Tag Archives: outdoors

Can’t Work; Gone Camping

29 May

I’m approaching my foretold destiny as a child of the forest.

By “foretold”, I’m referring to my having told you before. Though, I’ve also told you I’m a well-ripening cat lady so it appears I’ve laid out before you two possible Jackies: forest child hippie commune Jackie and shut-in cat lady Jackie.

I know no other futures.

The thing is, this year has been doing funny things to me. Ever since I committed to a 365 Fitness challenge, (I believe it’s formally dubbed “Project Fat Ass 365“), I’ve been getting out more often. I mean, I kind of have to. I was doing Jillian Michaels for a while there (and still do when I have need to crush a can with my butt cheeks) but working out is a lot better if I keep my options open. Lately, that has meant biking a lot.

A really cool thing happened in Pittsburgh recently- a bike trail that runs the length of here to D.C. called The Great Allegheny Passage was completed. Well, technically it will be complete in two weeks when everyone plans to celebrate it. Anyway, it’s just a few miles from my place, runs along the water, features several pedestrian bridges and even serves as home to a Bald Eagle. I discovered it after volunteering for Bike Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and am having a hard time getting things in life done because I’d rather be riding the trail. Oh yes, that’s right – you heard me: I’m having a hard time being a responsible adult because I’d rather be biking.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. Biking is the perfect activity for a hermit. You move quickly through the space so no one can notice your fat jiggle while you exercise or see your face long enough to recognize you. It’s acceptable to practice biking alone and since everyone you pass gives you a nice smile and a flick of a nod, you kind of feel like you’re being social. Well, you kind of feel like if you do it once in a while, your skin won’t be so pasty and your eyes look so terrified all the time.

Part of the grand allure of The Great Allegheny Passage is that it makes a nice substitute for hiking The Appalachian Trail. I’ve often told myself I should just put my stuff in storage, select a good trail name, and make like a nomad until I understand all the mysteries of life and/or get eaten by a bear. Of course, my parents are terrified that I’m more likely to be bear food than to be enlightened and when I consider the requirements of the situation, such as buying a bunch of hiking gear, leaving my job for about a year, and somehow managing to pay for all my junk in the meantime, well, I go back in my apartment and play Fat Princess some more.


This gem was done by TheGrossUncle, who has a pretty groovy collection of work over at thegrossuncle.com.

This gem was done by TheGrossUncle, who has a pretty groovy collection of work over at thegrossuncle.com.

But this bike trail would just require that I take a vacation, a few hundred dollars, and head into the woods with all the bike equipment I already own. Plus, Dave said today that he’s getting the itch to get rid of a few things and go buy a bike. And since we all know that Dave is the king of the forest, his doing so would mean that I can bike and hike and camp to my heart’s delight and while I’m busy getting all enlightened, he can tend to the bear fighting.

That’s where he’d rather be anyway. I could strip him of everything but his underwear and drop him off in the woods only to come back three days later and discover him the king of some man tribe, complete with forts, trolleys, and a fully-fledged hunter-gatherer society.

When presented with these fantastic possibilities, I find it difficult to focus on daily tasks like work and hobbies taking showers. 

So for now, there are two potential Jackies: forest hippie child and shut-in cat lady. Maybe my life is about being the latter and constantly seeking the former. I have been hexed with the struggle. This is my burden and I share it now with you.

Quickly: to the forest! 


How I Learned about Geocaching and Almost Strangled a Groundhog

13 Sep

I’ve really been putting the suck in sucker these past few Lollipop Tuesdays.  A failed apple pie, a hanging herb garden that now only has 1/5 herbs still alive, and today: a lot of wandering in the woods that amounted to nothing.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ladies and gentlemen.

I’ve been taking adventure anywhere I can find it lately.  Flyers, newspapers – whatever.  So when I was out to dinner meeting some new people on Sunday and someone mentioned their obsession with “geocaching”, I signed myself right up.

I know, right? Double yoo tee eff is geocaching?  Geocaching (pronounced jee-oh-cashing) is, well, let’s just yoink a clip from geocaching.com, shall we?

Right.  So basically there’s an entire underground network of people out in the world putting little knick knacks and doodads in containers and hiding them.  They go online, list the coordinates of their hidden treasure, and when someone finds it they go online and post about finding it.  The idea is that you try to keep it a secret.  Non-geocachers are referred to as “Muggles”, a la Harry Potter and it seems to be a cardinal rule that a muggle not notice a geocacher in the midst of their adventures.

People can share things small and large.  They can include a puzzle that gives a hint when solved.  They can even share a view or perspective with you by leading you to a certain place in the world that they have seen and loved.  It’s actually pretty groovy.

Unless you’re a bumbling idiot like myself.

I’m not good with maps or coordinates or… let’s just put it this way: I’m not naturally inclined in anything Boy Scouts are taught.  Which is why I went to two different geocaching locations last night and wandered around for five hours empty-handed.

When I first started I didn’t have a GPS device.   I just mapped the coordinates on Google Maps, printed the map, and took a stroll because I thought it was all cool and casual like that.  But it’s not.  I just wandered around and around, digging at trees, stirring up brush with my foot – and watching the same groundhog go back and forth from a pond to a tree.

Back and forth.  Over and over.  For two hours.

Having no context for the experience, I had no idea if I was looking for something buried, hanging, or simply camouflaged.  I printed a few posts from geocaching.com that served as proof that the cache had indeed been found, but alas I had no success.   After I’d been sitting in the trees and dirt for a few hours, I asked Dave to drive to me with the GPS so that I could get some serious business done.  But as it turns out, GPS devices take absolutely forever to communicate with something in space when you’re in the woods and by the time my screen updated, I’d already gotten impatient and moved on.

I don’t have the patience for space travel.

By the time I really decided to dig in with determination (cache or die!), it was pitch black and I was armed with naught but a wee flashlight, a car GPS, and a dream.  I failed.  And I failed hard.  By my third hour there in the rubble, I wanted to shake the living daylights out of the groundhog and yell “TELL ME YOUR SECRETS, GROUNDPIG!”

It was time for a change of location.

So I drove to another area of town where there was rumored another cache.  It was a park and it was a wide open area that was much more friendly with the GPS.  And even though I was standing exactly on the spot that the cache was marked for, I couldn’t for the life of me find anything.  Not a single thing.  I printed off a few comments from other successful geocachers on the website and kept repeating them out loud to myself.  “Don’t take the high road or the low road.  Just outside the Game Field.  Don’t take the high road or the low road.  Just outside the game field”.  And just when the crazy started to really set in, I snapped out of it and instead traded insanity for rage.  

I’d been out and about all night long.  Five hours in the dark with a tiny little flashlight and a piece of paper promising me treasure and I found nothing.  I was enraged at my stupidity and suspicious that this was some sort of sick, twisted, elaborate joke.

But I went home and checked the spoilers online.  The caches are indeed there.  

I like to think sunlight would have helped, but let’s be honest: I was hopeless.   Navigation is not my forte.  

It’s evenings such as those that I have to remind myself that Lollipop Tuesdays are all about trying something new that I’m inclined to suck at out of sheer inexperience.  And sometimes that helps but most of the time it just enrages me.  

I want to try again.  I’ll feel vindicated if I find something.  And if I ever get any good at it, it will be a great trick to show friends when I’m out for a leisurely stroll (at a place of my own choosing of course).  And the idea that out there all over the world are little tiny secrets that someone has left for others is incredibly charming.

If I can ever find the damn things. 

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