Climbing between Poland and Slovakia

Climbing between Poland and Slovakia

A few years ago, HK and I went backpacking in Eastern Europe, crossing over the High Tatra mtns. from Poland into Slovakia. Relying on local busses and our thumbs, we got a late start to the trailhead, and then, by mistakes made in figuring out the Polish map, (no names to blame, here), we headed up what we assumed to be our moderate trail. Since we were carrying all of our “stuff” for the 3-week trip in our backpacks, we knew we couldn’t make the more demanding, but also more direct, route over the jagged mountain face. (Not to mention that neither one of us has any climbing experience).  About 3 hours into the hike, scrambling over scree-covered hillsides, we bagan to realize that we were not on the correct trail, after all.

“Should we turn back?”  I questioned, not knowing what it was that would lie ahead. I was becoming discouraged, because we had lost the trail markers that we initially followed, and the only two people we encountered thus far were a coule of nuns who gave us stares that said we were truly crazy Americans.

“Slovakia?” I asked them, pointing in the direction from whence they came.  They smiled a knowing smile (“yes, they are lost little lambs” ) they seemed to say with a nod. “Easy?”  Another nod. “Difficult?” nod again. OK, we were getting nowhere with this, so we trudged forward.

Within an hour, we were in clear view of what lay between us and our ultimate destination. A craggy-faced mountain, ominous and unforgiving. “Well, there is obviously a path between the peaks” I reasoned, trying to convince myself.

“Um, I don’t think so.”  HK pointed to the sheer cliff before us. There, barely visible in the distance, were tiny,colorful figures moving ever-so-slowly against the sheer grey granite.

“Holy shit! There is no fucking way I am going over that”. Stopped in our tracks, we looked at our watches, back to the figures on the mountainside, and to the sky, where we realized that we only had a few hours before the sun would no longer light our path.

Knowing full well that we had no choice, we continued to move forward, and before long were standing in a queue of about 8 people (men-all men, none with a full backpack)

“I can do this. I will do this. I have to do this” I chanted to myself over and over.  “Yes, I can; Yes, I can“.

Tears of fear rolled discreetly down my cheeks until it was my turn to pull myself up the verticle cliff with only the occasional chain to grab hold of. HK stayed close behind me, encouraging me. “You’re a fucking animal, babe. You got it. Pull! You can do it!”

And in the end, scraped knees and bloody hands aside, I made it over the top of that mountain. Sheer willpower (and a lot of fear) had prevailed over what had seemed an insurmountable obstacle that stood squarely between myself and my goal.  Yes, I Did!

Today, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our country’s 44th president.  Our country has scaled a mountain that is as looming, as seemingly unsurmountable, as the High Tatra was for me that day. We have made it over the summit, granted with many scrapes and bruises.  And on the other side of the obstacles that once stood in our way, the sun is shining. It’s a new day.  Yes, We Did!

Yes, We Did!

Yes, We Did!

During the process of consolidating and paring-down toiletries for our backpacking trip to the Alps, I came across the “perfect” solution to all those little travel sized bottles of shampoo, soap, conditioner, etc… I went online and found these little paper Travelon shampoo sheets that come in packet the size of a dental floss container.  You get them wet and they lather up. At 50 sheets per container it seemed like a no-brainer.  So I bought the shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, laundry soap, hand soap–the works! All that stuff that would take up so little space and be feather light! Tried ‘em at home, they did an OK job.

The first time I washed my hair on the hike, I used 2 sheets. No lather. So I pulled out some more (note: use DRY fingers to pull out the little sheets-they’re the consistency of a listermint and stick together.) Maybe it was the hard mountain water, but I never got a bubble outta those suckers, just a big clump of green goo.  Well, the showers only give you like, a gallon of water for your token, then you’re done.  When I walked into our room, Honeykins fell out laughing.  Imagine “There’s something about Mary” when Cameron Diaz has that “hair-gel” in her bangs. It was like that, only green. 10-minutes of combing through it with a toothbrush only served to spread it out like an invasive algae, and no amount of head-under-the-sink scrubbing rid me of the slime. Fortunately, a couple of very cool women from the UK  apparently lost their appetites after sitting across the table from me at dinner and breakfast, and presented me with a couple mini-bottles of shampoo they liberated from the maid’s cart in a hotel they had splurged for.  Many thanks, Kelly and Brenda! 

Ditto for all the other little soap sheets. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Lesson learned:  Even when you’re backpacking, there are some things you just can’t skimp on. Bring a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s  and use it for everything!

hair gel

hair gel