Friday, October 24, 2008
Here is a close up of Rhett filling in the color and the finished product. I had been thinking about another tat for years but never had something that meant that much. Accomplishing the AT (with everything that I went through) justified it. If you remember the very begining of this blog - the moto for the journey came from an Eddie Vedder song lyric, "gonna rise up, find my direction - magnetically" (and a close friend had that engraved on the back of my ipod). The compass is high up on my back - to look over my shoulder and always make sure my life is going in the correct direction. I chose to only call out the N - as a reminder that I was a NOBO on the AT (actually never slackpacked - so went North 100% of the time - which was important to me). The daisy in the middle - reminds me that I should always center myself with nature and the environment. Orange and Navy Blue are two of my favorite colors (and yellow just looks good with orange). The daisy is white - but still had some blood seeping through so it looks a little pink - that will change with time. I LOVE it!
Here is Rhett (from The Illustrated Man) outlining the new tat. He had sketched it up for me that morning - and let me make several small changes - but overall I loved what he had come up with. He had heard my story and knew how important the meaning was. He has also done quite a bit of hiking and snowboarding when he lived in Colorado so he was able to relate - and loved what I was doing.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Well - been back for 3 weeks. Still don't have a job - but ok with that. Friends have helped out by letting me stay on the couch. I have a second interview with a local gear shop - hope to know more next week - it is really where I want to be. I remember how Katie (the girl from another outfitter) helped excite me and talked me into hiking (as well as helping me with my pack selection and starting the ball rolling). I want to do that for someone else. I want to change their life, like Katie changed mine. I have also found an apartment that is only 1 mile from the retail store. I will be able to ride my bike to work and to the grocery store - which is very important to me. Our environment should be the #1 concern of our next President. Each of us can do our part - but we need a strong leader to make massive, and quick changes. Feeling pretty good with my life right now, had to get a new cell phone (found out that 6 months in the woods is hard on them.) Bought a laptop - so with those 2 things I am highly mobile, which I love. If I can get a small (under 700 sq ft) appt and ride a bike to work - I will be in a very happy place. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Hope to purge a lot of stuff when I move - be checking Craigs list! I set up a Facebook account to keep in touch with everyone - and the best part about having a professional photographer as an ex wife - is being able to get a great head shot for free! Thanks Amy (well, actually David - he gets photo credit - he created this image a couple of days ago). Quite a bit better than my handheld shot up against the bricks, standing outside of a Panera (borrowing Internet). I am leaving in a bit to go get my tattoo! I'll have pictures uploaded of it soon. Probably will post pictures of my apartment as well - will be the first time I have ever lived in one (always had a house, and lived in the dorms at college). After that, don't know - everyone might just have to wait till Hoot or Freebird call me and talk me into hiking the PCT! Peace.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
well - here it is - me summiting at K! So thankful that Sundance was there to capture it on film. Good news - its tough to see my crying as I walk up - and you can't see me when I put my head on the sign - so if you can't see it - then I wasn't crying! : ) granted - Hoot named the CD "Blazecry". Thanks Hoot. Listen closely and you can hear me say "can I just touch it" which is an easy "thats what she said!" I also let you know how I feel about ticks. That moment - it was so amazing and life changing - and everyone cheering me on - well - it just hits you pretty hard. I remember it like it was yesterday. Over the last few days - I have gone through my entire blog, from the beginning at Springer, probably 3 or 4 times. Hard not to keep looking at it. Some days I am amazed that I made it. Some days its sureal, like I wasn't even gone for 6 months. And yes - I want to do the PCT in a couple of years - so keep me in mind. Enjoy the closure. Its weird to think that the SOBOs are still out there - some are tyring to finish by Thanksgiving, others by Christmas. Godspeed to them all.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Well - here you go - a picture of me all smooth. I'm not going to lie - I was pretty skittish for the first couple of days that I was back. Driving on the highway was a bit much. I freaked out on the second day - I was still wearing the same clothes that I hiked in, and still had the facial hair, but I was no longer Blaze. I got up early the next morning and shaved which made me feel a lot better. I know that I am no longer Kevin, but I am no longer Blaze either. Have to find out where on the spectrum I am. Because of that - I am not making any major life decisions till Feb or March of 2009. I let my Leave of Absence run out - so I am no longer at my previous company. Maybe again someday, but the fluorescent lights and cubicles were freaking me out when I went down to save my hard drive and see friends. That's a tough transition from the trail. They are having a "welcome home, see ya" happy hour for me tomorrow night. For not having a job - I have been really busy! Figuring out bills / insurance, spending time with friends and family, and getting my truck running again - its filling my days. Miss the quiet solitude that the timber provided. Miss the trail a lot. Already. I've looked at my blog several times. If Hoot mails me the video of my summit - I might add it. Need to watch it again and then decide. Have been in email contact with a lot of hikers - seems like everyone is in the same place. Not sure what to do - and already missing aspects of the hike. Had a job interview today for some seasonal work, and am trying to get on with a local gear shop - I need to be close to the people and the gear for awhile. I'm passionate about it - so should make my soul happy - which is my only objective right now. Happy and a little bit of cash - as the medical bills are daunting - even with insurance. Just going to bounce around with friends till spring. Then, who knows, maybe still in KC, maybe Portland, maybe Austin, and researching several cities in Colorado. Note - AT Thru hikers in those areas - email me and I will come out to see you / sleep on the couch / work for stay. : ) Oh - and I met with a premier tattoo artist this week - shared my journey with him, and came up with an idea for a new tat. He should have sketches done next week - and of course I will put the pictures on my blog. If you want me to post pictures of me sleeping on friends couches or floors - just let me know. : )
Go get some sun on your face. Peace
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Summited on the 30th and Brahma and Sweet P had rented a minivan to drive back down to Virginia. They were dropping Hoot and Sundance off in NY and offered to drop me off in Boston - so we made a little road trip of it. Didn't want to pay for a room - so just went to the airport and slept on the floor. Pretty nice to carry your bed with you everywhere you go. Since my ticket was for the next day (the 2nd) I couldn't go in - so I just laid down right by the front door. Didn't get much sleep - they kept buffing the floors and people walked by all night. Got up at 4:00am to switch my flight to an earlier one - and, well, here I am. I am Kansas City right now!!! Getting ready to go sit outside and decompress for a bit. WAY to much to jump back into when you have been in the woods for 6 months. Hope to add a few more images and the clip of my finish - so you can make fun of me for crying. Peace to all - and thank you so much for following my journey - I couldn't have done it without the support of friends, family, and everyone that I met on the trail. Your first question, I'm guessing, is would you do it again? I'm glad I did it, and it has changed me, a lot - but no - once is enough. If I had the time and money I would go hike the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada via California, Oregon and Washington). But honestly would like to just do some short weekend hikes or hell - even car camping! Now what? Not sure. No money, no job, no house. Anyone interested? Clearly have shown commitment, desire, persistence, strength and the ability to deal with logistics of a large project. Email me. I could also be a cabana/pool boy for a Cougar - this is the one time in my life I think I can pull off the tight, white shorts! I need to get away from this for a bit - like I said - I'll add some more - but kinda freaking me out to still in the library when it is sunny outside. Feel free to email me with any questions about the hike - or take me out for a drink and I'll talk your ears off. Plan to shave the poor attempt at facial hair in a day or two - and might upload a new picture. I don't even remember what I look like! Go get some sun on your face.
I really don't want to re-post the "before" picture - you can go back to the old one if you want to see it - but would say that the AT transforms you - mentally, emotionally, and certainly - physically. Can't wait to jump on a scale - betting that I lost another 20 lbs on the trail (after the 40 that I lost in training). Can't let myself get back to that again.
check this out - almost 20 of us - and someone kept coming up every 30 mins or so and we would all scream for them. No one wanted to leave. The kicker is - well - you finish at the top of a mountain - so you still have to hike those same 5.2 miles back down - but this time, with no adrenaline. Probably set up here for an hour or more - just couldn't walk away yet.
what a turn of events - to be able to summit with so many friends. from left to right - Sundance, Hoot, me, Sweet Potato, and Brahma Bull. Weird how the world works. 6 months ago I had never met them, then hiked with them in the Smokies for a few weeks, then got way ahead, then got sick, then saw them in town, then would catch up, then fall behind, then catch them, then fall behind, then finally caught them - and here we are. Gotta love it.
And here is the sign that I had been chasing. Took 184 days to make the summit - but I did it. I was number 366 to sign in at Baxter but know there is a pretty big group still behind. Sundance was able to get my summit as a movie clip and is going to send it to me - which I will add to the blog. It is raw and emotional - I was crying enough that I almost made everyone else cry. It was so great to finish - back in Vermont, in the hospital - I didn't know if this day was going to happen - but it did - and even with taking 24 days off for my sickness - still did it in just 1 day short of 6 months. 4/1/08-9/30/08. Class of '08. I am an AT Thru Hiker!!!!!!!
This was crazy - the summit was socked in - but you can see the outline of hikers and the sign (if you zoom in). I was almost running up these stone stairs by this point. With about 20 yards to go - I could hear everyone yelling "Blaze" and clapping. It really hit me and I lost it. 2,176.2 miles and this was it - here was the end. What a way to finish!
Here I am at the spring - only 1 mile left. Clearly I teared up again - it was real at this point. I could hear hikers yelling and screaming as they hit the summit and was ready to finish this thing. The last mile is actually kind of graded - and has some nice stone steps - so it was easy on us from this point.
the next 2 miles get a little harder - here we are going up the rocky ridge line, as soon as we cleared that false summit - the trail became a huge rock scramble - mostly hand over hand - more climbing than hiking. It was so much fun - as I was running on pure sugar (danish, pop tarts, carnation instant breakfast) and adrenaline!
don't get me wrong - I was doing big days to catch up to my friends, however - was also trying to dodge the hurricanes for summit day. We had heard that we had one good day - the 30th, and then another storm was coming in, that would bring 4-5 more days of rain. From down at the base - everything looked socked in. The first 2 miles are nice and easy - just warming your legs up. As we started to climb higher - we got above the clouds - but still more clouds above at the summit. Pretty cool picture to be both above and below cloud line.
Made it into camp around 9:00 and the Ranger took me to the Birches. Reserved for NOBO Thru hikers only - and only 5 miles from the summit! Ate and went to bed as quickly as possible - some of the hikers were getting up at 2:30am to try and catch the sunrise - no thanks. I got up at 6:00. Couldn't sleep well anyway - kind of like Christmas Eve at this point. Was doing ok with everything till I rolled and put my tent away that morning (the 30th). It finally hit me - this was it - in 3-4 hours I would be at the top and it would be over. I just sat down and cried a bit - sure you can see that my eyes are puffy in the picture. Hard to see it end.
Good news, bad news. The good news is that I had a note left for me at the Abol Bridge camp store. I had caught up to Brahma, Sweet P, Hoot and Sundance! I was 2.5 days behind - but was able to close the gap - and they went in town for a day due to weather. I would be able to summit with them! Bad news - it meant that at 4:00, with 14.5 miles already hiked, I had to hike another 10 to be able to summit on the 30th. Sun sets at 6:13 at that point - losing 3 mins of daylight a day - but after 4-5 nights of night hiking (with a couple in the rain) - didn't really matter any more. Check it out 14 miles to go!!!
if there was ever a reason to have a spinal tap and lay around for 24 days - it is to hike Maine in the fall (glad it slowed me down - though would have rather had another reason!) Amazing contrast as the maples change to red, yellow and orange - set off against the green of the pines. With all those pines - the water we drink everyday is yellow - from all the tannins that seep into the soil and to the springs.
I have to admit - hitting the 2,000 mile mark - with it spray painted on the street was pretty amazing. However - check out the 2,100 mile marker made out of moose poop. I have no idea how so many hikers got giardia! I didn't even get to see a moose in Maine - I think almost everyone else did - but I did a ton of poo!
speaking of the hurricanes - after hiking in solid rain for 2-3 days- you get pretty tired of this entire trip. Wake up wet, hike wet, chafe, set up your tent in the rain - thus getting wet, slide your soaked clothes off to get into your dry camp clothes - only to get up and do it again. Putting on cold, wet socks and underwear in the morning when you can see your breath in your tent - you can only imagine what that feels like. Made me not want to get out of my bag and start hiking. When you see a message like this on the trail - makes being wet a little bit better.
13 of the 14 states that the AT travels through - they have these wood or sometimes wood and metal structures that we can walk across the rivers on. I think they are called bridges?!? Not in Maine - they pride themselves on making it harder on us. Of the 9 fords that I had to do - this was the deepest by far - check me out - knee deep and I stopped to take a picture. Hum - is the water cold, in Maine, at dusk, in the fall - YES. Water levels weren't bad - the SOBO's that had the 20 days of rain (when I was in the hospital) would have had it pretty rough. I did have one that I had to take an optional high water trail - it was raging and would have needed a kayak - those pesky hurricanes kept dumping water on us! I found it easier to just take the pants off (vs unzipping the legs), throw on the crocs and you are ready to go.
Check out the top of my pack - can't even barely get it to shut with 7 days of food and all my winter gear - crushing my hips. Entering the 100 mile Wilderness and you can see that we are not to enter without 10 days of food - minimum! I carried 7, and ended up doing it in 5.5 days (granted that was with all the 20+'s to catch up to Brahma, Sweet P, Hoot and Sundance). Oh - there are roads all through the "wilderness" and people were slackpacking it - so it isn't very "wild".
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Well - this is the final leg. Made my way into Monson - last town on the trail - and picked up a hip crushing 7 days worth of food. Stayed at Shaw's hostel with about 12 other hikers. Wanted to catch Brahma, Sweet Potato, Hoot and Sundance - but they are a full 2 days ahead of me. I can't believe that I only have 112 miles left!!!! Getting ready to go into the 100 Mile Wilderness - they warn that you need 10 days of food - but I don't know any NOBO's that need 10 days to go 100 miles. I'm taking 7 so I can zero in the woods if I want to - will likely be at K in 5-6 days. Supposed to have rain for the next 3-4 days which I'm not looking forward to. I WON'T summit in the rain - will sit at the base for as long as it takes to have a nice day. Nights have been getting down to 32-34 degrees but supposed to warm up a bit - hence the rain. Would rather be cold, than wet - or worse - cold and wet. Physically in a good place, knees still hurt a bit. Emotionally - not sure. I am really ready to be done. I have been out here for 178 days, so ready to come "home". Don't have a job and will be terminated on the 7th if I can't find one, as my leave of absence runs out. Don't have a place to live, but friends have offered to let me stay there for a bit. I can live out of my pack for awhile and love doing work for stay! But at the same time, not ready for it to be over. In 6-8 days, it's done. Then what? Hitch to Millinocket, take a bus to Bangor, take a bus to Boston, then back to KC. Need some time to decompress from this current world and the home that I have known for over 6 months. Weird to be ready to be done, yet don't want it to be over. Not sure how to articulate it any better than that. Well - gotta go. Doubt that I will have cell service in the Wilderness - and the next post from me - should be from the top of Katahdin! This has been amazing. Peace and Godspeed on your journey as well.
Had to get up early to take the ferry across the Kennebec River. This is the most formidable unbridged water crossing on the AT. The dam is upstream and can let out huge amounts of water at any time - raising the level by over 4 feet. In 1985 a hiker drowned so the ATC added a canoe ferry service (free of charge) to get us across. Here waiting in line for the canoe. Saw a lynx or bobcat this morning - and going into town, Caratunk. Stayed at the Northern Outdoor Center. Rafters, hikers, a microbrewery, bunks, they took credit cards, and a 20 person hot tub. What a night! Gotta love town days.
I'm not going to lie - this pretty much makes me a stud! Hopefully, after another 176 miles - that status will be moved up to thru hiker. This felt amazing - to know that I have actually hiked 2,000 miles and still going strong - can't wait to touch that sign! It's real now. Only two towns left - which is a little depressing. I LOVE town days. Food that doesn't come in individual foil packets is great.
You would think that I would get tired taking pictures of me overlooking bodies of water - but I just don't. Here I am enjoying Flagstaff Lake (the one you could see from Avery Peak). The topo has been really nice lately. The great thing about hiking around lakes and ponds - is that for the most part - they are "flat". Nothing is really ever flat - but have just been soft, rolling hills and water is always available for view. Still haven't seen a moose yet - and if I was a moose - this is where I would be hanging out.
You will have to zoom in - but the mountain right in the middle - off in the distance - with the flat top - is Katahdin! Seen from Avery Peak - it's about 60 miles away via straight line, but 180 miles away via the AT. They always say that the longest distance between any two points - is the AT.
Everyone had been talking about how hard Saddleback and the Bigelow's were going to be. Guessing that I different perspective since I had already made it through the Whites - I didn't think that they were that tough. Had good weather - which does help. Several big peaks all back to back - Spaulding @ 4,000', South Crocker @4,040', North Crocker @4,228', Bigelow West Peak @ 4,145' and Bigelow Avery Peak @ 4,090'. This is the last 4,000'+ mountain in Maine (except K which is 5,268'). Kinda sad to see them go - there is simply nothing like the views that you get above treeline. This is Avery Peak as seen from West Peak, as well as me at the top.
This is pretty much what Maine looks like, everyday (when it isn't raining of course!). I take back about how hard it is, that was just in the south, and I was upset about all the rain. Now that it is dry - how can you not love this. If you have been following this at all - you know how much I love lakes and ponds. Pretty much at the base of every mountain range - there is a pond or lake. This was looking back from the trail head on ME 4 - opposite of Saddleback Mtn. Several tourists had stopped to take pictures from this vantage point. It actually made me a little upset - because I knew that this was the only perspective they would have - they wouldn't see if from the top of a 4,000 footer, nor would they see it from the shoreline. It really becomes beautiful when you see it from all three perspectives and you earn it. I know I shouldn't feel that way - not everyone wants to earn it, or cares about the 3 different views. Just how I was feeling that day.
This is what I love about the trail. Was hiking through the rain when I saw a laminated piece of paper attached to a tree. It gave phone numbers and was called the Riff Raff Friendly. Basically, 4 former thru hikers got together and rented this appartment. They would come shuttle you, and the only donation you had to make - was to buy beer for the fridge. I hitched into Oquossoc and they came and picked me up. About 16 hikers there! Took me back to 17 and I hiked to ME 4. They picked me up again! Stayed the night and then took a zero as I was picking up my winter bag and down vest in Rangeley on Monday. Long nights - but good times had by all. They were so well known - that while I was there - the AT Companion (my guidebook) called them to see if they wanted to be listed! Great group of people. Gotta love this trail.
After doing my first river ford (Sawyer Brook -only shin deep) I put my hiking shoes back on and started to climb Moody Mtn (2,920'). Midway up - there had been a giant mudslide - from those 3 weeks of rain that I watched from Vermont - and a huge chunk of the mountain slid down, right across the AT. It was dry at this point so not that big of a deal to do the reroute - but would have hated to do this in the rain - just rocks and tree roots to grab on to.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
well - I made it to the last state - which when I was laying in the hospital - didn't know if it would happen. Last day in NH was nice and easy hiking - think they were throwing us a bone after the Whites. Maine - on the other hand . . . . I think I'm going to replace the "the way life should be" with "Welcome to Maine - Seriously?". Because pretty much every climb or descent - I just stare at it and say - seriously? and with a pack? Fell hard the other day - right on the tail bone - that makes the tenth time. The trails here are straight up or down - all on slick, smooth rock, with water running on it. Neat. My water filter quit working - but was able to borrow some drops from Snackies. I called the outfitter and ordered some to Rangeley - but after taking it all apart and cleaning everything - got it working again. Won't hurt to have back up. Topo has taken a toll on mileage. First day was 9 miles. Wanted to get through Mahoosuc Notch (the hardest mile on the trail - all rock scrambles the size of cars - go over, under, and through!). We had to decide if go through in the dark or wait till the next day with 100% chance of thunderstorms. We chose the rain - and as soon as we got to the Notch - it opened up. Fun in the beginning - basically a giant 1 mile adult jungle gym. With everything being soaked and getting dumped on in the rain - got old after a while. (would love to do again without a pack and in the dry!). The Mahoosuc Arm was actually worse 1,600' of gain in a mile and half - after tired from the Notch. Took me from 8:00am to 3:00pm to go 5 miles!!! Soaked - stopped at a shelter at Speck Pond. Ended up getting down into the low 30's - and the decision to not change out to my winter sleeping bag - was a bad one. Had everything that I owned (and that was dry) and not enough. Left a message at home to send 10 degree bag and down vest - only going to get worse. Did a huge 15 miler today to make it to town - Andover. Wasn't planning on coming in - but wanted to dry out and needed more food - hadn't planned on the short days - so not enough to make it to Rangeley (and it is supposed to get below freezing tonight). Staying at a hostel and will hike out some time tomorrow. Might have to zero in Rangeley - depending on when my bag gets in the mail. Not smart to hike without it. Maine is tough so far - but understand it gets easier as we go north - well - until K. Have 9 stream/river fords coming up - should be nice a cold for those. Hope to get some pictures. Mad that I didn't get any in the Notch - too much rain - there was even a Moose that got in there last year - and couldn't get out - bones are piled up next to a boulder with prayer flags above it. (check out www.walkingtomaine.blogspot.com for pictures). Doing well 257 miles left to go. Peace.