July 19, 2007

Great Outdoors

Here at Cranky Fitness, there is a tendency to engage in a lot of whining. And this is not going to change anytime soon. If fact, today's post is pretty much a rant, but there are Important Announcements at the end, so please hang in there.

So the Great Outdoors is no exception to Crabby's general whine-about-it policy: she has already complained about her fear of encountering lions and tigers and bears while hiking out in the wilderness. She has confessed that she often wonders: will she survive her little five mile loop, or will hungry predators catch her and eat her alive? (And what the heck does that even mean, "eaten alive?" How alive could you be without, say, your head?)

However, Crabby still loves hiking and camping and thinks everyone should do more of it. So she was alarmed to discover that National Park attendance is declining!

What? How could this be?

Sure, gas prices are high, and entrance fees have gone up, but that's true for any family vacation destination. DisneyWorld or even a trip to the multiplex costs way more money than it did a generation ago.

But c'mon. Some people do indeed spend a little money on vacations. And if those people can cruise to Cabo or pack the kids off with them to big resort hotel in Hawaii or spend a week within the confines of the Magic Kingdom, then they could also probably rent a tent and pitch it in a campground, or find a cheap motel near a national park, or at least take a few day trips to a nearby local park with trails and big trees or streams or waterfalls or something.

Everyone seems to be talking the big talk about "going green" and "caring about our natural environment," but no one seems to actually want to go out in it to appreciate it.

(And an aside, perhaps related and perhaps not, kids don't walk or bike to school much anymore, even when they live less than a mile away).

Crabby has great childhood memories of camping and hiking, and perhaps that's why she loves it now. She and her Most Significant Other (whom she shall nickname The Lobster, at least until she thinks of something better) are extremely fortunate: they have a five year old Camper Van that they have spent many nights in. So whenever they can, Crab and Lobster pack up "Fran the Van" and visit various county, state, provincial, and national parks, both in the U. S. and Canada.

(Another rambling aside: Fran the Van is a Pleasure-Way, and she hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Crabby and the Lobster visited Fran's factory-birthplace once, spent the night in their parking lot, and in the morning were given a tour and a very nice jar of something-berry jam. The folks in Saskatoon seemed very, very nice and they had super large bugs there).

Not everyone is so lucky as to own a small recreational vehicle; on the other hand, Crabby has spent many a night in her youth and young adulthood in a small cramped funky-smelling tents and managed to have a good time then, too.

Here's the thing: except in rare instances, like the Grand Canyon or Niagra Falls or Half Dome or Bryce or whatever, the beauty and wonder of nature is often subtle. It's not in-your-face the same way a Pixar movie or a Six Flags Scare-You-to-Death Roller Coaster ride is.

Some people have always loved the sights, smells, sounds, adventures and grandeur of the Outdoors. But for many, it took deliberate exposure and education to learn to appreciate the wilderness--sort of like fine wine or fresh asparagus or classical music. And Crabby doubts most people are going to cultivate a taste for it by plopping themselves or their kids in front of a videogame every spare hour.

Is it important for us as a society that we appreciate nature? Crabby has her opinion, obviously, but you may have yours as well and she hopes you will share it here in the commments. And Crabby does not mean that any particular family should feel bad if it really doesn't want to commune with nature--her rant is more directed at our culture as a whole: one that values the Big and Easy and Fake over the Nuanced and Challenging and Real.

End of rant. And so, finally, we have our Two Announcements!

First: You may have seen this one coming. Apologies, but the Crab and Lobster will be off for a long weekend in Fran the Van. There will probably be a Random Research post tomorrow, but comment follow-up is unlikely. And Monday's post may be delayed until late Monday or possibly Tuesday.

Crabby realizes she's been less than conscientious lately too about responding to comments and visiting other blogs. She'll get better when she gets back, and then worse again. But she's in this for the long haul, and is really trying to get the "balance" thing figured out. She hopes you'll stick with her anyway, as she would be heartbroken if you all went away and found better, more reliable blogs in her absence.

And, Second Announcement: Crabby needs your hiking-and-camping related help!

She's hoping to assemble a future post with a "Best Damn Hikes You've Ever Been On" sort of theme.

And she's especially hoping to get her Smart Readers to do most of the work for her! So if you have ever been on an Awesome hike, or stayed at wonderful Campground, and want to send her a short description of it, and perhaps include a picture, Crabby would love to have some posts about this.

She can't offer any compensation other than a link to your blog if you have one and her undying gratitude. Please email her at CrabbyMcSlacker @ gmail.com (skip the spaces and don't worry about capitalization). Tell her about your great hike, why it was great, how long it was, and enough information about location to get readers started (i.e. the trail name and the park it's located in) and Crabby would be most grateful! And a picture you have rights to would be great too. (The picture for this post, btw, is actually one from a Great Hike Crabby and the Lobster took). If Crabby gets a couple submissions she'll do a post about it, and if she gets a whole bunch she'll do a series of posts spread out over a few weeks!

Yikes, what a long post! Comments are always welcome, although Crabby can't seem to predict when she'll be in or not, so possible apologies if she strays again. She's pretty sure she'll be more attentive today, and she always reads them, even when she doesn't respond.

So see you (briefly) tomorrow and have a great weekend after that. (And P.S.-- go outside!)


  1. Ah - I'm from Saskatoon! It was probably saskatoonberry stuff you were given...we give it to everyone that comes it seems.

    I love to camp and hike...even as a rounder version of me I always have. Lately my thing has been outdoor music festivals, listening to amazing music from around the world out in nature...lovely. There is something about dancing to music in the middle of nature that really hits the spot for me...I just got back from one and had a marvelous time. We've slowly added up the camping gear over the years and have a fair amount of kit so that no matter the weather we're happy as clams. There's just so much to see and do out there, I don't know why the attendance in parks is declining. A lot of people like luxury holidays I suppose. Me? I like heading off somewhere setting up and being outdoors with friends or family.

    As for the best hikes...up here in Canada, there are miles and miles of great hike trails in BC (my friend Trent Ernst wrote a hike trail guide for northern and middle BC if you need a guide for out there) and near Banff and Jasper there are a lot of place that will do week long hiking holidays or fly you up a mountain and let you hike down...it's a bit costly, but sounds like an amazing time to me. I can speak better about those closer to me here is Saskatchewan, there is Cypress Hills and Prince Albert National Parks. Cypress has many many hike trails of varying lengths and difficulties ( I think we put in 36 Km one day there) with 4 different kinds of forests, hills, valleys, rivers and usually no bears. Prince Albert Park is great for hiking in to capsites and being out on your own, but it's bear country up there and you have to take appropriate measures. There is nothing like being all alone in the woods though - gotta llove it.Waskesiu National Park is also full of great hiking and camping, with a few poshy places to stay if you find you need a break and a hot shower.
    Hope you have a great holiday...camping is my favorite getaway and it's good to hear there are still a few happy campers out there. :)

  2. Okay, many thing to say. You've been to Saskatchewan?! Good for you! I quite like it there myself, though I've never made it to Saskatoon. You and The Lobster are Clearly Adventurous.

    If we do not get out in nature we will cease our appreciation of it and come to believe--as so many of us already do-- that it's there for the rape and pillage of resources and nothing more.

    We whine about spending money on what we believe ought to be free. (Nature is for everyone, right? And nobody built it so why should we pay. Right? Yeesh.) Never mind about the tremendous infrastructure and upkeep in the parks.
    Say, was the something-berry jam saskatoon berry by any chance? Or do you plain not recall? Just curious.

    Belated birthday greetings to The Lobster, if that's appropriate.

    Enjoy your adventures in Fran The Van. I have many, many hikes to talk about. I'll try to narrow my focus.

  3. Geosomin,
    You're from Saskatoon! I swear, it was the friendliest bunch of people. (And I don't know what those bugs were, but they were sort of cricket like but HUGE, big as birds, and they descended upon us during the night in a huge cloud of bugness. We rolled up the windows and hid. Anyway.)

    Love to hear that you're a Happy Camper, and those sound like some great hiking suggestions. And the outdoor music and dancing sound wonderful!

    Hi Leah,
    Love me some Canadians! I may be wrong, but most Canadians seem to have a better appreciation of the value of nature and are less likely to hide from it and exploit it than Americans. And the birthday wishes will be relayed to the Lobster, who will appreciate them!

  4. Crabby, I too am from Saskatoon! and yes we've got some good sized bugs. (I thought you were going to say "they have super large BUTTS there" I laughed anyway)
    I think you have inspired me to nag the hubby again to camp. We bought a tent and never used it. We're under the impression you have to make a big trip out of it, but you don't, it can just be one night 1/2 hour away and it's still a mini-holiday. Thanks!

  5. Oh, how sad! =(

    I've always wanted to go camping, but my mom says that she can't stand any of the bugs.



    Anyway, I walk to school! Six blocks. And it's better for your health, and the enviroment, too.

  6. Hi Randi, another Saskatoonian, hooray!

    Too funny, no, small butts, big BUGS!

    Excellent idea on the short camping trips--they don't all have to be big long productions, it's just great to get out there for a bit.

  7. Hi anonymous,
    Good for you for walking! And I hope you enjoy camping, even with a few bugs, when you finally get to go.

  8. I stayed in Girl Scouts waaaayyyy past the point where I enjoyed it (catty 'tween--UGH) because it was the only way I could go camping and hiking.

  9. I haven't even finished the post. I just got so excited about Saskatoon-berry pie that I just had to say Saskatoon berry pie!! I'll finish the post now because I think I like it. In May, my parents and I took my (British) husband to Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Craters of the Moon, Mount St. Helens. And a lot of places along the way. All in ten days. It was wild!

  10. First of all, nature. Mucho importante. Being out in nature also mucho importante. I'd much rather be under the stars than at the Hilton. And in case you haven't noticed, I love your post. It's gotten me all excited. I'll be sending you an email with lots of good hikes and pictures. Some pictures are here too (without the spaces, I had to split the link up to make it fit): http://crunchynanas.com/

  11. Ok, remember the food freak question about dirt and camping and all that, well I had answered a wholehearted YES! to that one, so I think you know where I stand on the camping thing! With that, I thoroughly enjoy working in my yard. I love trees and flowers and have planted almost as many as I can fit in my neighborhood lot.

    I think it is that I like getting dirty and then I really want to be able to get clean. The whole bathroom issue with camping is really my nemesis. Maybe someday I will get past that and get excited about camping.

    Have fun in Fran the Van and hug a tree for me while on your trip! Happy b'day to Ms. Lobster!

  12. Hi Crabby,
    Where are you from anyway? There's some great hiking trails where I live (SF bay area) that are free and beautiful. If you're ever in the are and want to go hiking, just let me know :)


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  14. One my problems right now is that I don't get out enough. I grew up in the country and used to spend hours wandering down by the creek and in the woods and digging in the dirt. Now I live in a high rise and pound the pavement.

    Last year before my knees started hurting I tried to walk everywhere I could in the city, from one job to another. Usually that walk took me through Central Park, which was so beautiful and Restoring to my Soul. You can really get lost in there. There's one place where I feel like a hobbit on an adventure. Maybe I can do the walks again if I get my knees back in shape.

    Right now my motivation has just left me altogether. I suffer from depression and it must be cycling down right now.

    I think sometime we ought to discuss mental fitness. Or do I mean mental hygiene? What do you suppose that is? I have a pretty good sense that physical fitness and nature have a lot to do with it.

  15. Hi BunnyGirl,
    But I bet you looked awfully cute in the little uniform!

    The jam was so awesome, I can't even imagine how good a whole pie would be. And you are hilarious when you get all enthusiastic, I love it! Can't wait to see hiking suggestions & pictures and am hoping you'll write an entire future post for me!

    Hi holly!
    Like you I am not crazy about campground hygiene issues, even though my standards are pretty low. However, this is where lovely Fran's the Van's tiny little bathroom is a lifesaver. We can pee in the middle of the night without encountering Scary Bears or Nasty bathrooms! And on long trips we tend to swing through towns with gyms to work out and use their showers. Gym showers are much cleaner than campground showers! (We are obviously not the hard-core backpacky kind of campers).

    Back in a litle bit...

  16. We live just a couple of miles from several large mountainous canyons. LOVE IT.
    We love to hike with our brood. However, camping, ehhh, not so much. Not because we don't want to, just for lack of conveniences for the wee kiddies. Give us a year or two and we'll be there. (camping will surely come before Disney-anything though)

    Although I have to say the recent bear attack near us has kind of squelched my enthusiasm to get up in those mountains.

    And on an unrelated note: I walked to school every single day of my elementary school career. However, we live slightly farther than I feel comfortable sending my kids (They are very young too). I worry about kidnappers, not their fitness level, when it comes to school transportation. Irrational, probably. waste of gas? mm hmm. If we lived about 5 blocks closer to their school, I think I'd feel differently.

    Have fun this weekend, we shall eagerly await your return!

  17. Don't you worry about us, Crabby. Grab your Lobster and head out into the wildneress. You'll come back refreshed and with a head full of new posts.

    I'm looking forward to your other readers telling me where the "must see" places are.

  18. Hi Gal,
    The SF bay are does have some of the greatest hiking there is, and perhaps we even love some of the same trails! Glad to hear you're a hiker & a nature lover too.

    Hi Melissa,
    Thanks for writing and I'm sorry to hear you're struggling with depression.

    You may have already done this, but if you haven't, getting some help with depression is a really smart thing to do. Because as you're noticing, it can really affect your motivation and make it harder to enjoy the stuff you know is good for you. Getting outside in nature is a great natural antidepressant, but it sounds like your knee problems have made that really hard! But if you can find a way to do small things to get yourself more active, even just out the door for a 5 minute walk, that might help a little. And if you haven't already, you should probably talk to your doctor about your depression, and see if any friends or family members can offer a little extra support.

    And actually, I think mental health issues are a really good thing to talk about. I'm thinking Cranky Fitness may try to do a little more of it!

    One place to get a little more information on depression is here,
    but the web has lots of other resources too.

    And in case your depression is fairly severe, or you're feeling really hopeless, please don't be afraid to call 1-800-suicide. You don't actually have to be suicidal; they can just be someone to talk to help get back on track or find local resources.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  19. Hi Katieo,
    I think day hikes are just as great, and yeah, the bear thing where you are is really serious! I think, too, there's a real different cost/benefit ratio for camping with young kids versus older kids. The camping didn't really start in our family until we were old enough to (a) appreciate it and (b) not be quite so demanding of constant attention as little kids are. Everything is a bit more labor intensive when camping and if you add little kids to the mix--yikes!

    Hi Dawn! Well, I'm sure I'll miss all the wonderful visitors to the blog while I'm gone, but it will be good to get some fresh mountain air!

  20. Good for you to go spend some good quality time with your Lobster (I think that's such a cute nickname, by the way)

    I wasn't raised in the most camp friendly family so my only experience with it are some odd memories of girl scouts. But I do love th outdoors and have gone with friends who had camper to spend the day in a state park. But while you worry about bears and things I have this odd fear, whenever I'm walking through a wooded area, that I'll find a dead body or something. Seems all the dead bodies are found in wooded areas! But nonetheless, nature is nice.

    As for mental health discussions, that could be good. I tend to be moody about the whole subject though... Sometimes I like to pretend mental illness doesn't exist. But I'm definitely winning my own battle with it.

    On a side note, I don't exactly recommend the suicide hotline. I've called them once or twice and basically was told to just go watch a movie or something to that effect (it was the middle of the night)So they aren't exactly the most helpful. Talking to a close friend or something would probably be more beneficial...

    But anyway, have fun while you're gone and don't worry about your "fans" We'll be waiting for your return but think you deserve to get away too.

  21. Hi Meg,
    The dead body worry is an interesting one! Actually, sometimes I get the "strange psycho killer roaming the backwoods" paranoia when we're the only ones around for miles. Any weirdo looking guys that we encounter suddenly seem suspicious, even though they're usually just grungy looking cause they're camping!

    That's too bad that the suicide hotline people weren't that great when you called. I do think calling a close friend is the best idea. But just in case someone were to find themselves without anyone they know to call, and were feeling desperate, I like to know that there's at least something out there that's free that anyone can call. And I think they're supposed to be trained in crisis counseling. But it's disappointing to find out they're not always that great. Thanks for the input!

  22. I have loved every opportunity I've had to be in one of our national parks! The Park system, in my experiences, does a wonderful job in making the visits enjoyable and the parks accessible.

  23. I hiked Mt. Fuji in Japan at 18. It was clearly one of the most intense experiences of my life. I hear now that the hike is riddled with trash, which is really unfortunate, but I can tell you that hiking to the top of Mt. Fuji at sunrise is clearly religious. I SAW GOD, I TELL YA!

    - Mr. Fat

  24. Hi Dr. J,
    They do an amazing job given the constant budget hassles, don't they? Love those parks!

    Hi Mr. Fat,
    Wow, Mt Fuji! And that's so great when you got to go before it got trashed. Lets hope they'll get some clean-up efforts underway.

  25. We don't hike.

    First of all, Sadie and I are not allowed outside. This is because Karen had us declawed and according to her it would be "irresponsible" for her to allow us out into the wild unprotected.

    Perhaps she should of allowed us to keep our claws then?

    Whatever. Karen doesn't spend too much time outdoors either. "It's too hot", she told me.

    I think it has more to do with sheer laziness.

    -- P


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