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Some Unusual Outdoor Adventures


Perhaps you are hoping for some outdoor adventures this summer, but you want to try doing something new. What are your options? Why not leave the mountain bike behind, and skip the expensive white water tour? Try one of these low budget alternatives.

Searching for Lost Mines

Phantom Canyon just sounds like a great place to explore, and it's only fifteen minutes from where I live. My friend and I have been there hiking six times this spring, and five of those times we have found at least one abandoned mine. They are mostly classic hole-in-the-wall mines that end forty feet into the mountainside. There was on that was different though. We found it by following a trail of beautiful quartz boulders uphill for twenty minutes, to where the rocks had been blown apart decades ago. In front of us was a wall of pure quartz, twenty feet wide and fifteen high. We have never seen anything like it. Beautiful colored quartz rocks were scattered everywhere.

Many of these are old claims on public lands, and so accessible. I like to just poke around, but in recent years treasure hunters have been using metal detectors to work over the tailings piles of old mines, finding the occasional gold nuggets inside the rocks. If you want to make this outdoor adventure both more profitable and more adventurous, find the mines that are five miles or more from any road. The San Juan mountains of southwestern Colorado is a good place to start.

To locate the mines, we went online and searched "mines." There was a list of 160 in Fremont County, Colorado. What is interesting, though, is that only one of the five we recently found was on the list we had. It seems that our strategy of just exploring and keeping our eyes open works pretty well. Old mines are noted on many topographical maps too.

Abandoned Mine

Though not a good idea (old mines can be very dangerous) we just had to take a look in this one.

Finding Secret Swimming Holes

Check with locals when you are in a new area and you might get directions to hidden swimming holes and waterfalls. This is how we found a beautiful one a mile down a small creek. Unfortunately we also found fifteen other people there, jumping from the cliffs into a small water hole.

To find less populated ones, you need to get a topographical map and start looking. Try to find narrow canyons with year-round streams in them. Narrow and steep means too much trouble for most, so you are more likely to have the place to yourself. Then get out there and start exploring. Last week I was swimming in a nice pool below a nine-foot waterfall. In the six times I've been in that canyon, I've never seen another person.

Secret Swimming Hole

We've never seen anyone else swimming here.

River Adventures

Ever thought about building a raft and floating down a river like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer? It sounds like a good idea to me. In fact, we used to do it on the Manistee River in Michigan. It works best in wide rivers that have long stretches without rapids, and ones that aren't too shallow.

Our "Huck Finn" adventures usually started with parking the car downstream from a long wild stretch and walking up the river for a hour. We took shortcuts that cut past the big loops and bends. In a day pack we carried snacks and water, a saw and hatchet, and scraps of rope and twine. We built a raft of dead trees and began the float back to the car by early afternoon. The float is when the real fun started. A tip: have long poles. They make it easier to control the 1,500-pound pile of logs and humans you'll be guiding under trees and around rocks.

Fishing By Hand

The smelt run up many streams in the early spring in Northern Michigan and Wisconsin. These fish are a favorite because they taste great, are easily cleaned and do not need to be scaled. I have seen the back of a pickup truck filled with the smelt from one small creek during one night. You catch smelt by simply dipping a net in and scooping them out.

Of course, it's nice to get outdoors at night (when the smelt run), and to catch fish by the net-full, but for a bit more fun, try catching them by hand. Lay on the creek bank, holding the flashlight in one hand and have the other hand in the water. When a smelt swims by, pin it to the bottom and grab it quickly. I've caught 40 in a hour using this technique, and they made a decent meal for several of us. While this isn't the most exciting of these outdoor adventures, it is satisfying to catch dinner with your own hands.

Treasure Hunting Adventure

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The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Unusual Outdoor Adventures