Category: Frontier

5 Ways to Get a Fresh Start in 2018

brooke-lark fruits via unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Yes here is yet another post in the “X ways to do X that are so simple that you must be a moron if you’re not doing them already” genre. Only these aren’t insights from your typical productivity gurus.

Five of my favorite ideas for starting fresh:

Opportunities multiply as they are seized. — Sun Tzu

[From Dr. Gabriel Robbins’ Good Quotations by Famous People – an awesome curated group of quotes]

I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end. (Jo March)
— Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

[From Good Reads]

I know people who grow old and bitter. I want to keep making a fresh start. I don’t want them to defeat me. That would be suicidal. — Robert Wyatt

[From Brainy Quotes]

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call Failure is not the falling down, but the staying down. — Mary Pickford

[From Quoteland]

…to emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on Heaven is to create hell. In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has no finish line. — Tom Robbins

[From The Quotations Page]

Thomas Fire Trail Closures for 2018

thomas fire trail closures

Along with the loss of life and property caused by 2017’s Thomas Fire, there is also considerable damage to the region’s front country trails. Thomas Fire Trail Closures are still unknown because the fire is still active and all trail access within the perimeter is suspended (with heavy fines for violating).

According to the Los Padres Forest Trails Association over 127 miles of trails and 100 miles of forest roads have been damaged. Some of these trails could be closed for years. The full extent of the damage won’t be known until crews can get into the area and survey trail conditions.

When the surveys are complete then sites like Hike Los Padres will be updated. But until the fire is out and the surveys start pouring in, don’t assume that any of these trails are open.

To get the latest info on trail conditions in the Santa Barbara area visit Ray Ford’s Noozhawk column.

To see the area considered closed to access you can view the Forest Service Thomas fire closure map (shown above).

The text of emergency Los Padres forest closures is available here.


Some of the Best Apps for Hiking – Plus How to Hike Without Your Phone

We’ve gotten to the point where it’s hard to imagine going anywhere without our phones. And it just so happens that there is a great crop of apps to enhance your experience outdoors.

But just so we’re clear on this, no app is going to take the place of basic woodcraft skills. Think about it – your battery could die. Your phone could die. You can be in a place where you get no signal. You need to know what to do when you can’t count on your phone.

Fortunately some of the best trail apps help you prepare for the worst.

Knowstartup rounds up 10 Apps that Every Hiker Shouldn’t Live Without. Along with tracking apps like Map My Hike, this list has first aid and safety apps such as the SAS Survival Guide.

Not on the Knowstartup list, and one of my favorite apps, is GAIA GPS, a mapping app that has offline navigation tools for areas with no cellular service.

If you’re planning a true wilderness hike by all means take a look at Knowstartup’s list. But also get familiar with some good old-fashioned map and compass skills.

Terrible Predictions for 2017

Public domain photo via Library of Congress

Public domain photo via Library of Congress

Now that we no longer have the Mayan calendar to kick around where can we turn for our year-end doomsday predictions? One place to start is the blood of San Gennaro.

Every year the dried blood of Saint Januarius is presented in a ceremony of the Roman Catholic Church in Naples, Italy. And every year the centuries-old blood miraculously becomes liquid. Except for this year.

Failure of the miracle of San Gennaro is supposed to portend evil tidings. The last time the blood of the saint failed to liquify was 1980, the year of a terrible earthquake that killed over 2,000 people.

Nostradamus Predicts Monetary Crisis Following Trump Election

Michel de Nostradame, everybody’s go-to predictor of cataclysm, might have predicted the election of Donald Trump in the quatrain 40 from Century 1. We should know if this is true when somebody from Egypt starts messing with global monetary policy. It’s also quite likely that you can read anything you want into Nostradamus’ ambiguous verse.

Psychic Predictions for 2017

Channeled from beyond the grave, the Bulgarian mystic Baba Vanga supposedly predicted that Obama will be the last U.S. president. This means that something will happen to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president – or possibly that Trump will find a way to end the presidency once he takes office.

Also posthumously, the famous “sleeping prophet” Edgar Cayce might have predicted that Vladimir Putin will prevent the world from slipping into a third world war and bring spiritual renewal to the West.

Current non-dead psychics are less specific and less interesting in their predictions.

Futurist Predictions for the Year Ahead

Predictions from scientists are less interesting than those from psychics because scientists see next year mostly as a continuation of the last. Aliens, yawning chasms and apocalyptic horsemen aren’t part of the dataset for most futurists.

Among top science and technology trends will be a race to create a truly intelligent assistant, a surgeon will successfully transplant a human head, and hackers will climb to a whole new level in 2017.

My personal prediction for 2017? Anxiety will become the new “normal.”

Best of Wild Rye – 2016

Photo by Andrew Neal via

Photo by Andrew Neal via

How did 2016 stack up here at Wild Rye? A lot of the year’s most popular posts were evergreen topics from years gone by, but the dominant theme seems to be “if you’ve got an itch you gotta scratch it.”

Use Witch Hazel to Cure Posion Oak Rash – Witch Hazel acts as a mild astringent and for my money beats other “cures” such as calamine lotion.

Poison-Oak: the Itch You Can Never Scratch – How and why poison oak makes you itch.

Where to Camp in Ventura County – Some of the best local campsites.

Get 32 AA Batteries from a Single 6 Volt Battery? Maybe Not So Much… – Big batteries are made of smaller batteries. But you’re not likely to find an AA bonanza inside a single lantern battery.

Hike to Two Trees – The hike to Two Trees isn’t Ventura’s best hike, but it is the most asked-about.

Trails – Directions to a few Jeep trails. A little bit useful but not current.

Trail Notes: Ballinger Canyon and Deer Park Jeep Trails – More Jeep trails.

Getting Tough: Building Climbing Calluses – When you start out rock climbing you wish there was some kind of lotion you can put on your hands to help you build calluses. Your wishes are in vain.

Mysterious Sphinx of Malibu Found? – The book Weird California teases about an ancient monument in the Malibu mountains. I discovered the secret location – but it’s just a natural rock formation.

Giant List of the Best Off-Road Camping Trailers – So many awesome trailers, so little time.

Love Camping but Can’t Part with Your Mid-century Modern Life? Try These – Eichler homes on wheels.

Grove of the Titans – Really big trees in an undisclosed location.

Sometimes You Need a Map – Here are Some of the Best

map of areas without roads

Regions of the world without roads – National Geographic

I recently had a conversation with my wife, her sister and her brother about the value of a good old fashioned paper map. While GPS systems are convenient they don’t help you get the big picture of your surroundings.

National Geographic, known for its amazing maps, serves up the best maps of 2016. Along with the map of the world’s most valuable roadless areas, shown above, there are secret Japanese military maps, maps of cities under surveillance by the FBI and DHS, and a glimpse inside Stanford University’s public map collection.

And if National Geographic’s site isn’t enough for you, check out Edward Tufte’s collection of unusual maps.


A Packable Panini Press and Other Outdoor Gear You Never Knew You Needed

panini press

BuzzFeed’s list of 30 Insanely Useful Camping Products You’ll Wish You Knew About Sooner is an awesome assortment of good, bad and ugly outdoor equipment that you either need or need to avoid.

The Good

Water Filter. The MSR Miniworks water filter is fantastic. I’ve used it on numerous trips and it works great. Be aware that in the winter the ceramic will freeze and you won’t get any flow.

Inflatable Solar Lantern. My daughter got us a bunch of these blow-up solar lights. They are fun, lightweight and festive. Easy to pack but they do pop, so be careful.

Stormproof Matches. Seems like the only time I need to make a fire or light a stove is when it’s cold, drizzly, windy and my fingers barely work. Stormproof matches are like tiny highway flares that burn for a while even when the wind is blowing hard.

The Bad

Electronic Pest Repeller. Uh, yeah. And you also have a million dollars waiting for you in a Nigerian bank.

Poler Napsack. These things get great reviews. And yet… Maybe bring an emergency blanket just in case (mylar emergency blankets really work in a pinch.)

The Ugly


EVA Poncho. They just look stupid.

Seriously though, most of the things on BuzzFeed’s list are worth a look, like the JetBoil backpacking stove – I wouldn’t get one ($$$) but they work as advertised and I’m always a little jealous of the folks that have these and are enjoying their hot freeze-dried Teriyaki chicken twenty minutes before I am.

How to Take Any Car Off-Roading [Insert Caveats Here]

off-roading in a sedan

Photo: VW Forum

So you want to venture into the wilderness but you don’t want to fork out the dough to build an ultimate adventure rig? No problemo. Outside Magazine tips you to what you need to venture off the beaten path no matter what kind of car you’re driving.

At the top of their list is traction because, well, it’s all about where the rubber meets the road. Or doesn’t as your case may be. So tires and tire repair are definite must-haves.

And if you have the derring-do to adventure into the outback in your Corolla, please read to the end of their article…which is all about recovery. Sand ladders, a tow strap and some kind strangers might be all it takes to make your trip something you can survive long enough to share with the grandkids.

Giant List of the Best Off-Road Camping Trailers

off-road camping trailers

You like to get far off the beaten path but you hate sleeping on the ground. We get it. And so does the Adventure Portal with their buyers guide to off-road camping trailers. All in all they cover trailers from 32 different manufacturers, with a rundown of models, features and specs:

The styles of the off-road trailers covered in this article are:
(1) Teardrop.
(2) “Internal Living Space” trailers.
(3) Fully spec’d Box Frame/Expo.
(4) M416 Utility.
(5) Flatbed Toy Hauler.

Terrain capability of each off-road trailer is rated:
(a) Easy: graded fire roads where 4High is only used on occasions.
(b) Moderate: rough terrain where 4Low and high clearance is needed.
(c) Difficult: 4Low, lockers, high clearance required with careful wheel placement and spotters. Potential for trailer and rig damage.

The Adventure Portal’s guide has a great rundown of makes and models with prices and differences between models. With a wide range of trailers from off-grid capable teardrops to DIY project rigs, you’re bound to find something that works for you.

If that’s not enough, you can find even more camping trailers at:

6 Adventure-Going Off-Road Trailers from Gear Patrol
1001 Off-Road Trailers on Pinterest

UPDATED 5.25.2016: An incredibly comprehensive review of Turtleback trailers at Expedition Portal

UPDATED 5.27.2016: Gizmag lists the latest and greatest off-road camping trailers from Arizona’s Overland Expo.

And for the budget-minded? How about a roof rack and a two-person tent cot (available on Amazon)?

two person tent cot

Teardrop Trailer Holds its Own in the Outback

off road teardrop trailer

This Teardrop holds its own on technical trails | Photo Chris Cordes, Expedition Portal

One of the big questions about mechanized camping is whether the expense and trouble of a camper offsets the hassle of setting up and striking a tent. But when you’ve got a camping trailer as capable as the SoCal Teardrop the equation starts leaning in the direction of “camper.”

Chris Cordes takes an in-depth look at the performance of a fully outfitted SoCal teardrop and has a lot of good things to say. This rig was equipped with an ARB refrigerator powered by a couple of Goal Zero Boulder 30 solar panels which gives it some off-the-grid capability. The suspension was retrofitted and a fold-out side tent added.

But the best mod that was made to the trailer?

By the end of our first journey I had begun implementing a series of small changes aimed at making trailer more enjoyable and easier to live with. This began with swapping out the wheel on the tongue jack. As anyone who has pushed one of these things around can tell you, plastic wheels are awful for maneuvering. We picked up a pneumatic rubber model from AT Overland, and spent the rest of the year and a half thanking ourselves for such a smart decision. Seriously, it might be the best investment you’ll ever make.

If you have an inclination toward taking a trailer on one of your explorations, give this article a read.

Also: Tent Camping Vs. Trailer

We Designed the Best Roof Top Tent Ever. Sort of.

Car Camping in an 1967 Chevelle in the Arizona Desert

How Robots Might Change Our Understanding of “Off the Beaten Path”

Concept for an Autonomous Exploration Vehicle | FastCo Design

Concept for an Autonomous Exploration Vehicle | FastCo Design

A road trip is the ultimate journey into the unexplored territory of one’s soul. FastCo Design asks the question “how will that change when cars drive themselves?”

Honda invited creative director Morihiro Harano to highlight the company’s autonomous driving tech by talking about his love for exploration:

“My inspiration for this project came from a few things,” Harano says. “My son’s and my love for motorhomes—we built one together from Legos—the tiny house movement—I love architecture—and a road trip in Iceland for a shoot on a very long and wild road. When I learned about Honda’s autonomous driving technology, those four things are came together for me. I thought if we could make a comfortable motorhome with autonomous driving technology, I would love to live my rest of life on the road, moving, traveling, enjoying a very long road trip on this planet, being a kind of new nomad.”

I wonder, though if one’s sense of being part of a bigger experience will get lost when we leave the driving to the bots. It might start feeling less like a road trip and more like a family vacation.

Two Dozen Free/Cheap Things to Do in Los Angeles – Plus a Few

Santa Monica pier

Santa Monica pier at night | Photo: ™ Pacheco via Matador network

Los Angeles is such a sprawling place that you have to plan carefully how to explore. Matador Network serves up nearly two dozen free or cheap things to do in the city of Angels that give you a real taste of the city – arguably much more so than a trip to Universal Studios.

You might not think of Los Angeles as a place to take in nature but Matador’s list even serves up a few waterfalls:

22. Go chasing waterfalls.
Cost: Free + gas + parking

There isn’t a ton of flowing fresh water in L.A., but if you know where to look there are trails that lead the adventurer to some small (hey, we take what we can get around here!) cascades. Wear sturdy shoes, sun protection, and bring plenty of water when doing any hiking.

Waterfalls to visit:

Monrovia Falls: An easy 1.7-mile hike from Monrovia Canyon Park entrance station (in Monrovia).
Eaton Canyon Falls: About 1.8 miles from the parking lot at the trailhead in Altadena and a very popular hike. If you have fantasies of having the waterfall to yourself, think again! Expect crowds.
Santa Ynez Falls: Perhaps easiest accessed from the trail system emanating from Topanga State Park. It’s about a 2.5-mile hike to the falls from the TSP parking lot.

To Matador’s list I’d add:

1) Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, everything you’ve ever seen in Core77 is on this street.(Check out the canals while you’re there.)
2) Central Library in Los Angeles – The Mother Lode of Art Deco
3) The Getty Museum – There are actually two Getty museums, Getty Center and Getty Villa. Both are free but you’ll need to pay for parking and at the Villa you need to make reservations.

The secret to enjoying Los Angeles is to visit neighborhoods that are close together – and avoid the 10 freeway if you can.

Trail Notes: Ballinger Canyon and Deer Park Jeep Trails

Shrubby Brushweed in Bloom Along Trail 24

Despite drought conditions this year, the Shrubby Brushweed plants are covered with yellow flowers in Ballinger Canyon. Other flowers blooming in the canyon are Hareweed, Phacelia, and Bush Lupine. It’s a different story in Quatal Canyon to the south where hardly any wildflowers are blooming at all.

On this trip to the Ballinger OHV park I was hoping to enter Deer Park Canyon from Highway 33, using Trail 23W31 marked as a through 4WD route on the Ballinger Canyon route map. It appears that Trail 23W31 is on private property. Trails 40 and 46 are both gated at approximately the place where the vertical black line intersects them on the map below.

Trail 23W31 Deer Park Canyon

I wound up scouting a number of trails, outline in lime green on the map below. (Click on the picture for a larger view.)

Ballinger Routes 24, 36, 40, 46

Trail 24 is an easy trail through high desert territory. The road is sandy, rocky and heavily “moguled,” making for a bumpy ride in places. The easternmost part of the trail includes a slight climb among scrub oak and pinyon pines. The trail is narrower here and more interesting. In wet weather it can be challenging, with deep ruts that could leave you high centered if you slipped off the trail.

Trail 40 includes some sections of moderate difficulty, with a steep climb up the ridge overlooking Deer Park Canyon. I’m assuming the moderate rating comes from a couple of pretty steep scrambles. I imagine some of the hillclimbs (and descents) could get pretty hairy following a big rain. In dry conditions these hills aren’t anything a little 4WD Low can’t handle. The trail is quite narrow in places, giving excellent views of the canyons on both sides.

Trail 40 travels a narrow ridge with no shoulder on either side.

Trail 46 follows a gentle grade to the floor of Deer Park Canyon. More moguls here and a few narrow places.

Trail 36 follows a wash along the floor of Deer Park Canyon. It’s a fun ride between steep walls in places. There was quite a bit of Bush Lupine in flower along this trail.

Bush Lupine in Bloom in Deer Park Canyon

As I said above, Trail 40 and 46 are gated, meaning that you can’t use them to exit to Highway 33 as maps indicate. But they are good for some nice out-and-back exploring. There were a handful of bikers and ATV riders in the park on this beautiful Saturday in Spring, but most of the time I felt I had the trails to myself.

Originally posted April 9, 2007.

Get Your Point Across in Any Language with this Clever Shirt

iconspeak multilingual shirt

ICONSPEAK shirt has universal symbols for travelers | Photo by ICONSPEAK

It’s a good idea to learn the language of a country when you travel. Little things like bus signs, menus and movie marquees make more sense. But if you don’t have the 3 months it takes to learn a language, or even if you know the language and simply can’t get your point across, then this shirt from Iconspeak can help you out. With 39 universal symbols covering transportation, dining, and services you can easily get your point across for most basic needs. And if your shirt is ready for the wash they even have a tote bag.

Also of interest, The 18 Universal Symbols that Make it Easier to Travel in Japan and The Wordless Travel Book.

[Via My ModernMet]

Jeep Trail to Big Caliente

Santa Ynez Crossing

The drive to Big Caliente isn’t challenging enough to be a good Jeep trail, and it isn’t smooth enough to be pleasant. But when you finally make it to the floor of Blue Canyon, you feel like the time was worth it. The canyon is a large meadow area with sycamore and oak with the Santa Ynez river meandering down the middle.

The road is passable by almost any vehicle (I saw more than one Camry making the trip). Several concrete water crossings might pose some difficulty after a big rain, but it isn’t until you get to the last water crossing on 5N16 that you really need some clearance. Here the water was over a foot high, well over the sills of some passenger cars.

The attraction of this drive is the hot springs at the end of 5N16. There you’ll find a cement tub about the size of a home spa, some cinder block changing rooms that have seen better days and a pit toilet. The water in the springs is a good 170 degrees and the setting is nice, although perhaps too much traffic on a weekend. Google maps show a 4WD road near 5N16, but I didn’t see it on this trip. Most of the roads, such as the continuation of Murieta Canyon Road were gated. The Los Padres rangers keep these closed so that they don’t get churned to oblivion during the rainy season.

Blue Canyon has a number of hiking trails and campsites that would be worth further exloration.
Big Caliente hot spring

Here’s a Google Pedometer map of the route.

Originally published February 24, 2007