Off Yonder – Adventure Travel Stories - Seeing the world for what it is

On The Steep
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, United States

I’m far from being an expert skier, despite skiing expert runs at ski areas. I’m at that point in my skiing where it takes a lot of time on the snow to see much in the way of improvement. Fortunately, I got to see, rather, experience, the fruits of my efforts over the past few years since moving to Colorado. While I was still the weakest skier in the group of outdoor and primarily ski journalists on this trip to Jackson Hole I was able to keep up and even enjoy myself.

The trip was organized and sponsored by Marmot with some help with Polartec. Marmot was using Polartec’s new breathable insulation technology called Alpha. The idea is to be able to be working hard in the winter and dump the excess heat your body creates to avoid overheating and sweating which can be a problem once your body starts to cool off. On the other hand, as you do cool you want your layers to be right to keep you warm enough. Usually this involves stripping and adding layers as you change your activity on the mountain. I’ve been using an Eddy Bauer jacket with Polartec Alpha most of this season and it has been great. The Marmot kit did really well though it could have been colder out to optimize the feature of the technology.

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Around here… it’s Rainier!
Mt. Rainier, Washington, United States

It was awesome to get back to the Great Pacific Northwest to climb Mt. Rainier again. This is my third summit of Rainier and it was a beautiful day on the top. My previous climbs have been as a private climber so this was my first time going with a guide outfit like RMI Expeditions. Since we had some first time climbers with us, our first day was Mountaineering School. We hiked up to a snowfield and practiced self arrest, walking in crampons and other mountaineering skills. The next day we hiked all our gear up to Camp Muir at 10,000 ft. After lying down for a stint from 6pm to 11pm we geared up and made a push for the summit.

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Canyon of Lodore
Gates of Lodore, Green River, Colorado, United States

It’s been too long since I’ve run a river in a nice oar raft. I met up with this crew in the classic way of joining the trip via an invite from a friend here in Boulder. Then the friend in Boulder couldn’t make it. Undaunted, I stuck with the trip and ended up running a boat for one of the families. This crew came from Utah, Arizona and Colorado and they were a great bunch as most rafters are. Rafting is essentially car camping on the river. Granted there are a few more logistical and gear hurdles to overcome but for the most part the route finding is pretty easy.

The Green River is where John Westly Powell started his journey which resulted in the first running of the Grand Canyon in 1869. He ran this very stretch of water and had his first major disaster when the campfire got out of control due to the crazy winds that are known to blow along rivers. One of his boats caught fire along with the provisions stored in it. We made it through alright and had a blast doing it.

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Sudwest Afrika
Swakopmund, Windhoek & The Caprivi, Namibia

This trip to Namibia in Africa was pretty incredible. It’s a long haul to get down there but once there the long flights are quickly forgotten. Namibia has some diverse environments. We started our trip on the coast in Swakopmund and drove north to the controversial seal colony that stunk to high heaven, but was very interesting to see. From there we drove inland to the capital Windhoek to see a little more cosmopolitan version of the country for some meetings. Finally, for the bulk of the trip we flew north to the Caprivi region where we went on game tracking walks, learned about how the local community manages its own natural resources, went on safari drives and boat rides, dugout canoe trips, visited a local chief, crossed over to Botswana and saw lots of wildlife. And this isn’t even the high season to see wildlife. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to get back there when literally thousands of animals can be seen at once. Naturally, there are photos and videos. Click to the full story for the first video of the coastal visit. Stay tuned to my YouTube channel for more.

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Swiss Adventure: Canyoning and Hiking and Swinging, Oh My!
Jungfrau Region, Interlaken, Switzerland

Pre-Summit Adventure No. 1 – Four amazing days in and around Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland.

Day 1 – High ropes course with ziplines and other balancing elements high in the trees.

Day 2 – Canyoning where we followed a creek into a canyon and jumped off 35′ waterfalls, rappelled off higher ones and slid on the shallower descents.

Day 3 – An awesome 6 hour hike through the Bernese Oberland (highlands) to Grindelwald.

Day 4 – Canyon Swing: Attached to a rope 300 feet above a roaring river we jumped, we fell, we swung on the rope.

Awesome. Video.

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Hiking the Grand
North Rim & Inner Gorge, Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

It doesn’t matter how you access the Grand Canyon, so long as you actually get down into it. Sure, the views are impressive from the rim looking down into and along the big red gash in the earth, but it’s too big to fathom just from above. By boat or by foot, you’ve got to get into it.

Matt, Agnes and I, planned on a four day backpacking trip descending from the North Rim along the Bill Hall Trail and into Deer Creek Canyon for the first night. Well, technically our first night out was car camping on the North Rim which offered the aforementioned amazing though limited view from above. The morning sun crept down along the walls, displacing the dark pooled in the canyon as we packed up our car camp and got on the rocky trail taking us down.

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Sub-Arctic 112 Mile Ski Tour
White Mountains Recreation Area, Alaska, United States

There may be a tinge of familiarity to this trip. In 2009, Nathaniel and I visited the White Mountains of Alaska and had an amazing trip. But in the midst of pounding out over 100 miles in 7 days (specifically, after our 23 mile day over Cache Mountain Divide) we were staying the night at the scenic Windy Gap Cabin and thought to ourselves, we need to build in some rest days next time. Well, this is the next time and we did. By the end of the trip we had covered 112 miles in 10 days, with two rest days. We also added another member to the team, Joe Connolly.

Mouse over any image for the caption. Click on any image to go to the gallery for more photos. Subscribe (email | RSS) to the gallery to see when I add more photos from this trip. Also, stay tuned for the video!

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STS-133: Discovery’s Last Launch
Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States

It’s been a childhood dream to see a Space Shuttle launch and only with the threat of the program ending have I put a concerted effort towards actually getting there to see it. Last fall I spent a week on the Space Coast in Florida waiting for STS-133, the Shuttle Discovery to fly it’s last mission. Each day they delayed the launch until finally I couldn’t afford to spend more time in Florida and they scrubbed the launch for at least a few weeks.

After months of going over the leaky fuel tank and related components the launch was scheduled again for 24 Feb 2011 and I was there, again.

As I suspected, after having so much time to get ready for the launch, Discovery was ready to go and lifted off without a hitch, much less any major holds in the countdown sequence.

At the range of about 7 miles on the 5th floor of a condo complex where some friends have a unit I got to see, hear and feel the excitement of witnessing humans breaking away from the grasp of gravity into space. It is awe inspiring.

STS-133 carried a storage module to the International Space Station as well as a new and permeant crew member: Robonaut 2. Click below for more photos.

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Five-Fingers Snowshoe
Harvard Lakes, Buena Vista, Colorado, United States

A little trek into the mountains up to Harvard Lakes (click the title for more photos):

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Ellingwood Ridge Challenge
La Plata, Collegiate Range, Colorado, United States

I had the pleasure of guiding a trip in the Colorado Rockies with Mark James for the Adventure Unlimited Ranches. We took a group of intrepid adults from A/U’s Adult Base Camp (ABC) program to La Plata where the plan was to traverse Ellingwood Ridge. The five of us (two guides and three adult campers) camped at the base of the western ridge. The next morning we made it up the western ridge to the 14,334-foot summit where a batch of my mom’s home made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were delivered. That was a treat. Once rested at the summit one camper opted to turn back and was accompanied by Mark while the rest of us started our descent along Ellingwood Ridge. This is not a trail and is a technical route. About an hour into the traverse we realized the best idea was to turn back to the summit instead of continuing on along the ridge all the way down as planned.

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