NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bigfoot's Library: A Really Cool Backpackin’ Book

I grew up hiking, but the idea of strapping on a 30-pound backpack and hiking around did not looking appealing at first glance, until Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Backpackin’ Book: Traveling & camping skills for a wilderness environment!

When I was in college I worked at our campus bookstore and shelved this book written by Allen O’Bannon with illustrations by Mike Clelland. When the text department was slow I would find myself wandering over to the Physical Education section and leafing through pages of backpacking tips and tricks. I would get distracted from other tasks by all of the fun and informative illustrations in this book. Later I looked up what class PHED 121 was, and what do you know – Backpacking. I signed up for the class the next semester.

Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Backpackin’ Book covers information from equipment to travel techniques and trip planning to weathering a lighting storm. Plus, there’s a whole section on pooping in the woods. This is a popular topic among trail-traveled backpackers; but a potentially embarrassing topic for newbies, so no worries, with this section you’ll really know your scat. *wink*

This book is incredibly informative for those new to backpacking and veterans looking for new ideas. It’s not your typical learn-about-backpacking book; it has a sense of humor. When I was reading it, I felt like I was getting advice from a trail-savvy friend instead of getting lectured by a backpacking know-it-all. Plus, did I mention I love the illustrations in this book? I’m a visual person, so technical reading slogged down with text can be a snooze-fest for me. This was nothing like that, the illustrations combined with the conversational writing style, in my opinion, gives this book five trekking poles, or hiking boots, or some other clever rating system for backpacking books.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Respect on the Slopes – Don’t Be That Guy

Over any given non-holiday weekend, about 4,000 people hit the slopes to enjoy the snow and sun at Mt. Rose Ski Area. Six chair-lifts carry these 4,000 people to 60 plus trails that cover the mountain. Considering Mt. Rose boasts that it is Tahoe’s best kept secret - think of the mass amounts of people found at the more crowded Tahoe ski areas. Respect on the slopes is crucial for everyone’s safety and sanity.

Busy ski area lift lines

The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) and partners have created a safety initiative campaign aimed to reduce the frequency of accidents on the slopes. The safety code can be found in ski area maps, on the NSAA website, and right here:

Your Responsibility Code

1. Always stay in control.
2. People ahead of you have the right of way.
3. Stop in a safe place for you and others.
4. Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield.
5. Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
6. Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails.
7. Know how to use the lifts safely.

Here are a few additional tips that will help you make friends and stay safe on the slopes:

- Clear the unloading area quickly. There isn’t much room for unloading from a lift and clusters of people are asking for a collision. If you need to cross in front of the unloading area do it fast and time your crossing. I’ll emphasize this one since my shoulder still hurts from a crash with a kid last weekend as I was getting off the lift. After we were both picked up the mountain-man of a lift operator (not so) kindly informed the upset little kid that the crash was ALL his fault and to get out of the way. I’m pretty sure the kid is scarred for life, but I bet he won’t hang out in the unloading area anymore!

- Be considerate in the lift line. Don’t cut people off and for-the-love-of-a-blue-bird-day, don’t tailgate people in line! Bumping into the person’s skis or board in front of you isn’t going to get you on the chair any quicker.

- Don’t stop in the center of a trail. You’re asking to get run over by someone bombing down the hill. Taking a break or waiting for your friend on the side of the run is a much better option.

- Wear a helmet. You might think you’re completely in control and safe, but what about the out-of-control skier or boarder that runs into you, causes you to hit your head, and BAM – concussion or worse. Plus, trees are not forgiving and neither is packed snow.

Snowshoeing near Mt. Rose Summit

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing have the same responsibility code to follow, but I’ll add a tip here as well. Help maintain the integrity of ski tracks by not snowshoeing or skiing across them. I’ll equate this to walking back up the sledding hill in the sled track –don’t be that guy.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Destination Recreation: Spooner Lake

For our second installment of Destination Recreation we’re hitting the trails to cross-country ski and snowshoe!

Trail in Spooner Lake area

Destination: Spooner Lake
Adventurer: Megan Allen
Chosen Activity: Cross-country skiing and hiking

Allure: My first spring in Nevada led me on a hike along the Tahoe Rim Trail; the trail detoured down to Spooner Lake, which is part of Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park. Along the trail and at the lake, I was captured by the towering Jeffery Pines and the song of Mountain Chickadees. I returned that winter to cross-country ski through these trees, and it was fantastic. Spooner Lake Lodge does an excellent job of grooming and maintaining the trails, and provides their guests with warm hot chocolate after their journeys in the snow. I plan to return this winter and ski out to one of the many overnight cabins, where winter enthusiasts can stay the night nestled in a rustic setting. This outdoor destination is dear to my heart and has potential to create lasting memories for anyone who visits the area! Best Wishes!

Other Activities: hiking, fishing, bird watching, photography, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, nature journaling, mountain biking
Location: Western Nevada on Highway 28, 15 miles west of Carson City
Nevada State Parks – Lake Tahoe-Nevada
Spooner Lake Cross-Country Ski Area
Spooner Lake Cross-Country Ski Area Map

Visit the Nevada Outdoor School website – Destination Recreation page to explore the rest of our favorite places to play in Nevada.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Soul of a Shoe Tree

There are various versions of how the shoe tree on the outskirts of Middlegate, NV began, but they all have the same gist. In the 1980s newlyweds were traveling home and got in an argument on the outskirts of Middlegate. She threatened to walk home and he said she’d have to do it without her shoes and tossed them into a tree. Shortly after they made up; then returned later with their first-born and tossed his first pair of shoes into the same tree that was to become reportedly the world’s largest shoe tree.

Some of you may have heard, but the shoe tree was sawed down by vandals in the cover of darkness and discovered the morning of December 31st. This crime has received national attention in the Reno Gazette-Journal, SF Chronicle, and made it on Yahoo News. There is even a page on Facebook with 1,000 plus fans titled Middlegate Shoe Tree – Rest in Peace.

Fallen Middlegate Shoe Tree

Looking at this from an outdoor ethics viewpoint, there are a few aspects to consider. There’s the principle of not leaving your belongings or trash behind and leaving nature to be just that - natural. However, considering the multitude of shoes found in the tree, that tumble weed has blown away decades ago.

This brings up tradition; there has been a mass outcry from those who have tossed their old shoes into the tree. The Facebook fan page is riddled with stories of those that have made a tradition of visiting and sharing moments with loved ones at the shoe tree. The Nevada Commission on Tourism website even has the shoe tree as a site to visit along the Loneliest Road in America. Roadside America also promoted the tree as a stopping point. Let’s think about benefits to this tradition. A bright spot among a sea of tumble weeds and sage brush - there is beauty in the high desert, but after driving through hundreds of miles of it, a change is nice. The shoe tree attracted patrons to businesses in the town of Middlegate. This eccentric attraction could appeal to city dwellers and get them to look at the outdoors in a different way.

Let’s look at this from the other perspective – against man-made objects left in natural places once traditions are well underway. Some of the detrimental effects of a shoe tree could include an abnormal amount of weight on tree branches, habitat loss for wildlife, litter in a natural place, etc.

I’ll take a moment to share my personal thoughts; everyone is entitled to their opinion, but cutting down a tree is not proving a point and certainly not following outdoor ethics. A few productive ways to voice your opinion include petitions, scientific studies, and opinion pieces in local papers. On the other hand, there’s the possibility these culprits weren’t trying to prove a point and were just being reprehensible. Outdoor ethics is my job and my passion. I am an avid follower of pack it in, pack it out. However, a few eccentric landmarks can have value and I’ll admit, I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get a chance to throw my shoes into the tree; but you can bet I would have picked up any litter that wasn’t a shoe while I was there!

But that’s just my opinion, what do you think? Is it outdoor ethical to start a shoe tree? If you practice Leave No Trace or Tread Lightly would you add your shoes to an already-thriving shoe tree? If you are against shoe trees how would you voice your opinion? Should a new Middlegate Shoe tree be started? What is your outdoor ethics opinion on the Middlegate Shoe Tree? How many times can I say shoe tree in one paragraph?