We went camping this weekend on a spur of the moment decision.
We didn’t take too much time to decide where to go. (Mt. Tam State Park, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Complete with breathtaking views and a 20 minute drive away from home.) We didn’t want to spend too much money to make the trip happen.
While camping I usually prefer to plan a fun and exciting menu full of all kinds of treats.
This time around we went the easy and cheap route. We hadn’t been grocery shopping in two weeks, yet we were still able to find plenty of shelf-stable and camp-ready food on our shelves: ramen, dehydrated vegetarian curry, a chocolate bar and instant oatmeal comprised our lunch, dinner and breakfast.
It was rather refreshing to head out without needing to plan anything or make a special trip to the store.
I enjoyed getting out there, without the big production that camping can all too often turn into.
All told, our little get away cost less than $50 including firewood, campsite fees and gas.
What kind of fun did you find this weekend?
One of the very first times I went hiking I came home with a bruised toenail.
What does that even mean? I didn’t even know that could happen.
But sure enough, once I got my boots and socks off there it was: a black toenail.
We had been hiking at a fairly moderate pace when I jumped down off of a tall rock. I felt it right then, and wondered if I had hurt something. It didn’t hurt to continue walking, so I marched on. But I knew something had happened inside my boot.
I headed to the internet to figure out what a bruised toenail meant for the future health of my foot. Luckily, my toe ended up just fine after I waited for the black portion of the nail to grow out. (If you are of the female persuasion a little toenail polish can help the situation along.)
The medical term for this condition is Subungual hematoma.
My time researching the issue lead me to the following tips:
Keep your toenails clipped short.
Lace ‘em up tight! If your boots aren’t laced tightly enough, your foot can slide around inside the shoe and cause your toes to jam up toward the front of the boot.
Bruised toes are especially susceptible during long downhill hikes. Make sure to re-tighten your laces often to prevent the sliding of your foot.
When you buy boots purposely try to make your toe-nails hit the front. They shouldn’t. If they do then those boots probably don’t fit you properly.
Joseph is a small mountain town in northeast Oregon. Situated six hours east of Portland at 4,150ft above sea level, and surrounded by the towering Wallowa and Seven Devils mountains, Joseph is a rather picturesque small mountain town.
With a population hovering around 1,000 Joseph maintains a thriving main street (yes, they literally have a Main Street) equipped with local breweries, bank, library, cafes, and art galleries.
The physical town of Joseph is less than one square mile. Though, the community is often referred to as Wallowa County, as the surrounding unincroporated areas add to the recreation and other opportunities. The county borders Idaho to the west and Washington to the north.
Enterprise, the closest larger town, is just five miles away with larger town comforts such as a Safeway grocery store and a BJs warehouse club.
For such a small town Joseph has plenty of events and celebrations packing the calendar. From a classic car show, to traditional Fourth of July celebration, triathlons, Native American celebrations, sled dog races and more. For the locals, a summer-long farmers market with accompanying concert series offers access to local fresh produce.
While there isn’t exactly a dedicated bicycle shop in town, the local hardware store has kept up with local demand by expanding their bike offering to an entire room. Several of their employees were even sent to the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR to be schooled on the basics of bikes.
A beautifully pristine lake nestled between snow capped 9000′ mountains, nearby Wallowa Lake offers camping, hiking and boating. There is even a tram that can be taken up to the top of the mountain. Bring along your mountain bike, and you’ve got the equivalent of a shuttle-ready mountain biking nirvana.
There is also a recreational train, the Eagle Cap Train, offering relaxing scenic rides through the local mountains.
There is a local ski run, void of the tourist drawing amenities it is a locally-run area. With one t-bar and one rope tow up the mountain and a 640′ elevation gain its the perfect little mountain for kids, beginners or just drama-free fun.
For such a small town there is a shockingly long list of local storefronts:
Joseph’s Sheep Shed is a local yarn shop and fiber gallery.
Bee Crow Bee is a local shop offering a line of carefully handmade bath & body products.
Mad Mary is a shop offering “everything fun & fattening”. It’s a fun gift shop and soda fountain all in one.
Lodging options are plentiful. From B&Bs like Barking Mad Farm where you can stay in a turn of the century farm house with views of the mountains. To the basic Indian Lodge Motel and the East Street Cottages.
Though they certainly feel all four seasons, the weather in and around Joseph is rather mild, as being in a valley surrounded by mountains shelters the area from many of the extreme weather fronts.
The local economy, while healthy, does rely on government jobs (being the largest area employer). Average income hovers just below $30k, with the average two bedroom house priced around $100k.
The lifestyle in Joseph, OR is summed up pretty well by the county chamber:
“When you are 65 miles from a McDonald’s or a Wal-Mart, and two and a half hours from a mall, you will find a whole new definition of the phrase for quality of life – It’s a “way of living”. Here, the focus is definitely not on consumption. It’s on family and community. It’s on entrepreneurship. And perhaps above all, it’s on outdoor beauty and recreation.”
We first heard of Joseph when Russ & Laura rolled through and interviewed Dan Price. Then Tammy at Rowdy Kittens visited while on a writing retreat. Joseph, by all accounts, is a delightful mountain town.
This is the first in a series of posts profiling mountain towns. Let us know where your favorite mountain town is to see it featured in a upcoming post.
“What do you do while you’re camping?” ” Isn’t it boring?”
I get asked this every once in a while by friends who aren’t into camping. Here, in no particular order, is our list of 99 things to do while camping.
1 – Catch lightning bugs in a jar.
2 – Make smores.
3 – Start a camp fire.
4 – Practice yoga.
5 – Look for big foot.
6 – Play hackysack.
7 – Use your flashlights to make shadow puppets.
8 – Tell scary stories around the fire.
9 – Go fishing.
10 – Play charades.
11 – Lay on your back in the grass and watch the clouds drift by.
12 – Read a good book by flashlight.
13 – Play horseshoes.
14 – Watch for shooting stars.
15 – Knit some socks.
16 – Pick wild berries.
17 – Go for a bike ride.
18 – Go on a photo walk.
19 – Practice geocaching.
20 – Pick a wildflower bouquet.
21 – Learn to play badminton.
22 – Learn to tie a new knot. Use it while setting up camp.
23 – Take a nap in the middle of the day.
24 – Practice your axe throwing skills.
25 – Forgo the portapotty and poop in the woods.
26 – Explore.
27 – Craft a snare and see what you can catch.
28 – Make a lean-to tent just in case it rains.
29 – Take a bath in the lake.
30 – Play tic tac toe in the dirt using sticks to draw.
31 – Sing your favorite songs out loud.
32 – Mix up a batch of cocktails and imbibe.
33 – Play Uno.
34 – Learn to play a new song on the guitar.
35 – Make friends with the campers from the nearby campsites.
36 – Play hide and go seek.
37 – Climb a tree.
38 – Toss a frisbee.
39 – Draw a scene.
40 – Make friendship bracelets.
41 – Learn to skip a rock across a body of water.
42 – Go foraging for something to add to your dinner.
43 – Build a sandcastle.
44 – Use a compass to find your way on a map.
45 – Make a situpon.
46 – Practice your cartwheels.
47 – Rent a boat and go boating.
48 – Make coffee.
49 – Play volleyball in the sand (or dirt).
50 – Go rock climbing.
51 – Create camp nicknames for everyone on your trip, and insist that only those names are used.
52 – See what kind of bugs you can collect.
53 – Go on a scavenger hunt.
54 – Stare up at the stars and try to point out the constellations.
55 – Reenact your favorite movie scene by scene.
56 – Try to make a fire by rubbing two sticks together.
57 – Sharpen your knife.
58 – Make a cup of tea.
59 – Go on a picnic.
60 – Hunt for buried treasure.
61 – Whittle.
62 – Play the harmonica.
63 – Make a sundial.
64 – Go for a run.
65 – Set up a hammock and take a nap in the middle of the day.
66 – Go tubing.
67 - Practice your target shooting.
68 – Hug a tree (you dirty hippie).
69 – Learn a new card game.
70 – Paint a picture.
71 – Fly a kite.
72 – Make a tree fort.
73 – Have a light saber fight.
74 – Dig a hole.
75 – Make old fashion jiffyy pop over the fire.
76 – Write a poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme.
77 – Climb up something tall (tree, cliff, car roof) and jump off.
78 – Listen to music.
79 – Stay indoors.
80 – Play capture the flag.
81 – Create a checklist of what you packed for this trip that you don’t want to forget for the next trip
82 – Find a fallen log to use as a walking stick.
83 – Find a fresh water source and filter some water for drinking.
84 – Sommersault down a hill.
85 – Sunbathe.
86 – Collect shells or rocks.
87 – Play hide and seek.
88 – Bird watch.
89 – Make a rope swing.
90 – Chop wood for a fire.
91 – Make boobie traps to protect your campsite.
92 – Build a dirt jump. Practice jumping your bike off of it.
93 – Build a solar oven.
94 – Go horse back riding.
95 - Practice your leave no trace skills.
96 – Start a drum circle.
97 – Write a novel.
98 – Play kickball.
99 – Take a picture.
No, not the ghost and goblins kind of spirits…
The kind you put in a mixed drink!
It seems that asking what type of alcohol should be brought along on a camping trip often brings up some strong opinions.
There are those who prefer a cold beer. Though due to temperature and weight, beer is often reserved for car camping.
Wine can be a great choice once you remove the heavy glass bottle. We usually opt to bring along our wine in a Platypus container designed for this very purpose. I’ve had friends use bagged wine – though I’ve never found a variety I could stand to drink. There is also the outdoor oriented Climber wine from Cliff Wineries (the same family behind Cliff Bars).
With an appropriate mixer, vodka can be a lovely camping companion. Pre-mix a few cocktails, stick them in the freezer and pull them out just before you leave home. By the time dinner is done on the first night they should still be chilly enough to enjoy.
There is a new vodka on the shelfs of our neighborhood market that looks to be made especially for taking into the outdoors. Kru vodka comes ready to go in a reusable stainless steel bottle complete with lanyard and carabiner.
I’ve known friends on especially chilly nights to bring along a flask of caramel or peppermint schnapps to mix with some powdered hot chocolate.
What’s your favorite campsite beverage?
We’ve been squirreling away quotes about camping, biking, mountains and outdoors for some time now. We thought it would be fun to compile them all into one post.
There is an intense but simple thrill in setting off in the morning on a mountain trail, knowing that everything you need is on your back. It is a confidence in having left the inessentials behind and of entering a world of natural beauty that has not been violated, where money has no value, and possessions are a dead weight. The person with the fewest possessions is the freest. Thoreau was right.
- Paul Theroux
I love to be outdoors. I prefer being outdoors to, you know, being inside.
- Keith Carradine
The clearest way into the universe
is through a forest wilderness.
- John Muir
I became a loner. I became a mountain man. A lot of those things are very good qualities and they help you do your work, help you be singular and keep the artistic integrity of your work intact, but they don’t make it very easy to live your life.
- John Milius
The modern world is fast, complex, competitive, and always concerned with what happens next. There is always more to do than there is time. The landscape and even the light are mostly artificial. This can be exciting, but all too often it is frustrating, stressful, and exhausting. In contrast, hiking for weeks or months at a time in an unspoiled natural environment is a simple, repetitive activity that leads to calmness and psychological well-being, a feeling of wholeness, of being a complete person. Each day follows the same pattern, linking in with natural rhythms–walk in the light, sleep in the dark, eat when hungry, take shelter from storms. Only the details are different. I get a great pleasure from this simplicity, from the basic pattern of walk and camp, walk and camp. It is good to escape the rush of the modern world and for a period of time to live a quieter, more basic life. Problems and worries subside as the days go by; they are put into perspective by the elemental activity of putting one foot in front of the other hour after hour, day after day. And on returning from the wilds, restored and revitalized by the experience, I find civilization can be much easier to deal with; indeed, aspects of it can seem very desirable.
- Chris Townsend
There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.
- Chinese Proverbs
A mountain has no need for people, but people do need mountains. We go to them for their beauty, for the exhilaration of standing closer to mysterious skies, for the feeling of triumph that comes from having labored to reach a summit.
- Earl Hamner, Jr.
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
- John Muir
I had daydreams and fantasies when I was growing up. I always wanted to live in a log cabin at the foot of a mountain. I would ride my horse to town and pick up provisions. Then return to the cabin, with a big open fire, a record player and peace.
- Linda McCartney
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…
- John Muir
I do not own an inch of land,
but all I see is mine.
- Lucy Larcom
There is no bad weather. You are not well equipped!
Men go back to the mountains, as they go back to sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up, as did men of another age, to the challenge of nature. Modern man lives in a highly synthetic kind of existence. He specializes in this and that. Rarely does he test all his powers or find himself whole. But in the hills and on the water the character of a man comes out.
- Abram T. Collier
A simple equation exists between freedom and numbers: the more people, the less freedom.
- Royal Robbins
Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers – for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.
Marry a mountain girl and you marry the whole mountain.
- Irish Saying
I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
- Andy Rooney
I never had any other desire so strong, and so like covetousness, as that… I might be master at last of a small house and a large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life to the culture of them and the study of nature.
- Abraham Cowley
It is impossible to overestimate the value of wild mountains and mountain temples as places for people to grow in, recreation grounds for soul and body.
- John Muir
We’ve been swimming at nude beaches and I love to go skinny dipping, but I’m sorry, sitting on top of a mountain, that’s just, you’re trying to show off or something. That’s ridiculous.
- Andy Richter
You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.
- James Whittaker
The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.
No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being
- Ansel Adams
I was comin’ down the mountain.
- Jane’s Addiction
If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options.
You can climb it and cross to the other side.
You can go around it.
You can dig under it.
You can fly over it.
You can blow it up.
You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.
You can turn around and go back the way you came.
Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.
- Vera Nazarian
There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.
- Chinese Proverb
The mountains are calling and I must go.
- John Muir
A man does not climb a mountain
without bringing some of it away with him,
and leaving something of himself upon it.
- Sir Martin Conway
Climb up on some hill at sunrise. Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.
- Robb Sagendorph
We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home, in towns and cities.
- Nessmuk (G.W. Sears)
I got into an argument with a girlfriend inside of a tent. That’s a bad place for an argument, because then I tried to walk out and slammed the flap. How are you supposed to express your anger in this situation? Zipper it up really quick?
- Mitch Hedberg
If you don’t let go, you can’t fall off!
- Jerry Moffat
Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.
- Robert Service
Even in these mercifully emancipated decades, many people still seem quite seriously alarmed at the prospect of sleeping away from officially consecrated campsites, with no more equipment than they can carry on their backs. When pressed, they babble about snakes or bears or even, by God, bandits. But the real barrier, I’m sure, is the unknown.
- Colin Fletcher
The bicycle is its own best argument.
- Richard Ballantine
Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.
- Rachel Carson
No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.
- Ansel Adams
Always in big woods, when you leave familiar ground and step off alone to a new place, there will be, along with feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. You are understanding the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is the experience of our essential loneliness, for nobody can discover the world for anybody else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes common ground, and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.
- Wendell Berry
I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
- John Muir
To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
- John Burroughs
Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way.
- Dr. Seuss
There have been a few campsites over the years that have introduced me to animals I would never have had an experience with otherwise. Every landscape has it’s own indigenous creatures. Bears, mountain lions, alligators, and rattle snakes are among the animals we’ve been warned of at the entrance to various parks. Though just because you are in their habitat doesn’t mean you’ll actually interact with or even see them.
In Puerto Rico the crickets sing at night so loudly that it can be hard to fall asleep. I was happy to have never seen the actual crickets, as I have an aversion to them, but their songs we’re lovely to fall asleep to. They even sell cds of the crickets various songs at the toursity gift shops.
At Pace Bend park just outside of Austin, TX there are ringtail cats. I read about them before going camping (I always thoroughly research my campsites before heading out), though I didn’t think I’d actually run into any. Our first night while sitting around the campfire, I saw something dart across the path. Now, I have to say that their is something a bit more endearing about these animals being called ring tailed cats, as opposed to raccoons. Then, sure enough, there they were just behind me heading for my food. Luckily, just standing up was enough to scare them away. I tried to take some pictures of these feisty cats, but they were too quick and it was too dark.
Most recently I had the pleasure of interacting with chipmunks:
We did some car camping at Wood’s Lake near Kirkwood, CA. Aside from being one of the most beautiful campsites where I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching the sun set behind the mountains, it also has plenty of furry and cute chipmunks.
Now, there were signs at the camp entrance warning us not to touch or feed these critters. Apparently they carry the plague. Yes, that plague. But really, I had no intentions of doing anything more than taking some photos and laughing at their antics.
It’s the little things, like interacting with a new animal that I’ve only ever seen in cartoons that make me head outdoors again and again.
What’s your favorite animal you’ve ever run into while spending time outdoors?
There are items which seem to hold an infinite number of uses, that are worth carrying on any outing whether an outdoor adventure, a day at work or anywhere in between.
Zipties are one of these infinite use objects. They weigh almost nothing, take up almost no space at all, and are so simple a young child could use them.
Zip Tie Heart
Zipties have the original intent of lashing together electronic cables. They are wonderful for this purpose, and can help to streamline and clean up a tangle of wires behind your computer or entertainment center.
Most often zipties are made from a hard nylon material. Their brilliance comes in their secure one-way ratcheting system. Once tightened down they do not let loose. They can be tightened further but can not be loosened. This feature is what allows you to feel confident in their use.
Depending on your intended use and amount of preparation time available, it can be a good idea to have several styles of zip ties around. They come in various lengths, thicknesses and colors. For outdoor use there are UV-resistant variety available. For weight bearing and truly heavy duty use I recommend the variety with a metal tab as part of it’s rachet system. There are also ziptiees made entirely of stainless steel.
Given their low per-piece cost, zip ties can be utilized without much concern.
I have zip ties holding my lights on the front of my basket.
Lighting mount zip tied to the front of my bike basket.
Zipties also fasten my basket to my handlebars.
Bike Basket mount arms zip tied to my handlebars.
Zip ties can help secure luggage, bags or anything else with zippers, shut. Before heading away from camp for a hike, ziptie your tent doors shut. No, this isn’t the end-all be-all of security but it does provide a hindrance, and also a way for you to know if anyone went snooping when you where away from your bag or tent. Clip them open with scissors or a pocket knife upon your return.
Jason from Gear Talk uses zipties to hack his own Nalgene style bottle for his back country adventures.
Need to lash an extra piece of gear onto your pack while hiking? Zipties to the rescue!
The friendly folks at Dutch Bike Co. have documented their DIY snow tires using zipties.
Did the pull to your zipper snap off? Throw a ziptie on there for easy zipping.
I’ve used a ziptie to secure a trash bag onto a picnic table while camping on a particularly windy night.
Simply Bike uses zip ties to decorate her bike.
Lovely Bicycle uses zip ties for a clean look to her after-market dynamo lighting installation.
Keep in mind that depending on the color of your zip ties, they can become an almost invisible helper.
Alternately, they can also become a style element:
Then there are those who just enjoy the style of the zip tie and what it represents:
The best ways to utilize zip ties really are only limited to your particular situation and a little creative thinking.
Where have you used zipties before?
I like reading a lot.
When we started talking about going camping for the first time I knew I wanted a little perspective on it. When I’m about to jump into something new I like to be prepared. I like to be educated.
So I headed to the book section of my local outdoors store. I browsed over books with nerdy & technical looking covers, big picture books of national forests, and cookbooks about crafting meals with solar cookers. Then one book jumped out at me: Let’s Get Primitive: The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping by Heather Menicucci.
Despite it’s cheesy title and cartoon cover, the book looked promising. Written by a girl who looked like someone I’d met at a concert, not like the girls I see out on the hiking trails, I decided to buy it.
Once I began reading Let’s Get Primitive I was entirely sold on the concept of camping outdoors. It’s written from such a fresh perspective, by someone who hasn’t drank the kool-aid of needing all the latest gear, or of doing something that’s mainstream in the camping culture just because.
She goes over everything from acquiring the right gear, to choosing a campsite to how to dig a cathole. She makes it entirely accessible, and not at all intimidating.
Most importantly she shares her personal stories, including why it is she will deal with the downsides of camping.
Let’s Get Primitive is the book I handed over to a friend who wanted to convince his new girlfriend to go camping with him for the first time. She read it, went camping and had a great time.
I wholeheartedly recommend Let’s Get Primitive to anyone new to the concept of camping.
Igloos are something out of a children’s cartoon to me.
It blows my mind to think that they are real, and that I could build one with my own two hands.
His post addresses the truth that building an igloo is hard work, even with a crew of several guys. Building an igloo takes all day.
Building an igloo is much more involved than I ever imagined.
Though, at the end of it you’ve got a place to sleep for the night.
A place you built with you own two hands, that keeps you warm and out of the elements.
Plus, it’s just cool.
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