Friday, July 4, 2008

shout-out to Ralph, whom I met while loitering on his property

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big shout-out to Julie at the all-sports pizzeria!

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Happy Fourth, all!

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Eric and DeAnna (did I spell that right?), my hosts in Woodland

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a new record!

I walked nearly 25 miles today, which is now my new distance record. And it warn't easy, neither. As the walk dragged on, something told me it wasn't a mere 20-miler. It started nicely enough: Gay dropped me off by a beautiful lakeside park very early Thursday morning; the walk from there to the RV center where I asked for further directions (it turns out that MapQuest had noted a street-- Cottonwood-- that doesn't exist) was, as it turned out, 6.05 miles (just checked with Google Earth on my current host's laptop). From the RV center to the prearranged pickup/dropoff point was exactly 19 miles, but I didn't make the final half-mile (0.4 miles, to be exact). So: about 24.6 miles today, which beats the Samish Island record of about 23 miles. You might argue that I was able to do today's walk thanks to a lighter pack (during the Bellingham-to-Samish walk, the pack was 58 pounds, as Woody had noted) and better weather (it rained during the entire Samish walk)-- not to mention the fact that I did the Samish Island trek without any sleep.

All conceded, but today's walk featured something I haven't had to contend with much until now: real hills. The final five or six miles of the walk took me through a very nice neighborhood that wound up and down the contours of a local hill-- a tall sucker. The roads I was on tended to curve and to be angled at the same time; as before, I was often fooled into thinking a particular rise was done when BOOM-- I rounded a curve and saw more hill before me. It can be discouraging, after a while, if you're constantly expecting relief after the rise you're on, so... in my case, I stopped expecting. I also started switchbacking my way up the longer slopes as a way of easing myself up them without too much strain. I did have to watch for cars, though.

About five miles before the end of the walk and right as I was starting the descent portion, I ran out of water. Very bad news, but I kept in mind that I was a mere five miles from my goal, and noted that, even though my mouth was drying up at a discomfiting rate, I was still sweating, so dehydration wasn't a serious issue.

After a while, the descents became as difficult as the ascents had been; my movements were becoming more wooden and robotic; the pain in my feet was increasing, and my balance was starting to waver-- thank goodness for the trekking poles.

But the trekking poles didn't save me from my first (of what I'm sure will be many) fall. Yes, I fell today, right next to a construction site where a home was being built, somewhere around Mile 18 or 19; one of my knees simply buckled, and down I went. Not tragic: I wasn't hurt, none of the equipment was damaged, and I eventually managed to get off the ground, dust myself off, and lumber over to another porta-john to give vent to my inner turmoil. No one saw me fall, no cars passed by while I was down... no one offered any help. It was truly a Hobbesian moment: my glimpse of life as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. I can attest that no angels swoop down to right you when you tumble. You just roll over, check yourself and your equipment to make sure nothing is detached or hanging at an awkward angle, then you grunt and slowly lever yourself to your feet with your trekking poles, being extra-careful with your footing from then on.

I'm still not sure what caused the fall, though the likeliest reason was simple fatigue. My right knee developed one of those gristle-y clicks you sometimes hear when walking; in my case, I felt rather than heard the clicking, which radiated through my flesh from my knee and into my torso, and eventually up into my head. Cool, eh, ladies? It was totally painless.

I was so damn thirsty by the time I reached Woodland that I bought three bottles of juice at a local Shell mini-mart and drank them all before attempting to contact my very patient and tolerant host Eric who, along with his wife, waited until very, very late so we could all eat dinner together. As the cool juice settled in my guts and the evening breeze began to freeze my soaking tee shirt, I got a bad case of the chills and had to dig through my backpack for my jacket, which I put on. My phone, whose battery had died during the walk, charged itself enough at the gas station's wall socket for me to tell Eric I wouldn't be able to make it to our appointed rendezvous point, and when Eric showed up at Shell, he told me I looked tired. And sore. True enough: I was moving like a mummy when Eric arrived; everything hurt everywhere. Still does. And now we know why: 'at warn't no twenty-miler.

While I've got more to say about my wonderful hosts, I'll leave those remarks for a later post. Right now, I need to check laundry and hit the hay. Another long walk to Vancouver tomorrow.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

more logs than even I can make in a day (Kalama municipal boundary)

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I see these booths everywhere. What are they for?

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pas aussi long que prévu

Today's walk might be only around 20 or 21 miles: my host in Woodland, who lives 14 or 15 miles outside the town proper, will be picking me up in front of a Safeway in town, and dropping me off there again the morning of the Fourth (tomorrow). I'll be spending most of the Fourth walking to Vancouver.

My host in Longview just dropped me off at a lakeside park, saving me about 4 or 5 miles. This morning's dropoff point is a mile or so from where I was picked up yesterday, which would normally mean I'd have to make that distance up, but since I did those extra eight miles while at Lewis and Clark State Park, I'll consider the distance walked.

So today won't be as bad as I thought-- certainly not 29 miles. Thank goodness. The only real worry for today: the rain.


Ralph and Gay (my hosts in Longview), around 5:40 this morning

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meet Miss Daisy, world's friendliest cat

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settling in for the night

I'm at the magnificent home of Gay and Ralph in Longview, and that's literally what I see when I look out their bay windows: a long view of much of the state! Their home is perched on a high hill; the Missus came to pick me up at the intersection of Nevada and Westside Highway, which means I didn't do the final 4.2 miles of the walk. "It's a dangerous road," Gay said. It's also a hilly road: the four-mile hike, most of which goes up, would have reduced me to a quivering mass of protoplasm. Gay or Ralph will be dropping me off where I was picked up very early tomorrow morning, probably around 5AM. I have a long walk ahead of me.

Dinner was a fantastic smorgasbord of chicken, pasta, homemade bread, salad, and cantaloupe. As my Kiwi buddy John was known to say after stuffing himself: I am replete. I've had the chance to meet Gay's cat, Miss Daisy (picture pending), as well as three dogs owned by Gay and Ralph's daughter and son-in-law, who live next door but are currently away. We talked a bit about my trip, and also about Gay's incredible father, Jay Ellis Ransom, a prolific author and polymath, who currently lives in The Dalles (he's a sprightly 94) and whom I might visit while I'm there. A tour of the house reveals that both Gay and Ralph are people of many talents: Gay is a "computer nerd," as her husband calls her, and Ralph makes wine from local berries (no grapes!). Both are good cooks, though Gay insists she doesn't cook that well. "Don't listen to her," said Ralph during dinner.

We touched on the topic of religion long enough for me to learn that Gay sees institutional religion as the cause of most human strife throughout history. Neither she nor her husband is religious; they politely asked me whether I wanted to "say grace," but I told them I don't stand on ceremony. I'm not one of those who feels the need to pray publicly before a meal at a restaurant (didn't Jesus warn against public prayer, anyway?), and the only time I ever say a blessing is at home with my folks, or at a formal event at our church. I'm not a particularly prayerful person, perhaps because I'm a nontheist (buy my book to find out more!).

Laundry is perking right now; sleep beckons. Gotta wake up early.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

mossy trees! is this part of the old-growth forest? shot was taken in the vicinity of Lewis and Clark State Park

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"Walking is bad for you."

The man saw me as I was heading into the gas station convenience store; he called out to me as I was crossing the parking lot: "Where ya' headed?"

"Washington, DC," I said, even though I'm never sure why I say that. For all I know, I'll hit the Atlantic while in New England. Or maybe I'll be on the coast of Georgia.

"What for?" the man asked. He was an older gentleman, slight of build. For some reason I was reminded of Hume Cronyn in "Cocoon."

"For religious reasons," I said.

There was a long pause. Then the man asked, "Got a phone?"

"Sure," I said. I thought it might be rude to follow up with a blunt, "Why?", so I said nothing further.

The man suddenly pulled out a banana-yellow business card and handed it to me.

"Walking is bad for you," he declared. "It reduces muscle mass. Sure, you'll lose weight, but you'll also be weaker." I was ready to laugh in the man's face: I remember how beneficial walking was when I lived in Switzerland, where I had walked and done other exercises like pullups and gained muscle mass while losing weight.

"Call me up sometime and I'll give you a workout," the man said.

"Thank you!" I said with deliberate overenthusiasm. He nodded and we went our separate ways.

The business card says he's got a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education from Walla Walla College. I do sense a great deal of BS about this guy, but hey-- if you're interested in learning more about his miraculous, 20 minutes-per-week exercise plan, leave a comment and I'll be happy to send you his contact info.


dogs and Good Samaritans

I've been on the road a few hours now, and no one's barked out their window at me as they were driving by. On the contrary, I met another Good Samaritan on the street: a woman in a white Volvo drove up to me, pulled over, leaned across the passenger seat and handed me-- that's right-- a freezing can of Pepsi.

"You look like you need it," she said, smiling.

"Oh, my God, thank you!" I stammered, having long since abandoned whatever pride had kept me from accepting food and drink from strangers.

And with that, the lady drove off.

On one hand, perhaps it's not surprising to discover that, as little Anne Frank believed, people are basically good at heart. My overall experience in Washington State has been overwhelmingly positive, whether we're talking about the CouchSurfing hosts I've met or the religious institutions I've dealt with or the many random encounters I've had in stores and restaurants and on the street.

On the other hand, you've got the people who shout incoherent garbage out their windows as they drive by, and all the warnings from good folks about the need to "be careful out there"-- a testament to our pragmatic or cynical conviction that people are basically fallen.

Which is it? Are we basically good, or basically fallen? (Or are we mired in a sort of fundamental avidya, or ignorance, as Buddhists would contend?). Life doesn't provide clear, pat answers to most of our important questions, and the question of basic human goodness is among those admitting of no clear answers.

Dogs are lucky in that sense. Being pack mammals responsive to abstract notions like hierarchy and territory, dogs are born into the world wired with a sense of duty. They may be, as a result, the most Kantian of domesticated animals.

As happened when I went on a long hike in Switzerland, dogs have been barking at me all along my journey, especially when my path takes me through a suburban neighborhood or a farming area. Most of the dogs wag their tails while barking, which I take to mean they're not really serious. In one case, two dogs ran off their property to come right up to me, but I was more pissed off at the mindless owner than at the dogs themselves; they were only doing their sacred duty as members of the human pack.

I've been sitting at a place called Riverside Park while typing this entry. It's a fairly quiet place right now-- field, baseball diamond, trees, parking lots-- and I'm not even sure what city it's in. Many of the neighborhoods I've passed through have been advertising July 4th in some way or other: I've walked by innumerable fireworks booths. This neigborhood, wherever I am, is no different.

Anyway, it's time to get a-movin'. I stopped at this park because the lady's Pepsi (this state is an enormous Pepsi advertisement: almost every restaurant corrects me every time I order a Coke) gave me an excuse to rest my feet a bit, and while I might grab a snack if there's a convenience store down the street, I need to get moving.


UPDATE: I forgot to note that today, I encountered my first true hill. It was long, steep, and cruelly laid out so that, every time I thought I had reached the top, another little hill appeared before me. A bit like life, eh?


the next few days

I'm off to Longview in the morning. The residence I'll be staying at is 14.48 miles from where I am right now. I'll be staying there a single night, then waking up extremely early (maybe 4AM) for my most brutal walk to date: a 28.56-mile walk from the Longview area to a Safeway in Woodland, where I'll be picked up and driven to a home that's actually 14-15 miles outside of Woodland (I'll be dropped off at the Safeway again the following morning; this is based on the "chase car" scenario), before moving on to Vancouver on the Fourth (as you probably realize, that's Vancouver, Washington), where I'll try to book a hotel again.

That's not how I wanted to do things, but I don't want to crash anybody's Fourth of July celebration, and I'm on schedule to arrive in Vancouver on the Fourth. It's a shame, really, because there are, according to my manager Alan, plenty of CouchSurfing hosts in Vancouver. Were I not arriving on the Fourth, I'd have no trouble staying with a CS host, but as someone averse to partying in general, I'd only be making myself uncomfortable by being the stranger at someone's shindig. I need to check on hotel availability on the Fourth, but I have to get to bed now, as it's nearly 1AM and I have to wake up at 8.

By the way, the motel I'm in is probably the best of the motels I've stayed in that are in the $40-50 range: while you do get a lot of traffic noise through the front windows, the walls are more solid than those of a typical motel, which means less sonic nonsense from the neighbors. I appreciate that.

So: Castle Rock to Longview, Longview to a point in Woodland where I'll be picked up, then Woodland to Vancouver, where I'll probably need to rest my blistery feet again for two nights. I may also have a church to stay at when I reach The Dalles, about 50 or so miles east of Portland, Oregon.

Too bad I'm already south of Vader, WA. I would have liked to pay tribute to my childhood, uh, hero.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

shout-out to Guy and Diane

I met Guy and Diane (pic shown earlier), a couple from Montreal who are on a road trip that includes Mount St. Helens and Rainier, while I was typing away on the BlackBerry at the pavilion at Lewis and Clark State Park. They parked their car at the pavilion parking lot, close to the park's entrance, walked up to me and asked about the registration procedure for the campsite. I told them to track down the camp host, and they must have gotten everything arranged just fine, because they ended up in the site right next to mine!

The next time I saw them was when they were cooking dinner over a roaring fire (at L and C State Park, you have to buy firewood; you're not allowed to collect deadfall because the park is in an old-growth forest area-- everything must stay). I overheard them speaking French to each other and discovered they were from Montreal; Guy teaches English and his wife is-- I forget the French term and can't quite remember the English, either-- a type of nutritionist/dietitian and body-mechanics/exercise expert.

In the morning, they invited me over for a breakfast of fresh fruit; although I don't usually eat breakfast (readers of this blog will recall the porta-john story, which discusses the dire intestinal consequences of eating breakfast after years of not doing so), I accepted the invitation and ate a nice meal while we talked over our respective plans.

Diane told me that Guy is keeping a journal about the places he's visited and the people he's met along the way (in fact, I might have seen him writing in his journal yesterday morning); before we went our separate ways, we took some pictures and exchanged contact information. Very cool couple.

I'm still not used to the Québecois accent and I stumbled a few times in conversation; we all spoke French the entire time, though I did hear Guy speaking perfectly fine English with the camp hosts earlier on (maybe Guy knew I needed the practice!), and also heard Diane speaking in English.

Bonne route, vous deux, et profitez de votre temps aux USA. Il faut s'amuser dans la vie... parfois on n'a pas le temps de faire tout ce qu'on veut. Chaque moment est précieux.


barked at!

MapQuest failed to note that one of the roads I was on had undergone a name change, so I had to stop at an RV park and confirm I was still heading in the right direction. The lady who ran the place was very gracious despite my serious reekage (the backpack itself is beginning to acquire a stink), and I made it to the Motel 7 West in Castle Rock with no further trouble.

Except for one guy. He drove by me in one of those retro-looking Plymouth Thingamajigs and actually barked at me-- a sharp series of woofs.

In every case where someone yells out the window at me, the yeller is a guy, from his teens to his twenties. Just a reminder that we men are generally stupid creatures, prone to doing stupid things for stupid reasons or, as is often the case, for no reason at all.

I was once again limping by the time I got into my motel room ($48/night plus tax), and when I peeled off my right sock I saw a big ol' blister on my pinky toe. Gotta take care of that.

Gotta air out the tent, too-- damn. Forgot to do that last night.


Monday, June 30, 2008

the people you meet along the way

I've had some interesting encounters along the way today. The first was while I was passing through the tiny town of Toledo: a 40-something man who was sitting on his porch called out, "Where ya' headed?"

"All the way to the east coast," I said. "Three thousand miles!"

"Good luck to ya'!" he called, smiling and nodding. I thanked him and walked on.

Several miles later, and back on South Jackson Way, I was walking past a property when a gentleman on the other side of the fence started walking my way, moving as though he had a purpose. He asked me where I was going, then produced a freezing can of Pepsi and a huge plastic cup filled with ice, just for me. You can't imagine how grateful I was for his kindness.

The man's wife came out and the three of us talked about my walk and my options for heading south and east. The Missus brought out a note pad and I wrote my blog's address on it. Before I left, I asked them to spread the word about my blog; I'm sure they will.

Thanks, you two!

A not-so-pleasant encounter occurred earlier, when I was walking past a lake park and envying the kids swimming in those cool waters. Some idiot sitting on the passenger side of a pickup that drove up from behind me yelled something that sounded like "Beggar!" but could have been much worse. I didn't hear the shout clearly, and even though I've been yelled at by random assholes on many occasions thus far, this particular incident bothered me because of its potentially racist nature.

In any case, that bit of unpleasantness was the second of today's encounters, not the third, so it won't echo long in my brain. Freshest in my memory is our Good Samaritan and his can of ice-cold Pepsi: he was clearly representative of the better side of humanity, and a far cry from a cowardly passenger in a speeding vehicle.

I'm about to leave the truckstop cafe I'm at (thanks to our Good Samaritan again for telling me about it) and do the final leg of today's 21-miler. I might have to stop another two nights after this one: my pinky toes are killing me, so I'm back to using both trekking poles to minimize the pain.

Come on, Kev... just three more hours to go...


it's gotten to the point that my backpack will take breaks without me

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a quick note about comments

I've been resting my feet for the past forty minutes and am about to start up again, but before I head off I'd like to ask commenters to help me out by noting in their comments-- if it's not already obvious-- which blog posts their comments are referring to.

When I see a comment on the BlackBerry, I see only about a half-sentence of it, and cannot always tell what post it refers to because my BlackBerry's browser doesn't allow me to expand the comment for a full preview.

In cases where people leave anonymous comments, this can also be a pain because some comments aren't actually anonymous: the commenter leaves a name as part of the comment's content, but on my BlackBerry, I can't always see the name. My normal rule is to reject anonymous online comments, but for the reasons stated above, I've been lenient on that score. End result: I publish the comment, then can't find the post it's appended to.

Anyway, please try and help me out. It'd be a big help-- especially if you're responding to a post that's more than a day old-- if you could add a "re:" or a parenthetical ("This is a response to that post about treating foot odor"), to the beginning of your comment.



"With the blast shield down, I can't even see! How am I supposed to fight?"

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Guy and Diane, fellow campers from Montreal (story later)

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off to Castle Rock

One final charge-up and I'm off to Castle Rock, where a motel awaits me. It's a shame I'll be missing Mount St. Helens (and the town of Vader), but I might see it in the distance.

Condensation issues in the tent this morning; I did a "dry-up, wipe-down, dry-up" routine before putting it in the stuff sack. The tent probably needs to air out more; I'll do that at the motel.


my two camp hosts

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kev's rehydration station

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yesterday and today

Today should have been mostly about rest and relaxation, but I "pulled an Eminem," if you will, and walked eight miles (i.e., four miles each way) to and from a restaurant called Spiffy's to have lunch. Not a great lunch, either, though it did fill the gut.

So today involved a good bit of walking along Route 12; earlier on, I did laundry and talked with the husband and wife who volunteer as "camp hosts," which seems to be a role somewhat similar to Father Paul's capacity as Guestmaster of St. Martin's Abbey. They leave, along with me, tomorrow morning, and will go to the coast to tend a lighthouse for two months, which sounds like a marvelous way to spend one's time.

The people who manage the Chevron gas station/convenience store at the intersecton of Jackson and 12 are Korean; they're the folks who told me about the restaurant I went to today. Yesterday I met a woman whose name tag simply said "Chang," and today I met a man wearing what appeared to be the very same name tag, for it also said "Chang." Korean women don't change their surnames when they marry, so perhaps the man and woman are siblings, not spouses. While it's conceivable for two Koreans with the same family name to marry, there's usually a great deal of research to be done to make sure the lovers don't also happen to be distantly related members of the same "tribe," hence the continued importance of family ledgers in Korean society.

On my way back from the resto (the heat was again brutal), I stopped at the Chevron station and bought a mess of drinks and a bag of ice (pic of Kevin's bar already uploaded) for purposes of rehydration. These days I'm not so much a hungry guy as an extremely thirsty one: I sweat out almost everything I take in.

Which brings us to yesterday, a topic I had promised to write about. Yesterday started off well with the goodbye from Dave and Ardeth (I incorrectly referred to them as "the Underwoods" previously, but Ardeth actually goes by her own surname). I walked out of Centralia, then got turned around twice-- once just before entering Chehalis (a passerby pointed me in the right direction; there had been a fork in the road) and once when I was on my way out of downtown Chehalis (which is how I met Nicole, who told me how to reach a decent resto, Kit Carson, and also told me how to get to Jackson, the road that leads to Lewis and Clark State Park, where I am now).

While on my way out of town, I passed by a rec center and baseball field; a girls' softball game was in progress, and parked across the street from the game were Bryan et al., the folks I met yesterday (pic shown previously).

"Where you headed?" Bryan called out from his truck.

"Washington, DC!" I called back, at which point I changed course and headed over to where he was parked with his buddies. I told him what I was up to, and he gave me a reply I hadn't heard before:

"That is so badass!"

High praise indeed for a plump guy on a stroll. I didn't feel I deserved such praise-- think about what our soldiers in Iraq are going through, and that'll put my own paltry effort in perspective-- but my ego didn't mind. I've never been a badass at anything.

Turned out that Bryan and Co. were waiting for friends so they could go hit the Egg Day celebration in a nearby town. I asked the group what Egg Day was all about (Dave and Ardeth had talked about it, actually, so I did know a bit of its history), and they said that this would be their very first Egg Day. I hope it went well.

The walk along Jackson was, as I wrote, brutal. Hot. Sunny. Oppressive. Every time there was a small gust of wind, I was thankful. Every time I passed under a tree shadow, I breathed a sigh of relief and dreaded the shadow's end. To think that this is the mild stuff...

So Jackson was a hard road to walk. Luckily, it had wide shoulders, so I didn't have to dodge traffic.

I did make a point of stopping to refill my Camelbak, though, and I often purchased an extra bottle of juice or tea to drink on the spot before moving on. At one gas station/convenience store, I met Cathy Davis Gibson, the store's day manager. Cathy's from Texas and has written a book of Christian spirituality teaching* called This Song, which is in part a product of her healing process after experiencing domestic violence (I didn't ask details). Another manager at her store is Korean; I saw him briefly but didn't have a chance to talk with him, so I wrote him a message in Korean and left it with Cathy.

When I finally reached the place where Jackson intersects Route 12, I stopped again, and that's where I met the female Chang and spoke with her in Korean. I told her a bit about my weight loss (possibly nearing 30 pounds now), and she told me her son was starting to fatten up. Ah, Korean moms. I hope she's not thinking of telling her son to go on a 3000-mile hike.

From that intersection to the campground entrance, it's about two miles. It would have been uneventful had there not been a bizarre accident: no one was hurt, but a flatbed carrying hay bales had rounded a curve, sending dozens of loose bales tumbling all over the road. The pick-up operation appeared to be a family effort; there was one muscular, goateed guy who sure looked and sounded like a father used to commanding his kids; there was a woman who also exuded calm efficiency and authority, but in a gentler tone that seemed a counterpoint to the man's; and then there were the kids, who seemed to range in age from twenty-something to mid-teen to younger teen.

As I walked past the mess, I asked whether the family needed any help, and one of the kids said it was all right, everything was going to be OK.

I briefly thought about taking a picture of the spill, but when one of the teens passed me, his face both grim and red with the effort of re-collecting all those errant bales and dealing with that gigantic mass of loose straw, I realized how insulting such an act would be. This was no laughing matter for a family that was, like I was at that time of day, probably racing against the sun. Farm work, about which I know a tiny bit after my experience of it in France in 1986, is always a race against time. It's not just you and the earth that are in contention: you're also quite literally striving to keep pace with the massive, ceaseless, and merciless rhythm of the entire solar system. Certain things must be done in their proper season, or your livelihood is ruined. I might joke about country music, but I have great respect for the country people who feed me.

After walking past that memorable scene, I entered the campsite, consulted the camp host about registration, set up camp, blogged a bit, watched the stars, then went to sleep still reeking from my long, sweaty day. My sleeping bag's going to need fumigation soon.

Now I have to check on tomorrow's weather, double-check the mileage to tomorrow's stopover (a motel/hotel, I believe), and write a few more emails while the BlackBerry continues to charge. Might go to sleep early tonight. That'd be a first, what with all the writing still to be done.

*As you will see in the comments to this post, Cathy wrote in to express discomfort with the term "spirituality." I have responded to her comment in a way that I hope will open up some dialogue, but have changed the term so as better to express her self-understanding.


quick shout-out to Kelly and Denny

Kelly and Denny were the nice couple I'd met the morning I was preparing to leave Millersylvania State Park. They were walking both of Kelly's dogs, and they found the pavilion where I had laid out all my equipment and was once again charging Ye Olde BlackBerrye.

If I'm not mistaken, that trip was Denny's very first camping experience. I think they picked a perfect time to do it: the weather was pleasantly warm, there was almost no wind, and the park itself hadn't begun to fill up yet (it was Friday morning).

We talked a bit about camping, my trip across the country, the dogs (a very extroverted beagle and a Pekingese that one of the pair described as "an attention whore"), and other matters. I took the ladies' pictures and Kelly, who has a BlackBerry exactly like mine, took two of me, one of which went up on the blog.

It was fun meeting you two! I hope Denny's first experience camping will lead her to try it again. And again!

(By the way, I deleted the pic from my BlackBerry, so the way to get it is to copy and save it straight from my blog itself. Right-click on the full-size image, do a "save as," and the image is yours.)


the pavilion where I did my covert BlackBerrying and stargazing last night

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camp and late-morning laundry

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'at warn't no fifteen mile

I was wondering why yesterday's walk took so much longer than anticipated, and the answer is, partly, that it was 2.3 miles longer than I had reckoned. I normally rely on MapQuest to give me an accurate calculation of the shortest available route from place to place, and just now MQ put the shortest route at 17.3 miles, not the 15 miles I had guesstimated the other day. I'm also sure that my walking speed was significantly slower as the sun bore down, the miles wore on, and my feet began to scream. On a good day, I do about 2.7 mph with the pack on (3.2 mph unencumbered); yesterday, at a guess (maybe I should do the math and quit guessing), I was probably doing closer to 2.3 mph.

I arrived at the campground after sunset; most of the tent-pitching occurred in the dark, but that was all right: I knew what to do this time around, and actually did a better job of it, securing the footprint properly and hooking the lateral guys that give the inner tent a bit more space (see picture and compare with previous shot of my feet).

A very nice campground volunteer helped me find the hiker/biker spot; she said she'd been expecting me after I had called the campground early yesterday morning. I also met a grandmother from Montreal who was traveling with her family; she thought it would be a hoot for me to speak with her 12-year-old grandson, who might take an interest in my travels. If I see the family today, I'll be sure to talk with them.

I set up my tent and snuck out to the pavilion that sits near the entrance. There, I plugged in the BlackBerry for a partial recharge and managed to upload a single photo thanks to the poor signal: the pic of my Camelbak's O-ring coming off. It was dark and I was worried about freaking out any passersby who might see a weird glow coming from within the pavilion, so I hunkered down behind the pavilion's sink/counter to block me from the main road. While the photo was ever-so-slowly uploading to the blog, I came out from behind the counter, went in front of the pavilion, lay on one of the many picnic tables, and stared at the magnificent starscape overhead. I saw one shooting star and one satellite; the satellite was tiny and I couldn't look directly at it, but it was visible whenever I looked at a point a few degrees away from its trajectory. No one passed by while I was on the picnic table, so I spent a half-hour in relative peace as the cosmos wheeled majestically overhead.

I need to keep charging the BlackBerry; I also need to do laundry, write a prospective CouchSurfing destination or two, write my manager Alan, blog about yesterday's adventure (some of which I've already talked about), go back down the road to get some food, and keep on resting my poor feeties. Doesn't seem like a lot, but you'd be surprised how much time it all takes.


made my tent a bit roomier than last time

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Happy Retirement, Mom!

This past Friday was my mother's final day of work in the finance office of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Washington, DC. This week also saw her depart from her post as an executive board member ("i-sa") of the Washington Korean Women's Society, so she now joins Dad as a fellow retiree. She faces her first Monday with "nothing to do," as Dad jokingly puts it.

Of course, neither she nor Dad has nothing to do. Some major house-related projects loom on the horizon, and both parents now have time to deal with them. I'll be curious to see what new daily routines emerge as Mom and Dad find themselves together for longer periods than was ever possible before.

Enjoy the dawn of a new phase of life, Mom! I love you.


last night's mosquito splat: evidence that Deep Woods Off doesn't work

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arrival at the park last night

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equipment malfunctions are a fact of life

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