Paragliding & Camping – Salt Lake City, Utah

Paragliding & Camping – Salt Lake City, Utah

It was a 2.5 day drive to Salt Lake City Utah, long but totally worth it. I arrived at Point of the Mountain. This place is one of America’s best flying sites due to the consistent weather patterns every day. It is an awesome place to get your license.
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There are 2 flying sites at this location. South and North side. The South side is flown in the mornings because the wind blows just right every morning. All of us bums camp out on the South side right behind the ridge.
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View of South Side from the bottom.
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My setup: tent, portable stove, food in the trunk… living like a king!

The South side is an awesome ridge to fly but can get VERY crowded quickly, especially on the weekends. I’ve personally witnessed 32 gliders on the ridge one morning! That does pose a huge risk for mid air collisions. Usually I do not fly until the traffic eases up because of a couple close calls I had.

Now, on to the North Side. This place is flyable in the late afternoons almost every day. It has 2 ridges. One small one below and a large 1000 ft ridge behind that stretches for 1 mile. We fly along the small one first, catch a good updraft or thermal and “bench up” to the higher ridge. The views are amazing and the air is usually very calm with amazing Glass Off effects (highly smooth and buoyant air). There are sometimes 50 paragliders out there with plenty of room on the ridge for everyone.
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Here is a pic of the North Side with the small ridge in front.
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I like this pic. It reminds me of the story of Icarus when he flew too close to the sun.
Here is a video clip of the North Side at the end of the day: North Side

There was a day when a crazy high pressure system moved into the area bringing about insane gusts of 60 mph, dust and rain. I was on the North Side when I saw the thunderstorm moving in. Everyone got down  down from the air quickly. I jumped into my car and drove to my camp site ASAP.

067That is all dust, not fog or rain .

I arrived at my tent site in the nick of time. My next step was to jump into the tent. Brace my body against the wall, and hope my tent didn’t collapse under the 60 mph gusts.
Here is a short video. The quality is horrible because I was trying to brace my body and arms against the windward side but you get the point: Crazy weather!

The next day was a no go for flying. The weather was all out of wack. This is what the North Side looks like when the wind is blowing from the wrong side. Not a soul to be seen.
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Now, time for a reality check. It may seem that I fly out there all day long but that is not the case. I fly only in the mornings and evenings with the middle part of the day too turbulent to fly safely. It gets well above 90 degrees  causing the air to boil with intense thermals. I was foolish to fly in the afternoon once and let me tell you, I did a lot of praying for a safe descent when my glider was tossed around like a rag in turbulent air. Scary experience! So, a large part of the day is spent relaxing and trying to keep boredom at bay. That means a lot of reading, watching paragliding videos to improve techniques, and occasionally going out on short adventures. Mountain biking and exploring the surrounding Utah landscape is a great way of killing time.

Local paragliders suggested I check out Timpanogos Caves.
Its a short drive and only $8. The 1.5 mile hike is on a paved path and has great views.

Now the other place you absolutely have to visit is 1 hour outside of Salt Lake City. This place is truly a gem in the wilderness: Fifth Water Hotsprings.

The next 5 pics are from google images:
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Yes, the water is really that blue as you see in the pics. There are many man made hot tubs in a quarter mile section with several waterfalls in between these hot tub areas. Simply beautiful location! 2.5 mile hike in on a smooth trail.
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The pic with the dog is the best location. It is the last set of hot tubs up the stream. The stream in this location is ice cold and is perfect for cooling off after a nice warm soak. I had no issues being out here in late summer, but of course would have preferred the middle of winter for the optimal experience.

As for camping locations, don’t pay $21 for a camping spot. Simply drive past the parking area and the next 4 miles are packed with road side camping spots next to a stream.
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Well, that’s about it for now. More to come in the near future.

Total Solar Eclipse – Taylors, SC

Total Solar Eclipse – Taylors, SC

South Carolina got a rare treat, a solar eclipse passed right through the state with the very center of it, path of totality, going through our town. Last time an eclipse happened in America was 30+ years ago. A bunch of us gathered at Nina’s place to witness this rare event.

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Everyone had on a pair of Solar glasses to enjoy the view. Our necks got tired after looking up so long so someone got a brilliant idea, blankets! I think credit goes to Sveta.
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Sharing blankets?! Dima, aka Dmetry, aka Danger Dima, would have none of it. He required his own personal snuggie!
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The eclipse turned out to be an amazing experience. The 90 degree weather dropped down at least 20 degrees. Everything became dimmer and all the clouds disappeared due to lack of thermal activity from the drop in temp. As it became darker the crickets came out and then total darkness came in abruptly.
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It looked exactly like the classic pics from online but much more powerful.
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Even Olive wanted in on the action
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Another amazing feature of the eclipse was that you could see stars around the sun. Stars! In the middle of the day! Simply amazing. I’m grateful to have experienced such an event.

Family Beach Trip – Hilton Head Island, SC

Family Beach Trip – Hilton Head Island, SC

As the weekend approached, I came across a dilemma. I had a strong desire to go kayaking at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte but my whole family was going to the beach at Hilton Head. What to do… a high intensity weekend battling the waves or a chance to get eaten by sharks. I contacted my younger brother Surge for council and he set me straight. Family comes first so Hilton Head it was. I hitched a ride with Nina and Jason Thursday evening.

The house near the beach was a little crowded with all of us but we made due.
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My one and only nephew, Viktor. Age: somewhere between 1-3 years old. Cool kid.

The beach was surprisingly fun. I’m not much into laying and sunbathing. Luckily Surge brought along a game  called Spikeball. A variation of volleyball for 4 players. Way harder than volleyball because the ball is so small. Loads of fun once you get the hang of it.
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I didn’t swim much in the ocean because of one word, SHARKS!
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I always tell people that swimming in the ocean gives you zero chance against spotting this guys. They are always ready to gobble up unsuspecting swimmers. People are always asking “why do you scuba dive then?” Scuba diving is totally different because I have a chance of spotting them coming. All I have to due is flex my biceps and they will flee in fear, or so I hope…

I’m glad I came along to the beach. It was very refreshing being with family.
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By far the saddest sand castle I’ve ever seen.
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Surge the geologist tried to build a tunnel underneath it only to have the whole thing collapse. If his failed sand tunnel is an indicator of his abilities, then I will avoid any legitimate bridges and tunnels that he works on in the future.

However, Surge redeemed himself in my eyes with this epic wheelie on a beach cruiser of all things
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Construction (AKA not exactly vaca)

Construction (AKA not exactly vaca)

This next week was spent primarily helping out at the house that my Dad and brother purchased. They flip homes on the side for some quick cash. My brother Al, aka Alex, Lex, Lyoshka, Lex the Defender, El Tigre… was not there that week due to Realtor License classes. That left my Dad and myself to work on this project.

Honestly it felt really good working with my hands again. Construction is a low paying job overall compared to the health field but is very rewarding when you see steady progress as a result of your own efforts.

Epic 29 Mile Hike & Epic S’mores – Foothills Trail

Epic 29 Mile Hike & Epic S’mores – Foothills Trail

Gene Chong, aka Jenka, aka Mr. Calves, had an epic adventure in mind. A 29 mile hike on the very last stretch of the Foothills Trail. I couldn’t pass up on the offer so I got all my gear and we took off to Oconee State Park Friday afternoon with him.  First of all, let me tell you a little about Jenka. This guy is willing to try anything at least once. Rock climbing, camping, epic hiking marathons through the forest… I like that about hime. All you have to do is invite him and he will show up. Not only will he show up, he will always bring fantastic food. There have been many great stories among my friends in regards to the stuff he shows up with. This time was no different. Awesome burgers and smores.

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That friday was spent confirming our start location followed by hanging out at the campground in Oconee State Park.

20170811_192236I forgot the spatula but that was OK, the Kukri Blade worked just fine.

That night was a rough one for me. First of all my headlamp broke. Granted it was the same one from years ago that I used on the A.T. and it was only a matter of time. Luckily I had a spare. Then when we went to bed, my air pad deflated. It developed a hole in one of the creases and died on me just as I was dozing off.  It was also the same air pad I used on the A.T.   It’s as if all my gear is giving up on me and straight up quiting. Gene said he heard it go flat in his tent next door. I’m sure that put a smile on his face when he went to sleep. That night was also extremely hot. I was laying in my boxers sweating while rocks dug into my back. Gene reported the same heat issue.

Anyways, we woke up around 2 am, packed up our gear and ate on the drive there. We were on the trail at 4 am. The weather was cool and perfect for hiking. Only one issue came up, giant spider webs that stretched across the trail. They were everywhere!

I messed up on the pics because the leaves are blocking the giant spider sitting there on its web. But you get the idea.
I got voluntold to lead the way and clear us a path. It sucked! They were easy enough to see at night when the headlight reflected off the web but once dawn arrived, the spider webs were very hard to notice.
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The initial designated spider assault stick.
There was a funny moment when I was walking in front with the stick in my hand to clear out the spider webs. We were walking fast when all the sudden I came across a spider web with the spider directly in front of my face! I was walking fast enough to where I couldn’t stop in time and ended up doing a variation of the matrix move to stop from running into it.
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If there had been a Limbo Competition at the moment, I would have won gold. Jenka was right behind me and thought I was falling backwards so he did what any friend would do. He grabbed me by my shoulders and starting pushing me up and forward!!! I was pushing back with my heels against him but he was so strong! I ended up yelling something non coherent and by some miracle he stopped pushing with the spider literally 1 inch in front of my nose! Jenka almost killed me.

20170812_081735 - CopyWe ended up upgrading the stick to one with a larger area of effect.

The first 20 miles were manageable. We were telling each other stories, laughing and having a great time. However, the last 9 miles were brutal. Chaffing, slightly swollen feet, and pain from the waist down. It was mainly our fast pace. We ended up finishing at 3 pm with an average pace of 2.6 mph with very few short stops along the way. The feeling of our accomplishment was hard to describe. There is something special when you suffer and persevere with your friend next to you. It made it that much more awesome when a thunderstorm hit us after we got into the car. It would have sucked being in rain on top of it all.

We ended up driving back and stopping at Farmhouse Tacos in Travelers Rest. The food was amazing, especially since we were really hungry. Then we drove to Michael’s home, a friend of Gene. We showered up at his place and played board games late into the night with Michael and his brother. That was one awesome weekend!

Rock Climbing & White Water Kayaking – West Virginia

Rock Climbing & White Water Kayaking – West Virginia

As many of you many already know, I work as a traveling Physical Therapist Assistant. I talked to many Physical Therapists who traveled and they all gave me the same advice: do it while you are single. So I took their advice and have been working as a contractor the past 1.5 years. This is a job that allows me to work in different states for an average of 3 months and then take extended vacations. Everyone always asks me the same question, “What do you do on your 2-3 month vacations?” Well my friends, I have decided to let you in on my whereabouts.

My last day of work was on Friday July 28 in Aiken, SC. I drove up to Greenville, SC friday evening, packed up a bunch of stuff and took off the following morning with Ben, Anna, and Bomber (their dog). They invited me for a week of rock climbing and white water kayaking in West Virginia. This was going to be awesome!

 

Our first destination was Seneca Rocks. This place is absolutely amazing! It’s shaped kind of like a thin knife sticking out of the ground, wide but very narrow. Spectacular climbs, awesome exposure with sheer drop offs on both sides, and easy ratings in many areas make this place an absolute must for noobs like me who want to get better at climbing.

 

These 2 pics above are borrowed from google images.

 

Seneca Rocks requires roughly a 2 mile hike to get to the wall from the campsite. As you can see, the campsite is well maintained and a great place to camp. Oh, for one exception. There are 2 local skunks that call the campground home. Get this, one night Anna let Bomber out to use the bathroom and what does the guy do? Yep, ran straight for the skunk and got sprayed. I was out cold and did not hear the commotion of Ben getting up at night and cleaning Bomber up. Ben somehow managed to find an open store in the rural mountains of West Virginia at night. That in itself is a feat of its own. He managed to get the necessary stuff to clean  Bomber to the point of zero skunk smell. I forgot what he used, something along the lines of unicorns and fairy dust… you’ll have to ask him for details because Anna swears that Bomber has NEVER smelled so good since the day they got him. After that fiasco, we took off climbing.  Let me tell you, Ben barely slept because of Bomber, and yet the next day led several pitches of the route like it was no big deal. The former mountaineering guide at his best!

 

Anna did amazing! Many of you may not be aware but she is 3 months pregnant and rocking it out there on the routes. Of course Ben chose only the safest routes for her but she still crushed. There was a funny moment when we were racking up and Anna struck up a conversation with a group of other climbers. They found out she was pregnant and were like, “That’s awesome! Last time we were here there was another pregnant rock climber. I think she was like 8 months pregnant or something…” Anna was like, “Well then. I just got trumped.” That mysterious lady stole Anna’s thunder.

We climbed many other routes the next couple days and each day became easier to conquer my fear of lead climbing. I have  not done serious climbing in like forever and performed like a total noob as a result. However, Seneca Rocks is forgiving and shows leniency. One of my favorite climbs was Gunsight to South Direct 5.4.  The climb was easy but the views and exposure were amazing!!! The next few pics are borrowed from Mountainproject.com since I broke my cell phone, again.

 

 

The other close contender for an awesome climb was Pleasant Overhangs. I don’t know how in the world it’s rated as a 5.7. It’s the scariest 5.7 that I ever climbed. I’m going to be honest, if it wasn’t for Ben leading it, I would have pumped out mid way, said my prayers, and fallen to my doom. Some more pics from MountainProject.

 

Overall Seneca Rocks was an awesome learning experience. Despite me making some mistakes and climbing like a little girl at times, no one got hurt and I had a blast! I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

We had to take a transition day to Cheat River. Along the way we stopped by Seneca Caverns. Really neat place and a chilly 54 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t know what that is in Celcius and that’s ok cuz i live in ‘MERICA!!! Established 1776.

 

 

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Anyways, here are some pics of the cave.

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Caverns.jpgBoth pics above are from Flicker and whereverimayroamblog.com respectively.

 

I can’t stop laughing at this one of me. I don’t know what it is but I look like a such a dork!

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We eventually made it to our campsite called Cheat Canyon Campground. Seneca Rocks spoiled us because this place was overgrown and had poison ivy everywhere. But we didn’t complain much, $5 a night was a really good deal.

 

We had a good team when it came to food. Everyone contributed and we ate like kings!

ben boatBen said he was fixing the boat but I think he forgot how to correctly climb into the kayak.

Anna and Ben trained all summer at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte NC in preparation for this vacation. One word to describe them: Pros! They crushed the class 3’s. See pics below.

 

Then it was my turn with Ben leading the way, sort of.
Ben is like, “Follow my Lead!”
Me “OK!”
Then I overtake Ben accidently and… fail.
Here is a short youtube video: Class 3+ Fail

 

I rolled so many times on that river in the beginning. I had to pull the skirt like 3x but it was so much fun when I finally got the hang of navigating the rapids at the very end.

We had a transition day and drove all the way back to Spartanburg, SC to drop off Bomber in order to go kayaking on the Chattooga River.
Some pics along the way:
IMG_2765This one brought back lots of great memories. We drove by many small towns in Virginia where I resupplied during the A.T. hike.

 

Ben tried to get Bomber in on the picture action but he was having none of it!

 

The following day we went to an outfitter on the Chattooga River and rented a “rubber duckie” for Anna and myself. It’s a 2 person rubber kayak. Let me tell you, if you’ve never white water kayaked, rent one of those. SUPER easy to navigate through class 3 rapids.
We came across a little waterfall and decided to play around.
Ben went first:

 

Then me:

 

We eventually made it to the very last rapid, Bull Sluice. A class 4 monster that took me over it’s knee and repeatedly spanked me. I only conquered it once out of like 5 tries.
Here is Ben one pic at a time:
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IMG_2808IMG_2810IMG_2811That pic is SOOO Epic! You can only see his helmet!
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If you hang in there, it eventually spits you out no problem.
Here is a short video of him: Ben on the Bull
And last but not least, me 🙂
Nothing but epic fails haha!
I’ll just post only one video clip cuz they are very painful to watch: Bull Sluice Fail

That wraps up my first week of vacation. Huge thanks to Ben and Anna for inviting me.

What the AT is all about…

I want to talk about the AT a little bit and what I learned from it. As you know now, hiking the AT gives one lots of time to think about many deep questions. One of which has been; Why is the AT so significant to so many people? The AT changes those who complete the long journey in many different ways.

While talking to other hikers, I have noticed a common thread of conversation emerge. In the beginning of the hike, everyone talked about food and gear. Everyday, all day long, those were the most common topics. It was fascinating to see how people were equipping themselves for the long journey ahead. The creative meals were also fun to talk about. However, these topics are rarely brought up as of now. Everyone is content with their choice of gear that they are carrying. As for food, there is really no more way of spicing things up. We eat anything and everything and that’s all there is to it.

The new common thread of conversation that I have noticed emerge the last couple months is, People. We are always talking about funny stories revolving around hikers. All of us look forward to every morning and every evening because that is when we get a chance to hang out and spend time with each other while cooking and eating. Those moments of conversation when hanging out at the campsites mean the world to us. There is a sense of camaraderie and genuine interest in sharing each other’s company. I see it as a unique sub-culture/community. What is interesting is that people of all ages and from all walks of life can simply sit down and share a few laughs. Age, gender, financial status means nothing to us. Those are all social barriers that have come down.

Many of us wore masks before coming out on the trail. I’m talking about masks that hid our true selves. We wore those masks in fear of what others may think if they found out what we were truly struggling with. The masks that many of us wore when living our lives outside of the AT tended to hide our struggles, disappointments, and fears. We tend to put forth a front of constant happiness and joy in hopes of being liked. Many of us feared rejection from those around us if we let them know of our present issues. Many of us thought that “If I’m not always happy, then others will think something is really wrong with me.”

On the AT, we learned to take those lousy masks off. We all have rough days whether it’s due to significant foot pain, plowing through miles of rough terrain (mud or rocks), getting all our stuff completely drenched in rain, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, or simply feeling mentally/physically drained. The neat thing about the AT family is that it’s letting other’s know of your current struggles that helps greatly with issues of the day. Keeping it all internalized does you no good. The other hikers totally get what you are going through. However, we do not live and dwell in negativity. That does no one any good. People that are simply open about their joys and struggles have a very unique bond that I like to call “Family”. The family totally gets you and helps bring one out of that state of misery.

The AT family is what makes the Appalachian Trail so special. Initially I thought it was all about nature, but it really is not about the mountains, the views, or the trees. It’s people that make the AT so special. Many hikers have never had a real family at home. They never had a real solid network of friends at home. The AT has given them a taste of this and this is why many of them are dreading Katahdin. They fear the loneliness that awaits them back at home once this adventure is over. They fear the life of false identity that they have created among their peers. They fear putting on that old mask that has been off for so long. I am telling these hikers that it is an excellent opportunity for them to share with the world what it truly means to be happy in life. Happiness is found in living for others. A life surrounded by a genuine group of family and friends is worth living.

But there is much more that can be said about the life lessons that the AT teaches. Everyone learns something different about themselves and others out here. The AT is not a vacation destination. This is a trail that hammers on its victims relentlessly until the end product is better than the initial one.

New snake species discovered! I shall call it: Spidermanium Eduardium

Snakes eat mice so snakes are awesome!

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Coolest mushroom I've seen on the trail

Coolest mushroom I’ve seen on the trail

Sunset at FlagStaff Lake

Sunset at FlagStaff Lake

One of Maine's many ponds

One of Maine’s many ponds

Bigalow Mountain Range

Bigalow Mountain Range

Best wishes, God bless!

Spider

Katahdin

Katahdin

Katahdin


The 100 hundred mile wilderness. Many of those that hear of it become slightly intimidated. It seems to be a place that is distant, vast, wild and dangerous. There is a cloud of mystery that surrounds this section of trail. It is intriguing how much us thru-hikers talked about it as we approached it in the past weeks. This was the final exam for all of us before summiting Katahdin, the last mountain. Hiking through the wilderness we discovered that there was nothing too difficult about it. It consisted of more of the same terrain that we had been hiking on: rocks, tons of roots and plenty of nasty black mud. Us guys hike this distance all the time between resupplies. Go into a town, resupply, hike 80-100 miles and get into the next town. That was basically my life for the past 6 months.

I fondly remember our conversations in the wilderness. It mainly consisted of food. The closer we zeroed in on Katahdin, the more we talked about all the different types of food everyone would eat once finished. I had this image burgers on my mind the last 2 days. BBQ pulled pork burger, cheese burgers with extra cheese… The promise of town food kept driving me onwards towards the finish.

Myself, Bear Juice, Blink

Myself, Bear Juice, Blink

Robin Hood and Cartwheel

Robin Hood and Cartwheel

It happened so that I was hiking with the Kallin Family, Bear Juice and Blink. There was no better company than those folks on my last stretch of trail. Loads of positive energy. Last time I saw the Kallins was several months ago in NJ. They took 2 weeks off and then caught up to me in the wilderness. I know what you are thinking, “The kids took 2 weeks off and still caught up to you?!” Well, my rebuttal is this, “I know, I suck.”

The second to last night I was climbing up the last small mountain: Rainbow ledges where everyone planned to camp. This is a small mountain with a beautiful view of Katahdin in the distance.

Katahdin view from Rainbow Ledges

Katahdin view from Rainbow Ledges


I was totally smoked by the end of the day. 23 mile day and I was rationing food like crazy. I destroyed my 15 lb food bag the first 4 days and so payed the cost on days 5-6. Anyways, when I got to the summit Blink yelled out “Spiderman! Berries! They’re everywhere!!!” Sure enough berries as far as the eye could see. I have never seen these kind of berries before. “What are they?” I asked. Blink: “I have no idea but they taste amazing!” Well, I did what anyone else with common sense would do; drop my backpack, plop down next to a bush and start eating handfuls of these mysteriously delicious berries. A thought did cross my mind, what if they are poisonous? To which I answered, “Who cares! At least I’ll die a happy man.” haha It’s funny what hunger will do to a man.
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After what seemed like ages, Blink and I forced ourselves to stop eating and set up camp. A couple hikers told us later on that those were Huckleberries and totally safe to eat. I have no idea why they are not sold in grocery stores. They taste many times better than blueberries.
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The next day we hiked into Baxter State park. We registered as Thru-hikers and set up camp in an area specifically designated for us hikers. It was so much fun hanging out with everyone on the last night. We built a fire (the first one in months) and sat around sharing funny stories late into the night. It was funny talking about the trail: funny moments, scary ones, embarrassing stories…

After a few hours of sleep everyone was out of camp and hiking up the mountain by 5am. We were told that there was a rainstorm moving in that afternoon so everyone was hustling up the mountain. I kicked it into overdrive because of this:

Incoming rainstorm

Incoming rainstorm


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The rainstorm was moving in on me so I flew up the 5 mile climb in 2 hours 10 min. But, I didn’t make it in time. Freezing cold wind/rain hit me as I got close to the summit. And then I saw it, the legendary sign! The sign was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! I’ve only seen pictures of it and now I finally got a chance to physically touch it!
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People asked if I cried when I saw the sign. Nope. Way too cold to cry. I was completely soaked by freezing rain and was trembling pretty bad from the cold- totally worth it!
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I simply can’t convey my thoughts and feelings very well about my finish on paper. Laughter/happiness/smiles/hugs, all of these things were experienced on Katahdin.

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I am glad I hiked the AT. It has made me a better man physically, mentally and spiritually. This was a walk-about that I needed in order to grow and improve on many different levels. Would I ever do it again? Nope. Once is enough. This endeavor was life changing in a positive way. I’ve recieved much from people and my experiences on the Appalachian Trail and am now ready to give back to others. Many thanks to all those that supported me, sent me letters of encouragement and care packages. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family in my life.

me

Before

Before

After

After (with my little cousin)

Chuck Norris hiked the whole AT without ever taking one step!

Chuck Norris hiked the whole AT without ever taking one step!

August 31 – Head in the Clouds

August 31 – Head in the Clouds

Hello everyone, I’m driving home right now but would like to re-blog the Kallin Family’s summit posting. It was a privilege to have summited with them.

A Family Adventure of the 2,185 mile hike from Georgia to Maine - 2014

We woke up early and hit the trail by five thirty to try to beat the forecasted weather expected to roll in later in the day. Most of the other thru-hikers had a similar approach and were on the trail between five and five-thirty. But even Spider-Man, the fastest of us up the mountain (in about two hours and ten minutes), ended up with his head in the clouds.

View original post 382 more words

Maine-ly Done With the AT

Hey guys this is Sergey reporting in for Spiderman. For those that do not know me, I am his youngest brother and typically go by Surge (yes like the soda from the 1990s). I  have been teaching Spiderman, since the day he was born, the skills necessary to become the man he is today. I was asked by Spiderman to update the blog, do to his inability to gain access to a computer. To get you in the loop, Spiderman is probably alive and doing well. Last we heard of him, he was fighting off an angry pack of gorillas that have been raiding the campsites. And if that wasn’t enough, the gorillas have been placing the occasional banana peel on the trail for an unexpected hiker to slip on.

Spiderman was given a deadline to reach Mount Katahdin by the end of the month. He has less than 200 miles to go so a pace of about 17 miles per day will allow him to complete the journey before then. Spiderman did say that the hiking is getting old and he is looking for alternative methods of completing the trail.

Just a quick hiking lesson, Blazing is a term used by hikers to describe the method they choose to hike along a trail.

  • White blazing is when a hiker travels the trail by foot and follows the white blazes.
  • Yellow blazing is when the hiker takes a ride in a vehicle along the trail.
  • Blue blazing is when a hiker  travels along a river parallel to the trail.
  • Pink blazing is when a guy hikes after a girl (which is apparently pretty common). Most of the time the girl does not know or is trying to get away.
  • Banana Blazing is when a guy or girl pursues another hiker.

Spiderman decided to go moose blazing. He captured a moose, harnessed it up, and is riding it all the way to Katahdin. With this he joins the ranks of the historical elites.

Definitely not photoshopped.

Definitely not photoshopped.

Stay tuned for Spiderman’s update before he conquers Katahdin which has been in his sights from the beginning.

In New Hampshire finally!

Last time I posted, I was just entering Vermont. The beginning of the Vermont trail was absolutely miserable because of the mud.
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There was a sign at the Massachusetts/Vermont border line that said “Entering Vermont Wilderness area. There is little to no trail maintenance in order to allow nature to dominate the area.” I was kind of confused about the “dominance” idea, but it seemed good on paper. However, seeing the trail first hand, I quickly changed my mind. Trail maintenance is VERY important. Without anyone taking care of the trail, the mud got out of hand. No one wants to walk through that thick black goo because its straight up gross. Walking around the edges unfortunately creates more erosion. Leaving the trail unattended creates a huge footprint that is not good for nature or those of us walking the trail.
The good thing is that this wilderness area only lasted for about 50 miles. After that, the trail went through different areas belonging to local hiking clubs. These guys did an excellent job keeping the trail clean. Vermont is simply beautiful! Loads of excellent views and lots of pine groves.
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I really enjoyed Vermont because of all the hikers that I came across. The coolest thing on the trail is when you are walking along and then stumble across someone that you haven’t seen in many months.

Red and Canadia

Red and Canadia

This is a pic I took couple weeks ago. Last time I saw Canadia was on that super cold night in the Smokies (when the T-Rex was chasing me). It’s hard to describe the excitement that one gets after seeing a familiar face from ages ago.

Grasshopper, Runnaway, Money Maker and me

Grasshopper, Runnaway, Money Maker, and me

Last time I saw Grasshopper and her husband Runnaway was in Virginia! We got reunited in Vermont. Grasshopper loves telling everyone a particular story about me. One day in Virginia, Runnaway and I were hiking together with Grasshopper right behind us. We were hiking and chit-chatting about casual topics like Cold Fusion, world peace, and quantum physics. Then, after a while I told Runnaway that it was great hiking and talking with him. “I’m going to take off now, see you down the trail!” And I did just that, put my legs into overdrive and powered up the mountain. Grasshopper started laughing and told her man, “I too want to take off, but my legs are stuck in first gear!”
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One cool thing about Vermont is wild raspberries everywhere! It is so hard to force myself to keep hiking past these huge patches of berries. I could sit there all day and eat them by the handfuls but that wouldn’t get me any closer to Katahdin.
Last week, I was right outside of a town and was completely out of food. I decided to dig one last time through my food bag and found this:
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a half eaten snickers at the bottom of my food bag… WIN!!! It’s totally the small things out here that make the difference between a great day and a rough one.

Blink, Tony, Money Maker

Blink, Tony, Money Maker

Right now, I am hanging out at Tony’s home waiting for my care package to come in. It should be in tomorrow. But guess what, Tony used to be the group publisher for Climbing Magazine! Crazy awesome! Locals in Hanover, NH are super nice and take in hikers all the time. They love listening to our stories and simply enjoy meeting people from all walks of life.

Most current selfie

Most current selfie

The White Mountains are only 50 miles away. Stay tuned for loads of epic views.
Spider

3 more states to go!!!

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Vermont! Wohoo!!! I can’t believe that there is only 3 states left. Roughly 500 miles of the greatest terrain up ahead. This adventure is nearing it’s end slowly and I’m excited about closing this chapter in my life and opening up a new one after this. Right now I’m hanging out at Green Mountain House Hostel in Manchester, VT. This is by far the best hostel I’ve ever been to. The atmosphere here is very relaxed and positive. It has been rated #1 every year since it’s opening in 2008.

Green Mountain House Hostel

Green Mountain House Hostel

MA/CT border
Connecticut was easy and fun. Then I got to Massachusetts. This is definitely one of the more memorable states I’ve been too. As soon as we crossed into Mass, the terrain automatically changed within a mile. I’m talking about coniferous forest. The smell of wonderful pine is everywhere! There is nothing like walking all day long through amazing pine forests.
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Massachusetts  Ridgeline

Massachusetts Ridgeline

After a couple days in Mass things turned for the worse. You remember when I was complaining about mosquitoes in NY? Well this was 10 times worse. No joke. They destroyed me. I will never forget a section of trail near the town of Great Barrington. They were so bad there that I had to speed walk/run through many swampy sections for hours with no breaks! At one point I glanced over my shoulder and saw this huge cloud of mosquitoes chasing me down the trail like zombies or something. It was crazy! The locals told me it was the worst mosquito year they ever had. Every time I stopped to eat or filter water, body armor was required.

Body armor: Pants, rain coat, head net, and bug spray

Body armor: Pants, rain coat, head net, and bug spray

I honestly thought those bugs would drive me insane. When hiking through the previous state of Connecticut, I averaged 10 mosquito bites a day. This number tripled in Massachusetts. But the good thing about those horrible bugs was they kept me moving quickly through the state.

Mass is full of these huge lakes but for some reason they call them ponds. Their definition of ponds is definitely skewed. My rules are simple. If you can wakeboard in it, its a lake.

Knee-Deep Pond

Knee-Deep Pond

I eventually made it to Dalton, Mass and had and amazing time hanging out with Tom Levardi and other hikers. Tom has been there since the very beginning. He provided me and Politician with a place to sleep in his house, showers, breakfast and dinner… simply an awesome trail angel.

Tom Levardi

Tom Levardi

Politician

Politician


When at Tom’s house, 2 hikers came by with stories about stalkers. Yep, you heard right, stalkers. There is a guy from Scotland, Dean, that somehow ran into a girl named Joy at a restaurant. She fell in love with him immediately and became obsessed with Dean. The guy got scared and ran away down the trail. She tried to get in contact with him by posting these index cards everywhere. I’m talking about cards in shelters, on trees, on logs, everywhere… over a 50 mile section of AT.
Stalker
He got a restraining order on her lol!

Then Mr. Blisters showed up and told us of how he tried to run away from a hiker who got to attached to him. Blisters is a South Bounder (SOBO). A guy named Zeek hiking with him SOBO. At first all things were well until Zeek started using Blister’s stove and wearing his crocs around camp. Blisters tried telling him that it was weird and stuff but Zeek doesn’t get basic social ques. Blisters hiked a 32 mile day through the Whites and Zeek kept up!!! Blisters even snuck out of camp one morning at 2 am and hiked a 40 mile day. He lost Zeek for 3 days but the guy caught up and ridiculed Blister for abandoning him! haha! Mr. Blisters was like “Dude, your a full grown man. I didn’t abandon you! I tried to ditch you because you are driving me crazy!” But the guy didn’t seem to care and hiked with Blisters for another week until a miracle happened; Zeek got diarrhea that lasted one week. Blisters is now free of his ball and chain! haha too funny!!!

Some hikers are too unsecure about themselves and their surroundings. When they find a strong hiker who is confident, they tend to get attached for security.

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Largest oak tree on east coast

Largest oak tree on east coast

Vermont is a muddy mess but that is not too much of an issue. The temps are way cooler and I only got bit by 2 mosquitoes in 4 days. That’s unbelievable! I’m really enjoying the hike and am super stoked about the White Mountains coming up.

You guys will be the first to know if there are anymore weird stalkers on the trail. Have no fear, they don’t stalk me because the beard is too intimidating. True story.

Spidy

Still in Connecticut…

me face

You may be wondering why I’m still in this state when I should be in Massachusetts by now. Have no fear, there is a perfectly good explanation for that. But before I give my excuses, let me tell you about New York.
For some reason the people of New York decided to build the trail next to swamps. As you may well know, swamps are a place where all kinds of horrible critters live. I’m talking about man-eating turtles, poisonous butterflies, flying snakes, Sasquatch, and terrifying blood sucking mosquitoes.

NY Swamps

NY Swamps


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The mosquitoes drove me crazy in NY. I don’t know how my friend Sara Rockclimbing(that’s her last name in my cell) does it. These guys bite me everywhere. They always get me through my shirt too. Any place that my shirt is tight across my body is always vulnerable: shoulder region, my back when the pack is off, and my rock hard six pack. NY really tested my sanity but luckily I survived.
Nearing the end of NY I came across Stick-Man. He hiked the trail couple years ago. It was fun hanging out with him and enjoying his stories, words of wisdom, and trail advice. He, like many other former thru hikers, had the same general advice: slow down and enjoy the journey. It’s the journey, not the destination that matters.
Stick-Man had a funny bear encounter during his hike. One morning he had to use the bathroom and there were no privies in the area so he did what we all do, go in the woods. He was squatting under a tree and doing his business when he randomly looked up above him. There, in the tree, was a bear looking down at him! HAHA! Seriously, true story. His first thought was, “Get the camera!” So he pulled up his pants, ran got the camera and took a sweet pic of a bear still hanging out in the tree. Too funny!

The Lemon Squeeze

The Lemon Squeeze


Even though NY was full of harrowing dangers, it had some sweet terrain that we had to get through.

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The sign at the border was nothing glamorous so only Chuck got in on this one.

So… back to my excuse regarding Connecticut. I am blaming my longer than planned stay in CT on Michelle.

The perpetrator for all my fun: Michelle

The perpetrator for all my fun: Michelle

I was walking from Kent towards the trail head when she pulled up and offered to give me a ride. While talking to her I found out she was going bouldering with her friend Tara aka (Star). Of course I simply had to invite myself on the fun and those two were more than welcoming. We had loads of fun on the rocks.

Star

Star

bouldering

After all that climbing we got hungry so it was off to Star’s house. She is a chef and served us up some delicious pasta and fried chicken.

Right now I am 7 miles outside of Massachusetts and will be there in a couple hours. CT was loads of fun and it will be dearly missed. Here are some more random pics I took:

Hopscotch!

Hopscotch!

A legit privy

A legit privy

Me slowly roasting in 90+ degree temps (NY)

Me slowly roasting in 90+ degree temps (NY)

Umm, as for the care packages and where to send them, I don’t even know! Call El Tigre. I’ll put all that responsibility on him. He can handle it, that’s why they call him…

I miss everyone at home and hope to be back sooner than later.
Spider Man

Happy 4 of July!

The one day that I finally make it into town happens to be a holiday. That’s bad news because post office is closed and so is the library. I am unable to upload cool pics from my gopro untill i get a computer so be patient my friends. Pics of danger, suspense and adventure are yet to come. Until then I will leave you with a small update from my new/old iPhone 3. Oh, before I forget to my family and friends, pls send me a text with ur name. I lost everyones contact info with other cell.
I’m currently in Kent, Connecticut repacking all the goodies my friends sent me. I should be in Massachusets in a couple days- super excited about that. As for New York, glad to be moving on. NY was exciting, miserable, super, hot/humid, easy, ferocious mosquitos, swamps everywhere… I think you got the point. Did you know that there is a hurrican in the Atlantic called Andrew? I just found out about the guy last night while cowering in my tent during a crazy lightning storm. Anyways, all is well. I think there’s a town coming up in a few days with a library so stay tuned my friends for pics and… another Bear story (insert suspense).
Spidy

New Jersey

New Jersey is a breath of fresh air to put it simply. This is a land of rolling hills, smooth trails, birds chirping, sun is always shining, loads of deer and bears- simply paradise! Every hiker that has made it through PA is so excited and pumped about the awesome terrain.
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However, PA did leave its marks on me before I was done. My feet became swollen because of the terrain. This has never happened before on the trail. Swollen feet forced me to take an unexpected zero. As if chubby feet were not enough, my heel cracked in several spots. It was quite painful to walk on it but I super glued it together, took another zero and continued trekking.
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PA really put me behind schedule. But the worst thing that happened to me was “The Gatorade Incident”. Somehow my Gatorade bottle soaked my cell phone. Yep, the cell is now dead so I can’t return your calls and texts. However, Mike another hiker, had it worse. We had an unusually cold night no he boiled water and put it into his Gatorade bottle. This works great when you put it into your sleeping bag. Mike did just this and crawled into bed. Then he heard a “pop!”. The cap came off and hot water started pouring out. He grabbed the bottle and tried to throw it out the tent but he forgot the mesh door was closed! The bottle bounced back at him and soaked everything else! Hahaha! Gatorade bottles are the worst.
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I came across this lovely family the other day. They asked to be put on my blog so I of course I couldn’t refuse. Fun group of people.

Tent Maker and First A

Tent Maker and First A


The Koreans were such a pleasant surprise when I came across them. Last time I saw them was in the Smokies on that 0* night with the T-Rex dream. Seeing hikers from a long time ago is like seeing family for the first time in ages.

The Kallin Family

The Kallin Family


The past few days I have hiking with The Kallins. Super awesome trail family. They started hiking on March 30th. The kids are great! Cartwheel is a 8 year old lady who is a bundle of energy. Robin Hood is her brother who is a sharp kid who has the greatest memory I have ever seen. He recited to me a 12 stanza poem with no hickups! They have a blog too that you can read: http://kallinfamily.com/
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This pic is a little blurry but after studying the bear tracks carefully I have been able to determine the following facts: Its approximately 1 year and 3 months old male that is 268lbs. Looking at the tracks it is clear that he is a very happy bear but is slightly bloated from the last meal.
I have a bear story that I simply must share with you guys! But, Mom if you are reading this, simply skip ahead to the next pic. (She is terrified of bears). Martial Arts was hiking in the Shenandoah’s when he saw a large pile of bear poo on the trail. He was thinking to himself that there must be a large bear somewhere nearby. As soon as he walked past a large tree he stopped and glanced to his side. Sitting there within arms reach was a huge bear starring him into his eyes!!! Martial Arts simply froze with indecision. He didn’t know whether to move forwards or backwards. He stood there for a couple seconds and blinked. The bear blinked back. And then he had a moment of clarity and decided to continue forward. He was so scared walking away that he never even looked back to see what the bear was doing! haha!

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This is a rock garden. For some reason we have this weird obsession in building rock towers. Seriously, it’s awesome! I’ve built and added onto many rock towers.

turtle
I spotted this guy hiding in his shell so I put the GoPro in front of him and waited for him to come out. So I waited…and waited… and waited… he FINALLY came out and walked off 18 minutes later! The lesson learned: Turtles are in no rush to go anywhere.

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Huge thanks to my friends back at home that sent my the last care package! The candy was great and the card was super cool. I almost shed a tear when reading the card but that wouldn’t have been very manly…

Right now I am in Vernon, NJ. Awesome locals! I hitched a ride immediately into town with no problem. Then a lady, Andrea, gave me a ride to the hostel and even offered me her couch if the hostel was really bad. That was extremely thoughtful but the Church Hostel here is excellent so I declined her offer. This town has surprised me with their hospitality.

I am looking forward to NY and what it has to offer. As of right now I am only 10 miles from the NJ/NY border. PA messed me up a little and really slowed me down but I’m hoping to make up those lost miles quickly.

Take care everyone and God Bless.

Pennsylvania

It’s been a while since my last blog post so I’ll try to catch everyone up on what happened. Lets see… after posting previous blog post in Harpers Ferry I found out that my care package was still not in. It would only come in the next day in the evening. With that in mind I had to make a decision, stay in town all day and do nothing or go to D.C. I found out that Matterhorn and Fritz were going too so I joined in. There is a local train that took us straight into D.C. for $11.
DC1
Boy did we stand out! It’s funny seeing people giving us double-takes all the time. Everyone was giving us these confused looks because they have no idea how to categorize us. Usually you can look at a person and see that they are a local business man, tourist or something. We just didn’t fit in with the D.C crowds. Scruffy, beards, large backpacks…
It’s funny that I thought D.C. would be a nice time to rest up. It was the exact opposite. We spent all day walking around exploring museums. I think I did more walking there than on the AT! My favorite museum was the Air and Space.
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This place is HUGE! There are rockets, space capsules, nuclear missiles from cold war, airplanes and much much more. I could spend a whole week in that one museum alone. Definitely best museum in the world in my opinion.
We also went to American History Museum. Honestly this place should simply be called ‘The War Museum’. They had every kind of weaponry throughout the era and helicopters inside there.
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The Natural Science Museum was super cool. Loads of animals from all over the world. I wish I could stay there several days and read all the info plaque about the critters.
D.C was very neat in the sense that all the museums and monuments are free to visit. There is so much awesome history in this place. But boy was I glad to be out of the city the next day. Talk about sensory overload! Cars honking, engines roaring, people yelling. Everything is so loud and fast moving. You might laugh but us hikers have become sensitive creatures of the forest where everything moves at a slow quiet walking speed.

I eventually got my care package and took off down the trail. Maryland was really neat. The trail is very well maintained and is flat and easy to walk on for the most part. On my first day in Maryland I came across Dave. He is a local that was walking to Annapolis Cliffs. After talking to him for a bit he invited me to go climbing with him. I was totally stoked! We climbed some of the best routes Maryland has to offer.
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Spidy in his element!
The next day I was moving along the trail when I ran into a couple of guys climbing some smaller cliffs. I couldn’t believe my luck when they invited me to climb with them. 2 days in a row!
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I didn’t get too much hiking done but it was totally worth it!

The AT Museum is between Harpers Ferry and Boiling Springs PA.

AT Museum

AT Museum


This is a small place that holds loads of info on the first Thru-hikers to ever finish the trail. These guys averaged 70 lb packs!!! The average base weight out here with food and water is 30 lbs. The most memorable hiker was Bill Irwin.
Museum 2
He wrote a book, Blind Courage, this is on my list of must read books now. This man is a true hero for accomplishing such a daunting task while blind.
Official half-way marker

Official half-way marker


ATC at Boiling Springs PA

ATC at Boiling Springs PA


I eventually got to Boiling Springs. It just happened that I was there in time for a giant festival “Founder’s Day” in this little village. Kelly runs the ATC and asked if I could stick around for half day and talk to the locals. She was hoping I could educate them about the AT and enlighten them in a way. I was like “sure!” So that’s exactly what I did. Boy did I feel like a celebrity! Everyone usually had the same response: “You hiked from Georgia?! And you are going to Maine?!! WOW!”. Hahah! I was like a Trail-ebrity if you will. I’m not used to such attention but I could get used to it!
Kelly in the Turtle Suit with Crocs and I

Kelly in the Turtle Suit with Crocs and I

I kept trekking on and got to the Doyle Hotel. It’s a hiker tradition to stay at this place.

Doyle Hotel

Doyle Hotel


Do you remember those old western movies where the cowboys walk into the bar/casino? Well, that’s exactly the same vib I got from this place. It’s an old western style hotel inside and out. The quality was not great by any means but I couldn’t complain.
Trillium and Rogue

Trillium and Rogue


I split the room rate with Trillium and Rogue. Rogue has the coolest stache. It’s naturally half white- thus his trail name. They have a blog that you can follow also:
http://www.theadventuresofscottandjoanna.wordpress.com

Everything was great until I reached the dreaded second half of PA. I’ve heard rumors of this treacherous stretch of trail and they all ended up being true!

Boulder fields for miles

Boulder fields for miles


Overgrown brush everywhere

Overgrown brush everywhere


The overgrown brush causes a serious problem, ticks and poison ivy. The brush is a tick haven which isn’t good for us. PA has the highest rate of Lyme Disease for hikers and I believe this is the main reason. Oh, the poison ivy is everywhere! I used to follow the rule, ‘leaves of 3 let it be’ but now I have a new rule. ‘If it is green and has leaves, it’s probably poison ivy.’
The swamp

The swamp


No one told me the trail would walk thru a swamp. I guess its because of the constant rain the past 5 days. Yesterday I hiked for hours in this watery/muddy/goo none stop. It’s nasty. But this has actually taught me a valuable lesson. Hikers usually dread the rain. We don’t like it because our gear gets wet and the trail gets nasty. But there are others out there like Farmers for instance that anticipate the rain for a good crop turnout. You always have to be thankful for the good and bad things in life because what may be bad for you, may be a good thing for someone else.
trail conditions 4
I just keep telling myself ‘100 more miles and I’m out of PA!’.

On a side note I do want to mention that a lot of hikers have dropped out. The ATC estimates 60% of the usual crowd is gone. There are a lot of reasons why people quit but a couple stand out. Many people have lost what they call the “charm and fun” of hiking. They expected the whole experience to be an exciting time with new adventures around every bend. But that’s not the case. The honeymoon phase of hiking has worn off for all of us. We still have lots of fun but we must get past the daily grind first.
The grind is this: Our feet are always hurting and sore. We are always either sweaty and stinky from the humidity and heat or wet from rain. Occasional blisters from walking in wet shoes all day. Chaffing around my hip belt area because of sweating and rubbing. Poison Ivy on my body. Mosquito bites on arms and legs. Food boredom from eating the same general food all day. And the list goes on and on.
But this is not a reason to quit in my opinion. When the going gets tough, you have to put effort into whatever the task may be and finish what you started. This trail is like life in the sense that new relationships, new jobs, new hobbies are always fun and exciting in the beginning. However, as time passes on, the honeymoon phase of that particular thing will wear off and you must persevere and finish the task at hand. This builds character.
http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/06/25/what-is-character-its-3-true-qualities-and-how-to-develop-it/
I know that even though PA is tough and tearing my feet up, there are better days ahead. The White Mountains promise to revive that childlike energy in all of us that we once had when starting in Springer Mountain.

As of right now I’m in Hamburg, PA. Yesterday I had and awesome time with locals at the Union House Bed & Breakfast. Mark and his wife even payed for my meal! Great food, good company.

Good times at the Union House

Good times at the Union House

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Random 1

Well, I’m going to find a place to eat around here, do laundry, hitch a ride back to the trail and keep you guys posted on my whereabouts soon.
Take care!

Quick update

Nothing quite like a selfie haha!
Hey everyone. Im alive and still hiking the endless miles. I just wanted to let u guys know im in Pennsylvania right now. Us hikers have dubbed it Rocks-sylvania though. Word on the trail has it that trail maintainers secretly pile large amount of rocks on the trail for us. It has also been rumoured that they go around and sharpen those rocks, pointy end up of course. I have not wittnessed these atrocities personally but there seems to be clear signs of holiganism. It is clear that someone is trying to make our lives miserable. Mother Nature is on my list of suspects.
There is so much that happened aince my last post but that will have to wait since i cant really post pics with my cell phone for some reason.
Ive been with Kristo on and off. You should check out his blog in te mean time.
http://www.kristohikes.com/?m=1
Take care and God Bless!

Operation Virginia – Success!

hands up

Hey everybody! I’m doing fairly well as of right now. Just hanging out at the public library, that’s where all the cool kids go by the way. Virginia has been a blast. A lot has happened in this state and I’m so glad to be finally done with it. I’m ready to move on and see what else the AT has to offer.
state line

Before entering the Shenandoah’s, my sister sent me another ‘Action figure’. It is awesome! Spiderman is an excellent addition to Chuck Norris. Some people accidently call them ‘dolls’. I always correct them quickly and tell them that Chuck Norris has made people disappear for saying lesser insults.
spider doll

Shenandoahs are really unusual in that there are loads of people here. I have created 3 classifications for the type of hikers that one may encounter out here.
Class 1: The Thru-Hiker. These are hikers that can usually be spotted from a distance. They are a raggedy bunch. Style and fashion are simply words from a past recollection that is long gone. Often times you can also smell them at a good distance too when standing down wind. Thru-Hikers are a rare bread. They are elite hikers who have no shame when it comes to looks or odor.
Class 2: The Section-Hiker. These hikers come out for about a week or 2 in attempts to chip away at the many miles on the AT. Constraints such as time, money, and family all restrict their ability to thru-hike. These hikers tend to hike with many more luxury items in their packs than is needed. Their clean shaven faces and new clothing always gives them away. Clothing and hygiene tends to be on their list of priorities.
Class 3: The Day-Hiker. These are hikers from the civilized world. I now refer to them as “Civilians”. Oh boy, where do I start with this group? These guys always look sharp. Their clothes is clean and definitely stylish. These people can not fathom putting on anything other than their best clothing for the trail. The reason is, pictures. Seriously! They take like a million pics on their short hikes. Most civilians are only hiking for a couple hours and very few will dare attempt overnight camping. You will always, ALWAYS, know a civilian by their distinct smell. I like to call this particular smell as (Fresh). The ladies always smell like exotic flowers, strawberries or some sort of perfume. And the guys smell like clean bodywash or something. Shenandoahs are full of civilians, especially on Memorial weekend when I was there.

Well, there you have it. My hiker classification. Feel free to share it with others.

Back to the Shenandoahs. Luckily for me Plan B was never initiated (coating myself with honey). I finally saw a bear!
bear pic

Nothing like a selfie with a bear!

Nothing like a selfie with a bear!


I didn’t get any closer for my bear selfie because I chickened out like a coward. I feel like I let everyone down. I know you guys wanted to see every detail in the bear’s face in my pics. Sorry, I’ll do better next time, promise.
Oh! My total bear count. Every hiker keeps a count of how many bears they see. So far no one has broken my record as far as I know: 12 bears! That’s right! 12 bears in 3 days.

There were so many critters in the woods out here. It was awesome! Except for the deer. The deer were the worst! No respect! These guys walked around my tent all night long making a racket while a tired Thru-Hiker is trying to get some rest. This happened several times when camping. One evening I was brushing my teeth and this Buck just walked out of the woods in front of me. He stopped in front of me (less than 20 feet) for a second to look at me as if to say, “What? You got something to say?!” and then he proceeded on grazing next to my tent all night long. No respect!
deer next to tent

They are the worst at hiding too. I was walking on the trail and this guy was standing maybe 15 feet away in the bushes quietly. I could simply see the guy thinking; “If I stay veeery still, I’ll be invisible!”. Needless to say I spotted him with ease and took a pic.
deer hiding

snake
There were loads of snakes out here too. That’s good. More snakes equals less mice. The mice chew holes in our gear and even chewed a hole in Sunshine’s tent! Horrible creatures!

The Shenandoahs have restaurants called Waysides that are usually .2 miles off the trail. Many hikers told be about one particular Wayside that had Blackberry milkshakes! I was so excited and hiked for several days in anticipation. To my dismay, no milkshakes!!! I was so sad that I wrote a poem haha!
ode to milkshake

One of the hostels had some Protien Pancake batter in the hiker box. Rugby and I were like, “Lets try to make some pancakes. How hard can it be?” I took out my titanium pan ($16) and proceeded to use my olive oil as butter replacement. The results were a disaster!

That should be pancake...

That should be pancake…


They were soggy on the inside and burnt on the outside. Rugby was a trooper. He ate them anyway and told me they were the best pancakes he ever tasted! Now that is a true friend right there.

bears den
I wanted to mention Bear’s Den Hostel. This place is truly amazing. It is ATC owned and operated. They really know how to take care of us hikers. It is the only hostel so far that has given us real mattresses to sleep on. Usually we sleep on plywood. If you are near Harpers Ferry, WV, please stop by and check it out. It even has a real sink with running water in the kitchen! We were standing there in awe. HAHA true story! Most hostels only have water available from the spigot outside to do dishes. Its the little things that makes us happy.

aka bathroom

aka bathroom

The umbrella - huge hit! Several hikers have now gotten one. Way better than rain coats.

The umbrella – huge hit! Several hikers have now gotten one. Way better than rain coats.

harpers ferry
Harpers Ferry is such a cool town. There are stone buildings everywhere and the atmosphere is… historic. That’s the only way I can describe it.

Every hiker gets their picture taken and placed in the AT Conservancy headquarters. This is what will be placed in their archives. Behold, my pic:
AT official pic

I’ve hiked 1,010 miles so far. That is not including all the million extra miles of hiking into towns, far away water sources, and taking side trails for panoramic views. I’ll keep on trekking and will keep everyone updated when possible.
God bless!
Spidy

Still in Virginia…

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I finally made it to Waynesboro. This is a town that I should have passed through 4 days ago but something came up. I got sick. Yep, you heard right. Spidy got the bug. Every superhero has a weakness and mine happened to be a mysterious super stomach bug.
So this is what happened. It started as another typical day hiking 18 miles across some steep terrain. There is still no full shade from the trees in the mountains by the way. The buds are only now just starting to grow into leaves. So the sun is having a field day roasting us. It was 85* in the little shade that was out there for sure, one of the hikers had a thermometer. I was so happy not to have died on the trail of “Fried to a Crisp Syndrome” (its a real medical condition on the AT). So we finally made it to Bryant Ridge Shelter. This is a sweet shack that is 2 stories and holds 20 hikers. One of the biggest shelters on the AT and 4 of us had it all to our selves.

Bryant Ridge Shelter

Bryant Ridge Shelter


After cooking a legit dinner of pasta alfredo and stuff, I called it a night. My stomach woke me up at 10 and told me to run to the privy quick! I made it in the nick of time and threw up all my food. My initial thoughts were “Well that sucks. Those are calories that I really need.” Haha! The AT has wired my brain to think differently out here. Well after that ordeal I went back to bed only to wake up 30 min later and repeat the vomiting. This happened over and over. Every 30 min like clock work my stomach was heaving. I was so miserable and tired of running to the privy by 2 am that I simply slept on the edge of the porch. That way I could roll over, throw up over the side, and roll back into bed. Have no fear, it all came to an end at 4 am. That is definelty going in the top 10 most miserable things that ever happened to me. I couldn’t eat anything for the next 3 days and only started eating a little food on day 4. By day 8 I was finally 100% normal. However, it all came at a cost. I lost 60 miles worth of hiking and 10 lbs of body weight that I really need. Remember me how I used to be, not how scrawny hiker I have become.
Anyway, enough with my pity party about weight loss. It was inevitable. Here are some pics of the AT:
Eastern Continental Divide

Eastern Continental Divide


The Continental Divide is an imaginary line that runs through the Appalachian Mountains. On one side of the line all the rivers flow down to the Gulf of Mexico. On the other side they all flow to the Atlantic Ocean.

Civil War wall

Civil War wall


This is a wall on Humpback Mountain that is the remnant of the Civil War era. I enjoyed standing there in front of that wall contemplating the historical significance that it holds.

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This is one of the many millions of obstacles mother nature has placed on the trail for unsuspecting hikers. Many a times I have jammed by heel on one of those rocks when they were covered in leaves. Have no fear, I was able to quickly detect the danger and expertly maneuver around it without an incident.

The Confession Journal

The Confession Journal


As you well know, every shelter has a journal. Well, there is a shelter called the ‘Priest Shelter’. So all the hikers write a confession in the journal about doing something wrong on the trail. One person confessed to spitting out her gum into the woods instead of packing it out. Gasp! What of the little critters? You are probably wondering what my confession was. It went something like this: “I confess to sleeping with my food bag last night. I also confess to eating a ton of it at 2 am, i simply couldn’t resist the temptation. Sorry.”

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Yesterday we had the most intense thunderstorms come through our area. The heavens opened up and buckets of water came down all night long. What used to be the AT turned into raging streams as you can see. I was walking through knee deep water in some areas. But my area wasn’t too bad. Some people had to wade through waist deep water! -on a trail that is normally dry.

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I still try and get a little bouldering action whenever possible. There is another climber I met ‘Sprout’, he does the same thing. We simply spot a rock, drop our packs, climb around, then hike on as happy as can be.

A 2 person shelter aka "The Love Shack"

A 2 person shelter aka “The Love Shack”

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McAfee Knob

McAfee Knob


This was one of my major goals to get to. Simply a fantastic place with phenomenal views. I got in trouble for this pic by mom. Sorry mom. I told her that I was Spiderman and I knew what I was doing. She still scolded me.

Well that’s about it for now. I’ll try to post when I get to Harpers Ferry. In the mean time I will be hiking through the Shenandoah National Park looking for a black bear. In fact, word on the trail is that these bears are super friendly and will come up to you fearlessly. You can pet them, take awesome selfies, have a friendly wrestling match… this is a magical place. If that is all myth and there are no bears to be found, I’m going to plan B. That is where I cover myself with honey and hike the AT. Wish me luck!
Spider

Wins & Norms- On The AT

I am sitting at a laundry mat killing time by reading about other people’s hiking experiences. It’s funny how that appeals to me more than the current world news or Hollywood drama. A simple life is a pleasant one. This blogger nailed it with their post on AT living and I want to share her view point. Enjoy!

The AT Experience

It is amazing how when you are on the trail your life takes on a different set of priorities. The small “wins” in life are things you would normally take for granted. You end up doing things on a weekly basis that were never a part of your life before but you now rely on. You are living completely separate from most of the comforts you knew, but you quickly adapt and your life now feels normal, memories of your old life and they way things were done retreating into the distance.

Wins:
1. Free laundry soap at the laundry mat, you use it even though you have allergic reactions to some detergents
2. All you can eat, anything. (If there is an eating contest you want to be around for Rooster to attempt it!)
3. A half used bottle of hotel shampoo in the hostel shower. You don’t want…

View original post 380 more words

Virginia

Sriracha care package from Alla

Sriracha care package from Alla


Sorry for the long delay since the last post. The thing is that most hostels I come across either have no internet at all or they have the slowest dialup ever. That creates problems for us hikers who are trying to find decent computer access in order to blog. Woods Hole Hostel has satellite internet. So if you really think about it, you are receiving this blog post from space!!
Inside Woods Hole Hostel

Inside Woods Hole Hostel


Hostel Rules

Hostel Rules

Many are wondering what I eat out here so let me give you a little taste of my daily food intake. Keep in mind that it always fluctuates a little in order to avoid food boredom.

Breakfast: 4 cups of oatmeal. I always add powdered milk, protein powder, some kind of green super food powder, instant breakfast carnation, and a couple ounces of olive oil. Then I grab a torilla and smoother it with peanut butter or nutella and down it with a cup of coffee. I think that gives me about 1,500 calories.
2nd breakfast: This is a couple hours later while im on the go and its too early to stop. I usually eat 3 bars; 2 cliff bars and a snickers or something like that.
Lunch: I stop and cook during lunch. This forces me to get a 30 minute break. My lunch tends to consist of whole grain angel hair pasta, I’m done with Ramen Noodles. Sometimes ill make spaghetti with some powdered Italian mushroom sauce and other times I’ll make a soup with chicken soup powder. Both types of meals will get a dose of chopped up garlic and onions and lots of olive oil. (yes, I do carry a clove of garlic and an onion). I also add Wasabi Peas to the meal, curtsey of Egor and Ella. But that’s not all, a few ounces of summer sausage on the side hits the spot.
2nd lunch: This is a couple hours later and tends to be a quick meal with tortillas. Something like tuna on tortilla with a bunch of tobasco sauce and a pieces of dried fruit.
Dinner: I tend to be on the go so there are 2 options; eat some GORP (peanuts with chocolate candy) or simply make a quick pit stop and make a protein shake. 2 packets of oatmeal with powdered milk (Nido is the best), muscle milk, packet of hot coco, and couple ounces of olive oil. This will power me through the last couple hours till supper.
Supper: If I have any energy left I’ll try to cook something with spaghetti with a side of meat and some kind of dried fruits. Honestly, supper tends to be any kind of meal mentioned above with loads of protein.

The funny thing is that a lot of hikers out here talk about my food bag. Apparently I carry one of the biggest bags on the trail haha! And I just found out from Raven that my choice of meals is always a great topic of conversation for other hikers.

So far I’m doing pretty good. We joke around that all of use have developed our hiker legs now, but not hiker feet. The feet are the weakest link for everyone. They get super sore at the end of the day. However, this is getting better. The past few days I’ve been hiking 20 mile days back to back with no problems. That’s telling me that the legs are definitely getting stronger. Speaking of strength, my pullups have decreased to 18 in the mornings! That’s horrible news so Lex brought me some hiking poles. I’m going to try to get my upper body strength back up. I guess morning pushups and pullups alone was not enough. When I hike with the poles I put as much force down into them as possible to work out my arms. I feel like some four legged creature now hiking the AT.
Lex hiked with me from Atkins for 13 miles. It was an epic hike through thunder, lightning and sideways rain. I gave him the trail name El Tigre because I knew the people at home would approve (Nina, Sara, and Alla to name a few). Ask him for the details on the trip, it was fun! Luckily El Tigre and I were below the large mountain that I was supposed to climb that day. This is what happened on top of Chessnut Mountain:

Chessnut Ridge Shelter Log

Chessnut Ridge Shelter Log

Some funny things that happened so far:
I was sleeping in Roan Mountain shelter next to Columbus. The next morning he told me:
“Dude, you talk in your sleep right?”
Me: “Really? What did I say?”
Columbus: “Well, I was awake at 2 in the morning and you said one word ‘Spiderman!’.”
We laughed and laughed all morning about that. You know for sure that your trail name fits when you speak your trail name in dreams hahah!
I told Columbus it was a good thing it was my name vs his or that would have been straight up creepy.

The other day I met Stretch for the first time. Stretch told us that he was walking down the side of the road sweating and dying from the blazing sun when his luck changed. He came across a Twinki in its wrapper. And it gets better, he also found a can of Dr. Pepper too! Unfortunately both were cooking in the extreme heat of the day so he did what anyone of us would do, Stretch ate the Twinki and drank the coke haha! Funny guy!

I came across this school from 1870. It was super neat to see how schools were built back in the day. It totally reminded me of little house on the prairie.

Check out the teeter totter!

Check out the teeter totter!

Best trail magic ever! Loads of food and supplies

Best trail magic ever! Loads of food and supplies

Rules at the School

Rules at the School

One of the coolest things I’ve come across so far were the ponies at Grayson Highlands. These guys move around the hillsides and are free to roam where they please. Us hikers pride ourselves in our pony selfies.
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Baby ponies!!! Life is now complete.

Baby ponies!!! Life is now complete.


Pony artwork= Fail

Pony artwork= Fail


Guys if you have an opportunity to go camping for a couple days, go to the Grayson Highlands! You will have no regrets, only sweet dreams about ponies. Oh wait, I totally forgot to mention that they bite and kick if they don’t like you. Rugby came up to one of the ponies and the thing turned around and kicked him! He was so mad; “I flew all the way from Britian to see ponies and all I get is disrespect!” hahaha good stuff.

People talk about the Virginia Blues. A lot of people drop out in Virginia because they get bored with the trail. I just don’t understand that. It has been one awesome state so far! Here are some random photos I took in Virginia:
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Actually, this was in NC but it turned out great so I wanted to share it.

Actually, this was in NC but it turned out great so I wanted to share it.

This was my favorite privy so far:

The most epic throne ever! Yes, this is an actual bathroom.

The most epic throne ever! Yes, this is an actual bathroom.

That’s about it for now. The next post will be in 2-3 weeks until I reach a larger town with a library or something. Take care everyone!
Spidy

Made it to Virginia!

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Hello everyone, it has been a long 2 weeks since my last post. Erwin, NC did not have any signal nor did Kinkora hostel but, I am hanging out at the local public library right now in Damascus. This is a beautiful town that only has 850 people. All the lawns are well kept and the homes are in good shape. I love little towns like this in the mountains. It is funny that I say a long 2 weeks because 2 weeks out here seems like 2 months back at home. The reason is that every day is full of adventure and experiences. Every step that I take during the day is with purpose and it counts. The perception of time gets distorted on the AT if you will. The concentrated dose of movement that I receive each day on the trail stretches out time. There is a common phrase that I use at home; “Time flew by!” Out here its the opposite, “Time stands still.”
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Right now I’m hanging out in Damascus doing chores like laundry, repairing gear, buying food and eating all day long. Zero days are the best. It’s dangerous to go into a grocery store hungry. You will always, ALWAYS buy way too much food. A V8 caught my eye and I couldn’t resist. There is nothing like the feeling of walking downtown chugging a 1.5 Liter V8 while the locals are looking with the facial expression “Whats wrong with that guy?” haha
The weather is still chilly out here. There are no leaves on the trees but the buds are starting to finally form. After 1.5 months on the trail I can’t wait for spring time to kick in full throttle. 2 Days ago a small snow storm caught us by surprise so I was one of the lucky few to be near a hostel. Kinkora Hostel is one of a kind. You absolutely must stop by if you are in that part of the AT. Bob Peoples is one of the kindest souls that I met that has a true passion for helping out hikers. He only charges $5 for a warm place to stay, shower, laundry and kitchen. While it was snowing outside we got together and started cooking and baking. There was cake, cookies, soups, and I made Jiffy Corn Bread muffins (which were a huge success if I may say so). That is one of my best memories so far on the trail.

Kinkora Hostel

Kinkora Hostel

But, the food experience doesn’t stop there. Coming into Damascus on Good Friday was such a blessing. Not only did us hikers prepare a spectacular meal of burritos for dinner, but the the locals had an amazing play about the life of Jesus in the local park. Everyone talks about Trail Days in Damascus, but they should also be mentioning Good Friday too.

Dinner on Good Friday at The Place

Dinner on Good Friday at The Place

Now, some people have mention that I am having too much fun and that is true. The trail has been one huge adventure so far.  However….. there is always the painful aspect to the trail. Walking 15-20 miles a day has it’s toll on everybody. It is so funny watching people walk around in the morning. We are all like 90 year olds hobbling around due to pain/stiffness in knees and ankles. This starts to go away after an hour of hiking. After 8 hours of hiking my feet are begging me to stop. The thing is all day long I am walking of uneven surfaces with sharp protruding rocks/roots that jab into by foot, it really hurts! At night, I stretch and massage my feet for about 30 minutes and that has improved my recovery dramatically. Don’t get me wrong, the whole soreness thing is way better for all of us since Springer Mountain but it’s still there.

Find Waldo

Find Waldo

This was a beautiful section of the AT. You can see Roan mountain in the top right with the Balds following it. That is 11 miles from where I’m standing to Roan Mountain. There is a hiker in that picture, try and find him. Tip (he is really small).

Meet Chair, he carries around a chair, thus his name.

Meet Chair, he carries around a chair, thus his name.

Chair is a funny guy. he is a day behind me or so according to other hikers. We keep tabs on each other with log books that are found in every shelter. Here is an example:

Shelter log book

Shelter log book

Have no fear, Rugby survived that rough day haha.

Colby, always breaking the rules haha!

Colby, always breaking the rules haha!

One of the few downsides to ‘The Place Hostel’ is no laying on the couches. Every hostel has their own set of rules which are fine.
Alright, for those that couldn’t find the hiker in the previous pic, I have found him for you.

Waldo located

Waldo located

Guys I’m sorry that I’m rushing this blog but the library is closing right now! In town people are always on time limits and schedules that must be kept. On the trail all you have to worry about is walking at the pace that you feel like. It’s super layed back and very relaxing. Almost therapeutic in ways. Well, God bless and I will be back online in a couple weeks hopefully.
Spider

Care Packages questions/answers

Several people have been asking me how and where can they send a care package. First of all, thank you for that thoughtful gesture! Well, you can send care packages to Damascus VA or Atkins VA. I will be at Damascus in 2 weeks and in Atkins in 3 weeks.
If possible, please send out the package at least 1 week before I get there. That way it will be there waiting for me, vs me stopping and waiting for any packages. But don’t send too much. My pack is pretty small and I can only carry so much.

This is how the package should be labeled if sending to Damascus:

Ed Goretoy
C/O Adventure Damascus
PO Box 1113
128 West Laurel Ave.
Damascus, VA 24236
PLZ Hold for Thru Hiker
ETA (April 18)

*if sending to Damascus, please send out the care package no later than April 11. Thanks!!!
The other location is as follows:

Ed Goretoy
C/O General Delivery
5864 Lee Hwy
Atkins, VA 24311
PLZ Hold for Thru Hiker
ETA (April 24)

*if sending to Atkins, please send the package out between April 10-17.

I hope that helps. I will also let you guys know where I will be in next month. Oh! Almost forgot. Please send me a message if you are sending me a package so I can keep my eyes out for it. You can post it on this blog or text me 864-542-3809.
I am so blessed to have trail angels like you guys looking out for me. Many thanks!!!
Spidy

Smokey Mountains- Been there, Done that!

ClingMans Dome

ClingMans Dome

Hello everyone! I am currently sitting at the Hiker Ridge Ministries Resource Center using their computer. This place is a gem in Hotsprings, NC. If you are ever in town, make time to visit Queen Diva. She is such a bundle of joy to be around with. She also makes some delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Hiker ministries

Hiker ministries

So what can I tell you about the Smokeys? The Smokey Mountains are completely different from everything else so far. The trail in Georgia has been deciduous forest (leave based trees). Once you enter into the Smokeys, be prepared to walk through amazing groves of Conifers (pine trees). I am absolutely in love with pine trees! The smell of pine and the carpet of pine needles is intoxicating.

Right before I left Fontana Dam, I was resupplying at the local store. Their selection is not amazing but not too shabby. My food bag was a total weight of 16.5 pounds. That was supposed to last for 8 days but… I ate it all in 5.

This is what a 16 lb food bag looks like!

This is what a 16 lb food bag looks like!

The funny thing is out here people do not count calories anymore. We simply measure intake of food by pounds per day. All my food is dehydrated stuff by the way: pasta, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, and junk food like poptarts, snickers, paydays…
You may be surprised that I am eating 3 lbs of food a day but its actually perfectly normal haha! Most former through hikers are shoveling food down their throats all day long.
Well, once I entered into the Smokeys the weather for the next 2 days was supposed to be sunny. But that was wrong of course. It started snowing the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that… At first I was like “Wohoo! Snow, I love it!” After a few days I was like, “More snow seriously?! Come on!” And then things got interesting. The temp simply plummeted. I spent a cold night in my tent while it was 0 degrees outside. It was absolutely miserable haha! I would wake up every 30 minutes or so and do pushups/sittups to warm up and then try to go back to sleep. What made things worse was a re-occurring dream I had. There was this T-Rex that was chasing me all night long. He had it out for me hahaha! That’s what I get for watching Jurassic Park one too many times.

Eventually the snow stopped falling and I was able to put out some big miles despite the 2 foot deep snow drifts. I’ve never hiked in snow up to my knees but it was actually fun! I was able to dominate on the trail because of my shoe chains. Everyone was jealous and one guy even offered me $100 for them, but I refused because compromising safety was not worth it. I was lucky to make it to Standing Bear hostel where I could resupply.

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Standing Bear Hostel, wonderful place!

 

Tunnels through the pine forest, amazing!

Tunnels through the pine forest, amazing!

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Snow Chains, worth the .5 lbs

Snow Chains, worth the .5 lbs

One of my favorite shelters was Mt Collins Shelter. This place is nestled in among giant pine trees which reminded me of Snow white and the 7 Dwarfs of all things. I was expecting the Dwarfs to show up and kick me out. It is located .5 miles off the AT which isn’t too bad of a hike. I forgot to sleep with my wet shoes and socks that night, big mistake! My shoes were bricks of ice and my socks, well… If you held a piece of wood in one hand, and my socks in the other, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference haha! True story. However, Dune said that Shelter gave him magic dreams. He spent all night at an ‘all you can eat buffet’! Those dreams are always the best. A lot of people out here have mentioned how crazy and vivid their dreams get.

Mt Collins Shelter

Mt Collins Shelter

I eventually made it to Hotsprings after 7 days of hiking in the snow, and one miserable day hiking in heavy mud/slush. Totally worth it!

Highlights of the trip:
-I scored some sunglasses at a hiker box. It was awesome wearing them in the bright snow. But I forgot them at pecks corner shelter.
-I got a new Jetboil at Fontana Dam. Man was I excited, like a kid on Christmas! But it broke the 2nd day of use.
-I thought my food would last through the smokeys. But I ran out 3 days short. I’m thankful for Standing Bear Hostel.
-My quads are part steel now. But by Achilles Tendons are still not up to par with these mountains.

That’s about it for now people. Take care and God Bless!

Chuck vs Snowman. Snowman stood no chance!

Chuck vs Snowman. Snowman stood no chance!

Quick update

Hello everyone! I survived the Smokeys. It was intense; fog, rain, ice everywhere, 0 degree nights, snow drifts 2 feet deep, ice showers (thats where chunks of falling ice from the trees are hitting you). It was pretty intense. I will update with a post and pics about the events in a couple days. Right now i have virtually no signal out here. The goal is to get to Hot Springs, NC in 3 days time.
Take care,
Spidy

Operation GA was a success!

Cheoh Bald

Cheoh Bald

Hey guys, it has been a looong week for me. There is so much going on out here everyday that it is impossible to get bored. During the last post I was at BlueBerry Patch Hostel. What an amazing place. Honestly, if for some reason I had to stop my hike at BlueBerry (injury), I would have been happy with it. But its a good thing I’m still pushing onward.  The first couple weeks out here was such an adventure because of the community of people out here. Every day I get to meet some of the most interesting individuals from all walks of life. So with that said, I’ll spend some time introducing you to my trail family while I give you a quick weekly overview.

As soon as I walked into NC, things changed quickly. I’m talking about the terrain. It was as if NC was saying, “Oh, you came from GA? Well that’s cute. Put on your big boy pants because this aignt no picnic!” The NC mountains are so much steeper than GA by a long shot. Walking out of NOC, nantahala outdoor center, we were treated to an uphill climb of 5,000 feet for 4 miles. It was like walking up a stair case for hours. But the view is always worth it.

Near Muskrat Shelter

Near Muskrat Shelter

Chuck

There was a couple days when it was pouring rain all day and night. Those days suck because everything eventually gets wet. After a couple cold days of rain, I quickly threw up my bear bag and got into my tent. Some of the guys had a kick out of my bear bag that I strung up in the tree and we had some good laughs about it.

Worst bag hang i've done haha!

Worst bag hang i’ve done haha!

I have been leap frogging with a couple of people the past 2 weeks. Leap Frogging is when you pass somebody one day. Then in a couple days they catch up to you and pass you and so on. Ranger and Canadia have been doing just that. Ranger got his name because apparantly he knows everything about Forest Rangers. This guy is 6’2″ and man can he walk fast! I can never keep up with his long legs. Canadia is from Canada of course. She said we suck a naming foreigners because there is a guy name Swiss from Switzerland, a couple from S. Korea that everyone calls the Koreans, and a German couple that are called…The Germans. Well, Canadia is one of the toughest girls out here. She got hit by a car a week prior to starting the AT. The Doc gave her a knee brace and she is pushing on.

Ranger and Canadia

Ranger and Canadia

A quick photo with product placement and then I will continue ;). No blisters from my Minimus and they are holding up very well.

Eating lunch on Rocky Bald

Eating lunch on Rocky Bald

I met up with this group of people that call themselves the Flock. It’s a long story why but everyone there has a unique bird call. You are supposed to call out when walking into camp to identify yourself. They were so much fun to hang with for a couple of days. I eventually became an honorary member and my bird call was the Turkey haha! Their names are Oops; she is always falling or forgetting something.
Mary Poppins; she has everything you could ever need in her bag.
Maybe Mike; no one was sure if Mike was his name for the longest time. And Cupcake; this guys is something else! Believe it or not but he used to live 10 minutes away from my house in Spartanburg! The first South Carolinian I’ve met. He got his name by saying that the following: “I want this year to be so easy, minimum rain and no snow, that they put a cupcake on my AT badge!”

The Flock

The Flock

Cupcake

Cupcake

Cupcake discovering leverage hahaha!

Cupcake discovering leverage hahaha!

We had a grand time hanging out at NOC, Hobo camping near the railroad and sitting next to the campfire way past hiker midnight (9pm). I eventually took off and made it to Fontana Village. There is no cell signal out here but the local Grocery Store has a computer so I got a chance to upload this blog. Fontana is soooo much fun! There are so many hikers here hanging out and resupplying. And guess what, FreshGround is here!!! He provides trail magic to everyone for several days then moves up the trail where we get a chance to meet up with him once again. When I came into camp, I ate a full plate of his special french fries, 4 hotdogs and 2 DrPeppers. I was going to eat my 5th hotdog when a girl, Belue, asked for it. FreshGround was out of dogs by then you see so I told her no. I’m just kidding! Of course I gave it to her! I simply got a second plate of fries and then my appetite was satisfied.

FreshGround, the nicest guy I know.

FreshGround, the nicest guy I know.

Eating Hotdogs at Fontana Shelter

Eating Hotdogs at Fontana Shelter

Well, that’s about it guys! Operation GA was a success so onwards to Operation Smokey Mountains. That is going to be tough because of some crazy Polar Vortex is supposed to hit us on Tuesday.

Thanks everyone for you prayers and support.
SpiderMan out.

Operation AT

Chuck and I crossing from Georgia into North Carolina

Hey everyone! I’m hanging out at the Blueberry Patch Hostel today, man is this place amazing. The hostel is truly a gem in the middle of the wilderness, but more on it later.
Saturday my parents showed up and picked up the dog. Hiking with Olive was fun, but it’s hard to take care of someone other than myself so… Olive went home. The plan was to hitch-hike the rest of the way to Springer because there are no other trails directly to Springer Mountain. When mom heard my plan to hitch-hike, she was horrified. Her ultimatum was either they give me a ride or I go home. I took the ride which was nice and quick.

And so it begins

I started in Amicalola Falls. This is the 8 mile approach trail that everyone takes. It’s not bad but it is a steep trail.

Amicalola Falls

Going up the trail, I came across a guy who was finishing his Southbound hike. The guy started in Maine in August for a simple week hike. He liked the trail so much that he simply kept going for the next 7 months! Wow, hiking through in the middle of winter is incredibly hard. Well, I eventually made it to the starting point.

There were around 30 hikers camping up top which was pretty neat. As for places to sleep, there are loads of great camping areas. I simply couldn’t say no to this 2 story shelter that I came across. Sleeping in the top story reminded me of hanging out in a tree house when I was a kid. It was simply awesome! Luckily I had no issues with mice. They are very problematic at other shelters.

Shelter Slept in Upstairs

View at the top of my tree house shelter

The people that I met here are so interesting. Slow Poke was named by his wife. He is a retired Vietnam Vet with some very interesting stories. Another guy named Canada was named because he came from there a couple days ago. The energy and positive vibe that everyone gives off is simply incredible.

Meet Canada

The next day I went to Gooch Shelter. Everyone scattered their tents along the hillside around the shelter. In the mean time we hung out at the shelter and had a grand time talking and laughing. There were these two ladies that had no clue how to operate their cooking stove. A guy showed them how to turn it on and the lady took her pot, with the rubber cozy on it, and set it on the flames! Haha that was entertaining. What I’m getting at is this, some folks simply aren’t prepared at all. Guys, so much has happened on the AT and I don’t want to bore you with the details, so I’ll try to keep it short. So, what is life like out here on the AT? Lots of hiking, super awesome people, always thinking about food, always talking about food with people, the people out here are incredibly nice, and I’ve come across people from all over the world who are walking with me. They are what make the AT a fun experience.

Some highlights on the trail:
– I came across a guy whose trail name is Fresh Ground and he was doing trail magic outside Gooch Shelter. It was amazing! Fresh pancakes, fries, cookies, hot dogs, omelettes… He had it all. There was a hiker there pouring about 6 tablespoons of sugar into his coffee. He said “this will power me through these crazy mountains!” We couldn’t believe it, so I dubbed him Sugar Crush. Everyone loved it, so it stuck with him.
– I slept on top of Troy Mountain in 15* weather. There were crazy wind gusts all night. It was so cold I had to use my emergency blanket. Rough night. Next morning, I ate breakfast and as soon as I walked down the trail, more trail magic!!! Ben was grilling cheeseburgers, So I ate 2 with a Mountain Dew. Keep in mind this was right after 2 cups of oatmeal, cliff bar, and coffee. My hiker appetite has definitely kicked in. If you haven’t caught on, trail magic is when people make magic happen on the trail. And by “magic”, I mean food.
– I sneezed 20+ times one day, personal record. I passed a field where every bit of pollen gravitated into my nose. I stopped counting after 20 because I thought I was going to die haha!
– My new trail name is Spider-Man. They named me Spider-Man because I rock climb and do pull-ups every morning at the shelters haha. I love it!

Below are some photos that I’ve taken so far. Enjoy and I’ll keep you updated.

One of many shelters

Owners of Blueberry Patch Hostel

Fresh Ground giving trail magic

Eating my cheeseburger trail magic

15 degrees outside with strong winds

I’m still alive people!

Hey everyone!! So much has happened, so I’ll try to summarize things up and keep it short.
Starting with Serge
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Day one was rough. It started with a ascend of Table Rock Mountain with Surge. That was a great warm-up. Then I took off solo towards Pinnacle Mountain. The lady at Table Rock ranger station advised to take the  Ridge Trail to Foothills trail. She said it was a 1 mile shortcut. This took me 2 hours to ascend. Talk about a steep climb! That ain’t no 1 mile that’s for sure. Anyways, I then proceeded up Sassafras Mountain. Man my legs were smoked by the end of the day. What made matters worse was me rationing water. There is virtually no water out there. If u hike that area bring lots of water.
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I found a really neat spot to camp on Sassafras. While unpacking I discovered why my pack felt unusually heavy. A well placed rock, at the bottom of my pack, by Ben, Al, and Serge. Hahaha! I should have seen that coming. Thanks guys!
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Here is a good view from Sassafras.
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The next day I got a chance to put in some good miles. It’s down hill from there to Laurel Fork Falls. But, theres no water!!! I started off the morning without any water and finally found a small creek later on in the day. Like I said before, if you’re hiking between table rock and Laurel Fork Falls, bring lots of water, like 10 gallons!
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Hiking near Laurel Fork falls is one of my favorite sections of the Foothills trail. It is full of waterfalls, small streams, and tons of bridges.
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The last flat bridge brings back good memories. Years ago Surge and I were crossing it on bikes when his tires got stuck in the gap halfway through. He fell off the bike and into the river head first. Lol. Good times. Anyways, I eventually made camp at the falls and soaked my sore feet in the river. (Note the product placement).
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Day 3 was rainy and foggy. I really enjoyed hiking in the fog. The whole place has a feeling of mystery when it’s surrounded by fog.
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Waking up to rain… Well it sucks. Let me put it that way. The highlight of the day was me getting to Gorges State Park in NC. I eventually made it to a great campsite in the evening only to find this:
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A bunch of abandoned camping gear (tent, clothes, tarp). Why would someone just leave their gear behind? Things got kinda spooky so I moved on. I set up my tent just in time before another dose of rain hit me. Rain+Cold=rough life.
Day 4.  After you get passed Lake Jocassee, the trail follows old logging roads for like ever. This section of trail is pretty boring. Then you get to White Water River corridor. This place has a lot of neat rapids and waterfalls, but camping isn’t allowed here (sad face).
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Once I got out of the corridor, I hiked up to the top of the mountain and set up camp. I had cell signal for once and was able to call home which was nice. I want to mention my choice of campsite. I unknowingly set up camp underneath an owl nest. Don’t get me wrong, owls are cute and all, but they get super annoying quickly. They kept waking me up all night and wouldn’t pipe down.
Day 5 was a very interesting day. I ran into an actual living person in the morning (not a figment of my imagination). Bev is a retired lady who has done the Foothills Trail twice. I got one word for her; respect! I have only met a handful of people out here, most are day hikers. Anyways the weather was clear and sunny and my shoes were dry.  Life is good.
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View near Sloan Bridge.
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I eventually made it to Chattooga River which was a huge milestone for me. When I was hiking along the river corridor, a mountain lion jumped out and attacked a little critter right in front of me. It was about 50 feet away from the trail to my right. Olive went nuts! I was blown away by what I saw. This is what went on in my brain at the moment:
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” Wooow! A real live Mountain Lion! This is unbelievable! Man, that thing is huge. It’s as big as me, wow! Wait… That is a really big animal. It also has massive claws and teeth…. I better get outa here!”
And thats exactly what I did. Olive and I took off down the trail. The whole time I was looking over my shoulder to make sure it wasn’t following me. The funny thing is, that cat could probably find me blindfolded because Olive smelled of wet dog and I hadn’t showered in forever. Well, after 1.5 miles or so I stopped for a quick breather. I was thinking about that poor little critter, RIP, when all the sudden I heard the methodical cracking of leaves on the ridge line above me. Olive heard it too and went nuts again. My mind was racing with thoughts again:
“Could it be the Mountain Lion stalking me? No. I heard they are supposed to be super stealthy. Maybe this one just failed at Stealth School. No. It sounds too big. Could it be a bear? No. They are still supposed to be hibernating. Hmmm, Sasquatch?”
I didn’t know what was above me and i didn’t stay to find out. Olive and I booked it down the trail once again, but this time with no breaks. I reached a decent camp site at night and by then my legs were smoked. While setting up camp, I came up with this grand plan if the beast visits me: First, Olive would attack. Then, I would pepper spray it in the eyes followed by a roundhouse kick to the face! Yea, that should do the trick.
Day 6 was the coldest day yet. I actually had to hike in thermal clothes. It never got above 35 degrees. Some good news; no big cat last night. Bad news is; I ate the last of my food this morning, Quaker oatmeal. I ate more than anticipated, but thats alright. I heard intermittent fasting is healthy.
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I eventually reached the Bartram Trail and headed off down the easy beginning 10 miles. It is full of pine groves which I really like. Then, came the last 12 mile portion. I didn’t know it would take me straight to the top of the mountain ridges. The panoramic views are amazing. However, I didn’t get any pics with my cell phone because sleet rain started to fall. I did get pics with the GoPro so Al (aka Lex the Defender) will insert them later. But you heard right; sleet rain. That was rough. I kept pushing throughout the night to get off the ridge line. I finally got down into a gorge at night and set up camp in the rain. Did I ever tell you how much I love cold rainy weather? Haha Good Livin’. I ended up doing a 25.5 mile day which was awesome. Oh, I almost forgot to mention what got me through the long day while starving. When i was pushing through the mountains in the sleet, I was thinking about a large Footlong Chicken Teriyaki Sub from Subway the whole time. Seriously no joke! That image was burned into my brain and I would have given anything for one. The funny thing is I’m not a huge fan of Subway, but hunger does funny things to you. This is no lie, but I dreamt of food all night long. In one of my dreams: Drey and Mike showed up with a giant pizza and breadsticks. Haha boy was I happy. We were eating, laughing, and having a grand time. Then, I remember another short dream where a guy that I barely know, Dr. Moroner showed up and gave me a huge cake. Lol I woke up the next morning with a smile on my face despite being hungry.
Today is day 7. I’m sitting at Burger King in Clayton, GA typing away while drinking hot coffee. I miss everyone and truly appreciate the prayers and support from you guys. Yes, this is the short version of my first week. Hope you enjoyed.

Starting the AT tomorrow!

I can’t believe I am officially leaving tomorrow morning. This is kinda crazy because I never thought this day would finally arrive. The thing is, when I started planning this trip 6 months ago, that is all I did; plan. Now the stage of planning is officially over and it is now time to dive head long into this endeavor.

The idea is to keep everyone posted with weekly updates on my whereabouts. I’ll be doing everything from my iphone so please excuse my typos and weird writing errors. If you read something totally confusing and all you can say is “huh?!” then understand that it isn’t my fault. I am blaming auto-correct ahead of time.

My start point is Table Rock, SC. From there I will be hiking down to Georgia using the Foothills trail followed by the Bartram Trail. You might be wondering why? Well, simply because the Palmetto area is so fantastic! I have hiked portions of the Foothills trail but not the whole thing. This approach has only been done by a handful of people and I would love to be one of them. No worries, it will only add about a week to my overall trip, which isn’t bad at all.

Um, I think that is about it for a last post. Keep me in your prayers people and God Bless!

The AT and what it’s all about

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The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. White painted squares called ‘blazes’ are painted on trees every 100 yards or so throughout the trail. It is pretty much impossible to get lost as long as you follow the blazes.

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So what is so intriguing about the AT? Why do people attempt such a long and difficult trip knowing that only 25% make it all the way? These are questions I get asked all the time and they are tough to answer. There is something about nature that is always calling to me, beckoning me to venture out of the comfort of my home. I know, weird huh? But seriously, if I don’t go camping at least once a month, I get restless. The thing is, we are surrounded by technology that creates sensory overload; cell phones, computers, radio, TV… All of that is just too much and my brain begs for a detox! There is no better detox for the senses than a hike through nature. John Muir nailed it when he said:
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”  – John Muir
When I read that quote, I was like “That is so true!” Nature does have this ability to heal, cleanse and change. For example, there are many Iraq war veterans that are hiking the AT and the Pacific Crest Trail to get over PTSD. Backpacker magazine had a great article on that topic several months ago. I see nature as God’s gift to man kind, a gift that can heal the most broken of spirits.

I decided to pursue this endeavor for many reasons. There is no one reason for me going out into the wild because the AT has a lot to offer. Some of my motives for the AT are as follows:

Gain more self confidence and inner strength by venturing out into the unknown.

Test my character by experiencing the elements, whatever they may be.

Experience the healing power of nature.

Spend some time and reflect on life.

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty…   No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening – still all is Beauty!”   – John Muir

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South Africa

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Hey my name is Ed and I wanted to write down my experience in South Africa. It makes things WAY easier on me because everyone back home asks the same question: “How was Africa?” I don’t want to simply say, ummmm its really cool. Africa trip deserves more than just an short elevator ride description.

So on my flight to there, I was exhausted. This guy here is a procrastinator. I ended up packing past midnight the night before my trip. The flight really sucked! I sat next to this ‘Oak’ (that’s how they say ‘big guy’ in SA) who took both of the arm rests. Can you believe that?! The nerve! After a long 16 hour flight I had nasty headache. But at least I got to see the new Bourne Legacy on the plane which was pretty awesome. The SA airport is huge! It was really modern which surprised me. I expected it to be less sophisticated. The joke was that we would land on a dirt runway and have to make a run for the cars before the lions got us. We finally got our stuff intact. I was SO worried that TSA would steal my rock climbing gear and not give it back. But it was all there so I could relax a little.

We met Alla for the first time in a year. She looks great, young and beautiful like always. It was nice to see a familiar face. We got into her car which was kinda weird. Her steering wheel is on the right side. Everyone drives on the left side of the road which takes some getting used to. Driving from Joburg to Pretoria is freaky. I mean there are all these people standing around the streets doing nothing. Its really dangerous when you stop at the stop signs because people here can run up to your car, smash your windows, and then to get the items on the seat or simply rob you. Keep your doors locked at ALL times. Alla had several instances when guys would try to get into her car at the street corners. Luckily for me I was armed with a tiny pocket knife, so I felt a somewhat secure. That was just some of the info that Alla gave us on the drive to her house. Her housing complex is really nice. There is a finger print scanner at the front gate. The whole neighborhood is surrounded by a 100,000 volt electric fence that sits on top of a 10 high brick wall. Alla calls it her ‘estate’ because that’s the word for neighborhood in SA. We gave her a hard time because only the wealthy have ‘estates’ in the US. Next place we went was out to a restaurant and got some killer steaks. Everything tastes so much better here because it’s all organic. The premium steaks were only $10 US which was awesome. We then called it a night.
(Alla’s home Youtube link: http://youtu.be/OVHCbsxxccE )

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So today is December the 21, the end of the world. But apparently the Mayans messed up because they are gone and I’m still here. I woke up this morning at 2:00 am and couldn’t go back to sleep, my whole sleeping cycle was messed up because SA is 7 hours ahead. So I did what any normal person would do in my circumstance, I went downstairs and exercised. After like 2,000 pushups and 5,000 situps (I know, I’m a beast!) I got pretty hungry. There was plenty of food in the fridge so I cooked some eggs and toast. Half way through the meal I realized the bread was a little moldy. Consequence of no preservatives. Oh well, I needed my dose of penicillin. Later on in the morning Al and I went for a jog around Alla’s ‘Estate’. She said that the circuit was around 3 miles around the whole estate. Well, she was wrong. It was more like 4 miles! The extra mile sucked under the African sun. Al and I chased this big bird and a rabbit on the run. Why? Because we could and it was awesome! While we were running under the scorching sun, a lady stopped us and told us that it was unacceptable in SA to be seen public without a shirt. Who knew? I haven’t been here for even 24 hours and I’m already breaking rules.

We headed out to Kruger National Park after our run. Kruger is like the size of Rhode Island. The 5 hour drive was terrifying! I almost died a few times because of Alla’s driving, sorry sister but I’m calling you out! Everyone here has only one thought on their minds when driving: “I wonder if I can pass the car in front of me during the upcoming blind turn…” Who does that?! We finally got to Kruger Hotel safely. It’s right at the entrance to the park which was really convenient. The hotel is super cool. It has this huge deck area with a roof that connects all the buildings together. It’s like a giant log cabin of sorts.

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Kruger Hotel

There are so many monkeys out there! Be careful feeding them because when you feed one, all of them come running at you for food.
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The staff is friendly and customer service was great. These guys feed you with a delicious breakfast and dinner. I wish I could fit more of it into my stomach but I about exploded every time I ate there. However, all good things must come to an end. A mosquito bit me on my forehead!!! I can’t believe it! I took so many precautions: DEET Spray, sneakers, jeans and a jacket in 75 degree weather…. and I still got bit! Now my only hope is anti-malaria meds that I’ve been taking. Kruger area has a high case of Malaria.

12-22-12 We woke up really early; 4:00 am to get ready for the safari at Kruger. You have a choice of using a guide but we opted out because Alla has been here before. She claims to be a self appointed expert. The three of us got into the Toyota Corolla and took off. The entrance is paved into the park but later on there are dirt roads that branch of every which way. All roads are clearly marked so it’s pretty much impossible to get lost. We saw a few animals; Zebras, tons of Empalas, deer, a few Giraffe, Kuzos , a rabbit and a random water bird (Alla said rabbit/bird doesn’t count).

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We were looking for the Big 5. They are the elephants, rhinos, lions, water buffalo and leopards. After hours of searching and seeing 0 of the Big 5, we called it a day. This place is huge and it’s a hit or miss kind of thing. But after talking to the locals, we found out that we are the unluckiest American tourists ever. Apparently EVERYONE sees at least one of the Big 5, but we didn’t. Our expert guide failed in the area of the Big 5. No tip for you Alla! Oh well, next time I’ll put away my camera and come back with a rifle, JK. We came back to the hotel and grabbed some food. I had this omelet which was really good (Mom’s omelet is still the best!). They always have a bunch of fruit you can eat and these awesome freshly squeezed mango juices. I really could get used to this! We got some sleep afterwards. Al wasn’t feeling well. He had a fever. I thought he was coming down with the case of Yellow Fever or Malaria or some other crazy African illness, but he turned out ok. That night while we were eating outside next to a firepit. There were these guys that came out and danced for everyone. They were wearing traditional African clothing (which wasn’t much clothing at all) and danced to these drums. It was pretty cool!

12-23-12 I woke up at 2:00 am again! It happens to me every single night which throws off my whole day. Since I couldn’t sleep I decided to capture the sunrise with my GoPro time lapse feature. While walking to the viewing area I came across this GIANT Spider. It’s body was a couple inches long, not including it’s crazy long legs! I’m not even exaggerating his size. I busted out the camera to show the world my discovery but this guy started to chase me!!! That was the fastest bug I’ve ever encountered but no worries, I ran like a coward and got away. The sunrise was unreal. As the sun slowly creeped over the tops of the trees, you could hear the Lions and Hippos at the river in front of us.

Sunrise at Kruger Park

There wasn’t much to do after that because the sun rises early- 5:30. Al woke up so we went down to the pool to mess around with the GoPro’s underwater features. We were filming gainers, backflips and dives. That’s about the time when I busted by head open diving. I was SO mad at myself. I thought I was past that stage of pool injuries. Get this, the gash was started right below the hairline in the center of my forehead and went straight up. It did not look pretty! I didn’t let Alla see it because she would Freak Out. The baseball cap did a great job of covering it up. We were leaving in the morning anyways so I told them that I need some stiches. The executive decision was made to stop by Nesbrut Mediclinic which is a private hospital, only after eating another filling breakfast of course. We packed up, ate breakfast and then drove 1.5 hours to the hospital. This Doc named Alyson stitched me up really well. You can barely tell that I messed up my head. We then headed over to Protorea and dropped off our stuff at the hotel. There is this place called God’s Window nearby that has this amazing panoramic view of the SA. It was really neat to see Africa from up high.

Alla at God's Window

Alla at God’s Window

On our way back we stopped by this Portugese based restaurant which turned out to be loads of fun! Alla said she wouldn’t respect me as a man until I ate a ton of this greenish hot sauce. That sauce was ridiculous! It about killed me when I caved in to the peer pressure and ate it. Thanks Alla! The drive back to the hotel sucked because there were loads of random potholes in the road and they are so hard to see during the night. Thankfully we didn’t hit any of them and made it back safely.

12-24-12 We woke up at 7 in the morning when it was supposed to be 5:30. Come to find out, these guys decided to sleep in and use me as an excuse. They said I need to sleep longer due to yesterday’s injury. I was like ‘Sure, blame it on me.’ But I couldn’t complain because we haven’t been sleeping much on our vacation.

Outdoor souvenir shops

Outdoor souvenir shops

We stopped by the souvenir shops at God’s Window. They sold tons of neat items carved out of wood. It was fun to bargain with these people. They wouldn’t drop the prices past 30-40% because apparently EVERYONE is trying to get their kids through school… sure.

Overlook near God’s Window

Afterwards we headed off to Blyde River canyon. It’s the 3rd largest canyon in the world. We choose to hike the Belvedere Trail which was supposed to lead us to the isolated Dientjie Waterfall.

Belvedere Sign

Belvedere Trail

So we arrived around noon and started to hike the trail which takes roughly 2.5 hours each way. The trail is CRAZY steep and really rough terrain. I’ve hiked many different trails back in the States but nothing like this. It took us right into the depths of the canyon. It was well marked though with green paint on the rocks. After hiking 2 hours Alla couldn’t go any further. Her shoes were too small and they were crushing her feet. Apparently they shrank because she washed them right before the hike. I was wearing my NewBalance Minimus shoes. These things perform like no other shoe due to the minimal sole that is flexible but tough. Al decided to run up ahead, get the waterfall on footage and double back. I decided to stick with Alla and walk her back to the Trail head. Alla made it back just fine after I cut up her shoes with my knife to make room for her toes that were being squeezed. However, something was wrong. Al didn’t show up at the rendezvous site at the set time. So I grabbed some water, a couple of oranges that we had and ran back down the trail looking for the guy. I was really worried because he is allergic to Bees and he had no antihistamines with him. After running near the waterfall and not finding the guy, I ran back to Alla because it was getting dark and no one needs 2 lost hikers. When I got back to Alla, Al was there! I couldn’t believe it. Come to find out, Al stepped off the main trail and was running around the canyon in the bush lost. He did get back on the trail eventually and made it back. Al was kinda messed up! There were crazy scratches on his arms and legs everywhere. There was also quite a bit of blood running down his legs.
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Looking back at the events I guess I must have passed him at one point when I was searching the trail. It was my fault for allowing the group to split up. Never again! At least he made it to the waterfall and was able to show us pics of it.

Dientjie Falls

Dientjie Falls

Looking at the map, I must have hiked around 6 miles with Alla and ran 7-8 miles looking for Al. It was cool though, I needed the exercise. Alla had it the worst though. When she was waiting for the one man search party (me of course), she made the outrageous mistake of feeding a monkey with a nut from her trailmix bag. A British Man saw her performing this unthinkable act and yelled at the top of his lungs “She’s FEEDING the Monkeys!!!” He got the security and told on her! Can you believe that?! The security could care less but did ask her not to do it again. Alla was SOOO mad at the guy haha! When we all got back to the hotel to crash after our big day, I found a GIANT frog on my bed. No joke! This guy was the size of my palm. I was like, Really?! Because yesterday there was a long lizard, about 5 inches long, next to my bed. Why is it always my bed? This is Africa, what else can I say?

12-25-12 We woke up really early on Christmas morning to pack up and get back to Pretoria, about 5 hours away. Poor Alla got destroyed by mosquitoes last night in our room. Al and I were untouched because they know better. We had breakfast which was awesome like always except that the waiters are slackers. Seriously! After sitting at our table for 5 min, Al had to go and find our waitress. She was reluctant to get our drinks. In all honesty, many S. Africans are extremely lazy and take no pride in their work. It’s common to find this attitude everywhere because its part of their culture. I drove us back to Pretoria, a long 5 hour drive. It was hard getting used to because the driving lane is on the left side and the steering wheel is on the R side of the car. It kind of messes with your mind especially when making turns. I was speeding because there was nobody on the road. No people or cops anywhere which was great. Luckily there weren’t any cops in the bushes either. These guys sit in the bushes on a lawn chair with a cooler next to them. They have this HUGE cannon looking camera that they use to take pics of license plates, if your speeding of course. Then all they do is send you a ticket in the mail. When we finally got home, the internet was still out. It really upset Alla because she wanted to skype with her family. There was a hotel near by called The Farm Inn which had internet so we headed over there. This place is the ultimate man cave. The whole place is made of rock and logs and has this very rustic feel about it. There are taxidermy lions and giraffes everywhere which was way cool.

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There we met up with Alla’s co-worker Patrick. He is easy going with a great sense of humor. After skyping with the family we all headed back home to prepare Christmas dinner. I grilled steaks and chicken kebabs which turned out awesome ‘if I may say so myself.’ Alla made some delicious Malva Pudding with this custard sauce that was out of this world! Seriously! Al got the privilege of decorating the cake which ended up looking like it got man handled. It still tasted good though! All the food went to Pat’s house for the dinner. There we met two local South African girls. The have the neatest accent. Its like a mix of Australian and British. Pat was trying to prepare ham and needed some help. He has this super high tech oven that has all these buttons. After putting our brilliant minds together for 5 minutes, Al Pat and I found out how to turn it on. It took another 10 minutes of pushing random buttons before the thing was actually working properly. It was fun learning the African culture from the young ladies. They said Americans tip WAY too much at the restaurants, who knew? The Christmas dinner was composed of the most random young people and it was loads of fun!

12-26-12 So Pat decided to join Al and I on our lion adventure to Ukatula. We got there mid afternoon and the 1.5 hour drive wasn’t too bad. As soon as we signed our lives away on the waivers we joined up with a group of people and saw the Little Devils. There were about 12 young lion cubs around the 3-5 months of age. It was super awesome to get in the den and play with the cubs. One of the little rascals bit my thigh, it hurt like crazy! Luckily my skin is part steel so those razor sharp teeth didn’t draw any blood. You really have to be careful with them because they chew on EVERYTHING!

Cub showing off it’s sharp teeth

Cub

A volunteer there, yes you can volunteer at this place, showed me one of his wounds. It was insane! And I thought my head injury was bad. The guy was messing with the 1 year old lions when one of them got too playful and got him with its claws. He has a nasty injury on his stomach but at least it’s an epic story to share with others. Playing around with these cubs was the highlight of my trip. I wanted to smuggle one of the little guys out but my backpack was too small. Mufasa would have made an awesome souvenir!

Al laying next to cub

Mufasa chilling with me

Chilling with Mufasa

We got to see a bunch of adolescent lions that were 1-3 years old. They are adults when they are 6 years old. The park specializes in breeding white lions. These guys have these very intense blue eyes that can stare right through you! I tried to have a starring competition with one of them but lost.
White Lion
We also saw some Lynx and a Cheetah called Emma. She doesn’t like men, what’s up with that? She only lets the ladies pet her. That’s alright because lions are way cooler than cheetahs. At the end of the day we got a chance to walk with 2 young lions. They were 1.5 years old and stood about waist high. The 2 lions were running around us while we walked through the bush. Did you know lions can climb trees? I saw them climb trees like it was nothing which has messed up my whole lion evasion plan. I planned to climb a tree if I ever got attacked. The guide said it’s best to stand your ground and bluff them… Yea right! I’m sticking to my plan. All I have to do is climb higher than it. We called it a day and drove back to Pretoria. There was an insane rainstorm on the drive back. It is either hot and sunny or it’s hurricane weather in South Africa. Not much happens in between.

CAPETOWN

Waterfront at Capetown

Waterfront at Capetown

12-27-12 Our goals for the day were to get to Capetown, rent a car and get to the hotel. I was forced to wake up super early in the morning to pack up and get ready. Breakfast consisted of 2 small slices of cheese pizza which was not enough to get this body moving. The 2 hour flight there was one of those memorable ones because it basically sucked. There was this guy sitting behind me that was constantly coughing with his mouth open. I also sat in the back of the plane near the toilets… I’ll leave it at that. Alla rented us a Nissan Livina. It’s a four door car that we don’t have in the states. I liked it because it was manual. Driving a manual with the left hand was kinda cool. We drove straight to the V & A Waterfront in Capetown to get some food. Fuel for the body was the number one priority. All of us were pretty much like grumpy zombies because of hunger. Hunger can make you irritable sometimes. Traffic didn’t help at all because it took forever to get there. There were like a billion tourists everywhere! We finally found a restaurant that served seafood. Capetown has AMAZING seafood and sushi. Everything here is so fresh and preservative free. They have these local markets at the Waterfront that serve excellent food. We ate some crepes covered with condensed milk with nutella inside them. We got around to checking in to St. Georges Hotel. It’s supposed to be a 4 star hotel but its more like a 3 star by US standards. They have no small fridge inside, the TV’s are those large tube screens from the 90’s, and they serve the exact same breakfast every morning with no dinner provided like at Kruger. Oh well, us Americans are simply high maintenance I guess. At least the hotel is directly in the middle of Capetown and the customer service was excellent. Later on that night we headed out to Wakame Sushi Bar. If your ever in Capetown, go there. The sushi there is outstanding!

12-28-12 We woke up at 6 to go hiking at Table Mountain only to find out that it’s closed because of cloudy weather. They close the mountain to hikers because it gets really dangerous. When the clouds cover it, you can’t see anything. Imaging the worst fog you’ve ever encountered and multiply it by 10.  The clouds here seem so much lower in elevation for some reason. Gravity must be stronger in Capetown or something like that. Alla came across a mountain biking place online called Downhill Adventures so the day was not a failure. We met up with the manager called Jerry who hooked us up with bikes called Giant. Jerry is an easy going guy who has traveled the whole world and ended up sticking around Capetown in the end. It says a lot about this place. After he dropped us off part way up Table Mountain the three of us took off down these difficult gravel/sandy trails . They were really hard to navigate because of the terrain. Poor Alla had a hard fall in the very beginning. She was trying to keep up with the boys and ended up wiping out. But no worries, she tuffed it out. It was so hot out there! Alex applied sun block but missed these large patches on his arms and shoulders, he burned pretty bad haha! The trails finally ended and we got on the steep paved streets. That was the highlight of the biking trip because no work was required of my massive quads. Exploring Capetown on the bikes was awesome because we simply weaved through the traffic. Alla took us to Bo Kaap. It’s a bunch of streets that have these really colorful homes lined up.  There is a small restaurant there called Caas Café. Put it on your list of places to go. After all that biking, we rested up at the hotel and then headed out to Lake Side Pinnacle to do some rock climbing. The drive was like 30 minutes which wasn’t bad at all. We did a few sport routes which were super neat. These single pitch sport routes overlooked Capetown with Table Mountain in the background, the view was simply incredible.
http://youtu.be/-xafnO4nEPk

Alla Rockclimbing with Table Mountain in the background

Alla Rockclimbing with Table Mountain in the background

Alex couldn’t finish one of the routes there called ‘Who Knows?’ It was like a 5.10 or so. Too bad his MBS couldn’t help him (Massive Bicep Syndrome). When it got dark we drove down to this Thai place that was run by a family. They simply converted their home into a restaurant. The food was great like everywhere else we have been. I forgot the name of the place because my brain was mush by the end of the night.

12-29-12 Everyone was so tired from yesterday that we choose to sleep in till 7. It was a late start but I needed the extra hour, I was running out of steam. Too much to do with so little time. The day’s agenda was to drive around and explore major areas of South Africa. I drove because Mountain biking beat Alla up. She was all bruised up. We drove to Stellenbosch first. It’s supposed to be the wine capital of the world. A lot of those vineyards are hundreds of years old. Everyone acts so sophisticated at those wineries. They swirl their wine around, stick their noses into the glasses and then use exotic adjectives to describe the wine ‘spicy, smoky oak, fruity, woody…’ I was like “sure, if you say so.” I don’t understand wine nor like it in any way. If you ask me, I say juice complements red meat the best. The wine making process is pretty neat though and the experience was a lot of fun. We then proceeded to drive south to Simon’s Town. It’s a small tourist town nestled among the cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean. Alla loved that place but driving through it was horrible. There were tourists like us everywhere! After we ran down and touched the Indian Ocean just to say that we did it, we headed down to the Penguin Colony. The atmosphere here isn’t as up beat and energetic as in Simon’s Town. We walked around and came across some legit penguins in the wild. Al got a pic with a penguin while wearing Andrey’s sweater which is made by Penguin Co. I thought that was pretty cool. For those that don’t know, Al jacked the sweater from Andrey and has been taking it all over the world.

Hanging out with a Penguin

Hanging out with a Penguin

The idea was to continue our drive all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope. It’s supposed to be the southern most tip of Africa. Traffic was SO ridiculous that we ended up changing plans and detouring across to the Atlantic Ocean side. The rugged coastlines and unspoiled beauty there is hard to describe. The road is cut into the cliffs high above the ocean that crashes into the rocky sides. The Misty Cliffs and Chapman’s Point are almost magical. Trying to capture it all on film is impossible and does this place no justice. Sitting there starring over Hout Bay thousands of feet above the ocean gave me true perspective on how small and insignificant I am in this world. We finally got some food at this random hole in the wall brick oven pizza shop. The guys used wood to fire up the oven which gave it a smoky flavor. The pizza was excellent! However, luckily for us I randomly decided to check the expiration date on the bottles of coke.  They expired around 6 months ago. Whew! That was a close call. Always check the expiration date people! After driving all day long,  we retired at the hote

12-30-12  Al and I woke up at 1:30am to get an early start. I think I’m losing weight from the lack of sleep. Oh well, I’ll gain it back in the States. Our plan was simple, get to De Pakhuys place, get crash pads and go bouldering. Alla stayed behind. She wanted to do girly stuff like get her eye brows plucked and stuff. Sounds like torture if you ask me. The drive to the Rocklands is 2.5 hours long. We got to Pakhuys place only to find it closed on Sunday. What a bummer! But all was not lost. Al saved the day by doing the unthinkable. He fiddled around with the multidigit lock pad and got it open! We grabbed the crashpads, left behind a note with money and took off. There was a camp ground at the entrance to the bouldering areas. A guy gave us some pointers to the places we should see and climb. These guys have it all figured out. Here they are chilling out and camping at the doorstep to the greatest bouldering in the world. They climb in the morning and evening and rest during the hottest part of the day. When it’s scourching outside they simply hang out under the shade of the trees, read books, play music… you get the point. I may have to join these guys sometime. Bouldering was unreal! Every rock face is so unique and the features are amazing. We tried a few different grades but ended up mainly sticking with V3-V4 routes. Most of the rock here is very rough. If you know 60 grit sandpaper, it’s kind of like that. I was burning up a t 8 am and had no sunblock. By the afternoon I was totally cooked. That’s ok though, I hear the more sun you get, the better it is for you. It was too hot by noon and our hands were sore from the rock so we took off.

Al bouldering

Al bouldering

Me in a bouldering tunnel

Me in a bouldering tunnel

Our stomachs led us to Clanwillian. It’s the nearest town to the Rocklands with only 1 restaurant there. The food was mediocre to say the least. Their largest meal consisted of a piece of bacon, burnt piece of toast, and only 2 eggs. This man needs at least 5 eggs to keep himself going. These guys are not helping my weight issue one bit. So far, that has been the most disappointing meal yet in SA. The drive back wasn’t too bad. I came across only one cop sitting in the bushes with that giant camera. I think he took a pic of me because I was speeding 15 over when I saw him. The ladies we met over Christmas dinner told us that everyone disregards speeding tickets in the mail and never pays. After we got back everyone was feeling sushi again. I ordered this new style sashimi which was really good but only enough to feed a small field mouse. Alex saw me eyeing his plate and was kind enough to share, thanks buddy! We then hung out at the Waterfront. There were loads of people there from all over the world. The live music was fantastic! The guys on stage really know how to put on a good show. Al really wanted to capture the sun setting over the ocean so we headed to the beach. He set up the GoPro but the wind was way too chilly today. Alla and I sat in the car while Al froze outside haha! Great way to end the day if you ask me.

12-31-12 The plan today was to go cage diving with the great white sharks but that fell through. All the cage diving tours have been closed the whole time we’ve been in Capetown. The wind has been really strong with gusts up to 70mph. The ocean was really rough and all the sharks were gone. Unfortunately with the wind being so strong, we couldn’t do paragliding either. That would have been SOOO awesome to paraglide off Table Mountain. Oh well, some times you can’t have it all on vacation. Like they say: “When in Rome…..”  lol sorry it’s an inside joke. Alla wanted to rock climb again and Al wanted to conquer his route so we headed over to Pinnacle. It was so much fun because we hit up all these major routes that we couldn’t do last time due to time constraints. Alla was tearing it up! Seriously, for a first timer on real rock craigs, she did great! Al finally completed his route and was super stoked. The sun was right over us the whole time but Alla and I were unaffected because we used sunblock SPF 1000 or something like that. Al wanted to work on his tan so he opted out. After hours of climbing, Al turned into a lobster haha! Ok, he burned before when mountain biking but this just didn’t compare. Poor guy couldn’t wear his backpack anymore from the pain. We rested up at the hotel and then headed over to the Waterfront to spend New Years there. After walking around aimlessly we finally found a spot to settle down. Cafe Grace was the perfect spot because we got to sit on these couches on the deck near the ocean. There were these heating lamps directly over us which pretty much kept me alive. Alla was all bundle up with blankets that the Cafe provided. It got super cold because of the wind but I survived with the help of hot African Rooibos tea. The fireworks show was pretty cool even though it was only a minute long. The fireworks traveled sideways when they exploded because of the strong wind. The wind changed the dynamics of the show which was pretty cool. Alla and I headed back later on but Al stuck around because he made a new contact named Willy. The guy owned a mining company or something along those lines. Spending New Years outside in the cold was unique and definitely worth every moment.

1-1-13 I woke up all refreshed and energized which was rare. Al was a zombie this morning because he got back around 3 in the morning and only got a few hours of sleep. Alla was in rough shape. She had an allergic reaction to something unknown and was itching all over. I gave her a couple of antihistamine pills which pretty much knocked her out. Today was our last day in Capetown and our check out time from the hotel was 10:00. Our flight didn’t leave till 8:00pm so there was a whole day ahead of us. Al and Alla were pretty much bums because both wanted to sleep. I drove them to a wildlife park next to highway M3 and parked the car. Those to slackers just slept in the car while I went out and explored the park. This park has miles worth of trails which are really neat to run on. Later on I took them to the airport where they continued to sleep for a few hours. The flight back wasn’t too bad overall.
Alla sleeping

1-2-13 Today was our last day in South Africa. Alla was really sad at our departure. We said our goodbyes, Al gave her one last wet willi which she wasn’t too happy about lol and then we flew off. The 16 hour flight back was awesome because I sat next to these two guys who gave me loads of info on backpacking and traveling overseas. I am excited about my next adventure and hope to share it with everyone soon.