit. There is so much to see and do in this historic villa located at the northern tip of Lake Chelan. Waterfalls, a historic one-room school house, a rustic bakery serving mouthwatering pies and cinnamon rolls, a gorgeous garden selling local produce, cheese and honey, bicycle rentals, kayak rentals, petroglyphs, fly-fishing adventures, and a handful of salt-of-the-earth residents are just a few reasons to visit! My new guidebook has contact information for a variety of lodging and activities you may want to enjoy.

 

 

Tami AsarsGuide book writer Tami Asars on the Pacific Crest Trail. Tami’s new guide book will be out in September 2016 in a full color coffee-table style edition.  An e-reader version is available for those that want to take the book with them on the trail.  Tami Asars says that her book is one in a series of PCT guide books that will be out this fall, other books will cover the California and Oregon sections of the PCT.  For details about where Tami Asars will be signing books and talking about her adventures go to her website at www.tamiasars.com

Renowned Guide Book Writer Tami Asars – The PCT Experience in Her Own Words

in Community by
Mount Adams
Tami Asars
As you head north the trail curves around the broad shoulders of the giant Mount Adams and truly introduces ‘purple mountain majesty’ with meadows of lupine and aster lining the rocky soil. Volcanic views make you realize just how tiny you are in the grand scheme of the universe. Words and Photo by guide book writer Tami Asars.

This fall, photographer, former REI guide, and guide book writer Tami Asars will release her third backpacking guide book.  Tami’s critically acclaimed books are known for detailed trail information and beautiful photograph.  I caught up with Tami this summer after her two-year odyssey to write the definitive guide book of Washington’s portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  This timely book follows a 137 percent increase in PCT usage between 2013 and 2015.

In this two-part series, I will explore Tami’s experiences writing the book and her advice for those thinking about taking on the challenge of backpacking Washington’s PCT.  Not wanting to change a word, I present Tami’s responses unedited.  Enjoy!

Part One:  Tami Asars in her own words

What gave you the idea to write the guide book about the Washington PCT?

As a guidebook author, I’m constantly thinking of ways to share my passions with other hikers.  While I love day hiking, I’m absolutely smitten by backpacking and love doing long distance trips, especially in Washington State.  Because it’s so beautiful, section hikers are becoming increasingly more prevalent in the backcountry and I wanted to give them a tool to help them discover the best way to see the trail from logical point to logical point.

How long did you spend on the PCT?  Was it continuous or did you break it up?

I spent two summers pushing up every pass and traipsing down every valley with the GPS rolling. I documented every water source, every camp site, every trail intersection, every river ford, every challenge and every reward.

The first year, I hiked from Snoqualmie Pass to Manning Park, B.C a distance of just over 267 miles. It took me roughly 13 days and it rained, hailed, and drizzled consistently for 9 solid days out of those 13. Washington weather is extremely fickle and I was able to represent the landscape and countryside in photos and trail descriptions having experienced a wide variety of conditions.

Tami Asars
Lodge Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. Photo by guide book writer Tami Asars.

The following summer I bobbed and weaved through lightning bolts, rain and sunshine from the Columbia River to Forest Road 23, near the town of Trout Lake, a total of 81.8 miles which took me 3.5 days.  During those days I enjoyed the splendor of the deciduous forests and riparian landscapes near the southern Washington border, and wandered through Indian Heaven Wilderness elbow deep in huckleberries.

I took a break at that point and explored the Columbia Gorge before hopping back on the trail and hiking from Forest Road 23 to Snoqualmie Pass a total of nearly 163 miles. During that stretch there were moments of peacefully, haunting quietness save for the occasional lone Clark’s Nutcracker call in the Mount Adams Wilderness.

What was your experience on the trail? Your time alone, people you met, wildlife encounters, observations of nature, photography.

I hiked half of the state solo which I always enjoy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love company too, but I believe all of us seek to peel back the layers and find out just how strong we are, both emotionally and physically, and hiking completely alone does just that.

When you spend time deep in thought simultaneously hyper aware of your surrounds, you actually begin to use all of your senses more keenly. Because we live in a modern world, I think we forget about the fact that underneath it all we are mammals and those senses are there for our survival; they are just a little buried underneath computer screens and central heat.  Out on the trail I could smell where there had been herds of elk before I came to their tracks. I could hear water dripping down creek beds long before I saw them. And, at one point, I felt as if I was being watched, so I stopped and took a hard look around. I thought I was going crazy before I discovered a beautiful, red-tailed hawk perched on a tree branch not more than 30 feet above me.

One night, I met a thru-hiker who offered to let me pitch my tent not far from hers.  It was late and getting dark, so my options were limited and she seemed happy and chatty. We talked for a long time about her med school ambitions and shared stories about our love of wild creatures and places.  We were so deep in conversation that we nearly missed the most brilliant sunset I’ve ever seen!  As we starred at the hues of reds, pinks, yellows and turquoise melding into the setting stars over Mount Adams, we were hypnotized into a stilled state of awe.  Sometimes the most brilliant of life’s moment unfold at the most unexpected times.

As for wildlife encounters, I’ve seen many animals along Washington’s PCT.  All have been quick to scamper off much to the chagrin of my waiting camera. Deer, elk, bear, bobcats, pikas, marmots, martens, toads, frogs, snakes, lizards, and too many birds to list have crossed my path along the way. And, it’s likely I chatted with every animal who would listen to me talk.

What obstacles did you face on the trail and with the book?

The most challenging part of the book, hands-down was the data and ensuring it was as accurate as possible. Collecting data is challenging in the best of conditions but add in a dense forest in places and/or an overcast sky which prevents the GPS from seeing the sky/satellites and data can get messy. What’s more GPS’s are often slightly inaccurate.

GPS technology used for recreational purposes is simply not an exact science, so unravelling the mysterious data tracks took a lot of imports and exports on a variety of mapping software as well as comparisons with numerous paper maps and other trusted sources. In the end, I proudly stand with my conclusions.

 

Check back next week when Tami gives sage advice for those thinking of backpacking Washington’s PCT.

PCT SignGuide book writer Tami Asars on the Pacific Crest Trail. Tami’s new guide book will be out in September 2016 in a full color coffee-table style edition.  An e-reader version is available for those that want to take the book with them on the trail.  Tami says that her book is one in a series of PCT guide books that will be out this fall, other books will cover the California and Oregon sections of the PCT.  For details about where Tami Asars will be signing books and talking about her adventures go to her website at www.tamiasars.com.

Summer Book Review – Amazing Trail Recipe Book

in Community/Food by
Good Food front cover 04052016

GOOD FOOD
For outdoor adventures
By Tanya Krezevka
230 pp. Available through Amazon or directly from Trail Recipes for $19.00

 

trail recipe book
Try these adventure tested meals in a new trail recipe book by trail chef Tanya Krezevska.

Food is important, especially in the outdoors where weather and exertion can put the body in a diminished capacity to perform.  Beyond the physical need to fuel the body, food is also an important aspect of positive mental attitude and resiliency in the wild.  Tanya Krezevska understands the importance of good food in outdoor adventures and has written a wonderful and informative trail recipe book for the rest of us.

Tanya is an avid backpacker, trail chef, and educated culinary artist.  Her trail recipe book provides a comprehensive guide of 101 field tested (from Nepal to Iceland) outdoor recipes, food planning advice, and food preparation tips.  The book is beautifully illustrated, well organized, and easy to follow.  A particularly helpful feature of Tanya’s book is the calorie count and prepared weight of each meal.  There is also a balanced blend of vegetarian and vegan recipes include in the book for those looking for meatless options

I tried the crunchy peanut butter oatmeal, a new twist to my standard oatmeal trail breakfast.  The meal was easy to make, tasty, and kept me fueled throughout the morning.  I also tried the pine needle tea, this great trail novelty is better than you might think and is fun to share with friends.  Tanya also provides more elaborate recipes for ambitious trail chefs; the section on wilderness baking and the outback oven is well worth the read.

One of the most helpful sections of this trail recipe book is the food planning chapter.  Full of helpful advice on preparing and packing meals, this chapter also provides multi-day meal plans.  The meal plans ensure you take healthy food on your trip and that you have the calories to complete your journey.  If you are looking for awesome food ideas for your summer outdoor adventures, this book is for you!

trail recipe book
Tanya Krezevska is founder of Trail Recipes, a food blog dedicated to outdoor enthusiasts. Her recipes have been published in Seattle Backpackers Magazine, MSR Drink Lab, Outdoor Adventure Guide Magazine, Go Outdoors, Est’ Magazine and others.

 

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