It always takes a little while to get into the flow of a river trip, but I know I’m there when, on a recent Saturday night in early September, I find myself sitting on a sandbar, margarita in hand, watching the setting sun bathe the canyon rim in tangerine and cantaloupe. The kids are so busy burrowing in the sand, they’ve forgotten we are here and—almost—vice versa. There are 10 of them, not counting the baby (who has very agreeably gone to bed for the night), ages 3 to 13, and—by now, three days in—they’ve morphed into a single, self-contained, sand-encrusted, mud-streaked unit, with its own language and pecking order and collective schemes. It’s Lord of the Flies, San Juan Edition.
Tonight, the mission seems to be: Dig Elaborate Tunnels in the Sand or maybe Reenact the Chile Mining Disaster. So far the only casualty is a plastic lobster beach shovel, now cracked beyond repair. In the settling dusk, the children are becoming less distinct and more shadowy, and I can just make out our three-year-old’s blonde head, hunched over the slope. The older kids have donned headlamps and, from this distance, resemble miniature miners toiling at their passageways. Sooner or later it will be bedtime, but for now, nothing whatsoever needs to be done except kick back, pour another cup of box wine, and watch them work.
We’re camped on a sandbar just below Eight Foot Rapid, river left, at roughly mile 18 on the upper San Juan River. Together with four other families from Santa Fe and Durango, we put-on two days ago in Bluff, Utah, and by the time we take out tomorrow at Mexican Hat, we’ll have floated 27 miles, three rapids, and countless riffles through a deep crack in the desert. Our flotilla consists of three rafts, two duckies, and five standup paddleboards, though the distinctions of who brought which boat and who rides in which craft have become irrelevant. We’re not so much paddling as playing musical boats. Lured by Tootsie Pops and Pringles, our three-year-old parked herself in our friend Will’s raft with the other kids and wouldn’t budge all day.
That’s one of the perks of boating with a bunch of families: pawning your kids off on other people. Another: waking up to breakfast quesadillas and coffee that someone else made. Gliding in rare silence on a paddleboard while another mother minds the baby on your boat. Extra hands to set up the pop-up shade (and dismantle it at three A.M. when a storm rolls in). Laughing your ass off around the campfire while your dentist friend tells a story about stealing a canister of nitrous oxide during grad school and an almost full moon heaves itself above the canyon rim. Watching the kids go feral and bury themselves waist deep in river mud, and knowing that there are 9 parents to help dig them out.
Getting robbed sucks whether you're on a business trip or vacation. Keep thieves at bay the next time you travel with these three anti-theft accessories:
Clothing Arts Pick Pocket Proof Adventure Travel Pants: Fill the high capacity pockets of these pants with all the guide books, waterbottles, electronics and documents that they can actually hold, and it's like wearing your suitcase. They hold so much, the nearest sticky-fingered street kid likely won't be able to find the valuable stuff. Should you choose to go light, you can stash your travel docs and cash in any of the four built-in money belts in these cotton nylon pants. Stash your smartphone in one of the double thick slashproof cargo pockets, and it too will be out of reach of swift hands . Available now, $110, clothingarts.com
Travelon Anti-Theft Pistol Packing Shoulder Bag: For those times when you want to carry a laptop or iPad, your waterbottle, plus your pistol, you need this Travelon bag. So many shoulder bags just can't accommodate when you're packing, and we're not talking about for your next trip. This bag has a locking rear compartment that holds your heat, and a locking main compartment that holds your computer. An RFID-shielded organizer inside prevents thieves from robbing you virtually. Available now; $85, travelonbags.com.
PacsafeRFIDsafe 50 Anti Theft Passport and Credit Card Protector: Made from a ripstop conductive nickel and copper weave fabric encased in a hot melt adhesive film, Pacsafe's pouch will protect you from virtual identity theft whether you're in the Tube or at the Louvre. Most RFID protector are aluminum, which hinders radio transmission of information. Pacsafe's proprietary fabric completely prevents it, but doesn't interfere with the pouch's soft feel and flexibility. pacsafe.com.
Tonight, Patagonia and eBay announced a new partnership, the Common Threads Initiative. Together, they asked owners of fleece and Gore-Tex everywhere to pledge to reduce consumption, reuse old gear, recycle, repair what's broken, and reimagine a world where people don't stress the earth with purchases.
Yes, you read correctly. Patagonia is asking us not to buy their stuff, or any stuff, unless we really need it. And then they're asking us to buy used stuff when we can. And they're asking us to sell those still warm puffys and barely frayed packs gathering dust in the back of our closets on eBay, to a troller who will buy an old jacket instead of buying a new one.
With young kids, it can be an accomplishment to get out the front door. So when my husband, Andy, and I decided to take our girls camping and meet up with some friends and their kids in Crested Butte for a long weekend in mid-August, we knew it was going to be busy. With four girls between us, ages four months through five, we were going to have to be creative to if we wanted to get our adventure fix. But that didn’t stop us from trying. We’re all mountain parents, desperate to get our kids outside and desperate to be outside ourselves.
Crested Butte is the quintessential Colorado adventure outpost, with access to some of the Rockies' best mountain biking, hiking, and running trails; a laid-back, kid-friendly downtown, where everybody gets around on vintage cruiser bikes; and plenty of rivers, creeks, and lakes for cooling off after a day on the trails.
We pulled into the Oh Be Joyful Campground late Wednesday and met up with our friends, Stewart and Blair. The perfect family adventure base camp, it sits right on the Slate River, about four miles north of town, and backs up against the Oh Be Joyful trail, a fantastic hike through a lush glacial valley (more on that later). Anywhere else in the world, this spot would be overrun and overpriced, but in Crested Butte, the site was free, and we had very few neighbors.
The storm of the century began as a half-inch blurb on the cover of last Friday’s The New York Times. The photo showed a lifeguard looking out to sea. A red flag flapped behind him, and behind that, were piles of cottony clouds with ominously dark underbellies. This was the beginning of Irene. Not the Irene that “barreled,” “blazed” and “marched along a path of destruction” up the I-95 corridor. But the media storm that both misinformed and scared the living hell out of anyone living within 800 miles of the Northeastern Seaboard.
Hurricanes don’t make landfall often along the heavily populated shores of the Northeast, but when they do they can be deadly. The Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 was rated a Category 4 when it hit Narragansett Bay on August 25, killing more than 46 people. The New England Hurricane of 1938 left more than 600 dead, with winds of up to 186 mph before instruments broke. Then came Hurricane Gloria in 1985, the last hurricane to hit the New York area, causing $900 million in damage and killing eight.
By Friday afternoon, every news outlet from CNN to The New York Times to NPR had characterized Irene as “the storm of the century,” “storm of a generation” and generally The End of All Good and Living Things on the East Coast of the United States. I was in a hardware store in Hampton Bays, Long Island, when I first saw the frenzy. The line was out the door. Customers cradled armfuls of batteries, gas cans, flashlights and duct tape. When the man in front of me in line paid $750 in cash for a generator, sight unseen, I realized the storm had already hit—on televisions, computer screens and newspapers around the country. (I was at the store to repair a surfboard I dinged that morning. Yes, the waves were great.)