Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sandbeach

Craving the woods.
Craving rocks and roots and dirt beneath my boots.
Craving the soft stillness of the midnight forest.
The smell of my pack like sweet perfume.
The sound of my trekking poles clicking and clacking against earth.
The sensation of crisp mountain air against my bare skin.
The sun rests behind the peaks, and as I crawl into my musty tent...
I am at peace.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Liebster Award

The Liebster Award is a Blogstöcken (Blogstöcken translated means Blog Stick, apparently).  This award has been around for nearly a decade, and the idea is to tag bloggers to learn more about them and their blogs.  I was tagged by Hiking Forward... check out his blog! 

Here are the rules:

1. Link the Person who “tagged” you.
2. Answer the 11 questions that the person has asked you.
3. Look for 11 Bloggers and nominate them.
4. Come up with your own 11 question for your 11 nominees.

Yeah... I'm lazy.  But I will at least answer the questions Hiking Forward posed for his nominees.  I'm honored to have been thought of!

1.  What do you consider your first outdoor experience?
I can't really pinpoint a first experience, but I credit my love for the outdoors to my parents.  Summer vacations with my mom's side of the family on the Oregon coast, and my dad, especially, would take us hiking and camping in our local Georgia State Parks growing up.  I may not have always appreciated the "long" 1-mile hikes we would take, but I believe those outings in Georgia and Oregon ingrained a passion for Nature within my soul.

2.  When out on a multi-day excursion, what is the one thing you dream about doing or having when returning home?
Chinese food and Diet Dr. Pepper.  Always.

3.  What long trail do you want to complete or complete again and why?
Next on my list is probably the PCT, though I also want to finish my SOBO trek of the AT so that I can have both directions under my belt.  Long distance hiking can be incredibly addictive.

4.  Trailname?  And how did you get it?
ManCub.  I chose it a few months before my 2012 thru-hike because I didn't want to get stuck with something I didn't like.  I wanted something "earthy-sounding" while also representing myself.  I often (and by often, I mean always) am told I look younger than I am, so I think ManCub fits.  I also love The Jungle Book... Mowgli was raised by mother effin' wolves.

5.  What do you want to do when you retire?
As long as I'm doing what I love, I'll be happy.

6.  Last outing, where, when, etc...?
Well, today I hiked up to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  My last "big" outing was hiking 1,000 miles on the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail over the winter.  That was cold.

7.  Favorite backpacking meal?
I still have not gotten sick of instant couscous.  It's my go-to meal in the backcountry.  Add some packaged chicken to the Mediterranean flavor couscous, and it's practically gourmet.  Also, Snickers and Reese's.

8.  Favorite memory on trail or camping?
I could give several for this one, but I'll keep it to one... Being on top of Mt. Madison in the White Mountains and watching the clouds crash over us at sunset.  Honestly, thinking about that brings tears to my eyes.

9.  Goal for the year?
Haha, again, I could list several, but one of mine for this year is to learn how to play my banjo.

10.  Have you ever been tweeted to or RT'ed by a celebrity?  Who?
Not really, but Nick Kroll favorited one of my tweets a few months ago.

11.  Favorite National Park and why?
I'm kind of biased right now since I currently work at Rocky Mountain National Park, but besides RMNP... Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds a special place in my heart.

Again, thanks to @HikingForward for tagging me.  This was fun!  Happy hiking, everyone.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 2010

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Return to Rocky

It feels great to be back at Rocky Mountain National Park.

I arrived just in time for a little snow storm to sweep across the area.  Even after all the snow I received on the AT this winter, it was still exciting to see.  We got over a foot of fresh snow at my house... truly a beautiful scene.  The few days I've been back, there have been deer, elk, and moose hanging out in my backyard.  Watching them from a cozy interior makes for delightful entertainment.

Driving out here from Georgia, I decided to go out of my way a little and see South Dakota and the National Parks along the way (Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave, and Wind Cave).  I loved the drive, and I loved the parks I stopped in, but the thing that made the trip completely worthwhile and incredible for me was seeing the bison.

I had never seen them in the wild before, so when I glimpsed them way off in the distance as little specks on the Badlands horizon, I immediately jumped out of my car and started snapping a series of blurry photos.  Little did I know that I would soon become the bison paparazzi for the next few days.  THEY WERE EVERYWHERE.

I arrived in the Badlands campground, and there was a herd of them grazing among the tents and car campers.  I couldn't believe it.  These massive North American beasts were just a stone's throw away from where I was distractingly setting up my tent.

I finally crawled into my tent with a fresh cup of coffee and watched the sunset.  The bison continued to graze nearby, and as the clouds danced over the grassy hills, a chorus of coyotes struck up an ancient song.  I was mesmerized.

Moments such as this demonstrate the importance and magic of our National Parks.  I remember seeing my first bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I can recall rounding that corner in Arches National Park and being dumbfounded by Delicate Arch standing defiantly before me.  My jaw dropping above the infinite Grand Canyon of Arizona, and seeing my first herd of bighorn sheep in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

A fresh wave of excitement and pride washed over me knowing what I was returning to.


























Friday, April 18, 2014

I'll rise when the rooster crows

Last week, my father and I returned to the Cohutta Wilderness in North Georgia for our traditional father/son(s) camping trip.

Wilderness always offers an escape for both of us.

The highlight for me was whenever we were just sitting around the fire.  Smoke rising into the air with golden sunlight piercing through the trees, we both reclined on our rock seats and meditated.  Meditation through conversation... reading... journaling... staring.  Staring into the fire.  Through the trees.  At the great sky above us.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

QC-VA montage

I truly want to express my gratitude to each and every person who helped, encouraged, and prayed for me while I was on this journey.  I could not have gotten as far as I did by myself.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

The two songs I chose for this montage carry a lot of meaning for me and my life right now.  I think that if you are able to pay attention to the lyrics, as well as the visuals, it will enhance your viewing experience.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Quebec - Virginia in photos

Hey folks!

Here is a link to the photo album I posted on Facebook.  I'll have a montage coming over the next week or so, so keep your eyes open for that.  Cheers!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Returning home

"Well, yes, ma'am, I do... I mean, I got everything I need right here with me. I got air in my lungs, a few blank sheets of paper. I mean, I love waking up in the morning not knowing what's gonna happen or, who I'm gonna meet, where I'm gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you... to make each day count." 
- Jack Dawson, Titanic



My last two days on the AT were not my favorite days of this journey.

In fact, the last week was downright miserable and mentally draining.  I found myself in another Shenandoah-esque situation of being trapped in knee deep snow moving in exhausting slow motion.  The week previous I had traveled about 100 miles in six days, whereas, now I had spent six days and traveled 18 miles.

For the first time I was realizing that I was running out of time, money, and motivation.  My health and sanity were also becoming increasing concerns... frostbite being at the forefront of my mind.  Was it worth continuing this journey with health and safety being at risk?  Disappointed (and I mean, highly disappointed and disheartened), I was seriously starting to think that getting off trail was a wiser decision.  And after a demanding last day of hiking to the next road, I stuck out my thumb and hitched a ride back to Waynesboro.

It was not the original plan, but life often veers away from "original plans," and for better or worse, you take a deep breath and try to keep moving forward.  As I sat in Waynesboro weighing my options for returning to Atlanta, I tried to look on the bright side of the situation.  It wasn't the end of the world.  I had hiked over 1,000 miles across eight states from Quebec to Virginia, and the Trail wasn't going anywhere.  I have thru-hiked the AT once before, and even though this was intended to be a thru-hike, there's no shame in a section hike.  I will pick up where I left off next time with renewed vigor, more time, and a slightly more padded bank account.

Plus, now I will have some extra time to spend with my family before heading back to Colorado.  My sister's getting married at the end of March, and my brother is graduating from college in the beginning of May.  It will be great to really celebrate these events rather than flying/driving in at the last minute to make a ceremony.  Everything was going to be OK.

Now I needed to figure out a way to get from Waynesboro to Atlanta.  This is when my buddy, Zach, an old friend of mine, came to the rescue.  Zach and I were in the same kindergarten class and had gone through school together until college.  He currently lives in Roanoke and was incredibly heading to Atlanta for a few days.  I couldn't believe it when he offered to give me a ride in exchange for watching their new puppy for a day.  Um, heck yes.

I wanted to surprise my mom and dad with my homecoming since they were not expecting to see me until the end of March for my sister's wedding. I didn't get home until late in the night after everyone had gone to sleep, so I slept in my dad's van and woke early the next morning to surprise him on his way out.  The reaction was exactly what I was hoping for...



And so now, I'm home.  My Quebec to Georgia thru-hike was cut in half, but I will always have more white blazes to look forward to in the future.  Life continues on.  One day, one step at a time.  The journey never really ends, anyways.






The Starbucks crew gave me a free drink when they heard about my hike.

The magical star watching over Roanoke.

Finley, the puppy!

Drinking a beer in my parents' kitchen while they have no idea I'm home.

Bro and Sis!  And Abbey.

Fireside chat.