Monday, January 28, 2013

Ruck it

Last weekend I spent some time at my home away from home, Bears Den Hostel, on the AT in Virginia. They were hosting the annual Ruck, or a gathering of thru hikers and hiker hopefuls. This was more of a road trip adventure than anything - lots of driving in a 24 hour period.

Rocket and I left from Philly, and immediately we found ourselves in a semi blizzard before we even left her street. Of course the weather would take a dump, that's what it does to '09 hikers when we try to adventure. Anyway, nearly 5 hours later, and we found ourselves driving down the rocky, snow-packed driveway of BD, hungry and anxious. I finally met the other Patrice, aka Steadee, and her husband Deal - they are the new caretakers of BD. If by them letting us burn last years Christmas tree in the fire pit doesn't tell you how awesome they are, then stop reading this now.

I was able to connect with friends that I don't see often, and make some new ones. Bonus! We spent time with a bunch of the '10 crowd, and the night was consumed with a round of Cards Against Humanity. If you've never played it, prepare to be horrified, and also falling over in gut-wrenching laughter. I laughed so hard I cried. It's not appropriate for all crowds, but it's hands-down the funniest game I've ever played. Thank you Power Pack, I now have a new addiction.

SloGo brought a Cherpeachel, another wonderful new addition to my life. It's a 15lb, 22,000 calorie dessert made with a cherry pie, peach pie, and apple pie stacked up and smooshed, surrounded by a thick layer of vanilla cake and covered in a sugary, white frosting. Very appropriate for the thru hiker crowd. And yes, it was rather amazing.

Sadly, the only hiking we did lasted about an hour - not nearly long enough to burn off the Cherpeachel. But the view from Bears Den Rocks was majestic as always, and everything was covered in a layer of snow. I was just happy to be in the company of new and old friends, laughing about nonsense and forgetting about responsibilities.

I've often thought about the impact I've had on others that I'd never know about. We meet new people every day, even if it's only a quick exchange in the grocery store. I was told by someone that I helped her dig out of a tough spot; I had no idea I was that person for someone. Until this weekend, we had only met twice and exchanged a few emails. That's the hiking community though, tight. I wonder if I'll ever get the opportunity to tell a random person how much of an impact they've had on me.

So that was my newest adventure away from the mundane. New friends, and lots of laughter. And burning Christmas trees.

Deetz, Stucco, Power Pack, Me, Connie and Rocket.
My shorts rule.

Weirdest name for incense ever. Gas station in podunk PA. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Green Mountain State

Vermont, or otherwise known as Vermud to an AT hiker.

I planned a last minute ski trip to Killington Mountain. At first, I thought I'd just go up to New York state to ski solo for a few days, but as luck would have it, Yvonne, my friend and original gangster ski partner, had a 4-day block of time free from her weird pilot schedule. And as a bonus, Kelly was already going to be there. So after Yvo suggested driving 2 more hours to ski Killington, the answer was obvious. We booked a sweet hotel and headed North.

The ride up was an adventure all in its own - we drove through the windy Vermont mountain roads in the pitch dark. We passed by the Ben and Jerry's that I went to last summer, and I thought about how excited I was to see Killington under snow the next day. I skiied it years ago, but that was before the mountain meant anything to me. The last time I was on Killington, Persistent and I camped below the summit on a squishy bed of pine needles after watching the sunset, and the time prior to that was on my thru hike, where my feet fell apart and turned to hamburger meat on the ascent. I also recall Rocket having a mini melt-down at the gondola, after we couldn't find water anywhere. I'll forever love the time I spent on that mountain, destroyed feet and all.

We woke up early to hit the trails. After a small debacle with my skis, we took the gondola up and carved our way down a few green trails to warm up. It felt amazing to get back out there after a long, 5 year hiatus. By the second run, I was ready to tear it up - it wasn't long before I went balls to the wall and was flying around the mountain. One crash later and I was happy I had my helmet on.

The upper 1,000 feet of the mountain was completely snow-covered and beautiful, and the weight of the snow made the tree branches hang low. The wind whipped hard, but I didn't care, it was too beautiful to realize that my fingers had gone numb.

After we tore it up on the mountain all day, we rewarded ourselves with dinner at the Long Trail Inn, a beloved AT stop. The Inn also has my favorite recipe for Irish Soda Bread, so of course I indulged. I also had a Guiness, complete with a shamrock crafted into the head. A true talent. Kelly and I shared trail stories over our beers, and talked about how much we missed it. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday, and sometimes like it was in another lifetime.

Yvonne and I had a kick-ass breakfast at Sugar and Spice, complete with Grade B pure Vermont maple sizzurp. I could drink that stuff, it's like liquid crack. Rocket always brings me a colossal can of Canadian maple syrup every time she visits Montreal, so she helps feed my heinous addiction. What a good friend.

The abbreviated trip to Vermont was a much-needed and well-deserved break before getting back to school in another 2 weeks, and also taking on a second job. I recently described my upcoming semester to a friend as "pure unadulterated hell," so I will rest my brain while I can. Which reminds me, I need to apply to schools now for the fall semester, so that will be another whole adventure in itself. I've already decided on a few that I'd like to apply to, and perhaps Vermont will creep back onto the list.

Things I learned on this adventure: Shortie skis are nearly as fun as ski blades, getting snow up your back will always suck, and there's no such thing as too much maple syrup. Period.

A few photos from my little Vermont adventure. And a video of Kelly and I, courtesy of Yvonne, who was crazy enough to video with her phone while skiing.

Winter Hiking and the Bakery

Last weekends adventure was a 10 mile loop at the Water Gap with Jonathan and Joan. The temperature has finally dropped to winter-worthy numbers, and there's snow on the ground. I hear this week will shoot up into the high 40's though, unacceptable for January.

After a slippery, icy climb up the mountain, we were treated to some powdery conditions. The cold and snow reminded me of hiking through the Smokies in '09, and how similar the weather was. Only contrary to the day of Clingmans Dome and white-out conditions, the view of the Gap was clear with deep blue skies. There was a nip to the air until we got over the ridge.

Saturday was one of the quietest days I've seen in a while, just the way I like it when hiking. We did bump into a group of 4, and Linda donned a hat that said "Kennebec River" on it - the Kennebec is in Maine. I mentioned previously crossing the river by canoe when I thru hiked. One of the others described the toothless hillbilly who shuttled him across, and as it turns out, it was the same hillbilly that shuttled me 3 years later. Small world, but when it comes to the trail, that's standard.

We hiked the last few miles as the sun lowered itself toward the horizon. As we walked along Dunnfield Creek, I listened to the rush of the water. I also kept looking at the Christmas Fern that lines the trail. Rocket taught me about Christmas Fern a few years ago, before I knew there was more than one species of fern. And now you do, too.

No hike at the Gap is ever complete without a stop at the Village Farmer, the best bakery on the planet. I settled for a black bean burger and a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie. Mmm!

Here's a photo from the last little bit of trail before we finished up, and one from the bakery of awesome.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A New Year and a Bike Ride

On the first day of 2013, my friend Kelly (who refers to me as The Adventurer in her blog) and I met for a ride. When we ride together, I ride a little harder, and she takes it a bit easier. Ya see, Kelly is a triathelete who is often in training. I am not too serious, and like to belt out song lyrics when I ride. So I force her to smell the roses, and she forces me to pedal harder - it's a fun balance.

Our 36 mile ride started on a short section of a bike path, and eventually dropped us on the road. We passed apple orchards, farms, horses wearing plaid jackets, mansions, and best of all, Wawa. Because I was involved, we pulled over for hot chocolate and snacks. I'd like to point out that the triathelete ate a dirty water dog, or otherwise known as, lips and assholes. Gross.

The roads were very quiet, maybe everyone was busy nursing their hang-overs from welcoming a new year. Fine by me, I love quiet country roads, my favorite to bike on; nothing but the sound of tires rolling over smooth pavement, and the occasional changing of gears.

After our break, I was jacked up on sugar from the hot chocolate, but eventually lost all energy - the cold sure does a number when you're working hard. But I still had so much fun breaking a triathelete of her seriousness and singing dumb songs. She's lucky I didn't bring my harmonica, because I love playing it when I ride. Next time.

The riding around these here parts is less than enticing - it involves lots of cars, traffic lights, stop signs, and noise. I don't often have the treat of riding with a buddy, so I take advantage when I can - even though it means having to drive first. Plus, it's motivation to put in more miles and work harder.

Photo: Beast of Burden (BOB) and Rhonda looking very patriotic

Testing Testing

Is this thing on?