Tag Archives: hiking

Before I Met Keanu Reeves, I Also Ran Into Bigfoot

Many of you now know about my serendipitous run-in with Keanu Reeves. I still don’t understand quite how that happened, but I’m glad it did as it was awesome. What you don’t know is that I also ran into Bigfoot.

Jess Witkins Meets Keanu Reeves

I was planning to write a very different story for my blog that weekend. A story about a hiking trip that Joe and I went on.

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I know, I know, we all know how THAT goes. One of us ends up missing

And to that I say, at least we’re consistent, which is a prime foundation to have in a marriage, especially when one party may have pooped their pants while hiking thereby ruining all shreds of romance forever. 

So before Joe and I ended up at the bar where I glanced out the window and commented “That guy looks like Keanu,” we were hiking.

IMG_6058Sure, sure, this is exactly how it’s supposed to look. I always crawl through death branches to get from point A to point B. 

True to form, Joe rarely lets me pick what direction we go since I’m supposedly the one that got us lost the first time. But then, he went and picked a trail that looks like this!

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Me: “Well this looks like a dark and treacherous path.” 

Joe: “I’ve made my peace with it.” 

It doesn’t even phase him anymore!

When we crept upon the creepiest cavern looking structure, we debated.

Me: “Oh look at that. I bet that’s the witch’s cabin.” 

Joe: “That’s just a rock formation.” 

Me: “That’s what she wants you to think.” 

Amazingly, we were not witch-napped and forced to eat sweets until our bellies burst and no one made pies out of our intestines and such. But it was a close call, lemme tell you.

On a sunnier trail, we fell into one of our usual conversations comparing our relationship to various film or book references. You know, a “you’re Wild Bill Hickock and I’m Calamity Jane from Deadwood” or “you’re Lonestar from Spaceballs, but I’m Dot not Princess Vespa.”

And then Joe tried to sum us up with this…

Joe: “The difference between us is that I’m more crass, but you have the dirtier mind.” 

Me: *leans in really close to his ear and whispers* “You’re welcome.” 

And then this is the part where I’m guessing Joe got sun poisoning. Or temporarily possessed by aliens because I shot this photo….

IMG_6083Pretty funky lighting, amirite?

And then he did this…

Who knew, Bigfoot’s in Wisconsin?!

*****

How was your week everyone? 

Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry (for sh*tting your pants)

This blog was originally published as The Devil Made Me Do It in June 2013 as a guest post for Renee Schuls-Jacobson‘s So Wrong blog series. It’s an embarrassing and true tale from my past that I think really portrays the finer details of true love and underpants. Some edits have been made to update the post.

*****

I am a picture-perfect citizen.

I pay my bills on time. I vote. I use hand signals while driving if one of my lights has burned out. One would assume I have control over my bowels.

Let me backup. My husband and I take a vacation together each summer. We’ve traveled to Portland, Oregon and eaten Voodoo Donuts; we’ve visited Toronto, Ontario and viewed the skyline from the CN Tower. Two summers ago, we decided to take a road trip out west. Starting in the Badlands, we made our way to Yellowstone National Park. It was a fabulous trip.

Except for the day we toured Devil’s Tower.

That August day, the temperatures climbed into the 90’s. Being a mature adult, I was prepared. I packed and wore sunscreen. I drank water all morning. I used the bathroom before we left!

It didn’t matter.

This is Devil's Tower

This is Devil’s Tower

We started our hike around the base of the tower. We weren’t too far in when I felt a rumbling in my gut. I asked to sit on a bench for a minute, pretending to enjoy the view. There was a fleeting moment when I thought to myself, “I should turn back… I COULD turn back… The smart thing to do would be to turn back.”

But alas, that’s not the way this story goes.

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This is me right before we started hiking when I still resembled someone in control of their digestive track.

It became crystal clear, halfway around the tower, that my mind and body were not at peace. In fact, they were in deep negotiation. And things were getting heated.

When the cramping got so bad that I had to sit down again, I started weighing my options.

1.) I could try to skulk off somewhere. I had every intention of doing just that if it wasn’t for the unsuspecting family giving their children piggy back rides nearby. There was nowhere far enough out of eyesight for me to go.

2.) I could stay on the bench and breathe. This wasn’t really working all that well so far, but a girl can pray. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the cramping is with me…”

3.) I could jump off the cliff’s edge and end my misery once and for all.

In retrospect, I wish I’d chosen the cliff.

Because that’s when I shit my pants.

“Sweet Virgin Mother, what the hell just happened?!”

The worst part was telling my husband (who was my boyfriend at that time) what had occurred. How would he ever look at me with any sense of romance or mystery again? I considered myself a dignified person. But I had just shit my pants! In public! And we were only halfway around Devil’s Tower!

Nothing – and I mean nothing – will ever compare to the cold, wet, mall-walker sprint that I made during my descent from Devil’s Tower. And my husband-then-boyfriend, wonderful man that he is, tried to cheer me up on our journey.

“You’re almost there! You got this! On the bright side, I don’t smell anything!” he shouted from a few yards behind me.

Making my way to the crowded public bathroom, I took note of the collateral damage. The underwear was a goner. I was just lucky I wore full coverage undies that day and not a thong.

I shimmied out of my underwear, wrapped my soiled mess in TP, and dumped everything in the plastic bin where women leave their feminine hygiene products. Then I said a little prayer for the park custodian, cleaned myself up, and walked back to the car no longer feeling feminine or hygienic.

So the moral of the story is sometimes even the best of adults crap their pants. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have someone by your side cheering you on with an upbeat, “You got this!” and “I don’t smell anything!” And when you find that special someone…

Ask them to buy you new underwear.

Undies

*****

There you have it, my dirty little secret. Has this ever happened to you?

Sweet Mother Mary, tell me I’m not alone!

Post Script… I thought it’d be a fun fact to share with you all that the desktop image on my laptop is a picture of Devil’s Tower. It reminds me to have a sense of humor about life…and to pack extra undies when traveling.

Left For Dead in Hixon…Again

It happened again.

Joe and I went hiking in Hixon Forest and barely made it out ALIVE!

Hixon Disaster

See that? That’s the end of me crab walking down an 80° incline.

*****

Later That Day…

Jessica J. Witkins, 27, and Joseph L. Gantzer (31) were discovered dead off the trails in Hixon Forest. Their bodies had been half masticated by rabid deer. The corpses were identified from a shredded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack known to belong to Gantzer. Witkins, though allergic to the sun, suffered no marks and looked gorgeous, even without make-up on. Her grace and beauty is a loss to us all.

The couple leaves behind an imaginary dog named Ron Burgundy, some unfinished laundry, and one slice of pizza in the fridge.

Services will be held on the lookout point at the top of Bicentennial Trail for anyone who can make it there without a compass.

*****

Ok, that’s not what happened!

But we TOTALLY got lost and had to scale the side of a bluff with loose soil for, like, EVER! And that was after walking through a teeny tiny “trail” uphill where the bugs surrounded me, and a snake slithered away, and there was long grass, and VELOCIRAPTORS!!!

Ok, I lied again, it wasn’t long grass, it was prairie grass.

Hixon Forest is described by the Myrick Hixon EcoPark as:

an 800-acre nature preserve within the city limits of La Crosse with more than 13 miles of hiking and ski trails that meander through diverse habitats, including forests, prairies, and blufflands. Connecting trails through the 1100-acre Mississippi River Marsh add more wildlife viewing possibilities. The trail system allows hikers to travel from the Mississippi River to the top of the bluffs without ever crossing a city street.

Translation:

Hixon Forest is big. So big in fact, that if you are lost, no shred of society will find you, but rattlesnakes will! Good luck, hikers!

I’ve taken it upon myself to draw out our hiking journey. Please see the map below.

hixonmap

See where the skull and crossbones are? Funny thing that… There was a trail. A very clear, wide trail. It wasn’t on the map, but it was a big trail. We decided to take it. But that wide trail became an itty bitty trail, and one that started scratching up my legs and looking like we were going to just dirt surf our way down the bluff.

I was NOT ok with this.

For the record, I didn’t pick this trail! This time it wasn’t my faulty directions that got us there. Therefore, I’d like to have my 1% voting rights back.

The last time Joe and I got lost in Hixon, it was my fault. He took away 1% voting rights leaving me with 49%, and him at 51%. I’d like that percent back now.

You decide!

*****

An outside party wishes me to note that they “had a blast. The adventure was great!” Said other party shall remain nameless.

Oops. How did that get there?

Hixon Forest View

That was my weekend! How was yours? Do any hiking I should know about?

Love and Rattlesnakes,

Jess

Miss the first time we got lost in Hixon? Read all about it!

Hiking in Seoraksan National Park

courtesy google images

Warranting a blog post all its own was my visit to Sokcho, South Korea for a weekend of hiking and lazing about on the beach in Seoraksan National Park.  Just a (roughly) 3 hour bus ride from Seoul, my friend and I, plus 6 of her teaching friends spent the weekend in Sokcho and shared a pension.

Pension:  A pension is like a hotel but it’s much cheaper and it includes kitchen items like a sink, silverware, dishes, single stove top burner, fridge.  It also has a plethora of floor pads and pillows to sleep on so a whole group of us could stay in one room.

We were able to book one right on the beach and also grill our own barbecue up on the rooftop, which sounds amazing but it was RIDICULOUSLY cold outside so after 8 of us huddled around the grill for warmth we finally cooked all the meat and made the veggies in our room with a fry pan. 

Walking the streets of Sokcho, Seoraksan Mountains in the distance.

Seoraksan means ‘snow-capped mountain’ and it was surreal to hike the trails partially covered in snow and yet walk the beach that same night!  I had never been in the mountains before.  Cliffsides in Europe, jungles in the Caribbean, bluffs in Wisconsin, but not real mountains.  I was in awe!

You know how we have Smokey the Bear? Well, Seoraksan has this parent/child moon bear to look out for your safety!

My lovely new and old friends! Back to Front, L to R: Andy, Lin, Luana, Caitlin, Amy, Josh, and Naomi!

The trail we took led to Biryong Falls, which means “Flying Dragon” Falls.  Legend has it there was a drought that stopped the water flowing in the town.  After the village made a sacrifice of a young maiden, the dragons were appeased and allowed the water to flow again.  It is said the fall looks like a dragon flying upwards toward the sky.

Can you see the dragon?

The trek back down:

Seoraksan also encloses Sinheungsa Buddhist Temple in the park.  Outside the temple entrance is a 62 foot Bronze Buddha called Tongil Daebul which signifies the wish of the people for reunification of its divided country.

Me and the Moon Bear!

That was my favorite moment from travel!  What were the favorite things you remember from trips you’ve taken or new experiences?  If you’ve blogged about it, feel free to share the link!

Happy Hiking Everyone!  Aren’t you glad it’s spring now?

The Guilty Pleasures of Autumn

Welcome to another edition of Guilty Pleasures Friday! Indulge yourself, get cozy, here all gluttony reigns! I won’t tell on you.

For the month of October, I’m focusing on all things wicked. So today’s guilty pleasures are my top 10 favorite things about fall.

  1. The Desire to Spend Copious Amounts of Money on Pumpkins  I’ve never met a pumpkin I didn’t like. Big ones, baby ones, spotted ones, warty ones, pumpkins with curlicue stems! They are a fall tradition and welcomed inside and out. Sometimes, I name them, a bizarre habit to be sure, but one I refuse to give up.
  2. The Urge After Purchasing Pumpkins to Consume Them in Multiple Forms     Pumpkin Bars. Glorious pumpkin bars, the birthday treat of choice for this redhead. Then there’s pumpkin spice lattes and roasted pumpkin seeds, and I’m also a fan of their cousin, the Butternut Squash.
  3. The Decking Out of Houses: From Home Sweet Home to Enter At Your Own Risk  I love seeing the houses that put gravestones in their yard, stick bones out of their lawn, and make dummies out of old clothes. Nothing is as fun as giving yourself a little chill walking up to your own front door.
  4. The Expectation of Shenanigans and the Increase in Security That Follows   Late night runs through a corn field telling ghost stories with friends! Getting kicked out of Paradise Road! Scaring unsuspecting strangers with motion sensing Halloween décor and creating really good alibis when the police pull your car over and ask what you’re doing out so late.
  5. Apple Picking: Not Scary, but Good Old Fashioned Recreational Fun  Grab a basket and pick your very own tangy sweet apples. Stock up the pantry with a local orchard’s cider, apple crisp, and handmade caramel drizzle. Mmmm
  6. Tea Drinking Season: Not Just For School Marms Anymore  Every day is a tea drinking day in the fall. Green Tea in the morning, pomegranate oolong in the afternoon, peppermint tea at night. This charming habit is made even more fun with a big, funky mug collection. My favorite coffee shop in town is a teeny tiny shop that has the biggest selection of actual dried tea leaves, they brew you a whole cozy pot to yourself and let you pick your tea cup!
  7. The Bizarre Fashions That Become Acceptable  Bring out your flannel, put on some gloves, and grab your flip flops! What’s that you say? One of those things is not like the other? Doesn’t matter in autumn, the weather changes so fast, you may as well keep your dresser stocked: Long sleeve shirts, rainboots, tank tops, corduroys, wool socks, ear muffs and a bathing suit.
  8. The Hibernation of the Human Race  Once the weather gets a little chillier, suddenly people start to     disappear into their houses, the windows get boarded up, and you don’t seen your neighbor bring the trash out for weeks. You question whether you should call the police and have her checked on, but there’s smoke coming from the chimney and a faint flicker of blue TV light every Thursday at 7pm. Give her another week…
  9. The Beer, Brats, and Polka Bands  Autumn brings Oktoberfest to my town and that means brats with sauerkraut, beer and drinking gloves, and lots of live music and parades.  The big parade is the Maple Leaf Parade and there’s one at night too called the Torch Light Parade.  I went to that for the first time this year and it was really fun.  All the marching bands are decked out with glowsticks, even on their instruments.  And, you can drink on the sidewalk of the parade route.  *Weeeeeeeee!*
  10. The Changing of the Colors  The best part about fall is the colors.  And living in Bluff Country, we certainly get to enjoy a multitude.  There’s nothing quite like sitting on the edge of the bluff overlooking the adjacent forest, marsh and city below, ablaze in fall colors.  Joe and I went hiking this weekend and here’s some shots I took along the way!

Overlooking Myrick Marsh

Wish You Were Here, Love Jess and Joe

What are your favorite things about fall?

Left for Dead in Hixon Forest

     We interrupt your normal blogcasting to inform you that I, and my travel companion, nearly died in the woods last night.  I’ll explain.

To the left, is the map of the main trails in Hixon Forest, which surrounds the beautiful bluffs and Mississippi River in the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  The map is color coded.  The green trail=easy, yellow=medium, and red=hard.  My boyfriend is pointing out the nice yellow trail that follows along the river.  The record must state that I said I wanted a bluffside view.  So, we took the squiggly red line.

The squiggly red line was called the TNT Trail, and apparently, its for mountain bikers.  We hiked it on foot.

If you ignore the foolish expression of fun on my face, you are wise.  I however was not so wise.  Our journey began safely enough.  You can see the trail initially was clear, wide, and for the most part, smooth.

Oh, and that canteen in my hand, it’s full of red wine.  Because if you’re going to start hiking up a cliff in the middle of the woods at 7:30 at night, you may as well get a little tipsy doing it.

     The further along we got, the trail started to incline much more.  Fueled by our love and a nice cabernet, we continued hiking.

We even found a cool looking cave thing!

And I climbed part of it!  See, still smiling!  Hiking is so much fun!

Now we get to the turning point in our adventure.  You see, we reached the end of the TNT trail.  We made it to the top.  Unfortunately folks, this was a bum climax to our hike.  The trail end took us to the city limits, we pretty much ended up in a cul de sac.  And, no lookout point from the bluffs, we were in a field surrounded by trees.  At this point, I I started kicking stuff and screaming “Where’s my rewarding view?  I wanted a cliffside view!  All I can see is someone’s driveway!  What a rip!”  So, the currently optimistic boyfriend, and I, started our trek back down the trail.  The thing about trails is there’s usually a couple places where you have to choose which trail to stick with.  We could go back the way we came.  Or we could try an adventure and take a different trail!  You’ll notice in the photograph, the trail is becoming much less easy to identify.

We climbed up something that looked like this.

And we got a view that looked like this!

And this!

And this!

It's amazing there's proof of us smiling at all on this trip.

I don’t know if you can tell by how dark the photos are becoming, but the sun was setting.  And the record must state that my boyfriend didn’t want to climb up this cliff.  I was the one who thought we had plenty of time, and wanted to see the city from the top of the bluff.  A bluff, I should define for those who are unfamiliar, is basically a small mountain.  On our journey back down another new trail, we came across several hitches.

Are trails supposed to look like this?  Hmm, guess the city hasn’t cleared them all since the rain and the flooding and paths being washed out and all.  *shrug*

This is where the photography stops, team.  From here on out, survival became more important.  At one point, my boyfriend said, “It’s a good thing you brought your purse.  Now if we get all 127 hours out here, I can cut your arm off for you.”  I was not amused.

The trail we were on got REALLY steep.  To the point where I was crab walking down the side of it, trying to add a little extra traction.  My boyfriend actually fell down the hill and into a tree, scraping his leg badly.  It was growing darker and darker.

I really thought we were ok.  A little sore, needed to move faster, sure, but I thought we were ok.  Then, the trail just stopped.  One minute we were on a dirt path, the next it turns into some kind of raveen covered in broken logs and limbs and leaves.  And this was all about the same time the sun vanished!

Things were said.  Things that came from my boyfriend that sounded a lot like, “I’m not happy.”  And “I don’t like this.”

I hoped he would be the leader.  Nope.  I’d pushed him beyond his limits.  It became very clear that I was going to have to figure a way out.  With no idea where the car was from where we were, and since we had no flashlight and it was really dark, the plan became to head toward what little light showed through the trees on a far side and get to the highway where we could follow the road back to our car.  However, that route led us to a giant rock wall.

The second route we took led to my boyfriend falling for the second time.  Only it wasn’t a slide fall, it was a climbing over a tree trunk, grabbing onto a tree branch, and having it snap beneath you so you face plant into the ground covered in debris.  When his breath returned, and I finished apologizing, we tried another route.

Finally, after a half hour of deep, meaningful prayer, my boyfriend said, “Is that our car?”

I started clapping and running towards it.  We didn’t talk on the drive home.  We didn’t talk when I started up a warm shower and got the Neosporin out.  We didn’t talk while my boyfriend got a shot glass and a large bottle of gin from the kitchen.

But hey, we’re alive!  And I did get us out eventually!  Here’s hoping he’ll laugh about it tomorrow.

What’s the most exciting thing that happened to you this weekend?

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