More Knots, Fewer Devices

I was never in Boy Scouts, Pathfinders, or any other variant of a bushcraft/youth paramilitary organization. Ergo, I never learned knots. 

I’m lucky to have lived through a decade of rock climbing. We engaged in such poor rope use while climbing that I didn’t learn the figure-8 until after 10 years of sending; I finally had to learn it in order to climb at the local gym so I watched this video. So wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Kids, don’t be like me. Learn your knots!

My tent guy lines look ridiculous. My tarp hanging concoctions are pathetic. My shoelace knots barely keep shoes on my feet. 20 years ago I bought these cheap plastic things that I’ve never gotten to work right. No more!

Tonight I learned three knots. The more you know, the less you need, says Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Know these knots and leave those crappy plastic things at home.

Thanks, Andrew Skurka.


Backpacker: Top 10 Outdoor Apps

I appreciated the recent Backpacker run-down of “The 10 Best Apps For the Outdoors” (Ryan Wichelns, 11 May 2017).

Some of them–like the SkyView–I’d heard of before, but others were new and engaging. I’ve wanted an app like Leafsnap or PeakFinder. I’m probably the last person to hear of these.

We don’t let our kiddo use a phone yet, but when the time comes, these look a lot better than playing Candy Annihilation.

You can buy all 10 in the list for a total of $31.96 (if I did the math correctly). Looks like it could be money well spent.

Paddling Pantheon

In the Pantheon of paddling greats, Michiganders have to know people like Verlen Kruger (more than 88,000 paddle miles; memorial) and Serge Corbin (18-time winner of the Au Sable River Marathon). As a side note, our family took 6 days to cover the same miles those racers paddle in less than 24 hours.

This weekend my dad introduced me to another paddler, Canadian Bill Mason. He made a number of films, and my dad shared one of them — Song of the Paddle:


Vans and Homes and Kids

I’ve been watching videos about families living in vans. At this point, it seems that the films can be grouped into three categories: short-term, long-term, and this-was-not-my-plan. Because embedding videos slows down loading time for the blog, I’m going to link to videos of the first two categories and only embed videos for the third.

Short-Term | These families could be considered to be on vacation, more or less:

Long-Term | These are families who live in their rigs for extended periods of time:

  • Van Life EP2 – How Do We Live? (9:50, Where’s My Office Now?). “Do you wonder how families live van life? Or what it is like to educate kids on the road? Van life is a personal journey, and there are many ways to get from point A to B. Yet, we can all learn from each other. Join us as we interview two families, guided by the question HOW DO WE LIVE?”
  • Inspiration: Tortuga Plata – Family of 4 in a Westfalia Syncro Van (3:00, Where’s My Office Now?). “Marc, Sarah, 5-year old Charlee and their dog Micah have been traveling in their Syncro since October 2013. We met them in Sedona, AZ and were inspired to see a family living and loving life on the road.”

This Was Not My Plan

This category is traditionally termed “homeless.” A few years ago I watched It Was a Wonderful Life, a documentary about women who become homeless for various reasons. Along those lines, here is just one mother’s experience:

Living Out of a Van (3:30, KPBS News). “For San Diego County’s homeless, finding a safe place to sleep just got a little harder. A week ago the City of Vista pulled the plug on a program there. Cornerstone Christian Church opened its parking lot for people to sleep overnight in their cars. But the city said the program would need to apply for costly permits and undergo public hearings to continue. Dreams for Change, the organization running the program, still offers an overnight lot close to downtown San Diego. Reporter Acacia Squires brings us this story of one family taking advantage of it.”

Humble Design Turns Angela’s House Into a Happy, Humble Home! (4:00, Humble Design). “Check out all of the amazing family’s homes we transform: With every family that Humble Design helps we restore their hope for better days in the future. This family opened OUR eyes to a new level of inspiration and what it means to be humble. Angela’s story is one of the most heartbreaking, yet inspirational story ever shared with Humble Design. Angela held strong to the hope that there were better days ahead. After moving to California to be with her ex-husband and father of her five children, her dream was shattered. With no help from her ex-husband, the family of six lived out of their mini van. It has been a long road for this family, and they finally have a happy, humble home!”

Northwest Michigan Camping: Lake Michigan Focus

Credit: Google Maps & MS Paint.

We have a friend coming this summer who wants to camp near Petoskey or Sleeping Bear Dunes. That got us hunting for a good campground. We really need to get Best Tent Camping: Michigan (2015).

I decided to put a list together like the one I did for southwest Michigan car camping. The list doesn’t include ferry options, for instance North and South Manitou Islands or Beaver Island. Some of these are more rustic, some more developed. Some are close to water, while others are slightly more inland.

Here are the campgrounds that stood out to us. I’m sure there are other great locations we’re missing, so share your favorites in the comments below.

Here is a table of travel times for the same cities I used in the analysis of southwest MI camping.

NW MI distances

Next I need to work on locations in the UP, but with so little vacation time, we tend to do most of our trips in the lower peninsula, but I’d love to see more of the UP ( | |

Van Life: Wood Burners & Showers

I’ve never lived out of a van. When I finished my undergrad studies, I sold everything big that I owned so I could fit in my little car (with a roof storage unit). I never lived out of it either, but for a year and a half, I worked and visited friends all over the US.

I like to see how others make van life work. Here are three short videos of people living in vans with a few extra treats — wood stoves and a shower.

Of course I like all the Goal Zero | En Route setups too.

Southwest Michigan Camping: Lake Michigan Focus

Credit: Google Maps. Edited in MS Paint (keeping it real).

The list below grows out of conversations with a few different friends who want to go camping this summer in southwest Michigan. They live in different locations, and they have different needs. One common interest: water.

First, I list the camping areas near Lake Michigan or other bodies of water that most stand out to us. Locations are listed from North to South. Second, I post the travel times around the area. Obviously, neither the list of cities nor campgrounds is exhaustive. (And please see links below for local connections.)

What’s your favorite place in this region not listed here?

  1. Meinert Park (Montague)
  2. Pioneer County Park (Muskegon)
  3. Muskegon State Park (Muskegon)
  4. Holland State Park (Holland)
  5. Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Holland)
  6. Van Buren State Park (South Haven)
  7. Covert Park Campground (Covert)
  8. Dune Lake Campground (Coloma)
  9. Shamrock Park (Berrien Springs)
  10. Weko Beach Campground (Bridgman)
  11. Warren Dunes State Park (Sawyer)
  12. Indiana Dunes State Park (Chesterton, IN)

(click to enlarge)

If you want to go further afield, see my post on northwest Michigan camping. Next I need to work on locations in the UP, but with so little vacation time, we tend to do most of our trips in the lower peninsula. Still, I’d love to see more of the UP ( | |

And if you’re looking for a local place to get camping gear or clothes, check out:

  • Wanderlust Outfitters (St. Joseph; Instagram). Just about everything you’d need for a camping or backpack trip (or a day at the beach). Brands: Prana, Fjallraven, OR, Marmot, The North Face, Columbia, Kuhl, Osprey, Black Diamond, MSR, Eno, Therm-a-Rest, Western Mountaineering, Klean Kanteen, Nalgene, Swartwool, and many more. You get the idea. It’s not a huge store, but they make good use of the space to bring quality and variety to our area. It’s so great to have a local gear shop with a friendly crew.
  • Third Coast Surf Shop (St. Joseph & New Buffalo; Instagram). Patagonia, surf boards, SUPs, rentals, skateboards, etc. Also, check out their paddling shop in Benton Harbor.
  • With these shops, we don’t have to go to Chicago for REI or Uncle Dan’s. Shop local!

While I’m at it, here are three of my other favorite shops in town:

  • Bound for Freedom (Facebook). Buy what you need, keep it ethical, change the world. We’ve purchased snack bars, a shaving kit, sunglasses, and flip-flops. We’re getting our next soccer ball here.
  • Forever Books (Facebook). It’s nice to have a local bookstore, not just Amazon. In the past they had more environmental books, but last time I was in, that area was more limited.
  • Cycle and Fitness (Facebook). Bikes and related gear. Check next door for your running needs–Taylor’d Running.
  • Bonus: People in Mishawaka or South Bend may value Outpost Sports. I haven’t been to their stores in South HavenSt. Joseph, or New Buffalo yet. When I visited the Mishawaka store, bikes were the focus.