Located in one of my FAVORITE outdoor places in Michigan — Ludington State Park — the Jack Pines Hike-In Campground is one of my favorite beginner backpacking sites. It's located just on the other side of the dunes of Lake Michigan, so at night you can fall asleep to the sound of waves. There's a pit toilet and water pump, and many of the sites have picnic tables, which is nice when you're first starting out.
In order to get to the campground (it's nestled inside the state park), you need to hike a mile in with your gear — the perfect distance to get away from all the crowds at Ludington (at least in the summer). However, you need to reserve your site ahead of time, so make sure you get online early. Once you're there, there are miles and miles of beautiful hiking trails to explore. Plus, if you wimp out and get hungry for some restaurant food, the beautiful town of Ludington isn't too far a drive!
Sand Lakes Quiet Area
The best thing about Sand Lakes is that it's not that well known — so if you're looking to get away from the backpacking crowds (yes, there is such a thing), consider Sand Lakes Quiet Area.
One thing I do warn visitors is that, as late as fall of 2017, the water pump was broken at the "campground" (really it's just a collection of worn spots & a pit toilet next to a marshy lake), so you need to be prepared to get water from the lake. And like I said, the lake is surrounded by mud and cattails, which makes getting the water into your filtering system a little tricky (but it can be done). Just be prepared!
But there's great hiking in the surrounding area, and if you decide you really only want to do one night in the "wilderness" there's a state campground (Guernsey Lake State Forest Campground) nearby that's really nice and hardly ever full.
Manistee River Loop
Because of its incredible popularity — and the damage that's resulted from that popularity — apparently local Michigan Hiking & Backpacking Meetups have officially stopped mentioning or promoting the Manistee River Loop to new backpackers. There's been too much trash, too many people driving in on old logging roads with their pickup trucks and beer coolers.
But I figure it's not the trail's fault people are destructive assholes! So I say go try it (though read up on it first). It's one of the best loops in Michigan, offering the perfect weekend trip for women who are beginners, with beautiful views and close proximity to civilization so you don't have to feel so remote..
Pro Tip: Plan on spending the night on the east side of the river — suitable campsites are few and far between on the west side.
Waterloo Pickney Trail
"Waterloo-Pinckney Trail is a 33.9 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Grass Lake, Michigan that features a lake and is good for all skill levels," says AllTrails.com. This is the only trail on the list that I have very limited experience with, but I wanted to add something for east-siders to visit. This trail is one-way, so you'll need to have two cars or some way to get back to your vehicle from the starting point. Do your research on which section of the trail you'd like to attempt — because 34 miles is NOT for beginners!
South Manitou Island
If you have to choose between North Manitou Island and South Manitou Island (you can reach them both via the Manitou Island Transit), newbie backpackers should opt for the latter — South has many more amenities such as bathrooms and water pumps. My husband has taken his three teenage boys camping on South Manitou twice, and both times they've had great experiences .
When you feel ready & have some experience under your belot, come back and visit North Manitou Island — it's one of my most favorite places on earth. Peaceful, gorgeous sunsets, and it's just remote enough to feel like you're really getting away from the world..
One of the most gorgeous natural ecosystems in Michigan, Nordhouse Dunes is a National Forest and a very popular place for backpacking, since it offers dispersed camping along the shores of Lake Michigan. Most seasoned backpackers avoid the location since in summers it fills up with college students dragging giant coolers of beer (there's no one as dedicated as a college boy with his beer). But if you can get there early and claim your secluded spot — the dunes offer a lot of privacy if you do it right — the views and the hikes are incredible.
Your own backyard
If you're nervous about backpacking, one of the best places to start is your backyard, or even a local park. BUT DON'T STAY IN CITY PARKS OVERNIGHT. Just set up your gear, maybe even cook a meal using your stove to get a feel for what it's like. Lie in your tent and smile and sigh, and imagine what it would be like to leave it all behind and do some serious shinrin-yoku. It's a great first step toward getting comfortable and feeling safe with the idea of backpacking.
Seasoned backpackers — what are your tips for newbies? Leave them in the comments below.
5 Reasons to Read: Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr
It's unclear as to how I first came across Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr. I want to say it was through the Women At Work podcast (another HIGHLY recommended resource) but I can't be sure.
However it just showed up in my life (just before the holidays in 2018), it's now been kicking around in my head ever since. I've bought four additional hard copies from my local bookstore (Books and Mortar!) to give away to friends. I've also downloaded the audiobook so I could listen to it again and again while driving or getting ready in the morning (more on this later).
This book has significantly changed how I think about my goals, my interactions with others, what I feel called to do professionally and how I frame professional and personal challenges.
So it makes sense I want to share it with as many women as possible!
(DISCLAIMER: Other than Amazon's standard affiliate payout if you buy the book through my links — which isn't much — I'm not getting paid anything to hype this book. It's just that good.)
So here they are — Five reasons to read Playing Big:
Reason 1: Call a staff meeting with the voices in your head.
There are lots of pervasive, cultural roadblocks that hold women back — a long history of gender discrimination and lack of access to resources are two that immediately come to mind — so many of which are out of our control. What's nice about Mohr's book is that she gives back some control to women in the forms of voices that are already talking in our heads. That's where your inner critic and inner mentor come in (the first two chapters of the book).
Mohr is the first person (resource?) to give me a clear, tactical roadmap on how to best deal with my inner critic. As women, we've been raised with certain ideas about how the world works, and those ideas and perspectives are so ingrained into our thinking that it's extremely difficult to overcome — even if those ideas and perspectives are flat out wrong (not to mention mean!).
In a nutshell, here's what she helped me do:
Many women say the inner mentor work is some of the most powerful work they've done, and for me, it was worth the price of the book.
"Playing big doesn’t come from working more, pushing harder, or finding confidence," said Mohr. "It comes from listening to the most powerful and secure part of you, not the voice of self-doubt."
Reason 2: Name and own your fear
Chapter 3, "A Very New Old Way of Looking at Fear" uses two Hebrew terms for fear which has been extremely helpful for me to name and identify my feelings of anxiety when it comes to taking risks:
You really need to read the book to get the whole explanation, because I can't do it justice, but I know that by being able able to look at fear differently, I have been able to make stronger, more confident decisions (plus help council my friends and students on how to move past the things that scare them).
"That’s the problem with pachad—it fires way too frequently, often simply in an attempt to protect us from emotional risks that we don’t really need (or want) to be protected from. When we feel pachad, we need to work on shifting away from responding out of fear so that pachad doesn’t dictate our actions."
Reason 3: Take the Leap
A lot women I know (who admittedly are mostly white and upper-middle class) are control freaks. Certainly I am. So often when our jobs, relationships, health, spaces and families feel out of our control, we desperately try to lock down and manage the chaos so we feel less anxious about it.
But often that control shows up as hiding and stalling: Saying we're not ready, that we need to get more money or education (that's a BIG one — check out this NY Times Opinion Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office for more on how women often use education as a sort of shield against playing bigger).
"The antidote to all that hiding and stalling is a special kind of action called a leap," says Mohr. This chapter took some time to really sink in for me. On some levels I'm good at leaping, but if I'm honest with myself, most of my "leaps" are pretty safe. Mohr has said that many women end up reading the book more than once (*hand raised*) and the chapters that resonated the first time through are different than the second time. Chapter 7 definitely felt this way to me.
"Leaping changes your concept of self from I want to be a woman who . . . to This is who I am."
Reason 4: Let yourself off the hook.
As a writer, Chapter 4, "Unhooking From Praise and Criticism" resonated so strongly with me I kept listening and reading it over and over again, each time amazed at what new thing I learned and absorbed.
In this chapter Mohr talks about her personal experience of growing up being praised as for her writing skills, but then later on became so paralyzed by praise and criticism she had to stop.
As Mohr grew older she started to become obsessed with getting praise for her work, while at the same time going to great lengths to avoid even the most constructive criticism. Her writing process became so fraught with anxiety that she stopped writing entirely for seven whole years. This follows my own path so closely that I fell to my knees in the shower listening to Mohr speak about it. I'd never realized how much being hooked into praise and criticism held me back.
As an entrepreneur, writer and even professor, I am forced to deal with criticism all the time. And yet I still hate it. I often avoid reading student feedback because I can't stand the feelings that are wrapped up with their comments. This chapter really helped me reframe praise and criticism so that I could actually benefit from reading feedback.
"Playing big is a kind of bold and free motion, and both the fear of criticism and seeking of praise limit that movement. When we are petrified of criticism or are in need of constant approval, we simply can’t play big. We can’t innovate, share controversial ideas, or pursue our unique paths."
Reason 5: Easy is the new hard.
Mohr's advice in Chapter 10 is a breath of fresh air. As women, we are always striving, always working so damn hard to prove we're okay, that we're good enough (if you struggle with this, you should check out Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, another book which changed my life). Being everything to everyone is really, really hard work.
Mohr gives us several other ways to frame and think about our goals, so that goal-setting feels less like a burden and more natural, more fulfilling, more in service to both ourselves and the world.
“I’ve come to know, in my own life, and in the lives of the women I work with," says Mohr, "that where we think we need more self-discipline, we usually need more self-love — not just self-love as an attitude, but self-love manifested through the routines and rituals that we set up to enable the changes we desire to happen naturally and with ease.”
"We want to set up plans for action that work for 'the most exhausted version of ourselves' not an idealized version of ourselves."
Have you read Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr? Are there other books you've read that you've found helpful in your journey to more fully step into your life? Leave your comments below!
Like what you've read? Do me a solid and share it with your networks.
We all need a little moral support these days, especially those of us who would like to read more but simply can't seem to find the time.
Whatever it is that's sucking up your your time to read — kids, work, lack of sleep or just the constant, general effort it takes to keep from veering into chaos — I hope these quotes inspire you to take a little time for some self-care and pick up your next great read.
A few weeks ago, an article showed up in my newsfeed from our local newspaper:
Winter river rafting is a 'magical experience;' here's where to do it in Michigan.
Before I'd even read the whole thing, I immediately texted my group of outdoorsy girlfriends:
"OUR BUCKET LIST JUST GOT LONGER."
Two weeks later, after a flurry of texts, emails and Facebook messages, I hopped into an inflatable boat on the ice-crusted, fast-flowing Jordan River.
Don't you just love it when plans come together quickly?
Much of the trip credit goes to Lisa, who both organized the outing and took the fabulous photos in this post. Usually I'm the one who does the organizing so it was great that Lisa took over the role. Thanks Lisa!
Winter river rafting: It's either not as bad as you think, or way more awesome than you think.
Many people think that getting into a boat while there's ice and snow around is a dangerous proposition.
I'm here to tell you: It's not.
At least it isn't in Michigan. If anything, floating down a river in winter was more relaxing than doing it in the summer. There's almost zero chance of you getting wet, much less of tipping over; and there's no other people on the river ruining your peace and quiet with their loud music and cursing (or occasionally, having sex).
In the winter, everything is more beautiful, more peaceful, more amazing. We saw deer, another group just behind us saw a beaver, and everything was so quiet. The only thing that could have made this trip better was if the sun was shining, but those of us in the upper midwest know that you have to take what you can get when it comes to weather.
Winter rafting rules
There are a few rafting rules in the winter that are different than the summer. If you can understand and follow them, then you'll be just fine.
1. Watch for low-hanging branches.
Unlike the summer, where the river is regularly cleared of fallen trees and limbs, the winter river is a bit more cluttered. Your guide should warn you of these (ours was named Al and he made dad jokes and looked a bit like Gandalf), or, you can just see them yourself and duck. Duck LOW. Like, lie in the lap of the person next you — a great way to build trust and camaraderie..
One of the women in our group did manage to get a small cut on her face when some ice slid off a branch. But she loved it. The rest of us were actually jealous. Like three different people tried to give her a bandaid and she refused. She said she wanted to casually bring it up on Monday's staff meeting ("Now next up is the marketing budget, but before we move on does anyone think that with this head wound I should be making any big decisions...?")
2. The river runs faster in the winter.
Because the riverbanks freeze before the middle of the river, you'll find winter river rafting moves very quickly — basically the whole current is funneled into the middle. So what may have taken you an leisurely hour and a half in August will take about half the time in February. The good news is that there isn't much paddling to do (your guide will do most of it, asking for a little help every once in awhile) so you can sit back and enjoy the view.
3. The trips don't run if the river is frozen.
Up until the day before our trip we weren't sure we were going to get to do it. Our guide service, the awesome Jordan Valley Outfitters, can't run the trips unless the river is wide enough to get the inflatable boats through (the boats are the same as what they use in Colorado). We had just experienced a very extreme polar vortex in Michigan, and so most of us had our money on the trip being cancelled. But it warmed up just in time.
In summary, if you can watch out for branches, not freak out at a fast current and the river hasn't iced over, you're all set to have an amazing adventure.
This is actually the fourth rule, but it's so important I made it its own heading.
Everyone I told beforehand about my plans had the same facial expression: The "You're-going-to-freeze-your-ass-off" face.
They weren't wrong. But they weren't exactly right either.
To explain, here's what I wore (with tips on how it was awesome OR how I should've known better):
The details of the trip
The trip started at the JV Outfitters headquarters, where we paid $40 each and boarded a bus with about 10 other people at 1:30pm. Dan & Melanie, who manage the shop, run the trips on weekends every four hours or so. It was about a ten minute ride to where we "put in," and we all grabbed a Personal Floatation Device (the outfitter actually laughed when Lisa asked about her "PDF" — which is another thing entirely!) from the back of our bus seats as we headed down to the river.
We had five women in our group, so we got our own boat. We listened to a quick safety briefing, then headed down to the river to get into our boat.
The float begins
I was a little nervous about getting into the raft; as a kid, I had a traumatic river accident with a friend, and so I've always been just a tad anxious when it comes to float trips, even in the summer. But it was as easy as a one-two quick step into the boat. We settled in and pushed off, and headed down the river.
It wasn't long before we came to our first tree and had to crouch down and hold our arms over our heads so that the branches wouldn't swipe our hats from our heads. In fact, the only person to lose something was our guide! But he deftly plucked his hat out of the river with his paddle.
The river flowed quickly around corners and we bumped into rocks and turned around backwards several times, but it was all very chill (ha). Someone said it felt a little like bumper cars. We all marveled at the scenery and the way the snow was untouched in the woods. We saw deer bounding off into the forest at several points (apparently we just missed seeing a beaver, though we saw plenty of sticks that the beaver left behind). Sometimes, when Al asked, we would paddle to help get the boat pointed in the right direction. But mostly we spent the time alternating between taking photos and ducking under tree limbs.
A treat at the end
An hour and a half later (or a bit less), we arrived at the end point. It was just as easy getting out of the boat as it was getting in, much to my relief. We headed up to the bus where there was hot cocoa and "river rocks" — a sort of local sugar cookie-type of treat — waiting for us. We chatted with the others in our group while everyone took turns pouring hot cocoa for each other (they also had hot cider if you wanted it) and comparing notes on our trips.
Do it. Do it now.
If you get the chance, you should try winter river rafting. I'm not sure you need to do it more than once, unless the first time you don't have much snow. You can even do it with the family or as a birthday or bachelorette party. The pictures are amazing, and besides — you've probably done all the skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking at some point — so why not try something new?
Like what you read? Do me a solid & share it!
"Women, books & the outdoors will save the world."
I first wrote the above sentence as Outdoor Book Club's "manifesto" back in 2015, a year and a half after I'd first stepped out onto the trail at Blandford Nature Center with 10 women, almost all of whom were strangers, on a freezing cold January day:
This photo was taken before I launched the website, before I'd met hundreds of women who also loved the outdoors and books, before I won a bunch of money to start a travel business in a 2014 business plan competition.
But the most important thing this photo represents?
The beginning of an amazing friendship with some of the women in the photo, whom I met for the first time that day.
On New Year's Resolutions
More and more, I notice people no longer set New Year's resolutions and instead pick a yearly word (or words) to live by. One friend picked the word "Adventure" a few years back, but found that 12 months of constant activity was exhausting. Not all the adventures she encountered were good ones. The next she picked joy. That seemed to work better. This year she chose “Engage.”
I love author and spiritual badass Danielle LaPorte. Whenever she comes out with a new book or planner I try to support her work through buying one, but frankly, I keep returning to her book The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals With Soul for inspiration (The Fire Starter Sessions is also really, really good.)
In the book, LaPorte suggests setting goals by how you want to feel. The feeling(s) are the goal. That way, there's room for moving and wiggling — if you want to feel “accomplished,” it doesn't really matter if you get the corner suite or lose 15 pounds, either way, you're a winner. You've reached your goal.
What does it look like in action?
Every year I have to think long and hard about which feelings I want to focus on. This year, after weeks of ruminating, I think I know what those words are. She suggests 2-4 words. I picked four words, but really they are two sets of two words; they work together.
CREATE and CONNECT
In 2015 I had to give up Outdoor Book Club, or at least the business model that I was operating it under. I couldn't do the guided trips anymore — not only did they suck the life out of me, doing all the prep, the marketing, providing the gear, agenda planning, making reservations, figuring out meals — they simply weren't profitable. I couldn't support my family emotionally or financially.
Four years later, it feels right to relaunch Outdoor Book Club as a movement. I’ve seen first hand how powerfully the combination of books and the outdoors resonates with women.
What does that mean?
It means I want to CREATE conversations around books, nature and women. And those conversations lead women to CONNECT.
Outdoor Book Club, in 2019 and beyond, needs to be about creativity and connection. If I'm not focusing on activities that do either of those things, then I know I'm focusing on the wrong things.
GRACE and GRITIn her book Grace (Eventually) Anne Lamott describes GRACE (which also happens to be my daughter's name) as "A ribbon of mountain air that gets in through the cracks.” She adds, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
I think of grace as "a proactive acceptance, love and caring for our fellow human beings — and ourselves.”
Grace often shows up in my life as:
Which brings us to GRIT.
I've been a fan of researcher Angela Duckworth's book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance for awhile — it uses actual data to help us learn how to be better people. While I can spend all my time trying to forgive myself and quiet my inner critic, I also need the grit to push through and meet my goals. Yes, it’s hard to keep pushing. No, we often don’t want to take one more exhausting step forward. But are we capable of hiking up our proverbial skirts and pushing forward anyway? Yes.
The answer is almost always yes.
Grace & grit: the peanut butter and chocolate of self-improvement.
The future of Outdoor Book Club
So if you've been with me from the beginning (and not just the beginning of this piece — though congrats if you just showed up here, started reading and are not at the end!), if you started watching or reading or following OBC way back in 2013 when I first conceived the idea, thank you. My gratitude is unbounded.
(If you actually went on a trip & endured my bumbling and scrambling event planning skills and still managed to have a great time, THANK YOU. Years later, I'm still inspired by your passion and commitment to books and the outdoors.)
If you're new around here, WELCOME. I'm so glad you're here. If you like what you see here and want to keep up with what's going on, stop by and follow/like the Outdoor Book Club Facebook page.
Here’s what you can expect going forward:
Also, what words will you be living by this year? Let me know so I can send some good vibes your way, or create something that might help you along your journey, or connect you with a person or resource that can help.
And of course I'll do it with creativity and connection; grace and grit. Because women, books & the outdoors will save the world.
Jill Hinton Wolfe
Chief Heroine, Outdoor Book Club
P.S. Please share Outdoor Book Club with a woman you love! Sign up for our newsletter, share the manifesto to your social media feed or join the online OBC community. We can't start a movement without an army of women's strength, grace and beauty behind it!
I'm taking a poll: How many of you believe in reading the book BEFORE you watch the movie? I ALWAYS believed in watching the movie first. Until recently.
Now, I think it actually makes MORE sense to save the more satisfying experience — reading the book — for last. When compared to the book, most movies are flat, boring. But something very cools happens when you watch the movie, THEN read the book: the book comes alive more fully and you're more engaged with it as you read.
Two personal examples are Game of Thrones (great series, even better books) and Dumplin by Julie Murphy. Both of them were pretty good on the screen, but once I read the books after watching them, I got pulled in with all sorts of nuance and depth that I hadn't gotten with the movie.
Just another perspective to consider.
In any case, there are a lot of great movies out there to inspire your outdoor adventures, or just inspire you to live more boldly in your everyday life. As of this posting, they were all either free or under $5.99, which is a pretty good deal for a couple hours of uplift and inspiration. Many of them I'd even encourage you to watch with your daughters.
So how do you feel about reading the book before the movie? Were there any movies I left off my list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
1. Bird Box (Netflix)
Ok, so this may not be one to watch with your kids. This is the thriller everyone was talking about around the holidays 2018. We watched this movie on Christmas Day, and it was a doozy — Sandra Bullock's character was flawed, but incredibly strong. Also starring John Malkovich, much of this thriller was filmed on the Smith River in northern California. Watch Birdbox on Netflix
2. Wild (Amazon)
This movie — and the book (Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) that inspired it — inspired a thousand women to get out on the trail and deal with their own ghosts and insecurities. Reese Witherspoon received an Academy Award nomination for her performance. Highly recommended. Watch Wild on Amazon
3. Losing Sight of Shore (Netflix)
Over nine months at sea, four women row over 8,000 miles from America to Australia. This documentary shows the beauty and disappointment that comes along with taking on a really, really big goal. It was so uplifting to see a group of strong women working together and supporting each other to reach that goal. Watch Losing Sight of Shore on Netflix
4. Maidentrip (Amazon)
A 13 year old Dutch girl sails the world by herself. Most of us can't imagine letting our daughters take on such an adventure, but watching Laura Dekker navigate the world on her sailboat is both touching and nerve-wracking. A great film to watch with your daughter. Watch Maidenhead on Amazon
5. Blood Road (Amazon Prime)
A documentary film that follows the journey of mountain biker, Rebecca Rusch, and her Vietnamese riding partner Huyen Nguyen as they bike the Ho Chi Minh trail, searching for the site where Rusch's father's plane went down during the Vietnam War. As a former mountain biker, there are few things as thrilling as watching women tear down a mountain, leaping into the air, and the emotional storyline of the movie just adds to that excitement. Watch Blood Road on Amazon
6. Intersection: Micayla Gatto (Vimeo)
Sponsored by Red Bull films, this short documentary is about a champion mountain biker who also happens to be a painter. Mountain biking + art = amazing things. Watch Intersection on Vimeo
7. Tracks (Amazon)
A young woman leaves her urban life to trek through the sprawling Australian desert with her camels. — another movie that was inspired by a book (Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback). The movie stars Adam Driver, who's one of my most favorite actors. Watch Tracks on Amazon Prime
8. The Journey of Natty Gann (Amazon)
I LOVED this movie as a kid, which probably dates me but I don't care. A girl and her wolf (YES) trek across the country during the depression in an attempt to find her father who left her behind to find work. Also stars a young John Cusak, whom I also love. Watch The Journey of Natty Gann on Amazon
9. Women In Fire (YouTube)
Ok, this isn't really a movie at seven minutes long, but if you're short on time, I highly recommend this short documentary sponsored by REI. It features women forest firefighters, and it's pretty impressive. REI Presents: Women In Fire
10. Mulan (Amazon)
Every budding feminist should watch this classic Disney film about a young Japanese girl who poses to be a man to help defend her family and her home against the invading Huns. Also, an amazing soundtrack to work out to! Watch Mulan on Netflix
What am I missing? What's your favorite inspirational film that gets you excited about camping, hiking & backpacking?
I was alone on the Manistee River Loop, rain driving hard on my tent, which was propped up with the wrong tent poles. My last-minute, makeshift campsite was perched perilously on the edge of a rushing river while thunder and lightning crashed all around me. My husband had only the vaguest idea of where I was. I had no cell phone signal, but even if I did, it wouldn't have helped me because I ran out of battery hours before. All I had was my dog, my book and no other choice but to sit and wait it out.
All because I made several mistakes that were completely avoidable.
Thank god our mistakes often end up being our biggest teachers — that night may have been the biggest learning experience of my life. What could have been a disaster actually showed me how strong I really was.
BUT that doesn't mean you can't avoid the same stupid, rookie mistakes I made. I don't want you to suffer the same kind experience needlessly! (Trust me, you'll have plenty of your own suffering to navigate on the trail, one way or another — but in some ways, that's why we do it, right?). So here are nine mistakes to avoid that will help you feel more comfortable, more safe and more capable while hiking (especially if you hike alone).
1. Break in your shoes.
I’ve struggled my whole life with finding the right hiking boots or shoes. Come to find out, experts recommend that you buy your shoes a half or whole size bigger than your normal shoe size. Although normally I wear a size 10, I just bought a new pair of Oboz Bridgers in a size 11 (that’s right, I’ve got giant feet) and it seems to have made an enormous difference. Apparently your feet can swell, especially in the afternoon and/or second half of your hike, so getting them a bit bigger significantly reduces wear & tear on your toes & heels.
That being said, when I was backpacking Isle Royale with six other women in 2014, I noticed that the women with the fewest blisters (and I had A LOT of blisters!) were those who wore running shoes. Hiking boots can often be heavy and clunky, so it just may be that your feet do better in running shoes than hiking boots. This may be especially true for shorter hikes. Experiment and see what works for you.
Whatever you do, do NOT wear new shoes or boots when going on a long hike! Recovering from blisters and lost toenails takes too long, so wear your new kicks first around the house or on a few dog walks before taking them out on the trail.
2. Dress like a rockstar.
And I don't mean leather pants. Instead, layering plenty of Lycra and poly-blend materials will definitely keep you more comfortable on the trail. For those of us who suffer from chafing or sweaty boobs and thighs, this rule is huge. Leave behind your heavy denim jeans and cotton bras. You need synthetic fabrics to be comfortable.
Synthetic materials allow your sweat to be “wicked” away from your body (apparently clothing is the only time anyone uses the word “wick”). Otherwise you’ll be peeling your clammy, sweat-soaked clothes off your body, and no one wants that. Plus it’s just unhygienic. Sweaty clothes stuck to your skin is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
When I was first starting out, I found it helpful to hear what other women recommended, so here is what I wear: I really like these leggings (with pockets!) for hiking, along with a “technical” short or long-sleeve t-shirt and a merino wool pullover. My clothes are dry and breathable so now I can focus on enjoying the woods and looking for wildlife, not how uncomfortable my butt feels in sweaty underwear (make sure those are synthetic as well!).
Finally, dressing in layers goes without saying; if you get hot, you can always tie a jacket around your waist or get some nifty convertible hiking pants where you unzip the legs to instantly create shorts. You’re not going to win any beauty pageants in those babies, but that’s kinda the whole point of being out on the trail, right?
3. Drink like a fish (i.e. water!)
Water is heavy but you cannot hike without it. It’s tempting to just leave it in the car or think that you’ll take a big swig after your hike when you get home, but staying hydrated on the trail means hiking longer and enjoying it more. If you need to, add fresh fruit or a powdered supplement like Nuun, but whatever you do, don’t leave home without just a bit more water than you think you'll need. The general rule is 2 cups (about 1/2 liter) of water for every 1 hour of hiking.
4. Avoid swamp butt.
I’m not one to beat around the bush (literally or figuratively!) — so I’ll just jump right in: Pack tissues in case you have to blow your nose or end up having to pee in the woods, which is a whole other topic. Bring a plastic baggie with you (I find doggy cleanup bags to be perfect for this) so you can pack out your trash. Even if there are restrooms at the trailhead, often they aren’t well stocked. Better to bring your own TP then have to do without (gross).
Pro tip: Wear a panty liner when you go hiking. My friend Laurel calls these her “piddle pads.” Basically you just pee, pull up your pants and let the panty liner catch any drips. Then when you get back to civilization, you can toss the liner in the trash. No need for toilet paper or packing out any gross garbage!
I also keep a small travel sized bottle of baby powder in my pack, and sprinkle some in my sweaty places about halfway through the hike. It’s also good to put in shoes when you start feeling a hotspot on your feet (hotspots = precursors to blisters).
5. Give a shoutout to your bestie.
It may seem silly if you’re doing a hike you’ve done a million times, but especially if you’re going alone, you need to give someone a heads up where you’re going and when you expect to be back. I have hiking friends who are perfect for this — when I send them a quick text about what trail I’m doing and how long I plan to be doing it, they don’t think I’m being weird or overly cautious; in fact, they always give me a friendly thumbs up or digital hug. It keeps us both inspired to do more activities outdoors.
6. Bring an ACTUAL map.
This was the biggest mistake I made on the Manistee River Loop, and I was very lucky that I didn’t get into more serious trouble. Thank god I did have my dog Howie with me, because I was stuck in that misshapen tent for over 12 hours (bringing the wrong poles for the rain fly was another TOTALLY BUSH LEAGUE mistake — not checking your equipment before you head out into the wilderness).
Your phone will NOT cut it as a navigational device — you should only use it as a backup.
You can guess what happened: First I lost my signal, and then my phone ran out of battery. I ended up being stuck in the woods, during a raging thunderstorm, for a whole other day, completely lost (I missed the path back to the campground where my car was parked). Anyone who's ever hiked that trail (and in Michigan, pretty much everyone who backpacks has at least heard of the loop) would probably scratch their heads at how someone would get lost on that trail, but yep, I managed to do it.
In contrast, on Isle Royale my friend Donna had the foresight to bring the excellent National Geographic Isle Royale map It allowed us to make much better decisions about how far we wanted to go, and which route we would take. Highly recommended if you plan to visit the island.
Print out your maps, even if they're crappy maps you print off the internet. It makes a HUGE difference in how much you enjoy hiking.
7. Set a turn back time.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, enjoying nature and contemplating the mysteries of life. But it’s a good idea to know ahead of time at what point you plan to turn around and come home. Otherwise, you might be tempted to keep going just another 15 minutes, and then another, and before you know it, you’re hiking back in the dark (which is scary as hell).
Plan your hike & hike your plan. Know when to quit and start heading back to safety before it’s too late.
8. Bring your sun hat & rain skirt.
On that fateful Manistee River Loop trip, I should have known better that the weather was going to turn back; I just got so excited about taking my first solo backpacking trip I didn’t really think to check the day AFTER I was supposed to be coming back. My boots were soaked in the rain, which caused some pretty nasty blisters. And it was just emotionally exhausting to be stuck in a tent in a thunderstorm for 12+ hours with nothing but your dog and your Kindle (yes I bring my device on the trail — I would have a hard time backpacking without it!).
Same goes for sunny weather — bring your sunscreen and hat in your hiking pack so you don’t come back with a peeling face. One of my favorite pieces of gear is the sunhat that my ex-husband brought back from the Army 20+ years ago, and I have no idea where he got it. Helps keep the ticks away too!
PRO TIP: One of the best tips I got this year was purchasing my rain skirt (or kilt, of you're into adhering to standard gender norms)— it's SO AWESOME. Not bulky of stifling like rain pants, plus it doubles as a table cloth or a small tarp that you can sit on if the ground is wet. You can pee much easier in a skirt, and you could even use it as a makeshift pack cover. I take it travelling with me now wherever I go, even when I'm not camping, because it packs down so small and is so handy when the weather takes a rainy turn.
Takeaway: you may have checked the weather yesterday, but be sure to check right before you leave as well. Things can change a lot in 24 hours (or even less).
9. Enjoy your view.
It’s easy to get caught up in the gear, the map, the turn back times, the snacks (bonus mistake: packing too much food) — but don’t forget the whole reason you’re outside hiking in the first place: to get some much-needed nature time. Look up! Notice how the sunlight falls through the trees, how the leaves sound underfoot, the way the water sparkles and the sound of the waves lapping gently at the shore. Enjoy hiking. Enjoy the hell out of it.
What hiking mistakes have you made in the past? Share the knowledge in the comments and help keep some other woman from suffering the same fate as you!
*Guest post by OBC intern Victoria
My parents were never considered the “outdoorsy” type. Our vacations consisted of Disney World, The Wisconsin Dells, beach towns down south, Jamaica, and relaxing on cruise ships for weeks at a time. Since going to college, I’ve realized many families are like this — so I wasn’t alone. With the “standard” vacations and time out of the Midwest, there was a huge part of Michigan that we were all missing: The Upper Peninsula.
For anyone who is unaware of what the Upper Peninsula is (like I was five years ago), we can jump into a mini geography lesson. Michigan consists of two major peninsulas — one that looks like a mitten, and another that is north of there. Typically the Upper Peninsula is forgotten about in trendy t-shirts or other memorabilia but it’s the main part of what makes this state so great.
With that being said, here are six places in the upper peninsula you need to drop everything and see as soon as possible.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Unfortunately, I wasn’t exposed to images of Pictured Rocks until college — I had no idea a place like this ever existed in Michigan. I finally made my first trip there summer of 2015 with a group of friends and later returned summer of 2016 to hike the whole shoreline. There are many things you can do in order to experience this natural beauty. There are kayak tours, sunset cruises, boat rentals, hikes and more. My preferred way of seeing the rocks is to hike the “Chapel” route. This hike is perfect for those who are getting their toes wet in the day-hike universe. I recommend bringing snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, long pants, shorts, and comfortable shoes. Regardless of how you choose to view this national park, it will leave you breathless.
Sugarloaf Mountain is one of my favorite places in the Upper Peninsula — once you make it to the top (the challenging part) you can see all the way to Lake Superior. Luckily, Sugarloaf is around twenty minutes outside of Marquette. So, after you’re done climbing up twenty flights of stairs you can enjoy a cold beer at Black Rocks Brewing Company or Ore Dock.
Fayette Historic Townsite
Fayette is an amazingly preserved historical landmark located in the southern region on the Garden peninsula. Fayette was once a community based on coal and iron manufacturing in the mid-1860’s until the 1890’s. The town was built right on the shore of Lake Michigan with large limestone cliffs surrounding it. There are many preserved houses and businesses that are free to roam. Fayette is great for anyone who loves a glimpse into Michigan’s historical past.
Marquette is easily one of my favorite cities in the state of Michigan. Marquette is your typical U.P. town — there are plenty of breweries, restaurants, shops, and sights to see (Sugarloaf Mountain as an example). Since Marquette is home to Northern Michigan University, there is always something happening around town. Usually it includes hammocking next to Lake Superior, jumping off Black Rocks, or kayaking around the shoreline — there’s always something exciting going on!
Kitch-iti-kipi (Big Spring)
The Big Spring is located just outside of Manistique, Michigan. Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. When you visit the spring you get on a wooden boat that brings you out into the middle so you are able to get a better view of the water gushing out of the fissures below. Every time I visit the Kitch-iti-kipi it never gets out! After visiting, I recommend grabbing dinner and a beer at The Big Spring Inn!
What did I miss? Leave your favorite UP activity in the comments below!
Editor's note: This blog post was written by Outdoor Book Club intern Victoria Walenga
Since millennials have entered the workforce they’ve been characterized as lazy, ungrateful, negative, and unmotivated. We’ve all heard it before — stories featuring millennials have been all over CNN, Fortune, and even The Guardian for the past few years. While these articles have been plastered all over social media millennials have rapidly taken over yet another valued space: the outdoors.
According to the results of the 2017 North American Camping Report, millennials are venturing into the outdoors more than ever before. Out of the total campers (around 75 million), millennials make up 38 percent, and 51 percent of millennials vow that they are going to increase their time outdoors just this year.
Comparing this research to my personal experience being an outdoorsy millennial reinforces the idea that we value freedom, adventure and being with others. For me, being outdoors is important because it allows you to have moments of clarity you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Millennials Are Taking Over the Great Outdoors
Based on my personal experience and research from the 2017 North American Camping Report, I have put together four highlights most people don’t know about outdoorsy millennials:
Are you a millennial? How do you feel about the outdoors? Comment below or tell us what you think on our Facebook page!
Editor's note: This blog post was written by Outdoor Book Club intern Victoria Walenga
At Outdoor Book Club, we believe there’s no better combination in the summer than wine, a good book, and some free time. With summer comes more social gatherings where you might want to impress your friends. This time you won’t be sipping whatever you have in the wine cabinet. Your wine will have a pairing purpose because it goes with your favorite book. But with so many books — and so many wines — to choose from how do you know which ones to try next?
Comedy / Funny Memoirs
If some of your favorite books are written by authors like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Issa Rae, Mindy Kaling or Amy Schumer, this is the wine you should pair with your next summer read:
Dark / Serious / Mystery / Murder / Scary
If you’re a dark, thrilling, mystery book connoisseur with favorite titles such as Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, The Shining, Doctor Sleep, or Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, these are the wines you should pick up the next time you’re at the store:
Who doesn’t love the classics? If your favorite books include The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies, then this wine is for you:
I must admit, I am a sucker for all things romantic. If some of your tried and true books include anything from Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, T.S. Krupa, or Jane Austen then here’s the wine for you:
Uplifting / Inspirational / Self-Help
Last but not least, if you’re an avid reader of life-changing inspirational books that tend to revise your outlook on life, then here’s the perfect pairing for you:
Jill Hinton Wolfe,
I support my family and women via my blog, which is why I often use affiliate links. If that's an issue, you can go directly to the websites themselves to buy and I will never know. 2) You can trust my recommendations — I won't sell out to make a fast buck. 3) Early on I appreciated when trusted experts pointed me in the right direction. 4) If you like & want to support my work, then you'll help give others the resources they need to live a brave, authentic life.