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Global Test Conclusion: Honeymooning in the Backcountry

Danny and Kristin wrap up their 2-year Honeymoon with Backcountry skiing in Europe and discover their home.

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by Danny Milks & Kristin Tennessen | 2013-06-18 00:00:00-06

Do you remember where you last left us? After 10 months in Latin America, and 3 months in Russia, we were burnt out from traveling and needed badly to regroup.

Where does a couple find respite when they are homeless and separated from their family by an ocean? Danny and I chose an off-season (empty) Black Sea resort in Kosharitsa, Bulgaria. Mainly, because we had a free place to stay for up to 90 days, after which our Bulgarian visa would expire.

 - 1
The nearby Black Sea village of Nessebar, Bulgaria, a UNESCO Heritage Site.

We spent exactly 90 days in Bulgaria, sleeping in the same pull-out sofa bed every night. We relaxed. We ran, cooked, and ate well. We video-Skyped with our family. We caught up on American news and television. Mostly, we planned. First we decided that we wanted to ski. Then we arranged for our ski gear to be delivered to Europe. Finally, we mapped our route.

 - 2
Danny returned “home” from a food shopping spree, balancing his heavy load with two boxes of wine, and using a squash as a neck pillow (left). I reached the top of a hill during one of our hard runs (right). The word is ‘finish’ in Bulgarian.

Before our visa expired, we traveled around Bulgaria and Romania for a few weeks over the Christmas holiday, staying in mountain huts. Danny experienced his coldest temperature ever: -19° C (-2.2 F). Then we flew to Frankfurt, Germany to visit friends and pick up our skis.

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Our hut in the Carpathian Mountains, Romania.

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An old wooden village in the heart of Bucharest, Romania.

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Our ski pack contained two sets of: skis, poles, boots, helmets, skins, shovels, probes, beacons, ski clothes, and also winter camping gear. Instantly, we became the tourists with the most luggage. Previously, we stood out because of our tiny packs. To say we had an identity crisis, and sore arms, is an understatement.

Even though it was January, we did a backpacking trip on the Rheinsteig in Germany. The days were cold, crisp and beautiful, and the nights chilly. We may or may not have stealth camped every night, and we may or may not have camped along the nocturnal route of a group of wild boar.

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Notice my trademark blue Jam as I pass a trail blaze on the Rheinsteig (left). The trail connects villages and vineyards along the Rhein River (right).

We timed our meander through Germany so that we could report to you live from ISPO. I thought it was exhausting, but Danny found it exhilarating. (See reports from Day 1, 2, 3 and 4)

With some updated gear, we settled down in a small village named Agordo in the Dolomites of Italy. Through family friends, we met a fellow AT skier, Bepi, and bonded with him immediately even though we could not communicate with language; he spoke no English, and we spoke no Italian or their local dialect.

For 5 weeks we ate chocolate croissants for breakfast, were picked up by Bepi in his Alpha-Romeo, skied the best snow Bepi could using his 50+ years of local knowledge, then drank wine and ate pasta for the rest of the day. Needless to say, it was our favorite portion of our 2-year honeymoon.

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The reward at the end of our ski day - this sunset view over Passo Giau, Italy.

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Our Italian friends took us on amazing ski tours, such as the Rosetta Altoplano pictured above.

Sadly, we left Agordo the day after a snow storm. There were tears.

After Italy, snow was hard to find in Europe that winter. We saw friends in France and Switzerland, met up with visiting family, and carried our skis on trains and down sidewalks for one month. Even though we weren't skiing, we were able to enjoy the lovely spring weather.

During that whole time, we skied one day in Chamonix, which was experiencing July conditions in April.

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We brought our skis to Mont-Dore, France, but obviously the conditions were better for hiking (left). Our stay with friends (and professional tour guides) in Saint-Laurent-la-Vallée, France, allowed us to experience chateau du jour (right).

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Our one day of skiing involved an early morning walk through Chamonix (left) to ride the Aguille du Midi gondola up Mont Blanc, so we could ski down the Vallee Blanche glacier. Notice how easily the GoLite Jam converts to a ski pack. To relax after such an intense day, we did our annual “undie run” at a nearby ski resort (right).

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In Switzerland, we enjoyed the mountain hikes and urban views, such as the bridges and waterways of Interlaken (left). For all the BPL gear geeks, we stopped by the Mont-Bell store in Grindelwald, which is one of only two such stores outside of Japan (right).

 - 12
We spent our last week in Switzerland biking around the countryside, enjoying the freedom of two wheels to take us through apple orchards, explore small villages, and access mountain hikes. (Gottfried, me, Brigitte)

Luckily for our snow-obsession, we had Norway lined up next. After spending a few days in Oslo and Ås, we started on a ski roadtrip with our friend Eirik. He was excited about trying out the carbon/wood skis he had just finished making in his university's machine shop. We found great snow every day and camped at roads end, just below the snow level.

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Skiing on the west coast invariably gave us views of gleaming blue fjords and vibrant green valleys while enjoying endless ski terrain. (Eirik and me.)

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We rented a cabin one night, out of 16 days of camping, so we could wash clothes in the sink, prepare food in a proper kitchen, sleep on a real bed, and recharge our batteries (literally). It was the cabin’s location, at the edge of a fjord and next to this small lighthouse that really made the night special.

Sadly, Eirirk had to go back to class, so we flew 1700km north to Tromsø. Since it was towards the end of our trip, we decided to splurge on a rent-a-wreck and drove around the fjords for a few weeks while skiing every peak that looked interesting and camping off the main roads.

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Our mobile-home got great gas mileage and had spectacular views (left). Without a map or guide or any information really, exploring the backcountry on skis gave us a few surprises (right).

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Skiing in June with 24 hours of daylight.

We packed away our skis for the season and flew to Dublin to meet our parents. We toured with them for several weeks through Ireland and Scotland. There was a noticeable lack of skiing, backpacking, and titanium utensils.

 - 17
Travel win: fresh, live crab from the Marin’s Head Fishermans Coop, for 3€/kg ($4.70/lb). However, one of the crabs had a drinking problem (left). Classic Irish views (right).

The next few months we spent touring the US and Canada. We traveled from Chicago to Bozeman (and met Addie!), Glacier National Park, Banff National Park, Boulder, Salt Lake City, and Northern California.

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Peyto Lake, along the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies.

For two years we had been thinking about where to permanently move once we finished our honeymoon. After reading this BPL article, we decided to move right back to where we started from: Northern California.

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We returned home just in time to celebrate our 2-year wedding anniversary with our niece in California, with the same chocolate-chocolate-chocolate cake that we loved the first time around.

Kristin is working her dream job as a bioinformatician. We have easy access to the metro, trail running, locally-grown food, and cycling trails. We are very happy.

But there is this thought in the back of our mind. Three years? Five years? How long until we can pick up and travel again? There is so much of the world to see, and so many friends and BPLers we want to (re)visit and learn from. When and where shall we go next?

 - 20
Between job interviews, we took some small adventures, like hiking up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. You can barely see the cable-lined trail going (what appears to be, and actually is) straight up the rock.

For now, we host family, friends, and couchsurfers who want to experience the low-stress and beautiful life we are living in Northern California. We have a spare bedroom . . .


"Global Test Conclusion: Honeymooning in the Backcountry," by Danny Milks & Kristin Tennessen. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2013-06-18 00:00:00-06.


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Global Test Conclusion: Honeymooning in the Backcountry
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Global Test Conclusion: Honeymooning in the Backcountry on 06/18/2013 20:02:56 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Global Test Conclusion: Honeymooning in the Backcountry

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
2 year? on 06/19/2013 00:51:22 MDT Print View

A 2 year honeymoon????

Ah, but you wait till you have little kids ... chuckle snicker chuckle.
Enjoy while you can.

(I'm still jealous.)

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: 2 year? on 06/19/2013 06:17:17 MDT Print View

"Ah, but you wait till you have little kids ..."

Already happened.

Kristin Tennessen
(ktenness) - MLife

Locale: Sierra Nevadas
Links in article on 06/19/2013 16:13:43 MDT Print View

Sorry the links didn't translate to the article.


All of our other articles:

The article that inspired us to move back to Northern California:
I still haven't met Jeremy yet, even though he lives down the road. Let's change that, Jeremy!

Yes, Ken is correct. We now have an addition to the family. Has it changed us ...? Backpacking with a Newborn coming soon!

Edited by ktenness on 06/19/2013 16:17:16 MDT.

Daniel Paladino
(dtpaladino) - F - MLife

Locale: Northern Rockies
Global Test on 06/22/2013 12:22:06 MDT Print View

Finally published! Looks like an incredible trip. I'm amazed how well the Jam carries those skis!

Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
What's after the Global Test? on 07/31/2013 22:36:46 MDT Print View

Ken saw us at Point Reyes last October at the Bay Area GGG 4.5, and he knew that the baby was on the way. Our article just got published: Backpacking with a Newborn.

Thank you all, and BPL, for the support during our two-year honeymoon. And an especially big thank you to Addie for working graciously and patiently with us on so many articles while we traveled, as well as Will for advising us on gear reviews.

Edited by dannymilks on 07/31/2013 22:38:36 MDT.