(Always) "be prepared" --- Girl Scout Motto

Even though I don't remember much about my girl scout experience besides selling lots of cookies every year and wearing the uniform, one thing has always stuck with me.  The Girl Scout Motto - from the 1947 Handbook -- "BE PREPARED."   The trunk of my car is a testament to this statement for better or worse.  

Whether it is pulling together a gear list for a backpacking trip, organizing a drop bag for a 100 mile race, or packing for work travel, I try to think of everything that could come up and bring along a simple solution.  Here is a sample of 7 items I always take with me on the road beyond my usual outfits.Some of these items cover basic needs but others are particularly great in an emergency.  I can think of a ton of things that could be made out of duct tape like an ankle brace or a drinking vessel or a clothes line. It is super versatile and cheap. This is just one example.  There are actually books on thousands of uses for duct tape. For the other items, there may appear to be only one use but my mcgyvering mind sees lots of possibilities. Hopefully, you will too in a pinch.  I am happy to share my complete list or provide a consultation upon request.


  1. Duct Tape                                            
  2. Puffy Jacket
  3. SmartWater Bottle/Water Filter
  4. Headlamp/Light/Lighter
  5. Phone/Camera/Backup Charger
  6. Snacks
  7. Coffee

Ultra/Trail Race

  1. Liquid Calories
  2. Hydration Vest
  3. Phone/Camera
  4. Buff
  5. Electrolyte Tablets
  6. Desitin Cream
  7. Coffee

Work Travel

  1. Comfortable Shoes
  2. Big Scarf for cold rooms
  3. Safety Pins
  4. Lavender Oil
  5. Phone/Camera
  6. Lysol To Go
  7. Coffee

Northern Exposure

Almost everyone I know from South Carolina has relatives up north.  Many were a part of The Great Migration of more than 6 million African Americans from the South between 1915-1970.  As a matter of fact, all of my dad's siblings and his mother moved to NY/NJ while my immediate family stayed in South Carolina. My grandfather had died tragically in a truck accident which may have precipitated the move up north for the others. Why my dad didn't leave with the rest of the family is unknown at least for now.

At any rate, the separation of the family created the perfect opportunity for travel and exploration as I was growing up.  I looked forward to the long car ride from South Carolina through North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania to New Jersey.  It was amazing to see all of the cities along I-95 but it was quite interesting to see fields of grazing cattle so near the city.  A lot of the area looked just like the countryside where we lived in South Carolina.  But don't tell my cousins that.  I did notice, even as a kid, that after a few days in the city there was a strong pull to be in nature.  Luckily there was a huge park just down the street from my grandma's house.  Weequahic Park (wee-kwah-ic) has 311 acres with a lake and lots of green space, basketball courts, trails, and a playground. 

Fishing at the Lake - 80 acres

Fishing at the Lake - 80 acres




From grandma's house to the park

From grandma's house to the park

When my brother and I would go to visit my grandmother for the entire summer, we spent most of our time at this park.  We would ride our skateboards down to the park and just hang out all day exploring the park with our city cousins and friends.  I am grateful for my time in the city because of the exposure to a different way of life including opportunities that lie in big cities but I will always have a need to connect with nature even if it is a park nestle between tall buildings.  

For the Love of Nature

It's amazing how seemingly chance encounters can change the course of  your life.  Well, last week something like that happened to me and the idea of Black on the Outside was born. In my job as an academic researcher, I am often asked my opinion on topics in the area of physical activity or obesity but an email from the National Park Service really got my attention. Some of you know how much I love being outside running and hiking through the woods but I had not linked this passion to my day job.  At least I had not thought of a way to integrate the two just yet.

Anyway, one of the national parks wanted my opinion on setting up a panel of scholars to talk about what they could do to get more African Americans to visit their park.  Since this was outside of my area of expertise, I referred her to other African Americans doing this work, The African American Nature & Parks Experience (Teresa Baker) and Outdoor Afro (Rue Mapp).  And for my part, I told her stories of my childhood experiences that led me to my passion for the outdoors.  It was during this conversation that I felt a shift in my being as I recalled memories of my dad hunting, fishing, horseback riding and a bunch of other outdoor activities. My dad had all kinds of guns for hunting wild game (deer, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and possums -- yes, he ate this stuff)  and he showed me how to shoot all of them. I was always eager to try new things and to prove to my dad that I could do anything even though girls were not always encouraged to participate in adventurous activities.  But my dad let me tag along with him whenever he was doing stuff outside.  I guess you could say I am a little country girl who fell in love with nature through exposure and encouragement from her dad.  

My dad.

My dad.

In the end,  I suggested that the park representative go talk to the African American people in her community to find out their stories and why they use or do not the park.  I think a lot has to do with experience and a feeling of support and being welcomed.  So in addition to including pictures of a diverse cross-section of people of color on park advertisements, it is important to include our stories of convening with nature.  

Black on the Outside is a collection of stories from childhood up to now that shows the value of early experiences on future behaviors.  Some of these accounts are scary and some are hysterical.  Hopefully, some of my stories will resonate with you and move you to get outside!