What I Carried: Packing for the Appalachian Trail

IMG-4228

I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a more-detailed piece about my backpacking adventures in “The Whites” during July.

Once I started writing, it was hard to stop. Rather than try to cram everything into one really long post, I thought it would be fun to start with what I carried.

As someone who has been on a quest to pack less when traveling, backpacking requires even more preparation. Unless, of course, you’re Cheryl Strayed in Wild .

If you read the book or watched the movie, you know the scene I’m referring to. Cheryl’s pack weighed close to 70 pounds when she started the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)! In contrast, my pack weighed 24 pounds at the start of our trip. Fortunately, a few weeks into Cheryl’s hike, a veteran hiker helps her get rid of a ton of stuff and it’s a funny scene reading/watching what she packed and why she thought she needed what she did.

wild

Brad and I aren’t hard-core ultralight hikers by any mean, but we are careful about our choices.

I watched with fascination the meticulous care and detail he poured into the planning of what went into our packs. Each item was weighed and entered on the master spreadsheet. Every gram, ounce, and pound mattered! Any superfluous weight was cut, such as the handle of my hair brush, which Brad sawed off and then filed to make smooth.

Certain items were non negotiables for me: a coffee mug, for instance. Mind you, it was made of stainless steel and relatively light, but drinking my morning coffee out of a mug was important. I also carried a small journal and a pen.  

I know most of you won’t be heading into the woods for your next vacation, but just in case you ever do or if you’re the curious sort, here’s what I carried for my nine days on the trail.

My wardrobe consisted of two pairs of shorts, two short-sleeve synthetic shirts, two pairs of underwear, two sports bras, a fleece, a rain jacket, a long-sleeve shirt, a pair of tights, a pair of flip flops, known as camp shoes, and three pairs of wool socks. The only piece of cotton clothing I packed was a tank top for sleeping. Fyi, backpackers generally don’t wear cotton.

I wore my flip flops around camp at the end of the day and in the mornings. In terms of socks, I actually only hiked in two pairs, alternating between the two. The third pair was designated as camp socks, which meant I only wore them once my feet were clean. Small luxuries like these make all the difference on the trail.

My entire toiletries fit into a quart-sized Ziploc bag—a hairbrush, my toothbrush and toothpaste, my contact case and cleaner, a tube of mascara that I only used twice, but felt compelled to pack nonetheless, some Chapstick, a travel-sized deodorant, and some face lotion and body lotion. In another Ziploc, I carried baby wipes for cleaning my body.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself about my lack of stuff, I marveled at how little I actually needed while on the trail. Sure, there were moments when I wished for a hairdryer or a different set of clothes, but I treasured the lightness and simplicity of my gear for this trip. In addition to my clothes and toiletries, I carried our food bag and tent poles in my pack.

One funny story I’ll  leave you with.

The day we came off the trail in Lincoln, NH, we stopped at a shopping plaza to pick up some lunch from the grocery store. A Dollar General was in the complex. Walking past, I noticed a clearance rack filled with shorts and tee shirts.

Suddenly, I needed to buy an outfit.

I desperately wanted to wear something other than hiking clothes for our town day and for traveling home. It took a bit of hunting to find the “right” clothes. One pair of shorts that I deemed passable Brad said no way; unless, I was looking for some unwelcome advances. 😦 I settled for a black tee shirt and a pair of blue-striped shorts. The shorts were snug. (I had to do the wiggle-my-hips-back-and-forth-trick to pull them up.) Thankfully, the shirt hung low enough, hiding the tight fit.

For me, I was happy to be wearing clean, non-hiking clothes. Thank you, Dollar General.

_________________

Tomorrow, my school duties resume, starting with faculty meetings. And, that means goodbye to summer.

I’ve still got more backpacking stories to share so keep checking back. I’ll be posting them throughout the fall.

Thanks for reading and enjoy these final weeks of August!

 

Advertisements
Posted in Appalachian Trail, Back to School, Backpacking, Hiking, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What I’m Up To This Summer

It’s hard to believe July is almost over. As August approaches, I know my days of summer and free time draw to a close. With the couple of weeks I have left before school responsibilities begin, I plan to enjoy and savor each day.

Today, the lingering humidity of the past couple of weeks lessened. I could take hundreds of days like this one—not too hot and perfect for being outside.

What I’ve Been Up To

Once school ended and faculty meetings concluded at the end of May, I turned my attention to preparing for my trip to Vancouver, BC. The visit was a mix of work and play. I should clarify that I don’t consider promoting Everywhere Godwork” in the normal sense of the word. That said, I did spend many hours prepping my talks and preparing for my workshop. I led a Contemplative Journaling Workshop for a group of women one night and spoke at two different events at local churches about making space for God in everyday life. In between my speaking gigs, I spent time with my dear friend Jacquelyn who hosted me and spoiled me, and other good friends from my family’s Vancouver days. I loved all of it.

f1e87e9d-c1b1-4833-9758-5093477b33a7

Speaking at Granville Chapel

The weather could not have been more perfect. In fact, by BC standards, it was considered hot on a few days. I soaked up the beautiful views of the coastal mountains and enjoyed revisiting a favorite walking/running path that was near our old home. For the first time, I attended a Bard on the Beach production and saw an excellent performance of MacBeth. The setting could not have been more perfect with the mountains in the background along with the setting sun.

IMG-4031.JPG

A view from Stanley Park

 

I was particularly grateful for the chance to reconnect with friends over meals or cups of coffee and tea. Many rich conversations! I left for home with a heart full of gratitude for friendships that can pick up where they left off and for the positive reception I received in terms of my book. It was an affirming trip on many levels for me.

A week later, our family headed to Michigan to celebrate the fourth of July and to have a reunion. The extended Brummeler family continues to grow and we form a small crowd when we are together. Lots of laughing, eating, swimming, tubing, and general fun when we gather. We left thankful for our time and already are making plans for next year.

Anna enjoys a peaceful pontoon ride.

This is my kind of tubing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Appalachian Trail

Yes, this was also part of my summer! This trip was many things for me and you’ll have to wait a bit longer to get the full story. The short version is that Brad and I hiked for nine days together. I covered 69 miles of the AT, specifically a section in New Hampshire known as The Whites. I climbed 5 mountains, experienced 2 different hiker hostels, acquired a trail name—Stout Heart—and saw my first bear in the wild. Brad stayed on the trail for another five days and hiked a total of 122 trail miles.

At the top of Mt. Cube

The waterfall on Mt. Moosilauke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had no idea what to expect being on the trail for a longer chunk of time, but suffice it to say, I’m glad I went and I will go again. I’m working on a piece that delves more deeply into some of my experiences and reflections along with why I even agreed to the trip in the first place. Stay tuned!

My Writing Life

I’m writing. Let’s start there. I still don’t have a clear sense of what book #2 will be about, but I’m trusting this will take shape. I have ideas, but nothing firm, yet. Mainly, I’m focused on writing new content this summer. One of the best pieces of advice I heard at this year’s Festival of Faith and Writing came from another writer who also teaches. She said she uses her summer months to write new material, finding her creative juices flow more freely when she isn’t teaching. As soon as I heard this, I felt like a lightbulb clicked. During the school year, I struggle enough as it is to write with any regularity. Writing new stuff feels especially daunting. But, I can revise and edit. So that’s been my goal this summer: crank out some pieces that I can tinker and play with once school resumes and go from there.

My Reading Life

I’ve read some great books this summer and hope to finish a couple more before the start of school.

I loved Birthing Hope by my friend and colleague Rachel Marie Stone. So many powerful, gripping, and moving stories from her life, each vividly described and well written. It’s the kind of book that I want others to read and will be on my list to give as a gift.

I read two YA novels—Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson and Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. Both of these books are summer novels my students have to read. Each won the Newbery Gold Medal and are compelling, engaging stories. Can’t wait to hear what my students think.

It’s also been the summer of memoir. Rachel’s book falls into this category as well. I read The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan and I’m almost finished with The House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. The former was recommended by Shauna Niequist on one of her podcasts. I read most of it on my return flight home from Vancouver and it captivated me. Meaning, I didn’t watch any of the free movies I could have watched on the airplane. I read. The latter was given to me by Jacquelyn. Amanda is a Canadian author who was taken captive in Somalia while on an reporting assignment. It’s her story of coming to travel the world as well as surviving her fifteen-month ordeal as a hostage. Very good and gripping.

Then, because I thought I would actually read at night after a day of hiking, I used my library’s online catalog to download the second book in the Neopotalian series by Elena Ferrante entitled The Story of a New Name. Wrong! I didn’t read at all while on the trail. A while ago, I listened to the first book in the series My Brilliant Friend and loved it. While busing and training my way back to New York after my backpacking trip, I quickly read the second book.

Now, I’m reading the third book called Those Who Love and Those Who Stay also on my phone. I know people have been reading books on their phones, tablets, Kindles, you name it, for years. But, these two books were a first for me. I have to say, I really like it for certain situations.

I love that I have always have something to read wherever I am—waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting for my car’s oil change, waiting in line, you name it. Anyways, if you like anything Italian and you like stories that explore themes of family, friendship, love, and loyalty, you will enjoy this series.

_________________

Thanks for reading. I hope your August is filled with some good books, some time outside, some delicious meals, and some meaningful conversations. Leave a comment and say hello!

Posted in Backpacking, Books to Read, Everywhere God, Family life, Good Reads, Writing, Writing Conferences | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Sane Approach to Food

IMG-4159

Yesterday, while returning from a family weekend in Michigan, I read my latest copy of Real Simple.

To my delight, I discovered a refreshing piece entitled “Balance: The Clean Eating Rules to Follow and to Break.” Finally. An article that handles food in a way that doesn’t heap loads of guilt on the reader and make certain foods taboo.

The main point: Mom was right. Moderation in all things. Also, food meets more than a physical need in our bodies. It has emotional and mental components to it as well.

Hello, anyone ever stress eat?

Yes, I want to eat healthy and fuel my body with foods that will keep it going for many years to come. Yes, I’m grateful to live in an age where I benefit from food-science research and know that dark leafy greens are loaded with antioxidants that fight many types of cancer. Yes, I care about the planet and want my food to come from nearby (New York for me), not Chile or California.

But, I also don’t want these desires to cause me to miss out on the pleasure of food and the enjoyment that comes when it is shared with others around a table. I don’t want to “ban” certain foods from my diet and say, “I will never eat that.”

One of the best lines in the article said, “Don’t be overly rigid.” I couldn’t agree more.  

Which was why over the weekend I ate dessert after lunch AND after dinner. I enjoyed potato chips and dips. I ate foods I don’t eat all the time. And that’s just fine. Since I don’t do this very often, these splurges don’t affect my overall eating habits and I shouldn’t look back at all.

On Monday afternoon, after most of the family had left, I sat outside with my sister-in-law and my nephew’s wife. I sipped white wine and ate potato chips at 3:30 pm. We talked and relaxed. We went for a swim. Later, we assembled a dinner from some of the leftovers.

I came away from the weekend grateful—for the making of new memories with loved ones and for the sharing of stories, for times of silliness and times of seriousness, for the beauty of God’s creation so evident on Clifford Lake. And, I’m grateful for the part food played in all of it.

 

Posted in Celebrations, Family life, Food and Hospitality | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Dishing on Everywhere God

About a month ago, I chatted with my new friend Matt Brough. He’s a pastor and writer in Winnipeg, Canada. I met him at the Festival of Faith and Writing Conference this past April. We shared a number of similarities, including a love for young adult literature and a desire to see God in the everyday.

He invited me to be on his podcast “Spirituality for Ordinary People.” This was my first podcast and I never knew how many filler noises I make when in conversation. 🙂 Note to self for the future. Anyways, I enjoyed our conversation very much and I hope you will too.

Take a listen and let me know what you think. You can find it at: spiritualityforordinarypeople.com/alicia/

Posted in Everywhere God, Journaling, Rituals, The Christian life, Writing Conferences | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel Roundup Part II

Spring is in full bloom—finally! Each time I look out the window I marvel at the transformation. A few weeks ago, the trees stood brown and bare. The blooming bulbs with their vibrant colors served as the only signal that spring was on its way.

My Lily-of-the-Valley, one of my favorite blooms of spring, erupted with their fragrant, bell-shaped buds over the weekend. Heavenly!

During the cold, wintry months, when winter feels permanent and never ending, I dream of these days.

____________________

England and February feel like a distant memory.

Soon, Anna will return home from her year abroad (where has the time gone?) and that means I need to finish Part II of this travel roundup.

img-3697.jpg

First, a book recommendation. I read At Home in the World: Reflections on Wandering the Globe While Traveling the World by Tsh Oxenreider before Brad and I left on our trip. It isn’t a book about England, per se, although the UK does receive a shout out. Instead, it’s a story of a young family embarking on a year-long trip around the world. Tsh and her husband sell their home, store their belongings, and take their three children on an incredible journey.

Anyone who has been frustrated by flight delays or long TSA lines or dashed travel plans, will find Tsh’s reflections helpful. We learn about ourselves when circumstances beyond our control impact our plans. Little did I know that when I read this book, Brad’s and my return flight to New York would be cancelled and we would spend two extra days in England before we could fly home.

But, this isn’t a book chronicling frustrating travel experiences. It’s more. Tsh explores themes of belonging and home as she wrestles to balance her own wanderlust with the need for stability and structure for her young family. This is where the book sings. As readers, we enter into the Oxenreider’s travel experiences vicariously, feeling their exhaustion after a long day of travel, their delight in an African safari, or savoring a delicious meal in Thailand. The book is beautifully written by a writer who loves travel and the larger world. I highly recommend it.  A great summer read!

___________________

We put 1500 miles on our rental car over nine days. We saw a lot. In hindsight, we probably tried to see too much.

For us, the struggle was to balance a desire to see as much as possible without creating too exhausting of a schedule. As we planned our itinerary, we purposefully chose to visit places that Anna wouldn’t be able to see on her own in the UK. She’s done a fair bit of travel already, but most of that has been outside of England. We wanted to see places that she couldn’t reach easily by train.

I enjoyed all the places we visited, but I wish we had more time Edinburgh. We arrived on a Friday evening, grabbed some Indian takeaway recommended by our Air B&B host, and planned to get out the door Saturday morning to explore. Glorious sunshine greeted us both days we were there, but the temperatures were cold. We spent several hours exploring the Royal Mile, stopping at a few places along the way.

IMG-3499

The top of the Royal Mile

Around noon, we drove to St. Andrews to see friends—another lovely city, and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Forgans. The duck shepherd’s pie was amazing! We returned late to Edinburgh and fell into bed. On Sunday morning, we had a bit more time to explore before returning Anna to Ackworth.

IMG-3538

The rolling landscape of Edinburgh, with its castle dominating the high point, made some of my history lessons come alive. I could see the importance of this fortress and its strategic placement. I also loved the architecture of the homes—row houses with tall, shuttered windows, wrought iron embellishments and front doors with character, delighted as we rode the city bus. Definitely a city I hope to visit again.

___________________

Lastly, some travel advice that bears repeating: embrace serendipity when you travel.

Yes, we definitely had an itinerary to follow, but one of my favorite moments on the trip was an unplanned stop in the town of Windermere, part of the Lake District. It was probably 4 pm. We knew we wanted to take a short hike, but we had no idea where a trail or path was. We walked into the local Visitor’s Centre—another piece of advice—stop at these places! The people who work here know the area and can offer suggestions. In our case, I told the woman we had about 45 minutes before sunset and we wanted to do a hike. Could she suggest something?  Of course, she could.

She pulled out a map and quickly showed us a walk that would take us to an overlook and give some amazing views of the area. In England, trails are referred to as “public footpaths.” Off we went. Moss-covered and reminiscent of scenes from The Secret Garden (think: crumbling stone along with twists and turns and you have the correct image), this particular path rewarded our senses repeatedly. It was the perfect way to end our day. And, another reminder that every day doesn’t have to be scheduled.

See what I mean about moss and stones?

An unexpected surprise on our walk

The view from the top

The last light of the day casting blue shadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading. Hoping you have some plans to visit some new places this summer.

Leave a comment and let me know where you’re headed.

 

 

Posted in Books to Read, England, Favorites, Good Reads, Out-of-the-Ordinary, Recommended Reading, To Kill a Mockingbird, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Travel Roundup: England, Part I

An iconic symbol in Britain–the red telephone booth

If you follow me on social media, you know that Brad and I traveled to the United Kingdom the last two weeks of February.

For me, and I imagine many of you, part of the fun of traveling is the planning.

In the months and weeks leading up to our departure, I collected and researched travel recommendations. I found many helpful resources. In Part I of this “travel roundup,” I’m sharing a few of my favorites.

I’ve mentioned before how much I appreciate Rick Steves’ guidebooks. Just like I have favorite writers that I want to emulate, Steves is the kind of traveler I want to be like. He digs into a neighborhood, city, or region, going beyond the tourist traps. His recommendations are consistently good and helpful. As a result, I purchased only one book in my planning for this trip and it was his Great Britain one.

For the rest of my planning, I searched online.

What I wear on a trip is important to me.

So I was happy to discover the Travel Fashion Girl one night while I was thinking about what to pack.

The past couple of years I have been on a quest to pack less. It’s even become a bit of a joke in our family. They poke fun at me as I obsess over bringing a smaller bag, even for trips when the size of my luggage doesn’t really matter.

My goal for this trip? Carry-on luggage only. In addition to my suitcase, I brought a weekend bag, filled with reading material, some snacks, and a few toiletries I wanted on the plane.

My luggage was just right.

My wardrobe consisted of 3 pairs of pants, 5 tops, two scarves, and 3 pairs of shoes. I mainly wore my black ankle boots (not fancy boots, but warm ones I could walk and hike in), and my black slip-on Clarke tennis shoes. At the last minute, I threw in a pair of ballet flats in case I wanted something a little fancier. Given the weather, I should have left them at home. I only wore them once.

The only adjustment I would make for next time would be to pack a lightweight jacket and a hat. Towards the end of our trip, cold and snow descended on London and a casual jacket would have provided another layering option. I also wished for a knit hat. My coat came with an attached hood, but I didn’t like walking around with the hood up all the time.

As far as what to see and do on our trip, I discovered Finding the Universe, which provided ideas of where to go and how much time to spend in various spots. They actually have a two-week itinerary for the UK. Their suggestions gave us a solid starting point for planning. Steves also provides itinerary suggestions based on different lengths of stay in his book and on his website.  

I’ll say more about lodging in Part II of this post, but I discovered a new option on this trip.

Our final three days were spent in London, an expensive city to say the least. As we contemplated where to stay, a friend recommended I check out Premier Inn, specifically Hub by Premier Inn. Their unique offering to the world of lodging is small, yet stylish rooms that maximize space.

What this means for you, the traveler, is that you can stay, say, 200 yards from Westminster Abbey—a prime location—without breaking the bank. Our room and breakfast cost just under $140 dollars a night.

Westminster Abbey–right outside my hotel!

Yes, our room was tiny. But we didn’t plan to hang out there. We had a comfortable bed, a roomy shower, and for a modest charge, a delicious, full breakfast each morning. Plus, we were close to the Tube and, like I said, Westminster Abbey.

I’m standing in front of our “bathroom,” but this photo gives you a good sense of what I mean by small.

This was a happy find in terms of trip planning. Would definitely recommend.

In next post, I’ll share some specifics about the places we visited and some of the lessons I learned about traveling.

Until then, cheers!

 

Posted in England, Favorites, Saving Money, Travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Bargain Corner!

Readers, Everywhere God is on sale at Amazon for $6.55! Roughly half its list price.

If you’re looking for a new read or a gift for a friend, now is the time to buy.

This review particularly makes me happy.

“Alicia’s book was a delight to read. I found myself incorporating many of her suggestions into my daily life. I loved her practical ideas: my daughter and I made a table centerpiece out of yard materials and we got to discuss and experience the beauty of God’s creation together. Alicia knows how to tap into the reader’s emotions – I found myself literally weeping at some parts and laughing out loud at others. I found myself picking up her book after long, hard days, looking for something to calm my mind and quiet my heart. Everywhere God has truly helped me gain a broader perspective on how to seek God in every corner of my life.” –Amazon review

Posted in Books to Read, Everywhere God, Good Reads, Recommended Reading | Tagged , , | Leave a comment