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:

VisitingNew York (6)

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.

IMG_2776

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)!

IMG_2784

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.

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!

Little Laramie Hikers: Come Hike With Us!!!

If you’re on our local trails on a Friday morning chances are that you’ve seen a gaggle of children stopping on the side of a trail to eat a snack, throw pinecones, or climb rocks.

Once a lady we saw on a hiking trip asked if our group was a daycare. Nope, just a bunch of kids and parents…

I’ll admit that one of the best parts of my week is our weekly hikes with our hiking group, the Little Laramie Hikers.

If you’re a parent with children who need to get outdoors.

Or a grandparent looking for something to do.

Or a childcare provider.

Or even if you don’t have kids but are looking to inspire a new generation to turn off the screen and get outdoors I’d like to invite you to come and join us on a hike!

We don’t hike far (most of the time). We don’t hike fast. And sometimes I think we spend more time stopping to play on the side of the trail than actually hiking down the trail.

But our goal is simple. To connect children (of all ages) with trails.

All of our hikes are free.

Most of our hikes are fun (every once in a while we enjoy an epic 2-year-old meltdown) 🙂

We typically publish our summer hiking schedule on our private group facebook page. But since facebook isn’t everyone’s jam I thought I’d publish our schedule right here for all to see.

Little Laramie Hikers

So here goes, the Little Laramie Hikers schedule for the summer of 2016.

***
  • June 3. Fairy Slippers Wildflower Hike with Seniors on the Go. Location TBA meet at the trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 10. Geocaching Hike. Meet at the Happy Jack trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 17. Lake Owen Hike + Playing in the Lake. Meet at the West Laramie Shell Station (2471 W Jackson St ) at 8 am or the Lake Owen Trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 24. Hike through Soapstone Natural Area in Colorado. Meet at the Barts Flee Market parking lot at 8 am or the trailhead at 9 am.
***
  • July 1. Safe Kids Hike. We’ll talk about hiking safety, practice getting lost and teach kids the Search and Rescue ‘hug-a-tree’ method during this hike. Have your children bring a whistle. Meet at the Chimney Park trailhead at 9 am.
  • July 8. Lone Pine State Wildlife Area in Colorado. Meet at the Barts Flee Market parking lot at 8 am or the trailhead at 9 am.
  • July 15. Libby Flats Hike. Meet at the Forest Service Visitors Center in Centennial (just up the hill past town) at 9 am. From there we’ll convoy to the point where we’ll start our hike.
  • July 22. Geocache Hike. Meet at the Vedauwoo Pay Kiosk outside the gate at 9 am.*
  • July 29. Saratoga Fish Hatchery & Hobo Pool Swim. Meet at the West Laramie Shell Station ( 2471 W Jackson St ) at 8 am or the Saratoga Fish Hatchery at 9:30. Bring a lunch & a swimming suit. This will probably be an all day adventure.
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***
  • Sep 2. Raspberry Picking. Location TBA

A few notes about the group:

  • Sometimes we’ll change the location of a hike based on weather or trail conditions. This schedule is subject to change so come join us on facebook for the latest information and check out our calendar page for other local outdoor events throughout the summer.
  • I’d love to offer weekend hikes, but we’re busy teaching backcountry navigation courses on weekends…and I also work a pesky part-time job a few weekends/month. But often families will come up on our facebook page and invite others to join in on weekend hikes.
  • We try to be prompt with our schedule. Most hikes start at 9, we take a few minutes to load kids into carriers and get settled and we step off by 9:10.
  • Bring along snacks, water, appropriate footwear, hats and dress in layers.
  • Don’t forget your MBNF parking pass, WY State Parks pass or cash for a parking fee depending on where we are going.
  • We hike year round…well, we snowshoe and ski in the winter so come on out!

Questions? Let me know. 

Hope to see you on a hike this summer.

 

9 Things You Don’t Know About Just Trails

We’ve seen huge growth in our website traffic and Trail Deck sales the past few months so we thought it was a good time to let you in on a little behind-the-scenes stuff. So here goes…

9 things you don't know about

  • We’ll turn 4 this spring, maybe we should throw a birthday bash?
  • Al & I are both serial entrepreneurs. We have a million ideas but have to really narrow it down and focus on one or two projects at a time so we don’t get overwhelmed. It’s perhaps the hardest thing about owning a small business.
  • We currently operate out of our home office (ie guest bedroom) but we’re expanding and moving after the holidays. We’re looking forward to our new space, mostly because we’ll have room to maps out all over the floor and space for an intern or employee or two.
  • When we started Just Trails everyone thought we were crazy. They still think we are crazy, maybe we are. What do you think?
  • The mission of Just Trails is to help you explore. We hope we’re doing a good job with that. If you think we are (or aren’t) we’d love to have you tell us what we can do better, leave us a comment or shoot us a message. (rebecca@justtrails.com)
  • All of our focus right now is going to our Backcountry Navigation School, we’ve got big things coming this spring with the launch of our online navigation courses. We hope you’ll join us for a class.
  • We really are a family owned, operated and run small business. We hope to leave a legacy of hard work and stubbornness for our children and hope that Just Trails will be something that they can take over and manage and be proud of when it’s time for us to retire.
  • We still smile every time we sell a Trail Deck. We usually dance too, you should see our kitchen-floor break dancing moves 😉
  • We’re thankful for you, you have no idea how much it means to use that you download our maps, read our blog, take our classes and buy our products. Thank you so much!

We Choose to #OptOutside

A few days ago REI made history by announcing that not only will they be closing all of their stores on Black Friday, but they also paying their employees and encouraging them to hit the trails.

According to their CEO and President, Jerry Stritzke, REI’s goal is to get people on the mountain and out of the aisles.

They want to create a movement, put into place what their company stands for. To set the example for others in the retail industry to follow.

Is this a clever PR & Marketing move or is there more to it than that?

OPT Outside

We think they are legit.

Now, we’re hardly a retail giant. In fact we’re small potatoes here at Just Trails. We don’t even have a retail store that we could close for the day or much of a staff. In fact all of our products are packed and shipped right from our home office.

But we wanted to do our part, to be a smaller piece of this huge event.

So here’s what we’re going to do.

On Black Friday we’ll be giving away a FREE Trail Deck.

All you gotta do to be entered to win is simply take a hike, ski, or snowshoe on Black Friday. Then head on over to our facebook page anytime on Black Friday and post a photo of your adventure before midnight. We’ll pick one random winner and ship you out a free Trail Deck. If you don’t have your Trail Deck yet, here’s a great chance to win.

Our goal with Just Trails  has always been to help you explore and we hope that you’ll spend the day on our beautiful trails soaking up all that the area has to offer.

Will you be joining us and #OptOutside on Black Friday?

We can’t wait to see where your boots, or snowshoes or skis take you.

 

Where to See Fall Colors Right Now

We still might be wearing shorts and sandals around town but there’s no mistaking that Autumn is in the air.

Are you wondering where to go to see the bright orange, yellow and red leaves of autumn?

Here are our topic picks for fall colors right now.

  • Corner Mountain & Little Laramie. You know that small section of aspen trees as your driving past Centennial toward the Corner Mountain & Little Laramie trailheads? It’s probably our favorite view in the Snowies right now. You can stop and hike from either trailhead to catch a glimpse of changing leaves.
  • Medicine Bow Rail Trail. Start at the Woods Creek Trailhead just past the Chimney Park trailhead. Don’t cross highway 230 and hike north toward the Lincoln Gulch trailhead. This trailhead also has an amazing picnic area, one of our favorites so this is a great place for a fall picnic and hike.
  • Where to see fall colors right nowGreen Rock. I think that in the fall we tend to overlook the trails from the Green Rock trailhead since the trails from there do tend to meander through a more coniferous forest. But maybe that’s why I like this trail in the fall. It’s so green that what leafy trees do exist really seem to light up the forest.
  • Vedauwoo. Yep, Vedauwoo, we were up that direction on Monday and the place is ablaze with beauty.  We also caught a glimpse of a moose. If you can’t make it to Vedauwoo just check out this photo from our friend Brian with Brian Guice Media.
  • Headquarters Trail. Start from the Summit Trailhead just past the rest area. We were just up that way this morning. The bright yellow aspen trees are glorious, you won’t be disappointed.

Bonus Trail: If you’re looking for another adventure head over the border to Red Feather Lakes and start from the Mount Margaret or Lady Moon trailheads. We were there yesterday and it was beautiful there too.

Where are you seeing beautiful fall colors right now?

Welcome to Laradise!

It’s that time of the year, when Laramie suddenly gets rush-hour traffic and we have to add 5 minutes to our commute across town.

The University of Wyoming campus is on fire with spunky and energetic students ready to take on the world, or at least stay awake through their Chemistry class.

The new climbing wall at Half Acre looks rad, or at least it did as I peeked in the windows to get a good glimpse of it during my run this morning.

Welcome to Laradise.

WELCOME

With the influx of students onto campus we’ve also seen a huge increase in website traffic and sales of our Trail Deck’s-–for that we say “thank you.”

Since there are so many new people on the site we’d like to show you around our virtual world headquarters. Here’s what you need to know about Just Trails.

We’re a local-Laramie based small business aimed at helping you get outdoors and explore. 

If you click on the map on our homepage you’ll be able to find hundreds of miles of trails within the area, each trail page has a trail description, driving directions, trail information, free downloadable pdf map, a video, and a photo set. We can vouch for the accuracy of our information because we’ve hiked each trail ourselves, we’re not crowd-sourced like a lot of other popular hiking websites.

Here are our most downloaded trail maps (so what we’d guess to be the most popular trails in the local area.)

  1. Medicine Bow Peak
  2. Tie City & Jappy Jack
  3. Curt Gowdy State Park
  4. Vedauwoo & Blair
  5. Gap Lakes
  6. Sheep Mountain
  7. North Fork Trail
  8. Green Rock
  9. Miners Cabin & Tipple Trail
  10. Trail Creek

We also sell a few products on our website, so be sure to check them out.

  • We also offer a mobile app for your phone, an e-Book, quick reference cards for your GPS and we teach classes on things like how to read a map and compass and how to use a GPS through our Navigation School.  This was the first summer that our Nav School was up and running and we had a blast teaching these courses. We’ve had to close for the winter, but will still glady teach private classes or set up a time for a group class, just contact Rebecca to set things up (rebecca@justtrails.com).We also try to keep up with outdoor community events on our calendar.
  • What’s next? We’re hoping to add guided trips to our menu of services next summer and hopefully mountaintop weddings…because wouldn’t it be pretty amazing to get married on top of someplace like Medicine Bow Peak?

Here’s a rare behind-the-scenes look at Just Trails.

I think that when it comes to local business it’s sometimes good to get a behind-the-scenes look at the people who run it. So you know we’re not weirdos tucked away in a dark room making up information about local trail stuff.

Just Trails Crew

Just Trails is owned, operated and managed by us, Al and Rebecca Walsh…and our two young boys who can out hike most, but not all 65-year-olds. We’re both Army Veterans and the idea for Just Trails came to us somewhere between Fort Riley, Kansas and Fort Irwin California. Throughout our careers we had a hard time finding good, accurate and consistent trail information wherever the Army sent us. Instead of spending our precious weekends on the trails, we spent them online trying to find trails to hike. So when it came time for us to leave active duty we knew that we needed and wanted to solve the nationwide problem of bad trail maps and trail information. We’re small but growing quickly so we take it one trail at a time…

Meet Al

Al is the brains behind Just Trails, in fact starting Just Trails can be blamed mostly on him. He spends his days at the College of Law, his evenings on Just Trails and his weekends flip-flopping between the mountains and the library. Al is also the main instructor for our Navigation School and hopes to get an online version of our courses up and running by the end of 2016.

Meet Rebecca

Since law school is kind of a full-time gig, Rebecca takes the reigns when Al is busy learning about things like torts. Rebecca heads up a popular local kid-friendly hiking group, the Little Laramie Hikers. She also founded the wildly popular website, Hike Like A Woman, with information for women in the outdoors and is getting ready to launch Moms Who Hike, the how-to hub to help parents get on the trails with their kids. Her latest project though is re-launch the Great Adventures Podcast with it’s first episode coming out later this month. Rebecca occasionally writes for Sierra Trading Post, Seattle Backpackers Magazine, volunteers with WY Outside and coaches biathlon (nordic skiing & rifle marksmanship.)

What to expect around here…

Laramie has a vibrant outdoor community. If you’re a Nordic Skier check out the Medicine Bow Nordic Association or this post. If you’re a cyclist check out Laramie BikeNet and sign up for this race. And of course, please stop by the Forest Service Office for your pass if you’re looking to explore in the forest, we appreciate all that they do for our favorite outdoor places. If you’re looking for a hiking group, come and join us. Laramie is a great place to live, work and use as a base camp for exploring in the local area, it’s what we’re passionate about and we’re here to help.

If you’re looking for specific trail information or have questions that aren’t answered on our site please feel free to contact us or come up on any of our social media channels.

Welcome back UW students, welcome to Laradise! 

Pole Mountain Gravel Grinder

A few weeks ago my buddy Sean told me about an awesome bike race that is planned for Laramie on September 26, 2015.

It’s called the Pole Mountain Gravel Grinder sponsored by Guerrilla Gravel Racing and it’s going to be epic.

The race will start from LaBonte Park here in town and then climb towards the Laramie range and then back to town. A distance of over 100 kilometers.

It’s a gravel ride, meaning that you can ride a gravel bike, cross bike or mountain bike.

The good news is that there’s time to register (registration is capped at 100 participants) and start training.

If you don’t feel like training just go ahead and ask Al what a 100 mile bike race without any training feels like…he did this little race called the Flint Hills Death Ride when we lived in Kansas and it almost lived up to its name.

Here’s what Sean has to say about the race.

You can find more details and race registration information here.

Will we see YOU at the race?

 

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to Just Trails Al & I are either on the trails or hunkered down in our office building maps, developing class curriculum, planning routes, talking to retailers and doing all of that other boring behind the scenes small business stuff.

When we get a chance to set up our tent and pop up our mobile storefront at events we love getting the chance to get to meet you!

Yesterday at the Elevation 8076′ Celebration in Centennial we were so amazed, over half of the people who stopped by our tent said, “Hey, I know your website,” or “I love your trail deck,” or “So, you’re the Just Trails people!”

This is the first time that we’ve had name and brand recognition at an event so for that we thank you.

If you’re new here though we’d like to welcome you. We hope you’ll like what you see here and if you don’t we hope you’ll let us know what we can do to make Just Trails better. We strive for awesomeness.

HUMBLEhoney.COM

Here are a few of yesterday’s most frequently asked questions.

  • When are you going to publish a Trail Deck for trails in Colorado? Honestly, we have no idea. Right now we’re focused on our Navigation School, self-publishing several new e-books, and offering virtual Navigation School classes. If we can focus on these 3 projects then we might be able to map more trails in Colorado next summer and publish another Trail Deck shortly thereafter. We know that our Colorado fans want more!
  • Are you hiring? No, not yet….but as you can see we have a lot of work to do and need to take on employees. Hopefully in a year or two we’ll be able to bring on a small staff. 
  • Do you lead guided trips? Coming soon. We’re working on permits for the National Forest right now and we hope to offer guided trips next summer.
  • Do you make hunting & fishing maps? No, but we’re able to make any custom maps you want. So if you’d like to see a certain area mapped shoot Al and email and he’ll see what he can do. al@justtrails.com
  • Could you offer a private map & compass or GPS class for my organization? Absolutely, we’d love to and we’ll even throw a group discount your way! Contact us to set something up.
  • Where can I find your hiking group? Right here! We’re on a private facebook page. Come hike with us. 
  • What’s your favorite type of mustard? Spicy whole-grain habanero from Jars of Sunshine!

Happy Independence Day!

If you’re out and about in Laramie come and visit us at Washington Park! We’ll be by the bandshell and the volleyball courts from 9 am-4 pm.