Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reviewed: Trespassing Across America, Ken Ilgunas

Ken Ilgunas is one of those loony environmentalist types.

A few years ago, he made a name for himself writing about his extremely frugal tenancy in a Ford Econoline van, which helped him graduate Duke University completely free of debt. More recently, Ilgunas walked the entire length of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast in South Texas.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Lost Chord and the Wild Within

In days of yore, when I was a musician, my friends and I sometimes referred, half-jokingly, to the Lost Chord. Legend has it that some distracted soul doodling at a piano one day struck upon a combination of tones that so mesmerized him, he spent the rest of his unhappy life trying to recreate it. It was the sound of bliss, the strange music of the spheres; it was the answer to all his questions, ever.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Durable Goods: The '90s-Teal Day Pack

It was April 1996, and I was standing in Eastern Mountain Sports on Lower Broadway, not far from my tiny apartment in the East Village. I'd been nose-to-the-grindstone in the work world for 10 years, and now I was kitting up for a real vacation. A week in the Southwest, the site of my long-ago teenage awakening to the Earth.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Durable Goods: Prana climbing knicker

The Durable Goods series features that killer piece of kit, that failsafe bit of gear, that's been with you for years, and goes with you every time you head out. You can neglect or abuse it, and it's always ready for more. All hail!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tully Lake, Royalston, Mass: A weekend in heaven

A couple of weekends ago, Emily and I loaded up the Corolla, threw a couple mountain bikes on the rack and headed out to Tully Lake Campground, in Royalston, Massachusetts.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Michigan and Niagara Falls: A Midwestern Outdoors Tour

The beginning of August brought a long-awaited road trip to Michigan, a place of mythical outdoor opportunities. My wife’s family has had a large cottage on a beautiful lake there since the beginning of time—an old-school lake house with hand-built bunkbeds, raw pressboard walls, and the mellow waft of 50 years of damp swimsuits. The ideal place for a mid-summer escape.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Five Ten Guide Tennies as Mountain Bike Shoes: First impressions

First, a disclaimer: Though the Five Ten Guide Tennie was built by a venerable climbing company as an approach shoe for pure rock-heads, I'm going to review it as a mountain bike shoe and day hiker, because those are my jams. I haven't climbed in nearly 20 years, and, though I hope to flail around on some local boulders with these, it'll be rare.

Your mid-season training plan

Here is your training plan for August:

If you feel like riding your bike, take it out of your garage/living room/shed and get on. Start riding.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Year of the Upgrade: Ride whatcha got

I swore to myself this would be the year of the upgrade—that I would dance with the one who brung me and not buy any new bikes.

So far, so good.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Brattleboro Area Mountain Biking

A two-night trip to beautiful Southern Vermont this past weekend with my friend Steve. Our main goal was to ride the well-known Retreat Trails just outside Brattleboro (practically speaking, the capital of the southern part of the state).

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Doug Tompkins: Go thou and do likewise

As a longtime conservation and outdoor advocate, I've heard of Doug Tompkins for years, but didn't know the larger arc of his story. He died late last year in a kayaking accident. Below is a short, inspiring, biographical vid that Brenan Leonard at semi-rad just pointed to last week.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Don't Quit Your Day Job: Wild as a state of mind

Dont you just want to go somewhere wild and not be seen for a week or a year or the rest of your life?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Couples Bike Camping 101: Gill, Massachusetts

For nine years I've been kissing my dear, patient wife good-bye on weekend mornings and disappearing over the horizon on two wheels, not to be seen for hours. Though I've engineered a number of enjoyable short joint rides over the years, my dream that she would catch the cycling bug never quite came true.

Until this year.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Hero Machine Wants You to Train Harder

© 2016
About nine years ago, I returned to road biking hoping to regain fitness lost in many years of desk jobs and grad school. I bought a quality entry-level road bike and started riding a few times a week, relishing being outdoors and feeling my body work. I finished rides invigorated and satisfied.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How Far Would You Go if No One Could Know?

Here’s a quick test to find out the real motivator for your outdoor passion:  How far would you ride, what grade would you climb, or what trail would you hike, if no one could ever know about it?

Friday, May 13, 2016


We go into the wild because it reveals to us what we refuse to see about our daily existence: that most of life can not be known in advance. Can’t be listed out, quantified, managed.

Monday, May 9, 2016

H is for Hawk: The Struggle to Go Wild

Wilderness writers down the ages have been renowned weirdos and misfits. John Muir’s sporadic attempts to live in town inevitably ended with a hop over the back fence with a bunch of tea leaves and a crust of dry bread in hand, not to be seen for weeks.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why Are the Trails So White?

There are very few minorities on the trails. And no one's talking about it.

How many minorities do you see?   Source:
Have you ever looked around you at a trailhead parking lot and wondered at all the pale skin? Or paged through a blingy outdoor gear catalog, and thought to yourself, “Don’t Black, Latino, or Asian people go outdoors, too?”

Monday, April 25, 2016

Walk Wherever We Want? Huh...

To their credit, the New York Times just published a thoughtful piece about how Europeans can walk wherever they want in the wild—including private property if they're respectful of it—and why we can't.

It makes me sigh very wistfully.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Nature Is Not a Panacea

Nature in her green tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions.
~ John Muir

The wild is not a panacea for the human soul; too much [time] 
in the air can corrode it to nothing.
~ Helen Macdonald

Gold Hill, Taos, NM. Photo Alan Ellis
Summer 1996, Taos, New Mexico. I’m hiking down toward the trailhead after topping out on 12,700-foot Gold Hill, a quiet peak up near the ski valley.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Getting Outside Changes You Inside

Sometimes the best rides happen when you have no idea where you're headed or how you'll get there.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Active at Mid-life: The Two Biggest Secrets

Let’s face it: middle age sneaks up on you.

At 52, I can still ride year ‘round, but it takes longer on chilly mornings to get the neurons firing and the muscles following suit, even after the ritual java jolt. Old injuries, which used to crop up only occasionally, have moved in the furniture and hung pictures on the walls.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Are Your Bike Shoes Killing the Planet?

I was online last night, excited about shopping for a new pair of shoes for mountain and dirt-road biking. This popular brand… that arcane brand… flashy colors… sticky soles… which one, which one?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Art of the Active Life

Most people think of self-expression as artsy stuff. You know: painting, writing, playing an instrument. At various times, I’ve been a visual artist, a writer, a musician. These days, I’m also a cyclist. And that’s another important way that I express what lives inside my heart and mind.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Two-mile Epic

It’d been ten or more days since I’d ridden a bicycle. An especially malicious lower-back spasm had me out of commission.