in search of dragons

My brother and I are considering starting an offshoot of this blog, entitled “in search of dragons.”

(As I wrote that sentence, literally as I was trying to decide if I should use “titled” or “entitled”, something started sort of purr-buzzing and skittering around above my ceiling titles. A mouse-fly hybrid? A hyper baby squirrel with a vibrating cell phone? Perhaps a very tiny dragon? I’ll have to get back to that.)

So my brother and I have done some pretty cool things in our lives, I must say, mostly since we tend to prioritize things like travel and adventure over other things, like financial security. Between the two of us, we’ve traveled and hiked all over the United States, Europe, and New Zealand; slept outdoors in temperatures far below zero; worked as park rangers, wilderness rangers, baristas, and housekeepers, and for ski hills and zoos and teaching kids how to climb; trained as wilderness first responders; climbed 14-ers; spent a year skiing at least once every single month; gotten lost in the woods and in foreign cities; had our equipment or maps or personal vehicles fail on us; communed with strangers; driven or sailed many boats; been stranded in Lake Michigan on a tiny catamaran – ETC.

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We are both young people who have tried so many different things that I wouldn’t call us experts at much. But I would say that we are quite good – and dare I say, expert – at turning the wackiest of situations, the trickiest of blunders, the worst weather events, into memorably fantastic times. (There is no such thing as bad weather…only bad gear, bad traveling companions, and an inappropriate attitude. I literally have a photo of myself and a friend grinning merrily beside my car at an impound lot.) Not everything is easily remedied, but we’ve pulled ourselves out of so many holes over the years that we’ve got advice on how to do that too.

in search of dragons, then, is about seeking adventure, staring danger in the face, traveling to strange lands, and bringing back treasures.

We would like to point out that the dragons are really a metaphor, and that this blog would not be appropriate for the sort of person who watches those bigfoot shows. Unless you watch them because you’re interested in human psychology and footage of heavily wooded and/or snowy areas in which case, definitely, this blog would be your jam.

We’re imagining that the blog revolves a series of topics (survival stories, ecology and biology, ethnobotany, wilderness medicine, gear choices, environmental education, maybe a little bit of grammar every once in awhile because i love grammar, sorry) and also covers our travels to new places. For the most part, it would consist of us answering questions posed by each other, and answering readers’ questions. I’m going to start here with a sampler, with one question from my brother, and one from my pals. And with my brother’s photography, design, and other artistic skills, it will be far more aesthetically appealing.

Tell us what y’all think. We’d love to all set search for dragons together.

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>>>

If someone wanted to go into their backyard and impress their friends or family with nature, what would you tell them to point out?

PillbugObviously this is going to vary drastically depending on where you live, and I would love to give people specific recommendations for where they live. (For example, if you live in the desert Southwest, you could just find some resurrection moss, dump some water on it, and watch it immediately change from a dusty brown to a vibrant green.) My generic tip is going to be: Flip over rocks and logs. There are inevitably going to be some creepy-crawlies under there. Changes are great that you’re going to find a roly-poly (aka pill bug, aka wood louse, aka a thousand other things) and chances are also great that you’ll find a sowbug under there too. You can impress your pals by showing them how to tell the difference: roly-polies do the curling up in a ball thing; sowbugs can’t. Ask them if a roly-poly is a spider or an insect. TRICK QUESTION. They’re neither! While roly-polies are arthropods, just like spiders or insects, they’re actually in the group crustaceans, just like delicious shrimps or crabs. You can also inform them that roly-polies have gills, and that mommy roly-polies carry their eggs around in a wee pouch called a marsupium, and then you can have everyone picture a tiny roly-poly with kangaroo legs. It took me awhile to manage this, but then it was adorable. I’ve never done this, but you could try collecting a bunch of roly-polies and then sauteeing them with butter and garlic, as improves so many other crustaceans. I honestly bet it would taste delicious, and there are so many of these critters in the world, you do not need to worry about harming their populations. New protein source!

That brings us nicely to…

What are your favorite road trip snacks?

My favorite road trip snack is definitely coffee, if that counts, and I think it should. If gas station coffee is the only thing available, I always fill my cup halfway with that “French Vanilla Cappuccino” concoction that starts flowing out of the plastic spout as murky water and then goes through a variety of color changes. I then top off the cup with black coffee. I’ve found this results in the best flavor:caffeine ratio.

Coffee aside, I like to vary up the textures of my non-coffee road trip snacks; if this is a long road trip, this means I’m going to buy at least three snacks simultaneously: something crunchy, something chewy, and something melty. The identity of these things is definitely going to come down to personal choice, but in case anyone cares for any reason, I buy a lot of off-brand potato chips, lemon heads, those sour red cherry ball things, and the miniature Reeses cups that come all mixed up in a bag without individual wrappers (these are inevitably going to melt together and fuse into a giant chocolatey-peanut-buttery ball which is also awesome.) If you are the sort to plan ahead and swoon slightly toward the healthier side of the road-trip snack aisle, then I recommend a stop by Trader Joe’s. They have very strange, delicious, affordable snacks. (As you have probably noticed, my road trip snacks tend to be the WORST for you, but I keep one of those squeezy things in my car to strengthen my forearms, so, it totally evens out. Also I am a champ at drivers-seat-workouts-with-cruise-control-on.)

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Snacks for a bike trip are a totally different story. More grapes.
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