Our style is spontaneous, free, and flexible. We prefer to skip itineraries and leave our adventures wide open for exploration. Sure, this means sometimes we are in an unfamiliar city at midnight looking for a hotel, and on the occasional mountain hike, we have had to slice an heirloom tomato with the jagged edge of a car key. It isn’t exactly glamorous or Pinterest-worthy, but it is very us.
As summer comes to a close, and fall is entering the air, we are clinging to every last bit of sunlight, warm nights, and mountain picnics. In the winter, we will continue our mountain adventures with snowshoes, snowfall, and hot cocoa. Always, we will embrace not having a schedule or a specific destination.
Last week while we were enjoying an unplanned picnic, we were at a scenic overlook on top of a mountain at sunset, with a birthday cake, candles, and a broken lighter. The moment was beautiful, whimsical, and perfect in every way, and the broken lighter situation worked out beautifully, because two lovely ladies not only lent us a match, but also lit our candles and joined in the singing and celebration.
Still, we thought it would be useful to put together a picnic kit of sorts, to keep in the car, plus a list of essentials and tips, so that when the mood strikes for a picnic or a mountain-top celebration, we will be adequately prepared. It is not lost on us, the irony of planning for the spontaneous picnic.
Nonetheless, without further ado, here is what we are including in our…
Tips and Essentials for the Modern and Delightful Spontaneous Picnic
- Laughter. Whatever happens, remember that picnics are about leaving it all behind and finding joy in the moment. No picnic blanket, utensils, or plates? On picnics in the wilderness, we have used road maps as plates, cardboard as utensils, envelopes as cutting boards, and tree stumps as picnic tables. (Squirrels love us.) As in life, embrace the present moment and the present circumstances. Trade extensive planning for the whimsy and peace that comes from knowing that wherever you go, you’ve brought along a sense of humor.
- Go somewhere without wi-fi. Leave it all behind. Be here now. Slow your rhythm. Whether it’s an hour or a day or longer, take the time to reconnect to what matters.
- Enjoy the scenery. Explore dirt roads. Chase sunsets. Gaze upon the stars. Stay a little longer than you had planned. Plan a little less. Surprises linger when spontaneity unfolds.
- Keep the following picnic essentials on hand in a cloth bag at all times: re-useable plates and utensils; small cutting board; knife; lighter or matches; birthday candles and sprinkles (hey, you never know!); picnic blanket; shakers of sea salt and cracked black pepper; napkins; and two bags to pack it all out. We’ve found these to be the most essential to a picnic from which squirrels reap the least amount of crumbs, and therefore, squrrels are least likely to fully enjoy. (Trade-offs.)
- Pack it in. Pack it out. Leave nature pristine and beautiful.
- If things should go awry, say, your lunch falls to the ground or hail should start to fall, remember the most important rule of picnics, and for that matter, life: the joyfulness of adventure will live on in memory far longer than the sacrifice of troubles.
- Remember to bring plenty of water. Raspberry lemonade or kombucha are also lovely.
- A 15-minute trip to the grocery store includes everything you need for a no-fuss, last-minute picnic. (While you’re there, grab some utensils and napkins if needed.) Wraps or a loaf of bread, plus a jar of (we would be remiss not to mention) Let Thy Food™ Chile con Queso, and a salad bar assortment of sandwich fillings (greens, tomato, onion, olives, etc.), plus fresh berries, is majestic cause for celebration even without the forest. (In fact, we’ve had many a delightful picnic on the side of a highway or in the car in the middle of a parking lot.) Add in some crackers, and vegetables to dip, and things are looking downright magical.
- When you have the time and desire to plan ahead, foods that pack beautifully include pasta salad, potato salad, hemp heart tabouleh, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, pita bread and Spinach Artichoke Dip, pizza, guacamole, hummus, crackers, chips, skewers, olives and plant-based cheese, brownies, lemon bars, and cookies.
- Above all else, remember that picnics are as much about the experience of doing something out of the ordinary, as they are about savoring the moment. Whether your picnic is on the living room floor or at the top of a mountain, as we always say, “Live your life in such a way, that if someone ever spoke badly of your picnic, no one would believe it.”