Looking forward to taking a mule ride into the Grand Canyon? Here’s some news from The Associated Press that mentions some changes in where mules will be allowed and how often people can ride them. It appears the National Park Service may be cutting off mule rides from some popular trails.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The number of commercial mule rides allowed at the Grand Canyon is going up, but the number of mules heading down the trails is decreasing.
Grand Canyon National Park officials say they’ve made permanent a trail ride that only goes along the canyon’s South Rim. That allows more visitors to have a mule ride experience.
The National Park Service had been analyzing options to keep mule rides while protecting historic trails into the canyon and cutting maintenance costs.
A stock use plan approved this month allows for up to 10,000 commercial mule rides at the South Rim and up to 8,000 such rides annually at the North Rim. That’s up from 8,315 and 7,072, respectively.
The plan cuts rides down the popular Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails.
Looks like the Backwoods hiking group is gearing up again for another outing. They’re headed to Roman Nose State Park. Have a look at the information below for more information about this hike.
Where: Roman Nose State Park near Watonga.
When: This Saturday. Meet at Backwoods in Norman at 7:45 a.m. to sign waivers and organize carpools. The group will leave promptly at 8. There is also the option of meeting the group at the State Park General Store at 9:30. If you choose to meet the group at the park, please RSVP so organizers know to look for you there.
Details: The group will hike the Watonga Lake North Loop (4.9 miles). This hike begins and ends at the General Store. The hike is rated as moderate. Most reasonably fit adults and children over the age of 12 should have no problems completing the hike. This is a great hike to enjoy with your active dog! The trail consists of dirt and large rocks. It is mostly flat with some short climbs and descents.
What to Bring: A daypack with 3 liters of water, snacks, and a lunch (the group will stop and eat on the trail). Dress in layers so that you can remove or add layers as needed during the hike. Depending on the weather, a rain jacket or sun protection may be necessary. If it has been raining or snowing, the trails at Roman Nose can be really muddy, so boots would be best. An extra pair of shoes to change into for the car ride home is not a bad idea. Dogs are welcome. If you are bringing your dog, make sure you carry extra water and a container to put it in, as well as food and a leash.
More information: Call 573-5199 or e-mail Pam Cherek at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions.
Any teachers out there interested in becoming a park ranger? The National Park Service may have a gig for you. The following information is from the folks at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur.
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area is seeking a dynamic teacher to work as a uniformed park ranger as part of the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program this summer. The teacher will assist with outreach, develop lesson plans, and take on projects. They will bring park resources into their classroom by developing and presenting curriculum-based lesson plans that draw on their summer’s experience.
The Teacher Ranger to Teacher program is a nationwide effort designed to offer teachers a professional development opportunity working as a national park ranger. During this eight-week position (June through August; dates flexible), the selected teacher will also perform traditional ranger duties, such as nature walks, informal interpretation on park trails and staffing visitor facilities.
The selected teacher will receive training, a $300 per week stipend and uniform. Housing in the park may be available. For more information or to apply for the position, contact Lauren Gurniewicz at (580) 622-7282 or by e-mail at Lauren_Gurniewicz@nps.gov. Applications can be found online at www.nps.gov/chic. The deadline to apply is March 1.
A friend of mine passed along this piece of information that should be of interest to anyone who is into backcountry skiing and snowboarding as well as winter and spring mountaineering.
The Avalung system is designed to give people a chance to breathe if he or she is caught in an avalanche and buried by snow. Extra time and space to breathe is essential in terms of self rescue or awaiting rescue from others. However, the recall suggests this particular product may have some issues. If you own an Avalung system, please read this and take action. Black Diamond has set up a website specifically on this recall, which you can link to below.
Avalung backpacks recalled by Black Diamond Equipment due to suffocation hazard
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.
Name of product: Avalung backpacks
Units: About 3,500 units
Importer/manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. of Salt Lake City, Utah
Hazard: The air intake tubing can crack under cold temperatures, causing the unit not to function as intended, posing a suffocation hazard.
Incidents/injuries: The company has received one report of an air intake tubing cracking. No injuries have been reported.
Description: This recall involves the following Black Diamond 2010 Avalung backpacks (see chart below). These backpacks have an air intake system that the company states extracts air from the snow, allowing the victim of an avalanche to breathe while buried under the snow. The model name and color are printed on the side of the backpack. The PO number is printed on a white label inside the backpack.
Backpack Model | Color | Size | PO Number
Anarchist | Black | M/L | 101153, 101254 Anarchist | Black | S/M | 101104 Bandit | Black | One Size | 101052, 100981 Bandit | Green Olive | One Size | 100957 Bandit | Seth Plaid Red | One Size | 101030 Bandit | Seth Plaid Orange | One Size | 101254 Outlaw | Black | M/L | 101104, 101271, 101254 Outlaw | Green Olive | S/M | 100981, 101052 Agent | Black | M/L | 101104, 101153 Agent | Ocean Print | S/M | 101104 Covert | Black | M/L | 101104, 101254, 101330, 101287 Covert | Black | S/M | 101030 Revelation | Black | M/L | 101254, 101104, 101287 Revelation | Chili | M/L | 101213, 101254, 101030, 101052 Revelation | Chili | S/M | 101104 Bandit Avalung Package | Black | One Size |101322, 101330, 101052
Sold at: Specialty outdoor and ski shops nationwide from January 2010 through December 2010 for between $180 and $280.
Manufactured in: China
Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using these recalled backpacks and contact Black Diamond Equipment to receive a free replacement product or a full refund.
Consumer contact: For additional information, contact Black Diamond collect at (801) 278-5533 anytime or visit the company’s website at www.BlackDiamondEquipment.com/AvaLungRecall
Note: Health Canada’s press release is available at http://cpsr-rspc.hc-sc.gc.ca/PR-RP/recall-retrait-eng.jsp?re_id=1228
To see this recall on CPSC’s website, please go to:
Ever get on a ski lift, look at the heights below you and sweat a little? Get nervous when the chairlift suddenly stops, leaving you dangling 50 feet in the air? It’s not something I worry about, but others do. And more will with this story out of Maine, where a ski lift failed, sending a whole gaggle of skiers plummeting as much as 30 feet to the ground. Thankfully, the Sugarloaf Mountain ski area had received a good dose of fresh powder, softening the fall. But eight people ended up being injured. Here’s an Associated Press video about the accident:
Here’s some more on the story:
CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (AP) — All of that snow from the recent Northeast blizzard proved to be a blessing for at least one of the skiers who tumbled from a chair lift a Maine ski resort.
Rebecca London, who was aboard the crippled lift, credited fresh, ungroomed snow for softening her landing Tuesday; the resort said it got 20 to 22 inches of snow a day earlier.
“The snow was all soft,” said London, of Carrabassett Valley, whose goggles also protected her face when it hit the chair lift’s retaining bar during the 30-foot fall.
At least eight others — including three children — were taken to hospitals after the double-chair lift at Sugarloaf derailed during a busy vacation week at the popular resort 120 miles north of Portland. Dozens of skiers remained on the crippled lift for more than an hour until the ski patrol could get them down.
An investigation will determine whether the accident was wind-related or mechanical, officials said. The ski resort was being buffeted by winds gusting up to 40 mph a day after the blizzard blew through. A witness said he saw a Sugarloaf employee working on the lift before the derailment.
The resort said the lift, which recently passed an inspection, was due to be replaced — possibly as early as this coming summer — partly because of vulnerability to wind. Five chairs fell 25 to 30 feet onto a ski trail below, Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin said.
Jay Marshall, who was on a lift that was parallel to the one that broke, said his lift was moving but the other was not. There was a “loud snapping noise” after the lift restarted, he said, then some screams.
“The next thing I know, it was bouncing up and down like a yo-yo,” said Marshall, of Carrabassett Valley. He said it was too difficult to watch, so he looked away.
“It was terrifying,” he said.
Marshall said there was a worker atop the tower where the lift’s cable derailed, but noted that could have been a coincidence. It’s not uncommon to see workers on the lift towers, he said.
All told, there were about 150 skiers on the lift at the time, according to Sugarloaf, operated by Boyne Falls, Mich.-based Boyne Resorts. Sugarloaf workers used a pulley-like system to lower skiers to safety.
Eight people were taken 35 miles to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, said Gerald Cayer, the hospital’s executive vice president. Two of them were transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Cayer said.
The failed East Spillway lift is 4,013 feet long, gains 1,454 feet of elevation and nearly reaches the summit of 4,327-foot Sugarloaf, the state’s second-tallest mountain. It went into service in 1975 and was modified in 1983, according to Sugarloaf officials.
That lift and two others started the day on a “wind hold” because of the blustery weather, but Sugarloaf officials later deemed it safe to operate before the accident at 10:30 a.m., Austin said. Guidelines for “wind holds” include wind speed and other factors, he said.
Betsy Twombly of Falmouth said the resort had notified season pass holders like herself that the lift would be the first to be replaced under a 10-year improvement plan. Austin told reporters it was on a list of those to be upgraded, but declined to say when that was due to happen.
A website dedicated to Sugarloaf’s master plan said the first priority for lifts was to replace the twin east and west spillway lifts with a larger quad lift, partly because of vulnerability to the wind. The Bangor Daily News previously quoted John Diller, Sugarloaf’s general manager, as saying he hoped this would be the last winter for the lift.
“A fixed-grip quad will provide faster and more reliable transportation for skiers and, due to its additional weight, will be significantly less prone to wind holds than the current lift,” the website said.
Twombly witnessed the aftermath of the accident and praised the quick help from Sugarloaf workers, who she said worked calmly and efficiently to get people down from the lift and off the mountain.
“I expected to see hysteria, but there was none,” she said.
Sugarloaf assured visitors that its lifts are inspected each day.
“We haven’t had a derailment of this magnitude in the 60 years Sugarloaf has been in operation,” said Richard Wilkinson, vice president for mountain operations.
The lift was properly licensed and inspected for 2010, said Doug Dunbar of Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Ski resort chair lifts fall under the jurisdiction of the department’s Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety, and two inspectors were dispatched to Sugarloaf, Dunbar said.
I can’t tell you how rare this is. But it’s probably making a lot of ski area operators think about checking their lifts, just in case.
So you think the winter months are no good for getting outside? Let me try to convince you otherwise.
A lot of people who dabble in the outdoors are looking to break free of office sounds, cell phones and e-mail. Solitude is the prize. Here’s a little secret: The cold shoos away the crowds.
But is it too uncomfortable to get outside in the deep freeze of winter? I don’t think so. Not if you prepare.
Oklahoma winters are relatively mild and mostly free of snow. It can get cold, and our winter winds to have a bite to them. But if you’re dressed right, you can have a great experience outside during winter. Some tips:
Dress in layers. Preferably, packable layers. Lightweight synthetics, fleeces, etc., can easily be stowed in a daypack if temps warm up, and then put back on when the wind kicks up for temperatures drop. Leave bulky clothes behind.
Steer clear of cotton. Cotton is durable, comfortable and breathes. It also soaks up and retains moisture, which is bad news when it’s cold. At best, you’ll feel clammy and cold. At worst, wet cotton clothing can contribute to hypothermia, which can be deadly.
Bring rain gear. Winter is a dry time in Oklahoma, but wet weather – rain, snow, sleet and ice – can occur. Even water-resistant clothing can get waterlogged, so rain gear is a good idea to have along.
Take a hat, and gloves, too. Some outdoor activities, like climbing, don’t mesh with gloves. But a hat and gloves can help regulate your body temperatures without forcing you to wear a ton of layers.
Bring plenty of food, water and sunscreen. Even though it’s cold, don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t get dehydrated. Bring two to three liters of water for a typical day trek. You burn more calories when it’s cold, so food is key. And just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t suffer from sunburns. Bring lip balm, too.
These are just a few tips. Do your research. Learn what hunters, skiers and snowboarders have known for a long time: Cold-weather activities in the outdoors can be fun if you’re prepared.
Aside from opening day, this is the next biggest ski weekend of the season. From what I’ve read, things are looking pretty good on the slopes.
In particular, take a look at some of the places in southwestern Colorado. Twenty-five to 50 inches of snow in the past three days! Similar accumulations showed up throughout Utah. Taos in New Mexico got 7 inches of new snow in that same time period, which isn’t too shabby.
Here’s some links to Rocky Mountain ski areas:
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
News and notes from the world of the outdoors…
One Out There reader expressed concern that when MAPS 3 gets going and the Core to Shore portion revs up, Rocktown might be in danger of being overtaken.
Rocktown is a converted grain elevator that has rock climbing routes inside and outside the building.
I’d written about outdoor adventure in the Oklahoma City area and mentioned this place in particular. So I asked a colleague, business writer Steve Lackmeyer, for some guidance. Lackmeyer primarily writes about the downtown scene and stays up on any issues that might affect Oklahoma City’s central business district, which includes development along the Oklahoma River. His take: “At this point I don’t know of any plans that would put Rocktown in jeopardy – not even the convention center.”
So rest easy, rockhounds. Looks like Rocktown is safe.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova’s bid to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro ended prematurely, as she had to be evacuated off the mountain due to high altitude pulmonary edema.
The condition occurs when high altitude induces fluid buildup in the lungs. The best way to treat it is to go to a lower elevation. If not treated successfully, the condition can be fatal.
Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak at 19,341 feet. Navratilova fell ill just shy of 14,800 feet.
She’s going to be OK, but it sounds like her charity fundraiser climb was not exactly a good experience. You can read more here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/outposts/2010/12/martina-navratilova-tennis-legend-mt-kilimanjaro-.html
In the northwest, you even have a bit of desert at Little Sahara State Park.
So you can climb, hike, kayak and otherwise play outside to your heart’s content.
If you’re willing to drive.
It’s two or more hours of driving for me to visit my favorite places in the state. Tulsa residents might have it a little easier for some things, but for those of us in central or western Oklahoma, you’re going to drive unless you’re OK hanging out in our plentiful prairies.
At least that was my initial thinking. But as it turns out, urban outdoor adventure exists, right in the middle of Oklahoma City. I did a little thinking and came up with a few ideas for those who want to get outside but can’t commit to a longer trip.
Climbing: Go downtown to Rocktown. The former grain silo’s interior is fitted with climbing wall handholds and footholds, with routes of varying difficulty. They’ll teach you the basics of belaying and climbing, and it’s a cheap outing right downtown. When you’re done, all of Bricktown awaits. Check them out here: http://www.rocktowngym.com/index.html
Offroad biking: Check out the trails around Lake Thunderbird. I know the lake water there isn’t the prettiest, but the trails are good, plentiful and challenging. And it’s close. Cap off a solid day of biking with a few celebratory cold ones and some food in Norman. Plenty of trails also await bikers at Lake Stanley Draper.
Hiking: You’ve got your choice, though they will be mellow hikes short on challenge, but long on nature viewing. Good trails await at the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge west of Bethany or the Martin Park Nature Center in north Oklahoma City. These places are also pretty kid-friendly, as the hikes are fairly short and are on easy-to-follow and well-maintained trails.
Water sports: This is where Oklahoma City excels, and it’s a scene that is diverse and growing. Outside of motorsports and fishing, there are plenty of options for human-powered water sports: kayaking in many metro lakes; rowing at Lake Hefner and the Oklahoma River; windsurfing at Lake Hefner. Later on, expect a whitewater kayaking course to be developed at the Oklahoma River as development downtown – and particularly at the river – continues.
Oklahoma City suffers from many of the same geographical limitations as other cities in the Great Plains, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do outside here. We’re blessed with fairly mild winters, and the spring and fall seasons are nice (outside the occasional severe storm).
Check out these opportunities (and these are not all of them by any means) and get outside more. You never know what you’ll see, do and grow into.
A few weeks ago, Matt Patterson wrote about hiking the Skyline Trail at Beavers Bend State Park. He enjoyed himself thoroughly, and wrote up a good trip report for the rest of us to read and study.
The trail itself is designated as being one for experienced hikers only, mostly because of the elevation loss and gain as well as the ruggedness of the route.
Those are my kind of hikes. Challenging, scenic and, because of their difficulty, low on human traffic and high on wildlife.
But that’s not for everyone. In fact, the bulk of the visitors to the park are people who love the scenery of the park and Broken Bow Lake, but maybe aren’t up to some of the rigors of routes like Skyline.
Thankfully, there are trails near the state lodge that offer good hikes and are an intermediate step up toward some of the wilder routes.
The state park system built the Lakeview Lodge trail system — three loops that are accessible from the lodge parking lot. The first loop is the easiest and is about a mile long. The second loop has a bit more difficulty (classified “intermediate”) and goes about two miles.
The third loop is the best, winding a little over four miles. The last mile or so that goes back toward the lodge follows the shoreline of Broken Bow Lake, making it the most scenic part of that particular trail system. The lake is beautiful (better water clarity down there than what we see here) and is dotted with a few pine-covered islands visible from the shore.
All three loops go through a mix of pines and hardwoods. In the fall, that means much of the trail is covered in fallen leaves, but the routes are easy to follow, and signs let you know when the next loop begins.
There are a few spots where the trails steepen, but only for short distances. The whole loop system fits comfortably within a Class 1 rating (out of 5, with 5 being technical rock climbing).
Also something to consider: Hardcore hikers often find their meals on the trail, but on this particular trail system, you’re close enough to some area restaurants to enjoy a post-hike meal in style. Brick oven pizza and Choc beer, anyone? Not a bad way to end the day.
I know a lot of the stuff I write about here may seem a little out of reach for some (though that’s really not the case). But in this post, I’m hoping you can find a nice “baby step,” a decent hike that is truly doable for anyone. Pick which loop you want to do based on your fitness level. If it’s too easy, take the next loop, and the next. If you can do the four-mile loop of the lake lodge trail, perhaps it’s time to start looking at Skyline or even some of the bigger routes along the Talimena/Winding Stair area further north.