Review: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide

The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the TrailThe Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail by Andrew Skurka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be a dumbed-down overview of only the basics or, worse, an upselling of gear over training/experience. This book was neither; better, by far, than what I'd feared.

Andrew Skurka does a great job of linking his own experiences (both positive and negative) with the advice he gives in the book. Furthermore, he goes beyond the limits of his own experience and brings information and guidance from other sources.

I also think this book is laid out very well as an effective reference manual. In fact, I recommend this book not only to novice camping/hiking enthusiasts, but also to experienced mountaineers. I am not an expert mountaineer, but I have a great deal of experience for a nonprofessional mountaineer, yet and there were still a number of times reading this book that I thought "Huh. That's a good idea." or "Oh yeah! I'd forgotten about that technique."

Overall, I was impressed. If you're curious about hiking, thinking about getting started, already trekking often, or essentially living on the mountains, I recommend having this book on hand and flipping through it before your next adventure.

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Review: Sleeping on the Summits

Sleeping on the SummitsSleeping on the Summits by Jon Kedrowski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had the opportunity to meet and speak with Jon Kedrowski and he has an exceptional skill at telling a great story; he pulls you into his experiences with his enthusiasm and positive outlook on life. Sleeping on the Summits was no exception to Jon's skill at story-telling.

The book is very well put-together. It's much more than a coffee table book containing photos and descriptions, it's an artistically arranged presentation of Jon's many experiences on the summits of the highest mountains in Colorado. He includes details about the weather, text messages with his friends, and anecdotes on his thoughts during his adventures.

Having hiked many of these summits myself, I was easily transported to the locations described as I read his words. However, you don't need to be a mountaineer to enjoy this book and find yourself whisked away to these summits. Jon's story-telling skill will effortlessly allow you to share in his experience and appreciate the adventure.

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Put your heart into it

Today marks a day on which many people celebrate Valentine's Day, the current incarnation of "Lupercalia" (The Wolf Festival). I'm still blissfully ignorant as to whether anyone uses the bloody flesh of a goat in their Valentine's Day celebrations, but I do know that society does put a focus on matters of the heart today. (Read my Wolf Festival article, if you're confused about my goat reference.)

Love is a prominent element in human culture. Our bodily systems physiologically reward us by and for the exchange of love. In fact, the neurological system that is keyed to that deep-set physiological response is the limbic system; the same system I find myself absolutely fascinated with in my studies of fear.

Fear and Love are tied very closely physiologically and they both have rippling effects on many other aspects of our lives. In my other psychology-related articles, I've talked about how fear can affect the mind and how we can begin to benefit from our attempts to "experience the challenge" by stepping outside our comfort zone. The comfort zone exists in love as well; in fact, it is love within that defines the boundaries of our comfort zone.

Love manifests itself in the form of many emotions: caring, comfort, empathy, intimacy, safety, security, sharing, and most of all trust. If you invert those emotions, you'll see some that are recognizable as a manifestation of fear or a subset of it: aggravation, danger, doubt, hate, neglect, selfishness, and vulnerability.

Managing and overcoming fear is a significant challenge and a commendable effort and process. Building a loving relationship also presents a similar emotional challenge. Reflecting on my discussion of challenge, you'll remember that I've established that each person's challenges, their fears, are their own. Some people may be challenged by different things than others, but that makes them no more or less significant to the individual facing them.

As we journey through our lives, hopefully savoring every bit of its deliciousness, we have opportunities to face our fears and to find ways to embrace love.
"The best proof of love is trust." -- Dr. Joyce Brothers
Love is not limited to a form shared only between you and a romantic partner. Love is the bond that unites us with those aspects of our life that we value most: people, places, hobbies, pets, our world, everything. Most of all, love is a bond we should build within ourselves. By freeing ourselves from fear and exposing our vulnerability, we are exercising trust. We are giving ourselves and others an opportunity to choose freely what bond they would like to form with us. In so doing, we open our hearts and minds to truly experiencing love.

It takes courage to open your heart and expose your vulnerability and fear, whether those fears are of an experience (heights, depths, enclosed spaces), creatures (spiders, dogs, horses), or relationships (friends, companions, ourselves). Sometimes things won't go the way you hope and you might feel a bit of panic, as you experience the unexpected outcome. However, if we hide away behind our fears, we will never discover the possibilities that await us beyond them. We limit our life and shrink our comfort zone when we give up trust and forfeit our freedom to fear. I invite you to take on the challenge of trust today. Journey inward to discover what love you have locked behind the bars of fear. And, as with any life-fulfilling endeavor, put your heart into it.


Review: Inferno

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dan Brown has done it again; with Inferno, he has taken his readers on a whirlwind adventure through symbology, mystery, and history. This time, though, there was an added twist; the story invites us to assess our own action as part of the human community and world.

I'll avoid spoilers and just leave my thoughts at what's written above, but I easily give this novel 5 stars and invite you to also descend into the "Inferno".

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Groundhog Day and Donuts

As I enjoy my Groundhog Day reflection and introspection today, a comic I recently read comes to mind. It was made by an artist named Pablo Stanley on the subject of "Life and Donuts".

One part which stands out most prominently in my mind:
"That donut is not forever, but we are given the chance to savor every bite of it."
As is my personal tradition, I enjoyed watching the film "Groundhog Day" today. In the film, the main character Phil Connors repeats the same day ad infinitum. As I reflect on the events and excitement of my year, especially those written about in my article "Panic, luck, and control", I note the significance and importance of the time that we have right here in the present. Phil's donut was never-ending, but -- as the comic said -- ours is not forever. Not everyone remembers to savor every bite of their donut, sometimes only realizing how delicious it is as they take the last bite.

I wonder what deliciousness might not be enjoyed, if one were to have a never-ending donut. Perhaps it is nature of our limited time which gives it so much value. If we remember to take the time to enjoy each bite of our donut, that effort might make the next bite taste even better than the last. Our donut may not last forever, but our enjoyment of it can increase without end if we have the right perspective to allow it.