Top 5 Adventure Gift Sites: If Ya Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em, On Your Terms

Like spawning salmon, we’ve entered a season where we find ourselves swimming mightily in search of something that is almost beyond our understanding.  This shopping season can be a difficult beast to navigate but On A Dime believes it can be tamed.

Today we’re keeping our taming simple and posting some links to aid in shopping for the adventurer in your life. We realize no commission or gain from these sites, we’re only passing them along in the hope that you experience a more relaxed version of what can be a very stressful and chaotic time.

Next week we’ll talk about ways to banish the seasonal blues but heads up, begin by creating a budget and sticking to it. This can make all the difference in the world. We know first hand as we’ve had both the success and the fail-years in this pursuit.

So, cover us, we’re going in.

1) GEAR TRADE – Discount gear and this site is in keeping with our On A Dime spirit.

2) GREAT OUTDOOR DEALS – Daily coupons and discounts on gear.

3) REI OUTLET – Through Monday Dec. 1st coupon for 30% off of one item. We swear by REI’s integrity and customer service.

4) SIERRA TRADING POST – Discounts in effect and some hefty sale items.

5) CAMPSAVER – Deals and promotions happening right now on gear.

*We shared 5 sites that you can shop from without having to pull into the mall parking lot but we also want to share a sixth that allows you to not have to pull out your wallet.

6) SHARE – no link for this. We’re talking gear exchange and/or gear co-op. Reach out and connect with a hiking/camping community or stir it up and try for the creation of one via social media and share gear. I’ve loaned my gear and gone on combined trips where everyone contributes. This will encourage camaraderie as well as a healthier pocketbook. You deserve moments of Zen and they are possible with a little planning. Skip shopping for a bunch of shiny object/junk in December and instead shop for like-minded friends that shelve the toxicity in their lives in favor of healthy, creative pursuits and you are on your way.

Feel free to “like”/share to Facebook and/or Tweet if you’d like. We’re always grateful.  🙂

6 Reasons To Try A Hostel

Teri’s collection of hilarious essays are on Amazon! Grab them now!

Hostels are no longer just for college kids traveling Europe, they are for everyone and everyone is taking notice. If you doubt it, check out Hi Hostels/Hostelling International. Hostels can be found in a large number of locales with new ones being added constantly.  They are worth exploring and that’s a fact.

We’ve bunked right outside of Yosemite and climbed Half Dome and Nevada Falls, walked the black sand beach at the Marin Headlands, beachcombed and hot-tubbed at the base of a lighthouse, on the ocean at Pigeon Point. We’ve enjoyed the incredible views at Point Montara, got our Zen on at the Point Reyes Hostel, and swung energetic in the bustling beach town of Santa Cruz. Whatever you crave, there is a hostel for you.

Below we’ve compiled 6 reasons to check out a hostel as well as six different California hostels we’ve visited and recommend.

1) Save Money – Flat out, they are cheaper than hotels in almost every single case.  We stayed oceanfront along Pacific Coast Highway in California for under $80 a night for a private room, shared bath, at a lighthouse.

2) Family Friendly – Yes, we have found them to be family friendly with the ones we’ve booked offering private rooms. Also available are full/community kitchens if you like to cook. We had homemade seafood chowder that I brought along in the cooler when we visited San Francisco and then walked on the black sand beach at sunset, again under $80 for a private room.

3) Experience Culture – You will absolutely encounter people from all over the world and if you enjoy socializing, there are always fellow travelers looking to exchange information on hot spots in any city. If hearing a multitude of other languages floats your boat like it does mine, you will be in for a treat.

4) They’re Clean – With the exception of one individually owned hostel not up to par on cleanliness, we found them all to be clean and well maintained. That said, they are not slick and formulaic like hotels, however, HI Hostels has raised the bar on the many they run and decorated them beautifully.

5)  Reservations Accepted – You can plan ahead and grab private rooms or fly by the seat of your pants and hope for an empty spot as dorm rooms are more easily snapped up on short notice during peak times.

6) Amenities Abound – These are not stark dorm-style accommodations. Hostels are varied and offer fun individual perks so always ask. There is a day spa at the Yosemite Bug that is very relaxing and cost-friendly, offering massage, yoga, and herbal baths as well as a cafe that sells beer and wine for your post-spa spirits while the Pigeon Point Hostel ponies up an ocean-side hot tub that is for rent by the hour and it’s located at the base of a lighthouse.

Below are the hostels we’ve stayed at and enjoyed in California. We’d love to hear of your experiences staying in hostels and your tips for creating a successful get-away by utilizing this money-saving alternative.

“Like”/share to Facebook or Tweet if you wish. We’re always grateful. 🙂

Point Montara Hostel

Limontour sunset (1)This beach is ten minutes from the Point Reyes Hostel

Santa Cruz hostel

Santa Cruz Hostel (check times allowed in rooms on this one)

Black Sand Beach at sunset

Black Sand Beach, 5 minute walk from the Marin Headlands Hostel which is minutes from San Francisco

Early morning view of the bridge from the Marin Headlands

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands hiking area

Pigeon Pt.Pigeon Point Hostel

Bug 002

Yosemite Bug hike to the seasonal waterfall

5 Ways To Keep The Adventure Alive

Today’s article is dedicated to keeping the adventure alive.

We all love our time away, our vacations, and weekends. And then Monday rolls around and we drum our fingers until the following Friday. I realized this repetitive cycle was a draining experience quite awhile back and set out to transform it. These are the little things I discovered and they have truly shifted my mood when I am not hiking a trail or road-tripping and my fingers start drumming.

1) PHOTOS – I cannot stress enough that every single person, no matter their photographic ability, comes back from an adventure with at least one photo they love. I know because I see them on Facebook. So here’s my suggestion, print your piece of art and put it where you can see it. My guy – at the urging of his brilliant gal – just enlarged a number of his prints, had them mounted on gatorboard – this is foam core photo backing, black looks best – and he hung them in his office. Friends, Fed-Ex/Kinkos offers this service if you need to really save money but you can also visit your local photo developer and have them mount your photo/s. Do this for yourself, you deserve it. *The gatorboard link I provided is to the lab I’ve used successfully for over ten years. I realize no compensation for mentioning them. The photo above of Convict Lake is the first thing I see every morning when I wake.

2) TRINKETS – We’ve all done it, bought a trinket on a trip, arrived home and then couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Put it on a shelf and if you really want to make an impact, collect similar objects or multiples but stay simple so as not to overwhelm. What the heck do I mean? A tumbleweed. Yep, I have always loved these thorny weeds and lucked into one rolling by in a horrendous wind-storm in Nevada and voila! This was my trinket and I love seeing it every day perched atop my bookcase where it can’t nail me with thorns. I also have collected rocks – not from parks that ask that you take only pictures but rather from the roadside – in the middle of nowhere. I have some granite from the side of highway #395 that I cherish like it’s gold.

photo (4)

3) COLLAGE – These are easy and fun. I am sharing a collage my daughter created on the artist Frida Kahlo that I display with my kids’ colorful pottery. On your getaways, collect free brochures, napkins, postcards, and your own photos and make a collage on a poster board from the craft store (foam core is best). This is so inexpensive that if you tire of it, just make another one on your next trip and keep rotating them.

photo (3)

4) JOURNAL – Keep a beautiful journal on your bedside table and enjoy reading back over trip entries. It’s great to just jot down family/kid quotes throughout the trip. One of my favorites was courtesy of my daughter who was in grade school at the time and wrote down that she and her sister had decided that I overruled their booty shorts because I was jealous of their bodies. I guarantee you that what you read later will be funnier and funnier with each passing year.

5) PRESENT – We all read the “be present” platitudes, with the flowers and butterflies, via social media, and we “get” it but darn-it, it can be hard when you’re exhausted and need some down time. We’re very present to that. So try and just hunker down in your cozy bed and grab moments of in-town adventure. Read a great book (Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed or Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer) or watch your favorite adventure/landscape movie or documentary (libraries loan them for free). Brew some tea, pour a glass of wine and light candles or incense (I just heard my candle-loving guy cough “hippie” over the incense suggestion). And finally, go ahead and begin thinking of your next adventure. Many popular campgrounds book out as early as six months in advance so a December holiday gift – from you to you – could be reservations for Big Sur for May and now we are not just talking “being present” but also receiving a wonderful present!

Create a living space that reinforces and celebrates what rocks your soul. Fan the flame of adventure, travel, and exploration by appreciating the roads you have traveled thus far. Your journey is ongoing and rather than experience it in snippets of singular getaways, strive to incorporate your moments into your permanent daily living. This will enrich your life and expand your gratitude and that is the best souvenir of all.

Feel free to “like”/share to Facebook and/or Tweet. We are always deeply grateful. 🙂

It’s Almost Never Too Late

I originally titled this It’s Never Too Late but then I realized that never is all too often used in conjunction with some broad-sweeping platitude and that – in fact – sometimes it is too late. So an example would be that, while I know it is too late for me to be mistaken for Laird Hamilton I have tried surfing. Amazing how much saltwater ingestion the body can bounce back from. I also came away with a board burn but for about three glorious seconds I was Laird, riding giants (whitewash) and as I catapulted sideways off the board I enjoyed a moment of role reversal as my teen daughter (who’d been holding the back of the board) cheered me on like a toddler taking a first step. My vision of pro surfing future dimmed but my vision of pro fish taco eater brightened and all was well with the world.

 It’s the vision that sometimes stops us before we even get started, the one that has us peskily knowing that we are not pro material and then prevents us from grabbing even a slice of our version of adventure. Today, I say… “malarkey” (my late dad’s favorite expression). Malarkey to the idea of a vision because an adventurer is in the eye of the beholder. I know this due to the fact that I now behold myself to be an adventurer and I am the most unlikely of the unlikely to claim this title.

 Athletics was the bane of my childhood existence. I was that kid in PE that never was picked for a team because I was hiding in the bathroom, I was that kid that mistakenly joined the tennis team and had never played tennis – Hello! Finally, I matured and I was that adult that was put in charge of driving my dad’s golf cart and almost drove it off the course but damn if sports wasn’t finally fun. And then age forty rolled around and this mother of four first discovered depression and then happened upon a distraction from said depression by jogging (depending on your definition of jogging). This new sport was successful enough that I conquered the stitch in my side and upped the ante by stumbling clumsily toward a crazy idea of climbing Mount Whitney.

 I’ve talked about this before on the site but want to expand by sharing that I did not find my inner brave goddess, I ended up climbing Mount Whitney solo completely by accident. The hiker that was set to go with me backed out and I first tried drowning my disappointment in a half a bottle of wine, coupled with whining inwardly for the better part of several hours, and then I put the bottle down and had a tipsy yet lucid idea. I would go it alone. After several long months of prepping and reading up on Whitney, I felt a tiny glow of defiance and determination start to burn. I fanned that flame and about seven weeks later, gathered my supplies and drove to Lone Pine. I did not climb alone because I was courageous; I climbed alone because I was angry. I was mad at politics, religion, the world, and finally when the buck came slamming to a stop, I knew I was most profoundly mad at myself and had been for maybe my entire life. It occurred to me that for once it might be invigorating to channel my dysfunctional self-fury and lack of self-worth into some sort of force that felt constructive.

 My selfish mistake was in not telling anyone I was doing it solo, however, I was scared enough at the thought of climbing alone that I was even scared of being scared and I was certain the well-meaning, warning brigade that I knew would surface, would increase my terror to the point of backing out. What exactly could they potentially scare me with? Only everything from bears to mountain lions to serial killers to cereal killers (otherwise known as thieving marmots). I figured I would make it exactly two miles, be attacked by a serial killer – disguised as a bear or vice-versa – and then after I fought my way out of that one, I would stumble around starving to death while marmots scarfed down my trail mix. I had so many fantasies of derail that I finally decided to ignore Whitney and just focus on getting to the yurt I’d booked on a lavender ranch – yes lavender; people, this is California.

 Delacour Ranch was my home base and with its floral fields and yurts and cabin, it seemed innocent enough. Not so much. I spent night number one in a yurt that felt like a boat in The Perfect Storm as the wind whipped it hour after hour and then – hallelujah – on night two, the owners (at no extra charge) moved me to the delightful cabin that inspired poetry by day and pepper spray by night. I spent the better part of one hour practicing reaching for the pepper spray, unsnapping the holster, getting in position, and making sure I was aiming it away from my face. Yep, it was scary to be alone for the first time but two tail-wagging ranch hounds set up a vigil outside my door and that felt vaguely reassuring though I never could figure out if they were there to keep someone from coming in or keep me from going out. They witnessed the pepper spray study session.

 A little scairt? Yes but, finally out I went (armed with said pepper spray). Horseshoe Meadows, at ten thousand feet, provided excellent hiking, a trial run at altitude readiness, and a plethora of bear warnings. I had the bear protocol memorized and had taken notes and followed the advice on acclimatizing by hiking high and then sleeping low. Delacour is about eight thousand feet so this combo fit the bill. I hiked off and on all day – more off than on – reasoning that I needed to store up my energy. Sleeping at night proved elusive and I told myself it was a common altitude side effect while knowing that it was actually nerves. One courage-builder I had decided upon was to take a practice hike to Lone Pine Lake, which, at about four miles one way, ends at the entrance to the Whitney permit zone. I had the supreme luck of running across two men, loaded to the gills with enormous packs and taking on a multi-day ascent. As I shared my plan and fears they smiled casually and revealed that they had been friends for seventy years and were currently ninety. I suddenly felt better at the realization that surely bears and serial killers would target them over me.

 With a couple of my trail fears seemingly handled, it was now time to collect my permit at the ranger station and check the weather. I felt a little like a female John Wayne as I adopted a swagger, hitched up my six dollar, mens zip-away hiking pants and approached the desk. When I had the full attention of the uniformed mountain man, I shared that I, a lone female, would be taking on Mount Whitney without the benefit of a Sherpa. He stared at me unblinking, literally not a blink, and I wondered if he had been trained to do this as some sort of survival skill required for the job. Finally he raised one eyebrow and assured me that other women had made it up Whitney and lived to tell Oprah all about it but that I should get an early start as bad weather was expected. Mentally bracing myself for a four am start rather than six am, I asked what “early” meant and he said to be in the Whitney zone by midnight.

 “Midnight?” I stammered, all of my John Wayne bravado suddenly replaced by a desire to hide in the bathroom. “Meaning hike all night rather than all day?” I choked out. Yes, that was correct the non-blinker revealed and then added that to plan otherwise would find me morphed into an ice sculpture if the lightning did not take me out first. In one fell swoop I traded serial killers for becoming a Donner party popsickle or a lightning rod. So did I take his advice?

 I was on the trail at eleven-thirty pm after a terrifying exit from my car in a parking lot that I was certain was teeming with bears. My headlamp resembled a laser show and I almost wet my pants before realizing that the animal furtively stalking me from behind was my straw hat swinging merrily to and fro while tied on my daypack.

 Hiking all night turned out to be ok and no bears or killers appeared. The trail only got sassy and disappeared once but I circled for a few minutes (an hour), like some demented squirrel that had been bonked on the head by a car bumper, and then continued onward, passing a campsite and seething  with huge envy at whoever was snoring loudly. I felt many things throughout that night, nervousness, determination, calm, and at times giddiness. What I did not ever feel, was anger. It just evaporated and I was left with an enjoyable energy that lasted all the way until sunrise – at the top of the famed ninety-nine switchbacks – when my “newbie” adrenaline rush, courtesy of believing that the thirteen thousand mark was close to the summit, had me almost skipping. Even with the first hiker – age sixty – I’d encountered all night warning me that it was about to get tougher, I sauntered optimistically around to the back side of the climb and was instantly given a king size dose of reality.

 It was frigid. As it is, I shiver when it drops below eighty and this was a hateful, bullying wind coupled with a most powerful smug shade. I had hit this area before the sun did and berated myself for that yet I knew that the gathering clouds really left no alternative. I was aware that it was time for my big girl pants but damned if I could pull them up, as my hands were now stiff and in danger of frostbite. Adding to the equation was the onset of a headache and it was this moment my new and seasoned hiker friend gave me a directive that would end up delivering the summit. He explained that if I was getting an altitude headache, I needed to breathe deep and try and outpace it. If it started winning the race, I would have no choice but to reverse quickly in order to avoid becoming sick and possibly needing assistance from my non-blinker friend back at the ranger station.

 The next two hours were difficult but I finally stumbled to the top and caught a glimpse of the famed wooden hut. I felt queasy, had a nasty headache, and was past any point of real pride at making it. After a quick selfie, I threw it in reverse and got the heck out of Dodge. This decision to depart the summit ended up working in my favor when I slogged it through freezing rain, down the switchbacks, as lightning popped all around.

 This first Whitney trip left my muscles shredded but that also included my anger muscle and it did not grow stronger. I would be a silly liar or maybe a new self-help success – hmm…dammit – if I said this cured me of all of what ailed me, it did not. I returned with the same shortcomings I had been running from and there were and still are presently challenges to navigate. Some days I feel competent, at peace, and filled with grace but others dawn with self-doubt, turmoil, and major clumsiness.

 The thing that, that first trip up Whitney gifted me with was the simple realization that while I have not been delivered a cure to my own failings, there is a tonic to the turmoil. A vision of calm is found by going into the wild and being fully present to a stunning sunrise or magnificent sunset because for that – attainable vision – it is almost never too late.

 Feel free to “like”/share on Facebook and/or tweet if you wish. Always grateful.   🙂