Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Alternative Spring Break in Moab BLM

The Location

Eleven students from DePaul University in downtown Chicago, accompanied by a DePaul instructor/WV leader, recently made the trek nearly 1,400 miles to the Utah desert where they set up camp along the Colorado River for the week. The long drive in cramped quarters allowed for optimal bonding time for the students, who were all too farmiliar with eachother once they arrived in Utah. 

The Project

For their week of work the crew completed an incredible amount of work. They began their week working on Richardson Amphitheater Loop Trail where they made the trail more usable. They brushed out the overgrown Juniper trees, lined the slick rock sections of  of trail with rocks to guide hikers, closed down social trails, removed large and small rocks from the tread, created cairns to illuminate the trail, and installed numerous rock steps and a few retaining walls. 

For their off-day, the group slept in, had a feast of a breakfast consisting of pancakes, bacon, and strong coffee, then set off to hike the scenic and famous Fisher Towers Trail. After the hike and a picnic lunch, the group went swimming at a local creek. 

Their final day of work was at the Grandstaff Trail. Here the crew installed check-steps and a large earthen water bar with a rock-lined drain. After completing their work the group hiked the grandstaff trail to enjoy the views, while other hikers enjoyed the improvements to the trail! 

The Experience

Every participant chooses to join a project for a different reason, and each person will take their own gains away from the week. These gains could be personal growth, learning a new skill, meeting new friends, pushing their physical limits, or the simple treasure of having a adventurous vacation. Here are some of the things that DePaul students gained from their week working and exploring in Moab.

Mandy, a senior at DePaul loved the trailwork!

Martha, an environmental science student at DePaul, loved learning about new plants.

Matt, a public relations student and plant lover, got excited about desert ecosystems.

Maddie, a member of the DePaul Urban Farming Community, loved exploring a new place.

Stay tuned for more WV testaments from projects throughout the summer!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Equipment Spotlight: Backpacking Cots

By Caroline Williams

I have always had issues with my joints when sleeping on the ground, and have tried several different types of sleeping pads, to no avail. To make matters worse, I had neck surgery in June 2015, so finding comfortable outdoor sleeping arrangements is even more of a challenge for me.

When flipping through an outdoors gear catalog one day, I noticed a piece of camping equipment I never knew existed: the ultralight cot. I nearly fainted when I saw the price tag - they can run up to $250 -  so didn't pursue it further.

However, a little voice in my head wouldn’t let me stop thinking about what it would mean to sleep comfortably, no matter the conditions. I did a little research and found these cots are relatively light and easy to set up. After more research, I landed on the lightest one I could find (2 lbs., 9.6 oz.), which was a paltry $249.99. Unfortunately, it was out of stock everywhere, including online.

Because I had a Wilderness Volunteer trip coming up soon, I opted for my second choice. This one was 3 lbs., 2 oz., plus it was a bargain at $239!

I got it home, set it up in my kitchen and tried it out. It was extremely comfortable – I even took a short nap (until my cat woke me up begging for food, but that’s another story). I slept on cots at Girl Scout camps way back in my youth, but they were never anything I would rave about. In fact, I might still have a bruise on my back from the middle cross bar on the cot I used in 1976. It’s not a stretch to say that my new cot was light years ahead of that old canvas and steel cot.

Fast forward a week later and I was out in the desert, cot and all. It was a car camping trip, so I didn’t have to make the decision whether or not to jettison it from my pack. Good thing, because after the week was over I was hooked. There were no protrusions poking me in weird places, I could sleep on my back and side without issue and I slept the best I had in a long time inside of a tent.

Luxury item or necessity? That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. All I can say is, I will never camp without it again.

Helinox Cot Lite
The basics: $249.95 | holds 265 lbs. | weighs 2 lbs., 9.6 oz

Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite Mesh
The basics: $249.95 | holds 325 lbs.  | weighs 3 lbs., 2 oz

Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite UltraLite
The basics: $239.95 | holds 325 lbs. | weighs 3 lbs.,15 oz

(NOTE: these are the only three that I’ve found on the market.)

Do you have any cot favorites? Know about other options? Let us know in the comments below.