Advertisements

Planning is Half the Fun

20 01 2010

If you read last week’s post about Rule #7 (Tell someone where you’ll be), you may be grumbling a little.  I know, I know.  You’re spontaneous.  You can’t be held to a plan.  You need adventure, and that means heading out into the great wide open with little more than a desire to explore.

You, being spontaneous.

This is fine, as an attitude.  I actually encourage it, and embrace it myself.  But a desire to be spontaneous, to let the east wind carry you to the door of your next unknown adventure, doesn’t mean that you can’t engage in at least some planning and preparation.  Remember, when we set out on this journey together I said that solo hiking and camping can be safe — with a little preparation and precautions.  With the preparation, you can stop worrying about danger and get on with the enjoyment…which is kind of the point, right?

Besides, planning is fun.  When I was a kid, I would watch, fascinated, as my dad spent the better part of the year planning our annual vacation.  He would pore over travel guides from AAA, send away for brochures and amusement park maps (this was pre-Internet), make lists and add up prices and plot courses and analyze maps.  He had so much fun doing it, I sometimes wondered if he had more fun planning the vacation than actually being on it.

I inherited this planning fascination from him.  When I took my long road trip, I spent a couple of months planning — researching equipment I would need, places I wanted to go, people with whom I could stay, sites to see, etc.  I looked at driving times between parks, mapped out routes, looked at websites on American roadside kitsch.  (Of course, I didn’t have this blog to help me…)  It was scary — because I wasn’t certain I could do it — but it was also exciting.

Look how much fun they're having!

Here are some good things about planning and not leaving everything to spontaneity:

  • Anticipation: Planning lets you have fun with your trip before you go, because you can imagine yourself on the trip and get excited for it. 
  • Eliminating Potential Problems: No, you can’t foresee everything.  (Unless you can, in which case you know what I’m going to say next.)  You can anticipate potential issues that might arise and make provisions for them ahead of time.  If you know you’re going to be in a place where the weather is cold, for example, you can pack warm clothing and avoid a) frostbite or b) maxing out a credit card buying new clothes.  If you eliminate these issues before they happen, you don’t have to worry about them while you’re supposed to be having fun.
  • Find stuff you never would have seen otherwise.  Okay, this goes both ways.  If you don’t plan at all, you might miss something unbelievable because you didn’t know to look for it.  On the other hand, if you stick too hard and fast to your plan, you run the risk of missing something unbelievable because you didn’t take the time to notice it.  Balance, my child, is the key.  But the point here is that by planning, you might run across something truly interesting that you wouldn’t have otherwise stumbled across on your own.
  • Know what you’re getting into.  This is probably the most important benefit of planning, at least from a safety perspective — and is also connected to eliminating potential problems noted above.  If you know that the hike you’re planning is 5 miles, and moderately strenuous, you can guage how much time you need.  If you have the right map, you can figure out if you’re on the right trail or get yourself un-lost if you make a wrong turn.  All of this makes for safer, and therefore more fun, solo hiking.

Finally, planning doesn’t have to mean you give up spontaneity entirely.  Planning can provide merely a framework…and then you can decide to stick to the plan or not, depending on your whim.  And if you do decide to switch it up at the last minute, you can text/facebook/call/leave a note like we talked about last time…

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Advertisements




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.





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?





I’ll Walk It Off Later

23 11 2009

I never worry about diets.  The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond. 

~Mae West

If only that were true.  What would it be like, I wonder, to move through life without ever having to worry about dieting?  I’ll never know, but I do know one thing: when I’m hiking is the one time that I truly don’t worry about diets.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about food and hiking, including some suggested basics for a shorter and a longer hike.  Then, last week, I wrote a post about how important it is — it’s one of the “Rules,” in fact — to pack enough food when you hike so that you don’t find yourself weakened from the exertion without proper replenishment.  And here we are again.  So this food thing must be important.  The good news is that there’s a Good Stuff side to the Rule about food:

There’s No Dieting on the Trail

Okay, so it doesn’t have the same zip as “There’s no crying in baseball,” but let’s celebrate this.  How often do you justify an indulgent meal/snack by promising yourself that you’ll spend an extra hour in the gym to make up for your transgression?  (Too often, I bet.  Don’t worry, I’m not judging.)  Well, one of the great benefits of hiking — besides getting fresh air, and taking the time to slow down and notice the world around you — is that it’s great exercise.

I did some very scientific* research by looking up “hiking calories burned” on the Interwebs, and got a range of calories burned per sixty minutes of hiking, from as low as 340 calories to as high as 530.  The broad range is likely because no two hikes are the same; some require constant climbing and are highly strenuous.  Others are only a little more challenging than a walk in the park (and we know that a walk in the park is like…well, a walk in the park).

But the exact numbers don’t really matter.  Even at 340 calories, that’s a lot of calories.  And remember, that’s just one hour of hiking.  If you go on a day hike and are out on the trail for six hours or more, you’re probably burning well over your normal calorie intake for the day just in those six hours.

Therefore, when I’m hiking, I really don’t worry too much about how many calories I’m eating.  I try to pack a balanced array of food, and some extra energy bars, and I eat when I’m hungry, which tends to be at fairly regular and frequent intervals.

So when you’re on the trail, make like Mae West and don’t worry about dieting…but carrot sticks are a pretty good hiking snack.

*Not at all scientific.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.





Can You Show Me That In Purple?

9 11 2009

Shopping

This past weekend, I was up in Vermont with some friends visiting some other friends.  There was hiking (more on that later), conversation, a little Guitar Hero, and plenty of fresh air.  There was also some shopping, mainly at a Michael Kors outlet.  My shopping companion, A, writes a fashion blog, and she and I got to talking — again — about potential crossovers, since we both like to hike and shop.  She mentioned she’d like to do something about hiking fashion.  I endorsed the idea.

Then I came home, took a look at what was on schedule for today’s post, and smiled.  Sometimes the world sort of comes together.

Last Monday, we talked about an important Rule: Pack the Right Equipment.  The Good Stuff version of packing the right equipment, of course, is that you have to first obtain the right equipment, and that means…

Yep.  That’s right.  Shopping!

I know that sometimes, particularly when you’re dealing with highly technical outdoor or sporting gear, obtaining the right equipment can be daunting.  I can hear your questions, because I’ve had them too: Where do I even start?  How do I know what I need, and what’s right for me? 

Well, I have been there.  I have stood in the middle of an outdoor store, staring at the racks of shirts and pants and jackets and boots and tents and canteens and gadgets I couldn’t begin to identify, and wondered what to do next.

Then I realized that getting outdoor gear is just like any other shopping.  You figure out what your mission is (dress for a formal dinner, swimsuit for a trip to the beach, backpack for day hiking), do a little preliminary research to figure out what’s out there, how much you want to spend, and what you need (everyone will be wearing cocktail attire, you are finally brave enough to try a two-piece, you want something that will carry your first aid kit and has a hydration sac), and then the fun begins.

Go to the store.  Rifle through the selections.  Try things on.  Look in the mirror and envision yourself on the trail.  See if there are any sales.  Talk to the salesperson and get recommendations.  Ask if you can get this in purple.  (Because sometimes things are just better in purple.)

See?  Fun.

MK BagOne word of warning: Once you’ve gotten the hang of shopping for outdoor gear, it really does become just like any other shopping.  You might find yourself, as I do, wandering into an outdoor store and poking around for something to buy there even if you don’t need it — or seeing something you love but absolutely don’t need, and having to talk yourself out of it, like A and I did yesterday (so long for now, Michael Kors Astor Grommet hobo bag…).

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.





It’s Not Rocket Science

26 10 2009

As we discussed last week, when you’re camping and hiking (and road-tripping) on your own, your own observations, thought and instincts are your best tools.  You need to look around, be aware, and make judgments about the right balance between adventure and safety.  There isn’t going to be a Twitter update (or even, ahem, a useful blog) to tell you when the group at the local watering hole poses a specific danger to you, or whether that grizzly bear up ahead on the trail is content to keep out of your way.

That might sound a little intimidating.  Can I really think on the fly, you might ask?  How will I know if my instincts about someone I meet are steering me right?  How do I tell if the campground is a safe place for me to stay tonight?

I’m telling you today to stop questioning yourself.

You’re smarter than you think, and not everyone is evil.

You know the old saying: Common sense is a misnomer, because most people don’t have it.  Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not precisely true.  Common sense is common, it’s just that a lot of the time, people don’t bother to use it.

iStock_000010540973XSmallWe live in a world where information comes to us through countless sources.  Television, newspaper (whether in paper form or online), books, ebooks, radio, billboards, podcasts, magazines, Google reader, email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and in tiny digestible bites on that little screen in elevators.  While wandering through our environment, we get information from stop lights, digital temperature readers, weather forecasts with icons of sun and rain, traffic reports, and subway announcements.

We rely so heavily on external sources of information, in conclusory format, that we’re spending less time and focus on internal sources of information: our own senses and observations.  I’m guilty of it too — when I wake up, I check the weather on my iPhone and often don’t even look outside until I’m ready to walk out the door.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t come to our own observations and conclusions about the world around us.  It’s just a muscle that most of us don’t have to exercise in our daily lives as we go about our routines.  So exercise it.  Look around, see what you notice.  Test yourself.  Get used to being observant and reaching conclusions based on your observations.  You can do it — it’s a survival instinct that naturally exists.  It’s just that most of us are lazy in our comfortable routines where we don’t have to be so vigilant most of the time.

iStock_000004361536XSmallFurthermore, while there are dangers out there, and while being cautious around people you meet while camping and hiking alone is smart, not everyone is evil.  While the stories of solo female hikers disappearing or running into trouble because of unsavory characters are frightening, they aren’t actually the norm.  They’re the exception.  In fact, most people you will meet aren’t evil.  They’re like you — interested in enjoying the outdoors, having experiences.  They might be downright good samaritans.

It’s good to be cautious.  It’s necessary to use your common sense.  It’s smart to not blindly trust everyone.  But give yourself — and others — a chance.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.





Can’t Is A Four-Letter Word

5 10 2009

470px-Henry_ford_1919I am looking for a lot of men with an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.

— Henry Ford

When I was a kid, teachers would often say: “Can’t is a four-letter word.” 

This never made any sense to me.  Of course “can’t” is a four-letter word.  Just count the letters, it’s obvious.  It just didn’t make any sense in context.  The statement always came up when I (or some other student) claimed they couldn’t do something like long division, spelling a long word, climbing the rope in gym class (okay, that last one was me).  It wasn’t until much later, when I figured out that “four-letter word” was another way of saying “swear word” that I got it: “can’t” is a dirty word, because by saying you can’t do something, you’ve assumed defeat.

The attitude factor of success is a well-known topic of inspirational speeches, articles, and self-help guides.  When researching this post, I was looking for some key quote from some key historical figure who accomplished some feat that the world said couldn’t be done.  There are a lot of them.  I chose the Henry Ford quote above because I thought it was funny, but history is replete with tales of crazy individuals who had some dream and were told by everyone that what they wanted to accomplish was impossible.  Without those crazy people who ignored the word “can’t,” we’d probably still be living in caves. 

In the end, your confidence that you can do something does not guarantee success (Amelia Earhart, how are you doing these days?).  However, your confidence that you can’t do something guarantees your failure.  Which brings me to the second Good Stuff principle:

Don’t Assume You Can’t Just Because You Never Have.

Last Monday, we talked about Rule #2 (Don’t Overestimate Your Abilities).  However, it’s important to remember that when realistically assessing your abilities, don’t limit yourself to things you’ve already done.  What you’ve already done can serve as a framework for what you’re comfortable taking on while hiking and camping solo, but it doesn’t have to be the outer boundaries.

Push yourself, just a little bit.  If last time you hiked four miles, when you see a five mile trail don’t assume you can’t handle it (you probably can).  If last time you only brought along ready-made food, don’t assume you can’t have a campside cookout (you can, and we’ll talk about food soon). 

If last time you hiked with a group, don’t assume you can’t do it alone.

Give yourself a little credit.  If you don’t, no one else will, either.