Out of town for three weeks: A request for our readers

I'm about to head out of town for three weeks. You may have noticed posting getting lighter the last couple weeks as I attempted to tie up loose ends before the trip. Posting will be getting even lighter for the next three weeks as I head west to visit family. Then, a week from now, Nora and I will be heading out into the true wilderness, miles out of range of any cell phone tower, and certainly out of reach of the internet.

Here's a description of part of our route:

One of Washington's granddaddy trails, Boundary Trail runs across the entirety of America's largest wilderness, the Pasayten. The route follows the Canadian border, hence the name. It is an extremely high route, much of it occurring at 6,000 feet or more. The area is completely wild and one of the few places in the lower 48 where grizzly bears and gray wolves still roam. The route needn't be hiked end to end; there are many great trips accessing just a part of the trail. At least eight major trails provide access for small loops.

The Boundary Trail begins at Castle Pass on Pacific Crest Trail. Start at Hart's Pass and hike north 18 miles to Castle Pass and "Ol' 533," the trail's number. From here it heads east 73 miles to Iron Gate Trailhead, in the middle of nowhere. Along the way it climbs dozens of high passes and ridges, crosses the Pasayten River, and basks in endless views of mountains. The summer is a prime time to visit, when wildflowers are in bloom, as is the fall, when larches do their thing. Established camps are littered along the route, and off-trail camping is OK as long as it's low-impact. Also, if you hike this route without the maps, you likely won't come back. Good luck.

Yes. We will have maps. Anyway, here's my request: We'll be on the trail for 12 days, and after that long, you tend to run out of conversation. Can you suggest games that can be played while hiking on a mountain trail and are appropriate for a 15-year-old girl and her dad? I'll list some of the games I've found online below.

1. Here's one I like and which is quite subtle and can keep you entertained for a while. It's called "tipoter" in French, where "tipoter" stands for a verb - any verb (here in the infinitive mode). I suppose one could make up another word for an English version, e.g. '"to gubble" or sth like that. One person has to think of a verb and then the other has to ask yes and no questions about the verb "to gubble" until they can guess what the actual verb is.

E.g. my "gubble" verb is "to milk" (a cow or other animal). My partner then asks me all sorts of questions:
"Do you gubble? - I answer "no" (I don't have animals to milk!)
"Do I gubble? - No
"Is gubbling part of a trade? - Yes, can be
"Do you need tools to gubble? - No (well, not utensils at least)
"Is gubbling done outside? - Either way
"Does one need something to gubble? - Yes
"Does one gubble something? - Yes
"Does one gubble an object? - No, not an object
"Does one gubble an animal? - Yes
" Is it 'to tame'? - No
"Does one gubble a cat? - No

Etc. Get the idea? The person guessing has to try to narrow down as much as possible then guess the exact word.

You can set time limits, decide you will only use action verbs, set a limit on the number of guesses, etc. All up to you!

2. This a "describe a person" game. Pick a person from your friends, relatives, or famous Hollywood stars, and describe that person to the other people in the car. The first person to guess correctly whom you are trying to describe gets to go next. Of course you could make the game even harder by not using any words when you describe the person, but rather just actions. That way your car will be transformed into a carload of joyful people!

3. One person says a word, the next person has to say a word that has nothing to do with the word that was just said; you can't repeat words. If you have to say more than three words to relate them, they are non-related.

4. One person mimics a sound and everyone else has to guess where the sound is made. For example, if a player made the noise of a swing squeaking back and forward, the answer would be "at the park".

Or a player might make the sound of a washing machine spinning the clothes dry - and the answer would be "in the laundry".

This game can degenerate into toilet humour, which is probably why kids think that it`s such FUN.

5. This is a far more difficult game to play perfectly than it seems - more dangerous too as offence can be taken, although it is not meant. One player thinks of a famous person or person known to all participants (this is obviously more fun). The other players then try to guess the identity by asking him to describe the person in terms of analogies. For example, "what kind of building is he/she?", the answer could be anything from a town hall to a thirties semi-detached to a castle in Spain. Analogies categories can be: modes of transport, animals, food drink, smells, weather, machines, etc..

Do not fall the trap of confusing what the person 'likes' with what the person is like, ie a person likes champagne, but they might be more like fizzy lemonade (at least, you think they are) and this is where the offence-not-meant-but-easily-taken can occur.

Of course we know "20 questions" and its variants as well. Any other suggestions?

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A game we often play on road trips:

1) Pick a theme, e.g. cities or fruit.
2) One person names an example starting with the letter A (Atlanta or apple).
3) The next person repeats it and adds B (Atlanta, Boston).
4) Go around and around until someone forgets or misspeaks an item or else everyone involved says the entire 26 item string from A to Z.

memory games can be fun. I'm thinking some variant on the "My name is Betty. I'm going on a camping trip and bringing bananas". Only with three people you could work your way through the alphabet (multiple times with no repeats, if you liked). Dave is bringing apples, Greta's bringing beans, DD is bringing carrots, Dave is bringing drysacks...
There's also Ghost and its variants. If you're the naturalist type, you can see who spots the most species each day (birds, trees, flowers, herps...) or try to beat your previous collective score as a family. A bit late for this trip, but I'm fond of reciting long poems to myself on the particularly steep uphill climbs. Custard the Dragon is a particular favorite, as it's hard to stay cranky while reciting nonsense poems. And of course there's always the successive story, where each person adds a sentence. Don't be afraid of silence, either... unless you're in bear country. Singing is good, too - teach each other some of your favorite songs.

By fizzchick (not verified) on 25 Jul 2008 #permalink

Our family likes what we call the "animal game". The first person says the name of any animal. The next person names an animal with initial letter the same as the final animal of the previous one. When you get stuck, that person loses the game. No repeating a previous animals. If you use a big category ("rattlesnake"), you can't use a smaller member later ("eastern diamondback rattlesnake"), so it pays to know detail but you don't have to.

Of course, it works with things other than animals too, but we find that animals are varied enough and people can name enough of them to keep the game fun and interesting. It does help if you have a decade of experience coming up with lots of E's and know how to get out of an X.

Typo: "same as the final animal" should be "same as the final letter", of course.

One game I recently played on a driving trip was this:

-One person names an actor
-The next person names a movie that actor was in.
-The next person names another actor in that same movie.
-etc. etc.
-The first person to get stumped, or name something inaccurate gets a point (obviously points are bad). Play to whatever value you want (we scored like you score Horse, only we spelled "Movie").
-Once someone gets stumped you start over... of course you can start w/ a movie instead of a actor.

It was fun... although the guy my wife and I played with was much more of a movie "buff" than either of us and killed us.

We do a game called "Chain Link". It is a memory game-and the person has to take the last word/syllable from the previous persons word and use it as the beginning of their own, and say the whole chain before adding theirs. SO:
Dad: Camping gear
Daughter: Camping gear ache
Dad: Camping gear ache-y breaky heart
daughter: Camping gear ache-y breaky heart attack

and so on...rules are loose as to what is said-just be able to add it on. This game can last a while and it is surprising to see how long you are able to remember the whole chain after the fact.

My two favorite travel games are both word association based.

Man Man
Player A is in control and says a word. All other players immediately free associate - no hesitation! The player with the most sensible in-line association gets control and says the next word. The only outright forbidden association is the word "man" as it converts any word into a not unreasonable superhero. It is surprising what you will associate, and frequently it is hilarious nonsense (e.g. cripple hawk, seatbelt detector). Example:
A (control): Boat
B, C, & D simultaneously respond:
B: Trampoline
C: Catamaran
D: Terminal
D wins. B is delightful but not especially sensible, so is disqualified. C makes sense as an association but in-line is awkward at best. D is a good association and works in-line. If D had been silent, A would retain control and throw out a new word.

Player 1 says a word (truck). Player 2 silently free associates off that word (truck > stop) but says nothing. Player 2 then free associates again (stop >> go) and says that word (go) out loud. Player 1 and any other players try to guess the initial association (stop). My favorite parts of this game are discovering how each others normal associative paths flow and also finding viable alternatives ("truck > stop >> go" may be the right answer, but "truck > car >> go" would be perfectly understandable as well). The trick is to make sure to do clean associations. You don't want the C association to be based on A and B ("truck > stop" leading to "diner" based on "truck stop" rather than "stop"), just B alone. Once you get good at this, it is very much possible to add additional steps so that Player 2 says a D association and you guess B *and* C.

I also know a game called "Ghost" but it doesn't seem anything like the one mentioned above. Anyway, each person takes turns giving a letter of the alphabet toward spelling a word. For example,
Player 1: a
Player 2: c
Player 1: if this player said "e" he/she would lose because a complete word has been spelled. a letter such as "z" is not allowed because there aren't any words in the the English language that start with "acz". So let's say this player says "i"
Player 2: this player would lose by saying "d" so he/she must think of a different word that begins with "aci" but is longer than four letters etc.

Everytime you lose by spelling a word or giving up, you "get a letter" in the word GHOST (kinda like HORSE).

By Jessica White (not verified) on 25 Jul 2008 #permalink

There are some fun improv games you could play - an entire conversation where each sentence begins with the next subsequent letter of the alphabet, for example. Another fun one is "Rock, paper, whatever." Basically you think of abstract/strange things and the winner is whatever is cooler or more creative (Apathy vs. 80s Rock!).

For a simpler variation of a word association game, I just like to associate in a circle until someone makes an association you don't understand. Usually there's a fun/weird story behind it and you end up discussing things you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

Similar to the above-mentioned "Chain Link," my friends and I have for years played a great game we call "Caboose:"

Players create long "trains" of words, trying to neither repeat words nor end the train. Players create trains by speaking words in turn whose first letters are the same as the last letter of the prior word. For example: "slate" could be followed by "egret", "eyot", "evince" or any word beginning in "e." Since trains (archetypically) end with a caboose, if a player speaks a word ending with the letter "c," e.g. "archaic", the next player speaks the word "caboose," which ends the current train. In this case, the player who ended a word with "c" is punished, not the one who spoke "caboose."

To be extremely explicit, a very short example of a train follows.

    engine - estuary - yeoman - nether - row - wander - rich - helic (oops) - caboose

Full write-up here: http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=caboose

For a game involving no conversation (although conversation can occur while playing), try Frisbee Golf. You'll probably need two frisbees (although one can work) and paper and pencil to keep score.

Just like golf, each player aims for a chosen target in the distance (you can randomly choose something on the trail--tree, rock, etc). You can simulate a golf game by deciding the game ends after the 18th (randomly chosen) target, and, keeping score of the number of times each person takes to hit the target. Person with the lowest total wins at 18.

If you want to get real technical, you can decide on how many shots it will take before you hit the target, calculating over and under par scores as you go.

By Tony Jeremiah (not verified) on 26 Jul 2008 #permalink

Choose a beginning word and and ending word: they just have to have the same number of letters. (Four is best.) The challenge is to get from the first word to the last word as efficiently as possible. You can change one letter at a time. And each time you change, you must spell a word. An easy example: DOG to CAT. dog - cog - cot - cat.

By jeff fischer (not verified) on 26 Jul 2008 #permalink

A great, simple, challenging game for two players is called "Don't Spell It." The players take turns adding letters to a word. You lose if you end the word, but you always have to be in the process of spelling a real word. So it might go like this: PLAYER 1: "T." PLAYER 2: "A." (Then if Player 1 adds an N, she loses, even if she is thinking of spelling "TANK," because she has just spelled a word. But she could add an L and be spelling "TALK.") If you suspect the other person is not really spelling a word, you can challenge them, and if they can name a word with those letters they win, but if they can't they lose.

By Stephanie (not verified) on 28 Jul 2008 #permalink

Another really fun word game is Inky Pinky. You think of two words that rhyme, like "wild child." You tell the other person how many syllables the two words have by saying "ink pink" (in this case; you can go from ink pink to inky pinky to inkity pinkity to inkadiddy pinkadiddy and so on) plus a synonymous rewording, like "unmanageable youngster." It's fun to make your rewordings more poetic than this, though. So someone thinking of "plaster pastor" could say "inky pinky: clergyman cast" or something like that, and the other person would have to guess "plaster pastor." It is very satisfying and amusing to guess the answer.

By Stephanie (not verified) on 28 Jul 2008 #permalink

It might also be a good idea to bring a sketchbook and pencils, for the downtime.

"Two Hundred Questions" -- a fiendish variation on "twenty questions", only here the item to be guessed is incredibly detailed and specific, e.g.: "The reflection of the waxing 3/4 moon in he left eye of a raven perched on the seventh lowermost branch of an oak tree on the southwest slope of a hillside in Vermont on a Tuesday." It's actually easier than you'd think, usually taking only about 50-75. It gets quite philosophical as the players quickly learn to hone their ontological skills with questions like, "Is it tangible as opposed to abstract?", "Is it unique?", "Is its location/time important?", "Can it be perceived?", "Is it impossible?", &c.

here's a fun game that can last a while.

try to think of 3 girls names with 3 letters.
then 3 boys names with 3 letters.

then 4 girls names with 4 letters
than 4 boys names with 4 letters

than 5 girls names with 5 letters
than 5 boys names with 5 letters

when you reach all of these solutions, rinse and repeat.

and here are some fun little "riddles" i recently made up:

name 3 colors that have 4 letters?

name 3 colors that have 6 letters?

name an animal whose name has 5 syllables?