In the flow, finally: Conejos River, Colorado. Photo: Katie Arnold
Whenever you take young children on outdoor adventures, there will invariably come a moment when you’ll ask yourself, head in hands, between clenched teeth, possibly on the verge of tears or mental breakdown: How could this possibly be worth it? At the time, invariably, the answer is: It’s not. At least not yet. No matter how gorgeous or remote the wilderness, how soothing the river rushing by, how blissfully tuned out you are from the racket of the rest of the world, you will arrive at this moment. And it will suck.
In northern New Mexico, the Rio Chama cuts a winding path through tawny sandstone walls and banks thick with sagebrush and ponderosa pines. Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted in Abiquiu, near the mouth of this wilderness canyon, for decades. Federally protected as a Wild and Scenic River, the Chama is so serene that an order of Benedictine monks live nearby in a solar-powered, sustainable monastery, Christ in the Desert, they built on the banks. Visitors come from around the world to live in silence for a few days, and on some still mornings you can hear the sound of the monks' chanting rising up above the steady downstream thrum of the river. My husband and I have camped, kayaked, canoed, and rafted here every summer for the past 12 years. Less than two hours from Santa Fe, up a rutted dirt road a dozen miles from pavement that becomes impassable when it rains, beneath buttes shaped like wedding cakes and natural amphitheaters carving themselves into the creamy cliffs, this is our happy place.
Sunset on the Rio Chama, New Mexico. Photo: Katie Arnold
Last fall, when pro riders Eric Porter and Kelly McGarry needed a vacation, they decided to do a raft trip down Utah's Green River to look for unridden, Red Bull-style lines.
Because they're pros, they brought along a videographer, a photographer, and hired a raft guide for their little getaway. They documented it all in a video called Down River, which is packed with inspiring scenery that will, despite the sleepy soundtrack, jazz you up and make you wish you were there splashing in the cool waters of the Green surrounded by the silence of the desert.
When this footage inspires you to be a little more adventurous on your next vacation, take a cue from Porter and McGarry and be sure to pack some of their favorite essentials.
This crew's top pick for easy backcountry drinking water: Camelbak's All Clear, which puts a water purification system right in your water bottle.
"The All Clear allowed us to travel light when we left the boats to ride the side canyons," said athlete Eric Porter. "It's was super easy and fast to use, and didn't add the nasty iodine flavor since it uses UV light to purify. Plus it purified 80 bottles of water on one set of batteries." Available now, $99, camelbak.com.
The gang kept their documentary crew powered with Goal Zero's Sherpa 120 battery and Nomad 27 Solar Panels. "Our Goal Zero solar panels and batteries were key to photos and videos of this trip." Porter said. "Every day we would set out the solar panels on the boats to charge the batteries, and then at night we would charge our video and still cameras from the stored energy. Our photographer was even able to plug in his laptop and unload his memory cards every night."
A bonus for the rafting riders: the 27-watt highly portable and efficient mono-crystalline solar panels are waterproof so the rowing bikers didn't have to worry about getting them wet. Goal's Zero Sherpa 120 Adventure Kit comes with panels and battery, available now, $600, goalzero.com.
Alite Designs cofounder Tae Kim at the Ranger Station library. Photo: Mary Catherine O'Connor
Tae Kim grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where, he says, “your crazy uncle teaches you how to go camping.” (His crazy uncle really did teach him how to go camping.) But in the lower 48, he found the concept of “the outdoors” much less accessible to people. Looking at most outdoor gear company offerings, you’d think the only way to go outside is to go huck a cliff, or climb a mountain, to take on a major expedition.
After a six-year stint as design director at The North Face, Kim co-founded Alite Designs in 2008. Specializing in packs, tents and camping accessories, San Francisco-based Alite targets young, hip, urban consumers who want to spend more time outside but don’t really know how to get out there.
“Tents are a huge hurdle for people to go out and buy,” he says, and what’s the point in buying a tent if you’re not sure you’ll use it more than once? “Our whole mission is to get people outside, especially young people. We want to make sure they’re not scared or inadequately equipped. A lot of these people grew up in suburbia and moved to the city and never really spent time outside,” he says.
This fall, Hal Herring plans to go backcountry hunting with his son near his Montana home. If they both take an elk, they'll be able to provide the family with enough meat for the following year. But should House bill 4089 pass into law, he's worried that such a hunting trip could be jeopardized. Somewhat ironically, H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen's Heritage Act, is described as pro-hunting legislation.
The bill, which has passed through the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate, uses language that its opponents—which include wilderness advocates, conservationists and some hunting groups—believe could lead to motorized vehicles being allowed into protected wilderness areas. Other parts of the bill would open the door to hunting and shooting in national parks system lands that currently ban those activities. The bill would also require state approval before the president could declare any new national monument, a move that punches a hole in the Antiquities Act—a legislative tool that has been used to protect many important areas in the past, including the Grand Canyon.
Road to Ruin? If the roadless areas in which Herring hunts were open to motorized access the game would be more scarce and the regulations and limits around access would likely become more onerous, he says.
"We need to cease and desist this endless attack on roadless areas and wilderness by people who have no idea what they're talking about," says Herring, who, aside from being an avid hunter and angler, is a journalist. "We already have millions of acres on which to cavort on ATVs. Road access into wilderness means more regulated hunting."
Calling all connoisseurs of fine foods. Just because you're camping, hiking, skiing, riding or otherwise adventuring doesn't mean you have to suffer terrible treats. Leave the Slim Jims behind on your next outing and snack on one of these tasty boutique jerkies instead.
Slantshack Jerky, which scored high on the charts for tastiness, texture and for using Vermont-raised grass fed beef, has numerous delicious, hot and smoky flavors. And the company allows you to make your own treats online using Slantshack's jerky customization program. Use the program to choose your base, your seasoning, your rub, and your glaze. "Delicious and surprisingly tender, with just the right amount of spice," reported testers. Gluten-free jerky is also available. Available now, $13.50 for a 4 oz. bag, $43 for a 12-ounce sampler pack with three flavors. slantshackjerky.com/.