Blog

Weekend in Washington

Cost Of Trip: <$431

Train Ticket: $125

comingintodcontrain
Coming in to D.C. on the train

 

If you live on the East coast, travelling to D.C. is one of the easiest things to do because you can arrive there via Amtrak! I absolutely love riding the train. You can take up to 2 bags and 2 personal items for free (heck yeah!). The seats are so spacious and comfortable and it’s sooooooo easy to just lay back and take a nap. There’s also always a handy dandy little dining cart on each train in case you get the munchies. HOWEVER, this is supposed to be a cost effective trip so I suggest you bring your own snacks.

 

 

Hotel: $236

I recommend staying at the Courtyard by Marriott. It’s located right in Downtown D.C., has a decent rating and is definitely one of the cheapest options. You should be allowed to check in at 18 if you booked online, but just in case I would make sure you have a parent who could call to back you up if you run into a bitchy concierge (we’re all just trying to have a good time now aren’t we?). Also, microwave upon request? Request that fucking microwave. Stock yourself up on a bowl, spoon, oatmeal, peanut butter, and ramen noodles and BAM, you have you breakfast and dinners. Not to mention, if you’re splitting this hotel with a friend this price will be halved to $118!

Food: $30

Woah, woah, woah. Only one lunch to pay for and it’s going to be $30? Well, I can promise you, you will not find a single cheap place to eat in D.C.. You’re guaranteed to pay at least $15 dollars for your meal. But the rest is in case you get hungry while you’re out and just really feeling a cool desert you see downtown. Better safe than sorry!

Souvenirs: $20

I personally don’t really buy souvenirs, but I did splurge on a book from a bookstore I listed down below. So the $20 is just for anything cool you might see there and wish you could buy. However, I wouldn’t go looking to spend money. If you see something cool: awesome, if you don’t: don’t worry about it! Less is more! As a general rule of thumb, I tend to only buy things that I know will be useful to me later, not a piece of junk that I’ll have to lug around in the future.

Metro: <$20

You. Will. Not. Survive. If you don’t take the Metro. D.C. is enormous and you will wear out

erikaandionmetro
Riding the Metro with my sister

and waste so much time if you opt to walk everywhere and skip the Metro. Not to mention, the Metro is a part of the D.C. experience. I will tell you that the Metro has multiple lines distinguished by colors, and there is a map at each station for all of these lines outlining all of their stops. However, you will not be able to hear the stops once you’re on the metro so at each stop you need to look outside for the sign that tells you where you’re at, and fast, because you’ll only have about a split second to get off that car before the doors close. Miss your stop? No big deal, the Metro only charges you from your start to end point. So just get off at the next time, wait for the line going in the opposite direction and backtrack to your stop. Also a handy note: if you type your destination into Google Maps on your phone, it will tell you what line to get on and what stop to get off at.

Metro how to:

  1. Enter the station and buy a metro card and add money to it at the pay stations.
  2. Approach those stands that look like the ones you see at amusement parks where they have to scan your finger before the gate opens for you to pass
  3. Lay your metro card on top of the sensor until the gate opens
  4. Go down the escalator and wait/get on your train
  5. Get off at your stop, back up the escalator, and scan your card at the sensor again (make note of how much money is left on your card, the sensor will tell you!)

Planning your day: FREE

The best fucking part about D.C. is that virtually everything is FREE!! So, you only have about a day and half to spend in D.C., you’re going to have to make you choices wisely. Research what museums they have there beforehand. You can conquer at most 2 to 3 museums a day. Additionally, the monument walk talks almost an entire day in itself. I personally opted for 2 museums, skipped the monument walk, and saw the White House in my one day of exploring.

Places I went and what I thought:

 

politicsandpros
Chai Tea Latte, Hot Chocolate, and Butternut Squash Soup

 

Politics and Prose: An awesome, awesome book store! The best part of this store is when you walk downstairs. First of all, the clearance shelves are down here, where a multitude of books are priced very reasonably. Second of all, there is a bomb ass café that has the most liberal feel I have ever experienced. This place seems to be where all the Einstein’s go to write in their notebooks, and the highly educated to debate about politics.

 

infrontofnationalgalleryofart
National Gallery of Art Entrance

 

National Gallery of Art: Very, very cool if you are in to art and art history. However, if you’re not an art person then don’t waste your time when you could be doing something you’d enjoy more. There is tons and tons to see here and I recommend you immediately proceed up the stairs when you enter because I wasted the majority of the time I had to spend here on the first floor and it ended up being the least interesting section of the museum!

National Museum of the American Indian: This was an extremely cool museum to experience! You are basically following a twisting route that tells you the stories and beliefs of many different native American tribes on the American continent! Seeing their beliefs on treatment of land has gotten me very interested in environmental ethics.

 

erikaandmeinfrontofwhitehouse
My Sister and I outside the White House

 

White House: There was construction going on so we were about a hundred feet further away than usual and had to peak at it through holes in a fence, BOO. However, it’s always fun to get to see the house the president lives in. Just imagine, when you go, Trump might be laying in bed picking his nose. We also got to witness a protestor outside the fence with a sign that contained pictures of his two children (one white and one colored), with the words: “If the presidency won’t respect my entire family, then my family can’t respect the presidency.” A wise moment to think on.

 

rockcreekpark
Hiking at Rock Creek Park

 

Rock Creek Park: The morning before my train left, my sister and I went on a short hiking trip to Rock Creek Park and I highly recommend that anyone who travels to D.C. visit this park. The hike was very interactive (lots of mild rock climbing and creek crossing), and the views were astounding! It is astonishing to realize what beautiful, quiet things are able to hide in the crevices of such a robust and bustling city.

Ultra-Light Backpacking

A 6 month hike, as you now know, takes a lot of preparation. The most essential thing you need to prepare is your gear. With the right gear, you have a high likelihood of having a successful hike. The current trend on the Appalachian Trail is “ultra-light backpacking.” The goal is to have a pack that weighs no more than twenty pounds. Below I have provided a list of everything you will need for backpacking, including the winter months, with specific brand recommendations:

CAMP:

CLOTHES (warm weather):

  • 2 short sleeve DRI FIT shirts
  • 2 pairs of DRI FIT running shortssocks.png
  • 3 pairs of underwear (polyester)
  • (girls) 3 comfortable bras (polyester)
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • 1 pair of camp socks
  • baseball cap
  • camp shoes
  • 3 pairs of tennis shoes (2 of them mail dropped)
  • rain pants
  • rain jacket

CLOTHES (cold weather additions):down-jacket

  • beanie
  • DRI FIT leggings
  • pants
  • DRI FIT long sleeve shirt
  • gloves
  • beanie
  • down jacket

COOKING:pocket rocket.jpg

FOOD:

You can plan out your meals according to your own preference, just keep in mind the weight that different types of food items will add to your pack. As far as cooking goes, any food that just needs hydrated with water is a good choice. Any dry food such as granola bars are great as well! Also, do not pack any cans! They add unnecessary weight and you’ll have to carry the empty cans witsawyer squeeze.jpgh you.

WATER:

  • 2 plastic SMART water bottles
  • Sawyer Squeeze
  • Platypus
  • Water Scooper (typically a water bottle cut in half, for when water flow isn’t great)

HYGIENE:

MISCELANEOUS:

 

AT or nothing.

“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” -Henry David Thoreau

at-wooded-trailImagine this: you’re walking up a wooded pathway, listening to the peaceful noises of the woods: the chirping of birds and the crunching of leaves under your feet. As you’re walking, you emerge out of the woods and stumble upon a breathtaking, mountaintop view. You have to take a second to stop and gaze at the sheer beauty of the natural world, and in that moment, you’ve uncovered the key to your happiness in life.

Society today teaches people that there is only one clear-cut path to follow in order to be successful in life. This path begins with college and then quickly moves forward to career, spouse, house, and kids. The majority of career paths in college have even been ostracized, leaving many to only choose among a handful of science majors and then possibly continue into the medical field or attend law school.

However, the world is complex, and it needs more than science to understand it, and every individual is drastically differentat sign.jpg and largely unique, and all will not find happiness in the same way, in the same order. This is why I propose a challenge to my fellow college students: give yourself a chance to experience the majesty you caught a glimpse of in the first paragraph. Where is this mysterious wonder you might ask? It runs all the way up and down eastern United States, the Appalachian Trail (AT).

“Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my care falls from me – I am happy.” -Hamlin Garland

From Springer Mount in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the AT provides 6 to 8 months of soul searching for us society-ridden human beings. Through discovering your intuition without the distraction of empiricism, you’ll find the chance to become truly self-reliant and independent. While yes, some will question why they should abandon their lives and just “check out” for such a long period of time, and my answer to you is this: questioning how you can leave the life society is forcing you to live, is precisely the reason why you must go.

at-bridge

So many people spend their lives talking about things they want to do and plan to do and never actually get around to doing any of it. Right now we are in our primes and have all the opportunity in the world to fulfill every last one of our dreams. However, it’s hard to follow your passions when you haven’t done enough self-discovery to realize what those passions are (and no, institutionalized public school does not help you find your passions). Although this endeavor is no easy feat, it is one that cannot be delayed. It’s time to put your life on hold to live life.

Read my next post for a guide to how to make this journey possible.

AT: Did You Think This Was Going To Be Easy?

You know the reward, now are you ready to earn it? Hiking the trail is not going to be easy so from now on, you can think of this as a boot camp blog.  Below is a guide to help you prepare for everything you need to be ready for before going:

Mental Preparedness: Okay, so first of all, there’s no way in hell you’re going to survive a 2,000+ mat-hike-in-rainile, 7 month long hike without being mentally prepared to do so. So how do we mentally prepare you ask? Figure out the why. What’s driving you to go, and what’s going to continue to drive you on the trail when its 40 degrees and raining, everything you have is soaked, and you’re cold and hungry. We all possess something that will motivate us, but this answer will be different for everyone and I suggest you think about what your answer might be before leaving, otherwise you might be setting yourself up for early failure.

Don’t Be a Fat Ass: You’re insane if you think you’re going to make it without training. Trash the McDonalds, get up and get your ass in shape: Try a stair climber, strengthen everything, get your cardio in, it’s that simple. Training guide here.

How Do I Find Time for this Shit?: Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re all thinking. There’s no time to create a 7 month pause in your life. I’m here to tell you, yes there is. Society tells you that you always have to be busy and working and if not, you might miss out on important opportunities or worse, ruin your life. There’s a perfectly good gap between the time you graduate college and the time you get a job where you can take the time to embark on this journey of a lifetime. Hell, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you know who you are and what you truly want to do with your life before you end up stuck in jobs you hate for the rest of your life. Additionally, leaving for the trail in May has you getting back around November, helping you avoid the coldest months in the year.

What the Hell Do I Bring?: The goal here is called ultra-light backpacking. If you wanna make it 2,000 miles, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Also, in case you thought you were too lazy to figure out what to bring (and I know you did), I personally took the time to develop a well-researched, comprehensive list for you here. You also need to create mail drops for yourself. Basically, you send yourself stuff you’ll need in the mail in advance, and you can stop in the towns you sent your stuff to along the trail and resupply.

Should I fear for My Life?: My number one suggestion: don’t go alone. While yes, crime is infrequent on the Appalachian Trail, your level of safety raises tenfold by going with a group. 4 people is the recommended number of people to travel with on tat-hike-with-friendhe AT, enough to ensure protection but not too many to damage the environment significantly. Another thing you have to worry about is your health. Use bug spray, wear light colored clothes, and inspect for ticks, no one wants Lyme disease. Although Lyme disease sounds bad, your greatest enemy will be norovirus, and this is why soap on the trail is essential (sorry but hand sanitizer isn’t going to do the trick). Make sure you shower and use the bathroom 200 feet away from a water source, and cover up your excrement in a hole. Filter your god damn water, and dear lord, don’t share food with strangers because you never know who the dirty birds are. More info for health on the Appalachian trail here.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!: Okay, last thing you have to worry about I promise: bears. Typically bears will hear you on the trail and know to stay away from you before you ever come close to an encounter with them. However, you will encounter bears if you leave your damn food near you. Don’t cook next to your tent, don’t hang your bag of food next to your tent, too low to the ground, or too close to the trunk of the tree you’re hanging it in (yes, bears will climb!). More info on beating the bears here.

For more specifics about the Appalachian Trail, visit their website.