Winter Camping

As a native Wisconsinite, the best weather is usually limited to the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Good weather can be found sometimes starting as early as March and as late as sometime in October. By ‘good’ weather I mean that it hasn’t snowed yet and the temperature is hovering somewhere in the low to mid-forties. When a third of the year can qualify as winter, what do you do during those cold months when you don’t want to sit inside and you’re not quite coordinated enough to downhill ski? The same things you do in summer: hike and camp (with a little extra help, of course.)

camp

Ignore the cold for a moment and picture this:

You walk into a park with no one around for miles, except for maybe the park ranger you greeted when you entered. In the distance you hear the wind blowing through the trees, the skittering of a squirrel, or maybe the sound of a small animal moving through the brush. The sun is shining bright, though a little lower this time of year. There are no bugs to swat away as you stand taking it all in. You know that campsite you’ve always wanted? The larger one near the lake or in the densest part of the trees? It’s all yours and you didn’t even have to fight for it.

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert camper by any means. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve camped even in the summer. You don’t need a lot of experience to winter camp as long as you do your research or go with someone who knows what they’re doing. I joined an adventure group at the end of last year and it was with them that I tried my hand at winter camping for the first time. It was just as fun, if not more, than any time I have camped during the summer.

gatheringfirewood

The trails were a little icy on our hike in to camp and I took a spill at one point. Most of the larger gear that was brought along was pulled in on sleds. In deeper snow, we likely would have needed snowshoes. This particular weekend we happened to be okay in our snow boots. It’s crucial on the hike in that you remove enough layers to prevent yourself from sweating. Any sweat that remains trapped in your clothing will make you colder. Aside from proper clothing, you need a large fire suitable for cooking big hearty meals. With colder temperatures, you need more calories to help regulate your body temperature. It’s also extremely important that you stay hydrated. It’s amazing how much warmer you feel when you’re drinking enough water.

Our group of campers was a motley crew of old timers and brand new people. We made it work with the old hats teaching us first timers the specifics of building a proper fire (long and rectangular as opposed to round) and selecting the best wood for heat (a lot of small pieces for high BTU output plus some larger, long burning logs). We shared meals, stories, and a lot of laughter. The overnight temperature reached somewhere between -4F and -10F depending on which smart phone you looked at but with my big fluffy sleeping bag, it wasn’t unbearable. It was an experience to remember and who knows, I’ll probably try it again sometime.

sleepingbagfrost

Intentions & Reflections

intentions

 

Now that we are more than a week into the New Year (2017) how is everything going for you? Do you feel like much has changed over the last week as we’ve begun transitioning into new beginnings? I never was one for resolution making… the idea always seemed kind of silly to me. I set a list of goals for 2016 and more than a few went unaccomplished. I am 100% okay with that because I made progress on the things that were important to me and let other things fall by the wayside. I’m quite proud of my accomplishments last year.

One lofty goal was to read 26 books. That’s one book every two weeks! While feasible for some, I fell quite a bit short. I read 10. Of those 10, eight were non-fiction. I came to the realization this year that I LOVE non-fiction books and that makes up for the other 16 books I missed reading.

Another goal last year was to visit 5 new places. I hit this goal out of the park thanks to two road trips. Road trip #1 took me south down the Great River Road from Dubuque, IA to New Orleans, LA with stops along the way in Hannibal, Memphis, Onward, and at Oak Alley. I headed home via Nashville. Road trip #2 took me east to Maine with a stop at Allegheny College to visit a friend and seeing Niagara Falls for the first time. I visited something like 14 new places in 2016.

For shits and giggles I applied to the NASA Space Program (they never called), I learned how to knit and have been working on a pair of socks since July, and I once again maxed out my 401k. I failed to learn how to handstand walk and did NOT get my ears pierced.

This year, I decided to go about things a little differently. Instead of setting specific goals, I set intentions for myself. These intentions are things that I can remind myself of daily and practice when time allows or when necessary. They are personal things that I believe will help improve my life and how I want to be living. Some of these intentions include:

  • write more – I’ve always enjoyed writing, whether it be lists or short stories but somehow they tend to disappear or I find them not compelling or ‘good enough’ to share. However, I truly believe that everyone has a story and I believe those stories deserve to be told. One of the tools I am using to do this is this blog.
  • disconnect to reconnect – We live in such a fast paced world that I feel as if I’m losing touch with the world around me. We’ve never been more connected to each other and yet, it seems, we aren’t truly making connections with anything or anyone. I’ll be switching my phone off more often and limiting time online in an effort to reground myself and be more involved with the world physically surrounding me.
  • have a purpose – for everything. This includes the things I own, the people I interact with, and how I spend my time. De-cluttering/minimizing the things that are no longer important and cutting the toxicity out of my life in order to improve the quality of experiences with everything else.
  • do something everyday to lessen man’s negative impact on earth – I think this speaks for itself.. We only have one planet to live and enjoy our lives you’d think we would take better care of it. Earth is beautiful and I hope that she’ll be around for a very long time for the generations to come to enjoy as much as we do. Whether it be socially or environmentally; making the world a better place for everyone.

As I live out these intentions for the year, I will be keeping in mind a quote that appeared to me early in 2016 and has resonated with me since then; from the New York Times article ‘The Wisdom of the Aged‘:

“I would say, that I am applying the ‘butterfly wing’ theory to my everyday life,” [Jonas Mekas] wrote. “It’s a kind of moral dictum, moral responsibility to keep in mind that whatever I do this second affects what the next second will be. So I try not to do anything negative, which is my best insurance that the world will be better next second, or at least not worse. But of course, my positive action may be undermined by 100 negative actions of others and so it may mean nothing. But I still have to follow that dictum. You can call it optimism.”

Here’s to an exuberant and fulfilling year ahead.

Muster – A Cake

I wanted to post this article before the election but I didn’t know what to write. There was so much bantering and bickering going on that I used the potential backlash as an excuse to not write… but now that the electoral college has cast their votes making Donald Trump the official President Elect to be inaugurated in January, there’s a conversation I still feel is important: voter turnout.

Early results showed that voter turnout for this year’s presidential election was around 55%. The number of eligible, registered voters showing up to the polls hasn’t been that low since the  ’96 Clinton (D) v. Dole (R) election. I’m interested to know what caused people to seemingly not care as much and how we can make people more willing to vote for whom and what they think is right.

Enter: the election cake.

election_cake_recipe_amelia_simmons[via]

Election Cake (or as it was originally called, ‘muster’ cake) dates back to Colonial America. Women would bake these naturally-leavened spice cakes and give them to the men summoned by the British for military training. Only after the American Revolution did it evolve into what we know it as today. Elections used to be a time of celebration; for communities to come together and have a big ol’ party. The cake was generally commissioned by the town to encourage people to come to town hall and vote. (It was also a sneaky way for women to be involved in the voting process.)

This year, Old World Levain kickstarted a grassroots project encouraging home and professional bakers to create their own election cake in an attempt to bring back a historic tradition. Even though this year’s election is over, I know I’ll be continuing to bake these cakes annually to help ‘Make America Cake Again’.

electioncake

I used the Election Cake (2) in Formulas for Professional Bakers from OWL’s website with the following: a ‘spice blend’ consisting of 1 TB cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp sumac, 1/4 tsp ginger and 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 2 TB barley malt syrup to replace 2 TB honey, no sherry or boozy fruit, and topped with a black tahini frosting. The cake was dense and not too sweet; exactly the way it should be.

P.S. Yes, that’s a cat plate. It was a rummage sale find by my aunt who then gifted it to me for my birthday this year.

 

Introducing tiny oranges: a bleearrrgh.

Bleeeaarrrrgh (or any combination thereof) = Blog, in case you didn’t figure that out.

It’s a place for me to compose my thoughts and talk about things I want to share with friends. It’s designed to be about food, travel, things I’m doing around home and my hometown, and whatever else I feel like talking about. Mostly, it’s a story about my life. This way, when I die, someone will be able to write an incredibly accurate biography about all the unimportant things I do in addition to the somewhat important things.

If you’d like to know more about myself, visit my about me page! Otherwise, stay tuned for more.