Category: Good Company

The Top 5 Bouldering Areas in New Mexico

By dchulst on February 21st 2018

Whether you’re living the dirtbag life or you’re looking for a weeklong escape to crank out some problems, New Mexico has top-notch bouldering to offer. For decades, most of the bouldering areas in the state had been passed along by word of mouth, but this spring, local climber Owen Summerscales published the first New Mexico bouldering book in history. He spent years talking with locals, driving around the state, and exploring where climbers go. We asked him for his recommendations on the best places to scout out problems in the Land of Enchantment. Here are five of his favorite spots.

1. BOX CANYON: CENTRAL NM

Jamie Stull on Pressure Drop, a V2 in Box Canyon Owen Summerscales

Box Canyon is home to steep volcanic bouldering outside of Socorro, NM. The area calls for a gymnastic style of climbing, says Summerscales. The best part? The warm climate makes the spot nearly weatherproof—even in the winter, and its close proximity to Albuquerque means easy access to restaurants and bars after you’ve worked up an appetite.

Where to camp: There are about five campsites available right where the bouldering takes place, but many locals prefer to stay in one of the 12 sites at Water Canyon Campground, located about 10 miles west of Box Canyon. Water Canyon features fire pits, grills, vault bathrooms, and a handful of tent pads.

Where to explore: The Cibola National Forest offers easy hikes with expansive views. Hike any number of peaks, including North Baldy, South Baldy, Timber Peak, and Buck Peak. If you get tired of campfire meals, grab some Mexican food at La Pasadita Cafe in Socorro.

2. NOSOS: NORTHERN NM

Bouldering The Odyssey, a V10 at the Nosos bouldering area Owen Summerscales

This quartzite boulder outcrop is just outside of the village of La Madera, NM, and according to Summerscales, it boasts the best rock quality of any stone in the state. Bonus: “The the views aren’t bad either,” he says.

Where to camp: Located 18 miles north of the village is Tres Piedras, a free site at the base of the biggest of the rock formations in the area. Complete with campfire rings and large trees, you’ll enjoy the view from any of these established camping spots.

Where to explore: This spot is less than an hour west of Taos, NM, the area famous for its art and writing. Swing by town, catch the view of the canyon from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, check out the art galleries, and grab a beer at the Taos Mesa Brewing, where there’s often live music, dancing, and other types of activities.

3. POSOS: NORTHERN NM

Nat Gustafson hanging on to Fury Road, V4 Owen Summerscales

If you’re bouldering in the dead of summer, this is your destination. What Summerscales describes as, a “blissful forested outcrop of schist” sits on the Jarita Mesa in the Carson National Forest. Because its elevation is about 9,000 feet, the area is significantly cooler than other parts of New Mexico—even in July and August. “It’s a great place to escape the heat and crank on some crimpy problems,” he says.

Where to camp: Primitive free campsites are available 18 miles northwest of the climbing area at the Trout Lake Campground. The area is usually crowd-free. Although there are no established picnic tables or grills, there is a vault toilet on the premises.

Where to explore: If you stay at Trout Lake, take advantage of some prime fishing in one of the three lakes within hiking distance. If you’re visiting in the fall, check out the golden aspen trees that flood the area with color during peak leaf months.

4. ORTEGA WEST: NORTHERN NM

Romain Pannetier on Foxy Boxing, V3 Owen Summerscales

If adventure is what you look for in a bouldering trip, says Summerscales, this is the place for you. Ortega West is northeast of El Rito and is packed with an endless number of quartzite cliff bands and boulders. Forget the plan; this is a the place to explore and stumble on a gem. But, Summerscales cautions, you will need 4 wheel drive and some solid navigation skills to reach the bouldering.

Where to camp: Stay in Trout Lake, as you would if you were bouldering in Posos, or head to Orilla Verde Area of the Rio Grande Gorge for a site complete with drinking water, fire rings, a boat ramp, and restrooms.

Where to explore: While you’re in the area, explore Carson National Forest. The wilderness area includes 1.5 million acres of fishing, camping, and hiking. Plus, with some of the best mountain views in the state, you’ll never want to leave.

5. ROY: NORTHEASTERN NM

Nialls Chavez on Buttercup, V5 Owen Summerscales

If you search for Roy, you’ll be hard stretched to find any specific problems online. For decades, information about bouldering in Roy, NM, has been by word of mouth, and it offers what Summerscales calls the best bouldering in the state. Hundreds of problems set on ergonomically-shaped Dakota sandstone boulders scatter the Canadian River drainage. “A lifetime of world-class climbing exists out here,” he says.

Where to camp: All the camping near Roy is primitive. There are many areas overlooking some of the best boulders, but depending on the time of year, they can get crowded. If you head 12 miles outside of town to Mills Canyon Campground, you’ll find fire rings, picnic tables, and nearby restrooms.

Where to explore: While you’re in the area, scope out Kiowa National Grassland, 136,000 acres of open prairies, hiking, and big skies. Keep an eye out for the wild pronghorn antelope that are native to the area.

For beta on specific problems and more areas to boulder in New Mexico, grab a copy of ‘New Mexico Bouldering‘ by Owen Summerscales.

Originally written by RootsRated.

Ride On: The Origin of Scrambler Motorcycles

By dchulst on February 20th 2018

We all know the old adage that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” That said, there is potentially an even stronger catalyst for ingenuity… humankind’s insatiable need for speed. Therein lies the conception of arguably the greatest genre of motorcycles on planet Earth: The Scrambler.

The origin of the Scrambler goes back the turn of the 20th century in jolly old England where a bunch crazed Englishmen began to dabble in a new form of motorcycle racing, one that took place far from the beaten path. Instead of racing upon a specific route, they were tasked with simply making it from point A to point B alive, in the shortest possible time, by any means necessary. Rumor has it the phrase “Scrambler” came from a British race announcer describing the act playing out before his eyes as “quite a scramble.” Those brave (or insane) enough to accept the scramble challenge quickly found their everyday, stock, road-going motorcycles far from up to the task. Sliding, bounding and tearing up-and-over the British countryside demanded something with a much greater adventurous disposition.

What these blokes did next was nothing short of necessity: they chopped, welded, grinded, jiggered, jerry-rigged and modifying their street bikes into dirt, rock, and hill-devouring barbarians. The punch list went pretty much as follows: taller suspension, fenders and exhaust pipes for clearance, and some spoked and knobby tires to help put the power down. When the dust settled, the Scrambler Motorcycle was born.

These Darwinistic beasts would evolve over the coming centuries and eventually take on legendary popularity in the 1960’s. Manufacturers like Honda began to offer models right off the showroom floor that were ready, willing and able to have some rough and tumble fun. Steve McQeen’s exploits on his early 60’s Triumphs helped forge the Scrambler in the annuls of epicness. Here’s to the Scrambler, the patron saint of madness and invention.

When you want something badly enough, sometimes you have to make it yourself. The Brits wanted epic motorbikes, we wanted durable jeans without the stiff attitude. We started with a durable organic cotton denim, revved up our use of recycled polyester, and topped it off with a water- and stain-resistant finish. The results: OurNew Wingman Denim. Form, function and flexibility in one simple package. Offered in Lean and Regular fits for the modern man.

Insider’s Guide to Petrified Forest National Park

By dchulst on February 14th 2018

The faded colors that dominate Petrified Forest National Park reflect centuries of erosion that have weathered the landscape into subdued hues of Arizona reds, oranges, and blues. Defying this trend are the marvelous samples of petrified wood strewn throughout the parched land. Unlike the dusty, powdery mounds of color in the Painted Desert, petrified wood is a glossy outlier. Brilliant, deep crimson patterns flourish in these stone-hard remnants, accented by sunset-orange rings and seafoam green strokes. Eons ago, ancient Arizona was part of a subtropical region and rich with aquatic life. Fast moving rivers trapped both flora and fauna in sediment, preserving a wealth of fossils as well as the wood husks of the namesake forest.

Fast forward 225 million years to see that time has drastically altered the land, changing the humid climate to barren, arid scrubland. The rivers and waterways are gone, only briefly resurrected in the form of the flash floods that occasionally scour the sandy washes. Yet, life sustains. The 218,553 acres that make up this unique national park were initially set aside in 1962. Though the moniker “Petrified Forest National Park” champions the most impressive relics in the area, there is much more to see beyond the hardened flora. The heavily eroded hills of the Painted Desert feature symmetrical stripes in muted colors, fossils are locked in stone outcrops, petroglyphs carved by ancient hands decorate remote rocks, and recent historical archives from Route 66 add to the attractions in the park. While the geology and history exemplify faded glory, the modern visitor will find plenty of amazing aspects to enjoy in this ever-changing region.

CLASSIC ADVENTURES

The beautiful colors of petrified wood. Chris M. Morris

The Painted Desert Visitor Center and Rainbow Forest Museums are the first places to check out when coming to the park. There are detailed explanations of the natural and human history, including the amazing process of how petrified wood turned from organic material to stone. Millions of years ago, rivers deposited minerals into the cells of organisms and they hardened, leaving behind the beautiful arrays of color in the ruins of a long lost forest (a process known as permineralization ). Stepping outside of the visitor’s center offers a look at several samples of the wood, along with a short (less than a mile), signed trail that overlooks some of the colorful mounds of sand. Rainbow Forest has access to Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House Trails, showcasing more of the wood in the wild as well as the dwellings of ancient civilizations.

It cannot be stressed enough to leave behind samples of petrified wood. Even with strict regulations forbidding theft, the park service estimates more than 12 tons of petrified wood is pilfered each year. Please do not take any souvenirs from the land, no matter how small they are.

Despite having short walking trails, there’s a lot of information to enjoy in these two visitor’s destinations. The artistry of petrified wood is truly mesmerizing. For those curious to know if man-made petrified wood has ever been made, it has, but it lacks the random beauty of natural wood.

SECRETS OF THE PARK

A smattering of petrified wood in the Jasper Forest. Andrew Kearns

While the landscape beyond the visitor centers and museums may seem barren, there are many secrets to uncover in the park. Driving from trailhead to trailhead happens naturally as you explore the park, so stopping as you go to wander on some of the hiking trails beyond the main attractions is definitely worth it. Note that it can get blazing hot and dry in the summer (over 100° on a regular basis, so bring lots of water!) so hiking in the autumn, winter, and spring is the most comfortable—though most trails are short enough to endure the summer heat for a short time. Be warned if you plan a winter visit, the record cold is -37° and winds can whip up over 50 mph!

One of the most impressive hikes, especially at sunset, is the Jasper Forest Hike. A 2.5 mile out-and-back trek, this was the first petrified forest discovered by western settlers. Great blocks of petrified wood sit in the desert sand, including delicately balanced cubes mottled with vermilion and blue-grey minerals. At sunset, colors transform into deep ruby-red and orange, creating a dreamlike ambiance as the earth begins to cool for the night.

Onyx Bridge is a slightly rugged, 4-mile round-trip hike that starts from the Painted Desert Inn and ventures out to a large, 30-foot tall Triassic era conifer tree turned to stone. The tree is mostly intact and is estimated to be over 200 million years old. Finally, the Blue Forest Trail is a 3-mile out-and-back that highlights the impressive, striated mounds of the Painted Desert. The grey, red, tan, and black stripes that decorate the hills are especially photogenic in winter light.

IMMERSE YOURSELF

The painted hills at Petrified Forest National Park. Kimble Young

There are no overnight facilities in the park itself, but for the adventurous, backpacking is allowed in the park. This is only allowed in the wilderness portion of the park (which is separate from the fee area) and you must have a permit. Even more interesting, horseback riding is allowed in the wilderness areas and equestrian backcountry explorers can even go camping with their horses! Note that that there is not a drop of water in the park, so you must bring in all your own for yourself and your horses. Autumn and early winter are the best times of the year to explore the backcountry in this fashion. Most adventures start at the Painted Desert Inn and many routes use a combination of trail and off-trail access. Backpacking offers a great way to see some of the remote petroglyphs, fossil walls, and other secrets hidden in the park.

HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR VISIT

Don’t take any samples of petrified wood.

Seriously, don’t. It’s very easy to pocket a little piece and think you are doing no harm, but with over 800,000 annual visitors, this mentality will quickly deplete the park of its namesake resource.

Make sure to pack in enough water, even for short day hikes. This is an extremely dry landscape and people have been known to get heat exhaustion, even on the modest visitor center trails.

A lot of rugged wildlife exists in the park, from snakes to coyotes. Don’t feed them and try not to stress them if you encounter them.

People sometimes forget the altitude—the park is located at 5,800 feet above sea level. If you’re feeling a little winded, it could be the thinner air.

And once more… don’t poach any wood from the park!

Petrified Forests Not Your Gig?

Maybe petrified forests aren’t your thing, and that’s alright! Consider giving the Grand Canyon a shot. We’ll even tell you how to beat the crowds! Whatever you decide to do, know that time spent in the American southwest is time spent in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Originally written by RootsRated.

Starry Night: The Best Places to Go Stargazing in Alabama

By dchulst on February 9th 2018

How many times as a kid did you head out into your backyard, lie back on the thick grass, and gaze endlessly at the countless stars in the night sky? Or, maybe it was a camping trip where you first discovered the magnificence of our universe.

Sadly, finding “dark sky,” or areas where there is very little to no artificial lighting, is becoming more difficult these days. From the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean, light pollution diminishes our view of the heavens.

Lucky for us, there are still places where you can get lost in the stars. The following list are some of our favorite locations in Alabama to watch the nighttime sky. Remember, this is only a sampling, and you can visit the Dark Site Finder website to find a stargazing location near you.

CONECUH NATIONAL FOREST

Many Alabama areas offer broad views of the night sky and little light pollution. Andrew Jenkins

The Conecuh National Forest near Andalusia is becoming known as a prime stargazing location. Within the national forest, the the Open Pond Recreation Area and Nellie Pond are two top spots to get lost in the stars. Open Pond does have some lighting for campgrounds, but overall it’s a nice place to view stars and meteor showers. Plus, it has restrooms.

For a darker sky, take a little hike to beautiful Nellie Pond. To reach the pond, park at the north trailhead on Alabama 137 in Andalusia and hike 1.6-miles. Along the bank of the pond, you’ll find ample room to set up a scope or simply sit and gaze. By the way, this is also a great place to camp, but keep in mind that hunting is allowed here in the fall and winter. For hunting season dates, visit Outdoor Alabama.

MOUNDVILLE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK

Moundville Archeological Park near Tuscaloosa is best known for the 28 dirt mounds that were built by Native Americans of the Mississippian Period between the years 1100 and 1541. The park itself is a huge, flat field ringed by the mounds. Because the land is largely free of trees and artificial light, it’s a fantastic spot to view the vastness of space and all of its magic.

The park closes daily at dusk, so you’ll have to camp there to view the heavens at night. For information on camping fees and reservations, visit the Moundville website.

If you don’t want to camp, the University of Alabama Department of Physics and Astronomy hosts a public viewing night at the park about once a month.

VON BRAUN OBSERVATORY IN MONTE SANO STATE PARK

Huntsville’s Von Braun Astronomical Society opens its doors to the public every month. Joe Cuhaj

Located atop Monte Sano Mountain, the Von Braun Astronomical Observatory was built by the famous rocket scientist Werner von Braun, who led U.S. efforts to put a man on the moon and helped Huntsville earn its nickname, the The Rocket City.

The facility was opened in 1956 and has been operated by the Von Braun Astronomical Society ever since. On Saturday nights, the observatory is open to members of the public who can pay a small $2 admission fee to see presentations by astronomers and astronauts in the planetarium. If the weather is favorable, visitors can then use presenters’ telescopes to gaze into space.

OAK MOUNTAIN STATE PARK

While Birmingham includes large swaths of urban landscape, the “Magic City” still offers the opportunity to catch a little stardust. Each month on a Saturday near the time of the full moon, the Birmingham Astronomical Society (BAS) hosts a Star Party at Oak Mountain State Park. For each gathering, members of BAS set up their scopes at Double Oak Lake and invite the public to come out and take a gander at the moon, planets, and stars.

CHEAHA MOUNTAIN

Some Alabama destinations offer excellent views of the Milky Way. Nathan Anderson

As the state’s highest mountain, Cheaha is one of the best places to get in a night of “dancing with the stars.” If you camp at Cheaha State Park, head to the Group Camping Area on the north side of the park. Along the park’s main road, you can stargaze in a wide-open field where there’s little light to obscure your view. Plus, there are a few trees where you can suspend your hammock and relax under starlight.

To explore another great spot for stargazing, take Alabama 281 west of Cheaha State Park to a point 1 mile north of Adams Gap. On the west side of the road, you can park in a wide pull-off area that will accommodate about 10 vehicles. Because this remote area has virtually no light pollution, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the thick blanket of stars better known as the Milky Way. Many people say that, from this vantage point, they feel like they can reach out and grab a handful of the stars. If you travel in a pickup truck, throw an air mattress in the bed so you can lie back and own the night sky.

If you travel 5.5 miles east of the state park on Alabama 281, you’ll reach the Cheaha Scenic Overlook, which offers an expansive view of the surrounding Talladega Mountains. After sunset, nature begins its light show with bright planets and shooting stars.

Bundle Up

Stargazing in the South is colder than you think! Luckily Toad&Co has the gear to keep you warm. Consider the these jackets for any stargazing adventure.

The Women’s Arriva Jacket or the Breckinridge Parka are sure to keep your body warm when things get cold.

The Men’s Carver Canvas Coat and the Double Bock Jacket are stylish for the pre-stargazing brewery stop, but also warm enough to keep you comfortable under the stars.

Originally written by RootsRated for BCBS of AL.

Spread the Love

By dchulst on February 5th 2018

With many embracing it, some downright denouncing it, and others indifferent, the only thing we know for sure is Valentine’s Day is approaching at a rapid pace. It happens every year. You look up from Christmas and New Years, ready to catch your breath and BAM! Valentine’s day hits you with a frantic mid-week dinner reservation and a hefty expedited flower delivery receipt. We say it’s time to reset the dial on all Valentine’s days expectations, and focus on what’s really important: spreading the love!

What says I love you more than a Valentine’s Day card made from re-purposed desk supplies? We searched high and low in our office for the most card worthy desk decorators, and spruced up some old resume paper to look like the real deal. And although these Valentines turned out pretty darn well if we do say so, we did our best to drive home our true take on the day: it’s a lot more about the love you are spreading than the cards you are giving.

So this Valentine’s day, take it upon yourself to spread the love. Whether it’s making a slightly blue coworker smile, or just letting that fellow motorist merge in front of you versus the old box out, embrace the spirit of Valentine’s Day by spreading love to everyone, regardless of relationship status. And don’t forget, true love can just as easily be relayed through sticky-note hearts and a half drank bottle of tequila.

Spreading the love comes in many shapes and sizes. Recently, our little community on the central coast of California was struck by not one, but two, natural disasters. Although the disasters are over and the news trucks are gone, there are many people who could still use your help. If you’d like to spread your love to the people of Montecito, please donate to this link to help out a community facing a long road to recovery.