Saturday, September 21, 2013

Enjoying a wildlife experience on Galveston Island.

Summer time along the Texas Gulf Coast is hot, humid, and sweaty. Getting outdoors takes a bit of planning to keep from frying like a crispy piece of bacon out in the Texas heat.... What better place to escape from that heat than a dip in the Gulf of Mexico, and maybe even a tour of the sights to see on Galveston Island?

First off, anyone not from the Texas coast region may not know about what there is to do and see in Galveston. For this Blog post we are covering Moody Gardens. Sort of a zoo, interactive exhibit, and wildlife park all wrapped up in giant glass pyramids surrounded by Galveston Bay. 

It's not every day that you can see river otters, seals, or sharks, at least without getting terribly wet, cold, or putting yourself in harms way. But Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid is a sight to not be missed on the Texas Gulf coast. Featuring aquatic wildlife from all over the world, including squid, penguins, seals, various shellfish, just to start naming a few. You can lose yourself for hours taking in the sights to be seen. And to top if off there is even a see through tunnel that goes under the big tank with the sharks. You can watch the divers feed the sharks, or even see the sharks swim right up to the tank sides like they are coming right at you! This is a must see!

 In the big tank, with the sharks, and rays if you are lucky, and look carefully, you can see an albino Sea Turtle lurking around... I have been to Moody Gardens countless times, the day I took this photo was the first time I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of this guy under the rocks by the window actually pretty close to a nurse shark...

The variety of fishes here is amazing. You can see species of fish that would take literally decades of scuba diving to see this close... The flashes of color is mesmerizing!

Whether or not  you are a diver, the experience is absolutely worthwhile. If you enjoy wildlife, and can't take the time needed to take the training, get certified, get on a boat, and dive down to see all of these fascinating creatures, yet you want to see more than yhou could possibly see on TV, the Moody Gardens Acquarium is unbeatable!

So why don't you today, get out there, and go find your own road less travelled...

-- Outdoor Dave.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A taste of wilderness in the middle of the city, and a step into the wayback machine... Mission San Jose, San Antonio Texas.

One of my passions has been for many years now, North American history, not just the history of the United States, but the history of the United States, Mexico, and Canada, and the civilizations that preceeded our modern nations.

Being a Texan, that is prone to heat related injury such as heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, and in order to get outdoors during the months of May through October, I either have to plan activities where I can stay in an air conditioned space, or I have to travel a very, very long distance to get to where I won't need a hospital visit. Now I am NOT going to let our high temps keep me locked to a desk, so what to do?

Well the choices are so far...
#1. Camp with an Air Conditioner in a tent (that will be covered later, but not what we did, this time, this is FAR less than ideal!).
#2. Camp in an RV with a generator, or power. Less ideal than the AC in a tent in some ways, certainly far less fuel efficient!
#3. Take trips where I can flop in an air conditioned hotel room...

Now the advantage of being a Texan is I have all of Texas to explore, and there is plenty of natural, and even man modified beauty to explore and enjoy...

With a long weekend, and tickets to see our favorite country act on Saturday night at the Alamodome, we decided to take the time to go to do some touring of the old Spanish Missions in the city of San Antonio Texas.

The drive off of the freeway to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is a bit odd. To get there the driver exits the freeway and enters a very colorful urban neighborhood, filled with businesses and homes painted in bright colors and some of them themselves overflowing with an abundant crop of gorgeous flowers, and other flora, passing the homes, tire shops, tacqurias, and corners stores, the view changes dramatically as you come across the biggest of the missions, Mission San Jose. The giant outer wall made of stone looks much older than its actual years, and the church structure itself could pass for a thousand year old European cathedral. 

As you enter the park you are greeted with a rustic stone visitors center outfitted with a completely modern theater that shows a film on the history of the Mission itself, and the people the mission was here to serve, and of course convert to good subjects to the Spanish crown, and good Catholics. And yes the interpretation of the purpose of these missions can be debated, the film, and the guided tour both do an excellent job of even handedly presenting the pros, and the cons for the native people for the missions themselves. 

The grounds are covered with native plants such as Prickly Pear Cactus, as well as an abundance of Native Pecan and Mesquite trees.  The Prickly Pear can be seen growing in all sorts of peculiar locations, including on roofs! It was somewhat charming to see the look of surprise on the faces of folks that are not from the desert southwest hear that people use cacti as food! For what it's worth, I love Nopales in my Tortas!

Prickly Pear Cactus growing wild on the roof of a
utility overhang on the outer wall.

Mesquite tree in the middle of the inner court.

Beautiful 100+ year old mesquite tree sprawls in
graceful arcs as it spreads out. 

On the grounds there are the remnants of the stone buildings that were at one time the workshops, and as you gaze through the Mesquite to the old foundation outlines, your imagination can rebuild the view to a time when the outer walls contained the workshops, the carpentry shop, the blacksmith shop, the weavers shop, you can picture the priests and clergy strolling the grounds explaining points of doctrine with the natives. The time machine of the mind certainly does get heavily used in this place!

While the church is still the original building, the outer wall / living quarters, and utility buildings are all depression era reconstruction projects that fairly accurately reproduce the original structures that were at one time on the grounds. Wind, rain, heat, and sun are all huge parts of what structures and fixtures in these old buildings have to deal with, and sometimes it is obvious when things like doors have been replaced as they haven't weathered quite thoroughly yet, which creates some beautiful changes in patina for the doors. It really is striking to view!

A particularly beautifully aged modern
replacement door. I simply love the 
changes from fresh wood to weather grayed!

The wood fired stone ovens in front of every few living quarters are not only intriguing to look at, they also conjure up mental images groups of families baking needed staples for the next few days, bread loaves and whatnot. It certainly had to be much more difficult to operate than say a modern gas oven!

The depression era reconstructions of the wood
fired ovens in front of the living quarters ponder
how people baked with these things...

For Catholics, Protestants, persons of other faiths, including Atheists, the church building itself is a thing of beauty filled with world class artwork and iconography. The artwork is simply world class! The architecture, while sharing many common features with Catholic churches and cathedrals worldwide, is full of architecture and features that are unique to the Spanish Missions, and are things of pure beauty, worth every second to gander at. Even if the symbolism is meaningless to you, the enjoyjment of the artwork itself should be universal!

 View approaching the beautiful facade of the 

 Beautiful artwork on the doors, and
the gorgeous doors themselves!

Beautiful iconography abounds!

The beautiful line of arches next to the serene gardens.
This is a simply stunning place to be!

Once your day is done, and the sun has gone down, maybe if you are staying in one of the fine hotels downtown, you can venture down to one of the dining or drinking establishments that have Bistro seating right on San Antonio's famouns Riverwalk, and you can enjoy a fish bowl sized margarita while watching the river boats slowly amble on by...

So even though this is an urban adventure, it is still a chance to...

Get out there, and find your own, road less traveled.

-- Outdoor Dave.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Preparing for upcoming trips. Tents, beaches and sand...

The heat of Texas summer is almost upon us, and that means no overnight camping anywhere near the coast. It's just too humid. However with the impending fall, will come great camping weather along the coast, and in particular, a 4x4 trip along Padre Island National Seashore along the southern Texas coast just a teensy weensy bit north of Mexico... To prepare for this trip, all of the typical preparations need to be made, and considering it is a beach trip, some special preparations should be made.

Tents. Some of the worst camping disasters I have experienced, came in the form of thinking any tent will work for a beach trip. WRONG! Beaches, well actually ANY environment with wind, and that much sand provide special challenges for campers, at least those that do not enjoy having sand blown in their ears and up their nose all night long... Also there are really no solid surfaces to stake a tent out to, so a fully self supporting tent is a MUST.

I have found through trial and error, a small, but not too small two pole dome tent, such as the Coleman Sundome 4. The floor space is somewhat limited with just 9x7 and those sloped walls, but with the lowish overall profile, this tent serves well for this purpose as the constant breeze blows right over, HOWEVER some, accessorizing is in order...

Double wall tents by their nature are designed to allow air to flow under the rain fly, and in through the mesh walls to allow breathing, however in sandy / windy environments, that constant breeze blowing through is carrying LOTS of sand, and once it slows down inside your tent, it unloads the sand, all over you! You need to rig up a "filter" of sorts. I have seen campers use everything from, well cut up and duct taped panty hose to cover the screens, to the more elegant method I prefer. Old flannel sheets and clothes pins. If you will be camping a lot in sandy / windy environments, you will need to make some semi permanent changes to the tent to make this work, but it is well worth it!

Start off with a roll of hook and loop tape (the most common brand is Velcro), 1/2" wide is fine, and a sizeable tube of tent adhesive. I have had good luck with McNett Seam Grip. Cut to size stips to fit the tent fabric right under the mesh, and around the pole loops, so that you have hook and loop tape, preferrably the soft part, making a big triangle around the mesh. Measure, and cut out the old flannel bed sheet to cover the triangle, and the hook and loop tape on the tent body. Stitch up the material and sew the other side of the hook and loop tape on so that you have a filter of sorts to cover up your mesh in the tent body.

Plastic grocery sacks can be filled with sand, tied off to your stake out points, and buried in the sand, allowing for a nice secure purchase and a stable tent...

Lastly, depending on how you got to your camping spot, but if there is a way that you can rig up a wind break such that your tent is pitched leeward, you may have sand raining on your tent all night, but it sure beats having it blown through your tent!

Now you have no excuse not to get out to the great beaches, and deserts that are out there, so get out there, and find your own road less traveled.

-- Outdoor Dave

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thoughts on camping with groups and fuel...

Over the years, I have spent a considerable amount of time camping with large groups, starting more years ago than I care to admit with extended family outings with aunts, uncles, and cousins along for the fun, then Boy Scouts, and then co-ed youth groups, college camping clubs, singles camping clubs, and other assorted camping groups...

One thing that has remained fairly constant. In order to efficiently cook, provide hot water, and manageable light, an efficient camping fuel choice had to be made by the powers that be.

While Butane / propane mix fuels are a good match for mid to high elevation,warm temperature  ultralight campers, and 1 lb propane cylinders likewise for heavier camping gear, for light weight, although not ultralight, to heavyweight camping, to maximize the efficiency of camp, particularly in groups, nothing beats liquid fuel camp appliances, particularly at higher elevations.

Depending on your use, I have found a single gallon of Coleman fuel / Ozark Trail Camp Fuel / White Gas gives me the same amount of burn time / meals prepared, nights of light from lanterns as 1.5 20lb cylinders of propane!

What I find shocking is how few new campers chose liquid fuels until they either venture to low elevations or cold temperatures, and discover the non financial drawback to canister fuels.

Gaseous, canister based fuels such as butane / propane mix, or straight propane work off of the pressure differential between the gas inside the canister, and the outside environment. Thus the higher the pressure inside the canister, or lower the pressure outside, the easier it is for fuel to be pushed out of the canister and through the appliance.

Several factors impact this pressure differenential, these include.

  1. Elevation. Air pressure is greater the lower you go (more air above you, weighing down on you, and that gas canister).
  2. Amount of fuel in the gas canister. The less fuel there is, the lower the pressure.
  3. Temperature of the outside air, and the gas canister.
Liquid fuel appliances are subject to these same laws of physics, but have the advantage of being able to be manually pressurized via a pump mechanism. 

While the circumstances of a canister being too cold to pressurize correctly are typically too uncomfortable for human occupation, they can also be a very real risk if humans are present in those conditions. (winter camping / fishing trips on a stormy beach like we often do here in Texas for example).
Given the obvious advantages of liquid fueled appliances, why then does it seem that for the most part, the majority of camp appliances that seem to populate store shelves, particularly mass market discount stores, is proppane fueled? Well for starters, propane appliances are inexpensive by comparison. Typically built for the occasional camper. Propame camping appliances are constructed with typically lighter duty components and housings. Being designed for the occasional camper, propane appliances are somewhat easier to set up and operate, requiring no pumping or priming. Unfortunately many propane appliances make flame control harder than it ought to be resulting in too many burnt pancakes.... Now that you have that bit of knowledge you can.... Go and find your own road less travelled... - Outdoor Dave

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The tax man cometh... Some tips for those that already took care of that burden...

And the tax man taketh away... But that is life. Yes we are busy preparing our 2012 tax filings, which is kind of depressing because, at least here in Coastal Texas, the weather is drop dead gorgeous. Temps are downright perfect to be outside.

If you are wiser than I am, and have already filed your taxes for the previous year, congratulations, especially if where you live has these to die for weather days. Get outside and enjoy them. Even if the weather isn't quite 100% up to par, as long as you have clean dry space, here are a few things you can do to prepare for camping trips during the remainder of the spring and through the summer.

#1. Clean your tent and use this time to re seam seal the tent body and rain fly. I like to set up my tent and use a whisk broom / dustpan to pick up any particulate matter, dirt, sand etc... that I can. I follow that up with a good cleaning with a sponge, and soapy water, followed with a rinse with same said sponge and clean water. Once it is completely clean, let it dry out all the way. Then seam seal the tent body, and rainfly following the seam sealer manufacturers instructions.  So far I have used McNett Seam Grip (LOVE that stuff). Coleman's seam sealer, Coughlans Seam Sealer, Gear Aid Seam Grip, Gear Aid Seam Sure, and Gear Aid Tent Sure (for sealing the seams on the floor). All have given me good results. Kenyon Seam Sealer 3 has been used in the past with mixed results. On a smaller Coleman Sundome 5x7 the Kenyon proved very effective at keeping the seams tightly sealed, and the occupant of the tent dry. On later uses, on a Swiss Gear 10x20 3 room the Kenyon Seam Sealer 3 utterly failed, providing for an interesting night of playing dodge the drips from the roof while trying to sleep.

The one I haven't tried, is the Texsport aerosol Waterproofing Seam Sealer. I must admit to being somewhat leery of trying this one out. Seam Sealing is such a critical part of making your tent stay dry during a storm that, well sub standard seam sealers can lead to disasterous results. And the quality of Texsport products has in our experience been very much lacking. From tents with poor stitching and skinny poles that dance in a slight breeze, to cookware with handles that break off during use. We have come to have a deep distrust for the Texsport brand name and any product associated with it. I may try it out in field testing on an old Wenzel tent (Purchased new by my family, from Bi Mart in Corvallis Oregon in 1986). I figure it that one leaks at the seams, well it already leaks at the seams so it can't be worse!

Of all the products used in the past, We most strongly recommend the McNett Seam Grip / Gear Aid Seam Grip. I am not 100% sure, but it seems that the Gear Aid Seam Grip is simply the McNett product rebranded, and sold at a slight markup through REI stores.

#2. Liquid Fuel appliances. Test, clean, and prepare for use.
Prior to use, assuming you did it right and stored your liquid fuel appliance without fuel in it, you should prep it for use. On my Coleman stove, and lanterns, I like to take the pump plunger assembly out, and soak the plunger cup in some vegetable oil (Olive oil works best, but that stuff is spendy!). Once the plunger cup is supple again, Wipe it clean and reinstall in the pump. If there is any sign of mantle damage on the lantern, replace those mantles. And do a full inspection. Is everything tight, and clean? If so fill it up and test it. The stove should, once the priming burn is done come right to life and burn with a steady flame. The flame height knob should do what you expect it to, and of course, if you have a 2 or 3 burner stove, the secondary and tertiary burners should light up and operate on demand after the primary burner is going.

#3. The 10 (plus) Essentials. The time to make sure you have your 10 (plus) essentials in proper working order is BEFORE you head out to the hills, rivers, beaches, or bayous. That means making sure you have a windproof / waterproof lighter (or matches) in a waterproof case, and that is stocked up sufficiently (You didn't empty the lighter, or use all the matches last season right?). Make sure your first aid kit is fully stocked for any contingency, and that you know how to use it, and of course, your map and compass. Know how to use them, and before you head out, seal that map! It's a heart sinking feeling having to rely on a map that is too wet to unfold, or once you get it unfolded, is illegible. Map sealer is cheap insurance!

#4. Bedding. Unless you plan on wrapping yourself up in leaves and sleeping on the cold, hard, wet ground, you really need to make sure your bedding is in order. For me that means, even when I am trying for ultralight backpacking I bring along...
- Inflatable air mattress. Not like a big Coleman air bed, but a Therm A Rest or similar mat. I personally use a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core. I love it. Even with my excess, well... me.
- Sleeping bag. Now I live and camp mostly in Texas and the surrounding area, which means hot, humid conditions. So for me, during hot conditions, I tend to bring a fleece sleeping bag (not super easy to find). Mine is an Ozark Trail brand which is long discontinued now. Other manufacturers have them. When that is too hot, I like to use a wicking sleeping bag liner by itself. Helps to keep your temp down while you snooze. Of course for colder temps, I go dig out the big comfy bags. If carry weight is a concern for you, consider looking for a bag with Qualofil, Microlite Extreme, or down filling. A down bag is a great bag to own comfort wise, however they are terribly expensive, and depending on your outlook you may have some ethical issues using goose down. There are some newer synthetics on the market that make even Microlite Extreme seem heavy.  For both the wicking liner, and the ultralight sleeping bag, I look to Slumberjack for my personal sleeping bags. They tend to be a bit roomier in them so that even a large framed gentleman can sleep warm, in comfort in a mummy bag. Quality has always been top notch.

For camping where weight isn't so much of a concern. Coleman, and Wenzel sleeping bags both are the stuff dreams are made of, in this case literally. For out of the car camping, or even throwing extra sleeping space onto the floor of the deer shack, I like to have with me.
- Coleman inflatable air mattress, air pump, and patch kit. These things are nice and comfy
- Coleman, or Wenzel (or similar) recreational sleeping bag rated to the lowest temps expected. I typically don't buy bags rated lower than 25 deg, because honestly, if it is that cold, I am going to be wrapped up in long johns and sweats anyway..
- For colder weather I keep an extra sleeping bag, for warmer weather (hot weather) I use the fleece bag / wicking liner mentioned above. The extra sleeping bag for colder weather is to put between the sleeping bag I am in, and the air mattress. Air mattresses do a REALLY good job of conducting heat away from you, so you need the layers of insulation to keep you from becoming a people sickle...

Well now I have gone and given you some tips on a few things to prep to go out and enjoy the great outdoors, so get out there, and find your own road less traveled.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Getting ready to get out and find my own road less travelled.

The environmentalists will freak out with this blog entry. Sorry you feel that way, I can only suggest that you take the energy you would use to berate me for what I am going to say, and work up a crowd sourcing effort to develop a sustainable, zero impact environmentally, drop in replacement for gasoline. Because I am going to talk about four wheel drive pickup trucks here.

And no I am not being mean or anything here. I honestly would LOVE a good, environmentally responsible drop in replacement for gasoline that the average person could afford to use. But that isn't the purpose of this post...

A big part of what has been keeping me an urban prisoner has been the truck. You see we drive our gas sipping old Saturn SL sedan to and fro in town. The pickup truck, having suffered from an intentional design fault that makes critical suspension components (Ball joints) fail at an early age, did just that.  So long story short, I had to fix the truck...

Now I am sure you will agree with me that any time you can save some money, safely, and responsibly, that is a good thing. After being quoted $2,000.00 by my local shops to replace the upper and lower ball joints, and while they were in there, replace the shock absorbers as well, I just about had kittens. That didn't even include the cost of replacement tires or an alignment!

So out came some online shopping, and a trip to, I have been using these guys for a while, and have gotten good deals from them in the past, typically 25 - 65% below what the local parts houses sell the same item for, before tax and shipping of course. A quick look at the ball joint selections showed they did indeed have the Moog Problem solver line of suspension components, which fixed the issues of undersized components, and a complete lack of grease service fittings on the stock units. The lowers are sold as just the joint, the uppers as a complete upper control arm assembly. Careful inspection of the entire system shows no problems with the bushings on the lowers.

The shocks I wanted were a huge improvement over stock, and came from, a company I had done business with in the past, and received a good bargain, but communication through them was sparse, and honestly I am nervous every time I order from them, but so far so good... I got the Rancho Quick Lift Loaded front coilover assemblies that lift the front of the truck 2.5", and then the Rancho RS9000XL for the rear. All four are pressure adjustable allowing me to dial in the ride from soft and supple, to firm and planted. All with the twist of a knob.

Now that the front end is put back together, some fresh brake pads, tires, and front end alignment are in order, and soon, but not soon enough for me, you will start seeing fresh Outdoor Dave videos, and photos!

Paddlers, you in particular will want to keep your eyes peeled for upcoming entries. I will be designing, building and testing a DIY knock down double canoe rack to fit a standard American pickup truck bed (MUST have stake pockets). This will be sized to fit a Ford full size with a 6.5 foot bed, and I will note the critical dimensions that you will need to adjust for your truck! This design will be able to haul 2 ~15' canoes, and paddling accessories while leaving the bed of the truck available to fill with camping gear and supplies.

So keep your eyes peeled, and get out there and find your own, road less traveled.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Safety first! Propane appliance safety.

A subject not often thought about until it's too late is camping appliance safety. Something that you, my dear readers, will come to appreciate is the fact that Outdoor Dave and all of his friends take outdoor safety VERY seriously, and that includes the proper setup, use, and storage of your propane camp appliances!

Several years ago now, while camped by the river at Garner State Park in Texas, I had the unfortunate chance to witness a thankfully small flareup / blowout of a propane stove connection. Thankfully the stove was connected via a riser pipe / hose to a 20 pound take with a shutoff valve, and the owner had the presence of mind to shut off the gas NOW. By the time the gas was off, the damage was done, and fabrics / pot holders and the like had to be doused, and the kids in camp had a good scare. It could have been much, much worse, and it could have been prevented!

Most people read the owners guides / manuals for their camp gear once, maybe twice, then file it away and forget about many of the important details. In this case, the detail the stove owner forgot about was the procedure for checking newly established propane fittings and appliances for gas leaks before igniting!

To test your appliances for gas leaks you will need.

  1. Smallish spray bottle. A large bottle isn't needed, but you can certainly recycle an old Window cleaner bottle if you have one.
  2. Soap and water. I like to use liquid dish soap because it produces gobs of bubbles. Use just 6 or so drops of liquid soap in an 8 oz spray bottle, then fill with water.
Once your connections are made, and all possible ignition sources are verified eliminated, with the appliance valves closed, turn on the flow of gas from the tank about 1/4 turn, and spray the soapy water mixture to cover the joint where any 2 components like the tank and riser, riser and hose, hose and appliance, appliance valves etc... meet. Also spray down flexible parts that can wear and get pin holes like the hose, and any parts that move like valves, or hard lines with swivels etc... Specifics will vary depending on your appliance and supply configuration. You are looking for any bubbling. Bubbles indicate a leak that must be fixed prior to ignition. 

If you are using disposable bottles with no shut off valve, simply screw the bottle to the appliance with the appliance valve fully closed, and the rest of the procedure is exactly the same as it is for users of large remote bottles. 

Depending on your appliance, you may be able to get things sealed for example, an appliance / tank connection gasket made of cork and even some rubber ones can be made to seal by lightly moistening with vegetable oil. 

Now that you know how to be safe with your propane appliances outdoors, go, and find your own "road less traveled"!

-- Outdoor Dave...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The magic of S'mores....

I am not sure if it is the nostalgia of years, and trips gone by, the warm crackle of the embers of the campfire itself, the competition of young boys and girls, trying to have theirs come out best, even if those young boys and girls have grandchildren of their own. But there is something downright magic about the process itself of toasting marshmallows on a campfire, or BBQ pit. It's a gut feeling, and an anticipation of something very special that brings an outing to life!

Now as we all know, toasted marshmallows taste marvelous right off of the cooking utensil, no matter if it is a roasting fork, or even just a stick with a sharpened end that has been pressed into service. But no matter how good that is, there is, for many people, dare I say most, an ultimate objective for toasting those marshmallows and getting the inside all warm and gooey, and that is of course...


Now I have had S'mores made many different ways, including special flavored marshmallows, specialty chocolates etc... But for me anyway, my favorite method for S'mores is still one of the simplest, and the original S'mores I was introduced to as a kid in the Boy Scouts at one of the Scout camps in Oregon.

#1. Get your fire down to coals. An open roaring fire will either catch the marshmallow on fire, or not cook it at all. Plentiful glowing embers allow you gentle even heat...
#2. Skewer your marshmallows, 2 or 3 at a time onto either a sharpened stick, or a camp roasting fork. And of coarse toast those things to a beautiful golden brown all the way around. The outside just taking on a slight crispness, and the inside almost flowing...
#3. Add these to a Cinnamon Graham Cracker, top with regular Hersheys bar, and another cracker. Let the marshmallow melt the chocolate somewhat, and enjoy...

I can still recall sitting around that campfire with sharpened sticks, complete with impaled Marshmallow, trying to get it just right, in a competition with my friends and classmates...

Which leaves the question, what is your favorite way of making and enjoying S'mores? Do you have any special S'mores memories that you'd care to share? If so please feel free to leave a comment, and then go make some S'mores!

Once you are done with those S'mores, go, and find your own "road less traveled"!

-- Outdoor Dave...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Memories that take you back, and move you forward.

A few years ago I had the honor of taking a hiking trip with my mother that we never could when I was a kid. We hiked Mount Mazama in Oregon. Now Mount Mazama is known for it's most prominent feature, but I would cheat you if I didn't let you into the whole process before we get to the eventual reward of visiting that great feature...

It was summertime, July to be specific, and we arrived on the mountain in the late afternoon. I had carried all of the camping gear I needed in a single now considered ancient Coleman Peak 1 external frame backpack on my trip from Texas. That old Peak1 pack is a tried and true testimony to the quality that was true of most if not all camping gear vendors back in the 80s and 90s. The pack was huge, featuring a cavernous interior volume, and plentiful attachment points on the outside of the pack for everything needed for a weeks vacation touring the pacific northwest in varying conditions. While heavier than ultralight internal frame packs, the external frame did such a great job of distributing the weight inside the pack that it was a pleasure to carry, even with loaded water bottles, and liter bottles of white gas.

The summer heat that was so oppressive to me in the Texas coast was completely absent. In its place was a variety of temps ranging from pleasantly warm 70 or so degree F highs, but the shocker for me came in the middle of the night.

During the day, Mom and I hiked around the mountain, several well marked nature loop trails from the state campground offered good vistas, and a chance to share thoughts on the state of things, and enjoy the beauty of the location together. At one point along the hike I heard a group of college age hikers down one switchback from where we were, they were moving easily along the trail, and having a great time. What shocked me was the elevation gain. I hadn't realized, well honestly I hadn't paid attention too much to the up and down stuff. My day pack had everything I needed to get us out of trouble if I had to, but thankfully, all of it, well all of it except for a couple of granola bars, made it back to camp with us!.

 If you look closely you can see the pale ribbon that is the trail at the switchback.

As the day wore on, the years since I had moved on from home, to college, to career just seemed to disappear with each telling of how this, that or the other family member is doing. And retelling of years past when the grandparents were still alive. But along with the years, daylight was also disappearing, thankfully we made it back to camp with some of the most beautiful light streaming above and through the trees...
The play of light and shadow is beautiful on Mt. Mazama at dusk.
Mom and I shared a tent, my Sierra Designs Sirius 3, 3 man backpacking tent. I used my Large 3.5" thick  Big Agnes Insulated Air Core mattress, and my Slumberjack ultralight 35 degree sleeping bag. Now when camping in cool / cold weather I always sleep in sweats. So I was nice and toasty overnight, I had the foot box vent wide open and the hood open. This tent kept heat in exceedingly well.

Sadly, as the night wore on, one or two too many campfire hot chocolates were wanting to be let out, so I climbed out of my sleeping bag, and slipped on my boots, unzipped the tent and received a wonderful surprise.

White, fluffy, and peaceful, a layer of snow coated the entire campground, including the fly / vestibule of the tent. Moonlight was plentiful, and there was almost absolute silence. I step out, zip the tent up and walk over to take care of business.

On my way back, I could just, well feel the pressures of work, mortgage, family relationships, the whole thing, the good, the bad, and the ugly as it were, just felt like they were on a different planet. Replaced by absolute calmness, absolute clarity, and absolute peace... I stopped, brushed the snow off of a log, and just sat and soaked it all in...

The next day required automotive travel. We didn't have a backcountry permit, so hiking from the campground to our destination wasn't an option then. So up the windy, narrow mountain road, praying no large trucks tried passing us the other way...

I must admit, okay brag, that the view at the final destination is well worth it.

The crystal clear blue water has a purple / gray hue in the photo merely due to the cloud cover of the day. The steep cliffs into the caldera were simply amazing...

A more recognizable view, the island seen in the lake is Wizard Island. have you guessed the name of this feature yet?

If you guessed Crater Lake, you got it spot on.

It is trips such as this one, and many others with stories yet to be told, that keep me wanting to go out again, to find out where that trail goes, to paddle down that bayou just a little further, to see what is just around that corner. What beautiful secrets for the eye, the heart, and the soul are out there hidden from the view of the masses?

No matter what mountains, beaches, deserts, plains, or what have you are available to you, I encourage you to go out, and to go, seek out that beauty, and find your own "road less traveled"!

-- Outdoor Dave...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

First day of spring, just a couple of days away...

As we continue to grow, and develop our offerings for Wildersport Outdoors we felt it was time to venture into the online arena of blogging to share with you our experiences and perspectives on enjoying the great outdoors! And what better time to do that then when spring is literally just a few mere days away?

For those in northern climates, the weather will start warming up, the heavy coats will go up into closets and attics for their long summers nap, and the camping gear gets dug out of storage. For those of us lucky enough to live in the south, this is prime camping weather right now. The days are warm and sunny, with more than ample daylight to give a great, full day of outdoor activity, and crisp cool evenings mean friends and family around a campfire won't be toasted faster than the marshmellows. It is indeed a great time to be alive!

So load up your day pack, or even go all out and pack up your camping or backpacking gear, and get ready to head out away from the confines of work, or school. You never know what kind of beauty and wonder you will found out there! So go, and find your own "road less traveled"!

-- Outdoor Dave...