Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Horseback Riding in Yosemite

In this short video from Finley-Holiday Films, Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson talks about seeing Yosemite on horseback (or mule back) - an experience that hasn't changed much since the earliest visitors ventured into Yosemite. You may recognize Ranger Johnson - he was featured quite extensively in The National Parks: America's Best Idea, the Ken Burns film from a few years ago:

If seeing Yosemite on horseback isn't your thing, or if you've never been to the park, did you know that you can do one hike that encompasses nearly all of Yosemite’s iconic sights? This epic 12.6-mile hike includes a full view of Yosemite Falls from the only place in the park to see both the upper and lower falls in their full glory. Along the way you’ll also see El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Illilouette Fall and Nevada Fall. The one-way hike begins from the Yosemite Valley, climbs up to Glacier Point via the Four Mile Trail, and then travels back down to the valley via the Panorama Trail and the famous Mist Trail.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Florissant Fossil Beds to Host Hikes for Your Health Program

Is getting more exercise one of your New Year’s Resolutions? Want to avoid crowds at the gym, and would rather exercise outdoors, hiking and snowshoeing?

On Wednesday, January 15th, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument will launch a new community health program called, “Hikes for Your Health”. This new program will run every Wednesday and Saturday from January 15th to March 15th, 2014. These ranger-led hikes will vary in length from 2 – 5 miles. Depending on conditions, the hikes may either be on foot or by snowshoe. The Monument offers free snowshoes if needed. Participants must provide all other equipment and safety gear such as layered clothing, appropriate footwear, water, and snacks. Trekking or ski poles are recommended. Participants must be 10 years or older.

The first hike will begin at the visitor center at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 15th and will hike along the Sawmill Trail (2.3 miles). The Hikes for Your Health program will be offered in partnership with Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, the Teller County Community Partnership Family Resource Center, and the Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds. This hiking program is part of the National Park Service’s Healthy Parks, Healthy People US initiative working to reintegrate human, environmental, and ecological health into the mission of public parks and public lands.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The entrance fee for the park is $3.00 per adult (16 years or older) or free with one of the many federal land passes. For more information please call the Monument at (719) 748 – 3253 ext. 122 or 202 or visit the park website.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Celebrate the New Year with a First Day Hike

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will sponsor guided hikes in 18 state parks on New Year's Day. The First Day Hikes initiative offers individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on Jan. 1, 2014. First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family. The hikes themselves are free but park visitors must have either a daily parks pass or a valid annual pass.

"Getting outdoors is a great way to start the year off right - whether you're burning off holiday calories or resolving to be more active," said Bob Broscheid, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "These hikes are perfect for the Colorado lifestyle and we are excited to again be part of the national First Day Hike initiative."

State parks boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day Hike will offer an opportunity to explore the unique natural and cultural treasures close to home. Visitors can expect to be surrounded by the quiet beauty of nature in winter, experience spectacular views and vistas and benefit from the company of a knowledgeable state park guide.

First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. Since that time, "America's State Parks" and the National Association of State Parks Directors have helped grow the program to all 50 states.

Park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes. All Colorado State Parks recommend that First Day Hike participants bring water, sun protection and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Other recommended items, depending on the weather conditions and terrain, include snow shoes, strap-on ice cleats, snacks, trekking poles, cameras, binoculars and wildlife guide books.

Details about all First Day Hikes in Colorado can be found here.

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Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Friday, December 27, 2013

Harney Peak: The Top of South Dakota

Not only does Harney Peak offer outstanding views of the Black Hills, and the chance to stand atop the highest point in South Dakota, but it also allows hikers the opportunity to visit the old stone fire tower that sits atop its summit. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1939, and was used as a fire lookout for several decades. Visitors are now free to explore this castle-like structure.

For more information and photos on this outstanding hike, please click here to visit our new Discover the West website.


Friday, December 20, 2013

National Parks to Offer Free Admission on 9 Days in 2014

Circle the dates on the calendar and plan your trip – America’s 401 national parks will offer free admission on nine days in 2014, including several holidays. The 2014 entrance fee-free days are:

◾January 20: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
◾February 15-17: Presidents Day weekend
◾April 19-20: National Park Week’s opening weekend
◾August 25: National Park Service’s 98th birthday
◾September 27: National Public Lands Day
◾November 11: Veterans Day

“America’s national parks welcome more than 280 million visitors a year. To say thanks for that support and invite every American to visit these treasures that they own, we are declaring nine days of free admission next year,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Whether it’s that once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Yellowstone or taking a daily walk along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., or the moment at Central High School that your child suddenly understands what civil rights are all about, national parks offer places for unforgettable experiences.

With more than 84 million acres of spectacular scenery, 17,000 miles of trails, 5,000 miles of shoreline, 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures, and 100 million museum items and an infinite number of authentic American stories to tell, national parks offer something for every taste.

Those in search of superlatives will find them in national parks including the country’s highest point (in Denali National Park) and lowest point (in Death Valley National Park), deepest lake (Crater Lake National Park), longest cave (Mammoth Cave National Park), tallest trees (Redwood National Park), and highest waterfall (Yosemite National Park).

Normally, 133 national parks charge an entrance fee that ranges from $3 to $25. The entrance fee waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for things like camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Other Federal land management agencies that will offer fee-free days in 2014 are: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. Please contact each for details.

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Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Survival Skills: Eating Snow versus Ice

We posed a similar situation over the weekend, but will ask again: What if you're out several miles from the trailhead during a winter hike and find yourself in an emergency situation in which you've run out of drinking water? In this particular situation you'll have plenty of snow and ice around, but the question is, do you consume any of it to help with your increasing dehydration? Is one source better than the other? And do you know why? The folks over at Vermont-based Peak Survival provide the answers to these questions in this short video:

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hewlett Gulch Trail in Canyon Lakes Reopens

The Hewlett Gulch Trail, closed following the September flood, will temporarily reopen by tomorrow. There are icy areas along the trail due to saturated soils and higher-than-average water levels. Hikers should use extra caution. The trail is expected to re-close during the spring runoff. Work on the trail will take place after that.

Much winter recreation across the Canyon Lakes Ranger District (CLRD) has been impacted due to the flood and hazardous tree removal projects. Long Draw Road remains closed; this includes closed to over-snow travel. Snowmobiling opportunities on the district are limited due to the reasons listed above and snow conditions. Many roads also seasonally close in December.

For more information on the CLRD roads and trails closed due to the flood, please click here.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

The Yosemite Valley

Half Dome "presents an aspect of the most imposing grandeur; it strikes even the most casual observer as a new revelation in mountain forms; its existence would be considered an impossibility if it were not there before us in all its reality..."

- Josiah D. Whitney

The Sentinel Meadow & Cook's Meadow Loop hike is the perfect way to experience the Yosemite Valley. The loop hike offers a variety of attractions, including lush meadows filled with wildflowers, wildlife, and outstanding views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls and Half Dome.

For more photos, and to learn more about this short easy hike, please click here.


Monday, December 16, 2013

First Day Hikes 2014

Start the new year off on the right foot by taking a First Day Hike in a state park near you. All across the country state parks will once again be offering guided First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day 2014.

The idea for First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Many other states have offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, however, all 50 state park systems have now joined together to sponsor a range of First Day Hikes.

This year, for the first time, the American Hiking Society has joined America’s State Parks in support of their First Day Hikes program. So far more than 400 hikes in all 50 states have been scheduled for this years events, with numerous options for a First Day Hike in the Rocky Mountain region. You can find a First Day Hike by clicking here.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Procuring Water in a Winter Survival Situation

What if you're out several miles from the trailhead during a winter hike, and you find yourself in an emergency situation in which you've run out of drinking water. In the video below, the folks over at Vermont-based Peak Survival offer some interesting and "outside of the box" alternatives for creating and storing drinking water. These are probably some good skills to learn and remember for anyone who ventures out into the wilderness during the winter months:

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Saturday, December 14, 2013

CMC Video: Avalanche Safety and Winter Travel

Planning a trip into the mountain this winter? You should probably watch this video first - as a first step towards building your winter skills set and practicing safety while recreating in the backcountry during the winter. This is the first video in the Colorado Mountain Club's upcoming series focused on backcountry education. The series was made possible by the CMC Steve Gladbach Memorial Fund.

Steve Gladbach was a beloved Colorado mountaineer, a long time member of the Colorado Mountain Club and belonged to the 14ers.com community. He loved climbing. In the summer of 2013 he lost his life while descending Thunder Pyramid Peak.

One of Steve's passions was mountaineering education and safety. Through the generosity of family and friends, the Steve Gladbach Memorial Fund was created to promote Colorado mountaineering education.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Video of the Day: Road Bike Party 2

Below is an outstanding video with some absolutely incredible stunts on road bikes by Martyn Ashton, Danny MacAskill and Chris Akrigg. As mentioned on the Youtube page, "No bikes were harmed in the making of this film."


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Zion Canyon Overlook: Don’t bypass this one!

Just inside the east entrance of Zion National Park, but far from the hustle and bustle of the main portion of the park, is the hike to Zion Canyon Overlook. Unfortunately many people will pass this one by, instead opting to visit the more popular attractions within the canyon itself. Many visitors, in fact, probably aren’t even aware of its existence. However, this vantage point offers hikers a view of Zion Canyon that’s just as beautiful as those you’ll find along the park’s most popular hikes. Even better, for some, is that it’s much easier to reach. An easy roundtrip hike of only 1 mile will reward you with outstanding views such as this (for more information on this hike, please click here):


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kayaker Trapped Underwater Saved by Friends' Quick Reaction

Below is a pretty amazing video from EpicTV showing the rescue of a kayaker who became trapped underwater after paddling down a small waterfall. The incident occurred on November 2nd on the Lyn River in the United Kingdom. In the video description, EpicTV describes the situation like this:
In one of the drops Mark Hardingham is pushed offline and becomes 'vertically pinned' with his body trapped and his head held underwater by the current! This GoPro clip shows the reactions of his friends who pull him out of this sticky situation just in time.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

How To Dress For Winter Hiking

Although the winter season is already upon us, we shouldn't use it as an excuse to NOT go hiking. It all comes down to being prepared and knowing how to dress properly. Below is a pretty good video demonstrating how you should dress when venturing out on a winter hike. Although the spokesman doesn't mention it, you should always have an extra pair of socks in your pack, just in case the ones you're wearing get wet. An extra pair of gloves aren't a bad idea either, not to mention an emergency blankets and the ability to start a fire.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Monday, December 9, 2013

Flood Closes Old Fall River Road Through 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park received significant damages on bridges, roads and trails in the historic floods that occurred in September. However, damages in the park were relatively minor in comparison to the disastrous flooding that downstream communities east of the park experienced. The west side of the park was largely unaffected by the storm with flooding occurring only east of the Continental Divide.

Damages on Old Fall River Road are extensive and the road will remain closed to vehicles through 2014. Old Fall River Road is a historic dirt road built between 1913 and 1920. Due to the winding, narrow nature of the road, the scenic 9.4-mile route is one-way only and normally opens from the fourth of July to early October. It follows the steep slope of Mount Chapin's south face. It is unknown at this time whether hikers and bicyclists will be allowed on the road next year. Park staff are working with the Federal Highway Administration on assessments of the Alluvial Fan area and Old Fall River Road. Cost estimates and design concepts are still being determined.

Repair work has been completed in the Wild Basin parking lot, the Twin Sisters Road, and is nearing completion on the McGraw Ranch Bridge and the Aspenglen Bridge.

Known damage to trails and pedestrian access are mainly in the Fall River, Lumpy Ridge, Bear Lake, Northfork, Twin Sisters and Wild Basin areas. Some trails are closed to stock use.

Due to the flood, backcountry travelers may encounter different conditions than they have experienced in the past. Visitors may find missing foot bridges, missing trail segments, uneven trail surfaces, unstable slopes, falling trees due to soil moisture, rutted trails, damaged water bars and steps, difficult water crossings, and missing directional signs. Visitors should be prepared. Most of Rocky Mountain National Park is designated wilderness, where self-reliance, discovery and adventure are expected.

The next steps will be to assess at what level park staff will "repair" damaged trails. The flood was a natural event which will be taken in to consideration as park staff move forward in determining what repairs should be made.

For more detailed information about flood impacts to trails please visit the park's website, www.nps.gov/romo or call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Drone Video: Estes Park from the Sky

ColoradoSky published this video the other day. Taken from a drone, the short film shows-off the snow-covered mountains surrounding Estes Park. ColoradoSky notes on his page that "Zero degrees numbed my fingers and limited my time in the air to just a few minutes, but I had to take a quick look. From the overlook on Hwy 36 entering Estes Park."

As drone technology spreads, this is likely only the beginning of this genre of film making:

2013-12-5 Snow and cold in Estes Park, but oh it's beautiful! from ColoradoSky on Vimeo.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking

Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.

Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off. When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.

Some people are prone to cold feet in the winter. One of the keys to keeping your feet warm is to make sure they stay dry. Wear a good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics, that wick moisture away from your skin, retain heat when wet, and dry faster if they become wet. I always keep an extra pair in my pack in case the ones I’m wearing do get wet. (Expert Advice: How to Choose Socks) You should also wear above-the-ankle hiking boots which help to keep snow away from your feet. You may want to consider wearing gaiters, especially if there are several inches of snow on the ground.

To round-out your winter apparel, don’t forget about a good pair of gloves, a ski cap and maybe even a balaclava.

If the snow is too deep in the mountains, consider hiking at lower elevations, or even wearing snowshoes. If you expect a lot of ice, especially in areas where there might be steep drop-offs, consider bringing crampons specifically made for hiking. These are sometimes referred to as traction devices, or in-step crampons, which you can either strap-on or slide onto your boots.

Trekking poles are another excellent choice for helping to maintain your balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.

After outfitting yourself with the proper winter gear, hikers will then need to focus on staying hydrated and properly fueled while out on the trail. Hiking in the cold, especially in snow, burns more calories. By some estimates, hikers can burn as much as 50% more calories when compared to similar distances and terrain in the summer. By not consuming enough calories while on the trail you become prone to getting cold faster. Make sure you bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you to munch on periodically throughout your hike. Watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as some power bars. Or, instead of storing in your backpack, put some snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it can actually be easier to experience dehydration in the winter, versus hiking in the summer. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you, and drink often while on the trail.

If you’re storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case. Also, you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, consider bringing a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

Other winter hazards hikers need to be aware of include hiking in steep terrain that’s prone to avalanches, or a storm that covers the trail with fresh snow, thus making navigation difficult. You should always carry a topographical map and a compass with you in case you ever need help finding your way back to the trailhead if you were to become lost.

Other gear to bring with you includes a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and maybe even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if they don’t hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Burroughs Mountain at Sunrise

The Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier National Park offers big expansive views of the park’s star attraction, 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier. There’s no better way to experience the area than a hike along the Burroughs Mountain loop trail. This hike offers outstanding 360-degree panoramic views as you walk along the alpine tundra plateaus of Burroughs Mountain. From the summit you’ll have up-close views of Mt. Rainier’s impressive east face, as well as the largest glacier in the lower 48, the Emmons Glacier.

For more information and photos on this Rainier classic, please click here.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 114th Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Since 1900, the National Audubon Society has led the charge in counting birds during the annual "Christmas Bird Census" across the U.S., Canada and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere. It's longest-running citizen science survey in the world!

From December 14th through January 5th, tens of thousands of volunteers will take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action.

If you would like to participate this year, please click here.

In addition to the international count, local birdwatchers will be participating in the annual Rocky Mountain National Park/Estes Park Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 14th. Teams of field counters will spend the day locating, identifying, and counting every bird in a 15-mile circle bounded by the Longs Peak Campground on the south, the Ute Trail crossing on Trail Ridge Road on the west, and Dunraven Glade and Meadowdale. Potential participants should contact count coordinator Gary Matthews by Sunday, December 7th to receive a team assignment. You can email him at gjmatlop@aol.com or call at 970-586-5093.


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Top 5 Survival Stories of All Time

What’s the definition of a great survival story? Some of the obvious answers to that question include, coming face to face with death, an unbelievable escape, or, because of fate or just plain dumb luck, an individual was able to survive some extreme disaster.

For me, my list of the top five survival stories of all time is based on two criteria: a convincing story of human perseverance and an iron will to survive, and the author’s ability to tell the story in a compelling manner which keeps me on the edge of my seat.

So, in reverse order, here's my all-time best survival stories:

The Long Walk
Stephen Ambrose, the late historian and author of Undaunted Courage and Band of Brothers, said that “The Long Walk is a book that I absolutely could not put down and one that I will never forget”. I couldn’t agree with him more.

My only hope is that Slavomir Rawicz, the protagonist in this story, hasn’t pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone, including Mr. Ambrose.

Ever since The Long Walk was published in 1956, the authenticity of the story has been challenged. Unfortunately Rawicz was never able to provide any documentation to prove his story. However, it does seem that the general consensus among most critics is that the story is mostly true, but, possibly embellished. It’s even possible that the embellishment occurred at the hand of his English speaking ghost-writer. For an interesting perspective on the veracity of the story from someone who retraced the steps of Rawicz in 2004, and who came to believe the story to be true, please click here.

Slavomir Rawicz was a cavalry officer in the Polish army when he was captured by the Red Army during the German-Soviet partition of Poland in 1939. After being tortured and put on trial in Moscow he was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in a Siberian Gulag.

After a year of unbearable and inhumane conditions, Rawicz and six other prisoners escaped from their labor camp in Yakutsk.

In order to make their way to freedom the escapees marched 4000 miles, on foot, across the frozen Siberian tundra, the Gobi Desert, through Tibet, and over the Himalayan Mountains to British India. Along the way they conquered fatigue, thirst, starvation as well as their own inner demons. The story is also famous for the claim that the surviving escapees saw a pair of yetis while traversing the Himalayas.

Whether the story is actually true, partially true, or totally fabricated, this book is still a great read, one that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

We Die Alone
Stephen Ambrose wrote the introduction for We Die Alone. In it he states that it was “a book that I absolutely could not put down, and one that I will never forget”. That quote might sound a little familiar. I did a double take at first as well, but Ambrose states in the intro that, in addition to We Die Alone, he has only described three other books in his life this way, one of those being The Long Walk.

Like The Long Walk, We Die Alone is a story of survival in extreme circumstances that takes place during World War II. However, there’s never been any controversy surrounding the validity of this story.

In March 1943 a team of four expatriate Norwegian commandoes, including Jan Baalsrud, sailed from England to Nazi-occupied Norway to organize and supply the Norwegian resistance.

Somehow the commandoes were betrayed shortly after landing and the team was ambushed by the Nazis, leaving Baalsrud as the lone survivor.

We Die Alone recounts Baalsrud’s incredible and improbable escape and his iron will to survive. Poorly clothed, with one foot entirely bare, and part of his big toe shot off, Baalsrud was relentlessly pursued by the Nazis.

Surviving an avalanche, and suffering from frostbite and snow blindness, Baalsrud fought his way over the Norwegian mountains and tundra to a small arctic village. He was near death and was a virtual cripple when he stumbled into the village of Mandal. Fortunately, the locals were willing to help save him, and at mortal risk to themselves, help him escape to Sweden.

Into Thin Air
I remember reading Jon Krakauer’s original article on the infamous Mt. Everest disaster in Outside Magazine and being completely astounded by what occurred on that mountain that day. And then, a year later, he published his bestseller, Into Thin Air, which fleshed out many more details of the ill-fated expeditions that left eight people dead that day. Although several books and articles have been written, Into Thin Air would become the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Mt. Everest.

Originally, Krakauer went on assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of guided trips up Mount Everest and the inherent danger to unsuspecting clients. Instead, he wound up writing a first-hand account of the disaster that unfolded after a ferocious storm blasted Everest with gale force winds that killed eight climbers.

The most amazing aspect of the story centered around Beck Weathers. Twice abandoned and presumed to be dead on the South Col, Weathers spent some 18 hours in subzero temperatures - in the death zone - before miraculously regaining his senses and staggering into camp. He was suffering from severe frostbite, corneal lacerations, hypothermia, and had a face so badly frostbitten it barely seemed human.

Over the course of the next year Weathers underwent ten surgeries, the longest lasting 16 hours. His entire right hand and most of his left was amputated; surgeons were able to fashion a thumb out of muscle from his side and back.

The updated paperback edition of Into Thin Air includes an extensive new postscript that sheds fascinating light on the acrimonious debate that flared between Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev in the wake of the tragedy.

Miracle in the Andes
I must admit I was pretty apprehensive about reading this story in detail. I was quite familiar with the basic facts of the story: a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashes in the Andes Mountains; many on board are killed, and after several weeks without rescue and a few failed attempts to walk off the mountain, the survivors are forced to resort to cannibalism. My apprehension, as you might suspect, had to do with the cannibalism aspect of the story. It just seemed too disturbing to me.

My fears, as I discovered, were unfounded. Nando Parrado, the hero and author of the book, spent relatively little time discussing the details surrounding this aspect of the story.

Miracle in the Andes is actually a fresh re-telling of the high altitude plane crash through the lens of the person most responsible for the rescue of the survivors. The original story was recounted in the 1974 bestseller, Alive.

Although he suffered a fractured skull, was unconscious for three days after the crash, and was presumed to eventually succumb to his injuries, Parrado was able to revive. After several weeks of recovery he eventually devised a plan and led a team over the 17,000-foot peak that trapped the survivors on a glacier, and marched ten days to rescue and freedom.

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

The best survival story of all time, and overall, one of the best books I’ve ever read is The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition.

The story is about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to cross Antarctica on foot just prior to the start of World War I.

Before the expedition was able to reach the continent, their ship, the Endurance, became stuck in an early ice floe in the Weddell Sea. The crew of 27 had no means of communication or hope of outside help, thus condemning themselves to isolation for the next 22 months.

The men lived within the bowels of the Endurance for almost a year before the ice destroyed it, forcing the expedition to move out onto the frozen sea. Several months later, the expedition built sledges and moved to Elephant Island, a rocky deserted spot of land just beyond the Antarctic Peninsula. At this point no one knew what happened to the expedition or where they were. Most people assumed they had been killed.

Knowing that a rescue wasn’t going to happen, Shackleton made the decision to take one of the open lifeboats and cross the 800 miles of frigid sea to South Georgia Island where a small whaling station was located. Incredibly, he landed on the wrong side of the island and was forced to trek over the frozen mountains to reach the station.

This incredible book is also accompanied with the previously unpublished photographs of Frank Hurley, one of the members of the expedition.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oregon’s Rugged Coast

For many years the Oregon Coast has been near the top of my bucket list of places to see. Based on the hundreds of photos I’ve seen over the years I knew there were numerous spectacular places to visit. Whenever I looked at a map of Oregon I was always amazed by the number of state parks that line the coast from top to bottom.

When we finally arrived at Cannon Beach back in early September of this year, it was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps my reaction was similar to that of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. When they arrived on the coast in November of 1805, William Clark noted in his journal: "Ocian in view O! The Joy!"

I posted two blogs on our new Discover the West website that describes and shows some of the amazing sights we saw along the north coast and the southern coast.