Where To See Fall Leaves Right Now

Well, Laramie.

There’s smoke in the air.

But there’s also autumn in the air.

Mornings are crisp, chilly and awesome.

Leaves are slowly changing from green to yellow.

And here’s where you can catch the first glimps of changing colors.

where to see fall leaves right now

Vedauwoo

Vedauwoo is magical right now. Actually it’s always magical. But a stroll along Turtle Rock Trail or Box Canyon or even the backside around Blair is where you can head to catch changing colors contrasting against Sherman Granite. Beautiful!

Tie City and Happy Jack

Honestly sometimes I forget to write or even think about Tie City and Happy Jack because they are just so convenient that I sometimes get tired of exploring there. For a change of pace I like to head to the Summit trailhead, just across the highway from the rest area. Fall leaves are dropping to the ground there right now.

Little Laramie Trailhead

The trail network from the Little Laramie trailhead are some of my favorites to hike during the fall. Maybe it’s the leafy trees and the lodgepole pines along the way? Or simply that my kids love the picnic area at the trailhead. Regardless, Little Laramie is where it’s at right now.

But I’ll admit… I’ve only been getting out once a week lately, every Friday morning with the Little Laramie Hikers, so if you have a recommendation for fall leaf viewing we’d love a comment letting everyone know where to go.

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You can also check out a few of our favorite autumn posts from the past.

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Be Nice to Box Canyon

Have you strolled through Box Canyon lately?

It’s one of my favorite places to go when I just have a few hours and need to get outside.

Our kids love climbing the rocks.

We love having picnic dinners in the canyon.

Or packing library books in to read as we’re perched on the top of a rock formation.

We go there at least once a week.

I love Vedauwoo and a walk through Box Canyon is the perfect place for families.

But lately I’ve been sad, and angry when I walk through the canyon.

Because of things like this.

Excuse me while I step on my soap box!

Why on earth do people feel the need to carve their initials into aspen trees.

Why?

Is it because aspens along the path are already scarred with graffiti? Why not add my initials too?

Why not add my initials too?

Monkey see, monkey do?

Tree carvings suck.

No.

No.

No.

It is NOT okay to carve into trees.

It’s called vandalism.

It’s called graffiti.

It’s not art.

It’s punishable by a fine, $325 for one family who thought it was cute to Instagram their family tradition of tree carvings on federal lands.

Wouldn’t it be great if they had a family tradition to clean up trails instead and didn’t turn aspen tree bark into their own twitter feed?

$325 is too light of a fine if you want my opinion.

Here’s what the US National Forest has to say about it, “Respect living trees. By carving or chopping into the trunks of trees, people unknowingly damage the tree by slitting veins right below the bark. These veins transport nutrients and water throughout the tree. If the damage becomes severe, it will deprive the tree of nutrients and food, and the tree slowly starves to death.”

We’re already dealing with a pine beetle epidemic. Why would we want to destroy more trees by being jerks?

There’s one problem with this.

The USFS doesn’t have time to patrol and hand out fines to people being jerks in our forests. They are understaffed and underfunded and doing the best they can with what they have and I think they are doing a great job.

Let’s help them by taking care of our local forests.

Let’s preserve them so our children’s children can enjoy them without seeing trees marred by jerks.

Let’s report anyone we see carving trees to the USFS and local authorities.

Let’s teach our children to be respectful of our natural world so they learn to respect it.

Let’s remind visitors to our local forests that this is our home and demand that they care for it too.

Because I don’t know about you, but I seek solace in the wilderness.

And seeing trees destroyed makes me angry, not peaceful.

Let’s be good stewards of the land.

{end of rant}

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{feel free to share this post and help get the good word out}

 

What’s Bloomin’ At Sugarloaf

The upper trails on the Snowy Range are gorgeous right now!!!

Last week Al lead a group up to Medicine Bow Peak so I stayed at the base of the mountain with the kids hiking around and checking out wildflowers.

Even though all of these weren’t shot with our fancy camera I thought it’d be fun to post a slide deck with what’s blooming at Sugarloaf and around Libby and Lewis Lakes right now…just in case you can’t get up there right now.

Enjoy!

What You Need To Know About the Snow Survey Cabin

Last weekend we headed to the Snowies to celebrate our oldest kiddo’s 5th birthday.

We’re all about birthday adventures at our house and our kids are all about trying to stay in every single Forest Service cabin that exists.

The Snow Survey Cabin

So naturally we had to check out the Snow Survey Cabin on the back side of Medicine Bow Peak.

We’d heard great things about this cabin, especially in the winter since it has propane heat and lights.

But since we didn’t get up there last winter July seemed like a decent enough time to go, even though we booked our stay in recreation.gov several months ago to make sure we got it for the big birthday weekend.

Here’s a little synopsis of our stay and details about the fascinating history of the cabin.

 

A few things you need to know if you head there.

  • The outhouse is pristine, the most non-stinky outhouse ever!
  • The cabin is super clean and organized, a completely different experience than the Little Brooklyn Lake Guard Station which seemed cluttered and dirty after staying at the Snow Survey Cabin.  I don’t think any cabin in the woods is entirely mouse-free but there was no evidence of mice inside the Snow Survey Cabin.
  • The cabin is stocked with dishes, pans, and basic necessities. But don’t forget an axe to split firewood if you want to use the outdoor firepit, matches, toilet paper, and sheets for the beds.
  • The cabin has lights and heat, it’s almost too luxurious!
  • There isn’t any drinking water or a pump at the cabin, You could boil water from the creek or just bring your own water jug from home.
  • Make sure you reserve this place months in advance, it fills up quickly year round. When we called to get the code for the door we were also super impressed with how kind and friendly the Brush Creek/Hayden Ranger District office was so thank you for that.

More details and booking information can be found right here.

(p.s. We don’t get paid to review Forest Service cabins or anything really so do know that all of these thoughts are our own)

Have you stayed at the Snow Survey Cabin? What did you think?

Navigating with 4H

Al & I are super passionate about not just hiking and trails but also outdoor education.

We also love community, and the chance to get out with local groups and organizations.

Last summer when we opened our Backcountry Navigation School & started offering classes in Map & Compass and GPS we envisioned being able to help people of all ages navigate in the outdoors.

We were thrilled (when a 4H group out of Chug Valley joined us at Curt Gowdy State Park a few weeks ago for a day of maps, compasses, and fun.

We’ll let the pictures do the talking.

 

Thank you so much Jana + crew for letting us spend the day with you!

And if you lead a group or organization and are interested in a backcountry navigation class specially designed for your group let us know.

We LOVE to help you explore!

p.s. We have our last GPS class of the summer this Saturday from 9 am-1 pm at Curt Gowdy State Park. Come join us! Details here.

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Where to go right now…

If you’re looking for a local adventure here’s what’s going on right now on some of your favorite trails.

If you’re looking for snow to slide down head to Brooklyn Lake and start hiking the Sheep Lake Trail. About 3/4 of a mile in you’ll find hours of epic fun right here.

(Don’t forget the hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen like I did. Bad Mom!)

If you’re looking for wildflowers head to the Happy Jack trailhead. Meadows of luscious yellow wildflowers will make it impossible to be in a bad mood while hiking there.

(Don’t forget the bug spray)

If you’re looking for a good picnic spot head to Vedauwoo and stroll down the Box Canyon trail. This is our favorite for those times when we just need to get away and explore but don’t have time to drive into the Snowies or Colorado.

If you’re looking for shade and easy kid-friendly trails head to Chimney Park. Kids can wander on these old roads-turned-trails for hours and have fun exploring.

Chimney Park

If you’re looking for frogs and tadpoles head to the Beaver Ponds off the lower Turtle Rock trailhead. Bring a net but please be gentle and catch and release.

If you’re looking for blooming prickly pear cactus Curt Gowdy State Park is where to be.

prickly pear cactus

And if you want to give a hoot and pick up trash left by jerks head to Pole Mountain, follow any old dirt road to any campsite and you’re guaranteed to find beer bottles, cigarette butts, and the remains of burned pallets. Not cool, but we like to do what we can to discover and clean up these sites when we find them and then spread word about jerks wrecking our beautiful places.

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If you’re looking for trail guides, check out our Snowy Range & Pole Mountain Trail Deck, of course!

And if you find yourself with a growling stomach at the end of any adventure in the Snowy Range and you’re looking for lunch stop by the Mountain View Hotel. Just do it. Trust me on this one, hands down the best food and hospitality in Centennial.

What are YOU seeing in the local area?

Join Us! Map & Compass Class this Saturday.

Looking for something fun to do on Saturday?

Wondering how to read a map & use a compass?

Come join us at Curt Gowdy State Park for an Introduction to Map & Compass Class.

Here are the details. You can register here.

introduction to map & compass

 

Introduction To Map & Compass Class

  • Saturday, July 16, 2016
  • 9 am – 1 pm
  • Curt Gowdy State Park
  • Cost: $35.00

Our Introduction to Map & Compass class will begin with an introduction to maps including how to read topography both on the map and matching what you see on the map to the terrain around you.

After this, the course will discuss how to use a compass. Students will learn how to use the different parts of a compass and how to deal with declination.

The last part of the course will teach students how to determine their location using triangulation and basic route planning techniques.

The teaching method is centered on practicing each skill multiple times so that you leave the course comfortable performing each one on your own.

Details:

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We’ll provide the map, you bring your own compass (we have a few you can borrow).

This class will be taught entirely outdoors, so please check the weather and dress accordingly. Bring water and snacks, and be prepared to walk outside, up and down hills, and over uneven terrain.

Meet us at the Curt Gowdy State Park Visitor’s Center, no parking pass is required as the class will start from there promptly at 9 am.

The class size is limited to 8 people, ages 14 and older. The class is $35.00 and will be taught entirely by Al. He’ll be sporting a Just Trails t-shirt so you can find him at the Visitor’s Center.

Questions? Let us know.

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!

The Sunshine After the Storm

When Al and I quit our cushy government jobs to move to Laramie to write trail guides a lot of people thought we were completely crazy.

I guess it’s time to confess.

Yes, we are completely crazy.

Who else in their right mind would move to a little town like Laramie, Wyoming and try to write trail guides for a living?

Clearly a few people without the ability to think logically.

In the past four years, Just Trails has grown from a crazy handwritten idea in a notebook to something that we’re proud of…a real small business that hasn’t failed (yet).

We’ve hiked thousands of miles, we’ve written thousands of words, we’ve mapped hundreds of miles of trails, we’ve had our ‘ups’ and we’ve had our ‘downs.’

We’ve earned money, we’ve lost money, we’ve learned along the way.

We’ve developed relationships with big mega retailers, and then watched them fizzle and die.

We’ve gained fans and followers. We’ve lost fans and followers.

We’ve written terrible blog posts and done embarrassingly pathetic gear reviews.

We’ve learned every inch of our favorite local trails. We’ve (okay, me) gotten hiking groups lost and then found again.

We’ve made a lot of bad decisions and big mistakes.

90% of our ideas have turned out to be terrible ideas but throughout all of this, we’ve let our mantra guide our work.

Let Us Help You Explore. 

It seems so simple, right.

But we try to live and breathe by these 5 words in everything we do.

This spring we thought we had turned a corner with Just Trails.

We had a glimmer of hope that we’d be able to press on and keep doing what we love.

We had a plan to grow and expand, a plan to expand our outdoor education offerings and for the first time in years we were totally excited about the prospects of growth.

And then something happened.

Last Sunday afternoon we were psyched to be at the Elevation 8076′ Celebration in Centennial.

We set up our tent, pulled out our trail decks, t-shirts and other merchandise and sat waiting to talk to people about our local trails.

 

elevation celebrationBut we didn’t see a lot of foot traffic and eventually dark clouds caused us to throw our products in the truck as fast as we could just before a gust of wind sent our event tent flying over two cars and down a parking lot.

As Al & I were trying to recover what was left of our tent it started hailing.

Meanwhile, a few awesome people were helping us deal with our tent, which was like a parachute in the storm and stash rain-soaked products and tables in our truck.

After several minutes of chaos Al & I sat, soaked and chilled to the bone in the truck.

the storm

I was on the verge of tears.

Al looked at me and said, “Is all of this worth it?”

I didn’t reply out loud but in my head I thought…

“Maybe we should just shut it down, maybe the universe it trying to tell us that Just Trails never was a very good idea. Whenever we get ahead and start to make a buck or two something like this always happens.”

We were in a bad place.

We were just 16 hours away from setting up for Freedom Has A Birthday.

Our expensive tent had two broken legs and was completely inoperable and all of our booth set-up was either destroyed beyond repair or soaking wet.

Could the show go on?

Would the show go on?

Or should we just call it a day, shut down the website and remember it fondly?

We knew that we had to try to make an appearance at Freedom Has A Birthday, after all we had already paid the vendor fee.

So we rallied, changed out of our wet clothes, unloaded our wrecked set-up in the garage to dry, headed to Walmart and replaced our beloved expensive tent with the second-to-last tent in the store.

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The best Walmart experience on my life.

And just like that we were back in business.

Monday morning found is in better spirits at Washington Park setting up for Freedom Has A Birthday and something amazing happened.

— Just Trails (@JustTrails) July 3, 2016

 

People stopped by our booth to tell us that they like our Trail Deck.

They stopped by to tell us that they love our website.

They stopped by to chat about hiking.

Freedom Has A Birthday

They stopped by to ask about Little Laramie Hikers.

Some Hike Like A Woman fans even stopped by!

They stopped by to tell us that they loved taking our Map & Compass and GPS classes.

They stopped by just because they’ve been reading the blog and wanted to say “hi” to us in person.

It was an amazing day.

And these were the most amazing socks we saw all day (thanks DuG)!

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We didn’t sell a record number of Trail Deck’s.

We didn’t sell out of Medicine Bow Peak t-shirts, or #takeahike swag.

But somehow, those dark clouds that were following us around the day before disappeared.

We recovered from what was one of the worst days in the history of Just Trails and by doing so we realized that we’re not going anywhere.

We’re here to stay.

Because you know what?

At the end of the day it isn’t about being able to earn a living selling trail guides.

No, that’s what our other jobs are for.

We’re about helping, inspiring, encouraging and motivating others to find their trail.

To get outdoors,

And to explore.

If we help just one person do that then we are doing exactly the right thing.

So thank you, our loyal readers and customers for helping us turn it around and reminding us why we do what we do in the first place.

You have no idea what it means to us to hear you say that you love our products and our website.

It means a lot.

So thank you, we mean it. Thank you so much.

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

And if you’re one of the one’s who helped us recover from the fiasco in Centennial we’re totally hooking you up with a virtual hug. Thanks SO much! We promise to pay it forward.

Book Review: Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook

A while back we were given a copy of “Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook,” Second Edition, by Dr. Spike Briggs and Dr. Campbell Mackenzie to read and review. Since then I’ve spent a little time with it and in general I’ve been very impressed.Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook

This book is very well organized and everything from the layout to the binding and type of paper is designed to be used in the field.

I think the biggest advantage to this book is the extensive useof flow charts and it’s step by step construction.

This is appropriate given the book’s target audience of traveler since most injury situations in the wilderness are going to involve fairly long term contact with the patient while evacuating them or waiting for help to arrive. In that period of time, this book will help you to methodically work through the steps and make sure you are doing the best you can for an injured person.

Of course, this is all after you’ve dealt with any urgent, life-threatening problems.


At some points, I can tell that it is written as a reference for people with fairly advanced medical training.

Certainly beyond anything I picked up in my Wilderness First Responder Course. In fact, some of the things in this book shouldn’t be done except by people with advanced training and equipment.

But there are still many parts of this book that are still useful to someone with even basic wilderness first aid training.

This book seems ideally suited for any type of larger expedition or any type of a supported trip. Even if that support is just your own car while you are car camping. However, I don’t think I would carry it if I was backpacking with a couple friends. It’s a little bit too big and heavy for that.

If you do take this book on your next adventure, you’ll want to read through it first and become familiar with its parts.

It is written to be used as a reference but like with all reference material, you need to be familiar with the basic components to get the most out of it. This need is compounded in this case by the likelihood of stress and fear that can accompany wilderness injuries.

Finally, I would hope that getting a book like this encourages you to get some level of medical training. Rebecca and I are both Wilderness First Responder Certified. Medical knowledge is important for people who spend a lot of time isolated in the wilderness and no book by itself can make up for a course and practice. In contrast, having even basic wilderness first aid training will make a book like this one much more useful to you.

Come see us this weekend!!!

One of the downsides of running an online business is that we don’t have a downtown storefront. We don’t get to meet our customers and talk about hiking and trails in person.

But once a year we crawl out from behind our computer screens, set up our awesome Just Trails booth, sell some trail decks, and chat about outdoor recreation in the community.

This weekend we’re inviting YOU to come out and see us.

On Sunday, July 3rd from noon-7 pm you’ll be able to come hang out with us at the 8076 Elevation Celebration in Centennial.

elevation celebration

On Monday, July 4th from 9 am- 4pm we’ll be hanging out in Washington Park (near the Volleyball court) at Freedom Has a Birthday in Laramie.

Join us this weekend! 2

We hope you’ll make it out to either (or both) events.

We’ll have giveaway prizes, a map-reading quiz, information on the Little Laramie Hikers, backcountry navigation class registration, Medicine Bow Peak t-shirts, #takeahike t-shirts & water bottles will be on sale for $!5.00, and Trail Deck’s will be on SALE for $20.00!

We’ll see you on Sunday or Monday or both!