Monthly Archives: May 2012

may 30 from Queens NY

May 28th, Memorial Day

Hoping your holiday was great. The train to NYC passed through Culpepper VA yesterday; from the tracks we could see a Civil war-era cemetery – matching headstones neatly laid out by several thousand. Virginia seems exotic to me. Dimly recalled that a battle took place in Culpepper – I will look it up sometime.


My train to NYC was delayed three hours because it originated in N’Owlins and the hurricane did something to the tracks in Miz’sippi. The original plan for today was to take my hosts to dinner in Manhattan but the storm has followed me here. So – tomorrow.

New York (or any city) is more fun when you have a local host, somebody who knows the neighborhood, etc and for this excursion I am staying at the home of somebody I met in 1974, the fellow who introduced me to gourmet coffee, expresso, and the exotic delights of Cambridge MA – John Santo. And his lovely wife Judy. They live in Queens next to a park, and it was wonderful to wake up to the sound of birds, even here!

This is a man whose wedding I attended in 1975. Yesterday was Shavuot, and the Santos are Jewish Orthodox. They had hosted eleven students from the Talmudic Institute nearby, for lunch; we munched on various leftovers including salmon. Also kugel, which though a simple dish, can be inexpertly made. I normally don’t favor kugel BUT John’s kugel was dee lish, best I have had in awhile.

And had two beers. And stayed up way too late. And caught up with – everything. Pictures of children and grandchildren. Travels. Hard to believe his daughter Shuvy is 35. Delightful to talk with Judy, really for the first time.

Yes, Virginia, I told them “the snakebite story.”

Anyway – the PBISN pinning ceremony is today at 4 PM. My plan is to take the train into Manhattan and to wander around. Maybe a museum or two. Then arrive at the venue (New York Academy of Medicine auditorium, same as tomorrow, on 103rd st)and greet the multitudes. This is optional but will help me to gauge the audience for my Commencement Speech.

The speech itself on Wednesday will last for twelve minutes.

Tomorrow after the pinning, we will go to dinner in Manhattan. John and Judy will choose the spot, from among kosher restaurants. (Their kitchen at home is kosher. They were thoughtful enough to set out the right utensils for me; and also, their favorite Starbucks is Sumatra – same as I stock my kitchen with in Honolulu. John is the person who first taught me “the rules” for a milshig/fleshig kosher kitchen. John is the second real “foodie” I ever met (after my mother) and so I am sure it will be fun.

(update: the weather caused us to change this plan)

Any way – the Big Apple awaits…


PS my foot blister is healing, clear of infection, and the rest of me feels good as well.

Wednesday Morning. Subway story

Hot here overnight. Hotter than HNL according to the Weather Channel. I rode the subway back to Queens at evening rush hour. The car was packed, there was no A/C, and my blister was bothering me. The train was going very slowly, stopping at times in the tunnel. Later I learned that a child had been killed in a train accident at Forest Hills, one stop before mine. Bummer.


Mr. Santo and I went to an Israeli restaurant in his neighborhood. Kosher of course. House specialty was “shawarma” – a sort of gyro but turkey-based. It was delicious. The other menu items seemed inspired by Lebanese cuisine, which I always enjoy.

Overall, a good day Tuesday. Despite the heat, I walked around midtown for a bit. Took the bus to 103rd st and visited “the Museum of the City of New York” where one exhibit was about activism in NYC. Very informative. Another exhibit described the process of laying out The Grid. Simply amazing.

I attended the PBISN pinning. Got a feel for the hall and the audience.

All systems are go for today.



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May 27th, re-tooling for New York City and Houston

Dawn Chorus

Just a quick note today – I’m at my daughter’s home in Charlottesville, VA and it was a pleasure to wake to the dawn chorus composed of birds from an eastern hardwood forest.


Pleased to report that my muscles are not sore any more, now that I have rested. Not only that, but my knee is actually better than it has been since September – hooray!

healing rapidly

does it hurt? not really. only if I a) pick up the foot or b) put the foot down.

The blister on my right foot is also healing rapidly. see photo. I removed the protective layer of dead skin from it and there is just a small weepy area in the middle. I’m using bacitracin and a gauze pad. It’s cleaa and it’s about the size of a quarter. When I return from my  travels in eight days, I will resume the Trail, this time “for real.”

Lessons from a test hike

My test hike taught me the following:

It’s a lot warmer than I thought it would be. In the northeast, hiking in the mountains can be cold year-round; that’s not the case here. There is further room to streamline the backpack.

I can do the vertical elevation change. I did a couple of 2,000 vertical climbs; in the Southern balds there are no similar uphill grinds that await me.

On the other hand, I  need to plan on low mileage – eight miles per day or so at first.

and I need to get better quality duck tape to use as blister prevention.

My itinerary for the next week is:

monday, the Amtrak “Crescent” from to C’Ville to Penn Station.  Stay with an old friend in Queens. This person observes “shomer shabbat” and I will need to let myself in to the apartment when I arrive – it is Shavuot!

Tuesday and Wednesday – the long-awaited ceremonies at PBI School of Nursing in Manhattan.  I have practiced my speech. It will be within the allotted time.  I am honored to be the commencement speaker.

Thursday –  getting on the plane to Houston Texas to attend my nephew’s wedding.  I was best man for his dad, my older brother. That seems like yesterday – but it was 1978.

Monday June the 4th I return to Virginia, then get on the bus to Asheville NC, in the western mountains of that state. When I was thinking of this hike, I asked Whoopie Pie’s advice as to where to go. “Given that I can not complete the whole thing, it is arbitrary as to which parts to hike and which to not hike. where would you suggest?”

Max Patch

She told me to go to the Southern Balds…. and that is where I will start. NoBo!

Somewhere along the way I will visit my folks in Florida. I return to Honolulu August 13th, in time for fall semester 2012.

So today is just a chance to get things reorganized……. puttering around………


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for Mature Audiences only – graphic depictions

X-rated for violence and masochistic content. 

Before I get to the salacious meat of the blog entry, it’s helpful for the general reader to know that I have done this before, and lots of people I know, do this. It doesn’t always work out the same way.

So when I reflect on this, and read my own writing, I have a comparison, a benchmark, that others do not. I am not as crazy as I seem……

2010 was really the most recent time, and by the end, I had lost 55 pounds, leapt tall buildings with a single bound, and traversed entire states faster than a speeding bullet.

Can we please skip how I regained all that weight?

 fast forward

2012 here I am, perched at the beginning of a similar adventure. I start off with a list of excuses; I had my knee injected just six weeks ago, limited opportunities to train, etc.  Let’s skip the excuses.

The fact is, in 2010 the good outcomes didn’t all happen at once, and I am remembering the aches and pains, just about now.

The knee is fine, curiously. I credit the hiking poles with preserving me from making the knee  worse. I bent one pole like a bow yesterday. It saved me from twisting my knee. The rest of me hurts, but – it’s like the last time.

Blister report

I do have a blister the size of a half-dollar on my right foot in a not-the-usual place. It weeps serous fluid, I used up all my duck tape on it.

it onoluy hurts when I put my foot down or when i pick my foot up.

liquid skin and duct tape is the treatment. until you run out of duct tape.

And here is the photo. There are really only two things that make it hurt a) when I put my foot down and b) when I pick my foot up (it throbs then). With every step. Faced with a 3,000 foot vertical climb today (Priest Mountain) I decided to bag it and hitchhike to C’Ville. I get drenched with sweat on these uphills, and would need a gallon of water for a climb that length. Whoopie Pie had uttered a prophesy: “The Priest is a bitch of a climb Sobo” and I decided to heed the doom. I always take her words seriously when it comes to hiking. To carry the additional nine pounds on this blister was not a thought I wanted to put into action.  Maybe later in the summer I will attempt such things. Not quite “defeated” – more like making an honest appraisal of how much pain to endure, and reminding myself that I am here to have fun.

farofa, rice, beans, pemental, egg, heaven. My favorite B & B in C’Ville is A Pousada de Dois Carvalhos Felizes,  and fortunately the  executive chef was in residence, so I was able to order an exquisite vegetarian feast of Mineiro cuisine (“well, not quite authentic,” he says “nothing here is cooked with lard“) which included a new way to bake garlic.

He agreed that the blister is big.  We discussed shamanism and the various ways that traditional world cultures manifest hermitage as a spiritual path to esoteric knowledge, but as he chopped the potatoes and broccoli, he refrained from making any value judgement as to my own quest at this time.  The subject of Dulcinea never came up at all.

A tactful young man indeed.

Wanted to soak my foot and my sore muscles in the cast iron tub adjacent to my suite here. A lightning storm here made me think twice.

Oh, and trip details?

Sunday night I set up  my one-person tent at an  unofficial site, which was a good thing since it rained later that night. Monday the rain continued, and there was treacherous going on slabs of flat wet rock. Emerging from the woods to Reed’s gap, a lady handed me a Yingling Beer, also known as Trail Magic, and drove off. The sun came out at that very moment. another strange portent.


Tuesday May 22 was Maupin Shelter to Harper’s Creek Shelter, over the Three Ridges Mountain. 1,200 feet up then 2,000 feet down. 5.8 miles. Rhododendrons in bloom. Dawdled at the top and decided to have a nice meal using the MSR cookstove I got from Snafu for my birthday. My legs started to feel normal again and I took off for the shelter. two thousand feet of switchbacks. wow.

hot food always is good.And another truism

The descent was again treacherous but it’s always easier going down as opposed to up. I got to the shelter before dark, and I enjoy the excitement of hearing the stream burble along for a while before it comes into view. It was six PM but the five NoBos inside were already in their sleeping bags, chatting. The next morning I learned that Maxus and GQ who slept to my left, are two brothers from Evansville Illinois. They  decided to thru-hike on a sort of a whim but now making a valid try at it. They had never been backpacking until the day they stepped off at Springer.

Back to C’Ville

May 23 – 4 miles to road (VA route 56); swam in the Tye River with my polypro shirt and shorts on. The water was cold but refreshing and I immersed myself all the way like a good Southern Baptist. Got some of the concentrated locker-room smell out of my clothes, which was good since I was re-entering civilization. Took awhile to get a ride but I hitchhiked – my main ride was a chainsmoking funeral home employee driving a van (” no there are no bodies back there. A Person deserves a hearse. We might transport a coffin in this van, but only when empty”). He was kind enough to discuss hospice with me. He told me he has yet to write his own obituary.

This part of Virginia is “Walton Country” – picture perfect rolling farmland.


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May 20th, Bee Mountain, near Skyline Drive south of Shenandoah National Park

Forgot to mention the Trail Magic as I crossed Skline Drive: lady giving out free Yingling beers. Yes, I had one. Yes, it slowed me down even more. Yes, I had it with lunch just as the sun came out. Yes, it was good. God loves me!


On Appalachian Trail in Virginia south of Shenandoah National Park.

Stayed at Maupin Shelter last eve, had tented out the night before, woken up to rain and was glad I had the tent! Slow going across wet slabs of rock.

Bee yoo tii full weather today, destination is Harbin Stream Shelter, about six miles with a 1200′ vertical up-and-over between here and there.

My knee is really good but I have a blister on R foot now.

Planning to skip “The Priest” when I get there – trying not to push too hard. (It’s 3,000′ vertical in one solid climb!).

I am eating well, brought too much food and am working to get rid of it.

To conserve battery I only turn the BB on when at a summit, and remove the battery entirely in between. There is no reception is the valleys here.

Having fun and enjoying.

Best wishes to all

Joe “Catch-Up”

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may 20th update – warm in Virginia

Deja vu, all over again

So after a day of chillaxin in Charlottesville, I will get dropped off this evening at Green Stone Picnic area, the spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway where my daughter and her husband picked me up the other day. We will forego the Chinese Buffet, and I will “stealth camp” in the woods not far from where they drop me. Get an early start and hike seven miles on mostly level ground to get to Maupin Lean-to tomorrow night. I don’t usually just pitch a tent in any old place, this will be new. If Whoopie Pie can do it, though, I can.

Adapt and overcome

Some of the cold-weather gear I brought will remain in the closet. The weather forecast is for warm weather and no storms. I will do fine without it. I bought a one-person tent today and some cord with which to suspend my food from a tree branch at night. (Pictures TBD). This will allow me flexibility in choosing where to spend each night. In this area the lean-tos are fifteen miles apart, but I am in the beginning of my hike and I don’t want to go more than seven or eight miles in one day.

Mitt’s dog?

I got a very lightweight tent made by North Face, olive green in color like all my other stuff. The guy set it up in the store and I crawled in.

Not roomy enough to stand; narrow so that you can’t turn around once you are in

I still prefer being in the lean-to when I am near one. Much more fun to socialize with whomever else is there. In 2010 there were several occasions when I slept under the stars – I.e., no lean-to and no tent either – but then I was lucky. Under those circumstances you get wet if it rains. I do want something over my head at night.

Ravinna Trail System

C’Ville has nice trails along the creek beds here, The Ravinna Trail System. I enjoyed exploring this yesterday. Julie took me along to the farmer’s market as well. Our hopes of fresh rhubarb were dashed when they told us the time had passed. Oh well – maybe next year.


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May 17th – Chinese Buffet in Waynesboro VA then……

May 17th

was eager to get on my hike and not impose myself on my daughter and her husband, much as I love them. on the map, there was a convenient access point that would get me near a lean-to. They each needed to work so we didn’t leave for the drop-off until 5 PM. Partook of the buffet at the Ming Garden in Waynesboro.

didn’t get on the trail til about 6:30 PM. down a set of switchbacks, and voila! the Paul Wolfe Shelter. three other hikers in the lean-to.  Babbling Brook serenading us to sleep. they don’t turn it off at night.  Julie has a bunch of sleeping bags and I’d always planned to borrow one of hers – but she was gone while I was packing so Lucas chose it for me  – turns out it was her fave, the most recent, and $$$$$ – from LL Bean. waaay better than using the year-round bag I bought in 1979 ( which we still own, but which weighs a lot). I guess bag technology has come a long ways since then. My airmattress hadn’t been inflated in a year but I was happy to see that there are (still) no leaks. So I slept great. Inadvertently got Julie’s best sleeping bag – really nice and also quite light.

On the Trail

Retracing steps back up the same set of switchbacks in the morning of the 18th. My first adventure with a full pack, first time out with a pack since the knee injury.  Already decided there are things I don’t need – the weather here is much warmer than I expected. Recalling the 2010 June hike in the Green Mountains where it was darned cold, I’d brought more cold-weather stuff to bundle in. Now, I am aware that the weather is changeable and some cool days are inevitable – but, I need to leave more stuff home!

It was beautiful to be  back. Crisp daytime weather in low sixties – wonderful for hiking. wonderful scenery and a sense of purpose.  But I found myself simply moving too damn slow. On the section of the Trail, the lean-tos tend to be spaced about 15 miles apart; and it was clear that I was going to get about ten miles. I flirted with the idea of “yellow-blazing” – taking a side trail back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, hitching a ride eight miles to another side trail, and hopping back on the A.T. – but it was clear I would not be able to rely on this for other slowpoke days.

yes yes yes i could be in better shape. hey, two months ago my knee was so bad I couldn’t walk a hundred yards!

Estimating altitude

The total vertical gain to the summit of Humpback Mountain is 2,000 ft, -Twice the height of Koko Head.  – lots of switchbacks. One classic hiker’s challenge is to estimate altitude. Here is the problem: you are in a green tunnel, going “up” but distances are deceiving when the trail has lots of switch backs. A topo map often will show the surrounding mountains and their height, so if you look off in the distance you can estimate how high up you are by seeing if you are “level” with those.

At these times you feel stuck in a time loop….

This trail though, is more of a green tunnel, makes it hard to use that reckoning. So, at scenic overlook I decided to download the GPS app for my BB, to  better estimate altitude.  This allowed me to know that I was still 500 vertical feet form the highest point, for example.

Mottos to live by

Knowing that you have x amount of vertical to hike, is one thing. You still have to hike that trail. On the 2010 trip, I’d come to the realization that having more chocolate and looking at the map one more time was not the thing that was going to get me up the next hill. Still true today. But this fact does allow me to realize that, at this pace, I will never make the next lean-to by nightfall, even with a headlamp.

I thought about stealth camping, but this is bear country. I’d had a wonderful day, but knew I didn’t want to kill myself on the first day out. so I phoned up my daughter and her husband who came to get me.

mileage: 9.0 including 2,000 vert.  – not bad for a first day “out”

lessons learned: none new

lessons re-learned: the eternal truths.

I took a long tub soak, shared pizza and a few laughs, and slept again in Julie’s guest bedroom……

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long distance backpacker’s elusive quest to lighten the backpack

Lighweight backpacking

This will be brief.

Debating how much to carry, what to leave behind. some of the final decisions will be at the last minute.

By the end of the summer I expect not to be hauling around so much adipose tissue, but that’s another story altogether.

In the meantime – I weighed my eye prosthesis today and am thinking of hiking without it. It’s not all that heavy, really, but psychologically – I am shedding my material life and taking on a new persona, that of a sadhu……. or Mr Bojangles, perhaps?

I can see just as well with it in, or out…….do I really need it after all? it’s harder to clean in the wilderness…..


The fact is, I don’t look that much different without it. Most people can’t actually tell whether I have one or not.     I can wear an eye patch instead…. hey, I will color-coordinate it with my t-shirt – – – or is that too trendy?

UV index

and by the way, that’s the view from my lanai – lately the UV index has been 11+ around here – it’s been about 86 degrees each day here – the weather report from the Blue Ridge says to expect daytime temps in the 60s – ideal hiking weather.


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