Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Mushroom a Day I

My friend Linda would probably have fun decorating these with faces.





Monday, September 29, 2008

Anniversary Hike with Hubster, Take 2

OK, for those of you (and you know who you are) who have been prevented by Big Brother from accessing anything on the Facebook site from a work computer, here's a short trip report, with some of the pictures I posted on Facebook.

The plan was to leave on Friday. I worked half a day at work, then came home, feeling a little down. The sky was gun-metal grey, and storms were expected all weekend. The very air felt heavy and weighted down with moisture. I don't mind hiking in the rain (really, I don't!), but I didn't want to spend our fifth anniversary weekend getting soaked and carrying wet gear.

What to do, what to do? My ultralight pack cover was nowhere to be found. We still needed to get batteries. And oh, but I was in a foul mood. Tired and cranky and ... yes, sometimes it sucks being a girl. Sweet Hubster ("Sheltowee" on the trail) would not be discouraged, though. He is a happy fellow, despite my occasional moodiness, and when I said I wanted to wait until the next day to leave, he was fine with it.

So I went back to work, got my forty hours in for the week, and headed home again.

We had a good evening, actually. We made our camp dinners (we had, after all, packed them for Friday's night's dinners, after dehydrating all kinds of veggies to go in them) and watched the presidential debate. We got to bed relatively early, since we would be hiking the next day.

It was still grey and foreboding the next day, but we were not to be deterred. I was no longer tired and cranky. I was ready to hike! We drove out to the Standing Indian Campground and started out on the Kimsey Creek Trail. We started hiking just after 10:00.



It was a pleasant little hike along the creek--lots of mushrooms to photograph.





Soon we went uphill ... and up ... and up. Next thing we knew, we'd hiked for an hour or more and were on a ridge ... hmm ... Sheltowee said, "I've hiked the Kimsey Creek Trail before. This ain't the Kimsey Creek Trail."

We realized where we were--on some connector trail far from the Kimsey Creek Trail, and not very close to where the Kimsey Creek Trail was supposed to take us: Deep Gap, and the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). But, we could take our current trail to a road ... which would take us, after a two-mile roadwalk, to Deep Gap. Let's go.

Sheltowee and I were happy as could be. We were hiking, it wasn't raining, and we were celebrating five years of marriage to our Mr. and Mrs. Right, respectively. So we didn't let a little thing like a detour get in our way. We spotted a cool little spider on our road walk.



Our feet were hurting from the road walk by the time we finally reached Deep Gap. We entered the Nantahala National Forest and hiked up to Standing Indian. It was nothing like I remembered it when I was there on my thru-hike. Then again, most of my memory of the southern part of the trail is little more than a blur of cold and snow and ice.

Coming out of Standing Indian Shelter (where we had our lunch break), we met a couple of guys from the Nantahala Hiking Club doing trail maintenance. We helped them carry a big fallen log. It just about killed my back. Note to self: Don't pick up big fallen logs, no matter how guilty you feel for not helping with trail maintenance.

We stopped several times on the hike to consider how far we should go. Carter Gap Shelter was the logical stopping place, but ... that would make for a 14-mile hike. After sitting at desk-jobs for weeks and weeks. Even though Sheltowee had hiked 800 miles this spring, and even though I am running 20+ miles a week these days, we still didn't feel like we were in sufficient hiking shape to do 14 miles on our first day out. Especially considering it would make for a 14-mile hike the next day.

What the heck. We hiked all the way to Carter Gap Shelter and still had daylight to spare. "We are bad mamma jammas," I said triumphantly. Sheltowee agreed. Fourteen miles in just over 8 hours. Not bad for a couple of desk-jobbers on their first day out.

Here's the "anniversary suite."



The old Carter Gap Shelter is still there, but there's a new one, and it's pretty nice. There was only one mouse living there, and the worst it did was steal the two buckeyes we had picked up on the trail earlier that day.

The next day was beautiful. Pale blue sky, just a few puffy white clouds. We had coffee and breakfast and hit the trail at about a quarter after nine. It was an "in-the-zone" day for hiking. The trail was gentle and smooth, and there were mushrooms everywhere. We took lots of mushroom pictures.









We also caught a great view somewhere between Betty Creek Gap and the climb up Albert Mountain.



Sheltowee had nightmarish memories of Albert Mountain from when he thru-hiked the A.T. northbound in 1999. He wondered, would it still be the hateful climb it had been before?

Yes, he said, after we made the climb. It was still a mean old butt-kicking climb. ("Those wimpy northbounders," I thought to myself. "Complaining about a little old uphill jaunt like Albert.")

The views were fantastic. There were several others on the summit of Albert, including a threesome who had met the previous year while thru-hiking. We chatted with them awhile, then went up the fire tower and took more pictures.



Here's the Sheltowee and me, happily married for five years:



And we hiked on. Easy, easy trail. ("Those wimpy northbounders," I thought to myself. "Complaining about how hard the A.T. is in North Carolina. Heck, we southbounders didn't get this much smooth trail until Vermont!")



We reached Rock Gap Shelter around 3:30 or 4:00 Sunday afternoon. Sheltowee had to use the privy, so we hiked down to the shelter and Sheltowee made a beeline (heh, heh) for the privy. Meanwhile, I found the waterlogged, mouse-gnawed shelter register and tried to read a few faded entries before I gave up. I walked around to the front of the shelter and noticed a note the size of an index card pinned to the front of the shelter. It was dated 8/31/08.

"Do NOT use the privy," it read. "There is a giant wasp nest in there."

I thought for a moment, then reasoned, "The Nantahala Hiking Club is an active hiking club. They are good trail maintainers. I bet they've gotten rid of that wasp nest by now."

But ... then they would have taken the note down ... right?

"HUBBIE!" I yelled, running toward the privy. "HUBBIE, get--"

Hubbie ran out, yelling, swatting himself. I have never seen him looking so ... panicked. I was panicked, too. "Get out of there! I yelled, grabbing his pack. "Come on! Run!"

He stood there, swatting. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he started to run back toward the shelter, cursing the whole way.

We flew up the side trail back to the A.T. Turns out Hubster got stung eight or ten times. (No, they didn't sting him on his butt, Mrs. Gwen.) I was scared he would suffer some sort of allergic reaction, but fortunately he didn't. Poor Sheltowee.

"Why didn't you run when you first came out of there?" I asked.

"I did run!"

Either he was in a sort of shock and couldn't think to run, or time was standing still for me and the "eternity" that he stood still, swatting, was really only a half-second. I think it was probably the latter.

On the two-mile walk back to the campground, we decided that this was one of those stories we would laugh about someday. Just not today. We were both happy that the stings hadn't swollen up and that they'd even ceased to hurt after a few minutes. My hubbie, he's a tough one.



We got back to the campground to complete what had become a 28.5-mile hike for the weekend. Our feet hurt, but we felt good. We were bad mamma jammas.

I think we're going hiking again next week.

Update: Sheltowee's evil attackers were white-faced, or bald-faced, hornets. (Attention, white-faced hornets: The evil intruder in your privy home was a white-faced, or bald-headed, Sheltowee. Har, har, har!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Waterfall: Makes Water Fall From Sky

I seem to be living up to my trail name.


See that big cloud in the Atlantic? I don't care what they call it. That cloud's name is Murphy, as my Barefoot Sister friends will attest. Murphy is my constant companion and hiking buddy. It looks like his evil sister Murphelda is close behind. And their spiteful Baby Murphs are coming up for a visit from the Caribbean.



But weather.com is using words like "slight" and "occasional" in its forecast, so I'm keeping my hopes up.

Update: I just learned that Murphelda has gone incognito and is now using the name "Tropical Storm Kyle." Murphelda, you're not fooling anyone. We know it's really you!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Last Hoo-rah

Well, development season is almost upon us. Actually, it's here. The Hubster and I are going hiking this weekend as our last hoo-rah before my I hand the next five or six months of my life over to The Company. Oh, and it's also our anniversary weekend.

So we can't decide which tent to use. We both kind of want to try out our one-man tents--his because he hasn't used it in a long time, and mine because I bought it used a couple of years ago and have yet to use it myself (though I've lent it out quite a few times).

But we can't do the one-man-tent thing for our anniversary weekend.

It'll be five years, by the way. And here's our weather forecast:



Although Hubster and I generally live in great harmony, our supernatural powers--his power of making the sun shine, and mine of making it rain--will be in a brutal struggle this weekend. According to the polls forecast, I am winning ... but a lot can happen between now and the weekend.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's a Good Thing I Love My Job So Much

... because I'm at work today ...



... and it's perfect hiking weather out there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Those Nice People

I just love the people I work with. Today they gave me a "Welcome to our town" party. They got it all set up while I was off practicing my Bach like a good little tech-writer-by-day-pianist-by-lunch self.

Hi, Robert! Yes, I'm going to write to you soon. I can't tell you how many times I've started to send you an e-mail and then just got depressed and discouraged because I had no piano news to share. I'm very impressed re: the Variations, BTW. I'm still slugging away at my intermediate pieces.

I feel really, really sick over this whole Sarah Palin e-mail hacking thing. Usually elections are entertainment extravaganzas for me, but today I felt utterly sad and disappointed and depressed at how cruel we humans can be.

I'm also sick over the whole Wall Street/banking debacle. Not that I understand very much of it ... again, I just have this overwhelming sense of disappointment in ... us. In Americans. Is that cheesy? I thought so.

So it's good that those nice people at work gave me a little party. It lifted my spirits.

My friend Donna lifted my spirits, too, by saying some really nice things about me. Thanks, Donna!

I'm reading The Brothers Karamazov. I read all of Dostoevsky's other novels back when I was in grad school and was supposed to be reading literary criticism on 19th century British poetry. I couldn't help it ... I was going through a Dostoevsky phase. I saved Brothers for last since I knew it would be the best ... then life got in the way ... then stuff happened ... then years went by ... and it's now 12 or so years later and I'm finally reading that copy I bought at Cottonwood Used Books in Baton Rouge back when I was in grad school.

So ... I'm going to go read now.

Life is good. I just feel profoundly sad today. Times seem so very dark, and I feel so out of touch with everything and everyone.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oprah. Whatever.

I just got an e-mail from the Traditional Values Coalition (?) telling me to e-mail Oprah Winfrey and pressure her to have Sarah Palin on her show.

Why should I do that? I don't even like the Oprah Winfrey Show. Every time I've tried to watch it (generally when I'm on the treadmill at the gym), I switch to another channel 15 minutes in because I think it's a silly show. If I were Sarah Palin, I wouldn't want to go on that show. I don't care how many people watch it.

And Ms. Winfrey's reasons for not wanting to have her on during the election season made perfect sense to me. Her show isn't my cup o' tea, but her reasoning on that issue is sound. It sickens me how Traditional Values Coalition types are twisting things around to make it seem otherwise.

Get a grip, conservative value-voter peoples. The spin these days is rampant enough. I can't read or watch the news without getting dizzy. And now my e-mail account is being assaulted.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Frou-Frou Burger

So Hubster tells me, "I'm going to put a burger on the grill for my dinner. Do you want one?"

"Hm," I replied. "Yeah, I guess so."

"Meat burger or frou-frou burger?"

That's my Ohio-born-and-bred hubbie. He'll never be a vegetarian, not ever.

(I got the frou-frou Boca burger.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ike, Ike, Go Away

What is the deal?



Ike, please leave Louisiana alone!!

Good Morning

... and Happy Birthday to Mrs. Gwen. Of course, she probably can't see this, considering she is in Gustav-wrecked south Louisiana, but I wanted to let the world know it's her birthday anyway.

It's also September 11. Big day for looking back and remembering, and hoping for a safer future.

I haven't been online in a while, at least not in the blog sense. I have a lot to catch up on--lots of blogs to read, particularly those of my friends CTG, Jeanette, etc.--I miss y'all! I know, y'all haven't gone anywhere. At least I don't think you have. I'll visit soon.

So work has been pretty busy as we gear up for development season. I have been hit by something of a vocational curse, I suppose: I took on this job as a "day job" to support my writing habit, and as it turns out, I love my day job so much that the old writing habit had been pushed into the shadows. The commute didn't help any, of course.

So, now that I live three minutes from work (15 minutes when I walk), am I writing again?

Yes. Morning pages in the morning, and I took a stay-cation last week and wrote two chapters.

But then there's this Presidential Election Campaign Entertainment Extravaganza, and boy is it entertaining. Isn't that pathetic? Instead of writing or practicing piano, I'm switching back and forth from MSNBC to Fox on TV, or I'm skimming the political blogs online.

OK, it's partly because Hubster loves this stuff. And I love to be with Hubster, so I'll do odd things like watch football and Hannity & Colmes because he watches them. He said he likes to watch me watch Hannity & Colmes because I get so mad at that arrogant Sean Hannity. And I sit there, thinking, "I hate this show. Why am I here? Why am I not writing?"

It's a sickness. And I bet there are thousands of independent voters like myself out there who do the same thing--watch that awful show even though they hate it.

What a waste of breath.

And yes, I've gotten all swept up in the Sarah Palin thing, too. Just like everyone else. I hope McCain campaign continues to keep her off all the talk shows. I don't want to get sick of her like I got sick of Obama and Hillary All The Time. Even though I had my reservations at first (and still have a few), I think she is pretty awesome.

Oops, I said "pretty" ... is that sexist?

Seriously ... Isn't it scary these days, how Brave-New-World-like and 1984-ish everything is? You can't say anything without being accused of sexism or racism or some other ugly -ism. All the finger-pointing ... I really hate politics. But in my masochistic way, I'll probably be glued to the political news shows again tonight.

So now I've written myself into a bad mood. This is why I hate politics. (Sorry, Jan.)

On to happier things. I made a really good dinner for the Hubster last night. And met two deadlines at work. And took Thera-Flu this morning because I can't stop coughing. Apparently I am allergic to either (1) our new house, or (2) fall.

I'm hoping it's fall.

No, we haven't sold the old house yet.

It's 7:24 a.m. I'm depressed as hell. Time to get ready for work.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Not Again, I'm Hoping



I probably shouldn't post these maps. Please pray that Ike stays away from my family. Gustav has been mean enough already, and Ike doesn't seem like a very nice fellow either.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

This Breaks My Heart

This is the church I grew up in. Its roof was destroyed by Hurricane Gustav. From what I've heard, the rain leaked in and left an entire foot of water inside.



Photo compliments of my old friend Caroline, who posted some photos on her Facebook page.

I really wish the national news would report that parts of Louisiana were devastated. All we hear about is how great it was that New Orleans was spared and the evacuees want to go home. I've hardly seen a thing about Baton Rouge or Plaquemine (my hometown).