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Poop Shovels and Potatoes: My First Backpacking Adventure

Go Jules Go Title Graphic_Poop Shovels and Potatoes My first backpacking adventure_18SEP2019

“Guessing everyone will want to bring their own poop shovel,” Kristen commented.

I scanned the Excel spreadsheet. Tarps, cook stove, First Aid kit, Kula cloth, Shee-wee…

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I am not in Kansas Jersey anymore.

Words and phrases I’d never heard filled my eyes and ears last week as I geared up for my very first backpacking trip.

“I have -literally- nothing,” I said. “But I can bring food!”

Never underestimate a project manager in the kitchen.

The group decided it was best to keep our hike short if we had full packs, and do longer day hikes once we’d set up camp. With my experience level somewhere between, “I’m still not entirely sure how to recognize poison ivy” and “I read Wild,” I was grateful for the modest expectations. Not to mention the other four women had enough outdoor prowess to vote me off the island the minute I asked who was bringing hair spray.

If there’s one thing a native New Jerseysian can tell you about moving to Oregon, it’s this:

Buckle up. No, really. Really really.

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And bring whiskey.

Back east, I was one of the more outdoorsy people I knew. Day hiking, road cycling and the occasional marathon were my jam. By moving to Bend, Oregon in June, I quickly dropped several thousand notches. I had to trade my heels for headlamps if I wanted to survive.

Jules: Before and After Oregon. (Pssst, that’s not soup in that bowl.)

Nevertheless, backpacking was on my bucket list, and I’d be damned if I was going to let poop shovels throw me off course. I wanted tents, campfires and starlit skies, and I wanted them stat.

“Oh man, we should have consulted beforehand; this is way too much food,” Kristen said as I unloaded our provisions at our campsite, three and a half hours east of Bend.

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Just because the potatoes required their own baby Bjorn…

“Don’t you worry,” I assured her. “Uncle Jesse and I can eat our weight in tubers.”

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Including tots.

We didn’t have much time to explore before nightfall, but drank in the scenery (and the whiskey) before avocado quesadillas and the full moon took center stage.

Around 9 o’clock, long before I felt any urge to sleep, we called it a night. I tried to stay perfectly still in my borrowed sleeping bag, lest the swish-swish-swish of the “certified 18 below” fabric wake my tent mate. The temperature plummeted, my teeth rattled and my bladder screamed. And what is up with this inflatable pillow? My neck was at an exact 90 degree angle; I could see my blue toes perfectly.

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Where’s your puffy, Mom?

Eventually I gave up.

ZZZZZZZZIPPPPPPPP. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered to Erin. “I have to pee.” Uncle Jesse caused a commotion trying to follow me in the dark, and after burying my toilet paper in a “carry out bag,” I put on every item of clothing I’d brought. Eventually I managed a few hours of fitful sleep.

By 9 o’clock the next morning, after some blood (and almost tear) shed, I was ready to call it quits, along with two of the other women.

Uncle Jesse, after thinking dogs twice his size liked sharing their food.

“If you’re leaving, I think I’ll go with you,” I said, trying to sound as calm as possible. Get me the f*@& out of here!!!!!! “I’m just a little cold.”

“I don’t think we can have both dogs in the car,” the getaway car driver gently explained.

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Coffee. At least there was coffee.

I decided to stick it out, and within a couple of hours, the two remaining campers and I hit the trails and all seemed right again.

In fact, when I zipped up my sleeping bag for the second, and final, night, I thought, “I could get used to this.”

It wasn’t until the next afternoon that we found out a cougar had been roaming our camp.

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Are you more of a backpacker or a back-to-Netflix-and-running-water type? Also, is a poop shovel just a regular shovel with an R.E.I. logo? Discuss.

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Giveaway Junkie, humor, Summer is Hot, Wipe the Drool

In the Middle of the Woods…NAKED.

***Winner of my latest blog contest announced below!***

Go Jules Go title graphic In the Middle of the Woods Naked_3JUL2019

“Just past the two topless women circling the labyrinth…”

I sat in a large Adirondack chair, my chin tilted skyward. It was only 70 degrees, but the sun was determined to make an impression and I took full advantage.

“…Keep going until you hit the river, then turn left….”

I flexed my feet in the sandy grass, my calve muscles twinging.

Still with me? Okay, now keeping going until you see a yurt on your left. HI!”

I snorted, entertaining myself by imagining how I’d describe my location to friends back in New Jersey. Fleshy, human-shaped blurs passed in my peripheral vision every 10-15 seconds. Hey! Maybe my Duolingo app works off-grid…

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Me. Relaxing Taking blog notes (and selfies).

Don’t get me wrong. I know how to chill.

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See? CHILL.

But there was a lot going on here.

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By here I mean Breitenbush Hot Springs.

Never heard of it? Allow me. Breitenbush Hot Springs is a place in the middle of the Oregon woods where people go when they decide they’ve had far too much caffeine and/or clothing.

“I help coach a running and yoga retreat [there] in June! It’s right up your alley! As ‘Oregon’ as it gets! Blog fodder for days!” The Byronic Man, my oldest bloggy friend, marketed it to me late last year.

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Remember the good ol’ bloggy days?

That’s right. The Byronic Man! After eight years, we decided to meet in person for the first time under the most mundane circumstances imaginable.

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Oh. I slay me.

When the running-yoga-hot-springs-retreat topic was broached, I was prettttty sure I was calling Byronic Man’s bluff by saying, “I’m in!”

“The hot springs are ‘clothing optional,’ so we’ll be going from 0 to 60 in the getting to know you department,” he cautioned.

“Sounds like I can pack light!” I replied. “Just promise to ship my ashes back to New Jersey if there’s another cougar this year.”

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I may have had some fun with this.

It was on. I was brave now, after all. I did things like quit my job and sell all of my stuff. In fact, by the time I got to Breitenbush, I was already moved out of New Jersey and unpacked at my new apartment in Bend, Oregon – a plan that magically came together just before this intriguing hot springs retreat.

So, three days in the middle of the woods filled with nudity, shared showers, running uphill in front of strangers, and no cell service, wine or caffeine? BRING IT.

After descending a long (and I mean long) gravel driveway that gave me Maine road trip flashbacks, I checked into my Breitenbush cabin, heart in my throat. Thankfully, The Byronic Man and I had had an opportunity to meet for a beer just before the retreat, so that left only 10,327 things to worry about.

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I’m just going to say it. My hands were shaking.

The first evening kicked off with an “easy” 3-mile run.

I approached the group -ultimately 13 women and 4 men- with a big smile, hoping to make some new friends.

And you know what?

I TOTALLY DID.

I fully intended to turn this experience into a fabulous, ongoing series about how awkward and awful the whole thing was, but… it was… kinda… AWESOME. I mean, I was the only person there who wore a bathing suit, and I’m pretty sure the retreat coach has several videos of me running uphill, but… I LIKED IT. No wine or cell service in 72 hours and I’D GO BACK.

And I’m not just saying that because I lost five pounds.

I’m really sorry. I’m disappointed for both of us. But hey! I’m sure I’ll be mortified again soon!

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And the winner of THE WORLD’S BEST BEER KOOZIE AND DECK OF CARDS IS…

Encounter Soul!

Her entry begins…

The minivan was packed. Travel games galore were in easy reach of our 10, 8 & 4 year old boys. My meticulously planned itinerary was a glance away as we began our 3,000 mile, 55+ hour adventure from San Diego, CA to see my sister in Seattle, WA…”

For the rest of the tale, click here!

Encounter Soul, CONGRATS! I’ll be in touch via e-mail, and soon, this will alllll be yours:

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