Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Gear Review: REI Elements Rain Jacket

Long-Term Review of the REI Elements Rain Jacket

I purchased this jacket in 2012 for a trip to Peru and have used it many times on the trail or days when I need to take the dogs out for a potty break on a rainy day. The REI Elements Rain Jacket, now known as the REI Ultra-Light Jacket, is a lightweight 2.5-layer waterproof breathable coated shell that weighs 16 ounces. The jacket works great as a rain jacket, wind jacket, or for warmth as an outer layer.

Wearing my REI Elements Rain Jacket on a rainy day in Peru
Wearing my REI Elements Rain Jacket on a rainy day in Peru

Construction

The Elements Rain Jacket is diamond ripstop nylon is waterproof, breathable, and windproof to 60 mph. The seams are sealed, the zipper features a bonded placket with securing snaps, and the shell is DWR coated. In addition, the jacket has 2-way stretch for better comfort and multiple pockets for easy access to your equipment. Another set of nice features is the design to help keep heat in: the hood is fully adjustable (it can even be rolled and secured in the collar), the cuffs can be velcroed, and the waist can be adjusted with a drawstring. The most important feature, in my opinion, each armpit has a zipper to help increase the breathability.

Hood rolled up and secured in the collar
Hood rolled up and secured in the collar

Uses

I’ve used this jacket in multiple situations from rainstorms, snow, and mountain biking and it has always kept me warm and dry. While in Peru, we experienced multiple rain storms at high altitude and my torso always remained dry. In addition, hiking the Neusiok Trail, NC, I experienced a day of heavy rain and stayed dry. As far as warmth goes, hiking Mt LeConte, I experienced significant snowfall and managed to stay warm and dry wearing this jacket. Finally, there have been multiple times I’ve been out mountain biking with the sun going down, super sweaty, and a cold front blowing in and I’ve been able to throw this jacket on and remain warm.

Wearing my REI Elements Jacket on a snowy day at Mt LeConte
Wearing my REI Elements Jacket on a snowy day at Mt LeConte

Pros

One of the biggest benefits of the Elements Rain Jacket is its versatility. This jacket can be used as an outer layer to stay warm and provides wind and rain protection. Furthermore, it is useful for everyday use, light enough for backpacking, and is stout enough to survive riding through thick brush while mountain biking. Moreover, this jacket is extremely adjustable. The hood can be adjusted, removed, or rolled up and secured in the collar. Plus, the cuffs and waist can be adjusted and loosened as required by the weather. Finally, REIs lightweight rain jackets are on sale frequently and can be snagged for a fraction of the price as higher end models.

This jacket is durable and was able to survive the lustful attacks of this dog in Peru
This jacket is durable and was able to survive
the lustful attacks of this dog in Peru

Issues

The Elements Rain Jacket isn’t without its issues, however, as it is much heavier and bulkier than similarly marketed jackets. The jacket can be stuffed into its own pocket, but it is still cantaloupe sized. This can be a considerable amount of space if you must carry multiple pieces for a complete clothing system. Furthermore, at 16 ounces, this is heavy for a lightweight jacket as there are other options at approximately 5 ounces now. Another big issue is the breathability. While waterproof is covered, this jacket needs to have the armpit zippers open if you want it to breathe. Finally, the chest pocket is in a bad location. This isn’t a big issue unless you are wearing a pack and then the pocket is inaccessible because of the chest strap, and anything in the pocket will rub your uncomfortably.

The large zippered armpit vent
The large zippered armpit vent

Recommendation

Overall, this is a solid jacket and I’m glad its been my jacket of choice for 5 years; however, now that I have gained more knowledge and skills I’m ready to move on to a lighter rain jacket. If you are beginner backpacker or need a standard adventure rain jacket, then this jacket is for you; however, if you have advanced skills, I’d look for something relevant to your style and climate.

What is your go-to rain jacket? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 

Disclosure: I purchased the jacket with my own funds. and the links contained in this article might provide a small commission.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Trip Report: Garner State Park

Crowded Car Camping at Garner State Park

Angela, BeeGee, Jack and I were all able to get 2 days off at the same time and we decided we needed to take a trip somewhere. Since it has just begun cooling off in Texas and the promise of Halley’s Comet, there was a shortage of available campsites around the state. Thankfully, we found a few spots at Garner State Park.

Angela, BeeGee, and Jarrett posing on a huge rock on the Blinn River Trail
Angela, BeeGee, and Jarrett posing on a huge rock on the Blinn River Trail


The Background

Location: 234 RR 1050, Concan, TX 78838
Admission: $8 per adult, Children under 12 are free; $15+ for campsites
Elevation: 1320 to 1890 ft.
Weather:  Sunny, humid, low 80s
Difficulty: Easy to strenuous

Garner State Park - Day 1

We had a later start than preferred but, we hustled out to the hill country as quick as we could. Making good time, we made it with plenty of time to set up the tent, realize we forgot the water, and found a backup water container. With some daylight to spare after all that, we packed up our day packs and picked a few trails for a twilight and night hike.

Rocky terrain common across Garner State Park
Rocky terrain common across Garner State Park


Blinn River Trail

The team loaded up and we drove down to a small parking lot near the Blinn River trailhead. The Blinn trail parallels the Frio River and is only .5 miles long. I figured this trail would be nice and easy but ended up tougher than expected. The trail was narrow, rocky, and root covered.

Hiking the Blinn River Trail
Hiking the Blinn River Trail

Along the way, we stopped to take pictures on a large boulder and let BeeGee spend some time playing in the river. The weather was hot and muggy and splashing around in the cold water put BeeGee in a great mood. Angela hates water, so she was more than willing to be an observer and check out all the great smells at the water’s edge. We finished up the rest of the trail and ended on the Madrone Walkway.

Angela, BeeGee, and Jack posing on a huge rock on the Blinn River Trail
Angela, BeeGee, and Jack posing on a huge rock on the Blinn River Trail

Madrone Walkway & Frio Canyon Trail

Madrone Walkway is a paved trail that parallels the main road through the park and is a little over half a mile long. The walkway passes a nice overlook but overall isn’t impressive; just a necessity to access other trailheads by walking. By the time we made it to the Frio Canyon Trail it was full dark.

The Madrone Trail Trailhead
The Madrone Trail Trailhead

The Frio Canyon Trail is almost a loop, like a big horseshoe, spends a lot of time in open fields (you can see Texas Mountains in the distance), and is 2.9 miles long. This trail turned out to be the right choice and there wasn’t anything to trip over and the stars and moon were visible. Plus, Angela is a little scared of the dark and she could see off into the distance, which helped her be less jumpy. After enjoying an easy walk and a beautiful sky, we headed back to the car and campsite, cooked a quick dinner, and piled into our 3-person tent.

Walking down the Madrone Trail just before dark
Walking down the Madrone Trail just before dark


Garner State Park - Day 2

It ended up being a much warmer and more humid than expected and no sleeping bag was needed. Once all the families went to sleep everything was pretty peaceful, and just a little sticky/humid. We woke up had a breakfast of fresh eggs and salami, and readied our daypacks.

White Rock Cave Trail & Old Baldy Trail

The next morning, we decided to make the Old Baldy Trail our first stop as it is one of the highlights of the Garner State Park. When we made it to the trailhead, we saw that we found White Rock Cave Trail and decided we needed to see this cave first. White Rock Cave Trail is only .3 miles, but it has some steep elevation change and you walk up some extremely eroded areas.

The rugged trail to White Rock Cave
The rugged trail to White Rock Cave

After some hard climbs, we made it to White Rock Cave and it was a little underwhelming. The cave may have been 10 ft. deep and looked a little gross inside. We decided it wasn’t worth climbing into the cave, so we just took a few pictures and headed back down to start our trip up Old Baldy Trail.

a quick glance in the tiny cave
White Rock Cave - a quick glance in the tiny cave

Old Baldy trail is a strenuous hike at only half a mile, but there are steep climbs up water eroded trail, which means scrambling over big rocks. BeeGee loves that kind of terrain and hopped around like a mountain goat while the rest of us struggled to keep up. At the pinnacle, Old Baldy is approximately 1890 feet tall. Unfortunately, it is also a popular destination and was swarming with people, dogs, and kids.
Overlooking the Frio River
From Mount Baldy - Overlooking the Frio River

Foshee Trail to Crystal Cave Trail

With Old Baldy conquered, we headed back down about a fifth a mile to the Foshee Trailhead. Foshee Trail is 1.7 miles and was the easiest hike that morning. Foshee Trail passes a century old rock wall shrouded in mystery and intersects many other trails in the park, which makes it an important connection trail.

a .75 mile long rock wall on Foshee Trail
Old Rock Fence - a .75 mile long rock wall on Foshee Trail

On Foshee Trail, we walked to Painted Rock Overlook and took a look back at Old Baldy. However, the sun was out in full force, so we didn’t stay long. We then linked up with Bridges Trail, which connected us to Crystal Cave Trail. Crystal Cave is the other premiere site at Garner State Park and we had to wait in a short line before we were able to head down.

the view of Mount Baldy
Painted Rock Overlook - the view of Mount Baldy

Crystal Cave is about 30 feet deep and one small chamber. In addition, it is supposed to be cooler, but it was so humid all I wanted to do was escape. We spent a little time exploring and made our way back out to let the next group enjoy.


Campos Trail & Old Entrance Road

The next leg of our trip had us wandering around a bit lost as attempted to take Wilks Trail to Campos Trail. We ended up on Bridges Trail, Foshee Trail, Bell Trail, and Rim Trail as all these trails intersect and weave together in a small area. There wasn’t anything memorable about this section as our view was blocked and we were just waiting for our next scenic view.

these have been guiding hikers for over 70 years
CCC Horseshoe Footprint Bollards - these have been guiding hikers for over 70 years

Along the way, we passed the CCC Horseshoe Footprint Bollards and the Campos Trail overlook, but it was well into the afternoon and too hot to just stand in the open and enjoy the view. Campos Trail eventually led us to our last section of our hike, the Old Entrance Road, which was an old paved road that used to be the entrance to the park. It was a neat experience, but more importantly, it was last, easy walking, and shaded.

a view across the hill country
Campos Trail Overlook - a view across the hill country


Heading Home

After hiking for most of the day, we finished a few small tasks for breaking camp and decided it was time to eat. We headed over to the Garner grill (food trailer) and had some amazing chili cheeseburgers, which I highly rate. My one issue with the Garner Grill is the price of a drink. They only have expensive Garner State Park commemorative cups. After we had our meal, we said our goodbyes to Garner State Park and began the 3-hour drive home.

Let us know about your trips or experiences in Garner State Park. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Trip Report: Mexico City

Michelle's Big Adventure in Mexico City

Hi everyone! My name is Michelle and I am Linda’s youngest sister. I am a Spanish teacher in East Texas and this summer I was able to go on vacation with my best friend Raquel who is also a Spanish Teacher. We decided to travel to Mexico City in August for about a week. Jarrett has asked me to write about my trip, so here it goes!

Mexico City - Day 1

We arrived in Mexico City at about 10 am on Tuesday. On our way to the airbnb is when we first noticed the crazy amount of traffic that is found in Mexico City. Once we dropped off our bags, we went to a coffee shop that a friend wanted us to try. I did not have the coffee, but my friend seemed to greatly enjoy it.

After this we decided to get some groceries in order to be able to eat at home and save some money, I mean we are on a teacher's budget after all. This was THE LONGEST grocery trip EVER! It took us about an hour and a half to get to a Walmart because the Traffic was insane! It wasn’t even that far away! We decided to have tacos for dinner because we’re in Mexico City and of course you have to have tacos!

Mexico City - Day 2

On Wednesday, we decided to go to downtown Mexico, but there was a protest going on and we opted not to go for safety reasons. So, we headed to Frida Kahlo’s home in Coyoacan. Now before you head there, I would recommend that you purchase your tickets ahead of time online, otherwise be prepared to wait for a while. They only allow about 40 people per group to enter the house. The prices vary, but if you have either a student or teacher ID you can get a discount, but you still have to pay extra in order take pictures inside.


Once we got into La Casa Azul de Frida Kahlo all I have to say is that it is simply breathtaking. I’ve never been a huge Frida Kahlo fan, I’ve always admired her work and how she did not stick to gender norms. This home belonged to Frida’s family and she lived here growing up, after her parents passed away she and Diego moved in and did some renovations. They may have lived in the same house, but they did not share the same bedroom. Right as you enter, there is a sign that reads “Frida and Diego lived in this house from 1929-1954.”


There is art by Frida all over the house and quotes that were said by Frida. Their kitchen had their names on the walls and doves as well. I couldn’t tell what that was made of since we couldn’t actually go into the kitchen. Frida’s studio area looked as if she had just left for a day and let us in her home. Some of her brushes were out, her wheelchair was in front of a canvas. There was a special exhibit of Frida’s most famous dresses and jewelry. We went in and there they were, the most iconic outfits as seen as in pictures, painting, and articles. Even some of back braces and cast were on display. I am so thankful that I got to see it.


That night, we went to dinner with my cousin Jorge who lives in the City. We went to a restaurant called La Casa de Tono that is well known for their pozole. I had it, and I’m not normally a pozole person, but this one was delicious! After dinner, we went to the statue of the Angel de la Independencia. Apparently, it’s light is different every night. While there we learned that the statue had fallen once during an earthquake and after that, it was put on a higher level not only because of the earthquake but also because the city is sinking. After that, we just walked around for a bit before we parted ways.


Mexico City - Day 3

The next day we visited the anthropology museum. I’m a giant anthropology geek so this was my favorite! The museum is quite big but the entrance fee is fairly cheap. It was about $70 pesos which ends up being about $6 dollars. The museum is huge and they have so many great exhibits that I would recommend any of them. Since we were in a bit of a time crunch, we stuck to the first-floor exhibits which focused on early civilization and Mayan exhibits. Each exhibit was carefully thought out and very beautiful.


After the museum, we went to downtown Mexico, also known as “El Zocalo.” We saw the balcony where the president of Mexico stands during “El Grito de Dolores” on the night of September 15, beginning the festivities for the 16 of September, Mexico’s Independence Day! We were able to see the ruins of “El Templo Mayor” this temple was one of the most important one for the Aztecs and was located in their capital of Tenochtitlan, which is present-day Mexico. This place was also very affordable only $70 pesos as well! You are allowed to walk on the pathways they have for people but you are not allowed to go into the ruins. The museum is fairly small but still very informative and beautiful.


Mexico City - Day 4

On Friday, we spent our day with God and La Virgin de Guadalupe. We traveled to “La Basilica de Guadalupe” where we saw the old church that you can tell is sinking and tilting, but inside it is so mesmerizing. We waited in line to get some gifts baptized in holy water. I got a rosary for my mom, a keychain for my dad, and a bracelet for me. Nothing for Linda and Denisse, because they’re heathens. We then watched a ceremony of all women dance and worship the Virgin. It was so cool. We made our way into the new Basilica and sat down to take everything in. You could feel the peace in there. It was wonderful.


Mexico City - Day 5

On Saturday August 12, it was my birthday!! I turned 23 and all I wanted to do was visit the pyramids of Teotihuacán. So, we woke up early in the morning and drove there. It took us about 2 hours to get there because of construction. Once we arrived, I was super excited to climb the pyramids, until I actually saw one. They are so small y’all and the steps are so steep! Just getting to the other side of the pyramid was tiring.


We met a very nice vendor who was selling a Sun God and a Moon God musical instrument that doubled as a pottery piece. When he found out it was my birthday and that we were Spanish Teachers he asked us to record something for him, which we did. In the recording, he explained what music was played for each God. He then played happy birthday using the Sun God and it was great. I obviously had to buy it!


Raquel tried to climb the pyramid, which I refused because I am terrified of heights and there were way too many people going up and down. I decided to sit on one of the smaller pyramids and just take everything in. The beauty and the hard work that so many Aztecs put into building these wonderful pyramids. My mind couldn’t help but wonder how different life was for them. Raquel could only get halfway through the Sun pyramid before coming down. You have to be super fit for those pyramids! It is said that if you wear white to the pyramids, you will be filled with positive energy, so I did. Hey, I’m a teacher, I’ll take any positive energy I can get!


After spending about 3 hours in the pyramids we headed back and had dinner with Maricela and Gabriel. We all rested from the long day and then night time hit, we decided to go to the monument of the revolution also known as “El Monumento de la revolución.” This also lights up at night and has a museum inside. The price varies on the type of tour you take. We went at night time so the museum was closed. You can take an elevator up but not down. Once we got to the top, I panicked. I hadn’t realized how tall it was going to be. Once again, I’m terrified of heights!!! Luckily, Raquel and Maricela were with me the entire time and I can’t deny that the view from the top was breathtaking.


It took me a while to make it down the stairs, but once I did I went straight to the gift shop! I bought Linda and Jarrett shirts that were among the most famous revolutionaries in Mexico, Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa. My birthday ended with a tour around the Mariachi Plaza, which is where many Mariachi groups are and people can just drive by and hire them. This area isn’t very safe, so if it’s not early at night, I would avoid it. Lastly, instead of birthday cake, I had birthday churros from a great place, which sadly I don’t know the name of, but they were delicious!!!

Mexico City - Day 6

Sunday, we went to a market called “Mercado de artesanía” where they sold so many great things! I wanted to but everything I saw! I purchased an embroidered Mexican peasant shirt and some pure silver earrings with a real turquoise stone in them. Raquel purchased a beautiful chess set for her dad that was made of stone. We walked around for hours and that was it.

Mexico City - Day 7

On Monday we had a few hours to kill before our flight, so we decided to tour Mexico City’s most popular wax museum and they had celebrities from all over the world. From Michael Jackson to the Queen of England. My favorite would have to be a tie between Pedro Infante and Alejandro Fernandez. Yes, I did fangirl when I found their wax figures. Judge me, I don’t care.


We returned to our air bnb and said our goodbyes to Roo and Maricela. Gabriel drove us to the airport and so at last we said goodbye to him. I never truly realized how beautiful Mexico City was until I spent 6 days there. It was the trip of a lifetime and I can’t wait to go back! Raquel and I are already planning our trip to Cancun next summer! Thanks for reading all about our trip!

Conclusion

I would like to thank Dr. Miranda Recinos and her family for their hospitality during our time in Mexico City. I’ve adopted Maricela and Gabriel as my third set of grandparents. My heart goes out to all the people affected by the earthquakes that have affected Mexico recently, but if it there is one thing I learned on my trip, is that the people of Mexico are resilient and fighters.

Lastly, I’d just like to say how much this trip helped me get a better understanding of my culture and who I am. I’ve always known I was Mexican-American and traveled to different parts of Mexico, but I was never old or mature enough to understand everything I was looking at. This is the first trip I make to Mexico with an opened mind and heart. By doing so, my heritage has become my biggest pride. I love being Latinx and everything it entails. Thank you México city for helping me understand a side of me I didn’t even know was misunderstood.
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Monday, October 9, 2017

Lessons Learned as a Hurricane Harvey First Responder

Lessons Learned During Hurricane Harvey

I recently volunteered to assist in Texas areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. I was with a team that began with high water rescues and searching houses for survivors. We quickly transitioned to handing out life-sustaining supplies at distribution points. Along the way, I learned valuable lessons as a first responder and some of those could be beneficial for impacted area survivors.

in a parking lot in ingleside, TX
Flipped semi-truck at a distribution point

Power

With food, water, and shelter provided, I quickly realized power was going to be one of the biggest issues. I had a personal, work, and satellite phone, to receive calls from various people and agencies in support of our mission to help locals. The catch, we were in areas with no power or areas with so many people hooked up to the grid there wasn’t enough power to go around. Thankfully, I took an amazing combination for keeping my communication equipment powered up. I have a StrongVolt 5W solar panel and a KMASHI 1000mAh power bank.


There were some hard lessons learned using my solar panel about having enough space, enough watts, and being weather resistant. First, make sure you have an enough room to lay the panels flat in direct sunlight. I learned that hanging the panels didn't work well and they needed to be flat. Second, most electronics will only charge so fast, no matter how many watts, but a larger panel will provide more power in the shade (like when a cloud blocks the sun). Finally, make sure you get a panel that is weather/water resistant as hurricane weather could lead to more storms. I took a StrongVolt because I bought it on a Woot sale, but there are better or more cost-effective options out there.

taken from woot.com
The StrongVolt 5W solar panel. taken from woot.com

The battery pack I brought turned out to be a keystone piece of equipment. I would charge all of my electronics while sleeping using the battery pack, and throughout the next day, I would use the solar charger to top off the battery pack. Additionally, if there was ever any power, I would use that as well to recharge the battery pack. This method turned out to be an efficient means to keep everything charged and I never had a dead phone as a result. However, I wouldn't have had such a great result with a smaller battery pack.

Taken from Amazon.com
KMASHI 10k mAh Battery Pack. Taken from Amazon.com

Finally, I would definitely add an inverter to my power kit. After returning home, I purchased an Aukey 300W power inverter. The key is to make sure it can charge by 12V auxiliary power outlets and by car batteries with gator clips. This way, any car with a battery provides a means for power, which includes abandoned cars in a bad enough situation.

Food, Water, and Caffeine

Food and water are going to be key for any survivor and first responder, so having a reasonable amount on hand is paramount. MY crew was handing out water and rations three days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall.

In Aransas Pass, Tx
Soldiers handing out rations (MREs)

I ended up taking a stove for a specific reason and it wasn't water purification, but that is an added bonus. I took the stove to make coffee and that you ended up being a major hit with my crew. As someone who loves caffeine, it seems like this treasure is oft overlooked. If you are interested in learning more about stoves, check out our stove basics 1 and stove basics 2 posts.

boiling water for coffee
Primus canister stove I used for making coffee

In the areas we were in there was a water boiling warning. Furthermore, it can be hard to fill up your bathtub beforehand if you know a flood is imminent. This is where a stove, your gas stove in your home or a portable stove, will be key until bottled water or water treatment is restored.

Lastly, everyone needs food to last long enough for supplies to arrive. A lot of people we handed out food too had plenty of food in their refrigerators, but they had no way to keep it cold. I took along some freeze-dried food as insurance in case food was in short supply. It might be worthwhile checking out Wise Foods for some options.

Conclusions

While I know my lessons learned as a first responder aren't going to completely cover the needs for a disaster survivor, there is definitely some carry over. Having a strategy to cover the big three: food, water, and shelter plus power will go a long way.

Let us know any tips and tricks you have when dealing with a natural disaster. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 
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Monday, October 2, 2017

Meet Mitsu The Worlds Smallest Survivalist

Guest Post: Adventuring with Mitsu


Meet Mitsu: An adorable, twenty-three-pound, one-eyed Shiba Inu who specializes in being a drama queen and acts like the biggest diva around. Her cute appearance may lead you to believe that she is a house dog first and foremost, but behind that fox-like appearance is a hunter who hasn't lost touch with her primitive roots. 


Every morning we follow the same routine: she jumps down from the cozy bed where she curled up in luxury and comfort all night. She lets me put on her pink collar and harness her for a walk. We go outside, she takes her sweet time to walk the pavement to the grass, and then we approach the woods for our morning hike. 


As soon as we head down one of the trails, Mitsu grows increasingly energetic. She starts to smell the air and listen to every crunching leaf and snapped branch. She picks up her pace and responds immediately to every sign of movement. If she can, she pounces at moles and mice, tackles rabbits, and flushes deer. She wades through water, travels through thick foliage, and climbs hills and rocks. As far as hiking buddies go, Mitsu is the ideal. 


Of course, that love of the outdoors comes with a price. Specifically, the price of potentially losing her in the woods if I get too complacent. In the seven years of her life, we have never had a close call - until recently. On one of our morning walks in our woods, dragging her long leash as usual, she caught a scent and ran to track it - and I failed to step on her long leash to prevent her from chasing that smell. It was a dangerous mistake.

Allow me to explain why: we recently moved from Texas to the Wisconsin Northwoods. It's a beautiful place to live, but it means that sometimes when walking outside my house, I encounter a black bear. It means I fall asleep to the sound of coyotes howling and, when I am lucky, even occasionally a chorus of wolves. It means that no matter how good Mitsu is at traversing the wilderness, she is still one small dog in a huge forest where other, bigger animals are hunting to survive.


After three hours of searching, calling, squeaking a favorite toy, and going deeper in the woods than I ever had before, I feared the worst. I went home because I hadn't eaten that morning and I was beginning to feel it. I grabbed something quick and ate outside, watching the main trail, and thinking about all the horrible ends my dog would meet. 

And then, just like that: along came Mitsu, perfectly fine, still dragging her long lead, tired but unharmed, looking at me as though she just had a peaceful walk in a safe neighborhood suburb, rather than a 3-hour romp in the deep woods. She found her way home, and walked right up to me without any alarm or relief. 


Lessons were learned that day, but not by Mitsu. No, the only one who learned a few lessons was me. I learned to be more careful and alert to both Mitsu and my surroundings. I learned that I shouldn't get complacent, that hiking in the woods is not the time or the place to get lulled into the comfort of routine. 

And I learned that if I happen to make another mistake in the future, I should have a little more faith in my dog.

This was a guest post by Jenna Savage, so go ahead and let her know how much you enjoyed it in the comments. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Trip Report: Downtown Dallas Adventure

Downtown Dallas Weekend Getaway 

After working through my birthday, as is the case with most years, Linda decided to plan a birthday weekend getaway from August 11th through 13th. This isn't our first birthday adventure trip and you can check out some past trips like Fredericksburg day 1 and Fredericksburg day 2.

Indigo Hotel

Our base of operations, which we didn’t even spend much time in, was the historic Hotel Indigo, which is in Downtown Dallas. Because of its age, the hotel feels small and the rooms/hallways are tiny. In addition, don’t expect any free meals, but they do have a small restaurant and bar, which are pretty good albeit expensive. Overall, it’s a nice hotel that wants to be upscale but feels a little older.


The Indigo Hotel was built in 1925 and 89 years old. In addition, this is actually the first hotel to bear the Hilton name. Furthermore, Hotel Indigo was once the site of the Dallas Opera House and the Titche-Goettinger department store. Finally, if you are looking for spooky places, it's rumored to be haunted due to its long history.

Big D Fun Tours

The next morning, we woke up, ate a quick bite in the hotel restaurant, and took a short Lyft ride to Dealey Plaza. We made the incorrect assumption that the bus tour was somehow affiliated with the Sixth Floor Museum. An employee set us straight and we walked to a small kiosk in the plaza across the street. We checked in and had a small chat with the odd kiosk employee who provided 0 details on how everything worked. Having no instruction, I wandered around Dealey Plaza while Linda, thankfully, found the bus we needed to get on. We eventually loaded up and were on our way with the tour. A little surprisingly, the driver is not the tour guide and ours didn’t add anything extra to the trip. Instead, the tour is prerecorded and our driver had to occasionally time location with the story.

 

If you are looking for a tour that stops, lets you out to take pictures, this isn’t that tour. At least in my experience. Our trip started in downtown Dallas as we learned about the events leading up to JFK’s visit and the plan for JFK’s motorcade and how it changed last minute. We then traveled a short distance to visit some key Lee Harvey Oswald sites. We passed by the hospital where JFK and Oswald spent their last hours. A little bit further down the road, we took a brief stop at Oswald's Rooming House. People currently live there, but they have a small sign in the front yard that says you can schedule “appointments”. 


Next stop is the site in the Oak Cliff neighborhood where Oswald tried to walk away from the assassination site and where he ended up murdering Officer Tippett. We also learned how bystanders were able to use Tippett’s radio to report the murder to the police. Finally, in this area of town, we passed the Texas Theater where Oswald eventually apprehended by the Police.


For the final section, we learned some history on Jack Ruby and headed back to downtown Dallas. We passed by some of Jack’s old business and the Dallas police headquarters building, which is where the ramp Jack walked down to kill Oswald. Lastly, we headed down the Main Street route that the JFK motorcade before ending back the former School Book Depository Building (Sixth Floor Museum).

JFK Sixth Floor Museum

After a quick lunch, we made our way back to the Sixth-Floor museum. The museum was originally the Texas School Book Depository but is now the Dallas County Administration Building. The museum looks at the life and death of JFK using an audio guide and some short movies sprinkled in. It was hard to move through the museum because it was packed and quite a bit of information was fresh from the bus tour. However, standing in the spot Oswald fired his shots was very surreal and a unique experience.

Nightly Spirits Ghost Tour

After a free dinner from Hotel Indigo, we headed off to a downtown Dallas ghost tour. Dallas is one of the older cities has a ton of haunted places and ghost stories. The tour is a mix of a pub crawl and ghost stories. The general premise is to walk to a bar in or near a haunted building, grab a drink, and then settle in for some history and ghost stories.

The tour was ultimately fun, but I went in with my expectations set high from previous tours and your guide was very energetic, over the top, and frequently went for the easy scream scare. While Nightly Spirits ask that you don’t directly share their stories, I will list the locations we visited so you can do a little research. The first stop was Frankie’s Downtown in the Davis Building, Money Alley, Press Box Grill in the Wilson Bldg (it stormed hard during our time here), Pegasus Plaza, and the Rodeo Bar in the Adolphus Hotel.

Trinity Treetops Adventure Park

After another night in Hotel Indigo, we headed off to our final destination: Trinity Treetops Adventure Park. It’s an aerial obstacle course reminiscent of Army obstacle courses from my past except you are harnessed in and at least 10 feet in the air. There are 6 courses of various difficulties and all are self-guided. Once you are hooked in, you move at your own pace through the lane until completion.


Linda and I were the first ones there, so they trained us up and set us free, which worked in our favor because a Girl Scout Troop showed up a little after us. I fired up my new FITFORT 4K Cam and we started out on Green which is the second easiest. Green was various types of aerial bridges with ziplines sprinkled in. After that, I moved on to the 2 blue courses, which involved similar obstacles and ziplines; however, these were twice as high, harder to balance on, and tougher to navigate through. I briefly considered trying the hardest, black, lane, but I was far too tuckered out and had to call it quits.



I’d love to hear your experience and adventures from Dallas, so go ahead leave some suggestions below in the Comments. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 
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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Gear Review: Primus Yellowstone Classic Trail Stove

A Long-Term Review of the Primus Classic Stove

I have been using this stove for about 5 years as my primary stove and I’ve never had an issue. If you want to learn more about different stove types, make sure you check out our previous post Stove Basics 1 and Stove Basics 2. When I was getting back into backpacking, I needed an affordable stove and this was the best option at REI. This stove is ubiquitous in outdoor stores, but the best price is generally Amazon.


Background

Weight: 8 oz
Size: 2.8x2.4x2.9”
Boil time: approximately 3 min
BTUs: 10,000
Price: $15 to $20

Canister stoves are generally considered lightweight and durable. The fuel source is an isobutane and propane mix in small metal canisters, which is where they get the name canister stove. The canister is generally the heaviest part of the setup and doesn’t get any lighter as your burn fuel. Finally, canister stoves are extremely easy to use and maintain.

How I Use It

I have used this stove for a variety of outdoor activities including backpacking, hiking, glamping, and I would cook lunch when I worked in the woods. On hiking or backpacking, I bring this along to cook hot breakfast, dinner, and warm drinks. For Glamping and cooking lunch, I have a large isobutane container and cook some well-rounded meals using a 1L pot and skillet lid.

Performance

The Primus Yellowstone has never had any significant performance issues. The stove boils fast, is a stable platform, and functions great in adverse weather. Additionally, this stove is incredibly durable. I have never performed maintenance other than halfheartedly wiping it down after use or drying the stove.

Less than Ideal Weather

After years of use, I have rarely seen a decrease in performance in less than ideal weather. Out of the hundreds of times I’ve used this stove, I can only remember a single time when the flame was completely extinguished by strong wind. Furthermore, wind will decrease the overall performance, you shouldn’t use a windscreen as it can overheat the fuel canister, but the stove will boil water fine.
I have also been lucky enough to use the Primus Yellowstone stove in light to moderate rains. Rain will decrease the performance of your cook times and will make a worrying sizzle sound the entire your pot and stove are hot; however, I was still able to brave the rain and cook a nice warm meal in about the same time as ideal conditions.

Boil Time

The Primus Yellowstone is a great source of heat and brings 300 ml of water in an open pot in approximately 4 minutes and make sure you check out the boil test. For comparison, Jack’s Etekcity stove boiled water in 4.5 minutes in the same conditions, and you can check out that boil test here. The Etekcity stove will save you 3 oz, but increase you boil time around 30 seconds.


I think one of the reasons the Primus Yellowstone stove boils quickly is the larger burner. It works exceptionally well on a wide pot where the large burner creates a lot of heat that doesn't escape out or around the pot.

Stability

The Yellowstone stove has a fixed pot stand with 4 smooth legs, which allows the stove to accommodate pots of all sizes. This makes sure the stove amazing stability. The biggest concern to stability is finding a cook site that is relatively level and free of debris. If you are a beginner and don't have all your gear perfectly dialed in or for younger/uncoordinated adventures the great stability and pot size accommodation will significantly smooth the learning curve.


Issues

Overall the issues with the Primus Yellowstone stove are pretty limited and for your beginner or intermediate backpacker/hiker, this is still a solid investment. In addition, there are some inherent issues with canister stoves which are not limited to just this stove but will be addressed anyways.

Size and Weight

Over the years, nesting my cook gear has become more important as I’ve learned a low volume pack can be just as important as a lightweight pack. Plus, nesting can reduce the awful noise of metal on metal clinking caused by stove, canister, and pot interactions as you walk. On top of being large, this stove is also considered heavy for canister stoves. You can easily find a stove with a similar boil time around half the weight.


Fuel Level?

An issue with all canister stoves; there isn’t a good way to check your fuel levels in the field. I have seen ways to measure canister to estimate the fuel left and tools that allow you to cannibalize almost empty canisters to refuel another canister. Unfortunately, neither will provide an accurate estimate while out adventuring; therefore, using a canister stove will require a little extra planning if you intend to be out for an extended period.

Weather Issues

Wind is the enemy of all flame and this is true with canister stoves. There are clever designs and picking good cook sites, but windscreens can’t be used because heat buildup can cause canisters to overheat and explode. Finally, canister stoves have decreased to non-existent performance in cold weather, so if you live in a cold climate, there are better fuel options available.

Final Recommendation

I have found the Primus Yellowstone stove to perform exceptionally in diverse scenarios, and this evident as I have never replaced this canister stove as I’ve collected various new and fancy stoves throughout the years. It’s not a bad stove to start with for the low cost, simplicity, and reliability, especially for beginners; however, if I had to do it over again, there are cheaper and lighter models available that I would consider better options. However, this is a great bargain stove for beginners or some good canister stove in a pinch.

What type of stove do you use? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 

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