The Kammok field blanket – a quilt, ground cover, poncho and sleeping bag all in one?

The Kammok field blanket – a quilt, ground cover, poncho and sleeping bag all in one?

Kammok field blanket

Pam LeBlanc test drives a Kammok field blanket that doubles as a poncho. Chris LeBlanc photo

I thought Kammok just made hammocks, but it recently added something called a field blanket to its product lineup.

The company sent one over for me to check out. I’d rather lay in a pool of cool water than cover myself with a blanket right now, but I did take the Kammok field blanket out of its carrying pouch and throw it down on the lawn for a nap.

Things to notice: One side of the blanket is soft microfleece, perfect for snuggling on cold days. (What are those?) The other is slick ripstop polyester. For what it’s worth, the microfleece side grabbed all the little oak tassles on my lawn, the ripstop side didn’t.

Instead of a solid color blanket, Kammok sent me one in rust, olive green, cream, mustard, and pink – the colors of Big Bend. It sells for $109.95.

The Kammok field blanket versus the Rumpl version

I’ve seen similar – but slightly different – blankets by competitor Rumpl on shelves of camping stores everywhere lately. Like Kammok’s version, Rumpl’s blankets are weatherproof and cozy – but they don’t have a microfleece side, and they’re more like a puffy jacket in blanket form. Rumpl has way more designs than Kammok, too, including some cool ones that are themed to our national parks.

Both versions come with little loops in each corner. (Kammok calls them stake out points.) They might come in handy if you need to tether your blanket to the ground on a windy day. Those little loops also allow you to attach it to your hammock, so it stays in position while you sleep.

Kammok field blanket

The Kammok field blanket in a pattern called Palette of Big Bend. Pam LeBlanc photo

The Kammok field blanket I tried measures 86.5 inches by 57 inches and weighed 2 pounds, 4.4 ounces. It featured a hidden pocket (to stash keys?) and a slit in the middle so you can put the blanket over your head and wear it like a poncho. (So fashionable!) In fact, according to the tag attached to the blanket, the Kammok blanket works not only as a ground blanket, top quilt, or poncho, it also works as a sleeping bag by snapping it to another Kammok field blanket.

Don’t ditch your Big Agnes back country bag just yet. This might work for casual napping purposes, but probably not for an overnight on the trail.  If it gets cold or you roll around a lot like I do, you’ll feel like a soft taco with its filling spilling out.

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The Texas Water Safari is a month away, and I’m officially freaking out

The Texas Water Safari is a month away, and I’m officially freaking out

Texas Water Safari

Deb Richardson looks back down a cut near Alligator Lake while scouting the log jams she’ll have to navigate during the Texas Water Safari. . Pam LeBlanc photo

Time for a Texas Water Safari reality check.

We’re a month out, and honestly, I’m freaking out.

After racing the 35-mile Texas River Marathon on Saturday (finished middle of the pack), teammate Debbie Richardson and I explored the cuts and sloughs around Alligator Lake on Sunday, trying to plot a course for the big 260-mile race from San Marcos to Seadrift. (Thanks to Spencer Fuller, who filled a seat in our three-human boat, and to Joel Truitt, who helped us scout.)

For those who’ve never wallowed in channels of waist-deep, coffee-colored water, the cuts are hard to describe. You can get lost in a sea of spiders, mud, and low-hanging branches back there. And there are snakes and alligators.

Plus, it was hot. We sweated. It was windy. It will be hotter and sweatier and windier in a month, during the actual Safari.

texas water safari

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We tramped through weeds, brushed against poison ivy, and startled monster alligator gar, which swirled just below the brown surface of the river. Once, Richardson batted me gently with her paddle to dislodge the gangly-legged spiders hitching a ride on my head. I brushed caterpillars off Fuller’s back. The mud nearly slurped the shoes off my feet. And at one point, we had to hoist our boat over a slippery log blocking the channel.

If water levels drop between now and the race – and they likely will – we may have to bypass the cuts and drag our boat 2 miles down a Jeep trail. That will suck, possibly even worse than feeding it through miles of slough choked by logs, snakes, and the occasional alligator.

texas water safari

Pam LeBlanc relaxes at the finish of the 2019 Texas Water Safari. Chris LeBlanc photo

And I’ve got more to look forward to: Trench foot caused by marinating my tootsies in tepid water for two days straight. Trying to pee into a female urinal in a moving boat. Eating smushed energy bars, soggy potato chips and cold mashed potatoes. A painful rash on my ass. Poison ivy. A weird sun tan. A choppy bay that might eat our boat alive.

I did the race as part of a three-woman team in 2019. Someone remind me why I signed up again…

 

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Watch bats emerge from Bracken Cave tonight

Watch bats emerge from Bracken Cave tonight

 
Bats

If you can’t make it to Bracken Cave in person, you can watch the nightly bat emergence via a Facebook Live event tonight. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

If you can’t get to Bracken Cave near San Antonio to watch the emergence of millions of bats in person, you can do the next best thing – watch them swirl out of the ground by a live streaming event.

Bat Conservation International and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will host a Facebook Live event beginning at 8:20 p.m. tonight on the BCI and TPWD Facebook pages.

Biologists will answer questions live from the audience and talk about the bats. Biologists will also discuss the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and how it will benefit species of greatest conservation need, like Texas bats, according to a press release from the Parks Department.

Bat Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy  co-manage the 3,462-acre Bracken Cave Preserve, home to the largest bat colony in the world. More than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) live in the cave, and emerge each evening during the summer to eat insects.

 

 

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Nothing goes as planned when you’re training for the Texas Water Safari

Nothing goes as planned when you’re training for the Texas Water Safari

training for the Texas Water Safari

Part of Pam LeBlanc’s race team pushes their boat around a log while training for the Texas Water Safari. Pam LeBlanc photo

When you’re training for the Texas Water Safari, stuff goes wrong. And it did this week.

I’m racing on a five-human boat, and two of our five humans live in Colorado, not Texas.

That’s OK. Both Steve Daniel and John Murphy have finished the 260-mile paddling race between San Marcos and the Texas coast before. They know what they’re getting into – extreme exhaustion, sleep deprivation, log jams covered in spiders, the occasional dead and bloated cow, mud, snakes, mosquitos, horrible rashes, sore shoulders, and more.

In their absence, a rotating cast of paddlers has been filling seats in our boat, so Debbie Richardson, James Green and I could train.

But starting position in the Safari is based on how teams do at the Texas River Marathon, a 35-mile race from Cuero to Victoria on May 7. Top finishers at that race get starting slots at the front of the line at the big dance on June 11. But if your entire team doesn’t race in the Marathon, you must start at the back of the pack at the Safari.

No problem, we figured. The way we planned it, our Colorado teammates would fly down for the Marathon and a few training runs. We’d paddle together for the first time and work out kinks before the Safari.

A change in plans

But earlier this week, things turned south. Our Colorado teammates both got sick. They had to cancel their trip to Texas to race the Marathon.

The boat calculus that Richardson had worked out suddenly collapsed and a flurry of rescheduling ensued. Our brains collectively melted down. Hotel reservations, flights – it all had to be cancelled and rescheduled. And with only four more training weekends remaining before the Safari, we have to figure out how to get get in at least one training run with our Colorado contingent.

Tomorrow, Richardson, Green and I are racing in a three-man boat. Come race day, we’ll have to start at the back of the pack, trying to maneuver around slow-moving aluminum tandems and other slower racers. Imagine a 37-foot torpedo picking its way through a minefield of hand grenades.

debbie richardson

Debbie Richardson pushes a canoe under a branch while training for the Texas Water Safari in March 2022. Pam LeBlanc photo

I figured we were doomed. But Richardson, who has finished 12 of the 12 Safaris she started, assures me we’ll be fine. She’s started at the back of the pack three times. And of those three races, she’s finished third, fifth and eighth overall, out of roughly 150 boats.

“We might need a helmet and life jacket (at the start),” she jokes. “But I’m not scared to start at the back wall.”

It’ll be tricky at the start, but we’ll have about two days of non-stop paddling to make up any disadvantage.

Bring it on.

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Food as art (and in a terrarium) at the exclusive Green o in Montana

Food as art (and in a terrarium) at the exclusive Green o in Montana

social haus at the Green O

Guests of the Green O at Paws Up in Montana eat meals at the Social Haus. Pam LeBlanc photo

If food were art, I just worked my way through the Louvre, nine paintings at a time.

Over three nights tucked in the woodsy chic world of Paws Up in Montana, a place where well-heeled families and couples looking for a romantic escape fill their days fly fishing, aiming shotguns at neon-orange sporting clays, and trying their hand at moving a herd of cattle from one pasture to another, I ate some of the most beautiful food of my life.

The Green o: A romantic, adults-only retreat

the Green o

I sizzled a thin strip of pork belly on a hot rock during one evening’s nine-course meal. Pam LeBlanc photo

The green o is the newest corner of the 37,000-acre resort that opened in 2005 on a former sheep ranch in western Montana. Unlike other sections of the resort, the Green o (named for the green circle that the rancher, whose last name was Greenough, painted on his livestock) is adults only. Guests stay in modern treehouses or sleek glass and metal homes nestled among swaying pines.

I’m no foodie, but the food was other worldly, from the rhubarb and chamomile ice cream sandwich waiting in my cabin’s mini-fridge when I arrived, to the homemade potato chips and dip with caviar I nibbled at lunch to the nine-course meals I tossed back each night at the property’s Social Haus.

the green o

One course of a nine-course dinner at the Green O is called the terrarium. Pam LeBlanc photo

terrarium

Lift off the glass dome of the terrarium to find a tiny garden of fresh baby vegetables. Pam LeBlanc photo

Beets weren’t just boiled pink orbs, they were chopped, mixed with local flathead cherries, infused with something that tasted vaguely like a campfire (in a good way) and formed into diamond-shaped filets. I ate gorgeous mushrooms and venison and pheasant brined for 48 hours and served with sunchokes. I tasted fennel and a frozen palate cleanser made with gin, tarragon, and green tapioca. I grilled a thin strip of pork belly on a sizzling hot river rock. One memorable dish, called a terrarium, arrived in a mist-filled glass dome that, when lifted, revealed a cluster of tiny carrots and radishes and purple onions buried in a layer of bright green basil puree the color of fresh moss, over a layer of pureed kohlrabi.

The mysterious menu at the Green o

the green o crudite

The Green O at Paws Up in Montana serves food that is as creative and beautiful as it is tasty. Everything in this terra cotta pot was edible. Pam LeBlanc photo

The menu, delivered on a sheet of stiff, bone-colored stock, always oozed mystery. One course of last night’s meal read, simply, “crudité.” That didn’t prepare me for what the server slid in front onto the table. It looked more like something you’d pick out at the neighborhood nursery than what you’d eat at an exclusive restaurant.

A miniature farm’s worth of leafy greens billowed from a terra cotta pot. But everything – save the clay vessel – the chef assured me, was edible. I zeroed in on a tender shoot and plucked it gently forth, like a farmer harvesting the evening crop. A tiny carrot emerged from the soil, along with a bit of soil – a crumbly brown mixture of toasted hazel nuts (a thing here, I’m told), chicory and roasted onion ash.

I popped it in my mouth. Like almost everything else here, it blew me away.

Food, as art. I’m a fan.

About Pam

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