The last hitch

A view into the valley from camp.

Having forgotten ice for our cooler during the last hitch, we find some snow at the end of a work day and bring what we can carry back to camp.

Our summer NCC crew, minus Young and Luke who took their remaining discretionary days before the NCC term ended. We're standing by completed tread (not pictured) in the Mount Rose Wilderness Area.

Trail Maintenance in the Valley of Fire

Nevada Conservation Corps Crew No. 3 finishes their trail work for the day at the Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada.

Jamie Sauer at the Petrified Logs area of Valley of Fire.

Me at White Domes, Valley of Fire.

Ben Nicklay pauses from creating a trail feature at White Domes, Valley of Fire.

Joel Ogulnick at White Domes, Valley of Fire.

(Click and drag to rotate.) The Elephant Rock area of the Valley of Fire.

(Click and drag to rotate 360 degrees.) Our campground at the Valley of Fire.

End of the Spring Mountains

The night sky over our camp, Blue Tree, in the Spring Mountains.

A few of our tents at night at Blue Tree.

Joel stands atop a boulder he climbed in Zion National Park, Utah.

A scorpion in the Spring Mountains.

Heading back to camp after work in the Spring Mountains.

The Spring Mountains.

Nevada Conservation Corps Crew #1 on our last day of trail work in the Spring Mountains.

15 years later...

I realized a while ago that my childhood friend Beth was studying in London this semester. We used to live down the road from each other in our neighborhood in Chittenango, until she moved. So finally, after about 15 years of not seeing or hearing from each other, we finally reunite!
Beth and me.

First days in Paris

La Tour Eiffel behind the Monument for Peace in the Parc du Champ de Mars.

Although getting to Paris was expensive, Paris itself wasn't too bad. My hostel was only €19 a night. And the reason for that became quite apparent. The place was pretty run down, which I really didn't get the impression of from their website which looks well up-kept. Worse than the actual building were the two clerks who ran the desk downstairs. They were the most miserable, irritable and unfriendly people that could possibly be running the hostel. They were the exact antithesis of the positivity emanating from their website.

One of the kids I was sharing a room with (I think his name was Iku?) in the hostel was from Osaka, Japan, and didn't speak English that well at all, and we sort of struggled talking to each other, as I didn't speak any Japanese whatsoever. But I really enjoyed that. This one girl running the hostel, however, had no tolerance for his broken English. Iku's luggage found its way on another plane during his voyage to France, so he didn't have much on him but the luggage was supposed to be delivered to the hostel when it arrived. When he and I were about to leave the hostel for the day, he wanted to ask this hostel girl to keep an eye out for his luggage, and, because his English was poor, the girl couldn't quite understand him and she was so visibly annoyed and was unbelievably rude to this poor kid.

Both hostel clerks constantly averted making eye contact with visitors, they spoke minimally if you wanted some information and were unhelpful. They just made me really upset in general even though they weren't necessarily mean to me personally.

And in contrast, the visitors I was living with for the week were amazing. The guys there came from countries including Poland, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Japan, Brazil and Mexico. Most of us would hang out in the evening and talk. It was cool. I was initially uneasy about the idea of sharing a room with other people, but I think it was in fact one of the best experiences I had in Paris.
Two Parisians enjoy some freestyle BMX action near the Eiffel Tower.
The subterranean Catacombes de Paris, the well-known ossuary.
It was really dark so not only did I have to use a very low shutter speed, but my autofocus wouldn't cooperate.


Sheep graze in fields outside of Strathcarron.

This past weekend I went to visit a family through the HOST program who live in Shieldaig, Scotland. I had booked a flight from the Gatwick airport to Inverness through EasyJet, and although I arrived an hour before departure time, they said the check-in desk was closed and that I couldn't board. Meaning I just wasted £80. This doesn't make any sense, as when we left for France last weekend, we bought our tickets, checked in and boarded the plane just 10 minutes before departure time. This was through RyanAir though, which may have been the key difference. In any case, this was rather infuriating and I'm going to try to have them refund my money soon.

This was on Friday, so I looked for other flights heading out of Gatwick to Inverness, and there was this other small airline which would have charged £214, so I didn't do that either. I was frustrated and my only choice was to book a sleeper train from London Euston to Inverness that night. For £117. Luckily SUL will reimburse me to a degree for these costs as I had to do this program because of SUL. Anyway it was pretty miserable, as was the sleeper train because apparently you have to pay much more to get a bed or even a reclining chair, which I did not do. I didn't sleep at all, and arrived at Inverness at about 8:30 a.m., then took a train from Inverness to Strathcarron. The picture above is from the train ride.

The HOST family picked me up at the Strathcarron train station and drove me to their house in Shieldaig. It was a very beautiful area.
My hosts live in that white house off to the left.

I climbed some mountains and walked around. I accidentally dropped my phone off into a ravine. So I had to buy a new one. And then I accidentally lost a blank CF memory card off a cliff.

The weekend was very expensive.

My hosts run a bed and breakfast year-round and are actively involved in restoring the forests in their approximate 1,500 acre estate, which like most of the Highlands in the region, are bare (the picture below is an example of this). The region was once the ancient Caledonian Forest of the Highlands, but now the native forest is nearly gone and its regeneration is especially difficult because of local farmers' sheep overgrazing the area, as well as red deer. It's a very relevant is topical issue up there because the Scottish government pays locals yearly for keeping sheep - this is done as an incentive for people to make a living up in an area with an otherwise low population. Every sheep that a farmer buys and keeps, the government pays a bit more. These farmers own vast estates in the Highlands and overgrazing is rampant.

My hosts own no sheep, and have fenced there area to prevent neighbors' sheep from entering, as well as red deer, so that their reforestation work can be fruitful.

Me by the mountains in Kinlochewe, the Scotland Highlands.