Elsewhere on the Web: Interviewed on Campfire Chic


I’ve been working like a madwoman lately which has made for a quiet summer here on the blog but I did recently make time for an interview with Kam of Campfire Chic. Kam isn’t a dog owner herself but wanted some of my thoughts about traveling with a pup. Basically I preach my views on putting your dog first: go check it out!

Kam describes herself as a “crafty micro-adventurer and chronic beginner;” not so shocking that we’d be internet pals, huh?

Cedar Mesa: Fish and Owl Canyons

I was planning on heading to Utah’s La Sal Mountains for Memorial Day weekend but when I started chatting with a fellow teacher, I discovered that she and her husband were hoping to get out backpacking on Memorial Day so I happily changed my plans a bit and we obtained permits to hike Fish and Owl Canyons off of Cedar Mesa.

Both Meghan and I needed to be at graduation on Friday evening so we set our departure time for very early on Saturday morning. We got a little bit later start than we wanted but still had time to stop and grab breakfast at The Peace Tree in Montecello (I believe it is owned by the same people as The Peace Tree in Moab).

As we approached the Kane Gulch Ranger Station to pick up our permits, I was a little apprehensive about the whole trip. The temperatures were in the upper thirties and it was raining. At the ranger station, we learned about where the water sources were in the canyons (we’d had enough rain that there was pretty much water the entire way except from Fish Canyon about a mile from the confluence to Owl Canyon about two miles up from the confluence). We watched a quick ten minute video about protecting the water and archaeological resources on Cedar Mesa and then we were off.

 

As we unloaded from the car, it started raining and rained on us for pretty much the next couple of hours as we descended into the canyon. The rain did not dampen the spirits of any of us (dogs included) as we stretched our legs after the long ride.

Fish and Owl Canyon Trailhead

The mile and half to the edge of Fish Canyon went quickly and before we knew it, we were at the edge of the canyon. Growing up in Washington State, I hated going to the eastern part of the state because it was a boring desert. Now, I have this big place in my heart for deserts (eastern Washington included!) and the views just made my heart happy.

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Hiking to the entrance for Fish Canyon

Descending into Fish Canyon

Fish Canyon

Many trip reports make a big deal about “The Crack” into Fish Canyon and we made quick work of it. My friends’ pup, Wilson, wasn’t so sure about making the descent but Sprocket had quite easily demonstrated the descent into my arms technique and we all made it just fine.

The "Crack," descent into Fish Canyon

Owl canyon exit

Sprocket backpacking

Fish Canyon

I decided to take you all a rainy selfie while waiting for Meghan and Ethan:

Backpacking in the rain

Fish Canyon

Sprocket in Fish Canyon

I love wandering through canyon bottoms. The trail was fairly well cairned as it crossed back and forth across the canyon and we covered about eight miles or so from the car before we made camp. After making some meals, trying to keep the dogs out of Fish Creek (I hate wet dog in my tent!), and a little bourbon, we headed to bed. I’m glad that we were choosy about where to pitch our tents because about 1am, it absolutely poured on us!

The next day, we decided to make the push all the way out of the canyon so we tried to keep up a nice steady pace down the rest of Fish Canyon and then up Owl Canyon.

Fish Canyon

Fish Canyon

 

Rocking some serious backpacking style:

Backpacking attire Beth style

Fish Canyon

Fish Canyon

The hiking in Owl Canyon was a little bit easier than it was in Fish Canyon. (The route finding in upper Owl was a little more difficult though). The rock formations were also a little more diverse.

Friends in Owl Canyon

Beth and Sprocket at Nevills Arch

The dogs were super happy when their three miles without water ended and Owl Creek appeared.

Dogs cooling off in Owl Creek

I really enjoyed the route finding on the way out of Owl Canyon (and my curiosity about all the side canyons was totally piqued!). There were some awesome waterfalls, with actual water!, and an exciting ascent out of the canyon.

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Waterfall in Owl Canyon

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The pups and I paused at the top of the canyon to wait for Meghan and Ethan. The views were again, incredible.

Sprocket looking at the view

Sprocket resting on backpack

We’d had a great time in the canyons. There’d been some rain, some fun hiking, beautiful canyons and really good company. Since we’d put in 10 solid miles that day, we decided to head for home to sleep in our own beds. We stopped on the way home at Stateline Bar and Grill near Dove Creek, Colorado for some very needed burgers.

Cows on Cedar Mesa

I think we tuckered out the dogs:

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On The Page: Following Atticus

Hiking with Sprocket is one of my favorite things to do: he’s a good listener but doesn’t argue, is willing to go anywhere, and gives me a bit of company on the trail. After we hiked Signal Peak a few weeks ago, I bragged a little bit on Twitter about my awesome hiking pup and Adam responded with a book recommendation: Following Atticus.

Honestly, I wasn’t all that interested in reading about a little tiny pocket dog climbing mountains. Dogs aren’t supposed to be purse sized! Amazon had the Kindle edition on sale for $1.99 though so I decided to give it a try (it’s back to regular price, $5.74, now).

I don’t know why I doubted. Tom Ryan’s Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and An Extraordinary Friendship is about a dog, hiking, finding peace in the outdoors, and even peakbagging.

The story starts with Ryan becoming a pet owner. He and his first dog, Max, bond and Ryan begins to develop a sense of how a dog and his owner can help each other. After Max’s death, he adopts Atticus, a miniature schnauzer.

Photo The Adventures of Tom and Atticus
Photo The Adventures of Tom and Atticus

Along the lines, Tom was introduced to hiking New Hampshire’s 4,000′ mountains by one of his brothers. Overweight and out of shape, following Atticus to the mountaintop inspired him. Before he knew it, he and Atticus climbed all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000′ peaks in a summer.

Futher inspired by a friend’s strength as she battled cancer, Ryan decided to scale the 4,000′ peaks again. In the winter. Twice. The money raised by their attempt would benefit The Jimmy Fund. After their near triump, came the inevitable dog-book crying. F just gave me the “here-she-goes-again” look as I slithered to the floor to pet my own pup.

Photo The Adventures of Tom and Atticus
Photo The Adventures of Tom and Atticus

 

Fortunately, the book didn’t end there. Instead, Ryan and Tom headed to the mountains again to re-attempt their winter goal: this time to raise money for Angell Memorial Medical Center, the MSPCA’s veterinary clinic.

Photo The Adventures of Tom and Atticus
Photo The Adventures of Tom and Atticus

Following Atticus is exactly what you would expect: a heartwarming story about a dog and his human learning how truly wonderful and inspiring the outdoors can be. This story made me cry, made me smile, and made me happy to have such a loving, wonderful dog in my own life.

#OmniGames: Day 1

Photo courtesy 100 Peaks
Photo courtesy 100 Peaks

After Season 4 headed into downtown Park City, we rendezvoused with the #omniten alumni at the No Name Saloon. Circulating around the room, I found myself drawn into conversation after conversation in the loud room—the next morning, my voice was a little hoarse! The amount of flannel the #omniten was rocking was quite amazing. There was a concert happening out on the streets but many of us were having way too much fun hanging out with our fellow #omniten. Going with the flow, the party moved upstairs to the outdoor patio where it was much easier to talk. I discussed it before but getting to know all these lovely people really made my trip. I’ve heard stories that back at the hotel the party raged on but I chose to hit up the hot tub with the group briefly before before heading to bed. The mystery games were slated to begin in the morning and I wanted to be up for anything that might be thrown my way.

Omniten at No Name Saloon

In the morning, the #omniten were in for one more treat before the #omnigames were revealed. Columbia has been developing a down-synthetic hybrid jacket called “The Turbo Down,” due to hit the market this fall. As if we were not already fully outfitted in Columbia gear, each one of us received a prototype of the jacket!

After the Turbo Down excitement, it was finally time to load up and head out for for the #omnigames. We’d been told to dress as if we were going skiing minus the ski boots but that still didn’t give too much away about what we’d actually be doing. As we pulled onto a snow covered road there were parts of me that were hoping for some serious cross-country snowshoeing—I thought that was something I might be able to eek out an advantage in! Alas, it was not but outside the ranch building there were sled dogs and snowmobiles—our first real hints to what might await us.

Photo courtesy AnneCarneyPhotography.com
Photo courtesy AnneCarneyPhotography.com

As it turned out we were competing in all manner of outdoor activities. As Daniel read through the list and briefly explained each one, I have to admit to only half listening. The impending competition had me pumped up, nervous, and ready to get this show on the road. I heard “shooting,” “dog sledding,” “fire,” “avalanche beacon,” “skiing,” “ropes course,” “free fall,” “shelter,” and “Charles Dickens”: thoughts about strategy, strong points, and weaknesses began flowing. I knew I could start a fire with matches but I had a sneaking suspicion that they wouldn’t be part of our supplies. I felt relatively confident about all the other events but I was surrounded by tough competitors and really felt like this was anyone’s game.

Next it was announced that we’d be competing in teams of two: one winter #omniten and one summer to a team. I was deep in thought when Daniel called me up to draw a teammate. I drew Justin Lukasavige. Although he and I followed each other on Twitter, we hadn’t spoken much before the games. Amped up on #omnigames, I think the first thing I asked him was, “Can you make a fire?” Taking everything in stride, Justin told me he could and we sat down for the announcement of the #omnigames prize.

A trip to JORDAN.

The room of #omniten was palpably buzzing with the news. Thankfully, it was finally time to get down to having fun in the snow. Justin and I started our day with dog sledding. I love dogs and it was immediately obvious that these dogs love pulling that sled. They had so much energy yipping, barking, and leaping while waiting for their turn to be tied to the sled. (Interestingly, when I got home Sprocket had developed an odd habit of barking like a sled dog while running next to the quad…) Riding with Racer and his team was an experience to remember.

Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com
Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com

Unloading from the sled, Justin and I took the quiz associated with dog sledding and headed inside to get ready for snowmobiling. There was a little part of me that was sort of sad that riding the snowmobiles themselves wasn’t scored although that was probably for the best since the last time I was on a snowmobile I “ghost rode” it off the path… Instead, we were to be scored on archery.

Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com
Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com

To be quite honest when they said “shooting” in the #omnigames intro, I was picturing shooting a .22 or something à la biathlon and got way excited. I haven’t shot a bow and arrow since I was twelve but was determined to do well. After hitting the first shot I took a deep breath and hit the next. I could hear cheering for Justin beside me: we were doing well! Katie started calling me Katniss and I must admit comparison to an awesome fictional character made me smile a little bit—especially in a competition that absolutely demanded comparisons to The Hunger Games.

Next it was off to build a shelter. Teams were given twenty minutes to create a shelter with a tarp, four pieces of paracord, two nice straight aspen poles, and a snow shovel. Justin and I agreed that the best way to approach this was to keep it nice and low out of the wind, as small as possible to conserve body heat, and to face it out of the prevailing wind. In about ten minutes we had a shelter we were pretty happy with so we spent the rest of our time adding additional snow insulation, even going so far as to build a “snow berm” near the entrance. It wound up looking like a tarp on the ground but it would totally work in a pinch!

#omniteam2 shelter

Since Justin and I were proving to be quite a duo, a little bit of an edge had been taken off the fire building challenge. Given wood, a magnesium fire starter, and some newspaper, we got to work. Justin did a fantastic job manning the fire starter while I broke off the thin ends of the wood and held the BBQ lid to keep our work area dry. After singeing some holes in the paper without attaining fire, I started to get nervous. Before panic set in, we had flame! Without discussion, Justin and I morphed into action. We were judiciously adding small pieces of wood and got the fire large enough to put the grate and pot of water on quickly. We took turns being human billows to get the fire roaring; deciding if a little water is good, a lot is better so we built the fire up around the pot. As the clock ticked, bubbles began to form and our billows efforts continued. Soon, to my immense delight and relief, we had a rolling boil.

Building a fire

Headed back to the warmth to get some lunch, I got the feeling something special was happening. From the stories circulating around us, there were plenty of groups that didn’t get fire and a handful more that didn’t get a rolling boil—we’d done that plus hit our archery targets, built a passable shelter, and rocked the dog sled quiz all while having a blast.

Wolfing down lunch, I was anxious to get out for the final challenge of the day: finding an avalanche beacon. Justin had some experience using a beacon and I’d attended an avalanche awareness course so I knew that as long as we trusted the beacon, we couldn’t go too wrong. Sure enough, finding the beacon was a matter of confidently doing what we needed to do. #omniteam2 had completed Day 1 of #omnigames competition in style!