Bumspringer Lord Nerd Beta
June 13, 2016 | Pennsylvania
Vermont’s excellence isn’t limited to a surfeit of jams made from the crushed matter of hand-coddled berries and gamey ripe yogurt, still warm with the active bustle of a probiotic kingdom.
The eponymously named State College, PA is a college that begat a city, and it happens to be located in what is quite possibly the most pastoral landscape I have ever seen. To the north and south vast stretches of blue-green hills extend from horizon to horizon, looming tidal waves that have threatened the valley for millennia.The valley floor is a rumpled quilt of emerald and gold—it seems that everything can and will grow here, leading to us to understand that this is no doubt a land of prosperity.”- YJ
Our humble troop of adventurers arrived in town a few weeks after class had let out for the summer, and with the student body’s exodus to their summer jobs, internships, and three months worth of late mornings spent “catching up” on their parent’s couch, wandering around the city gave one the sensation of walking in a pair of shoes five sizes too big. What we felt was a vacuum, a void; what we felt was the uncanny, as if we were peering behind the walls of a movie set. Despite the vacancy we were able to procure necessary supplies, namely a hacky sack, a bandana with a constellation print, and two trekking poles.
There were riders in our group who had intimate knowledge of Vermont and Virginia, but for State College we had no native guide. Daniel had been here on a road ride a half decade ago and Chris Tank (acting as our de facto local) had whipped up a course via internet resources that more or less followed our requirements: gravel, camping, and no more than sixty miles per day. But none of us knew what to expect and for this reason we allowed ourselves to be flexible with our route. There were no expectations so we followed our heart, marched to our own drum, figured it out.
Our ride in State College was as much an exploration of the region and the area as it was an investigation into our concept of what bikepacking could be. This was our time to ride, our moment to experience. It didn’t matter if the route called for 60 miles, if we could shorten it and get more swimming time in, who’s to say that was the wrong thing to do? No one. That’s life. So we called audibles, we looked for shortcuts, we enjoyed our evenings, we camped longer, slept in, took swims, went off-route for gross pizza and delicious candy bars. We controlled our own destiny, we were not slaves to the route map, servants to the GPS.This was free jazz, Ornette Coleman bike packing. Just one long beautiful solo. You should try it some time.”- YJ
The moral of the story here is that if you allow yourself to be flexible, with both your mind and your route, good things will happen, good things like ice cream outposts and free stuff from your camp host. We’re not advocating that you audible every ride, only that you listen to your heart and the hearts of those around you, and if those hearts are saying “audible” you audible; it’s like our saying here at Yonder Journal: “Don’t trust me, trust you.”
An Illustrated Guide to Edible, Medicinal and/or otherwise Notable Flora: Pennsylvania Edition Illustrations by Mara Menahan, with Commentary by Poppi
If your spirit guide, route planner and exercise midwife is a modern-day vagabond by the name of Poppi Wheeler, and you’re traveling—nay, “touring”— the Appalachian outback for weeks on end, you’re going to come in contact with A LOT of plants. Because:
- They are everywhere. The humid hills and muggy mountains of the East Coast are literally covered in vegetation. Some of it thick. Almost all of it green AF.
- Even though your Poppi is the recent recipient of an Amateur Professional Adventure Contract he still only eats from the three major food groups: 1) wild edible plants 2) Builder Bars 3) a small selection of handpicked, small batch foods purchased from locally owned Co-Ops 4) Artisanal Yogurt 5) Pizza.
So please, if you will, consider this a Public Service Announcement, or Guide, to some notable plants you’re likely to come in contact while traveling the East Coast and that you might want to eat, avoid, or use in the creation of a powerful and effective poultice.
About Mara Menahan: Mara was first recognized for her botanical art in the 4th grade when she won second place in an art contest for the Prickly Pear Land Trust in Helena, Montana where she grew up. She didn’t get first place though because she drew a saguaro cactus instead of a prickly pear cactus. Her scientific accuracy has greatly improved and today Mara draws plants all day every day as botanical illustrator at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. Instagram: @maramenahan
Milkweed, According to Poppi
“I like to boil the young flowers in spring for about 20 minutes. This is needed to get the milky sap out of them so that you don’t poison yerself. Don’t let that scare you tho, it’s pretty easy. Really. The sap from the stems when you break them is also a good remedy for warts, hope you don’t have to use it for that tho…”
Mulberry, According to Poppi
“A mature mulberry tree produces enough berries to make you a small fortune if you were to dry them and sell them to a Whole Foods bulk bin. $20/lb for those things if you don’t use the PLU for flame raisins! I find the best way to eat them is right off the tree. They are too tasty and good to collect for later.”
Catnip, According to Poppi
“Not just for getting yer cat in the mood, catnip is a powerful breath freshener and alleviator of gas and diarrhea.”
Spruce Tips, According to Poppi
“Very easy to find and identify. Do you know what a pine tree looks like? Look for the lighter, brighter green new growth at the ends of the branches. The earlier in the spring, the more tender the tip. They make a great trail snack, and are wikkid high in vitamin C.”
III Poppi's Public Restrooms & Pizzeria: Recipe #2
Poppi is a full service Bike-Packing Guide and East Coast Aficionado. Does he know where to find the covered’est of bridges?, you bet he does. What about the primo dirt roads?, the ones with a buffed-out surfaces, no cars and countless dead possums?, ummm, duh. Haunted Tunnels anyone??? The nearest artisanal co-op? Poppi knows it all! But his instruction and guidance doesn’t end there, he also knows how to (safely) subsist on weeds and wild edible plants and trash found on the side of the road and behind abandoned buildings. With this in mind, Yonder Journal is proud to present a series of recipes from Poppi’s forthcoming cookbook called Poppi’s Public Restrooms and Pizza.
Poppi’s “Milkweed Surprise”
- Boiled Milkweed Flowers: that you should know how to make cuz you read the rest of the article.
- Soba Noodles: (they’re buckwheat, which confusingly isn’t wheat, so kinda better than the stuff you get at Olive Garden).
- Coconut Oil: one spork’s worth.
- Nut Butter: another spork’s work.
- Peeled Garlic: I use the whole thing.
- Salt to Taste: That’s the surprise!
- In yer titanium pot cook yer noodles accordingly.
- Once they’re done, just dump out the water, hold the lid on a little so you don’t loose yer noodles. That’s for amateurs.
- Now using yer lid, sauté the boiled milkweed in coconut oil and garlic.
- Add a pinch of salt and cook until lightly browned.
- Add milkweed to noodles that are still in yer pot, then toss in the nut butter and more salt (the surprise).
- Stir around to combine, and then eat paired with the house red.
- Foreign Belief Systems. Expect to interact with or at least observe religious communities that appear to belong to another time. Don’t worry, I am pretty sure you won’t have traveled back in time—they’re just Amish. They’re cool. Don’t worry, they don’t want anything to do with you anyway.
- Styrofoam. If you’re like me and you live a sheltered, styrofoam-free life in a hippie commune city on the West Coast, then prepare yourself. Styrofoam is everywhere here. If you need a positive spin on this just think: that cup you sipped a liter’s worth of cola out of, well that cup will be like a tyrannosaurus tooth for some future paleontologist (will they even be called paleontologists then? Or will they be called holocentologists? Neither you or I will ever know, but there is a modicum of joy in the act of speculation, isn’t there?).
- Surprise Private Property. We did our best to minimize our trespasses. I think, all told, we maybe flirted or possibly went whole hog into private property twice over our three day trip. The thing is, you’re riding along on a public road, then all of a sudden it’s private. But your GPS says not more than a quarter mile ahead is the road you need to connect with, so you can either risk it or spend ten miles circumventing this little strip of road. Hey, listen, we’re not advocating trespassing. That’d be irresponsible. Yonder Journal 100% acknowledges that you are responsible for you. And that we are not responsible for you. What we’re saying is that you need to do you. Trust your heart.
- Skeeters. Get on that DEET.
- Judy at the Bald Eagle State Park Campgrounds. She is literally the best camp host we’ve ever experienced. Say “Hi!” for us.