ROUGHING IT

Camping for spring break: A fun two days for the family at Fort Boggy State Park

The campsite at Fort Boggy State Park. Courtney Sellers/SportsMap

Many years ago I read the book and then subsequently watched Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s the memoir of a woman who, struggling with the pain of losing her mother and an increasingly problematic addiction to heroin and sex, hikes (almost) the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail that leads from the southern tip of California up to Oregon. She decides to hike the trail after seeing the guidebook at an outdoors store. With no outdoors experience, she hastily plans her trip and not only survives, but is profoundly changed by the experience. It was recently that I thought back on reading that and decided if Cheryl Strayed could spend months hiking from Mexico to Washington, I could certainly survive a two day camping trip with my six year old daughter. Right?

Our story actually begins on last year’s Amazon “Prime Day” when I purchased a tent, sleeping pad, and a light/fan combo. After making this purchase I thought I was definitely ready to go camping. I’ve lived in a city my entire life. First Katy, then San Marcos, and now Houston. Despite attending college in the Texas Hill Country, I never camped overnight. When we were younger I remember my parents taking us camping sporadically but always in an RV - which isn’t the same sort of camping that I was hoping to enjoy with my daughter. I’m also not particularly outdoorsy, which everyone close to me knows. Honestly, when I told people I was taking my daughter camping for spring break, I could see the fear start to seep into people’s faces. One of my neighbors particularly panicked and tried to get her boyfriend to travel with us just in case. This was going to be a true test of mettle.

Before we even left, I’d already hit my first roadblock when I severely underestimated the number of families that choose to go camping over spring break; and because of this I almost couldn’t find a single state park with an available campsite. State parks are great because they are generally less expensive and well maintained. I mean it cost us only $10 a day for the camp site, and you know that money is going back into the park. Finally, after an hour of searching I was able to find an available campsite at Fort Boggy State Park - a tiny state park with only six primitive campsites and three cabins two hours north of Houston.

Our camping trip was starting on Tuesday afternoon and ending Thursday morning, so I could get back to work for Thursday evening. On Tuesday, we got a really late start and didn’t end up getting to Fort Boggy until after the sun had gone down. The park supervisor saw us struggling with our car load of belongings, and took mercy on us driving us up to the campsite, helping me pitch the tent, and helping get our fire started.

We cooked some hot dogs, fed the dog, and sat outside our tent in the pitch black staring up at the stars. Never have I seen that many stars so clearly visible that you could make out all of the constellations. There was only one problem Tuesday night, which came in the form of a forgotten blanket.

I’m an idiot who sleeps inside at night, so I failed to realize how cold it can get when the sun goes down. The temperature got as low as 39 degrees and sharing a single sleeping bag was difficult to say the least. By the time the sun started to rise at 6:45 I was ready. That morning I was wearing every pair of socks I own, my jeans, a sweater, and a rain slicker. It was beautiful out. For a full two hours I just sat at the picnic table with my coffee and a book, letting the dog run around and my daughter sleep in.

We trekked the ¼ mile back to our car and grabbed our fishing poles. Wait a minute - I’ve been fishing before but I had never set up my own fishing line. This is where being alive in 2018 and camping somewhere that’s not too remote was a godsend. I pulled up YouTube and watched a video and we were off and rolling in minutes.

We fished for FIVE HOURS. I didn’t even realize we had been there that long. For the first two hours or so we were posted up next to a guy who was there giving his wife a break from the kids for the afternoon. My daughter played with the kids and would occasionally come check on her pole. We didn’t know what we were doing, so we were just using hot dogs as bait. Not ideal.

We didn’t have a single bite until another guy near us was leaving and gave us the rest of his bait which must have had fish steroids in it because within 10 seconds of casting the pole, we had a bite. This went on and on and on. Eventually we had caught eight fish and I noticed we were both severely sunburned. So I called it. Six hours after we started our journey we were lugging a cooler full of fish back to our campsite, thoroughly exhausted.

Something you might not know about fishing is that once you have caught the fish, you don’t just toss those bad boys on the fire and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Oh no, they have to be gutted, skinned, and filleted. I’ve never done this. In fact, I’ve never eaten anything (besides crawfish of course) that someone else hadn’t already made not look like an animal.

My saving grace here was that rainbow trout don’t need to be filleted. They can be gutted and then cooked whole - the skin falls off the bone on its own. How did I learn this? The park supervisor that I mentioned earlier gave me the rundown on the fish situation as he was helping me set up our tent.

I thought back on my time in high school biology and how we cut open the stomachs of the animals we were dissecting. Before I knew it I had pulled the guts out of each fish and hacked off their heads. I still can’t believe I did it. I tossed them right on the grill at our campsite and cooked them with some lemon pepper seasoning and brussel sprouts. They were delicious and there’s something about eating an animal that you caught and prepared yourself that is unmatched.

I felt accomplished, strong. I was not to be trifled with. That night we met a couple from the campsite next to ours and they ate some of the fish with us and stayed for s’mores and star gazing. When you’re camping it’s crazy how quickly you become exhausted. At home I usually go to bed about midnight and wake up around 7:15. But by 10 pm we were so beat, we crawled into our tent and were asleep in minutes, my daughter using our dog as a pillow.

The plan for Thursday was to wake up, have breakfast, pack up the car, and try to do a little hiking deeper into the path than we had gone for our campsite. But things took a turn. First, my daughter put her hand in the fire dirt, and she got burned. Her hand started to blister pretty quick so we had to take care of that.

Then, I realized I’d been bitten by a spider and my right arm had swelled up. I started to immediately panic because I’ve never been bitten by a spider before and I assumed they will all kill you. After all of our maladies had been handled, we packed up the tent and decided to leave the dog tied to the picnic table so we wouldn’t have to lug her back and forth to the car. She’s a rambunctious pit bull and it’s a struggle walking her under the easiest of circumstances, nevermind when you’re walking in quarter mile bursts to and from a car with camping supplies.

When we got back, she was nowhere to be found, having somehow escaped her harness and either gone looking for us or ran off to play. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but this one will weigh heavy on my heart forever. Cindy had been abandoned by her first owners and it was obvious that she thought we were abandoning her also. I was in a hurry and didn’t think; I almost lost my dog because of it. After an hour and a half of searching - alone and then eventually with some help we heard hikers shout that they had found her.

She was fine, just laying by the side of the road resting after a busy hour of play. I could have killed her big dumb ass. She had some scratches on her leg from running through the trees but she hadn't been bitten by anything and she wasn’t hurt. On the way to car with the dog we saw a diamondback snake slithering across the path and it was very evident that our time in the outdoors needed to come to a close.

After we drove the two hours home, unpacked the car, returned all of the things we had borrowed from friends who have more experience camping than us and showered I started to feel the pain that comes with sleeping on the ground after you turn 30. My back felt like I’d been beaten with a baseball bat and my legs simply didn’t work. I tried to get up at one point and crumpled to the floor in defeat. I was done. That night I went to bed at 10 p.m. and slept for twelve hours. Am I now prepared to hike the Pacific Crest Trail? Not quite. But I’ve now done more than just read a book about surviving in the outdoors. I did it for two days. The best two days ever.

Find the advantages of hitting the links

Here's why playing golf will help you make more money

There is no better environment for creating strong business relationships than participating in a four-hour round of golf with colleagues. Take a second and think about the advantages that playing 18 holes presents for a lower-level worker looking to make strides in their career.

For starters, golf allows for long periods of time driving around in a cart with another person. A situation like that provides a truckload of time to make conversation and get to know someone better.

If you are playing with individuals who like to sling around some cash, the game also lends itself to making small (or large) bets that offer the potential for good-natured bonding with teammates (and opponents). And of course, If alcohol should find its way into the hands of golfers during the round, then the atmosphere becomes looser and more open.

There are a broad variety of ways to utilize golf to help further your career, but all of those advantages can become potholes that derail a rising career if not employed correctly. Here are five solid lessons that will have you grabbing your clubs and sharpening your short game to help boost your career.

1) Honesty is the best policy for showing your character

Golf is the sport that people feel most comfortable to cheat at while playing without worrying about being called out for a penalty. But by cheating, amateurs rob themselves of one of the cooler aspects of golf. The sport is the rare game that allows a golfer to compete against themselves while they are battling against someone else.

But when playing with business associates, honesty can be the best policy because it offers bosses insight into your character. As Julian Small, the CEO of the Wentworth Golf Club in London told The Economist, "When you do business with people, you need to know more about them." The only way to know more about a person is to spend time with them where they have a chance to conversate and observe people. Golf offers the perfect venue for that interaction.

Now we all know that little things add up when you are working toward a career goal. Whether it be spending extra time at work or asking for more responsibility, the higher-ups take notice when you commit to your job. So, it may seem like an insignificant thing to cut a stroke here or use your foot wedge to move a ball from behind a tree, but realize that your boss may be sizing you up while you do it.

2) Finding a way to turn the "No" into a "Yes"

Midway through season four of the hit comedy sitcom, The Office, there was an episode titled "Job Fair." In the episode, paper salesman Jim, played by John Krasinski, takes a potential client, Phil, onto the links in the hopes of sealing a new business deal. On top of the hilarious sight gags (at one point Jim's co-worker Andy runs a cart into a sand bunker and is ejected), there is a solid message for all younger associates on their own for the first time.

When Jim attempts to make some headway with the client on switching paper companies, he's turned down quickly. But after watching Phil take six shots to get out of the sand trap, Jim later compliments him on not picking up the ball and quitting. He then tells Phil that just like he didn't quit in the bunker with his wedges, Jim won't stop trying to get his business. And because it is a television show, Jim gets the new contract. But just because the lesson involves some Hollywood magic doesn't mean that using perseverance can't get you what you want.

The great thing about golf is that you don't have to press your point immediately. Throughout the long round, you will have several opportunities to lay the groundwork for a stronger relationship. Perhaps you can't close the deal in one afternoon, but you'll see opportunities, like Jim, to let the client know that you won't stop trying to help them better their business.

3) Everyone wants to talk about themselves

If you are struggling to make a connection with a client or associate, be patient and calm. Nothing strangles conversation more than having someone who is tense or consistently pressing within the group. The golf course provides a haven for informal discussions. No longer are people wearing suits and ties and stuffed into a boardroom. Instead, they are breathing fresh air and wearing clothing that is lightweight and relaxing.

Yashish Dahiya, the CEO of Policybazaar.com, told Entrepreneur India that the golf course was the perfect place for long, casual conversations that were necessary to his business. "The semi-formal set-up of a golf course allows me to interact about several opportunities at length," Dahiya said. "Also, professionals and businessmen alike are more open with the opinions and reviews in this setup in comparison to a boardroom, which can be of great value to any entrepreneurial venture."

Never forget that the majority of people enjoy talking about their life. Maybe they have kids or grandkids or went to a prestigious college. The subjects are limitless for conversation. Yes, it can be hard to crack someone who appears guarded with details of their life, but there is always a conversation to be had that opens the door to broader discussions.

Once you make a connection, then you can find a path to bringing up business. Most people play golf to leave their troubles behind. They want a chunk of time that can relieve stress and bring some joy into their lives. Golf is the outlet that accomplishes those things in most businessmen. If you can learn proper timing, then the club can be a great too for future business.

4) Be open to what a day at the course can bring you

One of the worst mistakes you can make when hitting the links with business on your mind is becoming too narrow with your focus. Perhaps you have the intention of making inroads with a new client, or you are hoping you'll get a chance to talk to your boss about more responsibility, but the day never really works in your favor, and you strike out. Some individuals will look at the day as a bust and simply give up on the numerous opportunities for additional networking. This curveball is why you always have to be open for what a day at the club could bring you.

Most professionals encourage entrepreneurs to relax on the golf course and not push business. Instead, focus on developing the relationships of the people around you. No one can ever claim that their time at the course has been a wasteful use of resources because we can't say definitively that the people we meet won't be close friends or future business partners.

By pressing your associates or potential clients into business talk, you run the risk of alienating them quickly. So instead of shooting for the quick sale, play the long game when you find yourself in a group on the golf course. Build relationships and seek mentors that can help guide your career. By doing this, you assure that the business will one day take care of itself.

5) Know what you are doing on the course

It may seem like an obvious thing, but all of the business acumen and training in the world won't help you if you are a moron on the golf course. Remember, other golfers will always excuse a man that plays golf poorly, but they won't tolerate a player who doesn't know what the hell they are doing on the links.

Obvious things to avoid include being loud, drinking too much, and dressing inappropriately. But you also need to make sure that you know the unwritten rules of the game of golf. You can really ruin a day at the course by hitting out of turn, standing on someone's putting line or making noise while someone is trying to hit the golf ball. Always be ready to hit your shot and if you lose a golf ball, don't spend twenty minutes looking for it.

If you decide to play for money and you are fortunate to win, don't celebrate or boast about your winnings, especially if you took money from your boss or a client. Instead, take that money and buy drinks for the group, or if the haul is big enough, kick in for dinner. Believe me, the money will come back to you ten-fold if you can close a sale later on with the client.

Conclusion

The golf course can be a great place to further your career and deepen relationships that could lead to promotions and new experiences. These benefits only happen if you use your time at the golf course wisely. Relax and enjoy the day, while always keeping your eye on the prize that awaits you if you handle your business the right way.


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