Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Red Raspberry Weekend

We have been up to our chins in raspberries since Saturday. As you may have read, the raspberries were ready for picking, and they won't wait on you! So, we spent all weekend finding and picking ripe red raspberries on Flint Ridge.

Saturday didn't go so well for the picking. We had done work around the house, and by the time we made it to the patch, the mosquitoes had woke up. They were snacking on us big time, and we decided to give Sunday morning a try instead.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pic-A-Nic Basket Winner

We hope everyone is enjoying their weekend so far. We've been working around the house getting things done that have been on our to-do list for a while. Considering all the rain we've had as of late, we really haven't been able to get outside to do much of anything. Luckily, today's weather has been wonderful and we were able to get out and do quite a bit of stuff. I sprayed weed killer around the house, fence line, and others spots that needed it. We took down the kiddo's old swing set and trimmed up the snowball bush that cascade down over it. We've cleaned up a bunch of clutter around the house and run some things to the dump. We even got a chance to pick some raspberries. Unfortunately the mosquitoes won out and instead we cut down some trees that have started growing up in places we don't want them. Don't worry though, we plan on going back up on the ridge in the morning for more berries before the bugs get bad again.

Until then, let's get down to the real business at hand. Two weeks ago we announced that we had hit 200 fans on Facebook and in so doing we decided to have a giveaway in celebration of the milestone. What's more is this giveaway was just in time for the Fourth of July. So we closed the comments at 11:59pm EST on Saturday and let the RNG do it's thing. Before we announce the winner, we'd like to thank you all for entering our giveaway, sharing the post, and promoting the blog. Without our fans, we wouldn't be doing all of this, so again, thank you all.

The winner of the "Perfectly Patriotic Pic-a-nic Basket Package", and who will likely take it along with her family to enjoy a quiet and private picnic at Kentucky Lake and Cousins Hill is Kim @ Snug Harbor. She will be receiving the picnic package soon. Kim, we will need your mailing address so we can get the package out to you. Congratulations and we hope y'all enjoy the picnic prize pack. You can send your mailing address to us via email at appalachiaandbeyond (at) gmail (dot) com.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gear Review: Women's Vasque Taku GTX Hiking Boots

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't wear boots. I'm a hiking shoes girl, and have been since the mid-90's when I discovered how nimble and airy light I felt while wearing them. Plus, they take no time to break in, to dry if they get wet, and they're easy to slip on and off. I could go on, but this review is for the boots.

Tim - who is constantly on to me about wearing something "with more support" - signed up to get an opportunity to review these Vasque Taku GTX hikers and the Goodhew Medium Hiker socks over at the Outdoor Blogger Network. At the same time, he was in the running to win those Vasque trail shoes you've heard so much about.

Because he won the shoes, he thought it only fair to give up the opportunity at the boots and socks, but requested that I get them to review instead. Funny how things work out. He sort of mentioned it to me, but really kept the details a secret until he was certain I was getting them. I know what he was up to. Trying to convert me to boots... humph!

Friday's Giveaway Roundup

Okay, so I know last week I said something about doing this on Thursdays, however, it seems I can never meet my own deadlines. At this rate, it appears I'll be late to my own funeral, and quite honestly I won't complain about that. Anyway, I've only spotted one or two new giveaways on the interwebs this week so I'll get straight to it.

Earlier this week the Hiking Lady announced a giveaway for the ladies. She's teamed up with Moving Comfort to give one lucky reader a sports bra that is tailored to your particular needs. She's going to pick a winner today so you'd better hurry if it isn't too late already. Head over to the HikingLady.com for all the details on this giveaway.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Surprise Bubble Bursting

Tim had plans for a hike this weekend. I hate to burst his bubble, but:

I think the raspberries have other plans.

A weekend spent on Flint Ridge picking buckets of scrumptious, ripe, wild, red raspberries to begin in less than 24 hours!

Well, the least he can donate is a day of his time... right?!?

Striving To Be a Backpacker Mapper

As some of you know, Backpacker Magazine has the 2011 "Be a Backpacker Mapper" contest going on now. The contest is a pretty sweet deal for anyone that has GPS capabilities while they are out on the trail. The basic rules for the contest is to map a trail that isn't already in Backpacker's trail database. Another rule is the trail has to be at minimum 3 miles in length. Other requirements include that you have at least 8 descriptive (15 words minimum) waypoints, road access to each trail terminus, 1-2 photos per mile, and a 150 word trail description covering trail conditions, scenery, and other important details of the trail.

The submission of your trip is fairly simple. Backpacker uses Trimble Outdoors as it's engine for trip submission. You can use various methods for mapping including any GPS that allows you to upload GPX files to your computer, smart phone GPS apps that allow the same, or by using Trimble Outdoors on your smart phone. Using Trimble is probably the easiest solution as it uploads to Trimble's web app, allowing you to easily edit trail tracks, waypoint information, add pictures from your regular camera, and so much more. Once you've got your trip all set and ready for submission, you simply go to Backpacker's Mapper page and submit the trip. Of course you have to have an online Trimble Account (free) and sign up as a Backpacker online member. Once that is done you'll have to join the Backpack 2011 Mapper Group on Trimble. This is easily done during the submission process on Backpacker's site.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Leki Customer Service Rocks

If you remember during our spring cleaning time, I cleaned my Leki Makalu Ultralite Titanium trekking poles. What I didn't mention, is that upon taking one of the poles apart for cleaning, I noticed that the middle section was splitting at the top of the pole near the locking mechanism. You see, before I cleaned them I noticed that this section of the pole would never tighten all the way and was quite difficult to extend and collapse. I though it was just rust, or something to do with them having gotten wet during our hike back down from LeConte Lodge back in April of 2010.

Anyway, it turns out the pole had a nice crack/split in it and that was the reason it was being so difficult. I got to thinking about how other outdoor bloggers always contact customer service for what ever gear they needed serviced and I decided I would do the same with my poles. It was shortly after I cleaned them, April 21st to be exact, that I contacted Leki customer service via email to inquire about getting some replacement parts. I was a bit skeptical considering my poles are discontinued and no longer in production. Within 4 days I received a response from a fabulous Customer Service Rep asking what my shipping address was and stating they'd send the parts under warranty. How awesome is that.

A little over a month later and much to my amazement, I received the replacement poles. As a matter of fact, I received two replacement pole pieces, one for each pole. In a matter of minutes I had the old broken section out, the new one in, and was back in business ready for trekking. Of course we haven't been on a hike since then, baby stuff and house work etc., have prevented us from doing so as of yet. Hopefully though, we can get on the trail this weekend and I can test out the replacement. Until then, I want to send a huge thank you out to Melanie at Leki for her outstanding customer service, you deserve to be recognized for your wonderful customer care.  Because of the service I received, I will be a loyal Leki customer for many years to come.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Favorite Kind of Hike/Trail

The question is "What makes the best trail and what is you favorite example of one?" This question is the subject for June's Outdoor Blog Carnival by PureOutside.com and will be hosted at OutdoorVancouver.ca. This is a very valid question and to those who remain skeptical about hiking or who are new to hiking. We can imagine they would have the same sort of question(s).

For us, the best trail isn't something that can be simply answered with a few words. Neither can this be answered with one valid answer because just as we all hike for different reasons, every person has a favorite trail type. The best type of trail for one person could be the worst type of trail for another. I suppose it all comes down to a matter of preference as well as why it is you are hiking in the first place. If it's fitness you are after, then you would want something that is challenging and physically demanding. If it's solitude or an escape from the everyday world, then the best trails can be entirely different.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Another Gear Giveaway Roundup

We've been contemplating a standard day on posting a weekly giveaway round up and have come up with the idea that Thursday would be the best day. However, this week we have been especially busy around the homestead with review posts and many other things, that we didn't quite make it in time this week. Luckily, we are dedicated to this idea and thought we'd go ahead and round up the latest offerings available. So starting next week, hopefully, we will post the roundup on Thursdays. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get to it.

First up, we have a giveaway going on. We are giving away a wonderfully patriotic picnic package in celebration of our 200th fan on Facebook and just in time for the 4th of July. You until the 25th to get entered and separate comments are needed for each of the bonus entry possibilities. Head over to our giveaway post for all the details.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gear Review: Goodhew Medium Hiker Socks

Recently, I was the lucky recipient of a pair of Vasque Taku GTX hiking boots and a Goodhew 2-pair pack of their Lifestyle Outdoor Medium Hiker socks thanks to the good folks over at Outdoor Blogger Network.

In the process of reviewing these socks, I have learned way more than I ever dreamed I would need to know about a pair of socks. Before these Goodhew socks - socks were socks. Now, socks are just as technical a device as the pack I carry.

I have never owned a pair of actual, declared, made-specifically-for-hiking socks. Why? Because I didn't know it would make a difference. Like I said, socks were socks. But... I was wrong.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gear Review: Eno Double Nest Hammock

This past Christmas, Robin Santa brought me an Eno Double Nest Hammock and a pair of ENO Slap Straps to hang it. I was so stoked to have received such a wonderful gift, but at the same time bummed because it was winter and had no idea when we would get to try this thing out. Shortly after Christmas, it was rounded up with other Christmas toys and gifts and placed in an area in our computer room/ham shack/office/hamster  portrait studio/library/etcetera etcetera where it was - for lack of a better word - forgotten.

When we decided on taking our very impromptu and last minute camping trip to Norris, Robin remembered the hammock and took it with us. Alas, the trip was such a quick getaway, we never really found the time to use it. So again it was tucked back in the multifunctional room with the rest of our outdoor gear only to wait patiently another few weeks before finally getting loose of it's container and put to use. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Celebratory Giveaway - Who wants a Pic-A-Nic Basket?

We just hit 200 fans on our Facebook page and we are ready to celebrate and say thank you to all of our fans/readers for getting the word out. It doesn't seem like very long ago that we hit the 100 mark. So to celebrate and just in time for the Fourth of July, we have a wonderful giveaway for you our fans.

So we ask you, who likes picnics? We sure do and it's not summer if a picnic is not involved at least a few times throughout the season. So for this giveaway we have for you a chance to win a wonderfully Patriotic Picnic Package. Included is a cool canvas picnic basket, a table cloth, 4 plastic reusable plates, 4 plastic reusable cups, a small pack of American Flag napkins, a package of disposable/reusable cutlery, 4 telescoping marshmallow roasters (these are the coolest things ever!), and a frisbee. A complete picnic package just in time for you to celebrate America's Independence out by the lake, in the woods, or where ever your favorite picnic place happens to be. Just add good company and food!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A New Page on the Blog - Gear Reviews

We hope that everyone is having a great day and a great weekend. We've been busy doing things around the house and going to yard sales to get things for Baby Bird. We also went to the doctor this week to have the second trimester testing and baby is doing well and so is Robin. So we are getting major excited and the task of getting things ready are looming over us big time, so we may not have as much outdoorsy related stuff posted over the next couple of weeks but we will manage to get at least a hike or two in - hopefully.

In the meantime, we thought it would be helpful to make a couple new pages on the blog for you, our readers. We've added a new one starting today, Gear Reviews. We figured as we post new things, the important stuff like Gear Reviews and Trail reports get covered up and it's hard to find. So the next page that we will add in the next couple of days will be Trails, but for now our Gear Reviews page is up and live. Check it out and let us know what you think. We've just provided links and brief descriptions of the reviews in different categories. We hope this will enable you all to find the gear reviews easier, instead of having to search high and low for them.

That's pretty much all we have for now. Robin will be reviewing the Vasque Taku GTX hiking boots and the Goodhew Hiking Socks she received from the Outdoor Blogger Network real soon, so keep your eyes peeled for those. Until next time...

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Friday, June 10, 2011

Interpretive Programs This Weekend at The Big South Fork

Summer is here and nature is calling...erm not that kind of calling. Nature beckons us to get outside and enjoy all there is to offer. What better way to do so than by going to a state or national park for picnics, hikes, camping, etc? If you are planning on hitting your parks this weekend, the summer time always offers plenty of activities for the whole family. Most parks have seasonal interpretive rangers on staff and that means a full list of daily interpretive programs.So be sure to stop in at your park's visitor center to find out more information on these great programs.

This weekend and through the month of June at the Big South Fork is no exception. They have a full list of programs for the whole family. Saturday, June 11, they have a nature hike along the O&W trail down at the Leatherwood Ford area starting at 10:30am. At 2:00pm one of the rangers will have a program on box turtles. Saturday happens to be free fishing day in Tennessee and at 7:00pm join one of the BSF rangers for a fun time fishing. In the Blue Heron area of the park at 7:30 there will be an Owl Prowl. On Sunday the only program on the list is a hike on the Oscar Blevins Trail, this starts at 10:30am.

The Big South Fork has more information on their programs throughout the month of June on their website. Check it out or contact Howard Duncan @ 423-569-9778 for more information.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Emerald Ash Borer Update

When we first wrote about the purple boxes hanging from the trees in our area, we promised to keep you updated. Remember that these boxes were an effort to identify the spread of the dangerous insect, the emerald ash borer.

An EAB identification has now been confirmed by the USDA in Blount County, TN.  Blount County will now be added to the quarantine list beside Knox and Loudon counties, both of which were added in August 2010.

The quarantine prohibits the movement of ash wood, ash nursery stock, ash timber, or any other material that may transport the EAB.

People can expect to see more purple traps in that area as the survey continues. The purple traps are an important part of finding out just how bad an infestation may be. EAB's have been known to kill ash trees within 3 years of infestation.

Do your part!

Don't transport firewood - even within the state.

Don't buy or move firewood from outside the state.

Watch for signs of infestations in your ash trees. You can find a symptomatic checklist here: http://www.tn.gov/agriculture/regulatory/eabchecklist.html If you see signs, please notify the TDA's Regulatory Services Division at 1-800-628-2631

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gear Giveaway Roundup 6/7/2011

Howdy folks and welcome to a brand new edition of Giveaway Roundup. This week we have 5 different giveaways that we have found in the outdoor blogosphere. So hold on to your seats and enjoy the ride.

Giveaway #1
Patricia Herr of the Blog Trish, Alex, and Sage is giving away two Mountain Wanderer hats from Steve Smith's bookshop in Lincoln, NH. That's right folks, not one but two hats. You have until 5:00pm on June 17th to get your names in the hat (bu dum bum) for this one. All you need to do is send Trish an email saying you want a hat and you're entered. Head over to Trish's blog for more details on the giveaway.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Alice And The Rabbit - Kephart Prong Trail GSMNP - 6/4/2011

This past Saturday was National Trails Day, and regardless of the fact, we had already been planning to hike earlier in the week. You see last week Robin finally received her Vasque Taku GTX hiking boots and Goodhew hiking socks as a result of winning a "Gear Review Opportunity" from the OBN. So just like a kid at Christmas or a kid who receives a new pair of Nikes, she was ready to take them out on the trail.

We actually made it to bed early (11:30pm EDT) by our standards so that we could get up early in order to avoid the heat of the day and the crowds in the Smokies. We were so excited about our hike that it was hard for us to either get to sleep or stay asleep. We were both up, ready, and out of the house before 6:00am and on our way to the Great Smoky Mountains. Of course we had to make a couple pit stops for petrol, breakfast, ice, and well, nature calls more frequently when there's something pressing against your bladder almost non-stop.

Friday, June 3, 2011

More Thank You's!

Seems like we can't say thank you enough! We appreciate all our friends and fellow bloggers - and most of all, you - our readers.

Tomorrow, I'll be hitting the trail to try out - for the first time - my new Vasque Taku GTX hiking boots and the Goodhew High Performance socks thanks to Outdoor Blogger Network.

Many thanks to OBN, Vasque, and Goodhew for the opportunity to review these hiking essentials!

Keep a watch out for the reviews on both the hiking boots and the socks.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

National Trails Day is Around the Corner

Saturday June 4th is National Trails Day and there's a lot of hikes and volunteer activities being held all over the place just for this occasion. In addition, our President just declared June as National Great Outdoors Month.

So what are your plans for Trails Day? Are you going on a hike or planning on giving back by volunteering in a trail maintenance activity? Let us know, we'd love to hear your plans. If your having troubles find activities or don't know what's available, check with your local State or National Parks. There's plenty of opportunities and it's not hard to find them. Remember Google is your friend.

For the East Tennessee area there are all sorts of events planned for different parks from hikes to clean ups and even trail maintenance. Tennessee State Parks page has a whole list of events on their website. To name a few, there is a trail work project to celebrate Trails Day at Frozen Head State Park on Saturday. Call the park office at 423-346-3318 for more information.

A New Month Means June Thank You's

May has flown by in a flash, and Tim is another year older. We continue to break records here at Appalachia & Beyond and we have our readers and fellow bloggers to thank for it. We've hit our 200th post just the other day (we didn't make a big fuss about it) and we had our first giveaway which was a great success.

In May we reviewed the Vasque Mindbenders that I was awarded as a consolation prize in a contest, we went on two nice hikes, and we've been sharing small glimpses of Robin's pregnancy along the way. Now that May has ended and we thoroughly enjoyed the Memorial Day Weekend, the heat has kicked into overdrive and summer is upon us.