Advertisements

Right This Way…

27 05 2010

Today on Go Girl, musings on the hazards of being “She Who Travels.”

Check it out here.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Advertisements




Questions Answered! Secrets Revealed!

26 05 2010

On Monday, in a moment lacking inspiration, I offered to answer some or your questions.  In no particular order (except the order in which I felt like answering), here we go!

Adelaide of Dressed in Dirt asked:  Ok, here’s mine: when did you first start hiking solo and what motivated you to do so?

My solo hiking was borne out of necessity, and a desire to not be a wimp.  Oh, and a need to keep up my image as a cool, independent woman who backs down from no challenge.  Back in 2004, I graduated from law school and found out that I had two and a half months between taking the bar exam (at the end of July) and starting my job (mid-October).  While my first thoughts were to panic about availability of cash, my second thoughts focused on travel.  Immediately, I seized upon the fantasy of driving around the United States, especially since I had really only ever seen the eastern seaboard, Denver, and Chicago.  Going alone was a little scary, but I thought I was up for the challenge…and after all, who else could leave their jobs/families for 6 weeks and go with me?

But what to do while driving around?  Realizing I had to find some way of picking where I was headed, I thought about different themes for the trip, and immediately knew I wanted to visit National Parks.  I wanted to hike.  But…I had never been hiking alone.  Was it safe, especially since I’d be in unfamiliar places all by myself, thousands of miles from anyone I knew?  Was I physically capable?  Did I have any idea what I even needed?

And there it was.  A challenge.  I sort of thrive on challenge.  Telling me something can’t be done — or that I can’t do something — is a sure way to make me find a way to do it.  I decided that I could hike and camp alone if I set my mind to it.  The best part was, if I hated it, I only had to turn around and drive home.  So I did my research, mustered up the courage to ask a lot of questions of the helpful REI clerks (who were, really, all too happy to walk me through the stores and help me try on backpacks and show me different types of hunting knives, I might add), and gave it a try. 

The rest, as they say, is history.  Or herstory?  No, I didn’t just say that.

Sara asked: We’re moving out west this summer (Albuquerque, to be exact). Neither Bryan nor I have ever spent any time in that part of the country, and we’re looking forward to exploring it. Other than the grand canyon (which neither of us has ever visited and will only be two hours away), any good suggestions for day/weekend camping/hiking trips? Any favorite places in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, or souther Utah?

Oh dear.  How I love the West.  How I love, love, love the West.  This could spawn an entire series of posts.  And since that’s the kind of idea I like, I’ll launch into that in the near future.  For now, please consider the following:

  • Southern Utah is my favorite hiking destination yet.  Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon are spectacular, amazing, incredible, and totally different places only an hour and a half from each other.  See my two posts about Zion, and also reader Andra’s blog about her recent trip that included both parks.  On the Utah/Colorado border is Moab, Utah, home to Arches National Park, another one of my favorites.  This is desert hiking at its finest.  Between Moab and Bryce are Canyonlands and Capitol Reef.  With smaller parks as well, southern Utah is a playground for campers and hikers.  I’m not sure if it’s a weekend from Albuquerque (a day’s drive or so), but it’s worth a trip.
  • In Arizona, there are a few suggestions I could make (aside from the Grand Canyon, which is a given).  First, you might want to check out Canyon de Chelly National Monument, which is between you and the Grand Canyon.  I’ve never been, but there are self-guided and guided hikes, and a campground.  Second, this isn’t a hiking or camping destination, but you’ll definitely want to go see Meteor Crater, which is also between you and the Grand Canyon.  It’s a very well-preserved…yes, meteor crater…and it’s really really really big.  I promise it’s not as kitschy as the website makes it look.  Third, try venturing into Oak Creek Canyon by Sedona, Arizona in the Cococino National Forest.  Tons of hiking, fishing, camping, and watersports available all over the area. 
  • Ah, Colorado.  I haven’t spent much time in southern Colorado, so you’ll have to check it out and report back.  Or maybe I need to do some “research.”
  • Finally, New Mexico itself.  I haven’t spent any time camping or hiking in New Mexico.  I meant to, but on my road trip New Mexico was where I blew out a tire on the highway and ended up spending the night in a teeny little town, eating at a Denny’s, and then getting a new tire when the tire shop opening in the morning.  Check out the NPS page for New Mexico for ideas; there are quite a few National Monuments, including Petroglyph, near Albuquerque.

In any event, enjoy Albuquerque.  When am I coming to visit?  Or meeting you at one of these places?  🙂

Dad (yes, my dad) asked: Tell us about your youthful adventures at Alton Jones, Chewonki and backpacking in Ireland. And don’t forget Mark Trail.

Well, that’s not a question, Dad.  Those are suggestions.  But they are much appreciated.  I’ll share one anecdote for now, and file these ideas away for future posts.

When I was maybe fourteen, my ninth grade class spent a week camping at Chewonki in Maine.  I was not a camper back then.  The woods scared me.  Animals scared me.  Dirt scared me.  Bugs scared me (okay, bugs still scare me).  One night, the girls in my group were misbehaving and hanging out in one of the boys’ tents.  Eventually, everyone fell asleep.  Except me.  I realized I still had my contact lenses in, and had to take them out if we were going to spend the night.  So after debating with myself awhile, I very carefully snuck out of the crowded tent, made my way in the pitch black forest to my own tent, located my lens case (in the dark…I couldn’t find a flashlight), removed my lenses (in the dark), and proceeded to try to make my way back to the boys’ tent (in the dark, now without my lenses, meaning I was basically blind).  I was trying to walk quietly, to not wake anyone up, and slowly because I was mainly guessing where I was going.  I put my left foot down onto something that felt weird and soft — and it moved!  It ran.  I am not kidding.  I caught myself, choked back a scream, and ran myself — over a small sapling and smack into the platform with the boys’ tent.  Trying not to panic, I climbed into the tent and settled myself back in.  Of course, me banging into the platform had woken up everyone inside the tent, and we girls decided to go back to our tent to sleep, so we wouldn’t get caught in the morning.

To this day, I don’t know what I stepped on.  A raccoon?  A skunk?  I don’t know, I don’t care, and it scared me silly.

Thanks for the questions, everyone!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.





Seeking Inspiration

24 05 2010

I got nothing for you today.  I’m sure there are plenty of things to talk about, but as I peruse outdoors-related items, I’m just getting depressed because most of it is about the oil spill.  We still have a few points to address on the Rules and the Good Stuff, and plenty of equipment to discuss, but today, I’m not feeling it.  Probably because it’s absolutely glorious outside and I’m not out in it.

So instead of forcing something, I’m throwing it back to you, dear readers.  Ask me questions.  About me, about hiking, about camping, about National Parks, about blogging…whatever comes into your pretty little heads.  I reserve the right to refuse to answer, or to answer a different question than you asked.  Answers to be posted on Wednesday.

Now, bring it on…and please ask, so I’m not sitting here all by myself on Wednesday.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.





That’s not “Hiking”

21 05 2010

You’re a busy person.  You’ve got a job, or school, to deal with.  Maybe you have a family.  You have friends, social obligations, cleaning to do and errands to run.  There’s that book you’ve been meaning to read, and you have really got to catch up on all those DVR’d episodes of the Vampire Diaries.  How in world can you find time to hike, particularly if you live in a city and hiking involves waiting for the weather to be nice, then driving out of the city and hoping the close-by hikes aren’t too crowded and you can find parking and anyhow won’t that just annoy you and shouldn’t you be doing laundry instead?

Or maybe that’s just me.

I struggle with finding time for “real” hiking.  Because I live in Boston, there aren’t a lot of mountains nearby.  Getting to a “real” hike — i.e., one that involves reaching a peak (or the bottom of a canyon), is at least several miles round trip, and requires packing a lunch — is not always possible, especially since I’m not naturally an early riser.

What is a city girl to do? 

Take your hiking wherever you find it.

This past Sunday, I had one of those days where I decided not to set an alarm, and I clearly needed sleep, because I didn’t wake up until after noon.  The night before, I had told myself that if the timing worked out, I would drive up to southern NH and get in a “real” hike, but at that point it wasn’t a real option.   By the time I got going, stopped for food, and got up there, it would be after 3, and I wasn’t comfortable starting a hike that late in the day.

The Minute Man NHP Visitors Center

Instead of throwing in the towel, however, I decided to try something a little different.  I went to the National Park Service website and looked up all the NPS sites in Boston and the surrounding area (there are twelve of them, in case you’re curious).  I’ve been to most of them, but since the weather Sunday was amazing, I wanted to go somewhere where I could hang around outside, even if I wasn’t hiking up a mountain.  I chose Minute Man National Historical Park.

Now, I’ve been to Minute Man before, but, as it turns out, I’ve only been to one corner of this site (the one in Concord by the North Bridge).  This time, I started at the main visitors center at 250 North Great Road.  The center itself was gorgeous, but more on that another time.  I didn’t stick around there long enough to watch the film — it was beautiful outside, remember? — but instead set out on the Battle Road Trail.

Battle Road Trail

The Battle Road Trail stretches five miles, connecting historical sites from Concord to Lexington, following much of the path the British soldiers took on April 19, 1775 culminating in the battles of Lexington and Concord that mark the beginning of the Revolutionary War.  Along the road are sites such as Hartwell Tavern, Wayside (which, among other things, is the house where Louisa May Alcott wrote her first published work), and the place where Paul Revere was captured during his famous ride to raise the alarm that the British were coming.

The trail itself is level and wide.  There isn’t an elevation gain, you don’t have to be careful of your footwork, and you’re unlikely to run into wildlife (aside from a squirrel or two).  At some points along the trail, you can see cars whiz by on Route 2A, though for the most part the trees mask the auto road and muffle the sounds.  Walking on this trail won’t give you a hard workout.  You’re likely to run into other people, but even if you don’t, you’ll never feel like you’re far from civilization by yourself.

Muskets!

Even so, the Battle Road Trail gave me what I needed last Sunday.  I was outside.  I was moving.  I was surrounded by beauty, and when no one else was in sight, that familiar calm settled over me — even though I didn’t feel like it was just me and nature, the quiet of the park and the absence of others in front of me or behind me gave me time to think and be.  (Also, I got to see a reenactment with muskets being fired.  Serene?  No.  But very neat.)

Sometimes, you have to take your hikes wherever you can find them.  You don’t always have to be climbing a mountain.  Figure out what it is you’re seeking from your hike — solitude, being outdoors, whatever — and find a place where you can get that.  You’ll be glad you didn’t just throw in the towel because you didn’t have time for a “real” hike.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.





Wordless Wednesday

19 05 2010

Arches National Park, view from Balanced Rock, September 2004.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.





Humility and Community

17 05 2010

What goes around comes around.  Karma.  The Golden Rule.  Give and take.  Pay it forward.  Quid pro quo.  Cause and effect.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

No matter which way you put it — based in science, religion and spirituality, psychology, human nature — the concept is the same.  Your actions (and inactions) have consequences.  As a child, we are taught to treat other people as we would like to be treated.  Share your toys, so that if you want to play with someone else’s toy, they will want to share with you.  Comfort someone who is upset, so that when you need comforting, they will be there for you. 

As an adult, these simple concepts become weighted with complexities: politics, familial obligation, autonomy and independence.  Once upon a time, when people lived in small communities and knew all of their neighbors, the logic in considering the consequences of your actions was simple.  If you wronged Joe, Joe would remember, and tell everyone else.  If you helped Joe when he needed it, Joe would remember, and be around to return the favor.  Nowadays, our communities, where they exist, are disjointed.  We have sub-communities of family (whom we may rarely see), the office, perhaps the neighborhood (but that is increasingly rare in cities).  It becomes harder to connect your actions with direct consequences because of the diminished contact and commitment we have with those around us.  We find ourselves either having to work harder to convince ourselves to lend a hand, or work harder to establish and become part of a true community.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: hikers and outdoorsy people have a natural community.  It comes from having a similar interest, but I also think there’s a certain type of personality that revels in being outdoors.  I have never come across a hiker on a trail who was unfriendly.  We say hello, check in to make sure things are going all right, offer to snap a photo, give advice about the trail, and so forth.  I have never found a community so willing to share information and help each other out, even though we’re a bunch of utter strangers who know nothing about each other aside from the fact that we yearn for the trail.

A few weeks ago, I talked about Rule No. 10, asking for help when you need it.  The “Good Stuff” side of Rule No. 10 is that, when you ask for help while hiking and camping, you don’t need to be embarrassed that you couldn’t handle something on your own, because chances are, the person you’re asking has asked for help themselves.  For every time that you need assistance, you’ll find opportunities to give assistance to someone else. 

The wonderful part about all of this is that, with each instance in which you lend a hand or ask for one, you’re reinforcing the community.  While you still may not see immediate or direct effects of your actions — i.e., that guy you helped may not be the one to help you out when you need it — because, as a community, we have all needed assistance at one time or another, we’re happy to repay the favor in whatever direction it’s needed.  Then, we can trust that when we do need a hand, there will be one available. 

It’s the cycle of hiking life.  Embrace it.  And the next time you need help, just remember that you’ll be able to help someone else around the next corner.

 © Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.





Photo Friday

14 05 2010

One of the things I love most about hiking is that the work (and there is work) is well-rewarded.  Here’s a photo in which you can see the reward coming…

The trail down to the closest viewpoint at Lower Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone National Park, WY, circa September 2, 2004.  Yes, you then have to go back up, but you’re so amazed you don’t think about it as work anymore.  At least, I didn’t.

Happy Friday!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.