Category Archives: Hiking

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

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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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
Waterfall first glance
Yosemite Falls from the trail

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

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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.  🙂

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

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10 Emergency Tips: Making Yourself OK

Years ago I found myself climbing solo up a mountain, in the middle of the night, when I had the dreaded “uh oh” moment. I had lost the trail. This situation was further complicated by the fact that I had very little hiking experience and the trail was Mount Whitney. At this time I invite all Whitney hikers to crack up laughing as the trail is so well-traveled that it should be impossible to lose. I’d accomplished the impossible, I’d lost it.

I lost it both literally and figuratively, halting in my tracks, freaking out, and staring incredulously at an endless landscape of nothing but rock. My heart raced as I had blundered along in fear and somehow could not even figure out now from where I’d come. Everywhere I looked, all that could be seen was what appeared to be the moon.

Rationality was also nowhere to be found as I envisioned myself continuing to wander until, hundreds of miles off course, I was eaten by wild animals while helicopters circled in the distance, unable to locate my corpse as it had grown so cold that infra-red was shelved in favor of scanning the pitch dark mountain by the one rescue team that had been hired in response to an age discrimination lawsuit. So my geriatric EMTs would throw in the towel and head back to the city for their blue plate breakfast while I was being digested in the stomach of a bear.

I know what you are thinking, “do not ever introduce this woman to hallucinogenic drugs!”

Yes, I found the trail. Yes, I made it to the top of the mountain and it  was all because I made myself ok. Here are some ideas for making yourself ok when adventuring and these might also apply to everyday life.

1) Breathe – Just time yourself and spend 2-3 minutes breathing calmly.

2) Stretch – Stand and do a little stretching, simple and calming.

3) Look – Take time to look around and assess the situation. Fire? Stop, drop, and roll. Bear? Follow bear protocol. All else, just look. I found the Whitney trail in the dark after I calmed down and started walking in small circles, looking for marks. It took a bit of time but I figured it out.

4) Be Still – Don’t race off or run around frantic. If it helps, force yourself to actually sit down. Allow your heart rate to settle.

5) Help – What do you have that will help? Cell service? Call a friend. No service? Maps, other hikers. Water, tea, power bars. The key here is to find something small that will help transition you from fear to problem solving.

6) Time –  If you are in trouble, will someone likely come along if you just wait? On Whitney, I absolutely would’ve had company within 3-4 hours.

7) Hand – I often tell my kids when we’re in the car and need to get over into another lane to roll their window down and put their hand out. It works 100% of the time and there’s a reason. It’s humanity, no denying that a hand is attached to a real live human being. When we’re enclosed, we can ignore and be ignored. Any connectedness and humanity comes stampeding in the second we notice it and that it’s being directed at us. Trail trouble, connect and ask for help. Car trouble, don’t sit and wait. Get out and wave.

8) Think – I listed this one later as it is more effective when you calm down and give yourself a few minutes. Try coming up with several possible actions. On Whitney I considered waiting but it was very cold and I was worried about my schedule due to a forecasted storm. Eventually I went with the plan to carefully circle while paying close attention to my location so as to not veer farther off course.  On a hike in New Mexico where the loss of the trail was a challenge, we opted to leave Hansel and Gretel type markers.

9) Hydrate – In any case where you have water, take a moment to drink some. Just the act of something so rote can center you but also keeping hydrated is incredibly important to brain function. *Attn. Hikers – invest in a water purifier, it is absolutely a life saver.

10) Believe – Know that statistically you are most likely not in as dire straights as it initially feels you are. Believe that you can figure out your predicament but do this without false bravado. Talk to yourself like you would if you were giving a friend advice.

Finally, these ten tricks can be utilized in a number of situations but for adventuring, please have water, food, first aid kit, and if heading into the backcountry, a purifier and emergency blanket (the foil ones also come in handy to spread out on the ground in an area where any search and rescue can spot it from the air).

We’ve listed some links here that also might be helpful.

Hiking Tips: http://hikingdude.com/hiking-tips.php

Red Cross Road Tips:  http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/highway-safety

Tips for communicating during an emergency:  http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/emergency-information/tips.html

*”Like”/share or Tweet if you wish and HAVE FUN! Grateful. 🙂

Washington

 

Number One Hike And The 5 Reasons Why

And the winner for best day hike is………… Shore Acres State Park on the coast of Oregon and here’s why.

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Amazing views

1) The hike can be as long or as short as you wish, it is out and back and a gradual slope. Under nine miles is basically the longest it gets and there are multiple parking lots, meaning that you can choose from three sections. The end points are Sunset Bay and Simpson Reef Overlook/Cape Arago.

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Section of the trail along the ocean bluff

2) This trek has you breathless at the ocean views and lazing on – an almost deserted – white sand beach (we had it to ourselves much of the time). You’ll be speechless at the section that feels very Jurassic Park with lush greenery and an abundance of glorious ferns. We did not see dinosaurs but a couple of deer crossed our path and my guy was quick on the draw with the Nikon.

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A beautiful gift along our hike

3) Shore Acres is one of the few areas that seems to fit the bill for a vast variety of people. You can bring loved ones in wheelchairs, the elderly, those that simply want to look at the view but not hike, little kids on bikes, picnickers, flower fans, and hikers and everyone will be pleased. Note that there is even a glassed-in building for anyone wishing to experience the coastal beauty but not the ocean breeze.

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Enclosed overlook, wheelchair accessible

4) The price is right. It is $5 to park if you are not camping and this price is one-time, daily, and covers all state parks. The price for the Botanical Gardens? Donation only. Picnic, relax, enjoy the coastal air and views and feel no pain in your pocketbook.

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Wildflowers growing along the trail

5) The beach is very clean and not overrun. We do wish to share that we were there on a Thursday in June so the weekends will most likely see more visitors.

We’ll be adding OR and WA to our site in the next few weeks and give an update when the pages are complete. Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram for all the latest adventure info and feel free to pass along our site and share the links if you wish. We are grateful and appreciate your feedback/suggestions in the comment section below. <3

Oregon Activity Links (will be adding to this and including it in our OR page in the next few weeks)

Birds Of Prey Sanctuary and Hospital 

100+ Hikes: The Best Of The Best

Hiking (the physical act) is at times imperfect, complete with blisters and coffee withdrawals, as opposed to a  hike (the physical place, the new terrain) which is nearly always perfect and that is, very simply, because the availability of locations is stunningly endless. For this post we’re sharing a link to the 100 best hiking trails here in the US, however,  the word “best” is subjective so we want you to be the judge.

Now if you are a fan of getting high – we know of two people you might want to connect with. The good news is this kind of “high” won’t have you doing time anywhere other than on top of mountain and that is exactly where you’ll find these two elevation experts.

The high-flying, trekking adventurers we lucked into this past week are joyfully sharing their journey and we are loving it! Jimmy Michaels and Rene Woodhead (aka Jimmy Rivers and IAmRWood) are two travelers that decided that their  future trips should all be high points, literally. These endorsers of heading off the grid have set their sites on hiking the highest point in each of the contiguous 48 states with Hawaii and Alaska also on their list. They’ve blogged about, and beautifully photographed, the places across the US that they’ve visited. Following their undertaking is wonderful for anyone with a desire to slip away from civilization and move on down a dirt trail. Jimmy and Rene show that it is doable and it is mighty fulfilling, whether you choose to bite off a big piece of Mother Nature, as they are, or simply hanker to take a weekend stroll along a butterfly-filled path.

Butterfly
Oklahoma

The best places in each state to hike can be pretty subjective so we’ve compiled a few lists and links in order to get you started. Your experience will be yours and yours alone and we’d love to hear if you discover some magical place that the world has been missing.

Top 100 Hiking Trails at Triple Blaze is a list that ranks hikes by hikers reported favorites along with the trails people would most like to visit. All trails listed are in the US. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC has a US Park top ten list for kid-friendly hiking destinations that proves helpful for those with wee ones but keep in mind that the popular sites usually require advance planning especially in peak months. If you are looking for hikes near your home, ask your local outdoor adventure store for recommendations.

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Day hike 6 miles round trip

In our home state (California), tons of hikes exist and here’s our humble but absolutely irrefutable 😉 opinion on a few of the best.

*Mount Whitney for sheer accomplishment and stunning beauty and yes, Jimmy and Rene have marked it off their list. We too have been up Whitney and found it a soul-rocking climb. Horseshoe Meadows, 10,000 feet and about 1/2 hour from Whitney with stunning forest hiking and camping. For anyone considering a back-side approach to Whitney, Cali Trails will knock your socks off.

*Rock Creek Canyon with its casual (under 5 mile) hike that ponied up multiple lakes and resembled an alpine wonderland. Very kid and dog friendly.

*Mono Lake at sunrise or sunset will take your breath away. Easy path a short distance from the car.

S. California beach hikes – Point Dume, Leo Carrillo, and El Matador are nirvana. All offer fee or free parking depending on distance you are willing to walk.

California offers something for everyone and you call your own shots.

Mono
1/4 mile from the car

Another example of subjective beauty is the great state of Oklahoma. Jimmy and Rene hit the high point at Black Mesa (4,972.97 feet) and the USA TODAY list includes Robbers Cave and a number of other hiking areas but misses On A Dime’s favorite, Wichita Wildlife Refuge.

We’ve hiked truly amazing places, some obvious as in the Grand Canyon and Half Dome but others that were off the radar like Horseshoe Meadows and Onion Valley. What we know for sure is that the hunt for unexplored dirt trail will take us a lifetime and we are so very lucky for that. One of the best perks about On A Dime Adventure is when readers turn us onto little known gems that are waiting to be enjoyed. Please leave your favorites in the comments below or connect with us via email and/or Facebook and share your secret trails.

*On a final note we are leaving you with a link to TRAILS.COM’s top 100 hikes. This list is one that caught our attention as it was compiled based on 10 million reader/hiker votes. Rock on and hope we see you on the trail!

We’d be grateful if you have a favorite hike in your area, if you would include it along with a link if available in the comments sections below!

5 Sassy Benefits To Hikers

Does hiking offer some sassy benefits? Yes. It does. And how do we know?

Because several years ago, I arrived in my doctor’s office with a serious sass deficiency, difficult to treat, and complicated by my self-diagnosis – via the Internet. I announced that I could not stop crying but that I didn’t want any intervention unless it was non-traditional, free of free-radicals, and not approved by the FDA. The response the doctor gave was, “well, I’m not sure why you are here then so, walk”. Thankfully she stopped me as I stood to leave and added, “No, I mean walk 20 minutes every single day, it should reduce the crying.”

And she was right, the crying diminished in exchange for the griping and complaining  about walking. That is until I happened upon hiking. I mean the word hiking. It had a much nicer ring to it and I liked the boots better than tennis shoes. For anyone who questions this reasoning, the definition of hiking is to go on an extended walk for pleasure. Extended, I figured, was in the eye of the beholder.

What began as a lengthier walk, morphed into discovering the trail and a realization that – according to the experts – some sassy benefits were mine for the taking, benefits like:

1) A SHARPER MIND – Now this one gives me a giggle because the prevailing wisdom is that cardio improves concentration, however, I am known far and wide for hiking into the backcountry and right off the trail. I like to think it is time spent in this very “zone” (zoned out) state that creates the sharper mind.

2) A HEALTHIER BODY – Yes, your blood pressure goes down as does the desire to strangle the person who would NOT turn right on red when you were in a hurry to get absolutely nowhere. The rest of the health-package has been widely touted as encouraging increased respiration, weight loss, muscle gain, blood circulation, and stamina. We know that hiking is good for our bodies and that translates into good for our emotional state.

3) A SOLID SPIRIT – The misconception here is that “spirit” is purely internal or attached to personal self-realization. To be outdoors and present to nature-made as opposed to man-made has an ability to reduce us individually and expand us collectively. We go from mindless singular consumers to a group of trekkers responsible enough to leave no trace.

4) A SENSE OF COMMUNITY – This is powerful so I hope you seize it if it fits. Find some kindred spirits, a pal or two, that want to join you. Walking/hiking with a friend can save you money, rock your entire experience, and friendships blossom on the trail in a manner that no happy hour can equal. Bonding – over 2 for 1 margaritas – pales next to a sunset on the trail and yes, you can bring your own spirits.

5) INCREASED SELF-CONFIDENCE – Taking on a dirt trail and hiking into the wild, for even a mile or two, reaffirms that we used to be self-sufficient. Our forefathers drank water from rushing creeks and picked wild mustard for dinner. The child in us is familiar with the joys of roughing it and knows that the stomach ache from eating crab apples is not lethal. The adult in us is aware that this stomach ache is actually far less harmful than blood pressure spikes from road rage in work traffic.

So let’s park the car, load the backpack with apples, and head out of cell range. This we can do, it is in our DNA. It’s called sass.

*Please know that I do not mean to make light of depression or suggest that cardio is a singular fix. I incorporated a number of tools on the road back to emotional health and hiking was key for me. It still is. If you are struggling with depression, please seek medical help.

~THIS COMING SATURDAY WE BRING YOU A COUPLE HIKING 50 HIGH POINTS IN 50 STATES! Don’t miss this!

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Magical Mediocrity/Day-Hiking

 I love ice cream, popcorn, and mediocrity and I don’t love exercise. Even the word exercise has me recoil and just try throwing in some slogan like “no excuses” and I immediately start making excuses. I am terrible at all competitive sports as well as games. And fit, as in physically? I was previously so sedentary that I got a side-ache walking to my mailbox. No, you are not about to hear that beautiful turnaround story to the theme of We Are The Champions.

 My theme would be Another One Bites The Dust and over the course of a few years – I did bite the dust – for a variety of reasons that ultimately required soul-searching. So one day while at the beach, looking around for my soul, I miscalculated the time to pick up my son and had to run to the car. I arrived breathless but realized I had completed a mile with no side-ache. I was shocked and, seeing this as a convenient omen, put the misplaced soul aside and began a mediocre physical quest instead. I started half-heartedly running, hit and miss, and eventually topped out at an average of 4 miles a day. I finished – not ran – the LA Marathon. We stopped for photos, dead serious. And people, truly I am sure my time was in the lackluster 8hr+ range but the photos were fantastic. I never hooked into PRs (personal records) and I paid only fleeting attention to form. The running was good but I lacked any real determination and kept  catching a whisper of a feeling that something else was out there, something powerfully different, waiting. There was – it was Whitney.

 Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the lower 48 at 14,505 feet) became the turning point toward hiking and backpacking and also toward a love of mediocrity or what I now term as magical mediocrity. I hiked Mount Whitney solo, beginning at 11:30 at night. I was terrified just getting out of the car, absolutely certain I could hear grizzlies sharpening their teeth with their claws. There are no grizzlies in the Sierras (black bears, yes) but that did not stop my headlamp from becoming a laser show as I jerked back and forth – eyes darting – on high alert for lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The only real danger for me was whiplash. About nine or ten hours after courageously exiting the car, I summited with a crashing, altitude-induced migraine, took Excedrin, and knew that something had changed.

 The change was mediocrity. No, I did not suddenly shake off being average and make the cover of Sports Illustrated. Rather, I purchased the Whitney bumper sticker, drove my screaming muscles home, and made friends with my averageness and when I embraced it, I realized it was quite beautiful. It meant I was showing up and it also meant that this new thing was mine – my own imperfect/perfect experience – not some goal-oriented fitness program. No miracle occurred that day, however, I did catch a tiny glimpse of my soul and I became a hiker. I spent the next few years walking trails while stumbling around literally and figuratively until a good friend asked “and how’s that working out for you?” Unspoken was “and everyone else you might be impacting”. And what I have come to know is that hiking was working out just fine but the soul part is ongoing.

I recently read Cheryl Strayed’s account of soul-searching in Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail and found myself relating as I alternated between weeping and laughing at her journey toward magical mediocrity. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl in the movie, sans makeup. THAT’S what I love about not being an above average actress like Reese. I would’ve been very happy to play Cheryl and, in the spirit of mediocre actresses, I would’ve eschewed perfection and worn makeup. Cheryl’s story turns the crazy drive for perfection upside-down as she takes her messed up life and naively loaded backpack, and embarks on a wildly imperfect yet magical trek of the Pacific Crest Trail. Along the way, she transforms her own averageness initially into magical mediocrity and finally into a powerful sense of self-worth. Her story grabs your heart and squeezes it in an invigorating embrace and, in the process, assures that you have kindred and they are out there.

 I found mine. Kindred. They enrich my life beyond measure and a good number of them share a passion for hiking but how does all of this really apply to something as simple as a day-hike? Striking out on a trail heals, it clarifies, and it empowers. Flat out, that is the truth. Though I have done multi-day backpack trips, a day-hike can take me to the “zone” on a regular basis. The zone being that stripped away, all the muck left behind, joy. I have hiked with Christians, Atheists, and dog worshipers (this is Los Angeles). And what I’ve discovered is that whether the experience is purely nature-based as in Neil deGrasse’s beautiful passion for science or connected to a celestial entity like Joshua Becker’s mission to deepen spirituality through minimalism and a return to non-monetary moments, everyone seems to meet on a level playing field. Hikers all agree on a love of the outdoors and seeing the magnificence of what Mother Nature has gifted us with. Most of my hiker buddies report coming away feeling renewed, experiencing a sense of reconnect, and certainly a bit of empowerment when conquering nature-made bathroom activities while trekking with a love interest. So friends, hit the trail and take – not a power hike – but a highly personal, magically mediocre, exploration of where the wild things are.

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”  ~John Muir

*See our article on day-hiking and send us your favorite day-hikes so we can add to our list.

Day hike 3Day hike 4Day hike 2