Monday, April 15, 2013

Springer Fever

Mr. Hub and I went hiking in Shenandoah National Park today and while it was absolutely gorgeous, rejuvenating and soul-satisfyingly wonderful to hike in the woods with my hubby... it was a huge mistake.

As soon as we stepped onto the Appalachian Trail, we both had Springer Fever instantly. And then spent most of the hike reminiscing about CDT and PCT shenanigans and speculating on our strategy for hiking the AT. We are thru-hikers after all, and once you're a thru-hiker you're always a thru-hiker  --  there is simply no going back. You will spend the rest of your days trying to replicate that experience, or saving your pennies and planning your life around future hikes. It's pretty awesome. Do not be surprised if I end up hiking some of the AT this summer, I would have to quit Spanish class to do it... but it may be worth it...

Most AT thru-hikers start their summer-long journey in Georgia on Springer Mountain. Springer Fever is a feeling of bodily need to load up your pack and hit the trail, usually experienced in early spring when the hikers start migrating towards Georgia.

We were lucky enough to borrow a friend's car for the trip. It took us roughly 1.5 hours to drive to Shenandoah National Park, cost $30 for the annual pass, and we got about 8 miles of trail time in. The forest on the ridge was still brown and twiggy, but we could see spring slowly creeping its way up the mountain with the tips of all the tree branches dipped in light green leafy buds, and a few early wild flowers poking through all the spongy leaf litter on the ground. We lunched near a cascade (eastern for waterfall) and drank deeply at a pristine icy-cold spring.

The day was sunny and warm but still crisp, and the trails were dry and lined with soft baby blades of grass.

Bhangra Blowout

Bhangra (pronounced BONG-gra if you're a gringo) (pronounced BAH-ga-da if you're a cool kid)

On Saturday night The Hubster and I ventured into the big city to see some Bhangra at the old-school-fancy-gilded Warner Theater. It was a competition between a bunch of University Bhangra teams from all over the US, and it was epic awesome. I have been wanting to see one of these for years and I finally made it to one... of course there was bound to be one in DC while we were here!

Bhangra is a folk dance from the Punjab region spanning northern India and southern Pakistan. When I say folk dance I don't mean cute little peasants in quaint costumes doing do-si-dos in a circle to a few acoustic instruments. Picture instead if you will: hard-driving drums and crazy dancing percussionists,  melodies and chants that will make you want to sing and shout along with the dancers even though you have no idea what they're saying or if they're even singing real words, and forget about sitting still  --  I guarantee it will make you want to bounce, skip and do the complicated Bollywood-style hand-tweaking-poses along with them until your legs give out. In these competitions, school teams choreograph and rehearse for months, and spend a bunch of money traveling around to compete. Everyone in the audience is screaming their heads off the whole time, blowing air-horns and videotaping the whole thing. The teams all have matching track suits they wear when they aren't in their amazingly bright and intricate costumes.

Bhangra competitions have been held in Punjab since the 1950s and started being held in the US, Canada and England sometime in the 1990s. In Punjab the music and dance is more traditional, but here in the west these kids like their Bhangra a little more fusion-style with a good amount hip hop, rock and pop mixed in with authentic songs. The hip hop samples drove the crowd extra wild.

The home team from UVA won first place, some money, and a big trophy.

Here's a little video of one of the teams:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

DC Cherry Blossoms: Ready to Burst!

Saturday, oh how I love thee....

All it takes is a little sun, my hubby's hand to hold, and a little bit of nature to remind me that everything in my world is just right.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in DC wandering around the tidal basin enjoying the crisp, sunny weather and an afternoon together. We saw a few cherry trees that couldn't hold back any longer, giving us a glimpse of what's to come, but the majority of the trees still had plump, magenta buds that are just on the brink of blooming. With Sunday's and Monday's warm temps they should be in their full glory on Wednesday (or maybe Tuesday or Thursday...). Which just goes to show, the trees are on their own schedule and you're lucky to be there when they explode for those few precious days a year.

There was a free Zumba class at the Jefferson Memorial that lured me into the capital for some sweaty dance fun. A nice crowd, but I was clearly the only one screaming and woooooohoooooo-ing during the songs.... People were having a great time, kids, civilians and divas, but it just wasn't the same as the fun we had in Bend. Oh Bend Zumba Peeps, how I miss you! I shall take it upon myself to show the DC Zumba scene just how much fun can be had when you show the instructor some love. You want a good class? Then MAKE it a good class by pumping up the instructor, she (or he) is up front working their butt off for you!

 After the dance fest I met up with Hubster for a "Secrets of the Cherry Blossoms Tour". For 2 hours we shuffled our way through the trees and learned lots of trivia about the history of DC Landscaping.

 These are the Tulip Magnolia trees in the Smithsonian Castle garden, they usually bloom earlier than the cherry trees. Notice the INSANE crowds that have come to bask in the blossoms of DC...

 In the Smithsonian Castle Moon Garden is a weeping cherry tree with gorgeous pink blossoms. 

Just pink buds... Almost there! Just a few more days!

A few fun Cherry Blossom factoids to file away in the back of your brain:

- Most of the trees around the Tidal Basin are Yoshino Cherry Trees, they bloom for only 4 days and produce no fruit. 
- The cherry trees weren't a gift from Japan, but rather a privately funded donation from the rich Japanese-American scientist Jokichi Takamine, (he became rich in the pharmaceutical industry when he isolated the hormone adrenaline and put it in the first effective bronchodilator for asthma). He wanted his donation to be anonymous so it was publicly announced that it was a gift from Japan. 
- His first gift of 1000 trees in 1910 were diseased and had to be burned up in giant bonfires when they arrived in DC.
- A few of these diseased trees were secretly planted on the peninsula south of the Jefferson Memorial and are still living today more than 100 years later even though this species of cherry tree has a natural life span of only 50 years.
- Takamine's second gift of 3000 trees arrived healthy and were planted in 1912.
- There are 3700 Cherry Trees around the Tidal Basin today, and because their life expectancy is so short the Park Service plants seedlings every year to keep the population going.
- During WWII no one in Japan had the time or resources to care for their own cherry trees and many of them died off. After the war ended we gave Japan stock from the Tidal Basin population to help them replant trees in Japan.
- In Japan, the 4-day bloom time is a symbolic reminder of how short and sweet our own time on this earth is. 

After the blossom tour we wandered around some famous DC sites including a visit to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

 These white Tulip Magnolia trees are planted near the White House, the wind was blowing the petals around like confetti at a wedding. 

I couldn't help but get sucked into the picture-posing frenzy, just wish it was warm enough to wear a spring dress for the occasion!

At the end of our day we met up with some friends at Bistro Bistro for a farewell dinner celebration. One of John's classmates is moving to Nigeria this week! By the end of the summer his class will be spread far and wide all over the globe. I am so glad we get to spend the summer in DC while he learns Spanish!