Monday, March 28, 2011

The Lamest Champions

A month or so ago Trevor and I received a mass e-mail from a former master's program classmate of Trevor's who was looking for friends to go on a camping trip with him.  Now I love a good ol' camping trip (see This Weekend was In-Tents!)  but like I've said I'm much more of a pull up and park your tent next to your car full of comfort and beer kind of camper.

 This friend of ours was planning a trip that:
 A) requires snow tires just to get to the campsite (deal breaker #1)
 B) requires planning in advance to apply for a wilderness pass to go back country hiking (deal breaker #2)
 C) requires snow shoes to hike (deal breaker #3)
 D) may or may not require a bear cannister (deal breaker #4)

I was hoping enough people would reply with suggestions to go camping somewhere else, maybe not in the middle of no where and maybe not in the freezing cold snow.  We do live in California for goodness sake.  But alas a few people committed to the trip, including yours truly, Mr. Trevor -"I-already-lost -my-tent-poles" OG.  Looks like we're going snow camping.....?!

There are some snow-capped mountains in those clouds!

So we committed to this winter wonderland adventure with no functional tent, no pads, no camping gear, no hiking backpacks, no warm coats, and no experience.  A few trips to the thrift store solved our warm comfy clothes dilemma.  A mention of being under-prepared for the camping trip to my boss solved our hiking and camping gear deficiencies.  And a friend who put our names on her wilderness application and drove out butts down there, while another friend rented us snow shoes, solved our lack of planning ahead problems.

The night before we leave I am growing increasingly schizo worrying about all the things we need to bring and pack and wondering if we've gotten ourselves in over our heads.  Trevor's taking it easy catching up on the NCAA basketball games and assures me I can relax tonight. If I make a list of things he needs to pack then he agrees to pack up the rest of the stuff while I'm at work.  That sounds nice.  So I write out a list of things for him to pack and do...

Things To Do:
clean the cooler
buy ice
find the sleeping bags in the attic
make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
fill water bottles
pack up the items on the kitchen table (soap/matches/bowls/utensils/emergency blanket/first aid kit/toilet paper)
buy snow chains
buy beer
adjust the straps on the packs

Things to Pack:
thermal pants
thermal shirt
fleece jacket
t-shirts (1-2)
underwear (1-2)
wool socks
hooded sweatshirt
rain coat
water proof pants
fleece pants
wool sweater
sun block

Luckily I was able to get out of work around 4:15pm.  I give Trev a call on the way home to let him know I'll be early.  His reply "Ok good.  Um so I was supposed to pack stuff right?  Didn't you make a list for me or something?  Cause I haven't gotten around to that yet, but I can start that now...."   Oh dear....  Luckily our ride wasn't ready or in any sort of rush either.

We get down to the campsite in Idyllwild around 11:30pm and, surprise!, we are the only occupied campsite in the lot.  Our firiends Max and Jen from LA and Breanna and Steve from San Diego have been at the site for awhile and have a nice fire going.  We set up our tent on the 4-6 inches of icy snow and have a few beers by the fire.  Ahh camping in the cold isn't so bad?  Beers and campfires...  A lovely cozy combination, but it can also make you fool yourself that bad ideas are good ideas.  Like standing too close to the fire pit.  Sounds like a good idea to stay warm, but it's a bad idea for your plastic snow pants that are melting while you chat.  Or going to bed with your boots on.....might keep your feet insulated but you won't be able to move your toes all night and will still be stiff and frozen in the morning.   We learned a lot from that first we should put on every single layer and article of clothing before going to sleep....

..because the next morning some of us were borderline frost bitten.  And I can honestly say it was one of the most miserable nights of sleep I've ever had.  So it made me a little worried that the next night we would be a few thousand feet higher in elevation and it was sure to be at least 10 degrees colder at night.

Campsite #1 in Idyllwild

We ate chili, grilled cheese and coffee for breakfast, packed up our gear and headed to Palm Springs

snow-capped mountain

interesting cloud formation

Mount San Jacinto State Park, campsite #2

 In Palm Springs,  we jumped aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which lifted us to 8,000+ ft elevation.  It was during the walk from the tram parking lot up to the tram station when I first tried on my backpack.  I immediately knew I was in trouble.  It was damn heavy.  But we're still smiling...

going up!

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

When we got to the top of the mountain and exited the tram car, the awaiting park ranger asked us if we were planning on camping overnight.  We said yes.  He asked if we knew about the approaching storm?  We said no..double trouble....

Max and Trevor
From the beginning I knew that the distance from the top of the tram to our final camping destination was 2.5 miles.  peanuts!  I was psychologically prepared to walk 2.5 miles.  I could walk 2.5 miles in my sleep!  So I kept telling myself, if it's too cold or if it starts snowing, we just have to walk 2.5 miles and then we could get back to the car. 

However, this is another good lesson I learned about high altitude snow camping...... 2.5 miles is a miserably long distance when you're walking in 4 feet of snow with 50lbs of gear, food, and clothes and you need to gain an additional 600ft in elevation and you can already feel a significantly less amount of oxygen in the air.  Did I mention I also slept miserably the night before?

Putting on the snow shoes

Needless to say the hike was slow and painful.

taking a break

keeping our heads down and powering through...
more rest

one step at a time

I believe it took us over 3 hours to get to our site.  During the trip, almost everyone fell down at least once out of exhaustion.  My particularly favorite moment was when Trevor was hiking in front of me.  We had a good 10-step then break for 2 minutes rhythm going.  Trevor has already sweated through all his layers of clothes and is completely soaked in his own saline solution.  Exhaustion doesn't even describe how energy depleted we were.  Big, strong 6'3" tall Trevor leans on a tree branch for some relief and SNAP rips off the branch and falls face down into 4 feet of snow.  Putting out his hands to catch himself, his arms simply punch through the snow and he is completely horizontal.  After realizing he was going to survive, I could not stop laughing at this image.

I was a little concerned about him afterwards because for the rest of the trip he was very vocal about his fear of "freezing his a$$ off."  .

cozying up

By the time we made it to the site, we were toast.  We set up our tents and snuggled up inside.  We also took turns digging out the bathroom which was this little outhouse in the middle of no where.

can you spot the potty?

It looks 2 ft tall because the bottom 4 feet of it is well under the snow.

The while day was rather quiet as people seemed to be fighting their internal survival demons (at least I was) and the site at the top wasn't much more social.  It was too cold to hang out outside and everyone was spent so we each retreated to our tents and cooked some dinner...mac and cheese and mexican rice..

Max making white chicken chili

We were in bed in the sleeping bags before the sun even set.

What were my pajamas you may ask?
   2 pairs of wool sox
   underarmor pants
   snow pants
   underarmor long sleeve shirt
   hooded sweatshirt
   fleece jacket
   fur-lined wool vest
   wool-lined coat
   turtle neck scarf
   furry hat
   and my best friend mr. sleeping bag

Prior to the trip I had randomly come across a 20-pack of hot hands hand warmers.  At the time I thought they might be useful, but I never would have thought of them if I didn't see them.  These came to be the most essential piece of equipment I had packed. We had a field day stuffing them down our sleeping bags with the stubborn satisfaction that we are not going to be cold tonight.  We slept with an emergency NASA blanket on top of us.  And to be wasn't that cold.... But it was windy as all hell.

You could hear the wind howling in the distance.  At first it sounded like a freight train..then I convinced myself it must be an avalanche...and then the wind made it to our tent and it was fierce tumultuous whipping it gave our tent.  At one point it ripped the weather cover clear off the tent.  When I opened my eyes and saw the sky I knew we were in bad shape. Too tired to get out of the tent, I reached out and grabbed one of the cover's strings and tied it to my boot and went back to bed.  Knowing that if the cover won't stay on at least it wouldn't blow away now.  Luckily it didn't rain or snow, but it was still a long night.  The wind would pick up every fifteen minutes or so and it was impossible to get any significant shut eye.

Another distraction that woke me up was my nose.  It was totally sinus-booger stuffed at one point.  I couldn't get any air in through my right nostril.  So I rolled over on my left side hoping it would drain out.  It drained out alright.  I woke up who knows how long afterwards to a viscous fluid all down my lips and chin.  Am I bleeding?  Did a slug have diarrhea on my face?  Nope, just booger spewing out my nose and all over everything.  Disgusting, I know.  Another thing I was glad I packed:  tissues.

Sounds like a great vacation so far huh?

Well, we survived the night.

good morning sunshine

Hello trees

The feeling of not dying of frost bite or exhaustion and waking up in the morning and having the sun starting to warm the air around you feels like a great accomplishment.   While we're still in our tents recovering, our camper friend encourages us with  "You are all champions in my book."   Max realistically interjects, "Is your book called 'The Lamest Champions?"

The hike back down to the tram took us about a third of the time it took us to go up.

let's go home



We changed when we got back to the car and mmm mmm mmmm that burger I had at Rubie's Diner on the way home was the most delicious meal I have ever eaten.

On the car ride home we saw Jay Leno driving down the highway in a car that looked like chitty chitty bang bang.  True story.  Random.  Weird.  But true.

On the way home I also really wanted to buy a scale.  I was convinced my backpack weighed at least 45-50 lbs.  Trevor wouldn't let me get one.  He said I would be really upset to find out that it really only weighed 20-30 lbs.   I didn't get a scale.  And now no one knows how much my pack really weighs.  In my mind it weighed 50lbs so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

To top off the end of a mentally and physically exhausting weekend we went to the beach for some margaritas.

Then I slept like a rock in the most comfortable bed ever.

The End.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another Sh*tty Day in Paradise

In California, Trevor and I have a favorite cab company.  His name is Dieter.  And it's not much of a company but more of a one man show.  His business card says Dieter and has his phone number is listed below it.  Plain and simple.  Every time he picks us up, we get in the cab and tell Dieter where we want to go (usually it's the bar or the airport).   Every time without fail Dieter responds, ".......Another shitty day in paradise, ey?"  More often than not the weather in Santa Barbara is sunny, dry, and 65-75 degrees.  So his comment is more than likely ironic and comical because it is almost a joke how ridiculously gorgeous it is outside or in the 7 out of 365 days that it is actually raining, his comment is perfectly fitting.  Either way it always feels appropriate.   And either way it always makes me happy.

Another thing that makes me happy is ordering white cheddar cheese-itz from the vending machine at work.  I love them not only because it's a deliciously salty snack, and not only because I've convinced myself they are good for me, and not only because they are the cheapest thing in the vending machine besides gum or breath mints, but I love them because the combination you have to press on the keypad for white cheddar cheeze-itz is 'A0.'  And every time I type in 'A-0,' I imagine my bag of cheese-itz hollaring "A-OoOOOOOOooooooo!"  right before they take the plunge. 

I have a friend on facebook whose name is Julie Erickson.  Five or six years ago when I was living in New Jersey I would often times meet my good friend, Ben, out for happy hour with his co-workers.  During one happy hour, I really hit it off with one of Ben's co-workers and we decided to become facebook friends.  I told her my name, 'Julie Erickson,' and she replied "NO wAY! That is my cousin's name!!!!" So of course I had to become friends with her cousin too, because how many Julie Erickson's do you hear about in one life time?  I never met this Julie Erickson in person and after the initial "OMG we have the same exact name!"-conversation we never talked to each other again.... But on facebook when people leave status messages, their comments will show up on your profile wall. And so one day I see the following wall post:

Julie Erickson: "Wedding dress shopping with mom and Jojo!!!! Yay!"

Am I dreaming up some sort of nightmare?! I immediately think someone logged in under my name and is messing with me.  But what a weird comment to make?!  How weird would it be if I ever went wedding dress shopping with

My mom:

And Jojo:

Now that would make a very entertaining reality TV show....


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Bachelorette

So my sister Nancy is getting married in May.  My favorite thing about her getting married, you may ask?  Her saying 'Thank You' to the presents I give her.    Because she traditionally doesn't say nice things to me all that often.  I take what I can get.   This weekend was her bachelorette party and bridal shower back in ol' New Joizey (no one from New Jersey calls it that FYI).

In the less than 4 days I was took me 9 hours to get there,  3 hours to decorate,  I probably spent 17 hours sleeping, 18 hours drinking, all day Sunday half-dying, then 8 and a half hours to get back home on Monday.  My last flight home wad delayed because they had to wait for the emergency crew to come on board and take care of 2 passengers who were injured because of the turbulence.  Great, like I want to get on that plane now...

The party was a success ... We had a little hiccup when the fire alarm went off.  Colleen and I rushed into the kitchen followed by the party of 20+ frantic women to find that the pile of napkins that were set next to the catered trays of food had blown under the trays because the windows were open as it was a surprisingly warm day and that the little candle burners that were there to heat the food had since lit the napkins ablaze.  Colleen and I quickly stifled the flames with some wet towels as Nancy ran to the kitchen sink, turned on the hose, and proceeded to douse the burning embers along with her little sisters....  No major damage.....Dried off....Back to opening presents:

Crew girls, insurance co-workers, & cupcakes
Mariel, Tricia, Nat, Michelle, Colleen & Bridget
Me and Steph
Grandma, Patti, & Mom
she better be a good baker with all the brownie pans and flour sifters she got...
a dish for her peanuts
a hat for my head
enjoying my bouquet making duties
margarita makers
Colleen and her questions
Nancy's new favorite pillow
and her lucky lingerie
Trish getting the goods
drinking helps me work
Grandma getting the goods after her soft ball questions: "Who is marrying Nancy & Josh?"    Answer: Rob.
Nancy's new luggage
Nancy Powers Huder....
Excellent job, Julie
Nancy's new European bathing suit....yowzaas
Grandma's reaction
Fire in the kitchen!!!!
Nancy putting the hose down
Insurance ladies
Mary Ellen & Mariel
Stretch Escalade.....making it rain...
Nancy's new toys
vodka-infused whip cream?  why not?
barf and swallow
double barf
oh ok it's beer hookah time

I survived..... My liver is in rehab.... And whipped cream is most likely ruined for me for the rest of my years.

In case you want more pictures, here are some additional photos from another angle.  Thanks to Nancy's former co-worker, Allison.  And thanks to Mariel for taking photos during the bridal shower!