Sometimes the Smart Phone is a Dumb Choice: Stuck in No Cell Phone Service National Forest without a Real Map

Stuck on I-80 With No Map and No Clue

Sometimes I’m not sure the synapses are working in the old noggin.

Heading up to the mountains this past weekend along with 499,999 of the other folks in cars from the Bay Area who were also “sneaking out early on a Friday” – we got stuck.

Always Prepared, was once my motto. And back in the old days before these hand held gizmos that have completely changed my life on a basic level around the house, but also with adventure travel and Apps for just about anything for the outdoors just short of turning into a Swiss Army Knife (where’s the retractable spoon on my iPhone???) – I used to plan the route ahead, be organized, think things through, have the alien, Reynolds Wrap looking space blanket packed “just in case.” As an outdoorsman, you were seriously: Always Prepared.

Now I just look at my co-pilot in the car and say – can you Google the next gas station/forest service road/where are we/how long do we have left/what’s our elevation/how far have we gone/ can you find the blue dot/ where’s the closest In & Out Burger for some fries and a water bottle refill??? All of this while we are already driving. Because the horror of getting stuck unprepared is less horrifying – everything is just a beep-boop-beep of a few finger presses on the phone away – information available instantly, where, before, it was a wide-open chasm of the unknown.

So on Friday, when 499,999 of our new BFF-cars on the road and we all got stand-still stuck for three hours on Interstate 80 heading up into the mountains of Lake Tahoe due to a massive, action-movie worthy overturn of a Cement Truck, we all turned to our phones. And, our phones, in turn, turned into worthless bricks of colorful plastic. No cell phone service available… just endless, heart-tugging “searching…. searching…” going on. And, therefore, no map.

Stuck on I-80, somewhere between the Donner Dinner Party and The Last Exit Before Nowhere, we couldn’t look on a map to: a) see where we actually were, or b) come up with a Plan B – escape routes off the highway, alternate routes from 80 to our destination, turn-around loops if worse came to worse. My smart phone had rendered me a total, complete, reliant, unprepared dumb-dumb, stuck in a possibly dangerous situation.

Luckily, as I’ve been mentioning, we were with 499,999 other friends/cars stuck in the same situation. Some more prepared than we were. And they nicely shared their paper-maps and prepared-information.

But lesson learned, my friends. Next time I’m going retro and turning the lazy (and lost?) -man’s gizmo to Off and bringing a tree full of mappage… just like the good old days.

Namaste & Three Cheers. -a


From The Top of Mt. Everest, El Capitan or Your Bunk Bed, Follow My @OutdoorsyMama on Twitter!

Follow @OutdoorsyMama on Twitter now!

You don't need binoculars to find this blue bird -- my @OutdoorsyMama is now on Twitter! 

I have visions of Sir Edmund Hillary patching through from the summit of Everest to find out the latest from summer camp.... how did the kid do? And the mom? Is she ok?

Ok, maybe not. But it's a fun image.

And I am now hip with the cool people Tweeting all over the place.

So you don't need to lug your big old computer with you everywhere -- just punch me in for the fun on your smart little phone for 160 words or less....

Namaste & Three Tweets! -a


Sleep Away Camp – Harder on the Kids or the Moms?

It's all about the Campfire at Sleep Away Camp

Ok, you sappy, suffering people like me.

For over a century, kids have been shuffled off to sleep away camp for long summers of bonding in tribal ways with kids their own age and with a few highly qualified counselors who mentor and teach vital life skills, all without parents hovering over their every move as especially per trend these days…

For over a century, especially where I grew up in the north east of the country, sleep away camp was a four – six – or even eight week summer adventure. The final bell on the last day of school rings, and, bingo!, time to start packing for camp.

Living out West now, the “tradition” of shipping our kids off to overnight camp for extended periods of the summer is, well, not a tradition. It’s just not done out here with the fervor and regularity of the East Coast families. It’s not the culture. Not the way.

Back East, you just DO IT. There is no thought process about IF you are sending your kids away. It is WHAT IS DONE. And our lemming brains and mob like mentalities are happy. Because deep down we know it is ultimately a GOOD thing for our children to be away from us for a little while, and we don’t have to suffer the decision of our emotions about whether it is good for us moms. Because, of course, they’re our Babies!!! (and how could they survive without us??)

Which leads to the problem for we Once-East-Coast-Now-West-Coast transplant Moms. We actually have to make the DECISION to ship our kids off. Because it is so rare out here. And then find the creeping, creepy feeling that you are a prison warden transferring a difficult case while everyone around you sort of shuffles and doesn’t meet your eye. They think: Why would you ever want to ship away your kid? And we Moms who don’t have the lemming support group telling us that Of Course You Should Ship Them Away, start thinking: But he’s my Baby!!!!  

What’s a Now-West-Coast mom to do??? (sniff)

Meanwhile, just so you know, my son who is being Shipped for a simple, one week, trial balloon this very next week is PUMPED. He may be my Baby! but his eyes are dry and he is salivating at the chance to go hang and play and bang his chest in the woods with other wild creatures his age.

It is my own eyes that just may need an infusion of East Coast hot air to dry the verklempt welling. Sap that I am. Green eggs and camp ham.

Namaste & Three Cheers -OM


Leaving Blisteringly Hot New England For Freezing, Foggy California…. Huh? -- The Vermont Chronicles

There’s something a-strange going on…

Two days ago in Northern Vermont (note: not Southern Mississippi), as I corralled my kiddos back into the car after a long, eventful day at the chicken farm, the temperature inside my car read a brutal 113 degrees Fahrenheit at two in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, as we prepare to make our way back to the homestead in Cali, friends in my Bay Area neighborhood are freezing and turning on their heat as if it were a blustery late November day.


113 Degrees in Vermont???
Now, we Bay Area folk are used to the cold, mind-bleep of our “summer” weather as the dreaded fog rolls in and turns our tourists into popsicles. However, the 96 degrees in the shade for days on end in Northern Vermont is a big old problem and NOT the norm.

A recent article in Popular Science that popped up in my in-box recently, “Strategies for a Changing Planet: Awareness” says: “We’re on a collision course with extreme weather. It’s time to acknowledge that and prepare.” Popular Science Article Link The rest of the article/blog is super high on the YIKES Factor (Yikes!!!) followed by a host of fantastic arguing in the comments section.

No matter what you think, Vermont summers have warmed up. And it’s odd and sorta freaky when your knees are sweating when you’re used to wearing wool socks all year round.

So, New Englanders, it may just be time to make that commitment to the heat wave of the future. Which to choose? to invest in ice cream truck stock or stock up on more ice cream.

Take your pick. 

Namaste & Three Cheers -a


The BEST Light Show Is Not in Vegas Anymore, Baby! Vermont Fireflies Steal the Show – The Vermont Chronicles

Sorry Bellagio.

You and your Celine Dion chortling, mega tear-jerker, water-spouting light show have been majorly upstaged. Upstaged by 500 zillion tiny little, and possibly adorable bugs just larger than your pinky fingernail who start their show just as the lights go down on the Green Mountains of Vermont.

The gentle, magical, unscripted symphony of Fireflies.

There is a gut reaction to the concept of fireflies. From our childhood – chasing them happily, almost giddily, through fields, possibly in slow motion, and of our families spending time together during the long, warm summer vacation. 

Bathing suits and watermelon and cookouts with sticks covered in marshmallow sweetness. Aunties and uncles and cousins altogether for our once a year gathering.

So when the fireflies come out as dusk ends in Vermont, there is already an awe-some feeling of familiarity and warmth in our chests.

Blinking their little hearts out, they seem to rise from the fields and contrast against the deep, dark, tall trees. Forty feet high and as wide as the field can go, they show-off their Cirque-worthy acrobatics to the thrill of their audience. Us.

And each time there is the wonder: how and why do they do this magical feat?  There’s no smarmy white-shoed Vegas agent coordinating an hourly wage for a couple hour, buggy light show 7 days a week.

My ten year old informs me that there are two different chemicals in their bodies that react and create “glow” – a sort of bioluminescence, like those creatures deep in the sea. And they talk to each other with light to attract mates. Naturally. It’s always comes back to the birds and the bees, ahem, bugs these days…

And, finally, take time to enjoy these little glowing guys. Because, sadly, rivaling that Celine Dion song coming to an end, there’s a final teary performance of these little creatures going on – their numbers are decreasing and their populations are disappearing. Humans are mostly the culprit and we CAN do something to help.

Plug in and enjoy.

Namaste & Three Cheers. –a

More about fireflies and how to help: http://www.firefly.org/ 


Universe & Ma Nature Celebrate Outdoorsy Mama's Almost 1,500 Page Views on New Blog

"We're thrilled she's so interesting!" said Ma Nature in a brief interview yesterday as she was stoking her roaring furnace.

"It proves that when you blather on about family disasters and throw in a little humor and some of my friend Universe's and my bounty of ACTIVITIES and CREATURES, you can really come up with some interesting stories..."

Universe couldn't be reached for comment however we're sure it/he/she would agree.


Tiny Vermont Towns Oh So Delicious -- The Vermont Chronicles

Every Vermont Town is Oh So Delicious!

Forgive me. An anemic showing so far for my horn-blowing about “The Vermont Chronicles.” But hot summery days with rivers and wildflower walks and berry picking have left little time for type-typeiting on the keyboard.

But, oh, the plethora of Ma Nature’s and Vermont’s goodies to share!

Last night I had a vision of how to describe Vermont in the summer to someone who’d never been here before. And my challenge was to NOT use the words “quaint” or “nestled in”  – as these are travel adjectives so perfect for every single town in Vermont that I needed to see if I could push past the already perfect description.

So here I go:

If Vermont were a scoop of fresh, homemade Black Raspberry ice cream from the Creamee Stand on the side of rolling Route 7, each little town in Vermont is like one of the Rainbow Jimmies that have been sprinkled on top of the most delicious ice cream state of the summer. Each town is a teeny taste of their own special color and flavor, together making a rainbow of perfection on what already was the perfect bite. A little maple, a little berry, a little sweet corn. A little organic from-the-earth living with a lot of laid-back, good-natured cultivation with a touch of anti-rat-race on top.

Mmmmmm. Hungry yet?

(ps. Jimmies are the Vermonter way of saying Sprinkles… and Creamee is Soft Serve.)

Each of these little communities has a striking white steeple from a different denomination of gathering place – a boxy, sensible church -- usually centering the Village Green and some little shops around it. An Aubuchon Hardware. A used car and tractor dealership on the outskirts. Possibly a cafĂ© with a tasting room for one of the new Vermont wineries trending these days.

Less cows than I remembered. More focus on fresh, homemade food stands and tiny town festivals with seriously kitchy and cool local bands playing to the local and tourismo crowd.

Little square New Englandy houses dot the little towns and also the countryside around them and you find yourself wondering – how do they do this in the winter? It all looks so lush and green and ideal right now. How about in January with 6 feet of snow and cross country skis to get back and forth to your latte?

Well, ask me in January when I’m not in the least bit interested in coming here. (Sorry Vermont, I know you’ll work on me.) Let’s stick to Summer.

So, in the meantime, make mine a double-scoop with room for extra Rainbow Jimmies. The flavor of summer.

Namaste & Three Cheers! -a


Top Kid Summer Activity, Frog Catching -- The Vermont Chronicles

Frog Catching Top Kid Activity!

Kermit and friends, watch out!

It’s that time of year again when my kiddos descend into your territory – your sweet, little, green frog pond– and tromp, stomp and slomp through the mush complete with holey nets and banged up buckets squealing in delight in the chase and capture of you and your slimy, gigantic-ly warty and fabulous friends.

So, you and your toad buddies, send out the alert to beware and prepare.

The kids come in peace. However there is some gentle manhandling, coo-ing and possibly even some playing house involved after the froggy relay race and obstacle course down the porch.

As a parent of these kiddos, I’d like to thank you, deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for the hours of entertainment you provide our crew. And I have a pact with your leader to secretly release you back to your family (even though the kids are pretty good about remembering to do so) once you have exhausted all of your beguiling hippety-hop tricks and before you become burnt out on the small human beings who’ve come to play.

So, yes, play on, dear frogs! 

Do your magic and continue to show our kids the wonders of the outdoors and Ma Nature’s creatures. And I will continue to do my magic and make sure you don’t end up in the choking grip of an enthusiastic toddler (we’ve outgrown that phase but beware the younger cousins!) OR on the hot side of a frying pan, as Grandpa has a taste for a little garlic, olive oil and, you guessed it, leg du frog.

Namaste & Three Cheers! -OM


5 Ways to Pack for Your Family Summer Trip in 6 Minutes or Less: The Vermont Chronicles

Just the Start of Our Packing Pandemonium

Heading out with the fam this summer? Here are some EXPERT tips to make sure you pack like a pro:

First – Before unzipping the suitcase, first make sure to plan your trip to a laid back, back-woods, anti-country or beach club, no-golf-pants-or-pink-and-green-belts-with-whales-or-Labradors-on-them allowed location. Like, in our case, a barn somewhere in Vermont. If you have chosen a more high-maintenance packing location, specifically where the popular summer drink is some sort of hard liquor & Tonic consumed in Tervis Tumblers with Monograms or Boats on them with loads of ladies named Muffy milling around, you have planned improperly. Cancel that trip and start over.

Next – Rummage through your kids’ closets and pick out the dregs – the Chez Target paint, magic marker, school-dirt, stain covered clothes that you’d be mortified to have them seen in public in outside of school property (where it is culturally OK to send them to school in rags because everything gets ruined or lost anyway.) Pick out said dregs and toss ‘em into the giant L.L. Bean all purpose duffle. Bingo. Their clothes for the trip. And, what, no folding? No, no folding. Who’s going to care about the wrinkles in your Hello Kitty chocolate stained, scissor-holed shirt? The mosquitos?

Third – Run around the house frenetically with plastic, Ziplock-anti-altitude-explosion baggies and grab all tubes and tubs of half used sunscreens, bug dope, Neosporins, anti-itch creams, toothpastes, Benadryls.

Don’t Forget – Shoes. As much as I like think we’re going back to the old days of bare-feet and firefly catching in jam-jars like some Claritin commercial, the kids need shoes. #1 Keens. You know my feeling about Keens – oh yes they’re good for everything especially trudging through frog ponds’ mucky bottoms where they won’t get shoes sucked off with every step (sorry Crocs, you lose out majorly here.) #2 Sneaks. Don’t forget the sneaks… and prepare to toss ‘em at the end of the trip as they’ll be un-revivable, even with Oxy Wash resuscitation, after weeks of no-sock, stanky feet abuse. And, #3 oh, ok… throw in the Crocs. Though they don’t pass the sucking off of shoe in muck test, they do pass the slip-and-go and dry-and-go go go summer open-air foot test. 3 pair per kid. Check!

Don’t Pack – Fido. Or Woofus. Or Sparky. Leave the 20-90 lb. pooch at home. Send him to the fab doggie summer camp just outside of town near the eau-de-cow pastures or leave him with a tummy-rubbing dog sitter. Hot summer airplanes are not meant for big dogs. Though small, yappy ones are acceptable. Maybe.

Hair brush, optional. Dental floss a must.

Everything else is just an extra 25 bucks per bag and a fight with the baggage handler.

Happy Packing!

Namaste & Three Cheers –a

(And, my friends, this is the start of The OM Vermont Chronicles. Two weeks of adventure and itchy summery goop from the wilds of the Green Mountain State. Stay tuned…)