Ah, springtime in Texas! Tiny little shoots of green push themselves through the warming brown dirt. Soon the blue bonnets will dance across the Texas Hill country, luring thousands to dress the children in their favorite Easter attire and sit them among the swaths of blue for this year’s photo. It really is a great time to be outdoors in Texas.
Tammy and I headed to Austin to celebrate her birthday and get some outside time hiking. After a Friday night spent Ubering (is that a word?) from one honky-tonk to another in search of some good dancing music, we were ready to shed some calories enjoying a Saturday outside. We planned to hike along Barton Creek to Twin Falls and then on to Sculpture Falls, an easy 6 mile round trip from the Barton Creek 360 Trail access.
This was also a great opportunity to test out my new Osprey Stratos 36 pack. I’ve had a few packs in my life and I still have them. After today, I’m afraid most of them are destined to reside in my gear closest all year! The Osprey is a beast! Awesome suspension system with an Airspeed mesh back panel that gives you circulation space between your back and the pack – a key feature for those hot Texas days! A seamless hipbelt which wraps you in comfort and is sturdy enough to take on a 30 lb. overnight load. All sorts of cool features like an integrated raincover, internal hydration reservoir sleeve, zippered pockets on the hipbelts which are actually big enough to hold a cell phone and it just looks cool in black with lime green accents!
Turns out the Osprey’s not afraid of a little water either. On the way back down the trail, I thought I’d jump across the rocks and make my way to the other side of the creek. Sure the limestone was well worn and a thin coating of algae. No match for my cat-like reflexes, right? Well, I did make it across and then I proceeded to proudly announce, “Easy, come on babe.” Stepping back in Tammy’s direction on a rock with a slight angle and down I went! Of course, this is not one of those hiking trails where it’s all peace and solitude. No, there were plenty of people and dogs just sitting around taking in the scenery and listening to the water rush over the gray limestone. Plenty of heads to turn my way just as I fell on my back and the Osprey dove underwater. Springing up quickly so that perhaps only a dozen people saw me, I gathered myself, pulled my cellphone out of my pocket and fished out my sunglasses before attempting to cross back over to my waiting bride. Lickity-split, there I was back in the water for a second time! Crawling back to safety, I assessed the damage and determined only my ego had been bruised. We headed back to the car, the squishing sound of water in my Oboz boots reminding me with every step that shit happens! You pick yourself up and hike on!
If you go: Austin has lots of places to lose yourself in the woods inside a city. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a great place to start. You won’t be lonely though, Austin people, their dogs and their mountain bikes spend a lot of time on these trails. You won’t see too many people in the water in March though! Hike on!
I haven’t owned a down puffy since before the term “puffy” came into vogue but since I was planning a short hiking vacation to Santa Fe, NM in December, I thought I’d do a bit of gear research and buy some new down. I scoured all my traditional haunts like Patagonia, Marmot and Mountain Hardware, which based on the lack of space in my closet, have all been good to me over the years. Then I happened upon a short story on Gearjunkie about a company named Live Out There and decided to give their line a look.
Live Out There’s Mission is “Get The World Outside.” CEO Jamie Clark, has been a successful “brick and mortar” retailer from Calgary, Alberta Canada for years and he has come to believe that the main obstacle keeping people from going outside is the high cost of the gear. He wants to make great gear at fair prices so people can pursue their outdoor passion wearing quality gear while having a few bucks left over to actually use getting outside! In order to do that, he’s leading a retail revolution, cutting out the middle man and selling directly to his customers online.
He is also giving customers data to make an informed purchase, which I find quite refreshing. “Transparency is Power” and I applaud Jamie’s approach. So a few days before flying off to Santa Fe, NM, I received my Chamonix Down Jacket.
My wife is a Patagonia fan and she certainly rocks her Patagonia down sweater but I’m sporting a puffy that I think competes head to head and is cheaper by about the price of a really nice meal at il piatto , an Italian farmhouse kitchen off the square in downtown Santa Fe! In addition to the pricing, I also like the product comparison tables on the Live Out There website. Check it out; it’s an education in supply chain economics.
Filled with 800 Fill power, 100% Traceable Goose Down insulation with a water-resistant shell that conveniently stuffs into its own inner stash pocket, I have been impressed with the jacket. I appreciate the attention to details like hem shock cord adjusters which cinch up the bottom of the jacket on those windy days and a zipper garage that keeps the cold metal zipper off your skin when you zip up the collar.
I’d encourage you to check out LiveOutThere.com when you’re considering making your next gear purchase. Get some great gear and save a few bucks. See you Outside!
P.S. While in Santa Fe, Tammy and I stopped by and visited with the nice folks at Outside magazine. Thanks Will!
My wife and I decided to take a road trip to Arkansas over Spring Break. I had always wanted to stand atop Whittaker Point (unofficially called Hawksbill Crag). Located in Northwest Arkansas in the Ozark National Forest near Ponca, AR, it’s a fairly easy 3 mile round trip hike, even for people on the gray side of life!
Our first stop was Hot Springs, Arkansas to partake in the healing waters of the now quite commercialized bathhouses. We opted for a private couples bath at Quapaw Baths & Spa. Very enjoyable!
Six miles of red dirt up Cave Mountain Road was no problem for Tammy’s Tahoe and we pulled out the Paria Outdoor Products trekking poles and starting down the trail which drops about 200 feet in elevation over 1.5 miles. We had a wonderful wintry walk complete with a light snow shower.
If you go, tread carefully on the crag; it’s a 150 foot fall and it happens! Soak in the healing waters of the springs and the healing power of a wintry day’s solitude in the beautiful Ozarks.
Sometimes it just feels like Christmas. Not because it’s snowing outside or it’s December but because you feel like you’ve received a great gift under the tree. I had a recent “Christmas in July” moment when I opened the Amazon package from Paria Outdoor Products and had a first look my bright, shiny new trekking poles.
I’ve spent a lifetime hiking trails all around the U.S. I started in the days of canvas external frame packs and iodine water purifying tablets. For the first twenty years of my adult life, I never even carried a sleeping pad. Surely, I would never need a hiking stick, let alone trekking poles. Alas, time has a way of softening your body and your mind and I found myself warming up to the idea that my knees might appreciate a little help.
I knew I wanted something lightweight and collapsible and while I am not averse to paying good money for quality gear, I am very okay with a good deal. I found both with Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles! Priced considerably less than some other more popular brands, I have to admit that I was somewhat cautious about making this purchase After having put them to the test in the Canadian Rockies, I can say I am very impressed! I bought two pair and enlisted the help of my two lovely assistants to test them out.
At just 18 ounces per pair, these lightweight little beauties proved strong, easy to assemble and easily adjustable. They come complete with a snow basket, rubber cap and storage bag and I found the cork handle very comfortable. Breakdown and setup was a breeze and took just a few seconds. The length is easily adjustable with a quick release mechanism allowing for fast adjustment as you transition from going uphill to downhill. Made with a carbon fiber shaft and 7075 aluminum connectors, this is a strong pole that’s going to last for many adventures. At around $58/ a pair, I am sure you will be as pleased as I was to get a little trail help for the knees. Trek on my friends!