Episode 8 – Grand Canyon Part One – South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch and Day Hiking Down in the Canyon

We did rim-to-rim South to North, with a full day down in the canyon at Phantom Ranch to explore and enjoy!  Our adventure started with a long shuttle ride from the North Rim, where we staged our car (and a well-insulated cooler of frosty beverages), and ended with amazing views of the canyon from the North Rim Lodge whilst sipping a Prickly Pear Margarita at sunset.  

Part One covers the start of our adventure and our hike into the canyon down the South Kaibab trail, as well as our day of exploring from Phantom Ranch – including Mountain Lions, scorpion hunting, tales of tragedy, the importance of hydration, a hidden waterfall, and a unique Civilian Conservation Corps installation.  Part Two will get into our hike out and enjoying the North Rim Lodge.  

Hope you enjoy joining us on this adventure!


Fedarko, K. 2008. They Call Me Groover Boy. Original from Outside Magazine, Jul 2008. I read it in this awesome book – Out There: The Wildest Stories from Outside Magazine. Falcon Press Publishing. April 2018.

National Parks Service site for the Grand Canyon: https://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

Xanterra for Phantom Ranch lottery: https://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/lodging/phantom-ranch/

Correction: In reference to scorpions, I say “keratin,” I meant “chitin,” this is what happens when you’re used to talking about mammals… reference for scorpions lighting up under UV light here! https://www.terminix.com/blog/bug-facts/why-do-scorpions-glow-under-ultraviolet-light/

Episode 7 – New Orleans: Food, Music, Food, Gators…Food…

Hi Everyone!  We are back after a trip to explore New Orleans!  This isn’t our typical, outdoors/hiking type trip, but was an exploration into the culture of New Orleans, especially the food!  The history and beauty of the area are enough of a draw for most folks, but the food and music should keep people coming back.  We found a lot of places still shut down due to COVID, but we were able to find some great live music and still enjoy a lot of what the city had to offer – on a positive note for us, it was much less crowded in the city than normal, according to the locals.  We did take an awesome kayaking tour with Wild Louisiana Tours – lots of natural and cultural history learnings, as well as gators, snakes, and birds of all kinds!

We are looking forward to going back someday, to explore more of the city and surrounding area when more things are opened up, and hopefully, we can catch more live music.  

Episode 6 – Bryce Canyon: Under the Rim Trail and WATER!!

Flexibility is key when planning your adventures!  We had to analyze and adjust our plans on the fly during our trip through Bryce Canyon due to the low availability of water along the trail.  We planned on spending two nights down in the canyon to enjoy extra time away from the crowds (some serious social distancing), but due to drought conditions water was unreliable.  This was an amazing experience though, and one of the most rewarding canyon hikes we’ve done!  Bryce Canyon is a unique experience in so many ways!

Episode 5 – Four Corners: Arches Nat’l Park and Devil’s Garden Trail (and bats…)

We had an awesome couple of hikes at Arches National Park – we did Delicate arch the day before recording our Devil’s Garden hike, and while we don’t talk much about it, it was still also an awesome hike. Delicate Arch was a fairly intense uphill, but totally doable in sneakers and with plenty of water – fair warning, you’re in the sun the WHOLE time, so don’t underestimate your water intake, and keep up on those electrolytes!

Devil’s Garden was just an all-around fun hike. Technical enough to be challenging, but beautiful with the constantly-changing terrain and gorgeous views of the arches. Recommend 10/10! Again, make sure you bring water and nutrients. If you decide to do the whole loop it does get very remote. There were a lot of people near the entrance and exit, but not so many on the primitive trails. Shoutout to our new friend @Pawan_g_photography who we met on the trail and joined us for the scrambles! Cheers to more adventures Pawan!

Our time in camp was very interesting – from a crazy windstorm on our first night, to swooping bats our second, Arches offers constant adventure! We loved this park, and look forward to exploring it again someday!

P.S. Sorry not sorry for nerding out on the bats, it brought back fond memories of the summer we spent near Carlsbad Caverns, seeing the bats swoop out at sundown. Incredible animals, probably worthy of a Nature Nerd episode…

Episode 4 – Four Corners Part 1 – Rio Grande National Forest and Fire Restrictions

Hi Everyone!  This is the first part of our Four Corners series, and in this episode we spend a few minutes of our drive time discussing our adventure in Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado, as well as discussing fire restrictions and the importance of following park service requirements around fire.  
The sound is a little rough on this one (due to the audio recording on our drive), but we hope you enjoy the content! 

Views from the Lobo Overlook trail (Rio Grande National Forest) with old burn, new growth and Fireweed, and moonrise from the campsite!

Jeep Life – Episode 1 – In the shop with FDF – Intro to our Jeep Life

So, we love Jeeps. At one point, we owned four Jeeps, but we recently sold the GC. I’ve (Manda) been driving Jeeps since my Dad bought one in 1998, and we now own that beloved blue Wrangler that was so lovingly abused by my brother, Matt, and myself growing up. Jeeps are a mechanical path-maker into the wild, allowing an adventurer to drive further into the wilderness and explore in places where most vehicles can’t go. A stock Wrangler is a pretty beastly little vehicle on its own, but with a few modifications it can be a true trail warrior. In this episode, we meet up in the Shop to give a quick overview of our Jeeps and what we are working on right now. We’ll touch back on the progress with the Critter and Bison bison in the near future!

Our Jeeps:

Un-named “Blue Jeep” ’99 TJ Wrangler Sport – Gunmetal Blue (my first Jeep!) – My Dad taught me to drive a manual on this Jeep, and we bought it off of my parents a few years back. We did an engine rebuild, lift, suspension mods, and wheels/tires. Blue Jeep still needs some work, but runs well and is tons of fun to drive!

“Bison bison” ’99 TJ Wrangler Sahara – Landrunner Body Mod – ugly beautiful, low $ find! We bought this intending to use the parts for the Scrambler rebuild, but decided to fix her up once we saw how easy the necessary repairs were. Re-built transmission, new suspension/lift, wheels and tires, wheel-carriers bumper mod, and lots of cosmetic work in progress.

“The Critter” ’83 CJ8 Scrambler – Barn find from our buddy, she’s in pieces but will come together as a piece of art when we’re done! New frame to replace the rusted out one, body cleanup and repair, new engine, pretty much new everything but the VIN…

Our Jeep theory: We sold our 2011 Jeep GC WK2 and traded “down” to using the ’99 Wranglers as our daily drivers and keeping our Toyota Tundra truck for big events. Doing this removes the complications of all the “bells and whistles” of a modern vehicle, which we’ve found to be comforting for a while, but just more stuff to break in the long run (and more expensive to fix based on the computerized components). We love wrenching on our Jeeps, and enjoy building out a vehicle that is capable of tackling any off-road hurdle. We are planning on building out the Scrambler to be a bit of an “off-road-rod,” big engine, big axles, but probably more for show than for true off-roading – we feel like she’s an important piece of Jeep history and don’t want to risk rolling her over.

Farm Life: Installing Geo Ground Grid in our stable yard

We threw this video together last summer when we did a major renovation of our stable yard using a ground grid product. We love videos like this when we work on a new project, and hope you enjoy it! (FDF in his homemade lederhosen, me attempting to talk before my full dose of morning coffee…it’s great, really…)


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Nature Nerd Episode 2 Part 2- Bison bison – or – My Favorite Animal Continued!

…Because I just can’t stop with Bison…

This episode dives a bit more into bison as a keystone species, and some of our experiences with bison in the wild – including an overlay of “bellowing” from our 2017 road trip and our morning sitting by the Yellowstone River, watching the bison come in to cross. I can’t express how magical that morning was!

If you have had or have seen an interesting experience with bison, please email me and we can start a compilation of bison stories to share with the world. I’d love to hear about your experience!

…And check out the video below to see two bulls butting heads over a lovely lady! Recorded by me in the Hayden Valley, YNP, September 2017.




ESRI Map: http://bisonstory.wcs.org/



Punke, M. (2007). Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West. Smithsonian.

Our bison experience at Yellowstone, September 2017

Nature Nerd Episode 2 – Bison bison – or – My Favorite Animal

What did the buffalo say to his son when he left for college? BYE-SON! BISON…Get it…?

Lame jokes aside, Bison bison, or The American “Buffalo” is not really a buffalo. Water Buffalo are known for their milk (and cheese) – please don’t EVER try to milk a bison, you’ll end up as a National Parks Service cover story or winning a Darwin award.

Bison are my FAVORITE animal – which is saying something, as I’ve spent my life studying animals of all sorts. They have an incredible conservation story, and are the perfect story-teller of the U.S.A through its settlement, Westward expansion, the atrocities of the treatment of Native Americans, and the desire of modern Americans to preserve our natural history and repair the damage of past generations. Their story is a perfect combination of natural history, political history, current science, and future conservation.

My passion for bison started when I did some research on conservation practices during my Master’s work. The more I learned about them, the more fascinated I became – these seemingly peaceful, gentle, motherly animals turn fierce when threatened, using their massive size and unbelievable quickness to avoid predation. Their immense population in North America – estimated at upwards of 60 million at one point – fell to less than 1,000 individuals after the settlers and US Government were done with them. They were brought back from the brink of extinction by the passionate work of a few incredible people who respected the animal not only as a valuable natural resource, but as a symbol of their Nation. Amazing people took the project in hand to save this incredible species for future generations, and for the future of our land.

“So for several minutes I watched the great beasts as they grazed…mixed with the eager excitement of the hunter was a certain half-melancholy feeling as I gazed on these bison, themselves part of the last remnant of a doomed and nearly vanished race. Few indeed are the men who now have or evermore shall have, the chance of seeing the mightiest of American beasts, in all his wild vigor, surrounded by the tremendous desolation of his far-off mountain home…” – Teddy Roosevelt, on the occasion of his second bison hunt in 1889

I hope you enjoy this exploration of Bison bison.

Episode 3 – Road Trip Roundup

A follow-up we just recorded, looking back at our 2020 Four Corners Road Trip.  I’m sure we’ll have more stories to tell from this trip in later episodes, but for now, please enjoy this ramble on how things went – what worked, what didn’t, what we might do in the future.  

We also go into some detail on our backcountry experience in Bryce Canyon, which was incredible!  

We hope you enjoy this chat about our trip!