Laguna Wilderness VOLUNTEER DAY

TOPIC: Habitat Restoration

LOCATION: 33.5314° N, 117.7692° W

PROJECT: Volunteer Day

seasonal lakebed about to get some help

seasonal lakebed about to get some help

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park’s 7,000 acres are some of the last remaining coastal canyons in Southern California. Forty miles of trails lead through oak and sycamore woodlands and up onto ridges with expansive scenic vistas. Its beautiful. Visitors to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park can see California as it has existed for thousands of years. And that’s more the reason to try to preserve this habitat!

Over the last years, the California drought has caused the only two lakes in the park to dry up. In the dry lakebeds, many invasive weeds (like the horrible bull thistle, ouch!) have landed and claimed real estate. ¡No bueno! By getting in and removing all of the invasive species we can hopefully help restore this lake habitat for the El Niño rains! A lot of wildlife benefit from this preservation include Mule Deer, Long-tailed Weasel, Bobcat, Red-tailed Hawk, and many more.

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Thanks to all our friends and to Seed People's Market for supporting the event. We look forward to seeing the impact of our efforts this winter. Keep it wild. Til next time!

Zion Escape

TOPIC: Post Trade Show Shenanigans 

LOCATION: 37.2026° N, 112.9878° W

PROJECT: Making new friends in old parks

Twice a year we're lucky enough to make a trip out to a state with an abundance of rad parks: Utah.  We make this voyage for the Outdoor Retailer trade show where we get to geek out on a bunch of other brands that are making amazing things like Poler, Iron & Resin, Patagonia, Miir, Alchemy Equipment...the list goes on and on. For outdoor gear lovers like us it's like being a kid in a candy store, and every year we use this trade show as an excuse to do some adventuring, and this year we picked the coveted Zion Narrows.

There's not much we can say about the legendary Narrows that hasn't been said before.  If you want a run down on how to get out and see this incredible hike for yourself check out an amazing write up from Parks Project Ambassador Kristen aka Bearfoot Theory on her blog: Bearfoot Theory Hiking the Narrows.  All we can say is it takes some planning and some serious motivation - we woke up at 3:30am the day before our hike to wait in line at the visitors center for a permit. While half asleep in line we met a talented and super friendly photographer by the name of Trent Hancock. Here's some of the amazing pics he shared with us from the trip!       

MOST PICS BY: Trent Hancock Photography , Insta - @lionandthelady


TOPIC: Sierra Summers

LOCATION: 39.3228° N, 120.2644° W

PROJECT: Family Ties w. KC Brown

When I come up for air I expect to have the beautiful silence broken by the sound of the world.  But at sunrise in the middle of an alpine lake, the wind and the water are as quiet as my sleeping children back in the cabin.  Of course it’s not going to stay this still.  The world, and my kids, are going to wake up.  But that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

My family has been coming to Donner Lake for almost 50 years.  Before any of Ken and Ilene’s grandchildren were born and long before the great-grandchildren arrived.  Every summer, without fail, we show up.  It’s part summer vacation and part family reunion and it always feels like a homecoming.  We’ve added a ton of family members along way too, both the kind you get when you marry someone and have kids with them and the kind you get when you just love spending time with somebody so damn much that you can’t help but show up again next year.  

The Donner Lake State Park is tucked away nicely on Highway 80 in the Tahoe National Forest.  It’s one of a hundred or so lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that will never be as famous as big brother up the road.  Any time I tell someone I’m going to Donner Lake they inevitably respond, “Donner?  Like, the Donner Party?”  Yeah.  An unfortunate namesake for sure but party isn’t far off the mark.

There are plenty of ways for the 70(ish) of us to spend our Summer vacation, but it always revolves around the park.  Most days are spent sitting lakeside sunning and swimming and drinking and reading and drinking some more.  The annual horseshoe tournament is a serious affair, complete with brackets, leather trophies and several jugs of Yucca Flats (basically just wonderful sugary tequila with some lemons and limes).  The brave among us swim or bike or run in the annual triathlon, and you can count on the rest of us hanging out at the finish line, drinks in hand.  

You can’t spend every day at the beach though, and that’s where the mountains come in handy.  The lake itself sits at the bottom of a bowl made up of rocks and pine trees.  Pick a direction and look up.  That’s a good place for a hike.  As kids we used to start at the bottom down by the lake and hike up to the railroad tracks but now that we can drive we aim higher.  To the west is the Mt. Judah Loop.  A five minute drive puts you at the trailhead and an hour later you’re overlooking the lake and all the way into Truckee.  Of course if it’s a bigger adventure you’re after you can always jump on the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs right through here. The north and south summits also offer heartbreakingly beautiful views as well if you can get to them.  And there is the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe and the ski resorts all within a very short drive if you’re up for it.

These places matter.  Nature is not here for the benefit of my family but it certainly does bring us together.  The park, and the sand and the water and the trees, have become home.  For me, preserving and protecting our natural spaces is as much about preserving and protecting the family ties that bind.  It’s hard to imagine my family without this place, and I’m not sure I want to.  My boys will grow up here, even though they will never live here.  This lake and this park will remain long after I’m gone, but with a little luck, my family will always be there to live and laugh and love with the gentle waves of icy Sierra water lapping at their feet.


TOPIC: Canyonlands National Park

LOCATION: 38.1669° N, 109.7597° W

PROJECT: Utah Park Reconnaissance by Jennifer Sherowski

Situated in southern Utah about a half hour from the mountain-biking Mecca of Moab, Canyonlands National Park is an explosion of red and purple rock, sagebrush, dead and live pinions twisted by the wind. As Utah’s biggest National Park, it’s a 500-plus square mile labyrinth of chasms created slowly, over eons, by the erosive waters of the Colorado and Green Rivers. 

If you’re driving through Utah on I70, you barely need to lift a finger to see the park. Just turn south at the 191 and give it 20 miles. There you’ll be at the Canyonlands access road, which winds solemnly back into the burnt-red desert.

You come upon the canyons themselves suddenly—almost accidentally—after driving over a sprawling expanse of flat. A couple of Park Service signs and then BOOM—you’re at the rim of an abyss. Find a campsite. Set up your tent. And then, real quick before dusk rolls in, make your way to the nearest rim. Watching the sun set over Canyonlands is to know light in every color of the spectrum and the most complete silence you’ve ever experienced.

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Portland based Jennifer Sherowski is a former professional snowboarder and also an incredible adventure writer.  Check her out at and follow her awesome adventures @jensherowski because you should.


TOPIC: #Radpark Adventures

LOCATION: 35.0881° N, 109.8064° W

PROJECT: Reconnaissance By Benjamin Stanley

Petrified Forest is one of the country's most overlooked and underrated National Parks. Located in northeast Arizona, the park is roughly 146 square miles and split into two "halves," the southern "rainbow forest"  and the northern "painted desert." There are no campsites in the park, and despite being small by national park standards - you could easily spend the whole day exploring.

My wife and I had quit our jobs and decided to spend the summer road tripping around the country. We made a "pit stop" of Petrified Forest on our way to the Grand Canyon, but the few hours we spent there made it one of our favorite destinations. Had we not run out of daylight, we could have spent several more hours exploring.

We entered from the south and started out at the Rainbow Forest Museum to take in some great history and science behind the park's plethora of petrified wood. Left over from the late Triassic period, these fallen trees have slowly turned to stone through permineralization. Over the eons minerals slowly replaced the organic matter, giving the trees a colorful and glossy appearance. The visitor center also has some great dinosaur displays, including the skull of a Phytosaur that once roamed the park. Who doesn't love dinosaurs? As we moved north through the park, the petrified wood became less common and we entered the badlands. If you have only a few hours to see the park, be sure to hike the Blue Mesa trail for some great views of the Painted Desert.

Only about three and a half hours from the Grand Canyon, and 20 minutes from Holbrook, Petrified Forest is an absolute must see!


TOPIC: #Radpark Adventures

LOCATION: 37.7329° N, 105.5121° W

PROJECT: Dune Reconnaissance 

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We set out to the southwest from central Colorado on a sunny afternoon chasing a story we heard about sandsurfing a National Park. Who would have thought there would be perfect 300ft sand slopes pouring down into the cool running waters of a creek?  

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve was established by an act of the United States Congress on September 13, 2004.  The dunes were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries.  Sure there are other dunes in most western states in the US, but none as dramatic and tall, a whopping 750 feet in elevation! 

How they form you ask? Winds picked up sand particles from the lake and river flood plain. As the wind lost power before crossing the Sangre de Cristo mountain Range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. The wind changes the shape of the dunes daily and this combination of opposing winds, a huge supply of sand from the valley floor, and the sand recycling action of the creeks, are all part of the reason that these are the tallest dunes in North America.  And for that reason, they also make perfect slopes to slide down. The following photos are what ensued that day. . .

Fun Fact: According to a recent Soundscape Study conducted by the National Park Service, this park is the quietest national park in the 48 contiguous United States, shhh . . . 


TOPIC: Park Adventures

LOCATION: 36.1000° N, 112.1000° W

PROJECT: Canyon Reconnassiance by Jennifer Sherowski 

I’ve always loved the Southwest. The air smells like dust and piñon, and sunsets drip amber light down onto the rocks like nectar. It’s awash in an austere beauty, and especially during the shoulder seasons—i.e. spring and fall—the Southwest is one of my favorite places to camp and explore. 

With this in mind, my friend/fellow adventurer Trycia Byrnes and I flew into Phoenix in the early autumn and drove north past Flagstaff to a place I’d somehow not yet been: Grand Canyon National Park.

At 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, this colossal fissure exposes nearly 2 million years of geological history. It’s one of the 7 wonders of the natural world for a reason! And a whopping 4.5 million people make the trek to see it every year. It’s a place full of history: geologic history—and human history. Native tribes have inhabited the place for thousands of years, and it’s been a National Park for a cool century (the Grand Canyon was first established as a National Monument by President by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, and then, 11 years later in 1919, was designated Grand Canyon National Park by an official act of congress).

Now, everyone knows what the Grand Canyon looks like. We’ve seen pictures. But you go to the Grand Canyon for something else, like going on a pilgrimage. You go in order to look down into the pit and contemplate it solitarily. What you wind up seeing there is as much what’s within yourself as what’s before you—kinda like staring into a pile of burning embers.

Standing on the rim for the first time, though, I had to admit that looking at the Grand Canyon WAS a little bit like just looking at the photo. Way up there on the precipice, there’s a haze in the distance between you and the landscape, and you are very, very far away.

So, outfitted with heavy packs, we stumbled 9 miles down the Bright Angel Trail to see what things looked like from the very bottom. Even a mile down the trail, we both agreed that this was the only way see the “real” canyon. You get a sense of perspective, inspecting layers of rock first-hand as you step past them and feeling like an insignificant spec sneaking beneath looming cliffs that wear the stains of the ages.

After many, many, many switchbacks, we emerged onto a private nook of a beach, and with relief stuck our sore feet into the delicious cold waters of the Colorado River. I’m sure John Wesley Powell peeled off his dust-caked infantry socks and did the same on his expedition 150 years ago, don’t you think? While resting and cooling off, we gaped up at the rim towering over our heads and intuitively knew, or maybe suspected, the tiny place where we fit in the immense scheme of geology around us.

After a snooze and a granola bar, we hoofed it back to our campsite five miles up at Phantom Ranch. On the way, a savage downpour drove us into the shelter of an overhang. And that wasn’t the last of the storm. That night, we ate our camp dinner in the dark as a powerful electrical storm raged all around us, thunder bouncing off the cliff walls and lightening sparking up the esplanade. It was a wild one!

The next day, so sore we could barely walk, we hobbled the 4 miles back up to the rim to reclaim our rental car, and then we journeyed south toward Sedona in search of a festive meal. After contemplating the trip and the luminous desert sunset before us, we ate pizza and sipped cocktails until tipsy in celebration of life and all those other things. I remember what we were drinking: gin and soda with fresh lime, ginger, and sage. It was like they’d bottled the desert and served it up in a highball glass. 

Although quick, it was an amazing journey—kinda cosmic. In fact, the Grand Canyon is a cosmic place—where us non-“devout” folks go to appreciate the mysteries of the universe.


Portland based Jennifer  Sherowski is a former professional snowboarder and also an incredible adventure writer.  Check her out at and follow her awesome adventures @jensherowski because you should.




TOPIC: Ambassadors

LOCATION: 34.1039° N, 118.6025° W

PROJECT: #adventuresforbearchief

At Parks Project we're incredibly grateful for each person that supports us. Whether it's volunteer days, being an ambassador, or sporting our goods we appreciate every opportunity we get to engage with people who love the outdoors as much as we do.  

One of those people was Joshua Edward Barron, and we were lucky enough to get to know more about him through his awesome friend and fellow supporter Sarah Ramirez.

Joshua was a genuine guy, with a contagious smile. He was a protector for anyone he cared about. He absolutely loved life more than anyone I've ever met. He always tried his best to get others to live the way he did; happy, carefree, and most importantly self loving. Joshua comes from a very close family, the kind of family everyone wants to be apart of because they're so caring and accepting. He has a sister, Jessie, his brother Jake, Michele and John are his parents. Joshua loved his family tremendously. I don't believe he ever went a day without talking about them or to them. 

Joshua was a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps where he served as an Aircrew chief on a MV-22 Osprey stationed in Miramar, San Diego, CA. Josh had just left on his deployment for 7 long months and despite the hardships that come with deploying, Joshua was so happy to be able to travel. A short week after they left, the training accident in Hawaii happened, taking his beautiful soul from this world, he paid the ultimate sacrifice and did so because "You're worth it." If Joshua was not flying (which he loved and was so proud to do) he was off adventuring in this beautiful state. A lot of times Josh went off to the mountains by himself, so that he could just be one with nature and reflect. Other times it was with his family, with me, or with his other friends, finding a new place to hike, chase waterfalls, or day dream about them. He called them #jbnaturequest because he said he could never get enough of the outdoors. He had a passion for the outdoors and animals, that feeling was passed along from his Father. He left this world a better place. He is a true hero, and he is our hero! Joshua is missed everyday, and he will never be forgotten.

Forever in our hearts, Joshua "Bearchief" Edward Barron. #adventuresforbearchief #jbnaturequest 


TOPIC: Volunteer Day

LOCATION: 34.1039° N, 118.6025° W

PROJECT: Backbone Trail

June 6, 2015 is American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day®, the country’s largest celebration of trails.  National Trails Day events take place in every state across the country and include hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, birdwatching, stewardship projects and more. To celebrate, we got a group out onto the backbone trail in the Santa Monica Mountains to fix some trail!


TOPIC: Volunteer Day

LOCATION: 37.8611° N, 122.5342° W

PROJECT: Golden Gate National Recreation Area - Trail Restoration

Parks Project joined the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy to met up with our friends from Prooflab and GoodPeople to fix some trail.  Tennessee Valley is Marin Headland's most popular trailhead and is heavily used by hikers, bikers and equestrians alike. The trail curves along the valley floor to the ocean and is an easy 4 mile out-and-back hike, and a great place to head for an afternoon picnic.

The Tennessee Valley lower trail has sunk from the combination of lots of use and its wet location. Our goal was to fill in the trail to ensure it doesn't pool up with water and wash away. We loaded in 10 cubic yards of shale/dirt fill by wheelbarrow to raise and level the trail. This awesome group represented the largest age spread in the history of our volunteer days as we had an 8yr old and a 70yr old too, my dad!.

See you next time and a huge thank you to all the volunteers supporting our #radparks!


TOPIC: Three-Day Volunteer Trip

LOCATION: 34.0161° N, 119.8039° W

PROJECT: Island Adventure & Habitat Restoration

The Parks Project team is honored to work closely with various park groups, we tip our hats to the work they do everyday. Just the other week, we were given the chance to join a group from Channel Islands Restoration to voyage out to the islands to do some volunteer work, how could we say no?!  

Channel Islands Restoration protects rare and endangered plants and animals by restoring habitat in sensitive and unique natural areas on the California Channel Islands and adjacent mainland.

We found it fascinating that the islands have remained so pure and desolate, and much of the National Park is off limits to visitors.  We got an exclusive look at some of these coves and sites, and also got to pitch in to restore some of the natural habitat to keep these gems the way they should be.  Check out a few of these amazing photos, definitely a bucket list trip come join us next time!


TOPIC: Shoestring Adventures

LOCATION: Roaming . . .

PROJECT: Wanderlusting

How and when did you start Shoestring Adventures? What was the purpose?

Three years ago at 26, I developed a bad case of wanderlust while recovering from back surgery. Ever since, I have devoted my weekends to exploring my home state of California and blog about my experiences on, both to celebrate my recovery and to encourage other to get outdoors!

How has it changed? What continues to be your inspiration?

Last year, I founded Shoestring Adventures LA, a free Meetup community for LA weekend warriors. This year, my passion grew into a business, organizing camping trips for weekend warriors throughout California. Shoestring Adventures is the antidote to #FOMO, a community where digital friends can connect in the outdoors!

I'm inspired by the adventurers I meet, whether they climb summits, build Altoid tin first aid kits, photograph stars or study rocks. Nature is the common thread that brings us together, but each person contributes their own experiences to make the community stronger as a whole.

Tell us about your most recent trip.

In February, Shoestring Adventures spent a weekend exploring Anza Borrego, just in time for desert wildflower season! Anza Borrego is the largest state park in California, located right outside of San Diego, yet not many folks seem to know about it. We explored a slot canyon, wind caves and a palm oasis. I cannot wait to go back!

Now, I am looking forward to the next weekend trip April 10-12 in Death Valley National Park. Join us!

What is the most rewarding thing about hosting a trip?

I've had the privilege of taking a handful of people on their first hike or their first camping trip. I get so much joy from watching their eyes light up at the site of a waterfall or their first summit vista. The outdoors has taught me about strength and confidence, and I'm grateful to share these transformative experiences with others.

Who is on your dream team if you were to have a dream trip to Yosemite, and why? (They can be alive or dead.)

My Austrian grandfather, Opa, who I've only met through watching home videos. Like me, he's usually the one behind the camera. It's amazing to look through his lens and recognize so much of my adventurous spirit.

Photographer Ansel Adams, who fell in love with Yosemite on his first visit at age 14 and supported preservation of the park through his work. His photography is not just about capturing the perfect landscape. It is an invitation to experience an intimate moment with nature. I'd like to learn a thing or two about that from the master.

Naturalist John Muir, who played a crucial role in the creation of Yosemite as a national park. I'd love to go back and meet the young man before the legend, the man whose curiosity and passion led to an entire movement.

Who are some of your favorite bloggers/grammers, what is it about them that makes their content so compelling?

I have many muses, but these 3 amazing women have empowered me to venture out on my first solo journey this year:

Jillian Lukiwski is a Canadian-born metalsmith, writer and photographer. Her self-portraits portray feminine strength and often transport me from where I stand to a place of peace and beauty.

Gale Straub quit her office job to travel the United States with her boyfriend Jon Gaffney for 1 year. Her website has quickly grown into a community of inspiring women who share a similar passion for the outdoors.

Jaymie Shearer is a lifestyle photographer and creator of, exploring the power of community from the road. Together, we hosted a weekend trip in the Alabama Hills, one of Jaymie's favorite places in California. I'm inspired by her ability to build community wherever she goes. She has taught me that going "solo" doesn't always mean going alone.

In all your experience getting outside, what do you think we can all do to make a difference?

Leave it better than you found it! I have a little habit of picking up at least one piece of trash on every hike. Together, we can make a huge impact.

Also, volunteer for your local park! Whether you plant trees or restore a trail, you will gain a new appreciation for all the hard work that must be done for our enjoyment of that space. If you can, join the next Parks Project Volunteer Day!

Keep up w/ Alyx, I don't see a reason why you wouldn't do so...






TOPIC:  Check in w/ Josh of California Through My Lense

LOCATION:  33.8972° N, 117.4217° W

PROJECT: Exploring the Golden State  

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a constant adventure that is fueled by donuts. I love to travel, hike and photograph all of the beautiful places this world has to offer and live by the motto "you will never regret the times you chose memories over money.”

What inspired you to create

I am always traveling and have a hard time stopping, as I am sure my wife could attest to. So I was looking for an outlet for that adventurous spirit. I had just gotten into photography and knew I wouldn't make a name for myself just by creating another generic travel blog, plus I didn't have the money to travel the world. So because of that I just set out to document and see as much of California as I could see. This was almost 4 years ago and was one of the best decisions I ever made. This blog has introduced me to good friends, let me be a part of amazing things, pushed me to test my athletic limits and was seen by over one million unique people in 2014. All of that is a testament to the amazing things California has to offer and I am truly blessed to be able to inspire others to see what their own state has available to them. 

Bishop Creek, Inyo

Bishop Creek, Inyo

California Coastal Bluffs

California Coastal Bluffs

Saddleback Butte

Saddleback Butte

Castle Dome, Mt Shasta

Castle Dome, Mt Shasta

What are your top 3 favorite parks in California?

Dang that is like picking a favorite child, plus I have probably only been to half since California has so many! I will disregard national parks for this but for state parks I would say:

1. Anza Borrego - I am blown away by the beauty this park has to offer. I keep finding myself enjoying the desert type spots more then I used to and every time I go I see something different. Once you see the wildflowers lining the desert floor you wont forget it, plus the park has mines, slot canyons and wind caves.

2. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - I will never forget the first time I saw McWay Waterfall and the way it cascades beautifully down to the beach below. It looks like something you would see on a tropic island, not in California. Add to that the amazing Ewoldsen Trail that is right across the street and you have a perfect state park.

Big Sur

Big Sur

3. Emerald Bay State Park - I love this spot because it is both physically beautiful and historically unique. Emerald Bay is a cove in the Southwest portion of Lake Tahoe that has a mind blowing collection of blue and green hues as you look out over the water. You can even rent a kayak and head out to the island that is in the middle of the cove if you are feeling adventurous. Also, across the street from this park is the trailhead for Eagle Lake which is one of my favorite places in all of California.

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay

Really though, California has so much to offer and its state and national parks should not be missed.

What is your favorite local park?

Only 10 minutes from where I live is Citrus State Park. It is a park that is dedicated to citrus tree history in California and it is beautifully maintained. There are a few short trails at the park and it is dog friendly so I always like going over for a few hours with my bulldog and just exploring.

Do you have any advice for travelers wanting to experience California's parks?

I would recommend you just see what is around you and go explore. There are more State Parks then you can imagine in this state and all of them are a park for a reason so go find out what it has to offer. You can find a good map here ( If you are a traveler like I am then consider picking up a yearly pass for the parks system. This helps give the parks money for maintenance and allows you to go to almost every park in the state. Even without a pass most parks only cost 5-10 dollars so there is never a reason not to check one out.

Inspiration Point, Anacapa

Inspiration Point, Anacapa

Natural Bridges

Natural Bridges

Pygmy Forest

Pygmy Forest

What does being a "park steward" mean to you? What can we do to preserve our parks for future generations?

I feel like the quote “with great power comes great responsibility” rings a bell for me. We have so many amazing spots all around us and it is up to us to make sure they are still there for future generations. People often have a hard time seeing the value of picking up a small piece of trash but if everyone just passes trash by when they see it then it will eventually get worse and worse, until fixing the issue is a lot more difficult.

I just believe we should all do our part to try to improve what our world has to offer, so that everyone can benefit from it. I always remember this old greek proverb when I need some conviction "A society becomes great when old men plant trees of whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” It is up to us to make sure the next generation can enjoy this world as well.

Where to next?

Anywhere, haha. I am always on the move and looking for a new adventure. I have the opportunity to visit a friend of mine who is starting a new clothing company called Ara Collective ( in Guatemala in the next few weeks and am planning to hike a 13,000 ft volcano when down there, so that should be a good time.


Keep up with Josh if you'd like!


Instagram: @californiathroughmylens

Twitter: @califrommylens



TOPIC:  Weekend Adventures / Rock Climbing

LOCATION: 36°37'N 118°06'W     

PROJECT: Eastern Sierra Reconnaissance By Gabriel Lacktman / Photos by James Magdaleno

Heading out to the Eastern Sierras was bittersweet for me, my good friend and climbing mentor is moving to Bend, Oregon in less than a month. While I'm excited for his transition, and looking forward to a host when I visit the Pacific Northwest, I am sad to see him go.  We got the gang together for one last California climb.

In typical dirt bagging fashion, we left Los Angeles late Friday night and arrived in Lone Pine around 1am. Just west of the town center is 30,000 acres of public land known as the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. Our accommodations on this BLM land include pulling off side of any random road and either sleeping in the car or an air mattress right outside it.  Luckily the wind was low in the high desert and the temperatures were moderate, especially considering spring hasn't yet arrived.

The rounded contours of the Alabamas form a sharp contrast between the glacially chiseled ridges of the Sierra Nevada. This leads the viewer to believe the Alabama's are almost antique in nature. Actually, both geologic features were the result of uplifting that occurred 100 million years ago. The hills have been subject to a type of erosion known as chemical weathering. When the hills were still covered with soil, percolating water rounded the granite blocks and sculpted the outstanding formations you see today.

To celebrate the departed we aimed specifically on climbing atop spires and pillars in the "Bama Hills,” here the evidence, bon voyage!!

Gabriel Lacktman is not only an avid outdoorsmen and talented climber, but also an artist/graphic designer who helps Parks Project create cool tees, right on Gabriel, yew!


TOPIC: On the Road

LOCATION: Roaming . . .

PROJECT: Living Mobile /  Introspective

What's a typical day on the road like for The Van Man? Morning means packing the van back up and putting away all loose items, anything we forget will be crashing around in short order once we hit the road. Usually I'll be behind the wheel for a while as I do the majority of driving day to day. Once the sun starts setting we'll search out a campsite for the night. Probably a few hands of cribbage after dinner (Gale is KILLING me of late). Then paging through the atlas to see what the next day might hold.

How do you choose your itinerary? Friends and family play a huge role in setting our course. A familiar face and the promise of a hot shower are always a draw. Aside from that we see if anything catches our interest, is on our must visit list, or we get a good recommendation and then go for it. We try not to be overly scheduled as the road has a way of slowing you down.

Tell us about your park patch collection, which one's your favorite? The patches are a source of memories, just a reminder of where we've gone. My Junior Ranger patch from the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, WY because it was my first Junior Ranger experience. The retired volunteers had a good laugh swearing me in over the intercom at the visitors center. It was fun and got me excited to actively learn more about the parks, not just visit them.

What are your top 3 favorite parks on your journey so far? Olympic National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Glacier National Park. I can't wait to visit all three again. I felt like we only scratched their surface.

What park do you want to go back and explore again? Of the three above, I'd have to say Olympic National Park. There's just such a broad range of environments there, I need more time to know it.

Do you have any advice for travelers wanting to experience our nation's parks? Buy an atlas and start looking at the state you live in and look for the different parks that exist. Don't just focus just on National Parks, there are some spectacular State Parks and National Monuments that are often overlooked. I never knew how much there was available around me until I started paging through an atlas.

What can we do to protect our parks for future generations? Invest in them. It's clear that the parks system is strapped for money and often under attack for the use of the natural resources they often contain. We need to invest in them across the board: volunteer our time, push politicians to properly fund public lands, and make the effort to show others the amazing value these parks provide us as a society. The more people who act, the better chance these parks will be preserved for generations to come.

Where to next? South down the east coast and then west. We've been stuck in quite a bit of snow the last few weeks, looking forward to some warm weather!

Bio: Jon Gaffney is currently a man of the road, traveling North America with his girlfriend Gale Straub of She Explores  in a Sprinter van camper of their own creation.  If he doesn't have a camera in his hand he's probably attempting to climb, hike, ski, or swim and needed both hands. Follow him at


TOPIC: Volunteer Day

LOCATION: 34.1203° N, 119.1211° W

PROJECT: Heavy Duty Trail Restoration

Point Mugu State Park stretches from Ventura County through some of the most majestic parts of the Santa Monica Mountains, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It’s got some of the most phenomenal views of the ocean in Southern California. This stretch of coast is known for its uniquely untouched California landscape, stretches of rare native grassland, and extensive trail system.

Unfortunately, the Chumash Trail area was badly burned in the Springs Fire in May of 2013. With the lost vegetation, hillsides were exposed to heavy erosion. Early December storm rains brought major debris- and mudslides flowing all the way down to the Pacific Coast Highway. The Chumash trail in the end closed, meaning its up to Volunteers to pitch in to restore the trails and in some cases, recreate trail where 4’ – 6’ of mud/rock slides slid down the mountainside.

Last Saturday the Parks Project Crew gathered at the Chumash Trail entrance, this route makes a pretty no nonsense ascent up a steep incline, rising 845 feet in the first .7 miles. The landscape is classic coastal scrub — lots of yucca, sage, and grasses. Because the ground has always been a bit loose in this area, the fires and rains created a real mess to clean up. Add a little drizzle to the mix, and we were sliding around left and right. The fact that it’s so steep here doesn’t help you keep your footing either, but we leaned in with our pick axes and tools to restore much of the upper and lower trail.

Next time you are up there, enjoy this beautiful trail and ensure you leave it better than you found it!


TOPIC: Park Adventures

LOCATION: 34.0161° N, 119.8039° W

PROJECT: Great White Escape w/ Jon & Gale

We'd seen photos of White Sands National Monument in our travels through the Insta-universe. They were tough to miss: rolling white hills swallow colorful tents and their entranced occupants. We were interested to see it lifesize for ourselves. The brown scrub land of New Mexico dropped away as we approached the visitor center on Route 70 and spotted bleached sand in the distance.

We arrived to reserve one of ten primitive backcountry tent campsites and we were surrounded by rolling white dunes reminiscent of mornings after snowstorms in our native New England. These gypsum dunes are incredibly rare as gypsum is water soluble, problematic even in the dry desert.  As a result of the basin White Sands is in, however, the gypsum can't wash away into rivers and thus continues a cycle of dissolving during rain storms and drying back out thereafter. This area of New Mexico contains the largest gypsum dune field in the world (275 square miles), though only a small percentage is accessible to the public.  We were surprised to learn why.

White Sands is an anomaly amongst the National Parks System. Most National Parks and Monuments are ringed in swaths of National Forests or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. This is great for the wildlife that seeks refuge in these parks, good for the ecological health of the land, excellent for cheap van dwellers (it's free to dispersed camp on National Forest and BLM), and pleasing to the eye. Surprisingly, White Sands has no protected land surrounding its borders. In fact, its location is somewhat shocking, smack dab in the middle of one of the largest missile ranges in the United States.

What’s the significance for visitors?  It means White Sands National Monument is closed a few times a month during live missile tests.  It also means that upon arrival you will be given a pamphlet to advise you to beware any unexploded ordinances possibly hiding amongst the gypsum dunes. Unfortunately, while tourists may practice the credo "Leave it better than you found it," it’s unlikely that missiles test will as well. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization wanted to declare the area a World Heritage Site, but it was thwarted by the state of New Mexico which was concerned they'd be pressured to close the surrounding military installations if it was added to the list. A provocative perspective on one of the truly unique geological wonders of the world.

Permit and unexploded ordnance pamphlet in hand, we raced against a swiftly setting sun to our campsite. This proved challenging in a sea of white. After a wrong turn, we arrived at the sign post denoting our site and scrambled to set up our tent as temperatures began to plummet. In a rare turn, someone else's flaunting of "Leave it better than you found it." was to our benefit as they'd left a slightly mangled mallet at the site. Perfect for putting tent stakes into hard packed gypsum.

We ate a simple dinner and played cards under one of the clearest and quietest nights we'd ever seen. The morning arrived gray and raining with gypsum sticking to everything - not the day of sand sledding we'd planned. After a few soaking runs down the dunes it was time to move on. The fast fading walk in, complete with rose tinted horizons has stayed with us ...and so has the sand, we're still finding it in the van.

Jon Gaffney and Gale Straub are currently on the road traveling North America in a camper Sprinter van. Follow along on Instagram: Jon: ; Gale:


TOPIC: Three-Day Volunteer Trip

LOCATION: 34.0161° N, 119.8039° W

PROJECT: Island Adventure & Habitat Restoration 

The Parks Project team is honored to work closely with various park groups, we tip our hats to the work they do everyday.  Just the other week, we were given the chance to join a group from Channel Islands Restoration to voyage out to the islands to do some volunteer work, how could we say no?!  

Channel Islands Restoration protects rare and endangered plants and animals by restoring habitat in sensitive and unique natural areas on the California Channel Islands and adjacent mainland.

We found it fascinating that the islands have remained so pure and desolate, and much of the National Park is off limits to visitors.  We got an exclusive look at some of these coves and sites, and also got to pitch in to restore some of the natural habitat to keep these gems the way they should be.  Check out a few of these amazing photos, definitely a bucket list trip come join us next time!

The island nursery is filled with ______________

The island nursery is filled with ______________

Our channel islands tee is coming soon, shout out if you want to get in line for one. The tee will be supporting island habitat research.

Our channel islands tee is coming soon, shout out if you want to get in line for one. The tee will be supporting island habitat research.

This empty seat awaits you . . .  til next time!

This empty seat awaits you . . .  til next time!