Monday, November 9, 2009
Anyway - Six months and 26 days after flying out of SeaTac, we arrived home in a one-way rental car around 10:00pm. Our housemates had pie and good Seattle beer ready to go. Molly, our Shitzu-Tibetian Terrier mix dog, greeted us with some uncertainty. She spent a few seconds sniffing out Rachel until she realized who she was and then she went nuts! It has been wonderful being back with her, although, it took a week or two until she came around.
Rachel’s cousins were subleasing our place while we were gone. Since they’re responsible family and we had good communication, we had a smooth transition back into our place. The biggest challenge has been to simply organize all the stuff we brought back to Seattle (accumulated hiking gear, three boxes of china from Rachel’s grandma, boxes from mom’s basement in WI, etc…) and get bills and the house organized before going back to work. I’ve been able to get some hiking in with Molly and I’m enjoying getting back into tennis too.
Rachel and I are sort of putting our 12-month plan together right now. Rachel is currently looking for an Admin Assistant position and working on her gluten-free baking, I’m starting back with Ajilon Finance on the 16th. Prayer is appreciated as we settle in – it’s kind of like we have a fresh start to our lives again, so we feel it’s as important as ever to start off making good decisions.
Monday, October 19, 2009
7:30am – hit the snooze
7:35am – hit the snooze
7:40am – reset alarm for 8:00am
8:00am – hit the snooze
8:05am – turn off alarm
8:49am – suddenly wake up, check time, look outside to notice sunny San Diego isn’t sunny as usual. Roll back over and close eyes.
9:15am – sit up, lay back down. Quick dream about interviewing an overqualified candidate for a staff accounting job.
9:28am – Rachel sits up and says, “We should get up.” I agreed.
9:42am – Both our feet touch the ground. We’re up.
We’re staying with the Jacobs who are good friends of my pop's. They recently moved from Scottsdale to escape the heat, and I will say they made a wise choice. They have a nice size home about 50 miles north of San Diego. The house is very comfortable and in a gated community. The terrain is hilly much like Seattle with a back yard that overlooks their orchard. I counted 55 orange trees, 30 avocado trees, lemon and lime trees, and several apple trees. The abundance of fresh fruit is overwhelming! Rachel and I can’t help but pick fresh oranges and squeeze juice in the morning. I just washed my hands again hoping the orange pulp in my fingernails is gone for good – my fingers are sticking to the the commputr keyes causinng typOs...
Rach and I arrived in San Diego last Wednesday after leaving Milwaukee one week earlier. We took three days to get to Albuquerque, stopping in Des Moines and Denver before reaching our first destination. We stayed with the Philips who are a wonderful family I met on the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains. When I first met them, they asked me about my thru-hike and I explained that Rachel and I were going to road trip from Maine to the southwest before heading north to Seattle. They told me about their home in Albuquerque and invited us to stay with them so we could catch Balloon Fiesta, the largest annual hot air balloon festival in the nation. We had a very enjoyable time with them and their two kids.
I was the entertainment for the evening at the Philips. It was Samuel, Sophia, Eva, and Bella (dog) versus me in some sort of game. I'm still not sure what we were playing, but I reigned victorious contrary to the picture.
We left Albuquerque on 10.12 and headed west. As we traveled along I-40, we saw signs for The Petrified National Forest but didn’t have intentions of checking it out. Rachel and I had one of those verbal exchanges like, "You want to stop?"
"I don't care, do you?"
"Um, it doesn't really matter."
"Yeah, I don't really care either."
"But when else are we going to ever see it?"
"Who knows. Are you saying you want to go?"
"No, not really."
"Uh, okay. I have to use the bathroom."
We ended up stopping for the bathroom and also decided to pay the $10 park fee. I will say it was cool. The park is about 25 miles long and we spent two hours driving through it snapping pictures of the odd land formations and eerie martian-like landscapes. The petrified forest was actually the least exciting portion. Once you have seen a petrified log, you've seen them all; although, the whole petrification process is quite interesting if you're into geology.
On we went stopping just outside of Phoenix for the evening. The next morning we left with the intentions of heading directly to the Jacobs' home, but as usual, we called an audible and checked out Joshua Tree National Park. Man, oh man, Joshua Tree is a very cool place to see. The inhospitable Mojave and Colorado deserts coupled with twisted rock formations make the landscape unparalleled to anything I've ever seen. I definitely suggest stopping there if you find the opportunity (avoid the 115+ degree heat of the summer, of course).
This leads me to San Diego which has been the Promise Land for us. I'm pretty critical of most cities, but San Diego is definitely an area I would consider retiring in. The proximity to the ocean, cities, mountains, and the weather are unparalleled. In addition, we saw Steely Dan on Saturday which left us with only positive vibes. All good things do come to end though - Rach and I leave tomorrow morning for San Francisco and we'll be back in Seattle by the 25th.
Us happy kids enjoying boogie boarding in Carlsbad
View from our seats at the Steely Dan concert on Oct.16th
This time after the trail has been awesome. Whenever Rachel and I look at our pictures, we can't help but be amazed at how much we've seen and done. I even get to celebrate my 28th b-day in San Fran! In the end, we won't be able to say 2009 was lacking much in the way of excitement and adventure.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
You see, since we've been married four years ago we have never had the flexibility and opportunity to spend significant time with family. The unemployed lifestyle has afforded us much more time since we don't have to rush back home.
A quick brief on what's been happening since our time off the trail:
Jill (Rachel's mom), Rach and I road tripped from Millinocket, ME back to MI to hang out with her folks and Andy (Rach's older brother). We hit up Bar Harbor, ME and Niagara Falls on the ride back. We spent about a week in Northern MI and then headed to Grand Rapids to spend the weekend with friends. Enough of MI already, on to WI! We've been in Milwaukee since 9.21 and we've had plenty of time to catch up with all of my relatives and friends.
Rachel and I with Jill, Andy, Patsy Poo-poo, and Grandma Reba
Cribbage with my Grandma Krueger and Rach
I wish I had time to write a longer entry as there has been much to tell, but I haven't done well with finding time to post our happenings. I hope to find down time on our road trip to post pics of the southwest. Expect us back in Seattle around 10.22
Monday, September 21, 2009
How many miles per day do you average? Do you take days off? What's the most amount of miles you've done in a day or a week? These are all questions I have been frequently asked on and off the trail. Having a finance background, I like to serve up concrete numbers that can be analyzed and articulated, so I took time this morning to pull numbers from my daily mileage. I maintained a mileage log with the help of the "2009 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion".
A 2180 mile hike is overwhelming for most anyone, but when broken down to bits and peices, it can seem more obtainable. Below you'll find statistical data and a column chart that illustrates the type of mileages and rest days of my hike. I usually had an idea of what I wanted to hike each day, but even through the end of my trek did I ever stick to much of a plan. Also, most of my days off were unexpected and definitely unplanned. Altogether I hiked 127 days out of 158 total days on the trail. I consider 16 of the 128 days to be Neros - less than 10 miles - since I don't believe there was a full day of hiking where I hiked less than that.
I have little experience with editing Html, so no savvy graphics for you. This first list of data includes average and median mileage along with the standard deviation (standard deviation is a statistic that tells you how tightly all the data points are clustered around the average in a set of data). I have three categories because I wanted to know how my averages varied with and without taking days off. All of my statistics only include miles logged on the trail. Obviously, there is no way to quantify miles I walked in towns, on my days off, or to gather water or shelter off the trail. I did not add the .9 I had to walk to get to the southern terminus in Springer or the 5.2 miles I decended from Katahdin's summit. I hiked 2171.7mi of the 2178.2mi AT for various reasons (yes all you purists, I'm still a thru-hiker).
All days including 0-days: 158 days
Mean Mileage: 13.74
Median Mileage: 15.8
Standard Deviation: 8.86
All days excluding 0-days: 127 days
Mean Mileage: 17.10
Median Mileage: 17.40
Standard Deviation: 6.32
All days excluding 0-days and Neros (less than 10 miles) 111: days
Mean Mileage: 18.69
Median Mileage: 18.20
Standard Deviation: 4.97
This list indicates how many days fell within mileage categories. I think this is a better illustration of how how often I hiked certain mileages.
0 Days: 31
0 < 5 (miles): 5
5 < 10(miles): 11
10 < 15(miles): 22
15 < 20(miles) : 53
20 < 25(miles): 26
25 < 30(miles): 7
30 < 35.4(miles): 3
Total Days: 158
I'm often asked about the most miles I've done in a day. I was also interested in the most miles I've completed in two days and a week.
Max Mileage (Consecutive Day Total)
Here is a column chart of my daily mileage from beginning to end. The gaps between the columns are zero-days.
I hope this statistical information is helpful and interesting.
Monday, September 14, 2009
It had been a month and a half since I had seen Sassy at the Vermont hiker party. I figured after Sassy’s 21-hour drive from MI to Millinocket, ME with Marmy (my mother-in law), she was going to be spent and would want to do nothing more than veg out with me and watch reruns of Top Chef. I was dead wrong.
A week earlier we tentatively discussed summiting Katahdin together on the 6th even though I would climb it first on the 5th. We thought this would be an especially good way for her to put closer to our journey since she was unable to complete the whole thing. Quite honestly, I was content climbing the toughest mountain on the AT only once; furthermore, I was certain that the road trip, sheer difficulty of the climb, and waking up at 3am would be enough to make the veg out option more appealing for Sassy… I was just fine with that, however, Sassy was not.
We woke at 3:05am, just in time for absolutely no coffee shop or any sane person to be stirring in podunk Millinocket. Sassy and I scrambled out of the motel to get in line at the Baxter State park gate; we made it just before 4am to find a good 50 cars ahead of us patiently waiting for the park gates to open. We made it to the trailhead around 6:00am and hit the trailhead at 6:20, and then we climbed, and boy, did we climb. According to Sassy, the climb up Katahdin was without doubt the most treacherous and grueling climb she had ever attempted. There were slabs of granite so steep the park drilled pieces of rebar into the rock; what’s more, Katahdin is a 5.2 mile and 4,200 foot ascent. Most mountaineering expeditions climb no more than 3-4000ft in a day.
Sassy rocked it out without any help from me considering she forgot to bring insoles for her shoes. She said, “My feet have really shrunk since I last hiked!” Later, she took her shoes off to empty out rocks when she noticed her mishap. If her feet weren’t already temperamental from the neuroma, then the lack of cushion and support from the insole surely wasn’t going to help either. By God’s grace, we summited in three hours and then descended without incident – side note: Sassy incurred a serious wedgie while scooting off a boulder. Her reaction was priceless. Good thing I captured the moment on camera rather than help her down.
In all, we really had a fun time climbing Katahdin. We both got some tears out and we truly relished that we will never have to be apart like this again (we pray we wont). I love my wife!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I’m sure I kept all of you in suspense as it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted anything…eeek! You’ll be glad to know I summited Katahdin on Sept 5th at 5:52am just in time to catch the sun crack the horizon and see a glorious sunrise. My goodness, was this a spectacular moment!
A few days before we got to Katahdin, Rocket and I met a section hiker in the “Hundred Mile Wilderness” named Hopper. Hopper and his brother were the only lucky ones who hooked up a campsite next to the AT on the base Katahdin on Sept 4th. Without a campsite, we would have had to camp at a designated long-distance hiker shelter about .5mi off the trail. We relaxed with a campfire and a few refreshments before heading to bed around 8pm so we could wake up by 2am to begin our 5.2 mile trip to the summit. Wait, did I say 2am… what was I thinking?! We knew there would be a full moon that night and we thought it would be very cool to have moonlit path to the top. I’ve tried night-hiking with a full moon in the past months and it’s generally not real exciting due to the heavy tree cover. However, the top half of Katahdin is alpine zone meaning we would have no tree cover and no obstructions. In addition, the weather was some of the clearest and most comfortable weather of the entire hike. How could we not take advantage of this?
Rocket and I eagerly hit the trailhead at 3:15am with the full moon illuminating the horizon and treetops. The first mile was very gradual and quite nice for a warm up before getting into the more technical and difficult terrain. After the first mile, we began to hit large boulders that required scrambling or grabbing thin trees to pull ourselves up; our trekking poles were rendered useless. 2.5 miles through and about 2800ft of elevation later we hit the alpine zone and we had a spectacular view of the surrounding horizon filled with coniferous forest and lakes illuminated by the full moon. The next mile consisted of boulders ranging from the size of washing machines to railroad cars for us to climb, scramble, boulder, and squeeze through. I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline but the climb was fun and much easier than the significantly smaller scrambles I had through the White Mountains.
It was 4:30am when I took a breather and Rocket had pushed past me about 200meters. I was looking back at the landscape and realized the moon lit the trail and barren rocks much better than my fading headlamp. I turned off my headlamp and let my eyes adjust before continuing my ascent. I think the next hour of hiking and climbing – in my mind – is the coolest thing I’ve done. I wish I had a picture to do this memory justice, because being completely alone and silent I was looking off at the soft moon lit glow of hundreds of square miles of wilderness and lakes without obstruction. At 5am, I saw the silhouette of Katahdin darken as dawn approached lighting up the sky behind the mountain. Above the crest of the mountain to the east of me, the sky began to fill with light blues, magenta, reds and oranges; behind me, the sky was a washed-out purple and grey. I hit Thoreau Springs, about one mile from the summit, around 5:20am and I had a great view of the tundra on top of Katahdin, treeless and rocky with many different types of shrubs, grasses and moss. I enjoyed my time taking pictures and eventually seeing the summit in the near distance. Finally, at 5:52am I reached the summit and found Rocket, Chance and Union Break in high spirits and congratulating each other. Rocket and I had both packed up a beer and enjoyed a cold one at 6am atop a cold windy mountain. We did the traditional pictures with the Katahdin sign and enjoyed an hour of joyful shivering before we headed back down to the base. We had completed the entire Appalachian Trail.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Monson is 112 trail miles south of Katahdin. It looks likely that Rocket, Feed Bag and I will summit next Saturday (9.5). Before we do that, we have to hike through the "One-Hundred Mile Wilderness". This section starts after we leave Monson and is not really wilderness or one-hundred miles, but it is absent of any paved roads, meaning we have to carry a little more food and it's probably not a good place to break an ankle and have to get rescued.
I'm happy the trail is wrapping up. Two and a half months apart from Sassy is much more time than I'm ever willing to bare with again. I realize how much of an awesome friend and partner my wife is. Truly, truly there is no one I enjoy my life with quite like Sassy.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
In 16, possibly 14 days Daddy Long Legs and I will summit Katahdin and complete this long, challenging, sometimes painful adventure we embarked on (by the time it’s all said and done) five months ago. As for me the time couldn’t arrive soon enough. As DLL hikes down the miles I feel more and more anxious and emotional. It doesn’t take much for me to get choked up and when alone break into tears if I see or hear anything that reminds me of him/us. While all of this is going on inside of me it somehow doesn’t over shadow how proud I am of my husband. Though a huge part of me wants to be home in Seattle with him living our lives an even larger part of me is so excited for him to complete this dream of his. To be with him the entire way, maybe not physically, but in support and spirit has been amazing. I would never trade it for anything. Don’t get me wrong this hasn’t been a walk in the park (no pun intended) and I miss my best friend more than I ever thought it possible, but the closeness I have felt with him in this time apart is irreplaceable. God has blessed me in ways I never imagined.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Quick note: I really look forward to any comments or questions you have about my hike… it gives me something to post on. I can be emailed at email@example.com or some of our blog followers have posted comments on this blog. Either way, I’ll get your questions and would love to reply back to you.
For the most part, I've been hiking anywhere between 15-25 miles/day depending on the terrain and my proximity to towns. My average week is around 120 miles with six days hiking and a day off. The grade of the terrain in VA, MD, and PA was relatively relaxed, so I was able to hike bigger miles more frequently. I think 173 miles was my biggest week. Lately, I've been hiking with Bonesey and Rocket and the terrain has been quite tough in the Northeast. I'm currently in Lyme, NH and I will be entering the White Mountains of NH around Wednesday. The Whites are considered by the majority to be the most difficult portion of the trail because of the elevation - often 3000-4000ft of vertical elevation - and they are often steep and rocky. However, reward comes with the hard work. For North Bounders (NOBO's) like myself, the Whites are the first time we're above tree line meaning amazing vistas that are unmatched by the rest of the trail.
We tend to wake up around 6:30am. The day begins with packing up our gear, grabbing water and a quick breakfast. We're on the trail by 8am and we'll get about five to eight miles in before taking a breather and getting a snack. I should note that even though I often say I'm hiking with a group, mostly we're separated by 10-30 minutes from each other; sometimes we never see each other until the end of the day. Anyway, when we are hiking together, we'll sit around for about 30 minutes, Rocket will have a smoke and we'll look at our data book to plan out the rest of the day. Our second break is usually at a deli or general store. I'll try to grab a sandwich and ice cream or something substantial to make up the calories. We hiked 3-3.5mph in VA and PA and 2.5mph in the Northeast; a 20 mile day will currently take about eight hours of hiking. Due to breaks, we'll hit camp around 7pm. We enjoy stealth camping in the woods the best, but we do camp near shelters too although we rarely stay inside the shelters. Flat ground void of roots and rocks and the proximity to potable water are the two main factors when choosing a suitable tent spot. Once we find our tent spots, I'll begin cooking, Rocket starts a fire, and Bonesey just... well, just stands there and looks like the ultimate thru-hiker. After dinner, I'll grab some rolling tobacco from Rocket and enjoy my one cigarette for the day. I then climb into my tent around 10pm and scroll through pictures I've taken on my camera to look at Sassy and/or delete the ones that didn't come out well. Finally, I'll cap the night off by spending 5 or 10 minutes in my Bible – lately, I've been reading through Isaiah.
I find that I drink 4-6 liters of water a day depending on the weather. Water has never been scarce due to the frequent rain we've had, so it's rare that I'll carry more than a liter. In fact, I ditched my Camelback after a couple weeks and I only fill up a 1L Nalgene. I do carry an MSR 4L water tote that I use when I'm at camp. For filtering, I carried a Katadyn water pump for the first 1200 miles. The pump has an input that is inserted into a stream and the water is manually pumped through a filter and then flows into a Nalgene or Camelback. Since Port Clinton, PA I ditched the pump and picked up Aquamira water drops that treat water with chlorine dioxide. Aquamira leaves a slight chlorine aftertaste, but is much lighter to carry and easier to use.
A typical male hiker burns 4000-5000 calories a day, so anything with fat, carbs, and protein is a plus. The great thing about the AT is the close proximity to towns. Since NJ, we have crossed a road with a deli or general store once every day or two. This helps us augment what food we are already carrying and also allows us to resupply. I carry more food then most because I like to eat, and I do eat lots; three days is typical for me.
I tend to do a dry a breakfast that consists of a bagel with peanut butter/Nutella and gorp (synonym for trail mix); lunch is often a deli or snack food that I have in my pack; dinner is my favorite because it is usually my only hot meal of the day. In between my main meals, I snack consistently during the day to keep the Hunger Monster away. When I cook dinner, I use a small alcohol stove and I'll melt down cheese in about an inch of water so I end up with an oily consistency. I'll pack out some fresh vegetables from town and Rocket picks chanterelle mushrooms that sporadically grow on the trail. I then simmer peppers, fresh chopped garlic, and chanterelles for about 5 minutes. Then, I'll add pasta or couscous and let my dinner cook. Finally, I'll add some salt or seasoning mix along with some type of protein, usually pepperoni or tuna. I get so much joy out of cooking a hot meal after a long day, so I don't mind the work and cleanup.
There is this subtle competitiveness with hikers being "ultralight" or minimalists. Most hikers, including myself, often think they are more savvy or experienced if they carry a tarp instead of a tent, no stove, or a bed sheet/liner instead of sleeping bag. There are many options out there and there is definitely a strong correlation between weight and comfort. For example, I carry a top of the line 2-person tent made by Big Agnes called the Copper Spur UL 2. This is a double walled tent meaning it has a rain fly that covers the tent. It is also free standing because it has light-weight aluminum poles that keep it in place without steaks or tying off a guy line. Along with the footprint - a nylon liner I put down underneath the tent - it weighs 4lbs. It is easy to set up, has good ventilation, and plenty of room for two people if you include the vestibules. After Sassy left, I considered getting a tarptent that weighs about half of my tent; however, I find I am a creature of comfort and I stay dryer than anyone else during the rain. On the flip-side I have to lug around 2lbs more than other people who carry tarptents.
My cold weather sleeping bag is the GoLite Adrenaline 20 down bag. It is awesome! My summer bag is the Lafuma X650 Pro Synthetic Fill 40 degree bag. I overpaid for this bag and I do not recommend using it below 50 degrees unless you enjoy an awful night of sleep. Funny that they say it's a 40 degree bag.
I've been carrying a Deuter ACT Lite 65+10 Internal Frame Backpack. I've made a couple adjustments to lightening it up, meaning I've cut a bunch of the bells and whistles off. It weighs about 3.5 lbs. With my three days of food and water my pack weighs about 30-32lbs which is probably 5lbs heavier than what most hikers carry. As I mentioned, I like to be comfortable and there are wet and sometimes chilly days. I like to be warm and well fed after a long day of hiking; it makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. I'm sure I could continue to find ways to trim down my pack weight, but unless I get injured I don't really care to because I'm close to finishing.
Thanks for spending time to read our blog.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I’m 75% done with the AT and the idea of there being an end is becoming more real every day. When I was a 1950-mile or 1236-mile hike from Katahdin, it was difficult to comprehend there being a finish line; rather, I knew my world would be this white blazed trail until September or even October. Yesterday was my four-month anniversary since my start date, I’m a third of the way through Vermont. The end is coming.
My biggest dream last year and since I was in high school was to thru-hike the AT. That was it. The AT was the pinnacle, the ultimate experience, the 'if I could do anything' dream. Now there is still 538 miles to go; the trail is nowhere complete, yet I know summiting Katahdin this year is highly likely. But what happens when I can throw this dream up on the shelf because it’s yesterday’s news? What can be bigger and more gratifying for me than this? Sometimes I’ve thought it might be the 2650 mile-Pacific Crest Trail or running a sub 2:40 marathon, but I’m really coming to feel that being a father – and an excellent father for the record – is The Dream.
I look around at the people I hike with, my friends and colleagues back in Seattle and Milwaukee, even Sassy and me, and I see that having a good dad is rare, in many ways more rare than thru-hiking the AT. Running a 2:39 Boston Marathon would be a tremendous goal and likely the apogee of my physical achievements, but even memories and trophies deteriorate after time. An excellent dad can create a legacy, something that doesn’t die, and something that continues to be talked about and emulated by others for generations. I’m still thinking and praying about what exactly this means for Sassy and me when I’m done with the trail, but what I do know is that there are amazing things I will experience that will trump the AT, PCT, or whatever. Being a dad is definitely one of those.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Sassy left the trail on June 17th and we didn't expect to see each other until early September when I summit Katahdin. 6pm this past Monday, I call Sassy in MI and let her know that Wheeler, Bonesey, Rocket and I are renting a car and driving up to Manchester, VT for a hiker party. I of course tell her how much I love her and miss her, and then I ask her if she would like to drive the 16 hours to see me and hang out for a few days. Sassy considers my request and is then on the road not more than 12 hours later thanks to Sassy's parents, Joe and Marmy. I have such a great wife!
Oops... Wheeler just called and it looks like everyone is ready to get back on the trail after six days off.
Sassy will try and update the blog soon, otherwise, I'll keep all of you on the up and up the next time I'm at a library. Please check out updated pictures at:
Friday, July 17, 2009
First order of business: Dasek VS. Appalachian Trail – Dasek, 1455 miles; AT, 722 miles. I’m leaving Kent, CT just as soon as I finish this posting. I'll be in MA by Sunday morning.
Dick Ludwick was the Mayor of Unionville, NY (pop. 561) for 12 years until this past March. Throughout his term, he noticed how the town of Unionville was not terribly friendly to passing thru-hikers who stopped in for a night's rest or supplies. The desire of helping hikers was further instilled when he found himself broken down on a rural highway in the White Mountains of NH. His wife, a long time sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis, was also with him in the car. Unable to leave his wife behind and get help, they were fortunately brought to the rescue by a passerby in a pickup. Dick and his wife realized that they could help out weary hikers the same way he and his wife were assisted in the Whites. During this period, much of his time was devoted to his wife and coping with the MS. Sadly, she passed six years ago after 44 years of marriage. I can easily see that he loved her more than anything.
In the late summer of 2007, Dick opened up his home to hikers. He originally called it the Mayor's House changed it to The Outhouse Hostel when he did not run for another term. He has a modest two-bedroom ranch home with 8 bunks in the basement. When I arrived at his home, he told me that the first order of business was to kick off my shoes and grab a cold Budweiser out of the cooler. The first Bud is on the house, the second through fourth are 25 cents each. Not a bad deal! After I completed the difficult task of consuming the first beer, I grabbed a second and took it into the shower. Here I contemplated if life could be much sweeter at that moment. My clothes were all thrown into the wash and I got to wear one of Dick's bathrobes while I had my third beer and gobbled up a plate full of Sloppy Joes and bean salad. Once dinner was finished, Dick had the other hikers and me come into the living room where we watched a DVD of mobile phone salesman, Paul Potts, singing the opera Nessun Dorma to clinch victory on the British show Britain's Got Talent. I won't get into the story behind him having us watch this, but the agenda was to make us realize we can complete the trail as long as we believe in ourselves. He has probably shown this same video 300 times to hikers, and he sat with six of us for over an hour and spoke about his wish for us to achieve our dreams. He spoke with such passion and conviction I would have thought this was the first time he done this.
The night concluded after the third beer and much conversation with Dick and his passion for helping hikers. I should note that he personally has never set foot on the AT and thinks hiking is ludicrous. I caught a good night's sleep and woke up at 6:30am to breakfast and coffee. All of this for the ridiculously insane price of nothing! All hikers have the opportunity to donate to the hostel, but it's not expected.
I should also mention that Dick has two gentlemen named Bill (in his early 80's) and Butch (around 50 years old) who handle most of the day to day tasks around the Hostel. Bill does 95% of the cooking and swears like a sailor with a bad case of Turrets syndrome. Bill previously lived in a retirement home and was in a bad financial situation. Dick met Bill when delivering prescription drugs and invited him to live in his home in March 2008. Butch handles more of the administrative tasks and is the one often assisting hikers by driving them to outfitters and stores.
The point here is that all three of these gentlemen have found a passion and a reason to get excited about life. At the end of the day we need to find what gives us joy. These guys have it through helping us hikers. The Outhouse, formerly known as the Mayor's house, was the by far my favorite hostel on the trail.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I'm watching an epic Wimbledon final match with Roddick and Federer. The 5th set is tied at 10 games each and they're playing at such a high level. I wish I had this level on fitness on the unyielding AT.
Two “Zero-days” to celebrate Amurrica (George W style) and I’m getting back on the trail in a couple hours. I’ve been hanging out with a good group I met at the hiker feed in Duncannon, PA. Trail Angel Mary (in the tie-dye) was largely responsible for putting on the feed that attracted 50 or so hikers. After the feed, we ended up at the Doyle Hotel for music and $2.25 22oz Yeunglings. Then, Trail Angel Mary fed us, put us up in her apartment, and slack-packed us last Sunday. Slack-packing is when you bring only the necessary food and equipment to hike for the day and leave the rest of your equipment (tent, sleeping bag, extra food, etc…) with someone. Usually, I end up carrying only about 10lbs as opposed to 30-35lbs. Anyway, I ended up hiking with them all week last week and it looks like I’m going to split off from them today. Ziggy Stardust and Thin Mint, the husband/wife combo wearing the red and gray tank top, are getting back to their teaching jobs. Wampus Cat, the taller girl standing behind Thin Mint, is starting grad-school at Colorado State. Zen (the big guy) and Fat Kid (not really fat and not in the picture) are taking a couple more days off to procrastinate getting back on the trail.
I’m in good spirits even though I’ve been away from Sassy for two and a half weeks now. Sassy and I both agree that I belong on the trail; the thought of leaving the trail unfinished does not sit well with either of us. Hiking with the group and taking the last couple of days off with them has been very refreshing and I think I’m in excellent shape mentally and physically to bust out some miles. The plan is to get into NJ on the 7th and then cruise through NY and make it into CT by the 16th to catch up with my old hiking buddy, Bonesy, and then possibly see my aunt and uncle in Stanford.
Dasek vs AT: Dasek-1233 miles; AT – 946 miles
Check out updated photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22604179@N06/
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Spending time with my grandma in her kitchen is one of my favorite things to do. She has such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cooking, baking and the techniques/tricks that go along with them. Grandma had several lemons she needed to use up, so today she taught me how to make lemon curd which is something I've never tasted until this afternoon. It's delicious!
The ironic thing is the many recipes that I just printed off a couple of days ago that call for lemon curd: cream puffs with lemon mousse & blueberry sauce, coconut cake with lemon curd, fresh lemon mousse... Is your mouth watering yet?
This will be a recipe I use for the remainder of my cooking days.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
It's been 11 days since I left the trail and had to tearfully say goodbye to Daddy Long Legs. I miss my husband, the hiking community, our tent, hiking and the trail itself. When we started our adventure I never imagined that I would develop such a love for hiking. Don't get me wrong at times I wanted to chuck my backpack over the side of a cliff, but there was never a time where I would have changed my situation. My biggest challenge now is finding enough to do to keep me from going crazy. It's frustrating not being able to run, walk or hike due to the pain. Going from hiking 15-20 miles everyday to 0 has been torture. Whatever it is that God's trying to teach me through this I have yet to figure out, but I trust Him.
Though this wasn't the turn of events I would have chosen I am enjoying the quality time with my mom, step dad Joe and grandma Reba. Another benefit has been the family events that I would have otherwise missed. Last weekend was my cousin Katie's wedding. It had been three years since my mom had all three of her kids together, she was glowing the entire time.
Yesterday I went with mom and Joe to Traverse City for Joe's nieces' (Wesliegh and Hannah) graduation party. It was nice to get out of the house and Lake City for a night.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Sassy got on a Greyhound bus the next day and I was back on the trail by 2pm thanks to a Trail Angel named Tom Reider. Tom drove me 40 miles into the Shenandoah’s where I got back on at Roach Smith Gap, and he got Sassy to the bus station in Charlottesville. She went back to Lake City, MI where she is spending the interim with her mom and grandma. The plan is to spend considerable time baking and learning gluten-free recipes and also taking care of her feet.
As for me, I’ve been able to move along relatively quickly and get bigger miles in; 245 miles in the last 10 days. Hiking vigorously has been sort of my way of coping with the absence of Sassy. I hope to move up my arrival to Katahdin from early October to August 31st. Sassy plans to ascend Katahdin with me for a climactic end to our journey.
Everything has a way of working itself out. I found encouragement in reading Ecclesiastes 3:15 this morning. “That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.” This time alone from Sassy is part of His divine plan that has been perfectly thought out. My conscience tells me to just go with it even though it’s difficult and sometimes tear-jerking. The Dude abides.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I think for many people inspiring to hike the AT there are visions of copious free time. With all this free time, one can find clarity in life, devise how they'll earn millions and retire early, or just bask in Zen moment after moment. Either way, if this individual plans to a hike the AT in less than six months, they will find out - like us - that free time isn't as abundant as they once hoped.
In March, Sassy and I did the math on how much hiking we would do in a day. We figured our typical week would consist of 15 mile days for six days and one zero-day. If we averaged 2.5 miles an hour, we'd be on the trail for six hours a day, seven hours tops, and still hiking 90-mile weeks. Wow, with hiking only seven hours, we would be left with about nine hours of awake time to do whatever we wanted (i.e.. read, nap, play cribbage, play air drums, check for ticks, swim, nap again, scratch mosquito bites, snack, start a fire, poke at the fire, think about absolutely nothing, think about world peace, think about how to avoid having a job when we're back in Seattle, get disgusted at our feet, write in our journal...). In March, we could only dream how fantastic the next six months will be!
It occurred to me after the first month that hiking the AT is much more arduous and time consuming than expected. Outside of the hiking, there is the setting up and tearing down of camp, filtering water, somehow consuming 4-5K calories each day, washing dishes, blocking and tackling all the little aches and pains that come up. Also, contrary to popular belief, the AT is not a flat and smooth trail - hence the trail has the name of a mountain range in it. The AT is quite a difficult trail to hike because of the often rocky and insanely hilly terrain; as a result, the days fly by without much free time and we're just happy to get miles in.
2180 miles of mountainous trail is a lot to cover and become overwhelmed with. Without zero-days, the trail becomes a job and one really loses perspective of the experience. Thank you zero-days!
Friday, June 12, 2009
So here I am minding my business walking the trail when Daddy Long Legs stopped up ahead. All I can see is a black ball in the middle of the trail at his feet. I yelled out "what is it Nick?" He yelled back, "A baby skunk!" The little skunk looked dead as he laid there not moving with flies buzzing around him, but once Stewball our hiking buddy tried pushing him off the trail his tail began to twitch. At first the guys started saying that he must not have died too long ago since his nerves are still making his tail move, but within seconds the critter started moving around to let us know he was indeed still alive. We all took a few giant steps back before realizing that spraying us was the last thing on his mind. The skunk was too weak and was curled up into a little ball once again. As we looked at each other, the question that came out was "what should we do with him?". Daddy Long Legs thought we should just leave him, but Stewball and I thought we should 'rescue' him. We soon found out that we are completely uneducated in wildlife rescue. Stewball wrapped his bandanna around and carried the little guy in the palm of his hand. We named him Oreo after about half of a mile. The first road crossing from where we found him was 1.5 miles, so we thought we could call animal rescue from there. After trying to get a signal for over a half an hour another hiker walked up. She was kind enough to let us borrow her phone. I finally got in touch with a trail coordinator who said to leave the skunk since they're pretty self sufficient at a young age and he'll either bite or spray you if you try to handle him. Oreo had tried neither and was actually trying to burrow into Daddy Long Legs' shoe while he still had it on. The trail coordinator also said that if wildlife rescue were to come get him, they'd first need to get a permit from the national forest. In short, we did what we could and it was time to say goodbye to our little white-striped friend. We found him a cozy little bed off the trail in some leaves. He was curled up into a ball sleeping when we left him. It stormed that night and we all thought of little Oreo. Hopefully he grows up to be the best skunk he can be, and more importantly, learns how to spray people like us who try to pick him up and move him. Good luck little guy!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Currently, Sassy Sunshine and I are 718 miles through the trail; about a third of the way through which leaves us half-way through Virginia. VA is a 550 mile monster of a state that makes up just over a quarter of the entire trail. Many of the NOBO (northbound) thru-hikers that are physically strong enough to complete the entire trail end up quitting in VA. This is due to the "green tunnel" or "Virginia Blues" that people often fall into as a result of endless days in the depths of the forest; in other words, they just get bored of the woods and the trail. To the contrary, I'm finding that making friends and spending time off the trail makes the hike continuously exciting and intriguing.
Two things have really been on my mind through the first third of this journey:
1) The trail restores my feelings about the common good in people. I wish I had the energy to elaborate on this right now, but I just don't... maybe the next entry. In short, it's all positive.
2) Functionality is everything - No one cares how you look or what brand of gear you use; everyone just cares if it works. One of the most refreshing aspects of this hike is getting away from any concerns of image.
Thanks for keeping up with us and our whereabouts. We appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and brownies and beef jerky!
Monday, May 25, 2009
To catch you all up to speed we are 583 miles out, just outside of Bland, VA. We got off the trail last Wednesday to go up to Milwaukee for a wedding. Nick's step-dad Tim was in Tennessee for business and met us in Damascus, VA for Trail Days and to hike with us for four days. We had a blast! Tim did great and even pulled off a 19 mile day and he's not a hiker. He earned the trail name of "Cornstarch" due to his over use of the stuff as a deodorant and the mess it left behind. The rest of our gang (Bonesey, Butter Toes, Stew Ball & Kogito (Torpedo)) are now ahead of us, but we'll figure out a way to hook back up on the trail.
Our break from the trail was lovely. The wedding was beautiful and it was wonderful witnessing our two friends marry. What a treat it was to wear every day clothes again! Despite all of the perks of being off the trail and with family (food, shower, family time, bed, food...) we're ready to get back. We fly out late this morning to Roanoke, VA where we'll get shuttled back to the trail.
AT we're comin home! (Check out new photos at the link below)
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Today Nick volunteered with some other hikers to assist Bob with trail maintenance while Rachel stayed back to help around the hostel and get some administrative tasks out of the way. A run to the nearest library to hop online was a very unexpected treat. We'll stay at the hostel again tonight before hitting the trail tomorrow morning. Our plan is to make it to Damascus, VA (4th state!) within 2.5 days.
One month in and we're feeling healthy and so fortunate to be doing this. We love and thank all of you for your prayers & thoughts.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Over 100 miles in eight days! We never in a million years saw that one coming, but miss a shelter and have to put in a 19 mile day instead of the planned 14 will do it. Luckily good weather was on our side until yesterday when the thunder storms hit. The 19 mile day on Thursday put us ahead so that we only had four miles on Friday. Friday morn we woke around 6:40 and hit the trail by 7:45. We needed to hustle to make the 9:00/9:30 a.m. shuttle pick up to take us to Franklin, NC. About 1.5 miles up the trail the clouds rolled in and thunder began to boom. SassySunshine blew past Daddy Long Legs and didn't look back since he could easily catch up with her (his words;). The lightening, thunder, rain and hail had begun as we raced up the trail. SS got down to the pick up spot by 9:02 and joined the rest of the hikers standing around looking like drowned rats waiting for the shuttle. Hiker after hiker joined the crew, but no sign of DLL. SS began to worry when the hiker they passed together near the beginning of the trail came down and said that he hadn't seen DLL, so she took off her pack and ran up the trail to find him. "Praise be to God!" there he was coming down the trail drenched and looking relieved to see her. "I ducked in the woods to get away from the lightening over head", was his response to the obvious question of; "where have you been!?!". Two minutes later Ron Haven's shuttle (an old school bus) pulled up to take us into town. We got a room at the Budget Inn, reunited with some old friends (Old Corpus, Blessed, Stew Ball, Cat Whisperer & Bonesy), warmed up with a hot shower, stuffed our faces with an all you can eat Mexican buffet, did laundry & lounged around watching TV. This morning we were treated by a local church to a pancake breakfast. This town loves hikers and we love them for that.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The people here are so kind and helpful to hikers. A gentleman driving into town went out of his way to stop by the trail to see if any hikers needed a lift. This is the type of stuff we've experienced on a regular basis. These people are called "Trail Angels" and their acts of kindness are referred to as "trail magic". At Neels Gap we were treated to a BBQ put on by the
"Trail Dames". Nick put down two burgers, four hot dogs, chips, cookies, an apple & three cups of coffee. Rach ate two burgers, chips, banana & lots of fudge. We then hit some more trail angels at another highway crossing about two hours later where Nick picked up two beers and Rach ate a hot dog & chips. It's incredible; our appetites are HUGE these days, though people have said that the big appetites come later. We're kind of nervous to see how much bigger ours will get.
Last night we stayed at the Blueberry Patch Hostel, which is owned and ran by Gary & Lennie Poteat. They take donations for your stay, do your laundry for you, offer a shower and provide a delicious homemade breakfast in the morning. What lovely people!!! We've also met some wonderful people on the trail; "Bonesy", "Stew Ball", "Blessed", "Old Corpus", "Bark" & "Berry" just to name a few.
Tonight we're staying in town at the Hiawassee Inn. Luckily the library is within walking distance from the motel so we walked up here to jump online. We'll re-supply at the local grocery store, eat dinner out tonight and hit the trail tomorrow morning. Plan is to hit Franklin, NC by Saturday morning stay at another hostel and hit an Easter service somewhere in town. We have nine miles left in Georgia and though it's been beautiful it's been tough with the massive hills that seem to go on forever. We're looking forward to some new terrain.
We want to give a couple special thanks to some people; Lily for our mail drops; the first arrived in Blairsville/Neels Gap on the 3rd and really helped us out! We also want to thank Uncle Ted for driving us all of the way out to the trail head at Mount Springer. We hope you weren't late for your conference call.
Thanks again for all of your thoughts and prayers; they're working! We're fighting a few minor aches and pains, but nothing we can't handle. Other than that we are lovin life!
We've included a link below to our flickr account so you can view our photos. Hope you enjoy!
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Georgia has been tough, but not that tough. Thus far we've had quite a bit of rain, mud, spooky forests and some decent climbs (Blood Mountain yesterday). There hasn't been any crying yet, though Rachel has come close every time she sees a dog; we're both are missing our Molly very much. We'll keep you all posted on who loses it first out here. We met "Mini Sleeps" at the top of Springer Mountain on our first day and he gave us some great advice, "...don't ever make a decision on a rainy day or when things seem to be going wrong." We laugh with each other, or sometimes at each other, more than we've been grumbling. We're happy about that! I think our first laugh started with coming up with our trail names: Rachel is Sassy Sunshine; Nick is Daddy Long-Legs. We think both names are fitting. Please keep praying for health, common sense, and protection on our journey. Talk with you soon!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The plan was to let the ladies in Rachel's bible study do the honors, but when we weren't able to make it to community group Wednesday night due to our shake down a "See the Daseks Off" pot luck was thrown together along with the chance for more people to get in on the shaving. Everyone had their chance and at least seven different people either cut a chunk of hair off or ran the clippers over Rachel's head. Rachel's brother Nicholas was the first to use the clippers and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to shave his sister's head (he's in the video above). It was a great night of good food, great friends and a proper send off which ended with a circle of prayers over Nick and Rachel. Could we be any more blessed? We will miss our family here very much (this of course includes our MH family). We love and appreciate you all so very much.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
N&R enjoying the Duhks on the mainstage.