Saturday, August 20, 2016
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Like most people who work at an outdoors store, I love to travel. More than that, I love traveling to beautiful natural places. This spring, I got the chance to spend six months in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studying and teaching English. On the weekends, when I wasn’t going to boliches (Argentinian clubs) or spending time in the city, I traveled, seeking out South America’s most breathtaking environments. Of all my travels, one of the best places I’ve explored so far is El Parque Nacional Iguazú in Misiones, a small province in Northern Argentina up by Brazil.
A few months ago, my friend and I decided on a whim that we needed to travel. We got online, looked at the airline prices and booked a flight to the one of the country’s true natural paradises: Iguazu, Argentina. I had heard from my porteño friends (and various talkative cab drivers) that I had to go there and experience the best the country had to offer. In the words of one Buenos Aires cab driver: “You see the falls of Iguazu and you know that God is real.” With all unanimous high praise, it was worth the cost of the plane ticket there.
On the day of our departure, my friend and I hopped in a cab together with our backpacks, cameras, and high hopes for adventure. We had been scheduled to leave the night before but had delayed because of a storm, so we weren’t too sure of what to expect as far as weather in Iguazu.
When the plane set down at the two-gate airport in Iguazu, a thick fog crept over our windows; we couldn’t even see the trees surrounding the runway. It was about 4 p.m. in the afternoon, and due to the fog, we decided to just go check into our hostel then walk around the town a bit. We had a nice “Peruvian/Cuban” dinner (which wasn’t really either Cuban or Peruvian but was still good) at a local restaurant, then went to bed and hoped for clear weather the next day.
The next day, I woke early to rays of sunshine dancing on my face – the fog had lifted, and so had my spirits. My Iguazu adventure was happening. I jumped out of bed, woke up my friend, then rushed to get dressed, gather our things, and hit the road to see the park. We quickly ate our breakfast of rice, beans, and medialunas (the amazing Argentinian version of croissants) and left the hotel. Forty minutes later, we had bus tickets to the Parque Nacional de Iguazu and were waiting rather impatiently on the bus platform.
After a short 20 minute bus ride, we arrived at Parque Nacional de Iguazu. We practically ran to the ticket booth to get our park tickets. Finally, after a flight, a bus ride, and a line for tickets, we entered the park and made our way down the trail towards the falls. After a bit of walking, we turned a corner and suddenly saw the falls.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but my cabbie said it best. “You see the falls of Iguazu and you know that God is real.” I’ve never been to Niagara Falls, but I’ve heard that Iguazu’s falls are significantly bigger. And I can believe it. They stretched for what looked like a mile or more of solid waterfall.
As my friend and I wandered around the park, we were struck by how many different viewing platforms the park had for the falls, and how each view was somehow more impressive than the last. One of the best points of the park is called “Garganta del Diablo” literally “Devil’s Throat”; it was true to its name.
After the spectacular views of “Garganta del Diablo”, we made our way through the park’s other activities. We walked all the listed trails and stopped at all the viewing platforms, taking in the luscious forest at every opportunity. We didn’t go on the boats at all because it was rather cold that day, but we were ok with that – after our long hike and the early morning, we were about ready to call it quits. Satisfied, we got on the train to head back to the main entrance and leave the park. When we got off the train, one of the guys working at the park waved us over.
“Have you guys done everything in the park? Seen all the falls?” He asked questions like he already knew our answers.
We nodded yes – we walked the high trail, the low trail, and the Devil’s Throat. Of course we’ve seen all the falls. The man shook his head and smiled. “There’s a hidden one,” he told us, then motioned for my friend and I to follow. He led us over to a small trail and pointed down a winding path. “3.5 km and there’s a small lagoon. You have to go visit it before you leave.”
My friend and I took inventory of things we’d need for the 7km hike. Water? Check. Time before sunset? Check.
It was a pretty short list, and a pretty easy decision.
Because I’m used to hiking National Parks in the Utah desert, we had more than enough water and food for this quick extension of our day. We thanked the worker and started down the trail. 3.5 km later, we came to a beautiful grotto with a waterfall and a crystal clear pool at the bottom. It was the kind of place I felt like should stay at least a bit of a secret, so I didn’t take any pictures. In the true spirit of the place (and our friend by the train), I felt out of place sharing that fall with the Internet. So if any of you want to see the secret fall at Iguazu, you’ll have to go and find it for yourself!
We got back right as the sun was setting which was perfect timing. We made our way out of the park and back to the bus stop, completely in awe of the entirety of the Iguazu Falls.Now back in Buenos Aires, writing this post and going through my pictures of the falls, I wish I could go back and experience it all again. There’s pure magnificence in every part of Iguazu National Park: the dramatic post-storm clouds, the roaring of the cascading tons upon tons of water sliding off the cliffs, and the breathtaking vistas. But luckily, Iguazu is not the only beautiful place in South America, or even Argentina. I have lots of other adventures to look forward to during the remainder of my time here in South America.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Summer in Ann Arbor. It’s the time of the year that reminds all of Ann Arbor’s residents why they live in a place where there are 9 long months of winter. Among a wide variety of unique, and fun activities, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival stands out year after year as an event, or rather a series of events, that never fails to disappoint. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) has been running for more than 30 years, and is home to the nearly 80,000 patrons that attend some part of the festival each summer. Such a large organization has faced countless changes and challenges throughout its existence, but it has managed to stay strong as a key part of the local culture that is Ann Arbor.
With the summer festival upon us once again, I had a chance to speak with Amy Nesbitt, the Executive and Artistic Director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, about her take on why the summer festival is such an incredible timeless and important tradition in Ann Arbor.
What do you do for the A2SF?
Nesbitt is in her 10th season working for A2SF, and as the Executive and Artistic Director, she oversees all event volunteers and staff, and the general logistics of the entire event: “Artistically it’s my job to fulfill our mission in a financially responsible way.” She started working for the A2SF in 2007 as an operations manager. Since then she has helped book bands, launch the acoustic stage, create the retreat wellness program, and really just helped expand the entire festival. She and her team spend most of the year fundraising, but “...80% of what the organization does happens in an 8 week period that’s full of crazy moment to moment decisions.” While it is tough and demanding during those key summer weeks, she explained to me that it has become, “...my pastime as well as my job, I love arts and culture.”
What are some of the most challenging parts of the A2SF?
Funding. The A2SF is a 1.3 million dollar organization, but 90% of the events are admission free for its patrons, which means that the money for the events needs to come from somewhere. That means, that when her staff isn’t booking performances, and directly planning events, they are planning fundraisers, applying for grants, and talking to donors. “People are amazed that we can do what we do with so little funding. Luckily our donor base has been growing because of the generational aspect of Ann Arbor. To us, it’s not the amount in someone’s check, it’s the fact that in their charitable giving they decide that the summer festival is worth giving to.”
Why is the A2SF so important to you?
After only talking to Nesbitt for 30 minutes, one thing was extremely clear: the summer festival is something that she is extremely passionate about. It’s important to her that the A2SF embraces local culture and talent, and really embeds itself with the local community and citizens.
“It’s really important to me because of the expansive mission it serves, and the expansive number of attendees that are so fabulously effected in such positive ways...we are the most barrier free thing in the community. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what language you speak etc, anyone and everyone can be there and experience it.”
What’s your favorite part of A2SF, and what are some highlights from this year?
Nesbitt made it quite clear that one of her favorite things about the A2SF, and therefore something that’s a core focus of her team, is the emphasis on the local community. A2SF started at the Power Center and on the Fletcher parking garage, but has now expanded all across Ann Arbor, bringing in the participation of a wide range of other Ann Arbor businesses and business owners. The summer festival even pairs with specific local social service agencies through their Good Neighbor Ticket Program to ensure that locals from every part of the city can attend these wonderful events.
“We have a very local following, whether it’s people that are coming back and volunteering, or people that have been attending the shows for 20 years. We manage to have an amazing ripple effect in the community.”
Some the highlights of this year’s festival include the Retreat Series, the Kids Zone, tons of cool spectacles that are bound to wow you, and so much more. There are also countless bands/groups performing on stages across the city every night, as well as the “under the stars” movie nights that happen right in North Ingalls Mall.
Every year, the A2SF successfully provides a huge variety of performances and attractions that aim to please, no matter what your taste is. After getting the chance to talk to Nesbitt, as well as attend parts of the summer festival myself, it is clear to me that this year is no different! I hope that this timeless tradition can continue on, growing even more, thriving, and touching an increasing number of lives each year.
~Natalie White (Director of Social Media)
Friday, June 10, 2016
For me summer is synonymous with sundresses! Every year I look forward to adding a Patagonia dress or two to my collection.
During the dog days of summer, I am happiest in a cute dress for several reasons:
- They are comfortable.
- They let me be active.
- I look pulled together without trying, because all I actually did was pull a dress over my head.
With so many outdoor festivals in Ann Arbor dresses are a great go-to piece. I often ride my bike to Top of the Park in a sundress with shorts underneath. It kind of makes me feel like an 8-year-old — in a good way!
One of my favorite styles this year is the Patagonia West Ashley. It is a soft cotton knit with a fun print in either green or blue tones. Don’t let the way it looks on the hanger fool you, the cinching elastic at the waist gives it a flattering drape and the cutout in the back gives it that touch of extra interest.
Another dress I am digging this season is the Kamala Maxi Skirt. This is extra versatile because you can wear it as a strapless dress or as a skirt. It is roomy and has a festival vibe to it.
Finally there is Margot. The Margot has been a mainstay of the Patagonia collection for several seasons. The faux wrap bodice and to-the-knee hem flatters a variety of body types. In the past I have worn it on a lazy farmer's market morning with flip flops, or dressed it up and wore it to dinner with strappy sandals, and even to a garden wedding with wedges.
This list is just a sampling of all of the dresses that Bivouac carries in the Women’s Tech department. We also have a large selection from other top quality outdoor brands such as prAna, Lolë, Toad and Co., The North Face, and Kuhl. Drop in soon while we still have a full selection of colors and styles!
~ Krysia Hepatica, Women’s Tech Buyer and Marketing Manager
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Finding a man who genuinely enjoys wearing business clothing everyday is like finding the sun in Michigan; it happens, but not often enough. All across the world have men suit up (literally) daily in stiff, unbreathable fabrics regardless of the weather or their body type. On an 85 degree day I can’t imagine that they feel anything but discomfort.
Fortunately, newer brands like Mizzen & Main and State & Liberty have recognized this problem, and decided to do something about it.
“We are tradition evolved.”
This motto decorates the top of their “about” page, exemplifying their mission to take the classic business style and fit and push it to the next level to fit the needs of today’s men with today’s apparel technology. There are four major benefits to their dress shirts:
- Their shirts are made perfect for an athletic build to help avoid any awkward fits that some other over-tailored shirts might have. There are few things worse than putting on a shirt and having it fit in the torso but not the shoulders or vice versa, so avoiding that problem altogether with a superior athletic fit is great.
- The four way stretch material directly supports the athletic fit by helping the shirt to move the same way that an athlete would. The result is an ability to move and stay comfortable all day long without your clothing holding you back.
- The moisture wicking technology in the fabric eliminates one of summer’s biggest problems: sweat stains. On a hot summer day, sweat stains tend to shoot your confidence in the foot only a few hours into the day, and they can be almost impossible to do anything about. Luckily Mizzen+Main dress shirts are made specifically to serve you no matter the weather.
- These shirts are machine washable. I repeat, they’re machine washable. Dry cleaning is inconvenient and expensive, but not washing your dress clothes often is unavoidable. The material in these shirts solves this problem, and deletes another thing from your to-do list.
*this photo is the property of Mizzen and Main
While their dress shirts are their first and most popular line, Mizzen+Main also offer a nice variety of polos, pants, outerwear, and t-shirts, so that you can complete your wardrobe for weekend days too. They’re fast becoming a favorite of tons of professional athletes...and pretty much anyone who tries their clothing on.
*this photo is the property of Mizzen and Main
When the company is created by two Michigan grads you know it’s gotta be good. After becoming frustrated with dress shirt after dress shirt that didn’t fit quite right, the two creators of State and Liberty decided to design the best shirt for people who are athletically built. Their shirts have a great tailored fit, but leave a little extra room in the shoulders, chest, and arms, so you don’t have to stop lifting to fit into them.
*the creators of State & Liberty (this photo is the property of State & Liberty)
There is no shortage to the advantages that these shirts provide, so I’ve come up with a list of 10 reasons you should wear State and Liberty.
- They are temperature regulating, which means no more hot summer days at work.
- They are odor resistant, so you’ll never have to apologize to the person sitting a little too close for comfort on the subway.
- They’re a local brand, so you could stand on the corner of state and liberty while wearing State and Liberty.
- They’re wrinkle free, so you’ll look professional no matter what your day has in store.
- They have four way stretch to make them comfortable all day long.
- Did I mention that these guys went to the University of Michigan???
- They are moisture wicking to prevent those pesky sweat stains that happen to the best of us.
- Pro athletes are loving these shirts, and that means we should love them too.
- They are handcrafted, making them more unique than most of the dress shirts out there.
- We sell them! If that’s not enough of a reason I don’t know what is.
*this photo is the property of State & Liberty
These two brands have acknowledged one of the biggest problems in all of fashion: uncomfortable clothing. And then, they decided to do something about it. By combining fashionable and well-tailored designs with functional fit and material, they have created a new style of clothing that is not only professional, but also smart. It’s so smart it’s almost frustrating that it hasn’t existed before this.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Climbing... in Michigan? No way, you might say--it’s all flat and/or snowy. That is not entirely the case, however: at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, there is world-class ice climbing to be found.
It is true that most of the state is geologically unsuitable for climbing. The entire Lower Peninsula (and parts of the eastern Upper Peninsula) is dominated by a large limestone basin centered on the ‘palm’ of the Mitten. This is topped by a heterogenous mixture of gravel, boulders, sand, and dirt washed out from the glacial advances and retreats which created the Great Lakes-- it’s great for farming, but certainly not climbing. The Upper Peninsula is very different. It is geologically more similar to the Canadian Shield, a formation of mostly igneous and metamorphic rock which includes the oldest rocks found in North America. These rocks and their minerals are what make the UP such good mining country; some of the most spectacular copper deposits in the world are found up there. Parts of the central UP include sandstone beds which date to around 500 million years old, known as the Munising Formation, named for the town on South Bay (“Munising” itself is derived from an Ojibway word, “Munisii”, meaning “near the island”): these are the aforementioned Pictured Rocks. In the summer, these cliffs grace Lake Superior with breathtaking beauty, delighting hikers and boaters alike, and in the winter, they provide some of the best ice climbing in the United States.
I asked Black Diamond athlete Dawn Glanc why the ice climbing up here was so good: she told me that “the shittier a rock is to climb regularly, the better it is for ice climbing”. Regular rock climbers would not want to climb sandstone, or any sedimentary rock for that matter: these tend to crumble apart due to the fact that they are cemented together by one or several minerals. Igneous and metamorphic rocks like granite or basalt make for much safer rock climbing, because they were forged together by heat and pressure rather than low-temperature chemical reactions. These don’t make for good ice climbing, though, because there is no space for water to go, much less to freeze into ice. Sedimentary rocks, especially sandstones, make for excellent ice climbing: the spaces in between the grains of sand hold water, and these spaces are filled up all year by rain and snowmelt. When the temperature drops (as it particularly does in the UP right on the shore of the largest body of fresh water in the world), this water freezes, and as you might remember from intro chem, water expands when it freezes; it has nowhere to go but to seep out of the cliffs. This means that climbers can experience spectacular routes without damaging the rock, of which the National Park Service highly approves.
Photo from Michigan IceFest’s Facebook page.
IceFest was started around 25 years ago as a pretty small and low-key affair. In contrast, this year’s festival had over 200 people registered. The festival was originally been held in a local restaurant, Sydney’s, but this year American Legion Post 131 was generous enough to tolerate an incursion of a bunch of people nuts enough to climb frozen waterfalls.
The festival was February 10-14, but the Biv Crew didn’t make an appearance until very early Friday morning. Being an outdoor gear shop we, of course, intended to camp. Thursday evening after work, Beniece, Hunter, and myself (Helen) headed north. In the face of the windy, snowy weather, we made fairly good time… however, we still arrived in Munising at about 2:45 in the morning. We found a spot on the side of Sand Point Road and set up camp: Hunter in his Hilleberg Nammatj (and a bivy sack), and Beniece and I in the borrowed North Face VE-25 Summit Series mountaineering tent. She and I were also very comfortable (surface-wise) on some borrowed ExPed MegaMat, however, still cold. She had borrowed a -20* The North Face sleeping bag from our manager Kate, and I was double-bagging it in two 15* North Face Cat’s Meows. We both wore many layers AND gloves to bed.
Friday morning we were greeted by a snowplow driver with a very thick Yooper accent, who admonished us to “get movin, eh, afore the rangers show up”. It turned out that we were behind the Ranger Station… whoops. Protip: you need a backcountry camping permit for Pictured Rocks, since the regular sites are closed during the winter, and parking lots are not legal campsites. We therefore hightailed it into town.
Thankfully, there was coffee and bagels waiting for us at the American Legion. We registered, though Beniece and I were disappointed to learn that the Ice Climbing Teaser (geared towards people who had never before ice climbed) had filled up. Hunter and Beniece got their climbing demo gear provided by Downwind Sports (of Houghton and Marquette), and I looked into finding a real campsite. Because our class had filled up, we had the morning free: we went to go check out the campground which an IceFest volunteer had recommended to me. Walking back to the car, we came upon two guys around our age next to our car, with their stove out and cooking pancakes in the windbreak created by the cars. “You guys have the right idea, “ I remarked. We all introduced ourselves, and pancakes were exchanged for homemade granola bars. Brian and Eric, it turned out, worked at Downwind Sports in Houghton, where they went to Michigan Tech. They were also planning on camping, though in their car (Sasha the Ford Focus station wagon). They planned to go climbing at the Three Sisters that afternoon, so we exchanged numbers and figured we’d meet up after lunch.
We thus headed out into the worsening weather to look into the Furnace Bay Campground. That turned out to be Very Closed: it looked like it hadn’t been plowed yet this winter. Hunter got out to see how deep it was; he was itching to drive his Jeep Rubicon into some exciting terrain, but the snow was a bit too deep. We then headed to the Park Headquarters in town to ask more specific directions. It turned out that the Park Service ranger was stuck in the whiteout conditions on the road, the Forest Service ranger couldn’t issue the right permit, and looked pretty skeptical when we said we wanted to camp. It was barely ten o’clock, so we figured we’d just go outside and play and figure out lodging later. Hunter decided to take a nap, and Beniece and I decided to check out the hall with the various vendors and representatives where we saw our regular Patagonia representative Erin! While refilling on coffee, we ran into Brian and Eric again. They were about to take the shuttle out to Sand Point Road where the climbing was going on, so we decided to join them. Beniece grabbed her climbing demo gear and I grabbed the snowshoes I was demoing from MSR, and we headed out.
setting up to climb
Unfortunately throughout the day, the weather continued to worsen. Beniece had been hoping to meet up with Chelsea, a former Biv staffer who lives in Marquette, but the state police were about the close M-28 between Marquette and Munising. Another Bivouac staff member, Emily, had been celebrating Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend Steve, and they were trapped in Christmas (a tiny town between Marquette and Munising). The wind was picking up and the temperature dropping. And even after lunch in the nice warm restaurant, Beniece was still freezing. Hunter, being certified in Wilderness First Aid, brought up that he thought Beniece was exhibiting signs of hypothermia. She was upset, because she wanted to climb some more, and I was alarmed, because how on earth would we safely camp this evening? As we sat drinking cocoa and looking out at the view of whiteout conditions, we called it. We would give up camping and try to find somewhere to stay in a hotel that night.
Beniece and I posted up in the Legion while Hunter went climbing, and I called every hotel in town. We managed to find the only accommodation available: a cabin on the bay with room for our whole party (if the weather allowed them all to get here). We secured the place, and now that the main worry of alcohol-induced hypothermia had been alleviated, had some delicious Ore Dock Brewing beer. That evening Beniece and I attended a boot-fitting clinic run by none other than Henry Barber, a pioneer in the world of free-solo climbing. He is now in his 60’s and works as a representative for Asolo. We asked a couple of questions about fitting boots on other people, and told him that we worked at Bivouac. “Oh, I know Ed and Randy,” he chuckled. He also declared at our feet were “perfect”, that is, both of them are the same size.
Beniece and Henry Barber, getting fitted for some Asolo alpine boots
After the clinic, we continued to be amazed by Henry Barber in his presentation about two of his more famous solo first ascents. He talked about his still-unrepeated climb of the Vettisfossen, a 900-foot frozen waterfall in Norway, and his dangerous ascent of Korea Peak in what was then the USSR. We were also blown away by Dawn Glanc’s presentation chronicling her many first ascents in Iceland. She had decided to look into that country because her grandfather, “Grandpa Kono”, had been stationed in Keflavik during WWII with the Nav and had an interesting perception of Icelandic geography.
After some delicious free beer from Ore Dock Brewing, we decamped to the cabin, and it was glorious. There was a gas fireplace, a big kitchen, and it was generally the sort of thing you might see in a Pure Michigan ad.
Hunter demonstrated rappelling techniques off the rafters, Beniece finally declared that she was warm, and I poured myself a drink and relaxed. We did contact our new friends, though, as they had declared that they were car-camping and the temperature had dropped (before the wind chill!) to -14. They eventually joined us, and we spent a convivial evening pretending to camp by sleeping on the floor in our sleeping bags in front of the nice cozy fire.
Hunter demonstrates rappelling techniques
After a much clearer drive than they expected, some of our other friends arrived around 9 in the morning. Beniece went climbing with our new friends. They snowshoed about 6 miles to their climb and had a good afternoon of climbing. After a nap, Matt and Hunter headed out as well. I, being into staying on the ground, decided to snowshoe around Miner’s Falls. I got a little bit stuck on the side of the road and got pulled out by some nice gentlemen with a very interesting vehicle.
An interesting vehicle indeed. They had been ferrying climbers out to the falls. Apparently they made this contraption themselves!
Hunter and Matt get the prize for the most exciting afternoon: they rescued someone! They were at a real waterfall, not just a seep, so some liquid water was still flowing down a sort of ice pipe. The belayer of the other climbing pair had somehow managed to throw the rope down the hole without either of them noticing, so the guy rappelling down had a wet and frozen rope in his belay device, and wet, frozen gloves. They threw some gloves up to him while they and Armaan, a former Biv staffer, got ready to climb up. They ended up having to cut the frozen rope and replace his with their extra. All in all, we made some friends and used some cool new gear. Bivouac highly recommends IceFest!
- Helen DeMarsh (salesperson)