Watch out!

Every environment has its own unique dangers, risks… challenges.

My mom was afraid to spend time in the desert because of the scorpions, snakes and spiders… even after decades of living there, she was reluctant to walk far from the pavement.  She was perfectly comfortable, however, traipsing through the Pennsylvania forests where she grew up, …. a place where I find myself distracted by the possibility of encountering a bear or cougar!

I know what to watch out for in the desert… and what to avoid.  Don’t stick your hands under rocks, watch where you put your feet, carry more water than you think you will need and protect against sunburn and the possibility of West Nile Virus from mosquito bites….

When we travel, I want to know what the most serious threats to our safety are before we head out on a trail.  It is often difficult to even know what questions to ask.  What plants are poisonous, what snakes or spiders or animals are most fearsome?  Are there ways to minimize the risks? Are there some not worth taking?

Quicksand, sink holes, prairie dog dens, poison ivy?  Mosquitoes, leeches, icy cold water, sharp coral, gators…. moose?

“Watch out for chiggers and ticks,” we were cautioned when we were spending time in Oklahoma during the summer.  We wanted to head across the field in search of a cache…. looked harmless enough.  I felt reluctant to venture into a new place and realized that it was mere ignorance holding me back.  I just needed to know the real danger, and all of the details.  Use DEET, wear long pants and sleeves and carry a lint roller were the most useful pieces of advice… informative and empowering.

What advice would you offer someone unfamiliar with the risks in your area??  How do you get this information when you are in new locations?


Forearmed with reliable information, it will be easier to say… A new place to explore?……. Sure, let’s go!

Weather or not…

Weather can sometimes make or break a vacation. Typically the limiting factor is the timing and number of days at our disposal, so the only control we have is where we arrange to be and the flexibility of our activities. Assuming that it is still possible and safe to travel to our destination, we need to be prepared for whatever mother nature chooses to serve up.  The hard part is being prepared to not just endure the conditions…. but also enjoy our stay.

Rain suits, long johns, hats and gloves are standard items in our packing list.  The longer the trip and the farther we are going, the more possibilities we have to anticipate and prepare for. Layers are usually the key and we have seen some cold nights where we have had to wear nearly every layer we brought!  Of course if the problem is that it is 105 degrees in the shade, the solution is more in timing than layers. An early alarm and sunrise outing is easier to take when you know the afternoon is free for a siesta.

One thing I have discovered over the years is that being stretched beyond my comfort zone…. even being uncomfortable at times…  can make for the most memorable of adventures.

Racing a snow storm across 30 miles of dirt road, descending into the Grand Canyon through a dense fog and slopping through ankle-deep mud wasn’t what we imagined when we planned our Spring Break backpacking trip a few years ago, but that week is indelible in my memory.  We went back the next year and managed to complete the route as originally planned … in perfect weather.

Getting snowed in 50 miles from our destination made us a day late checking into our accommodations another year, but the experience was certainly unique.  As we broke tracks through the snow along the road we kept reminding ourselves that the worse case scenario would be that we stopped and climbed into sleeping bags in the back of our truck to weather the night.  We managed to get to a town where we found a room and a hot meal.

Rain in Sedona can change hiking plans… but open up amazing scenes as the water spills from pour-offs on red rock walls all around and fills usually dry creek beds.  If I let disappointment over disrupted plans leave me reluctant to look for other options… I can miss unanticipated opportunities.

The benefits of retirement have opened up so many new options for us as we face the unpredictable weather in our travels.  Usually we can leave our destination flexible as well as the amount of time we choose to stay wherever we are…. a little chilly? … head south for a day or two.  Storm making travel hazardous? Stay put, no need to take unnecessary risks.  Rainy day… good time to lounge in bed awhile longer, visit some galleries, go to a movie, take another class, or catch up on the blog I’ve been avoiding … 🙂

Weather, our not…… Let’s go!