Gear gear gear!

Gear!

Insert crazy gear face here. Over the last month I’ve gotten a ton of awesome things and like some girls love clothes shopping, I love gear shopping.

Here, have a picture with me not snuggling with the gear:

Gear

First off, the REI Anniversary Sale is going on right now. That’s where I scored my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 (the orange tube above), Patagonia Nano Puff jacket, and Thermarest SoLite pad (the shiny silver tube). Technically the Thermarest is for my husband, but on super cold nights, might layer underneath my Big Agnes Q-Core SL pad that I got a couple months ago.

Also included in the photo are a couple Amazon purchases — a GSI Outdoors Halulite Tea Kettle and an ultralight canister camp stove (the orange box). The last time I went backpacking, I only used my stove to heat up water so a kettle seemed like a no-brainer upgrade. The ultralight stove is also for my eventual JMT trip, since my existing stove (a big Jet Boil) would be too heavy for a solo trip.

This means that pretty much every big thing on my JMT trip gear list has been checked off — woohoo!

Unfortunately didn’t score Half Dome permits, so along with waiting in line for JMT permits, I’ll also be waiting for Half Dome. Which’ll be not very fun, but worthwhile in the end. I have a camping trip and backpacking trips scheduled over the next month, so the gear should be adequately tested and broken in before the trip, and once I’ve tested the gear, I’ll write up some reviews here.

Get going to the REI sale if you haven’t already!

Thoughts on the gear? Leave them in the comments!

 

Taking the East River Ferry in NYC

Taking the East River Ferry in NYC (4)

While in NYC for a plethora of meetings for the day job, I rented an Airbnb in Williamsburg — my first time staying in that part of the city. Convenient to Manhattan (one subway train away) and a wonderful area surrounded by lots of neat hipster/yuppie shops (right up my alley).

However, getting to other parts of Brooklyn was more of a pain, until I discovered the East River Ferry. Traveling North/South on the East River (how aptly named), the ferry makes convenient stops in Williamsburg, DUMBO (my typical destination), Wall Street, and a bunch of other stops.

The first time I took it, however, the weather was not that great:

Continue reading

Taking the Amtrak Adirondack Train from Montreal to NYC

Wow, I fell behind on blogging. This last 1.5 months has been crazyI got married, I got LASIK, I launched a Kickstarter campaign for a learn-to-code book I’m writing (funded!), I prepped for and flew to Montreal for PyCon 2014 to teach a three hour class on the same content as the book, then trained to NYC for a few days of back-to-back meetings for my day job, then the last couple weeks has been finishing up the KS campaign, work, work, and more work.

Phew.

I did manage to have some outdoor adventures while I was out. Rather than fly to NYC, I opted to take the train, which sounded simply fabulous. I’ve never been to the North East of the US before, and imagined rolling through forests and greenery.

Continue reading

Wish List: See the Northern Lights

Northern lights

No brainer for the wish list, right? I almost got to go to Iceland last year before our big Europe trip, and I was hoping (even though it was summer) that we’d be able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Unfortunately we chose to go a cheaper route through Brussels. Someday I’m going to have to go somewhere (probably outrageously cold) just so I can see this marvel. How amazing would that be?

Have you seen the Northern Lights? What did you think?

photo credit: Preserved Light Photography via photopin cc

I got LASIK!

After LASIK

I was chatting with my partner awhile back about my John Muir Trail plans when I suddenly had a realization – I was either going to have to bring a whole mess of one-day contacts (which are a pain when you’re super dirty), or I was going to have to bring my glasses (…which are a pain when you’re super dirty and sweaty.)

My partner had LASIK done a year or so ago, and I’ve always wanted to do it as well, but the biggest issue is the moola – I’m on super cheap bandaid insurance due to being self-employed (thanks Covered California!) which in no way was going to cover the cost of a $5,000+ eye surgery. So it was always a someday, when I’m either suddenly rich (hah) or gainfully employed.

My wonderful, wonderful partner (now husband) offered to help me pay for the surgery (and I’m fully planning to pay him back!), we decided to go to a consultation just to see if I could even get LASIK, and three weeks later – bam, it was done!

The surgery itself (custom wavefront bladeless LASIK) was super quick, though frightening. I had a sedative, which felt like it did nothing. I was put into a machine, where each eye was suctioned basically to keep it from moving, the flap was created, then the doctor moved the flap out of the way, placed me under the laser, and there were 15 harrowing seconds of a lightshow while I tried desperately to keep my eye still. Seriously, that was the worst part, and it made my heart race. Then boom, second eye, then boom, it was done!

I was driven home by my husband, and immediately put to bed. One thing we learned from him going through the experience was to be very generous with the numbing eye drops the first few hours (otherwise you can get into some major pain), so he woke me up every hour or so to put more drops in my eyes. I also had to wear the fancy eye shield that you can see under my sunglasses above – all that day and night, and then three nights after to make sure I didn’t damage the healing eye.

24 hours later, I had 20/20 vision (with some bloody looking scleras due to bruising.) I possibly might get 20/15. Night vision will be affected for a bit plus halos while my eye heals. Otherwise, I LOVE IT. I am so happy right now. When I went hiking, I would wear contacts which didn’t correct for my astigmatism (cheaper that way) so I’m going to see more clearly than I ever did before. This is probably the best investment I’ve ever had done to myself, and highly recommend other people to do so as well. It’s amazing. If you happen to be in the Bay Area, head to Furlong Vision Correction and tell them Tracy sent you.

(Love seeing photos with my new wedding ring!)

Big exciting updates

Married in Las Vegas

My goal when I started this blog was to write 2x weekly, and the last couple weeks have been silent… but I had good reasons!

As you can guess from the photo - I got married! Eloped in Las Vegas and everything. I’m really happy to have such a wonderful person in my life (even if I’m definitely the outdoorsy one in the family.) I run a weddings company for my day job and let me tell you – no regrets at all on eloping. Will be planning a big party in a year or so, however!

Second, last Friday I got LASIK! I’m going to write a full post on this, but planning for (and then recovering) definitely distracted me from my outdoor activities and posting about them here. That all said, I already have 20/20 vision and it will probably get slightly better once my eyes completely heal. I am so excited to ditch contacts and glasses!

What a fun couple weeks! Stay tuned for that LASIK post. :)

Wish List: Attend Burning Man… Again

wish list: burning man

The day I got home from Burning Man, after 6 hours of driving starting at midnight.

A few years ago (2010) to be exact, my partner and I attended Burning Man. Burning Man is basically a giant weeklong festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, where upwards of 50,000 people show up to “celebrate community, self-expression, and self-reliance” (according to the Burning Man website), or “party” (according to the bros we camped next to when we attended.)

Regardless of the designation, Burning Man was one of the most awesome things I have ever done — something completely out of my element, completely different than what I do day-to-day here in “real life.” My favorite part was the art, which was everywhere — giant, fire-breathing sculptures (with no fences, assuming you would be smart enough to stay out of the flames, which was kind of a nice change of pace from the overly warning-label obsessed society we have today), humans who’ve decorated themselves as art, as well as camps that dedicated themselves around a theme (giant climb-y sculptures, a full restaurant, and thousands more.)

I’ve wanted to attend Burning Man since High School, when my eccentric and lovable world history teacher would wax poetic about his years going to Burning Man, but even then (in the year 2000), ranting how it had “changed”, and grown into a pop-culture event and that he was no longer attending.

14 years later, it’s at least twice as big as it was in 2000, and even more mainstream. My Facebook posts this year were filled with my friends talking about getting tickets. Every September after the event, friends upload scores of photos to Facebook to show off their time at Burning Man — something I completely avoided doing when I was there (no electronics, tried to stay in the moment, and kept my experience private), and I will admit to feeling annoyed at friends bragging about their experience publicly.

Those annoyances aside, I’ve wanted to go again — my first time, I spent a lot of my visit feeling unsure and worried since I didn’t know what to expect, and I hope that going a second time, I’ll be able to relax, enjoy, and experience the event even more. No time like the present, right? Except that the tickets are very expensive and my wallet is fairly empty — so my partner and I have applied to financial need tickets, and will leave it up to the fates whether we go this year. Unfortunately normal tickets are completely sold out at this point.

So: Burning Man, wish-listed for 2014 but will wait to 2015 if I need to.

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Gear List

medium_6199427868

One of the most important things you can do when planning a long distance backpacking trip is ensure that you’re hiking with as little weight as possible. It’s hard to leave creature comforts at home (“but mom, I neeeeed that fancy cookset”), but every step that you take is going to be significantly more painful with every extra pound you take along.

I’ve forced myself to go ultra-lightweight when I scored this lovely backpack at a REI garage sale the other day:

bork

The REI Flash 52. Which is apparently not a backpack you want to bring more than 30 lbs with, but is a great, lightweight pack for anything less. So the challenge is on!

Here’s my list so far:

Gear Name Weight in lbs Weight in oz
Backpack REI Flash 52 2 lbs. 15 oz. 57
Pad Big Agnes Insulated Q Core 1 lb 16
Sleeping bag Mountain Hardware Ultralamina 32 1 lb 15oz 31
Headlamp Black Diamond? 3.9 oz 3.9
Nalgene Nalgene 3.5 oz 3.5
Water bladder Camelbak 100 oz 6.5 oz 6.5
Mug Summit to Sea X Mug 2.4 oz 2.4
Spoon Light My Fire Spork 0.2 oz 0.2
First Aid Kit Adventure Medical Kits UltraLight / Watertight .7 First-Aid Kit 8 oz 8
Camera iPhone 5s + case 3.95 oz + 1.05 oz 5
Hiking poles ? 1 lb 4 oz 20
Towel REI MultiTowel Lite Small Towel 0.75 oz 0.75
Sunscreen Neutrogena Sport 4 oz 4
Pee funnel Sani-Fem Freshette Feminine Urinary Director 1 oz 1
Hand sanitizer Purell 0.40 oz 0.4
Bug spray Jungle Juice 0.40 oz 0.4
Bear canister http://lighter1.com/ lil sami 1 lb 5 oz 21
Kettle GSI Outdoors Hae Tea Kettle 5.8 oz 5.8
Tent Big Agnes Flycreek UL2 2 lbs. 5 oz. 37
Camp shoes Hacked sleeping pad 1.1 oz 1.1
Pillow Exped Air Pillow UL 1.6 oz 1.6
Maps John Muir Trail Map-Pack: Shaded Relief Topo Maps 3 oz 1
Knife ? (perhaps get multitool?) 3 oz 3
Soap Sea to Summit Citronella Wilderness Wash Soap 1.3 oz 1.3
Toothbrush/paste
Toilet paper
Emergency matches
Duct Tape (on poles)
Spot or PLB
Chapstick with SPF

 

The above is coming in at ~15 lbs.

Then, there are a couple choices I need to make:

Water filter Platypus Gravity Works Bottle Kit 9.5 oz 9.5
Sawyer Squeeze 3
New stove? http://www.amazon.com/Ultralight-Backpacking-Canister-Ignition-silvery/dp/B00ENDRORM/ 3.9 oz 3.9
Stove fuel ? 3.5 oz 3.5
Super cat stove 0.75 oz 0.75
Denatured alcohol 8-16oz 8

 

I already own the Gravity Works, but could save 6.5 oz if I get a Sawyer Squeeze. But I really, really love my Gravity Works. Not sure yet if I want to buy even more gear.

I also need to get a new stove, so I’m considering this highly rated stove on Amazon. But I’m only bringing a kettle since I’ll just be heating water for my meals, which works really well with a kitty food can stove. But the denatured alcohol looks to be heavy, canceling the savings? That said, not even sure I have the stove fuel weight right in the above table either.

I’m also considering bringing a SPOT or a Personal Locator Beacon for emergencies, but that adds to the weight as well.

The unfortunate thing is that my gear list so far, including anticipated food and full 3L of water is coming in at 32 lbs. Right on the edge of being too heavy for the Flash 52.

Any thoughts on these decisions, or on any other gear I’m planning on bringing?


Oh, and a bit of an update: like a dork, I wasn’t able to get a pre-season Wilderness permit for the John Muir Trail (because I totally didn’t realize that I needed to be ready in early February to score a permit for early August — d’oh!) I’m resolved now to get a permit the day-of or day-before my planned date as recommended by Reddit, meaning I’ll have to wait in line from 5am until 11am, but if that’s what I need to do, then so be it. Don’t be like me and miss the permit deadline!

photo credit: SteveD. via photopin cc

Wish List: Rafting Guide School

Wish List: Rafting

I’ve mentioned before how I almost quit everything to become a rafting guide. Then computers happen (or at least, didn’t go away), I launched my startup WeddingLovely, and ended up not going to New Zealand to become a rafting instructor and travel for the rest of my life.

Sigh.

Not that I regret my current path — working for yourself on your own time is a pretty sweet deal — but I do wish I spent more time outdoors, especially rafting. There’s something about the combination of slow, relaxing floating with adrenaline-filled rapids. Unfortunately, it’s so expensive to go often (at least, for a cheapo like me). However, I might have found a solution.

The rafting company I used for my very first rafting trip has a one week rafting school. Unfortunately not three months like the New Zealand option I was considering, but one week of dedicated rafting might get this bug out of my system — or at least, tamp it down a bit.

Fees are $675 + 8% river use fee (so, ~$729), which doesn’t seem that bad. Unfortunately I don’t know much about other rafting companies in the Sacramento area, so I’m not sure if this is a good price or if it’s a good guide school. All I know is that my original rafting guide said she loved it and highly recommended Mariah, and everyone seemed happy.

So, May 2014: rafting guide school. Not to go into guiding after, but just so I get a week of rafting out of my system, and a potential side career for summers in the future.

Thoughts? Recommendations? Cheers of encouragement? Leave them in the comments!

I Climbed Half Dome in the Dark — Photos, How-to and Tips

I Climbed Half Dome in the Dark — Photos, How-to and Tips (5)

  • Location: Half Dome, Yosemite, California
  • Distance: 15.7 miles (out and back)
  • Ascent: 4,800 feet
  • Difficulty: Extremely strenuous

A few years ago, I had the magical experience of climbing Half Dome — but not just any ol’ Half Dome hike; we started at 3am in order to catch the sunrise at the top. There are a ton of great reasons why you should do this: cooler temperatures, sunrise views, and almost most important of all, less crowds.

Here’s some of the photos from this awesome hike, and at the end, I’ll relay some of my tips and recommendations if you want to do the same trip.

Continue reading