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January 17, 2018

Ask Me: 55-Year-Old Woman First Time Hiking the John Muir Trail

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Gear Reviews, National Park Adventures, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

Hi Michael!

I am a first-time JMT hiker this summer. I’m an avid dayhiker and will do some two- and three-day hikes to prepare. I’m losing 20 pounds and doing a lot of strength training. Here are my concerns: I am 55 years old and this trip is my way of celebrating this milestone and 25 years of sobriety! I may have to hike part of it alone—I have friends with me for the first week and the last week. I really want to pack light. I know I can do 10 miles/day, but I would like to average 15 mpd. I have read pack lists from women who ended up with 40 to 50 lbs.! I have no desire to carry that much. Can you give me an idea of a realistic daily mileage and how I can keep my pack 35 lbs. or under without running out of food and water, and where I should stop to resupply? Continue reading →

January 15, 2018 Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.

Backpacking 150 Miles Through Wildest Yosemite

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

In early evening on a bluebird September day, deep in northern Yosemite National Park, my friend Todd Arndt and I—with legs a little weary—reached our fourth pass on a 23-mile day, the second day of a four-day, 87-mile hike. Only a quad-melting, 1,500-foot descent stood between us and soothing our feet in the cool sand and cold water at Benson Lake (possibly the most unbelievable mountain lake I’ve ever seen).

We hiked past quiet tarns where a few backpackers were camped. And it struck me that they were the first people Todd and I had seen all day. That’s not an observation one expects to make in Yosemite. But we were exploring the “other Yosemite”—not the overcrowded park, but its most remote backcountry, on one of the best multi-day hikes I’ve ever taken. Continue reading →

January 14, 2018 Michael Lanza near the summit of Thompson Peak, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Discover More Great Outdoors Adventures Now

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Family Adventures, Gear Reviews, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged ,   |   5 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Why do you read my blog? I’m genuinely interested in knowing, so please tell me in the comments section at the bottom of this blog post. But based what I’ve heard and seen from many readers like you who follow The Big Outside, I know you’re probably looking for the best backpacking trips, family adventures, dayhikes, and other great outdoors adventures, plus my tips on how to pull off those trips, and my expert gear reviews. As you start to plan (or you should be planning) the adventures you’ll take this year, I’m going to use today’s blog post to point you in the right direction. Continue reading →

January 11, 2018 At Kaweah Gap, Sequoia National Park, California.

Why I Endanger My Kids in the Wilderness (Even Though It Scares the Sh!t Out of Me)

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   12 Comments

By Michael Lanza

A glacial wind pours through a snowy pass in the remote mountains of Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park. Virtually devoid of vegetation, the terrain offers no refuge from the relentless current of frigid air. Some of the troops are hungry, a little tired, and grumpy; mutiny doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility, so I don’t want to add “cold” to their growing list of grievances. I coax everyone to push on just a little farther, down out of the wind to a sun-splashed, snow-free area of dirt and rocks for lunch.

But I don’t like the looks of the steep slope we have to descend. Blanketed in snow made firm by freezing overnight temperatures, and littered with protruding boulders, it runs hundreds of feet down to a lake choked with icebergs—in mid-July. A trench stomped into the snow by other trekkers diagonals down to our lunch spot. It’s well traveled, but someone slipping in that track could rocket downhill at the speed of a car on a highway. I turn to our little party—which ranges in age from my nine-year-old daughter to my 75-year-old mother—and emphasize that we have to proceed extremely carefully. Continue reading →

January 10, 2018 Floating the Green River through Stillwater Canyon, Canyonlands National Park.

5 Great Age-Appropriate National Park Family Adventures

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

By Michael Lanza

“What national park adventure should we take with our kids?” That’s a question I get frequently from parents. It’s a tough one to answer, given all the great choices. But my advice always focuses on the ages of kids, because that’s how I’ve always thought about picking the right trips for my kids. I ask myself: What’s the most fun, inspirational, and safe adventure we can take them on at their ages?

I’ve compiled below five recommendations for absolute, must-do national park trips for families (with links to my story about each for more info and photos), arranged in order from the easiest, for younger kids, to the most challenging, for older, more-experienced kids. Continue reading →

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