Gear Review: Skout Trail Bars

I discovered these awesome little snacks while at the Portland airport waiting for a flight.  I needed a little something to hold me over on the 2 1/2 hour flight back to Phoenix and wanted something healthy.  I spotted these on the shelf and had never heard of them before.  One glance at the ingredients (usually the first thing I check) and I was sold.  It’s the only granola bar I think I’ve had that lists less than 6 ingredients and they’re all organic!

Skout Trailbars are made in the Willamette Valley outside of Portland, Oregon.  Founder, Jason Pastega and his faithful co-founder, Scout, started making these trailbars in 2008.  Since then Skout Natural Foods has not only continued to produce quality trail food, but has also been involved in giving back to the community and donating to a variety of environmental and humanitarian causes.

The unfortunate thing about these tasty treats is that they are impossible to find if you don’t live in Oregon.  They are currently trying to expand to other markets but I have yet to find them outside of an airport.  In order to get my hands on some I had to go the Skout website and order their sample pack (5 bars for $12.00 +S&H).  I was pretty excited to receive the package in the mail with one of each of their current flavors.

All of their flavors are fantastic (Chocolate+Peanut Butter being my favorite).  I’m a sucker for natural trail food and these definitely fit the bill.  At $2.49 ea. retail, these are comparable with most other snack/energy bars on the market.  There’s no disputing the quality of the product, the flavor is better than most and they hold up well to rough travel.  My only complaint, if any could be found, is that they are a little small.  All their trailbars are all natural and organic, dairy and soy free, have no added sugar or fillers and contain a full serving of fruit.  They are also Kosher and Vegan friendly.

I would love to see these show up at my local supermarket or even the local REI.  For now, the only place to get them in THIS state is to order from their website.

Chocolate+Peanut Butter nutrition info...

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Mount Graham

This past weekend, August 12th and 13th, was the Perseid meteor shower and, despite the full moon, should have been a spectacular show.  I say “should have been” because I never got to see it.  I spent the weekend camping with a group on top of Mount Graham in the Pinalino Mountain Range south of Safford, Arizona.  The Pinalinos are part of Coronado National Forest and home to the Mt Graham Observatory.  Our camp was situated at about 9400 ft and the plan was to hike to the top of Webb Peak where an old, out of commission Forest Service Fire Lookout stands at over 10,000 ft.  Webb Peak is normally an ideal vantage point for viewing the night sky.

This weekend’s trip happened to fall right in the middle of a nasty little summer storm that had us ducking from the rain and lighting every evening.  We were lucky enough, however, to have a clear, beautiful day Saturday for some Peak Bagging.  I had bought a couple of USGS topo maps and highlighted all the peaks near our campground for possible exploration.  So, with one brave volunteer, we set out Saturday to stand at the top of as many peaks as we could get to in one day.

Clark’s Peak

At the far west end of the gravel road that traverses the mountain top is the trailhead for Clark’s Peak, our first peak of the day.  We easily found the trailhead, which was clearly marked, and started out.  The trail itself was fairly overgrown and we picked our way though thorny undergrowth and fallen trees throughout most of the trail.  There are spectacular views from many parts of the trail.  The trail itself connects to another trail that can take you another 6 miles or so out to West Peak (which we opted not to do).  We quickly realized that there was no actual trail to the top of Clark’s Peak, the Clark Peak trail skirts around the peak itself.  So we picked a spot to cut off trail and carefully route our way to the top.  The top is fairly overgrown and consists of a large rock pile with trees and bushes growing thick all around.  We did stand atop the boulders and proclaim our victory….one down!

Merrill Peak

Only about a half-mile from the trail to Clark’s Peak is Rigg’s Lake.  Above Riggs Lake sits Merrill Peak.  Again, there was a trail to the east of Merrill Peak that skirts the actual peak but there was no designated trail to the top.  We chose to approach the peak from the west side where we could park at the camp ground at Rigg’s Lake and cut the shortest route to the top.  After a heart-pumping encounter with a nest of yellow jackets, we reached the rocky outlook at the top of Merrill Peak.  There is the foundation of what was probably a sign at one point, but the sign itself is long gone.  The views from this peak are wide open to the south of the range and are very impressive.  We spent quite some time here enjoying the view and watching the lizards scurry across the exposed rocks.

Grand View Peak

Grand View Peak sits at about 10,200 ft.  Although the peak itself is off-limits, an old 4WD trail exists below the peak and offers the same amazing view.  We found the old 4WD trail and parked next to some campers who had clearly been living out of their old camper for quite some time.  They confirmed that the road twisted around to the north side of the ridge and offered some impressive views.  So we set off, on a fairly easy trail, until we found the view we were looking for.  The peak is aptly named, the view from this side of the mountain was truly impressive.

Webb Peak

at Webb Peak

The meteor shower may have been a bust, but the next morning we still hiked the short trail to the top of Webb Peak.  There is an old Forest Service Cabin in disrepair and the tall watch tower which is gated off and covered with graffiti from past visitors.  Though wooded with stands of aspen and pine, there are still some really nice views from Webb Peak (10,029 ft).  Otherwise, it’s an uneventful location, or maybe I was just sore about missing out on the meteor shower.  There are actually two trails that will take you to Webb Peak, the longer one is a branch off of the Ash Creek Trail, a very popular waterfall trail from the Columbine Campground.  The trail we took was not on the USGS maps but was clearly marked near the entrance to the campground and is a more direct approach.

I didn’t get to visit as many peaks as I would have liked while we were there.  I guess that just gives me all the more reason to plan another trip into this beautiful park!

A side note about Mt. Graham:

The area around Emerald Peak summit is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Entry to the site is limited to those who have been issued a permit by the Forest Service and agreed not to disturb the Red Squirrel or its habitat.  No entry is allowed within the 1750 acre refugium for the Mt. Graham red squirrel without authorization from the Safford District Ranger at any time of the year.  These closures were required by the Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act and US Fish & Wildlife Service Biological Opinion for Protection of the Mt. Graham Red Squirrel.  The refugium starts at 9800 feet in elevation and continues to the summit of Mt. Graham at 10,720 feet.

 

According to officials, the only two peaks above 10,000 ft that are open to visitation by the public without a permit are Heliograph Peak and Webb Peak both at 10,007 ft.

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Gear Review: Clif Builder’s protein bar

Clif bars have been around since 1991 when founder, Gary Erickson, created the product to compete with the often inedible energy bars of the day.  I’ve always enjoyed Clif energy bars and was really excited when they came out with the Protein bar.

The Builder’s protein bars come in six fantastic flavors including Chocolate Mint and Vanilla Almond.  The bars offer 20 grams of protein with only 8 grams of fat and (for you carb counters) 26 to 30 net carbs.  Having tried almost every protein bar on the market over the last decade or so, this is one of the best tasting and texturally pleasing protein bars I’ve had.  They are great pre and post hike snacks for muscle recovery and energy.  I would not use these ON the hike as they all have some kind of flavored coating (chocolate typically) that will melt and make a huge mess when warmed in the sun.

All in all, a great product and I do recommend it.  At just over $2 per bar retail (and I usually find them on sale for less) they are well worth having around to toss in a cooler for after a good long hike.

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A side note about Clif Bar & Co.:

from Wiki, “In 2001, Clif Bar formalized their commitment to environmental sustainability. They transitioned to organic ingredients, eliminated shrink-wrap (which saved 90,000 pounds of plastic and $400,000 annually), and invested in wind energy to offset fossil fuel usage.

Clif Bar has also instituted a number of policies intended to make a more green-friendly business. In 2006, they announced their “Cool Commute” program, which gives employees $6,500 (taxed) to switch to bio-diesel or high-mileage hybrid cars to reduce their fuel consumption.  As a bio-diesel incentive program, “Cool Commute” was the first of its type nationwide and drew praise from Al Gore for helping to aid the fight against global warming.  In 2008, the company added a bike incentive to the Cool Commute Program providing employees up to $500 to purchase a commuter bike or to make commute friendly retrofits to an existing bike. Additionally in 2008, the company launched the Cool Home Program which provides employees up to $1,000 annually to make eco-improvement to their homes such as insulation, solar panel installation, new windows, etc.  In April 2009, Clif Bar joined BICEP, a coalition of 18 companies (which includes Nike, eBay and The North Face) with the goal of passing progressive climate and energy legislation.  In 2010 Clif Bar committed $500,000 to promote organic seed research and conserve crop genetic diversity.”