Monday, September 8, 2014

all finished!!!!!


Thank You all so much for following and all the support!! I could not have done this without you!

Well, it’s been nearly 2 weeks since I successfully completed my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve had a little bit of time to try and reflect, and to possibly find some sort of deeper meaning for the last five months worth of efforts, struggles and victories.  How will I use the lessons I learned going forward? What did Ieven learn? What WERE those lessons? Maybe I am thinking too hard. Maybe once thrust back into a lifestyle that is so very different than that of life on the trail, the burdens of the societal expectations start to weigh on your psyche with a pressure that feels similar to slow and helpless sinking. Lots of guilt has always followed my thru hike. Guilty for being absent from the memories and life-changes amongst my family and friends.Guilt for missing the birthdays, mothers and fathers days, trips to Disneyland and t-ball games, tail-gates, weddings and births, deaths. Guilt for not having a 9-5 job that I mildly to passionately hate going to just to make ends meet.  

I have goals. I do. Maybe they are out of whack. But now all I really want to do is hike the Continental Divide Trail. I knew this about a month after I finished my first thru hike on the PCTthat I wanted to hike more long trails. See, the problem with thru hiking is that you’ll probably get the addiction. Once you get the addiction, you sort of just want to hike forever, on every trail that has a beginning and end. The trend and ultimate goal for thru-hiking in the United States is known as the Triple Crown’ and consist of completing the three major long distance trails: Appalachian Trail (2185miles), Pacific Crest Trail (2665miles), and the Continental Divide Trail (2700+miles). If you have hiked all three of these trails, you’ve hiked nearly 8000 miles, through 22 states, and seen the majority of the most beautiful places this part of the planet has to offer.  I am 2/3 of the way there now, I have hiked nearly 5500 miles since I began long distance hiking in 2012.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

a lot of thinking about where I'm going next....

The places, mile-marks, and states seem to be going by at an advanced rate since I've made it out of Virginia. I'm now in New Jersey, very close to being in New York for a short bit before making it north to Connecticut, then Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and lastly Maine. The trip is probably around 2 months from being completed and I am feverishly anticipating the end for many reasons! I love the hiking, but I'm a west coast boy! The eastern weather has been playing a heavy role in my pshyce from the beginning. It's not what I'm used to and while slightly adapting, I feel most of my hiking peers are probably sick of my complaining about the rain, the heat, the humidity and mugginess. I like to complain a lot I suppose. 
This is by far the hardest thing I've done mentally, ever. The physical side of hiking is rather easy, it's the mental side, to keep hiking 20 miles a day, day after day, regardless  of the elements is proving difficult at times. The 'green tunnel' can feel claustrophobic at times and I find myself day dreaming of the openness and vastness of some of the western US trail systems. I'm definitely looking forward to getting to the Northern states and out these mid-Atlantic ones. I need more mountains and wilderness, lately it seems like I'm just so close to major towns and cities, places that I am sort of trying to get a disconnect from. 
Basically I'm just being a big baby lately. I'm stoked to be out here, but am ready for that final exam, Katahdin! I am so ready to plan future adventures and move on the the next step of my master plan, but all too often out here it feels like I am grinding the gears and this test is just never gonna end. However, now more than ever, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I know the best parts of this trail are still ahead of me, so stick with me, help me grind it out, it's gonna be epic! Thanks for following along.

Monday, June 9, 2014

I got the blues, brotha...

Well now I am 1178 miles completed of the ultimate goal of 2185. I can hardly believe it. This trail is going by much faster than my near 6 months on the PCT did...
Pretty much as soon as I exited the Shenandoah National park, I started getting really down, lonely, bored, as well as mentally and slightly physically weak. Something I didn't really make public was the amount of pain my right knee was in, making for a solid week that was pretty miserable...
While in the Shennies, I came across a set of some really nice Black Diamond hiking poles, just my length (and color) so I decided to use them to see if it made a difference overall, and boy did it! After just a few days of use is when the knee pain started. I continued using them for a week until I decided that maybe, since I have hiked 4000 miles without hiking poles without knee pain, that it was the poles changing my gait and thereby inducing this pain that if continued, I'd need some extended time off the trail to let the knee heal. During this week of pain is where I hit my mental low. Being a pretty much solo hiker, not amongst any one group, can have it's benefits, but also it can come with downsides. Like not having someone who you bond with to help pull you up when you're down. It's easier to get trapped in negative thought when you have nobody to help cheer you up! I was in a bad mood, blue and that leads to a whole new set of problems, like not wanting to even get ahold of family and friends on the home front, cause you don't want them to feel the pain and sadness you may be going through. I always want to appear strong, happy, tough, impenetrable. So reaching out to those who can help, sometimes is the last thing I want to do, because in my mind, it was admitting I need help, I need encouragement and am not as strong as I want to be. Sometimes you have to deal on your own, be your own cheerleader, and break through the lows and find the highs. It can be quite the challenge. 
Luckily, not long after I stopped using these poles, my knee started to recover and feel stronger more often. The pain was going away rather than getting worse. The blues began to go away. 
Then milestones started happening, which is what makes you feel energized, accomplished, and like you are actually getting somewhere. 
I finally crossed the 1000 mile mark, and I was out of 500+ miles of Virginia, and then crossed over the Mason-Dixon Line, officially leaving the South in the rear-view. I quickly passed through West Virginia and Maryland, and was into Pennsylvania, where I also crossed the official half-way point of the Appalachian Trail. 
I know from my experience on the PCT how fast the second half of a thru-hike can speed by, so once I was 'half-way' I sort of felt accomplished and knew that this second half will be over faster than I probably want it to be, so I need to start enjoying it more while it happens before it becomes nothing but memories! 
I also came across awesome trail magic as well! I was comped some tickets to see the Oakland A's, my favorite team in the world, play they Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards!! It was so awesome seeing my team out east, the timing was perfect and couldn't have worked out better! 
So now I'm on the bus heading back to the AT in PA and only a handful of miles away from being less than 1000 miles from the end! I'm looking to wrap this up in the next few months, hopefully by early August and make it home in time to enjoy some summer shenanigans with my friends and family before Autumn and Winter creep on in....

So I am sorry for those who I should be calling and reaching out to more! I promise you aren't forgotten (ever) and not taken for granted! It's because of you folks that I even have the confidence to be out here living and loving my non-conventional lifestyle!! I couldn't do it without all your support and well wishes! Thank you all for following along, even when it's not all butterflies and roses for me! 

So many thanks.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Shenandoah National Park

The Shenandoah Mountains are truly one of the more beautiful places I've ever hiked. The trees are now in full -force bloomage. So many awesome colors and varietys now that it really brings a sense of life to the forest that seemed to be missing in the early stages of this hike. I guess I never really completely grasped that fact that I was starting in the winter, when everything is burrowed away and everything seems drab, cold, very still. It almost feels like when Dorothy landed in Oz and everything was in color for the first time. Even if now, I am hiking inside the 'green tunnel' for hours and hours on end, there is life about. Bugs like a son of a bitch. Mosquitoes, flies, and worst of all TICKS. I hate ticks soooo much. I'm pulling like 5 per day off lately... Still, not comparable to my time in Alaska. 
Now the animals are out as well. To date, I've seen around 10 snakes, 8 bears, dozens of white-tail deer, a coyote, a skunk and all sorts of squirrels and chipmunks. Lots of birds as well, I wish I knew more about the different breeds, but so many of all shapes and colors.
I'm almost out of Virginia, I'll briefly pass through West Virginia, and a spend a short amount of time in Maryland before spending a more significant amount in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is supposed to be a shit-ton of rocks. I'm super thankful for growing up on the river and spending endless amounts of time rock-hopping along it's banks. The skill should come in quite handy! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

900 miles....

Yeah. So I am 900 miles into my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail now. Currently hiking through the Shenandoah National Park and en-route to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  I recently attended trail days back in Damascus and had a blast catching up with people I've met along the way and meeting lots of new friends as well. 
The last month has been one epic amount of trail magic! It started when I began hiking with an awesome lady named Prom Queen. Her parents, Mike and Carolyn, live a mile off the trail and took me in like a family member, feeding us obscene amounts of amazing food. They let 8 hikers take over their household for 3 days,  then slack-packed us, then paid for an amazing meal, then slacked us some more. I will always hold Whiskey Ridge and the fun times we had there deep in my heart. Allowing me to play their high-end instruments and jamming out  and singing songs was truly a high-point for me on this trip. Thanks a million times over Mike, Carolyn, and Kayla for the great times, food, conversations, and rides to and from Roanoke and the open hearts! 

I then received trail magic from PromQueens other family in Daleville, by late night rides, pizza, moonshine, beer, and showers, and awesome funny conversations.

After a crazy night partying in Roanoke for Cinco De Mayo, a PCT alumni named Kindergarten Cop took me and a handful of others in for 2 more days of amazing magic. I am now craving the ribs, pork shoulder and ice cream he showered us with! The ability for these awesome folks to take us dirty hikers into their home, barley knowing us, but having faith in the trail community and showing us so much compassion is truly amazing. Every one of you are now a part of my trail family!! The laughs, the funny, the sometimes serious and deep conversations, the relationships established, they are something I truly will never forget!! 

And then.... I arrived in Waynesboro VA, close to where 2 friends I worked with in Alaska live. They took me in as well, allowed me to make their home my home and treated me like a brother from out of town! I definatley has a great time in Staunton and had a great time getting a sort of vacation from the trail. So, Bradley, Elder, Todd, thanks for showing this guy a good time! I can't wait to come back and see you cats...

I'd also like to thank Cricket, an Appalachian Trail alum who thru-hiked in 2009. She responded to my Facebook requests looking for a ride back to trail days!! She shuttled me the 4 hours each way to make it a round trip! Awesome lady, awesome attitude, and I love expanding my trail family one more, one ride at a time!!! 

I can't express the amount of gratitude I have and how thankful I to lead a life that keeps putting you amazing people in my path! Life is good and I have you all to thank for that.

Also, thanks to my parents, Keith and Toyka for sending me rad care packages with candy and treats and beers and shoes and love. My brother Casey for sending me my extra shit whenever I ask him too, and to all of you that comment, or like my pics on Instagram and Facebook. It wouldn't be as special an adventure without you...