Thoughts From The Trail
As my role of #SubaruAmbassador
continues to evolve, it felt like the right time to lend my voice to the
responsibilities I agreed to when I signed on, and blog about the game-changing
automobiles Subaru is building. Given the
global priority my friends at Subaru have placed on the eight configurations of
the completely redesigned 2017 Impreza, I
decided that my first official “test drive” should take place behind the wheel
of this exciting vehicle. Taking into account my focus as a leader in outdoor
adventure circles across my social media platform, and having owned two of the
three “adventure vehicles” that are so wildly popular within Subaru’s line-up—a
2015 Crosstrek, and currently a 2016 Forester—this would be my first time in one
of their primarily-urban vehicles. (Please understand that I’m not an
automotive writer, nor do I aspire to be, but I’m a car lover, which is reason
enough to want to share my thoughts with you.)
From the moment I slipped into
the driver’s seat, or “cockpit” as my 10 year-old son called it, of the Impreza
2.0i Sport Sedan, I knew that I was in for a treat. From the push-button start,
to the wide array of technology at my fingertips, the instrumentation of the
Impreza was a buffet of innovation. One of the “must-have” automotive features for
me is a good sound system, but I wasn’t prepared for the power and quality of
the 432-watt, 8 speaker Harmon Kardon® audio system! So I cranked up “The
Highway”, Channel 56 on SiriusXM, opened
the power moonroof, and pulled out of the Kelly
Subaru parking lot.
For the next 90 minutes, I was
treated to one of my quietest, smoothest drives in over a decade. Considering
that the majority of Impreza owner—at least those who choose the sedan vs. the
5-door—will be subject to the constant sound of urban and highway traffic, the
lengths that Subaru went to in order to “quieten” the design is to be
applauded. The peacefulness of the spacious cabin enhances the crispness of the
audio system, very much like a home theater creates the perfect space to view a
favorite family movie.
Within 5 minutes of leaving the
car dealership, I entered a giant road construction project, with strategically-narrowed
lanes, and a very tricky setting to merge into oncoming highway traffic. This
was the first test of the Impreza’s increased power and the upgraded Boxer®
engine, and its direct injection-fueled 152 horsepower more than proved up to
the task, even without utilizing its racing-inspired paddle shifters I had
loved on my Crosstrek. The section of highway that immediately followed merging
included a construction-tightened S-curve, which showed off the control of the
2.0i Sport Sedan’s sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels. I imagined
that the trunk spoiler helped like it does on The Beast of the Subaru line-up:
the renowned WRX STi!
Another 10 minutes later, I was
headed up the twisting, climbing curves of Taft Highway, as I drove up Signal
Mountain. For whatever reason, the local, usually-affluent residents of this small
mountaintop community get some sort of one-upmanship delight in racing each
other to the top. It felt like the right time to try out the paddle shifters,
and suffice to say they didn’t disappoint, as I collected my imaginary trophy
at the top. The entire set-up of the Impreza impressed, from steering, to
handling, to acceleration, to braking, feeling the equal of the much
higher-priced models I passed—Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, etc—all the while
serenaded by Old Dominion and Lady Antebellum.
Driving the tree-lined roads of
the mountain we’ve called home for the past 6 years, the sheer delight of being
behind the wheel of the Impreza grew on me. I made a few stops at the homes of
car lovers I knew and was pleased by their comments, and laughed at a few as
“Wow, when did you get this!?” an
Audi A3 owner asked. After sitting in the driver’s seat, he walked over to the
window sticker. “It’s not got the horsepower of my A3, but the sound system is
beats mine, and for $8,000 less!”
“It’s about time you grew up!”
joked another friend of mine. “Seriously, what is this? A WRX?” When I told him
that it was the new Impreza, he was quite surprised. “A buddy of mine bought an
Impreza last year, but it sure doesn’t look like this one! I bet he’s not happy!”
My last stop was at the home of a
Subaru family, who’ve owned Subies for years and years. “So this is new
Impreza?” the father said, as we walked out to their driveway. “I haven’t seen
one in person yet. Can I drive it?” I assured him that he could head right down
to Kelly Subaru and drive one today, but that I wasn’t able to let him drive
this one. Without missing a beat, he asked me to open the trunk, which I hadn’t
done yet. Next, we dropped the rear seats and created one of the largest cargo
spaces I’d seen in a long time, very different in configuration from my
previous hatchback models. After a thorough going-over, he concluded, “They did
it right, didn’t they?”
My next stop was my last for the
day: home. Here are the exact words that my children shared upon seeing the
Impreza in our driveway:
My 16 year-old daughter: “Daddy,
you shouldn’t have! I love it! (snicker) It’s REALLY cute and sporty, Daddy! I
bet it’s FUN to drive…can I?”
My 10 year-old son: “Whoaaaa,
Dad, did you get a new Subaru??? (disappointed sigh when I told him that it was
just a #SubaruAmbassador test drive) Is it fast like the WRX STi!? They’re
The photo session that followed
was loads of fun, and made me feel like
an automotive blogger…at least until I finished shooting. The photographs
(included in this blog) seemed to capture the great lines, sporty features, and
very modern electronics quite ably, if I may say so.
The drive back down the mountain,
the next morning, to return the Impreza to the dealership was an energetic
reminder of the tightness of the sport-tuned suspension, accompanied by Led
Zeppelin’s “Remastered, Disc One”, and Whole
Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Communication Breakdown, etc…at full volume, with all four windows down
and moonroof wide open.
When I pulled into the parking
lot, my sales buddy, Keith Aviles, came out to collect the fob, and ask what I
“I may be back to get one!” was
my one-sentence review.
Industry Praise for Subaru and
their all-new Impreza:
Subaru is Kelley Blue Book’s 2016 Best
Overall Brand, Most Trusted Brand,
and Best Performance Brand.
The Subaru Impreza was named Best Resale Value in its class for 2016
by Kelley Blue Book.
The 2017 Subaru Impreza has the highest residual value in its class,
according to ALG.
The Subaru Impreza is the longest-lasting vehicle in its class, and the best-selling all-wheel drive car in its
class in the U.S.
Close Encounter of the Bear Kind
Thinking back over the last
decade of my life, specifically the myriad of outdoor adventure-related parts,
among my fondest memories include my albeit short service as a backcountry
volunteer with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I can still recall the
all-day meeting we had at Park HQ, as new volunteers, especially our time out
on a trail near Elkmont—in the rain and mud.
One part of that field training
session I’ll never forget was discovering a heavy-duty plastic container
alongside a stream, which was so thick I could barely bend it. Why would I
remember something man-made while out in the midst of the world-famous Smokies?
Because the container had several deep punctures on opposing sides, having been
bitten through by a large black bear. The reality of that still reverberates
through me whenever I’m out on a trail in an area of Southern Appalachia
inhabited by bears, but never more so than during my Close Encounter of the Bear Kind.
My backcountry responsibilities
centered on helping maintain backcountry campsite 17—which will forever be “BC17”
to me—but they also included any small trail repair on the way out along Little
Bottoms Trail. The hike from the Abrams Creek parking area adjacent to the
Ranger Station wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t difficult either, if that makes
On this particular trip to BC17,
the weather was ideal and I hurried to where Little Bottoms Trail descended
alongside Abrams Creek. If you’ve never seen this magnificent stream on the
Chilhowee side of the park, think small river, especially following a heavy
rain. It was running a little high on this late spring day, and I recall
encountering several fairly-fresh bear scat droppings, and even a few prints, neither
of which was out of the ordinary.
By the time I’d gotten out to the
totally-empty campsite and completed my duties, I was ready to get back creek-side.
The sky was cerulean blue, the air was sweet, and I was caught up in my love
for this special part of the Smokies—my
part. So caught up, in fact, that I walked right up on a female black bear.
The section of trail I found
myself stopped on was very narrow and elevated above the creek by about twenty
feet. The slope down to Abrams Creek was steep and filled with dense undergrowth,
while the other side was bordered by both rocky outcroppings and equally-steep forested
We both stopped upon seeing each
other—about 30 feet apart—as we rounded a slight curve in the trail from opposite
directions. I immediately looked down, remembering not to make direct eye
contact with large predators. Next, I dropped my trekking pole and quickly-but-quietly
drew my “bear knife”, hoping I wouldn’t need to use it. I wondered why the bear
hadn’t turned tail and run, and then a cub cried. I never saw it.
The moment it cried, she charged
me. Flight, not fight, took over and I turned to run. My survival instinct
kicked in, helping me instantly realize I wasn’t going to out-run her. In a
matter of 2 seconds, I leapt off of the elevated trail, and out onto a tree
trunk. Yes, onto. Not on a limb, but the side of the tree. Fifteen feet above
the forest floor, beside Abrams Creek.
I could hear her huffing, as I
worked my way around to face her, struggling to maintain my hold on the
limbless section of the tree I clung to. The ten feet or so separating us
seemed much shorter when I was able to see her and watch her bouncing on her
front paws. Had she decided to jump, or slide down the steep embankment and
scurry up the tree, I most likely wouldn’t be sitting here composing this
re-telling. Thankfully, the cub cried again, and she gave me one last huff and
hurried back to it.
Only then did I notice my arms
and legs burning from their effort to cling to the limbless section of the tree.
The scrapes, burns, and raw places were numerous and bright red by the time I
shimmied to the bottom in my shorts and short-sleeved shirt. Since I was in no
hurry to return to the trail and retrieve my trekking pole and bear knife, I
walked over to the creek and washed off every red mark I could see. I even
broke one of my cardinal rules, and cupped several mouthfuls of water with my
hands to quench my thirst.
The oddest part of the entire
ordeal was completely forgetting that I still had on my utility pack, which
bore the tools I used to maintain the campsite and clear the trail. Apparently,
in my adrenalized state of mind, it had become another appendage, and I only became
aware of it as I made it back up to the trail, bent over to retrieve my knife,
and the tools inside shifted.
The hike back to my vehicle was
on jittery legs, my mind spinning like a top about my close encounter. Every sound was another charging bear, and I ended
up laughing aloud at myself more than a couple of times before arriving back in
the Abrams Creek Campground.
Years passed before I ever shared
this story with my family. I hope you enjoyed it.
Arriving home from this summer's road trip a few days before the school year started put me behind for sharing the fun details like I did about last summer's mega-adventure...sorry.
In keeping with last summer's "report", I'll be sharing from the copious-but-fun notes we kept. Allow me to strongly suggest you keep some sort of journal, or detailed notes, like we have, since looking back is much easier and
loads more fun than trying to recall from memory, or photograph, alone.
While this family adventure covered only 5529 miles, as compared to the 8701 miles we drove last summer, we were away from home for 35 days to last year's 33 days. Last summer we took our Subaru Crosstrek, but this summer we drove our new-to-us Subaru Forester.
So here goes...
Fuel Stops - 12
States Driven Through - TN, NC, VA, MD, PA, NJ, NY, Washington D.C., CT,
NH, VT, MA, RI, ME, DE, SC (16)
Scoops of Ice Cream Enjoyed - 15
Subway Sandwiches Eaten - 12
Salads Enjoyed - 13 (Both the sub sandwiches and salads were a concerted effort to eat healthier than last year.)
Tunnels Driven Through on the BRP - 26
Weather Events - Dense Fog along the BRP, and dangerously-heavy rains in DE
Money Saved Using Our "America the Beautiful" Pass- Over $100.
National Parks/Monuments/Forests/Parkways/Etc. Visited -
Ocoee Scenic Byway, Cherokee NF, Starr Mountain NF, Great Smoky
Mountains NP, Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah NF, Jefferson NF, Shenandoah
NF, Gettysburg NMP, Delaware Water Gap, White Mountain NF, Acadia NP, Schoodic National Scenic Byway, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Fundy NP, Bunker Hill NM, Pinelands National Reserve, Wright Brothers NM, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Hatteras NP, Pea Island NWR, Outer Banks NSB, Cedar Island NWR, Cape Lookout National Seashore, Croatan NF
State Parks/Forests Visited - Mount Mitchell SP, Enders SF, Franconia
Notch SP, Winslow SP, Moose Point SP, Cape Henlopen SP, Mountain
Bridge SP, Caesars Head SP, DuPont State Recreational Forest
Friends Visited With - Kat and Matt in Roanoke, Jenny in Shenandoah NP,
Mindy in Gettysburg, Kevin in the Delaware Water Gap, Kate in NYC,
Bronson and Family in Acadia NP, and Amy at the Denali HQ.
Species of Wildlife Seen - At least 22 different creatures seen, including 2 close
encounters with black bears in Shenandoah NP (NO moose!)
"Very Cool Things Seen & Done!" - 14, including at least 8 great Eastern Waterfalls, drove the Cherohala Skyway, drove over 450 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, visited the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge, visited NYC...TWICE, walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building, took in the National Gallery, seeing Lady Liberty for the first time as a family, stopped by the Hopewell Rocks, explored Peggy's Cove, rode the Cape May - Lewes Ferry
Best Accommodations - The two stays at the Cambria Inn & Suites, and the Hampton Inn & Suites in Tarrytown, N.Y.
Favorite Sayings - "Butt Stuff", "Utilize the full length of your legs", and
Other Assorted Highlights/Lowlights - Forgetting to pack my son's socks & underwear, being at the highest point east of the Mississippi River, atop Mt. Mitchell, taking my very first Night Sky photos with my new Canon Rebel T5 in Shenandoah NP, our time in the amazing LuRay Caverns, visiting Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., being cited for my daughter's pepper spray as we crossed into Canada, on my children's very first time in Canada, driving along Cape Cod, visiting the eastern seashore, from Maine down to N.C., for the first time as a family, the hushpuppies at Miller's Seafood, in Outer Banks, N.C., and strolling around quaint Brevard, N.C.
Miles Hiked - Over 35
Movies Watched (Because of the heat or rain)
The Legend of Tarzan
Star Trek Beyond
The Secret Life of Pets
Ice Age: Collision Course
Highest/Lowest Price of Gas - $2.39 and $1.78
Average MPG over the Entire Trip - 30.9 mpg
Again, fill in the balance of special and everyday moments shared during our 800-plus straight hours together, and you’ll begin to have some idea of the incredible lifetime memories our little family made on this second road trip.
Most likely, this marks the end of our epic family road trips. The time we got to spend together exploring both the center of our nation, the west coast, and now the east coast will live long in our memories. Thanks to the many of you who visited with us, and those of you who followed along on our journey via Twitter, IG, and Facebook. We loved sharing these adventures with you, and hope that they somehow encouraged you to plan your own family road trips.
I’m not John
Muir, but when the mountains call, I must go.
Meriwether Lewis, but heading upstream on a backcountry adventure is my thing.
I’m not Ansel Adams,
but I love capturing nature through photography.
I’m not Cody
Lundin, but I “get” him.
I’m not a Spartan
Warrior, but I usually return from chasing waterfalls scraped, scratched, bruised,
I’m not Thor
Heyerdahl, but I’ve “captained” a raft down the Nantahala River for almost 40
I’m not Henry
David Thoreau, but time spent out on Snoopers Rock restores me.
I’m not Bear
Grylls, but I love my children like he does his.
I’m not Daniel
Boone, but I enjoy exploring the Appalachian Mountains.
I’m not Horace
Kephart, but writing about my beloved Smoky Mountains is a delight for me.
I’m not Danny
Macaskill, but climbing aboard my MTB is always thrilling.
I’m not Clark
Griswold, but heading out on a road trip with my children is my idea of a
Who am I then?
I’m just someone who fell madly in love with the outdoors over five decades ago.
How does one capture an
8701-mile, 33-day, cross-country road trip, without writing a novel? That’s
been my dilemma, and I suppose the main reason I hadn’t attempted to chronicle
our epic journey, from our home on Signal Mountain, in Tennessee, out to the
most northwestern point in the contiguous United States—Cape Flattery—and back
home again. And then a thought occurred to me: Why not share the “notes” we
worked so diligently to jot down along the way? So here goes, in the exact
order my daughter recorded them…
● Rest Stops (to take a break and
stretch our legs only) – 3
● Railroad Bridges Driven Under –
● Fuel Stops – 21
● States Driven Through – GA, KY,
IL, MO, NE, IA, SD, WY, MT, ID, WA, OR, NV, UT, CO, KS, IN, TN (18)
● Milkshakes Consumed – 13
● Hamburgers Eaten – 10
● Walmart Stops – 1 (Thank
● Trips to a Grocery Store – 2
● Great Rivers Crossed – Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Columbia, Colorado
● Weather Events – Tornado Warning, Pea Soup Fog, Near-100 Degree Temps, Severe Thunderstorm
● Money Saved Using Our “American
the Beautiful” Pass – At least $170
● National Parks Visited –
Gateway Arch, Lewis and Clark NHT, Minuteman Missile Site, Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Dungeness NWR,
Olympic, Crater Lake, Arches, Canyonlands, Rocky Mountain
● Friends Visited With – Jeff “Missouri”
Howell, Don & Shelly Hafner,
Kristie Salzmann, Ranger Kaiti May,
Yvette Whitaker, Dagmara Mach, Rachel Picado, Doug “Exotic Hikes”, Terry Priest, Tanya Harrison and The Dudes, Shawn Parry, Jess & Dave
Hutton, Jena Stone, Cecilia Walker, and Beth Lakin
● State Parks Visited – Cahokia Indian Mounds, Custer State Park, and
Sequim Bay State Park
● Species of Wildlife Seen – At least
44 different creatures
● “Very Cool Things Seen &
Done” – 28, including a carriage ride in Downtown St. Louis, lunch at
Store, Fireworks on the
4th of July in Interior, South Dakota, visited the Crazy Horse monument, experienced Old Faithful, sat under a Blue Moon, snow-capped mountains in July, hiked to Shi Shi Beach, visited the Hoh Rain Forest, saw Cannon Beach, traveled around the 33-mile loop around Crater Lake, saw wind turbines, drove
the first 8 miles of the U.S. Interstate System, and So. Many. Others.
● Best Accommodations – Downtown Hilton
in Omaha, the Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, and the Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath Falls
● Favorite Sayings – “Your FACE!”,
“Durango”, “Aidan, Stop. It.”, “Cigaretting”
Now, fill in the balance of
special and everyday moments shared during our almost-800 straight hours
together, and you’ll begin to have some idea of the incredible lifetime memories
our little family made on our #CrosscountryNPFamilyRoadTrip.
We had such an incredible
time that I’m already busy planning our next epic road trip. This year, we set
off again on July 1, following the Appalachian Mountains northward,
as closely as possible—with side trips thrown in spend time at visit-worthy parks
and cities, and with friends—on our way to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and back. So,
keep an eye out for both #AppalachianMountainRoadTrip and #HalifaxHereWeCome.
(Note: In order to keep this
short and sweet, it was necessary to choose only a very select few photos from
the over-1000 we took. We hope that no one we spent time with gets their feelings
hurt by this.)
Adventure Sock Care: Four
When was the last time you
stopped to think about how you care for your adventure socks? Maybe the better
question is, “Have you given any
thought to your adventure socks after
purchasing them?” If you’re like most outdoor enthusiasts, the great majority
of your effort goes into selecting “the right ones”, and then keeping them
clean and ready to wear. But, by following the four easy steps I’m about to
share, not only will your socks perform better, they’ll also perform like new
for a lot longer.
Step One: Don’t Fold Your Socks
In my opinion, this step is the
easiest to follow, yet yields the greatest benefit of the four. It’s involves
stepping outside of an age-old paradigm, but one that is easily put aside after
a few loads of laundry. Are you ready? Don’t fold your socks. Yep, that’s it.
Don’t. Fold. Your. Socks.
I don’t mean, wash your socks and
throw the entire pile into your adventure sock drawer. (Yes, I have an
adventure sock drawer, don’t you?) What I mean is not folding one over the other, so that they’re “attached”. Sort
them into respective pairs, and then leave them loose…but why? Very simply, by
not folding them into a matched pair, you are extending the life of the
all-important elasticity of both the “cuff” and “leg” of your socks.
If you have time, go to your sock
drawer and take out all of your adventure socks
for a closer inspection. Check
for the telltale stretched-out cuff. Almost every time a cuff is stretched out,
the leg is, too. You know the ones. They end sliding down your lower leg, often
piled atop your adventure shoe/boot, which isn’t such a
bad thing, other than
the myriad of items that sneak their way against your skin,
and into your
shoe/boot. (No other design feature—shown above—suffers from being folded.)
In my adventure sock drawer are
several pairs of socks, each chosen for a variety of reasons: fit, fiber
content, thickness, height, and cost. Every single pair is unattached from its
mate. They range in age from a few weeks old, to almost a decade. Yes, you read
that right. Two pairs are extra-thick, polyester North Face® mountaineering socks,
which I purchased as a gift for my children to give me on Christmas 2008.
As you can see, the cuff is only
slightly stretched out, which is attributable to
both their age, and also the
size of my
calves, which they’ve stretched over the bottom of for 8 years. None of the loss
of elasticity is due
to anything else, since they’ve never been folded together. Ever.
The leg of
the sock is as snug as when they were new, a credit to my diligence, as well
the sturdy construction of these socks. (Note: Since switching over to
snugly-fitted hiking boots, and rarely wearing my one
pair of very heavy
mountaineering boots, these North Face® socks remain, unworn,
in my adventure
sock drawer most of the year.)
My all-time favorite hiking
socks, which I decommissioned after their fifth year of use, have suffered the loss of elasticity, through
the probably-over-200 times they’ve been worn and laundered. They’ve never been
folded either. These Icebreaker® socks were the first merino socks I’d ever
purchased, and are almost singlehandedly responsible for my switch from
polyester socks to merino wool socks (but this isn’t a review of the incredible
features found only in high-quality merino wool socks).
I feel certain that both the cuff
leg of the Icebreaker socks struggled
against both the size of my calves,
and the distress caused by five years
of constant laundering, because I wear
merino wool crew socks year-round.
Since I just mentioned laundering
move on to Steps 2 thru 4.
Step Two: Launder With Care
Were you aware that every single
item in your adventure wardrobe that wicks away perspiration should be
laundered separately from non-wicking items? Yes, you read that correctly. Separately. And here’s why, and how.
This microscopic image is a
close-up of the spun fibers that go into the construction of most wicking
garments. Pay attention to the openness of the weave, for that is where the perspiration
that is wicked away from the surface of your skin is drawn through and pushed
to the surface of the garment. Only by using a very mild “wool wash” detergent,
and NO fabric softener, can
of the weave be properly maintained. The mildness of the wool wash
allows it to be easily rinsed out of such garments. By design, fabric softeners
adhere to the fabric they’re washed into, and in the case of wicking garments,
they clog up the open weave, limiting, and ultimately blocking, the process of
removing perspiration from the surface
of the skin.
In addition to using a wool wash,
and no fabric softener, I always—repeat, always—use
the Cold Wash setting, and the gentlest of wash cycles, preferably Hand Wash. (Note:
Many manufacturers recommend using the “Warm” or “Cool” setting. My own experience
has shown me that using the “Cold” setting results in longer sock life. Bear in
mind, I’m trying to keep you from
buying adventure socks more often…enough said.)
Step Three: Inside Out
Now that you know what to use,
and not use, to launder your adventure socks, and what settings to select
during the washing process, here’s the next simple step, as recommended by
every adventure sock manufacturer on the planet: turn your socks inside out
before laundering them. The only explanation I could find for turning socks
inside out to launder them related to “pilling”, which won’t happen if you choose
high-quality, name-brand socks, even wool socks. Logic, however, says that
turning them inside out allows all parts of the socks—especially the heel and
toe areas—that come in direct contact with your oily, sweaty, grimy skin to
release these “foreign elements” from the material.
Step Four: Dry With Care
The final step to extending the
life of your adventure socks is just as important as the other three, and
easily accomplished. Either choose the lowest heat setting on your dryer, or—if
you have time—allow your socks to air dry. I used to air dry all of my
adventure socks, but have found that using the lowest heat setting, along with
the shortest drying cycle, is of little detriment to the integrity of my socks.
This frequent, proper laundering, and low-heat drying allow me to keep one of
my two pairs of new Icebreaker® medium-weight, merino wool socks available to
me at all times. Having to wait on wool socks to air dry can mean owning more
pairs of socks, which defeats the purpose of this information.
I hope you have found this
simple, step-by-step article helpful. Proper care of adventure socks, like with ALL
adventure apparel and gear, is both cost-effective, but also helps us consume
less in the process.
Field Test: Woolx Base Camp Hoodie
I love merino wool, let me be
clear about that. It’s my favorite outdoor adventure apparel material. More
than fleece. More than synthetics. More than down. More than heavy canvas/cotton.
More than leather. So, when Woolx offered me the chance to field test something
from their extensive line of merino wool products, I jumped at the chance. After looking over their many
tops, and taking into consideration the typical winter weather here on Signal
Mountain, as well as the fact that I would most likely be day-hiking in it, I
choose the Base Camp Hoodie.
● The 160g weight, 100% Australian merino wool is
the ideal weight for two, very practical reasons.
● It can be worn
alone when conditions are mild enough.
It can be worn as the first layer in a multi-layer configuration.
● My first preference in any top is that it be zippered, whether full, half, or quarter-zip.
● Being hooded allows for a back-up if the weather
changes and covering my head and ears is wise.
The first chance I had to wear the hoodie on a hike was on a
cold-for-the-South, late January day, when the temp hovered just below
freezing. Pairing it with a hooded, heavy polyester, full-zip top seemed like a
good pairing, so I set out. As on any cold weather hike, it was a bit chilly
during the first half-mile, but the soft merino wool soon gathered my body heat
and I warmed right up. Both the Woolx hoodie and the polyester top were
equipped with thumbholes, so I packed lightweight gloves, but ended up not
needing them over the 5.46 miles I hiked that morning. I did, however, wear a
fleece-lined beanie, so I didn’t use either hood.
Over the course of the
fast-for-me trek, my 240-pound body generated a lot of body heat and
sweat, which is why I love merino wool so much: its amazing wicking properties.
I was extremely pleased with how the Woolx hoodie pulled the sweat from my skin
and transferred it to the polyester hoodie. The top layer wasn’t as effective
at pushing my perspiration onto its surface, but it managed to well enough to
keep me from feeling damp.
About halfway through the hike, I
slowly began to unzip both tops, in order to regulate my body temp, and keep
from overheating and perspiring too much. By the end, I had lowered both
zippers around 2 inches, which allowed me to dial in the perfect comfort level.
When I got back to my Subaru and removed the polyester hoodie, it was pretty
damp, and somewhat heavier than straight off the hanger. The Base Camp Hoodie
was significantly less damp, and was almost completely dry by the time I
arrived home, 15 minutes later.
The second chance I had, I got out
in my Woolx hoodie only, with the temp a very mild 50 degrees, but very humid,
as the windy skies threatened rain. Both the 50-degree temperature and the 100%
humidity conspired against my fastest-ever hiking pace, and I was soon very warm! Had it not been for the
half-zip feature of the hoodie, I would’ve had to choose between slowing my
pace, or even temporarily removing it. Thankfully, using the full length of the
zipper did the trick, and I cooled down to a very comfortable temperature that
allowed me to complete the hike in record time.
My cotton bandana was soaked
through from me wiping off the
perspiration on my head and face,
but the hoodie
was barely damp.
As I was loading my gear into my
Crosstrek, a couple walked up and
asked me a series of questions about
the trail I had just completed. By the
end of our 10-minute conversation,
the hoodie had completely dried out,
the rain began to fall.
● I’ve laundered the Base Camp Hoodie three times,
and seen no change whatsoever in its shape, or how it fits.
● I’ve worn the hoodie both tucked in and
untucked, and have enjoyed the longer length both ways.
● The thumbhole placement is slightly different
than other base layers top I’ve worn, and I like its location a little better.
● I’ve yet to wear the hood out of necessity yet,
but have pulled it on to gauge how it fits, and I like its design.
● I didn’t experience any chaffing either time I
wore the hoodie, and was very pleased with the way it fit my large upper body:
not too snug, not too loose.
● I can envision the hoodie being a 3-season
option for me, with our hot, sultry summers being the only time I wouldn’t want
to wear it.
Summary: After wearing the Woolx
Base Camp Hoodie in two different configurations, in very different weather
conditions, and taking into consideration the extremely reasonable $95 price
tag, and free 2-Day Shipping*, I’d highly recommend adding one to your outdoor
Is it just me, or did 2015 FLY by like no other year ever has!? From snowy, Southern hikes, to an epic, once-in-a-lifetime, 8701-mile road trip, and back to chasing backcountry waterfalls, the days hurried by at a frenetic pace.
Old adventure partnerships ended, while new ones presented themselves, and my role as a Teton Sports #MountainAdventurers ambassador continued.
Being named to the #SubaruAmbassadors team continues to be an honor that I never envisioned.
In December, when Oboz Footwear announced their 2016 Trail Tales Ambassador Team, and my name was on that prestigious list, my head was spinning with the amazing whirlwind that was 2015.
I hiked more in 2015 than I ever have, and still wasn't able to get out nearly as much as I would've liked to. I hiked with more different people on more new-to-me trails than ever before, and still wasn't able to #GetOutdoors with as many people as I'd hoped. So, for the first time in my life, I have set a firm mileage goal for myself of "750 miles Hiked" , in 2016. I decided not to choose a total number of different people to hike with, so as not to limit myself in any way from hitting a trail, or heading off-trail into the backcountry, with AS MANY friends as I can.
Since our 33-day, crosscountry, national park, adventure friend-filled road trip, aka our #CrosscountryNPFamilyRoadTrip, simply cannot be topped, I am already planning a scaled-down, but even more national park, adventure friend meet-up-focused, Subaru-propelled adventure, following the Appalachian Mountain chain, south to north and back down the other side, possibly even into eastern Canada! Yep, it's barely the new year, and we're ALREADY EXCITED about July 2016!
It is my intention to greatly increase the number of local, regional, national, and even international in-person contacts, not only to meet adventure friends face-to-face, but to head out on adventures with them. If you'd like to be a part of the aforementioned adventures, don't be shy; let me know, as far in advance as you can! If you'd like to pay a visit to the Chattanooga area and go on an adventure with me, let's put our heads together and make it happen.
As you can see, 2016 WILL BE "A Year...Filled With Adventure"!
Let’s be honest, when you first
heard the term “meat bar”, which may very well be just now, weren’t you just a
bit puzzled? Meat Bar? A bar of meat? Yummm…NOT!
Well, I wasn’t nearly as puzzled
as I was intrigued, and the carnivore inside me drove that intrigue.
So, I did what every other
hyper-curious person does, and I googled “meat bar”. (No, nothing untoward
showed up in my search, so get your mind out of the gutter and follow along
The good folks at EPIC dominated
the top portion of the search results, and deserve that position as the first
people to hit the nationwide meat bar market in 2012. (Cut yourself some slack
if you’d never heard of a meat bar before, since they’ve only been readily
available for three years or so.) But being first doesn't always mean best;
just ask François Isaac de Rivaz, who designed the first car powered by an
internal combustion engine back in 1807. Seen any Rivaz
convertibles at your local park lately?
I decided to focus my attention
on two companies, both of whom produce seemingly very similar meat bars, and
studied their websites pretty comprehensively. Both have interesting histories,
and were created out of a very personal desire to develop a product that both
founding couples could enjoy as a part of their healthy lifestyles.
(This was the only beef selection from EPIC available to me.)
But, since this is a food-based
project of mine, reading was good, but eating was required. So eat I did, and
what follows is a comparison review from a real-life, big-time carnivore, who
has never set out to compare two food items for the purpose of selecting one
over the other. Don’t expect Food Network or N.Y. Times Food Section-worthy
comments, but rather simple, authentic comments. Let’s get this meat bar party
wins this category hands down, with an attention-grabbing, handsome, muscular
Upon Opening The Bar
was a toss-up, as both bars smelled almost identical.
shiny appearance of the EPIC bar left me puzzled.
Bricks Bar wasn’t shiny at all.
Habanero spice of the EPIC bar was evident immediately, but I never tasted the
cherry, possibly because of the strong “meaty” taste of this bar.
Bricks Bar was sweeter, and much less “meaty” tasting.
In My Mouth
EPIC bar was soft and crumbly, very much like a thick cookie.
Bricks Bar was more substantial, and chewed longer, like “real meat”.
EPIC bar looked less like “whole food”.
“ whole ingredients” of the Bricks Bar were clearly visible.
crumbly, lighter texture of the EPIC bar wasn't substantial.
thicker feel—and longer chew—of the Bricks Bar was more substantial.
there was nothing offensive in taste or quality about the EPIC bar, there was
nothing that made me want to try another one, regardless of the other flavors, especially considering the price.
The Bricks Bar left me more
satisfied and more intrigued than I was to begin with, which has me interested
in trying other flavors.
If you’re looking for an artistic
wrapper, then EPIC bars are your cup of tea.
If you’re looking for a filling,
protein-rich snack, then Bricks bars are your side of beef.
Back in November 2014, I shared
my thoughts about my first cold weather field test of an I/O Merino base layer. Since
then, I have worn every I/O item in my adventure wardrobe, and wanted to
provide an update on how they performed.
Winter 2014-15 has proven as
fickle a winter season as I can recall, with temps roller-coastering as much as
50 actual degrees and 70 wind chilled degrees within 24 hours. 20s. 50s. 30s.
70s. Teens. 60s. Single Digits. 40s. Even Negative Single Digits. Rain. Sleet.
Snow. And Ice. You name it, we’ve experienced it here in the Chattanooga,
Tennessee area, and I’ve adventured out in it.
Within the past couple of months,
I’ve rediscovered my love of backcountry bushwhacking. And I do mean love! On every single one of these outings, I’ve had on the
appropriate I/O base layer, ranging from only an Altitude Quarter-Zip Top, all
the way to the full complement of Zodiac Boxers, Altitude Quarter-Zip Top, Park
City Mid-layer Vest, Altitude Full Tights and Aztech Beanie. Regardless of the
temperature—single digits to the 60s—regardless of the conditions—dry to damp,
calm to 60-plus mph winds, sunshiny to blowing snow—I have not been cold.
Let me repeat that: I have not
Let that sink in.
Sure, I’ve also chosen the proper
socks, footwear, adventure shorts/pants, outerwear, and gloves, but the party
starts against my skin…or it fails there.
Each merino wool item not only kept me warm, but more importantly it wicked
properly, which in a few of the settings I’ve found myself in, could’ve proven
dangerous had they not done so. Sweat, wind, frigid temps, and damp clothing
drain precious body heat, contributing directly to hypothermia. I’ve found
myself exhausted, ravenous, and thirsty, but never chilled to the point of
being cold, even in shorts in near-zero wind chill conditions.
I could throw in a myriad of
facts about the high-end technology that goes into the production of the world’s
finest merino wool, or mention again how exacting the Michell Family is about
Every. Single. Product. they produce, but you can read about that for yourself in their MERINOPEDIA section. I just felt compelled to share more well-deserved praise for all
things I/O Merino, especially after putting each item I own to the crazy Winter 2014-15 test.
#rethink wool – I Have!