Archive for the ‘Westward Journey’ Category

Inspired by the chronicles of the Barefoot Sisters (two sisters who hiked the Appalachian Trail barefoot), I have fooled around on various hiking trips, taking off my shoes for parts of the trail, testing my endurance, and “training” my feet to welcome the uncertainty of the ground. Never before, however, had I spent the entire day on the farm working barefoot. That was until I became increasingly aware of how I clunked around in my work boots while the animals roamed the pasture effortlessly with their bare paws and hooves. After that moment of blatant juxtaposition, I decided to liberate my awkwardly booted feet, and return to my primal being. With one shoe unlaced, my toes wriggled in anticipation to meet the ground. They were welcomed by grass that was still wet from yesterday’s thunderstorms. The grass refreshed my feet, and the cooling sensation penetrated my entire body. This was a worthwhile jailbreak, I decided.

Since my fascination with the barefooted people of the world began a few years ago, my ears have been alert to related news in the barefoot world. There is an entire subculture dedicated to regaining the lost sensation of bare-feet on the ground, and informing the public about the health benefits of the shoeless and sockless life. The other day, I stumbled upon this New York Magazine article, “You Walk Wrong.” Allow me to share with you some of what I learned.

– Your bare toes help you to grip the earth, and with that, provide you with more stability and balance.

–  There are a whopping 24 (or, for some people, 26) bones in the foot

– It is not against the law to drive barefoot.

– barefooters.org is the official site of the Society for Barefoot Living. They have some interesting facts and articles on their site.

– Shoes are unnecessary and can actually cause additional health problems, such as wear and tear on the knees.

– You should give it a try!

the twigster,


PS: The pigs’ names are Hunky, Dory, and Papaya.


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A girl can only do so much road tripping, and train hopping, before the bank account starts to plunge and the desire for the comforts of home return. I knew the 2 month westward journey was coming to a close while in San Francisco, so I made sure there was a seat waiting for me on the flight back to NYC from Portland. It was a return I was excited for as I was in high anticipation to see my family and friends, but it was also a return that sent the butterflies bursting from their cocoons inside my stomach -my fear of the mundane materializing.

I must admit I did suffer from the initial shock of the coastal transition. The fast-paced life of the city had not slowed down in my absence, and the buildings did not shorten their stature. A transition back to New York is not one you can ease into. No, it’s a survival instinct that rushes back when you’re waiting on the taxi line to take you from the airport, and you realize that you better be on high alert or 30 Manhattanites will steal that cab from under your nose. Home, all the same.

While looking through photos of my adventure, my mother, always direct with her words, asked, “Where did all this traveling get you?” At face value, I am in the same place as when I started to plan for this adventure in November – jobless and broke. There is no denying that – I’ve spent the past week scouring online job listings. However, I gained so much from my travels that are not visible upon that first step off the plane. Gathering my thoughts, I replied.

Imagination. I camped on the Channel Islands for a week, without another soul in sight. My mind filled itself with storylines of fairy tales and the underwater world. I listened to what the birds said that woke me with their songs in the morning. I wondered daily about the activities of Tapatió, the fox that visited our campsite to see if we were as diligent as we should be with putting our food away.

Ideas. I rode all components of Portland’s transportation system – the light rail, streetcars, and buses. I traveled quickly, easily, and efficiently, without ever the desire or need to get into a car. Now what if my beloved of New Orleans had that same network? Or what if New Orleans combated some its flooding issues with the implementation of a program similar to Portland’s Green Street Program? A program that increases urban green space while also collecting runoff rainwater, well isn’t that just perfect for New Orleans. With ideas come hope, and with hope comes change.

A new respect for home. You hear tales of people’s adventures while they are wide-eyed and grinning, and this, often prompts me to set out of my own adventures. While traveling I realized that other’s impressions of a place were not the same as those I formed on my own. Frankly some places and some things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Once I grasped that concept I started to look upon my own setting with the eyes of a tourist, to see what others saw when they looked at Manhattan. And then it hit me. Finally, an appreciation for New York!

So yes, here I am again, home in the Big Apple. After a little recuperation, and with some imagination, I’m sure my desire for adventure will return. After all, life is only as mundane as you allow it.

Thank you for joining me on the westward journey. I hope you had as much fun as I did. We made it pretty far considering we only had a bank account full of Big Daddy’s tips.

The twigster,


PS: Want to hire me?

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Portland was by far my favorite stop on the westward journey. In addition to its mossy streets and just about mossy everything, Portland harbored a great love for crafting. You can see why I fell in love with the misty city.

Portland Saturday Market

Every Saturday and Sunday, the people of Portland as well as us tourists head down to the Waterfront for some local crafts and local grub. With the smell of Moondrops’ roasted nuts in the air, I roamed the artists’ stalls for hours.  In response to my grumbling belly, I then feasted on some fish and chips, and I highly recommend that you do the same. Check it out.


Museum of Contemporary Craft

I kid you not with this one. In addition to exhibitions focusing on past and traditional craft, the Museum also has a section focused on D.I.Y. projects. So get crafting and maybe one day your weekend project will be worthy of a spot in a museum!




Stores Galore

Not a crafter yourself, but appreciate the art? Indulge yourself exploring the many crafty stores Portland has to offer like Crafty Wonderland.


The twigster,


PS: They even get crafty with their streets!


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I’m going to tell everyone. If this train wrecks, I’m going to survive. I’m going to make campfires and eat meat- deer meat. So if you’re scared just go ahead and say it. We’re going to eat bald eagles too. Don’t be afraid to eat bald eagles.

Brief pause.

So I’m sitting on the Amtrak alone trying to think up some imaginary friends. Distracted. I think this guy has some marijuana. I could smell the odor when he walked by. Ziiiiiing. Here he comes. Wait a minute. He’s smoking a roach. He is smoking a ROACH! Knock it off. Go over there and sit down.

The bathroom is getting very occupied. Don’t worry about it. I will take care of it. No more people can use the bathroom. If you don’t like my decision, talk to the conductor. Talk to the conductor on this trip, that we have.


“Dude, I’m tired of listening to ya. Give it a rest.”

“Alright, give it a rest. You’re only tired of listening to me because I didn’t use any swear words. If I used swear words, you wouldn’t have been tired of listening to me.”

To himself. So now, I’m going to start using swear words. Now everything that comes out of my mouth is going to be a curse word. Curse words are the best because they piss everybody off. I’m pissed off, so you should be pissed off.

The twigster,


PS: This is a little glimpse into the people you meet on an overnight train from Sacramento, CA to Portland, OR. Keeps things interesting at least.


Oakridge, OR

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Say hi to the Easter bunny and have a beautiful Spring day.

The twigster,


PS: Eat a peep.


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We took a short drive out from San Francisco and spent the afternoon searching the tide pools for sea anemones. I had never gotten up close and personal with the creatures before, so upon first sighting, I couldn’t help but poke the squishy body. I instantly became fascinated. Here are some fun facts.

– Sea anemones are carnivorous. They eat fish, snails, and crabs that pass by their stinging tentacles.

– The tentacles inject poison into the prey or predator, which paralyzes the passerby.

– Clownfish aka Nemo are unaffected by the sea anemone’s poisons and make themselves a home within the sea anemone’s tentacles.

– They’re hitchhikers! Sometimes sea anemones will hop on board crabs to catch a ride.

The twigster,


PS: We saw some harbor seals while we were by the tide pools too!



Spot the Closed Sea Anemone

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14 hours on a train can be worth it when you have views like this.

The twigster,


PS: Happy Spring!

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The PAC Tour crew pulled up to Kartchner Caverns in Arizona and navigated the sea of asphalt in order to find the perfect shaded spot for our cruise boat of a vehicle. Once the awning was down, and bike racks were set out, Susan dismissed Parker and I from lunch duty and handed us two tickets for a tour of Kartchner Caverns. We ambled on over to meet the tour guide, an employee of the Arizona State Parks, and the rest of our group. The tour guide greeted us briefly and started to etch out the rules. No cell phones. No photography. No touching the formations. No backpacks. Great, I thought, all in the protection of the cave.

With that out of the way, our tour guide told us to load onto an extended golf cart. Considering the distance was equivalent to about three city blocks, I was puzzled, that we were driven to the cavern’s mouth. The entrance proceeded with a misty shower that glazed over us in an effort to prevent any lint or dead skin from escaping us and entering the caverns’ ecosystem. I was impressed. They really went through extra effort to preserve this cave. Finally, we were ready to enter.

The first thing I noticed was that walkways, wide concrete walkways, wound throughout the cave. As a group, we followed the tour guide down these twisting paths as she explained cavern formations by likening them to the types of food they resemble. Once we hit all major food groups, we took a seat for a show of a lifetime. Seated in an abyss of darkness, with the hit of a button, the tour guide transformed the cavern into a Vegas light show. Red, yellow, blue, and purple lights danced across a giant stalagmite as world music reverberated throughout the cave. I sat dumbfounded.  Nothing beats the finale, of an educational experience, I suppose.

The light of day made me question, was I just at Disney World or in a natural ecosystem?


With PAC Tour over, we got moving. An overnight train from Tucson brought us to Los Angeles, where another train then took us to Ventura, California. The ferry to Santa Cruz Island wasn’t until the following day so we took some time to load up a shopping cart of instant cous -cous, Uncle Ben’s rice, avocados, and French bread in preparation for our week of backcountry camping. Laden with our purchases, we headed over to the RV Park where we set up camp to carry out night with the whir of nearby freeway serenading us to sleep.

Bright and early the next morning, I indulged myself with a warm shower, knowing there wouldn’t be any showering for the next few days. Clean and ready to be dirtied, we made our way to the harbor to begin the final leg of our journey to the Channel Islands. Upon setting foot on the boat, I was reminded of my seasickness. Luckily, I wasn’t able to focus on that long since I was staring at a pod of orcas swimming and dancing in the water nearby. With a big dive down to the sea floor, and the distraction gone, I began reviewing all the important things in my pack. Toilet paper. Gas. Leatherwoman. Sleeping bag. Hot sauce. I was ready.

As prepared as we were with our gear, we hadn’t had much time to learn about the geography of the island, its history, or the campsite. We knew the basics. We knew we were hiking in our supply of water and well, hiking in. At the dock, we both strapped on our packs, grabbed a map, and began a steep ascent. Per usual, my pack was PACKED. I was hiking with probably 50 pounds on my bike, and mostly climbing. I allowed myself breaks, but it was an arduous hike to the campsite. Uphill.

Arrival to the campsite revealed that the hike was worth the panting. There wasn’t a soul in sight, except for the island foxes that visited daily. Once the morning fog rolled out, the sun burnt away the clouds, and my cup of tea was finished, we spent the days hiking around the island. Grabbing invasive fennel, we entertained ourselves with sporadic sword fights, as the blue scrub jay chirped around us.  At night, we fell asleep to the sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing and seals barking. The canopy of stars served as the perfect nightlight.


I offer these recent encounters with the natural world, to point out the difference between the two. The tour of the Caverns was pre-packaged. The tour was an hour, the speech was rehearsed, the path had to be followed. We didn’t need take off our sweaters to confront the issue of the temperature change upon entrance, because we had already been informed to shed layers before entering. My point here is that we were, simply put, led. I did not experience anything that the tour didn’t intend for me to experience and I wasn’t prompted to formulate any thoughts of my own about the cave, because I was told them.

Instead of a pre-packaged experience, my time in the Channel Islands was completely organic. I figured out for myself just how steep the climbs were up the sandstone rocks and how much the temperature drops at night without a cloud cover. I hiked my own trails and formulated my opinions about the beauty and destruction surrounding me while lying on a hill with the sun’s warmth on my face. This backpacking week was full of feelings, both sensory and mental, feelings which allow us to establish a connection to our experience.

Environmental education, like the tour of the caverns, has the ability to evoke these feelings I speak of.  The inducement of these feelings is a building block towards understanding and appreciating the natural world. Remember that time you played on the beach and spent the whole day digging in the sand to build that epic sandcastle? Feeling those grains of sand between your fingers is enough to make you want to protect that beach, to preserve that memory. So here is my call for people to experience the natural world, naturally. Don’t let the forests, the beach, the caves become Disney World – pre-packaged and devoid of real bonds. We are a part of the natural world too, experience what its like to be a part of it. For yourself.

The twigster,


PS: Made it to San Francisco!

PPS: I will put up pictures of the island foxes ASAP!

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Arizona is the place to be if you want some sun. Here are some highlights from a few places I visited.

Bisbee, AZ: 90 miles southeast of Tucson, this little city is full of charm. An old mining town, Bisbee has developed into a vibrant artist community. I enjoyed walking the winding streets of the town, popping into antique stores and jewelry shops. If you ever find yourself in Bisbee, I recommend staying at the Copper Queen Hotel, grabbing some drinks at the Grand Hotel Saloon and enjoying a delicious vegan dinner at POCO Restaurant.




Tucson, AZ: We were always traveling through Tucson on the weekends so I was able to see a fair bit of the city’s nightlife. 4th Avenue, which is in close proximity to the University of Arizona, was always teeming with action. We saw some great live music at Hotel Congress, a smaller venue with an outdoor seating area that gives you a chance to interact with locals. Before catching a show, be sure to stop into the restaurant, Pasco. You won’t be disappointed with a Father Kino cocktail. Yummy.


Sonoita, AZ: Rolling grasslands make Sonoita a peaceful place to rest after touring the nearby vineyards of Elgin, AZ. I had the pleasure of staying at La Hacienda de Sonoita. Usually I am not too keen on staying at bed and breakfasts, but this experience may have changed my mind. Guests’ rooms are detached from the main space, giving you lots of privacy. The B&B maintains its homey feel, however, with the delicious home-cooked breakfast served by the owners. Imagine the tastiness of French toast croissants accompanied by fresh fruit, granola, and Greek yogurt. Add the two dogs running around in the yard, and you have yourself a home away from home.



Tubac, AZ: I passed through Tubac quickly, with only an hour to take in all that the town has to offer. That surely wasn’t enough time. Another artist community, Tubac has lots of galleries and shops with handcrafted items. Only about a 40 minute drive from Tucson, Tubac is worth the trip. Check out some of the public art in Tubac.



The twigster,

PS: I apologize if this post isn’t formatted too nicely. I am writing and loading photos from an iPhone. Gets a little tricky.

PPS: Here is one of my favorite sights to see in Arizona. Look at those donkeys!


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Parker and I took a break from our lunch prep duties and went for a lovely walk in the foothills of the Coronado National Monument mountains of Arizona. Along the way we collected the dried flora we saw along the roadside and created this collaborative bouquet.

The twigster,

PS: How cute is that desert doggie! Not as cute as my Milano posing with a postcard at home, duh.




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