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2017 Subaru Impreza Sport 2.0i - First Drive
Close Encounter of the Bear Kind
Our #AppalachianMountainRoadTrip - July 2016
I'm Not John Muir...
Our #CrosscountryNPFamilyRoadTrip - July 2015

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Thoughts From The Trail

2017 Subaru Impreza Sport 2.0i - First Drive


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 well.
“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 REALLY fast!”

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 thought.
 
“I may be back to get one!” was my one-sentence review.


 
Industry Praise for Subaru and their all-new Impreza:


Read what Motor Trend magazine has to say: “UNRIVALED PRACTICALITY”.
 
Read what CNET’s Road Show has to say: “All new and seriously improved”.
 
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

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 sense.


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 slopes.

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.

Our #AppalachianMountainRoadTrip - July 2016

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
                                  "Hush, Puppy!"

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
         Up
         Star Trek Beyond
         The Secret Life of Pets
         Jason Bourne
         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...

I’m not John Muir, but when the mountains call, I must go. 
     

 













  
I’m not 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, and bleeding. 
   

 




















   
I’m not Thor Heyerdahl, but I’ve “captained” a raft down the Nantahala River for almost 40 years.
   

 












  
  
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 vacation.
   

 
 












  
  
Who am I then? I’m just someone who fell madly in love with the outdoors over five decades ago.
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 






















 

Our #CrosscountryNPFamilyRoadTrip - July 2015

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 – 3

● 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 goodness!)

● 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 
       Wall Drug 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 Easy Steps

Adventure Sock Care: Four Easy Steps

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 
as 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 and 
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 
again, let’s 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 the openness 
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.


Summary

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

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

Here’s why:

   ● 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.

Woolx Base Camp Hoodie layered
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.

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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.

Woolx Base Camp Hoodie unlayered


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, 
just as 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.

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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 adventure wardrobe.

2016: A Year To Be Filled With Adventure

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"!

Meat Bars? Yep!

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 with me.)

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 started!
 
       
 Wrapper Design
  
EPIC wins this category hands down, with an attention-grabbing, handsome, muscular cow pictured.
 

Smell Upon Opening The Bar
  
This was a toss-up, as both bars smelled almost identical.
 

Appearance
  
The shiny appearance of the EPIC bar left me puzzled.
The Bricks Bar wasn’t shiny at all.
 

Taste
  
The 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.
The Bricks Bar was sweeter, and much less “meaty” tasting.
 

Feel In My Mouth
  
The EPIC bar was soft and crumbly, very much like a thick cookie.
The Bricks Bar was more substantial, and chewed longer, like “real meat”.
 

Inside Look
  
The EPIC bar looked less like “whole food”.
   




















The “ whole ingredients” of the Bricks Bar were clearly visible.
  




















Satisfying
  
The crumbly, lighter texture of the EPIC bar wasn't substantial.
The thicker feel—and longer chew—of the Bricks Bar was more substantial.
 

Conclusion
  
While 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.



Upon Further Inspection…

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 been cold.

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!
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