Sunday, June 19, 2016

52ish Weeks of Gratitude: Where I Live

I got hung up on this one and tried crafting this elaborate retelling of the time Miki almost got run out of town by some passionate Rocky fans. Then I got wrapped up with work and traveling and then I got not-bronchitis/pneumonia but was sick for pretty much ever/4 weeks or so. And then every time I came back to that draft, I just couldn't recapture the spirit I was initially going for.

It's busy season for me at work with the ending of one 200+ employee program and the start of another 100+ employee program, quickly followed by the hiring process for a new year of the 200+ employee program The good thing is we have a lot of employees - teens and adults - that return year after year, so the sheer number of total employees isn't as bad as it seems. The paperwork, however...

This evening, as we finished up a magnificent dinner - pork loin, grill wok'ed sugar snaps, and roasted red potatoes and turnips - I sat down to work on my current quilt in progress and noticed the neighbor across from the dining room had a friend over.

I'm sorry to say that we don't remember this guy's name, he's the son that struck out on his own and found some level of success. Dad died some time ago, and the sister and another brother and the mother all lived together for half a decade or so. Mom died in the last year, and the house was vacant for a few months until the successful son moved back. He figured it was rent-free, a connection to his youth and his parents.

We know enough about the family - among some of the early residents on the block, old timers, know or knew everyone in the 'hood at one point. The dad - Don - would spend any temperate afternoon sitting on his porch, watching the traffic and passersby. Miki and I would saunter over to his porch once a week or so and catch up on any valuable neighborhood gossip. Don was one of the first people to alert us to who was leaving their dog's shit in our yard and in return, I happened to be home playing with a new digital camera the day contractors were doing work on their immediate neighbors place and damaged Don's retaining wall (those photos won the court case!).

After Don died and some of the kids moved back in, we kept our distance, and the 50 feet that separated our houses became more like a mile or 5 or 500. We'd exchange waves and basic neighborly salutation. We'd send a holiday card across the street via the post office every year, and get one in return.


As I was getting ready to continue on this current quilt, I saw the neighbor and his friend across the street. Here are two men of a certain age, that have clearly grown up in this neighborhood, and probably went to elementary school together, took joyrides in an older brother's car, contemplated joining the service together, and shared more than one or two beers at the local bar.

The friend, I'll call him Wayne, lives just a block from us. We know him - know his truck, know that he has a bad back, know that he lives next to a guy that may or may not be more than mildly racist... We've both seen Wayne taking his evening, limp-laden stroll around the block. Wayne's always been among the first to move his vehicle when a snow emergency has been declared, and he one time showed up on our porch with an empty porch and a shipping label for a stolen side view mirror for the VW.

What I am most grateful about where I live is the fact that it is a caring neighborhood. There are friends at every corner, whether we know them or not. And we might not hang out weekly or monthly or yearly, but so many of us can easily pick up where we've left off.

Watching Don's son and Wayne chatting on the porch this evening was heartwarming in a way that I don't think I would have been able to appreciate 18 months ago. I've been following some websites or Facebook pages for various neighborhood interests that end up being quickly steeped in nothing but negativity. As with anything, it's easy to focus on just that and lose sight of what really makes up a neighborhood. The loudest - or most prolific website commenters in this case - only represent but so much of where I live. The genuine evidence of friendship that I witnessed this evening? That's what makes me grateful for where I live.

Friday, February 19, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Gifts

As expected, I'm playing a little bit of catch up. But, rather than focus on missing "scheduled" posts, I'm just gonna make it happen when I can.

Week 5 is "Something someone gave you". When I printed out the original list (which I keep on a wall at work as a way to keep thinking about gratitude throughout the day), there were more than a few weeks that stuck out as impossible. This was one of them because I initially added the notion of this being about the best material thing someone has given me. But that's not at all what the prompt says.

I've had more than 5 weeks to think about this, and I keep coming up with no one thing, but rather lots of little things. I am rich with stuff.

Here's a list of 10 things someone has given me. It's not in any order; no one is more important than another.

1. Time - whether it was an impromptu lunch date or a sewing lesson over wine.
2. Money - for my birthday last year, several people donated money they might have put towards a gift instead to a fundraising effort that was near and dear.
3. Second chances - the biggest giver of this one is Miki. I cannot imagine where I'd be now if he hadn't given me a second chance way back in January 1994. True love for sure.
4. Trust - I value that so many friends, family members, and coworkers trust me with their worries, concerns, and even secrets.
5. Tiny vessels with lids - don't ask, but I just love a little lidded trinket box. I didn't realize how much, though, until Mike brought home from Tanzania a hand-carved box. Perfect for squirreling away bits and pieces!
6. Support - not going to pretend this last year wasn't among the worst. The support from friends and strangers near and far continues to amaze me.
7. Freedom - I am so thankful to be able to do what I want, when I want, with the support of my darling Miki.
8. Companionship - this goes hand-in-glove with freedom. I really have the best partner. We have not yet grown weary of each other (despite my eye rolls over the weekends when he refuses to shower...).
9. Appreciation - More on this in a few short posts...
10. Ponies - OK, so I don't actually have a pony, BUT I can dream.

Surprisingly, not a lot of material things on that list. Guess I'm even richer than I thought.

Monday, February 08, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Mom

It's hard picking just one family member for this post, but without mom, there wouldn't really be anyone else to select, you know? And I could list all these mushy attributes, like, I'm grateful for mom because she brought me into this world, or I'm grateful because she hasn't taken me out of this world. Or, I'm grateful for mom because she's always been my biggest fan/cheerleader/support.

That's all true, for sure. But the real reason I'm grateful for mom is because she is just simply the best at what she does. Need a laugh? This ding dong has it. From making up her own language to arguing with her GPS for all 6 hours it takes to drive from Philly to Boston, it's hard to think of a time when we've gotten together and NOT had it end in laughter and tears.

Love you, mean it, Momma!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Family

As a kid, family was pretty cut and dry. Mom, dad, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and the occasional family friends we were told to refer to as aunt or uncle. I grew up knowing that family was blood, who you were born to, and who gave birth to you.

I'm grateful for this version of family, for sure. Maybe 22 years ago, I had different feelings, but who among us wasn't different then?

When we moved to Philadelphia in 1998, we didn't know anyone aside from Miki's coworkers and one or two of my classmates. All of our friends and family were home, and we were away. The internet changed that, though. Early on, I haunted some forum or another for Tori Amos (OMG, I was going to love her forever) (I somehow haven't purchased any of her albums since Pele), and by virtue of following link after link, I found various webpages and weblogs, and found quasi-invisible friends. For a self-identifed shy girl (yes, I think of myself as shy, but maybe what I really mean is unconfident?), this was a fantastic way to talk to people without actually talking to people. Win!

But as the internet got faster, and bigger, and also somehow smaller, I started finding real people online that were like me - they shared my interests, or intellect, or sense of humor. I found my tribe.

My idea of family is now so much richer than when I was a kid. I don't think that's necessarily a profound statement, you know?



My life is so rich with friends that I consider family, and I wouldn't even know how to begin listing them all without ending up sounding like an awardee at the Oscars getting cut off as they go on and on remembering 5 more people that mean so much to them.

Also, combing the hard drive and FB for photos of friends and family reminds me that I just don't have enough photos of the people that mean the most to me. I think that needs to change. :-)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Miki

Here is a list of just some of the reasons I am grateful for and towards Miki:

He makes me coffee every morning.

He now understands when I counting stitches for knitting, and waits.

He's been a part of my life for just about 25 years.

He does not embarrass easily.

He accepts the craftiness.

He is ungrudgingly open, honest, and generous.

He will give you the shirt off his back. You might not want it, but it's the thought that counts, right?

He always knows the answer to "what do you want to do for dinner?" Delivery.

He is the best kind of horrible person.

He makes it easy to start the day.

He always can put a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

He cleans up pretty well, considering his unofficial title is now Professional Hobo.

Monday, January 04, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Why?

I think it's far too easy to get hung up on the things that make us feel less than grateful. Instead of focusing on the kindness you might have performed or witnessed, instead you focus on the lack of acknowledgement received. It's comfortable, in a way, to stay the course of not-grateful, forgetting along the way exactly why it is you might have been feeling ungrateful to begin with.

So, why gratitude? Why now?

Why not?

I miss updating this little blog, and the ungrateful me would justify the continued lack of blogging by thinking, "Well, only 1 or 2 or 3 people read this anyway... Why bother?" Sometimes, it's okay to be a little selfish - and I think it's even acceptable to be grateful for those flashes of selfishness. Why did I ever begin trying to create an online presence? For fame? Glory? Or for the satisfaction of expressing my thoughts and sharing ideas not for accolades but simply for the enjoyment of writing? It's completely wonderful if you, my audience, find humor or joy in these posts, but it's truly great if I do. Does that make sense?

This last year has not been the best for me and my circle of friends. And it became easier to NOT share anything - good or bad. But 2015 wasn't a total waste. I actually learned a lot about gratitude. I learned that it's not too late to make new friends. And I found that even as my heart broke watching Miki go through pretty much the worst experience of his life, I was grateful for the experience of being able to be present. To be in the moment, however sad it might have been. There were multiple days that I felt my own heart swell with gratitude - friends being there without invitation, strangers becoming friends, people in the very face of grief opening their arms to those they might not have ever otherwise considered talking to. I found myself again and again feeling more gratitude than not as the year wore on.

Maybe it's part of now being in my 5th decade (math nerds, you'll get it), but suddenly those trivial things that caused me to hold myself up in comparison to everyone and everything just no longer matter. We're all here for a similar reason, it's not a competition. You can have successes and I can not, and that doesn't mean I've lost. Or you've won. The inter-connectivity of gratitude is something that's become more apparent to me especially in this last year. Gratitude for love, life; for self and others.

I hope to explore this topic more over the next 52ish weeks, and I hope to revisit these posts next January and see where I end up. I hope you enjoy the introspective journey!

Monday, April 20, 2015

In which I ask you to consider donating to a worthy cause

On Sunday, March 15th, 2015, Jason Parish was killed instantly when a dead tree fell on him while hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. He had just spent an incredible weekend with two friends, Miki and Kelly, and they were ready to hike back to the truck, grab some pancakes, and then head home.

Hikers and campers on the scene did everything they could to save Jason, but there was nothing that could be done. Emergency repsonders from Brunswick Volunteer Ambulance made it to the remote scene in less than an hour.

All 3 were seasoned outdoorsmen, and had prepared for this trip. Maps were consulted, gear was inventoried, back-up plans were discussed. The morning of the accident, Miki and Kelly noted the windy conditions and acknowledged that as the 3 hiked out, they'd all have to keep an eye on the trees.

In the days following this tragic, untimely loss, Maryland Department of Natural Resources shut down the shelters to inspect trees and perform maintenance.

We are collecting money from friends, colleagues, family, strangers, and other lovers of the outdoors in the hopes of being able to make 3 significant donations in Jason's name to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, Brunswick Volunteer Ambulance, and First State Animal Center and SPCA. Additionally, we are collecting money towards a memorial plaque to (hopefully) be mounted at the shelter where Jason died.

Any and every amount helps. It is our goal to have these donations and plaque ready to go before September 2015. We set a modest initial goal of $2,500 and nearly met that in the first day. We've raised that goal to $5,000, and hope that each and every person who was touched by Jason's gentle, humble, generous spirit will contribute, allowing us the opportunity to make a substantial gift in Jason's memory.

We are 75% to our second, modest fundraising goal, and I know with your help, we can meet and beat that goal! Please visit, and donate today.

To hear Jason's music, check out this link.

News stories can be found at the following links:

Washington Post

Monday, June 30, 2014

Vegas - by the numbers!

(Or as autocorrect has insisted since maybe Thursday afternoon, Begas...)

4 blisters

3 of which are on the bottoms of my feet

1 temporary tattoo

1 pair of shoes

Number of times I want to see those shoes after 5:30pm tomorrow: 0. 

8 sessions attended

No, 10 sessions

2 boxes of books mailed back to work - 38 and 29 pounds each

4 cabs taken

2 bottles of wine for the room (for me)

35 floors up to get this view 

0 dollars spent gambling

4 publisher parties attended 

12 free drinks thanks to those publisher parties

30 minutes to get anywhere - even across the street

1 Dude

Countless authors including Judy Blume, Judith Viorst, Avi, Daniel Handler, Mo Willems, and Eric La Salle

Dozens of new contacts

2 healthy meals the entire time (frustrating!!!)

1 pedicure

1 sunburn

13 hours until I board a flight home

1 - number of times someone motorboated me over FaceTime

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Birthday Camping

This past weekend, Miki flipped another year on his biological calendar. We went camping out at Gifford Pinchot State Park to celebrate.  We'd been out there once before, and it was lovely - campsites that have lake access, two disc golf courses, hiking trails, and more. This time, we had the added bonus of absolutely gorgeous weather. We parked the car at the site and spent the rest of the weekend hiking, resting, or kayaking. It was just what we both needed.

Miki's weekend set-up.

Late afternoon paddle. 

Sunset on the first night. 

Sunrise on day 2. Miki never sleeps late while camping, and I never sleep well the first night away from home. We watched the mist roll off the lake to the left and then get caught up in the breeze, forming the cloud at the other end. It was spectacular.

We took a hike. 

Or, as Miki called it, we took a jike - that's a hike, in jorts. Here he's sporting the goose feather he found in a meadow. 

As usual, we ended up on the wrong trail (or, more precisely, a non-trail), so we had to double back some. Maybe if we hadn't taken the non-trail, I'd've not felt as strongly about hiking through ankle-deep muckity muck. At any rate, this orange turtle didn't care.

As we crossed a small stream, Miki stopped and pointed into the water. There was an empty turtle shell in the streambed. Laying down on the rustic bridge, he snagged it and popped back up to his feet. He carried that the rest of the way. 

Both times we've visited Gifford Pinchot, I have been struck by the beauty of the place. On Sunday afternoon, after nearly everyone else had left, I snuck over to the adjoining campsite and spotted this paddleboarder, and if you look dead center by the treeline, Miki fishing in his kayak.

Both nights we were treated to gorgeous sunsets. The second night, we had the bonus of a calm lake.

I love this photo. I've made it my lock screen, printed a color print and framed it on my desk at work. At the same time, Miki made it his work desktop. It's clearly a picture that makes us both happy.

Our last morning, after running 8 miles, Miki propped the skillet on a log and proceeded to finish off the sausage, egg, and veggie hash I'd fixed up. I call this hobo-style.

It was such a great trip, and we spent some time scoping out sites for our next visit. If I could go tomorrow, I definitely would. There's something to be said for turning off mobile devices and just taking in the world around you.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

I'm a hooker now!

Guess who learned to crochet finally?

Yup, me. 

This is my progress so far on a basic granny square blanket using sumptuous Quince & Co Lark. 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

On house parties, hobos, and memories

Many years ago, we held our first house party. It was part housewarming, part open-house. We invited nearly everyone we knew - friends, coworkers, family, neighbors. Every 1,275 sq ft of the house was packed with merry-makers.

I wasn't really a crafter that long ago. I might have been creative, but I definitely didn't knit. Or spin. Or weave. I might've just started cross-stitching... Anyway, the point is, every room was free of the "secret" cache of crafty-bits - no ort jars, no open-this-and-shove-a-half-knit-sock-in-it drawers, no baskets overflowing with spinning fiber, no 36" wide loom looming in the corner of the dining room. Essentially, the house was cleaner, less cluttered, and still had that lingering stale cigarette scent from the previous owner.

The house was decked out for the holidays. In addition to the 1 full-size tree, I had a scattering of smaller trees decorated throughout the house. Every room had Christmas-ness going on! The beginning of my snowman collection was on display, too. Empty step on the staircase? Opportunity for a wintery vignette! Also, tripping hazard.

That was our first Christmas in the house, and I don't think we've decorated to that extent since. Sure, there were a couple of years when we had the artificial (but super-realistic) tree in the bedroom and installed a live tree downstairs. But mostly, we've scaled back on the Christmas decorations since we end up spending the holiday driving around and visiting nearby family. We've also spent more than one winter elbow-deep in some renovation or another - bathroom, electric, basement, bedroom, other bedroom, dining room...When we brought LucyCat into the house, I was more hesitant than usual to decorate, especially with any type of tree, simply because she was so super-skittish, uncoordinated, and I was sure there would be a Christmas decor massacre every morning. And night. I've fortunately been proven wrong the last few years - she's as uninterested in the decorations as she is uninterested in being held.

If I recall correctly, I did all of the food prep myself. No caterers for me! My mom came up and helped, and my dad was put in charge of spinning tunes in the basement as well as minding the chimenea outside. He came prepared for the night wearing a Carhartt one-piece. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground from earlier snowstorms, and the temperatures were definitely January-esque. The basement is unheated, and even more so when the Bilco door is propped open all afternoon and into the evening.

Throughout the party, people were invited to tour the house. By this point, we'd redecorated every living space. In each room, we had before and after pictures to show what we'd done. It was set up to be self-guided, and we definitely encouraged everyone to wander around. Having the whole house open to partying definitely helped with the crowd - I never felt like we had more than 25 folks in the house, but I know we had closer to 50. It was nice to see each room full of friends and family. Even the bathroom got some party action - I think we had 6 people in there at once!

At some point in the evening, Mike's bosses arrived. Their wives paired off and explored on their own, and I found them in the kitchen just before they left. They were talking to my mom about how lovely the house was, and how great of a job we'd done with the redecorating. The one wife was particularly impressed, though, with what we'd done for the homeless.

Boss 1's wife: "I didn't realize how selfless Mike and Heather were!"
Boss 2's wife: "It's very admirable what they are doing."
My mom, looking perhaps a little confused....
Boss 1's wife: "You know, because they've opened their house to a homeless man..."
Boss 2's wife: "...the man that lives in the basement?"
Me: "You mean my dad?"

Turns out, while everyone was traipsing through the house, anyone that braved the basement was told by my record-spinning, fire-poking father that he wasn't allowed upstairs, he lived in the basement, and he was homeless. And I imagine with him wearing the Carhartt oversuit and scuffed winter boots and a ratty knit hat, he very much looked the part of someone down on their luck.

I think it's time we throw another house party!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A very long swap

I have the best friends! A long time ago, I whined about having cold hands and no squirrel mittens. My friend Anj suggested she knit me mitts and I spin her a sweater's worth of fiber. Deal? Deal!

I'm still chugging along on the fiber (crafting ADD), but she's delivered on her end of the bargain!!! And just in time for more single-digit lows and a foot of snow....

Pattern is Hello Yarn, yarn is Quince & Co, and lining is handspun alpaca/yak/qiviut blend. 

Wherever I go, I will have two hands full of nuts!!!

Thanks, Anj!!!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's my life

I'm laying belly-down across the bed, waiting my turn to shower, and PennyCat decides that my rear is the best place ever to nap. When Miki comes out of the bathroom, I slowly roll to the left and right to dislodge the cat. Instead of jumping off, she instead scoots to whatever end is up, as if she's log rolling. 

Miki: did I ever tell you about what I used to do with the barrels my brother would bring home?
Me: no....
Miki: wait, yesterday my boss told me he got a rain barrel for Christmas, and that it was under the tree. I said, did you know what it was before you unwrapped it? And he said, it was kinda obvious, and was only under a blanket. I said, well it could've been a rodeo clown in a barrel. He just walked away... Anyway, my brother would bring home these barrels, 55 gallon drums really, from work.
Me: yeah, that sounds about right....
Miki: and they were full of that super scrub stuff mechanics use, so my brothers and my dad would gothrough  one of those in a surprisingly short period of time. I mean, they didn't live at home anymore, but they had cars in the yard that they would work on-
Me: so, redneck times, yes?
Miki: yeah, redneck times. Whenever they emptied a barrel, though, I'd practice barrel rolling all over the back yard.
Me: now here is something I did not know about you!
Miki: and when I got really good at it, I'd barrel roll out front to show the neighbors. I could go from one side of the front yard to the other!
Me: you are a man of many talents...
Miki: is this going on the internet?
Me: yup.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Walk in the Woods

Miki and I took a couple of days off and hiked a short section of the Appalachian Trail.

We drove up to Mohican Outdoor Center on Friday night. We got there later than planned due to unexpected rush hour traffic in Allentown. No worries - we had 2 headlamps and a powerful LED flashlight. We set up camp as the chill crept into the evening, and then set out to make some dinner only to discover that the featherweight cooker no longer worked - instead, it spewed white gas everywhere. So, off to the nearest town, which offered us the choice of a Tractor Supply Store or an A&P. With no luck there, I turned to the internet, and found the closest Walmart was a mere 18 miles away.

Having procured a new cooker, we settled in for a hot meal around 9pm - not the early night we'd wanted, but hey, at least we could cook food! I think if we had not been able to get a cooker, that might have been a deal breaker for me.

After a hearty breakfast (diced ham, eggs, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and Africafe coffee), we broke camp, checked in with the rangers, and then hit the trail. I carried a 35-40lb pack, holding sleeping gear, cooking gear, food, first aid, maps, tent stakes, hammer, camp chairs, and a pump for the kayak (among other things):

The folks at Mohican "rented" (there was no fee or collateral involved...) trekking poles - I'd left mine at home, on the couch. Whoops! Trekking poles were a definite Must Have.

Miki carried the 10lb tent, a life jacket, a 56lb inflatable kayak, and used his paddles as trekking poles.

My husband is full of crazy ideas, and it seems that so far, the craziest of these ideas has involved this damn kayak. Remember a couple of years ago, when he all but gave up on life while kayaking from Philly to Carneys Point, NJ? Yeah.... This time around, his idea was to hike in from Mohican to Sunfish Pond, a mere 5 miles of uneven terrain.

I told him I had massive concerns about this idea, but that I was not going to tell him no. But, I also wasn't going to judge him if he got a mile in and decided to drop the kayak.

From Camp Road, the trail ascends for about a mile. It's rocky, and slow-going, even without the added weight of a backpack. We took lots of breaks - probably twice as many as we might have if one of us wasn't carrying 66 lbs on his back. After about 45 minutes, we found ourselves along the ridge. The trail at this point was narrow, with loose rocks and moss littering the path. Another hour, and we found ourselves at a rock face overlooking the reservoirs to the east.

We broke for lunch and dropped the packs. While soaking up the sun, a guided tour group came through. I envied their light packs out loud.

Back on the trail, we continued at a slow pace. The kayak was starting to wear on Miki and he needed to take lots of breaks. Every half mile (or less, maybe), he'd take a break, seeking out a large boulder to rest the weight of the pack on. I was, surprisingly, doing okay with the heavy pack. 

About 3.5 miles into, it became obvious that things weren't going well for Miki. He was taking more frequent and longer breaks. He started to fall behind, so I let him lead (and set the pace). I watched him as we continued to hike, and started to worry. He was barely picking his feet up for each step. He was making painful noises with each step. And, he was refusing to drop the kayak even though it had clearly become a terrible idea to bring it. I tried to be as encouraging as I could without seeming hokey or superficial, and maybe it made the difference. Still, I haven't seen him like this - physically - in a long time. Maybe ever... 

We took another (much-needed) break at a stream. This time, I dropped my pack too (so that I could go 100 feet off trail to pee) and Miki filtered some water for our 4 water bottles.

Packs back on, we got back on the trail. This part of the trail was fairly easy for a stretch, but that meant nothing for 145 lb Miki... The recommended pack-to-body ratio is 25-33% of your body rate. My man was carrying closer to half his body weight. Not cool. 

As we got closer to Sunfish Pond, each step seemed to be pure agony for him. We took another break (and there may have been crying....) and I looked ahead. Through the trees, I could see water! "Mike, Mike, LOOK! THE POND!!!" The last half of a mile was pure adrenaline and stubbornness for him as he pushed on, Hulk-style. The trail was no longer a route but a mere suggestion. Twigs, loose rocks, and fallen branches were all smashed, kicked, and plowed through, as he only had eyes for one thing.

Finally, we had made it the 5 miles to the tip of Sunfish Pond! There may have been a primal scream or two at this point. Miki dropped everything, secured the kayak in some brush (but at that point dared any other hiker to try - TRY - to hike it out at this point...), and then we continued south. To give him a break, I kept my pack on, even though the plan had been once he dropped the kayak, he'd take the pack from me. Aside from the utter pain in his back and hips, his shoulders were raw from the straps of the Yukon pack he'd used for the kayak.

We were now working against time. It was about 3:45 when we got to the pond, and we still had another mile to go. Seems totally doable, but the next 3/4 mile was over boulders and loose rock. Below is a photo from the January 2010 Miki and a friend took up to Sunfish Pond. This is the trail.

Slowly, we picked our way over and around the rocks. Halfway around the pond, I handed the pack over to Mike and took the 10lb tent. I carried that by hand until we got to the end of the pond, and we took another break. Another hiker had told us that the backpackers site was just another quarter mile ahead, so while we were both tired, we felt almost-victorious.

Using the rope from the Yukon pack for the kayak, I slung the tent over my shoulder messenger-bag style, and we plodded on again. Miki was clearly still delirious when he exclaimed from behind, "You look sexy as shit with that tent slung across your back!" 

1/4 mile turned out to actually be more like 3/4, but finally, just as the sun was setting, we arrived at the backpackers site.

We quickly set up camp, reveling in the awesomeness of a 4-season tent (it was TOASTY in there). There were about 30 or so other people camping with us, including kids as wee as 3 or 4. We put our food and trash in the bear box, and then hit the hay by 7pm. Our pillow talk consisted of looking at maps and figuring out a way to get to Sunfish Pond easilier. 

Yes. Easilier. 

Miki decided to NOT try to hike back with the kayak the next day. Instead, he'd go back to where we'd dumped it, paddle across the pond, and then hide it closer to the (easilier) trail access. He fell asleep quickly, and I spent the night worrying about him (I kept waking up to make sure he was breathing and hadn't had a heart attack) and worrying about the kayak (will someone steal it?).

The next morning, he got up and began making breakfast and coffee while I broke down camp. I was queasy, but figured it was hunger. I managed to eat half of a breakfast sausage before losing it behind a tree... I started to worry that the sausage was bad, or the beef jerky was bad, or the water was bad, but rationalized that Miki was eating and drinking the same things with no inkling of ill effects. I chalked it up to nerves and exertion.

We hit the trail just after 9. By 9:25, we were at the edge of Sunfish Pond.

He left me there and humped over to the far side of the pond to get the kayak. By 10:15, he was paddling over. A day hiker and his dog kept me company (and confirmed that the trail we looked at on the maps the night before was indeed the way to hike out with the kayak - mellow, river-side, a short 3 miles....).

The jury's out as to whether it was worth hiking in with a kayak, but I'm pretty sure he loved every second of his paddle on the pond. We made short work of packing the kayak, hid it in the brush, and then continued on northward. Day 2, things were so much better for him. He was carrying a stable pack, at an appropriate weight. I had the tent and life vest mini-Yukon-packed on my pack.

We even found a route that skirted the rockiest part of the trail around the pond, cutting the time to hike around it in half (and reducing the chances of twisting in ankle while hopping boulders). We hiked at a good clip, and were so focused on moving forward and getting back to the car, that we took a wrong-ish trail, following the double blazed trail to the left, rather than the single-blazed to the right. This was something of a long-cut (as opposed to a short-cut), but did offer spectacular vistas. We stopped for lunch (I ate a Larabar and did not vomit!). Here you can see the rain moving from the west to the east. You can also see a brilliantly yellow copse. 

We hit the stream from the day before, filling up on water again. As we hiked north, I found myself mentally counting all of the places we'd stopped the day before to take breaks. In some instances, there were barely 1,000 feet between them. I was increasingly glad that he'd hid the kayak at the pond. Day 2 would not have gone as well with it on his back...

Around 2pm, we reached the Large Pile of Rocks, a destination that the morning before, I'd thought was a complete joke. It is indeed a large pile of rocks! And on Sunday afternoon, it was crowded with people that seemed to all be part of the same group. As we hiked past, one of them eyed Miki's paddles and I quipped, "Oh, there's a story!" She replied, "We KNOW!" We stopped and told them the tale, and one of the group joked that Miki was going to get a trail nickname if he kept this sort of thing up. "Appalachia Paddle Boy!" Upon request, he hiked off using the paddles as trekking poles, and the group cheered raucously.

We were soon at the reservoir overlook. We stopped briefly, marveled it was barely 2:30, and kept on going. The trail followed the ridge for a bit more, before we began the descent.

With only the expected difficulties on the descent, we were back at the car by 3:30, and en route to Shawnee on the Delaware by 4pm. By 5, we were taking the best showers of our lives, and by 6, we were enjoying a delicious dinner. We were in bed by 8, and spent Monday morning enjoying 3 hours each of spa treatments. 

Overall, it wasn't a bad trip - and by that, I pretty much mean nobody died. Day 1 and Day 2 were opposites, for sure. I will definitely go backpacking again, but not with a 55lb kayak anywhere in the mix... I did much better than I ever expected I could do (and didn't even complain when it started to rain).

Friday, October 18, 2013

And for the 17th year in a row

Here we are again, 17 years after saying "I do" for the first time.


Happy anniversary to my best friend! Here's to another 17 years (and more)!