Fall Hike/Gear Review Part 2

I am writing on Thanksgiving, so it is perhaps fitting to mention some of the critters i saw on this trip (<- that’s the link to Pictures!). In addition to the normal scattering of squirrels, i saw many deer. Usually i would hear them first – dashing away, or approaching at a run. Generally they were spread out in groups of three. I don’t know a ton about the developmental phases of the deer life-cycle, but i did not see any of the large antler displays that some folks are so crazy about putting on their walls. I think these were mostly young critters. Not all of the deer ran however. Infrequently, i would glance left or right and there would be a deer, less than 10 feet away, standing in the denuded forest just looking back at me. I would talk to them in mellow tones, like i do with dogs, and they would watch me pass then go about their business.

One group stood out more than any other. I just completed a steep ascent over slightly rockier, completely leaf covered terrain – meaning the ground had 95% of my focus. When i looked up, there was a deer standing on the trail maybe 6 feet ahead of me. I slowly and calmly came to a complete stop and we just stood there looking at each other. As i cautiously glanced around, i noted this deer’s two pals also within 15 feet, both off the trail but close by and observant. I was enjoying this moment, but i knew that the motions i would need to make to get to my camera would break the spell – so we waited. I took a small step forward and the deer casually left the trail and joined its pals.

No Deer - Just Woods
No Deer – Just Woods

One thing always worries me about hiking at this time of year. The hunters are out. While they know, or should know, that they cannot hunt on AT land, the trail’s right-of-way is often very narrow. I know that many “hunters” have taken to setting up with good views of the power line right-of-way and wait for the deer to pop out into the broad open channels for their shot. I worry that my presence on protected land might startle the deer and make them run. A short run in any direction will lead them out of the protected area, and often directly into the open land under the power lines. I have not figured out a solution yet. It has not made me stop hiking during hunting season either. But it is something i think about and wonder how to fix.

I passed the 20 year mark on not eating animals this fall. While i can remember eating meat as a youth, and i can remember not thinking at all about where my food came from, i cannot remember a time after i became aware that eating meat was eating other creatures that i did not think about stuff like this. As both a distance hiker and a dog lover, i can sympathize with the plight of critters like deer. It is not at all easy to find places in the lower 48 to go on really long walks without having to cross roads or go through towns. It is even harder to find places where it is “OK” to go on a really long walk with your dog also roaming free instead of tethered for the comfort of others. I am not a “turn back the clock – technology and progress sucks” kinda guy. But i can see how the course of our rise to dominance has been fairly difficult for critters like deer, wolves, and say, the buffalo.

I did not make it around to gear today, so i will close with some truths from another side of the coin. I know many hunters. Most of the hunters i actually know are very conscientious. They do not kill without thought. They are grateful for and use what they kill. I know some dudes who exclusively bow hunt and use every part of the animals they kill. Sadly, i think that these types of folks are not the majority. For every respectful hunter i know, i find miles of animal hair on the trail, obviously someone having drug a carcass. I find headless carcasses just off the trail – obvious signs of trophy hunting, and probable indicators of illegal hunting at that. On this last trip, i found a completely intact torso – spine and full ribcage. I don’t know what that was about, but there it was siting in the middle of the AT.

Memphis and a deer hide being tanned
Memphis and a deer hide being tanned

Sorry, i really am not trying to preach at you, or even trying to change your behavior. I am not judging you. I don’t think i am morally superior to you. I am only asking that on this day of thanksgiving – after all the weird mixed messages that, certainly my generation grew up with – doing the silly pageants in our youth and then, sometime, maybe in our pre-teens, maybe later, but sometime, we look around and start to recognize “hey, what about small pox, and stealing these people’s land, and the trail of tears? What the hell is this holiday supposed to be about again?” – i am only asking that you take a minute and think about your food. Think about where it comes from. Think about what kind of life the creature you are eating had before it became your dinner.

JMT Day 11 and 12 – June 11 and 12, 2012 – VVR Part 1 – The Staff!

Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) – Two Full Zero Days!

VVR on Facebook

7900 (+/- 0) – 0.0 miles

Free Maps Online – Day 11 and 12 – Map 10

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Let me just say, I love VVR. We ate a ton of good food. We drank many a fine beer from the incredible selection of fine beer there. And we met so many fantastic folks.

I developed deeper connections with more of the staff than I did with most of the other hikers – probably because the staff is there every day, Jake and I were there for at least part of 4 days, and most hikers were there for a day or a day and a half. These are my VVR peeps! (I don’t think I missed anyone, but if I did – Big Sorry!)

Marie, Olive, Kevin, Jim, Vicky, Gary, Randy, Rene, John, Robert, Mark, Joe, Roy – and the 4 leggers, Feather, Emma, and Stella.

Marie helped us get settled-in, took care of our many requests with a smile, and we had some nice chats about life and school. One of the amazing parts of her brain allows her to remember everyone’s name, trail name, nickname, and who is with who. Marie gave me a little notebook that I used the rest of the trip and to which I have referred often while writing this. I fall at least a little bit in love with almost every waitress. You give me a super cute one named Marie and it is Game Over. From my previous super-cute-waitress-Marie-love-experience, I was already playing some tracks from Harvest Moon in my head when Jake leaned over at breakfast one morning and sang quietly, “I used to order just watch her float across the floor.” Jake and I both had a big Marie Crush, and I would imagine many hikers leave there in a similar state. We could not find Marie to say goodbye to before leaving for the ferry and were sad about that until we saw her come running down to the lake (cue the music!) to give us farewell wishes and hugs!

Olive is a unique and wonderful lady that I enjoyed both sparring and actually talking with. We talked about life, school, travel, books, dogs, people, and many other things. There are tons of fantastic Olive moments and I will put one or two down here to give the flavor. One day, many non-hiking folks showed up around lunch time. There was a table of college-age looking guys near our customary spot at the outdoor bar. Olive came out, looked at us, and said (rather loudly) “I am so tired of pretending to be nice to people!” I think that put those dudes on their best behavior. One of our greatest and most public sparring sessions was at breakfast one morning. The room was not full, but there were at least 6 other folks eating breakfast at the time, and Olive started talking about how gross milk is. We went back and forth a bit, with me taking the side that milk is natural and no weirder than pretty much anything else about eating. Olive maintained that it is different and gross and weird because it is special food made for babies. Out of the blue she changed tactics and asked, “Would you drink a woman’s breast milk? Would you drink Marie’s breast milk?” In a rare fit of self-control, I kept the first two or three things I thought of in my head and only responded with a smile, “You are just sweetening the pot here Olive.” The room responded with joyous and approving laughter. Olive made one final attempt to regain her footing by approaching a distinguished looking hiker and trying to recruit him to her side. Grey Wolf was smiling and shrugged saying, “I agree with everything he just said.” Oh man, we had fun. Good Times. Olive and I have stayed in touch and i look forward to our next chance to visit one another!

Kevin is a wonderful Chef and a great guy. He cooked us many fine meals and seemed to enjoy the challenge/variety of cooking for vegetarians. He busted out his cookbooks and capped our great string of meals with some fantastic fried eggplant! I don’t usually enjoy eggplant, fried or otherwise, but this was super. He and I spent part of several evenings talking about cooking and travel and life. Before we left, Kevin realized that we were going to tell everyone we met how awesome VVR is, how awesome the food is, and that there were quite a few #6 breakfasts in his future. Kevin rode over on the ferry with us on our way out on the last day.

Jim, Vicky, and I talked about VVR, hiking, dogs, the VVR website and marketing, as well as other lighter stuff. They were both gracious and welcoming and maintain such a friendly vibe at their place.

Gary and I talked for a long time every evening sitting around the fire and covered a ton of topics.

Randy and I talked about skateboarding, growing up, mentoring kids, and hiking.

I got to spend less time talking with the others, but enjoyed the time I did share with Robert, Rene, Mark, John, Joe and Roy. I did get to watch John training Mark on the ferry and he seemed like a good and patient teacher. One day I heard Marie saying that she wished there was a way she could open the sliding glass door with her foot as she came outside with many plates of food in her arms. I thought that i was the only on that heard her. But, within an hour, Joe was there with some cut-to-fit angle iron and affixed it to the door and now she can open it with her foot! These are all great folks dedicated to doing a good job and helping each other. It was a joy to witness.

Feather is a lover and will accept love from anyone. I got some nice dog time in with her.

Emma seemed more selective than Feather, unless you wanted to throw her ball. We played ball for about an hour one day.

Stella is more discerning. I got to pet her a few times, but did not make it into her inner circle.

Stay Tuned for VVR Part 2 – The Hikers!

A La Carte

I may actually get back to some more regular posting. Things are beginning to mellow out a bit on Bumblebee so i will have more time to both collect and share my thoughts. And, i will have more time to get into a few projects.

Sunday Morning on Bumblebee 1
Sunday Morning on Bumblebee 1

Today is the 28th day on the new meds for Lucas and things are really going well. He is drinking a normal amount of water again, he has been doing more running in the park, and he has tried to engage a few dogs in play. He is still an old guy, but he is getting some increased mobility. I don’t know if that is due to getting off of the Phenobarbital, a positive side effect of the new meds, or just the result of feeling better in general. But he is beginning to do some of his old dances and i expect to see him do his happy little skip thing any day now.

Sunday Morning on Bumblebee 2
Sunday Morning on Bumblebee 2

His appetite is also more normal now. He doesn’t seem to have that extreme craving for food that he has had most of the past year as a result of chemical imbalances due to the Cushings. I just switched him to dry food without yogurt in the mornings, and a bowl of yogurt without dry food in the evenings. His digestion has settled back down and his routine is much more like it was a year ago than the roller coaster ride of the past 4 months or so.

Snowy Dog Park
Snowy Dog Park

I will keep the Lucas updates coming, but now for something else – FOOD!

View of Mingus Mountain from the park
View of Mingus Mountain from the park

I love to cook and have made a ton of food since i came out to AZ, but i have primarily made the same three to four dishes over and over. With some of the hardships behind us – i can focus on some new recipes and varying our menu. So i plan to have some more cooking tales for you. Dovetailed with the cooking tales – shopping tales. My favorite place out here has to be the local Safeway. I always leave that place with a big smile and a story or two. The vegetable section is pretty good, but we did just get our very own Trader Joe’s which should be able to supplement any ingredient holes that Safeway cannot fill.

Friday's Breakfast
Jalapeño cheese grits, black beans with veggies and spices, crunchy tortillas and O.J.

Some of these i already have good recipes for and some still need some research:

Sushi – i have some skill with this using Nori, but want to try my hand at going Nori-free.

Egg Drop Soup – good suggestions for adjustments in the comments!

Hot and Sour Soup – also here

StirFry variants with noodles instead of rice

Fried Rice variants

And an awesome Thai style peanut butter noodles and veggies fry-up my man Raven turned me on to a few years back

Saturday's Stir Fry Prep
Mung bean sprouts, broccoli, radishes, purple cabbage, cubed and fried tofu, baby bells, green bell pepper, grated ginger, chinese snow peas, carrots, red onion, celery, garlic and spices
All together
All together
The Big Salad
The Big Salad

Stay Tuned…

Silence Like A Knife

Howdy. Time for some general housekeeping and updates.

Lucas and I are back in PA. He is doing very well, maybe even better than he was a month ago. He is drinking a little less water, and has not been getting me up in the middle of the night more than twice a week. Instead of every two hours, he seems to only need to go out every three hours or so now.

My dad and I finally decided to throw in the towel on my Saturn, and I am now rockin’ out in what one of my friends calls “the nerd car”. Yep. I am stylin’ in a 2008 Prius and lovin’ it. I have cleaned and emptied the Saturn, taken some nice photos, and will be throwin’ that up onto the list of Craig hopefully tonight. It still has a few issues (throttle body and wiring harness) but it runs, the body/frame/interior are in super shape. It has a rebuilt tranny still under warranty, and a new engine still under warranty.

I had a lot of things on my mind and weighing on my being for my last few weeks in NOVA. Under the strain, I went the less productive route of worry and wallow instead of ACTION. Some of that was out of my control, but I did let some things slide. I have gotten out from under most of that weight. I am at least down to mostly only having to deal with my issues and not the issues of others.

I did a ton of writing during that time, but it is not stuff that I can share. I tell you only to say that while I have been silent, I have still been writing. I have not yet finished the conclusion of the tech piece, but I will begin releasing it anyway. The software has been released. Many of you probably already have it and are playing with it. But the set-up, and some of the forecasts on potential future issues may still be interesting to some of you.

The last day I felt able to do personal writing before being overwhelmed by outside forces, instead of writing the tech post conclusion, I started a piece on Epistemology. I love this topic. I have been fascinated by it long before I even knew what it was called, and every bit of study I have done relates in some way back to this topic.

My short-term blog goal is to finish the tech blog conclusion first, and then keep working  on the Epistemology blog as the pre-written tech material posts over the next few days. I cannot project a schedule for you on that as it is a huge topic. My final paper on this back in 1998 was 16 pages, and I barely scratched the surface. I have yet to get my arms around how to bite off small chunks for you here. But it will be good exercise.

Some of the current “other factors” – Vance is back in the hospital, my grandpa is here with us, and my mom is headed out of town. Vance came back from his 45th high school reunion with a severely swollen thumb and pain creeping down his wrist and arm. He was admitted to the hospital Tuesday morning. Nothing showed up on the x-ray or the MRI. After 13 hours or so on an IV, the swelling is reduced and the pain is receding. Nothing indicates a need for surgical intervention, but he will stay in the hospital for at least one more day, maybe more, on the IV until it seems safe to switch him back to antibiotic pills and outpatient care.

Not to make it all about me, but this does put a lot on my plate. Diabetic Pappy needs meds morning and night, blood sugar checks twice a day, shots three times a day, and a meal or snack every 2-3 waking hours. Ol’ Lucas has to walk at least every three waking hours. I need to visit with my pop in the hospital to chat and and bring him stuff. Then there is the acquisition and preparation of food, the cleansing of garments and linens, and everything else. I do not say this to complain. I am happy to help and glad that I happened to be here when such a need arose. But, it does limit my time for the writing.

Oh – and I need to throw my request out to the world for more work.

I have a wide range of experience and a broad skill set, am free to travel again in a few days, and would be happy to come house/pet sit for you while you travel for the holidays – or fix/clean your house for you while you are gone – or just about anything else. Let me know!

I do have some new-ish plans for full-time employment, but i am going to spend the holiday season preparing for that, seeing what happens with Lucas, and hopefully making some pocket money with other temp gigs.

Oh – one Halloween note. Halloween has not been very important to me since i was a lad, but it does mark one milestone for me. I can’t remember exactly when i became a vegetarian, but i know it was in the Fall of 1993. I remember eating meat that summer, living in a school bus with my bud in the mountains outside Lewiston, PA. I remember still eating meat for a while after that summer and cooking bacon for my girlfriend that i mostly lived with back in Richmond. But i know i stopped before we broke up, and she dumped me and threw me out on Halloween 1993. So, Happy 18 meat-free years to me!

Thanksgiving 2008 - Prescott Valley, AZ
Thanksgiving 2008 - Prescott Valley, AZ

Hope you all are well!


Veggie Vitamins – 45 Days.  Feel good. Don’t notice a change i can attribute to the difference in veggie vitamins versus the “standard” vitamins i used to take, but i do think the glucosamine is helping – in addition to the core exercises. I have not had any knee or leg pain like pre-winter running.

The glucosamine i ordered for Lucas arrived today. I hope that it will help that champion as well. As with me, time will tell. And similar to my scenario, i don’t expect him to necessarily notice and jump and run differently – i am not expecting him to be able to do more. I just hope that what he does will feel better and that he will be able to do it longer.

We had another decent spot of weather this afternoon and i took in another run. This one is probably the best i have felt so far. In part, i think i am getting into shape and getting used to running, but i also think that the iPod is helping. In particular, i pulled off the music and put on the audio book series i am listening to. I was not sure how running while listing to stories would work out, and i am here to tell you that it was super.

I am re-listening to Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series, and just started Wolves of Calla this afternoon. I reverted to the old run and had no troubles at all. The dreaded hill around 1.4 miles was no problem. The next hill into the neighborhood was easy-peasy.

2.11 miles – 8’38” Pace

I set three new goals today as well.  In the next four weeks:

14 runs

30 miles

10 runs at or under 8’45”

If i stick with it and run at least every other day (on average), this should be easy. Last time i set similar (though easier) goals, but fell off track on all but the pace goal. Now it is time to meet new goals…

I still owe some (probably goofy) pictures of running and hiking gear, and a wrap up of the hiking info i found about good local PA hiking as well as reports and pictures of the latest hikes. I hope to get to that in the next two days. For now –

Lucas on the Mason Dixon Trail - March 29, 2011
Lucas on the Mason Dixon Trail - March 29, 2011
Mason Dixon Trail - March 29, 2011
Mason Dixon Trail - March 29, 2011

Another Step Forward in Vegetarian Life

A little Veggie Background:

I quit eating meat in the Fall of 1993.  I did the Vegan thing for about a year and a half 94-95.  I am technically a lacto-ovov vegetarian since i eat of the cheese, eat of the breads made with milk and/or butter, and eat of the egg.  My relationship with the egg comes and goes. There may be years at a time where i am turned off by eggs.  And other years where i will have omelets or 2 eggs over easy every morning.  (Eggs are really fun to cook.)

I have not had any milk to drink nor cook with since about 94, and I have avoided ice cream for the same period.  I have not even purchased butter for my kitchens since about 2003.

I do still love the yogurt! I quit buying sour cream around 96 and just use yogurt.  The few times i have had sour cream, i don’t even like it anymore.

I am largely at peace with my diet.  I do have to pay attention to make sure i eat enough fruit.  I just never got in the habit.

For years i have been looking to replace most of my leather items. Over the past 3 years, and with some help from friends, i knocked down the big three.  I found great no-animal sandals from Birkis – a splinter company from Birkenstock.  I found a great no-animal belt at REI.  And my last lady friend gave me an awesome wallet made from Tyvek!  Before Mexico, i also bought a small, velcro, no-animal wallet from EMS.  The only downside to the Tyvek wallet is that after it expands to accommodate all your stuff, it does not snap back into shape and if you carry less than usual, items fall out.  I did not want to have my 500 grocery store member cards and 6 bank/credit cards and all that other stuff along to Mexico.

One of the last two areas that have been nagging at my brain – cheese and vitamins.  I have known all along that most of the inexpensive cheese i buy as well as the mainstream vitamins probably contain some kind of animal life.  In both cases, probably sea creatures. Fish bits are used in lots of processed cheeses, and shellfish are used in many vitamins.

Cheese is going to take me a little longer to conquer.  I know how, but it is more expensive, and i believe that it takes a committed household – something i do not have at the current time.

But, i was very pleasantly surprised the last time i checked out Vegan vitamins and found a great source and saw the prices.  These are now the same price or cheaper than ‘standard’ vitamins.  My first order arrived today!

Supplemental Veggie Goodness

I have been taking Vitamins since i turned Veg.  Exactly what i take varies, but generally it has been: Centrum, C, E, B Complex or just B12.  About 6 years ago i started taking Calcium also.  About one year ago i started taking Chondroitin/Glucosamine.

I did some research and settled on this set for my first transition:


Healthful Helpers

They are all Vegan.  Glucosamine (Chondroitin has no non-animal counterparts, but this is formulated to work well without it), Multivitamin, C, and E.  B complex and B12 in particular are very important to vegetarians/vegans, but the folks who make these know that and one multivitamin pill has over 100% of the daily recommended amount.  The multivitamin also has loads of C and E, but i take extra C to help avoid sickness in the colder months and around other people.  I take the extra E, sometimes twice a day, for my skin – particularly my hands.

Anyway, i am pleased to have crossed this bridge and we shall see whether or not i can tell a difference as time passes.  This shipment should last 90 days.