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.