WCT – We (well, some of us) made it!!

I am now back safely from the trip to Vancouver Island and the hike on the West Coast Trail. The hike was exciting, unpredictable and rewarding. We had really good weather and saw a lot of wildlife. My walk from the train to work in Atlanta’s code orange air this morning had me feeling more dirty than I ever felt in 8 days without a shower on the trail. I look forward to sharing our stories and experiences with you in person as well as through the blog. To whet your appetite I will tell you that we spent 7 nights on the trail, had mostly great weather (one big rain day) and started our trip with 8 hikers but finished only with 6.

I would like to start the adventure by introducing everyone.
Duke – the leader of the pack, lives in Seattle, has had this trip on his mind for some time now and made the whole thing happen

Rob – Duke’s elder brother, ultralight, giggles a lot, answers questions like there is such a thing as a stupid question and you just asked him one

Richie – Duke’s childhood friend from scouts, consultant to National Athletic teams for the Nation of Bahrain so he know what being in shape means

George – A jean-shorts-clad friend of Richie’s in New Mexico, most recent conquest was a 31 day fitness boot camp immersion experiment that lasted 31 days

Matt – Duke’s son, the guy who invited me along,

Graham – Duke’s future son-in-law, patient and knowledgeable, fresh from a bike-car accident that had him in the hospital less than a week before (shoulder)

Josh – Graham’s friend from childhood, unfortunate recipient of guff from the older guys

me – Matt’s friend from grad school in Atlanta, Pacific NW first-timer and Canadian impersonator

I am planning to add posts detailing each day of the journey but wanted to put up a link to the pictures that many of you have asked about.

the photos

Trips Abound

A week from today I head to Seattle and immediately on to Vancouver to hike the West Coast Trail. I have not been keeping up with a training regimen the way I would have hoped but I think I am in good shape for the trip. It will help that it is not 90 with 95% humidity out there, not to mention the break from the ground-level ozone. There’ll be another hike on Sunday to warm up and then its all learning-by-doing. I appreciate any advice/suggestions for the trip people want to offer up.

Speaking of taking a trip, Jorge has returned home but not without his fair share of harrowing culture shock. First he forgot a bag containing passport, hard drive digital camera, books, etc. in a cab. But, as it goes in much of the world, there were many sets of eyes on the street and someone saw the the cab’s number. He narrowed it down to two cabs and found the drivers before the police. The driver’s were angry about the possible police attention and the accusations and didn’t produce any reclamations. This all happened on his vacation on the coast and he had to move on, so he hired a guy there to stay on the case and low and behold the bag turned up, less camera, hard drive and some books. But he got his passport back and safely returned to Bogotá. But he wasn’t done paying a second time for his own possessions. The bike he packed and mailed to himself from Atlanta was deemed an import and charged taxes. Is this an import? I am not sure. It was not in the condition that it is usually shipped from the company and sold, but there is surely a market for it as it was. In any event he’s home and reminiscing his time here already.

And then there’s the honeymooners. Paul and Hilary are somewhere still, hopefully not Bermuda, and soon Ben and Katy will be returning from their trip to Europe which sounded amazing. Their advice: drop what you’re doing and go to Slovenia immediately. Finally, our friends Dave and Liza have taken a trip (one-way) out west to Salt Lake City. They’ve gone there to live and work as Dave continues his education/professional program. We’ll miss them and wish them the best of luck.

May Daze

I consider myself pretty lucky. I don’t think I’m one to plan big outings but still continue to find myself involved in them and having a great time, all thanks to the hard work of others. (click photos for more photos)

For four weekends in-a-row during May I was out of town on a trip of some sort. On the 9th Shannon and John set up a camping trip on Jekyll Island that we were fortunate enough to be a part of. Shannon is a wizard at these things and I am not surprised that this trip was awesome. We all took our bikes down there and rode around the entire island.

A week later Lauren and her mom organized a meetup in Blowing Rock, NC. The plan was for them to drive down from the northeast with a table that was made for us by a townsman up there (who coincidentally presided over our wedding) and we would meet them, hang out and take the table the rest of the way home. It gave us a chance to see them, them a chance to see other family in the area, and us a chance to get the table which could not be taken apart and shipped. Lauren and I rented a Dodge truck and headed out early on Saturday. In another stroke of good fortune we all stayed in a house owned by some extended family and had the opportunity to visit the quaint mountain towns, including Boone. There the people were surprisingly gentle as they came to find out I had loyalties to the University of Michigan. We also found out of some bouldering spots very close to the house up there and made it out to the Blowing Rock Boulders twice.

The following week was Memorial Day weekend and thanks to the splendid vision of Liza’s sister, Jess, we were set up in a beachside condo on Folly Island near Charleston, SC. We enjoyed lot of beach time as well as complimentary breakfast and happy hours. We also made it into the city to see the historic preservation efforts of the city and got to pay attention to some of the ultra high class old-money you might not expect of South Carolina. It was captivating but a bit surreal at the same time.

Finally last weekend I got off my butt and did some planning. I booked a backcountry site at Black Rock Mountain State Park for a weekend in the mountains. Lauren was off in Yellowstone for work and I used it as an opportunity to take Jorge out to see some of Georgia and visit a different park named for a colorful cobble. Dave and TJ made it up on Saturday to make it an official festival de salchica and for some creekside debauchery.

I also used it as an opportunity to get some hiking practice in for an upcoming trip on the west coast. In late July I will be heading to British Columbia to do the West Coast Trail with 7 other compatriots. The trip deserves more mention than I give it here and I will be providing updates and recaps as it nears and takes place.

This weekend I’ll be at home in Atlanta, taking care of all the things I have neglected during May (ironically the month of May ‘labor’ Day). I’ll be thinking of all the effort that others put into making this a great May for me and wondering what I can plan to give them some fun.

Road Trip

This Thanksgiving, in an effort to save some cash on expensive plane tickets and dog boarding, we decided to rent a car and drive to New England. My love for a good road trip has never dimmed and so of course I was up for it. We even convinced Susan, Lauren’s sister, to fly down here from New York and drive back up there with us. It was all Susan’s idea, and honestly with the exception of me and few other people, no one could understand why she would want to do this. My philosophy was, the more the merrier, and I was glad that she had suggested it. Plus we never get to see her and so even if our time together was crammed in a Dodge Caliber with dog in tow it was time well spent. I’m not sure if she felt that way at the end of the trip but it’s the thought that counts.

We left Atlanta early Tuesday morning and set off for Lambetville, NJ to stay with Lauren’s dad in his apartment there. We made decent time and the back seat (with the dog) of the Dodge turned out to be a real hit, everyone fell asleep when seated there. We arrived in Lamberville around 8:30, 14.5 short hours after we left Atlanta.

Lambertville is a hip little town situated right on the Delaware across from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Lauren and I made it out for a walk along the river in the morning before leaving. From there we headed to Hampton, CT to stay on the farm with Lauren’s mom and Mack. Here we spent our Thanksgiving before heading out on Friday to Newport to spend time with family there. By Saturday our short trip had come to end and it was time to pack up the car and hit the road once again. We were not sure where we were going to stop or stay on Saturday night but we set off just the same. We pondered going to DC to stay with friends and head down 95 but changed our minds somewhere in Virginia. Then we started thinking about finding a dog-friendly hotel in Charlotte but again changed our minds.

Ultimately we trudged through and beat the Sunday traffic by arriving at our house in the middle of the night on Saturday. By the end of it we had added 2,318 miles to the Caliber and see three generations of two sides of Lauren’s family. We’d also eaten more than our fair share and paid our first visit to Lauren’s dad’s new house. In the process we managed to save over $1000 compared to flying and boarding the dog. Now we’re trying to decide whether or not to do it again (to Michigan) in December.

Kimsey Creek, Rabun Gap, Tilt and Steripen

I’m having trouble writing, if at all eloquently, about my experiences lately but I thought I’d briefly describe this weekend.

This weekend was a whirlwind trip up to northern Georgia that included gourmet camping food, hours of puzzle work and introductions to many new friends (including one magic pen). Without classes on Fridays and a classless Monday and Tuesday thanks to fall break, I took off midday for Rabun Gap and Sam’s cabin in the woods. It was a pleasant surprise to head north to a cabin and for once end up in a home. It includes all the amenities of the rentals and is rather spacious but is more welcoming and has much more personality than cookie cutter rentals. The walls are decorated with art from around the world and are not the generic ‘mountain’ motif that I’ve come to expect from north Georgia cabins. It was also nice to spend some time working on a jigsaw puzzle (an memorable family habit of mine).

We stayed up late and started to pack and plan for our hike and camp the next day. Everyone played a part in making it a great camping trip. Hats off to Rupesh for finding the spot and the route. Eight of us set off to Standing Indian Campground in North Carolina and started on a 6 mile hike into our site somewhere on the Appalachian Trail and atop a mountain. Marcus prepared a lot of food, including a delicious salmon risotto and a wonderful herbed egg biscuit with brie. Rishi carried a two liter of ginger ale all the way to the top. Sam got us all together and managed macaroni and cheese without milk or butter. Nick and Audrey somehow strapped a tent onto a pack and remembered chlorine tablets.

Julia impressed me the most when she revealed her magic water sterilizing pen and produced clean water for us all. The product is called Steripen and it produces UV light that kills bacteria and other organisms in water that you can collect from streams. Lauren says it’s a SkyMall type of thing, but I would very seriously consider purchasing this. We’re in the middle of a drought here and water wasn’t flowing as it normally does which gave Rupe’s pump a few problems but Steripen produced liter after liter of clean water without trouble. It worked for her in Ethiopia and it worked again in North Carolina.

In any event, our loop was completed by another six mile hike back to the parking lot. Where an ice cold Tilt awaited us. It was a beautiful weekend. Good times, good weather, the leaves starting to turn, and good people. Mali even made it along for her second ever camping trip and managed to scare the crap out of several outsiders as well as several members of our group. Enjoy the photos and next time, Lauren, you have to come along.


where we went

A Pacific Trip to the Atlantic Coast

I am not sure if anyone else is running into this problem but this year has been abnormally bad with ticks (for myself). I’ve found three in various places on me so far. Though none following our trip to Connecticut, the area perhaps most infamous for the insect. The latest came during a trip to the Georgia/South Cackalack coast over the weekend.

I suspect it hopped aboard during one of a couple hikes around the marshes of Skidaway Island State Park. Our first clue should have been the deer we saw when we pulled in to find a site. In any event, after the ride down there without A/C and following an incredibly hot, yet remarkably dry (see our camping record) night we were in desperate need of showers which would not come until several hours later.

After rising early on Saturday and making a second trip out to the Skidaway Narrows, we decided we’d try and make it to Hilton Head and get some beach exposure before heading to Savannah. Neither of us had ever been to Hilton Head but had heard a great deal about the place. Lauren from her mother and me from the hoards of high school classmates who sought the place out as a spring break destination. I was very surprised to see some of the attention put into sculpting the island’s development, which I can only imagine was a rapid and entropic process hesitant to be wrangled. The island has its share of retail including big box stores like Lowes and Best Buy as well as outlet stores. These merchants line the large main road (highway) through the island. However, all the stores are barely visible from the roadway. They are accessible via smaller service roads that line the main road but are hidden behind large stands of tall pines. They’ve managed to maintain some of the area’s attractiveness while adding businesses and limiting access points. It’s almost like a boulevard but there is no parking on service roads. The parking lots are also didactically interesting (if that may be said). Again, large tress have been preserved and provide shade for the cars.

As an example consider these two gas stations I snapped in passing. The top from the main route on Hilton Head Island. The gas station barely visible and, in this case I think the service road runs on the opposite side of the station and the division provides enough room for a landscaped bike/ped path (not that it’s used). The bottom gas station is something we’re probably all more familiar with. This example comes from somewhere in SC, AKA Juarez, MX. Of course there are a number for reasons we see both approaches and HHI is not perfect (I’m sure we could get the flaws of developing ecologically sensitive barrier islands at all), but it is good to see real-life case studies for how things can be done differently and hopefully better.

That said I do not want to get into all the ways that Savannah’s Historic Review Board manages to have it’s way in the city’s growth and rejuvenation while the surrounding coast gets gobbled up. I like what they’ve done but think that those in the historic district could be leveraging their power to ease some pressure on the coast. Regardless, I always enjoy my time in the old city. We stayed in a wonderfully restored bed and breakfast thanks to a wedding gift given to us by friends from Atlanta. It even had showers, or as I like to call them, the watery grave of the Skidaway tick.

All in all it was a great weekend to get away from all the video games, gutters (which are finally back up), and possible injuries that Atlanta offers. It was a also a fitting way for Lauren and I to spend our last weekend together before I leave to Colombia (where ticks are not one of things you have to worry about).

Desoto Falls

This weekend we escaped the heat and traffic and general schedule of Atlanta and made our way to the falls. We scouted out the site using a guide we picked up a year ago called ‘The Best Tent Camping in Georgia’. Everything sounds great, secluded, near water, hikes, mountains. As always happens when we decide to go camping.. rain was in the forecast. We haven’t had much (rain) in Georgia this year (wildfires in the south, etc.) and so Lauren and I thought we would do the region a favor and do our rain dance also known as a trip to the north Georgia hills.

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-6085445176779330396&hl=enWe left on Friday and set off up 400 into the the abyss of rush hour. This is when the rain started… on and off until we arrived. Our friends Elizabeth and Adam joined us. We had great weather for our first night and into our second morning when we went for a hike to the two waterfalls. Then the rain started to pour down but luckily we had a tarp rigged over the picnic table and we could escape the storm and play some cards while it passed. A&E had to leave on Saturday to return home but we stayed up there. This was also Mali’s first time out camping and she was a bit skiddish. Especially when some new Korean SCAD students set up camp a few sites down and decided that they’d just stroll through our site unannounced to look for wood.

After all the rain, Lauren and I headed back to the waterfalls to see if anything had changed with the rain but it was just about the same, except we climbed all the way to the top. All and all it was a pretty good weekend. In the end, we were able to get away and enjoy some time outdoors. One thing about the site is that it lies along a road that has been finished since our guide was written and is now a thoroughfare for motorcycles and semis. A bit loud but relaxed and scenic. On the way home we stopped by the wineries which are a must for anyone in Dahlonega.

Frogtown is my favorite but on this trip we also stopped by
Blackstock for our first time. The service was a bit slow but the view is amazing. Both looked like a great place to take a mother for brunch on Mother’s Day.

When we finally arrived home we found that the rain had not only hit us but had also smashed the city; particularly our part of town. Lauren walked into the backyard to find that the gutter had been pulled off the house. Now we’re trying to deal with it. It looks like the gutter company (who shall, for the moment, remain nameless) did not fix the gutter to the sturdiest studs and only fastened it to the facia. At the same time it appears that the people who re-did the house used finishing nails to attach the facia to the house. Stay tuned.


This weekend we took a weekend getaway trip to Chattanooga with our friends John and Shannon and Sandra (and of course, Bodhi). We all piled in the Honda Pilot to go meet Kevin and Kathy and their family. K&K used to live in the A but moved to Indy around a year ago, much to our dismay.

Chattanooga is a pretty cool little city. Not too many people call it home but it has a multitude of amenities that attract people from the region to its waterfront. Where do you think Bernie Marcus got his idea. It’s a great place for the kids to run around and also for adults to take a break from work and catch up (especially when the weather is as nice as it was for us). That could include anything from finding out what darndest things have recently been said to flying a giant, expensive kite alongside the river.

When you first roll into town you may think it looks dead, but make your way to the river and you’ll start to see people (and their tricked out choppers). We were lucky enough to plan our visit during prom season and the prominees for king and queen were prominent. Prom. Shannon and Sandra started the trip doing their best Joan and Melissa Rivers impersonations as the Seniors piled out of limos along Broad Street. Apparently ‘the highlighter colors’ were in this year. We were hoping to view some wild prom parties at the hotel, but no such luck. All of us stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel; an old rail station turned into modest accommodations. Kevin, Kathy, Ewan, Colin, and Sandra even took advantage of the novelty of the venue and stayed in a converted rail car.

For part of the trip I felt like I was in Savannah because it’s small and a little weird, but Chattanooga lacks the neighborhoods that Savannah boasts. Chattanooga does not feel like an old city. The attractions and townhomes along the river are anything but. They have an old riverboat docked there but most of the boats cruising around are new pseudo-yachts: party boats. Aside from the Choo Choo, there doesn’t seem to be too much of its history that the city is trying to embrace.

The slogan for the city (A Great City by Nature) plays on the natural features that surround the area. I am yet to see much of them up close. There is kayaking , hang gliding, hiking, climbing, and probably more. On Saturday I had the chance to ride out east along their river. Lauren, John and I all rode out to the Chickamunga Dam and back on The Tennessee Riverwalk, a paved path that takes you there from downtown. The path follows the south side of the Tennessee River through marsh and village, hill and dale, picnic area and parking lot on your way to the dam. The bike is a great way to get around the town, however the residents seemed surprised to see riders away from the dedicated paths and out on the main streets.

It’s easy to compare Chattanooga to other cities (newer than Savannah, less crunchy than Asheville, more drunk than Macon) but a bit harder to characterize it altogether. My suggestion is to check it out for yourself.