Frenetic Fitness

fre·net·ic /frəˈnetɪk/ done very fast and with a lot of energy, often by someone who is in a hurry.

Archive for the tag “camping”

Peace Beneath the Stars

Sixty-one days after we drove away from the Sunderlin Hall dorms and the campus of our youngest child’s college home, the child returned home and she and I were sitting in camp chairs beside a fire that took far too long to build and stoke. We roasted hotdogs and talked about all that has transpired in the sixty-one days since we last sat down to eat dinner together. There was no wait staff, no noise from the kitchen, I wasn’t busy running back and forth between the stove and the table. Serenaded by the crackle and pop of the fire, we marveled at the sizzle of the grease droplets as the hot dogs oozed down to the burning wood and anticipated the much looked forward to ceremony of The Blowing Out of the Fiery Marshmallows. We needed this because sometimes in our hustle and bustle world it’s necessary to stop and listen to nothing more than the crackle of the fire and to each other. We were hoping to find a piece of peace in our busy lives. What better place to find it than under the stars?

Want S'more?

Want S’more?

We were only an hour from home, surrounded by the rich Ouachita National Forest and the Flatside Wilderness Area. Being the first weekend of muzzleloader season we were concerned enough to find a place to camp that is far off the Ouachita Trail, hoping to avoid most of the hunters.

The other girl of the house, our dog Hobo, was with us too. Luckily Hobo is not much of a barker. Most of her intrusions on the peace were due to us calling her back when she wandered a bit too far for comfort. We talked about school, studying, bonfires, creek swimming, classes, fear, roommates, jealousy, rats, bus schedules, the future, and cafeteria food. Just the normal conversations one has with a new college student.

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Hammocks were hung, dog beds were made, fire was roaring, and it was just us girls with a few bugs, crawly critters, probably a few hunters not far away, and one scary something that half barked half screamed in the wee hours of the morning resulting in a barking dog with her fur up. She tried to crawl into the hammock with each of us in turn, but eventually the scaredy-dog went back to sleep in between her protectors.

We woke to a crisp fall morning. I made hot cocoa in no time with our trusty Jet-Boil. Then I got the bright idea to heat up our now stale donut holes in it. It worked. Hot stale donut holes were much better than cold stale donut holes.

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We took our time packing up, planning to attempt a hike on the OT with an orange vest at the ready for the dog and orange flags for our backpacks. Alas, as we traveled down closer to the trailheads near Lake Sylvia we could tell by the number of vehicles and full campsites that the woods were full. We chose instead to follow the Flatside Wilderness Scenic Drive, much of which is familiar to me from the Full Moon 25/50K Trail Run and from our mountain bike forays in the area. The roads are rough, the hills are steep, and driving can be a challenge. I let the small one take the driver’s seat and we drove on, stopping at the overlooks to check out the views. We talked about “going off the grid” and living a less hectic lifestyle. I doubt that will ever be in the cards for me, but for my kids, I hope they find a way to escape if not as a full-time lifestyle, at least on occasion. How else will they find peace?

 

 

 

 

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When Nature Calls

I spend a lot of time outside. I spend a lot of time outside in remote areas. I have a small bladder. See where I’m going with this? I’m not known for mincing my words so let’s just say that in my circle of friends, peeing in the woods is a common topic of conversation.

As I was inspecting the offerings of a local outdoor outfitter at a canoe club weekend last year, I came across an intriguing box with pictures of women doing fun outdoor things.

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“When nature calls, the answer is Freshette.”

Wha the Wha? Heavens to Murgatroyd, this is what has been missing from my outdoor gear box.

The first time the Freshette came out was at a 100 mile trail run aid station. Don’t think for one second that every single woman at that aid station was not intrigued. Miles and miles of bumpy gravel road lay between us and anything  remotely resembling a bathroom. Most of us knew we would be hanging around this station or one like it for hours. And hours. And it would soon be dark and no one wants to risk tripping on a limb, falling into sticker bushes or rubbing their bare lady parts all over some poison ivy while trying to find a discreet spot to pee. Men don’t typically worry about this stuff. They walk over to a wooded area, turn their backs to the audience and go. If only it were that simple for us. But wait, now it is! Or at least almost as simple. The Freshette has a collapsible spigot that comes with the funnel cup. So ladies,  all you have to do is get the cup placed properly, placement is important and you might want to practice a few times before you try leaving your pants up to do it, extend the spigot and aim. If you’re wearing spandex or loose pants you can do this with a minimum of fuss, no need to go pants around ankles anymore! No more risk of mooning someone coming down the trail because they didn’t know you needed a little privacy. Great for camping, long car trips in rural areas, backpacking, distance runners, paddlers or anyone who can’t do a marathon without stopping at every porta-john.

Instructions, right on the bag.

Instructions, right on the bag.

If there’s a woman in your life who likes to play outside, this is a great stocking stuffer or  “bonus” gift. Buying her a new canoe or kayak? Add a Freshette for those long paddles. Buying her a new mountain bike? Get her a Freshette for those all day rides. Buying her a new backpack? You know the drill. Of course I shouldn’t be all like, “man, when you buy your woman a lil sumpin sumpin…”  Ladies, do yourself a favor and get one of these. You’ll be glad you did, so will the hem of your pants, your socks, and your shoes.

The Freshette comes with an opaque bag so you can conceal it in your pack or gear bag but at this point, are you really concerned that anyone knows you have a pee funnel? So far everyone who knows I have one has asked if I’d recommend it. Yes I would. No one has asked to try mine out. Thank goodness for small favors.

Everything’s Better With Bacon

It was an unlikely scene. There I was, stooped over hot gray coals with a pair of tongs, gently placing them under and on top of my cast iron beast, trying to calculate the heat needed to cook the gooey goodness that lay within while groups of cyclists flew past me on the road leading into the woods at the end of the campground to the sound of cheers and cowbells. They were racing the Fossil Flats trail at Devil’s Den, a trail strewn with rocks, roots and places known by names like the “gravity cavity” and “racer’s hill” and the “outlaw loop”. I was making the Devil’s Food: Petit Jean Meats Bacon.

If there’s one smell that immediately makes me think of camping, it’s not the scent of pine or wet leaves. It’s not the smell of a moldy old tent that’s seen better days or the smell of an oft used sleeping bag. It’s the smell of bacon. We like to have bacon at least once when we’re camping. We don’t eat it a lot at home but while camping, my family considers it a necessity. Not just because it’s the best camp food ever, or because it annoys everyone in a campground if they aren’t having bacon, it’s also a versatile staple to keep on hand for quick or not so quick meals around the campfire. Bacon and Eggs, BLTs, Mac and Cheese with Bacon Bits… I am the Forrest Gump of bacon dishes. And bacon is fun to share. Our friends Kelly and Alyssa came all the way from the other side of the campground to score a “Good Morning” and a couple of crispy pieces while I was cooking up bacon and eggs for breakfast/pre-race fuel for the man.

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But wait, there’s still more bacon! My plan was to test a Dutch Oven Recipe my friend Ashley posted for Foodie Friday on Arkansas Women Bloggers. She’d been telling me about it and it sounded like something my crew would love. So that’s how I came to be stooped over hot coals, cooking bacon, onion and potatoes while cyclists whizzed by. I wanted it to be ready for post race chow down AND I wanted to head out to the trails myself for a run before the day got too far away from me.

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The Finished Product

The Finished Product

The only change I made to the recipe was 2 fewer eggs and a little more potato since we were having it for lunch instead of breakfast. It was so tasty that we ate the leftovers (yes there were leftovers) for breakfast, making sure that the smell of bacon would once again be  wafting across the campground, annoying the non bacon havers and inviting our friends to come say “Good Morning”.

The Ick Factor of an Active Lifestyle

Mid-day today my sweet husband picked up my headlamp from last night’s run, crinkled his nose and said “Eww, this is still wet.” That’s okay because I’m the one who launders his stinky sweaty bike shorts. Seriously, wet chamois beats wet headlamp band in ick factor, hands down.

This life we lead can be a little gross. In the past 39 hours, because I couldn’t go 40 even if it would have made a better story, I have spent 22 hours outside in the Arkansas heat and humidity. In that 22 hours I biked 15 slow miles leading a beginner training ride then treating myself to a trip to the farmers market for the last of the summer’s blueberries by wheel power. We packed and loaded overnight gear into the Arkansas Outside Mobile Office, traveled down the way to our campsite for the night and set up in a light drizzle. We waited and chatted and caught up with friends we may not have seen since the last long trail run event waiting for the gun to start the Full mOOn 25K/50K run. I opted for the 25, let’s face it, I don’t train distance runs enough to pull of another 50 right now. After running that 15—- miles in the heat, with the humidity from the afternoon rain still hanging in the air like a moist towelette, almost refreshing but not quite doing the trick, I stayed out at the finish line for another 4 hours to cheer in more runners and friends. There was music, and beer. There were hot dogs and fun size candy bars. There was a spontaneous yoga class and a dance party. Because even after running 16 or 32 miles, these folks know how to have a good time. Which is why we love them and why we put up with their stench. Now some of these stinky folk were nice enough to use the showers available back in the campground to rinse the smell of hard work off their bodies. Some, like myself, chose to embrace the funk and let it linger. As the morning hours continued to tick away it seemed a good idea to stay up to watch the sunrise. At this point I was close to 35 hours into my experiment with ick tolerance. And because my aforementioned sweet husband had been out on the run course photographing these foul smelling, often scantily clad-don’t get chest hair on my chilidog you jerk- runners too, it was a collaborative experiment. Having ridden his bike for 25 miles in the morning, his olfactory presence was almost as good as mine. As long as it’s both of us, it’s okay. Finally I crawl into my hammock and let the man stew in his own cloud inside the tent. Not because I could smell him, but he was so wiped out the snoring was way worse than any smell could be.

There was much discussion after the race about the things we do to our bodies in order to do the things we want to do. There are the missing toenails. Every distance runner loses a toenail at some point. I have one that I lose sometimes twice a year. This is gross. It comes back thicker each time. Eventually it will match the toenail my husband has that we affectionately refer to as “shark toe”. Luckily, shark toe’s presence in our lives prevents my man from being grossed out by my missing nails.

Shark Toe's Mate

The offending toenail post Ouachita 50K Trail Run

Then there’s the chaffing. Prevention is key but it’s a hard thing to remember. Sometimes you don’t even know the places to try to protect. I wore a shirt on the Full mOOn 25K run that I’ve worn several times without issue but this time, I got a nasty chafe burn inside my upper arm. And there’s the boob chaffing. And the worst: the diaper rash chafe. No one wants the butt crack rash. I suppose it’s lucky that millions, possibly billions of dollars are spent on prevention an treatment of butt crack rash so product availability is high. You just don’t think you’re going to have to buy it for yourself.

Chaffing Prevention

Chaffing Prevention

Within 30 minutes of breaking camp I received a text photo of a tube of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste from a sweet friend who did her first official 25K race AND got a nasty butt crack rash as a reward. When choosing an outdoor lifestyle leads you to days of wallowing in your own funk, losing toenails, needing industrial strength deodorant that contains compounds no longer legal in any country other than a few in East Asia, stuffing your running shoes with sachets of baking soda, and to purchasing vats of diaper rash cream when you have no babies, you know your tolerance for ick is just where it needs to be.

Weekends

This was my weekend. This is why I don’t have time to blog. This is why I love Arkansas, the Natural State. Someone in the local paper was quoted lamenting the fact that the name was changed from Land of Opportunity to The Natural State. I think that person is wrong.

Wordless Wednesday

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We added to our count of tent nights this weekend at Devil’s Den State Park near Winslow, AR. S’mores anyone?

An Ode to Crisp Mornings and Mud Runs

The morning came, bright, clear and cool. I was snug in my sleeping bag and unlike a couple of other camping nights this year, I was in it, not on top of it. The air smelled green and felt like the cool hand of a mother gently touching a warm forehead. Fall has arrived.

Warm and Snug

Warm and Snug

I did not want to get out of my bag but it was time. The morning would not wait for my laziness. Months ago, after running the Warrior Dash, my family decided we would do a new race that was planned: Conquer the Gauntlet. It promised to be the same distance with more than twice the number of obstacles. We had such a great time at the Dash, all of us finished it and immediately want to do it again so a new race with even more to “conquer” sounded like a great idea. Coffee in hand we said our farewells to a few folks around camp with promises to return for the all important potluck in the evening.

The Boy met us at the house, ready to run. As we were wandering the staging area we started running in to several friends and acquaintances. It could have easily turned in to a party. If it weren’t for the fact that there was neither party music nor any monuments of note for group photo ops except a two foot tall armored knight around whose feet people had tossed their empty plastic water bottles for want of a trash bin. The atmosphere was lacking spunk. So we took our “before” photo in a nondescript spot along the road and got ready to go.

The Fam is Ready to Go

The first half of the course was great fun, a mile or more of trail running. There were a few piles of limbs and brush thrown across the trail. I’m not sure if these were to count as obstacles or not. To me it was stuff I encounter during any trail run after a bad storm except this time I didn’t stop to clean it up. The first obstacles were fun, the over and under walls with barbed wire thrown in for funsies, a weird labyrinth of cords, tight space and skinny boards to traverse and a hay bale jump. I kind of enjoyed the hay bales. I skipped over the top of them, imagining myself some kind of farm girl running away (just enough to make it look like I was trying) from the farmhand my rancher Daddy doesn’t approve of. Alright so it was my husband behind me, please don’t deny a girl her fantasies while running. Sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps the feet moving.

Parental Pose

The Parental Units take time to Pose for Cliff

As we approached the Labyrinth we heard our friend Cliff Li yell “Hey!” then “Your son’s already been through here.” As if we weren’t sure of that. We’d be surprised if he wasn’t already back at the car, showered and drinking a cold beverage by the time we finished.

The Boy Gets Thru the Labyrinth First

And then came “the walls”. Several of them. Not walls with ropes or small almost impossible holds. Just walls. First there was the series that was just beyond my vertical jump abilities. Don’t judge. I’m 5’2″ and have short legs on top of it. If there is a comparison, I’m the corgi of body types. Mostly body and short limbs. I guess I could have gotten over them if I’d had someone or sometwo as other people did to PUSH them over the walls. Oh well. Then there was another series of five walls at eight feet in height. No one was getting over these without help. Um yeah. My boy was in front of me and my man was behind. Can a girl get a rope to climb please? I was about to get totally discouraged while cursing my height and my lack of jump when a cargo net appears. For me, this is an oasis in the middle of the desert. I love the nets. THIS I can do. I don’ t need no more freakin cowbell, I need more CARGO NET!

More Cargo Net

I need more cargo net!

All in all it was an “okay” time. I was bored and frustrated with the wall after wall bit. The trail run section was moderately challenging and some of the obstacles were pretty good but I didn’t finish it wishing I could go again.

What makes this kind of thing fun? Doing it with my family. And being out there with friends. This is my gym buddy Holly. Every day is better when shared with Gym Buddies.

Before

After

Camping, Boat Ball & Stray Beer

Isn’t it a wonder that whether the camping trip is two nights or six, the amount of boxes, bags, and camping paraphernalia is the same. The tent, the sleeping pads and bags, the camp chairs and the ice chest always have to go. Sometimes we take bikes, sometimes we take kayaks and sometimes we take both. On this particular Friday afternoon our team loaded all the camp gear in the truck and hoisted the boats on top to serve as our colorful plastic sail as we traveled the hour to Lake Catherine and our campsite for the weekend.

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The Arkansas Canoe Club’s annual Rendezvous was taking place and we traveled down to hang out and enjoy the camaraderie of this large and diverse group of folks who have in common their love for paddling rivers and streams, be they flat as glass or chopped with white cap.
As the skies darkened we heard calls of “boat ball!” from all corners of the camp. The brightly colored boats and their equally colorful captains began to gather at the patio along the edge of a small inlet in the lake. A long swinging bridge allowed spectators to look down upon the action. I never figured out the rules but it looked like a waterborne cross between water polo and wrestling the way the boats and people collided and rolled in the murky water in an intricate dance. With a lot of screaming.

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As dusk carried on toward the kind of darkness only found in the isolation of rural fields, there were stories and beer, and stories about beer and the creation of new stories as a result of beer. And while the morning light still shimmered on the dew, there was a stray beer, it’s loneliness diminished by its bright pink perch.

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The Sky is Falling!

The sky is falling! – Chicken Little

The rain pelted the tent like little pebbles falling from the sky. I was warm and comfy in my sleeping bag, cocooned in the downy softness. But the sounds of a waking campground were disturbing my peaceful slumber. Kids were yelling, dogs were barking and feet were crunching in loose gravel on their way to the facilities. This is usually about the time that I swear I will only backpack in and primitive camp. I will eat food that tastes like dehydrated cardboard, I will haul 60 pounds of awkward gear over mountain passes, I will cross seventeen cold swollen creeks barefoot rather than tent camp in a campground. But then I had my coffee and all was right with the world.

We were camping in the rain with good reason: the morning was about to give way to the Northwest Arkansas Mountain Bike Championships at Devil’s Den State Park. The park is intimately entwined with the history of mountain biking in Arkansas. The first mountain bike trails were built in the park and Devil’s Den hosts the longest running mountain bike festival in the state. This year is the 24th Anniversary. I can’t wait to join the party that will happen next year for the silver anniversary.

My spouse would be racing in celebration of his 52nd birthday. I would be attempting to take his place as chief photographer for Arkansas Outside while he pedaled his one year older heart out.

My favorite parts of that duty:

1. The kids. I love watching the kids. Especially the little girls. Those little mini Biker Betties make me smile.

2. The guys and gals who are willing to goof for the lens. Not everyone is, I mean it’s a serious sport after all and it takes every bit of concentration you have out there to stay upright and in the chase.

3. Getting to join in for a little of the fun. This time that also meant joining in the mud.

Laura and Terri (AKA Robo-biker)

Laura and Terri (AKA Robo-biker)

My shirt might never be the same.

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Baking Jeans

Wiping my hands on my pants is as close as I’ll ever come to having baking jeans.My baking gene skipped out on me somewhere in the evolution of my cooking skills.

Last year we began Spring Break with a trip to Black Rock near Pocahontas, Arkansas for a weekend of camping, history lessons and cooking.This year we had planned to stay home during Spring Break, saving that precious vacation money for a long weekend in Memphis for the Beale Street Music Festival in May.But then I caught wind of another Dutch Oven Cooking Class.I should allow the culprit who spilled those beans to me to remain nameless, because the poor people in the class with me might not appreciate that she led me to them. But Kim Williams, what follows is all your fault.

This trip was going to be different right from the start because A) we were taking the Hobo with us and she’s never camped in a campground full of people before and B) the trip would be short, one night only.I was anxious to take her because I know the trails at the park are short and not crowded except around the fishing lake so it would be a great place to continue training Hobo to be a good trail dog.The cooking class wasn’t slated to begin until 4 pm so we decided to take it easy on Saturday morning and not leave until around 11.We made it to the park, got the tent all set up and a dog run fixed, all well ahead of our 4 pm deadline.

camp happy

We arrived at the pavilion to find lovely park interpreter Krystal ready to get cooking. There are stations set up for each dish: two different pastas and a dessert as well as a bread station. We’ve done this before.We know what’s coming: soon it will be time to choose a station for which dish you want to help make. So what in heaven’s gate possessed me? What do I let the small one talk me into? The bread. Why didn’t I choose the pasta? WHY? I know I’m not good at bread.I feel very blessed if my homemade bread concoctions turn out. I can barely make cookies. I tried to make homemade biscuits recently.My family dubbed them the biscookies  because they were completely flat.I don’t have the baking gene.

I kneaded too much, or used too much floor, or both. While my partner’s dough rose up to a double sized lovely air pocket filled, moist mass of doughy goodness, my lifeless dough sat in the bowl, just a big lump of goo and never rose. Luckily my husband has a rock gut that is quite used to eating my kitchen failures. He was happy to eat the matzo flat but and still doughy cheese bread I ended up with.Someone said it was like having a cheese pizza but I would have complained about the crust if I hadn’t been the one to cook that pizza.

The lasagna and the penne pasta with chicken and sausage were both divine. And the cooking crew scarfed them up quickly.Dessert was a filled rolled cookie: a cream cheese butter crust spread with jam, dried cherries and coconut.I hesitated while enjoying the main course and didn’t actually get to eat one of the cookies but I heard they were delicious.The cookies were gone but lucky me, my bread was so ugly there was plenty left for seconds.I MEANT to do that.

Dutch Oven Lasagna

The truth is, every once in a while, I make bread that sort of turns out. Or at least it’s edible. Okay my family claims it’s edible and they eat it.No one has been to the ER yet.

Rosemary Bread

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