Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I know I need to write something to keep myself in the habit, but I feel like I have absolutely nothing to say.

Chris and I have been doing the same thing for two weeks - getting up a little later than we wish we would, cutting brush and mesquite trees with chain saws, piling it all up in burn piles, loading the rounds in the tractor and hauling them away for firewood. I've had "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claws" in my head most of the time because of all the mistletoe in the mesquite trees. Chris had "this s*** is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s" stuck in his head for a lot of today. It popped into my head because I thought it was bananas how much tree we had cut down, and I passed it on to him like a disease. He keeps rearranging the words. It's almost as bad as "Yellow Submarine."

At night, we do some combination of the following: read, research the PCT, sit in the hot tub, cook, watch a movie, do a puzzle, and/or listen to Harry Potter on audiodisk. For the last three days, we've been working on a puzzle (given to us by my mom) and listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's unreal how fast the time passes. It's peaceful, quiet and pleasant, mostly.

So time just slips by, for the most part unbounded by any interesting events...

The only thing we've done different than all of this is go for a "hike" at Choke Canyon State Park. Here's Choke Canyon Reservoir, the park's namesake, and isn't the view beautiful?
I think we got about 5 feet of elevation all day. 
This is the only "hiking" opportunity within about two hours of here, and it had a total of two miles of trail. This place is a black hole of hiking. God forbid walking around in the outdoors unless you're doing it to kill things.

I'm really looking forward to the PCT. Speaking of...

PCT news:

We bought the tent! Lunar Duo it is. Also, my ULA Circuit just came in, and I am ecstatic at the fit and comfort. I got the new S-shaped shoulder straps, designed for women. They seem to feel pretty good. Now for somewhere to take it... Chris and I are thinking Big Bend for a long weekend soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

She thinks my tractor's sexy

Today's post is about poky things.

One of the tasks we've been assigned is to clear the north half of the field the olive trees are in, so that Dad can plant another couple of hundred trees there. Chris and I are used to clearing brush for trail work, and Chris is a pro with a chain saw, so we thought it wouldn't be too hard.

Remember when I said everything in South Texas has thorns? Aside from cactus, the worst of the thorny plants down here is huisache (wee-satch). The previous locals, the Nahuatl, named it "thorn," and today's locals call it "catclaw." It's really a lovely plant. Sometimes, when it pokes you through three layers of clothing with its needle-sharp, inch long spines, the tips break off and the huisache leaves little pieces of itself inside your skin. Most people's skin reacts like it was scratched by a cat, and arms end up looking like angry battlefields.

Huisache is the main colonizer of the north half of the olive field, so for the last five days of work, we've been figuring out how best to avoid spending the time after work pulling tiny spines out of ourselves. We've cut so much of it now that there are about ten giant piles that will feel so good to burn. Revenge is a dish best served as a FIERY INFERNO.

Traffic on the morning commute
Speaking of revenge, today we also pulverized some prickly pear. For the northerners who've never had the misfortune to learn firsthand that prickly pear has two kinds of thorns, let me explain why I give prickly pear a wide berth. Although the most visible spines are big yellow ones, long and deadly looking, the worst ones are the ones you can't see. Because if you accidently bump into a prickly pear cactus, you spend about ten seconds pulling out the big spines and up to two weeks scratching at your skin, searching for the almost microscopic ones, thinking you got them all out only to find another one two days later.

gleefully massacring cactus
So today we uprooted some cactus with the tractor, pulverized some of it, and piled the rest of it up with plans to put a burn pile on top of it and burn it to the ground in the next couple weeks. I had daydreams about doing this to cactus as a kid.

PCT news:

Chris bought a Ti Tri Caldera Cone. It's basically something we can put under our pot to either block the wind when using an alcohol stove, or as a wood stove. We were concerned that alcohol wouldn't have enough power for two people, and other thru-hiking couples said wood stoves were a good option. I'm excited to try it out!

Turns out my sunglasses are a good filter. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New adventure, new blog

Chris in the pecan orchard in January
   To make some money to finance our adventures (and to get out of the cold, cold Northwest and colder Michigan) Chris and I are living and working at my dad's ranch south of San Antonio.

   What people call a ranch around here has little to do with cattle anymore, but is more a big plot of mesquite brush, cactus, and pretty much anything else that could possibly have thorns. We're lucky because dad owns what he calls a pecan ranch. I realize this might bring to mind cowboy boots, horses, and wrangling ornery pecan trees into a corral, but fortunately the pecan trees are fairly well behaved and usually stick to the spot they were planted. The "ranch" we live on has a pecan orchard, an olive orchard, and some wild land, and no cattle whatsoever.

   Anyway, about seven or eight years ago, my dad planted about eight hundred pecan trees in a big pasture. Two years ago, he also planted a few hundred olive trees in another pasture. He did all of this on his days off from being a more-than-full-time emergency room doctor. Needless to say, he never has enough time or enough sleep to get done the things he needs to get done to keep this place in tip-top shape, so that's where Chris and I come in. We do odd jobs to keep the pecans and olives getting the water and lovin' they need. We also get free rent, a lot of land to roam in, a hot tub, two ridiculous cats, a garden, and all the deer and wild hog meat we can eat.
Tweedle Dee, half of the ridiculous cat duo

   So for the next few months, updates will be about our preparations for starting the Pacific Crest Trail in April, and living at the ranch. Probably mostly about living at the ranch, since most of our preparations are done. I'll put the PCT news at the bottom, as so:

PCT news:

The only gear we still need is a tent, maps, and shoes. We (read: Chris) have done a lot of research into which would be the best ultralight tent for us. We can't decide between the Lunar Duo and the Double Rainbow. They're so neck in neck that the Double Rainbow may win out just because if we make it to Canada, we'll be able to say "Double Rainbow all the way!"

My new pack!
After that, we need to buy food to send to ourselves in places where all we'll be able to get are Twinkies and Snickers bars, talk about when we'll need to send ourselves things like iceaxes and crampons, and then figure out how we're getting to Campo. But most of that has already been discussed a little bit.

One exciting thing: I bought my backpack last night! I decided on a ULA Circuit. I feel like it's a good mix between function and weight, and no thru-hiker seems to have anything bad to say about it. The company is pretty cool, too.