The Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge was very unique way to raise funds and awareness for the Make-A-Wish organization. Many of you probably know what the Make-A-Wish organization is... I had heard of the organization before both nationally and locally, but never really did any research about the organization. In SC, almost 90% of every dollar donated goes to help make wishes happen right here in the state. Children with life threatening illness and their families are given the opportunity to escape from their problems for a little bit, and enjoy a wish of their choosing. The most common wish definitely seemed to be Walt Disney vacations or cruise ships. We were told about how the staff at Walt Disney makes the trip extra special for the Make-A-Wish kids by having them wear Make-A-Wish pins so the Disney employees are encouraged to go out of their way to interact with the kid. Other kids would choose to meet their favorite professional athlete or team, or spend some time with their favorite celeb. One kid was fascinated by volcanoes, and was granted a wish for him and his family to go to an active volcano site.
The average cost of a wish in SC is $7,500. You can image the cost it would take just to allow the most common wish of a Disney vacation to happen when you are sending a Wish kid and their families. Each hiker was asked to raise $2,500. Our PBO Team, "The Nightwalkers" had 3 members, so we will be making at least one wish come true! As a whole, our hiking class has raised over $204K, and that number is still growing!
During the hike weekend, we got to meet a girl who had a wish granted in SC. She really wanted to go to American Idol, and to see the Hollywood sign in person. Make-A-Wish was able to send her and her family to California. She was able to see the Hollywood sign out of the window of the hotel room, she was able to go to the American Idol showing, as well as get special passes to meet the finalists. She said that everyone was super friendly, and they talked about everything from songs to hairstyles in what was about a half an hour visit. Some of the finalists even wore a bracelet in honor of the girl during their live performances. The family was invited to the American Idol after party, where they met more celebrities. The most important part about the whole thing was that they got to enjoy themselves and not think about the problems that they left back home.
The Hike itself...
We had never done 28.3 miles in one day before, so we didn't really know what to expect. We woke up at 3am and took shuttles from our Hotel in GA to the Foothills trail head in NC. (There is a very good description of the entire Foothills Trail on wikipedia -click to follow link). We were on the trail by about 5:30am, and started our 28.3 mile hike in small groups. It was really cool to look around and see 74 other headlights single file on the trail that early in the morning. We kept a decent pace for most of the first 22 miles. There were 3 aid stations along the way so that you could refill water and snacks. Each aid station was not only filled with food and drink, but with constant energy as you were cheered into the station, and wished good luck on your way out. One hiker mentioned that she felt like a professional athlete, because she was being asked by several people if she need tape, food, or water. The middle of the hike was the most scenic, Chattooga River portion. It was a perfect day, with blue skies, leaves starting to change into vibrant orange/red/yellows, and the sound of rushing water right next to the trail. It was beautiful to see the way the water had cut out steps and valleys into the rock bed of the river. We saw several hikers along the way, and made a mental note to return at some point to overnight camp along the river. There seemed to be a good deal of fishermen fly fishing in the chilly river. We kept on until we entered Oconee State Park in SC, which was our final destination. My feet were starting to feel the miles, but thankfully my silk sock liners and Keen hiking boots were keeping me blister free. We reached the Hidden Falls trail, and knew that we were close, and then came up to the "Miracle Mile". The Miracle Mile was a bunch of signs of wish kids that we had helped make possible. It was a very emotional and gratifying last couple hundred yards. We crossed the finish line where our picture was taken, and we were again greeted by cheers from past Trailblaze hikers and their families. It was a great day.
If you want to learn more about how you can be apart of future hikes. Click here. They offer Trailblaze hikes in the Spring and Fall each year in SC.
This was one of the most meaningful and unique experiences in our lives, and PBO was very proud to take place in this hike, and to have product on some of the hikers.
Pine Bark Outfitters had a great time at Get Out! Greenville at Conestee Park in Mauldin, SC. The event was hosted by Greenville REC. The turn out was the highest yet for the event, and there were a couple dozen tents set up with vendors, informational booth, and food trucks.
We hosted our "Nightwalker" Coloring Contest benefiting Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge, and it was a huge success. We had over 100 submissions just at this event alone! All the winners are posted on our Facebook page!
Team "Nightwalker" has started training for the SC Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge. It is a 28.3 mile hike in 1 day to help raise funds for terminally ill children in South Carolina. The hike takes place on October 22nd, 2016.
We've started training specifically for this hike over the past couple weeks. We've gone on hikes locally at Jones Gap, Table Rock, and Paris Mountain. The latest hike we have taken was at Jones Gap, and the hike totaled 9.8 miles from start to finish. We were enjoying a beautiful day and hike, until some wasps decided they were going to try and damper our spirits. After a couple stings, we powered on to finish the hike.
You can give to our Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge Team by clicking the link here!
We packed up the Pine Bark Outfitters gear, Marley man, and the canoe and headed south to Hickory Knob State Park, SC on Lake Strom Thurmond. We booked campsite 10 and it worked out really nice as there was a path down to the lake from the RV pad that we used as our campsite. We strapped up 2 of the PBO hammocks and tested out some of our other gear samples that we are working on.
The temperature was very hot --upper 90s for most of the trip. It was nice having the lake nearby to take a dip and get some relief from the heat and humidity. It was our first time at Lake Strom Thurmond and it is a beautiful lake. Leigh was awoken at 5:30 when the sun came up and she was able to get some amazing photos of the water with the breath-taking sunrise.
Around 7am we began our first venture of the day on the canoe. The water was like glass and there was very little traffic on the lake. I dropped a few lines hoping for a nice catch, no luck. We returned to camp and prepared breakfast before returning back to the water for a second outing.
This time we went out through the Hickory Knob channel and hung a left, and after paddling a little ways, we ran the canoe ashore so I could do some fishing. Although I didn't catch anything I did see a couple Longnose Gar swimming by. They were about 2 and a half feet in length, and are a really cool looking fish. I attached a link to the SC DNR page if you aren't familiar with that they look like. Marley constantly retrieving and swimming around me probably didn't help my fishing luck much.
We paddled back to shore and relaxed in the hammocks for awhile to take a break from the heat. After grabbing some lunch, we headed up to the Lakeview Loop Trail, which is a 7.2 mile hike with the trail-head located near the entrance of the park. The trail is pretty narrow and has some slopes, but is overall pretty leisurely. The trees aren't very crowded, so there are pockets of sunshine along the trail. We didn't encounter much wildlife but there sure were a lot of people enjoying the 4th of July weekend on their boats!
We highly recommend this park as there was a lot to enjoy and such beautiful local scenery.
Time to abruptly change topics. PBO Facebook page ran a 10% off hammocks sale this past holiday week with success. We also ran a giveaway to try and get 500 likes on our Facebook page. We came up a little short, but still had a ton of views, comments, and likes. We ended the day with 399 page likes! Thanks to everyone who liked the page and shared the link. We really appreciate all the positive feedback and words of encouragement!
Pine Bark Outfitters took a trip out West to visit some of the State and National parks in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona! One of our goals is to provide quality gear and apparel for our local community, but we also want to network and expand our reach to other parts of the US. We have roots in the Northeast, and currently live in South Carolina, so the desert seemed like the perfect place to get some more experience and meet some new people.
We flew into Las Vegas, because, of course.. why not stay in Las Vegas for a hiking trip? Our first stop was Hoover Dam and we were immediately blown away by the sheer size and magnitude of the effort it would have taken to create such a man-made wonder. We took the Power Tour which was an elevator tour to see some of the guts of the dam in the power room and lower tunnels. Our tour guide was great at cracking "dam" jokes to keeping things entertaining yet, was extremely knowledgeable.
From Hoover Dam, we went to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We have a friend that briefly lived in Las Vegas who told us that this would be a MUST STOP for our trip, and we were not at all disappointed! The park had a small entrance fee ($7), which granted you access to the 13 mile paved road that meanders through the beautiful landscape of colorful rock and desert brush. There are several stops along the way where you can pause to take pictures or enjoy a hike. Along with your entrance fee, you are given a detailed park map, with suggestions of what attractions are available along with detailed descriptions of each. Without knowing many of the trails, and only a half a day, we decided to hike Keystone Thrust, and La Madre Springs trails. Keystone Thrust is a 2.2 mile hike that takes approximately 1.5 hours, and is rated at a moderate level. There were many different kinds and colors of rock, and it was a slight incline hike throughout. Next up was La Madre Springs Trail which ends with a crucial mountain springs pool that provides water to all surrounding wildlife. We were hoping to get a peak at some big-horned sheep, or other animals, but mostly just saw large birds and chipmunks. The springs were pretty dried up, and more of a trickling stream of water, than an actual pool of water, but a beautiful majestic halt nonetheless. This trail was 3.3 miles, on mostly gravel and rock and was rated at a difficulty level of moderate.
The next day, we left Las Vegas to head to Zion National Park. Along the way we decided to stop in St. George, Utah at the Red Cliffs Desert Reservation Area. If venturing this way we recommend researching trail heads better than we did, as we did not encounter a park office and GPS took us to a dirt road amongst many "red cliffs" with very little to see or do. It worked out well though to just stop by to check it out, as the real goal was to get to Zion National Park with enough time to explore a little bit before dusk.
We arrived at Holiday Inn Express Springdale just outside of Zion National Park. We were extremely impressed with the views from the hotel, and we had a very comfortable stay. (Holiday Inn is not compensating us in any way for this review. We just had a great time there).
Now on to Zion trails.. and let me tell you... one of the coolest places ever! Pictures don't even do justice to the magnificent views, as they cannot properly catch the way the light hits mountains, and shows off the true colors of the rock and foliage. The Virgin River was surprising larger than we expected for the time of year, and the fact that it runs mostly through desert.
Our first hike, and honestly the best hike we have been on thus far was Angel's Landing. Granted, we are still relatively early in our hiking careers, and we consider ourselves beginner to mediate level hikers, but this trail had it all! There were incredible views, awe inspiring rock and color, and an extremely creative and unique series of switchbacks to reach the top of the trail before the infamous last .5 miles to the top of Angel's Landing. There are several videos and pictures available on-line if you want to see what the last .5 mile was like, but basically there is a fear of falling to your death (as 6 have since 2004), while a chain that is bolted to the mountain is your main lifeline to reach the final destination. For those who haven't been to Zion, Angel's Landing is truly an amazing place to hike.
We really wanted to hike the Narrows, but unfortunately it was closed due to flooding prior to our arrival so we did not plan on hiking it. Instead we booked our day with many other highly ranked trails and we just didn't have enough time on the trip to squeeze it in once we found out it had opened. Luckily, this will give us an excuse to make a trip back to Zion. We took several other trails, including Emerald Springs, and for the sake of the length of this blog post, I'll spare the details of those hikes. We met some really great people on the trails in Zion, and it was an amazing place to visit.
Our last stop was the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. It truly looks like the desert rocks are on fire from the deep reds and orange colors in the rocks. We stopped at several of the trail sites to see everything from petrified logs, to ancient petroglyphs inscribed into the rock surfaces. Again we were hopeful to see some desert wildlife, but didn't see anything more than desert chipmunks.
Pine Bark had a great trip out west, and we hope that you enjoyed reading this blog. Let us know if you have been to any of these state parks, what your favorite trails were, and what you recommend for our next trip out west!
Just heard about this great opportunity on the radio to be a part of the Make a Wish Foundation Trailblaze Challenge! It's a 28.3 mile hike, designed as an endurance event on the Foothills Trail. This event will raise funds to grant wishes to children in South Carolina that have life-threatening medical conditions. According to the SC Trail Blaze Challenge website, more than 160 wishes will be granted statewide this year.
According to the foothillstrail.org website, the Foothills Trail is a 77-mile National Recreation Trail, located in Upstate South Carolina, and Western North Carolina. It extends from Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park
Pine Bark Outfitters will be joining in on the challenge, and there will be more to come as the date approaches. The hike in Fall 2016 is schedule for the weekend of October 21st.
Pine Bark Outfitters is ramping up! Within the next couple weeks we will be launching product on our site, so please like our facebook page, follow us on other social media, or check back at the website. Our initial offerings will include: hammocks, durable hammock tree straps, hydrations pack, large capacity hiking packs, and some T-shirts. (As well as a couple other surprises).
I'm especially excited about the T-shirts. I won't give too much away before releasing the actual prints, but I'll just say that I'm working with two very talented artists to bring some great Pine Bark Outfitters graphic T's to the site. We are going with a lightweight and super soft tri-blend, as well as some cotton/poly blends.
This will just be the start of our apparel line. We plan on offering lightweight and water resistant nylon/spandex and polyester/spandex blends in the very near future. These shirts will be perfect for keeping you cool on your hikes while providing some breathability, and UV protection. We are also working on some packable polyester and nylon jackets for those cooler morning and late night hikes. These jackets are feather lite, and pack down into a small pack in the pocket. And of course, probably my personal favorite, hats! We have a couple designs ready for trucker style hats that will be hitting the website soon.
Switching up topics a little bit to talk about where Pine Bark Outfitters has been traveling the past couple weeks, and what we have to look forward too. We'd like to highlight some other companies and brands that we have come across in our travels, and I want to introduce those who aren't familiar with the brand to SPORTSPAL.
We originally started looking at Sportspal canoes* because Leigh's parents have had one for several years. They are extremely durable, lightweight, and they come in several different sizes. They have a foam interior padding, which makes it perfect for our pup to go on trips with us without scrambling to find his footing, or making that terrible sound when his nails scratch against metal! We were gifted the 13' square stern canoe in green, (thanks Mom and Dad for the great wedding present)! I like fishing, so we often put a 3hp trolling motor (thanks to Leigh's parents) on the back to use. It also helps, when the wind picks up and we are tired of fighting the current.
Thanks for checking out the blog. Leigh and I are headed out west next week, so check back for updates about the product launch, and for pictures of our trip!
*I'm in no way being compensated or influenced in writing a review of Sportspal Canoes.
(Picture taken at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, SC.)
Thanks for checking out the Pine Bark Outfitters (PBO) blog! I'm new to blogging, but I thought it would be fun to document some of our travels, and let our members and community know more about PBO.
My name is Jake, and my wife Leigh and I are transplants from Erie, Pennsylvania, currently residing in Simpsonville, SC. We have always had a love for the outdoors, and try to enjoy hiking adventures, and camping trips as much as possible. Leigh and I will be going back and forth on the blog posts to keep things interesting. Our little rescue pup, Mighty Marley Man, is a little over 2 years old, and comes with us on most of our day hikes. (I'm sure the blog will eventually be littered with pictures of him, but we'll just add one to start)!
Insert Pine Bark Outfitters. The idea to start the company came when we realized that we didn't have a way to make our passion more affordable, while still getting top notch gear. We wanted to do more rustic camping, and hike-in camping, but our gear was too heavy to trek in long distances. When we started researching gear, we were pretty surprised at how quickly the price tags could add up. There had to be a better way to get the best quality material, in the gear we wanted at a better price. We decided that we would be that solution for people who really enjoyed the outdoors, but didn't want the large price tags.
We are just starting out, but eventually we want to offer a gear and apparel line that will cater to people that love the outdoors as much as we do, and want to have all the equipment to make the hobby more efficient and fun. We are starting by providing; backpacks, hydration packs, tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, and clothing. Eventually we want to branch out into K-9 gear, camping kitchen items, and offer an increased selection of previously mentioned items to cater to all skills. (Along with some other surprises that we don't want to mention right now).
We are hoping to start traveling more. We have some trips that we are pretty excited about coming up this year and we can't wait to share all of our adventures with you! We'll be headed to Zion National Park in Utah later this Spring for the first time as well as that grand hole in the ground -- The Grand Canyon. We also plan on continuing to explore the beautiful state parks that SC has to offer. So far our favorite has to be Table Rock State Park, we have been to about a dozen now, and each has its own charm and appeal.
Thanks for taking a minute to see what we are up too, I'm looking forward to sharing future trips on the Pine Bark Outfitters Blog.