Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nothing To See Here


Don't mind us, we're just a couple of hikers walking around your neighborhood. We have about 20+ pounds here and are just doing our thing, training for a long hike ahead.  What's that? Nope, we're not camping out tonight... tonight we'll be making risotto stuffed peppers, drinking wine and watching The Big Lebowski or 30 Rock reruns.  We'll start sleeping out when we get to California. You enjoy your evening as well! See you around tomorrow! 

Friday, March 30, 2012

When We're Not Planning...


We get out into the sun


and paddle around. 


We cook delicious food


and enjoy it on the porch.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Flip Side

There is something incredibly satisfying about learning a secret. Or recognizing beauty in something that others disregard. Concurrent with the bright lights and thumping music, there is a part of Las Vegas that is so special. So serene. So enchanting.  And it feels like no one knows. 

In an all too brief visit with friends, I was privy to this side of the city.  A long hike in Red Rock Canyon doesn't just feel worlds away from the Strip, it feels like another planet all together. The air is clear and quiet. Natural colors are bright and shining.   






But the secret doesn't end there.  Layers are revealed one after the other, like songs on an incredible album you've never heard, by an artist you've always listened to.  While people crowd casinos and overrated locales just a few miles away, friends can sit, chat and indulge in Sangria and savory tapas at a friendly local eatery. 



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hello Big Four


Every thru-hiker has what's known as the Big 4: shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack.  Here's a look at ours.  

Shelter: Being that we're in love and all, we get to share one shelter. Which is awesome. One of us will carry the tent, one of us will carry the cook system. Divide and conquer.  After researching pros and cons of both tarps and tents, we decided to go with a Tarptent.  Tarptent is a great company out of Santa Cruz that has been supporting thru-hikers for years. Their simple and ultralight designs, plus tons of positive reviews, made it an easy choice. Our is the Squall 2 coming in at 35.25 ounces. 

Sleeping Bags: I will be carrying a Mountain Hardware Women's Phantom 15. It's the first 'Women's Specific' bag I've ever had, and basically, I'm obsessed. I used to think that Women's Specific gear was just a marketing ploy, but for the first time in my life I have a bag that is the right length and shape. It makes a world of a difference for me, warmth wise.  It is also two tone: brown and neon green, making me look like an old school GloWorm!  It weighs 32.875 ounces. Trav will be snugglin' up in a Marmot Men's Helium.  The Helium is a much loved thru-hiker bag and comes in at 34.75 ounces.  

Sleeping Pad: We are both using Therm-A-Rest ZLites.  We carried inflatable pads in South America and though they are significantly more comfortable, we ended up having to do a good bit of patching and repair. We have no interest in dealing with that bologna on the trail, so ZLites it is. Other upsides are that we don't have to exert the energy to blow them up each night and we can pull them off our packs at breaks, sit on them and not worry about puncture. Breezy. As you can see in the above photo, mine is seriously old and beaten up worn in. I cut it down from it's original size and it weighs 9.875 ounces. Trav's is very shiny and pretty. It's the short length (51 inches) and weighs 9.625 ounces. 

Backpacks:  After meeting a really rad older couple in Cochamo, Trav was impressed by the options and design of their packs.  They've been ultralight biking and hiking for years and couldn't say enough about their ULA Catalyst packs.  The pack Trav had been using didn't really work on his slim frame so upon return home, he sold the ill fitting one and ordered a Catalyst. ULA gives you a hip belt size option as well as torso length option. He's sitting pretty in his new pack which weighs 42 ounces. I will be using my old tried and true Granite Gear Vapor Ki which weighs 39.375 ounces. 

So there you have it, our Big 4! We're pretty jazzed to get this stuff out there in a few weeks. 

FYI: 
A. There are 16 ounces in a pound and (for our (maybe 2?) non-American readers) 35.3 ounces in a kilogram.  
B. Why yes I did feel silly taking Glamour Shots of gear.

Monday, March 26, 2012

FAQs About The PCT


As we near our start date, I wanted to take a minute to share some information about the Pacific Crest Trail.  Since the PCT has become part of our everyday conversation, it is easy to forget that an undertaking like this is foreign to most people. Some of you have no idea what things like 'PCT', 'Thru-Hike' and 'On the Trail' mean.  In general, people have lots of questions, so I'll do my best to answer the common ones here. I'll also post some links, if you're interested in further reading, and will happily answer questions left as Comments.

So, here is What We Talk About When We Talk About The PCT**:

What is the Pacific Crest Trail?
The PCT is a National Scenic Trail (like the Appalachian Trail) that starts at the California/Mexico border and ends at the Washington/Canada border.  The trail is 2,663 miles and runs the entire lengths of California, Oregon and Washington.  It passes through numerous parks and wilderness areas and is 'protected, preserved and promoted' by the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

Wait, what? You walk the whole way?
Yep.  Though pack animals are allowed on the PCT, Trav and I are attempting to hike the whole shebang. Hiking the whole trail in one 'season' is known as 'thru-hiking' thus making us 'thru-hikers'.

How long will it take?
After attending the Kick Off, we will starting hiking on April 29th. We have set October 10th as our end date. Though we may (hope to) finish before then, we are giving ourselves 165 days to thru-hike.  Given this time frame, we will try to average 18-25 miles per day taking into account some 'zero days' (where no trail miles are covered).

Where do you sleep?
In our tent! There may be a smattering of nights we'll be in towns and get a room, but generally we'll just pull off the trail and sleep out.

How do you... you know... go?!? 
Oh, you mean poop? We go in holes that we dig ourselves. 6 inches down, 100 feet off the trail and TP can be used as long as you pack it out (meaning, put it in a baggie and carry it to the next trashcan).  If you'd like to learn more, you can brush up on your knowledge with this book.  So yeah.  We will be going to the bathroom outdoors for about 5 and a half months. And yes, this is generally the fourth or fifth question people ask.

What do you eat? Berries and stuff? Do you carry 5 months worth of food?
We will be carrying all of our food and cooking on a compact camp stove. For resupplying, we will be venturing into Trail Towns along the way (usually by hitchhiking). Many have grocery stores, hotels/motels/Holiday Inns and a post office.  They are all really familiar with hikers and lots of locals go out of their way to support this wild bunch (they are known at Trail Angels). We are planning on shopping for food along the way, but will also ship (with help from family) some pre-packed boxes filled with food and other supplies/gear.  Time in between resupplies will vary, but generally it ranges from 5-10 days.  The post offices will hold our packages in general delivery until we arrive. We'll have to eat a bunch... 3000-4000 calories per day. Hello Snickers!

How many people do this? 
On average, around 300 people start the trail and about 60% will finish.

What about bears/snakes/emergencies?
All three of those things are possible on the PCT.  Through heavy bear country we will carry bear resistant canisters for our food.  We may also carry a can of bear spray.  More PCT/bear info here.  With creatures like bears and snakes, if you leave them alone, they leave you alone. Like most backcountry travel, there is a possibility for injury or illness.  The best thing we can do is be proactive about our safety and take care of ourselves. The most common issues people have on the trail are blisters, bumps and bruises. While working at Outward Bound I participated in countless trainings, certifications and field days; encountering all kinds of situations.  Though never officially trained, Trav may be one of the most level headed, prepared, aware and cautious dudes I've ever known. He's also been in some pretty wicked outdoor scenarios and always comes out safe and sound. We make a good team and plan to take excellent care of each other. Collective sigh of relief here.

How fun! Can we come?
Man, we've got amazing and gung-ho friends and family! While we'd love to say 'Yeah! Come on!' the reality is that timing a meet up/visit/trip can be pretty tough once we're out there.  In addition to the logistical difficulties, because we will have logged a bunch of miles, we'll be cruising at a pretty good clip and physically the trail will be really tough for folks.  We're going to have to be non-committal about visits for now, but if you're serious, shoot us an email, we'll see what we can do. If you'd like to participate in our experience, we will be happily accepting letters! We'll post upcoming post office addresses here on the blog throughout the hike, so check back!

How will you be in touch/blog/Facebook? Do you carry a phone?
We will have our phone in a box that travels from post office to post office (known as a Bump or Bounce Box) and will call and update peeps on town days. There may be some sections when we carry the phone with us on the trail, but we'll see.  Once we start hiking, blog posting will definitely get thin. We will do our best to update with stories and pictures but can't make promises for frequency.

What do you carry? How heavy is your pack?
We'll be reviewing our gear, posting pictures and spreadsheets in the coming weeks, but for the most part with a long hike like this, the lighter, the better.  Ultralight hiking has become essential on thru-trails because it keeps the hiker from getting too exhausted day after day.  Most thru-hikers aim for a 'base pack weight' (total weight minus food or water) of 10-15 pounds.  At this point, we're doing the best with what we have. Ultralight gear tends to be expensive, and since we already have a bunch of backpacking gear, we're not upgrading if we don't need to.  Some things, like shoes (we will each go through 4-6 pairs), we will purchase and have shipped when we need them.

What if you fight?
We'll make up! Our 4 month trip to South America was a great experience for us, and I think, a great base line for the trail.  We found that on the whole we worked together, trusted each other, cheered each other up, shared ideas, made each other laugh and figured stuff out as we went. We like each other. A lot. And it seems to just work out.

Uh, why thru-hike?
Why not?! No but really, this has been a goal of mine since 2006.  I decided that I wanted to thru-hike before I turned 30. A few years later, Travis comes on the scene. There were countless reasons why he was the guy for me, but his unhesitant and unwavering enthusiasm to walk 2663 miles with me was icing on the cake.  Plus, who knows when we'll get another chance to do it! (And I turn 29 this summer).

Are you excited/scared/nervous?
Yes!

Alrighty. Any other queries out there?

**Just a sly, little reference to our friend Nathan's outstanding new book.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Adrenaline Pumping Outdoor Adventure (From Your Seat)

For years I've made the effort to seek out and attend the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.  Every year the Banff Mountain Centre hosts the festival and then sends it on the road for the masses to see.  It is always exciting and includes a range of films, short and long, highlighting adventures in climbing, boating, mountaineering and on and on.  Each year it is different, but it is ALWAYS thrilling.


It has already been through San Francisco, but there are still opportunities to see it in California and Texas.  Don't miss it and prepare to be inspired to get outside.  

If you'd like some outdoor excitement from your own couch, be sure to catch Frozen Planet on the Discovery Channel.  It's made by the same people who made Planet Earth AND it's narrated by Alec Baldwin. Trav and I haven't had a TV in years and could really do without most of the current day programming, but Frozen Planet is way cool (pun absolutely intended). Get ready to nerd out. 


And if this little blog is your source for outdoor adventures, we've got lots of it coming up. Like 2,663 miles worth. Starting April 29th.  Yes sir, we've set our start date, bought plane tickets to SoCal, and have compiled most of our gear into a color-coded spreadsheet. We'll be sure to share that with you all in coming days/weeks. I'm sure there are people out there (again, nerds) just dying to know our base pack weight.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Friends In High Places

Do you ever look at your life and think... how do I know such incredible people?

While we were down in South America, I got in contact with some Outward Bound friends who are doing beyond inspring things down there.  After years of plotting and perseverance, Ryan Huetter, climber extraordinaire, completed a route that is impressive to even the most experienced climbers. He summited Mount Fitz Roy. I knew it was a big deal, but after seeing the bad boy for myself in February, I am blow away by his accomplishment.  His trip report can (and should) be read here.




That last (absolutely breathtaking) photo was taken by Jon Byers. Jon and Ned LeBlond, two more OB buds, ventured down to Patagonia with their Alpine of the Americas Project. The goal of the project is 'to develop and implement a simple, repeatable, and useful set of measurements and transects that alpine travelers can use to contribute to research on alpine climate change'. They are collecting images, both on their own and with the help of others, that can and will provide perspective on the affects of climate change on watersheds in North and South America. Keep up with them on Facebook and their blog

On the other side of the world, and with equal amounts of gusto, two more of my friends from Outward Bound ventured through the Himalaya.  From January 23 to February 10, David Katz and Josh Garrison (along with their buddy Jeff Deutsch) trekked 160 kilometers through Nepal, building relationships and an incredible anthology of photos and video.  Check out their Langtang Project here.




Ryan, Jon, Ned, DKatz and Josh, I am proud to know you and excited to continue following your adventures. I can only image how many people the five of you have already inspired as Instructors on course and now will continue to reach through your astonishing pursuits. Keep sending. 

All of this high altitude talk reminded me of my favorite quote to read to students, and for life in general by Rene Daumal: "You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees, one descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can still know."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Rockin' Life

There are some days that seem like they were created just for sitting on a front porch.  The weather is crisp. The sky is bright. Birds sing and a light breeze prickles at your skin.

There are also some porches that make everyday seem perfect for sitting on a front porch. I think this porch fits into that category.




And as we sit here in the Hill Counry, rockin' over the lake, we've been thinking about all of y'all.  Remember before when we asked for your front porch view? Well, it's that time again. We miss you and we know you're up to good stuff out there. So sit back, kick 'em up, snap a little shot of your current adventure and join the crew. Send your pic to us at frontporchanywhere@gmail.com. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stellar Family Time

Time perfectly spent with family visiting includes:


Reading on rainy days.


Cooking amazing meals (including from-scratch cornbread in cast iron).


Cross-family football indoctrination.



A (month early) birthday surprise celebration for Trav. 


Complete with Justin Beiber cake-topper. 


Rock and roll serenades for a bulldog.



Father/son one on one b-ball.


A visit to the Boot Whisperer (we walked out empty handed but proved that these Pennsylvanians sure look good as Texans).




Texas barbecue at the famous Salt Lick on a beautiful day.


Remembering the Alamo.


And an evening stroll on the Riverwalk after Tex-Mex (and margaritas). 

We loved having Trav's parents in town. Y'all come back any time! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Christmas In March


We had an outstanding time with family this weekend and at the center of the action was a Christmas celebration. Because we were so far away for the holidays this year, our sweet moms had the bright idea of having Christmas when we could all be together. Saturday morning we woke up, had coffee and coffee cake, and unwrapped gifts. We gave each set of parents handmade, woven gifts from Peru and received thoughtful goodies as well, including beautiful pieces from Wendell August and With Heart And Hand.  It was warm and cozy, just what the holidays should be. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You Should Be Listening To: Lincoln Durham

Here in the Texas Hill Country we are lucky to live in close proximity to Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas (built in 1878). Gruene Hall has hosted musical greats Townes Van Zandt, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Gregg Allman, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, George Strait, and the list goes on... With such a historically beautiful venue at our fingertips, I've been waiting for a show that caught my attention. Upon looking through the March lineup, I stumbled upon Lincoln Durham. After listening to a few tracks, it was clear that this dude is doing his own thing and RIPPING. This was a must see show.

Gruene Hall. Gruene, Texas.

My parents flew down for a visit, so we all headed out on a cold, rainy spring Texas night to Gruene. The stormy weather coupled with Gruene Hall's old, creaky wooden floors and deeply carved tables set the perfect stage for the dark, resonating performance Lincoln Durham was about to give.  The guitar, harmonica, resonator, fiddle, and stomp board screaming out of his makeshift 1950s amplifiers make hair stand on edge and feet stomp the ground. His weathered instruments was perfectly matched by his gritty, howling, soulful voice; song after song.





Check out the following videos for a preview of Lincoln Durham's music. If you're in Texas and he's playing in your area, go see him live. You won't be disappointed. 


 


You can get more information and hear more music on:

Myspace
Facebook
Lincoln Durham

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cheers

Try not to drool people. 




Last night (after our first of two airport pick ups) we cruised into San Antonio to The Esquire Tavern for dinner and drinks with our friend Aleks.  Aleks is in Texas for work and we had the good fortune of a quick hang out.  We don't really know San Antonio so Travis came up with the Esquire after some internet searching... and boy, were we in luck.  We dug into good food and great conversation across from the longest wooden bar in Texas. Trav and Aleks each enjoyed an Old Fashioned. We all shared a basket of fried beets with a tarragon aoli (that I had to resist dipping my fingers directly into).  The burgers were melt in your mouth delicious.  After parting ways with Aleks, back to the airport we went to pick up Trav's parents.  I'm sure the weekend will bring some good eating, laughs and maybe some board game madness. It's going to be a good one.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

One Of California's Finest


In anticipation of our Los Angeles visit at the Hotel Conleyfornia before hitting the trail, I wanted to share an exciting exhibition with y'all.....

If you are in the Orange County area or can somewhat easily travel there, I encourage you to stop in at the Orange County Museum of Art and spend some time with the artwork of Richard Diebenkorn. Diebenkorn spent the most of his life living and working between the Bay Area (SF/Berkeley) and Santa Monica, where he painted the majority of his famous "Ocean Park" series. Approximately 80 of the 145 "Ocean Park" works can be seen at the OCMA. In my opinion, Diebenkorn was one of the most underrated American Expressionist/Figurative painters of his time. The exhibition is running through May 27th, 2012. The OCMA charges $12 admission for non-members and is open Wednesday-Sunday (closed Monday/Tuesday). If you don't already have plans for this Sunday (March 11th), you can visit the OCMA for free as part of their "Second Sundays". Last but not least, NPR recently did a piece on Diebenkorn that is definitely worth a listen.