Posted on

Ferguson Canyon Trail to Upper Meadow – Little Cottonwood Canyon Utah

This 4.3-mile round-trip hike offers a lot of variety. It has shade, waterfalls, river crossings, granite rock walls, mountain meadows and spectacular views of the Salt Lake Valley. I would have to rate it as a more difficult hike. It is steep and slippery in several areas, but its variety makes it worth it. You will get a great calf workout. The views of the Salt Lake Valley are beautiful and I loved the winding river that it follows. For dog lovers, it is a dog-friendly trail.


Posted on

Scout Falls, Timpanokee Trailhead AF Canyon, Utah

This is one of the best hikes I have been on. We hiked all the way to the top of Scout Falls where it opens into a beautiful mountain meadow. Due to an abundant snowfall, Scout Falls was an amazing sight with a tremendous flow of water. Going to the top there were 3 places we could view the falls. From the first view, you are looking up and could see the enormity of the falls. The 2nd view allowed us to stand behind the falls which was my favorite view. The top was a beautiful mountain meadow with patches of snow and wildflowers. From here we could see several other waterfalls in the distance. This is a great hike for anyone. The hike from the trailhead to the meadow is approximately 5 miles roundtrip. It’s not too steep and if you want a shorter hike you can hike to the view points along the way without going all the way to the meadow. This is a hike worth doing!




Posted on

Firecraft – Campfire Preparation and Fuel Gathering

Firecraft – Campfire Preparation and Fuel Gathering

Fire is a crucial skill for any outdoorsman. Whether you’re a boy scout, a backpacker, or a survivalist, knowing how to build a fire is one of the most important skills. Fire can be used for warmth, comfort,or to cook food and purify water. Fire building is an essential skill and can make a camping trip more enjoyable and even save your life in a survival situation.

Before I jump into types of fires and how to light them, let’s go over the most important part of firecraft, preparation. Preparation is a pivotal part in having a safe, successful fire and is often glazed over in handbooks.  Here are two key elements:  Site Preparation, and Fuel Gathering.

Preparing a site:

The first step is to pick and prepare a spot suitable for your fire. If you’re camping in a state or national park there is likely a pre-made fire ring for you to use in which case your site preparation is done. However, if you are in an area without a pre-made fire ring you will need to prepare a site for your fire.

Preparing a site for a fire is fairly straightforward. Your goal is to create a space that will contain your fire and prevent it from spreading, harming you, your gear or the surrounding area while still providing you with all the necessary warmth and protection.  Three steps to site preparation:

  1. First clear all debris in a  6 to 10 foot area. Removing all debris will prevent your fire from spreading anywhere you don’t want it to.
  2. Next take note of your environment and the surrounding area and make sure that there are no overhanging branches that could catch on fire.
  3. Another precaution is to ensure that there is nothing in the immediate area that will catch fire from a stray spark or ember from your fire. This is especially important for areas with arid conditions.

Gathering Fuel for the fire:

Gathering fuel for your fire is the next crucial step in starting a fire and it should take the longest amount of time. To create a successful fire you need three things heat, fuel, and oxygen.  At this point we are focusing on gathering and processing wood to fuel our fire. To start this process we need to break it down into three common categories tinder, kindling and fuel wood.

Tinder is any material that is combustible and is a crucial part to lighting any fire. On average a tinder bundle should be around the size of a grapefruit and easily catch a spark or be lit by a match. There are many different materials that can be used for tinder from natural materials to man made synthetic material.

Sources of natural tinder: 

  • Silver birch bark
  • Dry fallen leaves and cones
  • Dried grass
  • Dried powdered fungi
  • Plant or bird down
  • Dry seed heads
  • Wood shavings
  • Fat wood

Sources of manmade tinder:

  • Newspaper clips
  • Jute chord
  • Cotton wool
  • Pocket or laundry lint
  • Char cloth or cord
  • Fuel tablets
  • Candles

Don’t neglect the importance of tinder, if your tinder bundle isn’t successful your fire won’t be successful. This step is more crucial than any other part of your fire.

Kindling is defined as any wood, or sticks, that are from pencil led to pencil thickness. Kindling needs to be able to ignite rather quickly to allow the fire to spread before your tinder burns out. For this reason it’s very important that the sticks you pick are entirely dry. Therefore, try to avoid, if possible, collecting kindling from the ground as they are more likely to be damp. Instead look for dead, low hanging, tree branches often referred to as squaw wood. Squaw wood is a Western Canadian expression that refers to pencil-thick (and thinner) branches on the bottom trunk of a spruce tree or other conifer. It stays dry even in rainy weather, is easy to snap off and gather by hand, and makes excellent tinder for starting a fire.

Keep in mind that larger sticks can also be broken down for kindling.

Fuel wood is your main source of fuel for sustaining a fire and ranges in size. To simplify this I like to break it down into the three categories that I learned from Hugh Manner’s book “The Complete Wilderness Training Manual” which is small fuel, main fuel, and large fuel.

  • Small fuel: Small fuel consists of sticks that are about as thick as your finger and help take your fire from kindling to larger more sustainable fuels. Small fuel is easy to find and collect. Squaw wood is perfect for it, however, some alternatives to wood fuel are bundled up dry grass or compacted rolls of paper sheets.
  • Main fuel: Ranging in sizes from sticks larger than your thumb to the size of your wrist main fuel is what you will primarily use to sustain your fire. You can collect main fuel from off the ground, from fallen logs, or from dead low hanging branches (squaw wood). You may also consider breaking down larger logs for main fuel, however, this may require too much time and energy or possibly tools such as an axe or saw, so be aware of your situation.
  • Large fuel: Anything bigger than your main fuel falls into this category and typically consists of large logs and branches. Large fuel is extremely useful for maintaining a fire over a long period and is perfect for a long term campsite or an all-night fire like a star fire, upside down fire or a Swedish “Rakovalkea”. Collecting large fuel may require the use of tools like an ax, but often you can find it ready as is.

Make sure to gather all your materials from tinder to fuel wood and organize it into the three categories listed above before you start your fire.

On top of preparing these three stages of fire wood you may want to consider building a fire platform out of green sticks or dry rocks. This will help prevent the ground from taking heat away from your fire and is especially useful in cold or wet conditions.

My final advice is to practice. Firecraft is a skill and takes hours of practice to master. Start simple and work your way up. Look for my next article on types of fire like the star fire, mentioned above, and ways to ignite them.


Posted on

Why Every Classroom Should Have a School Survival Kit


Several years ago our children were stranded in three different schools from elementary to high school.  A winter snow storm hit with sudden intensity. In 30 minutes this storm was at blizzard conditions. There was no visibility.  Busses were not running and the few that did got stranded and had to return to the school.  Walking students were not allowed to leave the building.  Some kids and teachers were stranded at the elementary school overnight. Many parents were stranded in their cars, at gas stations and even at the local Wendy’s until morning, when the storm had cleared and emergency vehicles could clear the roads.


Disasters like this can occur at any time, in any place and present themselves in many forms. Whether it is a natural disaster such as earthquake, flood, tornado, fire, severe storms or man-made disasters such as an active shooter or hazardous spill or contamination. A school survival kit will help your classroom to be prepared.


Planning, preparation, practice  and organization are the best protection for any disaster.

Any disaster can bring out stress, panic, and poor judgment in the best of us. The best way to prepare is to have a plan and a school survival kit ready for use in a moment’s notice. Everyone in the organization needs to know their role, the supplies in the survival kit, and how to carry out their part of the plan.


Good planning will facilitate a rapid, coordinated, effective response when a crisis occurs. Being well prepared involves an investment of time and resources – but the potential to reduce injury and save lives is well worth the effort. – U.S. Department of Education


More often than not we are creatures of habit. Those things that we are trained and trained again on are what we will most likely revert to in a time of trial and stress.  It’s like muscle memory. Plans that are well thought out and well executed will keep your students safe and calm no matter if you are in a daycare, preschool, K-12 or college environment.  


Schools have a responsibility to know the risks that they face. Knowing the risks allows them to make educated decisions about how to manage, and mitigate the risks.  Risk is accompanied by uncertainty. It is interesting to note that when you look up the synonyms to uncertainty you find words like ambiguity, anxiety, concern, worry and confusion. But when you look at the antonyms to uncertainty you find words such as confidence, certainty, clarity and composure.


Life’s emergencies will always have uncertainty but there are ways to reduce the outcome of risk. Just as uncertainty has its opposite or antonym, so does an emergency situation.  By understanding the risk, possible outcomes and putting the steps in place to act, we can be prepared to handle uncertain moments. Uncertainty isn’t bad as long as it motivates us to be better prepared.

There should be a School Survival Kit in every classroom, where teachers and students can gain quick access to them in the event of an emergency. It is important to know and practice all the drills but it is also important to know what emergency supplies we should have on hand. What we do in the first few minutes of an emergency can have a large impact on its outcome.  What should be in these kits? Here are a few suggestions.


Basic things every classroom should have for a School Survival Kit

  •         School emergency procedure
  •         Emergency phone numbers
  •         A Classroom “Grab and Go Bag”
  •         A “Shelter-in- Kit”


Classroom Grab and Go Bag

Often in an emergency teachers and students find themselves outside of their respective classrooms.  A bag or container that can be easily grabbed that has pertinent student information and supplies can be helpful in a stressful situation.


  •         A bright emergency backpack with the following items:
  •         Yellow fluorescent vest (worn by teachers)
  •         Student class roster (with special assistance students identified)  
  •         Student emergency care cards
  •         Student release forms
  •         Emergency phone numbers and procedures
  •         Basic first aid kit (maintain per shelf life)
  •         Flashlight w/ extra batteries (maintain per shelf life)
  •         Pens, paper
  •         Large garbage bags or poncho, 1 per student (to keep warm and dry)
  •         Whistle
  •         Small garbage bags with ties for sanitation (1 roll)
  •         Facial or toilet tissue (1 small box or roll)
  •         Scissors
  •         Small snacks—peanut free (optional)


Classroom Shelter-in-place kit (in addition to the Grab and Go Bag above)

In the event that teachers and students are unable to go home or need to be locked down in the classroom or school here are supplies in addition to the “Grab and Go Bag” that you will find helpful.


  •         5-gallon bucket (to store supplies and to serve as toilet when needed)
  •         Toilet Supplies (small plastic bags, toilet paper, and hand washing supplies)
  •         Duct Tape, 2 rolls (for sealing doors and windows)
  •         Drinking Water and cups
  •         Emergency food supply
  •         Emergency blankets, at least 3
  •         Tarp or ground cover
  •         Portable radio, batteries
  •         Student Activities
  •         Gum, mints, or hard candy (to help relax students during lockdown or shelter-in-place)
  •         Small tools like leather work gloves, safety goggles, pry bar, etc.


Classroom needs will vary so there is always room for a additional items as you see a need for personalization. Circumstances may vary but being prepared will bring confidence, certainty, clarity and composure in a moment of uncertainty. You will never regret the investment of time or resources.

Posted on

It’s Wildfire Season. Are You Ready?

It’s time to start thinking about wildfire season and get prepared!

On July 3, 2012 our family was headed to Warm River, Idaho, for a family reunion. Due to her work schedule our 18 year old daughter remained at home. Just after 2pm I received a frantic phone call from her saying she could see a large fire burning in the mountains behind our home and she wanted to know what she should do if she had to evacuate. My first reaction was, really how bad could it be? She snapped a picture and sent it to me and yes her alarm was justified.

This wildfire known as the Quail Hollow fire consumed almost 2900 acres and caused the evacuation of 500 homes. At the time it was the highest priority fire burning in the United States due to the perfect fire conditions and the dense population it was threatening.

I am ashamed to say that we had never discussed this as a family. So now hundreds of miles away we were putting a plan in place. We told our daughter what she needed to do in the event our home was in danger and most importantly if she was asked to evacuate she would do so immediately. We let neighbors know that she was home. I did have emergency kits and items ready for a quick evacuation but we never discussed the plan formally as a family, which was a big mistake. For some reason I always imagined I would be the one at home and able to put our plan into action.

Even though we were sure she was safe and far enough away from the fire we should have been better prepared. We were just plain lucky that day.

We were not one of the 500 homes evacuated but I know several who were and in talking to them they had very little time to evacuate due to the swiftness of the fire. It was a very fast moving fire due to drought conditions and the wind.  Many only had time to grab a personal item or two and leave.

So what did I learn from this experience? You need to have a plan. Why?

  • Emergencies happen without notice, especially wildfires.
  • Your family may not all be in one place, as was the case for us.
  • So everyone knows what to do in an emergency and where supplies are.
  • So you are not planning during the emergency, which is never good.

So where should you begin

  • Recognize what your risk is for wildfires
  • Create a plan
  • Create or restock your emergency kits
  • Communicate and practice your plan



Not all of us live in areas that are at risk for wildfires, but understanding the risks help you formulate a plan. If you are at risk then find out how your local government plans to handle a wildfire situation. How they will communicate, evacuation routes (sometimes roads are closed down to facilitate emergency vehicles), fire breaks between natural wilderness areas and private property.  Knowing the adherent risks can help you minimize some of the risks for you, your family and your property.  Maintaining your home by keeping gutters clear, fire prone materials away from your house and landscaping so that fire prone landscaping is away from structures can be the difference between receiving fire damage or not.


Communication is the key to any successful plan.

  • How will you communicate with one another, especially if normal communication lines are unavailable.
  • Predetermine common meeting places if you are separated. Depending on the circumstances it may be a meeting spot outside your home, local school, church or a relative or friend’s home in another town.
  • Collect contact information for your family, friends and other important or pertinent emergency contact numbers. Make sure everyone has a copy of this information.
  • Have access to a radio or other types of communication and know where you need to go to get alerts. Keeping yourself informed will help you exercise your plan.


Like I mentioned earlier wildfires happen quickly and unexpectedly, often leaving you no time to put a bag together.  Having an emergency kit that is ready and easy to grab is a must have in an emergency evacuation situation.  A kit that can provide food, water and supplies for 72 hours is what is recommended.  Depending on the magnitude of the emergency it can take emergency service groups sometime to get in and provide services especially if they are not able to access the area.

You can purchase a kit like the ones offered by Muskrat Gear or create your own 72 hour kits; here is a recommended supply list. Feel free to customize as you want based on your own personal needs.


Food and Water to last for 72 Hours:

  • 1 gallon of Water per person per day, for washing, drinking and cooking.
  • Non-perishable Foods. (MRE’S, survival food bars or canned food work great in a kit). Items that do not need cooking are best.
  • Emergency Water Filters and Purification supplies. This may not be needed but it will extend your water which could be very important during the hotter temperatures of the wildfire season.


Cooking, Heating, and Lighting supplies:

  • Cooking: Utensils, Cups and Dishes. Portable cook stove if your food needs cooking. I still recommend food that does not need cooking.
  • Warmth: Emergency Blanket, Hand Warmers, Sleeping Bag, Tent.
  • Lighting: Battery or Hand Crank Operated Flashlight (LED Flashlights last longer than battery), Glow Sticks.
  • Extra Batteries


First Aid Kit and other Special Needs:

  • First Aid Kit,
  • Pet, Child and Elderly care needs.
  • Feminine Hygiene products


Medications and Prescriptions:

  • Enough medicine to last enough time until you can get some more. Especially in the event your home is destroyed.


Emergency Weather Radios:

  • An Emergency Radio, preferably a hand crank radio is very important to keep you up to date on the latest news.
  • Two-way radios are especially helpful for communication



  • Always good to have cash on hand in small denominations.
  • Credit Card
  • Phone Card


Clothes and Bedding:

  • Sleeping bags, blankets
  • An extra change of clothes including additional layering items if located in colder climate.


Important Documents: (not all are a necessity but certainly nice to have)

  • Your Disaster Plan
  • Listing of complied emergency contact information. This can also include possible evacuation routes and predetermined gathering locations.
  • Copy of Identification papers (license, passport)
  • Insurance information
  • Maps, GPS, or travel information in case of evacuation.


Sanitation Supplies:

  • 5 Gallon Bucket, Sanitary bags, Hygiene cleansing wipes, Portable Toilet.
  • Toothpaste and Toothbrushes
  • Toilet Paper
  • Soap and Towel

It is best to store emergency kits and additional supplies in wheeled plastic containers. This will keep your gear more organized and easier to carry. Always start with the basics of what you will need and over time add to your kits.


The title says it all. This is where our family failed. If our daughter was unable to get in contact with us she would not have known what to take and where everything was stored. Once she knew where everything was, she was able to put the plan in action and had everything ready to go if she was asked to evacuate. Plans not communicated or practiced are just good intentions.

You will never regret having taken the time to prepare.

Posted on

Caring for your Cacoon


You can machine wash the fabric on a cold cycle (no bleach). Put the ring back into your Cacoon and hang dry (do not tumble dry). It’s important you don’t dry without the ring in place.

And don’t even think about getting the iron out – Cacoons don’t like irons!

Or, if you prefer (and can’t wait before trying it out), simply wash your Cacoon down while it’s hanging – outside, obviously. Use warm soapy water before rinsing off with clean water.

Posted on

Putting your Cacoon together


Tools required: NONE

1. Place your Cacoon on the ground with the door spread open.

2. Build the inner ring by slotting together the sections piece by piece whilst feeding them through the guide loops on the inside of your Cacoon.

3. Once you’ve fed the sections through all the loops, complete the rest of the ring. You may need to use a little force to align and slot together the last two sections.

4. Pull your Cacoon over the completed ring – using your hands and fingers to lever the final part of the fabric over the ring (the design of your Cacoon relies on the ring fitting tightly – so be prepared to use a little force).

5. Using reef knots, secure the last parts of the inner ring to the horizontal seam with the ties provided.

6. Hang your Cacoon – but before you do, check the branch, beam or bracket is strong enough to take both your weight and that of any friends who may join you.

7. Enjoy!

Posted on

Perfect for the Body and Soul

**Pictured above: Stewart Falls near the Sundance Ski Resort, Provo Utah, February 10, 2017

As we are heading into spring, I can say it comes with a little bit of sadness. I know, spring! Crazy, right!? Don’t get me wrong, I like spring. In fact, I like all seasons.

The sadness comes from how much I enjoyed winter hiking this year. I have always enjoyed being active outdoors. In the past, my outdoor activity in the winter mostly consisted of downhill skiing. But this year, a friend and neighbor pulled a hiking group together, consisting of neighbors, friends, and their friends and neighbors. Anyone and everyone was welcome.

This friend took on the task to plan which hikes we would go on and, in order to include as many people as possible, she organized hikes on one or two days each week. She would send out a group text a few days before and whoever could make it would come. I made new friends, got reacquainted with friends from when my children were younger, and got some great exercise.

I know hiking and outdoor activities are not everyone’s thing—and for some it’s not possible. But then there are people like me: the ones who are going to work out even if it is done on an old treadmill in the basement. In fact, I will confess, I am one of those people who is obsessed with step counts.

The size of the groups varied every week from 4 to 15 women of various ages and hiking levels. The average age was somewhere in the mid-40s with some woman in their 30s and most in their 40 and 50s. We had women with young children, teenagers, young adults, and grandchildren. Trust me, this was not your average “grandmothers” hiking group.  These women were in great shape and operated on high speed with busy lives caring for their families, working hard at their careers, and serving in the community.

I not only made new friends, but I found myself edified as we challenged ourselves and interacted with one another. I learned so much from these women. I learned about great books, how to eat healthier, stories of family joys and challenges, and how to balance our lives, all while we coursed our way up mountains trails, over streams, and under snow-flocked trees. The scenery was spectacular and, at times, indescribable. While I have hiked a lot, before this winter, I had done it most often in summer and fall, but winter brought new challenges and a whole different perspective.  Every week I came off our adventure and I hoped it would snow again so that next week’s hike could be blanketed in snow.

While getting outdoors and being active was a big part of the enjoyment, I believe I benefited even more from the social aspect of the hiking. It provided me with the balance I needed.  I wonder if it isn’t so important what activity we engage in, but with whom we do it with.  I learned so much more than I expected from my interaction with this amazing group of women. It took some planning to get myself out there, some personal sacrifice, and I was sometimes tired from the excursion. But I felt more balanced having taken some time to explore and, most importantly, to visit with others and play a little.

I am looking forward to hiking the entire 2017 year with these women, through all the seasons, and getting to see the beauty that surrounds us while forming priceless friendships. Life is hectic at times, but I know from personal experience that while exercising alone is good for the body, exercising with others is perfect for the body and soul.


Posted on

Horse Back Riding on Box Elder Trail

Want to see more and do more in the mountains.  Mountain trail adventures are great on foot, but sometimes you just can’t see everything you want to.  Try going on horseback it will offer you a whole new perspective and not to mention they are great at carrying the gear.   You can set up your gear in a base camp and then explore all day either on foot or on a horse.  Take a light weight backpack that easily fits on your back whether you are hiking or riding.

On this trip we dropped our gear and set up base camp at about 7500 feet in elevation.  We then scaled 3000 feet in elevation on horseback and then the remaining 1000 feet on foot.

At some points in the trail you will want to tie off your horse in a safe way.  After climbing 3000 feet the horses will welcome the rest, while you cover the steepest last 1000 feet in elevation to the peak.

Along the way you can enjoy many of the amazing natural views.

By nightfall you won’t be too exhausted to cook a nice meal.