Meet Mac

Mac, meet the world. World, meet Mac.

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First night home

After a month-long search for the perfect dog, I stumbled upon Mac. He looks shockingly a lot like

Cocoa and Pumba, but has quite a different personality. Here are his stats:

Name: Mac (named after one of my favorite places during my road trip – Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park)

Nicknames: Big Mac, Easy Mac, Smackers, Mackerdoodle, Mac Attack, MacDaddy

Age: Under 1

Mac the Squeaky Dragon Slayer

Mac the Squeaky Dragon Slayer

Weight: 40-ish pounds but he’s still underweight

Breed: Australian shepherd mix

Previous history: Shelter dog? He’s afraid of some men, so probably abused.

Hometown: Somewhere in TX. Yes, there is a Texan living under our roof. I’m training him to be a Yankee though.

Favorite snacks: Hot dogs

Favorite toy: Blue ropey toy

Tricks learned so far: Sit, lay down

Hobbies: Eating hot dogs, squeaking his squeaky dragon and then slaying him, barking at the tv when the Discovery channel is playing, throwing his toys around, playing fetch, catching toys that got tossed to him, sneaking onto couches when nobody’s looking

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Tired Mac under my bed after a run.

Mac has gone on a nice long run/walk with me so far and has explored the neighborhood pretty thoroughly. He also had his first official introduction to DC via the National Mall. I think he’s a fan of Abe. He’s also super smart and playful, which is an interesting change.

Chowin' down

Chowin’ down

Anyways, I just wanted to show off my new partner in crime. Hope y’all had a wonderful T(of)urkey Day

Peace and love,

Wes and Mac

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I’m HOME! Road Trip Photo Recap

“Adventure, yeah. I guess that’s what you call it when everybody comes back alive.” – Mercedes Lackey

This past Friday, November 1, 2013, the unthinkable happened…I made it HOME! In ONE piece, car intact, no limbs missing!!! Bet you didn’t see that comin’, eh?

Here’s a re-cap of the trip, in numbers:

11,000+ miles driven (I never kept accurate count. Oops)

$1,000+ spent on gas

70 days on the road

43 mpg: maximum mpg calculated on my car (average is in the mid-30s)

28 states visite (MD, PA, WV, OH, IN, IL, WI, IA, NE, CO, WY, MT, ID, WA, OR, CA, NV, AZ, UT, NM, TX, LA, MS, AL, GA, TN, NC, VA)

25  friends/family visited

19 miles – longest hike

17 national parks visited: Rocky Mountains, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic, Mt. Rainier, Crater, Redwoods, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Great Smoky Mountains

14 (3 of them relatives) friends/relatives I stayed with

13 major cities visited (Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee, Omaha, Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Tucson, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Austin, New Orleans)

11 days detoured because of the shutdown (before Utah state opened its parks)

10 National Parks camped at

7 members of the W&M Tribe visited

6 RPCVs visited

4 parks missed from the Shutdown: Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Death Valley, Sequoia

1 motel

1 AirBNB

1 Couchsurf

1 timeshare (Thanks, Lori and Denise!)

My last few days of my road trip, I went to New Orleans to meet up/stay with 3 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Cameroon, which was awesome. I stuffed my face with po’ boys and gumbo. Delish. Then I headed back up towards the northeast by passing through Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to head into to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. I camped in sub-zero weather there and made myself a glorious bonfire, next to which I consumed large quantities of mac’n’cheese. After basking in the glorious kaleidoscope of fall colors there and doing a few last hikes in a few days, I headed to WV to visit a good friend that I’ve known since 3rd grade! I ate some pretty delicious peppermint brownies and we lost horribly in trivia night…but that’s okay. :) Good company is always a bonus! Then on Friday, I drove the final leg of this road trip back to Maryland!

While I definitely miss doing awesome hikes, there’s a certain charm about the DC area that’s lured me back. The leaves here are beautiful – and I honestly think that since it’s been 3 years since I’ve experienced fall in the US, it seems even more beautiful and magical than usual. Since returning, I’ve been surprisingly busy applying to jobs, working on more applications, working on some home renovation planning with my parents, and catching up with friends. But I managed to squeeze in a short hike with my dad at Great Falls yesterday! Though the views were beautiful as ever, I have to say that the hike somehow didn’t seem as strenuous as it once did. Yay for being in shape.

And in other exciting news, I’M GETTING A DOG! I’m currently in the process of searching for the perfect dog to adopt :) So hopefully my next post or two will involve photos of me and my new AniPal.

And with that, I leave you with a recap of my trip in photos. These are some of my favorites from the trip. It’ll be a while before I post up the ones from my DSLR camera, so these are the ones off of my iPhone.

August 25, 2013: Aaaaand, I’m off!!

The Rockies, as seen from the top of Mt. Evans

Trail Ridge Road in the Rockies

Drive to Wyoming

Grand Tetons

Sun going down in the Tetons

Yellowstone

Glacier

Lake McDonald at Glacier

Mt. Rainier

Beautiful book with a beautiful message in a beautiful place. Can’t ask for much more.

Life motto

This one might be my favorite from the trip

Home is where the tent is.

Cali Coast from Route 1

This photo makes me laugh every time.

Last part of Half Dome

On the diving board of Half Dome

Nate and all his stash of Cameroonian goodies. He’s basically a market mama

Snow in the Red Canyons

Antelope Canyon

Narrows in Zion

Top of Angels Landing

Scary ledge at Zion

Observation Point in Zion

International hiking friends!

Delicate Arch

Jump photos galore

Navajo Arch

Bottom of the Grand Canyon!

I missed this so much while I was gone!

Fall fantasticness

Great Smoky Mountains magic

Fall beauty

I understand why the call the nearby mountains the Blue Ridge Mountains

The last campfire of my trip. Sure beats the first time I tried to make a fire in the Rockies…and totally failed.

I’m HOME!

Thank you to everyone who was a part of my trip, whether on the road or at home! I am super duper grateful for everyone who opened up their homes and/or made time for me for lunches, dinners, hikes and more. I apologize again for probably arriving as a grungy mess! And to everyone who just thought I was totally crazy for embarking on yet another wild adventure – I appreciated your sentiments as well :)

And I can’t forget to mention that one of the most amazing parts of this trip was meeting all sorts of wonderful and kind people on the trails. I think that we often assume that strangers in America are cold and unfriendly. But I found just the opposite. So to the people that I met along the way and managed to find me on Facebook AND read this blog post, thanks for being awesome and not killing me in the middle of the woods with a large stick, and then running off with my hiking poles and pretty backpack. Y’all are awesome.

Anyways, with that, I think this post means that my trip has officially come to an end. I’ll try and post the photos from my DSLR in the near future, but we’ll see how busy life gets.

Until next time!

 

Peace and love,

Wes

 

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Shutdown or Not, the Trip Goes On!

Whoa. Where’d the past two months go?! Time flies when you’re having fun, I suppose. And luckily, the government couldn’t shut down fun. Well, here’s a brief recap off the highlights of the past 3-ish weeks: – In LA I met up with another RPCV Cameroon, and it was crazy and awesome to see a fellow RPCV Cameroon back in the US, clean, showered, and groomed! Nate even brought some Cameroonian goodies from the local African market as a friendly reminder of the foods that I dThen I went to Tucson to visit my old postmate in village, and it was wonderful to catch up/chow down on deliciousness.

PC Cam Reunion in LA, and look! We have no dirt/mud stains on us!

Postmate reunion in Tucson…and still very Peace Corps Weird.

- I headed to Utah to wait out the shutdown situation. While I was there, I got to: 1) Drive through Zion on the still-open highway (and got yelled at a very unthrilled ranger when I pulled over on the side of the road once), roamed through a few state parks (lovely, but doesn’t quite have the “wow” factor of the National Parks) 2) Visited Best Friends animal sanctuary (check it out, it’s an incredible place) 3) Headed back over the border to Arizona to visit Antelope Canyon, the most photographed slot canyon in the world.

Antelope Canyon was magical

Luckily, I didn’t roam too far, because while I was roaming, the Utah governor announced that he was going to re-open the national parks in Utah using state money. Thank god. At least I’m just on a vacation, but it was actually really sad and frustrating to see towns that completely rely on tourist dollars basically shut down. So as soon as that happened, I hurried my butt back over to Zion. – There, I hiked “The Narrows” which is a “hike” that takes you up a river in a canyon and we ended up hiking/wading/swimming the full 10 miles.

The Narrows

- In Zion, I also decided to do yet another scary hike (the first was Half Dome in Yosemite) called “Angels Landing.” See below to read more about this scariness/craziness. – I met some cool people (as always) in the parks, and ended up being a kind-of, sort-of guide for a Brazilian woman who was also traveling around on her own, and we became hiking/travel buddies for a few days

Hiking amigos at Observation Point

- From Zion, I headed to Bryce National Park (cool place, but gets boring after a few hours), Capitol Reef (don’t go…it’s a snoozer after Zion), and then I ended up at Arches to take some jump photos. On my way out, I stopped at Canyonlands before booking it over to the Grand Canyon

Delicate Arch

- Though I’ve been to the Grand Canyon before, my main goal was to hike the down-and-out trail. And luckily, because of the shutdown, a lot of people had cancelled their vacations that they had planned months in advance, and I was able to get a permit with no problem the day-of. (Read below for details about that hike)

Beginning of a long trek into the Grand Canyon

- From Sedona, I drove through the Petrified Forest National Park. I hate to say that that was a total disappointment. But it was a nice break in my trip to get to Santa Fe (didn’t see much of it because I got there late), and then yesterday I drove about 11 hours to get to Austin to visit friends! Also. Western Arizona all the way to Austin is a total dead zone. Unless you like factory farms, industrial plants, the stench of cow manure, and a long, boring drive with zero views, I don’t recommend it! So that’s the recap of things…here’s the story on Angel’s Landing and the Grand Canyon hike: For Angels Landing, it wasn’t much of a strenuous hike, but the kicker was once you got to the top, you had to walk across and up the ridge of a mountain. “What is a ridge?” you ask? It’s a very narrow section of land that connects to mountains. In this case, on the fin of this mountain, there was a 1,500 ft drop on either side of me when the “trail” was uneven and maybe 3 feet wide at certain points.

Mmhmm. I hiked that! (Also, this isn’t my own photo)

There were some chains at certain points, but then there were also parts where there were NOT chains.As I mentioned in my last blog post, I am TERRIFIED of heights. When I got to the top, right before the scary part, I completely froze up when I realized what I was supposed to do. I had seen photos, but no photos can do this hike justice. I had already spent an extra 2 hours in my tent that morning, sweating it out, trying to get rid of some nerves. I honestly felt so scared that I couldn’t even cry. But no worries, because there were THREE other people at the top that I saw crying in my place! Whoops. I was pretty much ready to back down from it, when this really really kind woman saw how nervous I was, and she decided to ditch her new-husband (just married the day before!) to coach me along the way. I became her personal project! She talked me through each step and made sure I was okay the whole way. After some really really terrifying parts, I made it to the top, took some pictures, and made it back alive! All I know is that this woman’s name is Gabby (sp?) and that she lives in NJ, but I am SUPER grateful for her kindness on that hike! I literally couldn’t stop sweating for a good 2 hours afterwards. Though not nearly as strenuous as Half Dome, it was definitely a stomach-churner. Oh, and on my way back down, I saw a tarantula. Fear of heights AND fear of spiders conquered (kind of) in one day. Score!

Made it!

When I was at the Grand Canyon, I knew I wanted to hike down-and-out. I almost did it all in one day, but within 2 hours of finding out about the vacancy in one of the bunkhouses in the canyon, I was on the trail. It was a beautiful hike in, although it was incredibly steep (about 7.5 miles down) and gave me rather sore calves. I was super happy to be at the bottom, though. Once there, I met two women from Virginia who were also hiking the down-and-out. After a good evening of chatting, we all hiked out together the next day. I was expecting it to be a really grueling hike, but it ended up not being that bad at all, and the good company was a total bonus. We took a longer but less-steep route out, and within a handful of hours, we made it!!! My two new hiking friends, Lori and Denise, ended up inviting me back to the one’s timeshare in Sedona, where we soaked our sore muscles in a glorious hot tub, ate delicious food and I got to sleep in a comfortable bed.

Grand Canyon: Conquered!!!

I feel like I could do a totally separate blog post on this, and I probably will, but I’ve honestly been blown away by the kindness and generosity of complete strangers that I’ve met along the way. I’ve been “adopted” on hikes by a lot of older couples, I’ve swapped stories with fellow travelers, shared campfires with hiking friends, and I now I’ve even been invited into the home of people I had known for less than 24 hours! I think I’ve certainly found the goodness in humanity along this trip, and I’m incredibly grateful for the people I’ve met. Moral of the story? Road trips and people are awesome.

Anywho, I’ve submitted some applications, so I think it’s time to go explore Austin before I head to New Orleans tomorrow!

Peace and love,

Wes

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Half Way. Half Dome.

Half Dome: Conquered.

Since I was in Yosemite 2 years ago with my family, I knew that Half Dome was a hike that I wanted to complete.

For any semi-serious hiker, or anyone who has set foot in Yosemite, Half Dome is an outdoorsman’s/woman’s mecca. It stands at 8,839′ above sea level, and looms nearly 5,000′ above the Yosemite valley floor. It looks exactly as its name describes it – a half dome. Hiking it involves going up some fairly steep trails, climbing many steps, some of it on the side of a very dicey sub-Dome, before doing the infamous “Cables.”

For your average Joe, this hike is “doable,” but will pretty much push you to your limits, both physically and mentally. I guess if you’re a superhuman, this is child’s play. But I’m not superhuman. Shocking. I know.

So to spare you all of the details from the hike, here’s a recap:

I woke up at the buttcrack of dawn (which everybody knows to be 4am, obviously), packed up my campsite, and went to the trailhead. As I was getting all my stuff ready (Headlamp: check. Granola bars: check. Camelbak: check. Water filter: check. First aid kit: Check. Sanity: …..), I heard some guys in the parking lot saying, “I can’t believe you guys talked me into this! I’m too young to die!” So I knew that was the group that I needed to hike with. We followed the light of our headlamps for the first 2 hours, as we hiked along side some steep waterfalls that threatened us as it was only heard, and never seen. As we got closer to the summit, I went ahead of Team Testosterone (the group of 12 men, mostly age 50+), and hiked up some scary ass rocks to make it to “The Dome.”

The Dome is terrifying. You’re already up on top of the sub-Dome at that point, and slipping on the granite rock can mean rolling off into the abyss. Ouch.

When I saw “The Cables” though – two metal ropes running up the length of Half Dome, I nearly peed in my pants. These days, I don’t get nervous too easily. But I literally had to pep talk myself (aloud) into hiking up this slippery granite slab of rock, with the grade of the dome at 60 degrees in certain areas. Sixty degrees doesn’t sound to crazy. But let me tell you. It is.

Pointing at the infamous “Cables” running up the 400 ft length of Half Dome after a grueling hike up.

Luckily, I had befriended a fellow hiker who was celebrating his 50th birthday by hiking Half Dome, and he encouraged me to make my way onto the ropes. By the time I was pulling myself up the cables, my heart was racing, but I somehow managed to pull myself up the cables, using basically every last ounce of energy left in me. And then, I summitted! Within 15 minutes, I was at the top of Half Dome!

I walked around a little bit, scooted (on my butt) to the edge of the “Diving Board” – slabs of granite that hang off over the Dome, nearly causing me to pee in my pants yet again, and had my picture taken.

Sitting on the “Diving Board”

Then I just sat and soaked it in for a bit before descending the cables. This time, I was hiking back down with two hikers that I had met at the top. But having hiking company doesn’t do much when you feel like you’re perpendicular, face-down, going down a rock. Luckily, we made it off of Half Dome, and several hours later, we made it to the bottom.

 

We celebrated completing, and surviving, the hike with a delicious celebratory dinner where about 100,000,000 calories were inhaled in a very short period of time.

Unfortunately, that seem evening, I found out about the stupid government shut down situation, as well. I didn’t think the government would actually shut down. But apparently it was going to. Perfect. So after being given 48 hours to make alternative plans, I shot off some texts to friends out West, and I was able to make my way to LA, and later today I’m headed to Arizona. Not too shabby.

I’m really disappointed that I may not get to see all the places that I had planned for, but catching up with friends is not a bad second. And I’m really grateful for the fact that I got to climb Half Dome on the day before the shut down. As I was leaving the park, they had already barricaded off trailheads and parking lots. Happy 123rd Birthday, Yosemite! We’re shutting you down!!

Anyways, my plans for the next few weeks are a little bit less concrete than I would like them to be. But I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that the government (ie certain people in the House) get their sh*t together.

At least, for the time being, I can say that I survived Half Dome. Not a bad way to celebrate surviving the first half of my road trip :)

Well, until next time, kids.

 

Peace and love,

Wes

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Epic Road Trip: The Things I’ve Seen

Good news! All four limbs are fully attached to my body (ie no grizzly attacks), I haven’t gone crazy from driving, and I’m still loving this road trip. Road trip: Success.

PS these photos might be blurry because they’re from my iPhone…real photos from my camera will come after the trip is over.

View from the top of Mount Evans near Denver. Completely in love with the Rockies.

I’m currently in the Bay Area, and since I last wrote, I went through Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Seattle (with Mt. Rainier National Park), Olympic National Park, Portland (stopped at Mt Saint Helens), Crater National Park, and Redwood National Park. And since my last blog post in Denver, I’ve done the following things:

1) Been reunited with friends and family from all over

2) Learned how to camp alone. And make a fire. Fun fact: wood doesn’t burn that easily. Ask my neighbors who watched me squat over the fire ring for about 45 minutes with a lighter in hand, and no fire to be seen

Very long, but beautiful, stretched of road from Colorado to Wyoming

 

3) Driven many many miles

4) Befriended a lot of elderly folks, who seem to think I’m a high school drop-out, since I’m roaming the Parks post-labor day, and still somehow look like a high schooler. That’s cool. I guess. But moose watching with a bunch of old men was definitely one of my day’s highlights. Seriously.

At an animal-watching activity in the Tetons

5) Saw the Milky Way galaxy and learned how to photograph it

6) Spotted tons of animals, including grizzlies, black bears, marmots, coyotes, wolves, moose, elk, and marmots

Beautiful hot spring in Yellowstone

7) Hike a TON of miles. Including accidentally doing 19 miles in a day. Just to be clear, I don’t really recommend that.

8) Ate a LOT of granola. And instant mashed potatoes. And mac n cheese

Highline Hike in Glacier

9) Went to bed before 8pm. Several times.

10) Walked/ran/danced down a fairly deserted, but very beautiful, beach

Snow in the summer on Rainier!

11) Rocked out to all sorts of awesome and awesomely bad music

12) Ate Mickey D’s more times than I’d like to admit. And also ate really delicious foods while in the cities

Hoh Rainforest in Olympic

13) Drove 4 really epic roads in America: Road to Mt. Evans in Colorado (the highest elevation paved road in the US), Trail Ridge Road in the Rockies, Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, and Route 1 along the Cali coast

Ruby Beach in Olympic

This road trip has been quite magical, thus far. I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to be able to see all of these stunning places, and also to be able to meet up with friends/family who have so kindly and warmly welcomed me into their homes.

Also, this journey has also been perfect to reflect on my Peace Corps experiences, which never quite  got “normal” closure on when I left. But nothing better to feed a hungry soul than a little bit of Desmond Tutu in my life, in the literary form of “No Future Without Forgiveness,” while sitting on a quiet beach, tucked behind some driftwood. 

Beach + Book = Heaven

I feel like I could go on and on about this trip, and then it would turn into another very rambly post. But to answer some questions I’ve been getting quite often, here’s a list of Commonly Asked Questions:

Really cool hike to Tunnel Falls (there’s a tunnel BEHIND the falls!)

1) Don’t you get bored/lonely being alone?

Nope. Because Peace Corps, I’m now very used to having “me-time,” and this is no different. Except I get to have modern luxuries, like my music blasting through my stereo. And food that I bought for myself from a real grocery store or Costco. And on top of that, you meet people along the way. People are SUPER nice in the National Parks, I’ve found. Perhaps the nicest group of random people I’ve ever stumbled upon. I’ve hiked for hours with random people that I encountered along the way, and it’s fascinating to hear their stories. I never go a day feeling lonely.

Route 1 was absolutely gorgeous

 

2) What’s been your favorite place?

Ah. The Impossible Question. I have 3 places on my list so far: 1) The Rockies. I love the mountains, I’ve realized. Combine that with kick-ass hiking, beautiful glacial lakes that sparkle colors you never they could sparkle, and you have heaven. 2) Glacier. Everything about that place is big and in-your-face, and I love that about the park. It’s bold and beautiful, and Montana might be one of my most favorite states. Surprising, right? That state is incredibly underrated!

Love at first sight

 

3) Where going next/when are you coming back? 

A lot of places. But the next stops will be national parks in California. And I’ll be back in the DC area beginning of November. If I don’t stay out here forever :)

Jumbo uprooted redwood

Well, it’s time to go meet up with some friends and explore this city :) A la prochaine!

 

Peace and love,

Wes

 

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Life on the Road

2,000 miles, 6 days later, and I’m still alive! I think that, by itself, is a success.

A friend of mine, Mir, who is also a WM alum and was a PCV joined me on this first leg of the trip to Colorado, where she’ll be moving. So, with our lives packed into my little Corolla, we took off. Before I forget, though, I should mention how very thankful I am for all the people who have allowed us to crash at their houses and apartments! Though I hadn’t seen some people in years, it’s been wonderful catching up and reconnecting. So to everyone who has kindly opened their homes to us, or will be doing so in the future for me – thanks!

But I’m now in the beautiful state of Colorado, and if it weren’t for the fact that I have many more beautiful places to see in the next two months, I don’t think I’d ever leave this place. Seriously. I went on my first run in about 2 weeks this morning. And what better way to start your day than to see a beautiful lake in front of you, set with a backdrop of mountains?

The past few days have pretty much been spent on the road. Here’s a quick recap:

Day 1: Drove to Cincinnati, discovered the charms of a smaller Midwestern city and Graeter’s ice cream

Day 2: Drove to Chicago, went to the aquarium and Millenium Park downtown, and of course took a bazillion photos with the bean sculture thing

Day 3: Picked our jaws up off the floor after seeing the houses in Evanston, then headed to Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Art Museum is absolutely beautiful, in terms of architecture. Seriously go just to see the building itself.

Day 4: Drove across the entire state of Iowa to get to good ol’ Omaha, where I did my first couchsurfing. Success! Also at a S’more ice cream pop. Delicious.

Day 5: Went to the zoo and covered the place in under two hours, before the blazing hot sun came out in full force, then hopped in the car to drive across the entire state of Nebraska and into Colorado. Home sweet home.

Things I’ve learned/loved/discovered so far:

1) The US has a LOT of corn.

2) Miles and miles of cornfields aren’t very exciting to drive through

3) Midwesterns are really friendly. It makes us East coasters look like grumps.

4) My little 2004 Corolla works magic and somehow got 39 mpg on this ride out

5) Meeting up with old friends/family is wonderful

6) I love Colorado already

7) I’m just excited and happy to be able to be doing this road trip right now. It’s weird that it’s actually happening. Crazy.

Well, I think that’s it for now. Maybe next time I’ll have something a little more exciting to report back. Next stop, Boulder!

Peace and love,

Wes

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Road Trip in 2 Days – Want a Postcard?

Two days until I leave for this 2 month road trip! Slowly but surely, I’m getting things packed away, though my room is a total disaster zone at the moment. Anywho, if y’all want a postcard while I’m on the road, just shoot me a text or email!

Part of the Disaster Zone while packing

Part of the Disaster Zone while packing

As much as I wanted to unplug myself as much as possible from the world of electronics and internet galore on this trip, it seems that some job hunt stuff and applications will keep me attached a little more than I had hoped. Not sure how often I’ll update this bad boy, but I’ll try.

Also, this week I got yet another email with someone wanting to donate for the latrine project – so Kim and I are now done fundraising for the latrine! Thank you thank you thank you for your contributions. I will be doing my best to update y’all on it.

On a final (and random) note, I spent the last few days at a Peace Corps Career Conference in DC for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). RPCVs are awesome. Just throwing that out there.

Don’t forget to send me your address if you want to hear from me!

Peace and love,

Wes

 

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Help Fund a Latrine! (It’ll be the time of your life…)

Imagine that you’re sick at the hospital, or, for you ladies, that you are 9 months pregnant and about to deliver. But you have to use the bathroom, and the only “facilities” at the hospital involve walking out into a field and squatting into a pit latrine that has no walls, because they have since collapsed. Oh. And while your pants are down around your ankles, there’s a swarm of small school children across the ways, playing outside of their school. And they’re watching you, of course.

Got your attention?

Not sure who these dude is (thanks, Google Images)…but he knows what’s up.

Just wanted to put up a quick post asking for y’alls help in making one of my last Peace Corps projects a reality. So here it goes (if you want to just skip the details and find out how you can help, scroll down to “HOW YOU CAN HELP” part).

Before I left Cameroon rather unexpectedly, I was in the midst of applying for a grant through Charity: Water (who does some pretty great work, btw). The plan was to have a latrine/bathing room out in the village of Ndionzou where Rameline works as the head nurse of a health center.

I had already had a planning committee meeting where we mapped out the costs, with the help of Rameline, and everything was pretty much good to go, except we were waiting on the funds. They would contribute all of the manual labor and a little bit of material supplies, and the funds would cover things like cement for the bricks (which will last far longer than the typical mud bricks), the metal roof, etc. Rameline had planned a way to make sure that the bathroom would be well-kept and clean, as well. Nobody likes a nasty latrine.

Since I’m no longer there, obviously, I had to cancel my proposal. Before I left though, I made sure that the message would get relayed that I’d still find a way to fund this project. Sooooo….

The cost that we had mapped out was $500USD, which was also the cap of this special small grants program for Peace Corps through Charity: Water. Kim, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who was in Bazou right before me, has also agreed to help out with this. So we’re trying to raise $250 a person. Not too shabby. However, there were still a few things that the latrine committee wanted to add, but couldn’t based on the budget. These things included paint for the inside walls, a slightly nicer door so that a slight breeze wouldn’t break a flimsier one, etc. I would say that fundraising a total of $600 would be ideal.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

As of today, I just wired $500 to Rameline to front the costs, since they have been wanting to build this since forever ago. So this is a bit of backwards fundraising.

If you would like to pitch in to the cost of this lovely “Friends of US Peace Corps” latrine in Ndionzou, just shoot me an email/text/reply to this post the amount you would like to give before sending a check made out to me. Please let me know before sending a check though, in case I’ve already reached the goal. I don’t want to have all sorts of extra-money-that-isn’t-mine lying around.

Also, because I am clearly not a 501(c)(3) charity, your donations would not be tax deductable – sorry! I also don’t know how else to make things more transparent so that I can show I’m really not just pilfering money coming to me. But if you want me to send you the Western Union receipt for the $500 that’s already been sent, I’d be more than happy to do that.

Even if $10 is all you have to give, that would mean a lot to me (and, more importantly, the people getting this thing built). Sorry this isn’t super professional…but it’s the best way I could come up with.

Anywho, thanks a bunch in advance for all your help :) Hopefully we can make this baby happen!

Peace and love,

Wes

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20 Days and Counting…Road Trip Revision!

Assuming that all goes well, in 20 days, I’ll be hitting the road for a 2+ month-long epic, cross-country road trip!

I’ve made some tweaks to the itinerary as I’ve done so more research on where to go/what to do. I’ve shortened stays in some cities and cut out the entire Florida route. It took up too much time to drive all the way down and up. Maybe next time… Instead, I’m planning to hit up the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and head home that way.

Things still aren’t set in stone, though. In my travel itinerary below, in italicsI wrote the hikes/things I plan to do in different areas. Have any other suggestions? Must-sees or must-dos along the way? Things I should skip? 

I still need some places along the way to stay. I plan on doing CouchSurfing for the first time, but having contacts would be even better. Know of a friend of a friend of a friend who happens to live in one of the places where I’ll be visiting? Let me know! I’ve got most of the cities covered (yay!), but contacts in the more remote areas/near national parks would be super helpful.

I’m planning to do lots of day hikes, but no solo-backpacking that requires setting up camp. Also, I’m trying to stick with more well-visited areas. So don’t suggest a route that goes into Bumblef*ck, Nowhere, please. 

 

AUGUST

Mt. Evans. What’s not to love about this?

25: Epic Road Trip: Commence! Drive to Cincinnati

26: Drive to Chicago

27: Drive to Milwaukee

28: Drive to Omaha

29: Drive to Denver

30 Denver, hike around Mt. Evans

31: Drive to Boulder, Whitewater rafting

 

SEPTEMBER

Bison Friends in Yellowstone

1: Boulder, Flat irons

2: Drive to Rocky Mountain National Park: Chautauqua

3-4: Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge, Loch Vale, National Park Gateway

5: Drive to Grand Tetons National Park

6: Drive to Yellowstone National Park

Love at First Sight in Glacier National Park

7-8: Yellowstone National Park, Mount Washburn, Grand Canyon, Hayden Valley, Lamar Valley

9: Drive to Glacier National Park

10-13: Glacier National Park, Iceberg Lake Trail, Highland Loop Hike, Going-to-the Sun Road, Scenic Point

14: Drive to Seattle

15: Seattle, Mt. Rainier

16: Drive to Olympic National Park

17-18: Olympic National Park, Hoh Rainforest, Hurrican Ridge, Ruby Beach, kayak

19: Drive to Portland

20-21: Portland, Mt. Hood

22: Drive to Crater Lake National Park

Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park

23: Drive to Medocino via Redwood National Park

24: Drive to San Francisco

25: Drive to Lake Tahoe

26; Lake Tahoe, Mount Talles,Five Lakes

27: Drive to Yosemite National Park,

28-1: Yosemite National Park, Clouds Rest, Glen Aulin, Tenaya Lake,Half Dome

Cables Going Up Half Dome in Yosemite

I’ll be hiking up this bad boy. Although hopefully with no snow. Snow = No hike.

 

OCTOBER

Hidden Canyon in Zion National Park

2: Drive to Death Valley

3: Drive to Zion National Park

4-10: Zion National Park, The Subway (bottom up), Hidden Canyon, The Narrows, Observation Point, Emerald Pools Trail, Angels Landing

11: Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park

12: Bryce Canyon National Park:, Navajo loop, Queen’s Garden Trail

13: Drive to Arches National Park

Antelope Canyon

14: Arches National Park

15: Drive to Grand Canyon National Park via Antelope Canyon

Havasu Falls right outside the Grand Canyon

16-19: Grand Canyon, Hike to the bottom!, Grand Canyon Rim Trail, Havasupai Falls

20: Drive to Albuquerque via Petrified Forest National Park

21: Drive to Austin

22-23: Austin, Hamilton’s Pool

24: Drive to New Orleans

25-26: New Orleans

27: Drive to Great Smoky Mountain National Park

28-30: Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Mount LeConte, Mt. Cammerer

31: Drive to Buckhannon, WV

Hamilton Pool, right outside of Austin

 

November 1: HOME!

 

A lot of people have asked me what I’m looking forward to seeing/doing the most. I’m really excited to re-visit the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. When I was at each of those places, it felt like I didn’t have nearly enough time. I have a sneaking suspicion that the same thing will happen again. But last time I was in Yellowstone was the summer before 2nd grade. It’ll be interesting to see what I do/don’t remember and finding new things to love about the park.

Aside from things I’ve seen already though, I’m really excited to do some good hikes, especially Half Dome in Yosemite and the hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (last time I was there, we just did a part of the descent). I’m spending a good chunk of time in Zion, because I hear it’s magical, and I’m really excited to see Antelope Canyon (thanks, Katie, for the suggestion!).

Friends and fam, if you will be in the areas where I’ll be traveling and/or want to tag along for a part of the trip, let me know! Company is always welcome.

For now, I’m slowly getting things ready. I’ve been ordering all sorts of craziness online, from a first aid kit to bear mace.

 

Okay, that’s all for now!

Peace and love,

Wes

 

 

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Road Trip Details – And I Need Your Help!

It’s road trip planning time!

In less than a month (ie on August 25), I’ll be starting on my cross-country adventures. And I need your help! I’m trying to make this as budget-friendly as possible (ie I’m not afraid of sleeping on couches/floors), so if you or someone else that you know would be willing to host me, or if you have any travel tips of where to go/things to see, please let me know.

Seriously. Text me. E-mail me. Brain wave me.

My priorities on this trip will be:

Beautiful place, here I come!1) See National Parks. I’ve got a very long life-bucket list, and I figured that since I plan on going back to school soon, it’ll be a while before I’ll be able to do this

2) Train for the marathon. I signed up for one in November, so this will be the perfect chance to train for it (hopefully)

What I tell myself I look like when I run…

3) Add pictures to my life scrapbook. I don’t have a physical scrapbook for life, obviously (unless Facebook counts?), but I just got a new camera and am excited to capture the beauty of the good ol’ US of A.

4) Hike, bike, canoe, and do anything else that involves Mother Nature. I’ve missed the US far too much while I was gone. Especially Mama Nature. So this will be a good chance to get to know her again.

5) Catch-up with and make friends. The planning of this trip involved first finding where I wanted to go, then figuring out who might be on my path. So, I’m hoping that I’ll be crossing paths with some long-lost friends, while meeting some newbies along the way

Here’s my plan, for the moment. It’ll probably change a few times between now and the real thing. But that’s life. If there are asterisks next to the destination, it means that I most likely don’t have a place to stay. Please let me know if you have any leads! Also, I’m sending out emails today/tomorrow about places to stay. So look out for an email if you said that you might be able to host me :)

August 25: Drive to Ohio

August 26: Drive to Chicago

August 27: Drive to Milwaukee

*August 28: Drive to Omaha

*August 29: Drive to Denver

*August 30 – September 4: Denver

*September 5: Drive to Yellowstone

*September 6-10: Yellowstone

*September 11: Drive to Glacier National Park

*September 12-14: Glacier National Park

September 15: Drive to Seattle

September 16: Seattle

*September 17: Drive to Olympic National Park

*September 18-20: Olympic National Park

Septemer 21: Drive to Portland

September 22-23: Portland

*September 24: Drive to Crater Lake

September 25: Drive to San Francisco

September 26-27: San Francisco

*September 28: Drive to Lake Tahoe

*September 29: Lake Tahoe

*September 30: Drive to Yosemite

*October 1-4: Yosemite

*October 5: Drive to Death Valley

*October 6: Drive to Zion National Park

*October 7-9: Zion National Park

*October 10: Drive to Bryce National Park

*October 11: Bryce National Park

*October 12: Drive to Arches National Park (worth it??)

*October 13: Drive to Grand Canyon National Park

*October 14-16: Grand Canyon National Park

*October 17: Drive to Albequerque

October 18: Drive to Austin

October 19: Austin

October 20: Drive to New Orleans

October 21-22: New Orleans

October 23: Drive to Tampa

October 24: Tampa

*October 25: Drive to Everglades

*October 26-27: Everglades

*October 28: Drive to Savannah (or maybe NC?)

October 29: Drive to Williamsburg

October 30: Williamsburg

October 31: DC!

I’m also giving myself a week of buffer at the end, just in case.

Also, I’m looking for thingymabobs to take with me on the trip, some of which I would really rather not buy if I didn’t have to, since I’d probably never use it again. If you have any of the following that you want to lend me for the two month period, please let me know! I’d be happy to throw in some cash for borrowing it, too. This list will probably grow as I start nailing down more details, but here’s the gist:

1) Hiking poles (midget sized for me)

2) A small, portable one-person tent

3) Small hiking pack (for a 2 day hike)

4) Bear mace/bell thinger for hiking through bear country

5) Pocket knife

6) Road emergency kit (I’m hoping I will never have to make use of these items…and I would pay you back if I ended up using any of the items, god-forbid)

Okay, I think that’s all for now. I’ll try to update this as I get more information.

Thanks in advance for your help, y’all!

 

Peace and love,
Wes

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July 29, 2013 · 2:14 am