Friday, November 21, 2014

News: Support NY & NJ Trails this Giving Tuesday

It's often easy to assume that trails just happen, but that's simply not true.  The building, maintenance and care of trails and open space is done by an army of volunteers supporting small park staffs in many areas, including the trails of New York and New Jersey.  The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference alone maintains over 2,100 miles of trails in this area and volunteers put in over 75,000 hours a year (representing $1,950,000 worth of donated labor)!  All that work can't happen on its own, they need the support of those who use and enjoy the trails.

One way to provide that support is to take part in the Giving Tuesday event that the Trail Conference is running between Tuesday, November 25 and Tuesday, December 2.  This year your Giving Tuesday donation at the Trail Conference will go further thanks to a generous anonymous donor.  All gifts made during the eight days of the promotion will be matched 2-to-1. That means, when you give $50 toward the challenge, your gift will be matched with $100.
A great aspect to the promotion is you can generally support trails throughout New York and New Jersey or you can target your donation to the specific region you love (we love the Catskills!).  No matter where you direct your donation, the trails and the volunteers who give them plenty of TLC win.

Love Trails!

Monday, November 17, 2014

News: Catskill Conservation Corps steadily grows in first season of work!

Thanks to the partnership between the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that created the Catskill Conservation Corps, volunteers are seeing a steady growth of opportunities to be involved in a multitude of stewardship activities across the Catskills.

Trail building to fire tower stewards to litter pickups, volunteers are getting more involved with taking care of State lands within the Catskill Park and throughout the Catskill Mountains region.  The CCC now provides a one stop destination for the public to learn what kind of work is being done, to find opportunities to get involved, and to support the CCC if they cannot volunteer.

Check out a look back at the inaugural 2014 season of the Catskill Conservation Corps on their website.


Need more information on hiking and planning your 
adventures in the Catskill Mountains and the Catskill Park?

Catskill TrailsRead up on the Catskill Park at our Catskill Mountains Information Page for hikes, advice, travel and planning information.  We also have a Guide to Hiking in the Catskills available and on our sister site, ReviewThis is a Guide to the Catskill Park.  Need a hiking map for your hikes in the Catskills?  We recommend the Trail Conference's Catskills Trails 6-Map Set.  These maps are the best available for hiking and outdoor adventures in the Catskills and the Catskill Park.  How about a guidebook?  Both AMC and ADK publish trail guides to the Catskill Region and thAdventures in the Outdoors Bookstore carries many more books and maps that will help you as you hike and explore the Catskill Mountains region.

If you are looking for more information about the extensive history of the Catskill Mountains and the Catskill Park, we would suggest reading The Catskills, From Wilderness to Woodstock and The Catskill Park, Inside the Blue Line.

AMC Catskill Mountain Guide, 2nd: AMC's Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Trails in the Catskills (Appalachian Mountain Club)   

News: National Take a Hike Day is November 17!

Who would have thought it, but November 17 is National Take a Hike Day!


Well really, whatever excuse you need to get out there, right?

Here are some of our suggestions to get you started on your hiking adventures:



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review: ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heated Insoles

ThermCELL ProFLEX available
for $149 on Amazon
Our Quick Take On ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heated Insoles:  While they are expensive and take some time to get used to as insoles, they do work as advertised keeping your feet warm.  The batteries last long enough for most day-long activities and the wireless remote makes it easy to control them.

PROS: Easy to use and control, Keeps feet warm, Charges last long enough for day-long activities
CONS: Expensive, A bit stiff and thick for an insole

Have you ever hiked in the winter and wished your feet could just be a bit warmer?  I know I almost always have and that was the reason I was excited to try out the ProFLEX heated insoles from ThermaCELL.  As someone whose feet seem to get chilled as soon as I stop hiking, skiing or snowshoeing no matter what sock or what boot I wear, I thought a supplemental heat source that is almost built into the boot would be far superior than trying to use chemical hand warmers to add some heat.

“Remote controlled heated insoles,” I hear people mumbling as you think about wires, batteries and uncomfortable things in your boots, however ThermaCELL has done a decent job tackling these issues.  The insoles are run by rechargeable batteries that fit into the insole and the temperature of the insoles is controlled wirelessly by a small remote control that you carry.  The remote is small, light (only an ounce or two) and easy to carry.  The rechargeable lithium ion batteries for the insoles are located in the heel portion and are padded, so when they are inserted into the insoles, you notice very little difference between the battery and the rest of the insole.

There are three heat settings for the insoles: standby; medium; and high and there is an internal thermostat that regulates the insoles to keep them from overheating your feet.  The goal of the insoles is to keep your feet at your regular body temperature and they work harder the colder it is to do that.  On the medium setting the batteries last for about 5 hours, but I have found that I rarely use them continuously so they last longer.  One thing to consider is that standby really is standby, the insoles are still using energy from the batteries.  The only way to turn them off is to remove the battery, in which case the insoles cannot be used because of the hole the batteries would leave.  Charging up the batteries is straightforward with the included charger.

For me, I find I turn on the heating portion of the insole when I stop hiking and I am not actively working to raise my body temperature.  At those times, the insoles can kick on with some heat and keep my feet comfortable so they never dip into the getting cold territory.

What about comfort?  This is probably the only place I am a bit disappointed with these devices.  I do not find them to be as comfortable as a good pair of regular insoles in my hiking boots, but I have been on a couple of hikes with them now without any serious problems or foot pain.  To me, it is more that they just feel a bit more stiff (most likely due to the heating elements inside) than a regular insole and take some getting used to.  They definitely keep your foot a bit higher up in the boot, so you will have to adjust your lacing a bit.  My first time out with them I ended up adjusting my boots several times until I was able to get to a comfortable spot for activities

Overall though, they do keep your feet warm as advertised and for someone who is often chilly during winter activities, I will be looking forward to having these with me this winter.

ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heated Insoles are available in sizes from small to extra-extra-large and can be trimmed to properly fit your boot.  When you purchase them, they come with the two insoles, two battery packs, a charger and power cord, the remote control with lanyard and a small carrying bag for the insoles and the remote.  They are available through most outdoor retailers and sell from about $150 to $200.

The insoles were provided to our contributor Jeff Senterman free of charge in return for a review here at Adventures in the Outdoors and in the Trail Conference's Trail Walker.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Advice: Winter Hiking Tips

Some tips from Adventures in the Outdoors for hiking and enjoying the outdoors in the Winter

Hikes, cross country skiing, and snowshoe trips can all be fun, adventuresome and beautiful, but they do require more advanced planning than a summer trip, as there significantly less room for mistakes and errors on a winter hike because of the colder temperatures, higher winds, snow, ice and limited daylight hours.

Keeping Warm: You should always be prepared on any hike, ski or snowshoe trip to keep warm and sheltered with nothing more than what you are carrying with you by having the right clothing and the right supplies and gear with you.  You should not count on a campfire or stove to keep you warm.  You need to always stay alert to the dangers of hypothermia and frostbite - know the signs on both and learn how to treat them.

Daylight: Unlike the long hours of daylight in the summertime, Winter days are very short and darkness can easily surprise anyone in the woods with its quick arrival.  Always plan out your trips to maximize your use of daylight.  Always carry a flashlight or headlamp in case you are stuck in the darkness and always make sure it has fresh batteries or is properly charged.  Also remember that cold temperatures deplete batteries more quickly, so try to keep your gear as warm as possible by packing it close to your body in the backpack.

Skiing and Snowshoeing: Hiking in the snow takes a lot of effort since most often hikers will post-hole their way along a trail if the snow is more than a few inches deep.  That is, with each step, a hiker sinks deep into the snow creating what looks like a hole for a post with every step.  If there is more than a few inches of snow on the trail, you should be using Cross country skis or snowshoes to reduce your effort and reduce your chances of being injured (in some areas, snowshoe or ski use is required on trails when there is a deep snowpack).  Cross country skis and snowshoes will keep you on top of the snow and let you travel further with less energy than trying to hike on your own.  Skiing and snowshoeing open up a whole new way to look at the trails and the woods, allow you to reach areas you may not otherwise and find new adventures around every corner.

Trail Markers: What were familiar trail markers in the summer months can be hidden by deep snows, especially on mountain summits where you often have several feet of snowpack in place.  Having a map and compass (and knowing how to use them) is always a good idea, but they are a necessity in the wintertime to make sure you do not lose your way.

Tips and Tricks: Here are some additional ideas, tips and suggestions for winter hiking, skiing and snow shoe trips:
  • Stay dry and waterproof with the right clothing. Make sure you manage your core temperature while hiking to prevent sweating, which gets your clothes wet and limits their insulative value. Wear gaiters to help keep your legs dry, and pop your hood over your head when trekking through overhanging trees to prevent snow from getting in at the neck and getting you wet.
  • Winter is the wrong time to think you need to pack lightly. Carry many insulating layers including a spare set of long underwear tops and bottoms – putting on dry, cold clothes may shock the system initially but you will feel warmer quickly.
  • Make sure your equipment works -- finding out your water bottle is cracked when it is 10 below at lunchtime is the wrong time to learn about it.
  • Be aware that solid food items freeze; cut up those snickers bars ahead of time and even cold cuts on a sandwich can freeze!
  • Drink constantly because you will not feel as thirsty in cold weather and you could become dehydrated without even realizing it.
  • Know how to repair cross-country ski, snowshoe and crampon/creeper bindings.  You do not want to be stuck miles from the trailhead with broken equipment that can't be repaired.
  • Don’t use those ski pole wrist loops – a downhill fall can wrench a shoulder if you go one way and your ski pole stays put.
  • Ideally know your winter hike ahead of time; trail finding is tricky with deep snow so knowing the route well is a good idea.  It is often best to start your winter hiking on trails you already know well from the summer months.
  • Favor hikes with few stream crossings; crossings are dangerous as both a water hazard and possibly soaking everything you are wearing and carrying. Even just getting your snowshoes wet can result in heavy globs of ice stuck on them, which makes it much more difficult to continue on.
  • If you’re hiking with a dog regularly check their paws for icing, make sure they are staying adequately hydrated and are staying warm.
  • Be especially careful if conditions are icy; crampons and creepers/cleats only work if you stay on your feet.
  • If you are a beginner winter hiker, consider a group hike to learn more about trail conditions and preparation. Many areas have a number of outdoor clubs that leads hikes throughout the year that are open to new hikers without having to become a member.
With proper planning, the right skills and the right equipment, winter is a great time to get out and enjoy the trails.  Not only that, but one of the best ways to fight off winter's cabin fever is to get out of the cabin and get into the woods!


Need more hiking and camping advice?

Adventures in the Outdoors offers a number of guides and advice columns on a number of different hiking, camping and outdoor adventure related topics, including our introductory guide to hiking, Hiking 101 and our Guide to Buying the Right Pair of Hiking Boots.

Browse our full Advice Section for more information and to get out and start enjoying the great outdoors!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

News: Catskills Lark in the Park Annual Celebration October 4 through October 13

The 11th Annual Catskills Lark in the Park will be held Saturday, October 4, through Monday, October 13, 2014

The 11th Annual Catskills Lark in the Park offers exciting hiking, paddling, cycling, fishing, nature walks and lectures as well as cultural and educational events throughout the entire Catskills region. From Saturday, October 4th through Monday, the 13th, you can enjoy dozens of outdoor activities during the 10-day Lark celebration, sponsored by the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference, the Catskill Mountain Club, the Catskill Center and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

You can help mark the anniversary of the creation of the Catskill Park by hiking to a Catskill fire tower, paddling the Pepacton Reservoir, cycling on the Catskill Scenic Trail, learning about the region’s ecology, and much more. Lark in the Park group activities are typically free of charge – everyone is welcome!

The growing schedule of activities is available online at the newly redesigned website at www.catskillslark.org and you can register for most events directly through the website. Events continue to be added to the on-line schedule so check back frequently.

Lark in the Park was originally celebrated in 2004 when the Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) marked the 100th anniversary of the Catskill Park’s founding. The NYSDEC is again a key supporter of this important anniversary.

An important part of the Catskills Lark in the Park is the Catskill Mountain Club’s Annual Dinner! Everyone is invited to join the fun which will include speakers, raffles, door prizes and auctions. For details, stay visit www.catskillmountainclub.org.

For more information on Lark in the Park, visit the Lark’s website at www.catskillslark.org, call the Trail Conference's Catskills Regional Office at 518-628-423, e-mail catskills@nynjtc.org, or follow the Catskills Lark on Facebook.



Need more information on hiking and planning your 
adventures in the Catskill Mountains and the Catskill Park?

Catskill TrailsRead up on the Catskill Park at our Catskill Mountains Information Page for hikes, advice, travel and planning information.  We also have a Guide to Hiking in the Catskills available and on our sister site, ReviewThis is a Guide to the Catskill Park.  Need a hiking map for your hikes in the Catskills?  We recommend the Trail Conference's Catskills Trails 6-Map Set.  These maps are the best available for hiking and outdoor adventures in the Catskills and the Catskill Park.  How about a guidebook?  Both AMC and ADK publish trail guides to the Catskill Region and thAdventures in the Outdoors Bookstore carries many more books and maps that will help you as you hike and explore the Catskill Mountains region.


AMC Catskill Mountain Guide, 2nd: AMC's Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Trails in the Catskills (Appalachian Mountain Club)