I’ll Be Over the River and Through the Woods

11 01 2010

You’re out on the trail.  You’re moving along at a good pace.  You’ve taken all your precautions.  Unfortunately, something goes wrong.  You trip, injure your ankle, and you can’t make it back out.  Bad luck, you also picked today to hike a trail where you haven’t seen any other hikers, your cell phone isn’t getting any signal, and you never got around to getting one of those “come get me” survival beacons.  Is all hope lost?

Nope.  You’ll be fine.  Because you followed Rule No. 7:

Tell someone where you’re going to be.

This sounds obvious, but it isn’t always.  It’s also (unlike the first aid kit rule) negotiable.  There are many times that I break this rule because I just don’t think about it.  When I was on my road trip, I was hiking practically every day, and was alone for most of the trip, so there wasn’t anyone to tell (and this was pre-facebook and twitter, and in the early days of accessing the internet via cell phone…I was still hunting up internet cafes to check my email).  When I go to the places near me for “quick hikes” on trails I am very familiar with, it often doesn’t occur to me to mention my intended destination.  And sometimes you don’t know where you’re going to be until you go, because there are multiple trails and you want to check them out before deciding which to commit to.

This is all right.  Like most of what I talk about here, this Rule is a matter of balance.  Going for a walk around Walden Pond, or on a highly populated trail, simply doesn’t pose the same risks as going somewhere difficult and secluded.  It is a good idea to make your intended hike known, however, and to get into the habit of doing so.  That way, if you don’t come back, someone knows where to start looking.

Remember when I told the story of my friends A and B who got lost in the dark?  One thing they did absolutely right was telling us where they intended to be.  We knew what trail they were taking, and we knew when they were expected back, so when they didn’t show up, we knew exactly where to go and look for them.  (Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.)

Now, in 2010, it is very easy to tell people where you’re going.  Here’s how:

  1. Call someone.  “Hey, Mom, how are you?  How is Dad?  Listen, I can’t talk, because I’m on my way to the Canyon Loop Trail in the Betasso Preserve.  It should take me a couple of hours — I’ll call you on my way home.”  See?  Easy.  And you make Mom happy by calling.
  2. Text someone.  Don’t feel like talking?  “hkng Laurel Falls tday b bk by 3.”
  3. Email someone, or a couple someones.  “Hey girls, I’ll be hiking to Crow Creek Falls in the Helena National Forest tomorrow, starting around ten.  Let me know if you want to join!”
  4. Facebook/Twitter it.  This lets you reach lots of people, and also is sort of second nature to many of us now.  “Jane Smith is going to hike the North Pawtuckaway Mountain Trail today.  See y’all in 3-4 hours!  Should I post photos?”
  5. Leave a note in your car at the trailhead.  I wouldn’t put it on the dash and be obvious about it, but leaving it in the driver’s seat, where someone could find it easily if they were looking, is not a bad idea, particularly if you didn’t decide where you were going until the last second and don’t have any cell reception.

And that’s it.  So simple.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Photo Friday

8 01 2010

Today, I need serenity.  Not Serenity (well, maybe that too…you can’t take the sky from me), but something peaceful.  So I unearthed this photo of Yellowstone Lake, taken in September 2004.  Pretty, ain’t it?  Or should I say, “shiny.”

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

A Different Kind of Gold

7 01 2010

Today at Go Girl, I talk about meeting Mike in Montana, a gold miner and self-taught law scholar.

Click here to read it!

Let It Snow

6 01 2010

Back in early December, I made you a promise.  I promised that I would try snowshoeing and report back.  Well, last Saturday, while in the Berkshires, I did it.  And I loved it. 

We — I wasn’t alone, I had two friends with me — arrived at the Arcadian Shop in Lenox, MA, in the early afternoon.  We rented snowshoes and poles for $20 and proceeded into the woods behind the shop.  The original intention was to go up to the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, but Kennedy Park, the area right behind the shop, seemed like as good a place as any to dabble in snowshoeing for the first time.  We spent a little over an hour tromping around the various park trails, figuring out snowshoeing technique, and being quite cold (it was in the teens or colder and blowing snow all afternoon). 

Specifically, if you look at the map of the park, we started out on “Woolsey Road” (27)  then transferred to “Overview” (11), then to “Weaver Olympics” (20) and up to the Lookout, then the return trip on “Deer Run” (5), and finally “Greenfield” (28).  Afterward, we went to the Arcadian’s coffee shop to warm up, poked around the store, and went home, all having decided that snowshoeing was an experience we’d like to repeat.

Some observations:

  • Snowshoeing isn’t that different from hiking.  Yes, there is snow on the ground.  Yes, your steps have to be adjusted (a slightly wider stance) to accomodate for the shoes.  And yes, there are some techniques (like throwing your weight onto your toe while going downhill so that the spikes under the shoe dig into the snow) that are counterintuitive, but they aren’t hard to figure out and once you do, you’re pretty much taking a walk in the woods — albeit with appropriate footwear for the terrain.
  • Appropriate clothing (as with any outdoor activity) is very important.  I didn’t have it.  I had warm gloves, and head covering, and a good warm coat, and you can snowshoe in your hiking boots, but there was one major fail.  If you look at the photos of my feet, you’ll see that I’m wearing jeans.  Of all my choices, this was probably the best, but it wasn’t good.  When you snowshoe, the rear of the shoes scoops snow and kicks it up toward the back of your legs.  This means that, after not too long, the calves of my jeans were drenched and then frozen.  Since I’m not a winter hiker, I don’t have weather-appropriate pants, so I made do with what I had.  This was okay for our dabble in a well-frequented area, but in the future I’m going to acquire and use more appropriate clothing.  Some long underwear, for one, to wear as a bottom layer, and I’m planning to purchase a pair of gaiters, which I think will solve the problem:


  • Wintersports don’t have to be complicated.  Much like I have said that hiking doesn’t have to be complicated, neither does snowshoeing.  Sure, you need that bit of extra equipment, but there are lots of rental places around that make it easy to acquire with very little fuss.  And if you own snowshoes (which I intend to do very soon), you make it even easier, so that snowshoeing is no more complicated than strapping on your hiking boots and hitting the trail.  This is a revelation to me, since I always viewed winter activities as a hassle.  I’m going to try to drop my preconceptions here and try other things.

So what’s next?  I think cross-country skiing is in my future…

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Reflections, Revelations, and Resolutions

4 01 2010

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2010.  (Ahem.  “Twenty-ten.”)  It sounds futuristic, doesn’t it?  Moreso than the “oughts,” which actually sounds like it comes out of the distant past.  Speaking of the future and the past, today, in the inevitable resolutions post, I want to talk about looking backwards and forwards, and taking stock of the now.

The end of anything prompts reflection.  It’s natural to look backwards at events that have transpired and consider their meaning on your life.  When you complete a difficult hike or backpacking trip, you ask yourself what went right and wrong, and figure out how to improve or replicate the good for next time. 

Part of this reflection, or this looking backwards, prompts taking stock of the present.  How have the past events affected your life?  Where are you now and how does where you are compare with where you want to be?  Speaking of that, where do you want to be?  Are you on the path there, or does the path need to change?  If you ask these questions and find answers, sometimes these are indeed revelations.

Of course, the reflection and the revelations logically lead to a hard look forward at what your goals are, and what concrete steps you need to take to achieve those goals.  Which leads to resolutions.

I give this primer mainly because resolutions have the reputation of being impossible to keep.  While I can’t pretend to have a definitive answer as to why, I can identify two kinds of resolutions that are guaranteed to be broken before President’s Day.

Problem resolution #1: Some resolutions aren’t concrete enough.  They are too vague or too conceptual, or really are more goals than resolutions.  An example: “to lose weight.”  That’s a nice, common resolution.  The trouble is that it doesn’t mean very much.  How much weight?  Is there a weight goal you’re trying to reach?  Are there other levels of fitness that matter, or just the number on the scale?  What are the steps you’re going to need to take to keep your resolution, such as going to the gym a certain number of days a week, embarking on a diet or just changing eating habits, setting money aside in your budget for a personal trainer?  Vague, conceptual resolutions are nobody’s friend.

Problem resolution #2: Some resolutions, on the other hand, are specific and concrete enough, but aren’t connected to anything meaningful, and therefore breaking them doesn’t mean much either.  An example: “to eat vegetables every day.”  That’s a fine, concrete resolution.  You should be eating veggies every day.  But if you aren’t already, then there’s some other problem…not liking vegetables, not having time to go to the grocery store, etc.  In order for the vegetable resolution to be meaningful, and increase the chance that the resolution isn’t broken, you should consider what the root problem is, determine what your larger goal is, and make a resolution that fits into that spectrum.

Reflection, revelation, and resolution.

With that in mind, here are my resolutions for 2010:

  1. Turn off the computer and the television when not in direct, singular use.  I love television.  And movies.  And surfing the internet.  So I spend too much time with the television on in the background, half watching, while I do other things, like surf the internet.  Or read a magazine.  I am the quintessential multi-tasker.  I check email every five minutes or whenever my iPhone bongs at me (which is sometimes more frequently than every five minutes).  That means I don’t focus my attention very well, and it’s getting worse.  To achieve the greater goal of improving focus and attention and getting more done and done well, it’s time to take the concrete step to have the television and computer on only when I’m using them.
  2. Try new things.  This might suffer from the vagueness problem above, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on it by giving it a frequency.  This is less of a resolution and more of a promise to myself to explore more of the world around me.  I’m doing pretty well so far, because in the first three days of the New Year I managed to cook a new vegetarian recipe and go snowshoeing for the first time (more on that later).
  3. Finish a novel.  I finished one a few years ago.  Nothing ever came of it.  Then I “got busy” and, of course, work on twelve things at once (see resolution number 1), and so don’t focus on projects enough to finish them.  Thus, this year, I’m going to pick a project (I haven’t selected one yet…I’m giving myself through the weekend to do so), set a schedule, and work on it until it’s done.  I’ll keep you posted.

That’s all for now.  Pardon me while I turn off the computer.

What about you?  What are your resolutions for 2010?  Reflections?  Revelations?

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010 (hey, look at that date!).