Flotsam & Jetsam

Thought it might be fun to post a few ramblings that don’t fit in with the day-to-day format of the rest of the blog.

Thanks for the Memories

So during our many visits to National Parks, museums, nature preserves, etc., we always visit the gift shop. And they all have a gift shop.

I very much enjoy browsing the shops, even though I rarely buy anything – in 16 months of travel, I’ve purchased various birthday cards (I love buying local, artisan-made cards), a towel in Bar Harbor because we needed a lightweight towel for hiking, a t-shirt at the Clark Institute because it was on sale for $9.99 and I needed a replacement grey shirt, a wallet at the Isabella Stewart Gardner because I needed a new one of those as well, Chihuly notecards at the Biltmore because I’m a fan of the glass artist and a dinosaur when it comes to handwritten notes.

Other than that, we’ve passed patches and stickers, hats and shirts, puzzles, stuffed animals (very hard for me to resist, actually) and heaven knows what else. I’m amazed at the volume of merchandise that people think they need in order to complete and/or remember their good times.

Sometimes I’m more tempted. I think of the collection of t-shirts, for instance, that I could have from everyplace we’ve visited: national parks in nearly a dozen states, another dozen museums, plus Graceland, the Biltmore, the Adirondacks, the list could continue. But I wouldn’t have time to wear them all, never mind room to carry them in our car. And how could I choose which ones to buy? I mean every little coffee shop and many touristy restaurants sell their own shirts. Do I add them to the list?

My answer has been photos. As you can see, Walt and I love taking selfies as well as photos of what we see. Soon I’ll go through them and upload 365 into an online store, organize them and then get a picture-a-day calendar for next year. Walt and I will, just as we have for the past two years, wake up each morning and ask “where are we today?” and look at the day’s photo and try to guess where it was taken. Sometimes it’s easy; the red rocks of Sedona, for instance, won’t be hard to recognize; nor will I have a hard time remembering where we took the photo of me holding an alligator (the Everglades, of course). But I’m sure there will be pix that just show mountains in the background or that are so much comprised of our smiling faces, that we can’t tell what’s behind us, which is all part of the fun for us.

Our calendar makes us smile every day. And it is so much easier to pack than a couple dozen t-shirts.

Hiking Over 50

I subscribe to various hiking podcasts and Facebook feeds, often weighing in when people ask about hiking to Macchu Picchu, favorite hikes in western North Carolina, or as Outside magazine asked recently “what do you hate about women’s hiking gear?” – the lack of pockets and zippers and the plethora of pastel colors!

Recently the She Explores – Women in the Outdoors podcast wanted to do an episode focused on women over 50 and asked for 4-minute voice mail submissions. So I submitted my thoughts on how my approach to hiking has changed as I’ve aged, how much of a priority I now place on being in the outdoors and how much more work it is to continue hiking as I age.

I could have filled so much more than a few minutes…

Over the years, I have seen women hiking on trails who were clearly in their 70s and 80s and every time I think: “I want that to be me. I want to be so old and hiking that people are shocked that I can make it to the top of a mountain and back at my age.”

Here’s hoping.


Gourmet Coffee Roasters

So it probably hasn’t come through to anyone who only knows me from reading the blog but I love coffee. I don’t take coffee on the trail (and, for some unexplained reason, don’t experience caffeine-withdrawal headaches) but when I’m off the trail, I like to start my day with about three cups. If we’re going out in the evening, I have another cup in the late afternoon. If I’m having dessert, I also like to have a cup of coffee.

I drink it black, no sweetener. I don’t drink decaf. Ever.

And I’m not a coffee snob. I’m happy to drink whatever’s being poured. During this trip I’ve had coffee at many small diners and from many gas stations. Only once in a great while do I find a cup that I cannot drink, usually because it’s old/burnt coffee.

However when I’m home (when we had a home), I prefer to drink coffee from small roasters. I’ve tried all sorts of different roasters. Two of my favorites are Demolition Coffee (gotta love the name) in Petersburg, Virginia, and Death Wish Coffee from Round Lake, New York. We found Demolition Coffee on a trip to Durham and I had to stop. They told me the owner also owns a demolition company. Since one of the highlights of my life was getting to hit the button on 500 pounds of explosives many years ago, I bought a t-shirt in addition to coffee. Death Wish purports to roast “the strongest coffee ever.” I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but it is good coffee. So good that when we were packing up the house, I refused to throw out my last pound, instead I hauled it with us and drank it in our New Hampshire rental and our Maine tentsite. We bought a titanium French press just for this trip so that if I do take coffee on the trail, I can brew it in the press instead of “cowboy” style – throwing coffee in boiling water and filtering out (or not) the grounds as best as possible.

Anyway, I digress.

We have stopped at some places that roast their own coffee and we’ve seen many different types of local coffee in grocery stores and gift shops. I’m fascinated as much by the labels and names as I am by the actual coffee taste and have taken photos of different coffees (see below).

Were we traveling in a different (larger) vehicle, I’m sure I would have bought some along the way but that just wasn’t possible, or necessary, so all I have are the photos.

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The “Golden Ticket” aka the National Park Service Senior Pass

Using Walt’s pass, we entered a dozen different parks/monuments/forests for free and paid half the regular price for parking and camping. The lovely exception was Isle Royale, which waived the $7/person daily usage fee for both of us.

The Tally (listing amount saved)

  • White Mountain National Forest – $5 (parking)
  • Acadia NP – $25 entrance fee + $11/night x 4 nights (camping) = $69
  • Isle Royale NP – $7/person x 2 = $14 x 4 nights = $56
  • Theodore Roosevelt NP – $25 + $7 (camping) = $32
  • Pompey’s Pillar – $25
  • Yellowstone NP – $30
  • Great Sand Dunes NP – $15 + $10 (camping) = $25
  • Mesa Verde NP – $20 + $15/night (camping) x 2 = $30 = $50
  • The Arches NP – $25
  • Bryce Canyon NP – $30
  • Zion NP – $30
  • Petrified Forest NP – $20

Total saved = $397

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