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What to Do in Rio Besides the World Cup

Bars become stuffier and fútbol fans drunker as the World Cup roars on. Get your head above the soccer slosh and take advantage of the city’s easy access to natural areas with these eight adventures.

Explore Tijuca National Park

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The best way to tour the world’s largest urban rainforest is on a bike, although you should go early to avoid traffic on the park’s winding roads. The 12.4 square-mile, hand-planted forest is perhaps most famous for iconic Christ the Redeemer, the 125-foot statue of Jesus at the top of Corcovado mountain (who, by the way, is specially lit in green and yellow for the World Cup). Ride among the fruit trees, hibiscus, and colorful bromeliad flowers to waterfalls and overlooks. Keep an eye out for macaque monkeys, which seem to fill a squirrel-type niche in the ecosystem.

Not a cyclist? If you have access to a trad rack, climb a 5.11—served with a rack of nuts and cams—up to Christ the Redeemer. Go late in the day to finish with the sun setting behind the statue.

Climb Pão de Açúcar

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The beauty of this rock face is in its vast range of difficulty and length. With grades from 5.4 to 5.13a and lengths ranging from two to 12 pitches, Sugar Loaf, as it’s called in English, leaves all levels of climbers satisfied. For the best view, however, opt for the Classic Line on the wall’s west face, which runs at 5.8 with a 5.10c crux.

Reached by a mix of hikeable and climbable terrain (class 1 to 5), the summit of Pão de Açúcar has views of the Atlantic Ocean, Rio’s city center, and the adjacent port city of Niterói on the Guanabara Bay.

Hang Glide Down to Pepino Beach

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The glide starts atop Pedra Bonita, the highest peak in Tijuca park at 2,280 feet. Cruise above Rio and down to Pepino, one of they city's nearly 30 beautiful white beaches. Outfitters, such as Rio Hang Gliding, drive you to the top of the mountain, set you up with all the necessary equipment, strap you to a guide, and then send you off a ramp. Flying superman-style above the World Cup will be much less claustrophobic celebrating with the masses down below.

Hike to the Top of Pico de Tijuca

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Looking for a workout before your team plays? Summit Pico de Tijuca, a mellow half-day hike that gains 2,290 feet over 3.2 miles. At the top, you’ll see rocky peaks descend sharply into hilly rainforest and eventually to white beaches. You’ll also be able to see the 14 other peaks in Tijuca (all 15 peaks in the park can be summited by trails starting in Praça Afonso Ribeira).

Bring your own water and food, as you’ll have few opportunities to stay hydrated along the way.

Trek from Terésopolis to Petrópolis

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This 22-mile hike crosses through Serra dos Orgaos National Park, dipping into the Antas Valley and ascending over 7,400-foot Pedra do Sino. The trek starts at Terésopolis and finishes in the imperial city of Petrópolis. Once a vacation spot for Brazilian Emperors, Petrópolis boasts many beautiful palaces, one of which is now the impressive Imperial Museum.

Roda de Bola on Copacabana

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Get in the fútbol mood by playing Roda de bola a.k.a foot volley. The pick-up beach sport is similar to volleyball except no hands are allowed. Each feet-only volley includes a spin, twist or jump, and your skills will have to be up to snuff if you want to play the locals, who take this sport seriously and often pester foreigners if their game is sub par.

If you’re thirsty, rehydrate with coconut water straight from the fruit, available at vendors along the beach.

Kite Surf Off Barra de Tijuca

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The heart of Rio has little to offer as far as water sports go, as there is boat traffic in the bay. But for those looking to get kite lift, Barra de Tijuca is the best—and least crowded—option. More than 10 miles of beach and endless open ocean makes roaming the shore on a kite board easy, not to mention, the beach’s location on the southern side of the city make it less exposed to nasty winds, which makes for a smoother surf.

Surf Grumari Beach

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West of Rio, Grumari is a wild and rustic beach that has no high rises or beachside restaurants, just cacti, banana plants, palms, and some kiosks. But although it lacks the crowds of Copacabana, the parking is still and issue on the weekends, so arrive early (you’ll need a rental car to get there).

The waves are easy left and rights that are around 5 feet at this time of year.

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Running in the City of Light

Paris is a city known for many things—its architecture, its fromage, its lovers—but exercise is decidedly not one of them. Exerting oneself publicly in sweaty, non-chic clothing is considered tres vulgaire and violates one of the underlying maxims of Parisian life: don’t, under any circumstance, look ridiculous or unsophisticated. Instead, Parisians offset their indulgent meals with long walks to the next bar or walking up the Metro stairs. 

That may work for the locals, but if you’re a visitor to Paris, exercise serves an important dual purpose: burning off the ridiculous amounts of calories you should be consuming during your visit and helping you see a version of the City of Light beyond the tourist clichés. If you go to Paris and don’t run, you’re missing out. 

However, be warned: you’re more likely to get a cigarette put out on your thigh than you are to see a Parisian move out of your way on one of the city’s busy streets. For that reason, it’s wise to stick to more defined parks and socially acceptable running routes, rather than attempting to run on sidewalks. The good news is that even during the week, rush hour doesn’t start until about 9 a.m. (Parisians are still sleeping off the vin rouge from the night before), so you get an extra hour to work out before the crowds hit the streets.

Embark on one of the routes below, but first slip a few Euros in your running shorts—you’ll want to treat yourself to a croissant and a café au lait when you’re done.

Jardin Du Luxembourg

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A visit to the Luxembourg Gardens is a mainstay of most tourist itineraries, so why not cross this one off the list in the form of a run? Though it’s the second largest public park in Paris, the perimeter is quite short (1.3 miles), so it’s best for a quick 5k or if you want to get in an interval workout. Attached to the centuries-old Luxembourg Palace (where the French Senate meets), the park is heavy on runners and on history, including statuary, a boating pond, and the original version of the Statue of Liberty. The only obstacles you’ll have to dodge are picnickers and gentlemen playing chess. Nestled in the Latin Quarter, the park is accessible from a variety of Metro stops including Odeon, Mabillon, Saint-Michel, and Cluny. 

The Seine

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There are few better ways to see the sights of Paris than a run along the banks of its river, which bisects the city’s premier attractions. Take the metro to Pont Neuf, which is right on the river, and begin running east. Follow the water and when you reach Pont d’Austerlitz, cross the bridge and loop back so you’re running on the other side of the water (known as the Left Bank). Keep running until you reach the Musee d’Orsay and you’ll have passed some of the city’s greatest sights including the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Ile de la Cité, and the Grand Palais, all in about five miles. Although there is a path by the water, the cobblestones are uneven, so you might prefer to run at street level on the paved pedestrian path (the only drawback will be stopping at traffic lights).

Canal Saint-Martin

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It doesn’t get more idyllic than running on the cobbled banks of the Canal Du Saint-Martin, nestled in the uber-hip tenth Arrondissement in northeast Paris. The canal is 4.5 kilometers (just under 3 miles) long and connects the northern Canal de l’Ourcq to the Seine River to the south. On Sundays, the two streets parallel to the canal—Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes—are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. (There are quite a few runners, too). Take the Metro to Republique and walk less than a quarter mile northeast until you reach the canal. Follow the waterway to the north, which will eventually lead you to Parc de la Villette, right on the edge of the Boulevard Périphérique. Then, do what any Parisian would do, turn around and pick out one of the hip cafés and bars on the canal for a post-workout l’apero (apertif).

Bois De Boulogne

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Bois de Boulogne is one of those urban running gems that doesn’t feel urban at all. Located in the western edge of the 16th Arrondissement, it’s more than twice the size of Central Park and is home to two lakes, several ponds, the horse-racing grounds of Hippodrome de Longchamp, as well as the Stade Roland Garros stadium, where the French Open is played. Though it’s on the edge of the city and thus requires a special trip to get to it, you’ll be in good company getting a long run in while exploring its 2,000 acres and numerous trails. For a shorter run, try doing laps around the 1.5-mile path surrounding Lac Inférieur. The closest Metro stations are Porte Dauphine and Ranelagh.

Parc de Saint-Cloud

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This domaine national (national park) is actually located outside what’s officially considered Paris—which is everything encircled by the ring road known as Boulevard Périphérique—but it’s worth the trip. Covering more than 1,000 acres, the park dates back to the 16th century when it served as the preferred residence of Napolean Bonaparte. Since then, it’s been distinguished one of the most remarkable green spaces in Europe. Running through the centuries-old fountains, monuments, and perfectly straight tree-lined paths is an other-worldly experience and will keep you entertained for miles. It also offers two things that are hard to find within the Périphérique: a panoramic view of the city (which can be found at the park’s highest elevation, La Lanterne viewpoint) and comparatively fewer crowds compared to inner Paris’ parks. 

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The On-The-Go Camp Food Showdown

For campers and backpackers looking for the best pre-prepared backcountry meals, Good To-Go is the new contender in town. Co-founded by chef Jennifer Scism, the Maine-based company aims to make lightweight gourmet meals that outdo typical freeze-dried fare.

Scism, who co-owns Annisa in New York's Greenwich Village and has cooked at four-star restaurants, decided she needed better food options after planning a seven-day backpacking trip with her husband. So she pulled out the dehydrator and started making the kinds of meals she'd be proud of in her own restaurant. 

My fiancée, Paige, and I eat a vegan diet, and she's gluten-free. That limits options for camp food. But thankfully Good To-Go has three gluten-free flavors, two of which are also vegan (they're labeled vegetarian). We wanted to see how they stacked up against the other big names out there—Backpacker's Pantry, Mountain House, and MaryJaneFarms—so we worked up our appetites and dug in. Here are the results: 

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Good To-Go Three Bean Chili

Gathering firewood and setting up camp on the Chama River in northern New Mexico left us hungry. Good thing we'd brought snacks. Because Good To-Go is dehydrated rather than freeze-dried like most backpacking meals, it requires almost double the time to absorb water—20 minutes—compared to others. Expect that going in, and you're, well, good to go. When it was ready, I opened the resealable packet, and the chili was still piping hot.

The consistent first response was, "Mmm." The chili packs a lot of flavor, and it's spicy, but not over-salted like most brands. Perfect texture, too, just like you'd expect at home. At 100 grams per serving (a more realistic serving size than most offerings), the chili made for a hearty meal, the kind you want after a long day outside. ($6, 3.5 oz)

Calories: 340
; Protein: 16g; 
Carbs: 64g
; Fat: 5g
, Sodium: 360mg

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

MaryJanesFarm Outpost Lentils, Rice, & Indian Spice

Part two of our Chama dinner was also dehydrated, but took half the time to hydrate. Nonetheless, the rice was a bit chewy, and though the flavor was good, it didn't stand out after Good To-Go's excellent chili. MaryJaneFarms does get props for all-organic ingredients and eco-packaging that you can burn when you're done to eliminate waste. Unfortunately, the lack of insulation and no reseal option (you fold the top down while hydrating) means you lose heat for a lukewarm meal. ($6, 4.3 oz)

Calories (per pouch): 435; Protein: 16.5g; 
 Carbs: 90g; 
Fat: 2.3g
; Sodium: 780mg

Overall Rating: 8/10

Good To-Go Herbed Mushroom Risotto

After a 3.5-mile quad-busting hike to 11,400-foot Nambe Lake in New Mexico's Pecos Wilderness, I needed fuel. So after boiling water, I chomped into an apple and let the risotto soak. Twenty minutes later, I dove in, and I admit I didn't waste much time reflecting on every bite. But my first impression was the risotto's texture—I felt like I should be eating this on a plate at a restaurant. The mushrooms popped satisfyingly, and the flavor was subtle, but good. I was mostly satisfied, but while the serving is ample compared to other brands, I'd probably already burned most of the 410 calories it gave me just getting here. I was left wishing for just a bit more. ($6, 3.4 oz)

Calories: 410; 
Protein: 13g
; Carbs: 64g ; Fat: 10g; Sodium: 420mg

Overall Rating: 9/10

Backpacker's Pantry Katmandu Curry (for two)

Paige and I had just come back from a late-night music session, and we thought we'd save time by boiling up this curry dish at home. In the backcountry, a certain psychology and physical necessity tends to make your taste buds forgiving, so it's true that our home environment could have skewed the results here. Still, Backpacker's Pantry has long been my go-to when opting for freeze-dried backpacking meals, so I'm familiar with it in its proper setting.

In both scenarios, my biggest complaint is the over-salted flavor. Otherwise, it would stand up to home cooking. True, you need electrolytes after a long hike, but I found it was excessive here. And I'd normally eat the whole pouch myself, which gives me 2440 mg of sodium (ouch), yet only three grams of fat—a key requirement in the backcountry. The curry was a tad watery, too. Extra points for clear gluten-free and vegan labeling. ($6.50, 6.6 oz)

Calories (per serving): 340;
 Protein; 18g 
Carbs: 64g ; Fat: 1.5g; Sodium: 1220mg

Overall Rating: 7/10

Good To-Go Thai Curry 

This one has milk and anchovy, so I gave it to Paige's brother Pete for testing. He found the rice to be quite tasty, full of Thai flavor. His only complaint: the spices were a tad too sweet. But he declared it good to the last bite, which came a bit too soon to fill him up. Bring on dessert. ($6, 3.4 oz)

Calories: 380; Protein: 10g; Carbs: 56g; Fat: 14g
; Sodium: 500mg

Overall Rating: 8/10

Mountain House Fire Roasted Vegetable Blend

Mountain House doesn't have any full-meal options for vegans, so I opted for a side dish. While the food smelled like it was going to be very tasty, when I drained the excess water (it's in the directions, but it feels like wasting precious liquid) and ate a spoonful, the meal was bland. That's fine if you want to customize your flavor, but I didn't.

Nonetheless, I added some much-needed salt and garlic powder, but it still didn't hit the mark. Something else was missing, too. Rice would have been a good touch. The veggies were flaccid and not particularly appealing, while the beans were unremarkable. True, this is a side dish, but it's made to be self-contained, and yet I found it only works in tandem with something more flavorful. ($4, 1.5 oz)

Calories: 150
; Protein: 7.5g
; Carbs: 30g; Fat: 1g
; Sodium: 13mg

Overall Rating: 5/10

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Summer Camps for Grownups

You've styled your child with an enviable lineup of outdoor camps, slotted in some action-packed adventure festivals for the whole family. Now Mama (or Papa) needs a little solo play time. Fortunately it doesn't take much to recharge. All you need for DIY adventure is 36 hours and a multisport destination a couple hours' drive from home. Or let someone else do the planning and sign on with one of summer's best new guided retreats guaranteed to recapture the sweet freedom you took for granted before the kids came along. Sign up now for mid- to late-summer adventures, and you'll still have the time—and a fresh surge of energy—to pull off that family camping trip and set your little ones loose on spontaneous backyard adventures before school's back in session.

 

Run Wild Retreats

July 17-20; Aspen, Colorado
If you shy away from Strava, hate wearing a heart-rate-monitor, and just want to run well and feel great doing it, then this four-day holistic trail running retreat in the wilderness outside of Aspen is for you. Blending mindfulness practice, yoga for runners, and plant-based nutrition, the camp—led by running and health coach Elinor Fish—is a stellar primer on how to run mindfully for maximum health, for life. With daily guided trail runs ranging from four to 12 miles (no prior trail experience is necessary), cooking demos on how to fuel and recover with whole foods, yoga classes, and gait assessment, you'll come away with a new vision for how running smarter can increase your energy and reduce your stress, and feel good every time. $697; two-day mini retreat, $397.

 

 

River Rites

 

September 15-20; Cataract Canyon, Utah
Wilderness travel is transformative, but sometimes the epiphanies you have in the backcountry lose their focus as soon you get home. This six-day raft trip through Cataract Canyon, in Canyonlands National Park, is intended to be a modern-day rite of passage to help renew your sense of purpose, empower you to action in the world, release you from stagnation and make lasting change—for both the planet and also yourself.

"Traditional wilderness rites of passage were designed to knit together generations and to prepare for transitions in life," explains Stacy Peterson, a yoga instructor and hypnotherapist, who is co-leading the trip with an eco-psychologist and a climate justice activist. "Because we don't have these opportunities to mark transitions in our lives, we no longer take the time to slow down, deeply reflect, and reset the course of where we want to go."

The expedition through one of West's most stunning, and remote—and imperiled—river corridors incorporates daily yoga and meditation practice, cleansing food, as well as that most rare and restorative perk of all: silence. Out of range from cell phones and schedules, you'll hike into the iconic sandstone spires of the Doll House, in the remote Maze district of the park, and splash down Cataract's Class IV rapids, pulling out of your own busy life and immersing yourself deep into your own true nature. $1199.

 

Rio Chama Photo Workshop

August 22-26; Rio Chama, New Mexico
Ever wish you could take better photographs while in the backcountry? This five-day raft and photo expedition on the Rio Chama in northern New Mexico offers an intensive dose of both photography instruction and wilderness immersion. Led by The Santa Fe Photographic Workshops—widely regarded as the best in the country, now in its 25th year—the trip launches with a three-day, 33-mile float down the Wild & Scenic Rio Chama, the old stomping grounds of Georgia O'Keefe, Ansel Adams, and Elliot Porter. Under the tutelage of veteran lensman Tony Bonanno (and boatmen from New Mexico River Expeditions) you'll spend your days floating the Class II-III rapids, hiking to hot springs and slot canyons, and photographing the thousand-foot sandstone walls, the meandering high desert river, and the stately ponderosa that line the banks. Back at the Workshop's lab in Santa Fe for the final two days, learn the ins and outs of digital processing and printing on Adobe. You'll be all but guaranteed to come home with stellar expedition photos and the know-how to capture your next trip with equal aplomb. $995.

 

 

Make Friends with Fear Workshop

August 1-3; Hammondsport, New York
Former pro skier and Zen therapist Kristen Ulmer has been running Ski to Live camps each winter in Alta, Utah, and around the West for years. What she's discovered in her experience with mindset coaching is that "whether we realize it or not, fear runs everybody's life, even if you don't feel afraid." This three-day retreat at Red-Tail Overlook B+B in the Finger Lakes region is designed to help you change your relationship with fear, to stop treating it like a hindrance and turn it into an ally to create momentum and growth in your life—whether it's in sports, parenting, business, or creativity. Instead of making you walk over hot coals or dangle from high ropes courses ("we don't do that," assures Ulmer), she'll help clients shift into the next level of consciousness while hiking the rolling, wooded trails along Keuka Lake, facilitating creative role playing, and sharing ancient wisdom stories. If it sounds a little out there, the former champion athlete is one of the most respected sports mindset coaches in the field—she's the real deal. Says Ulmer, "If you turn fear into an asset, it will set you free." From $625; two-day fear camp in Salt Lake City, July 19-20, $190. 

 

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