• Last Lift Out Of Winter

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    Last Lift Out Of Winter!

    Ah, the middle of February. The day after Valentine’s Day. Historically known for that wonderful combination of feelings, mingling somewhere between “oh thank GOD Valentine’s Day is over” and “WHY HASN’T WINTER ENDED YET?”

    With maybe just a sprinkling of “Ooh, half-priced chocolate clearance!” mixed in.

    Well, unfortunately, winter isn’t quite done with us yet. And it’s not looking to be, for at least another month or so. But that doesn’t HAVE to be a bad thing.

    Winter’s still around. That means that all that cool winter stuff (you know, all of the things on your winter to-do list that weren’t marked “Christmas” that you’ve been procrastinating on?) can still get done!

    I don’t know about you, but here’s a list of all of the winter stuff that I still need to do, before spring rolls around in March.

    Hit The Slopes

    I haven’t gone skiing yet, this year. I actually haven’t gone in a couple of years. It’s something that I always intend to do, but never actually do. Kinda like going to bed an hour earlier. Or cleaning the house.

    Well, that changes this year. I’ve got about a month left before the snow is too hard or too high to ski on, and loads of the country’s best slopes out here in California. Time to hit the slopes. Shred some powder. Carve some tracks. Gnarly, brah.

    If you’re still waiting to go skiing or snowboarding, don’t. Do like me – make a reservation next weekend, and take the day to have some fun! Personally, I recommend keeping warm, and since I’m not about to rent my pants (gross), it’s time for me to pick up a pair of these. They’re kinda cool – just put on some warm-weather pants, slap these on top, and you can keep your ankles snow-free. I’d also recommend a balaclava to keep your ears and nose from freezing off. And you get the added benefit of looking super professional, so that’s cool.

    Rain, Rain, Stay A Day

    Rain is a nuisance to most of us, and an inconvenience at best. But I actually really like the rain. I remember when I was a kid, and the rain meant I could sit inside and goof off all day, instead of my parents making me play outside. Now that I’m an adult, it’s been a little bit of a pain to try and recapture that magic.

    Out here in California, we’ve been having a little bit of a rain problem. We weren’t really getting enough of it. Or any, at all. Until a month or two ago, when we suddenly had all of it.

    So now I’m looking for a middle ground, so I can grab my rain coat and go for a walk.

    I’m not talking about the heavy, gusty storm that’s best viewed from behind glass. Or that little drizzle that hardly counts as rain. I’m waiting for that perfect rainstorm – just hard enough to keep most people inside, but not hard enough to blow into your face. Sure, it’ll be cold, but a winter day in the quiet rain is about as much as I can ever want.

    If that sounds good to you, make sure to remember your jacket and umbrella. Oh, and make sure that your shoes are waterproof. And get an umbrella hat, because, well, who doesn't want an umbrella hat? I don’t really have any other suggestions.

    Cold Air, Clear Days

    In California, we have a little bit of an air-quality problem. The valley has a habit of holding smoke and smog and whatever else, so our air isn’t always as clear as we wish it was. Usually, it’s something on the agricultural side – farms burning, orchards in bloom, harvest time is kicking up dust… it’s just a part of life.

    A cold, clear winter day is one of the only times that us Californians can actually go out and appreciate the atmosphere. Here in Chico, we can see the Sierra Nevadas on one side, and the Coastal Range on the other. We’ve got a few nice parks (including one of the biggest in California, right in the middle of our city) all around us, and my personal favorite outdoorsy-type activity on days like this is to go hiking to the top of Table Mountain.

    It’s cold, and clear, so I make sure to bring a few things. First, I want to be able to actually look out from the top of the plateau, so I always bring binoculars. Second, I need to make sure that (since it’s usually a day trip) my phone battery lasts, so I bring a solar charger and attach it to my backpack. Third, it’s still a hike, even if it’s cold, so I make sure to bring a water bladder. Beats the crap out of carrying a bottle around, that’s for sure. We’re actually having a sale on those right now (it's not figurative - we actually have too many), so if you need one…

     

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  • Valentine's Day, Outdoors

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    Why Spend Valentine’s Day At Home, When You Could Spend It Outdoors?

    Three Ideas For An Unforgettable Valentine's Day.

    Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and even though some might not like it, it’s time to start planning that special something for that special someone. After all, just over half of all women say they would end their relationship if they didn’t receive anything for Valentine’s Day. Seems shallow to me, but who am I to judge?

    For me, Valentine’s Day has always been the day to do something extra for her. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a relationship that would depend on a gift to keep going (at least, I sure hope not!) but the idea is to go above and beyond, and give a little something extra. Some flowers, chocolate, a new necklace… you know, expensive stuff that nobody really needs.

    But my most memorable Valentine’s Days have been when I’ve gone out and done something. I did it almost every year through college, even when I was single! Speaking of which, if you’re currently mourning your severe lack of a relationship worth celebrating, or are one of those like myself who has occasionally celebrated “singles appreciation day” followed by “half off Valentine chocolate day,” don’t worry about it! These ideas are just as much for you to get away from the day, as they are for couples to get away from everything else.

    Snow, Snow, Snow!

    Winter will theoretically be ending soon, out here in California. Although I’m not sure the rest of the U.S. can say the same! In any case, make sure to get out and see the snow before the season ends. I don’t mean getting a cabin in the hills, or planning a ski trip or anything expensive like that, either. Did you know the average person spends over $100 on Valentine’s Day?

    No thanks. This year, here’s what you can do: put $20 in the gas tank, another $10 into some hot chocolate you can share out of a thermos, and take a hike.

    (Here’s a tip: you’re gonna need a bag to be comfortable. At the time of writing, we’ve got a sale going on our tactical, military-style backpacks. So you can get one at a discount, and get hiking. You can grab one here.)

    Snow has the wonderful effect of (literally) muffling the world around you. Imagine: a snow-covered path, a silent wood, and just the crunch of you and your bestie’s boots. Sounds like a dream, to me!

     

    Biking – Good For The Body, Good For The Soul

    My favorite part of biking is that it has all the benefits of exercise, without actually feeling like exercise. If you didn’t know, in addition to eventually making you look like a god, exercise has some great mental health benefits: it combats depression, subdues negative emotions and helps create a more positive, happy disposition.

    So gear up, and find a park. A deserted roadway works too, or, if you’re not living too deep in a city, try driving a few miles out of town! You won’t regret it. Then, just pick a speed, slap on a helmet, and pedal away!

    Just make sure that you’re safe, while you do. Biking at night is an amazing experience, but you’re going to need lights. I know helmets aren’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but they’ll keep you from losing your brains on a sidewalk. And if you need a way to transport your bike out of town, well… we’ve got that too.

    Having biked regularly whenever life seemed like it was more than I could handle, I recommend this activity to anyone that wants to escape the V-day pressures, whether you’re with your partner or proudly single.

     

    National Parks – Open for Now, So Go See Them While You Can

    I’m not one to talk about current events. Especially political ones. But some of my best vacations have been to our country’s National Parks. The website’s name is National Parks Depot!

    Anyways, a couple of weeks ago, the country has suspended hiring any more Federal employees. Which sounds like a good idea in theory – but our National Park workers are almost all seasonal. The summer crowd comes in during the spring, the winter crowd in the fall, and it just works. Thankfully, seasonal workers are now listed as an exception, in any department. But it goes to show just how fragile our park system truly is. 

    So that National Park that you live an hour away from might just not be open, six months from now. Go see it – and as a matter of fact, make a trip out of it. Take some binoculars to admire the views. And I know it sounds silly, but if you’re planning on being there any later than 4 or 5:00, you’re probably going to want a headlamp, too.

    In any case, Valentine’s Day is as good a reason as any to go out and see our country’s national beauty. Snowing or not, our system of national parks is one of our country’s shining jewels. Whether it’s the redwood forests of California, the winding canyons of Zion or the beautiful views of Yosemite, take you and your plus-one to one of our gorgeous parks, this year. You won’t regret it.

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  • How To Create A Camping Meal Your Family Will Never Forget!

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    By Dan.

    Ah, the Fall… out here in California, November means that the leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and the stuffy heat of the summer is nothing more than a distant memory. I’m a fall person, myself – nothing beats the feeling of waking up in a cozy bed, or relaxing in a warm apartment after a day outside. Plus, it’s easier to tolerate than the heat of summer. As I’m fond of saying, it’s always easier to put more clothes on.

    Fall also means that it’s time to put the summer camping gear away, and to dust off the cold-weather bags. Fall camping, to me, means insulated tents, a thicker sleeping bag, some extra firewood, and a warm jacket that looks like a marshmallow.

    I love camping in the fall. The scenery is beautiful, the parks less crowded, and the skies clearer from the occasional rain. Even my family’s tempers cool down, making a week-long excursion to the coast or the Sierras a delightful experience.

    This week, though, the focus here at National Parks Depot is shifting to some Fall camping foods. Since, let’s be honest: food is one of the best parts of camping! Being able to prepare something from scratch, and making use of your limited resources is one of the coolest parts of a camping trip. Being able to create something for my family with nothing but an open fire and some supplies out of my icebox is the foundation for some of my best camping memories.

    Earlier this week, though, I decided that maybe there was more to camping food than I was expecting. So, I asked some of my coworkers for other recipes. Everyone around me camps at least once or twice a year, and that means there’s a lot of tradition and nostalgia tied up in their own recipes. With this in mind, I wrote down the top 10 recipes from around the office, and put them together with some pictures in an e-book.

    You can get that book here.

    Some of these I’d heard of or even tried before, but others were new ideas for me. I absolutely love potatoes while I’m camping, but I’d never thought of cooking an egg in one! There’s a lot of great recipes that I can’t wait to try, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find something new as well.

    You can get your copy of the book for free, right here.

    Later this week, I’ll be back with my two-parter. In addition to these recipes, I also took the time to research and write down some of the most present hazards to eating while you’re camping. That post will be up on Monday, along with some recommendations on some of my favorite cooking gear from NPD. Stay tuned!

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