Book review – The Martian

You probably went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this winter. Did you happen to notice how everyone can breathe just fine on just about any planet or asteroid? With no space suits or visible means of  life support? Come on. It’s a reasonably good story —lots of action, romance, family drama, plenty of cute wookie and robot scenes —but the lack of attention to scientific detail drives me insane.

Last year I translated a book about space written by Swiss author Philippe Barraud. It was a fun project. I learned an enormous amount — the unfathomable enormity of the universe, the practical challenges inherent to interplanetary travel, the unlikelihood of survival as a species off our own planet, and most of all the mind-boggling absurdity of our conviction that humans are the most advanced lifeform in the universe. We are stunning in our stubborn tendency to put ourselves at the center of everything.

During our months of work, Philippe mentioned The Martian, saying it was a fantastic book. I’m not a sci-fi fan, so I filed it away and then forgot about it. I didn’t have a hankering to go see the movie when it came out, even though Matt Damon.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Whistler, waiting for Brendan and his friend Cassandra to weary of skiing in the rain. Due to bad planning on my part, I had no reading material. No journal. The free Whistler paper takes about five minutes to read. Front and center in the Whistler Village bookstore: The Martian. Thank you Fate. Continue reading

Book Review – Manuscript Found in Accra

Jerusalem’s about to get sacked by the Crusaders, and instead of packing, residents gather around a wise guy and ask him a bunch of deep questions. Read a longer, better summary at Goodreads.

Brazilian author Paolo Coehlo is scorned by the literati, probably  because he’s so popular—he has more than 10 million followers on Facebook. His mythical treatment of human pilgrimage, The Alchemist, started out as a total bomb, but became an international best-seller. I first read that one in French and loved it. So call me plebeian. I don’t give a rat’s ass. I like what I like. Continue reading

Homesick hiker

It has been months since we finished our thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. I wrote the blow-by-blow here on the blog; you might even have read it. What I have been less able to articulate is how the hike has affected me now that I’m back home again.

I still think about it every single day. I didn’t think this would happen to me. If I’m completely honest, I didn’t even really believe I could complete the hike, so I never thought about what would happen when it was over.  Continue reading

I gave at the office

Did you know about #GivingTuesday? Me neither. But it’s a Thing, the brainchild of someone who was nauseated by the consumerist mayhem of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, an attempt to reclaim the spirit of Thanksgiving from the clutches of corporate greed. It even has its own website.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave away 99% of his FaceBook shares yesterday. I myself got an e-mail from of the university. There wasn’t an explicit ask in the mail, nothing really on offer, just a big DONATE button at the bottom of the page. And as we head into the “holiday season,” the asks will keep rolling in right and left. Continue reading

Butterflies of love

The other day a friend asked me if I was still volunteering at the hospice. I told her I was.

That must be so hard, she said. Actually, I get that comment a lot. It must be so hard.

I didn’t quite know what to say. My immediate reaction was to say that it wasn’t hard. But I couldn’t explain why. Continue reading

CT Gear List

As promised, here’s our gear list. I’ll do my best to include weights now that I’ve put a new battery in my kitchen scale. (I’ve used grams, since they’re easier to add up — here’s a converter if you need it).

Bear in mind the well-known gear maxim: Losing pounds is cheap; losing ounces is expensive. This trip was a celebration of my 50th birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary.  What better way of showing your love for each other than buying outrageously expensive gear?  That said, we got a lot of stuff on sale at Campsaver. Some of it we had already. Also bear in mind that we’re not hard core UL backpackers. If you want that, just type “UL backpacking gear” into Google and make sure to increase the limit on your Visa card. Continue reading

CT Stage 6 – Silverton to Durango

August 14

Miles hiked: 18.8
Total trip miles: 445.1

There’s something I forgot to mention in the last post. Guess who I ran into in the parking lot of the Prospector in Silverton yesterday, right before Rob rode up? Tortuga, the solo hiker who camped above us at Pine Creek and then again along Moose creek! I’d been feeilng bad, because I only belatedly realized he must have been low on food if he needed to hitch down from Stony Pass to Silverton. He mentioned he was depleted, and I had thought he meant he was tired. That is, until the next day, when my brain was functioning properly again.

We should have shared our dinner with you, I say. In fact, our dinner that night had been more than we could eat. Dehydrated quinoa has a way of sucking up copious quantities of water and expanding into a gargantuan mass. A mass so enormous that even Marc cannot pack it all away. (I know! Impossible!)

It’s okay, he says. I should be better at asking for help.

It’s worth mentioning, I think, because we would have loved it if he had asked. Next time I’ll try to pay closer attention.  If in doubt, ask other hikers if they’re okay on food. It’s lonely and long out there if you’re on your own. Continue reading

CT Stage 5 – Lake City to Silverton

August 10

Miles hiked: 3
Total trip mileage: 373

I am putting in three miles for today, even though it’s officially a “zero” day, because getting around Lake City involves quite a bit of walking. We stop by the Raven’s Rest hostel and drop off un-needed food from our resupply box. (BTW, the undies made it, thanks Rick!) Marc introduces me to his newest friends, a couple from Alabama who run the outfitter shop; they arrange a shuttle back up to the pass for us. The free shuttle doesn’t head up to the pass until noon, and we’re willing to pay $40 to get up there early in the morning. Continue reading

CT Stage 4 – Monarch to Lake City

August 5

Miles hiked: 19.4
Total trip mileage: 293.5

This morning we pass the hiker we saw last night, a lovely young guy thru-hiking, taking his time, traveling solo. It’s always a pleasure to chat with other hikers on this trail and hear their stories. There aren’t that many people out here. The trail from the shelter cabin to Marshall Pass is a dream — gentle grade, lovely open views, clear skies.

In fact, I am starting to feel like that this hike is being blessed. Our weather, our bodies, our spirits —everything has been so much better than I expected. While I walk I often think of my dad, who died six years ago. He’s the person who instilled this love of the wilderness in me. Everything I know about backpacking I owe to him and the family adventures he masterminded. I know he would have been so psyched about this adventure. He would have joined us for a leg or two, or at the very least insisted we carry a Spot tracker so he could follow us online. It seems entirely reasonable to me that he’s still participating somehow — parting the clouds, holding off the lightning, easing our sore muscles as we sleep at night … Continue reading

CT Stage 3 – Collegiate West

July 31

Miles hiked: 16.2
Total trip miles: 203.6

Rick picks us up in the morning as promised, and drives us to the Willis Gulch trailhead just off the road heading up to Independence Pass. We climb about 3 miles up to meet the CT at a junction at mile 4.3. Like I said, we weren’t about to hike on flatland all the way around the Twin Lakes reservoir just to get to mile 0.0 of the Collegiate West. Continue reading