Camping feels good: 4 reasons and advice

Life feels complicated and the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s so easy to despair. Why does camping make me feel better?

1) Simple success.

Excel &%$# and never-ending email and f***ing finances. Can I ever be a good enough friend, wife, daughter, or professional? When I’m in the woods the tasks are straightforward and the benefits immediate. Basic competency is easily achievable and incremental improvement accessible. I take pride in doing simple things well.

2) Living is nice.

Basic survival makes me really like living. Nothing like some physical deprivation and discomfort to put existential anxiety in its place.

Sometimes just being alive is satisfying. At the end of a day not much else matters. Things like being warm and well fed become deeply enjoyable.

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3) Un-fucking-plug.

I unplug from the constant nagging of the world. It’s not just social media, or politics, or my own to-do list. It’s the constant hum of humanity. It’s not a recent problem. Since the dawn of civilization sages and scientists have written about the need for humans to step out of our cultivated environment back into nature.

It’s just gotten harder. Where else can I not just unplug from work, but from layers of construct and meaning?

4) Spontaneous mediation.

I once broke down crying after a meditation retreat because I had been trying too hard to meditate.

During extended time in the woods I don’t have to try to meditate, it just seeps in between the cracks. As life gets simpler and slower, contentment finds me when I’m not even looking.

Some general advice for getting out in the woods:

  • Ease in and out. It can be a big shift in environment. Be gradual in slowing down into the woods and then in ramping back up into city life.
  • Set yourself up for a positive experience. Don’t go in over your head – be prepared. Take on only as much wilderness as you are ready for. It’s not a competition in hardship.
  • Give it time. There are not many things in which you get great benefit done only one weekend once a year. If you’re sold on the benefits of being in nature, then give it an honest commitment.
  • It’s not magic. Don’t expect instant miracles of self fulfillment. It doesn’t need to be a Disney princess forest wonderland.

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Successful loop!

Winter camping doesn’t need to be ambitious to be adventurous. Our trips are all 3 to 4 nights and are never very far from civilization. Yet we’ve had seven memorable years of winter shenanigans.

In all these previous years we did two things that make it significantly easier. 1) We did an out-and-back. It means on our way out we follow our own trail making it twice as fast. 2) Had a layover day.  Which means staying at the same campsite for two nights. Considering the hours of work that goes into making a winter campsite, using the same one twice greatly eases the burden.
This year we didn’t do either of these things.

2019 turned out to be our most adventurous year yet.

These days we don’t plan our route in advance. So we got up to the cabin and pulled out the maps to decide where we would go the next day.

Will said “From the cabin, if we go west on the Kawishiwi…”

“Maybe we could get through this marsh.”

“And then we’d take this portage.”
And I said. “It could be like Angleworm. It could screw us.”

Will continued “But then we could take this road, which might not be maintained…”
“And on Google satellite, it looks like there might be a road or trail here…”
“And then we could close the loop and ski right back to the cabin!”

And I was like, “Or we could get screwed like the time we couldn’t close the loop in the summer and ended up having to run/hike/hitchhike ten miles in the heat with no water.”

But we went for it anyway. If we had to backtrack the whole loop in one day it would be painful, but probably possible.

Day one, everything went smoothly.

Day two felt long and tiring but we arrived at the marsh. We were cautiously optimistic. We discussed several options for tackling this unknown. While drying our feet that night I reviewed our game plan.

“We’ll drop the pulks at the last place we broke ground. Then you’ll break trail, but stay within sight of our pulks. Then we’ll go get the pulks and I’ll lead, giving you a rest. We’ll just inchworm our way through. If we get through, we have to start the next portage no later than 1pm to have a chance to make it through before dark so we don’t have to make camp on the portage like we did with Angleworm.”

Day three we were prepared to be disappointed. As we started Will said “Ok, into the fire swamp!”

At one point we thought we might have hit a wall and would be thwarted in our ambition. Not only did we survive the marsh but the portage turned out to be a piece of cake. We were now one day ahead of schedule!

Day four we were excited to close the loop! Everything was going well, until we couldn’t find the mystery trail that would bring us back to our home lake. Sadly we resolved to travel on Fernberg Road. It was only going to be a mile or so. We started trudging up a long slope. After what seemed like forever I complained,

“How are we still going up?”

Will replied “Yeah, I don’t remember driving on a hill this long.”

More forever passed…

“Who knew there was a 9,000 foot mountain to get to Lake Ojibway?”

More up…

Will – “14,000 feet… the air is getting thin…”

More up…

I whined “I think I’m dying. If it comes to it, who get’s to eat who to survive?”

Will – “I don’t know, you could probably live off of me for a long time.”

Fortunately, it didn’t come to cannibalism. Exhausted, we did get to the unplowed road back to our home lake. We did make it back to the cabin, although not without some cursing and frustration. We rewarded ourselves by driving into Ely for beer and burgers.

We took a day of rest.

And then like the crazy fools we are, did the whole loop in one day. Which was it’s own adventure.

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Cooking fitness

Moving is like eating. Regardless of conscious choice, you will do both of these things. So the only question is what will be the quality of your eating and moving life?

I think we can all agree…

Eating only processed crap is not healthy.

  1. Eating fewer processed products, more fresh produce, and well balanced meals is an important first step.
  2. Choosing to do it willingly without praise, fear, or bribery is great.
  3. Enjoying and seeking out fresh, real foods as an integrated part of your lifestyle is wonderful.
  4. Being able to create and cook these meals from scratch is excellent.

Having the knowledge to cook your meals from a variety of ingredients is a wonderfully liberating skill. It doesn’t mean you don’t buy shortcuts or grab-and-go foods. It doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy eating out. It means you have more freedom with more choices. It means you’ll be a more educated, appreciative consumer both in the grocery store and dining out.

I think we can all agree…

Moving only from bed to car to desk to couch is not healthy.

  1. Sitting less, moving more, and adding exercise is an important first step.
  2. Choosing to do it willingly without praise, fear, or bribery is great.
  3. Enjoying and seeking out activity in a variety of forms as part of your lifestyle is wonderful.
  4. Being able to create and do your own workout or training plan is excellent.

Let that sink in. Continue reading

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Use The Ladder

“If I can’t _______ then it’s not worth it.” Is one of the biggest pitfalls in sustaining a long athletic life.

It could be a certain pace, distance, weight, or time. But the thought is that if it’s not a certain something it doesn’t count or won’t be fun; so therefore it won’t be done.

But of course if it gets skipped because it’s not that certain thing, it certainly won’t get better.

I see this in adults all the time. And often they act as if there is no way out. It’s like I see them shrug and stare at this apparent wall. Or run into the wall over and over again.

Often that’s what a coach or trainer is for. There’s a ladder right there against the wall but because they can’t vault over it like they used to they refuse to see or use the ladder unless the coach insists on it. As if using the ladder is shameful and the only way they’ll be caught on it is if it’s clear they are being made to do it.

So they grudgingly use the ladder, and eventually they don’t need it and they are vaulting over the wall again. For a time things go so well they forget the wall is even there. Until something trips them up and suddenly the wall looms large and they start all over again. First just staring at the wall, refusing to even see the ladder as a way forward, then dismissing the ladder as undignified, before finally taking the first step.

Even elite athletes get knocked down and have to seemingly start all over again. The difference is that they don’t waste time resisting and resenting the ladder. They are actually pros at using whatever tools, whatever half-steps, will help them get back where they want to be.


My goal as a coach is not to make elite athletes but to help everyday athletes sustain a long healthy happy active life. I don’t want to just keep forcing people to use the ladder. I want to help people find and use ladders on their own.

As recreational athletes, it’s best if your love for your favorite activity isn’t so conditional. Find ways for it to be fun and “count” at any pace, distance, weight, or time. If there is a wider range of appreciation there is more likely to be the consistency that is required for improvement which will lend itself to more things to appreciate.

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Lamb in Wine and Figs

I get drooly just thinking about this meal we ate for a week.  Looking for something else, I stumbled upon this NYTimes Mark Bittman recipe. I’m so glad I did.

It’s so simple and easy. I made a some changes and I’m sharing them here, but you should really just check out his original recipe before making your own version. I served it with mashed potatoes and salad, but you could do it with couscous and green beans, or rice and broccoli, or bread and slaw, or anything that floats your boat.

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Handstand Breakthrough & 4 Keys to Being Coached

It’s magical!  Suddenly I’ve got a handstand!  That I can control!  That I can do again!

Well, ok, it’s really not magical.  Unless you count a ton of research, a bunch of handstand friends, 3 years of preparation, and 1 kick-ass handstand coach as magic.

7 weeks ago on September 24th I started Kirsty Grosart’s Garage Gym Girl 12 week online handstand course.  It’s always fun and challenging to be on the other end of the coaching relationship but it’s been a long time for me.  I wasn’t sure how it would go and I came to it without strong expectations or goals. It has been three long years of accepting agonizingly slow progress.  So this coaching felt surprisingly miraculously incredibly successful.

But as I know from being a coach – success does not come from a coach’s magic wand.

As I’ve been coached for these eight weeks, I’ve been reminded of four keys to being coached:

1. Trust and follow the program.
Week one and I was full of doubts and questions.  But if I actually knew better and could get to my goals myself, I wouldn’t have signed up. I chose this program and coach for a reason. It’s ok to ask “why do it this way?” But sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and ego and do what Coach says. Why? Because you already agreed to be coached! So let go of some control and be coachable!

2. Accountability only works when you really want it to.
Sometimes we talk about accountability as if it were magic. Add a dash of accountability and *poof* obstacle vanishes, hard thing done, ta-da! But all too often people say they’ll be accountable and then it just doesn’t happen. Having someone or something to be accountable to doesn’t magically make it easy to do the thing. You have to be ready to really want it to work. You have to want to report failure more than avoiding it.

3. Commit the time.
As long as I’ve made the choice to do the program, I might as well go all in and fully commit.  It’s a sacrifice to all my other training.  I’ve given up swimming entirely.  I run at most twice a week (and it’s suffering).  I’ve gone from training handstands three days to five. I stopped doing the drills and exercises I wanted to do.  I spend time reviewing her program instructions and logging and communicating in her method in addition to mine.  Why pay the money and ask for a coach’s time if I’m not ready to give all the time Coach asks of me?  It doesn’t work if my coach is more committed to the program and my success than I am. I will try to match and raise my coach’s commitment every time. It hasn’t always been easy, but I certainly don’t regret it.

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4. Participate in the coaching.
The less passive it is the better.  I’m not just going through the motions checking off the items.  Self-coach/assess as much as possible and SHARE.  It doesn’t mean I’m not getting what I paid for or letting my coach off the hook.  It means I am getting MORE because my coach has more information and can give me more accurate direction.  I’m constantly coaching myself as far as I’m able, which leaves my coach to unlock the one thing I didn’t see or understand.

I’m so excited for the last five weeks of coaching. It took years of patience to get here, but progress is addicting.

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Claiming the Hidden Wholeness

Client stories – guest post by Devon Anderson.

I do not come to the world of endurance sports training as an accomplished athlete, or as a fit and skinny 20-something.  Instead, I’m coming from the other side, from the second half of life – with retirement on the horizon, a mere decade away.

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