Thursday, December 31, 2009

#8 - Chase Tornadoes

There is not much to say about #8 on my list of 1,000 things I want to do before I die, except that I have always wanted to chase tornadoes.  Who wouldn't want to chase a tornado?

This certainly tops my list of fun-filled, adrenaline pumping old west kind of excitement.  Anybody want to go on a tornado hunting expedition with me sometime?  Come on!  I know there are others out there who want to do this.

Robert Prentice provides some good information on the best time to chase tornadoes and some more good info here.

A page by famous storm chaser Chuck Doswell with links to other chaser pages.

Friday, December 25, 2009

#7 Join My Friends at Burning Man

Okay, I know.  A pastor who wants to go to Burning Man sounds strange to you - that week long experience of heathenist over-indulgence in the middle of the barren Nevada desert.

I have friends who have been going there for years, and serving the Burners with water for the body, and refreshment for the soul.  Rob Mazza, and Scott Evelyn helped start the outreach, and their work has become one of the top 5 spiritual experiences at Burning Man.  This is my kind of experience.  It is the kind of stuff we have been doing in Salem, MA for 10 years now.  I need to get to the Burning Man experience at least once before I stretch out to new outreach experiences.

#6 Walk Hadrian's Wall

In 122AD the Roman's occupying Britain began building what we now call Hadrian's Wall - probably to hold back the onslaught of those barbaric hordes from further north in what is now Scotland, and to ensure stability of the empire.  Good portions of this wall, which is now in Northern England are entact.  It is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Walking the whole length of the wall is an 84 mile hike.  People typically walk it in the summer, and it is the most walked trail in Northern England.  I think I'd like to walk it off-season personally.

I walked the Wye Valley in Wales/England slightly off-season, and we met only a few walkers along the path.  Now that is my idea of a walking tour.

I would prefer to camp along the way, but a wall walker could stop in more luscious accommodations - I suppose (from B&Bs to Hotels to a Castle!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

#5 Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne

I am developing my list of things I want to do, all related to places I want go. As you follow this blog you will note my numbered list items. (Like this one which is #5.) These are the things I have not yet done, and in the early numbering, they are roughly in order of interest to me. There will also be a list of things I have done. These things are not numbered, and may not be included in my 1,000. Who knows, it could take quite awhile to get to 1,000.

My #5 on the list of 1,000 things I want to do before I die is go to the Holy Island of Lindesfarne. This takes me from the Welsh mountains, and seashore of my first 4 things to do across the Island of Great Britain to the Northern English East Coast just south of Scotland in Northumberland.

After a walk of anywhere from a few days, to over a week - depending upon where one might choose to begin - the final day of the Lindisfarne Pilgrimage is a three mile walk across muddy, sometimes dangerously muddy path across the end of St. Cuthbert's way on the "Pilgrim's Way" to The Holy Island.

This advice about the walk on the Pilgrim's Way comes from Wikipedia:

"Visitors wishing to walk between the mainland and the island are urged to keep to the marked path, check tide times and weather carefully, and seek local advice if in doubt. Visitors driving should pay close attention to the timetables prominently displayed at both ends of the causeway and where the Holy Island road leaves the A1 Great North Road at Beal. The causeway is generally open from about 3 hours after high tide until 2 hours before the next high tide, but there is no substitute for checking the timetables for a specific date, and the period of closure may extend during stormy weather."

The Lindisfarne Pilgrimage makes my #5 on things I want to do before I die. Anybody want to go puddle jumping with me?  Of course, the pilgrimage ends with Lindisfarne's famous mead.  Now that's a fine way to end a medieval trip.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#4 - Coasteering Along the Pembrokeshire Coast

Wild waves crash against the craggy cliffs. In a land known for having some of the world's highest tides, and fastest ocean currents, small neoprene clad bodies scamper along the edge of danger at once swimming, then clinging to rocks, then climbing, then diving into the roiling seas. This is called Coasteering. I have not done it yet, but since I first heard about this strange sport created along the wild coastline of Pembrokeshire, South Wales I have been yearning to dive into the it.

Here is a description from the gang at Preseli Venture: "cliff jumping, climbing, rock gully swimming, cave exploration, rock scrambling, and wave riding...." Okay, who's ready for that really fun sounding sport?

This makes #4 on the list of things I want to do before I die. Maybe I should have placed it further down the list in order to make sure I don't die before I accomplish many of these.

So here are a couple TV personalities doing some coasteering on a calm day:

Here's what it looks like with a few waves. I want the waves when I go!

Here's a place called the toilet:

Monday, December 14, 2009

#3 Nant Gwrtheyrn: Immersion in Welsh

The top three things I want to do lie within a short distance of one another. This third on my list of 1,000 lies along the pilgrimage route to Ynys Enlli. It is the Welsh Language and Heritage Centre at the once abandoned quarry town of Nant Gwrtheyrn now restored as place for immersion in Welsh language learning. Week long lessons in a wide range of levels from rank beginner to fledgling poets can be found at Nant Gwrtheyrn.

This centre lies in the heart of Wales most Welsh speaking area along the North coast of the Llyn Penninsula. Perhaps there is no more magical area in the world to learn a language. Nant Gwrtheryn is also known as Vortigern's Valley, and here as with the rest of the Llyn Penninsula Arthurian legend pulses through the landscape.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

#2 Ynys Enlli, Wales: The Pilgrimage to the Isle of 20,000 Saints

My life is turning upside down right now, and I am wondering what comes next. What my future years will be filled with. I guess I am a little lost. One of the things I find myself wanting to do is walk to weird and wonderful places - places filled with magic and romance (truly using the word romance in its classical sense, that is.)

Why do lost people go on long walks into the unknown? Why does the aborigine use the confusing season of the transition into manhood to send young men on walkabouts? Why do religious seekers go on pilgrimages to strange and distant places?

I suppose like lost souls before me, I really am concerned with the "why" right now, and less with the where. My first of the 1,000 things is to go the top of Cadair Idris to spend the night and become a poet. This, my second "where" starts only a couple hours drive away from Cadair Idris at Caernarfon Castle in Caernarfon, North Wales.

Caernarfon Castle breaks my heart. It is a sadly beautiful and haunting place. I cried openly when I visited there 4 years ago.

Within its walls is housed a Prince of Wales exhibition. It begins with the death of the last native born Prince of Wales Llywelyn ap Gruffud on December 11, 1282. After his betrayal, the English crown established their own Prince. The English Prince of Wales was suppose to have spoken no language but Welsh throughout his life, but that never happened, and it is only a side note of the exhibit.

Caernarfon is a fitting beginning for a pilgrimage to one of the holiest sites in Celtic Christendom: Ynys Enlli, or Bardsey Isle. The walk begins in infamy, and ends in the distant memory of ancient glory.

Ynys Enlli lies 1.9 miles off the tip of the Llyn Penninsula. It's name in Welsh means Isle of Currents, but the Viking name given to it (Bardsey) may refer to the place of the bards.

Stretching down the northern coast of the Llyn Penninsula (variant English spelling: Lleyn) a walking trail hugs the rugged coast of the Irish Sea. From the walls of Caernarfon to the town of Aberdaron is 60 miles. At Aberdaron the ferry leaves for Ynys Enlli. This is a walk through the heart of Welsh speaking Wales, and a trip from castle to castle with views of some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world.

Ynys Enlli is called the Isle of 20,000 saints, who are said to be buried beneath its soil. In 546 St. Cadfan established a monastery there, and by middle ages it was declared that three pilgrimages to Ynys Enlli was equal to one pilgrimage to Rome. In this mythological and historical mix the legends of King Arthur join the Celtic Age of the Saints. Some believe that the real Arthur and Merlin were here on Ynys Enlli as well. Here Arthur was brought to be healed after the battle at Camlan, and Merlin is supposedly exiled on this same isle until Arthur returns again someday.

The pilgrimage visits the shrine of St Beuno at Clynnog Fawr, and passes through Nant Gwrtheyrn a formerly deserted quarry town on the seashore now developed into a Welsh Language and Heritage Centre. To the east lies views of the Snowdonia mountains. The seaside walk is awash with the mythology of Arthur and Merlin, and stories from the Ancient Celtic Saints.

For these reasons the pilgrimage to Ynys Enlli makes my #2 on the list of 1,000 things to do before I die.

Getting a Little Moore Cuban in Miami

8th Street in Little Havana Miami is a plain low lying neighborhood of simple 1920's-1940's architecture without the art deco design - boxy storefronts, stark sidewalks, and a wide boulevard. There is almost no shade to offer the visitor a place of respite from the hot southern sun.

The simple shop exteriors hide a world of Cuban treasures. Stepping behind the storefront doors you are transported into another world. At the corner of 8th and 15th El Pub Restaurant provides the weary traveler with the best in Cuban sandwiches, and cafe con leche.

A short walk down the block, brings you to one of the many cigar shops - in this case the home to Moore and Bode. Sharon Bode Moore who has been dubbed the queen of the Miami cigar world may even be there to greet you, and discuss her degree in theology, the significance of the butterfly and sword of St. George logo, or the organic tobaccos they use for their cigars.

Been there – done that. This was worth being on my list of 1,000 things to do before I die. A return trip to visit the other cigar shops may make my list as well. Calle Ocho in Little Havana is without a doubt my favorite neighborhood in Miami.  This actually makes for a pretty cheap Florida holiday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Swimming with Big Fat Mermaids in Florida

Among my list of 1,000 things to do is swimming with mermaids - not real mermaids unfortunately, but 17th century sailors referred to those friendly, slow moving aquatic mammals called manatees as mermaids.

This has got to be at the top of the list of family holidays to Florida.  On the west coast of Florida, we visited the people at Birds Underwater on a clear, still morning. We geared up in wetsuits, and headed out by pontoon boat onto the Crystal River.

During the three hour tour we snorkeled the shallow, glassy, cool waters of the Crystal River. Three times we came across the slow moving mermaids, and were able to slither quietly into the water and swim within inches of them. A family of three circled around the boat, almost inviting us to join their family time.

During our search through the lagoons of the Crystal River we found ourselves looking face to face with an alligator turtle. Looking grotesquely fearsome and prehistoric we stayed our distance as best we could, but figured if we were going to swim with princesses, we might have to face some dragons too.

Why not try a swim with the mermaids as part of your 1,000 things to do? This is one I've accomplished already.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

#1 Cadair Idris: One Day to Becoming a Great Poet, or a Madman

There are great romantic adventures in this world, and among them is a mountain climb, and wild camping experience in the southern edge of the Snowdonia mountain range of Northwest Wales.

This is not an amazing adventure because of the great height of the mountain or the danger factor, though steep cliffs don the north side Cadair Idris. Rather, ancient legend says that the mountain was the armchair of a giant: Idris, who was a master of poetry, astronomy, and philosophy. It is said that today those who sleep on Pen y Gadair, the summit of the three mountains which comprise Cadair Idris, will descend the following day insane or as poets - if they live through the night.

The climbs range from easy to difficult. A steep scramble up the Fox Path moves among loose cliff scree, and can become dangerous in difficult weather. The Pony Path is the easiest, but longest climb beginning in nearby Ty Nant. The mountain affords some of the best rock climbing in Wales. When the days are clear you will be able see the Cambrian coast perhaps all the way to Ireland on one side, and on the other side down the sheer cliffs to the dark waters of Llyn Cau, which legend calls a bottomless lake. Of course, it is Wales, and this mountain near the Irish Sea is noted for radical and quickly changing weather, so dress appropriately and be prepared for anything.

There is a hut at the top of Pen y Gadair, which can be used to get away from the cold winds of the mountain top, and a cairn marking the summit. Camping on the mountain is allowed, but one should be considerate in the spring when lambing season is occurring. No permits are required to sleep on the mountain.

Although this is only the 18th highest peak in Wales, it has become the second most trekked mountain in the country. Perhaps this is why the Welsh are noted for their complex and beautiful poetry. It is believed that ancient bards stayed upon the mountain in search of inspiration. Today bards young and old scramble the sides of Cadair Idris in search of their own inspiration.

With four main paths ranging from expert to beginner levels, beautiful views, and most of all for the romance of the mythology Cadair Idris makes the top of my list of 1,000 things to do before I die.

Other information on Cadair Idris:

A great blog post with fabulous photography.
A list of the main Cadair Idris walks
Trekking Cadair Idris from Dolgellau

Where to stay in Dolgellau

Please note: There is a variant spelling to Cadair Idris --> Cader Idris