<![CDATA[Tiffany Ernst - Blog]]>Thu, 10 Dec 2015 20:59:02 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Camping Comfortably]]>Wed, 09 Dec 2015 02:51:39 GMThttp://www.tiffanyernst.com/blog/camping-comfortablyPicture
Camping: the act of temporarily living in, or as if in, a camp or the outdoors. Typically associated activities include: running from swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, spending multiple days unclean, uncomfortable, and/or eating food that would never be appetizing in other circumstances.
    For most folks, the closest they ever come to “camping” is spending a weekend in a furnished mountain lodge. As someone who grew up in a family where our yearly vacation was a 2-week camping trip, this concept of “indoor camping” was foreign and unpleasant. It wasn’t until I began dragging my friends along on my own camping trips that I realized most people I knew didn’t know how to make outdoor exploration comfortable. Unfortunately, I’m no wilderness miracle worker; I can’t eliminate the presence of bugs that bite or unexpected rainstorms but there is a way to enjoy the splendor of nature without feeling miserably unclean and hungry.
    Below I have listed five of my must-haves for a weekend in the woods. My hope is that even if you only spend an evening at your local State Park, these little tips and tricks will get you into the forest air and sleeping under the stars.

  1. ground tarp & sleeping mat: No matter where you’re camping or what kind of weather, these tent accoutrements are the first steps to a good night’s rest in the woods. Ground tarps will protect the bottom of your tent from groundwater (which can accumulate from previous rain or marshy areas) and in colder weather it will keep you warmer by creating an extra layer between your sleeping bag and the chilly ground. A sleeping pad will do essentially the same thing, providing yet another layer of warmth and a bit of cushy comfort to protect from rocks and uneven ground.
  2. a (good) sleeping bag: This was probably the most revolutionary discovery in my camping “career”: what sleeping bag you have definitely matters! In the world of sleeping bags there are an overwhelming amount of options but it is worth investing in a bag that is suited to the environments in which you usually find yourself. Check out REI’s helpful “Sleeping Bags for Backpacking” guide for a comprehensive description of what to look for: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/sleeping-bag-backpacking.html
  3. corn starch/baking soda/cocoa powder: While this must seem an odd list of supplies that resemble cooking ingredients, let me explain. Most people dislike the I-haven’t-showered-in-days greasy feeling your hair gets after a couple of evenings in the woods. Putting corn starch or baking soda in blonde hair and cocoa powder in brown hair will help to absorb some of the uncomfortable moisture your hair can accumulate. Dry shampoos are also an option but I find these are much easier to carry (as they can be stored in a ziploc bag) and are a much cheaper solution to the problem.
  4. ziploc baggies of various sizes: At this point, I’m pretty sure most people are aware of the versatility of the ziploc bag. When it comes to camping, ziploc bags can be exceptionally helpful in dividing dirty/smelly/wet items from clean/dry ones. If I’m backpacking, I often use a ziploc bag to carry toilet paper or other leave-no-trace trash items. But if you’re just going for a weekend trip it’s a good idea to have gallon sized ziplocs on hand to separate your clean clothes from your dirty ones. Keeping your clothes (ESPECIALLY SOCKS & UNDERWEAR) in ziplocs bags, clean or otherwise, will protect in case of rain.
  5. “comfy campsite shoes”: For me, this is a personal necessity. Whether I’m doing a week long backpacking trip or an overnight camping excursion, I need a pair of shoes to wear around the campsite other than my hiking boots. After a long day on your feet one of the most relieving things you can do is change into a comfortable pair of sandals, flip-flops, or other casual shoes to help give your feet a break. These shoes are also A LOT easier to remove when getting into your tent at night and tend to pack pretty light if you have to carry your gear a far distance.

<![CDATA[Seeking Solitude?]]>Mon, 26 Oct 2015 19:13:12 GMThttp://www.tiffanyernst.com/blog/seeking-solitude
“Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands, in which one gains the advantages of both solitude and society. Nowhere will you find more company of a soothing peace-be-still kind.”
 -John Muir
​Double-check the 140-character lives of those you follow on Twitter. Collect companions to enjoy your lunch with. Ask for yet another WiFi password to keep your life connected. Today’s society seems to revolve around a social-culture: a lifestyle that promotes, and almost necessitates, constant human-to-human interactions. And with technology so seamlessly blending our virtual lives with our physical ones, there are rarely moments in which we are truly alone.
For many people, this may not seem problematic. The concept of being alone is often negatively associated, as though the simple act of being solitary is synonymous with being sad. Even a simple google image search for the word “alone” unearths a collection of gloomy, silhouetted figures bent in anguish. As a society, we have become accustomed to the idea of constant human contact, taking only rare moments to remove ourselves from the fray.

With all this overwhelming sociability it can be difficult to find a time - let alone a place- where we can enjoy moments of the personal reflection that solitude allows. Although often seen as the practice of devout buddhist monks, seeking solitude is one of the best ways to form an intimacy with your personal state-of-being. Prior to attending college I never really appreciated the quantity of time I spent by myself. People in school have always characterized me as overtly friendly. I distinctly remember my freshman-year roommate looking at me with disdain when she said, “Oh… you’re an extrovert aren’t you?” I suppose my tendency to interact well with and enjoy the company of strangers defined me as some sort of sociable person. It wasn’t until I started taking weekend trips to the local state park that I realized how wrong she was. Having the opportunity to remove myself from the social environment we often feel pressured to be a part of, I realized how rejuvenated I felt after having spent a couple hours in the woods by myself. For someone who has always sought relaxation in the outdoors, I’m surprised it took me so long to realize it was the solitude I enjoyed.

Nature is particularly interesting in that it provides a place for personal reflection that does not require you to be traditionally “alone”. The U.S. National Parks service was established with the sole purpose of “... [conserving] the  scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” When you seek solitude in a National Park you are encouraged to bring those that are close to you, to share in the beauty that the natural world has to offer. The real solitude comes in the quiet moments of awe at the sheer expanse of untouched land, peaceful star-gazing in a sky with no light pollution, and the simplicity of living that is required in the wilderness. In the outdoors you can be surrounded by life, people and animals and an environment that continues to challenge you. There are no outside distractions, no social obligations to keep up with, no messages to read or write; the only life you have to live is the one around you.