We finished another environmental education session at Fenton Ranch Oct. 12 and now our main job is to watch the property for the school. Fall is a perfect time to complete outdoor projects around the 5 acres of land and prep for the winter. As our wood-burning stove beckons to be stoked every morning already, we are reminded how much wood we will plow through, so chop, chop, chop!!
Along with property care taking this time of year, our simultaneous job is gear testing. I mentioned Justin became the category manager for “knives and multitools” for Backpacker Magazine this year, but then at last minute, he was assigned the trekking pole category as well. And then he was assigned the holiday gift guide. And really that means I’ve also been assigned these categories because while my husband knows the mechanics of gear and how to test and compare it, his vocabulary has a hard time expanding beyond, “this is awesome” and “this is my new go-to piece of gear.”
We’ve been testing gear for Backpacker for a few years now, but this is the first year as category managers and I have a new appreciation for being on the other side of the fence. Let’s just say, it’s way more work than it sounds.
In any case, magazine deadlines loom in our very near future, and the best way to test and get to know new gear is to beat it up preferably in the elements and do some soul searching about what makes it stand out.
You never have to ask us twice to go outside and play.
Two opportunities we grasped this week were right in our backyard.
Justin’s second cousin was coming through the area, so we took him and his girlfriend up to San Antonio Hot Springs. These natural, non-commercialized hot springs are so close to where we live, yet this was only our second time. I understand most people would make a weekly pilgrimage there because it is a paradise. But I am just not a water person. I spent 4 years living in Phoenix, Arizona, with a pool and went swimming twice. If you visit (hint, hint), we will willingly take you there, despite my affinity for being in water.
Our second outing this past week was an overnight backpacking trip in our surrounding Santa Fe National Forest. We had explored part of Calaveras Canyon last September, but one of the many features of this area we live is a bunch of valleys/canyons formed by the erosion of hardened volcanic ash. I really wanted to connect Calaveras Canyon with another valley and thanks to old connecting logging roads, I knew we could.
So we completed a 14.7-mile loop connecting Calaveras Canyon with the Rio de Cebolla valley. Not only was it a perfect gear-testing trip given the low nighttime temps, we were treated to solitude, last bits of fall foliage and some amazing wildlife sightings. We watched a red-tailed hawk scavenge a squirrel and had a stand-off with a bobcat for at least 10 minutes (don’t worry, he was at least 75 yards away).
Now if there were only a way we say that our gear protected us against the bobcat …