Learning to Camp: Part 1

Camping was never something I yearned to do nor — but it is necessary to get outdoors.

So camping is a necessary evil?  Yes and no.

If you’re accustomed to the day-to-day luxuries like running water and electricity, then like myself — you’ll start off finding it quite the struggle.

I have a confession.

Camping was never something I yearned to do nor — but it is necessary to get outdoors.

So camping is a necessary evil?  Yes and no.

If you’re accustomed to the day-to-day luxuries like running water and electricity, then like myself — you’ll start off finding it quite the struggle.

Fear of mosquitoes and other flying insects doesn’t help either.

So what to do?

It’s easy to say, okay fine — only do day hikes and I will simply rent a room or cottage somewhere.

One of my early attempts at camping with an inexpensive Coleman's 6-person tent. One of my early attempts at camping with an inexpensive Coleman’s 6-person tent.

However if you want to go somewhere more remote, you can’t rely on that solution.  So it’s time to push beyond the threshold of your comfort zone:

Start somewhere easy.

1.  Borrow a tent or rent one for a weekend and set it up in your backyard or a friend’s backyard.  Get acquainted with how to set it up.  Sleep in it overnight and get accustomed to how it feels.

2.  Practice, and then move to a more remote location like a local provincial or state park with facilities (i.e. showers, flush toilets, etc.)

3.  Repeat steps 1 or 2 until you feel you are ready — but be prepared for discomfort.

If you can, find a friend or someone who is willing to join you.

What if … you don’t have a tent or access to one?  Local communities, provincial or state parks often run programs to help people learn how to camp.  For those in my home province, Ontario Parks offers their Learn to Camp Overnight Experience

They even have a graduates program for those who have more experience and want more.

I think this will suffice for those who find the thought of camping quite a challenge to overcome — but it is possible and I believe anyone can do it.  Stay tuned for part 2 of Learning to Camp!

Any thoughts or challenges of your own?  I’d love to hear about it.

How to Make the Most of a Short Road Trip to the East Coast

Road trips are often an excuse to get on the road and go somewhere.  A lot of people have a destination in mind but if you really want to make the most of it and have fun with those whom you are travelling with — don’t plan so much.  Instead, why not turn it into a game or a quest?  Of course, this can be applied to any road trip.  Not just one to the east coast of the United States.

Since I changed jobs earlier this year in May, I’ve had to acknowledge that I have significantly less vacation time than before.  This meant shorter road trips or in some cases, no road trips!

Fortunately, I had one road trip planned and approved of prior to my move to a new job.  Road trips are often an excuse to get on the road and go somewhere.  A lot of people have a destination in mind but if you really want to make the most of it and have fun with those whom you are travelling with — don’t plan so much.  Instead, why not turn it into a game or a quest?  Of course, this can be applied to any road trip.  Not just one to the east coast of the United States.

Waking up to a sunrise over Hawaii 2 and Lake St. George.
Waking up to a sunrise over Hawaii 2 and Lake St. George.

When the folks at Cards against Humanity purchased an island and renamed it Hawaii 2.  The first thought that crossed my mind was to find it and go there.  If we happened to find some other things to do along the way, so be it.  Just as my friend and I were about to set off to find this island, I discovered that The Holy Donut also resided int the state of Maine.  This turned into an amusing road trip that we dubbed “The Search for Hawaii 2 and the Quest for the Holy Donut”.  (I’ll write about my experience finding Hawaii 2 another time).

Here were some highlights along the way and back:

Never stayed in a lean-to before so why not give it a shot?   No need to worry about a rainfly and pretty warm.  Just had to deal with my friend's snoring...
Never stayed in a lean-to before so why not give it a shot?   No need to worry about a rainfly and pretty warm.  Just had to deal with my friend’s snoring…
Had no idea what the weather would be like but we ended up hiking the tallest mountain in Vermont (Mt. Mansfield).  Yes, that is a storm approaching, and yes, we got caught in it on the way down.  Not super pleasant but it was a great experience to take in.
Had no idea what the weather would be like but we ended up hiking the tallest mountain in Vermont (Mt. Mansfield).  Yes, that is a storm approaching, and yes, we got caught in it on the way down.  Not super pleasant but it was a great experience to take in.
Stopping by for a quick hike or two in New Hampshire on the way into Maine.  Great views.
Stopping by for a quick hike or two in New Hampshire on the way into Maine.  Great views.
Who would've thought one would encounter a piece of the Berlin Wall in Portland, Maine?
Who would’ve thought one would encounter a piece of the Berlin Wall in Portland, Maine?
Looking at all the options at the Holy Donut.
Looking at all the options at the Holy Donut.
Local food.  Local cuisine.  Always important to enjoy.
Local food.  Local cuisine.  Always important to enjoy.
Road side attractions and stops are always a must.  Don't ignore them, each has their own unique story to take in.  The owner of this giant root beer barrel told us that it took him and his friend over 850 hours to build this out.  It was rainy that day but we still stopped to take a seat and enjoy a bottle of local root beer and a root beer float.
Road side attractions and stops are always a must.  Don’t ignore them, each has their own unique story to take in.  The owner of this giant root beer barrel told us that it took him and his friend over 850 hours to build this out.  It was rainy that day but we still stopped to take a seat and enjoy a bottle of local root beer and a root beer float.
We couldn't really plan for when we'd be able to see the sunrise over Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Weather was rather unpredictable so we drove up (extremely slowly) through the fog up to the top where we slept through the night.  Extreme?  Maybe.  We weren't the only ones though!
We couldn’t really plan for when we’d be able to see the sunrise over Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Weather was rather unpredictable so we drove up (extremely slowly) through the fog up to the top where we slept through the night.  Extreme?  Maybe.  We weren’t the only ones though!
I had never encountered so many wild blueberries on a trail before.  We just kept picking them while hiking through the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge.
I had never encountered so many wild blueberries on a trail before.  We just kept picking them while hiking through the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge.
On the way home, we passed by the Bread and Puppet Art Museum in Vermont.  It was a brilliant place to stop off on the long drive home and quite inspirational.
On the way home, we passed by the Bread and Puppet Art Museum in Vermont.  It was a brilliant place to stop off on the long drive home and quite inspirational.
Across from the Bread and Puppet Art museum was the Cheap Art Store.
Across from the Bread and Puppet Art museum was the Cheap Art Store.

We did all of this and more in about a week and were never in a real rush.  Everything was chill with plenty of time to just talk about the meaningful as well as enjoy the nonsensical banter.  I also tried applying a twist on to the music as we drove home by building a playlist that only involved songs with ‘home’ in the title or reminded my friends of home.

Small things add up to make your journey a truly memorable one — and to add to the fact that you return from your ‘quest’ successfully, just makes it even more fun.

So to sum things ups:

  1. Turn your road trip into a quest.  Make it realistic, not impractical.
  2. Allow yourself time and the attitude to just enjoy the silence, the journey, and the nonsensical banter between stops.
  3. Don’t miss out on roadside attractions that you may just spot along the way.  Give yourself permission to stop — rather than rushing towards the destination.  The destination isn’t going anywhere anyhow.  You may not find this roadside attraction again.

An Attempt to Plan for the Greenbelt

Aside from doing some regular uphill training, I’ve been playing catch up since a recent one-week long road trip out to Maine.  As much as the Greenbelt Route is well promoted, the documentation to actually plan out your own trip is a little more difficult than I thought.

Planning each Day of the Route

The tricky thing is that some sections of the Greenbelt Route have more access to accommodation than others so attempting to plan out certain days cycling the route is difficult.  In addition, the GO Trains and Via Rail trains bike racks are not always readily available.  It’s good to read up on this earlier so I’ll incorporate this into my planning for next year.

It appears that these bicycle rack-equipped trains are only available until September 5th which is unfortunately because I’d prefer to be cycling in mid to late September rather than in August.

What to take along and how to pack

Bikepacking example
Bikepacking example via GearJunkie.com

I’ve also been trying to figure out what to bring along and how I should pack.  It’s actually quite fun and interesting because I’ve been pursuing a more lightweight and minimalist approach to hiking, so to only have everything with me on a bike is an added twist on the approach.  Fortunately, there have been some great information online on bikepacking … sometimes too much.

I do have to do some maintenance on my single-person tent and re-waterproof some of my gear from hiking.  Unfortunately, I still have to modify some more of my bike which means possibly adding a front pannier rack, and a couple of bike packs for easy storage.  I’m also considering replacing my bike saddle/seat — which is a little tricky because it’s a mountain bike which I’m technically using for bike touring.

More training to come so we’ll see what’s next in coming weeks…!

Additional Links of Interest

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Another EveryTrail Alternative

So … on and off … I’ve written about EveryTrail alternatives.  There have been good options, free options, not-so-easy options, and so on.

My sister recently graduated from University of Toronto with her computer science degree and the scene for developers is tough these days, very few jobs for a recent graduate.  While she’s job hunting, I’ve been talking with her about the challenge with embedding maps on to blogs and not being locked into a platform.

She ended up building her solution called Map-A-Trail.  You can upload your GPX file and it’ll generate an map and elevation chart that you can embed on your blog.

You’ll notice there’s a possibility of cute overload, but that’s just how she operates.  Check it out, try it out, and maybe give her some feedback — but be nice and constructive about it. 🙂

I’ll be testing it out myself more thoroughly but so far it looks like it has got potential.  Obviously, I am to be biased as an older brother but you can trust that I don’t accept using clunky apps.

Map-A-Trail example screenshot