Five Books to Read When You'd Rather Be Outside

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Somewhere around early October, when we get our first couple of days that don't break 60 degrees, I start getting all giddy about the glory of winter in the Black Hills. I dig out my extra-cozy Smartwools, I begin to wear stocking caps unnecessarily, and I start compulsively checking the 5-day forecast, praying for snow.  

By the end of January, it's lost a little of it's sparkle. I still love the cold fresh air, the way hoarfrost looks like magic, and the solitude of a good trail in the "off-season". But I start to dream of creek crossings in chacos, lazy camping (winter camping is something, but it's not lazy), and going on a hike without implementing a "layering strategy". 

And even if you're a half-crazy, cold-weather-worshipping, frozen-snot snow-junky, (I manage the Granite Sports Instagram account. I know who you are.) sometimes you have to hang up the parka and thaw out your toes by the fire. For these occasions, and other times when you're taking a break from your adventures (voluntary, or otherwise) we've compiled a short list of good reads that will have you enjoying the great outdoors, even if from afar. 

#1) Wilderness Essays - John Muir

A classic, by a classic. Considered by many as "The Father of the National Parks", John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist and activist who devoted his life to the preservation of our great wilderness, namely Yosemite Valley. This collection of essays is a celebration of the beauty of the wild spaces he cherished, and a must read for anyone who loves the outdoors.

#2) Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time - Ed Stafford

A jungle adventure, without the bugs. If you were a fan of Bill Bryson's A Walk In the Woods (the book...not the movie...we're not even going to talk about how terrible the movie was...), then you will love this account of one man's incredible 4,000 mile journey down the entire length of the Amazon.

#3) Drawn: The Art of Ascent - Jeremy Collins

Like a graphic novel, but for hippies. Part sketch book, part memoir, this beautiful book takes you on a journey of soul-searching and wilderness adventure with artist and rock-climber, Jeremy Collins. 

#4) Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival - Bernd Heinrich

A science book that will make you feel warm and fuzzy. If you've ever been cold wearing $400 worth of 600-fill-power down, and had a naked deer cross your path looking perfectly comfortable, and you thought to yourself, "How the heck do they do it?", then this book is for you. Heinrich explains the incredible ways creatures survive the elements with more grace than we do. 

#5) The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry

Re: Life, love, and caring for the land. A collection of earlier poetry by the endearing and passionate farmer, conservationist, and essayist Wendell Berry including my personal favorite, "The Peace of Wild Things". 

#6) Black Hills Blessing - Mary Connealy

I'm just going to leave this here. You're welcome. 

Posted on February 1, 2018 .

2018 Run for the Rangers

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2018 Run for the Rangers 3-Mile Run/Walk!

Registration is open for the 2018 Run for the Rangers!!!! See below for details and REGISTER ONLINE or in the store (scroll down for printable forms, or pick up in-store)! Registration includes a race t-shirt, a post-race meal, and a chance to win over $10,000 in door prizes from our fantastic race sponsors! 

  • Race day is Sunday, March 25th, 2018

  • 3-Mile Run or Walk!

  • Race day check-in & registration: 11:45am-12:45pm at Granite Sports

  • Race starts at 1:00pm

  • Pre-registration: $25 if received at Granite Sports by Feb. 24th, 2018. After Feb. 24th - Race Day Registration: $30

  • All proceeds go to fund Hill City High School Scholarships!!

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Posted on January 15, 2018 .

The Granite Sports Holiday Gift Guide

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It's T minus 25 days until Christmas, and unless you're that over-achiever that starts in February stashing away the "perfect thing" for each person on your list, you might be starting to feel a low-grade anxiety creep up about this time of year.

We all want to give gifts that are heart-felt and thoughtful and elicit all the feels, right? But if you're anything like me you put too much pressure on yourself and spend all your time thinking about what might be the best gift, and before you know it it's 9:30pm on Christmas Eve and you're at Walgreens buying mismatched heated slippers out of bin in the middle of the candy aisle.

Not that I know anything about that.  

Anyway. Don't sweat it. Granite Sports is here to help. We've got something for everyone on your list, even your impossible-to-buy-for-secret-santa-second-cousin. 

THE 2017 GRANITE SPORTS HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

For your mom...

...who tells you every year not to get her anything: The Pagatonia Radalie Parka

 

 

This is what you need to get her to make up for all the years when you listened to her and didn't get her anything. She birthed you, raised you, and made sure you always packed a jacket. She's top notch, and she deserves a top notch coat. 

For your roommate...

...who started climbing last summer: The Needles Mini Climbing Guide 

This awesome insider's guide is written by the owners of Sylvan Rock Climbing School & Guide Service and will help your buddy get familiar with several classic routes in Custer State Park as well as some put up in the last few years. And if you really want to go all out, book them a day on the rock with the pros

For your BFF...

...who is always Instagramming her Chacos: A Kavu Rope Bag

There's a reason why you see this bag everywhere: it's cute and functional and is just as at home on the trail as it is in the local coffee shop. And it comes in a zillion different patterns, so you can get one too without everyone noticing that you're twinning. 

For your boss...

...who always orders her latte at 180 degrees: A Hydro Flask Coffee Flask

Because if she uses one of these guys, her coffee will still be 180 degrees at lunch time. 

For your husband...

...who travels for work, but also for adventure: A Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L

It's a suitcase. It's a backpack. It's made of burly polyester ripstop with highly weatherproof TPU laminate and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. It says "I'm profesh, but I'd also rather be outside right now." 

For your Uncle Bob...

...who visited from Iowa in July and schooled you racing to the top: A Black Elk Peak T-Shirt

There's nothing like a souvenir t-shirt to say, "My pride is still hurt, but I'm not bitter anymore."

For your crunchy...

...cousin, yoga instructor, mechanic, or self: Halfpint Naturals Products

Not only do they smell awesome and not contain all they things you don't need to be putting on your skin, they also work, and are handmade by our friend Lisa in Colorado. Throw a chapstick in every stocking, a lotion bar in every room, a Fishy Feet in your sock drawer and a Magic Muscle Stick in your gym bag.  

For your brother...

...whose quickdraws always go missing when you borrow them: DMM Alloy Offsets

Because you owe him, and these are on his list. 

For your girlfriend...

...who you are planning to propose to on Christmas Eve: The MSR Hubba Hubba Backpacking Tent

It's compact. It's lightweight. And it sleeps two. Nothing says "long-term commitment" like a piece of backpacking equipment that will last for years. (Recommended to supplement - but not necessarily replace - a ring.)

For almost anyone...

...who doesn't insist that "they don't do hats": The Patagonia Fitz Roy Bison Trucker Hat

This is our best-selling hat. And we sell a lot of hats. We figure the numbers don't lie, so this is a pretty safe bet for just about anyone on your list. Oh, and we've got it in four colors...so you can cover multiple "anyones". 

For the real tricky ones...

...and the procratinators: A Granite Sports Gift Card

Sometimes you just run out of time, or you can't remember which fleece pullover they mentioned, or you know that most of all they want to pick something out for themselves. We've got your back. Our gift cards come in amounts of $10, $25, $50 & $100 (custom amounts by request), are delivered by email, and contain instructions to redeem them at checkout. (Granite Sports Online gift cards can only be redeemed on our online store. To purchase gift cards that can be redeemed at our Hill City location, please contact the store.

Still stumped? Shoot us an email or stop by the store. We'd love to help you pick out just the right thing for that special someone. 

Merry Christmas & Happy Shopping!

Posted on December 1, 2017 .

How To Rock the Badlands (with Kids): A One-Day Itinerary

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Whether you're a local to the area who has company with small children coming for a visit, or you're taking a family vacay out here from somewhere else, you're probably guilty. We've all done it. We're busy making our big vacation/entertaining plans: Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Sylvan Lake, a hike in the Needles, Reptile Gardens, the taffy shop in Keystone...all the Black Hills family vacation rock stars.  We fit them all into the schedule with some extra room for fishing and hammocking and trail-riding and a campfire or two, and then we sit back, satisfied, thinking we've covered all our bases. But we are mistaken. 

Sitting over here modestly in the corner, while the trees, lakes, and granite take center stage, is Badlands National Park. She waits quietly, just out of site of the thousands of people that pass by everyday on I-90. But she keeps good secrets, and she's worth the trip. 

Okay, maybe that's a little melodramatic, but all we're saying is that if you miss a trip to the Badlands when you're in the area, you're missing out on some beautiful landscape and culture, totally distinct from the natural beauty of the Black Hills. 

We know the Badlands probably aren't the main reason why you've chosen to spend 22 hours in a mini-van with your four kids under five, listening to Trolls on repeat since the Iowa state line, so we're not going to tell you to do all the things. We're just going to hit the highlights; specifically the things that your four-kids-under-five will consider highlights, and that you can reasonably pack into one day without losing your mind, or someone having a complete meltdown all the way back to your pop-up camper in Custer State Park.

  • 8:00am-ish: Head 'em up and move 'em out...east on I-90 from Rapid City. 
  • 8:45am: Breakfast at the world-famous Wall Drug. Yes, the one you saw a trillion billboards for on the way here. The donuts are homemade, the coffee is $.05, and there's a giant jack-a-lope (among other things) you can have your picture take on. Let the kiddos run off some steam before you tell them to get back into the car; you're not actually "there" yet. 
  • 10:00am: Load up and hop back on the interstate (east again) for the 25-mile trip to the park entrance. (21 miles east on I-90 to Exit 121, Cactus Flats. Then take HWY 240 another 3 miles south to the North East park entrance.) 
  • 10:30am: You've arrived! If you're lucky enough to be a fourth-grader, or have one with you, you don't have to pay the park entrance fee...check it out here! If you need to borrow a fourth grader, I know some that will loan you theirs. Just kidding. (From here, all you need to remember as far as directions go, is to stay on HWY 240. It will eventually loop you all the way back to I-90.) Spend the rest of your morning hiking the Door & Window trails. Both are short (less than a mile) & easy, and the Door Trail takes you right out into the middle of the funky landscape. Little ones will enjoy following the "dot-to-dot" -style numbered signs that mark the trail. 
  • Noon: Lunch at Cedar Pass Lodge. Fill up on Indian Tacos and Kuchen, the SD state dessert. 
  • 12:45pm: Walk over to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Here you can watch the film "Land of Stone & Light" in the air-conditioned theater (the film is great, the AC is even better). Check out the interactive exhibits to learn about the history of the land, and the plants, animals, rock-formations and fossils you might see while you're out exploring. Kiddos can also participate in the rad Junior Ranger Program, completing a workbook and earning a badge. 
  • 2:00: Jump back on 240 and spend the afternoon enjoying the extraterrestrial landscape as you make your way west. There are plenty of places to pull over, climb, explore, and take plenty of gorgeous pictures for the ol' Instagram feed. Every time you think you've seen the coolest part of this park, you round another corner and BAM - another killer view. Don't miss the Fossil Exhibit Trail (another easy, boad-walk accessible trail) where kids can see fossil replicas of animals that once roamed these prairies. 
  • 3:00 or 4:00ish: Back at Wall, SD! Pit stop at Wall Drug for potty break and free ice water, and then head back to Rapid City in time for dinner.  

 

Posted on November 1, 2017 .

Ramblings of Winter

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I will admit that I am not a huge fan of the cold weather.  If the snow was a little more consistent in the southern Black Hills, it would be a better source of recreation versus annoyance.  I love an 80 degree day, green grass and the trickle of a small stream.  However, the last few years I have made an effort to bundle up and head out in the cold and enjoy a fresh perspective on this amazing place where I live.  A fresh blanket of snow turns Sylvan Lake into an amazing canvas of black and whites.  A fresh set of tracks on the snow makes me feel like I am the first to explore an area.  The sun glistening off the frost makes my otherwise brown yard dance with excitement.  

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As I am often reminded, I am fortunate enough to live in a place where people go to vacation. And not just in the summer.  This week as the cold rolled into the Black Hills, first time visitors from Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota expressed to me their wonder of the beauty surrounding us.   

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So, if you are like me, try not to get down by the cold weather and shorter days.  Look at it as opportunity to see the familiar as a new landscape waiting to be explored.   

By Pat Wiederhold

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P.S.  All the gear you need to comfortably enjoy the outdoors during the winter months in the Black Hills, from socks to hats, long underwear to coats, can be found at Granite Sports in Hill City, and at Granite Sports Online. 

Posted on October 27, 2017 .

Granite Sports: A Love Story (or "How to pack for a jungle adventure.")

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If I told you that my husband and I fell in love at Granite Sports, I would be telling the truth. 

Sure, there were a few other places involved too...we both volunteered for the same non-profit, we attended the same church, and we had several mutual friends. But, a good deal of our romance grew while folding t-shirts at the register in your friendly local gear shop during the fall of 2013 (as romance does). We were engaged the following August (a week after I returned from my solo-jaunt-of-singleness-and-self-discovery...perfect timing, really) and set about planning a wedding, and a honeymoon. In 90 days. 

What started as plans for a little honeymoon jaunt to a cozy cabin in the Big Horns turned into plans for a slightly more involved trip to Costa Rica, after a friend gifted us some frequent flyer miles. Of course I was pumped to be going to Costa Rica, but, I was not about to spend a week there just sitting on a beach sipping Pina Coladas. I'd heard enough about that country to know that there was adventure to be had, and I'll be darned if I wasn't going to have it. 

After a whole lot of hours on the Google, and a few more hours convincing my husband-to-be, we booked a tree house at a place called Finca Bellavista. Now before you go on imagining a jungle spa resort with japanese mineral baths and boutique dining experiences, let me be clear. The website for the Finca states that you should bring galoshes, luggage without wheels, and definitely flashlights (as there is no electricity in the tree houses). Oh, it also mentions that guests are responsible for finding their own 4-wheel drive transportation for the two-hour drive from the airport into the jungle. This was sounding better and better. 

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And it was! Our tree house stay at the Finca was incredible, and included waterfall treks, eyelash vipers, and an encounter with a rogue peccary on a day hike. Pretty much all the things every girl dreams of for her honeymoon. I could write and write about the property and the people and the natural beauty of the place, but I'll save that for a different blog post

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For now, I just want to highlight some of the Granite Sports gear we packed and used on our trip.  There's a lot of travel gear and  gadgets on the market, and honestly, some of it is superfluous for most adventures. But there are a few things that are truly worth the investment: 

#1) OSPREY PACKS: Like I said, the website for Finca Bella Vista dissuades guests from packing in rolling luggage. This is because you might have to hike up to a mile through the jungle to get from base camp to your tree house. So even though we weren't on a "backpacking" trip, it was really convenient to be able to stuff everything into a big bag and throw it on your back when it was time to go. Since then, I've started using my pack more and my suitcase less on trips for the grab-and-go portability of it. 

#2) OSPREY'S AIRPORTER TRAVEL COVERS: A pack cover like the Airporter is important if you plan on checking your pack with the airlines. It keeps all your zippers and straps contained and safely protected from conveyor belts and runway luggage carts, is outfitted with sturdy haul straps for lugging in and out of taxis, and serves as an additional piece of bag should you over-shop at the local handcrafts market. 

#3) CHACOS: I pretty much consider these a necessity for life, not just Central American travel. Seriously. They are the Macgyver of footwear. You can hike in them, wade in them,  run in them (if you need to, you know, from a rogue peccary...not necessarily your morning jog...), sleep in them, and dance in them. Which I did. At my wedding.

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#4) PETZL HEAD LAMPS: Our head lamps were indispensable on this trip. Sure, a standard flashlight will do the trick in a pinch, but when you're trying to cook in the dark it's pretty nice to have both hands free for the important things...like slicing mangos, lighting burners, and grinding coffee. 

#5) PATAGONIA TORRENTSHELL RAIN JACKETS:  The surprising thing about the rainforest is...it rains. And rains. And rains. We pretty much lived in these jackets for a good portion of the trip. And since it's also hot and humid while it's raining, we were pretty grateful for the pit zips. (Really...don't buy a rain jacket without pit zips. They're brilliant.) 

The best way to learn how to pack for a big trip is to go on one and find out what you really wish you had brought, and which things you never even take out of your bag. Regardless, if you head for the jungle with the love of your life you'll probably have a pretty good time either way. 

by Marci King

P.S. All the above items are available in-store at Granite Sports in Hill City, or can be special ordered at Granite Sports Online.

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Posted on October 19, 2017 .

One Unexpected Way to Improve Your Hiking Game

I haven’t always used trekking poles.  Like a lot of people, I thought they were only for people without good balance or those that were, in general, fairly inactive.  Boy, was I wrong!  The first time I used them was on a 17-mile trek in the Grand Canyon.  As many of you know, it is essentially 5,000 feet down and then 5,000 feet up.  Everything that I read said that I would be foolish not to bring poles.  They were right.  It made the hike much less taxing on my legs.  Once I got comfortable with a rhythm, I can honestly say they became an extension of my steps.  I have pretty lousy ankles and a number of times when the ground was uneven the poles saved me from an ankle turn.  Now, all of the benefits of trekking poles with a light pack are amplified with a 40 pound pack.  When you decide to zig and your pack decides to zag, a pole can be the difference between a slight stumble or a face-plant disaster.  

There are a lot of great hiking poles on the market.  When you are looking to buy new trekking poles, these are a few things to look for:

  1. Comfort – Make sure the handles and straps fit comfortably.  If the fit isn’t great, you just won’t use them.

  2. Good, sturdy adjustment mechanisms – You want something that is fairly easy to adjust and doesn’t slide or collapse with use.  There is nothing more annoying than having to stop and readjust your poles all the time because they keep getting shorter.

  3. Packability – I tend to like something that compacts down pretty small because it stores in my pack well and I can easily fit it in my carry-on if I am travelling somewhere and plan to get out and do a little hiking.  This is strictly personal preference.  I know a lot of people that forgo the more compact poles for ones that have a greater range of extension in the event they want to use them in conjunction with a light shelter.

  4. Durability – Check out the reviews on-line and stick with brands that are known to withstand substantial wear and tear.  Black Diamond and Leki are a couple of examples.

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Trekking Poles have improved my hiking distance with less fatigue and soreness afterwards. But don’t take my word for it.  Give them a try and your body will thank you.

by Pat Wiederhold

Posted on October 12, 2017 .

My Five Favorite Hikes in the Black Hills

 by Pat Wiederhold

The great thing about the Black Hills is that most of the hiking is very accessible and there is a lot of it.  I am sure that this list will be different for just about everybody, but these are the ones I enjoy the most.  Keep in mind, I live in Hill City so my list is dominated by hikes in the Southern Black Hills. 

5.  Black Elk Peak

This is easily the most popular hike in the Black Hills.  Starting at Sylvan Lake, this up and back to the lookout tower is a must do if you have never hiked here.  This 6.5-mile round tripper is well marked and on a clear day offers incredible views. 

My Favorite Part – Views from the tower

What I Don’t Like – Lots of people in peak season for a Black Hills hike

 

4.  Flume Trail

This is a 13-mile hike from Rockerville to Sheridan Lake.  However, I normally hike it from Sheridan Lake to the 2nd tunnel and turn around, which is about 5 miles.  It has great views of Sheridan Lake and Spring Creek and I think the old tunnels are a cool piece of history. 

My Favorite Part -  It offers a different kind of scenery than a lot of the hikes by or in Custer State Park

What I Don’t Like – The turn to the right by the Dam is not well marked and I ended up on a different trail the first time I hiked it. 

 

3.  Sunday Gulch

A 4-mile loop from the parking lot of the Sylvan Lake store.  This hike has a fair amount of elevation for a relatively short hike.  However, the stream trickling down thru the massive granite spires makes for some incredible scenery.

My Favorite Part – I like checking out the ice flows in early spring

What I Don’t Like – A portion of the loop is close to the highway and the traffic noise can be annoying

 

2.  Horse thief Lake Loop

A 4.5-mile loop starting at the Horse Thief Lake trail head.  This loop includes a portion of the Centennial Trail as well.  Essentially, take a right every time you see a trail (don’t hike the path down the creek half way thru as this is supposed to be closed) and you will end up at the highway across from the Big Pine Trail Head.  I walk down the highway 200 yards and cruise thru the campground back to my vehicle.  This hike includes small streams, massive granite, and beautiful sections of aspen.

My Favorite Part – The first ¾ mile of this hike is some of my favorite scenery in the Black Hills.

What I Don’t Like – Walking along the highway and thru the campground to finish

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1.    Little Devil’s Tower

A 3-mile out and back from the trail head just south of Sylvan Lake on the Needles Highway.  This is a great hike with amazing Custer State Park views.  It’s a great alternative to Black Elk Peak if you don’t have the time or energy and has a fraction of the people on it in the peak season.  It is not uncommon to see Mule Deer and Rocky Mountain Goats on this hike as well.  It has about 900 foot of elevation gain in a short distance so give yourself a little extra time. 

My Favorite Part – The views of the Cathedral Spires are awesome

What I don’t like – I wish it was a little longer.  The rock scramble to the top takes some people out of their comfort zone.

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As I said earlier, everyone will probably have a different list as we are fortunate enough to have lots of great hiking options in the Black Hills.  However, I hope this inspires you to go out and create your own top 5.

Posted on October 4, 2017 .

These Just Might Be the Best Hiking Pants Ever…

I’m a simple woman. All I want in life is a pair of pants that fit: Something that’s the right length (short, because I’m 5’4”, but not too short).  The right width at the hips (wider-ish, in my case). And – perhaps most importantly – the right waist size (too small and you’ve got muffin top, not to mention it’s incredibly uncomfortable; too large and you’ve got the dreaded back-gap…and the friend hiking behind you will get more of a view than she was counting on, if you know what I mean) Oh, and they need to have enough give that I can scramble on the trail without worrying about splitting a seam. Also, I want them to be comfy enough to wear on an eight-hour flight, but pulled-together enough that I can go straight to a meeting when I get off that flight. And last but not least, can I please look like a million bucks while I’m wearing them?

Also, I want a pet unicorn that makes me coffee and folds my laundry, amiright?

Enter the prAna Halle Pants.

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They’re seriously magical. They come in three inseam lengths. They’re just a little curvy through the hips, because – hello – we’re real girls. And, maybe my favorite feature, they have a hidden drawstring at the waist (in addition to a zipper fly and button closure) to accommodate all different body types. They’re made of prAna’s own Stretch Zion fabric which is light, durable, breathable, wrinkle resistant, quick drying, DWR coated to repel water and spills, and has just the right amount of stretch to allow for movement without losing their shape or looking like you’re wearing your pajamas for your whole backpacking trip. And the best part? You’ll look like a million bucks wearing them.

by Marci Eben King

Posted on September 28, 2017 .

5 Things I Learned Backpacking in the Wind River Range.

by Pat Wiederhold

I will admit my backpacking trip to the Wind River Range was a bit of an accident.  My cousin and I had plans to hike in the Grand Tetons, but didn’t start planning quite early enough and didn’t want to mess around with the permits and the excess snow.  Some of the guys I knew had gone climbing a few years back in the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range and said the scenery was “off the charts”.  I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be as nice as the Tetons, but it seemed like a good second option.

I have done enough hiking and overnight camping to not be considered a novice, so I felt comfortable with my pack list and the route that we had chosen.  With that said, there are always some things on every trip that I am surprised by or impressed with, especially concerning my gear.

 Here are 5 of the things that stood out:

1.       I was amazed at how much I loved my Osprey Pack.  I used the Atmos 50 for my 5 days and 4-night trip.  It has a great design and is so comfortable that I really had no issues with how it handled the weight and how it fit my body.  The number one rule of a good pack is comfort in my book.  This pack fit the bill.

2.       I’m pretty sure that my Trekking poles saved at least a few twisted ankles and one or two tumbles.  An extra 35 pounds on my back moving in a different direction than I was from time to time would have caused some problems had it not been for the poles.  I also felt like they saved a lot of wear and tear on my legs, especially when we were going uphill.  I have the Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles.  They are relatively light weight and pack down smaller than most when I am not using them.

3.       My camp chair was a welcome luxury.  I don’t really like sitting on the ground after a long day of hiking or trying to find the perfect rock or stump to relax on.  I brought my Joey Chair and really enjoyed being able to kick back and put my feet up after a long day.  Yes, I know it is kind of heavy (“heavy” and “light” are all relative when you’re backpacking) and takes up a little extra space, however, it was the one piece of “excess” that really made the whole trip more enjoyable.

4.       The mosquitoes were insane.  My wife is from Minnesota and I am familiar with these little pests, but they were around from dawn to dusk and often swarmed when you stopped.  They weren’t too bad if I was moving or above tree line, but the rest of the time they were brutal.  I sprayed my clothes with Sawyer Permethrin and I had zero issues with getting bit thru my clothes or even having them land on my clothes for that matter.  I was really surprised at how well it worked. 

5.       The scenery was spectacular.  I expected the Cirques to be the highlight and the rest of the hike to be nice but not so magnificent.  Boy, was I wrong!  The entire trip we were mesmerized by the views and I would say it rivals the Tetons with a fraction of the people.

This was a trip with very little “hiking drama”, but every trip I appreciate the things that really stand out.  Hope this helps you out on your next hike.  Cheers!

Posted on September 21, 2017 .

2018 Run for the Rangers 3-Mile Run/Walk!

Run for the Rangers 2018 is already on the calendar for next spring! See below for details, and stay tuned to see when registration for our 2018 race opens up! Registration includes a race t-shirt, a chance to win over $10,000 in door prizes from our fantastic race sponsors, and a post-race meal! 

  • Race day is Sunday, March 25th, 2018

  • 3-Mile Run or Walk!

  • Registration: 11:45am-12:45pm at Granite Sports

  • Race starts at 1:00pm

  • Pre-registration: $25 if received at Granite Sports by Feb. 24th, 2018. After Feb. 24th - Race Day Registration: $30

  • All proceeds go to fund Hill City High School Scholarships!!

 

Posted on January 13, 2017 .

Go Alone...

When I'm not holding down the fort at Granite Sports, or writing for our website (which, by the date of my last blog post, is clearly most of the time) I'm on staff with a pretty rad organization called Young Life. One of the raddest things about Young Life is our summer camping program for adolescents and, more summers than not, I get to spend a month or so at one of our excellent properties helping to ensure that kids are having a stellar, life-changing experience. 

The last four summers I've found myself at our camp in Northern Michigan, myself the lone "westerner", surrounded mostly by Michiganders. Let me tell you something about folks from Michigan: they love Michigan. They are all smitten with their own mitten. You only have to spend a few minutes with them before you begin to hear about the beaches, the dunes, the food scene in Grand Rapids, the bikes on Mackinaw Island, the trails on the coast of Lake Superior, and the oddities of the UP. 

My first several times visiting Michigan looked like this: fly into Grand Rapids, get picked up at the airport, take a two-hour trip up the interstate, spend three to four weeks on a single 100-acre property, catch a ride back to Grand Rapids, fly home. But by the end of my third month-long stint at the camp and a few weekends as well, I too was enchanted by their beloved state. And I hadn't even seen most of it yet (behold, the power of storytelling). So a year ago when I got news I'd be headed back again I decided it was high-time I take my own car so when my month at the camp ended I'd have the freedom to go exploring and investigate these allegations of awesomeness.  I invited a few friends to fly out and join me on my adventures but they all mumbled some nonsense about jobs and responsibilities. 

So I decided I'd go it alone. 

Maybe one of my better decisions in life. 

In the weeks before my trip life got busy, as it tends to do, and I ran out of time (or maybe forgot) to make travel plans. Just as I got the trusty Corolla all packed up for my time at the Young Life camp, I remembered that I was also going to be camping...real camping...and, in a hurry, tossed my tent, sleeping bag, and headlamp into the trunk. Necessities, ya know?* 

The morning after we loaded our last group of Young Life kids up on buses and sent them home I loaded my bike on the back of my car and headed north.

As a thirty-something single woman you mainly get three types of reactions when folks discover you're going to drive the 1,300 miles home tenting, hiking, and kayaking along the way...alone.

Reaction A: "'Bout Time" affirmation bordering indifference. This crowd either offers knowing encouragement, or is simply unimpressed. This is the (small, but mighty) crowd of women who travel alone on a regular basis. They are unfazed because a stateside road trip is child's play compared to their back country forays. 

Reaction B: Wholehearted enthusiasm followed by wistful resignation. These folks get really excited when they hear about your plans, and then they say things like, "That's fantastic. I could never do that." This bums me out a little to hear people say, so definitively, that they are incapable of something that they haven't tried yet. But I'm guilty of the same. I mean, just this morning there was a guy here in the shop telling me about some falls he wants to kayak, and I said - out loud - to my own chagrin, "That's fantastic. I don't think I could do that."

Marci, Marci. How do you know???

Reaction C: Fear. This group includes my mother, and people who watch too much CSI. In their minds the risks of going alone into the woods far outweigh any imaginable perks and as anyone who has seen "Taken" can tell you, when women go places without Liam Neeson things are bound to get really bad, really fast. Whereas "B People" tend wish they were "A People", "C People" usually just think "A" stands for "asinine".  

I'd love to tell you that I naturally fall into camp A. That is not the truth. I was born with my feet safely planted in Group C. But then when I was in junior high I picked up a copy of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods and by the third chapter made a beeline for Group B. And there I stayed for fifteen years. Most of us dream of being the kind of person who goes and does and discovers, but the practical limits seem overwhelming and in the end we resign to letting others handle the going and doing so that we can read about it from the comfort zone of our couches.  It's cheaper, safer, and there are less mosquitoes. 

Many of these couch-sitters are perfectly content. Books and blogs and their annual viewing of the Banff Film Festival are enough to quell their thirst for adventure. But for some of us, the more tales we hear the less we can sit still, and you realize at some point that you're not going to wake up some morning and magically be that hard-core, mountain climbing, back country-foraying person you dream of being. You have to start with what you have, where you are. You have to start with your medium-core self and your medium-core experiences. Even if that means car camping in crowded state parks with your off-brand tent (a bit ridiculous, since I work at Granite), or burning a half-box of Duraflame fire starters in one evening because you can't light a real fire to save your life, or learning the hard way that your Chaco is not a sufficient replacement for a rubber mallet.  Believe me. I know these things.    

(And just to be clear, your medium-core self and experiences aren't any less legitimate or valuable or precious than those of the hard-core variety. In fact they are often far more interesting. Just ask Bill Bryson.) 

My trip was pretty much everything I had dreamed it would be. I toted my bike onto a ferry so I could ride the whole coast of Mackinac Island, Instagramming cairns and eating fudge for lunch because I could. I camped in what is reportedly the most coveted spot in Straits State Park with a million dollar view of the Mackinaw bridge. I hiked the 9-mile Mosquito Chapel trail by Pictured Rocks and stuck my toes in Lake Superior and marveled at the way it has made the shore more lovely over the years by it's persistent, seemingly mundane day-to-day presence. I didn't go kayaking, because it was incredibly windy and some local folks said I might die...and while it's good to push our limits, it's also good to know them. I lived off of Cliff bars and green apples for three days because I didn't have a camp stove (also ridiculous, since I work at Granite) and really only bemoaned this fact because I had no way to brew coffee in the mornings...which is the one true necessity that I overlooked when tossing random supplies into my trunk. I had hours and hours to pray slowly and breath deeply and discover who I am when I'm not filling a role in relation to anyone else. I shut off my smart phone and learned to just listen to the sound of the shore, or my footsteps, or the highway. I experience true solitude for the first time in who-knows-how-long and found out that, to my surprise, I can do something like that. 

Like I said, maybe one of my better decisions in life. 

*Disclaimer: I feel obligated - for the sake of your safety...and because I write this blog for a gear shop...but mostly for your safety - to tell you that there are a few other thing you might be wise to consider camping necessities. Most of them are available at Granite Sports. 

Posted on May 27, 2015 .

Welcome to the Granite Sports Blog!

Welcome to the shiny new Granite Sports blog! Let me introduce myself: I'm Marci, your somewhat-less-shiny-and-new Granite Sports blogger. I know what you might be thinking...that as the person who writes for an outdoor gear shop I'm probably a pretty hardcore girl...that I routinely camp in sub-zero temps, that I've summited a number of world-class peaks, and that I penned my first draft of this post in a weathered backpacker's journal while bivied off the side of El Capitan.

Now, if that's how you prefer to picture your local gear shop blogger, then by all means...just skip ahead to the next paragraph and we'll leave well enough alone. On the other hand, if you're looking for accuracy then I need to confess right out of the chute that I'm only mediumcore. In the trunk of my car is a tent I bought a year ago and have yet to take out of the package. I'm writing this from an arm chair in a climate-controlled coffee shop. And I've never climbed El Cap. (I am, however, wearing a superfluous down vest right now just to salvage a little street cred. So there's that.) Nevertheless, what I lack in BA mountaineering experience I make up for in love for the Black Hills, for exploring new places, and for seeing just how many miles, years, and countries a person can put on a single pair of classic black Chaco Z2's. 

So if you've come to this page looking for stories of Everest and K2 you may end up disappointed. But what I can offer you in the coming months and years (that is, if they don't find some NatGeo journalist to take my place after reading this) are tales of my adventures and misadventures exploring in the Black Hills and elsewhere, some trail reviews, some gear reviews and hopefully just enough inspiration to compel us both to shut off the computer and get outside every now and again. 

marci

Feel free to leave comments here, or drop me a line at marci.granite@gmail.com to share some adventures of your own.

Thanks for stopping by!

Marci 

Posted on March 3, 2014 .