NATURE FOR THE SOUL: A BEGINNERS BACKPACKING JOURNEY: TEST RUNS AT VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK
Wow…I’m so glad that I decided to try out a few practice runs before diving in head first and going straight into the back-country without any experience whatsoever. To be honest, I don’t know what I was thinking! What can I say. Sometimes I’m just impulsive as hell and I have no patience for practice! LoL. But patience is a good thing to have and it seems like the universe has been trying to get me to realize that lately. But yea. This first practice run really opened up my eyes. It showed me some of my strengths and some of weaknesses. Let’s just say that I have so much more to improve upon to be better at this whole backpacking out in nature thing. Made it to valley of fire state park safe and sound! Yea, let’s get some backpacking practice on!
I arrived at Atlatl rock campground at around 12.30pm. To my excitement my favorite spot was open and beckoning me to come on over and pitch my tent. Site number 22 baby! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this camp site. It really is the most secluded most perfect site inside of the whole entire Valley of Fire State Park. It’s a favorite of many regular vof campers, which is why I was so happy to find it empty! I filled out my camping slip, payed my dues, and headed back to camp. I did find two people from the cleanup crew cleaning up near my site when I got back from paying my camping fee. They explained to me that another camper told them that there were beer bottles littered near the camp site. I guess someone got a little too rowdy in the desert last-night! Lol. That also made me glad that I decided to do my test run today, because in all actuality the trip was planned for yesterday but I lazed out and never went to sprouts to get my camping food. If I would’ve came on the planned day my favorite site would’ve been occupied by a bunch of young partying whipper snappers! Haha. They did leave behind some firewood though so that was cool! Thanks guys! Too bad I didn’t bring smores! Oh well…A regular old campfire lighting up the night sky is still pretty awesome to look at nonetheless.
So, for reference, I did set up my tent once while I was at home and it seemed easy enough. The plan was to download the video of the setup so that I could watch it again at camp if I needed to. That plan unfortunately didn’t pan out so well. The stupid down-loader app didn’t want to download the video and so I was forced to rely on memory alone. That started out ok. I got the rain fly down, laid the tent down, got the poles laid out, but when it came to actually setting up the poles, I was utterly confused for a moment. I couldn’t get the poles to bend!!! Fortunately, I figured it all out shortly thereafter and I have to admit, I was pretty damn proud of myself for pitching and staking down MY OWN tent. I’ve pitched up my four person Coleman tent before but that tent is a huge pop up shared tent between me and my bf. This was me pitching up my own tent. My little home away from home. My portable personal humble abode in the desert. I felt like I had just claimed my stake and put down my flag. I felt so accomplished and proud of myself! Yay I accomplished something!
And do you know what, for a brief moment as I was reveling in my small victory, I caught myself scolding myself for actually praising myself and feeling good about what I had accomplished. Louise Hay says that patting ourselves on the back when we do good, is an act of loving and appreciating ourselves along with never criticizing ourselves. Like a lot of people out there, I often struggle with the subconscious belief that I don’t deserve good or that I’m unworthy of receiving good into my life. This is in fact the exact reason why we push our goodness away. Because we don’t feel like we deserve it! But I do deserve to feel good. We all do and we shouldn’t feel bad for it! Why can we so naturally and automatically point out the “wrong ” that we do, and then have such a hard time recognizing the right or the good that we do. It shouldn’t be that way! Accomplishing something is an awesome feeling, especially when you’re trying out new things! Thank god that I listen to Louise a lot. I heard her soothing voice permeate the back of my mind and I just decided to surrender to the good feeling instead of blocking it out. Thanks Louise! Tents up and looking great!
So I realize now that regular camping is really in a far different league than back-country camping. I’d advise anyone getting into back-country camping to at-least first get down the basics of camping in an established campground first. I realized that I do a lot of dumb things when regular car camping. Like, leaving my pack, food bag, and other belongings wide open so that critters could just walk on in and make themselves cozy. I caught myself doing this a few times and it’s a habit that absolutely needs to be broken if I plan on backpacking in the back-country. I don’t want to find no damn scorpions or any other critters in my pack! Also, fyi, the critters out in the wild don’t give a damn if you stink or not. In fact, the retched funk just might keep them away from you, but for gods sake don’t be like me and bring scented toiletries like lavender body wash and deodorant. Just don’t unless you want to be a magnet for bugs. Unscented products are your friend! Did I mention that bee’s seem to be really infatuated with the color orange?! That made for an interesting situation when I was setting up my semi orange tent.
Now, let’s talk about admittedly one of my favorite parts about camping. Camping food! This is how much food I packed for 2 and 1/2 days worth of camping. It looks like too much, and it probably was, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry! Well, only sort of when you’re backpacking out in the back-country. You’d definitely want to bring at-least a days worth of extra food in case you find yourself in a tough situation, but, the weight of your pack matters too and so I probably would’ve went a little bit lighter on the food load in an actual backpacking scenario. Thank god my Nesco dehydrator will be arriving shortly. Dehydrated food weighs close to nothing and they take up minimal room inside of your pack. Having a dehydrator also allows you to make your own healthy non perishable camping foods without having to worry about added fillers, preservatives, and a bunch of sodium and other crap. For now though, I just played it basic and picked up a few simple non perishable items from my local sprouts. It turned out to be a pretty good camping menu! For breakfast I packed everything that I needed for my loaded rolled oats topped with dried cranberries, coconut chips, and pumpkin seeds. For lunch and snacks I got various grab and go non perishable items like rice crackers, trail mix, seaweed, and sweet potato/beet chips. For dinner I packed white rice, beans, and tinned sardines. I also packed my homemade spice mix because duh! Cant have bland foods out in the wild!
After setting up my tent, dinner really couldn’t come fast enough. I hadn’t eaten all day and I was just dying to check out my camping stove in a real camping setting. After munching on some seaweed snax and homemade trail mix, I finally settled on rice & beans with a tin of sardines and these awesome rice cake thins. The only problem was that when I went to turn on the stove, nothing happened. Well, I heard the noise but I saw no flame. I wasn’t sure if this was due to the small amount of wind wafting through the air or what. But I did notice something else in the air, a strong smell of propane/butane and I immediately wanted no parts in the stove anymore. I got scared! lol. My boyfriend wasn’t here to help me out with this situation and so I honestly had no idea what to do. Was the stove malfunctioning from the wind? Was the fuel tank going to explode on me? Why is jadakiss as hard as it gets?! So many unanswered questions ran threw mind and I just wasn’t sure if I should just give up on the stove or try to make it work. That night I decided to give up. I’m sure that I could’ve tweaked with it a little bit more to try and figure out the issue, but at that point, with that smell, I was afraid that the fuel canister would explode right in my face! *shutters*
No rice for this girl. Bummer! But this was still good and welcome after a long day. Actually this was extremely filling and I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to eat it all with the rice, so I guess it all worked itself out in the end! Note to self: your eyes are way bigger than your stomach. Lol.
Can we just talk about this trail mix for a second though.It’s so good! It’s very simple to make and it’s way healthier than the store brought stuff because instead of buying one big bag of premade junk, you instead buy a bunch of different healthier ingredients of your choosing in bulk, and you mix them together to make your own delicious healthy trail mix. I’ve posted the recipe here. FYI it’s extremely addicting but don’t feel bad because it’s loaded with healthy fats, protein, and a bunch of other vitamins and minerals that will help you keep your energy up while out on the trail.
Once night began to fall, I did notice myself getting a bit more antsy. Lol. I’ve solo camped only once before and that time I was pretty much surrounded by other campers on both sides, and even though these people were complete strangers, it gave me a false sense of security and well-being just by having them nearby. Not this time! Even though this was actually the same exact campground that I solo camped at before, like I said, site #22 is in a league of it’s own, which is why it’s situated in the perfect spot to test out back-country camping. With site #22, you pretty much have a whole backpacking playground right in your camp site backyard. It seriously is the best campsite ever, and for my trial backpacking run it was even more secluded than usual!
Site #22 is located in a section that includes 2 other walk in sites #20 and #21. Usually other people are occupying the other two nearby sites, but not on this night. I had the whole entire area to myself!
The seclusion is great for during the day privacy but admittedly it can become a little scary at night when you’re all alone in the dark in the middle of the desert. Luckily I came fully equipped with flashlights AND headlamps so that definitely made things a lot easier. For the most part though, I winded down the night inside of my cozy two person backpacking tent. Did I mention that I’m really grateful for these practice runs? They’ve opened my eyes up to a lot! Like the fact that my boyfriend, whose down for doing a few nature runs every now and then, has another thing coming if he thinks that we’re going to be sharing this two person tent for backpacking. As it turns out, this tent is just the right size for one person and a 65 liter backpack. Not two people and two backpacks… No way! Sry booba! I love you very much but you’re going to have to sleep inside of your own tent. Did I mention how much I love this tent?! I have dubbed thee “casita de courtneisha”. Excuse the mess inside!
I wasn’t expecting it to be so cold at night but then again this is the desert. The weather here usually ends up on either side of the extreme spectrum. It’s either burnt to a crisp hot or hypothermia cold. The temps this night reached well within the 30’s. It was the perfect time to put my new teton sports +5 mummy sleeping bag to the test. The verdict? It performed fairly well for the weather, but I sleep cold, and I definitely would’ve frozen my butt off it it was any colder. Albeit I wasn’t layered up too well at first. Once I threw on an extra pair of socks, gloves, and my sweatpants over my jeans, I felt a bit more warm and snugly. I did have to resort to pulling a blanket out of the trunk in the middle of the night, which is something that I definitely wouldn’t have the luxury of doing while backpacking… I’ll have to work on layering up my clothing better. FYI. Ugh. Waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom while camping is annoying. It’s cold, dark, and did I mention cold and dark? I’m seriously considering buying one of those pee funnel things. It sounded a bit crazy when I first heard of it, but now I can see how a pee funnel could definitely come in handy while camping. Don’t nobody have time to be stepping out into the cold dark desert in the middle of the night to take a piss. Back to bed!!!
Yay! I made it through the night and I actually managed to get the camp stove working this morning! I made myself a nice pot of loaded oats which were extremely welcoming after a very cold night, and that was with layered clothing, a 5+ degree rated sleeping bag, and a quilt from home! Seriously, how do people tent camp in the snow?! I salute you! Back to the oats. I even managed to sneak in a quick video recipe before my camera battery completely died. I’d highly encourage you to check it out as these oats are the bomb.com no matter if you’re camping or not.
Note to self. Yes, it’s fun and practical to hang things from your backpack with daisy chains, but it’s not always ideal if you’re hiking through the desert. Those things can rattle and make a lot of noise when you’re walking and I’d rather not alert wild creatures of my whereabouts.
It’s a lot easier to hear your inner voice out in nature. The stillness and solitude relaxes your mind and affords you some time to really connect with your inner you. I did a lot of reflecting and connecting on this day. I even had a little breakthrough while reflecting on some issues that I’ve been having with my mom. My inner voice allowed me to realize that even though we’ve had our past differences, without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be exploring the ins and outs of the mind, body, and soul and trying to heal my life. Without her I would’ve never seen in me what it is that I needed to change about myself, seeing as me and my mom are very much alike in a lot of ways. Without her I probably would’ve never embarked on this journey towards self love. At least not like this. So, in all actuality, I’m realizing to be thankful for her and for all that she has taught me. I’m learning to appreciate her for allowing me to realize this awesome power that lies inside of me. The power of self love. The power of the mind, body, connection. The power of healing! Thanks, mom! <3
Dinner on the second night came very early. I had trail mix, rice crackers, and seaweed for lunch because my camping stove did not feel like cooperating with me again.
I figured out why! It WAS the wind. Lol. I’m such a newb. Technical foul! I tried out the stove again after creating a makeshift wind cover out of my food bag. Rice, beans, and sardines here I come! Ooh man!!!.I threw some of my spice mix into the rice while it was boiling and it smelled so good! Even the bees tried to come over and grab a bite. I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel of this meal.
Once in a while I’m always reminded why the allure of back-country camping seems so appealing vs camping in a developed campground. Why do random people feel the need to just walk up to your campsite?? Granted site #22 is hidden in the cut, but still, once you see a tent please be respectful and give me my privacy! It’s worth mentioning that the only people who have done this to me are clearly foreign tourist and obviously they must have no idea of camping etiquette out here in the states. But I digress!…
I walked around with my pack for a while trying to get use to the weight. I’ve realized that once you adjust the fit just right for your frame, you hardly even feel the weight of your pack that much. I haven’t weighed it yet but I’m guessing that fully loaded it weighs upwards of 40lbs +. I’m pretty siked to think about adding all of this weight while out hiking. This could really help me to get strong! I kind of felt like a super sayan wearing weighted gear. Lol. KAMEEEEYAAAAAAMEEEEYAA! This backpacking pack is a beast. I love it! Read this post if you want to find out what all I carry inside of it. Here’s a pick of me trying the beast on right before I left for my trip.
As the night winded down I got the urge to do some star gazing outside of my tent. Besides, it was only around 6pm and I didn’t feel like heading into the tent so early. I grabbed my camping chair, my headlamp, my flashlight, and I clipped another solar powered lantern to my belt straps and I was good to go. Or at-least I thought I was. I parked my camping chair down in a nice spot, situated myself and got comfortable. Did I mention that I forgot just how much certain bugs are attracted to the light? It was highly annoying but my only options were to either deal with it or to turn the lights off. I decided to turn the lights off (better view of the stars anyway) but it didn’t take too long before I started to freak myself out. Imagine almost total darkness with nothing but the silhouette sightings of huge mountains and bushes in view plus random small creatures that you can only hear but not see. Needless to say, star gazing didn’t last too long and I quickly headed back into my tent. Lol. I’d usually have no problem star gazing at night in total darkness with the boyfriend, so I knew that this was only a fear associated with me being by myself. Why do I/we sike ourselves up in that way? We don’t need other people with us to be able to do what makes us happy! We don’t need to use other people as an excuse to not get out there and live our dreams. I love stargazing and I will work up the courage to do it alone anywhere anytime and without fear. Baby steps!
As the night winded down even further I decided to make use of some of my many entertainment options in “casita de courtneisha.” I turned on my tablet and played some music thanks to my awesome solar panel that allows me to charge up my devices through the suns energy while out in nature. I colored a bit in my coloring journal and I even got started on writing up a new song. It’s absolute fire btw so watch out for it on my YouTube channel. The weather was much more bearable on this night. Well, not really. I just learned to snuggle up in my blanket and sleeping bag better. Good night!
It’s a beautiful morning! I woke up and made a fresh pot of loaded oats. Still feeling inspired from last-night, I meandered around the campsite with my headphones fully blasting finishing up the first part to a song that I’m writing. I think I’m going to call it “letter to God.” By 11:30am I pack up all of my gear and get ready for check out. But not before heading to a nice and serene rock formation to sit and reflect on my trip thus far. All in all, this was a great first backpacking test run. I learned a lot of do’s and don’ts. I realized a lot of my preferences and what I can do without vs what I absolutely cannot do without. Like my boyfriends massive hoodie with the neck and face cover! It really came in handy for those cold and windy nights and it will be being toted along on subsequent trips. I’m glad that I got some time to finally quiet my mind and get more in tune with nature and with myself. I’m already planning and looking forward to my next trip! I can’t wait! I hope you enjoyed this trip write up! Stayed tuned for the next one and until then, happy camping friends!
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