Thanks to Outbound Adventurer and Hiking Forward for nominating Ardent Camper for a Liebster Award!

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The wonderful Jessi and Tara of Outbound Adventurer are our travel companions in many camping and hiking treks, and their blog is a must-see for anyone who loves to travel. For the outdoorsy types, they've got tips for enjoying adventures all over the world, and they also love sharing their cultural experiences with readers. Check them out!

Hiking Forward is a great hiking blog written by Scott, a father of two. He offers trail and gear reviews and motivation to get out there and enjoy nature — but that's not all. He's working on an epic rafting trip to complement the long hikes he has made over time. Be sure to visit his blog often.

The Liebster Award is simply a way for bloggers to promote one another by recognizing new and growing blogs. While it's not a traditional award, it's a good way to get to know bloggers better and to promote the blogging community. That all sounds good to me, so I'm having at it!

The rules are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you (check! Thanks again, ladies!)
  • Answer the 10 questions provided by your nominator
  • Nominate other bloggers with a small but growing following
  • Create 10 questions for these bloggers to answer
  • Let the nominees know they have been nominated

Liebster Award Q&A from Outbound Adveturer

OA: Has a book or movie ever made you want to travel somewhere? If so, which one, and did you end up going there?

AC: Oh gosh, so many. I'm a bookworm, so I'm always inspired by fictional adventures. Specifically, Empire Falls by Richard Russo was on my mind when I visited Maine, and Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave provided an unsettling undercurrent when I visited Lousiana plantations a few years ago. After being exposed to a lot of literature and films working at a Holocaust museum, I'd like to visit those parts of Europe (and I'm sure I'd want to see more than just the camps, of course!).

Also, not gonna lie, Harry Potter makes me enjoy both London and Orlando, Florida even more.

Marie at Platform 9 3/4, Kings Cross Station

Marie at Platform 9 3/4, Kings Cross Station

OA: What's the best thing you've found about the travel blogging process?

AC: Hands down, the best part of travel/outdoor adventure blogging is the community I've joined. I love talking with inspiring folks from around the US, Canada and the world on Twitter chats like #hikerchat, #ATQA and #ParkChat. That's part of why I've started an interview series — so we can all get to know one another better.

OA: How about the biggest challenge about the travel blogging process?

AC: Building the audience and establishing a place fit for discussion. There's a lot of competition out there, and hikers and campers are busy folks, but I aspire to continue producing high-quality content to continue gaining readership.

I'm much more of a tortoise than a hare in my strategy, but it's still difficult to be patient sometimes! On that note, if you'd like to join my mailing list, I send only monthly digests, and I'd love to have you sign up on the right!

OA: What are your top three bucket list destinations?

AC: Camping/hiking-wise, my bucket list locations are Longs Peak, Machu Piccu and the Mt. Everest Base Camp.

Travel-wise, my bucket list includes visiting rural Japan, taking a hiking tour of New Zealand and exploring Egypt's remarkable ancient history.

OA: What's the strangest or most interesting food you've ever tried in your travels? Or is there something you'd love to try but haven't?

AC: I haven't had that many strange foods, but I probably have a higher tolerance for "strange" after living in Houston for ten years. We are the unofficial food capitol of the world and have restaurants that represent a dizzying array of cultures.

When I travel, I love trying local favorites, like Wensleydale cheese and Yorkshire pudding in York and jerk chicken and plantains in Jamaica.

When I'm camping, my favorite food is heat-and-eat Indian food. Nothing tastes better after a full day of hiking.

Traditional Costa Rican breakfast

Traditional Costa Rican breakfast

OA: What single song or quote best defines your travels?

AC: I have always loved Mark Twain for so many reasons, but when I found this quote of his, I loved him even more.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

OA: Have you ever met someone on the road that just stuck with you, for whatever reason? Tell us about them!

AC: Every person I met in New England last summer was so kind and welcoming that I remain amazed. Specifically, I remember a man at a Massachusetts roadside produce stand who offered me free kumquats, as well as our bed and breakfast host in Manchester-by-the-Sea, who was so excited that we were visiting Boston for the first time that he gave us his guidebooks to keep.

Massachusetts roadside produce stand

Massachusetts roadside produce stand

OA: What's the best tour you've ever been on?

AC: During our honeymoon in Costa Rica, my husband and I took a wonderful day-long tour through southwestern Nicaragua.We visited the picturesque square in Nicaragua's oldest colonial city, Granada, shopped in Masaya's ancient walled market, climbed a peak for a view into the suphur-belching Volcán Masaya and went for a scenic boat ride on the massive Lago Nicaragua. It was a day packed full to the brim with beauty and culture.

Volcan Masaya

Volcan Masaya

OA: What's the most unique destination you've ever been to?

AC: I feel like I haven't really been to that many unique places, but I suppose the less-traveled ones are Masaya, Nicaragua; Xunantunich, Belize; Whitby, England; and Missoula, Montana.

I went to Masaya for the volcano, Xunantunich for the ruins, Whitby for its delicious Victorianness (and its even older history), and Missoula for the Bitterroot backpacking.

Xunantunich, Belize

Xunantunich, Belize

OA: Home is where the heart is, right? Where is "home" for you, and what's one piece of advice you have for anyone traveling there?

AC: I grew up in the North Carolina piedmont, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and this is where my heart is firmly entrenched. I'm rarely happier than I am when I'm in my beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. There I learned to love hiking, camping, stargazing and adventure-seeking. It totally spoiled me!

For anyone planning to go there, my advice is to definitely hit the major tourist stops in the area like Asheville and the Grandfather Mountain Mile High Swinging Bridge, but get off the beaten path, too. There are countless trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway, so just park at a trailhead and see where it takes you. You won't be disappointed.

One other piece of advice: go in the fall — October, if possible. The leaves turn into a spectacular kaleidoscope of autumnal joy, and the air is crisp and clean.

Hanging Rock, North Carolina

Hanging Rock, North Carolina

Liebster Award Q&A from Hiking Forward

HF: What do you consider your first outdoor experience?

AC: As an only child, I spent a lot of time playing in the yard. My parents owned a house in Winston-Salem on a quarter acre of land, so there was plenty of space for me to run around and climb trees. I remember  watching chipmunks run around our firewood pile and observing blue robin eggs transform into squawking baby birds.

My favorite place in the yard was a tiny sliver of land on the side of the house that was edged with roses cultivated by my neighbors. It was secluded and smelled like heaven.

Me in the back yard by the roses

Me in the back yard by the roses

HF: When out on a multi-day excursion, what is the one thing you dream about doing or having when returning home?

AC: Definitely a shower and a big, hot meal! Burgers never taste so good!

HF: What long trail do you want to complete or complete again and why?

AC: Even though I grew up so close to it, I'm not sure I ever completed so much as an inch of the Appalachian Trail. If I have a chunk of time off during the right time of year one of these days, that's the trail for me.

I'm currently making slow progress on the Lone Star Hiking Trail. You can see my review of it here.

HF: What's your trail name, and how did you get it?

AC: I've never had to use one, but I'd probably pick Ertoran. I love to write fiction, and this is one of my character's names.

HF: What do you want to do when you retire?

AC: With no pension and little hope for Social Security, I don't think many folks in my generation are banking on ever retiring. Hopefully I'll be able to work fewer hours when I'm of a certain age, and I still want to explore as much as possible, but I've also entertained the idea of opening a glampground somewhere beautiful. Everyone deserves a chance to fall in love with our gorgeous world — even those who hate bugs and heat! Hopefully such a campground would encourage that.

HF: What was your last outing — where, when... etc?

AC: Gosh, I can't believe it has already been a month since I went to Big Bend National Park. You can see my photos of the trip here.

This weekend, I'm heading with the Outbound Adventurers to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas, so that should be fun!

HF: What's your favorite backpacking meal?

AC: I really love peanut butter on a tortilla for lunch. It's flat and squishable, and totally full of protein. For dinner, I enjoy pretty much anything so long as it's hot. If I can afford the weight, I prefer spicy stews and curries. For snacks, just plain ol' GORP does the trick!

HF: What's your favorite memory on the trail or camping?

AC: Definitely being proposed to by my wonderful husband. But that's a story for the last question.

My second-favorite trail memory is this: it was my first night camping in Montana's stunning Bitterroot Mountains, and we had made a 9.2 mile hike from Lake Como to Little Rock Creek Lake. The weather was perfect and the scenery was gorgeous.

I was fortunate to be hiking with a space science enthusiast, so after the sun set, we lay down on our backs on the lake's rocky beach while he gave us a tour of the constellations and satellites overhead. It was the first time I'd ever seen the Milky Way or International Space Station, and the surroundings couldn't have been more serene. I miss that place!

Little Rock Creek Lake, Montana

Little Rock Creek Lake, Montana

HF: What's your goal for the year?

AC: In addition to Ardent Camper, I'm one half of Owl Eyes Creative, a marketing and development service. My goal is to get Owl Eyes Creative in a position where my husband (who also works for himself) and I are able to sell our house and travel next year. That means some sacrifices on the adventuring front this year to save money, but it'll be worth it!

HF: Have you ever been tweeted to or retweeted by a celebrity? Who?

AC: Nope! I honestly don't follow any, either. I pretty much stick to the camping, hiking and travel communities on Twitter.

HF: What's your favorite national park and why?

AC: Rocky Mountain National Park won my heart from a very young age, and it's where my husband proposed to me, so nothing can beat it!

It was Josh's first time at Rocky Mountain National Park, so we had done a greatest-hits driving tour the previous day and started that morning with a hike past Bear Lake and Alberta Falls. Loch Vale farther along the trail has been the source of family photos and even paintings for years, so it was already a special place for me.

When we reached Loch Vale, with the post-hike endorphins flowing and with his mother's engagement ring burning a hole in his pocket, Josh knew the setting for a proposal couldn't be any more perfect than this pristine place.

This photo was snapped by none other than the wonderful Jessi of Outbound Adventurer. We were so glad she and Tara were there to celebrate with us.

Newly engaged at Loch Vale, Rocky Mountain National Park

Newly engaged at Loch Vale, Rocky Mountain National Park

Our Liebster Award Nominations

Thanks again for the nomination, Jessi and Tara of Outbound Adventurer and Scott of Hiking Forward! It's our pleasure to nominate the following three blogs for a Liebster Award.

  • Adventure Strong is a hiking and adventure blog by Tim Moon that encourages readers to push their boundaries. Many of his travels center around the Pacific Northwest, but he also features treks through Asia and throughout world, as well as gear guides and some gorgeous photography.
  • The Camp Gal is my happy place. Noreen shares some amazing camping recipes and guides to some wonderful places to camp in the Midwest and Southeast. I start drooling over her recipes and hiking photographs every time I visit.
  • John Davison is an English author who is currently conducting a Coast to Coast hike across his beautiful country. His blog features not only his book but gear reviews and lovely photographs of his walks.

Tim, Noreen and John, should you choose to participate in the Liebster Award, your ten questions are below. If not, please accept an Honorary Liebster Award for being awesome.

  1. How did you learn to love camping and hiking?
  2. What was your worst hiking or camping experience?
  3. What was the all-time best?
  4. Tell us about your favorite camping meal.
  5. Are you more of a hike-for-the-journey or a hike-for-the-destination kind of person?
  6. What walks are on your bucket list?
  7. What's your favorite piece of gear and why?
  8. What's the hardest part of blogging?
  9. What's the best part?
  10. Do you feel like blogging has changed how you approach camping and hiking?

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