About

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Hello fellow adventurers!

I assume you’re here for adventure stuff. Are you looking for tips? Advice? Reviews? Stories? Entertainment? Well, I can safely say that you’ve come to the right place.

What is Two Tents Down all about?

At ease, friends! Two Tents Down is a lighthearted camping and travel blog, carefully written and well-researched, with tips, advice, and exciting adventure tales.

Anyone should feel welcome to peruse my Two Tents Down blog, but a beginner or intermediate camper or traveler might find it most useful. Take a look at Two Tents Down’s first entry, if you’d like to know more about the blog.

The Proof is in the Puddin’

To get better acquainted with this blog, you are welcome to read one of the entries below. This is a short list of posts that readers have really enjoyed:

  My Vision

Well I do have a lot of them, but my “Two Tents Down” goal is to share advice and stories about camping and traveling that will educate, inspire, and enable people to spend their precious time exploring!

Here is one of my inspirational adventure moments, and the story that goes with it:  

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Who the heck am I, and why should you trust me?

Well, let me introduce myself. I’m Lauren. I am a Wisconsinite, and I LOVE cheese! Wait, that’s to be expected. Okay, I really do DSCN0923love cheese! Actually, I love food in general, as well as the outdoors. I hike, bike, camp, and travel as much as I can.  

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a journalism degree in 2012, I chased love to England. There, I resided for seven months, hiking and camping, and visiting several cities including Manchester, Liverpool, and Edinburgh, Scotland. 

On a whim, my wife and I moved to Taiyuan, China to teach English. We lived there for a year, getting to know the culture, learning Mandarin, eating authentic Chinese food, and exploring places like Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing.

In 2014, we returned to America to reunite with my family and plan the next trip. We currently reside in Milwaukee, hiking and camping as much as possible on the budget of an assistant teacher and a food service worker! Read about what I’ve been up to since I’ve been home in my article called “Traveling on my Mind”. 

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During the time in between adventures, I dream through reading and writing. I am proud to say, I created and run the Two Tents Down blog. It is a constantly evolving project — open to ideas, and subject to change. Each entry is based on my adventure successes… and of course my failures! What’s more: all articles include the perspectives of fellow adventurers.

Social Media-ness

I like to interact with readers and other explorers on social media. Through these platforms, I share my latest blog posts, photos, stories, and my favorite articles written by fellow adventurers.

Add, follow, like, and peruse to your heart’s content:

Facebook  

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest    

Bloglovin’  

Email

Professional bios and profiles

I’m not just a blogger! I’m a freelance journalist. Connect with me, professionally:

Professional Website 

LinkedIn  

Google+   

Safe travels and happy camping!

Lauren

P.S. If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

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13 Camping Tips from an Imperfect Camper

My perfectly imperfect first camping trip


Traveling across England

I looked out of the train window and saw the gorgeous English countryside whizzing passed me. I could not believe it. I was in England! I had only been there for a few days, and I was already heading North to Cumbria County for a camping trip in the famous Lake District.
It was early in the morning, gray and misty, when we departed from the Accrington train station. During our one-hour layover in the town of Preston, we loaded up on some popular English snacks I had never eaten before: BBQ Beef Hula Hoops and orange Lucozade. Both snacks were a great combination of fantastically delicious and wildly unhealthy. After our layover, we took another train from Preston to a tiny, backpacking town called Ambleside. There we aimlessly wandered around in a fancy grocery store, unable to purchase even one expensive item.

After we finished drooling, we got our heads together. We actually needed to find a campground to camp in. I was quickly sidetracked while searching for the information center. I spotted a group of backpacking hippies, sporting dreadlocks and Bob Marley t-shirts, and carrying hiking packs protected by waterproof covers.Their hiking gear preparedness reminded me of our lack thereof. Traveling in leather jackets and borrowed rain boots (a.k.a. wellies, as the English call them), we were carrying a leather side satchel and a canvas backpack. Each were filled with a pair of one-piece footy pajamas, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes. Also split between our bags was a variety of fruit (soaked, mashed, and inedible by the time we got to it) and a very cheap (perhaps the cheapest) bottle of white rum. If that wasn’t enough, we were lugging around a massive two-person sleeping bag and a borrowed tent worth £20 (which might as well have weighed 20 pounds, it was so heavy).

 

The unheeded warning, and the damage that ensued

I took is trip in the summer of 2012. I was 24-years-old, six months away from college graduation, and I was in love! My head was high up in the clouds. Our friends and family warned us against camping that weekend, due to severe weather alerts, but we didn’t even hear them. We had just reunited after three months of living with half a country and an ocean between us. In our desperate minds, being together and in danger was better than being safe and apart.
What followed these warnings were dangerous storms, powerful gusts of wind, and some serious flooding. This crazy weather plagued much of England in June of 2012. The clouds dumped a month’s worth of rain on Cumbria County in a 24-hour period, during the weekend we camped. And there we were on foot in the Lake District, with almost nothing waterproof, a cheap and heavy tent, and little to no knowledge of what the heck we were doing.
But we weren’t without ideas. We pitched our cheap tent on a hill, as opposed to the soggy flat land below it. We thought we were so smart! Unfortunately, we hadn’t practiced putting up the tent beforehand, so we spent the next miserable half hour erecting this cheap and ridiculously-designed tent while the wind smacked us with thousands of tiny rain pellets. I felt like we were the targets and the wind was a bb gun with unlimited ammo, and a sick desire to torture us! Despite our difficulties, we got that tent in an upright position, atop that little hill, next to a tree. We climbed in and hung on for dear life. Due to the torrential rain, a powerful river surged through our campsite that first night. A river that wasn’t there before, and wouldn’t likely be there ever again.
 
Here we are at the end of the weekend at the Great North Swim wearing borrowed sweatshirts, waterlogged wellies,
and clothes that had been soaked and partially dried two or three times over.

 

That weekend, we were in a campground called Great Langdale. Thick fog covered the Langdale Pike mountain range on our first day there. By day two, the fog had lifted and the mountains were freely exposed to the sun (and my curious eyes). We hiked towards Windermere Lake through the mountains, in our wellies and the only clothing that was dry: our footy pajamas. We were exhausted, and looked ridiculous, but a natural Emerald City of greens surrounded us, and we were inspired to push on!


I still say it was one of the best weekends of my life. We survived on adrenaline and cheap white rum. It was nothing short of an adventure; one I was definitely not prepared for and will never forget.
Since then, I’ve made some MAJOR alterations to my camping techniques. These alterations are the result of research, more experience, and a whole lot of trial and error.

Without further ado, here is my list of 13 Camping tips:

1. Book your campsite way ahead of time.

You might be able to get away with booking a campsite in a private campground, the day before you leave for your trip, but national and state parks are particularly busy, and might require booking up to six months in advance.

There is plenty of information regarding national and state parks online at recreation.gov or over the phone at 1-877-444-6777.

2. Bring extra tent stakes.

You never know when one of them will get bent out of shape when you’re pounding them into the ground.

3. Practice putting up your tent ahead of time.

The quickest and easiest frustration on a camping trip can come when you’re putting up the dang tent. If you don’t know how, it just becomes an extra annoyance when you’ve just gotten to your campsite and you’ve got all your unpacking and setting up to do.
My best advice is to pick a nice day and then spend half an hour getting to know your tent out in your backyard or at your local park.

 

4. Bring a little lantern.

Having a lantern makes a world of a difference in your campsite. It’s nice to have your campsite lit up while you’re hanging out, or making dinner.


Here is my Ultimate Survival Technologies Brila Mini Lantern:

 

 

I bought this lantern at the REI in Fresno, California on my last camping trip, when I decided that it would really improve my camping experience. Luckily, it was around $15, so it didn’t break my wallet.

I like it because it’s small enough to fit in my pack or my pocket, and it has a hook on the top (so I can hang it in my tent, or on a tree branch) and a powerful magnet on the bottom.

The only downfall is that the lantern runs on AA batteries, which means I will need to keep buying them.

 

5. Bring an extra tarp.

I say extra tarp because you should already have a tarp for underneath your tent, if there is even the slightest chance of rain. I haven’t had any water leakage in my tents when I’ve use a tarp, but I have definitely had water leak into my tent when I didn’t use one. Many times it’s not necessary, but it’s good to be safe.


Camping Fail: It started raining on day two of my camping trip in Sequoia National Park. After hiking all day, we didn’t have an awning or a tarp to hang out under. In sheer desperation, we constructed an overhang for our picnic table out of whatever scraps of plastic we could find, and some rope and duct tape. The plus was that we had an overhang to use, but the minus was that everything underneath was already soaking wet.





How to use the tarp:

  • You can tie your extra tarp to trees, your car, or even a broken tree branch shoved into the ground (as I recently witnessed a neighboring camper do).
  • Stretched out, your tarp can be an overhang for a picnic table or some camping chairs.
The extra tarp is also useful for:
  • sanity, when it’s been raining for 3 days straight, and anyplace is a better hangout than your the tent you’ve been banished to since the start of the rain
  • playing a game of cards in your campsite, during a downpour
  • drying out wood, clothing, blankets, or sleeping bags
  • impressing fellow campers who aren’t as prepared as you are
  • storing extra gear
Active.com has a great article called 15 Ways to Use a Tarp at the Campsite. Check this out for tips and ideas on tarp use while camping.

6. Get organized!

 

This is a no-brainer. I always make a list before I go on any trip, but especially before I go camping.
The list works for the physical items you’re planning to bring, but also for the things you have to do before you leave like putting gas in your car, asking your neighbors to feed your pets, or asking your work for time off.
Scoutlists is a website filled with all sorts of packing lists broken down by climate, season, and potential activities of your upcoming camping trip.

7. Think ahead about devices and chargers.

Let’s be realistic. Most people bring their devices everywhere they go; even camping!

  • Pack chargers, back up batteries, and extra memory cards.
  • Empty the pictures out of your phone so you have plenty of space for new ones.

With that said, plan to have no signal or anywhere to charge your devices. That way, there’s no shock or disappointment when you realize you’re out in nature where you’ll be left to your own devices.

Major camping fail: On my most recent camping trip, I brought the wrong charger for my digital camera. After the camera was dead, that was it for great quality photos in Yosemite National Park. And I could have avoided the whole mess if I had been more careful while packing.

8. Think about what kind of a camper you are and pack accordingly.

Some people can camp with very little, and some just can’t. That’s okay, but make sure you realize what kind of a camper you are before you’re out there camping with more or less than you are comfortable with.

9. Tell someone where you are going.

If you have an itinerary, print off an extra copy for a family member or a friend. If you don’t have an itinerary, give someone a basic idea of where you’ll be, just in case anything goes wrong.

This tip is especially beneficial for people who plan to hike while camping. Here is an article that includes phone apps designed for safety: 10 Must-Have Smartphone apps for Hikers.

There are also handheld GPS devices available for hiking, and other outdoor activities. Here is an article that compares and reviews several of these devices: The Best Handheld GPS Review.

10. When camping in bear country, hang your food or store it in a bear canister.


These (sometimes even human proof) devices are designed to keep bears out of your food and away from you and your campsite. Anything with a scent is fair game for a bear This includes toiletries like soap and shampoo This stuff isn’t safe in your car either, unless you’re okay with a few broken windows, dents, and bear paws all over your stuff

Bears that eat human food can become aggressive and in some cases required to be put down. Using a bear canister is for the safety of you as well as the bears Click on this link for more information from the National Park Service about bear safety and food storage in human-and-bear-shared nature areas.

 

 

Check out my blog post on safe camping in bear country for more info!

11. When camping ANYWHERE, store food carefully.

There are plenty of other animals that would love to eat your tasty human food.

Camping fail: Years ago, while camping, our group left the campsite to visit a neighboring site. We returned to find a family of raccoons tearing the campsite apart, because we had been foolish enough to leave our food unattended.

12. Semi-plan your meals ahead of time.

It’s always annoying when you have too much food and end up going home with an abundance of stale, fire-stinking, dirt-filled food that doesn’t seem nearly as appetizing in the comfort of your own home, where you have an array of fresh (and hopefully clean) foods to choose from.

What’s not only annoying, but potentially dangerous, is going on a camping trip and realizing that you don’t have enough food and that you’re going to have to ration the little food you do have.

Estimate how much food you’ll need per day and work off of that estimate:

  • Scenario 1: Dehydrated meals for EVERY meal!
  • Scenario 2: Oatmeal each morning, snacks during the day, and a big meal cooked over the fire each night
  • Scenario 3: Three big meals, all cooked on the grill
  • Scenario 4: Glamp it up with bacon and eggs or a tasty tofu scramble! With this scenario, you won’t want to forget your sides and condiments like olive oil or butter, ketchup, bread, cheese, milk, etc.
You get the point. Without a tentative plan, you might end up being the little piggy who had none!

13. Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

To other campers, to the wildlife, and to the environment. Simple.
 

Do you have any helpful camping tips?

Share your ideas in the comment section!

If you need anything, come on by! I’m Two Tents Down!

Email me with questions, comments, or concerns at twotentsdown@yahoo.com.

You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest by clicking on one of these links, or through the social media buttons at the top left corner of this page.

Traveling on my Mind

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I’ve been thinking a lot about traveling, lately. Creating a blog and 47 (I exaggerate) social media accounts about camping and traveling will have that effect.

Sometimes I can’t believe I’m back home. After all the time I spent away from home, after all the belongings I hate to part with, and after all that I’ve experienced, I can’t believe that I’m back home, in the same place I was before. I’m residing in the same house, working the same type of job, doing the same things in my free time, and living in the same city I lived in for the seven years before I left to travel.

These things didn’t change. My house didn’t change. Milwaukee didn’t change. But, I changed. After coming back home, I realized that I’m different. I don’t quite fit the life I was living before I left.

I don’t think I’m the only person to realize this. I have fewer people in my life now. Upon my return, I realized that many of my friends moved on while I was away. That’s one of the downfalls of travel. Friends’ lives keep moving and building in one place, while your life grows in a different way.

My point is here, somewhere.

I’ve been back home for 16 months now. In that time, I:

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Newbie #2

  • Reconnected with family and friends
  • Made my travel partner my permanent partner in life (Yay! We got married!).
  • Traveled to Virginia Beach for my cousin’s wedding (Congrats, Cuz!).
  • Attended two other beautiful Wisconsin weddings.
  • Played three seasons of softball.
  • Joined a soccer team, for the first time!
  • Convinced an old job to hire me back, then convinced a new job to hire me on.
  • Got a promotion!
  • Lived at my mom’s in the suburbs, then moved back to Milwaukee.
  • Said goodbye to two very special family members, and then said hello to three very special, new family members (Newbies, you know your names!).
 Hiking Kettle Moraine
  • Went on many hikes and bike rides.
  • Went camping a few times, and bought an obscene amount of camping gear (Thanks REI, for relentlessly tempting me!).
  • Explored two incredible national parks.
  • Visited two states I had never been to before.
Me, as Professor Trelawney for Halloween

Me, as Professor Trelawney for Halloween

  • Became Professor Trelawney for one glorious night!
  • Devoured 17 books (and counting).
  • Started this blog.
  • Made a solid plan to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2017.
Even after reminiscing on all the adventures of the last 16 months, I can’t help but feel like the monotony of daily life is stifling my wanderlust needs. I got a taste of traveling. I got a taste of a wildness that I had never felt before. Now I’m home, and writing about those experiences.
Though my travels were far from perfect (and even farther from easy), I know that I need to get back out there again, soon. And once my home life is in order, I’ll be planning and saving for future exploration.

To put it simply, more adventures are calling!

Dear Readers,
Do you feel the pangs of unfulfilled travel? Have you grown tired of the day-to-day grind? What do you do to ease the wanderlust, while you’re doing the home life thing, and waiting for the next big trip?
Feel free to leave a comment, send me an email (twotentsdown@yahoo.com), or contact me through social media (twotentsdown on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

If you need me,

I’m just Two Tents Down!

 

Wisconsin Hiking: Kettle Moraine State Forest – Greenbush Trails

Hiking in the Greenbush Area

A few weeks ago, my wife and I headed out on a day hike in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Park. The park is filled with picnic areas, scenic views, winding hilly roads, and beautiful trails used for a variety of sports. Needless to say, we love going there!

Unfortunately, we have gotten lost on our way to this park almost as many times as we have been hiking in it. The directions on the DNR website are so basic, I’ve ended up miles out of my way, and had far too many minutes stolen from my hikes.

So this time, I decided that I would document our route to the Greenbush area (from Milwaukee), so that other people don’t have as much trouble finding it. Oddly enough, we did not get lost this time, and instead found our way perfectly, with no wrong turns or hang ups. Murphy’s Law, right? Not really!

Rhesia went out of her way to figure out the basic area we needed to get to, looked up a map, zoomed in, found an intersection, typed that into Google maps, and finally Siri took us to where we needed to go. Not so simple.

GPS Coordinates of the Greenbush picnic area

Here are the exact coordinates I expertly triangulated (Just kidding! I just used the compass app on my iPhone thanks to theses instructions.):

You can enter these GPS coordinates into Google Maps or a maps app on your Smartphone. If step-by-step street directions are more your thing, I’ve also included some of those below.

Directions to Greenbush picnic area

I took the photo to the right, as I was getting out of the car. This is the view from the small parking lot. A short walk up that path, are bathrooms and a bulletin board with a map of all the trails in the area, and some ever-changing park alerts.

But you have to get there first! Below, I’m going to offer you Siri’s directions, with my own little tidbits added in.

These are directions from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to the Greenbush Area parking lot on Kettle Moraine Drive in Campbellsport, Wisconsin:

1. Head North on I-43 (towards Green Bay).

  • Stay on I-43 for about 23 miles.

2. Take Exit 97 (towards Plymouth), which is called Hwy 57 North.

  • You’ll be on this path for another 23 miles.

3. Turn left on 23 West (towards Greenbush).

  • This turn will come about a half mile past a Fleet Farm on your left hand side.
  • Stay on 23 West for about 7 miles.

4. Turn left onto County Road T.

  • This turn comes just after a quarry on the right and a trailer park on the left,
  • Look for a green sign that says “Greenbush”.
  • Stay on County Road T for about 1.2 miles (through the tiny town of Greenbush)

5. Turn left onto Kettle Moraine Drive.

  • Follow this road for 1.7 miles until you see a picnic area on your right hand side.

Greenbush Picnic Area

You’ve made it! This quaint and beautiful picnic area is a hub for so many trails. There are tables and bathrooms, and plenty of space to spread out.
Note: If you’re parking a car in the lot, you must have a Wisconsin State Park sticker on your window. If you don’t have one, you can apply for one on the spot. There are applications and a deposit bin available for the convenience of last-minute visitors of the park. This method is based on the honor system. When you see how beautiful this State Park is, I hope you’ll be as inspired to honor it as I was.

Pictures on the trail

I’ve had the pleasure of hiking in this area last winter, during the summer, and again in the fall. It is beautiful in any season!

Thank you for reading!

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!