Pike Place: Seattle Market Series, Part One



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Pike Place Market is one of the more famous landmarks in Seattle.  The iconic “Public Market Place” sign and clock mark the entrance off of Pike Street, it’s namesake.  A popular tourist destination, the market is also one of the best places for locals to go and find that perfect filet of fish or ‘rare’ italian ingredient. (How truly rare are things in this globalized world?)

Pike Place Public Market is the first place I take any out-of-towners.  With beautiful views of Elliot Bay, handfuls of places to grab unique and delicious street food, and Victor Steinbruek Park to sit and take it all in…it easily wows.

The tour I give is the same market habit I personally have. It begins with traveling by bus to Westlake station with a purse full of reusable grocery bags, a reusable (always stay green in the Emerald city!) water bottle, and an appetite.  We walk down 4th Ave and make a right onto Pike Street.  From there it’s just three blocks to the iconic entrance I mentioned earlier, and foodie overload.

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The best way to see and enjoy the market? Walk walk walk! Walk towards the main entrance, but turn right before you cross the street.  Admire all of the fruit and vegetables laid out with such precision.  Take advantage of the vendors offering you a slice of the best Honey Crisp apples in the market; a slice of an “Oh-my-god” peach; a small cup of Market Creamery yogurt; a smidge of Beecher’s Handmade cheese; and a sample of coffee.  Buy and slurp a raw oyster shooter.

Then plan your picnic.  I insist on buying a few pieces of seasonable local fruit.  Get a small hunk of your favorite cheese from Beecher’s (mine are the flagship or fresh curds) or maybe go all in and get a cup of their “World’s Best” Mac n’ Cheese.  Pick out some vegetables if you like them raw.  Buy a savory piroshky from Piroshky Piroshky (my favorite is the smoked salmon pate).  Walk along Pike Place towards Pine Street until you get to Victor Steinbrueck Park.  Grab a bench or sit in the grass, and enjoy your feast while overlooking the beautiful piers jutting out into the sound.  On a sunny day you can see Bainbridge Island across the way and the Olympic Mountains to the North.

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Is it raining?  You should still do the picnic. But if you’re one of those rare people actually made of sugar, you could avoid melting by eating as you peruse the stalls. Grab a piroshky and eat it along the way.  Then a piece of fruit.  Perhaps have a drink at Lowell’s at a window booth in the bar – it’s the best view of the sound from indoors. Don’t worry about overeating, there’s a lot of walking to be done. Follow the whimsical signs to the infamous gum wall (second germiest place in the world, according to Trip Advisor), grab a beer at the Alibi Room to maybe kill some of those germs.

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Then take the stairs down down down to the waterfront and walk up and down the piers. Check out the Seattle Great Wheel, and maybe take a ride. I’ll admit I’ve been in the wheel and not the needle, but it was pretty great, especially on a clear day.

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Views from the Great Wheel

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Head back up the stairs and walk through the market one more time. Pick up any treats that are MUST HAVES and groceries for a special dinner later. Don’t resist buying an amazing $5 bouquet from the flower section. They’re incredible.

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Finally, walk down cobblestoned Pike Place and make a right up Pine Street. Stop in at Cupcake Royale and ask for a cone with two scoops:  Stumptown Coffee & Burnt Caramel Sea Salt. If they have some, get a bacon crack sample. Don’t like coffee or caramel? Not to worry (or maybe worry a little because you straight loco) honey sinckerdoodle, fresh strawberry, all the flavors are delicious. Best ice cream in Seattle? Probably not, but it’s way better than any B&J’s, Haagen Dazs nonsense. It’s also the perfect ending to your afternoon (morning? evening?) at the market.

I’m on the very important mission of discovering the best ice cream. I have a long list, including goat milk gelato. This could get rough, so I expect your full support.

IMG_2800The dinner we made with our market finds (00 flour, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese = homemade east coast style ‘za!)

Ciao ciao,

JT

 

Our 5am Hike on the AT


Our thoughts were optimistic for this section of the Appalachian trail.  When I mentioned the hike, many people responded with, “Oh, that is the most beautiful part.  Really, you’ll absolutely love it.  I’m very jealous.”

The last experience left us a little broken:  we overpacked, and underestimated the distances.  We got lost during the very last mile, in a cornfield of all places.  We brought faulty equipment.  But it seems none of that was enough to keep us away.  Itching for more abuse, we packed our bags last minute and took off for a better, more organized hike.  Or so we thought.

A little after 9am Chuck dropped us off at the trailhead in Culver’s Gap, with some on point advice, “If it stops being fun, then you should stop.”  We heard him, agreed, and then tromped merrily along.

The hike started fantastic.  It was cool and a little damp, but none of this affected us as we hiked up up up, climbing to the top of a ridge which we would then follow up and down for around ten miles.  The paths were fairly rocky, our least favorite aspect of hiking in PA, but it didn’t matter as we were making great time and enjoying the endorphins.  Plus, how many people get to take a long weekend to hike!  I felt pretty quickly that this time would be better than last – our packs were so light and my endurance had obviously increased since beginning crossfit.  Spirits were high.

Around 1pm we began a descent off of a ridge where we had eaten a quick lunch.  The trail was soft, leaf-covered, with only a few embedded rocks that were easily avoided.  Down, down, down we went.  Over a swamp and small stream where we refilled our water.  At some point, I began to question the softness and width of the trail.  It seemed too…..easy.  Something was off.  I started looking for white blazes.  Every few minutes I would think I saw one until I got close enough to realize it was just lichen.  Finally I voiced what I was desperately hoping wasn’t true.  We were lost.  We promptly turned around and began hiking back up up up, thinking we had seen a blaze near the stream we crossed over.  Or maybe it was the swamp right before it?  Surely we had seen one near that funky tree formation?  We certainly could not have walked two plus miles out of our way?

We did.  Downhill.  Which meant the hour it took us to chat ourselves lost, was almost doubled on our hike back.  Michael, who was much farther ahead of me on the ‘trail’ and understandable aggravated, raised his arms and shouted a few obscenities.  He eventually disappeared around a curve.  While I was approaching the curve, I heard a man’s voice, much too deep and scratchy to be Michael.  Still, I asked tentatively, “Michael?”  No answer.  I stood quiet.  Again, a man’s voice, this time sounding like it was right behind me.  “Michael?!” I asked, my voice wavering with obvious fear.  Why was this person hiding?  “Michael???” I asked a final time, sounding so incredibly fearful and pathetic, that finally someone decided to put me out of my misery.  “Err, I think he’s a little ahead of you on the trail,” the same male voice said, which directed my vision through the brush.  I finally could make the outlines of a group of four men, who were sitting on a rock sipping from their canteens.  Embarrassed for acting like such a ninny, I quickly thanked them and continued on.  It was not until I was several paces away that I had realized they must have been on the AT trail, just slightly parallel but completely hidden from the trail we were on.  We had finally found it.  Then it started raining.

The soft rain didn’t bother us, but the cloud cover shrouded the ‘beautiful views’ we were promised.  We hiked on, through a forest still dead from the brutal winter.  We were slower and defeated by our mistake – we needed to keep hiking until late evening, if we hoped to make any sort of distance for our first day.  By 5:30 we were exhausted and ready to find a site and eat dinner.  Tent pitched, we ate pad thai while sitting on a rock fifty feet from our camp.  It was too chilly to sit for long and really enjoy a hot meal.

As I was hanging our food and food-tinged clothes from a tree, darkness began to set in, and with that darkness, fog.  A deep gray mist settled on the earth, basking everything in a creepy glow.  Our lack of movement began to make it clear that it was quite cold out.  And very damp.  We layered on the few clothes we had available and got into the sleeping bags, preparing for an early nights rest.  Within ten minutes it was apparent that the cold wet ground was seeping through the tent, and also right through our sleeping bags.  Michael pulled out the emergency heating blanket Cynthia gave me for Christmas, and laid it on the floor of the tent, under our sleeping bags.  Sweet warmth reflected back at us.  From the darkness of our sleeping bags we used my phone’s google map app, and routed ourselves to Delaware Water gap, knowing we could not handle another night of cold.  Especially since thunderstorms and heavy rain were predicted for the next evening.  We had to make it to town the next day.  Our little tent was no match for thunderstorms.  When the map determined it was 18 miles to town, I knew we were fine.  Last time around we hiked 18 miles our second day even with incredibly heavy packs and little experience backpacking.  It would take some effort, but we could definitely do it.

We spent the night huddling together in our small two person tent.  Or more realistically, I spent the night cuddling Michael as he snored softly.  His body heat was enough to help quell my shaking, but not enough to allow for peaceful sleep.  The heating blanket became covered in dew, making it ineffective at keeping me warm.  Plus our water proof pack covers were outside covering our boots, and every time the wind shuffled them, I pictured a bear sniffing out the pad thai.  Eventually I decided that if I were a bear, there would be no way I would be that far from town, where the apple pie shop and huge glorious dumpsters lived.  Fact about bears, they LOVE apple pie.

Michael woke us around 4am – I felt like I had bear-ly slept a wink.  I was resistant to leaving my sleeping bag, especially since it was pitch black out still.  Lucky me, Michael gathered the bear bag and our shoes so I could stay in the tent and pack up the sleeping bags.  We hit the trail not long after waking, our headlights tilted downwards so we could plan each step carefully.  The rocks were back in full force and had the added benefit of being slick with dew.  Once we were moving I warmed up.  We poured some instant coffee into a canteen and hoped that plus what water I had left would get us a good distance.

Late morning, we ran into Matt, a fellow we met at the apple pie shop the morning before.  He briefly complained about Mohegan Sun campground ($40 for a bunk filled with rat feces, $9 for a picnic table), and told us what to expect along the next section of the trail.  When we told him we were headed for town that day, he indicated it would be an easy hike.  I was relieved.  I knew we could hike 18 miles, but having someone who just walked it confirm it, really soothed me.

We continued on, passing Mohegan Sun camp around lunch time, reaching Sunfish pond not long after.  Everyone had raved about this particular feature, and maybe if I had the time (or desire) to swim I would have found it extra-beautiful, but otherwise it was just a pond with a squishy bottom.  Surrounded by rocks.  Which we had to climb over.  Ugh.  Not enjoyable.  We were so tired of the rocks, I had to pull out an emergency pack of honey-lemon cough drops to cheer us up.  At this point, we decided that we were, in fact, no longer having fun.  Thank you, Chuck.  I fear what would have happened had you not left us with that tidbit of advice.  At Del. Water Gap we would call it quits.  Eighteen miles in one day was adventurous enough, we had no need to hike the last 9 miles to our car the next morning, especially since it was still supposed to be cloudy and drizzly.

A few miles from town, we hit a lush down hill path that followed along a beautiful stream – Turtle Beach.  Hey, Turtle Beach, you were way more lovely than Sunfish pond.  Stream>Pond.  Why did no one tell me how beautiful Turtle beach would be?  Why did anyone bother with Sunfish pond?  Yeesh.  Here it is everyone:  Turtle Beach is WAY prettier, cooler (temp), interesting, etc.

Our last mile, which seemed to last forever, involved crossing a huge I-80 bridge from Jersey to Pennsy.  The ambiance of Turtle Beach quickly dissipated as we dodged gravel flicked up by the semi’s passing us at 65 mph.  Pedestrian section or not, I felt far too close to those eighteen wheelers.  Thankfully, humanity prevailed in this situation:  not one person honked their horn at us.

We finally ‘took an exit’ into Delaware Water Gap, and promptly found the ice cream shop.  I ate a bowl of chocolate ice cream with marshmallow sauce the size of my head.  You may not know this, but my head is quite large.  Does chocolate ice cream make me feel better?  Emotionally, yes.  We slept like old men in the soft folds of a hotel bed that night.  Hey, if you walk 18 miles of the Pennsy. AT then you feel you’ve earned the right to sleep in a comfy bed too.

That’s it.  That’s our story.  Hopefully one day we’ll have the chance for a redo, when weather is more permitting.

Obligatory couple photo.
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Obligatory awkward face selfie.
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We climbed down a crazy rock face.  Best part of the hike.
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So dead for April.  Trees were bare, no green but moss.  Still pretty, just vacant.
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Michael got to wear a cool bandana – his father wore it while climbing the White Mountains in NH.DSC01960

Meals to Cure Nostalgia & Postpone Wanderlust


As I am sure is the case with many other travelers out there, I frequently find myself nostalgic for a country, city, or day from past travels.  Running at dusk along rows of nebbiolo grapes on Via Strada Bozzola in Quargnento with a little scruffy dog pushing me along.  Walking switchback roads in Canale, eating fresh figs and persimmons right off the neighbors trees, again with a dog, but this one MUCH larger.  Hiking Valle d’Aosta.  Axe-picking the earth in Ponce with Angelo – forming terraced beds in the dry season heat.  Exploring the cliff walk along the Old Nice Harbor.  Wandering the cafe shops of Berlin in search of the perfect cold cure.

I have been to so many places in the last few years, and I truly miss so many of them that sometimes it hurts a little bit to know that I may never make it back to these places or see the people I lived with.  After all, there are so many things I want to see in this world.  So to take the edge off, I’ve come up with a few meals that I had in many of these places.  Some are as simple as four ingredients.  I usually only cook for two, so that’s what these serving sizes will be.

Strada Bozzola – WWOOFing in Quargnento, Italy

Cure:  Pasta & Pesto with Broccoli

Classic lunch meal after a hard morning’s work.

4 oz. rotini dried pasta

1 1/2 c. chopped broccoli florets

4 tbsp. pesto

Salt

Pepper

Cook pasta until al dente, in salted water.  During the last minute, drop broccoli florets into the boiling water.  Strain pasta and broccoli, reserving a tbsp. of the starchy water.  Mix this tbsp. with pesto and spoon on top of pasta.  Mix with a fork until pesto has coated pasta, and season to taste.  Serve.

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My scruffy little host doggy

Canale, Italy – Walking the hills with Arsenico

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Arsenico, overlooking the Roero

Cure:  Spicy Garlic Spaghetti

4 oz. dry spaghetti

1/4 c. olive oil

5 garlic cloves

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

Parmagiano reggianno or similar table cheese

Cook spaghetti to al dente in salted water.  While the spaghetti is cooking, mash garlic with the bottom of a jar or glass.  Heat garlic, olive oil, and minced chili (peperoncino) in a non-stick skillet, over low heat.  Olive oil and garlic can burn quickly so keep an eye on it.  In only a few minutes, you’ll start to see that the olive oil carries a red tint, from the peperoncino.  It’s ready!  When the spaghetti is done, drain it and toss it with the olive oil, in the skillet.  Grate parmagiano overtop and serve.  You’re going to want bread with this one, to soak up whatever spicy olive oil there is left on your plate.

Gardening and Living on the Finca – Ponce

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Plantains & Yam stew after a hard day’s work

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Cure:  Plantain and Yam Stew

2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced into medium chunks

3 green or deep yellow plantains, rinsed and sliced into 3/4 ince pieces, peeled

1 small onion, chopped

1/4 c. adobo seasoning

1 c. vegetable or chicken broth

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 avocado, sliced

In a medium sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil, just enough to cover the yams and plantains.  When water is at a rolling boil add yams and plantains.  Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes minutes at a simmer until tender (can be pierced easily with a fork).  Drain most of the water, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add onions, adobo seasoning, and broth.  Bring to a simmer and cook until onions are desired softness. Spoon into bowls, mash with a fork, and top with olive oil and sliced avocado.

Angelo dug up all of the yams from the Finca, traded a friend for an avocado, and foraged plantains from the forest to feed us this meal.  It was so filling – a good thing as it had to feed three grown men, including Michael who is a notorious nommer.


Cliff Walk, Nice

Cure:  Socca

I’m going to be a cheat and just link you to a Socca recipe.  It’s simple enough, one part water to one part garbanzo flour, with a titch of olive oil.  I follow the recipe, but I start it on the stove top in an iron skillet, and then finish it under the broiler.  When I was in Nice, Socca paired with a beer was the perfect street food meal – cheap, salty, and filling.  Don’t get me wrong, I ate a lot of fancy food in Nice – but the moment I’m most nostalgic for is the one where I was sitting under gray skies, eating Socca so hot it burnt my fingers with cracked black pepper piled on top.  I had a whole afternoon to do with what I wanted, and no one to report back to.  Total fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants solo traveling moment indeed.

Definitely put black pepper on top, some salt, and parmigiano cheese.  Eat it with olives or some arugula or both.  I added tomato jam to mine too, but I’m a tomato fiend and work at a place that is willing to send me home with products to test.  Like jam, made of plump plum tomatoes.  LUCKY!
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So that’s it for now.  I have a few more meals to add to cure my nostalgia, so this can be part one in the series.  Part Deux will include:  Marrakesh, Berlin, Puerto Jimenez, and Mondaino.

Ciao Ciao,

JT

Sirena Station to Carate – Our 4am Hike Out of Corcovado


A warm breeze is floating through the trees.  It carries the buzzing tymbal of cicadas and deep gutteral hoots of howler monkeys.  “Shush shush” is the only sound we contribute to this orchestra, our boots sinking in the sand with each step, crushing palm and leaf decay.  This primitive forest is enrobed in blackness in the early morning:  the new moon provides little light and the stars are impossible to glimpse through the treetops.

The light from our headlamps bounces along the strangler trees, giving each drooping branch the appearance of boa constrictors, lying in wait.  William stops abruptly, turns around, whispers, “We are to move very quickly underneath this tree:  it is dangerous.”  “Okay,” I reply.  I do not voice my inner alarm which is screaming dangerous, why?  I move hastily underneath the tree, my heart beating in my throat, sure this is the moment that boa constrictor is waiting for.

I clear the tree.  “What did he say?”  Michael asks, after clearing the tree himself.  “He said we need to move fast underneath that tree, it’s dangerous.” I tell him.  William, listening to our exchange, laughs, “Little help to tell him now!  He’s already passed it.  But that tree could have fallen on him.”  We each break into giggles – I’m not quite sure what Michael or William are giggling about, but I know my giggles are of the hysterical variety.  Not a lurking boa constrictor!  Just an unstable tree!  Who would have thought!

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We are ‘shush shush’ing along, moving quickly down the trail when William stops again.  “Turn off your lights,” he tells us.  I click through the different settings on my headlamp until it finally clicks off – it is very dark now.  “Listen to the forest at night.”

We stand, silent, straining.  I am actively listening.  I am searching for the hiss of the snake, the careful footsteps of the puma.  I only hear the cicadas, the howlers, the soft rumble of low tide.  I see nothing.  I am sure there are darker places in the world, but at this moment, I cannot envisage them.  This is the darkest I have ever experienced.  I am not sure how much time has passed since I have seen the light.  William clicks his flashlight on, thirty feet from where I saw him last, “Let’s go.”

Shush shush, shush shush, it seems like we are not making much noise, but to any living creature within a square mile, I am sure we sound like a horde of tapirs.  All at once, our lights stop dancing along the trees and illuminate a sandy beach, instead.  The lagoon.  The same place where we saw a crocodile two days earlier.  I flip through the wildlife files in my brain, stopping on crocodile:  sharp teeth, big, fast, scaly, carnivorous, definitely nocturnal.  William flashes his light over the lagoon.  He points with his laser, “Crocodile eyes – see?”

Michael and I reply, real casual, “Oh.  Yeah.”  We start to walk along the water.  My inner alarm sounds again, louder this time:   Are we really walking toward it?  Why are we walking toward it!  Where did it go?  WHERE DID IT GO!  I’m turning my head every which way, flashing my light erratically along the beach and shoreline, convinced every piece of driftwood, and there are many, is a croc thirsting for my blood.  Out of nowhere, a swarm of gnats surround us, similarly thirsty.  They are everywhere.  My light flashes on my arms, it has become the gruesome site of a gnat massacre.  I’m breathing them; at least three have died in my nostrils.  “Turn off your light!”  Michael advises.  Crocs forgotten, I switch my light off.

And then absolutely nothing matters.  Not bloodthirsty crocs, not gnats, not even boa constrictors, because we are out from under the tree cover and the sky is absolutely drunk with stars.  All I can think is how I finally understand….”The sky is everywhere, it begins at your feet,” and how my feet must be wearing space shoes.  I am astonished.  I am flying.  These incandescent bodies are twinkling wildly, like they are communicating with whomever is willing to witness it.    I imagine what they are saying.  I try to come up with something totally transcendent, but the only thing that comes mind is, “Stop worrying about snakes and crocodiles!”  I wonder if they say something different to everyone.  I wonder what they are saying to Michael.  I am very small, and acknowledging this makes me feel very big.

I wish I could remove my pack and lie down in the sand and submit to these celestial beings.  We could hold hands and listen to what the stars have to say until dawn arrives.  When will we have this chance again?

Instead, we remove our boots and socks, roll up our pant legs, and ford the river where lagoon quickly becomes the sea.  Without removing my pack, I balance on one leg while I dry my foot on my pant leg.  I pull my sock on, followed by my boot, and repeat the process with my other foot.  We shush shush on.

This part of the trail is all squishy sand.  I start to hear the clicking of hermit crabs searching for food.  The sky begins to lighten; first a titch of lavender on the horizon, then peach, followed by orange.  William spots a tapir bathing in the surf, a quarter of a mile ahead of us.  He advises Michael to run ahead to get some pictures.  Michael runs off, chugging along in his thick boots.  We continue to walk and watch as he approaches the tapir, snapping pictures, closer, closer, until the tapir finally walks into the woods, interested in losing Michael.  When we reach him, William tells me to follow him, in hopes of finding the Tapir in the forest.  It’s too late, he’s definitely gone.  We continue along the beach.

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I have no idea how long we have been walking.  I hear a resounding thud.  William walks up to the tree line and picks up a coconut.  He quickly chops the top off and hands it to me.  “Drink.”  He doesn’t have to tell me twice.  I am quite thirsty.  I slurp up the cool coconut water, and hand the remainder to Michael.  He slurps.  We continue.

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The lightening pale blue sky and chattering of several scarlet Macaws snacking in the almond trees above us, confirm that the day has officially started.  We approach a grove of almond trees with several scarlet Macaws, and as I point and gasp in awe, one takes flight swooping out towards us and then back to the same bough, as if he were greeting us, “Hello!  Good Morning! Welcome!”.  I am giddy with delight.  William says, “That was just for you.”

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We sit under some almond trees not much further down, and watch as the leftover lime green almond shells fall to the ground, discarded after a quick snap of the beak.  William finds two more coconuts and chops off the tops with his machete.  Again he hands them over and Michael and I drink.  We offer one to William, but he declines, “No, I like the really green coconuts, they taste so sweet and fresh.  These coconuts still taste good to you, but I’ve had the best.”  I respect this immensely.  I feel this way about most food.

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After our short coconut break, we continue along the beach.  William promises “lunch” in about an hour, which would make it about 8am.  We hike back into the woods, admiring all of the things we can now recognize.  “Lunch” comes quickly.  We set up on some rocks and dig into leftover vegan chili with tortilla.

It quickly becomes apparent that a four hour hike plus coffee plus chili equals bathroom time.  William recommends I head back up the trail.  I follow his advice, and find the ‘cleanest’ place I can, and get down to business.  I am calmly squatting amongst young coconut palms when I hear a rustle.  I think, Oh shit!  What was that!? as I look up directly into dark brown eyes staring at me from ten feet away.  Is that a wild pig?  It’s clear this little guy is thinking, Oh shit, what IS that!?  More rustling, and I break eye contact to look up and  see at least fifteen more wild pigs, including two tiny little baby piglets.  All of them are shuffling through the leaves, searching for meaty grubs and Halloween crabs.  My staring contest buddy has moved along.  I finish what I’m doing and head quickly back to Michael and William to tell them about my find.  We run back up the trail to find them, and follow them through the forest a bit.  We watch one gnaw on some wild fungi.  We turn back.  William has promised us bats and we are also on a time limit.

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We follow him over giant boulder rocks, and repeat his footwork to avoid injuries.  Inside the cave we hear the quiet hum of hundreds of tiny sleeping bats.  William points out a mama sleeping wrapped up with its baby.  I am amazed.  I am also remembering Ace Ventura, and how bats fly into your hair.  A few are whizzing around our heads.  I duck lower.  Michael is able to get a few snapshots without his flash.  We exit the cave.

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It isn’t even 8:30am and I already cannot believe the day I have had.  Michael and I share this look, this, Can you even believe this? type glance, and then voice our disbelief.  Continuing along the beach we cut a lot of time off of our original hike.  We get some water pumped into our bottles, and Michael leaves for his bathroom time.  I’ve been pouring sweat – I feel dehydrated.  William offers me a peanut butter cracker sandwich, and I eat it, savoring the salt.  I’ve chugged half of my bottle of water by the time Michael returns.  We start down a hill and I see the flirty tail of a Coati.  Their tails stick almost straight up as they walk, making it much easier to spot them.  It’s alone, which means it is a male.  This is the first male we’ve seen – every other time it has been a large group of females.

Female Coati from first day

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About an hour from the La Leona station, William starts to point out areas where the brush is cleared away.  He tells us a puma has been here, this is its piss.  Shortly after, he finds a dead gray necked wood rail, a bird I’ve only seen walking, never flying.  All that is left is the skeleton.  “This is from the puma,” he tells us, “Probably sometime yesterday.”

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We stop for a short swim at the river we first crossed on our way to Sirena Station.  The cool water is so refreshing – it is hot and all we’ve been doing is sweating.  I try to repeat the balancing foot boot act, but I have a blister on my toe, and William, noticing my plight, plops a large rock down right behind me for me to sit on.  Michael changes and then we begin the last leg of our hike.  We reach La Leona station not long after, passing a few fellow hikers along the way.

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After La Leona, all that’s left is a 3k hike along the beach back to Carate, where we are parked.  It is now 10:40.  Though it doesn’t seem possible, it has gotten hotter.  We trudge along.  I am starting to get grumpy when we come upon a giant empty turtle shell.

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Finally, we reach Carate.  Our Corcovado adventure is over.  We still have two and a half hours of driving on the worst roads we’ve ever been on.  But before we start that next journey, we stop at William’s Uncle’s restaurant, just 30 minutes from Carate, and order comida tipico and an ice cold Coca Cola.  Michael orders coffee.  We feast on rice, beans, pickled carrots, cabbage, fresh cheese, and plantains.  Food has never tasted so good.

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Thanks, Michael, for a lot, but mostly for taking most of these pictures.  Except this one…I took this one ;).

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**A quick note.  This is about our trip from Puerto Jimenez, to Carate by car, to La Leona by foot, to Sirena by foot, AND BACK.  Corcovado National Park is relatively secluded, and Osa Peninsula as a whole is pretty isolated.  We hired a guide to hike with us to Sirena station and back.  William was an amazing guide – he grew up within the hills outside of Puerto Jimenez, and knows SO MUCH about Corcovado.  What he didn’t have an answer for, he found out.  If you are interested in a similar trip, please contact me.  I am happy to put anyone in touch with William, or give any advice.  I also found this post on another blogger’s site.  Check it out, the information is great.  Hiking into Corcovado.

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The Road to Corcovado


Well we made it on our 9 hour 300km trek to Puerto Jimenez, without driving off a cliff or crashing into anything. I awoke to Michael panic checking his alarm and realized that we overslept by an hour. My dreams of a morning wake up shower were shattered as we smashed things in our bags and threw em in our car.

We navigated our way South via back mountain roads, and thankfully avoided morning traffic. Though we did end up on one WILD down mountain pot holed dirt and boulder road, and hopefully I can post the short video I took of the ride.

Finally hitting some paved and level roads, we stopped for brekki at a soda, which is what they call all the little cafe and highway stops. Eggs, beans, and rice for like $3!

Basically it was a long, hot day full of driving. We got to Puerto Jimenez around 4pm. Michael met up with William, our guide for the Corcovado hike, to go over the basics and make sure we had the right supplies.

After some ceviche and Imperial beers, we tested our awesome white box stove (thanks Cynthia!) to make sure it was able to feed us! Pictures to follow.

Anyway, I anticipate being without wifi for the next few days, so no posts about Corcovado until Sunday!!

Ciao ciao, JT

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¡Pura Vida!


Well hello there! Pura vida, or pure life, from La Fortuna Costa Rica!

Our flight from LAX left at 12:20 am. When we finally began our descent into San Jose ten hours later, I let out a few choice expletives. From the view of our tiny plane window, two seats over, I thought for sure we had arrived in Jurassic park. There must be a dinosaur around here SOMEWHERE.

But really, Costa Rica is lush, mountainous, and tropical. Everyone so far has been amazingly friendly.

We picked up our 4×4 (sorry environment! It’s necessary for our safety!) and headed up the narrow roads that lead to Arenal, one of the volcanoes in Northern CR. Phew, harrowing. You are driving up switchback roads that are barely two lanes across, with blind spots every km, not to mention the semis barreling down the mountain or the wideloads carrying chopped up sugar cane, all while PASSING the semis struggling up the steep incline. I closed my eyes a lot. Michael did wonderful, and on only five hours of travel sleep, one of which occurred on the airport floor. Plus we’re navigating using maps and a compass only. SKILLS!

We arrived at our lodge around 6:30, dropped off everything, and headed back out to Bosque to get some eats. We ate at a sweet little open air family restaurant, fish and rice dishes, and flan for dessert. Immediately asked for the check because we were beat!

I jumped in the pool when we got back to the lodge, because you’ve just got to wash that airport stink off, dried off, and promptly fell asleep.

Today we went on our white water rafting adventure. White water rafting terrifies me. A lot. Once on a standard Fish Creek camping trip, we met a young man working at our favorite brekki place, The Lumberjack Inn in Tupper, who had quite a story to tell about wwr. Pretty much his father went on a huge trip with a bunch of friends and the boat flipped for some reason and all but his father perished. So sad. And has had me frightened of this experience for years and years. But I decided to face my fear and try to recognize that that tragedy was also a freak accident. Which leads us to me facing my fear today.

We scheduled it through Desafio, and if you plan on going on this type of day trip, I’d recommend this company. Ask for Jose to be your guide. He is awesome and competes internationally in white water rafting. Plus he’s way more fun than any of the other guides we ran into that day.

I’m getting side tracked. We were teamed up with a family of four from Oz by way of Minnesota. Lovely family and really helped make the trip a lot of fun. They bussed us to the river, with a pit stop at a grocery for bathrooms and sloth viewings (woohoo! We saw two sloths and a giant iguana!). At the river we received a quick rafting lesson. Prepped with a life jacket, a paddle, a serious helmet, and the advice to not put sunscreen on the backs of our legs, we climbed in the boat and paddled off! Only to be splashed immediately by Jose, whose main goal seemed to be providing the most fun while getting us the most wet.

The rapids were fun. We had a superb time just paddling along for the bumpy ride. Plus all of the nature you get to view from the river! Michael ‘rode the bull’ through some rapids, which is basically where you sit on the very front o the boat holding the rope and waving one hand in the air. Hilarious.

We stopped for a quick jump off of a cliff into the river. Fun fun fun. They had watermelon and pineapple sliced up for us for a snack after, which was important considering all of the water that went up my nose when I hit the water.

I fell out. I was the only person to fall out without being pushed. They tell you to just float on your back when it happens, and I did have to fight the urge to roll on my belly and doggy paddle. Another raft dragged me to our raft and Jose pulled me in the boat.

Our trip ended not long after and we were treated to a typical Costa Rican lunch of beans, rice, platanos, fish, palm hearts, and cabbage slaw. It was delicious. We were certainly hungry after all of the paddling.

Back at the hotel, we decided to head toward Arenal to see if we couldfet a better view of the mountain top. We did, and I’ll post pictures later, but even better was the rope swing we found.

We swung off of a skinny little rope and when we surfaced from underneath we were face to face with a huge water fall. I love Costa Rica! In desperate need of some relaxation after the fearful swing, we stopped in at one of the hot springs to relax and enjoy the warm water. Hot springs are awesome.

Dinner was another tipico de casado, or house dish, with rice, beans, fish, yuca, salad, and cheese for about 3 USD. Good eats for cheap!

Bed time now, as we’ve got quite a drive for the next leg of our adventure: Corcovado national park. We’ll be spending two days there, hiking and camping, among snakes, spiders, monkeys, sloths, etc. It’s going to be wild, pun intended.

Ciao ciao, buenos noches,
JT

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Portlandia!

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Portland, Oregon

Our original plan was to drive out to Mount St. Helens on our way down to Portland.  Unfortunately, traffic was awful and it took us way longer to get to the area.  Mount St. Helens is still active, which means there is no lodging within thirty miles, meaning the drive out and back will take a few hours.  So we readjusted and decided to head out there the next day with Justin, Michael’s brother.  J goes to school a little ways outside of Portland.  Both of our siblings were on the West Coast with us for a part of this trip, which made it extra-special.

Anyway, feeling guilty after our mass donut consumption, I forced Michael into going climbing with me.  We found a rock gym just outside of Portland, in Vancouver, WA and spent some time bouldering.  The place was nice, but there’s just something to be said for your home rock gym.  You know the employees, you know the routes, you have goals you want to accomplish.  So it was good, but nothing super special.  Still on our guilt mode, and aware that we’d have more donuts to eat later that night, we found a cute little vegan restaurant that shares a space with a yoga studio.  Prasad has vegan, raw vegan, and vegetarian fare for people with an appetite, that want to eat clean.  I got a “Dragon bowl” with quinoa, tempeh, avocado, black beans, sea veggies, greens, and cabbage.  Soooo delicious.  The nice thing about Prasad is that they won’t turn away a hungry belly…The Mighty Bowl is offered for a suggested donation, meaning you can pay whatever you like for it.  Hopefully this keeps at least some people from going hungry and malnourished.

We walked around Portland for a bit, and then hit one of the famous sites in the city.  Voodoo Donuts.  At this point I should mention that most days that Michael is away doing his tour thing, I have no idea what city he’s in.  Sometimes I’ll call him and HE doesn’t know what city he’s in.  He’ll just wake up and there they are.  But in each city, they have a designated food spot.  And based on the food spot they instagram or are headed towards, that’s how I know where he is.  Sad but true.  Wingin’ it or Watercourse means Colorado.  Blue Plate Diner means SLC.  Slows means Detroit.  Taco Bus means Tampa.  Voodoo means Portland.

And can I briefly also mention that I hear about all of these awesome delicious places, and never get to EAT there.  I’ve seen way too many pictures of buckets of donuts from Voodoo.  So even though I already had a donut that morning, I WAS FOR SURE EATING AT LEAST TWO MORE.  No regrets.  We waited patiently in a short line while I decided just which two I was going to eat.  Some kids were playing nontraditional instruments for dollars in front of the entrance, and impressed us with their skills on the saw.  So Michael, stocked with fresh two dollar bills from some Asian currency exchange place, decided to gift these musicians with a two dollar bill.  The one kid laughed and was like “REALLY?!” and gave us a strange look.  As we moved on in line, I noticed that they happened to be singing the entire time “You can give me your……..You can give me your……But please just don’t give me, your two dollar bill”.  Great.

Anyway, back to the donut.  I had a Memphis Mafia which is technically a banana fritter with peanut butter and chocolate sauce drizzled all over it, topped with chocolate chips.  And it was the size of my face so Michael and I split it.  And got an oreo topped yeast donut for later.  Nom.  Totally worth feeling sick afterwards.  Voodoo definitely makes delicious donuts, but I didn’t get to try a simple maple bar to see how it compared to Top Pot.  Oh well, next time!

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Full and incredibly sleepy, we headed to our hotel.

Saturday we headed to Forest Grove to pick up Justin for our Mount St. Helens adventure.  Justing directed us to Ape Caves, about an hour and a half drive from Portland.  These caves are actually lava tubes formed from eruptions thousands of years ago.  They were discovered in 1947.  We spent a short time exploring the lower cave, which dead-ends after a bit.  Then we spent over two hours hiking through the upper cave.  The upper cave definitely takes some work since there are boulder piles twenty feet high in some areas plus an eight foot lava fall you have to climb up.  Some people hike up the mountain to the sky light and enter there to climb down the upper cave into the lower one.  Personally, I hate climbing down things, and felt going from the lower caves to the upper caves made it easier to scale the boulder piles.  Then we exited through the sky light and hiked quickly down the mountain.  If you have a headlight, take it.  It’s SO DARK in the caves and while we picked up some cheap flashlights, I would have much preferred having both hands to balance.  Also, you’re underground so it is COLD.  Wear really warm clothes.

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Once out of the caves we explored the National Monument and park areas and found another really cool suspension bridge a bit further passed the parking area.  Really, the sights there were unlike anywhere else.  I mean, the only volcano I’ve seen prior is Vesuvius so that’s all I have to compare it to, but it’s totally different.

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We headed back to Portland for some Thai food, and then decided to see a movie.  Sometimes while on adventure vacations, it’s really nice to just hang out and do something normal.  We got to see some of J’s campus, which is incredibly eco-friendly compared to BU.  Played some pool and then went to bed.

Sunday morning we headed back into Portland to catch our flight home.  In order to have a great end to our trip, Michael hunted down the best possible brekki place.  Broder is a Scandinavian kitchen that serves baked eggs, smoked trout, Scandinavian pancakes, all involving local ingredients and fantastic pickled items.  I’m a huge pickle fan – I’ll eat pretty much any veg item pickled.  And to top it all off – they had fantastic coffee, which you could sit and drink next door in their lounge while waiting for your table.  Complimentary stump town coffee for the win!  If you’re going to Broder for breakfast – get there super early!  There was a line outside the door ten minutes before they even opened.

We rushed off to the airport, and headed back to PHL via SLC.  What a trip.  Can’t wait to go back :).

Ciao ciao,

JT

The Pacific Northwest


In classic me fashion, I’m updating about a trip three days before going on another one.  My apologies.  Awhile ago I took a short but lovely trip to the Pacific Northwest.  It happened to be great timing – Michael was in Asia and could meet me there for a week, flights were cheap, and friends were plenty.

I had never been to the Northwest before, but I just had this inkling that it would be a place I would fall in love with.  I like drizzly rain and gray days (the perfect running weather!). I love the mountains and craggly shores. I thoroughly enjoy Canadian accents, coffee is something I drink every day, and microbreweries are as common as Wawas. Plus, I’m pretty happy eating local sustainable food.  What could be better?

The answer to that question is DONUTS.  Donuts make it better.  I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts once in awhile kinda gal, but I’m never too crazy over a donut.  They are what they are:  fat and sometimes stale circles of sugar!sugar!sugar!CRASH.  Well in the Northwest they are fluffy yeast risen blobs of dough, glazed with things as simple as chocolate and as gimicky as lemon poppy seed.  So while I post about each city we visited, I’ll have to also discuss the donuts we ate there.  And we ate A LOT of donuts.

Vancouver, Canada

I arrived in Vancouver on a Sunny Sunday afternoon, and headed to our friends’ house in the East Hastings neighborhood.  Matt, Charlie (the cat) and Landon live in the top floor of a house, across the street from warehouses where they shoot films and television series that belong on channels like the CW.  We witnessed one such filming for a show, which I believe is called Arrow, while sitting on the stoop drinking the Canadian version of PBR.  It was windy and cold but we had the perfect view of the downtown skyline.  That was on Monday though.

I'm the cat whisperer.

On Sunday, Matt and I headed to the Commercial Drive neighborhood in east Vancouver and nommed at the Dime – a new pub/restaurant offering all food items for $4.95 (Canadian dollars, of course).  For $4.95 I got an amazing veggie burger with all of the fixings, including avocado slices, and a side of fries.  I know it sounds suspicious.  And I expected the burger and fries to be miniscule, but it was absolutely quality.  I couldn’t even finish it all!  Add a few OK Springs 1516 Bavarian Lagers and I was an estatic tourist.  Not to mention the Caesar I had, which is a Canadian version of a Bloody Mary.  Why is it called a Caesar?  No idea.  It’s made with clamato (clam+tomato) juice instead of plain V8.

We walked around the Commercial Drive neighborhood, picked up some sweet corn from a man selling it out of his van, and headed back to the house to meet up with Landon.  Jet lagged I promptly went to bed at 9:30.

The next day I explored downtown Vancouver by taking the bus all the way down East Hastings to West Hastings.  My favorite way to discover a city is to walk it with a map in my back pocket.  I’ll go until I’m pretty lost and then find my way back.  My goals that Monday were to eat some food truck snacks, check out the Granville Island Market, and walk through as many neighborhoods as possible.

When I got off at West Hastings and Burrard, I decided to hunt down the Fresh, Local, Wild Food truck.  When asked what I wanted to order,  I took a page from Michael’s book and asked the guy what his favorite was:  Salmon Fish and Chips.  His description of “There’s just something about it that I can’t get enough of…” sold me, so that’s what I ordered.  So. Happy. I. Listened.  I’m not a big fried food person, quite frankly it usually makes me sick, but the batter was lighter than expected and you could tell the oil was fresh AND at the right temperature.  (The things you learn working on a pizza truck!)

I walked off my lunch by heading down Burrard street and crossed the bridge into Seaforth Peace Park.  It was a beautiful walk – the mountains peeking (or peaking, heh heh heh) just outside of West Vancouver and over the English bay is a breathtaking sight.  The mountains in the distance paired with the bobbing boats reminded me a bit of Oban, Scotland, where the picture at the top of my blog is from.

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Anyway, I decided to go Granville Island to check out the market since I’m a market fiend and Grammy recommended it, and discovered there’s a bunch of little shops and eateries surrounding the market as well.  I quickly lost track of time perusing the shops and gazing at heaps of fresh local fruit and veggies in the market.

I picked up Michael from the airport and we did the beer/CW/citysites thing for a bit before we headed to Landon’s place of work:  Foundation.  It’s a vegetarian “lounge” in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood that serves awesome veg fare and tasty brews in mason jars.  They’re known for their nachos, which cost $18 and come out on a plate twice the size of my torso, with ALL of the works: sour cream, salsa, guac, jalapenos, and whatever the special is that night, if you request it.  After looking into the reviews of Foundation, apparently people aren’t thrilled with the service.  And maybe if we were rushing in to eat and then bust a move, the service would be considered slow.  But I think it’s known as a lounge for a reason, and that reason is that it’s a casual place run by casual people who aren’t interested in rushing you out the door so they can get another table for another tip.  The food was great and we were there for the long haul to catch up with old friends, so yea.  But if you’re the type of person to freak out over not receiving your water within two minutes of entering a joint, you probably shouldn’t eat here.

Tuesday Michael and I headed to Lynn Canyon park to check out the suspension bridge and do a short hike.  It’s about a fifteen minute drive North of the city and worth it if you’re a big nature person.  It was cold, but beautiful up there, and I thoroughly enjoyed the crazy crystal clear water we came upon with a tiny little water fall.  I SLICED MY FINGER OPEN on the suspension bridge railing and so we had to hunt for a band-aid.  The forest rangers office gave me a plastic, which is what they’re called outside of American (which I clearly forgot), and we called it quits.

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We headed back to the city for the afternoon, so I could show Michael the Granville Island bit.  We walked around the city for awhile before deciding a nap was CRUCIAL if we were going to make it into the evening festivities.  I ate poutine for dinner, which, ew.  I think I need a second experience with poutine because while it was good, it made me feel awful.  We went back to the Dime that night for some more catch-up with friends and exhaustedly made it an early night – our bus to Seattle left the airport at 8:30 am the next day.  We said our goodbyes and passed out.

Wednesday morning had us up at 6am to catch our bus.  It was a pretty great way to travel, and customs weren’t much of a hassle.  Next up, SEATTLE!

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