Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Adventure Preparedness Training

Triple Aught Design (TAD) is one of the Bay Area's own premier gear companies.  Their stuff has a unique blend of style and durability.  Back in 2011 I wrote a review of their Artemis Hoodie after field testing it during the first World's Toughest Mudder.  The wool sweater not only helped me to stave off hypothermia, but after after a quick wash came out looking like new.

TAD is now expanding their line up from gear and apparel to courses and seminars that will help you get through your next adventure.  Two of their courses coming up over the next few months are their Wilderness First Aid Course and their Field Forecasting Course.

Over spring break in college I took a Wilderness First Responder Course (Wil Fir).  I worked my way through college as a Wildland Firefighter operating in some pretty remote areas.  Some areas were only accessible by rappelling from a helicopter

The work was arduous and at times dangerous.


The Wil Fir course seemed like a good set of skills to have.  I instantly fell in love with this course.  It taught us how to improvise and be mini MacGyvers.  I loved it so much that I went on to become a Wilderness EMT and a Wilderness First Aid Instructor.

Wilderness Medicince picks up where normal First Aid Course leave off. When we're in the city we know that help is just a phone call and a few minutes away.  In the wilderness help could be hours or days away and with limited supplies.  We learned how to make splints out of everything from tree branches to magazines or whatever happened to be on hand.  While this course is a great idea for any who works or plays in the outdoors, it's also a good knowledge to have in general.  

While most of the time we can call 911 when needed, in the event of a major disaster or emergency emergency  responders can become tied up very quickly.  FEMA's Community Emergency Response Team Program recommends that neighborhoods should be able to be self sufficient for 72 hours after a major emergency.  That might be how long it takes for emergency responders to be able to respond to some areas.

The Wilderness First Aid course is held over two days, June 7 & 8, 2014.  You can find out more info and register for it here.

Just as good as having Wilderness Medicine knowledge, is knowing how to avoid situations where you would have to use this  knowledge.  In Wildland Firefighting we lived by the up to the minute weather reports.  Up to date knowledge of the weather helped to keep us out of some very dangerous situations.  This is also true for anyone who spends time in the outdoors.  Should you keep forging ahead on your hike or should you turn back?  Will this be a pleasant stroll through the woods or will it end hypothermia.  This is where TAD's Field Forecasting class comes in.  

The Field Forecasting class is taught by Meteorologist Jim Woodmencey who teaches avalanche and high risk weather forecasting to US Military Special Operations Command Personnel.  Do you ever find yourself in places where you can't access your weather app?  Cell phone battery out of juice?  This class will give you the skill set recognize and predict weather patterns for yourself.  In it you'll learn 

  • Introductory Meteorology: Knowledge of the atmosphere, barometric pressure, orographics, cloud identification and storm systems
  • Weather Forecasting: Interpreting satellite / radar images and utilizing weather maps
  • Tool Proficiency & Utilization: Developing expertise in the use of your five senses in addition to barometers and altimeters

The Field Forecasting Class is being held May 31, 2014 and June 1, 2014. You can find out more info and register for the class here

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fun with Fitness: Kauai Day 6

We started out day 6 by heading out to the Opaekaa Falls which are one of the most accessible major falls on the island.  This waterfall is only about 5 minutes off of the main road and easily well worth the trip.

Directly across from the falls is a great view of the Wailua River Valley along with plenty of the local chickens that were taking in the scenery along with us.

Next we drove around the coast to one of my all time favorite hiking trails, the Kalalau Trail.  We had an amazing overview of this trail on Day 3 by land, Day 4 by helicopter, and Day 5 by speed boat.

The road to the North Shore is marked by amazing sights both off the coast and inland.  This is an inland cave next to the main highway.  The white residue on the walls is salt, evidence that this cave was carved from the rock by towering waves, pounding the shore. 

The road winds north around the island until it ends at Ke'e Beach.  This beach is sheltered by a reef and often provides calm swimming and snorkeling, but as always check the local surf reports before entering the water.  

Ke'e Beach serves as the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail.

The trail starts of steep and rocky and rarely lets up.  Under normal conditions it can also be quite slippery in some sections, making for pretty challenging climbing.

Sweeping ocean views  pop up after less than 1/2 a mile of hiking and continue over the next several miles.

Two miles in is my all time favorite beach, Hanakapi'i.  The trail stretches for 11 miles, but this is as far as you can hike without a permit.  One of the many reasons I love this beach is because the view looking up the canyon is of a river descending down from steep, jagged cliffs and feeding into the Pacific.

And of course we ended the day with another amazing sunset back at Ke'e Beach.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fun with Fitness: Kauai Day 5

Day 5 marked the third way in which we would tour the Napali Coast.  we got up early that morning to take a boat tour/snorkeling trip around the western side of the island.

 The boats the company uses are the rigid hull inflatable zodiac boats.  I like being right next to the water in these boats, sitting on the sides.  We came across several pods of dolphins that came up and swam right along side of us.

As we continued along the coast the crew guided us into several sea caves that had been showcased in movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean.

If you look at the 5th picture from the previous post you can see the aerial view of this cave that we had the day before.

The last time I took one of these tours along the coast it was just the boat ride.  This time we stopped off and toured the Nu'alolo Kai State park for a quick hike through the area before snorkeling.  This area is only accessible by boat and only tour companies with special permits can dock here.

The Nu'alolo Kai area is the remnants of a sheltered fishing village that was inhabited continuously for 800 years from the 12th to 20th centuries.  It is accessible only by boat and is bordered by sheer cliffs rising over 1000' directly out of the beach.

After a quick lunch including a few cocnuts found on the beach, we hopped into the warm ocean waters and snorkeled for a bit.

This pic shows the effect training for Pavel's Bodyweight Certification course had on my back.

Once we returned to town we toured the local shops and galleries of Hanapepe and the "Western most book store in the United States."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fun with Fitness: Kauai Day 4

Day 4 was a pretty incredible day on the island. Since less than 20% of Kauai is accessible by car the saying goes that "visiting Kauai and not seeing it by air is like going to the Sistine Chapel and not looking up." I used to work for the US Forest Service as a wildland firefighter helicopter rappeller. In the course of my job I was paid to fly over and rappel into places such as Mt Whitney, the southern Sierra Nevadas, and the Nevada high desert. Helicopter tours on Kauai are so incredible, that even with this background, I have gladly paid for helicopter tours both times I've been to Kauai.

We woke up early Sunday morning to once again head down to the south side of the island. Both times I've flown with Inter-Island Helicopters for a few reasons. The first time I flew with them they also served as the Fire Rescue contract helicopter for Kauai, making them pretty near and dear to my heart. They fly with the doors off, which for me is really the only way to fly. And they fly the fast MD500 Hughs helicopters. Think Magnum P.I. or the "Little Birds" from Blackhawk Down.

This time I paid a little more for a private tour and ended up on the smaller Robinson R44 helicopter. I was a little ambivalent on this one, because the MD is like the ferrari of helicopters - quick and just plain bad ass looking. The R44 looks like something out of a cute little anime cartoon. The woman at the counter assured me that she had her reservations about little ship when they first got it. Once she flew in it and realized that the windows were much bigger, making it better for pictures, she gained a new appreciation for it. And when it was in the air, it flew just the same as the bigger ship. It fast became her favorite helicopter.

We sat through a quick safety briefing, strapped our life jackets on and were led out to the awaiting helicopter, which was all spooled up and ready to go. Our pilot, Conrad, introduced himself, made sure we were all situated, then lifted up and banked around to the right as we took off into the air.

First we flew over Waimeia Canyon which we had just been visiting the day before.

Conrad was an extremely knowledgeable tour guide and an great pilot. We soon got the feeling that even for someone that does this day in and day out for a living, he was having as much fun up here as we were.

Next we flew along the North Shore making for the second of four ways we'd experience the Napali Coast this trip. The first of which, the Kalalau Lookout and Pihea Trail, were also mentioned in the Kauai Day 3 post.

We continued along the coast flying over Tunnels Beach which we visited the first day.

From here we flew into the interior of the island. Kauai is home to literally the wettest place on earth. The 5,142' Mount Waialeale literally meaning "ripling water" or "overflowing water averages over 452 inches of rain a year and received a record setting 683 inches of rain. According to Conrad it rains 350 days, yet somehow we managed to catch it on one of those five days when it was clear allowing us to fly right into the shield volcano.

Shield volcanos are usually built almost entirely of lava flows and are so named because their profiles resemble a warrior's shield.

As we zig zagged through the canyons I became won over by the R44's nimbleness and the expansive open views it offered.

I used a GoPro camera with a wrist housing for most of the pics and video on this ride. Overall it worked out really well, but a a lot of my pictures did come out a bit off kilter due to not being able to sight the camera very well with it mounted on the wrist. Another issue that came up was about half way through the ride I noticed condensation on the inside of the case, obscuring the lens. I know now that when using the GoPro to make sure that the lens and lens cover are free of all smudges and that the case is completely dry inside before sealing the camera inside.

We then re-enacted the "Welcome to Jurassic Park" scene as we flew over Jurassic Falls.

We wound around the island a bit more, but before we knew it, it was time to head back to the helibase. We hopped off the little ship with ear to ear grins. Check out Conrad in the background throwing out a shaka.

Now, this might seem like a full day's adventures, but we had barely started for the day. When we landed, it wasn't even 0930 yet. We departed the helibase in search of fuel for the rest of the day (aka breakfast). We drove around a bit and happened upon the Kauai Coffee Company.

There we thermoses with free samples of the coffees on a table in the patio. I'm generally not a big coffee drinker. I drink my coffee black and save it for those times when I really need it such as working 48 hours straight on the line of a wildland fire. The Kauai Blue Mountain blend didn't give me the jitters that normal coffee does and was so incredibly smooth that I could see myself going there every morning for cup to start off the day. We went inside to get a full cup of coffee. A cheerful retiree named Chuck sold us cups for $1.50 each and then rounded us up for a tour of the plantation.

The tour takes about 15 minutes, is pretty interesting and informative and well worth it. Fueled up and energized we drove down the shore to Poipu Beach to snorkel with tropical chickens, fish and sea turtles.

Kauai chickens have no natural predators so they have flourished and are found just about everywhere on the island. They have interbred with other tropical birds leading to some very colorful combinations. Imagine a rooster with a peacock tail.

We hopped into the water to be greeted by a bunch of fish of different colors and sizes darting past us.

For most of the time we were out there a pair of sea turtles we hanging out in the shallow surf. The lifeguards were very diligent making sure all of us gave the turtles a wide berth and let them go about their business.

We swam until the early evening and then headed back over to Port Allen to end the day by watching yet another incredible sunset.