Water, water, nowhere

Liberty bottles can be easily and reliably tied to saddle strings.

Liberty bottles can be easily and reliably tied to saddle strings.

As summer winds down, I’m giving thanks to a spectacular season; one that gave me a crash course in riding and hiking essentials here in Utah. Watch video.

Sure, there’s the need for carrying a cell phone, a good knife, and for wearing sunscreen. But the biggest essential?

Water, of course.

After too many needless episodes of screaming headaches and swollen feet, I’ve learned to drink before I’m too thirsty. I’m a happy hydration queen. Read this excellent article on the importance of water.

In the Oquirrhs, there are virtually no water sources during the hot months. Even with a filtration device, we’re out of luck. My saddle bag or backpack was typically stuffed with at least a half gallon of fluids.

Liberty Bottles, recycled aluminum bottles made right in Washington State, served me well. I can jam two or three in a saddle bag and unlike with other bottles I won’t be worrying about leaks. If the horses kick them or step on them? No big deal as they are more durable than alternatives. The nifty top means I can tie them to the saddle, too, by simply looping it through a leather string.

The dogs took to their Olly Dog Lapper immediately.

The dogs took to their Olly Dog Lapper immediately.

Call me finicky, but the lips-to-drink connection is important. Since Liberty Bottles are metal, have no threads, and have a wider-than-pop-bottle opening, they’re wicked nice to use. It’s almost like drinking from a glass at home.

The dogs were treated to fluids in an Olly Dog Lapper, a folding travel bowl that packs easily and takes up very little space. Much more convenient (and stylish!) than alternatives. It can hold more than a liter of water and has enough surface space (lapping room) for two thirsty dogs to drink at the same time. Like me, Belle can be awfully picky about her water delivery system. But she took to her new Olly Dog with no reservations.

Olly Dog’s rectangular shape means you can easily pour the unfinished dogs’ water back into their bottle. Give them another mile, they’ll be craving more.

Read more about hydration scares and tips.

Liberty Bottles

Olly Dog.

The Lapper shape allows you to easily pour water back into bottle

The Lapper shape allows you to easily pour water back into bottle

Camping part two, Maine versus Utah

Things you can count on in the Maine wilderness:

  • Insects (black flies, deer flies, mosquitos, ticks, etc.)
  • Wet (humidity, fog, rain, snow, ponds, lakes, ocean, rivers, streams)
  • Trees (lots and lots of them)

A fairy house along the Cliff Walk in Harpswell, Maine

Because of the trees, you tend to focus on things close to you. Vistas are rare and much of the wonders occur on small, intimate scales. You may sight an animal and then it will be gone, into the green. You get good at squinting.

The wetness allows for a richness of life. Plants and animals ooze from the tiniest places. Lacking big open scenery, our eyes naturally adjust down and near.

Have you seen the fairy house zones on the Cliff Walk behind the Harpswell town offices? The areas are dedicated to the construction and display of tiny houses made of twigs, moss, shells, stones, and bark.

Belle considers the Oquirrh mountains

Belle considers the Oquirrh mountains

You wouldn’t find them in Utah, where you can count on:

  • Dryness
  • Vistas
  • And the notion that wilderness and wildlife are as obvious and available as network TV.

Read Camping, Part One.

Because of poor soil, verticality, and a quarter of Maine’s annual rain, Utah lacks its density of flora and fauna. There is space between grasses, space between trees. The soil doesn’t support anything and everything. On the larger scale, from  3,000 vertical feet and many miles away, I often see the little grey brick house I call home.

10464025_1550901588470486_4121822208047668476_nLife seems laid bare and more of a struggle than back east. There may not be more living and dying going on here, but it sure seems like it. The dogs have more bones than they could ever want. Baby animals are seen (mostly at water spots) and then we see their remnants. Predators (raptors, cats, foxes, coyote) are omnipresent.

As I am discovering, without cushions and curtains of green, there’s not a lot of sneaking around or getting away with anything. Mother Nature holds you accountable at every Utah turn. Even on Maine’s open ocean, it’s easy to get lost. Darkness, it seems, is the only cover or hindrance here.

Read Camping, Part One.





Return to Camping, Part One


Canoeing and fishing in northern Maine

Called by Utah’s great outdoors, inspired by family, and prodded by the notion that Life is Short, I rededicated myself to camping this summer.

The return comes with a thankful nod to generations fore and aft:

  • To my folks for a childhood steeped in exploring, fishing, getting dirty, and informally acquiring skills of observation and resourcefulness.
  • To my sons, who absorbed a keenness for the outdoors and honed their skills. The three of them led or helped lead wilderness trips this summer.
Camping gets passed to the next generation

Camping gets passed to the next generation

Because of work and horse obligations, simply disappearing into the backcountry for a few weeks wasn’t doable. Nor was anything technical; I have no enviable gear. Still, with limited time and mediocre equipment, I cobbled together several weeks of overnight camping in the immediate Oquirrh mountains.

I set up a heavy, old LL Bean tent amidst junipers and sage on nearby Bureau of Land Management area and returned to it every night. Call it a rougher version of Back Yard camping.

On the flattest, least rocky site I could find, I rolled out my sleeping pad and bag and got the dogs squared away. Under the stars, we listened to night hawks, owls, and coyotes.

After some initial restless nights, we relaxed. We got used to the sounds and hard ground. Sleep came in solid chunks. By the time we reached home after the early morning mile back to the house, I felt better than if I’d spent those nights indoors.

Read Camping Part Two

IMG_1405I was shedding the fuss, habits, and preoccupations of domestic life:

Instead of hearing the fridge cycling on, I was listening to the wind pick up. Instead of alarm-clock glancing, I was checking the east-facing ridge. Instead of logging emails, I was sitting on a log, sipping my tea, contemplating nothing much.

Getting away made me realize how incredibly automated I’d become. How long would it take to shake off those patterns more fully? Despite my experience, I was a relative wilderness newbie, handicapped by decades of routines.

The locals let me know about my newcomer status, too. That sentiment resonated during one particular night.

About 2 am, several coyotes starting yipping nearby. It was dark, of course, but a good guess would put them less than 100 feet away. As the dogs and I sat erect in the tent, the group (two, three, four?) was positioned at 9 o’clock. Along with their maniacal yips came another sound: a low, suppressed growl. Your dog makes this sound when you scold him for barking, but he does anyway.

IMG_1412They continued for 15 minutes before tapering off. We tried to go back asleep.

Less than an hour later, they resumed. They were equally close but at now 3 o’clock. For another long, intense session, they yipped and growled. Since coyotes are known to prey on dogs, I urged mine to shut up (they were barking intermittently and shaking non-stop). I yelled into the dark with my best bully voice and flashed my light.

Some short time later, we were hesitantly lying back down when the crazy chorus resumed. They were back at their original position and now barked with pre-dawn vigor. More shouts from me – as aggressive as they were arbitrary (since I haven’t a clue whether this is an effective strategy).

They trailed off again. We fell back asleep nervously, not knowing a thing about their interest or whereabouts.

As the sun came up, we scooted back home, shaken and thoroughly aware that our camping presence had been duly noted and judged by the canyon’s many residents.

Read Camping Part Two


Inside the Salt Palace, looking out

If it bothered any of the 30,000 people buying, selling, and otherwise attending the gigantic Outdoor Retailer Summer Market earlier this month, they weren’t saying.

“It” being the following incongruity:

orsm_2012We were in a convention center (the Salt Palace), manically focused on how best to accessorize our time outside with the perfect packs, pants, pads, and peanut butter patties.

I’m sure outdoorsmen like Wendell Berry, the late Margaret Murie and Edward Abbey, would have grimaced and winced at the scene.

Especially since one of the big themes of this year’s extravaganza was how we can bring more stuff with us. Advances in technology are making it easier to bring our mobile devices (otherwise known as electronic leashes) with us and keep them constantly charged. You can now charge your phone while you cook a meal or hike, thanks to Practical Power and Sole Power.

And stuff is constantly getting lighter, more technical, more packable and stylish. Tents, sleeping bags and cooking gear all weigh just a few pounds each. Clothing is thin, thermal, quick-drying and hip.

Theoretically, all this excellent stuff will make it easier for more people to spend more time in the wilderness. Despite my cynicism, I was happy to see so many folks interested in getting out, even if it involved the feverish acquisition of gear. Yet, I’m reminded of the hilarious Get the Gear sketch from Portlandia.

A scene from Portlandia

A scene from PortlandiaPortlandia.

It seems any of us have gotten so distant from the wilderness, we don’t know how to get back there. Literally and figuratively.

And when we do, it’s uncomfortable. Not just because the terrain is steep and ground is hard to sleep on. It’s unsettling to our plugged-in habits and psyche. If you can’t hike without contemplating your next facebook status update or instagram selfie, you know what I mean.

Not too ironically, there are plenty of people, websites, books, and forums to help us with the notion of unplugging, getting away, and gaining perspective. My recent favs are The Minimalists and BrainPickings. Both offer lots of links to other recommended reading. Both stress the importance of contemplation and figuring things out for your own wants and needs. Of course, individualism and intuition are funny things to consider with the world wide web

Call me conflicted, since I do like a lighter load, decent gear, and often need to stay in touch.

The main thing, I’m learning, is to not worry about perfect gear, perfect weather, perfect timing, or perfect pictures. Just get out and, like you would with a sweater, shed the trappings of stuff and connectivity.


UtahOutsider’s kind of Surveillance


The poor word ‘surveillance,’ like ‘sequester’ and ‘social,’ has been forever ruined by white boxes at every intersection and black, inverted domes in every store and office.

Nowadays, folks don’t consider the Original Surveillance, a heartening act I see performed:

– by the deer looking back after popping over the fence

– by the junco with grub in its beak as I tread too close to its nest

– by the lizards, scooting under rocks when I pass.

I spot a fraction, yet know there’s scores more watching and judging.

IMG_1711I can hear:

– slithering sounds across leaves

– quick, muted thumps of a fleeing hare

– yips of coyotes near my tent at night

Still others mull over the matter of me. It’s a committee, casual in nature, scrutinizing my moves through the neighborhood. They remain unseen and unheard, yet I feel them:

– like a sleeping baby feels a warm blanket

– like a farmer feels the day.

Nowadays, who would consider surveillance something to welcome and cherish?

This kind, anyway, I surely do.


UtahOutsider at Outdoor Retailer

How odd to be inside all week. At UtahOutsider, it goes against the grain. This week, however, was spent entirely indoors, horseless, dogless, trail-less. Small sacrifice for what will be gained for our readership!

OR2Specifically we were at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Salt Palace was home to Outdoor Retailer, one of the largest trade shows in the country with over 135 acres and 1,600 booths of outdoors-y stuff.
Marketing director Emily Thomas Luciano and I spent four dawn-to-dusk days meeting, networking, discovering, and researching all the people and products that could benefit our readers.

Here’s a sampling of things to come:

bertucciWe chatted with Mike Bertucci who owns and runs the American watch company of the same name. Bertucci watches are field tough and work brilliantly for those twilight rides. Stay tuned for a review.
Nature’s Bakery: a fast-growing, super-tasty fig bar company with fabulous flavors like mango, peach-raspberry, and blueberry. Think WAY better than Fig Newtons. Nothing gucky. That means no genetically modified ingredients, etc. Become a paid subscriber and we will send you samples.

Something for your dogs, too:
We discovered the zealous folks at Zuke’s dog treats. These Colorado folks make such high quality goodies, you can eat them, too. Natures-Bakery-Fig-BarsIndeed, we snacked on the jerky treats. Wow!
Olly Dog – these folks solve the design problems of dog accessories in a fun, pretty, and super-practical manner. We particularly loved their solutions for thirsty dogs. Stay tuned for reviews and give-aways.

Byer of Maine traveled far to show off their hammocks and cots. Again, stay tuned for more news and giveaways from this company, founded about 130 years ago in Bangor.
The folks at Muck Boot were excited to hear that their boots have consistently placed among the top boots in our Bestuvs surveys.

muckOther companies we loved and are looking forward to sharing with our readers:

Liquid Hardware – the cap to their insulated bottles sticks (magnetically) to the side of the bottle. They guarantee you’ll never lose your lid. And get this: float the lid in water and it serves as a compass!
Kershaw knives – not surprisingly their Leek pocket knife, with a half-serrated blade is their most popular models. We’ll tell you why soon.
Pocket Monkey – a wallet-must-have. 12 tools in a thin, stainless steel slice of hyper-utility. Slips in your wallet and solves a dozen problems and is even TSA-friendly.


Olly Dog travel water bowl

Ryan Michael and Barn Fly – beautiful clothing for men and women, on or off your horse. Western shirts with bite and pizzazz.
Locally Grown Clothing Company – a purposeful, Made in the USA company based in Des Moines, Iowa.
The New Primal – Kiss GORP goodbye. Say hello to trail packs with jerky mixed with mango and cashews. Gourmet hiking, for sure.
Adventurista – beautiful, outdoor adventure-minded jewelry from Missoula, Montana.
Frogg Toggs – raingear for your saddle bag or day pack
Aloe Up – sun and skincare products for your saddle bag or day pack.

Liquid Hardware, magnetic and insulated

Liquid Hardware, magnetic and insulated

Eco Lips trailblazes again

It was something nagging at Eco Lips president Steve Shriver for years as he traveled the world for the purest ingredients and climbed to the pinnacle of quality, fair trade, and sustainable production:

0000141_300All those excellent ingredients were still going into a plastic tube.

So Eco Lips invested $150,000 in research, development, and production efforts to introduce the first lip balm in a compostable, biodegradable tube.


Drop it while riding or hiking?

Too bad for you, but not too bad for the environment.

It’s an impressive development for the Iowa company that’s been growing 20 percent annually for years.

Another development comes from some serious brainstorming between Shriver and his friend, Ryan Sundermann. The pair has spent lots of time adventuring together and with their families. Working together on a product came naturally (no pun intended).

Sundermann, an emergency department physician, saw the need for a natural bug repellant that actually worked. He was tired of seeing only offerings falling into two categories:

— full of harmful chemicals

— full of empty promises

Many natural and organic products fell into the latter group. As a doctor trained in the scientific method, he began to scour available research on natural repellants.

“I knew we could do better,” said Sundermann, who was unimpressed by ineffective natural products and wary of chemicals like DEET (diethyl methylbenzamide).

Menthol, castor oil, lemongrass, vanilla, citronella. All effective ingredients, he found. All in the newly released Dr. Sundermann’s Bug Balm.

We’ll send you both!

Become a paid subscriber and you’ll receive complimentary tubes of both Dr. Sundermann’s Bug Balm and one of the following Eco Lips flavors – Cocoa Vanilla Nut, Mango Ginger, Herbal Mint. $10 value!

Click here


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