Category Archives: Paddling

Stories, photos, and videos from my kayaking, canoeing, and rafting adventures in the U.S. and around the world.

November 15, 2015 The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah.

10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

The first time I backpacked in Yosemite National Park, more than 20 years ago, I applied months in advance for a permit to start at the park’s most popular trailhead, Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley—and I got it. I had no idea at the time how lucky I was. I’ve since been shot down trying to get permits for popular hikes in parks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Glacier. But I’ve also learned a few tricks for landing coveted backcountry permits in those flagship parks—which all receive far more requests for permit reservations than they can accommodate. Continue reading →

November 9, 2015 Hiking Blahnukur, in Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Iceland.

15 Adventures on Earth That Will Change Your Life

In Family Adventures, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

“Change your life.” That’s a tall order, isn’t it? I mean, how many experiences have that magnitude of impact on you? I can think of several that overhauled my perspective on life, or at the least, expanded how I view the world and other people. Looking at the highest mountains on the planet and walking through villages in Nepal where people live much as their ancestors have for centuries. Seeing the surreal landscapes of Iceland (photo above) and Patagonia. Immersing myself in the mountain culture on hut-to-hut treks through the vertiginous Swiss Alps. Paddling a kayak below jungle-clad cliffs rising 4,000 feet straight out of the sea in New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound, and hiking what’s reputedly the hardest hut trek in that adventure-addicted country, the Dusky Track. And seeing unforgettable mountain ranges like the Scottish Highlands, Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, and Italy’s Dolomites, and seals, brown bears, and sea lions in Alaska’s Glacier Bay through the unclouded eyes of my kids. Continue reading →

November 8, 2015 Kayaking Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.

Photo Gallery: Sea Kayaking New Zealand’s Milford Sound

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By Michael Lanza

A vast sea of liquid glass spread out before us as we aimed our kayaks out into Milford Sound, a 4,000-foot-deep fjord in Fiordland National Park, on the southwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island. A thick fur of rainforest clung to cliffs plunging straight into the sea. The sharp, rock-crowned arrowhead of Mitre Peak rose to 5,545 feet (1,690m) out of the ocean, slashing at the sky. Continue reading →

November 1, 2015 Trail 47 below Castle Peak, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho.

Why REI’s #OptOutside on Black Friday Matters (and John Muir, Ed Abbey, and Jesus Would Agree)

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

REI exploded a supernova in the retail universe when it announced last week that it’s closing all 143 stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and won’t process any online purchases until the following day. Employees will get a paid day off and be encouraged to get outside—and many undoubtedly will.

This is very cool if you work for REI, of course. But why should the rest of us care? I believe we should, for reasons that reach beyond REI’s walls, and because it’s good for our kids in ways not immediately obvious. And I think John Muir, Ed Abbey, and Jesus would agree. But more about those guys in a bit. Continue reading →

October 25, 2015 On the summit of Mount Hoffmann, Yosemite National Park.

How to Have More Fun and Be Safer Outdoors

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing, Skills   |   Tagged   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

People occasionally ask me the same basic question about hiking, backpacking, or some other outdoor activity: How much do I need to know to do this? I usually (perhaps annoyingly) answer a question with a question: How much do you want to enjoy it and keep yourself, your family, or your friends safe?

At The Big Outside, some of my most-read stories are the ones in which I offer my tips on skills like ultralight backpacking, avoiding blisters, getting a hard-to-get national park backcountry permit, and taking better outdoor photos; my “10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids” may be the most enduringly popular story at this blog. Now I’ve organized all of my stories about outdoor skills on my newly launched Skills page, where you can click to learn not only how to do many things outdoors, but also what it is that you should know about.

Continue reading →

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