The Feathered Friends Blog
A bright blue fuselage sticks out of the sand and sagebrush, adorned with the words “Boulder Airport and UFO Landing site.”
After hiking through sagebrush, stunted pines, and a light drizzle I finally arrived at the blue structure I spotted in the distance miles before. The man-made monolith is one of the many gems waiting to be found by intrepid visitors to the Escalante National Monument in Utah.
The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was created in 1996 by Bill Clinton and encompasses 1.9 million acres of land. To put that in perspective, the monument is slightly larger than the entire state of Delaware. As a National Monument, the land is managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and is protected from many forms of development and use (but not all) and is open to more recreational activities than National Parks.
There are a few things that make exploring Escalante an adventure, no matter where you are going.
First, the road signs that say “high clearance vehicles only” are not kidding...my Subaru lost some paint along the way. Many of the access roads to hikes are unpaved, and a high clearance vehicle would increase the probability of getting where you want to. There were also some roads with such bad washboards I worried the car would shake apart then and there, but the rewards were worth it (and I guess a good test for the car’s durability).
Second, finding the trailhead is an adventure in itself. Trailhead markers exist, but are not always easy to find and are rarely next to the road. Unlike National Parks where signs lead you everywhere and the best attractions are easy to locate, in Escalante the best hikes and trips require a lot of effort, time, and a willingness to go out in the middle of nowhere.
With this in mind, the most accessible day hike is fortunately also one of the most beautiful. Lower Calf Creek falls gives a little taste of everything, starting with an incredible drive from Escalante. Leaving town, the road winds its way across a plateau of stunted pine trees, and then drops down into a magnificent and vast expanse of slickrock. The road continues through white, red, pink, yellow, and everything in-between shades of rock that are swept and contorted into flowing patterns and convoluted cracks. The best is yet to come, however, as the road takes you over a hogback…
This part of the road is not for the faint of heart. At one point, the narrow two lane highway is a white knuckle traverse of a spine of rock, with big airy cliffs on either side. Get your most confident driver behind the wheel, enjoy the views, and marvel at the gumption of Utah road builders.
The hike starts a little farther along the road, and is well marked (for once) with a good sized parking lot that fills up quickly. I have done this hike three times now, and it never gets old. The trail meanders next to the creek, and I am always surprised at the verdant oasis of startlingly green plants nestled between slickrock cliffs coated in streaks of desert varnish. Keep your eyes out for petroglyphs on the distant walls and granaries perched high above the creek floor. The ultimate reward, however, is the tall waterfall at the end. The cool air is welcome after the sunny hike, and in the past the more intrepid members of my group have gone for a cold swim.
Escalante has many other gems, from the boulder airport fuselage marker to slot canyons and crazy mountain roads with names like “Hell’s Backbone.” With the right sense of adventure and navigation, you can get to scenery as remote and stunning as you wish.
Last month one of our staff members road tripped through the southwest. Here are five of her tips on how to make the most of your adventure.
1. Layer, layer, layer.
Springtime means unpredictable weather. When the sun was out I happily stolled along in short sleeves and sunglasses. When clouds, rain, snow, or nightfall rolled in, however, I had to be ready to layer up quickly. My go-to pieces of gear were a thin pair of wool gloves, a wind shirt, a hooded quarter-zip base layer (I now want hoods on everything), and my down Eos jacket.
2. Hike in the morning or evening for the best light.
This held true no matter where we went, from Bryce to Arches. The low light of dawn and dusk has long been praised as the “golden hour” by photographers, and I can see why. In the southwest, the red, pink, yellow, and white rocks become incredibly vibrant and even more spectacular. Plus, there are usually fewer people around.
3. Have a backup plan
In the early spring, the parks are waking up after a slower winter season. This means that campgrounds may not be open yet, trails can be blocked or closed, and operating hours can be different. And of course we can't forget about the weather, which went from sunny and bluebird to snow within less than a day. It also rains in the Southwest, and when it does it can be extremely dangerous. Always check flood risk at the local ranger station or land management office. With this in mind, I had a backup hike and hotel in mind at each park if conditions turned for the worse.
4. Go stargazing
Some of the clearest nights I have witnessed were in the southwest. The combination of few clouds, expansive views unhindered by big peaks or forest, and the silhouettes of rock formations in front of the milky way make for an incredible experience. Bring along a flashlight with a red light setting to preserve your night vision as you move to or from your chosen stargazing locations. It is also worthwhile to check in with local astronomical societies to see if they are having any events in the National Parks. I encountered one in Arches, and the astronomers kindly gave me a tour of the night sky, from seeing the rings of saturn to multi colored stars and galaxies. If you do find these groups, be respectful and ask nicely, as they are usually more than happy to show you the sky, but sometimes have specific stars they are following and do not want to be disturbed.
5. Explore lesser known trails
National Parks get extremely crowded, and it can sometimes feel like an amusement park when a trail is filled with a constant stream of people going up and down. To avoid this, hit the most popular trails early (and on weekdays), and then explore other trails in the afternoon. Some examples include the rim trails in Zion, longer loops in Bryce that link the rim and canyon trails, and Devil’s garden in Arches. Before you head out on these adventures, however, carefully assess your group’s fitness level, preparedness, and comfort with slickrock.
Bonus Tip: The Southwestern landscape captures the imagination like no other landscape I’ve visited. Take your time when exploring these parks to take it all in.
It’s that time of the year… to gear up for your summer adventures!
Whether you are going on your first backpacking trip or preparing for Mount Rainier, our sale and clearance items will help you get out there and send your adventure.
Sale items include:
20% off select Osprey Packs
25% off a selection of climbing gear from Black Diamond, Camp, and Mammut
20% off Petzl Ropes and select Edelweiss Glacier Ropes
20% off Julbo and Native sunglasses
20% off Suunto watches
25% off all Arc’teryx baselayers
20% off select 850 and 900 fill down bags
… and more!
Clearance Items: who’s feeling lucky?
Our clearance items get special treatment this year, with a progressive gambler’s sale. This means that the longer the sale goes on, the gear that has not found its new home gets cheaper and cheaper every week.
Clearance item inventory is limited, but includes items like La Sportiva mountaineering boots, Arc’teryx winter shell jackets, Patagonia layers, winter hats and scarves, and a lot of other gems.
Here's how it will go down:
5/19/16 - 20% off all Clearance Rack Footwear & 30% off all Clearance Rack Clothing
5/28/16 - 30% off all Clearance Rack Footwear & 40% off all Clearance Rack Clothing
6/4/16 - 40% off all Clearance Rack Footwear & 50% off all Clearance Rack Clothing
Clearance racks will be clearly marked, and the progressive sale only applies to these items.
Please note: All sales are final on clearance items. Sale prices are not retroactive. Discounts based off of regular full price. We also might adjust prices at different times, so some items may receive bigger discounts earlier, and clearance items may be subject to change without notice.
Part One: A Feathered Friends Tour of the Southwest
Hoodoos. Ladies with hairdos. Fairy Chimneys. Whatever you call them, the incredible rock formations of Bryce Canyon are unlike anything else in the world. The towering spires, vibrant colors, and chromatic vistas were the first stop in a road trip to celebrate the National Park Centennial.
Last month I went on a month-long road trip to explore the parks that are arguably one of “America’s best ideas” in relation to conservation and recreation. It was also the perfect opportunity to put some new Feathered Friends gear to the test in a cold and arid climate.
The National Park Service was created in 1916 "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Over the last 100 years, the National Park system has grown to include 58 parks across the United States, which receive tens of millions of visitors each year.
Bryce first captured my imagination when I visited it as a kid; the colors, rocks, and hikes were about as different as you can get from the greens and greys of the Northwest. Returning as an adult, these same formations re-awakened my sense of childhood wonder and a new feeling of gratitude that Bryce is protected. In practical terms, this means that although the park sees millions more visitors and has more amenities than when I first visited, the natural features are exactly as I remember them.
A testament to the splendor of the park is that people visit it from around the world. Walking on the rim of Bryce at peak travel season (which starts right about now) immerses you in a melting pot of languages, cultures, and experiences. One of my favorite things to do is sit on the rim and paint. Often the painting sparks conversations and inspires interactions with people thousands of miles from home.
This was also my first time visiting the southwest in spring, and I was surprised at how COLD (and windy) it was. Each night temperatures hovered right around or below freezing, and it even snowed the day we left Bryce.
It turns out our founders and owners were at Bryce the same time I was, doing some product testing of their own. They hit the cold and snowy conditions as well, and I think we were all glad to have lightweight down jackets like the Eos and Hyperion stashed in our packs.
Pro Tip for exploring Bryce: The canyon is structured in a tiered system. Layer one is the rim, which is the most crowded, and has expansive views down into the rock formations and to the mesas beyond. Layer two includes the shorter hiking loops that drop into the canyon, such as the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden. These trails still see a lot of people, but allow you to get up close and personal with Hoodoos of all shapes, sizes, colors, and heights. Layer three is the Under the Rim trail, which is primarily used by backpackers, and is the place to go to find solitude.
The binder is a jumble of slides, negatives, and faded prints. Holding slides up to the light of my computer monitor, I discovered pictures of ice falls and blue skies. Upon further inspection, handwritten labels revealed words like “Everest, K2, and 8,000” hinting at the big adventures documented in the tiny images.
Starting in the 1970’s, the pictures recount ascents in the local Cascade Mountains to expeditions across the world in Nepal and Pakistan.
Keep your eyes out over the coming months for more pictures and longer stories recounting the journeys behind our favorite archived pictures.
The Eos - our newest down jacket - handmade in Seattle
The Eos jacket was named after the Greek goddess of dawn, and we designed it for all of your early morning adventures that require simple, lightweight, and fast warmth. Whether gearing up for an early ascent to catch the alpenglow or getting cozy in camp, the Eos has just the right amount of insulation to keep you warm on its own or as a layering piece when the weather moves in.
Every jacket is hand made in Seattle with 900+ fill goose down that is ethically sourced and RDS certified. The Eos is filled with 3.7 ounces of down and easily compacts into an included stuff sack, making it easy to stow once you and the sun are warmed up.
The down, combined with a low profile hood and zippered handwarmer pockets allow the Eos to keep you warm when conditions change. It also features an elastic drawcord hem and lycra around the cuffs and hood to keep your heat where you want it. Lastly, the jacket is constructed of Pertex Quantum brushed nylon fabric, which is the perfect balance of weight, durability, and protection with a DWR treatment on the exterior of the fabric.
With spring in full gear, the Eos is the ideal companion for your adventures.
Fun fact: According to Greek mythology, the goddess Eos is the daughter of Hyperion, who is the namesake of one of our other light to midweight jacket.
BD.TV Spring Film Tour @ Feathered Friends | May 12
Mark the calendar - it is time to get amped up! The BD.TV Spring film tour will be coming through Seattle on May 12th!
Back for a second year, the BD.TV tour will highlight some of the best in climbing from Black Diamond athletes.
Where: Feathered Friends
What: Black Diamond BD.TV Spring Film Tour
When: Thursday, May 12th 2016
Time: 7 PM
Bonus: Black Diamond Climbing Equipment and Apparel Raffle | Presenters | Beverages
Check out the FB Event Page
See you there!
The Feathered Friends Sidewalk Sale
This doesn't happen very often. In fact, we have never done this before. On June 26th and 27th, it will be time to save big on Feathered Friends down gear, including down jackets, vests, pants, comforters, and sleeping bags during our Sidewalk Sale! Cosmetic blemishes, factory seconds, prototypes... all on sale!
This is strictly a first-come, first-served event and only available at the Feathered Friends Seattle store!
Where: Feathered Friends Seattle Store
What: The Feathered Friends Sidewalk Sale
When: Friday, June 26th & Saturday, June 27th
Time: Starts 10am Friday, June 26th!
Bonus: Big time savings | 35% - 70% off*
Don't miss out!
Hummingbird Ridge - Still Waiting for a 2nd Ascent | North America's Fifty Classic Climbs, Episode 4 & 5
WITH MARK & JANELLE SMILEY
Those of you fortunate enough to have seen Mark Smiley's presentation at Feathered Friends back in September got a pretty good idea of how brutal Mt. Logan's (19,551') Hummingbird Ridge really was. Now, with the release of North America's Fifty Classic Climbs, Episode 4 & 5, everybody can see why this "classic" has only had one successful ascent... half a century ago...