Fifteen seconds of fame – the article.
Solo Road Trip
by Tammie Dooley
1- a celebration of the adventurer in all of us; 2- discovery of the lost art of solitude; 3- to pry oneself from the easy chair and move one step out of our comfort zone; 4- traveling alone exploring the unknown for at least two nights away from home preferably via foot or a 4 wheel drive vehicle.
“One waffle, please”, I croaked. Just two steps from the door to the counter, the guy running tiny Corbet’s Cabin barely looked up when I trudged in. Ruddy skin, chapped lips and wild eyes topped off by a black stocking hat, a bright orange bulky backpack and beat up hiking boots, he saw my type several times a day.
Scott McGee, my Exum guide during the preparatory mountaineering course, recommended for the two days prior to the start of the Grand climb I take the tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, do some light hiking, take a book, and breathe the air that was noticeably absent at 10,500 feet,,, for 4 hours each day. “No one ever does what I tell them, but trust me, it’ll help when you get above 13,000 feet.” “Oh, and, load up on carbs. It’ll be easy to do. Corbet’s has this waffle thing.”
This climb was at the upper end of my physical abilities and I had, and would continue, to do whatever the experts suggested would help. Loading up on carbs would be the easy part.
“What topping?” the gentleman asked. He didn’t wait, “there’s Nutella, strawberry preserves, and brown sugar butter.” Darn. Only two days but 3 toppings. “I’ll have Nutella today. Tomorrow I’ll try the strawberry preserves.” He turned to the blackened, blistering waffle iron behind him. I took another step, swung off the backpack and submitted onto a wooden bench.
I expected a waffle. Flat. And a plastic fork. What I got was this brown edged, crunchy on the outside, dense but light and moist cake-like on the inside, slathered with Nutella and folded over,, waffle sandwich. The slight saltiness from the oiled crust, the mild sweetness of the soft interior, the hazelnut and chocolate sublimity of the Nutella all collided, then burst on my energy bar deadened tongue.
Wrapped in parchment paper, its heft involuntarily lowered my arm from chest high to waist high when the hand off was made. It was hard to eat with a smile that big.
The best thing about this culinary experience? It can easily be duplicated at home. Trust me.
Photography Tip: strawberry preserves photograph better than Nutella.
If you liked this post, some of my previous Travel & Taste Buds’ posts might be equally entertaining:
For more delectable photographs and discussions of food around the world (and not necessarily at the top of it), check out Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.
After 18 years in the financial sector as a CPA and Certified Financial Planner, I asked myself one day who I really wanted to be. Was it the geek carrying the HP 12C, donned in panty hose, respectable pumps, and a conservative suit? Nah. It was the person in this pic. I really like this person. And she seems pretty happy too.
I don’t post pictures of myself mainly because there aren’t many. I’m the one behind the camera, and I like it that way. And pictures of me flyfishing are even more rare as I’m usually by myself or those in my party are downstream somewhere (I like to be the person upstream LOL – I’m blonde not stupid). The blonde part’s not technically correct after the China backpacking trip but I’m working to recover the blonde locks. It takes a lot of time sitting in the hair salon. I don’t do that well. Sitting still.
The photo above was taken on the 3rd hiking trip into the Wind River Range in Wyoming in 2007. There were 3 of us on this trip – me and 2 guy friends. The first and second trips in 2002 and 2003 included me and 5 guys. My amazing husband sends me off with these guys as they’re all like brothers to me. I’m the only girl that ever gets invited because I’m the only girl they know who can smell as bad as they do at the end of the trip. Well, and I don’t whine. Ever. My backpack always weighs 50+ lbs. My camera gear outranks personal items and therefore there’s not a lot of grooming that takes place. I’m okay with that. More okay than I should be. Furthermore I can eat my weight in cheeseburgers at the Lander Bar & Grill when we come out. And throw back a respectable amount of libations.
The trips are grueling. The last 2 more so than the first as I was living in Jackson Hole for the first go and had the advantage of altitude adjustment. Big advantage. The guys all came from sea level. Big disadvantage. I smoked them to the top of Hell’s Hill, elevation 11,000 feet and a full 8 hours into the second day’s hike. So much so that I had time to cavort at the top, lie back in the sunshine, photograph like a fiend, and then climb back down to help a guy bring his pack on up to the top.
I was a rock star on that mountain. It was the first and last of that glory. And like a HS football star, I still talk about it every chance I get.
Since that glory has faded to the hue of a 1900’s tintype photograph, for my birthday this year, I asked to climb Grand Teton. I’ve been training now for 4 months. There’s lots of hissing going on in my household. Lots of ice packs flying around. Lots of short trips and parties being turned down. Lots of lactic acid pumping through my veins. I’ve done without sweets for weeks upon weeks, chocolate included. My life has been consumed by the preparation. My husband reminds me frequently his life has been indirectly consumed by it. I gave him permission to say bad things to me the next time I throw out an idea that will so voraciously inhale 5+ months of our lives.
Grand Teton. It stands at 13,770, with an ascent of 6,700 feet which requires a combination of hiking, climbing, and rappelling. It’s the highest mountain in the Teton Range (part of the Rocky Mountains). The most popular route up the mountain is the Exum Ridge (II, 5.5), a 13-pitch exposed route first climbed by Glenn Exum. This route takes the south ridge of the mountain to the summit and the direct start (Lower Exum Ridge, III, 5.7) is considered a mountaineering classic. The North Ridge (IV, 5.8) and North Face with Direct Finish (IV, 5.8) ascend the dramatic northern aspect of the peak, and their inclusion in Steck and Roper’s Fifty Classic Climbs of North America has helped maintain the fame of the peak in the climbing community. Since the first ascent, 38 routes with 58 variations have been established.
The origin of the name is controversial. The most popular explanation is that “Grand Teton” means “large teat” in French, named by either French-Canadian or Iroquois members of an expedition led by Donald McKenzie of the North West Company. However, other historians disagree, and claim the mountain was named after the Teton-Sioux tribe. Personally, the “large teat” origin is my favorite.
I know a lot about the Tetons, from the GROUND. I’ve photographed them for years, gazed at them from all sides and dreamed of being up there. It was the one thing I regret not doing while living there. And I did a lot of things Animal Tracking, Snot Effect and Poop. You chuckled at the “from the ground” part? You know you did. But it’s important because that familiarity means I know the challenge I’m embarking upon. Then again, I always say that and then get into something and promise myself to have my head checked if I manage to exit the situation alive.
I’m ordinary. Filled at times with fear, infinitesimally stupid at times, fraught with the same self delusions and insecurities as most everyone else, I may have an above average tolerance for pain. Then again I probably tell myself that in order to stay psyched up for the extremely painful things that seem to happen to me. More on that later. I hate working out. Those 30 minutes on the elliptical are an eternity. Getting to Pilates twice a week is as difficult and unpalatable as mowing 2 acres of grass with a push mower. So this undertaking is a big stretch. I think of this when I recall my 3 year old nephew trying to drink a whole glass of chocolate milk and eat a bowl of ice cream the size of my Dad’s. About as insurmountable.
It’s the task itself, the carrot dangling so enticingly that really gets my blood pumping. After the first Wind River hike I was depressed for months. Lost. Afloat. I know what Lewis felt like when he returned home from the expedition. Driving back to the trailhead after getting everyone else on the road , I wanted to disappear back into that wilderness. Returning to Jackson through distraught tears was as much a struggle as anything I’d done.
Nothing in my life has ever been on the same scale as the Lewis and Clark expedition, but I know what he struggled with even if at a much lesser degree. It took a long time before I felt normal, and to a degree, I’ve never regained the perspective of the world I had before I left for that trip. P.S. That’s a Good thing.
The NEED to have an adventurous goal that will stretch me beyond my recognizable self is ever present. It’s an itch that won’t go away. It’s not been relieved a bit by the aging process, or by injuries sustained on past adventures. I WANT to feel some fear. Not the fear of failure represented by not making it to the top of Grand. If I don’t make it, it’ll be disappointing. But it won’t kill me. NOT making the attempt would kill me. The fear I’m talking about doesn’t come at the hand of others. It comes from the smallness I feel when faced with the elements of nature. Things I can’t control. Things that so radically and without emotion put me in my place. It changes your perspective of the world and your position in it. In my opinion we all need that. Others will argue, but there is but one way to get this attitude adjustment – by pitting yourself against natural elements.
4 Weeks and Counting!! Ahhhhh!!……..
P.S. While this technically won’t count as a SOLO trip, it will be just me and an Exum guide. Actually, getting to the top takes just me. Sigh.
By Joel Kantor
There’s the old saying that a man’s gotta know his limitations. I’m still searching for mine with the exception of two — height and cold weather. I can pilot my own plane but I can’t look out a window just three stories high and after getting a minor touch of frost bite while duck hunting years ago, I don’t do well in cold weather. I won’t be climbing Mt. Everest.
“Solo” conjures thoughts of being alone. With further consideration we may agree that solo could include those times when we accomplished ‘solely’ by our own efforts. In golf while we compete against other players, all things being equal, we all press ahead alone, against the elements, those natural challenges Mother Nature puts before us and those we struggle with within each of us. And so it was for me recently when I attempted to ascend Mt Washington on February 7, 2009.
At 6288 feet, Mt. Washington is one of many peaks making up the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in north central New Hampshire. It’s one of those unusual places where the weather of the lower 48 states comes crashing together. While at any given time there may be a colder place, history has crowned Mt. Washington with the Earth’s highest surface gust at 231 mph on April 12, 1934. It’s a reminder to every climber/hiker of the ruthless and relentless environmental hurdles one must overcome to meet this challenge — much less overcome it. Believe me, 50 mph winds can be enough to nearly knock you off your feet. Add to that temperatures oscillating around (and all too often at this time of year) below zero. Top that with 50 inches of snow at the bottom of the mountain changing to smooth rime ice at the top and you discover no step is on a flat surface and no step can occur accidentally.
If you laughed and smiled through Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” then you can appreciate the rest of my story.
If I lay on my back and you step on my stomach, I am 5’9″, coming in at 185-190 pounds with 52 years of life under my belt. I spend 9 months a year training for nothing in particular and 3 months a year feeding the tape worm left behind from the previous 9 months. My life is shared with a wife and daughter who demand little of me and enjoy the fact I have no interest in being dragged to the mall. So I work, they shop; we are both good at what we do….well they may be a tad better at their endeavor than I. Based on all this, my health ranges from an out of shape 185+ to a svelte (skinny legged) 170 pound Sherpa.
Each year, I find myself on some sort of outback adventure. I come from the city so the term “outback” (for my purposes) has been citified so humor me. Through the years the trips have ranged from a week of camping and canoeing in the Boundary Waters of USA/Canada to backpacking the Wind River Mountain Range in Wyoming (see your hostess sitting on a rock, holding a tasty Yellowstone cutthroat) to riding a bike hundreds of miles a week through Maine, New Hampshire, Quebec and back into Vermont and New York’s finger lakes. 2008 included one of those torturous 5 days of hill climbing each and every notch of Vermont followed by a couple days in New Hampshire climbing Bear Notch Road to the Kancamaugus Highway, west to Route 3 partially via the bikeway north, then Rt. 302 east through Crawford Notch back to Bartlett. Whew!
Coming from the flat lands of Oklahoma I am neither fast on a bike nor do my skinny legs provide much oomph up a mountain, especially one rising for miles on end. But as those who have traveled with me know, I am tenacious. Once I begin, there is no quit in me.
This past year I was in the absolute best shape ever (relative), but that did not inhibit the locals from kicking my ass up and down every hill. They found great joy in searching out the next more difficult challenge, but little did they know the free bourbon and Crockpot meals each night were worth every grinding moment up those hills.
This (in the true fashion of my windy self) finally brings me to the explanation of how the pursuit to climb Mt. Washington came about.
After one of those 8 hour rides, it was time for me to reach for the low-ball and put my feet up. There on the far wall was a picture worth more than a thousand words. It depicted a man on glass wearing a backpack. I inquired and found that it was a picture of my host Steve at the top of one of the local mountains one cloudless, full moon evening. You leave at 5:00 in the afternoon in order to be at the top by moon rise so that you can still get back before the distillery closes. I had to have one of those pictures of me; hence I was coming back in 4 months to get one.
On Feb 5th I boarded an American flight to Boston where my [true] Sherpa cousin, John picked me up. Yep, I was 15 pounds overweight wishing like hell the Dunkin Donuts shop could be had through arrivals instead of only being on the secure side of the airport. I haven’t spent 10 hours over 4 months exercising (mistake 1). All I had with me was brand-new-very-warm-duck hunting attire (mistake 2) and my ego………a sad replacement for being prepared.
John and I spent the next day with his family but soon after, were stuffing the car for the 3 hour ride north into New Hampshire; Gilligan would be so proud. We drove directly to the outfitter where we had reserved boots and crampons. The rentals aren’t much different than the boots we rent for skiing. You know what I’m talking about? The boots that cut the blood off to the brain after you clamp down the top latch. The first pair wouldn’t even accept my foot, so I went to a size 11 – too tight (or so it seemed at the time) so I settled on a size 12 (mistake 3). From there a brief exchange between Steve and the rental place over whether we did or did not need snow shoes; they said no, Steve said yes, they said and so on. We ended up not renting them (mistake 4).
Across the street we found a perfectly good pub and the first opportunity to get a picture of the three merry men who would be rising early the next day for one of the adventures of my life. Those two other guys had no clue what they were dragging along; an old guy, completely out of shape, with little appropriate clothing, shoes too big to keep on and no snowshoes to keep me upright in the soft deep snow.
We awoke at 6:00 am to MINUS 4º. Saturated in adrenalin I cannot wait to scarf down the oatmeal and hit the trail. I’ve completely forgotten who Stephen Katz is and I’ve no clue what I’m about to do yet I’m positive it will be a walk in the woods. We arrive at the parking lot met by a half dozen of Steve’s outdoor buddies; Bill nearly 75, Mary the perpetual student focused on clinical psychology and the others. As I exit the car with my very cool camo on, I instantly know something is out of character. I’m the guy looking around the poker table trying to figure out who the chump is. Oh! It’s me.
The temp has quickly risen to the low 20’s and the higher we climb, the warmer it gets; go figure. Halfway up the first leg I change clothes. The first set is soaked. Leg one is about as steep as anything I’ve climbed. I’m using every foothold I can find while avoiding the deep foot prints, but frequently I sink up to my crotch. It’s windy but the trees do a good job of blocking the harshest wind until we reach the top. Having dressed for 50 mph winds and minus 30 degrees, it’s over 30 degrees and I’m drenched to the bone with sweat but still comfortable as long as I keep moving….albeit at half the pace of the others.
We reach the first hut where the trail presents us the option; Mt. Washington to the left, Mt. Monroe to the right. Despite my desire for a cozy restaurant with a well stocked pantry, I’m fully aware we’re veering to the left. The next ¼ mile is on windblown rime ice covered rocks slanted sufficiently to encourage you to slide off the mountain. This is crampon land and I’m really moving now as the wind is pushing me from behind. I look up and my two buddies are already 100 yards ahead of me. Picking up my pace is futile; another 10 minutes and they’re ahead by another 100 yards. Steve knows now we can’t make the top and back before dark so we turn back towards Mt. Monroe.
Mt. Washington would not be summited today. The picture from the top of Mt. Monroe was worth every step. But I know I’ll be back to get my picture from the top of Mt. Washington.
I returned to the rental store the next morning and got a pair of boots that fit and some of the right clothing and with effort, made that night hike and another ascent the following morning. It’s true; we can do anything we put our minds to. While some things need to be attempted with the appropriate adult supervision, there are plenty of opportunities to be solely responsible for the results. I didn’t fail to climb Mt. Washington; I progressed.
— Joel is an avid flyfisherman, a Partner in the Pinnacle Investment Advisor’s firm, a Certified Financial Planner, and ranks 3rd in the state of Oklahoma for fund raising for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. He can be reached at [email protected]
About SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!
A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe
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