This year I made a resolution to take daily two-second videos. At the end of each month, I’ll compile the clips into a minute movie. By the end of the year, I’ll have a twelve-minute film. The purpose of the project is self-serving: to help catalogue daily experiences and trigger smaller memories with each playback. The act of filming something each day, even if it’s only a couple seconds, challenges me to be mindful. Even if I haven’t done something “exciting,” I’ve been more in-tune with the present and my immediate surroundings. With one month down, I’m curious how the next eleven months will change my perspective.
Six months were up, just like that. I was uprooted from Schenectady, New York and transplanted to Greenville, South Carolina. Good thing I liked to move.
It was a good time of year to make the transition. Winter had been mild in New York–a bit too mild for my taste–and February supposedly offered nice weather in South Carolina. When the time came, my friend Gary–who was relocating to Atlanta–helped me load my stuff into a UHaul trailer and hit the road. It was the first time I had hauled anything with my truck, so I was glad to finally take advantage of the capability. Gary and I formed a caravan en route and communicated with walkie-talkies, making the Friday evening crawl through East Coast traffic bearable. Rather than drive straight to our apartments, we decided to make a few stops along the way. Washington D.C. to visit a friend. Charlotte, North Carolina to grab some Ikea furniture. Ebright Azimuth to summit Delaware.
Late Friday evening, I and all of my worldly possessions capped Delaware. The highest point sat alongside the road, marked by a prominent blue sigh and a wire bench. Before we clogged traffic, Gary and I snapped a picture before the sign. Like Rhode Island, Delaware’s peak was hardly a bump. The juxtaposition of the street-side summit and the previous week’s expedition to Marcy’s icy peak exemplified the true diversity of American highpoints. That’s what keeps it interesting.
For six months, I lived an hour and a half drive from the top of New York. Yet, for this reason and that, I hadn’t reached Marcy’s summit. I didn’t even enter the Adirondacks for the duration of my stay, despite the many weeks of warm, rainless weather. With priorities reassessed in 2016, I aimed for a winter climb and got just that.
Last weekend, I set out with a buddy from work, Chris, to peak Mount Marcy. In the days leading up to our ascent, the region had been experiencing average temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit, with wind-chills down to forty below. Come Saturday, we were prepared for the worst–packing multiple layers, emergency stoves, down sleeping bags, and a mental expectation of spending the night in a snowbank. When we began our ascent at 07:30, we had our headlamps ready for a late evening descent. We were pleasantly surprised. The sky was partly cloudy–lending the perfect mix of light and shadow for wonderful images of the frozen landscape. The temperature hovered in the twenties. The trail required nothing more than a pair of micro-spikes on our boots. The hike was idyllic. By noon, we reached the peak and were blown away by the view and nearly blown away by the dry wind. After enjoying the summit, we leisurely returned well before sunset. Our headlamps were untouched and our thirst for mountains reinvigorated. I look forward to the next adventure.
In 2015, my body visited 31 American states. A good deal of this travel materialized from two privileges: a new day job and a summer adventure. After graduating college, I had a couple months before starting my new job and this window afforded a long trip.
Instead of blowing hundreds of dollars on plane tickets, a couple friends and I boarded a train. Amtrak offered a 30-day, 12-leg rail pass for under $700. With this pass, we could travel basically anywhere Amtrak offered service. The trip we designed was a journey of the Western perimeter. We used our first legs to travel from our various homes in Michigan (Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Detroit) to convene in Chicago. From there, we traveled along the Canadian border to the Pacific and along the Pacific Coast to the edge of Mexico. We then traveled along the Mexican border to the Mississippi and followed the River back to Chicago.
We stopped at the following stations:
Chicago, Illinois (CHI)
West Glacier, Montana (WGL)
Seattle, Washington (SEA)
Portland, Oregon (PDX)
Emeryville, California (EMY)
Los Angeles, California (LAX)
Tucson, Arizona (TUS)
San Antonio, Texas (SAS)
New Orleans, Louisiana (NOL)
Memphis, Tennessee (MEM)
Chicago, Illinois (CHI)
We took some of the finest trains, from the Empire Builder to the Sunset Limited and the City of New Orleans to the Coast Starlight. For the duration of the trip, we lived out of backpacks and camped in a variety of climates: freezing rain in Montana and scorching heat in Arizona. We stayed at a friend’s Malibu beach-house and a smorgasbord of hostels, but spent many nights on trains. It was the longest vacation I had ever taken and surely the most exciting. The trip afforded ample time for writing and reflection. And as great as it was, I surely learned that America isn’t designed for pedestrians (especially for Western tours). The inconsistency of public transit quality from city-to-city and state-to-state, while inconvenient, forced us to explore other means of transit and see places we would not have otherwise visited.
There is no better way to see America than via Amtrak.
I’ve long been obsessed with strategy board games: Risk, Monopoly, Stratego, and Klaus Teuber’s perfect brainchild: Settlers of Catan. I’ve also enjoyed making my own. Often they are akin to the aforementioned greats, but earlier this year a friend and I designed a game of its own inspiration. The game is centered around the place we call home: the Great Lakes Region.
With a working title of “Wolverine,” the idea for the game was sparked by an event known as the Toledo War. Back in the 1800s, when Michigan and Ohio were seeking induction into the Union, they had a bit of a squabble. You see, there was a small strip of land on the bottom edge of Michigan’s peninsula and the top edge of Ohio–Toledo. Both states wanted it something fierce. Like bratty children, they bickered over the property for ages. They cast insults and threats, and at one point a Michigander fired a gun. Nobody was injured, but the gesture was of ill-taste. The Ohioans, disgusted at the audacity of their rivals, bestowed upon them the title of “filthy wolverines.” The conflict became such an issue that eventually the national government had to step in and forge a resolution. Like parents, they sought to educate their children about the merits of compromise. The Toledo strip went to Ohio and the untouched northern peninsula went to Michigan. At the time, Michigan was viewed as getting the short end of the stick. The Upper Peninsula, as it later came to be called, was nothing but a bunch of trees. Toledo, on the other hand, offered a position fit for trade and commerce. Although Michigan was bitter for many years, they later found great profit in logging the Upper Peninsula.
This is where the board game comes in. How would the Great Lakes Region have changed if the Toledo War had different outcomes? The Great Lakes and surrounding lands were filled with resources and opportunities. If state lines were drawn differently (or not at all), how would industry have shaped the region? Now, the culture of American industry, indigenous spirit, and geography intersect to provide alternate futures for the place we call home.
So the concept of the game was developed: players seek to build a state through harvesting and trading resources. By selecting a state, based off native animals, players adopt a succinct strategy to survive in the region. With a tinge of luck and reliance on strategy, the game is functional for most and fun for tabletop enthusiasts. Although it’s still a bit complicated and inelegant, the game has promise. The prototype was better than I anticipated, and I look forward to the next iteration.
When I think of New Jersey, I think of trash. Of greased hair, polluted waters, and horrid accents. It isn’t a fair assumption, seeing that I’ve only visited for a few hours. But if you blindly believe what people say, you can become ignorantly prejudiced. Granted, prejudice rarely exists without ignorance, but succumbing to it is poor character. Nonetheless, I had a polluted view of the state that was recently cleaned up. Northwestern New Jersey betrayed the stigma.
After dismounting Frissell in Connecticut, I took a relaxing drive to New Jersey. The rolling hills were a deep red of fall foliage. The overcast sky had intermittent gaps of blue to perfectly contrast the hills. As I enjoyed the mindful meditation of the drive, I become distracted by the scenery. The road took me to High Point State Park, a pretty preserve with an alluring monument at its center. This monument was situated at the highest point of the state. Erected for veterans and enjoyed by all, the monument offered a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. It was beautiful. Shockingly so for Jersey.