Jaye’s Anatomy: Backpacker

If you’ve followed this blog in its short existence (not that I expect you to), you’ve read that I’m from Washington, and the things that top my list of what I miss most about the Evergreen State are the mountains, hiking and backpacking opportunities that we don’t get in Florida or anywhere in the South.

I can’t remember when I fell in love with hiking and backpacking.  I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors, so when I started leading a more active and fit lifestyle, hiking naturally became a favorite activity, and from that came the love for backpacking.  What I love about hiking compared to organized activities is that anyone who wants to can hike, no experience needed, all you have to do is take the first step.  Hiking has given me a deeper appreciation for the simpler things in life that we take for granted: clean air, our environment, nature, being disconnected and unplugged from electronics.

For this episode of Jaye’s Anatomy, I’m sharing how I discovered my inner outdoorsman, how we started backpacking, as well as my favorite hikes and backpacking trips.

If I had to credit the one hike that really piqued my interest and led me to pursue hiking as a hobby, it would have to be Hawaii’s Koko Head.  Truth be told, it’s not much of a hike but a strenuous workout, with a gorgeous view at the end.  It’s not even a mile long (0.7 mile) or 1,048 steps, but it rises 1200 feet in elevation, making for a super steep vertical climb.  The reward is a beautiful, breathtaking view of Hanauma Bay!  Here are a few pics of our hike up Koko Head in 2012.

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1,048 steps rising 1200 feet in elevation in less than 1 mile.

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Koko Head led my husband and I to pursue hiking in Washington.  The first of these were day hikes in our area, one memorable one was Oyster Dome, a very popular hike in Bellingham, WA.  Oyster Dome is a nice 6.5 mile out and back trail with switchbacks and a 1,900 feet ascent that leads to the Bat Caves and gorgeous views of the San Juan Islands.  This is the first hike that really took us high above the treeline and gave us a real sense of the phrase “The world is your oyster!”  This hike is kid and dog friendly too 🙂  Check out these views from the top:

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After Oyster Dome, we started to take on more challenging hikes in our area, more mileage and higher elevation, here are a couple favorites:

Mount Constitution, highest point in the San Juan Islands, WA.
Dean, almost to the top of Mount Pilchuck.
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Mount Pilchuck

Miles of hiking later, Jeremy wanted to do an overnight backpacking trip.  Initially, the thought of being isolated in the woods, far from our vehicle, exposed to the elements and wild animals with just the gear on our backs scared me, what if we freeze to death? or encounter bears?  I agreed to go camping instead, but what does my husband do to warm me up to the idea of backpacking?  He tells me to research the best backpacking gear so we can go shopping!  How can I resist shopping? Many trips to REI and Cabela’s, and hundreds of dollars later, we were fully equipped.  We had everything we needed, all that was left was to pick a place!  For our first backpacking adventure, Jeremy didn’t pick one for lightweights.

Marmot Pass in the Olympic National Forest was 12 miles round trip with 3,000 feet elevation gain for some of the most majestic views in the Pacific Northwest.

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More trips followed after this, and there will be many more to come.  Here are a few pictures of our most recent backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia:

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We meet some interesting people on the trail!  On our last trip, we met a family from Germany,  a guy who has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and will soon hike the Continental Divide Trail, that’s nearly 8,000 miles!!  He even has a trail name!  “Smokes” and his sweet friend Carolina, were fellow veterans who love backpacking as much as we do, Carolina’s Instagram page features some really impressive destinations (that have me drooling)!

So many hikes, so little time!  We can’t wait until we get back out West where hikes are closer and more plentiful.  I’d really love to hike Mt. Rainier, Machu Picchu and anything in Utah someday!  Are you a hiker or backpacker?  What are some of your favorite destinations?  What’s on your bucket list?

August’s Good Reads

I read some good books this month.  I’ve found that I’ve been trying to choose more popular titles so I can see what everyone is talking about.  If people are raving about something, I have to know why!  That brings me to the first book I read…

Me Before You is by British author Jojo Moyes.  The story is about Will and Louisa, Will lost his zest for life after a terrible accident, and Louisa is hired to be his caretaker.  These two couldn’t be more opposite and in the course of their developing friendship, they change each other’s lives.  I will have to warn you that the cover of this book doesn’t do it justice.  This isn’t a love story, it’s not lighthearted or a fun read like the cover suggests.  Me Before You tackles very sensitive subject matter, I won’t spoil it for you but to say that it will definitely pull at your heartstrings and might possibly have you ugly crying by the end!  I liked this book, I like anything that has me reading with accents in my head and saying things like “arse, bugger, bloody hell, cheerio and wanker!”  What I loved most about this book were the lessons: Live boldly, push yourself, don’t settle!  This book was so popular it was made into a movie that cast none other than Emilia Clarke, AKA The Mother of Dragons from one of my favorite television shows, Game of Thrones.

After reading that, I needed something that wasn’t so heavy…

I went for bestselling author Mary Kubica’s “Pretty Baby,”  a follow up to her first successful title “The Good Girl.”  This psychological thriller is about a chance encounter between a woman who helps a young homeless girl with a baby, and the situation spirals out of control.  Because I’ve read thousands of books, I was able to predict the ending.  I liked the complex characters and writing style, the story unraveled too slowly for me, but this was still a very well written story with a tightly knit plot.

This is how I read nowadays:

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I’ve only read school books for the better part of three years, so I’ve gotten efficient at skimming through chapters and scanning main points, I have such a difficult time concentrating.  I wear ear protection and drown out the sound around me! 🙂

The third novel I read was another new author to me, Cara Buckley.  In “The Things That Keep Us Here,” Buckley delves into a post pandemic world, and tells the story of a family’s plight to survive after the Bird Flu slowly wipes out the population.   This book was thought provoking, and it makes me wonder what I would do in those real situations of fear and paranoia.  I’ve read many kinds of apocalypse themed novels and this had potential to be a great read, it wasn’t my favorite but many might find it interesting and it’s certainly is worth reading!

The last, and my favorite for last month is “The Royal We.”

 

If you like the Royal Family, you’ll be delighted with this Wills and Kate fan fiction! This was a light and easy, funny read (and I got to read in a British accent again!). The Royal We is about an American college girl that becomes an exchange student at Oxford, befriends and falls in love with the heir to the British throne.  The supporting characters are much like their real life counterparts, they are well developed and the story isn’t a far stretch from what life would be like, or maybe what life is like for Wills and Kate, or other famous celebrities.  This is like Princess Diaries reimagined, but for adults.  Since I’m a fan of pop culture and a lover of the Royals, I enjoyed this book.  Although, if I may recommend a similar book, I read Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase a couple of years ago and liked that one much better:

I’m taking book recommendations!  What are you reading ?

Top Ten Tuesday: Uniquely Filipino

I’ve been reminiscent of the Philippines lately, missing family and just the Motherland in general.  Call this a Top Ten Things I love about being Filipino or what I miss most about the Philippines.  This is a blog that had to be written!  For this month’s Top Ten Tuesday, I’m writing about things that are “Uniquely Filipino.”

10.  Big Families – It doesn’t matter if you’re an only child, if you’re Filipino, you’re part of a big family.  Your cousins, cousins twice and thrice removed, neighbors and in-laws are just like your immediate family (sometimes you’re all even living under one roof, no joke!).  There’s nothing like the unconditional, limitless, love from those that share your blood and name, but blood and name aren’t the only things that make a family.  In the Philippines, everyone that attends one of your parties is an Auntie or Uncle, lol!  I miss my BIG family.

9.  Public Transportation – In the Philippines, you don’t need to own a vehicle to get around.  Most people get around using public transportation.  The Philippines has the most varied types of transportation available and accessible to everyone, of anywhere I’ve ever been.  I’m not talking about buses or taxis, I mean jeepneys, tricycles, kalesa, and even three wheeler bikes called “pedicabs.”  Check these out:

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The “jeepney” is a colorfully decorated jeep-like vehicle that seats anywhere between 6 to 20 people and since they don’t go very fast, and they typically have fixed routes, people hang on the back of them, it’s all good!

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“Kalesa” or horse drawn carriage in the Philippines.

8.  Street Food – Asian countries have the best street food, and of course I’m biased but I think the Philippines has the best street food there is.  Sweet potato fries, sweet corn, grilled meats of all kinds, beverages like coconut juice and soda in a plastic bag, and there are also plenty of “exotic” or “authentic” varieties to choose from.  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can find street food for any meal!

7.  Fresh Food – “Farm to table” isn’t just a recently coined cool phrase .  In the Philippines, it’s a way of life.  I don’t really remember going to the grocery store for food shopping trips in the Philippines, instead we went to the market (called “Palengke”), everything was fresh from the farm, the sea or freshly picked off the trees.  If I wanted papaya, avocado or mango, I just went to someone’s house.  We had a papaya tree in the front of our house, our neighbor had an avocado tree and I recall there’s always someone I knew that had a garden of peppers or other fresh ingredients.

6.  Terms / Greetings of Respect – In the Philippines, there’s a term of respect for everyone: an older sibling, elders, employers, teachers, and other authority figures.  There is also “mano po” a tradition, or custom used in greeting any of those figures.  Think of it as a bow in Japan, it’s a gesture rooted in respect and adds formality.  “Mano” is a greeting where one takes the back of  an elder’s hand lightly to their forehead, it’s a sign of respect taught to children as young as babies.

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5.  Household Help – It’s not uncommon for average, or even lower income families to have an abundance of household help in the Philippines.  Everyone needs to make a living, and household help was inexpensive.  An average family may have: housekeepers, maids, nannies (yaya), gardeners, or drivers.  They’re technically employees but some people stay with families so long, they become extended family.  I remember in college we had help in the house, even my son Dean experienced having his own nanny. When he first returned to Washington, he would often tell me “I miss Ruby!” (his yaya).

4.  Food Delivery – This is different from street food, vendors actually ride or carry their load around in neighborhoods and call out “tahoooooo” (fresh silken tofu with tapioca beads in a vanilla flavored beverage).  In the Philippines, the food comes to you, kind of like the ice cream man.  Common food vendors that roam the neighborhoods are ice cream, pan de sal, halo halo or balut.  All I have to do is bring out my tall glass or dish, and pay!

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3.  Multi-lingual people – In the Philippines, Filipinos are at the very least, bilingual.  Some know more than two languages because the Philippines has many different regions that have their own dialect.  In most schools and businesses, English is taught and widely used.  Filipino or Tagalog is considered the national language.  I can speak three languages fluently. Well, technically, I can speak English and two Filipino dialects. The coolest thing about being multi-lingual in the Philippines is that it’s totally possible for two Filipinos to be speaking in their own dialect, and others won’t understand them at all!

2.  Filipino Food – Okay, I’m going back to food again.  I can’t help it, it’s such a huge part of our culture, it’s hard to ignore.  I never met anyone who didn’t love a lumpia.  Lumpia is basically a Philippine eggroll and everyone loves them.  The one thing a Filipino will be requested to bring to any pot luck is lumpia and trust me, they’re always gone within minutes so you have to bring a thousand.  There’s vegetable lumpia, lumpiang Shanghai (meat and veggies) and even banana lumpia. Be you a vegetarian, a vegan, paleo lover, there’s a lumpia for everyone.

1.  Filipino Mafia – It really exists.  A Filipino can go anywhere in this world, and they will most likely meet other Filipinos that will adopt them into their fold.  We’re clannish that way.  A Filipino will seek out other Filipinos in their community, or their place of work almost like it’s a gravitational pull.  I learned this on board an aircraft carrier when I served in the Navy.  Filipinos stick together, and it was almost like being part of an exclusive club that helped “hook me up” because someone knew someone who could get my laundry done when laundry was closed, or someone who could get me rice when the galley wasn’t even serving it.  I mean, people in general tend to stick with those they lots in common with, but being Filipino in a foreign country is like a badge of honor.

Washington is home because it’s where the Navy sent us for most of Jeremy’s Navy career.  Ultimately, home is where our little family is, but the Philippines will always have half of my heart and I’m so proud to call it home too!  I wish it were easier to fly to the Philippines and spend time with my family.  For now, I will reminisce about how great it will be to finally go on vacation to the Philippines…one day!!