• the first encounter.

  • Retro Vintage Girl in Grass With Purple Shoes

  • Retro Vintage Girl in Grass With Purple Shoes

  • Retro Vintage Girl in Grass With Purple Shoes

Mar 26, 2015

Black Widow SpiderHolster Field Test and Review

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I do a lot hiking and I've been looking for an alternative to my neck strap to carry my Canon DSLR on the trail. I found the Black Widow SpiderHolster on Amazon and gave it a shot based on all of the good reviews. I was not disappointed. I took it on a weekend trip to Tennessee for my brother's birthday to explore Falls Creek Falls State Park and Burgess Falls State Park. There are photo opportunities around every turn in both parks and it was amazing not to have to dig into my bag every five minutes to pull out my camera. This is a fantastic piece of professional gear and does exactly what I need it to. After a few hundred hkes, you get really tired of your camera flopping around on your neck while you're hiking.

Out of the box, you can literally set up the Black Widow on your camera in less than 30 seconds. You just use a wrench to tighten a washer and a bolt. They also sell a plate you can attach to the bottom of the Black Widow to make it compatible with a tripod. I highly recommend picking one up as an accessory.

The camera locks into place using a nifty little ball joint. It sits nice a snug against your hip and you can use the Velcro strap to lock it into place with the lense facing backwards so you don't accidentally damage your lense. The quick release is basically fool proof. You can remove the holster and attach it to any belt, but I really like the Velcro belt that comes with the unit because its really comfortable and has some padding to keep the camera from banging into your hip.

On the trail with the Black Widow camera holster


The quick release is really smooth and fast. You can instantly pop your camera off the holster if you need to get a quick shot. The ball joint locks into place and you have to push the trigger to release it and slide the camera up and out. I did quite a bit of walking with this, and there is just no way your camera can come unattached.

After testing the Black Widow for a weekend on the icy trails in Tennessee, I may never bring my DLSR and hike without it again. I definitely recommend picking one up. I put together a short video of the hikes below if anyone is interested in checking out the waterfalls. Falls Creek Falls is often called the largest waterfall east of the Rockies.


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Mar 19, 2015

A Wild Boar Attacks People. People are saved by ponies?! Unbelievable video footage

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Can you imagine trying to tell this story to your friends before the days of the internet?
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Feb 20, 2015

Pulkey's Pool Hot Springs near Mammoth Lakes California

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Pulkey's Pool Hot Springs near Mammoth Lakes California
If you're driving on 395 near Mammoth Lakes, you really should make the ten minute detour to visit a few of the hot springs. I've hiked all over America and I've never really seen anything like it. Where else can you sit in a hot tub in the middle of a meadow with a 360 degree panoramic view of snow-capped mountains? And these are big mountains. In fact, many of the peaks in this area of the Sierras range rank among the tallest in the Continental United States.

Most of the hot springs in this area are secret spots known only to the locals. Hilltop Hot Springs, also known as Pulkey's Pool, is one of the few tubs that locals will openly discuss with visitors. If you do a little digging online, you can find directions to quite a few hot springs in the area. Pulkey's Pool also has several free camping spots nearby. This particular tub is large enough for about 5-6 people. Its actually a small concrete tub that's fed by a tube connected to a natural spring about 50 feet from the tub. I've read that it can get really busy here on the weekend. We visited at noon on a Tuesday and had to share it with two other people. I have to say, I wasn't nearly as upset as my girlfreind when two beautiful blond women walked up,stripped down to their bikinis, and climbed into the tub with us. :)

If you're on the way north to Yosemite National Park, make sure to check online before you leave because the back entrance to the park is usually closed in the winter and its a long drive to the front. The hot springs may not be worth the  hour detour if the back entrance is closed. Also, don't forget to stop in Bishop nearby and hit Erick Schat's Bakery. I'm not embarrassed to eat an eclair in a hot tub.  You may also want to drive into Mammoth during the summer and visit Devil's Postpile National Monument. Its closed in the winter, but It's definitely on my bucket list for this year. 

Directions:

Pulkey's Pool aka Hilltop Hot Springs

Hilltop Hot Springs has some of the best views of the area. Located only a short distance from Mammoth Lakes, the hot spring is quite popular so don't be surprised if you have to share a tub with someone else. Hilltop is located on the west side of Benton Crossing Road and is open to the public.
Directions - From US 395, take Benton Crossing Road (also known as Green Church Road) 2.7 miles until you see the Hot Springs on the west side of the road.

Wild Willy's Hot Springs

Also known as "Crowley Hot Springs," Wild Willy's is located just a few miles from Mammoth Lakes. There are two man-made sitting areas here, and their sides are reinforced with cement.
Directions - From US 395, take Benton Crossing Road (also known as Green Church Road). Travel east about 2.5 miles until you cross two cattle guards. Turn right just past the second cattle guard and follow the road, always taking the left fork whenever there's a choice. About a mile down, you'll reach a parking area where there's a sign and wooden boardwalk that leads about 200 yards away to the pools.


Twin Lakes in Mammoth Lakes, California

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Feb 14, 2015

Using a Camera Stabilizer For Better Hiking Videos

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I know that a lot of hikers like to shoot video, so I thought I would do a tutorial about how I set up my camera stabilizer. There are a lot of things that factor into a nice hiking video. If you’re not using a stabilizer, you really won’t be able to get a good shot if you’re walking and shooting at the same time. I put some side by side footage in the video above. The results are pretty drastic. 

There are a lot of times when using a handheld camera stabilizer can really come in handy. You obviously won't be able to set up a tripod and a dolly and start wheeling around your camera in public wherever you want.  A handheld stabilizer is also great in a situation where space is limited. Before you hit the trail, you should practice walking backwards with the stabilizer while keeping your subject at an equal distance from the camera to keep them in focus. Here is an example that shows what you can do with a stabilizer in a confined space on the fly. We were actually scolded by the woman working the sunglass hut for shooting without her permission, but we were finished before she could even complain.



I’ve used a couple different models in the past, but I’ve finally settled on a Roxant Pro video stabilizer. They sell for around 60 dollars on Amazon with free shipping.   I really like the build quality. It’s also really light, you can fold it up and it works great with with my GoPro, my point and shoot and my Canon DSLR. I also like that the Roxant Pro stabilizer is easy to customize.  I’ll show you in the video how I use washers to fine tune it.

Here are five shots you can do with a stabilizer to make your videos more interesting

1. Tracking shot while trail running: On a wide trail you can actually run alongside someone and film them with a wide angle lens and get a really great shot.




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Nov 26, 2014

10 Christmas Gifts under $30 for Manly Men

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If any of my ex-girlfriends had bought me a Dremel and a hatchet for Christmas instead of socks, I would probably be married.  I hate nearly every "gift idea" list on the internet, so I decided to post my own personal Amazon wish list in hopes that someone on the web will read it and buy a stun-gun for that special guy in their life. I've never been to a party in my life where a stun-gun wouldn't have made it more fun. And I don't care what anyone says about the frisbee on my list. A frisbee is a manly gift and I stand by that. 




Sriracha Rooster Tee
14.99 from ThinkGeek


Vipertek Mini Stun Gun
10.99 Amazon


Hatchet by Fiskars
$25.97 Amazon

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Nov 13, 2014

What should I put in my first-aid kit for a hike?

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First-Aid Kit for Hiking by Black Diamond Outfitters

There is no definitive right answer when putting together a first-aid kit for hiking.  Every hike is unique.  My kit is based on the dry, hot, cloudless weather in Southern California. At first glance, the list below seems huge, but my kit only weighs about a pound. I buy everything in travel size and small individual packets. I'll add a picture below this post so you can how small the items above pack up in your kit. My own first-aid kit has saved me many, many times. The most common items I use are my windbreaker, my headlamp, my sunscreen and my toilet paper/hand-sanitizer. The most common item I need is extra water. Have a suggestion for something to add to my kit? Add it to the comments at the bottom.:)

My Kit:
Light wind-breaker jacket
Hand Sanitizer
Small roll of toilet paper
Extra plastic bag
Matches
Flashlight or Headlamp with fresh batteries
Steri-strips
Gauze
Bandaids
Moleskin
Advil
Benadryll
Anti-diarrhea medicine
Extra Inhaler for Asthma
Small roll of duct Tape
Safety Pin
Antibiotic Ointment
Alcohol Prep Pad
Length of Rope
Compass
Map of the area
Iodine Tablet or Chlorine tablet for emergency water purification
Needle and Thread
Small empty water bottle for carrying extra water
Sunglasses or a hat
Pair of light gloves
Sunscreen
A few non-lubricated condoms for protecting electronics during a storm or river crossing

Small First Aid Kit For Hiking
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Oct 28, 2014

Indian Cove Campground. Joshua Tree National Park

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Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best places for a fall camping trip in Southern California. The weather is mild and breezy, the night sky is cloudless and perfect for stargazing, the crowds are relatively thin and the chance of rain is basically zero. Joshua Tree is a short 2 hour drive from the beach in Orange County.  If you absolutely hate camping, you always have the option of staying in nearby Palm Springs about 50 minutes outside the park. If you’re headed to Joshua Tree from San Diego, you might even consider a stop in Temecula to visit a winery.

I've stayed inside the main part of the park on past trips, but this time we opted to stay in the Indian Cove Campground located in the northern part of Joshua Tree,  just outside of the town of TwentyNine Palms. The Indian Cove Campground is less cramped than many of the campground located in the main part of the park. Most of the campsites in Indian Cove are situated in between giant rock formations that offer a fair amount of seclusion from neighboring campsites.  The tent sites are extremely reasonable for only $15 a night. You can even avoid paying the 15$ entrance fee into the main part of Joshua Tree by hiking the trails located within the Indian Cove Camping area.

The best trail in the Indian Cove section of Joshua Tree has to be the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail. The word “trail” is a bit misleading, as Rattlesnake Canyon is really a maze of giant boulders you’ll have to hop, squeeze through and climb until you've had your fill. There are countless small caves and crevices to explore among the boulders. We even found a few small arches. This is also a popular spot for rock-climbing.  We saw several groups of people climbing in this area of the park.  We spent 3 hours in the canyon navigating through the boulders up the mountainside. We took a break at the top of a large pinnacle of rocks. We came back down limping like wounded birds and covered in scrapes and got ourselves into a little trouble while exploring a pool in a slot canyon when I accidentally disturbed a wasps nest. They chased me up the side of an eight foot granite wall, but I avoided getting stung. I didn't notice how tired I was until we reached the car. This not a hike for beginners or small children. If you plan on hiking to the top of the boulders, do not be mislead by other sites claiming this is a moderate hike. Rattlesnake Canyon will kick your butt. With that said, this was one of my all-time favorite desert hikes.

A few words of warning: The sun can be intense in Joshua Tree and you can end up severely sunburned, even when the temperatures are cool.  Sun tan lotion and plenty of water are the two most important things you can have in Rattlesnake Canyon. I also recommend bringing a pair of leather gloves because the granite in Rattlesnake Canyon is rough and will tear your hands up.

Rattlesnake Canyon was closed for 5 months this year due to graffiti in the canyon. If you see someone vandalizing the park in any way, please report them immediately by calling park headquarters at
760-367-5502. 


Indian Cove Campground can be booked in advance by visiting http://www.recreation.gov/

Rattlesnake Canyon in Joshua Tree National Park
Directions to Rattlesnake Canyon Trail-head:  From TwentyNine Palms Highway 62, turn right onto Indian Cove Road and drive approximately 3 miles. You will pass both the ranger station and the group camping area. Make your first left onto Indian Cove East and continue one mile through the campground until you reach the parking area for Rattlesnake Canyon. 
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Oct 18, 2014

Mount San Jacinto State Park. Palm Springs, California

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Mount San Jacinto State Park
This week, I finally made my first trip to Palm Springs to hike in Mount San Jacinto State Park. My girlfriend and I had a few consecutive days off and we made the decision to drive up at midnight the night before. I found a cheap hotel about ten miles down the road in the town of Desert Hot Springs through Travelocity for $60. The Aqua Soleil looked nice in the photos, so we booked it and headed out at 10 a.m. the next morning.

We made it to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway around noon. Tickets for the tram cost us $24 each. You're basically forced to take the tram, because if you tried to hike from the bottom, it would take you around 7 hours and ten miles of hiking with 8,000 feet of elevation gain. People who have hiked it say that its worse than hiking Mount Whitney. The tram ride takes around ten minutes. Once we reached the station at the top, the temperature was  around 30 degrees cooler than on the desert floor below. It was a nice change to hike in 60 degree weather in the middle of a desert. The tram station at the top has a few small restaurants where you can buy food and snacks. I bet a lot of people never make it outside of the tram station.

We opted to start with an easy trail. The Desert View Trail is about 1.5 miles round-trip with a slight uphill elevation gain going in. This is the trail that most of the tourists do. There are 5 overlooks along the trail with views of the valley floor below. I was surprised to see so many large Jeffrey Pine trees in the park. I have no idea where they are getting water from because the creek was bone dry and we haven't had a significant rain or snow in several years now. October is a really great time to see Mount Jacinto. We could not have wished for better weather. My only regret was that we should have done this trail during sunset and not in the middle of the day. You can see all of Palm Springs below and I bet it looks amazing at night.

The next trail we hit was the Round Valley Trail. For this section of the park, we had to stop at the ranger station and fill out a permit. It only took about 3 minutes, it was free, and the ranger gave us a map. The hike to the Round Valley Campground from the tram is about 4 miles round-trip with approximately 1000 feet in elevation gain. It took us less than two hours and we stopped a bunch and goofed off. We really should have hiked the last mile past Round Valley to Wellman's Divide, but I was really sore from playing basketball the day before and I was really looking forward to a seafood dinner and a bottle of wine in Palm Springs. If you plan on hiking all the way to the top of Mount San Jacinto you would follow the signs and continue on past Round Valley. It gets rough from this point on, so make sure to bring enough water and allow yourself enough time to make the last tram out. The hike from the tram to the peak of Mount San Jacinto and back is about 11 miles round-trip and may take as long as 7 hours because of the thin air and elevation gain. I would like to come back and turn it into an overnight trip sometime and just camp at Round Valley.

All in all it was a pretty awesome trip, but a little more expensive than our typical day hikes after we racked up a bill at the restaurant that night and then drank ourselves into a coma at the bar. We found a couple of cool places around Palm Springs that I thought I would mention:

Tonga Hut
An awesome little bar in Palm Springs that serves tropical drinks. The bartenders were rad and we spent our night sampling beers with them.

Ruben and Ozzy's Oyster Bar
A east-coast style Oyster Bar. The Campechana appetizer was glorious. I tried to bribe the waiter to steal the recipe for me.

It was $60 for a room midweek and the rooms had just been renovated. They have two hot tubs and a large pool. The pool and hot tubs were open 24 hours and we had them to ourselves. 

To do for next time:

6 miles roundtrip
Trailhead in the Indian Canyons located on S. Palm Canyon Dr.
Admission charge; Information (760) 323-6018

TahquitzCanyon
3.5 mi roundtrip, 300 ft. gain, 2 to 3 hrs 
Trailhead: at the Tahquitz Visitor Center located on Mesquite Ave.


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