The Longest Hiking Trail In The World

Trans Canada Trail
The Trans Canada Trail is also known as The Great Trail.

The Trans Canada Trail–purported to be the longest hiking trail in the world. Also known as the Great Trail, This recreational hiking trail is still being created; the goal is to have an unbroken trail that goes through every province and territory in Canada. As of this week, the trail is 93% connected.

Some interesting facts.

You can’t do the entire (so far) 22,000 km (13,670.1 miles) just by walking.  The trail is designed to be traversed by walking/hiking, cycling, horseback riding, paddling, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Since about 80% of Canadians live within a half hour of some part of the Great trail, it’s easily accessible by nearly everyone. Once it’s all connected, there will be 23,864 km (14,828.4 miles) to conquer.

They have an app for that.

They now have a mobile app that enables you to access the entire trail and find out about every area, download maps and plan your hiking trip. It’s available for IOS or android phones. Hopefully we’ll be providing a link to them soon, but if you can’t wait (and why should you), you can access the app through Apple.

The latest part of the trail to link up.

The very first province to link up all parts of the trail in their province was Newfoundland/Labrador (Go Newfoundlanders!). The latest link, though, is the Chief Isador Trail, which goes from Cranbrook to Wardner, in British Columbia. This is a beautiful destination trail, and by the looks of the video and photos, it’s going to be one of the more popular sections of the Great Trail to hike.

So get out there! Put your hiking shoes on. Grab your backpack. Download the app. Upload photos on it. Take some more photos for the album. And learn what if really means to be part of the great outdoors, by hiking the Great Trail.

Trans Canada hiking trail
Get out and hike.

 

What To Do About Camping Slobs

litter at campsite
The spoor of jackass campers

Camping slobs–do NOT get me started. I hate it when I try my best to keep the camp organized and half the group drops crap everywhere. Or when I leave my camp kitchen immaculate, go on a hike and come back to food and dirty utensils on every surface. Or when the shovel, axe, chairs or jackets and towels are strewn around the site with no regard for possible rain or tripping accidents? It’s enough to make me double my beer intake.

It sure as heck bothers most people who like a modicum of order. So how do we avoid all that? Here are some ideas:

A place for everything.

One of the most effective preventative measures is literally having a place for everything.  Many times camping items get left in awkward areas because no one is sure where to leave it. If you have a stack of wood near the campfire, create a tool rack for the axe, shovel, hotdog forks and anything fire related. Just drive two sturdy sticks into the ground that are forked at the top end. Place another stick in the forks. Lean the tools up against it.  Rig a tarp so it protects the wood and tools from rain. You have a place for stuff.

If your covered camp kitchen is too small to put all the gear in, do what we do. Place the coolers in a tidy row along once side of the kitchen tent on the outside. That way it’s readily accessible for preparing food but keeps the kitchen area fairly clear of clutter.

Organize a wash station and keep soap, a wash basin, cloth and a towel there. Keep it near the camp stove so heating water is easier. Arrange drinkables on a table with glasses and utensils. Add condiments and sugar, salt and pepper. People can go there for drinks and flavoring throughout the day without getting underfoot. And everything has a specific place!

containers.

You can never have too many containers at a camp site.

Take along two pop-up laundry hampers, the ones you buy at the dollar store that fold down into a flat disc. Put a garbage bag in each of them. One is for garbage you can’t burn, the other is for recyclables. If you still have a slob that insists on leaving cans or bottles on the ground and walking away, direct their attention to the recycle bin.

Boxes that fold flat and open up for use can be great for small things. Fire starter, work gloves, extra tarps, kids toys, or anything else that has a tendency to spread out on a site can be placed in one.

Hang things up–cup hooks screwed into a tree works. So does a belt around a tree trunk with “S” hooks hanging from it. And good old fashioned clothes lines are great for getting things up and at eye level.

Small plastic bins for utensils and little items can be prepacked; just take off the lid, place it on the table, and put the plastic bin on top. At night you can replace the lid, and when you pack up to go home, just put the small bin in the larger kitchen bins you have. Small plastic containers like that keep the mess under control in the kitchen.

signage!

This is something I did a couple of years ago and I’m still wondering why I didn’t think of it sooner.

When you’re at home, invest in a laminator and laminating pouches. Then go sign crazy! Print out signs from your computer and laminate them. You can place them on trees using thumb tacks and tent poles using duct tape. It’s amazing what a sign will do to remind people to keep the area tidy. Some suggestions:

  1. Washing Station (Empty Water From Basin When Done)
  2. Pick Up After Yourself–Bottles and Cans In Here
  3. Get Your Drinks and Snacks Here
  4. Do Not Touch
  5. Please Put All Wet Towels On Line To Dry
  6. Return Tools To This Area When Done
  7. Chairs Go Here When Not In Use
  8. First Aid Kit
  9. Please Ask Chief Cook And Bottle Washer If (S)He Needs Help
  10. Never Leave The Site Without Telling Someone

–The ideas are endless, and they work.

The Final Solution.

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and speak to someone. Most of the time it’s not a problem–family members expect communication lines to be open–but when it’s a friend you’ve invited along it can be tricky. Decide if you will just pick up after them and then never invite them again, or if there is a tactful (very, very tactful) way of speaking to them about the mess they are leaving everywhere. Sometimes you can use humor to diffuse the situation. You need to ask yourself, though, if it’s worth losing a friendship over.  If you don’t do it exactly right, that pal you like enough to invite may never spend time with you again. Sometimes, as mentioned before, you may just decide to pick up after them. Put the onus on yourself if they mention something. “Yes, I’m very picky. I love a tidy camp site.” A worthwhile pal will try to stay tidier; maybe not perfect, but better.

Keeping your camp site clean and organized makes it easier to pack up when you go home, and when you leave a site as clean or cleaner than when you came, you’re doing everyone a favor. (More signage.)

 

 

One Meal, Two Climates; Menus For Uncooperative Weather

camp cooking
You don’t need alchemy or elaborate tools to change a hot meal into a cold one, and vice versa.

What do you do if you have planned a menu for weather that just won’t cooperate? Because let’s face it–when you camp, the climate doesn’t care what you have in mind, menus included.

Fortunately, it’s simple to revamp your camp menu while you are there, without adding a lot of extras to the kitchen supplies. You can also adjust practically any meal so that it’s delicious and comforting even if the forecast lies. The following principles and tips will give you the confidence to plan a menu for any camping trip that works for summer, winter, and everything in between. We also have links to recipes you can use, too!

Making cold dishes hot.

Soup
Take the ingredients you had for a cold meal and make a soup out of them.

So the weather man said your trip was going to be a scorcher from beginning to end, and you created a menu of refreshing, light, cold dishes. On day one, you wake up to hail, and the temperature never gets above jacket weather.

Breakfast:

Take oatmeal instead of cold cereal. If you have planned for hot weather, you can make overnight oatmeal, which is tasty and refreshing. But if it’s really, really chilly, adapt by cooking your oatmeal over the camping stove and adding delicious ingredients. You can find hot oatmeal recipes here.

Planned on having fruit salad and yogurt? You still can. Check out this Hot Fruit Salad recipe, topped with yogurt and drizzled with honey. It’s a keeper, let me tell you. And so good for you! But don’t tell the kids. Tell them you’re having dessert for breakfast. They’ll ask for seconds.

Lunch:

A cold meat and cheese plate is easily converted to a hot meal by placing the meat and some cheese between two sliced of bread, buttering both sides and making a grilled cheese-and-meat sandwich.  Take along some instant soup as a back-up and add that to your grilled sandwich meal. Oh-so-tasty!

If you were just going to have cold sandwiches, just add a cup of hot soup to the menu.

You can also plan on a cold soup like vichyssois, which can be served hot or cold, and toast some bread or buns over the fire as a side.

Dinner:

Dinner is generally a warm meal anyway, with hot dogs or hamburgers topping the list for a summer meal. But what if you have potato salad? If you’re pre-making it and bringing it to camp, don’t add the mayo. When you’re ready to serve and it’s still warm out, then add the mayo. But if it’s cold out, forget the condiment and jazz up your potato salad by throwing it into a big pot and adding just enough chicken broth or water to keep it from burning. Stir until hot and set aside. In a separate saucepan heat up a cup of frozen or canned peas or green beans for every 4 cups of potato salad, and stir into potato mixture. Then  mix in about 1/8 cup vinegar for every 4 cups of potato salad and about 1 cup cooked, sliced bacon. Serve your hot potato salad right along side those burgers and hot dogs and bask in your families approval.

Or hash it up! If you haven’t added mayo and/or mustard to your potato salad, you can toss it in a big frying pan with a whack of butter. Fry until those wonderful crispy bits are edging golden-brown potato pieces. If you don’t want to make hamburgers, fry up the hamburger meat and toss it in with the hashed potatoes. Instant hot dinner, and very, very satisfying.

Making Hot dishes Cold.

Breakfast:

If you brought that oatmeal, make No-Cook Trail Mix Oatmeal. It’s done the night before and requires no cooking. Delish and satisfying.

Were you going to make steak and eggs, or bacon and eggs? Fry it up, let it cool, and make a breakfast sandwich using bagels or buns.

Pancakes? Make them, let them  cool, and then spread them with jam, Nutella or sugar and cinnamon, then roll them up and eat them by hand.

Lunch:

That tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich can be a camping gazpacho or tomato juice, and cheese sandwich instead.

Did you have mac n’ cheese in mind? Make it and spread it out into a flat pan, to a depth of 1″,  and let cool. Cut into 1″ by 3″ strips. Get 3 bowls: in one place a cup of flour; in the other, an egg, well beaten; and in the last, 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs. Take a mac n’ cheese stick and dip it in flour, then egg, then roll it in bread crumbs. Fry in about 2″ of oil in a frying pan until coating is a golden brown. Let cool. Serve with ketchup to dip it in. If you want something a little more complex than ketchup, stir a little gazpacho blend into it. Or make sriracha mayo–1 heaping tablespoon sriracha mixed into 1 cup mayo.

Dinner:
bagel sandwich
Sometimes changing a hot meal to a cold one is just a matter of letting the meat cool and making an awesome sandwich.

Were you going to have steak, baked potatoes and a salad? Instead of baking the potatoes, boil them, cool them, and make a potato salad. Cook the steaks and let cool, then dice them and mix them into the potato salad. Serve greens on the side.

Roast chicken, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob? Cool the chicken and shred. For every cup of chicken add 1/8 cup barbecue sauce of choice. Pile on to a bun. If you’ve already made the mashed potatoes, save for making potato pancakes or hash the next day. If not, just don’t make them. Use the corn on the cob to make a fresh and tasty tomato and corn salad.

 

 

Campfire Ban Cooking

There’s other ways to cook besides a campfire when camping.

There is nothing quite so maddening as having your camping menu set and then finding out that there is a campfire ban in place. Some people are intimidated by the thought of camp fire ban cooking (that is, without a camp fire), but it’s easier than you know.

You can have just as good a time camping without a camp fire. I will admit I would always rather have one, but it doesn’t ruin my camping trip if a ban is put in place for the time I want to camp. And you don’t have to worry about what to do for cooking, either. All our recipes can be used for the following cooking methods. Here are your options:

Charcoal grill:

Take your portable grill with you and fire up that barbie! You haven’t lived until you try barbecue-grilled food in the great outdoors miles away from any back yard. With a portable grill you can still have hot dogs and s’mores if you want them, and your steak will be awesome. If your portable grill is low to the ground you would be surprised at how pleasant it is to sit around it, too.

camping stove:

Most people never go camping without a camping stove anyway. We take two, and quite frankly most of our meals are prepared on the propane camp stove; the heat is easier to regulate. If there is a campfire ban we just make sure to leave the Dutch oven at home and bring along a portable grill (see above).

Rocket stove:

This is admittedly iffy.  Some authorities will allow a rocket stove and others won’t. It depends on the size of the campfire ban and all sorts of stuff.  Quite frankly we don’t mess with rocket stoves unless there is no ban and we want to impress the kids. But if you check with the authorities in the area you will be camping and they are okay with it, it’s a handy little item to carry with you; easy to pack and great to make a quick pot of boiled water for coffee or tea. Or soup. Or what have you.

solar cookers:

This didn’t used to be a real option but now there are more solar cookers than you can shake a stick at. You have parabolic cookers, solar ovens, and even a solar panel-powered generator you can plug an electric two-burner on, if that’s the way you want to go. If you’re looking for adventurous cooking, look no further.

No cooking at all:

Granted, it may feel like a challenge to create a weekend menu that doesn’t require any cooking but it’s surprisingly easy to do. We have a menu, complete with recipes, with all kinds of options for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts and snacks–five days’ worth!  If you want to take a look at the menu, click here.

Dutch oven:

Yes, yes, I know I said we leave the Dutch oven at home, but if we wanted to take it we could.  And so could you. A Dutch oven cooks great with charcoal briquettes; just bring a base for it to sit on so the heat isn’t sucked into the ground. If you’re not sure how many briquettes you’ll need, estimate and then double your guess. Nothing’s worse than running out of briquettes.

What about you? Any suggestions or ideas about cooking during a camp fire ban? What have you done? I’d love to hear your comments!

The Best Trail Mix You Will Ever Eat

Trail mix
The best trail mix you will ever eat.

I know–like me, you’ve probably heard “the best” more times than you can count.  But man, this is–really is–the best trail mix I have ever eaten–and my co-campers will agree.

I first began to believe that when my brother came camping with us, and I set a huge bowl of the trail mix out for everyone to enjoy. I swear, except for breakfast, all he ate was the trial mix. The healthy, nutritious trail mix.

For three days.

I knew it was good, though. And I’m going to be straightforward here–it is expensive for budget followers.  The recipe runs me about forty dollars when I buy bulk, for about 10 cups of trail mix. But that’s because it’s not expanded with fillers like pretzel sticks and chex mix and candies.  This mix is pure dried fruit and nuts and seeds. If you go camping, this will sustain you absolutely. You’ll need greens and citrus maybe (maybe), but you are good to go for energy. My family will not eat trail mix unless it’s this recipe:

1/2 cup each:

Roasted, salted peanuts; cashews, plus macadamia nuts, also walnuts, then almonds and finally shelled sunflower seeds. Add a little more of your favorites, if you like. A 1/2 cup of filberts (also known as hazelnuts) and a cup of Brazil nuts is wonderful. NECESSARY: 2 cups BBQ peanuts. I mean it. Spicy, if you can find them.

1/2 cup each:

Dried cherries, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots and finally chopped dried plums (prunes). You can add a little more of what you like, but this mix is the best, I’ve found.

1 cup each:

dried mango strips, chopped into bite-sized strips, about the size of your thumb–Essential ingredient. Pecans–halved, not pieces. Raisins.

trail mix
Good for hiking, camping, glamping, snacking at home.

Mix together and store in a plastic container. Alternately, you can use a zip-lock bag. Don’t worry that there is too much; it will all get eaten and they will be looking for more. Makes about 10 cups of deliciousness.

You can, of course, change the amounts as you see fit.  But start with this recipe. It’s salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy and deliciously satisfying.

I promise.

One last thing–if you like this recipe, and you want more ideas for snacks, you can find more here.


Unpacking After the Camping Trip–Making it Easier

packed car
The unpacking feels worse than the packing

Unpacking after a camping trip is the very last thing I want to do when I come home. Once that car is turned off, all I can think about is a shower and a glass of wine. In my defense, it’s usually because it’s at the end of a very long drive. Do you feel that way? Is unpacking the car something you dread?  Here are some self-defense strategies I’ve developed over the years.

primary unpacking–get your gear out of the car.

I know it’s the last thing you want to do, but get your gear in the door. You don’t have to put it away; just get it out of the car and in a safe place. That way, if you don’t put it away no one’s going to come along and steal it, but it will be out of the car.  You can survive a cluttered house for a day or two until you get to it all.

Once the gear is unloaded, take a load off yourself.

I mean it.  Get your feet up and have that cup of tea or coffee or glass of wine or beer. Take time to breathe. You’re not back in the real world yet; don’t let its demands drag you there early.  Take a half hour for yourself and just relax out in the yard or in your living room.

Have a bath or shower.

This is the third thing you should do, after you have relaxed for a half hour. Draw a bubble bath or take a nice, long shower.  Towel off and dress in clean, casual clothes, head to toe.  Don’t get back into your driving clothes.  This will mark a mental transition from camping to your daily life.

empty your coolers of leftovers.

Get those leftovers in the fridge. Then run some water in the sink, and add some bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Wring out a cloth and wipe the inside of the cooler thoroughly to disinfect and deodorize. Wipe the outside, too, to clean the smoke and dust and stuff off it.  Dry it inside, then leave the lid open to thoroughly air dry. Your coolers will smell great the next time you use them.

Briefly touch base with those you need to.

It’s tempting to jump right in with secular catch-up or involve yourself in family members’ and friends’ lives, but don’t do that today.  Let them know you’re home, safe and sound, if you have to.  Make it brief.  Then go back to spending important transition time with yourself. If you have campers that came back with you and live with you, get together and talk about the trip, how tired you are, what you’re going to do tomorrow.  But relax.

Make your next step an easy one.

After your visit or alone time, your next step will be the first real one in your day-to-day. Make lunch or dinner, depending when you got back. Or get your clothes ready for the next day.  If you feel like you have the energy, start prepping and putting away your camping gear.

A couple more hints and tips.

  • Don’t make it your job to do everything if the family went camping with you.  Everyone should pitch in and help put stuff away.  Even little ones can help unload little stuff or put their own clothes from the trip in the wash.
  • Make your first meal home a super easy one on you.  Order in, or use the leftovers from camp.  If you absolutely have to make dinner, make a quick soup or stew; that way you just have to throw everything into the pot and cook it till it’s done.
  • Get to bed early the first day you’re back.  The packing up and the trip home, coupled with the unpacking, is a full day’s work.  This will help you wake up feeling far more refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
  • Don’t forget to get those pictures developed or printed out online.  Wait a day or two if you have a busy schedule to dive back into, but get it done within the week. It’s going to remind you of the great time you had, and perk you up even more.
  • Take the time to check over your kitchen bins and first aid kit.  Replace anything that broke, went missing, or got used up. Do this before you put the bins and kit away, and you’ll be ready to pack and go your next camping trip.
  • If you had to pack up in the rain, don’t put your gear (tent included) away until you’ve had a chance to dry it out.  Your gear (tent included) will mildew quickly if it’s packed away wet. That’s not healthy for you, and besides, it stinks when you next try to use it. Blech!

So there you have it, folks–some hints and tips that will help your unpacking go better for you.  Do you have any suggestions that you use when you camp? Let us know! Everyone will thank you. I know I will.

 

Why People Camp

Nine-tenths of the world have no idea why the other ten percent camp.

Camping tents--camping is a lovely addiction. So camp!
Camping is more than a recreation for some–it’s an addiction. A lovely, lovely addiction. So camp!

For the majority, this is understandable. It may be hard to comprehend, but most of the world–and I do mean most–cannot afford to take holidays, and go out into the wilderness to experience something different from the suburbia we in many parts of Europe, the U.K. and North America enjoy.

But for those of us fortunate enough to live a regular lifestyle, many love to camp. Even so, that leaves a large percentage of suburban dwellers puzzled as to why some of their friends and neighbors pull up stakes and  head for the great outdoors. So here are some really great reasons to camp. Maybe it will encourage others to take advantage of a life-style that is, quite frankly, a beautiful and beneficial activity.

1.  It’s a healthy addiction.

We all look for diversions that refresh us and divert us from the crappy stuff that life throws at us–and why not? Many–not all, but many–hate our jobs; but most of the things the world says we should be indulging in end up being  bad for us in some way; the majority of the good things are not conducive for everyone’s enjoyment (little legs hate marathons; butterflies can scare toddlers; how many children do you know personally who like opera?)  Get caught up in camping. though, and it works for everyone.

2.  You get away from what ails you when you camp.

Why does your life temporarily suck? Work? People who keep asking for favors? Constant requests to borrow your truck? Do you live in an apartment that lets in traffic sounds all the time? Camping solves all that–at least for the time you are out there. You can forget everything that irritates you. All you have is the basics–eat, sleep, live. Yes, it takes effort. But no tension. And when you are sitting in your chair in the pre-dawn, in front of a freshly-started campfire with a cup of coffee or tea in your hand, listening to the natural world around you wake up, there is nothing better. I mean, nothing.

3. You get better exercise than at the gym.

Face it. You have to work when you camp. You have to set up your camp, create a campfire, maybe erect a cook-shack; hump the gear to your site; organize the campers so everyone cooperates in a way that benefits the whole group; erect tarps, unfold tables and chairs, organize the under-teen goobers, and find wood. The truth of the matter is this:  the longer you stay out camping, the more you will lose weight in a healthy way. If you know what you are doing.

4. You find something no amount of money can buy.

So many people today dream of living a life of success as defined by television or the internet. Running around, sucking on a beer or a whiskey or a glass of wine, watching stick-thin models walk a runway, or hearing the hooting of well-dressed people under thirty on platforms such as cruises, bars and party settings. That only gets you a hang-over the next day. You don’t care about the people you are with, and they have no loyalty to you. But camping–you find memories, abilities and people of like-mindedness that remain with you and give you continuing purpose. What’s not to like?

These are only four reasons why people camp. Do you have others?  Let me know in the comment box below.

Jackass Camping

litter at campsite
The spoor of jackass campers

Most good campers have had to deal with them on more than one occasion.

I’m talking about the jackasses who think it’s their right to go out into the bush and proceed to do everything in their power to ruin camping for the rest of the camping world.

You know them–they generally have bear scares, base-heavy music, and a predilection for howling at the moon around three in the morning.  They settle down around 4:00 a.m., start everything up again sometime in the afternoon, and leave the site looking more like a garbage dump than a camping area. They also have a tendency to leave campfires smoldering or barely put out, ready to start up again.

Someone You Know May Be A Jackass Camper If:

  • They have more than three ways of making loud noises (bear-scares, music, voice, fireworks, etc.) and they use them separately or in combination more than once on a camping trip
  • They feel it is their right to impose their life-style upon others, either by blocking access to other campsites, imposing above-mentioned noises upon others’ ears, or not worrying how their behavior will affect neighbors
  • Ignoring camping rules, regulations and/or the law
  • Engaging in disruptive behavior that extends beyond their own campsite
  • Throwing combustibles into the campfire (bullets, propane tanks, containers of fuel, all of which I have heard of or seen being done by various jackasses)
  • Feeling that their ATV has right of way because the campsites have roadways and they’ve been going there for years.
  • Not cleaning up every speck of what is brought in.  This includes shell casings, half-burnt lawn chairs (more common than you’d think), broken glass, and leftover food (which attracts bears and rats and other anti-camping critters)
  • They feel the whole world is a toilet (No one wants to see little piles of toilet-tissue dotted among the brush like so many pimples on mother nature’s face. Bury it.)
  • Felling live trees for firewood
  • Entering others’ campsites for any reason without permission
  • Stealing
  • Engaging in any activity that endangers their family, pets, friends or themselves (including going off on hikes without telling anyone and getting lost)
  • Drug or alcohol excess
  • Over-regulation-sized fires
  • Dogs off-leash
  • Incredibly bright light that extends beyond their campsite in a blinding manner

Do you know of anyone who indulges in any of these regularly? Or in more than three of these activities during one camping trip? If you do, they may just be a jackass.

If you are the unfortunate neighbor of jackass campers, do the world a favor and phone the authorities.  Take cell phone photos of their licence plates. And for heaven’s sake, if they leave before you do, check to make sure their campfire is out. They won’t.