Not All Who Wander Are Lost: A Blog for Adventurous Women

We Cannot Be Safe, We Are Not in Danger

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 12, 2016 8:40:17 AM

I woke up this morning to the news that a bomb had gone off in Sultanahmet, the Old City of Istanbul. Along with sadness for the victims and wondering who they were and what they had been doing when the blast occurred, I wondered how it would affect the thinking of the women who are signed up for our trip to Turkey next fall. And I thought of how two realities that appear to be contradictory are in fact simultaneously true.

We cannot be safe. Helen Keller recognized this long ago. Many people know the last sentence of a famous quote: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing" - often interpreted to mean that we should live our lives adventurously or they are empty.

But that really isn't what she was saying. The whole quote is "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God Himself is not secure, having given man dominion over His works! Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable." 

Her point is that no matter what we choose, the belief that we can be safe is an illusion. While she was writing before random acts of terror became almost common, she lived through the two World Wars and the Great Depression, surely times that felt as insecure and uncertain as our own. She lived during a time that over 50,00 people a year died in car accidents in the U.S. We cannot be safe, whether we stay home or travel widely.

We are not in danger. At the same time, most of the world's population, and especially in the United States, is not at risk of sudden unexpected death from a bomb blast. Of course there are places in the world where that isn't true - Syria most obviously right now - and the terror of living with that as a daily reality must be more horrendous than most of us can imagine. For those who lost loved ones in Sultanahmet Square or San Bernadino, it cannot be any comfort to know how unlikely the death of their loved ones was.

But how many of us have lost people we know that way? When I think back to people I know who have died unexpectedly, it was car accidents, cycling accidents, boating accidents. None of those made me think I should give up driving, biking, or boating. Like the vast majority of people in the U.S., I don't know anyone who has died in a terrorist attack. With the exception of a friend who lost her sister on 9/11, I don't know anyone who knows anyone who died in a terrorist incident. The purpose of terrorism is not the deaths it causes but the fear it instills, and how that fear cripples us and reorders our priorities.

At the same time, we have to acknowledge that we cannot enjoy travel if we are gripped by fear. Fear is largely an emotion that cannot be conquered by rationality. If we know we will be constantly worried about our safety and we feel more comfortable staying in the United States, than that is the choice we should make. North America is an amazing continent with tons to explore.

Understand, however, that if we wait until we feel safe, there are large parts of the world that we will probably never see. It seems unlikely that, in my lifetime, the world will have the illusion of safety it did in the 1990s. If we decide not to go someplace this year, we are likely deciding not to go ever.

Topics: adventure travel, safety

How To Keep Your Feet Warm During Winter Outdoor Adventures

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 29, 2014 10:00:00 AM

After the last blog post about How to Stay Warm in Winter a reader asked that question. And in this winter of unrelentinAWT1 copyg polar vortices and plunging temperatures, it's an important consideration.

Like hands, feet are more prone to get cold since your body attempts to preserve core body warmth by skimping on blood flow to your extremities. But that's where the similarity between hands and feet stops. Hands get cold because you often expose them directly to cold air as you take off your gloves to use your fingers, and because your fingers have alot of surface area.

Feet get cold because 1) your feet sweat. You may not feel it, but they do; 2) your feet are in contact with the freezing ground; and 3) like skin everywhere on your body, there is an imperceptible layer of moisture that protects the skin and needs to be protected. In order to keep your feet warm, you need to consider each of these.

1) Wear synthetic or the new wool socks. Good brands are Thorlo and Smartwool. I say new wool because in the old days we used ragg wool socks, which have their own set of problems. If you're going to be out for more than a couple of hours, bring another pair to switch into if your feet get cold.

2) If you are someone who can wear liners (some of us get blisters from liners), use a sweat-wicking pair as your first layer. You do not, however, want to wear two thick layers unless your boots are really roomy. Otherwise your feet can be so tight in your boots that your circulation decreases and your feet actually get colder.

3) Boots are your most important decision and what you buy depends on where you live and what you need them for. Like every other piece of clothing, you want your boots to be waterproof but you also want them to be breathable and there is always a tradeoff. Completely waterproof boots will also be completely unbreathable. But in cold and especially wet weather, it's a tradeoff worth making. In that case your best choice is to buy insulated boots that have a removable felt liner that you can take out and dry. Sorels are a common brand. The liner acts as extra insulation, particularly from the ground, and the fact that its removeable means you can dry it out. If you live someplace with predictably cold weather, these are well worth the cost.

But what if you live someplace that isn't ususally cold, it's just this winter (think Mobile, Alabama this morning). It's likely you couldn't find Sorels if you wanted to and you won't need them for long anyway. In that case, take your roomiest pair of boots, put some neatly folded newspaper in the bottom for an extra layer of insulation and then seal them up with a layer of duct tape on the outside. Or instead of duct tape, put a shower cap over each boot. Fashionable? Well sure, in that quirky kind of outdoors way. And definitely functional.

4) Get chemical heaters. These are little packets that you activate by crunching them up and they give off an amazing amout of heat. Do not put them next to your bare skin. But a packet placed inside your boot at the tip can keep your feet warmer for hours.

Remember, keeping your feet warm is not just a matter of comfort but of vital safety. Your feet are very susceptible to frost bite, as evidenced by the number of mountaineers without ten toes. But being adequately prepared can make going out in the cold fun and safe.

Topics: clothing and gear, outdoors tips, safety, preparation, how to

Trekking poles for hiking trips: the 4 most common questions

Posted by Marian Marbury on Nov 21, 2013 6:22:00 AM

We always have hiking poles on the packing list of any hiking trip we offer. Here are the most common questions we get.

Why do you recommend trekking poles so highly?

Trekking poles contribute to your safety by improving your balance and stability, and to your health by saving stress on your knees. In addition they help conserve your energy by transferring some of the work to your arms and chest. As a result, and as an additional bonus, you also get an upper body workout with great triceps training.

What should I look for when I buy poles?

The short answer is to make sure their height can be adjusted, they have an upright (as opposed to cane-like) handle, and have wrist straps that can be adjusted. If you're just starting out, our advice is either to purchase an inexpensive pair (EBay,or some of the big box stores can be a good source) or borrow a pair of poles from a friend. Then go on a hiking trip where you can not only learn what they are all about but the correct way to use them.  You’ll also see what others have chosen. Once you’ve gained a bit of experience and you know that hiking is going to be a regular part of your life, you can make a more informed decision about whether you want to invest in the ‘perfect’ pair of poles. For more details, read this blog post:

Will TSA allow me to carry poles onto an airplane in my carry on?

If you ask TSA, you will most likely be told that carrying on your poles is not legal. However, our experience is that when traveling in the United States, it is very uncommon to be stopped. What we recommend is to pull your poles completely apart and put them in your carry-on luggage; if your luggage is designed to fit the requirements of carry-on baggage, the poles will just fit. Leave enough time at the airport to check your bag if TSA stops you. The advantages of carrying them on are that your hiking poles will definitely get there and it won't cost anything. The downside is that you could get stopped and have to go check your bag.

What are my options if I don’t want to risk a TSA run in?

The easiest is to put them into a checked suitcase. If you pull them apart, they take up very little room. Other options are to package them in rolled cardboard and check them as a second piece of luggage or to mail them ahead to your destination. Both of those can be expensive so another option, depending on where you are going and how long you will be there before you need them, is to buy them once you’re there.

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: clothing and gear, safety, hiking trips

Do you really have to have all that stuff on a hiking trip?

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jul 30, 2013 5:45:00 PM

One of our guides just returned from the Canadian Rockies Hiking holiday, a hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies, and wrote  "A participant suggested a topic for a blog...basically, it was 'why we are carrying all this stuff and wearing hiking boots when others are wearing flip flops and not carrying a damn thing' ".

It's a great observation!! I immediately started thinking of the time I climbed Mt Katahdin in my early 30s in a cotton tshirt and shorts on a gorgeous hot summer day. We had food and snacks in a pack but that was about it. We got up to the plateau where it started drizzling. Undeterred we walked across to the summit and sat to eat our lunch, while the drizzle continued and the temperature plunged 20 degrees. Deciding we needed to get going, we headed for the path we intended to take down. Unfortunately it was the kind of path that required being able to hold on to rocks. Our hands were so cold that we literally could not use them, so that path was not possible. When I turned to discuss our options, it became clear that my hiking buddy was past the point of coherent conversation and in the first stage of hypothermia, where apathy is the most common symptom. Finding a boulder where we could get out of the wind, we stood and held each other until our body warmth followed by some snacking got her mobile and thinking again. We returned the way we had come, reached the bottom safely, and knew we had been lucky to get away with being so ill prepared.

"Be Prepared" is not just the Boy Scout motto, it's the motto of everyone who spends significant time in the outdoors. What you should have with you will vary with the location and the time of year, so our packing lists are not all the same. But let's look at some of the common items and why we carry them.

    • Hiking poles.There isn't a hiking trip we offer where these aren't on the list. The only difference is whether we put them in the Essential or the Recommended category. Most of our guides use them routinely on any hike for purposes of knee and energy conservation, and getting a great upper body workout. But when you're going steeply downhill or when you're tired, they add a large margin of safety.

    • Synthetic clothing. When we climbed Katahdin, our cotton clothing got soaked and at that point was actively leaching heat from our bodies. Wearing a synthetic tshirt and having a fleece to pull out of our packs, even if we didn't have rain gear, would have made all the difference.

    • Rain gear. But we were really dumb not to carry rain gear just because it was a gorgeous morning when we started out. Weather can change quickly and in unforeseen ways, especially in the mountains. Whether you carry a rain jacket and pants or just a jacket depends on where you're hiking, but a jacket at least should automatically go in your pack. One of our guides leading a hiking trip in the Swiss Alps ran into a hail storm on the day they did the 10 mile traverse from Schynige Platte to First. What could have been a dangerous situation remained an inconvenience because they all carried full rain gear and fleece.

  • Hiking Boots. Hiking boots aren't always essential. If the path is flat and smooth, then wearing flip flops might be all you need. But what flip flops and athletic shoes don't offer you is arch or ankle support, or protection from rocks - all requirements for most trails. A pair of hiking boots that fit your feet well should be comfortable. Yes, I have seen a woman descending a Grand Canyon trail in heels. I can't imagine what her feet felt like on the way out (assuming she didn't break her ankle on the way down).

Probably 49 times out of 50, you will carry more than you end up needing. But that 50th time, when bad weather comes out of nowhere, the trail is unexpectedly eroded or rocky, or what you thought was going to be a 6 hour hike ends up taking 9 hours, you will be delighted to have what you need to stay safe and warm.

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: clothing and gear, safety, preparation, hiking trips

Being an Adventure Travel Guide: Part 2

Posted by Marian Marbury on Apr 24, 2013 7:20:00 AM

I intended to write the second part about being an adventure travel guide before leaving on my latest trip (Exploring Utah's National Parks) but I'm glad I waited. Being in a spectacular place with a lovely and very diverse group of women reminded me both of how much I love guiding, how much work it is, and what qualities make for happy and successful guiding - at least for You don't need to be Xena to be an adventure travel guideAdventures in Good Company. Different companies have different philosophies and non-adventure travel companies undoubtedly have different requirements. But here is what we think is important.

  1. Experience in the outdoors. Guiding is not the way to get experience, and going on trips where others are guiding is a good start but not enough. Having a base of personal outdoor experience, where you are responsible for yourself, is critical for developing both judgment and self-confidence.

    "Good judgment is the result of experience. Experience is the result of poor judgment". You want to gain experience when you aren't responsible for the safety of others. Which is not to say that you won't continue to gain experience as you guide, but you want to have a sufficient base that you have enough judgment to not put others at risk.

  2. A keen interest in others' stories. If you are more interested in telling your stories than in listening to other people tell their's, then look for the types of guiding that are one day adventures (e.g. river rafting or ziplining) or are more oriented towards didactic teaching. A guide who loves to be the center of attention can be very successful short term;  on longer trips, where group relationships are key to everyone enjoying themselves, the focus needs to be on group members. Interest in other people is not something you can fake for an extended period of time.

  3. Safety awareness. This is a particular challenge on adventure travel trips because adventure is not compatible with keeping people totally safe all the time. If you are hiking in the mountains, you need to know to avoid the predictable afternoon thunderstorm. But how about the unpredictable sleet storm that comes up? What have you brought with you to deal with emergencies and when do you turn back? Safety awareness is gained from experience, from talking to others, and from reading about others' mishaps.

  4. Patience. This is another quality that is impossible to fake over a long period of time. On adventure travel trips, many people are out of their comfort zone; even just meeting up with a group of unknown women can be an adventure. As a result, things that are obvious to you may not be obvious to them, timelines may not be clear, people go at different paces. Always keep in mind that everyone is truly doing the best job they can and your role is to figure out the support they need, not to become impatient.

  5. Organization and flexibility. It may seem like a paradox, but the more organized you are, the more flexible you can be. Guides need to have a clear timeline of the day in their mind; then if something comes up that is going to affect it, they can understand exactly how the whole day will be impacted.

    Here's an example: Our plan is to arrive at point X at 6 pm. Some of the group wants to go on a side trail to an overlook and it will take about 45 minutes. If the day is clearly planned, then you know whether there are other aspects you can shorten to make it still possible to arrive at 6 pm. And if you are in touch with your groups' energy and needs, you can make a decision whether keeping to the 6 pm arrival time is more important than going to that overlook.

  6. Being your own best critic. You need to be able to look at yourself clearly, without beating yourself up, and see what you are doing well and what you need to change. If you look to others for validation, you can easily make safety mistakes. For example, you may need to tell people they can't do something they really want to do, if you are clear that it is not safe. (One of the hardest things I ever did a s aguide was tell someone on my Kilimanjaro trip that she would not be allowed to try for the summit). You have to be OK with people being mad at you. At the same time, you have to know when you have made a mistake, even if no one else recognizes it as such. You have to thoroughly look at why it happened and what you need to do differently so it doesn't happen again. And you need to do this without beating yourself up about it.

  7. Good technical skills and experience in the activity you're guiding. Frequently people who want to be guides focus only on this aspect- and it is very important. But in some ways its the easiest part of becoming a guide because you can take classes and then work on developing your skills in different ways (when I was into rock climbing 15 years ago, I used to practice how to "escape a belay" in my bedroom).
Guiding is an endless opportunity to learn new things, meet a variety of fascinating people, and learn about yourself. It isn't for everyone, but for those with a passion for the outdoors, travel, and other people, its incredibly rewarding.

Topics: adventure travel, safety, miscellaneous

Foot care on hiking and backpacking trips

Posted by Marian Marbury on Feb 5, 2013 12:54:00 PM

My first long backpacking trip was 40 years ago in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. The firstblister prevention week my companion had constant trouble with blisters, trying a variety of treatments that were marginally successful. In all honesty, I was not completely sympathetic - I was sure there was something she was doing wrong or she wasn't tough or she had brought the wrong boots. The second week her feet were fine and mine went all to hell. I learned two things from that: 1) blister prevention is way more effective than treatment; and 2) never be smug. Since then I've learned alot about how to keep my own and others feet happy and healthy - and really, your feet are key to a good trip. You can be in the most beautiful place imaginable but if all you can think about is how soon you can get your boots off, you aren't going to enjoy it.

Before the trip starts

1. Buy boots that fit well. If your feet are hard to fit, buy them from a store with trained salespeople who can help. Women often have low volume feet and wearing beefier insoles, such as Superfeet, can help keep your foot from sliding around in the boot. You can read more suggestions here. If you arrive at the start of a hike with boots that don't fit, there isn't much you can do after that.

2. Break your boots in before the trip. Boots that are all leather take longer to break in than leather and synthetic mixtures so make sure you start in plenty of time. And insoles have a break in time too so put them in as soon as you get them.

3. Consider liner socks. Some people always need them, some never need them, and some need them sometimes. You can read a longer post here.

4. Trim your toenails. They should be shorter than your toes or they can get jammed into your boot and cause severe bruising of the nail bed.

Prevention on the trip

1. Keep your feet and your socks as clean and dry as possible. Wash your feet every evening and don't wear your socks for more than one or two days before washing them. If your socks become stiff they have a greater tendency to chafe the skin.  Clean socks also help prevent other foot ailments such as bacteria growth. Dry socks inside wet boots are better than wet socks.  If your feet are wet during the day it is important to dry them at night and either air them out with no socks while you sleep or use clean dry socks. Foot powder can be a boon to people with sweaty feet. I always carry at least 2 pairs, wearing one and drying out the other. In a very wet environment, I take 3 pairs.

2. Say hello to your feet every morning and evening. Sit down and really look at them.  Know what your feet look like when they are healthy. Are there red places or sore spots? If there are, of if there are spots you know you are prone to developing blisters, put duct tape over that spot.

3. Socks should fit well.  Avoid having wrinkles or lumps inside your boot, and if you feel wrinkles, stop and smooth your socks out.

3. Soak your feet in cold water. If you're walking by a stream, take the time to pull your boots off. Not only will it feel delightful, it actually helps to prevent blisters by reducing swelling. Putting your feet up when you take a break does the same thing.

4. If you feel a hotspot, stop and treat it immediately.  A hotspot is a place where the skin is being chafed and can quickly develop into a blister if not cared for. A simple piece of duct tape is often all you need. If the area is quite sore or red, a piece of moleskin with a hole cut out of the middle is more effective. The hole should be placed over the hotspot - this decreases the friction over that area.

5. Change what you're wearing on your feet. If you wear liner socks and you're getting lots of hotspots, take them off. If you're not wearing liners and you're getting lots of hotspots, try wearing some.

Blister treatment

Sometimes no matter what you do, you get blisters. This is not a moral failing. However, they should be treated immediately.

1. Decide if the blister needs to be popped.  It is less likely to develop infection if it is left intact. However, if it more than 3/4 inch in diameter, if it is likely to pop anyway because of it's location (which it usually is), or if the fluid is hazy, it is better to pop it in a controlled fashion that leaves a covering of skin. Typically I don't cover or pop blisters in the evening - I wait to see what they look like the next morning.

2. If you don't need to pop the blister:  Cover the blister with a piece of mole skin cut to a size larger than the blister itself. It should have rounded edges to avoid being lifted when it is back inside you boot.  Then cut a hole slightly larger than the blister itself and place it over the blister.  If the blister is particularly tall, another piece of mole skin with a hole in it may be placed over the first. Cover the blister and mole skin with a dressing and an adhesive bandage.

3. If you do need to pop the blister:

  • With flame-sterilized nail clippers or small scissors make a small “V” cut in the side of the blister. Make the cut at the edges of the blister where ongoing foot pressure will push out additional fluid. This allows better drainage than needle holes. Push all the fluid out with your fingers.
  • Apply a small dab of antibiotic ointment or zinc oxide to the top of the blister.
  • Directly over the blister, apply a blister patch like Spenco’s Sports Blister Pads, or a large duct tape patch with a piece of toilet paper in the middle to keep the tape from sticking to the roof of the blister.
  • After applying a patch, roll socks on and off to avoid disturbing the patch, and use a shoe horn to ease the heel into the shoe.

Like many things, over time you will learn what works best for you!


Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: clothing and gear, hiking, safety, trip preparation

Should women travel alone or join a group?

Posted by Marian Marbury on Oct 20, 2012 8:16:00 AM

women group travelI saw a question in a TripAdvisor's Forum from someone who was interested in a Gutsy Women Travel tour to Europe and wanted to know if anyone had experience with them (Gutsy Women is a women's travel company that offers (non-adventure) group tours to a variety of destinations). The snarkiness of many of the replies was appalling, and basically came down to - if a woman is gutsy, she doesn't need to go with a tour group. Of course I think that is an absurd proposition, but it made me think again about the pros and cons of single vs group travel for women.

Many women who travel with us do so because they have no one to travel with: either their spouses/partners don't enjoy travel, want a different kind of trip, or are too busy; and/or their friends aren't active and prefer spa, shopping, or beach vacations. So for many women the choice isn't whether to go with a travel company or with friends and family, it's whether to go with a company or by themselves.

There are pros and cons to each, and ultimately it comes down to the style of travel you enjoy - there isn't a right or wrong, a bold or a timid way. Like so many things in life, we need to be honest with ourselves about what we truly enjoy, not what we think we should enjoy.

Here are some questions that can help you decide what type of travel is right for you.

  1. Do you enjoy trip planning? Is it fun to pick a destination and then spend time on the internet planning where you'll stay and what you'll do when you're there, possibly making some contacts with people before you go who you can meet when you're there? Or does that feel like work? Do you prefer to put that all in someone else's hands so all you need to do is pack?

  2. Do you like planning how to get around, possibly renting a car or taking public transport? Or do you find you can focus more on where you are if you don't have to figure out how to get there?

  3. Do you like complete spontaneity, deciding every day what to do? Or do you prefer not having to think about what to do every day, but instead being able to follow a prearranged plan?

  4. Do you enjoy being on your own? Do you find it easy to start up conversations and meet new people? Do you like dining alone? Or do you enjoy the camaraderie inherent in group travel when everyone is sharing the same adventure?

  5. Do you like problem-solving all the little things that inevitably come up when you're traveling? Or do you like the idea of someone else having to do that?

  6. Do you like navigating a foreign culture and figuring out how to communicate when you don't know the language? Or is that anxiety-provoking and something you don't enjoy?

The answers to these questions can change with the circumstances and the destination. For example, much of Europe is easy to navigate - many people can speak some English, signs are often in English, and public transportation is usually quite good. I've travelled there by myself and while I find it is less relaxing and more work than being part of a group, there are times that feels like a reasonable tradeoff for the freedom and spontaneity that independent travel brings - although I do always miss the camaraderie of group travel. On the other hand I have not been tempted to travel independently in Bulgaria, where the alphabet is Cyrillic and most people outside the cities speak very little English. I think I could find my way around, but I know I would understand much less about where I was and what I was seeing. And it definitely would not be relaxing.

If you have never done either and you're not sure which you prefer, I recommend starting with a group - you'll learn alot about how to travel and about what you like. Once you have some confidence, you can decide whether or not trying solo travel has any interest for you. If women-only adventure travel sounds appealing, check out all our trips on our continually updated Trip Calendar.

The only serious mistake you can make is staying at home when your heart wants to be on the road.

Topics: womens travel, safety, international destinations

High altitude adventure trips for women: what you need to know

Posted by Marian Marbury on Oct 8, 2012 4:50:00 PM

Should you even consider one of our adventure trips for women that involve high altitude (for example, our Kilimanjaro Climb and Safari or Trekking to Machu Picchu)? If you're like most people, you may never have been over 8 - 10,000 feet and you have no idea how you will respond. There are alot of myths and misinformation about altitude so the first step is to get some basic information.

  • There isn't less oxygen at high altitudes. But there is lower barometric pressure, which means there is less pressure to force those oxygen molecules out of the air and into your blood stream. Your body has both short term (faster breathing and heart rate) and long term (more hemoglobin) ways of helping you adapt up to a point. 

  • Most people do not have trouble at altituStanding on top of Kilimanjarodes below 8,000 feet, other than perhaps a little breathlessness and rapid heart rate the first day or so (e.g. this comonly occurs when we go to Bryce Canyon). Beyond that, our response to altitude is largely determined by our genetic makeup. Those people who climb Everest without oxygen? It isn't that they are super athletes or follow special diets (although those may be true too); it's just that they chose their parents well.

  • You can have trouble adapting to altitude one time and no trouble the next, or vice versa - because it isn't all genetic. Nonetheless, it isn't a hopeful sign if you have problems twice in a row or routinely have more trouble than other people when you are over 8,000 feet.

  • People with a long history of heavy smoking and/or chronic lung disease are mor elikely to have trouble at altitude ebcause their lung function is already affected.

  • Being in top physical condition won't prevent altitude sickness.

  • People do not get more susceptible as they get older - in fact, there is some evidence that the reverse is true.

  • The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to build in adequate time for acclimatization, preferably never sleeping more than 1,000 feet higher than the night before.

  • Staying well hydrated, eating more carbs and less fat, avoiding alcohol, and getting more rest can all help you adapt.
  • If slow acclimatization isn't possible or if symptoms of mild altitude persist, then the drug acetazolamide (Diamox) is very effective for most people. Fortunately the symptoms many of us typically get - headaches, nausea, fatigue - often resolve in a day or two.

  • Occasionally people don't adapt, and then altitude can be deadly.  Once you develop any of the forms of altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, High Altitude Cerebral Edema) the most important thing is to descend to lower elevations. Fortunately at altitudes of 20,000 or less, these are not common.

    In the end, there are no guarantees. You can do everything you need to do to get ready for a high altitude adventure trip and then have altitude problems. People with known chronic lung disease or demonstrated sensitivity to altitude probably shouldn't even bother trying. But if there is something you have been wanting to attempt and all that is holding you back is your uncertainty about how you will respond to altitude? If you don't try, you'll never know.

Topics: active travel, hiking, safety, travel tips, health and fitness

Rock art or Sign post?

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Aug 30, 2012 5:00:00 AM


karin resized 600

If you’ve hiked a trail or two – along the way you may have seen a pile of rocks stacked in the form of a tower. Some hikers may admire stone sculpture like a work of art and assuming it was crafted by a wandering hiker. And while the stack may be a result of a creative hiker with an aesthetic eye – it’s possible that the tower serves another purpose. Referred to as a “cairn,” this man-made pile (or stack of stones) are found all over the world in uplands, on moorland, on mountaintops, near waterways and on sea cliffs, and also in barren desert and tundra areas. They vary in size from small stone markers to entire artificial hills, and in complexity from loose, conical rock piles to delicately balanced sculptures and elaborate feats of megalithic engineering.

Today, cairns are built for many purposes. The most common use in North America and Northern Europe is to mark mountain bike and hiking trails and other cross-country trail blazing, especially in mountain regions at or above the tree line. Placed at regular intervals, a series of cairns can be used to indicate a path across stony or barren terrain, even across glaciers. Such cairns are often placed at junctions or in places where the trail direction is not obvious, and may also be used to indicate an obscured danger, such as a sudden drop, or a noteworthy point such as the summit of a mountain. Most trail cairns are small, a foot or less in height, but may be built taller so as to protrude through a layer of snow. Hikers passing by often add a stone, as a small bit of maintenance to counteract the erosive effects of severe weather. North American trail marks are sometimes called "ducks" or "duckies", because they sometimes have a "beak" pointing in the direction of the route. The expression "two rocks do not make a duck" reminds hikers that just one rock resting upon another could be the result of accident or nature rather than intentional trail marking.

So, the next time you are hiking and you see three or more rocks stacked on top of one another – appreciate the rocky masterpiece and then notice that it is likely a sign post passively catching your attention.  Heed its guidance and acknowledge the international trail marker courtesy of Mother Nature and outdoor adventurers.

Topics: active travel, adventure travel, hiking, safety

Preventing Wildfires

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Jul 12, 2012 5:00:00 AM


When planning travel trips for women – safety is Adventures in Good Company's number one priority. So as our hearts go out to the tarnished 'homes' of wildlife and people alike out West, we are reminded of how important it is to take precaution before departing on one of our women's trips or while enjoying an outdoor adventure vacation for women. We'd like to share two sets of travel trips: one set of pre-trip preparations and one list of trail-wise precautions.

Before You Leave, Prepare Your House

  • Remove combustibles, including firewood, yard waste, barbecue grills, and fuel cans, from your yard.

  • Close all windows, vents, and doors to prevent a draft.

  • Shut off natural gas, propane, or fuel oil supplies.

  • Fill any large vessels—pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, or tubs—with water to slow or discourage fire.

Wildfire Prevention on Women's Hiking Trips

  • Leave campsite as natural as possible, traveling on trails and other durable surfaces.

  • Inspect your site upon leaving.

  • Never take burning sticks out of a fire.

  • Never take any type of fireworks on public lands.

  • Keep stoves, lanterns and heaters away from combustibles.

  • Store flammable liquid containers in a safe place.

  • Never use stoves, lanterns and heaters inside a tent.

Tips compiled from:

Topics: outdoors tips, safety