Monday, November 9, 2009

7 November 2009 – 41 Llibertat

Tonight I’ve been preparing for a mock interview I have later this week. As part of my preparation process, I accessed my ever growing Excel workbook “Interview Questions.xls.” In this workbook I have recorded every single interview question I have ever been asked. The file contains some ever popular questions such as “What is your biggest weakness” along with some less common inquiries such as “What was the last macro you wrote?” Most of the questions instantly prompted a relevant response, but one question forced much reflection.

“Where do you see yourself in five years from now?”

I first was asked this question in February 2005 and have been asked some form of it in nearly every interview since then. Since that first time, nearly five years have passed, and my current reality could not be any further from any of my forward-looking responses. It is almost laughable how I perceived my future five years ago while a senior in college. I am not living in Minneapolis. I am not a financial manager. I am not married.

I am now in my third month as a resident of Barcelona. By the end of the month, I will have had my second visitor from my prior life. Last month my friend Dan spent nine days visiting me. I met Dan while eating breakfast during my freshman year in college. Dan and I were in the small crowd of people who actually ate breakfast each morning. Not wanting to eat by myself, I sat down with Dan on one of the first days of the semester. When I sat down with him, I never thought that in eight years I would be living in Europe and that this guy would be the first person to visit me.

My second visitor will be Andrew Falk. We went to college together, but I have no idea how we actually met. Since college I have only seen him a few times, and I can’t wait for his visit. However, if you had asked me last month who my second visitor would be, Falk would have been nowhere close to the top of the list.

I do not know who will be my next visitor. Hell, I don’t even know what I’ll have for breakfast (based on the contents of my refrigerator, not much). It isn’t even productive to hypothesize. Yet, on Tuesday someone is going to ask me where I see myself in five years from now. Honestly, any response would be truthful because I have no clue.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

15 September 2009 – Diagonal

I’m living in a tourist town. I suppose there have always been tourists in my prior locales (hippies looking for Bob Dylan’s house and alcoholics looking for the Summit Brewery) but never like in Barcelona. Everyone confused on the subway is a tourist. Everyone with a disposable camera is a tourist. Everyone white at the beach is a tourist. I have nothing against tourists. I was attracted to this city while a tourist; however, it is just hard to comprehend that I live in a place that is so cool, hoards of people pay thousands of dollars to vacation in my neighborhood. [Note: I am now on…anyone can stay in my neighborhood—on my couch—for free.]
Yesterday, I finally felt comfortable enough to interrupt some tourists and give them some practical advice. I was going for a run and for some reason decided to run down Passeig de Gracia—the street with all the designer handbag shops. While stopped at a red light, I watched a trio of American tourists as they tried to figure out which direction they were facing. It was a long light, hence a long debate. Just as the light turned green, I walked over to them and said, “Southeast.”
They were shocked. I’m not sure if they were surprised that I spoke like an American or that they had been so conspicuous that everyone heard their conversation. Whatever the case they promptly turned around and headed towards some Gaudi attraction. Everyday I have multiple opportunities to aid tourists. It is fun. I am going to do it more often.
This brings me to another topic…Gaudi. Gaudi was an influential architect who lived roughly 100 years ago. He designed a number of buildings in Barcelona, all of which look very contemporary and original even today. Now, I agree that the buildings are very awe-inspiring and atypical. Despite this, I can’t comprehend why people suddenly become interested in architecture when they come to Barcelona. In most places I doubt the hundreds of thousands of soccer moms and prepubescent suburban boys would care less about the appearance of a building, but in Barcelona, they pay big bucks to tour Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila. It has been established that while in Barcelona, you need to see Gaudi. For this reason people will go and take pictures where they are told to do so. If these buildings were in Akron, Ohio, I doubt they’d receive any attention.

8 September 2009 – IESE

Today marked a new era in my daily commute, the era of subway. For years, I’ve anticipated the day when I’d arrive to work via subway. Ever since my first metro ride at the age of seven in Washington DC, I have envisioned myself amongst the bustle of the commuters, navigating the packed transfer tunnels while being completely oblivious to everyone else. I figured the day would come sooner or later, and today on my way home from class, I realized that I was a subway commuter.
Like everyone, I’ve technically been commuting my whole life. Throughout grade school and high school, I walked every day, rain or shine, -20 or +85. In college I graduated to a bicycle which saw many spills on the icy roads between Minneapolis and St. Paul. After a bicycle theft and a new job, I purchased my first transit pass and became an advocate for MSP public transportation. One of the few downfalls with Minneapolis is its public transit. The spread out nature of the city prevents an efficient or effective subway system, limiting my commute solely to buses and to the occasional light rail ride (depending where I woke up). Then I moved to Barcelona, experimented with the different routes to class, and decided to become a subway commuter.
To get to class each morning, I walk five minutes to the Verdageur station. I take the Blue Line to Sants Estacio where I transfer to the Green Line, a few short stops to my ultimate station, Palau Reial. From Palau Reial, it is a fifteen minute walk—up hill—to campus. I could take a more direct bus route, requiring zero transfers, in the same amount of time; however, I have chosen the first route because I enjoy the opportunity to get a mild walk in each morning. Every good commute—even one on an immaculate subway system—still should require a good walk.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Walden Pond

For my eighteenth birthday, my brother gave me a well worn copy of Thoreau’s Walden Pond. In the front cover he inscribed, “You need to be 18 to really read this.” I’m not sure if he was right. I remember forcing myself through the book. Though some parts stuck out, my mind wandered through a majority of the book.

Tonight, over eight years after my initial reading, I finished reading Walden Pond for the third time. Each reading has brought different meaning to me as if I was reading a completely different book. Though I find parts to be quite antiquated (sorry Henry, but I have an additional 150 years of science to refute some of your deep thoughts), I know of few books which can elicit such reflection. This past reading brought even more reflection, thanks largely to having recently lived my own Walden experiment.

Early on, Thoreau discusses why he went into the woods. His response provoked thoughts of my summer in the wilderness. My reasons for hiking this summer parallel Thoreau’s explanations: “live deliberately,” “learn what it [nature] had to teach,” “suck out all the marrow of life.” After three readings, I finally understand why Thoreau wrote these famous lines. He wrote these for the doubters, for those who could not fathom a need to break from the status quo. He doesn’t need to convince me on the merits of going into the woods; I already know and have his whole book to understand his motives. However, without a whole chapter of beautiful prose defending his actions, people would keep questioning him…and I bet they still did.

I can relate to Thoreau. Since returning from the wilderness, the most common question I have received was, “Why?” I have given a number of responses, but I don’t think I have ever convinced my questioner. It is unexplainable. But if Thoreau was ultimately permitted to write a canned response, so can I. Here is my pathetic attempt to describe my summer:

I went into the woods to be reminded of my past. By entering the woods, I returned to Eden. I saw how things were and was reminded how simple they still truly are. It’s easy to forget what is important amidst life’s grind. The woods are honest. That is why I went there.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

28 August 2009 – Gracia Barcelona

Today represents my first day as an apartment holder in Barcelona. At 11:00 AM I paid an outrageous security deposit and two months of rent in exchange for a spacious one bedroom flat in the Gracia neighborhood, the Greenwich Village of Barcelona. Due partly to my location, partly to the poor performance of the US Dollar, and partly to my lack of roommate, this apartment is over two and half times more expensive than any other apartment of mine. Most notably, however, I paid a premium to have a “furnished” apartment.
Going into the day, all my possessions fit into two bags, the backpack which accompanied me on most of my major travel adventures—including this summer’s hike—and a small gym bag that I got for free after buying a pair of shoes. Being that I didn’t own a bed, a table, kitchenware, or just about anything else that wouldn’t fit into one of these bags, I decided the furnished apartment would be a good fit. It would also allow me to remain simplified, preventing me from having to accumulate unnecessary shit that would make me need to have more than two bags when I next move.
Shortly after moving my two bags into my new apartment, I realized that this furnished apartment was still going to force me to add to my possession list. I had specifically asked for no television, and I was happy to see none. Nevertheless, there were a number of other typical apartment items missing: a table, a chair, a knife (though I have about 15 spoons), a bed frame (I have a mattress sitting on the floor)… I did get a ladder and a Christmas tree. I estimate the ceiling to be about thirteen feet, and the ladder is intended to reach all the shelving that starts at about nine feet high. Considering I only have two bags of items, the shelving will remain empty except for my newly acquired Christmas tree.
The moral of today’s entry: I have a new apartment with plenty of space and an extra key; anyone is welcome to come and stay. I also am going to have to buy another bag’s worth of stuff.

26 August 2009 – Barcelona

Today was my first full day living in Barcelona. I have yet to find an apartment or yet to become a resident, but I feel like I belong here. I have a local phone number and a local bank account. Tonight I went running for an hour and felt comfortable that I knew all the good routes and could even help direct tourists. I can’t exactly describe why I belong here, but it just feels right.
For the second straight day, I went grocery shopping. I think I’ll be buying groceries here much more often than I ever have, not just because I want to cook more but because of the culture. The grocery stores I have visited here are much different than the typical US store. Well over half the store is dedicated to perishable food items: meat, seafood, produce, and dairy. I’d estimate that Americans spend nearly 2/3rds of their grocery budget on dry, primarily processed foods. For this reason Americans don’t need to shop as often. For this same reason, I feel Americans are less healthy. Even though I am an American, I think the Barcelona diet is highly contagious. It’s hard not to buy primarily fresh, perishable items when most the store is fresh and entices you to eat.
In addition to all the fresh food, I’m blown away by the low prices on everything. Today I bought a liter of fresh squeezed orange juice (one ingredient: oranges) for less than a dollar. This same product would be two or three times the price in the States. I always thought that oranges were grown in Florida. Shouldn’t it be much cheaper to eat them in the US? Besides juices and produce, everything else is much cheaper. A loaf of fresh baked bread for fifty cents. A liter of mediocre wine for one dollar. Why is food so cheap here when everything else is so much more expensive? I can’t answer this question now, but ideally I’ll gain more perspective over the next two years. Right now I’d guess that good food is so much cheaper because the people here demand better food. I’m not sure if that follows the typical rules of economics though.

Friday, August 21, 2009

19 August 2009 - Pengilly, MN

Tonight is my last night in Pengilly and my last night on the Iron Range for a long time—at least 18 months, if not way more. This will easily be my longest stretch away from my original home. It is hard to believe that in a few days I will be a resident of another continent where I will again start anew as another anonymous member of a community.

For months I have been saying goodbye in preparation for my new adventure. I started with my co-workers, then my friends, and ultimately my family. Today I spent the afternoon with my grandma. We kept putting off our goodbyes, but eventually the time came for me to leave. Grandma is 91 and fearful that we will never see each other again. She has lived for roughly 1,100 months yet worries she has less than 20 to go. If I believed her, I wouldn’t be going.

The day was plagued with constant rain, a perfect day for preparing for a move to Spain. By ten P.M. I had organized all my belongings—accumulated over twenty-six years—into one backpack, one carry-on sized bag, and one box to be shipped to me when I finally get an address. Having completed my one required task for the day, I moved to the living room where I joined my dad for some Letterman. Ken Burns was the night’s primary guest, and he was busy talking about National Parks. His talk definitely got me to reflect on my last few months.

This March, I travelled to the west coast of the US to visit my brother. We spent the week road tripping around the region, occasionally stopping to hike. This summer, I got an even more intimate look at the natural beauty of the USA. The summer started with another long road trip which was followed by a grueling 1,000 mile hike through some of the wildest parts of the country. By August, I had visited seven national parks in less than half a year: Redwood, Crater Lake, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, North Cascades, and Olympic.

These past six months have been the most perfect farewell journey imaginable. I was truly able to comprehend the vastness and diversity of the USA. This was especially evident in the countless natural sights that I saw, but even more relevant in the people I encountered in between. I’m not sure when I will exactly return to the United States, but I’m happy to leave the country with such a positive spirit towards it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Note to readers


Now that I am done with my PNT hike this summer, I finally have the ability to upload some of the photos to my blog. We took over 1,000 photos. I hope to get about 200 of them up in the respective blog posts. It will be a slow process. Right now I only have put a few photos up, but over the next day or so, I should be able to get a hundred or so up. The moral: check back often for updates to old posts.

If there is any photo that you really like, post a comment, and I can send you a higher quality version of it.

5 August 2009 - In transit between Seattle and MSP

For the last eight years I have lived in Minneapolis. During that time I made travel a frequent occurence, once flying out of state for leisure for over 20 consecutive months. Typically, I'd return to town on the last plane Sunday night. I sometimes wouldn't land until close to midnight. Over time I developed a routine that would be most efficient in getting me back to my apartment and in bed in time for a least a few hours of sleep before Monday's morning of meetings.

I had planned everything from my seat on the airplane to my position on the airport tram so that I would be in the best position to just catch an infrequent Sunday night train into the city. Depending on my timing, I'd either transfer to a bus ddowntown or walk the last twenty minutes over the MIssissippi and into Marcy Holmes.

This whole routine was meant to be fast, but I would always stop and reflect when I reached the driveway of my building. Sometimes it'd be raining, sometimes it'd be below zero, and it'd always be dark. I would stand in the middle of the driveway and marvel that I was home. I may have started the day on a different continent, bu now I was about to return to my life in Minneapolis. The next morning I would be engrossed in work and wouldn't believe that I was in some other world just 24 hours earlier.

Tonight I am making my last flight into Minneapolis for awhile. In two weeks I'll be moving overseas. When I do fly into MSP again, years will have passed, and who knows what will have changed in the city? Tonight I will not rush through my routine. I will appreciate each step.

4 August 2009 - Seattle, WA

I arrived in Seattle yesterday after taking six buses and a beautiful ferry ride across Puget Sound. Looking and smelling like a homeless man, I surprised the tourist officials by saying I'd take a bed at the Westin but would prefer a bed at a hostel. Fortunately, I found a downtown hostel.

I spent the day roaming the city and reacquainting myself with crowds. I went to the central library. I went to the Experience Music Project. I went to the Science Fiction museum where I paid $15 to view Star Wars action figures that I had as a kid. I contemplated going to the top of the Space Needle, but there was no way I'd pay to get a view when I got countless free views all summer. I caught my first movie of the summer and tested a local brew pub. It was a good day.

I choose to walk everywhere considering my body is so well conditioned for walking, especially when I'm not carrying a pack. My desire to walk places really baffled some people. I'd get directions from someone, and they'd say I had to get a ride because it was too far. If only they understood what I already walked this summer.

Cities need efficient transportation systems to work, period. Many cities fail to make their mass transit efficient though because citizens are so lazy. Buses that stop at every corner take more time than walking. The transit authority could never reduce the stops--say to every third block--because then someone may have to walk an extra two blocks and we all that this isn't possible.

Walking the city is the best way to learn it. My issue with a subway is that you can't see where you are going. Instead, you magically appear at your destination without seeing the communities that you passed through. It's like taking an airplane. One minute you are in Minneapolis, the next minute you are in clouds for six hours, and then you are magically in some tropical city. Sometimes it is hard for me to be convinced that I actually am in a city because I couldn't see I got there while on the flight.

2 August 2009 - Hobuck Beach

All good things do not have to come to an end. I write this while sitting on a Pacific beach, waiting for the sun to make its final descent of my PNT journey--an adventure where I hiked 1,000 miles viewing some of the most impressive natural gems of our world while becoming better acquainted with some of the different personalities that populate our world. I am not saddened by the closing minutes of this adventure. Instead, I am excited to have logged an incredible life experience that no one can ever take from me and that will exist forever as long as I remain in the proper mind to live its learnings.

This trip has taught me to live a more simplified life. All I need is nourishment, shelter, and companionship. Anything else is a luxury and potentially frivolous. Tonight I inventoried my back pack. Everything left after 51 days was essential for this trip (anything not needed had long been discarded); however, few of these items will have any relevance for my life starting tomorrow. For this reason I threw away about half of the contents of my bag this evening. I could use these items again when I go on another long through hike, but it is just too valuable for me to have a liberated mind, free from the clutter of misc., well used gear which would be more expensive to store for years than to buy new. For the rest of my life, my adventure will remind me what is truly needed, preventing me from accummulating excess.

This trip reinforced my belief that the world is full of great people, curious to share stories and to help a traveler. This was evident from all the hospitality that we received along the way: free food, free drinks, reduced lodging, ride offers, future adventure invitations, and much more. Going forward, I will remember this, allowing me to have more confidence and less apprehension while traveling. There is always some great person willing to help. Additionally, I will be better to travelers passing through my town that I meet. I'm excited to buy a beer, offer a couch, or give some advice in exchange for a story and for the spirit of adventure. For the rest of my life, this adventure will remind me to be a good traveler and a welcoming host.

I can't express all the ways the past 51 days have affected the rest of my life. Nor can I even know all the long term effects. I'm going to let this experience live on forever, and I'm going to let it contribute to the long line of adventures that will occur in my life. The sun has still not set, but the beach has emptied except for me. My body is shaking from the symbolism of this moment. I can already tell that I see the world differently.

Barefoot hiking on the second to last day.

Walking on sand.

Another shot of some of the beach.

Eating our final breakfast of the trip.

Trying to keep feet dry during high tide.

Putting my shoes back on after our final ford of the trip.

Rachel and Dave deciding to play in the ocean a bit before putting on shoes after our last ford.

Tide out, revealing a very large beach.

Rachel electing to go under some rocks.

The final stretch of land to navigate. Our "finish line" and the sun was just around this corner.

David reflecting after we finished the hike on Shi Shi beach.

31 July 2009 - Chilean Memorial

After forty-nine days of hiking, we have reached the Pacific Ocean. Knowing that we'd be camping on the beach tonight, today's 18 miles from Forks, Washington flew by. Throughout the walk I kept anticipating our grand entrance on the beach, almost envisioning a comparable feeling as those felt by Merriweather Lewis, Magellan, or Balboa when they met the Pacific. Instead, I was greeted by a crowded parking lots and long lines at a public bathroom. Whatever the case it is great to have reached the ocean after nearly 50 days of everything else.

The Pacific is the ultimate barrier to our westward journey. We've found and created routes up, over, under, and around mountains, lakes, rivers, dams, deserts, quarries, cities, and fields of blowdown, but we are finally being stopped by the Pacific. Because we can no longer head west, we will spent the next two days hiking north along the ocean to Neha Bay.

I cannot comprehend that this adventure is almost over. It still hasn't sunk in that I am camped a few yards from the ocean. This adventure has consumed me, and I can't foresee a different. life.

More people come to this part of the country to see where the series Twilight takes place than to hike.

Typical site from our first day on the coast.

29 July 2009 - Bogashiel River

Tonight is our last evening in Olympic National Park. By early afternoon tomorrow, we should be in the town of Forks resupplying. The next day we will be on the coast in the Olympic National Wilderness.

Besides being another long day (22 plus miles), it was another scorching day. A park ranger we encountered in the park notified us that we were experiencing a record heat wave [Later learned it was the hottest few days in the history of the state]. This fits the trend of our walk considering it has been hot and sunny almost every day. In nearly 50 days, we have only encountered rain four times...even though we are camping in a rain forest tonight.

The intense heat further increases the need to supply our bodies with adequate fuel. Out on the trail, food and water has taken on a new meaning. Instead of looking forward to meals as an enjoyable affair, I now count the miles until I can load up on energy. When eating, I quickly shove as much food in my mouth as fast as I can. I do not savor anything. I just need the calories.

I don't think any of us have eaten the appropriate number of calories while hiking. We've been relying too much on our fat reserves. Unfortunately, I think I have used up too much of my reserves already. Not only that, but my body wants more variety in my food. I can't wait until my body likes food again. [Note after the fact: On this trip I lost about 25 pounds from my already relatively small body]

Rachel with a sign atop of Appleton Pass. Rachel is from Appleton, Wisconsin.

Resting by some very cold water, a huge relief on a record hot day.

Heart Lake. We didn't stop to swim, but I wish we would have.

Some little lakes/ponds in the background.

Walking along the contours.

It was so hot, a huge number of elk congregated on one of the few remaining snow piles. That brown spot in the middle of the snow pile is actually at least 30 elk.

Rapidly evaporating subalpine ponds.

Where are the Ewoks?

27 July 2009 - Olympic National Park - Boulder Creek

Today was our second day in Olympic National Park. We had a grueling 23 mile day--with all miles either going up or down--but ultimately were awarded with a campsite near natural hot springs.

Today's walk alternated between rarely used trails where we encountered no one and high density trails that felt like we were in a parade. For one of the high density trails, we walked along a road for a few miles which ended at the trail head. The trail head parking lot was full of cars, an overflow lot was even required for a Monday. The trail itself was steep but wide and paved. We had yet to see a trail so wide and clear. Due to its condition, we probably encountered thirty people on the short paved section--after a mile, the pavement ended and we saw no one. I wasn't surprised by the number of people due to the trail's accessibility, level of difficulty, and beauty. It was one of the most beautiful stretches of trail that we'd encountered yet.

Due to the high volume of people, both David and Rachel were critical of the trail. At one time I would have agreed with them, but now I support this type of trail. For the past seven weeks we have walked strenuous trails, seeing practically no one. We have traversed 100s of miles that seemed to be maintained solely for us. Now we are in a national park, crowded with people trying to easily see some of our country's natural treasures. As a national park, these treasures should be accessible. If someone gets frustrated by the crowds and ease of use, he could hike any of the other 1,000 miles we have hiked on this trip. Who cares if there are some places that people can invest just an afternoon and be able to experience something breathtaking?

Over the course of our trip, we have become accustomed with our style of travel--hiking everywhere. This mode has become so natural that we occasionally find ourselves being critical of any non-ambulatory mode of transit. It is easy to get immersed in our world, but I'm going to be realistic: If everyone lived like we are, we'd be in the middle ages.

Mount Angeles or some mountain adjacent to it.

Trails are very easy to follow in this National Park...a big relief from all our bushwhacking.

Another clear trail with some nice wildflowers.

Photo taken with camera resting on a log.

Enjoying a view.

Mount Olympus.

26 July 2009 - Port Angeles

We are on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. From Bellingham, we took a series of ferries here. Now we will walk west to the Pacific through Olympic National Park.

Lighthouse in Victoria, BC as seen from the ferry.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

22 July 2009 - Mt. Baker Wilderness - Ruth Creek

Today marked the 40th day since hiking began in Glacier National Park. Below is a list of all the items I am carrying (minus food), and their current condition after 40 days.

[N = New Item purchased for trip, O = Old item used on previous trips]

  • Salomon Goretex Trail Shoes (N) - Completely shot. Laces broken. Large holes in both toe boxes make shoes look like sandals. All traction has worn off, making dangerous on up and down grades (which is all I do). Will buy replacement shoes in Bellingham.

  • Smart Wool Socks 2 pair (N) - Despite my efforts to clean a pair each day, these each carry a few pounds of dirt, are very stiff, contain awful odors, but have no holes.

  • Champion Running Shorts (O) - Three holes have developed, and they smell like sweat which shouldn't be a surprise considering they double as my underwear.

  • Black "diaper" wind brief underwear (O) - Rarely wear. Brough as a novelty to make other hikers awkward. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet another hiker while wearing them.

  • Rainpants (O) - 4 or 5 new holes, but they are still waterproof. Double as my only pair of pants and are effective at stopping mosquite bites.

  • Columbia Raincoat (O) - Has helded up fine. Primarily serves as a barrier against mosquitoes. Breathes poorly, making it impracticle on hot days.

  • Mt. Hardware Long Sleeve T (O) - Have worn for at least part of the day everyday. Breathes well. Covered in blood, tree pitch, and ash stains. Large hole on right elbow caused by fall.

  • Champion Long Sleeve T (O) - Only wear on cold nights. No change in condition.

  • Timex Watch (O) - Large scratch over the hour digit.

  • Tilley Airflow hat (N) - Wear constantly while hiking. Stained and smelly, but no major breaks.

  • REI trekking poles (N) - Completely scratched up, bent, one pole jammed so it doesn't change size, both baskets have fallen off, and a deer ate noticeable chunks out of both handles.

  • REI morningstar backpack (O) - Just as strudy as when I bought it in 2005.

  • Lycra gloves (O) - No changes besides odor.

  • Bear spray (N) - Unused but taken out of the holster a few times.

  • Rope (N) - Covered in pitch. About 1 yard was gnawed on by a deer.

  • Bear Bell (N) - Missing cover. Quit using.

  • Sasquatch Journal (N) - Intact but a bad journal to begin with.

  • Toiletry Items (N) - Smaller quantities remain.

  • Hiker Pro Waterfilter (O) - Need replacement filter. Used more than expected because Aquamira bottle/filter fell off of a cliff.

  • MSR Bladder (3 liter water holder) (N) - slight leak when full

  • Bungee cord (O) - good.

  • Harmonica in key of C (N) - Getting rusty

  • Spork (N) - good.

  • Plate (N) - have yet to use.

  • Bic lighter (N) - fell in pitch so doesn't stay lit long. I do not anticipate on making another fire for the remainder of the trip

  • Compass (O) - I sure hope it works still. I got this far.

  • Duct tape (O) - good.

  • REI Tent fly (N) - 1 hole that I ducted taped up. Other parts of tent are carried by Rachel and Dave.

  • MSR stove and fuel (N) - Good. Quit using. Only eating dry food now.

  • Passport (O) - I sure hope its intact

  • Wallet (O) - I sure hope its intact

  • Knife (O) - sand in the handle

  • Towel (O) - very stained

  • Kelty Light Yr Sleeping Bag (O) - smells worse

  • Thermarest Prolite small sleeping pad (O) - stained

  • Greatland headlamp (O) - Falls apart daily

  • Pink camo pocket bible (N) - Good. I'm into Chronicles.

Body Inventory

  • Feet - extremely dried out and shrunk. Calluses throughout. Left big toe is black. Right big toe in pain, shoots out puss.

  • Legs - there is not a single square inch that doesn't have a cut, bruise, or bug bite

  • Abdomen - Backpack tan

  • Arms - Large gouge on right arm

  • Shoulders - looks like one huge bug bite

  • Beard - Awesome. Roughly 1.5 inches long.

Cascades in the Cascades. I understand where the park gets its name.

Glaciers and cascades in the Cascades.

Cascades in the Cascades.

More glaciers.

A river that we camped next to. This is either in the North Cascades or it is the Pasayten River which we hiked in for hours.

David and Rachel taking a cable car across river.

Taking a cable car across a stream in the North Cascades.

Got to have more harmonica.

21 July 2009 - North Cascades National Park

I don't believe in luck, whether good or bad. Instead, I believe things happen. Based on the situation, there is always some probability of a desirous outcome. Lately, the odds have been in our favor....we've had plenty of times where the odds weren't.

While detouring our route due to a forest fire, we passed by a ranger cabin. The ranger viewed our plans and recommended an alternative trail that would shave two days off our detoured route and one day off our original route. We took the suggestion because we risked running out of food by going the extra two days. We had shipped food to Ross Lake Resort, and we could now resupply quicker than anticipated. We beat the odds.

Ross Lake Resort is the only privately owned entity within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area--a narrow park which serves as a buffer between the Pasayten Wilderness and the NOrth Cascades National Park. Ross Lake is more appropriately called a reservoir. While the lake's three dams were being built, a floating city was created for the construction crews. The city needed to float because the water level was always changing as the dams grew. The Ross Lake Resort is all that is left of the floating city.

We arrived at the resort yesterday evening. We picked up our food and requested renting one of their floating cabins. Typically, all cabins are completely booked for months, but one group had to leave early, creating the extremely rare vacancy. We got the cabin, beating some extreme odds.

The resort is only accessible by boat or by hiking. For this reason we were going to dine on our trail mix that we had shipped to the resort. The resort owner was intrigued by our trip, so he invited us to come to a staff party. At the party we had free fillet mignon, corn, potatoes, cake, beer, wine, and liquor, leaving us full and drunk. This was a big improvement over trail mix. Again, it seems we beat the odds.

Today was in the 90s. We were able to follow a shaded trail all day. Additionally, we walked along a glacial river. The river was so cold, the surrounding air must have dropped by 20 degrees. The shade and the cool river made the hike tolerable. We didn't luck out. You'd expect some days like this.

Rachel appreciating a food bridge and not another fording opportunity.

Rachel's foot resting on the deck of our floating cabin.

19 July 2009 - Deer Creek (Hart's Pass) Pasayten

It's truly been an adventure in the Pasayten. For most of yesterday we enjoyed easy walking with spectacular views. At one point we sat atop Bunker Mountain when a helicopter flew over. I imagined that he was looking for fires. About 15 minutes later another helicopter--perhaps the same one--flew over and began circling us. I feared it was a rescue crew, so I tried my best to signal that no help was needed. After the fact, I started to think it was Border Control considering at that time we were within a mile of Canada, and I looked highly questionable wearing just black underwear, a ranger's hat, and a bushy beard.

We proceeded down the mountain through an area of a 2006 fire, which left all the trees charred and the ground thick with soot. Nevertheless, the trail was clear. Just as we reached the bottom of the trail which went into a river valley, we noticed that the whole valley was enveloped in smoke. There was a fire.

All of the neighboring mountain sides were covered in smoke, making us uncertain what to do because we didn't know where the smoke was originating from. The direction we were heading looked the clearest, and we decided to accelerate down the trail. We rushed along the trail to a bridge crossing the Pasayten River--nope, the bridge had burned in an earlier fire. We forded the river and found our trail to be completely covered in blow down. We later learned the three mile stretch of trail had roughly 1,000 downed trees. We tried bushwhacking through the woods, but there was too much blowdown. We didn't want to go back because of the fire, so we headed to the river.

We walked in the river until the sun went down, gradually working against the current, trying to move three miles up to our next trail. By sun down, we had progressed little and were exhausted. Fortunately, the smoke had dissipated, making us feel safe to camp along the bank of the river.

That night while laying in the tent I realized that my body was covered in cuts, bruises, and bites. Not only that but my feet were coimpletely numb from having trudged through the ice cold river. I was so focused on moving down the river and through the blowdown, my body had shut off all the pain receptors. Sometime while I was asleep I redeveloped feeling my legs.

This morning we all reluctantly awoke, knowing a morning of bushwaking awaited us (we decided against walking any farther in the river because the water was too cold). The bushwhacking was awful. I hate bushwhacking and plan to never do it again. At time there would be a wall four high of huge trees surrounding me. I'd have to climb up the wall, hope none of the trees would come loose, try to carefully climb down but more often fall that last yard into chest high brush (uncertain what may be hidden in the brush...jagged rock, hole, skunk), and ultimately learn that I now have a five tree high pile waiting for me.

After two plus hours of dangerous, exhausting bushwhacking, we reached an area with little blowdown. Just as I began to celebrate the easier bushwhacking, we encountered people! We never encounter people, so this was huge. These people weren't just casual hikers but were trail crew and the Ranger clearing the trail. The trail had been impassible since 2006. We finished the section of the trail just as crews came to clear it. In a few weeks, that trail should be spotless.

We spoke to the crew and inquired about the fires. Apparently there was a forest fire, and all the trails we planned on taking were closed (though there were no signs saying so through where we'd pass...only in parking lots). If we hadn't seen the park ranger, we'd have taken the trails and found ourselves in a forest fire. What a good time to run into the Ranger. If we wouldh ave been a day; earlier or if we would had hiked in the river in the morning, we would have taken those closed trails.

From memory, the Ranger (Dan Rogers) kindly drew us three pages of maps depicting an alternate route which avoided the fire. The maps proved to be spot on.

Now I am in our tent at a place called Deer Creek. This is a very appropriate name as there are tame deer here that won't leave our campsite.

Me standing atop of Bunker Mountain.

From afar, one of the helicopters which circled over us, thinking we might be terrorists.

Trail descending into the river valley...which we found to be covered in smoke.

Dan Rogers drawing us the famous map which we relied on for multiple days.

One angle of Hart's Pass.

Another angle of Hart's Pass.

Sign for the Pacific Crest Trail...a National Scenic Trail that actually has a "trail", unlike the PNT. We were constantly jealous of people who were walking this trail and the Appalachian much easier to follow.

One of the deer that wouldn't leave us alone. Photo taken from our tent.

16 July 2009 - Tungsten Mine

Today we hiked into the Pasayten Wilderness Area. Like all other days, we encountered no one else, but we did find an immaculate trail that is flat and easy to follow. Even though the trail has little elevation change, it is at 7,000 feet and is completely surrounded by mountains. Unlike many mountain trails, a good portion of today's route went though meadows, free from obstructions, leaving fantastic panoramas. The meadows were all full of a sea of wild flowers, helping make this my favorite day of hiking yet. Our guidebook raves of the Pasayten, and I can see why.

While walking thorugh this designated "wilderness area," it wasn't hard to grasp the wildness of the land. At certain vistas I could see for well over 100 miles through numerous mountain ranges. From afar, the ranges were all gree with blotches of snow and exposed rock. As the mountains got closer, individual trees became visible. Closer yet, gaps formed between the trees. More or less, we are walking through a huge land of wilderness, free of man's touch for miles in all directions...or so it seems.

Tonight we are cmaping outside some old bunkhouses associated with an old Tungsten mine which is a short walk from our tent. The mine was active circa WWI. Now all that remains are some old buildings which are used as shelter by the rare passerby. Apparently, this area isn't that wild if I am camping oin an old mine. Who knew what this land looked like in the past and how many times it has been altered? I'm sure it has been mined, logged, farmed, and only recently allowed to be wild. Can it even go wild in a land so touched already?

Following a cattle trail that leads into the Pasayten.

We carved our names on one of the doors inside the shack.

15 July 2009 - Cold Springs Camp Ground

Today was a hot, tiring day. In total we climbed over 4,000 feet from our starting point. This climb was made more difficult by the intense heat from the sun which constantly shined on us, free from any obstructions such as trees or clouds. We stopped for some much needed water with the intention of hiking a few more miles today, but after a brief rest, we unanimously agreed to quit for the day. It is the early evening, and I am ready to sleep.

Our walk today was also slowed by the state of the trail. At one stretch, our guide book suggested we follow the "often indistinct" trail. I'll admit, an "indistinct" trail is more like no trail. This stretch of trail could have been avoided by taking a much flatter road which had the same endpoint but a much shorter distance. This is typical for the "trail." For example, tomorrow there is a flat, well maintained trail exiting our campground, but our guidebook leads us "high for the views," taking an extended, hillier route on a non-existent trail.

Throughout the Okanogan--the last week or so--we encountered a lot of free range cattle. Most of the time they run away, but the occasional horned bull can cause some hesitancy. The biggest nuisance is that in this drought, the cattle all gravitate to the recommended water sources, making our water highly suspect as it is covered in cattle shit. There has been so much cattle that we started calling this the PNP--Pacific Northwest Pasture. Early tomorrow, we enter the Payseyten National Wilderness Area. There should be no cattle there.

Me sharing the road with some cattle.

14 July 2009 - Palmer Lake

Yesterday we spent the day in Oroville, Washington. It marked the 31swt day since we began hiking, and it served as the first day that we took off, completing zero miles towards our route to the Pacific.

We were all looking forward to a free day. Besides giving our bodies time to recover, I was excited to do the three leisure activities I originally planned to dedicate time to this summer: writing my novel, learning the harmonica, and bettering my knowledge of religious texts. So far, I have been able to work on at least one of these each day, but with the day off, I figured I'd get to all three.

With zero miles on the agenda, I allowed myself to sleep in the latest I have all summer. Upon waking, I remained in bed and watched a mediocre TBS movie. Later, I wandered the town until I procured an older edition of the WSJ. Having received absolutely no news in the prior month, I did not mind an outdated newspaper. With the Journal in hand, I spent three hours reading every single word and then completing the crossword. Throughout these tasks, I took breaks to gorge myself with food (I had two pints of ice cream in the evening) and to taste some beer, wine, and margheritas.

By late evening I realized that I had wasted the day and had failed to spend any time on my three activities. I still had some time, but my body was so full from all the food taht I found myself incapable of anything besides rolling up in a ball and watching a documentary on Ted Kennedy.

Out on the trail, I don't have the meaningless distractions: tv, alcohol, etc... I may be distracted by the natural beauty or wildlife, but those inspire me and add value. I have yet to find much value in tv. I'm happy this trip has already afforded me 30 productive days.

Tonight we are camped along the shores of Palmer Lake. It is the first site we have had all trip that is conducive for swimming: warm water and easy access.

Sitting in Palmer Lake.