Steam Heat

This is the second title and third post I’ve started.  Damnit, I’m finishing it.

Since mentioning that we were training to hike six months on end, we’ve done less and less.  I don’t know where you’re from but if you’ve reading this you’ve got internet access.  Check out the weekly highs in Tampa, FL.  Go on.  We’ll wait…

85…86…88??!?

Hi.  Welcome to my fall.

The first long hike we did in this heat, we were woefully unprepared.  We didn’t bring near enough water.  Luckily, my body is a bit more in shape than Tom’s (thank you, pool, dumbbells, elliptical, and volunteer manual labor), I was able to shoulder more of the work (literally, we switched packs and saved him over 10 lbs on his back).

The second time, not only did we prepare but we hiked a trail with rest stops and coolers.  But it was a bike trail.  With no shade and asphalt.  I think we felt worse than before, with no flora or fauna to distract us.

By the way, a great way to meet people is carry a 20+ pound pack on a day hiking trail.  It’s not something that goes unnoticed.

Since then, each weekend we’ve suggested to each other smaller and smaller hikes.  One weekend we did a beach drive which allowed for a dip in the bay before going home.  Last weekend we just walked around our neighborhood a lot.

I yearn to get back to putting a heavy pack on my back and decent mileage under my feet.  And I’m glad we’ve done some in the FL heat.  But damn.  I am sick of walking a mile at 6:30am and sweating.

You may remind me of this post after our first December camping adventure.

A New Topic

This summer, Tom and I started training to thru-hike the Appalachian trail. 

(Which will now and forever be abbreviated to the AT because while I have a strong desire to walk it, I have no desire to spell it)

Between Springer, GA and Baxter, ME.  Roughly 2,180 miles. 

I’m not sure if this is a surprise to anyone.  We’ve known I’m crazy for a long time.  And of course, perhaps it’s not a surprise to anyone that we are talking about thru-hiking.  It’s maybe a trifle eyebrow-raising that we’re training for it.  The proof will be in the pudding, specifically the pudding our knees will be after 2,180 miles.

(I have no idea how to calculate real hiking miles.  Most hikers go into town every few days to at least restock food supplies, if not stay the night in a real bed and grab a shower.  Sometimes towns are right on the trail, sometimes over 10 miles away.  Sometimes you can get a ride, sometimes you can’t.)

What I do know, for now, is that we will plan to try a hike the entire trail in 6 months.  We will, as they say NOBO it.  That is, hike Northbound from Georgia to Maine.

Why?

Because it’s there.  Because we like to hike.  Because we enjoy the outdoors.  Because I’ve never had a strong relationship with deodorant or a razor.  Because we can stand each other’s company for more than 12 hours at a time.  Because traditional career/social/family roles don’t appeal to us.

Because we’re crazy.  And we really like to hike.

It’s never what’s on my mind

While I wish I could sit down and tell you exactly what’s on my mind – how crazy, exciting, frustrating, exhausting my day-to-day has become – I can’t.

It’s not because I want to keep things private (although I do) or that I can’t find the time (although I can’t).  It’s that I lack the ability to communicate something without a buffer or a break or a bonus round.  What’s going on with me RIGHT NOW?  Ummm…

Yeah.  I sit in front of this blank screen and just…blank.  It all seems boring and piddley and whiney.

Instead, let me share that a month or so ago Tom and I went on vacation.

It was only the second vacation we’ve taken where the point was us.  It feels indulgent and – as I try to plan Chicago since my father is having surgery again – foolhardy.  A whole week?  Just to be together?  Whatever can we do?

Turns out, quite a bit.

We flew in to Las Vegas, spending 4 nights there then driving to the Grand Canyon for 3 nights and returning to Vegas in time for one more buffet and a flight out.

First off, Las Vegas is so not my type of place.  I’ve cared for cats from shows.  I’ve seen the conditions.  I know the trade and cruelty that is perpetuated by even the best caregivers just by fact of displaying them.

It’s also not my place because it is so over the top.  Vegas is disposable and luxurious.  I am canvas bags and frugal.

But…I still loved it. 

We saw 3 shows, gambled a little, and used our jacuzzi every day.  I must say, for all the hype, Zumanity is much tamer than I expected.  Perhaps because this is one area where I am definitely NOT frugal.  Ahem.  But it was still a great show.

Also, as someone who thinks finding good places to eat as a top priority on vacation while Tom is more of the “Is that McDonald’s I see?  It’s cheap and quick!” vacationer, Las Vegas was perfect for us.  We ate several meals at buffets – usually making the meal stretch over the day so as not to seem too piggish.  He couldn’t resist the bargin of a buffet, I couldn’t resist the fact that there is no such thing as bad food in Vegas.  The only thing I found lacking is that I don’t believe you can get great Italian food at a buffet.

After 3 days, we were off to the Grand Canyon.  Where we promptly fell in love with the view, bought peanut butter and bread to make all-day hike preparations, and hit a brick wall.

I’m scared of heights.

And, like a few of my other fears (frogs), it’s one I never really think will rear it’s head.  I mean, sure I quiver when I climb and enclosure to clean off the roof and I curse a bit on ladders.  But, am I REALLY scared?

Evidently, the answer is yes.  Yes I am.

Our first afternoon, we struck off to do a small section of trail to get a good sense of our timing so we’d know how far we could go the next day.

I got maybe 6 yards down the trail.

I got another 12 yards before I made us turn back.

This was a little less than the 12 miles we were planning.

I was so distraught.  I can’t believe I’d planned a vacation to the Grand Canyon and couldn’t even hike!  However, I also didn’t feel like putting myself through pain and hell was exactly what a vacation should be about.

We decided to go down the trail we wanted to hike and see how I felt about those conditions.  It wasn’t much better at first.  There was a large turn at the first switchback and you couldn’t see around it and I couldn’t get over the mental block.

But then, as we were looking around the area thinking we wouldn’t be back the next day, we found an alternative way to the trail head – one past that first turn.

I’m not sure why it got easier for me, but it did.  We hiked enough to determine that we’d make a go of it the next day.

We made it 3 miles.  And I’m not pointing any fingers, but I wasn’t the one to turn us back.

And…that was it in a nutshell.  It was an incredible trip.  The combo of slot machines and canyons is one I definitely recommend.

Fall Cleaning

The semester started last week.  My fears of disinterest in my classes were unfounded.  Both my botony-ish class and my seminar-type thingy on techniques of wildlife field ecology appear to be very relevant and have peaked my interest.  I am even tempted to ask the professor if my project for ecology could be worked into a published paper.

I’m leery however, since my plate?  Surprise!  It’s full!  You’re shocked, I know.

(Talking with a Ph.D. student at USF who volunteers with me, she mentioned she always felt like a slacker next to me.  I, in turn, envy people who seem satsified with pursuing one thing steady and true.  There’s a dedication there that somehow I believe I lack.  (Although if you consider my commitment and sacrifice for the sanctuary, maybe it’s there in some weird fashion.))

Along with classes, I am working part-time still, continuing the field research, and keeping up my volunteer hours.  Unfortunately(?), my schedule is packed to the point I won’t make it out during the AM hours over the week.  I will be feeding the cats 2+ days a week (evening), spending almost every Saturday out there, and just about every other Sunday.

I haven’t done a sanctuary update in a while, mostly because I haven’t had a chance to take any pictures recently and I like to pepper my nerdy cat facts with cute photos to hold your attention.  But rest assured, we’re all still going strong.  I had a pretty nice day today (yes, cat’s shit and eat even on Labor day!) in that I worked side-by-side with another long-term volunteer.  She’s one of my favorite to work with in that we get along great and manage to be social while also not slacking off.  I can’t stand to work with someone who seems bent on distracting me from the job.

I also got to teach a class to the newbie interns.  It included walking the grounds and discussing different topics to present to the public (we’re open for two tours during weekdays and four on Saturdays).  I liked getting the chance for them to feel like they got to know me right off the bat.  They need to rely on me for training for the next three months, and I’ll come to depend on them for prep work.

Tom (yes, ST.  I’ve wanted to come clean regarding his name for while.  When it slipped a few posts ago, he said he thought it was intentionally so I figured I’d make it permenent.) is very supportive of my work (ALL my work), and so I can’t begrudge him when he asks for a little time just for him.  Next weekend we’re heading hiking.  Look for pictures.

Nameless Guy Strikes Again

Him:  So the trail by the rapids is right here.
Me:  A third of a mile??  (Thinking:  this date is going to be over in ten minutes!)
Him:  That’s the shortest.
Me:  When I said I wouldn’t be up for much?  I was thinking less than five miles.
Him:  Oh.

(Thank goodness we only did about three so I didn’t wimp out.)

Later…

Him:  I’m never going live that down, am I?
Me:  Nope.  We HAVE to get married now.  And have a big family so the grand kids can gather round to hear the story of how Grandpa turned down Grandma’s offer to get him a hooker.

(Also?  I informed this gentleman that my bark is worse than my bite.  Evidently I am a fifth grade gym teacher now…)

Edited on 3/27/12 to add that in re-reading this for major site revision I’ve categorized this in “Take A Hike”  How cool is it that Tom and my fourth date was a hike?