Camping Trip

A Canadian, a Jew, an Asian guy, and an American go hiking into the woods for a camping trip. It’s either the start of a bad joke or a new reality tv show. We had a token black guy and a Mexican, but they bailed at the last minute.

A bunch of interns from Microsoft decided to go on a camping trip this weekend. So, we rented gear from REI (the American equivalent of MEC) and headed out early Saturday morning to the Boulder River trail in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The plan was to hike in Saturday morning, arrive around lunch, set up camp, build a fire, and enjoy a weekend in nature and away from work.

The hike in was fun. It took us 3.5 hours to cover the 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of trail from where we parked to our campsite. Jeff started to fade about half way, so we started transferring gear from his pack to ours. It wasn’t until we got to the campsite that I found out that even after taking some stuff off, his pack still weighed 20 lbs more than everyone else’s. Turns out we packed way to much gear. Some of the dumber items included a cast iron pan, 3 beers (of which I only drank one and no one else wanted any), and about 10 litres more water than we needed (we even used bottled water to cook and do dishes in – next time I advocate boiling water from the river or bringing a filter and leaving the bottled water at home).

The trail to the campsite went through an old-growth forest and is breathtaking. We passed two waterfalls on the way and a ton of giant trees that we could barely see the tops of. The trail was pretty treacherous at times, especially with heavy packs on our backs. Everything was wet and slick and some of the log bridges we had to cross nearly caused someone to topple over the edge several times. About halfway up the trail we started seeing patches of snow on the ground.

By the time we got to the campsite, we were exhausted and glad to have our packs off our backs. I immediately set out trying to find kindling to start a fire. Everything was so wet there, it was a struggle to find dry wood. All the trees, both dead and alive, were covered in layers of wet moss.

I found the driest wood I could and built a small teepee with some scraps of paper I had in my pockets. I lit the paper and some of the kindling started to burn, but nothing wanted to really light and our fire soon sputtered out. Jeff offered to pour some gasoline on the fire, to get it started, but I insisted that was cheating and proceeded to use up all my matches and every bit of paper I could commandere trying in vain to start a fire. All four of us were huffing and puffing and cursing and praying to the fire gods in a vain attempt to get our fire started. But the wood was just too wet. We even used some gas and that didn’t help either.

Exhausted and frustrated with our lack of fire, we set up camp and ate lunch. On the hike up I had worked up a sweat and had peeled down to a long sleeve shirt, but without a fire started it got cold really quick and I was soon back in my my jacket.

I spent the afternoon exploring the river bank and collecting more dry wood in the hope that I would eventually get a fire going. Around dinner time two other groups showed up at the campsite. We talked to one of them and they promised if they got a fire going they would share. But that night no one got a fire going. Luckily we had a gas stove to do our cooking on and we had an amazing stir-fry for dinner (oh yeah, we hauled a wok up too – at least it was aluminum). We tried several more times to get our fire going, but eventually gave up and settled for a night of playing cards in the tent instead of roasting smores on a camp fire. I taught everyone how to play Euchre which no one had heard of – they were convinced it was a Canadian game, which I don’t think it is.

We managed to stay up until 9:00 before crashing. I crawled into my sleeping bag and changed into a pair of track pants, a t-shirt, and a long sleeve shirt – thinking that would be warm enough for the night. I woke up around 3:00 am – both my legs were cramping up and my body was shivering uncontrollably. I realized I was way too cold and put on another pair of pants, a sweater, a toque, and a pair of mitts. I managed to sleep a bit better after that. I noticed the next morning everyone else was sleeping in their jackets. It must have been dropped below zero that night.

The next morning we had pancakes for breakfast. Gotta love camping pancakes. Although it’s not the same cooked over a gas stove. While the pancakes were cooking we tried one more attempt to get our fire started with all the wood I had been gathering the day before, with a little bit of gas sprinkled on top. To our surprise, after the gas had burnt off there were still some twigs burning on their own. We started blowing on the fire and feeding it more twigs. We had fire! We never did get a very good blaze going, but it was a semi-self sustained fire. We had to tend to it pretty closely, but it was a mental victory. Most of the wood just hissed and steamed and gave off more smoke than heat, but I was happy. We roated marshmellows to celebrate.

Around noon we packed up and headed back to civilization. With our packs drastically lighter and the weight better distributed amoungst us, we managed to cover the trail in 2 hours and 15 minutes including 2 short breaks.

All in all, it was a fun weekend. The fresh air, beautiful scenery, and a lack of electronics (if you ignored the digital cameras, cellphones, and GPS devices) was very refreshing. It may have been a little cold and wet, but I enjoyed myself. Nothing like getting stinky in the woods for two days to prepare you for another week in the office.


My Seattle Trip by Kelsey Porter

Things have quited down here now. My sister left on Thursday morning. I hope she had a good time in nerdland.

Before she left I asked her to write a quick synopsis of her trip for my lj. I was expecting something like:

So, like, my brother invited me to come visit his place in Seattle. So, I went during my reading week. I was so stoked about snowboarding and it was like so fun. But then I had to come home, and I was like “bummer dude”

But to my surprise, I got this amusing account of her visit. I’ve highlighted the relevant parts.

My Seattle Trip by Kelsey Porter

Happy President’s Day

Or Happy Family Day to all you in lovely Alberta 😉

What a great weekend. I did squat. It’s about time I had a weekend to just veg.

Friday night Greg, Sarah, and I went out to a fancy Italian restaurant. You know your at a classy joint when the waiter can spend 10 minutes pointing out the differences in two bottles of wine on a 10 page wine menu. Luckily Sarah was able to talk shop with the waiter as Greg and I tried to appear as un-smuck-like as possible. Not an easy task, considering I had just worked out, was wearing a baseball hat to hide my messy hair, and hadn’t shaved in days. The food was amazing. And the place was packed with couples on romantic dinners. I felt a little out of place. We managed to spend $150 on dinner.

The rest of the weekend was spent getting acquainted with my laptop and playing video games.

Today, was a weird day. I spent 30 minutes waiting for my bus this morning. Took me a that long to figure out the busses were running on Sunday schedules.
The flu is rampant in my team. My mentor only came in for an hour today for a meeting, and sounded like she was dying. And one of the PMs teleconferenced in from home because he’s sick too.
I went to the company store today and bought a wireless mouse for my laptop. Prices there are sooo cheap. Who wants XBox games for their birthday? Also bought some Microsoft logo goodies. 🙂

Bruised, Battered, and Busy

It’s been a hectic last few days. Where to start…

Well, I bought a new laptop on Friday, so I’m no longer restricted to writing journal updates from work. Since I know the nerdier readers are bound to ask, here are the specs on my new, spiffy AMD 64 bit processor HP laptop. I’m really happy with it so far. I haven’t done anything to push it to the max yet, but it seems pretty competent. And thanks to its media card reader, I have some pictures and videos to share.

Kelsey (my younger sister – I don’t think I can call her little any more) is here right now. She’s visiting me for a few days as it’s Reading Week at the U of M. Yesterday, Kelsey and I (and 9 other Microsoft Interns that I invited along for the ride) piled into a few rental cars and convoyed up to Mt Baker, a ski hill close to the BC-Washington border. The conditions were superb. I was worried on the drive up, because we had nothing but rain, but as we hit the base of the mountain, the rain turned to snow and up on the ski hill, they had a ton of fresh powder and it snowed all day.

The drive up was fun. After we left the interstate, I took the lead in the convoy and started flying down winding mountain highways as the poor guys behind me tried to keep up. The day’s motto was “don’t worry, it’s a rental”, as we used and abused our vehicles.

Everyone who came on the trip, except Sarah, Kelsey, and Gustavo, was a newby to skiing or snowboarding. Having snowboarded once before, I was a venerable expert. I spent the morning on the bunny hill smashing into little kids and getting back to the point I was at when I last went snowboarding – which means I could make it about 5 feet before ending up on my butt. Then I spent the afternoon on the runs trying to rip limbs from my body and pack down the fresh snow with my face. I had some crazy spills. Luckily all the fresh snow softened the blows of my many falls and prevented any serious injuries. My body hasn’t forgiven me for the abuse yet, and punishes me every time I try to move. It’s been a struggle to lift my arms and walk around today.

Today, after sleeping like a baby, Kelsey and I headed to downtown Seattle and hooked up with Graeme for some sightseeing. The highlights:

  • The monk fish scaring the crap out of Kelsey at Pike Place
  • This crazy spraying fountain at Seattle Center and all the kids trying to touch it without getting wet
  • And the craziest, funkiest buskers I have ever seen

It’s been a great weekend. Kelsey just finished cleaning up our house, bless her soul. Although I can’t seem to find anything now. I’d like to write more, but it’s late and I have to work tomorrow. More later.
Pictures and a funny, funny movie of Kelsey’s trip so far can be found here.

Hard work and rewards

It’s official. I’ve found the hardest working guy at Microsoft.

Now, most MS employees work really long hours, like 10 hour days. And most work the odd weekend.
But today, I saw the most dedicated, hardworking employee at this company. I was on one of my semi-hourly washroom breaks (free juice does that to you) when a guy walked in with his laptop and proceeded to enter a stall. When another employee called him on it, he said “I have a few minutes, might as well use it”. Wow. Now that’s dedication.

I like to think I work hard, but for me the washroom is a work-free zone.

Now to the reward part of Microsoft. I found a picture of the butterfly ladies. So hot!

Friday Night Excitement

Yesterday was lots of fun. We had another wine and cheese at Nodira’s last night.
The highlights:

  • Lots of wine and beer, and a gas can full of rum and coke
  • Drunken SET (I brought the nerd entertainment again – last time it was logic puzzles)
  • I lost five bucks in a poker tournament
  • Greg got hammered and I got to be his DD (the gas can was a giant killer)
  • After Nodira kicked us out at 2:00, we went to Microsoft for a ping-pong tourney. We found the table, but no ball
  • But we did find an XBox, so we played Halo 2 for an hour
  • Greg, in his drunken stupor, still kicked our butts
  • I tried to keep up to Sarah as she raced up four levels of the parking garage – that girl drives like a maniac

Greg was still passed out when I left to workout at the gym this morning.

Tomorrow we’re having a few peope over to watch the Super Bowl or for some – the commericials. Although I hear they’re really lame this year.

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