Category Archives: Ask It

Sailing Star: Brian Kitchin Answers “What’s Your Mountain?”

Brian Kitchin is standing at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club in New Jersey. He’s grown up sailing for the Junior Sailing Team at the club, and as he talks to us on the phone, he’s on his lunch break from teaching sailing, so this isn’t an unusual place for him to be. What’s out of the ordinary about Brian, though, is that on August 2nd, the day after we talk to him, he’ll be leaving his hometown to compete in a national sailing championship in Ohio.


Brian is actually a third generation competitive sailor; both his grandfather and father competed in national championships. He’s been sailing since he was a little kid.

“I would go around to various regattas in a small, one-person boat for kids around the state. When I got a little bit older, I started crewing for my father and going to competitions around the country in a three-person boat called a thistle. When I was 16, I bought one for myself, and ever since then, for the past 12 years, I’ve been racing them myself, at Atlantic Coast and District Championships.”

Sailing on the lake

The District Championships are local, held in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Atlantic Coast is the entire East Coast region. Then there’s the big one: Nationals, which is held at different places all over the country.

When it comes to Nationals, Brian’s “top finish [was] in 2009” when he “finished second in the nation, out of 102 boats.” When asked about his goal for this year, he tells us “I was hoping to win.”

We know the competition’s stiff; Brian tells us that “there are a lot of professionals” competing; “they are the sail makers” and the “boat builders”. That’s part of the reason we find Brian to be so impressive: unlike national competitors who are professionals in the sailing industry, he’s been able to achieve second place in Nationals while balancing his own training with a full-time job as a Phys. Ed. teacher at Adamsville Primary School in Bridgewater and the Head Sailing Instructor at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club in the summers.

Lake Hopatcong Sailing

What else is admirable about Brian Kitchin? He truly lives the healthy and active lifestyle he teaches to his students.

“I want to live a nice, long, fun, fulfilling life, and in order to do that, you’ve got to stay healthy. And my preferred method for that is getting out and getting active and doing a lot of things outdoors, as opposed to spending a ton of time going to run on a treadmill or being inside a gym. I do that, too, but what I enjoy doing is being outside.”

And what kinds of physical activity does he enjoy doing outside (besides sailing, of course?)

“I own both a mountain bike and a road bike. I like biking a lot more than I like running, so I’ll do mountain biking on some trails. I’ll also hop on the road bike and sometimes I’ll ride around the lake [Lake Hopatcong.] Three summers ago, I literally did that ride every morning before I came to teach sailing. I lived a mile from the yacht club, but instead of going one mile to the club, I would hop on my bike and ride the other way around the lake and go 30 miles to the club.”

Brian’s also “a big fan of hiking. [He’s] gone up to the White Mountains, and even local things like going up to the Delaware Water Gap and climbing up top.”

While he doesn’t mind going hiking by himself, he “usually [goes] with somebody.” That “somebody” usually means his brothers or his father.

“I spent a lot of time on the Delaware River and in the Delaware River valley as a kid fishing. When we were younger, we’d go up with the canoe or kayaks and bring backpacks and camp. We’d go to Port Jervis and we’d paddle down the river and stop at one of the campsites along the way, and get picked up somewhere in the vicinity of the Delaware Water Gap.”

Brian also has a favorite state park: Hopatcong State Park. As you might have guessed, it’s “right in front of where [he sails] and literally a mile from where [he lives.]”

Kite Surfing

“I’ve been there a bunch of times as kid,” Brian explains “both in the summer and winter. We’d go sleigh riding in the winter, and in summertime, there’s a beach, some picnic areas, basketball courts, and they’ve got a little historic museum.” The museum’s got “cool pictures of the lake for the past 100, 150 years. Different buildings and hotels used to be here; many of them have since burned down.” This lake’s got a rich history, and “you can see it in the state park and the museum.”

We love that Brian uses the outdoors for exercise, enjoyment, and to stay connected to his family. He’s got the best of both worlds: a fulfilling small-town life in a place he loves and enjoyable teaching jobs, and the opportunity to act on his “real passion” of competitive sailing, traveling nationally, in Ohio, San Diego, Washington, Oregon, Florida, and everywhere else (and even internationally in Canada.) We’re wishing him all the luck in achieving his goals of winning Nationals this year and staying healthy and active throughout life, and we’re inspired that he’s working towards achieving them by being outdoors and visiting some of our favorite places: state parks. Mountains conquered? That’s pretty much a “check”.

“What’s Your Mountain”, Andrew Hickman?

Middle school is hard enough – puberty! bullies! the beginning of “high math”! – but adding in a weight problem just takes adolescent insecurities to an even higher level. It’s a struggle that Andrew Hickman, from Clifton, New Jersey, is all too familiar with.

“When I was younger, I was one of the chubby kids. I loved food, still do. I never had a problem finishing my dinner – the problem was more when to quit. Going into middle school, I think I had gained a good 30 pounds over the summer.”

His weight struggle continued into high school. “I joined the swim team and the track team. I started at the bottom, then became the captain of both teams senior year of high school.”

It was a pretty impressive feat for Andrew, who continued to stay on top of his weight into college.

“While I was in college, I actually lost more weight because the food was disgusting. I didn’t want to eat it!”

But after his junior year at Caldwell College, Andrew moved back home and became a commuter.

“That’s when I fell in love with food again – all that home cooking. Everything was available, everything was familiar to me, so I had actually gained 60 pounds after moving back home and throughout that year. I really needed to do something, get back in shape, control my weight somehow.”

It was a mountain he ended up conquering.

“I was a member of the gym, but I was never really motivated to work out. I had always choreographed Sweet 15s and 16s, done Spanish dance instruction, and ballroom dance. So, I saw this class that was called Zumba. It wasn’t really that popular yet, so I asked the girl at the gym what it was, and she was like: ‘Oh, it’s a Latin dance class.’ So I was like: ‘sign me up, I’ll take it!’”

After the first class, Andrew fell in love, and he’s been doing Zumba ever since.

“I was a student for a good four or five months. I met an instructor who kind of became my Zumba mentor, and then I got certified myself. I went from taking four classes a week to teaching almost eight to nine classes a week.”

And it paid off. In two and a half months, Andrew lost 65 pounds – just from doing Zumba. He’s been in “pretty good shape” ever since.

andrew 4

A before and after shot.

Although he has a full-time job as the Teen Director at the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton, his Zumba career has taken off.

“I actually have a couple of friends who’ve videotaped me doing classes on YouTube. I did one for a lifestyle and fitness expo. I’ve also done Zumba down the shore, on the beach. That was actually pretty hard, but I would definitely do it again, because it was fun.”

Zumba on the beach? We see a creative Friday Fitness Tip in the near future…

In addition to Zumba, Andrew loves being active in the outdoors.

“I was a part of Boy Scouts when I was younger, and we always used to go to Stokes State Forest in Branchville, New Jersey. We went camping, and after Boy Scouts I continued going there with a couple of my friends. It’s a fun place, right by the lake. They have open areas, a nice hiking trail, and outdoorsy, fresh air.”

Since we’re all about parks and the outdoors, we decided to press him a little more.

“State parks and outdoor areas are nice for a bunch of things, but my friends and I like to actually do something there – go out fishing, go on a hike, or if we’re camping, we’re chopping down wood for a campfire, or we’re swimming in a lake, or we’re playing football. We’re staying active to have fun.”

Andrew also likes to go with friends to Garrett Mountain in Clifton, which is “ a huge mountain with a long, winding road where people go running and hiking.” To overcome his figurative mountain, Andrew heads to a literal one. We pretty much dig that.

And what does Andrew use to help enhance his outdoor experiences? Why, you guessed it! The Pocket Ranger® app!

“I have your app. It’s very useful. If I’m looking for a place to hike, or for a place to take the kids, or an outdoor activity, one quick touch and I can find a lot of places nearby. So it’s a big help.”

Andrew 1

Playing laser tag. We’re a little upset that we weren’t invited.

When it comes to his weight and staying healthy, Andrew’s now “doing it on my own terms. I would say I was more fit in high school, because I had a set routine of athletics. I had to keep a certain weight maintained; I had to do this, do that. Now that I’m doing it on my own I’m just doing it for the love of it, to stay healthy. Zumba, for me, it’s just dancing. I just love to move.”

As a success story, we wanted to know if he had any advice for people trying to get to that healthy weight.

“If your goal is to stay fit and keep the weight off, do it on your own terms. Don’t do it to impress others; don’t do it to reach a deadline because you want to look good for the summertime. Do it so you feel good. If that’s pretty much consistent, you won’t have a deadline, you won’t have a goal. It’ll just be.”

We’re thinking that those are some pretty wise words. Which prompted us to ask whether Andrew’s considered becoming a full-time fitness guru.

“I’ve thought about it. A lot of people have suggested I open up a little studio. Right now, I don’t have the time for it with my job at the club. Working with kids is not really a nine to five kind of thing. But I definitely do have a dream of at least renting a studio, and holding my own classes and having my own area that I can say is my studio. So that’s definitely on the bucket list.”

We’re pretty inspired by Andrew. In fact, we’re so inspired that we’re going to have to end this post now, because we have the urge to go to Zumba. And then hike a mountain in a state park. We think. Either way, like Andrew, we’re going to conquer our mountains on our own terms. We hope you will, too.

Andrew 2

Just your regular Zumba instructor & youth worker extraordinaire.


“What’s Your Mountain”, Mickey Kirk?

You might think that a stay-at-home dad would get to spend tons of quality time with his kids, but according to Mickey Kirk, of Delaware Township, New Jersey, that’s not exactly the case.

“I have three kids – Cheyenne, who’s nine, Mika, who’s eight, and I have a son who is four, Levi. I don’t get a lot of chances to have just one of them at a time.”

Mickey’s kids: Mika, Cheyenne, and Levi, on a hike last December

Mickey’s kids: Mika, Cheyenne, and Levi, on a hike last December.

Here at ParksbyNature, that’s what we call a mountain. (We’re very metaphorical.) And this particular mountain happens to be a challenge.

So what’s a dad to do? If you’re Mickey Kirk, you take them hunting, one at a time.

Mickey grew up close to his current home in Hunterdon County, in a rural part of Warren County, New Jersey. Growing up, “my brother [identical twin Marty] and I always hunted. We went through high school getting up three hours before school started to check our trap lines. Then we’d get back home from school and check them again.”

Mickey drives while his best friend, hunting buddy, and identical twin brother Marty sits behind him.

Mickey drives while his best friend, hunting buddy, and identical twin brother Marty sits behind him.

When asked why they began hunting, Mickey elaborated. “My dad was a hunter and loved to hunt. And that’s how we got into it. He would start taking us even before we could hunt.”

Now, Mickey’s doing the same with his young kids.

“We’ll go and sit in our little ladder stand and deer hunt. They love to sit there because we see birds and chat. It’s good one-on-one time for me. Sometimes we don’t say anything about hunting; sometimes we talk about school.”

Levi with a deer in NJ

Levi with a deer in NJ.

Mickey also loves to fish: “I’ve fished all over the world – Costa Rica, Ireland, out west in the United States, and in the Florida Keys.”

It’s a pastime his kids enjoy, as well.

“This time of year, all they want to do is go fishing every day. There’s a county park called Hoffman Park. It’s about ten, fifteen minutes from my house, so we go there all the time because we can go down to the dozens of little ponds there.”

Mika and Levi fishing at Hoffman Park.

Mika and Levi fishing at Hoffman Park in Hunterdon County, NJ.

But no matter what they do, and what they talk about, one thing is clear: hunting, fishing, and the outdoors connect Mickey to his kids. In fact, the outdoors is so important to his family that he and his wife Vesna have made a life-changing decision.

“We’re looking to relocate. And we’re probably going to go somewhere like Tennessee, because we want to have a small farm, thirty or fifty acres. The kids love the outdoors, so the places we’re looking at have either a creek or a pond on them. They have some pastures so the kids can have animals. My middle daughter, Mika, wants a pig. She’s going to name it Bacon. She knows you raise the animal for a purpose; it’s not a pet.”

It’s especially interesting, considering that Vesna will go fishing at the pond with everyone but isn’t what Mickey calls “an outdoors person”. But that’s just another mountain that the Kirks solve simply. Mickey explains that his wife sees how much the kids love being outside, so bringing the family closer to nature has become a priority for her, too.

Levi at Hoffman Park in Hunterdon County, NJ.

Levi at Hoffman Park in Hunterdon County, NJ.

We usually like to ask people how parks and nature help them to achieve their goals, but Mickey Kirk and his family one-upped us – living a nature-filled life is their goal (and they’re doing a pretty good job at it.)

But hunting has helped Kirk achieve a personal goal, as well, which answered our question all too beautifully: “I did have a stressful job for twenty years [as a police Lieutenant], so hunting was my stress reliever. I could go and get away and not think about anything.”

Who would’ve thought that hunting could be a form of meditation? But Mickey explains it in a simple, relatable way.

“I’m sure you have a place that you really like to go to, and you go there again and again. And I don’t mean a place exactly – I’m narrowing it down to a tree or a deer stand. Only because over the years I have had so many memories from that spot, and I mean that particular spot, that tree, where I’ve had a couple of good deer hunts, or I shot a big buck, or got a nice turkey. I have these two or three spots that I like to go to every year just for that – because you remember all those times, all those experiences.”

One of these particular spots is a deer stand in one tree at Whiskey Lane Farm Dressage, which is right across the street from Mickey’s house. It’s also the place where his kids take riding lessons, he does maintenance, and the woman who rents the space from the owners in Virginia lets Mickey and Marty hunt. Mickey makes sure to go to this particular deer stand on November 1st, and a couple times after, because, “it’s just magical…[he sees] ten different bucks in the morning.”

What makes the experience even more magical is this: “once I get in [the tree] in the morning, I can literally look at my watch and it’s just breaking daylight and then it seems like you snap your fingers and it’s twelve o’clock.”

As much as Mickey likes to return to his favorite spots, he also loves to explore new places.

“What I enjoy most is hunting a new area – anywhere new – because it’s more challenging that you don’t know the area. It’s a new adventure.”

When asked if he uses the Pocket Ranger® app, he says that he’d be interested to use it on his next trip, when he goes somewhere he doesn’t know. When we mentioned that we have a Tennessee app, both parties agreed that it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Mickey, Levi, and Mika on the game cam.

Mickey, Levi, and Mika on the game cam.

Another favorite hunting and hiking area made us think of one of our special app features.

“I also belong to a hunting club in Northern Warren County, just a little bit south of Blairstown. That property borders Worthington State Forest. Our club is eighty acres. We have a house on the property, so my brother and I take all the kids up there in the summertime. We do it probably eight, ten times a year in the summer. Nobody’s there in the summertime so we’ll hike all up through Worthington. We see a lot of bear up there; anywhere from one to six or eight different bears right from the cabin. The kids love that.”

What else do the kids love?

“We do scavenger hunts there. We make up of a list of stuff they have to find, like one seed, one nut, one something that has yellow in it. And they go off to the woods to find the stuff.”

Now there’s a man after our own GeoChallenging hearts! We’re thinking he and his family will love the Post Grape-Nuts Fit “What’s Your Mountain?” GeoChallenge. And whenever we play it, we’ll be thinking of this inspirational stay-at-home-dad with three kids, who uses parks and nature to connect to his loved ones. We’re looking forward to hearing about your future Tennessee farm, Kirks. Say hello to Bacon for us.

Cheyenne shoots at BB gun target practice while Mika and Levi wait for their turns.

Cheyenne shoots at BB gun target practice while Mika and Levi wait for their turns.

Do you know anybody who has an interesting story and/or passion for the outdoors? Have a mountain you’re trying to conquer? Let us know! You may very well supply us with our next interview subject.

Wilderness Safety

So long as you use some good ole’ common sense, follow park rules, heed any warnings, and use your Pocket Ranger® app to guide your visit, we know you’ll have a blast exploring the outdoors. But what if you do all that and things still go awry? Fortunately, there are people like Joey Vulpis. Joey is the founder of Northeast Mountain Guiding (NMG), a company that provides outdoor education, professional level training for aspiring climbing guides, and guiding services to outdoor enthusiasts. Joey is also a team leader at Bayshore Wilderness/Ground Search & Rescue and a volunteer EMT.

We wanted to get together with Joey to talk about wilderness safety, and we couldn’t think of a better place to meet than at Allamuchy Mountain State Park in New Jersey, a site he frequently visits with NMG for their introductory rock-climbing course.

Joe D'Agastino, Joey Vulpis and Mike Grice guiding at Allamuchy Mountain State Park.

Joe D’Agastino, Joey Vulpis and Mike Grice guiding at Allamuchy Mountain State Park.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your experiences with outdoor safety and how you got started.

A: Like most guides, I wanted to make my hobby my career. It was a tough road but after 4 years and some chance taking we (NMG) are one of the largest in the Eastern US. We staff some of the most highly credentialed guides in the industry. The organizations that train and certify rock and/or trail guides (mountain leaders) were started by some of our employees. The Professional Hiking Guides Association, which trains and certifies trail guides at an international level recognized by the UIMLA was started by myself and some of our employees. One of our per-diem guides, Alan Jolley, is a co-founder of the AMGA. Our Gunks guide, Paul Curran, is the President of the Professional Climbing Guides Institute, which trains and certifies rock climbing guides. I am a board of directors member with them, as well.

Q: What are some of the more common injuries that you encounter?

A: We see a lot of simple injuries with our clients like scrapes, bruises, etc. Most of the major injuries we see out there are from recreational climbers who lack experience/knowledge of the terrain. Indoor climbing gyms give climbers a false sense of security because they climb so well indoors, and that’s not the case outdoors. Structural geology, dendrology, physics and metallurgy are major factors with outdoor climbing focusing on top-rope climbing.

I’m a team leader at Bayshore Search & Rescue and a volunteer EMT and we see some crazy injuries there from long bone fractures to head traumas to simple injuries like sprained ankles or dislocated bones. Most are from bad choices and lack of experience in the outdoor environment. Taking formal training from an outdoor education company is very beneficial and will provide the proper knowledge for the activity they are doing.

Q: All Pocket Ranger® apps have built-in safety features:

Alert Button: Allows users to send an alert to pre-selected contacts with the user’s longitude and latitude positions. A link to Google maps is also supplied so the recipient can view the user’s position on the map. (New Jersey residents have the option to notify State Park police through the Alert Button.)

Friend Finder: Users can sync devices with a friend to view and keep track of each other within park grounds. Multiple users (up to five friends) are acceptable—data reception required.

Waypoint Button: Drop a waypoint on your current position. You can even take a photo and use that as your waypoint. Name your waypoint and add notes before sharing it with your friends or simply viewing it on your GPS map.

Which of these safety features do you find most valuable and why?

A: I like the Alert button feature idea. It is similar to the SPOT device, which we use on international expeditions. Although, the Friend Finder is a pretty cool idea! But the Alert button feature is invaluable.

Q: What outdoor safety courses are offered by Northeast Mountain Guiding?

A: All of our courses focus on safety in a particular discipline in some aspect. Our rock and ice climbing courses, beginner to advanced and on to guide training, are all focused on safety in the rock discipline and how to be efficient as a climber while staying safe on the cliffs.

Our backpacking and mountaineering courses are also focused on safety in the trail/mountain discipline–picking out the proper campsite, non-lethal bear management, water filtration & purification methods and trail etiquette.

Q: Joey, we know you love the outdoors just as much as we do. How has Northeast Mountain Guiding helped others to develop an appreciation for the outdoors?

A: Everyday we’re amazed at what our clients and students accomplish after taking courses with us! Most of them come back again and again and follow us religiously on Facebook and other social media venues. Every year we have a half a dozen or more of our clients who attempt thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail or other long distance trails in the US. Some of our clients have advanced so quickly that they are now employees with us.

We offer affordable rates for the general public and pay our employees very well. I didn’t start NMG to make a ton of money or to become rich, I started NMG to introduce people to what I love so much…the great outdoors! The paperwork involved with running a guiding business isn’t always fun, but seeing the faces of our clients when they tackle a hard climb or a rough trail or an international mountain is amazing.

Q: We think it’s great that you run guided trips/outings throughout the Northeast. Why do you love New Jersey’s State Parks?

A: I’ve been to many US states and have guided in many of them as well. But I call New Jersey home for a reason and it isn’t called the Garden State for kicks. NJ offers some amazing landscape and has some pretty good climbing for the mid-Atlantic region. North central and Northwest NJ is an old glacier area so the terrain that was carved by the glaciers is just beautiful. The topography that the glaciers left when they receded left us with some great climbing areas and hiking trails.

Q: Have you had to put your skills to the test while in the outdoors?

A: We put our skills to work daily while out there guiding. We have a lot of risks to manage when taking clients into the wilderness. Most of us volunteer or work part-time as CPR instructors, Lifeguards, EMTs, Paramedics, Nurses, etc. to keep our medical skills current for the safety of our clients. Most of us have also upgraded our urban medical certifications to wilderness medicine levels like Wilderness EMT and Remote Paramedic. We staff some of the most highly trained wilderness medical personnel in the country.

I’m a very big advocate for Wilderness Medicine training at the professional or recreational level. It will make the avid day-hiker or climber much more confident being out there. For an outdoor guide, well, it comes with job training.

Off-Duty Confidential: Marian Phillips of Mariandeer

Marian Phillips

Marian Phillips

Proving it’s never too late to find something you love to do, Marian Phillips, a 71-year-old hunter in Mississippi, took up hunting 25 years ago and has never looked back. Once her second husband introduced her to the sport, Phillips quickly traded needlepoint for bagging buck. Now, the avid deer hunter blogs about her experiences and that of other women on her blog Mariandeer: Stories and pictures of my hunting experiences with my husband, family and friends! Read all about this bold outdoorswoman’s adventures in the woods, the items she never leaves home without and why she thinks we need more women out in the woods.

Name:  Marian Love Phillips

What do you do, Marian? At present, I am a caregiver at 71 for my husband, Bob, who is 70 years old with serious health issues.  He takes up a lot of my time caring for him since he cannot drive. This has slowed him down a lot through the years but has not stopped us from getting into the woods when we can.

Did you always like to hunt?  Well, I never was exposed to hunting until I met Bob, my second husband, who taught me how to hunt in my mid-forties.  While I was raising my four daughters for approximately 12 years, I dated men that hunted, but he was the only one that took the time to take me hunting.

What was your first hunting experience like?  While we were dating, I would go and sit with him on a ridge and take my needlepoint with me and watch him hunt.  One day, I told him that I could do this and that was the beginning of my hunting experiences at the age of 45.  I had never picked up a gun or even shot one until I met him.  To get me ready for hunting, he would take me target practicing and I was soon on my way to becoming a hunter.

My first deer was a 6 pt. buck while on the stand for only five minutes.  It was opening day and it had been storming pretty badly and we stayed in his suburban until the rain let up.  In the meantime the other hunters decided to leave camp and go back home.  We went in on his three-wheeler and Bob took me to my stand and then he walked down from me and had just sat down up against a tree near a creek bed and lit a cigarette when BOOM!  Was that her?  He waited with anticipation trying to figure out should he go and see what had happen, maybe I accidentally shot the gun off, or maybe I hurt myself?  He could not stand it anymore so he decided to come and check on me.

When he found me I was tracking my deer and had blood all over my face.  I told him that everyone had left the camp and I just went ahead initiated my own self… he said, it looked like it had shot me!  We found my deer a few feet away and I was on my way to becoming a deer huntress, which opened up a whole new world for me.  I had used my step-son-to-be .243 for the harvest at Jasper Bottom Hunting Club in Claiborne County, MS.   This soon became my camp for the next 25 years.

ChristmasPlaceDec2011 014

Looking cool.

Talk about girl power!  Your blog puts a number of male hunters to shameWhat would you say is the biggest misconception about women hunters?  That hunting is a man’s sport only but I have seen it changed drastically since I started hunting 27 years ago.  I only knew three ladies that hunted and they were related to the camp president (his family: wife and two daughters) but I jumped right in with the rest of them and it gave me so much confidence when I did harvest a deer.  I’m so happy to see that more women have taken up the sport of hunting. One of my four daughters is a hunter now and we have had some great hunting experiences/memories together.

What’s the most important lesson you’re learned from spending years out in the field?  Of course, don’t forget your bullets or your rifle but most of all a camera.  I have taken pictures of deer, deer suckling, a bobcat and turkeys.  The woods are full of surprises and adventures and have found that blogging is a great way to document all your hunts.

Best piece of advice you’d impart on hunter or huntress starting out?  Take a Hunter’s Education Course.  I did.  Also, go to a gun range and practice your shooting skills.  Always take someone with you to hunt because anything can happen and always wait for all the hunters to come out of the woods before you leave camp.

Describe your perfect day outdoors.  Being in the woods before daylight and hear the awakening of the forest, seeing deer, hog, turkeys or listening to the owls in the evening and watching the sun go down.

What’s the strangest thing to ever happen to you out in nature?  A tree fell in the woods and I ducked while on my stand.  I had to laugh at myself after it had happened.

Got any tips for a budding outdoor blogger? Do blog about all your hunting experiences every time you go to the woods because each hunt is different and full of adventure.  Blogging was not thought of when I first started hunting but did keep a written journal for a while but gave it up, which I regret now.  When I go to the woods now I take my camera and can’t wait to get home and share my hunting story with my blogging friends with pictures of my hunt and hopefully a deer that I harvested.

What’s the largest animal you’re ever bagged?  190 lbs. 8 pt. buck

“I rather be hunting then…” doing my housework!

Marian's got it in the bag.

Marian’s got it in the bag.

Best hunting memory in 2012.  I have only been hunting one day so far this season and saw three nice does.  I was hunting in a one-man stand and they came out in a clearing to my right.  I knew I was in trouble when I saw the second doe stomp her foot and another doe was coming up behind her.  The first one was the closest to me but I believe they all knew something was up by then.

I put the closest one in my sites and on fire but only had the back half of her body…so that was not going to make a good shot and was hoping she would move out away from the tree but one of them blew and they all took off.  It was around 8:45 in the morning and my daughter was hunting with me but she did not see anything.

What’s next for you in 2013?  I will be trying to get a wild hog and a deer or two.  It’s unfortunate that I had to get out of my deer camp after 25 years but the camp dues increased, and with my husband being sick and a fixed income, it has limited us hunting.

We do have friends in the MS Delta where they own 2,500 acres of land with a 40 acre lake.  We love going there to hunt and hogs are running everywhere and that is where I hope to get my hog and a deer.  Bob has gotten a hog there and now I need to get me one!


Outdoor snacks:  Apples, mixed nuts and gum

Memorable place you’ve visited:  London, England

Gear:  My .270 rifle, hunting bag with my binoculars, camera, flashlights, water and of course my pee bottle.

Keepsake or memento you picked up along your travels that you treasure most:  A 10 pound note from England with signed signatures, of the ones who made the trip with me, on the note while in-flight coming back home.  Also, I picked up a rock as I was running towards Buckingham’s Palace to see the changing of the guards.

Outdoor soundtrack:  Country and classical music

Outdoor companion:  My husband, daughters, grandsons or my blogging mentor, Rex Howell, who owns a camp in the MS Delta with his family called, Christmas Place Plantation and Hunting Club.

Off-Duty Confidential: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Moving to a new city can be tough, but when you’re trading in your flip-flops for a parka, adjusting is on another level. In 2007, Whitney Orban said goodbye to Florida’s year-round warm weather and hello to Colorado’s rugged slopes. Her love of mountains and the great outdoors inspired a blog “Nothing Vetured, Nothing Gained,” where Orban chronicles her life in Colorado and shares photos and info on her time adventuring with her dog Bradley (a seven-year-old Blue Heeler), and travels. The avid rock climber, skier and part-time gear reviewer for took time away from her busy schedule to dish on her outdoor bucket list, gear she couldn’t live with out and why Bradley really is the best travel companion ever.

It may have taken some getting used to, but this Floridian is braving Colorado’s cold temperatures just fine.

Name: Whitney Orban

What do you do, Whitney? I’m still trying to figure that out! I graduated with a degree in Art Education, but my heart is taking me towards the Outdoor Industry. In my spare time I test women’s outdoor gear and help run

You’re quite the outdoorswoman! What have you yet to check off your adventure bucket list? Why thank you. I feel like everyday I find something new I want to try or somewhere new I want to visit, it’s never ending. I’d like to continue hiking the Colorado’s 14ers, I’d love to do more international travel and more mountaineering.

You’ve seen and explored tons since moving from Florida. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through trial and error? I came out to Colorado with flip-flops and cotton sweatshirts, and nearly froze. Learning how to layer efficiently so I didn’t freeze was the biggest lesson I’ve learned the hard way.

Best piece of advice you’d share with a nature newbie? Take a class, take your dog, join a group… just get out and do it!

Describe your perfect day outdoors. Oh gosh, I have too many hobbies to answer this. If the sun is shining and I’m with good people, I’m just as happy hiking a 14er as I am rock climbing or skiing powder.

What’s the strangest thing to ever happen to you out in nature? Hmm, while I was climbing last year (on a route two other people had already climbed) I encountered a coiled rattlesnake on a ledge right above me. I guess that’s more scary than strange!

Got any tips for a budding outdoor blogger? Just go for it! My blog was originally just a place for me to keep my photos and trip reports, but it sort of turned into something more. I’ve also met really great outdoor people through Twitter whose blogs continue to inspire me.

Tell us, does Bradley really go along with you on all adventures? Almost! Now that he’s a little older he still goes hiking with me but he doesn’t hike longer 14ers anymore.

We recently blogged about hiking with dogs. How does adventuring with Bradley enhance your experience outdoors? Would you recommend hiking or adventuring with pets to others? I would! I think you guys mentioned some great tips for pet owners to keep in mind, so that everyone on the trail is happy. Bradley inspires me and he keeps me active. Last Spring I pulled up to a trailhead and it was windy, snowy and cold. I didn’t want to get out of my car. When I let Bradley out of the car he started rolling around in the snow and running around, he looked so happy, I just started laughing. Even when conditions aren’t ideal he can inspire me to get outside.

I’d rather be ____, than _____”  Happy than rich.

A Florida State Parks Pocket Ranger® app is in the works. Any chance you’ll return to the Sunshine State and take it for a spin? I’d love to! There are some beautiful state parks in Florida.

What’s next for you and your blog in 2013? 2013 should be busy. I’m continuing to pursue a career that I love, I’m getting married and hopefully headed to Greece for climbing. As for my blog, I’d like to continue to document my experiences, but more than anything I hope to inspire people to get outside.


Outdoor snacks: Anything with chocolate and these (hint, they’re gooey!)

Memorable place you’ve visited: Thailand

Gear: This is a hard one, I couldn’t live without down in the winter!

Keepsake or memento you picked up along your travels that you treasure most: Besides the photos, I value the experiences. Every challenge I’ve faced in my adventures has taught me something about myself.

Outdoor soundtrack: Unless I’m running I like to just enjoy nature.

Outdoor companion: Bradley and my fiancée Andrew

Off-Duty Confidential: Campfire Chic

Few things get between Kam and the great outdoors. This savvy outdoors woman takes her love of nature from cubicle to campsite with her blog: “Campfire Chic,” where she shares tips, camping advice and wisdom for budding outdoor bloggers—all in addition to juggling a full-time job. How she does it all is short of Mother Nature miracle. Read on to find out more about this gutsy girl’s healthy habits and outdoor adventures!

Kam, the brains behind Campire Chic, in action.

Name: Kam

What exactly is “Campfire Chic?” Can boys be chic, too?

Campfire Chic is my story as a crafty camper. I share my story as a nine-to-five’er looking for adventure and a handmade life. The posts I share encourage my readers to take risks and try new things, like camping, rock climbing, and yoga, while maintaining their current interests and responsibilities. Campfire Chic is about accepting challenges, setting achievable goals, and documenting the journey toward the finish line.

The name came from my desire to show others that being outdoors doesn’t need to be “icky” or “unstylish”, it can look good. It isn’t about gender, so of course males can be “chic”, too!

You have a full-time gig in addition to Campfire Chic. How do you balance it all?

Magic. Not really, but sometimes it feels that way. I’m a really big planner, and I feel like that helps me manage both nicely with time to travel, spend time with friends, and veg when needed.  It is something that is on my mind all the time, and I have to back out of offers that I would love to take part in because I know I can’t afford the time. I share some of my “secrets” on my blog, which includes my blogging calendar, on “doing it all”, and setting priorities.

Some of my favorite quotes that help me through it all: Done is better than perfect. Work on what is due next. …if you don’t, you’ll make any excuse not to do it…

What important outdoor lesson have you learned through trial and error?

The most important lesson I learned through trial and error when it comes to the outdoors is that I need to make a checklist of all the gear (clothing included!) I need to bring with me and to have Alex (my outdoors partner/boyfriend) double-check everything to make sure I’m not bringing shorts and tank tops on our trip to the Sierras where it will be a high of 50 degrees. I’m terrible at packing, but at least I’ve learned that I need a second set of eyes to look at my gear list.

Best piece of advice you’d impart on any camper?

I’m sure others will answer with “bring duct tape”, but I’m going to say: bring more water than you think and less “stuff”. This is true for both car camping and backpacking. I see people bringing all sorts of gear, furniture, food, entertainment…and assume there are water stations at the campgrounds or anywhere else in the park. You don’t need half of the things you bring, so cut it out. Bring more water.

Describe your perfect day outdoors.

My perfect day would involve waking up in my tent and bagging a quick peak, eating some lunch, and then spending the afternoon in a boulder field to do some bouldering. The weather would be slightly overcast and temperatures cool…mainly so I could take some “bloggable” photos and video to share online. After a big dinner around the campfire, I’d hit the hay without the rainfly so I could see the stars…something of a rarity in Orange County.

What’s the strangest thing to ever happen to you out in nature?

I was hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains one day with some friends and saw a swarm of something ahead of us…the swarm was enormous! There was no way to get around it, so we went closer to see if our fears were true (bees!) or if it was something else…we stumbled upon a swarm of ladybugs! It was the craziest experience to walk through a giant swarm of ladybugs, they landed on us, got in our eyes, stuck in our hair, they were everywhere. It was super surreal and almost as if it was movie magic.

Got any tips for a budding outdoor blogger?

The biggest tip is to be yourself. It sounds humdrum, but it is true. Also, be concise, we’d all rather be outdoors that sitting inside reading blog posts, so keep it quick and use visuals (photos, infographics, video) when applicable. Also, connect with others in your community by leaving comments on their blog posts, tweeting them, or by offering a guest blog post on their blog. This is about community, so start building yours and joining others.

Tell us, can you really light your own campfire?

Heck yeah, I can build my own campfire! I’ve been camping since I was about three years old, and I’ve been building and tending the campfire for quite some time. My brother was a cub scout when he was younger, so I’m most familiar with the ‘teepee’ and ‘log cabin’ methods for starting a campfire.

“I’d rather be camping than…”

…Sitting in my cubicle all day. It’s torture looking out the windows and seeing perfect weather for a good drive to a favorite camping spot.  Heck, I would rather do a lot of things than sit in my cubicle.

What’s next for you and your blog in 2013?

I’m working on launching a more improved Campfire Chic blog/website for 2013. I want to be able to share more outdoors-related posts that encourage “indoor cats” to get outside and try something new. My content will have a stronger focus on accepting challenges and using anxiety about trying something new to take the plunge. Many of my readers would love to start camping/backpacking/hiking/climbing/yoga/Pilates, but don’t know where to start. I want to create content that will get them off the computer chair and outside, even if it is for a campout in the backyard! I also plan on sharing more ways the outdoors types can use social media to connect with others and how to archive their adventures using various types of memory keeping (scrapbooking isn’t just for your grandma!).

Kam’s perfect day outdoors? Spending the afternoon bouldering.


Outdoor snacks:

I’m not going to lie, Frito Scoops have to be my favorite thing to snack on while outdoors. They have a great crunch, feel less greasy than regular Fritos, and help me get more salt into my system when I don’t have a sports drink with me. More “acceptable” snacks include: Stinger Waffles (add some of Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread to the vanilla waffle while you’re around the campfire for an extra special treat!), and trail mix. I don’t get too fancy when it comes to snacks.


REI Airflyte Capri pants. I’m really short, so finding gear that fits properly and feels comfortable is a challenge. These Capri tights from REI are fantastic! I wear them while hiking, during vinyasa yoga practices, while climbing, and they survived a mud run 5K with me earlier this year. I like that they are multi-sport, I feel like I get the most out of my gear when I can use them for more than their intended purpose…like using my headlamp to walk around my apartment at night!

Keepsake or memento you picked up along your travels that you treasure most:

My U.S. National Parks passport probably has the most sentimental value to me. I am able to take it with us when we travel and get a cancellation stamp inside the book to mark when we visited different places. I like that it is compact and doesn’t take up space the way a collection of snow globes would.

Outdoor soundtrack:

We drive to most of our outdoor destinations, so we listen to the same type of stuff the entire time…old episodes of Frosty, Heidi, and Frank, a radio trio from Southern California. It is like having friends along for the ride. While on the trail, I don’t listen to music, I want to listen to the sounds around me, and because Alex hikes so much faster than me, I need to listen for his bear bell…we put bear bells on our hiking poles so we can ‘stay in touch’ while outdoors. When we are in camp at night, we may listen to something on our phones, but we’re rather content listening to nature.

Outdoor companion:

Alex is my outdoor companion, nerdy sidekick, and partner in adventure. We’ve been together for nearly six years now, and we have gone on several outdoor trips together. We push each other to go further/higher/faster but also know our limits. We work well together and are able to find adventure in the most unlikely of places. He’s also really supportive of my blogging and makes sure to take backup photos while we’re outdoors.