We've seen solar panels, battery packs, and kits in all shapes, sizes, and prices. Usually the completly contained units are not large enough to power more than your phone, or they're too cumbersome to truly be considered 'portable'.Read More
As an Explorer of all things cold & steep, skiing & riding Lake Tahoe has always been high on my bucket list.Last week the Williams family got to check that one off at Heavenly Mountain Resort.Read More
Looking for something a little more amazing than your local MTB track this summer? Why not ride from Durango, CO to Moab, UT?Read More
We had originally hoped to do a boat trip through Palo Verde National Park, but the tour operator called in sick at the last minute and couldn't take us out. In all fairness we had tried to schedule the trip just the day prior, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. So we decided to do something we hadn't done the whole trip -- relax. The pools at Pacifico had remained unexplored for the duration of our trip, the piña coladas weren't going to drink themselves, so we were happy to oblige. It was nice not to have an itinerary and just relax and goof around. A nice dinner and drinks with Abby from http://www.thejungleprincess.com/ capped the day. Day 10 may be a bit of a misnomer as it was really just 12 hours spent on planes. We did barely make our connection in Houston due to delays clearing immigration and customs, but all's well that ends well. What now? Well first I have to get used to the cold and rain that we met on our return to New York (a far cry from the sun and heat of Costa Rica). But it's only for a couple days of as I'm headed to Colorado and Utah on Friday for a couple weeks of climbing,skiing, and whatever other trouble I can manage to find... Happy trails!
Our trip is drawing to a close. And, although we have accomplished most of what we were hoping to do and seen much of what we had hoped to see, we seem to be getting started later into the morning. So yesterday we decided to play things sort of close to our base camp in Playa del Coco. We set out heading southeast on the Pan American Highway (highway 1) toward the northeastern edge of the Parque Nacional Palo Verde. We decided to make a stop at the Rescue Shelter Las Pumas located 5km north of Cañas. Unless you are hiking in some of the most remote protected areas of Costa Rica, you're unlikely to see any of the large cats native to this region. So, rescue shelters like this one offer pretty much your only opportunity to see jaguars, margays, ocelots, pumas, jaguarundis, and pumas as well as gray fox, lots of parrots, toucans, and a very playful river otter, and capuchin and spider monkeys. The shelter relies on entrance fees and donations to care for these rescued animals -- all the animals have a sad story and some bear physical scars of their past abuses. It is a last resort -- releasing these animals back into the wild is simply too dangerous for them. It was a great experience to see these magnificent animals up close but also a sobering reminder of the cruelty imposed by some and the consequences of human sprawl. Afterward, we headed to a waterfall around 2km off the Pan American Highway 3km north of Bagaces known as Llanos de Cortés. The waterfall and surrounding gold-flecked sand beach is a well-known spot to Ticos, but off the beaten tourist path. The road to Llanos de Cortés is 1.3km of unimproved dirt road leading to a large parking lot that seemed pretty full. After paying $2 to the parking lot security guards, we hiked a short, steep path down to the waterfall where we enjoyed our picnic lunch and a refreshing swim in the pool under the falls. All told, there were probably around 150 people hanging out there, but it was a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon and easily 95% of the crowd was Tico. Everyone was friendly and clearly enjoying the swimming and diving. There were a couple of barbecues set up and a generally festive atmosphere. A short path to the left of the falls led to the top of the falls where there were only a few people. Great for solitude and a wholly different perspective on the falls. In the late afternoon, we packed up and returned to Playa del Coco for dinner at a local seafood joint, Papagayo, and a relaxing evening on the lanai.
We headed southwest from Playa del Coco to the town of Tamarindo to try our hand at some surfing. Tamarindo is not what I would call authentic Tico -- gringos and tourists abound, but the beach is nice and the waves are great for learning to surf. We booked our lesson at the Iguana Surf Shop. Iguana runs four two-hour lessons each day, starting at 9, 11, 1, and 3. Each instructor can instruct up to four people and the cost is $45 per person (includes a souvenir tee-shirt!). Turns out surfing really is a lot more difficult than it looks, but all four of us were able to stand up on the board within about 20 minutes. I'm still not sure if my snowboarding experience helped me much, although it's probably didn't hurt. If anything it may have helped my steering and fore-aft balance, but the trickiest part is getting up to the standing position, which is unique to surfing. Our lesson left us tired and sore and with some new bumps and bruises, but we all agreed that it was all worth it for the feeling you get when ride your first wave (dude!). After surfing we did the tourist thing (...when in Tamarindo...). We hit the main drag with two goals: souvenirs and cocktails. Among the many trinket stores there are a couple of standouts. One of our favorites, Roots Gallery, features bowls from locally sourced wood created by the shop attendant's husband, Edwardo. Each piece is handcrafted and unique. With gifts in hand, we headed to Le Beach Club, a beach-front, gringo-heavy bar/restaurant down the main street. Service was a little slow, but it was nice to relax with a few cocktails and take in the sunset. As the tide went out, the surfers gave way to the pelicans diving for fish in the increasingly shallow water. Parking on the beach across from the Iguana costs ¢3,000, but it is worth paying because there is a security guard who will keep an eye on your car. I would still warn against leaving anything valuable in your car -- we received multiple warnings about how common theft is in these parts, but the guard was still vigilant when we returned to our car about 2 hours after sunset (earning our ¡Gracias! and a nice tip...). Iguana Surf Shop also rents boards for as long as a week, rents kayaks, runs shuttles to other beaches, and runs snorkeling trips. Check out Iguana Surf Shop online at http://www.iguanasurf.net/
Ok, I admit I have been a little lax in posting updates, not to mention somewhat removed from most things electronic... Day three involved a road-trip to La Fortuna and the Árenal Volcano. Almost immediately upon arrival that afternoon we took a hoseback ride to view the Pino Blanco and La Fortuna waterfalls. Although recent rains and high water levels prevented us from swimming in the pool beneath the La Fortuna waterfall, the views were amazing, both from the observation deck at the top of the trail and along the trek down to the La Fortuna waterfall. (Photo essay to follow....) We overnighted at Arenal Paraiso, where we enjoyed a soak in the therapeutic thermal mineral springs, of which the resort sports 13, one with a bar. I awoke on day four with a sore back no doubt due at least in part to my less-than-stellar equestrian form on our ride the previous day. Nonetheless we pressed on. The agenda for the day included a combination of canyoneering (including a combination of rappelling and river hiking) in the morning followed by whitewater rafting in the afternoon organized through one of the larger adventure tour companies in Costa Rica, Desafio. A light breakfast and lunch were included in the 'Mambo Combo'. All in all, it was a great time -- even Elizabeth (who has a little trouble with heights) enjoyed the rappelling, thanks in large part to our friendly and reassuring guides, Elio and Ronny. The rafting portion took us over Class II and III rapids which were strong enough to provide a great time, yet easy enough for whitewater newbies. There were even several families with kids on the trip. And one more shout-out to our rafting guide Carlos, who gave us a thorough safety demo and then made sure we had a lot of fun on the trip down the river. On day five, the clouds finally lifted and we were offered our first opportunity to view the peak of the Árenal Volcano.We took a quick jaunt up to the Árenal Observatory Lodge (formerly a Smithsonian observation station). There is a ¢4,000 per person entry fee to drive up to the Lodge, but the views are worth it. The lodge has a restaurant and a large deck the offer fantastic views of the peak as well as some nice viewing opportunities for birders. From Árenal, we headed back around the lake toward the Monteverde region. Our guide book had warned that the conditions of the roads leading into Monteverde are notoriously rough and this turned out to be no understatement. If you're planning to get around by car and you're heading to Monteverde, you'd do well to reserve something with 4-wheel drive, because you can expect to encounter several kilometers of unimproved dirt road. It's worth a stop at La Cabana bar if you're headed in on Rte 606 (about 15 kilometers outside Saint Elena), it turns out to be a welcome rest stop as well as a place to enjoy a refreshing and cheap cerveza. A late afternoon arrival didn't leave much to do outdoors, but fortunately, there is a Serpentario with a fantastic collection of snakes and other reptiles as well as the Frog Pond Ranario with an extensive collection of (as you may have guessed) frogs... all of which tend to be more active in the evening, which makes for a much more interesting viewing experience. Day six combined a canopy zipline tour over the Cloud Forest Preserve followed by a suspension bridge walk through the rain forest. Normally, I am a big fan of clear skies but in this case it was almost a shame it was so clear... "isn't this supposed to be a cloud forest?!?". Nonetheless, we had excellent views while zipping over the canopy, and the suspension bridge trek offered a few interesting plant and wildlife sightings including miniature orchids, coati, and the brilliantly-colored impressive quetzel, which much to our delight flew directly overhead. After lunch, we visited the Monteverde Orchid Garden (El has a thing for photographing plant life....) and the Butterfly Garden in Cerro Plano, both of which are well worth a visit. Then we grabbed a refreshing helado before packing it in for the bumpy drive back to Playa del Coco. For more information on the wide variety of tours offered through Desfio, check them out online at http://www.desafiocostarica.com/.
After a relaxing day getting settled in yesterday, it was time to get out and explore some of this beautiful country. We took to the water with Diving Safaris in Playa Hermosa. Our Divemaster Lauren and Captain Moses took us to two local dive sites -- Argentina and La Tortuga -- a short 15 minute boat ride from Playa Hermosa. According to Lauren, the wet season was unusually dry creating good visibility to see the great amount of wildlife that inhabit these waters. Although there is no coral to speak of in Costa Rica, the huge quantities of plankton in the water attract a large amount of aquatic life to see. We saw puffer fish, scorpionfish, sea urchins with markings that glowed like a neon sign, eels, angelfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, huge spotted eagle rays, and a small group of white-tipped reef sharks. We also ran across countless schools of fish which I won't name as my fish identification skills are slightly lacking. Lauren informed us that spotting octopus, and sea turtles are not uncommon at these sites, but sadly we did not manage to catch a glimpse. Diving Safaris provided cookies, pineapple, water, and gear rental for the trip which lasted about 5 hours and includes a great surface interval on a secluded beach. A two tank dive cost $80 plus gear rental which runs $15. After a morning of diving be sure to check out AquaSport for lunch. Weird name for a lunch joint, I know, but the heart of palm salad and arroz con pulpo (octopus rice) is a perfect energy boost after some great diving. Check out Diving Safaris on the internet at http://www.costaricadiving.net/
The PN-40 is DeLorme's premier GPS offering topographical mapping, street auto-routing, and tons of downloadable maps and imagery to get you the information you need. In addition to the world base map, DeLorme ships all GPS units with three discs that contain 1:100k hybrid road/topographical maps, making them the only company to ship maps of this detail with each unit. In addition to the topographical maps included, DeLorme offers aerial imagery, NOAA nautical charts, satellite imagery, and the super detailed 1:24k, 7.5 minute USGS quads all via the included Topo USA. The PN-40 is 'ruggedized' and certified to to withstand quite a beating. The PN-40 is certified to the IEC IPX7 standard for waterproofing and is sealed to protect the unit in high humidity and extreme cold environments. The PN-40 also sports an barometric altimeter and 3-axis compass eliminating the need to hold to the PN-40 flat to take compass readings. While neither of these items are absolute necessities, they do come in handy. (Lower model GPS units that don't include these features need to be moving in order to determine direction as they are based on position not orientation). The on-board compass eliminates the motion requirement and allows you to determine which way to face before you move -- it also allows you to shoot bearings for triangulation. It's important to note the DeLorme PN-40 and PN-30 are identical with the exception of the fact the PN-30 does not have the altimeter or the compass. The PN-40 has 500MB of internal storage (7.5GB on the SE model) but an SD card slot allows expansion up to 32GB which should be plenty of room for maps, imagery, tracks, and waypoints.
We were a bit disappointed that there was no Topo USA for Mac, only PC. Although transferring of maps is possible, it's not as straightforward as just having a Mac version available. We'll discuss the detailed method of transferring maps to your PN-40 using a Mac in the full review, but for now just know that it is possible. We've also found a way to add custom tracks to this GPS using your Mac (PC users will still use Topo USA). We'll have those details as well in the full review. Out of the box, the PN-40 looks like a standard handheld GPS. Navigation of the device is done using the arrow and function buttons beneath the screen, and all the functions are pretty straightforward. The first time you start the device, it will take a few minutes to get a fix. This can be sped up by using the Menu->Set Current Location function. We were able to get a good initial fix in about 3 minutes on average. Once you have the initial fix, starting up the GPS 'warm' gets your location in usually 20 seconds or less. To get the PN-40 fired up, the batteries are installed by removing the cover, which is screwed on with two small D-rings. If you want to use the SD card, you'll need to remove the batteries to get to it. We'd prefer a micro-sd card slot that's accessible on the side (like some Garmin units), but it's not a big deal since you won't need to access the SD card very often. Once your maps are all installed (we loaded the Colorado maps to the SD card directly), you'll be ready to go. The maps include topo information, roads, and points of interest (POIs).While the PN-40 supports turn by turn navigation, it's not as robust as what you'll get from a dedicated in-car nav device, or even some other handheld devices. We really expect the strengths of the PN-40 to shine in the outdoors. This unit isn't really meant for road use (although it appears to work for that as well). The topo maps, the ability to load tracks (and convert them to routes), and the availability of additional map data means that this unit should be well suited for any adventure.
We will be testing the PN-40 in many different situations including rock climbing, hiking, off-roading, and around the park. We'll be looking at quite a few things as we test the PN-40, from battery life and screen readability to GPS satellite sensitivity in cloud cover and resistance to the elements. Make sure you subscribe to our RSS Feed so you don’t miss the final review.
I posted last week that a friend of Adventure Insider underwent surgery to have a tumor removed from his brain. I am please to inform you that the surgery went well and Brian is on his way to recovery and looks forward to getting back on belay. In the mean time the climbing competition to raise money for this expensive surgery is planned for April 3, 2010 at the Sport Climbing Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Registration will begin at 5:30 and the competition will begin at 6:00. The cost is $10 for a very worth cause. Don't worry about you climbing ability, there will be prizes for all abilities in addition to raffles and an all around good time. A party will follow the competition. Members of Adventure Insider will be there including Erick, Shane, and CJ. Great prizes have been donated by Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Prana, Outdoor Research, Black Diamond, Diver's Reef, and NOLS to name a few. If you have questions please leave a comment and we will get back to you. We hope to see you there! [geo_mashup_map ]
The Stagecoach is a waterproof, wheeled duffel for those needing to carry a good deal of gear. The Stagecoach comes in three sizes, small (54 liters), medium (85 liters), and large (150 liters) ensuring there is a size for every need. The features from the Big Agnes website are below:
When the Big Agnes Stagecoach duffel I ordered arrived the other day I thought for a few moment maybe it was too big. With the ability to hold 150 liters the large duffel can swallow enough gear for even the most ambitious expeditions. It's going to be a challenge to fill. I am a big fan of the backpack straps that are on the Stagecoach although I won't be trying the shoulder it fully loaded. The quality seems to be top notch and don't anticipate any problems with the construction or materials. I would have liked to see either a waterproof zipper or a flap to cover the zipper (or both) for the days where your Stagecoach sits in the elements for hours. The one other feature I would have liked is an internal frame to give more shape to the duffel similar to that of the North Face Rolling Thunder.
The Stagecoach is currently being packed for a trip to Costa Rica in a couple weeks. A few days after my return from Costa Rica I'll be off to Peru. In each case we'll be abusing the Stagecoach to see how it holds up and meets our needs. We will of course keep you informed. Make sure you subscribe to out RSS Feed so you don’t miss the final review.
I’m a huge fan of fitness. I think eating right and regular intense exercise are the cornerstones of preparing for adventures and life in general. Plus, as a member of the US Armed Forces, I’m required to stay physically fit. My fitness activities range from light days at the gym to hard core circuit courses. I usually prefer to get my cardio workouts on the trails in and around Colorado Springs, usually with a few pounds of gear strapped to my back. Unfortunately I don’t always have time to get out for cardio, so I have to rely on what the local fitness center has to offer. While stair climbers, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes all work fine for cardio, I know that the best workout in a short time is running. The problem is, I REALLY don’t like running. I’ve had to run for time pretty regularly since I joined Civil Air Patrol over 20 years ago, and I’ve never liked it. When I first joined the Air Force, my run times were average at best, I’ve never been a fast runner. As I’ve aged, I’ve developed minor knee irritations that have required a brace on occasion, which has definitely slowed my run times. While I still meet the standards for the AF, I’ve really felt that I’ve been held back a little. Last year a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a not-so-new running ‘shoe’ called the Vibram Five Fingers.
When I moved to Michigan at 6 years old, my family spent a lot of time in the woods. The man my mother was dating had a little spot of land out in the woods not far from Farmington where we lived; we called it ‘the lot’. As a young boy from New Mexico, I had an amazing time out at the lot. I had my own tent and was able to come & go as I pleased. I’ll never forget the time I caught several frogs down at the creek and had them in a little plastic suitcase all day & through the night. When my mom found them, there was no harsh punishment, she just recommended that I let them go back to their home.While those experiences are the ‘essence’ of my love of the outdoors, there was a vastly more significant event that happened when I was a young teenager. It was a trip to West Virginia with my science teacher and several classmates that really solidified my love of the outdoors, and to some degree, my future in both the Air Force and my life in Colorado.
I got a chance to get in some skiing in Park City, Utah last weekend, and I must say it was great. We did a little testing on the Patagonia Primo jacket, Primo Pants, and R2 jacket. I wanted to share a fun picture of when I ate it in some off run pow.