Thanks for 2009!

28 12 2009

Acadia NP in Winter

Her Side was on hiatus last week in the madcap dash to Christmas (and I still have gifts to wrap and ship…I don’t know how this happens to me), and will be checking out again after this post until January 4, but I wanted to take this opportunity to say:

Thank you.

Thank you for reading, for commenting, for emailing me and telling me that I have inspired you.  Thank you for allowing Her Side to spend the last few months of 2009 figure out how the heck to do this blog thing.  Thank you for providing feedback, making requests, and sticking around.

A look back at 2009:

  • September 8: Her Side of the Mountain launches with a post entitled “Carpe Diem,” a photo of Buffy and Willow, and a joke about carp.  Let’s keep carpe-ing the diem in 2010.
  • September 27: Ken Burns’ documentary series “National Parks: America’s Best Idea” airs.  Someone says to me, “I thought I’d be bored but I couldn’t stop staring at the footage.  There are places that look like that for real?”  Yes, Virginia, there is a Yellowstone.  And not just in our hearts.
  • October 5: Her Side posts a photo of Henry Ford (beside a quirky and topical quote attributed to Ford), and thereby receives a vast influx of visitors because a LOT of people search for Henry Ford each and every day.  Each and every day. 
  • November 7: A couple of Her Side’s friends get lost in the woods in the dark and  provide Her Side with its first real-life reason to say “I told you so.”
  • December 28: Her Side gears up for the new year, makes lots of resolutions, and comes up with loads of brilliant new ideas (see below!).

Coming up in 2010:

  • New Year’s Resolutions.  Yes, let’s make them, and let’s make them fun to keep.  Who’s with me?
  • The completion of posts about the Rules and the Good Stuff.  We’re about halfway there.
  • More (hopefully many more) hike reviews and guides (with photos!).
  • Food.  I’ve been digging into some hiking/camping food sites and cookbooks…once I’ve had the opportunity to try some of this out, I can pass some suggestions along to you and we can discuss.
  • I respond to your requests and suggestions.  So keep ’em coming.

Happy New Year, everyone.

What the Heck Do I Get…Part 3

18 12 2009

By now, I’m really sweating.  Not because I’ve just completed a spectacular hike or am on vacation on a tropical beach, but because there is less than a week until Christmas, and I still have a TON of shopping to do.  Ah, procrastination.

I have some friends with whom I agree to exchange books for Christmas.  It’s nice because there’s a general price limit without setting a specific limit, and it’s always fun to get books and give books as gifts.  It’s also nice because those mega-bookstores are decent places to go in a desperate fit of last-minute shopping…they do a pretty great job of displaying books that you can spot and grab and be done with it…  In honor of that, here is Her Side’s final (and desperate) gift guide of the season:

Holiday Gift Guide #3

Gifts for your bookworm friends…or for yourself.

Daily Coyote.  Shreve Stockton.  On the “Related Ramblings” tab, and again in an earlier post, I talked a little about Shreve Stockton, who moved to Wyoming on a whim, accidentally adopted a coyote pup, and is now raising him.  The blog is great, but the book is also great.  It’s a good, quick read, with beautiful photographs.  Yes, I’ve given this as a gift.  It was well received.

Desert Solitaire: A Season In the Wilderness.  Edward Abbey.  This is Abbey’s best work, in my opinion — a tale of his time as a ranger at Arches National Park, at a time when Arches was more…primitive…than it is today.  This book inspired me to love the desert.

My Side of the Mountain.  Jean Craighead George.  This blog got its name (you didn’t know this, did you?) from this children’s book (middle grade?) about a boy named Sam who runs away from home to the Catskill Mountains, lives in a hollowed-out tree, and becomes friends with a falcon and a weasel.  Everyone loves a good runaway story — particularly those of us with wanderlust — and this book will make you want to try to live in a tree yourself.

On the Road.  Jack Kerouac.  So it’s kind of self-indulgent, rambling, and chaotic.  Sometimes it’s engrossing, sometimes boring.  But you know what?  So is a road trip.  This is kind of an essential, and a classic, which means that one will either love it or hate it.  Why not at least give it a try?

Down the Great Unknown.  Edward Dolnick.  In 1869, a slightly obsessed one-armed man named John Wesley Powell led a crew on what was essentially a rafting expedition down the Colorado River and into the Grand Canyon.  It wasn’t easy; the choice of watercraft wasn’t great, the supplies didn’t last, and it was harrowing.  But the tale is incredible, and this book tells it well.

My Book.  I haven’t written one yet, but I might, and when I do, you should definitely give it as a gift to everyone you know.   Right?  Who’s on board? 

Photo Wednesday

16 12 2009

Because Her Side is frantically putting in lots of hours at work and trying to finish holiday shopping, today you’re getting a moment of zen in the form of a photo…

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Coming Friday, the third and final Holiday Gift Guide.

What the Heck Do I Get…Part 2

14 12 2009

So the holiday shopping continues.  As I stand in a sea of screaming children, frazzled mothers, and harried fathers, I wonder why I didn’t start my shopping earlier.  And then I wonder what the heck to get the people on my list.  To help you avoid this, Her Side presents:

Holiday Gift Guide #2:

Gifts for your significant other who claims to hate the outdoors.

When discussing this list with a couple of friends, one of them asked, “there are people who hate the outdoors?”  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  I know a couple of them personally.  I haven’t been in a significant relationship with anyone like this, but can imagine the inner struggle.  How can you turn around this unholy prejudice, so that your S.O. can embrace the wonders of hiking and camping and nature by your side?  And how can you do so without pissing them off and spoiling the holidays?

While I make no guarantees about the second,  here are a few suggested gift items to help you inspire your S.O. to at least give the outdoors a try.

Earth, the DVD: This mini-documentary narrated by James Earl Jones contains footage from the Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth series.  While some have criticized this movie as a lesser version of the series on which it is based, its length (90 minutes) makes it a little more friendly to those who aren’t already inclined to watch documentaries.  For the full effect, you could opt for the full series, of course…but the idea here is to inspire.

National Parks DVD: For a more targeted approach, and particularly if your S.O. does like documentaries, there’s the Ken Burns’ triumph, National Parks – America’s Best Idea, that debuted this fall.  The images are awe inspiring, and you can follow up the movie with the suggestion that you and your S.O. could actually visit these places and see them for yourselves…if he/she was willing to give it a try.

Go Go Gadgetry: If your S.O. is a gadget fiend, then there are plenty of enticing toys with lots of buttons and functions that can be used while hiking and camping.  Even a relatively basic and affordable GPS device could be the temptation needed to make hiking more interesting for your favorite couch potato.  And if your S.O. is a gamer, you could even look into geocaching…it’s not something I do, but a lot of people enjoy it, and it could turn hiking into something a little more interesting for a gamer than an activity that is  “walking, but harder.”  (Yeah, someone said that to me once.)

Cushion of Comfort: A lot of the time people who don’t like the outdoors feel that way because they think it’s uncomfortable.  Your job, then, is to make this a little easier on their tender constitutions.  Step one: providing a high quality camping air mattress so they don’t have to sleep on the hard ground.  Trust me, this works wonders towards convincing someone to go camping.

Personalized Water Bottle: Maybe your S.O. will be less hesitant if they’re sporting their own water bottle with some photo, name, or saying that has personal meaning to them.  Or to the both of you.  If your S.O. is a Twilight fan, maybe one of these is a good idea.  (Pssst.  Team Edward.  Just sayin’.)

Promise a Home-Cooked Meal: Again with an eye towards increasing your loved one’s comfort (or decreasing their worry of discomfort), you could promise to cook a wonderful meal while on your camping trip.  This will likely be met with skepticism, or perhaps curiosity.  Make sure you practice ahead of time so that you can deliver.

A Trade: Is there something your S.O. really loves and you really hate?  Maybe he/she loves the symphony.  Or football.  Or some other event that bores you to tears.  Well, now is the time to practice what you preach.  Get tickets to the event, or set up a day when you can spend doing what your S.O. loves.  Without complaint.  That way, next time you say, “honey, whaddya say we go camping this weekend?” he/she will feel a little more charitable towards the idea.  Okay, so that’s a little bit of a scam, but in the end, everyone is happy — and that’s what this is all about, right?

What the Heck Do I Get…

11 12 2009

I finally started my holiday shopping, which stresses me out quite a lot.  I wonder if I’m spending too much, or not enough.  The hardest people to shop for, by the way, are fifteen-year-old boys.  (You both know who you are.)

I always poke around gift guides online, but they never quite fit the person whose gift I’m trying to find.  For example, my dad is not a typical dad.  He doesn’t have any interest in tools, or cars, or sports, or gadgetry.  He doesn’t wear cologne, or ties, and is super picky about wallets, slippers, and other things that make normal “Dad” gifts.  But nowhere can I find a gift guide called “gifts for the dad who would rather be reading comic books or going to a Pretenders concert than watching football.”

So I’m going to put together a series of targeted, useful gift guides for your holiday shopping pleasure.  Here’s the first…

Holiday Gift Guide #1:

Gifts for your friend who loves to hike and camp, just had a baby, and swears her “life won’t change that much.”

This list pretty much writes itself, because I do have friends who love to hike and camp and do so with infants and toddlers.  (Once they’re older than that, you can give them a Swiss Army Knife and a package of waterproof matches and tell them to fend for themselves.  Kidding!!!  Kidding.  Really.)

Baby Backpack.  There are these really functional, sleek-looking hiking backpacks that have the normal spots and pockets for your hiking needs…and a place for your baby in the middle!  I have friends who swear by the Kelty brand, but there are a lot of options out there.

Portable Baby Bed.  I actually bought one of these for some friends (though I’m not 100% sure it was this model).  If they’re reading, maybe they can chime in with a review.  I think they look sort of hysterical (it’s a little pod! for your baby!  to protect him…and keep him in one place…), but they’re certainly functional, blocking harmful sun, bugs, and acting as a small playpen all at once.

Baby Sunglasses.  Cause really, this baby’s future is so bright, she’s gonna need shades.

Baby Sunscreen.  While we’re blocking the rays, baby sunscreen is another important way to protect the tot from harm while out of doors.

Hiking Strollers.  Seriously, when I saw this particular model, I did a double take.  I live in a city, so I see those funky joggers’ strollers all the time.  My best friend lives in the mountains of Vermont, so she had a big rugged stroller good for making dust out of boulders and leaping over muddy terrain.  But this model seems to be for hiking, and cross-country skiing.  It has a “child cockpit.”  If I ever have a baby, I want one of these.  Make a note.

Babysitting.  If all else fails, grab some construction paper and glitter (or, if you aren’t that creative, get one here) and make up a certificate for a day of babysitting.  That way your friend can leave the little one in safe care and hit the trails on her own or with her significant other. 

You can find more ideas about hiking and camping with babies here.

Happy holidays!  More gift guides to come…and if there’s a specific category you’d like to see addressed, let me know in the comments!

Concerts, Confidence and Courage

10 12 2009

Today over at Go Girl, I talk about pretending to be a solo traveler in my hometown.  Oh, and seeing Phoenix in concert.

Check it out here.

Free Holiday E-Cards!

9 12 2009

I know, I know, this is the second post today, but it’s only because this is quick.

The National Parks Conservation Association has a series of free holiday e-cards that you can send to your friends, family, enemies…pretty much whomever you think deserves a card from you.  Now, I normally refrain from sending e-cards around the holidays…I may be a blogger, but I still value the handwritten card because of the time and attention involved.

However, the NPCA cards are really nice.  And they’ve made them available for free, and all.  And they promote the National Parks.  So, I think this is a win.  Maybe more people than usual will get holiday cards from me this year.

(I particularly like the “Joy to the World” card with the bear rolling in the snow.)

You’ve Got Class: Self Defense, First Aid, and Meeting New People

9 12 2009

 Buffy: I’m Buffy.  I’m new.

Xander: Xander.  Is – is me.  Hi.

Buffy: Um, thanks.

Xander: Well, uh, maybe I’ll see you around… maybe at school… since we… both… go there.

Buffy: Great! It was nice to meet you. [walks away]

Xander: We both go to school. Very suave. Very not pathetic.

— Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Welcome to the Hellmouth”

Yes, it’s true, I was one of those kids who liked school.  For the most part.  I mean, I didn’t relish test-taking or being picked on or gym class but in general school was an okay thing.  Sure, there were days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, but since I was all right with the whole learning premise, it was pretty much a place to hang around with my friends for eight (or more, during theater season) hours per day.  College was even better for these purposes — you get to live with your friends, and go to class when you feel like it.

Once you’re in the real world, with a job, you start to realize how good you had it when you were in school…why do you think so many people go through the torture of grad school?  They get slapped in the face by the real world and run back to class, where it’s safe and fun and your success or failure depends pretty much on your own efforts.

Even those of us who stick it out in the real world, work our jobs, and get focused on our careers end up craving the classroom again eventually.  Think about it.  I bet you (or people you know) have taken various classes post-college.  Did you take a writing seminar?  A class on sauces at the local culinary school?  A beginner’s photography class you found on craigslist?  Salsa lessons at that bar down the street?

What makes you decide to take a class?  For me — and I’m betting for most people — part of it is an actual desire to learn something, maybe part of it is a desire to learn something specific, but part of it is the social aspect.    It’s like the first day at a new school all over again: a little scary, incredibly exciting, and now you’ve grown into your skin and have confidence you didn’t have at the acne-dangerous age of fifteen.  Who else will be taking the class?  What will they be like?  Will you have a chance to be popular, again or finally?

This is the Good Stuff side to the rule we discussed last week, you know, the one about never ever ever leaving your first aid kit behind.  While thinking about the injuries you might sustain on a solo hike or camping trip, or the other dangers out there can be intimidating, don’t forget that the key is to be prepared.  And how can you get prepared, in a fun, exciting way that conveniently ties into this little musing about school? 

You can take a class!

Last week I linked to the American Red Cross for first aid classes, but there are other organizations that offer them as well.  Female self-defense classes became a rage a handful of years ago, and they are still offered all over, in varying levels of commitment, intensity, and difficulty.  Classes don’t have to be limited to just safety, however; many local adult ed centers, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and other outdoors clubs offer hiking “classes” that usually involve a group hike.  Just because you want to be able to solo hike and camp, or prefer to solo hike and camp, doesn’t mean that you can’t also get involved with the community, learn something,  and get prepared.

You can even be like Xander and meet some new people at class, since you both…go there.

What classes have you voluntarily taken since leaving formal “school?”  Why?  What was good and bad about them?

On A Magic Carpet Ride

4 12 2009

As I’ve been writing Her Side, I have come across a number of other fantastic sites (yes, by using the word “other” I am implying that Her Side is fantastic), usually blogs, usually related to travel or the outdoors, and usually written by women.  Come on an around-the-blogworld-in-less-than-ten-minutes expedition with me.  You’ll like what you see.

The Daily Coyote

The Daily Coyote is a beautiful mostly-photo-but-with-some-lovely-writing blog by Shreve Stockton, author of the book The Daily Coyote (but the blog came first).  Ms. Stockton moved to Wyoming on a whim because it called out to her heart, and found herself loving the savage land, a cowboy, and a coyote pup (now fully grown) named Charlie.  On the blog, she documents how she came to Wyoming, how she came to be Charlie’s mother, and how she raised him along with a cat, a dog, and now a cow and a horse.  Be forewarned: if you click the “start at the beginning” link, be prepared to lose several days reading the entries and gazing at the photos.

Dressed In Dirt

Then there’s Dressed In Dirt.  Dressed In Dirt is the A.T. name of a woman who lives in Portland, OR, spent two and a half months hiking the A.T., blogs about it and hiking and camping and other related things, loves the outdoors, and doesn’t think of herself as hardcore.  I beg to differ, Adelaide, because you’re definitely more hardcore than I am…but as you rightly say, “Everyone hikes their own hike.”  I’m just glad you’re sharing your writing, experiences, and photography with the rest of us — building a community of women solo hikers and campers is part of what I’m trying to do here too.

Around the World with Lillie Marshall

Lille Marshall is in the midst of a “Round the World” solo trip, having decided to take the plunge after six years of teaching and saving.  Having traversed Japan, Cambodia and Vietnam, and currently in Thailand, Lillie is writing about her adventures on her blog.  Lillie also happens to be a co-contributor on Go Girl.  Just sayin’, full disclosure and all.  But she really is fun to read.  Makes me start wondering if I could pull off that kind of trip…

Hiking Lady

And finally, there’s Hiking Lady.  Hiking Lady has a great site with a treasure trove of information and deals (my favorite part is the deals) and news about hiking.

Now, of course, this list isn’t exclusive, and I’ve seen more sites, so more reviews will come.  But in the meantime, help me find these great bloggers? 

What are your favorite camping/hiking/outdoors/female travel sites?

Bring it on.  I’m ready.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.

Embrace the Unknown

2 12 2009

Well, hello there, December.

Who has time?

November is over, and Christmas carols are jingling in every store and on radio stations all over the country.  If you’re like me, you’re frantically trying to meet the year-end demands of your job, keep up with the rest of your normal life (laundry, bills, errands), and gear up for the holiday season.  Did you put up your decorations?  Send out holiday cards?  Did you get all of your holiday shopping done on Black Friday?  Cyber Monday?  Then you’re way ahead of me, because I have exactly two presents purchased, and I picked them up while on vacation in September, so that doesn’t totally count.

What’s more, now the weather has turned cold (and, if you live in the Northeast, wet with impending frozen on the horizon).  It’s no longer the “ideal” hiking season in New England.  I hold out hope that there might be one more good weekend day, but it doesn’t seem likely.  From here on out, it will be either too wet, too frozen, or too snowy to do a “standard” hike — in some places, it already is.

What is a casual solo hiker to do?  It’s true that some people enjoy winter hiking; it’s not something I have done very much of at all.  So this year, in honor of the first winter of Her Side, and as a holiday present to myself and to all my readers, I’m going to try something completely new…something I have wanted to try for a while but never got around to.

I’m going snowshoeing.

This will be me soon.

That way I can report back to you all and let you know how it goes.  Don’t say I’m not here for you.

Now, the idea makes me a little nervous, because it’s completely unknown.   I’ve only ever seen snowshoes hanging on the walls in kitschy chain restaurants.  I’ve never had snowshoes on my feet, never mind tried to walk in them, and I am not known for physical coordination.  I don’t have snowshoes, and wouldn’t know where to go even if I did. 

A little research, however, revealed that there are places that will rent you snowshoes, give you lessons, and then point you in the direction of well-known trails so you can try it out.  I’m going to go there, probably in January (after the holiday frenzy is over and we’ve had some good snowfall).  Maybe I’ll even go for Winter Trails Day (which, as best I can tell, is snowshoe-tastic and has lots of stuff for free, including guided tours and demos).  Looks exciting!

I might drag a friend along, or I might go alone and look forward to meeting like-minded souls.  The point is to try something new, and not be intimidated by the unknown.  While it can be scary to set out on a solo adventure, chances are there is a way to do it without plunging headlong into the abyss.  To get your feet wet — or snowy, as the case may be — before taking on a bigger solo challenge.  This applies to regular hiking as well: a little uncertain about your ability to handle a particular trail?  See if there’s a guided hike there or somewhere similar.  Take a class.  Find a group.  Don’t let yourself be held back by the intimidation of the unknown.  Embrace it and find a way to…well, to know it.

Now, pardon me, I need to get back to my holiday shopping…

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.