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Outdoor Destinations

Myanmar: Our New Favorite Adventure Destination

January 19, 2017
Myanmar

Myanmar is a new frontier for adventure and a growing tourist destination, especially when looking for a warm weather trip to escape the cold. In fact, Lonely Planet named Myanmar one of its top destinations for 2017 too

Royal and Liz were great adventurers who not only enjoyed America’s national parks, but also ventured abroad – to Europe and South America but also to Asia extensively. For our founders, it was the friends they found that made each trip special, as each new friend constituted a new adventure.

Last winter, Royal Robbins’ product leader Liz Braund visited Myanmar with 6 members of her family (ranging from age 30 to age 99!). Join us for an incredible trip.

 

Myanmar is a country where the destination is the journey itself. Just getting from place to place can be an adventure, as the country has only recently opened to the wider world (other nations dropped most economic sanctions in 2015 after Myanmar elected its first democratic government in a half century).

Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar borders India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand and is home to nearly 55 million people. And it is the people that make Myanmar so special. Nearly 100 different ethnic groups call Myanmar home, making it one of the more cultural diverse and colorful places in the world.

We treated this as a once in a lifetime trip and promised ourselves that we would do it right. And yes, that meant spending a little more on fantastic hotels. But fear not, there are many comfortable and safe hotel options for the more budget-conscious traveler.

When to Go

December, January and February are the only months I recommend. Even at temperatures up to 95 degrees, this is the cool time of year. May through September is monsoon season, and many roads become impassable.

How to Get There

You’ll fly into the largest city – Yangon. Be prepared to either spend a lot of money on airfare, or spend a lot of time in the air. Flights go through Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei, Guangzhou, Kunming and others.

Our Itinerary

Our trip lasted a total of two weeks, the perfect amount of time to get a feel for the country, while still leaving us wanting more. From Portland, Oregon we flew to Bangkok and then on to Myanmar’s largest city: Yangon (Rangoon), home to 8 million people and seemingly just as many cars but not nearly enough roads. The next twelve days would take us through much of central Myanmar, to Inle Lake, Mandalay, and the ancient capital of Bagan.

The Highlights

In Yangon, we immediately visited the Schwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, which contains relics from four previous Buddhas.

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Making an offering at a birthday shrine outside the Schwegadon Pagoda

Aside from the incredible beauty of the pagoda, it was incredible to see groups of volunteers constantly sweeping the site, which they took not as a chore but as a noble act.

Volunteers sweeping at the Schwedagon Pagoda

Volunteers sweeping at the Schwedagon Pagoda

The Karaweik Palace, located on Kandawgyi Lake, is another must-see. It’s a building but is designed after a royal barge with an incredibly elaborate gilded bow.

We stayed in the Sule Shangri-La Hotel in Yangon, which was a fantastic 5-star hotel. The accommodations were very comfortable, but the thing that set it apart was the friendliness of the staff there.

Inle Lake

From Yangon, we flew to Heho, a small town approximately an hours drive from our next destination – Inle Lake. Located in the state of Shan (which is known for papermaking and silk-weaving), Inle is a magical world built on water. The vast lake is surrounded by marshlands and floating gardens, with houses and Buddhist Temples built on stilts over the water.

Randomly, I ran into an old friend from Portland who was on a bike trip through Myanmar. The magic of Facebook! Backroads had put together an incredible itinerary for them; that would be on my list for next time.

We stayed at the Aureum Palace Hotel, with stunning private villas built out over the waters and shores of the Lake. The Inle Princess Resort is also incredible.

Inle Lake at sunset

Inle Lake at sunset

Around the lake, each village has a vibrant, bustling market. The Shwe Indein Pagoda features over 1,000 stupas. My personal favorite was visiting the home/workshop of a family who made paper umbrellas in vibrant, beautiful colors. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of the fishermen who are famous for perching precariously with one foot on the reeds while fishing.

Handmade paper umbrellas

Handmade paper umbrellas

After a short flight from Heho to Mandalay, we embarked on a 7-day cruise on the Irrawaddy River (our ship normally accommodates 45 passengers but this trip only had 12 passengers vs. 31 crew). This was one of the most incredible weeks of my life.

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Each day we would stop at towns along the river, visit markets, and meet people. As a tourist one can feel uncomfortable, can feel that you are encroaching on someone else’s home. But the people I met were just as interested in learning about us as we were about them. Without a doubt, my family was asked to pose in pictures for the locals more than the other way around!

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Sun setting beneath the U Bein Bridge

There were also some incredible sights to see along the way, including:

  • U Bein Bridge – at ¾ of a mile long, it’s the world’s longest teak bridge
  • Monya – on the Chindwin River; the site of the longest reclining and the tallest standing Buddhas in the world
  • Kuthodaw Complex – houses the world’s biggest book

And of course – Bagan.

 

The Ancient Capital City – Bagan

Bagan was the capital of Burma from 1044 to 1287 and was once home to as many as 200,000 people. Today however, it is a vast city of ruins: deserted temples, stupas, pagodas, monasteries and palaces spread across 15 miles of dry plain.

Bagan before dawn

Bagan before dawn

The capital of the Kingdom of Pagan (yes the spelling is correct) was the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar. However, the Pagan empire collapsed in 1287 after repeated Mongol invasions, and Bagan slowly emptied out, becoming no more than a pilgrimage destination by the 15th century. Over time, earthquakes played a large role in the destruction of the historic buildings (over 400 earthquakes were recorded there from 1904 to 1975 alone).

Today, Old Bagan is off limits to permanent dwellings. It has become one of the great tourist sites in the world, on par with Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

 

After two weeks, I left Myanmar impressed no doubt with many of the historical sites. However, it was the people whom I met that left a lasting impression on me. I exchanged earrings with a merchant in one of the markets, met children who introduced me to thanaka, a creamy paste made from ground bark worn for both cosmetic beauty and sun protection (think zinc oxide but with style), and was taught how to properly wear a longyi.

A Burmese family asked us to be in their picture. New friends are the best friends!

A Burmese family asked us to be in their picture. New friends are the best friends!

 

 

Outdoor Destinations

Our Three Favorite Ski Spots This Winter

January 15, 2017
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Our three favorite ski destinations this winter span the range of accessibility – from a weekend destination just outside Bend, to a bit of a longer drive in Lake Tahoe, and a destination resort in Idaho. We polled our team and three spots rose to the top, with some local insights for each.

Mt. Bachelor – Oregon

Bend, Oregon is one of the best places to live for outdoor enthusiasts. Not coincidentally, Mt. Bachelor is just 22 miles away. 6th largest ski resort in the country just down the road? Convenient.

What’s it good for?

 Well, Bachelor is the 2nd largest single-mountain ski resort in the country (behind Vail) so it’s got something for everyone. That said, the powder and backcountry skiing is tough to beat.

Our favorite run?

Dilly Dally Ally is a fun groomer all kids love, and then for a powder day, Devil’s Backbone and the West Bowls are stellar.

Best bar on the mountain?

Clearing Rock Bar….local brews and new fireplaces outside.  In Bend, any of the breweries are great for après. Beer is the game in Bend!

Best non-skiing activity?

There’s great hiking, mountain biking and fly fishing in the area.  Once February rolls around you can ski in the morning and fish all afternoon.

We’ll leave you with a little fun fact:

Mt. Bachelor was called a Butte for over 100 years until the forest service did a survey and found the elevation is 9,009 ft., which qualifies it for mountain status.  You have to be careful since it is a dormant volcano there are still many steam vents throughout the mountain.  The mountain stays open through Memorial Day and some years has reopened for July 4th!

 

Squaw Valley – Lake Tahoe, California

Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the easternmost edge of California (the state line between Nevada and California splits the lake itself), Squaw Valley is a legendary resort serving Olympians (1960), year round locals and hordes of San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area weekenders.

What’s it good for?

It’s great for ridiculously steep runs. That said, there is plenty of terrain for the whole family to enjoy.

Our favorite run?

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Squaw Valley features an incredible collection of steep and mellow terrain

Anything off of KT or Granite Chief. West Face, or Mosley’s (named after 1998 Olympic moguls champ and local god Jonny Moseley), is steep, long, and chock-full of moguls. The Emigrant lift gives access to mellower terrain, but be warned, the chair lift can be very windy.

Best bar on the mountain?

On the mountain or in the world? Some would argue that both apply to the Chammy. Le Chamois isn’t actually on the mountain but it’s tucked down an alley in Squaw Village at the bottom. You should probably order a Budweiser, because they serve the second-most Budweisers annually in California (just behind Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, which holds over 17,000 people and hosts over 200 events every year).

Best non-skiing activity?

Snowshoeing! The incredible hiking in the summer gives way to snowshoeing all over the Lake Tahoe area. Oh, and beer drinking. People love to have a beer or three in Tahoe. Try Pete and Peter’s in Tahoe City or the Mellow Fellow in Truckee (incredible selection of over 40 craft beers) for some local flavor.

We’ll leave you with a little fun fact:

The earliest recorded snowfall at Lake Tahoe was on September 11, 1952. But more apt right now is the fact that since January 1st of this year, the Tahoe area has GOTTEN OVER 14 FEET OF SNOW!!!

 

Sun Valley, Idaho

Located in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, Sun Valley is perhaps the most classic and quintessential American ski resort, having hosted Hollywood stars, politicians and rock stars for nearly 90 years. Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bells Tolls while there. Sun Valley is known for being hard to access, but that’s the allure.

The resort features two mountains – Dollar for beginners and Bald Mountain for everyone else – that sandwich the town of Ketchum. Everyone may call it Sun Valley, but in reality that’s just the mountains and the hotel.

 

What’s it good for?

Though they’ve built a terrain park on Dollar in the last few years, Sun Valley is definitely known for its long, wide, expansive, incredible groomers. But lest you think they’re boring, guess again. Olympic medalists Picabo Street, Christin Cooper and Gretchen Fraser grew up there, and Sun Valley will host the US Alpine Championships in 2016 and 2018.

And they may not get a ton of snow, but Sun Valley has one of the biggest best snowmaking systems in the world, guaranteeing that you won’t be shut out. And when it does snow, hustle out to the back bowls for some fresh tracks first thing in the morning.

Our favorite run?

First thing in the morning, it’s hard to beat College top to bottom. A beautiful groomer in the sun is the perfect way to start the day. But when there’s powder, definitely hit the bowls.

Best après spot?

At the bottom of the Warm Springs side of Baldy, Apples is a classic for a cold beer and a burger (and cheese tots, definitely cheese tots). Local legends / brothers / X Games gold medalists Zach and Reggie Crist grace the walls in some fantastic ski photos.

big foot

The last day of the season at Sun Valley features some pretty wild costumes.

And if you’re up for more on the way home, Grumpy’s in town serves a fantastic greasy burger and schooners of beer (heroic goblets is probably more accurate). “Local dive” was coined in reference to Grumpy’s (Editor’s note: not at all true but it applies).

Best non-skiing activity?

There are three separate trails for fat tire snow biking, which is a great way to break a sweat on your day off. The local minor league hockey team – the aptly-named Sun Valley Suns – plays at the resort rink on Friday nights. Games are entertaining if not skillful. Expect more fights than goals.

We’ll leave you with a little fun fact:

The world’s first chairlift was installed in Sun Valley at Proctor Mountain (no longer used for skiing) in 1936.

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Destinations

Top Spots to Camp in Style: Indulge in a Little Glamping

January 9, 2017
Eagle Cliff Tent at Cliffside Camp

There’s nothing like spending a little time with your family in the great outdoors, but some mornings you’d rather not wake up at the crack of dawn with a crick in your neck from sleeping on a rock.

Even Royal and Liz liked to camp in style. Camp 4 at Yosemite might have been (and still is) home to the dirtbags, but Royal’s tent was always the sharpest, with a record player and a bottle of wine always at the ready.

That’s where “glamping” can come in handy — all the wonders of nature, paired with all the comforts of home. From Paws Up resort in Montana to Tyler Place in Vermont, these amazing outdoor spots offer over-the-top amenities (think real beds and fireplaces), but with a camping vibe. The best part is the activities: hiking, biking, rafting and more.

 

Paws Up

Greenough, Montana

Go glamping in Montana, at Paws Up, high up on abluff overlooking the confluence of the Blackfoot River and Elk Creek. This 37,000-acre property features “tent suites” – think tents that include bathrooms with a jetted tub and shower; a plush dining pavilion; amenities like The Last Best Bed, a custom-made luxurypillow-top Beautyrest by Simmons mattress, with silky sheets; plus a camping butler at your beck and call. The camp butler coordinates all your activities and meals (and will even craft the perfect s’more for you). Activities at the resort include: ATV tours, geocaching, go-karts, hot air balloon rides, rafting, rappelling, and horseback riding, among others.

 

C Lazy U Ranch

Granby, Colorado

Located in Colorado C Lazy U Ranch is a dude ranch that has more activities than just horseback riding. There’s fly fishing, archery, cattle roundups, standup paddle boards, basketball, tennis mountain biking,ropes course, zip lining and more.

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In addition to the stand-alone cabins that feature fireplaces and multiple bedrooms, you can also go glamping in their luxe tents, which have amazing views. The tent comes either with a king bed or three twin beds. Every campsite gets a fire pit and and the always-essential s’mores kit.

 

Tyler Place Resort

Highgate Springs, Vermont

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Tyler Place on Lake Champlain

Looking for a unique outdoor adventure that doesn’t involve sleeping in a tent? Then head to Lake Champlain, on the Canadian border, to Tyler Place Resort in Northern Vermont. Each family gets a stand-alone cottage, many of which have amazing views of the water. Most cottages have two or three bedrooms, a living room with a fireplace, bathroom, sun deck, and kitchen. They also have bigger cottages for larger families (or groups staying together; not a bad place for a family reunion). What these cottages don’t have, however, are TVs or Internet, meaning few modern-day distractions to keep you from the great outdoors. What makes this resort so great is all the activities, including biking, kayaking, fishing, hiking, canoeing, tennis, yoga, water sports and more — all geared towards both kids and adults.

 

Even if one of these great places isn’t for you, never forget that you can always inject a little glamping into your everyday camping trip. Whether it be a bottle of wine, handheld speakers (because we definitely won’t be carrying a record player), or a great book, indulge yourself.

 

Related Links:

The 5 Best Kid-Friendly Hikes in the National Parks

Hiking New Zealand’s Great Walks: The Insider’s Way to See the Country

5 Tips for Hiking the Inca Trail

 

 

Outdoor Destinations

5 Best Hikes in Chile

January 5, 2017
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From Patagonia to the Lake District, there are plenty of great hikes for every activity level.

As an avid hiker, I’ve been on trips all over the world, including hiking the Inca Trail in Peru and trekking to Angel Falls in Venezuela. However, for the ultimate hikes, Chile’s long been my favorite South American destination. This long narrow country is home to Patagonia which boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. I pack a few pairs of my Royal Robbins Backcountry Zip N’ Go hiking pants (lightweight, quick drying, and has UPF 50) and I’m ready to hit the trails. Here are five hikes worth exploring.

Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park

W route

Hands down my favorite hike. Why? The scenery is simply stunning and this hike can be done in four days. I recommend booking with a reputable tour operator; it’s great to be with a group and their porters will carry the heavy backpacks so you can focus on the trail. The route is so named because the trail resembles a W. On the way, you’ll get amazing views of Lago Grey and Glacier Grey, as well as waterfall views of Valle Francés. The highpoint of the hike is view of both Los Cuernos and Las Torres peaks.

Torres del Paine and Lake Serrano

Torres del Paine and Lake Serrano

Torres del Paine National Park

Circuit route

 If you have more time and want to really explore this amazing national park, do this route. It will take 7-9 days to complete; it’s basically the whole W route, plus it continues on to the back side of Torres del Paine National Park. You’ll sleep in refugios along the way and wake up to stunning views. What makes this hike so fabulous is that in one day, it can be sunny and 80 and in an hour it can be snowing. So not only are you hiking to some of tallest peaks in Chile, but you can experience all four seasons in one day. Make sure to pack your fleece in case it gets chilly.

Sunrise in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia in Southern Chile. South America

Sunrise in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia in Southern Chile. South America

The Lake District

The hiking here is great because the scenery is so diverse. Think active volcanoes, lush forests, and, of course, clear-blue lakes. Trekking near Todos los Santos Lake is moderate and great for those intermediate hikers. Tip: After hiking, partake in one of the many other activities for which the area is known: rock climbing, kayaking, and horseback riding.

Todos los Santos Lake

Todos los Santos Lake

El Morado Glacier Trek

If you’re near Santiago this hike is a no-brainer. It’s a great day-trip trek up in the Andes and it will bring you close to this stunning glacier and its pool of floating ice.  Added bonus: it’s also a great spot for birdwatching.

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile

Urban Hike in Valparaíso

If you only have a few hours and want to stretch your legs while exploring one of Chile’s colorful port cities, then this urban hike is for you (and you can wear everyday pants. Located on the coast, you’ll walk up steep hills to see clifftop homes and amazing architecture. Make sure to stop by the the former home of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda; it’s now a museum and has gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.

Related Links:

The 5 Best Kid-Friendly Hikes in the National Parks

Hiking New Zealand’s Great Walks: The Insider’s Way to See the Country

5 Tips for Hiking the Inca Trail

Outdoor Destinations

Give the Gift of Adventure

December 29, 2016
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Sure, everyone loves getting holiday gifts. but once the joy of unwrapping subsides, they’re often set aside and forgotten. A gift of an experience can give family or friends a memory they’ll cherish for years to come. From a lesson in something they’ve always wanted to try, to a weekend adventure they’ve always wanted to have, here are a few adventure gift suggestions (that won’t break the bank).

Yosemite

1. Exchange skills – We’re all busy, and we’re all guilty of getting caught up in our own routines. Chances are, one of your friends or family is curious about your hobby, be it rock-climbing, archery, paddleboarding, or surfing. And they (most likely) have their own hobbies (like scuba diving or horseback riding) that you haven’t had too much experience with.

This Christmas, suggest an exchange of skills: whether it’s a one-off experience, or a series of outings, introduce each other to the sport that gets you out of bed in the morning.

Gift Tips:

  • Prepare them to succeed – Make sure your recipient know what to wear and what to bring to be comfortable, and walk them through the basics before launching into a practical demonstration.
  • Lend them gear – Don’t ask or expect your giftee to shell out on gear until they’re hooked. Lend or rent them any gear that they need.

Yosemite

2. Take them away – We never get to spend as much time with our friends and family as we would like, right? This holiday season, plan an epic adventure for someone you love. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming – even an afternoon or a weekend away can be a memory in the making. Share an experience, reconnect, and remember what it’s all about.

Gift Tips:

  • Set a date – As tempting as it is to surprise your recipient completely, given busy schedules and family commitments, it’s probably best to ask him to give you a window of time, whatever they can spare. This might take a little maneuvring, but assure them you will take care of all the details once you have a date.
  • ….And then take care of everything – Plan the trip down to the last detail. All he needs to do is be ready to be picked up. (Don’t forget to give him a packing list.)
  • Stick to what he likes – While pushing comfort levels is never a bad thing, remember this is a gift: Don’t take him on a surfing road trip if he’s never been on a board.
  • Have fun with the presentation – Make it a scavenger hunt, or drop clues – it’s a good way to coax him out of his everyday worries and into the spirit of things.

3. Give them a lesson – If your friends or family are scattered across the globe, or if you know there is something they’ve been dying to try (but haven’t summoned the courage, or haven’t yet made the time), gift them an adventure. Most sports have intro classes or clinics, or purchase them a one-on-one session with a coach. Or send them off on an adventure they never knew they wanted. Adventure gift websites like Great American Days and Fun Sherpa have plenty of experiences on offer, from learning to fly to photography workshops.

Gift Tips:

  • Read the fine print – Make sure you feel comfortable with the location and the terms and conditions of what you’re purchasing. And keep an eye on expiration dates!
  • Let her pick – Too many to choose from, or uncertain about her schedule? Most places and websites have gift certificates available; but again, read the fine print.
  • Join in – If you can, go on the adventure with your friend – the more the merrier!4. Layer Up – If you’re still uncertain about gifting adventure, or if your friend or family member is pursuing one particular passion, you can’t go wrong with the gift of quality gear. Check out Royal Robbins’ Merinolux™ Go Everywhere® Crews for Men and Women, the Women’s Foxtail Fleece Vest, or jackets like the Batten Down Jacket and the Snow Wonder Jacket – versatile, stylish pieces of gear to accompany any adventure.

For more great stories, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

Related Links:
1. Winter Is Coming: Holiday Season Outdoor Activities
2. How to Make Your Hiking Gear Last
3. MerinoLux™ – Our Softest Merino Wool Blend Yet 

Outdoor Destinations

A 3-Day Adventure Guide to Bavaria, Germany

December 12, 2016
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No visit to Bavaria, would be complete without exploring Munich, the capital city. Visitors will love exploring the centuries-old sights, many of which can easily be explored on foot or by bike. But you won’t want to stop there. Bavaria has so much more to offer, from hikes through a dramatic gorge to the region’s colorful traditional culture. Here, your perfect outdoor itinerary.
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Outdoor Destinations

Exploring the 5 Coldest Cities in the U.S.

December 8, 2016
Fairbanks, Alaska

In 1971, the coldest temperature ever recorded in the United States was taken at a small settlement called Prospect Creek, located about 180 miles North of Fairbanks, Alaska. It was -80 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s without windchill. Vostok, Antarctica, holds the world record lowest temperature at -129 degrees F. Almost nobody lives in either of those places, fortunately.

But there are cities –  real cities, with thousands of people living in them –  in the U.S., however, that regularly deal with numbingly low temperatures of their own. Fairbanks, Alaska’s average monthly minimum temperature is nearly -17 degrees F, for example. Duluth, Minnesota’s is a comparatively balmy 1.5 degrees F, but still sits comfortably on the list of the top five coldest cities in the country, compiled by USA Today last year using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Not surprisingly, the other three cities on the list are in North Dakota.

I lived in Duluth, Minnesota, for five years. Alaska for two. And I can vouch for the validity of both Duluth’s and Fairbank’s place on the list of coldest cities in the U.S. I’ve also spent a lot of time in North Dakota, having grown up in neighboring Minnesota. It is unquestionably cold in the winter. I also know there’s more to each town on this list than the bone-chilling numbers would lead you to believe. That’s why the people who choose to live in these frigid places call it home, and why it might actually be worth putting on a jacket (and at least a couple other layers) to check them out.

The five coldest cities in the country are cooler than you might think.

Duluth Minnesota

Duluth, Minnesota

  1. Duluth, Minnesota

Average monthly minimum temp.: 1.5 F

Average monthly maximum temp.: 55.4 F

Lowest recorded temp: -41 F (1885)

Population: 86,110

Duluth Bridge, Minnesota

Duluth Bridge, Minnesota

Minnesota’s Duluth is the perfect mixture of Midwest small town friendliness and big (enough) city life, with the largest lake in the world (by surface area) on its front porch. In short: It’s flannel country. Positioned at the westernmost tip of Lake Superior, the country’s farthest inland port city is home to two colleges (three, if you count the one in neighboring Superior, Wisc., across the river), and 23 parks. Travel across the lift bridge in downtown and cruise 7-mile Park Point, the world’s largest freshwater sandbar (also a surfable beach break), or head north up historic Highway 61, three hours toward the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Some of the best micro brewed beer in the Midwest can be found at Fitger’s Brewhouse, and sea kayaking in the Apostles Islands is only an hour and a half away once the ice melts off the lake.

Williston North Dakota

Williston, North Dakota

  1. Williston, North Dakota

Average monthly minimum temp.: 0.1 F

Average monthly maximum temp.: 55.8 F

Lowest recorded temp: -50 F (1983)

Population: 36,000 and growing…

In 2010, there was about 14,000 people in Williston, North Dakota. At that time, it was a small and shrinking agricultural town, located near the Northwestern border of the state, far away from just about everything except wide-open spaces. Then oil industry engineers figured out a way to extract oil from the Bakken formation, one of the largest deposits of oil in the United States, which Williston, conveniently, sits directly on top of. The city now has more than twice as many people living in it, and continues to grow rapidly. Using the influx of oil money, the now booming, but still relatively small rural Western town has built a new $70-million high school, a $68-million recreation center, and completely new water and sewer systems. Check out the Frontier Museum while you’re in town to learn about the town’s early history and then drive up to Cut Bluff Lookout for one of the best views of the Great Plains around. The rolling badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park are also just 60 miles south of town, too.

  1. Fargo, North Dakota

Average monthly minimum temp.: 0.1 F

Average monthly maximum temperature: 59.5 F

Lowest recorded temp: -38 F (1982)

Population: 118,523

Once known as “The Gateway to the West,” Fargo is now the largest city in North Dakota, and is home to about 15% of the entire state’s population.  Beautifully situated on the Western bank of the Red River, it’s only a hair warmer than nearby Grand Forks. The average monthly minimum temperature is one tenth of a degree above zero. Still, this bustling ice-cold city is the center of commerce, agriculture, and industry for the entire state, as well as Northwestern Minnesota. (The Minnesota city of Moorhead is just across the river, but slightly warmer on average.) Forbes has consistently named Fargo one of the top small cities to start a business or a career. While you’re there, visit the Red River Zoo and check out the Fargo Air Museum, which has a large collection of still air-worthy historic aircraft.

  1. Grand Forks, North Dakota

Average monthly minimum temp.: -3.1 F

Average monthly maximum temp.: 56.3 F

Lowest recorded temp: -39 F (2004)

Population: 54,932

The third largest city in North Dakota is also its coldest, according to its average monthly minimum and maximum temperatures (-3.F and 56.3F, respectively). It’s also home to the University of North Dakota and the Red River, which does have a tendency to flood, but is just plain beautiful most of the time. The city is one of the country’s top producers of honey, too; at least when the bees aren’t hibernating. Be sure to check out the North Dakota Museum of Art while you’re there and to walk the university grounds, since it’s beautiful year-round.

Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska

  1. Fairbanks, Alaska

Average monthly minimum temp.: -16.9 F

Average monthly maximum temp.: 52.3 F

Lowest recorded temp.: -60 F (1969)

Population: 32,324

Being the coldest city in the country comes with a few perks besides being able to quickly chill your beer outside. If you wear warm base and midlayers under your down parka, you can comfortably see the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) 200 days a year in Fairbanks, on average. The city also hosts the World Ice Art Championships each year, and has hundreds of miles of cross-country ski trails. There are conveniently placed outlets in most parking lots throughout the city, so residents can plug in their engine block heaters when they park in the winter, too. Engines have a tendency to freeze at -20F otherwise.

For more great destinations, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

RELATED LINKS:

How to Experience Alaska in Three Days

Exploring Vermont’s Rural Heritage

Conquering Colorado’s Fourteeners

Outdoor Destinations

An Introduction to Hiking in L.A.’s San Gabriel Mountains

December 6, 2016
san_gabriel

There’s one image of the city of Los Angeles that probably sounds familiar – Hollywood and beaches and suburban sprawl –but one thing that’s often missing from that picture is the wealth of outdoor recreation that is available right in the city’s backyard.

Royal Robbins himself was fond of scrambling in the San Fernando Valley and standing on the edges of precipitous rock formations in Griffith Park, but he was more excited to hitchhike and backpack in the San Gabriel Mountains just to the north of the city.

Home to the newly designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, the mountain range covers some 970 square miles and often surprises visitors with its varied topography. There are deserts, piñon-juniper woodland, cascading waterfalls, riparian canyons, and snow-capped peaks soaring above 10,000 feet. If you’re a first-time visitor, here are four places that’ll get you well acquainted with its surprising diversity. And don’t feel bad if you’re just discovering these mountains – many Angelenos live here for years before they realize how much great hiking is so close by.

Bear Canyon

Bear Canyon

Bear Canyon

This quintessential canyon destination has been a favorite for generations and it’s not hard to see why – the upper reaches of the Arroyo Seco trickle through a canyon littered with historic ruins of bygone wilderness resorts, leading visitors to popular Switzer Falls just 1.5 miles in. Relax and hang out near the trailhead with the picnickers and barbeque pits or stroll under the shade of sycamores and alders on the trail. Those looking for more solitude can continue hiking into Bear Canyon to a rugged backcountry trail camp and more swimming holes and fishing spots – assuming L.A. got a decent amount of winter rain, of course. Depending on the heat, the amount of sun breaking through the tree cover, and the number of gnats buzzing around in those pools, you’ll likely want a pair of convertible pants with you.

Mount Baldy

Mount Baldy

Mount Baldy

Officially known as Mount San Antonio, this 10,064-foot tall peak is the highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains and the tallest in Los Angeles County, too. In the warmer months, a challenging but non-technical trail climbs through dense pine groves and across exposed ridgelines to Baldy’s hulking summit for 360-degree views of the region. It’s one of those must-do adventures for all outdoorsy people in Southern California. In the winter, experienced mountaineers can brave the often-wicked weather to ski down the Baldy Bowl. If you’re hiking in the cooler months or just starting out in the early morning, you’ll want to pack a warm outer layer like the Batten Down Jacket.

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

One of the toughest and most remote hikes in the entire mountain range, Twin Peaks is a rarely-visited region in the central San Gabriels. A just-under 10-mile round trip brings you up and over the eastern flank of nearby Waterman Mountain and back down to Twin Peaks Saddle under the shade of some of the largest conifers in Southern California. From there, it’s an off-trail scramble back up for stunning views of the San Gabriel Wilderness – one of the oldest wilderness areas in the country. Experienced climbers can continue to nearby Triplet Rocks – just make sure you budget a full-day, pre-dawn start for this one. This route can get cool and hot and will usually take you a full day of effort, so it’s a good idea to wear some breathable (and stink resistant) Merinolux here.

 

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Monrovia Canyon

If you can’t budget the time for a full-day adventure or even a drive into the interior of the San Gabriels, the southern foothills offer up some exemplary scenery with only moderate physical demands. Located just north of its namesake city, the trails in Monrovia Canyon are gentle and draped in old-growth native oaks. The result is like walking through a cathedral of trees, and it’s not to be missed. A trickling waterfall awaits hikers at the northern end of the canyon, while a lovely nature center and the longer eastbound Ben Overturff Trail provide opportunities for those with more time to spend. Just be on the look out for bears in the early morning hours!

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Casey Schreiner with his dog Emmy

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Outdoor Destinations

6 Great Family Resorts to Visit This Winter

December 1, 2016
sunriver-opener

We all know how hard it can be to motivate yourself (and your family) to get outside when the temperature drops. If you want to keep the clan active this winter, there are a number of resorts that take advantage of what the season has offer. Activities include everything from snowshoeing to ice fishing, and skiing to tubing. In fact, there’s so much to do, the challenge will be trying to fit everything in.


Woodloch Resort
Hawley, Pennsylvania

At Woodloch kids will be anything but bored. There’s tubing, snow shoeing, skiing, ice skating, go carts, winter archery, winter paint ball, a climbing wall, nature trails, zip lines, hay rides, yule log hunts and, of course, their famous winter Olympics (where guests limber up for six fun and frosty events in the snow to compete for the coveted Woodloch gold medal). If all that outdoor fun tires out your kids, there’s plenty to do indoors as well, including an indoor playground and a splash zone.

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Monhonk Resort

 

Mohonk Resort
New Paltz
, New York

Mohonk will give your kids plenty of exercise as they showcase their skills ice skating on the resort’s 9,000 square-foot rink. Or, with more than 30 miles of cross country skiing trails, you can find the perfect terrain for your skill level. Stop at the ski shop and pick up snow shoes to explore the area. And of course what kid doesn’t love snow tubing? You can take the tubes out on the golf course for an afternoon of fun.

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Shore Lodge

Shore Lodge
McCall
, Idaho

At Shore Lodge, you and your kids can strap on your snowshoes and head to nearby Ponderosa State Park for some great winter exploring. The property sits on the edge of the largest area of protected wilderness in the continental United States, so there’s plenty of skiing and snowboarding trails to be found. You can also snowshoe or snowmobile a short distance away to some of the region’s best and most plentiful natural hot springs in the lower 48. It’s the perfect way to relax after an active day.

keystone

Keystone Resort

 

Keystone Resort
Keystone, Colorado

If you’re a skiing family, you’ll love the fact that Keystone Resort offers a unique night skiing program, boasting the longest ski day in all of Colorado. Lighted trails are open until 8 p.m., so you and the kids can ski under the stars. Another nice bonus: the resort offers a Kids Ski Free deal, so all kids 12 and younger can ski all day, every day. If you have younger kids, the Kidtopia program has a plethora of activities to keep them active including scavenger hunts, bigfoot adventure walks (looking for footprints of the elusive sasquatch while also learning about area history and wildlife), and playing in the world’s largest snow fort. There’s also ice skating and mountain snow tubing for both kids and adults.

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Sunriver Resort

 

Sunriver Resort
Sunriver
, Oregon

Idyllic winter wonderlands aren’t just found in snow globes. At Sunriver, there are plenty of snow-covered evergreens and activities galore including including winter sleigh rides (with gorgeous horses clomping through the snow), sledding, ice skating, and snow shoeing.

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Suncadia Resort

 

Suncadia Resort
Cle Elum
, Washington

With more than 6,000 acres of forested mountain landscape, this Pacific Northwest property sits in the Cascade Mountains in the town of Cle Elum. Suncadia resort has lots of winter fun including snow tubing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobile tours and even winter fly fishing.    

Just make sure everyone bundles up. Winter is all about layers, and you can make sure you stay toasty with the Snow Wonder Vest and Fallen Leaves Fleece Jacket . For more great cold-weather picks, be sure to check out our newsletter.  

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Outdoor Destinations

6 Spooky Outdoor Spots to Celebrate Halloween

October 24, 2016
Trail through a mysterious dark old forest in fog. Autumn morning in Crimea. Magical atmosphere. Fairytale

With the smell of autumn hanging heavy in the air, and the night ripe for mystery and legends, here are six fantastic places to enjoy All Hallows’ Eve.

I love Halloween. When I was a kid, it was all about the costumes and candy, of course, but there was something else in the smell of autumn turning winter and the crunch of leaves under my feet. Halloween is full of possibility, whether it’s becoming someone or something else for the night, or scaring yourself half to death with an imagination run wild. It’s a night of mystery, when legends are free to stride the earth.

I’m not alone. Halloween is massively popular in the United States, with 64% of the population participating in a Halloween activity. Once I outgrew trick-or-treating and started learning more about the history of Halloween, that’s when I began to love traveling at the end of October. Some places do Halloween really well, others are laden with haunted history. Either way, get out and explore this Halloween. Here are six U.S. destinations you might enjoy:

  1. Salem, Massachusetts has to be at the top of the list. Home of the horrific witch trials where more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft between 1692 and 1693, Salem has since lightened up and puts on quite a show during the month of October, including a Witch’s Ball. (Perfect packing tip: pair the cashmere First Light Sweater Dress with a pair of boots to stay warm in chilly New England fall temperatures.)salem
  1. Sleepy Hollow, New York. The setting for Washington Irving’s tale of the Headless Horseman is another must-visit Halloween destination, with month-long celebrations that include master storyteller renditions of the legend and the ultimate haunted house, Philipsburg Manor. (Perfect packing tip: the mountain heritage-inspired Peak Performance Plaid long-sleeve shirt.)

 

  1. New Orleans, Louisiana. The Big Easy is in its element, because New Orleans is nothing if not legendary. New Orleans has a reputation as the most haunted city in the United States, along with a penchant for voodoo, music, and revelry. Take a haunted tour, join in one of the many street parties, or dress to the nines for the Endless Night Vampire Ball.
  1. Portland, Oregon has its own colorful, haunted history of ‘shanghaied’ sailors, normal bar patrons who were drugged and smuggled onto waiting ships via underground tunnels in the 19th and early 20th When they woke up, they were miles from home and out of luck. Take a tour of these tunnels, or – if you dare – drink at one of the bars where people used to disappear. (Perfect packing tip: if you’re visiting Portland, you need something with a little urban attitude, like the pointelle-stich Sophia Hoodie.)
  1. The RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach Harbor. First sailing in 1936, the Queen Mary grand ocean liner used to travel the Atlantic with the rich, powerful, and the famous before transforming into a troop-carrier during WWII. The Queen Mary is reputedly one of the most haunted places in the world. It’s claimed the ship was the site of at least 49 deaths, and has more than 150 known spirits lurking her passageways. Given her history, the Queen Mary is a lively Halloween destination, with a month of festivities, tours, and even a stay-aboard option.

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  1. Camping. The best Halloween destination? An isolated forest, a tent, friends, a roaring campfire, and your imagination. If you want to experience the most magical Halloween possible, go camping. (Perfect packing tip: the Fireside Wool ¼ Zip is made for nights like these.)

For more great fall outdoor ideas, be sure to sign up for our emails.

 

Related Links:

  1. Celebrating Fall across the United States
  2. Camping Trip Tips
  3. Opt Outside This Black Friday