We were barreling south on I-25 doing 70 when we felt it: a weird shuffling sensation in the tires. The truck hitched slightly to the right and began to decelerate. I looked over at Steve to see if he’d put his foot on the brake, but he was looking at me with an equally baffled expression, and that’s when I knew we were really in trouble.
“Oh CRAP!” we said in unison. This was going to suck.
It’s never convenient to get a flat tire on a road trip, but it’s especially trying when you’re towing a 21-foot vintage Airstream trailer for only the second time in your life, and you have two young, sleep-deprived children and a deaf, three-legged dog in the backseat, the baby is teething, and the spare tire is as old as the trailer. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly an auspicious start to our maiden Airstream voyage.
With their commercial use permits on hold, horse pack operators in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks aren't taking trip reservations and are nervously awaiting a May 23 hearing at which U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg will outline the next steps in a federal lawsuit filed by the High Sierra Hikers Association and dating back to 2009.
The suit accuses the National Park Service of violating the Wilderness Act of 1964 when it approved a General Management Plan and adopted permits for commercial pack and saddle stock enterprises that operate within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It says the NPS does not designate an upper limit on horse and mule use in the parks, in which most land falls under Wilderness Act protection, and this leads to "soil erosion, degradation of wildlife habitat, bacterial contamination of water, introduction of invasive weeds, and other harm to park resources."
All aboard who's going aboard. Photo courtesy Linx Co-op
In our May issue we rounded up 12 amazing off-the-beaten path National Park adventures. Trekking into Yellowstone National Park (oh, you've heard of it?) didn't make the cut. But that doesn't mean you should avoid the 3,472 square miles of alpine wonders that make up the world's first national park. What you should avoid, however, is seeing it through your car windows, while stuck in park traffic.
"The park gets three million visitors each year, and they come mostly in the summer months," says Kim Billimoria, communications manager for Linx. Thankfully, visitors now have a public transit option to get around, and even get into, the park. The best part? It will act as your trail chauffeur, opening up thru-hike options and access to multi-leg trips that you'd never be able to pull off in a car.
Pinnacle Camper: Gourmet Kitchen on the Go [photo: GSI]
One of the perks of car camping or river-tripping with kids is that—unlike backpacking—you don’t have to count ounces. If there’s room in the car or boat, go ahead and throw in the beach bocce ball set, the camp chairs, and the squirt guns. Same goes for your backcountry kitchen: There’s no reason to limit yourself to one-pot meals when you can pack a lightweight, super-efficient cook set and table ware designed for “gourmet camping” (code for “splurge and bring the good stuff.”)
We put this approach to the test last week on our maiden voyage in our 1961 Safari Airstream. Rather than try to dredge up all our battered and scattered pots and tin plates from our camping box, we consolidated with GSI Outdoor’s new Pinnacle Camper cook set. Unpacking the “integrated cooking and eating solution,” as the company calls it, is a little like watching a few dozen clowns climb out of a VW bug. It is shockingly compact but crammed with tons of useful stuff: two anodized aluminum pots (3 liter and 2 liter), a fry pan, two rubber lids, a pot gripper, four plates, four insulated mugs, four color-coded bowls, and a welded stuff sack that doubles as a wash basin (and, in a pinch, an Easter basket).
Let's just say you've pitched your tent at a campsite neighboring a crew of rambunctious teenagers. They have Theophilus London blaring out of their mom's SUV, and who knows what else going on. The Kelty lantern will not only illuminate your tent with low, medium, and high white light as you wake to their shenanigans, but it also has the tools to show you can play the same game. It has a full array of flashing disco lights and a speaker for blasting tunes. LED's at the top and bottom of the lantern flash red, green, and blue, while an MP3 player plugged into an integrated speaker just may incite your campground neighbors to join you and strut around your campfire in their fleece singing Stayin’ Alive—or at least give you a hearty roll of their eyes.