Why You Should Always Pack a Car Kit

Everyone loves to talk about gear—we can fill a long ski tour simply discussing what the right ski width for an East Coast ski is or preaching the benefits of wearing bright clothing. Over the years, however, the gear that has proven the most valuable has also been the least flashy: our “car kit.”

Credit: Doug Martland

What is a Car Kit?

“Car kit” is the name we’ve given to a handful of essential gear that we keep in our cars when traveling to the mountains. Our car kit includes a variety of items ranging from backup gear to first-aid equipment to rescue kits and have proven to help save everything from days to lives in the mountains and roads. Much like backcountry ski packs and climbing racks, the car kit has evolved over time, with items added and subtracted as experience and knowledge are gained.

Originally, our car kits were self-contained in a few small plastic containers, but they have spread through our vehicles over time. For example, the spare headlamp and sunglasses that are key components of the car kit have proven better-suited to living in the glove compartment.

Credit: Doug Martland

So, what’s inside?

The foundation of any quality car kit is built on having backups to essential gear, just in case that absent-minded person in your party shows up without it. A key to the car kit is that it’s all spare gear you’re not dependent on, that way it’s there when you need it. A few items that form the foundation of our car kit are:

  • Headlamp
  • Sunglasses
  • Socks
  • Mittens
  • Winter hat
  • Multiclava
  • Puffy (An old one kept compressed doesn’t take up much space. Yes, keeping a puffy compressed is bad for it, but we’re sure the person who forgot theirs won’t complain.)
  • Multitool (Preferably one with pliers.)
  • Hex wrench
  • Food (A few energy bars and a couple of gels are great for spring, summer, and fall. For winter, add something less likely to freeze, like trail mix.)

It’s also not a bad idea to adjust your car kit seasonally or add a couple of sport-specific items. For example, carrying a backup set of MICROspikes if you’re a winter hiker, an extra set of goggles if you’re a skier, or a helmet if you’re a biker. Also, add items like hand warmers in the colder months and sunscreen in the summer.

Supplemental First-Aid Kit

Not everybody carries a large, comprehensive first-aid kit into the woods and the car is the perfect place to stash everything you need to complement the contents of the kit in your pack. A car kit is especially useful when recreating close to your car (think sport climbing on the Parking Lot Wall at Rumney or running laps in some Granite Backcountry Alliance glades), and when you’re deeper in the backcountry—where it can take a search and rescue group significantly longer than you think to organize and arrive at a scene of an accident or medical emergency—the car kit may prove a vital supplement. If manpower allows, someone can run back to the car and retrieve the kit to further the process of self-rescue.

Having a supplemental first aid kit in the car is also great for situations where your primary kit accidentally gets left at home or you don’t have your primary kit with you—think witnessing a car accident while commuting to work.

Some key items for the supplemental first-aid kit include:

  • Bleeding control (A tourniquet, pressure bandages, gauze pads, roller gauze, tape, extra medical gloves, and a boo-boo kit.)
  • Airway management (A light CPR mask and, if you have the training and knowledge, oral and nasal airways.)
  • Exposure management (An extra puffy, a sleeping bag, and/or a chemical warming blanket like a Ready Heat II—think a blanket made of chemical hand warmers—are great ways to supplement your efforts to keep an injured party warm.)
  • Some basic medications like Advil and antihistamines
  • A battery pack for your phone (Getting a call out from the backcountry can be taxing on your phone’s battery, but a portable battery like this one from Goal Zero can help ensure you don’t run out of juice.)

Also keep in mind that you might be evacuating the injured party, especially if help is many hours away. If you’re not already carrying a ski sled (winter), guide tarp, or foldable rescue litter as part of your primary kit, stash one in the car.

Credit: Doug Martland

Car Gear

Because the trailheads and parking lots we frequent are anywhere from an hour to a few hours from our homes, a tow truck, or cell service, the last bit of our car kit is directly related to our cars. A fair amount of this kit is winter-specific, as the odds of getting stuck or having a car not start are higher at this time of year. Our car gear includes:

  • Jumper cables to greatly increase the odds of getting a jumpstart
  • Kitty litter or a bag of sand (Vital for gaining traction in icy parking lots)
  • Compact shovel (An old avy shovel is ideal for digging a car out of a snowbank or after a storm)
  • Candle lantern (This can help save the batteries of your headlamp if you need to overnight in your car.)
  • Sleeping bag (That sleeping bag mentioned above serves double duty here, but hopefully you’ll never have to spend a night in your car)

Final Thought

Keep in mind that your car kit should evolve. History has a way of repeating itself, so take the lessons learned on those bad and disappointing days and prepare for them in the future.


Go Big at Boston’s Local Ski Area: Blue Hills

Straddling the Milton-Canton town line, the Blue Hills Ski Area in Greater Boston’s Blue Hills Reservation is one of many local ski hills that are the lifeblood of the ski industry in the Northeast. Sure it’s small—just a handful of trails, one chairlift, a few magic carpets, and a vertical drop of just 309 feet—but between its storied history, geographic proximity to Boston, and skier-friendly hours, this family-focused area has served as a developing ground for skiers and riders across the region.

Credit: Tim Peck

A Ski Hill in Boston’s Backyard

Like so many ski trails in the Northeast, the first runs on Great Blue Hill were cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Charlie Proctor—winner of the first US downhill race in 1927 on Mount Moosilauke’s Carriage Road, member of the 1928 Olympic Ski Team, and the first (with John Carleton) to ski the Tuckerman Ravine Headwall in 1931—was among the designers. Alpine in nature, the narrow “Number 1” trail was later widened to become Big Blue, the backbone of the lift-serviced resort developed in 1949 and opened in February 1950 by the Metropolitan District Commission.

Big Blue remains Blue Hills’ preeminent ski trail to this day. It’s the most prominent, too—the large, wide slope is visible for miles around, especially at night when lights illuminate the snow-covered steep for night skiing. But it’s not the only reason to visit Blue Hills. The area has a stellar learning area where generations of skiers have learned to ski, as well as several other trails like Patriots Path, Chute, and Sonya that are great for novices and intermediates alike.

These days, Blue Hills is best known as a family-friendly resort. With learn-to-ski programs for all ages and a deep rental fleet, there are lots of opportunities for first-timers at Blue Hills. The beginner area, with several magic carpets and trails, is located just steps from the area’s rental building, so getting on the slopes for a lesson couldn’t be easier. For parents putting children in lessons, there are ample vantage points both on and off the slopes to observe and take pictures. And when they—like so many other skiers and riders have over the generations—graduate from the beginner area to making runs down Big Blue, it’s easy to watch them carve turns from the front of the lodge.

Credit: Tim Peck

When to Visit

For the most reliable conditions, visit Blue Hills on weekdays before school gets out or just after opening on a weekend morning. Arrive then and you’ll likely find a handful of retirees plus a patroller and/or ski instructor, all with huge grins on their faces from arcing large-radius turns down a freshly groomed Big Blue. For those working a more traditional schedule, the chair spins until 9 pm on weeknights and 8 pm on weekends and holidays. Clear goggles are a huge plus for night skiers.

Larger storms help bolster the snowmaking efforts at Blue Hills. If conditions allow, Sonya is a pleasant run with excellent views of the Boston skyline. Don’t miss Beer’s Bluff either, a  steeper-than-you’d-expect run under the lift that’s named for the ski area’s former operators.

Many high schools and area ski teams call Blue Hills home and Big Blue has been the home of many ski races over the years. Skiers or riders looking to ski chair-to-chair should check the race schedule before visiting.

Credit: Tim Peck

Getting There

Nestled in the Blue Hills Reservation, Blue Hills is located near the junction of Interstates 93 and 95. Just minutes from Boston, the ski area is convenient for those living south and west of the city. Given its location and large surrounding population, it’s no surprise that so many people have learned to ski or ride there.

Post-skiing, the popular après hangout is the nearby Hillside Pub. The food is good, the beer is cold, and you’ll likely find a few ski patrollers and lifties mixed in amongst the crowd. If you’re catching the last chair on a weeknight, call ahead with your order and it’ll be ready when you get there.

If you’re interested in learning to ski or ride or just looking to cold-down with a few post-work groomers, put a visit to Blue Hills on your winter to-do list.

Credit: Tim Peck

Solitude in the Southeast: Paddling the Congaree River Blue Trail

After a year unlike any other, what you really need is a sandbar to yourself. What you need is a river you can’t rock hop across. What you need is a forest so dense that you can’t even see others nearby. Cue river trails, like the Congaree River Blue Trail in South Carolina for example. Wide enough to socially distance from start to finish, your chances of encountering crowds are slim while your chances of having a rivers-side campsite to yourself are high. But most importantly, the blue trail takes you to Congaree National Park, a pristine old growth forest set within 27,000 acres of isolation.

The author and her husband looking into Congaree National Park. | Credit: Carla Francis

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park didn’t exist 20 years ago. Sure, the virgin forest and its champion trees have been there forever, but it wasn’t until 2003 that the land was upgraded from a National Monument to a National Park. Twenty-seven thousand acres and the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the Southeast was preserved for you and me.

A 20 mile drive from South Carolina’s capital, Columbia, it’s an easy day trip by car. Schoolkids ride the big cheese out in the morning, attend a ranger-led program, and return to school before the bell rings. No knock on visiting by car—it’s free and the miles of boardwalk through the old growth forest immerse you into a primeval world of giant trees while protecting you from impaling yourself on a cypress knee. It’s good family-friendly fun if the Mosquito Meter is a 3 or below (levels 4 [severe], 5 [ruthless], and 6 [war zone] are to be avoided).

Checking the map on the Congaree River Blue Trail. | Credit: Carla Francis

The Congaree River Blue Trail

But the most adventurous way to access the park is by river, via the Congaree River Blue Trail. The launch point is in the capital city of Columbia but the takeout is in a different world, 50 miles downstream at the eastern boundary of Congaree National Park. A few outfitters offer shuttle service and gear rental, but if you know someone in town, try bribing them with Sushi Yoshi to shuttle your car to the takeout (with windows down and masks on).

Once you’re past the outskirts of Columbia you’re on your own; The next public bail point is about 47 miles downstream. Bring everything you need and know that drinking water from the Congaree is not recommended. The park itself is about 25 miles downstream, so the harder you paddle on the first day, the faster you’ll get there.

Most people overnight before entering the park, and luckily sandbars (aka campsites) pepper the length of the blue trail. Outside of the park, camping permits aren’t needed, giving the trip a “choose your own adventure” feel. This map shows all of the sandbars and has recommendations for keeping yourself safe and off of private land. The camping situation on the blue trail is one of the biggest perks—every night you have your own beach, a blazing fire, and what feels like your own riverside fiefdom. Just be sure to check the water level before setting out as all but a few larger sand bars will be underwater at around 10,000 cfs.

On my trip, taken in February to avoid mosquitoes, we traveled about 18 miles on our first day, anxious to get to the “good part.” Those first miles are decent; you’re out in the open enjoying the solitude and exercise, but you’re still passing through stretches of civilization. It’s not until you get closer to the park that things start to feel more remote, that the frog calls get a little louder, and that you start to feel like you’re out there.

Camping directly across the river from Congaree National Park. | Credit: Carla Francis

Beach Oasis

It’s a heady feeling visiting a new National Park, especially when you’re nearly alone to enjoy it. Around mile 25 when you come across an old access road next to a sandbar, you’ve arrived in Congaree National Park. Here, the blue trail meets the River Trail: It’s a 5-mile hike to the Visitors Center. Stretch your legs and experience one of the last remaining forests of its kind. Until about 150 years ago, 52 million acres of floodplain forest like this existed in the Southeastern US, most of which has since been lost to logging. Giant trees provide shade, which after a day or so on the river is a welcome reprieve.

For good reason, the park doesn’t allow backcountry campfires so we spent our second night on a sandbar across the river and downstream, out of the park boundary. From our perspectives, it felt equally remote but on the opposite side of the river from where we’d seen feral hog evidence while hiking. We spread out on the  “beach,” playing frisbee, reading, and as soon as sunset was on the horizon, building a fire from beach scraps. A barred owl called, asking the forest “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you alllll,” and as darkness settled in our headlamps began reflecting back at us in the eyes of raccoons.

Our campfire built and food secured against woodland creatures, we brought out the star chart. Even given its proximity to Columbia, the sky is much darker than most of America’s urban areas. We tried to identify the constellations that were rising from the park’s horizon: the Big Dipper, Taurus, Cassiopeia, and a lot of unknowns.

We woke in the morning to little hoof prints around camp—turns out feral hogs are on both sides of the river. Our last day was slow-moving as we didn’t have many miles to go but we wanted to enjoy the day. The left bank remained wild, and the right bank was mainly wild, but showed evidence of a local hangout or two. Even when we passed the Cedar Creek tributary, where paddlers who launch in the park spill into the Congaree, we didn’t see anyone.

Not too long later we arrived at the takeout, tanned, sandy, and planning our next river trip. And as always after visiting a national park, grateful to have visited one of our nation’s natural treasures.

Credit: Carla Francis

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Plan B: 6 Ways to Keep Your Adventures Local

Not all adventures go as planned. Sometimes the snow and avalanche danger on your hut trip means you spend more time stoking the wood stove and less skiing. Sometimes wildfires close the area you scored backpacking permits to six months ago. Sometimes en route to a big Pacific Northwest volcano climb, your flight is delayed and you miss out. And sometimes a global pandemic freezes travel and forces you to get reacquainted with your living room and local adventure spots. It wouldn’t be an adventure otherwise.

Staying close to home has never been more important right now—Both for your own personal health and that of your loves ones, but also for our Northeast community at large, especially those in small adventure hubs. But just because you can’t pack the car and bust up to North Conway for a long weekend on Mount Washington, that doesn’t mean you can’t still adventure and spend time outside. Use these six tips to look to your back yard for new inspiration and to keep the legs moving and lungs stretched when the world feels shut down.

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1. Explore your neighborhood park.

The front lines of the outdoors, local neighborhood parks are an oasis within reach, and the perfect place to go for a quick hit of fresh air, leg stretching, and a reset from screens, puzzles, and baking bread. Normally, when there are other places to go for a big hike or climb, it would be easy to stick to running the paved paths or hanging around the jungle gym with the kids (skip the touchy-feely swing sets, monkey bars, and slides for a little while). Now with ample time, slow down, wander off the beaten path, explore side trails, and check out the more obscure corners of your local green spaces.

2. Step up your fitness

With gyms closed (and restaurants, if we’re being honest with ourselves) and big objectives on hold, there’s never been a better time to turn your local adventure zone into your gym and make some fitness gains before things open back up and your life list is back in action. The trail you love to hike? Run it. That new perspective can turn old trails new again, and exploring it with some tunes in your ears and a focus on your own personal health makes running or biking a little less lonely than simply walking solo.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Earn your turns at your local ski resort

The lifts might not be spinning, but that doesn’t mean your ski season needs to be completely done. With touring gear, many resorts (check their websites or call to confirm) still allow uphill access: Skinning up the trails on your own and skiing back down. Not only is it a phenomenal workout and a fun way to keep your season alive, but it may be the best way to be introduced to a new winter activity. Even when the resorts do open back up, having the gear and experience necessary to get into the backcountry on skis is a great way to access the winter woods and a fun way to seek out powder turns. And one of the best ways to pick up the skills necessary is on a graded resort slope.

Keep in mind: One of the big benefits of uphilling at a resort during a typical ski season is that when mountains are open, ski patrollers are putting in the time to making sure the terrain is safe, obstacles are marked, avalanche danger is mitigated, and they’re there to lend a hand if you get into trouble. With the resorts closed, that is no longer the case. Plan for a day at the resort like a day in the backcountry, where you’re alone, need to be self-sufficient, and expect that help is a long ways away. Also stick to mellow terrain and know the basics of avalanche safety and rescue.

4. Start redlining your local trails

Even in our backyard wilderness, too often we focus on the flashy hikes and trails: The big summits, pristine lakes, and most popular trails. After all, they’re popular for a reason. But without the option to travel very far in search of new routes, it might be time to give those overlooked trails another glance. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy them. “Redlining,” or hiking every length of trail in a given area, definitely takes this idea to the extreme. But use this opportunity to get intimately familiar with your local trails, hiking some that you had never thought of exploring. Take a different route to that favorite spot. Go the long, “around the back” way. Camp on another, smaller lake and hike the summits that maybe have the best views. If you need a challenge and a “checklist” to work on, pin up a map of your local forest and make an effort to highlight every trail that you’ve hiked, and head to some of the obscure spots that you haven’t explored yet. If you think you knew the area before, just wait until you’ve seen corners of it that few ever do.

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5. Stay hyper local

Just because you can’t get away from the house doesn’t mean you need to forgo the pleasantries of camping. If you have a back yard, set up a tent and build a small fire pit. The kids will love it, you’ll get to enjoy a little more fresh air than you might cloistered in your house, and there’s just something about the smell of a campfire, cool air on your face while you’re tucked into a sleeping bag, and waking up with the morning light that recharges you, regardless of whether you’re 50 miles into the backcountry or 20 feet from your back door.

6. Stay in and plan your next adventure

As bad as things may look, we know one thing: This won’t last forever. Eventually, travel bans will be lifted, restaurants will re-open, flights will hit the air again, and you’ll be able to head out on that big cross-country road trip or that life list backpacking mission a few states over. Life will get back to normal. And now is the time to start planning for that. Keep in the adventure mindset by using this time shut indoors to study guidebooks and maps, sift through Caltopo, draw up your life list, and plan the trips to come. The adventure itself is only half the fun. Dive into the planning now and spend time dreaming up the missions you’ll head out on as soon as the time comes.

Whatever you choose to do to spend your time this spring, be safe, follow the CDC’s guidelines for preventing COVID-19, and don’t let your stoke die.


Start Planning Your Summer Trips Now: 10 Tips

If you’re contemplating a big adventure this summer, now is the time to start planning. Mark it on your calendar, request work off, and find the team you need to tackle it. Here are 10 things you can do to ensure your trip will be a success.

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1. Find Some Partners

Unless you’re going solo, having the right partners is a critical part of any trip. Late winter is the perfect time to start chatting with friends about summer objectives and building a consensus about what to do, whether you like to climb, backpack, or paddle.

2. Pick a Destination

If you’re anything like us, there are probably so many places on your “must visit” list that it can feel overwhelming to pick one. The process gets even more complex when group dynamics are involved. Start having these discussions now to help narrow the options. As you pare down the list, consider which trips have nearby alternatives in case your desired route isn’t “in condition,” the weather doesn’t cooperate, or it proves too challenging, especially when you start planning it this far out.

3. Research

Pick up the guidebook and search the internet for first-hand accounts to get a more complete picture of what to expect. Learning as much as possible about a trip early in the process is important and will influence everything from your training to your planning to your gear choices.

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4. Pick a Date

Summer schedules fill up fast. Get your group’s trip on the books so that you’re not left sitting at home wondering what might have been. An added bonus—booking flights, reserving hotel rooms, and renting cars are all way less expensive when done far in advance.

5. Reserve a Site/Permit

Whether you’re hiking, climbing, or paddling, many areas require advanced reservations, many of them in the most popular areas require you put in a request or enter a raffle months early. Since the best zones can get filled up quickly, making all campsite reservations and/or obtaining any required permits now is essential.

6. Start Training

There’s nothing worse than showing up for the trip of your life out of shape. While you still have months to train, develop a plan that will put your fitness on the path to success. Not sure where to start? Between them, Uphill Athlete and the Mountain Tactical Institute have training plans for just about every type of outdoor activity.

7. Don’t Forget About Developing Group Skills, Too

Focusing on individual fitness is important, but don’t forget to practice group-specific skills as well. For example, if you’re going to Mount Rainier, make sure your entire group devotes time to developing critical mountaineering skills like crevasse rescue, avalanche rescue, and self arrest.

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8. Do Some Training Climbs

Logging time in terrain is just as important as general fitness training. So if you’re planning a trip to climb something like the Grand Teton, consider tackling some local alpine climbs such as the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle or, as an easier option, Henderson Ridge, both in Huntington Ravine. If you’re planning a mountaineering trip to the Cascade’s volcanoes, think about doing the Lion Head Winter Route while it’s still in condition. Similarly, if you’re going to mountain bike the Monarch Crest Trail, you’ll want to start logging miles ASAP.

9. Buy Trip-Specific Gear

Waiting until a couple of weeks before a trip to purchase trip-specific gear is a recipe for disaster. In such a compressed time period, it might be hard to find what you’re looking for, especially if it’s a niche piece of gear not stocked at your local shop. More importantly, you won’t have much time to learn the ins and outs of that new piece of gear or to break in that new pair of boots.

10. Get Psyched 

It’s easier to train when there’s a goal, it’s easier to justify buying a shiny new piece of gear when it’s for a reason, and work is more bearable when an epic trip is around the corner. Get stoked to get ready for the best trip ever!

Have another trip planning tip that travelers should be doing now? Tell us in the comments!


Tired of the Winter? These 7 Southeast Adventures Will Warm You Up

If you’ve had enough cold and snow for the season, why not plan a late-winter/early-spring vacation in the Southeast? In just a few hours you can fly into Atlanta, Georgia, or Jacksonville, and feel the sun on your face! Whether you’re a hiker, paddler, cyclist, or camper, you’ll want to check out these seven Southeast activities that are sure to warm your spirit for adventure during the Northeast’s coldest part of the year. 

Joe King gets his feet wet on the Florida National Scenic Trail. This 30-mile section of Big Cyprus is located at the southern terminus, and borders the Everglades. | Courtesy: Aaron Landon
Joe King gets his feet wet on the Florida National Scenic Trail. This 30-mile section of Big Cyprus is located at the southern terminus, and borders the Everglades. | Courtesy: Aaron Landon

Get Your Feet Wet at Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress, bordering Everglades National Park, is the southern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail and offers a very challenging 3-day, 30 mile hike through an otherworldly wet cypress forest. This is considered the toughest backpacking trip in Florida, but if you can handle being wet most of the time, and don’t get too freaked out by the vast loneliness of hiking through a swamp, you’ll come away from this experience a changed person. If you want to continue north on the Florida Trail, keep going and you’ll reach Billie Swamp Safari within the Seminole Indian Reservation where you can sleep in a real Seminole Chickee hut.

Cumberland Island’s 50 miles of trails meander through pristine maritime forests under live oak canopies. Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair
Cumberland Island’s 50 miles of trails meander through pristine maritime forests under live oak canopies. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, featuring pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches, and wide marsh views. There are many miles of rustic hiking trails, backcountry campsites, historic sites, and lots of wildlife, including sea turtles, turkeys, wild hogs and horses, armadillos, and abundant shore birds. To make the most of your time on the island, set up camp at Yankee Paradise, a primitive campsite located in the middle of the island. From there you can explore Cumberland’s breathtaking seashore, Plum Orchard Mansion, Dungeness Ruins, and the Settlement, an area located in the north end of the island that was settled by former slaves in the 1890s. Make your camping and ferry reservations in advance because the number of visitors to the island are limited.

The Dirty Pecan ride and Thomasville Clay Classic are two gravel rides featuring stunning scenery beneath live oak canopies. | Courtesy: Phillip Bowen
The Dirty Pecan ride and Thomasville Clay Classic are two gravel rides featuring stunning scenery beneath live oak canopies. | Courtesy: Phillip Bowen

Cycle Through the South

The 40th Annual Florida Bicycle Safari will be held April 18-23 this year, and includes six days of riding in North Florida and South Georgia. “The Florida Bicycle Safari is much more than just a ride,” says Louis McDonald, Safari Director. “We’ve planned six days of cycling, food, games, live entertainment, and plenty of Southern hospitality at Live Oak and Cherry Lake. Our riders are from all over the country. Different routes are offered each day, including two century rides. Being the 40th anniversary, this year’s event is going to be our biggest yet!” 

And if gravel riding is your thing, the Dirty Pecan ride will be held on March 7 in Monticello, Florida, followed by the Thomasville Clay Classic on April 13 in Thomasville, Georgia. “I really love being off paved roads where there is little to no traffic,” says cyclist Cheryl Richardson, a member of the North Florida Bicycle Club. “Both of these rides feature beautiful tree canopies and spectacular scenery the entire route.”

The Okefenokee Wilderness Area offers over 400,000 acres of wetlands and swamps to explore with seven overnight shelters. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair
The Okefenokee Wilderness Area offers over 400,000 acres of wetlands and swamps to explore with seven overnight shelters. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair

Paddle the Okefenokee Swamp

A multi-day paddling trip though Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a bucket list must do. There are wooden platforms throughout the swamp where you can pitch a tent at the end of each day of paddling. You’ll see lots of alligators, birds, and rare plants—The swamp is a photographer’s dream come true. You can bring your own canoe or kayak, or rent them at the park’s concessioner. They also offer guided paddling trips to suit your needs. Other activities include fishing and hiking. The Okefenokee will leave you spellbound.

The Pinhoti Trail’s Cheaha and Dugger Mountain Wilderness areas offer an otherworldly hiking experience. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair
The Pinhoti Trail’s Cheaha and Dugger Mountain Wilderness areas offer an otherworldly hiking experience. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair

Hike Alabama’s Pinhoti Trail

Start your 335-mile hike at the southern terminus, Flagg Mountain, and meet famous hiker and author, Nimblewill Nomad, who is now the caretaker there. The Pinhoti traverses through Talladega National Forest, Cheaha Wilderness, and Dugger Mountain Wilderness before entering Georgia, where it eventually meets up with the Benton MacKaye Trail, and onto Springer Mountain. Appalachian Trail hikers consider the Pinhoti a great practice hike before attempting the AT.

Providence Canyon is a hidden gem in the state of Georgia, with just enough elevation changes and glorious scenery to make it fun for all ages.
Providence Canyon is a hidden gem in the state of Georgia, with just enough elevation changes and glorious scenery to make it fun for all ages.

Visit Georgia’s Providence Canyon State Park 

Called Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, Providence Canyon is a hidden gem. Massive gullies as deep as 150 feet were caused by poor farming practices during the 1800s, yet today they make some of the prettiest photographs within the state. Hikers who explore the deepest canyons will usually find a thin layer of water along the trail, indication of the water table below. The hike is not strenuous but has enough elevation changes to make it fun! Guests who hike to canyons 4 and 5 may want to join the Canyon Climbers Club. Backpackers can stay overnight along the backcountry trail which highlights portions of the canyon and winds through a mixed forest. This is a great trip for families who may prefer to stay in the developed campground and take day hikes. 

South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail includes the mysterious Swamp Fox Passage, where you can expect to do a little wading through Wadboo and Dog Swamps. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair
South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail includes the mysterious Swamp Fox Passage, where you can expect to do a little wading through Wadboo and Dog Swamps. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair

Hike South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail

South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail is a new trail, and still in progress (350 miles of the trail are completed; the entire trail will be 500 miles long). Swamp Fox Passage is the longest section of the cross-state Palmetto Trail at 47 miles, and traverses four distinct ecosystems through Francis Marion National Forest, including swamps made famous as hideouts of Revolutionary War hero, Francis Marion. This trail is both dry and wet, and hikers will enjoy wading through Wadboo and Dog Swamps, along with Turkey Creek. Swamp Fox Passage is close to Charleston, so be sure to give yourself an extra day or two to explore the city.


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