Being Darn Tough

By: Mallory

The summer is almost gone! Summer goals are wrapping up (we will revisit those) and school is starting. Much of the blogosphere is getting ready to enter into the fall groove. Entering into any groove when you are dealing with young adult cancer or a long term illness is hard though! Your peer group goes one way…and you can feel oh-so-stuck going a different way. Jealousy, isolation, sadness, anxiety…these are all feelings that are hard to contend with and difficult to trudge through but they are reasonable and rational feelings to experience when confronted by life-changing circumstances.

I find motivational quotes to be really helpful in staying true and tough…which is probably apparent from the multitude of motivational quotes that have found their way into Lacuna Loft pieces….like here, here, here, here and here :).

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Motivational quotes are fine and dandy but taking small steps, even itsy-bitsy steps, to find happiness, love, and the mindset of being darn tough to face your challenges head on is really important. Don’t be too hard on yourself when the energy to get up and make a change just doesn’t feel available…but little by little we can all make our lives live-able and even great by altering our perception and attitude. Take a walk, call a friend, make something, write a letter to yourself or someone else…these are all ways that could help you take charge and stay tough when life is hard.

Having a motto (probably goes along with my love of motivational quotes) helps me find that extra boost when I just don’t want to take action…even when I know that I will feel better if I do. All year, my motto has been Darn Tough. I even have a lovely pair of cozy socks sporting the same phrase.

What actions help you to feel better when life is weighing you down? Do you have a motto or a phrase or a motivational quote that helps?

Here’s to being Darn Tough!

Post originally published on Lacuna Loft.

Boards and Bikes Bliss

By: Sasha Yakovleff

What’s the best part about riding a bike? I think it means different things for different folks- it could range from the wind whistling through your hair as your cruise down the street, to climbing up a hill working so hard the sweat pours into your eyes and makes you squint, or guinea-pigging a new line you just built, wondering if that sniper step-on/step-off you just finished will really work the way you want.

For me, one of the best parts of riding my bike is the places it takes me. I like to ride everything,everywhere, including some strange spots that are not normal to ride. Sometimes this means getting up at 5AM on a Sunday to hit a street spot while the security guards are sleeping, before they have a chance to kick you out for “grinding on your trick bike.” Sometimes this means putting a ladder in your truck and pulling over on the side of the interstate to session a fun-looking roof you happened to pass by on the way to Grandma’s house. Sometimes this means hiking up that hill you always wondered about, cutting down a few branches, and raking out a quick downhill run to session before anyone catches on. Why? Because it’s there, so go get it!

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Photo by: Leif Trott

I recently rode my first natural fullpipe in a small town in Southwest Wyoming. I heard about this spot from a few friends but nobody really knew how to get there. I fired up good old Google maps and zoomed in on a few reservoirs until I found what I was looking for: an enormous overflow drain that emptied into the dry side of the dam, called “Hell hole.”

After coordinating with a filmer, healing from injuries, and waiting for the right weather window, we pulled the trigger on a cloudy Saturday afternoon. The spot was creepy and amazing at the same time. It was one of the tightest transitions I have ever ridden; every pump just got you higher and higher and faster and faster. I was blown away and now I’ve been hunting down every full pipe I can find, east or west.

Seeking my bliss means a few things to me; mainly riding my bike in amazing places and building weird features to create new spots to ride. There is always something new and exciting, you just have to sniff it out or build it yourself!

Originally posted on Seek Your Bliss.

When Mice Attack

By: RJ Thompson

If you’ve spent any time sleeping in a primitive backcountry shelter, you’ve undoubtedly seen evidence of the most menacing creature known to hikers and trail runners. The mouse – AKA candy criminal, backpack bandit, and/or sleeping bag slayer – is a camper’s worst nightmare.

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At the Mass. state line, post-mouse bite.

I’ve had my fare share of run-ins with these knapsack nibblers. Earlier this summer, as I was boiling some water at the Clarendon Shelter on the Long Trail, a pair of mice went scampering over my camping pad right after I had blown it up for the night.  On a separate occasion at the Cowles Cove Shelter on the LT, mice scampered around my head all evening, and even my earplugs couldn’t eliminate the sound of their tiny feet pacing throughout the shelter. This led to an evening of roughly 45 minutes of sleep between the hours of 10 and 4 AM.

But nothing compared to the Battle of Congdon on July 26, 2014. I arrived at the shelter (located just 10 miles north of the Massachusetts boarder on the LT) at around 7:30 PM. All of the bunks were taken, so my options were limited to the floor or outside on the dirt. The forecast called for rain by early morning, so I opted for the floor.

Everyone was in their respective sleeping areas shortly after sunset, and I gave it my best effort to fall asleep quickly so I could wake up early and finish my run before the rain started. My earplugs were in, my head was covered with a thin base-layer to keep the bugs off, and my sleeping bag was zipped. To me, it was luxurious.

And then the nemesis of the night approached. At first I could only hear them scampering around, sniffing for crumbs and trying to find a late night snack like a drunken college student stumbling into his apartment after an evening at the bars. Since I was on the ground, I was right in the middle of their regularly traveled path. I did everything I could to block out the sound and fall back to sleep, but then it happened.

A mouse had crawled directly onto my head. What occurred next was a fit of fury and a few sub-audible curse words (I didn’t want to wake anyone up if I could avoid it). The mouse had crossed a line. Scamper around my head and body if you’d like, but keep your dirty paws to yourself. Even more insulting – the mouse decided to leave a few droppings on my camping pad before it mounted my head. I imagine the mice refer to this prank as the “poop and pounce.” Very creative for a mouse, I must say.

I resolved to waking and asking a nice, middle-aged woman if I could place my camping pad next to hers (head to toe) on the low bunk in an effort to avoid further mouse harassment on the floor. She kindly moved her pad over to make room for mine. I crawled into my sleeping bag and made a silent truce with my enemies below. If I could fall back to sleep, I would still be able to get about four hours of rest.

The truce did not last. Not long after I fell asleep, the scampering resumed. Even the woman next to me admitted to hearing them around her head. I attempted to stuff my earplugs in extra far to eliminate the sound of the pesky creatures, and that seemed to help a bit, as I ultimately drifted back to sleep. But not for long.

What happened next was completely unacceptable. I had removed myself from the floor – the apparent domain of the mouse. I even made a silent truce after enduring the poop and pounce. Instead of accepting my surrender and leaving me be, I was rewarded with a bite to my right index finger. This time there was an audible curse word, for I was fast asleep until the bite happened. Naturally, I was startled to have a tiny animal attempt to nibble on my finger in the middle of the night.

There was not much more I could do to avoid the (wait for it…) finger foragers. I placed both hands inside my sleeping bag, zipped it up all the way, and pulled the drawcord as tightly as I could so only my nose and mouth were exposed. This would have to do. There was no other option.

I was up with the sunrise and made my exit as quickly as possible. As I was about to start my run, a fellow camper came out of the privy and asked if I had been bitten by a mouse last night. I said, “Yeah, sorry if I woke you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, “one got me two nights ago at another shelter. I woke everyone up when I yelled.”

I asked him if he was familiar with the poop and pounce trick. “It’s demoralizing,” he replied.

After a few laughs, I said farewell to my comrade and let the rain wash away the sins of the mice as I entered the foggy forest.

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Sunset over Stratton Pond.

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Below are some pics from the Long Trail Run, which started in Killington, Vermont and finished in Williamstown, Massachusetts. RJ plans to attempt to break the unsupported speed record on August 23. Weather may delay my start date.

Team Vidaraid Wins Untamed New England Expedition Race

Vidaraid, Darn Tough, Adventure Race

Team Columbia Vidaraid wins the Untamed New England Expedition Race in Maine.

“The Adventure Racing World Series made the first of two stops in North America when the Untamed New England Expedition Race took place in the Highlands of Maine last week. The race covered over 200 miles of rugged terrain including Moosehead Lake, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s 100 Mile Wilderness, the historic town of Greenville and the Kennebec and Dead Rivers. It was a challenge accepted by 39 teams from around the world, including Columbia Vidaraid who are third in the AR World Series rankings.” Full Story

 

 

 

One-Hit Wonders: Just-Add-Water Alpine Meals

By: Kel Rossiter

These days it seems like everyone and her mother’s belayer has a cooking show, so you could imagine that it was only a matter of time before a cooking article hit the climbing scene. Sure, car camping near the crag doesn’t demand much different from your own kitchen, but cooking for backcountry climbing is its own beast—and while there is a generation of “NOLSes” out there trained in twiggy fire pizzas, the idea of huddling in the wind-whipped vestibule of my tent looking for non-existent twigs to cook on a two-pound Frybake pan just sounds unappetizing.

Alpine climbing is a particularly ferocious beast to battle with in the kitchen: Fast-and-light alpine-suited stoves like the JetBoil or MSR Reactor are great, but they seem to have two settings: “off” and “burn.” Ferocious environmental conditions often lead to cramped kitchening in the vestibule, so meals need to be quick to prepare and easy to clean. Plus, the intensity of the climbing means max calories have to be delivered with minimal weight and volume in your pack. On top of all that, climbing trips can be long and while all that food weighs down your pack it also paradoxically lightens your wallet—so meals have to be a value.

Kel Rossiter, Camping, Alpine, Meals, Darn Tough, Vermont

Mealtime is a special time in the alpine world: After a hard day of technical and environmental challenges, you’re finally in camp, changed into a fresh pair of warm and toasty socks, and a good meal tonight sets the stage for a successful tomorrow. Having set that stage, here are a few perennial alpine performers.  While these are recipes of sorts, creativity is the most important ingredient for the alpine chef—tweak the ingredients and amounts to your particular tastes.   For all recipes, basic ratios for one serving are presented; take it from there  with your basic math skills to determine how much you need for your particular length of trip, group size, and hunger level.

POFFING: Potatoes and stuffing…and a whole lot more. This is an all-time alpine favorite. It’s like Thanksgiving every day, but without annoying Uncle Bob.

Ingredients:

  • ¾  cup potato flakes
  • ½  cup stuffing
  • ¼  packet of gravy mix
  • 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp textured vegetable protein (TVP), an amazingly light-weight source of protein with the texture of taco filling.  You can find it in the bulk section of any co-op
  • 2 Tbsp dried veggies, find them at the same store you bought your TVP at or buy it online
  • Handful of cranberries
  • Add cheese and/or butter as you like on top
  • Black pepper and cayenne to taste

Preparation: This is a great meal to make in bulk. Get a large mixing bowl and put all of the above ingredients in. Mix thoroughly. Put 1 ½ cup portions into snack size d zip bags—it’ll barely fit. Once out in the field, simply put your portion into a bowl, add boiling water until you get the consistency you like, and enjoy a quick, satisfying meal and easy clean up.

ALPINISTO: Expeditions to Mexico, Central and South America will have you eating plenty of beans, so no need for this dish there, but if you’re expeditioning in the 50 states it’s got tasty and easy to find ingredients that’ll stick to your ribs through a long alpine push.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of boil-in-bag rice
  • ½ cup of dried refried beans—available in bulk at many co-ops and in boxes in the natural foods aisles of many others
  • ¼ packet of taco seasoning
  • ¼ cup dried veggies—find them at the same store you bought your dried refried beans at or buy it online
  • Add cheese as you like on top
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Preparation: Get a large mixing bowl and put all of the above ingredients in, except for the rice. Mix thoroughly. Put ¾ cup into snack size d zip bags. To prepare, bring water to a boil and plop in the rice bag to cook as directed. Put the bean/veggie/seasoning /spice mix into your bowl, add water as you like, open the rice bag and put on top—with lots of cheese!

Kel Rossiter, Camping, Alpine, Meals, Darn Tough, Vermont

HIGH ALTITUDE ASIAN: On longer expeditions, you’ll appreciate the variety this dish offers. On shorter trips, you’ll appreciate the flavor and sustenance in delivers, with minimal mess and weight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of ramen noodles (don’t use the flavor packet or it’ll be too salty)
  • 1 packet of peanut butter (Justin’s is one popular brand) or pack your own portion
  • 1oz Nalgene container with a flavoring mix of:  1Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp vinegar, ½ tsp chili flakes
  • Handful of peanuts put into a snack-size zip bag (to put on top at the end)

Preparation: Put all the items above together in a quart-sized bag. When the water’s boiling, add the ramen noodles for 2 minutes, pour off most of the water, dump the noodles into your bowl, add the peanut butter and flavoring mix and sprinkle peanuts on top.

COLLEGE-WITH-EXTRA-CREDIT: Ramen noodles are the rather lacklaster and nutritionally-lacking staple of college students everywhere, but with just a bit of motivation they become an interesting and delicious climber’s dish with this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of ramen noodles (don’t use the flavor packet or it’ll be too salty)
  • 2 Tbsp of potato flakes
  • 2 Tbsp of dried tomatoes
  • ¼ packet of pesto sauce mix
  • Handful of walnuts
  • Dried sausage sliced on top to taste

Preparation: Put all the items above together in a quart-sized zip bag. When the water’s boiling, add the ramen noodles for 2 minutes, pour off some of the water, dump the noodles into your bowl—saving some water in the pot, add the peanut butter and flavoring mix and sprinkle peanuts on top. If you need more water to rehydrate the potatoes, add what remains in the pot.

COOK UP YOUR OWN IDEAS:  Single serve soup cups put into snack bags and a bag of instant rice, cous-cous with dried tomatoes and walnuts—watch what your preparing in the home kitchen and consider how it might find a field application.

Kel Rossiter, Mac and Cheese, Alpine, Meals, Darn Tough, Vermont

Reverse Retirement Plan

Second trans-U.S. bike ride, somewhere in Arizona

If you read the newspaper often maybe you have stumbled across, even just a couple of times, articles that described the tragic demise of recent retirees.  You know, stories like how a man who worked at a factory for thirty years dropped dead of a heart attack during a fishing trip a week into his retirement, or how a woman who faithfully served her employer for twenty years perished in an auto accident within a month of retiring.  Tragedies such as these are rare overall, but they still communicate something powerful: Middle-age retirement, something most of us work so hard for and look so forward to, can be lethal.

So I made sure that what happened to the two retirees above would never happen to me: I retired first, and then I began my career.  This plan, which my friend dubbed the “Reverse Retirement Plan,” is brilliant (he’s done it himself).  The point of the plan is that you get all your hiking, climbing, skiing, traveling, lounging, running, fishing, partying, camping, mountain biking, sleeping, and canoeing done first; during your 20s and 30s.  Once you’ve had your fill of fun – perhaps when you turn 40 – then it’s time to start a career to create financial and social stability that will ease you through your middle ages and perhaps into old age.  The premise is simple: If you do retirement first, and then suddenly perish before your career, your last thought could be how you loved living life to the fullest; not how you were steadily employed.

My Reverse Retirement Plan began in 1993 when I completed a two-year enlistment as a paratrooper with the U.S. Army.  Just 20 years old when I became a civilian, I already had a taste of structure, accountability, and discipline, something I didn’t particularly enjoy, especially at such a young age.  I knew the Reverse Retirement Plan was for me.  During the following two decades my temporary jobs ranged from grueling to gratifying.  The grueling ones included low-skill stints as a dishwasher, landscaper, mason, painter, and laborer.  In each of these I worked long hours, often in filthy conditions alongside men who were alcoholics, petty criminals, and drifters.  But if one of these jobs proved unbearable, I simply left, usually without notice.  That was the advantage to not having a career: to be able to walk off the job even if it was just because I was having a bad day.  Then I’d find another temporary job.  Some likely thought I was a shirker, but I was displaying something perhaps they wished they possessed: freedom.

Backcountry ranger work, Catskill Mountains

Backcountry ranger work, Catskill Mountains

The gratifying jobs included work as a backcountry ranger, Appalachian Trail caretaker, outdoor educator, sponsored adventurer, and professional trail builder.  Here I found opportunities to work with great people who were passionate about their work, valued strong relationships, and loved working alongside Mother Nature, no matter how foul her mood.  Let’s face it: You couldn’t beat my office.  By working for federal, state, and private agencies my work sites included White Mountain National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park, Little Missouri State Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Adirondack Park, and the Catskill Park.  No walls, no roofs, no lights.

Wandering among the trail-less peaks of Maine

Wandering among the trail-less peaks of Maine

Getting paid to build trails, hike, camp, and educate was a great way to make a living between June and October each year.  In between these bouts of employment I managed to gain an associates and a bachelors degree by attending school each spring semester; January to May.  During my “off” months of November and December I was a nomad, driving around the country in, and living out of, my trusty Subaru wagon.  It was an era of wandering, life experience, and a lot of Ramen noodles.

But one can’t – or at least shouldn’t – eat Ramen noodles forever.  By the time I turned 40, which was just two months ago, I had hiked more than 10,000 miles, climbed 1,500 peaks, slept outside 1,000 nights, and mountain biked across the United States twice.  I concluded it was a good retirement while it lasted.  When I turned 40 I trimmed by beard, bought some collared shirts, and looked for a real job.  Despite an economy as sluggish as melting river ice, I found my career quickly: helping veterans, especially post-9/11 combat veterans, access social services and find comfort in a peer support program at a not-for-profit in New York’s capital city, Albany.

The streets surrounding my office are littered with trash, the sirens sometimes interrupt my concentration, and it’s likely that no one I see on the streets has slept in a snow cave, watched a sunrise from a summit, or designed a sustainable trail system.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever really fit into the urban environment.  My home is in the mountains, and on my days off you’ll find me among the hills, not the streets.  But if I live through the following twenty years, no matter where this career takes me, I should have a second retirement to look forward to.

 

– Erik Schlimmer

Erik is the founding member of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route and is author of Blue Line to Blue Line.

Let the Cold Times Roll

When winter gives way to spring and spring gives way to summer in New York State, where I live, I know what most people have on their minds: sun, warmth, the beach, travel, and vacation.  But the warmest months of the year give me images of trudging in heat and humidity and through stands of poison ivy, brush, and briars while being harassed by marauding insects.  In short, summer makes me think of my second-favorite season: winter (fall is my favorite).

Perhaps like me, lately you have been needing something to cool you off, something to take you away to a place that’s free of stifling heat and sticky humidity.  I can’t give you an airline ticket to the Arctic, but I can give you something that will help you daydream of cooler times: photos.

What follow are ten images from New York’s two biggest hunks of public land: our six-million-acre Adirondack Park and, the little sister of that park, our 700,000-acre Catskill Park.  Enjoy, and stay cool.

– Erik Schlimmer
Erik is the founding member of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route and author of Blue Line to Blue Line.

Off-trail travel in the Ampersand Mountains, Adirondacks

Off-trail travel in the Ampersand Mountains, Adirondacks

Frosty towers on Mt. Utsayantha, Catskills

Frosty towers on Mount Utsayantha, Catskills

Ice on hardwood canopy, Adirondacks

Ice on hardwood canopy, Adirondacks

Untracked powder on footbridge, Adirondacks

Un-tracked powder on footbridge, Adirondacks

Samuels Point panoramic, Catskills

Samuels Point panoramic, Catskills

Sunset from Van Dorrien Mountain, Adirondacks

Sunset from Van Dorrien Mountain, Adirondacks

Southern view from high ridge line, Adirondacks

Southern view from high ridge line, Adirondacks

Overlook Mountain fire tower at 5 degrees, Catskills

Overlook Mountain fire tower at 5 degrees, Catskills

Alpenglow on Sentinel Range, Adirondacks

Alpenglow on Sentinel Range, Adirondacks

The photographer, somewhere very cold

The photographer, somewhere very cold

Team Tecnu Moves Into The Top Five In The Latest World Rankings

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At the halfway point of the 2013 Adventure Racing World Series Tecnu Adventure Racing is ranked fifth in the world after a second place showing at Expedition Africa. Darn Tough Vermont is a sponsor of Team Tecnu, who is the highest ranked team from the United States.

The latest rankings take into account the results from Huairasinchi (Ecuador), the Godzone Adventure Race (New Zealand), Tierra Viva (Argentina) and Expedition Africa (South Africa).

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There are four more races this fall and then the World Championships in Costa Rica at the end of November.

Congrats to Team Tecnu for moving into the top five and good luck during the second half of the series!

Here is some more info on the team
Latest World Rankings
Insight into the AR World Series Rankings
Expedition Africa Race Report
Expedition Africa Photos
Packing for an Expedition Race