About Francis Tapon
Francis Tapon is half Chilean and half French and he was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He's been to over 80 countries, but he keeps coming back to this magical city because he loves earthquakes.
He spoke Spanish at home, French at school, and English everywhere else. He can get by in Portuguese and Italian, barely survive in Russian and Slovenian, and speak a few other languages.
Francis has an MBA from Harvard Business School and co-founded a successful Silicon Valley company that did robotic vision. He left his technology life to walk across America four times. He has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and in 2007, became the first to do a round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail. In 2009, he was one of the finalists for the California Outdoors Hall of Fame, which "features nominees who are world-renowned for their skills and who have helped inspire thousands of others to take part in the great outdoors."
Francis has written a couple of travel books including The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us and Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America. He also produced a 77-minute video about his CDT Yo-Yo.
Latest Posts by Francis Tapon
Every year, thousands of hikers come to Grand Canyon National Park to hike the scenic and historic trails of the area. Many of these trails are relatively short and can be done in a day or maybe two at the most. Others take a bit longer but are still rather standard. However, there are a few remote trails that aren’t traveled that often due to the fact that the park no longer maintains them.
The Tanner-Escanlante route starts out at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and stretches over 36 miles of various terrain. The park no longer maintains the trail, so only the most hardcore hikers take this route. Your hike will follow along the route were Pioneer Seth Tanner went along mining for copper along the Colorado River. Part of this hike includes an unavoidable 30-foot cliff near Hance Rapids that will have to be climbed. This demanding trail will probably take about 6 days to complete at a normal pace.
Royal Arch Route
The Royal Arch Route is a 45 mile hike starting at the South Bass Trail and then proceeds to Royal Arch and then to Elves Chasm and then back to South Bass via Tonto. The trail is considered to be an expert trails and recommended only for those with sufficient outdoor and wilderness skills. Make sure you take at least 50 ft of rope, 20 feet of webbing, and a reppel ring as there is a good amount of climbing, especially at Elves Chasm.
This old route from the South Bass trail to Apache Point is shorter than most at only 18 miles, but it is one that may require a little more flexibility and ingenuity for most hikers. The original trial for this route apparently has come in such disrepair and degraded over the years that many maps have become near useless. Your best bet when hiking this trail would be to review your map carefully, scan your topology and then pick your own best line of hiking.
Things to Remember
Route hiking at the Grand Canyon is only for the most experienced hikers. If you are a recreational hiker or have limited outdoor skills, do not hike these routes. Below are a few other things to remember when hiking these routes:
Never hike these routes by yourself. Beyond the fact that there is safety in numbers, additional members will be helpful when traversing large climbs, etc.
Bring plenty of water. If you think you have enough water, bring more. Some of these routes have limited water access and you need to keep hydrated for these hikes.
Don’t rush the hike. It doesn’t matter if you can hike 8 miles in a day normally. These are advanced trails and require more time and planning to traverse. Also make sure you have plenty of maps for the area so you have an idea of what to expect.
If you want more information on any of the routes listed above, there are plenty of resources online starting with the Grand Canyon National Park service. There are also numerous forums online with people’s experiences that have hiked these routes and you can get a better idea on how to prepare for these hikes ahead of time.
Contributed by Lauren Quincy. Photo credit: senoryermo. com
- Less than 1 kg (2.2 pounds) when empty
- High storage capacity (I won’t use the capacity most of the time, but I want the option to carry extra stuff)
- It should hold comfortably carry 15kg (33 pounds).
- Several pouches/compartments to help organize stuff
- Few zippers (they often break over time)
- The Medium sized version weighs 765 grams (27 oz.)
- The backpack is made out of custom 140 denier Dyneema GGridstop™ fabric.
- 7 exterior pockets
- The OTT (over-the-top) closure system for a simple, solid, secure closure that also includes a zippered top pocket.
- The “Shock Top™ shock cord top-of-the-pack lashing system for attaching your foam pad or other gear to the top of the pack
- The Mariposa is best with loads under 30lbs but will handle up to 35 just fine
For capacity, it carries nearly 70 liters or 4,244 c.i. Let’s break that down:
- 2860 c.i. (47 l.) in main pack body/extension collar
- 1384 c.i. (22 l.) in all 7 pockets combined
Let’s break down the 765 grams (27 oz.) backpack:
- Pack Body = 15.85 oz (409 g) (Average for medium size)
- Removable hip belt = 5.15 oz. (146 g.) (Average for medium size)
- Aluminum curved stay = 3.5 oz. each (96 g.) (Average for medium size)
- Sitlight Pad = 2.0 oz ( 51 g. ) (Average)
- xtra shock cord and cordlocks .55 oz (16 g.)
With just two months to start my Africa trip, this looks like the backpack that I need. Of course, thru-hikers and backpackers will also appreciate this backpack, especially for winter trips or trips where you have to carry more than a week of food. Its durability gives me the confidence that it will last three years. Yes, it will be mangled, but it’s tough.
The only downside is that there are two closure clips to lock it down. I miss the old Mariposa backpack, which just had one closure. Still, given the other improvements, it seems we’ve got ourselves a winner! I’d give it 4 out 5 stars.
Traveling light — it’s the only way to fly, right? Reducing your pack load is also the best way to hike, backpack, or generally move about Eastern Europe, Africa, or any other multi-week or multi-month travel destination.
Fanatics go to extremes to shave ounces off their pack. With just 12 – 15 pounds on their back for several month excursions, featherweight gurus cover twice the mileage in a day that the poor schmucks lugging around the kitchen sink can manage.
While foregoing a tent to sleep outside in a bivy bag or sawing off the last three inches of your toothbrush to shave off a few micrograms may be more extreme than you’re willing to go, anybody planning to carry a pack — even for just the time between a station and your hotel — will benefit from the principles that ultralight hikers espouse.
Before your next trek, adventure, or trip across the pond, consider these general weight-slimming tips for your pack, and save your back a bit of unnecessary strain:
Pay Attention to Weight When You Shop for a Pack
Last week, a 95-pound female friend of mine emailed me three pack options she’s considering for a trip to southeast Asia. At each of the links, I found a different 90-liter or larger pack, each weighing over six pounds.
“I want to make sure I have enough room,” she explained.
With that size pack, she’d have enough room to bring home a new friend, as well as plenty of mementos. Remember that you’re going to be carrying your pack! It’s more about ‘how comfortable will this be?’ than ‘How much can I cram in here?’
Find a pack that doesn’t weigh more than a few ounces over 3 pounds. The pack is nothing but your vessel, so if we’re trying to reduce your overall weight, why add unnecessary pounds to something that does nothing for you but haul your other stuff?
Remember that you can always strap or lash extra items to your pack, as I often do with a foam bedroll or dirty shoes.
Pack With a Scale
Digital scales are cheap on eBay. Find one that weighs in ounces, or fractions of ounces, and weigh everything that you’re packing for your trip. When you realize that your epic novel weighs a pound-and-a-half, maybe you’ll rip it in half and just bring the part you’ll actually get to (or find a smaller, paperback book).
This can be tough for some people, but when traveling, you’re inevitably going to stink sometimes. You don’t need to carry your entire wardrobe. Start with this rule — no cotton! Carrying jeans while traveling is foolish. They’re heavy to start with, and any cotton article of clothing can absorb water and add extra weight to your load.
I have two pairs of convertible pants that I bring everywhere when traveling. These double as my shorts, swim trunks, dress pants, hiking pants, etc… With three pairs of super-thin socks, a thermal shirt, a nylon button-down, three pairs of polyester underwear, and a poncho, that’s all I need for non-freezing climates.
Invest in the Right Sleeping Bag
I’ll confess — I own too many sleeping bags. For nights that could freeze, I carry a 15-degree down bag. If it’s just going to be a bit chilly, a 40-degree down bag is perfect, and weighs just under 2 pounds. Finally, in the summer, I simply carry a small down blanket.
If your budget allows for just one bag, consider a lightweight 40-degree down bag with an additional silk liner. Together, you’ll have options for comfort in climates ranging from freezing to sweltering jungle nights.
And one more tip: When in areas with high condensation, if you tend to touch the wall of your tent with the foot box of your sleeping bag, bring along a plastic bag to slip the bottom of your sleeping bag into while you sleep. You’ll be much happier stuffing a completely dry bag back into its sack in the morning.
Dehydrate Your Food
Unless you’re traveling in the desert or extremely arid conditions, you will likely be filtering water along the way. Use this to your advantage when it comes to food. Much of the food we eat at home already contains water — milk, pasta sauce, even fruits and vegetables. When you’re carrying your food, think more along the terms of a pack of instant oatmeal; you want items where you ‘just add water.’ Powdered milk and pasta sauce are a smart choice for traveling. A home dehydrator is a relatively cheap appliance that can be used to dry out fruits, vegetables, and even meats for your trip. You’ll be acquiring water along the way, so why carry those extra pounds in your pack?
Pack With a Friend
When you’re packing for a trip alone, it’s very easy to continually say, “I’ll need that” and throw it into your pack. Even if you do your initial packing by yourself, get together with a travel companion or just a friend before leaving to help you downsize. It’s much easier for someone else to realize that you don’t need to carry three heavy books and two pairs of boots, when the need seemed obvious to you.
Especially if you’re traveling in a foreign place, remember that you may want to pick up a few things along the way. Need a new shirt because you only brought two? Dress like a local. You’ll enjoy the experience and you’ll actually have some room in your pack to get your souvenirs back home.
Guest Post by Joe Laing
On October 29, 2012, when most New Yorkers were staying home and bracing themselves during Hurricane Sandy, I decided to go hiking in New York’s Adirondacks. And not just to do a leisurely stroll, but rather to take on one of America’s toughest hike: the Trap Dike by Mt. Colden.
What is the Trap Dike by Mt. Colden?
The Trap Dike (sometimes misspelled as “Dyke”) is an off-trail way to hike/climb from Avalanche Lake to the summit of Mt. Colden. It requires minor climbing. Although climbing gear and rope is not required, it is quite steep and exposed.
Video of the Trap Dike
How long does it take to hike the Trap Dike?
Assuming you’re starting from the Adirondak Loj (i.e., the nearest parking lot), then you should expect that the whole loop (including the Trap Dike portion) should take 7 to 11 hours. If it’s raining or there’s a tropical storm while you’re hiking (like there was in my case), then you should expect the slick, slippery rock to slow you down. The tough part of the hike (the Trap Dike to the summit of Mt. Colden) takes 2-3 hours. The rest of the hike is straightforward hiking.
Do you need rope to hike the Trap Dike?
- You want to be extra safe.
- It’s wet.
- You’re hiking with someone who is not confident about his/her climbing/scrambling abilities.
- You get vertigo.
Where can I find a map of the Trap Dike?
The “You are here” is pointing to the Adirondak Loj, which is next to Heart Lake and is near the start of the trail. Mouse over the map for a close up. Or download the map.
Above: Follow the waterfall up through the dike. Just don’t do it during a tropical storm.
How do you get to the Trap Dike
First, you have to get to the Adirondacks in New York.
Second, drive to the Adirondak Loj and pay their $10 parking fee (it can be done after hours at a self-registration station).
Third, hike toward Marcy Dam. And eventually get to the southwest corner of Avalanche Lake.
The Balkan Peninsula is a culturally diverse region. Therefore, its cuisine offers a great variety, too. The culinary traditions of the countries that make up the peninsula are as similar as they are different from each other. What contributes the most in terms of variety is the fact that the more you go east, the more you can feel the oriental flavor. In this sense, the Balkans are something like the border between the West and the East, both culturally and culinary.
What follows is a short, but informative, description of three notable types of Balkan cuisine.
Rich in terms of salads and various pastries, Bulgaria offers almost anything a true glutton might desire. The most used meat in Bulgarian meals is pork. A lot of the dishes there are either borrowed or influenced by neighboring Turkey. Most meals are baked or in the form of a stew, while deep-frying is not very popular. Some of the most famous Bulgarian dishes include:
Tarator: A type of a cold soup. The main ingredients include plain white yogurt, cucumber and water, but often added are dill, pressed garlic, sunflower oil and crushed walnuts. It is mostly served as an appetizer or as a side dish to a main course.
Shopska salad: The most famous salad in Bulgaria, it is made from tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, onion, white Bulgarian cheese and parsley. The dressing used is salt, vinegar and sunflower oil.
Sarma: A main course. Boiled rice mixed with minced meat (beef, pork or veal) and some spices, rolled in cabbage leaves. There are is also a vegetarian variation of the dish, as well as sarma rolled in vine leaf or rumex. It is often topped with yoghurt.
Greek cuisine shares characteristics with the cuisines of Turkey, Italy and the Balkans. It makes wide use of cheese, olives, olive oil and a big variety of herbs. A couple of well-known Greek meals:
Gyros: Wrapped in pita bread, gyros consists of roasted on a vertical spit meat (mostly pork or chicken) as well as tomatoes, cucumbers and tzatziki. In the Arab-speaking countries the dish is known as duner kebap.
Saganaki: Mainly a general term, referring to many Greek dishes prepared in a frying pan, the most notable of them being a sort of a fried cheese appetizer. The cheese used is usually feta, kasseri or kefalotyri. It is eaten with bread and served topped with pepper and lemon juice.
Moussaka: A layer dish, consisting mostly of minced meat and eggplant. It is topped with savory custard. The meal is oven baked. Other variations include the use of diced potatoes or zucchini instead of eggplant.
Characterized by Slavic as well as Austrian, Turkish and Hungarian, Croatian cuisine mainly uses lard for cooking and plenty of spices like garlic, paprika and black pepper. Croatian cuisine is divided into several regional cuisines, which bear their own cooking traditions.
Žganci: Cornmeal dish prepared with finer grains. It is made from buckwheat, corn or maize flower, water, salt and oil. Cooked on a low boil for about fifteen minutes. It can be served with yogurt, milk or honey. Or even with meat as a part of a main course.
Uštipci: A popular doughnut-like dessert balls. The main ingredients are flour, yeast, sugar and eggs. It goes well with sour cream and cottage cheese, or you can have it sweet with jam or Nutella.
Čvarci: A variation of pork rinds. They are something like pork crisps where the fat is thermally extracted from the lard. Cvarci are really popular in the countryside and considered ‘winter food’. It can be either consumed on their own, as a snack, or as a part of a main dish.
As many other regions around the world, the cuisines of the Balkan countries have a lot in common. However, they all have certain unique features that are worth exploring by each true glutton.
Guest post by Izzy Smith.
This is my first ereader and I love it! I’ve been researching them for years and finally I’ve found one that worth buying.
- Super long battery life: it was half-charged when I pulled it out of the box. It’s been over a week and I have yet to charge it, even though I’ve been using it a couple of hours every day. Amazon claims a 2-month battery life, assuming you use it 1-hr per day and with little wifi, but at maximum brightness. That seems reasonable. Yet even if it’s half that, it’s amazingly good, considering how bright the display can be.
- Multi-touch display:Although it’s not as responsive as a iPhone/iPad, you can swipe and pinch all you want. Typing is also less responsive than a standard LCD touch screen, but you can certainly type and even use the free to-do list app.
- The screen is as bright as you want it: Ironically, I don’t like black text on a white background; I prefer black text on a gray background. I find it easier on my eyes, so I rarely boost the brightness to the max. However, it is amazing how bright it can get and that you can have a nice white background even in a bright room.
- The double helix nanoimprinted light guide technology: It lights up the eink perfectly and evenly, unlike any other ereader in the market today.
- Can’t play MP3s, unlike some other Kindles, so no audiobooks or podcasts.
- Like all Kindles, it doesn’t accept the industry-standard ePub format. As a result, if you like checking ebooks out of your library, your selection will be limited.
- The ads on the home screen are (so far) not very relevant to me. They’ve been offering Editor’s Picks, Young Adult Novels, and Mysteries/Suspense – none of these topics interest me at all. I hope (and expect) that the ads will become more personalized once Amazon sees what I read. Otherwise, it’s a huge waste of real estate on the home screen. (Luckily, that’s the only place where you’ll see such big ads – they won’t appear anywhere while you’re reading a book.)
For $119, it’s the best value of any ereader out there! I’m going to take this on my trip to all 54 countries next year.
Imagine if the Grand Canyon were underground—that should give you an idea of what to expect when you enter the Škocjanske Jame (Škocjan Caves). Lonely Planet listed them as one of the top 10 attractions in Eastern Europe. They’re also on the UNESCO World Heritage list and get 100,000 visitors a year.
They live up to their reputation by being one of the largest underground canyons in the world with the Reka river still carving through it. At 60 meters wide and 140 meters deep, this canyon is a fraction of the Grand Canyon’s size, but the fact that it’s all underground makes it feel bigger.
When you cross the canyon via the narrow Hanke Canal Bridge, you’ll see the roaring river far below. You suddenly realize that you could fit a massive 45-story skyscraper in this subterranean world.
The Škocjan underworld is so enormous that a unique ecosystem has evolved here—it’s home to strange blind creatures that have never seen sunlight. The most bizarre one is the proteus.
Slovenians informally call it the človeška ribica (human fish). This alien vertebrate is as long as your forearm, has a long tail for swimming, gills, four legs, pigment-free skin, a highly sensitive nose, a sensor for detecting weak electrical fields in the water, and a pair of atrophied lungs and eyes that don’t really work.
They’re a weird amphibian that lives almost exclusively in water. Their life cycle is mystifying: they live almost as long as humans, they become sexually mature as teenagers, they have never been seen reproducing in the wild, their babies hatch out of eggs, and they can live up to 10 years without food. It’s one of the most hidden creatures in the Hidden Europe.
While I was traveling in Eastern Europe, my high-school friend, Sarah Spiridonov, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I hadn’t talked with Sarah since we were 18 years old, but thanks to Facebook, we reconnected. She was married to a Bulgarian and they had two boys.
To help with my book, she generously proposed that I stay a couple of weeks in her family’s summer home in Turkincha, a tiny village about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Veliko Tarnovo.
I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to take a closer look at a rural Bulgarian setting. The experience ended up surprising me in numerous ways.
The village of Turkincha