Time to do this again. Time to change gears. Time to flip the switch. Time…..to be free.
I don’t always get that pre-anxiety, or jitters, or butterflies when I am about to do something exciting. I usually don’t experience the gravity of what I am doing until I am knee deep in it. I don’t know if thats because of my time in the Marine Corps or that I have been living what I consider to be an exciting life or what the reason is. But for some reason, this year, I feel like I have set the bar just a little bit higher for myself. As if hiking the Continental Divide Trail last year wasn’t enough. As if completing the Triple Crown in 3 consecutive years wasn’t enough. Well…..it’s not. And it likely never will be. This is the drive that exists within someone who has that insatiable appetite for adventure. It’s what led me to this life. I have never been the one to settle for what is calmly resting in front of me. I have always wanted to go after the big fish. I have carved myself out of the confines and structures of what is widely considered the normal American life and I have begun to truly know what it takes to live MY life. And I now know, and am extremely happy, that they are two totally different things.
So, today, I have those pre-adventure jitters. Just a wee bit. And it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a feeling inside that helps me keep in perspective the gravity of my current and future actions. Its like my body telling me, “You know you’re just a little crazy, right?” Right on body, right on. Maybe I am. But then again, maybe thats just the old me (the one that grew up in rural Pennsylvania that didn’t get out much) trying to fight its way to the surface, trying to remain relevant. Step aside son, you’ve had your time.
For those of you who don’t know, here is the brief background on my hiking career. In 2012, I was working for an outdoor gear titanium manufacturer and was asked to run a vendor booth at Trail Days (a hiker festival on the Appalachian Trail) in Damascus, Virginia. I basically got hooked just from those brief couple of days interacting with thru-hikers. I had always known about the AT and loved the outdoors and hiking/backpacking but had never actually considered going on a long distance hike myself. Less than a year later, I was on the Appalachian Trail. I spent 6 months hiking from Georgia to Maine and the further along the trail that I went, the more I fell in love with the hiking life. The simplicity and freedom is what I loved most. After completing the trail I knew that I needed more. And I am not the kind of person that has the patience to wait years and years for the things that they desire. I knew that if I wanted to make a life of this, I needed to find a way to make a name for myself so that I could, hopefully, one day make a living and provide for myself within this life. So, with help of my sister Laura, we began to brainstorm ideas on how best to get this bearded face of mine on YOUR screen (P.S. If you’re reading this you’ve all been hypnotized into liking me). No matter what, I knew that whatever it was going to be called, it was just going to be me. My personality, goofball nature, idiotic antics, and my friendly spirit accompanied by the wonderful people that would come in and out of my life along the way. I wanted to show you all that there is more to life, more to this country, more to this world, and more to US as individuals than just going to school and then getting a job so you can retire after your career is over. Don’t confuse what I am saying, I am not saying that those are bad things. I am merely wanting to convey that there is SO MUCH MORE. You have options in this world and they don’t have to revolve around being a consumer of products. I have next to nothing compared to your average American. And I would be willing to bet that I am twice as happy (at least). I digress. So I brainstormed this baby, The Real Hiking Viking. It’s just me. That’s all this is. My adventures for you to see and enjoy.
The first order of business was to get back to hiking. So I started with the most difficult trail that this country has. The Continental Divide Trail, 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada over some of the most rugged terrain our country has. What better test for a Hiking VIking? It was a magical experience that I will always cherish as being a “coming of age” moment for myself in regards to this long distance hiking life. See, I got my start on the Appalachian Trail but it wasn’t until my experiences on the CDT that I really (and I mean REALLY) came into my own. All the pieces just starting fitting and I felt truly at peace. My hometown of Lewisburg will always be home to me, but this now felt like my new home. I felt at home with this wandering, adventure world I now lived in. And the CDT was only the beginning.
Before I continue I want you to know that I don’t care about spelling and grammar, this is a blog…..not my thesis. I write as if I would be talking to you. If i misspell something, it’s because I didn’t proof read this. My time is valuable and taking the time to write this is time enough. Grammar? Again….think of this as a completely one sided conversation that has been transcribed for you. Also, i do not pre craft my posts. Everything flows from the fingers in the moment. I speak from the heart, in the moment, and from my experience. That is it. Any complaints about grammar, topic, or otherwise, please stop following. This world is full of enough negativity as it is and this is not the place for it. I aim do just the opposite. So lets all just be friends and enjoy.
Having said that, last year, I tried to journal every single day and it went pretty well…for the whole state of New Mexico. Every time I got to town I would upload my backlogged journal to my blog here and you would get to read detailed accounts of my journey. But by the time I got to Colorado, I was pretty burned out and I stopped having the time or energy to do that every day. So I gave up and focused on my hike. This year, I would like to get back to journaling, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into failure like last year. I am going to journal as often as I can. And when I don’t feel like I have the time or energy to do that, i will mitigate those moments with video blogging. Let’s hope I can remain fairly consistent with this as I know it’s going to be a fun ride for everyone to following along with. Not to mention I would love to look back years from now and have these accounts of my adventures.
So that basically brings us fairly current. I am writing this to you from Pensacola, Florida. I am on the precipice of a big hiking year. Wednesday, I will begin walking from Fort Pickens on the Florida National Scenic Trail to the Orlando area. I got sick of not having that long distance adventure in my life. I have become spoiled in that sense. I need my scenery to be changing. It’s February and I have never been to Florida in my life. So here I am. I will spend roughly a month (600-700 miles, depending) as a tune up for the Arizona Trail (800+ miles) which i will begin no later than April 1st. After that I will hitch down to San Diego from Utah (with maybe a stop in Las Vegas) and grab a ride to the start of the Pacific Crest Trail at the Mexico border by May 10th. I have a (self-imposed) timetable for myself. I would like to finish these 4,000+ miles by the beginning of the last full week in August. That would be roughly 6 months from now. My time on the CDT taught me discipline in terms of my hiking routine and I know that if I stay disciplined that I can easily accomplish these goals I have set for myself.
This is my schedule through August. It is always subject to change, as goes this life. After August, I do not plan to slow down really. I plan just to take a little time off and then get back to it. You will be kept abreast of future plans as they come into the fray.
Bottom line here people, I am excited. I can’t wait to see new places, meet new people, and to be outside. Living outside, to me, there just isn’t anything better. The smells, the sounds, the wildlife, the stars, sunsets, sunrises, nature….nothing man has ever created remotely rivals the raw, untouched beauty of the wild…
…and getting back to that is thrilling.