Defending Your Home from a Raging Wildfire

18 Sep

The 2018 Carr Fire was one of the worst wildfires in California history. By the time it was contained, it had burned 359 square miles, destroyed close to 2,000 buildings, and killed seven people. It also spawned a massive fire tornado—only the second ever recorded. Meteorologists examining the damage afterward estimated that the vortex had generated winds of up to 165 miles per hour. When a blaze like that is coming your way, the only sane thing to do is run for your life. But Gary and Lori Lyon did the opposite, staying to defend their home. Outside contributor Stephanie Joyce has the story on why, in an era of increasingly intense fires, someone would dare to stand and fight an inferno.

It’s Time to Rethink Your Cycling Layering System

9 Sep

For generations we’ve been told that staying dry is the key to comfort in the outdoors. If you don’t rapidly transport sweat out of your garments, the conventional wisdom held, you’re done for. So we’ve been dutifully wearing hydrophobic base layers and midweights made out of petroleum-based materials like polypropylene and polyester. Not only are such products tough on the planet, it also turns out that natural, more sustainable materials like Merino wool can do a better job at keeping you comfortable in the elements. We’re only now learning that moisture transport, while important, is only part of what helps fabrics keep us warm and dry. New research and next-gen weather simulation testing conducted by the cycling apparel company PEARL iZUMi, in conjunction with The Woolmark Company, the global authority on Australian Merino wool, indicates that the PEARL iZUMi’s new Merino wool-synthetic hybrid fabrics keep you drier and warmer. 

The Fabrics

While fabric makers have been combining wool and synthetic fibers in various ways for years, they're usually blended, with the fibers mixed equally throughout the fabric. PEARL iZUMi is doing things differently, combining the fibers in two distinct yarns on opposite sides of the textile—what fabric nerds refer to as “plaiting.” In the case of its Merino long sleeve baselayer, an upcycled polyester knit layer sits lightly against your skin and the wool is knitted towards the outside of the fabric. With the insulated PRO Merino Thermal Jersey, though, the Merino wool faces inward to absorb moisture vapor from the baselayer and maximize breathability while the nylon forms a more durable and weather-resistant outer fabric. Paired together, the two garments create an advanced performance layering system.

What ultimately makes the fabric work so well is that it combines the best properties of each fiber. The Merino wool component absorbs moisture vapor and keeps you insulated while damp, while its natural odor-resistant properties help reduce the funk factor. Meanwhile, the synthetic layer moves liquid moisture faster, dries quicker, and feels comfy next to your skin.

But it's not just about better performance. The plaited fabric is also easier on the planet: the synthetic component is made from 100% upcycled plastic water bottles while the responsibly sourced Merino wool is biodegradable and annually renewable. PEARL iZUMi's interest in using Merino wool began a few years ago with a major, company-wide initiative to incorporate recycled, renewable, and organic content into all of its products. By the end of 2020, 30% of its products will be made with these materials and the company is on track to hit its target of 90% sustainably-sourced fabrics by 2022. 

The Test

The study was conducted outside Toronto this past July in a “climatic” wind tunnel, which in addition to wind also mimics real-world temperatures, humidity levels, and solar radiation. PEARL iZUMi’s lead researcher, the physiologist Rob Pickels, placed eight seasoned cyclists on trainers in a stiff 19-mile-per-hour wind in conditions that most of us would find on a fall day cold enough for full tights, gloves, and a cap. Swapping out their jerseys and baselayers after 40-minute trials including 30 minutes of pedaling and ten minutes of downtime in the same temperatures (to simulate a regroup on a ride), testers cycled through kits of identical weights and thickness. The kits included one fully synthetic offering and one with PEARL iZUMi’s new line of Merino wool-synthetic hybrid fabrics. 

The researchers carefully measured the testers’ temperature at the skin surface and the humidity of the microclimate beneath the base layer—the objective data. On the subjective front, the testers were asked to rate how warm and dry they felt at the end of each spin and rest period.

The Results

On average, the test cyclists stayed five degrees Fahrenheit warmer with the two layers of Merino wool compared to the two layers of synthetics. Remarkably, the results showed that the rapid drying of the full synthetic kits correlated with colder riders—especially in the minutes after activity ended. Translation: while the full synthetic kits dried faster, the transfer of moisture was so fast it left them feeling chilled. The Merino wool hybrid kits, on the other hand, dried slower, but testers didn’t feel as chilled during the process. The take-away: all the qualities of the hybrid kits lead to increased rider comfort during both riding and rest.

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The Science

It’s all about how the fabrics work together in tandem. “Polyester in the baselayer doesn't absorb a significant amount of liquid water,” says Pickels. “But because wool does absorb moisture vapor, it pulls sweat from your skin, through the polyester, and then stores it in the wool away from your body. When that happens, we believe, and other studies seem to indicate, heat is released and that heat travels back through the base layer to keep you warm.  It’s the opposite effect of full-polyester systems, which move moisture so rapidly that the body cools in an evaporative process. We think it will allow cyclists to avoid chilling—especially when they come to a stop or turn around for a descent. In the jersey, we position the wool on the inside to work in conjunction with the baselayer for maximal heat release. The nylon face fabric helps pull moisture through to the jersey’s surface and then to the outside environment.”

The New Products

Merino LS Base ($90)

With an upcycled polyester layer against your skin and an outer Merino wool layer, the new Merino long sleeve baselayer  (also available in women's) actively pulls moisture vapor away from your skin and into the center of the outer wool fibers, keeping you both dry and warm. Testing found the base layer worked even better when paired with PEARL iZUMi’s Merino jersey—the combo resulted in the warmest body temperatures. Still more telling, while the testers were actively pedaling, the Merino base layer kept them drier too, by absorbing moisture vapor into the core of the fiber.  

Pro Merino Thermal Jersey ($195)

Merino wool on the inside and a durable nylon outer with subtle but effective high-visibility treatments will make the PRO Merino Thermal Jersey your go-to piece when temps dip below 55 degrees in the long shadows of the shoulder seasons. The styling is also chill, meaning you won’t look like a road racer when you’re hammering gravel roads with friends. The full zip means it serves double duty as a jacket and a jersey.

Merino Cycling Cap ($40) and Neck Gaitor ($35)

The same plaited fabric that pulls moisture away from your skin without causing undue evaporative cooling in PEARL iZUMi’s Merino LS Base top is utilized here in a sleek visored cap and neck gaitor. To make the most of the tech, wear them on cool (cap) to cold (gaitor) rides in dry conditions.   

Hiking Lions Head Ridge in Idaho Is Crazy

6 Sep

On a 1,200-mile thru-hike from Glacier National Park to the Olympic Peninsula, known as the Pacific Northwest Trail, filmmakers Peter Hochhauser and Andy Laub experienced relentless weather, insane scrambles, and rivers where there used to be trails. This segment of their full film Thru tracks their traverse of Lions Head Ridge in Idaho, an unforgiving technical part of the hike.

Your Guide to Vermont’s Best Fall Foliage Rides

5 Sep

Vermont is beloved for a ton of reasons—not least of which is its epic riding. With singletrack for every level of mountain biker, road routes as charming as they are challenging, and a seemingly endless network of gravel options, the Green Mountain State is home to some of the best cycling in the country. And it only gets better in the fall, when vast maple forests erupt in orange-yellow-gold glory. Whether you’re a roadie or a downhiller, a newbie or seasoned expert, here’s a look at the best fall rides Vermont has to offer.

Kingdom Trails: Singletrack Heaven

Ask any serious mountain biker to rattle off their bucket-list riding destinations and Kingdom Trails, northern Vermont’s 100-plus-mile network of premium singletrack, is bound to come up. Not sure where to start? Book a room at the Inn at Mountain View Farm, a 440-acre estate boasting an animal sanctuary and yoga barn. With direct access to some of Kingdom Trails’ more mellow terrain, it’s the perfect place for warm-up laps, new riders, and families. 

Loosen up on Harp Trail, an easy, flowy singletrack loaded with big berms, before stepping it up to Fenceline, a whimsical forested route that descends 260 vertical feet on loamy dirt. For lunch, head to the Northeast Kingdom Country Store in East Burke and order a Gobbler, which is basically Thanksgiving dinner between two pieces of bread. Then go hit the three T’s: Troll Stroll, Tap and Die, and Tody’s Tour, all fast rides with quick turns through tight trees and fun rollovers. When you’re worked, grab a local Vermont ale at the Mike’s Tiki Bar, then tuck into a big plate of pasta at Foggy Goggle Osteria.

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Lake Dunmore, Vermont

The LAMB Ride: The Ultimate Road Loop 

Vermont’s Green Mountains are laced with scenic roads that wind through valleys and over steep passes, or gaps, as they’re called up here. The best way to explore them is via the state’s famous LAMB (Lincoln, Appalachian, Middlebury, and Brandon Gaps) ride: a 100-mile pedal that takes you up and over multiple passes and can be downed in one big push, curtailed into multiple out-and-backs, or split up into palatable day rides.

Regardless of how you break it up, the best way to start is by spending your first night in the town of Rochester at the Pumpkin Patch Bed and Breakfast, a quaint Greek Revival-style home. After tackling the first section, a mellow 12-mile climb up Brandon Gap, take a break at Branbury State Park to take in the bounty of fall color reflecting off of Lake Dunmore. Next up: Middlebury Gap, a twisty ride under a canopy of evergreens. At the top, stop at the Ripton Country Store for a locally made Chessters ice cream sandwich before heading through rolling farmland toward the town of Warren.

You can spend the night here at The Pitcher Inn, easily one of the most beautiful hotels in all of Vermont, before tackling the climb to Lincoln Gap, home to one of the steepest miles of pavement in the U.S., and then Appalachian Gap, completing this epic loop and descending back to Rochester again.

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Killington: The Best Gravity-Fed Playground

Killington’s lift-accessed downhill mountain-biking trails, like its ski trails, are some of the state’s best. That’s because the resort started building trails in 1993 and, over the past five years, has spent $7.5 million expanding and improving upon them. If you’re new to downhilling, rent a bike from the ski area and take a two-hour lesson, where you’ll learn everything from proper body position on the bike to how to ride bermed turns.

If downhill is your jam, buy a lift ticket and start your day on Step It Up, a smooth, flowy trail that’s the perfect warm-up run. Next try Crusty, a mile of banked turns, loamy dirt, and two-foot drops. And when you’re ready to tackle the gnarliest descent, ride the gondola to the top of the mountain and drop Scarecrow to Steel Panther to Low Rider. 

End the day with foliage views and a craft beer at the Killington Grand Resort Hotel and a proper feast at Preston’s—the restaurant is located inside the hotel and is a member of the Vermont Farm to Plate Network, which advocates for sustainability and locally sourced food.

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The Gravel Ride of Your Dreams

Fun fact: Vermont has more dirt roads (over 8,000 miles) than paved roads (just over 7,000 miles). Basically, it’s a gravel rider’s Shangri-la. And one of the best ways to experience the state’s unpaved roads, says Kris Dennon, owner and lead guide of Vermont’s GravelTours.com, is a roughly 80-mile loop in southern Vermont that can be tackled in one day or split into a multi-day ride. 

After spending the night in the town of Manchester at The Equinox Resort, a historic hotel with a spa, pool, and five different restaurants, you’ll pedal south toward East Arlington, passing under brightly colored maple-tree canopies on 200-year-old roads. You’ll then hit the old International Paper Road, one of the few routes in Green Mountain National Forest that allows bikes, riding past beaver ponds and, if you’re lucky, a wading moose or two. 

Once in Bondville, the ride takes you through farmland pastures to the town of Peru. Refuel at the historic J.J. Hapgood Store (we recommend the buttermilk fried-chicken sandwich) and, if you’ve got the time, spend the night at the nearby Seesaw’s Lodge, a brand-new, impeccably designed property with guest rooms and cabins. In the morning, head toward Danby and Mad Tom Road. From there, it’s back to Manchester and the Equinox, where you can soothe your tired, sore legs with a deep-tissue massage at the hotel spa.  

The Catamount Trails: Family-Friendly Mountain Biking 

The ideal spot for families and anyone looking for gentler routes, the Catamount Trails consist of 20 miles of singletrack and doubletrack in the town of Williston. You and your clan can stay right on the property at the Catamount Bed and Breakfast, a brick home built in 1796 by the first governor of Vermont. From there, it’s a short pedal to the trails, where you’ll find fairly flat terrain that winds through evergreen forests.

The most rugged trail in the network, Coyote Turnpike, is a little steeper and has some small drops, but it’s still easy enough for an intermediate rider. Plus, the views of Camel’s Hump from the top of the trail, especially at sunset during peak fall foliage, are tough to beat. Kids will also love the pump tracks; the smaller of the two can be handled on a Strider bike, while the other is the perfect place for an intermediate to work on riding skills. When you’re tired and hungry, head to Richmond, just ten minutes away, for burgers and beers at the Hatchet Tap and Table.  


In Vermont, one thing is beautifully certain: The seasons will change. And with that change, so does the landscape, the recreation, and the way of life. With every season comes new opportunities to explore the world around you. Sign up to receive the latest news from the Green Mountain State, including the latest foliage updates through the fall season so you can time your trip just right.