Patsy’s (PATC) Maiden Voyage


After seeing the cute little teardrop trailer in the Seneca Rocks parking lot last fall, I was ready for one of my own. Casual looking directed me to this cutie, formerly named Minnie. It did not take much to convince Andy to take  a ride to look at her in Delaware. It was love at first site! The next day, we made an offer and two days later, she was in our driveway! Minnie had now become Patsy (PATC – Potomac Appalachian Mountaineering Club).

A surprisingly short visit to the MVA gave us a temporary plate and we were set for our first outing the next day – Linville Gorge, NC!

We drove down route 81 among the daunting rigs, and made a dinner stop in Front Royal. And what happened to be next door? Walmart! While not a fan of the huge corporate box stores, Walmart is open to campers sleeping the parking lot and using the facilities, so I have a feeling we will be getting more intimate in the near future.

What started as a quick stop for stove fuel, a bungee cord, and a battery charger turned into almost two hours of supply gathering – a knife, ziplock bags, trash bags, spices, a dish washing bowl, etc. Luckily the stop to Sweet Frog beforehand had us charged.

We plodded back along route 81 for another few hours before landing ourselves in another Walmart parking lot in Salem, VA for out first night sleeping in Patsy. After grabbing a snack and brushing our teeth in Walmart, we nestled inside our little teardrop for a restful slumber and waited for the morning light or the drive-thru Dunkin Donuts that we parked next to to be our wake up call.

Climbing adventures are going to rock even more with Patsy! Stay tuned…

Categories: Tales from the Crag, Weekends with Patsy | 2 Comments

My Everest


May 9, 2016. The summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire received 2.8″ of snowfall winds gusting at 103 mph today. Winter had returned. Those conditions rang familiar with my first attempt at the Mount Washington summit.

My feelings towards Mount Washington are mixed, to say the least. The first trip there was after months of training hikes to prepare of the strenuous conditions (you may recall a previous blog) in January 2015. I was fit, equipped with crampons, axes, and loaded with a weekend worth of food in my 60 liter pack.

The hike to Harvard Cabin was a pure slice of hell. While less than 3 miles, the sustained uphill climb in over 2 feet of snow led to immediate shedding of clothing layers, profuse sweating, and a lot of swearing. Why the hell did I pack so much s%&t!

Reaching the cabin after what felt like days, my sites were on dry clothes, food, and my sleeping bag that resided somewhere in the deep depths of my pack. Our party was full of characters (a topic for another time), all in good alpine spirits.We were ready for 2 days of skill learning.

Saturday played in our favor. A continuous dumping of fresh powder made for a delightful alpine playground perfect for practicing walking in crampons, steps, and self arrest. The only thing was the avalanche danger was high. This meant limited options of where we could travel and only one trail was open to the summit.

Waking up Sunday morning to the hear the ranger call in the forecast to the cabin, I grumbled and burrowed deeper into my sleeping bag. More snowfall overnight and current summit conditions indicated winds over 70 mph. But, it was clear. So, out of the sleeping bag I squirmed.

With spring in my step, crampons on my feet, ice ax in my hand I made my way to the front of the group up the Tuckerman Ravine trail. The ascent got steeper and a bit more climbing and skill was required. As we neared the end of the treeline, we prepped ourselves with wind resistant gloves, shells, and goggles, as we knew the winds would be too strong for a costume change in the Alpine Garden and our eyeballs would freeze before we got there if googles were absent.

The events after reaching the Alpine Garden seemed to happen rapidly. Ethan and I had made our way behind one of the scant boulders and waited for the rest of our party. Where were they? We need to move. I’m getting cold. This is not good. We agreed to keep moving, but then delayed again. By the time the rest of the party reached us, the sides of my face were numb. Let’s move.

Step, step, plunge the ax in the ice and get down. The winds were nothing I had experienced before. Over 90 mph, I could barely walk. Every time I lifted a foot, I was blown off balance and feared I’d have to put those self-arrest skills to the test. Ugh, then a crampon released from one of my boots. What a time! I’m so cold. The sides of my face were so numb, I couldn’t be sure what was normal. “Have you have had frost nip?” Ethan asked. No I hadn’t, but if that was the risk, I had made it far enough. The risk was not worth it to me and although undeniably disappointed, I decided to descend. The summit would have to wait until another time.

That time came in January 2016 when I returned to Mount Washington as a mentor for the Alpine Skills weekend. Winter had just started to emerge, as I was there December for an avalanche course and there was barely a dusting of snow. Not ideal conditions for digging a snow pit, so the avalanche course would have to be completed at another time, buying yet another trip to Mount Washington.

The day before the January trip, I had started to become ill. But being an Aquarius and stubborn, I still made the journey up north for my mentor duties only to be informed by my men-tees that they really had no intention of doing the alpine skills or cie climbing. They were just there to hike. Seriously!?!?!?

Thinking I would change their minds, I loaded up the 60 liter pack once more and began the hellish slug to the Harvard Cabin. Only this time, I was assisting in hauling the club sled of gear up the path AND I was so congested, breathing was becoming an arduous task.

A familiar scene – muscles aching, sweat dripping, swearing galore, and this time, copious amounts of mucous hacked up – the Harvard Cabin came into view. A site for sore eyes! I would be staying in a tent this time. A tent that still needed to be pitched. In the dark.

After camp setup and dinner, I dragged my feverish butt into my -40 F degree sleeping bag for a night of wheezing, sweating, and shivering. Morning could not come soon enough.

But when it did, I awoke to meet my men-tees pulling the plug on the weekend. They were going back down. A lot of side conversations were had prior and after this decision, none of which will be mentioned. Why did I risk pneumonia to come up here! I too, made the decision to descend.

Once again, Mount Washington defeated me. My Everest.

The summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire received 2.8″ of snowfall winds gusting at 103 mph today…

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My Day as a Park Ranger…

April 30, 2015

Just a typical day to start. I headed out to Anacostia park to go truffle hunting (morels) and stumble across a little gem – a make-shift noose overlaying a groundhog’s den. True, I know for a fact there are homeless people occupying this park, but are they really so hungry that he thinks this will work? Me thinks there is an easier way to get a meal. And besides, groundhog’s always have two entrances! But maybe the National Park Service is “trying” to control them? No. So, let me break this contraption down and let the wildlife go back to living in the concrete-urban jungle.


Until this!


Stupidly the National Park Service is mowing the meadows and rabbits were running everywhere. I witnessed an off leash dog go after this one and unfortunately it didn’t make it. And the poor meadow voles are also running around in a panic. In pure frustration, my lungs opened up on the dog owner but my words fell upon deaf ears.

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Chicks with Nuts!

April 18, 2015

Chicks with Nuts!IMG_1018 (1).JPG10410693_10152873352228284_5416988671577585676_n.jpg

There’s a lot to be said for the women crushing it on the rock (and ice) in such a male dominated sport like rock climbing. But you know what? We are awesome!

Two years ago, I discovered an all women’s weekend of climbing initiated a brilliant woman guide, Kelly Fields, of Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides. By April, winter and I have had our fun together and I itch to get back on the rock. This year, I wanted to learn something different – I wanted to take the sharp end of the rope and learn to lead trad. As crazy and as terrifying as this notion was to me, I knew it was a step I was ready for. Kelly and I had talked about what my goals were and what I wanted to learn from the two-day course and Kelly being amazing, took note and I was not disappointed.

Arriving on Friday evening and looking forward to staying at the Seneca House with a group of like-minded women, I could not wait to get started. April weather can be very daunting on the east coast, but the gods were smiling and delivered warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. I picked up a fellow Chick with Nuts, Merit, in Silver Spring so we could make the three-hour journey through the sequence of tiny towns together. Come to find out, Merit was a biologist as well, and worked for the New York park system. Needless to say, between the climbing and wildlife chatter, the journey was quickened.

Our first order of business – crack climbing. Oh, how I blocked this part out from the previous year. While I know all the benefits of learned to appropriately crack climb, it humbles me to no end. But I could do anything for an hour, right? The thought (and smell for that matter) of Tom’s delicious hamburgers grilling on the porch just outside got us to focus on getting it done!

With sore fingers and toes and a belly full of burger, we made our way to our bunk room at Seneca House and was entertained by Bubba Lou, a good old hound dog, for the remainder of the evening as we discussed ambitions for the next two days.

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My Southeast Asia Adventure: Arrived in Vietnam

August 26, 2015

Heading out for my 2015 adventure: Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia.

August 27, 2015

I have arrived! Taxi dropped me off at the front of a dark alley to finish walking to the hotel. The noise, loose dogs, smell of urine – I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way!

Good morning Vietnam! It is hot and humid here! And the sound of tuk tuks!11917675_10153166202063284_8623000503495561111_n.jpg

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Wherever D.C. is Wild…

A little bit of press coverage of my less well-know survey for my cryptic friends.


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Reviving my Eastern cottontail rabbit Citizen Science Program – Hill Now

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How to Catch a Spotted Turtle



Why on Earth would you ever want to catch a Spotted Turtle? Well, for one, the Spotted Turtle is a petite, curious looking reptile assorted yellow polka-dots. I should preface this by saying the Spotted Turtle is declining in numbers throughout its range in the Northeast United States, so unless you are a wildlife biologist monitoring the species (like yours truly), you should only ever catch them for curiosity, a quick moment of awe and promptly release them in the same spot.

As a wildlife biologist who studies reptiles and amphibians (aka: a herpetologist – literally meaning creepy things), my job encompasses monitoring the small, declining population of Spotted Turtles in Washington, D.C. But for the first two years of on the job, I had only the occasional glimpse of one or two. To remedy this position, I positioned turtle hoop nets that I had used to monitor other turtle species throughout the wetland in hopes of finding them. Simple, right? Not so much.

Issue #1 – Baiting the trap
Apparently (according to my cohorts in the field) this is a big no-no. A technique commonly practiced for catching other omnivorous turtle species, but not for the Spotted Turtle. What this method actually does? It attracts everyone else in town. Too many turtles! And so many larger Snapping Turtles to boot, thus deterring the quaint Spotted Turtle from even coming near the net.

Issue #2 – Water-dwelling mammals
The culprit? I cannot say for sure – beaver, mink, otter or muskrat – but all the same, bad news bears all the same. My lavish nets were reduced to nothing more than twine draped gapingly on pathetic hoops.

Fortunately, I find myself quite at home wading through a wetland and find myself spending incalculable hours atop on a log observing and stalking turtles. I identified the areas the spotted turtles lingered, where they basked but still somehow needed to catch them. At the end of one of my trailing sessions, I viewed through my polarized sunglasses a tiny turtle sunning himself in the shallow water. After a brief moment of hesitation, I plunged my hand into the water and clutched him! Eureka!

Now, having attended graduate school in Eastern Kentucky, I recalled cautionary tales surrounding the technique I just employed – noodling. While commonly used to catch catfish hiding under the banks of streams, I just proved this practice works on catching turtles as well. However, spearing one’s hand in murky waters does not always yield success. On the contrary, warnings of cloudy water beginning to bleed followed by shrieks of horror and agony remained fixed in my memories. Score for the colossal Snapping Turtles!

Returning to Issue #1, you realize I should discern better than to practice this method to catch a Spotted Turtle. I SHOULD know better. But the victory in obtaining and tagging over eight turtles in a season triumphs over reason. But mark my word; should my hand graze an object of alarm, it retracts hastily, accompanied by a girlish squeak.

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Winter – Preparing for Ice Season


December 12, 2014

Seasons Greetings, Friends! It’s been since Peru that I put thoughts to paper and filled you in on some tales. The fall has been long and although colorful, less than uplifting and inspiring.

But…it appears Old Man Winter is lurking and ice climbing season is upon us. Crampons have been purchased, boots have been fitted and pro-deals have secured much needed insulation. So, what does this mean? One of my many “that sounds like fun” ideas has been to sign up for the Alpine Skills Weekend with Potomac Appalachian Trail Club – Mountaineering Section. At the end of January, I hope to acquire skills to plunge me into some new adventures. I imagine the training will be long and hard. But discipline supposedly yields success – summiting Mount Washington! Yes, the cold, wind conditions probably daunt me more so than the physical, but an experience it will be.

Stay tuned for my training progress. Sunday – Old Rag in the Shenandoah National Forest.

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Adios and muchas gracias Cusco! Onto Lima tomorrow


September 8, 2014

Bienvenidos todos!

What a marvelous couple of days in Cusco. My first night, the rain and fog hit the lights on the streets in such a way making plaza enchanting. The city welcomed me back with open-arms. I have made ensured meals consisted of lots of quinoa and cerveza!

The place I’m staying is off the road and requires walking through three courtyards within a schoolyard to reach it. The terrace on the fourth floor lends itself to a most miraculous view of the city. Morning wake up calls are the sounds of dozens of chatty children pumped up on sugary treats running around the courtyard during a break from their classes. I can faintly make out teachers attempting to settle the balls of energy with exhausted efforts.

The following days yielded much walking. I have even hiked up to the Cristo Blanco on two separate occasions! No doubt the over 550 steps left me slightly winded but the altitude has not phased me. Maybe my body has just resigned itself to the fact that it is going to be pushed to some ridiculous level above sea on annual basis so it has decided to cope? Nija Warriors, here I come!

Shopping is the ultimate downtime here. As if a game, I weave myself in and out in the various markets tucked away on the old brick streets. This years style of alpaca sweater is strewn throughout  the markets, each with something slightly different to offer. Finding exactly what you’re looking for is a skill that requires precision, patience and haggling.

Between all my shopping sprees, I managed to have time to take a chocolate making workshop at the Chocolate Museum. Nibbles of milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate awakened the palate for further indulgences of chocolate tea, Mayan hot chocolate and Inca hot chocolate. Two polar opposites – one spicy of cayenne the other sweet with honey.

As fortune would have it, there was the parade going on Saturday through Monday, all through the night, in celebration of one the many saints. Bands harmonize with classic Peruvian music; masses of Peruvians  adorned in costume marching and smiling through the streets. Various sweets, chicha and corn snacks lend themselves at every turn. Normally quiet and reserved women are indulging in cans of Cusquena and startling the passing tourists as they block their paths, trying to engage them in a dance. The random wafts of sage reinforce the ancient feeling of the city.

Wrapping up my time here, I took a cooking lesson with CuscoCooking. Our chef, Luis, lead us to San Pedro market (a market I’d become quite familiar with) to obtain supplies. Navigating the narrow aisles of salted alpaca meat, freshly butchered meat assortments and smells, we weigh out the vegetables and herbs required for our meal. The fruit section comprised of many unfamiliar fruits. And what better way to determine what to buy? Tasting of course! Passion fruits, pepino, cherimoya and the likes introduced themselves to the class happily.

Back in “la cocina”, Luis guided us through a three course meal –  corn soup, llomo saltado and chocolate fondu with our new-found fruit friends. And let’s not forget the passion fruit sour – salud!

Completely satiated, I have made my way back through the courtyards and up to my room to try to consolidate all my wonderful treasures into my backpack before setting off for Lima tomorrow. I may get up early to grab a Starbucks coffee (yes, corporate America has found its way here) and bid the Plaza de Armas one last goodbye. And then onto Lima for the last leg of the trip and to meet up with Natalia!

Love to all,


Categories: Travel as a Solo Gal | Tags: | Leave a comment

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