One of the long-standing rules of backcountry travel has always been that you never set out without first letting someone else know where you are going and when you expect to be back. In the past, that was sometimes accomplished simply by leaving a handwritten note on the kitchen table before heading out the door. As low-tech as that sounds, the approach was still useful if you ever ran into trouble, as at least someone knew where to start looking for you. Now, a new website called iNeverSolo.com is bringing that same concept into the 21st century, giving us a way to keep loved ones in the loop whether we’re traveling across town or around the globe.
The concept of iNeverSolo is a simple one. Users go to the site, create an account, login and input their planned itinerary. It could be as simple as a one-hour hike on a local trail or as complex as a round-the-world adventure. You can add details such as what time your excursion will begin, how long it should last and when you expect to be finished. You can even opt to include important waypoints, significant milestones, modes of transportation and the location of your final destination. After that, you just add email addresses or mobile phone numbers for your emergency contacts so that they can be alerted if you fail to arrive back home as expected.
The site has plenty of obvious uses for hikers, backpackers and climbers who routinely head into remote regions, but its usefulness can extend to others as well. For example, if you’re a solo traveler who will be out of contact for a while, the site can help you let others know that things are going fine on your journey. iNeverSolo is so versatile in fact, that it can be used for something as simple as going out for a night on the town or taking your dog for a long walk. Any activity in which you may need to alert someone of your location should you run into trouble is fair game.
Best of all the service is completely free, so there is no reason not to use it.
When it comes to giant ski resorts, it’s difficult to top Powder Mountain in Utah. The already impressively sized resort added another 1000 acres this year, bringing its total to over 7000, which gives it the most skiable terrain of any resort in the U.S. The expansion means that resort now covers three mountains and offers 135 different runs, ensuring that there is something to ski for every skill level.
The 1000 acre expansion has been named La Plata in honor of a nearby ghost town that sprung up during the silver rush of the late 1800’s, and was later abandoned when the ore ran dry. Designed mostly for expert skiers, this new offering requires visitors to join a guided tour or purchase a “backcountry upgrade” to gain access to the generally untouched and pristine powder that is found there. The area is so remote in fact, it can only be accessed by taking a ride in Snowcat, a tracked vehicle specially designed for traveling through the snow.
The calendar may still read September and the weather reminds us that it is still summer, but the ski season isn’t as far away as you would think. Powder Mountain generally opens in mid-November, and with an average of more than 500 inches of annual snowfall, you won’t have to settle for the artificial stuff. The resort offers a nice mix of untracked powder and groomed runs, with plenty to options to keep skiers and snowboarders coming back for years. Season passes are now available for the 2010-2011 season.
Last week we reviewed the Kelty Gunnison 2.1 tent. This versatile back woods shelter works equally well at a full-service campground as it does on a lightweight backpacking excursion. We’re hooking-up one lucky Gadling reader with a Gunnison 2.1 of their own. That’s right, it’s time for a tent upgrade.
The Gunnison 2.1 is a two-person shelter that sets up quickly, and keeps occupants dry in heavy downpours. With camping season in full swing, there’s no better time to win some new outdoor digs.
HOW TO WIN:
To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us your favorite camping spot.
The comment must be left before Friday September 3, 2010 at 5pm Eastern time.
It’s Aloha Friday as they say here on the islands — and a very special Friday at that! Today marks the beginning of the 62nd annual King Kamehameha Day festivities in Hawaii, so you can count on me enjoying the parade, draping ceremony, fun, and sun that lasts through the weekend.
Here are some other cool “happenings” going on in the travel blogosphere to jump start your weekend:
There are a few ways to experience Denali National Park and Preserve. One is to arrive like a rajah on the second floor of a domed rail car or lofty motor coach, and stay at one of the plush corporate lodges. From there you can book a number of excursions that include flight seeing, river rafting, and guided hikes and tours.
Or you can arrive independent of commercial companies, bus into the park, and backpack through terrain absent of trails but full of grizzlies, caribou, and panoramic views.
Our approach was a compromise between the two options above. A good friend who works for one of the large tour companies got my husband and I free round-trip tickets for the train as a gift for our one-year anniversary. While the tourists arrived from their hotels via motor coach, we parked our car in downtown Anchorage and boarded with large packs. From there it was a spectacular 8-hour ride to the park. The sky was cloudless, and Mt. McKinley (“Denali” or just “The Mountain” to locals) was looming — a rare sight.
After we disembarked we took a shuttle to Riley Creek Campground, just inside the park boundaries. We walked in, but were clearly outsiders; the campground was full of RVs and campers. We couldn’t find any bear-proof storage bins so we left our food outside the tent and hoped for the best. Not the smartest thing to do, but I figured if there had been any bear problems we would’ve heard about them. It turns out that our biggest problem was aggressive and fearless squirrels.
The next morning, our only full day in the park, we caught a 9:30 a.m. “shuttle” (read: school bus) that took us on a several-hour journey to the Toklat River, just over 50 miles in. Along the way our driver stopped for caribou, eagles, and one large but distant grizzly. The park road, 91 miles long, is unpaved and only open to shuttles; the ride is dusty and bumpy, but one of the coolest and easiest ways to access Alaska’s backcountry. You buy a ticket for as far in as you’d like to go and can get off and on wherever you want.
We arrived at the Toklat just after 1 p.m., and since it was such a perfectly warm and sunny day decided to take a hike up an enticing valley across the river.
We crossed the river, filled our water bottles from a bubbling spring, snapped the following photos,
and went on our wary way. We followed a glacial stream up the steep valley until it became more of a canyon. As we climbed, the orange walls became steep and towering and when we looked back, the top of Denali rose heavily above the mountains (see first photo).
It was one of those rare perfect Alaskan days — the sun was warm, there was a slight breeze, and no bugs. We found a patch of meadow and took a short nap before continuing up the canyon. We reached a surreal-looking landscape where the stream we’d been following split and flowed from several sources. This was our stopping point.
Since we had to make the last bus out of the park at 7 p.m. we didn’t have time to scale one of the higher ridges, much to Lael’s disappointment. Reluctantly, we made our way back down the creek, across the river, and on a waiting school bus. Back at camp we devoured our pasta and were in bed far earlier than is normal.
It turned out that our glorious weather was short-lived — it began raining sometime during the night and when we woke up everything was soggy. I peeled my damp pants on over my sweaty, dusty skin and made my way through the rain to the nearby general store, where I indulged in a latte and hot shower ($4 each). Civilization was never too far away. We boarded the train back to Anchorage later that morning, scrubbed and happy.