Category Archives: Activities

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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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.

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.

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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.

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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.   🙂

On A Dime Spirit: The Real Deal ~by Adam Bergstrasser

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The Bergstrasser Family

On A Dime Adventure is so very thrilled to have our first guest blog post and it deserves a teeny-tiny back story. We noticed fellow traveler, Adam Bergstrasser generously sharing some of his tips via our Facebook page and as a result, I asked if he’d be open to guest posting. Adam enthusiastically agreed but with the disclaimer that he’d not blogged before so his work might benefit from a possible creative edit. Well, here it is completely untouched because we found it to be perfect. Enjoy the blend of practical advice, coupled with the story of a family that figured out the spirit of On A Dime living long before I ever started my journey. My only addition is the title as I figured Adam would be  too humble to have come up with the one I thought he deserved.

So now without further adieu, meet the Bergstrassers.  ~Teri

On A Dime Spirit: The Real Deal

by Adam Bergstrasser

I’ve always loved the outdoors. When I was a child, my parents often took me camping at a lake outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma. As a teenager I began backpacking and camping in the mountains of New Mexico. I could never afford fancy gear, so most of my stuff came from friends and garage sales. I didn’t care. It was never about having the “right” gear, it was the act of getting away from town and into the wild that I loved.

When I met my wife twenty years ago, I was excited about introducing her to my outdoor world; minimalist camping, long treks, and amazing vistas. I quickly realized that if I wanted to continue this lifestyle, I needed to invest in a few creature comforts. On one payday, I bought a lantern. On another, a folding table. Soon we were packing a minivan to the rafters with all kinds of crazy stuff for each trip, but hey… we were camping! When gas was a buck a gallon, it was something we could afford to do as often as we liked. We took half a dozen mini-vacations each year to the mountains around Albuquerque. It was what we did. It defined our family.

Then I let life intrude. Making money became more important to me than quality time, and I chased construction projects around three different states. I worked seventy hours a week. We took an occasional scenic drive, but the camping gear gathered dust. I became homesick and dissatisfied. One evening in Austin, I came home and told my wife, “Baby… I want to go home.” We talked about the quality of life we wanted for ourselves and our three daughters, and decided that time together outweighed whatever we could buy them with more money. That was a hard decision. I took a 50% pay cut to move back to Albuquerque. It was a very difficult adjustment, but I pictured a time filled with camping trips. Singing around a fire. S’mores. Lots of pictures. Lots of memories for my daughters to carry with them for a lifetime.

When our savings account was almost empty, my wife handed me our last $800 and said, “Go buy us a camper.” She’s so smart. I’d wanted one for years. That 1977 Coleman pop-up saved us. We began camping again and really enjoying it. After a couple years we traded up for a new(er) 1988 pop-up, and proceeded to drag it all over the West. Life was good.

Over the last eight years, we’ve been to some amazing places. We’ve seen sights that I’m sure people pay a lot of money for, and we’ve done it on a very tight budget. How? I’ve used two keys: research and the government. Before every one of our “big” trips, I spend hours, days, sometimes weeks online. I look for the most scenic routes, the most interesting roadside attractions, and the biggest waterfalls. And I key in on all of the properties that I own. That’s right. Public property. National Forests. National Parks. BLM land. It’s my vacation secret. Everywhere we’ve been, I’ve been able to find a place to stay for between zero and thirty dollars a night. It doesn’t matter if you own a nice new camper or a $10 yard sale tent, you can stay at an incredibly beautiful campsite on public lands for free or close to it.

To be honest, I’m not much of a people person. When I camp, I want to be as far away from other folks as possible, so most of our trips are to primitive sites in the National Forests in New Mexico or Colorado. No facilities, no neighbors, and total peace. I even take a trip or two by myself every year. I’ve realized, though, that not everyone is as antisocial as I am. I’ve also realized that some of the best places in nature just happen to have a lot of other people appreciating them, too. If it was up to me, I would just go backpacking, but there are other people making this trip with me. My daughters love little mountain towns with lots of tourist shops. My wife likes waterfalls and showers (which, I learned quickly, are NOT the same thing). So I tailor our trips accordingly. Some wilderness hikes for dad, some tourist towns for the girls, lots of waterfalls for my love, and always with hot showers nearby.

Sure, you can pay a lot of money to stay in a nice hotel or cabin, but did you know that the Forest Service rents out the most amazing mountain cabins all over the West? Yup. They’re so cool. Look it up:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/recreation/rentals/

Did you know that for $80 a year you can buy a pass that gets you and everyone in your car into all kinds of federal and state lands for free?
http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm

AND all of these places are on a map:
http://www.recreation.gov/unifSearchResults.do

You might have to haul your own water. You might have to sleep on a bunk and use an outhouse. You might have an encounter with wildlife… But here’s the key, the secret, the amazing truth: THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT MAKE MEMORIES! Your kids may not remember another plane flight, another vacation lodge, another trip… but they will DEFINITELY remember that time you burned your eyebrows off trying to start a fire (not that I recommend this)! They will remember that night the tent collapsed around you in a rainstorm. They will remember standing under a massive sandstone arch after a long hike in Utah. They will remember every wild deer, waterfall, and quirky roadside store. Last time I checked, all these things are free.

Sometimes I know I could do a better job as a husband and father. Sometimes I wonder if my choices are the best. But several times a year, I sit by a fire with my family, after a day filled with amazing sights and adventures that I was able to bring my family on because I researched and studied hard. I was very careful with my money. I took advantage of all the free things I could find along the way. I feel full. I feel peaceful. I feel complete. I never, ever, miss or regret giving up chasing a buck. I am super dad.
Happy camping!
-Adam Bergstrasser

Please feel free to “like”/share to Facebook and/or Tweet.

10 Tips For Cold Weather Camping

Teri Clifton’s collection of humorous/sentimental essays, THE THINGS I CANNOT DO, is now available on Amazon!!

Camping in warm weather is lovely and requires little more than a tent and sleeping bag but for those venturing out in chillier weather, a few tricks can make the experience a sublime one rather than a shiver one. *Extra info about gear we’ve used can be found in our permanent camping section.

1) Tent – Truly most any tent will suffice as long as you are not knee deep in snow or truly in extreme temperatures, however, bring or purchase tent stakes and secure your casa down to the ground to minimize unwanted breeze.

2) Sleeping Bag & Mat – This one is important if you chill constantly (I do!) Easy-peasy fix, look at the rating. I’m fine with a 20 degree rated bag that I purchased from REI. Mine is a mummy bag but I will confess that turning over and keeping the head area straight can be a tad irritating so consider this when making a purchase. If you are trying out cold weather camping and borrowing gear is possible – do it – or check into renting. If you embrace sleeping in the wild, go ahead and invest in your bag – mine is like sleeping in a cloud and I am grateful every time I use it. *Zip-together sleeping bags are great for couples. Inflatable mats keep the cold from your body and truly make a big difference but if you are not ready to commit to that cost, place a folded blanket under you for extra warmth and padding.

3) Stove – This is a little tidbit that can make a frigid morning divine. I place my backpacker stove right outside my tent with water and instant coffee at the ready. When I wake I simply lean out and fire up the stove (it is located away from and outside the tent, NOT INSIDE THE TENT). My coffee is made quickly and then I drink it in my sleeping bag, in the tent, if it is too cold to consider drinking it outside.

4) Hand/Foot Warmers – These are a few bucks and I found them on clearance last year in the spring and stocked up. Grab them and pack them in, you will be thrilled, especially when drifting off to sleep sans icicle toes.

5) Pre-cook – This is so important when considering how much longer it can take to create food when your hands are freezing and dealing with water is tear-inducing. I pre-make potatoes with olive oil, seasonings, kale, peppers, and onion in the oven and then pack it up in ziploks. This makes for an easy heat/fry in a skillet rather than cooking from scratch. I also add eggs and make a protein rich, pan scramble for breakfast. Most foods can be pre-cooked and stashed in a cooler and this strategy keeps fingers from frost bite.

6) Stocking Cap/Hat – Some people don’t realize you can double up hats and it will double up warmth. I wear a snug stocking cap and then a mukluk brand hat that ties over the stocking cap. Toasty!

7) Leggings – These are for guys also and I can vouch for the fact that we did not disown cousin Andy when he wore a Jolly Green Giant pair repeatedly for years on camping trips. On A Dime style leggings (used) can be found for a song at thrift stores and for anyone recoiling… two words, washing machine. I have 3 pairs that are all used, in excellent shape, and cost me next to nothing.

8) Fireside – We’ve all envisioned hanging around the campfire while roasting marshmallows and then had reality crash in as we hovered over the fire while plotting with our fellow a campers a way to create a fire ring that we could stand in the center of so our backs would quit freezing. Well, there is an easier solution IF YOU ARE CAREFUL. I place my sleeping bag in my chair and get in, HOWEVER, again I reiterate that you must stay back a little as you do not want errant sparks connecting with your bag. This is obviously not a good suggestion in cases of any wind.

9) Hike – This solution to chill can be a no-brainer. If you get cold, get moving. Night hike a bit in advance of bed to take the chill off before hunkering down in your sleeping bag and get up in the morning and get moving as you will immediately warm up.

10) Car Camp – In any scenario where the cold just gets to be too much, if you have a sleep-amenable car, use it. I drive a teeny Hyundai Accent and slept in it for 5 days recently while in rainy, high elevation as the car was warm and a piece of cake to camp in. A HUGE discovery, if possible, park with your front end slightly elevated. When you lay your front seat back, the incline will work with you to angle the seat flat. I felt like I was sleeping in a bed when I figured this out. If you have the luxury of a back area to sleep in, consider a portable mattress that inflates with a cigarette lighter.

Cold weather camping isn’t for everyone but I am here to tell you that I have awakened to gentle snow and a steaming mug of coffee and felt that there was no better place on earth to be. And I have left at sunrise to hike a bit and seen sites that brought home to me the meaning of the word “awe”. Go ahead, try some camping this fall or maybe even winter and let us know if you come up with any tricks as we are grateful for the community information share.

*Try Gear Trade for deals on whatever it is you are in need of. We do not realize any gain from you using their products or visiting their site and we absolutely appreciate hearing of your experience as we are careful about what we recommend.

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

7 Cost-Friendly Ideas For 4th of July

We recently had the good fortune of not spending a fortune and yet greatly enjoying some beautiful moments.

Backcountry Hoh Rain Forest, WA. $9 total for the permit and overnight for 2 people

Now we’re looking to bring you the links to places across the land that are offering On A Dime activities for the 4th of July but also for anytime.

1) Check out the best FREE 4th of July events at national parks and get out and grab some fun and if you want even more information look at The National Park Foundation website. Hankering to lock down next year’s 4th in the Grand Canyon? Here’s one link about the festivities and also our link that breaks down inexpensive lodging.

Grand Canyon

2) Last minute travel. Here at On A Dime, we avoid vacationing on the holidays as generally it’s a bit crowded, however, the backcountry is doable. We’ve trekked Yosemite’s wilderness and climbed Half Dome on two Independence Days and had great luck. So, if you want to head out last minute, our best advice would be backcountry or dispersed camping. Before heading into the backcountry, call the ranger station to secure any needed permits.

3) Stay home. That’s right, save your money and stay in. You can make your own celebration, your way, on your budget.  If you wanna get really cash conscious, check out these amazing and easy homemade desserts!

S'mores!
S’mores!

4) Break out the games for kids and let your day unfold in a casual manner

5) Camp at home. Just throw up the tent, bring out the s’mores, and watch the fireworks from home.

Campsite along the river
Campsite along the river

6) Teens? Show theme movies such as Independence Day and make red, white, and blue popcorn.

7) Romantic 4th of July, you bet! These ideas will have the sparks flying.

Now, in the spirit of transparency and sharing that every single moment is not necessarily an adventure, this on a dimer has no 4th of July plans and will be going with the flow. We’ll see what unfolds and who knows, perhaps an adventure will appear.

On A Dime hit the 2,000 “like” mark on Facebook this week and we wish to offer a huge show of gratitude to all the dreamers and adventurers who’ve shown us the love. Powerfully grateful to everyone and as always, feel free to share and/or Tweet.

9 Bold And Free Vacation Links

This Wednesday’s blog celebrates the bold and the free, as in the inspiration gained when you learn from your kids. Last Saturday the eldest On A Dime child returned from college – with degree in hand – and made good on an offer to write a blog post. This On A Dime creator was thrilled to sip a glass of wine and shout invaluable pointers into the other room such as, “don’t forget the Oxford commas; adventurers always need those while traveling!” The child – in response – took my wine away.

I was left footloose and fancy-free while my guy handled the usual tech challenges, which included the weekly undoing of damage I’d done while randomly pushing buttons and my little (big) girl tackled the creative. Too much down time can be dangerous, I realized, as I added in links to the sites we purchase gear from and pondered what I would do with the millions in commission money that awaited me from said links. I studied the spread sheet for several days and concluded I could safely spend… a little less than nothing.

And, fellow travelers, the weird part is that the financial challenge energized me nicely. On A Dime’s goal of enhanced quality of life for less financial outlay is evolving into a sweeter philosophy, one that begs a return to community and good old-fashioned give and take. So when the college kid handed in her article on Couchsurfing, I felt it was a call to something bigger than saving a hotel bill and promptly signed up. As of yesterday, I committed to couchsurf my way back down the coast in a few weeks.

Couchsurfing heads up our list of the 9 bold things to consider when dreaming of a vacation, and conserving cash is only one bonus that these nine pony up. We can confidently state that Couchsurfing is justified in going number one on our list as the article on it exploded our website in popularity, but it is not the only – out of the box – consideration, so here we go. Let’s get bold and free.

1) FREE COUCH – Couchsurfing. We could take the easy way here and tout the fact that surfing an individual’s couch (sleeping on it) is free but that would miss a huge part of the equation. Couchsurfing is for those who wish to connect on a deeper level with the places they visit. Motel 6 has its place but an individual’s home and the beautiful hospitality that is offered cannot be duplicated by a corporation. The On A Dime kid wrote glowingly of Couchsurfing and also broke down the “do’s and don’ts” involved. Check out her article and boldly head out on a journey where the lodging is free and the hospitality is stunning.

View from my host's balcony in Amsterdam
View from my host’s balcony in Amsterdam

2) FARMING – WWOOF – Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms http://www.wwoof.net/how-it-works/ – Yep, it’s free. You put in 4-6 hours help on an organic farm in exchange for accommodations and food. Beautiful connections, beautiful experience. Bold and free.

Our hosts' windowsill in Bergen, Norway
Our hosts’ windowsill in Bergen, Norway

3) BIKING – Warm Showers https://www.warmshowers.org/ offers a variety of freebies to those deciding to vacation via cycling. Depending on the host, you can receive warm showers (obviously), free camping, places to stay, meals and drinks. A biking vacation? Pretty darned bold!

4) CLEARING TRAILS – Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation – http://bmwf.org/ Free trips (food included) into the wilderness in exchange for 8 hr. work days spent restoring the trails. Located in Montana. You choose trips according to your ability with grades of “easy, moderate, and strenuous”.

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5) HELPING HAND – Workaway. www.workaway.info/ exactly as their site proclaims, A few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings. 

6) CAMP FOR FREE – Dispersed Camping – Yes, we put this on every single list for freebies because we are determined to make more travelers aware of this jewel. Check our links on this and also ask (call ahead!) at the ranger station in the area you are headed. We cannot state this enough, many of the sites offer solitude and unspoiled beauty that cannot be duplicated in fee campsites.

7) FRIENDS – That’s right. We have social media and it’s time we tame the beast and make it our own. More people should simply be bold and put it out there that they want to travel to a certain area and try and arrange lodging swaps.

Hammock time
Hammock time

8) VOLUNTEER – Cross Cultural Solutions. Volunteer and experience cultural emersion in a safe and structured environment. This On A Dime creator volunteered for 3 weeks in Costa Rica and can vouch for Cross Cultural’s integrity and safety. The program is neither free nor cheap, however, they have a guide on how to raise the money required for the program and this proved successful in my experience with about 80% of my trip donated.

9) PAY IT FORWARD – Watch for 2015’s Pay It Forward Day but also enact this while traveling. If you have something to offer, consider sharing or exchanging. We’ve given away extra firewood, a dinner to a PCT hiker, and hilariously, received a 6 pack of beer left carefully at a campsite. In the backcountry we (ok, I) have cried with gratitude over donated power bars and Gatorade. The best bold and free thing we can take advantage of is the joy derived from our own generosity so here’s hoping that we can offer the couchsurfing hosts something equal to their hospitality, perhaps a bottle of wine, a potted plant or the bold and free offer of doing the dishes.

On A Dime heads out on an adventure for the next 18 days to Lake Tahoe, the coast of Oregon, and the backcountry of Washington and we’ll be looking for the best freebies to pass along. If you also have secret money-savers, please let us know.

Feel free to share on Facebook and/or Tweet. We are always grateful. <3

10 Vacation Money Savers

If you are pining to get out of town and the urge for a vacation hit yesterday, last week, last month, it’s not too late so let’s get it started. The goal of On A Dime Adventure is to share ideas for getaways without spending a fortune and after a recent money-saving article‘s popularity, we’re looking to provide more information that encourages travel for less cost.

VACATION MONEY SAVERS: 

1) LODGING – Yes, we here at On A Dime rely heavily on camping (see #2) for a small fee or dispersed for free, however, we completely “get” that there are non-campers so here you go. Hostels. Yep, they have gone mainstream and offer private rooms for less than hotels. You most likely will need a reservation in the peak season but if you come up empty-handed, call for last minute cancellations. We are in no way suggesting the kind of luck we had is a given but we did score last minute accommodations via cancellations for a group of 6 on 4th of July, two years in a row at the Yosemite Bug which offers a day spa as well as beer and wine in the restaurant.  After a hearty Half Dome visit, this hostel offered an amazing respite. The photo below was our view from the Montara Hostel on the coast of California. Check out our article on COUCHSURFING, written by guest blogger, Lexie Davis.

View from our room
View from our room

2) CAMPING – This is the best way to spend no money or to save a lot of money and we depend on a strategy that has been successful repeatedly. We camp first, hostel or cabin second, and then hotel for our final night. We save big time as is illustrated on this trip to Big Sur. If you compare our camping, cabin, and hotel fees, you’ll see the savings created by combining rather than spending the entire time at the hotel.

3) ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS – These ideas rock the little ones and make for some inexpensive fun for the parents as well.

4) BEACH GETAWAYS – This link makes a very good point in the money-saving game, stay close to home. Whatever body of water is closest, explore that first. To drive this home, we are including photos of Lake Texoma a huge body of water that lands 1/2 in Oklahoma and 1/2 in Texas.

sunset

tealights = ambiance
tealights = ambiance

Obviously, the ocean is lovely but there are amazing lakes that are stunning and off the beaten path. Below is Elk City State Park in Kansas.

Kansas $15 a night
Kansas $15 a night

5) AMUSEMENT PARKS – Go ahead and jump on Priceline for all-inclusive packages. This will be your best bet. The  On A Dime strategy in peak season is to get a good package and perhaps consider bringing food to the park and storing it in a locker. Heed this warning, water bottles are expensive so go ahead and bring personal (non-glass) bottles to fill from the fountains and, if you desire, powdered flavor packets like lemonade.

Sta Monica Pier2

6) NATIONAL PARKS – Here’s a timeless article on some of the stunning sites that are not to be missed. Personal experience at the Grand Canyon allows us to impart to travelers that as the day wears on, the lines to get in the parks can swell. Be an early bird and avoid the wait and the crowds.

7) GOLF VACATIONS – This link was billed as cheap golf vacations but we here at On A Dime feel it’s more in line with less expensive as golf is never truly cheap. That said, for the rabid golfers, this link does provide ideas on spending less.

8) HOUSE SWAP – Just like it sounds. Trade your house for one in your vacation location and save hugely. Adventurers, many of you are in contact with friends/family all over the world via social media. Consider swapping with someone in your circle. Also check out Airbnb for cheaper accommodations offered by private individuals. You’ll have the opportunity to choose lodging in a variety of locales with a variety of styles. Prices vary. Also Vacation By Owner (VRBO) for private homes for less overall cost. We’ve used VRBO a number of times and never had a bad experience.

9) FOOD – If eating out, SPLIT. The end. Portions are almost always way too much for one person so split your meal but please tip your waitstaff as if you’d purchased individual meals. 🙂 The service is not halved when the food is split.  The photo below is an actual breakfast for less than $10 at the Mount Whitney portal and the pancake is the bomb in flavor as well as size!

BRK Portal

10) SAVE ON GAS – Friends, we cannot impress upon you enough that sharing transportation greatly cuts your travel cost. This link offers ride sharing and possibly an opportunity to connect with other like-minded adventurers. If you feel better with buddies rather than strangers, spread the word. Share costs with another family and watch your SUV gas cost shrink by splitting it up at the pump. We managed a $40 dollar (per person) weekend by going as a group and it was a joyful time around the campfire with friends.

Share on Facebook and Tweet. Our gratitude cup runneth over.

Gang