Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hiking through Maryland on the Appalachian Trail

As part of the preparation for the upcoming trip to Mt. Blanc, I signed up for this program offered by Road Scholar from April 12-17, 2015.  This is a 41.4 trail from the Mason Dixon to the Potomac.  It takes 4 days to cover the 41.4 miles with an average of 10 miles per day.  I was very tired on Day 1, then disheartened on Day 2.  I almost decided to skip Day 3 because my toes and legs was hurting so badly.  But I stuck out on Day 3, even though I was the last one in the group to finish the trail.  On Day 4, it was a lot easier with the trail being less rugged.  So eventually I completed the program.  The fellow hikers taught me quite a bit about how best to prepare for hikes, and how best to use the muscle and preserve energy.  After the 4.5 days program, I felt strangely a sense of lost and emptiness when I had to say good-bye.  I have not felt this way for a very long, long time.....When I was little, I often felt that way after a gathering:  The music has stopped and all the party goers will say good-bye and scatter.  I thought that I have toughened up by life all these years.  But sometimes we are surprised even by ourselves.

Some pictures from the hikes are shown below:

Most part of the trail is pretty rocky.  this is did not show the ups and down, and is not the worst.
Roy and Rayne from PA, our guides:
The last day, the  Potomac River sits behind me
The Shenandoah River behind:
Zung, me and Rayne, standing before the Jefferson Rock on the last day.

My roommate Sissy sitting in one of the shelter where we had lunch
We ran into two ladies who brought 5 dogs on the trail on the fourth day.  none of the dogs was in leash, and they surely loved climbing the rocks and running on the trail!  They paid no attention to us.
Last month, there was a hikers killed by a thunderstorm.  We passed a monument built by hikers for him near the shelter where he was killed.
In the evening of Day 4 after we all finished the trail and some folks will leave the first thing the following morning, we had our farewell dinner and a visit to a General Store to listen to local musicians's play.  It was most enjoyable.

My sense of loss was tamed somewhat by seeing a beautiful cherry blossom at Harper's Ferry the last morning.
The trip was concluded by visiting the Appalachian Conservancy:

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Monster Garden

This is our last day of the tour.  On our way to the Rome outskirt, we made a brief stop at Amelia to look around .  The ladies found the local flea market interesting:

 From left to right: Barbara, Robin, me, Susan, and Linda.
The Monster Garden is a place the modern day Roman families come on weekends.  The garden was first established by The Orsini family in 1552..

Our last night stay was in the Borge Di Tragliata.  A nice place where gatherings and weddings are usually held by Romans now a days.  We had a wonderful farewell dinner with DJ and some dancing.  Then we all bid good-bye!

The ground and building of Borge Di Tragliata:
Dancing after the farewell dinner:

A Day in the Life of a Tuscan mountain village - Truffle hunt in Pettino

Traditional Italian way of life that have endured for generations in Tuscan mountain villages.  Locals here still grow crops, tend sheep, and gather truffles from the surrounding natural birch forest. On this visit we met a family whose ancestors lived thee since 1400.  Grandpa Dante is the head of the family, who found a young man named Mac from New Zealand to marry his daughter Francesca.  Mac and Francesca have a son Dante, and a daughter Polly.  The kids speaks both English and Italian.  Francesca, Dante, and Polly can inherit the land, but not Mac.  The original law requires only blood line for inheritance.  Their villages (3 clusters) from a little distance is shown below.  It would have 50 people in the summer, but only 15 people in the winter, as men and boys would roam their sheep, dogs, and cows to somewhere closer to Rome where better grass is found.  Winter is simply too cold on the mountain.
 Grandpa Dante is the man with his thumb up:
Grandma is busy making pasta:
Mac is a most charming guide who explains the life style and daily activities to us:
Francesca was busy cooking pasta for us.

Little Dante and Polly are entertaining themselves:
Lucca is the truffle hunter.  He and his hunting dogs:
Mari is showing one of the truffle found by one dog:
Most of us were just out having a great time.
A shepherd, his dog , and his sheep came toward us:
We got to play with the shepherd dogs too.
Everything seems so peaceful and so beautiful:
I also tried to make some pasta:

Norcia Valley and Wild Boar Salami

We had a leisure day in Norci, just roaming down the street and looking at various buildings, Piazza, salami and cheese shops.



Then we had a long discussion with a Benedict monk.  He was from Indonesia.  He talked about the monastic life which gives up physical possessions, people attachment, and personal will in pursuit of perfection.