Video: Traveling the Greater Patagonian Trail

For four months, a team of travellers in their early twenties set out to hike along the unrelenting Greater Patagonian Trail. Engaging with locals along the way, the volunteers are reminded of the stark discrepancy between their ways of life, and are made aware of the looming developmental projects that threaten the previously untouched and untainted areas across Patagonia. In a moving display of companionship, ‘Unbounded’ illustrates that the future of the country rests on the preservation and protection of its breath-taking natural spaces. Watch the full film here.

Ditch the Cold: 8 Wintertime Rock Climbing Escapes in North America

The bliss of cool Sendtember and Rocktober days has finally given way to downright cold, snow-, and ice-covered rock and perpetually numb fingertips. To us climbers, that usually means we either give in to the sterile siren song of the climbing gym, turn in our rock shoes for ski boots, or go full masochist and pick up ice tools to tide us over until our screaming barfies resign and our frozen fingers thaw. But, fear not. While your Rumney project is snowed-in, other climbing areas are coming into their prime, if you can escape the Northeast to check them out. So, take a winter vacation, dig your rock shoes back out, and sample some of the best winter climbing destinations in North America.

Credit: Ted Schiele
Credit: Ted Schiele

The American Southwest & Mexico

The American Southwest is undoubtedly the best place to go. Plentiful sun and mild temperatures will melt away your icy Northeastern core. Whether you’re a new boulderer just getting your feet wet or a hardened tradster who isn’t ready to sacrifice your fingers and toes to the ice climbing gods, the Southwest is open to a lifetime of trips.

Credit: Ted Schiele
Credit: Ted Schiele

Joshua Tree National Park, CA

The former stomping grounds of climbing legends like John Bachar and John Long, Joshua Tree’s rock formations beg to be climbed. The park is home to roughly 5,000 routes, so its variety really shines. Bring your crack skills and your rack, because you’re inside a wonderland of rocks. World-class bouldering also intermingles with trad climbing here, for those who want to stay closer to the ground.

Lodging can be had in the town of Joshua Tree, but if you really want to immerse yourself in the rock, get a spot at either Ryan or Hidden Valley Campground and walk to these world-class climbs. On rest days, go exploring the labyrinths of rock, or check out the multitude of day hikes and short loops. Don’t miss the Cholla Cactus Garden at sundown or the views of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts from atop Ryan Mountain.


  • Double Cross (5.7+, trad)
  • Sail Away (5.8, trad)
  • White Rastafarian (V2 R)
Credit: Hayden Bove
Credit: Hayden Bove

Red Rock Canyon, NV

Its placement right outside Las Vegas makes Red Rocks a perfect winter getaway. The beautiful sandstone peaks provide ample opportunities for every sort of climber. If you’re a boulderer, check out the Kraft Boulders for concentrated bouldering, or venture deep into the canyons for a solitary experience. Sport routes are ample throughout the area, especially in Calico Basin and The Black Corridor, where great lines are just an arm’s length apart.

For the adventure climber, Red Rocks is a no-brainer, as it offers routes over 1,000 feet tall for full-day outings on bomber, well-protected rock. Stay at the nearby campground, snag a local Airbnb, or go all-out and hit the Strip to try to make back that money you spent on new cams. Rain is infrequent in this area, especially compared to the East, but if there is precipitation, be sure not to climb until the rock has fully dried to preserve the routes.


  • Solar Slab (9 pitches, 5.6, trad)
  • Epinephrine (13 pitches, 5.9, trad)
  • Levitation 29 (9 pitches, 5.11b, mixed)
Credit: Ted Schiele
Credit: Ted Schiele

Bishop, CA

A favorite among climbers, this unassuming town on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada is California’s most concentrated climbing hotspot, packed with sport destinations, world-famous bouldering areas, and alpine granite masterpieces.

The steep-walled Owens River Gorge cuts through hundreds of feet of volcanic tuft. As such, the sport climbs here are long and pumpy, favoring endurance over all else. Despite sharing the same rock as the gorge, the boulders on the Volcanic Tablelands offer more gymnastic movement, involving pockets and overhanging features. It stays much warmer here than any other climbing area in Bishop, so it’s a great option when the temperature drops.

Credit: Ted Schiele
Credit: Ted Schiele

The real crown jewel, though, is the Buttermilks. These granite monoliths sit below the imposing Mount Tom on the edge of the Owens River Valley. They have a reputation as only a location for highball bouldering, but that isn’t true. Rather, there are classic climbs for people of all comfort levels.

The town is full of climbers, van-dwellers, and vacationers alike. Check into one of the hotels in town or make use of the Pleasant Valley Campground at only $2 a night. Being only 45 minutes from Mammoth means that you could be bouldering at the Buttermilks in the morning, and make it to Mammoth Mountain for some fresh Sierra powder by lunch.


  • Heavenly Path (V1)
  • Jedi Mind Tricks (V4)
  • High Plains Drifter (V7)
Courtesy: Visit El Paso
Courtesy: Visit El Paso

Hueco Tanks, TX

The birthplace of American bouldering is a winter destination that still holds up to this day. Much has changed since the legendary John Sherman devised his V-grade scale here. Currently, two of the three areas, East and West Mountains, are closed to the public without a paid guide, due to a high concentration of sensitive pictographs. North Mountain is open without a guide, but climbers must make reservations in advance. Despite the red tape, it remains an awesome spot to spend a trip and provides a more private and pure experience than what you would find at places like Red Rocks.


  • Ghetto Simulator (V2)
  • Moonshine Roof (V4)
  • Baby Face (V7)
Courtesy: Scarpa
Courtesy: Scarpa

El Potrero Chico, Mexico

Ever dream about doing Yosemite-esque, big-wall climbing with nothing but a stash of quickdraws? Dream no more, because, just south of the border, the small town of Hidalgo is a limestone paradise and more. Fly to Monterrey, Mexico, and catch a taxi, or punch it south from Laredo, Texas, for three hours to arrive in Hidalgo. Nearly everything is a sport line that is well-bolted and without crazy runouts, including 20-pitch big-wall routes.

If 2,000-foot epics aren’t in your wheelhouse, more reasonable multi-pitch outings and single-pitch cragging can be had all within a short walk or drive from town. Stay at one of the numerous campgrounds and climbers’ hangouts here, all with views of cliffs like Rancho el Sendero and Homero.


  • Will the Wolf Survive? (4 pitches, 5.10a, sport)
  • Space Boyz (11 pitches, 5.10d, sport)
  • Gringo Disco (1 pitch, 5.11b, sport)


The Southeast

Long known for its outstanding climbing, Southeast sandstone is some of the finest anywhere. It’s perhaps best known as a fall destination because of places like Red River Gorge in Kentucky and New River Gorge in West Virginia, but drive a little further south towards Chattanooga and get ready to slap some Southern slopers through until spring. All of these destinations are close to each other, so hitting them all in one short trip is possible. Word to the wise: This is still the East we’re talking about, so it rains and will likely be chilly. Need a place to stay on your Southern journey, and you’re not into stealth camping? Hit up the Crash Pad in Chattanooga for a place to…crash, as well as pick up some beta on all the locations. It’s also a nice central location for all the bouldering in the area.


Stone Fort (LRC), TN

Stone Fort (aka Little Rock City) has something for everyone: great, inspiring lines at all grades, slopers, crimps, highballs, and lowballs. The boulders are on a golf course, so park at the climbers’ specific lot and sign in at the clubhouse.


  • Storming The Castle (V1+)
  • Mystery Machine (V3)
  • The Wave (V6)

Ricktown, GA

Rocktown, GA

More secluded than either Stone Fort or HP40, Rocktown is a newer area with fresh problems still being put up. The rock is similar to elsewhere in the Chattanooga area, with huecos, crimps, and a plethora of slopers leading to even more slopers and then to the top-outs. Free camping is possible in the lot for those looking for a longer-term visit or wanting to keep costs down.


  • Ripple (V2)
  • Croc Block (V5)
  • Golden Shower (V5)

Horse Pens 40, AL

A remarkably dense boulder field that can be traversed in 10 minutes means there’s less approaching and more sending. Get your top-out pants on, because these routes are challenging and slopey. And, stock up on skincare materials—it’s like climbing on sandpaper here. HP40 is on private land in the foothills of the Southern Appalachians, so be sure to respect the owners. If you aren’t making use of the camping on site, pay your bouldering fee to ensure that we can continue to climb here. It’s less than two hours from Chattanooga, so it’s a good option to stay here for a few days at a time before returning to the other boulder fields nearer to the city.


  • Bum Boy (V3)
  • Groove Rider (V5)
  • Popeye (V5)

Explore Like a Local: Summertime Fun in Lake Placid, NY

The name Lake Placid immediately conjures images of winter sports, given that the Olympics have been held in this beautiful Adirondack town not once, but twice. Even today, it’s such a winter staple that numerous U.S. Olympic teams train regularly in the area. Summertime in the area can be overlooked, but the lack of snow and ice hardly diminishes Lake Placid as a destination, and you definitely don’t need to be an Olympian to take advantage of it all. With a plethora of hiking, climbing, paddling options, and more, Lake Placid is a true year-round outdoor destination.


Warm-Weather Activities

Hiking & Trail Running

With 46 High Peaks, or peaks originally thought to be over 4,000 ft., along with numerous lakes, the Adirondacks have many different trail types to choose from, particularly near Lake Placid. One popular, family-friendly hike is Cobble Hill, which is visible from town and just across Mirror Lake. A family with kids can make the summit in under an hour and enjoy views of town and the High Peaks area.

If you’re up for a longer hike and are looking for a big payoff, set out for Indian Head, a low summit with truly amazing views of Lower Ausable Lake (pronounced awe•SAY•ble). The land is part of the privately owned Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR), but hikers are allowed to access the three-plus mile dirt road that leads to the trailhead. Allow for at least five hours round trip and bring plenty of water! Public parking is available in the St. Huberts parking area on Route 73, south of Lake Placid.

The Ausable Chasms are a natural wonder of the Adirondacks, and hiking the area’s trails is well worth the $17.95 admission price ($9.95 for kids).


Rock Climbing

The Adirondacks have over 250 climbing areas, and Keene Valley, just south of town, serves as the epicenter, given its wide variety of climbs. Just a short drive away, the Beer Walls await both beginners and experts alike. Route 73 has convenient parking, and it’s a quick hike to the top of the climbing area. All the routes here can be led, but top-roping is the standard means of access. Climbing routes range in difficulty from 5.4 up to 5.13, and the views of Keene Valley are spectacular.

The EMS Climbing School guides lead climbing trips to all of the local spots and for all different levels of expertise. The school is located in the lower level of the town’s EMS store.



Let’s face it: This is Lake Placid. Whether you set out on Lake Placid proper or Mirror Lake, which abuts Main Street, this is one spectacular spot to hit the water. Surrounded by mountains in all directions and the town on one side, these lakes are remarkably beautiful. At dusk and dawn, prepare to be thrilled by the call of the loon and other indigenous creatures. Lake Placid allows motorized boats, while Mirror Lake is reserved for human-powered crafts (electric motors are allowed but rarely seen).

Our EMS store on Main Street backs up to Mirror Lake, and we rent kayaks, tandem kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) directly on the water. Seriously, you can launch a boat from the back of the store. How cool is that? Click here for more info.



In addition to the lakes, the area has other wonderful places to swim. A particularly scenic spot is at the base of the Flume Falls on the Ausable River, north of town. Park in the Wildfire Flume Trailhead lot, and walk a short ways down the river to the base of the waterfall. There, you’ll find a bucolic swimming hole, surrounded by small cliffs from which to jump. Folks have been known to string up an illicit rope swing, and the Department of Environmental Conservation dutifully cuts it down a few times per season.

Mountain Biking

Whether you want to ride the Olympic Cross Country trails, bomb down Little Whiteface, or hit technical single-track trails, Lake Placid has it all for beginners and experts alike. You can access some trails right from town, so pick up a local trail map to find the course that best suits you.


Camping Options

“Options” is the optimal word. The area surrounding Lake Placid offers traditional tent campsites, cabin rentals, canvas cabins, and lean-tos. As one convenient option close to town, the ADK Wilderness Campground sits alongside a lake and offers multiple camping options, along with restroom facilities, or hike into the wilderness itself for free camping with fewer facilities.



There are plenty of good post-hike food and drink options in the area, but as soon as you arrive in Lake Placid, head straight to Smoke Signals (campsite set-up or hotel check-in can wait). Choose a spot in its exposed brick interior or on the patio overlooking Mirror Lake; then, order marbled Brisket and a side of Mac & Cheese. You may not be hungry for a day afterwards, but you’ll thank me. If, however, that looks like too much to handle, the barbecue Tacos Trio, the Hanger Steak, and the BBQ wings are all terrific. Other excellent dinner options are Lisa G’s and The Cottage.

Assuming that you’re hungry the next morning, The Breakfast Club, Etc. awaits just down the street. As the restaurant is known for its hearty fare and Bloody Marys, you may have to wait a bit for a seat on busy weekends. I recommend the BC Röstis (pronounced ROOST•ee—it’s Swiss!). Picture a cast iron skillet on a slab of wood, filled with hash browns covered with bacon, covered again with cheese, and topped off with two eggs. Side effects include loss of appetite, rapture, and, in rare cases, food coma (easily cured by a nap).

As one compelling reason to visit in the summer, Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream is only open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. You pick the size and a cone or cup; they, however, pick the flavor. That’s because they make one flavor a day, always twisted with vanilla. There will be a line, but it moves fast. Donnelly’s is a bit of a drive (14 miles or 25 minutes) from Main Street in Lake Placid, but that gives you time to digest your lunch or dinner! Emma’s Ice Cream in town is also very good, and they allow you to choose your flavor.


All that and nary a mention of the area’s winter activities? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot for a summertime mountain getaway. Swing by the EMS store while in town to get local beta, upgrade your gear, pick up camping supplies, rent a kayak or SUP, or take a climbing adventure through the school. We hope to see you soon.

The Dirtbag's Almost-Quiche

The dirtbag lifestyle can certainly hold you back from many of life’s fancier accoutrements. But, with a little creativity and imagination, your kitchen productions don’t need to be one of them.

When it comes to the meal that delivers the fuel required for a long day of dirtbagging, this is one easy, filling, and delicious dish that won’t leave you and your companions broke or out of Coleman fuel, and doesn’t take anything you don’t have easy access to—for instance, nothing that requires immediate refrigeration.

My girlfriend and I were staying in a one-room cabin while volunteering in Northern California, sans electricity, which meant we had to get creative with our meals on a propane stove. But, this recipe is doable on any camp stove or the single-burner in the back of your van. I was the early bird and was sick of eating the standard scrambled egg breakfast in the morning, so, with a little extra time, this became the go-to morning kick-off. This meal is great for car-campers, van lifers, and dirtbaggers alike and serves enough for two people.


  • 2 Kale leaves
  • ¼ Onion
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • ½ a handful of Ginger Root
  • ½ Red Pepper
  • ¼ cup Walnuts
  • ¾ cup Almond Milk
  • 4-6 Eggs
  • ½ Avocado
  • Cheddar Jack Cheese


Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: 20-30 minutes

Ready in: 40-50 minutes


Sautée last night's veggies over whatever stove you have; In our case, a Biolite. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Sautée last night’s veggies over whatever stove you have—in our case, a Biolite. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Mix eggs and almond milk. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Mix eggs and almond milk. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns


  1. Sautée some veggies (ideally, leftovers from last night’s dinner) in a single pan.
  2. Grab a pot and cover the bottom with avocado or olive oil.
  3. Scramble the eggs in the pot.
  4. Add ¾ cup of almond milk to the eggs.
  5. Add 2 to 3 handfuls of walnuts.
  6. Stir the pot’s contents, until you have an even mix.
The second pot or pan distributes the heat better. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
The second pot or pan distributes the heat better. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Cook until firm on top. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Cook until dry on top. | Credit: Ryan Wichelns


  1. Take a third pan, and place it over top of the burner. By adding an extra layer between the stove and the pot you’re actually cooking with, you’re dispersing the heat slightly more and creating a more reliable simmer.
  2. Place the pot with the egg mix on top of the pan and cover it.
  3. Let your soon-to-be “quiche” bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it is relatively dry on top.
  4. In the last few minutes it’s on the stove, sprinkle cheese on top of the quiche as desired.
  5. Let your “quiche” cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Cut up your quiche and top with avocado and cheese.
  7. Add salt/spices/Sriracha to taste!

Powering Up: The Venture 30 Keeps You Buzzing

I’ll admit it: When I first got a Goal Zero Venture 30, I thought it was a little hokie. But, I didn’t buy it, so it was okay. Instead, my wife won ours in a contest run by the popular outdoor blog, which challenged readers to post pictures of themselves camping outside. While I am sure they received many beautiful pictures of tents in the nation’s most scenic locations, her winning photo featured the two of us along with two other friends from EMS piled into a rental car at the Bunny Flat trailhead in Mount Shasta, California, trying desperately to get some sleep amidst an incredible amount of baggage after a long day of travel.

Group Camping & More

Although, at the time, I didn’t know my wife’s picture would be the winner, nor did I have any idea what a Goal Zero Venture 30 was, it was this trip that first opened my eyes to what a valuable piece of equipment it could be. The rental car had only one plug, and our group had four phones, four GPS watches, four headlamps, two GoPros, and one camera to charge. And, when you consider that we mostly camped and used the car minimally, to say there was competition to plug in and power up when we did run the car would be an understatement.

As time has passed, the Goal Zero Venture 30 has become more than something for big trips and groups. For us, it’s now a staple of weekend climbing trips to Rumney, N.H. If I charge the Venture 30 from either a wall outlet or off my computer before leaving, both my wife and I can use our phones to take pictures all day Saturday, plug them in overnight, and wake up Sunday with them fully charged, ensuring they have plenty of juice to take hundreds more photos that day and still have enough power to stream music on the way home.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Packing a Big, Versatile Punch

On a trip to the Cascades this past spring, the Venture 30 further proved its merit and made me very happy I had packed it. With uncooperative weather and no hotel in the budget, my climbing partner and I spent an inordinate amount of time “camping” in our rental car, hoping for the weather to clear.

The only thing that kept our spirits up was streaming music, surfing the web, and playing games on our phones, as we prayed for sun—or for it to at least just stop raining. It was on this trip that I was incredibly thankful for the unit’s waterproof construction, as, at some point, everything I owned was somewhere between “damp” and “totally soaked through.”

With a battery that isn’t much larger than a deck of cards, the Venture 30 packs a big punch. Goal Zero claims small electronics like a watch or headlamp can be charged between five and 10 times, an action cam up to five times, and phones two or three times. In my experience, I would say these numbers are pretty close to accurate, and may even be underselling the battery’s ability.

Sure, the Goal Zero Venture 30 isn’t going to be the sexiest piece of high-tech gear you own. It can’t compete with a GoPro, a GPS watch, or the latest and greatest high-power headlamp for bragging rights in the gear closet. But, it will make many of those items easier and more reliable to use. In the end, you might find yourself like me, appreciating how useful this “silly little battery” really is.


Emily King's Van Life Wish List

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered what items professional athletes and outdoor adventurers put on their wish lists? Because these folks know their stuff, we asked a handful of experts in different fields to tell us what they want for the holidays.

Emily King has spent the last four years living, adventuring, and traveling all over North America in her camper van with her partner and their pup. When space is at such a premium, the items you pack need to be the best, so her list is not only required for anyone thinking about taking their life on the road, but also for anyone who doesn’t have room for anything but the best. 

Courtesy of Emily King
Courtesy of Emily King

1. Helinox Camp Chair

Van life offers many opportunities to relax and share stories around a campfire with friends. Sometimes, the fun continues late into the evening under the stars, which is exactly why having something like the HELINOX Camp Chair is necessary. Not only is it incredibly comfortable, it’s lightweight and takes up very little space.

2. MSR Guardian Water Purifier

Wild places have our hearts, so we venture down bumpy forest service roads in search of the perfect campsite. Living in remote areas takes some planning, with our greatest need of all being clean drinking water. On our journeys, we carry at least eight gallons. However, sometimes, this isn’t enough, especially when we choose to stay out longer or if the van breaks down. For these situations, having a good water filtration system is essential, and the MSR Guardian Purifier offers medical-grade hollow fiber technology to keep us safe from waterborne diseases.

3. Sea To Summit The Kitchen Sink, 10L

Van life is no escape from dish duty. The Kitchen Sink is the perfect product for carrying dishes to a sink outside of the van, or for catching grey water as we wash them inside. It’s lightweight and can also be used for bathing.

Courtesy of Emily King
Courtesy of Emily King

4. Hydro Flask 16 oz. True Pint

Whatever beverage is preferred around a campfire after a long day of adventuring, the Hydro Flask True Pint Glass does an excellent job of keeping it exactly as we wish, hot or cold.

5. Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

Van life is a constant lesson in seeing through the dark. From late night van trouble to collecting firewood just after sunset, Black Diamond’s Storm Headlamp provides multiple settings to illuminate what needs to be seen.

6. Celestron Outland 10×25 Binoculars

Experiencing the natural world around us as intimately as possible gives us insight into ourselves and our place in it. But what we see often appears far away. The Celestron Outland Binoculars are perfect for bringing those sights closer, like the moon, stars, wildlife, or neighbors.

7. Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharging Kit

Wandering into the wild to take epic photos that we eventually share with our friends is easy with Goal Zero’s Guide 10 Plus, a solar recharging kit that powers cell phones, cameras, and tablets. The kit is compact enough to bring anywhere.

Courtesy of Emily King
Courtesy of Emily King

8. Thule Sonic XL Cargo Box

Van life is an opportunity to chase the things that make us come alive. From surfing to biking, camping, and hiking, we follow our bliss. Thule’s Sonic XL Cargo Box is the perfect container for the gear you need to do all that. Sleek and aerodynamic, its shape reduces drag and noise, so we can focus on the rhythm of the road.

9. EMS® Solstice 20 Sleeping Bag

Quality sleep is essential, allowing us to recharge for adventures to come. When the cold settles in, a sleeping bag like the Solstice 20 gives us the warmth we need for our van life to continue.

10. Gerber Sport Axe II

Having an axe always comes in handy when making a fire. For this need, Gerber’s Sport Axe is extremely durable and lightweight.

(Mini) Van Life: The Ideal Adventure Vehicle?

For those of us that get inspired by the social media accounts of pro athletes and adventurers with seemingly no responsibilities other than keeping their gas tank full to get to the next destination, the idea of van life can seem like a pipe dream. Particularly, in getting past that image, we start to think about those pesky things like jobs, bills, insurance, and everything else that doesn’t fit well into a custom-made white pine compartment next to a deep cycle battery.

The romantic idea of getting work done via coffee shop Wi-Fi, so that you can spend the morning or afternoon playing in the outdoors in some remote corner of the U.S., is both extremely appealing and difficult to realize. As a mechanical engineer, my current job keeps me pretty well tied to my desk, so I have to capitalize on my free time outside of normal working hours. On the bright side, between Friday afternoon and Monday morning every single week, my wife and I have 63 hours of opportunity. 

Credit: Aaron Courain
Credit: Aaron Courain

Stage One: The Old Standards

Over the past few years, we figured out how to make the most out of a weekend trip. If we had to pay for a hotel every time we went away, we wouldn’t go very often. For a while, we would travel in the most cliché, outdoorsy-couple vehicle you could buy: a Subaru.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our Subaru, but it would require us to either tent camp or cram ourselves into the back with the seats folded down, which left no room for any of our actual gear. Every night and morning required shuffling gear between the front and back seats. Doing this in the winter would also add snow into the equation. The Subaru is great to drive, but not great to sleep in, especially with two full-grown adults, so we needed another option.

The next step was a Ford Ranger, or another small pickup truck. It has a six-foot bed, and if you add a cap, you have a perfect bubble to make a sleeping compartment. The aftermarket is flush with pickup truck campers and all sorts of accessories to turn your truck bed into a five-star hotel, but ours had 220,000 miles on it and was not as reliable as it once was.

We spent quite a few nights sleeping under its drafty and leaky cap, and it worked, but we decided it wasn’t worth spending the money and effort to fully build out into a camper. That put us back at square one, looking for a daily driving replacement that could still moonlight as an adventure camper.

Credit: Aaron Courain
Credit: Aaron Courain

Not What I Had in Mind

I entertained visions of big 4WD lifted vans, with all sorts of custom cabinetry and expedition-ready equipment. But, when I remembered I would have to drive this back and forth to my job every day, I came to my senses and realized the van I wanted was not what I needed. I was looking for a mobile bed with room for gear, not a mobile apartment.

So, I channeled my inner engineer and created an exhaustive spreadsheet that listed all types of automobiles: full-size cargo vans, pickup trucks, wagons, crossovers, SUVs, and even the dreaded minivan. And, once I ran the numbers, my fate was sealed. If I were going to buy the best vehicle to suit our needs, a minivan was it.

Although I was hesitant at first, My wife and I brought home a used Dodge Grand Caravan, and from there, I got a sleeping platform designed and built. About $90 and some sawdust later, we had a car that could transport four people and then convert to sleep two comfortably, without having to do the gear shuffle. With bike racks and a cargo box on the roof, and a set of snow tires for winter, we were ready for four seasons of adventure.

Hitting the Road

After a few short weekend trips, the van’s first real test came when the holiday stars aligned and both my wife and I found ourselves with over a week of free time between Christmas and New Year’s. We quickly decided that, because the East Coast was still a bit warm, we needed to head to Ouray, Colorado, to open up our ice climbing season at the Ouray Ice Park.

We soon realized that the cargo space underneath the bed was truly cavernous, and in addition to our ice climbing equipment, our backcountry ski gear, as well as our cross-country skis and multiple kitchen sinks, fit, as well—all without any extra baggage fees!

After a marathon driving session across the Midwest, only stopping for gas and bathroom breaks and to catch a few hours of sleep at a rest stop, we made it to the Colorado border. We ventured through the mountain passes of the front range and down into the snowy San Juans. The combination of snow tires and common sense never left me wishing I had 4WD.

We made it into Ouray in a snowstorm and were soon swinging tools into the farmed ice of Box Canyon. After a few hours of climbing, meeting new people, and running into some people from our climbing gym back in NJ, we headed back to our mobile hotel room to warm up and relax in the local hot springs.

Ouray was a pretty amazing place, and being able to travel there without worrying about renting a cabin or hotel room (all of which were full) made traveling much easier. In fact, we enjoyed the town so much that we decided to stay for an extra day of ice climbing before visiting friends in Breckenridge for New Year’s Eve and backcountry skiing. No hotel reservation? No problem.

Although we were tempted to call in dead to work, and just keep living out of our van indefinitely, the big, ugly “responsibilities” thing loomed over us. We turned back east for another marathon of nonstop, 22 MPG driving and made it home in time to go to sleep and then commute the unpacked van to work the next day.

When all’s said and done, there is no magic wand or silver bullet that lets us live a perfectly balanced life between work and the outdoors. It’s a matter of identifying the opportunities and being flexible enough to take advantage of the time we get between all of the things that happen in our fast-paced lives. However, I am convinced that the minivan has been marketed to the wrong people. Soccer moms can step aside—the minivan is for the adventurer in all of us.

Credit: Aaron Courain
Credit: Aaron Courain

Post-Hike Food and Drink in Lake Placid

From the first day snow falls in the Adirondacks’ High Peaks, I begin dreaming of winter hiking: traversing snow-covered bogs, scaling icy rock slides, and trying to stay upright in the face of a 40 mile-an-hour snowstorm—who wouldn’t love all that? But as with any High Peaks hike, it’s the trudge back to the parking lot that can get a little long. As winter daylight begins to fade on the back end of a long November trek, I’m sometimes cursing myself for not trimming that one toenail that’s banging against my boot’s toe box or simply convincing myself that the hike down, with its steep icy sections, would be SO much faster than the one up.

Then, my mind wanders to that first cold beer and hot bowl of chili awaiting me at one of the many Lake Placid eateries when we’re finally out of the mountains. Imagining the bartender topping off that big draft is the vision that keeps me going.

If you’re undertaking a similar journey, here are a few of my favorites to help you make plans:

Credit: Stephen Pierce
Credit: Stephen Pierce

Lake Placid Pub & Brewery

This is a local’s joint boasting three levels for enjoying the brewery’s award-winning beers and surprisingly tasty pub food. On a clear day, the top two floors afford great views of Mirror Lake and Whiteface. The first floor is an Irish pub, known as P.J. O’Neill’s, and a local’s hangout, while the second level, with its stone fireplace, college atmosphere décor, and ample seating, might be better for enjoying a full meal. The third, the Hop Bar, is newer and offers additional seating and a kids’ room.

As far as beer goes, the pub’s Ubu Ale is their standard, and as you leave, you can buy more in cans for another hike’s peak celebration. I especially like their 46’er Pale Ale and new brew Shot in the Dark, a darker IPA sweetened with caramel flavors.

The food here ranges from standard pub grub to craft sandwiches and barbecue. Of special note are the smoked Gouda and roasted red pepper soup, the fried pickles, and the shepherd’s pie—all post-winter hike winners.

Lisa G’s

This locally famous eatery is situated just as you enter town on Rt. 73, and it is the place to go first to experience Lake Placid’s unique food and atmosphere. Lisa G’s website calls itself “a quirky place” offering “comfort food with a modern twist,” and that description is spot on. From their “best burgers in the Adirondacks” and famous Southern fried chicken sandwich to dishes as diverse as Greek style wings, a Thai curry noodle bowl, and a Moroccan burrito (which is awesome), Lisa G’s hits nearly every palate. They even offer spicy Korean shrimp.

Their specialty drink offerings are as inviting as the owner herself, who can often be seen meandering from table to table, joking with the patrons. For winter hikers looking to warm up quickly, the bar will throw down its own version of a hot toddy, or for something different, the Winter Sipper combines spiced vanilla whiskey, butterscotch schnapps, and pineapple juice, shaken and rimmed with cinnamon-sugar. You can taste it now, right?

Smoke Signals

This place rocks for three reasons: barbecue, drinks, and the view. Getting a table in the back along their wall-to-wall window view of Mirror Lake is a must, so it’s best to put in for one immediately, and then hang at the bar or do a little shopping nearby. They will call your cell phone when your table is ready.

Speaking of the bar, they offer many of New York’s best microbrewery beers, including their own and very good Ghost Pig Blonde Ale. However, their whisky list is extensive, and their signature cocktails offer seasonal wonders like a harvest sangria, a pumpkin Russian, rum coffee, and hot spiced cider. All will warm up those cold hands and feet.

Despite these glories, it’s all about the barbecue here: smoke BBQ wings, pulled pork, ADK BBQ Tacos, and killer baby back ribs. Eat up the BBQ and the front-row views of the skating and dog-sledding on Mirror Lake below you.

Credit: Stephen Pierce
Credit: Stephen Pierce

The Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Brewery and Restaurant

This place may put a slightly bigger dent in your wallet, but it’s well worth it. Despite the first-rate food, with steaks custom-cut from local farms and seafood fresh from the Boston Fish Market, the Great Adirondack has a very homey, unpretentious feel about it. You can cozy up to the fireplace, relax in the casual bar area, or take a window seat to watch the snow fall.

The brewery is directly behind the restaurant, and it boasts some award-winning beers: Its house IPA is the John Brown Pale Ale, and the brewery’s many choices include an addicting Whiteface Stout, which tastes like a blend of chocolate and coffee, and a knock-you-on-your-butt Snoskred IPA (8% ABV). But, it’s the food that is king here: great ribs, tender steaks, melt-in-your-mouth scallops, and chunky clam chowder. The portions are big enough that my wife and I often split a starter and a meal and feel plenty full after.


There are too many great places to list here, but these all make a solid start to your Adirondacks’ post-hike food and drink adventures. Do you have any favorites we missed?

Your Guide to New Hampshire Leaf-Peeping

It’s that time of year again! The weather is cooling off, kids are going back to school, and the leaves are beginning to change. If you’re lucky enough to be living in New England for this fall weather, then you have plenty of places nearby to go leaf-peeping. This guide will help you capture the very best spots in New Hampshire, the epicenter of New England’s fall colors.

The Great North Woods

The Great North Woods’ leaves are the first in the state to turn and peak. If you are in the area or are looking to visit, the “week of peak” lasts from October 2nd through October 9th. Take Route 3 up through Pittsburg and Colebrook to enjoy colors from the road. If you’re looking for hiking trails, visit Dixville Notch State Park or John Wingate Weeks Historic Site to soak in the amazing colors. Visit around dusk to catch the golden light hitting the trees!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

The White Mountains

The White Mountains attract thousands to hike and take in sweeping views of the leaves! The “week of peak” this year is October 9th through October 16th. Taking a drive up the Kancamagus Highway, from Conway to Lincoln, will leave you breathless, as you see the vibrant colors contrasting against the mountains behind them. There are plenty of photo opportunities: panoramic views, covered bridges, and waterfalls.

If you’re looking for an easy hike through the Presidential Range, Lookout Ledge offers incredible views of Mount Adams’ and Mount Madison’s foliage. Lookout Ledge Trail is the most direct route to the summit, at about 1.3 miles with an elevation gain of around 1,000 feet.

Chocorua Lake offers a great opportunity for leaf-peeping by water in the Whites. Bring your kayak or canoe and paddle out to put yourself in the middle of it all!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee

The Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region in western New Hampshire’s “week of peak” will be around October 16th through October 23rd. Begin your drive in Claremont and follow Route 12A along the Connecticut River. You will pass old barns and covered bridges – a photographer’s dream! From here, travel Route 11 east towards Lake Sunapee or ride to the top of Mount Kearsarge at Rollins State Park in Warner.

Lake Sunapee is another great place to leaf-peep in western New Hampshire, as it’s the state’s fifth-largest lake. Break out your boat, and enjoy the array of colors surrounding you!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

Lakes Region

The eastern side of New Hampshire – the Lakes Region – offers spectacular views of leaves peaking – not only from the roads and mountains but further reflected in the area’s many bodies of water. The “week of peak,” similar to the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region, will be around October 16th through October 23rd.

Driving through Holderness or Tamworth Village is beautiful any time of the year, and the leaves make it better! There are also many smaller hikes in the Lakes Region, including the ever-popular Mount Major Trail in the Belknap Range. Mount Major offers views of Lake Winnipesaukee, the surrounding Belknap Mountains, the Ossipee Range, and part of the White Mountains. If you’re looking to enjoy the leaves around Lake Winnipesaukee, take a cruise on the M/S Mount Washington!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann


Southern New Hampshire takes a bit longer to peak, but when it does, it’s always worth it. The Monadnock region peaks around October 23rd through October 30th. A suggested driving loop would be to follow Route 32 south through Swanzey to Route 119 in Richmond, and then follow Route 119 through Fitzwilliam, where you can pick up Route 12 and travel north to Keene. Another great drive is following Route 101 from Marlborough to Peterborough, or taking Route 10 from Keene north to Gilsum.

For hikers, Mount Monadnock is a moderate trek with 360-degree views encompassing all six New England states at the top, and will help you capture the fall foliage beautifully!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

Merrimack Valley

The Merrimack Valley region offers plenty of beautiful drives for people to enjoy the leaves peaking! This year’s “week of peak” will be around October 30th through November 7th. Route 101 through Bedford, from the Bedford Village Inn to the Amherst line, is a great way to catch the rainbow of leaves this fall. Route 111 through Salem and Windham also has plenty to offer. Or, as another option, take a drive around Henniker, Hopkinton, Concord, and Bow.

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann


Last to peak but certainly not least, the Seacoast Region offers leaf-peeping opportunities in their “week of peak” from October 30th through November 7th. There are many places where you can experience foliage in this area: Drive along Route 101 east or Route 1 north along the coast, take a walk through College Woods in Durham, NH, or visit Odiorne State Park to hike the trails. Adams Point is another great place to soak up the colors right on the water. Wherever you are, Seacoast has plenty of places to enjoy, especially later in the fall season.


New Hampshire is one of the most beautiful places in the world to see the leaves change, whether you’re driving, hiking, or just enjoying the views on the water. Have a happy and safe fall, and don’t forget to share your favorite photos with #goEast for a chance to be featured!

Explore Like a Local: The Outdoor Mecca of North Conway, NH

For those seeking the perfect launching pad for outdoor activities, look no further than North Conway, NH. Located at the edge of the White Mountains, the town is surrounded by a wealth of natural wonders and offers visitors terrific après adventure options.


Rock Climbing

Situated just a few minutes from the end of the main drag, Cathedral Ledge and White Horse Ledge loom over the surrounding area. They offer some of the best climbing on the East Coast, from beginner level (a 5.3-rated climb at White Horse Ledge) to advanced (a 5.14a-rated climb on The Mordor Wall at Cathedral Ledge). Take a class with the certified pros at the EMS Climbing School (learn more here), and send famous routes like Thin Air, Fun House, and Toe Crack.

north-conway-rock-climbing-2 north-conway-rock-climbing north-conway-rock-climbing-3


Every year from late September until the end of October, tourists from around the world drive the famous Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112) for its breathtaking vistas and unparalleled fall foliage. The 36-mile stretch from Conway (just south of North Conway, as you might expect) to Lincoln, NH, traces the Swift River and offers many spots to pull off the road. Caves, waterfalls, mountain vistas, and hiking trails (and, of course, the foliage) are just a few of the abutting attractions.


Trails abound in the vicinity of North Conway. The Appalachian Trail passes just north of the town along the Presidential Range, encompassing nearby Mount Washington. If you are traveling by car, you can head up the Auto Road (read more about Mt. Washington below), and park in a small lot where the AT intersects with your route. From here, take the Madison Gulf Trail (part of the AT) a mere 0.2 miles to the Lowe’s Bald Spot side trail (0.1 miles) for terrific vistas from atop the Bald Spot, a group of rocks overlooking the Great Gulf Wilderness. For more accessible options, head to the Kancamagus Highway, and select one of the many trailheads along the scenic road.

Trail Running

Many of the hiking trails serve well for trail runs. A particularly appealing option is Boulder Loop Trail, along the Kancamagus. It’s a 3.5-mile loop of moderate difficulty that leads to terrific views of the surrounding mountains. As an added bonus, there’s a historic covered bridge leading to the trailhead.


The Saco River runs parallel to White Mountain Highway, which serves as the town’s Main Street, and offers easy access to paddling adventures. Whether you are kayaking, tubing, canoeing, or paddleboarding, the Saco is a terrific option, given its average three-foot depth, meandering path, scenic views, sandy beaches, and rope swings along the way.


Not surprisingly (we work for EMS, after all), we highly recommend camping in the vicinity of North Conway. There are many wonderful spots, but Fourth Iron Campground is a particularly appealing option. Open year-round on a first-come, first-serve basis, it’s a walk-in tent site near where the Saco meets the Sawyer River. With parking nearby, the campground features eight sites, each with its own bear box.

Another good choice is Barnes Field Group Campsite. As its name implies, this is a larger site well-suited for groups. It’s situated north of town at the foot of Mount Washington and has easy access to hiking and cross-country skiing trails. Keep in mind there’s a fee mid-May through mid-October, and reservations are recommended. By winter, the site remains open on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Mount Washington

A trip to the top of Mt. Washington is an unforgettable experience. Whether you take the Auto Road in warmer months, ride the old-fashioned Cog Railway, or hike to the summit, the subarctic environment and incredible winds at the peak are something you’ve got to see at least once.
The EMS-sponsored Mt. Washington Observatory sits at the top (a 6,288-foot peak) and conducts climate research year-round in what is acclaimed as the world’s worst weather. The fastest wind speed of all time (231 MPH) was recorded at the summit, and the average daily wind speed is a brisk 34 MPH. Visibility can extend to 130 miles on a clear day.

With these factors in mind, be prepared for cold weather when you get to the top, regardless of the month. The local EMS store in North Conway can outfit you with everything you need to be comfortable.

Mountain Biking

The proprietor of the local ice cream shop (see below) told us that he moved to North Conway for the excellent mountain biking, accessible from downtown. The East Side Trails are a network of bike trails with easy, moderate, and difficult options. West of town, there are other easier routes that are informally known as the Marshall Preserve trails.


If you’re visiting in the winter months, be sure to try out a few of the seven ski resorts surrounding North Conway. Attitash, Cranmore, Wildcat, Bretton Woods, Pine Mountain, Black Mountain, and Loon are all nearby.

Ice Climbing

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced ice climber, the EMS Climbing School offers personalized instruction to fit your needs. Available seven days a week, our guides will take you to an appropriate site, such as Cathedral Ledge or Frankenstein Cliffs in nearby Crawford Notch State Park.

Conway Scenic Railroad

Nursing an injury? Sore from too many outdoor adventures? See the White Mountains from the comfort of a scenic rail trip. Tours ranging from approximately one to five hours depart daily from the town’s center. A dining car is available on select outings.


Speaking of dining, start your day at Peach’s on Main Street, a terrific spot for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Think family home converted into a restaurant: Dining tables are spread throughout the small rooms, and the back of the house looks out over woods. And the food! An EMS colleague summed up the experience well when he said, “Man, these pancakes are LEGIT.” The same could be said of everything else we ordered.

Skip lunch. Instead, go straight for ice cream at #PieWholeStuffer (aka 18°C) right in the center of town on White Mountain Highway. Made out of simple ingredients and spun right on the premises, it’s absolutely the best ice cream I have ever tasted. The selection changes daily, depending on what’s in season, so I would recommend covering your eyes and pointing randomly at the display case. You can’t go wrong.

For the ultimate in après adventure dining, I would recommend firing up your JetBoil MiniMo at the campsite and enjoying Good To-Go’s dehydrated Pad Thai (you need those if you don’t have them).

But, if beer on tap is an important consideration for you, then spend an evening at the Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub in nearby Glen (just a few minutes north of North Conway). The steaks and ribs are excellent, but the main attraction is the pub itself. The old-school ski theme sets just the right mood for reliving the activities of the day. The Red Parka isn’t the only game in town, though. Horsefeathers, Moat Mountain, and the Muddy Moose are just a few of the local spots that will take care of you after a long, active day.


Eastern Mountain Sports is located right on White Mountain Highway, and there are some other stores in the area (hey, I’m biased).


Choose from the Velocity, Refugio, or Big Easy series of EMS brand tents. Very comfortable. Oh, there are plenty of fine hotels in the area, but this is North Conway: Do it up in style, and camp like you know you want to!