The Precipice

image 1888 from bradism.com

We've been balancing a fine line the past months between living in the present, and planning our hiking holiday. Fortunately I don't need to learn any new languages to order beers this time.

Part of that balance involves the occasional practice hike to ensure equipment and processes are all good for the real thing. We've been up and down the Adelaide ranges testing shoes and learning lessons.

Lesson one: when taking a pre-walk selfie, find a background nicer than the toilet block.

Lesson one: when taking a pre-walk selfie, find a background nicer than the toilet block.

This weekend we did Lofty the long way, an 18km walk starting in Chamber's Gully. I don't think there will be many cafes with hot, fresh coffee on the summits of the mountains we're going to, but when we reach the top you can always rely on a view to make all the hard work worth it.

image 1890 from bradism.com


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The woman with the fake tan stepped into my office, sat across from my desk and lit a cigarette.
At least, she would, sometime in the next 20 minutes. Smelling the future has advantages, but precision isn’t one of them.


Tipped

image 1891 from bradism.com

There are a lot of things to worry about when traveling to America. Did I pack everything? What will the exchange rate fall to? Can my body survive a whole day of economy class? Will TSA find any bad jokes on my social media accounts and send me off home on arrival? But my worst fear was tipping...

Tipping is a nightmare. You walk a fine line constantly between a social faux pas, or worse! Paying more than full price for something. But in my first twenty-four hours in the USA - despite the jetlag - I seemed to be getting tipping right. I tipped with credit card at a restaurant. I carried my own bag to my room. I tipped a friendly bartender. I didn't tip housekeeping because I left a Do Not Disturb sign up for a whole day. I didn't have to work out if I should tip the barber because I got my hair cut short before we left Australia.

At a quarter to eleven on my first night, when my body had just reached REM state for the first time in two days, I was jerked from sleep by a sound that my brain took a while to process: the fire alarm. Rushing to dress, we joined the rest of the hotel on the fire escape and gathered on the sidewalk (footpath) to wait for rescue. Fire trucks soon arrived and, thankfully, it was a false alarm. Though it was good for one thing. A succinct reminder of how close to danger we always are, and how trivial such concerns can be in the face of a real threat. One second you're warm and dreaming, the next firemen are running through the lobby with axes looking for smoke, and you're counting yourself lucky just to have your loved ones safe and the shirt on your back.

image 1892 from bradism.com

As the alarm finally silenced and the firemen filed out and back to their truck my fear finally receded. Until I realised, wait... I have no idea how much I'm supposed to tip them.

The Great American Journal Entry

It was the west of times; it was the north of times.

After driving 100 miles from Seattle I found a beautiful place on a spectacular lake which has convinced me that, on a spectrum, pizza most definitely is a vegetable.

image 1893 from bradism.com

Where else in the world does it cost on average $9.90 for a six-pack of IPA craft beers, and $2.50 for a cucumber?

Americans (who are on vacation and/or working in the service industry) are incredibly cheery. We passed one man on the Enchanted Valley trail, past Fire Creek, who asked us how our morning was. "Good," we told him. When we asked how he was, in the brief seconds that our paths were crossing, he said "not bad" and instantly I was concerned.

image 1894 from bradism.com

There is a distinct preference to avoid internalizing thought in this state. I was in the cereal aisle at Safeway trying to pick a breakfast/concede a daily sugar injection while a woman stocked the shelf beside me.
"Here we go," she said, opening the first of her cartons with a packet knife.
"Whole lot of boxes today," she added. We were the only two in the aisle.
"Just what I love," she said, pushing the first box of apple-cinnamon granola onto the shelf. "Stacking a whole lotta groceries."
How I was supposed to respond to this I had no inkling.
I don't think any of these people would enjoy my novels.


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Worth It

image 1896 from bradism.com

After flying to the other side of the planet, then driving to Forks, Washington, we woke at 5am which was more pre-dawn gloom than twilight.

image 1897 from bradism.com

After another 54 miles of driving on the wrong side of the road, followed by 4 miles of hiking through temperate rainforest, we came to a washed up tree on a misty beach we had nearly all to ourselves.

image 1898 from bradism.com

It was breakfast time. Fruit, yogurt and cereal. Because some things you never need a holiday from.

Vanessa and Brad Meal

Many decades ago I was famous for a delicacy known as "Brad Meal". It was a dinner I'd discovered while camping as a preteen, requiring the rehydration of peas and corn in boiling water, adding instant noodles to the same water, then mixing in Deb dehydrated mashed potato until the entire pot congealed into a single entity of stodgy, starchy, salty mush that tasted brilliant with a bit of BBQ sauce thrown in. On a school camp in 1997 I even made this dish for an entire cabin as part of an assignment, where it was received better than Phillipe's mum's fried rice.

It's been a long time since life necessitated I make that meal again. But this week in Forks, after a week without any form of cooking appliance, Vanessa and I were in command of a microwave and within walking distance of a supermarket. In the land of the free (refills of steak fries with any burger purchase) we had options!

The following is the recipe for VanessaAndBrad Meal:

image 1904 from bradism.com

1x Jolly Green Giant frozen riced broccoli and cauliflower
1x Jolly Green Giant frozen riced sweet potato and cauliflower
1x Uncle Ben's microwaveable long grain brown rice sachet
2x Thrifty Mart essentials tinned Chili Beans
1x Air New Zealand salt and pepper from cutlery bag

The concept is identical. Heat the vegetables in their bags and let stand for a few minutes while microwaving the rice and the beans in the Tupperware you brought from home. Mix everything together and salt/pepper liberally. Eat. Open and close the motel room door vigorously a few times so the Forks mist can dilute the aroma of microwaved chilli beans.

Castaway

image 1899 from bradism.com

How I looked after four days without internet...
And another week of holidays with internet.

image 1901 from bradism.com

We stayed in Sol Duc Valley - world wide web dead-zone - the past three nights and, surprisingly, I did not miss the internet all that much. It's not like I prepared with much offline content. I just did lots of hiking, listened to an audiobook, sat in hot-springs and drank $1.49 cans of craft beer from the resort store to get through.

By my second day offline, woodland creatures were literally visiting me.

image 1900 from bradism.com

This morning I ate breakfast at a waterfall. Eventually we emerged from the valley to free motel WiFi and a bunch of notifications that were almost all completely dismissable. What is the value of the internet, really?

Posting pictures of breakfasts at waterfalls I guess.

image 1902 from bradism.com

American Sausage

Today's holiday breakfast was a 1100 calorie sausage holding in some eggs and tomato. There were some slices of toast, a beetroot pattie, and some onion in there too. I did pat that sausage down with some paper towel...

image 1905 from bradism.com

Luckily I followed this up immediately with about 9 kilometres of alpine hiking where I burnt around 1100 calories. Hiking at altitude is great because you get in less oxygen and (some science later) burn off more breakfast.

image 1906 from bradism.com

The air temperature up Mount Hood was around 4°C but the inclines kept me warm. The sky was crisp and the mountain air pure, but every time I exhaled I smelt only sausage. (It tasted great)

Spicy Brown Mustard

image 1907 from bradism.com

This was Spicy Brown Mustard. It added flavour, salt and moisture to dozens of tuna, chicken and turkey sandwiches across Washington and Oregon these past weeks, all while never needing refrigeration on hikes or highways. You deserved better than to be tossed, half full, into a garbage can 50 miles out from Portland. But that's how you went out, because I need that free space in my suitcase for three boxes of cereal and longnecks of IPA.

My Entry About Being Killed By A Bear

Plaster casts of bear prints from near the vending machines at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center.

Plaster casts of bear prints from near the vending machines at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center.

A few months back I was shopping for the upcoming trip to the Pacific Northwest. I stood in the camping store's dressing room, checking the fit of a merino shirt and the realisation suddenly hit me: This was the shirt I would be wearing when I was killed by a bear.

It wasn't the first premonition like this that I'd had. My new hiking boots were also the ones I'd be wearing when I was killed by a bear. My new hiking pants would be the ones I would soil when the bear's claws ended my life. Funnily, the previous marino shirt I had been wearing in the change room was also the shirt I would be wearing when I was killed by a bear. (Seriously, merino shirts are amazing for hiking.)

It may seem a little ironic to worry about bear attacks when I come from Australia and go into the ocean regularly. There shark attacks happen regularly. In Washington State you can count the number of bear attacks in the past fifty years on two hands (assuming you haven't survived a shark attack in Australia).

Why is it our nature to assume the worst? Does it help us prepare for the unlikely? I did learn the rhyming mnemonic for how to react to a bear's aggression. And I whistled occasionally as we walked, letting my boots crunch and thud a little louder than they needed to.
Or, are these kinds of fears a reflection of our ingrained narcissism? Why would a bear want to kill me? How would surviving a bear attack affect my character arc? Would hiking in the Washington wilderness have been less fun if there hadn't been at the edge of my perception the constant threat of bear attack?

When my nineteen days out of the city over, and presuming nothing would go horribly wrong in the Portland Zoo, or the San Francisco international departures terminal, I was a little disappointed to not even have seen a bear. On the plus side I hadn't been gored and eaten, but on the minus, there was no good journal entry in that.

Too busy napping to even try and kill me.

Too busy napping to even try and kill me.

I wasn't killed by a bear, although I did get stung by a wasp when closing a hot tub cover. My instincts had proven to be wildly inaccurate. I'd lived on the edge and enjoyed it; death gives me no hints to its schedule.