Day 5 – Dejavu

Col d’Lepeder to Col d’Roncevalles

Distance Forward: 18km

Today’s music: Mr. Blue Sky by ELO, Only Go Backwards by Tame Impala, The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, and Dogs by Pink Floyd

We woke up around 7am today, had some fresh coffee with some baked goods we got in Aldudes yesterday, dried out the tent (there were some big thunderstorms that rolled through last night!) and set out for the day around 9am.

Beautiful sunrise in the mist

Early on we met a hiker couple from Spain, with a cute border collie named Luna. “Bollo (Beautiful)” he said to me, making a rainbow gesture with his hands while pointing out to the view of the country. I had to agree with them!

Straight from the tap!

Then, while getting water, we met an old man in his 70s, who, while he didn’t speak much English, was able to convey to me the love and passion he has for the Basque Country that he lives in. He asked if we were doing the Atlantic to the Mediterranean hike, which we are, and his reply was “ohhh, I just do this mountain” while gesturing an out-and-back signal with his hand. I thought that was a really good thing to do, especially being above the age of 70.

Another water source

The hill we hiked over this morning

After a nice big climb of about 500m, we met another HRP thru-hiker! Finally! That makes two in the last two days. Proof of how remote and unknown this trail is. On the Pacific Crest Trail you would probably see 100 hikers every day! We both agreed that this is about as strenuous of a trail as you can get, and we probably wouldn’t see many other thru-hikers because everybody would generally be making the same pace. It’s pretty hard to move fast on this terrain.

Later, we had a gorgeous, easy walk along a one lane asphalt road, along a ridgeline that eventually led to the mountain named Lindus, which reminds me of a name for a cloud!

A nice place to do laundry

View from Lindus

After that there was an easy hike down to the Col d’Roncevalles, where the Camino de Santiago crosses the Pyrénées! We found a nice place to make dinner and call home for the night and passed out pretty quick. Goodnight!

Day 4 – Much Needed R&R (Almost)

Col d’Berdaritz to the French Village of Les Aldudes (but spoiler alert, it sucked so we went back to the mountains at) the Col d’Lepeder

Distance Forward: 3.5km

Friday the 13th oooo!

I awoke to the gentle noise of rain drops on our tent, and booming thunder off in the distance. The rain came and went in waves, stopping for a moment, then dropping a whole ocean all at once.

The forecast did say thunderstorms, but they could have given us a little longer to pack up camp..

Anyways, it cleared up quick enough and the tent was almost fully blow-dried from the wind passing through the Col by the time we packed up.

We took a short road walk down to the village of Aldudes, which we thought would be a hiker haven! We were almost right.

Walking into town, we met our first fellow HRP thru-hiker! His name is Robert Broos, from the Netherlands. We were both glad to meet someone else who spoke English, and with whom we could relate to about all the hardships and quirks of the trail. It’s his first long distance trail, and he is doing it in 45 days before returning to his job at an outdoors supply store.

We said our goodbyes and thought we’d walk down to the place we read in our guide should have beds for hikers. When we got there, it said to inquire at the bar, back the way we had come. So we walked back to the bar, and after waiting quite a while, I nice woman came up and told us there were no spaces available at the bunk place, as it was sold out for a youth retreat.

Oh well, we thought. Plenty of options! We walked back to where we met Robert, and saw him off as he headed on towards the Col de Roncevaux. On the side of a large building there was written “Chambres” or rooms for the night, essentially. I thought I’d walk in and ask about it, and I was greeted at the front door by huge piles of junk on either side of a hallway leading up a staircase. I took a few steps up, and an old lady opened a door above. “Une chambre?” I inquired?

“No. Ferme. Ferme. Au revoir,” she said with an upset face as she closed the door.

Okay, no big deal! We decided to walk back to the bar and have lunch. Mmmm, fresh bread with potato omelettes and locally sourced Basque-country ham! A hiker’s delight.

Robin went off to check out the gas station for food, as I searched every website possible for a place to stay so she could rest up. She returned quickly, saying the market was on siesta until 3pm.

We spend the next 3 hours or so just trying to find a place to spend a night and get a shower. I walked back down the road and found a place called Gite d’France, which should surely have rooms available for travelers, right? Wrong! No chambres. At this point

I’ve just about given up and am ready to walk back to the mountains, where at least I don’t have to deal with all this nonsense running back and forth just to find an expensive place to lay my head for the night. So I walk back to the bar and sit at our perch at an outdoor table. “Nothing.”

Robin, who should have been in bed resting 4 hours ago, goes up to the bar to order a coffee, and some guy who is apparently a doctor says he would take her to a hotel 2km down the road. So I assumed we could both go, but he insisted only one of us could go, and not bring our stuff. Weird.

Then when Robin and I both agreed we didn’t want a one way trip to a hotel with a stranger, he left in a big hurry. The whole encounter just felt a bit shady, and left us feeling less than charmed by the village of Aldudes, all things considered.

We walked back down the road to the gas station grocery, grabbed a few supplies for the 108km journey ahead, and got the hell outta dodge. We found a beautiful campsite with a view, for free, at a Col just above the village, where we made dinner and watched the thunderstorms roll in.

The day ended as it began, with the sound of raindrops on the tent and booming thunder in the distance. What a strange day. Glad that’s over with. Reminds me of why I pick mountains over civilization, any day. Good night!

Day 3 – No Pain No Game

Col d’Ursua to Col d’Berdaritz

Distance Forward – 24.5km

This morning, my hiking partner said she was feeling worse than ever! She has been hard at work fighting off a nasty throat bug, and today it came back in full force. Not something you would wish on anyone three days into a hard walk through the wilderness.

Nevertheless, she is a real trooper and we have already made 10km as I write this. After a long uphill through pastures and forest land, we reached the Col Bagacheta.

We have been out of water since about 9am, so I was elated when I saw a big bathtub full of water just below the Col! I ran down and found the source of the spring that filled the tub. Ahhh, fresh, ice cold mountain water, straight from the top. There’s nothing like it.

I took the opportunity of having this pristine spring water to make a perfect cup of coffee, which I had foregone this morning due to not having enough water.

After that, we had a pleasant ridge walk down to the hamlet of Azpulcueta.

Then, onto the town of Arizkun, where we retrieved some more water out of a public well next to a stone arc bridge.

We stopped here to have lunch, but everything in the town seemed abandoned (as often happens as a daily siesta from 12-3pm in Spanish towns), so we settled on some snacks and soft drinks from a little convenience store/bar/restaurant.

Everything about the architecture and style of the building here in the Basque region is so picturesque! White plaster walls, lined and framed with old cedar wood and sandstone, shutters on all the windows, little balconies and flowers and stone walls lining every street and pathway. Every detail of every building seems artfully designed and maintained in immaculate condition. If it weren’t for the power lines and cars on the road, I would swear I had fallen back in time a millinia or two.

We decided to shoot for Aldudes as a goal today, to end our day with a nice hot meal and a bed to sleep in. That meant we had another 15km to go over the big hill called Burga (872m)! We set out at 3pm as the sun was in full force. Luckily, we had the cover of trees for much of the way, keeping us shaded and only slightly hot.

A lady passed us with a pack of three dogs, which looked like good shepherds. Everything out here relates to farming in some way or another, as that is the economic engine of all these fertile areas near the coast. I have to admit, the constantly dongling bells around the necks of every horse, sheep, and cow gets a little old after about a day. Can’t they figure out a better way to keep track of animals? Not to mention, the flies are horrendous in the lowland pastures. They won’t stop bugging me as I’m draggin’ up the uphill stretches.

And there’s the fact that factory livestock farming has possibly the highest negative impact for the environment, due to the clearcutting of pastures to make hay, the millions of miles of barbed wire fences cutting off migration passages, and the nitrogen runoff from vast herds of animals which go on to pollute the rivers with suffocating blooms of algae. Let the rivers run clear and pure, the way they were meant to, damnit.

And then there are people worried about the “impact” that backpackers have on the landscape. Do they not see the impact of having millions of cows trampling the countryside, eating everything in sight, creating horrible hordes of flies, constantly clearcutting more trees for more space to feed a ballooning population?

Yeah. Don’t try and say I’m having an “impact” by walking through the woods and camping here or there. The impact has already been made.

How can you help? One idea is to substitute local vegetables for meat on occasion, or at least buy meat with less impact. Generally, on a scale of how good different protein sources are for the environment:

  • beef is about 1/5 most negative environmentally,
  • pork and bacon 2/5,
  • chicken 3/5,
  • fish 4/5, and
  • vegetables 5/5, most positive environmentally.

This makes me all the more ready to get away from the countryside and into the central, haute Pyrenees, that sanctuous fortress of nature that few ever have the opportunity to see, much less experience. Some of the most spectacular hiking above 2,000m and peaks above the magic 3,000m await us there.

That’s one of the best parts about a thru-hike–the negative parts in the beginning make you so ready for the parts you’ve really been looking forward to!

On the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), I spent the whole 800 miles of New Mexican deserts looking forward to the San Juans and RMNP, I suffered through the whole Great Basin in Wyoming to make it to the Wind River Range and Yellowstone, I hiked gnarly terrain and faced off with grizzly bears and mountain lions in Montana, just to step foot in the holy land of Glacier National Park.

On this hike, I am especially looking forward to the national parks, the stretch from Candanchu to Andorra, the high pyrenees, legendary for their grandiosity among hikers and mountaineers.

Back to the story: we almost made it to the top of Burga when my hiking partner really started feeling the pain of her ankle and strep throat. For some reason she started walking down the hill the wrong way in a big hurry.

“That’s not the right way!” I yelled.

No response.

“The trail goes over the top here!”

No response.

Worried she might get lost, I ran through ferns and brambles while keeping the same elevation so as not to miss the trail we were supposed to follow at the top.

Ah well. We both found ourselves at the right junction later on, and carried on towards Aldudes.

After stopping for water, we decided it would be best to camp just before the downhill into town, and to go in early tomorrow and spend a full nero (nearly zero mile) day resting and recovering from sickness and the strain of the Pyrenees so far. Also, we need to be in peak shape to tackle the 108km of wilderness between Aldudes and the village of Lescun.

And boy, did we score with our campsite! We couldn’t have asked for a better view to have dinner and spend the end of a long day. As I type this, the sun is barely inches above the horizon, moving through a dark cloud to a patch of sky between it and the horizon, centered between two mountains. Here are pictures. They won’t do it the justice it deserves, but the image is forever burned into my retinas. Goodnight Sun!

Day 2 – The Music of the Spheres

Larun to Col d’Ursua

Distance Forward: 21.5km

We awoke this morning in our forested campsite to the sound of birds singing and the light of the sun beaming out across the fog-laden valley below.

After a long, hard ascent up a one lane concrete road, we found ourselves at the peak of Larun, a large hill at 3,000ft above the Basque Coast, which can be seen from a panoramic viewpoint.

Larun is very popular with both French and Spanish tourists on account of the easy access via the gondola lift, and the wonderful views of both countries’ Atlantic coastlines.

After some sight seeing (we mostly saw fog), we made the steep descent down rocky, gravel trails to the Col of Lizuniaga, where I made coffee and finished off some snacks for lunch. We made use of a nice grassy yard outside of a cafe that is renowned for their hospitality to hikers and travelers of all kinds.

Continuing up the road, we found a breathtaking view of Larun, enveloped in a Laputa like cloud (If you haven’t watched Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, it is a must).

Then, the trail leveled out and became a picturesque stroll through the woods. We stopped for water and I dunked my hat and shirt in the water to cool off. We’re lucky to have cloud cover today. The sun becomes relentless when you’re in it all day! Yesterday felt especially hot, as our bodies have not adjusted to the full time outdoor life just yet.

The path leads on to the Col de Lizaieta, a mountain pass on the border of France and Spain. Two cafes punctuate this space between the wilderness we came from and the one we now walk into.

It’s amazing how quickly the population centers disperse, how swiftly you find yourself in the mountains, without a sign of civilization to comfort you, aside from maybe a small cabin far in the distance, or the sound of a motor down in the valley.

Soon even these sparse artifacts will fade away, and we will be left with nothing but pure nature, concentrated, distilled to its most fundamental form. While we often think of nature as the life that surrounds us, all the types of plants and animals in the world around us, these are a very small part of nature. Nature often means life, but if you love nature, you must also love death, and all the non-living things that allow for life to come about.

After all, the Earth is mostly “inorganic” material. The clouds in the sky and the rocks shifting under our feet are not alive in the traditional sense, but they make up the vast majority of the nature that we experience.

The water vapors that form hurricanes are not alive, but the hurricane, in our eyes, is a living thing (perhaps why we give them names?) in that it is born, collects resources for its survival, reaches a peak, begins to decay, and eventually dies, dispersing its vital essence to nourish future hurricanes (and other lifeforms, plants and fungi and animals).

Such is the galaxy of which we are part, the stars above us and the molten rock beneath us. These are not living things, but they are alive in this sense, and all life (that we know of) depends on them for survival. And who can say they do not rely on the earth and the rain to live?

In fact, every living thing is made up of nonliving parts. The stellar ash from 5 generations of exploded stars runs through my veins. Is it alive? I know I am, and so it must be, to some extent. The hydrogen and oxygen that spent billions of years doing, well, not much, floating in the cosmic abyss, now creates the beautiful waterfalls and oceans that host and replenish all earthly life.

I hope I can accomplish something even a billionth as grand as that in all my life.

The music of life must be universal. Our planet’s story of life may be unique, found nowhere else on a billion, billion worlds. However, the elements and components that comprise life and the laws that allow for it are ubiquitous. We now have catalogs of hundreds of earth-like planets. Each of them could host a history as rich and fascinating as life’s tenure on our own sphere.

What does it all mean? I couldn’t tell you. These are the thoughts that stream through my mind after a full day on the trail, the terminus of 10 hrs of hard hiking.

Where were we.. Ah! Right. We were hiking. Then we stopped under a nice oak tree, made dinner, set up the tent and went to bed. Good night!

Day 1 – Hendaye to Larun

We woke up around 7:30 and packed up our bags right away, excited to begin the adventure that we have been planning for nearly a year.

I know that I’ve been looking forward to this trip since I met Paul, who lives in the Pyrenees, on the CDT two Summers ago. He promised to send me the guidebook for this thing called “the high route of the pyrenees.”

I have to say, nothing makes me want to do a thru-hike more than the pictures I see of it. That’s part of why I started an Instagram, to hopefully be that point of inspiration for other thru-hikers. And when I saw the pictures of the HRP, I was blown away. I knew then that I had to do it.

So, two years later, my hiking partner and I start our journey. We got up, and our BnB host made us some stellar espresso to get us up and out the door.

Upon the tradition of walking into the Atlantic ocean at the beaches of Hendaye, and touching the obligatory HRP obelisk, the hike is begun.

I can’t say we saw anything truly spectacular today. Mainly, we climbed two big hills, a combined 1,300m of elevation gain (which is higher than most mountains where I come from). The hill we’re camping on now tops out at about 3,000 feet above sea level.

The views of Basque country are wonderful. Here are just a few of them:

Hendaye from way on high
It was a long, strenuous first day
Sheep and horses grazing on Larun

We saw quite a few bikers and hikers today, mostly out for the day. I feel we will see less and less as we continue into the more remote reaches of the Pyrenees. Today we met a GR10 hiker, doing the trail that runs along the French side of the Pyrenees. It is also legendary for its beauty.

This will be a short post since I’m worn out from the 23km we hiked today! It’s hard to measure things with distance out here since there are so many climbs and drops. We should get an early start and have an easier day overall tomorrow.

The first step of a long journey is always the hardest. I estimate 3 weeks before we become lean, mean, hiking machines! We’ll need every ounce of strength we have to make it through this trek. But I’ll share every gram of its beauty with you.

See you tomorrow!

Tour du Massif Cantalien pt. 2

If you read yesterdays post, I left off as we were getting absolutely pummeled by a monsoon (dad said it looked like a hurricane the size of France on the weather radar).

Finally, we gave up on pitching a tent. It was futile in the hurricane-strength winds on the mountainside, the tent fly gusseting around like a kite in a typhoon.

My hiking partner went down to the refuge to ask for shelter, while her friend and I took down the tent. “Ahh, I’ve been in worse” she said. I laughed and said “you’re crazy! (But in the best way)”

She held the tent frame to keep it from flying into the next town over, and I began pulling up the stakes and rolling up the rainfly. After 5 minutes of this circus act performance, barely able to see through the sweeping curtains of rain, we were both thoroughly and totally drenched. She at least had rain gear on; I was using my only raingear, a poncho, to keep my backpack dry.

With the tent safely rolled up in its bag, we ran down the steep rocky path to salvation, a beautiful stone cabane built by the french alpine club, for serious alpinists only. Refuges like this were built all through the high mountains in Europe, to help hikers and climbers who find themselves in predicaments like the one we now found ourselves in.

“You can stay,” said the refuge owner, “but the price is 20 euro (~$24).”

A small price to pay to escape the hellstorm that had spent all day gathering its strength and then let slip in one fearsome burst of spray and sparks and splendor. It all descended on us in an instant, and we were thankful to escape, with a loss of only one tent stake, forever pounded into the earth and never to be heard from again.

Once inside, I changed into dry clothes and prepared dinner: tin tuna with mayo, salt, pepper, and crackers, and a freeze dried spaghetti mountain house.

It reminded me of a similar meal I had with my dad, when we once hiked deep into the backcountry of Denali NP, Alaska. We weathered a similar storm all night while trying to sleep on a hillside with a view, staring down at glaciers and snow capped peaks, hoping we didn’t meet wolves or grizzly bears in the middle of the night.

Inside the refuge, over dinner, a French girl who knew English asked about our route. Upon discovering it was the HRP and GR5, she gave the expressions that many have given in response before.

Everyone in France shows a mixture of shock and humor when I tell the plan to them, the kind of half laugh of disbelief someone gives when they sense mortal danger. The French know their mountains are fierce and brutal, fiercely beautiful, their beauty revealed only after payment of strife. I understand their disbelief of the thought, to hike 1,600km along the length of both of the highest, hardest border mountain ranges of France. Their reactions only strengthen my resolve to traverse them, collect their views, and bring them to the people who need their tidings, who would benefit from their therapeutic sight.

After drying out and chewing over some French radio musique, we were worn to shreds. Lights out. Good night!

The next morning was very foggy, with small gaps throughout the day revealing tantalizing views of farmlands and lush green valleys over 1,000 meters below.

Our refuge for the storm.

We navigated the Breche de Rolland, climbed Puy Mary and Chavaroche (both about 1,800m), and descended to the town of Mandailles. The whole day was along a beautiful ridgeline walk around the rim of the supervolcano, but we only got about 1% of the views we were supposed to get.

Down and up the Breche de Rolland

Puy Mary

Looking down to the town of Mandailles, our camp for tonight

We were hurting by the time we got to the village below, and quickly set up camp, ate, and went to bed. Two days of wet shoes will wreck your feet! We felt better in the morning.

The day after, the last day of our journey, we climbed out of the valley and summited Puy Griou, a rocky volcanic peak with a scramble to the top. The weather was ideal on our final day, and we got the views and pictures we had hoped for.

The walk out of town

And into the French woods

One of the best parts of hiking is the clarity of thought. A combination of the relaxing sounds of nature, the wind in the trees, the babbling brooke, and the heightened blood flow to all parts of the body (spec. the head) makes clear thinking just sorta, happen. Some of the best ideas come about during a walk in the woods.

A nice spot to have lunch on the way up

Puy Griou, our target for the day
A wild horse grazing under the watch of Puy Griou

Puy Griou!

A beautiful day

Great ridge walks today

The refuge we slept at two nights ago

Camp for tonight!

The next morning we walked down to town, grabbed some snacks for the train ride, and made it all the way to Aurillac before finding out all our trains were cancelled due to railway worker strikes!

The train people put us up in a hotel where we are now. The trains should be running today, so we should make it to Hendaye tonight and start the high route of the Pyrenees tomorrow! Stay tuned for more tales of adventure in France!

A thru hikers pack, with 7 days of food, a liter of water, a tent, sleeping pad and bag, clothes, cooking pot and pan, stove with a pound of fuel, rain poncho, umbrella, toilletries, water filter system, electronics and spare batteries and chargers, headlight, trekking poles, first aid and gear repair kit, water bucket, spork food tool, compass, day bag, various tools (the corkscrew is important), cold weather gear, camp shoes, and hat! And CDT blaze patch. Everything I need for a week in the mountains. How does it all fit!? Ready for a good adventure.

(And please give me your input, I would like to be a better writer and storyteller)

Sacre Bleu!

This morning, we awoke to a chorus of birds, in the small mountain village of Murat, having spent a night at a local guest house.

After packing up, we walked up the street and found a patisserie with fresh croissants and au du chocolat, and a cafe with great coffee and nice outdoor tables to sit and eat and watch the world go by. All of this for about 4 euros (1 USD is 0.85 Euro) which, I was told, was expensive compared to the non-tourist villages that we will soon visit.

Upon dropping off the keys to the room, we set off on our adventure along the Tour du Massif Cantalien. This was to be my hiking partner and I’s shakedown hike for a thru-hike of le Haute Randonnee Pyreneene (the high route of the Pyrenees), where we will soon be headed. The trail follows the rim of an ancient super volcano, the largest in all of Europe. It was the idea of our friend from the UK to do this hike, as she is trying to climb forty volcanoes by age 40! The three of us finished our coffee, said our goodbyes to civilization, and started walking.

The winding streets of Murat slowly meandered up to a marked GR trail (Grand Randonnee) which led out of town and up towards the mountain ridge.

We passed a farmer who owned a chateau we passed later; his advice was to watch out for cows, and for storms up high. See, the Monts du Cantal (aka Volcans d’Auvergne) rise nearly 3,000 feet above the surrounding valleys, and they are the dominant weather producers of the area, sucking in cold and warm air of differing pressures to make perfect storms. If only we had known how right the farmer was!

In any case, we continued on up the trail and found ourselves quickly above the treeline and on into sweeping panoramic views of the French countryside.

As we continued on our way, we passed the ruins of old farmhouses and cabins nestled in the high mountains, inhabited, perhaps, by the herds of bell-toting cows and sheep. The farm animals, paired with the fertile volcanic soil, made for an extravagant display of wildflowers, and grass so green that any southerner would be proud to have a lawn of it.

We saw no one almost all day, despite that this was one of the most spectacularly magnificent trails that I have ever seen. This goes to show just how hard and strenuous was the hike up to the Bec de L`aigle (beak of the eagle), our target summit for the day. Along the way, we stopped and had lunch, mostly coffee, granola, nuts, and some hiker bars (snickers, mmm).

As we came nearer to the top, we began to see the signs of thunderstorms. Massive, dark thunder clouds began to fill the sky, and a few of them opened up on us with rain and hail. Nevertheless, we donned our rain gear and carried on.

During the summit of the eagle’s beak, we saw lightning strike multiple peaks in the distance, sometimes 7 strikes at once. Worried of meeting a similar fate as those mountains, we quickly summited, absorbed the magnifique vistas, took our photos, and began the descent to the Teton De Venus, and then Puy Battailouse.

As evening rolled in, the rain grew harder, the winds stronger, and the temperature dropped rapidly. We decided we should make our way to the alpine refuge just down the trail (there was no flat ground anywhere else), to ask if we could bivouac in their field. Upon their approval (I was able to use broken french and gestures to communicate well enough) we moved to set up the tent.

But the weather changed for the worst. The storm winds, now howling down the mountainside, blew my hat and glasses off my face, and nearly carried the tent right off the cliff. The thunder and lightning were cacophonous, the rain, a downpour.

It was clear then, that no ultralight tent could possibly weather this storm–the wind was barreling towards us down the slope, pushing the tent poles almost to the ground with the sail-like rain fly. The tent stakes could not grip the wet volcanic soil, and a few of them popped loose.

In need of a moment of respite, I climbed inside the rainfly-only setup we had constructed and held on for dear life to the poles and rainfly, my back to the wind. “The poles are going to break! We can’t lose the tent! ” yelled my hiking partner.

And then… tune in later for the exciting conclusion!

A Whole New World

June 23, 2018

Hello world,

I write to you from the guest bedroom of our house-sit in Langley, Slough, in the UK, half an hour west of London by train.

I do so in hopes of becoming more profound at writing, by documenting some inspiring tales of adventure and cameradery. The coming months will sew a saga (hopefully one worth telling) set in the most remote corners of the montane European wilderness, where many dream of going, but few ever reach.

A long way from home, where all great journeys begin.

I am accompanied with a friend who I met traveling the west coast in January 2017, over a pasta dinner at the renowned Green Tortoise Hostel in San Francisco. We later spent time together during my 7 months in Oregon, hiking the Trail of Ten Falls and Mt. Jefferson Park.

It’s one of those run ins where you feel the universe colluded for the two of you to meet and complete some task together, and all you can do is smile and nod to the universe for its decision and look forward to whatever the future may hold, knowing that previous such reflections of fate led to some of the most fulfilling and memorable experiences.

A vista along the PCT in Jefferson Park.

Along the way, we will encounter hardships, known and unknown; we will have drinks with old friends and come to know new ones; we will push our human shells to their physical and psychological limits;  we will come to know ourselves and our kind better; we will come to know the delicate, fragile balance between life and death, and make clearer our lot on this turbulent, beautiful sphere of rock and water that we call Earth (Home), as we hurtle around the sun like electricity spirals around an atom in transit. We will submit ourselves to the serendipity of the pilgrimage and seek out the joy in whichever place we find ourselves in.

Ah yea, the pilgrimage. Here’s the plan:

We’re in the UK until July 2nd (11 days). This gives us time to stock up on any gear we need, and test out our kits. We are house sitting for Basil and Natasha, a lovely pair who are spending a week in the Lake District National Park, and who needed someone to watch their kitties, Bluebell and Francis.

July 2nd, we catch the afternoon train to Paris. We have 24 hours to arrange French cell service and acquire camping supplies not allowed on the Eurostar, while also taking in some of the sights of the city of splendor. July 3rd, we will meet a friend at Gare du Nord station, and we will ride to Murat, the gateway to the Monts du Cantal Region, the glaciated, eroded remains of the largest supervolcano in Europe. We will do a healthy 35 mile shakedown hike along the crest of the old lava fields, ranging from 500 to 1,800 meters.

July 8th, we will ride all day from Le Lioran, a ski resort in the volcano’s mouth, to Hendaye on the Atlantic, the start of the Haute Randonnee Pyreneene. There, we will traverse 900km along the crest of the Pyrenees, spending extra time in the spectacular “haute pyrenees” (high pyrenees), where much of the glacial peaks exceed the “magical” 3,000m mark.

A typical day in the high Pyrenees.

If we survive that, we will celebrate our lives in Barcelona for a day, and then catch the train to Geneva, the start of the Grand Randonnee Five, the Grand Traverse of the Alps. 700km of beautiful Swiss, Italian, and French mountains await. The trail ends in Menton, a few minutes from Niece, where we will soak our feet in the mediterranean, grab a beer, and catch a train back to Paris, then London, and THEN… We will fly to Auckland, NZ, where who knows what awaits. It will be a memorable and fantastic journey, and I can only imagine the resplendence of nature that awaits.

Stay tuned.

AirWave Benefits Waterkeepers March 24 at Good People

AirWave at Good People Benefits Three Local Waterkeepers on March 24

Birmingham, AL – Good People Brewing Company is hosting the 7th Annual AirWave festival to benefit Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, and Coosa Riverkeeper from 1 PM to 10 PM on Saturday, March 24.  The family-friendly public event features dozens of live bands, talented artists, charity exhibits, silent auction, food trucks, and Good People’s high quality beers brewed on premises.

Sponsorships, merchandise sales, silent auction, optional donations, and proceeds from beer sales at the festival will equally support all three of the Greater Birmingham area’s Waterkeeper organizations.  The three Waterkeeper Alliance groups have received generous grants from The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to enhance their collaborations protecting the region’s vital water resources.

“We are proud to support the initiatives of Black Warrior, Cahaba, and Coosa Riverkeepers,” said Lauren McCurdy, Director of Marketing at Good People Brewing.  “Without their efforts, brewers wouldn’t be able to brew the high quality beer citizens of Alabama have come to know and expect.”

“We made AirWave an event where everyone can celebrate our local rivers, and support the organizations fighting for their conservation,” added Dan Morriss, AirWave’s producer.  “Eventgoers can look forward to a waterfall of local music and artistic performances.”

Facebook event webpage:

Individuals who wish to volunteer at the event should email:

Sponsorship options are available here:

High-res AirWave photo:

Dan Morriss, Executive Producer, Morriss Entertainment:
Charles Scribner, Executive Director, Black Warrior Riverkeeper:
Myra Crawford, Executive Director, Cahaba Riverkeeper:
Justinn Overton, Executive Director, Coosa Riverkeeper:
Lauren McCurdy, Director of Marketing, Good People Brewing Co.:


Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. The citizen-based nonprofit organization promotes clean water for the sake of wildlife habitat, recreation and public health in our patrol area, the Black Warrior River watershed.

Cahaba Riverkeeper is dedicated to defending the ecological integrity of the Cahaba River and its watershed, to ensuring clean water and a healthy aquatic environment, and to preserving the recreational and aesthetic values of the river.

Coosa Riverkeeper is a citizen-based river conservation non-profit whose mission is to protect and restore the Coosa River and its tributaries in Alabama. We patrol the river, educate the public, and advocate for the river.

AirWave 2018

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