05 November 2010

Clingman's Dome, Smoky Mountain National Park, TN

We arrived in Gatlingburg, TN late at night – Gus had visited as an adolescent and was excited to relive some of those memories.  Gatlinburg is “the gateway to the Smokies,” but unfortunately, it reminded me of International Drive in Orlando … complete with a Ripley’s Believe-or-Not, $10 parking, and ridiculously expensive food.

We made the most of it and wandered the area, people watching and grabbing a cheap dinner.  Even the seediest motel cost way more than we would consider paying, and we had arrived in town too late to arrange for camping, so we ended up sleeping in the car! 

The next day, we went to the Sugarland Visitor Center and planned out our first real hiking trip.  The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the only Park that does not charge an entry fee!  Most of the rangers and staff at the Visitor Center were highly knowledgeable volunteers.  Should you want to plan a trip in the Smokies, they will be able to help you with any questions you may have:

Backcountry camping is free in the Smokies.  The backcountry volunteer ranger helped out pick out a 28 mile hike over 3 days and 2 nights, on Clingmans Dome.  We planned to start out hiking the next day, so we forked over twenty bucks to camp at Elkmont Campground – one of those campsites with a concrete tent pad, picnic table, etc.  Way too expensive for a really silly “camping” experience, in my humble opinion. J  But … we needed a place to regroup, ready ourselves, and pack for the real deal.   

To begin our wild story, Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in the Smokies, as well as on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s also the highest point in Tennessee.  Gus had done some hiking/backpacking trips in Florida and Georgia; I had only done our seven mile day hike in North Carolina on Profile Trail/Grandfather Mountain.  Here’s part of the Wikipedia article about Clingmans Dome:

Clingmans Dome  is a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, in the southeastern United States. At an elevation of 6,643 feet (2,025 m), it is the highest mountain in the Smokies, the highest point in the state of Tennessee, and the highest point along the 2,174-mile (3,499 km) Appalachian Trail. East of the Mississippi River, only Mount Mitchell (6,684 ft) and Mount Craig (6,647 ft) are higher …”

In terms of wildlife, there is a bear for every 2 square miles in the Smokies!  Honestly (I’m an idiot for animals), I was hoping to see one, from afar at least, but that hope did not come to fruition … much to my chagrin and Gus’s relief.  As for our gear, Gus had an appropriate Kelty external frame backpack; I was carrying a Jansport school backpack that I’ve had since middle school – we also decided to bring Gus’s one person backpacking tent, since it weighed about 1/4th of the weight our regular tent.  We both had new hiking boots.  However, both of us wore almost completely cotton clothing, save for my Patagonia pullover fleece shirt …

The first day was long.  When we arrived to the top of the mountain, where we would start (our trip would take us down the mountain and then back up), we ran into a ranger that went over our route with us.  We had been anticipating a 10 mile hike that first day; the ranger showed us the map and told to expect around a 14 mile hike.  We planned improperly and started out around 1 o’clock in the afternoon.  It was fairly easy hiking, downhill, shaded, and because we were still at the top of the mountain, there were some really fabulous views. This is my favorite that I took:

Gus got silly:

And there was beautiful fungi.


When we hit early evening, we realized we still had a six mile hike and night was approaching.  We took a look at the map and rerouted to a different campsite that knocked four miles off the day’s hike.  We hiked and hiked and hiked. And hiked.  And hiked.  AND HIKED…. I really felt like maybe we wouldn’t ever arrive.  It grew dark, we got really tired, Gus got blisters, I got a little dehydrated.  As we hiked farther down, we started encountering creek crossings … so, for the first time in my life, I found myself crossing moving water via boulder hopping, in the dark.  It was both scary (I have crappy vision and worse balance) and incredibly thrilling – I felt so empowered and excited.  I mean, there was no way to avoid it – no easier way to go – and we had to get to our campsite. 

We finally found our campsite around 9 or 9:30 PM (after thinking we saw it several times, sort of like a mirage in the desert, I’d imagine), hoisted our bags on the bear hang, and set up the tent.  We built a small fire and went to sleep….

One person tent … bad idea!!  As much as I love being close to my favorite man in the world, neither of us got nearly solid enough sleep because we were smashed up so closely together in that tent.  I woke up first and explored our camp site, we were situated right on the creek and it was bee-yooooo-tiful.  We made mac ‘n cheese for breakfast and headed to our second campsite – only a four mile hike!  Woo-hoo!  We ended up bathing in the creek by a waterfall -- we think it was in the lower 50 degrees!

We arrived there and built a fire – I ate my first fried Spam sandwich.  I resisted it until I was ravenous for calories, and it was pretty damn good when I was that hungry.  We honestly were awake only until about 7:30 and then went to bed … it started to rain around 8 PM … and it didn’t stop.  Until 8 PM the next day.  Because we were so cramped in our stupid little tent, we were touching the sides and drew in tons of water.  Additionally, the tent was leaking.  We essentially woke up in 2 inch puddle of water, inside the tent, at around 4 AM.  Our sleeping bags, clothing, bodies, everything, was soaked.  We waited for morning light to hit so we could get going up that mountain!  It stayed gray … and raining … and raining ..

Us - unhappy in the rained in tent :)

Finally, around 8 AM, we forced ourselves out of the tent into the steady drizzle gifting the Smokies that morning.  There was zero possibility of starting a fire, all our clothing was wet, our bags were wet on the bear hang… we started hiking, hoping not to hit the creek right away.  Well, five minutes in the hike we came to the creek.  It had risen exponentially over the course of the evening’s rain … we ended up taking off our socks and shoes and wading through it.

We weren't pretty, but we were kickin ass and taking names.

This sums up our hike back up Clingmans Dome:  we hiked from 9 AM to 4 PM (around 8 miles, only?), we crossed the creek several times by hopping from boulder to slippery boulder, or by hanging onto logs crossing the creek, and once I crawled on my hands and knees on a log across the water.  We were soaking wet, dressed in almost entirely cotton, and could not get warm.  We were on paths at times that were a foot wide and open to a 20 foot drop on the side, we were experiencing some early signs of hypothermia, and we encountered several older, more experienced hikers on the paths that gave us extra food and snacks with knowing looks at our complete lack of appropriate gear and clothing.  We cheerleaded and pushed each other along, took frequent breaks, lost our breath, Gus lost his ability to move his fingers well, and all we could think of was our car at the top.  

And we made it … I mean, plodding along, our shoes soaked, our clothes soaked, skin white and puffy from water … but we climbed the biggest mountain in the Smokies.  And it was amazing.  At the top, Gus had been carrying a way heavier load than me and had clothing that retained tons more water.  I ran and grabbed the car, pulled up to the curb, untied his shoes and pulled his wet clothes off of him, we got in the car ... we blasted the heat .. in our skivvies and shivering, white, and stunned by the whole adventure...

The rainbow after our hike.

However … I will never, ever, ever climb another mountain again that I am not physically and materially prepared for. J  We were blessed with gifts from fellow hikers, but there were moments that I quite literally feared for our physical safety… Clingmans Dome is nothing to mess with. 

01 November 2010

Saint Louis, Camping Gear TV

Hey everyone!

Look for a post on Bloomington, IN and Saint Louis, MO soon.  Both cities have been super interesting. We're interviewing for CampingGearTV.com tonight, and I'll post a link as soon as it's available.

Thank you for all of the well wishes!


26 October 2010

Columbus, OH!

I need to catch up on blogging about our climb in the Smokies (we climbed the highest mountain on the Appalachian Trail!), but for now -- we drove from visiting my parents in Seneca, SC, and made a stop in Boone, NC - this place is so nice we came here again!  Now we are on our way to Columbus, OH and Saint Louis, MO.

Check back soon for another post!

14 October 2010

Boone, NC/Grandfather Mountain/Profile Trail

One of my best girlfriends, Jen, moved to Boone, North Carolina after graduating from UCF in Orlando.  We had known each other for years in Orlando but never became close until I ended up living with her and some other wonderful chicka-dees for a few months.  Jen is awesome through and through and she showed us the most amazing time in Boone.  She's living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her Australian Cattle Dog, Djinni (also awesome).  I immediately fell in love with the town and felt that I could be very happy living there at some point.  The community is extremely friendly and close-knit: everywhere we went, Jen knew someone, or we saw someone that we had already met at some point in our stay.  Case in point: we went into town before meeting up with Jen and met a fellow traveler named Wes.  Wes told us he's been travelling on foot and by train for six years, and is finally going to settle down in Boone for a while.  That night, Jen took us to a potluck on a road called Iris Lane ... and guess who we ran into?

Wes!  He was standing by the bonfire and gave us a bunch of tips on traveling.  It's smucking wonderful to see how interconnected community can be.  Of course we ran into him again -- why was I even surprised?  Everything comes full circle. :)

Jen has a huge, beautiful yard, with apple & pear trees, along with grape vines.  We spent an afternoon picking apples and pears (later turned into apple pie), while Djinni played in the yard.  

Djinni: could be a cover model for Australian Cattle Dog Magazine.

The fruits of our labor! :)

Jen also took us up to Howard's Knob, a little park that is the highest part of Boone.  Here's Wikipedia's short description of it:  

"Howard's Knob is a mountain located in Boone, NC in Watauga County. According to the US Geological Survey, the mountain's proper name is Howard Knob, but it is known to locals and tourists as Howard's Knob.  Howard's Knob and the surrounding area are part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The mountain has an elevation of 4,406 feet (1,343 m) above sea level, and rises nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) above the town of Boone."

We just drove up there and took some pictures.  What a view!

Gus & I

Jen & I

A few days later, Jen took us on a seven mile hike.  We took Profile Trail, up Grandfather Mountain, to Calloway Peak.  I was a little winded, and my feet definitely hurt!  (I am so glad we did this though - after we left Boone, we climbed the highest mountain in the Smokies ... which made me realize how short this little seven mile hike was.)  We took Djinni, and Rosie, a dog belonging to one of Jen's friends.  It's amazing how much energy dogs have.  They basically ran the entire trail, up and down.  It was a bee-yooo-tiful hike, and Calloway Peak is the highest point on Grandfather Mountain.  

Jen starting us out on Profile Trail.

There were plenty of amazing views ....

But then, Profile Trail took us to an overlook called Profile View:

Do you see the profile of the face in the mountain?

There was really beautiful fungi all along the trail and on the trees.

There's a fungus among us!

Finally, we got to Calloway Peak.  It was such an amazing feeling to know that we climbed all the way up there.  I'm an unexperienced hiker, and it was the first mountain I'd climbed.  The view was incredible, the feeling of being up so high was incredible: all in all, a wonderful experience.

At the top!


There was a ladder at the end, but Djinni is awesome, climbed up it, and right to the top with us.

13 October 2010

Lake Claire Community Land Trust, Atlanta, GA

Welcome home!

There are places in which one feels immediately comfortable in upon arrival; the land trust that we stayed at in Atlanta, Georgia belongs in that category.  Through www.helpx.net, we got in touch with a certain Noah G. before we left Orlando. Through Noah, we arranged a work exchange stay at the Lake Claire Community Land Trust. 

This place is a myriad of different things; I’ve had trouble describing to others what we experienced when they asked where we stayed in Atlanta.  After a navigation mishap that landed us an hour outside of the city, we pulled into the land trust’s parking lot and were immediately greeted with absolute friendliness and affability by the first person we met, one very sweet guy named Spencer. 

The Land Trust is peaceful.  On the property?  A vegetable garden, tons of flowers, a few bunnies and cats, dogs, a sweat lodge, and several private residences ranging from cabins, small apartments, a yurt, a communal living home called “The Ark,” as well as the original building (where we stayed), “The Hearth.”  There is also a place on the trust where drum circles are held for residents and those living in the Atlanta Five Points area.  On our first night we attended a small drum circle held by “The Elders.”  These were incredibly lovely people playing instruments, singing, and loving on every piece of the evening.  They welcomed us with open arms and encouraged me to sing with them.  I have rarely felt so instantly comfortable.  That night, we met Beth, who made us double chocolate cookies in her kitchen and encouraged our burgeoning travels.

Monday through Friday, an after-school program is held on the land trust, called Soul Shine Children’s Studio.  Shannon is the woman who runs the program and she is nothing short of LOVELY.  What a beautiful place for kids to learn and explore.  

As it happened, most of the residents and workers were attending a wedding for the weekend, and we had to practically beg for work to do, in exchange for our stay!  Gus and I helped to move some wood that is going to be used for future building.  We also pulled weeds in an area that is the planned spot for an arc of foliage and trees, leading into the garden area.


All over the property, there are hand painted signs and artwork that reminded me of my own instinctual and internal peace, well-being, and positivity.  I could have stayed at the Land Trust for weeks and been happy.  The Hearth is a three (four?) story building painted with warm colors, statues of the Buddha, a communal kitchen … we were lucky enough to have a loft, complete with books, to sleep in.  It was pretty magical.  On the night of the full moon, we attended the drum circle and what struck me was how lucky Atlanta is to have a place like the Lake Claire Community Land Trust.  Experiencing its presence served to remind me that even in the middle of huge cities, community blossoms when it’s intentionally tended to, taken care of, and shared.

If you are ever in Little Five Points, Atlanta, please see if you can help out at the Land Trust in any way.  It is, without a doubt, a unique, important, and beautiful community.

Rood Creek Landing/Lumpkin, GA

After our exploration of Providence Canyon State Park, Joy the park manager was super helpful and directed us to Rood Creek Landing, a campsite in Lumpkin, GA.  It is one of the campsites throughout the States that are free of charge and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  If you are traveling and/or camping on a low budget, be sure to check out their website for places to stay.  After sleeping in the car our first night on the road, this campground was a haven – the sites are situated right along Rood Creek and we were lucky enough to be the only people there, even though it was right before Labor Day weekend. 

We set up our tent and went about preparing our first dinner on the road … I sterilized water from the creek and made chicken and dumplings!  It turned out super well, I was very proud of myself, and I think we were so exhausted that we fell asleep before night completely fell.  Amazing how tiring a day can be when setting up camp, sterilizing water, chopping wood, and starting a fire must happen before your dinner can even begin to cook.  Definitely not convenient, but rewarding as all hell.  I love to cook, and I know I wouldn’t have been so self-satisfied and proud if I made the same meal on a stove at home.  It certainly wasn’t gourmet, but it was resourceful and filling.

We spent two nights at Rood Creek Landing and were serenaded by the coyotes across the water each night.  At first, we thought we were hearing other people, laughing.  On our second day, we ended up in conversation with a local man and he confirmed that we had definitely heard coyotes.  A bit freaky for me, admittedly, but in the same vein … the sounds were eerily beautiful, wild, and close enough to home (literally) that our new path of living was impossibly clear to me.  Nothing but a tent and a small creek separating us from completely undomesticated and audibly rowdy animals.  Welcome to living in a tent – Rood Creek is definitely where we began calling our square of fabric, poles, and stakes, “home.”

23 September 2010

Providence Canyon State Park, Lumpkin, GA

 (I've been behind at updating my blog, but I've been writing.  We're now in Tennessee, but here is what I wrote about our visit to Providence Canyons State Park.  Looks like my blogs won't be posted in real-time ... but that's because I'm so busy enjoying what is happening in each moment.)

We started our journey on August 31st by driving straight from Orlando to Lumpkin, GA.  We arrived in the middle of the night and slept for a few hours in the car before waking up to the sun rising near Providence Canyons State Park.  Sleep deprived and sore from sleeping in contorted positions in our packed car, we drove to the park and put on our hiking boots …

First view of the canyons from above, before entering the park.

Augustus signing us in.

The canyons weren’t formed naturally; they were actually formed within 10 years due to poor farming practices in the area.  Gus explains the reasoning, cause and science of it a whole lot more clearly in his blog (theelegantvagrant.blogspot.com).  Regardless, the canyons are beautiful in their own right and stand as a testament to the complex composition of the earth we stand on.  The colors of the canyons are unbelievable, similar to something you’d expect to see in the Southwest.  We spent a few hours exploring the area.  We were tired and truly, the most exciting aspect of it all for me was simply being somewhere outside of Orlando -- outside of a city, away from traffic … being close to trees, earth, insects, and breathing in cleaner air.

Georgia clay - breaking in our hiking boots!

It was disappointing to see that some of the canyons had graffiti carved into them from previous visitors – names, pictures.  Should it have bothered me?  I wonder, especially when one considers that the canyons are a form of graffiti on the earth themselves -- albeit unintentional, born from ignorance and carelessness.  The two situations don’t seem all that different as I describe them.  A person who carves their name into a state park’s canyon, isn’t that action born from a form of ignorance, carelessness?  Can a person be absolutely blamed for their ignorance?  Isn’t much carelessness a result of ignorance?  Are these symptoms, or is it a disease?

As humans, we often view ourselves as separate entities from the physical and natural world around us, rather than recognizing ourselves as a participating and belonging part of it.  Why else do we litter, waste, overuse, and overconsume?  The human ego is a funny thing; our collective consciousness beats restlessly in parts, our tentative, loose, or total lack of cohesion with each other seems to separate us from nature, as well.  Too many questions posed, too little knowledge and intellect to clearly state my wonderings.  Who am I to be disappointed in graffiti?  I refuse misanthropy, even when it teases and tempts me.  I am human, and restlessness stirs inside of me, and what do I really know?  Nothing.  Most graffiti can be considered someone's feelings and someone's art– my selfish human brain just wishes for it to always be beautiful. Regardless of my expectations and our following experience, the canyons were definitely pleasing to the eye.

02 September 2010

Canyons, hiking, camping, oh my!

Hey all!

Lots to blog about but very little internet access.  Be sure to check back in the next few days,


20 August 2010

We are thismuchcloser to freedom from Florida!! (Check out Gus's blog too!)

Hey everyone!

We have gotten rid of 90% of our things that we aren't either storing or bringing with us.  It is a pain in the neck to get rid of stuff.  Two yard sales, several Goodwill trips, countless Ebay and Craigslist ads later .... and the house still needs to be rid of quite a bit.  It's been a way bigger undertaking than I could have imagined ... or than I did imagine ... but it's also pretty freaking exciting and freeing.  A whole bunch of clothes that don't fit me any longer went to a girl who had to leave all of her stuff behind when she escaped an abusive relationship ... Gus also gave her a set of dishes, a toaster oven, and some of his clothes for her son.  One of the neighbors, Humberto, collects metal to take to the scrap yard, and he helped us by grabbing tons of our post-yard sale items ... less for waste management to pick up!  We also got responses to our Craigslist ads from: a retirement home, a few families in need of clothes/etc for their kids...  It was awesome to see our unneeded belongings going to others who can really utilize and benefit from them.  Good feelings and full circle sharing all around ... so much of the stuff that was passed on to others, was bought from Goodwill or given to me by others as well ... it's just really awesome to see so much being shared and given back into the community.

Grandpa the cat is doing very well after his snip snip ... for those of you who don't know him, he is possibly the sweetest kitty in the world.  He stands on his hind legs on command, speaks on command, and snuggles all the time.  He's super gentle and friendly to other cats, so he was in the habit of getting beat up on by the others in the neighborhood.  Luckily, Gus's awesome friend Kara said she would adopt him ... all of her Facebook profile pictures show her being all lovey and adorable with the cat she has already ... so we both feel (I've sorta ninja-ed partial emotional ownership of Grandpa, much to Gus's chagrin, I think? :-P) really happy about him going to such a good home.  Anyway -- he was neutered the other day and it was most definitely heartbreaking to take him to and from the vet.  He couldn't eat past 10 PM the night before, and he was freaking out, keeping us up till three in the morning when we had to be up at five thirty to get him to the appointment.  I've never seen a cat so determined to be fed ... he was very vocal about it. :)

His appointment was out in Sanford, so we drove around the area for the day.  Gus showed me the Senator in Big Tree Park:

It's a really big, really old tree.

Pretty difficult not to feel humbled standing next to it.  And I made friends with this guy, who inspected my arms, hands, and face with his beautiful, velcro-y little legs and his super delicate, curious antennae.   :)  He rode along with us on our walk for the majority of the visit.  I was surprised and happy that he didn't hop right off.  What a gorgeous little creature:

(I stole the pictures from Gus's blog :P)

We also hit up a Thai Market and bought delicious juices ... I also got Squeeze N' Bites - my favorite Asian candy EVER ... lychee jellies with coconut pieces inside.  So good cold.  So good in general.  I also got ginger candies... a little kick to them, and great for your digestive system. :)

We went into a bunch of pawn shops before picking the kitty up ... he was definitely disoriented.  Poor little guy.  He was a trooper though, and seems basically back to his regular self.  I think he'll be really happy in his new home ... I hope Kara posts pictures of him on Facebook!  It's always mindblowing to me how easy it can be to grow attached to an animal.  He's got such personality, communicates with looks and the way he walks, tries to vocalize when he feels or needs something.  I love him so very much and he's not even *my* cat, at least officially. ;-)

Really beautiful thunderstorm last night.  Gus and I are pretty sure we saw some small flames and a little smoke coming from a tree; we were thinking lighting hit.  It went out and everything seems OK in the neighborhood, though.

So ... I do believe we are going to be staying in Atlanta for the first week of September, helping to build a yurt.  After a few more visits in NC and perhaps NYC, we may be house/dog sitting for a lovely couple in Tennessee!  They seem absolutely awesome, and their property is beautiful, and their dogs are adorable.  I hope it works out -- I love the exchange of help/work, and it would be such a good chance to be able to see the Smokey Mountains.  The pictures on her website are incredible... they remind me so much of my parents' home in Northern WI.  Hummingbirds, woodpeckers, raccoons, finches... We'll see!  Everything that's meant to happen, will.

Twitter is awesome.  I've never used it before starting this blog, but I've been able to contact so many others interested in what we're doing.  Others have contacted us as well - folks involved in backpacking, hiking, camping, travel blogging, travel journalism, eco-conscious living, etc.  It's really, really, really inspiring to see how many people out there travel the world frequently and on their own terms.  It makes me so impatient to start our adventure. :)  Check out my Twitter!  Please follow/message me - I'm loving meeting new people across the globe!

The world is unfolding before us!  I can hardly believe how lucky, how blessed, we really are.

16 August 2010

Orlando ...

Written for a challenge on a travel journalism website.

Orlando, Florida is a contradictory, diametric construction of dirt and cartoon fairy tales, poverty and lazy timeshare vacations, excessive wealth and mind-numbing poverty.  Newborn from farmland in the mid-1970s, it still carries a displaced air of rural homeliness.  For all of its urban sprawl, it cannot keep up with its own clumsy growth.  A teenager, gangly and unaccustomed to its own stretching limbs, Orlando is forever under physical construction and constantly expanding in population.  The whole world lives here.  Any kind of person that one could possibly venture to imagine lives here.  Extreme dichotomy is the norm, and just like a teenager with impossible mood swings, the Land of the Mouse will constantly surprise you.

When tourism fuels an entire city, it is often difficult to distinguish just one true identity of a place.  But even so, it’s a glorious and expansive place, full of good finds; learning about Orlando is like picking through a really amazing flea market.  One could find almost any kind of cuisine here:  Vietnamese, Columbian, Peruvian, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Mediterranean.  There are New York style pizza carts, hot dog stands, vegan restaurants (even a ridiculously yummy vegan hot dog stand), Argentinian steakhouses, absurdly decadent brunch buffets, roadside BBQ … you name it, Orlando has it.  It is, without a doubt, a gastronomic paradise.

Its traffic is notoriously horrible and slow, the toll roads are expensive and never ending in construction.  Conversely, there is a budding population of residents who have taken to their bicycles in lieu of cars, riding in packs through the streets of downtown.  Orlando’s downtown district is strange, new and old smashed side to side like two strangers on a bus.  Hibiscus Court is rumored to be the oldest street in town; in actuality, it isn’t even a street, it’s an alley with houses on either side, pressed comfortably up against each other.  It’s an impossibly narrow one-way street, littered with feral cats and strewn with Christmas lights on palm trees, fashioning a quaint Key West-like atmosphere.  Walk two streets in any direction and you will find yourself surrounded by towering glass bank buildings exploding out of the concrete or gorgeous Lake Eola homes reeking of money, class, and sophistication.  It’s an oddly beautiful unpredictability, making clear the fact that this city is juvenile and unsure of itself.  Lake Eola was once consistently dotted with the homeless population. Now it is illegal to feed Orlando’s homeless and it is illegal for such a person to become too comfortable on an Orlando city bench for too long. Outrageously expensive condominiums sprouted up around the Lake, and the gentrified new residents insisted on cleansing the area of its previous inhabitants.  The City Beautiful is not well-known for taking care of its own.

But if you head towards the east outskirts, near Christmas, Florida, there are clear enough skies to see meteor showers shaking the atmosphere.  Head towards Geneva and there are olfactory seducing orange groves, brazen clusters of wild turkey, and elegant sand hill cranes.  Orlando is old, young, uprooted, uneasy, callous, cocky, growing, and very much alive in all of the right ways.

15 August 2010


Gus and I just decided that experiencing Holi is definitely on our need-to-do list!  Look how beautiful this celebration is.

14 August 2010


Well, what a crazy, hectic day!  Gus and I ran errands for almost six hours.  We ended spending way too much money, but on some necessary things.  We both purchased cameras in the past week.  I am SUPER excited and happy about my new Olympus Stylus!!  It has 12 megapixels and a 7x optical zoom.  Great deal on it, and it's important -- I want to submit photos of all the beautiful things I am going to see to sites like Getty Images and Associated Content.  We also picked up hiking books, a fishing pole, a camping stove, and I got a RIFLE today ... I can hardly believe it.  The only major purchases I have left are a technical pack - internal frame backpack - for hiking, and some new contact lenses.  My eyeglasses definitely get in the way of experiencing some things fully.

Bad news.  It will just be Gus and I setting out on this adventure.  Our buddy Chris ran into some things that are requiring  him to stay behind for just a little longer in Florida, but we have high hopes that he will meet up with us on the way!  Here's to NOW, and I have total faith that our universe is unfolding exactly as it is supposed to.

Took some silly photos today:  picking out a gun for me (Mossberg Plinkster 702) ... the photos are at Wal*Mart but we definitely ended up purchasing it at Bass Pro Shops.  I am so excited for how many different people we are going to meet, how many different kinds of plants, trees, and animals we are going to encounter, and the vast array of landscapes that will stretch out before us.  We are signed up for our first Helpx.net stay!  It's in Atlanta, GA, and we will be staying on the property of a man who is starting a sustainable art community.  That will be our first stop on our way out of Florida, and we'll be staying with him for 3-ish days.  Anybody out there in Atlanta that would like to visit, meet up, hang out?

After Atlanta, I do believe that we're headed to Boone, North Carolina to visit with my dear friend Jennifer and her lovely Australian Cattle Dog Djinni.  It just so happens that an old acquaintance of mine, Justin, also lives in Boone.  I met him five or six years ago when I was working at Camp Manito-wish in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin as a camp counselor.  Turns out it's a smaller world than I knew, and Justin and Jen have already crossed paths!  So, hopefully we'll be visiting with him as well.  I'd love to do some camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Jen and Justin.

 I think Gus and I hope to do a little hiking in the Smokey Mountains.  Not sure where, but somehow on our way back from... New York City!  If my buddy Steve will have us, I'd love to see him in his new home in Washington Heights.  We also have a friend, Doug, who lives in NYC ... along with many other friends.  Anyone in New York that would like to visit and show us around during the third or fourth week of September?  Do you have some floor space for our air mattress? :)

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Anybody in FL have room for the sweetest kitty in the world?  Grandpa is his name!

05 August 2010

enjoying a beer with friends at Bull & Bush - I'm going to miss these people when we leave.

Jamie, myself, and Augustus. :)

Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way..

Holy smokes.  I’ve sold some of my things on Ebay; we’re preparing to have a yard sale next weekend.  The three of us are planning to have a day or two this week to whip everything into shape, lay out some sort of tentative plan with regards to what everybody wants to see and where everybody wants to go.  The only concrete stop we have planned thus far is for October 30th and 31st — we just bought tickets for a two-night Umphrey’s McGee show  in Saint Louis, Missouri …  this is why one of the unnecessary items that I’m bringing is my bumblebee costume.  
Gus and I set up his tent today to see if the air mattress fits inside when inflated.  It does.  Welcome home!  Ha ha … I’m laughing, but it’s no joke … that tent will be our bona fide home, come September 1st.  It’s a bit overwhelming to think about how little alone time we’re all going to have.  I’m bringing ear plugs, for sure — we made a bit of a ground rule stating that if someone is using ear plugs and/or headphones, it means that they’d like to be alone unless it’s an emergency.  I think this is such a good idea … I really, really wish I had an iPod to bring so I could lose myself in music when needed.  Oh well.  See – there it is, creeping up inside of me – the want for material things!  It’s not what this is about.  Anyway … I’m just excited that I’ll be bringing a new sketchbook to journal and draw in.  I want to document all of this.
Anybody out ever done anything like this before?  Three of us are selling almost everything, packing up the car, and living out of it, with tents, for as long as possible.  Picking up work on the way.  I joined helpx.net.  Any other ideas?
Oh man!  This is terribly exciting, new, fresh, scary, and it seems more important than anything I’ve ever done before.  We are definitely heading west and I can’t believe I’m going to camp out in the desert.  I want to see as many animals as possible … catch fish and cook them over a fire … spend my days drawing and writing about what I see around me … sleep curled up with my lover in a tent in the middle of this big, big, beautiful world.  What is this going to show me about my nature, my human nature?  What does it mean to be human?  This grid — this social construction that we live in — I feel that it dulls my innate nature, makes me less human, kills my sense of wonder and newness … well, at least, I have a harder time maintaining those things in this sort of atmosphere.  Can’t blame what’s around me … but I can change my surroundings.  And I am!  Can’t wait to have actual exciting news and photos to share with everyone!

More and more there is this animal, looking out through my eyes
At all the traffic on the road to nowhere, at all the shiny stuff around to buy
At all the wires in the air, at all the people shopping for the same blank stare
At America the drastic, that isolated geographic, that’s become infested with millionaires
When you grow up surrounded by willful ignorance
You have to believe mercy has its own country, and that it’s round and borderless
And then you have to grow wings and rise above it all
Like there, where that hawk is circling above that strip mall
More and more there is this animal, looking out through my eyes
Seeing that animals only take from this world what they need to survive
Ask any eco-system: harm here is harm there, and there and there
And aggression begets aggression, it’s a very simple lessont hat long preceded any king of heaven
And there’s this brutal imperial power that my passport says I represent
But it will never represent where my heart lives, only vaguely where it went
-Ani DiFranco

beginning this travel blog...

The main goal for the two weeks ahead is to minimize my belongings.  Thankfully, my parents have offered to let me store a few things with them.  It’s odd how I — and I suppose quite a few other humans — collect “things” so quickly, and how I keep collecting, and keeping, and lugging it all around as if they are things I cannot breathe without.  I don’t mean to say that I don’t enjoy material belongings, or that I don’t appreciate and enjoy luxury items.  I do.  I’ve been gifted with kitchen and cooking utensils way finer in quality than I need, but the foodie in me loves owning and using them, so they will be put in storage.  What IS astounding to me is that everything I owned fit in a Nissan Sentra during the Summer of 2008.  And now it would take a small moving truck.
Pricing and selling my unnecessary belongings has been eye-opening.  I do not need to spend money on much of what I have spent money on, and keeping things just to keep them … I don’t want to do that.  Living in a large, dirty, crowded city seems to accelerate my want for external stimuli, seems to cloud my internal rhythm and self awareness.  If that isn’t the case — something I have been doing seems to accelerate that want, seems to cloud those rhythms.  I might be wrong about what is acting as a catalyst, but my instincts still tell me to get out in the world, in this traveling way, while I can.  My instincts tell me to uproot and move, to see what I want to see before I have spent the entire middle part of my life being and becoming more bored and discontented.
I am not particularly interested in an office career – in fact, I am not interested at all.  I am not interested in spending way too much of my income on rent, or on a mortgage.  I am not interested in staying in one place for a long time, and I am not interested in joining a country club.  I would like to see way more than I have seen of the United States, and I would love to travel across international borders.  I can’t believe that this is the choice I’m making.  It seems insane and rings alarm bells in my head at times.  Other times, I feel pure excitement, and exhilaration.  I don’t know if I even believe myself – if I believe that this is really happening?  The three of us just bought an annual camping permit for the National Parks.  Eighty bucks.  We were joking that it is our rent for the next year … but honestly … it could be.  This could be the beginning of adopting a whole new lifestyle.  Will I be living in an RV in the next five years?
For now … sleeping in tents.  One car.  New-ish relationship and one mutual friend.  Trying to make money on the road.  It seems daunting at times, overwhelming for sure.  Not homeless, address-less.  Panic sends waves through me unexpectedly.  What am I afraid of?  We are going to live and eat cheaply.  I want to take pictures of the Grand Canyon at sunset, sunrise.  I want to camp in the woods and to go fishing and to live simply.  I want to be outside during the majority of my days.  I want to expose myself to silly fears so that they can be squashed, deflated, forgotten and replaced with an understanding of my own self reliance, strong intuitive muscles, resourcefulness.  These are values that are important to me, ideas that embrace something very natural within me.  I want to live simply … I want to see beautiful landscapes, people, different cultures, different towns.  I want to work different jobs, to write and journal and draw.
What am I afraid of?  I keep asking myself and then immediately avoiding that question.  It’s nothing, really.  How I’m going to make money.  If I’m going to stay safe.  What other people think about my choice.  Silly.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  This seems like an ultimate exercise in trusting myself, in trusting my intuition, my desires, wants.  What reason do I have to stay in Orlando?  I can’t name one that rings true to me, not one.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” -Henry David Thoreau