Archive for August, 2010

Find Your Geocache

Geocaching Supplies Checklist

Two weeks ago, I posted about my geocaching tool kit; these are tools that I take with me to actually FIND and RETRIEVE the cache. I got so many comments on that post about what people have in their kits, I though I’d better do a follow-up article!

To Retrieve The Cache

  • Walking stick. This is a must for Arizona where all manner of creatures (usually that bite, sting, are poisonous or all three!) like to live around caches. So a walking stick is perfect for jamming into a likely crevasse or flipping over rocks.
  • Gloves. My garden gloves do double duty in my caching kit. This is nice when I’ve got my fingernails painted a la filming for The Outdoor Princess Productions. Or when locating the cache requires me to move plants with thorns.
  • Small mirror. I finally got tired of sticking my head under cattle guards looking for micros! Now, I just angle the mirror under so I can see BEFORE I stick my head into anything!
  • Needle nose pliers. For when you can SEE the cache, but you can’t get your fingers in there! Pliers are tough and portable!
  • Forceps. Yep, I carry BOTH. Sometimes the pliers are too big to extract the log sheet from a nano. And the forceps can be too delicate for leveraging a good-sized cache container out of the hiding spot.
  • Flashlight. Sometimes shining a light into a likely spot will show the cache reflecting back at you. And sometimes it shows the eyes of whatever critter is living in the hole!
  • Magnet on a string. Sometimes, you can fish a cache out with that! Just make sure the magnet is tied on tight! (Thanks to GC Addicted)

You might also want to consider:

  • A metal coat hanger with a hook bent into the end.
  • A fishing hook on a string. (Not sure I recommend this because of how easy it is to get caught on the barb, but it was suggested several time!)

This is just a sample of what I carry with me.

Safety Gear

  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Sun Glasses
  • Safety glasses were suggested by james.bednar. He pointed out that trees (branches, thorns, and leaves) can REALLY damage and eye when you run into it. I never would have thought of this since I’m ALWAYS wearing glasses.
  • Extra batteries for the GPS
  • Quality road atlas (make sure it is a GOOD one that shows back roads, not just the main highways!)
  • First aid kit
  • Poison oak/ivy spray (suggested by Garrett.) Neither is much of a problem in Arizona so I’d never even THOUGHT about it!
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Plenty of water and snacks
  • Hiking boots or good shoes

Kim Scornavacco posted such a good comment that I think it needs to be repeated in its entirety:

I always carry a bandana with me. I can cover my head to ward off the heat, I dunk it in cold water and tie it around my neck to keep cool, I wrap it around my mouth and nose in cold weather, I have used it as a band-aid, used it to clean off mud and in an emergency, you can use it as a sling.

Here are some other items that I typically carry in my car:

  • Emergency poncho
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Whistle
  • Matches
  • LOTS of paper towel
  • Cell phone charger

Several people commented on also bringing extra log sheets and plastic baggies to caches. I LOVE the idea of people doing impromptu cache maintenance and just helping out the owner. I have several caches that are hours away from my house so it isn’t really feasible for me to trot over there after work to replace a log book!

Other items suggested were:

  • GPS
  • Swag
  • Pen AND a pencil
  • Duct tape (always handy)

One of the biggest issues I’ve always had with a list like this is that if I carried EVERYTHING my pack would be so heavy I could hardly walk! I recommend that you take notes (mental or otherwise) about what YOU decide YOU can’t live without.

On my “Can’t Go Caching Without It” list?

My camera and tripod!

Readers Weigh In:

  • I’ve been thinking about making up a printable .pdf checklist of supplies. Do you think that would help ne w cachers get started on the right foot?

Mystery Mondays: Eaten Alive!

Whew! I’m returned from my camping trip last weekend to White Horse Lake Campground near Williams, Arizona. Nicole and I had a great time!

Of course, like any good trip, it wasn’t without its hiccups! ESP Boss built me an AMAZING rack that fits over the back of my truck so I could haul all the camping gear AND the two kayaks. And, of course, I didn’t get a photo of it! But, I’m hoping to get in another camping/kayaking adventure before fall so I’ll be sure to get photos then.

But, to build the rack: well, let’s just say I had planned to leave about 11 am.

Then leave by noon.

Or 1:03.

Or SOMETIME on Friday…

By 2:15 Nicole & I were FINALLY on our way.

What is fantastic about this kayak rack (aside from the fact that my dad built and it was free) is that I can slide all my gear under the kayaks! I picked up a pair of Rubbermaid Action Packer tubs.

What’s really cool about these containers is not only are they tough, hold all my gear AND keep it dry, but the way the lids latch on make them really secure. I never had to worry about the lid flying off the tub while in the back of my truck! Plus, they’re lockable!

And it was so hot it was a good thing that we had the kayaks! It was nice and cool on the water.

Nicole in a kayak.

Here are some camping tips:

Get a crate that just holds your water container. When you’re traveling, the water jug sits inside the crate so it is less likely to get punctured. In camp, you can turn the crate and the water jug sits on top. (Plus, you can get an extra storage cubby!)

The water jug fits PERFECTLY into the plastic crate!

Bring a tablecloth. Picnic tables in campgrounds are very handy and very dirty! A table cloth (plastic is fine) makes camping feel more civilized.

Table cloths are a MUST-HAVE for my camping trips!

Buy new bug spray. Yeah, I brought along the bug spray that had been hanging out in the bathroom cabinet for a year and then had spent a week riding around in my truck. It did NOTHING. The mosquitoes feasted on Nicole and I! Gross!

Keep the camera handy. When we were heading back on Sunday morning, we encountered this enormous flock of sheep bopping along in the road. Nobody would have believed it without the photo!

And no shepherd in sight!

If you blog about camping or the outdoors, take photos of the mundane things. I’m forever writing an article thinking “I have a picture of my _________” only to realize that I didn’t have photos of a campfire, stove, or tent!

I'm sure this photo will appear in a future post!

Nicole built a fire.

All in all, we had a great time. Just look at how GREEN everything is!

Check out the GREEN!

Fun Food Fridays: Crayfish Boil

Crayfish are just as easy as lobster to cook and serve. You’ll need to clean, cook, and peel them before eating. I’ve outlined everything you need to do below.


  • Crayfish
  • Crab Boil spices (I use Old Bay)
  • Cold water

Over your propane camping stove, bring a large pot of cold water to a full boil. While the water is heating (it can take a while) you’ll need to clean the crayfish.


Pour at least three gallons of clean, cold water into the crayfish-filled ice chest and let it drain out. Be sure that the ice chest can drain easily and in an area that won’t put mud in your camp! This water will rinse off any mud or debris on the crayfish.

If any have died, throw them in the garbage and do not cook them! (Dead crayfish smell and will attract animals, so don’t toss them into the forest.)


Once the water is boiling, season it with Crab Boil spices. You can also add garlic, peppers, lemon, etc to taste, but I find these just get in the way if you have to cook more than one pot of crayfish. Add the rinsed crayfish to the boiling water.

They will be very bright red when fully cooked!

When the crayfish turn bright red, remove from the boiling water.


It’s far easier to peel the crayfish when they are still hot. To peel them, grasp the body section in one hand and the tail in your other hand. Sharply break the body by bending the crayfish backwards. Discard the body section. (There is some meat in the claws and body, but it’s a lot of work to get it out; I don’t bother.)

The Queen Mother & I cleaning crayfish. When we've removed the meat from all the tails, we just tie up the trashbag and take the bodies to the campground's Dumpster.

With the underside of the tail facing up, use your thumbs to spread the shell. You’ll see what appear to be tiny, clear legs on the underside of the tail and then a ridge. Put your thumbs on this ridge and push out. The tail will crack in the center, on the underside. By fully cracking this, you can remove the tail meat. The last thing you have to do is remove the mud vein from the tail with a thumb nail or small knife.

There isn't a lot of meat in any one crawfish, but it's sweet and juicy!

Serve with melted butter.

Or put into pasta.

Or with eggs.

Or substitute for shrimp.

Or straight out of the bowl.


Set Your Hook

Catching Crayfish

Crayfish, also called crawfish, mudbugs, or crawdads, are closely related to the lobster. (I will admit that that’s one point in their favor!) They are pretty easy to catch and very easy to cook. Plus, they’re nearly free.

(Okay, in my opinion the FREE bit makes them better than lobster!)

Before you go out to catch these guys, be sure you know what the fishing regulations for your area are: In Arizona there is no limit, but they can’t be transported live.

I do all of my crayfish fishing at night, in the early evening at sunset until I get too cold to continue. My favorite crayfish lakes are near Flagstaff, Arizona, or in the White Mountains.

While you’re out fishing for game fish, keep an eye out for likely crayfish hiding spots: large rocks along shore, under boat docks, etc. A sure-sign is to find claws in the water.

There are two ways of catching crayfish:

  1. One at a time with bait and a string
  2. A bunch at once with a baited trap

If you’re going to go after crawdads with a baited string, you’ll need the following:

  • A flashlight
  • Bait, tied to a long string (I like fish heads)
  • A net
  • An ice chest
  • Dry shoes, clothes, etc.

Tie the fish head to the string by poking the string through the mouth and out the back of the head. In Arizona, it’s okay to use fish heads, but not pieces of the game fish.

Fish guts work well, but they’re hard to keep on the string. I would try putting the fish guts in a nylon stocking or a little mesh bag.

Other baits can be raw chicken or pork, canned cat food, or hotdogs. I always use cotton string because it fills with water and sinks; nylon string usually does not.

No matter what type of bait you try, be sure that it s fresh. Crawfish are scavengers but aren’t too keen on eating anything that’s rotten or spoiled. I can’t say I blame them!

Then, gently toss the head into a crevasse between rocks or just at the edge of the dock. Keep gentle tension on the string and when your fish head starts walking away, you’ve got a crayfish! Pull up gently until your friend can get the net under it.

TIP: Don’t bring the crayfish all the way up to the surface of the water: it’ll let go! Slow movements are the best, and remember, crayfish usually swim backwards, so you can get them to swim back into the net!

Then, put the crayfish into your ice chest. Make sure there is some water in the bottom of the chest first! Make sure you don’t over-crowd the ice chest with crayfish. Live crayfish should not be transported, because they can get into any other body of water.

I’ve never had any problems taking them back to a campground adjacent to the lake to cook them right away, but, again, check with your state’s regulations before moving them. Arizona prohibits the transport of live fish (crawfish included) but I did as Game & Fish if it was okay to take them back to camp live. The officer requested that I put a bag of ice in with the crayfish and return to camp immediately and cook them.

Now that I’m older (not 9 and thinking that falling in a cold mountain lake after dark is fun) I use crayfish traps from Trapper Arne. ESP Boss and I use the same types of bait: fish heads! The trap has a large safety pin the in center that I pass through the fish head.

And yes, I bait the traps. It might be a bit gross, but it’s worth it to have fresh crayfish for lunch!

Tips for placing traps:

  • Make sure the trap is fully submerged.
  • Tie the trap to something so you can pull it up the next morning!
  • Label the trap with your name and address. In Arizona, we also have to put the number of our fishing license on the trap as well.
  • Make sure you remember where you put it!

Early the next morning, we pull the traps up and take it back to camp for cooking. A huge advantage of the traps is that we’re not cooking and cleaning crayfish by lantern light!

I like The Trapper, which is made by Trapper Arne himself, in Payson Arizona.

What’s a keeper and what gets thrown back?

We keep crayfish that are big enough not to fall through our net holes, about 1″. If they’re smaller, they get tossed back. Any females carrying eggs under their tails get put back immediately- they’re a mess to clean!

Although I imagine we should keep them to further limit population growth… What are your thoughts about it?

Tomorrow, I’ll share my favorite crayfish cooking recipe and cleaning tips! So be sure to check for the article!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Have you ever caught and eaten crayfish?
  • Would you rather catch them with a string or a trap?

Pitch Your Tent: Cooking

How To Camp-Cook With Unusual Ingredients

EatStayPlay’s popular eGuide, “Camp Cooking from the Newsletter” is full of easy, yummy recipes you can make on your next family trip. But, when I was working on the guide, a few of the recipes called for more unusual ingredients.

So, I thought I’d better give you some advice on how to Camp-Cook With Unusual Ingredients!

So you understand the problem:

  1. You’ve got a great camp recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of teriyaki sauce
  2. You weren’t planning on taking a bottle of teriyaki sauce with you on your camping trip
  3. You have no idea what you can substitute for teriyaki sauce
  4. You REALLY want to make this recipe

Guess what! There IS a solution!

With a little pre-planning, you should be able to make just about anything at the campsite that you would at home. All you have to do it have a nice selection of small Ziplock Bags and small plastic containers with lids.

If your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of teriyaki sauce you can measure that into a small plastic container with a tight-fitting lid before you leave home. At the campsite, you know that you’ve got just the right amount of teriyaki sauce for your recipe and you know that if you end up not making the recipe, you can just dump out the sauce, wash the container and you’re done. You don’t have to lug your (glass!) bottle of sauce out to the campsite and back again!

Now, if your recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, just measure it into a small Ziplock Bag! You will want to label the bag- especially if you’re taking more than one bag or the same ingredient for different recipes.

Funny Story:

While I was growing up, every October, we went camping with our good family friends Patti and Eddie Gray. Each trip, we made Navajo Fry Bread. Each year, Patti used a Ziplock Bag to pre-mix and pre-measure the dry ingredients. One year, we were making Indian Fry Bread and Patti told me, “Grab that bag of white stuff, it goes into the fry bread mix.”

Turns out it WASN’T fry bread mix- it was Eddie’s powdered coffee creamer!

The moral of this story: label your bags!

Readers Weigh In:

  1. Have you ever had an “unexpected” ingredient in your camp food?
  2. How do you transport and use “unusual” ingredients while in camp?

Video: Find Your Geocache

Video: Extreme Geocaching

I wanted to share with you my first-ever video about geocaching! (And, no, it’s isn’t a “what is geocaching?” type of video!)

In this video, I show how I went after the Summer Lovin’ geocache in Lake Mary. And trust me, swimming after a cache is NOT what you expect.


Mystery Mondays: Tips For Camping

Ah camping! One thing I discovered is that each family has their own way of getting ready for camping; their own must-take lists, their own way of packing, cooking, and traveling. Since this weekend I’ll be going camping with my friend Nicole, I wanted to share some tips with you about how to plan for a trip when you’re NOT going camping with your family.

We’ll be heading out Friday morning and will be back on Sunday. Look for an article next week telling all about the trip!

1. Decide on dispersed camping or in a campground.

Nicole & I decided to go to a campground since she hasn’t camped much in Arizona. I just feel that two women probably shouldn’t camp out in the boonies by themselves. We’ll be heading to White Horse Lake Campground near Williams, AZ.

2. How to pay for things.

Camping fees, food, propane, gas: decide before you head out how you want to handle the expenses of the trip. A lot of public campgrounds ONLY take cash so make sure that somebody is in charge of bringing it!

3. The menu.

I don’t know about you, but I have my favorite camping foods: eggs & bacon, white donuts, Ritz crackers with strawberry cream cheese, ham sandwiches, shrimp on the barbeque. Most people have foods that just work for camping. And when you’re traveling with somebody who doesn’t know your favorite foods, be sure to talk about it. Nothing is worse than getting to the campsite when each person thinks the OTHER person brought dinner!

4. Who’s bringing what equipment?

Who will be in charge of the tent? The stove? Sleeping bags and pads? In the case of Nicole and I, I’ll be bringing most of the gear since hers is in storage. But be sure that whoever is in charge of bringing the tent is trustworthy!

5. Don’t forget the little stuff!

Tent?                              Check!

Stove?                            Check!

Bowls?                           Um… What bowls?

ESP Boss left on Saturday for a scouting trip with our friend Bob. ESP Boss was in charge of bringing most of the food and gear since we have it all. Of course, The Queen Mother was in charge of packing the kitchen. She was a bit dismayed when she realized that she forgot to send bowls for Albóndiga soup AND the shrimp for dinner #2!

6. Tell people where you’ll be and when you’ll be back!

Nicole & I are taking my truck. So, when I see her on Thursday (we leave on Friday) I’ll give her a paper that has the make, model, and color of my truck, the license plate number. where we’ll be going, my cell number and the contact numbers for my folks. She’ll be able to leave that at home so her mother knows the plan.

If anything were to happen (truck breaks down, run over by a charging elk, abducted by aliens, you name it!) then two families will have our plans and can come looking for us!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Have you ever been camping with a friend and left something really important at home?

PS: Nicole has a website of her own: Herman & Lily’s

Fun Food Fridays: Fish Basket BBQ

If you like fish, then you’re in for a treat when you have lake-fresh trout cooked in camp! Trout is a moist, sweet fish. The flesh is anywhere from white to pink to orange.

You’ll also need a table top barbeque and a fish basket to prepare this recipe. Here are links to a barbeque and a fish basket.


  • 3-8 Trout (cleaned)
  • Lemon slices (circles, not wedges)
  • Onion slices (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Completely clean each fish. (There is no need to scale the trout because the skin becomes crispy as it’s being cooked, just discard the skin upon serving and the trout meat remains moist.)

Lightly brush each fish with the olive oil on both sides and in the body cavity. Place lemon slices (a circle, not a wedge) inside each fish. This can also be substituted for onion slices. If you’re really daring: try both!

Salt and pepper the inside of the fish, to taste.

Spray the fish basket with a no-stick cooking spray before adding fish. Cook in a fish basket, on a barbeque, until the skin lightly flakes away from the body of the fish. Flip the basket after you’ve tested the fish on one side. The trout will cook faster if you keep the lid of the barbeque closed. Cooking temperatures of barbeques vary, keep an eye on your fish.

Remove the skin and serve. Be careful of the little tiny trout bones!

If your lake trout are small like we get here in Arizona (about 6 inches in body length after cleaning) then you might want to eat them during the day. Trout have a ton of teeny tiny bones so I prefer to eat them for lunch (sunlight) rather than for dinner (lantern light).

Set Your Hook

What Are The Parts Of A Fishing Rod?

I’ve decided that since I’ve talked about the anatomy of a fish HOOK it was high time I discussed the anatomy of a fishing POLE.

My favorite fishing pole!

There are literally hundreds of fishing poles to choose from. There are everything from ice fishing to fly; kiddie poles to high-dollar deep sea poles. But no matter what, all fishing poles are made of the same four parts:


The rod itself can be made out of a variety of materials including bamboo, graphite, carbon, fiberglass, plastic, or a composite material. Of course, all rods come in different lengths and diameters depending on what type of fishing, the angler’s preference, and what species of fish you’re after.

A rod that is all of a piece (that doesn’t break down for easy transport) have a much different feel than a multi-piece rod. But frankly, a single-piece rod is pretty difficult to transport! Two piece rods are joined together by a ferrule and if engineered well, won’t give up much in the way of having a natural feel to it.

The ferrule.

Fishing rods are sorted by the rod’s action, as well as its power. Power refers to how much force is needed to make the rod flex. Action is determined by where the rod flexes.


The guides are where the fishing line is threaded through. The guide has two main parts: the foot, which contacts the fishing pole, and the loop which sticks out from the rod. The guides of a rod are either metal or ceramic and are attached along the rod in a variety of locations.


With a multi-section rod, it’s important to have the guides lined up so your line will flow from the reel through the guides properly and without catching. Depending on the style of rod and its length, the placement and size of the guides will vary.

While you’re fishing, be sure to check the alignment of the guides often. A fighting fish can actually twist the two sections of rod so the guides no longer line up!

Reel Seat

The reel seat on a fishing pole is located above the base and is where the reel is attached to the rod. What reel you use, will determine what the reel seat will look like. Since there are three standard reels, there are three standard reel seats: fly, casting and spinning.

Obviously my reel seat has my reel attached to it!


The handle of a fishing pole is what you hold onto while fishing. The type of rod will determine what the handle looks like. Spinning and fly rods have a thinner and more streamlined handle, compared to a rod used for casting.

If you look closely, you might see the ground-in worms and PowerBait on my handle!

The majority of handles are manufactured out of foam or cork.

When you’re using a fishing pole, you want to be very careful with the rod tip. It’s easy to step on, break off, or otherwise damage. The other part that should be checked regularly are the guides as they can become loose and detach from the rod shaft.

Be very careful with the tip!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What is your favorite style of fishing rod?
  • Do you have a favorite brand or style?

Pitch Your Tent: Seasons

Best Camping Season

Most people associate camping with summer time. And, as the start of the school year is drawing nearer (The Queen Mother teaches 5th grade; she reports back on Monday!) I think a lot of people might be thinking that their camping for the year is over.

But that is far from true. Done properly, camping is easy in three seasons of the year and for those hearty souls, can even be done in winter!

No matter when you go camping, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper gear including sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and a tent! If you need help buying gear, you can find information about Buying a Sleeping Bag and Picking a Sleeping Pad. (Tents coming soon!)

Spring Camping

The grass is coming out, a few early wildflowers and blooming, the creeks are running with snowmelt. And there might even be snow on the north side of hills!

Advantages to Spring Camping:

  • Not many people are out in the spring, so you can enjoy the peace and solitude of nature.
  • Enjoy that early vegetation! Nothing is prettier than grass and flowers just starting to grow.
  • Animals are usually pretty active since they’ve “forgotten” the crush of people from the summer before.
  • No bugs!
  • The fishing is usually excellent.
  • Less likely to have fire restrictions.

Disadvantages to Spring Camping:

  • Many campgrounds don’t open until Memorial Day so services might be limited including water and trash service.
  • Mud! You have to be very careful where you drive so you don’t damage the soggy ground.
  • Cold nights and it might freeze. You’ll have to bring warmer clothes (more to pack) and it’ll take extra time to cook.

Summer Camping

It’s hot, supermarkets have displays of s’more fixings, the kids are out of school, and the campgrounds are just calling your name! Of course, they’re calling everybody else’s name too!

Advantages to Summer Camping:

  • Kids are out of school.
  • There’s a festive atmosphere at most campgrounds.
  • Campgrounds offer full services of a campground host, water, trash service, etc.
  • Campgrounds are less busy during the week.
  • Big Box stores are full of camping gear so it’s easy to purchase/upgrade new equipment. (Or if you forget something, they’ll have it on the shelf!)
  • It’s tradition!

Disadvantages to Summer Camping:

  • Campgrounds (and dispersed camping!) can be crowded, dusty, and noisy.
  • There might be fire restrictions in effect depending on rain fall.
  • It can be difficult to find a campsite on the weekends.
  • Summer means all manner of crawling things! Mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, bitemes, spiders, ants, etc.

Fall Camping

The leaves are turning, most people have headed back to the cities for school and work, the air is crisp. Fishing picks back up. It’s my favorite season to go camping!

Advantages to Fall Camping:

  • Campgrounds (if they’re open) won’t be crowded.
  • Fewer bugs.
  • The fishing is usually excellent.
  • Less likely to have fire restrictions.
  • Wildlife is very active.

Disadvantages to Fall Camping:

  • Campgrounds might be closed or have limited service.
  • Cool nights and it might freeze. You’ll have to bring warmer clothes (more to pack) and it’ll take extra time to cook.
  • Hunters are out so you’ll need to check hunting regulations in your area. It doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy the Great Outdoors, but you might need to wear “hunter orange” or take other precautions.

Winter Camping

There’s no denying the bite in the air! Trees and shrubs have shed their leaves, the grass is brown, snow is in the air. Snowbirds are flocking south for the season.

Advantages to Winter Camping:

  • There are hardly any people.
  • Peace, solitude, and beautiful winter views abound.
  • You can head to warmer climates for camping and leave all those office folk their cities.
  • Not a bug in site!
  • Good for bird watching or viewing large game like deer and elk.

Disadvantages to Winter Camping:

  • Many public campgrounds will be closed and services will be extremely limited.
  • You will need to bring lots of extra gear to brave the colder weather.
  • If you’re heading south, you’ll have to deal with the snowbirds and retirees.
  • Winter camping (in the snow) requires a higher level of knowledge, skill, and expertise.
  • Wind, rain, snow and freezing temperatures so be prepared!

Personally? My favorite season for camping is the fall!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What is your favorite time of year to go camping?
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