Mainstream Adventures

When You Constantly Push Your Limits You Will Never Reach Them

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Midwest’s Best Adventures

The Midwest is a hot spot for adventure, so i compiled a state by state listing of some of my favorite locations/activities!  This is a great list to get started on and it only really starts to scratch the surface.  In the comments let me know what your favorite adventures are.

Iowa:  Canoeing the Upper Iowa River,  listed as one of the top 100 adventures in North America by National Geographic Magazine.  The river is lined with 300 foot tall towering bluffs, creating a majestic corridor for your down river float. From breathtaking views to, beautiful waterfalls, this is one float trip that you will never forget.  Honorable Mention:  Hike Maquoketa Caves State Park.

Illinois:  Hike the River to River trail in Shawnee National Forest.  From the Missouri River to the Ohio River, this 189 mile hike will take you past some of the most beautiful scenery the Midwest has to offer. Honorable Mention:  Starved Rock State Park, Garden of the Gods, or the views from atop the Mississippi Palisades State Park.

Kentucky:  Jump off a bridge with Vertigo Bungee.  One of only four locations to bungee jump in the entire country.   Vertigo Bungee is the most sought after bungee jump company in the country today.  At Vertigo Bungee they have jumpers  ranging in age  from 7 years old to 92 years old.   With an amazing staff and state of the art equipment, you are sure to have an amazing Adventure. Honorable Mention:  SUP Kentucky, Louisville Mega Caverns, or Cumberland Falls.

Missouri: In 2013 Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours began offering one of the most amazing float trips available today. This experience is so rare, that I could not find any comparable trip in the entire United States. All tours are run by expert guides of great personality, who do an outstanding job both guiding the tour and providing an interesting/entertaining history of the mine.

Talking Rocks Cavern has been referred to as Missouri’s Most Beautiful Cave! Which is quite an honor considering there are over 7,300 known caves in the state.  However just one peek inside and its easy to see why it has earned this prestigious nickname.  Cave tours consists of an hour long walk taking visitors on a breathtaking vertical decent into a subterranean wonderland.

Branson Treehouse Adventures:  This is one of only a few places in America, where you can experience the great outdoors , and still be only minutes away from all the family entertainment and attractions of Branson Missouri.  One weekend here, and you will never want to leave.  These charming log cabins very in size and style, so weather your looking for a great location for your next family reunion,  an amazing vacation destination , or just a romantic get away with that special someone you’re sure to find exactly what your looking for at Branson Treehouse Adventures.

Wisconsin:  Kayak the Nameakon River,  with Jacks Canoe Rental.  Jack’s offers several trip options including a 250 mile float trip that will take you places very few have seen before. Honorable Mention:  Cave of the Mounds, Governor Dodge State Park, or ride on a Duck at Wisconsin Dells.

Indiana: Explore the  Marengo Cave,   Located in Marengo Indiana, this lesser known of the Midwest show caves sure packs a mighty punch with 6 different cave tours available.  Regardless of which tour you choose your sure to have an amazing experience.  This cave features several different types of mineral formations  from Helictites  to soda straws, from Stalactites, to  Cave Popcorn.  This cave really has it all.  Discovered in 1883, by children using only candles to navigate all the underground twists and turns.  Since that time Marengo Cave has had more then 3 million visitors explore its passageways.  Honorable Mention:  Hike Turkey Run State Park.

Ohio: Take a  nighttime zip-line tour at  Hocking Hills Zip-line Canopy Tours.  This world class zip-line is over a 1/4 mile in length and reaches speeds of 50 mph.  Founded in 2007, Hocking Hills Zip-line has been the winner of numerous awards and has been called the Best Zip-line in America by USA Today.  With several different adventures to choose from, they truly have something for everyone.

Tennessee:  For the best white water rafting experience in the Midwest, visit Ocoee Rafting in Ducktown Tennessee.  The Ocoee River is one of the most popular white water rafting destinations in America, and Ocoee Rafting has been providing legendary rafting trips for over 69 years.  Offering both a 5 mile and 10 mile float trip, this stretch of river boasts rapids rated at class III and IV, which make for an unforgettable rafting experience.

So here it is, my list of the Midwest’s Best Adventures!  Is there any place i left off?  What is your favorite Midwest Adventure?

How to Choose a Great Pocket Knife

This article was submitted by Lauren Thomas of

Finding a great pocket knife

There’s no argument: a great pocket knife is an essential item on the packing list for camping trips, hiking excursions, and every adventure in between. But how can you find the best option for you when so many knife companies claim to have the sharpest blade and the comfiest grip? As it turns out, pocket knives are an extremely personal purchase, but the team at works to make it a little easier.

Pocket knives are tools, not weapons. Knives are highly specific to the job they’re assigned, meaning that a weapon-type knife is structured in a vastly different way than a pocket knife. Similarly, a pocket knife is very different from a multitool. It’s important to determine what function you’re hoping for first, as it will guide your search.

A traditional pocket knife will have a folding blade as opposed to a fixed blade, which serves a different purpose. The blade typically falls between 2.75 and 3.25 inches: smaller than that, and the knife is more of a glorified box-cutter. Larger than 3.25 inches, and it may be hard to conceal in your pocket for everyday carry.

Steel quality is important but personal. There is a lot of information out there about steel types, and which perform the best. Again, many companies claim to offer the sharpest, most durable blade, but these characteristics often have a tradeoff. Harder steel may hold an edge for longer, but this typically makes it harder to sharpen. A less hard steel may dull more quickly, but you can likely sharpen it at home. The “best” pocket knife will have a steel type that matches what you’re willing to contribute in terms of maintenance.

The handle should fit YOUR hand specifically. Before purchasing a knife, you should always test it in your hand for comfort and ease of opening and closing. Hand size and strength vary greatly person-to-person, so what’s best for someone else isn’t necessarily best for you. You can always visit your local knife specialty shop for more questions and to check out popular styles in person.

Extra features may or may not be helpful. As mentioned before, a true pocket knife is meant as a small blade, not a multitool. That’s not to say that knives with extra features are ineffective, rather you want to ensure that the other features don’t minimize the function of the blade. Sometimes adding other features means a smaller blade or a different shape that may not work as well.

You’ll also want to imagine what it will be like to carry your next potential knife. If you plan for everyday carry, are there any features of the handle that will be uncomfortable? Some find that knife grip clips dig into their legs while in a pocket, or even wear holes in their pants — so beware!

For more information about finding a great pocket knife, and to see which models recommends, check out their original article here:

An Adventure Like No Other

Looking for an unforgettable Adventure, that is fun for the whole family? (ages 12 and up only) Look no further!  Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours, has just what your looking for.  Weather your an adventure junkie like me, or its your first time in a  kayak( like was the case for my 12 year old daughter).  This is one Adventure you won’t want to miss!

Located deep in the heart of the Midwest, lies a one of a kind kayaking experience that you will never forget.   Operated by Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours, this amazing Adventure takes you into the depths of the long forgotten PPG no.9 glass mine.

In 2013 Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours began offering one of the most amazing float trips available today. This experience is so rare, that I could not find any comparable trip in the entire United States.

The 3 hour tour takes you up to 400 feet below ground, as you navigate your kayak through the flooded former sand mine.  On your tour you will pass such sights as the “Birth Canal,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Squeeze,” ” The Car Wash” and the “Townsend Center”which is the largest opening in the mine.

All tours are run by expert guides of great personality, who do an outstanding job both guiding the tour and providing an interesting/entertaining history of the mine.

As an experienced adventurer who has done and seen it all.  I have to say, my tour with Marsan through the Crystal City Underground is one that will stand out in my mind for years to come.

At Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours, kayak season never ends.   They are open year round with a constant inside temperature of 61 degrees.

 Some dates will fill up fast, so make your reservation soon, this is one Adventure you wont want to miss!  To reserve your spot call (636) 208-5026  to find out more about this amazing kayak tour visit

I usually don’t do this, but on a personal note: It should be stated, no matter how much I write or how many pictures i share of this trip.  I just can’t do it justice.  Often I find myself awake at night thinking back on my time in the mine.  In my never ending world of Adventure, I try to make it a habit to never visit the same place twice.  With that said I feel I need to further explore the vast Crystal City Underground, and I’m sure sooner rather then later, my path will lead me back.

Talking Rocks Cavern

Make Your Visit To Branson, Extraordinary With A Trip To Talking Rocks Cavern

Every year millions of visitors flock to Branson to take in the majestic beauty this area has to offer.  From Table Rock State Park, to Lost Canyon Nature Trail, to Dogwood Canyon, the area is packed with natural beauty.  With so much to see and do you may not realize that one of the most beautiful attractions near Branson is actually underground.

Talking Rocks Cavern was discovered in 1883,  by local rabbit hunters.  With the hunters deciding to leave the cave alone, it sat unexplored until 1896, when Truman Powell finally descended100 feet down into the cave.  Initially  the cave was known as Fairy Cave, because Truman said the beautiful formations in the cave made it look like a fairy land.  In 1921 the cave was opened to the public and became an instant hit with tourists, and remains so to this day attracting more than 40,000 visitors annually.

Talking Rocks Cavern has been referred to as Missouri’s Most Beautiful Cave! Which is quite an honor considering there are over 7,300 known caves in the state.  However just one peek inside and its easy to see why it has earned this prestigious nickname.

Cave tours consists of an hour long walk taking visitors on a breathtaking vertical decent into a subterranean wonderland.  Your tour guide will lead you past several world class formations, you will see soda straws, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, rimstone, columns,helictites draperies and The Cathedral (the largest formation in the cave) which is over 90 feet long and 50 foot in diameter.

Sometimes its easy to think if you’ve seen one cave you’ve seen them all.  However this logic of thinking does not apply here.  Natural beauty like this is a sight to behold inTalking Rocks Cavern.

Its easy to spend a whole day at Talking Rocks Cavern, as there are plenty of fun activities above ground  as well.  After the tour families can enjoy a game of   miniature-golf,  or hike one of the scenic nature trails, there is also a lookout tower, gemstone mining, and a picnic area and playground.

Looking for a unique gift for that hard to buy for someone on your list?  The rock and gift shop has an extensive collection of natural minerals, gemstones and fossils from all over the world.

Cave tours are available year round and are a great opportunity for a fun, educational adventure.    With a constant temperature of 63 degrees, the cave offers a refreshing break from the summer heat, and is a nice retreat from the cold winter wind.

For more information on Talking Rocks Cavern visit:

or call


or stop in at

423 Fairy Cave Ln.
Branson West, MO 65737

5 Iowa Hikes You Have Never Done

I don’t know what it is about the outdoors, but to me there are few things better then a great hike, if you are looking for a little pick-me-up  in Iowa, you don’t have to look very far for a great hiking trail to navigate. Spread out across the state, from the rolling Loess Hills in the west to the rocky bluffs over the Mississippi River in the East, an exciting hike in Iowa is easy to find.  Here is a list of 5 Iowa hikes you may have never done.

1.  The West and East Lake Trails at Backbone State Park

Located in the beautiful northeast region of Iowa, and with over 20 miles of trail to explore, Backbone State Park is an Iowa hiker’s dream come true. There are several great hiking options at Backbone State Park, but for the best bang for your buck,  check out the West and East Lake Trails! Stretching out for three and 2.42-miles respectively, the West and East Lake Trails follow the shore of Backbone Lake, navigating through the dense Iowa ecosystem and some of the most beautiful landscape in the Iowa State Park system. The East Lake Trail also connects to the state-famous Backbone Trail, which is my favorite trail in Iowa.

2. The Sylvan Runkel State Preserve Trail at the Loess Hills

Photo is property of Mark Karrer

Located in the rolling Loess Hills of western Iowa!To really get a feel of the unbelievably beautiful Iowa environment, I suggest the Sylvan-Runkel State Preserve.  This 12.4 mile out and back hike takes you past some magnificent landscape. This scenic trail is lined with wildflowers and will have you convinced that Iowa might be the most beautiful state in the country.

3. The Calcite Trail at the Mines of Spain Recreation Area

There are plenty of great  hiking options at the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, but if you want to find the one that will get your quads burning, the Calcite Trail is right for you.  At just over two miles, the Calcite Trail exposes the native rock that defines much of the recreation area. The steepest section of the Calcite Trail comes right out of the parking lot, which then leads to breathtaking views of the Mississippi River. To continue the adventure from the Calcite Trail, you can connect to the Mesquakie or Horseshoe Bluff Trail, which can lead to many full days of adventure.

4. The Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems

There are a few trails in Iowa containing so much beauty that it’s easy to forget what state you’re exploring. A great example of that can be found with the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems near the Coralville Lake. While navigating around the rocky banks of the Coralville Lake, trail users experience slight elevation changes, scenic stopping points, and a full dose of the natural Iowa scene. Whether you run, walk, or hike, the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems are a great place to enjoy the outdoors.

5. The Crow’s Nest Trail at Ledges State Park

Located  in one of Iowa’s most popular state parks, the Crow’s Nest Trail in Ledges State Park is one hike you will not want to miss. The entire state park is lined with rocky bluffs and deep pockets of forest that define Ledges, and many of the trails take you up  steep steps and to fantastic overlooks, including most notably, the Crow’s Nest Trail. Make it to the top of this short, steep trail, and not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you’ll get a great view as well. While you are there, be sure to take advantage of all the trails and views at Ledges, and you’ll leave feeling refreshed and renewed.

Safety Tips for Winter Hiking

At Mainstream Adventures we love hiking, camping, basically anything outdoors.  In fact we spend almost all our time on a trail, or in a canoe, or on a bike, or a ski slope, however during the winter months we have to take a few precautions before we head out.  Here is a few pointers to get you started hiking in the freezing cold.

 Proper  Planning

Like any outdoor adventure,  winter hiking takes planning. First, you need to know your limitations and those of others in your party. A 10 mile hike  might be fine for some, but not everyone will be able to handle that. Carefully study maps of the trail in which you plan to hike so that you are familiar with the area. Carry a day pack containing essential items, such as snacks, and extra clothing.  Always let others know where you will be going and when you plan to return. If you are hiking  off-trail, this becomes even more important. In such a case, it is important that you also leave an itinerary with a friend or family member that includes your destination and when you are scheduled to return.

 Maps, GPS and Compass

When hiking, use your GPS (Global Positioning System) and compass. If there is snow on the trail, it may become hard to follow, so trust these instruments to keep you on track. Because it operates off  of satellites, GPS can be affected by tree cover and weather conditions, but a compass is almost always reliable if you know how to use it. In addition to other navigation aids, you will need good maps of the area. Even if you don’t plan to rely on them for navigation, they can add enjoyment on your hike, because they will show important features and sites that you might otherwise miss. Maps can also show you the most practical route out of an area in an emergency.

 Dangers of Hypothermia

The main thing you will want to protect yourself against while hiking or pursuing any cold weather activity is hypothermia. Hypothermia is a condition where your core temperature drops below 95 degrees. On a wet, windy day, hypothermia can strike if you don’t have enough clothing, even in air temperatures as high as 50 degrees. It can also happen if you are in water that is 60-70 degrees. The obvious solution to prevent or reverse hypothermia is to make sure you have warm, dry clothing when the weather gets cold. Always be prepared for wet weather conditions.


Proper layering of clothing prevents excess sweat and moisture build up, which can chill you under winter conditions. Start with a moisture wickening base layer against your skin. Modern undergarments made of breathable synthetic fabric fit the bill. These can be had in long or short versions. If you prefer undergarments made from natural fabrics, silk is a great choice, but it is expensive.

Next come your pants and shirt. In cold weather, wool works great for both, but it is heavy and some people don’t like the feel of wool on their skin. In this case, you can again opt for synthetics. I personally like wool pants over synthetic long underwear for warmth. Wear a light breathable long sleeve shirt on top.

Keep your feet warm and prevent blisters. Include synthetic socks with wool hiking socks on top. Make sure your footwear is broken in before a long hike.

If conditions call for outerwear, you can wear a wool or fleece sweater. If it warms up, remove it and place it in your pack, so that you don’t sweat too much. Depending upon conditions, your outer garment could be a wind and water-resistant outer shell from Gore-Tex or a lightweight goose down vest or jacket. Mix the top garments as needed. You may want to also bring along gloves or a scarf. Choose a material like silk, synthetic or cashmere that won’t irritate the neck. Top it all off with a wool or synthetic watch cap.

 Proper Hydration

You may not crave water as much when hiking in winter, but your body loses a significant amount through breathing, sweating and urination, and it has to be replenished. Be sure and drink plenty of water.  I recommend carrying a hydration pack.  There is no easier way to transport drinking water on the trail.


Carry some snacks to keep your energy levels high. High carbohydrates , high fat combinations, especially those that contain dried fruit, nuts, and peanut butter, are popular, but tailor these to your specific dietary requirements. Always bring along a little more than you think you’ll need. If you don’t eat them, you can just save them for your next outing.

 Contingency Plan

As with any outing, you must expect the unexpected. You will most likely be hiking in a remote area. In such areas, cell phone service may be spotty at best, and in the event of an emergency, you could be on your own until help arrives. A charged cell phone with an extra power source is important, but also carry a day pack containing items to help you survive the elements.  A solar sleeping bag, a wool blanket, a poncho, and Hammock are just a few of the items i suggest.

. At the very least,  carry a jacket, some windproof/ waterproof matches and a sharp knife to make kindling and perform other tasks as needed.

Winter Hiking can be very rewarding and offer new views on your favorite trails.  But it can also be a devastating experience if you are not properly prepared. Happy trails!!

The Best Gifts for Outdoor Enthusiasts

The Best Gifts for Outdoor Enthusiasts

By Neil Stawski

Image result for christmas pictures


Finding the perfect present for everyone on your list is a fun challenge, but it can be a little overwhelming.  With the inundation of commercials, printed material and emails, you may feel that wading through catalogues and websites is getting to be a little too much.  If shopping for the outdoor enthusiast on your list feels like more of an adventure than you bargained for, these great suggestions will help.   




Decent lighting means not only more comfortable outings but also better safety.  These suggestions give your loved one better visibility and lower risk.


  • Backpack lantern.  Recommended by the experts at Field and Stream, the Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Backpack Lantern is a compact LED with intuitive controls and magnetic fastener.  Useful on the trails, on the campground or even at home, users enjoy a candle-like glow that is convenient and versatile.  Available in a few different colors from   
  • Headlamp.  An LED Headlamp allows users hands-free action when lighting is poor.  The Northbound Train LED Headlamp Flashlight and Case is waterproof and includes white, red, and strobe options along with a dimmer.  Available from
  • Flashlight.  No outdoor enthusiast’s toolkit is complete without a good flashlight or two.  The Pioneer Woman recommends Surefire LED Flashlights, which are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes from  




The ability to light a fire can mean life or death in some circumstances.  Whether your loved one is caught in an unexpected storm, suffers an accident or just likes to enjoy a campfire, the UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit can be a vital addition to the adventure tool chest.  Kit includes a waterproof case, a dozen matches, three strikers and a carry cord.  Available from  




A long-sleeved shirt protects wearers from sun, wind, bugs and branches.  Some experts prefer the Patagonia Cayo Lago Shirt, available in men’s sizing and three colors.  It’s breathable and offers pockets for toting other essentials.  Available from  




Not just any stove, the Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Backpacking Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition is tiny, sturdy, versatile and convenient.  Experts note the stove’s tiny flame is powerful enough to boil water in just three and a half minutes.  The stove fits in your backpack, runs off butane and adheres to “Leave No Trace” principles.  Available from  


Dog first aid kit


If your loved one’s furry friend joins in explorations, a first aid kit for Fido is a thoughtful way to show your love and support.  The experts at Redfin note you can assemble your own; add an attractive case for an attractive presentation.  Include essentials such as first-aid gel or spray for pets, buffered aspirin, butterfly bandages and gauze, and tweezers or scissors for removing ticks.  


Tech equipment


In this day and age, even the most rugged, outdoorsy enthusiasts can appreciate the safety and convenience technology offers.  


  • Speaker.  A portable speaker can be handy for camping, cookouts or tailgate parties, so almost anyone would enjoy a Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth Speaker.  It’s compact but packs a wallop, generating quality sound from any Bluetooth device but small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.  Available from    
  • Charger.  For those who are out long enough to need a recharge on smartphones, tablets or speakers, the Kodiak Portable Power Bank allows powering up without outlets.  Available from    
  • GoPro Camera.  Whether your outdoor enthusiast wants to record wildlife in its natural habitat or antics of the kids at camp, the GoPro Hero4 Silver offers built-in touch display, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, and has improved camera control with video trimming.  Available from  


At this time of year we’re all flooded with ideas, thoughts and suggestions everywhere we turn.  Use these great gift options to simplify shopping for the outdoor enthusiast in your life.  You’re sure to find the perfect present to make a fun and exciting addition to their gear!

10 Reasons You Should Take Adventures With Your Significant Other.

Adventure requires a lot of patience, strength, cooperation, and planning. Spending a few days and nights in the back woods with your spouse can be a great test of your relationship. If you are newly dating someone, backpacking could be a make it or break it scenario. If you’ve been married for ten years, backpacking could be just the thing that brings you even closer together.

So whether you are trying to impress someone new, or you are looking for fun  with the love of your life, a weekend adventure can be just the thing you are looking for. Here are a few reasons why you should take adventures with your significant other:

1. You get to share a tent.

This is a big bonus, whether you are newly dating your partner, or you’ve been together for a long time. Sharing a tent is great excuse to cuddle.

2. Discover how well you work together.

Backpacking with someone requires teamwork. Finding your way, setting up camp, preparing meals, and gathering firewood are just some of the necessary tasks. Backpacking is a great way to test out how well the two of you can work together.

3. Solve problems as a team.

Anything can happen in the backcountry. More than likely, a problem will arise at some point, whether it is a big one or a very small one. Regardless of the size, you will need to put your heads together and solve the problem together. This can bring the two of you closer and give you a whole new appreciation for each other.

4. Share responsibilities.

Maybe you will gather the water, while your partner starts setting up the sleeping bags and sleeping pads inside the tent. Maybe you will work together to cook your dinner. Sharing responsibilities around camp will make the whole experience go smoother. You can see how willing your partner is to help out and to take on tasks.

5. Explore new places.

Seeing new places together for the first time is an incredible experience. Exploring areas that neither of you have been to before will create memories that will last a life time.

6. Find out if you get sick of each other.

Spending days and nights together, non-stop, can be a real test of your relationship. Especially if it is a newer relationship, you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if your significant other is going to be a hard person to be around for an extended period of time. You’ll undoubtedly discover some new things about your partner that you weren’t aware of before – which can be  very good or very bad.

7. Quality time.

Being alone in the wild is a great way to spend quality time together. Without the distractions of every day modern life, you will be able to focus solely on each other. It’s also the perfect opportunity to have any important conversations, as you’ll have their full attention.

8. Share in each other’s highs and lows.

Adventure travel is full of extreme highs and the occasional low. You’ll cheer each other on as you climb that gorgeous but tricky cliff for the unforgettable view; You’ll cheer each other up when it’s raining and you are shivering in your tent. The point is, that whether you’re experiencing something great, or something down right miserable, you’re experiencing it together.

9. Learn how your significant other handles roughin’ it.

Sometimes people surprise us. Your makeup-loving, stiletto wearing girlfriend may blow you away with how down and dirty she is willing to get in the back woods. Your suit and tie wearing husband may be a beast climbing up a rugged mountain. You just never know how tough a person is until they are thrown 10+ miles into the wild with a heavy pack strapped onto their back.

10. Make memories.

The memories that the two of you will make together will be one of a kind and priceless. You will laugh, and you may cry. You could end up screaming at each other and realizing that your new date is just not the guy or gal that you need in your life, or you could end up falling even deeper in love. Regardless, the memories you make in the wild stay with you forever, for better or for worse. Usually for better.


Wilderness Survival Skills

At Mainstream Adventures, we celebrate a life spent in the outdoors, and with the sense of adventure must come a heavy dose of precaution. The wilderness can be a dangerous place, after all, and while much of it has been tamed from the  ever expanding industrial movement, certain skills are necessary in order to keep you safe and happy while you venture into the great unknown. Undoubtedly, we have all heard stories of those who wander into the woods without a sense of their own abilities, lacking preparation and a healthy fear of what can happen miles away from civilization. The consequences can be catastrophic, but generally speaking the wilderness is a great place for those who have the skills to explore it the right way.

First and foremost, be humble.

A sense of humility will keep you from being reckless. No your limits. Spending time in nature can be one of life’s most rewarding endeavors, however it can also be a dangerous one.  Hiking in the forest gives the adventurer the right to roam, an opportunity to explore, a vast  open landscape with few rules for travel. An environment like this will encourage you to follow impulse, to act on will alone.  But an adventurer cannot exist in the outdoors without first observing the limitations of his/ her, or their own responsibility. This is built through experience.  I can’t stress this enough, know your limits and error on the side of caution.

Learn how to use a map or compass.

Proper orientation and navigation is first on the list of essential skills. Adventuring into the outdoors, especially where off-trail excursions are concerned, requires the ability to read a map, orient it to the landscape, and use a compass to direct navigation. Triangulation is the simplest technique of orientation. The technique is simple, generally speaking: orient your map to magnetic north and compensate for declination, choose two visible landmarks and measure their degree deviation from north, then converge those lines at a central point, which will give you a rough approximation of where you are.

Know how much, and what types of food to bring.

Adventurers into the wilderness carry everything they eat on their backs until they eat it, and this is not just a concern because of weight, but because of nutrient density and cooking requirements, too. High-calorie foods are a prerequisite, especially for thru-hikers, who burn many more thousands of calories per day than usual. Even day hikers should pay close attention to what they bring with them to eat, and it is a good idea to prepare for scenarios in which they find themselves stranded for a night in the wilderness.

Animal Safety

When it comes to food, storage is especially important when venturing into bear country. Proper steps need to be taken in order to ensure your safety from bear attack—which are unusual, but not impossible—and more typically the safety of the bears. When habituated to human food, bears become dependent and must be euthanized. For that reason, proper safety and food storage is important

Know how to build a fire

In the back-country, it is important to first and foremost check the fire safety levels and prepare accordingly. If it is safe to build a back-country fire, one of the best methods is the tee-pee method, like building a pyramid of silverware. The idea is to build slowly; especially in damp conditions, it is easy to smother a fire before it has a chance to grow.

Drive a forked stick into the ground so that it leans against a supporting stick. Build around it with more tinder, leaving enough room to light the fire with fire-starting materials, placed inside the tee-pee dry grass and moss are especially useful. Once you have sparked these fire-starting materials, build the fire slowly by adding more sticks, and when the coals have grown, logs.

In the back-country, the more efficient you can be with fuel, the better. Search for  fallen debris, never living material. A fire does more than warm you; it is a morale booster, a task to focus on, and a great way to add to the experience of being in the outdoors.

Building a Shelter

For the purpose of survival, there are two types of shelters you need to know: the kind that keep you dry and the kind that keep you warm.

In wet conditions, a simple lean-to is easy to build and protects you from the rain. Prop a 8- to 10-foot beam between two forked supports, creating a triangular opening. Leaning sticks against the support beam, create an enclosure. Complete the shelter by layering branches or leaves on top of the shelter to shield the rain. This shelter, though simple, will keep you dry, but its simplicity makes it vulnerable to collapse, so it is important to build it near windbreaks or low the the ground.

In snowy conditions, a snow cave will keep you dry and warm—remarkably so. However, its design carries an inherent danger of asphyxiation if not properly ventilated. In deep snows, burrow 8 feet horizontally into the snow and begin to excavate out, building a sleeping platform raised above the floor. Add a thin trench below your sleeping platform that leads to the exit. These will ensure that your exhaled carbon dioxide does not “pool,” which carries with it the danger of asphyxiation. Curve the walls and ceiling to a point rather than square walls to direct meltwater to the floor without dripping.

How to find clean water.

Access to water is of utmost importance for survival in the outdoors. As such, there are several tools at your disposal to keep yourself hydrated and safe. Experts argue that you should drink half of your body weight in ounces every day to ensure that you are properly hydrated, and it is a burden to carry this amount of water with you—especially when planning for longer journeys.

A wide array of alternatives is at your disposal for the treatment of water.   I prefer to carry a life straw with me on long trips into the woods.  However there are several other brands available as well. Bringing water to boiling point kills off deleterious bacteria,  but you want to conserve your fuel, so this is an option used only when necessary.  (Sometimes a bandanna or clean t shirt is all you need.)

Learn the signs and symptoms.

For adventurers who spend enough time in the wilderness, a Wilderness First Res-ponder certification is a good idea, but some basic first aid skills are a must while in the open country. Chief among these, other than avoiding danger, is the ability to prevent worsening conditions before they become dangerous. Drink enough water, and pack adequate filtration devices to keep yourself hydrated. Learn how your body reacts to heat and cold, and learn how to layer your clothing so that you can quickly react to changing conditions.

Should dangerous situations arise, learn how to quickly assess and act in potentially life-threatening situations. Hypothermia and dehydration are a nuisance in urban settings, but they can kill you fast on the trail. Assessing an injured and unconscious hiker can make the difference between life and death. It is absolutely critical to know the signs and symptoms.

Though by no means comprehensive, these skills will help to keep you safe and happy in the outdoors.  Proper research is so important when traveling into new area’s.  Know your exits, learn the trails, study maps, find the park ranger stations, carry walkie talkies. All of these things will help to keep you safe in the forest.

Iowa Guide to Winter Adventure

As you can tell by the cold weather, winter is almost upon us.  When the cold weather hits, all to often Adventure comes to a halt.  With that said I thought it was a good time to compile a list of some of Iowa’s best winter activities.  These Adventures are guaranteed to get the blood pumping, and give you the sense of Adventure you desire.

Visit Climb Iowa:

Escape the cold weather  with a trip to Climb Iowa, This indoor(Climate Controlled) climbing facility is located only 5 miles from Des Moines. With more then 10,000 square feet of climbing space and over 200 different routes, a fitness room, and a yoga studio, There is literally something for everyone, regardless of skill level. Climb Iowa offers day passes and monthly memberships. For more info call 515-986-2565

Matt Leyden’s Dive Shop:   Mastering a new skill is always a great way to spend the winter months, just think by spring time you could be a certified scuba diver! Classes are offered year round, and are taught by some of most experienced dive masters in the state. Matt Leyden’s Dive Shop is located in Clive, and offers classes all over the Des Moines area. For more information or to register for a class call 515-777-2751

Seven Oaks Recreation:

Seven Oaks is a great location year round for adventure, but in the winter months it turns into one of the states best ski resorts.   Offering guests a wide range of fun activities including, skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing.  The slopes consist of 11 runs, from beginner to expert, so no matter your skill level, your sure to find what your looking for at Seven Oaks. The ski resort also has a terrain park, rail yard, and a beginner area. For more information call 515 432-9457

Bear Creek Cabins: 

  This is a perfect location to spend winter break, and is also a popular location for many families during the holidays.  Words really can not do this place justice, a trip to Bear Creek is like taking a trip back in time.  The cabins are situated between the number 1 and number 2 ranked trout streams in the state, and offer breathtaking views year round.  I can’t think of a better location to get snowed in, then Bear Creek Cabins. They are several cabins of all different sizes available, so bring the whole family. For more information call 563-546-7722

Climb an Ice Silo:  

Located In Cedar Falls, silo ice climbing is really catching on attracting over 300 people a season.  This may not sound like very many, and that’s because the world of ice climbing is still fairly young, especially in Iowa.  But if strapping into a harness and attempting to scale a frozen silo sounds like fun to you, then visit

Chimney Rock Campground:

 One of the most beautiful campgrounds in the Midwest, located next to the Upper Iowa river.  The campground is surrounded with back wood charm, and has 200 foot high bluffs overlooking the river valley.  With 7 different cabins to choose from, Chimney Rocks is the perfect destination for a romantic winter getaway.  For more information call 563 735-5786

Is there anything I left off the list?  What are some of your favorite winter activities?


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