Sunday, June 27, 2010


It's hot. At or above 90 degrees just about every day for the past three weeks. Weather this hot, humid, and hazy is like the winter snowstorms, except it doesn't shut everything down. You can't really go outside for long periods of time without running for a temperature-controlled environment. In the winter, you know you're supposed to sit still, conserve your energy, and crochet or read or snuggle, so it's not so bad to stay inside. In the summer, you know you're supposed to go out and play as much as possible, because the days are long and everything is green and blooming, which makes it even more frustrating that the weather is unbearable. I can't even stand being in my exhibit at the zoo because even though it's slightly cooler than the weather outside, it's still just as humid (or worse), and therefore not really an escape from the heat. Instead, I'm stuck at home, daydreaming of the lush, cool, green forests and scenic shores of the Pacific Northwest. I've never been there, but I imagine that they're fantastic.

I've been daydreaming about Oregon lately while exploring professional opportunities there, but I also just started taking a course online through Oregon State University, so I'm in a sort of mental classroom out there. Yes, more school. When I finished grad school, the folks in the office where I did my work-study swore that I'd be back in school in a few years. At the time, I said oh hell no! but I'm eating my words now. I'm in the program that I should have been in all those years ago, when I opted for a degree in an "easier" field instead - I'm going for my Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources degree with a focus on fish and wildlife conservation. Two weeks into my first class and already I'm loving it. Online classes are great because you get to meet people in all different stages of their lives from all over the country. And you can do the work in your own time. So as long as I have to be stuck inside when it's hot and humid out, at least my coursework will keep me busy and engaged.

And come August and September, when all the back-to-school excitement starts up, I get to be a part of it again. Maybe I'm not buying things for my dorm room or eating in the dining halls, but I get to crack open my books and learn some new things.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


Over Memorial Day weekend, I flew out to Salt Lake City, and rode down to Moab, Utah, with some friends for a weekend of tenting in the desert and hiking through the Mars-like terrain of Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and other scenic lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

I love camping. I wish I could spend my days sleeping in a tent, cooking food over the fire, and hiking around the area. I can't imagine much that would make me happier. The smell of campfire and sunscreen thrills me to no end. I think I'm secretly a holdover from our caveman days. However, there are some modern conveniences that I could do without during camping trips, but I don't think I'd want to:
  • S'mores, made with dark chocolate. A must-have. 
  • I usually sleep with a Thermarest, which does the job but is rather narrow and not nearly cushy enough, so if I sleep on my back, my arms fall off the pad, and if I sleep on my side, my hips get sore. That's part of the fun of camping though, and it feels tough and rugged. For this trip, my friend supplied me with a real blow-up air mattress that covered the entire floor of my two-person tent. At first, I thought, "lame! real outdoorswomen do NOT sleep on air mattresses." But let me tell you, it was awesome. I am a changed woman. For car camping, I'm going with the air mattress all the way. Outdoorsy cred be damned.
  • Crocs. With socks. For the record, I think Tevas/Birkenstocks and socks look just fine too. 
  • Aluminum foil. It makes the perfect packet for a wide array of foodstuffs to be cooked on or in a fire.
  • Here's where I admit that I am a foodie. Camping should not keep you from eating a tasty, well-prepared meal. That includes salmon fillets cooked on said foil over the fire, foil packets stuffed with chopped veggies and seasonings, dutch oven cobblers, chilis, and pancakes. Sure the usual burgers, hot dogs, bacon and eggs are tasty, especially after a long day on the trails or a cool night in the tent, but I kind of prefer fresh food to go with my fresh air. I recognize that this may not be feasible for backpacking trips, but it is indeed possible to eat chicken, snow peas, and rice with pesto sauce cooked over a camp stove in the Yellowstone backcountry. All it takes is a little preparation beforehand (cook and slice the chicken ahead of time, make and package the pesto, throw in some boil-in-bag rice, and pick snowpeas from the garden).
  • I'm not a big drinker, but wow, a cold beer tastes really good after a long day on the trail. I also really don't like whiskey, but a sip or two right after a hard hike is strangely refreshing. It washes away all the nasty sludge that accumulates on your tongue when you're huffing and puffing along switchbacks that wind straight up the side of a cliff.
  • Good friends with absurd/wacky/hilarious stories and some outlaw country music. No camping trip is the same without them. Many thanks to my Salt Lake crew for the awesome weekend!
Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip: