Ode to Freeze-dried Suppers

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If you’ve been in the backcountry over night, you know what I’m talking about when I say that there are few things that taste as good as a re-hydrated meal eaten right out of the bag in the middle of nowhere after a long day of hiking. Dehydrated meals are a must for any true backpacker. And boy, do we love them. Here are the top reasons why freeze-dried meals are the shizz:

1. There is no better way to pack in the calories needed for long days of trekking it through the wild.

2. They provide you with a hot meal at the end of a long day. Think how nice a warm pouch of Chili Mac would be after a 12 mile hike, eaten as the sun starts setting over the mountains and that cool night air starts to creep in. You can’t beat it. Hot meal. A must.

3. Some of them actually taste really good. Try these meals from Mountain House: Chicken a la King, Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Beef Stroganoff, Chili Mac with Beef, or Mac and Cheese. Steer clear of the ‘Breakfast’ options…just my advice.

4. Easy clean up when you eat right out of the bag! No bowls required. Just rinse the bag out when you’re done, roll it up small, and stuff it in your pack. No muss no fuss.

5. They fill you up. No really. You wont be hungry after downing a Mountain House Entree pouch.

Freeze-dried suppers are a life saver on a cool, wilderness night. That’s why we, the adventurers, the explorers, the backcountry men [and women], love them so.

Exciting Announcement and Giveaway!

Exciting Announcement and GIVEAWAY!

***UPDATE 01/29/14: The winner has been notified! Thank you all for participating! Stay tuned for more giveaways!***

Exciting announcement today at Wild Writes! You may have noticed a few new things around the blog…new colors, new header, new menu options to make finding posts a bit easier, and A BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW LOGO! That’s right, Wild Writes has a logo and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Here it is…the official Wild Writes logo!

ImageTo celebrate, I’m doing a giveaway!

One of my must-have accessories for any cold-weather adventure I go on is my Turtle Fur headband. I wear it everywhere and I love how it gives me just the right amount of warmth, while still leaving the top of my head open for that fresh air. Plus, it keeps my hair out of my face, a MUST when I’m out in the back country. And, I just may throw in a few other goodies with that headband as well!

So, here is how it works:

-Follow the blog.

-Follow @mrsannac3 on Instagram.

-Share the picture below on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #WWGiveaway.

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And that’s it! The winner will be announced on the blog next Wednesday, January 29th. Good luck!

Keep your eye out for some more exciting announcements coming to Wild Writes in the near future! Big things are happening and I can’t wait to share them with you all.

Rocks, Ice, and Fog: First Hike of 2014

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No hangover here!

My husband, Ben, and I spent our New Year’s Eve a little differently than most 25 year olds probably did. We had an early dinner at my parents’ house and then headed back home where we proceeded to spend the evening packing feverishly for our first adventure photo 1of the new year. We meticulously laid out our gear, inspecting it with great care. Ben’s new Kuiu [www.kuiu.com] pack was filled with water, Cliff bars, and extra layers for us to throw on if needed. Our hiking boots were set out side by side. We had the New York New Year’s Eve coverage playing on my laptop in the background and at 12am Eastern time (9pm for us), we watched the ball drop, shared a New Year’s kiss and then called it a night.

We awoke early before the sun. While other people were in bed, recovering from the night’s festivities, we filled our thermoses with hot coffee, grabbed some protein bars, loaded up the truck and hit the road with our little dog, Gunner, heading East. There wasn’t much snow on the pass as we made our way through the mountains. But towards the top we noticed a thin sheen of black ice shimmering ever so slightly in the emerging sunlight. A sneaky, deadly thing, black ice.

We pulled off at the top of the pass into a deserted parking lot. No black ice there – instead, it was covered in a thick, obvious layer of ice, coated in a fine blanket of frost. The truck skidded over it’s surface as we came to a stop. We wanted to let Gunner out for a break from the car ride. Ben, Gunner, and I each took our turn wiping out on the ice as we tried to walk around a bit to stretch our legs. Laughing, we all piled back into the truck and proceeded on…

East for Adventure!

We stopped for a quick breakfast before heading into the Swakane valley near Chelan. Winding our way back into the valley, we passed through mountains that rose up majestically on either side of the windy dirt road. The tops of the mountains disappeared into the dense fog that blanketed the valley high over head, allowing only a pale, filtered light through from the sun.

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Fog filter.

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Ben ascending into the fog with his Kuiu pack

Finally, we saw a place on the south side of the valley where the mountain split and a type of ravine offered access deep into the mountains. We parked the truck, checked our gear, and let Gunner loose, letting him lead the way. The ravine was rocky, icy, and foggy. We picked our way carefully over the ground, climbing up higher and higher. Our hiking boots skidded on the loose rocks that would have been hazardous on their own, even had they not been covered in slick ice and snow.

There was no view from the top other than the sides of the mountains that rose up around us, but those were awe inspiring enough. As we paused for a breather somewhere near the top, surrounded by quiet and stillness and crisp air, we couldn’t think of a better way to start a new year, together, just the two of us in this peaceful place. We breathed in the mountain air, took in the uninterrupted silence, and basked in the ice cold breeze. We watched Gunner sniffing around, exploring his surroundings, equally as entranced with the place as we were.

We made our way back down the ravine, through the frost coated grasses of the valley, and back to the truck. We drove back over the mountains in bliss, laughing and recounting the beautiful day that we had had and the amazing new adventure that had kicked off 2014. A successful exploration that set the tone for the rest of the year to come – one full of adventure, pushing our limits, and grabbing life by the horns; and most importantly we started the year off together, doing what we love with the one we love…and with our little dog too.

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Me and Gunner

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Ice

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The ravine

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Me and the love of my life!

Morning Rituals

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How you start your day is important. What you do, see, feel, hear, smell, or taste first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to get out of that warm bed in the morning, especially during the winter time when those blankets feel extra cozy and the house feels extra chilly.

It’s important to make a conscious decision about how you are going to start each day. You can choose to fill your morning with happy, positive thoughts and rituals. There are little things that you can do in the early hours, when you are fresh out of dream-land and your mind is a clean slate. Here are a few ways to make waking up a little easier:

1. Try making one of your favorite songs your alarm. Waking up to something that makes you happy will get your morning off to a great start.

2. Instead of jumping on facebook first thing in the morning, try meditating on everything that you have to be thankful for. Focusing on the positive things in your life is a great habit to get into.  Look for the good in the day ahead.

3. Prepare for your day the night before. Pack your lunch, get your clothes all laid out, and make sure you have all the ingredients ready for a good breakfast. Prepping the night before will save you from unnecessary stress in the morning.

4. Coffee. Just knowing there is hot coffee waiting for you is good motivation to slip out of that warm bed.

And my last bit of advice…

5. Try very hard, whenever possible, to wake up in the mountains…preferably in time to watch the sunrise. With coffee.

A New Christmas Tradition: A Handsaw, The Mountains, And A Box Of Raisins

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Finding the perfect Christmas tree in the wild is surprisingly difficult. I assumed my husband and I would hike into the mountains, find a picture perfect tree, cut it down, and be on our way. We decided that, being avid outdoors people like we are, we would start a new tradition of cutting down our own Christmas tree each year in the wild. We headed to the mountains, parked our truck, and took off up into the wild, our little dog leading the way.

The air was crisp, the sun was bright, the mountains were idyllic. We enjoyed the scenery as we trekked farther into the wilderness. We didn’t worry too much about avidly looking for a tree. We figured we would focus on that on the way back down. We snapped pictures, had a brief *almost* run in with a wild animal, and sat in silence listening to the sound of the wind blowing through the mountains [my favorite sound in the whole world].IMG_1705

We’ll grab one on our way back to the truck,” we said. Well, let me tell you…it was not that simple!

We ended up making it all the way back down to the truck without seeing anything even close to being Christmas tree material. By this time we were starving and tired from our long hike. I grabbed a box of raisins from the truck and we set out again, back up into the woods. As we munched on raisins, our search became desperate. We scoured the mountainsides. When we did find a tree that looked as though it may good from a distance, as we got up closer to it, we would see that it was dying or had a weird growth coming out of it, or was too tall.

Finally, as the sun began to sink low on the horizon and as our box of raisins got emptier and emptier, we spotted it… the perfect Christmas tree. A bit Charlie-Brownish, a bit tall…but perfect nonetheless. We were elated. We sawed it down by the light of the setting sun and high-tailed it to the truck.

We topped our adventure off with a nice dinner in town, glowing at the already fond memory of our first tree-cutting experience. This is definitely our new Cohen Family tradition.

…And we’ll always make sure to have a box of raisins on hand for all of our future Christmas tree hunts!

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The Tonic of Wildness

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

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That’s it…that is what it is. That is the thing about nature; about the great outdoors. You can never fully comprehend or understand it all. There is always something new and wondrous about it. There is always a new discovery to be made and a brand new experience to be had in the wild.

As we grow older, time goes by faster and faster. I am twenty-five years old and I can honestly say that 2013 has been the fastest year of my life. Research shows that as we grow older, we are less likely to experience new things…things that scare us and amaze us and push us outside of our comfort zone. THAT is why time goes by faster the older we get.

The key to slowing down time is to do something new. So…do something that scares you, or that amazes you.  Do something that pushes you outside of YOUR comfort zone. I turn to nature for my remedy. It is mysterious and unfamiliar. You will always have new experiences in nature. Often times you will be forced to step outside of your comfort zone, even if it is just going without makeup for a few days or sleeping in a tent or climbing to the top of a steep hill to experience an incredible view.

Get your daily dose of the unknown…of the unfathomable. Don’t let life pass you by!

Drink up the “tonic of wildness”!

Wild Eats: Mountain Man Chili Recipe

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Mountain Man Chili

The weather is turning. The days are getting shorter and the air is getting colder. Fall is in full swing and that means less time out camping in the wilderness and more time holed up at home with a fire blazing in the fire place and cuddling in lots of cozy, warm blankets.

I love fall. The world is transformed with bright colors and crisp air. With the changing of the weather, I have been craving something hearty and hot and Mountain Man Chili is just the thing to hit the spot!

My mom and I perfected this recipe and it is hubby approved! Here’s how to make a big batch of this hot, savory goodness:

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs of ground beef (or ground bison for you extra wild folks)

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Two 15oz cans of tomato sauce

1/3 green bell pepper, chopped

3/4 yellow onion, chopped

4 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

One 15 oz can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

One 15 oz can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Top with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onions, and fresh lime juice.

Directions:

Brown the ground beef (or bison) in a large pan with the chopped garlic cloves. Once the meat is brown, dump it into a large, deep pot and add in the tomato sauce, green pepper, onion, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and oregano. Mix well, cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup of water as needed if the mixture gets too dry. After one hour, add in the kidney beans and the pinto beans. Stir well to mix the beans in. Then cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve hot. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and chopped onions, and squeeze a little fresh lime juice on top. Enjoy!

East for Adventure

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Sunrise in the East

I associate heading East with adventure. I grew up in Western Washington, and aside from a brief stint on the southern Californian coast, that is where I have lived my whole life. Western Washington has beauty and plenty of places to explore, but for me East of the mountains is where true adventure awaits.

My parents and I used to take drives over the mountains to get hamburgers at the little mountain burger stand together. The first time my dad and I fly fished together was on the Yakima river in Eastern Washington. Some of the best backpacking trips and hikes that my husband, Ben, and I have been on have been East of the Cascades. Our family cabin lies to the East, in Montana. I associate “East” with so many good memories.

There is something about cresting the Cascade mountains. The clouds clear up, the trees become more spread out allowing for some great, uninhibited hiking, and the sun is usually shining. Descending on the East side, hills covered in sage brush and pines beckon to me, daring me to take off into them for a day or a week. The rivers flow by the highway, begging for me to cast a fly into their rapids.

To the East is adventure; the unknown; rugged terrain that one can wander through for days. Wild animals roam freely, uninhibited by large crowds or overpopulation encroaching on their country. The East holds an enchantment over me. Whenever I think about going over the mountains I feel an excitement building up inside. Anything is possible.  Anything might happen.

Mountain Peaks and Salty Seas

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Balance is an important thing in life. Sometimes people can take the concept of balance to an unhealthy extreme, but that’s a topic for another day. The balance that I want to talk about is the kind that involves terrain. When it comes to getting out there and exploring the great outdoors and all that it has to offer, don’t limit yourself!

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I think that we all need a healthy serving of mountains, and a side of tropical beach. These two types of terrain are polar opposites in most ways. But both are good for you, both physically and mentally.

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        The mountains are jagged, mysterious, challenging…they allow you solitude and the chance to prove your abilities to yourself. You can conquer new heights, scale new cliff sides, and lose yourself (voluntarily, of course) in the cool forests. Mountain air is clear, crisp, and enlightening. You can listen to the cry of an eagle echoing through canyons, and watch an elk making it’s way through a wide open field. You can wander for hours or days, uncovering new sights that will take your breath away.

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Tropical beaches give you something else. They allow you to feel the sand between your toes. You can submerge yourself in the turquoise waters of the ocean and explore underwater caverns. You can swim with colorful schools of exotic fish, test your nerves in a shark cage, and watch the sun set into the ocean while sipping fresh coconut milk. Salt water does the body and mind good, and nothing beats floating, spread eagle in the sea with the sun beaming down on your smiling face.

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Balance is important when it comes to being an adventurer. To take advantage of nature and appreciate it in its’ full capacity, I suggest making time for both mountain peaks AND salty seas. Trek up that treacherous terrain, stare up at that wide expanse of starry sky as wolves sing you a lullaby, bask in the quiet and the coolness and the unknown of the mountainous wilderness. And lay in the sand, soak up the Vitamin D (with a healthy coating of sunblock, of course), eat fresh, tropical fruit, dive in the sea…

Balance, brah! It’s a beautiful world with so much to offer! Be sure to experience it all!

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Good Ol’ John Muir

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Taken on the banks of the Gallatin river by yours truly.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
John Muir

I like to think that this quote by John Muir sums up my thoughts about nature and the importance of getting back to one’s native, primal roots.  We are creatures built for fresh air and great expanses of open country beckoning to be wandered in. It is crucial for us to find a place that is filled with nothing but uncluttered, crowd-free, slow-paced, wind-whispering solitude. Quiet.

I find myself becoming so overwhelmed, and at times I will admit underwhelmed, with the hustle and bustle of modern life in a society that values a job quickly done. I personally just don’t buy into the hype – the so-called “beauty” of a busy city street lined with sky scrapers and spattered with chewed and discarded gum.  While some find that they are most at home in the grey, steel and concrete jungle, I find a part of myself that is repulsed by what has become the “norm”. I tend to shy away from crowds and from things and places that I identify as being so far removed from the natural world in which I feel that I belong.

John Muir speaks truth. Not only was he a great naturalist and an advocate of the preservation of America’s wilderness, but he was wise in his understanding of the essence of human need for open spaces and the wild country. I need to disconnect from society and from the pull of modern life at times. In fact, I may be so bold as to say that we ALL do.  There are weeks that I look ahead to the coming weekend with a giddy excitement like a child awaiting a much-anticipated gift from a beloved parent.  When the sun shoots its first rays of light over the horizon, I am ready with gear packed into the back of a black F-150, speeding towards the mountains and the chance to just simply BE in the great outdoors. I seek a place in which I may wander for days without encountering another human being. I search for a breathtaking view and the feel of a mountain breeze of fresh air blowing against my skin. An uncluttered landscape. Very few sounds to fill my consciousness.

Yep. John Muir had it so right.