Monday, January 20, 2014

If We Don't Protect It, Who Will?



I went on my very first backpacking trip with college friends to Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia. I borrowed everything from my backpack to my sleeping bag. When we ran out of our initial water supply, my more experienced friends refilled our bottles from the creek and treated the water with iodine or filters. I had never drunk water straight from the creek before and I was completely unfamiliar with the treatment methods. The whole process made me nervous, but as the weekend wore on and I never got a case of diarrhea, I learned that we were fine.

Flash forward 25 years and I own not only a sleeping bag and a backpack, but all other accoutrements of an outdoor adventure lifestyle, including a water filter. I also have the knowledge that my water filter (or iodine, or boiling) will guard against pathogens like Giardia, but provide no protection from high concentrations of chemicals.

When I first heard of the Elk River chemical spill just outside of Charleston and the “do not use” order in nine counties, my mind immediately went to the people and places I know that were (and still are) affected by the spill, including the nearby Kanawha State Forest. I’ve refilled my water bottles from the very same taps that were off-limits for five days last week. I’ve filtered water directly from West Virginia streams and I’ve drunk straight from springs flowing out of the mountainsides. I’ve photographed and rafted and skinny dipped in countless West Virginia waterways.

So for me, pollution of West Virginia’s waters is personal.

You likely have experienced an insult to a special place, too. Maybe a national forest closed your favorite trail during a logging operation. Perhaps your favorite state park or forest is facing fracking. Or maybe industry dumped (even legally) chemicals or debris into a waterway that ruined your kayaking or fishing expedition.

What are those of us in the outdoor adventure community going to do about it? My suggestion is: something. Because if those of us who regularly enjoy our natural environment don’t protect it, who will?

None of us can tackle all of our environmental issues at once, but all of us can do a few things. For starters, there are lifestyle choices you can make. If you can afford to, drive a smaller car, install solar panels on your home, buy organic food. Walk or ride your bike, recycle, use compact fluorescent bulbs – you probably are already familiar with conservation choices you can make in your daily life.

Equally if not more important is engaging in the world outside of your household. Join a group that works to protect the areas you enjoy. I’m a member of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and I’ve donated to Coal River Mountain Watch, but other West Virginia organizations equally worthy of support are the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Sierra Club West Virginia.

These organizations can put your membership money to good use and once you become a member, you’ll learn about volunteer opportunities like river cleanups (the non-toxic kind), trail building sessions or fundraising events. They will also likely send you action alerts by e-mail and social media that keep you up to date on local, state and/or national issues. Through these action alerts or on your own, you can call or send a letter to a politician or regulatory agency at a time when it can make a difference and then share it on social media. For example, according to news reports, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin will join with California Sen. Barbara Boxer to introduce the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act.

Who knows at this point where that will go, but 300,000 West Virginians deserve to have safe drinking water. And those of us who venture into the backcountry deserve to drink out of streams safely as well.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why Buy Local?

I never thought I'd be hitting the trail in a pair of pink hiking shoes. Let me explain. (And tell you what that has to do with buying local.) Late this fall I was at the New River Gorge, hiking and taking photos for the second edition of Hiking West Virginia (FalconGuides, on the shelves in 2013). I stopped in at Water Stone Outdoors to buy a new pair of hiking shoes that I hoped would see me through the next two years of writing HWV and then the second edition of Hiking Ohio. All told, I plan to put well over 1,000 miles on these shoes. I selected the stiffest pair of hikers I could find, a pair of 5.10 brand Camp Four women's approach shoes.

Soon the trouble started. At first, the shoes weren't comfortable, but hey, I needed to break them in, right? Then my left foot started hurting when I wore them. Then my left foot started hurting when I wasn't wearing them. Turns out, there was a small crevasse (okay, maybe a quarter inch doesn't count as a crevasse) in the ball area of the left shoe. Next problem? I'm traveling all winter with no permanent address. Once I nested with a friend for a couple of weeks, I sent the shoes back to 5.10. To their credit, they replaced them in a day. Next problem? The replacement shoes didn't quite fit. I thought they had sent a half size smaller, but no.

So I decided to call Maura at Water Stone and see if she could help. I had a new pair of shoes, the receipt (at home!) and, most importantly, a longstanding relationship as a customer at Water Stone. "This is where the rubber meets the road," Maura told me, explaining that a destination shop like hers can't compete with the big guys ... except by being local and having real relationships with their customers. As we talked on the phone, Maura perused her inventory and found three options for exchange. After I selected my new shoe, I offered to have a friend scan the receipt (not necessary) and mail them right away so she could mail out my new ones as soon as she received them. She did one better: she mailed them to me straight away, trusting that I had, in fact, purchased the shoes there and that I had, in fact, mailed them. Which I did. So now I have a pair of hiking shoes. End of story.

Except for one thing: buying local goes both ways. More than once I stood in front of a $200 climbing rope or $65 cam and thought, "I'll just order it online when there's a sale." But I didn't. You know why? Because I want to support a local store so that it will be there when I shred my rope and need a new one today; when forget my helmet and need to rent one; when I want some beta on a climb, a hike, a restaurant; when I get a bum pair of new shoes and need a replacement when I'm across the country.

That's why I buy local. And why you should, too. And those pink shoes? They're really gray with a bit of pink trim. If you see me on the trail, I'll be wearing them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Campground Regulations

Here's a fun XtraNormal "movie" titled Campground Regulations inspired by Chestnut Creek Campground at the New River Gorge. It's made by GO! contributor Attila Horvath.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My First Camping Partner: My Dad (RIP)

What’s your first memory of camping? There’s a good chance that it’s a memory from your childhood, a camping trip with your family. It’s not lost on me that I am very lucky to tell you I had been camping in Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Mono Lake, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon by the time I was 10 years old. My parents – my dad led the charge – took nine (nine!) kids to national parks for summer vacation every year. When we moved East, we eventually made it everywhere from Acadia to the Everglades.

While ours was the typical drive-the-motor-home-to-the-sign-and-take-a-picture family, it was these camping beginnings that set me on my way to outdoor adventure sports in adulthood. When my dad and I took a trip to Alaska together, he lost 11 pounds without trying – I was an adult by then and insisted on actually mountain biking and hiking.

I don’t need to tell you – though I have in many of these pages – the benefits of outdoor adventure sports. The importance of skills a young girl learns camping, from navigation to preparedness (“What’s the Boy Scout motto? Be prepared!” my dad would all too often say to me) is hard to measure.

Plus, it’s all just plain fun. My dad lived to be 90 years old and he enjoyed his life. As just one example of how long he lived and how much fun he had, he took a trip with friends to Glen Canyon before the Glen Canyon Dam flooded it with Lake Powell. He died this month and it was hard to be too sad – a long life, fully lived is a thing to rejoice. My own tribute to him will be to take kids camping and pay it forward. I hope you’ll do the same this summer.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Offensive Words

As Get Out! readers know, I haven’t shied away from posting some stories in the mag with four-letter words (How to Sh*t in the Woods, If you Can’t Duck it, F&@# It). Most readers don’t seem to have strong feelings about it one way or another. Some wrote to compliment the stories and a few wrote to let me know they were offended by these words.

My favorite was someone accusing me of not having the vocabulary to do better. I thought about culling the site for words that he probably wouldn’t know how to define and e-mail the list to him, but I’m too lazy and disinterested to do that.

I am interested, however, in language and in the idea of offensive words. George Carlin has already said most of the good stuff on this topic, but I am intrigued about how we as a culture make certain words taboo. They are, after all, just words. (I am rubber, you are glue, bounced off me and stuck on you!)

When I informally polled my friends on this topic, the only ones with concerns were parents – they want to make sure their kids aren’t reading curse words online. My response to one friend was that it was her responsibility, not mine, to monitor what her kids read online. She replied that she goes to getoutzine.com for information, not moral guidance. Good point.

I am a rock climber and I often refer to my fellow climbers as f*#%in’ dudes. I say the F word often, and I think this is because of my subculture of parentless f*#%in’ dude acquaintances. And I do agree that no one should be yelling that word outside when there are kids around who can hear it (that’s just noise pollution anyway). In that case, I would call the word situationally inappropriate, not offensive.

Words are powerful. I’ve chosen my profession based on this fact. There are words that are meant to offend: “You suck,” “You can’t do that,” “You’re fat,” “You’re not invited.” But in my book, a person’s words reflect on exactly one person: them.

There’s another saying I like that goes something like this: You can’t make me feel badly about myself without my consent. Once someone’s self-esteem is strong enough, this is true: no one else can take you down a notch through words. But the fact is, most people take a long time to get to this point, and some never reach it.

One of the greatest benefits of adventure sports is how they allow people to build self-esteem by achieving goals, overcoming fears, learning to rely on others … the list goes on.

So. If we’re going to make words taboo, I say don’t worry about words like shit and fuck. Worry about words that serve to cut others down. And don’t even worry about those so much. Remember, someone who sprays insults is just an asshole.

And anyone who doesn’t agree with me, well, fuck ’em. (I know you saw that one coming a mile away, but I couldn’t help myself.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gear a Year Later

The problem with gear reviews is that, with a brand new piece of gear, you can’t apply perhaps the most important test: the test of time. I’d like to re-review a selection of products from the last couple of years to report how they’ve fared:

The Good
MBT anti-shoe. After a year, this shoe looks practically new and still provides a supportive, comfortable stride for my (often aching) back. Worth the $250 you’ll have to kick down if you’re willing to take care of these shoes.

Sierra Designs Spark 15 sleeping bag. I had sworn off Sierra Designs after purchasing a raincoat from the company that was neither waterproof nor breathable – in fact, it was the first thing to get soaked and the last thing to dry out – which I found out the hard way, hiking the Colorado Trail. But the Spark was the only 800-fill down bag I could find at the time of purchase, so I went for it. Turns out Sierra Designs knows what they’re doing with sleeping bags. This bag is so warm I’ve dubbed it The Furnace.

LowePro Orion AW camera case
. I’ve used and even somewhat abused this carrying case for one of my most expensive collection of gear ever – my camera, lenses, flash, filters and all photographic odds and ends. It’s showing no signs of wear after a year-plus of hiking, paddling and climbing trips. This bag proves you get what you pay for.

StingStop. I still don’t know how long the shelf life is on this product that treats stings and bites, but it has prevented major swelling and discomfort every time I’ve used it. And I know sometimes the goop was a year or two old in the tube.

Burley flatbed cargo trailer
. This is a great product. After years of abuse (overloading, pulling it on rough off road trails) there’s a bit of play in the connecting arm assembly and it rattles quite a bit. But it’s still fully functional, and proves invaluable for hauling big and bulky loads by bike. Recommended more for around-town errands than for long-distance touring.

The Bad

Brunton Solaris Solar Panels. I was looking forward to never using coal again to charge my cell phone and iPod. Too bad that this Brunton product didn’t come with any directions – none for assembly and none for how to care for the battery. Turns out that I still don’t know why this thing doesn’t work.

Patagonia Drifter (shoe). When Patagonia came out with its first line of shoes – including some with serious recycled content, like the Drifter – I went for it. After all, everything I had purchased from Patagonia previously was great. Well, I don’t know about you, but when I pay $135 for a shoe, I expect at least some water resistance, if not something waterproof. I walked through some wet grass at the beginning of a 20-mile hike and proceeded to do the whole thing with wet feet. The laces bunched up and I couldn’t pull them through the holes. The plastic Patagonia letters fell off. All within the first three weeks of owning the shoe. When I called the company about returning them, they said (twice) that I could return the shoes for their inspection and they would decide whether to accept them for return. I was training for a long hike and didn’t have time to maybe return a shoe and then maybe buy a new pair, so I kept them. The good news: After I bought some waterproofing, the shoes never got any worse. I still have them three years later and the Vibram soles are just now getting worn down. I still won’t buy a Patagonia shoe again – but I’ll always buy their other clothing.

The So-So

L.L. Bean radio. This wind-up radio with a little solar panel has AM/FM and weather band. It’s great for camping and requires no external energy source, well, except for you cranking it. The handle on mine broke in about a year and it couldn’t be fixed. L.L. Bean, to their credit, exchanged it. But now that old one is probably in the landfill.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ground Truthing

While we were reporting a destinations article on Breaks Interstate Park for Get Out!, photographer Attila Horvath and I situated ourselves at the Towers Overlook above the Russell Fork, which is the whitewater run that snakes its way through the park.

As we sat at the overlook, the fog lifted like a stage curtain and it revealed a view complete with an oxbow in the river, which cuts the steep gorge. I asked Attila how deep he thought the valley was at that point. “Let’s see,” he replied, “Seneca (Rocks) is about 900 feet above the valley …”

I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was. First, what’s a good point of reference? For us, Seneca Rocks, WV is a good reference point for 1,000 feet – Seneca’s South Peak is about 900 feet above the river and we are intimately familiar with the rocks, since we’ve started at the bottom, topped out, and returned to the bottom so many times.

The Russell Fork Gorge was definitely less than 1,000 feet. Here’s why I asked: As I did research on the Russell Fork Gorge before we arrived, repeated reports assessed the depth of the gorge at 1,600 feet, which it was clearly not. So what’s the deal?

Upon our return home, I went back to the web where I got the 1,600 feet number. But this time I went to usgs.gov and pulled up a topo of the Russell Fork right where it flows by Towers Overlook. The elevation of Towers Overlook is 1,600 feet. So if the river were at sea level then yes, the gorge would be 1,600 feet deep. But the river’s closer to 1,000 feet in elevation there – making the gorge closer to 600 feet deep at that spot.

What’s the take-home message here? Two things. First, as a reporter I am troubled by anyone (especially if that anyone is me) taking information from a source – in this case “source” being a random webpage – and repeating the information without fact checking it.

But more important to outdoor adventure, I have to wonder how many people know the difference between 600 feet and 1,600 feet. If you regularly walk, paddle, bike, climb, rappel, swim, etc. then hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about distance, whether vertical or horizontal.

It’s not just important for all of us to get outside. It’s important for us to pay attention while we’re there. Sometimes it’s a matter of safety (“I didn’t see the wasp nest/cliff/bear”) and sometimes it’s a matter of ground truthing.

Ground truthing is a cartography term for taking remote data – usually something like satellite data – and hitting the ground to compare that data to reality.

But think of all the applications for ground truthing. When you hear about something, see something online, read something in a magazine, you should be able to compare it to the real world and know whether the information you received is correct. But unless you get out and pay attention, you can’t do it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Macho BS in Outdoor Sports

Last time my partner and I were climbing at the New River Gorge, we decided to try some new routes, so we cracked opened the guidebook. We wanted to hit high quality routes, so we looked for a star rating next to the route name. We chose some 5.6s and 5.7s. For those of you who don’t climb, that’s on a 5.0-5.15 scale. Routinely, the guidebook rated each moderate route – every one an aesthetic crack climb easy to protect and requiring some technical skill – “good for its grade.” Meaning: good but … But what? Good if you can’t handle the harder stuff? Good if you’re having an off day? Good enough for shitty-ass climbers like yourself? Good but I can’t admit it if I regularly climb 5.12? “Good for its grade” is never in the description for harder routes.

Well I’ve been on a multi-pitch 5.6 route at Seneca Rocks that beat every single (all right, the very few) 5.11s I’ve ever climbed. And guess what? I don’t feel like I have to make excuses for climbing a route that I thoroughly enjoy, whatever the rating.

But that’s me. I am willing to avoid, ignore, overlook and occasionally push back against the macho bullshit that surrounds so much of the outdoor adventure world. I’ve been one-upped on how cold it was that night camping, how many mosquito bites I endured, how many peaks I’ve bagged and the rating of the route I climbed that day. I even confess that I’ve gotten caught up in macho bullshit from time to time, always regretting it after the fact.

Although many outdoor adventures can be pursued individually, most of us enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow thrill-seekers. In fact, I think a good fish story is something to enjoy around the campfire. But let’s keep in mind that macho bullshit puts people off of our sports and our community. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, 43 percent of outdoor participants are female. They don’t further break down the numbers, but let’s look at the more macho sports – rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, mountain biking – and the number of women participating is clearly less. I see it (and lament it) every time I go out. Then there are the people who are intimidated because they’re overweight. Or because they can’t keep up with the blowhards. Or they don’t want to get tips on form from the gearhead whose ass they’re passing this very moment on the bike path.*

The point is this: cut the macho bullshit, or at least keep it to a minimum and keep it entertaining. You – and you know who you are, including the guy who wrote “good for its grade” in the guidebook – aren’t doing anybody any favors, including yourself.

*True story. The sprayer had to cut short his advice session as the advisee blew past.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Privacy in the Outdoors

I remember vividly the photo in the gear catalog: Someone cozily tucked in to their tent with the copy (paraphrasing), “You can’t get junk mail here.” That captures for many of us why we desire wilderness. No junk mail. No e-mail. No phone calls.

Google recently announced that it will start taking images of bike paths and hiking trails as part of its Street View option on Google Maps. But do we really want Google taking images of trails? What’s the idea behind that? To look at the trail on your iPhone instead of hiking it? To look at images of the trail while you’re hiking it? Absurd.

More importantly, what does this mean for privacy? In our regular lives, there is no privacy. A camera takes a picture of you driving or walking across the street. You can always be tracked down via your cell phone. Google knows what websites you’ve been searching, what books you’ve purchased online and who knows what else about you.

I go to the backcountry (even the frontcountry) to get away from that. To not be found. To not be accessible. To the take the road less traveled. To have privacy. If I get mauled by a bear and can’t call 911 on my cell phone, well, that’s the chance I take. And that’s the excitement of it.

The last thing I want to see when I’m setting up camp is a Google tricycle riding by with a video camera. I don’t want to see my tent via satellite image on Google Earth. I want one place in this world where technology can’t intrude on my privacy. Maybe it’s time to write clauses into our wilderness management plans excluding information gathering by government or corporations in wilderness areas.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Perfect Campground

Have you ever thought of opening your own campground just so you could do it right? I have. Too many campgrounds have been designed (if they’ve been designed at all) by people who don’t use them. I think the only perfect campground in the Ohio River region exists in my mind’s eye.

Let’s start with why we choose to go to a campground. There are usually two main reasons: price and convenience. A backcountry site is often free and better than a campground, so a campground is not really competing with a backcountry site. It’s competing with and beating a hotel on price – usually. Some of the worst “campgrounds” – RV ghettoes – are some of the most expensive. I once pulled into a KOA out of desperation and a “campsite” was $54! No thanks.

But really, we usually camp for the experience of being outdoors or to launch our hiking/mountain biking/rappelling/paddling/geocaching/whatever adventures. Here’s my starter list for the perfect campground:

Privacy. At the perfect campground, you should be barely aware that anyone else is camping nearby. This means you can’t see or hear other campers. When it comes to most state park campgrounds, let’s start with halving the number of campsites.

Setting. A campground should be in or next to the woods. An open meadow is also great for landscape diversity, stargazing, firefly watching and Frisbee tossing (think Seneca Shadows campground in the Mon). A nearby body of water, whether it’s a river or a lake, is a must. Campsites atop a ridge are another good option, provided they have a view. Finally, an ideal campground is one where you can park your car and never get in it again till you leave because trailhead access is so close.

Humans over cars. At Cumberland Island National Seashore, you take a boat to the island and there are a handful of garden carts waiting for you at the dock. You throw your camping gear in and walk it a quarter mile or so to the campground. You will never hear car wheels or a car stereo, nor will you be awakened by headlights in the middle of the night. Sweet.

A good place for your tent. Nobody wants to pitch their tent in a mud puddle or on a concrete slab (I’ve had to do both). Is there anyone reading this who does not have a bent-in-half tent stake? For lightly used campsites, grass is nice, and for heavily used campsites, those level pads with crushed limestone or small gravel do the trick.

Good infrastructure. The perfect campsite has an attractive, clean wooden outdoor solar shower and a high-tech composting toilet (that is, one that doesn’t stink – they do exist). Nobody’s site is between the other sites and the shower/bath house. I like the idea of having a fire ring at each campsite and a communal fire ring for campers who want to hang out with other people. (Think of the communal fire ring at Miguel’s in the Red River Gorge. In stark contrast to the rest of the campground. What a shithole. But the pizza’s good!) A shared shelter is good for bad weather days. A well-sited sink and spigot will allow you to wash your dishes and clean the mud off of your shoes without creating a whole new cesspool in its wake.

A good pet policy. For many pet owners, there’s nothing more fun than camping with their best friend. For many pet and non-pet owners, there’s nothing less fun than listening to another camper’s dog bark morning, noon and night. The perfect campground has a clearly defined pet policy – whether it caters to pets or restricts them.

Programming. As long as we’re talking perfect, how ’bout a campground that has some programming – nature hikes and stargazing for starters. Maybe they can get fancy with backcountry cooking courses or campfire songs (not cheesy ones!).

What constitutes your perfect campground?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's Up With Girl Scouts?


I had the pleasure of taking a 9-year-old girl on her first rock climbing outing last weekend at the Hocking State Forest Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area. Then I had the – well, I wouldn’t say pleasure – of seeing her Junior Girl Scout Badge Book.

Flipping through the guide, I truly couldn’t believe some of what I saw. Did you know that young Girl Scouts can earn a badge for Looking Your Best? I am not making this up. The actual sew-on badge features a hairbrush, a comb and a mirror. Then here’s the badge big oil somehow managed to get into the Girl Scout curriculum: Oil Up. The badge is an oil derrick and it only goes downhill from there. (In fairness, the guide has a photo of a bear with spilled crude oil on her fur. She is definitely not looking her best.)

It’s not all bad, of course. There are plenty of standard badges – Swimming, Adventure Sports, Finding Your Way (compass skills) and Being My Best. There are even some progressive elements in the Girl Scout Badge Book – the Car Care badge is pretty cool and the photos feature racially diverse groups of Girl Scouts. My favorite badge? Stress Less – it’s got an image of a hammock on it!

Local Girl Scout councils have as much variation as the badge book. I’ve met Girl Scouts in the field while they were on camping, caving and rock climbing trips. On the other end, my local Girl Scout council one year had a – prepare yourself – mall lock-in. Instead of camping, they had the girls spend the night in the mall. (Those mothers must still have post traumatic stress disorder from the experience.)

What’s the take-home message from all of this? It’s simple: get involved. If you’re an outdoor adventurer, share your skills with young people, especially girls who sometimes don’t have the same access to these skills as boys. You can become a troop leader but you don’t even have to go that far. You can just take a girl out in the woods and teach her – and her friends, her sisters, her brothers – the skills that make outdoor adventure safe and fun.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What is Adventure?

The tagline for Get Out! magazine is “outdoor adventure in the Ohio River region.” As an outdoor adventurer, I only occasionally ask myself what adventure is. Sometimes it’s like porn: you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, adventure is defined as:

1 a: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks b: the encountering of risks 2: an exciting or remarkable experience 3: an enterprise involving financial risk

It’s interesting that the dictionary definition of adventure largely invokes the word risk. If adventure were strictly defined by risk, then driving a car to the trailhead would be the most adventurous part of your trip (see What Will Really Kill You Outdoors). But there is some truth to that – backpacking in bear country is definitely adventurous and largely because it’s so risky, or at least it feels risky. Ditto whitewater rafting, skydiving, rock climbing, BASE jumping, biking in rush hour traffic and so on.

I’d like to add another word to help define adventure: unknown. Sure, hiking, backpacking and mountain biking are adventurous. Now what about when you go off trail? Isn’t that where the real adventure begins? Rock climbing is adventurous, particularly a first ascent. There are still plenty out there – you need to be prepared with an escape route, but isn’t that exactly why it’s adventurous? (And it doesn’t have to be particularly risky).

I’ve rafted the New River, hiked the Laurel Highlands Trail, camped in bear country and had innumerable other adventures, real adventures. But I’ve also attempted a first ascent or two (first ascents to me and my partners – others have possibly climbed these remote rocks, but it was still unknown territory to us). I’ve found a red eft newt inside a black cup mushroom while hiking off trail on a morel mushroom hunt. I’ve discovered a long-abandoned coal mine while dropping the bike at the paved path and exploring the surrounding countryside.

I met a couple of people in Bloomington, IN who arrived at Indiana University from the East and West coasts. They decided to explore their new home by creating an adventure game for themselves that they call “brownsigning.” They pack a lunch, get in the car and pick a direction on the map and go. Whenever they see a brown sign, they follow it to the historic site/trailhead/oddity/whatever. What’s great about this is that the day begins with pretty much no idea of how it will go or where their route will take them.

Now that’s adventure.

We want to hear about your next adventure. Go to the Get Out! trip report section on our front page and share your story and photo with us.