SPOT to the rescue (and for fun)

The move to Colorado means a few things change:

  • GEN3_leadI’m in unfamiliar territory.
  • I’m mostly alone while exploring on foot and horseback.

Just in time, the folks at SPOT have sent their Gen3 device with satellite service for messaging and tracking. We’ll be giving one away at the Equine Affaire. A $450 value.

I don’t plan on getting lost or needing help. Who does? I didn’t plan on getting in a wreck with Jolene this summer, either. If I’d been alone, it would not have ended as well.

SPOT is a fabulous option for so many of us who are out in the boonies with no cell service. (Despite what your cell company tells you, bad service happens more often than you’d think. And cell phone battery life can die quickly, especially when it is in constant search mode for reception.)

Extreme Tracking of an 11-mile trek near Mesa Verde National Park

Extreme Tracking of an 11-mile trek near Mesa Verde National Park

The SPOT unit is small and tough. It clips easily to a belt or can go in a pocket.

  • Press the message icon button to send an OK message via text message or email to whomever you list. (see below, screen shot of the text message I sent to my son. “Pretty Cause” is a name I gave our home here.)
  • Press the hiking boot icon to track yourself using Extreme Tracking. It’s a feature you will LOVE. You can choose the increments of GPS location: 2.5, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. I found 10 minutes to be a good stagger for riding. During this ride (see screen shot, right), we covered 11 miles over high meadow and through gullies of timber.

If you’re really in trouble, there are two options: by pressing the ‘give me a hand’ icon, a HELP message is sent to those friends and family listed in your account (via text and/or email). Or, use the SOS feature to get help from emergency services. SPOT has helped thousands in dire circumstances. Read this recent story of a outdoorsman boxed in by a wildfire.

Sign up to be a Remuda Reader and you’ll automatically qualify to win a SPOT Gen 3 unit with complimentary service (including messaging and Extreme Tracking) for a year. A $450 value.

Typical "Check In" message sent to family or friend

Typical “Check In” message sent to family or friend

Species Parade, Week Eight

Travel Utah roads and you’ll see all kinds of wildlife. Trouble is, they’re all dead. Given today’s driving culture, though, it’s not unusual to conduct species counts via road kills. UtahOutsider’s species parade count bumped to 51 with sightings of newly dead mammals along highways and byways.

The trek from northern Utah to southwestern Colorado (twice) certainly allowed us to see more, when we had a spare second. Read more about the move here. At higher elevations in both states (6,000 to 8,500 feet), you will see the gorgeously villian-esque Steller’s Jay. [To note, the bird is stellar but not Stellar! It was named after Georg Wilhelm Steller, an 18th century German birder.]

stellar-jay-1024x768-RBannoMammals:

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Badger

Racoon

Antelope

Skunk

Black Tailed Jackrabbit

Cottontail Rabbit

Mule Deer

Coyote

82324-004-AE62C545Rock Squirrel

Brush Mouse

Birds:

Canada Goose

California Gull

Grackle

Townsend’s Solitaire

Townsend’s Warbler

Yellow Warbler

House finch

Red Shafted Flicker

IMG_1529Steller’s Jay

Clark’s Nutcracker

Tufted Titmouse

Black Capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

Bushtit

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

Western Kingbird

Mountain Bluebird

Meadowlark

Rufous-sided Towhee

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Chipping sparrow

Song sparrow

Black Headed Grosbeak

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Prairie Falcon

Red-Tailed Hawk

Killdeer

Starling

American Robin

Common Poor Will

Common Nighthawk

Alder Flycatcher

 

What’s to Love about Utah

Over two years, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of Utah. Mostly, I’ve appreciated its expanse of wilderness. I’ve spotted my first bobcat IMG_1194(with kitten!), watched a badger move like a lightning-fast hovercraft, and witnessed two families of ravens grow from nest-building to fledged.

I’ve scaled a few peaks, hiked on red rock, and snapped photos of multi-colored prickly pear blossoms. Check out our facebook photos.

With a move to Colorado, I’ll look forward to being a part-time Utah lover. Here’s an off-beat tribute to what’s to love about the Beehive State:

People watching at airports can tell you a lot about a place:

LL Bean boots on a security table

LL Bean boots on a security table

— At the Portland, Maine airport, flyers are a mix of spiffy-dressed tourists and no-nonsense Mainers. Most everyone wears at least one item from LL Bean, an indication of their pragmatism and outdoorsy-ness. Some travelers appear fit. Some decidedly not.

[Does anyone else find this airport’s official name comical? Portland International Jetport. Non-stop to Paris, for sure. The federal acronym is PWM. My mom likes to say, Portland. Where? Maine.]

— At the Cedar Rapids, Iowa airport, flyers are friendly and overweight. Many are white-collar business travelers or fans of the University of Iowa, wearing black and yellow.

— At JFK, in New York, flyers speak scores of different languages, quickly, loudly, and behind expensive sunglasses or cheap replicas of expensive sunglasses.

But never have I seen more fit and adventurous-looking flyers than at the Salt Lake City airport. In the winter, baggage claim is

Workers and travelers at the SLC airport are a fit bunch

Workers and travelers at the SLC airport are a fit bunch

chock-block full of skis and snowboards. In the summer, scores of travelers pack fly rods and backpacks.

Whether local or from away, folks here love to get out.

Despite their animosity towards the federal government (the western states’ movement to turn U.S. lands over to state control was initiated by a Utah congressman), Utahns love their five national parks. (When sequestration forced the parks to close, Utah reopened them with state money and temporary workers. Way to go!)

Utah has more wilderness than all but two states and is ranked similarly when it comes to Utahns’ physical health. Read more here.

What’s not to love about that?

Read What’s Not to Love about Utah

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What’s not to love about Utah

Read What’s to Love about Utah

There is no doubt that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has benefited society, in general, and Utah, specifically. The crime rate is low and people are nice. But from UtahOutsider’s perspective, certain traits of this majority (about two thirds of Utah’s population is LDS) leave me feeling unwelcome and downright cantankerous.

Smog advances in Salt Lake valley

Smog advances in Salt Lake valley

While Mormons say they have an appreciation for wilderness, their personal and policy choices belie the sentiment. The tradition of large families, for example, translates to rampant development. In Salt Lake and Utah counties, planners project farmland to be completely converted to housing developments within the next decade. The dreaded Inversion (in which cold, smoggy air hunkers down in the valley and creates poor air quality) gets worse every year.

But when you talk with Mormons about development and industry, a strange veil of denial and cognitive dissonance seems to descend upon them.

I asked an LDS stake president (similar to a bishop in the Catholic church) what he thought of the gung-ho extraction industry, specifically, the Kennecott mine which sits less than a mile from my Utah home. It is the largest open pit mine in the world.

“I don’t think I’ve ever considered the mine as something that will permanently be there and that now a mountain is permanently gone. And is that a bad thing, a good thing, or a neutral thing?”

1.5 million in the valley. Make that 3 million soon.

1.5 million in the valley. Make that 3 million soon.

This guy is a highly intelligent, successful man who likes to hike and enjoys the outdoors.

One of the pillars of LDS culture is obedience. Accept authority. Fall in line. Tough territory for this contrarian. But really, I think it stymies discussion and thwarts possibility for trickle-up change. Just ask Kate Kelly, co-founder of Ordain Women. Maybe I’m oversimplifying and confusing the Mormon majority with the Republican majority (although statistics show they are one and the same).

Maybe it’s the Mainer in me.

Mainers tend to operate within their means and have a keener sense of sustainability. They have learned how clear cutting and overfishing pays nasty dividends over time.

In Maine, there is more discussion (some would say rancor and intransigence), more retrospection, and less railroading (Utah’s legislative Republican majority is over 80 percent). Read one Mainer’s take: an op-ed by Uinta Brewing’s Will Hamill (a Maine native living in Utah).

Here, the enduring frontier mentality, along with the LDS culture, combine for a lethal mix for the environment: Get it. Use it. Toss it. Get more. Take a trip to the landfill.

Rio Tinto's Kennecott mine looms over Salt Lake valley

Rio Tinto’s Kennecott mine looms over Salt Lake valley

Sometimes in Utah, I want to scream, “Stop. Look around. Think!”

Mormons’ line toeing tendencies creep into every aspect of life, but perhaps most clearly in their diet: the Word of Wisdom is an LDS law that labels coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco as harmful. It was a well-meaning message of healthy living, written in 1833. It also said eat meat sparingly and don’t forget your fruits and vegetables.

But the message has been blurred and retooled. Vices sneak in. Energy drinks and sodas of all kinds pass muster even though we know these are far less healthy than coffee and tea. Pioneering Mormons didn’t know about prescription drugs either.

Addictions and depression abound in Utah. Did I mention the state has the highest suicide rate in the country?

Sometimes, I want to scream. “Stop. Think. Talk!”

Read What’s to Love about Utah

Visit UtahOutsider facebook pages.

UtahOutsider braves Outdoor Retailer

IMG_8872Attending the Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City is a bit like heading to the mall on Christmas Eve: be prepared for nuttiness and overstimulation.

Read about snacks we discovered at the OR.

Read about last year’s OR visit.

That said, the OR presents much cooler stuff than any mall. Outdoor recreationalists who manage to acquire a pass (most of the 27,000 attendees are retail buyers, about 600 of us are media) can be seen drooling at the quantity and quality of goods packed into some 1,500 exhibits.

If you’re interested in the next big thing, you’ll likely find it here in a small budget booth on the outskirts of the Salt Palace. Of course, the heavy hitters are here, too, with mammoth booths and big

Altra booth featured elite athletes in action above the crowds

Altra booth featured elite athletes in action above the crowds

budgets. The Keen booth, decked with multi-levels of perfectly refashioned, reclaimed wood, must have cost $100,000. The Royal Robbins booth hired baristas to serve free lattes around the clock. The Altra running shoe booth featured a 50-foot long, elevated treadmill and hired elite athletes to churn out miles high above the masses.

Here’s a quick review of items and companies that caught our eyes:

Of the scores of knife companies, Kershaw continues to be a favorite. Why? They understand carrying a knife is something women do, too. Kershaw is virtually the only company with an entire line of knives appealing to women for their sleek design, slim fit, and utility. No testosterone here. IMG_8871Check out the Leek review.

We visited with SPOT exhibitor Jon Butcher (no relation) about the ease and fail-safe elements of SPOT, the satellite rescue service in a simple orange and black device.. The service easily exceeds the capabilities of any cell phone app and makes trail riding, especially solo outings, exponentially safer. Read about this California hiker-turned-wildfire-survivor here.

One of the niftiest items that caught our eyes was the new Tread, a bracelet by Leatherman. Yes, you read correctly: a Leatherman bracelet. Call it a mechanical aesthetics. Call it a conversation starter. Call it the Tread. It was developed by Leatherman CEO Ben Rivera, after he was escorted from Disneyland for having a multi-tool in his pocket.

The Tread has a tiny knife hook that’s perfect for cutting baling twine, a flat screwdriver head for those Chicago screws, and a Treadbottle opener, of course. You can design your own, customizing tools and wrist size.

We met with Caroline Duell of Elemental Herbs. Duell developed Goop (a fabulous blend of olive oil, beeswax, calendula, comfrey, plantain, lavender, and yarrow) while working on an organic farm in California years ago. From there, she’s grown the company and the All Good product line, which includes sunscreens, lip balms, and pain relief spray. Goop was great after the recent wreck.

We visited with the folks at ThermaCELL about their remote-controlled, rechargeable, heated insoles. These thin, orange pads have us looking forward to subzero temps spent mucking stalls and hauling hay. Bring it on, winter! We will review ThermaCELLSs as soon as the temperature drops.

All Good Goop

All Good Goop

We talked with Davis Smith, the CEO of Cotopaxi. The folks at this Utah company (which sells direct to consumer and gives generously to charities) have agreed to giveaway one of their Perfect Barn Coats to a lucky subscriber at the Equine Affaire.

Additional shout outs go to:

Crazy Creek. We’ll be offering one of the Montana company’s camp chairs in an upcoming giveaway.

Adventure Medical Kits – They’ve developed a new line for humans AND their canine companions. It’s a welcome item, since most of us horse owners have dogs. Stay tuned for that giveaway, too.

CLB2gvFWoAAoEBHZootility – They’ve just moved to a new facility in Maine. The young company makes cool multi-tools that fit flat in your wallet. We have the new Headgehog, a comb, wrench, screwdriver, and bottle opener. It’s the cutest tool on the market, hands down.

Darn Tough. Other sock companies are just playing. Darn Tough socks, made in Vermont, have brilliantly survived rigorous testing through four seasons of hiking and riding. Read our review.

MG_9889We need our feet to stay happy and healthy. Darn Tough’s seamless, merino wool socks make it happen, breathable in the heat, cozy in the cold.

Read about last year’s OR visit.

Read more OR related content.

The Case against Mindfulness

Like a once-favorite song, this trend of mindfulness is starting to vex me. Its popularity is what social media and connectivity felt like five or 10 years ago. But already, I just wish folks would get over it.ins outside

  • Please delete Headspace, the meditation app, from your phone.
  • Please stop saying “mindful” at every opportunity.
  • Please don’t give me that look that says you’re non-judgmental and always cycle thoughts through your mindful filter before speaking.

Nowadays, this preoccupation with mindfulness eats up all the spare time of cultured folks. For this informed and plugged-in populace, mindfulness is what intellectualism used to be.

  • 12903699615_a6ca8e092b_oIt is the virtual selfie, taken daily, even hourly.
  • It’s a brain scan developed by its owner.
  • It’s the therapist you don’t have to pay.
  • It’s right up there with pop cultural literacy as the must-have conversation element. As in, “I just loved that TED talk by Andy Puddicombe!”

Meanwhile, reading books has become quaint and oddly unfashionable. Someone visited our house the other day, looked at our bookshelves, and asked innocently, “Who likes books?” As if books were a quirky, souvenir spoon collection.

bellMeanwhile, what happened to actually getting out and doing things? Since when did being inside our heads become more satisfying than engaging with the outdoors or playing sports? Oh, wait. We now call events like those “experiential” and they will be appropriately documented on aforementioned connectivity platforms. “Being present” while “getting out” has become a bit of an oxymoron.

I’ve observed a verifiable bell curve of consciousness, that’s making me wish I had more 7- or 70-year old friends. If you track age along one line, and consciousness/mindfulness on the other, you can see it clearly. Kids and old folks (especially those who are dementing, god bless ‘em) tend to be unconscious of their own mindfulness. In other words, they aren’t mindful of their ability to be present. They’re present, of course, but they won’t be messaging anyone about the moment or scribbling about it to themselves.

IMG_2229I admit to being guilty of this over-consciousness. I, too, have been sucked into the pitfalls of too much self-awareness. Like singing a hook of that once-favorite song, it can be a hard tic to shake. Sing it, then mutter to myself, “Stop!” Sing it again, shout, “Gawdalmighty.”

And don’t get me wrong. I’m all for slowing down. I’m all for slow food, slow uphill hikes, the slow development of connection between a person and the wild, or between a horse and rider. Slowing down, yes! Dead stop? Please, no!

I talked about this cultural trend with David Gessner last week. The author of “All the

David Gessner

David Gessner

Wild that Remains” spent a few years studying Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey.

“The word ‘mindfulness’ makes me want to kick back a little bit. And not kick back, as in ‘relax.’ …Cows are probably pretty good at being in the moment. Human beings, not so much,” he said.

Gessner reminded me of a famous and related line from Abbey: “Enough with saving the world. Let’s go down the river.”

So, I’m keeping Abbey close while crafting my resolve:

Get out and get outside your head.

Or, as my son, Beau likes to say: #Getoffyourbuttandfeelthings.IMG_1673

Species Parade, Week Four

In my twenties, I worked for two summers as a field researcher in Michigan and North Carolina. My job was studying Indigo Buntings, finding their nests, catching and banding the adults, as well as the young.

aaBuntings like to nest in secondary growth – tall grass, brambles, prickly shrubs. Their nests are hard to find if you’re just using your eyes.

But if you use your ears and knowledge of bird behavior, the job becomes much easier. Birds get upset when you’re near their nests. Depending on the species, they made chirp wildly, flit about, or get downright aggressive (Gulls will dive bomb and poop on you).

Paying attention to bird behavior is how I stumbled upon this fantastic Cooper’s hawk and her nest full of babies. I noticed her because of the cacophony of smaller birds, upset by her presence. She was perched above the trail, examining me, and did not take flight as raptors usually do. That was the tip off.

I looked around. Deep in the scrub oak, twenty feet off the ground, sat her nest. A nestling looked back at me, then another.

I was reminded again that the key to winning the wilderness lottery (seeing stuff, having cool moments) means following the ‘Can’t win if you don’t play’ mantra. It’s directly proportional to the amount of time you spend out there and the attention you bring to it.

aaaForty species this week.

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Mammals:

Black Tailed Jackrabbit

Cottontail Rabbit

Mule Deer

Coyote

Rock Squirrel

Yellow bellied Marmot

Birds:

House finch

aTufted Titmouse

Black Capped Chickadee

Goldfinch

Bushtit

Red-Tailed Hawk

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco

aaaaRinged Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

Catbird

Red winged Blackbird

Western Kingbird

Lesser Goldfinch

Mountain Bluebird

Meadowlark

Rufous-sided Towhee

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Chipping sparrow

California Quail

House wren

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Common Poor Will

Common Nighthawk

Great Horned Owl

Killdeer

Starling

American Robin

Cooper’s Hawk

 

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