Archive for the 'Travel' Category

MS 75+72+12

2011-10-21 / 15:31 /

Remember when I talked about that awesome adventure I was going to have “real soon now”? Well that was a few months ago, I guess it’s time to let you know how it went.


It was, like, really really hard.

The deets

Saturday, 2011-06-11

Rest stop along the YRTI left about 2 hours late and started riding down to Ohiopyle. This started out great but I was having some ergonomics issues after about 40 miles. It was my first long ride on the new cross bike and I’d also swapped to platform pedals so I could ride in my hiking shoes.

I was a hot mess when I headed into the Connelsville Sheetz (mile 60) to buy a Gatorade.

The last 15 miles to Ohiopyle really sucked. I had to stop a few times because my calves, quads & hip abductors felt like they were full of battery acid (true, given s/battery/lactic/). I was unprepared for my longest ride in about 18 months on a new bike. As I’ve also subsequently learned drinking water was dumb. I should have seeded those bottles with salt & glucose.

Tarp (LHHT mile 10)I rolled into Ohiopyle in the early-mid afternoon-ish and stabled my bike at Wilderness Voyageurs. After smalltalk with the mechanic, I headed towards the start of the LHHT. “Maybe I should get something to eat first?” I wondered. “No, that would be too logical, instead I’ll fuel my muscles with dreams!”

It turns out you also need food to feed your brain which might explain why I forgot to leave my lock with my bike. Instead I left it locked around a tree at mile 0.1.

At mile 2 the storm started.

At mile 6 I hit the trail’s biggest climb and the bottom of my glyocgen reserves. By the time I crested it was clear I wasn’t going to make the PA 653 shelters (mile 18) by nightfall. I set up a tarp at mile 10.

The rain had stopped, the ground was soft and it was dark enough that I thought I had gone blind when I woke up in the middle of the night. It was the best sleep of the trip.

Sunday, 2011-06-12

Breakfast (LHHT mile 10)It was foggy at 7am when I had breakfast and filled my water bottle.

The first hour of hiking was marked by swarms of bugs.

Then next several were unenventful.

Then I got to the bridge. Or rather, the lack of the bridge. The bridge over the turnpike was out, requiring an 8 mile detour. Luckily super-friend Brian had clued me in to a detour. It went a little something like this:

You are standing at the edge of the LHHT. A bridge used to cross the turnpike but now there is just a pile of rocks. There is rusty chain link fence running downhill to the northeast.

> takeoff pack

Finding the culvert 1: peeling off the trail

You put down your pack and rub your shoulders. You sit on the rocks. The sound of cars and trucks comes from below.

> look at turnpike

It's a four lane divided highway running east to west 25 feet below the end of the trail. Cars and trucks are speeding by... you'd never make it.

> look at fence

It's an old chain-link fence. It is rusty and dilapidated. It runs down the hill to the northeast. There is a faint trail running northeast, parallel to the fence.

> ne

You put your pack back on and walk down the faint trail. It is heavily overgrown on both sides. Branches hang down and brush against your face. It continues downward to the northeast.

> ne

The trail creeps closer to the fence, which has a medium sized hole cut into it. Beyond the fence the ground drops away. You can hear running water over the edge. The trail continues to the northeast.

> look at fence

It is an aged chain link fence. It is mounted to metal posts sunk into concrete poured along the edge of the drop-off. The bank is rock and dirt, badly eroded in places. Near a badly eroded spot there are several cuts in the chain link and the fence is peeled back, created a medium-sized hole.

> look at hole in fence

It is big enough for a person to fit through, though the edge of the fence is sharp. Through the hole there is a steep, rocky bank. It drops down about 6 feet to a narrow valley, overgrown with ferns. A small stream flows through the middle of the valley.

> climb through hole in fence

Finding the culvert 2: into the stream bed

You are facing northeast and standing knee deep in ferns in a shallow valley. There is a shallow rocky stream flowing downhill to the northeast.

> ne

Finding the culvert 3: onto the concrete

The stream bed empties onto a shallow concrete drainage ditch. It continues to run northeast. There is a corrugated drainage pipe on your left. You are standing in very shallow water, your feet are wet.

> look at drainage pipe

It is a small dark pipe. It seems dry on the inside. It smells like rust.

> climb in drainage pipe

You'd never fit!

> ne

Finding the culvert 4: spotting the culvert

You are at the end of the drainage ditch facing north. To the northeast the drainage ditch empties over an edge into a deeper stream that continues to the northeast. To the north there is another concrete drainage ditch that comes out of the hillside and empties into the deeper stream.

> look down

The other stream is about 6 feet beneath you. It's a sheer concrete drop, there aren't many good hand-holds.

> look north

The northern concrete drainage ditch seems to be coming out of a small tunnel. There is a steep grass embankment between you and the tunnel. There is a faint trail traversing the embankment.

> look at embankment trail

It's a very narrow, slightly muddy line along the hillside. Someone must have walked this way before.

> follow trail

You gingerly walk along the trail, clinging to the embankement. You end up on a concrete lip looking into a tunnel facing north. It is about 6 and a half feet square. You can see light at on the other side.

> n

Finding the culvert 5: into the culvert

You are few steps inside a concrete tunnel facing north. You can see light at the end of the tunnel. Water splashes around your feet. There is a roar of vehicles above you. You are underneath the Turnpike!

> n

You are in the middle of the tunnel facing north. You can see a square of light at both the northern and southern end. It is very dark around you. Your feet are wet.

> n

You emerge from the tunnel into bright sunshine. You are standing on smooth stones in a broad flat stream. The bank slopes up gently to the east and west into dense grasses and underbrush. The stream continues north into the woods.

> n

You are on the bank of the stream facing north. You are at the edge of the woods. The stream runs north and south.

> look south

Finding the culvert 6: looking back

You are facing south looking at back at the tunnel. It emerges from a steep hillside. You can see the guardrail of the turnpike on the top of the hill.

> n

The banks steepen. It is darker here since the trees block the sun. The creek continues north to south.

> n

The creek comes to a tributary flowing into it from the west. The main creek continues north.

> look west

The tributary is a small stream. The bank around it is marshy and it lies in a broad, shallow valley.

> w

The small stream winds nortwest. There is a small wooden bridge crossing the stream.

> look at bridge

It is a split log laid across the stream. It connects a trail from the southwest to the northeast.

> ne

You climb onto the bridge and walk northeast. You are on a cleared trail through the woods. It looks like your back on the LHHT!


Actually the real adventure came a few minute after I was back on the trail: I turned the corner and there was a big cat–in the “big cat family” sense not the “large housecat” sense–on the trail. It was 50 feet up the trail facing away from me. It’s shoulders came to the height of the undergrowth, no more than two feet. It had the long swooping tail of a mountain lion, though their existence in Pennsylvania open to debate.

I reached for my camera and it ran into the woods. It crouched behind a log and watched me walk away.

It was a mile more to the Turnpike shelters (mile 38.2)

Monday, 2011-06-13

Wear & tearThe northern end of the trail has less trees which means more UV, also more trekking-pole stopping underbrush. Miserable. I was scheduled to be hiking the same ground the next day on the southbound leg of the trip; the thought was not appealing. I stopped on top of a ridge to call Jeanne. She was going to hike from Ohiopyle to the southermost shelters Friday then hike out with me on Saturday and graciously drive me home. “But maybe” I thought “she would rather meet me at the northern end and still graciously drive me home.” But since I just got her voicemail I had no idea.

I made it to my scheduled stop, the northernmost shelters (PA 56, mile 64.9). It darkened while I was gathering firewood and fireflies came out in force. Their sparks created a beautiful parallax between the layers of trees.

Later there was another set of sparks when steam pressure burst a wet log, showering the inside of the shelter with embers. The only casualty was my map bag.

Tuesday, 2011-06-14

The endIt was a fast 5 mile downhill hike to the northern terminus.

I saw two dogs. Halfway down I turned a corner to find a black lab. She bolted away from me. “That’s Princess” said her accompanying human “he’s my brother’s dog.” I stood well off the trail as he called her. She came back and he held her collar and led her past. She held her head low and gazed up at me nervously.

At mile marker 70, the end of the trail, a German Shepard mix barked loudly. Vince came after her and explained that “[the dog] just liked to talk.” I mentioned I was deciding between hiking back or heading to Johnstown to catch a bus. He offered a drive me to Jonhstown and it was settled.

On the ride he told me about his house in Seward, the floods, his dog–a feral stray they domesticated and the proven existence of mountain lions in Pennsylvania: his dog had chased one into the woods months previous. He dropped me off at Our Sons. I had breakfast steak and eggs and started the walk into Johnstown proper.

Enterprise was out of cars and Amtrak didn’t head westbound until 6, so I settled for the mid-afternoon Greyhound. The delay gave me time to walk to a thrift store for some civilian clothes and then to check out downtown.

Buck's Hobby Craft SuppliesDowntown suffered from flight to the surrounding malls and many of the business were closed. One that was still open was Buck’s Hobby, which was having a moving sale. I walked the aisles slowly and then talked to Buck himself. He had owned the store for [an obscenely high number of] years and was finally retiring.

I had lunch at The Fish Boat and then went outside to wait half an hour for the bus.

The bus was mostly empty so I sat my pack on the ground beside me. My trekking poles stuck up awkwardly. “What are those?” the obese woman across the aisle asked. “Trekking poles” I answered. She went back to sleep.

The next weekend

Since I still needed to get my bike from Ohiopyle and Jeanne still wanted to test out equipment for her upcoming PCT hike, we stuck with the original plan. I rode with her from Pittsburgh to Ohiopyle the next Friday afternoon. A mile away her car made the soft *whump* *whump* *whump* of a flat tire. We stopped at the Cucumber Falls parking lot to take a look. The tires were inflated but badly worn on the inner shoulders: in some places the wire mesh was protruding.

Deciding to deal with it the next day we hiked the 6 miles to the first shelters, arriving right before the rain. We scavenged wood and made a fire. It was great for me in my minimalist quilt, but Jeanne was a sweaty mess in her down bag.

We hiked back out the next morning.

I retrieved my lock and then my bike. I looked for Montana to give him his ice cream prize but he was somewhere down the mighty river, perched on a rock taking capturing awkward pictures of amateur rafters. We got ice cream for ourselves.

There didn’t seem to be any good nearby mechanics so instead used the scissor jack from Jeanne’s flat kit to swap the front and rear wheels on the driver’s side–the more worn side–of the car. We drove a few miles and checked the tires. The driver’s front, the one just rotated from the back, showed no extra wear. We guessed the problem had been going on for awhile and the tires were’t going to explode on the Turnpike. (Jeanne’s mechanic later confirmed that it was the alignment)

We drove back to Pittsburgh.

Final thoughts

I don’t have the patience or mental constitution for out and back hikes. Also I could use a change from Eastern U.S. deciduous forests. And I also need to stop turning every hike into a trail run and instead just enjoy the outdoors. So: find 5-7 day hikes on new terrain and pack a nice camera and a book of local flora and fauna.

Breakfast, lunch, dinnerMy equipment is starting to come together. I think I might move to a larger tarp and ground sheet instead of the tiny tarp & light bivy: much more ground coverage for only a few extra grams. I also need to figure out some good trekking pants and insulated base layers–maybe this is the excuse to finally get down the sewing machine and pay a visit to thru-hiker.

Most importantly I’ve got to figure out a better food system. My attempt at ultra-lightweight cold food–2100 kCal of nuts & berries per day–was a failure. I was hungry and craved both sweets and salt, more salted nuts and chocolate chips would have been a good start. It was also far too few calories. In three days I lost 4 pounds and 4% body fat. I also ordered a Bush Buddy: I’ll enjoy cooking more on found fuel; I can always pack a few Esbit tablets for wet days and emergency fires.


More photos

Fun with animated gifs

2010-01-17 / 12:09 /

Casey feeding an alpaca

My impression of a bunny pooping

Click for sauce.

Delmarva, 2009

2009-10-10 / 12:46 /

I planned on doing a nice travel journal about my experience sailing the Delmarva loop with Captain Habib & crew, but instead I’m just going to dump a bunch of pictures and link to a youtube video.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Habib has a 36′ sail boat
  • Crew of 7+1: Habib, Joe, James, Lyanne, Eric, Kat, Me + Susan on shore support
  • Sailed Chesapeake south to the Atlantic, cut north up to Delaware bay, took canal back to Chesapeake
  • 4.5 days?
  • Night sailing is fun
  • Those anti-sea-sickness patches you put behind your ears work really well
  • Cleaning up a head mess is not fun (according to Habib)
  • Saw dolphins from far away
  • Saw rays from far away
  • Saw a whale from a meter away
  • Ate well on the boat courtesy of Kat & Eric
  • Celebratory sushi afterwards
  • Bus back to Pittsburgh

The summary: it was awesome. Everyone should do it.

Here’s some of my photos (the full set is on flickr):

Here’s an awesome video that Eric & Kat made about our whale encounter: Delmarva Whale [Youtube]

My best story comes from after I was back. I got off the greyhound in Pittsburgh at 3am. At 5am I woke up and thought I had fallen asleep on watch. I looked at the white wall and panicked thinking I couldn’t see around the jib sail. I stumbled down the steps to the “head” and only while peeing in a regular toilet did I realize I was not on a boat.

Victoria, oh Victoria: part 5 (oh right, there was a conference)

2009-09-23 / 12:08 /

4 and a half months later, the thrilling conclusion.

2008-09-25 (Thursday) – 2008-09-27 (Saturday)

Oh right, I came here for a reason. Both DEFUN & CUFP were good. The functional community seems really nice (and smart). Basically everything else I said a year ago.

Then on the walk back I saw the Pandora draw bridge in action. Score!

Drawbridge in action (Pandora Ave)

2008-09-28 (Sunday)

Then I flew home. The End

Victoria, oh Victoria: part 4 (bumming around town)

2009-04-12 / 10:52 /

2008-09-22, Monday

Recovery day. Phone call from land lord @ 5:15am. IGNORE. Alarm I forgot to turn off @ 6:30. CRAP. I dinally woke up and aired out my gear on the back patio while reading some print outs of the web version of Real World Haskell. Ran errands. Ate left-over cous cous dinner then off to the Ocean Island Hostel to see Andrew(?)–part of Team Awesome–‘s band. I talked to him for a second before going back to sleep.

2008-09-23, Tuesday

Woke up early and caught up on podcasts. Then cultural day: first stop, Miniature World. The pictures speak for themselves (though sadly all my pictures of “the world’s smallest operational saw mill” were utter crap; the sawmill itself, however, was marvelous).

Next stop, the Royal BC. Bought a ticket for the mountain climbing IMAX and helpful ultra-canadian cashier woman told me to hang on to my ticket, because I could get a discount if I came back that night to see Dark Knight. I took her up on the offer and bought my discounted ticket.

The museum proper is nice, one of the most impressive parts is the historical recreation of old-tyme Victoria.

I was done with enough time to get a panini and some ice cream before coming back for the awesomeness that is the IMAX version of Dark Knight. Evidently everyone knew it was going to be awesome because it was a full house. I was wedged between a middle-aged couple and a crew of 16 year old boys where I dutifully fulfilled my role decreasing the slope of the age gradient.

2008-09-24, Wednesday

I spent the rainy morning doing more Haskell cramming. Once the weather cleared I started walking towards The Castle. Halfway out Fort St. the rain returned with a vengeance; my jacket kept my body dry, but my jeans were quickly soaked and I abandoned. If only I had my Tyvek pants!

It must have been around 3 because the walk back was flush with teenagers. My first real clue was the girl walking around nervously with a backpack and cat ears. Next I saw a Chevette hop a curb and knock over a stop sign. Two girls jumped out, switched seats, and started backing back down off the curb. The Victoria Police “Crash Van” showed up, slowed, then drove off. Apparently, it was under control.

I ended the walk in the Wildfire Bakery, the hip/hippie bakery/cafe across the street from my hostel. Good hot chocolate and a loaf of bread to go. Later I ate the bread with some “free” peanut butter from the hostel’s free bin; I learned there’s no such thing as free peanut butter, just free rancid peanut butter.

Victoria, oh Victoria: part 3 (the West Coast Trail 3, back to Victoria)

2008-11-19 / 01:44 /

2008-09-21, Sunday

Big bone.  About km 66.

Let’s hope that’s not a portent.

After 4km of forest trail, I headed out to the shelf at kilometer 66. From there it’s only 1.5 km to Owen Pt, though between avoiding soaking my shoes in tidal pools and drowning in huge surge channels, I walked about 2.5. But other than rocks slick with invisible algae, it’s an easy walk. It’s also beautiful, in a post apocalyptic sort of way. I present the following two examples of the beach:

Rock fingers

Post apocalyptic tidal flats

And this one looking back into the woods, which is more “post-apocalypse by Tolkein:”

Where the water meets the woods.

I reached Owen’s Pt. sometime before 10:14 am, which, according to the tide table was the only time it was passable. The tide table was half right: it was passable if didn’t mind walking through ankle deep ocean water. Instead I peeked over the edge into the eroded-cavern-thing. It was… drumroll… anti-climactic. Maybe it’s nicer if you jump down and marvel. Instead I took advantage of the overland route someone had made out of well knotted nylon rope. On the other side of the point the shelf became soft sand. Just as I was cursing sand walking, it turned into rocks.

The rocks past Owen's Pt.

Rocks rocks rocks. Big rocks, small rocks. But pretty much all sharp rocks. Definitely too much for my aged New Balances and probably the most painful part of the hike.

3.5 km later the rocks became a beach. There were 4 men waving madly at the ocean. “How much further to Thrasher?” I asked. “This is Thrasher” the Bamfield Coast Guard hat-wearing guy answered. With that out of the way, I talked to them and found out that two of them were guides and the other two were French film-makers. They were worried about missing the 5pm ferry and consequently the frenchmen’s 5am flight the next day. They were trying to signal the ferry-man for an early pick-up. I tried my cell phone but got no signal. Finally they picked up their 40 kilo packs–no exaggeration, they had some big damn cameras–and started up the ladders to the main trail.

I took advantage of the peace and tranquility to relax.

Be a proper pooper

Something must have worked because when I came out the world was unbelievably beautiful:

Thrasher Cove

The sunshine was a good excuse to take off my shoes and eat some macadamia nuts.

20 minutes later, I started up the ladders. Monique had warned me that it was “an hour of ladders” She was wrong, but it was a climb. And after the ladders came a series of extremely steep switchbacks to get back to the main trail. The trail itself was all ups and down, it included the highest point in the entire trail and, unsurprisingly, ended at sea level. I wasn’t surprised when it only took a kilometer to catch the filmmakers; my pack was only 8 kilos.

4 kilometers later I hiked down to the shore and hoisted the orange buoy. The ferry driver showed up in a few minutes. He said it’s can be a beautiful trail but “Some people hike it in 4 days, that’s just stupid!” Since I had just finished in 4 days, I chose to interpret him as saying “You should enjoy what the trail has to offer.” I agree.

Back to Victoria

It was only a 5 minute ferry ride across the mouth of the river and then a 100 meter walk to the camp office. While I was walking towards the office a bitchin’ Camero pulled up and out stepped–if I remember his name correctly–Glen: a tall, tribal fellow. He also had a bleached mohawk and was wearing knee-high waders. He had seen be get off the trail and asked about the filmmakers. He had been working at the Nitinat ferry and had hiked out, Sherpa-ing some dead batteries for the filmmaker’s in the process. I told him they were a few kilometers behind me and he headed into the warden’s office.

I followed and gave the warden my registration info so she’d know I wasn’t dead in a surge channel or eaten by wolves. She also gave me some information on the Juan de Fuca trail and the local town. I sat down and in a head-cold haze tried to put everything together: I could camp in town that night then start hiking the next morning… but I had to get to an accessible trail head by Wednesday, since that was the last day the trail bus ran… so I’d have to figure out where I’d get out and call ahead and make a reservation… but I still needed to refill my water and maybe get a little more food… or maybe I should wait and see if I could get a ride with Team Awesome, they were talking about driving back to Victoria…

Chris and Fabian saved me. While I was blindly staring at the Port Renfrew map a tall red-headed German man (Chris) and a short blond Swiss woman (Fabian) walked up. The man said they were headed back to Victoria by way of Cowichan Lake and they’d be happy to give me a ride. “Happy” seemed a bit optimistic, since I smelled terrible, but I accepted.

They were both students at an English language school in Victoria. Chris had just bought the car from his host family so they went for a weekend trip. They had camped in Port Renfrew the night before; it involved rain, a crazy man, and dual nightmares about a firing squad and being in a tent on fire. They still seemed pretty pleased, I assume because there was some hot make-out action they had elided.

We stopped at Lake Cowichan to eat some of their left-over food. Chris used his well engineered German stove to boil water for their tea and coffee. It was cold so Fabian put on the most awesome vest ever: it was shearling and had “Hoochie” written on the front in gold script. I then noticed that Chris was wearing FUBU cargo pants. I wonder if he knows that he’s not the Us they’re referring to?

Then it was just a short drive back through the surprisingly sprawling suburbs of Victoria to the Turtle. I insisted Chris and Fabian take 20 CDN.

Inside, Sue set me up with a room. Then we talked for 20 minutes: turns out she used to be a programmer in China. This set off a string of complaints about the stress of programming, which is why now she owns a hostel. Perhaps that’s what I should do with my life?

It was dark by the time I’d showered and settled. I headed out for comfort food and settled on over-priced mediocre pizza. I watched drunk Victorian college students and felt out of place and culture-shocked; hiking was a distant, pleasant memory. Instead of owning a hostel, I might stick with my original retirement plan: mountain man.

Victoria, oh Victoria: part 2 (the West Coast Trail 2)

2008-11-13 / 11:36 /

2008-09-20, Saturday

Shelf / The Moon (+ water)

It was a foggy, overcast morning so I decided to pack my rain gear near the top. GoLite‘s end of season sale was a good excuse to finally get a Virga and I splurged and bought some Tyvek pants at full price. It was great except that the pants were on my living room floor. But had I worn them I probably would have looked something like this:

A simulation of me in Tyvek pants

Bear tracks on the beach to CarmanahSans pants (rain pants, I was still wearing my trekking pants), I walked back to km 43 and headed out to the beach. I could hear sea lions barking but the fog was too thick to see anything. I contented myself with following some pretty awesome bear tracks. I walked beside them until the stairs to civilization: Carmanah Lighthouse. It was a quick walk up the steps. Then a confused wander around. Then a trip down some steps. Then back up. Then back down. Then down the beach until I found where I was supposed to have come down. Then halfway back up those steps, then thinking about getting stuck in the rain because I spent half-an-hour going up and down stairs.

Then another kilometer to Chez Monique’s:

Chez Monique & some lightweight americans

Monique is a french canadian and wife of a Ditidaht (I believe). The reservation comes down to the water and she’s set up shop. A cheeseburger and pop was $19 but conversation was free–it’s a good deal per word. My pre-hike research turned up that she was a programmer, so we talked a bit about Fortran. Then politics came up and I was saved by the arrival of two Americans. It was refreshing to see them: they were the only other sane lightweight hikers. I let them carry the conversation while I watched Monique and her sous chef. It turns out that every summer Monique has hired (or maybe just free room and board) help. The French girl chopping our tomatoes found out through an organic farm. I have yet to tell him, but this is definitely a job for Nick.

The next stretch of beach held several signs of “P” life:

Cougar tracks?
A bad fish morning
Seagulls, Poop-load of:
Pigeon central (Carmanah Creek)

Bridge over Logan (I think) CreekThe back into the woods and my hiking zone. The beach might be beautiful, but if you’re not actually on the shelf it’s slow sand walking. Frustrating. I powered down the trail except for a slip on a muddy log bridge that landed me on my bum and a disturbing clanging noise while I was crossing a suspension bridge. Mechanical failure! I thought until I noticed a hiker climbing down the ladder on the other side, pots hanging off his pack and banging together loudly. I couldn’t tell if it was an intentional anti-bear technology or just lazy packing. Either way it was annoying.

Culite Creek cove (I think)Next stop was Culite Creek for some food/foot repair/bio break. Inside the fancy solar composting toilets I realized that I’d forgotten something else: my toilet paper. It was probably in the outhouse past Nitinat (forgot to mention the boat ride across the Nitinat narrows. The ferrymen said the second largest douglas fir grew near Cheewhat Lake. Apparently it takes two dozen middle school kids hand in hand to circle the trunk). Luckily, I had brought along Roy Fielding’s doctoral dissertation. I don’t know Roy and will never tell him this story, but I hope he enjoys knowing that his table of contents is hibernating on the Juan de Fuca coast, waiting until the beautiful moment when it can metamorphosize into dirt.

It was a short but muddy 4 kilometers to Camper Creek (62 km). There I met Team Awesome, 3 ex-biology students, and their trail buddy, an ex Washington-state sheriff. I set up then headed back to eat by their fire. They were great company, they even shared some chicken of the woods. They seemed content to stay up talking, but I had sleeping plans.

My cold acted up while sleeping and I had the vivid flashing light / geometric / spatial disorientation dreams I get when feverish. I woke up a few times thinking I was standing, something that would have been difficult in my tent.

Victoria, oh Victoria: part 1 (the West Coast Trail 1)

2008-11-11 / 09:19 /

2008-09-18, Thursday

I was eating an orange when the bus pulled up. It was a full sized school bus which was probably overkill for 5 people. The driver was from New Zealand. This was his norther-hemisphere summer job, in October he’d head back south for his southern-hemisphere summer job… as a bus driver. Not a bad life. Two of the hikers were a couple from Australia (I think) and they had dragged along a British guy they had met in a pub. He seemed hesitant. The ride to Port Renfrew was uneventful except for Rt. 14 near the Juan de Fuca China Beach trail head when the bus driver stopped for a bear. It didn’t seem bothered by the bus at all.

Pachena Lighthoues zip-line? In Port Renfrew we swapped the aussies and brit for three Vancouver co-workers who had just finished hiking north-south. They were nice guys with a bit of dude in them; I just kept quiet when one was complaining about the bikers in Vancouver. “They’re like rabbits!” he exclaimed. Keeping quiet was easy since I didn’t feel much like talking anyway: I’d woken up with that tickly throat feeling that normally leads to a head cold.

After 3 hours of logging roads, we got to the Bamfield trailhead of the West Coast Trail. The bikers==rabbits guy started loading his gear into his 22″ rimmed Escalade.

“Well there you go!” exclaimed the park warden when I walked into the trail office. Because of recent cougar spottings, she (the warden) had been waiting for someone to pair up with Amelia, a solo hiker, for the first 10 km. I don’t look intimidating (at all) but I had my emergency whistle. Figuring it could also double as a rape whistle if Amelia tried anything funny, I agreed.

Turns out that Amelia used to work for a Victoria based CRO before it got bought by evil Americans and turned into a dilbert inspired carnival of horrors. She quit her job and went on adventures. We spent time talking about clinical research and her time on Everest. Time passed quickly and soon we were at Michigan (12km). Amelia decided to stop there for the night. Since we were out of cougar country, I pushed on solo to Tsocowis (16.5km).

Beach camping at TsocowisI knew it was beach camping, but imagined that meant “at the edge of the forest” and not “you’re sleeping on sand”, which was a first for me. Luckily I had just read Mike Clelland’s article and knew how to make deadmen deadpeople . Making it a night of firsts, I boiled water in my brand new Foster’s can cook-pot and ultralight stove and made boil-in-bag cous cous–a new recipe.

The tide wouldn’t be in until 3am. Given the dry wood, I felt pretty safe, but I was a little nervous about getting a night-time soaking. I went to bed with my shoes outside the door and my important gear ready to grab if I had to move out of a flooding tent in the middle of the night. I woke to the sound of waves and went outside to look. The ocean was still where it should be, far away from my tent.

2008-09-19, Friday

I woke up, Hydropel‘ed my feet and was off. I’d packed eat-while-hiking breakfasts so I could get started to shake the morning chills. It was now obvious I had a cold. Despite that, I felt pretty awesome. This also turned out to be my day of pictures, so here they are:

Brdge over Tsocowis Creek
Bridge over Tsocowis Creek.

The trail is not always well maintained.

Walking the shelf

A barely visible baby seal
It’s hard to tell but that’s a baby seal. It was napping behind a rock on the beach and made a break for the sea when it saw me. After seeing a seal run I can see why people think they’re so cute. You just want to help the little guy along.

Cable car across Klanawa River
Klanawa River cable car.

Scenic black and white.

Bear scat
Bear scat.

Pine forest before Chewhat

Cougar scat.... and more!
Cougar scat.

Post apocalyptic logpile near Cribs
Those are all logs. A giant sea of dead logs.

km 43
Km 43, where the forest trail was closed “for erosion”. It was getting late and the tides were too high for the beach route. I thought about camping here but the animal prints convinced me to backtrack to Cribs creek (41.5km).

More beach camping at Cribs creek

I took advantage of the tidal flats to get some sea water for cous cous flavoring–I sort of forgot to salt my cous cous–and gargling.

Victoria, oh Victoria: part 0 (getting there, getting ready)

2008-11-10 / 00:55 /

2008-09-16, Tuesday

Empty SFO

There’s one whole arm of SFO that’s empty. Awesome.

2008-09-17, Wednesday

Beacon Hill ParkThere is not a single Esbit tab anywhere in Victoria. Not even in the MEC, which is strategically located across the street from Monty’s. Capital Iron came the closest with Coghlan’s fuel tabs–which I bought out of desperation since I’ve only ever used their waterproof matches which are unfortunately also fire proof–and a helpful manger who had some advice about the West Coast Trail.

Saw a flyer for Paul Devro who was playing that night. Tempting, but the bus left at 6:30 the next morning While waiting for Sue (hostel owner) to put my bags in storage I heard a girl say that Fleet Foxes were also playing that night. Note: in Victoria Wednesday night is party night.

Travels with Casey

2008-08-08 / 12:59 /

Cleaning out Picasa…

Cranbrook via Toronto

San Fracisco

Me and MeshU up in Toronto

2008-06-03 / 07:22 /

Avi’s blog post reminded me that I never summarized my trip to MeshU. In a word: good.

Or in several words…


I left Pittsburgh in a shiny new rented Sebring and drove to Toronto in about 5 and a half hours. The only events of interest were 1) realizing I had no washer fluid and 2) a small delay at the Peace Bridge for Victoria Day.

Tron I got parked ($10 CDN/night) and checked in to the Neill-Wycik, which exceeded it’s reviews. The room was a dorm single in a suite, though the other rooms seemed empty. I only saw one other person and only for the 2 seconds it took her to go from her room to the bathroom.

The roof offered some Victoria Day firework watching, unfortunately underwhelming compared to the Zambelli’s work. Then back to the room & free Wi-Fi to check if the post-conference weather would be good for camping. Not only was the weather looking dodgy, but I had forgotten my AC Adapter.

Tuesday morning

If I had to come up with a complaint of the Neill-Wycik, it would be the inability of the curtains to stop sharp rays of sunlight from stabbing me in the eyes. I woke up right around sunrise and spent some time reading Black Dogs. I considered showering, but since the plan was to drive straight from the conference to Tobermory and sleep in the car, it didn’t seem worth it. Plus I didn’t shave or bring business cards so I figured professionalism was right out the window. They’re lucky I wore pants.

Neill-Wycik disposes of trash proper Before going I checked all the drawers to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I’m not sure if it’s official Neill-Wycik policy, but there was a random porn DVD in a desk drawer. Feeling that this was the ultimate souvenier, I took it. This comes up later in the story.

I walked the few blocks to the MaRS center. The sign-in and breakfast (fruit & carbs) was in an open area immediately adjacent to the conference rooms. I found a table and “networked.” It was an interesting mix of designers, technical-ers, and entrepreneurs. They did a quick and–from where I was sitting–unintelligible intro and then we were off.

Beyond relational

I decided to see Avi Bryant’s “Beyond Relational Storage” talk based on the strength of his blog and Seaside.

I wasn’t disappointed: his talk was awesome (my notes).

He covered a bunch of alternate data storage strategies (SimpleDB, in memory, Prevayler, etc.), took questions, and then gave us a sneak-peak of MagLev (which has blown-up the blog world since it’s official debut at RailsConf).

Aftwerwards there was a small talk at my table. My neighbor was Markus, the CEO of Palomino System Innovations. They make a CMS, but mostly I was interested in their custom XML store.


I was planning on running to Best Buy over break, but my laptop seemed to be doing ok in real ultimate power-saving mode so instead I made some calls.

Thorncrest Outfitters strongly–as in “we won’t rent you a kayak”–spoke against my proposed paddle to Flowerpot Island in Five Fathoms Marine Park. They proposed a one-day river kayaking trip, which sounded far less exciting.

Blue Heron affirmed that they take campers to Flowerpot Island but warned that the boat might be canceled since the weather called for rain and high winds.


Iterative Design Strategies w/ Daniel Burka One of the breakfast webbies, Angie (I think, I didn’t get a business card) was excited about Daniel Burka‘s “Iterative Design Strategies” talk (notes) so I thought I’d check it out. I had planned to go see Reg’s talk, but, while neither designer or manager, I’m closer to designer. Or at least I occasionally make a user interface that isn’t a command line.

Daniel’s talk was “I sat on the floor” crowded. I liked his case study of his redesign of the Digg comment UI, but otherwise I wasn’t the right audience. It was basically Agile for designers. A good idea, but not something I need. It is however the only talk I took a picture of.

Lunchtime networking

Lunch was notable for the company. I sat with some current/recently matriculated students: Julie, Andrey, Andrew & uhm… the tall woman with the blond hair whose name I have forgotten. Pete Forde from Unspace was also there facilitating the conversation and unashamedly flogging Ruby Fringe, which sounds interesting but is too expensive for me & too non-work related for my employer.

Implementing OAuth

My third session was Leah Culver’s “Implementing OAuth” (notes). Leah started with a review of OAuth (and the difference from OpenID), explained the protocol & showed the code. A fairly good talk, though again not directly related to me.

Some of the questions coming from the front seemed strangely pointed… perhaps beacuse they were being asked by Cal Henderson. The old “plant in the audience” trick. Very clever, Leah and Cal, very clever…

And finally, Mr. John Resig

Despite the rumors that John Resig’s jQuery talk (notes) was going to be introductory, I wanted to see him talk. Plus I’ve never used jQuery, so I was ready for an introduction.

Before the talk John got some water from our table (near the front). I talked to him briefly about processing.js, which I’ve been meaning to look at for online plotting.

His talk was a quick introduction to jQuery followed by some live examples of unobtrusive prototyping against live pages. jQuery looks as good as its reputation, I’ll be trying it out whenever I have a chance / excuse.

The end of the day

I kind of wanted to go to the afterparty so I could tell Avi I liked his talk. He was busy at lunch and the only other time I saw him was at the urinal, which seemed like an awkward time. I also wanted to make up for my lack of pictures by getting photos of all the presenters giving me bunny ears. Alas it turns out the after-party was a significant distance away. Instead, I tagged along with Julie, Andrew & Andrey for some pan-asian dinner at Spring Roll.

Dinner & conversation were both good.

Then I walked back to the car.

The drive north south

Google Map directions took me North on Spadina, which seemed more than a little suspicious. Eventually I turned around got on the Gardiner Expressway. It was about 7:30 and it would take another 3 hours to get to Tobermory where I may or may not get to ride a boat to Flowerpot Island. Given the chances & the weather I just took Gardiner to the QEW and headed south.

I stopped at a Tim Horton’s to pee and pick up a tea. I figured I’d need the caffeine later.

I stopped a second time at the US border crossing.

The border guard asked me a bunch of questions. He seemed especially interested in the fact that I was only in Canada for a day. Then he confiscated my contraband oranges and bumped me to 2nd level border check. I parked in the directed spot and went inside. Some border agents checked my license and passport and asked more questions. Then they went to search the car.

I was sitting in the waiting room when I realized I had a mystery porn in the trunk. I ran through a few nightmare scenarios where it was actually child porn or something. Who would believe I found it in a drawer in a hostel? Luckily the agents came back in and told me I was free to go.

The agent didn’t have a solid reason on why I was stopped. It was probably because I spent a single day in Canada and was crossing the border at night, but I was hoping it was something like “the agent saw your trunk full of perversion.” That would at least give me a funny story. As it is I was just left with a dull feeling of violation and powerlessness. How Kafkaesque.

I gave the DVD to Casey. It’s a Japanese porn. Nothing special, and certainly not worth the stress.

Final words

I suppose I should wrap up something about the conference and how good it was to meet new and interesting people. But really, my advice is to just leave porn in drawers.