Explore: November 2013

« October 2013 | Main | December 2013 »

9 posts from November 2013


Muir Slept Here: 5 Legendary Wilderness Treks

Glacier PointWhat do Theodore Roosevelt, U2, and Willa Cather all have in common?

The answer lies hidden in the American wilderness. These iconic personalities are linked to places — some easy to look up, others darn-near impossible to find — with legends, stories, and little-known facts that bring history back to life. Here are five destinations for hiking, backpacking — or just plain old looking — that might stir feelings of intrigue, inspiration, and awe.

Overhanging Rock, Glacier Point, Yosemite, CA For history buffs, this perch of granite (left) has a storied past. In 1903, rough-riding president Teddy Roosevelt met with Sierra Club patriarch John Muir at this very rock in Yosemite, where the two camped out for four days and (along with posing in this very famous picture) talked conservation, environmental protection, and better park management for Yosemite. And they couldn't have picked a better spot than Glacier Point — a lookout high above the Yosemite Valley that beholds a condensed paradise resplendent with Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Yosemite's high country.

Cather Prairie, Redcloud, Nebraska Eco-tourists can visit the 608 acres of wild American prairie that were dedicated for a Pulitzer-winning forerunner of modern American literature, Willa Cather, a name deeply rooted in the land. Moving from Virginia when she was 11 years old, Cather trekked with her family across this very expanse of Redcloud's sprawling prairie: a fenceless source of inspiration for Cather that allowed her to pen American classics like Death Came to the Archbishop, O Pioneers! and My Antonia.   

Continue reading "Muir Slept Here: 5 Legendary Wilderness Treks" »

5 of the World's Most Amazing Tree Species

The Rainbow Eucalyptus has vibrant colored bark

Trees are a lot crazier than you think.

To prove it, we found some of the world's most amazing species of trees to show you just how surprisingly awesome they can be.

These trees were picked for their fascinating qualities, beauty, and overall uniqueness. Let us know if we missed any other amazing species in the comments section.


The Rainbow Eucalyptus - Eucalyptus deglupta

With pastel like colors running up its trunk, the Rainbow Eucalyptus, which grows natively in places like New Guinea, almost looks like a pack of 2nd graders went wild with their crayons.

But, in reality, as the tree's bark ages and flakes, it goes through a spectrum of different colors revealing a psychedelic beauty.

Continue reading "5 of the World's Most Amazing Tree Species" »


12,000 ft. Peaks for Beginning Mountaineers

Mt. AdamsBefore setting out to achieve your childhood dream of climbing Everest, you might want to start with something smaller to break in your boots, crampons, and ice axe. We recommend some low-altitude hikes up some of America's most beautiful (and less challenging) peaks, to not only get a taste for thin air but also appreciate what the lower 48 has to offer. Best of all, you don't have to go to the Swiss Alps or Nepal's Himalayas to find phenomenal views, manageable approaches, hanging glaciers, granite faces, stunning aretes, and rewarding alpine views, all for a relatively easy experience in the mountains.

Mount Adams The eastern range of the Cascades in Washington state hosts several active and dormant volcanic peaks, among them Mount Adams (pictured), the third-tallest volcano in the range. This peak has several diverse and rare alpine features for its elevation, like the prominent Mazama Glacier with a ramp-like headwall and plenty of crevasses — a more challenging route to the top that requires at least a rope and a partner. The South Spur, however, makes for a far less challenging approach — most of it an uphill hike through the snow — but an ice axe and crampons (particularly in the winter season) are recommended.  Class 2, 12,276 ft.

Continue reading "12,000 ft. Peaks for Beginning Mountaineers" »

Do High Adventure Apps Belong Outdoors?

AppsFor this writer, as a Boy Scout in the new millennium, one rule reigned supreme. That rule didn't concern knives, fire, or pitching tents — it was the ban on electronics. "You have to enjoy the outdoors," adult leaders would say. "None of this electronic nonsense." True, if you're in the mountains you don't want your eyes glued to the latest Pokemon game. But thanks to smartphones, plenty of applications now exist that can significantly enhance a trip outdoors. In particular, four types of apps stand out.

Would you utilize any of these apps on a camping trip? Let us know in the comments. 


Despite their utility, birdsong apps are slightly controversial. First the pros: You can use nifty apps like Audubon Birds to attract birds, by playing back recordings of species when you hear them in the wild. But critics say the proliferation of these types of apps can negatively influence the mating and survival of rare birds. It's a classic environmental quandary: Single offenses pose little threat, but habitual abuse does. For what it's worth, the American Birding Association encourages use of these types of apps so long as birders limit their use, especially in conjunction with rare birds. Lots of birders now swear by using their phones, and you can too, so long as you use the technology sparingly. National Geographic and Sibley both produce high-quality apps, but they're pricey ($10 and $20, respectively). Go classic with Audubon Birds, currently on sale for $3. Audubon comes packed with information about 820 species, eight hours of bird sounds, and seasonal and migratory maps.

Continue reading "Do High Adventure Apps Belong Outdoors?" »


10 Must-Reads for Active (or Armchair) Alpinists

IStock_000002640423XSmallConsider this your syllabus for Mountaineering 101. Below, we've collected a literary canon with tales of adventure, miraculous survival, spiritual journeys, heart-wrenching losses, and timeless instruction on how best to sneak up on a summit and live to tell the tale. These authors — ranging from beatniks to bestsellers, celebrated climbers to average Joes — take you on an eloquent trek through moraines, into (yes, into) crevasses, up headwalls, all the way to the top and back. These books vary from sobering nonfiction and to vivid yarns; however, they each give glimpses into the zeitgeist of modern-day mountaineering: romance and bleak reality, heroism and cowardice, triumph and failure, death and survival.    

1. Freedom of the Hills, 8th Edition, Ed. Ronald C. Eng (The Mountaineers, 2010)

Before even lacing your boots and breaking out the ice axe, read this book! Most of the world's greatest climbers, alpinists, and mountaineers — from Dean Potter to Conrad Anker and Ed Viesturs — all maintain a biblical reverence for this book, having read earlier editions back when they were young, spry climbers. Indeed, in its 600 pages of climbing fundamentals, knot diagrams, belaying techniques, survival tips, and much, much more, Freedom of the Hills contains a scripture-like truth: "The quest of the mountaineer, in simplest terms, is for the freedom of the hills..."

Continue reading "10 Must-Reads for Active (or Armchair) Alpinists" »


Sharing "Hatch Day" with a Galapagos Sea Turtle

Sea lions in GalapagosWe travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. --Anais Nin

May 5, 2013 Galapagos Islands, Ecuador --It's 8:15 a.m. on the first day of my birthday trip to the Galapagos, and I'm a bit out of sorts. This is my first time visiting the equator, and I can already tell I'm not an equatorial type of person. Being of Irish descent doesn't help either: I'm even more paranoid than usual about sunblock. 11 years ago my mother died of melanoma on my birthday, so skin cancer is on my mind. Birthdays seem like solemn affairs since that happened, even in the Galapagos.

I smear on some more SPF 70 sunblock, peer nervously at the relentlessly glowing yellow orb in the sky, and adjust my hat. Though I hate to admit it, I'm not feeling very adventurous.

Continue reading "Sharing "Hatch Day" with a Galapagos Sea Turtle" »


6 Exercises for an Injury-Free Ski Trip

Young man in mid-air making ski jump.As winter approaches, ski bums are checking off tasks on their ski season prep list: choose your resort, make green travel plans, choose sustainable equipment. But no matter how early you bought your lift ticket or gear, a pulled muscle or injured knee can still ruin your trip (or season). In Washington, The Inner Circle Gym's Adam Vognild teaches ski conditioning classes to help participants get their muscles ready for the backcountry skiing, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing season ahead. "People don't get hurt on the first day of their ski trip," says Vognild. "They typically get hurt on the third or fourth day, when they don’t have the endurance to keep going."

If you're serious about getting in shape, working with an instructor or trainer is key, Vognild said. It may be hard to believe, but there is a wrong way to do squats, and "you only get so many bad repetitions before you hurt yourself." Check out gyms in your area to see if they offer dry land training courses, or discuss your needs with a trainer who can give you tips for safe and productive exercise.  

Vognild shared with us six important components of dry land ski training, and recommended a few basic exercises to get started: 

Continue reading "6 Exercises for an Injury-Free Ski Trip" »

5 Fun Activities to Get Kids Outdoors

Slacklining for kidsRemember the words, "Go outside and play"? In the digital age, many parents are hard pressed to get kids to not only spend more time outdoors, but to find interest in nature.

Here are some of our favorite activities, some good-old-fashioned and others cutting edge, that are strength-building, social, and fun. It's never to early too help your children develop an appreciation for Mother Nature.

Rock Climbing Much like soccer, baseball, or any other competitive sport, rock climbing is a total-body workout. However, unlike these ball-chasing sports, climbing not only quells the belly-dropping fear of heights early on, but it also improves self-confidence in kids. Studies have shown that rock climbing improves focus, concentration, decision-making, and works as a treatment for ADHD and Asperghers.

You will need: Petzl Simba climbing harness, helmet, Mad Rock climbing shoes

Hunting for Bugs Chasing butterflies, digging for worms, or spotting spiderwebs — bug hunting instills an early passion for science and outdoor exploration. And some bug hunters never grow up, from experts in lepidoptery to even bug chefs

You will need: A magnifying glass, bug hunting kit

Zoom through the Air Ok, so this is activity might not suit the faint of heart. Then again, setting up a zipline from tree to tree in your backyard is a safe, controlled, and cost-effective way to make playtime fun.   

You will need:  Petzl Simba climbing harness, helmet, backyard zipline kit

Continue reading "5 Fun Activities to Get Kids Outdoors" »


5 Tiny Invasive Critters That Wreak Havoc

A Tawny Crazy Ant under magnificationThese five tiny invasive species are hard to spot, unless you look for the devastation they bring with them. Between eradicating hemlock forests, decimating fruit productions, stealing away in imported foods, and even ruining electrical equipment, these invaders are worth watching out for.

1. The Tawny Crazy Ant (Nylanderia fulva)

Ant populations in the South are rapidly being pushed out by a "crazy" invasive-cousin called the Tawny Crazy Ant.

This ant, named for its seemingly random and erratic movements, is only an 1/8 of an inch long, but it comes in the millions, and the ant populations can completely cover landscapes. Once established, these ants can attack cattle around the nose and eyes and have even asphyxiated chickens.

Continue reading "5 Tiny Invasive Critters That Wreak Havoc" »

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2009 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.