10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Idaho Backcountry Where Hannah Anderson Was Found

A 16 year old named Hannah Anderson was abducted by a family friend last week in a series of events that left both her mother and brother dead. Her saga began in Southern California and ended far away, in the wilderness of Idaho, when she was rescued by FBI agents over the weekend. Anderson’s abductor, James Lee DiMaggio, had fled to one of the most remote areas in the United States, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The protected area is a beautiful place, but few people know much about it. In an effort to give you a clearer picture of this northern area that is relished by outdoors enthusiasts, here are some facts about the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness.

  1. It’s the second largest protected wilderness in the contiguous United States.
  2. It’s the largest area without any roads in the contiguous United States.
  3. The wilderness stretches across six different national forests.
  4. The wilderness was renamed after Senator Frank Church after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer because of his efforts to protect the environment while in Congress. President Reagan signed the act less than four weeks before Church’s death.
  5. The diverse mix of wildlife found within the area includes wolverines, grey wolves, mountain lions, mountain goats, elk and lynx.
  6. It is the home of the Salmon River, a popular whitewater rafting spot.
  7. Despite the myriad bodies of water within the area, only 10 inches or so of precipitation fall annually near the rivers while as much as 50 inches accumulate near the mountaintops, usually in the form of snow.
  8. There are 296 trails throughout the area.
  9. There are 114 bridges within the area.
  10. There are 1.5 million acres of trail-free land within the wilderness.

Wilderness Search for Kidnap Suspect and Girl

NeighborGoods Allows Travelers To Borrow From Locals

Gone are the days when travelers have to pack bulky items. Now they can just borrow instead.

NeighborGoods is changing the face of consumption, facilitating a borrowing and lending culture within neighborhoods. This is great for people who want to meet their neighbors and spend less, but it’s also great for travelers who want to meet locals and borrow items they didn’t want to bring along for the trip. I spoke with the founder/CEO of the site, Micki Krimmel, via email about the potential the site holds for travelers.

“One of my favorite personal experiences using NeighborGoods was when I was traveling. I was in Austin, TX for the South by Southwest festival and I borrowed a bike from a local. I searched the Austin area and set it up before I arrived. It saved me hundreds of dollars in transportation costs and helped me experience the city like a local. Another great example of this is a new mother who was traveling alone to LA to visit family for a week. She didn’t want to haul her baby stroller on the plane by herself so she found someone in LA willing to lend her one for the duration of her stay.”

Krimmel went on to discuss another benefit travelers might find in using NeighborGoods:

“Travelers who prefer to pack lightly will find that NeighborGoods is a great resource to borrow bulky items that don’t travel well like baby strollers or sporting equipment. Borrowing a bike or a surfboard from a local also helps travelers avoid tourist traps and experience their destination more like a local.”

How to Meet Locals While Traveling

Can’t Make It To The Tour De France Next Year? Here Are 5 Alternatives

Rob Annis

So you want to go to the Tour de France, but don’t have the vacation time for a multiple-week excursion or the money for a round-trip ticket?

Despite all three of the major Grand Tours taking place in Europe, you can still find top-notch bike racing – and the accompanying fan experience – in the U.S. Here are five of America’s biggest road cycling races.

Silver City Tour of the Gila Powered by SRAM (April 30 – May 4, 2014)
The five-day Tour of the Gila is a bit different than most of these events, because it gives amateur riders the opportunity to race themselves (albeit not with the pros). The race features not only some of the beautiful scenery New Mexico is known for, but also winds its way through ghost towns and steep mountain passes. You won’t see any of the famous European teams represented here, but the domestic pros – including UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s Philip Deignan, who won the overall earlier this year – can definitely put on a show.

Amgen Tour of California (May 2014)
Probably America’s most similar race to the Tour de France, the eight-day tour features the world’s top pro teams and travels through the mountains and countryside of the Sunshine State. There’s enough variety of terrain that virtually anyone can ride and feel like a pro racer for a day or two. For $1,000 and up, fans can pay to ride in the team car or get a bird’s-eye view of the finish and behind-the-scenes access to riders.U.S. Pro Road and Time Trial Championships (late May 2014)
Typically held Memorial Day weekend, this race features some of the country’s best male and female cyclists battling for the honor of wearing the stars-and-stripes jersey for the year. The road course around Chattanooga, Tenn., prominently features the 2,000-foot Lookout Mountain climb – difficult, but doable for most amateur riders.

Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah (Aug. 6-11)
The Tour of Utah bills itself as “America’s Toughest Stage Race,” featuring 43,000 vertical feet of climbing over 586 miles. If you don’t like riding up mountains, this probably isn’t the tour for you – this year’s one-day amateur race was 112 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing. Of America’s three top multi-day stage races, this event attracts the least amount of attention, so you can expect the same amount of excitement as the Tour, but with smaller crowds.

U.S. Pro Challenge (Aug. 19-25)
This seven-day stage race features both the world’s top cycling teams and scenery. While there are several stages to test your climbing legs, riders who prefer fast, flat routes won’t be disappointed. Bike racing is a huge deal in Colorado, so expect a massive turnout of fans to cheer on the pros and the amateur riders pre-riding the course.

Planning Your Own Tour de France Adventure

Rob Annis

Spending a week following the Tour de France was a dream come true, and perhaps even the trip of a lifetime. But is it the trip of a lifetime if you plan to go again?

Want to plan your own trip following the la Grande Boucle? You have plenty of options.

The first, and probably easiest, option is to purchase a tour package. I booked mine through Sports Tours International, a British outfitter. (Full disclosure – STI gave me a significantly discounted rate, but my wife paid full price.) For the first-time visitor, a tour package is ideal. The hotels we stayed at were always clean and well appointed. A tour bus allowed us flexibility where we rode and how far. On most evenings, the hotel served us multiple course meals that hit the spot after a full day of riding and race-watching. There were options for those with bikes and without, so if you have a non-riding spouse, it’s ideal.

But there are some caveats. First, don’t expect any handholding on one of these trips. If you don’t feel comfortable changing flats or navigating the roads of a foreign country on your own, this is probably not the tour for you. Also, our tour guide was a terrific guy, but didn’t speak a lot of French and wasn’t too familiar with the history or topography of the areas we rode. Luckily, we were never in a situation where we couldn’t communicate with a local – either one of the group knew some French or the person we were speaking to knew English.

Some tour operators, the biggest one being Trek Travel, offer additional perks – more guides, team access, more luxurious hotels, etc. – but you’re going to pay a premium for them, and they can quickly add up.

If you have a desire for more control of your itinerary, you could always plan your own trip, book your own hotels, find your own meals and plot your own rides. This is a great option for experienced folks who only want to follow the Tour for a day or two, or might not want to share space with strangers for a week or more.This approach is going to be somewhat more expensive on a day-to-day basis, and depending on your mastery of the French language or Kayak.com, perhaps a bit more difficult. Finding empty hotel rooms near the Tour de France route can often be hard, particularly for towns not equipped for the massive crowds attracted by the Tour. And if you’ve been riding all day, one of the last things you’re going to want to do is hike from restaurant to restaurant, searching for a place to eat.

During one of the stages, I ran into a couple from Ohio, who had rented a RV for a week. After talking to them for about an hour and doing some additional research, this may be the route we choose the next time we follow le Tour.

You should be able to find a six-person camper van for between €150 and €270 a day, depending on options. A quick google search should give you some nice options for rentals. If you watch the Tour coverage on televeision, you know RVs are a very popular way to follow the race, so it’s best to book early or, better yet, fly into a neighboring country and drive into France. The camper van will allow you to move from stage to stage with ease and allow you more flexibility when riding. You can also save a ton of cash by buying groceries and utilizing the RV’s stove and microwave rather than eating in restaurants two or three times a day.

However, while modern French highways are nice and wide, some villages’ roads were designed with pedestrians and horse-drawn carts in mind, not cars. The tighter quarters makes navigating a large RV through the twists and turns a bit of a challenge for American drivers. You should also be sure you can survive living in tight quarters with your friends for days, if not weeks, at a time. Following the Tour de France may be the trip of a lifetime, but is it worth losing lifelong friends over.

The best time to start planning your trip is in October, when the next year’s route is announced. Hotel rooms tend to fill up quick, so it’s best to make reservations early. If you’re planning to ride the route, decide how difficult you want to make it on yourself. If you want to tackle the legendary climbs, the Tour typically spends three to four days each in the Alps or the Pyrenees. Just be sure to train leading up to the trip, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for hours upon hours of pain – I know this from experience.

There’s a lot of hoopla and excitement in the hour or so before the riders pedal out of a departure city; you should check it out at least once during your trip. Spots near the finish line fill up quickly, so get there early or, better yet, find another spot a kilometer or two down the road when the sprinters’ teams are winding up for their big push to the line. It’s just as excited and not quite as packed.

On flat stages, the peleton can pass in seconds, so if you’re trying to get photos, aim for hillier stages, where the riders are spread out more. That said, steer clear of the big mountain finishes, such as Col d’Tourmalet or Mont Ventoux; officials will shut down the roads to vehicle traffic days before the stage and often won’t allow bike traffic up a day before. Even with those restrictions in place, more than one million fans jammed Alp d’Huez during this year’s stage finish.

If you do attend a mountaintop finish, don’t be one of those guys that runs next to the riders shouting. Everyone hates those guys.

Most importantly, have fun and get to know the people around you. The Tour de France is perhaps the greatest bike race in the world — the fans are understandably passionate and love to share that love with fans from other countries. Just don’t rub it in when a foreign rider is wearing the yellow leader’s jersey. It’s a bit of a sore spot.

City of Angels To Become Cycling Destination?

Laurie Avocado via Flickr

Could the notoriously car-centric city of Los Angeles become America’s next outdoor and cycling Mecca?

Plans are now underway to create a continuous greenway and bike path along all 51 miles of the Los Angeles River, stretching from San Fernando Valley all the way to Long Beach. With 26 miles of the current path already connected, officials hope to add an additional 25 miles by the end of the decade.

Greenway 2020 officials hope the revitalized riverfront will lead to a bike-commuting and outdoor recreation boom.

“The Greenway is a new way of living for Los Angeles, connecting our beautiful neighborhoods, connecting our natural landscapes, and connecting to one another,” the group’s website reads. “Instead of crowded streets and honking horns on your morning commute, imagine chirping birds, flowing water and numerous coffee shops along the way to work.”

NBC Universal and Universal Studios Hollywood recently committed to donating $13 million for a 7-mile path extension from Griffith Park Zoo to Lankershim Boulevard by 2016.

Los Angeles’ plan comes on the heels of Indianapolis’ successful completion of its $62 million Cultural Trail earlier this year and could eventually become a larger version of San Antonio‘s famous Riverwalk path system.