Category Archives: How to

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…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REI classes

Top 6 Gear Requirements For Camping/Backpacking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Rules For Outdoor Simplicity The Right Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 🙂

5 Righteous Resolutions: 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half Dome sunset 1
Half Dome sunset from Camp 4

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

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake

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

Campfire and view from Camp #4

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

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

Snowshoeing finally!

Stunning stillness

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

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

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

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

10 Holiday Depression Busters: Making Yourself OK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

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?

AND all of these places are on a map:

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 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.