a year ago

wow! has it really been a year since i, literally, walked away from my life in portland? it seems like i’ve lived a couple lives since then. i’m going to try and summarize what i’ve gone through and where i think i have set my compass bearings…but who am i kidding, i carry a compass, but use the direction the wind takes me more than my compass.

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so a year ago i was getting soaked through and through on the oregon coast trail. a trail i don’t really recommend doing in its entirety. sure it has some of the most amazing views on the pacific coast. however…there is so much road walking, which sure shuttles can take you around, so it’s not too bad. if you are wanting to do it, do it for sure, but do it in the full-on summer time. let the spring storms pass. have a way to know the tides. be prepared for sandblasting your skin (and tent in the middle of the night), and being amazed at every moment you remember to look up and pay attention.

when i got to the oregon/cali border, i ran out of walking ideas. well, i had ideas, but water levels and snow levels were beyond my skill set. years and years of low winter snow levels meant that a “normal” year felt high. maybe this is why so many people the past several years have taken on the pct. if one was willing to push beyond some levels of pain and discomfort, mostly mental, one could persevere without a huge skill set, but not this year.

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so i did what i do when i don’t know what else to do, i got a job. i went inland to explore a town and area i had never been to. i sat at the chetco brewery and booked a shuttle to ashland, lived at a hostel while i looked both for a place to live and a place to work. (p.s. this is actually pretty common. when i i stayed in any hostel from slo (san luise obispo) to tijuana, there were people living at the hostel looking for housing.) i quickly found both and settled in. my pals would come into town and take me out for swimming adventures at rivers and lakes. we went to experience the eclipse. i had a wonderful summer.

my mom came out to visit. and then we visited my grandpa’s sister and i loaded up a bike and headed south once again. i have to say, this lady, ellen, is a spark. her and my grandfather were best pals. i can remember her and her husband carl visiting when i was a kid. in my child’s memory i don’t remember what muscular disease he had, i just remember her pushing him around in a big wheelchair. i remember whatever was happening, she pushed him, she smiled, she laughed like there was no issue, no problem, no inconvenience. it was just what was. she still lives in the house that she raised her kids in. she lives alone. she knows her neighbors and they assist her with whatever she asks for. she….she…well she amazes me. not with the grand and great actions, but like my grandparents, the simple enjoyments of everyday life.

at some point in the evening, she turned to me and said,

i remember once when i was visiting your grandfather, we went to your work and you made me a fantastic margarita.

yes, i remember too. it was fun.

would you make us a round?

i’d love to.

so we had “happy hour”

then she told us stories of dancing at the hall, of being a dance instructor, of love, of family….93 years of living (i think it’s 93 maybe it’s 87 it doesn’t matter really). we had moved to the enclosed patio so that i could sort and separate gear for my transition from walking to biking, but at some point, i stopped so that i could sit and listen to her. it just seemed so important to listen. to capture this moment somewhere in my body and mind. to absorb her words. i don’t remember them, but i can feel them, and it is a feeling i continue to move with. maybe in a selfish way, it was like having my grandparents with me in space and time again for a moment, and i wasn’t going to sort packages of ramen and t-shirts and forgo this moment.

that first day i didn’t get far. maybe 15, 20 miles. i needed some time to switch gears.

when my mom dropped me off at some empty parking lot that i pick as fine, and i was loaded up and she pulled out and i pulled out, i road to the beach and just kind of what the fucked for a moment. really, what am i doing? i could have stayed at that job, probably found a place i could afford to live. i could have gone back to portland or kansas… eventually, i calmed down, got my bearings and pointed the bike south and started cranking on the pedals.

i got through santa cruz and found a campground with a hiker-biker site, set up camp and watched the sunset. in the morning i chatted with some fellow bike tour folks, and the pace was set. this is what i wanted. to travel by my own power. to see…what? everything, whatever came my way. to stop and chat with people. to see the world outside of the bubble i had been living in for the past 10 years. i would say i have been successful so far.

i have met people from all over: from homeless to the very wealthy and lots of people who gave up the grind for the love of life (especially the “homeless” living in the parks). i met the owner of a brewery (who opened his doors for me to have a cold one on a hot day) who told me about the ridiculous codes he had to deal with. the couple who worked in l.a. in various projects for alternative transportation. my friends who opened their doors to me so many times as i passed through the big cities. and the wonderful folks i met in mexico. and so many people looking for something besides the prescribes socially acceptable life choices.

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the ocean as a companion just cannot be underestimated. she is wonderful. and all those who call her home: the sea otters, lions, gulls, crustaceans, birds of all kinds. the trees and plants of the shorelines that changed the scents and quality of the air i was breathing.

the landslides and wildfires that affected where and how i passed through. these are the events that shifted and changed the way i see climate change. it was a year where i not just knew climate change through numbers, statistics, lectures, and subtle shifts. this year i felt it even more than ever. and not in just that yes, the climate is changing as a part of natural evolutional shifts and changes, but as a force humans are changing faster than nature can keep up with.

and not just that we are unbalancing the balance of nature, but that nature will restore her balance even if it means the demise of the human species. this planet is not as fragile as people seem to poetically like to consider her. maybe it is because we view nature as feminine and we like females to be fragile. however, any being who brings forth life, cannot be fragile. she is strong and she will fight for life, the life she has created. if we don’t drastically shift and change our individual lives, we are the ones who will die…currently, it is something like 600,000 people a year die from climate-related deaths-at least i believe that is close to the number i read recently.

this journey so far has opened up my life in ways i could never imagine. it has helped me realize the vision of my life as a kind of loner and rebel that i have always felt that i am. i’m so thankful for my pals and family in all its shapes and sizes so that i don’t have to be a true loner and who celebrate and inspire my kind of rebellion…so far. i couldn’t be me without them.

so i sit here in a small moutain town in colorado setting a foundation for this vision. a vision that doesn’t see me really attatched to any specific place except for this planet and where i am resting my head for the time being, but more attatched to the people who’s path i cross in the process. i am also taking more of an interest in the health of this big blue rock that, no matter that science fiction finds other planets for us to inhabit, is our only home.

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so yup, this year has pushed and stretched me. it has afirmed that i made the right choice. it has caused me to question my life choices and ethics that have only reaffirmed them and made them stronger. i’ve listened to so many people’s stories that only makes me want to hear more.

i have renewed respect for humanity and disgust for capitalism. i truly believe that capitalism is the root of so much disharmony and disease in the northern hemisphere. the root cause for increasing use of opiates and anti-depression drugs in n. america.

i have renewed faith in local communities. in fact, i believe that it is the direct actions and how local communities respond to the various crisis where we will find solutions. i don’t mean in large city councils and such, but eventually maybe. i mean in our neighborhoods. in conversation with our neighbors…who were once strangers. getting to know that person who picks up the bottles we leave out for others to take for their deposits…their income. going for walks with people. know the trees and birds who come through the alleyways. do you have birds and bees in the gardens? what do your neighbors grow? cook? have tea on the front porch.

so what is my vision?

well. i plan on staying in this little mountain town for a year to save money and work on that foundation i was talking about. i want to find my voice as a writer and figure out how to use it for good. to face my fears that keep me from stretching and pushing myself and risk failure on all levels. and then i want to point the bike in a direction and see where it takes me. to visit my friends, some of which i haven’t met yet, but deeply looking forward to meeting.

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simple happiness

it was an unassuming setup of a day with a slow but steady start. a day that i thought was going leave me feeling like i was just chasing my tail. i had been trying to get a copy of my lease so that i could get a po box…life in employee housing. the hr person sent it to one place and when i went to pick it up, it had gone to another place, but it was fine. i had stopped in at the office where i report to for work, thinking it would be there, but it wasn’t. so my boss said he had to go up to the main housekeeping office and offered me a ride. we rode around together and chatted. i enjoy his conversations and musings. when i go to the other office, the lease had been moved once again, so i just went back to the main hr person and she got me a copy, whew.

from there the day just rocketed….

but maybe i should start with the day before….

i have mentioned that i am the only white woman, not a manager…only white person at all that is not a manager. so this day i came in on my day off and was just going to go around and prep rooms and make beds for the other housekeepers, but my manager, who was driving me to different properties, would leave me and not come back for awhile. so i would stay and work with whoever was at that condo. eventually, it was just me and the jamaicans. i really like working with the jamaicans, but i am cautious. they are all steeped deep into the island’s religious beliefs which to say are homophobic is not true. the laws in jimaca are not phobic at all, they are down right hateful and violent, so i am cautious, but open with those i work with. (by the way, i think we need a different word for homophobia and i’ll bring this up on a different post just like ethical vegan needs to be readdressed).

i am constantly asked where my husband is and about kids. i tell them i do not want a husband nor kids. they look confused. on this day the questions came again (every time i work with them) and one asked if i was stragiht, and i said i am not straight…i think they were using straight in a different way than i was. however, a few minutes later, the music cranked, they asked if i dance.

well, yes, yes i love to dance! i use to go to the 4 day reggae fest in kansas city.

then come in here and dance.

so i did. i came sliding into the kitchen and danced with one of the women. i followed her moves and my hips swung side to side and around and around to cheers all around.

then i was told to watch out, i just may end up with a jimacan husband….uuugh.

however, lets note that my dancing was cheered on by a group of jamaicans! yes!

now, where was i? yes. slow moving to my day off chores list!

with my lease in hand i headed off to the post office and aquired my po box! yes! but first….i want to go out for breakfast! i almost didn’t because it was lunch time, but as all good folks who have lived in pdx know, brunch is a whole different food group and i haven’t heard many people talk about brunch around here. so i took the risk and swung by this place i heard was vegan friendly, and i have to tell ya. the vegan rancheros were the best f*#@ing rancheros i have ever had! and i have gotten around when it comes to rancheros!

so now i am fed, and po box aquired… i got to thinking…with my lease, i can get my library card! so i headed to the library 9 blocks down the road. amazing little walk! i told the librarians that i never really felt at home anywhere until i got a library card, and it is true. my reading life has been subsisting on the ebook library of multnomah county; a most excellent of libraries, and i perhaps the reason i have managed through some struggles…access to books is worth so much to me. yet, i have missed the pysicality of a bunch of paper full of words bound togher. maybe i am vain just a bit. when i use an ereader, i don’t feel as connected to the book. also, i like to see what others are reading and for them to see what i am reading. it is a great way to start a conversation with a stranger. (side note, my dad passed along one of he and his partner’s ereaders to make my reading life easier, and it was totally kept me sane. i really don’t know what i would do without access to reading!)

 

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for real, this is my library card

 

anyway, i got my library card, wondered around, collected a stack of books and found a place to sit….and what a view!

 

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view from my library perch

 

i didn’t want to leave, but the day was so blue and clear that eventually i had to leave my perch and walk along the river to my next place to explore….a bike shop.

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i miss my bike. i miss riding my bike. i know i can’t ride here yet. there is too much ice under the snow for my little tires. so i went into this amazing bike shop. so great and funky. the guys there that day were only a little brotastic. i got my fix and kept walking along the river.

oh on this walk earlier, i found black sulpher hot springs.

it was an accident. i was walking along the river…it is freaking cold by the way this day, like less than 10 degrees with the sun beaming down, but the sun felt so very good. so as i am walking along and i see steam entering the river! everything else is ice and snow, but here is steaming hot water flowing into the river. sure enough, right after i figure it out, i follow a trail on the other side of the river to a sign that tells me i indeed did find black sulpher hot springs! sweet!

floating a little higher, i head over to the bookstore for their happy hour. that is right. the bookstore has a happy hour, and a statue that discribes by day perfectly!

 

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exactly how i felt this day

 

i get a glass of a local beer and sit down with my stack of library books and just soak in the feelings and emotions. then i walk around the little store and scan a few new books into my goodreads account. they have a whole section on local writers and i look forward to exploring them.

then it was off to this little brewery for a pint before going home to make dinner. tuesday is token tuesday. with every pint you order, they give you a token to donate to a local organization. so i sit there and have a pint, chat with a few people, and look over the vegan cookbook i picked up at the library. see i have missed cooking. i have missed mixing up the sauces and spices that sets the aromas of my imagination running.

i made a list and headed off to the grocery store.

i smiled the whole way home on the bus. i was thinking about how i would fix the veggies in my back pack, what i would read while eating, and then prepare some oats for breakfast for the week.

the whole day was so simple, so easy going, so beautiful, so…so….so spectacular that it seems redicuous to remember how simple it was and how happy that made me, but it was and it did.

it reminded me of days biking or hiking with the simplicity of a great view and movement. of totally acceptance of where i am and what i am doing…so simple. so full. so complete.

i had also stopped at a couple thrift stores and such as i wondered around that day, but as little as i have in my little room, i still don’t need much, and the less i realized i need, the happier i become. it is truly amazing and gratifying. i have appropriate enough clothes and gear for the season. i have a way to read books of my choosing. i have access to healthy food concidering i am surrounded by snow in a small mountain town….thank goodness wealthy people like to come here. i have free transportation around town. and i have a job to pay for it all. i have good friends and family that i can regularly share stories with. i have my health. i have my sence of humor. and i have my sense of adventure. so simple…what else do i need?

what’s next

so i have left ashland. it wasn’t an easy decision to stay or to go. it was a nice place to sort things out. good people. lots to explore. however, the jobs just don’t match the cost of living-as is true most places these days. also, there is something odd about ashland. it’s almost too perfect sometimes…in an uncomfortable way….like stepford wives as a city. i also had a hard time finding the queerdos.

so i started sorting out my options with the help of some pals that came and went from ashland all summer. i found a hella deal on a bike and transferred the gear in my backpack to bike panniers and a smaller backpack. my plan was to bike the sierra cascade route down to baja and then bike around there for the winter. then a family visit down the california coast changed that. so back to the pacific ocean it is. i still plan on making it to baja for the winter, but i will have to stop and work from time to time, so if you know anyone who needs some help with a project or two let me know! i’d love to meet some people and work side-by-side with them.

i haven’t had much time to make the emotional and mental switch from work to travel again. i finished work on sunday at 7am and by the afternoon had visitors. we met for dinner and then took off to crater lake the next day, and then to the redwoods and family in santa clara. the next day i was dropped off in santa cruz to start biking.

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as i started peddling, i realized i didn’t really know what my destination was for the day. i rode to the boardwalk and looked up a direction and started riding. as i entered the monterey bay area i found some hiker-biker campsites and pulled into one early in the day and made a few adjustments to bike and self. i fell asleep super early.

when i woke up, i chatted with the folks that had rolled in that night and we shared some information. i took my time packing up trying some new ideas, pulled out google maps to pick the next location.

i spent the day riding through farm land….corporate farm land. actually i spent the night right next to del monte strawberries. i rode past cabbages, fruits, artichokes, people planting, tending, and harvesting. it was interesting to go by slowly and watch to see where there was drinking water available, shade, rest….working conditions. my afternoon snack came from a roadside produce stand where i had a fine chat with the woman who had just started this little organic market.

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as i curved around the bay, i remembered the sylivia earle connection to monterey bay, so looked into heading in that direction. it was amazing to sleep along a bay that has been protected. the wildlife, the clean water, plants…. all of it has been so amazing. the night before i actually was woken by a screeching owl and some other birds having a conversation. it is a great contrast to super industrial shorelines.

as i entered a town outside of monterey i guy rolled up next to me who had just finished biking across the u.s. and offered me a place to stay when i got into monterey. that put part of mind to rest so that i could actually enjoy the ride even more. so that when i rolled into town i felt more open to explore a bike shop who refered me to a new brewery that had just opened up around the corner.

the tender at the brewery has worked at the state parks in the area and gave me some tips on places to stop/camp/visit. as i was wrapping things up here, i got word that my hosts were home from the beach, so i headed their way. i arrive in time for a shower and then dinner was ready! they were so super kind and wonderful! they had only been back from their bike tour for 10 days, and were only too happy to share the friendliness they had experienced on their trip. they were still asleep when i got up and headed out.

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i was all prepared to go ahead and start my journey down the coast, but i just felt this urge to stick around monterey for the day. i needed to get some “work” done. i needed to finally sign up for warm showers (couch surfing for bike tour), check out fundage, and general life maintenance. i think once i finish up some of these things, and wrap up parts of my life that have been just hanging loose for a bit, i’ll feel better about pulling out-of-town tomorrow. i don’t mind all the unknowns, but there are some things that need to be taken care of and i think it could help with the feelings of being overwhelmed mixed with some depression and anxiety….not how i want to be riding down highway 1.

also, it is nice to be in stienbeck land, even though it is not the cannery row stienbeck knew/wrote about. what would doc think of all this?

gear i’ve used so far

i don’t know why it has taken me so long to write about the larger pieces of gear i’ve been using. it seems like it would have been a great thing to write about before taking off while i was being anxious and obsessive about it all.

i recently went out to a lake with some pals and managed to take some pics of some key pieces while in use, vs. on the floor of an urban abode.

first, the pack holding everything. it’s a ula catalyst made in utah. it really is a workhouse of a pack. i traded in all my other packs at next adventure to afford it. i totally over packed this sucker and it still held up super, keeping the weight on my hips. the folks over at next adventure were amazingly patient with me as we mixed up the sizes of the hip belt and the different straps. ula makes an “s” shoulder harness and a “j” design. at first i was kinda frustrated with all the different straps and such to cinch and compress, but i quickly found my way around them and appreciated every last one of them. i really liked the roll top closure with the different options of clipping it closed either with the side straps, or on top as you would a dry bag. i also used the hell out of the external mesh pocket for trekking poles, rain gear/wet gear, tent, and umbrella. the pack is still a bit bigger and heavier than i want to have, but it has been great for essentially carrying my whole life on my back.

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next let’s move on to my little home. it is a big agnes copper spur ul-1. i scouted it at pct days in cascade locks last summer. i climbed in and out of all kinds of shelters on demo. for me this tent has a really good living space to weight to price ratio. i watched for deals and sales and rei eventually had a great sale on all big agnes products, so i cashed in my rei dividend and picked one up last summer. it may look familiar because its test run was to the wallowas and central oregon hot springs. the reason i like this tent really involves the weight and living space. i did decide to get the ground cloth that goes with it vs. getting a piece of tyvak because i do like the idea of pitching it with just the fly, which i have done a couple of times when in need of some quick shelter from the wind and rain. i could also imagine using this set up if i needed to creat some shade since i can still get some good air flow to stay cool. i could also see myself using this quick set up where i wanted to go fast and light, where mosquitos won’t be an issue.

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i should say that i had and have some prickles about buying from big agnes this time around. they have always been a great company. their products are made in steamboat springs, colorado. they make high quality gear that is pricy but not completely out of range for an average adventurer. however, there is a cultural shift in the outdoor world that is annoying to me, and totally shouldn’t be. so on the side panel pockets where i usually store my glasses, headlamp, watch and such, they have added a place to run an earphone line so that you can store your device and listen to music, podcast, show…whatever. i know i shouldn’t be bothered by this, but i kind of am. i am trying to get away from all that, so why build in a way to stay connected? also, big agnes has started this mountain glow series where they add led lights to the tents and have linked up with goal zero (which i do use) to charge them via. i don’t know, i guess this is just too much for me – technology in the outdoors wise. people already use too bright of headlamps and blind me when i am out at night wondering around looking at the stars, why all the extra light? i know i should get over it. if it helps get more people out to fall in love with wilderness, great. i reckon i am just becoming a cantankerous old fart.

now, there are two things i am really excited about adding to my quiver of a good nights sleep. first, my sleeping pad. i have experimented with so many pads and up until now, i have stuck with thermolite self-inflating pads. i tried to use some of the ultra-lite like their neoair and another by nemo, all really good products, but not so much for me. so while at the same pct days i met the folks from klymit. they were super nice. they had several of their pads out to test. i had read about some of their lightweight pads that seemed kind of torturous in pics, but once i laid out on the static v, i was so happy! i can finally sleep on my side and not feel my pelvic bone get friendly with whatever rock i missed in clearing my sleeping space. on top of all that, it isn’t set up high where i feel like i am going to roll off, which i am prone to do whether its a bed or a sleeping pad. so when they told me i could get one for 1/2 price that day, i went for it. that night i rolled up my 3/4 thermarest i’d been using for years and blew this one up. it really did only take 15-20 breaths (even after a visit to the beer garden). and i slept great!

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some things i’ve learned using this now, is that less is more. i do like this pad better when not completely filled with air. also, the side rails do really work for me. so far i have not rolled off the pad unless i did so on purpose to cool my legs down on a hot night or during a particularly invasive hot flash. sure i can’t just throw it in my tent and let it self inflate while i do other chores around camp, but the good nights sleep i receive is worth it. oh, and i did get the insulated one which did pay off while in the high country a couple of times in test trips where the temp dropped into the teens and i was using 30 or 40 degree sleeping bag at the time.

now for the piece of equipment i am truly excited about, my new sleeping quilt. that is right, i made the switch from a bag to a quilt. i wasn’t sure if it was gong to be right for me at first, so i went to rei and bought and returned a couple different bags. i tested out some other bags at various gear shops and events. however, i am such a tosser and a turner, that i am never really comfortable in a sleeping bag. in addition, i prefer to sleep on my side or stomach, and bags just get all twisted up and the hood on the mummy bags have almost suffocated me a few times. however, most quilts are down filled and i just can not bring myself to do that. enter enlightened equipment! they are based (and made to order) in minnesota. so i got to pick out the colors, temperature rating, and insulation of my quilt. and to be honest, i tried to use some woman’s specific sleeping bags, but really? do they all have to be pink or pastel, or glow-worm green; so getting to pic the color was a huge plus for me.

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anyway, the quilts are super versatile. there is one small zipper at the foot box, so the quilt can be closed around the lower parts of the legs, or fully open…like a quilt or blanket you use at home. also, the foot box has a drawstring enclosure so you can still have it closed around the legs to hold in the warmth, but you can easily stick your feet out the end. this came in super handy on cold nights where i was so tired and wanted to cozy in, but my feet where on fire from the day’s walking and trying to heal the blisters. i spend many nights wrapped up, but with my feet dangling out.

another feature of this quilt is the sleeping pad straps. so there are two of them, one towards the bottom and one towards the top. the one on the bottom is great for just keeping the quilt in place. the top one i use on really cold nights when i want to make sure that i hold in all the body heat possible. mostly, so far, i don’t use the top one much except on the coldest of nights. the advantage of this system is the versatility. i don’t need a summer bag and a winter bag (well unless i go super high late/early in the season). this quilt is super comfortable regardless of what is happening temperature wise.

more pluses….it is so light! when it came in the mail, i thought the box was empty! it is easy to pack up… i just really like this sleeping situation. it is so nice to not feel like i am wrestling my way to get some rest and recovery. the only thing i am still trying to work out is sleeping directly on my pad. i don’t really like it that much. i currently use my sleeping bag liner that is stretchy, but i am looking at some of the pad covers, but some of them are made out of the silnylon too, so i don’t know. i like my liner, so i’ll probably just stick with it, but some quilt designers are recognizing this is an issue for some. mostly this is only an issue if i want to sleep naked, which i don’t do much because of night sweats and hot flashes.

the other major piece of equipment that i replaced was my cooking system. i’ve used my trusty msr pocket rocket and gsi minimalist system for so long, at least 8 years that i wasn’t even thinking of replacing it…that is until one of the folks at next adventure suggested the evernew cook system. the appalachian series is so light i can’t believe it, however what really sold me on it is that i can use alcohol, fuel tablets, or wood for fuel! so that means that i can mostly scavage small twigs and drift wood (almost always dry and ready to burn) for free! so much less fuel to carry and buy! i still have some fuel tablets from the little stove i used on the jmt a few years ago when i didn’t really cook much on that trail. i bought a little alcohol fuel for emergencies, which i did need a few (ok several) times on the rainy coast. but for the most part, if i thought ahead and picked up sticks through out the day, i could store them in places where they might be able to dry out enough to make dinner.

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i did go to antigravity gear and got their appalachian kitchen upgrade. mostly this involves a couple of cozys for soaking and post-cooking simmering, a little ring that goes under the alcohol stove for increasing its already efficient efficiency, and a container to soak your dried food while you are walking so that the cooking times are quicker, thereby using less fuel. it is a great system and i am enjoying the learning curve involved in figuring out this whole new way of cooking. and if i am too tired at the end of a day to work all this out, i just boil some water and make miso soup, tossing in some crumbled soy curls and dried veggies and nutritional yeast for a quick dinner.

the only thing i think i will change is maybe a bigger pot. the pot it comes with, 500 ml, is perfect for most meals, but if i want to cook up some pasta, or saute some veggies first, i think a little bigger pot might be nice, especially in the morning. this is the time i actually really like to use the stove most. i like to boil water for a hot beverage whether it is for coffee or tea, and then a warm breakfast on a cold mountain morning really helps warm the muscles and spirits for a day’s adventure.

shoes. so i was really trying to only get gear that was made as locally as possible. not just designed, but manufactured and made by people as close to me as i could find (and afford), and that pay people doing that work a wage that supports them beyond just getting by. the gear wasn’t too difficult, but clothing and shoes is a whole different issue. then one day i discovered carson footware. these are minimalist trail running shoes that are designed and sewn in portland oregon! so i called them up and asked if i could come down and check them out before ordering on-line. i was able to bike (also it is right off the max line, so it is easy to get to) out there. the woman who greeted me and helped me find the right size (their sizing philosophy is the most consistent i have ever found in shoes) and style, was also the person who sewed my shoes! in fact shoes were being sewn by another person while we talked. when i went and picked them up about 10 days later i got to meet the owner. he was great! i explained what i was trying to do and he was so supportive.

sliding into these shoes is like putting on a nice pair of slippers. they stretch and form to my feet even on long days where my feet really swell up. they dry quickly and are fairly breathable. the traction is fantastic. i didn’t slide once, even where the mud and landslides were happening all around me. i’ve read that they have just added a soul with even more traction. there isn’t really much padding, so if you need that, this isn’t your shoe. however, if you like zero drop and having solid contact with the ground….go get ’em!

i did get a goal zero charging system (thank you to my aunts who gifted me this in support of this venture). it has been great. i charge my phone, my headlamp (a petzel), ipod, and tablet with it. in fact i still use it even though i am in an apartment. i put it out and charge up the venture 30 and then use it all week to charge up my phone and headlamp (which i use as my main headlamp while biking around at night in ashland) also, for reading at night at home instead of turning on a lamp. there is just something comfortable about using a headlamp. maybe it is the red light that i use most often.

so i think that is it for most of the big switches in gear acquired. some other choices i made? i decided against a gps system. so much money upfront and additional investment in digital maps and batteries or charging time, and subscriptions to satellite use. yet, i did get an abc watch. it measures the barometric levels, altitude, and has a digital compass. this one also informs me of the tides; in addition it keeps track the moon phases (which helps even more with understanding the tides), alarms, stopwatch and timers, temperature sensor and some other things that i don’t understand. the barometric reading and patterns have come in really handy in reading when storms are moving in and out. it is also helping me develop some internal understanding of weather patterns. the compass is great for setting bearings and following a route, but really, on the coast…not much needed there. also, the external ring of the casio pro trek is a solar charger, so i don’t even have to plug it into anything nor change any batteries. i just have to make sure that every-once-in-awhile it is exposed to light.

but i digress a little for not getting a gps unit is that “they” still suggest having paper maps just in case of tech failures. plus, i have a phone with gps that shows me where i am even if i don’t have cell reception (a fun note: while on the coast it often pinpointed me as being actually deep in the ocean hahaha). if i end up getting super remote and alone i will consider getting a spot locator that will send help when needed. then i won’t have to deal with satellite subscriptions and all that. there are so many apps for smart phones now, that i don’t know how long gps units will be helpful for folks not going way off the beaten path. also…i really like maps. i love to pour over them and see what is where and what all the options are. for example, if i hadn’t had other maps while doing the jmt, i would have never found the hot springs that were just a short detour off the trail. why? because they are not on the official route. so mix and match. and have fun.

i still have not replaced my water filter system. i enjoy pumping water. i don’t like the chemical taste of treatment drops or tablets, and i don’t trust the pens. the gravity bags coming out and micro filters that are being developed are probably great, but my good old fashion katadyn has never let me down. i do keep a bottle of gse drops incase i am felling unwell, or i feel that the water may not be the best even after a filter, but i have only ever used the drops when i fee like i am getting sick…like catching a cold. i have had this pump for like 20 years and it has never ever let me down. sometimes i let it down. like when i left it out one night and the water left in it froze. and really pumping my water is a kind of meditative activity where i get to know my water source and those around it better. i really like pumping water as the sun is setting or rising. water sources are so busy during these times.

what else? most of my pics are either from my phone or a canon powershot sx160 is. i’d like to upgrade to a really nice digital slr, but that is going to have to wait until i get famous. so get use to this camera. its great. i have been using canon cameras since i was in high schools, so over 30 years, and they have always done what i envisioned.

you already know i use the pstyle as a standup urinary tool. prior to menopause, i used the diva cup for menstruation in and out of the woods. i don’t use a trowel for digging a cat hole. i either use a tent stake that i keep in the carrying case of the pstyle or a stick i find lying around. it isn’t hard to determine how deep 6 inches is once you get use to it. but also, i try to dig a little deeper hole just to be sure. i don’t use t.p. i have been working on some other techniques. some involve using smooth rock that i collect through the day, rub clean and then leave in the cat hole. i have also used a special water bottle to create a kind of outdoor bidet, which in nice and clean feeling. but i feel like these issues are super personal. there is no right way, but there are certainly some wrong ways. so study up on leave no trace principles and find a way that works for you.

if you have questions of other things i may or may not be using and why or why not, let me know. i’m not much of a gear head, but i do like learning new skills and how to use different tools. it is fun to develop the best tool to take out into the world, and that is the good ol brain. learning to adapt to different resources and situations and how to use what is handy and available to make things even more enjoyable without inflicting more human interference is a wonderful skill to continue to develop. i look forward to pushing myself even more in this area.