Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

Long Trail

The Long Trail was the first long-distance hiking trail in the US, running 280 miles through Vermont along the spine of the Green Mountains from Massachusetts to Canada. I have spent time on the trail before doing day hikes, but have always wanted to make an extended adventure of it. So last Thursday, Alaina and I packed our bags and drove up to our established start point near Killington and set out on a five day journey. We have done lots of camping in our day, but most of it has been out of a car without the need to carry everything, so efficient packing was crucial. We stuffed a food bag with dried fruits and nuts, oatmeal, coffee and tea, peanut butter and jelly, bread, tuna, pasta, cheese, dry sausage, soup, Indian meals, chocolate and cookies. I constructed a stove out of a soda can and denatured alcohol, and we packed a tent and sleeping bags plus a few articles of clothing. A map and a guidebook showed us the way and we were off, leaving our car at 4:45 on Thursday and marching into the woods…

I love to travel, especially to unfamiliar places where I am constantly challenged by logistical and cultural differences. It is mind expanding to live temporarily in a new way and place. This trip was different. We knew exactly what we were going to be doing every day: lots of walking and some eating. Every night: sleeping. That’s all there was. I turned my phone off to avoid any contact with information away from the trail so the only dispatches I received were from fellow hikers and usually consisted of nice views and good water sources. All the noise from my highly connected world vanished and I was left with just survival to focus on: to sustain myself with food and water, stay safe and keep walking until an appropriate exit. It was mind-clearing and centering to be in the wilderness.

We walked 48 miles over five days and camped in four beautiful locations along the way. I had initially envisioned a slightly longer journey, but we found it slow going up and down 3 or 4 mountains a day, and around the third day I was reminded of one reason I love Vermont so much; in my four years at Middlebury, I learned to slow down and savor the days, but when I moved to New York I was caught up in the speed and efficiency of the city. I adapted to the pace of my new environment and lost a bit of my laid-back VT style. The hike came down to a choice of rushing towards a goal or slowing down to enjoy our surroundings. Accepting a slower pace meant more flexibility in our nightly stops, which led to some spectacular campsites with better energy and morale.

Sometimes in our travels, water is a constant source of stress. Tap water in many parts of the world is toxic, which can leave us very thirsty from poor planning. This hike was similar in that respect, where supplies needed constant replenishment, lest we find ourselves dry. There were many streams, but the presence of Giardia is a constant threat, so the water needed to be purified. We brought a UV light filter, which worked for two days before running out of batteries (rookie mistake to not have extras), so we had to boil our caches, which was a huge time and fuel suck. We were extremely lucky to find a spring on day four that basically solved our issues. It certainly makes you think about how much we take for granted our absolute greatest and most important resource in the world.

On the fifth day, we hiked out, conveniently crossing the Lincoln gap road, where we stuck out our thumbs and hopped in any car headed our direction that would stop for us. It took three rides from generous strangers to get back to where we had parked. We ate a meal we had been talking about since walking into the woods at the Irish Pub at The Inn at Long Trail then stiffly stuffed ourselves into the car and drove back to the city, from the Forest to the Jungle.

This was one of the most physically demanding activities I’ve ever participated in. I am still sore from the thousands of steps I took on the trail. Alaina, at 2/3 of my body size, was tested even more and was an incredible trooper through the hike. While I am always impressed with her ability to trek on, I am simply amazed at her camping abilities. She is a stage manager by trade and organizing necessary gear, toiletries, food and water is a complex task that requires logic and planning that she commands so well. She is, simply put, the best friend and camping partner anyone could ever hope for. The best part of this adventure for me was spending all those hours alone with her; I love my friends and family so much, but sometimes they can distract me from the person I love the most. It was an incredible experience to share with her and I am so grateful that I married someone willing to walk into the wild with me!

Middlebury Snow Bowl

At Sunrise


Humans built a machine and sent it to Mars.

I am impressed by relatively simple technologies like cars, phones, cameras and computers, all of which have embedded themselves in our lives over the past century. The “Curiosity” rover takes all of these amazing inventions from our planet and brings them to another. The effort and cost is astronomical, but exploring our universe is priceless. We may not discover life on Mars, but we have reached beyond our own mortal, earth-bound lives to expand our celestial consciousness and seek understanding of our greater place in the eternal mystery of our existence.


The Landing at JPL

Panoramic Photo of Mars

Good Times

I love leisure! I think that I am pretty good at enjoying myself but this past month has tested me and pushed my fun limits. We spent some time with Taylor family on the beach and golf course in Cape Cod, spent a weekend in New Hope, Pennsylvania for a tubing adventure, hosted one of the smoothest Land Parties ever, enjoyed Coney Island for a ballgame and rollercoasters, spent a week with 10 friends at a villa in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico and attended a beautiful wedding in West Glacier, Montana!

I feel incredibly fortunate to maintain a lifestyle conducive to these activities and to have such amazing friends and family to share them with.



Summer always arrives hot and heavy. My work schedule declines (to 3 1/2 days a week) but my social schedule explodes to the point where I have even less free time! This summer’s weekends are booked solid with great adventures and the next two months are bursting with potential goodness…

June 11 brought a great start to Summer ’12 with the arrival of my nephew, Lincoln Eustace Taylor! Andrew and Rachel instantly became amazing parents dedicated to offering their child the best life he could dream of… Lincoln was born into battle; within 24 hours was having an MRI and he is scheduled for brain surgery in his first month. It has been a difficult emotional journey for everyone, but I feel good about him and believe that this experience will make us all stronger. This is how a great hero is made!

And in the midst of this chaos, Andrew has built his first restaurant! Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine opens tomorrow and is poised to become a beautiful and amazing addition to the already wonderful dining scene there. Alaina and I are headed north tomorrow for the grand delicious unveiling…

Last weekend was another birth, of sorts, as Alaina’s latest stage-managed production completed a workshop run of “Here Lies Love”, a new musical by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, at Mass MoCA. I was in North Adams, MA for three days and got to enjoy some beautiful hikes in the region (including a couple of backcountry ski trails on Mt. Greylock that I hope to return to in powdery delight) and experienced the show for the first time. It is a truly amazing piece of theater about former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos. The Audience stands in a central pit while the action takes place on four-foot tall moving platforms swirling around them. The music throbs, the lights blare, the projections flash and the actors dance with a personally riveting and morally ambiguous story that makes for great entertainment.



Big Bend, Thunderbolt

Sol Lewitt at Mass MoCA

Farewell Winter

I welcome the end of Winter because Summer is sweet, but I always feel a tinge of remorse to see the snow melt away and know that I won’t be back on skis for another eight months. The season typically ends with some Spring slush runs and over the last 10 days I have experienced this transition at Stowe, where we were skiing over huge dirt patches in 70 degree sunshine in the brightest ski attire we could find, and in Whitefish, Montana, where I went to visit my college roommate, Marty and his family.

The first day actually had mid-winter conditions and we hiked into the Canyon for some delicious powder and had a day of hoots and hollers stomping through 3000 acres of stashes at Big Mountain. The temperature was close to freezing and as a snow junkie, that is a crucial threshold… The next day, Spring arrived and dashed our dreams of pioneer powder: we rode snowmobiles deep into the wilderness and established a road to the top of a steep pitch covered with perfectly spaced trees. One snowmobile towed three skiers up to the top and then turned around to head down and pick us up at the bottom. The sun can be the ultimate outdoor pleasure, but on this day it turned our pristine powder into thick cement and robbed us of a last dance with winter’s bounty. We turned to our snowmobiles for some alpine exploration, but even that proved a challenge in the mashed potatoes, getting stuck and digging out repeatedly. It was my first experience on a snowmobile and I had some epiphanies about these machines:

1.) It felt like what I imagine riding a Speeder Bike from “Return of the Jedi”/Mariokart would feel like.
2.) It is incredibly fast and powerful.
3.) It doesn’t always turn when you want it to.
4.) It requires a full body strength to maneuver.
5.) It allows quick access to terrain that is unattainable with any other mode of transport in any other season.
6.) It is very fun to ride.

Tuesday was my official farewell to the ski season and while most of the mountain hadn’t softened up enough from the overnight freeze to make one last aggressive day, the groomers did provide some high speed bombing and I went out in a blaze of gravity. It was a quick vacation and smooth transition into Spring in one of the most beautiful settings this country has to offer. I feel lucky that I will have the opportunity to return there this summer for Marty and Sandy’s wedding and to enjoy the sun and warmth in all its glory, with Winter skiing just a memory or a dream.





Maine Again

President’s Day was a vacation, which meant a trip to Vacationland. I drove the 6 hours to Portland on Saturday and spent the long weekend in the company of amazing family. We dined the finest as Chefbro Andrew created some dazzling masterpieces at Hugo’s, we played hard on the Reiche’s Paddle Tennis court and enjoyed the company of parents and siblings and united families. I am always amazed by all of my relatives and lucky to be a part of their lives.

On Monday, in celebration of Washington’s Birthday, I drove up to Rangeley, ME to check out Saddleback Mountain. In perusing the internet, I found a trail map of said resort and knew I had to investigate. The entire top of the Mountain — with an elevation over 4000 feet — is covered in steep runs and beautiful glades. It is laid-back and uncrowded, which makes it pretty much my dream mountain, and despite the fact that everyone is cursing this season’s dearth of snow, the conditions were astonishingly good and iceless. This mountain kicks ass!


India: Soundtrack

I brought my laptop to India. I debated it for months, and decided to lug it for a few reasons: the most practical was as a storage device for all my videos. I had two 4 GB cards that were obviously insufficient video time, so I needed to fill and dump them. While unnecessary, the ability to record music and blog is a treasured joy and the weight and space sacrifice in my tiny backpack seemed inconsequential. Travel tends to throw some tricks at you and after 6 days, the power adapter was fried by a generator on our houseboat and although the computer itself was thankfully spared, it was rendered useless. When we made it to Delhi 8 days later, I tuk tukked it to the Apple Store in search of a new cable, and they told me that they were all out of the MacBook adapters. They allowed me to charge the computer in the store for a while, which gave me just enough juice to download my videos through the end of the trip and I was able to thumb some blogposts on my iPhone, but unfortunately, my music production was halted. I am looking at it as a gentle reminder that visual and aural India is too valuable to be spent on a small box with earphones.

But in the few hours that I did have an operational studio, I did produce some music that I enjoy listening to. Enjoy!

India: Endia

Back in Brooklyn now after an unplanned two-day drive from Chicago following an Irene-inspired flight diversion from Delhi, I have had almost 24 hours to catch my breath and reflect on the crazy month that I just experienced. It was fantastic, intense, challenging, beautiful, terrifying, inspiring, depressing, insane, hilarious, exhausting and amazing trip. The few words that I write here can barely do justice to the feelings touching me throughout the adventure. India is maximum sensory overload at all times and it goes straight to the brain.

We ended in Delhi, with two days at the uber-luxurious Imperial Hotel as a treat and reward for surviving the punishing travel demands of Indian travel. Little did we know we were so far from home. We arrived on an overnight train at 5am but couldn’t check into our comfy bed until 11, so wandered around the bizzarely empty center of India’s capital for 6 hours in a dream state before some pool time, some food and a trip to a local Sufi shrine, which quickly became the most overwhelming of all my experiences during the adventure. Unaware, we had wandered into the final Thursday evening prayer session of Ramadan and were crushed with worshippers. I have never experienced anything like this intense density of people and all I could think about was stampede deaths which is why I feel lucky to have only lost my wallet…

The next day was a street food safari in Old Delhi, which was as densely packed as our previous excursion but also involved the same density of motor vehicles, followed by some shopping at Main Bazar and an elegantly delicious dinner at Bukhara. We awoke at 5am the next day to catch a train to Agra for a final day at The Taj Mahal, the most ornate and precious building in the world. On our train back to Delhi, we learned that all NYC airports were pre-empitvely closed for the hurricane and our flight had been canceled. Some quick research opened the possibility of not returning until September 6; panic ensues and we eventually make our way to the airport, where we are offered the possibility of flying to Chicago, renting a car and driving home via Pittsburgh, finally arriving home 36 hours behind schedule. It was a grueling five days since the Buddhist tranquility of Dharamsala, but we arrived home and hugged our cats then fulfilled our sushi cravings and passed out.

I want to go back to India and see more. It has so much to offer and we only scratched the surface, but for the next few months, I will be content with life at home. There is comfort in a regular schedule and familiar environs. The point of travel is to escape that, but if I were always on the move, there would be no standard for comparison.

I want to thank my intrepid partners on this journey, Sarah, Eric and Alaina for supporting me and providing great insights and discussion throughout the trip. I know I can be a tough companion sometimes because I love punishment, finding difficult and uncomfortable situations to immerse myself in while seeking out the cheapest food and accommodation possible. Overall, I think we worked well as a team, executing the travel perfectly and learning a lot about India, its amazing people, food and culture, plus ourselves and our own home. I am certain there are many more journeys in our future!

India: Tibet

The Himalayas have an aura untouched by any other range, partly because they contain the highest peaks on Earth and partly because they contain such a diversity of cultures. I would love to someday travel across these mountains, from the India to China, and witness the gradual cultural evolution. On this trip we made it only into the foothills, to Dharamsala, but the shift was evident.

Tibet sounds like one of the most beautiful and fascinating places on the planet, but unfortunately suffers under one of the most brutally repressive governments in existence. China invaded Tibet over 50 years ago and has sought to systematically destroy all independent political, religious and historical evidence of this society. Millions have died in this persecution and, to preserve their identity, many have fled to this region of India. The spiritual leader of the Buddhist people, The Dalai Lama, currently resides in the small town of McLeod Ganj in Himachal Pradesh and this has spawned a Tibetan expat community that dominates the area, giving it a very different feel from anywhere else we visited. Momos and noodles filled the menus and we took a cooking class to learn the inspiringly simple method of this regional cuisine. The class was led by a man named Sangye, who showed us the basics and let us prepare our own dumplings and noodle soups. It was delicious and fun, but the real pleasure was meeting this man and hearing his story. He escaped from Tibet 13 years ago by trekking over snowcapped peaks and wading through frigid rivers with a group of refugees, first to Nepal and eventually to India. He came with nothing, begging for food along the journey, and has since built himself a nice business where he can share his love of food and culture with foreigners, an opportunity he sadly could never have in his homeland. We met another refugee who had been imprisoned for three years because he was a monk who refused to denounce The Dalai Lama. His stories from prison were painfully shocking and confirmed that China is a persistent human rights abuser; it is terrifying to think that such an enormous population lives under this tyrannical shroud. All of the Tibetans living in McLeod Ganj had endured life-threatening escapes for freedom and it was a humbling and inspiring experience to consider what is truly important in life and to appreciate how fortunate we are to be citizens of a country that may be fraught with problems, but respects individual and human rights as a foundation for a free society.

India: Chandigarh

Chaos abounds! In every way, Indian cities are collages of clashing elements. It seems that everyone is a merchant, whether they sell from a storefront or a nomadic basket and lawlessness engulfs all aspects of life. Traffic lacks order and food is entirely unregulated, leading to questionable choices in nearly every moment of day-to-day existence. This is, of course, much of what I love about this country; it is raw and real, daring you to test the limits and taxing your comfort constantly.

And then there is Chandigarh. The capital of both Punjab and Haryana states, it is the only planned city in India and quite an anomaly from the typical insanity. Designed by French architect and urban planner Le Corbusier, it features a grid of numbered sectors divided by paved and perpendicular streets where red lights are respected and drivers would not even consider dodging head-on traffic. The city is located in India’s agricultural heartland and features some of the finest food we sampled on our trip. With plenty of legitimate (not novelty) multi-cuisine options, we chose an Italian restaurant to satisfy our cravings for un-Indian and were molto impressato! Our second night there, we ventured to Khyber for some North Indian Frontier food that was heavy on kebabs and absolutely delicious, followed by a trendy bar crawl that could have been set in Manhattan’s Meat Packing district.

The highlight of our time here, though, had to be Nek Chand’s Rock Garden; a beautiful labyrinth of sculpted nature, where every twist and bend in the path revealed walls, water features or figures made of stone or found objects. It is childlike in its imagination and playfulness, created secretly for 15 years by a state road inspector inspired by the abundance of waste produced by the fledgling city. When it was finally discovered, it was recognized as an artistic treasure and sponsored with government assistance. It is a perfect microcosm of the city in its organized chaos with a creative flair. It was a city we never planned on seeing until it fit conveniently into our itinerary but it surprised and delighted us at every turn.