Monday, August 30, 2010

Camping on the trailhead....(a checklist)

Last month in Colorado, we decided to do a primitive camp. Even though I'd grown up camping almost every National Park in the states, my parents had never just driven through the mountains, picked a spot miles away from civilization, and set up camp before.
The purpose of this week in Colorado was actually a hiking trip, and we hiked about 50 miles over three days. Our biggest feat was climbing to the summit of Mt. Elbert. Last winter we began researching the trail, and what we needed to do to prepare.
We found out that if we camped on the trailhead, we'd shave some time off our hike that day. Considering Elbert is the 2nd tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, and the tallest mountain in the Rockies, we decided this was the best option. So we drove as far as we could get in our car (you need a 4WD vehicle to access this trail, period) and found a spot to call it a night.

We drove through beautiful Aspen trees so thick I could barely see through them.
This spot on the trail was far as we could get in Petey. Up ahead was a creek with huge boulders in it, and we had to stop here for the night. I was a little worried about being miles away from the nearest person, but we had no time to worry, and lots of work setting up camp before it got dark.

Camping enthusiasts, here is a quick checklist of the most important supplies to bring along if you're camping.

Don't forget to bring:

-warm clothing
-lots of sleeping bags and blankets

The temperatures reached the 30's at night, so we packed a gaggle of warm clothes, and lots of blankets. We brought one sleeping bag to open up and lay on, and one for on top. We also brought sheets and fleece throws for extra warmth.

-fire starters

If your area does not allow gathering of wood (most National Parks don't) you need to bring your own. Since we were in the middle of nowhere, we were able to gather wood.

-plenty of food
-cooking gear

We had an ice chest with sandwich meat, eggs, fruit, and juice inside. Some places we've camped have bear safety boxes to keep your food inside of. If there are bears in your area, please please please do not keep ANY food or throw scraps around your site. Recently a family was killed in Yellowstone by a bear, and it's a very reasonable threat when you're camping. We keep everything inside our car, and burn off all our scraps in the fire. If we need to wash out dishes, we walk away from our site to a stream to do so.
For cooking, you need something to make the food in. Since we did primitive camp, we made our own fire ring out of rocks, and obviously didn't have a grill to work with. We brought a cast iron skillet from home, and also have used foil packets in the past. If there is water near by, you can do dishes, but we didn't want to bother. So we brought paper plates and forks, and burned them in the fire when we were done.
Please don't forget supplies for smores. Camping is not camping without them.

-camping equipment
-a mallet/hammer
-stakes for tent

It almost always rains in the mountains. We take one tarp to lay underneath our tent, and one to make a canopy above. Michael is the tent builder, and I always work inside to get our bedding and main living area ready while he works away to keep us dry at night.

Obviously you don't want to forget your tent :) We also bring a Coleman propane lantern that has been in our family for ages. Flashlights, headlamps, an air mattress, knives, and chairs come along, as well.

-bug spray
-gallon jugs of water
-baby wipes
-ziplock bags

Those are your bathing needs. The gallon jugs work great for washing your hands and face when you need a quick rinse. Walk to a nearby stream if you have a bit more time.

The water was FREEZING!

The baby wipes are a less than appealing story. Primitive camp means no showers, toilets, or toilet paper. It also means that you bury your poop. Which translates to pooping in the woods. It's really not as bad as it sounds. Rest easy knowing that most people only poop once a day, especially with the kind of dense, nutritional food you eat on a hiking/camping trip. Unfortunately for me, I poop at least 3 times a day. This is why I left my modesty in Oklahoma, and bought economy size packages of baby wipes for the trip.
They come in pretty handy when you don't have showers around, and every night we camp I take a baby wipe bath. Ziplock bags just mean that you get to confine your dirty wipes to a bag until you can get to a trash can. They're not just for dirty butt purposes, either. My feet get so incredibly dusty and dirty when we camp, and I love climbing into a cozy bed with clean feet for the night.

When I have the chance I can't wait to share all the stories and pictures from this wonderful trip.

Happy camping, friends.


Jacki said...

wow! you are expert campers! I would definitely have to drag my hubby to go camping again. We have only done it once but not in the woods

a little black cloud in a dress said...

this looks/sounds so scary and exciting! I can't wait to take my lil one camping.

Megan said...

love this post. i've had such the camping bug lately and have loved your past camping posts/photos. tips and tricks between girls for making the most of being outdoors for long periods of time and (staying ladylike and "fresh"- ha!) are much appreciated! beautiful photos of the aspen trees, as well. i would love to get out west and really do some exploring. much different from the Smokies that I'm used to!

Anonymous said...

i love how i took two things from this blog. 1. i wouldn't mind camping (near civilization, i'm thinking baby steps) and 2. you poop three times a day. lol. my coworker and i joke that women just don't do that. lol.

Unknown said...

I loved this post. There is something so satisfying about camping like this.

Signe said...

Love camping! Used to do it a lot back when I was still living up north in Norway but haven’t done it for years now. But this certainly makes me want to go camping again :)

Valerie said...

I'm a total girly girl and have only been camping once in my life. We had the best time but man it was hard not showering in the morning! That said, your posts about camping make me want to call into work sick and head for the mountains asap!

angie on maui said...

Oh, I miss my camping days! When The Hubs and I lived in CA and still owned our boat, we went camping at Lake New Melones nearly every weekend during the summers. The lake had hundreds of coves and "fingers" that made for calm, glassy water and wonderful little spots to set up camp for the night. Your photos really make me long for those days again!

Also want to add that your commitment to maintaining good nutrition while camping is so admirable! Nuts, bananas, Clif bars...such discipline! Our camping menus were pretty low-maintenance and clearly lacking in nutritional value. Bread, meat for The Hubs, soy burgers for me, potato chips, get the picture. Healthy? Not so much!

So glad to read that you were able to escape and disconnect for a bit to get back to nature. That kind of decompression is good for the soul! Looking forward to your next post.

Anonymous said...

This really is a dream of mine - to camp where no one has camped before. :) As much as I like campsites, I really just want to drive and end up somewhere.

I am always worried, though, that I'll end up somewhere I'm not allowed, or on someone's property.

Can you camp anywhere in a national park?

kelly ann said...

the tree pictures are SO magical and dreamy! that first photo could seriously be a car advertisement. ;)

Aura said...

Hollie- My parents started us out a little older than toddler age! I believe I was probably about 4 when we first started camping in closer, local areas like Lake Thunderbird and Sulphur. But really the sooner you get her out there, the better. Michael and I plan on taking our babies camping, just to get them accustomed to it. We camped every Summer growing up, and plan on following that tradition with our family.

Megan- I love camping in the Smokies! I've done it twice and both times it has poured rain. But they're beautiful and I really love the town of Gatlinburg. It's so sweet and quaint.

Jessica- Sometimes 4 times. :) Shhh.

Jocie- It's one of the only ways to still completely get away from the daily grind and just live. I adore it.

Valerie- If you camp somewhere cold and dry, you won't feel like you need to shower at all! Colorado has such amazing weather that you never get greasy or sweaty. It's great. But I've definitely camped in some places that made me long for a shower :)

Angie- Girl we're not THAT healthy! Since it was a hiking trip, we had to eat that way. But when we just camp, we do steaks, hot dogs, and cream cheese and tortillas for breakfast. There's nothing like some good fatty comfort food when you camp :) We had to be really cautious of what we were eating since we were doing so much physical activity. We needed lots of calories and healthy fats this time.
And you are so right, it is very good for the soul. We have been hitting up Colorado for the last 3 summers and as we get close every Spring I just start feeling like I need to be there to disconnect for a week.

Annie- National Parks are super strict. You're only allowed to camp in designated areas, and they're also strict on where you can have pets, if you can gather wood, and where you can hike. We've done Rocky Mountain National Park the last 2 summers and this year we decided we were sick of their rules. State parks are a great place to look because they don't have as many guidelines. We were actually camping in a National Forest here. If you google "primitive camping" in the area you're looking, you can find some good things! That's how we found out we could even camp on this trailhead. Otherwise I never would have known, and also would have felt like we would be in trouble :)
Private land is almost always marked, so I don't think you'll have to worry about anybody coming out with a gun and shooting you!

Kelly Ann- We have an inside joke about our "Places Petey has been" pictures. We always make sure to get him posed in a good shot everywhere we take him! I need to send them to Honda :)

Unknown said...

Oh I sooo love camping:-) Looks like a blast!

Monique said...

All this info is very helpful. I am planning a trip down to Shenandoah National Park this fall.

And some John Muir Quotes....

John Muir: Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.

siniann said...

Thank you thank you thank you! :D I'm having the biggest smile, this is the post what I have been waiting.

I missed the whole camping this year, i'm so sad about it. I'm hoping that there would be still nice weather to do camping, we just didn't plan anything this year (except R went camping with friends as I was sick at home and not allowed to leave home..) I will make plans already for next year ;)

Lisa said...

Was just wondering where hunter sleeps?

Lovely post as always!!!

Inspired said...

That sounds so amazing...How great to be surrounded by beauty, to walk in the woods without the sounds of society around. Thanks for sharing!

Julie xo

Anonymous said...

LOL! Four times. You're such a cutie pie for saying that.

Unknown said...

These photos are BEAUTIFUL!!! We just went camping with some friends about a month ago, So fun!

Anonymous said...

Blogging about how many times you poop a day...really? Grow up.

Queen of the Rant said...

Looks like you had a great time-so picturesque

Aura said...

Anonymous- It's my blog, in case you hadn't noticed. I will write whatever I want, and apparently you will keep coming back to complain about it.
AKA....grow up. No rational, respectable adult leaves obnoxious anonymous comments. If you don't like what I have to say, don't stalk the blog and obsessively read every word on it. It's just as easy as that.

Shilpa Vir speaks! said...


You have a great blog here and I just gave you an award on my blog

Keep up the good work.

Kara said...

I'm going camping this weekend and this got me soooooo pumped! Good call on the baby wipes... Nothing worse than going to bed w dirty mountain feet! xo

Amber said...

Our family use to always stay at Mt. Elbert Lodge when we traveled through Colorado. Such a beautiful mountain. I can't wait to see pictures of your hike!
Thanks for all camping info!

Amie said...

Beautiful pictures (as always) Aura! I, too love cleaning my feet with baby wipes when backpacking or camping...everyone else thinks I'm crazy. There's nothing worse than going to sleep with grimy gross feet!

Jason Hudson Dot Com said...

I fell into a deep-blog-hole reading today. If my boss asks, I'm blaming you.

You are dreamy. Your life is dreamy. And, boy, is your husband dreamy! Swoon!


Camping Equipment said...

Those are great pictures and looks like you guys have such a good time.

yours truly, melissa said...

So those are Aspen trees. They're so beautiul...almost eery! I'm so impressed with your camping skills! I would be so afraid of bears way out there.
Does the pup get to sleep in the tent with you?

Vivienne and Babette said...

I love your photographs :) I noticed some not so nice comments and thought you would get a kick out of this little guy I saw over at Cup of Jo. Enjoy your last days of summer :)

Jay Marie said...

I'm going camping this weekend in the Rockies! Of course I will be to the Idaho portion though due to the site being only 3hrs away from my parents house. We're going to a little known lake that my family has been camping at for decades. I'm so excited. Living in Florida I just don't get to go camping in the Mountains nearly enough. Especially the Rockies, a range that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Queen of the Rant said...

gave you an award at my blog, come c it for deets

Octohawk said...

Wow, I saw the picture of the car at the trailhead and it looked almost identical to a trailhead I used to frequent when I lived in Gunnison, CO. I know, I know, all aspen stands look similar, but it really looked the same. Mt Elbert is by Leadville, no? I love that area.

Anonymous said...

LOL@Anonymous. If someone being genuine, expressive, and artistic is offensive...there is an "X" at the top of your window for your use.

Kelly @ turned UP to ELEVEN! said...

Excellent tips!!! Well done on the tent Michael. My Mike and I need to steal that canopy idea. Our new tent is spacious but not water proof in the least. We learned this the hard way 2 Memorial Weekends ago. He stayed a second night at the camp site, I decided to go home for warmth, comfort and a dry bed. He immediately wished he would have followed my lead that night.

We once went camping and forgot our sleeping bags AND our pillows! It wasn't too cold so thankfully sleeping in jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt were ok. Add to that a warm boyfriend and dog between us we faired OK. I wish I would have noticed the mistake before we were over 20 miles from home.

This place looks amazing the trees make my heart sing I love the white bark. oxox

Anonymous said...

What kind of car is Petey? My husband and I are looking for a new ride and I really like Petey.

Steven said...

I can actually use your checklist as my checklist, it's so detailed and precise! I've never really gone primitive camping before and it sure looks scary but interesting. /will surely be reading more of your posts regarding your adventure. I surely have much to learn.

Anna said...

Just wanted you to know that I live vicariously through your posts. ;)I always love looking at your photo blogs.

Aura said...

Thank you, Jason! I got likewise caught up in your amazing pictures of food and that beautiful cabin. Mostly the cabin...I have serious cabin envy. And thanks, I think he's pretty dreamy, too :)

To those who wondered about Hunter, of course he sleeps in the tent with us! We bring his bed, and he also has a fleece throw that he sleeps under. He's spoiled rotten.

Vivienne- HAHA! That things is freaking adorable. It reminds me of Bobby from King of the Hill. I think I need one of those.

Octohawk- Yup it's outside of Leadville. We LOVED it there. We're for sure going to try and frequent it. And Gunnison is on our next trip to CO :)

Kelly- You slept with no blankets or pillows?! Haha! Tents are so uncomfortable without any bedding.

Anonymous- Petey is a 2003 Honda Element with over 100k miles and no problems so far! He has been an excellent car, and we consider him a part of the family. Even our friends call him Petey! We're planning on keeping him forever. We keep reading and hearing about Elements becoming the next VS bus, and we plan on keeping him around for a lot more years.

Thank you every one! I hope you can all get out on some camping adventures, soon.

Melissa said...

Nice photos, how beautiful each scene are taken...and the bedding, it looks really tidy out there.

Dan said...

Fun post! Makes me really wanna go camping again. You have such great pictures. I enjoyed the view. I hope you enjoy your camping trip all the way to the end. Be safe always!

Jessie Lathroum said...

Miss Joon, this is beautiful! Those trees remind me of my childhood in New Hampshire! So pretty!

I have also been meaning to ask you how you got your entire blog layout nice and wide and solid white. I have been trying and trying and just cant figure it out.

Jessie :)

Jessica said...

How awesome! The adventures were breathtaking and I’m sure the accomplishment of the whole camping trip is surreal. Can’t wait to hear & see the rest of your adventures!

~3iNnA~ said...

I never been camping brain say try it but my heart say no. My husband say I don't think you could survive & I think he is right. Maybe one day. We have the same car you have there but we have green element. I told my husband I sleep in the car and he could sleep at the tent...haha.

We shall see if I have the guts to go to camping...thanks for the pointers though.

I enjoy your blog.