Thursday, February 8, 2018

Love is in the Air

Two tree-huggers have the ultimate date night


Are you a box of chocolates kinda person or do you veer more towards crunchy granola? Perhaps you’re both or neither but your answer is likely to determine your upcoming plans this month.

January is over, which means Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and it’s time to start making reservations and buying gifts. If you’re stumped on what to get your special someone, relax; we’ve got you covered (Bivouac Gift Guides via Instagram). Whether you plan on spending the day with your honey or your pals, the 14th of February is all about showing some love. So what is one to do when your Valentine is thousands of miles away?

Our women’s tech employee, Ella Bruining, journeyed all the way to San Francisco to celebrate an early Valentine’s Day with her long-distance boyfriend for a romantic getaway. Ella knew she wanted to stay true to her inner-camper so she hit up Hipcamp for her weekend accommodations. Hipcamp is like the Airbnb for campers and adventurers. Instead of renting an apartment or house, Hipcamp allows you to rent campsites, trailers, rustic cabins, “glamping” tents, and most unique of all, treehouses. 

Continue reading to learn more about Ella’s modern day romance that started with a *swipe* and how one app lead to another that lead to a pre-Valentine’s Day excursion in a Northern California treehouse straight out of her childhood dreams. Ella also shares some of her top Valentine’s Day gift ideas found right here at Bivouac Ann Arbor. 


Words and photos by Ella Bruining

When I was a kid I used to set up a fort in the living room, a Disney film murmuring in the background, the noise of Dad flipping a grilled cheese in the kitchen. Despite the shortcomings of my twin bed sheet hideaway, laden with graphics of moose and pine, the domain could become any which fantasy I could conjure. Inspired by the sheet’s flannel print and outdoorsey fervor, a treehouse was my top choice. There I would ignore my armchair scaffolding and embrace the serene imagination, allowing for a transformation, a setting devised of dreams. Fifteen years later, when screen time shifts from an occasional Tarzan viewing to constant access, the idea of magical, alternative living becomes less of a daydream. I was able to disconnect and stay in a real, and incredible treehouse with the bright, intrepid soul who I have the privilege of sharing my time and experiences with. 

We each spend measureless hours with our consciousness being occupied by concerns of the digital: did I hear back from that job interview, did she message me back, has my direct deposit been processed, which Kardashian is expecting? In a reality in which our existence is entangled with that of a whirlwind of data, our satisfaction, closure, and even our peace is jeopardized. In being constantly reachable, mere taps or searches from instant but jarringly temporary fulfillment, when do we get to tune out? My existence is one of constant battle with lessening my dependence, yet meanwhile I am a creature of connectivity. Because of a little app that allows for connection in a sea of scary fishes, I have found a companion, and an excellent one he is. Because of technology this boy and I can foresee a future, one of highly anticipated cross-country flights but mostly 4 inch illuminated screens, his face talking in real-time back to mine. Because of technology our few weekends together can be decorated by the brilliant promise of inspiring campsites, curated and collected by Hipcamp’s efforts. It is in these instances of juxtaposition that I pay tribute to the milestones bridged with technology, but cherish my power to say do not disturb. I struggle with the intersection of tech and our raw, daily experience, with simultaneous gratitude as it upholds the real, gritty emotions I feel.


Living in San Francisco’s Bay Area this summer, I became privy to the knowledge of this platform known as Hipcamp, with its mission being to elevate appreciation and access to dream camping spots, offered easily on their website. Have you ever wanted to spend a weekend in a camper van? Did you have a plan to wake up to sunrise on a cliff overlooking the ocean, but didn’t know where to look? With Hipcamp, these Disney fantasies take shape in embracing the accessibility to the secret spots of the adventurous, the creative, and the genius. I slept this weekend two stories off the ground, suspended amidst the leaves and peeling bark, nestled in the green pastures of Petaluma, California. A month ago, I spent a weekend in a secluded cabin, the steam of hot springs engaging in a macabre dance on the horizon. In a few weeks, 5 friends and I will hop from tent to tent, basking in the beauty of Utah’s grandeur. This is all possible due to the way in which Hipcamp consolidates and offers the most stunning, niche nooks on the planet Earth, our beloved home ( psst this is available in Michigan as well!).

The drive to Petaluma, California tickled all the curiosities of the landscape lover’s delight, contributing rolling pastures, bluebird skies, locally sustained villages, and a ratio of more cows than humans. Once we arrived to our quaint and secluded spot, we were greeted by the owner and brains behind the multiple treehouses and alcoves that filled the property. We then were given a grand tour, and to my delight, learned that little frogs frequented the showers, and that the Grateful Dead and their cohorts frequented the land. Peeping our heads into an old barn where Jerry and the gang used to play shows, the residual glitter and psychedelic zeal permeated the history of this space. Our setting was set. 



Once settled in our elevated, art covered and toilet-including home, Cameron and I set forth toward downtown Petaluma, where a multitude of farm-fresh restaurants were lit by strands of lights and glowing, warm faces. We were welcomed into a promising spot, Wild Goat Bistro, and proceeded to share one of the better meals I’ve had in my burgeoning pseudo-foody career. Amidst a seafood stew and their V Gone Wild Pizza, we embraced the extraordinarily rare feeling of what it is to be fully present, a space where neither Father Time nor everyday distance could interfere. 

We then picked up a bottle of cheap red vino and nestled ourselves together on the couch in our treehouse, cuddled under wool blankets that had hugged other souls like ours prior. There was a stack of guest books, all of which included tender, colorful depictions of each individual’s previous stay, and stealing to corners of our temporary home, we wrote eachother poems to leave within the guest books as our mark. 

The wind whistled itself in and out of the surrounding foliage, dancing in the spirit of crisp Northern California air, never invading the cocoon drawn from blankets and companionship. There was a slight sway in our tree, not enough to cause suspicion but enough to remind us of our unique, breathing, remote home. With the gathering of data in a digitalized world, we had come to this moment, sponsored from but completely disconnected from tech, yet feeling fully connected. The morning was brought about by a symphony of chirping and mooing, entangled beside this treasured human in the most mystical of spots.




Slipping into the provided sandals by the treehouse door, Cameron and I sauntered on down to breakfast, droplets of glimmering moisture on jade grass. We were welcomed by Bill and Michelle and the most exquisite of homemade breakfasts. An artist, Michelle had covered their home with her impressive compositions, charming illustrations and little gnome homes, providing an engaging backdrop for morning conversation. It turns out that Bill had himself graduated from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and we couldn’t wait to discuss our memories and impressions. Filling bellies with sunny-side up and medium roast, we parted with our gracious hosts and took off from the content wooden sanctuary in Petaluma. A quick drive to Point Reyes National Seashore, Cameron and I concluded our weekend getaway with a guac-heavy picnic, a salted wind chill to accompany the beaming rays of sun on this day in late January. 

There is an irreplicable quality in uninhibited togetherness, a simple fact that in the midst of a long distance relationship, friendship, familyship, those moments in which you share both time and space feel more like a celebration than any phone call. Like a child, I revert to daydreams of the enchanted, the magical, being swayed in the arms of a kind human as we sway under the current of wind through leaves. Although unlike the flannel walls of my childhood fort, these delights of the imagination aren’t constrained by barriers,  turning into an experience of the remarkably real. 





Ella's Top Picks for Valentine's Day



A travel mat is essential for any yogi that wants to maintain
 their practice, even while traveling.
This bad boy can keep a whole bottle of wine chill for 24 hours.
Perfect for at home or any Valentine’s Day adventure.
The best thing about flannels is that they look great on anymore.
They make a great gift and you just may want to borrow it from time to time.
A bouquet of roses eventually wilts,a box of chocolates will get devoured,
but a quality pair of socks will last you a lifetime.
No adventurer’s wardrobe is complete without a pair of these
strappy sandals. They are a Bivouac employee favorite.





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