Secrets of an Escape Artist: Ten Steps to Freedom

The Art of the Miniature Adventure

Secrets of the Escape Artist: Ten Steps to Freedom

Some time ago, Farwell introduced the notion of the “miniature adventure,” a tag coined by writer Richard Frisbie. Now it’s Tamia’s turn, and she’s weighing in with a short article that’s both executive summary and practical guide.

But first, here’s a heads‑up: Tamia and Farwell are taking the next three months off. It’s their first “vacation” from writing a weekly column in nearly 20 years, and though it’s going to be a working vacation for both of them, they’re certainly looking forward to it. Call it a big adventure, if you like, but whatever you call it—and they just call it About Time!—it’s long overdue. They’re unanimous in that.

OK. You now know that Tamia and Farwell won’t be posting regularly in the next three months, but everything on both this site and Tamia’s Outside will stay where it is, pretty much as it is. So if this is your first visit, take time to poke around. Who knows? You might find something useful.

See you in September!

by Tamia Nelson | June 5, 2018

A Tamia Nelson Article on

As Farwell has already pointed out, the miniature adventure is the sovereign antidote to many of today’s ills. If the demands of everyday life leave you with too little time to light out for the Territory and too little ready cash to book a place on the next flight to the Hindu Kush (or whatever destination tops the latest Facebook list of 100 must‑sees), then the miniature adventure offers you a way out of the trap. In Richard Frisbie’s happy phrase, you can travel to the ends of the earth between breakfast and dinner.* The good news? You won’t even have to endure a TSA pat‑down. All you have to do is go. You choose the destination, pick your companions, and decide how much time you can spare. It can be as little as an hour or two or as long as a long weekend.

Let’s cut to the chase. Just how do you go about downsizing your adventures without squeezing all the juice from the fruit? Easy. Ten steps get you out the door and on your way:

  1. Get organized.
  2. Go local.
  3. Go light.
  4. Build a bug‑out box.
  5. Pre‑pack.
  6. Get your sh…, er, stuff together.
  7. Have a stack of blank float plans handy.
  8. Keep the car gassed up, or better yet, …
  9. Get on your bike.
  10. Go!

I told you it was easy, didn’t I? But it wouldn’t hurt to take a closer look at each step. So let’s begin.

1. Get organized.  As the name suggests, miniature adventures are time‑limited. You can’t afford to waste precious minutes searching for your flashlight, water filter, and PFD. The remedy? Have a place for everything and then keep everything in its place. And make sure you have maps in your files for every likely destination. Make that every likely and unlikely destination. After all, you never know what might be possible.

2. Go local.  This is the key to a successful miniature adventure. If you spend more time driving than you do paddling, you’re on a hiding to nothing. It helps to keep a running list of possible trips, with the shortest at the top and the longest at the bottom: half‑day trips, day trips, overnights, and weekenders, say. That reduces the time you’ll spend scratching your head and whistling “Where am I to go?”—or standing transfixed between two alternatives like Buridan’s ass.

3. Go light.  I’m sure you’ll leave the felling ax and Game Boy behind, but other than that, what you bring is up to you. The only rule? Take what you’ll need and not one thing more. Each of you will have her (or his) own list of essentials, of course, and if it includes the Ten Essentials, a PFD, and a paddle, you’ll likely do fine.

4. Build a “bug‑out box.”  No, I’m not talking about preparations for the imminent apocalypse. That’s a pleasure I hope will be deferred. I’m talking efficiency. The bug‑out box is a logical extension of the “everything in its place” principle. It holds ready-to-go entrées and staple foods suitable for trips of any length. All I have to do is grab what I need and toss it into my rucksack. As long as I remember to restock the box on my return, I’ll be good to go the next time, too.

5. Pre‑pack.  Your sleeping bag is best stored loose between trips, food needs to be replenished, and clothing has to be washed from time to to time, but just about everything else can be packed well in advance and left that way indefinitely. That’s the idea behind the getaway pack. It’s a good idea.

6. Get your sh…, er, stuff together.  Boat stuff, that is. You can’t put this in your getaway pack, and it likely won’t fit in the bug‑out box, either. But you won’t go far on the water without it. Which is why you’ll want to keep everything you’ll need where it’s easy to find, from paddles and painters to float bags and PFDs. And don’t forget your cartop rack or trailer. Or your boat, for that matter.

7. Have a stack of blank float plans handy.  Things don’t always work out the way you want them to, and when Nemesis strikes, it’s good to know that help will be coming your way before too long. That’s what float plans are for—and they can sometimes make the difference between life and death. A float plan isn’t a license to do stupid things in the backcountry, of course, but it’s stupid not to leave one with a trusted friend or family member. ‘Nuff said?

8. Keep the car gassed up.  The idea is to spend time on the water, not in the queue at the pump. Better still, …

9. Get on your bike.  This won’t interest everyone, I know, but with gas prices climbing higher and a trade war threatening to reignite inflation (remember inflation?), you may want to reserve your car for the trip to work. In any case, cycling and paddling are natural partners. Want to know how it’s done? Just ask any amphibian.

10. Go!  There’s not a moment to be lost. Canoe Country begins the long slide toward winter in just a couple of weeks. So grab every chance for a trip that comes your way. Then you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been. That’s the rationale for the miniature adventure in a nutshell.

* If you’d like to learn more about the art of the miniature adventure, get hold of the foundational text: Richard Frisbie’s It’s a Wise Woodsman Who Knows What’s Biting Him. The book is out of print, and your local library probably won’t have it on the shelf, either—they needed the space for the new coffee bar—but you can probably find a secondhand copy. No luck? Then borrow the e‑book version from the Internet Archive. It’s what libraries used to be: a place for books.

Read more:  Breaking Away | Organize! | The Miniature Adventure

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