Hiking Kootenay National Park: Stanley Glacier Basin in Winter

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Making our way up the trail to Stanley Glacier.
The trouble my partner in crime and I had picking a day hike in Banff National Park (we chose Johnston Canyon) was just a preview of the trouble we were going to have doing the same in British Columbia's Kootenay National Park.

After overnighting in the town of Banff, we set off for Fernie Alpine Resort and gave ourselves a full day to get there, allowing plenty of time for some hiking along the way.

After much debate, and recommendations from the locals, we chose a combination of an out-and-back half day hike as close to the Stanley Glacier as we could get followed by a stop at Marble Canyon to round out the day.

Why the Stanley Glacier basin and Marble Canyon? Glaciers aren't something we have where we live now (Pennsylvania), the trails were listed as easy to find and follow, and both trails were right off of our chosen route along AB-93S, the Kootenay Highway. They were both absolutely stunning trails to visit, and I'll cover Marble Canyon in another trip report!

Banff National Park: Hiking to Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots in Winter

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Looking down at the Lower Falls and the
bridge across Johnston Creek.
When my partner in crime and I started planning our trip to the Canadian Rockies, I knew I was going to have a tough time picking trails for the days we'd allotted for hiking. 

Banff National Park alone is home to 1600km (1000mi) of maintained trails! Of course, not all were options for us in winter, which helped us narrow things down.

We chose Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots for one of our hiking days for a number of reasons. It's easily accessible, short enough that we didn't have to get up at dawn, didn't require special equipment beyond Yaktrax, and would show us some spectacular scenery.

About Johnston Canyon and Getting to the Trailhead

Johnston Creek is a tributary of the Bow River, originating from a glacial valley to the northwest. As the creek flows closer to the Bow River, it flows through a deep canyon formed by years upon years of erosion.

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Offchute Jacket

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Hanging out in the Catskills. (PC: D. Herscovitch)
When it comes to maximizing comfort and protection from winter winds and snow, choosing the right jacket for the slopes is crucial. And if you're anything like me or my typical ski buddies, you'll need a jacket that'll keep you warm and happy for hours of chilly outdoor fun without making you sweat when you're working your way down challenging runs.

As part of another season of the #ORinsightlab team, Outdoor Research provided me with a complimentary Women's Offchute Jacket to test. I took the Offchute out for winter hikes in Upstate New York, Alberta, and British Columbia, and for two solid days of beautiful skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort to see if it could function as my go-to winter jacket.

Technology

The Offchute Jacket is primarily designed for ski resort use, but it combines a key feature typically only found in high-end ski jackets with other features most resort skiers are looking for - stretch. The Outdoor Research team constructed a waterproof, windproof, fully seam-taped ski jacket that also moves with the wearer, and that stretch isn't something most standard ski jackets have.

Guest Post: Squashing Helpless and Hardcore, and Overcoming Insecurity as a Newbie

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Guest post author Trisha Cloutier.
Outdoor Women's Alliance (OWA) is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit media and adventure collective promoting leadership and confidence for women through human-powered outdoor experiences. 

Since 2007, the organization has grown from one girl with a vision to 30 dedicated volunteers supporting 230,000 people worldwide.

Trisha Cloutier is the New England Team Leader for OWA, and today, she's sharing her experiences around learning, personal growth, and how OWA helped her understand the importance and value of women helping teach each other.

Have you ever wanted to try a new outdoor activity, but then felt stunted by the fear of being a newbie? Nobody wants to feel like a beginner or fail at something. It can be a stressful and vulnerable position to put yourself in, and can completely deter some people from ever trying.

I Cross Country Skied Alone in Colorado and It Was Awesome

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Solo adventures usually mean no pictures of me,
or awkward pictures of me using my camera's timer!
In the middle of January, my partner in crime and I flew to Colorado to go skiing. We picked Winter Park because (1) it was affordable to rent my friend's ski-in-ski-out condo, (2) she found a link on the resort's website for four-day lift tickets for $189 (!!!), and (3) because I've been to Winter Park twice in the summer, but never in the season it's named after.

After three days of skiing in ideal conditions on a massive mountain, two things became obvious. First, I was completely spoiled by our little ski-in-ski-out condo. I'm going to have a tough time staying overnight at a resort where I can't go directly from my bed to the slopes. Second, I didn't want to ski anymore.

Not forever, just on that trip. I was done. I called it early on the third day because I wasn't having fun anymore while my partner in crime kept skiing until the lifts closed. We both did what we wanted, and we both enjoyed the day. It was an ideal scenario for both of us.

Hiking Pennsylvania: Wind Gap to the Leroy A. Smith Shelter via the Appalachian Trail

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Rocks, rocks, everywhere!
A while back, I tried to standardize how I title my trip reports to make them easier to find and to use for anyone interested in trail details when they're planning their own trip. The syntax is generally "Activity Place: Trail Name."

When I started writing up a recent hike along the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Pennsylvania, I toyed with a few non-standardized title options:
  • Hiking Pennsylvania: How to Trip on 5,000 Rocks While Hiking and Still Have Fun
  • Looking Down for Eight Miles of Walking Really Isn't That Bad
  • The Rockiest Section of Trail I've Ever Done
Anyone who's hiked in Pennsylvania, or read Bill Bryson's comments about Pennsylvania's section of the AT in A Walk in the Woods, knows we've got a few rocks here. I'm used to it, and even seek out rocky trails like the Pinnacle/Pulpit and Hawk Mountain because scrambling over boulders is fun. But this section of the AT, as friends and I discovered, is an entirely different ballgame.

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Deviator Hoody

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Hanging out in the Colorado cold in the Deviator.
If I've learned anything about winter outdoor fun over the years, it's the importance of finding a
layering system that helps me manage my body temperature and is comfortable to move around in. Too many layers can leave me feeling like a stuffed sausage and guarantee I'm going to sweat, which is a recipe for disaster. Too few layers, or the wrong layers, and I'm cold, another recipe for disaster.

But the complexity of layering in the cold doesn't have to stop you from getting outside. And as it turns out, some ideal next-to-skin layers might not look like traditional next-to-skin layers at all, like the Outdoor Research Women's Deviator Hoody.

As part of another season of the #ORinsightlab team, Outdoor Research provided me with a complimentary Deviator Hoody to test out.  Given the praise Backpacker Magazine shared for it, I had pretty high expectations, and (spoiler alert), the Deviator met them all.

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Melody Tights

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Spoiler Alert: My legs feel like
they're being hugged in this shot!
I'm picky when it comes to next-to-skin layers. If a piece of apparel is itchy, scratchy, or abrasive, you can bet I won't wear it.

So when I read that the Outdoor Research team describes the Women's Melody tights as "a soft hug for your legs," I was intrigued. How could it be possible for a pair of tights to be that soft?

I received a complimentary pair of the Women's Melody tights to test as a part of another season of #ORInsightLab - a chance to see what "a soft hug for your legs" really feels like. I was glad to put the Melody tights through their paces inside, outside, and at the gym to see how they performed for my first of three reviews for Outdoor Research this season.

Fit and Feel

One touch of the fabric to bare skin and it was clear the "soft hug" Outdoor Research promised I'd get when I put these tights on had been delivered. The Melody tights are constructed out of some of the softest material I've worn next to skin, outside of pure fleece.

Hiking the Catskills: Kaaterskill Falls (and the Worst Airbnb Ever)

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Starting up the trail to the falls. (PC. D. Herscovitch)
I'm completely in love with Upstate New York. My adoration is rooted in the fact that I grew up in the Fingerlakes, spent my formative years in the 1,000 Islands and Adirondacks, and discovered the beauty of the Catskills in the past decade or so.

My partner in crime and I set our sights on the Catskills for a New Year's getaway (to the worst Airbnb I've ever stayed in, but more on that later), and we knew we wanted to visit 260-foot Kaaterskill Falls while we were in the area.

The falls are a long-storied Catskill Mountains attraction and are accessible via a yellow-blazed trail maintained by the state. It's an extremely popular spot despite being the site of some controversy around safety, but nonetheless, I couldn't wait to spend some time there under the veil of new snow.

Getting to Kaaterskill Falls

The trail to the bottom of the falls is accessible via a small parking lot off of NYS Route 23A. In the vicinity of the falls, Route 23A bends, twists, and turns up, down, and around prominent, beautiful mountains.

Guest Post: Debunking the Biggest Ice Fishing Myths

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Checking the ice on the St. Lawrence River.
The thought of ice fishing conjures up images of people huddling together in freezing temperatures trying to catch fish through small holes in lake ice. Most of those who have never experienced ice fishing tend to mentally file it under the “most unpleasant outdoor activities ever” tab. 

However, ice fishing aficionados can’t get enough, which wouldn’t be the case if the misconceptions were all true. It's a pursuit I've wanted to try for a while now, and I'm grateful to today's guest post authors for helping me debunk a few myths about this super unique winter activity!

Myth #1: No one ever catches many fish while ice fishing. 

Although it’s certainly true that it’s possible to hit a bad patch of luck while ice fishing, that’s the case with fishing in general. Because fish travel in schools, once you hit a sweet spot, it’s possible to catch several fish in the course of a few hours.

Gear Review: Chippewa Women's 8" Tan Renegade Lacer Boots

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These beauties aren't in my normal footwear
comfort zone, but they sure are beauties!
Chippewa boots have been around for a good, long while, specifically since 1901. The Wisconsin-born company believes in building boots with "uncompromising quality and standard," and to create footwear that is "the finest made, most reliable, authentic and rich in heritage luxuries."

Though Chippewa was founded under the premise of creating work boots "built to honor the guts and determination of the loggers and engineers who paved the way, built the roads, and constructed our buildings," the company also carries styles that are anything but.

With respect to non-hiking footwear, I typically steer clear of styles I'm not sure how to wear, choose comfort over style, and am generally price sensitive. When the Chippewa team offered to send me a complimentary pair of their Women's 8" Tan Renegade Lacer boots to try, I knew I'd be stepping out of my comfort zone. After putting them through their paces this month, though, I'm inclined to start trying to be a little bolder with my footwear choices.

Geocaching 101: Adding a Little Extra Fun to Your Next Hike

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You never know where a cache might be hiding!
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of exploring the outdoors on my own two feet, and advocating that others do the same. Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor pastimes no matter the season, and it’s a great way to get outside, especially if you live near great trails.

But if you’re looking to add some extra excitement to a familiar trail, or ways to encourage others to spend time outdoors with you, geocaching can be a great option for adventurers of all ages. 

Geocaching is defined loosely as “the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates.” And though I’ve primarily heard of geocaching as it relates to outdoor adventure, I’ve learned there are geocaches all around the city I live in, too. Sounds pretty neat, right?

How Did Geocaching Start?

On May 2, 2000, the federal government repealed “selective availability,” which improved the accuracy of GPS technology instantly, and gave civilians access to some pretty incredible stuff. Basically, imagine getting an instant upgrade to any and all things GPS-related - pretty neat, right?

Up Your Winter Fun Game: Four Must-Try Unique Winter Sports

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Snowshoeing is one of many standard, obvious ways
to play in the snow. But there are oh so many more ways!
Heading out into the cold when the snow is piled high to build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or make snow angels are a few traditional ways to enjoy winter. And after growing up in Upstate New York and spending nearly two years in Alaska, I thought I knew everything about how to enjoy the coldest of cold seasons.

Beyond snowball fights, snowmen, and snow angels, I’ve gone ice skating, ice climbing, sledding, snowshoeing, winter hiking, cross country skiing, alpine skiing, and more.

But even when we think we’ve explored every opportunity to play outside in the cold, odds are there’s at least one pursuit we haven’t tried yet, and new winter sports seem to surface every day! If you're looking for a less traditional way to enjoy the snow, give these activities a try.