Are You An Early Riser?

forest morning
It’s worth getting up just as the sun peeks through the trees.

Are you an early riser?

It’s a question that sparks a great deal of friendly, but heated, conversation in our house.  When we’re camping, I’m an early riser–I get up with the dawn, most days.

I do it, not because I can’t sleep, but because early mornings when camping are precious to me.  I start the fire, make a cup of coffee, and sit and watch the river go by. It will take a couple of hours for the sun to make its way over the mountains, and the silence while nature slowly wakes up is as peaceful as ever I have experienced. Peaceful moments in regular life are rare, and so I hoard those moments when I’m camping I’m like whiskey jack hoarding pieces of bread. I stuff them away to savor later, before going back for more.  Who knows when I’ll have the chance to do it again?

It enables me to create a morning routine without interruption, too.  Most mornings I get the breakfast ready for everyone.  By getting up early I can prep everything and have it ready to go, the coffee (which is the best morning smell in the world) announcing itself to the campsite, by the time everyone gets up.  The activity is unhurried, with plenty of time to refill my own mug and sit watching nature in between chores.

Morning people are generally happier and more productive than night owls.  They tend to spend time in the morning on things that are important to them, or love to do.

If that’s the case, then creating a morning routine when camping actually makes you a happier person.  I do know that when I get back from camping I feel restored. Other vacations leave me feeling exhausted.

Create a Morning Routine That Really Works

You can create your own morning routine in camp.  Get up just as the morning light is beginning to turn everything visible. Dress warm; it’s chilly when you first get up. Go pee. Come back and wash your hands using sanitary hand wipes.  Put on the kettle, or saucepan, to heat water on the stove. While you’re waiting for it to boil, go start (or restart) the campfire. Once the fire is going, sit and watch the river (or other nature beauty) until the water is ready.

Use half the water for your morning tea or coffee (you can make coffee for the rest later). Pour the other half of the boiling water in a basin. Add some cold water to make it just the right temperature.  Wash your face, neck and hands in the warm water, then dry with a waiting towel.  I’m telling you, it’s the best feeling.

Take your coffee or tea back to the campfire, add a little more wood to the fire, and sit down. Hopefully you’ve brought a camping chair–they’re must-haves, in my opinion. Watch the world wake up.  Plan your day.  Figure out what breakfast is going to be, and if any prep needs to be done.

For the rest of the morning, until the others get up, continue doing that. Prep a little for breakfast, replenish the fire, refill the mug.  Watch nature. Think about stuff, or think about nothing. If your life is busy and stressful at home, this is something you may have to teach yourself to do. But it’s so worth it, and you’ll go home feeling far more restored.

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Kids and Camping–A Natural Match

Kids and camping to hand in hand. Kids belong in nature.  They roar

Get them out into nature

through it, discover it, wonder at it, and use it in amazing ways.  Any parent that takes their kids camping should be commended.  When you see kids out in the woods or by a river or on a beach, you can tell they feel better about everything.  Life is good.

Now science is telling us that there are other benefits as well.

It may actually change our brains for the better, reducing stress, increasing our attention span, and improving our ability to create and to connect with other people. What this means is that by taking our kids camping, we’re giving them pathways to success and happiness, to some extent. Focused, creative kids do better in school.  So do kids who can connect with people.

There are more benefits than that, though.

Getting out in nature helps kids and grownups alike see a larger picture. It can help put problems in perspective and give one some relief from day-to-day stresses. Kids and adults are introduced to things they don’t see in cities; animals in nature, and beautiful plants and flowers.  Seeing beauty has always had a beneficial effect on people.  When we see beautiful things, we want to act in a way that reflects beauty on some level. That’s because beauty makes us happy. There have been studies done on what happiness can do for us. Quite simply, it makes us better people.

Give ’em a nudge.

Sometimes kids don’t want to do things.  Even when they go camping, you can sometimes see the gamer kid sitting in his camp chair, bored because you didn’t let him bring his Nintendo 3DS.  Most of the time, it’s because he or she doesn’t know what to do. So arm yourself with a list of suggestions. Get them to pick one, and if it involves you, don’t beg off. Get that jar and that bug net and go on that hike. Because when you do, you’re helping them get better grades, be better people and make happy memories about you.

And we all want that for our kids, don’t we?

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.

How The Camping Weekend Went

When they want their own tent, but want someone nearby for safety.
One nephew wanted his own tent, but also wanted to be near someone for safety. Guess who he picked to tent beside?

All in all, our camping weekend went great.  The site we wanted was taken already, in  spite of the fact that my brother went up Thursday to secure it (because it’s bush camping it’s a first-come, first-serve kind of thing), but we got the site we had the last time we were here, and that’s great; it’s one of my favorite sites because it has a lot of space and it’s kind of pretty to look out on the river.  You have to travel down a small embankment to get water, but that’s okay.

The first day was busy, setting up the tents and getting the air

Fitting a queen-sized mattress into any tent can be entertaining to watch.
Fitting a queen-sized mattress into any tent can have entertainment value.

mattresses into them; it doesn’t matter how big a tent is, all the entrances are remarkably similar in size and so it’s kind of like trying to squeeze a giant, air-filled square peg into a smaller nylon round hole. We got it all done, though.

My air mattress was a double thickness, not like the one my brother-in-law is trying to fit into the tent into the picture here, so that was a delightful experience.  They left their tent at home so I shared mine with them.  By the way, the ten-man instant tent I bought was great!  Read about the results here. However, we got it all done and just like that Friday was over.  We stuffed the boys into their tents (four pre-teens into a large one, (one teen into the smaller one), and then the rest of us sat up until about two in the morning, just talking and enjoying the sensation of sitting in front of a campfire with nothing left to do but go to bed.

Saturday was wonderful; it was like summer in our area–except for about an hour in the afternoon.  It went from this:

The camping weekend was summery and beautiful by the river.
Gorgeous summer weather, for nearly the whole camping weekend. I say, *nearly*.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To this:

For one hour, it hailed--hailed!--before turning into summer again.
That’s hail, folks. Hail which turned into a drenching rainstorm. And I left my tent entrance open.

The hail turned to rain and we had a downpour like you wouldn’t believe.  It ran the whole gamut–we had thunder and lightning, wind, cold, and thunder again. We honestly wondered if we should pack up and go home, the weather was so violent. Then

 

After the brief but violent storm, we were back to summer weather conditions.
Back to summer again, as if the whole hailstorm had never happened.

…in less than an hour, we had sunshine and summer was back:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guys wasted no time putting up the tarps after the storm. Weekend camping--what are you going to do?
I can’t over-stress the importance of tarps when camping. Even when it rains only a little, the tarp keeps everything underneath nice and dry.

It was the craziest thing. The boys wasted no time in setting up a tarp, something they had been putting off because the weather was just so nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the camping weekend was pretty good–now and then it would rain for a bit, then clear up and be nice.  It didn’t rain too often to interfere.  We had plenty of wood, tarps over everything, and even with the rain we played a game of Harpo’s croquet that was so much fun it lasted three hours (there was a half hour pause on account of the rain and dinner).

We had to pack up the stuff wet when we went home but that too worked out nicely; the weather at home was scorching, so we spread out all the tents and tarps and they dried in no time, and then we packed them away for the next camping trip.

I am already missing the time up there.  I wonder if I can wrangle some time off for the August long weekend…

 

The Horror of a Good Rod

Evidently I have been harboring the misconception that I know how to

These days, a fishing rod is oh so much more complicated than it seems

use a fishing rod. Throughout my foolish youth, up to about 15 years or so ago, I assumed that fishing consisted of a line, a rod, a hook, some bait and maybe a bobber; and that you slung the rod forward and the line would sail, straight as a die, out into the water; that you would slowly reel that line in until the bobber met the tip of your rod and then you would repeat, until you caught a fish.

This is mostly true. Until your well-meaning youngest brother, fishing aficionado and camper extraordinaire, indulges your camping/fishing fantasies and gets you a moderately good fishing rod for no other reason than that he loves you. And wants a fishing buddy. And feels sorry for you because a few camping trips ago you placed your only–and therefore favorite–fishing rod  a good ways away from everyone else’s and a big wind blew up, unseated the very heavy branch that was holding up the main tarp, and made it thru some demonized whim smash gleefully upon your beloved rod, snapping it in two.

So my brother bought me another one.

So there you are, proudly marching down to the waters’ edge to test your wonderful new fishing rod out, and with every promise of a wonderful day by the mountain lake, you cast–

–and it promptly birdnests on ya. (“Birdnest” is a term that means all the line tangles up around your reel, making it impossible to reel in or do anything, really. It is a newbie’s nightmare, but everyone suffers from this debilitating outcome at some point.) Fifteen minutes later you have it all untangled and you cast again. Another birdnest! This repeats for a dozen or so casts, when you finally give up. That’s when your youngest brother comes in from floating around in the new little floaty-boat he’s got and checks things out. At least, that’s what happened to me.

“Are you keeping your thumb on the line when you get ready to cast?”

“Yes!”

“Even after you set the bale?”

“Yes!”

“Let me see your rod.”

A few seconds of checking later, he informs you that there is waaaaaaay too much line on the reel, causing it to spang out in all directions when you cast out. The air, already somewhat blue with the cold mountain air, turns a shade or two bluer. I give up for the day; it is time to go home anyway.

Later that week…

At home my brother (he’s a super helpful dude always) unreels the line after I have de-tangled it once again, until he judges the right amount to be remaining on the reel. He mutters something about not needing to cast all the way to the other side of the lake and bites the line off from the unwound stuff, now itself a huge birdnest destined for disposal in an environmentally friendly way, and puts the weight back on the remaining line, but without a hook. Then we go out to the back lane by our house so I can practice casting down the road. (I caught some weeds; good size, too.)

Happy now, I:

1.) Grasp the rod in my casting hand and check to see if the sinker(the little lead weight) on the line has been reeled in but still dangling a little, maybe an inch or two from the tip of the rod,

2.) Hold the rod comfortably enough that I can press the line coming from the reel gently against the rod itself with my forefinger,  3.)Set the bale, which means flipping that little shiny metal pail-handle thingy on the reel over to the other side, and  4.) Raise the rod up, back a little and cast overhand.

–Upon which the whole blasted thing tangles at the tip of the rod. I try a couple more times. Tangle, tangle; those annoying little ones that are so hard to see to untangle. My brother comes out to the lane to see what I am doing wrong, for by the sound of my inarticulate mouth-noises alone he knows success is not yet mine.

The horror of a good rod.

That is when I realize the horror of a good rod. You can’t just cast it any old way at any old speed and have it do it’s job. A good fishing rod is sensitive at the tip. If you treat it rough, it treats the line the same way. I discovered that I had to be gentler, more deliberate in my overhead cast, to kind of slow down and tai chi the thing out.

Kim told me that when I release my forefinger from the line at the cast, to point that forefinger where I want the line to go, and it will kind of do it naturally. And you know what? It worked! My casting immediately smoothed out and the line started going where I wanted it to go, and further and further away, too. Now that I know I am dealing with a thoroughbred, as it were, I’m good to go. It no longer birdnests, it no longer ties a little knot at the tip of the reel.

There, there, girl, eeeeaaasssy now….



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