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

Opening Day at Breckenridge
Peak 8, Breckenridge, Colorado, United States

Attending a ski resort’s opening day is not for those looking to avoid crowds. It’s about being a part of history in the making, meeting new friends and sharing in the passions. This year was particularly poignant with Breckenridge Ski Resort kicking off it’s 50th year on the auspicious date of 11/11/11.

As you stepped off the gondola, the first 1,111 guests received a breakfast cupcake with the Breck logo in the icing. Once you picked up a coffee or something to wash that cupcake down with, it was time to get in line for the Colorado Super Chair, the first to open. Folks had started to line up as early as 8am waiting an hour for the first lift up.

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NOLS Pro & Deuter Packs Trip
Union Pass, Wind River Range, Wyoming, United States

If you have been on a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip of any sort, you know the value it provides participants with technical outdoors skills as well as the “Expedition Behavior” skills to not only get along with the members of your group but to make the trip, or expedition a resounding success. NOLS has been offering their “Pro” (short for Professional) program for a few years but are ready to ramp it up. NOLS Pro will set up a course for any professional team looking to build group dynamics, leadership, risk management and/or outdoor skills anywhere you like.

Our group was lead by two NOLS Pro instructors, Marcio Paes Barreto and Brian Fabel, who took us into the Wind River Range in Wyoming for a few days and they shared the NOLS Pro program with us. Another component included Deuter Packs as NOLS uses Deuter Packs as their robust pack rental fleet. Built to suit the rugged nature of NOLS trips, these packs are out in the field a lot and get many lifetimes of use as compared to how often a privately owned backpack gets out into the field.

Click the title above for more photos.

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Expedition Impossible Celebrates In Boulder
Lazy Dog Bar & Grill, Boulder, Colorado, United States

Team No Limits from Boulder hosted a huge party at the Lazy Dog Bar & Grill on Thursday night to watch the final episode of ABC’s Expedition Impossible TV competition show. No Limits was one of four teams to make it to the final episode as teams were eliminated over the previous few weeks. Also in attendance were The Gypsies the winners of the show.

Over 600 people purchased tickets to attend the event at The Lazy Dog and the proceeds, along with the silent auction, private donations and a percentage of beer sales, went to the two charities of choice, No Barriers USA and Free the Children.

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Wine & Spirits – Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek, Avon, Colorado, United States

Don’t let the lack of snow fool you. Beaver Creek is not just for winter fun. The mountains are beautiful all year around. You may find it curious that as a teetotaler I attended the Wine & Spirits festival, but I wanted to see if even I, without a drop of alcohol, would enjoy it. I did, but how?

Check out the full story to hear about walking around the green summer ski slopes, eating gourmet food, watching others sample and discuss the nuance of tannins and other wine talk all in the first day! Then we ride the chair lift, go for a jeep ride, play disc golf and finish it all at the Walk Around tasting which seemed to me to have more gourmet food than wine & spirits! Also, there are two videos, one for each day in Beaver Creek. Check it out!

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REVIEW: Marmot Zion Softshell Jacket
United States


This is a technical jacket. The core specifications – Polartec’s new NeoShell fabric, taped seams, storm hood – are impressive. But most importantly it performs well. As with anything new, it’s a little stiff when you first put it on, but that concern quickly fades away as the totally bomber nature of the Zion is realized. While you’re still standing in the store trying it on, you are transported to icy crags and powder days.

This is a winter jacket. The insulative nature of the soft shell is such that during any sporty activity you will want to be in the near freezing/sub-freezing temperatures. The NeoShell fabric is totally windproof. I was impressed when bombing down ski slopes, dead into the wind, and though I felt the pressure of the wind against my body, the cold never seeped through.

The hood, with the jacket zipped all the way up, stayed on my head keeping my forehead warm – something I noticed as a concern earlier in the season before I had the Zion. Even in the wind, this jacket is quiet. While taking a phone call on my iPhone ear-buds, using the iPod port, the microphone tucked inside the jacket didn’t pick up any of the wind or rustling outside. The caller was impressed to know I was on a windy mountain slope and claimed it sounded as if I was inside somewhere.

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GEAR: Portable Power – Solar Charging on the trail
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Back in 1999, I traveled to Nepal to study mountain ecology in the Himalaya. Part of our trip was a 14-day trek in the Annapurna region. Digital cameras were far from popular then, but somehow I managed to get one loaned to me. Since this was the era before proprietary rechargeable batteries the camera took a whopping four AA’s. Not knowing how fast the camera would use up the batteries and not wanting to cary a bag of AA’s along with me, I looked into rechargeable batteries and a solar charger. Looking back at where the technology was then, I’m amazed that I found a solar charger that held 4 AA batteries. So, I brought 8 batteries – 4 for in the camera and 4 to get charged in the charger that I strapped on the top of my pack to absorb the sun while we were trekking. No shortage of sunshine and the system worked great.

For a number of reasons, one being that there haven’t been many electronic items that people would need to charge on the trail, the idea of harnessing solar power while on the go hasn’t come about until fairly recently. While at the 2011 Summer Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, it’s obvious that with all the little electronic gadgets made to go on our adventures with us (cameras, GPS, iPods, lights, etc.) saving weight on batteries (not to mention the waste) has driven a number of companies to invest in providing portable solar charging options. It should also be noted these devices are not recommended for use with something as large as a laptop, but exceptions and alternatives may exist. Here’s what I found:

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Kayaking & Stand Up Paddleboarding
Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen/Glenwood Springs, Colorado, United States

When the snows melt from the slopes and roads in Aspen and turns into water an opportunity to play is created in the rivers. Our adventurous group met up with Charlie MacArthur the founder and owner of the Aspen Kayak and SUP (stand up paddleboarding) Academy. We didn’t realize it at the time, though he had that humble air about him, Charlie is a bit of a legend. With years of waterbound experience under his belt, he had a calm, gentle though jovial approach to helping the many of us who had never been kayaking before or for those of us who haven’t been in a long while.

Click the title or “Full Story” below to read more and to see the video and photos.

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Maroon Bells Cycling Adventure
Maroon Bells, Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen, Colorado, United States

If you’re into cycling, Aspen is the place to be. We were under the care of the Little Nell Adventure Center in Aspen and they outfitted our merry band of bicyclists with top of the line Orbea and Colnago carbon frame bikes which were nothing but a pleasure to ride. Pro rider Scott Kasin led us up the 10 mile 4-5% grade climb. Remember that Aspen, where we started already sits at 7,900 feet and we climbed nearly 1,600 feet to 9,500 feet. Just short of the top, I passed a guy and asked him how he was doing and his reply was “Just trying to keep up with Lance!” I chuckled and replied “Aren’t we all!” Thinking he was speaking in cycling generalities. But low and behold, I pulled up to Scott chatting with a group of cyclists in the shade, and one of them was wearing a black jersey with a yellow LIVESTRONG stripe across his chest.

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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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Snowshoeing by Moonlight
Brainard Lake, Ward, Colorado, United States

The warm glow of mulled wine and spicy hot coco was a coveted memory when the doors to the car opened and an icy blast of wind blew through. A near full moon lit up the snow-covered world around us. The stars that could shine through the moonbeams, like those in Orion, sparkled above as we hunched over, backs to the wind, to strap on our snowshoes.

Once we got out of the exposed parking lot and onto the Brainerd Lake Trail in the trees, the wind was heard whistling in the upper branches and hardly felt. The gentle slope was just enough to warm the seven of us up from the initial shock of stepping out of our warm cars.

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