The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Camping

Turn Your Cabin Inside Out

Massive windows, sheltered decks, and rooftop seating are all features you might expect in a house that celebrates nature. But sliding glass walls and slatted wood screens aren’t exactly standard.

That said, this is no ordinary cabin. The 2,700-square-foot cottage, which overlooks an estuary in Brittany, has two levels with bedrooms and baths cantilevered over an open living space below. On the ground floor, three poured-concrete walls carve into the wooded slope. And there are windows everywhere, including narrow clerestory ones set in the back wall. But it’s the walls of sliding glass up front that blur the lines between inside and outside.

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Architects used low-maintenance materials when designing this house. Stone slabs in the interior lead outside where they meet concrete pavers, while wood planks cover the ceiling and the simple kitchen island. On the top level, two light shafts flood the kitchen and living area with natural light. The central stair is surrounded by horizontal wood slats supported by vertical black limbs—an artistic and practical setup.

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Then there’s the private upper level, clad in untreated chestnut planks. Cork bark cushions the floors of the bedrooms and baths, and the sleeping spaces make you feel like you’re in a private tree house. Catch a glimpse of the estuary through the screen of vertical wooden slats that rest on black steel pipe.

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Ranger Gabriel, Do You Copy?

Some people are heroes; others need saving. Eight-year-old Gabriel Lavan-Ying of Gainesville, Florida, has the soul of the former, but the body of the latter. He suffers from chronic inflammation, loose joints, skin that breaks open at the gentlest bumping, and his body is polka-dotted with black and blue hematomas—all symptoms of the connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Eventually, he’ll have to get surgery to repair the delicate tissue of his aortic route.

“He doesn't heal well or hold stitches, and we've learned that the hard way with his skin rupturing," says Gabriel’s mother, Tara. "So you can imagine what we're looking at when he needs surgery on his heart."

Even with his condition, Gabriel craves time adventuring outside, especially within state and national parks. At a fort in St. Augustine, Gabriel fell upon the Junior Ranger program—if he studied a handout, wrote an essay, spoke with rangers about their jobs, and completed various activities, Gabriel discovered, he could be part of the park system, too. 

“He got a certificate and a patch, and that was it, he was hooked,” Tara says. “So every time we went back to the fort, he would do it over again, although he got the same patch. He didn't care. “

And now, despite Ehlers-Danlos, Gabriel wants to be a park ranger when he grows up.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/gabriel-and-ranger_h.jpg","size":"medium","caption":"Ranger Gabriel learns how to wear his new uniform with pride.","align":"left"}%}

“With that kind of hardship, being a ranger is certainly not ever going to be his reality,” Tara says. Most people suffering from EDS don’t start experiencing the worst symptoms until their 20s, but Gabriel has had EDS since infancy; his condition has progressed well beyond what’s normal for his age.

But after Florida representatives of Make-A-Wish learned about Gabriel’s condition this spring, Gabriel got his chance. On June 3, more than 100 Yosemite National Park employees worked with Gabriel and his family to help him achieve his dream of becoming an honorary park ranger.

The event was just as significant for Yosemite’s rangers as it was for Gabriel: Yosemite has planned events for people with illnesses previously, but park representatives said the park had neither worked with Make-A-Wish before nor created a means of becoming an honorary ranger before Gabriel dreamed up the possibility.

“We have had things like this in the past, but we've never had anything either this formal, this complex or this big,” said ranger Scott Gediman.

Park employees made Gabriel’s experience as official as possible. Chris Raines, the park’s education ranger; Ed Visnovske, the park’s law enforcement supervisor; and naturalist ranger Erik Westerlund worked together to create a day jam-packed with challenging activities that would give him contact with every kind of ranger and make him feel like he earned his badge, but—thanks to input from Gabriel’s medical team—wouldn’t put him in harm’s way.

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Gabriel arrived at the park with his twin sister Angelica, his baby brother Dominic, and his parents. He wore a child-size version of the ranger uniform, the hat covering his scarred forehead and the jacket large on a frame made small by an emergency stomach surgery. Though Gediman, Raines, Visnovske, and Westerlund met Gabriel amidst the click-clicks of perfectly positioned photographers and TV crews, the rangers and his mother all said Gabriel seemed completely invested and in the moment—to him, this was real.

The rangers put Gabriel through his paces right out of the gate. At 9 a.m. Gabriel went through yet another junior ranger program, complete with programs about wildlife and bird watching, which earned him a spot at the morning briefing table. While meeting various rangers, an “emergency call” came in about a forest fire in the park. Gabriel and two rangers quickly hopped into a fire truck and met 20 other fire rangers on the scene.

“They actually set a small ground fire,” Gediman says. “They gave him a hose and he actually put out the fire.”

A small group of rangers took Gabriel to lunch in the shadows of Yosemite Valley’s arching waterfalls and cliffs, where they conveyed to him in what it means to be a ranger: participating in preservation history and the importance of conserving natural resources.

But the park wouldn’t stay quiet for long. Gabriel’s Yosemite-assigned radio (“This is Ranger Gabriel, do you copy?”) soon buzzed with an even bigger emergency: Gabriel’s search and rescue skills were needed.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/ranger-gabriel-fire_h.jpg","size":"medium","caption":"Ranger Gabriel puts a park fire in its place.","align":"left"}%}

“We had a victim (read: a very safe ranger) that was in a litter that we lowered down a cliff,” Gediman says. “Gabriel took the victim to the ambulance and then he rode in the ambulance to the meadow” where a helicopter was waiting.

Proving his well-rounded worth, Gabriel was finally swept up by patrol car to a ceremony around 3 p.m. to celebrate his hard-earned victories. In front of family, new friends, and park visitors, Superindendent Don Neubacher and judge Michael Seng officially made Gabriel an honorary Yosemite park ranger.

“By the end of the day we were all just tired, but I mean, it was a special thing for me seeing that his high fives at the end of the day were stronger than in the morning,” Gediman says. “His mom tried to get him to drink water and relax but he just didn't want to sit; he just wanted to go.”

For Tara, seeing her son power through his wish was a little nerve-wracking. “I kept asking him, ‘Do you need me to carry you, do you need a ranger to carry you?’ and he said, 'No no no,' because he didn't want to look weak in front of the rangers,” she remembers. “I thought, well I'm gonna have to put his legs in cold water tonight to numb and cool some of this inflammation that's bound to be going on.”

But carrying Gabriel through the Sequoias the following day was a small price to pay. “It was emotional,” Tara continues, “just how much work everyone put in to make it so special for him.”

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/gabriel-rescue-mission_h.jpg","size":"medium","caption":"Gabriel and Ed Visnovske make sure a 'victim' is properly situated before being taken to a rescue helicopter.","align":"right"}%}

Going through treatment is rough at any age, but for Gabriel, the prospect of becoming a ranger eased the pain. “For a lot of kids, a wish come true empowers them to continue to do their treatment,” says Josh deBerge, senior manager of national communications and public relations for Make-A-Wish.

If recent events are any indication, Gabriel’s wish experience will be a driving force for a while. The day after his ceremony, his family was driving to a rafting event when they saw a real rescue occurring within the park: a woman had been bitten by a snake.

Gabriel put on his ranger hat and was acknowledged by his ranger colleagues. “Even though it wasn't his wish day, he was still included,” Tara says. “To him, it wasn't a day, he's an honorary park ranger,” she adds, “And that's what he is, forever.

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Photos courtesy of Yosemite National Park and Josh deBerge.

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The Blissful Matrimony of Beer and Gear

American Craft Beer Week ended last month, but the relationship between the outdoor industry and craft breweries is just getting started. In May, for example, Anchor Brewing Company announced that some of the proceeds from its California Lager will go to the National Parks Conservation Association and the California State Parks Foundation, expanding packaging to cans for greater outdoor versatility.

But it’s the following four gear brands that have taken the beer-gear marriage to another level.

Patagonia

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Last November, clothing company Patagonia recruited New Belgium Brewing—best known for producing Fat Tire Amber Ale—to help it produce a beer honoring 40 years in the business. Adhering to the California-based company's famous commitment to organic products, California Route Organic Lager uses Cascade organic hops to produce a tawny-colored, medium-bodied brew with a malty character and earthy hops. The name, California Route, is a tribute to the famous route on Mount Fitz Roy, originally climbed by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in 1968. Note: The beer is hard to find—try Patagonia retail stores or around Fort Collins, where New Belgium is based—but it's worth the search.

KEEN

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You've may already have tried the popular hefeweizen made by America's ninth-largest brewer, Portland-based Widmer Brothers. In solidarity with the city's bicycling community, Widmer joined the Bicycle Transportation Alliance to help provide safe bicycling routes in the area. And he decided to treat members of the organization to a new brew developed specifically for the occasion. Teaming with KEEN Footwear, Widmer came up with the Full Fender Brown Ale, a light, malty English brown. Unfortunately, Widmer only distributed the small batch to business leaders who attended a March BTA meeting. We can only hope Rob Widmer's love of cycling (he bikes to work every day) leads to larger-scale collaborations with the community in the future.

Carhartt

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Carhartt, whose line of workwear is the fashion of choice for many hipster bros, called in its fellow Michiganders at New Holland Brewing Company to conceptualize and produce a beer from Michigan-made ingredients. The brew is slated for wide release this fall. "Carhartt is the epitome of craftsmanship," New Holland's president, Brett VanderKamp, said in a press release. "The same dedication to hard work and creativity that we admire in farmers, chefs, artists, and other brewers is exactly what you'll find at Carhartt. They reflect the same devotion to quality raw materials, artisan processes, and delivering remarkable results as we do."

Woolrich, Inc.

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Woolrich, Inc., a company that’s been producing outdoor apparel since 1830, partnered with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in June to produce a limited batch of custom beer matched with a clothing collection. The beer—dubbed Pennsylvania Tuxedo—was brewed with spruce tips from, you guessed it, Woolrich, Pennsylvania. Named after the red and black wool outfits made famous by woodsmen in New England, the rye pale ale debuted as draft-only at Analog-A-Go-Go, Dogfish’s music and beer fest, on June 13.

Then there’s the apparel and merch, including a classic chambray men’s button down, a throw blanket made from 100 percent wool, and beach hat and coozie. It’s all designed for a day in the sand, where you can sit back, relax, and crack open a cold one. Preferably from Dogfish.

“Dogfish and Woolrich have very similar DNA’s,” says Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione. “We’re both family-owned, east coast companies committed to our communities, obsessed with celebrating nature, and using the best natural ingredients we can get our hands on.”

 

Clean your glasses and prepare for the perfect pour, because these shared values mean more collaborations between craft brewers and quality gear outlets are coming.

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A Throwback Road Trip Essential Worth Bringing Back

Americans have an on-again, off-again love affair with teardrop trailers. At the height of the real estate bubble—a 3,000-square-foot home, media room, and eat-in kitchen for every family!—there wasn’t much innovation in the industry. But since the 2008 financial crash, more and more trailers have appeared on the scene. “There’s just something attractive about being fully self-contained and on the road,” says Ashley Grimes, founder of Utah-based Moby 1 Trailers.

Take the So-Cal Krawler, which has a reinforced steel frame, adjustable shocks, and a burly roof rack for gear or a tent ($16,195). And the military-grade Schutt Xventure is a utilitarian beast, with 19 inches of ground clearance ($11,995).

For sheer ruggedness, however, no trailer can compare to the Moby 1 XTR ($18,500). Measuring 54 inches wide and 108 inches deep, and weighing in at 1,600 pounds, it comes equipped with a queen-size mattress, a loaded galley kitchen, multiple rechargeable power sources, and, most important, an adjustable five inches of suspension—because sometimes the open road isn’t so open.

Moby even has add-ons, like a solar package to take it completely off the grid ($350) and a rooftop tent to fit the whole family ($2,400).Grimes knows a guy who’s living in his unit full-time and another who uses the trailer as a beachfront shack. “There’s an inclination to pack them with amenities,” Grimes says. “But the beauty of these trailers is that they force you to be minimalist. You have to get outside to cook and shower and do everything except sleep and read a book.” Now that’s an American dream we can believe in.

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