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!
Have you ever dreamed of walking on a deserted stretch of beach with your significant other? Tick that incredible box for me! My wife and I just returned from our first trip to Hawaii and I’m still in beach heaven. If you get a chance to visit Kauai, get yourself a Jeep and make your way to Polihale beach on Kauai’s southwest side. Stroll to your hearts content along this 7 mile stretch, and on most days, you won’t say hello to anyone!
Polihale is the site of ancient Hawaiian temple ruins, originally constructed at a point over the ocean where Hawaiians believed the souls of the dead departed for Po, the underworld. It was otherworldly for us, far from the pace of our everyday life. It’s also otherworldly in the sense that it’s unlike much of Kauai, which is one of the rainiest spots on this earth, Polihale is hot and dry and seems like a place on the edge of the Sahara.
This is a place for long walks along the shore where dipping your toes in is more advisable than a full body immersion. Strong currents and big waves make for a tough swim but I could sit for hours watching the surfers ply their trade atop magnificent, rolling mountains of sea. Spend a few hours here and you will come away different. Walking on the edge of this underworld certainly made our world right again.
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.