Monday, February 25, 2013

Over And Out

Well *sigh* the time has come to wrap up here at Front Porch Anywhere. We started this blog to keep our family and friends posted while we took our incredible adventure and now that we are settled, we're going to stop blogging.  
The site will stay up, of course.  Our hope is that others can browse through our photos and stories and perhaps use them as a resource on their own travels.  We read numerous blogs while we traveled, hiked and prepared and hope our adventures can provide inspiration, motivation and reference, too. 

Click either of the following photos to read more:

As always, feel free to contact us at frontporchanywhere (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Many, many thousands of thanks to y'all for reading, commenting, supporting and enjoying our trip.  We think about it daily and revel in all of our glorious memories.  

I am quite certain that there will be more adventures and travels and escapades in the future and at that point, we'll revive Front Porch Anywhere to share the love. 

All the best, y'all. Be well. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pacific Crest Trail Final Gear List And Reviews

Five months after completing the trail and I am finally getting around to our gear review and update. Hope this is useful to some of you nerds out there. Better late than never!

Last spring as we were preparing for the PCT we posted a gear list here on the blog.  Once we were on the trail, our gear list changed quite a bit.  We sent things home, left things in hiker boxes and swapped things out.  I have updated our gear list here (to the best of my memory) but have not included the weights.  All told, I think our pack base-weights (minus food and water) were around 15 pounds each.

If you don't read this entire (long) post, here are some key points that worked for us:
1. It's all trial and error. We thought we had a pretty good handle on what gear we wanted/needed before our thru hike... we're experienced backpackers and had spent plenty of time on trail. But thru hiking is a different animal. We certainly went through lots of options and were glad we did. Your body, needs and desires change so much. If you can, give yourself some room to try and change options.
2. Use what you have.  We got a lot of gear as wedding gifts and already owned lots of gear from years of working outdoor retail.  Gear costs add up quick, so use what you have, even if it's a few extra ounces.
3. Don't be afraid to be comfortable.  Hiking is hard. If there is something you carry for comfort, it's worth it.

Now onto the reviews...

Traded Up
Here are things that we swapped out and are so damn glad we did.  

CATALYST BACKPACK: In Agua Dulce, I swapped my Granite Gear Vapor Ki out for a ULA Catalyst. I LOVED the Catalyst.  It does carry quite differently than the Vapor Ki (and most packs I've carried) but once I got used to it, I absolutely loved it.  It's durable and light and, I found, very spacious!

SAWYER SQUEEZE FILTER: This thing is brilliant.  We used bleach and the Katadyn Hiker for the first 1100 miles and switched to the Sawyer in Reno.  We wish we'd had it from the beginning.  The bags that come with it are total junk, so swap them out for the Evernew 2 Liter bladder.

BIG AGNES FLY CREEK UL3: We started with the Tarp Tent Squall 2 and switched to the Big Agnes in Sierra City.  We actually got the UL2 (2 person) and found it so small that we couldn't sit up at the same time.  We also got concerned about condensation, as our bags touched the walls all the way down the sides.  We upgraded to the UL3 (3 person) in Shasta and were (and still are) obsessed.  We had plenty of room, a full mesh top, a fly and felt like the little extra weight was well worth it.  Like other things, we wished we'd started at Campo with this bad boy.

Trial, Error, Success
It took a few tries, but we were thrilled with our selections.

MAGGIE'S SHOES: I went through three models of shoes on the trail.  I started in the Vasque Velocity and wore them until Agua Dulce. I was having hip and knee pain and switched to the Merrell Moab Ventilator, looking for more support and bulk.  I wore the Moabs (two pair) until Shasha City and switched to the La Sportiva Wildcat.  I loved the Moabs.  They were supportive and confortable, but the second pair I got felt very narrow and my feet got so swollen on the Hat Creek Rim, that all I wanted breathability.  I found the Wildcats in Shasta and fell head over heals. I wore three pair to get me to Canada and loved every step.  I wore each pair for 600-700 miles. In 'real life' I measure at a 7.5-8 shoe size, but on the trail, in all of these pairs, I wore a 9.

TRAVIS'S SHOES: Trav started in Montrail Masochists, which he had pre-ordered online in his normal size 9.5.  By the time we made it to Northern California, his feet had grown/swollen so much that it was time to get something new, so in Mammoth he bought some Patagonia Drifter ACs (for a few reasons, mostly because they had a very solid sole).  Just a handful of miles out of Mammoth he realized that those Patagonia shoes were not for him and he could not wait to get some new shoes. The trail provided (as it always does) and in Yosemite, at the gear store/gas station in Tuolumne  he bought the only trail runners they had, the Solomon XA Pro 3D Ultra.  He love loved them, and wore three more pair until Canada.

SHELTER:  We liked the TarpTent that we started with a lot, but the zipper became such an issue and eventually broke completely (like, into two pieces).  Most people we talked to with 2 person TarpTents had zipper issues.  I don't know if this is over use, poor zippers or what, but we just abandoned ship and moved to the Big Agnes Fly Creek (as mentioned above).  We actually got the UL2 (2 person) at first and found it so small that we couldn't sit up at the same time.  We also got concerned about condensation, as our bags touched the walls all the way down the sides. Like I said above, the 3 person was very luxurious, and I know some hikers might not have gone with this heavier option, but we sure were happy and feel like it's going to have a long life with us.

Clothing Favorites
EX OFFICIO UNDERWEAR: Cover you butts in this stuff. It's great. We both concur. Mine and Trav's.

PATAGONIA...EVERYTHING: It's no secret that we wear a lot of (matching) Patagonia clothing. We met while working there and have a large stockpile of Patagonia gear.  We were, basically, decked head to toe in clothing we already had.  It wasn't always the lightest, fastest option, but it was what we had and we didn't want to spend more money.  Items we are both obsessed with: Baggie shorts (lasted the whole way), Wool 2 long sleeved shirts, Rainshadow jackets, Down Sweater jackets. My old Baggies that I started in got a hole in the seat, so I did buy a new pair in Reno at the outlet.  I hiked in the Wool 2 zipneck, long sleeved shirt from Campo to Eugene, and switched to Capeline 2 for the last leg of the trip.  Most wool shirts that I saw wore through and need to be replaced.  It was worth it to me in comfort.  The Capeline was fine, but I also wore a hole in in and it stiiiiinks.  Trav wore his El Ray button down the entire way, and it's still in solid shape. I had my Houdini shipped to me in Kennedy Meadows and loved having it through the Sierra.  This has been a long standing favorite of both of ours (we both wore this jacket religiously while biking around San Francisco). Trav picked his up in Reno (after a few hundred miles of being jealous of mine).  We had a warm year compared to most but nonetheless we were so so glad to have had this extra windproof layer through Northern California, Oregon and Washington.  It was worn daily. There's a picture of us with Histo, all in our Houdinis.

THERMAREST WOMEN'S PROLITE:  We rolled into a gear shop in Bishop and picked up Prolites that were a past model and deeply discounted.  We both carried the Women's version.  Adding the 16oz to our packs was WELL worth how much better we slept.  And yes, we did keep carrying the ZLites, too.

USB MEMORY CARD READER: You can find one of these at any drug store or Radio Shack.  We got ours in Big Bear and it was a  wonderful solution to uploading and backing up our photographs.  A bunch of our hiker friends used it at every town stop, too.  It's a light and simple solution to backing up photos.  I'm glad I did along the way, because the first of our two memory cards was somehow damaged and I cannot access the photos from Campo to Bishop any longer...

List of (some) things we ditched all together:
-Second/spare Moving Comfort sports bra
*There are so many things that we ditched that I don't even recall... In each town you end up leaving something behind and trimming weight and bulk.

Honorable Mention
We loved...

MSR POCKET ROCKET: We loved the system and felt like it was quite efficient for the two of us.

IPHONE: So glad we had our iPhone. Carrying a phone/gadget isn't for everyone, but we were glad to have it for internet-ing in town, calling family and friends and using PCT Apps.  We HIGHLY recommend the Halfmile Maps and App.  We kept the phone in a simple Ziploc and it was fine for 2660 miles.

Hope this helps!

PS. I have added some useful information, guidelines and even print-outs on our PCT page outlining the US Postal Service's guidelines for mailing fuel canisters to PCT hikers. In short, it is totally possible and totally easy to mail isobutane canisters, you just need to account for more time (they cannot go air, they must go by ground, even if you use a flat rate box) and you must add the appropriate label.  Ship on!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yoga Challenge: It's Week 3

Well, it's week three already. 

The personal yoga challenge is going well... actually I'm loving it.  It's an incredible feeling to recognize areas and muscles and poses that are stronger than they were weeks ago.  I have, since the first day, been acutely aware of how strong my legs are from all of that hiking.  My arms and core were a bit flimsy so after shaking through the arm/core focused areas, the leg focused stuff made me feel tough.   I am now starting to look ahead to March and beyond, figuring out what kind of yoga practice I can/will have when this challenge is over. Does anyone out there have a practice schedule they like? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


While drinking our coffee this morning, Trav put on Willie Nelson's Stardust. And it is Valentine's Day perfection.  I have a hunch that it will be on repeat all day... lots of record flipping. If you haven't gotten your sweetheart or a special someone something... I highly recommend this album (no Willie Nelson pun intended there).  It's a perfect collection of love songs.

And Willie seems to me the perfect Cupid. A reminder that love ain't always pretty or polished or conventional.  But it's sweet and simple and meant for enjoyment.

And for a special loveydovey throwback, you've gotta re-read this one.

Happy VDay, y'all.  XOXO.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Yoga Challenge: Week 1

I decided weeks ago that for the month of February I would do a personal yoga challenge.  The idea came from a number of motivations:
1. There is a wonderful studio in town that offers an unlimited 30 day trial for $40.
2. I have no job and know few people in town and therefore have a good amount of free time.
3.  As I mentioned before, I find it difficult to create structure when I have none, so a 1 hour yoga class a day gives me something to plan around.
4. I like a physical challenge and having a goal (ahem)
5.  Health, wellness, fitness, core strength, etc.
6.  Feeling centerend.

So, the goal is to take a yoga class everyday for the month of February. I'm eight days in and feeling good.  I try to mix it up and take classes that differ in practice and difficulty.  I took one the other day that made my upper abs sore for days. Laughing was so painful.  And when I would start to laugh I'd cower in pain making Travis laugh at me and then making me laugh more.  Vicious cycle. Some days I feel muscles I didn't know I had.  Like, what's with that weird muscle right in front of your arm pit? You know that space that seems to always get sunburned too.... anyway, that was screamin' at one point.  Today my shoulders are worked.

One thing I did not expect was to appreciate the meditation and quiet reflection as much as I have.  I remember in yoga classes of yore I spent the whole 'meditation' time wondering when it was going to be over. Now, it's often not long enough.  I guess it's safe to say I have a lot of reflecting to do.

So! Eight days down, twenty to go!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Well Look At That

See that! The kind folks over at LMU Magazine put our picture from the PCT monument up as in their "Alumni Of The Moment" feature. Thanks y'all! Go lions!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Butternut Cookies

We've been on a bit of a cookie bender over here since the holidays.

Yesterday, instead of bolting over to Whole Foods for our daily an afternoon coffee and cookie (they have a cookies-by-the-pound bar which is an absolute danger zone), I opted to bake some and even attempt something healthy.  We have a real life qualifier in our house (most often used while I'm cooking) on whether things are Actually Delicious or Hippie Delicious.  These Butternut Cookies = Actually Delicious.

I've never shared a recipe here before, but what the hell.  Maybe y'all have been on cookie benders too and need to feel the satisfaction that comes from having squash in your cookie. These little gems come from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking For Health (by far and away my favorite cookbook ever).

You'll need:
1 1/2 cups pureed cooked butternut squash (see notes)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil*
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, almonds peanuts or pecans**
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips**
1/2 cup chopped raisins or dried cranberries**
1/2 cup sunflower or chopped pumpkin seeds**

1. In a bowl, mix together the squash, sugar, oil, egg and vanilla
2. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
3. Fold flour mixture into the squash mixture until well blended
4. Stir in the nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, seeds, if using
5. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls onto two large baking sheets, about 18 cookies per pan. Give them room, they spread a bit as they bake***

The dough is super sticky.  I ended up just using my fingers to drop little goops on the baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 375ยบ oven for 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned on the bottom. Use a spatula to move cookies to a wire rack to cool. Store in a covered container.

You can use a 12 oz package of frozen winter squash and let it thaw, then puree.  Use whole wheat flour or pastry flour, but not bread flour.

My notes:
*I used coconut oil
**I used mini chocolate chips, walnuts (untoasted), pumpkin seeds (roasted, salted), and dried crans. They are chocked full of stuff and you can use any or all of these... if you don't want/have/like all the extras, use what you like and add more to substitute.
***Mine didn't spread much, so I jammed a whole bunch on the second sheet.

The cookies are cakey and super good, not too sweet.  They're not pretty (and I realize don't photograph too well) but it's taking everything we have not to eat all of them today.  I had two for breakfast with coffee.

Some selling points/words directly from the book: "Guilt-free treats, high in beta-carotene, omega-3s, whole grains and fiber - they passed the test of our kid testers who thought they were really yummy and are hoping to find them often in their lunch boxes ".

Enjoy! Happy weekend.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

And The Much More Important Holiday This Week

Monday I found my mind wandering to the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument, the words that surrounded us there and the great man that said them.  I took this picture at the monument in D.C. on a visit in 2011.  The words resinate so deeply.  

MLK day is such an important holiday. I hope that teachers, parents and even us full grown adults use it to educate, think, understand and progress. 

(In the vein of my 'career of humanity', I am happy to report that my application for graduate school has been submitted.  I submitted it Monday night.  Here's hopin'. )

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

National Handwriting Day

I opened my calendar today to realize that it's National Handwriting Day! I was pleased as punch that I'd already handwritten 5 letters this morning with out knowing it.  I'm so festive.  I've been loving mail so much lately, that it seemed right on time (write on time?). 

So, here's your public service announcement: go write a letter, make someone's day. 

Some of my favorite cards from around the web: onetwothreefourfive and for just the right occasion, six.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Walkin' And Talkin'

Our little neighborhood here in Wilmington has a wonderful park running right through it.  We walk or run through it often and feel lucky to live by what feels like the woods.  Here are some pictures we took a few weeks ago and a few thoughts on our transition...

All in all, this has been a big transition for us.  And there are so many layers to it.  We're coming off of the most exciting 15 months ever and it would be hard to transition to living anywhere.  We're in a new town were we don't know many people.  Trav has started his new job and things are going quite well, but it's the first time... well... ever... that he's the busy one and I am not.  He tries to surf often and works in his studio daily, making art and trying new things. There is spray paint, wood, paint brush, photography and pencil wielding daily. It's funny because I love being busy and he doesn't love it.  I like having meetings and plans and tasks and work and activities.  I like to juggle. Of course, I could fill my time with all kinds of things, but have you noticed that it's hard to create structure when you have none? That's where I'm at.  

This transition and getting settled and a new job and new place also means that for the first time in 15 months we're not doing everything together.  And it's a little strange.  We have to get re-acquainted to individual schedules. 

And well, the job market is tough here.  I'm pouring over the internet daily, writing and rewriting cover letters.  Next week, I'm taking to the streets armed with a stack of resumes.  I'm also going to approach some volunteer opportunities with hopes of serving my new community and making connections.  I'll let you know how it goes.  

There are days that I miss San Francisco and our old life there so much it makes me nuts.  I miss our friends and community, the city streets and parks and hustle and bustle.  I found a Muni bus ticket in my raincoat pocket the other day and almost keeled over in nostalgia.  I then tucked it back into the pocket to find another day.  There are also days that I miss the trail so much it makes me nuts.  I miss quiet mornings in the tent, fresh air and wide open space.  I daydream about our hiker friends and lunches sitting in the dirt, laughing and resting with our socks off.  I long for the simplicity. The challenge.  And the glory of getting to camp at the end of the day.  

Of course, there have been some fun, exciting highlights in our new locale. Because Trav teaches at night, I have been whipping up all kinds of dinners on my own, trying new things and sometimes making a giant mess in the process. (I then like to clean it all up so I look cool and on top of it when he rolls in.)  It's been an enjoyable task to get our house together, to build a cozy little space filled with things we love.  I also spend a good amount of time planning future adventures in my head (and with help of internet research).  This state offers so many fun places to visit and explore, and I love thinking about the possibilities. 

It's a lot of change and transition. And most predominately there is still the thrilling sense of newness.  We have a fresh start.  Room to build and explore. Which is awesome.   

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

For a little stretch here, we've been enjoying some serious mail and package goodness.  There is just something so distinct and satisfying about getting paper mail.

Letter-wise, yesterday was golden.  A letter from Cookie, a PCT friend, who I've got a pen-pal-ship going with.  (I also have a solid pen-pal-ship going with Garilicte and always look forward to his next letter. Remember when he guest blogged for me?).  A postcard from Cousin Greta, on vacation in Hawaii. A letter from Jen, who lives in Hawaii. A package from Aunt Tam, with some sweet little gifts and new music. A package from the best mother in law ever with goodies acquired on our trip up North.

I've also had these special cards on the mantle for a week or so. From Meg, Jamie and Wendy. 

Yesterday my mirror made it's way home.  I bought this Mexican tile mirror on the street in Oakland right after moving into my first place in San Francisco.  I remember the feeling I had after bringing it home and hanging it up. Arranging all of my special things around it. I felt like, oh I don't know, like I wanted to throw my beret into the air... So, when we left SF in 2011 I asked Ginger to hold on to my mirror for me until we were settled. Once we got all moved in, I asked her to send it and she obliged.  She also sent with it one of the notes pictured above and a reading about front porches. I was so thrilled when it arrived.  To hang it up and arrange some of our special things around it. 

And, as part of my Secret Santa gift, a beautiful copy of The Little Prince arrived from Hayley. For all the love, hope and starry night skies...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Inspiration From Italy

From National Geographic

Last weekend I got an email from a former Outward Bound student of mine. This student was one of the most remarkable teenagers I met, and let me tell you here and now, I met a lot teenagers...

But in the sea of teens, which can be some pretty rough waters, this one is a GEM.

Born and raised in SF, she has now ventured off to Italy to study for nine months.  Alone.  She's had some sad and difficult life and family experiences, but has grown into one of the best, brightest, and bravest young women around.  I am so inspired by her and the courage it takes to be a teenager in another country.  Taking Italian lessons and working on service projects with Rotary Club, she is keeping busy and traveling often with her host family. She, and two other American students, even cooked Thanksgiving for their host families.  It was the first time she'd ever cooked a full Thanksgiving meal and it was important to her to share this American tradition.

I loved working for Outward Bound.  I loved the long days I spent hiking behind a group of students, with their dirty hair, crazy stories and slang.  I was never more in-tune with pop culture than my days in the woods with students. Which is a hilarious paradox. Anyway.  I think about the long dinners, sitting on the ground, eating spaghetti with spoons,  recapping the days adventures. Laughing or breaking up arguments or telling stories.  All of it (at the time I might have said most of it) was meaningful and wonderful and nuts.  Getting this email from this student sent my mind racing with inspiration and nostalgia.

I've been mulling over some resolutions this week, what with the new year and all.  Hearing from her in Italy reminded me not of *things* I want to do or maintain, but the way I want to *feel* while doing and maintaining. Maintaining a sense of courage and independence, a solid commitment to self reliance.  It's little things.  It's not avoiding asking for help. It's simply doing things on my own accord.  A simple (and somewhat trivial) example: I quit Facebook a few weeks ago which means sitting down and making phone calls or writing letters.  Not relying on FB to carry on my relationships. Self reliance/relaying on myself.

Just some thoughts for y'all today as I, honestly, try to figure out what to do with/how to maintain this blog.

All's well here in Wilmington.  We've had some visitors saying with us, which has been good times. Trav's prepping for his first day at work Monday, and I am up to my eyeballs in resumes, cover letters, and personal statements. To maintain sanity, every now and then I watch Seinfeld clips on YouTube.  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Twenty Thirteen

2012 has been the most incredible year of my life, so I have to say it was sad to see the sun set on our epic year.  But the sunrise of 2013 brings so much promise.  We've learned so much. Grown so much. Seen so much. Done so much. There is nothing for us now but forward momentum.  So bring on the sun, 2013.

Photo from PCT in Oregon.  Look back here.