Monthly Archives: March 2011

Nodaiku: “to find roan in fog”

From March 19, 2011, "Buckskin in Fog" by Jessie Veeder Scofield

to find roan in fog
aim not for speed or timing —
slow mind, quiet mind

—–

The Nodaiku Project is a weekly series featuring one of Jeremy Bold’s haiku compositions based on Jessie Veeder Scofield’s photographs from her ranch way out in western North Dakota (Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Daily Photos).  Find more of The Blank Rectangle’s nodaiku poems by following us on Twitter (@blankrectangle) or here at The Blank Rectangle: Nodaiku and be sure to click the “Sign me up!” button in the sidebar to get notified each time there’s a new nodaiku or other post from The Blank Rectangle!


The Top Ten Beginner Hiker Blunders

I’m slightly loath to admit it, but I’m a beginning hiker. I went on two hikes with Richard last fall, one lasting an afternoon and one containing an overnight camp. Apart from that, I’ve only done brief hikes on state park trails, once or twice a year. I do consider myself physically fit and a lover of the outdoors, but there’s no getting around it: my hiking and backpacking experience is minimal.

What I lack in experience, though, I’m trying to make up as best I can with research. Naturally, I will be doing practice hikes prior to the WAND, but there’s a lot I won’t learn in the time frame and environment I have. Richard and Jeremy gained many insights into hiking and backpacking on their Lake Superior trek a few summers ago, and Richard has done quite a bit of this stuff since he moved to Colorado, but I still think we should be doing significant amounts of research prior to our trip. We should be much more concerned about being under-prepared than being over-prepared. We don’t need to freak out and read every book and article about hiking ever written, but we should get a good feel for what’s out there.

I found the list below on www.backpacker.com. Let’s see where our group is currently situated for each blunder…

The Top 10 Beginner Hiker Blunders

By Jason Stevenson

1. Wearing denim like Johnny Depp on 21 Jump Street

Response: I’m sure none of us are planning to bring denim clothing, but I’m not sure about other kinds of cotton. The only clothing I’ve purchased so far are two Columbia shirts with built-in sun protection, which I found with the tags still on at a local thrift store. They’re 96% cotton, 4% elastane. I’ll have to test them out this spring.

2. Buying your tent or sleeping bag at Wal-Mart

Response: We are borrowing two tents from one of Tyler’s friends. I don’t know where they’re from. Richard and I are borrowing sleeping bags from our parents, and as far as I know their quality is decent.

3. Hiking a trail with a road map

Response: Richard and Tyler have been using detailed topographical maps to plan our route. We will have a good idea of what terrain to expect.

4. Packing a first aid kit as if you’re landing on Omaha Beach

Response: Tyler, a medical student, has taken charge of preparing our first aid kit. Stevenson’s main point here was that you shouldn’t pack things you don’t know how to use. I think our kit will be fine.

5. Being overhead saying, “Lightning can’t strike me—I’m not carrying anything metallic.”

Response: I hadn’t given lightning a moment’s thought until reading this. I don’t know about the rest of the group, but I need to educate myself about what to do in a storm. One thing I do know is that the weather in ND is often fickle, so we’ll have to be constantly aware of changes.

6. Going ultra-light without ultra-experience

Response: We have no plans to go ultra-light, but we will be trying to cut out all unnecessary gear. It seems like it might be a significant challenge to balance bring enough gear for safety and relative comfort without weighing ourselves down too much.

7. Wearing boots fresh from the box

Response: I have already started breaking in my boots, but I should probably be doing it even more. We’ve discussed this issue in our group meetings.

8. Starting too late in the day

Response: I haven’t given this much thought. I’m pretty sure our plan is to wake up on the early side each day (6:30? 7:00?), eat breakfast and pack up somewhat speedily, and do most of our hiking in the morning and early afternoon.

9. Ignoring the weather forecast

Response: We’ll have severe weather contingency plans, but we may very well find ourselves hiking in the rain. I really, really hope not. I hate getting rained on.

10. Skimping on Leave No Trace

Response: Another area I hadn’t considered. Biodegradable soap seems important. We’ll be passing through towns, so we can dump wrappers and other garbage there.

All told, we’re probably at a 7 on a 1–10 preparedness/awareness scale, in terms of this list (though maybe some of the others have knowledge that would compensate for my ignorance). Not bad for being nine weeks out, but we have some work to do.


You can take the sun out of spring…

Last week, I was finally obliged to stuff my jacket into my bag and walk around outside. You can’t help it when the skies look like this…

 

Photo by Jeremy Bold, 2011.3.18

 

But today, I woke up to another light dusting of snow in Brooklyn.

 

Photo by arthurohm via Flickr

 

Sure it looks pretty and everything…but isn’t it supposed to be spring by now????

Maybe this is how it always goes. Spring is the weirdest time of the year: it’s not all about flower buds and calmly watching sunsets; it’s also inconsistent weather and impatience to feel warm sunlight on bare skin.  Though I can’t be too disappointed with the way things are progressing in Brooklyn, especially since my mom mentioned that they are just recovering from another big snowstorm in Bismarck today.  Cue entertaining weather-related article from Bismarck Tribune entitled:

 

Bismarck, greater ND recovers from spring’s weather wallop

 

Here’s some photos of the great “wallop” from the Bismarck Tribune…

 

Photo by Tom Stromme, Bismarck Tribune

 

Photo by Tom Stromme, Bismarck Tribune

 

….ruffff stuffffff, I know.   But I guess, when it comes to North Dakota, you can take the sun out of spring — and dump a bunch of snow instead — but you can’t take the spring out of certain kinds of people.

 

Photo by Tom Stromme of Bismarck Tribune

 

This one is dedicated to my friend, Jeremy Manstrom, who could always rock a pair of shorts, no socks, and sandals even in blizzard.


Nodaiku: “red roads run like veins”

 

Photo by Jessie Veeder Scofield

red roads run like veins
through a few hills, over snow —
Dream crossing the plains

—–

The Nodaiku Project is a weekly series featuring one of Jeremy Bold’s haiku compositions based on Jessie Veeder Scofield’s photographs from her ranch way out in western North Dakota (Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Daily Photos).  Find more of The Blank Rectangle’s nodaiku poems by following us on Twitter (@blankrectangle) or here at The Blank Rectangle: Nodaiku and be sure to click the “Sign me up!” button in the sidebar to get notified each time there’s a new nodaiku or other post from The Blank Rectangle!


Nodaiku: “galloping shadows”

from March 11, 2011, "Spirit" by Jessie Veeder Scofield

galloping shadows
racing down slopes, over hills —
time frozen in mind

—–

The Nodaiku Project is a weekly series featuring one of Jeremy Bold’s haiku compositions based on Jessie Veeder Scofield’s photographs from her ranch way out in western North Dakota (Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Daily Photos).  Find more of The Blank Rectangle’s nodaiku poems by following us on Twitter (@blankrectangle) or here at The Blank Rectangle: Nodaiku and be sure to click the “Sign me up!” button in the sidebar to get notified each time there’s a new nodaiku or other post from The Blank Rectangle!


First Practice Walk

Last Friday was the warmest day in my neck of the woods since November, so I did my first real practice walk. I was hoping to do 2 hours of walking, but ended up doing the 1.5 hour minimum I had set for myself. I’m still breaking in my boots (Merrell Sirens), and my feet started to hurt after about an hour.

Wearing my JanSport backback was predictably harsh on my trapezius muscles, but I don’t have a proper hiking backpack yet. I put a towel in the bottom of the backpack, added a 40 lb. kettlebell, and immediately removed the kettlebell after hefting the pack a foot off the ground. I wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes with that amount of weight and the poor weight distribution of the JanSport. I tried two 8 lb. weights, but that still seemed too heavy, so I settled on just one weight. I also packed 4 ounces of water, some kleenex, and my cell phone.

I live in a small city, so after only 20 minutes of walking I was completely out of town. I realized it had been a long time since my last walk in the country, and I enjoyed the solitude. My route was simple, roughly a large rectangle. I thought about many different things as I walked, and tried to imagine what the actual trek across North Dakota will be like.

This relatively short and easy practice walk only gave me a glimpse at what it will be like to walk 6-10 hours a day, but you have to start somewhere. The last thing I want is to put off my physical preparation until a couple weeks before the trip.

 


Nodaiku: “rocks peek from far ridge”

 

From February 24, 2011, "Landscape" by Jessie Veeder Scofield

rocks peek from far ridge —
in snow field, one empty tree
still hibernating

—–

The Nodaiku Project is a weekly series featuring one of Jeremy Bold’s haiku compositions based on Jessie Veeder Scofield’s photographs from her ranch way out in western North Dakota (Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Daily Photos).  Find more of The Blank Rectangle’s nodaiku poems by following us on Twitter (@blankrectangle) or here at The Blank Rectangle: Nodaiku and be sure to clickthe “Sign me up!” button in the sidebar to get notified each time there’s a newnodaiku or other post from The Blank Rectangle!


Running away from nothing (Part 2)


Minneapolis Cityscape. Photo by Jeremy Bold

(Yes I’m telling this story out of order.  No good explanation – you’ll just have to wait and see how it all comes together.)

A SMALL CHILD IS REACHING UP to look down from a round window in his second story house – he sees the neighbors.  The kids are playing with some brightly colored ball and their father and mother are barbecuing on the deck and everyone seems to be having fun.  They look happy from up here.

Isn’t that the kind beautiful sight that makes you want to run away from home, your boring little life, and forget everything you know?  I don’t recall ever actually getting up the courage to run away from the tall house on Bell Street – but when I was 21, I abandoned the only thing I could call my home and ran off to become a “city boy” in the neighboring state.  I just really had to get out of there, and the first step for me was the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

I’d been in and out of the Cities from time to time.  Never knew nothing more than a few things there: largest mall I’d ever seen, huge hockey town, population of the city limits of Minneapolis proper was 500,000, the metro approaching 3 million, but to me it might as well have been double or triple that, since it seemed just enough to get out.  So when I got my Bachelor’s in English from UND, I worked at a landscapers for three months while staying at my parent’s house to save the money I needed to cover the first few month’s rent.  And as soon as I got it, I got a couple of my most “ambitious” high school friends together and we checked out to Minneapolis – the farthest I think that any of us had ever lived from our North Dakota homes.

Well, it was St. Louis Park technically, a first ring suburb of Minneapolis (hometown of the Coen brothers; not too far from Fargo, I guess) and moved into the 7th floor of a high rise with mirrors in the entryway, an outdoor pool (only serviceable bout three months out of the year), and a nearby Jewish community center, which I didn’t have anything to do with but I ran past it a lot and it was the first one I think I’d ever seen.  Frankly, it was all real exotic.  I quick picked up a calendar and started tagging events for every night I could find: cheap beer and the Juicy Lucy at Matt’s Bar, Sunday night trivia at the 331, my first tastes of Thai food at Sawatdee, going down to indie rock shows and sometimes folk music at First Ave and the 7th Street Entry, rushing the line for student tickets to MinnOrch’s new renditions of Ludwig Van Beethoven and especially his glorious 9th symphony, and countless names films I couldn’t pronounce whose thoughts and languages and stories would continue to resound in my empty head all over town.  It hit me like the rush of a drug – not enough, never enough, it was NEVER enough – and even though it wasn’t home, I knew that I loved this city and everything it offered and everything that stuck.

But I had to introduce myself to people, which I tended to skirt around since it involved telling people that I was from…you know, North Dakota…none of which ever was or is meant to be malicious but I just felt a little strange being a transplant, though I think it might even be due to the sense of deference and humility that North Dakota had long instilled in me.  So I played the role of a Reinhold Messner, mostly trying to cover up my North Dakota past, mostly so I could sit and listen to everyone else, absorb their stories, find out what I’d been missing.  (I was even worrying a lot that the Minnesotans didn’t really appreciate all of these lodokos – lost North Dakotans – waltzing in to their towns and crowding up their lakes.)  I wanted to forget the West, the life of loneliness, solitude, and desolation, and my own life in North Dakota, which had seemed dead set on killing my curiosity, my interest, my desire for life.  I’d offer my own variation on Nietzsche here: it’s not that this experience didn’t make me stronger, but I feel like what North Dakota didn’t kill in me actually worked to make me stranger.

Friedrich Nietzsche, who said "What does not kill me makes me stronger." Painting by Edvard Munch.

I feel as though I left North Dakota more desirous of all the world could offer.  How long had it been brewing?  18 years of pent-up energy, stewing in my sleepy little hollow Bismarck, little tastes of living east in Grand Forks and Fargo during college.  All of it I feel like I spent submerged in literature, philosophy and my own thoughts, and it built itself up as an immense appetite for knowledge, a greed for experience, and a need for everything everything all at once and all strange in its form.  At that moment, I couldn’t help but marvel at all of the burgeoning possibility.

But despite the fact that my job was good, with benefits and great pay especially for a naive Dakota child of no experience and little consequence, and the situation that afforded me all the pleasures of the life in this city, in no time at all, I was hearing the call of another twinkling metropolis: New York, New York, the center of American Excitement, the town of a thousand delights.  Maybe my odd personality had made it an inevitability to seek out this extreme.  Maybe it was subliminal effect of hearing Fitzgerald tell of the great hero (or antihero, depending how you see yourself) Jay Gatsby, who’d come all the way from North Dakota to live a high life in the roaring twenties of Long Island.  There was a definite feeling of being tugged pulled compelled moved forced to get OUT THERE and far from home where I could finally be on my own; but, really, it all came about as a contingency.  I applied to some graduate programs in spring of 2009 and received a full tuition fellowship to start at NYU in the fall.  It was my golden opportunity.  It was a signal of some force underneath it all that I needed to accept, to see what I could only imagine in my second story room back home.

(to be continued)


“Always wear a life jacket when in North Dakota.”

Pieces of ice this big actually fall from the sky in North Dakota. Source: Bismarck Tribune

As my brother and fellow WANDerer, Jeremy, mentioned recently, in order for us to be better prepared the walk, I’ve been assigned the job of developing a contingency list. Basically, a list of specific things that might go wrong and how we would respond in each case.  To that end, here’s a very helpful website I found this evening.

What's this "local tradition" all about??? Source: iGuide Interactive Travel GuideInterestingly, a version of this cautionary piece also appears in the “Stay Safe” section of the North Dakota entry over at WikiTravel. The person who wrote this seems to know a great deal about:

1. The hazardous species that inhabit (“Wasps in the fall can easily ruin a day in Medora.”) or do not inhabit (“Snapping turtles should be left un-disturbed if stumbled upon, but these turtles are rare in North Dakota.”) our state of origin.

2. The risk imposed to life and limb merely by stepping within its borders (“North Dakota is mostly a dangerous landmass”).

3. And the explanation for why so few people live there (“North Dakota’s graveyards are full for a reason”).

A (late) Mountain Lion recently discovered in the Walmart parking lot in Bismarck. Source: Bismarck Tribune

Sorry, but I have to chuckle a little. While I certainly acknowledge the potential danger posed by the mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and weather that call North Dakota home, I can’t help but feel that over-hyped warnings of the sort presented in this article are a part of what has prevented me from actually exploring my state of origin until now.

Yes, we will make contingency plans. Yes, we will learn about and acknowledge and prepare for the real risks that come along with the rewards we hope to experience throughout the WAND.  Yes, we will be both smart and adventurous at the same time, and yes, we will walk right across this “dangerous landmass”. But no, we will not be wearing life jackets.


Nodaiku: “summer in Bismarck”

summer in Bismarck

the river, the warm evenings

drinks in hand, we bask

Railway bridge over the Missouri River. Picture by David Stybr.


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