I Love Edinburgh!

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Scotland, Underfoot

Now this is my kind of city! Edinburgh is built on the remains of an extinct volcano. The main outlet of the volcano, known as Arthur’s Seat, towers above Old Town, while Edinburgh Castle sits on a second vent of indomitable black rock. Most of this city is carved out of dark, mafic dolerite. I love cities where the Earth is apparent underfoot, unconcealed by an overdose of concrete.

Arthur's Seat from Edinburgh Castle

Arthur’s Seat from Edinburgh Castle.

My sister, brother in law and parents at Edinburgh Castle

My sister, brother in law and parents at Edinburgh Castle

Castle View

Castle View. We climbed Arthur’s Seat the next morning.

View from our hostel in Old Town

View from our hostel in Old Town

One of many whisky shops

One of many whisky shops in Old Town

The Scot Monument

The Scot Monument. Long-time readers will know that I always seek out high points in every city I visit. Edinburgh didn’t have any open cathedral spires, but the Scot Monument provided a lovely bird’s eye view of the city.

Charles Dickens hated the Scot Monument, describing it as a broken-off steeple stuck in the ground. It's weird, but it affords a spectacular view of the city!

Charles Dickens hated the Scot Monument, describing it as a broken-off steeple stuck in the ground. It’s dark and weird, but the view is spectacular!

Climbing the tower

Climbing the tower. Slightly claustrophobic. I was really glad I didn’t meet anybody on these stairs going up or coming down. In fact, I had the place all to myself!

View from the top!

View from the top! Waverley Train Station, named for a Scot novel, is below.

Arthur's Seat & Old Town

Arthur’s Seat & Old Town

Salisbury Crags, Arthur's Seat & Old Town Edimburgh (click to enlarge)

Salisbury Crags, Arthur’s Seat & Old Town Edinburgh (click to enlarge)

Edinburgh Castle Pano (click to enlarge)

Edinburgh Castle Pano (click to enlarge)

Edinburgh Castle & the National Gallery

Edinburgh Castle & the National Gallery

New Town Edinburgh

New Town Edinburgh

Old Town Meets New Town

Old Town Meets New Town

Stay tuned for another view of the city from the Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat!

Posted in Beyond the USA, Photography, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 9 Comments

Bridge Day 2013: Extreme Sports & Extreme Eating

A BASE jumper carefully refolds his parachute for another jump.

This weekend a year ago, I finally made it to Bridge Day, the one day BASE jumping festival at the New River Gorge bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

My dad grew up in Fayetteville and I’ve been hiking and climbing at the gorge on many occasions. I always seemed to be elsewhere in October, so this was my first Bridge Day. The experience was much like skydiving was for me: once was probably enough.

One jumper back flipping (in yellow), another on deck. The best view of Bridge Day was far off the bridge. (Click to enlarge.)

I’m not an extreme athlete but I’ve been to a few extreme sports festivals, the Ouray Ice Climbing Festival in Ouray, Colorado and the New River Rendezvous, also in Fayetteville, to name a couple. My favorite thing about climbing festivals is meeting the athletes, talking to them about their passions, and getting travel tips for the best places to watch the pros.

BASE jumpers parachute to the bank of the New River. In more than 1,000 jumps, only 103 people landed in the water, where they were quickly picked up by rescue teams in boats.

I think this is what I missed most about Bridge Day: talking to the jumpers. The way the bridge was set up, it was very hard to get close enough to the participants to actually talk to them. I wanted to ask where they were from, how many prior base jumps they had done, how many times they were hoping to jump that day, where their dream jump destination might be. Unfortunately, as soon as I fought my way through the crowd to where the the jumpers were lined up, I was told by a very imposing police officer to move along. Lesson learned: next time, get a press pass.

I did manage to get a couple of shots of jumpers repacking their parachutes. I love these! Such a delicate procedure and it really shows in their careful hands.

If there is a next time, that is. Watching the jumpers leap, flip and dive off the New River Gorge Bridge was a thrill; my feet tingled every time I saw somebody take the plunge. But glimpses of the daredevils were few and far between. By far, the vast majority of my time at Bridge Day was spent fighting through the crowd of 100,000 people, many of whom seemed less interested in the jumpers than the gauntlet of food trucks lining the bridge.

This was the other extreme of Bridge Day: Extreme eating! Deep fried twinkies, oreos and candybars, whole turkey legs, a stacked sandwich called the 350: chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, and fries, all on a bun. Something tells me BASE jumpers don’t eat many of those kinds of meals…

BASE jumper & rappellers. How many rappellers can you count dangling under the bridge? (Click to enlarge.)

A few stats from last year’s Bridge Day, courtesy of the Official Bridge Day blog:

450 jumpers from 41 states and 10 countries made 1,036 jumps in 6 hours. 0 parachute failures and only a handful of relatively minor injuries (I saw one guy land in the trees, ouch!).

• 17% of those jumping at Bridge Day 2012 were making their very first BASE jump! To qualify to jump at Bridge Day you need a minimum of 100 jumps from an airplane.

• 131 jumpers landed in the cold waters of the New River instead of on shore. All were quickly rescued by EMT’s in speed boats.

• 10% of the 450 jumpers were women and only 3 were from wild, wonderful West Virginia.

Would I ever BASE jump? No way in hell. I went skydiving once and absolutely hated the free fall part of the jump. Once the parachute came out, I loved the sensation of floating, but the fall itself was horrifying. Never again. Next time I get the urge to fly, I’ll try paragliding or hanggliding.

Jumping from 13,500 feet. Commence free fall freakout in 3…2…1. Photo by Skydive Orange.

Check out my 2008 skydiving video here. For more on Bridge Day 2013 click here.

Posted in Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

A Day In Dublin

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Self Portrait at Oscar Wilde’s House in Dublin

How James Joyce crafted a masterpiece around a single day in Dublin, I don’t know. This place seems hardly big enough to host a Ulyssean epic.

No.7 Eccles St., Dublin

No.7 Eccles St., Dublin

Out at first light, wandering shining streets polished by a night of rain, the whole day ahead of me, the city under my feet, I’m in love at first light with this city that rarely sleeps; though I’m not sure if quiet mornings are more or less authentic than late night raving revelry.

Rainy Night, Temple Bar, Dublin

Rainy Night, Temple Bar, Dublin

Where am I? Where am I going? Does it matter? I crisscross the city, checking off a few attractions: Trinity College, the Book of Kells, the James Joyce Museum, Dublin Castle, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. In the National Library of Ireland, I sit in the main reading room, for the sake of sitting and type for the sake of typing, under the great aquamarine dome where Joyce once sat and wrote of literary theory, bald librarians and green dome lamps. I flip the switch on mine and delight in its scholarly shine.

Dublin Public Library

Dublin Public Library

What else shall I see in this city? How can I have a day worth writing an epic about? Where should I go? Whom shall I meet? Does it matter? Might as well just go where I want to go. Leaving the library, I put away the map and follow the streets that look likely.

Dublin Castle Courtyard

Dublin Castle Courtyard

As I wander, I try to keep track of my route: north, south, east, west. I can navigate in mountains, woods and desert, but mazes of city street always confuse my cardinality. I superimpose the city grid onto a green, grassy field and imagine myself wandering the blocks, back and forth, around and around, visualizing how the city uses space. On my mind’s open ground, my circular city street pacing looks insane.

The James Joyce Center

The James Joyce Center

My feet, pounding the pavement, beg for the bare ground. Give us Earth, they say! Give us rocks and roots and mountains! This business of sidewalks, of taking the same even, swinging step over and over, with barely a curb to break my stride, is wearying. My body is trained for the uneven trail; the evil ache of plantar fasciitis creeps into my arches. I’m not a city person and neither are my feet. Concrete is my kryptonite.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

More stubborn than footsore, I walk and walk, watching and listening and smelling everything swirling around me: people, traffic, perfume, cigarettes, my country senses on overload. I plug my ears with headphones and pipe in my favorite music: young Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home. Deaf to the swirl and pleasantly disconnected, I float on and on, around and around Dublin, walking all day long. In search of what? I don’t know.

Dubliners

Dubliners

Someday, I will find a place worthy of my own one-day Ulyssean epic. Yes I said yes I will Yes. But not today.

On to Scotland! :D

Posted in Beyond the USA, Photography, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

EARTH Magazine: New Subduction Zone May Close Atlantic Ocean

Geology term on a roadside sign at Murlough Bay, Ireland.

Ireland has plenty of road signs I don’t understand at all, but this one I get! Gotta love seeing geology terms on the open road!

As many of you know, I don’t just write for fun. This is also how I make my living! If you’re curious about my science writing, my latest story for EARTH magazine just went live. Seeing as I’m currently across in the pond, exploring Ireland and Scotland, this story about the eventual closing of the Atlantic Ocean seems fitting:

Throughout the history of the Earth, supercontinents and ocean basins have opened and closed over timescales of 300 million to 500 million years. “But we don’t actually see evidence of the in-between phase — a previously opening ocean basin beginning to close — happening anywhere on Earth,” says Robert Stern, a geoscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas. Now, thanks to new high-resolution surveys of the seafloor, scientists think they have evidence of that process starting in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Portugal.

To read the rest, visit EARTH’s website and check back here for more from Ireland and Scotland!

Posted in Beyond the USA, Science Writing, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Ireland’s Northernmost Point: Treasure At Malin Head

Malin Head Agates

Malin Head Treasure

When I travel, I don’t buy a lot of souvenirs. Every now and then I’ll find something unique and delightful, but I’m not one to shell out for junk and knickknacks. Still, when I travel to exotic places like Ireland, I like to bring something back for my friends and family. Hiking out to Malin Head, Ireland’s northernmost point, way out on the Inishowen Peninsula, I found enough treasures to fill all my pockets. When I get home, everybody I know will get a little piece of Ireland!

The tip of the Inishowen Peninsula. I sat here for an hour, watching two seals that were watching me.

The tip of the Inishowen Peninsula. I sat here for an hour, watching two seals that kept popping up in the water just beyond the rocks, watching me. So curious! Aquatic dogs, I think.

My ride overlooking the Inishowen Peninsula

My ride, overlooking the Inishowen Peninsula. That’s Magilligan Point jutting out into Lough Foyle down below.

The start and finish of the Inishowen 100: a 100-kilometer loop around the Peninsula. It's not really meant to be a race, seeing as the road is one lane, two ways and really twisty.

The start and finish of the Inishowen 100: a 100-kilometer driving/ biking loop around the Peninsula. It’s not really meant to be a race, seeing as the road is one lane, runs two ways and is really twisty and tremendously scenic. Definitely worth a savory drive!

The "R" in a massive EIR painted on Malin Head to warm pilots they were over neutral territory in WWII.

The “R” in a massive EIR painted on Malin Head to warn pilots they were over neutral territory in WWII. Ballyhillin Beach, where I found all the rocks, is in the background.

One of many white stone glyphs spelled out on the ground around the EIR.

One of many white stone glyphs spelled out on the ground around the EIR.

Beach Sheep

Beach Sheep

Ballyhillin Beach!

Ballyhillin Beach! I had the place all to myself.

Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach

Green Agate! I might have to keep this one.

Green Agate! I might have to keep this one.

By the time I walked all the way across the beach, all my pockets were full of rocks!

By the time I walked all the way across the beach, all my pockets were full of rocks!

My week in Ireland has flown by! On to Dublin and then Scotland!

Posted in Beyond the USA, Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Birds of a Feather, On Boats

Old boat on Rathlin Island

Old boat on Rathlin Island

I like boats. Whenever I’m near the water, I make it a goal to get on one. Traveling on a budget, often one of the most accessible and affordable ways to get out on the water is by ferry. Last week, when I was in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, I paid 12 pounds for a ferry ride out and back to Rathlin Island, just to feel the salty wind and sea spray on my face.

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This boat isn’t going anywhere anytime soon..

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Another Rathlin Relic

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Rathlin Graveyard

Rathlin Island is Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island. The L-shaped chunk of rock is 4 miles long and 2.5 miles wide and inhabited by many more sea birds than people.

Rathlin is most famous for being the refuge of Robert the Bruce in 1306, between battles with the English. As the legend goes, he was hiding out in a sea cave beneath what is now the East Lighthouse, watching a spider steadfastly weave its web when he found the strength and inspiration to have another go at fighting for Scottish independence.

Rathlin Island Seafoods, as fresh at it gets!

Rathlin Island Seafoods, as fresh at it gets!

On Rathlin, I walked out to the East Lighthouse and back. I asked a local if there was a way to get down to Robert’s cave and he said, “No, it was a good hideout and it still is! You need a boat to find it.”

On the ferry back to the mainland, a man in a sweet Stetson came up to me and asked if I was Australian. I said, no American and he said, “What’s an American doing wearing an Australian hat!?” The man knew his hats! I explained that I was wearing a Snowy River Akubra, the hat worn by my childhood hero Jim Craig in the movie, The Man From Snowy River, one of my all-time favorite horse flicks. I asked him, “What’s an Irishman doing wearing a Stetson?” and he explained that he had a vast collection and this just happened to be the hat of the day. It’s always nice to meet a fellow hat person.

Me & my Akubra on the ferry to Rathlin Island

Me & my featherless Akubra on the ferry to Rathlin Island

As we neared the harbor at Ballycastle, I lamented losing my latest hat feathers: two bright blue blue jay feathers I had picked up on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia before leaving for Ireland, to replace my Grandfather’s hand-tied feathered fly that I left at home, lest TSA have a problem with fishhooks. The blue jay feathers had blown away on my windy walk out to Torr Head, a couple of days prior. With that he plucked the fancy red feather from his Stetson and stuck it in my brim. “This hat came with six feathers in all different colors,” he told me. “You take this one, for luck on your trip.”

Fair Head from the ferry. I hiked out to that point in a storm a couple of days ago.

Fair Head from the ferry. I hiked out to that point in a storm a couple of days ago.

More boast! The harbor at Cushendall

Colorful Boats, Grey Skies

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The Lineup

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Fishing Boats, Booms & Bust

I’ve come this far north, might as well go all the way! Stay tuned for a post from the northernmost point of Northern Ireland!

Posted in Beyond the USA, Hiking!, Photography, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Best Hikes on Earth: The Causeway Coast Trail

Blackberry Breakfast on the Causeway Coast Trail

Blackberry Breakfast on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast Trail

After visiting the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge by car, I ditched my wheels and connected the two sites on foot with a 13-mile trek along the Causeway Coast Trail. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. Ireland gifted me with a warm, breezy, bluebird sunny day!

The Causeway Coast Trail runs through farmland, fishing harbors, seaside villages, across the stunning white sand expanse of Whitepark Bay (check tidecharts for this section- only accessible at low tide), to Ireland’s smallest chapel, past castle ruins and along cliff tops to the Giants Causeway and on to Bushmills, home of the world’s oldest distillery. I’ve hiked a lot of miles on a lot of trails in my life, and this trek definitely deserves to be called one of the best hikes on Earth!

The Trail started at the Carrick-a_Rede Rope Bridge and ran between farm fields for the first mile, before passing this old white church and turning towards the coast.

The trail started at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and ran between farm fields for the first mile, before passing this old white church and turning towards the coast.

Free Range Goose & Ducks eggs along the Coast Trail

Free range goose & ducks eggs at a farm along the Coast Trail

Motorcycle Teardrops!

Motorcycle Teardrops! Camped at Ballantoy Harbor

Sea Arch at Ballantoy

Sea Arch at Ballantoy Harbor

LIvestock Warning on the fence to Whitepark Bay

Livestock Warning on the fence to Whitepark Bay. I met a lot of cows and sheep on my hike, but they were all friendly and non-threatening (as if sheep could ever be scary…)

Whitepark Bay

Whitepark Bay. Beautiful sugar-sand beach.

Fin & Algae in Whitepark Bay

Fin & Algae in Whitepark Bay

Coastal village of Portbraden

Coastal village of Portbraden

Ireland's smallest church, in Portbraden

Ireland’s smallest church, in Portbraden

Inside St. Gobban's Church, Portbraden

Inside St. Gobban’s Church, Portbraden

Path Closed?! I was all ready to turn around when I met an 87 year old man who assured me he hikes this section everyday. He said, "If I can do it, anybody can do it!"

Path Closed?! I was all ready to detour when I met an 80 year old local man on the trail who assured me he hikes this section all the time. He said, “If I can do it, anybody can do it!”

This is the "landslide". I might not have even noticed it. No big deal. Hike on!

This is the “landslide”. I might not have even noticed it. There’s a narrow, but stable path across. No big deal. Hike on!

Treasure! Some kind of little carnivore. See the pointy teeth? Maybe a fox?

Treasure! Some kind of little carnivore. See the pointy teeth? Maybe a fox?

Trail markers along the way

Trail markers along the way

One of many styles you have to cross between pastures on the trail.

One of many styles between pastures on the trail. I saw more cattle and sheep on this hike than people!

The Coast Trail

Most of the trail ran between a fence and the cliffs.

View back east. I started in the distance, past the barely visible crescent of beach of Whitepark Bay. Not bad for a morning's walk!

View back east. I started in the distance, past the barely visible crescent of beach of Whitepark Bay. Not bad for a morning’s walk! And I was only halfway done…

Wool on Fence

Wool on Fence

Wool in hand. Lots of sheep in Ireland!

Raw Wool. Have I mentioned there are a lot of sheep in Ireland?

Remains of Dunseverick Castle

Remains of Dunseverick Castle, destroyed in 1642

Old Wall near Halfmoon Bay

Old Wall near Half Moon Bay

Columnar Basalt nearing the Giants Causeway

Columnar Basalt cliffs, nearing the Giants Causeway

The Giants Causeway down below, crawling with ants!

The Giants Causeway down below, crawling with ants!

Stay tuned for more from the Emerald Isle and then I’m on to Scotland! For more info on hiking all 33 miles of the Causeway Coast Trail, click here.

Posted in Beyond the USA, Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Awesome Geology at Finn MacCool’s Causeway

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Giants Causeway Self Portrait

Millions of years ago, back when giants ruled the Earth, a massive Irishman named Finn MacCool was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Now, as everybody knows, giants can’t swim, so MacCool, an expert mason, built a stone walkway across the North Channel to the coast of Scotland so the two behemoths could meet.

Gunning for a fight, Benandonner stormed across the sea on the walkway and pounded on MacCool’s door. Peering through the keyhole at his oversized opponent, MacCool lost his nerve. His wife, Una, told him to put on her bonnet and get in bed, then she answered the door, telling Benandonner her husband was out and she was home alone with their baby. When Benandonner saw the size of MacCool’s “baby” he said, “If that’s the baby, how big is the giant?!” and ran all the way back to Scotland in fright, tearing up the walkway as he went.

The remains of Finn MacCool's walkway

The remains of Finn MacCool’s walkway

That’s one version of how the Giants Causeway came to be. Another version: around 60 million years ago, a spate of violent volcanism pushed molten basalt up through the soft chalk beds of Northern Ireland, erupting a massive lava plateau along what is now the Antrim Coast. In some places, the lava cooled so rapidly that it contracted along natural joints in the solidifying rock. Over time, erosion sculpted out three causeways, paved with more than 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns known as the Little, Middle and Grand Causeways. Many more columns can be seen overhead along the cliffs along the coast.

That’s maybe a more scientific explanation, but Scottish geology does corroborate the Finn MacCool legend: a similar causeway of hexagonal columns from the same lava flow is found all the way across the Irish Sea, on the Isle of Staffa!

The Little, Middle and Grand Causeways (left to right), photographed from above.

The Little, Middle and Grand Causeways (left to right), photographed from above.

I came to Northern Ireland for a week mainly to visit the Giants Causeway. I’ve sought out columnar basalt in a few other places, most notably at Cabezon Peak in New Mexico, the Devils Postpile in the Sierra Mountains of California and the Devils Tower in Wyoming.

As Ireland’s only World Heritage Site and a major tourist draw, the Causeway can get crowded, so I spent the night at the Whitepark Bay Hostel just up the road, arrived at the Causeway at dawn and had the place all to myself for over an hour. I’m always amazed by how few morning people there are in the world! As with many much-anticipated attractions, the Causeway wasn’t nearly as big as I expected – Cabezon, the Postpile and the Tower are all more formidable – but the setting along the coast was spectacular and I walked over the columns all the way down to where Ireland meets the sea.

Early morning at the Causeway

Early morning at the Causeway

Geometric Tide Pool Self Portrait

Geometric Tide Pool Self Portrait

Pentagonal Tide Pool

Pentagonal Tide Pool

Calm seas today. I would love to see this place in a storm!

Calm seas. I would love to see this place in a storm!

The Giants Causeway juts out from under Ireland’s towering northern coast (just east of Bushmills, home of the famous Irish Whiskey distillery), and the morning light on the dark, north-facing rocks wasn’t quite right for photographs. So after reveling in my quiet morning at the Causeway, I left to explore more of the coast, planning to come back in the evening for another round of photos.

After hiking a loop up the Shepard’s Steps to see the Causeway from above, I headed to another nearby attraction: the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Every spring for nearly 200 years, fishermen have strung a rope bridge between the mainland and the small island of Carrick-a-Rede to gain access to the salmon-rich fishing grounds around the island. At five pounds, the bridge toll is a bit steep, but I was first in a very short line and got to cross the bridge back and forth a dozen or so times, so I feel like I got my money’s worth. Plus, while I was there, the sun came out in force for a few minutes. And here I thought it rained all the time in Ireland!

Caerrick-a-Rede Island

Carrick-a-Rede Island. The name means “rock in the road”. Love that bright blue water!

Crossing the bridge- max 8 people, no two-way traffic.

Crossing the bridge- max 8 people, no two-way traffic.

My turn!

My turn!

Don't Look Down! Too late...

Don’t Look Down! Too late…

View from the island

View from the island

Sunshine in Ireland!

Sunshine in Ireland!

By the time I returned to the Causeway it was literally crawling with people. I don’t know if everybody was conspiring to recreate that famous Led Zepplin album cover, or if tourists really are that unsteady on uneven rocks. I found an out of the way spot to sit and people watch, catching snippets of German and Japanese as people from all over the world swirled around the rocks. Then, miraculously, just before sunset, almost everybody boarded a shuttle bus and left, right before the sun splashed across the Causeway for 15 minutes and made my day:

The Glorious Giants Causeway

Evening light Self Portrait

Evening light Self Portrait

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End of the day: just me and two red-shirted rangers

I’m not done with the Causeway Coast quite yet- I’m planning an 11-mile hike linking the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Giants Causeway on the Coast Trail! Stay tuned!

Posted in Beyond the USA, Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Science Writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Hiking In Hunting Season

My black bears in Maine, all decked out for hunting season

Fall is my favorite hiking season, with one major drawback: it’s also hunting season. I don’t have a problem sharing the woods with sportsmen, as long as they hunt responsibly, but being around flying bullets does tend to put me on edge, especially with two dogs who look a lot like black bears.

My dogs in turkey mode.

Hunting season doesn’t mean you have to stay home, but it is important to take some precautions before you hit the trail.

First, check the rules for your area. Generally, archery season starts in early October and gun season starts in mid-November and runs through January, but seasons varies from state to state and location to location.

Confusing, right? To be on the safe side, I consider hunting season to run from October through January.

Modeling my blaze orange fall jacket on the way up Ragged Mountain in Maine. The dogs are wearing orange scarves, though they don’t quite show up at this angle. Vests would be better.

The single most important precaution you can take during hunting season is to make sure you are visible by wearing bright, blaze orange. Your orange should be visible 360° around your body, from all angles. I have a blaze orange jacket and a bright orange backpack specifically for fall hiking. You can buy cheap blaze orange vests at any store that sells hiking gear or sporting goods. Target has them for $5. Blaze orange hats are good too. Around Halloween, a lot of places sell bright orange trash bags that you can use as pack covers. Also try to avoid wearing white gloves or socks that might be mistaken for the flash of a deer’s tail.

Dogs should be outfitted with a blaze orange collar, scarf or vest. If your dog runs around off trail or chases game, keep it on a leash. In fact, you should both stay on the trail; hunting season is not the time for bushwhacking. Most trails are considered safe corridors and hunters are supposed to refrain from shooting on or near established footpaths.

Hunting isn't allowed on the AT in Virginia, though it is in other states. Here we're crossing the James River Foot Bridge.

Hunting isn’t allowed on the AT in Virginia, though it is in other states. Here we’re crossing the James River Foot Bridge.

I’ve heard a few horror stories about hikers being bullied by hunters. I was once told quite rudely that I had no business being in the woods if I wasn’t carrying a license and a gun. That’s bullshit, but I don’t argue with people who are armed. If you run into a jerk, remove yourself from the situation as quickly and neutrally as possible. Conversely, it’s also illegal to harass hunters or interfere with their quarries. Public lands are for everybody and we all need to get along out there. Be smart, be safe, be visible, and be nice.

Bowie in Shenandoah

Bowie in Shenandoah National Park

Still nervous? You can always hike in a place that doesn’t allow hunting at all. Most National Parks are hunt-free (always check before you go), many state parks have limited hunts and 11 states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia – ban hunting on Sundays.

Blaze Orange Bowie at Ocean Ledges, Camden, Maine

For more information on hunting in your area, visit your state’s Fish & Game department website. Some additional hiking safety resources: the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Appalachian Mountain Club. Curious about my feelings on guns? Check out my previous post Into the Ojito Wilderness.

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 5 Comments

Driving (on the left!) Up the Antrim Coast

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Keep to the Left!

My first day of driving on the left side of the road, shifting with my left hand,  looking for my mirrors in all the wrong places, was very disorienting, to say the least. I’m not used to feeling anxious at the wheel. I love driving! 

Staying to the left is the easy part. I don’t even mind the roundabouts. The hard part is keeping track of the left/ passenger side of the car. The lack of spatial awareness on that side is weird. The roads here are so narrow that I often have to pull off the road to let oncoming cars by and I’m terrified I’m going to knock off the left hand mirror, or worse. Thankfully, I sprung for full coverage on the rental car. Hopefully I won’t have to use it, but it does definitely give me some much needed peace of mind.

I will say, Irish drivers are amazingly patient. Not one person has honked at me, let alone flipped me off, even though I’ve definitely deserved it a few times. My car has a big rental company sticker across the rear window, which might as well say “Confused Tourist- Keep Clear!”

My Ride! A Ford Fiesta. I was hoping for something more European, like a Peugot or even a VW, but it's a nice zippy little car.

My Ride! A Ford Fiesta. I was hoping for something more European, like a Peugeot or even a VW, but it’s a nice zippy little car with very good gas mileage.

By day two, I was feeling much better – maybe I needed to sleep on it? – which was a very good thing because my plan was to drive up the Antrim Coast on the notoriously twisty, narrow A2. This drive is renowned for being one of the best coastal routes in the world and it didn’t disappoint. I ended the day by hiking out to Torr Head, site of an abandoned Coastguard station, within view of Scotland, and then Fair Head, a cliff top promontory overlooking Rathlin Island.

Ireland in a nutshell: Sheep & Stone Walls

Ireland in a nutshell: Sheep & Stone Walls

My first glimpse of the Antrim Coast, in Larne

My first glimpse of the Antrim Coast, in Larne. Very rugged! Reminds me of Oregon/ Washington

My rental should have a bumper sticker: Will Brake For Ruins. This is a 15th century church along the coast.

My rental should have a bumper sticker: Will Brake For Ruins.

Curious Sheep & Sunshine on Scotland, across the water

Curious Sheep & Sunshine on Scotland, across the water

Classic Antrim Coast

Classic Antrim Coast

Irish Traffic

Irish Traffic Jam on the road to Torr Head

Room witha View: Abandoned Coastguard station on Torr Head

Room with a View: Abandoned Coastguard station on Torr Head

Torr Head

Torr Head

Torr Head Self Portrait

Torr Head Self Portrait

More ruins at Torr Head

More ruins at Torr Head

Green Path through the Heather on the hike to Fair Head

Green Path through the Heather on the hike to Fair Head

View of Rathlin Island from Fair Head

View of Rathlin Island from Fair Head. These cliffs are Ireland’s most famous rock climbing destination. No climbers today. It was pouring down rain!

Right before I got totally soaked by wind driven rain

Right before I got totally soaked by wind driven rain

Grey Man's Walk

Grey Man’s Walk. No way in hell did I cross it!

The hike out to Fair Head

The hike out to Fair Head

Green Fields & Wild Heather

Green Fields & Wild Bracken

Up next: A geo-pilgrimage to the Giants Causeway!

Posted in Beyond the USA, Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 14 Comments