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

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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RMC Centennial Reunion
White Mountains, Randolph, New Hampshire, United States

Back in the fall of 2006 I enjoyed a beautiful season as the caretaker for a cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This weekend, I’m back in the small mountain town of Randolph to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Randolph Mountain Club (RMC) with many of the great people who have also served as caretakers as well as those who have worked on the trail crew. On Saturday morning Al (who hired me to be the caretaker) and I hiked up to Crag Camp where we sat in the mountain sunshine and chatted with a few folks who stayed up there that night. We then hiked over to Gray Knob Cabin where I lived for two months. The large logbook on the table only had a dozen blank pages left and was the one I had started while working there. It was fun to read the entry I wrote about the first substantial snowfall that season on the first page. I wrote a little note to document this visit and headed back down.

That evening over 150 people gathered for dinner (I made a pot of chili to contribute), dessert, RMC trivia, and photos of previous caretakers and trail crews from each decade represented. We even did a photo of RMC Antarcticans as it seems this little club sends quite a few folks down to the ice.

Below are some of the photos I took as a caretaker in the White Mountains. Photos of the reunion are most likely to be found on the RMC website.

Click on any image to see more photos or to buy a print.

And there it is: Gray Knob Cabin. Tucked in just below tree line on the north side of Mt. Adams in New Hampshire. At 4,370' it is the highest year-round residence in the northeast.

Click on “Full Story” below or the title above for a quick look at a few more images.

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Arctic Rafting: Returned
Kongakut River, Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, Alaska, United States

After 15 days on the Kongakut river, we’ve returned to Anchorage via Kaktovik and Fairbanks. We nearly got stranded on Icy Reef on the shore of the Arctic Ocean as a big storm was moving in, but we managed to squeak out and make it home. Below are some photos and a satellite map of the area with the river route and some of our camps marked.

>>More photos<<

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Arctic Rafting
Kongakut River, Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, Alaska, United States

KONGAKUT RIVER HEADWATERS, AK - Helio pilot Ken puts the seat back into the plane. The seat has to come out to access the cargo space avaliable in the Helio Courier.Like || Tweet || More Photos || Purchase Photo

Walls of ice 8 feet tall surrounded us for a mile long section early on the river. This was, in part, what I came to the Arctic for. To experience the unique nuances of the circumpolar region: ice lined rivers, mountains carpeted in tundra, migrating caribou, foraging bears, wolves on the hunt, and yes, even to see if the mosquitoes were as bad as everyone predicted. The Arctic gets regular play in the news and although I knew I was already in favor of protecting this fragile landscape from any industrial intrusion, I wanted to see and experience it for myself.

The seven of us were on the Kongakut River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – 8.9 million acres established 50 years ago. In 1980 Jimmy Carter and other enthusiasts expanded it to today’s 19-million acres. The controversy between whether or not to allow oil extraction operations here is no secret. The pro drilling argue getting off foreign oil dependencies and an economic gain for the local economy. The con argue a disruption of fragile eco systems and that the surveyed estimate of how much oil could be recovered was but a mere drop in the bucket of US thirst for oil.

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Ghost Town Visit
Arkansas River Valley, St. Elmo, Colorado, United States

After a wonderful few days of diving into the Gospel of John, Adventure Unlimited offered a few trips off camp for the boys. One group went to Leadville to check out the mining museum and I took a group to St. Elmo. Just half an hour from camp up a side canyon this little town has mostly been abandoned. Many old buildings still stand, and it does say that folks are welcome to wander down the road, but asked not to poke around in the buildings and someone does actually own them still.

The town didn’t keep the interest of the group much, but a nice hike further into the mountains was perfect after sitting and studying the bible for 3 days. Here’s a few of the shots I got. Click on any of the images to see the rest of the gallery:



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Five Fingers Time Lapse
Adventure Unlimited Ranches, Buena Vista, Colorado, United States

While at Christmas camp, I set up my camera to take 30 second exposures for as long as the battery would last. Then I put another battery in and kept going. You’ll see the frame shift now and then, that’s probably a new battery going in. It’s not the most exciting video you’ve seen, but then again, this is my experimentation laboratory. Welcome to it. I’ll try to get a better one another time. Stay tuned.

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