Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is tucked into the, uh, big bend in the Rio Grande that forms the boundary between western Texas and Mexico. There are three distinct ecosystems here: the river, the desert, and the mountains. The Chisos Basin is in the middle of the park; plants and animals were stranded here in this relatively green, cool, moist pocket at the end of the last Ice Age as cooler temperatures receded north.

Memorable Moments

The highlights of my trip:

~Really tasty camp cooking... except for "cooking" a dehydrated Mountain House meal with solar "heated" water that was barely lukewarm, but hey it was still technically edible!
~The views from Toll Mountain campsite overlook...
~The Camelbak shower, stark naked in the middle of a desert, washing off five days worth of sweat and dust...
~Roadrunners, javelinas (like little wild pigs), miniature deer, coyote noises at night...
~Full moon, amazing night sky, zillions of stars...
~Dave's 27th birthday chocolate bar at the top of Emory Peak...
~Finally learning how to use a Whisperlite stove...
~Views from the South Rim...
~Spending most of an evening pulling those damn tiny, irritating cactus needles out of my arms, legs, and abdomen...

Ok, if you want to know more details about what we hiked and where we camped, read on...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two Great Backpacking Recipes

Crunchy Tuna Noodles

~2 packages instant noodles with flavor packet
~1-5 oz. can tuna in water
~1 avocado
~2 packets mayo
~2 packets mustard
~Optional: grated parmesan or shredded cheddar cheese

Break up the instant noodles inside the package. Pour into 2 bowls. Add between ¼ and ½ of a single flavor packet to each bowl (save the other to flavor something else). Add half of the tuna, including tuna water, to each bowl. Cut the avocado in half, remove stone, slice each half into small pieces inside the skin, and add to each bowl. Add a packet of mayo and a packet of mustard. Mix very well. Optionally, top with cheese. Serves 2.

Breakfast Couscous

~1 c. whole wheat couscous
~2 c. water
~1/4 c. raisins
~2 small apples or 1 medium apple
~1 tsp. cinnamon
~2 pinches salt

Bring water to a boil. Add to couscous, cover, let stand 5-10 minutes until couscous has more than doubled in size and water is absorbed. While couscous is rehydrating, chop apple into small bits. Mix together couscous, raisins, chopped apple, cinnamon, and salt. Serves 2.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life Update!

That "big announcement" that I alluded to in the last post?

The Western Road Trip is happening. Right now, actually.

Dave and I left Raleigh on a Tuesday and drove up to the Blue Mountains, spending the night in Asheville. From Asheville out of the mountains and across the plains to Little Rock, Arkansas... then out of the plains and through the forest, across the Mississippi and south into the hot Tejano emptiness to Austin, Texas... from Austin to the empty, searing, parched, wild country of western Texas.

Along the way, we couchsurfed with some excellent people who have given me plenty of encouragement that I'm headed in the right direction, which always seems to be West.

So we ended up in Big Bend National Park. That deserves its own post. In fact, west Texas deserves its own post, too.

What's the plan? Right now, I'm taking it one day at a time. We talk to people and that's how we decide where to go. Seems like we keep running into the right people! Most likely, we'll stay in the Southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, southern California, and southern Utah), unless it warms up enough to head north of the 35th latitude.

What is life like these days? All of our stuff fits precisely into the back of Dave's Toyota Matrix. I've got the necessities; much of my wardrobe is exactly the same duds I've been wearing for the past year. Just keep sewing up the holes. We can sleep in the back by piling our bags and crates onto the driver's and passenger's seats, which is very convenient. Most of the time, though, we sleep in a tent. We've been doing "primitive" camping: bringing in our own water, digging our own latrine holes, and using headlamps for light. We've made all our food with one pot over a single campstove flame. Chow has been pretty good thus far; recipes forthcoming as well. In my opinion, hardly "primitive." Exactly what I need; nothing more, nothing less.

What do we do? During the day, we're either hiking or driving. Dave does most of the driving, because I get too sleepy and distracted. In the passenger's seat, I prep snacks, change the music, try not to sleep all the time, and beg Dave to stop at everything I find interesting (which is too much).

How am I affording all this travel? I get asked that frequently, and I don't think most folks understand exactly how short our shoestring budget is. The other day we spent a little under $40 for groceries, buying 34 items, and that will feed us for days. Twenty bucks total for the both of us for camping the entire time we were in Big Bend (one $10 night outside the park, one $10 backcountry permit). Gas is expensive, of course. At some point, I'll do a few budgeting posts about how I saved for this trip and what my principle expenses have been (I'm a former analyst—you betcha I kept track).

By picking up odd jobs and seasonal jobs, I could probably live like this forever... or until I wanted to have a community or to buy land or to go back to school or to have a kid. I do find something approaching profound in being forced to live in the moment, to be present to enjoy today, to leave tomorrow to take care of itself. Still, eventually I'm going to want to do one or more of the above things.

So what's next? Due to a combination of family and personal factors, we'll be back on the east coast sometime this spring. Dave and I are looking at jobs back in the Finger Lakes and northwards. I might want to go back to school (though I'm not ready to say what I'll be studying). If it looks like we'll stay put, it might be time to put our names on a piece of land. I like the idea of buying a yurt: one, it's sturdier than a nylon tent; two, I dislike debt and a mortgage is just that; three, we can always pick it up and move again.

There's my update. What's new with you?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Here, There, Everywhere

So what's new since I've been back?  The past six weeks have been a weird combination of being homeless yet staying in family homes, of staying put and moving around, and of thinking of the future without making any solid plans.

Started off in New York State with Dave's mother (and sister, sister's boyfriend, brother, brother's fiancee, brother's child-to-be, grammy, pitbull/ mushy spaghetti mix, and other assorted characters).

Took a side trip to Ithaca.  Went climbing.  It was exactly as painful as I thought it would be.  Awesome.

On the way back to downstate, we detoured through the Catskills and hiked Hunter Mountain.  Second time in my life that I've felt exposed skin start to freeze.  BRRR!!

Next up:  a week in Florida for Dave's father's wedding.  The primary reason I'm back in the U.S.A.  Somehow I didn't take any pictures all week, but I did read four books.

Back to New York.

Side trip to New Jersey to visit my family.  My cousins are far cooler than I will ever be.

Go south.

On the way, stop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to see a few of my high school buddies, in Baltimore, Maryland to see one of Dave's friends, and in Williamsburg, Virginia to see J-T-W (who had joined us in Nepal for trekking).

Temporary final destination:  North Carolina.  My parents moved here while I was abroad.  This was the first time I'd visited their new home.
angie invades my snow cave
summit of hunter mountain
my family & cool cat cousins
davo and jtw, sittin' in a tree...
playing with fire in north carolina
So, what's next???

Well, I can say that there's some big stuff about to go down in the next few days.  At this point, not going to get more specific than that, because (1) my plans have been changing by the day, and (2)...

...I'm trying to decide whether I want to (a) continue writing for the public, or (b) drop off the radar (again) for a little bit.

If anyone is reading this, (I) do you keep a public journal/ blog (and why/why not), and (II) what have been your favorite posts on One Great Dewdrop?