And It’s Wednesday

24 02 2010

I know, I know.  I know what you’re thinking.

It’s Wednesday already, and there has been no post from Her Side yet this week.  Well, Her Side is floundering.  Buried under a mountain of work.  Barely having a moment to remember to feed the cat in between finishing work and crashing for a few hours of sleep and then rising to keep working.  Trying desperately to get through the next few days when things should get a lot easier.

And boom.  There it is.  That inevitable thing that happens when you don’t have time to live your life because you’re so busy living your life: you try to skip days.  I swore I would stop doing that, and am ashamed that I’ve gotten myself into that habit again.  I’ve been doing it since the holidays. 

It happened in 2008 as well (most of 2008, in fact, which passed me by like a freight train without brakes), which is why, in 2009, I remembered how much I love hiking and camping and made an effort to make time for it again.  Which is how I realized that neither activity has to be a giant production (despite all of my precautions and warnings).  Which is why I decided to start writing about it so other people could stop living for the weekend, or the end of this crazy project, or whatever is keeping them (you) from living your life the way they (you) want to live it.  So you could take my advice, get yourself in the habit, and take the time to smell the roses.  Or whatever else you find on the trail.

You can do it.  Try something new.  Or old, it doesn’t matter.  Stop putting off your life until you have more time to live it.  Do it now.  Don’t let life pass you by.

And I’ll be back on Friday and try really hard not to miss another day of posting.  Thanks for sticking around!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Photo Friday

19 02 2010

I have the mid-winter blahs.  It hits every February.  I miss the sun.  The real sun, the hot one, not the cold crisp one like is shining at the moment.  So today, I’m giving you a photo from a very very hot day in the desert.  Below is a shot from the hike to Delicate Arch at Arches National Park in Moab, UT. 

Happy Friday, everyone!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Pinching Dollars

18 02 2010

Check out today’s article on Go Girl, in which I give you some ideas to keep costs down while you travel the open road. 

Click here to read it.

Announcing Contest Winner!

16 02 2010

Well we didn’t get ten entries, but the entries we got were so good I decided to go ahead and award a prize anyway.

In order to be sufficiently fair, I gave the entries to a neutral third party — a fellow hiker/camper who has no idea who any of the entrants are — and asked him to pick the winner.

In the end, Neutral Guy was so impressed he picked not one, but two, insisting that it was a tie.  So, without further ado…drumroll, please…the winners are:

1. Jennifer Floyd, for her tale of triumphing over adversity, conquering the Boundary Waters, and not clocking her father with her oar.  Neutral Guy said, “I like the ‘I f-ing hate this/ok, keep paddling/now I remember this fondly’ tone of this story.”

2. CityGirlWhoRarelyCamps, for her tale of being awed by the night sky while at summer camp as a child.  Neutral Guy said that “there is not much better than being out at night somewhere where the sky lights everything up.”

Congratulations to both of you!  Select your photo, let me know which one you’ve selected, and I will send along your prize!

Thanks to everyone who participated.  I loved hearing your stories, all of them, and they got the juices flowing on some ideas I have of my own.

You can read all of the entries here.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Photo Friday

12 02 2010

Today is the last day to enter Her Side’s contest! Winner will be announced next week.

And now, on this Friday before Valentine’s Day, I offer you something Grand:

Grand Canyon

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.


10 02 2010

Let’s all watch someone take this crazy hike. El Caminito del Rey (or the “King’s Pathway”) is a walkway along the walls of a gorge in El Chorro, near Álora in Málaga, Spain. Yes, I’m afraid of heights (ironic, isn’t it?), so I won’t be going here anytime soon…


I’m As Free As a Bird Now…

8 02 2010

“Look, I won’t go far, okay?  If the apocalypse comes, beep me.”

— Buffy, BtVS, “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”

Last summer, I spent a week at a dude ranch in Montana, riding horses, shooting rifles, panning for gold, hiking, incredible wildlife viewing, and generally hanging out.  Montana is a great place to hang out.  That’s because, out on the ranches, even those that are “close to town” by their standards are far away by the standards of us city dwellers.  The ranch where I stayed had a driveway that was over a mile long between the main road and the first ranch buildings (the corral), and that’s considered short.

I mention all of this because, while I was on the ranch for a week, I had no access to email or my cell.  None.  There was simply no signal out there.  You could get a sort of sketchy signal on the main road, so if I was truly desperate, technically I could have walked out there.  Believe me, I considered it.

I’m hyper-connected.  I am checking email constantly, texting, making phone calls, on Facebook, etc.  I’m also one of those people who gets a LOT of incoming communication.  I go a day without checking messages, and I have hundreds to weed through (both work and personal), and that’s mighty overwhelming.

Last week, we talked a little bit about bringing your cell along when you solo hike.  I mentioned the big caveat, which is that it won’t always work out there in the wild (or on a Montana ranch), but I urged you to bring it along anyhow.  I’ve noticed, however, that there is a common reaction to this suggestion: But I’m going out into the wilderness!  Isn’t bringing a cell phone defeating the purpose?

No.  Not at all.  And here’s why:

Your phone has an off button.

Simple, I know, but oh-so-important.  The phone is a safety precaution.  (And, if you’re like me, a way to snap a photo and upload it for everyone’s viewing pleasure, whether at the moment or at a later time.)  I don’t check my email on hikes.  I don’t make calls.  I tend to silence my phone or turn it off entirely.  I have it just in case, but I take the opportunity to completely ignore it, and my hyper-connected life.

It’s good to disconnect every so often.  You can do it at home, too — try going 24 hours without answering the phone, checking your email, or turning on the television.  I call it “going hermit.”  It’s unbelievably serene (if you can find the 24 hours to do it).  All those voices and nagging wonders about what’s going on slowly quiet down, so that even when you get back to the bustle you feel more in control and less rushed.

Hiking and camping is the perfect opportunity to disconnect.  Bring the phone.  Make sure it’s charged.  And then turn it off until you need it.  You won’t be sorry.

Photo Friday

5 02 2010

So we didn’t get enough entries in the contest.  I am SO disappointed.  But wait!  It’s my contest.  So I am hereby extending the deadline to next Friday, February 12.  But that’s it, and I mean it.  Check out the other entries here.  Think you can do better?  Send in your own!

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of Western majesty for you on this Happy Friday.

Colorado National Monument

Hit the Road, Jane

4 02 2010

Today over at Go Girl, I give you ten questions to consider before embarking on an amazing road trip.

Check it out here.  While you’re there, poke around our new site!

And don’t forget to enter Her Side’s CONTEST!  Deadline is tomorrow, and we haven’t yet gotten enough entries.  Bring on your incredible moments!

Get Off My Back

3 02 2010

Choosing a backpack for day hiking might seem like a daunting task.  You walk into a large outdoor outfitter and they line the walls, in all colors and sizes.  Some have lots of little accessories.  Some are huge and some are small.  Some have internal frames, whatever those are.  Some have hydration sacs, which sounds a little funky.  Some cost more than your monthly car payment.  How to figure out what you need?  And why can’t you just dig out that old one you used in college?

The backpack that’s right for you has to be the one that’s right for you.  Deep, isn’t it?  I’m serious.  Backpacks are a very personal matter, because your back is a very important part of your body.  If you’ve ever had a back injury, you’ll know that when your back isn’t in good shape, everything becomes more difficult.  So do yourself a favor, and take the time to find the backpack that will keep your back in good shape.

First of all, that old backpack you used in college isn’t a good idea for hiking, at least not serious hiking.  In a pinch, for a short hike, you could make it work, but hiking backpacks are designed to hold more in an efficient way that allows you to access your supplies readily, and they are designed to fit you properly to distribute the weight, let you keep your balance, and save your back (and shoulders).

So, what should you look for in a day hiking backpack?

  • Woman-Specific Packs: Manufacturers got smart and finally started making packs that are specifically designed for women.  While I’m not 100% in favor of some women-specific items (see my grumble about “women’s” first aid kits), in the case of a backpack it’s essential.  Women’s backpacks are built to fit women’s torsos, which are generally shorter than men’s torsos; this way, the pack can sit on your hips (where the weight should be focused) and allow the shoulder straps to fit as well.  The shoulder straps themselves are contoured differently than men’s to account for…well, breasts.  All of this means that the packs designed for women will not only be more comfortable for you, but are also better for you.
  • Storage Space/Configuration:  Every pack is different, and you might not know precisely how much space you need until you try it out, and there is a broad range out there (at least as broad as 1000 – 2300 cubic inches).  I can honestly tell you I’m not sure how big mine is, but I’m going to guess it’s around 1700 cubic inches.  It’s important to remember that you don’t always have to stuff it full, so if in doubt, go with something on the upper end of the range.  As to configuration, take a look at how the pack is constructed.  I like multiple compartments (a primary and a secondary and maybe one more small one) in order to divide up gear.  I also like a couple of pockets on the sides (so I can stick the GPS, an apple, etc. for easy access), and handy loops so you can attach other things if necessary.
  • Water System: It’s up to you whether or not you get a pack with a hydration system, but I think it’s worth the extra cost.  There are packs with hydration sacs that hold a couple of liters of water (I’ve found to be plenty for even a significant day hike as long as it’s not a million degrees), and provide for easy hydration while on the go.  It eliminates the need to carry separate water bottles — but if you aren’t in the mood to use the sac, you can remove it.  One hint: don’t put anything but water in there, because it can be a royal pain to clean.
  • Fit: Yep, you get to go shopping.  Try the packs on.  Connect the waist strap.  See how it distributes weight between your hips and shoulders.  See how the straps feel.  Don’t be afraid to walk around the store for a bit to make sure it’s what you want.  Because day packs can cost anywhere from $75 to several hundred dollars, take the time you need to make the right purchase.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Don’t forget to enter Her Side’s first CONTEST!!!  Deadline is Friday, February 5th, and so far we haven’t met the minimum entries…tell your friends!