Friday, September 30, 2011

Asheville & Smoky NP, NC Take 2

I re-visited Asheville, NC for 3 nights. I was here for 1 night in March. This time I was hosted by a cser, David, originally from the Bronx who is a film writer w/ a lovely home.

Being so close to Smoky NP, I put a last minute hike request to the Asheville cs group. Mike who lived in PDX, quit a dissatisfying job and been travelling since Aug replied. He talked me into camping for a night. We did about 11 miles of hiking and had rain free, yet muggy weather.

Seeing the leave fall and the colorful grounds was super rad. At the start of my trip it was almost Spring. I got to see thing slowly come to life. It feels like things are wrapping up right now and I can’t believe how close to "home" I am now.

I met a few other local csers, had local, strong beer and wandered through town checking out the local art galleries. Asheville is like a smaller version of PDX minus the hipsters. YAY!

Then off to visit a long-time, good friend, pen pal Kelly in Boone. 9.5 hrs bus ride, b/c there’s a 4 hr wait in Winston Salem. I could not wander the city b/c I have 2 heavish bags. I snuck away to a thai/pho place and treated myself to a yummy veggie/tofu pho that was a little pricey. Met some interesting characters at the station, but they were harmless. I definitely was the minority there, which admittedly feels odd, especially coming from the NW.

Click here for more pix.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Savannah - Charming & Haunted

Dave and I did not know much about Savannah and had no real plan. We arrived around 2pm and decided to hit the beach, as it was so muggy. The water was cooler than SC, but greatly welcomed. After a few hours in the sun, we checked out the only campground.

Dave brought a winter tent and there was hardly any ventilation. He toughed it out somehow inside w/ little sleep, while I slept on my sleeping pad and sleep sheet outside the tent. There were lots of mosquitoes, birds, and homeless kitties. I heard an owl hooting which was cool.

Next day, tiredly we headed into Savannah to check the city. Walking around the beautiful town is what I love to do and tried to make the best of it despite the humidity. We noticed there was a Jazz Festival at the park and caught the last show that night after a great meal at Alligators Soul. Yeah, gators just follow us on this trip.
We stayed in the city and the next day met up w/ my college friend Siobhan and her husband Anthony, whom I have not seen since graduation. It was neat catching up while talking about college years. I had an awesome beer porter chili at the Distillery. Siobhan clued me in some of Savannah’s hauntings; wish I had thought to do a haunting tour. 
 Next day had a 6:45am flight to Asheville, NC. Yeah, that’s the price you pay for using your miles. Click here for more pix.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Visiting the South for the First Time

From PDX I flew to Hilton Head Island, SC to volunteer for a few days at the ecotourism conference. I was expecting to be tired and overwhelmed, while meeting interesting people doing work that I am interested in. Morning started at 630am for a meeting, registering and directing people, helping presenters be ready for their workshops, and listening in to a few of them as well.

We had a great reception with amazing local food at the Costal Discovery Museum, which was a pretty location. Had friend green tomatoes, sweet potato biscuits, and just about every seafood southern dish. Really felt like I was in the south with the mossy trees, muggy air, and marshlands. The weather was cloudy and super muggy, but the hotel was right by the warm ocean water. There were awesome clouds that I wish I could take a photo of while in the ocean, but that's way too risky. 

After the conference, my friend, Dave, and I rented car and headed to Congaree National Park. We arrived at 5pm so we did a short boardwalk hike, which was very cool even saw tons of small turtles in the lake.  Wish I had more time here as the trees were different and it was tranquil. Great way to wind down after a hectic week. Next day we headed to Savannah. Click here for more pix.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Home Sweet Home?

I called Portland my home! I moved here five years ago and just loved it. I built an awesome network of friends and the city suited my personality. It truly helped me grow and made me who I am today. I started eating healthier, opening my mind, being more patient, and became a green maniac.

Being in PDX was intense for many reasons; felt like a deer in headlights. Mtg up w/ people in small batches was mentally draining (but worth it). So much has happened to me since then, it is hard to really catch up. Physically I was all over town while taking care of errands like going to the dentist, annual doctor visit, Mac genius appt, good will, doing a radio travel interview, visiting gear shops, seeing new friend's mom, etc.
I could not help but remember my life here. I was super planned all the time. Trying to make the most of my free precious time b/c I spent most of my time unhappily. I cannot relate to PDX anymore. I was teary-eyed when I left in Feb, but it does not feel like home anymore. It’s a great sustainable city mix, but I just desire more nature. My friends are the best part making it the hardest to leave.

I always had a job in PDX. Now I got to see the other side. Young people don’t come here to retire, referenced from the funny TV show Portlandia. The fact is there’s just ain’t enough work. There are tons of educated people constantly moving here and it is easy to sink into the sin city. Nuddie bars and awesome, cheap beer surrounds you. Drinking sake w/ caffeine just to keep up w/ the fun. Public welfare and unemployment is part of the new retirement package. Of course, I am exaggerated a tad here just for fun.

It was great seeing familiar faces. Unfortunately, I was scattered and full of anxiety as I still had “stuff” to sort through while debating what to do this winter.  I am truly amazed w/ how much clothes I have and how hard it is to let go. It was taxing 6 months ago and basically I put those decisions on hold.

Though I have a general plan, it is not as easy like move to Denver next month. Why do I torture myself like this? Sometimes I wish I’d want to “settle”. Routine and structure are comforting. But no, I want to see the world. I can’t believe I am thinking about traveling for another 6 months! Not having my own space has made me weary on this whole trip. Yes, a choice I made to save money while meeting rad people. But I am getting tired all around. And I have yet to master the art of backpacking.

As I waited in Houston for 1 of 2 connection flights, I identified with Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, waking up from a dream. I was in Portland, now I’m “home” on the road that’s the new norm for me. Tx you Katy for hosting me for 2 whole weeks in a studio apt. It’s not easy having someone over for so long and share small space. Click here for some pix.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Travel Thoughts: Being Vs Consuming Or Nature Vs City Part 2

During a hike, a friend pointed out that people are happy and usually say Hi when they pass other hikers. But once we get to the parking lot, we put our armor back on and head to the city.

Shuffling shit takes time to do. If I had no shit, I’d have more time.

Malls are good for one thing, public restrooms. The smell of the fatty cheap food and overpriced "stuff" that I do not need turns me off. It’s amazing how programmed we have become. I was so that person seeing something in the window and having to have it. I tire of ads telling me what I want. How the hell do they know? I feel that we, collectively as humans, have become slaves to the economy. Work, work, work – have 2 days a week to do chores and spend our hard-earned money to keep us more tied down to our house and work.  Repeat over and over and over turning in to a vicious cycle. I feel free b/c I do not have a “need” to buy many things I once did. I still run to a gear shop to buy a summer sleeping bag b/c I somehow lost mine on this trip. I did not need it but it is a nice luxury since it is my new cheap home for yrs to come. And I got it w/ an employee discount connection. But for the most part, I have escaped the game, the matrix of our world.

Many of the comforts we enjoy are not necessary for us our basic needs. “Basic Needs” that reminded me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we learned in school. And then it hit me that I am at the top. When i walk this earth I feel so connected to it, i see it in a new light, i see more than what's physically there.  It’s a sense like no other. And yes, i am sober :)
Cities physically trap us, separating us from nature. Maybe I am this way b/c I have been over citified. Society’s rules kill our spirituality, our creativity, our individuality. I always battled with this since high school. I looked a certain way and was stereotyped. People thought I did it for the attention. I don't like attention. I don’t even like dancing or singing as I am too shy. Honest! It’s been odd to see the people racing by on the street for the 9-5 drill; all in such a hurry, no time to breathe the air and see the beauty. 1 hr lunch break, 2 weeks a yr vacay, who made these rules? why do we follow them? Can we all just protest and reclaim our time? Why do I feel that I deserve more than 2 weeks off? I don't know.

Of course, I am speaking from an American point of view as that is the only work experience I know. And then there are people in certain countries that do not even get a lunch break and are paid poorly, etc. So I don't mean to complain b/c Americans have it better than others. And I do not think any country has truly figured it out. I guess I wish things could just be fair and everyone be content. I struggle finding a balance, which is different for each person. This is not an easy topic discussion and I certainly don't have all the answers or fully understand the situation.

If you love your job, that is rad.  But sadly I have met many who are not happy with their jobs and have put their passion to the side. I know many of us are on this crazy boat and I don’t mean to rub it in by pointing out the differences. These points do not relate to any one person that is close in my life. Just expressing what I observe on this journey. It's an interesting transformation experience going from one side to another. Once you break free, you look back at your life and are stunned by the differences.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What's after Portland?

If I got a $1 every time I am asked that, it would be radical. On 9/17 very early I fly to Hilton Head, SC for an amazing ecotourism conference that I volunteered for last year in PDX. Then will check out Savannah, GA as it is close to Hilton head, heard great things about it, and even have a college friend there (thanks facebook).

Then heading to Asheville, NC to give it another go and a bit more time. I was there in March but only for one rainy night. Then a long painful bus ride to visit one of my closest friend, Kelly, in Boone, NC. After that I am spending a long weekend in VT as I have a good friend there and I have never been. On this leg of the trip I will be visiting 3 new states: GA, SC, VT.That will be 41 states I have been to in my lifetime.

Finally, via another long bus day on 10/11 going to NYC to care for my beloved babygirl, honzabear. My parents want a week long vacay and they deserve the dog break. I am very excited to see Honey! I decided to stay in nyc for 3 weeks up until Halloween. It is my fav holiday and have not been in nyc for it since I left 5 years ago. I am super stoked. I am also looking forward to some alone time and chillin w/ new and old friends there. All in moderation, of course.

After NYC I have no clue.  Peace Corps can still be an option, so that can be a plan C, if all else fails. I’m working on some ideas and hope to know in a month! Whew, now you know!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Travel Thoughts: Being Vs Consuming Or Nature Vs City Part 1

I have been hiking since I was 19, but always lived in big cities, even in Malta! I must have done a 100 hikes in Oregon but everything was rushed. Talkin and walkin w/ others then go back to the city life just like that. It took me this long to realize what it is to connect with nature and below are some thoughts along the way. They may sound extreme and I am not sorry for them!

The numerous negative impacts of technology, that we do not see or realize for the most part, does NOT outweigh the positives for me. We loose touch with nature, we loose touch with each other, with humanity, our own species. We don’t even need human interaction to reproduce these days. Something is wrong with that to me. We do animal experiments and find a way to create in an unnatural way. Why can’t we accept what we are given, we try to fight and take control over nature. I think people would be happier if they appreciate what they have and not focus on what they don’t have. State of mind is one of the many running themes for me these past 6 months on the road!

I hear from women that they have a real connection to life and nature when being with child, which makes sense to me. But I realized that it is not the only way to feel such a connection. Surrounding yourself w/ nature, taking the TIME to breath and CLEAR your mind can yield such a connection too.
 A friend of a friend made a good observation that while we wait in a room for a table at a restaurant, many are on their phones, communicating with someone else. I have also noticed this phone addiction of people who know each other sitting at the same table. This leads me to ask then why dine or be with others, if you are not truly there? Shall we make dates w/ each other’s physical bodies and expect the other not to be present with us? Why even both at all? Technology and city living offers way too many distractions, preventing us to live in the moment.

Monday, September 5, 2011


After two chill nights at Lassen Volcanic NP, we stopped at Shasta Lake. We were overjoyed by the warm water. We quickly grabbed our towels, suits, and lunch and headed back to the water. This was the warmest swimming I have done this year.

Then headed north to Ashland. I heard it is a cool town and it is known for their summer long Shakespeare Festival. We camped at the only state park enroute to home, Valley of the Rogue. This was more of a pit stop for travelers then a destination area.

You could hear the crickets humming along with the highway cars. We had a nice warm free shower. Picked berries, such a natural sugar/sour taste, so much better than the store ones and it is free! Though you could hear the cars on I-5 zoom by throughout the night, I slept my best and did not even wake up to pee!
 The other week I found and contacted a guy, Ashley, who is doing a documentary on wwoofing. He lives just south of PDX so I set up a mtg. He and his wife did an international wwoofing honeymoon in 2009. He is just about done w/ the editing as this is not his full time job. I think it’s a fantastic film idea and trying to see how I can be of assistance. Besides some promo/marketing, it’s not clear how involved I can/will be; but it is exciting! Click here for a few pix.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lassen Volcanic National Park – Highly Under-mentioned

Lassen Volcanic National Park was never on my list, but it was sorta on the way home, so why not. I think it was mentioned in the NP documentary series and how often does one visit volcanoes?

One night Chris and I discussed happiness. Happiness & bliss is an inner feeling your breath and feel in your soul. You will know when it happens. Try not to seek it so hard. I feel like a Buddhist at times and Alaska is my meditation.
My simple question to anyone is “Are you happy”? This does not need to be over analyzed as I have done so in the past. If you are not happy, change something. But what is the definition of happiness? Well, if you were to die, say, tomorrow and are ok with that then I think you are happy with your life.
We need self-motivation, support, an open mind, attached w/ good personality and confidence to make such changes. I have a vague plan but ok with it changing, mentally ok. The options that lay before me are all pretty rad. So whichever path I choose will be awesome. I appreciate what I had and have, and if that is all, then so be it. Click here for pix.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mono Lake & Lake Tahoe

In NY I was told to visit Mono Lake, which is very close to Yosemite. We took a beautiful quick stroll before heading north. I noticed Lake Tahoe was on the way home, so we decided to camp for a night at Emerald Bay State Park. I was stoked as I quickly drove by Tahoe many years ago but my group was not interested in stopping. But now I see Lake Tahoe is a huge resorty type place, I guess I am getting spoiled with the secluded places I have visited.

I am realizing a huge difference between state and national parks. People use state parks for a quick escape from home/work yet they bring all their crap with them. Loud radios, tons of food, and beer even in bear country! I am not sure why they even leave home. This was the loudest campsite so far on my trip. Before it got louder, Chris commented, “As annoying as it is, it is nice to hear people having fun.” People visiting national parks bring limited supplies and seem to have more respect and desire for nature.

On a positive note, there were less trees and were able to see many stars, which is missing during summer in Alaska. Also swimming was rad as I love to be in the water. Lake Tahoe was chilly but way warmer than Yosemite’s water.

I forget that there are huge fires in CA. I can feel the dryness and lack of moisture in the air. I am surprised campfires are allowed. As a side note, I have not been buying wood to burn. I scout empty campsites for leftover wood or just do w/o a fire. In CA campsites, you can see a lot of fire pollution in the air.  I also refuse to pay for ice even if it is less than $2. It’s more than I need. At gas stations, I ask the cashier if it is ok to fill up a reusable mug with ice by the soda machine or buy a small treat in exchange for the ice. Constant chap lips, dry skin even after lotion, and being in high elevation reminds me of Colorado. Click here for a few pix.