Your Very Next Step Newsletter
Experience the planet!
A journey starts with a single step. This is my very first step for my very next journey. You are a charter subscriber in a new cooperative network venture, and this is the first issue of Ned Lundquist’s “Your Very Next Step” newsletter. As I said, it represents the first step of a new adventure for me, and an adventure I hope that we can share together. You are one of 140 charter subscribers to this newsletter. You’ll be able to tell your grandchildren.
There is something beautiful in everything. I stood on my front steps this morning with the sky still slate grey with dawn twilight, and the air still. My maple tree had dumped a fair percentage of its leaves. But I looked up at it and watched one more leaf fall. I thought about this one leaf, when another fell, not stirred into action by breeze, but of its own volition. And in the course of the minute that I stood there, perhaps 40 or 50 yellow leaves came down. When I came home later, the tree was almost bare.
What did you see today?
I will establish a website in 2008 for this newsletter and increase the newsletter to a weekly. But for now, the next two issues will be monthlies as I try to develop a personality for this community and this attempt to bring us together to share ideas, encouragement and direction to help us all step off on paths to new places.
Anyone can join. It’s free! To be a subscriber: Send a blank email to:
What will “Very Next Step” focus upon?
Travel: From Fais to Firenze; from Singapore to Sigonella; from
Tasmania to Tetuon…your journey there starts with the very next step.
Outdoors: From hiking, climbing, camping, canoeing, kayaking, biking
and bird watching to fishing, floating, flying and festival-attending.
Adventure: That can be just about anything. From skydiving to snorkeling; from white water rafting to rump bumping; from body surfing to bobsledding.
People we met along the way: You meet the most interesting people off the beaten path. And when you listen, you hear the most interesting stories.
So here are some of the topics we'll be covering, maybe, perhaps, in no particular order. And remember, this isn't about me and my life, it's about you, your's and all of our experiences on this planet.
Tips for sanitation sanity
Technology on the trail
Best airports for layovers
I don't want this anymore. Would you like it?
The most amazing place I've ever been
Most interesting uses of duct tape
Product Reviews – by both you and I (sleeping bags; hiking boots; rain gear; travel luggage; hydration equipment; lights; sunglasses; cameras; noise canceling headphones; and anything that helps us take another step on a new adventure)
If you have something to share in the newsletter, send it to me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate “Your Very Next Step” so I keep it sorted out from the other email traffic I get.
And don’t for get to include the email address in your white list of authorized emails so it doesn’t get crushed in the spam crusher.
The Lundquist’s most recent albeit tame outdoor adventure is reported below.
I had actually completed most of the first issue when my hard drive crashed on Sunday night. I’ve reconstructed most of it here. Let’s just think of it as one of life’s adventures.
Sign up for your free subscription. Send a blank email to
Until the www.yourverynextstep.com website is created, you can read the newsletter at www.nedsjotw.com.
If you represent a company with a product, place or service you would like to have myself or our network review or consider, contact me at:
Edward Lundquist, ABC
Editor and Publisher
Your Very Next Step
7813 Richfield Road
Springfield, VA 22153
Home office phone: (703) 455-7661
*** From Laura Zurowski:
Neat idea – looking forward to the first issue. Here's a brief piece for your technology section if you're interested.
Picasa Web Albums: the Coolest Way to Scrapbook Your Trip (or anything else for that matter)
Let me start this review by saying that I am not a Google shareholder (although if I had been smart enough to join the IPO I could be writing this from my villa in the south seas instead of on my lunch hour in Poughkeepsie…). Regardless, I have been a huge fan of Google applications over the years with Picasa, Google's photo editing tool, being one of them. When I saw that Picasa had a built in photo album feature I was intrigued and decided to give it a test drive during my recent trip to Jordan. After playing around with it for several hours and creating a travel photo album of my own, my opinion is that this is a fantastic, easy-to-use, and creatively fun tool.
While Picasa isn't available for Macs, the Web Albums feature is free and available for all operating systems. Once you've edited your photos and stored them on your computer, creating your album is as simple as navigating to the Picasa Web Albums page where you can upload your images, arrange them, create titles and captions, and design your album's home page. Two features of the Web Albums I really like is the ability for viewers to post comments about your photos and the Google Maps mash-up which allows viewers to see a map of where you traveled to (which you can make as detailed as your heart desires). True, this is kind of geeky, but the Googlers have made geek the new black, so you better get used to it.
If you'd like to see Picasa Web Albums for yourself, stop by my creation at:
Director of Corporate Outreach
(Is this different or better than SnapFish or KodakGallery?)
Both – functionality is exponentially increased. Click the link and view the album to see for yourself. 🙂
(I’ve used Kodak Gallery and SnapFish. I’ve only recently learned about Picasa.)
*** From Allison Chandler:
Remind me when you do a backpacking or South American edition — I'd be happy to send a note or two.
I spent 5 months of 2002 living out of a backpack and following the
“gringo trail”. (In case you are interested, photos and notes home at http://southamerica.alisonchandler.com )
Favorite travel sites for investigating hotels and what to do
(What luck! That’s this issue and next! And maybe the one after that.)
*** From K. Utterback:
WOW! I've always enjoyed your JOTW newsletter, but now you've hit on something that is my true passion. Can't wait to see all the tidbits you get on these subjects.
My next step will be to run the Kilimanjaro marathon and then climb Kili in Feb/March 2008. The marathon will make my 4th continent in trying to run a marathon on all 7 continents. I've already done Antarctica, Asia (Great Wall marathon), and of course, North America. I've not done any mountain climbing and although Kili isn't a technical climb I welcome any suggestions for gear, training, etc. I just got a Nikon SLR digital camera for the safari before the marathon and am wondering if I should try to take it up the mountain or leave it behind and only take a point and shoot.
I'm a lot further away from the goal of a marathon in all 50 states — only at 14 at the moment.
I've done a bit of hiking internationally — Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, portions of the W trail in Torres Nat'l Park in Chilean Patagonia, etc.
My other big sport is racing sailboats where I've done 18 Chicago-Mackinac races and one Newport to Bermuda. I've also travelled around the country and to New Zealand and England to participate in various regattas.
(Have you ever sailed from Bluff Harbor across the Tasman Sea with a belly full of oysters and beer in really rough seas?)
*** Gwyneth finds the yellow flags:
Now you KNOW I was going to contribute to THIS one!
The most amazing place I've ever been:
Lucy Glacier, Geologists Range, Antarctica
I was there taking photos of a repair job on an LC130. It's the most amazing place. Take the largest white tablecloth you can find, lay it out flat with one corner in the corner of the [gym], put a single peppercorn about an inch from the corner and stand and look at it from the opposite corner.
That's what it looked like from the jump seat of the aircraft that delivered me. It was figuratively as well as literally cool.
One night I got up and walked to the bathroom facility, so to speak. Now, this was 24-hour daylight so night is all relative, but it was the middle of the night. I stood there looking at the view I had of that section of the glacier and the only things I could hear were the tiny flags marking certain spots around the camp and my heartbeat.
And, yes, I will go there:
Chocolate bars stuffed in my backpack from the ship's store before I left: about 50 cents a piece
Damart Thermolactyl four-bolt undergarments: about $15-$20 each item.
A solo panoramic view of the Antarctic Alps: priceless!
The seat in the outhouse dug out of the snow was made of some miracle material. I suspect advanced styrofoam. One night it happened to snow a little. Not much snow falls – it just seems to appear blown in from somewhere else. I brushed the majority of it off the seat and settled in. The seat had not gotten nor did it ever get cold.
1. A small lighted candle will keep people warm in an enclosed area. At “Happy Camper School” on the Ice, we learned how to make several kinds of shelters. (OK, more precisely, it was called the U.S. Antarctic Field Safety Training and was run by professionals who knew how to get along in extreme climates.) One of the dwelling methods was making a snow igloo without cutting the blocks. It helps if you have a tarp. Stack everyone's bags into a large dome-like pile, throw the tarp on top and start piling up snow. Since no one brought bottles of perfume and the Glenfiddich has already been pulled out and set aside, pound the snow down as you build it up. (Alcohol really is not very good for you if you are in a desperate way in the cold, though.)
Keep piling up the snow until you have about a foot all over the entire pile of bags. Once you have determined it is thick enough and pounded down enough, dig an entry way big enough for the biggest person in the party who will be inside. Go all the way through til you reach the tarp. start pulling out the bags and then use the tarp as the floor. When you go to sleep inside, set a place in the middle for the candle, light it and it should keep you fairly warm. Body heat is good, too, but the candle generates sufficient to take the edge off, especially at first. (Second hand knowledge on the scene.)
2. If you set up tents on snow, dig a stairstep entry at the door. Dig down about two “steps” worth. When the wind blows, especially if it tends to blow in your front entrance no matter how you set it up, the heavier, colder air will sink into the “steps” below the level of your floor and it will keep your tent warmer. (First hand knowledge on the glacier.)
3. Whatever you do, if you bring along containers of water, gatorade, etc., do not leave them in the storage crate, out in the open or hanging from the tree. If you have a storage tent, that may be OK, but better is to bring those goods into the tent with you. Unless, of course, you want to wake up and have ice instead of coffee, tea, cocoa or oatmeal. The body heat in an occupied tent will keep the containers from freezing. (First hand knowledge at Happy Camper School.)
4. Layers, layers, layers. Cotton is not the best thing to wear when it is cold, especially next to your skin. Notice the difference between thermals and jeans …Loose-fitting clothing always.
If you cut off circulation because you're wearing tight pants, gloves, etc., that limb will have poorer blood circulation and that will make it get colder faster. Colder means frozen sooner, which means higher potential for frost bite.
Always wear a hat, preferably a knitted hat that can be pulled down over your ears.
5. One thing impressed upon us, which some people chose to ignore and suffered greatly for it, was never leave town (McMurdo) without your cold weather gear – no matter what the weather looked like!!! If you're going on a trip in the winter and you live in those kinds of places that get cold, are cold, have been cold, carry a space blanket of some sort, an old quilt would be handy, good walking shoes, some spare socks. You know: what you'd prefer to have other than those Italian leather shoes, that pair of silk stockings and the thin and fashionable jacket. If your car breaks down, it could be a while before someone comes by to rescue you. And do NOT leave your car. It's a bigger landmark than you are.
Paper clips work well holding a button on a uniform until you get home.
Big black plastic trash bags.
Don't get wet in the first place.
Do NOT touch the sides of your tent when it is raining or that spot will drip straight down onto whatever is directly beneath it.
Ray-Ban Cats (they don't make them anymore or I'd have my ear-pieces repaired by now.) are fabulous to ward off snow blindness because they also had little leather shields on the sides.
Cabella's: I can't remember what model they are. I wore them on the Ice and they are so sturdy I still wear mine and they look almost as good as the day they were handed out. Lovely warm, cushioned, tough little boots.
OK, I've written enough. I can't believe I had all that to say, but then again – I'm a journalist. And then I think of it every November when the cold descends upon us and threatens snow and ice.
I don't know how I will survive in South Carolina. Other than drinking lots of water, wearing tons of sunblock, using a/c and dressing coolly, I know very little about keeping cool. How about adding that to your list of things to share or are they self-evident?
(I appreciate your sharing. I should make you a cheesecake. That would be an adventure.)
It's merely a minor challenge. You could be a big hit at one of your PR gatherings.
You might add about being on the Ice or in any cold weather environment that drinking fluids is very important. As odd as it might seem, you can get dehydrated outdoors in the winter, especially if you are in as dry a climate as Antarctica is. VERY low humidity until January when the breaker cuts the ice in the sound. And yes, you may have to find a yellow flag frequently, but you won't go crazy or faint from lack of water. You can keep the bathroom runs down by drinking room or body temp fluids. Cold liquids will merely run through as fast as they go in.
It has something to do with the speed with which
the body's cells move when they are cold. They vibrate faster to keep
the body warm – the law of friction or something. When you become truly cold, they move faster and the fluids which cushion every cell get lively and want to move – generally in an outward direction! That's kind of how it was explained to us.
My first tour was at COMONE Boston. You're from
Massachusetts – you know how cold it can get.
But for all the precautions, I love snow and
winter and cold. I just do not like to BE cold, hence the care I took to learn as much as I could when I was stationed with NSF Antarctica.
BTW, at Beth King's recommendation, I have just
joined SPJ – again. Nothing like a bunch of reporters when they start
Yellow flags are, shall we say, restrooms for guys. Keeps the camping area sort of tidy. There were other colored flags, too, on that glacier, but they marked, if I remember correctly, the parameters of the camp site – the tents and the work area. The yellow flags weren't all over the Ice. It's tough being a woman in those situations because there are no trees to hide behind. That was the only concern I had about going out to the repair site – what did they do for a head.
And I didn't mind going. In fact, I lobbied to go when I found
out there was a desire to record it. My troops were less than inclined to go, two of them were sick, anyway, and I'd just finished Happy Camper School a month or so earlier. Went out, spent a week living on the glacier, came back, could not wait to take a hot shower or dress standing up! Not that I didn't keep clean, but that's another story.
*** From Heather Murphy:
This is a bit long but I love the concept behind “Your Very Next Step.” I offer this tale for consideration. Also a possible new categories: Adventurous Misadventures or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to…
Adventures to Newfoundland or How to Land on the TSA Watch List for Life
It was time for another photography expedition. The 'where' was the hard part. So many choices. Cooler weather was a priority as the trip would provide a welcome escape from the Phoenix heat. A fellow photographer and I settled on Newfoundland (newfin-LAHND, not new-FOUND-land or new-FIND-land, if you want to get it right). Why Newfoundland? Even the Newfoundlanders asked that. Repeatedly. And yet the country, landscape and scenery is beautiful. Perhaps some of the best whale watching, too. My biggest takeaway from that journey was how easy it is for us to take the beauty of our own surroundings for granted.
The trip to Newfoundland was an adventure and odyssey in itself. Photographer 1 (me) traveling from Phoenix to Montreal, then to St. John's, Newfoundland. Or so I thought. Photographer 2 (Holly, from Norfolk, VA) had booked the trip. As a courtesy to me, Holly also sent me all the coordinates for the best fares and timing so we could meet at our destination and get on with the adventure. I booked my own airline ticket — a matter that will become relevant shortly.
Arriving in Montreal, I claim my bags, proceed through Customs and decide to turn on my cell phone. I almost didn't bother. Three frantic text messages followed. First: “Check your ticket. Does it say St. John or St. John's?” Second: “I booked to the wrong destination.” Third: “Where are you? I have to get fr St. John to St. John's. Call ASAP.” Checked my ticket. Of course, it also said St. John. Trouble is, St. John is in New Brunswick. St. John's is in Newfoundland. The two destinations are, if I recall correctly, about a 6 hour drive and a 8 hour ferry ride apart. Oh, you'd think an apostrophe and an “s” are the only thing separating ordinary mortals from making this mistake? Not so. The airport code for St. John is YSJ and for St. John's it is YYT. Now we have an apostrophe, the letter “s” and two consonants separating ordinary mortals from making this mistake. Air Canada's website does not alert mere mortals to the potential confusion. Had we used a travel agent, we might have had someone to blame.
At the ticket counter, Air Canada was more than happy to sell me a day-of-travel (read: obscenely priced!) ticket to St. John-apostrophe-s but all the flights into and out of St. John-apostrophe-s were cancelled due to heavy fog. Alas, there was a solution. Buy a day-of-travel ticket to Toronto — there are more flights to/from St. John-apostrophe-s from Toronto so I had a “better chance of arriving eventually” — and then I could take a flight the next day to St. John-apostrophe-s when the fog should be gone. Should. The next day's flight was delayed 6 hours, due to fog! As I sat in the airport getting travel and sightseeing tips from locals, I was regaled with stories about how mere mortals like an entire World Cup soccer teams and student marching bands had made the same mistake.
Holly also bought an obscenely priced day-of-travel ticket. We eventually arrived in St. John-apostrophe-s for our trip, a day and a half late, with some stories to tell about the people we saw or met in the airport. Trouble was, Holly's suitcase was held hostage by Air Canada and didn't arrive until the day before we were scheduled to leave. Good thing we photographers are hardy souls who are able to improvise (read: shop!) on short notice.
The trip? Fantastic!!! Once we got to our destination, we enjoyed so many beautiful places. The people are sincere, genuine, curious — especially about where we were from and what drew us there — and lead an interestingly simple life. Consumerism has not reached the island nation and some villages were 30 minutes or more from a gas station or general store.
PS — The TSA was very happy to add Holly and me to the watch list after we both purchased international tickets on the day of travel!
Please visit www.SouthpawFinePhotos.com
*** From Susan Burnell, APR:
Very cool. What fun. Will look forward to watching (The Very Next Step) evolve. I'll be happy to link from American Travel Sampler when it's live.
A pic from our recent trip to Phoenix, taken at White Tank Mountain Regional Park west of the city. http://www.maricopa.gov/parks/white_tank/. Admission
was free that day, Veterans Day, which tickled my father-in-law, who served in the Army. And Ryan, 18, was thoroughly amused by the “happy guy” saguaro cacti. Now wants to grow them in our front yard in Houston! (You are welcome to use the pic if appropriate.)
Cheers from sunny Texas,
Susan H. Burnell, APR
(Photos will be posted when website is up on 1 January 2008.)
*** Sanitation Sanity from Dina Horwedel:
My Afghan Bathroom
I was working in Afghanistan, and my bathroom in Kabul was a horror show. I was never really sure where the waste went after we flushed the western-style toilet in our rental house. Outside the gate to our garden, open sewers lined the street, clogged with dead animal parts from butcher shops, refuse from the green grocers, knots of plastic bags that littered the streets, plastic bottles, paper and other cast-off refuse, topped with stagnant rainwater slicked with a greasy ooze, upon which hordes proliferated. I have never seen so many flies in my life (prompting me to make the observation that I preferred to live in a country where the sewers were covered and the women were not).
Fortunately, when the gate swung shut to our courtyard, the stench seemed to stay outside of the barrier. But, if the waste from our house joined and commingled with that effluvium, I reasoned we were in trouble when the sewers backed up, as they regularly did after a rain.
The dreaded day came when I flushed and water was flowing at my feet the toilet overflowed, but instead of flowing over the top of the toilet, water was seeping out from under the “seal,” where the toilet was affixed to the floor. The mess also began to back up into the shower. I called our trusty guard, who set off to find the landlord, shaking his head and muttering, “Bisyar mishkel!” (Many problems!)
When I returned that night, workers had begun digging in the garden and it was strewn with pipes. Apparently we had a septic tank on the premises, so my fears about sewer backup were unfounded. However, the septic tank had never been emptied since its installation, sometime before the Soviet invasion. We wouldn¹t be able to use the bathroom for a few days.
In the interim, we used the Turkish toilets in the guardhouse. The guardhouse didn¹t have electricity, so at night I wore my REI headlamp to tromp across the garden to the facilities. Several encounters with rats and cockroaches the size of Manhattan later, I learned not to be surprised at what lurked there as I pulled the creaking door shut, usually waking the whole house.
Knowing that all roads led to Rome, or in this case, all pipes led to the same septic tank, I reckoned that sooner or the guardhouse loo would back up, despite the assurances of the landlord who repeatedly said, “No problem!” I was sick with Giardia and my only solace was I could take enough Imodium and antibiotics to keep me from having to live there. I was headed to India in a few days for a vacation, and I was looking forward to hotel bathrooms. To my immense satisfaction, the guardhouse bathroom held until we departed. I later learned that the dreaded back-up there happened as well, the day after we left.
When I returned to Afghanistan, all was fixed, except that after flushing our toilet, water still gushed out around the base of the toilet, not because of the septic tank backing up, but because the plumber didn’t replace the seal.
The plumber, who arrived on his bicycle wielding a plunger after I called to complain, couldn’t find a seal to fit. I also learned with a nasty shock that when I leaned to unroll the harsh pink crepe paper that doubled as toilet paper (“Lucky,” a brand from China, emblazoned with a horse’s head haloed by a horseshoe. I didn’t feel lucky at all when using the sandpaper-like substance), I almost capsized because the plumber hadn’t re-bolted the toilet to the floor. But in a country where we were lucky to have indoor plumbing, I decided to be thankful that it flushed and there was no longer sewage backing up on our floor.
(Laura and I both had Giardiasis after a swing through Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Luxemborg, Switzerland and back home to Italy.
*** “Tips for Sanitary Sanity.”
I have been to New Orleans several times to help with Katrina Relief. The first time I went there on a team, the “facilities” consisted of an area between the house that we were gutting and a brick wall. I don’t think the men on the team complained, but I wasn’t happy. In comparison, we had 5-star facilities the next time I went to NOLA. It consisted of a drywall bucket filled with kitty litter (no splashing!), and a toilet seat on top of the drywall bucket. We also had a roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer next to the bucket. The only problem with our bathroom was that it was not hidden very well. We were working in the Lower 9th, and even though there wasn’t that many people in the vicinity, we were on the street that the tour buses liked to drive down. My friend Joy was using the kitty litter toilet when a tour bus happened to come by. The people on the bus could only see the top half of her, but I’m sure they were asking, “Why is she just sitting there?” Sanitary? Yes. Private? Not exactly.
PA Credit Union Association
(Did she around in the scratch the litter box when she was done?)
No scratching was necessary. Actually, the plan is to add more kitty litter to cover your recent deposit.
*** From Bill Ainsworth:
Here's my two-cents' worth for your new website. As always, there is a 100 percent money back guarantee.
All the best,
Think local when you go global
In every large European city, mass transit is efficient and economical. The time it takes, to learn how to use it, is well worth the effort. And, you’ll experience the ‘real’ people and neighborhoods that are sometimes just as interesting as the major tourist attractions.
Combining a practical knowledge of local transportation with a sense of adventure, you can also save on hotel accommodations by selecting outlying 2- and 3-Star hotels that are located along the bus/metro/tram routes that go to all the major attractions you want to see.
In Paris, for example, the Ideal Hotel (2-Stars), at the Porte d’Orleans end of the #4 Metro line, is ‘ideal’ in the sense that it's cheap, clean and friendly. A double will run 80-90 Euros, about half what you'd pay for a 3-Star hotel. From the Metro station across the street, you can reach Notre Dame, the geographic center of town, in less than 10 minutes.
In Mestre, the city on the mainland side of Venice, Hotel Kappa (3-Stars) is located on the #2 city bus route that runs between the front door of the hotel and the main dock on the Grand Canal in Venice. It’s a 20 minute bus ride for one Euro. A double room, with private bath and a/c runs between 70 and 110 Euros a night, depending on the season. You won’t find any hotel in Venice for less than triple that rate.
As always, pack light. Take only what you are willing to schlep all by yourself.
(We are planning a trip to Paris in March with the family.)
I mentioned the cheap 2-Star hotel in Paris because I used it on a family vacation when I had to book two rooms, one for the kids.
Otherwise, my wife and I always stay at the 3-Star Hotel Bastille Speria (Room 610 a favorite), one long block from the Bastille Memorial, along the #1 Yellow Metro route. Its a very hip neighborhood (and very gay) with great restaurants and a Harley-Davidson dealer(!) if you want to rent a Hog and try your riding skills in Paris traffic.
A tip: Take some Euros with you (or get them from an ATM at the airport), so you can buy the RER “B” train tickets (CDG to town) from the vending machines in the airport train station, rather than stand in line at the ticket counter. There is only one train, and it only goes to Paris (and on to Orly). Adult fare is 8 Euros and change. You'll probably get off the B train at the Metro hub in the Chatelet Les Halles station to catch a local Metro line to your hotel.
Great Metro website: http://www.paris.org/Metro/.
Option B: If you have a lot of luggage (not recommended), take the Air France bus into town. It's 15 Euros and it goes to five or six places, from which you can catch a cab. A cab/limo from CDG into Paris is wonderful, but around 60-70 Euros (ouch!). But that's what you would pay for four people to take the Air France bus, so it might work for your family.
Option C: If you've been to Paris before, and seen all the major attractions, rent a car and head out to the countryside. You can get to Versailles by train from Paris, but you need a car to get to Fountainebleau. The Normandy beaches are a few hours to the west of Paris.
It will be cold in March. Great for museums and restaurants, but castles aren't heated.
Let me know if you want specific information about a certain attraction in Paris. I may be able to help.
*** From Phillip Raskin in Korea:
Well, it wasn't Mt. Everest (actually, at about 1300 feet elevation, more like 1/22 of Mt. Everest), but it does take about an hour to get up to the top of Mt. Gyeyangsan in Incheon, to the west of my most recent hometown of Seoul, South Korea. You get a good view of the city, some other mountains and even can see some of the airport.
Someone else's pictures here: http://izsak02.com/KoreaMtGyeyangsan.html
Anyway, we're sitting on a rock overlooking the scenery, and a nice Korean fellow offered some of his leftover snacks to me and my companion. Dried squid and some rice cakes (ttuk). Mmm, baby! Luckily, my (Korean) friend took the squid — it's a bit, well, squid-dy smelling, and is slightly less chewy than those things you buy for the dog. Survivable … but why? Feel free to order your own here: http://www.koamart.com/shop/12-1387-dried_food-dried_squid_5_pcs.asp. Remember, it's a great snack for children!
*** Ned, Laura, Barbara and Venture Crew 4031 camps at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia.
If the Saturday started out cool and cloudy, it warmed up and cleared up so that the afternoon and evening were close to perfect for an autumn day in this 15,000 acre park, part of the National Park system, so close to Washington, DC. We got on the HOV lanes towards Richmond and the exit for the park was right where the HOV lanes end, and the entrance to the park is very close to the exit at mile 150 on Interstate 95.
Once extensively farmed for tobacco, the soil gave out and it has reverted to forest, mostly beeches and oaks along with tulip poplars, black walnuts, butternuts and hemlocks. The oaks and beech trees are the largest, with the smooth-bark beech trees providing the most fall color. Our campsite had plentiful acorns crunching under our feet. There were many holly trees, with smooth trunks and thick, dark green shiny and prickly leaves. American holly is diecious, meaning that both male and female plants are needed for fruit production. The familiar red berries appear on the female plants. Looking at the two of them side by side, I contemplated the fact that holly trees mate for life.
We saw an old cemetery, still in use and still well maintained, festooned with flags for veteran’s day. Most of them were American Flags, but there was one Confederate flag. The ranger told us that there are 54 known gravesites within the park, so of which are still maintained as family plots.
We walked around the Farms-to-Forests trail which led us alongside Quantico Creek, which eventually leads to the Marine Corps base and the Potomac River. We could often hear the Marines conducting firing exercises in the distance. Mostly it was very quiet. There are the nearby remains of a pyrite mine. If you wonder why they sought to mine “fools gold,” I’m told it was for the sulfur content and it was used to make gunpowder. The Cabin Branch Mine, now closed, operated from the 1890s to the early 1920s, at one time employing up to 300 people working the mine, which extended 2,400 feet under the surface. In 1933, the property was acquired by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the park was built. The Oak Ridge campground was not wholly unoccupied, but we felt pretty much alone in our three campsites. There were two Eagle Scout Service projects underway, one to replace the fire rings and the other to repair and repaint the campsite markets. The restroom was heated for the winter, so they can take visitors year round (this is a great place to stay if you want to visit the nation’s capital while camping across country, although the traffic getting into the district on a weekday can be annoying).
Dinner was “hobo meals” in foil, as well as Ned’s Black Forest Dump Cake and an apple crisp cobbler, and – of course – s’mores. Shane played the guitar. Breakfast was omelets made in plastic bags and boiled in water. The crew also devised a way to place apples dipped in the packaged instant cider mix and bake them in foil or on sticks over the fire. Yes, the drought-induced county-wide outdoor fire ban had been lifted the day before.
I brought three tents. Laura and I set up the two-person Eureka Timberline only to find that the two junction tubes that hold the poles together were not in the bag (no doubt our other two-person Timberline has four instead of two). Luckily, I brought my 2-person Sierra Design Sirius 3. It’s a good backpacking tent, lightweight and easy to set up. I could use a little more headroom because my feet touch one end and my head touches the other. There’s a door on each side which is good, so you don’t have to crawl over your tent mate. The doors open from the top down, but that means you can’t sneak out the bottom to go to the head at night, you must unzip the entire door to get out. It has a fly that creates two vestibules, one on each side, but there isn’t much room in the vestibules for anything more than your boots. The Sirius 3 is easy to set up. It has a half single-wall, half double-wall design, which means the fly only covers half of the tent, something I didn’t realize when I bought it. It does save weight, but I think my next backpacking tent will have a fly that covers it entirely for adverse weather.
Before we left on Sunday our crew conducted a solemn flag-burning ceremony to properly dispose of two weathered American flags. The ashes were presented to me (as a veteran) and I will dispose of them in my garden. Maybe I’ll plant forget-me-nots on top of them.
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And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.
With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.
The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.
– Clyde Watson
Experience the planet!