Surfing in a snowstorm may sound like a direct route toward hypothermia or certain death. But on Lake Superior, where surfers ride all months of the year, thick wet suits, gloves, hoods, booties and petroleum jelly smudged on exposed skin all form a protective shell against the crushing cold encountered by wave catchers in what is one of the worlds most unlikely surfing scenes.
in today's New York Times. All around the Great Lakes, from breaks on Lake Michigan to western New York and Lake Eries shore, a freshwater surfing scene has emerged in recent years. On Lake Superior, where winds swoop hundreds of miles across open water, surfers swim and paddle year-round to ride waves as tall as 20 feet, rushing tsunamis tumbling on an inland sea.
photo: TC Worley
Each fall, Lake Superiors famous gales of November signal the start of the cold-weather surfing season, when snow piles up in the forest and waves pop off the lake. Wind moving from a Canadian front, coursing south and west against Minnesotas North Shore, pushes water into rhythmic waves at more than a dozen breaks along Minnesotas lake-hugging U.S. Highway 61.
From a mountaintop in Norway to a scuba dive in a spring near the Great Salt Lake, 2008 proved to be a year of high adventure for the Gear Junkie. The following 10 destinations are my top picks -- bike, ski, foot and underwater adventures, from Molde, Norway, to northern Minnesota's deep woods, from the wild to the weird.
1. Ski Touring: Romsdal Alps, Norway
A four-day ski-touring trip in the Romsdal Alps outside Molde, Norway, featured daily high points like Kirketaket (see photo below), a ski-jump-shape mountain that towers above a slate-blue fjord. My group made daily mountain climbs to ski faces and bowls for 3,000 or more vertical feet at a time, skinning uphill for hours with alpine-touring (AT) gear then spinning on summits like Kirketaket, Smorbottentin and Kvitfjellet to gaze into the remote Romsdal Alps before skiing hundreds of turns on virgin snow to the valley below. +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/norway-ski-trip-report-1 +
2. Backcountry Skiing: Mount Ogden, Utah
The Banana Chute on Mount Ogden slices a precipitous alpine face in a 45-degree squiggle of snow, creating a dramatic entrance to a skiable descent larger than any lift-accessible run in the country. Indeed, at nearly 5,000 vertical feet, the backcountry run -- which I skied with four friends last January -- includes the aforementioned chute and then nearly four more miles of skiing downhill, from the alpine air, over ridges and meadows of untracked snow, then into a creek bed that funnels the backcountry line to its unlikely terminus at the residential grid of a midsize American town. +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/trip-report-skiing-mt-ogdens-banana-chute +
3. Mountaineering: Kings Peak, Utah
A two-day ascent in October of this 13,528-foot mountain, which is the highest in Utah, was blessed with high pressure and blazing sun. I hiked and climbed the peak with three friends, making the 28-mile roundtrip through the High Uintas Wilderness, camping out under the stars, then getting up on a Monday morning to climb a chute and an immense talus field -- then onto the very top of a state. +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/utahs-kings-peak-trip-report +
4. Rock Climbing: Devils Tower, Wyo.
Among my favorite rock-climbing areas on the planet, I have ascended the 1,000-foot-high monolith of Devils Tower nine times. This year, I climbed "El Cracko Diablo," a 5.8 cruiser, with an old friend, Frank Sanders, who is a local guide. The Tower -- a geologic wonder of vertical cracks and columnar basalt -- continues to amaze every time I make the trip to the deserted high plains of northeastern Wyoming. +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/trip-report-devils-tower +
5. Ecological Tour: Big Bog State Recreation Area, Minn.
This day-long adventure -- one of the weirdest of the year -- started with a two-hour air tour in a four-seat Cessna. We motored down the runway then took off to reveal a view of land so flat that it looks concave. This is the immense and ancient footprint of Lake Agassiz and the current site of the Red Lake Peatlands, a remote and hard-to-access wilderness that is among the largest bogs on the planet. Stretching more than 50 miles east to west, and 15 to 20 miles wide, the Big Bog is a wet and spongy no man's land half the size of Rhode Island. We hiked into the interior later in the day, jumping and bouncing on land that felt like a waterbed. +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/trip-report-big-bog-minn +
6. Boat Cruise: Romsdalfjorden, Norway
Skiing was the primary objective when I went to Norway last March. But a big part of the adventure was also found on the water, where my group traveled the fjords of central Norway via the Anne Margrethe, a restored sailing vessel built in 1880. The 70-foot jakt (yacht) was captained by Bjarne Krekvik, a 55-year-old sailor from a small village north of the town of Molde, our home base. We sailed (powered by a 250hp Volvo diesel) the Romsdalfjorden to ports like Andalsnes and Eresfjord over four days, and we slept onboard in the boats cabins. A cozy galley was the social center, and each night involved rich meals and long conversation at the big table below deck, where wed study maps and plan the next days adventure. +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/norway-ski-trip-report-2 +
7. Diving: Bonneville Seabase, Utah
Seabase is an aquatic facility in the desert outside Grantsville, Utah, that's been stocked with thousands of fish -- from flitting minnows to a pair of nine-foot-long nurse sharks. Founded as an independent experiment in marine biology by two Salt Lake City scuba divers, the private tropical fish preserve is open to scuba divers. I jumped in during an October visit, sucking air through a scuba hose and swimming down through murky water to find a nurse shark unmoving on the bottom of the bay. +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/new-york-times-bonneville-seabase-story +
8. Skiing: Crested Butte, Colo.
Deep powder snow -- up to 18 inches one night -- made an early-season ski trip to Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado's Elk Mountains a worthy last adventure of the year. My fondest memory from this five-day trip: The dreamy medium of knee-deep fluff through drooping pine trees and my fat Black Diamond Kilowatt skis letting me float, bob and weave through it all. +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/ski-report-from-crested-butte-colo +
9. Endurance Sports: Rogaine Race, Jay Cooke State Park, Minn.
Six hours of solid backwoods bushwhacking to find 22 hidden flags with map and compass was what it took to complete the MNOC 6th Annual Rogaine last August, an orienteering race that put teams of two on a trajectory to run up to 20 miles offtrail on foot. My partner and I waded through thorns, thrashed swaps, ran when the woods opened up to utter exhaustion through 7,000 acres of rugged terrain in Minnesota's Jay Cooke State Park. +Link to more info: http://mnoc.org/news/2008/rogaine/ +
10. Road Biking: Trempealeau County, Wis.
Trempealeau County on the Mississippi River in southwest Wisconsin is cited by some as the best road riding in the country. It indeed does have a unique combination of unlimited scenic views, unlimited blacktop and very little vehicle traffic: Trempealeau boasts 382 miles of paved roads, many which see only three cars per hour on a given day, creating what one local called "a private bike paradise." +Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/new-york-times-tour-de-trempealeau-story +
. . . included a mention of ibuprofen. I claim the anti-inflammatory drug has helped me make it through several endurance events, which it has. Without ibuprofen, my back and legs have cramped up to the point where I cannot run without great pain. In the last five years, the drug has helped me on eight marathons, triathlons, ultras and adventure races up to 10 days in length.
So it was with some dismay that I read through the onslaught of negative comments about my choice to use ibuprofen. But the Active readers were right to question my medical advice. After some investigation, I found that some medical studies link the ingestion of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, and naproxen sodium (Aleve) during athletics to gastrointestinal issues and poor fluid transport in the body. This can -- in the worst cases -- lead to an increased risk of hyponatremia, dehydration, and, at the extreme, kidney failure.
As I said, my experience with ibuprofen over the years has been a positive one. I have never suffered ill effect. My bill of health is clean.
But anything that masks pain might cause injury. And overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, by the looks of the studies, can result in health issues to avoid at all costs.
My research has given me pause. I will be more conservative when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other pain-masking drugs during an event. But I have no plans to stop using ibuprofen outright, at least for the time being.
My advice at this point: Always consult with a doctor, not just a journalist, before taking drugs for any event.
From marathons to mountain climbs, 2008 proved to be another epic year for The Gear Junkie. But without the right apparel and equipment, these adventures would not have been possible -- or at least not quite as fun.
Go to Gear Junkie today to see my full list, the Top 10 Gear of the Year Awards. . .
Ive rolled out a new section of my site and a new program on GearJunkie.com this month: The Gear Junkie Field Test (http://thegearjunkie.com/fieldtest) puts the latest outdoors equipment into the hands of hard-core users from professional mountain guides to outdoors writers.
These reviews are their opinions after a month or more of use, just the facts and feedback from real-world testers around the globe. Click here to see the first batch of reviews, including a sleeping bag roundup, the review of a new tent, and a taste test of sardines marketed toward backpackers and outdoorsy types. . .
My around-the-town jacket this autumn and early winter so far has been the Mens Rove Tech from Merrell, a nice-looking insulated piece released last month. Merrell calls this jacket a technical piece, but for me it is more middle-ground you could employ it for skiing or hiking, though its just as at home for a winter walk in a city.
I would not take it into the rain, but water does roll off the face fabric, a thin polyester. And the jackets insulation, PrimaLofts One variety, makes for a toasty coat thats not as noticeably stuffed as a down puffy.
But for performance, I would want big inside pockets to stuff extra hats and gloves. Id maybe like a hood. And the face fabric would need to be more durable if youre heading into the woods. (A small tear developed out of no where on the back of my jacket after a hike.)
That said, I love how this jacket fits and feels. It has a sharp look, almost a Members-Only quality to its style (for those who remember the 80s) though with a modern aesthetic and no shoulder-strap passants.
I will layer this piece under a shell on extra cold days this winter to add significant warmth. Indeed, this jacket pumps heat with 100 grams of the aforementioned PrimaLoft One insulation in the body and 60 grams in the sleeves.
Features include four zipper pockets and comfy internal wrist cuffs to seal off the sleeves. Overall, I am a fan of this jacket if not for strict performance, then for its smooth look and its adaptability to outdoors situations urban or otherwise.
Gear Junkie now has a forums section! Sign in now and start contributing, asking questions, swapping stories, or writing your own gear reviews. Click here: http://thegearjunkie.com/forum/
BONUS: To get the ball rolling, the first 50 forum contributors who sign up and make two (2) genuine, quality posts either by joining a discussion or starting one on their own will win a Gear Junkie grab bag prize with one or more of the following mailed direct to your home or business:
-Official Gear Junkie Headsweats athletic cap
-Official Gear Junkie winter fleece hat from Headsweats
Snow crunched underfoot as I trekked toward the chute, a shadowed corner pinched between cliffs at 11,000 feet. It was a Monday morning, cloudless and quiet, the sun just poking above distant peaks of the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah.
Thus starts my story in the New York Times for Friday, November 14. In this article Climbing as High as You Can Go in Utah I tell the tale of my two-day ascent of Kings Peak last month, which at 13,528 feet is the states high point.
The trip started in Salt Lake City, where we drove east and north into Wyoming then dipping back south across the state line en route to the High Uintas Wilderness, a protected region of peaks and pristine lakes that are among the most remote in the lower 48 states. The hike to Kings Peak a 28-mile round trip led us into an alpine Eden then up and up through a chute and a long talus climb to the top.
We even encountered moose on the hike in by headlamp, two large shapes moving away off the trail, their eyes sparking blue in the artificial glow. We then slept tentless, the sky utterly clear, stars dusting in three dimensions on the black void above, before getting up the next day to climb.
As a longtime city bike commuter and an advocate for cycling on several recreational, economic and societal fronts I was happy to see news today of REIs new online resource promoting biking as an alternative to driving your car.
The site http://www.rei.com/bikeyourdrive was made, according to the Recreational Equipment Inc. press release, to inspire more people to cycle by exposing myths and breaking down common barriers associated with using a bicycle as an alternate means of transportation.
To point, the site has how-to video demonstrations on fixing a flat tire and hand-signaling a turn; a calculator to show estimated environmental, caloric and financial savings of cycling over driving; and recommended cycling gear picks. Other tips cover bike maintenance and rules of the road.
REI says that nationwide urban bicycle sales have increased substantially in 2008 as more people are riding around town to save money, get exercise and cut down on traffic congestion. But less than one percent of all U.S. trips, REI says, are made by bicycle, even though many trips are one mile or less in distance (i.e., easily bike-able).
REI continues to see increased interest in using bicycles to get to work, the coffee shop or just for running errands around town, says Brian Foley, REIs product manager for cycling. Indeed, REIs intent is to make biking more mainstream. You dont have to wear spandex to ride your bike. Foley adds.
Im back from the golden, sunshiny Utah autumn woods, where a buddy (Stanley Barton) and I just returned from climbing Kings Peak, the states high point. We hiked and camped and clambered up scree slopes with two Park City friends Rett Clevenger and Jeff Burford in a quick ascent.
The peak, which tops out at 13,528 feet, is non-technical, meaning hiking boots and trekking poles not ropes and ice axes can get you to the top. But as highpoints go, Kings is one of the more remote, sitting far off any beaten path in northeastern Utahs Uinta Mountains. We started the 28-mile roundtrip journey at 7pm on Sunday night, following the beam of a headlamp into the woods and toward our goal to camp near Dollar Lake, the halfway point.
For navigation, I employed National Geographics Trails Illustrated High Uintas Trail Map (http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/product/610.html), a 1:75,000 topographic mainly created for hikers. But I found the maps detail to be more than enough for mountaineering, with precise slope shading making contours and elevation pop from the page. Small ponds and marshes were present on the map and accurate, and we even got water from one tributary.
Our route was more or less the traditional way up the mountain, beginning at the Henrys Fork trailhead and heading due south to Dollar Lake (which we reached by about 10:30p.m. the first night, and where we camped out under the stars). We deviated from the trade route in one respect, skipping the normal switchbacks through Gunsight Pass on the way up the mountain in favor of a steeper direct route up a scree-field and chute that spit us out nearly on Kings Peaks spine.
The summit ridge a jumble of stone with precipitous drops off the west face and turret-like blocks balanced precariously made for the most rewarding part of the climb. After the loose rock and scree below, hopping uphill from solid block to block was satisfying progress.
On top, the air must have been 50 degrees. The sun was high and hot. No wind. Rett cracked a tin of herring kipper snacks and crackers then passed the vessel around. A picnic on the top of the state.
The hike out was long and jarring, with thousands of vertical feet and more than 15 miles of backtracking to the car. We took Gunsight pass in lieu of the scree chute, then trekked past Dollar Lake (picking up pads and sleeping bags stashed from the night before), then flipped on the headlamps once again on the final 7 mile section out.
We finished around 7:55 p.m., just more than 24 hours after leaving the car. Cranked up the heat. Pulled the rental into drive, and motored away in the dark, headlights beaming into black woods, an empty wilderness where we saw no other soul for our long day climb of Kings Peak.
Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for several U.S. newspapers; see http://www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold's work.)
Signing off for a few days to catch a plane to SLC and head into the mountains. Trip itinerary looks to be: Day 1, warm-up climb on Mount Olympus, a 9,026-foot peak visible from downtown Salt Lake on the front of the Wasatch Range; Day 2, a newspaper assignment in the desert west of the Great Salt Lake (details forthcoming and top secret at this time); Day 3, a drive northeast to the states Uinta Mountains for an attempt at Kings Peak, the highest point in the state at 13,528 feet.
If the weather is good this is a strange time of year to be mountaineering the plan is to start the trek into Kings, a 28-mile roundtrip, in the late afternoon and then hike with headlamps as need be to make it to Dollar Lake, the halfway point, or even a bit further. Well then bivy a few hours sleep, get up with the sunrise, and bust it for the summit.
A long downhill hike then back to Dollar Lake and finally onto the car by late afternoon/early evening the next day will finish the quick climb off.
Thats the ideal scenario, anyway.
Will report on the trip in a few days after I come back out of the mountains. . .
Boaters take note: These Maori necklaces come with carved symbols purported to help guarantee safe passage over water for kayakers. Thats according to Sean West, a 21-year-old kayaker and whitewater raft guide from Asheville, N.C., who founded Wanderer Imports LLC http://www.wandererimports.com to bring the charms to the U.S.
Working with a group of independent Balinese artisans, West began importing the necklaces which come in several designs this year. They sell for about $20 apiece, which includes shipping.
West has worked his way up from selling necklaces out of his trunk to now providing the jewelry to outdoors outfitters and online.
The necklaces are crafted from cow bone, which is then polished by the Balinese artisans. Over time, when worn extensively, the pendant will turn a golden color as it absorbs some of the wearers essence, according to West.
Not often would I write about bottled water. I'm more of the mind that you should refill a metal (or non-BPA poly) bottle with filtered H20 from the tap. But Project 7, an outfit in Southlake, Texas, has a new twist on the (recyclable) plastic bottle game. Namely, the company (www.project7.com) has pledged to address "the seven most critical areas of need in the world today: Build the Future, Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Help those in Need, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless, and Save the Planet."
To that end, the company says it will take more than 50 percent of profits from its products to create a community piggy-bank. Throughout the year, the company will accept applications from nonprofits that benefit one of the aforementioned seven causes, eventually selecting three finalists for each to award the money.
Regardless of sales during its first year, Project 7 has committed to donating $15,000 to nonprofits supporting each of the seven areas of critical need, totaling a minimum donation of $105,000 in 2009.
The water -- which comes in recyclable polyethylene terephthalate bottles filled with locally-sourced water -- will soon be available at coffee shops, health food stores and grocery chains around the United States. Go here -- www.project7.com -- for more info.