You know how golfers love to compare their sport to life? Heavy-handed metaphors about taking aim, working with the winds of change, etc.?
I’m starting to do the same. With hiking.
I realized this weekend, while battling an unrelenting swarm of gnats for over 3 hours in the New Jersey highlands, that every hike this summer has provided a new challenge. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.
As soon as I was sure, fitness wise, that I had a trail in the bag, something would come along to knock me off course. (See what I mean about the heavy-handed metaphors?) This past weekend, I thought the pests were going to do me in, despite toxic levels of bug spray coating my red, soaking wet, weary limbs. By mile 5 of one of njhiking.com’s most challenge trails, I couldn’t see for all the gnats.
I came to a crossroads.
If I went straight, I’d knock 2 miles from my remaining distance. By turning left, I’d have 3.6 miles -and another steep mountain climb- still to go to complete the originally planned trek. I stood there for 5 minutes, waving my arms in front of me fruitlessly, chugging warm water, studying the trail map.
I looked up at the brightly colored green and yellow trail markers painted on a sturdy oak.
“Fuck it,” I said aloud, wiping away the 8,000th gnat who’d suffocated in a pool of my sweat. “I’m no quitter.”
I turned left.
Why did I do it? Week after week, no less. Clearly this was torturous. Was I insane? A glutton for punishment? Just plain stubborn? Even Hub #1 had taken to calling me Forrest Gump.
I watched a video this weekend on why people hike. The filmmaker interviewed a series of hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Their answers to that million dollar question sounded familiar.
I needed to shift my perspective; it helps me let go of the day-to-day worries and focus on the immediate. You don’t worry about work when you’re trying to find a dry place to sleep.
I wanted to clear my head.
I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life.
That’s the thing about hiking. Walking for walking’s sake may seem a little pointless, but that’s exactly what makes it so powerful. For that time in the woods, however brief, the only thing you’re responsible for is staying alive. To again paraphrase what fellow hikers have said:
Hiking allows me to push myself farther than I think I can go. I bring that back with me into the real world.
It’s not about how fast or far you go, but just that you keep going. In the end, I may wind up right back where I started (at my car, hopefully), but I know I’m one step closer to who I want to be.
Alternate titles: R.I.P. Big Toenail; I Can’t Feel My Butt; Who Needs Heel Skin, Anyway?
I logged 17 miles in hiking this weekend, Chipmunks. (And I saw you! Yes. I saw my first chipmunk since December!)
You’re probably wondering who I am and what I’ve done to Jules. I have a confession. When I’m not drinking and Googling bacon recipes, I like to go outside and get my sweat nature on. I can’t stand running, and cyclists make me think devil thoughts, but give me a dirt path, some shady trees and a mountain view payoff, and I’m there faster than you can say, “Does this trail mix have chocolate chips? Because that’s really the only kind worth buying.”
It’s been a while since I’ve hit the hardcore trails , but in order to combat the three B’s (boredom, bumming and broke-itude) that have slammed me lately, I decided to get my Timberland mojo back. I’ve been tackling the relatively tame local trails over the past couple of months, and had planned on spending the summer working up to trails like the steep ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in northern New Jersey, with the ultimate goal of hitting Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire this fall.
The stubborn Taurus in me had other plans. “Did the 6+ mile loop again today,” I told my first husband, Peppermeister, on Saturday. “Doing 10 tomorrow.”
Then I picked this trail:
Then I drove an hour there. I was ready and rarin’ to go.
6 Things You Need to Know Before Taking Up Hiking
1. Just because a sign seems to promise bears, this does not mean you’ll finally carry out that long awaited convo with the Shakespearean meme bear.
2. Hiking Guide Books ‘under’ embellish.
3. By mile 7, you will not look like someone from an LL Bean catalog. Even though everyone else you encounter, inevitably, won’t have broken a sweat.
4. In New Jersey, you can run, but you can’t hide. From cicadas.
5. Some Most times, you’ll see some cool ass shiz.
6. You will have every right to come home and do nothing but act superior, drink champagne and eat all of it. Just… all of it.
Is there a sport / activity you think is borderline insane, but you love it anyway? Or one that, no matter what, you’d never be caught dead doing?
We’re pretty spread out here in western New Jersey, and there’s a kick-ass balance between “what you do is your business” and “but I am curious about that package, so I’ll help you carry it inside.” Our next door neighbors, Dave and Judy, threw us a welcome party when we first moved in, complete with a homemade banner, and, more importantly, Sangria.
Our neighbor around the corner, Linda, dropped off a bushel of apples from her orchard this fall, while the ones across the street gave us a discount on our Christmas tree (yes, there’s a Christmas tree farm across the street! It’s amazeballs out here, Chipmunks, I’m telling you…even if you do lose power every time an owl sneezes).
As if that wasn’t enough, then there’s our neighbor, Jeff. He’s close to our age, and lives behind us in a gorgeous house. He’s the quintessential neighbor: He owns every power tool under the sun and knows how to use them all, helped us clear trees post Hurricane-Sandy, and leaves delicious food in the mailbox. Peppermeister doesn’t even mind the pepper-growing competition, with Jeff’s garden in plain sight.
This Valentine’s Day, I thought it was time to show Jeff how I really felt. It started with my famous homemade double-chocolate cookies:
And ended with this note:
I must be quick, for Peppermeister does not know of this!
Your seafood sauce was the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted. Bestill my heart!
I’m slowly poisoning Peppermeister.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
-Go Jules Go
Psst…between you and me, Peppermeister is looking a little worse for the wear. It’s only a matter of time, Jeff.
What’s the nicest and/or creepiest thing a neighbor has ever done for you?
So you’re probably thinking I’m going to start this post like I always do, by greeting you as my fuzzy, wuzzy, li’l Chipmunks. Well, I would, but Peppermeister (First Husband) told me snakes eat chipmunks. And I just don’t want to take that kind of chance here.
You see, on Saturday, amidst hour number 8,002 of yard work, I went over to the pool filter and lifted the cover so I could clean it out. We had just had a big storm, so I knew it would be full of crud.
Oh, I was right about that.
I’d like to take this time to remind you that I live in New Jersey. The reason I stay here is simple: NO SCARY CREATURES (unless you count our politicians). No scorpions, no box jellyfish, no dementors, and no grizzlies (I don’t think. Don’t burst my bubble).
Now, okay, this snake was probably only 18 inches long, and a harmless garter at that, but that didn’t stop me from letting out a strangled cry and jumping back 5 feet.
I made Peppemeister repeat the process when he got home, so he too might have something to blog about. Which is when we discovered it was still very much alive.
Now that I’ve had a few days to recover, I’ve decided I’ve given this snake far too much power. And I know I’m not alone; so many people are terrified of snakes.
I’m going to take care of all that for you, right here, right now. It’s the least I can do considering you’re probably still pissed from hearing that I have a pool and haven’t invited you over.
Allow me to present to you:
BOB, the Worst Stand-Up Comic Snake of All-Time
And so you see, snakes are nothing to be afraid of. Until they start telling jokes.
Have you ever encountered any unwanted critters in your dwelling?
Hot air ballooning was so much more than I could have ever hoped for.
And not just because of the balloon. Or the hot air.
But because it involved so, so many guilty pleasures. I hope you’re ready for an eareyeful.
It started around 6pm on Sunday, when Peppermeister, the man trying to kill me via his 30th birthday “present”, herded me into the car. I knew what was up. Luckily, I’d already prepared my last will and testament.
We headed to a main road not too far from our house; this was the only sign of what was to come:
A long driveway led to an open field, where two other couples were milling about. Peppermeister is ruthless, I thought. With all this extra weight, we would plummet to the ground with even more force than I had originally feared.
He reminded me not to socialize because “people like us too much.” It was a cover-up, because he didn’t want me to get close to anyone when we were all about to die. Except he was right. People totally like us too much when we talk. In fact, we try not to be ourselves in public at all. So here we are at a picnic table by ourselves. Being [secretly] awesome.
An old-school bus with a trailer pulled up, hauling a giant basket. A slew of folks immediately began assembling our death trap.
Babs, a.k.a. Mommarazzi, was, of course, on hand to capture everything:
I was glad it was a rainbow. Hot air balloons are supposed to be rainbows. And rainbows are good luck. …Right?
I put on a brave face.
And that’s when I saw it. The greatest handlebar mustache of all time. You can even see it from the back (far right). The perfect distraction from imminent death.
Our basket had 5 compartments, and each person had to climb in and out while the basket was on its side. I made it, and started worrying I would drop Annie Leibovitz (my iPhone), causing someone else’s death.
I glanced upward nervously; I prefer to be on fire only metaphorically speaking.
The force of the now-inflated balloon pulled our jam-packed basket upright. Oh holy chipmunks. We have lift off.
Goodbye, Babs! Remember what I said about selling Peppermeister’s instruments! …I love you. Psst. Handlebar Mustache is RIGHT. THERE.
OMG. Let’s zoom in:
Tragically, the winds blew us northwest, away from The Mustache Miracle and right over my place of employment. I’d post pictures, but I feel like they might shoot me (how many times can I cheat death in one week?).
Here, look at these instead:
Ah. You never knew Jersey was this beautiful, right? Yes. Quiet, serene, relaxing… oh, wait. Did I mention we were with two couples from Brooklyn (one young, one middle-aged)? Here’s an 8-second reenactment of our first few moments in the air:
I had to admit, it was relaxing, despite their piercing chatter. I was lost pondering gravity potential Glee covers when we started running into trees. We got closer and closer to the ground, and made a bumpy ‘touch down’ in a corn field. The driver fire cord-puller guy claimed it was “to slow us down.” Personally, I think he was just trying to shut Fran Drescher up.
The van that brought the hot air balloon followed us the whole time, because, in case I failed to mention it earlier – they have no control over where the balloon will go.
I was a little worried about crashing into power lines, or this highway. (Or that drivers viewing our balloon-y majesty would cause a pile-up on said highway.)
I probably shouldn’t have looked down at the inside of the basket, either.
Yeah, I really shouldn’t have read that…
Why are we going so low again? Why? Oh no.
Luckily, we had enough juice to get our basket out of harm’s way, and got to watch as families came out of their houses, dogs barked, and little kids begged us to land in their yard (who doesn’t love watching a hot air balloon? It’s like music. Or eating asparagus and then peeing). Note that even so close to The End, I had only one thing on my mind: Snacks.
About 40 minutes later, they decided there wouldn’t be a better opportunity to land but in this backyard. I braced myself, and…
…We made it. (Crawling Falling out of the basket was even more hilarious than climbing in. My shoe fell off in the process, and Handlebar Mustache complimented my toenail polish [which totally matches my GoGuiltyPleasures slap bracelet, natch]. I may have to consider a Third Husband.)
A copy-cat balloon landed right after us. They didn’t get the memo about the rainbow pattern requirement. I’m surprised they survived.
Loading the basket back on the trailer was fun for everyone who wasn’t loading the basket back on the trailer. …That redhead was cute from the front, too.
And that’s when we found out what had happened. Somehow, I completely missed it. Young Mr. Brooklyn [Gypsy?] had gotten down on one knee –in the basket– to propose to his infant girlfriend. There’s no way the basket should have stayed afloat with the weight of that rock in it.
And P.S. – she’s sixteen.
Here I am attempting to point at the ring during the ride in the van back to our cars (where are Misty’s ninja photo skills when I need them?):
Once we made it back to home base, we were treated to champagne, beer, cheese and crackers. Apparently, hot air ballooning began in France, and when ballooners would land in someone’s yard, the homeowners would freak out. ‘Cause, you know, it was clearly a spaceship. To ease the tension, the ballooner would offer a bottle of champagne to the traumatized family.
Now. Why couldn’t Peppermeister have told me that from the start*?
*He claims he totally did**.
**I never listen to him. Ever. It’s probably why he wants to kill me.
So, what did you think of that mustache/engagement?
The weather in western New Jersey seems to finally be cooperating with Peppemeister‘s (a.k.a. First Husband’s) birthday gift to me plan to kill me. You know.
We leave in about an hour for our very first hot air balloon ride.
So close to the heavens, it’s only natural that I start to think: Once the angels catch a glimpse of my rocking side-pony and hot pink slap bracelet, they won’t want to let me back down to earth.
So in the event that I don’t return to you, please find…
The Last Will and Testament of GoJulesGo, PMP*
*Project Management Professional
I bequeath my beloved dog, Uncle Jesse, to Second Husband, Darren Criss. Darling, it was only a matter of time before he was yours, anyway.
I bequeath whatever is left of my vodka supply to my best friends, Jenn and Mary, who will treat it exactly as I would. With cranberry juice and shamelessness.
To my mother, I give you all of Peppermeister’s musical instruments. Babs, he just killed me. Sell that shiz and take yourself on the shopping spree of a lifetime.
To my father, I give you the money in my savings account. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. And what the heck, get the fries, too.
To my sister, I bequeath all of my dresses. To go with the ones you think I gave to you but really I thought we both understood this was a temporary thing.
And, finally, to you, dear Chipmunks, I give you this blog. May you honor my memory by ensuring that you indulge in your guilty pleasures, loud and proud, for all the rest of your days. And don’t listen to a word Zest and Zeal tell you. They have NO idea how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
Do you enjoy risking your own life?
#1 (Darren Criss – before annotation) – people.com