Wednesday, February 27, 2013

National Bridges State Beach, California (USA)

If you find yourself in the vicinity of Santa Cruz, CA and are looking for a nice beach to spend an afternoon on, I'd highly recommend visiting National Bridges State Park. It's only about a 10 minute drive from the beach boardwalk, so there is no excuse for not visiting it. As with all California state parks, you have to pay for parking if you park right in the state park's parking lot. Fortunately for you, there is free street parking a 2 minute walk from the pay-for-parking parking lot.

Although the portion of the beach that meets the water isn't as long as some of the other beaches in the area, it has a relatively deep sandy beach area for your recreational needs -- there were a bunch of people playing soccer and frisbee... and just as many simply enjoying a more relaxing, quiet afternoon.

As the waves tended to be a bit smaller than those found 5 minutes away, there were only a couple of surfers in the water. That being said, if you are looking for a less crowded area to learn, this might not be a bad place to go.

As is the case for many beaches, if you stay until sunset, you will be in for quite the treat!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

6 Fantastic Outdoor Movies

Along with spending time outdoors, I love watching movies. I will be the first to admit that many of the movies that I enjoy are the prototypical summer blockbusters, but here is a list of 6 "outdoor" movies that I have enjoyed that don't all fall into that "blockbuster" category. They are in no particular order, and I suggest watching all of them!

Nordwand (2008)
Although not 100% historically accurate, this German movie has it all: snow, ice, friendship, hardship, love, loss. It tells the tale of the two German climbers that attempt to be the first to successfully climb the North Face of the Eiger. Just because it isn't in English, don't write this movie off... you'll be in for a spectacular ride with this one!

Touching the Void (2003)
This documentary tells the harrowing tale of the ordeal that two climbers went through while climbing the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. Definitely worth watching if you enjoy a great documentary and an amazing survival story!

So weit die Füße tragen (2001) 
Yet another great German movie! Similar to "The Way Back" (see the next entry), this film tells the story of a German prisoner of war escaping from a Russian labor camp in east Siberia and then traveling 14,000 kilometers to try to get home to see his family. Not exactly the same as the two mountaineering movies above, but this story puts all long-distance hikers to shame!

The Way Back (2010)
Similar to the previous movie, this tells the story of escapees from a Siberian gulag traveling 4,000 miles to safety freedom. Unlike in the aforementioned movie whose protagonist walks across Russia to get back to Europe, these travelers wander south towards safety in India. Yet another great movie!

127 Hours (2010)
You probably know the story... and might even remember reading about it in the news when it happend. Telling the tale of a young adventurist who gets trapped while bouldering in Utah, this film will most definitely make you feel the pain and agony that Aaron Ralston went through.

Into the Wild (2007)
Based on the John Krakauer book with the same name, this movie tells the true story of a young man who gets rid of most of his possessions to find "ultimate freedom." I read this book many years ago in high school, and it was is interesting to see it as a movie. Definitely worth watching!

Do you have any outdoor movies that you love? I'd love to hear about your list!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Good Spring For Ticks Means A Bad Spring For You


According to CommonHealth on WBUR it appears that this is going to be a bad year for ticks... well, a good year for ticks, but a bad year for you for having to deal with them. Due to the unusually warm winter (T-shirts in March... unheard of in Boston). According to Dr. Richard Ostfeld from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, ticks usually become active in May, but this year they may be out as early as April. So, to all you hikers (and pet owners), make sure to be extra vigilant after being out and about and check for ticks. If you do happen to find a tick enjoying a nice meal courtesy of you, take a look at this article on how to remove them (and a lot more about ticks themselves).

On a personal note, I pulled a tick off my knee after going for a run in the woods in Connecticut on a warm day in November. So yes, they are definitely out there.

Source: CommonHealth

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Porsche or Climbing Mt. Everest?

Mt. Everest

It turns out that if you want to climb Mt. Everest, you'll have to plonk down about the same amount of cash as if you wanted to buy a car. A solo expedition will run you about $60K while a seven person team can bring that cost down to $35,000. But wait, if you've never done something like that before, you'll probably want to join an expedition team that'll help you get up that mountain... that'll push that bill up yet again. Take a look at this article from Outside for the details.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Using A Canister Stove In The Cold

An often asked question is whether or not a canister stove can be used in the winter. Well, the answer is, "it depends." The fundamental problem is that the fuel in canister stoves needs to be warm in order for the stove to operate. For more information about canister stoves and how they work, take a look at this. To be completely safe, you probably shouldn't use a canister stove in the winter, or if you do, definitely to make sure to test out your stove and fuel before you use it as your sole source of cooking heat. I was able to use my stove (SnowPeak LiteMax using the JetBoil 4 season mix) when the ambient temperature was about 27F (-3C) at about 1500 ft (500m) elevation. Also, you should be able to use the stove at a lower temperature at a higher elevation (since there is less atmospheric pressure keeping the gas in the canister).

So, what can you do to use your stove in the winter? Well, first, make sure that you are using a "4 season" fuel mix. This basically means that the fuel is some sort of isobutane mix (isobutane has a lower boiling temperature then butane). Second, use a full canister. Third, you have to keep the fuel canister warm -- if the canister is cold, your food will stay cold as well.

Although it is probably self evident as to how to keep the canister warm, I went ahead and explicitly wrote it out below.

Fun In The Snow

A couple of weeks ago, at the end of January, my wife and I went up to the White Mountains for a little weekend getaway. I had just handed in my PhD thesis three days earlier and was looking forward to a couple of days of sun, fun, and snow. One of the days we took a walk along the Lincoln Woods Trail and Bondcliff trails (the same ones I had hiked when doing the Pemi-Loop in the summer) and so I took the opportunity to augment the usual picture taking with some video.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

2012 Winter Gear Sales

I'm sure you are all aware of this, but Patagonia, REI, and EMS are all having spectacular sales at the moment for their winter gear.

Patagonia Sale REI Sale EMS Sale