Sunday, February 22, 2009


Here's a National Geographic Adventure magazine list of the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time.

I feel really educated and worldly because I've actually read two of them:
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (#9 on the list!) about a fatal climb of Mt. Everest and the factors contributing to the disaster.
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger about the loss of Gloucester swordfishing boat Andrea Gail in the north Atlantic triple-storm of 1991.

I would like to nominate two others:
Miles from Nowhere by Barbara Savage. A young woman's account of her 2-year journey with her husband, around the world on bicycles. One of my favorite reads ever. The author, however, never got to see it in print. As the book was going to press, Barbara was killed in a cycling accident while training for a triathlon. This information is provided in the text on the back of the book, so I'm not giving away anything.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. Utah climber's harrowing story of being imprisoned in a canyon for 6 days, his arm pinned by a rock to a canyon wall, and his hair-raising account of how he finally freed himself. I remember hearing about that one on the news when it happened.

And my favorite account of an Appalachian Trail thru-hike by a woman:
Walking Home by Kelly Winters. She describes in dreamy, poetic prose the life trauma and confusion that led to her hike, and her journey to finding herself on the way to Maine.

Anyone care to cast a vote on their favorite true adventure book?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I'll tell you what, I never expected to get trail gear at church.

Sunday was the day after Valentine's Day. The pastor made mention of love and gifts and flowers and such, and then at the end of the service surprised us (or maybe just me) by saying that they had gifts for the ladies. (Don't men get Valentine's gifts?)

Anyway, they handed all the ladies these nice little drawstring pouches made of a sturdy sheer red nylon fabric. Always alert to such things, I thought, "Ditty bag! I could use that for toiletries in my backpack!" (I'm not taking, like, a full makeup kit or anything, but toothbrush, contact solution, antiperspirant, a few things like that.)

It's even the same color as my backpack.

I saw that it had candy and a couple other things in it. I waited till I got home to look at the loot. I gave Steve the chocolate and kept the peppermints. Then looked at the rest of it.

Someone must have been collecting hotel freebies, 'cuz there were things in Crowne Plaza packages. There was a black satin eyecover (or maybe that was for Valentine's hanky-panky) and, of all things..... a pair of ear plugs!!!!

Now, if you don't know the Appalachian Trail and its shelters, let me tell you ear plugs are pretty much essential. Most of the time I'll be sleeping in my tent, but if the weather is really bad, I'll stay in a shelter. These are 3-sided lean-to's where everyone just sleeps side-by-side on the floor. Men outnumber women (as in just about any endurance athletic sport) and men snore. So anyone planning to use shelters at all generally packs a pair of ear plugs. And then there are other night sounds..... one hiker counted a whip-poor-will's reps of its piercing call at 180 before it stopped for breath. Personally I'm anxious to hear whip-poor-wills but at close range it could get tiresome, I guess.

I got a neat little drawstring ditty bag and EARPLUGS in church!! Is this God's nod of approval for my hiking plans?

Next there was a little spray bottle of something, and I said to Steve, "What's this? Bear repellent?" But it was linen spray. I won't take that.... bears like sweet-smelling stuff.

Never expected to get cool trail gear at church. Gotta wonder about that. Again.... was it a sign?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Miss Rachel thinks I'm fabulous! She said so, and nominated me to her list of Fabulous Bloggers. Here's what you have to do once awarded: first, list 5 things you're "addicted" to, then bestow the honor on five of your favorite bloggers.

Blogger won't let me upload a picture right now. Blogger doesn't think I'm fabulous :-(

Anyway, 5 things I'm addicted to:

  1. Email. That's one reason I don't blog more. I'm "only" on I think 7 lists, but they take time. I don't know why I stick with some of them. They're not that important to me. That makes this a lesson in choosing what's important: email lists that aren't important, or a blog that is the chronicle of my life? Seems like a no-brainer, so why is it so hard to sign off the lists? There's one list of close women friends I'd never leave. And there's Women Hikers. And Appalachian Trail Hikers. And Preserving Foods, where I learn a lot about dehydrating. Then there's an Atkins Diet list, which I should sign off since I'm not following it anymore; a Diet Survivors list, where you do introspection to learn how your eating habits and metabolism have been screwed up by dieting.

  2. Food. Sweets. Sugar. Which is why I tried Atkins, why I can't follow it, why I'm on the Diet Survivors list. I just want to quit worrying about food and eating.

  3. Introspection. My husband says my life would be a whole lot simpler if I didn't think so much. I can't help it. I always think of the repercussions of every action and reaction, worry that I've offended someone, worry that if I'd done differently then XYZ would or wouldn't have happened, think about what-if.... I drive myself nuts.

  4. I liked that Miss Rachel is addicted to mascara. I should be, too. I haven't worn makeup in ages, I who, say, 5-7 years ago, would rather have gone without my blouse than without my eye makeup. I heard a presumably Southern saying once: "If you're ever in a situation -- and I can't imagine what that situation might be -- where you have to choose between wearing ONLY your underpants or ONLY your mascara, choose the mascara." I've been going around looking like a drone.

  5. In the same vein.... lip balm. Or lip gloss. Or vaseline. I have to have something on my lips or I go crazy with discomfort. I've heard all that stuff is addictive b/c it sucks moisture out of your lips making you need the stuff even more. But you can bet I'll be taking lip gloss on the Trail. If anyone wants to send me a care package, be sure to include lip balm, especially some that has a little shine to it, but if no shine, then plain old Chapstick will do fine. I can't live without it.

Now, who to tag. That may have to wait.... I've been so hung up on email that I haven't read my friends' blogs, so I don't know who's already been tagged. Stay tuned. I will tag some. I have to find them first!

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Talk about MacGyvering. I guess someone's fishing rod broke (must have been a big one!) and they took the end of the broken rod and jammed it onto a stick to keep on fishing.

This is just one of the things I saw today while hiking 4 hours -- about 11 or 12 miles -- in New Orleans along Lake Ponchartain. With a 20# pack. I'm working up to longer days and a 30# pack. Seven-and-a-half weeks to go.

So I hike alongside the streets with this pack that extends from my head to my butt, and a hiking stick, and odd clothes, and no one gives me a second glance. Maybe I'm so weird no one wants to mess with me.

One man did ask me, "Are you a camper?" I told him, "I'm getting ready to hike the Appalachian Trail." "Oh," he said. "Where's that at?"

Other amazing sights today:

The hillside of a levee all covered with white clover blossoms, which, as a Northerner, I associate with summertime. Their subtle, delicate fragrance glistened in the air and made me feel the peace and freedom of childhood summers.

A whole flock of snowy egrets flying inland from the lake to a grassy park.

A little boy tossing a net over a bridge fishing for mullet.

Funny stuff:

A bright golden-yellow port-a-pot called "Pot O' Gold."

Gross stuff:

Trash. Trash. Trash. I can't believe the trash around here. The usual beer cans and bottles, snuff cans, disposable diapers, McDonald's cups and bags, and various detritus still from Hurricane Katrina: bits of building material, PVC pipe pieces, shingles, sheets of styrofoam. And, oddly, a fair number of spent condoms and tampon tubes. Now.... how do these come to be roadside litter? Do people use these items while in their car and then toss them out the window, or what? Maybe they washed ashore in the hurricane, too.

The hurricane damage is still very much in evidence. Downed palm trees still lying along the lake. Homes boarded up and empty. In the residential area near our lakeside campground, I'd say that of every three houses, one is lived in, one is in the process of repair but still unliveable, and one is empty, trashed, and abandoned.

A family is staying at our campground having fled the recent ice storm in Arkansas. They lived on a mountain and the trees came crashing down on the house they'd just built and moved into 5 months earlier. They got some old junk RV and hit the road looking for work. Found some in New Orleans, cleaning up after the hurricane that was 3 years ago.

I've got a new injury. Carpal tunnel injury. I won't say "syndrome" because I don't think it's going to be a chronic thing; it's the result of pushing a lawn mower 6 hours a day for 2 days straight. My hands started to tingle and fall asleep after that, especially at night. I switched from mowing to digging but that wasn't enough rest.... woke up at night feeling like my hands were in hot water with dead fingers. I got one of those carpal tunnel splints at the drug store for the worst one, my left, and it's a miracle. The very first night it didn't wake me up at all, although the other hand was numb in the morning. They're both much better now, although I'm still wearing the splint on my left.

I said to Steve, "Geez, my feet, my teeth, a panic attack that I thought was a heart attack.... what's next???" He said, "This isn't anything, you can hike with one hand."

That's my man :-)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I found this yesterday while digging crabgrass out of the shrubbery beds in the campground.

Steve said, "So? The root grew through the stick."
I see one of nature's miracles of survival, a metaphor for my life.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


It's a challenge living in New Orleans and preparing for hiking the Appalachian Trail. There are no forests, no mountains, no hills.

At least not any natural ones. What I do is, I hike up and down the levees. Up one side, down the other, up, down, up, down, zigzagging the length of the levee. Here's one of them, with Journey at the bottom for scale:

I think I posted about climbing the levee before. I took our hand-held GPS and measured the distance from bottom to top (about 50 feet) and the elevation change (18 feet). This works out to a 36% grade. Fifty feet isn't very far, but to go 50 feet up, 50 feet down, up, down, up, down, enough times to make a mile.... next day I can tell I've done something.

After I've traversed the levee, I keep on walking alongside Lake Shore Drive, the lake being Lake Pontchartrain. Lake Shore Drive is very pretty; it's here that I find my "forests."

I should have a picture of the lake shore for you, but I don't. Next time!

I do occasionally have to ford a "creek," though, on my way home, if it's rained recently:

So I don't have any wilderness paths to follow, but I make do. I'm hiking 5 - 7 miles at a time, with a backpack. I started with 10 pounds of stuff in the pack and have worked up to 20. I'm aiming for hikes of 8 miles every other day with 30#. I'm still watching my Achilles tendons closely. Sometimes they feel a little sore but they're fine later on, and there's been no swelling. In fact, swollen knots that the podiatrist told me were scar tissue and would never go away..... hav gone away. One of my tendons (ironically, the one that was torn) is now completely smooth, and the other one nearly so.

I hope they stand up to day-after-day mountain-hiking with my home on my back. I start 8 weeks from tomorrow.