Posts Tagged With: hiking

Loving the Wildlife

This post will happen again many times over the course of this blog, mostly because these situations keep coming up. There are a lot of factors that make people afraid of outdoors adventures, but one of the several recurring factors is the local wildlife.

“Don’t go kayaking in that creek, I heard they spotted a gator two years ago.”

“You know the news said there’s a bear wandering near that mountain.”

“ACCCCK! SPIDER! KILL IT WITH FIRE!”

This is what many people think wildlife encounters are like.

This is what many people think wildlife encounters are like.

Those are just a few of the things people tell me whenever we talk about the outdoors. Yes, folks, there are animals out there. Some of them could even hurt you. Once in a blue moon, there’s an entirely unprovoked animal attack, literally where a human was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing, and out of nowhere a wild animal comes after him. Even in those “out of nowhere” cases, you have to understand there could have been extenuating circumstances that prompted the attack–even though they were absolutely NOT the human’s fault–like perhaps the bear had cubs nearby or the animal in question happens to be highly territorial. (Interesting trivia: did you know that more people are killed by hippos every year than any other animal? They’re uber-stingy with their territory.)

I’ve had some interesting encounters with wildlife, but when I say encounters, I only mean that I WAS THE ONE who’d encountered it. The animal could have cared less that I was standing there.

Exhibit A: I was in the woods one day and a mountain lion walked right in front of me. It looked at me, flared its nostrils, and walked away. It had smelled me and decided I was NOT useful. The fact that it took about ten minutes to finally vacate the area enough for me to get my back off that tree and race to the car was MY problem, not the mountain lion’s.

1185046_622423271163588_611256126_n

Exhibit B: I was hiking in the woods with my husband after a night of heavy, heavy rain. I love hiking after a big storm because the paths turn muddy from the rain but the heat of the next day dries the mud enough to walk on. That means you can walk around pretty easily and still see tons of fresh animal tracks. I pointed to one in particular and said, “Hey look! A mountain lion track!”

A short time later, I got to point and say, “Hey look! A bear track!” My husband laughed and said, “There aren’t any bears in this part of the state!”

I wear a women's size 11 hiking boot.

I wear a women’s size 11 hiking boot.

No sooner had the words left his mouth than his phone beeped. We had a friend who was going to join us that day but he had something come up that morning. He told us he’d be along later in the day and would try to catch up with us, but not to wait on him.

The phone had beeped with a text from that friend. It was a picture of the bear he’d just seen. (Man, do I love being right, and do I love to punish a non-outdoorsy husband when I am!)

Exhibit C: We just got back from a camping trip to go kayaking in the southern part of our state. Yes, folks, that’s the alligator that was floating in the middle of the lake, right in front of our kayak. As it turns out, just the week before, someone had caught the record-setting gator at 920 pounds. I wasn’t actually aware there ARE gators in that body of water… now we know.

Hi there, gator! Nice camouflage.

Hi there, gator! Nice camouflage.

Here’s something important to remember. For 99% of the animal-human wildlife encounters, they don’t want to hurt you. There’s a reason it makes the news when there’s an animal attack. Even the famously-feared shark attacks are rare enough that it warrants sending a reporter to the now-empty beach to stand there and tell us what happened.

As a general rule of thumb, if you leave them alone they’ll leave you alone. Yes, there are animals out there. Guess what? They also walk through your yard at night! But with a little respect, some forward thinking, and a promise never to attempt to take a selfie with an armadillo, you’ll be fine.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Pottying in the Woods: Part 3

No, we’re not done yet. Boy, how many times have you heard THOSE words through a closed bathroom door after sending your little one in there? So here we go, POOPING IN THE WOODS.

Fortunately, pooping is pretty much the same for boys and for girls, with the only stereotypical differences being in their willingness to comply. When I worked for the military and got to see my first open-bay bathroom (a room in many male barracks that contains twenty or so toilets, with no stalls, no doors, not even a fluttering paper towel to separate you from the guy pooping next to you), I was ready to run screaming from the Army base, let alone the room. That’s a big no… I’m not sitting close enough to high-five another human being while having a bowel movement. I’d be in the best physical shape of my life since I’d be running to the nearest gas station bathroom every time I had to poop.

I guess when the drill sergeant orders the men to potty, they either learn to potty or learn to love push ups. Oddly enough, the female barracks didn’t have this monstrosity of an open bay. It’s just one of those quirky things that makes us all different, right?

But all stereotypes aside, kids of both genders may either have zero problem pottying outside, or may really balk at the thought. I have two girls, but I got one of each in terms of “meh, no big deal, where’s a tree?” and “oh my dear lord I’ll just hold it ’til we reach civilization.”

So… pooping. In the outdoors…

This one’s a little more sensitive than peeing because it involves both contaminated human waste AND removing your clothes. That’s a daunting thing, so much that society even has a term called “caught with your pants down.” No one likes the thought of someone coming up on them at this sensitive time, so make very sure you’re in an isolated spot. You can also carry a jacket, shirt, or other long piece of fabric to tie around your waist and offer a little more privacy. Just remember that if any hiker comes up on you during this process, there’s a 98% chance she’s been in exactly your same position, quite possibly that same day. It’s natural, all humans do it. You guys just happen to be doing it in nature.

After tying your shirt around your waist (or not) and finding your secluded spot, again work the downhill so that nothing slides or rolls back onto your shoes. If you’re able to find an indention in the ground, that’s considered very polite because you can cover it with some rocks and leaves when you’re through. Be sure you’re not pooping into a convenient hole in the ground, since it’s quite possible a snake or other animal won’t appreciate the sudden arrival of waste in his den. When you’ve found a spot, it’s pants down, squat with your feet wide apart, and go.

But now that the hard part is over, the real fun begins.

There are (believe it or not) many schools of thought on what you should next. Most of these opinions come from die-hard hikers and adventurers and therefore aren’t as applicable to a mom and her kids out for a two-hour hike. The more avid outdoorsy people will spend months at a time through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, which means covering the entire distance from Maine to Georgia. That means how they poop and leave behind the evidence is of greater environmental impact. I just read that in 1990, almost 300 people actually hiked the entire ATC… that’s a lot of human poop, especially when you think about how many thousands of other people were just hiking parts of it.

Some die-hards will tell you that toilet paper is a thing of the devil and that you should never bring it with you. After all, leaves, rocks, and pine cones will suffice just fine (I wish I was kidding). Other hikers will tell you there’s nothing wrong with TP so long as you bring it back out with you. Yes… used. Still others will say that burying your TP or burning it is good enough.

My opinion? Well, using TP is a given unless it was a surprise potty attack. I’m not yer girl when it comes to wiping with a pine cone unless I’m only out there pottying in the first place because my plane has crashed and TP is the least of my survival worries. So I believe that after using a perfectly nice piece of TP, you should pack it out. Here’s why: it’s the least labor intensive version of the process (I promise I’ll show you how in a second) and you don’t risk burning down your local national forest. You’re also not trying to watch your kids hit each other with rocks while you dig a hole with your hands to put this used TP in. I’ll show you the Potty Pack in the next post, and trust me, you do not want to head outdoors–or walk out your front door, EVER–without these.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

I Was Gonna Have to Talk about It Some Time: Pottying in the Woods

Whenever I talk outdoors fun with people who are unfamiliar, the conversation inevitably takes a strange, personal, halfway inappropriate turn. You can kind of see the look on their faces that tells you they want to ask a burning question, but then they don’t. Finally, I have to say, “I know what you want to ask me, it’s okay. Go ahead.”

My hapless victim will usually start to laugh and look sheepish and then finally stammer, “But how do you go to the bathroom?!”

When nature calls, and not just the call of a beautiful fall day in the mountains but the actual call of having to suddenly find a bathroom, how you’re going to react depends on a lot of factors. One of the most important factors is: what are you doing?

If you’re camping, are you at a state park or a back country spot? Because at a state park you go to the nearest bathroom. In the back country (a primitive campsite…be aware of those words “primitive camping” if you’re booking a trip to an actual campground, since they mean no amenities whatsoever), there’s an excellent chance it’s going to involve a tree for privacy.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not ready to head off on an unsupported backpacking trip. Important note: if you’re heading off on an unsupported backpacking trip and are still having to Google “how to potty in the woods,” you’re also not ready for this trip yet. I’m already envisioning a cruel prank where a new boyfriend has duped you into primitive camping and you don’t know what to expect.

A more likely scenario is that you’ll be on a hiking day trip or kayaking on a creek with your kids and one/all of you will have to go. There are a few schools of thought on how to handle this type of crisis.

First, is it number one or number two? If it’s number one, you’re basically going to leave behind an almost-sterile liquid that will not cause any harm. If it’s number two, you’re going to leave behind a pile of human excrement for the next hiker to enjoy, along with some litter in the form of your toilet paper. More importantly, how you actually accomplish the pottying will differ based on whether it’s number one or number two.

In the follow-up posts, I’ll provide step-by-step, gruesomely detailed instructions on how to handle each of these, as well as how the steps are different for boys and girls. I’ll talk about handling squeamish kids who can’t do it in the woods, as well as give you instructions for making a potty packet. Enjoy!

Animals have zero qualms about pottying in the woods. This happens to be turkey poop.

Animals have zero qualms about pottying in the woods. This happens to be turkey poop.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

PRODUCT REVIEW: Stanley Adventure Cooler

IMG_0413
If you read the recent post about Essential Gear, you already know how much I love this cooler. It’s really sturdy, contains some handy features that many cooler users might not have thought of, and still comes in at a price point that won’t keep you from actually using it (looking at you, $900 cooler that is all the rage right now… I know how much abuse and neglect I dish out to my gear while outside, and I can’t imagine owning a cooler that costs as much as my first car).

Before expounding on the greatness of the Stanley Adventure Cooler, this is a good time to go into more detail on how much you should spend on your gear. Now, I’m a firm believer in NOT spending money. Even if it’s something great that will last me for a long time, I just can’t justify spending the big bucks for a “quality” item because there’s a good chance I’m going to lose it or give it away. When I ran marathons I did splurge on the $150 shoes, but that’s because everything else I was wearing was either a free gift or had come from Walmart.

When it comes to something like your cooler, though, you’re taking an actual risk by buying junk. Why? Because unless you’re a vegetarian, your meat and eggs could very well be in that cooler. It’s all well and good to buy a lesser expensive model, but I wouldn’t take the risk on anything less than a nationally-known brand. If you ever reach into your cooler for a meat product while camping or hiking and find that all your ice has melted, you just can’t risk eating that meat.

If your cheapo flashlight craps out on you, the worst that can happen is you have to wait ’til sun up to see again. You might even have to sit in that same spot ’til morning, but that’s a problem you can overcome. If your cooler fails you, though, you just might get your own chauffeured ride to the emergency room.

Buy a good cooler. There, I said it.

But back to this cooler of greatness. The first word that came to mind when I saw it was “rugged.” I’m sure the great folks at Stanley don’t want you standing or sitting on it for legal reasons, but I’ve had to do both, and I’m not what we call a small person. The bungee straps on the top are meant to hold one of their vacuum bottles, but can hold anything that can be tied down. One of the more interesting features of this cooler was really annoying at first, only because I didn’t factor it in as one of the “adventure” features: you can’t open the lid more than an inch if the handle is up. I found it annoying to have to lay the handle back to open the cooler, but the first time the cooler turned upside down and DIDN’T dump the contents on the ground, I realized what it was for! Finally, this cooler is innocuous-looking enough that you can take it to the beach and the waterpark and people aren’t likely to grab it. It looks like a nice, standard cooler but doesn’t look flashy or boldly display a high-dollar name brand.

But how well does it work? Good question.

This summer’s activities have all taken place in the southeastern US, and guess what one thing every spot in that region has in common? It’s HOT. As in, 105+ hot. And this cooler has gone everywhere. It’s kept its cool in every place we’ve gone, and I’ve yet to open the cooler and find melted ice waiting for me. It works as well as the $900 coolers are rumored to work, but without the price tag and without the fear of something happening to it.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: