Monday, May 28, 2007

Men and their maps

I think that a true and heartfelt love of maps is just one of those "guy" things. I like a good map as much as the next backpacker - they certainly are useful in keeping me aware of where the heck I am - but maps are just tools to me.

Some men, on the other hand, seem capable of spending hours pouring over the details of a good map. They spread it open on a table in front of them, and lovingly finger its contour lines. I'm not sure what they see on the paper that I'm missing. Perhaps the map is enough to transport these men into a mental wilderness, preceding their real journey with an imagined one that holds the promise of undiscovered lands and untrod paths.

Last night, in preparation for a trip we'll be taking this weekend, G spent about half an hour folding and re-folding the topographic map of our destination. (Of course he did this while I was watching TV so that the rustling was just irritating enough for me to wonder how it could possibly take that long to fold a map!) Then, once the folds were in the right places (and bear in mind, it started out folded neatly) he added clear tape along the folds to protect the map from wearing out along those lines over time. Clearly the map is to be considered a precious object, and should be protected.

Maps are important to anyone who gets into backcountry. There's no doubt that they can save your life, assuming you know how to read them and maybe have a compass with you. But the love affair with maps is a bit of a mystery to me, along with the market for car magazines and the ability to spend a whole day standing in a river with a fishing rod. I guess I'm a girl through and through.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Joy of Backpacking

While I was working on Sex in a Tent, there was another book in progress over at Wilderness Press called Joy of Backpacking. The author needed a few 'experts' to contribute tips to print in the book on various subjects, and I was asked to write a couple. After begging so many people to contribute their stories to my book, I could hardly refuse a bit of contribution karma.

In return for my contributions, I was sent a copy of the book, which was just released. I've had a read through it (yes, I flipped to the pages with my tips first - you would too!) and thought I'd give it a bit of a review here.

If you are just starting to backpack (or tramp) this is a great resource. It covers all of the basics, from what gear you need to buy (and just as importantly what gear you don't need) to how to find your way using a map and compass, what kind of food to bring and how much, what clothing is best, what different kinds of footwear are good for etc. There is definitely an American slant to everything, but I think readers elsewhere would still get enough out of it to find it very helpful. (They can just skip the stuff about coyotes and perhaps bears.) You'll just need to add some local advice to your collection so that you understand the possible difficulties you'll experience. Wildlife, climate, water availablility and track quality vary greatly from one country to the next, and within countries too.

For more experienced backpackers, there are still bits of advice that could be useful. You'll already know most of the basics, but there are some good meal and snack ideas, some interesting tips about treating blisters, staying warm and so on. For those of us who mostly know what we're doing, the value is in the details. If you already have a collection of backpacking books about first aid, cooking, navigation etc., then you probably don't have any need to add this to your shelf.

On a final note, I wanted to mention the cover photo. It's a picture of the amazing Vermilion Cliffs area in northern Arizona. I had the good fortune to hike there in 2004, and it is one of the most surreal, beautiful and unique landscapes in the world - picture Dr. Seuss on Mars. If you get the chance, don't miss it! (You need a permit to go, and numbers are limited.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sex in a Tent - Cover Story

I've been given permission to share the cover art for Sex in a Tent with my loyal readers (yes, all three you, plus whoever else stumbles by!) So without any further ado, here is the my soon-to-be book cover:

Kinda catches your eye, doesn't it? The original draft version I saw a few months ago was a whole lot more subtle, but this certainly gets the point across. Plus it's red, which should help it to stand out in the earth-tone world of camping books.
You may also have noticed that the cover is a square. Yes, that means the book will be square. It's a bit unusual--but then, so is my book!
I'm looking forward to seeing the insides of the book, which I should get to do in a few weeks.

I Found Fall!

After lamenting the absence of fall colours here in Wellington, I'm pleased to say that I have now seen some lovely red and gold leaves just up the road in the Hutt Valley.

Taking advantage of a lovely autumn day on Sunday, G and I went for a stroll along the recreational trail that follows the Hutt River. The trail was pretty busy, full of people walking their dogs, riding their bikes, riding horses (there's an equestrian school nearby) and generally strolling as we were.

We spotted these trees in a park and went to investigate. Clearly they are imported, and I think the reddish ones may have been oak. Not sure about the yellow one. Strangely, we also saw eucalyptus trees on our walk, which are also not naturally occurring in New Zealand.
So our walk, while not very adventurous, has at least fulfilled my seasonal needs.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Kiwi Trampers - I need your romantic ideas!

This is for the Kiwis out there who love to include tramping in their relationships. I'm writing an article about the most romantic tramps in New Zealand - and although I have some ideas of my own, I'd love to yet your input.

Have you found an isolated lake or river for skinny-dipping?

Have you marvelled at an awesome waterfall together?

Have you soaked your weary muscles in a private hot spring?

Did you 'pop the question' in a majestic, wild setting?

Have you had an entire beach to yourselves?

Have you been on a tramp where you didn't see another soul?

Have you been blown away by an amazing view?

If you have a suggestion for the ultimate romantic tramp let me know. You can post a comment here, or e-mail me at loveinatent(AT) (Replace the (AT) with @, you know the deal.)

I'm looking forward to finding out about your discoveries!

Cross-blogging - Home & Abroad

One of my freelance jobs is to write educational travel activities for the travel-planning website Home & Abroad. I've been doing it since July 2006, and they now feature over 100 of my fun ideas for stuff to do on your trip. You can't tell which ones are mine, but I've contributed activities for Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Calgary, Berlin, Seville,Bangkok, Cape Town and Lana'i (Hawaii).

Recently they started up their own blog, about travel of course. I have made my first contribution there - a little piece promoting camping as a great, romantic getaway! If you'd like to read the post you can link to it here.

In these days of on-line marketing, the lines between personal content and advertising are getting pretty damn blurry, but I figure as long as the content is interesting (and truthful!) it's okay to jump the line now and then. And if I can put a bit more readable content on the web these days to diffuse the deluge of SEO-keyword crap, I'm happy to help!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

How To Confuse a Canadian

It's all so GREEN!

It's fall in New Zealand. At least that's what they tell me. The days are getting shorter and cooler. It's raining more often. My sweaters are coming out of hiding. There's fall stuff going on.

And yet, to me, it sure doesn't look like fall! Growing up in Canada, there was just no mistaking it. When fall came around, the trees changed into fabulous shades of yellow and red! Then, slowly, winter's approach blew those leaves from their stalks leaving the skeletal branches bare until spring.

Down on the South Island, rumour has it that this kind of fall ritual also takes place. But up here in Wellington there is not a crimson leaf in sight. Not in the city, not in the bush. And to me, it's just not fall. I came here prepared for the snowless winters (except in the mountains) but nobody warned me about the green trees of autumn! I'm a four seasons kinda gal, I like visual cues to back up what the calendar says.

I'm adjusting pretty well to my new life Down Under, but every once in a while something like this sneaks up and reminds me that life is different. Fall is when spring used to be, and it doesn't look like it's supposed to. Perhaps I need a trip to the South Island!