$$ Frugal Living–Your Credit

If you go online to look up your credit report, chances are you’ll end up on one of those sites that charge you money to get your report.

Do not fall for this trick – Your credit card report is available to you for free!

A couple of years ago I spent hours and days online trying to figure out how to do this. I did find a site where I could download the correct forms to mail into each company, once a year to get my updated credit score for free, but have since lost the link. To be honest, I don’t feel like going through all that again, so I’ll just share with you the route I finally decided to go.

Credit Karma

I now use Credit Karma, and have been using it for two years. Yes, you’ve probably seen it on TV (I had TV for a few days last month and watched the ad a couple of times) and you may think it’s a trick, but I’ve been using it for 24 months or more now, and ITS TOTALLY FREE!

What I love about it:

I get an email once a month reminding me to check my credit score. I also get a notification every time someone accesses my credit report, or any other activity takes place. I can go there and look at the balance on my credit cards in one place, how much interest I’m paying and suggestions on how to lower it, and much, much more. My life is simple, so I don’t need to go into it much more than that, but the options of what you can do on this page are incredible, no matter how complicated your finances are there is a tool for it.

To date I’ve not been asked to pay a penny, not even a membership, and I haven’t had any security issues with it (your security is as good as the strength of your password, so that’s up to you).

To be honest, I love it, and I feel much better knowing that I’m on top of my credit, and if anyone were to attempt to steal my identity, or apply for a new card in my name, Credit Karma would probably alert me to this before it got out of hand.

I told every one of my friends about this useful tool, and not-a-one of them paid any attention to my suggestion. I hope that a couple of you will listen to me and visit the page.

Good luck,

Until Next time, feeling safe in the knowledge that I know what’s going on with my credit while I travel.

From the Road ~ Roxy

The Brink of Dawn

Early Morning In The Valley 

Click on the image to see more images like this one at Tranquil Light Photography.com

 

The early morning silence slowly weaves its way

into my awakening senses.

Here on the brink of night and day,

Darkness and light,

Where shadows are deep,

And elsewhere things begin to take shape.

Each sound stands out on its own,

as though framed by the crisp, cool, mountain air.

The flap of wings, the robin’s song,

a dog barking over the hill.

Ribbons of red and blue stream across the sky,

a banner announcing a new day.

The sunlight brings with it the steady hum of life,

the movement of the earth.

I breath deep of that moment

and hold it in my lungs, eyes closed,

and upon releasing those captured seconds,

they enter the world of light and sun.

The brink of dawn has passed,

And the thrum of daylight takes its place.

 

By Roxy Whalley ~ April 4, 2006

Solo Camping for Women

I originally wrote this article in 2002 for a woman’s magazine. I’ve updated it a little for this blog post and I still think its good advice, however, these days I don’t always listen to my own advice.

I love to camp alone, and the more remote the area the better. There are many dangers involved for anyone camping alone, and for women the risks are even greater.

Here are a few tips I have learned to help make the woman’s solo experience a little safer.

I first camped alone at the age of 35 (I’m now 51), and decided to relocate from my home in Indiana. One day I jumped into my car and hit the highway. With no plans, I simply followed the roads at whim. After 4,400 miles and a month of camping alone, I realized the freedom I felt could not compare with anything else I had ever done. Since then I’ve camped on my own extensively, in a variety of wilderness areas and some not so remote areas, either in by setting up a tent or sleeping (living) in my car, or going for short solo backpacking trips.

Have I been scared? You bet. On my first solo backpacking trip I was awake half the night, my ears straining towards the tree where my bear bag hung, listening for evidence of bears stealing my food. The presence of bears worried me less than the possibility of losing my food on the first night. That would have been disastrous as it would have cut my sabbatical to one night instead of three.

But bears and mountain lions rarely bother with people unless they invite trouble. Keep a very clean camp and follow all the rules. Store sleeping clothes separate from the clothes you eat in, hang all food including other scented items like toothpaste out of the reach of bears (fifteen feet from the ground and ten feet out from the tree truck), and ensure pots and pans are clean and odorless. When leaving camp it is a good idea to store your sleeping bag along with your night clothes in a garbage bag inside the tent, you are then assured of a dry bag and clothes to warm up in if you get wet. People think I’m over cautious, but when I’m alone out there, there is no one to help me. I have to think ahead of all the many things that could go wrong.

When backpacking always let someone you trust know where you are. If you go for an unplanned hike, leave a note in your tent so others will know where to look in case you do not return. Ask other hikers of weather and trail conditions up ahead. One time this prevented me from a possible dangerous encounter with a female moose and her two calves. It is wise to stick to the trail, then if you injure yourself, your chances of being discovered are greater. There are times though, when the temptation to explore something off trail may be too great. When doing this, be prepared mentally and physically to accept the consequences should anything go wrong. Always carry a map and compass and other survival tools, and know how to use them.

When setting out for a solo backpacking trip or hike, never let strangers know you are alone or where you are going. I lead them to believe I’m meeting a party of hikers. One time on the trail a man approached me who did not generate an, “I can be trusted,” aura. With my hand on my bear mace, out of sight, I turned and shouted into the woods, “Come on Jack hurry up, I could have gone three times by now”. The stranger glanced to the woods, saw no one, but continued on his way. I know I led him to believe I wasn’t alone.

When car camping I find roads that lead to national forest, and sometimes bordering a wilderness area. Before heading into these remote spots do a quick check over the vehicle. Be sure the tires are inflated including the spare, the gas tank is full and the oil and water levels are good. Then stock up on food and drinking water. Even if you only plan to be there one night, it is wise to have enough supplies for several days, in case you get stranded and have to hike out for help.

Visit the forest ranger’s offices whenever possible. Let the ranger’s know of your intentions, and ask for the best spots for a woman to camp alone. I prefer to camp in remote spots that are well hidden (I’m talking about dispersed camping). In doing this I can see and hear people approaching, often before they are aware of my presence. This feels safer as it gives me an upper hand, a chance to prepare for an unwanted visit.

Other women may prefer to be in full view. There is no truly safe way as camping alone is not a wise thing to do in the first place.

One summer I went on a ten day solo trip around Colorado. On one road I saw a lady walking a dog, and stopped to inquire about the condition of the road and where it led. She could see that I was camping alone and was concerned. So I set a small rock inside a tree stump, and told her that  when I left in two days, I would remove the rock. If it was still there in three days, she and her husband should come and check on me. They seemed like honest people, and I chose to trust them. Admittedly, it was easier to sleep knowing that someone was aware of my presence in that wild, remote place.

There are times and places that are a safer bet for women alone. During my 4,400 mile trip I stuck to State Parks, feeling considerably safer as it was hunting season and large groups of men at various levels of inebriation were everywhere. Since then I have experienced camping in the backwoods, and cannot stand the noise and thoughtlessness of other campers in such places, so never stay in State Parks. Additionally, they cost money, and I refuse to pay for camping except in very special circumstances.

For me the rewards of camping alone far outweigh the risks. I have learned to be more independent, and have found strength both mentally and physically I did not know I had. I also have a much stronger sense of self.

And when at night I hear a twig snap close by to my flimsy little shelter and wonder what is moving around out there, or when I walk quietly within a herd of deer, in those moments, with my senses on override, I know I am alive.

(Okay, so I wrote this 11-years ago, and I’ve changed a bit; I now head out into the wilds without anyone on the planet knowing where I am. Indeed, sometimes I don’t know where I’m going myself (I’m just exploring). However, I’m also a more experienced and stronger person, and have more outdoor skills than I had then. Of course, I could still fall and break a leg in the middle of nowhere, but I’m prepared to deal with the consequences should this ever occur. (If you feel pain, at least you know you’re still alive, for now anyhow).  There is nothing like the freedom of traveling, hiking, and camping alone, and I’m not going to give it up, the loss would be too great).

Traveling, camping, backpacking, hiking, and exploring on her own, Homeless Gal

A Room at the Inn

December 2012

TranquilLightPhotography.com ~ Roxy Whalley 

Above ~ The San Raphael Reef (or Swell) ~ Click on the picture to view larger

It was December 10, 2012, the day before my birthday. I’d just spent a couple of cold weeks or so camping along dirt roads, and hiking in remote, dusty canyons. I thought how wonderful it would be to have a shower, get a haircut, wash my clothes, and re-stock my dwindling supplies, (I pretty much only had canned beans left). I was also craving a drink of something other than water and herbal tea.

There were two towns in the vicinity, Blanding (about 45 miles away) and the smaller town of Hanksville (about a 100 miles away). I picked Hanksville in part, because I had a friend who was heading out that way and there was a chance we could meet up somewhere.

When I arrived in town I headed straight to the grocery store where there was a hair salon, and luckily the stylist was in.

Veronica did a wonderful job on the cut, and afterwards I felt like myself again. A couple of Veronica’s friends were also in the room; Clarissa was painting pictures on the wall while her hair was being dyed, and Gail was about to have hers rinsed. Apparently they do this a lot, to help wile away the time in this small town. When Clarissa heard it was my birthday she told me she had a coupon for a free night at the Hanksville Inn stuck to her refrigerator door. She had won it in a turkey shoot, and asked if I would like to have it because it was no use to her. The three of them decided I should take it, so Clarissa, (with her hair still wrapped in plastic, and her plastic cape still on), drove home to get it for me. I had this vision of her in her car, plastic cape flying out of the window, mouths dropping open at the sight of this wonder woman streaming by. She returned with blushed cheeks and a huge, happy smile. I was completely blown away by this act of  kindness to a complete stranger, and clearly they were loving every minute of it.

When I arrived at the inn I learned that they didn’t have any water, but they hoped to have it fixed later as someone had driven to Price to get the necessary parts. So I took a room, then looked for a Laundromat while the room warmed up. However, the tourist side of Hanksville had closed down for the winter, and there was no place to do laundry, so I had to do it by hand in the bath tub (once the water was back on at the inn).

Back at the grocery store, I searched for food, but the choices were very limited (a delivery was due in that afternoon). The shelves were almost empty, and the prices outrageous. I bought some 4.0 beer (the highest alcohol content allowed in Utah), and some snacks, and returned to my room.

After that, I relaxed in my room and used the internet. When the water came back on, I washed all my laundry in the bath tub, and was appalled at how dirty it was (lots of desert sand). I had to rinse it three times, and my hands were sore from all that wringing out. I mused over the fact that I used to do all my laundry this way when I lived in England because I couldn’t afford the Laundromat. I even did my sheets by hand.

Through the kindness of strangers I had a night of luxury. Not only did I have running water, but also heat, electricity, internet, and TV! I  saved a soak in the tub until last, crossing my fingers that there would be enough hot water left.

On my birthday morning, I stayed in the room for as long as I dared and I saw Veronica outside. Then went to Blondies Restaurant for coffee. Gail was in there and she gave me a big hug and free coffee, and many birthday wishes. I met Jake, and Jeff, and some other folks, and passed away the time learning about life in Hanksville. I talked to Susan at the BLM office for a while, and I think I knew half the towns folks by the time I set off to camp for the night in The San Raphael Swell, rejuvenated, and ready to face the cold again.

The next day I parked my vehicle in a spot that my friend had to pass by, on his way to find me, (the only way to make contact, as there was no cell phone service) and went exploring The Swell (Lots of slick rock and canyons to explore). On my return my friends vehicle (small RV) was parked next to mine. That evening we had a campfire with the bit of firewood I’d been hoarding, and some wine, and cooked a feast. He had cool gifts for me; a short climbing rope suitable for some canyoneering (84 feet), a stuff sack, a rose, and a ton of bits and bobs that I needed or were just simply a treat (like chocolate). I slept in heat, and I can honestly say, that thanks to the kindness of strangers, and meeting up with a friend, my 51st birthday in Wild Utah, was wonderful!

Its now December 2015, and I drove through Hanksville just the other day. I camped in The Swell, then made a point of stopping in Blondies and telling the story to the new owner. I made her promise to thank Clarissa, Veronica and Gail, next time she saw them. I will never forget their kindness, and I give thanks to everyone who made my birthday so special.

From the road… December 22, 2015

38-Hours–A Six-Hour Canyoneering Adventure Gone Wrong

UT2011-017 - Chute Canyon dark and deepUT-Fall2010-203 - Roxy below and a log jammed to show how high the water can get..

It was November 2010, and my then partner, Norman, and I decided to do a short technical canyoneering trip. I was hoping to get some photographs as well as experience the thrill of a slot canyon and some rappelling. We were to hike from McKay Flats in the San Rafael Swell, Utah, and head over to a rock formation known by some as Teepee Rock (It is called this in Kelsey’s book). Near Teepee Rock is Baptist Draw, a wide wash that quickly turns into a very narrow, turn-yourself-sideways-and-take-your-pack-off slot.

We Set off about 10:00 AM, quite a bit later than originally intended, but then the hike was only supposed to take around 4 to 6-hours so we weren’t overly concerned. We had stalled our departure to be sure that it wasn’t going to rain. We didn’t want to be in a slot canyon if it rained, and Chute Canyon is notorious for it’s flash floods.

Myself giving a thumbs up. All is well...

Baptist Draw was a lot of fun. It was narrow, with just one small pool to wade through and a couple of short rappels or down-climbs. We had to take our packs off to get through the narrowest sections, and had to crawl under some chock stones in a couple of spots. The slot grew deeper and darker as we approached the area where it dropped off into Chute Canyon. At this point we had to rappel down 75 feet into Chute Canyon.

I went down first, which was a little daunting as it was my first rappel over an edge where I couldn’t see where I was going, and my longest rappel to date. All went well, and once Norman was down and in Chute Canyon with me, he pulled the rope. It was then that we noticed the canyon wall to the north of the rappel had a warning message on it written in charcoal. It read, NO WAY OUT! TURN BACK! We both hoped it was just some kind of sick joke, but we couldn’t miss the obvious signs that someone had camped in that very spot just a night or two before, in the form of a camp fire.

Norm rapping down from Buckskin Draw into ChuteRemainders of the camp fire from someone else who got stuck here

From the junction of Baptist Draw and Chute Canyon, we were supposed to head north up this long, deep, narrow slot canyon, until it opened up a bit and we could find a way out by scrambling up on the benches above. We started up the canyon, admiring it’s 200 foot high walls, but were soon stopped by a very muddy and rather deep looking pool. In this spot, the curvaceous sandstone walls swept over the top of our heads, and it felt rather like being in a cave. A few tentative steps into the muddy pool confirmed our fear, this pool was very deep and very muddy, it sucked at Norman’s boots as though it wanted to devour them.

With both of our headlamps shining  into the cave-like narrows, we could barely see the far end, and it appeared that the canyon walls were possibly only two or three feet wide, and it was blocked with a very mud-slimed chock stone. There did not appear to be any place to get leverage out of the pool and over the chock stone. It appeared to be extremely technical and hard, if not impossible to do.

We backed out of the mud and contemplated our situation. We had spoken to some guys the day before that had done this route, but they had gone south down the canyon instead of up it. They were very tired, and said that the hike out had been very long. They had also mentioned some pools, one which was a rappel into a pool. These guys had been less than half our age, and THEY were tired. Despite this, we decided to take a look down canyon, and very shortly we came to the rappel into a pool. It was now getting late in the afternoon, as we had been taking it easy and not pushing to go fast. We feared that if we got wet this late in the day, we could end up with hypothermia. It was November after all, and the temperatures were dropping dramatically at night on this high plateau.

We looked at the mud pool again, and the rappel again, then turned our gaze to the canyon walls. Climbing up the 200 foot walls was one possible route out, but we didn’t have any anchors with us for climbing out, and when Norman tried to climb it, a huge chunk of sandstone broke off in his hand, and he fell about 10 ft. to the canyon floor. He tried a second time, but then darkness descended in just minutes, and I had to direct Norman back down with my headlamp.

There were now no choices left, quite simply, we were here for the night.

Baptist Draw in the background and Chute Canyon in the foreground

Benighted, we turned to our packs. Temperatures were dropping fast, and Normans wet feet were quickly getting cold. We decided the best spot was on the one foot high sand bank that had built up at the confluence of Baptist Draw and Chute Canyon. We put down the climbing rope as a base between the cold sand and our bodies, pulled out all our spare clothing and put them on. Norman put my spare gloves on his feet, and we shared clothes. I kept my helmet on in case anything came over the rim of the canyon or any rocks fell. We pulled out our emergency sleeping bags (those thin silver things), and got them ready to settle in for the night. In taking stock of our belongings, we figured we had enough food to get us through the next day if we ate it sparingly, but water was a concern, we didn’t really have enough, and the pools were full of cow dung, dead mice, and who knew what else.

Once settled we ate the banana we had brought and set aside the granola bars and nuts. As were were drifting restlessly into a light sleep, we heard a noise that puzzled us. It turned out to be a mouse in our food. We ended up putting the nuts in the toes of Norman’s boot, and then filling the rest of the boot with pebbles to keep the mouse out. It was the only solution we could come up with as the mouse could eat through anything else very easily. Then the mouse turned his attention to our last bit of water. I rubbed insect repellent over the tube of my water bladder, and it seemed to deter him. I kept the bladder under my head, and swatted at the mouse every time he made an appearance.

Throughout the night sand blew off the rim into our eyes, clouds passed in front of the stars and I panicked in fear of rain, we chatted a bit, and repaired my emergency bag when it tore in three different places. We used climbing tape, bandages, duct tape and anything we could find to hold it together. Norman snored, and I didn’t sleep a wink. My manta was “All is well in my world,” which always makes me feel calmer and deal with the situation better.

 

 

When we started to hike down canyon in the morning, we had about a liter of water left for the two of us. I was afraid of rapping into the pool with my pack on for fear of drowning (it looked too much like a repeated nightmare I’d had as a child), so we sent the packs over the pool on a zip line. We both ended up getting a little wet, but not too badly. Snow was fluttering around me as I waited for Norman to stem around the pool before sending the packs down.

The big rock in the middle is about 5ft tall or more, it's hard to tell without a person for size comparison

Then we started the hike out, going south down Chute Canyon, avoiding the pools as much as possible, and on and on. At one point we found a pool of water on a high bench. It was covered in ice, and tricky to get to, but we managed to get about a liter of grimy, gritty water out of it, and we put my emergency iodine tablets in it. According to the instructions, we had to wait four hours for the tablets to work properly. We ran out of our good water shortly afterwards despite rationing, and started on the iodine water about 3-hours early. It tasted nasty, and each mouthful contained gritty sand that crunched between my teeth and made me gag. Ugh!

Baptist Draw Satellite ViewIt seemed to take forever to get to Fault Line Canyon, our only option to get out of Chute Canyon and back up on the plateau. From here we had to hike up Fault Line Canyon, and once back on top of the plateau, we needed to head north back to camp. The sun was setting now, and darkness descended quickly. Soon we were gazing over a huge canyon, and with the moon casting shadows on it we couldn’t really tell if it was possible to cross it or not. We tried skirting it, but had picked the wrong direction. Then we got out the topographic map, and decided to try going around it the other way. There was no clear edge, and the terrain was a little rough, and in the end we decided to just head straight west to a two-track road that showed on the map. We used our compass, and found our way with the aid of a full moon, saving our headlamp batteries as much as possible. We considered starting a fire, but the food and water situation pushed us on. Fortunately there was no wind, a rare circumstance out here in the San-Raphael Swell in winter.

It took some time to negotiate our way to the road, and from there we estimated we had about seven more miles to hike back to our vehicle. It was a long trudge, and we dared not stop walking in case we couldn’t get going again. When we finally approached the general area of our base camp, we couldn’t find the vehicle, because everything looked so different in the moonlight. After backtracking once, we finally realized we hadn’t gone quite far enough. When we saw Norman’s Land Cruiser in the moonlight, it was the most beautiful sight ever. We drank electrolytes immediately for we were severely dehydrated, cooked a meal on the tail gate, stripped off our muddy clothes and sank into bed.

We had left at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning. We got back to base camp just after midnight on Tuesday morning. Our little six-hour adventure had turned into a 38-hour ordeal.

 

About a week after this little adventure I decided to research the canyon some more. I learned that what we had gone through had happened to several people, but on checking the BLM web page I didn’t find any warnings about this particular canyon.

Then a few months later we went back to the same area and just looked at the canyon from above. We ran into a couple of young men who were on their way back from doing our intended route. We asked about the mud pool and the boulder that had blocked our way. They looked puzzled, and then recalled that there had been a boulder in that spot that they had walked UNDER. From that we guessed that the water was at least 7 feet deep, possibly as much as 10 feet. I read about another scenario where someone had actually swam the pool, and managed to get out the other way, but this man and his girlfriend were excellent climbers. He said getting over the boulder was like doing a 5:10 climb, or more, and after that there had been a series of pools. When they finally made it out, they were bordering on hypothermia, and felt lucky to have made it. There are many more stories I’m sure.

Now when I look back on this experience, I remember it with fondness. I have to admit that a part of me thoroughly enjoyed it. Had we been in any serious danger I might feel differently, but somehow I doubt it.

When we did the rappel over the pool, I stored my camera in my pack in a waterproof bag, so the shot of the pool was the last one I took. However, I took plenty on he first half of the adventure, and have posted several more below (Please scroll down to view them).

Night view of Norman on the gravel bank

When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?

A picture taken of a page in my journal – There isn’t anything recent on this page because I ran out of room…

This is a great little project. Create your own page, poster, or journal, and start keeping track of your adventures. It’s fun….and when you’re done, and have started to fill in the blank spaces, I’d love it if you’d share your adventures with me here on this blog.

Journal-LastTimeFirstTime

Bye for now,

Roxy

The Great Grief

The Great Grief: How To Cope with Losing Our World

So many humans don’t want to think about the future. These people have the attitude ‘well, I won’t be here, so why should I care.’ But there are some of us that feel the pain of this dying planet as part of our very being, deep in our core, in every fiber, heartbeat, touch, scent, breath, and sound…and we think about what it will be like for future generations. I personally am glad that I will not be here to witness it in another 30 or 40 years. I feel for all the children being born now, or those that were born in the past 10 or 20 years, because this world is on a downward spiral and I don’t think it will be a pleasant place in the future. Sure, some things are being done to undo the damage, but profit and greed is an evil that is hard to beat down, and overpopulation is a very troubling issue. I don’t see the world being fixed for several generations or more, if ever. I fear it will get much worse before it gets better. For those of us that are sensitive to the Earth’s plight, it is hard to deal with and can be overwhelming at times. Here is a great article, for which I cannot take credit, but wish to share:

Climate scientists overwhelmingly say that we will face unprecedented warming in the coming decades. Those same scientists, just like you or I, struggle with the emotions that are evoked by these facts and dire projections. My children—who are now 12 and 16—may live in a world warmer than at any time in the previous 3 million years, and may face challenges that we are only just beginning to contemplate, and in many ways may be deprived of the rich, diverse world we grew up in. How do we relate to – and live – with this sad knowledge?

Across different populations, psychological researchers have documented a long list of mental health consequences of climate change: trauma, shock, stress, anxiety, depression, complicated grief, strains on social relationships, substance abuse, sense of hopelessness, fatalism, resignation, loss of autonomy and sense of control, as well as a loss of personal and occupational identity.

To continue reading click here: The Great Grief by Per Espen Stoknes