Enter the cabin

Sometime in the summer of 2017, I decided I couldn’t handle being in the city anymore.  Not that we were living in large city in the first place, but even Portland, with its hipster revitalization and hot food scene was driving me nuts.

I have lived there since 2000, and my family has lived in the area for some 400 years. It should feel like home to me, but it no longer did.

Partaking of the mental toll was the summer traffic, making a tenth of a mile trip to our house take 20 minutes; the Brooklynification of the everything; $5 lattes and crowds of New Yorkers sitting at my preferred eating spots…

It’s only for 4 months of the year, you assure yourself.

So, that was when we started camping. That was when I started writing this blog.

There was one day I remember clearly: we had woken up in the woods and bathed in a stream, and that evening had driven to Boston, to Logan airport, to fly to a conference.  Inside the airport concrete parking structure was a piece of sound art: bird song, perpetual, looping, artificial bird song.  We had been hijacked into some dystopian future.

Last summer we spent every weekend up in the woods of New Hampshire, doing dispersed camping and climbing. Then we rented a house near Rumney for the month of September, and got a taste of what working outside the city might be like.

“You still need to go to the city to get the mammoth.”

So we started thinking about this: could we live/ work most of the time outside the city?  Could we go into town occasionally to catch mammoths and then haul them back to our cabin in the woods for carving up and storing?

If the cabin in the woods had internet, it seemed plausible.

Now, we are lucky: our carry costs in the city are low, having acquired the situation before Portland was the hipster boomtown it is now.  We could keep the tiny and perfect condo nest we had created, and button it up easily for weeks at a time. We could easily come back into the city for mammoth hunting meetings.

In addition, houses in the deep woods don’t actually cost much money, relative to the city of course.  Generally, everything out in the woods costs about half of what it would in the city, and sometimes less.  Our restaurant bills go to $0, obviously, since there are literally zero restaurants we eat at within fifty miles.

True Love

We have a friend, a beautiful, smart, interesting and sophisticated woman who is dating in New York City.  Her tales of dating woe fascinate me.  As I said, she is beautiful in that photogenic way so she has no end of interested suitors. She can go on two dates a night, and often does.  She, like many people, would like to find a real partner and is using the dating app approach to cast as wide a net as possible.

The extreme plurality of choice that dating in a modern city now offers is, I suspect, very bad for creating good relationships.

Upon acquiring the cabin in the woods, we set about meeting some of the locals, as one must if one needs things like help with snow plowing and plumbing. Right away, we met several couples in their fifties or sixties who had been happily married decades and appeared still thrilled about each other.

This is interesting. I thought to myself.

This is not all to romanticize rural life.  One of the carpenters we have been working with told us we should probably get a game cam or something like that because there are a lot of people addicted to meth out here, and if you aren’t living in a house full time it can become a target for theft.

We have one,  I assured him, and immediately went out and bought an internet connected system as well.

Of course, cities have their equal share of addicted people, but the social layers protect us from seeing them, ironically.  It is, I hypothesize, easier to be socially stratified in a city than in a rural place.

Social Life

But won’t we be lonely?  Daniel, particularly, is an extrovert and has always thought he needed the social stimulation of being able to walk out to a coffee shop at any moment of the day.

The irony is, especially when your cabin is being renovated, you have an almost constant stream of unannounced visitors. We are alone significantly less in our cabin in the deep woods than we are in Portland.  Plus, there are no dropbys in the city.  Dropbys happen all the time when there is no cellular service.

Prior to understanding how social life worked in the rurals, we had estimated that because we are located near climbing, we would be able to make as many friends as we wanted. (About a year ago I had made a rule that all new cultivated friendships needed to be with climbers anyway.) 

This is, of course, still true.  Climbing, one of the most social sports, means that becoming a regular makes friendship development easy. Besides, all you want to talk about is climbing anyway, so there is never any need to worry about the more divisive subjects that break up families and friendships: no work, no politics, no identities to protect. Just routes and rock.


Living without cellular service seems tricky.

Well, Wifi calling works pretty well.

Interestingly, the DSL internet we have in the cabin is faster than the cable internet we have in Portland.  This is, of course, a matter of density. DSL works based on distance to the source.  We have identified our source, and it appears that there are exactly two people we might be sharing with, one of whom is 85 years old, the other of whom is never home during business days. Thus, during work days, we are sharing with nobody, and unless a tree falls on the wire, we’re good.







This is in our driveway about a hundred feet from the Hawk’s Nest.

Yep, we bought a cabin, somewhere with no cell service for miles and hours from the city.

As the snow has been slowly dissipating, we’ve been slowly renovating. During one of these trips up North, Daniel noticed some strange large tracks around the house.

“Brookie, were you walking around there?”

“No, those are probably deer tracks.”

“They are kind of big for deer.”

“That’s just the Yeti effect- the snow melts a little and makes the tracks look twice their actual size.”

“I don’t know, this one looks pretty clear and un-melty.”

“Yeah, but it can’t be anything other then a deer.  ”

Then we found the scat. The size of kumquats.

The game cam pics were the final bit of proof.  A cow and a large calf.

Work Trips

We’ve been on this extended work trip, traveling by car and primarily staying in hotels. It’s been almost a month now.

When we started the trip, we were driving south on the inland east coast route.  We had downloaded AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, a fun and easy listen about a computer programmer who quits his job to hike the trail around age 40.  He was, as the majority do, hiking from south to north, and we were driving from north to south. As we drove the twelve hour drive, we kept passing the points he had just mentioned in the 12 hour audiobook.

It was a nice setup to the past month on the road.

Sometimes I think of staying in hotels as like extended camping or hiking trips.  It helps me tolerate the situation. We have needed to hotel it for work; it’s not appropriate to show up unshowered and smelling like campfire in office environments. Imagining the hotel life as like a long trail hike (minus the pain, dirt, wet, discomfort, bears, and hunger) makes it just a little more fun.

I carry our camping mugs and sporks into the hotel rooms, and make instant oatmeal using the stupid little keurig water heater (no propane stoves permitted in the hotel room.)

Stats so far this trip:

  • 12 states and one district driven through: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, D.C.
  • 2 Rock gyms frequented
  • 1 outdoors climbing location visited (Whipporwhill at Somersville Lake, New River Gorge Region)
  • 1 night camping
  • too many nights in hotels


Ridges, Gorges, and Cabins.

The month at Rumney proved so appealing that we are in the process of trying to relocate there – we put a little cabin under contract, and are hopeful that decent internet in a remote cabin will be a reality of our future.  The ideal life, as I now see it, is waking up early, clacking away at the keyboard and phones for a good bunch of hours, and then rolling into the crag around 2:30pm.  This is only possible if you live minutes away, right?

After a quick turnaround in Maine, we loaded up the vehicle with both work and climbing gear and drove to the Blue Ridge area. We got our first taste of New River Gorge on Bridge Day (extra special 45 minute detour if you are coming from the south!) and we were fascinated by the gorgeous sandstone, so different from the Rumney lava-rock.

The thing New River- and I guess this whole area – seems to be missing is the chance for dispersed camping.  It’s all just a little too developed.  We pulled into a National Park campground in the Blue Ridge Parkway. The ranger noticed our Maine plates and so we got to talking about the differences between the White Mountain National Forest and the Washington-Jefferson National Forest.

“No, we don’t really have dispersed camping down here.  I know what you mean.  Up there, in the Whites, it’s, you know, more wild. Less developed.”  Said the ranger.

This was a an odd little bit of insight into the two regions. The Forest in NH is “more wild?”



Body Composition Optimization

Otherwise known as dieting.

Now, generally speaking, I don’t believe in dieting.  I think the food we eat daily should be optimized towards sustainability. But in the name of experimentation, we’re going all in on this two months of periodized training by capping it off with two weeks of body-comp-optimization.

We started off by agreeing that before, during, and after climbing we would eat whatever we wanted (like we do now.)

Daniel said that he’d give up alcohol for two weeks and cut back on starches.

I already don’t drink, so my thought was I’d give up muffins and chocolate as primary snack foods in favor of something more like nuts and goji berries. Also, I’ve been trying to reduce my caffeine intake in order to be less anxious, which means that my absolute favorite snack – a breve cappuccino – is off the table. (That’s a cappuccino made with half and half instead of milk by the way.)

Our hope was to come home and eat rice and vegetables for dinner every night. We’ll see how that goes.

Day 1: was a climbing day, so we ate whatever we wanted, which for me included a muffin slathered with almond butter. Dinner out at a ramen shop.

Day 2: I decided to skip lunch in favor of a vegan cookie (you know, 480 calories apiece, like these) but was too hungry by 3pm so I added a cheese + chipotle mayo crepe followed by two Lindt chocolate. WIN.

Days 3-14:

Daniel successfully did not drink alcohol. I substituted scones for muffins.

2017-09-02 10.54.53



Daypacks + The Ten Essentials

Recently I spent lunchtime designing a daypack and ordering the required objects that I didn’t already have.  I was loosely informed by the idea of “ten essentials” for hiking, plus the amazing book Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey)- he seems to go on multi-day adventures with little more than a canteen, if that. Though it appears that 1965 was in the days prior to the necessity of water purification, sadly….

Luckily, since Daniel and I will both be carrying daypacks and traveling together, we can split the load (to a certain extent.) See below: My pack all packed up, with extra items that he will carry (food bag, second InReach, leatherman.)

Periodization Training Ep.3 :: Power Endurance

Enter phase 3 of our mini-periodized training season (here’s the overview): Power Endurance. Or otherwise known as, my least favorite type of training.

I’m afraid of falling.  During the strength & power phase we simply came to the realization that we weren’t pushing ourselves because we didn’t want to fall. It’s easier to justify: we’re over 35 and a whole bunch of falling – even onto nice mats- can have an effect. Plus, I twisted an ankle badly bouldering in the gym a few years ago and since then- I just haven’t had a taste for it.

We are doing the power-endurance phase by lead climbing on the lead wall at Salt Pump. It’s stiff and overhanging and long- modeled after Shagg Crag in Maine.

Session 1 – 8.29.17

Warmup- six pitches on auto-belay.

(no rest)
5.9 – hung rope twice

Session 2 – 8.31.2017

warmup: 8 pitches autobelay

then we ran out of time because the gym closes at 9pm.

Will continue to update.

Forest Food

Daniel loves to cook (thank god because I don’t). He’s skillfully translated this into cooking with fire.  I.e. forest cooking. Nothing like coming back from the weekend and everything you have smells like campfire.

Here’s our basic meal program, as of yet:

  1. Summer Garden Vegetables on the Plancha– or, more commonly known as “sort of like pizza”. Sautéed bell peppers, fresh heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, cracked pepper, all piled on top of a fresh english muffin with hickory smoked cheddar cheese.
  2. Forest Dirty Rice– organic white long grain rice, simmered to a savory perfection with boullion, garlic, bell peppers, onions. Topped with a plancha-fried egg and fresh cracked pepper and salt. Hot sauce optional.
  3. Rainy Italians- fresh mini baguettes, classic american cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper paired with thin sliced orange peppers and tomatoes. Preferably consumed while partially wet, huddled under a tarp, because you couldn’t get the fire to light.
  4. Rainy Rice– Cooked over fresh and dry store-bought firewood, long-grain white rice jazzed up with woodsmoke, boullion, garlic, onion, and bell peppers. Side salad of fresh tomatoes drizzled in olive oil.
  5. Forest Flapjacks– A four hour love affair with breakfast. Campfire and plancha by the river, with classic pancake ingredients. Finished off with cherry jam and butter.
  6. Ask and You shall Receive Lunch- Drive for several hours through the forest. Mention you are getting hungry and we are going to need to pull over and eat the rest of the Rainy Rice. Thirty seconds later, pull into a deserted dispersed camping site, and find the firepit still smoking and hot. Double check for human presence, find none. Heat your rice over the remainder of the coals, then carefully make sure the fire is out before you leave.
  7. Smores– the ever classic smores made with organic milk chocolate, vegan marshmallows, and toasted to perfection over an open fire.



Periodization Training Ep.2 :: Strength & Power

Endurance training felt effective.  We started with the goal of 20 toprope pitches each in 2 hours. By the fifth session we were doing 20 toprope pitches each in 90 minutes, and the difficulty had increased. We also seem to have inspired several other gym goers to try the same program.

Next part of the cycle is Strength & Power, more popularly known as bouldering.

First Session 8.8.17

Our idea here was to warm up like normal and then do 4x4s, which turned into 5x4s because, apparently, I can’t count.

4x4s are a structured bouldering training routine that looks like this:

  • Pick 4 boulder problems that are easy for you or at least some grades beneath your max ability.
  • All gyms rate things differently, so like routes, it takes a little trial and error to figure out the correct difficulty for you.
  • Preferably, pick problems on different types of walls- some overhang, some slab, some vert. etc
  • Do them without stopping from easiest to hardest.
  • Downclimb them if you can in order to minimize impact on your body from top jumping.
  • Rest 3 minutes after each set of 4 problems.
  • Repeat 4 times.

For session 1, we picked V0s and V1s (they weren’t all rated, so I’m just assuming that is what they were.)  I chose 5 problems, which I literally didn’t realize till halfway through the session when Daniel noted it.

We started with an hour of easy route climbing with friends as a warmup. The sequence of 5 problems including downclimbing took 5 minutes, and the rest took 3 minutes, so all told it was a half hour workout.

It felt dramatically easy compared to the endurance training, so we need to both increase the difficulty of the chosen problem set as well as possibly the quantity.

The only thing I noticed was after a few months of only route climbing, my bouldering callouses were hurting! Different angles, folks.

Second Session 8.10.17

Warmup- half dozen autobelay routes

v0  – slab
v1 – 100° wall
v1  – arete
v2 – 120°wall

The workout takes 30 minutes exactly, up and downclimbing.

I tried adding in a balancey, fingery v2 on a 95° wall, but quickly discarded that idea because balance + speed is not something I’ve figured out yet. The program doesn’t require fast climbing, but it seems to encourage it.

3rd Session: 8.15.17

V1 slab
V1 115° wall
V2 100° wall
V1 120° wall

I have realized the reason it’s a challenge to make the 4x4s a challenge is because I’m not willing to push to the point of failure (i.e. Falling) while bouldering.

Will continue to update with future sessions.


Vehicle Camping : Episode 2 Packing List

Because one of the best parts of having a secret blog is the chance to make extremely detailed lists of things that no one else really cares about.

Episode 2 of B&D go camping adventures was dramatically successful. It included a much improved bedding situation (rev 4 got it perfect) as well as open-fire cooked gourmet meals.

We’re doing this thing called dispersed camping. Generally, on federal lands such as national forests there are spots that allow for camping, but it’s not like a campground. There are no facilities, no water or potties.  But- there is a pre-designated firepit and some flattish land on which to park a tent or car.

By pure chance, we found this off-the-beaten track location for dispersed camping on the same day as one of our other climbing crew. It’s like this long dirt road in the national forest, and every half mile to mile on the side of the road there are pull outs with firepits and evidence of prior camping. We weren’t sure if the camping was free or not, but we bought an annual pass just in case.

Night one it felt very isolated- alone in the remote woods.

Night two we started to sense the patterns of the other camp dwellers coming and going.

By night four it felt more like we were living in a neighborhood of nosy neighbors- we heard the local gossip that the guys camping way down at the end got kicked out, either because of their pitbull or because they had stayed longer than the 14 days.  We saw the tent in one of the best sites that had clearly been there for more than two weeks, but wasn’t going to be disturbed because they were quiet (no 4-wheeler donuts at midnight with firecrackers I guess.)

Every car that goes by you start to recognize, and soon it’s clear that there is more anonymity living in a city than on a dirt road.

Here’s the packing list:


The major improvement here was we added dinner-making equipment. Daniel decided he was going to cook over open fire, so we added:

  • cast-iron plancha
  • cooking utensils (spatula, stirrer, tongs)
  • knives with covers
  • cutting board
  • “4-burner” cooking pot with secure lid
  • Yeti 45 cooler

In addition to the pre-existing cookgear which includes:

  • Jetboil flash stove
  • ceramic pourover + filters
  • 2 stainless steel coffeecups
  • 2 camp plates
  • camp silverware
  • paper towels
  • bug candles
  • 2 helinox camp chairs
  • 2 sturdy black crates (one for kitchen stuffs and one for clothing)
  • stuff sack
  • food stuffs: challah, babka, kanelbar, peanut butter, provolone, tomatoes, rice, corn, salt, pepper, hot sauce, olive oil, yogurt, beer, ginger ale, grapefruit juice, coffee


  • InReach, charger (we had no cell service at all in the woods)
  • Iphone chargers
  • notebook and pens (always)
  • binoculars – these did not get used but are going to live in the car.
  • 2 bic lighters
  • 2 head lamps
  • first aid kit, extra batteries, tape, lotion, bug spray
  • small pelican case with: leatherman, sewing kit, small scissors, a variety of small biners and rope
  • a nice broom for keeping the car clean
  • an ENO double nest hammock (YES!!)
  • National Park annual pass


  • flip flops, slide-on shoes, and Guide Tennies
  • Visor hats
  • Shorts, pants, tees, and long sleeves
  • Undies, bras, swimsuit
  • All of our clothing lives in Eagle Creek Packing Cubes. He uses blue, I use orange, and dirties go into the white cubes.


  • The big improvement was getting an additional 3-inch memory foam mattress. Now our car bed is as comfortable as our home bed.
  • I custom fit and sewed mosquito netting with strip magnets to our car windows
  • Pillows + cases
  • Sleeping bags- we go super low-tech here, just two LL Bean basic camp 40 degree + bags, spread out like comforters
  • foam mattress pads (for flattening out the car surface)


  • 4 Gallons of Spring Water
  • Dr. Bronners
  • trowel, toilet paper, plastic baggies, wipes
  • Sea to Summit Towels  – These were really useful, plus they come in nifty carrying cases that double as ditty bags during river cleaning
  • camping shaving mirror

Climbing Gear:

  • rope, draws, slings
  • harnesses, shoes, chalkbags, belay devices
  • insulated water bottles
  • rope bag
  • backpack