Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category


Sunday, October 17th, 2010

I put a fire pit in my yard this weekend. Why it never occurred to me before now, I have no idea. There was a ring of bricks in the ground out there before I moved in (3 years ago now, jeez) but it was way too close to the shed, and had a very low hanging tree over it. I decided to move it across the yard, and bought a steel fire ring to go with it. When I told my landlord, he mentioned that there were a bunch of bricks behind the shed I could use, a huge pile of fallen sticks and a chopped down tree that had been hit by lightning that I could burn. So… perfect.

There were enough bricks / brick pieces to just fill the inside of the fire pit.

And I’ve had camper pies for dinner both yesterday and today.


National Parks

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Ken Burns’ National Parks documentary is reairing on PBS this month, and you can watch it online as well here. Each episode is only available online for a short amount of time and episode 1 ends tomorrow.

Did you know that you can get an annual pass to the National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands for only $80? It’s a great idea if you happen to be going on a long road trip, where the $10-20 fees at the popular parks can add up. Even if you don’t plan on going to that many parks in a year, it’s still a great way to support them. The pass is good for a whole vehicle full of people at per-car fee areas, or the pass holder plus three adults at per-person fee areas, so you only need one per family / travel group too.

One great souvenir from the parks I found out about after my last trip is the Passport to Your National Parks. It’s a little guidebook where you can add commemorative stickers with even more information that come out every year, and most importantly you can get dated stamped cancellations at each national park or historic site you visit. I wish I had gotten one when I was little because I have been to so many places. Now I’ll just have to go back to all of them and more to get stamped. I thought it was a great keepsake idea and I got one for every member of my family this past Christmas.

Batona Trail

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I started hiking the Batona Trail today with my dad and some friends. Batona stands for Back To Nature. It’s the longest blazed trail in South Jersey, 50 miles through the Pinelands, and was created by a hiking club out of Philadelphia in 1961. We’re planning on doing it in 8-10 mile increments over the next several weekends, maybe with an overnighter thrown in somewhere. We started at the North end, and did about an 8.5 mile hike past a frozen Pakim Pond. The temperature was 18F when we started at 9:30 and warmed up to about 28F by the time we finished at 1:30. The pace wasn’t too fast overall because it had to account for frequent pauses to adjust layers as we warmed up in the sun or cooled off in the shade. We were perfectly warm once we got moving but any break couldn’t last more than a couple of minutes or we’d start to get really cold again. We even had to eat lunch on the move. There was still some snow left on the trail so it was very pretty, despite all the non-pine trees being mostly bare.

Going to the West

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Day 1: NJ, PA. I had planned to leave late Friday afternoon but when do I ever leave for a trip on time? I probably didn’t get going until after 5:00, with my plan to get to Pittsburgh. I knew it was supposed to rain a little farther west so I started out with rain gear on. I’d never been on 76 west of Harrisburg before and I imagine it was very pretty, but it was dark by the time I got out there. There are a bunch of tunnels on the route too, which I enjoy. When I did finally get to Pittsburgh, I missed my turn off the exit and when I went to turn around, I ended up underneath the road I wanted and back on the highway but I remembered the name of the neighborhood Iris lives in and followed signs for that. Once I got there I took out my phone to check the map only to find out my battery had died. I was using a GPS tracking software which was apparently set to transmit my location too much and drained the battery. There were quite a lot of people walking around so I asked for directions, turns out I was only a few blocks away. Then when I got to the building, I needed to find a way to get in since I couldn’t call. I missed the fact that you could buzz up to the apartments but I found a security door open and managed to get in myself. A couple of Iris’ other friends from college were also visiting so we hung out for a while.

Day 2: PA, OH. The next morning we met up to go out to breakfast at the Coca Cafe, which was delicious, and walked around a market area for a while. It’s a good thing I was on a bike and had no room for souvenirs or I would have bought a lot. I ended up with only a pair of earrings from a flea market. I did have to get going to make it to Cleveland though so I left mid afternoon. The weather was decent although I noticed that the battery harness on my bike had melted a little bit so I couldn’t plug in my heated gear or charge my phone. It wasn’t really cold so I just put on lots of layers until I could get to a dealership. I made it to Cleveland without incident and found a parking spot right outside my cousin’s apartment building. It’s a pretty cool building that used to be a hotel. Christian and I waited for Sean to walk over, then we went out to dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant and hung out the rest of the night at Christian’s place.

Day 3: OH, MI, IN. I got up early because I needed to make it to South Bend, which wasn’t too far, but I was also meeting up with some fellow Sportster riders along the way who were going to show me some nice roads along southern Michigan. I met up with Perry at a Cabela’s and we rode along route 12. After filling up at a gas station at one point, I started having problems not getting gas when I twisted the throttle, and of course it also started raining at that point, so we limped along on the shoulder to the next gas station where we got some Gum Out, which fixed it right up. It stopped raining and the sun came out for a while so I took off my rain jacket, and of course it started raining again. So I put the jacket back on and the sun came back out. And nature and I went back and forth like this all day until I finally just left the jacket on so we’d have sun. We found an open dealer so I could get a new battery harness, then stopped for a late lunch and met up with Joe, then continued riding for a while. Perry had to break off to get home so Joe and I continued on and met up with Bud. They took me right into South Bend and we found my great uncle and aunt’s house. I hadn’t seen my Uncle Charles and Aunt Mickey in a long time so it was great to see them. They took me on a tour of Notre Dame’s campus, where my uncle used to teach, and I got to see the cathedral and grotto and lake, all very pretty. We went out to dinner then hung out for a while more at the house.

Day 4: IN, IL, IA, MO, KS. It was hard to leave the next morning but I had a long day ahead of me, all highway to Kansas City. The weather was gorgeous, sun and clear skies all day, which made the highway very enjoyable. I didn’t stop much since I had far to go but I did stop for the World’s Largest Truck Stop (Iowa 80), and the Iowa Firefighter Memorial. I made it to Cindy’s late but she had some chili waiting. It was great to meet her, she has something like 127,000 miles on a 2007 Sportster.

Day 5: KS. We stopped by the local dealer then I had to get on the road. I took highway for a little while west across Kansas, then broke off to hit some touristy spots. First stop was Cawker City to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, which I actually missed on my first way through the town because I was expecting to see this ball of twine looming up over the houses. It’s not actually that big though so I found it on my second pass through. After that I stopped at a little red schoolhouse from 1874 that had been restored. Then on to Lebanon to see the Geographical Center of the Continental United States. I finally made it across to Goodland where I planned on seeing a giant Van Gogh and camping for the night. I had seen on a map that morning a place called the Mid America Camp Inn and planned on staying there, but when I arrived there wasn’t anyone in the office and it looked pretty run down so I went back to the KOA I had seen listed on the exit sign and got a spot there for the night. It was pretty cold so as soon as I was done cleaning up after dinner I got in my sleeping bag. I was in Mountain Time at this point but still sort of running on Eastern Time so it felt later than it actually was.

Day 6: KS, CO. I woke up way too early but I managed to fall back asleep for a little bit. I was very impressed with the bathrooms when I showered, very clean (important when camping!), and took my time packing up to get back on the road. I wanted to get to Boulder so just took all highway to Tim’s house there. We went out for a ride on some nice twisty roads, especially nice after the endlessly straight roads of Kansas. We ran into some elk crossing the street (not literally) so I stopped to take pictures, although they started getting a little too close so we moved on. We also stopped by the hotel from The Shining, one of the creepiest movies I’ve ever seen. It was a nice loop and we went out for dinner when we got back then stopped at REI so I could pick up another baselayer for the coming very cold days.

Day 7: CO, WY, SD. I had planned to ride around Colorado and Wyoming for two days on my way to Rapid City but my cousin there told me there was supposed to be snow and very cold temperatures so I went straight up in one shot to beat it. I left Boulder early and there was some rain mixed with snow falling but I was okay in my heated gear. Nothing was collecting on the road but a thick crust of ice managed to accumulate on the front of my bike and my lower legs. I didn’t even notice at first since I had so many layers on, I just happened to look down and see it, pretty surreal. Once I got into Wyoming for a little bit, the sun came out and it warmed up enough that the ice started melting enough for some of it to start falling off. I knocked off the rest at a gas stop. I didn’t make too many stops since it was so cold. I rarely even got off the bike at gas stops since that would’ve meant unplugging the heated gear. I did get off at the first gas stop to put toe warmers in my boots, and at the second gas stop to put more toe warmers in my boots. I made it into South Dakota before I realized I hadn’t made a single stop or taken a single picture in Wyoming. I wanted to stop at Ft. Laramie but it seemed too far off the exit and I wanted to make time to Rapid since I was unsure of the weather. I think for a future trip I want to trace the Oregon Trail, I’ve always been really interested in that. Any way, I hopped off the highway to take back roads the rest of the way in since the sun seemed to be staying out. I knew I probably wouldn’t get much chance to ride around western South Dakota like I’d planned because of the weather so I wanted to at least get some nice riding in before the snow. I took a route through the Black Hills National Forrest, which was beautiful. I saw Crazy Horse and went past the turnoff for Mount Rushmore but didn’t go in since I knew I’d probably be sightseeing with my cousin over the weekend. I arrived much earlier than I thought I would, only Erin was home. Once Matt got home we went out to dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Co, then out for a drink at the Hotel Alex Johnson, a cool old place built in 1927.

Day 8-12: SD. Temperatures were below freezing and I worried about black ice on the back roads I wanted to ride so I didn’t do any riding. Mainly just went out in downtown Rapid at night and did some touristy things. Matt took me in to Ellsworth AFB for a tour and I got to see the inside of the B1 Bomber that he flies, very interesting. We went out to see Mount Rushmore one afternoon as well.

Day 13: SD. I had decided to stay in South Dakota longer if the weather was nice and just miss some later planned stops, but of course the weather was still crappy so I just got going. It was raining but I went through the Badlands and stopped at a prairie homestead any way. Once I got back on the highway though, it was miserable with the rain and really strong winds so I stopped early and got a room to dry out in since I don’t like riding sideways on an already slick road.

Day 14-15: SD, NE, MO, IL, IN, KY, WV, VA. I had to do all highway and lots of it to make it to my friend’s house in southern VA so I didn’t make any really long stops. I did go through the Nebraska sand hills and check out a few historical things (Pony Express station, sod house), along with being caught in a NE State Police check point, but they were all quick. I made it to Caz and Scott’s late but we managed to stay up even later to hang out.

Day 16: VA. Caz had to work so Scott and I went out for a barbecue lunch and then hiking at the Cascade Falls with their dog. Once she got home we went out for a tour of Virginia Tech’s campus and a very good Italian dinner then hung out some more at the house.

Day 17: VA, PA, NJ. I took all highway home since I was expecting to run into some storms but I actually had sun the whole way. I must have been right behind the storm because everything was still wet when I got home. I was exhausted so didn’t even bother to unpack. It’s very nice to be back in my own bed.


Note: I had this song stuck in my head for most of the trip.

Delaware Valley Bluegrass

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I camped at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival for the fourth time this Labor Day weekend. We had a pretty big compound this year, I’d say almost 20 people, so lots of jamming went on. As for the acts this weekend, there were some great bands again. I really enjoyed Marty Stuart, who I saw a few years ago at Grey Fox, and the Steep Canyon Rangers, who I saw last year at Del Val. April Verch and Rhonda Vincent were good acts too. I did miss a few people since I spent a lot more time in the camping area than by the stage, but a lot of them I’d already seen before at past festivals.

I put new strings on my mandolin, which I’ve never done before. Considering I still had on the factory strings from two years ago, they made a huge difference in the sound. Apparently most people change their strings a few times a year. A friend we camp with who used to be a luthier also showed me how to set up the mandolin – lowered the action and set the intonation – so it’s also a lot easier to play now. I’m still not very good because I don’t practice very much, but I’m never home much either. Another friend told me about a workshop happening in Maryland in October so I signed up for that. I’ll actually already be camping near the location of it that weekend so it’s very convenient.

We had gorgeous weather the whole weekend. I rode down for it and managed to fit everything, including the mandolin and a ton of food, on my bike. I got new saddlebags earlier this summer and they can fit a whole lot of stuff. I had one completely filled with groceries. I added the tank bag just so I could bring two loaves of bread without squishing them. I forgot to take pictures the rest of the weekend but here’s me all packed up and ready to go home on Monday morning:

Wissahickon Valley Park

Monday, July 13th, 2009

I finally made it out to Wissahickon Valley Park yesterday to try hiking there. I’ve been meaning to check it out for a while since I heard there was nice hiking and it’s right in Philly. Usually I have to drive an hour or two to get to nice (not flat) hiking so I wasn’t prepared for just how nice it would be there. I was expecting paved or gravel paths for most of it but we were actually on a trail almost the whole time, pretty rocky for most of it, some steep inclines and everything. A few times we popped out onto a road or next to someone’s backyard, but for the most part, there was no indication we were in a city. We didn’t even run into that many people. There is crap for maps online so we bought a $6 trail map from the inn everyone seems to park at and although it had plenty of detail, the detail seemed to be wrong or way off scale for much of the trails we chose. I know there’s a gorge in the park somewhere but it wasn’t indicated on the map and we didn’t come across it. We hiked around the north area of the creek though so it must be in the south. I’ll definitely be going back sometime to check it out.

One of my friends used some iphone app to track where we were and it did a pretty good job. We only hiked about 8 miles or so.

Wissahickon hike

November trip on the Sporty

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Day 1

Destination: Raleigh, NC. Got a late start, of course, because I left some things to do in the morning that I should have already had done. The day was gorgeous but it seemed like I was riding into the sun the whole time, even though I was headed south. A little bit of traffic around DC but nothing else in the way. Almost out of Virginia (which is entirely too long) and started having gas problems. A few months ago I had a problem which I thought was bad gas or something blocking the line and switching to reserve got me through it. This time that wasn’t working. Any way the bike was still running, just hiccuping once in a while, then I had to sit in almost stopped traffic for no apparent reason for almost an hour and after that the bike could barely run. I got up to 60 but couldn’t go faster, and had to keep goosing the throttle in a certain spot to keep it up. It still gradually slowed down though so I took the next exit for a gas station. I had my service manual with me and I ran through all their possible problems and couldn’t find anything wrong. A guy saw me and came over to help, turns out he’s the road captain of his club, and had a bunch of tools in his trunk. He couldn’t figure it out either so I located a Harley dealership 10 miles away and called them. I explained the problem and everything they told me to check we had already done. At this point their service department was already closed and the rest of the place would only be open for another hour but he told me some guys offered to stay and take a look and he came and got me in the truck. The guy who had been helping me offered to come along and that way if they were able to fix it, he could follow behind me a ways in case I had any more problems since we were both headed in the same direction. We got to the dealership and they were able to fix it in around 30 minutes. Turns out there was a bunch of junk in the float bowl, which I should have known to check but missed. Back on the road, only about 90 minutes left to my cousin’s house. Arrived late, went out to eat dinner, collapsed in bed.

Day 2

I had planned to head to Jacksonville that day but because of my late arrival the night before, I decided to stay an extra day to hang out with my cousin and her husband. They just got a German Shepherd mix puppy so we went and hung out at the dog park. Very cute place, I’d never been to a dog park before. There was a bulldog there named Fats Magee, which is probably the greatest name ever.

Day 3

Destination: Orange Park, FL. I left Raleigh just around lunch time, hit some rain for a while through South Carolina, and after searching a while at the end for a road name that didn’t exist, arrived through some other road at my friend’s house. She and her husband and 3 girls just moved there because he’s stationed nearby (Navy). One of her daughters had just told them at 8:30 that a school project was due the next day so they were working on that. They fed me dinner and I went to bed.

Day 4

Husband and twins out to work and school so it was just me, my friend, and the super cute baby. Election Day so we went out for her to vote. I had already done absentee ballot, don’t worry. We had fun honking and cheering for Obama supporters and booing and giving thumbs down to lots of McCain supporters out with their signs. I had to fix my front brake light switch again. I had broken it before and instead of replacing the switch, just glued a bit of plastic to my brake lever so it could reach (which I intended to be a permanent fix because I’m lazy). The plastic fell off at some point though so I glued another piece in. I guess I’ll actually replace the switch now. After taking care of that, we basically just caught up all day, watched the election results that night, were very happy, and went to bed.

Day 5

Destination: Stecoah, NC. I left right after the girls left for school, nothing out of the ordinary on the ride, arrived at the campground around dinner time. I was staying at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge since I knew several people who’d been there before and liked it, and it looked great from the website. It was just dark when I arrived and the office was closed, despite their hours saying they’d be open, which made me nervous since I hadn’t called ahead. The cook lives on site though and came out and told me to just pick a spot to set up my tent and pay in the morning. I found some picnic tables in my headlight and found a grassy spot near them. No other tent campers, one couple in a cabin. This place is great though. They have a lodge that’s open all night and I was told I could take my sleeping bag to one of the couches in there if I got too cold in my tent. My sleeping bag is rated at 0 degrees so I was fine, but that is very cool of them. They also had the cleanest campground bathrooms I’d ever seen, in addition to providing shampoos, soaps, and a hair dryer. Usually I just hope the bathroom has a hand dryer I can hang my head under. Definitely don’t want wet hair outside in November. Any way I made dinner and went to bed.

Day 6

Talked to the owners of the campground and they recommended some good roads in the area. I got sort of a late start but managed to do a 5-6 hour loop and got back to the campground right at dark. I took 28 out to the Tail of the Dragon, continued on 129 to 72, 411, 360, 165 to some water falls, the Cherohala Skyway, continued on 143, down another part of 129, 19 to Wayah Rd which they told me is sort of a mini Tail of the Dragon, 64, then 28 back in. It was a great ride. That night there were 2 more people in the cabins, but no more tents. Cooked dinner and went to bed.

Day 7

Destination: Fancy Gap, VA. Got on the road early and made my way up to the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’d gone maybe 15 miles when I ran into a road closure, which wasn’t listed on the park’s website and also had no detour signs. I had ridden by another entrance not too far away on my way in the other day but it had a Road Closed sign on it too so I decided to just take highway up to the end of a 45 mile detour I knew was coming up. Finally got back on the parkway and stopped at an overlook for lunch. Back on my way, that road is just fantastic. Long, sweeping curves at a nice speed and not much traffic when I was there. It’s just so relaxing and happy compared to highway riding. I was aiming for Fancy Gap Cabins since I knew they’d be open in November (hard to find). Arrived at 5 and was able to set up camp, cook dinner, and clean up before dark. Again, no other tent campers and only one couple in a cabin. That campground was little but nice, especially since it’s right on the parkway. The sites weren’t too big and were mostly set up for RVs, not tents, but they had a nice bathhouse with a bunch of individual bathrooms (toilet, shower and sink in each), and a bunch of tiny cabins for rent. I think I saw a sign saying the campground was for sale. I’d love to live up there and run a campground. As a matter of fact, I never realized people lived right on the parkway. I mean their driveways don’t open on to it but their houses are right there. I think I need to go live in the mountains.

Day 8

Destination: Middletown, VA. I finished up the Blue Ridge Parkway. At one point I left the parkway for gas (I think route 43) and took a fun little twisty road through some national forest for a few miles. Very steep drop on one side, rock wall on the other side, blind curves, and almost every oncoming car seemed to think the double yellow lines didn’t apply to them. One time I came around a curve and found an oncoming car completely in my lane. Any way, made it to the gas station where some old guy who came over to look at my bike thought I was a dude until I started talking back to him. I know I had a full face helmet on but I think my jacket’s pretty girly. Back up the twisty road, had to drop into first to get around some of the curves which were on a steep uphill at the same time. Back on the parkway and made it to Skyline Drive. Gas stations are on Skyline Drive which is very convenient. It was a lot more crowded than the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a lower speed limit, and in my opinion not as good views. Also it cost me $10. So the BRP wins. My plan had been to stay at the Battle of Cedar Creek Campground in Middletown (also open in November) and take highway home in the morning but I finished Skyline around 5:00 and didn’t feel like going to bed at 7:30 again because it was cold and dark and I had nothing else to do (I’d already finished both books I brought with me) so I decided to just go the rest of the way home. Still got home at a reasonable time, just had about a 13 hour day. I wasn’t tired though, or cold either due to my new heated gear (love it!), and was happy to be able to sleep in my own bed that night.


Traveling a lot

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. I was home a total of 4 days in May, and then I was away the first two weeks of June. Here’s a recap of the most interesting stuff:

San Francisco

Eddie Rickenbacker’s is a fantastic bar that has all these old motorcycles hanging from the ceiling – mostly Harleys and Indians with a bunch of other older ones thrown in. I think there was one bike from the ’50s, with all the other ones being even older. A lot were the almost bicycle looking ones with pedals. They have one ’41 Indian that had been given to Clark Gable by MGM. Apparently the owner sits in a recliner in the front all day long and tells people about it but he was actually in the hospital while I was there so I didn’t get a chance to talk with him. One last cool thing – the fat cat that wanders around and all over the bar.

I toured the USS Pampanito, a submarine from WWII. That kind of thing is interesting to me because my grandfather was in the Navy in WWII, although he was on a LSM (landing ship medium) and not a submarine. The quarters in there were ridiculously tight. I don’t know how they stood it.

I saw Tyrone Wells at the Red Devil Lounge. It was a cool little venue, kind of reminded me of the Troc. Wells was good although I honestly can’t remember the name of the opener. Wells was more soul and the opener was more emo I think, which I’m not at all into.

The Plough & the Stars in SF is so much better than the one in Philly. They have live music almost every night, whether its Irish or bluegrass, an actual concert or a jam session, or even set dancers. I’ve heard the one in Philly has Irish music on Sunday afternoons but I’ve never been. I know it’s pretty crappy and crowded on Friday and Saturday nights but that’s because it’s in Old City. While I was in SF, I went on a night with an Irish jam session and had a great time, ended up talking with some of the Gasmen most of the night. They opened for Gaelic Storm back before Titanic made them big.

I also saw the Ed Earley Band at Biscuits and Blues. Another cool venue although it was practically empty that night. The band was good, great rhythm and blues going on.

One last thing about San Francisco – it has absolutely amazing weather to walk around in, and motorcycles are everywhere – on the road, tons of parking for them. I’d love to see Philly get into that.

Camp Jam in the Pines

This was my first time at Camp Jam although my dad had gone before. I had a great time even though it rained for half the weekend. Everyone still stood or danced in the rain though to see the great musicians playing. Friday night had a sort of Cajun / blues theme going on so that was my favorite night. I saw the Red Stick Ramblers again along with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys – both were really good. It was at a really nice campground too, which is surprising for South Jersey. Most of the ones here are not in good shape but I would definitely go to Old Cedar Campground again. Actually I’m already scheduled to go there this fall for Camp Jam again (they do spring and fall festivals every year).

North Carolina

I went down to North Carolina on Memorial Day weekend to visit my cousin and her husband and check out their new house. Raleigh is a nice little city, although it feels more like a small town. The people there are way too friendly for my comfort zone, although I think coming from the North East I’m weirded out if people even look at me. We actually spent most of the weekend backpacking though. It was my second trip and their first so we did a 2 nighter in the Uwharrie Lakes Region. Beautiful and we kept crossing over a creek so we got to use my new water filtration system – the Katadyn Hiker Pro. I highly recommend it. Lightweight, quick, and works like a charm. The water was pretty tasty too. One other piece of new equipment I got to try out was my Thermarest Trekker Chair. Nothing feels better after hiking all day than having a comfortable chair to sit in, but since any kind of camp chair or stool weighs more than I want to carry this was a great solution. I bring a Thermarest any way and that slides right into the extremely lightweight “chair” (really just a fabric pocket) and it’s oh so comfy.

Usually when you go camping with someone new, you get to see their gear and then you have a new list of things you “need” to have for next time. Well my cousins had the tent I already knew I wanted – REI’s Quarter Dome T2 – but it was nice to see it in action and made me want it more. It actually weighs less than my current one person tent, and has room to sit up and store your pack. They had a hammock too, which was cool and made me look into camping hammocks where I found the Hennesy Backpacker Hammock. With a mesh top and even a rainfly, who needs a tent? It can actually be set up as a tent with two hiking poles though if trees aren’t available for hanging from. Plus, since you’re off the ground there’s also no need for a Thermarest, and you can just sit in your hammock so no need for a chair either. Having a hammock would save so much weight. It might be my next purchase instead of the new tent.


Well Miami turned out to be not that interesting because it was a quick trip where I worked late every night and wasn’t feeling well the whole time. I did get to go to a nice Argentinian restaurant though, although I’m totally blanking on the name right now. Maybe it’ll come to me later.

North Jersey

North Jersey doesn’t sound too exciting but since I had just been gone for a month and had barely any chance to ride my new bike, I decided to take it with me to North Jersey for the two weeks I was there. I got in a lot of solo riding time, in addition to longer distance riding, and I feel much more capable on the bike. Not all my riding was solo though since a friend of mine who rides lives near where I was staying so I got a chance to ride with her a couple nights too. I mainly spent my time riding to state parks since they’re generally a free destination and are usually surrounded by nice roads. I managed to get to Hopatcong, Washington Crossing, Round Valley, and Spruce Run. I passed 1,000 miles on the bike while I was up there too which made me pretty happy.

Appel Farm

I went to the 20th year of Appel Farm’s Arts and Music Festival. My family has been going for 18 of those years and we always get our tickets ahead of time so we were definitely attending, despite the 103 degree temperature. We set up canopies so we weren’t right in the sun but it was brutal. Great musicians but we ended up leaving early and missing both stages’ headliners because it was just so damn hot.


What’s interesting in Scranton? Cliff jumping near a big dam and some waterfalls. You have to walk along some railroad tracks and then go down a trail to get there so I think we were technically trespassing but it was a great spot. Obviously well used by the locals so it’s not like we were going to get in trouble for being there. I didn’t do more than a 12 foot jump because I’m a baby but there were some people I was with doing maybe 30? I’m awful at guessing heights. Some locals who came and sat at the top of the dam getting stoned for an hour then proceeded to jump from the very top. I felt like I was about to watch someone die but they made it. I guess they’re used to the place. We brought goggles to check below the surface for any rocks or whatever before jumping but they just went right in. It was a gorgeous spot though and I plan on going back.

Ricketts Glen State Park

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

I stayed at Ricketts Glen State Park this past weekend. I had said I’d drive, so of course it snowed again. I love snowy rush hours on Friday nights when driving far. Most of the ride was okay, although I did about half the speed limit after Hickory Run again, especially after leaving the turnpike. The last 5 miles were the worst though. My car couldn’t make it up the steep hill. The two people with me had to get out and push, I was pretty much not getting any traction with tires spinning constantly as I fish tailed across the road. A couple of pickup trucks blew by but otherwise the road was empty. Finally a plow came and cleared a path that I was able to roll into backwards and try to make it up the hill some more. There was still an icy coat on the road so I didn’t make much more progress than I had been without the plow. It came by again going down the hill and dropped salt this time. The driver told us to give it a few minutes for the salt to start working and then try again. This time I was able to get some traction, although I still managed to lose it every ten feet or so. We did make it to the park entrance and although the park roads were covered in snow and hadn’t been plowed, my car was able to get through the powdery, non-icy stuff there to the one cabin where we were meeting people. It was late but we were only the second car there so we still had to wait for everyone else to arrive before turning in. The original plan was to split between cabins and tents but it was so late that no one felt like driving over to the tent sites to see how they looked since they’d probably not be in good shape any way. There was room in the cabins due to people backing out last minute though so all the tent campers just stayed there. Ricketts Glen has modern cabins and they were very nice inside – two bedrooms, living room, bathroom with shower, full kitchen (including microwave), and, most importantly, heat.

Saturday we did about a 4.5 mile hike through most of the Falls Trail. It was gorgeous, although I’d like to see what the trail actually looks like some time when it’s not covered by a foot of snow. We were guided by Quest, who also provided crampons and ice axes in case we would need them. We actually didn’t need the crampons for most of the trail, although the axes came in handy on the really steep parts where we either had to climb up or basically do a controlled slide down. The only part we did need the crampons for was at the last waterfall we saw, where there was a spiral staircase built into the rock, but without any support on the outside edge and with a straight drop down from there. The guides managed to chop away some of the ice before we climbed up but some people had trouble with crampons coming off halfway there. It was a great hike though, lots of fun to get through the tough parts. I realized I should invest in some waterproof pants, or at least gaiters, if I’m going to plan on doing any more really snowy winter hikes.

Sunday we did another hike to see the falls we had missed the previous day, this time with snowshoes. I’ve heard that some people don’t like snowshoes but I thought they were a blast. Maybe they were a little tricky going over difficult / narrow spots, but they made walking over the rest of the snow so much easier that it was worth it. We did a shorter hike this day, probably a little less than 4 miles, but we still had to drive home so I’m glad we finished early.

The whole weekend was a great time. Quest seems like a great program. They offer outdoor courses and trips, specific outings for groups, and also provide outdoor leadership training through Bloomsburg University. I would have loved to do a program like that in school.

Tobyhanna State Park

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I went up to the Poconos last weekend for a “ski” trip. I don’t ski though so I spent it tubing and hiking and managed to persuade a few other non-skiers to join me. We were right near Tobyhanna State Park so decided to check out the trails there. There were about 6-8 inches of snow on the ground and it was absolutely beautiful. We saw a few other people in the park – cross country skiing and snowshoeing – but for the most part were alone. We did part of the Lakeside Trail in order to get to the Yellow Trail, although we didn’t make it to the end of the Yellow Trail. The snow slowed us down so much and we hadn’t started until a little while after lunch so we decided to turn back rather than risk getting caught still on the trail at dark. I would say we did about 5 miles total, which isn’t bad I guess. I just hate turning back before the end of a trail. It’s definitely a great spot though and worth checking out again. It’s not too far, probably only 2 hours when the roads are clear, which they definitely weren’t Friday night, at least not once we got closer. As soon as we passed Hickory Run, it was a like a line was drawn between just wet road and snow-covered road. Granted my car’s not the best for getting around in bad weather but it usually makes it through just fine. My normally black car looked completely gray though by the time I got home again. I had to take it to a car wash right away to get rid of all the snow crud and salt.