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.

Review and Giveaway: Serac Sequoia XL Camping Hammock

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Relaxing in camp with coffee. (PC: D. Herscovitch)
Hammock camping is becoming a more popular way to sleep under the stars. And let's be honest - whether you're spending the night in one or not, hammocks are awesome.

But not all hammocks are created equal, and if you're not careful, a good hammock along with all of the pieces and parts you need to set it up can get pricey. After the folks at Serac Hammocks helped me bust a few hammock camping myths, they sent me a hammock to test out. It's billed as lightweight, dependable, and affordable - three attriubutes that are tough to find in any piece of outdoor gear.

The Serac Sequoia, which retails for $59.95, came along on backpacking trips to places like the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia and Echo Lake in New York's Castkill Mountains for testing. Though I haven't managed to get myself to spend a full night in the Sequoia yet, I'm having a tough time thinking about leaving it off my packing list for trips of all sorts anytime soon.

After the Election - Now What?

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Navigating slippery slopes. (PC: D. Herscovitch)
My most recent post here hinted at some discontent, fear, and general concern for the protection of public lands in light of this year's election results. Initially, I was okay leaving it that.

It didn't seem worth adding another post to the fray. There are so many real news outlets with real post-election information. There are so many people who know so much more about politics and government than I do. How could what I feel and what I know, what I'm learning, possibly matter?

But I'm concerned on a number of fronts about a number of things, and I want to do something that matters about it. Even if I don't quite know what that something is yet, the more I thought about not adding my own voice to the conversation, the more obvious my paradoxical thinking became.

If I don't think my voice matters on a website I founded and run, it minimizes the difference my voice can make, period. 

So, here goes.

The Outdoor World is Crowded, but That's Not All Bad

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Traversing Franconia Ridge with hundreds of other people.
(PC: D. Herscovitch)
Outdoor recreation is all the rage these days.

Companies like The North Face encouraged more people to get outdoors with emotional ad campaigns. The National Wildlife Federation announced a three-year initiative to get 10 million more kids outside. The Centennial Campaign for America's National Parks prioritized raising money to support our more than 400 national parks.

All of these efforts to get people outdoors means there are a lot of people outdoors.

On a recent trip to Washington, my partner in crime and I visited the North Cascades mid-week to avoid crowds. We did well on our hikes to Thornton Lakes, Heather-Maple Pass, and Windy Pass, but the trail to Colchuck Lake was busy.

The trailhead parking lot is massive and it was mostly full, even the Thursday after Labor Day. Hiker traffic kicked up enough dust to cover some of the foliage next to the trail. We had to pull over, or hope others would pull over, on some of the narrower sections.

Giving Thanks to The Outdoors: What I'm Grateful For

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There's some serious limit-testing going on in this shot!
Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what we don’t have, what's not going well, and what we haven't done than it is to think about what we do have, what is going well, and what we have accomplished.

I know I'm guilty of taking people, places, my health, and experiences for granted because I focus too much on what's missing. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's a perfect time to pause and be thankful.

I'm thankful for more than I could begin to summarize here, but a good many people, places, and experiences I hold dear are in some way also associated with playing outside. So this year, one of the things I'm taking time to be thankful for? The outdoors.

I'm grateful for how many opportunities I've had to test my limits outdoors. Between rock climbing, downhill mountain biking, a brief stint in mountaineering, skiing, even hiking and backpacking, I've had more than my fair share of life-changing experiences outdoors.