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Last Updated: 03/31/2009 05:00PM • Subscribe via RSSATOM

Read some articles from back issues of the print edition and supplemental content.

Acupuncture

Do you want to increase your energy, end pain, or just feel better overall? How about without prescription drugs and their possible side effects? Then maybe acupuncture is for you. Although no one really knows the story, one legend suggests the origins of acupuncture thousands of years ago. During battle, a Chinese soldier was shot with an arrow. He discovered that the stone projectile in one part of his body made the pain in another part go away. Since ancient times, instruments and techniques have changed; however, the theory remains constant. Energy continually flows throughout the body and if the energy is interrupted or blocked, illness or disease can occur.This vital energy flow is known as “Qi” (pronounced “Chee”). The Qi travels through the body in a network of channels known as meridians. Each meridian flows to a specific organ. Imagine a series of rivers and creeks – if the water currents are blocked, the stream is disturbed or stopped. The same theory applies when energy is disrupted, distressing symptoms can appear. These blockages can occur for many reasons such as trauma, poor diet, stress and side-effects from medications. For thousands of years, Asian culture has relied on this medical art form for their health needs. Not only is this practice excellent to relieve pain and other symptoms; it is used to preserve health and prevent illness. It is just in recent history that acupuncture has been accepted by the mainstream of the Western world. The acupuncturist places nearly invisible, hair-thin needles (don’t worry, it is painless) into acupuncture points along the meridian to restore the proper flow of Qi. This helps return the proper energy balance and aids the body in healing itself.Dr. Jennifer Jarrett, OMD (Oriental Medical Doctor) of Placerville has been practicing acupuncture for more than 27 years. She loves her practice and sees some patients arrive skeptical, however they usually leave pleasantly convinced. “Jarrett says, “They feel better and it trickles down into all aspects of their lives.”Roseville-based Dr. David Cherry’s office specializes in female infertility. He said in the last 15 years his practice has been able to help more than 200 women have healthy babies. “It is exceedingly rewarding to help women have babies,” Dr. Cherry says. “The joy is boundless.” Dr. Cherry, an OMD, has been practicing this ancient medical art for more than 26 years and has no plans for retiring. “I love my work so much, I never want to retire,” he says. Folsom L.Ac (Licensed Acupuncturist) Wendy Stedeford agrees, “Helping people is totally addicting.” Through her five years of practice, she has been able to help many people eliminate pain and other medical related issues that restricted their life. “I will be around treating people,” Stedeford says, “until I am 85 years old.”This ancient practice focuses on the entire body. It does not simply treat symptoms. Since daily suffering can be unnecessary, it may only be a matter of trying something new – painless needles – to find relief.

Camping 101

Referring to his limited camping experience, a good friend once said, “Man spent 25,000 years perfecting shelter, who am I to turn my back on it?” But even he has been known to occasionally rough it in the wilderness (or, in his case, the state campground with showers). And he does it for the same reason as the rest of us: fresh air, tranquility, s’mores. Most of us really do get a sense of reconnecting to our past on some primal, subconscious level once the tent is up, the campfire has been stoked and the stars come out. And when we wake in the morning, all kinked up because the foam sleeping pad didn’t quite perform as advertised, we renew our appreciation for the aforementioned shelter our ancestors worked so hard to perfect.  There is no question that camping is a lot of work, especially with kids. In fact, my wife and I cut back when our kids were younger because we realized that all the packing, unpacking, and packing up again was being done by us, while they seemed to spend most of their time running around the campground stomping in poison oak, complaining about the potties or getting stung. They’re older now and we’ve eased back into it, but when it comes to camping with young kids, it can be a lot of work and part of you really has to want it. But want it you should, because in the Sierra, within easy reach of the 80 and 50 Corridors, are quite simply some of the best places to camp in America.“Roughing it” is a relative term, and a lot of camping hassles can be mitigated with one word: planning. The first order of business is to only pack what you truly need. Check the forecast, toss in an extra blanket or two if it looks particularly chilly – but leave the comforters at home. A good sleeping bag should be enough for most summertime conditions in the Sierra, especially if your SUV is parked five feet away. Clothing is another over-packed item. This isn’t a business trip. A change of clothes is fine but for the most part, it’s okay to wear the same hoodie a few days in a row. And plan out the menu ahead of time, you can get as fancy as you want – and plenty of people do – but know going in what your meals will be, so that you’ve used most of it up by the time you’re heading out.Cooking gear is another facet that is easy to overdo. Again, there are people who take their great outdoors gastronomy very seriously, and truly, I hope to camp next to them. But most of us don’t really need titanium-lined Dutch ovens or battery-operated margarita makers. Generally speaking, a small propane stove, a pan, a pot, a few cups and some simple utensils are fine. As for any rum drinks, serve them on the rocks. You’re already surrounded by them anyway, so it kind of fits with the theme.As for the rest of your gear, the world of camping equipment can be as humbling as the wilderness itself. So, if the only sleeping bag you have is the one with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lining that you took to camp back in ‘87, your next step is to find the right gear. To do that, don’t rush out to the local big box discount store the night before and buy up everything in aisle 344. You want quality, and the first time your waterproof tent is hammered by a cloudburst that the forecast didn’t call for, you’ll thank yourself. Of course, costs for quality can rise up faster than a Sierra thunderhead, so consider renting at first, rather than buying. Places like REI, Sports Chalet and locally-owned outdoorsy shops in the high country should have all the gear you need, and the rates are often quite reasonable. After a few trips you should have a pretty good idea of what works for you and what doesn’t. And by that time, it’s the off-season and the prices are lower!  So let’s say you’ve got all that taken care of. Now comes the fun part: where to go. Within a few hours of Roseville or Folsom there are literally more places than you could visit in a lifetime: Crystal Basin and Desolation Wildernesses, the American River Canyon, the Alp-like Sierra Buttes...it can quickly get confusing, so do a little research. The Forest Service and State Parks have invaluable resources online and links to still others. There are a lot of good books too, one of the best is by Tom Stienstra, an outdoors writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. His book, California Camping, is by far the most useful I’ve found on the subject. Granted, he lists a lot more than just places to camp in the greater Placer/El Dorado region, but from primitive to lavish, he reviews them all in plain, succinct detail.  One of things Stienstra mentions is the five percent rule, and it’s a good one to remember. One of the reasons we get away is to...get away. But we’re like-minded creatures, and that means we can end up trying to get away from it all, together. And that kind of defeats the purpose. The five percent rule, Stienstra writes, is “Ninety-five percent of vacationers use only five percent of the available recreation areas.” Most are heavily visited because of their convenience – either to the valley or to destinations like Lake Tahoe – or because of their amenities like flush toilets and showers. If you can forego either, you automatically increase your odds of enjoying a little solitude. Just be sure to choose from campsites up-wind of any pit toilets, if you can.     If you don’t mind crowds or are the impulsive, last-minute type, you should know that the most popular campgrounds fill up months in advance via a reservation system like Reserve America (reserveamerica.com) or recreation.gov, which is for campgrounds on federal land. Reserving a spot in January for a weekend in July is usually necessary. Most public campgrounds, state or federal, designate a certain number of campsites as first come, first served. And plenty don’t take reservations at all: PG&E operates a good number of campgrounds and according to their Web site pg&e.com/recreation – nearly all of their sites are first come, first served, with the exception of group facilities. But it is wise to check ahead, nonetheless. And for backcountry hiking, always check in advance about backcountry permits, which may be required.Of course, the biggest factor in deciding where to go is you. Wide open vistas or tranquil mountain forests? Fishing? Hiking? A pizza joint within delivery distance? Ask yourself and your family what sort of outdoor experience it is you’re looking for and narrow it down from there.Speaking of outdoor experience, one last thing: can you spot poison oak before it spots you? Do you know where rattlesnakes like to hide or where ticks look to hitch a ride? Do you know how to keep bears from getting at your food? Brush up on your knowledge of such things to minimize your chances of such things brushing up against you.   Whether you’re looking for something simple with a picnic table and fire ring you can drive to, or you want to go all-John Muir and escape into the backcountry with just a pack and a journal, there are a thousand places in our region that can be reached within a few hours and easily enjoyed over the course of a weekend, if not a lifetime. It undoubtedly takes work, but the pull of nature tugs at most of us, maybe more vigorously now in these tough economic times. So give in. Get out. Roughing it is relative, and you’re the one who defines it. For more helpful Camping tips and insight, be sure to pick up this month's copy of Style-Folsom El Dorado Hills edition. Click on the "Get Your Copy" link on the bottom of this page for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email  info@sierrastyle.com, or call 916-988-9888.

The Hiking Song

One of my favorite songs is “The Hiking Song.” It’s not on my iPod and you can’t download it from iTunes. You’ve probably never heard of it, but you may have sung it.I learned “The Hiking Song” several years ago from my daughter. We were hiking up Horsetail Falls off Highway 50. The trail wasn’t too difficult for me, but my five-year-old daughter struggled with the climb. Eventually she started singing. We called it “singing” anyway. Actually it was more of a sigh. With every other step she let out a gentle, high-to-low-pitched audible exhale. She didn’t complain. She just sighed. Every other step: “Huhhhh. Huhhhh. Huhhhh.”We called it “The Hiking Song.” It is our family’s way of reorienting a challenge. While our kids were growing up we camped once or twice each summer. One year we camped at Sugar Pine Point at Lake Tahoe where we found a beautiful campsite toward the back of the State Park. We pitched our tent in a nice, smooth place where prior campers had obviously pitched theirs. It was follow-the-leader camping of sorts. Then it started raining. It rained all afternoon and right through dinner. In fact, it rained so much that we skipped the campfire and camped out at McDonald’s. (Can you say Noah?) After Big Macs, we arrived back at the campsite in a driving thunderstorm. We made a dash from the minivan to the tent. As five wet bodies dived through the zipper-door, we noticed the floor of the tent felt strangely like a waterbed mattress. Yes indeed, it was floating on about three inches of water. That “nice, smooth” campsite was the bed of a flashflood river.That’s when we remembered “The Hiking Song.” We needed some way to laugh about our circumstances. Rain is not the worst thing in the world. None of us is the Wicked Witch of the West. We weren’t melting, but we had to reorient ourselves to the challenge. “The Hiking Song.” Huhhhh. Huhhhh. Huhhhh.Years later my wife and I, and our youngest daughter – the original singer-songwriter of “The Hiking Song” – planned a motorcycle tour of the Sierras. We laid out the route, including stops in Yosemite and Markleeville. We locked up the house, packed the gear, put on our helmets and jackets, and started the bikes. Actually, only one bike started. The other sat in the driveway and refused to turn over. Huhhhh. Huhhhh. Huhhhh. We never did get that bike started. Eventually we just took the car, but the trip was a blast.I think every family needs a “Hiking Song.” How else do you meet the challenges of life – the rain on your vacation or a dead battery or a mountain too steep – in a positive, creative way? How do you turn around the disaster and make it a memory worth saving, an adventure to savor?We still sing “The Hiking Song” in our family. Whenever something is a little too steep or a little too much trouble, we sing the song. We adjust our perspective and find a new way to do what we originally planned. It’s kind of funny: “The Hiking Song” shows up in most of our family’s best memories. It’s one of my favorite songs.

All Aboard

The quality of life that we enjoy can mask the fact that the developed area in which we now live was once a hardscrabble patch of unoccupied territory discovered and settled by prospectors with dreams of striking it rich.  But today, thanks to organizations like the Folsom, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railroad Association (FEDS), which works to promote, restore and preserve the region’s rich rail history – the past seamlessly intersects with present times. The key aim of FEDS, a non-profit organization established in 1995, is education, according to the organization’s president, Bill Anderson. “Our mission is to educate the general public by preserving and maintaining the railroad history in the City of Folsom,” explains Anderson, who adds that Folsom was the first railroad town in the West, and the terminus of the Sacramento Valley Railroad.To achieve this goal, “FEDS members are not afraid to get their hands dirty,” says Anderson. In addition to running the Folsom Railroad Museum, which is housed in a vintage 1920s passenger car located next to Folsom’s Southern Pacific Depot, and partnering with the Folsom History Museum and local schools to assist students with various service projects, FEDS volunteers are actively involved with restoration projects. Among these preservation efforts is the 6,000-hour restoration of the Vail Speeder #30 (Skagit), as well as several smaller speeders. Also included in FEDS accomplishments is the acquisition of two diesel locomotives, one of which was donated by the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Naturally, as a non-profit, fundraising for FEDS’ restoration projects is crucial. As such, the organization established the annual Folsom Handcar Derby Races in 1992 in support of the Folsom History Museum, and specifically to restore the Historic Railroad Turntable, which was originally built in 1856 and can be viewed at Historic Folsom Station along Sutter Street. Now in its 18th year, the Derby will take place May 2-3, 2009. The Derby – located on the tracks along East Bidwell Street at Broadstone Marketplace – is free to the public.Of all FEDS’ successes, Anderson cites its involvement in a 2006 celebration marking the 150th anniversary of both the Sacramento Valley Railroad and the establishment of the City of Folsom, and the extension of light rail service to the latter. “FEDS partnered with the City of Folsom, Sacramento Regional Transit and community volunteers to stage a celebration that culminated in the re-creation of an 1856 ball marking the arrival of the train to Folsom,” remembers Anderson, who credits FEDS volunteers with the organization’s growth, expansion and success. “Thanks to our volunteers, the old Southern Pacific Section Superintendent House has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.”  For more information or to volunteer with FEDS, call 916-985-6001 or 916-985-6031, or visit fedshra.org. For rules and more information about the 18th Annual Folsom Handcar Derby Races, visit fedshra.org/handcar.htm.

Deadliest Catch

The best part of my favorite show is during the opening credits. It happens as Bon Jovi sings, “I drive all night, just to get back home.” During the first line, the bow of a crab boat plunges down, cleaving a wave in half. Spray explodes. Over the next line, that image fades into a tight side shot of Skipper Sig Hansen’s head, and for a moment, the spray – which is being raked by a fierce gale – aligns perfectly with Hansen’s blonde swept-back hair, as though one is becoming the other. As the fade-in continues, Hansen slowly turns and glares into the camera with eyes as hollow as sea caves. He looks like a Viking ghost.“Lucky edit!” says Todd Stanley, when asked about the scene later. For some reason, I don’t believe him. Todd and his brother Doug are the Emmy-award-winning creative forces behind Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. Not bad for a couple of dropouts from Roseville High School who were lured away by the temptation of being river guides. In fact, it was on the Colorado where they met a fellow guide who shot video in his spare time;  he taught the brothers, and they began their adventure. Long story very short, a decade later they’re in L.A. freelancing for tabloid shows like Extra! when Discovery called. Alaska was on the line.The brothers agree that being raised among the rolling hills of Roseville and Rocklin prepared them in a way for the rolling nothern seas. “It was the Wild West back then,” says Todd. “Just wide open fields and motorcycles, having a good time, learning about being outside and being on your own.” Doug adds that living so close to world class skiing, rivers and climbing has nurtured their sense of adventure. It also made it impossible to forget where they came from, which is why they both live here now; Doug in Roseville, Todd in Lotus.On the show, Phil Harris (the Chewbacca look-alike) is one of the captains featured. It wasn’t easy adapting to a camera crew on board his boat, the Cornelia Marie. Harris says plainly, “If you don’t like a guy, it can be a real pain in the [butt].” But Todd, a producer/cameraman, and Doug, a producer and director of photography, earned his respect. “Doug is amazing...he can bring things out of people that they just don’t want to talk about.” And Todd...? “He’s completely different, but every bit as good. And he helped me when things were looking really bad,” says Harris. He’s referring to last season, when he became dangerously ill while still at sea. It became the show’s main storyline. Todd stayed by his side as Harris navigated through bone-jarring seas to get emergency medical attention for what turned out to be a potentially fatal blood clot in his lung. The captain is grateful. “It wasn’t in his job description to stay with me. He did it because he’s a great guy, and he cared.”Though, normally neither brother would be found holed up in the relative comfort of a warm wheelhouse, an example not lost on their crew. “They’re good mentors,” says Ben Zupo, a Sacramento native who’s worked two seasons as a cameraman. Has he ever seen them do something to make him question their sanity? “...All the time!” Probably not something their parents want to hear.I asked the guys if they’re ever concerned for their safety.  Todd said he gets too involved with his work to worry. Doug simply announced that he’s yet to see a wave big enough to scare him. Another nugget their parents could likely do without.So, what about the folks? “In the early days they couldn’t really figure us out,” says Doug. “And they are still quite worried whenever we go to sea because one storm could take out the whole family lineage!” The brothers chuckle at that one. But with the boys hauling in Emmys like the Cornelia Marie hauls in crab, at least the folks are proud. “We’ve finally became bona fide to them!” says Doug. More chuckles.It’s a long way from the comfort of my couch in Roseville to the bitter cold of the Bering Sea, but thanks to Todd, Doug and my cable provider, I’ll be making the trip again this year. The sixth season of Deadliest Catch starts next month and I can’t wait for Captain Sig’s glare! Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1.

The Vine

Choya Ume BlancSo what’s an “ume” (pronounced "wu-meh")? Ume is generally known as a Japanese plum, but in use for Umeshu (Ume-plum Liqueur) and Choya Ume Blanc, it is actually a green Japanese apricot. Choya is the number one producer of Ume liqueur and wine in the world, in both quantity and quality. The most popular form of ume is Umeboshi, a sour pickled fruit served with cooked rice. Choya Ume Blanc is a wonderful low-alcohol (7%), all-natural wine made from 100 percent of the finest Nanko Ume grown in Kishu (the best ume growing region), Japan. Somewhat Riesling- or perhaps Chenin Blanc-like, Ume Blanc has an exquisite aroma with ripe peach notes. It has a gentle sweetness with balanced acidity and flavors of mild citrus and peach. Serve chilled as an aperitif or dessert wine, or pair with Asian cuisine. I even use this wine to de-glaze and it yields wonderful results. Not all wine has to be grape!— Rick MindermannRick is a 30-year veteran grocer with Corti Brothers in Sacramento, personal assistant to Darrell Corti,and “The Good Taste Guy” for oodleboxtv.com.For more wine reviews from Local Connoisseurs, be sure to pick up this month's copy of FoothillStyle. Click on the "Get Your Copy" link on the bottom of this page for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email info@sierrastyle.com, or call 916-988-9888.

Sierra Glassworks

As one of the few stained glass shops in northern California, Sierra Glassworks certainly fills an important niche in the art and home décor community. Husband and wife team Bill and Rose Leger opened Sierra Glassworks in Placerville more than 20 years ago, and with their one-of-a-kind stained glass art, created primarily for homes, their business has been going strong since day one. “It started out as a hobby for about five years, and then we decided to open up a shop in 1977,” says Bill, who does most of the designing and creating at the shop, though from time to time he also has employees whom assist in creating the pieces. Seekers of unique, stained glass pieces need look no further than Sierra Glassworks. The Legers create custom pieces of all shapes, designs and sizes for their customers. Cabinet windows? Yes. Entry ways? No problem. Just tell Bill what you want. “There aren’t a lot of stained glass shops around, so when people see us or hear about us, they usually know right away that they want something,” says Rose. “We can make a window to fit just about any location...whatever kind of style customers want, we’ll do.”Over the years, the Legers have seen several trends come and go and they’ve made everything from hummingbirds to frogs to florals and dozens of designs in between. Bill says that designs incorporating grapes are popular in homes with a wine country style. One customer wanted a window that replicated his prized private airplane. Recently, Bill completed an entryway for a home in Bodega Bay that overlooks the ocean; the entry way now features two grand six-feet x two-foot windows depicting whales underwater, made with glass clear enough to see through to the sea. Bill goes on to say that he does prefer making some designs over others. “Styles change over the years. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, people wanted color. Nowadays I do a lot of bevels, clears, and a lot in art deco style. I really enjoy creating pieces in the arts and crafts style (a design theme that incorporates straight lines and lots of bevels); that’s always fun,” he says. Customers don’t necessarily have to order custom pieces, however. Right now, the Legers have about 20 windows on display in their shop. Custom pieces can take approximately four weeks to design and complete, according to Rose. Many windows are made to easily slide over existing glass windows.If you’re in the market for stained glass or are just curious about the art, perhaps you can pay a visit to Sierra Glassworks. They have photographs of their work and several pieces for viewing, and Bill says that when people see the work in person it helps them realize what they might want. Considering that the Legers have created 2,500 pieces over the past 22 years, they have certainly made a mark in many local homes.<hr>For more information about Sierra Glass Works, check out <a target="_blank" href=:http://wwww.sierraglassworks.com">sierraglassworks.com</a>, call 530-626-0368 or visit the store at 674 Main Street, Placerville.

Then & Now

THEN: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, The Staple SingersWhen gospel group The Staple Singers teamed up with the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section in 1972, magic happened. Yielding their first Top 10 hit with “I’ll Take You There,” followed by two more, “Respect Yourself” and “This World,” Be Altitude: Respect Yourself represents the perfect blend of Staples’ gospel values and an appeal to a mainstream audience. NOW:Potato Hole, Booker T.    Hall of Fame musician Booker T. Jones (of Booker T & The Mg’s fame) teams up here with southern rockers – the Drive-By Truckers and Neil Young. With the Truckers serving as Booker T’s backing band, and Young as lead guitarist, the album marks a departure from Booker’s Green Onions days, but not from his hallmark of musical innovation and deep soul. For more of Shelf Life including book reviews, be sure to pick up this month's copy of Style-Folsom El Dorado Hills edition. Check out the Distribution tab on this Web site for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email  info@sierrastyle.com, or call 916-988-9888.

Pet Project

The bond that humans share with companion animals is best summarized in two words: unconditional love. Who can ever forget their first cat; the way she nestled in your lap for hours no matter how awful you were feeling on a particular day, and during the times when no one on two legs wanted anything to do with you. While loyalty is a shaky science where human beings are considered, it is a given with pets. This fact makes it all the sadder the number of area cats that, each day, are abandoned, mistreated and simply left behind. Thankfully there are non-profit organizations like Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode, doing its part to control pet overpopulation by sheltering and finding homes for abandoned animals of El Dorado County and beyond.A low-cost spay/neuter/vaccination clinic and a cat shelter, Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode allows all area residents to afford a companion cat by offering cost-effective spay and neutering services. Doing so not only levels the playing field with regard to who can and cannot afford to own a cat, but also responsibly addresses the issue of pet overpopulation.  “The low-cost spay and neuter program we provide helps control pet overpopulation in the community and surrounding areas,” according to Maggie Killackey, director of the Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode. “Our shelter animals are spayed and/or neutered, vaccinated, wormed, tested for leukemia, and micro-chipped before they are adopted. Micro-chipping enables the animal to be returned to his or her owner if he becomes lost.”Beyond these services, the organization offers immunizations, pre-operative and after-surgery care to cats requiring it, and also sponsors a variety of animal adoptions throughout the area. “We now handle small dogs and work with the county animal control and other animal welfare organizations,” Killackey says. “We have also increased our areas for adopting for cats, which has allowed us to take in more stray or owner-relinquished cats to find new homes for them.”The expansion of Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode is due to the tireless efforts from people in the organization, whose passion has helped the organization evolve. But the contributions and acceptance of a pet-centric community cannot be overlooked. Positive reception and participation from area pet lovers also deserve credit. Since 1992, Animal Outreach has spayed and neutered over 50,000 cats, sheltering 800 cats in 2008 alone, finding new homes for about 750 of them through the group’s adoption sites. These efforts, in combination with cost-effective services, help control the pet population, which gone unchecked, results in far more unfavorable statistics. That said, Killackey adds that educating the public about pet overpopulation is a huge challenge that still faces the organization, and one of its continued goals. <hr>To learn more about Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode, make a donation or get involved, visit <a target="_blank" href="http://www.animaloutreachs.info">animaloutreachs.info</a> or call 530-642-2287.

Camping 101

Referring to his limited camping experience, a good friend once said, “Man spent 25,000 years perfecting shelter, who am I to turn my back on it?” But even he has been known to occasionally rough it in the wilderness (or, in his case, the state campground with showers). And he does it for the same reason as the rest of us: fresh air, tranquility, s’mores. Most of us really do get a sense of reconnecting to our past on some primal, subconscious level once the tent is up, the campfire has been stoked and the stars come out. And when we wake in the morning, all kinked up because the foam sleeping pad didn’t quite perform as advertised, we renew our appreciation for the aforementioned shelter our ancestors worked so hard to perfect.  There is no question that camping is a lot of work, especially with kids. In fact, my wife and I cut back when our kids were younger because we realized that all the packing, unpacking, and packing up again was being done by us, while they seemed to spend most of their time running around the campground stomping in poison oak, complaining about the potties or getting stung. They’re older now and we’ve eased back into it, but when it comes to camping with young kids, it can be a lot of work and part of you really has to want it. But want it you should, because in the Sierra, within easy reach of the 80 and 50 Corridors, are quite simply some of the best places to camp in America.“Roughing it” is a relative term, and a lot of camping hassles can be mitigated with one word: planning. The first order of business is to only pack what you truly need. Check the forecast, toss in an extra blanket or two if it looks particularly chilly – but leave the comforters at home. A good sleeping bag should be enough for most summertime conditions in the Sierra, especially if your SUV is parked five feet away. Clothing is another over-packed item. This isn’t a business trip. A change of clothes is fine but for the most part, it’s okay to wear the same hoodie a few days in a row. And plan out the menu ahead of time, you can get as fancy as you want – and plenty of people do – but know going in what your meals will be, so that you’ve used most of it up by the time you’re heading out.Cooking gear is another facet that is easy to overdo. Again, there are people who take their great outdoors gastronomy very seriously, and truly, I hope to camp next to them. But most of us don’t really need titanium-lined Dutch ovens or battery-operated margarita makers. Generally speaking, a small propane stove, a pan, a pot, a few cups and some simple utensils are fine. As for any rum drinks, serve them on the rocks. You’re already surrounded by them anyway, so it kind of fits with the theme.As for the rest of your gear, the world of camping equipment can be as humbling as the wilderness itself. So, if the only sleeping bag you have is the one with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lining that you took to camp back in ‘87, your next step is to find the right gear. To do that, don’t rush out to the local big box discount store the night before and buy up everything in aisle 344. You want quality, and the first time your waterproof tent is hammered by a cloudburst that the forecast didn’t call for, you’ll thank yourself. Of course, costs for quality can rise up faster than a Sierra thunderhead, so consider renting at first, rather than buying. Places like REI, Sports Chalet and locally-owned outdoorsy shops in the high country should have all the gear you need, and the rates are often quite reasonable. After a few trips you should have a pretty good idea of what works for you and what doesn’t. And by that time, it’s the off-season and the prices are lower!  So let’s say you’ve got all that taken care of. Now comes the fun part: where to go. Within a few hours of Roseville or Folsom there are literally more places than you could visit in a lifetime: Crystal Basin and Desolation Wildernesses, the American River Canyon, the Alp-like Sierra Buttes...it can quickly get confusing, so do a little research. The Forest Service and State Parks have invaluable resources online and links to still others. There are a lot of good books too, one of the best is by Tom Stienstra, an outdoors writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. His book, California Camping, is by far the most useful I’ve found on the subject. Granted, he lists a lot more than just places to camp in the greater Placer/El Dorado region, but from primitive to lavish, he reviews them all in plain, succinct detail.  One of things Stienstra mentions is the five percent rule, and it’s a good one to remember. One of the reasons we get away is to...get away. But we’re like-minded creatures, and that means we can end up trying to get away from it all, together. And that kind of defeats the purpose. The five percent rule, Stienstra writes, is “Ninety-five percent of vacationers use only five percent of the available recreation areas.” Most are heavily visited because of their convenience – either to the valley or to destinations like Lake Tahoe – or because of their amenities like flush toilets and showers. If you can forego either, you automatically increase your odds of enjoying a little solitude. Just be sure to choose from campsites up-wind of any pit toilets, if you can.     If you don’t mind crowds or are the impulsive, last-minute type, you should know that the most popular campgrounds fill up months in advance via a reservation system like Reserve America (reserveamerica.com) or recreation.gov, which is for campgrounds on federal land. Reserving a spot in January for a weekend in July is usually necessary. Most public campgrounds, state or federal, designate a certain number of campsites as first come, first served. And plenty don’t take reservations at all: PG&E operates a good number of campgrounds and according to their Web site pg&e.com/recreation – nearly all of their sites are first come, first served, with the exception of group facilities. But it is wise to check ahead, nonetheless. And for backcountry hiking, always check in advance about backcountry permits, which may be required.Of course, the biggest factor in deciding where to go is you. Wide open vistas or tranquil mountain forests? Fishing? Hiking? A pizza joint within delivery distance? Ask yourself and your family what sort of outdoor experience it is you’re looking for and narrow it down from there.Speaking of outdoor experience, one last thing: can you spot poison oak before it spots you? Do you know where rattlesnakes like to hide or where ticks look to hitch a ride? Do you know how to keep bears from getting at your food? Brush up on your knowledge of such things to minimize your chances of such things brushing up against you.   Whether you’re looking for something simple with a picnic table and fire ring you can drive to, or you want to go all-John Muir and escape into the backcountry with just a pack and a journal, there are a thousand places in our region that can be reached within a few hours and easily enjoyed over the course of a weekend, if not a lifetime. It undoubtedly takes work, but the pull of nature tugs at most of us, maybe more vigorously now in these tough economic times. So give in. Get out. Roughing it is relative, and you’re the one who defines it. For more helpful Camping tips and insight, be sure to pick up this month's copy of FoothillStyle. Click on the "Get Your Copy" link on the bottom of this page for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email  info@sierrastyle.com, or call 916-988-9888.

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