Monday, December 6, 2010

Photo Uploader Getting a Fix

Hold off on uploading photos for bit. We are working on some fixes and upgrades to the website. Once we're done with that, we should have the photo "share" uploader fixed and an upgraded slide show application operational. Hope this saves you some hassle and our apologies if the photo uploader has caused you any frustration. Thank you for your patience with our tinkering!

We are very excited to get this done because once it is finished we get to start working on making some of the improvements many Explorers suggested through the recent survey. A big "thank you" to all who provided such great feedback. More to come on that later.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conferences, Hair, and Teaching

There was no doubt in my mind they’d be sitting by me. The moment they entered the plane I knew it was destiny. Even from the distant vantage point of my seat in unlucky row thirteen it was obvious I would be seated by yet another set of eccentric travelers.

Aisle seating on airline flights always seems to yield unusual travel companions. Some of you may remember my encounter with the vomit puppet and a quarrelsome married couple on a flight out of Ohio. Others may also be familiar with my encounter with Nestor the Argentine Ninja (a story for another blog) en route to Buenos Aires.

Today I am pleased to introduce yet another entertaining inflight experience as I traveled home after my recent trip to Columbia University in New York. It was likely the pink hair that caught the attention of passengers as my two travel companions walked down the aisle and took their seats next to me complete with matching pink wardrobes. I did my best to hold in laughter as they raised their arms high in the air and screamed roller coaster-style as our plane took off.

Setting all things pink aside for a moment, I return to my recent trip to Columbia University to represent Uncharted at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s national journalism conference.

Every six months, students and advisers from various publications gather on campus to learn from each other and the many qualified instructors who come from around the country to serve at the conference. These instructors come from a variety of disciplines, teaching anything from reporting to photography, to design and leadership. And they all do it for free, donating their time, money, and resources to make the event a success.

This time, Uncharted participated by teaching on the Power of the Huddle, a leadership and organizational session designed to help students and advisers faced with low funding to work effectively as teams and save time, money and resources.

Uncharted is made up of many professionals and students from a variety of career paths and employers who have benefited personally from similar organizations such as CSPA. We are committed to any opportunity to help students as they prepare for their careers, just as others have done for us. It’s a cause worthy of attention and we are honored to participate.

So speaking of causes, you may have noticed a lot of pink around lately, usually in the form of ribbons displayed on clothing, a tactful but sobering reminder that there are well over 200,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

And, of course, hair salons have joined the fight as well, sending out armies of pink-haired patrons to support the fight. So while my two roller coaster-riding pink-haired aviation marvels provided an unexpected diversion near the end of a long trip, it should be noted that their efforts reached beyond entertainment and reminded this weary traveler that it’s important now and again to take up a good cause.

Alan Murray is Executive Director of Uncharted
He likes snowshoes and seahorses, traveling,

taking photos and getting away from home.

You can contact him at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thanks, Aunt Betty

When I was a kid, my Aunt Betty Saltzgiver of Salt Lake City, who knew people who knew people who worked for Morton-Thiokol, the Utah contractor that built the solid rocket boosters and main fuel tank for the United States' space shuttles, had them send me a bunch of photos of the shuttle, the rockets, and just about everything to do with the shuttle, including a little patch I had Mom sew onto my jacket.

I literally wore those photos out looking at them, poring over every detail, wondering what it would be like to be one of those astronauts flying up into space in that magnificent black-and-white bird.

One thing led to another, as life often does. I went on to a career in small-town journalism, followed by another career as a technical writer at a nuclear waste dump. But space always remained that final frontier.

Now Joseph Burkhead, Uncharted's resident pilot, has taken me on a voyage to a shuttle launch -- one of the few remaining launches before what's left of the fleet is retired in 2012. Thanks, Joe. Read his story here.

And thanks, Aunt Betty. I've still got those photos somewhere.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

That Mad Accursed River

I'd love to go do this, as John Milligan says, before I don't.

There are problems with that: I tend to fall out of boats. A lot. My wife Michelle says she'll go with me, but only in a complete body wetsuit with a plug-in heater.

I do have one thing going for me: I can pass the Ed Norton Test necessary to get a job alongside him in the sewers: I can float. So maybe, just maybe -- when the kids are older, our oldest in is Scouts and the Scouts want to go do this -- I'll get to go.

Until then, I'll live vicariously through Alan Murray's wonderful story and photographs on the adventure he, John, Mike and others had rafting down the Snake River in Wyoming. You can read the story and see his photos here. Enjoy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Uncharted, meet Android

From what I hear, smartphones are all the rage. They’re the latest thing. They’re – I think the word is – keen.

I’ll tie an onion to my belt and take your word for it. And John Milligan’s. He successfully used his Android smartphone to take a photo and upload it to his personal profile at

Big deal, you say. Folks have been doing similar things since the time we called nickels bees and could say nonsensical things like “Gimme five bees for a quarter.”

But this is significant.

We want our Explorers to use our website through a mobile world. Why be tethered to a desk to make an update to your profile, upload a photo, or even a story, if you’re good at touchscreen or itty-bitty keyboard typing? We expect our Explorers are mobile now, and will only get more mobile as the future unfolds.

John’s shown us it can be done. Huzzah for him, I say. He makes me want to replace our circa 2001 T-Mobile cameraless cell phone with that nifty little bowling game on it for something newer. Tell me, do they make a smartphone with dials now? I like to make sparks when I place a call . . .

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Growing up in Coal Country

I grew up in the Coal Region. In my hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, there are abandoned coal shafts under the high school football field. There are pieces of anthracite coal scattered throughout the mountains where our cross-country team used to train. There are sink holes left over from mining throughout those hills and mountains where we also camped and hiked as Scouts. Coal is all over the place. And it was my job each day to shovel coal into buckets to be dumped into the furnace heating our home. You didn't have to go far to find lumps of anthracite to put in Christmas stockings for a holiday practical joke.

There's also the Necho Allen Hotel, now an apartment building, with mosaic blue and white depictions of mining life on its outer walls. Necho is the legendary discoverer of anthracite for the county. And there's the Henry Clay monument, named after the Kentucky statesman beloved for his friendship to the coal industry, towering high above the city on an ivory white pedestal, his hand stretched out, welcoming visitors to this town full of history all tied to anthracite coal.

And there's the Pottsville Maroons, a former NFL football team put together with coal miners and college stars by its eccentric owner. The team went on to win the NFL championship back in 1925. And while the title was later stripped, the Maroons put the then fledgling NFL on the map. There's even a book by ESPN's David Fleming chronicling the rise and fall of this team composed of breaker boys.

Mining is also in my family heritage and hits close to home. My grandfather was a coal miner and his brother was killed working in the mines.
We even went to great lengths to feature anthracite in our high school yearbook. I remember our staff acquiring a huge section of anthracite which we had professionally scanned to give some historical texture to our cover. That cover went on to garner national recognition.

So anthracite coal was something I simply took for granted. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I began to appreciate this unique form of mineral coal when my photography teacher took our class on a field trip to Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine in nearby Ashland.

I remember the thrill of my first coal car ride into the mine. I remember wondering how I was going to take photos in such dreary light. And I remember the spark of appreciation that was kindled for men and boys like my grandfather and his brother who labored beneath this unique world of coal.

Memories like those led me back to Pioneer Tunnel for Uncharted's latest feature, Pennsylvania Diamonds. And while I'm a little more experienced in photographing dim conditions and cameras no longer use film, the mine has remained unaltered by time, providing an authentic glimpse into our past and the lives of those who pioneered its dark caverns.

So, if you are up for an adventure that will take you beneath the surface and teach you a little bit of history, check out Ashland, Pennsylvania and it's unique world of coal.
For more helpful information on places and events in Schuylkill County, go to, a locally owned social media site that has helpful information about news, events and places in the area.

Alan Murray is Executive Director of Uncharted.
He likes sea horses and snowshoes and
and frequently has the urge to leave the country.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dancing, Dancing, Dancing.

It's almost time again this year for the folks at the Idaho International Folk Dance and Music Festival to roll into Rexburg, Idaho, completing one of the many invasions this small university town witnesses each year (the others involve influxes of students at random times during the year in which they pillage the local Wal-Mart; and hordes of Sunbirds fleeing the Arizona heat and coming here in search of, among other things, rhubarb).

Uncharted's got the poop on this year's festival, at least as much poop as can be delivered. Go here to read all about it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Milligan-Wiser Method

John and Mike, Intrepid Explorers

There is something to be said for planning.

Pick a destination. Go to Google Maps. Plan a route, taking in the scenes along the way. But keep that final destination in mind. In the eye. And on schedule.

There are, of course, other schools of thought. Take John Milligan and Mike Wiser’s approach to climbing a central Idaho mountain peak, which started with Google Maps but ended up with he and a friend using their climbing gear to build a raft so they could paddle around on an icy Idaho alpine lake with the unclimbed mountain pouting in the distance.

Both methods make for fun vacations. Both make for spontaneous vacations. But the latter method, hereafter known at Uncharted as the Milligan-Wiser Method, is the one that holds the most appeal to me as a guy.

So go read about John and Mike and their adventures in Idaho’s central mountains. Then go and don’t plan a vacation just like it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Goonies Never Say Die

Most of the catchphrases I use come from two movies.

The first is Ghostbusters. The second, well, let’s see if you recognize them:

Something goes terribly wrong and I’ve discovered the evidence. I say: “It is Chester Copperpot.”

One of my kids has wandered off, but I can see a trail that might lead me to them: “Follow them Size Fives.”

A child o’ mine has to go to the bathroom in a place that’s less than sanitary: “This isn’t the kinda place you wanna go to the bathroom. Because there might be daddy longlegs . . . and DEAD THINGS, Mikey! KILLER dead things!”

Someone’s having trouble getting something, anything, to open: “Let go of the handle, Francis!”

Mom wants the kids to do something they’re reluctant to do: “Trust your Mother, boys! Throw ‘er into four-wheel drive!”

Any helpless, innocent person is instantly named Missus Rosalita.

Every time I encounter a dead bird in the yard or a dead mouse in a trap: “IT’S A STIFF!”

You Goonies understood. Immediately. Even before I mentioned Chester Copperpot. Because the best catchphrase is in the blog post title – which I use whenever I’m asked to do something difficult that I don’t want to do.

Last year, I got to go to Goonie Astoria (and nearby Cannon Beach) before the hysteria of the 25th anniversary of the film’s release hit the town this year and swelled its population far beyond its ordinary 10,000. I found Mikey’s house and saw where Chunk performed the Truffle Shuffle.

I saw Chunk’s bowling alley. I walked on the pier where Steph went bobbing for crabs. I saw Mikey’s Dad’s museum, the County Jail, and other Goonie landmarks as I took my family on our own Goonie adventure through northwest Oregon.

The most heartbreaking thing I learned as I read about the film’s 25th anniversary: This from the Washington Post:
According to Sean Astin, who played Goonies leader "Mikey" Walsh, he was allowed to keep the treasure map used in the film. Several years later his mother discovered it, thought it was just a crinkled piece of paper, and threw it in the trash.
It hurts just thinking about that.

But I’ll tell you what doesn’t hurt: My wife’s a Goonie, though of the Andy variety (real Goonies will know what I mean). I’m so glad she is. My kids are Goonies, because, hey, what kid wouldn’t want to be?

I can easily see my kids doing this same thing. Riding off, getting into trouble, manufacturing and using fake puke, then expecting a Domino’s pizza after it’s all over. Especially my five-year-old. He’s dangerous.

I have my sister Chris to thank for turning me into a Goonie. She saw the film in the theater and insisted the rest of the family had to see it. We didn’t believe her. Later, when it was out on video, she rented it and made us watch it. Now, almost every time we see each other, well, you know:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Watch Out -- He Knows Karate

In the Sandra Bullock film "While You Were Sleeping" -- hey, given that this film features Michael Rispoli as the hilariously innocent yet lecherous Joe Fusco, Junior, this counts as a guy movie -- Bullock's character Lucy Moderatz wants nothing more than to spend her honeymoon in Italy. She does eventually get to go, but not with the man she intended.

Explorer Lisa Dickson harks back to that wonderful 1995 film as she takes us on an Uncharted tour of Rome, Florence, and other points in Italy, showing off the romantic and Romantic splendors of these ancient cities. Makes me want to go there in a terrible way. Also, I want to visit Maude Larrabee's house in Tuscany. She does have one there, you know.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can You Improve Old Faithful?

If you’ve got a snazzy idea to improve one of the United States’ premier tourist attractions, now’s the time to do it.

Planners at Yellowstone National Park want your help to improve the developed area around Old Faithful, the park’s most famous geyser. The developed area encompasses everything from the Old Faithful Inn to the boardwalks through the geyser complex to the acres and acres of parking lots that spread south of the geyser itself.

The park is also looking for ways to preserve the geyser area for future generations, protect wildlife habitat and more quickly respond to changing visitor and resource needs.

The comment period is open now, and closes at midnight, June 7, 2010. Comments will be accepted electronically through the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps,gov, by hand-delivery at the park’s headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, or by mail at the following address:

Comprehensive Planning & Design
Old Faithful Area Comprehensive Plan
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

You can deliver your electronic comment using the link here. The perk service isn’t accepting comments by phone or via direct e-mail.

The park service will also host three open houses on the plan starting in just a few days:

May 17, Old Faithful Warming Hut, 6-8 pm
May 18, Yellowstone Association Headquarters, Gardiner, MT
May 19, Visitor Contact Station, West Yellowstone, MT

All open houses will take place from 6-8 pm.

The trick will be to balance what sound like good ideas with what makes for a wonderful Old Faithful experience. Some kind of stadium seating, for one, might be handy, as crowds around the geyser can be thick and seats are scarce – but then who wants to swim through a stadium to see a geyser, or have stadium seating block long-distance views? Maybe just a few levels?

And picnic areas. Old Faithful needs more of them. They’re always at a premium, so finding a spot that’s not already occupied by someone else is difficult.

I agree that parking at the geyser is ugly, not only from an acres of asphalt perspective, but simply for trying to navigate through the parking lot to get to the geyser. Better directional signs and marked pedestrian paths would be helpful, especially if those paths crossed as few roads as possible.

I’m sure you’ve got better ideas. Send them on.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cannon Beach Bliss-Out

To think I used to be a homebody.

As a kid, we never went on vacations. Oh, the occasional trip to Salt Lake City for the day, but rarely anything beyond that. We did do the camping thing in Yellowstone National Park. We did fly to San Francisco. But that was it.

Then I got married to a globetrotter. Within a year, she dragged me to Washington, D.C. Within five years we'd visited England and France, not to forget to mention a cross-country road trip in the USA and many, many other smaller, yet still grandiose, vacations, including a cruise to Alaska.

Read here about our latest adventure: A trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon, where we stayed for days under the cloudy -- but never rainy -- Oregon sky and enjoyed playing on the beach with our kids.

Cannon Beach is a wonderful place, and not only because its famous Haystack Rock was featured in The Goonies, one of my favorite films. We visited in the off-season, which I highly recommend. The beaches weren't crowded. The hotels were less expensive. There were fewer people about, so we were able to enjoy the solitude and beauty without having anybody else's laundry flapping in our faces. Go during the off-season, before mid-June and after August ends. That's when Cannon Beach is a wonderful place.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Airport security pointers for US travel

Ahhh, the life of an explorer. Discovering new places is a great way to live, but it comes at some cost, and I'm not talking about just the airline ticket price. Making your way through security at the airports can be a downright messy process, and on more than one occasion has contributed to me missing a flight. In my many travels, I've noticed that many complications in the security line could be reduced if travelers knew a little more about what to expect at the checkpoint. Those of us who come prepared probably won't be "that guy" who halts all 200 people behind us in cue because security has to stop us to tell us to take out our liquids. If we know how to avoid such hiccups at the checkpoint, we breeze through, on to the anxiously awaited destination less stressed, while also helping those behind us enjoy their own travel adventure just a little more. In light of that, be sure to check out the TSA Travel Assistant web page before your next trip in the US. It has some great pointers and might save you some hassle. Happy travels!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Doing a Little of A Lot in Moab

And on the eighth day he created Moab. In fact he’s still tweaking it!

Named after the “Plains of Moab,” which are spoken of in the Bible and are found along the Dead Sea beside the Jordan River, Moab, Utah is located on an ancient sunken salt pad adjacent to solidified sand dunes beneath the towering Volcanic LaSalle Mountains entertained by the nearby Colorado River.

Moab is a surreal, geologic oddity that yields some of the most scenic and challenging whitewater rafting the West has to offer, the world’s most legendary slick rock that is a Mecca for bikers and jeepers, and is completed with high alpine lakes accompanied by peaks that are upwards of 12,600 feet, not to forget national parks and abandoned movie sets.

This strange land has an almost spiritual aura that seems to have an affinity to artisans, miners, soul-searchers, and adrenaline junkies. This makes for a dynamic, shifting, almost transient population. Few stay for good in Moab; most just move on through. In fact, it seems most just squeeze what they can out of it, then go. Some enjoy Moab in a hurried race, never to return.

But Moab is one of those places that you should return to. I have been returning since I first went mountain biking there as a boy scout. I returned again last Spring for biking, and again in the Fall to go rafting with my sister Brenda, who is one of the lucky few who “eddied out” in Moab, racking up 15 years guiding the river. I have done a little of a lot of things in Moab, but the thing that I keep going back for is the mountain biking. And if you’re planning on going there for biking, the latest story at is one you should read.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Mighty Mean Fowt Fight

I am, it has to be said, a war buff. World War II, if you want to get specific, though I'll read just about anything about any war, from World War I to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Civil War, too, is of interest, certainly because of brave men like Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee, insitgators like Harriet Beecher Stowe, characters like John Brown, and the shame of Jim Crow. So to walk these battlefields -- Gettysburg, Arlington, and others -- is solemn. Introspective. And fills one with thankfulness that all is quiet at these sites today.

That's what Uncharted staffer John Milligan discovered in Missouri, exploring the battlefield at Bloody Hill, Wilson's Creek, Missouri. Men died there, where groomed grass and placards stand. Men fought there, where the visitors center stands and where the flag flaps. It's holy ground. It's part of our uncharted legacy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Waiting in lines and name-calling

I’m good at waiting in lines. I have a lot of experience. During language training, I studied Spanish vocabulary while in line for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s a lot of vocabulary.

I stood in line at a hospital in Argentina once. I spent most of my time just being hungry.

And then there’s Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, with lines wrapping around entire buildings, spiraling upwards to the entrances of a variety of theme park rides.
Thirty minutes into our wait, we stood in one such line only halfway to our destination on a tower above a waiting crowd.

In boredom, one member of our group leaned over the railing and shouted to someone he seemed to know in the crowd below whose name was Bill.
In unison, everyone named Bill looked up curiously to see who it was that knew them so well so far ahead of them in line. Soon, we were calling out more names such as Bob, Mary, Jane, and Jim. Each time, they looked up when their name was called. Time passed much more swiftly after that.

Dale Carnegie once said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” And while there are no lines, entry fees, or hecklers shouting out random names on Uncharted, you will likely find some pretty interesting nomenclature among the ranks of our growing band of explorers, now scattered around the world, each sharing their own set of adventures.

Take Yellowpaws for example. She’s from Marysville, Washington and has lived in New Jersey, Michigan, and Nebraska. Before she dies, she wants to go to Africa, Egypt, and dive with Great White sharks. You can see one of her most recent adventures, dogsledding in British Columbia, now featured on our home page. Yellowpaws writes of her adventure, “Our time for the sled ride finally came and I have to say - 45 minutes felt like 10 minutes. The beautiful day and surrounding scenery held your eye, while the rush of the wind and pull of the dogs kept your heart beating hard!”

Then there’s Arati, from Kathmandu, Nepal. She likes travel, books and photography. Arati shares a variety of scenic photos from her homeland. You can learn more about Arati on her own explorer page.

Of course, members of our Uncharted Staff, sometimes those who aren’t necessarily professional photographers and writers, are working hard to share with you their own adventures as well. They do this all on their spare time. This time is no exception as our communications/marketing director shares his family tradition of making maple syrup in Eastern Michigan.

So, you don’t have to be a professional to share and you don’t have to stop at just reading stories or viewing photos. If you’re a member of Uncharted, (it's free) you can post comments, link up with explorers and staff and message them through Uncharted email. And it’s just possible that one of your adventures will catch our eye and end up featured on the home page. That’s what Uncharted is all about. We’re a community of friends looking to bring the world to you and you to the world one journey at a time.

Alan Murray is Executive Director of Uncharted.
He likes sea horses
and snowshoes and frequently
the urge to leave the country. To contact Alan,
feel free to email
him at

Friday, March 19, 2010

Nicholas Murray Butler, Bill Murray, and Alan Murray -- Thoughts on Columbia

Eating lunch in the Low Memorial Library at New York's Columbia University brings back fond memories. For instance, I remember when a spider bit an unsuspecting Peter Parker during a campus tour, transforming him into a wall-crawling superhero. Parker, now Spider-Man, would later become a student at Columbia University.

And then there's Weaver Hall, not far from the library, where three eccentric scientists were fired by the dean. The words echo, "You are a poor scientist, Dr. Venkman! And you have no place in this department, or this university."
Shortly after, back at Low Memorial Library, future Ghostbusters sat, just outside, mourning the death of the Department of Parapsychology.

Of course, I didn't see any spiders, there is no Weaver Hall (though I looked) and Columbia University really doesn't have a Department of Parapsychology, but it's fun to imagine over lunch.

And there's more to the Low Memorial Library than movie trivia. It's also the place where the Pulitzer Prizes are awarded each year. It's a place that inspires, where greatness has left its footprints––like Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, former President of Columbia University. Butler once said, "Those people who think only of themselves are hopelessly uneducated. They are not educated no matter how instructed they may be." I believe that and I think President Butler would be proud at how much Columbia University does think of others, no doubt, inspired in part by the legacy he left behind.

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association's 86th annual Spring convention is a prime example of thinking of others. This week, over 300 guest speakers, professionals and publication advisors from around the country, converged on campus, volunteering their expertise for over 400 unique sessions over three days, anything from reporting and photography, to design and leadership, and much, much more.

And it's not just workshops. This army of experts were on hand throughout the convention to offer critiques on newspapers, yearbooks, photography, and websites. They come at great expense of both time and money. Their passion for education is contagious. Truly, they fit President Butler's definition of true education, for they think of others time and time again.

For me, it is an honor to participate, a chance for Uncharted to reach out and think of others and I look forward to each invitation. I always walk on campus thinking, "Mr. Murray, you have no place in this convention, or in this university." Each time I teach I come back better than I arrived. I always learn from the students and advisors attending my session.

This time was no exception as I shared and discussed leadership principles and models that have been invaluable in the founding of Uncharted and its growing success. The students attending my session are leaders on their campus publications. They were eager to learn, their questions were informative, their comments genuine, and their enthusiasm sincere. They could relate with the challenges of leadership. And they gave this instructor a lot to think about on the flight home.

Alan Murray is Executive Director of Uncharted.
He likes sea horses and snowshoes and

frequently has an impulsive urge to leave the country
To contact Alan you can send to:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Explorer clothing gear

If you're as fired up about Uncharted as I am, you've probably been wishing you had more clothing options for flaunting your Uncharted membership. Wish granted!

I just opened up a new Uncharted merchandise store online that allows us to buy clothing gear proudly displaying Uncharted's name and even the URL. The shirts are a great option for wear as we explore the uncharted, or even just wearing among friends and family in our daily routines. The prices are a bit higher than our former online store charged, but the quality is much higher. We had several complaints from our staff (self included) about the quality of the former store's merchandise, so this new store is an interim fix.

So come check it out and by all means order something that you like to show your commitment to exploring the uncharted!

Uncharted merchandise store-->

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March. Time to Start Vacation Planning

February is a long month for me. March brings hope. The melting snow. The first calls of the telephone bird, twittering away in the balmy 40-degree heat wave. I can start to see hints of pavement in the driveway.

And we start thinking about vacation.

I've still got last year's vacation -- to Oregon -- on my mind. And that brings us to this week's update over at Uncharted: While wandering the beach at Seaside, I found a serene man walking the beach, digging clams. So amid the flurry of ice cream cone-toting tourists and ice cream cone-stealing seagulls, he showed me the finer points of diggind razor clams. They're ugly little monsters, but cooked up in chowder, they're mighty tasty.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finding Buddha

A karesensui garden. Maybe not the place to take three, shall we say, busy, kids. But these busy kids ate up the scenery at Portalnd, Oregon's Japanese Gardens to the point that when we got to the zen garden, they actually sat on the benches and contemplated the cleanliness, the simplicity of this little sea of pebbles swirling in ripples around the rough rocks. And they got even more excited when their Dad pointed out that the squatty boulders were actually the tigers observing the towering Buddha. Or something like that. I was so blissed out by the time we got there, you could have relaxed me with a feather.

Read more about it here as Michelle takes you on a tour of the gardens. And definitely plan on a visit to the gardens the next time you're in Portland.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pain? Try Aspirin . . .

Disappointing news from the land of King of the Hammers -- Uncharted Explorer Cody Fuquay was unable to participate in the race, due to technical difficulties with his vehicle. Having had the battery die in my 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass way out in Squirrel, Idaho (population 1/2) I feel Cody's pain. But not quite, because I didn't put as much blood, tears, toil, and sweat into preparing for that trip to Squirrel (I don't even remember why I went there) than Cody put into his first attempt at participating in what's described as the toughest rock crawling and desert race in the United States.

If it's any consolation, fewer than 25 percent of the hundreds of participants who entered and qualified for the race finished it -- the course is that rugged and that hard on drivers, mechanics and equipment. Even in the qualifier he was to race in, only five of twenty competitors finished, so we know it's a brutal race.

But Explorers like Cody are undaunted. When we're living our life of adventure and seeking out the uncharted, sometimes we come face to face with challenges and obstacles. But what we decide to do during those challenges defines our adventures.

In other words, he'll be back to race again.

We at Uncharted wish Cody better luck next year at King of the Hammers, and good luck as always as he participates in other desert race and rock crawling events.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ready for the Races

It's an event that screams for nicknames.

Lydia “Whistlin' Lyd” Hutchinson you'll meet in a moment. Right now, let's talk about Tud. “Tud” is the nickname. “Tud” Kent. He regularly ran the mail from Ashton, Idaho, to the Railroad Ranch in Island Park, Idaho, a journey of about thirty miles. In 1917, he and four others founded the American Dog Derby. He won the first race that year, a 55-mile slog through deep snow and a raging blizzard from Ashton to West Yellowstone, Montana. In the subsequent ten years, he won five more times, each time in a blizzard. They had better blizzards back then.

This year, those who participate in the 100-mile race will do so in Tud's honor – the race now bears his name.

But there's room for the new at the American Dog Derby, too. The 60-mile race, for instance, is named this year for Ray Gordon, of Rock Springs, Wyo. Since 1995, he's won five races at the American Dog Derby, a record no modern racer has bested. He also boasts of running the Iditarod. Twice. Best I've done is hook our wiener dog up to the kids' sled for a race down our suburban street.

So go to Ashton this year to see the real thing. Races this year kick off Feb. 18 at about 7:30 am (I'm fudging a bit on the time here, get there early to get a good view and so you don't miss the race). Races go on through Saturday the 20th, with plenty of events in town to keep you entertained.

For more information on this year's events, go to here.

For Uncharted's story on the event last year, go here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

King of the Hammers

Sometimes, when I'm driving my Toyota pickup (no brake problems yet) or my Honda Pilot, I imagine what it would be like to tear off the highway and go bouncing through the fields next to the highway. Then I remember the rainy, bleak morning when I sat in said Toyota with a thrown rod on the side of the road, lamenting how difficult it is to find competent assistance and parts at 3:30 in the morning, and decide, you know what, I'm going to stay on the road.

Cody Fuquay doesn't do that. Oh, he doesn't necessarily go tearing off through the wheat or canola, either, but he does take his rig -- in this case, a Ruesch Panther -- off-road to crawl up rocks, bounce up and down gullies and otherwise find ways to use and abuse his vehicle without worrying about breakdowns, because when he does break down -- I did indeed say when -- he's got a mechanic and fabricator with him: himself.

Cody, an Uncharted Explorer, will participate in California's Griffin King of the Hammers off-road endurance race next week. We hope he survives, emerges victorious and then returns to tell us about everything that happened to him. Good luck, Cody!

Here's How to Stop Spamming Your Uncharted Friends

First of all, the obligatory discussion on Spam.

 Next, a brief discussion on how to avoid spam. At least at Uncharted. And at least from Uncharted.

You know, we were pretty excited when we got the ability to automatically e-mail our friends when a new story or photoset posted. But then we realized: We're going to e-mail our friends when a new story or photoset is posted. Complete with typos, embedded coding, bits of breakfast and anything else we'd like to clean up but without spamming our friends into oblivion.

But now, eureka, a solution. Here's how to fix typos, edit captions and stories on Uncharted without filling your friends' e-mail boxes with spam:

1) Open up the story or photoset you want to fix.
2) Fix the mistakes, make your corrections or additions, et cetera.
3) When you're done, do one of the following:
          A) If you're fixing a photoset, click on "Save," not "Done."
          B) If you're fixing a story, click on "Done," not "Publish."

Your story is now ready for use, sans errors. Happy viewing.

And, yes, we know our terminology is inconsistent. We're very consistent that way. We're going to fix it so when you're just saving, you're "saving," and when you're publishing, you're "publishing."

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Light Bulb Moment

Sometimes the solutions to your problems are as plain as the nose on your face.

Problem: You're a bunch of college buddies working on a fledgling social media and travel website. You're doing it on the side as members of your team are working as butchers or bakers or candlestick makers or what have you. You're trying to do it on the cheap. So when you want to promote things on your own site, you have to figure out a way to do it without spending money.

And then one member of your team has one of those light bulb moments. Ding, the light comes on. This time, it was Alan, who brought us this (click on it to embiggen):

For those of you who've visited our site, this little green thingy may look familiar. It should. It's been on the site in one form or another since we started more than a year ago. Up until earlier this week, it invited you to click away and join Uncharted. It still does, on a rotation with other stuff now. Lucky for us, Alan struck upon the idea of using this little block of space to promote our upcoming stories. To tease you with things to come. To make you want to come back again and again and again and again. And to help us find more ways to promote your stories and photos on the homepage.

So, as the advertising pros say, watch this space. It'll tell of good things to come, and lead you to them once they arrive.

Monday, January 18, 2010

One Island Down . . .

For the longest time, I’ve been intrigued by two islands.

The first is Keefer Island, a 600-foot-long blot of lava rock and sagebrush in Idaho’s Snake River, lying within the boundaries of the city of Idaho Falls. The island used to have a single willow tree, until wind pushed it down onto the cabin built by an early Idaho Falls denizen. The tree is gone. The cabin still stands. But I’ve never been there.

The other is Utah’s Antelope Island. It sprawls over 42 square miles in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, with a short chain of mountains that pops out of the ground to loom 2,500 feet above the lake’s surface. Isolated by its surrounding salty moat, the island has often called to me to explore its plains and hills. And maybe provide a location to spot the Great Salt Lake’s mythical North Shore Monster.

Now, thanks to Explorer Fishstyx, who gets around in Utah like nobody’s business, I know where to go to get to Antelope Island, and what to do when I get there. You can read about his adventures on the island here.

This is what Uncharted is all about: Exploring the unexplored. Sure, lots of people have visited Antelope Island before Fishstyx. But it’s not until you’re there, breathing that salty air, stalking antelope with your camera and otherwise enjoying the solitude of that island fortress that you can nod sagely with the others and say, “Yup. I’ve been there.” Seeing Fishstyx’s photos and reading his story now cements it in my mind: I’m going to Antelope Island this summer if it kills me. And Keefer Island won’t be far behind.

Now it's up to you. Have you visited Antelope Island? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Just because Fishstyx has published his story and photos, that doesn't mean the book is closed on this adventure. Each one of us brings a different perspective, a different eye, to each place we visit. That's what makes us explorers. And sharing our adventures at Uncharted -- whether we're the first or seventy-first to do so -- is what matters.