The Top 6 Outdoor Podcasts

Getting to our favorite places to hike, climb, or ski often involves a long time riding in the car. As a solution to keep the drive from getting monotonous, tune in to one of these great outdoor podcasts. While they won’t make the miles go by any faster, they’ll certainly make your trip a bit more stimulating.

 

The Enormocast

The Enormocast’s tagline is “A Slice of the Climbing Life,” which is precisely what this bi-weekly podcast delivers. The show’s interview format typically features host Chris Kalous sitting down one-on-one with climbers from all over the world and touches on all climbing disciplines. A quick glance though The Enormocast archives—all episodes are available for free to download—reads like a who’s who of climbing, with such notable guests as Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Colin Haley, Lynn Hill, and Henry Barber, just to name a few. However, what sets The Enormocast apart is that it provides a place for climbers to share their stories with an informed audience, without the dumbed-down, oversimplified talk that clutters mass media conversations.

The Dirtbag Diaries

Unlike most on this list, The Dirtbag Diaries is a melting pot for all things outdoors. Rather than focus on a single niche, The Dirtbag Diaries might give you an episode about skiing one week, followed by a story about paddling the next. Acting like a virtual campfire, the podcast features some of the outdoors’ best storytellers sharing their unique voices and adventures. Overall, it covers everything from inspiration to advocacy, and aims to both entertain and educate.

The Firn Line 

Chronicling the lives of alpinists in Alaska’s mountain ranges, The Firn Line is the best and most interesting mountaineering-specific podcast. Hosted by Evan Phillips, the podcast blends one-on-one interviews with some of Alaska’s most renowned alpinists—including Jack Tackle, Mark Westman, Vern Tejas, Clint Helander, and Charlie Sassara—with music and backstory. The conversations in Season 1, now 19 episodes strong, share their stories while simultaneously exploring sport-centric questions like why we climb, the meaning of partnership, and overcoming injuries and setbacks in the mountains. Check it out.

Totally Deep Podcast

Totally Deep features cult-classic movie Aspen Extreme in its opening credits, so it’s easy to get hooked. As you would expect from a podcast that uses a so-bad-it’s-good ’90s movie to lure you in, Totally Deep is a rambling, fun, and informative look at everything backcountry skiing. Leaving no backcountry skier unserved, it covers all aspects of the sport, from skinning laps at the resort to mountaineering racing to simply skiing for fun. Hosted by Doug Stenclik and Randy Young, the show never takes skiing too seriously. As such, it’s a great listen, no matter if you’re in the car, uphilling at the resort, or tuning skis in the basement.

The Sharp End

Stories of other climbers’ screw-ups might not be the most inspiring thing to listen to on the way to the crag. However, they’re probably the most educational. Based on the American Alpine Club’s annual “Accidents in North American Climbing” report, The Sharp End shares stories of mishaps, epics, and accidents from the perspectives of those who’ve lived them. But, it’s not all storytime. A thoughtful analysis of each accident is designed to keep you from repeating it. While they might not all be pick-me-ups, the information might just save your life.

Outside Podcast

No time to read a monthly magazine? Get your dose of the adventure world’s best through Outside Magazine‘s podcast. Episodes from The Outside Podcast are a healthy conglomerate of stories told in print and then expertly crafted into audio, interviews with the biggest names, and stories analyzing survival in all conditions. Want to find out what it’s like to (almost) freeze to death? Listen to one of their earlier episodes.


VIDEO: Photographing the Milky Way Over Acadia

Video and text by Kris Roller
Video help from Nick Girard

Behind every great photo lies a story, one that describes the process and events leading up to the photograph. To me, the amount of planning and effort you put into its creation makes it that much better, and no photos require more work and preparation than astrophotos. When planning a shoot that involves the night sky, you have to take a few things into account: the equipment you are using, the location, and timing.

With astrophotography, the Milky Way is an extremely popular subject. But, depending on what part of the world you are in and the time of year, getting the perfect shot can be tricky.

Location

Generally, you want to be in an area with little-to-no light pollution. I use Google’s light pollution maps to help me pinpoint the darkest spots anywhere I travel. Also, the farther south you go, the more you can see the Milky Way and its galactic core. When you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way always faces south. So, for this photo, I knew I had to choose a location that would allow me to face in that direction, and Google Earth 3D helped me identify possible spots. And, because I knew I was shooting rock climbers, I also had to find a climbable rock that was pretty exposed to the night sky. Acadia, Maine, turned out to be perfect.

Timing

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way’s core can only be seen from February to late October. Depending on what’s in the foreground and where you want the Milky Way to be, you will want to plan your shoot during certain months. Various apps can help you organize this, and for this specific photo in Acadia, I used PhotoPills. The timing of the year was important, too, because I had to get the Milky Way a couple of hours into its initial rise above the eastern horizon. July ended up being ideal.

Equipment

Most DSLR cameras are great for shooting astrophotography. The equipment that I used was a Sony a7RII with a 24-70 mm f2.8 lens. Usually, you want to shoot the night sky anywhere from 14 to 24 mm—wide enough to see the Milky Way’s vastness. My setting was 24 mm 2500 ISO for 15 seconds. Generally, you can set the shutter speed to 20 or 25 seconds, but I had live subjects, so I had to keep it shorter than usual. Otherwise, any sudden movements would’ve made them come out blurry.

Post Processing

After I took the photo, I processed it in Adobe Photoshop first to bring the Milky Way’s details out. Then, I imported it into Lightroom to touch up the rest of the composition and balance the light on the foreground. After your shoot, there are numerous ways to process your work, but these two programs are the most common for night photography.

Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller

Song credit: “Pyrite Promises” by Dionysia


'The 46ers' Doc Goes to the Small Screen: A Q&A with Director Blake Cortright

Prior to 2012, when he spent a weekend backpacking, 18-year-old Blake Cortright knew next to nothing about the Adirondack 46ers—the mountains and the people. But, if the peaks are good at anything, it’s inspiring those who journey into them. Before long, Blake became fixated and hiked them constantly, hoping to craft his exploration of the 46 High Peaks and the group of hikers that share their name into a documentary. Today, that film (sponsored in part by Eastern Mountain Sports) is headed to the big-time, scheduled to air on PBS stations across the country, including WCNY on Monday, November 13. We sat down to talk with Blake about his progression from novice to storyteller and the things he picked up along the way.

goEast: How were you first connected to the Adirondack High Peaks, and how did that develop into wanting to create this film?

Blake: I hiked my first High Peak in 2008 with my Boy Scout troop. We summited Giant Mountain on a perfect autumn day, and that was my first “awe” moment in the Adirondack High Peaks. It wasn’t until a 2012 camping trip with my dad and my brother that I really got inspired to film in the High Peaks. We set out over three days to summit Marcy, Tabletop, Phelps, Algonquin, Iroquois, and Wright. We left with Marcy, Tabletop, and Wright and felt a new sense of reverence for the mountains.

During this trip, I got a little side of Mount Marcy all to myself and took in the sweeping views of lakes, rivers, mountains, and wilderness. That’s where the vision for the film ultimately came from—sitting atop Mt. Marcy on a beautiful summer day, looking out at the wild places as far as the eye could see. Shortly after returning from this camping trip, the wheels started to turn and the core question which drove the project began to take shape: “What transforms ordinary men and women into the legendary 46ers?”

Blake directing hikers on Whiteface. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Blake directing hikers on Whiteface. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

goEast: You must have done a ton of hiking while making this film!

Blake: We summited 14 High Peaks and several smaller mountains during production.

goEast: Do you have any memorable experiences from all of that?

Blake: Each trip held its own challenges and rewards, and I have fond memories from every day of filming. One of most memorable hiking experience was summiting Cascade around 5 a.m. We had set out to capture a crew finishing their 46th on Cascade with a beautiful sunrise. We carried a camera crane and counter weights for the crane to the summit along with all of our camera gear and our normal hiking gear. Unfortunately, shortly after we summited, we were wrapped up in clouds. The crew came up, and we filmed them with the crane, climbing up the rocky summit in thick clouds with a lot of wind.

It was a cold, dark morning, and we were thinking of calling it a day, but then, Adirondack photography legend Carl Heilman hiked up to us almost out of the clouds. I had been in touch with Carl and had invited him to this trip, which he said he might make depending on his schedule. His presence lifted our spirits, and he was optimistic that we might get a change in the weather. He was right. The clouds began to part and reveal an incredible undercast scene: a sea of clouds below us, stretching to the horizon, and the High Peaks rising up above those clouds, like islands in the sea. We all dashed around to get our gear ready and got tons of amazing shots that day. I’m very thankful for my patient crew, who waited out the weather with me on that day!

Blake and the team using a boom to film on Whiteface. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Blake and the team using a boom to film on Whiteface. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

goEast: You did a lot of hiking, but you also talked to a lot of people, some of whom are somewhat revered in local hiking circles. What did you get from that process?

Blake: What struck me early on in the interview process was how humble the 46ers are. I had set out to talk about “legendary hikers,” and most of them found that term amusing. They saw folks like the Marshall Brothers and Herbert Clark (the first 46ers) as the true legends. Their reverence extended not just to the people who literally blazed the trail, but also to the mountains themselves. I discovered a group of people who were not just thrill-seekers or checking off a list, but people who truly cared about the mountains and worked to conserve them. They all spoke of LNT principles, as well as safety and emergency preparedness. As an Eagle Scout, I knew many of the principles and safety precautions, but I learned even more from the amazing people I interviewed.

I was also inspired to learn of the Summit Steward Program and how multiple Adirondack organizations, including the 46ers, came together to address the erosion of the summits and the dangers to the rare alpine vegetation that lives there. The journey of the 46ers stretches far beyond adventure and into conservation and stewardship. It has been a privilege to learn from these folks and see them give back to a place that has given so much to them.

Blake interviewing one of the film's subjects. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Blake interviewing one of the film’s subjects. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

goEast: Fun question: In all the hiking you did for the film, was there one piece of gear that you would say was critical? 

Blake: While hiking, we always needed good boots, wool socks, backpacks, various jackets and layers, gloves, hats, etc. One that was easy to forget, but thankfully we didn’t, was a headlamp and extra batteries! Many of our hikes started or ended in the dark. So, having a headlamp was essential. Also, for me personally, after a few knee injuries in the High Peaks Wilderness, I finally bought a pair of trekking poles, and now, I never hike without them. We also made use of MICROspikes and snowshoes in our winter shoots. Depending upon the trail conditions, we would use one or the other, but we usually carried both.

goEast: You’re well on your way to becoming an Adirondack 46er from your time making the film alone. Do you want to finish it?

Blake: The 46ers film was a three-year process for me, from the initial idea to our finished product. And now, two years later, it’s about to be shown to an ever-growing audience, thanks to WCNY partnering with us to take the film further than we could on our own. At the outset of the journey, I thought I would likely finish my 46 while making the movie, but in hindsight, I’m thankful I didn’t. I learned so much from the 46ers I interviewed, from being out in the mountains and from putting the movie together. I will become a 46er down the road, but now, I know it will be a longer journey, and I’m okay with that.

One thing I learned from my interviews is that whether you hike them in a few weeks or over decades, the mountains will wait for you. I would say making the movie broadened my perspective about hiking and helped me to value the journey as much as the destination.

Blake with his crew and guests on Cascade Mountain. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Blake with his crew and guests on Cascade Mountain. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

goEast: You mentioned WCNY and other PBS stations picking the film up. Was that something you had in mind making it? Did you have an “end goal”?

Blake: When I had the initial inspiration for the project in 2012, I wanted it to be seen by a wide audience. We did a series of limited screenings in 2015 when we finalized the movie, and it was very well received by those audiences. I’m excited for the upcoming television release of The 46ers, as it will expand that audience far and wide around the U.S. There was something surreal about seeing a film I had made projected on the big screen and experiencing it with an audience. I’m very happy with how well the documentary has done and continues to do, and I’m hopeful that it will inspire more people to not only experience the outdoors, but also to take care to preserve and steward the wildernesses where they adventure.

goEast: It’s going to be seen now by a lot of people who don’t live in the Northeast, don’t know what the 46ers are, and may not even be familiar with the Adirondacks. What do you think they’re going to get from the film?

Blake: I think 46ers who see the film will take a trip down memory lane and hopefully feel joy watching the movie. I think those who love the Adirondacks will be awed by the beautiful cinematography my team captured, showcasing the mountains in a new and visually stunning way. I think those who are unfamiliar with the 46ers and the Adirondacks will be intrigued, inspired, and moved by the film. I hope the deep love for the wilderness comes across on screen and folks seeing this place for the first time will be better equipped to adventure in it after hearing not only the exciting stories, but also safety and LNT principles, which are so deeply connected to the culture of the Adirondacks and the 46ers.

Filming the remainder of the undercast on Cascade Mountain. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Filming the remainder of the undercast on Cascade Mountain. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

Newsflash: Adirondack Peaks To See Temporary Trailheads for Columbus Day Weekend

In an effort to keep hikers safe in the face of increased traffic for Columbus Day Weekend, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will be closing a section of Route 73 to parking that includes the trailheads for Cascade and Porter Mountains, and Pitchoff Mountain. Hikers for all three peaks will be able to park at the Mount Van Hoevenberg Sports Complex and use new trail connections to reach existing trails.

Beginning at dusk on Thursday, October 5 and stretching through dusk on Monday, October 9, pull-offs along State Route 73  west of the Cascade Lakes and east of the entrance to Mount Van Hovenburg will be closed, blocked off and patrolled by New York State Troopers.

Courtesy: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Courtesy: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Hikers planning to climb the summit of Cascade and/or Porter Mountains:

Hikers should park in parking lots at the Mount Van Hoevenberg Sports Complex at no cost. Volunteer stewards will direct hikers to a 2.0-mile marked route on the complex’s cross-country ski trail system. The route links to a newly constructed 0.4-mile connector trail between the ski trail and the Cascade Mountain Trail. The connector trail joins the Cascade Mountain Trail approximately 0.6 mile from the current trailhead. A roundtrip hike to the summit of Cascade Mountain will be 8.6 miles long—3.8 miles longer than the regular route from the Route 73 trailhead.

Hikers seeking to climb the summit of Pitchoff Mountain:

Hikers will also park at the Sports Complex and take the same route across the complex’s cross-country ski trail system. After 1.7 miles, the route to Pitchoff Mountain leaves the ski trail and traverses 0.3 miles across a private driveway to State Route 73. Hikers will then walk 0.15 miles and cross State Route 73 to the current trailhead for the Pitchoff Mountain Trail. A roundtrip hike to the summit of Pitchoff Mountain will be 8.4 miles long—4.4 miles longer than the regular route.

The current trailheads on Route 73 straddle a sharp narrow turn that has been known to be dangerous. “The Cascade Mountain trailhead is presently a parking hazard and nightmare,” said North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi. “I’m pleased DEC is taking action to address this public safety need by relocating the trailhead.” The relatively short hike and high reward, particularly of Cascade Mountain, combine to make it a very popular hike and the small pullout quickly reaches capacity during busy weekends.

The trailhead at Mount Van Hovenburg will feature bathrooms and food or drink concession. The DEC notes than hikers not interested in the increased length of these hikes should look for shorter options outside of the High Peaks Wilderness.


The Best Fall Foliage Hikes in Each Northeastern State

The window for viewing the Northeast’s stunning fall foliage is a small one, but it’s a bullseye you’re going to want to hit. If you can catch the colors at their peak, you’re in for a treat: Mountains and hillsides clad in flaming reds, oranges, and yellows. Trails get wreathed in an almost-glowing tunnel of color. And, lakes and ponds become muted blue islands in a sea of vibrance.

But, peak foliage happens fast, and to maximize your time out in it, you’ll want to know exactly where to head when it crescendos. Try these spots, recommended by our network of expert contributors, no matter where you are in the Northeast.

Credit: Lauren Danilek
Credit: Lauren Danilek

Maine: Deasey Mountain

Trek back to the high point of one of the nation’s newest National Monuments for panoramic views of Katahdin, the East Branch of the Penobscot, and the seemingly bulletproof Maine Woods, draped in vibrant colors. This 11.2-mile out-and-back winds from the dead end of a former logging road and past glacial erratics among hardwoods before climbing steeply to the rocky summit—complete with a ground-level observation tower to hunker down in. As a tip for your way up, driving through Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is just as exciting as hiking through it.

 

Credit: Jim
Credit: Jim

New Hampshire: Welch-Dickey Loop Trail

Offering great views of the valley and the southern White Mountains, this 4.5-mile loop located in Thornton, NH is perfect for fall foliage peeping. This moderate trek further allows the average hiker to truly soak in all of the fall colors the state has to offer. Most recommend completing the loop counterclockwise, following the trail up Welch Mountain first and then onto Dickey—perfect for peak bagging and leaf peeping!

 

Credit: Barrett Jones
Credit: Barrett Jones

Vermont: Owls Head

Located in Groton State Forest, Owls Head offers arguably one of Vermont’s best views. A great aspect of this hike is its accessibility. Whether you’re introducing kids to the great outdoors or looking for a pet-friendly trail, it’s sure to please any visitor. Why do we love it in autumn? One look from the summit at Kettle Pond’s contrasting colors against those fiery fall leaves would leave even Ansel Adams speechless.

 

Credit: nywilds
Credit: nywilds

New York: Ampersand Mountain

This Saranac Lake 6er is a must-hike in all seasons. Ampersand is a 5.4-mile round-trip hike through the woods, culminating in phenomenal views from its bald summit. A beautifully made rock staircase helps you ascend the trail’s steep sections, and there are a few scrambles as you approach the summit. But, the views from the top are more than worth the effort. On one side, the Seward Range and Ampersand Lake look deep into untainted Adirondack Wilderness. On the other, the Saranac chain of lakes is cloaked in vibrant colors. Start early and bring lunch, so you can take your time and enjoy all the summit has to offer.

 

Tully_Mountain_Outlook,_Orange,_MA

Massachusetts: Tully Mountain and Doane’s Falls

Take your pick: Hike Tully Mountain for foliage-soaked views stretching from Mount Monadnock to the Quabbin Valley, or take a more gentle stroll around Tully Lake to have a look at Doane’s Falls, where Lawrence Brook tumbles down from the surrounding ridges. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, backpack or hike the entire 22-mile Tully Trail, as it loops through its undeveloped namesake valley, filled with vibrant color.

 

Credit: Michael Martineau
Credit: Michael Martineau

Connecticut: Sleeping Giant State Park

Nestled in Hamden is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. Sleeping Giant State Park is home to a variety of trails and climbing routes to explore, but the ever-popular Tower Trail is definitely one you won’t want to pass up, especially during fall foliage season. This three-mile round-trip hike leads you right up the Giant’s Head. As a note, the park is called Sleeping Giant because, from afar, the mountains look like a giant sleeping on his side.

The exposed outcrops allow you to look as far south as the Long Island Sound, and sometimes, especially on extremely clear days, you can make out the faint New York City skyline. Don’t stop there, though. Continue on the blue trail until you reach the stone castle! Then, climb to the top to take in the beautiful sea of reds, oranges, and yellow. Bonus: This is an epic sunrise spot, too!

 

Credit: Gary Brownell
Credit: Gary Brownell

Rhode Island: Ell Pond

Ell Pond is the rare area of geologic undulation in the otherwise-flat Ocean State, featuring rocky, exposed ridges separated by Long and Ell Ponds tucked into deep gashes. Any one of the bedrock escarpments offers views down into the lakes and the red maple and white cypress that surround them. Follow the Long Pond Trail from Canonchet Road along Long Pond. Then, walk between it and Ell for views down into both bodies.

 

 

SheperdLake2

New Jersey: Shepherd Lake and Mount Defiance

If you are short on time but still want to sneak in a hike to get some great leaf-peeping views, a trip to Ringwood State Park is what you’re looking for. Ringwood is nestled in the middle of the Ramapo Mountains on the New Jersey-New York border, offering access to miles of hiking and biking trails. The view of hardwood forests surrounding the pond right from the parking area is a great way to jump-start the 3.5-mile hike. Take any combination of carriage road and single-track trails up towards the 1,040-foot summit of Mount Defiance. Along the way, multiple rocky outcroppings give you views of the surrounding hills. 

This area of New Jersey is not as developed as most people think, so expect to see lots of color in the thick canopy. However, the best view is not actually right at the summit but instead about 350 feet south. If you descend the west side’s steep trail, you will be able to explore Skylands Manor, also known as the New Jersey Botanical Garden, before making your way back to the car.

 

Credit: John Hayes
Credit: John Hayes

Pennsylvania: Pulpit Rock and The Pinnacle

The top viewpoints along the Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail are perfect for experiencing peak fall in Appalachia. Over a nine-mile loop from the Hamburg Wastewater Treatment Plant, you’ll climb 1,300 feet along the AT to both summits, before following Furnace Creek back to your car. From both summits of this two-fer, take in the colors of the Lehigh Valley and surrounding ridges, speckled with vibrant hemlock.

 


Newsflash: American Alpine Club purchases climbers camp at Rumney

The American Alpine Club is bringing its collection of climbers’ campgrounds and huts, which includes a campground in the ‘Gunks, to the best sport crag in the East. The organization announced, today, that is has purchased Rattlesnake Campground adjacent to the Rumney Rocks Climbing Area in New Hampshire.

Previously owned and operated by a local couple, the 15-acre property sits between the Baker River and Buffalo Road, directly across the street from the Meadows and Parking Lot Walls on the crag’s east side.

“Rumney is one of the country’s finest sport-climbing destinations,” said AAC CEO Phil Powers. “With visitation on the rise, and with more than 22 million Americans and Canadians within weekend striking distance, the American Alpine Club is proud to participate in a sustainable long-term camping solution for this popular spot.”

Rumney Rattlesnake

Courtesy: American Alpine Club
Courtesy: American Alpine Club

Rumney Rattlesnake will continue to act primarily as a first-come first-serve campground with a large communal area, fire pits, and picnic tables. In addition, the AAC plans to set aside a small number of online-reservable, private campsites in the near future. Porta potties and access to potable water will continue to be available at the property’s barn, but the AAC also plans to open the barn in the future as a community space and weather shelter for climbers with full bathrooms and showers.

AAC members will see a discounted $8 per night rate starting immediately and non-members will be charged $12 per night. Dogs are also now allowed on the property.

“With the Rumney Campground now part of the AAC’s growing lodging network, we are looking forward to welcoming climbers from around the Northeast and the world to experience this wonderful place, learn, challenge themselves, and meet old and new friends,” said Powers.


Q&A With Cris Rothfuss of The REAL Ride

Follow the team on our REAL RIDE Tracking Hub!

Cross-country road trips are hard, even when you’re in a car. Biking across the country? You’d better have a pretty good reason. Cris Rothfuss and the rest of The REAL Ride team definitely do. On August 1, this small group of cyclists will head out from Seattle and spend a handful of months crossing a minimum of 14 states, stopping in three other major cities en route to Boston. They’ll be living on two wheels, spending days in the saddle, and pedaling through rainforest, rocky mountains, dry desert, great plains, fertile valleys, and bustling metropolises. Luckily for them, they have a good motivator acting as a tailwind.

We sat down with Rothfuss to hear a little more about her plans.

Rothfus during a practice ride. | Courtesy: The REAL Ride
Rothfuss during a practice ride. | Courtesy: The REAL Ride

goEast: Cycling has been a pretty big part of your life. What drew you to that?

Cris: I grew up in Coventry, Rhode Island, the oldest of three sisters in a tight-knit family. I went to Yale and then UConn School of Law. I grew up playing team sports, including basketball and track and field at Yale. I’ve always cherished being part of a team, and consider those experiences as among the most meaningful and formative of my life.

After tearing my ACL playing basketball in college, I bought a 10-speed bike as part of my rehab. I loved it. Later on, I raced bicycles in three disciplines: road, mountain bike, and cyclocross. Cyclocross was my strongest event, and I ended up racing at the national elite level.

goEast: What do you do when you’re not on your bike?

Cris: Outside of competitive sports, I’ve enjoyed hiking and mountaineering, including having summited all 48 White Mountain 4,000-footers, Mount Katahdin, and Mount Rainier. I also have enjoyed sailing with my family, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, all manner of water sports, and really anything that gets me outdoors.

And, I like giving back. I consider myself a fortunate human being, and am deeply interested at this point in my life in paying forward. I designed The REAL Ride to be something not only bold and ambitious, but something that could make a positive impact for others. All of us on the team view The REAL Ride as existing at the intersection of seeking adventure and making the world a better place.

bushwhacking

goEast: But, biking across the country? That’s a big step. What made you think that was something you wanted to do?

Cris: My family had a rough year in 2014. In the span of five months, we lost both of my parents and my uncle to a series of illnesses and accidents. In early 2015, one of the things I found comforting and therapeutic was to ride my bike. I had stopped racing by then, and started riding longer and longer distances, usually on gravel.

In early 2016, someone sent me an article about a cross-country bike ride, and I was struck with a compulsion to do something similar, although, I realized almost immediately, I wanted the ride to mean something bigger than myself—to honor my parents and all the boldness and ambition they had instilled in me and my sisters, and to make some positive impact in the world. The seeds for The REAL Ride had been planted.

Cris' bike with Ortlieb bags

goEast: You went beyond your own personal story for motivation, though. What was the rest of the “bigger meaning” you were able to assign to The REAL Ride?

Cris: We are raising awareness and funding for the efforts of a group of alternative high schools—Boston Day & Evening Academy (in Boston), Interagency Academy (in Seattle), Emily Griffith High School (in Denver), Milford Success Academy (in Cincinnati), and C.B. Community Schools (in Philadelphia)—as well as the students, who make their way to the doorsteps of these schools, having recognized that an education is the key to changing their futures.

goEast: Who are these kids?

Cris: They are young adults who have had a rough time in life, including in getting through high school. They got off track, often due to circumstances not of their own making. And, yet they persevere, and find their way to a high school degree, the alternative, rigorous way. Their own words more powerfully describe who they are.

Dan-Perri-Jay-Erin at team training camp

goEast: So, you talk about the route you chose to take across country as being somewhat “unconventional.” How did you come up with it?

Cris: Instead of following one of the established (i.e. paved) routes, we chose to pioneer a new route across the country, focusing as much on dirt as possible. The route tracks through the locations of our five partner schools in Seattle, Denver, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Boston, and is unconventional for that reason alone. It’s not the most direct route!

Starting with those points, and without the ability to scout in advance, we then researched “validated” segments that connect those points: Sections of dirt routes already established by others that we could stitch together between our target cities. We then filled in the gaps with our own mapping.

We’ll start on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail and the railroad beds that extend contiguously from it further east, all the way to Missoula. After some “gap filling,” we’ll pick up Adventure Cycling Association’s excellent and well-established Great Divide Mountain Bike Route almost all of the way to Denver. There’s a bit of “gap filling” we worked out with the help of local friends between Kremmling, Colorado, and Denver.

In the Midwest, we’ll spend over 500 miles roughly tracking the historical Pony Express Trail, on a route under development pioneered by Jan Bennett, with whom we connected through Ride With GPS. We followed this approach to stitch established and “fingers crossed” segments all the way home.

We’d be lying, however, if we didn’t admit that we’re scrambling to finish up the eastern portion of the route! We expect to hit snags and surprises on this route, but that’s the nature of pioneering. We’ll adjust on the fly.

team at party

goEast: Who’s “we?”

Cris: Four other riders who fit the bill of being deeply experienced and capable of such a ride, able to make it work in their lives and jobs, able to contribute positively to team chemistry, and crazy enough to say yes to this. In particular, they are Erin Abrahams, a veterinarian and Army veteran, with the world’s most infectious smile; Perri Mertens, a fellow ex-cyclocross racer and graphic and web designer extraordinaire, responsible for our digital presence and ride logo; Dan St. Croix, a visual display artist for Urban Outfitters, a fine artist, [and] a throw-back soul with a heart of gold and legs of steel; and Jay Vasconcellos, owner of Solstice Skateboarding in New Bedford, MA, a boarding legend, [and] salt of the earth [person].

goEast: The grit that it takes to be on the road for that long has to be pretty serious. What are you expecting that to be like?

Cris: We will be averaging 65 miles per day riding (some days more, some less), and we are equipped to camp much of the time.

Each team member has a Big Agnes tent, either the Copper Spur or the Fly Creek; these make terrific anchors for our individual sleeping systems. We have a mix of JetBoil and MSR WhisperLite stoves for personal cooking. While we have a SAG vehicle that will find us at the end of most days, we’re prepared to ride “fully loaded” and be self-sufficient in some of the more remote regions where van accessibility is not guaranteed. Ortlieb USA generously provided full bike-packing bag and rack set-ups for our frames, and we’ve been blown away in our testing with how excellent they are.

That being said, the van gives us a “base camp,” so we’ll also have a two-burner camp stove, a GSI Outdoors Base Camper cook set, a huge supply of freeze-dried food generously donated by Mountain House, and other amenities to ease such a long-term trip. Oh, and we’ve budgeted rest days and some nights in motels, so we’re not totally crazy!

Cris' Seven Cycles Evergreen

goEast: Is there anything you’re really worried about?

There is an inordinate fear of bears and snakes on this team! We were looking forward to the two-mile-long Snoqualmie Tunnel before someone mentioned aggressive gopher snakes. Just what the heck?

We’re also extremely mindful of nutrition. Sourcing and consuming the appropriate fuel and hydration for this extended, arduous ride is going to be a full-time focus. We have good guidance and help in this regard, but still…it’s a concern.

goEast: What are you most excited about?

Cris: Experiencing vast western vistas—practically a foreign land for this band of New Englanders. Taking in the diversity and breadth of this country, from an off-the-beaten-track vantage point, at a pace that allows absorption and contemplation of the experience.

 

Follow The REAL Ride on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and visit their website to learn more and find out how to support them!

Then, check back to goEast later next month to follow their progress!


The Top 8 360-Degree Adirondack High Peak Views

You’ll see a lot of things from the top of an Adirondack High Peak—endless summits, gray slides scarring mountainsides, alpine lakes, and deep gouging passes. But, aside from the stray ski jump peaking up above the thick carpet of trees, one thing you won’t see much of is civilization. More than any other range in the Northeast, the Adirondacks are alone, set far away from the region’s cities and towns. As a result, this makes the views from these bare (or not) summits all that much better.

No two summits offer the same perspective, however, so which ones are the best? See them for yourselves below, and then, start planning your next hike to one of these high alpine islands.

1. Mount Colden

There’s no quick way to get to Mount Colden, but the longer hike definitely pays off. You’ll climb into the heart of the High Peaks Wilderness, an area completely surrounded by giant summits, including the state’s two highest—Marcy and Algonquin—directly east and west of you, respectively. Peer down into Avalanche Pass and Lake Colden, and then out to the Flowed Lands, located just north of the Hudson River’s beginning. The hike from the Adirondack Loj will take you past the former site of Marcy Dam, where a clearing offers views down Avalanche Pass as if it were a gunsight.

 

2. Mount Marcy

Not having anything above you definitely goes a long way to making a mountain’s views memorable. In New York, Mount Marcy is the place to do that. The summit is completely bare and rocky for a few hundred feet up, meaning absolutely nothing obstructs your view of just about all the other High Peaks. To the east, gaze 1,000 feet down into Panther Gorge and Mount Haystack beyond. Catch views of Lake Placid to the north, and the river valleys to the south. Plus, the hike via the Van Hoevenberg Trail offers a smattering of worthy views, like Marcy Dam and Indian Falls.

 

3. Gothics Mountain

The Great Range peaks make up a continuous line extending from Marcy and Haystack all the way into Keene Valley. Here, Gothics sits smack in the middle. The summit has the best views of the Upper Great Range, including Haystack, Basin, and Saddleback, all lining up and pointing to Marcy. The Dix Range dominates the southeast, and Big Slide’s bald face sits alone across the Johns Brook Valley. Hike it from the Ausable Club and past Beaver Meadow Falls.

 

4. Mount Skylight

Marcy’s next-door neighbor to the south, Skylight has similar panoramic views from its bald summit, with one notable addition—Marcy herself, rising from behind Lake Tear of the Clouds. For reference, this article’s header image was taken on Skylight at sunrise. You’re pretty close to the High Peaks’ southern edge, which means, as you’re looking out, the mountains slowly shrink away and give you great views of the Upper Hudson River Valley. Hike this one from Upper Works, tracing the Hudson River’s path to Lake Tear, the river’s highest source.

 

5. Cascade Mountain

Cascade is one of the Adirondacks’ most popular “first-timer” peaks, and for good reason. For starters, while it’s a relatively quick and easy hike up from Route 73, the views from the top are spectacular, making it one of the 46’s best bang-for-your-buck treks. The rocky summit lines up with the rest of the peaks to the south and Lake Placid and Whiteface just down the road to the north. Make it a two-fer by adding the less-impressive Porter Mountain to your itinerary.

 

6. Rocky Peak Ridge

In this area, Giant Mountain gets most of the attention. But, its smaller neighbor, Rocky Peak Ridge, has arguably better views. Unlike Giant, they’re nearly 360 degrees. Plus, the view of Giant itself is impressive. Look down toward Keene Valley with the Great Range beyond, or try to pick out the fire tower on Hurricane Mountain, located on the other side of Giant. The bummer is there’s no quick way to get here. So, climb over Giant and through the deep col between the two, or approach RPR from the ridge to the east—longer but with consistent views all the way to the top.

 

7. Algonquin Peak

From Algonquin, the state’s second-tallest mountain, the views of the Trap Dike and slides on Mount Colden dominate. Beneath that, Avalanche Pass and Lake Colden slice a deep gorge into the valley. Above Colden, Mount Marcy’s bare summit towers over everything, with the Great Range extending to the left. Algonquin is part of the four-peak chain known as the MacIntyre Range, and thus, you can also tag Wright and Algonquin in one long day, with views extending across all three summits. Keep in mind that the range’s final peak, Marshall, isn’t connected by the same ridgeline trail.

 

8. Whiteface Mountain

Far to the north, Whiteface offers a unique perspective of the region. Immediately south, scenic Lake Placid is laid out, surrounded by smaller mountains. Beyond that, the High Peaks’ center, a jumble of jagged summits, clusters together. The views here are so popular that a road goes up to the top. But, for a handful of viewpoints on the way up, hike it via Marble Mountain from the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center.


Win a One-Night Stay for 2 to the Mount Washington Observatory!

Spend a night atop the Northeast in the home of the “World’s Worst Weather!”

When it comes to hiking in the Northeast, Mount Washington is a crown jewel. Aside from being just the regional high point, its rugged alpine beauty, a network of multi-sport trails and routes, and its sometimes-ferocious difficulty make it one of the premier adventure destinations anywhere. But, with all the people that travel over the mountain every year, there’s one way very few get to experience the mountain: at night.

In cooperation with the Mount Washington Observatory, which staffs a weather station on the summit 24/7, Eastern Mountain Sports is offering you the chance to spend a night on top with the observers and see Mount Washington like you never have before.

You’ll have the opportunity to see what goes into weather recording and forecasting, which go a long way towards keeping hikers and explorers safe in its notoriously volatile conditions. EMS is a sponsor of the Observatory’s annual Seek The Peak event, which helps raise money for the weather station. Sign up to help out here!

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What you’ll get:

Winners will receive a trip for two to the Mount Washington Observatory, scheduled from Thursday, August 31 through Friday, September 1. In total, this includes:

  • Transportation to the summit of the mountain. (Winners will need to provide their own transportation to the base of the mountain in Jackson, New Hampshire.)
  • Lunch, dinner, and breakfast served at the Observatory.
  • A hike with the Observatory’s staff.
  • A tour of the Observatory’s weather station.
  • Sunrise and sunset viewing from the top of the Northeast.
  • Transportation back to the base of the mountain.

Enter here:

A Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Header image credit: jwardell


How to Pack Your "Seek the Peak" Daypack

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Whether you’re “Seeking the Peak” on Mount Washington, climbing an Adirondack High Peak, or taking on some of New Hampshire’s hardest, one thing you’re likely to bring is your daypack. But, having all that extra stuff inside won’t do you much good if you’re not packing it the right way, with everything easily accessible, organized, and distributed correctly.

For a day hike on Mount Washington, you’ll want to make sure you have the following things:

3L reservoir

Especially during the summer, having enough water to climb Mount Washington is vital. Usually, three liters will be enough to get you up and down, but it won’t do you any good if you’re not drinking it. Storing it in a bladder against your pack’s back panel will keep it within reach and help ensure you’re staying hydrated.

First aid kit

Anything could happen on Mount Washington. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you had your first aid kit. Store this in the pack’s main compartment.

Rain jacket

Mount Washington is known for its unpredictable and wild weather. It could be raining at any minute! So, keep a quality, breathable rain jacket easily accessible in the outside stretch pocket.

Extra Techwick T-shirt

After a long, sweaty climb, it’s sometimes nice to have a clean, dry shirt to put on top, especially in Mount Washington’s winds. Store this at the bottom of your main compartment.

Fleece

At over 6,200 feet, Mount Washington can be cold on top! As preparation, always carry an extra layer, even in the summer. Store this at the bottom of your main compartment, with your T-shirt.

Pack cover

If it starts raining, you don’t want everything in your pack to get wet, so throw a pack cover on top. Some have them built in, but if yours doesn’t, keep a separate one close by in your main compartment.

Stuff sack with lunch

Climbing Mount Washington is a full-day endeavor. To prepare, bring plenty of snacks to eat along the way, along with a larger lunch to have on top. Keep most of it in a stuff sack in your main compartment, but it’s also nice to have a Clif Bar or two in your hip belt pocket for easy access.

Multi-tool

You never know! Have this in your other hip belt pocket in case you need it in a pinch.

Headlamp

It’s always a good idea to have a headlamp in your pack, even if you don’t plan on hiking in the dark. Again, anything can happen, and you’ll be wishing you had one if you end up getting down a littler later than expected.

Trekking poles

Mount Washington is rocky and steep, so these will be in your hands more often than not. However, for Osprey packs, if you need to free your hands up in a pinch, you can strap them under your arm in the dedicated trekking pole holster.

Compass and Map

Keep these handy and know how to use them! Mount Washington is a maze of trails, but if the conditions change quickly, you might not be able to see them at all.

GPS unit

This is always a handy thing to have in addition to your map and compass. Keep it in a hip belt pocket or clipped to a shoulder strap to follow along on your hike.

GoPro

There are several awesome things to see on the Northeast’s tallest peak, so take pictures and video! Keep this handy in a side pocket.

Bug protection

Especially down low, bugs are a staple of Mount Washington’s summers. Apply this before you leave in your car, but keep it in your main compartment in case you need more.

Sunscreen

Just like bug spray, apply this before you leave, but save it in case you need to reapply, especially on the exposed summit.

 

Do you have everything you need to Seek the Peak?

Mount Washington from Mount Monroe. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Mount Washington from Mount Monroe. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns