Running My First 50k

I ran my first 50k last month.  I know what you’re thinking: either, “who would ever do that?” or, “who the fuck cares?” Both questions are valid but I only have a good answer for one of them. I wanted a good test- a test of my will and fortitude, and felt like running 31 miles might be that test. Life gets so vanilla sometimes, especially when you work in an office. Work can be hard in it’s own way, but too easy in others. Your mind might get tested a little at times, but your body never does. You never find the limit of your capabilities when you work in an office. You sit in a chair all day watching the clock go by. It makes you soft! I wanted to find something that could take the soft, doughy edges of my mind and body and sharpen them a bit.
The training was exhausting. I ran just about every day (I read that you should take one day off a week, but I just kept running like Forest Gump ). On the weekends I would do my long runs. They started out around 12 miles for the first couple of weeks and I slowly added on a couple of miles every weekend. By the second month I was running 3-4 hours on a Saturday to put in the miles necessary to build up to the 31 miles I had to run in the race. My knees took a beating. I tried running on the balls of my feet like we are meant to run, but late in the long runs I slowly went back to landing on my heels, especially when I was tired and drained. Running heal to toe is less work, or at least it takes less focus for someone that has been brought up with padded heels on their shoes (thanks Nike), but it also puts all the stress on your knees. I read somewhere that every step when you are running is equal to 7 times your body weight landing on your knees, or something of that nature.

The race was in Uxbridge, Massachusetts (basically the least known town in Mass) and the course was based around a hill- Goat Hill, a name that I would come to despise over the 5.5 hours it took for me to finish. The course was made up of a single track mountain biking trail that snaked between pine trees and sliced through split boulders. It was four laps and each lap was just under 8 miles and 1000 feet of elevation gain.

Before the race even started, I had a good idea of who the best runner was. It was this dude that had all the gear and walked the walk. He looked like an ultra runner- long legs, tiny torso; he was built for it. The rest of the group looked like a bunch of misfits who didn’t belong. People milled around in their running shoes and vests waiting for the race to start. No one really interacted with each other. All of us were nervous for what we were about to go through.

The horn blew and we were off; into the green tunnel we went.  The top 4 guys, including myself, pulled away from the pack within the first mile or so, and the runner guy that I mentioned before, let’s call him “Legs”, immediately pulled away from the three of us. His stride was much like a horse’, smooth and strong. I found myself in 4th, which I felt was a good spot, because everyone behind me looked like they couldn’t even finish the race. There were a couple of guys that looked like they had too many burgers and beers for a number of years, an old guy, a group of girls that I heard gossiping to each other behind me through the trees for the first mile, and a bunch of other people that just didn’t have the runner look about them. I felt like I could probably stay in 4th and never get passed by anyone. I was right about that, but what is the fun in staying in the same position for 5 hours? I had to pick these guys off ahead of me.

The first hill, and only real hill appeared within the first 10 minutes of the race and hung over us like an impenetrable wall. The four of us slowed down to a hiking pace and took big heaving breathes of cool morning air. I knew we were all in for some shit for the rest of the race when we hit Goat Hill- I was only a little over a mile in and my legs were already starting to burn. Once we summited the hill, the course somehow continued to slowly go up, it never seemed to go down. The course was a lot like a roller coaster running circuitously through the woods, going up and down hills, zig zagging around trees and through ravines. Most of the time I was questioning whether I was still on course because it felt like I was lost in a purgatory where all that existed was a constantly winding path that led no where. Every once in a while there was a volunteer who pointed you in the right direction at a confusing intersection, but other than that, I saw very little human life, or animal life for that matter.

I tried to keep up with the third place guy (let’s call him “White Face”- you will find out why later- it’s not racist, because saying racist things about white people isn’t racist apparently) for a while in the first lap but then decided I wouldn’t force myself to keep up with him because he was starting off way too fast, and I begun to run my own race. That was the best decision I made all day.

The first lap went by, and I remember saying to my fiance as I passed her at the starting line- “this is a lot harder than I thought.” The second lap came in like a punch to the gut from the heavens. It was just as hard and took a little bit of my soul. But there was hope, it just came after I had to deal with Legs. Just a note: for most of the race I was running by myself and I had no idea whether the guy in front of me was close or not. Midway through the second lap I heard someone coming in hot from behind me. I thought “oh, this has got to be someone from the second race”- as there were multiple races that day, all of them staggered and shorter than 50k. I looked back and Legs was coming up behind me, strides smooth and strong as ever. I was confused, I thought I saw him pull away from everyone in the beginning and I didn’t remember ever passing him. He slowly caught up to me and said “I got lost, went down the wrong path.” All I could think was this guy was impressive. If I ran down the wrong path for any amount of time I would seriously think of throwing in the towel. Legs continued ahead of me, slowly pulling away on the downhills, his long legs made for flying down declines. For some reason, Legs passing me didn’t take that much out of me. I never thought I would win this race anyway. I made up my mind that I would continue to run my own race and see where it would take me.

By the end of the second lap, White Face was leaving the fuel station while I was pulling in. I gave him a look that said “Imma catch you.” He took off after what must have been a long fuel break. I took a big swig of Gatorade, downed an orange peel, and was back on his heels. I knew he was only maybe a minute or so ahead of me at the start of the third lap and was very confident this was the lap I would catch him.

I caught him about 2 miles into the woods. My strength is going up hills, most people are fast going down hill, especially Legs. When you have long legs, you can glide down hills and let those stilts guide you, allowing you to speed up. I have short legs that are good for pumping up hills. White Face was long and skinny like Legs and in the first lap he kept pulling away from me on downhills, but because I think he felt my presence during the whole first and second lap, he wore himself out. By the time I reached him in the third lap, he had nothing left. He pulled over to the side of the trail and let me go by, I looked at his face as I passed and saw a gaunt skeleton, as white as a ghost. I said “thank you” and continued on my way, my confidence building as the trail zipped underneath my feet.

I passed the second-place guy later in the lap. He was an older fellow, maybe in his late 40s, early 50s. It was no big deal, he just slowed down after 2.5 laps, and I kept the same pace. Passing people in ultra-marathons is probably the least intense thing in the world. If you are an asshole, you will block the guy behind you from passing but that’s not really how it works. He let me go and I was off to catch Legs.

The 4th lap was a blur. My legs broke down and pure pain overcame me throughout basically the whole lap. The hill at the beginning of the lap became more like a mountain for me. Each step was labored, and at times I used my hands to grab onto rocks and pull myself up. I was well-hydrated, had plenty of salt in my system and electrolytes from all the Gu, but still my legs were screaming “stop now, you asshole.” I had to slow to a walk at times just from the pain in my knees, feet, and legs in general. My running shoes decided to give up and I began building two huge blisters on the arches of my feet that stung with every step. The pain was barely noticeable though, from the blisters, as both of my legs were screaming. Legs, the man, was somewhere in front of me but I hadn’t seen him at all the whole lap. I was just trying to finish at that point and was just hoping that no one would pass me because that probably would have broken me. The last couple miles were something out of a horror movie. Every step shot pain up my legs, I could feel my feet becoming raw and my knees beginning to deteriorate. I knew the finish line was close but I was in a constant battle with myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I crossed the finish line in second place after five and a half hours of struggle. Legs finished 15 minutes ahead of me and the third place guy didn’t come in for another 45 minutes. The race was brutal, I fell down on my ass and couldn’t get up for an hour. I congratulated Legs and gave him props for coming back after getting lost in the woods. I downed a 20 ounce beer and reveled in the experience.

That race is the hardest single thing I have ever done in my life. Countless times I contemplated quitting and going home. Countless times I had to make myself keep going. I thought of my fiance and family who came that day being disappointed if I did quit and that kept me going. This might sound cliché, but the race changed me.  It made me grateful just to sit down – something I took for granted every day of my life. It made me grateful for the life I live, a life that throughout human history would have only been lived by the top of the hierarchy- the people with all the power. It opened up a door in my mind that I never knew I had. I feel like I can do just about anything now because I can suffer and overcome that hardest of tasks. I know now that there really isn’t a limit to what a human can do.



Instagram: @hsilva12


Thoughts While Training for a 50k

I did it, I signed up for an ultra marathon. It was one of those things that I had wanted to do for years – to really test myself. To see how much I can take, how much I can overcome, with mind and body. For the past few weeks I’ve been putting increasingly more miles to prepare for the 31.1 mile race which will be held on a hill in Uxbridge, MA. The course is 4 loops of close to 8 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain per loop. I’ve been doing shorter runs of 3-5 miles on weekdays and long runs on weekends, with one day off per week.

I had an interesting long run yesterday-  I decided to take a big hit of a bowl before going out on a 10 mile loop around Shelburne Falls and Ashfield, MA. The sun was warm and the 2 feet of snow lining the streets was beginning to melt, causing a spring-like glare. Blue skies above and plenty of pavement ahead, I put one foot in front of another until my mind left the road and went into itself.

As I ran through sparsely populated neighborhoods, signs on the left side of the street for “Black Lives Matter” in front of houses with Subarus in driveways were contrasted by signs on the right posted on siding saying “Build the Pipeline, Lower My Electric Bill.” Both were cries to the other side, the left side of the road vs the right. How would those two homeowners interact with each other if they met in a grocery store? Probably pretty humanely. They could probably even become friends. But when ideology gets involved, it gets ugly. The ideology get stuck in the ground, unmovable like the signs themselves. One idea represents a group mindset while another represents the individual. Historically, both are necessary. Too much group mindset, too much level playing field, and societies stagnate and crumble. There is no incentive to grow if everyone is forced to be the same. On the other side of the coin, too much emphasis put on every man for himself and historically we see the same outcome. So, there needs to be a balance. A continuous conversation between the two sides. Currently there seems to be a gap in the conversation. Maybe the gap is aided by social media, maybe it’s brought on by a guy with weird hair that is fluent in demonizing the other side. Maybe it’s just a symptom of the times. Who knows. But on that run yesterday, it seemed so obvious that the country is split in two. We need to find a way to mend the conversation.

I continued on hammering the miles, past ranches and farms. Horses stood in deep snow waiting for the sun to peek out from behind clouds to warm their backs. A group of seven deer popped out from the woods and stood staring at me in the middle of the street. As I got closer, there was a lack of communication within the group and 4 went back the way they came and 3 went continued to the other side of the road.

As the miles piled on, the question of “why the hell am I doing this” started to creep in. Most people would rather be in their warm houses, eating bacon and sipping coffee and here I am running mile after mile on an asphalt road with no one else around. Then I noticed the hill about a half mile ahead of me. It was there for me to reach. “Let me just get to the top of the hill and THEN I will think about quitting.” Once I reached the top of the hill, I saw that I  had a section of downhill to rest on so I might as well continue to run. I cruised through that section and forgot I was running for a bit. A couple of miles went by with my mind floating off into a distant land and then I reappeared again on the road. There was another hill to conquer. “I might as well do it because I know I can, I just conquered that last hill…”

Running is a teacher, it teaches us about life. There is always another hill in front of us in life, another obstacle to summit. Once you overcome the obstacle, you might have a time rest for awhile, a nice downhill before the next hill. There will always be that next hill though. When you start to get good at overcoming the obstacles, some of them just start flying by without you even noticing. You just become a machine that flows through the obstacle instead of struggling inside your head. That’s the most enjoyable time-when flow happens. The running is still hard but it somehow takes a different shape. More like a river. The miles slide underneath you and life becomes a different thing. Struggle is inherent in this,  but even struggle can be enjoyed.




Salento, Quindio, Colombia- The Beautiful Land of Coffee and the Tallest Palms in the World

The town of Salento in the Quindio region of Colombia was the perfect place for a mountain lover such as myself . The 5,000-15,000 foot peaks which were covered in multiple vibrant shades of green, some of which had snow peaking out of the clouds on their summits, reminded me of a more peaceful and tropical version of Asheville, NC.

View from our hostel

We flew into the city of Pereira- about an hour drive from Salento, at around 2pm and met up with our friend from Massachusetts Brandon at the airport in Pereira. Brandon had gotten in at 8am and was weary-eyed from the long flight from Boston.  We excitedly met up with him after long hours of no service and not fully knowing whether he would be in the airport or not. The hour long drive from Pereira to Salento was filled with our first views of the coffee plantations and looming mountains lining the roadways. We stayed at La Serrana hostel about a 10 minute walk from downtown Salento. I recommend staying here because it is a little outside the busy town of Salento and you really get to experience the full effect of the peace that the crisp Sierra Nevada mountains bring to the area. The hostel sits on a hill grassy hill with cows grazing in view adjacent to  the main house. Two jovial Spanish women served breakfast every morning at 7 am. Eggs, bacon, vegetables, smoothies, and pancakes filled our plates while they joked around in Spanish- most likely making fun of all of us gringos.

The hostel staff is happy to set up Jeep rides to and from downtown and help you set up any other excursion you want to make in Salento- whether it is a horse ride to a beautiful 30 foot waterfall, a coffee tour at one of the many coffee plantations a few miles from the hostel, or any other excursion in the area. No one speaks English, as is the norm anywhere in Colombia, but somehow we were able to speak well enough in Spanglish to the people working there to figure out how to get from place to place and . We stayed in a deluxe room which was a few hundred yards from the main hostel house. This was a much-appreciated upgrade from the typical hostel bunks. We had a king size bed, our own bathroom, and the sun rose right next to out house every morning. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to enjoy Salento.

Cocora Valley Hike

The mornings in Salento were always very clear- you could see some of the glacier peaks in the distant mountains, and rows of coffee growing on hills below the hostel. Without fail though, the clouds moved in and there was always a light bit of rain in the early afternoon. You could see the clouds materialize in the late morning and finally, like clockwork, they would start letting out some of their rain on the town and mountains below. The rain would last maybe an hour and then everything would be clear and vibrant again. On the second day at La Serrana we got up early and made the 10 minute walk into the main square in Salento to catch a Jeep to the Cocora Valley. The Jeep ride was, if I remember correctly, 7,000 COP total for a ride to and from the Cocora Valley trailhead- this comes out to only about $2.50 American! I started to realize why it was so cheap when I saw how many people were getting in the old Jeeps. Each Jeep had 2 people in the front seat next to the driver, 6-7 people in the back and 3 people holding on to the outside of the vehicle while standing on the back bumper. My friend Brandon and I were the lucky ones who had the joy of standing on the back bumper on the way to the valley. The Jeep wrapped around tight corners, narrowly missing a large tour bus, and with a bit of fear in our stomachs we enjoyed the growing lush beauty as we got closer to the valley.

A couple of horses grazing along the river at the beginning of the Cocora Valley hike

Cocora Valley is known for it’s Quindio Wax Palm trees which are the tallest palms in the world. They grow upwards of 200 feet in height and are long spindly things that look like they shouldn’t be standing on their own and maybe should be part of a Salvador Dali painting. We took the approximately 6-7 mile hike along a stream, through a rainforest to the top of a 8500 foot mountain. On the way up, there was a 30 minute hike (1 hour there and back) that you could take to a hummingbird garden, but we decided to continue the trek to the top as there were a ton of people going there and it was about 3000 COP each person to get to the viewing area. We asked hikers coming back from the spot if it was worth the extra hike and they gave us an half-hearted “yeah” that wasn’t very convincing.

As we got closer to the summit, the trail got more and more steep. The end of the trail, right before we stopped for a snack was a series of switchbacks there were actually pretty strenuous, and made harder by the altitude. The view from the top was pretty anticlimactic as all we saw was the thick gray clouds surrounding us that has moved in as we had made our way up. On the way down though, we witnessed the full brunt of wax palms straight to the eyeballs. There were a few pull offs where tourists gathered to snap photos of the strange-looking palms as they reached up towards the sky. The trees look like they should be growing on another planet where the gravity is weaker. How do they stand? We finished the hike in about 5 hours and made our way back to the Jeeps, passing fields of cows and horses amongst the palm trees. It was a magical hike that had hints of the Lord of the Rings in its verdant beauty.

Wax Palm Trees

Coffee Tours

We took a couple of coffee tours while in Salento. The first one was called Las Acacias and was the first one we walked up on as we hiked down the hill from La Serrana. It was a family owned plantation and of the younger owners or employees took us through a half hour tour of the plantation. He explained all of the different aspects of growing coffee- how there coffee plants are actually all hybrids of the Arabica plant, which is a very tall thin plant, and another plant that is short and wide. They hybridized these plants because people in Colombia aren’t very tall so they wanted a plant that was easy to harvest but also produced a lot of coffee beans on every plant. November isn’t really the harvest season but we still saw one or two workers harvesting the straggling red berries that they make into roast-ready coffee beans.

Our coffee tour guide at Las Acacias

The second coffee plantation we visited was called Ocaso. We visited just to sit down at the cafe they had built on the edge of a hill overlooking the surrounding mountains. I got a delicious espresso and we watched as the hummingbirds buzzed around a feeder. We bought a few bags of Salento coffee here and we have been drinking the delicious nectar every day since we’ve gotten back from Colombia.

Distances to different places at Ocaso


The Town of Salento



Enjoying the Culture in Cartagena, Colombia

It has been awhile since I’ve written anything here. I think my last post was some time in the beginning of October, maybe earlier. I have been making all kinds of excuses not to write, as we amateur writers do. I have continued to write in my own personal notebooks though. The daily one to two pages of writing has become such a habit for me that I can’t kick it. Not that I would want to. The online blogging requires a level of care and quality that journaling doesn’t have. Me being lazy and giving into the resistance that presents itself when I think about blogging, disallows me from sitting down and opening up the lap top. Until Now… Duh Duh Duh-( that was supposed to be an intense noise).

My fiance Lizzie and I continued our travels this past week and a half to South America. I had never been to this part of the world so I didn’t really know what was in store for us. Lizzie had told me stories of her mission trip to Peru a few years ago but I didn’t expect to see the level of beauty that was present in the mountains as well as the poverty that was pretty rampant in some parts of Cartagena. Although there were many more places that we wanted to visit in Colombia, (never mind South America in general) our visits to the cities of Cartagena- a busy Spanish/Caribbean city on the North West Coast of Colombia as well as the quiet mountain town of Salento in the coffee triangle of central Colombia were great first tastes of the eclectic country of Colombia.

We flew into Cartagena and stayed there for four nights. The taxi driver who drove us from the airport to our Airbnb outside the city center purposely brought us through the worst parts of town -I guess to show us how poor the city can be and to make sure we didn’t find ourselves wandering to those parts of town. The first thing he said when we told him where we were staying, in his broken English, was that we were going to “a bad part of town.” That’s always nice to hear when you are taking your first steps in a foreign city where you barely know how to speak the language. A few times in the taxi we thought he would just stop and let us out at the shantytown area where people were living with dirt floors and sheet metal for roofs. My heart started beating faster as he drove through the deepest poverty I had ever seen. He locked the door and stepped on the gas. Hungry people were standing outside of huts looking into our taxi, some had fruit carts and were trying to sell guavas or oranges and others looked like they had nothing else to do but stand there looking desperate. Mangy dogs with ribs jutting out of their sides wandered the streets with their heads down, looking for the tiniest morsel of food.  We got through all of that and thankfully pulled onto a street that looked reasonable civilized. The taxi driver charged us 25000 COP (approximately $8) for the 25 minute ride in, which I would come to find out was a little too high for the ride from the airport. I felt like the drive was more than an hour long because my heart was in my throat for the majority of it so I gave him 30000 and we made our way up to the apartment.

For the first two nights we stayed in a mosquito-infested apartment that didn’t have air conditioning about 20 minutes from downtown Cartagena. The minute we got there we knew we needed to move. For two sweaty nights and mornings we tossed and turned on a single-sheeted bed. I would wake up in a pool of sweat even though two fans were blowing on us full blast. I would get up to get some coffee at the small kitchen inside the apartment, look down at my feet and see a swarm of blood-thirsty and possibly yellow-fever-holding mosquitoes clinging to my ankles. After looking on Airbnb for some time, we found a cute little Airbnb in Getsemani – an up and coming, artsy part of central Cartagena. It had air conditioning and that’s all we cared about. As soon as we could check in, we got a 15 minute taxi ride to it. We were supposed to stay at the original Airbnb for 4 nights but we lied and told the host that we found a way to get to the Rosario Islands- about an hour or 2 boat ride from Cartagena and would be staying there- an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. She looked a little suspicious but wished us a happy trip. I have to say she was very nice even though she more or less tricked us into staying there by advertising a hammock  and a beautiful porch on the Airbnb page- which was there but wasn’t as enjoyable when we were sweating profusely.

A Brief History of Cartagena

Cartagena is a coastal city known for its colonial fortresses and old walled city. The city that now has a population of just under a million people, was founded in 1533 by a Spanish commander named Pedro de Heredia. The Spanish used Cartagena as a trade port for Silver- exporting it from the city of Potosi in Bolivia to Spain. As it became a more well-known place for this sought after metal, pirates from the Caribbean sea started to take notice. In 1544 the city was pillaged by 5 French pirate ships and 1,000 pirates ransacked the city. The port city was pillaged a couple more times in the late 1500’s by French pirates and English sea captains before it was made clear that it needed to be protected in a more effective way. Spain commissioned the Italian military engineer Bautista Antonelli to build a wall around the city to protect it’s valuable assets and the building of the wall took about 200 years to complete. Cartagena became a slave trade port as well in the 17th century. Spain implemented the asiento system in Cartagena, in which a select group of merchants (mostly from Portugal, France, Spanish, and Dutch territories) were awarded licenses to trade slaves from Africa to their overseas territories. The slaves were first sent to Cartagena as “Machateros” to clear underbrush and then were used for a variety of other tasks and labor from then on. Cartagena was attacked many more times by a number of separate attackers as the walls were being built.

For more than 275 years Cartagena was under Spanish rule which explains the Spanish feel of the city center with it’s colorful buildings and Spanish churches. In 1810, Royal Commissioner Antonio Villavicencio and the Cartagena City Council banished the Spanish Governor Francisco de Montes on suspicions of sympathy for the French emperor and the French occupation forces which overthrew the king. In November of that year, Cartagena declared its independence from Spain. What followed was some back and forth fighting between the Spanish army and the Patriot army for who would be in control. The Patriot army finally ended up destroying all of the royalist ships anchored on Getsemani island and won there Independence for the people.

Don’t Make These Mistakes in Cartagena!

If you plan to travel to Cartagena in the future, don’t make the following mistakes:

  1. Do not get an Airbnb outside of the city. We ended up falling for a cute little place about 15 minutes outside the center of the city. It had an open-air loft on the second floor with a hammock and viewing area of the city, but what we didn’t realize was that the place was not close to any restaurants or cool parts of town. We had to get a taxi to the center of the city everyday, and although the taxis were cheap- about 15,000 COP or about $5 each way, the taxi fare began to add up over time. Although our taxi drivers said the Airbnb was in a bad part of town, we didn’t see anything “bad” happening, we just didn’t like how far it was from everything. It’s much easier and more enjoyable to stay in the up-and-coming village of Getsemani or in the walled city itself with its many great hostels and Airbnbs.
  2. Get a place with Air Conditioning! The first place we stayed in didn’t have air conditioning. Yeah, it wasn’t ideal and we should have known to look for air conditioning in the Airbnb description when we noticed the temperature being 90 degrees everyday in Cartagena (we came to realize that 90 degrees came with a full serving of 100% humidity as well). For the first 2 days in Cartagena we sweated through all of our clothes and were barely able to sleep through the nights. Don’t make this mistake!
  3. Be very careful with drinking the water and probably don’t eat a lot of the fruit. Lizzie got really sick at the very beginning of our time in Cartagena and the stomach bug stayed with her for the remainder of the trip. I got a bit of an upset stomach as well that lasted a couple days but not nearly as bad as hers. We weren’t sure what caused the sickness but we heard that the water used to wash the fruit and even to grow the fruit can be tainted and cause stomach issues with people that aren’t used to it. Lizzie ate a whole bunch of fruit when she first got there because there isn’t much else to eat for a vegetarian, and she definitely felt the consequences. We were told that the tap water was okay to drink but we didn’t trust that either.

What’s Great About Cartagena:

The Walled City

Although we got a sick in Cartagena and were pretty much sweaty slobs for the first two days, we had a great time exploring the iconic walled city with its many tourist-centric shops, great restaurants, colorful buildings, and beautiful verdant terraces. One of the cooler parts of the walled city is Las Bovedas or “the vaults” in English. These former dungeons for slaves in the 19th century held about 20 different artisanal shops, one of which sold really inexpensive emeralds that were mined in Colombia. There are a ton of great coffee shops, restaurants, and clothing sold by the many pushy street vendors here.

“Las Bovedas”
These flowery terraces can be seen all over the walled city
View of one of the streets in the walled city


Getsamani is the hip part of Cartagena. This is where we stayed in our second Airbnb and where you could certainly fall in love with the culture of Cartagena. The second night here the Colombian Independence day celebration was going on in the Plaza de Trinidad and we witnessed a colorful dancing display with music played from a dj. We sipped Coronas, I ate some street meat, and we bounced around to the fast-paced Colombian dance music for the first hours of darkness. Getsamani has a lot of colorful Spanish streets with cool street art and quaint restaurants. My favorite breakfast place was this 5-table Acai cafe called Beiyu- about a 5 minute walk from the Plaza de Trinidad.

Lizzie looking up at wall art in Getsemani

Tierra Bomba

We also took a day trip to the large island of Tierra Bomba- which is about a 10 minute boat ride from the city and stayed at an all-inclusive beach cabana for the day sipping margaritas and enjoying the beach. This was a little more like the typical Caribbean vacation you would expect. The boat leaves from the hospital at Playa Castillo Grande and is about 20,000 pesos each person. We got a deal with one of the resorts there that allowed us to get a ride there and back, a credit for food and drinks, and a place to lay next to the beach in hammocks for 75,000 COP per person- so 150,000 COP or $50 American. This was a great deal for us initially, but we didn’t realize they added on a restaurant charge of 70,000 COP right when you start ordering food… A little sneaky.

View of our beach cabana in Tierra Bomba


Hike Reflection #18: Little Pisgah Mountain- Fairview, NC

Yesterday I hiked through Florence Nature Preserve in Gerton, NC. I have done hikes around this area many times, so I almost didn’t write anything about it, But, because it has been such a long time since I have posted anything I thought I could talk a bit about the hike and expand on some thoughts I had while hiking below.

Florence Nature Preserve is located in Gerton right off Gerton Highway. The Florence Nature Preserve trail is located on one side of the highway while Wildcat Rock Trail is located on the other. They are both amazing hikes in different ways. Wildcat Rock Trail sports a giant rock ( the wildcat rock) about a mile and a half up the trail with thin layers of glassy water running down it. The rock must be a couple hundred feet tall and seems like it is a part of the mountain. If you go about another mile on the trail you come up to a fork which, if you go left on, brings you to an amazing lookout atop a boulder (there’s lots of boulders in this area) and you can see all of Gerton, Little Pisgah Mountain, and other mountains surrounding with no hindrances.

The Florence Nature Preserve Trail runs from the Gerton Highway about 1.6 miles in the opposite direction of Wildcat Rock trail and intersects at its furthest point with Little Pisgah Rd.- a dirt trail that if you go right on and continue, leads all the way to Little Pisgah Mountain. You can turn around at the intersection and do a tight loop back to the parking lot if you want, or continue on Little Pisgah Rd. for about 3 more miles to reach the summit of Little Pisgah Mountain. This is the trail I took yesterday. The sun was hard on me and there was a lot of open hiking with no trees on the way up to Little Pisgah. The views atop the mountain, though, were gorgeous. To the North I could see Mount Mitchell shrouded in thick white clouds, to the south east Chimney Rock State Park. On the way up I also met a few black cows who stared at me with suspicion as I huffed an puffed up the scorching hot dirt trail. This trail reminded me a lot of the green hills of Switzerland about a half hour train ride from Zurich.

Hike Stats:

Distance: ~9.6 miles Out and Back

Elevation Gain: ~1,961 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult because of the heat. Bring Lots of water if it’s sunny out.

Recommend? Definitely for a different experience compared to the normal “green tunnel” type hikes in a lot of other places in Asheville. Large parts of Little Pisgah Rd. were unencumbered by trees which opened up the views on the way up to the top of Little Pisgah.

Taken with Instagram Video- I actually didn’t know where I was exactly at that point


Thoughts While Hiking:

I have been finding myself asking a lot of questions to the people I meet lately. I don’t spend much time with other people because I am a bit of a hermit, so when I do, like when I spent some time hiking with a friend recently in the Smoky Mountains, I analyze the things I say like I have never done before. I guess I am the type of person that wants to learn everything I can from other people around me. I never really thought of myself that way. I think that change in interest is due to all of the podcasts and audiobooks I have been listening to lately . I pretty much have a non-stop feed of the best podcasts and books by the best authors in the world in my ear. Open conversations about the most interesting things are going on in my head while I hike through the woods or drive to work. What a weird world we live in. We can listen to extremely knowledgeable people  explain different crafts and disciplines while we sit back and try to take it in anywhere we are. We get to  dive deep into people’s personalities- the one’s we always see in movies, in articles, or in headlines. We get to listen the smartest people in the world talk about the craft they have been spending their whole life dedicated to and it’s amazing. The more I listen to all of these different people talk about their lives and experiences, the more I want to know more about other people I meet in my own life- how they experience the world and their take on it. When I meet someone, I automatically start asking questions to get to know them. I find myself asking a whole lot more questions than stating anything from my own experience. I want to learn all about them from what they do on a daily basis to the thoughts they have about different subjects and why they have those thoughts.  It’s a view into another whole world going on at the same time as mine. As I am experiencing my consciousness, another person is experiencing their consciousness. They have lived a whole life completely differently than I have. They might have some similar experiences, may have come to the same conclusions as me on a lot of different subjects, but a lot of times that is not the case and I want to know why. The fact is, they ARE experiencing something different than you and I are. The sights, sounds, and feeling of things could be the same, but how another person perceives these things could be totally different than the way you or I experience it. There’s so much variability in how we see the world and the people, places, and things in it. That’s fascinating to me. When I was a kid, I had these weird slightly trippy feelings when I thought about the fact that everyone else is also experiencing the world at the same time as me. When I see someone in the world- any of the 7 billion other people, they are also experiencing that world, but on a whole different path. Isn’t that kind of freaky if you really think about it?



Hike Reflection #17: Mount Leconte- Smoky Mountains National Park

I did something different today. I hiked with another human. Weird right? For the past few months I have been hiking almost exclusively with my furry companion Tucker, but today I stayed human. My hiking buddy today was my fiance Lizzie’s friend from work’s husband Doug. A soft spoken caving fanatic hailing from south Nashville, he was a great hiking companion for the beauty that greeted us in the Smoky Mountains.

Doug showed me the top of Clingman’s Dome first- we hiked up the steep paved road from the parking lot about a half mile from the summit, but unfortunately the . The summit was almost totally  blanketed in gray clouds and littered by dead and dying hemlocks whom met their demis by the sap-sucking Wooly Adelgid bug, which has done numbers to and This was the first time I had made my way over to the Smokies and, I must say, it was breathtaking. The shear mountain faces, cavern-like rock formations, and deep wilderness feel of the place is different than anything within an hour of Asheville. It was a bit of a ride to get there- over an hour and 40 minutes, but the trip was worth it.


The Tragedy of Choice?

I have been thinking a lot about the big choices we make- the ones that shape the course of our lives and lead us down the path we are on right now.

We all know the feeling of regret that wells up out of the deep recesses of our conscience when we realize we have made the wrong choice sometime in the past. It’s a sharp ache that rises through the din of noise when we are sitting alone and pokes its gnarly head out to say hi. How will we respond to that god forsaken feeling? We all make bad choices, some more than others. Some DUI-esque choices cripple our future with not a chance for redemption, some turn out to be worth the risk or the immediate struggle following. But they all teach us something. They all guide our future actions to something a bit more positive if we choose, or negative if we dwell. .

My first review of choice led me to conclude that there is something inherently tragic about any one choice, no matter how small, because of the opportunity cost of that involved in choice. By choosing something whether it is as petty as your breakfast in the morning or as life-altering as the job you take when you graduate college, the fact is you are always passing up another option that could have been the better one. And when I say better, I mean leading to a happier life- health, finance, friendship, or otherwise.

When taking this viewpoint however, you tend to take on a negative outlook of just about everything. When you find yourself in any somewhat subversive situation, the mode of default is to look back at that one choice that led you to that place, in indignation. That high paying job you didn’t take to instead move somewhere in the mountains and find yourself, but make a lot less money. Or the friend you decided to blow off again so you could be by yourself and whom is finally breaking off the friendship after too many stand ups. It all comes back to you when you aren’t making enough to pay the bills or are feeling lonely. You start to show your indignation not only with your memories of the past but in everyday life. You become the kind of person that feels bad for themselves all the time because your life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would. You become hard to be around because nobody wants to hang out with someone that despises the choices and therefore the person who or she is. That’s not the way to think.

What happens when we don’t make any choices? Without any choice, we become stagnant dwelling creatures who are too afraid to make any moves. We sit at home afraid to open the door to go outside. Nobody ever wants to get to this point, so let’s instead continue to make choices and take the outcomes of those choices in stride

My second take on choice took a more optimistic viewpoint: choices aren’t tragic unless we make them. We can look at the choice to quit our job to start that business that we have always wanted to start only to quickly go bankrupt in end up taking the next job that appears on the job board, as a mistake. A foolish one that cost us money and time. Or we can look at it as a growing experience. An experience that has hardened us into a person that can take losses and failures in stride. As long as we continue to make choices following the failure, there is no true failure, nothing to be ashamed of. As long as we keep moving and learning any one choice will not crumble us. Even a series of bad choices won’t fracture the heart and mind of someone that keeps going and decides to view his mistakes as learning curves, as stepping stones to the next choice.