Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reader Participation Time

I’m beginning to work on some revisions for "How to Make Love in a Tent", and I could use your collective help. Here are some questions to ponder – please post comments if you have responses.

If you saw the book "How to Make Love in a Tent: Romantic Camping Adventures for Wild Couples" in a shop, what sort of stuff would you be expecting (or hoping) to find inside? What kinds of topics would you want it to cover?

When you think about sex and romance in the outdoors, what concerns do you have? What are the things that would stop you from getting frisky with your partner when camping?

What would you consider the main differences between making love at home (in bed) and doing it in a different setting, such as a tent, a car, a beach or whatever?

What do you think is the most important thing to keep your love life interesting and stimulating?

Have you ever used a book or advice column to look for ideas to improve your love life? In what ways did you find them helpful? How were they not helpful?

Have a think about it, and let me know if you have any thoughts on those or other related topics. Even if you’re not a camper yourself, I’d like to hear your opinions. If you’re shy, you can be anonymous about it, or send me your response by e-mail to loveinatent AT hotmail DOT com instead of posting a comment.

Thanks for participating. Interactivity rocks!

PS - Good luck to all of the participants in this year's Novel Writing Month. Keep up that word count!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Our rented kayak, ready for action in Queen Charlotte Sound

Sunny Queen Charlotte Sound Friday

Stormy skies roll in on Saturday

Water, water everywhere!

(photos posted above)

The first long weekend of spring was a perfect excuse to head down to the South Island and do a bit of kayaking. Our friends P & T invited me and G along for four days in Queen Charlotte Sound.

After a couple of weeks of intensive planning (mostly by P & T) we boarded the ferry to the South Island on a stormy Thursday night. This was bad news for me. I get seasick watching badly shot TV, so a stormy crossing of the Cook Strait was guaranteed occasion to make me heave. Luckily I stocked up on Dramamine, the wonder-drug for nausea. It made me sleepy, but at least it kept my head out of the toilet on a rather rocky voyage. Our entire party made it through unscathed, but there were a lot of green faces on board.

We rented the kayaks on Friday from a place in Picton. While our original plan was to take a water taxi out to the far end of Queen Charlotte Sound where there would be fewer people, the owner decided that the forecast was too windy to let us go to such an exposed area. Instead we settled for a campground about half way along the sound, with boat access only.

This sounded like the perfect place. No hikers or mountain bikers could invade, so we thought we’d have it all to ourselves. Wrong! By the time we had set up our camp and had a bite to eat, a tour boat pulled up at the jetty and about 20 sightseers toddled onto “our” beach to have a picnic. So much for privacy!

We responded by getting into the kayaks and going off to explore the many bays of Queen Charlotte Sound. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the water was turquoise below the cloudless, blue sky. Green hills surrounded us in every direction. We even saw a couple of little blue penguins in the water (the world’s smallest penguins). As far as I was concerned, this was paradise! I barely felt the effort of my sweeping paddle.

As the afternoon wore on, the wind began to pick up. By the time we turned back towards our campground, the waves in the main channel of the sound were a metre high. It was hard work (and very wet work!) getting back to our bay. Sitting in the front, I took a few big waves right in the face. Even with a spray skirt on, I ended up sitting in a pool of water. I was exhausted but still having fun. P had not found it so fun to fight the waves, and G was sore and tired.

The tourists were long gone from our campground when we returned, but they’d been replaced by a family of sailors. They had pitched a tent for the two youngest (late teens) at the campground and were getting ready to barbeque their dinner. They also had 2 dogs with them despite the fact that dogs are not allowed at the campsite. While I hate to be unfriendly, all I wanted was a quiet evening in the wilderness. Not a loud, family barbeque with barking dogs. When they left the next morning there was garbage on the ground, and dog poo they hadn’t bothered to clean up or even throw into the woods. Nice work boaties!

The day looked gray and menacing, and by the time we got into the kayaks it was starting to drizzle. We first paddled to a nearby stream to get drinking water (which we would boil later) then out into the sounds again to explore. The rain got more persistent and G got more sore and tired, so we turned back early to take refuge in our tent. I was disappointed that we’d had only a couple of hours on the water, but I figured if Sunday was nicer it would make up for one bad day.

We woke to steady rain on Sunday. It was clearly not going to get better, and the temperature had dropped as well. We surrendered to the weather gods and called the water taxi to pick us up a day early. (Yes, our cell phones worked out there. So much for the wilderness!) We found rooms in Picton and had very, very welcome hot showers! That night we ate at a lovely little seafood restaurant by the water. It was the night before my birthday, so I had a very nice birthday dinner. (Thanks T & P!) Afterwards we even went to a café for cake. If I couldn't have a nice weekend in the sounds, this was a good substitute!

The ferry ride back to Wellington on Monday was uneventful, but the rain continued. In fact, it is still raining a day later. So my plans for three solid days of kayaking turned into one and a half. But I still had a nice trip and celebrated my birthday in the great outdoors. Next time we just have to pre-book more sunshine!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Good news from bookland

Today I got an e-mail from the managing editor at Wilderness Press. She and my editor have had a look at my manuscript for “How to Make Love in a Tent” and they’re really pleased with how it turned out. Whew!! That’s a load off my mind. As a first-time author I had all kinds of fears about major re-writes to come.

But now I get to embark on a new adventure – the editing process! This should start next week. While it’s hard to deal with criticism about my writing, I’m trying to look at this as an opportunity to learn. After all, I’ve never had the benefit of a professional editor looking over my work before. I’m sure I’ll find out stuff I never knew, and she’ll think of improvements to my writing that would never have occurred to me. (I say all of this now, but in a week’s time I could be cursing her and tearing out my hair!)

So the next phase in my authoring life is about to begin. I’ll be sure to update you all if anything interesting or unexpected comes up. I can’t wait to see it all come together!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Snowy scenery on the Powell Hut trail
(see post below)

Snow today, gone tomorrow

Last weekend G and I went camping with our friends C and B, and their tenant’s dog Lily. We’ve been trying to arrange a trip together for almost a year it seems. All of last summer (after Christmas) my foot was injured so I couldn’t carry a backpack, and then scheduling conflicts kept us from getting out during the fall. But with the coming of spring we finally got our acts together.

We went on a pretty easy trip up in the Tararua mountains, to a place called Powell Hut. It’s a popular route because it’s relatively simple and well maintained, particularly compared to some of the other tracks through the Tararuas. (My previous post “At least it can’t get any worse…” illustrates the usual state of affairs in the area.) Even the name of the trail leading up the first half of the climb, the Gentle Annie Track, sounds leisurely.

Of course any time you slog uphill for 3 ½ hours it’s a bit of a chore, but the first half was indeed very well maintained, graded track. The second half was a bit more rugged, and as we got higher we started to see some remains of the winter’s snow. In fact, the ground was pretty much covered in snow as we got close to the hut, which was a bit surprising this late in the year.

The wind got cold and gusty as we neared the top, and a few times I had to plant my hiking poles in the ground and bend low to keep from being blown over! We were considering taking the long way down the next day, including three hours walking along the top ridge, but if this wind was any indication of how things would be along that ridge I didn’t stand much of a chance of staying on my feet. With no trees to block the wind, I’d be a human kite before long!

When we arrived, the hut was packed. There were over 30 people spending the night. (I did mention that this was a popular route, right?) Luckily C and B had saved us bunks. While we spent an enjoyable evening in the hut chatting with other campers, the wind outside howled and rain came and went several times.

The next morning, as if on cue, the wind died off. We decided to play it safe and go down a more direct route that didn’t involved hiking along the ridge. But as we left the hut, the sun broke through and we almost regretted our decision. It’s not often you get clear skies along the ridge, and no wind to blow you off. Still, it’s early in the season, and an 6-8 hour hike out sounded like an awful lot of work!

As we started to descend from the hut, I noticed immediately that things looked different. All of the previous day’s snow had been washed away by the rain. I felt so fortunate to have been able to hike up in the snow, when it was the last day of the year where that would have been possible! The higher peaks certain still have some snow on top, but as spring progresses it will disappear quickly.

It’s strange for me, since I grew up in a place where snow surrounded me all winter, to be living somewhere with no snow except in the mountains. Some of the guys at the hut were obviously finding it a novelty, staying outside in the bitter wind to have a snowball fight while the rest of us huddled inside. As for me, I kind of miss snow. Growing up in Canada, it’s part of my identity. I wasn’t in any hurry to join the snowball fight outside, but it was kind of nice to get a small taste of winter as I define it. (Even though it’s spring, and we could sure do with some warm, sunny days!)

Anyway, we hiked out on a beautiful, sunny day. It was an altogether enjoyable weekend, and I can safely say that I’m continuing to enjoy backpacking despite my rough start to the season. Our next adventure will be a long weekend of kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds. Stay tuned for that in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I’m a daypack diva!

This spring I decided, after much stubborn procrastination, that I really need a proper daypack for one-day hikes. For years I’ve been using the zip-off pack from my travelling backpack. It’s quite small (maybe 15 litres) and has no hip belt or structural support, so if you put anything heavy in it, it’s quite uncomfortable to carry after a while. A water bladder, rain gear and lunch may not sound heavy, but after the first couple of hours, you start to feel it. So a bigger, better daypack was in order, and my ever-generous partner G offered to buy me one (a bit early) for my birthday.

I quickly proceeded to try on pretty much every daypack between 30 and 40 litres available in Wellington. While we don’t have the range of some bigger cities, this was still a substantial amount of pack-trying. First to be struck off the list were those with a hip belt that was just a strap. A wide belt is much more comfy and distributes the weight better.

I found out that a lot of the packs in this size range were meant for people who do ‘adventure racing’. It’s a fast-growing sport where travelling light is essential, so special lightweight packs are one key element to going fast and having the essentials with you. The packs are very comfortable because they’re so light, but the drawback is that the lighter materials are not as tough. Being the clumsy person I am, I didn’t think it was a good idea to risk a pack that might rip if I caught it on a branch, or dragged it along a rock.

This still left me with a goodly number of packs to choose from, but there was one thing that separated the winner from the other contenders – a women’s harness! Just one model in that size range was available (at the local stores in Wellington, at least) with a harness designed to fit a woman. The straps didn’t start right at the top of the pack, but about a third of the way down. So my short torso was the same length as the distance between the top of the straps and the hip belt. The straps were also shaped differently from the other packs I tried on. They started closer together, for a woman’s narrower shoulders, and then quickly curved away. This left room for (to borrow a romance novel expression) my ample breasts. Other packs had straps that squished them together, which again is not so comfortable after a few hours.

The pack is a Marmot Diva 36. Surprisingly, the colours available to me were black and blue – not exactly traditional ‘diva’ shades but I went with the blue.

I am so glad that gear manufacturers have finally realised that men and women have different needs and body shapes. In my book, I write about all kinds of things that are different for men and women. Backpacks are one of the biggest deals as far as I’m concerned. It’s so easy to be uncomfortable while you’re backpacking, and it makes such a difference to have a pack that fits properly. If you’re buying a new pack, I can’t stress enough how important it is to put something heavy inside when you try it on. Everything is comfortable when it’s empty! I figure if your backpack and your boots are comfortable, you’re well on your way to having a great trip. Otherwise, there’s no end to the misery!

I haven’t had the chance to take my new daypack for a test run yet. Next weekend we’re planning an overnight trip, so the daypack will have to wait. But I’m looking forward to my first hike as a wilderness diva!