Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You Go Girls!

G just sent me this link to a website for a group of three women who are tramping their way along the entire South Island of New Zealand - the hard way! They're travelling along the Southern Alps mountain range, with some of the most rugged terrain in the country.

Their trip is a fundraiser for Youthline, and I have to doff my wide-brimmed, waterproof hat to them for taking on such a huge journey. 1600 km of crazy New Zealand wilderness. Good luck girls, and may the forces of nature be with you!


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Feeling Indecisive? Destination-pickers galore!

In the process of editing my book, more than a few of my brilliant (or so they seemed at the time) ideas have ended up on the proverbial "cutting room floor." While I'm sure that's all for the best, I thought I could salvage a few from the scrap heap and post them here so they don't go to waste!

So here is a recent victim of the edit. My list of the Top 10 Random Ways to Pick Your Next Camping Destination. It's written with US readers in mind, but if you just replace "State" with Province or Region and USA with your own country and they'll work anywhere.

Can’t decide where to go on your next romantic getaway? Willing to leave it up to chance? Here are some fun ways to let fate decide where you’ll be pitching your tent!
  1. Pin the tail on the trail - Stick a detailed trail or topographic map on the wall and put some blue tack on a paper dot. Now one of you puts on a blindfold and sticks the dot on the map. Wherever the dot has landed, go to the closest trail or river.
  2. Dartboard – Put a map of the USA up in front of a dart board (or cork board) and throw a dart. Your next big trip will be in the state where the dart landed. The worse you are at darts, the more random your choice will be!
  3. Dropsies – Put a state map on the floor. Hold a penny and stretch your arm out over the map. Drop the penny and visit the park closest to where it lands.
  4. Alphabetize – Go to the index of a guide book for your area. Pick a trail, park or river starting with “A” for your first trip, and work your way through the alphabet.
  5. Google it – Do an internet search by typing in the name of your state or region plus “camping”, “backpacking”, or “paddling” and check out the results. The first specific destination that comes up is where you’ll go.
  6. Spin the bottle – Put a state map on the table and lie a small bottle in the center. Give it a spin and see where the mouth of the bottle is pointing when it stops. Go there!
  7. Book-a-trip – Buy a good guide book for your state or favorite area. Close your eyes and open it to a random page. Whatever route is described, that’s where you’ll go. (If you’ve already done that page then close your eyes and pick again.)
  8. Follow the clubbers – Find the website of a local hiking or paddling club. Check out their schedule and see where they were last weekend. Go there this weekend.
  9. Bingo – Grab a map with alphanumeric grid markings. Without looking at the map, one of you picks a letter and the other picks a number. Find that square on the map and go to the nearest trail to there.
  10. Chore jar – If you’ve got a list of places you’d like to go but can’t choose one, write each place name on a slip of paper and put all of the slips into a jar. Now close your eyes and reach into the jar. The first one you pull out is where you’re going next. This one is great because you can keep the jar going for years by adding more places.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Woman Who Knows Her Shit

Yesterday I interviewed another writer for my book, How to Make Love in a Tent. The interview was with Kathleen Meyer. You may not know Kathleen's name, but you've probably heard of her book - How to Shit in The Woods. What probably started out as a little, niche title has been so successful that she has released a second edition. Over a million copies are in print in a host of languages.

Who knew that such an odd topic could be so popular? But then again, anyone who has tried to participate in the titular activity can tell you that it certainly helps to have some instruction on the topic before your first attempt!

My interview wasn't really about that though. After all, one book on the subject is quite enough! (Although I do have a section just for women in my book that covers stuff like peeing in the bush and how to deal with your period.) I was more interested in Kathleen's experiences as a river rafting guide in her 30's and her more recent outdoors life with her partner, Patrick.

Kathleen has been lucky enough to finally hook up with a guy who shares her special relationship with nature. The two of them apparently sleep outside on the deck of their barn home most nights. The bed is used only in rainy or very cold weather. How many couples can claim they spend most of their nights under the stars? Even when it snows, they don't retreat indoors. She told me, "I find there’s nothing sweeter than waking up with your barrette iced into your hair, in a blanket of snow. And the intensity of that hot body next to you
is just increased, to wrap yourself around."

I'm sure some of you can think of many things you'd find sweeter than frozen hair in the morning, but I do admire the fact that she can find pleasure in it. I guess it helps when you're somewhere you can brush off the snow and take a hot shower afterwards!

It has certainly been interesting hearing from such a range of people about their outdoor experiences, and their relationships with the wilderness. The way we feel in the wild is as individual as we are, but most of us are just awed by the power, beauty and magnitude of the natural world. It's unfortunate that this amazing world is somewhere most of us only get to visit now and then. It would be even more unfortunate if we got to the point where there was little of it left to visit.

Anyway, I will be diligently weaving some of Kathleen's wisdom into my book. Pretty soon the editing will be done and a year's worth of words will leave my control. It's a bit scary, but I'm looking forward to it too!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Jumbo Blow To End the Year

On the last weekend in December, G and I decided to finally get out of the house after a week of disappointing holiday weather and go for a trip to Jumbo Hut in the Tararua Mountains.

Saturday was quite nice, cool but mostly sunny with just the odd bit of drizzle. The first few hours of walking were along a flat river valley, on a benched trail with bridges over the streams and rivers. All in all, a pleasant stroll.

The second half of the journey was much more strenuous. Uphill for two and a half hours! (Well, it's only supposed to take two hours, but after a month of not backpacking I'm a little out of shape...) We reached the hut near the mountain ridge just as the rain moved in.

Almost as soon as we were inside, the hut was enveloped by cloud. The rain began pelting down in earnest, and the wind howled across the ridge. Inside, the hut was deserted. Here we were on a weekend, right in the middle of Christmas break, and nobody else was there! (I guess they'd paid more attention to the weather forecast than we did.)

As much as I would have liked to take advantage of our isolation, it was so cold in the hut that night that being naked was just not an option. Instead we were both wearing every layer of clothing we brought, and crawled inside our sleeping bags as soon as dinner was finished. Well, almost. I did spend a bit of time trying to dry out my sweaty bra by holding it over a candle. While this method worked pretty well, and it was hilarious watching the steam rise from my bra, I got a little too close to the flame at one point and scorched my right cup!

The wind roared around us all night, and I was reminded why New Zealanders so often prefer huts to tents in this changeable climate. It was so blustery that I was startled awake a few times, convinced at one point that the wind had sounded exactly like a woman shrieking outside.
By morning things had improved a little. It was still cold and pretty windy, but the rain had all but stopped. Our hike down was cool and cloudy, and by the time we got to the bottom of the hill (after an hour and a half this time!) my legs were feeling pretty wobbly. We plodded on across the flatter part of the trail with as few stops as possible, choosing to wait until we were back on the road to grab lunch.

Both of us suffered from very stiff legs the next day. In fact, it took my quads three days to recover to the point where I was walking normally up and down stairs. It doesn't take long to lose your conditioning! Hopefully the weather will improve now, and we'll be able to get out there more often and keep in shape.

Happy new year everyone!