Day 0, getting to Wales

This was going to be a day a clock watching, Indeed the clock seem to run super slow on Friday at work while I waited at my desk for the appointed time for me to leave Washington DC and catch the bus to the airport. Bus, Airport, Plane, 2 hours sleep, Saturday Morning, Customs and Immigration, another bus and into a rental car.
I got to Heathrow at 6:30AM, and was on the road by 9:00AM. My schedule gave me 45 minutes to get to Sainsbury’s at exit 12 off the M4, 1 hour for shopping, and another hour and 45 minutes to get me to Tintern Abby and then 2 hours for my first glimpse of Offa’s Dyke.
A Glimpse of Offa’s Dyke (5 Mile Circuit hike)
From Tintern Abby I walked ¼ mile North and crossed over the river on the foot bridge. The path is clear, although it’s muddy and climbs uphill fast. Bearing left and then choosing the middle of 3 routes takes you rapidly to the top of the bluff where Offa’s dyke runs along the top of the cliff, parallel to the river.
I had heard that this is one of the best examples of the Dyke so I was a bit disappointed with my first impression; I guess the years have been hard on it. None the less, although the dyke has seen better days, this is a splendid hike with some great views across the Wye valley. And in fact the condition of the dyke improves as you continue Southwards along it. At the top of the hill I turned Right and walked along the dyke for a couple of miles stopping to admire the view at Devils Pulpit with its view over Tintern Abby in the valley below. Continue past Plumwier Cliffs to the old fort then scramble down the hill and at the bottom of the hill follow the river North back to the bridge to finish the loop.
Hike distance 5 miles
From Tintern Abby I drove the 2 hours to LLandovery to visit my old Mum, then on to the Youth Hostel at Llanddeusant to check in.
I checked into the hostel just after 5:00 PM, I was actually almost an hour ahead of my schedule, but 5:00 felt like Noon, what with the jet-lag, and with so much sitting in the plane and whilst driving I still had some chinks to iron out. The Hostel is just a couple of miles from bottom of Fan Foel (the Black Mountain) So I drive over there and hiked up to the ridge, but no further. The murky sky gave no clue of the location of the sun, but my watch told me it was setting. Turning tail after one hour I retraced my footprints. Two days later I hiked the full 8 miles, so more on that later.
Hike distance Almost 4 miles.
All in all a decent Saturday’s adventure.

My Old Mum

My old mum now lives in a care home in Wales on the edge of Brecon Beacons which is a long way from my home in Washington DC. She has full blown Alzheimer’s and gets tired if you spend a long time with her, so when I visited her in September 2009, I chose to spend a hour a day for 4 days rather than spending half a day with her.
What then to do with the remainder of 5 days in South Wales?
South Wales I discovered has a great deal to offer:
• Offa’s Dyke (a 10 day hike)
• The Brecon Way (a 5 day hike)
• The Presili Hills and Carn Menyn the acclaimed source of the Stonehenge Blue Dolerite stones
• The Dan Yr Ogof Show caves
• The Roman Ruins at Caerloen
Clearly there was enough to keep me busy during my down time, in fact, more than enough so I had to make some decisions. I had rented a car for this trip, so a series of one day hikes seemed the best solution given my constraints.
So here was my Challenge, 5 hikes in 5 days

View Day Hikes in Wales in a larger map
I identified 2 sections of Offa’s dyke, two circuit hikes in the Beacons, and a route through the Presili that took in a stone circle, a Hill top fort and Carn Menyn, the Dan Yr Ogof Caves and Caerloen Roman ruins
During the rest February and March I will try to chronicle my trip to South Wales

New desktop picture

OK, enough of the cold stuff, here is this week’s new desktop.

Looking North towards the Hardy Monument as Cows guard a tumulus at Portersham Farm.

BTW that’s Thomas Hardy the Sailor, as in kiss me Hardy, not Thomas Hardy the author, although a lot of people confuse these to Wessex gentlemen with each other.

Anyway, the horizon in this picture pretty much defines this Dorset section of the Southern coastal path, which is a bit strange since the sea was over a mile behind me when I took this one.

Well The Snow has stopped.... ...for now

So DC has an average snowfall of 15 inches, but this year we blew away the all time record with an amazing 55 inches, and we might get snow again Monday, and possible Friday a week from today.
The numbers above are the offical numbers for DC, which are measured in Virginia at Reagan airport, which of course is at sea level and so gets less than elsewhere, but they are the official numbers.
For me, the two back to back storms dumped 30 inches in less than a week, and we still have not seen a snowplow in our street.

Here are a couple of pictures taken around Sunset last night while I was out walking the dogs. Day 8 since it all started.

Final count was 21 inches, but it settled down to 20 inches, i have heard personal reports of over 30

Dogs 'swim' in the snow

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17 inches and still falling

Been snaowing for 24 hours, 16 inches on the deck

Out door table at midnight

Midnight friday and theres 8 inches on the deck

Before the big snow

Its been snowing for 3 hours now, and we have 1 inch of snow. The weather forecast call for 18-24 inches. I don't know if I should laugh or cry

Maps and Research

OK this Is the last thing I have to say about packing (I said that with my fingers crossed, but you couldn't see that, could you?)

Just needed to get some thoughts out the way, so here is the final part of this series, then I can get on to my Wales trip late in 2009

The Internet is great, it gives us access to a phenomenal amount of information, and most of time it is true. But on the path nothing beats the good old Ordinance Survey maps my dad used to use. The Internet of course makes it easy to get hold of them too. In fact even with postage it’s cheaper to buy them in advance and have them mailed to my home in the US, than to purchase them at full price at the destination.
I prefer the paper maps to the coated maps, it’s a fraction lighter, but more importantly you can write on them. I generally like to hike a route with a map one time, so I consider maps to be consumable items.
By the time I get to the start of the hike my map will be marked with:
• Location of YHA/Campground/potential camping sites, including phone numbers/Name/any other relevant information (red)
• Exact minute of sunset for the day I will be arriving at each destination (red)
• Every pub (PH) on or near the route is circled (Blue)
• Every grocery store close to my route (Tesco, Costcutter, Coop, Asda, Sainsburys, Spar, Morrisons, Waitrose, Sommerfields) has been Googled and precisely located - I love Google, I am a total Google maps freak...(Blue)
• Coffee shops (Blue) (Thanks again Google)
• Locations of Bus stops, ferrys, train stations complete with the bus number and anticipated times (Red)
In effect the map becomes a “Just-in-Time” repository for all the information on your route. Where you need it, when you need it.
The internet is the place to research the information; the Map is the place to store it.
Then at the end of each day, or in a coffee shop, or pub, I will carefully trace, in black ink, my route so far. Sometimes I get a couple of days behind, but defiantly do it while its fresh in my mind.
In addition to making the journey easier it saves me from carrying numerous other pieces of paper on my trip.

So thats it, Happy hiking

My Personal Burden

Everyone has their own needs when they pack, it’s a very personal thing, and really it takes a few times to get it right.
One thing you should do when you complete a hike is take a hint from Demming: Plan, Do, CHECK, Act, You planned your trip, you did your trip, and now is the time to CHECK; what did I carry with me that I didn’t use, emergency equipment aside. Act on that learning experience and do better next time.
For my packing I use lot of Ziplocks. For a recent 9 day hike I set up ziplocks with fresh clothing, each bag contained: 1 pr Socks, 1 pr underpants, 1 tee shirt. Suck out all the surplus air. I had 3 of these so whenever I got to an appropriate place to take a shower I took a clean bag and then reused the bag for my dirties (I don’t seal it, or I may as well have throw it away).
One zip-lock for morning stuff, Daily tablets and vitamins, toothbrush, toothpaste, Microfiber towel, coffee bags. Talking of toothpaste, I allow two inches per day, so a nine day hike needs 18 inches of toothpaste, I think that’s about 2 ounces. Whatever you do, don’t take a new toothpaste tube on a hike, buy a small tube a month before you go and when you think you are down to what you need bag it!.Take just what you need to get you to the end.
One zip-lock for critical papers, both passports (US and Euro), national health card, insurance card. Kept it all in one place, kept it safe, that was the only thing I could not afford to lose. If I ever have to abandon my bag in an emergency it’s the one thing I must take
One zip-lock for First aid kit, sharp knife, Corkscrew, flashlights, spare batteries, plastic raincoat, bivvy, padlock. Ok so now you are thinking is this man insane? A padlock. Just to add some perspective it took me a long time to find a suitable padlock, but when I found it, or them, they came in a pack of 3 at the dollar store. Most hostels have lockers, and I always believe that locks are designed to keep honest people off your stuff. Dishonest people will do whatever they want, and a big padlock is an advertisement. My padlock does not register on my kitchen scales, so it’s worth its weight.
I gave up the Swiss army knife a long time ago and replaced it with the components I really used. A real Knife, and a functional corkscrew
1 Pair of trousers to wear, 1 to carry, wrap the spare pair in an appropriately sized plastic bag
Two zip-locks for maps, one contains today’s map and notes, compass, magnifying glass, the second contains everything else.
So now I have everything in bags, but there’s a bit of a compromise, heaviest items at the bottom, or least used items at the bottom. Well I sucked the air out of your spare clothing, so now its quite dense, so all but 1 of those goes at the very bottom, then sleeping bag. Emergency bag goes in a side pocket, today’s food in the other side, important papers go in the roof of the bag, and tent gets tied to the bottom. Actually when you pack you might have room got both the tent and the sleeping bag inside the backpack sincelike me, you are packing light, but remember, if it’s raining when you pitch your tent you don’t want all your gear strewn about on the wet grass looking like a yard sale while you rummage through the bottom of your bag searching for your tent!
And with all those bags, it keeps my gear organized and DRY. Since I know what is in each bag, and where each bag is placed I can find things quickly and easily.

Dc gets another 5 inches

New Screen Saver for this week

Here are a couple of pix from the Brecon Beacons looking south from Cribyn (Pen y Fan) towards the Neuadd Reservour.
Came across some wild horses up on the hills.
Please feel free to use and distribute at your leasure

DC in the Snow

Todays view from my office window, Washington DC in the snow