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Because it’s There: Finding Purpose for Adventure

When asked why he desired to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, legendary mountaineer George Mallory allegedly replied, “Because it’s there.” Does one need any more reason than that? Of course, we all know how Mallory’s story ends- he disappeared on his summit attempt and his remains weren’t discovered until half a century later. It is still hotly debated whether or not Mallory reached the summit of Everest on that expedition, but most adventurers will agree Mallory’s three simple words were a strangely elegant, sufficient answer: because it’s there.

For many of us, our outdoor pursuits give us something we can’t find anywhere else. They make us feel a certain way, a euphoric yet peaceful je ne sais quoi. Whether it be backpacking, climbing, biking, or paddling, our experiences outside leave us fulfilled. We know inwardly why we do these things, why we push our bodies past their limits, suffer through the elements, and emerge with a tired smile on our faces. But how do we explain to parents, friends, and strangers why we do this? For them, Mallory’s answer is insufficient. So we must find the words to explain what drives us to set out on expeditions into the unknown.

I’ve done my fair share of adventuring and found ways to enjoy even the most grueling days. But I can’t claim to have an enlightened answer for why I climb and hike. Truthfully, there probably is no way to accurately describe my ambitions, to ease the worries of my parents with an eloquent arrangement of words about why I wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail or climb Mt. Washington in the dead of winter. For the uninitiated, “because it’s there” answers nothing. We each have unique and individual reasons for setting out on adventures. I’ll try to capture some of the shared reasons we set out into the wilderness.

I get a certain enjoyment out of pushing my body and mind to their limit and then discovering possibilities beyond those limits. Adventures are an escape from routine, an opportunity to experience something new. The feeling of freedom on a backpacking trip is amazing. It is refreshing to wake up to a mountaintop sunrise and realize you have no obligations- no texts to respond to, no work, no deadlines; your only obligation is to hike. An adventure is not just an escape from routine, but an escape from people. The woods provide an opportunity to release stress, a place where your limited interactions with people are genuine and you don’t have to adhere to social norms. 

The simplicity that comes from living out of a backpack is unbeatable; the knowledge of having everything you need on your back empowers you. The thrill that comes from being 100 feet up a rock wall, looking down on the trees, will make even the longest approaches worthwhile. The sense of pride that comes from sending a route or finishing a trail leaves me wanting to do it all over again. There is a certain beauty to fog sifting through the woods or of an early morning on the river, a beauty that can’t be found anywhere else.

I love starting my day with a steep climb and ending it soaked in sweat; I love the feel of wind in my face, staring up awestruck at the Milky Way from the comfort of my sleeping bag, and falling asleep to the steady murmur of a mountain stream. Time and time again I go out there for the sunsets and waterfalls that inspire my adventures. Without fail, I return from a trip exhausted but content, renewed by my time in the woods.

Our backcountry adventures might seem reckless or dangerous, but they bring us something that nothing else can. No amount of climbing at the gym is as exciting as a weekend at Red River Gorge; an hour on the stair-stepper pales in comparison to summitting a rocky peak. Each time we embark on one of these trips, we feel as if we’re going home. There is a sense of familiarity in the backcountry, even in unexplored places, that implores us to return. 

I’m not sure any of this really explains why we do what we do, but maybe that’s the point. We do it because it can’t be explained. In the end, Mallory might have done about as well as anyone in explaining our adventures. Why do we pursue longer and more remote trails, climb harder and more technical routes, or find faster flowing rivers? Because they’re there.

 

by: Will Babb

College outdoor clubs can introduce students to landscapes such as the Wind River Range.

College Outdoor Clubs: A Necessary Resource

Image you’re a parent and your kid has just come home from college. They joined a club with a crazy group of dirtbags and now spend every weekend outside getting sunburnt, climbing, backpacking, and caving. Your first thought might be, “Oh lord, they’re gonna drop out and live in a van down by the river.” I want you to know it does not always end up that way. However, you probably will have to work with them on showering more often. Whether you are the worried parent or the adventure-driven kid, college outdoor clubs are important and can be life changing.

When I went to the University of Cincinnati, I initially struggled to make friends, especially my first semester. I joined the UC Mountaineering Club (UCMC) at the start of the fall semester, but a demanding chemistry lab prevented me from being active in the club. First thing spring semester, I went to meetings and became an active member of the group. It was incredible! I fell in love with these people. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel included. I tried all sorts of new things, like canyoneering, more serious backpacking than I had done as a kid, and hanging out at the crag (climbing wall) at Red River Gorge.

College outdoor club students connect over a shared passion for adventure.

UC Mountaineering Club students at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

You are able to see so much with these clubs, even as a college student. They can put on a week-and-a-half long trip to western national parks for around $250 per student. Although that doesn’t include food, it is still phenomenally cheap. Without this group, I would not have explored as much of the country as I have.

Opening young adults up to new adventures is not all these clubs are good for. They provide the interested college kid with a group of individuals who share the same passions. This will help them find their identity and create lifelong friendships. Some of my friends from the mountaineering club later became my roommates!

College outdoor clubs also teach new skills; UCMC taught me to climb. I had tried it as a wee Boy Scout but never got into it. Then, UCMC really taught me. I learned the importance of climbing safety and having the right gear. I grew from top-roping to belaying others and eventually lead climbing. When my time came, I was the one teaching other mountaineers how to climb, passing on the lessons I had been taught.

College outdoor clubs are an avenue to discover passions and valuesr

UCMC students connect around shared passions at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

These club relationships can even help with careers and networking. If it was not for UCMC, I would not be working for the best store in the world: Roads Rivers and Trails! Several RRT staff come from UCMC and I’m grateful for that. In the summer of 2019, RRT needed more gear ninjas (that’s what they call us sales associates when we start). Another member of the club helped me apply and get the job. Now, I’m the “Director of Gear Science and Technology.” Pretty fancy, huh! I learned so much about outdoor gear and had some incredible co-workers and supervisors. Emily even helped me get a chemistry job with the Food and Drug Administration by writing a letter of recommendation.

Furthermore, these clubs are instrumental in helping a kid build their identity and adult life. I don’t know what I would have done without UCMC. So, if you’re the kid thinking about joining, just try it out. If you’re the parent, relax. You have to let your kid become the person they want to be, although it may stress you out and make you worry. Just ask my mother, she’ll have some stories for you. But more importantly, it will make a huge difference for your kid.

I love UCMC and I wouldn’t trade its people or experiences for the world. College outdoor clubs are awesome and so important to your personal growth. Check out the UC Mountaineering Club or a similar outdoor club at your college of choice; the impact can be astounding.

College outdoor club students visit Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a favorite destination for college outdoor clubs over fall break.

by: Joe Carver

Our Community

By: Ben Shaw

If you would have asked me to describe the outdoors community a few years ago, I would have had no idea how to do that.  I probably would have guessed something along the lines of a rugged lumberjack or described a scene you might find on the front of a Mountain House Meal packet.  The truth is, it’s a much larger group than what most people think.  There are people all over the place, falling into different niches within the greater community.  There are backpackers, climbers, mountaineers, kayakers, day hikers, rafters, bikers, beach bums, and everything else you can think of. Then, even within these activities, you have more of a breakdown. For example, with backpackers you have weekend warriors, ultra-light minimalists, long distance through hikers, and probably a few more I’m forgetting about…

My First Community

What it comes down to is the fact that this is an extremely large but fragmented community.  There are people everywhere doing everything: kayakers hanging out on the river, backpackers clogging the trails, and mountaineers racing to the summit. If you never take the time to meet others on the river, trail, or climb, you find yourself staying around the same little bubble in the community.  Luckily, if you look hard enough you can find the things and places that bring this community of bubbles together.  For example, every time RRT hosts a presentation, or any other event, it brings together all sorts of different niches within the outdoors community and gives one a chance to meet others and possibly learn something about another part of the community or make new friends with similar interests.

Our RRT Community

Another nice thing about the outdoors community is that we tend to be open and outgoing people, ready to talk and visit with others, I can’t tell you how many times this has proven itself on the trail.  People have given me directions, pointed to hidden spots, donated gear and supplies, and so much more (often called “trail magic”).  Every time something along those lines happened it always made me feel a better sense of community with the people I’m sharing the outdoors with.  It also made me want to do the same things for others I came across out there and spread some of the “magic.”

Outside of RRT, I’m a student at the University of Cincinnati and am an active member in the University of Cincinnati Mountaineering Club.  For me, this has been where I’ve learned the bulk of what I know about the outdoor community as a whole, “whole” meaning each separate niche: climbers, hikers, bikers, kayakers, mountaineers, etc.  Each block has its own unique characteristics, but they all have a few things in common, they love the outdoors. They’re usually down to make friends and they always want to brag and teach their skills.  Even UCMC and RRT are a niche within the outdoors community, they’re vessels for people to meet, acquire gear, and learn new skills to get outside.

UCMC Whitewater Rafting Group

This is the unique way our community has developed, an unspoken understanding that if you share a trail, a story, or even just a similar interest, you have mutual respect and a chance for friendship. One of my favorite stories about this kind of experience happened about a year ago. I was hiking down in Red River Gorge with a group of people I didn’t really know. One of the guys who I had just met started telling me about his time on the Ozark Trail and we swapped stories and contacts, then we didn’t see each other for a little while.  A few months later I got back in touch and invited him out to the Wind River Range in Wyoming on a backpacking trip having simply bonded with him once on the trail and enjoying his stories and his company.  He came along with me and some friends and I couldn’t have been happier with it, we all had an amazing time filled with fun, laughter, and adventure.

Aaron and I in Wyoming

As I said above, this community is vast in its size, expansive in its hobbies, and fragmented in its communication but we all share so many common interests.  Everyone in this community appreciates the natural world and many of us strive to protect it so that we, and those after us, can continue to enjoy it.  For the most part we’re looking for others to adventure and share stories with. Above all, we enjoy what we do and can’t imagine spending our time any other way.  So, next time you’re on the trail, attending a presentation, or trading a hiking story with a stranger, think about the community you and the people around you are a part of, strike up a conversation and make a new friend.  You never know what adventure you’ll have or what part of this community you’ll end up in. Enjoy every trip, keep my young words of wisdom in mind and hopefully I’ll see you on the trail!

Sharing Adventures on the Trail with Friends in the Community


Outdoor Communities in the Greater Cincinnati Area

 

Caving: The Greater Cincinnati Grotto

Kayaking and Canoeing: Cincypaddlers & Tri-State Kayakers

Cycling and Mountain Biking: Cincinnati Cycle Club

Local Day Hiking: Cincinnati Parks Foundation

Day Hiking and Backpacking: Tri-State Hiking Club

North West Circuit Track, Stewart Island, New Zealand

Isabel Allende — ‘We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test.’

North West Circuit Track, Stewart Island, New Zealand: Allow 9–11 days to walk the full 125 km circuit. This track is suitable for fit, well equipped and experienced backpackers. Track times are an indication only and extra time should be allowed in adverse conditions.  This is a personal account of the circuit along Stewart Island written primarily on the trek, as done in February 2017. This report includes all personal photos except for the island map and elevation chart.

Two of the 54 treks featured in the Lonely Planet New Zealand Trekking guide are listed as the “difficult” and the North West Circuit on Stewart Island is one of them. The description reads, “Coastal epic around a remote island featuring isolated beaches, sand dunes, birds galore, and miles of mud.” This island is a wild beauty and tested me more than any trek I’ve done before.

This is a hut to hut trek, or “tramp” in the local New Zealander dialect. You can buy a pass for the huts once on Stewart island and they are first come first serve. However, the first and last two huts of the circuit, Port William Hut and Northarm Hut can and should be reserved in advance because they tend to fill up as part of the popular Rakiura loop.

For official information: visit the New Zealand Department of Conservation website including what to pack, what to know before you go and all relevant information:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/southland/places/stewart-island-rakiura/rakiura-national-park/things-to-do/north-west-circuit-stewart-island-rakiura/

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The Tramp:

Day 1: Oban to Port William Hut – 13km

We started from town early with full bellies from the beer and salmon dinner the night before. We were there to hike so opted out for taking a taxi to the trailhead 6km down the road. As we strapped on our packs to set out we were greeted with a heavy downpour. Thankfully, our indomitable spirits weren’t dampened by the rain and we enjoyed a wet day of easy mud-free boardwalks to Port William Hut. We arrived just before dinner time, hung up our wet clothes and Shannon and I headed to the ocean for a post hike dip in the frigid water (despite the rain).

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Day 2: Port William Hut to Bungaree Hut – 6km

We woke to sunshine and quickly realized that the boardwalks were gone and the rain from the day before had turned the trail to mud. I was told about the mud but until you trek for nearly a full 6km through it – and not horizontally – mostly vertical with wet roots – it turns your mind clearing jaunt in the wilderness into a fully physical and mental struggle. Though there were no major climbs the constant roller coaster of roots and knee deep mud challenged our bodies just as much as our minds while navigating the maze. The shell shock of what we were up for fully kicked in. Thankfully we were greeted at the end of the day with the beautifully isolated Bungaree Beach where we searched for shells, swam in the cool waters, and enjoyed the warm sunshine.

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Day 3: Bungaree Hut to Christmas Village – 12km

We rose early with the daylight and packed up prepared for another tough day of roots and mud. We immediately resumed a large climb followed by a series of hills and gullies full of mud. This was the first day that I started to take in the awe of the wonders around me. The landscape was marshy and lush and covered in unfamiliar ferns, spiky grasses, purple thistles, and tiny flowers. As we navigated the steep descent to Murray Beach we were rewarded with golden sand and sunshine which we took advantage of with a long lunch. After another full afternoon of constant up and downs we landed for the night in Christmas Bay at Christmas Village Hut. We found out through another tramper that from this point the trek was to get progressively harder aaaannndd this would be our last opportunity for cell service and a ferry out. There was a lengthy discussion about whether the risk outweighed the reward. Stewart Island had had one of the coldest and wettest summers in 20 years meaning this difficult trek would be more difficult than usual. We opted to sleep in and decide in the morning.

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Day 4: Christmas Village to Yankee River – 12km

We slept in, ate a long breakfast, and enjoyed hot coffee. We called the ferry serviced and found out that they could pick us up at 5:30pm. It was like a switch went off – as soon as we found out we could get out then we didn’t want to. We knew we could do it – we just had to prepare ourselves for the challenge. We loaded up our packs and set out for one of our biggest climbs of the entire trek. A couple dry days meant that the trail was slightly less dangerous as we wound through a stunning rimu forest. We hit Lucky Beach in the early afternoon and pushed to navigate the large boulders before the tides came in and blocked the path. After a quick lunch we hit a shorter climb with some undulated terrain before finding our stride and making it early to Yankee River Hut.

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Day 5: Yankee River to Long Harry Hut – 9km

Looking forward to a shorter day we started out with a skip in our step as we climbed an undulated 200m to Black Rock Point before a very steep descent on to Smoky Beach. The steep climb and descent took all the power from our legs and just when we thought we had no juice left we were met on the beach by a towering sand dune that sunk 1ft for every 2ft high step. I would best compare it to running up a down-escalator except double it’s height. A true example of how much further you can go when you tap into your reserve tank. We were ready for lunch and a refuel but needed to cross the 2km long soft sand beach before high tide came in. By the time we reached the end of the beach slog we had missed the low tide route and decided to stop and eat. Instantly, sand flies and bumble bees attacked us. We would later find out that they are attracted to the color blue, which Shannon and I were so fashionably donning, but not before Shannon was surrounded by over a half dozen bees and stung on the leg. We raced to a local hunters cabin (that are sparsely located on the island) to doctor up the large sting and finish our snacks before moving on. The high tide route added an extra climb to the day but we hunkered down and moved forward onto Long Harry Hut. When we finally caught view of the hut it gave us the fuel we needed to descend and ascend the steep drop down to the ocean needed to get there. Fortunately, the sun was shining and it gave us a nice afternoon to dry out all of our waterlogged boots and clothing.

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Day 6: Long Harry Hut to East Ruggedy – 9.5km

We started out slow with the hopes of not losing our “juice” midway through the day like we had the day before. This day would be much like the others and best described by the Lonely Planet guide: “Tough tramping continues as you climb in and out of four more bush-clad gullies and streams, until descending near the north end of Long Harry Beach.” We pushed to get through Long Harry Beach (again) before the tides came up. We barely made it through one section, I found my boots being washed by the incoming tide as I waited my turn to climb the steep rocks ahead. Fortunately after leaving the beach, three days without rain brought us one of our easiest and most pleasurable days on the trek. Graduated climbs, beautiful viewpoints on the northern coast, and kiwis greeted us before descending to East Ruggedy Beach. We had been warned to not cross at high tide and to move fast through the quicksand. I must admit I was excited – I had never experienced quicksand before. The D.O.C. ranger told us days earlier, before we set out, that if we did sink it would only be down to our hips and we would need a friend to pull us out. Thankfully I had two friends and was ready to forge ahead. With my boots tied around my neck and my water shoes on I set out to cross at the mouth of Ruggedy Stream. I kept waiting for my feet to sink but only felt a slight sucking on my feet as I expediently tramped my way through. After a short celebration I set down my pack and headed back towards the stream looking for a soft spot. “I found some,” I exclaimed to Joe and Shannon! As my feet sank I felt so excited to check this off my proverbial bucket list. Joe yelled back, “get out of it.” Not wanting to have to pull me out – he was always the sensible one. Joe washed our feet before putting our boots back on to finish the 45 minute trek to the hut. We ended the day with smiles and a big dinner.

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Day 7: East Ruggedy to Big Hellfire Hut – 15km

After a day off to heal our aching muscles, we headed out at dawn with headlights expecting one of our longest and most difficult days of the trip. We made it in record time to the scenic West Ruggedy Beach. We followed the beach before a steep ascent to Ruggedy pass and a steep d

escent into Waituna Bay. After a quick touch and go on the beach we began our gradual ascent to Hellfire Pass. We ended the day after 11 hours of hiking at the top of one of the longest sand dunes in the world at 200m above sea level. The rain hit us on and off all day so we tried our best to light a fire and dry things out but the hut was so cold and the wood was so wet we had to hunker down for our coldest night on the trek. All in all it was a good day.

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Day 8: Big Hellfire to Mason Bay Hut – 15km

Since we were looking at another long day we got an early start and were treated to a morning call from a female kiwi. We were looking forward to some lovely ridge walking and beach walking but were deeply disappointed by the near constant mud. It rained all night and most of the day before and wasn’t letting up yet. The mud was deeper and constant. Our boots were instantly wet. As we were coming down from the Ruggedy Mountains we found ourselves descending steep puddle after puddle grasping trees and trekking poles to keep our feet from going out from underneath us (which happened multiple times). We finally arrived at  Little Hellfire Beach. We were immediately pummeled by high winds that tore off our pack covers and swept at our feet. We hurried across the beach as a large storm was looming on the horizon and took shelter under some trees. We decided to grab lunch here and wait out the storm which ended up being pea size hail. According to the map we had a 150m climb over Mason Bay Head and were hopeful that this would be an easy climb. Due to the extreme weather and mud from days of rain this ended up taking nearly twice the time if should have. We were excited to finally make our way to Mason Bay but due to the high tide and the storm the beach was nearly impassable. We attempted to dry out our boots but had to take shelter under my emergency rain cover to keep ourselves dry and warm while we waited out the storm and the tides. Finally, the tide lowered enough for us to begin our 4.5km trek down Mason Bay towards the hut. We were blocked by a steep rocky outcrop and had to add another hour onto our day by taking the high tide route. We were met with more wind, rain, and hail. Finally we left the beach and enjoyed a sunny trek to Mason Bay Hut after a 13 hour day of hiking.

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We slept hard and woke with sore feet in the morning. We grabbed breakfast and were happy to have a nice flat day ahead of us. Some people can do this route in 3 hours. Being sore from the days before we took our time and finished in 5.  The scenery was constantly changing as we made our way across the middle of the island back to where we started. Due to flooding we took the water taxi from Freshwater back to Oban. There was a calm sense of accomplishment and we looked forward to beers, dinner and sweets at the local pub.

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Written by Emily White, additional writing and editing by Kayla McKinney and photos by Joe White.

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Local Explorers: Tom and Sarah Swallow

by: Brandon Behymer

For most of us riding a bike is a fun, relaxing thing to do. A lot more people these days are choosing to commute by way of two wheels instead of four. Some others have discovered the freedom that their bikes provide to see the faraway places we all dream about. The Swallows’ are a prime example of the ‘some others’.

The couple, native to Cincinnati, operated a bike shop in Loveland for five years before deciding to pursue adventure by bicycle. I first learned of them by stopping in their shop and then again a few years later after reading an article about the owners who closed a profitable business to ride the Trans American Trail.  Their reasoning? “To gain a fresh perspective about what we were doing and what we wanted.” In the summer of 2015 they rode the TAT; a dual sport motorcycle route that spans roughly five thousand miles from North Carolina to the Pacific coast of Oregon. The Swallows are the first known people to complete the route by bicycle.

Though this is their longest ride to date it is definitely not the only extended ride they’ve completed. From crossing the state of Ohio, to riding in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Hawaii, California… You get the point. Most recently Washington and British Columbia piqued their interest and every picture is incredible.

With so much experience already I couldn’t help but ask for some friendly advice for getting started in bikepacking.  “There is so much to bikepacking! First you actually have to ride the route you want to do fully loaded with all of your stuff, but then you have to find a camp spot, filter your water, set up camp, then cook your food! It’s a lot of work in a day so our best advice is to start off with half as many miles as you would normally ride unloaded and enjoy the day. Go swimming or fishing, take pictures, talk to people, and camp early. Don’t be in a rush.”

You may ask someone who has seen so many places from the soft, ever comfortable saddle of a bicycle, where their favorite trip has been so far. Understandably the Swallows couldn’t mention just one. “The Great Basin of Nevada, Northwestern Oklahoma (No Man’s Land), The Manti La Sal Mountains of Utah, The Canadian Rockies, The San Juan Mountains, South Central Washington, and Southwest Virginia”, are among the top picks.

As far as the future goes for this young couple, I can only imagine success and adventure. They’ve proven they can run and manage a profitable bike shop as well as wrangle any unpaved route in the United States. You can check out their website swallowbicycleworks.com to read about all the awesome rides they’ve done.

P.S. @swallowbicycleworks is a pretty killer Instagram account.

Read more of Brandon’s Local Explorer Series here.

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Readers Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

zenZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance   Robert Pirsig

This book was published in 1974. Told through the frame of a long motorcycle trip across America, the book explores life and how to best live it.   Perspectives from Eastern and Western philosophy and religion are referenced, highlighted, and explored, and through this exploration, the narrator addresses the pivotal question of how to pursue technology in a way that enriches human life as opposed to degrading it. The motorcycle trip starts in Minneapolis, Minnesota and concludes near San Francisco, CA. The narrator and his son, Chris, are accompanied by a couple, the Sutherlands. As a contrast to the narrator, John and Sylvia Sutherland represent people who are uncomfortable with technology. They feel oppressed by it and use motorcycle trips to escape. At the same time, however, they are dependent on technology. This conflict hints at a larger conflict in society and life. The narrator aims to explore this conflict with technology and get to its root.

In Bozeman, Montana, the Sutherlands decide to turn back and not continue on their journey.  The narrator and his son then decide to embark on a hiking trip in the mountains nearby and a lot is revealed about their complex relationship and about the narrator’s troubled past.  Coincidentally enough, I read this book while on a 3 week road trip out west a few years ago and could not think of a more perfect place to have read it.  Both for getting to actively live and experiment with the ideals of introspection on the road and for the simple fact I love, love, love reading while traveling.  At the end of a long day of driving and sight seeing, nothing is more relaxing then reclining in a hammock at a brand new campsite.  Although this book has been around for decades, I still find a lot of friends who have not read it yet!

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

Iceland: RRT on the Laugavegur Trail

In August of 2016 a group from RRT explored the ring road around Iceland and hiked the Laugavegur from Landmannalaugar to Skogar. Here is a sample of what they saw:

 

Readers Review: The Wild Places

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

0093278_coverimage_168470_wildplaces_jkt_300The Wild Places Robert MacFarlane

Robert Macfarlane is looking for his wild in England, Ireland and Wales, territory that for most of us evokes words like “manicured,” “turf” or, at the very least, “domesticated.” His book about a series of pilgrimages to the moors, islands, lochs, capes and holloways that season the British Isles might seem quaint or even confusing (a holloway?) to those whose notion of wildness demands “rock, altitude and ice,” as he puts it.

Ideas about wildness change. Macfarlane’s original plan — to find and map stashes of untouched wild — isn’t panning out. That “chaste land” in the British Isles doesn’t exist (ah, we were right!), and he comes to believe that the human and the wild cannot be mutually exclusive. He now feels that his “old sense of the wild was to an ideal of tutelary harshness” and geologic past. Meanwhile, down in the gryke he notices some lusty new vegetable life, bristling with “nowness,” existing in a “constant and fecund present.”

The wild, now a quality of organic vigor that lives in his urban beechwood as much as on remote summits, “prefaced us, and it will outlive us,” he writes.  And it hones our faith. For those of us disinclined toward religion — we who find our values, our hereafter, our happiness in the rhythms, the “fizz and riot” of the natural world — Macfarlane’s map, which is this book, is a kindred, bewitching tract. And like the wild it parses, it quietly returns us to ourselves.  This is a book I found on a whim and what a whim it was (try saying that 5 times fast).  I am planning an Iceland/UK/Ireland trip with my partner in 2018 and this served as a great guide for some places off the beaten path to travel and see.

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

Readers Review: Walking with Spring

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

Walking with Spring  Earl V. Shaffer.

For those of you who are unaware, Earl Shaffer was the first person ever to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one go, or “thru-hike.” Before this, even the Appalachian Trail Conservancy thought this was an impossible feat. Not a long book by any means, this great read is only about 150 pages. Walking with Spring is an invaluable resource for those interested in history, geography and the natural world. Shaffer completed his legendary “Lone Expedition” as he called it in the year 1947. The trail was in a state of minor disarray for lack of maintenance during the War years, but he was able to trudge along armed with nothing but a road map and a compass. There were no guide books or trail maps back then so he had to make his way with guessing, word of mouth and trail instinct.

The book reads just as if Earl Shaffer was telling you in person about his hike. Highlighting the ups of trail, but still touching on some of the downsides so you are able to maintain a realistic view of the kind of undertaking hiking the AT is. Scattered in the stories are snippets of his poetic side. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone looking for inspiration to hike the AT or even to just get into backpacking in general. He offers a simplistic, practical view of backpacking that is often lost in today’s world of solar chargers, technical fabrics and cell phone service along most the trail.

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

Readers Review: Shantaram

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

Shantaram Gregory David Roberts

This is actually another novel I read while on a 2 week road trip out to Montana and Wyoming about 4 years ago, did I mention before that the road is a great place to read?  This book is based on the life its author and written while he was serving time in prison.  The slightly fictionalized character based on himself, is an Australian convict who leaves the “down under” and travels to India in hopes of evading authorities.  While in Bombay, he makes a personal connection with a man who acts as a guide for tourists.  In doing so, he eventually finds a semi-permanent home in one of the many city slums after being robbed of all his money.  While living in the slums, he becomes the unofficial slum doctor because of some previous medical training he had undertaken.  After becoming a respected man of his small community, bigger fish begin to take notice and he gets involved with local mafia officials, movie stars, guerrilla freedom fighters in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and has a myriad of adventures.  Although it should be noted that this book is slightly fictitious, it is based on the author’s life during the 60’s and 70’s while on the run from the law in India and other part of Central Asia.  (Spoiler alert: In the end he was caught, but that’s okay, otherwise this book may have never been written!)

How I first heard about this book? A fellow I worked with in college mentioned it one night while we were packing boxes.  Who knew during a night in which I was packing advertisements for cologne into boxes, I’d learn about one of my favorite adventure packed books?  A lesson to be learned both from this book and from that night, keep your head down and sure things will be easy and you don’t have to ever worry about being without routine, but when you look up and your eyes adjust to how bright it really is out, you will surprise yourself with what you are able to find.  This man arrived in India hoping to remain unnoticed and evade police, but in the end he became an important man in his community and was respected both by his many new friends and all the others whom he met or heard his tale.  It’s like my grandpappy always told me, “Life is funny, yo!”

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

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