Skyline to the Sea

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Draped in a young vine, a taut silver branch bows down over the trail forming an archway for our processional. White light plasters the sky, hunting for the artist to paint its canvas. The Nebraskan flowers, Marina and the golden rod, smile adoringly up, not bothered by the blinding luminosity. Along with some other relaxed shrubs, the perennial Nebraskan opens up to some spotted critters and leaping bugs. A sunken trunk, rouged with reds last spotted in the cosmetics aisle, sinks into the ground near the plant brothel and drips pitter-pattering rain drops.

Skyline to the Sea is a 32 mile gift. (It’s mostly downhill and only 3 days.) Although the trail is very well marked, it isn’t difficult to accidentally loop, which joyfully lengthens the time you get to spend in nature with a friend. And I’d recommend going with a friend. It’s not that the trail is physically exhausting: it’s just more fun to laugh in the rain, instead of being sad about it getting into your peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

You’ll have to book your campsites in advance, we stayed at Watermon Gap the first night and Sunset Camp the second. Typically people stay at Jay Camp the second night.  But I wouldn’t.  Sunset doesn’t have water but it does give you an extra hiking stretch peppered with waterfalls as well as it providing a cozy, tucked away spot to camp (Jay’s location is near headquarters and piping with people).

Here are the links we used to plan:
http://www.redwoodhikes.com/BigBasin/S-to-S.html
http://www.everytrail.com/guide/skyline-to-the-sea-trail

There isn’t any cell service after the first day (at least for AT&T) so plan in advance when you will be picked up from Waddell Beach. Also, I’d recommend mosquito repellent and some water purification mechanism.  The latter is more of necessity rather than a recommendation if you are planning on staying at Sunset Camp.

Lastly, if you go, look up!  Unless you are superman, you will get tired, cold, hungry, an ache in your lower back from where your backpack rests…but you just got to look up! You have the opportunity to see the wildest things. The skeletons of cars vomited from highway 1. Newts snuggling up next to your feet.  Your best friend silently laughing really hard at your ridiculous getup.

I Amsterdam

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I am in Amsterdam or as the tourist board here likes to put it, I Amsterdam.

Advertisements are all in English. Shopkeepers, baristas, and policeman all approach me in English. Menus are printed in English. The puzzlement of the place is not in foreign objects but rather in my language seeping from the cracks and crevices. It’s like being in a dubbed film.

When coming from the airport to my hostel, I managed to grab the wrong train. When I talked to the conductor about my dilemma (who naturally spoke perfect English), she pointed me to a local man whose train had had a mechanical issue and now was in the same predicament. She informed me I could follow him at the next station and he would lead me to the right train. And so begins the story of Herman:

The conversation with the conductor happened right next to Herman who didn’t look up from his Dutch newspaper and thus I assumed didn’t speak English. His slivery hair smoothed his head, and he bore black spectacles on his nose and black speckles on his cheeks.

Upon disembarkation, he said, “You from *insert long Dutch city name with lots of coughing sounds* too?” I tried to explain to him my scenario using the most simple sentence with as few words as possible, “I was wrong train. And need to go Amsterdam Central.” The native speaker often falls into the trap of speaking sheared English when communicating with the less fluent. This is always a bad idea. It’s patronizing to assume someone won’t understand your better English, and, secondly, you aren’t helping the person to become better at the language by talking to them like a child.

“Oh, sorry to hear that. I just got back from a business trip so I’m pretty tired so I apologize for not being more talkative and interesting,” remarked Herman *insert feeling of stupidity for my pigeon speech*. “Where are you coming from?”

And so began our conversation. Originally from Suriname, he recounted the food and people that he loved and missed so much. The whistling trains drew our gaze to an art museum and our conversations switched to Picasso and Rembrandt, where his words would leave the most novice art goer salivating.

On the train, after triple-checking that I stored his number correctly, Herman informed me tomorrow I would be taken to sup on the best coffee. His intro to Amsterdam was magical and left me wide-eyed and excited.

I anticipated (and I admit was pretty excited for) the large amounts of time I would be able to spend by myself, not talking to anyone, just thinking, and taking everything in. But in Amsterdam and Cocomama, everyone is so friendly that you hardly have a moment to yourself. Beyond the English, the warmth of the people make you feel at home.