The Nitty And The Gritty: 10 Steps On A Solo Trip

Teri’s hilarious collection of short stories, THE THINGS I CANNOT DO,  is available at Amazon for under $5!

I often read articles that optimistically enroll me in an idea but then I can’t quite figure out how to execute it or I discover it’s not my talent. The wildly crooked, crocheted scarves I attempted in the past (and wear) are proof of this. Today’s post is shared with the hope that if you want to take on an adventure and feel confused about how to get started, some answers and some truth (the nitty and the gritty) might be helpful so…here we go.

December 2014 rolled around and I found myself once again coveting some wilderness snowshoeing. This had been a desire for years but every time I planned, weather and/or logistics derailed me. This time, the challenge was money. If I went for it, it would need to be on a tight budget. Before I continue, please know that I believe on a dime is subjective and generally I pick and choose a splurge or two so this overview is just my personal experience and money-saving strategy on this particular trip. If you stay at the Yosemite Lodge, don’t feel guilty, take a friend along…or message me.  😉

Here’s the way my Yosemite snowshoeing trip went down, step by step:

1) I found a ham on sale after Thanksgiving ($8 marked down from $27) and cut the leftovers into several portions and placed them in baggies, in the freezer. I also made split pea soup w/ ham in it. On Saturday December 20th, I packed the ham portions, soup portions, instant oatmeal (I ended up eating none of the oatmeal), peanut butter, oranges, tea bags, coffee (pre-perked in a thermos), 1/2&1/2, homemade peanut butter cookies and homemade oatmeal raisin bars, and a bottle of whiskey (splurge). Left over from another trip, I had two Mountain House egg and bacon pouches (this is a huge splurge that on my budget I don’t indulge in so I was thrilled that my guy had previously purchased these and left them behind). If you have the money, these are so EASY and no mess to clean up.

2) My gear became a creative challenge when my mat sprung a leak so I packed 3 bed pillows for cushion from the cold ground and 1 for my head. I knew I would not be backpacking so hauling stuff was doable. I brought from home – my tent, 3 sleeping bags (1 fantastic Sierra bag rated 20 and 2 cheapie 30 rated bags), camp chair, single burner stove, firewood (oak, don’t buy wood in Yosemite, it is a fortune), headlamp, lantern (I have never used the lantern in a decade so why I continue to pack it is a mystery), matches, mess kit (created from my kitchen), and cooler w/ my food. **3 sleeping bags? Yes, I used one as extra padding over the pillow bed and I slipped my Sierra bag in the other for additional warmth. I freeze easily and had noted the low 20s night temps and prediction of frost in the weather report and it had rained the previous day so it was still damp. **I did not pack a full med kit, HUGE mistake.

3) Sunday at 6am, I hit the road (cost for fuel from LA to Yosemite was $30, my car gets about 34 mpg). Arrived at my campsite at 1pm. The entry fee for Yosemite was $20 and it was $5 per night to camp in Camp 4. A good thing to know is that Camp 4 was tame and very mellow as I was there in the off-season but this is a well-known, historical rock climbing camp so in the busier season there are early lines for the first come/first serve sites of which, up to 6 tents can share a single fire ring. There are multiple bear lockers at each site and a number of picnic tables throughout.

4) I set up in about 20 minutes but left my Sierra bag and my firewood locked in my car. I do not worry about theft generally but have learned from another on a dimer – when she had her firewood stolen – to leave the important things locked when I can. After setting up, I headed out on the hike right at the base of the campsite which leads to Upper Yosemite Falls (this is an uphill climb). In all, I ended up doing only about 4 miles as I was suddenly hit with what I thought was a violent allergic reaction. I was sneezing and coughing insanely.

Hike view
THIS is the view from the hike about 1/2 way
Waterfall first glance
Yosemite Falls from the trail

5) Hiking back down was tiring and I took a quick break to call my guy and instantly felt perhaps I was suffering from more than allergies. An hour later (5pm) and I was in my sleeping bag, drinking a hot whiskey, water, and fresh orange juice. The next 14 hours brought shivering fever, sore throat, coughing, chest congestion, and finally euphoria. Euphoria? Yes but I would never in a million years suggest that this is the norm nor that it could be duplicated. I’m assuming it was a combo of the fever, whiskey, and the arrival of a couple that only spoke Dutch. My eldest daughter’s boyfriend is Dutch and as I eavesdropped on this couple clinking bottles, cooking, and making a fire, I had the supreme feeling of comfort that comes from access to something joyful and familiar. It was as if my daughter and her guy were right outside my tent. The night passed peacefully and a side note: right before collapsing in my tent, I witnessed the most glorious sunset over Half Dome. This view of Half Dome is from the parking lot of Camp 4.

Half Dome sunset 1
Half Dome sunset from Camp 4

6) I woke and felt weak but better and drank some tea and ate a Mountain House. The Mirror Lake hike (near Curry village) is a piece of cake so I strolled that one and then headed to Curry Village to hand over $15 for DayQuil (not fun). After consulting with my guy on the phone, it was decided I would sit in my camp chair in the sun and drink herbal tea all day, log some more sleep and then the following morning either head directly to my daughter’s house in Tahoe if I was sicker or go for the snowshoeing if I was better.

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake

7) I managed a fire with my oak and some discarded boxes left in a bear locker. Note to you: bring kindling because I would’ve been in a world of hurt if not for the boxes. I ate split pea soup and relaxed by the fire and then got in my sleeping bag with my book by 7pm.

Campfire and view from Camp #4

8) My alarm sounded at 7am and this is something to take notes on as I believe I finally have conquered breaking camp when it is hatefully cold. I activated the hand warmers, placed them in my gloves and packed up the car. Dismantling metal tent poles with ice on them was so much more doable with the hand warmers. After the car was loaded, I fired up the single burner stove and made my Mountain House and coffee while the car warmed up and melted the ice off of my windshield. **Bring an ice scraper unlike yours truly.

9) White Lightning (my little Hyundai) was pointed toward Badger Pass by 8am and I arrived 10 minutes after they opened the rental area. The snowshoes were $24 for the day and I only made a slight ass out of myself when I considered putting them on INSIDE the rental area (you attach them when you are already in the snow). I had been told by many that snowshoeing is horrendously arduous but I found it required the same exertion as regular hiking. Now, it is important to note that I was traversing snowshoe trails so the snow was pretty packed. The arduous part would’ve occurred if I had taken on unmarked areas of deeper, powdery snow. I learned this upon exploring those areas and took a few ungraceful stumbles when the snowshoes stuck. The end result was that I fell in love with snowshoeing and will do it again. There is silence and beauty and such stillness when you leave the congested areas and head into the forest. I literally only saw three other hikers for the first three hours I was out. If you enjoy company and want to skip the $24 rental fee, Yosemite offers daily guided snowshoeing hikes *Scroll to the bottom of the link and the snowshoes are included. I ended up hiking 4 hours and then had to head to Tahoe but I will absolutely return to explore more trails.

Snowshoeing finally!

Stunning stillness

10) Overall, this trip was lovely despite the complications. I’m often asked if I get lonely or am ever afraid when camping and trekking alone and the answer is, yes. Sometimes I am lonely and miss camaraderie and sometimes I am afraid but that is rare and really it’s the same experience as hearing an unfamiliar bump in the middle of the night in my home. I also have been asked if I miss luxury and the answer to that is, yes, sometimes, but I feel I experience the return to civilization in an enhanced manner after time in a tent. Soaking in a hot lavender and eucalyptus oil bath is a million times better after camping – and drinking a glass of wine with family and friends feels more joyful after solitude. There are always times of imperfection, derail, regroup, and breakdown, but the moments of sweet perfection outweigh any less than stellar experiences. It is that sweet perfection – so very powerful – that pulls me back time and time and there has never been a trip that did not deliver multiple versions of euphoria.

Finally, is this for everyone? No. I get that some people don’t derive pleasure from roughing it but for those dreaming this little dream, go ahead, what are you waiting for? If a misfit like me can figure it out, you can too. You deserve that sunrise/sunset, campfire, frosty morning air, perked coffee, aroma therapy bath. Take it.

See our other articles on Mount Whitney and Half Dome if you covet backpacking as well as our simple “how to” tab for planning.

Please feel free to share/like on Facebook. Always grateful.  🙂

Get Creative & Take A Seat In The Dirt

The creative mind belongs to you and it is yours to celebrate and share as you wish. In these hunker down, hibernate months, I like to think there is room for creativity to flow if you arm yourself with the best tools and take a seat in the dirt. I listed links the other day on Facebook to some sites that act as fuel for the creative brain and I’m hoping that this post (and repost of links) encourages any of you craving creativity to just go ahead and take a big bite. Adventure is in the eye of the beholder and keeping yours front and center can be doable in the winter when you follow nature’s lead and go – not only into the wild – but perhaps also into the stillness or even into the dirt.

Take a seat in the dirt

I am headed to Yosemite to hopefully take on some snow hiking and/or snowshoeing but what makes my heart skip a beat, is the idea of singular moments of supreme calm waiting to be claimed. Now, I know that Yosemite offers up a multitude of heavenly opportunities for stunning scenery but what I hope to convey today is that beauty is all around and you need not strike out for hours on some arduous hike to find it. A simple walk in your neighborhood could pony up some gorgeousness if you just slow way down, breathe deep, and hit your pause button.

A recent hike into a wintery, dry, dead-looking zone surprised me when I literally plopped down on the dirt trail and just scanned the landscape. At first glance, I saw endless dead sticks and branches, brown dirt, and a bit of dry grass – but upon closer inspection, I realized there was a whole new life-force that was vibrant and tenacious. It was some sort of teeny-tiny yellowish fungi with dots of orange and this fungi had made its home along a great number of the dead branches. As I began photographing the little plant life, I was struck by the fact that it was truly miniature trail art and that I would never have noticed it if I would’ve continued hurriedly on my way.

This experience seemed to slow my frenetic brain to a more measured pace. All of a sudden, I was no longer a nervous wreck about the release of my first collection of essays, I was not going over my finances, thinking about an oil change, what I would do if there was no five dollar camping in Yosemite, how I would react if I bumped into my Hollywood crush (Kevin James, I swear), calculating how much my rent will equal in one year…well, you get the point. The yellow-orange moment pulled me in and focused (stilled) my brain and reminded me that this is a big part of a really good adventure.

When I arrived home, it was supremely difficult to not share the photos immediately but I knew I wanted to pass them along in the spirit of adventure and possibility, but not just my own, I wanted to pass them to anyone out there hunkered down in the winter months, aching for their own slice of creativity and beauty. It’s there, go get it!

I have been so fortunate to connect with other On A Dimers in the past year and learn from their creativity in times of life rearrangement. It is my hope that if you feel a little flicker of creativity burning, that you jump off of your cliff and get busy. Whether you scare yourself (like I did) by releasing your creativity out into the world or you choose to open up and flow for your own benefit or perhaps your family’s, I look forward to hearing that you are fanning your flame and celebrating your life of adventure.

The fantabulous fungi collection was all captured with an I-Phone 5, no filter, no special app., just a simple point and shoot from a misfit sitting in the dirt. The top (featured) image lost some clarity due to formatting and enlarging it for the site but the examples of the fungi below show the beauty of just grabbing simple shots while on the trail.

Check out the following links for inspiration/guidance and grab a free photo-journal gift from Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens through Dec. 23rd.

Rowdy Kittens – Tammy Strobel worked through the grief of losing her beloved stepfather by creating a photo-journal project that ended up evolving into an ongoing passion. She shares with others how to begin a creative endeavor through writing and photography.

Paul Jarvis – Paul offers a free (yes, FREE), step by step email tutorial on how to write and market a book. If you are not looking to market your book, just utilize the writing advice.

Teri Clifton (me!) – If you’d like an example of someone who took the plunge, I’m putting myself on the chopping block. What I am still learning about writing and marketing my book, The Things I Cannot Do could fill a book (cheesy, I know). Here are a few of the things I do know about going public with your writing/art/photography/poetry.  You will be nervous. You will fear typos/grammatical errors and they will not dissapooint you. 😉 You will worry that you might lose readers (and you will). You will alternate between feeling relief that you took the plunge and terror that it was an awful mistake. And finally…hopefully, you will seek out support and seize it so I leave you with LA columnist/writer/teacher Meghan Daum’s quote/advice to her writing students “nobody will love you unless somebody hates you”.

Feel free to like/share to Facebook and/or Tweet/reddit/Google and whatever other crazy social media strikes your fancy. Always grateful.

10 Holiday Depression Busters: Making Yourself OK

As the holidays gather momentum, it can seem that everyone is having a holly jolly time but if “everyone” is not the category you’re currently in, know that you are not alone.

This article is personal – as in been there and still doing that – and I’m hoping that some ideas that have aided me in the past few weeks, might help those of you out there feeling blue.

A big moment came for me back in November when I realized that manufactured expectation was perhaps the biggest factor in increasing holiday stress and melancholy. We can credit commercials and social media with manufacturing the expectation or vision of our holidays but when that expectation proves unattainable, it could be time to haul it right out of the mall and off of the Christmas card ads and take it the heck back. Specifically speaking, I realized that it is looking like I will spend the holiday without my four kids due to work/financial obligations and this fact could appear sad at first glance, however, sad in this case – I came to realize – is in the eye of the beholder.

The bigger picture, when examined closely, had me beholding kids that are all on thrilling journeys, following the things in life that they are passionate about and adventuring all over the world. This is cause for celebration not grief and I remind myself of this any time I start to feel heartache.

I am acutely aware that there are plenty of people navigating supreme suffering. People out there walking through profound loss of loved ones, financial instability, and/or job stress as well as uncertainty about the future. A number of these people have, in recent times, rocked my being with their ability to reframe their circumstances and find a new way to shape their expectations. A single, elderly man who has no family (both children are dead as well as his wife) a week ago, admired my humble Christmas tree and warmly remarked “your decorations are beautiful and I think it’s going to be a beautiful holiday this year”. This man’s statement stilled me to my core and encouraged me to examine my previous holiday expectation.

After some pondering, I discovered a new uplifting idea. What if I removed the words exciting, busy, hectic, gifts, parties and shopping from my holiday and replaced them with the elderly man’s one word? The word beautiful. And then I gave some thought to new definitions of holiday beauty, definitions beyond kids gathered around the tree, Santa, and revelry. I exhaled into this idea of beauty and just let it be and a different picture began to form. A quiet image of beauty outdoors took hold and a dream to snowshoe unfolded.

At this time, I think my vision can take a seat and yours should come to the podium. If you remove familiar/predictable holiday expectations from your mind, what opening is possible? Could it be a day that involves a simple activity that brings you joy? Would it be possible to connect to people who also are searching for their vision? Maybe a unique observance of your holiday is waiting for you to create it and all that is needed is the first step.

If a first step is well…the first step, please feel free to take the following suggestions and start a plan that is right for you. Use the ideas as a template or fuel for your creativity. And if you hear a misfit has gone missing in the wilderness on Christmas, please follow the snowshoe tracks and bring coffee.


1) HUMOR – If you end up flying solo, I cannot stress enough my belief that humor can be your best friend and I am speaking from direct experience. For the past few months I have watched tons of stand-up comedy on Netflix and it has buoyed my spirit when times were tough. Free movies are available at the library and I also have relied heavily on hilarious books.

2) POTLUCK – Host a misfit Christmas (finances are also a misfit? POTLUCK!)

3) HIKE – Go hiking and if you don’t want to be alone, put out a call on social media.

4) MOVIE – Gather some buddies for a movie either at a theater or have everyone bring snacks and watch at home.

5) READ – Read a great book! If you like short stories/essays, I recently released THE THINGS I CANNOT DO, a Kindle collection of humorous/sentimental essays that are free for Kindle Unlimited and $4.99 for reg. Kindle.

6) BATHE – Yes, take a hot bath and I recommend Aura Cacia lavender oil and Tazo tea to sip while you soak.

7) CONNECT – Connect with your neighbors! Make fliers, and put them up for a neighborhood wine or coffee walk. We did this several times and it was a hit, with entire families and doggies joining in and bringing their own drinks on the walk-about.

8) CREATE – Go to the craft store and grab some art supplies and spend some time getting in touch with your inner artist. Vision boards are easy and fun (cut out dreamy ideas from magazines and glue on foam core poster board in collage form) and if you make it more reasonable, shelving the high-end, fantasy wishes like cars and clothes, and instead focus on more easily attainable ideas, the good juju will flow.

9) GIVE – Now this will sound a little extreme but here you go, grab inexpensive fun snacks and just walk around areas where people are working and hand them out while shouting a joyful personal greeting. Ideas for snacks could be clementine oranges, apples, candy canes with sealed teabags tied on.

10) ACKNOWLEDGE – This goes with the idea above. If you feel lonely or down, it can help to trick your emotions by handing out positive energy (I have done this before and it worked). Just walk up to the people at the market or anywhere else open on holidays and thank the employees.  Don’t let finances hold you back if they are scarce, your words are a gift. It is perfectly lovely to walk into a hospital/urgent care/grocery store/quick mart/ and just say “Hey, thank you so much for being here today. Just wanted you to know I am grateful”. Also wave and smile at everyone!

And that brings me to this…thank you. 2014 was greatly enhanced and I often was hugely lifted up by readers of On A Dime and their stories. So I would add (courtesy of an On A Dime adventurer named Mike B.) that the best thing you can do this holiday and coming year is to connect with people that support and partner with you in appreciating, continuing, and embarking on the journey.

**Have your own ideas/personal holiday beautiful experience? Feel free to share here or on our Facebook page.