Camping in Beautiful Bhutan is not as Far Reaching as You Think

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Me at Tiger’s Nest Monastery

By Mary Lyons

When I tell people I went to Bhutan, I get mixed reactions. Sometimes I get asked, “Where’s Bhutan?” Others say, “Oh, is everybody really happy there?” in reference to their reputation for measuring Gross National Happiness. But the response I get most often is, “Wow, I want to go there, but ______…” You can fill in the blank. There’s always a but, and when it comes to Bhutan, there are two main obstacles that prevent people from visiting this amazing country. Number 1 is money. Number 2 is lack of knowledge that results in the misconception that getting there is difficult.

 

SAVE YOUR PENNIES, AND NICKELS… AND DIMES… AND PROBABLY A FEW DOLLARS

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Main building of Bhutan’s airport. It was completely empty except for one custom’s official.

Money is a justifiable obstacle. It can be expensive just to get to Bhutan. I flew from Kuwait to Kathmandu, and then on to Bhutan, for less than 500 USD round trip. However, my friend from Boston who met me there paid 1500 USD, also going to Kathmandu first. Before flying to Bhutan, travelers will have to fly into India, Nepal, Singapore, or Bangkok first. There are two airlines that fly to Bhutan. I know, I know. I couldn’t believe it either. One is Druk Air and the other is Bhutan Airlines. The planes are fairly small due to the decent into Paro, between two mountains. You’ll want to be awake for that.

Most people who are aware of Bhutan’s tourism industry already know that everyone pays a fee per day to go to Bhutan, and it is not cheap. It does, however, include everything but tips, alcohol, and souvenirs.

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Town square in Thimpu and view from my hotel room.

Tourism fees are set by the government and do not vary from operator to operator within Bhutan. I consulted several websites for a variety of tour operators within Bhutan and for the trek I wanted to do, every operator charged the same price. That’s because they don’t charge by the activity you want to do, they charge a fee per day that is set by the government. For groups of three or more, the fee is 250 USD a day. For a solo traveler or a couple, it is a bit more per day. I went with one friend, and we paid 280 USD each per day. I think a solo traveler will pay 300 USD per day. This daily fee is probably the single biggest obstacle for people who want to visit Bhutan.

Wow, that is steep, you say? Actually, it’s not a bad considering what is included. All of our lodging, food, guides, visa, and any entrance fees (not sure there are any…), and a 65 USD tourism fee is included to ensure responsible tourism. The only things not included are alcohol, souvenirs, and tips for the guides. If you know how long you want to stay in Bhutan, you can multiply the number of days by 250 USD (or 280 USD or 300 USD) and you’ll know how much your tour costs without even asking. All the tour companies I checked online post this government set fee on their website. Tourists are not charged this fee for the day of departure.

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We were greeted by this stunning sight after returning to Paro after a short walk to a museum.

There are no hidden fees. You will not be asked to pay for this or that when you arrive. I needed to rent a sleeping bag from my tour operator and I was told up front before arriving what that would cost. However, if you are trekking, you need to have your own gear because it is not available to buy within Bhutan. I rented a sleeping bag that belonged to the manager of Snow Leopard Treks, the local tour company I used. Even in Thimpu and Paro, trekkers cannot find gear, so it is important to bring everything the tour company says to bring with you.

VISA TO BHUTAN? THAT’S THE EASIEST PART!

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Bhutanese people at a local temple at one of the largest prayer wheels I’ve ever seen.

Everyone needs a visa to enter Bhutan except people from India, Bangladesh, and Maldives if they have at least six months remaining on their passports. Everyone visiting Bhutan for tourism purposes must also book through a licensed tour operator, of which there are many. The Bhutanese government does this in order to protect their country and their people from the negative effects of tourism, (not sure this is 100% effective) and also to limit the numbers of people who visit each year so they can prevent environmental damage.  They have never reached the maximum number of tourists allowed in one year, according to my guide, but numbers are growing.

Your tour operator will tell you exactly what to send them in order for them to get your visa. The cost is included in the daily fee. No special documents are required. You’ll just need to photocopy and scan some documents to email to your tour operator.

I recommend booking through one of Bhutan’s many tour operators rather than one in a surrounding country that offers a package including Bhutan. Here’s why. One, your money will go directly to the people of Bhutan. Two, you’ll be certain that you are getting the right information about your tour/trek. Three, you will pay less. There will be no extra fees that go to the tour operator. Tour operators in other countries are just middle men. They have to contact and work with a tour operator in Bhutan to book your tour, and you will pay for that middleman service.

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Me, Big Buddha, and the only decent cup of coffee I had during the entire stay in Bhutan.

 

IF EVERYTHING IS PAID FOR, I DON’T NEED CASH, RIGHT?

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Red Panda is one of two local brews, neither of which is worth writing about.

Wrong! If you plan to buy alcohol or souvenirs, you’ll need cash. Most places do not accept credit cards. Be warned, most souvenirs are made in China. Or Nepal. Or India. Not so much in Bhutan, although most tour operators will take tourists to the Handicrafts Emporium where people with disabilities are learning to create some beautiful works of art, including mandalas, Buddha sculptures, and traditional weavings.

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The other local brew, also not worth writing about. But hey, it’s beer, right.

The main reason you’ll need cash, though, is for gratuities for your guide, cook, and any helpers during your trek. Tipping is most definitely expected. It was impossible to get a straight answer about how much to tip the guides on our trek. I checked my Lonely Planet guide and that was also no help. My guide was not much help either. It is not in their culture to ask or even really discuss money, but he did give me some idea.

 

I’M A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER. IS IT SAFE TO GO ALONE?

My response to this question is YES! Absolutely. Bhutanese people are warm and welcoming. The crime rate in Bhutan is one of the lowest in the world and they have too much pride to harm anyone and risk “losing face.” Anyone visiting Bhutan will not need to carry large amounts of money because most everything is already paid for.

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Artists at the Handicraft Emporium.

You’ll be the only female on your trek unless you’ve joined another group. Your guide, your cook, and any helpers will be men. The horses might be female. Either way, it won’t matter because you can rest assured you will be safe.

 

WHERE SHOULD I GO ON MY TREK IN BHUTAN?

Trekking in Bhutan depends on how much time and money a traveler has. Regardless of both, there are several trekking options and tour operators will tell you in detail about the trekking options they offer. There are three most popular treks in Bhutan, but none of them will be crowded. To minimize environmental damage, a toilet tent will be provided and you will be very thankful.

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Cheri Monastery day trek is quite easy for most fitness levels.

Here’s some information to give you an idea of what to expect from these three treks.

Cholmolhari Trek – app 13 days including flight days – 8 days, tent camping – includes a trek to Cheri Monastery and Tiger’s Nest and other cultural sights, like the Folk Heritage Museum – No one is allowed to climb Cholmolhari because it is sacred. This trek is challenging and you’ll be rewarded with absolutely stunning views and a great sense of accomplishment. You’ll also see some yak farms and yaks are awesome.

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Me and our guide, Sonam, at Cheri Monastery. The caretaker wasn’t there so we couldn’t go inside.

 

Gangtey Trek – 7 nights, 8 days – 5 nights tent camping –  includes a visit to the Folk Heritage Museum – considered easiest trek in Bhutan – trek through the valley of Phobjikha which is a glacial valley at 3000 meters above sea level – This is the trek for bird watchers or those who want an easier trek, but one that still showcases the beauty of Bhutan.

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Prayer wheels on the way to Tiger’s Nest.

 

Bhutan Culture and Haa Valley Trek (this is the one I did) –  app 9 days total – 2 nights 3 days trekking – 2 nights tent camping – 1 day trek to Cheri Monastery – 1 day trek to Tiger’s Nest – visit to Handicraft Emporium and other cultural sites and temples in Paro and Thimpu – Haa Valley was opened to tourism in 2001 and is still unspoiled by tourism. There is an opportunity to walk around and see the small, traditional town of Haa.  You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Haa Valley and Cholmolhari.

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Tiger’s Nest, this time without my big head in the way. Absolutely stunning and not treacherous, although it doesn’t seem that way from this view.

 

No matter what trek you choose in Bhutan, altitude will be a consideration, but in the three treks I mentioned, the highest point is 14,000 feet, but camping is not at that elevation. I did not experience headaches or altitude sickness on this trek, but everyone is different. All treks will have challenging changes in elevation and some steep ups and downs, but your guide will set a pace that everyone in your group can handle. Trekking in Bhutan doesn’t come cheap, but it does come with many rewards.

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This is a yak. Yaks are awesome.

 

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Spinning the prayer wheels. They are everywhere.

 

Experience the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

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The herd starts to file through the gates into the corrals.

By Robin EH. Bagley

If you’re on the lookout for new, memorable experience, point your compass toward the Black Hills of South Dakota. Every September, Custer State Park rounds up their herd of 1,300 buffalo, not something you see every day. Disclaimer: the proper name for these animals is American Bison; however, they are colloquially referred to as buffalo throughout this region.

In fact, it’s something that might not have happened at all if hadn’t been for conservation efforts in places like Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. Prior to the 1700s, 30 – 60 million buffalo roamed the Great Plains. Their numbers started to fall as settlers pushed west, and by the late 1800s, they were nearly extinct. They were killed for their hides as well as to make way for railroads and settlers, and to deprive Native American tribes of their food source, thus making it easier for the government to force the tribes onto reservations.

It’s estimated that only about 1,000 animals, out of tens of millions, remained. Some brilliant ones hid out in what would become Yellowstone National Park, and they survived. A few were shipped to the Bronx Zoo, and that herd had a huge role in repopulating the western buffalo herds. The rest existed in tiny pockets dotted around the plains, and were saved by a handful of people, including Scotty Philip, who built up a herd after purchasing five buffalo calves in 1901. These five buffalo calves are the ancestors of today’s Custer State Park herd.

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Buffalo are matriarchal and follow the lead cow.

Today the park tries keeps the herd at 900 – 1300 animals. The park is 71,000 acres, but it’s fenced and resources are finite, so managing the herd’s numbers are important for the animals’ health. If the herd grows too large, food becomes scarce. So every fall the herd is rounded up, vaccinated for brucellosis (a bovine disease that can travel between buffalo and cattle), and a number of them are sold at the annual auction in November.

Over 10,000 visitors travel to this remote corner of South Dakota every year to watch the roundup. This year the event is Friday, Sept. 29 and it will be Sept. 28 in 2018. The roundup is held in Custer State Park, which is located five miles from Custer, SD and about 45 miles from Rapid City, SD, which is also the location of the nearest commercial airport. Normally there is a fee to enter Custer State Park, daily and weekly permits available; however, there is no entry fee on the day of the roundup.

This is a morning event, so go to bed early, and set that alarm clock. The roundup itself happens at 9:30 am, but the viewing area parking lots open at 6:15 am. Yes, you read that correctly. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there, leave early because traffic will get heavy as you approach the park and sometimes come to a complete stop. Don’t worry, it will start moving again, just be patient. Personally, I recommend that you leave Custer by 5:30 am. Audio books, podcasts, or plenty of music will help get you through the drive. And once the sun comes up, you can enjoy the scenery.

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There are two viewing areas, equally good.

This is an outdoor event where you will park your car and walk to the viewing area, so it’s nice to have a camp chair or a blanket to sit on. Wear plenty of layers as late September can be very cool in the Black Hills. And it’s nice to have rain gear just in case. It should go without saying to bring snacks, but in case you forget or want a hot breakfast, the park serves a pancake and sausage breakfast at both the north and south viewing areas.

Usually the morning starts cool but heats up once the sun rises, so be sure to have sunscreen. Binoculars are also a good idea to watch the herd as it starts moving in from a distance. You won’t need the binoculars once the herd approaches the corrals. And it’s just fun to absorb the whole spectacle. Bring your camera.

If you stay in Custer, there are a couple of shuttle services that will drive you out and back to the roundup, so you’re free to enjoy the scenery. Many of the hotels also offer an extra-early breakfast as well. And camping? Campgrounds are abundant in the Black Hills.

Camping reservations go quickly in Custer State Park, but there are a number of commercial and Forest Service campgrounds in the area. Helpful links are www.visitcuster.com; https://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/, and https://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills.

No two roundups are the same, and everyone experiences it differently. Go with warm clothes, plenty of snacks, and an open mind. See what you experience.

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A bull buffalo taking a snooze.

 

Avoiding Bear Problems in the Backcountry

Avoiding Bear Problems 1

By Carley Fairbrother

I went on my first backpacking trip when I was 19, and since then, solo backpacking has been an important part of my life.  It does shock people sometimes, though.  One of the first things people ask is, “what about bears?”

On the other end of the spectrum, I hear people talking about their bad habits and saying, “I’ve been doing it like this for years, and I’ve never had a problem.”

Both these mind frames can really ruin a trip.  On one hand, the fear of bears can hold people back from immersing themselves in nature, but on the other hand, being too relaxed about it can result in disaster.

What we really need to bear in mind (pun intended) is that bears think a whole lot like us.  We have similar food preferences, we’re both curious, neither of us are great hunters, and we’re both pretty darn smart. It makes sense that we run into each other so often in nature.  It’s helpful to keep those similarities in mind when considering how to avoid dangerous situations with bears.

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Berries – a favourite food of humans and bears

 

On the Trail

Like us, bears want to avoid other large predators. It’s their instinct to avoid us, and knowing where we are will allow them to do just that.  They don’t like being surprised, and running into a potentially harmful creature like a human may trigger some aggressive behaviour.

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A lot of people like to bring bear bells with them, so that they are constantly making nose.  However, I’ve heard of accounts of bears coming to inspect the curious noise.  This is unlikely to create an aggressive encounter, but it’s something to keep in mind.  The main reason I don’t use bear bells is that it stops me from hearing my surroundings.  Aside from the fact that I love the peace an quite of the forest, I feel a lot more comfortable if I can hear a large creature moving around in the underbrush.  Instead I opt for yelling periodically – something like “Hey bear ” or “Way O.” This also lets other people on the trail know that I am human.

 

Avoiding Bear Problems in Camp

Bears usually wander into camp because they’re hungry – no, not for human flesh, but for whatever delicious meal the humans have been cooking up.  Bears have very similar food preferences to us, though they are significantly less picky.  This means that you have to watch out for things like your garbage and sunscreen too.  To keep your camp safe, follow these three rules.

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 1. Store your food (and other smelly stuff) properly

When it comes to storing food, it’s important to put it somewhere where a bear isn’t going get to it.  Anything that smells, such as chapstick, toothpaste, dishes, sunscreen, and garbage should be stored with your food. Some folks say to put the clothes you wore while cooking in the bear cache, but I don’t think that’s necessary unless you’ve spilled food on them or have been gutting fish all day.  And yes, a bear can smell your candy bar, so don’t even think of trying to store it in your tent for a midnight snack.  When it comes to how to store your food, there are a few options.

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Use the bear cache provided: A lot of sites that are maintained by parks will have bear caches already set up.  They can come in the form of big metal lockers, a cable and pulley system, or, if you’re lucky, an old rickety ladder leading up to a sketchy platform.  Use these if you can.  If those aren’t available there are other options.

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Hang it from a tree:  This is probably the most common method.  It’s a pain in the butt, but all you need is a waterproof bag and some rope.  There are a number of ways to hang food, the simplest being to throw something weighted (I use my water bottle) over a tree limb, tying one end to my food bag, pulling it up, and tying it off to a tree trunk.  Of course, there is always the risk that I’ll lose my water bottle in a tangle of branches, and it can be hard to get it far enough away from the tree trunk using this method.  Speaking of which, your food bag should be 2 m (6 ft) or more away from the trunk and 3 m (12 ft) above the ground to actually get it out of reach of a bear.  Make sure your bag for this method is waterproof.

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Use bear proof canisters: If you like camping in places with no trees (or small trees), hanging food from a tree is obviously not going to work.  Even in some forested areas, bears, being the smart critters that they are, have managed to figure out that getting that yummy smelling bag down from a tree isn’t actually that hard.  As a result, many busier parks, particularly in the United States, now demand that food be kept in a bear canister. This saves you the trouble of hanging it from a tree, but they are heavy (at least 1 kg/2 lbs) and bulky.

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Use bear resistant bags: Bags such as the Ursack are made of tough, bear resistant fabric.  They are light and easy to stuff into your bag. The drawstrings are very strong, and allow you to tie the bag to a tree.  The downside is that a bear will be able to crush your food, and probably get a tooth or two through the fabric.  As a result, most of the parks that require bear canisters do not allow bear resistant bags.  This is, however, my preferred method.  If I’m camping in the forest I will put it in a 20 L dry bag and hang it from a tree.  If I’m camping in the alpine, I will hide it outside of my camp and try to tie it to a rock or a dwarfed tree.

Avoiding Bear Problems 9

 

Odour Proof Sacks:  There are a number of companies that make odour proof sacks. The most popular is LOKSAK’s OPSak.  I’ll admit that I haven’t used them, but many people swear by them. This should be used in combination with one of the other methods, and not a replacement for it. I’ve heard of people keeping their food in a “smell proof” bag in their tents. Bears have an amazing sense of smell; some sources say that a bear can smell a carcass upwind from up to 30 km (20 miles) away.  Sorry, I but I trust a bear’s nose over a piece of mylar.  However, many of these bags are very light and make an excellent supplement to your food bag or canister.

 

2: Store your food away from camp:

Don’t get caught up in idyllic campsites on TV and movies where happy campers are roasting their hotdogs over a fire with their tents only a few feet away.  Evidently, movie makers don’t know much about camping in bear country.  Sleeping near anything that smells like food is a bad idea.

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Don’t do this in bear country
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Planning your camp area

 The last thing you want is to draw a bear into camp.  This means cooking and storing your food at least 100 metres (or yards) away from your tent.  You also want to minimize the smell around your food to reduce the chances of a bear finding it.  This means eating 100 metres away from where you are storing your food.  Essentially, your camp should make a triangle, with each side at least 100 m apart.  If you need help estimating distances, that’s about 120 steps.  Unfortunately, some sites are set up with a cooking area or fire pit right next to the tent pads.  Evidently, it’s not just Hollywood who don’t know much about camping in bear country.  If this is the case, still try to find somewhere else to cook.


3. Keep you camp clean:

Going through all these precautions aren’t going to do you much good if you’ve left a bunch of smelly morsels of food around. Try really, really hard not to spill, and pick up what you can if you do. Don’t bury leftovers or put them in lakes or streams, even if you think they will decompose easily.  Aside from bear concerns, this could attract a variety of unwanted critters and disrupt the ecosystem.  Pack your leftovers out or store them and eat them for breakfast the next morning.  Try to eat every bit of food before washing your dishes; heck, lick your plate if you need to (no one cares about table manners in the backcountry anyway, right?). Remember, leaving a mess not only puts you in danger, but also the people who camp there after you.  Plus, no one want see little bits of your ramen noodles in the stream.

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Don’t burn garbage or leftovers.

 

If you follow these rules, it will go a long way to keep you safe.  Bears are just like us but hungrier, and better at smelling things (okay, they also have bigger teeth and shorter tempers).  If you keep food smells away from camp, store you food properly, and make noise while you hike, the only time you are likely to see a bear is from a safe distance.  While following bear safe principles aren’t guaranteed to keep you safe, the vast majority of bear attacks happen when people haven’t followed them.

 

To see all about avoiding bear problems in video form please take a look at the video below:

 

Hike the Mendenhall Glacier Ice Caves before it’s too late

Mendenhall Glacier

By Joy Sheehan

Located just 12 miles outside of downtown Juneau, Alaska sits the Mendenhall Glacier. Hundreds of thousands of visitors gaze upon its beauty each year, but very few people actually see it from its most beautiful angle: the inside.

Inside the glacier is a series of ice caves that are simply otherworldly — like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. Only all of Narnia is blue. And you had to hike a moderately strenuous 3.5 mile trail (each way) to get there.

However, the caves are quickly melting and collapsing. Get to Juneau as fast as possible if you have any interest in photographing yourself as a Smurf experiencing this surreal natural wonder!

 

Know Before You Go

Before you attempt this hike, you need to know that this trail can be dangerous, arduous, and is somewhat unmarked in certain spots. A few people each year come ill-prepared, get lost, slip and fall, sprain their ankle, or need rescuing. I highly recommend not hiking this one alone if you’re not an experienced hiker.

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Expect the hike to take between 2–3 ½ hours each way. Start early and don’t underestimate the time. Plan it so that you’re not coming back in the dark! You should also know that you are not guaranteed access into the ice caves. Take note of the weather (beware on hot sunny days or rainy days) and always use common sense when it comes to your safety.

 

What To Bring

Mendenhall Glacier 5Dress in layers, bring snacks and water for the day, and keep in mind that you’ll get wet! This means safeguarding your phones and your cameras with protective cases! My Lifeproof NUUD Waterproof iPhone case saved me on this trip!

A warm top layer like a sweater, and a light rainjacket to change into will be wanted once you get closer to the cold wet glacier. Bring proper hiking boots or sneakers with ankle support, and wool socks. Chapstick with SPF, sunscreen on sunny days, and mosquito repellent are good ideas too.

Crampons for your shoes are extremely helpful if you want to walk on the top of the Mendenhall Glacier. Gloves to protect your hands while scrambling down the rocks during the last bit of the hike would’ve been handy to have.

And of course, please remember that this is an incredibly beautiful natural wonder in need of protection and safeguarding. Practice your Leave No Trace skills — and if you pack it in, pack it out.

 

How To Get There

The West Glacier Trail is on the Western side of the glacier starting at Mendenhall Lake. This out-and-back trail will bring you to the caves. You could also veer off at the “Viewpoint” sign on the trail, which will still bring you to the caves on a different route (the Cairn route).

Mendenhall Glacier 3

 

If you choose to visit the ice caves independently (not on a tour), you can either drive your own vehicle, rent one in town, or take a taxi. If taking a taxi, tell the driver you plan on doing the ice caves hike at the West Glacier Trail off of Skater’s Cabin Road. If driving yourself, use the Google directions below.

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Mendenhall Glacier 6Start on the West Glacier Trailhead. If you can, set up a GPS to track your course before you start the hike, as it’ll make finding your way back a whole lot easier. I also dropped a pin on my map on my phone when I started, and noted what time I started the hike and what time I arrived to the caves.

If you opt to take a guided tour, you’ll be shuttled by van from your pick-up point to the trailhead and brought back once the tour has ended.

Mendenhall Glacier 7The West Glacier Trail starts out in a forest and is fairly level to walk on for a while. It can get muddy and slick in some areas, and a good portion of the trail has uplifted rocks and roots. It begins to get pretty steep and you’ll have to go over bridges, switchbacks, stairs, and a large boulder with a knotted rope to aid in climbing up it.

You’ll reach a few scenic overlooks, and you’ll end the trail at the top of an area with shrubbery and exposed rock near the glacier. Again, not all of the trail is marked. Look for the colorful ribbons tied to bushes, or for cairns — rocks piled orderly on top of each other — that other hikers have created to help distinguish the route. The last bit is that loose rock scramble downhill to reach the cave entrance.

 

Mendenhall Glacier 8

 

Exploring The Caves

Again, the last bit of the West Glacier Trail has you scrambling down a hillside of loose rocks and pebbles. Be mindful of your footing and go slow. The cave entrances are right in front of you — holes in the sides of the glacier with an icy bubbly blue hue inside. You’ll see a little stream running through them.

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Caution : Once you enter the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves, you’ll want to stay forever and you will seriously contemplate adapting to the cold and taking an ice worm as your wife.

Fun Fact — Yes, ice worms actually exist! They spend their entire lives in glacial ice, only coming to the surface in mornings and evenings to feed on algae and pollen grains. Their bodies actually liquify if they experience temperatures of 41° F (5° C) or higher! So in retrospect, maybe choose a different wife species when you decide to stay here forever, unless you want to become a widow thanks to global warming. 😉

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The Mendenhall Glacier Is Receding!

Mendenhall Glacier 11The Mendenhall Glacier is receding and melting quicker than it can accumulate snow and ice. The snowfall at the head of the Icefield is heavily relied on. But with increasing global temperatures, it’s not looking very hopeful for glaciers.

Granted, the total disappearance of the Mendenhall glacier would probably take centuries, but the ice caves inside of it are disappearing at a much faster rate.

I first visited the caves in July 2014 and two days later, a ranger informed me that the main entrance had melted and collapsed! Talk about timing! I returned to these ice caves in August 2017 and the difference was alarming. The new entrance was much smaller and the caves weren’t as vast or extensive. Water was still dripping and pouring from its “ceiling”.

Some predict that it could be as little as 10 years until they are gone completely!

Avoid future disappointment and start planning your trip to Juneau ASAP!

 

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Mendenhall Glacier 13

 

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More of Joy Sheehan’s work can be seen on A Jaunt With Joy, her own Travel & Outdoor Lifestyle Blog.

 

Getting Misty in the Cloud Peak Wilderness

Cloud Peak 1
Lake Helen

By Robin EH. Bagley

If you don’t mind running across a stray moose or getting a little chilly at night, consider a trip to Misty Moon Lake in the Cloud Peak Wilderness in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. This summer we took two trips to this area on the western side of the Bighorns. This is one of the most popular routes into the wilderness area for day hikers or backpackers who are making a run at either Cloud Peak (13,166 feet) or Bomber Mountain (12,841 feet). Plus, it’s absolutely breathtaking.

Trail 63 departs from West Tensleep Lake and more or less follows the creek upstream. Be prepared for a couple of creek crossings early in the hike, and expect high water early in the season from snowmelt. There was a noticeable difference from mid-July to mid-August when we easily were able to cross on stepping stones. Watch for moose along the lake shore and the creek. Moose are large and grumpy, especially cows with calves, so observe from a distance.

 

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Bull moose chilling in the woods

 

The trail begins above 9000 feet and only goes up from there; the air gets a bit thin as you climb. If you experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, or extreme fatigue, it may be altitude sickness, and the only remedy is to descend to a lower elevation. Spending a night there before you hike will help you acclimate.

You’ll wind through meadows and the creek bottoms, and may spy some oxbows in the creek. All the while surrounded by peaks and cliffs. The trail leads in and out of the trees, and while the shade is welcome in the summer, that’s where the bugs are waiting. The mosquitoes are fat and relentless; bug spray is a necessity.

After five miles, you’ll reach the southern end of Lake Helen (elevation around 9900 feet), which I feel is the prettiest lake of the three. It’s a good spot to refuel, and you may be tempted to stay awhile. On our first trip, this was as far as we went, after all, it’s a 10 mile round-trip hike. The lake is so clear you can see the fish swimming around near shore. You can see Cloud Peak from the lake, looming large and broody to the north.

However, there are two more lakes on the list. The worst of the elevation gain is over; however, the rest of the hike will be completed over 10,000 feet. You’ll skirt the west edge of the lake, sometimes hiking above it for great views, and sometimes along the water’s edge where you’ll be tempted to stick a finger in to check the temperature. It’s cold! The most noise you’ll hear are squirrels chattering and the plop of a fish jumping.

 

Cloud Peak 3
Cloud Peak is still five miles away

 

Continuing north along the stream, you’ll climb a bit more and after another mile you’ll see Lake Marion. The trail doesn’t touch this lake, staying above it along the granite wall. Lake Marion is beautiful but much smaller than Lake Helen.

The trail continues through alpine meadows, with the rocks growing larger and the trees smaller. The wind is gets friskier; you may need to grab your jacket. When Misty Moon comes into view, you’ll look down on this little alpine tarn surrounded by rocks and nearly devoid of trees. A few small clumps of trees offer nearly no shelter and campers pitch their tents in the open, at the mercy of the wind. If you thought Lake Helen’s water was chilly, stick your pinky in Misty Moon. Let’s just say I wasn’t tempted to take a dip.

What’s disconcerting is how far away Cloud Peak still seems. I had thought it would feel close, tangible. It still feels very remote from what is considered the main basecamp for attempts at Cloud Peak. It’s still another 5 miles away, and methinks it will be tough 5. Next year!

You’re now about 7.5 miles away from the trailhead, so if you’re doing an out-and-back, don’t linger too long. We departed the trailhead at 9 am and returned around 5 pm with just a few short stops for a snack or visiting with other hikers. And applying tape to the hot spot on my heel. Honestly, the last two miles felt like five, and I know our pace was far slower at that point. Fifteen miles felt like an accomplishment, but damn, were we tired that night! We got back to our campsite, ate our mac and cheese and went to bed.

 

Cloud Peak 4
Taking a break at Misty Moon. Notice the clear water, and Cloud Peak rising in the distance. Hazy skies are from western wildfires.

 

Be prepared for rapidly changing weather. Thunderstorms pop up quickly, so a rain jacket or poncho is a must. The wind is noticeable at the higher elevations, and temperatures can dip quickly. I have another layer of clothing plus my beanie and gloves in my pack. Even the summer, temperatures can sometimes be in the 40s. There are black bears in the Bighorns, so bear spray is recommended for hikers, campers, and anglers.

Pack warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag for camping. You may expect warm temps in summer, but nights are cold. I froze my butt off the first night, even in long underwear in my sleeping bag. Time for a new one! Maybe you’ll hear the coyotes at night, like we did. Plus a moose walked through our campsite during the night. While bears are possible, there isn’t a large concentration in this area. However, don’t keep food in your tent just in case.

There are several US Forest Service campgrounds in the vicinity, but this is a popular camping area so spots fill quickly; make reservations well in advance. I tried to make reservations at the West Tensleep Campground but was unable to get a reservation even three weeks out. These campgrounds are small, some with only 10 spots. However, I did manage to get a spot at Boulder Park the first trip and Island Park on the second trip. If you’re a paddler, bring the SUP or kayak as West Tensleep Lake is a beautiful 125 acre lake perfect for paddling since it’s open only to non-motorized watercraft. For more information on Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/bighorn.

 

Cloud Peak 5
Finn & I enjoying the view at Misty Moon

 

The Complete Safety Guide for Camping with Dogs

By Bailey Chauner, Redfin

How to Prepare, What to Pack, and Campsite Safety for a Fun Outdoor Adventure with Your Dog

At Redfin, we know that sometimes your home away from home is a tent hidden in the woods. And it wouldn’t feel like your second home without your dog by your side. With summer in full swing, Redfin has compiled the ultimate safety guide for camping with your dog! Camping with your dogs requires a bit of preparation and safety precautions to ensure that you and your dogs can enjoy a safe and fun outdoor adventure – but we’re here to help! We’ve covered important health and safety precautions as well as how to pack the right safety and comfort essentials for your beloved furry family members, and will arm you with important safety tips and information to keep your dogs safe at and around your campsite.

What You’ll Find in This Guide:

  1. Before You Go: Health Checkups and Safety Supplies
  2. Packing for Your Dog
  3. Dog-Safe Best Practices at the Campsite
Camping with Dogs 1
Redfin employee Brittany hanging out with her pup, Rugby / Photo credit: Noelle Marchesini

 

Before You Go: Health Checkups and Safety Supplies

This section covers all the know-before-you-go information that you should take care of before planning a camping trip with your dog, preventative veterinary care tips, and more.

First things first: schedule a visit to the veterinarian for a health checkup. If your dog’s health isn’t optimal, ordinary camping hazards can quickly become serious dangers, so you should discuss your camping plans with your veterinarian. If you plan to take your dog backpacking,  you’ll want to make sure that your dog is up to the task physically. Aging or chronically ill dogs may not be physically able to keep up with a daunting trek, so it might be wise to leave Fido with a trusted caregiver in such a scenario.

Check your dog’s records or double-check with your regular veterinarian to ensure that you’re on top of all preventative care, such as core vaccinations like the Rabies vaccine, as it’s possible that your dog may encounter a wild animal with the disease in the great outdoors.

Pests such as fleas and ticks are often common in the wooded areas many people favor for camping. Consider having your dog vaccinated for Lyme disease and make sure that he’s been treated with flea and tick prevention. Additionally, heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites, so make sure your dog’s preventative heartworm treatment is current for optimal protection.

Pack a first-aid kit with essentials. A few must-have supplies for dogs include:

  • Coated aspirin for pain. Use with caution and give only the recommended dosage (between 5mg and 10mg per pound of body weight). You may also consider a safer alternative, but your best bet is to discuss it with your veterinarian before your trip for specific advice.
  • Tweezers or tick removal tools and scissors
  • Butterfly bandages, gauze, and/or bandages designed for pets to close wounds.
  • Rubbing alcohol or antiseptic to clean wounds.
  • First aid gel or spray designed for pets.

If your pet takes medication regularly for a chronic health condition, take enough medication for the duration of your trip, plus enough to last at least a few extra days. You never know what you’ll encounter in the wilderness, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take copies of your dog’s health records, including vaccination history, and locate the veterinary clinic closest to your campsite before you leave. Save or print the phone number and directions so that they’re easily accessible in case of emergency. Finally, make sure that your dog’s microchip registration is up to date and that your pet has a tag with complete and accurate information so that finders can easily locate you should your dog get lost. If you know ahead of time that you may not have reliable wireless service, you might also consider adding your veterinarian’s phone number or the contact information for a trusted friend or relative.

Camping with Dogs 2
Redfin employee, Bailey, lets Tonka take a dip

 

Packing for Your Dog

This section covers the essential packing list for camping with your dog, including supplies for nutrition, water safety, and just plain fun.

You’ll need more than first-aid supplies for a camping trip with your furry friend, of course. You’ll want to pack your dog’s food and water dishes, as well as enough fresh water to last the duration of your trip plus a few extra days, unless you’re camping at a site with a readily-available supply of fresh water. If it’s going to be warm, keep in mind that your dog may need to drink more water than usual. Take an ample supply of your dog’s regular food and treats, as well. Your dog will have to do his or her business as usual, so you’ll need a good supply of dog waste bags to keep your campsite free of waste and avoid disgruntled fellow campers.

You’ll also want to pack a leash or two, as well as whatever supplies you’ll need to tether your dog while outdoors. Pack your dog’s bed so that he or she can get a comfortable night’s rest. Some dogs prefer to sleep in their crate, but it’s a good idea to take a dog crate or carrier regardless in the event that you need to confine your pup. If the weather will be cooler in the evenings, pack blankets or a dog jacket to keep your furry friend warm in the elements. If you’re heading to a destination near water, a dog life preserver is a good idea, as well as plenty of extra towels to dry your dog off after a swim.

Don’t forget about enrichment. Does your dog have a favorite toy? Take a few trinkets such as balls, frisbees, and squeaky toys to keep your dog entertained. The other items you’ll need to pack for your dog depend on your plans. If you plan on going hiking, for instance, you’ll want a portable water dish that you can easily store in your backpack to keep your dog hydrated throughout the day.

Camping with Dogs 3
Sushiil, Redfin’s E-Learning Specialist, has a camping Corgi named Mugi

 

Dog-Safe Best Practices at the Campsite

This section provides helpful tips for monitoring your dog’s health and maintaining a safe environment for your dog and other campers.

Many campgrounds require that dogs be leashed at all times. Make sure you know and understand the rules if you’re heading for a managed campground; some even specify the maximum lead length permitted. Some campgrounds prohibit dogs altogether, while others place limits on the size or number of dogs permitted. Researching before you go is a must.

Keep an eye on your dog’s well-being throughout your trip. If the weather is hot and humid, you can bet your dog is feeling the heat, too. Watch for signs of heat stroke, such as excessive panting, excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, or seizures. If you suspect your dog has heat stroke, wrap your dog in a towel soaked in cool water and get her to a veterinarian immediately.

Ideally, you’ve already spent time training your dog, but if your dog isn’t the most well-trained pup in the pack, it’s a good idea to start slowly, taking a few short trips to see how your dog fares when exposed to the many new experiences he’ll have during a camping trip. The many sights, sounds, people, and scents can send even well-trained dogs into a flurry of excitement, so testing the waters and learning how to work with your dog to manage behavior will ensure not only his or her safety, but the safety of fellow campers and animals, both domestic and wild.

At minimum, your dog should obey a few essential commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it.” If you don’t know how your dog will react to strangers, particularly excited children, use extreme caution until you’re comfortable with your dog’s temperament in new situations. These commands will come in handy for situations such as encountering poisonous plants or other hazardous substances; a dog who obeys the “leave it!” command will be much more easily redirected than a dog who can think of nothing else but devouring those delicious-looking leaves or berries. You should do your research to know which plants your dog must steer clear of and how to identify them in order to be proactive about keeping your dog away from these dangerous plants.

Above all, have fun! A camping trip is a great opportunity to kick back and relax. When you take the proper precautions and keep safety top-of-mind, a camping trip is an enjoyable bonding experience for humans and dogs alike.

Camping with dogs 4

 

Resources on Safe Camping with Dogs

This section provides valuable resources on dog health, camping safety, and other essential information for a safe and enjoyable camping trip with your furry friend.

Camping with Dogs offers a wide range of articles about camping safely with your dog.

Ruffwear’s Blog provides advice on all types of outdoor activities with your dog and products to keep them save.

IHeartDogs.com provides 12 important safety tips for camping with your dog.

The ASPCA offers a comprehensive guide to vaccinations for your dog, including information on core and non-core vaccines, regulations and risks associated with vaccination, and how to determine the proper vaccination schedule for your dog.

GearJunkie is an excellent resource for discovering the essential outdoor gear your dog needs for a fun outdoor adventure.

Dogster.com also covers some common outdoor risks for dogs, including helpful tips for helping your dog cope with anxiety from thunderstorms, preventing poisoning, and other helpful advice.

Even in the warmer months, when the sun goes down, the chill can set in. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers helpful cold weather safety tips for dogs and other pets.

CampTrip provides a useful guide for first-time camping with your dog, including tips for getting your dog in tip-top physical shape before your trip, acclimating your dog to tents, and more.

Mother Nature Network offers helpful advice for camping with your four-legged friends, including an informative discussion on determining whether your dog’s temperament is well-suited for camping.

The Humane Society provides a comprehensive list of what to include in a first-aid kit for your dog.

BarkPost names 10 ideal, dog-friendly camping destinations that are surely on every dog’s bucket list.

The Pet Poison Helpline provides a handy list of 10 plants poisonous to pets. Knowing how to identify the plants that your dog must avoid is essential for a safe and enjoyable camping experience.

See the original article from Redfin.

 

Moon Running

Moon Running 1

 

A creative essay…

By Emily Pennington

 

The moment I decide to start trail running is around 4:51pm on a Friday, my body tepid from four hours of sleep and sunset crawling over the horizon by the minute. Armed with a muddy pair of tennis shoes and no headlamp, I set off for Griffith Park after work, promising myself that, no matter what, I would not slow my pace below a run for the entirety of the six mile trail.

 

*                                       *

 

Steady your breathing; find a rhythm. My insides fill with phlegm, and I find myself hacking up mucus jello and narrowly missing tourists at the observatory as I spit out what feels like a tonsil into the parking lot. It eviscerates my lungs.

I allow myself to devolve into messy animal, monkey mind swirling in obscure thoughts as the pounding of my sneakers begins to settle against the ragged in and out of my breath. “1, 2, 3… crunch, step, crunch,” is all I can focus on to avoid the unbearable feeling that my chest is not large enough to hold all the air my hungry flesh desires.

Ambient light smears its way up the wide ravines and valleys of the hillside, rendering the need for a flashlight almost nonexistent. Lost in the hypnotic rhythm of my feet grinding against moon-drenched gravel, I hit an imperceptible divot and am sent tumbling. It makes me bleed.

I shake myself off, determined to keep my head high and my heart rate up. My palms sting as though exfoliated by iron wool, but I press onward, feeling stronger than ever as I throw my mind back into my breathing and shut out the pain.

As my pulse soars, my overactive imagination begins swimming in fears of redlining or not being able to breathe. Determined to keep the pace at a canter, I hone in on the myriad of tiny things my insides are adjusting to keep me alive and moving forward. The phlegm clears up, my breathing deepens, and my eyes adjust to the cool wash of moonlight rising over the cityscape.

Something about throwing my body into the firestorm of uphill running on uneven ground sends my nerves to war and forces me to surrender in a way I haven’t before. My face contorts as my body struggles to maintain an embarrassingly slow jog up the slanted beginning of the fire road. There are moments when I am tempted to stop and take a breather after cresting the last sprint up a steep slope, but I fling the gravity of my determination out front, praying my body will magnetize to it and keep moving. It feels incredible.

Once my legs readjust to a more even incline, I feel a surge of power commingled with peace, as though my body is an engine finally revving up at the sight of the open road. I smile, breathing a sigh of relief as I float above the rocky path on gnarled soles of rubber.

To run is to sit firmly in the seat of your power, but only after pummeling your organs and your expectations and your ego with the mirror-clear reflection of what your limitations are. Running activates your solar plexus, your source of inner motivation and self-esteem. It shocks your system and forces your body into a new normal with the weight of its fire.

I feel like I have finally found something that will best me on even my most self-destructive days. I am hooked.

 

Moon Running 2

 

Using a post camping checklist or process

Free Checklists post camping

By Lynley Joyce

Packing up, getting home and unpacking is the part of the post camping process most of us enjoy the least. Here’s a bit of a rundown to help you get through it all.

1. Packing up

There are two broad approaches to packing up the campsite.

  1. Clean, dry and organise everything as much as possible to make life easier back at home.
  2. Stuff everything back into bags and the vehicle to worry about when you get home.

Obviously (A) is the better option, but it’s not always practical. If the last day of camping is wet, most of us get out as quickly as possible. Often most of us have better things to do on the last day of a camping trip than ‘housework’. Most of aim for (A), with the post camping process, but usually end up somewhere between (A) & (B).

Aim for the following in order of priority:

  1. Packing 1Put all dirty or wet clothes in one bag (or several bags) separate from clean stuff. You’ll be able to toss those bags in the laundry as soon as you get home.  Hopefully throughout the camping trip you’ve been putting dirty things together, so this should be easy.
  2. Put any dirty eating and cooking items in a single spot, ready to quickly offload into a dishwasher or whatever when you get home.
  3. Pack up clothes vaguely in to bags that correspond to their storage place at home.
  4. Make a note of anything that needs fixing or special cleaning as you go along.
  5. Sweep out the tent before folding it up. If the tent is damp when packing up, just get it in the bag in whatever way is easiest, as you’ll have to dry it out at home.  If it’s dry, shake it off and fold it properly, checking the number of pegs etc.
  6. Put any perishable food in one spot, preferably a cool box, so it’s easy to offload into the fridge at home. Hopefully there’s not too much left by the end of the trip.
  7. Carefully check around the campsite before you drive off to make sure nothing has been left behind.

 

2. Everyone fed, watered and (relatively) clean

Once home, it’s best to get the people in order before worrying about the stuff, especially if some of those people are kids.  Everything is so much easier if everyone has had a good feed and wash. Kids then are generally happy to entertain themselves or go to bed. If it’s a long trip home or it’s late, many people buy dinner on the way home. If you arrive home very late, this might be the most you can hope for until the next day.

 

3. Post camping: Unpack the car

Unless you’re travelling with small children, and you arrive back home in reasonable time, you’ll probably unpack the car and possibly some of step 4 before step 2, with everyone pitching in to help.

 

4. Sort everything out, preferably ready to pack & go next time

Start at the top and work your way down the list. Stop & go to bed when you’ve had enough.

post camping 3a. Avoid a public health hazard

  1. Unpack the cool box and any perishable food.  If the safety of the food is in doubt, throw it out.
  2. Clean the cool box. Leave the lid off so it can dry properly.
  3. Put any rubbish in the outside bin.
  4. Clean any dirty eating/cooking equipment. Your camping stove may need a scrub.
  5. Throw dirty tea towels and cleaning clothes in a laundry basket

b. Avoid long term damage to expensive camping equipment

  1. Air out sleeping bags by turning them inside out in an open area for a while.
  2. Hopefully you swept out the inside of you tent before you packed up, but if not, shake it out now (an outside job).
  3. Set up or hang the tent to ensure it’s dry before packing away. If it needs cleaning, give it a wipe. Check for and follow up any needed repairs.
  4. Check the tent still has a decent number of tent pegs. Straighten any tent pegs as needed.
  5. Completely empty out backpacks and let them air/ dry. Trust me, you don’t want to find old food there the next time you pack for a trip.
  6. If you have wet or muddy walking boots or gaiters, wash them and put them somewhere suitable to dry. If the boots are leather, polish and wax them to keep the leather in good nick. Check the shoelaces and any gaiter straps. If they are worn, make a note to replace them now. It’s easier than having to deal with them half way through your next hike.
  7. Throw all dirty clothes, in with the dirty tea-towels etc. Start washing either the most essential, the dirtiest/wettest or the most valuable first.
  8. If items are wet but not dirty, hang them out to dry & air.

c. Get ready for the next time

  1. packing 4Once things are clean and dry, pack them away, preferably in one or a few locations ready to grab & go next time if you can.
  2. Anything you forgot or didn’t have this time that you needed? Follow it up now while the memory is still fresh. Maybe store whatever it is with your other camping items for next time.
  3. Check you have the right number and range of eating and cooking implements and pack them ready for next time. Remember to check there’s a box of matches with enough matches.
  4. What needs to be replaced in your first aid/emergency kit? Restock as needed, and check the expiry on antiseptic, headache and any other medications. It’s usually band aids that disappear first.
  5. Make notes for yourself for things to remember next time.
  6. Tidy up any remaining stuff in the area you dumped all your camping gear when you arrived home.

d. Flake out

You’re fed, watered, everyone has what they need for the next 24 hours and nothing is going to get damaged if you leave it. Be sure to relax a little and have a drink of whatever it is you fancy.  Get a good night’s sleep in the luxury of your own bed. Most of us are pooped after returning from a camping trip, no matter how enjoyable and relaxing it was.  There’s no point becoming so exhausted from unpacking that you need another holiday.

 

Also don’t forget…

Important: As part of the post camping process, notify any person(s) that you left your Personal Itinerary Notification (P.I.N.) details that you are now safely home again.

A post camping checklist, covering the points included above has also been put together by the author and is able to be downloaded from Camping for Women’s free checklists page.

post camping 2

 

Ask Natalie video program for women outdoor adventurers starts today!

Ask Natalie Banner

By Nicole Anderson

If you have seen posts published on Camping for Women’s YouTube, Facebook or Twitter accounts over the past two weeks, you might already have seen the video trailers of the brand new and exciting ‘Ask Natalie’ program.

If you haven’t seen or heard what all the fuss is about yet, then do scroll through this post and have a look at this fabulous and latest development to come onto the scene.

 

So what is ‘Ask Natalie’?

Ask Natalie - Natalie McCarthyAsk Natalie is a dedicated free resource for all women outdoor enthusiasts around the world who are interested is so many aspects of the great outdoors that apply specifically to women.

This program will produce episodes on what women say they want to know more about and directly responds to their desire to have answers to specific questions.

The beautiful thing about this program is that anyone can get their topics or issues addressed and the entire outdoor women community benefits from viewing the responses while getting a lot of valuable insights and information.

 

To give you a bit of a feel of what Ask Natalie is about, check out this 44 second teaser trailer:

 

There is a slightly extended trailer at 77 seconds that has also received a great response:

 

Natalie McCarthy
Natalie McCarthy

About Natalie of ‘Ask Natalie’

Ask Natalie is hosted by Natalie McCarthy who is an experienced outdoor adventurer and happens to also be a licensed clinical psychotherapist.  Hence she is very qualified to assist with all sorts of issues and topics that concern women outdoors.

To further explain the purpose and nature of the show, Natalie shot the following video to provide a welcome and introduction:

 

 

 

The ‘Ask Natalie’ program is based on the successful ‘Ask Natalie’ column that was introduced by the dynamic Adventure Some Women  group website in the U.S. earlier this year.  The column’s popularity has really taken off since its inception with many topics being covered from women expressing the issues important to them.

 

If you have a question or issue you want covered

All you need to do is to send a message to AskNatalieColumn@gmail.com and your email will go directly in Natalie’s inbox.  For reasons of privacy and respect, no one else sees the email or its contents or your email address.

Once Natalie receives a question, she then responds after conducting any related or required research or enquiries.  Each person then receives an emailed response before the issue is covered in the written column or appears on the Ask Natalie program.

Unless individuals specifically state otherwise, each woman’s identity is never revealed and their privacy always professionally respected.  The focus of the program of course is on addressing the topic or issue and offering a number of possible options that women in a similar circumstance can take in these types of situations.

 

 

No Limits

This video program is all about addressing any matters that concern women in the outdoors.  If you have something that is troubling you, or simply want to know more information on a particular subject, then this show is definitely for you.

Not all matters are those that people sometimes feel comfortable in confronting.  Ask Natalie seeks to remove any limitations people might feel go beyond limits of the usual video show.  So long as the matter is genuine and you want an answer, the program does not back away from any issue.  Essentially it is one of the primary reasons the program was established.

Ask Natalie is all about making women feel comfortable in raising issues in a supportive setting and being taken seriously in a helpful, respectful way while maintaining their privacy.

 

 

Grounded in reality

Ask Natalie is a program that is all about ‘keeping it real’.  It is filmed privately by Natalie and not in a commercial studio.

Natalie tackles sometimes tricky or delicate questions in a very practical and down-to-earth way.  The intent here is to offer information that can be useful and provide pointers for viewers to maximise their time outdoors.

 

 

Ways of getting involved

Most people communicate with Natalie via email.  However, aside from emailing written questions, viewers can also explore the option to appear on the show if they wish.  This can be done either by sending in a recorded video via email or skype or even in person if you happen to be in the neighbourhood of Oregon, USA, where Natalie is based.  Using Skype, anyone can get involved on camera.

 

 

Ask Natalie Facebook page

In addition to the new video program and the written column, there is now also a brand new Ask Natalie Facebook page.

The Facebook page is being directly managed by Natalie and it is a great place to share and discuss any matters also with other like-minded women.  All are welcome here.

 

 

Tweeting Ask Natalie episodes and issues

Ask Natalie has also just put together a Twitter page, again being managed directly by Natalie where subscribers, readers and viewers can connect and stay in touch via tweets.

 

 

Who runs the program

Magretha Palepale
Magretha Palepale

The Ask Natalie Program is a joint venture between Adventure Some Women (run by the charismatic Magretha “Mo” Palepale ) and Camping for Women.  Both Magretha (Mo) Palepale and Nicole Anderson are the program’s producers.

This program is being produced and shared weekly on the Camping for Women Channel hosted on YouTube.  The dedicated playlist for Ask Natalie is set up within the Channel where a new episode will be added each week.  The playlist which has just commenced can be seen by clicking here.

 

 

Ask Natalie episodes have now started

The first episode was just posted in the Ask Natalie playlist today.  The first topic that is being addressed is the stigma associated with older people being on the trails.  Check out this very first episode here:

 

 

This is just the first of many episodes to come.  Next week’s episode deals with ‘finding a crew’ which is responding to a question about how to connect with other like-minded women to adventure with who also love the outdoors.

The topics and issues that will be covered in upcoming episodes are as broad as they will be interesting.  With no issue being off limits, there is bound to be some fascinating discussion and information that will be covered.

 

So come join us and don’t miss out!

Make sure you subscribe to the free Ask Natalie program videos being hosted on the Camping for Women Channel.

You will immediately be notified each week as a new episode is posted and you can even raise your own issues as well.

To get subscribed, just click on this link to the Channel and hit the subscribe button, following any prompts.

 

I am so excited to be a part of this fabulous program and hope to see many of Camping for Women’s subscribers, visitors and readers enjoy and benefit from the program as well.

Best wishes to all

Nicole Anderson

 

Three ways to enjoy Natural Bridge Campground in Oregon

Natural Bridge Campground 1

By Rita Myers

I think there’s something extremely magical about the world around us that it never seems to run out of beautiful places to see or exciting things to do. Just when you think you’ve “seen it all,” a new thing comes along to surprise you.

That’s how I felt when my family and I first set foot in Natural Bridge Campground in Oregon.

Oregon is filled with an incredible landscape of mountains, lush forests, extensive farms, crystal blue coastal shorelines, and stunning beaches. It is one of the places in the US that I consider an outdoor haven.

Whenever we visit this Pacific Northwestern state, we make sure to visit Natural Bridge. It is a great place full of fun outdoor activities that’s perfect for the family.

I’ll be giving you a list of three things that you can do in Natural Bridge Campground.

 

AT A GLANCE: NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND OREGON

NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND

 

THINGS TO DO AT NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND

  1. Enjoy The Water
  2. Explore The Mountains
  3. Erase Your Troubles

 

CONCLUSION

 

NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND

Natural Bridge Campground 5
Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Southern Oregon in Fall

 

The Natural Bridge Campground is located in the High Cascades District, and it rests beside the beautiful Rogue River in southwestern Oregon. The river flows 215 miles west from the Cascade Range to the Pacific Ocean.

The river is very popular with lots of different campsites positioned along it, including Natural Bridge.

What I love about Natural Bridge Campground is that it is very simple, not crowded, and huge – and I mean, huge. The fact that 17 campsites fit inside Natural Bridge should be a pretty good indicator of just how big it really is.

 

THINGS TO DO AT NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND

There are a few activities that you can do in the campgrounds. Here are three things my family and I enjoy doing while we are in Natural Bridge Campground.

1. ENJOY THE WATER

Natural Bridge Campground 6
Water Falls on Upper Rogue River in Oregon.

 

Since the campground is found along the Rogue River, it’s only natural to take a dip in it. A great way you and your family can enjoy Rogue River is through boating, kayaking, or rafting.

The river encircles the entire campground, so you won’t run out of space even if there are a lot of people.

The waters in the Upper Rogue River are stronger, which is where you can do your rafting. You can rent out boats, paddles, and life jackets from the staff there.

RAFTING TIPS: Remember your safety when rafting! Dress appropriately, always wear your life jacket or flotation device, hold the paddle properly, stay in the boat, listen to your guide, and don’t panic!

There’s a pretty cool video of some visitors rafting through Rogue River and Natural Bridge. Check it out below!

 

 

If you have your own fishing poles, you can go fishing in the river.  The water is calm by the main area of the campground where a lot of rainbow trout like to hang out.

Whenever we are here, my husband loves to teach our sons how to fish by the river while I prepare our picnic or relax in the water.

If extreme watersports or fishing isn’t your sort of thing, you can always just go swimming instead.

But since I love all of you and love sharing all my experiences with the outdoors, I’ll let you in on a secret. What my family and I like to do is bring our own inflatables like a swim ring, floating seats, and floating beds.

Since the water near the main part of the campsite is calm, it’s a great place to just lay back, float around, and relax.

 

2. EXPLORE THE MOUNTAIN

 

Natural Bridges Campground 4

I’m a strong believer that a camping trip isn’t complete if you don’t go exploring the surrounding mountains or forest through hiking, climbing, or even biking.

In Natural Bridge Campground, you’ll find mountains on both sides of the river that are trail-less and great for hiking or climbing. Of course, there is a trail you can take as well, but sometimes I like to explore other areas.

The hiking loop around the river is an easy one that’s great for kids or beginners. Despite the fact that most of the trail is near the river, it’s eerily peaceful and quiet while you walk through the trail.

One of the reasons why I love hiking is that it helps me clear my mind. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than spending time staring out into the wilderness and just silencing my mind, even for just a few moments.

If you’re curious as to how the trail looks at Natural Bridge, you can check out this short video.

 

Since the campground is really huge, you can also go biking. Besides fishing with their dad, my sons enjoy biking in the campgrounds. But bring your own bike because there aren’t any for rent.

 

IMPORTANT REMINDER: There are no garbage cans in the campgrounds. So if you see any trash while out in the trail, please pick it up and take it with you. The same goes for your own trash – keep it until you find proper disposals.

 

3. ERASE YOUR TROUBLES

Natural Bridge Campground 2

 

If you really think about the reason people go out camping in the first place, it’s probably because they want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life or the stresses of being an adult.

Natural Bridge Campgrounds can provide you a place where you can erase your troubles by simply relaxing.

This is also a perfect place to go out on a retreat because the campground offers both single and group tents. There are also picnic tables and fire pits for you to cook your fresh catch of fish.

This means it’s also a great place for a group of friends. You can grill some burgers, enjoy a bottle of beer, and play some camping drinking games by the fire. Really, the place is great for anyone.

 

CONCLUSION

 

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The Rogue River near the Natural Bridge

If you want to spend some quiet time with nature or to hang out by a river, the Natural Bridge Campgrounds in Oregon is the place to go.

There is nothing better than watching your sons fish with their dad, or spend time sharing stories with your friends around a campfire.

Even though there isn’t a load of activities to do in Natural Bridge compared to other campgrounds, it’s still a great place to go where you can enjoy the river, explore the mountains, and erase your troubles.

 

 

If you’ve enjoyed this list, feel free to share it with your friends! If you’ve visited Natural Bridge Campground lately, tell me how it went, I’d love to hear from you!

As always, stay safe and have a happy adventure!