Epic Adventures: Mountain Men

In many ways, last weekend was a tale of two trips. First, there was the trip from Baltimore to New Jersey. Then there was the trip from New Jersey to the Adirondacks. Let us go in chronological order.

After work on Friday, I came home to do some dishes and throw out the trash (to avert toxic fumes upon my return) and finished packing my trusty backpack (the big ol’ backpacking one). Forecasts for the Adirondacks were expecting temperatures to go into the 20’s overnight, so even with the suddenly Fall-like temperatures that had descended upon Baltimore at the end of the week, I had to take extra precautions in packing my clothes.

Speaking of that Fall weather, I was positively delighted when I felt it roll through. I’d been having serious end-of-summer sadness, so it felt like a bit of closure knowing that another season that I love was rolling in. It also meant that I wouldn’t have to stress out about finding time to force a beach visit when I was in NJ.

Even though I knew that I would only be spending a few waking hours in Jersey, I was as excited as ever. That drive home, especially in the crisp evenings of Fall, just really gets me excited. I know you may all be sick of hearing about how much I love NJ, but it really makes me feel alive. I passed the hours in the car listening to the Gaslight Anthem, Bruce, and some of my old favorite ska albums.

That evening, I hung out with my parents, ate dinner, and retired early. My stepdad and I woke a bit before 5:00 AM the next morning to head to the Adirondacks. We wanted to get on our way early, because we had a long hike into the mountains later in the day, and nightfall comes quickly in the forest. Although we didn’t weigh them in advance, our packs each weighed about 30+ pounds.

"Did you remember to pack your brick collection? Good, me too"

After a quick stop on the parkway for McDonald’s breakfast, we drove the rest of the way into New York and arrived in the Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness around 11:00 AM. After a quick once over of the packs, making sure we had some freeze-dried meals, trail mix, water, sleeping bags, tent, stove, and various other necessities, we started hiking in.

The Adirondacks is really one of the best places on the East Coast (THE SAME EAST COAST THAT CONTAINS NEW JERSEY). The steep slopes, dense foliage, and massive lakes seem to belong to a different world. However exhausting long hikes with heavy packs can be, I didn’t once stop to think about it; I was too enchanted by the sun filtering through the leaves and the many streams that we had to cross.

River, consider yourself forded.

Believe me though, it could be exhausting. We decided to hike up Treadway Mountain to get a nice view of the surrounding lakes and forests. For some reason, this didn’t strictly involve climbing a steep slope. Instead, it involved climbing steep slopes, then suddenly climbing down a drastic drop in elevation, and repeating. I swear, for every mile we moved, we zig-zagged 3 vertically.

Shortly before another ascent...

Once at the peak of Treadway mountain, we admired the views, ate a quick lunch of trailmix, got temporarily lost (How does one get lost on a peak? We will never know.), and made our way back down to the main path.

What we saw shortly before nearly losing our way back down the mountain.

The path we chose for the 2-day adventure wound its way around Putnam Pond, which is most likely the world’s largest pond. I’d love to hear someone explain why it isn’t called a lake. Anyway, in order to get back to NJ relatively early on Sunday, we decided to do the majority of the hike on Saturday. We therefore picked a lean-to about 3/4 of the way around the pond to set up camp for the night.

That's one hell of a 'pond' to hike around, isn't it?

Just before nightfall (about 6:00 PM up there), we reached the site and set up our tent. Our total mileage for the day was about 8 miles.

Where we almost slept.

Despite their daylong absence, swarms of mosquitoes arrived as it got dark, negating the lean-to as a sleeping option.

Where we ultimately slept.

We fired up the camp stove, boiled some water, and made the freeze-dried chicken and rice. It was surprisingly excellent. We then made hot chocolate, ate a granola bar, and put all the foodstuffs into a bear-proof container that we planted about 50 yards away.

Two things became suddenly apparent to me over the 2 days we were there. First, I found that I eat much better without access to a time telling device. If I don’t think that I should be eating, I just eat when I’m hungry. Second, I found that I sleep much better without a time telling device. Again, when I don’t know when I should go to bed, I sleep when I’m tired. It was in this way that we ended up asleep around 8:00 PM.

Pictured: The last thing I saw before passing out.

The next morning, we got up around 7 and made a quick breakfast. The weather was nice and brisk for our 2-mile hike out.

LOOK AT HOW CRISP THAT MORNING IS. LOOK AT IT.

It was especially enjoyable winding our way around a number of smaller ponds in the area and watching the foliage change. Some areas had dark, dense forests, while other spots open up into something resembling glades. It was also interesting to watch well-beaten trails devolve into nothingness at random spots along the trek. Even with the trail markers, we had to pause and examine our way forward several times.

Once back to the car, we took off our packs and set off for NJ. Thanks to our incredible swiftness, we were able to make it all the way back to NJ by 3:30, including a stop to buy burgers to grill. Although I had initially planned on taking Monday off and staying in NJ for the night, I made the painful decision to eat with my parents, watch a bit of football, and come back to Baltimore that night. Sometimes, being responsible sucks.

On the drive home, I got to thinking about the mental transformation I undergo when I leave NJ each time. At the beginning, I’m in a place I know so well and that I’m completely comfortable. Crime doesn’t exist, I don’t have a job to worry about, and I have friends and family abound. The closer I get back to Baltimore, the more independent I feel. I transition back into having my own little life where I have to be responsible, go to work, and deal with my own problems. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but the two sides are just very different. My goal is to somehow find a way to connect the two feelings. That is all.

Musings: Aaaaaaand we’re back

(Funny story…I thought I posted this last Monday)

As expected, the building of my new computer got in the way of my blogging. System building is the type of treacherously satisfying process that consumes the mind with a fear of DOA components and unidentifiable errors. It’s also a process downright saturated with both excitement and trepidation. Nevertheless, I am happily blogging from my new system as we speak and it is absolutely spectacular. In the one day I’ve had to give it a spin with some games, it has performed astoundingly well. The only remaining issue is that my CPU has an unusually high idle temperature, even after removing and reapplying thermal paste. I’ll sort it out and see how it does under load later. Anyway, the more technical blog posts will follow later in the week. For now, it’s time to catch up.

As much as I expected to miss some blog posts while I put the system together, I certainly didn’t expect to feel so guilty about it. Over the weekend, I realized how long it had been since I posted anything and felt terrible. I felt like I was slipping away from blogging, allowing my blog to devolve into one of the thousands that seemed like good ideas for a few weeks but were ultimately left to decay. At work today, I saw the little “Site Stats” link for my blog in my history but felt too ashamed to check it. If anyone had been checking in since I stopped blogging, I didn’t want to know about it. After a hardy workout after work, I now feel like I’m ready to get back to business with this writing mumbo jumbo.

So what have I been doing since we last spoke, you are undoubtedly not asking. Let’s start with Labor Day weekend. This summer, for some unknown reason, has been the fastest of my life. I’ve only made it to the beach twice and in my brain, summer should just be kicking off. Unfortunately, the world continues its refusal to conform to my will, and September has come kicking through my face when I least expected it. Needless to say, Labor Day weekend became a symbol for summer’s last stand.

Leading up to the long weekend, I was trying to meticulously plan a weekend that would encompass everything that I could possibly want to do in the summer. Go to the beach, visit my grandparents, tour NJ, visit NYC, etc. Sadly, as good as I am at planning, doing everything was a logistical impossibility. Instead, the three best friends decided to tackle the latter two ideas with a road trip to NJ and a daytrip into Manhattan to check out the Harry Potter exhibition (on its last weekend in town) and stroll around the Big Apple.

After having a blast replacing my car battery on Saturday morning, I begrudgingly began the drive to NJ with the TBFs. After some fancy driving around Baltimore, which was overwhelmed by the Grand Prix, we made good time back to my home state. We quickly dropped our bags at my house and drove over to Double Trouble for a stroll. After all, a trip to Bayville isn’t complete without some DT time.

You may not be able to tell, but I'm thrilled to be home.

Afterwards, we headed back home for dinner. As usual, we consumed a delightful dinner (grilled onions, squash, and london broil) courtesy of my step father. Then, the three of us and my younger sister headed out to Seaside for a little boardwalk stroll. On the way, we stopped by Rich’s to get some ice cream (the canoli sundae was awesome but nearly killed me). After spending so many nights at the Seaside Heights boardwalk in high school, it’s definitely interesting going back as a bit more of an adult. As awful as it sounds, it’s nice to have a bit more age and maturity on your side; it makes looking down on the scum that much more justified.

After the boardwalk, we returned to my house and retired for the evening. The next morning, we got up bright and early and headed out for Hoboken around 7 AM. On the way, we grabbed bagels at Oh What A Bagel. Mmmmmm…Jersey Bagels.

Where was I? Oh yes, driving to Hoboken. We got to Hoboken around 9 AM, parked, and took the PATH train into Manhattan. We strolled around the Penn Station area for a while before heading to Discovery Times Square for the HP exhibition. I wish we had some pictures to show, but sadly, photography was prohibited. It was very cool to see so many costumes and props from the movies though. It taught me two things: I am much larger than the entire cast of the HP films and the props are detailed as hell.

After the exhibition, we began our eating tour of NYC. We grabbed some pizza by Penn Station and started walking towards a Chinese noodle place that one of my coworkers suggested. By the time we were nearly there (it was down by the Brooklyn bridge and I prefer walking everywhere whenever possible) we decided to take a detour to Pomme Frites instead. I was severely dehydrated by this point, so I pounded a bunch of water with my fried potatoes and we decided to call off the noodles.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN ALL THIS SODIUM IS JUST GOING TO INCREASE MY THIRST?!

After temporarily giving up on eating and checking out Noho and Soho, we swung by Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village for some cupcakes. Several pounds later and severely exhausted, we decided to forego the walk back to Penn Station and instead caught the PATH from the nearby Christopher Street Station.

'Nuff said

When we finally managed to liberate my car from the parking garage in Hoboken, we hopped on the Turnpike to head back to Rockville; however, we still had to make a final, obligatory NJ stop: a diner. For the sake of efficiency, we decided to not drive out of the way to my regular stomping grounds and instead hopped off the Turnpike to check out Marlton Diner. Two pork roll, egg, and cheese’s, a cream-chip beef on toast, and some coffee’s later, I was ready to never leave Jersey ever again. Sadly, I need to earn a living, so we drove back down and got to Rockville a little after 1 AM.

The next day I chilled in the morning and stopped by College Park to tailgate for the Miami game for a bit. Almost all of my old roommates, including the ones who live pretty far away now, were there, so it was a jolly time in spite of the rain. After that, last week was mainly devoted to building my computer and modding my headset (to be covered soon) and last weekend was spent straight chillin. I’m getting wordy, so goodnight!

Fitness vs. Fatness: Birthday Weekend

The past several days have been jam packed with fun. On Friday, we set sail from Baltimore around 4:30 and ran into minimal traffic. About 2.5 hours later, we arrived in my hometown in time for a snack and my parents’ Friday night special: garlic bread with cured ham, provolone cheese, Jersey tomatoes, grilled asparagus, and fresh basil. We then commenced chilling and my sister and I stayed up working through most of Kings Quest 6.

The following morning, I got up around 7 and went to Oh What A Bagel for my obligatory pork roll, egg, and cheese on a poppy seed bagel. My step dad and I loaded the kayak on the roof of his truck and after breakfast, my mom dropped us off at the bay for our trip over to the beach. My mom took several dramatic pictures of us getting the boat into the water, pushing off, and starting to paddle.

About 2 minutes after my mom drove away, we realized that there was no way we were going to make it across the bay. Some maniacal combination of wind and current kept twisting the boat into the wrong position. Nothing short of vigorous paddling one one side of the kayak could keep us straight, and as a result, we made little to no progress.

After a shameful few minutes back to shore, we unsealed our phones from their waterproof bags and hailed my mom to come pick us up. At this point, it was getting to be almost 9:30, we hadn’t picked up lunch yet, and concerns were running high that IBSP may close before we got there. This would have killed my weekend.

Thankfully, we were able to afford a fast stop at Wawa for subs (smoked turkey, american, sweet and hot peppers, and vinegar FTW) and still make it to the beach early enough to get in. Despite my initial concerns that it would not be warm out on Saturday (before we got there) and that the waves would be too small for body boarding (after we got there), my fears were needless. The waves were small, but potent, and actually made for quite fun riding. Regarding the warmth of the sun…my peeling sunburn is a testament to how wrong I was.

Melanoma lures you in with the promise of relaxation.

After several hours of laying, eating, skimboarding, and body boarding, we left the beach and made a pit stop at the boardwalk. One cone from Kohr’s and two caramel apples later, we were back on the road. THEN we stopped at Rich’s ice cream shop for my sister to get ice cream. Don’t ask how it happened, but I ended up with a huge milkshake there too.

One of the many amazing things that started in NJ.

After a nice shower and some more chilling, we had excellent steaks, corn, and tomatoes for dinner. Finally, in one last round of gluttony, we sat down for my mom’s AMAZING carrot cake. Seriously, best I ever had.

It's essentially a health food.

On Sunday, my mom made french toast (the woman has a gift with carbs) before leaving for her business trip. I dragged my feet for a while and finally headed out around 3. My dad and grandparents took us out to eat that night (where I gorged on cheese ravioli with shrimp and a cannoli) and we finally made our way back to Baltimore.

Yesterday, my actual birthday, the three best friends assembled in Baltimore. Work had been especially crazy for some reason, so it was amazing to have a relaxing evening spent exploring my new homestead. We ate at Teavolution (wings and pizza and bread pudding and tea and @#(T^WJEFJSKDNMASKCSD) which was very nice. It also happened to be open mic night, so we got to see some serious characters while we ate.

Thus my birthday concluded with a bulging stomach. My only attempt at health over the weekend, the kayaking expedition, failed so hard that I think it may have made me gain weight. It was all totally worth it though. Now it’s just time to find a gym in Baltimore.

Epic Adventures: Back to the New-ture (Jersey)

Sorry, that title was a stretch. I apologize. Nonetheless, in the words of Bruce:

Tonight I’m gonna take that ride.
Across the river to the Jersey side.

Except that it’s tomorrow night. Stop pretending like all wordplay, metaphors, and references were made for your sole satisfaction. Regardless, those lyrics manage to get me stoked every damn time.

With my 24th birthday taking place next Monday, Jenny and I are making the trek back to my home state tomorrow evening after work for a bit of celebration. Along with the obligatory dinner out with my dad and grandparents and listening to the Boss on repeat, I plan on celebrating with the following activities:

  1. Going for a run in Double Trouble
  2. Eating steak from the German butcher, grilled veggies, and Jersey corn
  3. Staying up way later than I normally allow myself, solely because I want to sit around in my old room
  4. Eating a proper bagel. Make that a proper bagel with pork roll, egg, and cheese on it.
  5. Kayaking across the bay to IBSP with my stepdad
  6. Lounging on the unguarded beaches, tossing a frisbee, body boarding, and getting battered by waves
  7. Crushing a caramel apple from the boardwalk
  8. Eating quality pizza
  9. Consuming a single beer with my parents
  10. Pounding a cake

And hopefully many more things that I can’t think of at the moment. I hope you all enjoy your weekends as much as I do.

Stuff That I Like: The Beach

It’s Monday morning and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the back of the skull. My body is aching, I feel too tired to responsibly operate heavy machinery, and my fingers are rebelling as I pipette the 150th DNA sample. I may feel close to death, but all I can really comprehend is my desire to go back to the beach.

It keeps me from being crabby. ZING.

On Saturday, the three best friends took a day trip to Ocean City, MD. The weather ended up being spectacular (read: not 100 degrees and/or raining) and despite some heavy pieces of traffic and the worst parking situation I have ever seen in my life (not kidding), we made it onto the beach by the early afternoon.

I was midway through my first dive through a breaking wave when it occurred to me that the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean are the single place where I’m happiest. As I popped out of the backside of that first wave, only to nearly be clobbered by a second, more powerful wave, I was at my most content.

The beach, in my humble opinion, brings the best of the world to one place. I’m not talking about people of course; many of the people I see at the beach are of my least favorite variety; however, it stands as a mark of the enormity of the beach’s grandeur that I rarely, if ever, notice all the unsavory characters. No, I’m referring to the raw power, vastness, and thrill of the open water merging with the quiet calm of a sandy beach and the rhythmic sounds of the tide. There is simply no better place to frolic, run, sleep, eat, or endanger your life.

As I continued my dominance of the waves, I tried to take it all in. The smell of salt water, the sun-warmed sand, the churning of the ocean. I was reminded fully of why full-time jobs and non-coastal cities suck. I embraced that unique, chilly tingle that courses through your body after each trip through a wave. I thought about all that and vowed to always live by a coast, make regular visits to the beach, and never lose sight of the best bits of life.

As I pounded through the all-you-can eat crabs and corn that night, I was content knowing that I had spent one more day in the good old Atlantic and overwhelmingly excited about getting back to the world’s best beaches next weekend in the good old Garden State. And life was good.

Not so great for the crabs though.