Though I was bummed I accidentally left my John Muir shirt at home, it didn't take too much time in Muir Woods to forget about my error. The hilly drive through San Francisco bumper to bumper traffic while crossing bridges and winding around serpentine roads was adventurous, but the sights and sounds of this national monument made all the travel troubles worth it.
When we saw the "Muir Woods parking full" sign on the freeway a few miles from our destination, we knew the woods were crowded. It's always a blessing and a curse when so many people take over nature. While it is great to see people out and about enjoying nature, it sort of takes away from the tranquility and serenity offered by the woods. However, the crowds here were quite respectful and the overall feel of the park was still very natural.
As we ventured into what Embry called the "red woods," the amazing smell first caught our eyes, or noses. So fresh. The amazing collection of trees was impressive from ground level, bit as we took the hillside trail, a trail that took you among the canopy of these towering giants, you got a whole new perspective and appreciation of just how skyscraping these beauties were.
Along the way, small cascading streams guided the way. Huge crayfish scoured the stream in search of lunch. Many trees had "caves" at their bases, perfect for exploring and mugging for the camera. There were also many rocks along the way that our daughter just had to climb and jump off of. One of Embry's favorite tricks was being able to "squeeze the trees" as she walked between trees along the trail.
When we reached the end of our hikes for the day, we stopped by the gift shop. Besides getting a new shirt for my nature kindergarten wardrobe, I posed with John Muir himself and Embry rode a bear and we enjoyed some natural artwork.
Muir Woods was a beautiful and popular place I look forward to returning to and exploring again someday.
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It's not everyday that I get to test a product that is featured in the annual Backpacker Magazine Gear Guide. Fortunate for me I was able to get my hands... and feet into a pair of the new Oboz Scapegoat Mids. As with all my Oboz, there is minimal if any break in time. Usually, I slip them on and go. The true fit, comfort and stability of all of their shoe and boots take hold and allow you to hit the trail with minimal effort. This is one of the many reasons I love all my Oboz!
As mentioned, Backpacker reviewed and offered the Scapegoat as one of the best All Terrain Mid on the market for 2016. The tough outsole and durable upper make this a choice for tough trails said Backpacker. I cant agree more. The boot has the look and feel of a hightop sneaker but has the performance of my Oboz Bridger Mid BDry yet with the added flexibility and tons of breatheability making this the ultimate summer tough trail boot.
I wore the boots since the day I got them, but really put them to the test on the Ozark Trail in southeastern Missouri in June. The boots not only handled the rocky and diverse terrain but also ensured a fantastic grip after a rain storm created slick trail conditions.
The heat and humidity were no match for these Oboz, teamed up with a lightweight hiking sock from Point6 my feet stayed drier then normal and non a single hot spot formed over the course of three days hiking.
Tech Specs per Oboz
UpperMesh with Synthetic Leather Overlays
Abrasion Resistant Rubber Coated Toe & Heel Mudguard
Elastic Scree Collar
Compression Molded EVA
Lightweight PU heel plug
EVA Super Skin (ESS) Forefoot Armoring
Sizing 8-12, 13, 14
Weight M9: 16.3 oz 462 g
It's okay to admit it, your done. You are tired of getting up off the ground in the morning when camping and it takes a cocktail of three Vitamin I's, two cups of coffee and a hot shower to make you feel human again by noon. You are finished with the tin man persona and being called "grumpy" "old" and friends continuing to ask "are you okay" as you grunt towards your second cup of coffee.
Let me introduce you to the Sound Asleep Dream Series Air Mattress. Now, I know what you are thinking, "Scott, really? An air mattress!" You might be saying "Heck I will end up on the ground anyway!" I know, I know...but this is not the air mattress of old. This is the air mattress of now that is comfortable, durable and will keep you almost 20 inches off the cold and hard ground ALL night.
Hiking Forward was asked to review this model a few months ago from the good people at www.3beds.com. 3Beds.com sole mission is “Protecting Good People from Bad Air Mattresses.” and we here at Hiking Forward are happy to be helping them fulfill their very noble mission (because we have all woken up on the ground after falling a sleep on a bad air mattress.
We began at home testing the product to ensure proper usage, fit and pack-ability while at home prior to our family summer trip to southeastern Missouri. The first thing we noted was that the product inflated quickly for as large of a mattress that it is. The unit comes installed with an electric pump with a storage area for the cord. This may sound like a small feature, but I found it to be quite smart, given the potential for the plug to potential puncture the mattress.
Oh by the way... AN ELECTRIC PUMP! No more hand pumps, foot pumps now or 4 D battery pumps that NEVER come close to inflating the normal camping air mattress to a comfortable level. Plug the unit in, turn the knob to inflate and stand back and watch at your new comfortable bed comes to life.
Once inflated the bed is very comfortable and spacious for two people. On our trip, we kept it simple and used sleeping bags instead of creating a full proper bed. When the mattress fully inflates it creates a nice outer ridge to keep you on the bed. This is helpful when laying in the bed as well as creates a significant air ridge for sitting on the edge when needing to get dressed or put on your shoes in the morning.
In addition both me and my wife testing out this air mattress we did a side by side comparison. As we used the Dream Series our girls slept on a other camping style air mattress in the tent near us. We had the same environmental conditions and both were inflated with their separate on-board inflating motors. While our mattress was 19 inches theirs was approximately only 8 inches tall. After a night of sleep each we woke up comfortable, rested and still with easily 90% of the air and firmness left in the air mattress.
Our girls weren't so lucky! Visible air voids were noticeable in their air mattress as they moved about in the morning. They would struggle to get off the mattress due to the loss of air. Their mattress looked more like a waterbed then an air mattress. Both girls asked up to put their air mattress out of its and their misery and get them one like ours.
Overall the mattress gets high marks from Hiking Forward for comfort, being durable and being a great value. Think about all the old camping style air mattresses you have bought over the years from your local department stores. This mattress is probably a fraction of what you have spent on all those that left you on the cold ground every morning.
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The family I set off in June for something we haven't done in a while. We unplugged, and we had a blast doing it. We set out for southeastern Missouri, and camped at the Johnson Shut-Ins State Park. Over the course of the multiple day summer vacation we actually visited a few other Missouri State Parks (more to come on those later).
The Shut-ins are just across a state highway from the campground. The Shut-Ins themselves are a part of the Black River that runs through the park and provides ample low and slow water fun as well as many deep and rushing water spots to enjoy.
The park itself is quite interesting due to a rather recent disaster that took place within the past many years. When the Taum Sauk pumped storage plant reservoir on a neighboring mountain failed on December 14, 2005, Johnson’s Shut Ins was devastated by a catastrophic flood. It destroyed the park’s campground, which was fortunately unoccupied at the time. The only injuries were minor and were sustained by the park superintendent and his family, the only people at the park at the time.
The park was closed due to the damage, and didn’t completely reopen for water recreation in 2009, and a new campground opened in 2010. Restoration was funded by $52 million of a settlement of $180 million, paid by AmerenUE, the owner and operator of the failed reservoir.
The park is overall one of the cleanest and well maintained family campgrounds I have been too in quite some time. In addition to the clean park, new and clean facilities the park staff was amazing. It has been quite a long since I have experienced nature themed activities for the kids at night during a week night at a state run campground.
Not only did our girls really enjoy the program on owls, but the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Staff came to our campsite and brought multiple pelts, fossils and other nature items for our girls to touch and experience. In addition, staff came back again with nature journals, animal posters and guide books after finding out what our girls were interested in. Grace and Gabby talked about this particular experience all the way home.
The Shut-ins provided access to the Ozark Trail as well as many other native trails that reside only in the park itself. In addition to visiting the Shut-ins we also visited Taum Sauk State Park which is the tallest point in Missouri (roughly just over 1,700ft) as well as Elephant Rock State Park. This park is a joy for the whole family allowing everyone to get involved and explore at their pace on either a pave walkway or while exploring the boulders on the edge of the walk way.
In addition to the fun we had playing in the river, explorng the trails and climbing the boulders at Elephant Rock we also began a new journey with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2017 is the Centennial for the Missouri State Parks. MODNR has created a passport showcasing all of their state parks, museums and historic sites. You can pick one up for a mere five dollars at any site and your your book stamped with a unique site specific stamp. We managed a total of five stamps in just a few days.
For more information about the passport click here.
Simply put, this was a great trip with a wide array of activities to undertake that everyone in the family enjoyed. So, if you in the Midwest... the natural wonders of both the Shut-ins and Elephant Rock are worth the drive.
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