Monday, January 19, 2009

Retired Baker?

Some of you may have heard that in March I was planning to work on an Organic farm near Knoxville, TN. Rich and I had done a lot of research and decided to contact several farms through an organization called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. After several weeks of emailing and conversing with several of these farms, we had set our hopes on Green Man Farm. The farm was offering three internship positions; Garden Manager, Livestock Manager and Baker's Apprentice. After interviewing with the owner of the farm, Rich and I were all set to move to TN in March for nearly 8 months. I had obtained the position of Baker's Apprentice and I was extremely excited about it.
I had even started to practice baking by attempting to recreate a Christmas tradition my Dad began. He use to make fresh cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Since his passing we had been doing store bought or easy bake rolls in an effort to keep the traditional meal alive. I decided it was time to recreate the original tradition by making the rolls from scratch. After a practice run, where I managed to murder the yeast, I successfully made delicious Cinnamon Rolls on Christmas morning. This got me even more excited to be baking on a daily basis.

Rich and I had planned a trip to visit the farm on January 10th for an event the family was hosting. About two days before we were supposed to leave for the trip we got a call from the Farm owner who regretfully let us know that they would not be needing our help for the upcoming season. Both of us were pretty bummed out. I was especially disappointed that my baking career was over before it even began.

Rich had gotten us a few books to prepare for our Farming adventure. He got me a few baking books and I've decided to keep my baking career alive. I have now made coffee cake and white corn rolls from scratch. I plan to continue trying recipes to refine my baking skills, even if they are only used to fill my friends and family's bellies. Both my Grandfather and Father enjoyed baking and I guess I have inherited that trait. Even if it's just in my free time, I refuse to retire at this baking thing!

Heart Breaking

During the holidays, I spent a lot of time at my sister's house, helping her with the kids since she was sick. We also ran errands together to prepare for my Mom's surprise party. I really enjoy spending time at her house since I also get to spend a lot of time with my nephews. Surprisingly, despite not being around all the time, Peter has taken to me quite well.

Whenever I go to Jill's house Peter's face lights up. He even came right over to me and put his head on my lap for several minutes one time. I was surprised too when during my Mom's party, Peter came to me briefly for comfort after being attached to Jill for most of the evening. Peter takes to most people very quickly and isn't shy, but it's very comforting to know that he recognizes me even though I haven't been around all that much.
Before I left Virginia to go back to State College, I stopped by my sister's house to say good bye and see the kids one last time. As I was getting ready to leave, Peter kept asking me to pick him up and didn't want me to put him down. I finally decided it was time to hit the road. In an effort to calm Peter down, Jill picked him up to help wish me off. As soon as I started to go out the door, Peter started all out crying and screaming. It was the hardest thing to just walk out with that going on. Jill said it even took him a while to settle down after I was gone. It broke my heart to have affected the little guy in that way. I guess I will just have to visit more often.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fond Memories

Well, this concludes my blogging extravaganza about Outward Bound. I'm really glad I had a way to document all the great memories I have and I'm happy to share them with my friends and family. I thought for my last post I would do a sort of before and after shot of my crew. The first picture was us on day 3 of the course and the second picture is the last day right before we left for the airport. My crew evolved so amazingly and I will remember every person in the group. We definitely had our ups and downs and it seemed like a really long process, but it's amazing to me and so rewarding how 11 different personalities came together and performed as one great group.




Otherwise known as the Personal Challenge Event. We did this on the last full day of course and it consisted of a 13 mile run through the mountains. There was no pressure to get a certain time, nor were you forced to run the entire thing or any of it. The purpose of this was to challenge your own personal limits. I had decided before the thing started that my goal was to run the entire thing and to finish in 2 hours 10 minutes. I managed to accomplish one of these two goals. I ran the entire thing, but it took me 2 hours 20 minutes. I was still really proud of myself. It encouraged me to want to do marathons in the future. Sorry I don't have pictures.

The human body is an amazing thing.

Good love

You might be asking yourself why I would be blogging about love. Well, the truth is that it's a code word for going to the bathroom. During the entire 50 days of Outward Bound (for the most part) we were required to dig a hole every time we needed to go number 2. In the beginning some people were shy about it, but I got right down to business. It became the crew joke to count how many times a day I would need to "use the shovel." During our final expedition we were at dinner and I was talking about how I felt the need to blog about it, but I didn't want to really talk about poop on my blog. So Katie suggested that I use a code word. The group decided it would be fun to call it making love. So, from then on we made several references to my bathroom issues over the course of the 50 days, only we substituted the word "love" for poop.

One morning, when we were hiking in the gorge I had what I called an emergency or accidental "love" incident. Usually when this happened I would do one of two things. I would either find a sturdy stick and dig a hole or I would leave some kind of marking so that I could find the spot and I would go get the shovel. This particular time, I came back with the shovel and I couldn't find where I had made "love". So, we started to joke with the following statement. "There I was in the Gorge, looking for love..." We would also say this in a french accent due to the fact that people called me french because my helmet was always tilted.

Another time, one of my crew mates had to use the shovel. When she came back after being gone for a while we all asked her, "how did it go?" To which she appropriately replied, "Love stinks!"

When I got home I realized that it maybe wasn't appropriate to blog about poop or love, but now I'm just saying to hell with it.

Poop happens.

We don't need instructors

The last backpacking portion of the course was unaccompanied by our instructors. This meant that as a crew we were responsible for each other's safety, time management, navigation and everything else. Luckily, this happened right after small groups so we all had had a refreshing break from the large group. As it turned out, we had also all learned a few lessons from the short small group travel.

Lesson #1: More time at camp at the end of the day is priceless.
Lesson #2: Any break from hiking shouldn't take more than half an hour, unless otherwise planned.

Lesson #3: Breaking camp in the morning doesn't have to take the entire morning.

After both the girls and guys had learned all of these lessons, it made large group travel much more efficient and fun. In the past we had been traveling with leaders of the day. On the first night we decided this was an unnecessary thing and that we were all leaders and could share that roll as long as we held each other responsible. We also decided to get up in the morning before the sun so that we could get to camp with plenty of time to relax and hang out. It was amazing. This crew of 11 people, now 10 after losing the oldest member, had finally come together as a group. I absolutely couldn't believe it.

Over the 3 1/2 days of final expedition, we covered a total of 40 miles. It was an incredible test of our bodies and skills. It even snowed the first night/day and we still managed to hike 14 miles that day without any complaints from anyone. The whole adventure was following the Mountains to Sea Trail that makes its way through the North Carolina mountains to Mt. Mitchell (the tallest mountain east of Mississippi).

One of the days we hiked, we were going to be without water at our campsite. Therefore, we decided to carry water even though it meant that some of our packs would be heavier. I had offered to carry water and I thought at the time that I had put a full drom in my pack. I therefore thought for the entire day that my pack felt exceedingly heavy. I even go to the point where I was mentally saying, "right, left, right, left" just to make it step by step the best I could. When we finally got to camp, we realized that a lot of people were low on water. I offered to get my drom of water out, promising that it had a huge amount of water in it. As I took it out, I realized that the only full drom I had been carrying was the one in my head. It turned out I had only been carrying an extra liter of water the whole time. Amazing how the mind works!

On our last full day of hiking we pushed forward to make it to an amazing camp site that offered a lot of sun. We were so glad to finally be warm after so many days of cold hiking. Since we were only about 1.5 mile away from our destination and we didn't have to be there until 4pm the next day, we decided to sleep in and have leisurely morning. This was the best gift of all. I watched the beautiful sun rise from my sleeping bag and slowly awoke to have some hot tea. We then made hash browns and pancakes. While everyone finished packing up, a snowball fight was started that went on for quite some time. It was such a fun morning.
It was sad to know that it would be our last expedition, but we couldn't have asked for a better 4 days!

Girls Only

During our course we knew there was going to be a 3-day portion where we would be traveling in smaller groups and breaking up the crew. Outward Bound does a lot of all-female courses and so they thought it would be important for the females of this course to get a feel for that. So, we found out our small group would be just the girls. At first I was a little bit skeptical of this since I really only got along with my instructor and one of the females, but it turned out to be just the bonding experience we needed.

It was a great feeling to be responsible for ourselves and not have guys around trying to do everything for us. Although, I will admit that this made for some pretty funny events. We hiked in The Gorge for the entire three days and for the most part had really relaxing days filled with a little bit of hiking and a lot of time at camp. The first night we arrived at camp fairly early and decided we would take advantage of the daylight and set up our bear hang immediately. On our way to look for the perfect tree, we managed to aggrivate a bees nest. Usually when this happens it is the 3rd or 4th person to cross the hive that will get the brunt of the attack. This held true for us. My instructor, myself and one other person had made it through when all of a sudden the 4th in line was running down the hill appearing to have some kind of temper tantrum. Little did we know that she was being stund by multiple bees! As the rest of us attempted to move away from the hive and get down to her for assistance, my friend Katie decide that she was goin to try to get the ropes that we had dropped right by the hive. She walked directly into the hive area and got stung on the forehead. It was one of her finer moments! After all the commotion ended we proceeded to look for a tree in the opposite direction of the bees. Once we found one, it then took us about a million tries to get the bear throw bag over the appropriate tree. Luckily, we all had a great sense of humor about it and we didn't care that it took us nearly an hour.

That same night as we were getting ready to go to sleep, Jenny, who was sleeping at the end of the tarp screams. We asked her what was wrong, no answer. We asked her again, no answer. Finally she explains to us that she thinks there is a black snake right outside of the tarp and her sleeping bag. We asked her how big it was and she held her hands up to model about a 6 inch length. So I said to her, "Jenny are you sure it's a snake?" She then replied saying, "Oh my gosh, it has four legs!" We all started laughing as we realized that there was no snake at all. We gave Jenny a hard time for a few days about her spotting of a "4 legged snake".

One of the nice things about traveling with all girls was that there was much less stress about the food situation. Every meal was great and there were no grubby boys trying to eat as much as they could. We also made it a point to do a 10 minute ab workout every day, which was really great. The following is a picture story of some of the events that took place during the three days.

Katie and I created the most perfect tarp set up you have ever seen.

We found lots of trash and Haid, my instructor even carried out a chewed up bucket.

In an attempt to find the trail after a bush push, Jenny came back looking like this.

Haid suited up in all her rain gear to go rescue the ropes from the bee hive.
Lacey had to put sting reliever all over her body.

We found a really cool foot bridge.

And finally, we discovered the beauty of fried peanut butter and jelly on tortillas. We were too busy eating to take a picture of this event.

Dread Locked

There isn't much to say about this, other than the fact that your hair does strange things when you don't wash it and you go back and forth from wearing your hair up to under a helmet or hat. We obviously felt it was necessary to document this.

Conquer your fears

After Grandfather Mountain, we were going to have several more days involving heights. First we would have two days of Ropes Course. People have fondly called this "a playground for adults." In my opinion this statement is backwards. It is basically a tight ropes course that is 100 feet in the air. That sounds more like something kids would be all about. Or at least for me as a kid I would have been way more into this than I am now. However, it was definitely really fun and challenging. At the end of the course there is this device that sort of simulates a swing. You pretty much have to just step off this platform and let yourself go.
On day 2 of Ropes Course, we were getting all ready to go when we were informed that two hikers in the Gorge were lost. They had been over due for about 14 hours and as a service, Outward Bound offers their employees in assisting with search and rescue. Since we happened to be on base camp for Ropes Course, we also got to be a part of the search and rescue team. Eager to test our Wilderness First Responder skills and everything else we had learned, we packed our day packs and headed up to the parking lot to get some more information on our mission. By the time we got up there, the couple had been spotted by a helicopter. We were totally bummed. Not only did we have to miss our Ropes Course, but we didn't get to be a part of the rescue team. However, we were obviously very glad the couple was safe and found.
The following day, we began our rocks block. Yet again, testing the fear of heights thing. I guess at this point I felt like I was beginning to conquer my fears. The first day of climbing we learned all the knots and how a belay system works. It was pouring the whole day, but that didn't stop us from climbing. In fact, I climbed the rock in sneakers on a soaking wet rock. I learned the true value of rock climbing shoes, but I was glad I had accomplished such a daunting task. For the next 4 days we continued to learn about climbing, setting up safe rock sites, and belaying. We even got to do a traverse on the last day, which basically means traveling from one cliff to another on a rope. Talk about scary!
On the third day of climbing we got to do a multi-pitch climb. This basically means that you are climbing with at least two people up a rock that either has bolts set in place or is appropriate for you setting your own bolts with climbing gear. You have a lead climber who is basically on no safety equipment until they get to the first bolt. They climb to the first anchor and then belay the second climber. Once the second climber reaches the anchor, the third climber comes up. All three climbers are attached by rope and are responsible for each other's safety. Once we all get to the first anchor, also called the "belay ledge", we go to the next pitch. You continue to do that until you make it to the top. Obviously as students we had professional lead climbers helping us make the climb. It was the highlight of the rocks block, however I ended up climbing an easier route than originally planned due to the crowds and I was a little bummed about that.
The whole sequence of events really helped me overcome my fears. Especially during the rocks block, I really just focused on the rock itself and hardly even thought about the heights. It was probably one of the best weeks of my entire life and I feel so lucky to have experienced it all!

Chutes and Ladders

I just realized that it has been over a month since I last blogged. I still have several Outward Bound blogs to get done and then I will get to my life. Sorry for the month long drought.
During my course, there was a section dedicated to "Main Expedition". This was basically referring to our first backpacking trip since immersion and it would be the first time that my group would lead ourselves as the instructors simply followed our decisions. This portion of the trip came directly after Solo. We had all had three days to rest up and clear our heads before taking on three days of hiking to and on Grandfather Mountain. The first day of hiking seemed rather easy even though an equal day during immersion probably felt a lot more strenuous. The second day we knew was going to be a much longer day and would involve a portion of dreaded bush pushing. All things considered, though, even this day didn't seem nearly as bad as it had sounded. After a long day of hiking we got into camp just before dark, set things up and had dinner. At our evening meeting, our new leaders of the day informed us that we had a lot of hiking to do the next day that would be technical and unlike anything we had experienced before. This all sounded fine until they informed us that we would need to be waking up at 2:45am to leave camp by 4am and get to our destination by 1pm. This might not have sounded so bad if the current time had been any earlier than 10pm.

After what felt like a short nap, everyone was up, fed, packed and ready to go. Amazingly it had been the first time that we were all ready to leave on time. About a mile into the hike we came upon our first technical element. It was a large boulder that required a hand line rope for safety. After finally getting the rope set up and getting everyone through the boulder, we understood the need to leave so early in the morning. It is no small task to get 13 people up a huge boulder safely. Nor is it a small task to get 13 people up and down steep ladders and through rock mazes and down steep boulders. We arrived at a peak right as the sun was coming up and were able to enjoy a much deserved view. Until that day we hadn't really been rewarded with many views.
After the sun rise, we continued on through the amazing day. The biggest challenge of the day was the weight of our packs. We had just done a food pack out before leaving for the trip and had 9 days worth of food in our packs. Not only that, but we had switched over to winter rations which meant even more food. Try to picture climbing down a steep ladder that is bolted to a massive boulder that is literally hanging in mid air. Now, add 45lbs to your back. It was intense!

The entire day really proved how well our group was evolving. We were forced to make safety decisions and we were all responsible for each other's lives. Everyone was extremely supportive of each other through the entire thing. I was especially nervous through the whole day as my fear of heights was tested to the max. Sometimes the "trail" was simply a 2 foot wide piece of rock with sheer drops on either side. The other people in my crew really helped me get through the day smoothly.

When we finally reached the parking lot of Grandfather Mountain to meet the trail crew, I was able to take everything in. The day had been incredible and I had overcome a lot of fears to get through it. We were all really exhausted, but in order to hike the trail we did at no charge, Outward Bound had made an agreement with the trail crew to help them with a project. We carried in supplies to build a ladder and then built the ladder. It was definitely cool to be able give back to the amazing Mountain we had just hiked.