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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 “
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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

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 y

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 parent

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

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 researc