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019 All Who Wander – ATKO 2012: Shakedown – Lightening Your Load with Sgt. Rock

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This is Part 3 of our latest series ATKO 2012, which features some amazing talks and audio from last years Appalachian Trail Kick-Off at Amicalola Falls State Park.  In this episode we’ll get to listen in as Sgt. Rock and George “Tinman” Andrews help a thru-hiker lighten his load by doing a “Shakedown” on his pack.

 

Thanks for listening!

 

Sgt. Rock

www.hikinghq.net

 

George “Tinman” Andrews

www.antigravitygear.com

 

Appalachian Trail Kick-Off Event:

www.atko.info

 

Me:
www.allwhowander.us
david@allwhowander.us.

on facebook:

www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/david.longley.3

www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/allwhowanderpodcast

 

 

“Believe an expert: you will find something far greater in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you cannot learn from the masters. “

                                                                                                                                                                                                ~St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Montana, Day 6: The Shadow Proves the Sunshine

“Your sunshine’s here,” Dana intoned sweetly while I shook off the residue from the previous nights sleep.  (Amazing what a muscle relaxer can do.) I dragged my bum leg and bruised body to the back door where I feasted my eyes on Emigrant Peak, it’s sisters, and the valley below all lit up with sunshine just as Dana promised.  Beauty, unadulterated beauty. A perfect day for hiking. Unfortunately, hiking was no longer an option. Nearly all of the day was spent with my leg propped up and covered in ice packs while my new Osprey Aether 70 sat in the corner taunting me.  The good news is that it gave me a little time for writing. Occasionally I’d look up at a magpie in a burst of flight, with the Crazy Mountains as a backdrop.  I’ve gotta tell you,  it wasn’t a bad way to spend a day. It also gave us opportunity to visit Chico Hot Springs Resort and Spa for lunch where I discovered I most definitely do not like the taste of elk. Life lesson. Short and sweet entry today. We plan to be up by 4 am and on our way back to the Park, this time heading through the Lamar Valley toward Cooke City. Hoping to spot some wolves. So early to bed, early to rise…

Montana, Day 5: It’s Not A Vacation Till…

It’s not a vacation till a boulder rolls across your leg.

We rose early, jumped into our rented Subaru and pointed it toward Yellowstone.  The day before, I’d spotted a couple of signs in Gardiner boasting breakfast buffets and despite the fact that “nary a grit were to be found in these parts” (Tom Conlon quote), the organic, farm fresh eggs common to this area more than made up for it.  Unfortunately, either I’d imagined the signs or they’d been taken down since yesterday.  We ended up having breakfast in a little diner that was overflowing with sightseers as well as locals, staffed by one frantic, flustered and overworked waitress.  Almost 2 hours later we finally left the diner and drove under the Roosevelt Arch, the giant monolith that marks the Northwest entrance to Yellowstone. Most everything was still obscured in the billowy whiteness of snow and fog but we held out hope that the God who had made these mountains and had brought us here would lift the clouds to give us a glimpse of his handiwork.

Today’s destination was Old Faithful, 51 miles from the entrance. Neither Dana nor I were overly excited about seeing the geyser itself but moreso in walking for a while in footsteps my dad had  left there years before.  As a young soldier he had driven his Studebaker through the area, spending his nights sleeping under the stars. The summer evening he spent camping just outside of Old Faithful Lodge a family invited him to join them for dinner.  He thanked them for their generosity but explained he had some hot dogs he planned to roast over the fire. They told him to save his hotdogs for later, tonight he would eat steak.  Of course he couldn’t say no to steak. Years later the kindness offered to this young serviceman lives on.  I have to admit, I was combing the area looking for a soldier not unlike my dad I could extend the same generosity to…pay it forward.

We were told that no matter what we did, we just had to enjoy a meal at the Old Faithful Lodge. Famished, we sat down to what we anticipated would be a sumptuous meal, served buffet style. Unfortunately, like every other meal we’d had inside the park it was a huge disappointment, bland and overpriced. All of the concessions for the park are sub-contracted to a company called Xanterra. Seasonings, apparently don’t figure into their bottom line. Take this not so much as a criticism as a suggestion to bring a picnic lunch.  We looked jealously all around us at those who’d had the foresight to do this very thing.  Yellowstone is made for picnics…and its unbridled splendor more than makes up for a lack of good food.

The clouds parted just in time for us to see the 2pm eruption of Old Faithful. The old geyser must be getting along in years for it erupted with a whimper, not a bang. In the midst of it’s whimper , the clouds moved in and a cold rain began to soak us as we ran to the car.

If you know me at all you’re aware of my disdain for gloomy, white skies.  This had been our weather, with occasionally interruptions of rain, sleet and snow, since we left the airport. As hard as I fought to not let this affect my disposition, the weather coupled with hours of 30 mph driving, stopping every 1/4 mile or so to hop out and snap pictures had left me in a sullen funk. I looked on longingly as I saw 4 guys hoisting their packs for what must’ve been a multi-day backpacking trip into the wild. It didn’t escape Dana’s notice.  “Want me to let you out?”  “Nah, I’m fine.” “No, you’re not.” I wasn’t and I knew it. Surrounded by this veiled beauty and stuck in this horrid pattern of starting and stopping had made it’s mark on me.

At the sight of a sign marking the Continental Divide, we stopped again to snap a pic.  Pointing to a steep embankment, Dana said, “Crawl up there and let me get your pic.” The soil was loose but I made it a little ways and posed while bracing myself on an exposed root from a fallen tree. Once done, I scrambled the rest of the way to the top to find a spot out of view to, ahem, “make water” as my dad calls it.  I returned to the top of the hill and warned Dana and an older woman who’d arrived in my absence to move out of the way, in case this went bad.  Dana hid behind the sign and the woman moved to the side.  Best I can tell, when I began to slip I instinctually reached out and grabbed a boulder that sat loosely in the soil, dislodging it to chase me down the hill.  I was nearly at the bottom when it overtook me, slamming into my right calf, driving my knee and right shoulder into the gravel. Dana, the older lady and her husband all screamed as I fell. I hopped up quickly, dripping blood from multiple places and hoping, praying I’d not done serious damage.  7 hours later, after our continued “start-stop-snap-a-picture” method of travel back into Emigrant, I limped bruised and battered back into our cabin and took inventory of my injuries. Best I could tell I had a mild ankle sprain from hyper-extending my foot when I attempted a “Superman” off the embankment, a torqued and bruised knee, one seriously bruised, scratched and swollen calf along with an assortment of cuts scrapes and scratches from my trip through the gravel. Like I said, “It ain’t a vacation till you get run over by a boulder.”

 

Montana, Day 3: Yellowstone

Subtle notes of her fragrance drift toward me on the breeze.  Intoxicating. My head swims with longing. I imagine her shadowed eyes sparkle with whimsy…a touch of the demure. Draped in opaque, pearl lightness she conceals her breathtaking beauty, teasing my imagination, revealing only a little at a time in her sensuous dance.  Seduction is her art and she is a master. We’d traveled thousands of miles, driven for hours and arrived in Yellowstone to discover that the spectacular mountains we’d come so far to experience were draped in mist.  The sun and wind would occasionally work together to expose some far-away summit radiant white or a snow-covered grassy slope low on the mountainside. It was most certainly a strip-tease.

2 hours earlier…

Awaking early and finding the sun already up (Had we taken a wrong turn and ended up in Alaska?), I stood in the living room, pointed my camera at the bedroom door and waited like a hunter for Dana to rise from her slumber. She opened the door, laid eyes on the winter wonderland on display through the huge windows before her, gasped and squealed like a little girl. I grinned like I’d planned it that way.  Even though we’d been greeted with snowy precipitation, this was late May!  We figured there was no chance there’d be any accumulation.  Boy, were we wrong. This kind of snow at home would keep us hunkered down, subsisting off of bread and milk.  That’s just how we do it in the South.  But we weren’t in the South.  This is Mon-freakin’-tana. We’re going to Yellowstone!  First stop?  Breakfast. We returned to our little bakery and enjoyed Montana’s answer to the McMuffin: Scrambled egg with pepper-jack and canadian bacon on toasted Ciabatta and freshly brewed black, dark roast coffee to wash it down with. A hearty, wholesome, tasty start for our first foray into Yellowstone.

As the Subaru took us into Gardiner, the mostly veiled landscape began to change before our eyes.  Even the few feet visible beneath the fog stood in stark, geologic relief against the snow covered mountains and meadows. Enormous jagged rock formations came into view just beyond the Yellowstone River paralleling Highway 89.

Main Street in Gardiner boasted a wide array of little shops and businesses.  Spotting an outfitter with the compelling name of Flying Pig Adventures  (www.flyingpigrafting.com) we parked down the street, blinking at the falling snow as we took the sidewalk back to the entrance.  We found a very similar inventory to the other store.  We also found the same friendly, courteous staff…if not more-so.  We took turns alternately chatting with the owner and playing with her sweet white lab. She listened intently and compassionately as Dana told her of our recent loss of Scooby. I picked up a small container of gas for my stove and our newfound friend threw in a really cool lightweight cordura shopping bag emblazoned with the Flying Pig logo. Her part to help assuage our grief. I responded with, “So if I tell you that Dana’s Dad just had extensive scalp surgery to remove melanoma and my mom just had a stroke…what do we get?”  She answered, “Chocolate?”  We all laughed and said goodbye.

This, our first excursion into Yellowstone, didn’t provide much in the way of scenery but plenty in the way of wildlife.  We were in awe at our first few close-up encounters with these giant, otherworldly creatures called bison. (Apparently, North America has never had a buffalo…only bison.  Who knew?) After a while, though it became nearly routine.  They were everywhere! Our exclamations of wonder were replaced by, “bison,” or “Another roadblock.”  “Bison?”  “Yup.”  Deer and mule-deer were everywhere, evidenced (even around the geyser vents) by their abundant scat. Every so often we’d come across a traffic jam caused not by bison but by a bear-sighting.  Of course, everyone (us included) wanted to spot a bear, especially a grizzly. Sightseers in rented RV’s would often stop in the middle of the road because they caught a glimpse of a black bear.  We’d all put it in park, jump out of our vehicles and run to the side of the road, camera’s flashing until a ranger showed up to break up the party.  This “start-stop-take-a-pic” mode of travel would become our way of life. Fun for a while but not a very efficient way to get from point A to point B.  It took us all day to get from Mammoth Hot Springs to Tower Falls and back and left us exhausted. It was well after dark by the time we made if back to the cabin. That’s saying something around here.  (Until this moment I wasn’t convinced it ever got dark.) We looked forward to a long soak in the hot tub (this was a 25th anniversary celebration 2 years late, for goodness’ sake).  Unfortunately it was not to be. T’was broken and would stay that way for quite a while.

Montana, Day 2: From Bozeman to Paradise Valley

After a decent nights rest in the Holiday Inn (Don’t they have great beds?) we had a delicious skillet breakfast in the hotel restaurant, packed up, bought a few necessities for the week and made our way toward Paradise Valley (or more specifically, Emigrant), Montana. Just a mile or so down the interstate, we were welcomed to the area by a snowstorm. Undaunted by the white stuff, our rented Subaru just kept on going (Oh, we could get used to this! The Subaru, that is.) Of course we stopped and snapped a few pics; snow is a rarity in our neck of the woods.  On the way in we stopped for lunch in a town called Livingston, eating at a little cafe/ coffee shop (the name eludes me) where we enjoyed a chicken wrap, organic fair-trade coffee and friendly conversation with the owners. We were there quite a while.  We’d soon learn that the pace of life is slower out west…at least in the restaurants. We visited the local outfitter, Timber Trails (http://timbertrailsmontana.com), where we were welcomed by friendly staff but a limited inventory. It was a small store. This seems to be the case for most of the outfitters we’d visit.  Instead of catering primarily to hikers, most of them were bonafide outfitters offering guided horseback and/or river rafting trips. The stores usually offered less in the way of gear than they did in apparel.  I mention this to encourage you to bring most of what you’ll need in the way of adventure gear with you unless, of course, you plan to avail yourself of the guided trips.  We did find that nearly all of the stores carried both iso-butane propane as well as bearspray, two items not allowed on commercial airlines.

We arrived in the sprawling metropolis of Emigrant (Population 372…make that 374) around 4pm. Since we couldn’t check in until 5pm we wandered through a few of the local haunts: The General Store, Howlin’ Hounds Cafe (www.facebook.com/pages/Howlin-Hounds-Cafe/248852179382), the Old Saloon and Livery Stable and our favorite, the Matson Rogers Anglers West Fly-fishing Outfitters (www.montanaflyfishers.com). We swapped fishing stories with two great guys whom I suspect are the owners. Dana picked up some Smartwool baselayer at a drastic discount.  If you think backpacking gear is expensive, and it is, you’ll be shocked at the price of fly-fishing gear. Finding a bargain in a fly-shop is unheard of.  So, needless to say, next time you’re in Emigrant drop by and see these guys. You’ll be glad you did.

We made one last stop at The Wildflour Bakery where we picked up a fresh-baked loaf of flax-bread loaded with sesame, poppy, flax and a dozen other seeds I couldn’t identify. It made hearty, delicious toast!

We arrived at our cabin via a series of telling road names such as Aries, Sirius and  Hilarion, taking note of an interesting trail nearby called the Buddhist Path.  After the last week we wondered just what we’d gotten ourselves into. The cabin itself, however, did not disappoint. Though the surrounding peaks were obscured by fog and snow, the house itself would make a nice home for a week. We loaded in our luggage and gear and fell asleep while it was still light to soft snow falling on the grassy meadow surrounding the house.

009 All Who Wander – Trailfest Series: April Fools Trail Days Franklin, NC – Part1

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The first in a new series of shows in which Dana and I follow the migratory herd of 2011 Northbound AT thru-hikers from trail to trail town stopping off at the hiker festivals along the way. In this episode (AWW 009) and the next we visit historic Franklin, NC for “April Fools Trail Days” and Ron Haven’s Hiker Fools Bash. We meet old friends, make new ones and introduce you to some of the characters and legends of the Trail. If you’re anything like me, be prepared to see your wintertime blahs dissipate and Springer Fever awakened just a little early this year.

2012 April Fool’s Trail Days
 March 30th and 31st.
 
www.aprilfoolstraildays.com and
www.hikerbash.ronhaven.com

 

Undulations by Karen Thompson

www.karenonthetrail.com/
undulationskt@hotmail.com

 

Tents made by Judy “Heartfire” Gross

www.lightheartgear.com
heartfire@heartfiregowns.com
judygross@bellsouth.net
www.facebook.com/LightHeartGear

 

“The Packa” by Cedar Tree Industry
The Worlds ONLY Full Coverage Backpacking Rain Parka

Edward Hinnant
436 Cabin Fever Dr.
Marion, VA 24354
276.780.2354
www.thepacka.com

 

Greenleaf Canoe Company
Harold “Harley” Mo
828.524.6464
828.421.8826

or look for him on facebook by searching “Greenleaf Canoe Company”

 
Jenna Lindbo 
 www.reverbnation.com/jennalindbo 
www.youtube.com/jennalindbomusic
or look for her on facebook.

 

Me
david@allwhowander.us.

or look for me (as well as the All Who Wander fan page on facebook)

“It’s when you’re safe at home that you wish you were having an adventure. When you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.”

~Thornton Wilder

 

 

Adventure Book: The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka

What will you do with your life?  I have taught you swordsmanship.  You may be the most gifted pupil I have ever had.  But your heart, Packer.  Where is it leading you?”

       -Senslar Zendoda
It’s a commonly known fact that Appalachian Trail thru-hikers quickly develop a metabolism like that of a blacksmiths furnace, requiring a constant influx of calories. I hope, one day, to experience that phenomenon myself. As for now, my beer-gut physique remains relatively unaffected by the two weekends a month I’m able to spend on the trail.  Having said that, for much of my life I’ve experienced the literary equivalent. Allow me to explain: 

From the moment I discovered the myriad worlds hidden in books I’ve fueled my own adventures by exploring those of others. I love to read.  Probably a bit too much.  On any given week you’ll find me dividing every free moment between 4 or 5 books simultaneously.  It’s a never ending battle to feed the dragon. (Thank God for the library!) So, several weeks ago Dana surprised me with a stack of $2.99 paperbacks.  The first to grab my attention with it’s fantastical artwork (Sometimes you can judge a book by it’s cover!) was a “swashbuckling fantasy story”  by George Bryan Polivka called Blaggard’s Moon. I devoured it. Immediately I turned to Google-the-Gweat-and-Tewwible to see what else Mr. Polivka had to offer. I quickly discovered that he’d penned a trilogy. Paydirt! Wait. A pirate trilogy. Now, I like Jack Sparrow as much as the next guy but, really?  How many ways can one tell a pirate story? At least three more!

The Legend of the Firefish

“You deaf, boy?”

Packer Throme didn’t answer.  The last thing he wanted now was a fight. Dog Blestoe was a big man, bigger than Packer by three inches and thirty pounds, and Packer’s elder by thirty years.  Leathery, gray-headed, lean and muscular from a lifetime of hard labor, Dog stood across the table with hands knotted into fists. Packer stayed seated and silent.

Whereas Blaggard’s Moon wooed you slowly and kindly into the story, Firefish drops you harshly and abruptly into the action with it’s opening lines; into a palpable tension where through the eyes of young Packer you find out just what a mess he’s made of his life.

Orphaned by a father considered a nut-job by the rest of the fishing village he calls home, Packer blows his one chance at “success” by being kicked out of seminary for punching a priest. He, thereafter, finds himself in the tutelage of a master-swordsman.  He thrives in his newfound interest but finds himself longing for home and his one true love, whom he has left behind. This longing is part…maybe the deepest part of his reason for returning.  The other? To stow away on a pirate ship on a voyage to find the mythical firefish, vindicate his father’s name and maybe find some redemption of his own. Is this a suitable way for a failed priest to spend his life? How far young Packer has wandered from the path…right? Maybe his mentor, Senslar, can shed some light:

“Only one thing can put such a drive in a man’s heart as the drive I see in you.  God has made you for a single end, and even though you do not know what that end is, you know what direction you must go to find it.”

“To the sea?”

Senslar laughed and shook his head.  “You are not a turtle, Packer.  You are a man created in the image of God.  The sea will be too small for you.”

“What do you mean?”

The swordmaster grew serious. “The deep longings of your heart may take you out to sea, but the sea itself will not fulfill them.  Only the calling that God has put within you can do that.”

“And what is that calling?” Packer asked, desperately hoping this man was wise enough to answer, to stop the bleeding caused by his severed call to the priesthood.

“I cannot tell you.  That is why I asked.”

 

Okay, maybe not.
Where is your heart leading you? If you, like myself, identify with Packer’s uncertainty in life; if you resonate with this divine discontent, this undeniable longing that often leads down a “road less traveled” then, like me, you’ll find encouragement, hope, adventure and maybe a few more questions in the pages of this beautifully written tale. I’d venture to say that by the time you’ve reached it’s final chapter you’ll be eager to dive into the second book of this trilogy, The Hand that Bears the Sword. I know I am.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”   – JRR Tolkien

 

A Hiker-Mom’s Wish-List for Mother’s Day (And none of it has an electrical cord!)

It’s that time of year again!  For those boyfriends, husbands or offspring of Moms happier on the trail than in the kitchen, here’s a quick list of gift ideas straight from a hiker-mom-extraordinaire…my hiking partner (and wife) Dana. Most of these can be purchased through one of our hand-picked affiliates and you can support All Who Wander by shopping (Isn’t that cool?) Just click on the affiliate links on our site…and thanks!

1.    A Fork In the Trail by Laurie Ann March.  This practical how-to book on creative hiking cuisine through dehydrating is the quintessential reference manual for those who love to eat well on the trail with out a pack weight from hell.  (Clever, huh?) Now, I know I said maybe Hiker-mom wanted out of the kitchen but a girl’s gotta eat, right? Available at Amazon.com.

2.    Footwear that doesn’t turn my feet to hamburger.  Dana’s feet issues are a recurring problem.  We’ve tried so many different styles and brands; even had a custom fitting by a “professional” and she always ends up with blistered, oozing feet. One of her latest ideas is to try the SmartWool Light Hiking Socks for Women available at REI.  Maybe these in conjunction with her fitted boots will ease her pain.

3.    SmartWool Micro-Weight Long Underwear for Women.  Dana has transitioned from traditional zip-off hiking pants to a much cooler, hipper and more (shall we say?) convenient hiking skirt. (Heck, I’m thinking of doing it myself…I mean…a, uh, hiking KILT.) She still likes to wear summer base layer beneath for it’s wicking properties as well as the protection (albeit it minimal) it provides. As you can tell, we’re big SmartWool fans.  This item also available from your friendly REI store…via All Who Wander. :)

4.    Leki Khumbo Aerogon Anti-Shock Speed-Lock Trekking Poles.  Dang, that’s a mouthful!  This past summer, moments prior to our 4 day AT hike through Virginia, Dana’s twist-lock pole failed.  My duct-tape-fix got her through the trip but she’s (and, by neccessity, I am) plagued by issues. Leki is renowned for their durability, reliability and availability in outfitters all along the AT. A damaged or broken pole is generally repaired by the outfitter at no cost to the hiker.  Great company! Great product! These particular poles feature a simple “speed-lock” locking mechanism. I’m guessing my hiker-bride isn’t alone in her wish for these beauties. Yup, REI again!

5.    Nemo Cosmo Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad and Pillow-Top from Modular-Air Technology.  Dana and I are hammockers.  That probably won’t change.  However, our dream is to do a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  In the Smoky’s thru-hikers are, ahem, “strongly encouraged” to sleep in the shelters rather than tents or hammocks. This presents a problem for we who can’t sleep on the ground or wooden planks, as is the case here. This pad…oh, this pad…is amazing. Though it’s too heavy (With the pillow top it’s still less than 4 lbs) to use regularly it’s actually rather light for the comfort level it delivers. An extra pound or two to get us through the Smoky’s is a small price to pay to sleep in the lap of luxury. Just copy and paste the bolded words into the Amazon search engine on the All Who Wander site and be the hero of Mother’s Day!

I hope this short-list gives you some inspiration. It certainly gave me an excuse to get some ideas out of my wife! Hey, I’ve got an idea:  In the comment section of this blog, give me some of your ideas! You can tell the “Hiker-mom” in your life that you’ve just GOT to put some ideas up on the All Who Wander site! Sneaky, yes but it’s win/ win the way I see it!  Hope you and yours have an amazing Mother’s Day and if you’re a Mom (hiker or otherwise) we love you and are so grateful for what you bring to our lives, the world…and the woods!

004 All Who Wander – Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs! Post-hike musings on snow, gear & trail markings.

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Join River (Dana), Scat (Chester), Ma Fred (Ma Fread) and myself for a lively lunch-time conversation about our overnight hike from Dicks Creek Gap to Deep Gap on the Appalachian Trail.

AT Hike (Fox Creek to Damascus, VA) Day 3



Day 3 (June 27)

If you’ve never awakened in the woods, burrowed in a down sleeping bag, nestled in a gently rocking hammock swung between two trees, next to a softly babbling brook….if you’ve never breathed in the cool, moist early morning air as your eyes open to the slightly diffused, days first light…well…I’m sorry. I can’t imagine ever growing accustomed to the peace imbued in that moment. “Ahhhhhhhhh” slipped unprompted from my lips and after a slow pan of my mist-shrouded surroundings I closed my eyes once again and rested, cradled in the affection of my Abba and Creator. Physiology, unfortunately, disrupted my reverie as my hungry belly sent images of grits, bacon, pita bread and strong black coffee to my brain. This and this alone stirred me from my nest…well, maybe this and the realization that today we may just see wild ponies!

We had decided months before that we wanted to spend our vacation this year hiking the first 40 or 50 miles of the AT. Dana was sharing this with Joel, a veteran AT thru-hiker and manager at Half-moon Outfitters. He told her that if he could spend 4 or 5 days on the AT within a half-days drive it would be through southwestern Virginia. When she asked why, he eagerly responded with descriptions of the terrain, gorgeous scenery and ponies…”There are ponies!?” “Yeah, wild ponies.” I’m pretty sure everything Joel said to her after that sounded kinda like, “Bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla…and bla.” Soooo, I guess we’re going to Virginia! But I digress.

After packing up, we set out into the mist-laden rhododendron forest and crossed a foot-bridge over Little Wilson Creek. We then, via a ladder-stile marked with our old companion, the white blaze, crossed into Grayson Highlands State Park. A quick stop at Wise Shelter, some re-adjustments to Fred’s pack and Dana’s band-aids (She’d already developed blisters on most of her tender little toes) and we were back on our way. By 10:45 we’d crossed Quebec Branch (4,200 feet) and were on our way to ascending another 720 feet in elevation to Wilburn Ridge. Now, I’ve got to confess, I too was a little excited at the prospect of seeing ponies and my eyes ranged to and fro in a search for some evidence of their existence. Unfortunately, evidence is exactly what we found…pony droppings. I documented with pictures just in case the actual ponies didn’t pan out. A large rock outcropping greeted us as we neared the next summit and the trail itself grew rocky…and more poop-y. I tried for a laugh by telling Jo the story of the sociologic experiment involving the 5 year old pessimist and the 5 year old optimist. Well, I got a chuckle anyhow. Moments later the rock-strewn trail made a turn and entered a meadow. A meadow filled with ponies!

With trembling hands I fumbled with the new point-and-click, trying to put it in video mode, while also trying not to spook the ponies. I somehow succeeded. I also quickly decided that I preferred the actual hands-on experience to photographs and video so I put the camera away. Distracted by the herd, I wasn’t immediately aware that we had company. Along the way we had encountered the occasional thru-hiker (It’s pretty late in the season) but this couple was different. Ron Roman and Diane Doyle, we learned, were thru-hiking the AT as a part of a 10,000 mile tour (via foot and bike) in which they planned to “collect” on video 10,000 dreams. At their request we stopped and shared our own dreams, preserved for posterity by Ron and his camera. I felt a kinship, and to be honest, a bit of jealousy. Ron and Diane were living my dream…to thru-hike the AT and to help others discover who it is they were created to be. I walked away….jealous, yes, but also encouraged and inspired to chase my own dreams. To learn more and follow their quest, visit www.journeyofdreams.com.

It was almost 12 o’clock and we were nearly 10 miles in when we reached Massie Gap, named for Lee Massey who settled there with his wife and 5 children in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. (Appalachian Trail Guide to Southwest Virginia). Our climb continued up a moderately steep, rocky path. Near the top of our climb up Mt. Rogers was a beautiful, boulder-strewn grassy plateau that comes into view unexpectedly as you crest the hill. Just to the right of the trail is a huge, prominent boulder that begs to be climbed. I scrambled to the top, breathed in the mountain air and felt like Rafiki from the Lion King. I quickly scurried back down, however, because I wanted to set up my camera to catch the expressions on the faces of Fred and Dana when they topped the hill. Of course, they couldn’t say no to the boulder climb either so “adapt and overcome”. Instead I took some poser shots of them on top of the rock.
Chester had gone ahead, so while the girls played on the boulder I panned the horizon, taking in the exhilarating view of the rocky cliffs. “Hey Dad, can I try out your hiking poles?” “Sure.” Jo took off, exploring the advantages of becoming a quadruped and I wondered that there was a place so beautiful just a few hours from “The Shire”. The scenery I was taking in I’d only glimpsed in books, magazines, television shows and movies. It was clear how this area had gotten it’s name. I felt as if I had walked right through some ancient portal and been transported to the Scottish Highlands. Who knew? Well, the girls caught up and we started what would be the steepest part of our climb up, over, around and through huge boulders and Fraser firs as the trail continued up the side of the mountain. We reached, not the summit of Mt. Rogers, but the highpoint of the trail on said mountain and as I stopped to catch my breath I looked down the trail at Jo…without my poles. “Hey buddy, tell me you have my hiking poles in your pack.” “Dad, you’re kidding, right?” “What do you mean?” “I stuck ’em in the ground beside you at the base of the mountain…I’ll go back down.” “No way you’re going back down. Guess we just left some trail magic for another hiker.” Good news for them; not so much for me. We still had 30 miles before we reached Damascus. Oh well.

11.3 miles in we reached the infamous “Fatman Squeeze.” The trail descends into a cool, damp, narrow tunnel formed by a gap in the gargantuan rock. It’s pretty tight in places but not nearly as skinny as it appears. We all made it through without having to remove our packs. From here we turned left into a rhododendron thicket just beneath a rock outcropping, crossed a fence and followed the trail as it skirted the very edge of the woods. Shortly thereafter we, surprisingly, encountered another herd of ponies, these more aggressively social than the last. They did not want us to pass. Despite the ponies hospitality w e arrived at Thomas Knob Shelter by 2:30 pm for a very late lunch. A young family : Mom, Dad, their son and daughter (all hammockers) walked up as we were polishing off our flat-bread sandwiches. Since they were familiar with the area they were able to clarify exactly how to reach the spring so I could fill up everyone’s water. It was quite a walk during the hottest part of the day down a hill I wasn’t looking forward to climbing while laden with my water jug. The trail maintainers had thoughtfully fenced in the spring, I assume to keep the ponies from contaminating it. I made my way back up the hill, we said goodbye to our new friends and by 3:50pm were back on the trail. Happy to be heading downhill again, we descended into and through Deep Gap, around 500 feet in almost 2 miles. The girls were toast. Though we wanted to get some more miles in they’d had enough and made it abundantly clear that they weren’t walking any farther than absolutely necessary. Since camping isn’t allowed in Deep Gap we began a search for a site just on the other side. Trail maintainers were working on what seemed to be the only available campsite. When I asked for suggestions they told me we were welcome to join them. We gladly accepted and climbed the narrow path to find an elaborate tent city complete with a cooking area, coolers, grills and tables. It looked like we’d stumbled upon a military outpost. Can’t imagine the effort it took to pack all of that in. We found a grove of birches a hundred or so yards away, hung our hammocks, choked down a quick dinner and crashed just as a light rain began to fall.

AT Approach Trail Part 1

Scooby is a lot of things. Poser is not one of them. I mean that in the most literal sense of the word. While Dana tried her artistic best to get a usable shot he squirmed and shifted, stood up, laid down, rolled over and pulled at the purple leash whose other end was firmly clinched in my grubby. We were trying to grab a pre-hike pic before the two of us (Scooby and I) started our adventure. At 10:17 am, Friday morning we both kissed Dana goodbye (not sure who had the sloppier kiss) and walked thru the stone archway at Amicalola Falls State Park, GA which led into the woods and up the trail toward Springer Mountain. Not officially the Appalachian Trail but a footpath hiked by most who would attempt the journey of 5 millions steps to Maine. At the end of this 8.8 mile hike is the official trailhead of the AT marked by two brass placards and a breath-snatching vista to boot. Our plan was to hike to the top of Springer, dream of the day when we’d begin our five month journey to Maine, and then hike the mile and a half back down the mountain to spend the night at Black Gap Shelter, returning Saturday to AFSP to meet Dana in time for lunch. So we were off.
We headed across a wooden footbridge so long most would call it a boardwalk, crossed the street and back into the woods again. After a surprisingly short walk we popped back out of the woods into a paved area with a “reflection pool.” Apparently the reflection pool doubled as a well-stocked trout pond as evidenced by the busy lines and full stringers of the anglers practicing their art. After a few moments of confusion (We couldn’t find the light blue blaze that marked the trail. Don’t blame Scoob. He’s color-blind.) we realized that the trail was joined for a while by the trail to the falls. We discovered that this first leg of our journey required the ascent of a staircase, 604 steps. The lion’s share of these steps were a steel grid which is effective at helping humans make the ascent; not so much tender-footed canines. Scooby didn’t complain but I could tell he wasn’t a happy hiker-pup. After reaching the top of the falls we crossed even more pavement and finally were able to bid a glad farewell to this last vestige of modernity as we crossed another road and ascended a few timber steps into the wild…or so we thought.
A little over a mile into our journey we reached a juncture in the trail where it was intersected by the bright green blazed trail leading to Len Foot Hike Inn, accessible only by foot, hence the clever name. We stopped at the juncture for a quick snack (home-made chunky monkey style trail mix…mmmmm.) then plowed ahead across a footbridge, yet another road and up Frosty Mountain…and yes, another road crossing. (You just can’t get away from those things). The path led us through several old-growth, hardwood forests where the trees were spaced like 20 foot apart, their combined canopy shutting out most of the sunlight but their leaves illuminated by that light. Soft mountain ferns lined the path. The air was moist, cool and virtually silent. I cannot describe to you the overwhelming feeling of wonder that gripped me while walking through the heart of this almost magical gift from Abba, the Creator God. I choked back the emotion and whispered inept words of gratitude.
Six miles and about 1700 feet of ascent in and the path emptied us into a clearing marked by another placard commemorating the passing of a husband and father who died in a small plane crash on that very spot 30 something years ago. After a whispered prayer for the family left behind we stepped back onto the trail into Nimblewill Gap (Gotta be a story behind that one). As we were carefully picking our way down the slope we encountered a couple of sobos (south bound’ ers). They were a husband and wife, Butterfly and Sight-hound. Butterfly had previously thru-hiked the AT and today they were training for an upcoming long-hike in Europe. Very cool people. Seemed to hit it off with Scoob as well. A mile later we started our climb up Black Mountain, rising to 3605 feet above sea level.
A short aside: I have to mention this. I was carrying about 35 pounds of gear, water and food on my back. I encountered several people on the trail who had no gear and many who had no water. The strangest of these was a young, pretty, petite girl in a white sundress and heels…(HEELS!) who was happily, delicately and deftly plodding along with nary a bead of sweat on her perfect brow. What?! Talk about your minimalist hikers. I felt a little ridiculous. It was more than a little surreal.
When we arrived at Black Gap Shelter we followed the sign that pointed toward the water source. Already tired, aching legs led us steeply down about 400 paces to a puddle where we filtered enough water to refill our supply. Legs screamed (Mine. Scoob seemed to be fine) as I drove myself back up the ascent to finish the day’s miles to the top of Springer, scrambling over small boulders at times. When we reached the summit we were surprised to find it overtaken by a large group of hikers from Georgia State. Among those we quickly got to know were Gardner (The Librarian. Think Georgian Ducky from NCIS), Lynn (who tried to explain azimuths, bearings and the sort to me), Ken (I think) who was a middle school science teacher, and like 5 other really cool people whose names I promptly forgot. (Really wish I hadn’t. No kidding, way cool people.) Scoob and I soaked in the view for a few moments, enjoying our relative solitude. We lost ourselves in the reverie of one day starting our hike here. After our short break we made our way back down the mountain to Black Gap Shelter., racing against nightfall. The Georgia State crew had already set up camp in the spot I had been eye-balling so I snuck deeper into the woods and hung my hammock. After setting up house, I broke out my camp-stove and made Scoob and I a dinner of Lipton noodles: Alfredo Broccoli for me and chicken for him. Just as I was breaking out the magnesium and dryer lint to start a campfire I got a proverbial knock on my proverbial door. Ducky came over to extend an invitation from the GS crew to join them around their campfire. So I made myself a cup of tea and sauntered over while their dog was doing their dishes. A couple of hours and a whole lot of laughter later I said my goodnights and made my way back to camp. I got a little reading in while the other campers talked late into the night. My hammock is way comfortable; not very soundproof.


cont’d

8 Things I Learned From the Foothills Trail

1. You have to get your own guidance. Others can confirm but you can’t rely exclusively on their ability to get it right.

2. Don’t confuse others with overconfidence in your guidance. You might mess up their journey.

3. You can be extremely passionate and still be extremely lost.

4. Most all foods taste better when you’re backpacking. This is not necessarily true for coffee.

5. Often “easy” is a subjective term.

6. Sometimes the trail is most vaguely marked nearest to the most amazing destination.

7. It’s usually darkest just before the…greasy cheeseburgers, hot bath and clean sheets.

8. Nothing like an 8″ Gerber stapped to your hip to get the respect you deserve!

Gear Field Test

Field Test

This would work so much better if I could imbed the pics with the text. Well, it is what it is. Most of you (all 3 of you who actually read this!) realize that I’ve been kind of obsessed with this idea of hiking the AT when Josiah graduates. I’ve actually read extensively on the subject from journals to “How To” books to equipment guides etc. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten from veteran hikers is “Get out there. Hike.” So we’ve done that, mostly day hikes. Most day hikes can be accomplished with minimal investment. A few months back Jo and I did our first overnighter on Rim of the Gap in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness area. We quickly discovered that we were ill equipped for overnight trips. When we went to Nanty-fest, our intention was to buy equipment for re-sale. It seems I’m a little too tentative for that and will need to work on that area. However, we did find some great deals on some stuff for ourselves. Between that and shopping local outfitters we found ourselves reasonably equipped for an overnight hike. We chose to do a section of the Foothills Trail for the length, the intensity, and it’s proximity to the Chatooga River. So aside from the pleasure of hiking itself, this trip was a field test, for our equipment as well as our own endurance. Is this something I actually enjoy enough to do everyday for 3-5 months? Well, we learned a lot about hiking, camping, ourselves and equipment. This’ll deal primarily with the equipment. Hope it helps!




1. Backpack. I’m a big boy. Big boys need big packs, apparently. So 98% of the packs I tried on at Nanty-fest were too small. One of the sellers showed me how to measure my torso and select an appropriate size pack. Short version is: I found one pack that was large enough and it just so happens that it was an external frame Jansport. I got it for $20! (Here’s an example of my buyers timidity: I could’ve bought 2 of the same pack for $35 total and re-sold number 2 but…) Anyhow, after several trial runs with the pack I learned how to load it with my gear and long story short is…we made friends. It’s very low on frills, and high on potential. I like the separate compartment located on the bottom which allows me to access my stuff without having to dig my tent out. The external frame made my external packing more stable; I was able to strap my sleeping bag to the bottom and my sleeping pad to the top. There are extremely helpful side pockets as well as two daisy-chains on the back. Once I learned how to adjust the pack where my hips carried the bulk of the weight I was surprise at how well I was able to carry my load. I had intended to keep it under 35 lbs but ended up lightening some the other hiker’s loads which quickly sent me over 40 lbs. I felt it. You should feasibly be able to carry approximately one third of your own body weight. Not sure who came up with that butit wasn’t someone built like me! 65 lbs would’ve run me into the ground in a just a couple of hours. The only negative I saw with this pack was it’s tendency to hang on limbs. Because it was an external frame, I found myself snagged on a branch more than once over the weekend. My limited experience with packs makes me far from an expert but on a scale of 1 to 10 (until I come up with a hip, clever rating scale I’ll just use numbers!) I give it a 9.

2. Tent. I love (well, loved) our tent. It’s a 4 man/ 3 season Coleman we bought used for $20 at Nantyfest. This tent would not be a good choice for the AT due to it’s size and weight which is still considerably small and light for a tent it’s size. It had to be divided up between Dana, Jo and myself even for our short excursion. I got the tent, Jo got the poles and Dana got the fly. (Teehee) It took 2 people to set up due to it’s “old school A-frame design but was crazy fast to set-up. Only one problem: Apparently the previous owner had put it up wet. There was a dis-colored streak about 3′ from the bottom that ran the length of the tent on both sides. We discovered this shortly after I accused the boys of tearing the tent on their way out. Apparently the discoloration was due to mildew or some like-minded evil. Needless to say our tent didn’t survive the trip. Lesson learned? When buying used, set it up and inspect it no matter how friendly and helpful the hungry college kids are who are trying to sell it. Rating: It’d been a 10 if not for the mildew. As it is? Doesn’t even register. Tents with holes just aren’t worth much.

3. Camp stove. Oh my gosh! This is one of my favorite purchases. Considering the fact that I bought it for $25 from the same guys that sold us the tent…well, it kinda makes up for the tent. This stove operates on a really small can of iso-butane/propane gas whichyou can pick up for around $5. It folds up into a case about 1 1/4″ x 3″ x 3″. It ways mere ounces. I can unpack it, set it up, and light it in under a minute and have a substantial mess kit pot of water boiling in less than 5 minutes. No kidding. I actually brought an 8″diameter by 10″ high enameled cook pot because I was cooking for 4. 6 minutes to boiling. I cooked almost all of our meals on a half-full container and still brought home fuel. You can buy this same campstove new for about $50. It’s worth every penny. This one get 5 stars! Did I just change the rating system? I think I did.

4. Sleeping bag. Yeah. Not my wisest purchase. Unfortunately when I mess up, I mess up big. I bought 3 of these Ledge 20 degree oversized bags at once, paying almost as much for shipping as I did for the bags. First, the good: Love the size of the bags. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a big boy. I sleep on my side with my knees to my chest. I decided to buy a bag I could move around in. Plenty of room. For a 20 degree bag, it also packs up reasonably small. Now, the bad: a. When the bags arrived, I unpacked one, crawled in it, and cinched up the mummy bag style opening (great feature) around my head. It tore. Yup, right out of the box, it tore where the drawstring comes out of the bag. b. 20 degree my big white booty! I had on thermals, was sleeping in a 3 season tent and I still froze. I guess this explains how they were able to pack it up sosmall. This also explains why serious hikers invest in a good goose down bag. Definitely worth the money. In spite of the issues I’m going to keep the bags primarily due to how much it’d cost me to return them. I’ll add a fleece liner and make due until we can afford some good ones. Sticking with the cosmologicaltheme, I give the bag 1 star and it’s falling…

5. Self-inflating sleeping pad. I almost never sleep when camping due primarily to extreme discomfort. I’ve tried sleeping pads in the past that are bulky, hard to inflate and even harder todeflate and roll-up. Everyone I talked to suggested Therma-rest. I bought the thickest one (2″) Half-moon carried (display model was only $65!) haunted by the fact that it would weigh entirely too much to ever carry on the AT but thinking, “Can’t go 5 months without sleep.” Here’s what I found: Very simple to inflate as well as deflate and roll. Held it’s air all night long. Was much more comfortable than any self-inflating pad I’d used before.”What’s the problem?” you ask. I still was uncomfortable. My hip wasn’t as much of a problem but my shoulder kept me tossing and turning all night. Pad gets 5 stars, my aging body gets 2.

6. Water Filter. Out of everything we bought, this is my absolute favorite. I paid full price for this Katadyn 3 micron water filter at Half-moon and I’d do it again. After dozens of confusing conversations with hikers, salespeople and salespeople who were obviously bs’ing me, I settled on this model for several reasons: It doesn’t have a ceramic filter which makes it better suited to cold weather. Ceramic apparently will freeze and break. Dependability. I talked to several people who have used the same filter for years with no problems and no giardia. Simplicity. So freaking easy. Mine even comes with it’s own pouch and internal zip-loc bag so you can keep your intake hose from contaminating your output hose. The filtered water is not only safer but delicious. I’d have a really hard time switching to tablets. The Katadyn is a necessity and gets 5 stars, only because I can’t give it six…or can I?

7. Stuff sacks. Went to buy stuff sacks at an outfitter and was shocked at how mucha little bag can cost, so I went to Wally-world. 3 pack was like $10! Yeah! Got home, opened the package and the first one I pulled out had a slice in it. I figured it was still a bargain so I loaded ’em up and threw ’em in my pack. Day 1, the 2nd sack tore. Sack3 is still hanging in there but I don’t give it much hope. Some things you can buy at Wal-mart. Apparently stuff sacks aren’t one of them. Here’s a tip: There’s a army surplus/ outfitter store on Wade Hampton Blvd. in Taylors that is going out of business. Everything in the store is 50% off… and yes, they have stuff sacks…ultra-light stuff sacks. Better hurry, though. Their last day is December 31.

8. Zipper Tag Thermometer. Another thing you apparently don’t buy at Wal-mart. This little thermometer/ compass made by Coleman held great promise for me. I was sorely disappointed. In the middle of the night as I was burrowed deeply in my 20 degree bag freezing my kahunas off, it read 100 degrees. I won’t even qualify this one with a rating.

9. Shoes. I bought a pair of Salomon XA PRO 3D Ultras at Mast General Store for just over $100.00. They’re trail running shoes. They’re not a boot and not designed for rigorous long-distance hiking. Having said that, they performed extremely well. The toe-box was a little small for my tastes but certainly not claustrophobic. They are a light weight shoe and I never even noticed any drag on my feet due to weight. My feet remained cool the entire hike and the tread hardly ever slipped in the slimiest conditions. 5 big ones.

10. Knife. One day I’ll buy a Leatherman or something comparable. I’ll keep it in my pocket. Regardless of what’s in my pocket I’ll carry the 9″ Gerber survival knife on my hip. Not because it’s sharp (though it is) or even useful (it certainly is so) but because of an interesting phenomenon. When we came out of the woods after the hike and entered the Jack in the Box for some much appreciated junk food, I noticed I was getting some grave appraisals from people we encountered. It was something I’m not used to…something akin to respect. Yeah, there’s just something about a 9″ knife on your hip that makes people look at you different. Funny thing is, I didn’t realize until later on that it was the knife. Maybe I thought it was that rugged outdoors glow from being on the trail for several days or just my imposing masculine physique. When we went to check into the hotel Jo asked, “Dad, you’ve still got the knife on your belt.” “Yes, yes I do , son, Yes I do.”

Falls Creek Falls

In case I haven’t mentioned this, I work for what may just be the best company ever. Like at most places, things are slow at MMI right now. Most days I come in and try to find something productive to put my hand to but some days…

This past Tuesday was one of those days. I was finally able to hook up with a great old friend from my Garfield days, Henry Mitchell. We’ve talked for months about hitting the trail together but until now hadn’t made it happen. If you’ll look in my pics under Falls Creek Falls you can see Henry in one of the photos. I’ve always thought he resembles a gnome but on the trail this day it was if I were walking with Myrddin Emrys…the wise Merlin. I told him as much. He doesn’t actually discourage the comparison, either.
At 6am we met at Stax (Original) for some delicious bacon, grits and eggs and about a gallon of Dr. Pepper. (That was me. Henry had a greek omelet and hot tea.) I threw my pack into Henry’s truck and me made off for the short jaunt to Jones Gap, where he regaled me with tales of crazy aunts and bad cooking. We were on the trail shortly after daybreak. (On the way, Henry pulled off to call his boss and inform him that he”d be doing some “geologic surveying” which apparently is code for “I’m on a hike, again.” Guess we’re both kinda lucky, huh?) I quickly discovered that Henry and I make good hiking partners. He slows my pace enough so that I can actually appreciate my surroundings. Somedays I enjoy hiking in silence. Today I was blessed with the conversation of an old friend. It seemed that wherever our talk meandered, the conversation had a way of coming back around to the subject of our mutual Friend and third hiking partner. Being in the woods will do that…as will being with either of us, I guess. As we approached the falls we stopped for a silent visual draught of the view overlooking the valley. It was beautiful, of course. Henry spoke in hushed tones of his daughter Kate (I think he’s kind of proud of her) and one of their hikes together. As they took in a similar view from another trail, she said that the ancient Celts believed that the purest worship music was found in the solitude of the wilderness, as the rivers, the wind and the trees lifted their song to the Creator. If you’ve ever spent much time in the woods, I think you’ll agree.
After laughing our way back down the mountain (Not quickly enough, if you ask me. For some reason I opted for the Spinx bathroom over the one God provided and my bladder was at critical mass) we made our way to Hardees where we lingered over a cup of coffee, neither of us wanting to end our journey. We talked of ecology, and politics, old times and yes, the Great Interrupter.
Looking forward to another morning walk, soon, Henry. Tell Jane Ella hi, for me.

Alive Update

Here’s the latest: Mike is working feverishly on the new temporary website in his spare time which is truly spare. (He works 7 days a week at his day job.)
Here’s what he says:
Layout complete with table,Logo at top with pic,I’m about 45% done with the navigation,and no content on it as of yet… as in words and pics of products.

Yeah, I understood about half of that…anyhow, thanks Mike!
Rejected by another outdoor gear wholesale house. Yep, you guessed it…no brick and mortar. Our requests for dealerships are always met with, “We’d love to help you out. Call us when you have a building.” Instead of getting frustrated, we’re trying to look at this as a course re-direction. With our primary emphasis being our custom shirts, maybe our secondary should be used gear. This appeals to me for several reasons: One, it’s our only available option at this point. Two there don’t seem to be an awful lot of people that deal in used gear especially in our area, and three, we’re always personally looking for used gear. We’re trying to get equipped for back-packing and man is new gear expensive! So, week after next we plan to hit the NOC in Bryson City which is hosting one of the biggest gear swaps in the southeast called NantyFest. (Yeah, hold your comments on the name, huh?) Anyhow, we’ll be scoping out gear for ourself as well as potential inventory for ALIVE.
On a personal level…I’m going flippin’ nuts. Fall is almost upon us. The trails and rivers beckon and I’ve got an annoying back injury that’s just taking the fun out of life. Dana bought me a Mountain Bridge Trail Guide and it’s like backpacker’s porn. I gotta get over this and get out there!

Hope you’re all doing great. Join us on the journey!

boJ

david l.

Aaaaaaaaaaaah

What an unbelievably beautiful fall-like morning. As I was sitting in my truck this morning, sipping a mug of Cerrado Gold, enjoying my morning selah with Jesu, the Lover of my Soul…I was overwhelmed with such a feeling of contentment, well being, blessedness…shalom as the hebrews say. If only for the moment, fall is upon us. Before me is a copy of Blue Ridge Outdoors which has gracing its cover a beautiful photo of a hiker on a summit overlooking a valley of foliage aflame with autumn colors. A longing grips my soul. A longing to hike, to get on a river, to be outside somewhere drinking in the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation, which even in its fallen state causes mortal man’s knees to go weak and heart to soar. (I’m blessed to work for a company that understands this and gives me freedom to sneak away occasionally but alas my back pain tells me today is not the day…but I digress…) What about this longing, for beauty, for adventure? Is it only about temporal things? Ted Dekker, for one, believes that it is evidence of a deeper longing, a foretaste of heaven. John Eldredge would concur. We were created for Eden and every so often we are afforded a glimpse…and God, how it moves me. I want to be baptized in it. I don’t want a glimpse, I don’t want a sprinkling. I want full-immersion in the beauty and adventure that is God. For now, I settle for the foretaste…which, if you ask me, is not too bad.What about us? Are we also “more than we have become” as Mufasa so succinctly stated? That ancient living book that reveals God to us says that “All creation groans in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” Sounds like maybe there’s something to that. What is it that holds you back from becoming who God intended you to become? St. Irenaeus said,”The glory of God is man fully alive.” What makes you come alive? Why don’t you ask Him? Get outside, in His creation, alone, maybe on a trail, where the noise of life falls away and ask Him. While you’re at it ask Him for the courage to pursue His dream for you…then hold on for the journey of your life.

Uh-binchur!

16 years (and to be specific, 9 months) ago this coming Sunday began one of the greatest adventures of my life…my boy, Josiah.I can still hear him say, blue eyes gleaming, “Daddy, let’s go on an uh-binchur.” Who could say no? Well, buddy, this Sunday you’ll be 16 years old and your Mom and I are so proud of who you are that I can’t quite put it into words. We are honored to be a part of your life, much less to be your Mom and Dad. Your radical pursuit of God puts you at the top of my heroes list. I am humbled by the opportunity Papa has given me to watch as someone of your caliber becomes the man God created him to be. We love you more than you can possibly know and have loved every minute of this uh-binchur you’ve taken us on. Yeah, buddy, let’s go on an uh-binchur.

Happy birthday,
I love you…
daddy

Irresistible Revolution

This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Period.

Years of full-time ministry depleted me of the essence of who God created me to be. The last 5 or 6 years have been a slow process of introspection, healing (not always fun) and and restoration. This book was the final puzzle piece in this process. (Or at least it seems so) God used Shane to remind me of things that I am now shocked I’d ever forgotten. Read it, and join the journey.

Currently reading:
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
By Shane Claiborne