All posts by Teri

Overcoming Fear: Put The Rattlesnake In Its Place

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Teri on the fear factor trail.

Hi, my name is Teri and I am afraid. For as far back as I can remember I’ve been afraid and the world around me has been very accommodating in justifying all of my fears – encouraging them and fanning the flame right on schedule: no time off for holidays. Whether it’s the certainty of catching Ebola from a stranger or being snarked on by the Facebook grammar police (my daughters) who at this very moment are muttering, “snarked is not a word”, the universe is intent on keeping its fellow humans in a constant state of anxiety. Presently I’m beginning a new chapter titled Blow It Out Your Pie-hole, You Can’t Scare Me, but the past has been a very different and fear-filled story.

My previous life had me stressing over things as varied as being an inadequate dolt in the presence my ex’s highly educated friends while they compared notes on the agony of GRE prep to the surety that my four kids would wind up in juvenile detention if I stopped breastfeeding them before they entered grade school. The one thing the previous life taught me about fear is, like weeds, it grows when left unchecked.

As I moved through adult life, my weedy, pesticide-resistant fears pretty much centered around who I was in the world and this led to the powerful conclusion that extreme insecurity and false bravado were simply two sides of the same coin. I had dabbled in both a sassy ego and a shredded self worth and finally come to realize that the reason I feared not being smart enough, sophisticated enough, witty enough – was because I wasn’t. And I still am not.

For years I’d wandered into connections with people that were constant reminders that I was unworthy and not up to snuff but the vacating of a job and a round of multiple crises in a short period of time offered up an unexpected victory. The win was the realization that I was just an average Teri and that turned out to be joyfully freeing. Exhausted from the self-worth battle, I’d finally surrendered and in that surrender my fear gained perspective, I need not make any further attempt at special. Average was acceptable.

This embrace of average is something most goal oriented people do not understand: those who cut their teeth on grade point averages, yearly income, and an inability to laugh at themselves as energetically as they do at everyone else are allergic to average but for me it was empowering. It was freeing. There was no longer a quest for extraordinary and most profoundly, any strategy designed to convey my own specialness was finished. Who’da thunk it, that this search for the above average was truly the root, the nucleus of all of my fears.

Once self worth and ego were given a time out, fear became a force that could be deciphered on its own and dealt with head on and lucky for me, a robust, middle-aged rattlesnake was waiting to help me out. In the split second it takes to make a dumb decision and head down an overgrown and very narrow trail, I was transformed by Slytherin, a rattlesnake the size of an Anaconda yet somehow hidden in the grass. This deadly serpent fired up a rattle that sounded like a chainsaw and caused a very rational response from me: I first froze and then ran like hell while grabbing my cell phone because everyone knows a snake can be warded off with a call to a boyfriend who lives thirteen hundred miles away. My desire for an off grid hike always mysteriously vanishes at the first hint of a snake.

Yes, I lived through this but the result was a terror every time I went near the trail that I had so coveted pre-Slytherin encounter. Over the next few months, I trekked past the trailhead and stared enviously down the dusty path at other hikers sauntering merrily along, not a care in the world. A half a year passed and then one day on a hike with my daughter’s significant other, I relayed the story and my fear. Of course Jules’ Dutch to English response was “We go, yes? We must take this trail now”.

And so we did, with me inexplicably going first. Jules had previously shared that snakes are gratefully unheard of in Holland and though he was in agreement that I needed to face my fear, he saw no urgency in facing his. Like the true leader and snake expert I am, I conquered the terrain by clapping my hands loudly and shuffling my feet in a grumpier old men fashion. Evidently the snakes recognized my superiority as we saw none on our two and a half mile stretch. What we did see was a spectacular trail that was reminiscent of Lord Of The Rings and as I walked through the forest, I found that the snake focus abated and my attention shifted to the trek.

As it happened, the week of the snake face-off coincided with my attendance at two documentary showings, both dealing specifically with fear and self worth. MERU is a story of tenacity, friendship, courage, and honor while JEFF LOWE’S METANOIA explores both determination and surrender and how those two can coexist. These mountain climbing tales made me hyper-aware that the guys involved seemingly managed any fear by literally looking upward. In every camera shot, they fixed their gaze and attention on the top of where they were headed. As storms raged, food diminished, and their bodies and psyches became battered and bruised, they simply narrowed their vision to exactly what it would take to progress to the next level. Sometimes they made it, sometimes they didn’t, and sometimes life stepped in and avalanched their worlds more than anything had on any mountain. Did they have fear? Yes. You can see it in their eyes. Did the fear at times influence the outcome? Of course it did as they used the fear like a tool, carving reason into a pragmatic equation, but did they allow the fear to dominate and define who they were? No.

Fear will always be part of being human. How we navigate it and what role it plays in our lives can be dictated by the world or it can be dictated by us. Perspective is up to the individual. Just how dangerous is it to hike, canoe, rock climb, ski, snowboard, run, skateboard, bike or for that matter, make a grammatical error, say something less than brilliant, wear mediocre clothing and on and on and on? For the beautifully teeny-tiny, average person – compared to sitting it out – statistically, diving in is either scary-dangerous or slap happy-safe. Only you can decide.

See MERU

and JEFF LOWE’S METANOIA

Take A Danged Class You Mountaineer

The start of this article may head in an odd direction for some but bear with me if you have a few moments. If your days feel heavy and you perhaps you find yourself engaged in a battle with unhealthy life choices, join a group or take a class. Now I know you’re thinking I mean take a class related to the unhealthy choices and sure that’s not a bad idea as I would be the first to say if you apply the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous to any obsession, it will absolutely help.

So, to the nitty-gritty. Just like a decision to never take another drink of alcohol and a commitment to surround yourself with folks bent on the same goal, identify your challenge, stare it down, turn away, and then get busy having a helluva good time. Immerse yourself in a passion and…

…TAKE A DANGED CLASS.

I took a class this past weekend in snow hiking and mountaineering to prep for a return to Mt. Whitney. The use of an ice axe was taught as well as ropes and crampons. The expert instructor, April Mayhew brought me up to speed both in snow travel and regular hiking but I have to say her humble attitude was a threat to this Banty rooster. The woman has guided Kilimanjaro twelve times and also led trips up Denali and Mount Rainier, just to name a few, so when a hiker in the parking lot observed my classmates and me all geared up (ok fine, we were only carrying backpacks with ice axes and crampons attached) and then asked what we were up to, I was ready to draw in a chest expanding breath and wave them away with “Oh you know, a little ice climbing and mountaineering”. I love the sound of “mountaineering” over backpacking.

Alas my reply was never delivered because April responded with “just taking a walk in the snow”. What!!? Sheesh! Walk in the snow, dang-it! I went from mountaineer to third grade camper in a nano-second. And that was the start of a class that both inspired and humbled me and had me learning that there are so many things I would benefit from knowing.

We began with a hike along a picturesque lake to a snowy mountain (yeah, yeah, I’m sure April would say “hill”) and then we settled and April inadvertently threw me a bone when she referred to the jumble of packs and sack lunches strewn about on the ground as our “base camp”. With visions of Everest in my head, I fell in line behind my daughter’s bestie, Bree, a college co-ed who had driven me up on the trip while cheerfully sharing that she ignores speed-bumps. This I came to believe might’ve been a conspiracy designed to prep me for impact when actual mock falling was announced to the group but who was I to complain as next in our student lineup was Pat, a gal older than I with a serious infusion of optimism and sass and Barry, a polite guy who looked like part of the REI management team. Barry loaned me a hat, thereby rescuing my ego, upon discovering that I’d forgotten my beanie and was forced into Bree’s extra which had been purchased in the kids department and sported horns. Seriously.

The loan of the hat was indicative of a day that unfolded to be one of mutual support and instant group enthusiasm. With April leading us through a thorough and well-presented curriculum, set by REI, we alternated between learning self arrest with ice axes and joyfully glissading (once again a term I love despite the fact that I think April called it “sliding”).

The class imparted great skills and a new-found respect for the backcountry was cemented. Stories were swapped and I thought surely I could hold my own with my tale of a pair of fingers broken years ago while trail running but of course April casually mentioned the near loss of multiple toes to frost bite on Mount Whitney. I was tempted to challenge her to a comparison of my bent finger to her still compromised toes but I knew in my gut she’d win and toe necrosis, coupled with lunch, did not seem a crowd pleaser.

The completion of the class sent us all hiking back to our cars and had me reflecting on the past few years of my life. The absolute turn away of an emotionally unhealthy way of being was one step for me but the next was a turning to what was and is emotionally healthy in my life. Over the last decade I’ve traveled to right smack-dab in the middle of the place that makes my heart thump. And continuing on this path is exciting even if means knowing it only requires something as simple as walking, however, I do plan to continue calling it mountaineering. That is unless April is around.

***If you want information on classes and/or guided trips, here ya go and I do want to add for anyone who is curious about this that tipping instructor/guides is appreciated and 20% of the class fee is a good ball park.

Sierra Guided Trips – Sierra Mountain Center (April Mayhew was our instructor and she guides as well).

REI classes

Top 6 Gear Requirements For Camping/Backpacking

I recently traded in my second home of five years as it was quite worn and weary (it was a three man tent) and I was now in need of smaller digs amenable to backcountry travel. Gear requirements for heading into the wild either on foot or by car are pretty simple when you break them down into necessities and I’ve learned a lot over the years about exactly what constitutes a necessity (note the top photo and my past advanced skills in overpacking non-necessities).

Gear purchase is a tricky subject for me as I stumbled into camping and backpacking without feeling like I was over-spending and this happened somewhat by accident.

Though I had car camped for years with perfectly acceptable tents from department stores, I did not fully enter the world of gear until I decided to climb Mt. Whitney solo and even then I casually borrowed a water purifier and purchased a daypack with bladder and a pair of cheap ($40) hiking boots from Big Five. That was the extent of my gear until a year later when I joined REI, bought a 3-man tent, and trekked back to Whitney with my two daughters. The tent was only part of the equation I discovered when we froze in our Disney sleeping bags and suffered through my choice of Indian food for the camp meals.

There have been many years of hits and misses with food and gear and they have taught me that the misses were not only survivable, they were partly what kept me coming back as they were inexpensive mishaps. I never felt I had to risk an exorbitant amount of money – rather the accumulation of gear was gradual, leaving my bank book free of triage.

Please know that these are 6 requirements/areas of focus designed to get you started once you’ve decided trekking will be an ongoing part of your life. My gear is not an objective choice, it’s subjective and chosen to meet the needs of my individual experience i.e. I am 5’5, have no feet issues, enjoy camping in designated sites, dispersed, and the backcountry, have hip soreness when I sleep on hard ground, and on and on. Please consider your needs when gear shopping and only use my list as your template and if your disposable income is feeling too disposed of, try borrowing gear or utilizing Gear Trade until you are ready to make bigger purchases.

* I save in the area of clothing, buying most items from thrift stores but I did recently order 2 – UV 50 shirts from Hanes for under $25.  I chose mens as the womens clothing is higher. I also belong to REI ($20 lifetime membership) and watch their clearance like a hawk.

The six places I now prioritize when doling out my money are listed below but I would love to hear your gear choices as we all benefit from the shared info so please leave specifics in the comments below and on Facebook in the comments as well.

1) TENT – For five years I depended on the REI Quarter Dome 3 person tent and it did the job so when it was time to trade in for a lighter weight/smaller backpacking tent, I compared the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 and  the REI Quarter Dome 2 and by compare, I mean that the incredibly helpful sales associate at REI shared that he actually had the Big Agnes and then he set both tents up so we could weigh (literally) our options. By the end of the shopping session, the associate had decided the buy the REI tent for treks that involved 2 people as he too saw our concern regarding enough space and the REI tent is roomier though a little heavier (about a pound). I’ve had stellar luck with my tent and with REI’s return policy in the past and continue to patronize REI both for this and the yearly dividends I rack up to spend in the store. *I realize no gain from endorsing REI.

2) BOOTS – It has only been this year that I am at last crossing over into pricier boots. I will update as I knock back some wear and tear on my day-hikers and my snow-friendly backpacking boots but at the moment I am happy with my choices and felt with as much time as I spend on the trail, it was time for some big kid shoes. I am clumsy and having shoes that don’t fit snug like my past boots, leads to some ungraceful albeit hilarious tripping but also to the hammer slam of my big toe in the end of the boot which causes some shrieks accompanied by salty language. I now have the Saloman Quest 4D GTX Hiking boots and they are made to withstand weight on my back and snow on the trail. *I would take issue with the descriptive that states that they are “lightweight like trail-running shoes”, they do not feel lightweight. I picked them up on sale $160 from $230. My day-hikers are Merrell Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoes and they ran $90 regular price.

3) WATER PURIFIER – From experience, I can tell you there is nothing worse than being insanely thirsty and struggling with a compromised water filter. And I can also attest to the fact that in a number of cases, if you eschew the filtering, you will log some time in the latrine. My guy gifted me with the Sweetwater one I currently use and it has performed well.

4) SINGLE BURNER STOVE – My stove is old enough that they’ve improved and lightened them so this link is pretty close to what I currently use. They last if you are careful with them.

5) SLEEPING BAG AND MAT – I use a Sierra bag rated 20 degrees and it is very lightweight. I recommend paying close attention to getting a bag that will keep you warm as cold and sleep do not mix. As for a mat, for years I used a blowup but recently switched to a small $35 Therma Rest accordion mat that has me giving slightly on comfort but loving that it is very light and unfolds easily, no blowing it up.

6) BACKPACK – I carry an REI Flash 52 backpack that is currently on clearance for $123.73 from $179. I’ve been very happy with this pack and it is holding up beautifully. I was fitted for it in the store and it has been a good choice.

These six choices cover the necessities for a backpacking/camping trip and have served me well. Now it’s your turn, what do you use on your treks or if you have not been yet, what do you hanker for?

5 Rules For Outdoor Simplicity The Right Way

The simplicity balance: when we achieve it, we are victorious. When we don’t, we struggle. I became aware of this on a recent trip to Death Valley as I sipped my coffee and stealthily watched a group of fellow campers, taking note of their picture perfect setup. Between matching bins, evidently created specifically for the top of their off-road jeep, and a large glass coffee press, they truly belonged on the cover of a magazine. As I studied them, I snorted disdainfully while simultaneously scheming a way to wrangle a cup of their glorious java (I’m thinking “coffee” is too base a description for what they were drinking).

The disdain part of the equation turned out to be fleeting and completely suspended when I remembered only days earlier being the focus of another hiker’s withering remark as I spoke to my boyfriend on my cell phone. “Can’t even go without your phone up here, huh” he said with a contrived jokey tone, laced with an obvious overdose of smug that I know all too well, having trafficked in “smug” frequently myself.

These two experiences: the observation of the wonderfully stylish desert campers and my own enjoyment of my camp partner, I-Phone 5, had me work to unravel simplicity and the “right” way to hike/camp. My conclusion? “Right” is in the eye of the beholder and perhaps it’s best to only apply it when defining our own experience. My fellow campers in the desert were low key and left their campsite immaculate upon departure and my use of my I-Phone was to connect during a 15 minute window of time, with my boyfriend who lives 1,300 miles away but even that isn’t the whole story because I truly derive enormous artistic enjoyment from both my camera and my I-Phone so including those complexities on a trip works for me. What works for one person doesn’t for another, therefore, maybe it’s time we stopped imposing a right way to be in the outdoors beyond being respectful of those around us and following the leave no trace rule.

So now that I’ve declared there is no right way to experience the great outdoors, here are my rules for simplicity.  😉

1) KNOW YOURSELF – By this, I mean literally think carefully about what your vision is and be careful to hold to it. I found a wonderful camping percolator a year ago and was over the moon. It has now sat in my closet the entire time because it makes nine cups and is too much trouble to consider using. I’m donating it this week and staying with the instant coffee that perfectly satisfies my desire to keep life in the woods unencumbered and hoping that someone else with a different vision will fully enjoy it.

2) GEAR APPROPRIATELY – Gather only gear that enhances your trip on your terms. My back country guide daughter is bewildered by my use of a tent as she has embraced sleeping out in a hammock on backpacking trips. This works for her but I still love the cocoon feeling of snoozing in a tent. In the course of my travels, I’ve bunked with those toting makeup kits, tripods, and a portable chair so there is no one size fits all in the domain of what is considered appropriate gear.

3) SHOP WISELY – Keeping life simple in the back country is more doable when you don’t shred your finances, however, this also is subjective so I will offer myself up as a target for those still addicted to smug. 😉 Just yesterday, I sailed into REI with my very used tent and explained that both zippers were falling apart. I’m an REI member and despite a shift in their liberal return policy, they looked up my purchase and saw that the tent was acquired in 2010 (under the old policy) so they gave me full value. After much consideration and the setting up of two backpacking tents (a Big Agnes tent and an REI), I went with the REI Quarter Dome 2 as the additional room was worth the pound tradeoff when envisioning my guy and myself residing in it for possibly up to five months in the back country or my son and myself residing in it for five minutes. One stuff sack and a footprint later and I forced myself from the store before adding unnecessary complexity to my kit. I spent a total of $129 (difference in tent return and purchase and addition of footprint and stuff sack). Other sources for gear are thrift stores, Craig’s List, Gear Trade, and The Clymb. And if you are starting out, try to borrow gear.

4) PREP AHEAD – This particular rule can radically shift your experience especially when applied to food. Consider making food ahead and try not to overpack, I still have not achieved the latter but have switched from a singular large ice chest to two, a teeny one and a small one also thereby keeping the food a bit more accessible and decipherable in two areas as opposed to one. Often, I make potatoes and onions in advance and have them as a staple for both breakfast and dinner and sort food by when it will be eaten.

5) REDUCE – If you find you are feeling encumbered on your trips, take inventory and remove some of your setup. On my most recent camping trip, I did not take potatoes and inadvertently only took hand-held/campfire foods which proved to be luck upon discovering I forgot plates. This little snafu inspired a huge light bulb moment and on some future trips, I will look to eat with minimal dishes as I realized I did not even take a skillet and stuck to one pot to boil water for coffee and tea. I’ve also over the years greatly streamlined my clothing and find that it works out fine when you combine showering with washing out undergarments and yes, you can use shampoo as laundry detergent for your panties with no ill effects. Some folks swear by Dr. Bronner’s for an all-inclusive soap but I found it to be terrible for my hair. I generally use regular shampoo for my hair and laundry and stick to coconut oil for everything else from face-wash to moisturizer.

The most frequent feedback I get from fellow travelers overwhelmingly centers around a craving for leaving behind the complexity of daily life and enjoying the simpler things. Camping can bring a sense of peace or it can start to creep insidiously in the direction of more and more “necessities” as in my camping percolator. The only person who can decide where the buck stops in the most literal sense, is you. Your trip belongs to you and you alone have the power to create it in a manner that syncs with your soul so get started. Time is finite but the possibilities are endless and you deserve this.

Share/like and Tweet if you wish. Always grateful. 🙂

5 Ways To Safely Connect w/ Men While Traveling

Connecting with fellows travelers while on a journey can be a great experience or one that becomes a challenge depending on circumstances. I’ve had nice times with couples, gals, and guys but this post will focus on safety for women when the camaraderie involves men as on a recent Death Valley getaway where I enjoyed platonic camaraderie with two guys and felt comfortable and at ease. Please understand that this is the perspective of a female solo traveler who enjoys alone time so adjust accordingly for what it is you desire.

Mowgli time
Beware of guys in trees, JK as this one happens to be my beloved cousin! 🙂

1) BE SAFE – I encourage safety by sizing up the situation and avoiding connection with males traveling alone with a few exceptions (if large groups of people are around and it is a busy area and the solo guy makes very casual and sober conversation). It’s been my experience that several men together, in their SUVs, and especially if they appear to be family guys, are more likely to be polite and in possession of social skills that render it less of a possibility that they are engaging in behavior dangerous to me and/or are a current Son Of Sam (definitely dangerous to me). I’ve heard of serial killers, in rare instances, traveling in pairs but not of them in groups of 3 or more – yes, I realize I just invited my mom to send me an article 😉 I also consider my comfort level and if the guys are exhibiting energy that includes racy banter, profanity, and excessive alcohol consumption, I distance myself immediately.

2) BE CENTERED – This may sound airy-fairy but I have learned to be clear about what I like in travel and I am only open to situations that are compatible. I like to share that I am in a relationship early on so that it is communicated that I am not traveling to party. I believe most men hear this and are respectful of it and if they are looking for romantic possibilities, move on politely when it’s very clear that, that is not on any agenda. The evening I spent around a campfire with the two gentlemen I got to know in Death Valley was polite, humorous, and respectful with interesting stories and travel information swapped and when I excused myself early on all three nights to retire to my tent and read, they remained at the campfire talking quietly. The energy of the evening never veered from calm and chill.

3) BE ALERT – Ignore the childhood rule about eavesdropping being rude. Listen to the convos around you. I was on a patio and am here to tell you that two different tables of men were having two very different conversations and both tables were in the same age group (40s-50s) and out to ride dirt bikes for the weekend. One convo was pretty raunchy continuously while the other one was about the wives, kids, school choices, and a hilarious mishap on the purchase of encyclopedias right before the internet made the $600 purchase obsolete.

Watch alcohol consumption (yours and others) when flying solo and I will be perfectly transparent here, I enjoyed only one drink in the evening, around the campfire on my Death Valley trip and the guys were conservative in their alcohol consumption also. Over-consumption too often can lead to off color banter at best and off color behavior at worst from people who would not act this way when sober.

4) BE CLOSED – Say what? Initially, I keep to myself in order to, as I mentioned above, size up a situation and if I decide I am not interested in the energy around me, I use barriers to communicate. No, I don’t construct a literal wall but I have found that having my books, camera, and journal and focusing my attention on those will generally halt any interaction I am not open to. I also have discovered that a hat with brim can work as a way to shield from unwanted eye contact and allows me to feel a sense of privacy when I desire it.

5) BE SPECIFIC – Mixed signals have no place when traveling so I am clear when I communicate. The guys I met in the desert had individual agendas that included separating daily, with one going for adrenaline filled dirt bike rides while the other went in search of back-road photography on his motorcycle. I was very enthusiastic about solo hiking and spending time with my books and camera, with idle chat being put aside for the bulk of my day. All three of us got what the others were after and the crossover only happened at the campfire. This worked for everyone and when I neglected to stake my tent down the first night and navigated wind, I borrowed a hammer from one of the guys but handled staking in the stubborn rocky ground myself. Part of being empowered for me when traveling, is handling myself and not sending mixed signals of male/female connectedness in what can sometimes become a confusing manner.

Finally, I know there is a lot written about clothing choices and I realize I am barking up a tree here that might appear anti-feminist but it feels disingenuous and irresponsible to not share that I choose different clothing when traveling alone as opposed to when I am with my guy. I wear jeans cut off just above the knee and string tops when alone on the trail but generally wear these same bottoms and a t-shirt when around other travelers and when I went to the Panamint deck which has a bar and restaurant on my Death Valley trip, I donned jeans,  a t-shirt, and my hat. My cutoff shorts are reserved for traveling with my family and/or my guy or when I am not around other travelers. I am at an age where unwanted attention is not anywhere as common as it would be for younger travelers and I enjoy the anonymity that my age encourages but at any age, strategy can be put into place to up the odds of a comfortable experience.

Please enjoy yourself, be practical and be safe but don’t bow to the fear-mongering that often takes place around hiking and solo travel. To reassure yourself just compare the stats on crime against travelers and the stats on heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure from sitting at home in front of the TV.

Rock on and have fun!

8 Steps To Improve Your Social Life: Start A Village

Here’s the way it goes when it’s time to shake up your social life; it’s your day off and Susie was supposed to meet you for a movie but she broke up with Bob…again and now she’s fetal position until Groundhog Day or – you and the wife planned to limo to the local nightclub with Kanye and Kim but North did not win cutest baby at her prep pre-school so everyone is cranky, especially Kanye. And now, so are YOU.

This can only mean one thing; it’s time to shake up and/or start a village. I did it just last week as I realized that while I’ve had the supreme luck of having a good number of gals shape my world the past couple of years, I now am experiencing the supreme challenge of getting together with them.  I pondered this and wondered if just setting stable meet times might bring the women into the wild where they’d enjoy a break from their routine and I would selfishly enjoy their company. The idea blossomed further when I considered doubling up the socializing with grabbing some healthy benefits as well and voila! A new hike club was born.

My new village centers around hiking and is for ladies only as the friends I wanted to grow or reconnect with are the gals. The village is yours to create so only follow these guidelines as a template if you wish and then make your list and get started. *I will give personal examples at the end of each point.

1) Identify The Members. Decide whom it is that you’d like to spend time with and start there. It could be ladies, guys, moms, dads, families w/ little kids, parents of teens, boys, girls, co-workers, church group, singles, grandparents, or any other group. Narrow down the group you want to grow and let that be your beginning. *I chose ladies that would like to hike locally.

2) Spread The Word. Make a Facebook group and then announce it on your own Facebook and/or begin inviting people to join the group. Check your settings, as the group can be “public”, “private/unsearchable” or “private/searchable”. *I made mine “private/unsearchable” but set the group to allow any member to add any gal that she wishes and then I encouraged members to feel free to do this.

3) Make A Plan. If you are setting up a hike/camp/backpack/sports group, consider asking a friend to give you feedback on structure and/or feel free to enlist someone to co-create your group if it’s something that requires that two people participate to be a success i.e. tennis. *I took a friend on the first hike and she provided great feedback on logistics.

4) Keep It Simple. Make a doable meet commitment and spell out the plan and pin it to the top of your group page. *I made twice-weekly meet times and kept the time and location of both hikes identical. I am figuring on keeping it this way for a period of time so that the social enjoyment is maximized and any learning curve related to where to meet and parking details etc. is minimized.

5) Keep It Light. In other words, come into the plan with joyful energy. People have very crazed schedules sometimes and may not be able to join regularly. Make certain you create the group around an activity that you love so that if no one shows, you are still happy. *My first hike consisted of one gal and we had a blast. I hike alone frequently so the idea of a no-show day is something that is not a problem for me.

6) Consider A Donation. My advice is keep it very reasonable but the reason to even consider a donation is because you are committing to maintain the group and create the activities so this will help ensure that you feel your contribution is valued. *I set up a “$5 suggested donation only” for each hike and made certain to stress that anyone who had any challenge in this arena should not let it stop them from attending as it is voluntary.

7) Photograph The Fun. Pull out your phone or camera and take some photos. Distance shots – with your activity as the main focus – are lovely. *On my first hike, I took long shots of my gal pal on the hike and this really gave an idea of the beauty and vastness of the location. I posted them to the group so everyone could see the trail.

8) Adjust As Needed. If something is not working, don’t fret. Just make a change. Shift the schedule if you need to or the number of times you meet. *I realized immediately that initially making the two weekly hikes identical made more sense than two separate locations. This will hopefully give members a chance to come together easily and without constant checking of directions and info once they’ve attended the first time.

Finally, don’t let a challenged social life drain your enthusiasm and excitement. Start a group that likes to camp or hike or play tennis and get the word out. Whether you meet twice a week or once a month, the endorphin boost to your psyche will have you happy you made the effort. Rock on and get started, your village is waiting.

If you wish, feel free to share/like and tweet. Always grateful. 🙂

Just Another Day…Hike!

Just another day and it can be anything you want it to be. Don’t let it slip by. Seize it, hike it!

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Hiking is a freebie activity that truly can prove to be priceless in so many ways and this has never been more apparent to me than these past few weeks. Spring is springing here on the west coast and every single day wildflowers burst from the ground and blanket the hillsides like a scene out of The Lord Of The Rings.

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If you are in an area where cold persists, try even fifteen minutes outdoors and breathe deeply, your heart, mind, body, and soul will thank you and don’t despair, spring is on the way.

This morning, I hit the trail at the crack of seven and was rewarded with an immersion into what I think of as the “zone”. It’s the joyful place where I daydream, create, and unplug. If you find fulfillment in taking hiking photos (I use my camera phone most often and did for these photos) or enjoy writing, art, and/or just plain indulging your brain in doing its own thing, get outside. Encourage your inner child to head into the wild and discover your own personal fantasyland. It’s there, just waiting and just like every other day, it can belong to you.

*Wish you had a village? You just might! Seek out a hiking community that syncs with your soul. We’ve found some amazing ones lately and are happy to pass them along here!

Hike Like A Woman

Hiking Moms

Sierra Singles

Hiking and Backpacking Clubs

**And if you are planning a California visit, check out our California On A Dime Travel Guide at Amazon!

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5 Righteous Resolutions: 2015

*Teri’s collection of hilarious essays is up on Amazon for under $5 and a California On A Dime Travel Guide will be out soon! Happy New Year!

New Year’s resolutions often speak into some vision of how we’d like our lives to look and they appear wonderful on paper but in practice, not so much. Too often – in reality – they resemble New Year’s Day remnants of debauchery, after a hard partying  New Year’s Eve.

Today’s post strives to turn the flowery resolution of yesteryear on its glamorous little head and infuse it with a dose of reality. Hopefully this will simply be a template and encourage fellow misfits, like yours truly, to just put one foot in front of the other and grab some slices of quality life.  Let’s get it started.

1) BE FEARLESS – Nope. Not having it and I’m not sure that anyone on the face of the earth fits the fearless warrior image we all think we should be. I say, BE AFRAID. It’s ok and fear is there for a reason. I would add in BE REASONABLE and seek PERSPECTIVE. I used to be afraid of backpacking and also camping alone and I still have moments of “what was that sound!” The thing that changed for me was a little look at statistics, mainly on heart disease, depression (first hand experience with this monster), diabetes, cancer, addiction, lethargy and all the rest of the gazillion common threats. In comparison, backcountry serial killers and wrangles with bears are very uncommon. The main shift from the old me to the present me was the acceptance that being afraid was ok. I still have times of fear but I invite them in for coffee and examine them. Are my fears reasonable and designed to have me be more prepared or are they irrational and designed to derail me? Bottom line, I have not climbed Everest this year or written a best selling novel but I have very safely camped alone and written a tiny book of essays and I felt some fear through these quests but that was ok. So, join me and be a little afraid. The payoff can be stunning.

2) WORK HARD – Alright, sure. Go ahead because that sounds great and we’ve all been taught that laziness is selfish and evil. I’m going to just carve away at this one and reshape it a little and then you can take it home if you’d like. If in fact, you are feeling strangled by your life, consider getting rid of your junk and question your desire for the next sassy pair of high end jeans and expensive beauty products or sports clothing. Maybe you can replace these things with time. That’s right, get in your car and get out of town and hit the trail. This is coming from someone who logged mall time as a teen and twenty-something, had french tipped nails, and the boots with the fur and then found it just no longer fit as time marched forward. If you crave change, you can do it but toss “work hard” on its head because sometimes the grind you are locked into is a hamster wheel in pursuit of things you can live very happily (happier) without. I have not had a manicure or pedicure for ten years and my home-painted nails are holding on just fine. The untold money I’ve redirected has taken me on thousands of miles of hiking and backpacking and hostel stays. This is now what I work for.

3) GET IN SHAPE – Yep, this one is familiar at this time of the year but what should that really mean? I personally hate the word “exercise” as it sounds like “work”. Blech. I don’t belong to gyms because I loathe them, I’ve seen friends get all hopped up at the gym, arrive home about to vomit from exertion, and then stop a month later. I realize the gym works for some and if that’s you, great. If not, then banish exercise and the gym from your life forever and trade that in for fun. I hike frequently but am usually on no agenda when I do. I take my camera or phone and just go looking for things to photograph. Sometimes I ramp up the hike and that feels good and other times I stop and hang on the trail for an hour, staring at moss on a tree limb. Find a reason other than fitness to pursue health and let cardio be the by-product. If that means a quick walk in your neighborhood to see the changing of the seasons, that is great. Enjoy new snow, fall leaves, spring buds, summer lightning bugs – do it for the joy and not to “get in shape”.

4) GO ALL OUT – Or don’t. I’m going with “don’t” so you can meet me for coffee and we’ll watch everyone else go all out. This is another mantra that looks enticing but falls flat, sometimes literally. I once sprinted all out, at the end of a run (a big no, no) and wound up in a cast for eight weeks after I nose-dived and reversed the direction of several fingers when I hit. Not going all out is perfectly fulfilling. No need to run a marathon if that feels overwhelming (I barely jogged mine). No need to even do that many miles, now I joyfully hike sometimes two miles and am contented. And this choice to not go all out applies all over the place. No time to take a week in Bora Bora? Go for one or two nights nearby. Can’t afford the lodge in Yosemite? Camp for $5, yes it exists. Afraid to hike into the backcountry? No problem, take a short hike from a nature center on clearly marked trails. Don’t go all out, just go.

5) BELIEVE – Believe what? Believe that things will be ok no matter what? They might not. I think this well-intended directive just needs a tweak or two. I would rebrand it “seize slippery moments of belief”. So you want to write a book and believe it might be worthy? Yes, I’m using personal experience for this one but it could apply to any number of endeavors. Whatever you wish to take on, believing is the first step. The folly is when we think it will sustain us all the way through and never falter. It’s ok to experience disbelief. In writing a book of essays, I had moments of trepidation and when I climbed Mount Whitney and encountered freezing temps, I broke down and cried at the realization that I might not get to the top. Belief is slippery and it ebbs and flows so the trick is to lean over the belief fire and blow on the embers when the flames threaten to go completely out. And when belief is elusive, just keep putting one foot in front of the other – in a measured manner so as not to require eight weeks in a cast.

I hope some of the links here provide a sense that you have kindred in the quest for a quality 2015. I’ve been grateful for the plethora of mentors that I’ve connected with in person as well as online and happily pass along their sites for your perusal.

Happy New Year and hope to see you on the trail!  xo Teri

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*For those taking on a creative project (writing) – Create Your Masterpiece, a 16 Step Guide by Joshua Fields Millburn

*For those craving less work load and more family time – On A Dime Spirit: The Real Deal by Adam Bergstrasser

*For those seeking a template on making a priorities list – Why We Moved From The Tiny House To A Small Traditional House For The Winter By Logan Smith

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.

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THIS is the view from the hike about 1/2 way
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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.