Packrafting has always interested me, but it wasn’t until I won an AIRE BAKraft at Gauley Fest last year that I seriously considered putting a lightweight river trip together. Yes, I know a BAKraft isn’t a true packraft but the portable size and lighter weight lend it to the same purpose. I had previously used IKs on the Tatshenshini and Nahanni, so I knew how much gear they could haul, and I was excited to put my new craft to use on a remote stretch of river.
With a few ideas in mind I reached out to Thor at Alpacka Raft, and he suggested this stretch. The Middle Fork of the Flathead had never been on my radar before, but a quick Google revealed a gem of a river that actually inspired the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act back in 1968.
In January 2016 I released an online survey with the intent of determining whether shoulder injury rates differed among whitewater kayakers who used bent shaft or straight shaft paddles. Shoulder injuries are incredibly prevalent with whitewater paddlers, and I was personally interested in the data since I sustained multiple subluxations while kayaking ultimately resulting in surgery in 2012.
Many kayakers must have had a similar level of interest in the survey since there were over 2,700 responses. I fully expected less than 100 responses, but the survey truly went viral. Thanks for providing that data and rallying to spread the survey around! Unfortunately there are many confounding factors present, and I never had the time or technical skill to do justice to the sheer amount of data collected in the survey. I'd like to say I could put aside time for a project like this, but I'll be starting medical school next week and I don't think it's going to happen. Thus I'm making the raw data public so that people can sift through it if they're interested.
I first arrived in Southern Oregon as a raft guide back in the summer of 2016, and I kept hearing about this river called the Illinois. It seemed that everyone agreed that it was their favorite multi-day river trip in the area, but I was never in the area early enough to catch the spring flows. This year I had a chance to spend three days on the Illinois from Miami Bar to Oak Flat, and I finally understand why this section of river is so special.
Here is a collection of trip reports with photos on information on a variety of destinations. This list is a work in progress, so I'll add content as I visit more destinations. Trips are separated by activity type.
With a few days off of work in Southern Oregon in early June I began to look into boating options. I had heard great things about the Cal Salmon river, and with it only being 3 hours from the Grants Pass area it was the obvious choice. I headed down to the Nordheimer campground on a Friday night and hoped that I would run into some boaters there for the weekend.
Having a pair of quality, well-fitting ski boots is critical to transferring leg and foot movements to the skis. Finding the right fitting boot is a long process though, and achieving that custom fit through repeated trips to a boot fitter can become time intensive and expensive. This winter I started to research and try on a variety of ski boots, but no brand fit perfectly out of the box. The fit was often good in a few areas then uncomfortable either in the toe box or around the ankle. Through my research I came across Salomon’s Custom Shell technology which intrigued me since it gave one the ability to not only thermoform the liner but also the plastic shell of the boot. This would allow me to buy ski boots at a discount online and custom fit them at home. This guide gives the instructions on how to custom fit the shell at home using just an oven and tub of water.
I finished bikepacking the Colorado Trail in the fall of 2016, and quickly became interested in the average trip length of other trail users. I originally intended to analyze bikepacker trip length, but I created an online survey and 90% of the responses came from thru-hikers (57 out of 63 responses). This article examines the average length of a thru hike on the Colorado Trail as well as other factors including hiker age, gender differences, and whether hikers wished they had budgeted extra days for their trip.
Packing for an extended bikepacking trip isn’t drastically different from that of a hiking trip, but there are a few critical pieces of gear that can make a world of difference. I outline those pieces of gear here along with a comprehensive bikepacking trip gear list. This article came about after completing the Colorado Trail this fall, and is part of a little web series about my trip along with advice aimed to help other mountain bikers (and possibly even hikers) plan their own adventures on the trail.
This article is part of a series about bikepacking the Colorado Trail. If you haven't already I'd highly suggest reading the introductory post which briefly describes the Colorado Trail as well as details my experience. These photos follow a chronological progression of my bikepacking trip on the Colorado from Denver to Durango starting on September 16th, 2016. Enjoy!
This is the second article in a series about bikepacking the Colorado Trail, and it covers basic planning and logistical aspects of the trip. If you haven’t already you should read the introductory article which gives a brief overview of the trail as well as my experience bikepacking the trail in the fall of 2016. This guide is geared towards bikepackers, but much of the information could also be beneficial to backpackers.
This is an introductory article, the first in a series about bikepacking the Colorado Trail. When I started researching the Colorado Trail I had a lot of questions and I hope this guide can both help to point you in the right direction and get you stoked as you start planning!
I’m interested in trying to figure out the average amount of time that users take on the trail, and the amount of time they wish they had since that can be used as a reference tool by people planning their own trips in the future. Of course this metric is going to include both the faster thru-hikers and those sauntering along, but my hope is there will be a happy medium in between. The CTF publishes some rough date ranges, but as gear changes and the trail becomes more popular it’s very possible to see some deviation. If nothing else, I think it will be interesting!
KAVU has been making awesome hats since their start in 1993, and the Chillba continues the trend as an iconic, functional hat. It’s large and certainly not discrete, but for serious sun protection while hiking or rafting, the Chillba is my go-to hat. I’ve had the pleasure of using this piece of gear for the past two years, and wanted to write up a couple thoughts on why it rocks, as well as mention some caveats to be aware of!
Historically I’ve prided myself on my bare bones, durable sleep set-up: a classic foam Thermarest pad with a pile of bundled fleece clothing for a pillow. An inflatable backpacking pillow was the last thing on my wish list at the time, but I splurged recently and purchased the Fillo by Nemo Equipment. It’s now my favorite camping accessory.
Most headlamps fit a pretty standard profile these days - a couple different brightness settings, some weather durability, and possibly a red-light function to preserve your night vision. Black Diamond's ReVolt has these standard features, but it’s also rechargeable via USB which is a huge advantage for most backcountry uses. This isn’t a review which pits multiple rechargeable headlamps against each other in order to nitpick the minor differences, rather it’s a quick rundown of why the ReVolt works for the majority of my needs and why you might consider getting a rechargeable headlamp in the future.
The South Nahanni is one of the most classic Canadian rivers, renowned for wildlife, beautiful canyons, and a thunderous 300 foot waterfall that puts Niagara to shame. Avery and I received a generous grant from the Ritt Kellogg Fund to explore this stretch of river, so in July of last year we embarked on a road trip from Colorado to a small town in the Northwest Territories named Fort Simpson. We quickly learned of the horrendous wildfires as we drove along smoke-filled dirt highways, and delayed our departure as the bush plane wouldn't be able to fly in with such low visibility along the river corridor. Eventually the weather turned in our favor as the smoke cleared, and rains took care of the wildfires.
“When staying alive is a full time job, there isn’t time for much else.” Truthfully, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to hear from someone who soloed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado for 22 days – in an inflatable kayak (IK), no less. It’s inspiring to talk to people like Winslow Burleson, an associate professor at NYU, who manage to balance demanding jobs in the academic world with a respectable dose of outdoor adventure. After seeing a couple photos of Win paddling a fully loaded IK into the Canyon, I decided I needed to learn more about how the journey went. I also recently posted about pursuing your personal goals before it’s too late, and this journey exemplifies this perfectly. I gave Win a call, and asked a few questions about the trip.
We all have dreams. Some are acted on quickly, while others get put on the back burner as we formulate excuses: not enough money, too difficult, not enough time, etc. I’ll be graduating college soon, and I’ve had a lot of thoughts about the future pertaining to this. There’s a lot of pressure from society to achieve certain things while setting aside some of our dreams. It’s like the conundrum of retirement, where you’ll get to do some of the meaningful, carefree things that you’ve always wanted to do – but only after you’re pushing 60 years old.
Not all warranties are created equal. For example, a scratched lens apparently voids Smith’s warranty, but exceptions can be made. I’m reaching out to the outdoors community to share some stories of your experiences with companies that boast lifetime warranties. How was the customer service? Did they completely back their product? Any weird caveats? A lot factors go into the purchase process, and the warranty is definitely up there for me. Go to the bottom of the post to either post your experience in the comments or email them & I’ll add it to this page. My goal is to create a little repository of unbiased feedback on lifetime warranty policies. Enjoy, and I hope you contribute!
Shoulders are by far the most injury prone joint in whitewater kayaking, and we all know someone who has "tweaked" it, or worse, while on the river. Recurring subluxations (partial dislocation) or full dislocations can lead to a torn labrum and the need for surgery. It's not an easy process, but eventually stabilizes the joint and reduces the risk of developing arthritis. I want to find out whether there is a significant difference in injury rates between people that use bent shaft paddles vs straight shaft paddles. Take the survey and help me find out!
I always choose to carry a satellite communicator on any big expedition, and it’s just as much for the peace of mind of my family as it is for my safety. Being gone for a month at a time in the backcountry can take a toll on parents or friends back home, wondering if everything is all right. Getting a little nightly message saying you’re fine does wonders to quell those fears. And of course, these devices could save your life if you’re severely hurt or stranded in the wilderness and need a rescue.
It's fast, challenging, and a rite of passage. It's the Green River in Western North Carolina. Every year crowds gather on the first Saturday each November to watch 150+ whitewater kayakers, each spaced 1 minute apart, lay it all out on a challenging set of rapids on the Green River Narrows. Navigating these rapids slowly is difficult, let alone charging through them while lactic.
This year I put on just before the racers and took out at Gorilla, the crux drop, to snap some photos. I wanted a different perspective from the classic downstream view of the pad, and decided to play around with angles on the river right side of the Monkey. Having a full view of racers coming over Flying Squirrel, through the Notch, over the pad, and through Speed Trap was special. The overhead view seemed to flatten Gorilla a bit, but some shots turned out pretty well!
At 4,863 feet, Spruce Knob holds the title of West Virginia’s highest mountain as well as the highest point in the Alleghenies. It’s name popped up while looking for a quality weekend backpacking trip in the Virginia area, and it certainly stood out among other routes in the region. Not only is there a beautiful creek to camp along, but two high school friends and I lucked out with the beautiful fall colors in early October. Just off the trail are the remains of a Piper PA-23 crash from 1973, which adds a little sobering history to the hike as well.
The full loop is around 16 miles long, passing along the alpine ridge, through beautiful meadows, and then dropping down into Seneca Creek. Just off of one of the trail junctions is the 30-foot Upper Seneca Creek Falls. There’s a lot packed into this hike and it goes quickly. Be prepared for a little mud though as some seeping springs keep the trails saturated.
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In May 2014 two recent Colorado College grads and I had the opportunity to take a 12-day inflatable kayak trip down the Tatshenshini, with the assistance of a school Ritt Kellogg grant. This river trip, starting at Dalton Post in the Yukon, and ending at Dry Bay, AK winds through an immensely beautiful landscape.
The Tatshenshini starts as a small stream, and the river reaches nearly a mile wide when it flows past the confluence with the Alsek River. Downstream of the confluence glaciers surround the river , icebergs choke a crucial lake crossing, and bald eagles fly high in the sky scanning for prey. Canoe & Kayak published a couple articles on the experience.
The James River Rundown race is happening again this year, and if you enjoy the James River and human-powered watercraft I highly suggest you sign up. This year I believe they have the classic 100 miler as well as new additions of mellower 40 mile and 20 mile races. From the results last year we saw that it’s certainly possible to paddle the full 100 miles in under 18 hours, so you can still race and sleep in your own bed that night. In the past couple weeks I’ve gotten a couple emails about advice for the race, and figured I’d write a few things down that I learned from my experience last year. My experience comes from paddling a solo kayak in the race, but I’m sure some of these points will apply to canoeists as well.
Last winter I had the opportunity to paddle down the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, alone. For 27 days and 280 miles the Grand Canyon was my world. I reveled in the solitude, played in the rapids, and was continually awed by the magnificent nature surrounding me. The resulting article and video featured by Canoe and Kayak turned out to be one of their most popular stories this year, and I finally decided to sit down and write down some tips for putting a solo trip together. This article will focus mainly on wintertime solos, as those permits are the easiest to snag. Of course most all this information will apply to kayakers looking to prepare for a self-support trip down the Grand Canyon, even if you aren’t doing it alone.
Why Rush Through Paradise documents my solo kayak journey down the Grand Canyon of the Colorado in January 2014. Filmed during 27 days in the depths of the Canyon, the film aims to convey the emotional journey I experienced while alone, and reveals the inescapable beauty of the Canyon.
This trip was one of the longest solo trips on record in the Canyon since the Park Service instituted the 25 day Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek trip length requirement. Long nights and a deserted river allowed for ample contemplation on our place in this world, and provided a unique opportunity to explore the intricacies of the Canyon at my leisure.