The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Mar 2011

Alexander Martin

Some recent college grads backpack around Europe. "Zand" Martin wanted something a little more Lewis and Clark. So the 25-year-old borrowed a 33-pound canoe, drove it to Portland, Oregon, and on April 4, 2009, set off up the Columbia River Gorge toward home—Portland, Maine. "I wanted to challenge the idea that you need to go to Patagonia to find adventure," says Martin. "I liked that I was traveling through people's backyards." Going on his own steam save for a couple of rides he hitched, Martin paddled up the Columbia and Snake rivers before stopping in the border town of Weiser, Idaho, where he found an old cruiser bike on Craigslist for $30 that he retrofitted with a trailer made from scrap metal. After making it to Jackson, Wyoming, he turned north and began a 650-mile portage and paddle up and over the Continental Divide and down into Montana's Yellowstone River, where he chipped away at his ice-crusted paddle before a 400-mile portage across North Dakota. Twice during the circuitous 4,000-mile affair, he paused his journey to guide wilderness-education trips for his employer, the National Outdoor Leadership School. Seven months in, he'd made it to Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. "It's supposedly the most popular canoe destination in the country, but I didn't see anything besides wolves and ice for 16 days," he says. "Maybe that's because it was November." After connecting with New Hampshire's Androscoggin River via the Great Lakes and several Adirondack waterways, he floated down the Presumpscot River into Portland on September 25. Now he's thinking of crossing Eurasia. "I'd like to paddle from Portugal to Nakhodka, Russia," says Martin. "It's something like 12,000 miles. No one has come close to doing anything like that yet."

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Stuff You Should Click On: Week of March 4

Flying bikes, floating cars, and Yogi Bear in the gray bar hotel. Once again, here's the stuff you should click on this week.

The Best Helmet Cam Footage We've Seen in a While
Chile's Valparaiso Cerro Abajo Race

Thanks to the Adventure Blog and Gadling

For The Rest of Us on Bikes...
Regenerative ABS Braking for Bicycles?

World's Most Elusive Cat Caught on Video:

Well, Second Most Elusive:
Federal Researchers Declare Eastern Cougar Extinct (The New York Times)

Least Elusive Bear Arrested in Provo:
Yogi Bear Booked by Provo Police (

When to Head to Warmer Climes:
Floating Car Shows Off Cold Side of Highway Mirages (NewScientist)

So, How'd You Spend Your Weekend?

--Michael Webster

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The Gear Junkie Scoop: Perpetuum Solids

This column is part of a series of gear reviews based on tests in the 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race, a weeklong competitive event in southern Chile. The race stretched 300+ miles and included trekking, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, and wilderness navigation. Team took second place. 

By Stephen Regenold

They look and taste somewhat like sidewalk chalk. Put one in your mouth and you might think at first that it's antacid medicine. The flavors, including strawberry vanilla and a sweet coffee taste called "Caffé Latte," are unexpected and yet, in the right scenario, surprisingly good.

Hammer Nutrition's Perpetuum Solids are among the strangest energy food I have yet to try. The dry pellets, which contain the same ingredients as found in the company's popular Perpetuum drink powder, have just 33 calories a pop.

Hammer Perpetuum Solids

Eat three of the Solids and you get 100 calories -- about the same caloric energy as is had from a gel pack like GU or Clif's SHOT. But the taste, and the tactile experience on the tongue, is wildly different from sweet, sticky energy goo.

I ate a few packs of Perpetuum Solids while competing in the week-long Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race last month. The Solids come in tubes with six tablets stacked inside. The cost is $3.95 for the tube or they come in a 90-count jar for $36.95. Flavors in total are Caffé Latte, Orange-Vanilla, and Strawberry-Vanilla.

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Collegiate Ski Jumping Returns after 31 Years, Includes Women

Ski jump
Photo by tpower1978 on Flickr

The United States collegiate ski jumping championships will take place Saturday at Park City, Utah, The New York Times reports, marking the first time the event has been held in 31 years. And for the first time, women will also be competing.

Ski jumping was dropped from the national championships in 1980, largely because of pressure on the college ski community to consolidate or lose its N.C.A.A. backing.

“Ski jumps around the country just vaporized,” said Alan Johnson, the athletic director of USA Ski Jumping. “The number of jumpers declined and there wasn’t enough money to pay for upkeep and insurance.”

Yet ski jumping has seen a resurgence in the last decade, with many in the ski community crediting an influx of women jumpers.

“About 40 percent of our new ski jumpers are girls,” said Walter Malmquist, who jumped for the U.S. in the '76 and '80 Olympics. “It may have been seen as a male sport 30 years ago, but these girls don’t know about that, or care.”

“It is a first start, but in five years, we absolutely will have 50 jumpers, or more, qualifying for nationals,” said Laura Sullivan, the ski and snowboard association’s executive director. “We’ve been through this with other sports. So far, the growth in ski jumping has been faster than when we added snowboarding.”

The International Olympic Committee voted twice against including women's ski jumping in the Vancouver Olympics. No decision has yet been made on whether women will jump in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

--Michael Webster

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The Cycle Life: 5 Caribbean Mountain Biking Escapes

Leo Hoogenboom leads it out. Photo by Barry B. Brown/Coral Reef Photos

On the island of Bonaire last week, I solidified my opinion of cold-weather biking: like getting a flu shot or cleaning the toilet, you have to do it, but it’s not really much fun. I hear the protests already—the cold air is invigorating; it’s not bad if you dress right; snow bikes are fun—and I’ll concede it all. But next winter, you take a break from rides that require bundling up like Ralphy from A Christmas Story and head down to the Caribbean for some mountain biking—as I did last week—and then come talk to me about how good it feels to ride with numb fingers and frozen snot and a sore throat. I’ll take the crackling dry single track and hot Caribbean sun on my bare skin every time, thank you very much.

A municipality of the Netherlands,  Bonaire is the “B” between Aruba and Curaçao in the ABC islands and drifts just 50 miles north of Venezuela. Divers love it for the unique double reef and windsurfers flock here as well, but I discovered that the island has a secret life as a mountain bike destination. Usually the drawback of riding in vacation destinations are the pieces of scrap metal that hotels pass off as rental bikes. But I found a friendly local bike shop in downtown Kralendijk called De Freewieler that rented Ridley Shark hard tails with working shifters, brakes, and—bonus—life left in the front shock. They also arranged for a local to show me around.

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