Conquests of Tankbird

Camping Outdoor Leadership Training
May 21, 2009, 6:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man, I keep postponing writing this entry, because I know there’ll be so much to it.

This past weekend I did the four day Camping Outdoor Leadership Training with the Appalachian Mountain Club. It was wonderful, but very intense! They kept us going from the time we got up (usually before 7) until we went to bed (usually after 11). I’ll walk you through the whole thing here.

We started at 5 Joy St. in Boston at 9am on Thursday. It had been a really early morning for me and a long drive. I only hit a little traffic, though, and arrived in plenty of time. Once everyone got there, we loaded all our gear into the van and headed out.

Here’s the back of everyone’s head in the van:

And here’s a picture of me, looking sleepy and less than glamorous:

It was a 2 1/2 hour drive to Cardigan Lodge in the Lakes region of New Hampshire. Cardigan Lodge itself is beautiful, though, inside and out. Beautiful and HUGE. Here’s a picture of the outside:

And here’s part of the second floor. We’re sitting in the recreation area looking toward the eating area.

You can come here when it’s full-service and they’ll cook for you, or you can come during self-serve season and use their kitchen. We had the fabulous Volunteer Logistics Crew (VLC) to cook for us that first night. Here we are all sitting around the table, filled with delicious dinner and dessert (the brownies and apple crisp in front of us were amazing!)
Clockwise around the table, starting from the lower left corner: Jesse, Diana, Leslie (one of our instructors), Kim, Ricky, Mikey, Me, James (our other instructor), and Terrence.

After dinner, we settled in a little to our bunk rooms, home sweet home for Thursday night only. Here’s the girls’ room:

We actually had a lot of workshops that day, learning knots and tents and tarps and leave no trace and all that stuff, and also some “getting to know you” games that were silly and fun in all the right ways. We learned the concept of “leaders of the day,” when we took turns in partnerships leading the group through the various logistics. Since there were only 7 of us (and 5 after Friday), it meant we were leaders a LOT. But that’s good, because we got to experience leadership in different situations. What did I learn? I learned that when I’m being observed, I micromanage like crazy.

The next morning, it was time to pack all of our gear, food and supplies and trek out to our camp site. First we had to load everything up.

Then people got fitted for their packs.

Then there was a lot of waiting to get going, during which time we lounged around. Here we are, lounging:

At last, time to head to camp! Here’s a lovely group shot before we go.
Left to right: Me, Terrence, Kim, Mikey, Jesse, Ricky, and Diana. Terrence wore that towel a lot as defense against the black flies. Not sure how well it worked, but man, black fly season in New Hampshire is FIERCE. I used enough Deet to kill a cow.

Once in camp, it was time to test our knot-tying skills to set up tarps. Here we are setting up some sexy, sexy tarps. We are knot MASTERS.

Once camp was all set up, it was time for a hike. It was at this point that Ricky and Mikey had to leave, which saddened all of us. We hated to see them go. But there was a hike planned, and so we hiked to Welton Falls, a lovely destination spot. Before we got to the falls, though, we had to cross a river.

Terrence crosses first…

Then Diana…

Then Kim (unphotographed)…
Then me..

Then Jesse and Leslie.

Welton Falls was beautiful! Here are some pictures looking down over the edge into the river.

And here’s the falls itself, at least part of it.

And here we are, lounging around and snacking after the first half of our journey.

Then it was back to camp in time for dinner and more workshops. We got to bed after 11. That night was our first night in tents, and man, I was super uncomfortable. Those 1″ ground pads are terrible! Plus I had to use the bathroom not once, but TWICE, and it was a long, cold walk in the dark to the outhouse. I think I got about 3 hours of sleep, so I was pretty run-down by the morning.

The next day, Saturday, it was time to hike Mt. Cardigan. No time to complain about lost sleep; there was a mountain ahead. This is Mt. Cardigan as viewed from the lodge.

Here we all are, lined up on the bridge at the start of our hike.

PJ’s Ledge was our first pre-summit “destination” spot, where we lounged and took pictures.

Somehow, on this trip, I got the nickname “mom,” checking in on everyone all the time. But hey, when people aren’t eating or drinking, you gotta check in on them! I make no apologies. ūüôā

It wouldn’t be a group outing if we didn’t horse around a little bit…
We are at this point sporting our orange bandanas. We became “Team Orange” somewhere around this point.

Clark Trail: less than a mile to the summit!

Here’s a group of us at the summit: left to right Jesse, Kim, Me, Diana. If I’d have known that blue was the required raincoat color, I would have planned differently.

Ahh, the view from the summit is always beautiful. Even if the clouds are threatening…
It was so windy! Really loud and just intense. You could lean against the wind and it would hold you up. Don’t do it at the edge, though.

This fire tower is at the top, and in the summer, you can climb it. It’s not technically summer, so it’s not open.

We headed back to camp, then. There was a bet about what time we’d actually get back to camp. Kim won with her bet of 4:40pm. We arrived at 4:42, so she was the undisputed winner. James, however, voted on 6:37, and tried to introduce us to some scenic detours to make the prediction come true. We hiked for about 8 hours in total, and after very little sleep, I was emotionally raw and pretty exhausted. But I was on dinner duty with James and Terrence, so no time to feel sorry for myself! Dinner was indeed delicious (chicken burritos, yum) and we ate almost all of it.

It threatened rain all afternoon, but we lucked out: it didn’t start to rain until late that night, right before bed. The rain made nice sleeping white noise, and I slept wonderfully, with only one 2:30am bathroom break in the rain. The rain stopped by the time we had to take down camp the next morning, though. We made waffles and sausage for breakfast. I’m quite proud of the fact that we had crispy waffles. Less proud that they took an hour… but who cares, great breakfast!

Here we are, engaged in the “camp take-down” process.

After packing everything up and practicing our “leave no trace” ethics, we headed back to the lodge for some debriefing. We also got cool T-shirts (like the one Jesse’s modeling). And, of course, another group picture! We all look pretty good despite four days of not washing.

Then it was back to civilization (Boston), and we all slept like the dead on the way back. What a weekend!


My tent arrived, OR, “How to Completely Destroy Your Living Room in Under Twenty Minutes”
May 5, 2009, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Excuse me…”


“Well, I couldn’t help but notice, but isn’t that…”

“Yes, yes it is. A tent. In my living room.”

“Ah. I see.”

“Anything else I can do for you?”

“Um, no. No, that’ll be all.”

The mailman came today and delivered my tent from Moontrail. It’s a Sierra Designs Reverse Combi 2-person tent. It fits all in this little bag, to start.


When I lay it out on the floor of the living room, it looks like this.


Note: it’s at this point where I first said, “You know, this is shaping up to be a really bad idea.” It’s a pretty small living room. It turns out that it’s about the size of the tent. And look at all the stuff piled around. And it was, of course, 9:00 at night when I started this project, and the Sox were up 4-3 against the Yankees.

Then I stood it up. I was worried about putting a tent pole through the TV or the glass doors, but luckily, no incidents. This is also the point where Chris said, “Ah. The baseball game seems to have been replaced by your ass. And… a tent.”


I put the rainfly on it next, but didn’t snap all the little corner buckles. That’s way too much work. Here are two shots from different angles, in case blue domes are exciting to you or something.

Notice how in the picture right below, the little black webbing bits and the white triangular window make a cool smiley face.  Happy tent!



At this point, I pulled the rainfly off. How is it that the fly weighs more than the tent? It definitely does. And it doesn’t fold up as neatly. I hate when the tent doesn’t fold up exactly right. But why quibble? This is a sweet-ass tent. It has two doors!

This zoomed-out shot is merely to show you what a disaster the living room turned into.


And here is me, sitting in the tent! This is the first picture of me in this blog. Very exciting. I of course had Chris come sit in the tent with me, but he wasn’t as excited for some reason. Something about it being, you know, in the living room.


So I took it all down and stuck it back in its bag. Then I cleaned up the living room.

Gear, gear, gear!
May 3, 2009, 3:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yesterday I went to EMS and, with much ado, purchased (almost) all my gear for my summer expeditions. I have all of yesterday’s purchases out on the living room floor and photographed the lot so I can walk you item-by-item through my list. This may be more exciting for me than for you, but there are other blogs you could be reading, aren’t there?


A: My new Osprey Luna 70 pack. 4100 cubic inch capacity, fitted to me.
B: The Osprey waterproof cover for my pack, all tucked into its little pouch. So tiny, so portable, and so necessary.
C: EMS Boreal 20¬į sleeping bag. Primaloft synthetic fill, mummy-style, comfortable and warm (I hope).
D: Therm-A-Rest Prolite sleeping pad. Fast-and-Light series, regular length, self-inflating.
E: Therm-A-Rest stuff sack for the sleeping pad. I had to buy this separately.
F: Therm-A-Rest repair kit, in case my self-inflating pad starts to not be.
G: Leatherman “Fuse” multi-tool, with more tools than I need, just as I like it. Shoulda bought it online and saved $10, but oh well.
H: EMS Socks and Sock-liners. I got 3 pairs of socks and 1 pair of sock liners. Buy 3, get 1 free!
I: Petzl e+Lite Headlamp. Light and waterproof with five settings, including red for night vision and strobe for emergencies.
J: Camelbak 3-Liter Water Bladder, to replace my 2-Liter that’s too small for all my adventures. Chris is hoping to steal my current 2-Liter.
K: Sea-to-Summit Stuff Sacks. There are 2 of them, the black one and a gray one below it that sort of blends in. How big are they? They are approximately cat-sized.

Mojo Stuff Sack

L: Guyot Squishy Bowls. I’m very excited for these! They’re silicone and squishable. I can shove them in my pack for storage, and turn them inside out for easy cleaning. Tres fab.
M: Cat, Maine Coon variety. Named Mojo. Fits well inside a Sea-to-Summit stuff sack.
N: Sea-to-Summit Spork, anodized aluminum? Who cares; it’s a spork and sporks are cool.
O: AMC White Mountain Guide with full-color maps. Very excited to go through this!
P: EMS Women’s Thunderhead SYNC Rain Jacket. I’m in such desperate need of a raincoat that this thing makes my day. And I like green.
Q: EMS Men’s Thunderhead Rain Pants, Full-zip. The Men’s are baggy, and I have to sinch up the waist a lot, but that’s better than having them be too snug and unable to layer. Plus, the men’s are full zip and the women’s are only 3/4 zip. Whose bright idea was THAT?
R: Techwick Essentials shirt. Again, it’s green, and I like green. I have so much Techwick, it’s like an addiction. But this stuff is amazing, really.
S: Men’s zip-off pants. I have a pair of these already, but I’ve used them for painting (a lot) so they’re very paint-splattered. I wanted some nicer looking ones so they could be, um, mud-splattered instead. Again, I find that the Men’s are roomier and more comfy, plus the shorts are almost knee-length instead of mid-thigh like the women’s. I do not find short ride-up to be comfortable when hiking.
T: Nomad adventure journal. This thing is so cool: waterproof paper! I’ll need that. I wonder if I should get a special type of pen or pencil for it?
U: Techwick base layers: Lightweight shirt and Midweight pants. Base layers are awesome.

So that’s the run-down. There’s more not pictured, but that’s the majority of it. More to come!

New boots, new pack! And some news from the original Tankbird
April 25, 2009, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello, all!

So my Asolo Styngers are absolutely wonderful, except that I want some new insoles.  My Superfeet insoles are pretty good but (I think) a little worn after these years in my Merrells.  I have a nasty little blister on my pinky toe, left foot, but such is the price of breaking in new boots.  I wore them for a little hiking earlier this week, then about 3.5 miles yesterday with Chris, then another 2 miles today.  I did the Bray Loop trail today, which is very muddy and wet, and I totally ROCKED the tankbird name tromping through creeks and mud.

My boots are amazing for two main reasons:

  1. They are really, truly waterproof.¬† I can wade in up to my anklebone and get no water in them, and they come out dry on the other side.¬† Like water off a duck’s back, baby.
  2. They have a close ankle cuff.¬† That means that the little rocks I kick up DON’T get lodged in my shoe.¬† Wonderful!

They’re great for other reasons, too, but those two reasons really stick out to me.

Now, my pack.¬† Oh, I love this pack already.¬† It’s an Osprey Luna 70.¬† That’s last year’s women’s model large pack, so it was 20% off at Adventure Outfitters.¬† I wasn’t planning to buy anything when I went, since I hadn’t gotten the check yet, but I wanted to price packs.¬† Well Alec (one of the employees, or maybe a manager) was a great help.¬† He showed me the packs, and the Luna was (mostly) in my price range AND in the size I wanted, plus it was an Osprey like Chris’s, and he’s had nothing but good things to say about his Osprey.

Alec took the time to swap out the hip belt for me to get one that fit better, and then to swap out the shoulder straps (twice!) until I found a set that worked best.¬† Then he loaded it up with weight and helped me adjust it so it fit.¬† After all that, of course I got it!¬† I took it hiking yesterday on the 3.5 miles with Chris and again on the 2 miles today.¬† We weighted it down with about 20 pounds of gear I didn’t need (including a 5lb dumbbell) and off we went.¬† My back was pretty sore after the trip yesterday, but today’s was fine.¬† I have to get adjusted to carrying about 50lbs before August.¬† Craziness.

In other related news, it turns out Beaker (the original Tankbird) is a GIRL mourning dove.¬† She laid an egg Wednesday and another on Thursday.¬† Surprise!¬† We’ve been convinced for a year she was a boy.¬† She had the iridescent neck feathers, blue eye ring and dusky blue head feathers that supposedly indicate male gender… but laying eggs kind of overrules that.¬†¬† I’ve adjusted the “What’s this page about” page to accurately reflect Beaker’s gender.

My check came in today, by the way, so I’m planning to go register for the rest of my courses and buy my gear.¬† Whoo hoo!

Anxious Anticipation
April 12, 2009, 11:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

As the summer approaches, I keep getting more and more excited about what lies ahead of me. I’ve never done anything this intensely physicaly for this length of time, first of all. I did the 3-day Breast Cancer walk back in 2001, where I walked about 60 miles from Fitchburg to Boston over three days, but I wasn’t toting 50 pounds of gear, I wasn’t going up and down mountains, and I had a support crew and nightly hot showers. No such luxuries await me.

Chris fondly refers to me as his City Girl, and I guess it’s partly true. I’m more of a Suburbs Girl, though. In Florida, where I grew up, I played outside all the time in my childhood. But “outside” in Florida is much different than “outside” in New England. I’ve definitely become a lot more outdoorsy, and there are some activities I love (like anything involving whitewater) that Chris won’t even touch.

Operation Shape-Up Tankbird is firmly underway. I started running back in December when my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I decided I was going to run a marathon to raise money for research as well as to give an outlet to my tumultuous emotions. He’s doing well so far and is going in for surgery this week (Wednesday, my birthday, to be precise). I have my sights set on the Bay State Marathon in October, which is a small marathon here in my local home state of Massachusetts. I’ve never run before at all, so it’s been slow going, but I’m pretty proud. I’m using Jeff Galloway’s run/walk system to get myself up to snuff, and I did 6 miles for the first time yesterday. For me, that’s huge. But there’s a long way to go. I also need to spend more time on the stairmaster to get myself ready for the hiking, you know, in between the actual hiking.

That said, all my paperwork for FFT (Fund for Teachers) is in, and I’m excited to get my check. I hope it’s this week. I have a webinar tomorrow night at 6:30 that I assume will give me more information. Then my first big purchase is my new boots to replace the Merrells I’ve worn out over the last three years. Okay, they still have some life in them, but they aren’t heavy-duty enough to survive this summer. My new ones are going to be the Asolo Stynger. These aren’t coming out of the grant, but I’m waiting until my next paycheck.

Wow, this is a long post. I’m guessing there will be a lot of long posts as I organize my thoughts around this huge expedition. My first trip is only a month away, so in the meantime, it’s just Operation Shape-Up Tankbird and (hopefully) a lot of shopping. Onward and upward!

Back to the present…
April 9, 2009, 8:34 pm
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It’s like “Back to the Future,” but with fewer jigawatts.

So I sent back all my paperwork for the grant acceptance today, and now I have to wait for the check to come in.  I imagine it will be arriving within a week.

I called the Mountain Leadership School yesterday and got registered.¬† Whoo!¬† I called the Outdoor Leadership Training today and spoke to Stefanie, and she said there are a few spots left for the May session.¬† I can’t register without the money, so it’s just a waiting game.

That said, I’m also picking out my gear, which is really exciting!¬† I love shopping for new gadgets.

Cheers to a re-activated journal!

Go Pats! And other rantings
December 30, 2007, 10:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Great Patriots game last night!  I had my fears for a while there, but they really pulled it together at the end, and as a New England resident, this makes me very proud.

Today I’m headed to the gym (yay for gym three days in a row!) for some cardio and weight training.¬† I’ve decided to hit my goal weight this year, after losing a bunch of weight and then being on stasis for, like, a year and a half.¬† I’ve got 31.8 pounds to go.¬† Definitely do-able.

I messaged a girl from Craigslist last night because she’s a new climber at the NAC rock wall¬†looking for someone to climb with.¬† Well, since I’m the most devoted of my climbing buddies, I definitely could use someone to climb with!¬† She’s psyched, and so am I.¬† We’ll climb together for the first time this week.¬† Woo-hoo!

In related news… the Whopper Freakout ads?¬† Kind of freak me out.¬† Actually, they make me really sad.¬† First of all, the way people treat¬†cashiers is just disgusting.¬† I don’t think it’s cute when someone is yelling at a poor cashier to “go get me a f-ing¬†Whopper now.”¬† I think it’s a sad testament to our lack of common courtesy.¬† Second of all, I think¬†it’s a sad but true¬†case study of the obesity epidemic in this country.¬† Really, if a future civilization were¬†to watch those commercials, I think they could understand a lot¬†about¬†ours.¬† Namely,¬†the fact that fat-assery is one of our prized cultural values.¬† Really, people?¬†

I have fast food every now and then, but I’ve¬†cut it down to once a month, if that.¬† And I was¬†the biggest¬†french¬†fry fan in the world, so I can personally attest to the fact that the cravings go¬†away when you stop shoving¬†the food¬†into your face.¬† I’m not saying do away with fast food altogether, but when the lack of a Whopper makes you want to cry, perhaps you should focus on the gaping holes in your life rather than¬†on the¬†fat-wad you’re¬†using to fill them.