Friday, November 21, 2014

Bye Bye Colorado

Greetings from San Francisco! We are just hours away from our flight to New Zealand--eeek!! We got to see Seth Meyers live last night as a special treat and he did not disappoint in the laugh factor. He wished us well on our journey and gave us both kisses and hugs. Okay that last part only happened in my dreams last night.

In any case, we said goodbye on Friday to our "home" base in Colorado and all of J's family. We enjoyed spending our fall in golden Colorado and the best way to describe our time is in numbers and pictures. 

Saw 4 sets of friends, including 2 newborn babies
Saw only 1 concert (to J's dismay)
Spent 100s number of hours with nephews
Ate 20 family meals together 
Spent 8 days at our favorite mountain cabin
Went to 3 programs at REI, including 1 garage sale
Spent $84 at the REI garage sale (because we ALWAYS need MORE gear)
Went to 1 program at Whole Foods
Ate out 12 times 
Went to our favorite highest saloon in America 2 times
Watched 2 pets, which inevitably means we picked up poop far more times than we wanted to
Took our 2-year-old nephew Everett to the park 4 times
Got peed on by 3-month-old nephew Owen 2 times
Watched 10 films on Netflix
Watched 3 episodes of X-Files (Season 3)





Currently: November

Current mood:  a bit frantic, but I believe we got everything done on our to do list. All systems are checked, the bags are finally packed (see pix below - all of that fit in 2 backpacks!) and we are on a flight to San Francisco today and a flight to Auckland, NZ Saturday! Ready or not, here we come! 





Currently thankful for:  My oldest nephew being okay after having an unexplained seizure this week! He and my sister's family could use some good vibes though as they figure out what's going on. 

Currently worried about:  Our house in Danville … our tenants just told us they are moving out in January … we thought being a landlord and worrying about an empty house from across the country was hard, but what about across the globe??

Currently excited about:  Seth Meyers! Since we are staying overnight in San Francisco before flying out to Auckland, J checked out the concert schedule (of course) and saw that Seth Meyers was performing stand up. I have a serious crush on him, so my loving and non-jealous husband bought us tickets to see him! 

Currently not excited about:  the infamous mud that we will experience within the first 200 miles of the Te Araroa trail!

Currently regretting:  not reading more books about New Zealand

Currently proud of:  Donating my hair once again to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. In May 2011 before the AT, I donated 20 inches. This time wasn't as much or dramatic (9 inches), but it's something. J also got his haircut and wanted to donate his, but they don't take grey hair. 
 Before
During
After

Currently reading: I finally finished a book I was trying to read all summer: The Martian by Andy Weir. This is this guy's first book, but it was stellar. My dad recommended it to J & I and both loved it. 
Also, J & I "read" 2 books on CD during this road trip. "Crazy for the Storm" by Norm Olstead and "Bossypants" by Tina Fey (Bossypants was excellent and LOL funny!!)

Current guilty pleasure:  Flying to NZ!

Currently watching on Netflix: Earlier in the month, we watched a few good horror flicks. One good one about a serial killer in Alaska (true story) was "The Frozen Ground."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's In Our Bags?

Backpacks
Justin - Gregory Baltoro 65 (2015 version)  
Weight: 4lbs 12 oz
Patrice - Gregory Deva 60 (2015 version)
Weight: 4lbs 6oz

Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent  (updated 2014)
Weight: 3 lbs 2 oz

Sleep System
Justin 
Therm-a-Rest Auriga 35 degree down blanket (750+ fill goose down with an elasticized footbox) 
Weight: 1lb, 5 oz
Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner
Weight: 4.7 oz
Therm-a-rest XLite Pad (2013 version) (R-Value 3.2)
Weight: 12 oz
Universal sheet 
Weight: 3.7 oz
Nemo Fillo Pillow (J's comfort item)
Weight: 10.8 oz

Patrice
Therm-a-rest Antares HD 20-degree bag
Weight: 2 lbs 
Coolmax Cocoon Mummy Liner
Weight: 9 oz
Therm-a-rest XLite Pad (2015 version) (R-Value 3.2, longer length 6")
Weight: 12 oz

Footwear
Justin
Hi-Tec Altitude Trek Low Waterproof
Weight: 
Hi-Tec Rio Adventure (for recovery and river crossings)
Weight: 8 oz
Superfeet Carbon Insoles 

Patrice
Hi-Tec Ohio Waterproof (with moisture-wicking lining)
Weight: 13.8 oz
Hi-Tec Zuuks (for recovery and river crossings)
Weight: 4.8 oz
Superfeet Berry Insoles (will switch them out to the Carbons)

Water Filter
Sawyer Mini Water Filter (64 oz and 16 oz bags)
Weight: 2 oz for filter and 6.5 oz for bags
Sawyer Inline Filter on our hydration bladders
Weight: 1.8 oz

Cookware
MSR PocketRocket
Weight: 3 oz
GSI Outdoors Halulite MicroDualist
Weight: 18 oz
2 GSI Outdoors Titanium Kung Foon
Weight: 4.1 oz (each)
GSI Space Missile

Headlight
Princeton Tec Vizz   
Weight: 3.2 oz
165 lumens   aaa batteries (150 hrs)   - waterproof - $60 each
http://www.princetontec.com

Patrice Clothing
Sea to Summit Dry Bag/Stuff Sack
2 pairs of ExOfficio Give and Go Undies
2 Sports Bras
Merrell wicking tee
REI wicking tee (wore on the AT too)
REI wicking long-sleeved tee (wore on the AT too)
REI Sahara Pants (convertible to capris)
REI yoga-type pants for sleeping/town
LL Bean long johns
Ex Officio Rain Logic Jacket
Marmot Rain pants
Big Agnes 700 fill DownTek Shovelhead Jacket (15 oz)
2 pairs of hiking socks
1 pair of sleeping socks

Justin Clothing
Therm-a-rest Dry Bag/Stuff Sack
2 pairs of ExOfficio Give and Go Boxers
Salomon wicking tee
Patagonia base layer tee
ExOfficio SoCool long sleeve 1/2 zip
Mountain Hardware convertible pants (wore on the AT too)
Patagonia long underwear
Marmot Rain Pants
Marmot Crux Raincoat
Big Agnes 700 fill DownTek Shovelhead Jacket (15oz)
2 pairs of hiking socks
1 pair of sleeping socks

Trekking Poles
Patrice 
Helinox Passport Tension Lock Adjustable Poles 
Weight: 10 oz
Justin
Helinox Passport Tension Lock Poles
Weight: 12 oz

Misc
GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel 
Weight: 3.1 oz
Granite Gear 18L Ultrasil Stuff Sack (food bag)
Weight: 21 grams
Power Traveler Solar Monkey Adventurer Solar Charger
Weight: 9.3 oz
Garmin Fenix Watch
Weight: 3.1 oz
Spot Satellite Messenger
Weight: 4 oz
2 Headnets
Passport/License
iPhone 5c and charger
iPad Mini 
iPod
Various Chargers 
Sawyer First Aid Kit

Fuel canister (will buy in NZ)

Going Live

I've said this before. I don't know how long J & I can ride this wave of working together in different areas of the outdoor industry, but some of our smarter friends said if we really wanted to keep it up, we needed to brand ourselves.

So we are doing that. Step by step.

Step 1. Get a website. 

I am proud to announce the launch of www.wanderinglavignes.com. A website dedicated to us and our accomplishments (insert gag). No, J didn't win businessman of the year and my writing did not get published in Time magazine. But, we have some things to boast about and a story to tell. Our goal with this website was to have all of our greatness in one place and connect with ours who share the same passion.

Huge props to my high school buddy, Christy, for doing the bulk of the work on the site and being patient with us through the process. It was a labor of love, but we are all happy with the end result.

So check it out and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One More Sponsor!

We secured another sponsor! And, once again, it is a company we have known and loved for years.



Big Agnes is providing us with our 29 square foot "home" while we are in New Zealand - the Cooper Spur UL2 tent. We actually used the Copper Spur on the AT, but they have come out with a version in 2014 that even lost a few ounces. Yeah for updates and improvements!!

Our precious home on the AT in 2011 - Cooper Spur

If that wasn't generous enough, Big Agnes will also be providing us with their Shovelhead DownTek Jackets. I couldn't be more excited about this. My "poof" jacket is my comfort item on the trail. When I get to camp, I shed my sweaty clothes and put on a light shirt and my poof jacket. The features on the Shovelhead are exactly what I want - lightweight, packable, DownTek with 700 fill (meaning it will keep me warm and water repellent), a drawcord hood, and thumb holes. 

The last item they are gifting us are our trekking poles. On the Long Trail, I took no poles. On the AT, I took 1 pole. You could say I was a slow-burning convert to the trekking pole scene, but now I realize and love their benefits, as J had been telling me for years. The Helinox line of poles are super lightweight and we have been using them for a year now. I couldn't imagine backpacking without them. 

Thank you again to all our sponsors!! I would say we are definitely "geared up" for this trek! FYI, we will be posting our full gear list tomorrow once we pack it all up. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

TA Mail Drops

On the AT, we loved getting our mail drops. People sent us 40+ pieces of "mail magic" in the form of letters and packages. Obviously this is not going to happen in New Zealand. BUT, I am posting our mail drop locations as a reference for other TA hikers (see permanent tab labeled TA Mail Drops on top of page) and just in case anyone feels compelled to drop us a letter.

Sending mail drops to New Zealand isn't as easy as it was on the AT in America. It doesn't take long to arrive (6-10 days), but it is expensive to mail packages from the United States (USPS is the cheapest), so we are planning to bring 50 or so dehydrated meals and buy supplemental snacks/breakfast/lunch in Auckland and mail out resupply boxes from there. We heard we can get cardboard boxes from grocery stores and people let you borrow packaging tape (New Zealanders are so nice!!).


We are planning to do 5-6 mail drops and just resupply at the local (expensive) grocer/dairy in other places (this means we must be flexible with food choices!). We go through lots of "towns" on the North Island, but the South Island is more desolate, so that is where most of our mail drops will be. And they are to places of business, not post offices (as they were in the US). Some of these places charge us to hold packages!

North Island 
* We have just one location where we will get mail and it is at a friend of a friend of a friend's house in Te Awamutu. So in the interest of privacy, I won't post his mailing address here. But, just to give you an idea of the cost of mailing, we mailed an 8 lb box and it came to $71!

South Island
Havelock Mail Drop - ETA Jan. 15
The La Vignes
℅ Bluemoon Lodge
48 Main Road Havelock
Blenheim 7100
New Zealand

St. Arnaud Mail Drop - ETA Jan. 30
The La Vignes
℅ Travers-Sabine Lodge
PO Box 15
State Highway 63
Nelson Lakes National Park
St. Arnaud 7053
New Zealand

Lewis Pass Mail Drop - ETA Feb. 10
The La Vignes
℅ Boyle River Outdoor Centre
Private Bag 55002
Orchard Road
Christchurch 8154
New Zealand

Arthus's Pass - ETA Feb. 15
The La Vignes
℅ Mountain House
PO Box 12
Arthus's Pass 7654
New Zealand

Lake Coleridge - ETA Feb. 20
The La Vignes
℅ Lake Coleridge Lodge
114 Hummocks Road
CMB 18
Lake Coleridge Village
RD2 Darfield
Canterbury 7572
New Zealand

Sunday, November 16, 2014

More on Hiking Utah

After 11 nights--some very cold and snowy nights I might add--of sleeping in a tent, we are wrapping up our mini (1850 miles) road trip with a few overdue showers and electricity (other than our solar power device). It's good practice for the next 4 months, I suppose.

Our return trip from the Grand Canyon to Denver included a few more of southern Utah's national parks and monuments. We haven't quite hit all of them; we have Canyonlands left--weather was not conducive to scrambling among rocks.

Here's the recurring theme in southern Utah (besides 3 percent beer). For centuries, water has been the area's natural sculptor, creating a landscape of colorful cliffs, sandy arches, towering spires and deep canyons. But as my dad has pointed out, "All the pictures are starting to look the same. Are you sure you aren't using the same ones over and over again?" I promise I am not. Here's a fun game for anyone who is bored. Look through the following pictures and try to find the differences. Go.  

We started this leg of the trip by driving the curvy and scenic Highway 12 through the almost 2 million acres of unspoiled wilderness making up Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

We didn't do any hiking here, just mainly stopping and seeing (and eating a cold picnic lunch). Besides the sandstone cliffs and deep canyons, 2 other cool things struck me about this area.
1) This area marks the last to be discovered and mapped in the late 1800s. Reminder, late 1800s is recent for America.
2) Though it is mostly desert, there was so much diversity in the plant life that we hadn't seen in southern Utah. We saw everything from cacti to juniper to aspens. 



Next up, we spent 1 day in Capitol Reef NP, hiking about 13.5 miles. This park was more than just rock art--although there was plenty of that--but also about the history from early indigenous peoples to Mormon pioneers. The Indians left some cool petroglyphs, while the Mormon settlers left their schoolhouse (and other buildings), as well as many fruit orchards that are still there. The Mormans lived and schooled here until 1941!















Our last stop was Natural Bridges National Monument. This is when the weather turned less than desirable and the rocks were very slick, so we did minimal hiking and just saw three of the bridges. There were also some very preserved cliff dwellings. Good enough to call it a day.





We are just FIVE sleeps (or in my case, 5 insomniac nights) from our flight to New Zealand and it's time to return to frantic packing and planning.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Leave No Trace Master Educators

J & I are now "master educators" for Leave No Trace (LNT). We spent 5 days with 7 other like-minded students and 2 instructors. Most of our course was in the backcountry of the Grand Canyon, practicing what we preached.


J & I hadn't been to the GC since we lived in Phoenix (2004), so it was nice to be back. Plus, we hiked about 14 miles on the Grandview Trail, which we hadn't been on.




There were many reasons for J & I to get this certification. Overall, it was a good career move for us and the direction we are going together. We can teach awareness workshops on the 7 principles of LNT (shameless plug - let us know if you want us to teach one for your group/school!). But the bigger picture is that this is where our passion lies given the fact we spend the majority of our time out of doors. You can stop reading my soapbox now if I can step away the next time you bring up the 2016 presidential candidates.

Now, a lot of people--namely my sister--wondered what in the world we would be learning that we didn't already know over the 5 long days. "Isn't it pretty simple?" She asked. "Bury your poop. The end." Even I wondered how much more detail we could get into. J & I had been practicing LNT ethics for a long time, and there were some we practiced well, and others where improvement was needed. I think across the spectrum, we were somewhere in the middle. But, we were both pleasantly surprised at how many layers there are to LNT and how the master educator course brought us to the next level. A lot of the course was focused on teaching methods for different audiences so we could effectively spread the word. The course was structured so each student was assigned a principle and had to give a same lesson on it, thus showcasing a variety of teaching methods and multiple aspects of each principle.

I think the best way to capture some of the essence of the whole course would be to state the 7 LNT principles and share my biggest takeaways.

1) Plan ahead and prepare.
Did you read my post on planning for the Te Araroa trail and my to do list? I would say this LNT principle is in my DNA.



2) Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
We are good at picking out durable camp spots. But hiking is another story. As much as I try to avoid getting so dirty on the trail, true LNT means going straight through the mud rather than around it. New Zealand is muddy. Gulp. Good thing we have good boots.

3) Dispose of waste properly.
If you followed us while we hiked the AT, you know how many holes J dug during our 141-day journey (55 times FYI). He is very proud of this and will demonstrate to anyone who gives a poop (pun very intended) how to properly dig a cathole. Well, to become a master educator, you have to be comfortable using leaves and rocks to wipe (and bury those). Okay, that's not a requirement, but wouldn't it be more fun if it were? Regardless, using leaves and rocks means being a hardcore LNT follower. We both stepped up our game and tried the rock method. We are big fans and will do this anytime we can going forward. I'll spare you anymore details or pictures.

4) Leave what you find.
The backcountry isn't always just trees and rocks. It's uber exciting when we come upon old mining or farming equipment, caves and even structures. So what happens when people take a piece a home for their bookshelf or vandalize what's there?




We've come upon lots of graffiti lately over some of the petroglyphs on this tour of southern Utah National Parks and I can tell you firsthand how uncool and disturbing it is to our experience. So my PSA on this one would be to be an LNT hero who picks up garbage along the trail, but leaves everything else as is. I'm pretty certain none of my blog fans are graffiti artists, but you just never know who is reading!

5) Minimize campfire impacts.
This was actually my lesson to teach and here's where I would say we definitely leave no trace. This is because we never do fires in the backcountry, except when we are at an established campsite with an established and legal fire ring and the mosquitoes are out for blood.

6) Respect wildlife.
There are 250 squirrel bites every year at the Grand Canyon. Do you know why? Because people feed them. And it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt (or get the plague from the fleas they carry)!

For one of the skits, our instructors did a little role playing as a squirrel and human. For another skit, J, acting as a bear, was interviewed on how he feels when people take selfies with him. You had to be there, but both were hilarious. The bottom line is that we forget we are visitors in the animal kingdom. The squirrels, marmots, and whatever else have been habituated to eating people food because of people. The bears could attack during selfies. Lesson learned -- keep wildlife wild. Rule of thumb -- hold your thumb at an arm's length and if you can cover the animal, you are a safe distance.



7) Be considerate of other visitors.
We've always thought we are considerate, but I think we could always do a better job of this and learned a lot from our discussions. Have you met me? I can always find things to talk about and on the trail, this chatter could be annoying to others.

Thank you for allowing me to shout from my soapbox, aka my blog. Will J & I continue to leave a trace? Sure. The reality is that no one is never going to leave NO trace in the backcountry. But, LNT provides ethics that guide us to leave less of an impact enabling us and those after us to have a good experience. Win-win, right?


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