Friday, April 20, 2012

A Beary Eventful Hike

Don’t get between a Momma Bear and her cubs.  It’s Wilderness 101, yet somehow Brad still managed to do it.  I guess I can’t blame him.  Stupid pollen.  He bent over to sneeze and looked up to find a growling, lunging Momma Bear.  Rex didn’t even bark.  His survival instincts had to have kicked in. 

I was approximately 100-yards behind the boys, lolly-gagging, taking pictures of recently-bloomed wildflowers.  I saw a doe, which was exciting.  Then, of course, Brad had to steal my thunder.  Bear and cubs tops doe every time. 

Brad’s pace was quick as he walked back toward me, and I could tell his eyes were wide even though they were masked by his Oakleys.  Rex had his tail between his legs, and if Brad would have had a tail, it probably would have been between his legs, too. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked.  In detail, he rehashed the sneezing, the momma, the growling, the cubs, etc. 
“Were you scared?” I said.  “Is your heart racing?”
“You know,” he replied in a nervous laugh, “They say you don’t ever have to outrun a bear, just have to outrun the person you’re with.” 
“Funny, Brad," I mumbled.. Side note: Brad ran a 6-minute mile in the Army.  I think my personal best was 9-something.  "So what do we do, babe?  How are we gonna get home?”
We both looked at each other for a moment.  Then, Brad draped his arm on me, resting his entire bodyweight on my shoulder, while Rex hid his entire face in between my legs.  They were scared and silent.  I was, too. In a weird way, though, it was kind of awesome.

After a few minutes, Brad decided he needed to check things out again, so he handed me Rex’s leash.  I had one eye on the wooded area that led to Skyline Drive, to safety.  I had my other eye on Brad.  He was stupid to go up that trail again, but I wasn’t thinking that.  I was thinking “Why does he get to be stupid and I don’t?”  I holler for him to come back. 

It was my turn to push the envelope.  Adrenaline pumped through my body as I inched my way towards the mom and her cubs.  As I rounded the bend, Brad yelled at me to stop.  He said I was too close, and then I saw him.  A tiny little cub hiding behind a tree.  Mom was on the left side of the trail with cub #1 and cub #2, and cub #3 was on the right side of the trail.  We would have had to walk between this little family in order to finish our hike. 

Against my better judgment, I made eye contact with the cub.  And I just couldn’t look away.  I stood there for second, soaking in the moment.  It was absolutely beautiful.  There on the trail, I tried hard to capture every detail, just so I would never forget how it felt to have this amazing-- but brief--connection with such a majestic and innocent animal.  Then, I snapped a picture, turned around, and walked back toward Rex and Brad.

My cub friend.  I'll call him Barry.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Brad explained.  “You’re not supposed to turn your back to a bear.” 
“Oh,” was all I said. 


Vulnerable but not trapped, Brad and I discussed what our next step would be.  We knew we couldn’t finish the hike on the AT as we had planned, so we decided to blaze a trail up to Skyline Drive--hyperaware of every noise we heard during the oh-so-brief walk to safety.  To our surprise, when we reached the road, we were at the trailhead and only 100 feet away from my car.  We survived...bearly.  ;)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stupid School

So, I managed to type off my "s" key today.  Some say type.  Others may say violently tap...tomato, tamato.  In my opinion, such a keyboarding setback is the virtual version of a lisp.  With that being said, over the next few days, school--not my blog--will, unfortunately, be my priority.  Sucks, doesn't it?

I figured I'd leave you with a short video until we meet again.

Cliffhanger: Stay tuned for a preview of the next blog...A recap of Brad and Rex's close encounter with Momma Bear. 

I've already been thinking of corny titles.  I'm quite fond of: "A Day That Will Live in Infamy for a Beary Long Time." But I also like "Beary Scary Bear."

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Item 89 on My Bucket List is to unplug for 48 hours.  No TV, no phone, no Facebook, no e-mail, no etc.  I'm taking baby-steps toward that goal.

After a particularly trying day at the small restaurant where I work, I decided that I needed to kind-of unplug.  From Saturday night to Monday morning, I would turn off my phone and not check Facebook.  It's Sunday afternoon, and my phone is still off.  And I have no idea how many people liked my most recent status, which is something to the likes of "Turning off my phone until Monday morning.  In case of an emergency, call Brad."  Brad being my non-husband, life partner, significantly-immature other, etc.

I guess it's a bit of an oxy-moron to blog about the idea of unplugging.  Actually, it's a huge oxy-moron, but I honestly think that there are benefits to unplugging, especially while traveling.  For example, say you're updating your Facebook status while walking down Rodeo Drive and while updating said status you miss spotting Ryan Gosling and Adam Levine incognito-ly chatting about the weather or, say, me.  :)

The same kind of thing can happen in the great outdoors, too.  A place where you're seemingly away from civilization.  Let's say you're texting your friend about how beautiful Yellowstone National Park is, and you miss three grizzly bear cubs walk across the road.  Such a sight is pretty damn cool and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some.  I once saw three black bear cubs walk across the road in Shenandoah National Park, and it was like something from a postcard.  Seriously.

Every once in a while it's healthy to unplug.  Fun things happen when the powers out.  For example, you could eat Subway, play MadLibs, and make shadow puppets on the wall. Or you could just cuddle-up with your partner.  Or......................nevermind............I'll keep it PG.

I'm not a Luddite.  For example, I love my, love, love.  I just don't want technology to take over my life, and some days I think it has.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good Old Raisins and Peanuts

GORP sounds like it could taste disgusting, like it could be a euphemism for a goo-filled bug patty, but it’s not.  As Laurie March so enlightens readers in her cookbook A Fork in the Trail, GORP, better known as trail mix, stands for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts.  Today, many varieties have spawned from this most basic ingredient list.  You can occasionally find some of those recipes in the outdoor magazine, Backpacker, which is where I first read about GORP.  GORP is a hiking staple; Hikers eat their GORP like Italians eat their pasta, and as a hiker I figured I had to try it. 

It is said that the original GORP consisted of raisins, peanuts, and M&Ms, but in March’s first cookbook she has recipes for: Chocolate Blueberry GORP, Honey Mustard GORP, Pizza GORP, and Spicy GORP.  Some prefer M&Ms only GORP.  Other hikers don’t like chocolate so they substitute yogurt covered raisins or mini marshmallows to get that hint of sweetness.  Many hikers even enjoy adding their favorite cereal to their GORP.  Me, I love Frosted Cheerios, so I figured why not put those in my GORP?  After all, it’s all just a matter of personal opinion.  Experiment.  Do whatever you have to do to get the crunch you want.  Do whatever you have to do to get your perfect ratio of salty to sweet.

On my maiden voyage with GORP (during a Food Writing class senior year of undergrad) I combined: chocolate-covered raisins, Craisins, dried blueberries, peanuts, walnuts, Frosted Cheerios, and white chocolate chips.  I have learned that the concept of making GORP nicely sums up a fundamental wilderness cooking tenant:  “Backcountry cooking is all about experimenting,” I was told during a Wilderness Cooking 101 course at JMU.  “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” 

Hopefully, I won’t make as many mistakes with GORP as I have made with regular cooking.  Think turkey meatloaf cooked to 165 degrees Celsius and frozen-veggie-canned-chicken potpie.  Yikes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hawksbill Summit

You need special shoes for hiking, and a bit of a special soul as well.  -Terri Guillemets

Hiking never gets old.  There's so many variables (weather, other hikers, dog/no dog, season, etc.) that no hike, despite walking the same trail, is ever the same.  Each time I trekked to the top of Hawksbill, the highest summit in the Shenandoah National Park, it felt fresh including today...time #4.  Between the peregrine falcons, my adventurous four-legged friend, or Tebowing, yes I said Tebowing, I am forever in awe of how new the same hike can be.