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!

Memphis Mafia

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.

Skylight Entrance

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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Mount St. Helens

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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 – Seattle

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Seattle, Washington

We arrived, by bus, in Seattle around noon.  Unable to check into our hotel, we hit up Top Pot donuts, as recommended by my brother, Matt, who also happened to be in Seattle.  This is where the donut binge begins.  I just noticed begin and binge have the same exact letters.  Coincidence?  I think not.  We enjoyed a Maple Bar and two lattes with rice milk.  Yum.  The coffee and donuts were fresh and so so so good after getting off that bus.  You can stand in the back of Top Pot and watch them knead the dough.  Awesome.  Any time I go to a place like this I’m like, “I want to work here!  I want to learn to make delicious yeast risen blob donuts yum!”  Because I have a problem and that is being obsessed with food.

Michael has been to Seattle probably like ten times via the job so he took me on a tour of all the things he wanted me to see.  The Pike Place market, the OG Starbucks, the gum wall, etc.

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We met up with Matt and Sabrina for dinner at this amazing Italian place Sabrina picked out called the Pink Door.  Yes, it’s door is actually pink – it’s only indicator of the restaurant as there is no signage.  Whew!  What an amazing dinner we had with some of my favorite company :).  After dinner we wandered the city a bit, popping in and out of different bars for drinks, and ended our night at the Five Point Cafe for a little diner food.  Yum, this place is great!  And we got an awesome night view of the Needle!

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Thursday we slept late.  Like, later than I would ever sleep on an exploring vacation.  Woops.  No problem, we headed off to the EMP Museum to check out their new Nirvana exhibit.  If you love music like we love music, you have got to go to this museum.  Their exhibits are really cool, and there is an entire room where you can interact with different instruments.  You can learn to play them, or go into a recording room and record a song.  It’s AWESOME.  And the Nirvana exhibit was pretty amazing.

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We walked to the Space Needle, which is like right next to the museum, and debated paying good dollars to go up in it and decided against it.  Thought about going to see the Chihuly exhibit but decided against that as well.  We followed Matt’s recommendations and headed down to the pier to walk around and ride the giant ferris wheel instead.  WORTH IT.

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Michael then took me to get his favorites snacks in the city.  This included: a vegetable piroshky from Piroshky Piroshky in Pike Place (really delicious fillings folded and baked inside a buttery-fluffy roll); a SALTED CARAMEL and coffee ice cream cone at Cupcake Royale; and macarons, which aren’t really his favorite but I found them and you all KNOW how I feel about macarons.

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We met up with Sabrina for sushi at Umi Sake House.  Can I just say, that this place has the best sushi I HAVE EVER EATEN.  We ate at Morimoto in Philly recently, and while their sushi/sashimi was a force to be reckoned with, Umi’s rolls are just creative.  Spicy and sweet with amazing flavors INCLUDING blood orange and cilantro.  So so so good, and thank you Kelly for the recommendation.  The Moonraker roll was phenomenal.  Ok.  Rave over.

Friday morning we ate breakfast at Serious Biscuit which serves, you guessed it, biscuit involved items.  Frittata, fried chicken, fried catfish, PB and banana, egg and cheese.  Again, amazing food.  Another place I was like “Think of all the biscuitty goodness and crazy arugula combinations I could make working here!!”.  Then we spent some time in Green Lake – a neighborhood MDK frequently stays in while in Seattle.  It’s a cute area, filled with a lot of college kids from the U of W.  There’s a lake with a nice path around it, so we walked off our breakfast, or at least tried.  Then, because we are gluttons, we ate at Mighty-O donuts.  Yes.  More donuts.  Mighty-O happens to make cake donuts, which, let’s face it, I totally love.  I had the Raspberry Riot and MDK got the French Toast, and then we were given a free mini Coco loco donut.  Really.  As if we hadn’t consumed enough donutty goodness.  Good thing we were about to get in the car to sit for five hours for the drive to Portland!

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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The AT – After our trip


Phew!  I know this follow-up is a bit late, but let me tell you that I am the WORST.  If you hadn’t already guessed that at least.  I go on a trip and then I start right back into work and work and sleep and I pay very little attention to the internet world.

The Appalachian Trail.  Yikes.  Props to everyone and anyone who has done a segment or the whole thing through.  I have decided to just give you a day-by-day type play since it’s the easiest way to explain our trip.  Also please forgive any editing/POV/tense issues.  I’ll resolve all of it, I just want to get it out there first!

Day One.

Michael and I drove out to Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania to meet up with our driver, also named Michael.  We met up at the trailhead parking lot there in Boiling Springs and caught a ride with him to the Caledonia  trail-head thirty-some miles south-west.  MDK and our driver bonded over folk music (Michael two is a folk musician and MDK worked for Folkway Records in DC) and then moved on to what kind of wildlife we would find on the trail, and if a ‘bear hang’ was truly necessary.  We arrived at the trailhead around noon, said our goodbyes to our driver (who was prepared to come get us at the drop of a hat, if we experienced any trouble) and stepped onto the trail.

The air was cooler once we stepped inside the trees and as we appreciated the hush of our clodhopper boots hitting the soft pine needle trail, a bug flew into Michael’s eye.  I could still hear the semi’s flying by on the highway and already we had a crisis.  It will never cease to amaze me how weird people can be about their eyeballs.  I know I feel this way because I wear contacts and have habitually touched my eyeballs and moved things around on them for over twelve years.  But still, to break out in a sweat over the simple IDEA of touching just your EYELID.  COME ON!  I kept asking a panicked MDK to hold out his eyelid and blink.  Couldn’t do it.  He kept asking me to wipe the little bug out with my finger but would become so agitated at me approaching his eye I couldn’t get it before he started bugging out (pun intended).  It finally ended up in the inner corner of his eye and after several attempts at swiping it away but only hitting his cheek, I finally was able to get it out.  Poor guy.  No, I do not mind touching my eyeballs.  Yes, gnat’s squirming around your eyelid is discomforting.

By quarter to one, we were actually on our way following the white blazes, hoping to get in about ten miles before crashing for the night.  The first mile seemed pretty mild and then we hit a super steady up-hill climb.  Man-made gravel stairs two feet high led us up to a ridge we followed for a while.  The sky became overcast and MDK, using his super-fancy awesome watch, predicted rain.  Not long after that prediction, it began.  We both pulled on rain gear and put the duck covers on our packs and kept on.  After hitting a mile-marker we realized we were traveling about two and a half miles per hour which would put us at our first shelter by six. The rain falling quietly around us, chatter slowed and our heart rates picked up.  We were getting tired so we were walking fast-paced, thinking the shelter would be just around the next bend.  Or the next one.  Or the next one?  Please the next one!  Our feet were exhausted, we were hungry, and out of water.

Finally we hit the shelter and found another group there as well.  They showed us the water source and we hung up our things hoping they would find time to dry underneath the porch roof.  Keith and his daughter were from PA and had hiked several parts of the trail before.  Keith had, anyway.  He asked us if we were considering a through-hike, which felt like a compliment but might have been more of a “your young, you could do it much easier than I” type thing.  He became a life-saver when we realized our gas canister had a threaded neck, meaning the stove we brought for it wouldn’t pop on.  (Let me also say that I had practiced at home with this borrowed stove several times to make sure I knew what was going on, but didn’t realize the subtle difference between the two gas canisters.)  Quickly we realized we packed about five to eight pounds more than we needed to with a useless stove, gas canister, food we couldn’t cook, a sleeping mat we would use, etc.  THAT PESTO CAME IN HANDY THOUGH!!  We ate dinner (pasta & pesto & tuna) and then promptly climbed into the shelter and passed out.

Day Two.  Part One.

I now understood the phrase “A fitful night’s sleep”.  Sleep was……possible at best.  No time to dwell though, we were prepared for an eighteen mile day and needed to accomplish it before night fall.  Our goal was to hit Pine Grove Furnace by noon to put us at two and a half to three miles per hour.  The first few hours were like frolicking through a wood!  The trail was still covered with those forgiving pine needles and the sun was shining. We passed through the ‘half-way point’ marking 1,092 miles down and 1,092 miles to go for through hikers.  We saw a snake:  Michael stepped right over it not knowing.  Toward the end of our morning hike, we hit a jungle-like section where you couldn’t even see the trail you were walking on, it was so covered in wild vines.  I started hearing children laughing and dogs barking which fooled me into thinking we would be close to our halfway point, which promised ice cream. Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending which way you were going) Pine Grove Furnace is a campground that offers several hiking trails, which meant the dogs and other voices did not indicate ice cream, but families on a day hike to Sunset Rocks.  In another hour plus we finally reached Pine Grove Furnace and the general store.  Full of bikers on a Sunny Saturday day ride.  We ate a grilled cheese, drank a coke (the only time I ever want a soda is when I’m super fatigued and it’s only a coke that will bring me back!), ate two whopping cones of ice cream, and let a tear slip down our cheeks when we put the packs back on.

A brief but necessary interlude:  Things you resent your pack for-

  1. Digging into your hips where the hip strap is, so that in front and back you have bruises
  2. Feeling impossible to put on after taking it off for longer than it takes to simply adjust straps
  3. How exact the ties must be for least pain possible.  Shoulder straps, hip straps, top pack straps – all must be redone each and every time the pack comes off.  As if getting it back on weren’t hard enough!
  4. Climbing steep rocks while balancing the weight on your back.  Scary.
  5. How sweaty the clothing between you and the pack gets and never seems to dry completely.  How itchy that can make everything.

Day Two.  Part Two.

Our path out of Pine Grove Furnace led us up a steady incline for about three miles.  Am I exaggerating?  Was it more like two?  It could have been, but that incline seemed never-ending at the time.  Unless I’m on a bike, I always prefer a higher grade: steep but short is my motto!  We had to hike eight to ten miles to the next shelter, and the first few were giving me some problems for sure.  The path also became increasingly more hazardous.  There were small rocks embedded in the path, which meant a lot of our energy was spent looking down at where you were stepping so you wouldn’t eat it.  This only became worse the further we trudged.  Every time we passed a sign for the next shelter, it seemed to leave out the one we were currently headed for, so we had no clue as to how many miles we had left.  We could only guess based on our mph from earlier in the day, and that wasn’t spot on because it was much slower going with all of the rocks.

Once again, we ran out of water.  We hit a spring thirty minutes later, thank goodness.  MDK made a lovely little trek to the bottom of a hill (“Please please please do not make me go down that hill I do not think I will come back up!”) to refill our camelbaks and water bottles.  On we went.  It started to get dark.  I started to get hysterical.  We finally hit a sign that indicated there was something 0.4 miles off the trail.  It was not clear if it was a shelter.  Lucky for us, it was!

We met Larry, a knowledgeable man from Moorestown who was on a seven-day solo hike.  The world is such a small place, we knew many of the same people.  Furthermore, MDK and I had spent the day asking questions about the AT we knew neither of us had the answer to and buono fortuna brought us Larry.  He presided on the Conservation Board for many years in the nineties, I think.  Could have been the eighties.  Either way.  He was able to provide a plethora of information, including the tidbit that the Pennsy section of the AT is notoriously the hardest.  For many reasons, (people can’t handle they are only half-way, it’s not as scenic with views of beautiful peaks and valleys,etc) but the one I found most important was that it is the rockiest.  “It is where hiking boots go to die,”  said Larry.  Apparently, most through-hikers that end up quitting, do so in Pennsylvania.  Another helpful tidbit, was his camping stove.  A whitebox stove, which is a bit of a cult classic among hikers, might be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.  I cannot even describe it, except to say that I am buying one and saying ‘farewell’ to any grand ideas of fancy snap together stoves or jetboils.  I am probably forgetting all of the other awesome things that Larry taught us (there were many) but we were so exhausted we pitched the tent, ate Clif bars dipped in peanut-butter, and passed out.

Day Three.

We did it.  We hiked eighteen miles in one day.  But Sunday was a brand new day with another ten for us to get done to get back to Boiling Springs.  Luckily, Larry started us off with some Via coffee made fresh from his WHITEBOX STOVE.  What a guy, that Larry.  So thankful to him!  He also showed us a map of what we would be hiking that day and pointed out elevations, mileage, and springs so we were well-prepared.  Our camelbaks full of water and our stomachs filled with coffee we started off.  We were to climb and descend five ridges.  They were STEEP!  By the third we had to navigate some giant boulders, which the path cut directly through.  Why put the path through the rocks when there is a perfectly good pine needle-ish path ten yards to the right?  To prevent erosion.  The more people who walk off of the trail, the more likely water is to follow the slight grooves you made which makes soil erosion inevitable.  I can’t say much more about our day except that we went up up up and down down down.

On what we thought was the last peak, we ran into a few others who told us we had ‘just one more’ and Boiling Springs might be another hour or so.  We ascended and descended the last peak, and followed the path into a….cornfield?  I do not know why, but I never thought the AT would cut through cornfields.  Or any farm fields.  I mean, it has to if it goes through the state of Pennsy but it just never occurred to me.  This is where it got tricky.  Yes, we were now dealing with bucolic fields, but WHERE DO THEY PUT THE WHITE BLAZES?  We ended up lost.  In a situation, that were we not so exhausted, we might have avoided.  I was almost in tears.  My feet HURT, my legs were tired, there was no sight of anything resembling the small town of Boiling Springs, and WHY DID WE WALK SO FAR WITHOUT LOOKING FOR A BLAZE?  I climbed five peaks that day and a farm field got me?  We turned around, despite my cries of “Michael just go find the car and come pick me up!” and eventually found the path, parallel to the one we had been walking.  It was literally on the other side of the field that we were on.  And suddenly, bam, we were in the parking lot looking at my car.

In desperate want of coffee, we stopped at an awful truck stop off of I-276.  You know the kind, Burger King, Starbucks, Roy Rogers, weird state paraphernalia you think no one could possibly want, and total weirdos.  Well, this time, we were those weirdos.  We smelled, we were dirty, and totally crazy-eyed.  People in the line at Starbucks (I know, we were desperate) stepped away from us.  Women in the bathroom watched in disgust as I washed my face and took a paper-towel bath.  Michael and I cackled our way back to the car.

Back at the ranch we ordered obscene amounts of Indian takeout, watched  TV and promptly ended our adventure, asleep at 8pm.

This trip was made possible by:  Michael Two, Ruth, Andrew, Laurie, Alan, Cynthia, and Don.  Thanks for all of the equipment lends, recommendations, and encouragement!  MDK, thanks for being such a trooper.  That last half-hour was a mean kindergarten teacher but you helped me get over it!  Can’t wait for next time.

To the AT trail & beyond!


I know, it’s terrible, I’ve been gone for far too long!  I feel like posting here will just be a sham of my former self, but life is constantly changing and I have too much to do because of it!  I won’t make excuses, I’ll just let you know that instead of emailing friends that I HAVE TO EMAIL, I am providing an update post!  

I have had quite the summer – working, crepe-ing, cooking, running, traveling.  Do I wish I had done more?  Yes.  Do I think I could have with my schedule as is?  No.  You make time for what you can.  This is why, this weekend, which happens to be my last weekend off from crepe-ing for the next month or so, Michael and I are heading off for our first experience with The Appalachian Trail.

For years we’ve discussed it.  It’s been announced in passing conversations.  I have heard many others repeat the phrase:  “I would love to do The Appalachian Trail.”  The Appalachian Trail.  Capitalized and bold.  That’s the way it comes off of others’ lips.  And have you noticed, it is always “do” and not “hike”.  We’re going to DO The Appalachian Trail.  Well we are.

At least a small portion, anyway.  When Michael purchased his serious backpack during our last minute stopover in London in May, his one request was that we do part of the AT this summer, like we had been promising.  I said, “Of course, we’ll definitely do that!”  Little did we know, our weekends were already booked up through September.

This weekend I had plans to do many other things.  A pig roast.  A quick visit to Michigan to see my dearest Nadia who is off to Morocco (what is with that country and it stealing of all of my favorites, anyway?) in September.  A visit to DC.

Well, none of that is happening now.  Now we will DO the AT.  Plus, it’s probably easier for me to see Nadia in Morocco anyway.

Today I am packing all of my stuff.  I say ‘all’ like it’s a lot of things, but really, I’m taking practically nothing.  And still I think others’ will have packed lighter.  I’ve done a bit of reading and some organizing and I think the hardest part of this entire weekend, will be my inability to eat simple yet gourmet type food.  I’m a foodie, it is kind of what I live for.

I know it sounds crazy, but even when Michael and I spent a few days camping in the Adirondack mountains, we cooked gourmet over our fire.  Fresh local veggies served over cottage potatoes with Blueberry Saranac beers.

Obviously we won’t have beers, but I at least thought I should bring some veggies for our first day, if not the whole trip.  Nay.  All of the food lists I’ve read for this trip say to pack highly nutritious food with a large amount of calories per ounce.  Essentially, 125-150 calories per ounce.  So all vegetables are pretty much out of the picture.  They are extra weight and will not meet our caloric needs.

I finally realized that my dreams of a repeat of the campfire risotto in PR in February were looking pretty slim. There won’t be any Medallas, or cheese, or 5 bean stew.  It’s going to be oats for breakfast; tuna and crackers for lunch; pasta for dinner.  Clif bars for snacks.  Looking at my list made me a bit sad, and in a moment of rebellion, I texted Cynthia to pick me up some pesto in a jar.  Does said jar of pesto weigh half a pound and is that half a pound we’ll have to carry?  Yes.  But will half of that jar be empty after one evening’s meal?  Yes.  Sometimes you just have to look at the glass and appreciate that it’s half-empty.

In addition, I chopped up a bunch of dried apricots and made us a little dried fruit/nut medley to go into the oats.  TAKE THAT THRU HIKERS!  They may be professional backpackers, but I am a professional eater, and at the end of the day, I’m OK with that distinction.

So wish us luck, I’ll post some pictures of the trip and the noms when we get back!

Ciao ciao,

JT

We be jammin’!


HELLO INTERNET WORLD!

It’s been a minute.  Our trip to Morocco simply FLEW BY and I had a post all set up to discuss our time there, but now, two weeks later, it seems irrelevant.  It’s anything but irrelevant as I finally had the chance to make sure Morocco was treating my number one right, and I can report, she’s doing great.  A little bit tanner than when I last saw her, but hey, she lives in the desert!

I will post about Morocco.  I promise.  It’s coming shortly.  Also, I have so many pictures, that if you want to see them all you’ll have to email me for the link to our picasa page (jtoot09@gmail.com).  I tried to email as many of you as I could, but for many I just don’t have the address.  So either email me or send a comment with your email address.

But for now, I wanted to check-in and give a shout out to Jammin’ Crepes my new place of employment two days a week.  At the moment, we are a stand/tent/fort that offers sweet and savory crepes featuring local fresh ingredients.    Come check us out, we are the most delicious and unique crepes I’ve ever had, and I’m not saying that because I get paid to.  I also once worked at a chain restaurant and I never recommended people go there.  Anyway, the point is, these are worth the trip & the line.

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Hope everyone out there enjoyed what a beautiful day it was today!

Ciao ciao,

JT