Saturday, September 26, 2015

Interim Visits

We start our new (secret) caretaking gig on Monday, so we've been bouncing all over the place these last few weeks since we left Maine. J even took a quick trip out to Colorado to see family while I helped my sister out in CT after she had a minor surgery with a major recovery. 

"Visits" is a euphemism for "we are homeless and need a place to crash." But, even birds need a nest and our friends and family are always happy to host us. 

Our hiking friends, Fern Toe/Erin and Thor/Paul, are turning a 1998 school bus into a tiny home (250 ft) on wheels! And, they are doing ALL THE CONSTRUCTION THEMSELVES. 

We decided we had to go see them and their skoolie in Vermont. We thought for a millisecond maybe we could lend a hand. Then they started spewing off words we never heard of (like furring strips) and we realized we would be more of a hindrance than a help.  

So much more progress has been made since we visited, so if you want to follow along, check out Fernie's blog.

We also visited our kindred spirits Gr8ful/Kristen and Second Nature/Paul in New Hampshire. They are folks who gifted us our beloved bean game, and visits with them offer a rare chance to play against more than each other! 

As for family, we spent a lot of time with the nephews and niece. After all this kid time, as J would say, "is it nap time yet?"

And now, we are off to try to grocery shop for 2 months worth of supplies. Challenge accepted. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Princeton Tec Helix Basecamp Lantern Giveaway!

Who wants to win this lantern?????????

We are partnering with Princeton Tec for a giveaway of a Helix Basecamp lantern!!

This lantern is highly versatile. Not only is it good for camping, but it's been the perfect addition to our stash as we roam the country (portable! multiple hanging and placement options!), especially when living off the grid (battery-powered light!). We even shared the Basecamp lanterns with our guests this summer for use in the off-the-grid cabins.

Now, you can own one too! 

Here are the simple rules and regulations of the contest:

1) The contest will begin Monday, Sept. 21, and will end on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 12:01am (which is also Justin's birthday!). It hosted on our YouTube channel, more specifically, our YouTube video review of the Princeton Tec Helix Basecamp Lantern. To enter, watch our YouTube review of the lantern and leave a comment letting us know where you would use the Basecamp lantern if you won! Winner will be selected in a random drawing on or about Tuesday, Oct. 6 (who's birthday is it??). Odds will depend on how many entries we receive. The contest is only open to U.S. residents. No purchase necessary to enter to win. Contest entries must comply with YouTube Community Guidelines.

2) The winner will be announced on our blog ( on or about Tuesday, Oct. 6 and will receive one Princeton Tec Helix Basecamp lantern (retail value $49.99) sent via USPS within 30 business days of prize confirmation by the Wandering La Vignes. Any unclaimed prize within that period will be forfeited. Entrants must provide a valid mailing address to the Wandering La Vignes upon announcement of winner. No transfer or prize substitution can be made. 

3) The Wandering La Vignes are sponsoring the contest and are solely responsible for it. Princeton Tec donated product for the contest. Princeton Tec is a New Jersey-based company who has been providing lighting solutions for 40 years!! To read more about them, read our blog post about our July 2015 visit to their facilities here

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Currently: September

Currently living/working in: transitioning from one caretaking gig to another!!! I know, I know, you are getting dizzy trying to keep up with us. We finished up our season in Maine and are in route to a 2-month (possibly longer) stint to watch a small, private, residential island somewhere off the coast in New England. Location will remain undisclosed to protect the privacy of the island (if we've told you the name, please don't announce it). Oh, and we will still be off the grid, but we have cell service!

Current mood: fluctuating between stressed and calm as a clam

Currently thankful for: Good friends and family who clear their schedules at last minute to make time for us and take us in

Currently proud of: Last month, I boasted of my first online Backpacker article. Well, my first PRINT article came out in the October issue!! Check your newsstands if you don't believe me … oh, and while you are at it, buy a copy or 10. 
Currently excited about: being able to witness New England's spectacular fall season  it's been a long time since we've seen it! 

Currently not excited about: shopping for a new pair of jeans … I hate clothes shopping, but it is time to throw out the pair of jeans I bought in 2009 and shelve the pair handed down to me in 2012 (this is how I get most of my clothing). 

Currently worried about: other's people's motives

Currently regretting: Not getting to paddle the West Branch of the Penobscot River while we were up in the North Maine Woods. The Penobscot is a very popular Maine river to paddle and it dumps into Chesuncook Lake. We really, really, really wanted to do an overnighter on the Penobscot, however, we couldn't make it happen when we were up there. 

Currently amazed by: Our tires. Now we can say it. No flat tires from driving all summer in the North Maine Woods! 

Current confession: I never realized this in the past, but I (we) place a lot of value on simple phrases, like "good morning," "goodbye" and "thank you." As such, it is something we, ourselves, will continue to work on. 

Currently reading: In between books, but just ordered 6 new books with an Amazon gift card from my MIL! We will have plenty of reading time on the island and we will be doing a full book recap in due time. 

Current guilty pleasure: football! Now that we are back to the grid temporarily, J can enjoy a few football games! 

Currently watching on Netflix: Not sure yet if the island has the Internet capacity for it, but we still have our book of DVDs if not! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Denali Bid 2016

Denali sure is making the news a lot lately, huh? We are going to add to it. 

J will be attempting a climb of Denali May 10, 2016!!!!!

This plan has been a long time coming. In 2003, J spent his summer working as a guide for Denali Backcountry Lodge and doing research for his Master's. Sights of Denali taunted him. "I will climb that one day," he proclaimed. I believed him. 

In 2005, J & I began our quest to reach all 50 state high points (we are up to 36 for the record). While J strived for all 50 from the start, I've always had it in my mind that I won't ever reach all 50 high points and that was okay. My one-time mountaineering experience on Mount Rainier quickly proved that I may be a great backpacker, but I am a terrible mountaineer. Plus, I don't believe it's a good idea with my history of a pulmonary embolism. 

J, on the other hand, is very good at mountaineering. Admittedly, he doesn't have a huge resume of mountains (Rainier and Shuksan successes, with a failed attempt on Mt. Hood), but he is a natural. In another life, I could even see him being a guide. 

Some of you have read about "Bolt" on the blog, or have seen his comments. Bolt, or Bobby, taught J pretty much everything he knows about rock climbing and has been a mentor for us both in so many outdoor adventures. If J is a good mountaineer, Bobby is even better. J revealed his big plan for Denali to Bobby years ago and egged him on about the possibility. They both thought it would be a good idea to attempt the climb before their big birthdays--you see J turns 40 in 2016 and Bobby turns 50. What a way to celebrate and prove that age is just a number. 

So folks, you'll probably hear about Denali plans from time to time on this blog. And, as usual, I have a short lesson with FAQ about Denali, if you are interested in reading on. 

What's in a name?
Historically, the mountain was named "Denali" by the Alaska Native American tribes. It means "the high one" or "the great one" in Athabascan. It was only renamed "Mount McKinley" after former President William McKinley not because of his connection to Alaska, but because he was a proponent of the gold prospecting. Actually, it was highly debated and only renamed after McKinley's assassination. As you know, it will now be known as Denali going forward. 

What is the elevation?
20,320 ft. But the new survey puts it at 20,310. From base to summit, it rises 18,000 feet, which is one of the greatest vertical reliefs of any mountain on Earth. 

What else is interesting to know about "the great one?"
Denali is the apex of the Alaska Range and is a 144 square mile mass of rock, snow and ice. Snow falls down to 6,000 feet in every month on Denali. The first successful summit was made in 1913.

What are the summit stats?
Approximately 1,000 climbers attempt Denali annually (the climbing season is May, June & early July). Only about half make it to the top. 

What does the climb entail? 
The itinerary all depends on weather, but could take anywhere from 12 to 20 days. 
May 10 - Fly to Anchorage, meet 3 guides and other climbers (potentially 9 in total - right now 4 are signed up. And as a side note, the lead guide is the same one J and I had on Rainier, purposely)
May 11- Team Prep, Orientation, Gear Shakedown
May 12 - Weather permitting, fly to Kahiltna Base Camp at 7,300 feet (45-minute flight)
May 13 - June 1 - Weather permitting, make way up the mountain! This will happen in stages for acclimatization. Each climb will bring about 60-80 lbs of gear and food, carried both in a backpack and on a sled. There are no sherpas (this is not Everest). They will camp at 9,600 feet, 11,000 feet, 14,000 feet, and the final camp at 17,000 feet. Whatever day the guides choose as summit day, they will spend 8-18 hours getting up to the top and back down to camp. 

Is J scared? 
I think he is more scared that he will not make the summit.  He feels OK if the guides make the call to not summit, but he is scared that he may not be able to summit himself.  He has felt fine at an elevation of 14,500 feet.  In fact, it surprised him that he did not feel any effects of altitude.  But we are talking 20,000+ feet, and many nights sleeping at 15,000-17,000 feet. 

What are the risks?
Frostbite, hypothermia, rock fall, avalanche, crevasse falls, high-altitude illness. Temps can dip to -40, thanks to the mountain's subarctic latitude and great elevation. Because of its proximity to the top of the troposphere, there is a lot of wind (100 mph gusts are common) and there is less oxygen on Denali's summit than there would be on a mountain of identical elevation at the equator. It takes 2 gasps to bring in the oxygen 1 gasp gives at sea level. Need we say more? 

Am I scared for J?
No. Honestly, I am quite calm about it. We have been talking about this possibility for years. YEARS. This means I've had a lot of time for this to sink in. If you think this wasn't going to happen, you don't know J. He is a very driven man when it comes to goals. He inspires me to follow my dreams, no matter the risk. I am not going to argue that the dangers of mountain climbing are not inherent. One in every 1,750 mountain climbers die annually compared with 1 in every 6,700 vehicle drivers. But we already know we dare to live a life less ordinary. Taking risks is our middle name. 

Is his mom scared?
YES. I'm pretty sure she asked him no less than 100 times to promise he wouldn't do it before she died. 

We chose Sept. 7 to make the announcement because a year ago today, our good friend Chad Denning passed away unexpectedly and way too young at age 39. Chad would have been so proud to hear about J's adventure. So here's to you Chad! #explore4chad