This week, prior to the annual MoRanch Men’s Conference Planning Council Meeting, our family spent three nights at River Run Cabins on the Guadalupe River in Ingram, Texas. This is a fall break trip for our family, and has provided a much-needed opportunity to just hang out together in a natural setting and “mostly” be offline. It turns out the LTE/4G connectivity at our cabins was ok, and wifi was also available… so this was not an entirely “unplugged” vacation. Still, it was a more more “nature-focused” vacation and gave us changes to simply hangout by the river, go canoeing and kayaking, and read a lot.
This week was the first time Rachel has ever gone canoeing! She and Sarah also went kayaking by themselves, which was both fun and exciting. The part of the Guadalupe River where we stayed has almost a mile of water to explore by boat… the eastern side has a damn stopping the water before a bridge, and the western end has an area of rocks and rapids.
Yesterday before we left the river we recorded a short (4 minute) audio podcast, reflecting on some of our favorite parts of the week had been. Some of the animals we saw and heard during the week include fish, ducks, donkeys, deer, and a water snake.
I recorded a few 6 second Vine videos during our time in Kerrville and Ingram, and also shot some “slow motion” videos with my iPhone6S on the river. I combined these videos on my phone using iMovie, and published it to YouTube with a copyright-friendly music track using YouTube Capture.
I used the “burst” feature on my iPhone to capture a series of photos when Alexander made his first rope swing jump into the river, and created a collage of it using Diptic.
One of the culinary highlights of the week was campfire foil dinners. It’s been several years since we’ve cooked these, and I forgot that these taste even better with fattier ground beef. They were still good, but next time I’ll buy either 73% or 80% lean meat.
We dined at several restaurants in Kerrville during the week as well. Mary’s Tacos was the biggest hit, we actually had breakfast there twice. It had over 20 ratings on Yelp with a perfect average of 5. That’s rare to find on Yelp, in my experience… and it was 100% accurate.
Overall this was a great experience and I am so pleased with how things turned out. If you are looking for a great family vacation spot in the Texas Hill Country, definitely check out River Run Cabins. Mid-October is a spectacular time to come visit too!
The past two weeks Shelly, Rachel and I have traveled together in Philadelphia and Washington DC. I created two different, short digital stories using the free iPad app “Adobe Voice” to reflect on some of our experiences around the DC area.
Educator Carl Hooker (@mrhooker) is a very clever guy. On his family’s vacation this summer, he used a unique hashtag every time he posted a photo to Instagram. By doing this, he is enabling others to aggregate all his photos of the trip, and it’s possible for him to do the same thing. This creates a dynamic, separate set of images like a photo album. Great idea!
This month I was greatly blessed by the opportunity to serve as an adult advisor on my son’s first backpacking “high adventure” trek to Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. We spent 11 days and 10 nights on the trail, and I probably lost somewhere between 5 to 10 pounds on the journey! In this post I’ll share a few photos and some of the ways I was a “storychaser” of our adventures using my iPhone in the Philmont backcountry. All 212 photos from our trip are included in this Flickr collection, and 7 of the 8 videos I recorded are chronologically connected in this 4.5 minute video I uploaded to YouTube.
The number one reason I wanted to use my iPhone4 as my camera at Philmont, instead of a battery operated digital camera, was its ability to take HDR (high dynamic range) photos with the Pro HDR app which Dean Shareski told me about several years ago. I absolutely LOVE this app and the high quality images it enables me to capture. Especially in the mountains where landscapes have dark shadows as well as bright sunshine and clouds, the HDR app is priceless. Here are a few of my favorite HDR photos I captured on our trek.
The other iPhoneography app I really like on my iPhone4 is Pano, which takes great panoramic images. It’s incidentally also available for Android and Windows 7 phones. Here are a few of my pano shots from Philmont this month.
Since we were on the trail for 11 days and did not have ANY access to electricity, I needed a way to use solar power to charge my iPhone. (I could have opted for a battery charger, but I didn’t want to carry all the extra battery weight.) I purchased a $35 G24i Solar Innovations Power Curve Solar Charger at Academy Sports before our trip, and was pleased with the performance overall. It came with a USB female plug which I could directly use with my iPhone USB dock charging cable.
The Power Curve has a rechargeable battery built into it, so I would charge it during the day and then recharge my iPhone at night. I generally was able to get a 30% to 40% charge of my iPhone4 each night with a full solar battery charge. Near the end of the trip during the day I got down to less than 10% battery at some points, but I was able to boost the iPhone battery enough that I was able to take all the pictures I wanted. I did turn the brightness down to almost zero (probably about 15% of max brightness) for the entire trip, along with turning on airplane mode to conserve battery. According to the instructions, the solar charger needed 6 to 8 hours in direct sunlight to become fully charged. I found this was not possible when the charger was just hanging on the back of my backpack on the trail. I needed to set the charger in direct sunlight at camp for many hours each day, when possible, to obtain the maximum charge available.
I was able to make a couple calls at different points of our trip, mainly on top of mountains and high ridges where cell phone service was available. Since the Oklahoma City Thunder was in the NBA finals during our trek, it was ‘critical’ (in the minds of several of our boys) to get score updates. Overall, however, I was ‘unplugged’ from the grid for almost two weeks and really enjoyed it.
Since I had my iPhone, instead of keeping a written journal during our trek I decided to make an audio journal using the free app AudioBoo. (In addition to iOS, AudioBoo is also available for Android and Nokia phones.) I recorded a short audio journal entry each night before bed, and selected a photo from the day to accompany it. After getting back home to Oklahoma City, I uploaded all of those AudioBoo recordings to the web. This worked great and is an audio journal option I highly recommend to others taking trips you’d like to document.
I came very close before the trek to buying a Spot Connect satellite GPS device which would allow me to tweet from the backcountry with our updated GPS coordinates. Our Philmont ranger told us these are discouraged in the backcountry, because of the possibility of accidentally hitting the “panic / come rescue me” button and inadvertently calling in a rescue helicopter. It’s possible in the next couple years my son and I may go on another high adventure trek canoeing in the Minnesota / Canadian boundary waters. If so, I might again explore that option. As it turned out, it was great to be largely disconnected from technology and information during our trek, and the option to “tweet from the backcountry” might have been more of a distraction in our journey than it would have been worth.
If you ever have an opportunity to go on a backpacking trek to Philmont, I highly recommend that you go. I went on a trek with my scout troop from Manhattan, Kansas, (Troop 74) back in 1986, and was a Philmont “zoomie” ranger in the summers of 1990 and 1992. Philmont is a truly magical place and it casts a spell on you that will last a lifetime. It was a tremendous blessing to be able to share these experiences with my son this summer!
We surprised our kids in April 2008 with a train trip to Fort Worth from Oklahoma City. This is the best resolution version of this movie that I have at this point. What FUN this was!
I found this video tonight as I was looking at data on an old hard drive. Unfortunately the new version of iMovie isn’t compatible with the older version I created this with. If I find a copy at some point I may encode this at a higher resolution. At least we have this version!
I created this list for my wife and daughter, who are driving from Lubbock, Texas, to Oklahoma City today and forgot to load up an iPhone or iPod with audiobooks or podcasts! This list is (hopefully) a little easier to link to from an iPhone, compared to the original webpage on LibrVox.