I don’t usually post about all the various pitches and requests I get (via this blog) that are seeking donations to further a cause or a charity. If the cause sounds good I might tweet about it or post on Facebook but I get so many of these requests and I don’t want to inundate everyone with them. But this week one caught and held my attention. It wasn’t about clean water for third world children or feeding the homeless but it is still something that pulled on my heartstrings and made me open my own wallet. I guess maybe that is because the email sent to me had the secret words in it… Appalachian Trail.
I am thinking that perhaps the email was sent to me specifically because I am an Ohio blogger and Emma Gatewood was from Ohio. I don’t know if the sender had any insight into my love affair with the Appalachian Trail or not, either way they had me hook, line, and sinker with any mention of the AT. It has been my dream since my late twenties to thru hike the AT, which is a 2,181 mile long trail that extends from Georgia to Maine. It takes about 6+ months to hike it start to finish and I want to do it so very badly. Every year I dream of the day when my family and I can pack up and hit the mountains together for that once in a lifetime experience. And sometimes I acknowledge that it may have to wait until my kids are grown but either way I don’t think I will ever consider my life complete until I have done it. It’s at the top of my bucket list.
Anyway, Emma Gatewood was the first woman to ever thru hike the trail solo. That is an amazing and courageous accomplishment. I would never consider hiking it alone (to chicken) and I admire any lady that has the stones to do that. BUT there are several other wow factors to share as well. She made this hike in 1955 at the age of 67 and after raising 11 children!! She also ended up becoming a pioneer for ultralight backpacking because she made this trek with only a pair of Keds sneakers, an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain which she carried in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder. If you are familiar with what long distance hikers are toting around nowadays you will understand how amazing this woman was. But that is not all. She ended up hiking the AT two more times after that initial foray, she hiked The Oregon Trail (2000 miles), and she helped start The Buckeye Trail (1,444 miles) in Ohio.
Eden Valley Enterprises is a not-for-profit corporation that specializes in living history programs and storytelling through theater, usually about historical figures that accomplished amazing things. They recently premiered a storytelling program about Emma to a sold-out house at a community center in Ohio and that spurred them to try and bring Emma’s story to life as a film documentary. It will be produced by Peter Huston of FilmAffects and WGTE (PBS Toledo) has agreed to be a broadcast sponsor and production partner for it.
If this sounds like a worthwhile cause to you, donate via Kickstarter or directly via PayPal or check to Eden Valley.
Never heard of the Appalachian Trail? Let me suggest some of my fave books!
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail
Walking Home: A Woman’s Pilgrimage on the Appalachian Trail
Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail
Photo Credit: The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Autumn is a magical time of year. With the leaves turning color and falling in great heaps; with the harvests being gathered in and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables available for turning into delicious dinners; with county fairs in full swing and the prospects of holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving on the horizon, Fall is perhaps one of the richest seasons. The colors, the textures, the tastes, all of them combine to make you want to just laugh out loud as your scuff through the leaf piles.
But while you may be able to smell the magic in the air; while you may be able to feel it coursing through your veins; how do you convey that magic into your daily life? How do you share what you feel and know about autumn with others, especially with your family? Below are some of the dozens of ways that you can bring a little of that autumn magic into your life, and watch as the joy of the season lights up the eyes of those you hold closest to your heart.
Go to a County Fair. County fairs, especially in more rural areas, are a true treat. From prize winning pigs and pumpkins to handmade quilts, award-winning 4H rabbits and fresh caramel apples, a county fair doesn’t just have to be about the midway; it can be a treat for the whole family, and a lesson on your community and what it takes to keep it functioning. If there are no county fairs in your area how about Fall festivals?
Get Lost in a Corn Maze. Today it is unusual for at least one farm in every community to NOT have a corn maze. Leaving one field un-cut, the farmer creates a maze through the patch, and then charges admission for families to come get lost among the stalks. Simple or complex, corn mazes are a treat for the whole family, especially since most of those who offer them also have pumpkin patches (where you can pick your own jack-o-lantern), homemade products like cornbread and apple butter or hot apple cider, and more often than not, a hayride, or even pony rides for the kids.
Wax Leaves Crafting. Dip colorful leaves in wax to preserve their color and then hang them from the ceiling or window sills to bring the color indoors.
Go Apple Picking. If you have apple orchard nearby, consider yourself especially lucky! Most apple orchards will offer to let a limited number of individuals come pick their own apples during certain times of the harvest season. Some charge by the bag, or by the basket, but it is still great fun and is a great way to get out of doors and into the true spirit of the season.
Decorate Your Yard. Whether you are decorating for the harvest and Thanksgiving season or for Halloween, turn your yard decorating into a family affair! Get crafty; use old clothes and stuff them with straw to make a scarecrow; design scary or funny jack-o-lanterns; arrange hay bales and corn stalks to make a great country appealing yard, its great fun for everyone!
Take a Drive. Let the wind tousle your hair with a drive, windows down or sun roof open. Enjoy the cool, crisp air and less traveled roads. Be sure to look for Fall color.
Date Night at a Haunted House. When you have young kids that you don’t want to scar for life, often times you skip the haunted houses. Consider though getting a sitter and going out for a bite to eat and then a trip to a local haunted house just like when you were a teenager. It will bring back memories of your youth and give you some much needed time with your spouse/partner.
Bake Night. Once a week bake something yummy together as a family. Its less daunting when you have lots of hands to help do the prep work and cleanup afterwards. Try apple dumplings, apple pie, pumpkin bread, and apple muffins. Share with elderly neighbors and make their Fall magical too.
These are just a few of the ways that you can bring the magic of autumn into your life. While it is by no means a comprehensive list, I hope that it starts you thinking on ways that you, too, can make the autumn season a magical time of the year.
We have spent the past few days celebrating… Mabon, The Autumn Equinox, Feast of the Ingathering, Alban Elfed, the start of Fall. It is glorious. During the evenings it is nice to welcome the dark that comes ever so much earlier now and eat by candlelight. During the day we spend time outside in the cool, crisp air and let the elusive sun kiss our cheeks. We went to an annual Apple Festival, rode on hay covered wagons, drank apple cider floats, and we picked our own apples in the orchard. Little did we know we would stumble onto the best deal on apples around. We picked over half a bushel of apples, 25 pounds or so, for only $9. That works out to about .40 cents a pound and that is a steal! We got Ida and Jonathan varieties since we love tart apples. Then we came home and made apple dumplings. As I write this my husband is baking some apples to put on top of buckwheat pancakes. I love the way the house smells.
Here are some of my fave shots from the past few days. Something has inspired me to break out the camera and take pretty pictures again… must be Fall.
Hiking is an easy and fun way to get in shape and work on your fitness goals. It is also a great way to reconnect with nature, get much need outdoors time in the fresh air and sunlight, and get away from the stresses of fast paced city living. Hiking has been one of my all time favorite ways to exercise for many years now. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
But like many sports and fitness activities it seems that synthetic clothing and gear is predominantly what you find in sporting goods stores. I happen to find much of it uncomfortable and prone to getting smelly if you wear it long enough. This clothing is often made of some sort of poly blend which is actually plastic. Unless it is recycled plastic, then it may not be the greenest gear for you to wear. Since hiking is supposed to help us connect with mother nature and identify with the need to protect our outdoor spaces, wearing clothing that harms the planet is a form of hypocrisy. Fortunately outdoor retailers are catching on to this and slowly we are seeing more green options for the hiking enthusiast. An example of affordable and effective green options are the north face products.
After checking local thrift stores and consignment shops you may end up with a few good hiking pieces but then again you may not. Serious hikers can go through gear pretty fast. You may find some hiking poles, an external frame pack, or wool socks though… it always worth a look right?
If you can’t second hand source this stuff I have put together a quick list of some of my fave eco hiking recommendations below, to give you some ideas of what is out there. Enjoy!
1. You may hate slathering yourself with toxic sunscreen but your head and face can get burned pretty quickly if you don’t cover up. This Earth Divas Hemp Floppy Hat is just what you need. If will help keep those harmful rays off your skin and it is made with natural, breathable hemp.
Wool is a great choice for hiking gear since it is a natural fiber with lots of great qualities. It is breathable, eco friendly, and it helps regulate body temperature, which makes it a good choice no matter what the weather looks like. Wool is also known for its ability to repel moisture and wick it away from the skin. Perfect! The next 3 items are made from wool…
2. Icebreaker Women’s Henley Lite Shirt - made with silky smooth and lightweight merino wool which gives great protection against the sun and wicking properties to keep you looking great and feeling cool.
3. SmartWool Foothills Full-Zip Sweater - Gorgeous! The color and style of this sweater is amazing. For chilly morning or evening hikes it will help you warm and toasty without making you overheat. Made with 100% Merino wool for excellent insulating power and breathability. Make sure to take this sweater on ski trips too! And if you need a jacket, SmartWool makes them too.
4. Socks are an important part of hiking, just like some good boots. No one likes cold and/or wet toes… that will ruin a hike right quick! Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks are made of itch free antimicrobial merino wool.
5. Finding eco friendly shoes is tough already, finding hiking boots is even more so. These are not the perfect choice but they are definitely a step in the right direction. The idea is to absorb moisture and keep it away from your feet and these boots – the Kayland Zephyr W – use a new technology that utilizes activated carbon derived from coconut shells.. which is a recycled, sustainable material.
6. MountainSmith backpacks are often made of recycled materials which makes them a green option. Hemp and canvas are also wonderful options but may be harder to find in something larger than a daypack.
7. This bottle is really unique and I intend to write a more elaborate post on it soon but it is bamboo on the outside and glass on the inside. It can also be attached to a backpack with ease. It is sleek, fun, and eco friendly.
Get outside and go for a hike this weekend okay? If you need some inspiration check out an amazing book I just read about a woman who has hiked the Appalachian trail 3 times… Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail.
One of the hardest things for many families who want to try camping is figuring out what to eat and what they need to bring to cook good meals in the great outdoors. What exactly do you need to take with you so you can have a good cup of coffee and meals that do not include prepackaged junk. How will you keep things cold and how will you wash your dishes? Camping is lot so fun when you iron out these details and all it takes it some planning and perhaps some special gear so you can set up the perfect camp kitchen. Once you get into it, you may just find that your inner pioneer loves the challenge!
The first thing you will likely need is a cooler. If you already have one… great! Use that one. If not, check into a steel belted cooler from Coleman. They are super durable. You may even be able to find a used or vintage one at a yard sale or estate auction. Try packing it several different ways to find the most efficient way to pack it all up.
Marinate meats ahead of time and freeze them into blocks so that they can serve as ice packs until they thaw out. Flat Nalgene bottles can also be used as ice packs. Pre-cut and pre-wash fruit and veggies so that you are only packing in usable and ready to eat foods. Package foods in stackable, glass storage containers.
For coffee, invest in a good stainless steel Percolator. They are light and they make great coffee on a camp stove. I do not normally drink coffee but a good warm cup of coffee on a chilly camp day sounds like heaven to me.
And of course you will need a camp stove unless you like to do all your cooking over top of the camp fire. We like to do 50/50. For campfire dinners your best bet is a cast iron skillet and a dutch oven. You can even bake fresh sourdough bread in these babies! Before you go Google some of your favorite recipes and put the word campfire in front of it. You will be surprised how easy it is to cook over a campfire. Many campers get a kick out of making “gourmet” camp food. For nourishing options check out this blogger ebook: Kitchen Stewardship in the Big Woods: A Family Camping Handbook with Real Food Options.
So what do you eat off of? Camping just ins’t camping unless you eat and drink from those stainless steel plates and cups that have the speckled enamel finish. They come in dark blue traditionally but I love this green set from GSI Outdoors. Each piece is built from heavy-gauge steel with a speckled enamel finish. Twice kiln-hardened to 1,000 degrees F to prevent scratches and chips.
These stainless steel bowls can be used to pack in nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, pretzels, and other snacks. Then they can be used to as mixing bowls or food bowls when emptied. Part of camping is making things do double duty.
Washing dishes IMO requires a galvanized wash tub. It serves as a washing tub and a place to store your gear when not in use. Make sure to use a planet friendly soap like Dr. Bronners.
And don’t forget cutlery, measuring cups and spoons, spices, cook utensils, a cutting board, matches, and scrub brush. Once you have the gear and some recipes in your arsenal it will be cinch to pack it up and take the family camping at a moment’s notice.
What is your favorite tip or product for an efficient camp kitchen?