Tag Archives: camping

Photo Review: Camping in New Mexico

After leaving McKinney Texas last Sunday, Jay and I headed into New Mexico and spent two nights camping in New Mexico State Parks, Brantley Lake and Leasburg Dam.  The weather was warm and the camping was excellent.  Here’s a sampling of the views from our campsites.

Brantley Lake Sunset

leasburg dam state park

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Scenes from Winter Camping

Jay and I enjoy camping.  It’s a good thing, because in order to be on the road for a year, we need to spend most nights either camping or staying with friends and family.  So far of 10 nights on the road, we spent 2 camping, 7 with friends and 1 night in a free hotel thanks to my mom’s rewards points.

Congaree National Park, near Columbia, South Carolina

Tent at Congaree National ParkThe first night we camped in Congaree National Park, near Columbia South Carolina.  My cousin Peter gave us a National Park Pass for Christmas, so we were eager to use it and check out a National Park that we had never heard of.  Turns out that it is free to enter and free to camp at Congaree so you don’t need a pass, but at least we got to get our first “passport stamp” for the book that my mom got for us.

We got to the park close to dusk and had just enough time to set up the tent and hurry back to the board walk trail that runs for two miles through an old growth floodplain forest.  It was eerie to walk along a wooden pathway, suspended above the muck as the light was disappearing.  My eyes were straining to tell the difference between tree roots and snakes.  At one point we did see an animal close to the trail, moving gingerly through the flooded forest.  We couldn’t tell what it was, but Jay guessed that it was probably a possum based on size and gait.

boardwalk in Congaree National Park

Boardwalk trail in Congaree National Park

I tried to keep my cool and appreciate the beauty and stillness that the forest offered at night.  But I mostly kept my eyes peeled to the boardwalk and focused on not losing my balance.  Jay stopped me to point out that the moon was reflected in the waters of the swamp (see picture below).  This was truly a unique place and the boardwalk gave us an opportunity to explore a habitat we never could have observed without it.

Moon reflected in the swamp at Congaree National Park

Moon reflected in the flooded forest at Congaree National Park

Oak Mountain State Park, Birmingham, Alabama

After a night inside in Atlanta Georgia thanks to my high school friend Brett Goodwin (thanks Brett!), we headed back to our tent, this time at a nice campground in Oak Mountain State Park on the edge of Birmingham.  We had only intended to spend the day at the park.  It offers several miles of single track for mountain biking, and Jay needs to ride every few days or he starts to twitch.  Once we got to the park, the late hour and attractive campsite lured us in.  Unfortunately, camping in state parks can get expensive – this one cost us $16 (in addition to $4 to enter the park).

tent site in Oak Mountain State Park

Tent site at Oak Mountain State Park

With an overnight low of 28 degrees, the downside of winter camping is obvious.  The upsides though are surprisingly plentiful: no crowds, easy pick of the best tent site, no bugs, and easier wildlife viewing without leaves on the trees.  This campground had the added benefit of heated bathrooms with a hot shower!

yoga mat at Oak Mountain State Park

My site for yoga in the morning

In the mornings, to wake up and work out the kinks from sleeping on a mat all night, I like to do some light yoga.  It was somewhat difficult what with the 3 layers of clothing I was wearing to combat the 30 degree temperatures, but you couldn’t beat the view.

Deer at Oak Mountain State Park

Young Buck at Oak Mountain State Park

I had just barely started my Sun Salutation, when I heard leaves shuffling on the hillside to my left.  At first I assumed it was another camper, off for an early hike.  It took me a second to realize it was far more likely to be an animal.  I got my camera ready and soon spotted this buck making his way down the hill.  He didn’t notice me until after I had snapped a few pictures.  He scurried up the hill and I went back to finish my routine.  In a few minutes, the smell of bacon lured me back to the campsite.

bacon and reflected trees

Our morning bacon

The inside of our rain fly, covered in frost

After a great breakfast of oatmeal, bacon, and freshly brewed coffee, we broke down the tent, shaking the frost off of the INSIDE of the rain fly!  We are glad to be headed towards the desert and southern California where we may see some less frosty nights.

Overall our two nights under the stars were fantastic.  We look forward to spending many more nights sleeping out throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Lake at Oak Mountain State Park

Lake near our campsite

Commitment to Stay Healthy on the Road

I do well with routine.  For those who know the “True Colors” Personality profile, I am a Gold/Green and I find that making specific goals and sticking to a regular schedule are the best way for me to stay healthy and organized.  Last year, I committed to creating healthy habits around eating.  I used the free Lose It! App on the IPOD touch to record every single thing that I ate and to track my calories.  In addition, I used the Wii Fit to check in everyday and track my progress with weight and BMI.  Finally, I focused on cooking more and integrating more vegetables into my diet.

With these three strategies, I was able to move from the edge of obesity to the edge of normalcy, 32 pounds of weight loss.

Roast Chicken

Last year my go to healthy recipe was this Roast Chicken, which won't be possible on the road

For 2011, a regular schedule is out of the question.  We are going to be on the road all year and living in a variety of different circumstances.   I am concerned about keeping the healthy habits that I learned last year, while also building new ones (such as brushing and flossing after every meal).

The challenge:

  • A much tighter food budget (one of last year’s strategies was to splurge on great food that was also healthy so that I would be encouraged to eat healthy food at home)
  • No scale, Wii Fit, or group fitness classes
  • a lack of routine or even sense of time that will make it challenging to do something at the same time every day
  • limited health insurance coverage  — It will be more important than ever to stay healthy, because any trips to the doctor are going to be far more expensive

Strategies for staying healthy on the road:

  • Find healthy recipes that can be made on our camping stove or without cooking
  • Continue to record my food in the Lose It! app
  • Use a measuring tape to take a waist measurement everyday and record it using my IPOD touch
  • Start each morning with a routine that is flexible enough to be possible anywhere (stretching, healthy breakfast, brushing & flossing, journaling)

Do you have a healthy recipe or suggestion you can recommend?