Saturday, April 2, 2011

Barefoot Travels #2

Since the snow is now melting down here off the mountain (although a foot is predicted tonight on mountain, and I have the day off tomorrow) I have begun to again pursue finding new and exciting hikes. There are miles of trails around Park City, of which so far I have explored one that is only about a mile from my house. One nice part of hiking in Park City is that almost any hike goes up. Very important as the views change every switchback, something that amazes me every time I go around a turn. I started my hike with bread, cheese and water in backpack, new boots on my feet. I was about two miles up the path, and near the summit of a small bluff, when I first noticed the hot spot on my heel. PERFECT! My boots had not yet been broken in; a problem that I chose to ignore when starting my hike. The blisters gained from new hiking boots are much different than those that are kindly gifted by wearing ski boots all day, every day.

So at the top of the hill I sat down, looked across the valley at the mountains, ate some cheese and bread, and then started my trip back down to the car, boots and socks now in hand. As discussed from a previous hike in Maine, I actually really like hiking without shoes. There is a connection that one feels to what one is actually doing, especially when sharp rocks reach the bottom of your foot, or you feel the cold of a large boulder, dampness of moss, or squish of mud. While there is always the danger of being hurt worse than a blister (and a cut on the bottom of ones foot is not a fun way to live life) the trade off of connection is far more important.

While on a hike in Maine I really noticed this physical connection; on my barefoot hike down the switchbacks in Park City, I realized a different type of sensation. While hiking barefooted it is almost impossible to constantly look up at ones large surroundings, as it is important to examine each step to avoid those pesky sharp pebbles. Seeing the majesty of mountains, oceans, stars and grand scenery is very beneficial to our lives, as it often reminds us of our place in the world; fleeting.
However, it is also important to focus on each small step. Each of us has their own path to follow, and hiking barefoot forces us to focus on these small, seemingly insignificant steps; each of which leads us further down the path on which we tread. Once in a while we must look up, and see all around us that is vast, to remember that we are hiking the path to discover that vastness, but one step at a time.

New Directions

I have not posted for some time, and for this I apologize, but the time has not seemed right. I am currently coming to the end of some wonderful months living in Park City, Utah. As with any new experience, especially one in which life continues to be so new (which has been my theme for the last year since college) I have learned so much about those around me, the world, and myself; past, present and future.

Yesterday I received a fortune cookie notice that said "You are headed in the right direction." While I am not in the habit of basing life choices on hidden advice printed thousands of times thousands of miles away, I liked this one. My recent revelations involve a new passion; that of teaching. Both my grandfather and father were teachers in some respect, as well as other relatives I believe. Throughout life my grandmother has told me that I will end up teaching somewhere, someday. I have always discounted these comments, but have recently had to humble myself and admit that the path of my life might just veer toward teaching.

Teaching 3 year olds to ski at Deer Valley has been by far the best job I have ever had, and it will be difficult to top. Never in a job have I felt so supported or felt like I was actually contributing. Teaching 3 year olds is not a difficult job for me, although it is challenging. An attribute that I have significantly grown is patience. This trait is difficult for many, including myself, but conquering feelings of anger, aggression, fear etc "feels" very rewarding. Often it seems we allow these emotions, and others, to rule what we do in life, relationships, work places etc. Although emotions are necessary and healthy pieces of who we are as human beings, to be able to healthily control some of the unhealthy emotions with ones mind and conviction feels like a good step down the right path (More on paths later).

Anyway, teaching has a certain draw because of the ability to actually influence people. When looking for role models, who could be better than a good teacher? In my life, besides my father, I think that teachers and professors have had the greatest positive effect. I have always wanted to "do" something with my life, but until now, what exactly to do was never clear. We all have passions, and many have "callings" early in life. Those who are lucky find these callings early and so can shape their education and lives around the calling. If this is my "calling," I actually feel blessed that I have not realized it until now. Many factors in life have led to this clarification of what life is about, for me.

I think much of the draw to interacting and teaching children, philosophically, is also what they can offer. The simplicity of kids, at least 3 year olds, is amazing and admirable if not enviable. As adults, our lives are often clouded by all that happens around us, and forget who we are. While children may be considered selfish or self-centered, they are simple in this and have not yet learned any other way. Three year olds get upset if they have an accident, if their parents leave, if they are hurt, tired, hungry or just need attention. All of these wants/desires/needs are perfectly natural. Children of this age have not yet been tainted by others views of what should be natural, or others views of wants/needs. As adults we should know better than to focus only on our own needs/wants, but part of life is to fight against this selfish human nature. I believe adults often taint these ideas, however, and so part of what is so attractive to me about teaching kids is how much I can and do learn from them.

A pine tree to an adult is often simply a piece of vegetation or part of the scenery that surrounds what they are doing; to a child it is a Christmas tree.

This positive outlook transfers so easily to those adults who listen I believe. Parents are blessed to have children, and one day I am exited to have them as well. I have often discussed sharing my passions with others. This theory or idea about what to do with life has not changed, but the "others" has narrowed to children...those who can still understand how to enjoy sharing emotions, experiences etc.

Therefore, the next step in the road that does go ever on will be a camp on Catalina Island, California (an hour ferry ride off the coast of Los Angeles). Starting May 28th, I will be teaching kids aged 7-17 sailing in small boats including optis, lasers and 420s. I have no idea what I am getting myself into, but this has been a theme that I intend to continue to pursue with my life. Passions I have include both sailing and skiing; skiing being the most recent love of my life, but I will write more about that activity at another time.

I intend to write about skiing and more barefoot hiking soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

The summer continues and I must admit that I have begun counting down to the end of the season. Although it may be hard to believe by pictures etc., I am ready to move on already. I once read a book in which a sea captain was giving life advice and said "find the one thing that you never want to get through, thats what you should do". He discussed how our entire lives are based upon the idea that we need to finish or accomplish whatever we are doing at that moment (progression through school, moving up the ranks in the workplace etc. etc.). I am discovering that if I am going to make a career out of sailing, I need to get involved in teaching younger people. There was a family that came out for the "unofficial knitting cruise" and there were two girls, 9 and 10, who were so much fun. I got such a kick out of hanging out with them and teaching them some of the sailing stuff (they loved the foghorn and trying to spot boats/buoys in the fog) that it made me enjoy work that much more. When I can teach kids that come sailing, and then they can successfully help tack etc., I feel so much more that my job is DOING something.

I think I will be home around early November, and am looking forward to spending some time relaxing and getting off boats for a while. If anyone has a good idea for work during the winter, let me know!

I have been reading a lot lately, keeping up on my American Literature by reading Jack London. The three stories I have read so far, "The Sea-Wolf", "White Fang", and "The Call of the Wild" all offer interesting perspectives. The Sea Wolf was great because it is about a sealing schooner sailing the pacific, and most of the descriptions of the boat I can easily picture and understand. The character of Wolf Larsen, captain of the schooner, is fascinating also as it serves to challenge so many of the idealistic thoughts of our age. Wolf Larsen is extremely harsh on his crew, and the idealistic character "Hump", a literature critic who is saved from drowning after a shipwreck by the schooner, questions this. He asks how Wolf can treat his crew like this, as they all have certain human value. Wolf Larsen retorts that the only value that any of the crew have is how hard they work for him, otherwise they are useless on the boat, and just taking up space and food. How can humans place value on other humans? Who measures that value? Larsen claims that the value of life is only the value of ones own life, as nobody else really values another's life. This is rather depressing, and many would not want to admit this possibility, but often times it seems to true.

Another interesting philosophical poser is raised by Larsen and Hump when discussing bravery. Who is braver; the person who is actually scared and faces his fears, or the person who is literally fearless. In this case, Wolf Larsen is fearless because he is in permanent defiance of life. Even though he suggests his value comes from himself, he seems to fly in the face of all danger, making him fearless but is he brave? Perhaps the first step in overcoming fears or struggles is to remember to acknowledge that we have them, then we can better progress.

A good book, I highly suggest it. Also, reading "White Fang" really makes me want a dog...

(Also, the picture of the rocks was when we were close to leaving Swan's Island headed south toward open ocean. The swells were massive and it was a struggle to remain standing upright on the deck because of the pitching and rolling. We dunked the head rig which was pretty amazing)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

There Be Whales Here! (Or Not)

For those of you who have been on the edge of seats etc. waiting for another blog post, I apologize for the month delay. Things have been relatively "normal" around here, or as normal as things can be. Although I am loving life in Camden and on board Angelique, I am starting to miss people and places that I did not think would keep a hold on me, but have. I am currently working on finding jobs for the winter, so if anyone has any good ideas for me, feel free to let me know! On to stories:

Our last trip was a whale-watching cruise which turned into more of a wave-watching cruise. Our first day we left Camden, set four lowers plus gaff topsls and proceeded east toward MDI (Mount Desert Island/Acadia National park) at a "decent" speed of 9.5 knots. Not too bad! (The fastest I have seen this summer was a couple of weeks ago, we raced a rain squall with four lowers, half topsls and did 11.5). We made it to the south end of MDI, a place we have been before called Bass Harbor, and made preparations for an epic day of sea-sickness the next day, as we were planning on sailing offshore about 20 miles to Mount Desert Rock. Most were prepared to trade feeling miserable for the promise of breaching Humpback's, but alas, both sea-sickness and whales were avoided. Although we missed out on seeing whales, we did see puffins and had a great day of sailing, during which we probably covered 60+ miles of ocean, ending our day in Southeast Harbor, MDI. The highlight of this day was that early in the morning (7:30am or so) Mike offered me the wheel and I did not give it up until Mount Desert Rock, 20 miles later. I love driving! I had never really had to steer by compass course alone, and so this was a new experience for me but I think I did relatively well for having large-ish swells etc. The rest of the week was wonderful, we hit at least 7.5 knots each day, which is all one can really ask for. I have included a few recent photos.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

First Attempts at Photo Editing

We just returned from a photography sail, in which people payed extra money to come on board and take pictures (as well as take classes from a professional photographer and his assistant). A great trip, with some amazing pictures being taken. Georges, the assistant to Neil (the photographer) gave me a program called Adobe Lightroom, basically a simplified Photoshop I think, and a brief education on it's use. Here are some early attempts at editing photographs (The first and last photos were not edited):

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Between Trips

Angelique has returned yesterday from our first six day trip of the season, which took us as far as Mount Desert Island (the Island on which Acadia National Park is located). We board this afternoon at around 5:00pm and then head out for another six days. A busy summer!

The first day of our last trip, June 14th, we left Camden and sailed east, our destination being Carver Cove and the "Gam". A gam is a traditional 'get-together' of tall ships and this gathering was graced by a total of 10 of Maine's historic windjammers. As we sailed, many of the other boats fell into a long line, and it was pretty amazing to see six or so of us coasting along together. We arrived at Carver Cove second next to Victory Chimes, a massive (170 feet overall) historic landmark, three masted schooner. She is the schooner which graces Maine's state quarter I believe. I think we are the second largest ship in the fleet, and so the two of us formed the center of the raft. By the time all the boats arrived, we had 10 traditional tall ships rafted together, ranging from boats like the Chimes and French built in 1900 and 1871 respectively, to the American Eagle and Angelique, built a century later! As you can imagine, a rather unique experience. The boats were rafted in this order:

Stephen Taber
American Eagle
Victory Chimes
Lewis R. French
Nathaniel Bowditch
J.E. Riggin

The evening ended with the raft breaking apart, and everyone anchoring in Carver Cove for the night, listening to music being played on many different boats.

June 15th arrived full of sun and wind, and we had a relatively lazy morning eating breakfast, polishing brass etc. Hauled anchor and began our trek toward Bass Harbor on Mount Desert Island. Hit 9 knots with everything set, and boy does she move! 9 knots on Angelique feels like nothing! I hear we are the fastest in the fleet, especially upwind because of her full keel. She feels so right when she sails, great movement. We also caught our first lobster trap of the season on the shaft, which happens so often that Mike actually has installed small spinning blades that turn with the shaft to cut the lines.

When we set sail in the morning, it is rare that we ever really know where we will anchor for the evening. This day we knew where we would end up: wherever the Victory Chimes had anchored for the evening. Apparently the Captain of the Chimes is, with Mike, a huge Boston Celtics fan and has a satellite television in his cabin. So while we entertained guests, Mike watched the Celtics with the captains of two other boats. As Captain Dave would say "when you own YOUR own schooner..."

June 16th. Nice day, sunshine and good wind. We beat our way up Blue Hill Bay just for some good sailing, and finished the evening with a lobster bake on a small island near the home of Wooden Boat Magazine.

June 17th. Cloudy, windy, rainy, but a good day. We took trips to shore with Capi, (our 16 person row boat) to experience Wooden Boat. This is a collection of buildings in which people can go to learn traditional boat building and restoration skills. We watched classes on drafting and also bronze casting. Fascinating stuff but I like sailing the boats better!

Loaded up from Wooden Boat and sailed down "The Reach" toward Deer Island, Buck's Harbor direction. Some excitement as we had to lower topmasts in order to get under the Deer Isle bridge. Usually we only have to lower the maintop, as the mizzen can clear, but in this case we approached the bridge at a very high tide. I had to rush up the mizzen at the last minute to take out the fid and chalk (what hold up the topmasts) to lower it about six feet. From where I say on the mizzen top, it did not look like we cleared the bridge by more than five feet. After we had gone under the bridge and lifted both tops back up, the sun came out and we had the most pleasant sail to date, continuing on until about 7pm before dropping anchor in Ruder Cove on the east side of Islesboro Island. We could see the chimney's of one of John Travolta's homes from our anchorage, fun fact.

June 18th. An uneventful and relatively slow sail back to Camden, where we tied up safely to the dock and unloaded passengers the next day. Today I have time off until about 5:00pm when we board a new batch of passengers for our naturalist/photography trip. Should be interesting!

I am content with my life here, as I am still continuously learning and am keeping myself busy with any little project I can find whether it be whippings, splices, fixing black-water pumps with the mate (part of the not-so-glorious aspect of this job) or just enjoying the company of people.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Barefoot Travels

This may be my first actual philosophical post, in which I will attempt to persuade that hiking with bare feet for at least part of an adventure is necessary, especially a difficult hike. Or I may just digress and write about thoughts while hiking.

While scaling the mountains of Camden yesterday I was thinking "why do people hike". I think most people would respond that they go hiking to "experience nature" or perhaps to "escape from reality" in this case reality meaning concrete, steel, cubicles or offices. In one way, a hiking trail like I climbed yesterday is an escape but (and here we begin the philosophy) one is still rather stuck to the trail. One can walk off the trail, into the woods, but if one does not know the area well, it is very easy to get lost. However, neither the path nor being lost in the woods are necessarily the wrong place to be. I suppose many would, when escaping their "real" lives, stick to the path because eventually, one must make it back to the beginning of the hike, so as to escape ones escape and get back to real life. Perhaps being lost in the woods is real life!

The question of "experiencing" nature, or that escape, would be to some empiricists (in the philosophical world) the ability of a person to have sensation associated with hiking. Sensation being the experience of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell of ones environment, in this case being important because it is different than ones normal life, so is that escape. But how many of these senses do we actually experience when hiking? Yesterday I found myself concentrating on reaching the top of the mountain, the summit, and briefly forgetting what was all around me. I was experiencing the sights and sounds and smells, but only in a limited capacity over the sound of my hard breathing from climbing, and my drive to the top. In this regard, I was concentrating much more on the placement of my feet than on the world around me; important so that I would not fall, but not looking up, and so missing other important aspects of life around me. Perhaps if I had just slowed down, not focusing as much on the summit, but more on the walk, I could have noticed more (a classic theme, I know). Perhaps part of this is that those who escape their office lives do not realize that in order to experience these "escapes" to their fullest, it is necessary to reduce the tempo of the walk, "trip", "vacation". Not only does one have to physically be in a new place for this escape, but also must find a way to reduce the pace of their time in the new area.

While walking in an unfamiliar environment, tasting plants etc. to better experience the journey may not be advisable. As such, I will continue by focusing on the last sense, touch. When we hike we have a sense of touch, in that we brush against branches, touch interesting plants, sit on large rocks to eat lunch, but when we are simply walking along a trail it seems that ones sense of touch is lost. Ones shoes are in the way. Many would answer that question "why do we hike" by suggesting that hiking can help us to "better connect to our environment." But if we are never even touching the ground we walk on, are we really experiencing that last sense?

So I got it in my mind yesterday to take off my shoes when I was descending Mt. Battie, headed back to the car. As I think I mentioned in my previous writing, Battie is 780 some feet down, over the course of a half mile. And the trail is all rock. And the squall had just hit, so everything was wet. But, I decided to remove my shoes for the last, and steepest quarter mile. I am glad I did, as it was fascinating to walk and feel at the same time. You can imagine the different feelings while walking, cold rocks, squishy piles of wet leaves, roots, solid roots, sharp stones. While I would not suggest this hiking style at all times, it is worth the attempt. Although I was closer to falling multiple times, I noticed that I had to plan my route down the rocks much more than before, as I no longer had any padding under my feet and I was more able to slip. I did indeed feel much more connected.

So my suggestions when hiking, which could quite possible change if I was to hike more, or more rugged terrain (because it hurts to step on those hidden stones!) is to remove your shoes when about a quarter mile away from ones home. Experience just how hiking FEELS!