Friday, May 30, 2014

Bad news (updated)

I haven't wanted to post it yet because I don't want to jinx another trip.  However, it looks like I have found a substitute for the WY trip and it should be just as crazy awesome.  I need to get my physical this weekend though and have that approved and then sort out some flight plans.  Fingers crossed!! ;)


Found out a couple days ago that my WY trip, that I'm so looking forward to, was cancelled. Not enough enrollment. Except now the alternatives are either booked up or don't work with my dates. I'm trying to find something that will work in my calendar. A little disappointed with the first fork in the road of my gap year. Guess I shouldn't complain though. Maybe I will find something that fits just as well. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Navigation and new (used) gear

Last Sunday I took a class from REI about navigation basics with a map and compass. It was at Blackwell Forest Preserve - McKee Marsh in the western suburbs of Chicago. There were eight of us with two instructors who had a lot of experience in the back country. We got topographic maps of the preserve/marsh and a basic Burton compass. We hiked a trail towards Mt Hoy and used the maps to keep track of our location (although the trail was pretty self evident). We learned to read the symbols on the map and the best way to measure your distance (with a string). 

We got up to Mt Hoy (around 850' I think) and scoped out the area. It was a beautiful day and we could see the top of the Sears (Willis) tower. I forgot to take a picture of course. We headed back down and had our packed lunches. Then we went over some compass basics and headed back up the "mountain". From there we learned how to get bearings from the map and use the compass to point ourselves in the right direction. We also practiced getting bearings from objects we could see and find ourselves on the map. 

It was pretty neat to figure out and an inexpensive tool compared to GPS. I'll need to keep practicing my skills. 

When I was at my parents' house, my mom also found in our attic some old camping cookware of my aunt's when she was a Campfire Girl. Very random, as we aren't sure how it got to our house. But she's agreed to let me borrow it and I'm pretty excited!

Yesterday I stopped at REI on my way home and got some new boots as well. For my trip in Wyoming I need good hiking boots and was given a list of specific brands and models. They helped me out and did a good job with the up sale. I'm a proud new owner of some Asolo hiking boots. They are leather and pretty stiff but should last me forever I'm thinking :). I took them for their first hike when I got home and we went to the back pasture with Sadie. It was a good time and no blisters on our short trip. Sadie loved the water!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Practice camping

I did a bunch of research the last few months and purchased my first backpacking tent (2-person), sleeping bag and sleeping pad.  These seemed to be the key essentials as I already have a backpack. I had some gift cards and coupon codes to burn through, so I feel like I got good value for my money. 

As each one came in the mail, I got a little more excited.  I put the tent up at home in my living room with barely enough space - just to see how easy it would be to put up.  :)

Friday was my real test.  Team GU lent me their backyard to spend a practice night pitching the tent, sleeping in the tent and taking it all down in the morning.  I am pleased to say it went pretty well!  Clearly not the same as my bed, slightly stiff in the morning, but I slept really well (I generally don't have issues sleeping through the night).  I love waking up to the sun rather than the alarm clock - even if that means it is early for a Saturday morning (around 5ish).  This also resulted in a three hour nap in the afternoon!

Here are some pics:

New tent from LL Bean - I decided on the 2-man so I'd have a little extra room and if anyone does want to join me we can sequeeze in.

Zipperless sleeping bag from Sierra Designs - super excited about this one! I like to curl up and roll over and this bag made that so easy.  I hope it holds up as well in colder weather.  I was toasty all night and even a bit warm when I woke up to the 52 degrees this morning. There's even a vent in the bottom to pop your feet out. 

Things I learned include location, location, location :).  The yard has a slight slant but slight is enough I realized. My head was initially lower and it felt like too much blood to my head. I swapped positions but I could still feel a tendency to roll too much one way. Not enough to mess with my sleep but I'll try better for flat next time. The rain fly over the tent was wet with condensation in the morning. I had to be careful getting out and not get drops of water on everything. Same when taking down the tent. Forgot my earplugs. The birds in the morning probably had me awake before the sun was really up. I didn't use the guy lines. I need to figure out how to do that. I also need to stake out the tent better to keep it taught. One side got a little droopy. And a pillow would be nice to have although my extra clothes packed in a bag served the purpose. 

Practice camping a success! I learned some things and had a great time on my makeshift slumber party. 

*sidenote - I got my motorcycle saftey class certificate in the mail.  Hoping I can get my M class license soon and maybe a new bike for my birthday this month!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Back to (outdoor) school

The perfect picture in my head is me with my backpack for 3-4 days at a time, hiking short trails and sleeping under the stars in some of our great national and state parks. Of course this hope will probably be dashed with the realities of Mother Nature: wind, rain, sun, bugs, bears, getting lost, sleeping on a rock, no toilet (or paper), finding water, dirt, body odor and all sorts of fun stuff :)

So trying to be a little wiser in my delayed gap year, I'm going to outdoor school! It's a program with National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). It seems pretty legit - you can get college course credits for their programs. I'm doing 2 weeks in the Wind River Wilderness in western Wyoming. 

We will hike about 40 miles at elevations of 8,000 - 12,000 feet. There are maximum 12 students and 2 instructors with an average age of 35. We will learn to lead the group, navigate, maybe some fly fishing and I'm assuming a lot of the basics about tent living that I just don't know that I don't know yet. I am excited but am sure it will be quite the challenge. I'm hoping there are some other cubicle transplants there so I'm not the only one :)! #prepareperu

I start class July 27th and there are no electronics allowed. It will be quite the change! I plan to drive out and back and visit some friends and family along the way. I'm looking forward to seeing Julie in Memphis (we started work together and spent 2 weeks travelling Greece together in 2006). Then to see Stephanie in her new home in Kansas City (my Singapore travel buddy), or if not there, join her and Cindy (an almost reunion of our NYE girls group) for a night at the frozen tundra chalet in Colorado before I head on to Wyoming. On the way home, I'll make my way via Des Moines and visit Curtis and Emily (my future sister-in-law) before getting back to Mom & Dad's (my new home base) and prepare for the next adventure!

Here is the current plan for my route. I welcome anyone to join along the way (can always get a hotel room) or let me know if I'll be passing near you and I can stop in to say hi.