Monday, November 26, 2012

Golden Rainbows

About an hour north of Atlanta, Georgia is a little town of about 5,200 people named Dahlonega.  Historically important as the location of the first United States gold rush in 1828, it is also 20 miles east of Springer Mountain where the majority of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers begin their northward trek.

Ten years after the mining began there, the government established a small mint that produced $1, $2.50, $3 and $5 gold coins until 1861 when the Confederacy laid claim to the mint upon secession from the Union.  It was on the steps of the Dahlonega mint that those famous, although probably misquoted, words “There be gold in them thar hills!” were uttered by Dr. M. F. Stephenson in 1849 while motioning to the mountains around Dahlonega.  He was trying to convince prospectors to stay in the Georgia mines instead of chasing after the gold recently discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California.

In the fall of 1954 another type of gold was discovered in Petersburg, West Virginia by Vincent Evans.  One female rainbow trout in the fish hatchery in Petersburg displayed a genetic mutation that made her a golden color.  She subsequently spawned hundreds of offspring which carried the golden gene and through selective breeding produced the West Virginia Centennial Golden Trout in 1963.

Fertilized eggs from these West Virginia trout were then transported to other states including Pennsylvania which began breeding the golden rainbows with regular trout producing a lighter hybrid known as a palomino trout.  Pennsylvania began stocking these gems in their streams and lakes in 1967.  Eleven years later, on my 13th birthday, I was fortunate enough to stake my claim to a bit of this gold as I pulled my first, and only, descendant of that golden West Virginia trout from the Kettle Creek in northern Pennsylvania.
**Photo courtesy of

Every year in late April or early May, my family would go camping for a few days at Kettle Creek State Park in Renovo, PA.  It was a wonderful place where we would spend our days fishing, hunting mushrooms, learning about the flora and fauna from park rangers, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire and playing cards if it rained.  There was an upper campground above the Alvin Bush dam that overlooked the lake and a lower campground, where we stayed, that was along the stream that flowed from the base of the dam.  Is it any wonder that as I prepare for this extended camping trip that my mind again turns to the delightful provisions of the mountain streams?

Those cold, refreshing, crystal clear streams of the Appalachians provide stunningly beautiful waterfalls and meditative melodies to sooth the soul.  These streams also provide life to the plants, birds and animals of the forest and are a critical part of the support system that sustains hikers on their journey.  A hiker satisfies his thirst, fills his bottle to carry to the next stop or carries water to camp to cook his evening meal after cooling swollen feet in the icy mountain medicine.  In the hottest of months and if the pool is large enough, the hiker may strip down to his shorts and enjoy a swim; a little recreation and relaxation from the daily dirt pounding.

When a hiker of the A.T. takes a day off it is known as a Zero day for zero mileage or is a Nero day (for near zero) when only a few miles are hiked before stopping for the day.  On these off trail days, hiker’s do laundry, repair or shop for replacement gear and supplies, take showers, take naps, catch up on communication with family and friends, rest, seek medical help, if needed, and did I mention, sleep? 

For this hiker, I’m hoping to pan a little more gold from the hills on my Zero/Nero days.  It will be an added expense to acquire fishing licenses for the state I happen to be in at the time, but I would much rather spend those off days resting by a babbling brook or being lulled to sleep by the lapping of lake waves against the shore than being in a motel room.  And should I be a fortunate fisherman, there will be fresh fish to fry for dinner.
While it would be nice to once again harvest some gold from the waters of the Appalachian range, these nuggets are a rarity and I will be thankful for whatever jewel or gem --- be it trout, catfish, sunfish, bass or walleye --- that I am hopefully able to hook.  What a rich reward to receive!  And who knows, maybe there’s still some gold left in them thar hills!


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Backpacking Boiler

In my last article, Black Beary Milkshakes, I briefly mentioned The Galloping Gourmet.  Later, it occurred to me that many of you might be unfamiliar with Chef Graham Kerr, who was the namesake and star of the live studio television show that ran from 1969-1971.  His signature entrance onto the stage involved running in and leaping over a dining room chair.  Chef Kerr’s nickname was acquired after taking a 35 day trek around the world with a wine expert named Len Evans.  The two men visited some of the finest restaurants in existence at the time and wrote a book at the end of their travels titled, The Galloping Gourmets.

My mother-in-law once said, “Gourmet just means the food is served with a rich sauce on it.”  Apparently, she wasn’t far from the truth when considering the early recipes of Chef Kerr routinely used large amounts of butter, cream and wines to flavor and coat his meals.  Of course, this was before our society was so aware that such fat-laden meals, while pleasing to the palate, weren’t the best choices for our hearts and health.

However, even with our current knowledge, we often chose foods, not for their nutritional value, but for how they will tantalize our taste buds or satisfy us emotionally.  We even have the term “comfort food”, which first entered our vocabulary in 1977, to describe food that is easily prepared, associated with home, contentment, or has a nostalgic or sentimental appeal.  Comfort foods are typically high in sugars or carbohydrates and are often used to alter our moods when we are sad, worried or homesick.  Besides, being chosen for taste or emotional needs, we also chose foods based on activity—we associate certain foods with certain activities.  Can you imagine a baseball game without hot dogs and peanuts or a campfire without marshmallows or s’mores?

The thru-hiker on the A.T. is not like The Galloping Gourmet, making meals from scratch in an elaborately equipped kitchen.  No, the thru-hiker is The Backpacking Boiler usually equipped with a small, titanium, 2 cup capacity pot with a lid that doubles as a fry pan, a spork, a mug, a cozy and a single burner alcohol stove made from a soda can or the more elaborate canister fuel stove with an adjustable flame.  The extravagant thru-hiker will carry such luxuries as a plate, micro-cooking utensils or larger pot.  Anything beyond these items is considered unnecessary and outlandish.  With these items, the Backpacking Boiler must make all the associated camping and comfort foods they can for their psychological well-being on the trail.

If you’ve never cooked using a 6” titanium fry pan, let me assure you that it requires a little bit of finesse to manage the heat dispensation.  I had read that it was different than using aluminum pans and that practice was advised before hitting the trail.  Since I am conducting a fuel test to estimate how long a fuel canister will last with my particular cooking habits, this is an ideal time to try out some basic trail recipes, practice with my cookware and micro-utensils. (Yes, I’m carrying these luxury items.)  The micro-utensils consist of a spatula with a roughly 2” x 2” head on a 4” handle and a matching spork, both made of a lightweight, high temperature nylon polymer.

I set up my stove and decided to try making some basic pan drop trail biscuits.  I’m thinking that if this experiment goes well, these biscuits would not only be good for breakfast with jam, honey or gravy, but could provide me with bread for lunch time mini sandwiches.  I mix the batter in a plastic Ziploc type bag to simulate trail conditions and plop the first dollop of batter into my skillet.  It’s immediately obvious that my pan is too hot even though the flame is low.  I turn the flame down even farther while lifting the pan up and away from the heat.  I continue to try to control the amount of heat the pan is transmitting to the batter and eventually attempt to flip the biscuit which is sticking to the pan.  When I manage to get the biscuit turned, a lovely dark charcoal circle is revealed.  Once the other side of the biscuit has had adequate time to brown, I remove this culinary masterpiece to my inverted small pot to cool a moment and shut off the stove.  Now for the taste test, mmmm…a bold burnt flavor covering a delightfully doughy middle; the dog loved it.

Okay, now I understand why practice is recommended and I’ve definitely learned from my first attempt, so let’s try again.  This time I decide to go for a thinner batter and try pancakes lightly greasing the pan first with some olive oil.  I’m so focused on trying to control the heat that I make the pancake too big to be successfully turned with my micro-spatula.  As I cut the pancake into smaller pieces that the spatula can handle, the remaining pieces begin to stick and are starting to burn.  I’m beginning to feel like the Jolly Green Giant trying to cook with Barbie’s Easy Bake Oven.  As the small wisps of smoke rise from the pan, I’m thankful the smoke detector is not too close to where I’m working. 

After finishing off the other side of my pancake puzzle pieces, I pour a little syrup on it and choke it down.  Not too bad; only one side was slightly burned and the syrup definitely helped.  I’m thinking, “Okay, use a little more oil, keep the pan moving over the flame for heat control and make small pancakes the spatula can handle and you’ve got it!  Good, because I don’t want to eat nothing but boil-a-bag meals for 6 months.”

The Backpacking Boiler’s specialty is, after all, boiling water.  We boil water to make instant coffee, tea or hot cocoa.  We boil water to make pasta, rice, oatmeal or grits.  And most importantly, we boil water to re-hydrate any number of pre-packaged meals, either commercially or homemade, that come in a plastic re-sealable bag.  This is where the cozy becomes a vital part of the hiker’s kitchen.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘cozy’, (I was until my education of backpacking began), it is simply an insulated pouch in which to hold your meal bag, keeping it warm while the contents absorb a sufficient amount of liquid to become edible.  Most often, backpackers will make their own cozies out of those shiny, windshield sunscreens and duct tape or the really talented ones sew their cozy seams.

The other important part of this cooking method, sometimes called freezer bag cooking, is the bag holding the actual food.  If you are using one of the commercially prepared meals, you have no worries as their bags are more than adequately designed to handle the 212*F water.  However, if you are making your own dehydrated meals, you had better be sure your re-sealable bag can handle the heat; otherwise, dinner could end up in the dirt.

So, I boiled a couple cups of water and poured it into a one quart off-brand food storage bag that was not rated as a freezer bag which is much thicker.  I decided to let it sit for 15 minutes which is usually the longest amount of time any meal takes to rehydrate.  As a precaution against the bag failing the test, I placed it upright in a large measuring pitcher.  The bag became soft, but it held.

I figured while the bag was full, I should slip it into my homemade cozy and test the fit.  The bag fit wonderfully, but what I didn’t realize was that the bag was not totally sealed, so when I laid the cozy down and was securing the fold-over flap to close it, the slightly less than boiling water gushed out of the bag and splattered onto my sock covered foot sending me hopping across the kitchen for a hand-towel to dry my now burning toes.  Another lesson learned; ensure you bag is fully sealed or keep the cozy upright.
Burned biscuits, puzzle-piece pancakes and a hopping hot foot…yep, a successful day in the kitchen for this Backpacking Boiler.  Okay, so I don’t have the culinary competence of The Galloping Gourmet and I’ll be spending more time leaping over rocks and boulders than dining room chairs, but there is one thing I have in common with Chef Graham Kerr; my menu options will change over time.  Chef Kerr eventually altered his dishes to a fresher and healthier variety and after 6 months of trail food, I too, will make the move to a fresher menu and will once again enjoy the comfort foods of home.

*Photos courtesy of

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Black Beary Milkshakes

Don’t feed the bears!  We’ve been hearing that warning for as long as I can remember and honestly, I don’t know of anyone nor have ever heard of anyone who intentionally feeds bears.  We have been reminded, educated and down-right hounded about not feeding bears for so long because of the negative impact, on both bears and humans, that such behavior brings. 

Bears are one the great topics of discussion when considering a hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Personally, I’m looking forward to a bear encounter, as many hikers do.  We all want to take that great camera shot or watch from a safe, but close-ish distance, the wild bear in its natural habitat just being a bear.  There’s definitely an adrenaline rush when you encounter a large mammal in the wilderness without the zoo fence or glass barriers protecting you from a possible predator. 
To date, I have only had two bear encounters outside of the zoo.  The first was when I was about 16 years old and a gentleman at an auction house had a 2-3 month old black bear cub on a leash that he let me play with for about an hour (a great experience) and the other was a black bear my daughter and I scared up while driving around the Gila Mountains of western New Mexico on a fall turkey hunt.  The New Mexico bear is the only bear I’ve ever seen in the wild.  My grandfather used to tell me stories of how there were more bears around in his younger days in south-central Pennsylvania and from the stories I hear today, it sounds like the bears are back, but I have only heard the stories and seen the pictures.

And let’s not forget, it will be early springtime when we start our march northward.  The bears and their babies will be emerging from their winter dens looking for food to replenish their bellies after a dismal winter diet.  We all know Yogi loves to swipe a good pic-a-nic basket.  Wouldn’t a hiker’s backpack fit the bill nicely?  Or maybe, skip the backpack; what about the hiker?  There’s a big hunk of meat to be had, right?  And those cubs; gosh darn it, aren’t they just the cutest!  But, of course, there’s Mama Bear and you had best be watching out for her, because we all know you don’t mess with Mama’s kids!
Yep, the chances that you are going to encounter a bear somewhere on the Appalachian Trail, and especially in places like northeastern PA, northwestern NJ and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the population of black bears is estimated to be 1,500 or an average of 2 bears for every square mile, is relatively high.  Although you may encounter a bear, the odds that you will have a negative encounter are actually quite low.  For example, in 2009, a reported 288 bear incidents were reported in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; only one involved injury, most were property damage reports; damage that occurred in search of food.

Food; we all need it and the long distance backpacker needs more than the average human on a daily basis.  The average daily caloric intake for adults is between 1,600-2,800 calories with women running on the lower end of the scale and men to the higher end.  Activity levels are probably the number one variant in the amount of calories that a person should consume each day.  Now imagine for a moment that you are hiking up and down mountains for 8-12 hours per day with 25-40 lbs. on your back.  Those daily averages increase to 3500-5000 calories per day.  For those of us who are gourmands, this is great news!  Basically, you can eat all you wish and not have to worry about gaining weight because you’ll be hiking off those calories faster than you can swallow them.

But this also poses a problem.  How does one carry enough calories without dramatically increasing the your load?  Hikers have developed a couple different methods to accomplish these calorie requirements.  One is to eat foods that are high in caloric value per weight, with the goal being 100 calories/ounce.  Namely, this means junk food, so candy bars, summer sausage and other high fat foods are a staple in backpacks for caloric intake.  Another is to gorge on food when making resupply stops to make up for leaner days on the trail, therefore, All-You-Can-Eat establishments are a favorite place for hikers to chow down, as are pizza joints.  It’s not uncommon for a single hiker to eat an entire medium, or even large, pizza by themselves.  

This requirement for high calories and the in-town gorging of backpackers have combined to create some interesting food challenges and traditions along the trail.  The most famous is possibly the ½ gallon ice cream challenge at Pine Grove Furnace, PA which is very near the ½ way point on the trail.  In celebration of reaching the ½ way point, the campground store challenges hikers to eat a ½ gallon of ice cream in one sitting.   If you should choose Chocolate Moose Tracks, you could rack up 2,520 calories, based on the Hershey’s brand.  Years ago, if the hiker accomplished this feat, the ice cream was free, but that is no longer the case, as most hikers are quite able to accomplish this with their trail appetites in place. But, then again, maybe the challenge should be renamed as well since I don’t think anyone makes ½ gallons of ice cream anymore; it’s all 1.5 quarts now.

Pizza Hut claims 2,000 calories per 12” medium pepperoni pan pizza and you can get one delivered to the Partnership Shelter in Virginia.  In Waynesboro, VA is a place called Weasie’s that offers all-you-can-eat pancakes for $3.99 and is the home of the Pancake Challenge of man-hole cover sized pancakes.  I believe the current record is 22 set in 2010.  Supposedly in Damascus, VA there is a 6 lb. burger challenge at a place called Fattie’s Diner; the 4 lb. and subsequent 5 lb. burger challenges were beaten by earlier hikers.  And then, there is the tradition of stopping at Elk Wallow near Luray, VA for the best blackberry milkshake ever!  I don’t know if that’s true or just a hiker’s impression from the deprivation of normal home-cooked meals; guess I’ll find out in Virginia.

Further north, in Stratton, ME there is a Wolf Burger Challenge of 3 half pound burgers complete with cheese, onions and mushrooms with a side of fries.  But, in my opinion, the pinnacle of food challenges has to be the Summit Sundae Challenge in Millinocket, ME at the Appalachian Trail CafĂ©.  This is a 14 scoop (one for every state on the trail) ice cream sundae complete with a banana, M&Ms and a Snickers candy bar, chocolate syrup and maraschino cherries.  If you complete it, you receive a free T-shirt and possibly a stomachache or gall bladder attack.

Of course, calories are not the only consideration in a hiker’s food selection.  Extra protein is needed for muscle regeneration and complex carbohydrates are needed for energy.  So, a smart hiker will try to balance all these nutritional needs as well as the calories in their diet while trying to carry as little weight as possible.  The average hiker will carry between 1.5-2 lbs. of food per day, mostly of dehydrated foods that include a lot of pastas, rice, couscous, oatmeal and ramen.  Fruits will be in leathery rolls and vegetables will be dried.  Bagels and tortillas are the breads of choice and meats will most be jerky, Spam singles, foil-packaged tuna, salmon and chicken, as well as the aforementioned summer sausages.  And never forget, the hiking staple of all staples, trail mix or GORP (Good Ole Raisins and Peanuts).

Galloping Gourmets we might not be, but with home dehydrators being more common these days, many backpackers are able to expand their food choices and make recipes to their own liking.  You can now take your own home-made chili, pasta sauce, or soups and re-hydrate them on the trail with boiling water, a Ziploc bag and a cozy to keep it warm.  Yeah, no dishes to wash and no cans to pack out with the trash.  But you still have to protect this food from the bears (and mice), who are hungry, have a great sense of smell and love to get at an easy meal.

Yogi’s claims of being smarter than the av-er-age bear stands as a testament to the intelligence of this animal when it comes to acquiring food.  Most shelters have bear bag poles to hang your food out of reach at night.  Before heading out, every hiker should know how to hang a bear bag properly in the event no poles are available or are full.  One five mile section of the trail now requires a bear canister to be carried if you are overnight camping in that area; this is a first for the Appalachian Trail although this is common practice on the western trails of the United States.  Bear canisters are designed to keep the bear out of the food, although some bears in the Adirondacks have even figured out how to open some of these.  Some hang their food from the shelter roof, which keeps it from the bears, but requires adding another barrier to protect the food bag from mice, the other food predator of the trail.

So given all the planning, preparing, packaging and pigging out that backpackers do, it is highly unlikely that they willingly hand over any food to share with the bears along the way.  Yet every year, hikers do lose food to the bears, usually because of not properly securing one’s supplies.  Bears are opportunistic and will take whatever they can get, day or night.  One of my fellow hikers even told a story of how she chased down a bear that stole her backpack once to get it back.  Hikers take their food seriously and considering it’s all they have until the next resupply point, I think you can understand why.  I don’t plan on sharing my blackberry milkshake or any other food with the bears no matter how cute they are.

Of course, if you should miscalculate the amount of food you need on the trail, or are just darn hungry because you’re not getting enough in your daily meals; you can resort to another hiker’s tradition and become a Yogi yourself by begging food from day hikers, campers and anyone who might give you a hand-out and raiding hiker's boxes for discarded items.  Just watch out for Ranger Smith!


**Love this cartoon that’s been floating around the internet and hiking community!



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricanes and Hills

Have you ever noticed how two people can share the same experience yet have totally different reactions to the event?  If you read my last post, you know that I was off cruising the Caribbean very recently while celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary.  My husband and I had the added pleasure of Hurricane Sandy’s company on our voyage.  Yes, I said pleasure and let me explain why.
The first five days of our cruise were blessed with the sun shining brightly and the tropical blue waters gently rolling and providing their usual soothing effect on all the passengers. 

It was the ideal Caribbean experience, but on the return leg of our trip with one remaining stop scheduled for the Bahamas, the situation began to change.  Suddenly, there was word of a hurricane in our path and she was headed for our exact destination; we would have to cancel our stop in the Bahamas and the captain wisely decided to detour around the storm to the west.  The plan was to allow the hurricane to continue on its northerly trail putting distance between the ship and the storm, then to turn north and follow the trailing winds into port arriving close to our scheduled time.  This would allow everyone to connect to their scheduled flights or continue their other travel plans without further interruption. Later that day, we learned the hurricane’s name was Sandy.

Sandy.  Of all names that it could be, this one immediately made us laugh. Not because Sandy comes from Sandra which comes from Alexandra which is the feminine of Alexander; you know, the Great; the man who swiftly blew across the Middle East and into Asia conquering everything in his path.  No, we laughed because our youngest daughter is named Sandy, primarily after my mother.  Both of these women are known for their dynamic and often stormy personalities. 
Additionally, this brought back memories of when I was pregnant with Sandy and the first couple months of her infancy.  See, when I was with swollen belly and would lie next to my husband at night, Sandy would kick intensely forcing me to move away from him.  After she was born, even while being in her own crib in another room, if her father and I would snuggle up or even think about having an intimate moment, she would cry on cue the moment we touched each other.  How she knew, we didn’t know, but here we are on a romantic getaway and once again, Sandy is interrupting our intimacy.  All we could do was laugh and enjoy the memory and the moment. 

So on we sail as the waves begin to increase in size.  No longer are they a gentle rolling turquoise or cobalt blue; now the water has taken on a midnight blue with white caps curling on the peaks and white sprays reaching even higher in the air misting the deck and porthole windows.
The ship’s bow has begun to rise up while climbing waves, pitching, peaking and sliding down the other side of these watery hills.  The waves slap the bottom and sides of the vessel with a deep boom that reverberates through the hull like an out of tune Chinese gong.  Night is beginning to fall and the wind is whirling and whipping the waves into higher and higher mountains with valleys far below. Now what does any of this have to do with hiking or my original question?  Bear with me, I’m getting to that.
Any field of interest or hobby you undertake requires learning a set of new vocabulary with it.  In the hiking world, PUDs, or pointless ups and downs are one of the new terms to which I’ve been introduced.  Apparently, during routine maintenance, trails are often re-routed for various reasons.  Often these new routes will extend the previous trail length and climb up every conceivable peak.  This is why the Appalachian Trail length has grown from 2,044 miles in 1948 to its current 2,184 miles. 
Unfortunately, many of these added peaks do not result in the majestic views that most look forward to as a reward for climbing and conquering the mountain, thereby, leaving the hiker disappointed in their efforts.  Hence, these climbs have been dubbed pointless and some hikers will avoid them altogether by hiking the previous trail route which is marked by a blue blaze instead of the white blaze for the official trail.  (Blazes are a 2” x 6” vertical bar painted on trees or rocks to mark the trail.) 
Hikers who are adamant about following only the white blazes are known as Purists and they tend to look down on the Blue-Blazers who shorten the journey by taking the side trails which are often more scenic and less strenuous.  Purists will only take these blue-blazed side trails to reach the shelters at night or as a weather-advised detour due to obstructions or hazards that prevent them from continuing on the white-blazed trail, much like our captain’s decision to look for bluer waters to avoid the whitecap peaks of the storm.
And just like our vessel took an alternative route hoping for a smoother ride, this does not always prove to give the intended result.  There are occasions when the blue-blazed trail can be just as strenuous, or even more so, than the white-blazed trail.  Not that I can say our original route was even an option for our cruise ship, not without risking the lives of all the passengers and crew, but we still had a much rougher ride than our dear captain intended for us.
So, how did we fare the night you ask?  Well, this brings me back to my original question concerning shared experiences and differing reactions.  No, it wasn’t my husband and I who had the differences; we both took the storm in stride; albeit, I had a little more enthusiasm than he did throughout the night as he was trying to get some sleep and I was too busy enjoying the show outside the porthole window.  (I mean, gee whiz, when am I going to get another opportunity to ride up and down 30-50 foot waves?)  No, it was the next morning, and even into this week while reading the various reports about what happened that night, that I truly realized how different perspectives can be in a single event.
There have been multiple criticisms of our captain who I believe did a wonderful job keeping everyone safe and trying to maintain the travel schedules of his passengers.  We arrived just 2 hours behind our scheduled docking time and although most of us ended up having to reschedule flights, it appeared to be more due to the delays once in port than our delayed arrival.  And, please remember, we arrived safely!  There were alternatives to that result.
Many passengers and even many crew members that I spoke with the next morning stated that they spent the night scared out of their minds.  While I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s fears; it is the Halloween season, after all; personally, I enjoyed the added excitement and opportunity for a unique adventure.  It certainly was a very memorable anniversary. 
Also, I have to be fair in my assessment and add that my husband and I were in the most ideal location onboard for the conditions.  Our stateroom was on deck 2, mid-ship, so we were very near the center fulcrum, whereas, if you were more forward or backward and at a higher deck level, your swings in elevation were probably much more dramatic than ours.  And I certainly have a lot of sympathy for those individuals who suffer with motion or sea-sickness.  I can understand why, for them, this was not a pleasant experience.
But, the point that I want to drive home with this discussion is this; the ship climbed multiple white-capped waves with little view at the top throughout the night and slid back down into the dark, watery valleys below seemingly getting nowhere; yet each up and down took us forward toward our destination.  Maybe you consider the climbs up mountains with no views as pointless and you’d prefer the more tranquil path of blue; so be it.  Each step, on a white-blaze or on a blue-blazed trail, takes you one step closer to your destination.  So, it’s back to the trail mantra; whether you are the purist whitecap or bouncing blue wave, hike your own hike. 
As for this ship, well, I enjoy those whitecaps and the ride they provide, but I won’t rule out an occasional scenic blue sailing past a peak for a restful repose.  The trail is supposed to offer freedom from the rigid rules of the world and while I don’t believe in being reckless and aim to reach my goal safely, I am also planning on throwing open my sails and let’s just see where the winds blows me, eh?