Thursday, August 29, 2013

Things that went around the world.

Every once in a while I’ll look down at something I’m holding – usually some sandals or a shirt – and think, This thing has been around the world.

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(A once around-the-world hat that was given to me by the manager of the Bi-Lo in Waynesville. Yeah, I know, pretty gross.)

Before each of our year-long round-the-world trips we for the most part bought all new gear – shoes, hats, socks, jackets. (And I did the same for my second trip to Africa.) A handful of items made it on both trips – my Vortex backpack, both of our sleeping bags (Moonstone and REI), an Eagle Creek document bag and toiletry bag. One item – a Pur water filter pump – went to Africa once, around the world once, and halfway around a second time before giving up the ghost in a campground in Tasmania. And an Eagle Creek money belt went around the world once, spent nine months in Africa on two trips, and visited most of Central America and even Venezuela.

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(A one-and-a-half times around the world Petzl headlamp, bought in Nelson, New Zealand.)

A surprising number of items from each RTW trip are still around, and several of them get regular heavy use – something that is immensely satisfying for a person who likes to buy just one thing and use it until it is useless. (Beyond that, I think it's also plain cool to think that, say, a single backpack has been held by the hands of people of dozens of nations, or that a headlamp has lit the night in hotel rooms and campgrounds from Dubrovnik to Dhaka.) But things pass, and in the past few weeks a couple of well-loved things from those trips have been put to pasture.

On the next-to-last morning of our trip to the Olympic peninsula I was getting dust and twigs out of our Mountain Hardware Meridian 2 tent when the center pole snapped. This tent was used 59 out of 62 nights on our bike trip across Victoria and Tasmania in 2008 (in a different camp each night) and has been used for warm weather camping in Montana since. Mountain Hardware advertises a lifetime warranty, so I sent the poles in, but I’m not confident this will fall under their normal wear-and-tear clause. But even if not, I’d still say we got our $159 worth.

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(The tent, when it was still standing, in the Hoh rainforest, Olympic National Park.)

While mowing this week the strap on one of my Keen sandals snapped, rendering these lovely, smelly sandals rather useless. They were purchased new from the clearance rack at Mast General Store in Waynesville for the second round-the-world, and have stood on six continents. (Incidentally, my Chacos purchased for the first trip are still in daily use – and completed 36 miles of rough hiking in two days in July – but are clearly in their final days too.)

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(The Keen sandals, resting nearly where they broke.)

Finally, the one I least want to let go is a tattered, disgusting shirt I bought under unusual circumstances on La Rambla in Barcelona.

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I say ‘unusual’ because it was a moment of fun that presaged a near-tragedy. A few hours earlier we had bought bus tickets from Barcelona to Tangier, and at the ticket seller’s suggestion we went ahead and put our bags on the bus so we did not have to lug them around. Then, since we had a full day before the bus left, we saw Barcelona, one of the world’s great cities. When the sun set we went back to EstaciĆ³n de Nord to get on the bus, only the bus was not there, and while trying to figure things out and squelch a growing panic realized we had suffered some grave misunderstanding about when the bus was to depart. (To this day I still don’t understand what happened – and no, it was not the common problem of confusing the European 1000hr for the American 10:00 pm.) We eventually found a bed for the night – in someone’s home – but it was of little comfort as I imagined our fully stuffed backpacks being gobbled up on a streetcorner in Morocco. We had on us our cameras, a guidebook, some documents, and cash and cards – and the shirt I had bought. At first light we were back at EstaciĆ³n de Nord and happily sat through a prolonged berating in three languages from the bus company staff, who said they looked throughout the station for us before mercifully pulling our bags off the departing bus and locking them away in a storage closet for the night. Everything worked out fine – they even changed our ticket for free – but it’s still hard not to look at this shirt and remember that night in some stranger’s living room, and the feeling that while I was buying that shirt, all our stuff was headed south into the night.

Anyway, here’s a picture of a baby who just woke from a long nap:

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Friday, August 23, 2013

The furthest beach is an empire of sand.

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(Kalaloch, Washington. A former local had to clue me in on how to pronounce it.)

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(Chow time in the Hoh.)

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(The trail to fabulous Sand Point Beach in Ozette.)

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(Practicing fence jumping at Kalaloch Lodge.)

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(Ringing the five-nations bell of commerce in Port Angeles.)

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(Enjoying leftovers on the last night.)

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(La Push -- an anglicization of the French term 'La Bouche', so named for the town's placement at a river mouth.)

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(Washington does have bears, but as you can tell from this picture I took on our last day they are much smaller than Montana bears.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Beautiful extravagant wretched excessiveness.

The baby and wife went to Atlanta for a vacation (of course, Atlanta in August, who wouldn’t?). I had something like a vacation, too, only different: too much red meat, too much red wine, too much bacon, too much biking, too much hiking, too much beer, too many late nights.

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Sad but true.

A guide book had said it was 10 miles to Sundance Pass. The sign at the trailhead then said it was 11 miles. It ended up being 11.6 according to my GPS, for a nice 23-mile day.

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Weather report at 11,000 feet: brisk, but colorful.

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Anyway, this hike resulted in some unsightly blisters. For a follow-up I decided to stumble around Mystic Lake. But when I got there I felt pretty good, so I decided to make a late-morning rush for the Froze-to-Death Plateau, just because I like the name. But I was too late and got turned back by storms at mile 7.

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During the week I asked around about my blisters (fun topic of conversation, by the way, and plenty of lively debate). It was advised that I spend about $100 on fancy socks and fancy liners, or just wear sandals. So the next time I went hiking I wore sandals.

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The sandals, I’m surprised to report, work pretty well, though do leave some room for improvement when it comes to crossing snowfields and scrambling around on scree.

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(Wallowa River. Luckily, I heard the word ‘Wallowa’ mentioned on the radio, so I now know how to pronounce it: Wuh-louw-ah, with the ‘louw’ rhyming with ‘now’. Though it was AM radio, so I could have misheard it over the static.)

After my success with an 18-mile hike in Chacos I tempted fate and did another 18-miler. At the end I was delighted to find an entire meadow full of my favorite wildflower. (I thought this one did not grow south of Montana.)

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After that it was a long drive back to Missoula, the highlight of which was avoiding an elk in the highway a ways off Lolo Pass. I got home at 1 a.m., unloaded the cooler, took a shower, and went to bed, only to wake up four hours later and go to the office. Sometimes when you go away and have a full weekend, it seems like when you get to work on Monday everything is different. Nope, not this time. Everything stayed the same. Here’s a picture of me making some copies:  photo 600.jpg