How to visit the birthplace of humanity

iguaque National Park When visiting Columbia in South America, there are many interesting national parks to explore. Amacayacu National Park, Cocuy National Park, and Tayrona National Park are all natural points of interest in the country. Iguaque National Park, however, has one very unique feature that makes it a must-see stop on any trip to Columbia, as it is said to be the birthplace of humanity.

Iguaque National Park is located in Boyacá, about 142 miles away from Bogota. Having an elevation that ranges from 7,874 to 12,467 feet above sea level while covering 16,679 acres, you can imagine there is a lot to see. Whatever areas you decide to stop at, however, make sure to visit Iguaque Lake, located in the highest part of the mountain. According to the indigenous Muisca people, the sacred site is said to be the place where “mother Earth” (Bachué) emerged from the water carrying a baby boy in her arms. When the boy became a man, he populated the Earth before disappearing back into the lake as a snake. It is believed that a visit to Iguaque Lake cleanses the soul and purifies the spirit.

Want to make the pilgrimage yourself? To get to Iguaque National Park, you can go from Bogota to Villa de Leyva via Tunja. Once in Villa de Leyva, you can catch a bus to the park, and from there you will walk about a mile to the entrance to pay the fee. Because there is so much flora and fauna to discover, as well as hiking trails, there is an interpretative path in the beginning of the trek to help visitors understand the area. Keep following the path and you will to be taken to spiritual and historical site of Iguaque Lake.

Note: One thing visitors must be aware of is how important it is to leave early, as weather changes frequently in the area, posing the risk of hypothermia if the temperatures drop too low.

Columbia Omni-Heat Circuit Breaker Softshell electric / heated ski jacket review

columbia circuit breaker

It’s a mouthful of a name, but Columbia’s new Circuit Breaker Softshell heated jacket is exactly the kind of hardware that avid winter adventurists and residents of frigid locales have been clamoring for. Heated gear has been around for awhile, but older implementations have generally been prohibitively expensive, extremely bulky and short on life. Reviews have generally been mixed, and the cold weather world at large has really been waiting for battery and charging technologies to advance to a point where a heated jacket could be taken seriously. The Omni-Heat Circuit Breaker is it.

This coat is one of three new launches from Columbia for next ski season (it’s slated to go on sale to the public on October of 2011), accompanied by a pair of Omni-Heat electric boots and a set of electric gloves. For this review, we’re going to focus on the most sophisticated of the three: the Circuit Breaker Softshell jacket, albeit a pre-production version that may be altered ever-so-slightly prior to October. Was a jacket filled with heating elements able to keep our core satisfactorily warm during a frigid snowmobile trip through northwestern Montana and during a near-blizzard at Whitefish Mountain Resort? Read on to find out.
%Gallery-114914%The design of the Circuit Breaker Softshell is what really sets it apart, and why it’s likely to be very appealing to travelers looking to keep their load light as they engage in winter travel. The jacket is essentially the same size as any other non-heated ski jacket, but it’s actually thinner, lighter and more flexible than bulky coats which rely on thick layers to insulate you and keep you warm. This jacket is able to trim down on materials thanks to the heating system that runs throughout the fabric; the electric nature more than compensates for the thickness that’s lost. The other incredible part about this system is that you can’t actually feel it while wearing the coat. If there are hundreds of heating tubes ran throughout, you won’t ever notice them until you feel your body warming up. If you’re concerned about tubes or wires inhibiting your motion while wearing it, don’t be — it feels like wearing any other jacket save for one thing.

columbia circuit breaker

That “thing” is weight. On the inner side of each chest section, there’s a clear pocket where a battery pack is stored. The Circuit Breaker can run off of just one, but the battery life suffers. With both packs installed, the coat is definitely heavier than your average non-electric jacket, but once you’ve put on the rest of your winter gear, you’ll forget about the added weight. In our opinion, the added weight is worth carrying around for the benefit of having heat. This is still lighter than some of the older heated solutions on the market.

columbia circuit breaker

Continuing with design, the outer layer of the jacket repelled sleet and heavy snow with ease, and the hood was always easy to find and flip up onto one’s head. There are two waist-level pockets on the exterior, an external chest pocket, and a handy arm pocket that is perfect for storing loose change, lip balm, etc. Turning the heat on and off couldn’t be simpler; just press the button on the front of the coat for three seconds, and it’s flipped on and set for maximum output. Another gentle press turns it down to Medium heat, and another lowers it to Minimum heat. You can disable to light if you wish by holding it for ten seconds (that’ll force the coat to enter “Stealth Mode”). In practice, the button worked great, even when mashed with a gloved finger.

While the design is stellar in most aspects, we did find a few gripes. For starters, there are no extended zipper pulls on the waist-level pockets nor on the arm pocket. For whatever reason, the only extended pull is on the outer chest-level pocket. Columbia should’ve included extended zipper pulls on all external pockets; any skier will understand the difficulty in operating a zipper with a gloved hand, and having no extended pull really made these particular pockets difficult to access. Moreover, the internal clear pockets that hold the battery packs need to be larger; once the jack to each battery is inserted, it’s a tricky process to wiggle the packs into their holsters. A bit more room on the Velcro pockets would have been appreciated. There’s always the slight possibility that the company would add these prior to a full-scale launch, but at worse, you could add your own pulls if you end up sharing our problem.

columbia circuit breaker

Speaking of the battery packs, each one can be recharged via microUSB, and Columbia (thankfully) includes two microUSB charging cables and a single AC adapter that accepts two cables at once. That means a single AC plug can charge up both packs at once — nice! What really impressed us was the extra adapters that were included; anticipating that some buyers may take this jacket to international ski resorts, a number of internal AC plug adapters are included so that you can recharge your coat regardless of where your travels may take you (Swiss Alps, anyone?). This may be an under-appreciated extra by many, but here at Gadling, we’re huge fans of any company that includes support for worldwide power plugs.

columbia circuit breaker

We heard early on that Columbia expected the Circuit Breaker to provide around six hours of heat with both packs fully charged. When we broke out on the snowmobile trails near Olney, Montana, we placed the heat setting on ‘High’ and never backed it down. The wind chill was quite severe, and we needed any extra heat we could find. Within seconds, we felt a rush of warmth all throughout our core region, and it didn’t stop until right around five hours later. We had briefly used the jacket’s heating functions earlier in the day for around a half-hour, so all told, we managed ~5.5 hours of battery life. That’s pretty close to the stated six hours, and it’s even more impressive when you realize that bitter cold temperatures have a tendency to drain batteries.

columbia circuit breaker

Would we recommend the $850 Circuit Breaker? If you live in a location where temperatures routinely drop into the teens, or you’re a frequently traveler to frosty destinations, it may be a worthwhile investment. Non-heated jackets of similar quality can easily reach $500 or so, so the price premium for having five to six hours of heat may be worth it if you’re tired of freezing whenever you step outside. The good news is that the jacket really does do an exceptional job of keeping the wearer warm, and it’s about as elegant an implementation as we have seen. The biggest problem with this coat isn’t in the coat itself — it’s that you’ll probably be itching to splurge on Columbia’s Omni-Heat boots and gloves after you get one. For instructions on how to connect the battery packs, check out the video below.

As a side note, Columbia is planning an entire range of these heated jackets to launch in the fall of 2011. While this specific model has an $850 MSRP, there will be nine electric styles in total ranging from $750 to $1,200.


Best college restaurant: Good Morning America wants your vote

pizza college missouriFor most of us, college was a low period in our culinary lives. Ramen, macaroni and cheese, beer for breakfast. . .ah, the memories!

When we got tired of contributing to our freshman fifteen with junk food, there was always that one place that served up something a little better, a little special. If you’ve been to college, or even if you haven’t, I bet you just thought of that place right now.

As an undergraduate in Tucson my favorite was a grimy dive bar called Mike’s Place. It served its last under-aged drinker years ago, closing down in the face of “urban renewal”. In graduate school in Columbia, Missouri, my fave was Shakespeare’s Pizza, which serves up delicious pizza right next to campus. It’s the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve been to Rome. Even The Pizza Files gave it a good review.

Now Shakespeare’s is one of four finalists in Good Morning America Weekend’s Best Bites Challenge. On this Saturday’s show they’ll announce the finalists and tell you how to vote for your favorite. They’re not very good at keeping secrets over at ABC, because the Columbia Tribune revealed the finalists to be Sandwich University in Morgantown, W.Va.; Öl Stuga in Lindsborg, Kan.; Camellia Grill in New Orleans; and Shakespeare’s.

Personally, I know Shakespeare’s is the best because I’ve never been to those other places. How can they compete?

What was your favorite college hangout? Reminisce in the comments section!

18 more great spots for hikers

Most hikers agree: the best way to really learn about a place is to experience it by walking or climbing. It inspired us here at Gadling to take a look in February at the world’s best hikes. There were so many great spots, in fact, we decided to follow it up today with 18 more. This collection of treasured, world-class hikes offers a variety of unforgettable experiences, and promises surprising personal growth with each one. Some have level terrain, while others climb soaring elevations. For the beginner and experienced hiker, there’s something for everyone in each location. Take a look at our picks below.

Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales
The most westerly spot in Wales, this mostly level, cliffside Pembrokeshire Coast trail provides contrasting colors – and inspiration. Along this hike you teeter precariously next to aggressive waves slamming into somber, 50 foot black slate cliffs. But the sun and magical clouds impishly create frequent rainbows that playfully coax you away from the dark edge and into meadows. Take the path that dips down into Abereiddy Bay, where you confront shiny black shale and sand. Stay in St. David’s, and see the 7th Century stone cathedral.

Zion, Utah, USA
Zion’s wide range of hikes provides level, valley floor walks, or climbs amidst soaring, majestic rock formations. The Emerald Pools hike is an ideal, beginner’s one-mile walk. An intermediate path to Scout’s Lookout provides a gradual cliff face climb using switchbacks. At Scout’s lookout, a hiker’s decision awaits…There is a deceptively easy, one-mile path which continues up to Angel’s Landing. While other hikes are more physically strenuous, this one can stretch the psyche and nerve of even the most experienced hiker. Precarious, thousand foot drops appear within inches of your feet. The only way to get to (and from) Angel’s Landing, is by holding onto chains – bolted into the rock. Not for the faint-hearted, Angel’s Landing is perhaps the most popular destination hike in the park.


Swanage, Dorset, England
An easy weekend break from London via train, Swanage lies nestled into England’s southeast tip. Here, an established, old-resort charm defines this historic town; however, hikers are treated to an otherwise hidden assortment of eclectic sites that give multiple complexities to the town’s personality. Stay in a B&B, and take the Durlston Castle path past a fascinating, out-of-place Victorian folly. Nearby, is the stalwart Anvil Point lighthouse. The scenic path turns inland, and seemingly out of nowhere, you find yourself seeking refuge at a place that makes a lot of sense – a huge pub. Complete with live music, here you’ll find the best pint you ever tasted. The public bus back to town comes by every hour or two.

Sossusvlei, Namibia
A four hour drive from Windhoek, Sossusvlei is the place on earth that seems most like another planet. Home to some of the world’s tallest sand dunes, these dramatic red shapes offer visitors unique visual inspiration set against the blazing sky. Climbing the steep dunes is a challenge for both kids and experienced hikers. Soaring sand ridges appear fragile, but sand grains quickly collect and form angles – banishing your footprints into obscurity. It’s tempting to get lost in all the redness – sit midway up a dune on its ridge, push it down and watch it form over you; you become part of this land. Constant wind and sun encourage dehydration, so your guide should bring plenty of water.

Black Forest, Germany
A well-traveled path meanders through this unforgettable forest that feels like home. Its magical embrace encourages the hiker in a patriarchal, protective way – enticing and beckoning you into the extended forest family. Stay at a B&B in Buhl (we like the Neusatz Pension Linz). After breakfast, head out through vineyards into the Schwarzvald toward the 13th century Windeck Castle. It’s hard to leave the forest’s embrace when you finally reach the castle clearing…do take time to have lunch at the castle and tour the ruins. Just don’t linger too long. The forest’s character changes on the way back. The woods’ earlier warmth evolves into a spooky, shadowy world that questions a hiker’s resolve. After all, this is where the Grimm’s Fairy Tales took place…

Antrim Coast, North Ireland
Across the North Channel from Scotland, Giant’s Causeway provides a shoreline hike amidst a vast collection of geometric, stone columns with an almost spiritual quality. A magnificent study in uniform, artistic rock formations, this “columnar jointing” illustrates how the earth’s magma designs its own ethereal architecture. These structures influence a hiker toward a heavenly, Gothic viewpoint. Stay at Smuggler’s Inn – an easy, 45 minute car ride from Belfast. If it’s summer and not windy, hike across the breath-taking Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

Captiva Island, Florida
Captiva Island is the prettiest beach hike we have ever found. Take a good hat, and before the sun gets intense, ride the tram from the Village to Captiva’s northernmost point. Head south along this other-world, barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll share this pristine shoreline with some of the world’s most interesting birds, dolphins and seashells. As you inhale this special sea air, somehow you understand why yoga becomes so important. Continue to the “Mucky Duck” along the beach for a traditional fish and chips lunch, then take the loop back through the island cottages.

– The above was written by Kris Myers, Seed contributor.



Continental Divide Trail, Colorado
Running over 3100 miles, the Continental Divide offers one of the most breathtaking hikes one will ever take in their life, here in the United States. When hiking this trail one will get the feeling of a life journey, see the epiphany in the hike itself, the divide, between the mountains and two states, like ones journey through life. With the average hike taking roughly six months to complete the entire trail this is a life feat, not a day in the park. This is on the list of the top ten hikes for those who are on a life journey, ready to conquer the world, define who they are, and take on the world.

Rock Bridge State Park, Columbia MO

Rock Bridge was chosen out of pure experience, and good old memories. This state park is located in the heart of Columbia, Missouri and has been deemed a state park, there for saving it from becoming victim to economic growth and real estate expansion. The park sits on what is called Devils Ice box, which a famous cave, that all of the local schools venture out during science class for field trips, teaching students about the caves and for short expeditions through the park and cave.

Every year, the local high school will bring their students out for a day of orientation. Where they will be given a map, a compass, and a bottle of water, leaving them to go from check point to check point. This is where my hiking experience with the state park comes from, and has offered many memories, and education experiences. This is a park for the whole family, from bat caves to water springs, to miles of nature trails.

Horseshoe Bend, Spirit Lake, Iowa
When you are up north, roughly 12- 15 miles from the NW Iowa/Minnesota border, visit the Iowa Great Lakes and go hiking through Horseshoe Bend. How often can you go hiking through the woods, and come out and see the beach and freshwater lakes? This is a very diverse area and a lot of fun to visit, great for hiking and camping, fishing and swimming, great for a family vacation.

Superior Hiking Trail, Duluth, Minnesota
The Superior Hiking Trail is accessible at many points along the way — and getting on this relatively young trail (conceived in the mid-1980s) is definitely worth it. The 210-mile path extends through wilderness north of Duluth, Minnesota, to the Canadian border; a 40-mile extension is in the works. With knockout views of Lake Superior, the path draws 50,000 people a year, some of whom glimpse bear and moose. (Allow three weeks for the whole trail.

James Dilley Preserve, Laguna Beach, California

For a nice early morning or afternoon hike, you can venture out for a nice “circle track” hike through James Dilley Preserve, located on roughly 3 miles through Laguna beach trail and Barbara’s lake, with an elevation of around 300 + feet. This is a great hike for those looking for a naturalistic and challenging hike to add to your morning or afternoon exercise routine. This trail is going to be your one opportunity to see one of two natural Laguna Beach lakes. Canyon Trial is part of this loop hike, and this is a great workout routine addition.

Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina
Grandfather Mountain is a privately owned mountain that has been protected by the owners, and yet shared at the same time. It is a family affair for sure. With several different things to do, and one of them happens to be hiking, on many of their trails, throughout the park, and the Mountain. Some of the mountains offer back trails, which offer cool, Spring like temperatures, offering wonderful and refreshing hiking weather. The mountain offers the opportunity to go across a mile long swinging bridge, see a 360 scenic view of the area, and is a natural habitat for several different endangered species giving you the unique opportunity to see them in their own element and homes.

Mount Scott, Oregon
A five-mile round trip on Mount Scott, the highest peak in Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, offers breathtaking views of the country’s deepest lake, formed by volcanic eruption 7,000 years ago. Along the way, you’ll step past 400-year-old whitebark pines, hardy high-elevation survivors. The view of Crater Lake is so stunning it will appear on Oregon’s commemorative quarter, starting in June. This hike isn’t for the fainthearted; you’ll gain 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles of climbing. But the 360-degree views of the lake, the Klamath Basin, and California’s distant Mount Shasta make it a great destination.

The Kerry Way Walking Trail, Ireland

The Kerry Way is a walking holiday which meanders through beautiful Ireland’s largest peninsula, Iveragh and has been called Ireland’s finest walking route. Walking or hiking through the Kerry Way’s 135 mile waymarked trail is primarily inland taking you through river valleys, gouged out by glaciers of the last ice age but with sections giving superb coastal views. You follow a coastline full of inlets and bays, beautiful sandy beaches and unforgiving cliffs.

You will enjoy the hospitality and warmth of the towns and villages of South Kerry which developed here throughout the ages. Glenbeigh – Cahirciveen – Waterville – Caherdaniel, Derrynane – Sneem – Kenmare and Killarney. You walk past the rich archaeological remains which tell the story of the people who lived in the Kingdom of Kerry down through the years and you will marvel at the flora and fauna which changes around each turn in the trail.

North Country National Scenic Trail
The North Country National Scenic Trail links scenic, natural, historic, and cultural areas in seven northern states(New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota). The approximately four thousand mile long trail includes a variety of hikes from easy walking to challenging treks. When completed, through the efforts of many people, the trail will become the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. From the Missouri River in North Dakota to the shores of Lake Champlain in New York, the trail allows hikers to experience a variety of features, from clear-flowing streams, to thick Northern woods, from vast prairies to clean lakes.

Topanga State Park Trek, Los Angeles, CA

Topanga State Park begins in Pacific Palisades at the end of Los Liones Drive, just north of Sunset Boulevard. Leave the car in the parking lot at the end of the street. From there, follow the trail up to East Topanga Fire Road and follow that to the turnoff for the Parker Mesa Overlook.Switchbacks and steep hill climbs characterize the first two miles of this hike. With an elevation gain of about 1,300 feet, the hike is definitely a tougher climb. But you’ll get rewarded as you gaze out from your vantage point atop the bluff. Enjoy a picnic lunch or relax on a bench while taking in the overlook.

– The above was written by iCatching Content, Seed contributor.

Need more inspiration to get outside? Keep reading!

Roadtrip with the kids? Hooters is child friendly!

No doubt about it, driving long distances with children can be a real drag–the constant potty breaks, the fighting in the back seat, and the high-pitched pleas to go to some kiddie restaurant like Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Don’t despair. You may be a parent, but you’re still in charge. Go where you want to go. Go to Hooters, even. Because Hooters, I’ve recently discovered, is child friendly.

I was driving across Missouri with my friends Rex and Caitlin and Rex’s four-year-old daughter Aly. We wanted some wings, so we stopped at Hooters just outside Columbia. You know, that Hooters, the one with the busty waitresses in skimpy costumes. Maybe I’m naive, but I thought poor little Aly would be the only kid in a room full of frat boys and lonely old men. Boy, was I wrong! Half the tables had children at them. Entire families had come out to enjoy Hooters!

And why not? Hooters has a special Kids menu, along with Hooters games and Hooters crayons. The waitresses are friendly too, and not in the same way they’re friendly to their male customers. When our waitress arrived wearing her tiny tank top and shrink-to-fit orange shorts, she immediately made Aly the center of attention.

“Are you a cheerleader?” Aly asked.

“I used to be a cheerleader,” our waitress replied. “Do you want to be a cheerleader?”

“Yeah!”

“I think you’d make a GREAT cheerleader!”

All this was said while our waitress leaned over our table showing off cleavage deeper than the Grand Canyon and sticking her rear out in a classic “spank me” pose. According to their employee handbook they’re supposed to act like that.

OK, so here we are at Hooters. There are underdressed buxom women everywhere, two dozen TVs showing sports, and hot wings on the table. What more could you ask for? While the idea of taking a child to Hooters is a bit odd, the fact is they really are kid friendly. But maybe four year-olds aren’t too discerning. When we asked Aly at the end of the meal what her favorite part was, she pointed to the nearest TV and gave us a big smile, grease dribbling down her little chin.

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