I stumbled upon a tweet from Chrissy Wellington the other day that lead me to the profile of Alastair Humphreys. He has this ongoing challenge or concept called #microadventure. Oh yes, I did just include the hashtag. The concept is that you spend one night a month outside. That's it. Outside. Preferably not in a tent. Yes, that means in most places it's going to be a cold start, Brrrrr. And when talking about Colorado, probably muddy too. The goal is just to go looking for adventure close to home. To explore your local boundaries and remind yourself that adventure truly is around any bend.
I ran the concept by both Annie (who is 9) and Troy and of course, they were both totally in! Alastair puts together this calendar and as the year goes on, a bit of a community forms since people are spending the same night outside. I find it hilarious that Feb 14th is the designated night for February. Sorry Troy...
In January, and especially if it's your first microadventure, he urges you to stick close to home, like, backyard close. Start small he says. And in time, start spreading your wings. He gives all sorts of suggestions for themes you can apply to your microadventure as you get more in the swing of it (river, hill, mountain, beach, wood, friends, alone, kids, by foot, by bike, work night, weekend, etc etc).
A few nights ago I started pulling out all of our sleeping bags and mats and seeing if we even had enough warmth to spend a night outside without a tent. Then I got all excited because the stuff was out all over the place, and I'm less of a planner and more of a doer, and I yelled at Annie, "wanna sleep outside tonight?" Of course she did, so she and I did a microadventure betatest.
Gear: we had our tent tarp on the bottom, I had 2 backpacking mats, Annie had a thick purple sleeping mat (like 4 inches thick, I think it's a Japanese sleeping mat). Annie was in the 1978 (err... '77? '76?) North Face "red mummy bag" (antique) and I was in my zero degree bag inside a 1978 North Face mummy bag. Yes, I was double bagged. We both had our favorite blankets shoved down in there too, and pillows with cotton pillow cases. There was a very light misting rain that was coming down and we didn't have anything to keep the bags from getting wet.
Annie and I laid there in our bags, chatting about the clouds, lack of stars, the wind, and the neighborhood sounds. Even though it was like 8pm, I found that my body responded very quickly to the darkness with sleepiness. I'm a night owl and usually really struggle to get to bed, but I think that maybe I am just very sensitive to house lights at night time.
This is how Troy and Lolli found us in the morning. Yes, we are actually in there, and yes, Annies feet migrated towards mine. Awwwww...
Lolli growled at us at first and then when she got close enough to smell us she got all excited and woke us up with lots of undesirable dog kisses. There was a thin layer of ice on the bags, but both Annie and I slept great and were warm all night. Except my pillow froze, so I had to pull my head inside my bag. Pillows seemed like a good idea, but not so much.
The test run was awesome, and I especially loved Annie waking up in the middle of the night to tell me the moon was up, the clouds were gone, and to ask if I thought the thing next to the moon was a planet or a star.
A couple nights later was the night Troy and I designated for our official January #microadventure, the one where the whole family would partake. In the theme of sticking close to home we headed to the state park next to our house and purchased a one night camping pass for a campground that included zero other campers.
Annie and I stuck to the same gear (which we had dried out over a few days) and Troy wanted just his sleeping bag and a pad, no second bag like me. For Lolli we put her in her sweater and I had an older GoLite 20 degree down bag that I draped over her. Lolli is a survivor, she curled up in a ball on Annies big purple sleeping pad right next to our heads and probably slept better than all of us combined. I was nervous she might wander in the night so I kept her on the leash, but she didn't budge.
(My goPro is taking fuzzy pictures...I must sort it out...next ones will be better)
We used Troys phone to identify lots of stars. Orion was in full effect and Annie told me the moon rises at 12:30am. We identified constellations and Annie picked out her favorites. It was really weird not to have a tent. I thought the ducks were coyotes, silly me! I read some of my book until my hands froze, and before I knew it, we were all sound asleep. Soundish asleep.
I didn't sleep quite as well as I did in the backyard. I woke up maybe 5-8 times through the night to readjust or find more comfort, I got a little cold in the middle of the night. The low was forecasted as 22F but I think where we bedded down it dipped a bit lower than that. Annie, in her words, slept "a little bad." Of course Troy, ever so stoic "slept fine."
We talked about the moonrise and where it would be at different times in the night and I found it comforting when I woke up to look for the mood to judge what time of night it was. I don't wear a watch and didn't bring my phone. With the first light all of us woke up together and laid in our bags, toasty warm. The dog meandered a bit. As is the usual, nobody wanted to get out of their bags. Finally, I dragged myself out to head to the bathroom and troy packed everything up for the 3 mile drive home where the hot cocoa lived.
There were a couple things I really enjoyed. It was definitely "getting away." No computers, no dishes, and no fridge where I tend to snack all night. No staying up late, LOTS of oxygen, fresh crisp oxygen, that's a highlight. Even though I woke up a fair amount, I slept so many more hours than usual. Troy and Annie had a long conversation at 4:30am but I don't remember hearing any of it. It was just a really sweet time. Good for everybody.
The microadventure is definitely something I want to keep trying. Part of me was ready to go home, and part of me kept thinking about situations where I could spend many more nights in a row outdoors (PCT, ACT, Camino de Santiago). For now, I know each month will get a little warmer, until it doesn't and as we go along with more experience and more fun places, I think new goals will emerge. Bivy sacs are probably in our future, but not for awhile unless we can find some used ones. We didn't purchase anything for this adventure, and that was rather fun too.
If you want more information on #microadventure check out the following:
Alastair Humphreys - he's the ringleader, he even wrote a book about it.
What to bring - good to read through a gear list. We survived 12 degree lows without a bivy sack, but if rain was in the forecast, a bivy sack would be needed.
Just a good article for inspiration - we all need a little bit of that sometimes.
An awesome read about a winter microadventure in Chamonix - sleeping in the snow, I want to add that to the to do list!