By Jill J Easton
Approximately 500 boats ranging from kayaks to giant party barges are roaring around on Lake Norfork this Memorial Day. It’s time to find someplace peaceful and away from the Covid cabin fever folks desperate to be outside. The only getaway I can imagine is a trek that will solve my need for solitude, which is to visit a remote, wild area.
But, going off the grid means planning and lots of it. Electricity, air conditioning, and powered everything is an addiction. It’s hard to do without.
Recently, Bobby Dale and boyhood friend John Tomlinson decided on a canoe trip down one of Arkansas’ beautiful rivers. Their canoe looked perilously overloaded when we saw them off, but they made the trip with no flips or major problems.
“We brought a lot more equipment than we actually needed for a three-day canoe trek,” confessed Bobby Dale. “We spent a lot of time going through stuff-bags and looking for a spatula, salt, or the first aid kit.”
Whether you are canoeing, backpacking or simply parking a home on wheels out there, food, weight, and space will be an issue once you leave the comforts of electricity. Lighten up and preserve your resources for the long haul whether it’s a simple overnight tent camp out in a nearby national forest, or a week of true wilderness adventure camping and hiking someplace like the back trails in Rocky Mountain National Park or hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Never count on living off the land. Fish don’t bite and squirrels don’t bark when you only have cornmeal, grease, and a skillet. “Out there” is a great place to be, but in wild places always be prepared for the worst situation.
Use metal forks, spoons, and knives, they don’t break and wash easily. Sharp knives are often important, have sheaths for them, and have several backups. A spatula, frying pan, coffee pot, and a big spoon should complete your utensils. Carry a small bottle of bleach with an eyedropper or opening top with a small hole. A drop or two of bleach on a clean, wet cloth will kill germs, then allow your plates and silverware to air dry. Flying discs, what we used to call Frisbees, make perfect plates. A vigorous game of toss the disc stretches unused muscles at the end of a day and they float. Even if you don’t plan on building fires, carry a box of “strike anywhere” matches in a waterproof bag.
If you don’t have a water purifier and aren’t hiking, collect several five-liter bags from box wine, pop the top, thoroughly wash the insides, and fill with water. The cap/valve contraption snaps back on. Then stuff them into out-of-the-way corners. Store the bags under a truck seat or in the stern of your canoe until they are needed. Another option is to boil water vigorously for a minimum of one minute before drinking.
Make sure your packing includes a first aid kit and check to be sure it has plenty of Band-Aids and antiseptic ointment. Band-Aids are the first items to disappear, they also lose their sticky after a few years so check to make sure they are still in working condition.
Finally, an old-fashioned magnetic compass can be a lifesaver in areas where cell phones and GPS don’t work. If water figures into your equation, carry a telescoping pack rod, hooks, and a few choice lures.
What you bring along to eat is one of the most important considerations on an outdoor adventure. If there are ants in the sandwiches or soggy chips on a picnic, it might ruin the afternoon. When you are overnighting from a canoe or hiking with everything on your back, the lack of having something to eat can quickly become a life-threatening situation. Especially when combined with cold, wind, or wet conditions.
Hamburger Helper, Ramen Noodles, Uncle Ben’s rice mixes, and other bag meals are perfect for camping out. The cardboard boxes can be thrown away before you head out, and the sacks are plastic so they won’t get wet if a canoe turns over or it rains. Using these dry noodle, rice, and sauce combinations, there is little chance that food poisoning will be a problem. These are filling and flavorful and don’t require additional spices.
Wild vegetables like onions, mushrooms (if you know the safe ones), or watercress make good fresh additions and dried vegetables don’t add much weight. Any meat or fish you catch or carry can be added, dried jerky can be soaked and used as well. Native Americans and early settlers used whatever was available and so can we.
A full package should be available for each adult after a day outdoors. It’s surprising how much more you eat when you are outdoors paddling, swimming, or hiking. Hot meals go a long way toward making a trip memorable.
Add a sleeping bag, possibly a backpacking tent, and a couple of clean pairs of socks and the opportunities are endless. You are ready to head out.
Finally, tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back. Getting lost is a different subject, but having someone who knows in detail where you are starting and when you will return can be a life saver.
There you have it, everything you might need for a restful weekend away. All it takes is a little gumption and careful planning, and you will find an adventure well worth remembering.