Gila Wilderness, Altitude, Bears, Trail Magic, River Crossings

Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:00PM
CDT Day 12 – 12 miles (approx)

So there we were at Jim and Connie’s. Our last day of pampering (or so we thought). The plan was to wake up and hit it. We had breakfast, which was our second morning in a row of homemade biscuits and gravy and eggs, and began packing our packs. Most of us had resupply boxes and we were busy sorting through we we needed for the upcoming stretch Doc Campbell’s which is two or three days away depending on how fast or far you hike. I’ve been knocking out 20’s fairly easily so far but I still packed for 3 days even though I thought I’d get there in two. I almost always have an extra day of food in my pack when is roll into the next town. Some ultra light backpackers would cringe at the thought of carrying anything extra down to the ounce or gram. But since I’m used to humping 100lbs of gear at times when I was in the Marine Corps an extra day of food means nothing to me. Actually quite the opposite. It means everything to me. I love to eat. I love it. Every time I eat out here its like a competition with myself to see how much I can cram into my belly. I ate like a pig on on the AT last year and I still lost almost 50 lbs. I gained 40 of it back by the time I started this trail but the last 15 was on purpose because it knew I’d probably be losing more over the duration of this hike since I’d be hiking 1,000 miles more than I hiked on the AT and I’ll be doing it in in a shorter period of time. Not to mention the fact that I’ll be hiking over mountains that our 10,000 feet taller than most of the mountains in the Appalachian’s with the exception of a few peaks. Okay, okay I’m way off topic here. So we are packing our packs and getting resupply boxes ready for Doc Campbell’s and Pie Town as well. Both places have crap in terms of resupply stores. And Pie Town is 130 or so miles from Doc’s and from Pie Town the next resupply town is Grants, NM which is 150 miles from Pie Town. So If you’re not putting it together let’s just say that both those stretches are by far longer than any stretch on the AT, double in most cases. The 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine is the longest on the AT and it’s not even close. Okay back to packing at Jim’s (side note: forgive the lack of paragraph breaks), we end up taking our sweet ass time and end up not being all ready to step off until almost noon in getting all our boxes ready. So we are standing there next to the RV in their carport and Connie blurts out, “You boys might as well just go hike up to the start of the Gila and then let let us pick you up to come back for one more night and then we’ll drop you back off there first thing in the morning.” I wasn’t gonna say anything but I was thinking about that multiple times haha. It’s hard gettin outta dodge me times. I was the first one climb on board and the rest toppled like dominos. You’d think these people would be sick of us by now but nope. They couldn’t wait to have us back. And we couldn’t wait for one more hot shower, one more big comfy bed, one more awesome hot meal. As soon as as the decision was made there was a little more pep in everyone’s step.

We hit the road at 12:20PM and at the prospect of being able to charge my phone later that night, I jammed out with my headphones in for the duration of the 12 mile walk. I almost never do this but since it was all paved or dirt roads I figured I’d rather listen to music than the sounds of cars and society. I was practically dance walking at times. Unaware of the world around me. Not caring if anyone saw me “walking” in this manner. Since its a small community and Warrior Hike had been in the local paper and several stopped me on the road to see If I was one of the vets. Always cheering on and thanking for my service. I’m always kind and appreciative and thank them back and continue on almost never breaking stride. They understand I’m out here to walk. I make the 12 mile walk fairly quickly and finish before 4PM and head back to relax in the hot tub and hit the rack early.

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Friday, April 25, 2014 9:08PM
CDT Day 13 – 20 miles (approx)

Started the day on a two track off a dirt road in the Gila National Forest. Didn’t know how long I was gonna go for. Was just gonna take what the trail gave me. 5 of us started up the hill and I didn’t keep a pace conducive to the other guys keeping up. I wanted to hike alone. I wanted some solitude in the Gila Wilderness. It was time to have some “me” time. I really do get my best thinking and hiking done when I’m solo. I have fun with myself. Stopping where I want to stop. Hiking how I want to hike. I recommend everyone try it and really give yourself a chance to enjoy it.

I came across some of my first views once the two track peaked at the top a couple hills. I could tell I was in for a damn good day from this first few glimpses of layered mountains in the distance. Walking on two track in fine with me but it definitely doesn’t have the same feel of a footpath. I dip back down into a valley and come across my first “flowing water” in Bear Creek. It wasn’t a continuously flowing Creek. It stopped in places and then picked back up further down. I didn’t need water from here so I just observed it and continued on. It was a beautiful creek canyon though and camping here would have been perfect. I following this canyon up a ways. Lush pines and cotton woods all over. Most of the time that I’m walking I am extremely vigilant in looking for wildlife. Bears, mountain lions, and snakes are my chief concern. I’m not scared of running across any of these creatures. On the contrary, I want to see them. Call me crazy. That’s part of all this hiking stuff. Nature and wildlife. So as I’m walking along looking all over, around, above, and behind I hear a very loud noise pop out of nowhere. Ducks. Three ducks are startled by my presence and take off from the water to my left. I about crapped myself. Haha you win this round ducks.

I hike up out of the canyon and this time I’m further in and have a more expansive view that is totally 360 degrees. I’m beside myself. I am standing above the Devil’s Garden. Large rock pillars all over. Cliffs are above me alas well that have very similar rock features. I stop and take my lack off and take some time to revel in the moment. I am alone with no human souls in sight. These moments make all the sweat filled hill climbs worth every drop. All the rocks are covered in lichen of every color, texture, and variety. Green, orange, yellow, red, flaky, smooth, there were so many kinds. I appreciated each kind’s differences.

I hike on. Rejuvenated by the views and the power of the wilderness here. So different from what I know and so beautiful in its own way. By the way, apparently the Gila Wilderness is the first officially designated wilderness in the world. Don’t quote, I was told that by somebody and never checked it. I start hiking up. And up. And up. And up. I get to just shy of 8,000 feet. I can’t tell if I’m huffing and puffing because of all the up or because of the altitude. I’ve heard that after 7,000 feet you start feeling the affects of altitude. The saddle that I was climbing to and going over was at about 7,800 feet. This is well over 1,000 feet higher than the highest point on the Appalachian Trail which is Clingman’s Dome in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee at around 6,600 and change. I handled the climb pretty well. It actually felt good. I like a challenge.

It was around 5 o’clock when I crested the saddle and knew at that point that I still was going to hike for a while. The map showed hardly any big ups ahead. Most of it followed a canyon at a steady down for a long ways so I knew I could cover good ground.

At one point in the canyon I heard something ahead of me and saw a brown body scatter once it heard me. I knew it was a bear immediately and like any idiot would do I started chasing it with my camera out and recording. I captured some awesome video of this brown bear climbing the canyon walls away from me. I wanted a shot of his face so I hollered up at him to get his attention. He immediately stopped and turned around. We locked eyes for a little and ×he lifted his massive head in the air and began sniffing the air with his big brown south. The video I got is pretty awesome. Apparently the black bears in this region go through a brown phase during the year. Some of the locals referred to them as “Cinnamon Bears” yum. I push on and keep my eyes peeled on the canyon walls for more bears of lions. I come around the corner and see a massive brown creature partial behind a tree and almost freak out instantaneously when I quickly realize it was just a grazing bull. No horns. But this bull was a monster. It looked like he had been hitting the gym pretty hard. At one point I thought he was gonna charge me. He didn’t. I was glad.

I hiked on and made sure to cook and eat my dinner well before stopping to set up camp. I found a nice ridge overlooking you Gila River Canyon. Had the perfect view of the most incredible sunset. Today was a GREAT day.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014 8:51PM
CDT Day 14 – 20 miles (approx)

I wake up and the sun is casting beautiful shadows in the nooks and crannies all up and down the massive river canyon that I am about to descend into. This is why I chose this route, the Gila River Route over the Black Range route. The river route adds miles and is not the official CDT route but I’ve heard it is amazing and made my decision long, long ago to take this route.

I my way down the many switchbacks and reach Sapillo Creek which feeds into the Gila not more than a mile away. I walk up on a couple horses tied up and realize I am not alone. Three gentlemen have made camp at the river fork. Without hesitation I wave as soon as I see them and the three of them all stand up out old fashioned courtesy. These men were decked out in authentic western attire. They weren’t pretending. Shotguns and rifles were laying around. I wasn’t the least bit worried, I would tell immediately that these were some good natured individuals. Call it intuition but I went right up to them and said good morning and introduced myself to each of them with a FIRM manly handshake as to establish my male dominance over them. Wayne, Steve and Monty were as polite and friendly as I could imagine. Always answering questions with a “yes sir” or “no sir” in a thick country western cowboy accent. I learned that they were Turkey hunting this weekend with their team of horses. That would explain the gobble noises I heard while I was still laying in my sleeping bag earlier that morning. Shortly after introductions Monty slapped a tinfoil wrapped cylinder into my hand. What was this, I asked and was told that it was a breakfast burrito. TRAIL MAGIC jackpot!! Fresh cooked bacon, pork, potatoes, eggs, and cheese. Wowzers. I ripped my pack off and sat down and scarfe it down. We made small talk for a bit and then they told me that just up the way were some cliff dwelling ruins. We hiked up together and they gave me the tour. Pretty awesome. Grabbed some good video and pictures. I said my goodbyes and thank yous and gave them my info at their request so they could follow the rest of my hike.

Time to hike on and hit the river. No more than 5 minutes after leaving them was my first river crossing. The first of more than 80. You read that right. 80 plus! Time to get my feet wet as they say. And I did. All damn day. Soaking wet, pruned, waterlogged feet. Tiny river bed stones find their ways into your shoe and it is wonderful let me tell you. There is no sense in stopping to clean them out every time you cross or you’d never get anywhere. Just gotta hike on and push the fight. I stopped counting the number of crossings at 30 and still had plenty to go. The first part of the day was sunny with a slight breeze. The current wasn’t too strong and it never got above my waist. But the second half of the day the clouds and severe wind rolled through. 50-60mph wind gusts pushed me around while fording and while I wasn’t in the water the wind chilled my wet lower body. I wasn’t complaining at all. Just being in this river canyon was amazing. The views and rock formations were unreal. So unique. Even the disastrous flood last fall that left much of the vegetation washed out and driftwood wedged in trees all over couldn’t ruin this place for me. The ospreys screeching in the sky gliding through the wind effortless amazed me. Everything here amazed me. Even my wet cold feet couldn’t tarnish the joy. My worst day on trail is still better than my best back in normal society. I take joy In the worst moments and this was by far one of my best days on trail yet.

I made it all the way to Route 15 and camped at a free campground. Set my fly up for the first time as it was starting to sprinkle. I was only one mile from Doc Campbell’s and will go there first thing in the morning to recharge and resupply.

Tornados, Dog Attacks, WWII Stories, Road Walks, Making CDT History

Saturday, April 19, 2014 9:30PM
CDT Day 7 – Zero Day

Another zero day, as was the plan. Body definitely needed it. I checked out of my motel and took care of sending any unnecessary gear home and bounced a few other things forward. Bugs aren’t a problem (minus spiders and scorpions) so far so I bounced my tent body forward. I’m only rolling with my rain fly, tent poles, and ground sheet from here on out until we start getting into bug country. Just dead weight as far as I’m concerned. My set up is referred to as a “Fast Fly” and it weighs less than than a pound and a half at 1 lb 5 oz. I will be trying to cut weight as much as possible as the days continue and the further north I get. I didn’t know what to expect from the desert nights so I also had some cold weather gear that I didn’t need so I shipped that home too.

We had an incident last night as Doc Rocket was walking to he KOA campground from the Best Western. I was in my room and got a knock on the door. I hobbled over and opened it to find Doc Rocket and NO2 (Rob got this name from me because so far he has had a faster pace than us blister-hobbled hikers AND he only took 3 poops in 5 days on the trail, NO#2) standing there and they asked me if I wanted to go to the emergency room with them. Haha I was like “What the hell for!?” They explained to me that Doc was walking down the dirt road to the KOA and some drunk local was putzing around with his dog off leash and attacked him. He bit his ankle and sliced it open pretty good around the heel. Great. So apparently the local tried to play it off like his dog was in the right and started becoming unruly and mouthing off to Doc while making the claim that his cousin was the local sheriff of Lordsburg. So Doc proceeded to call the state police to get this guy under control. No charges but the officer put the guy in his place and the situation was under control. But they still needed to go to the ER to get the wound taken care of. I was busy dealing with gear and repacking (and generally wasn’t in the mood to move for any reason) so I opted out to join the adventure but they got up to Silver City and had the wound dressed and got a big shot of antibiotics. We were given the use of Teresa Martinez Dodge Ram truck rental that she was using to shuttle hikers to the start of the trail and to do water caches. Never a dull moment on the CDT.

Now back to the present. Tornado time. Checked out of my hotel and went over to the KOA where some Silver City folks had left us their 35 foot RV for the Warrior Hikers personal use. Amazing people. Jim and Connie Zawacki. They have to be Zawackadoodle to let 6 combat veterans (four of us marines) to just have free use of an RV with no supervision. Haha luckily we are all squared away and no tragedy struck but it COULD have. We were sitting there mid day just shooting the breeze when literally the breeze picked up. It was around 2 and we were waiting for Jim and Connie to drive down around 6pm. They were gonna cook us steaks and have dinner for us. All of a sudden we notice a funnel cloud shoot down from the storm clouds a few miles away. We all scrambled to get better eyes on and then realized that we needed to literally start battening down the hatches. The awning was out and nobody had any clue how to work this thing haha. We somehow managed it but I don’t think we could replicate it if we had to. Maybe if our lives depended on it. So we sat there in anticipation of a tornado. I think we all almost wanted it to happen. That’s how combat vets are I suppose. Looking for any bit of excitement or near death situations. Call us crazy. And maybe we are. Well the funnel disapated and the fun was over. Just some rain and wind. Nothing crazy but the rain was definitely unexpected in the desert like that.

After that we took the truck to a local bar to catch the opening period of the penguins game before Jim and Connie showed up. Doc is from Pittsburgh and I am from Central PA and consider myself a Pens fan but Doc is diehard. He hikes in a white long sleeve Penguins shirt. So when they lose his world crashes. And they lost this day. It was only game 2 of the first round. So the Blue Jackets tied the series up 1-1.

Connie and Jim showed up and broke out the brandy and scotch. We all stuck to scotch and beer while Jim was bummed we didn’t want any of his brandy. But dinner was amazing. A full spread was prepared for us and we ate like champions. Although I always somehow manage to eat like a champion. It’s in my fat kid nature. I stuff face even when there’s no reason to. Luckily I have a reason to for the next five months.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014 8:30PM
CDT Day 8 – 20 miles (approx)

Today, the first stretch was all a road walk until getting to the open desert to make our way for the mountains. Connie and Jim offered to slack us during the road walk. This was completely fine with all of us.

When I say the word slack, what that means is we either have a reduced weight pack or no pack at all. It was a few miles to get outta town so we just threw our packs in the back of their car and hit the road. As soon as Redneck (Ricky) and I started walking we realized we had to take “a sit down break”. A few things working against us here, this was Easter Sunday morning and no establishments were open as we walked through town to get to the north end, we didn’t have our packs so we didn’t have baby wipes (toilet paper means chafing), and even if we did we were walking in town and couldn’t exactly drop trow on main street. I somehow managed to block out the pain while Redneck was about to burst for these few miles. As soon as we got our packs he made a b – line for the nearest bush. Nothing like witnessing a grown man shit in the woods in this manner. You tend to get close with your hiking buddies like this haha.

We decided that we wanted to get tog Silver City a day earlier than anticipated to take advantage of the amenities that were waiting for us when we got there. Jim and Connie were putting us up there so we were gonna keep up the big miles to get there. We decided to do a 20 and a 22 to get to Tyrone Road the following evening where they could pick us up and bring is home. We would then do another 14 mile long slack pack road walk the next day into Silver City. This is called playing the system well. Judge me all you want but you’d the same thing in my shoes. If I’m gonna be walking another 3,000 miles I’m gonna take advantage of opportunities to make it slightly easier. I plan to WALK one continuous path to Canada but I’m not above a slack pack and I’m not above a hot shower and warm home cooked meal. So any of you haters out there can keep your hating opinions to yourself and bite me. HIKE YOUR OWN DAMN HIKE.

That’s about as negative or flustered as you’ll see me get. I try to keep things as light and positive as possible. I’m goof off by nature. I get my jokester traits from my Dad. He puts on a good business show in the professional world but man can he be an incessant goofball sometimes. And I would say we pride ourselves in that. Life’s too short to be too serious too much. I love a good laugh and it’s mostly at my own jokes.

Back to hiking. The mountains in the distance took all day to walk to. But once we finally got to them it was well worth the long match to get there. We started actually walking amongst trees once we got into the higher elevation. I was quite a bit ahead of the Doc, Redneck, and NO2 (pronounced like the chemical compound) for most of the day and my goal was to get to the co-op windmill in the mountains. This was to be the first water source on the whole hike that I used on trail. Everything up until this point was water jugs cached by the CDTC for hikers at road crossings. The physical windmill still stood but the water in the ground was now pumped up by a solar panel. I reached this 20 mile mark by by a reasonable time at 630pm and when I approached it I heard what sounded like a ukulele. As I got closer I realized I wasn’t crazy and saw a tent through through the trees. I walked closer and I heard someone exclaim, “IT’S JABBA!” To my surprise it was Chili and Pepper. A father and his 15 year old son. Papa Pepper and Chili Child. Some very nice people from Florida who started hiking the CDT the same day as us. They stayed at the Hachita Community Center with us the night before starting and rode out with us in the morning. We also camped with them our very first night on trail at the first water cache. So I had some company for awhile while I got water, cooked dinner, and set up camp until my friends arrived.

The others showed up around 8pm as the stopped at a water source further back and had their dinner there. This campsite was perfect. Good clear cold water, tree cover, flat ground. Perfect. Oh and cow crap everywhere. Can’t forget that lovely detail. Always cow poop. Always everywhere. And I do mean always. That’s not an over exaggeration. In fact I’m under selling it.

A solid day. My legs have felt strong this whole time. I don’t think I ever lost them from the AT. I’m just waiting for my feet to catch up and get tuned up like the rest of me.

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Monday, April 21, 2014 9:30PM
CDT Day 9 – 22 miles (approx)

Woke up this morning knowing a long day was ahead of us. I’ve been hydrating and eating well so far. But I’ve heard horror stories already of handfuls of hikers this year collapsing on trail from dehydration and exhaustion from not taking care of themselves. I consider myself to be indestructible by most counts and bull headed enough to not allow this to happen. I over drink and over eat. It’s my way and it works. Others try and roll with less water than they need as to keep the weight down. Same with food. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to pack weight I don’t make any compromises when it comes to food and water. I almost always walk into town with food still in my pack. And I’m usually rolling up on a water source with water still in my pack. Call me crazy. And some do. I’m not afraid to roll with 6 liters of water between water sources, and have several times already. It’s down right hot and dry out down here and I’m not used to it. So I make sure not become a heat case myself. And in the event that someone else around me needs it, I got that emergency water in a pinch. The extra weight is good training, OORAH!!

Walking through the mountains all day was a treat. Shade was plentiful. No real canopy but shade could be found if needed for a break. For the most part I walked in the lead again. The other guys were feeling a little more sluggish today and my feet started to cooperate a but more which was a pleasant surprise. I started feeling like my hiker-self almost. Almost. Feet still not quite there but I’m close.

Anyways, the clouds were a beautiful backdrop to the green spotted mountain scenes. We were between 6-7,000+ feet for most of the day a jump from the 4,000ft range for everything up until this point. Saw lots of bear scat and you got the distinct feeling that a mountain lion could have been watching you from the rocky cliffs above you at any point through the day. I’ve been extremely vigilant in looking for rattlesnakes as I know they are all over the place out here. No sightings yet. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Only a few smaller non poisonous snakes so far, shux.

The other guys stopped for lunch around noon under a shade tree and I decided to press on since my feet were feeling good compared to most of the days so far. Ricky said he was hot and I didn’t really think much of it at the time. I went on for another hour or so and found the most amazing and perfect shade tree. Providing a perfect umbrella bubble of shade for me to rest underneath. I tore every article of clothing off (minus the boxer briefs) and laid everything out in the sun to dry. This is my lunch time ritual so I can start my second leg of the day with that drier fresh feeling. Not really but dry and stiff is better than soaked and SOAKED. While I was sitting there practical naked on my little foam mat feeling the cool shade breeze dry the sweat from my skin a noticed a gentleman walking south bound on the trail past my position. He was mindlessly hiking along solo and was completely unaware of my presence. A middle aged fellow that appeared harmless. Clearly was an experienced hiker just based on the fact that he was on the CDT and glancing at his pack set up. I decided to scare the shit out of him. And I succeeded. I hollered out, “CANADA’S THE OTHER WAY DUDE!!” He stopped and looked over at me and my yard sale of belongings strewn abou and walked on over. “You know you about scared the shit out of me”, he said. I replied, ” I had a feeling I might.” We got to talking a bit. His name was Ed Herndon and his trail name was Grinch, although I don’t know why because seemed like a perfectly kind hearted person. He asked me if I knew knew of the veterans walking the trail. I suppose I no longer have that clean cut marine corps face to go off of anymore. I explain to him that he’s talking to one of them. He says to me, “OHH so you’re the one I haven’t met yet.” Turns out he met the rest of us the night before I got to Hachita. He said said that he was from Buena Vista, Colorado and gave me his contact information and to be sure to give him a call when I’m walking through! The hospitality from strangers will never cease amaze. Never. And I will never take it for granted. I will make myself blue in the face with thank yous of sincere appreciation to anyone that offers any form of support to me as a hiker and as a veteran. Someday I will be giving back and paying it forward in a big way. Your heart can’t help but want to feel this way after this type of treatment from strangers. It’s an infection and it spreads like wild fire. I wish our society behaved this way. Helping others. Helping strangers on a daily basis. It can be as simple as talking to somebody and being kind. We’d all be a lot better off if we just opened our hearts to others.

The gentleman made no mention of my half naked condition because on the trail just about anything out of the norm is the norm out here. He pushed on and I started getting ready to hit it. I pushed several more miles until I came upon a water cache. I plopped down there and stripped again and decided to wait for the others. They showed up about an hour later and apparently Redneck wasn’t feeling so hot. Wasn’t eating enough and needed more electrolytes. I decided to find a quicker route to Tyrone Road (as was our pickup point). I cross referenced my Garmin with the maps and my smart phone google maps. I found a two track called Coppermine Road that shave s couple miles off of our total. Could tell that Redneck needed it as well as Doc whose dog bite foot was swollen. Even NO2 looked like he was feeling it. It was a hot one in the sun today and it showed on these hikers faces. Decision made. We found our own route. That’s the spirit of this trail. Create your own adventure. Unlike the purist mentalities of the AT and PCT where it’s frowned upon to deviate from the official trail, this trail encourages finding your own route and adventure at times.

We hiked on as the sun began to set behind the mountain. Redneck was with me and the other two found themselves a ways behind us but still trudging along. Another 5 miles to go. We had to stop at one point because Redneck didn’t think he could make it any further. I gave him the last of my electrolyte mix and a honey stinger honey shot as well as a bite of the ProBar I was eating. He almost threw it all up. He was contemplating setting up his tent right there. I said no way devil dog. We are making it to the link up point and it would all be over soon.

We pushed on until dusk and made it. Feet barking. Brains swirling. Doc limping. Redneck exhausted. But we made It. We got back to Jim and Connie’s and feasted on everything. Then got in the hot tub. Life was good.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014 8:30PM
CDT Day 10 – 14 miles (approx)

Gonna make this simple. We road walked 14 miles. It sucked. Road walking sucks. There I said it. I hate it. I’d rather hike up the tallest, rockiest mountain than do any road waking. The feet hate that hard flat surface and the sun is baking it all day long. Luckily there was service so I was jamming out to myself the whole time. Air drums, air guitar, signing out loud, you name it, I was getting looked at by cars passing by for all of it. What do I care??

Later that day after getting cleaned up we made our way to a local steak house. Jim arranged to have some of his VFW and Legion buddies meet us out. About a dozen and a half salt dogs from Vietnam and a couple from World War II. When we walked in the door, those that could stood up and applauded us. Now I don’t know about you or anybody else in this situation but I felt I should have been clapping for them. These are the guys that paved the way for my freedoms. I merely followed their lead by joining the Marine Corps. It was slightly overwhelming but I just dove right in and broke the ice and started shaking hands and introducing myself around the tables. Once the dust settled a came back around and grabbed an open sear next to the first vet I could. Little did I know who I was sitting next to until later in conversation. This man was a living legend. Army 101st Airborne Division. This man jumped into Normandy on D – Day. Jumped with his sniper rifle. Lost it in mid air because the pilot of his plane was dodging tracer fire and he basically fell out losing his rifle. When he hit the deck he got on the first machine gun he could find and that’s how his combat action began. Recipient of 3 Purple Hearts and 3 Bronze Stars. Jumped 50+ times in WWII. And was at the Battle of the Bulge. What an honor to share time with this man. I could have listened to him talk for hours. And I wanted to. But when your 91 you have an earlier bed time than most. I told him he didn’t look a day older than 89. I’m a smart ass. But so was he. He had the best damn one liners I have ever heard. Dan McBride Jr., this world owes you a debt of gratitude that you will never ask for but that you deserve tenfold. It was a surreal honor to have shared that time with you.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:04 PM
CDT Day 11 – Zero Day

Started this day with a coffee and donut hour at the local American Legion. Met a lot of new vets as well as the ones from the night before. I got to spend more time with Dan which was awesome. They offered and paid for year long memberships to the Legion which was a wonderful surprise and treat as well. Everybody was incredible and it was a joy to spend time with these Silver City vets.

Later on after running errands to so the post office and grocery store we prepared for our next event. The Continental Divide Trail Coalition was officially designating Silver City, New Mexico as the first Gateway Community and Trail Town of the CDT. Senators and Congressman (or their represtatives) attended and spoke as well as the mayor. Teresa (CDTC director) made a point to recognize Warrior Hike and Doc Rocket spoke on our behalf. He spoke well and it was an overall pretty awesome ceremony and we were honored to be a part of the history making. Not to mention we got a police escort cavalcade to the visitor center as well as the Legion Riders escorting us. Pretty awesome.

After kissing hands and shaking babies with the locals following the ceremony and having picture time for papers and what not, we went back to Jim’s where he was hosting a cocktail party and BBQ. A good turn out of vets and others. A food spread like no other as we are now accustomed to. Hit the hay fat and happy. Getting up early to pack and hike out tomorrow.

Kick Off in Hachita/Crazy Cook Monument to Lordsburg, NM

Bare with me here, I’m typing and posting all of this from my mobile device. Forgive all spelling and grammatical errors as I’m typing most of this from my sleeping bag at the end of full days of hiking. Also this is my first time utilizing a mobile device for creating the blog posts as well so if they look all jacked up its because I’m essentially clueless how it works at this point. I won’t be posting pictures in the blog this time but I will be to the Facebook page. I will incorporate pictures in the future here when I get more familiar with posting from my mobile device.

Also, since service has been spotty and I can’t post more frequently, I don’t know a better way to post this other than to just give you everything at once. Sorry.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014 9:43PM
On The Eve Of Crazy Cook

This morning I woke up from a peaceful sleep under the moon and stars at a natural hot spring between El Paso and Hachita New Mexico. This is called cowboy camping. Essentially you do not need to set up your tent in the desert because there is no fear of rain almost ever. It saves you time and energy to not have to worry about setting up and tearing down. It was a great way to spend the night before traveling to the CDT Kickoff event in Hachita. Getting in the hot springs and having a good soak, sucking back on hoppy IPA’s straight from the growler.

The day before, my friend Thomas Mckune flew in from Philadelphia to join me on the trail for this hike. A pretty remarkable story is how he got here. To make a long and interesting story short and slightly less interesting, he quit his Manhattan job of 8 years with a French bank working in international equities, or something crazy to that effect which I know NOTHING about. He quit that job because he wanted more out of life. Of course I fully encouraged this and am proud of his decision. But really I find it terrific that there are people as “crazy” as me out there who are willing to the take chances in life. The day before he was telling me that his nerves and adrenaline were so through the roof in anticipation that he thought he was going to vomit. I told him to shut up and pull the trigger already. Sadly, he never puked. But see that, in my opinion, is what makes me believe that he made the right decision for him and his life. It is my belief that it’s the route that scares us the most that is the choice we should make. That’s what life is about. Feeling alive. A little puke never killed nobody.

For the record, Tom had been in silent protest of his job for the past 6 or 7 months and has a very magnificent beard. Cupple this with the short brimmed style hat that he has and he is damn near the spitting image of Fidel Castro. So a new hiker was born today, I dubbed him “Fidel” and everyone including him loved it.

Our ride from El Paso to Hachita was made possible by an old hometown friend whom I hadn’t seen in a decade probably. Chris Benoit. A lawyer who has bounced back and forth between there and Mexico City for the last 5-6 years. Upon Chris learning of my desire to hike the CDT a few months ago, he immediately offered up his home and a ride to the start of the trail. I don’t know about you but as far as I’m concerned, this is good people. Huge hearts like this just somehow seem to find their way into hikers lives like this. We need people like this to make our missions successful and somehow someway they always come out of the woodwork from places unknown. I haven’t hit the trail yet and I’m experiencing the trail magic all around me all time time. It fills your heart to the brim and makes me feel like I’m spilling out with goodness. This only affirms my life choices. His wife tagged along as well and she was just the most awesome and hilarious person. All together, the couple days with them and the drive to New Mexico were about as perfect as I could have drawn up. Even though there are incriminating videos of me singing Destiny’s Child in the truck on the ride there.

Upon arrival in Hachita, the very small community came out in a big way. We honored the life of local trail angel and World War 2 veteran, Sam Hughes. His daughter and grandkids offered some beautiful words about his big heart and his passion for helping out hikers in this region. I didn’t even know the guy but they made me miss him. It was understood that if he was still alive, I would have been honored to know him. Much like many of the trail angels I know from my Appalachian Trail hike last year.

After that it was time to introduce Warrior Hike. All of us stood up individually as they called our names and then I went up and gave a brief speech about Warrior Hike and how we are all honored to be are part of it. At this early stage in the game I probably am the best person in the group to deal with the public as the other guys are just getting their feet wet. But I conveyed to the and encouraged them that they should grab the make whenever they feel comfortable enough. But that I’m also comfortable managing public relations if that is too overwhelming for them. After that we feasted like pigs, as is hiker tradition. After the community center cleared out from all the town folk and visiting guests to be there for the occasion, we made it our lodging for the night. I’m reporting all this to you from the tile floor with and handful of other hikers snoring away.

Anyways, more on Warrior Hike later. I’m tired and I wanna go to bed. Up early to travel a few hours down dirt roads to the start of the trail tomorrow. Crazy Cook Monument (more on this later also).

3,100 miles to Canada.

My arm pit smells. But just my right one.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014 8:32pm
CDT Day 1 – The Send Off – 14 miles (approx)

We got there at 11am after a long and bumpy 3 hour ride. There were a handful of people who volunteered to drive all of us to the start. Teresa Martinez is the CDTC director and she has coordinated so much for not only Warrior Hike but for all the hikers of this year’s class. She has such a warm heart and is obviously very selfless in how she goes about things. She was in a vehicle with some hikers and there were 4 other vehicles filled. I was in a vehicle with a man from Tennessee who’s trail name is Radar. Also in the vehicle was Fidel, Andrew (a WHer with no trail name yet) and a Triple Crown hiker named Snorkel. She was just along for the ride and has been helping Teresa with things to get things going during the kickoff weekend. A very nice girl who is very much into hiking as much as possible. As it turns out she hiked with a friend of mine on the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago. David Gantz who is a friend and coworker of mine from when I lived in State College.

Once we got to the Crazy Cook Monument everybody piled out and we had our photo moments with the only thing worthy of a photo, which is the monument itself. Group shots and single shots happened and then everybody took off. I hung back alone until they were all out of sight. I wanted to have my moment with the monument when no one else was around. I waited until our rides rolled out too as I said my goodbyes to them all. I started getting really excited inside and began to feel the true anticipation of the journey. It hadn’t truly hit me until then. I began to have a dialog with myself about how awesome this whole thing was, is, and will be. Wow. It had begun. There I stood right on the Mexico border. Only one way to go, North. Canada. So I walked.

After a couple of miles I caught back up to the pack. Things were going great. Hydrating fine and energy and spirits were good. At mile seven things were still good. Started getting a few hot spots which was surprising because these were not brand new shoes. I had hiked plenty in these before. By mile ten I knew I was developing blisters. The trail was incredibly rocky today and I think that had a lot to do with it. Gonna duct tape them up in the morning and put some new socks on. Pray they don’t get worse because the last four miles of the day were brutal on my tender feet.

I wasn’t alone as most everyone was complaining about tired, sore, and tender feet when we all made it to the first water cache. Plenty of water to drink and cook with tonight and to top off in the morning. I drank 5 liters today which I don’t feel was enough. Going to try and go with 6 liters tomorrow.

Everyone is still in high spirits as we made it 14.3 miles to the first water cache. Trail was surprisingly well marked but tomorrow we will be doing some cross country hiking without a marked trail supposedly.

I worry about all the prickling things on the desert floor as my air pad lays on top of it. Cowboy camping tonight. I have my ground sheet down but I still worry.

Fading out….

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Monday, April 14, 2014 8:35PM
CDT Day 2 – 16 miles (approx)

Today was a good day in a lot of ways. And a bad day in a lot of other ways. The good outweighed the bad.

Woke up to a beautiful sunrise this morning and took my time getting ready. I had a horrible sleep as my back was killing me from the airpad. I just couldn’t get comfortable. Not to mention that the 40-50mph wind gusts made it even more impossible since I was cowboy camping. I ate a couple of cereal bars and a spoonful of peanut butter and packed my gear.
My balance was slightly off because I was babying my feet with each step I took. They were incredibly sore from the first day and I knew that it was only a matter of time until certain hot spots turned into blisters. Once you accept that as an inevitability it makes it easier to push through the pain. It doesn’t hurt that my days in the Marine Corps helped with this type of mentality. The going was slow to start the day as there as absolutely no trail, unlike the first day. It was all cross country with vertical 4×4 posts very few and far between. It was a guessing game sometimes to find the next one but I always trudged on in a general direction of where the next one probably was. Up and down through small washouts and little ravines. Everything was rocky and everything wanted to stab you and grab you my legs have dried blood all over them since I’m wearing shorts. The going was very slow. Slower than an average day on the AT by far.

After about the first 5-6 miles I stopped for a siesta. A siesta is an mid day nap to beat the boiling sun and to inspect my feet. They had been killing me since basically I started that morning. I knew when I took my shoes off I was not going to like what I saw.

After hobbling over to a shade spot under a shrub in the ravine, I kicked the shoes off to discover several blood blisters. Broke out the knife and began performing surgery. Blood, puss, and yellow-clear liquid oozed out while I squeezed through the puncture holes I made. Stung pretty good but oh well. Let them air out for the next hour while I feasted and relaxed. Slapped some duct tape on them, popped some Vitamin I (ibuprofen) and blew that possible stand.

In hindsight (which I will observe tomorrow) I should has stopped for a siesta an hour or two later because the next 5 miles to the next water cache was during by far the hottest part of the day. Temps were in the mid 90s and it was boiling. Luckily I packed a GoLite Chrome Dome Trekking Umbrella and I rigged it up to the shoulder strap and sternum strap and myself some shade while I walked. Genius move.

Once arriving at the water cache I kicked shoes off again. Repopped blisters, ate and made moves for another 4-5 miles by dusk.

The moon is full tonight and I’m told there is suppose to be a lunar eclipse. Cowboy camping again. Thinking about bouncing my tent forward once I get to Lordsburg on Friday. Life is so good!! Loving this landscape.

Tired. No airpad tonight. Hopeful for better sleep and healed feet.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:15PM
CDT Day 3 – 16 miles (approx)

Blister day. Ouch.

So this was the first day that my feet really started giving me serious problems. I popped my blisters at camp the night before in hopes that they would air out over night and dry out. Boy was I in for a big surprise.

But before all that let’s talk about trail names. My trail name is, of course, Jabba. I will save that story for another time. Four of us Warrior Hikers had just woke up and were working on normal morning things like head calls and breakfast while the topic of trail names were being discussed. Redneck and I were specifically talking to each other about Andrew and how we had to get him a name. Redneck got his name basically the first day from Fidel on account account that his neck was so sun burned that it was bright red. Not to mention the fact that he is from North Cackalacky and Ablabama. So we are in mid discussion about him getting a name when we hear the most ungodly sound of a snot rocket shooting out of Andrew’s nose. It sounded like an entire universe snot and boogers came exploding out. For all I know this is how the big bang theory really happened. Redneck belts out, “Well how about Rocket!” We kind of stopped stopped for a minute and all laughed about it but never really all agreed that that name should stick. So we went about our business and broke camp.

So I’m hiking along for about a half an hour with Redneck and (still) Andrew when I am realizing that I still can’t put any weight on my left heel. Usually it takes me 10-15 minutes every morning of hobbling along the trail until my feet numb up and I can start walking like an actual human being again. This doesn’t seem to be happening yet and I decide that I must stop and take a look at my feet and medically tend any issues. The other guys go on ahead and I plop down in in the middle of the trail to perform open foot surgery. Shoes come off and low and behold my heel is pulsating like a living organism. I pull out my knife and disinfect it while cleaning the surface of any part of my feet that the knife might touch (other blisters as well.) Apparently the blood blister that had formed the day before (under a callus mind you) had sealed it self and had begun growing a science project inside the pocket that I had previously drained. I take my knife and begin carving away at the callus until I reach the culprit of the pain. Out comes what would make most onlookers lose their lunch, or want to. I won’t describe it in detail but was substantial. I jam some antibiotic ointment Inside of it and any other blisters that needed it, slapped some gauze and athletic tape all over the place so I can get back to hiking with a tolerable amount of pain like any decent hiker would.

My efforts were rewarded with the ability to push the fight and hike on. It was surprisingly less painful, for now. I eventually catch up to the other guys at the top of a hill and they were taking a break. I was all bout it. Told them my foot surgery story and then Redneck proceeded to talk about a concern of his. He informed us that there was blood in his stool. Andrew then chimed in with an entire medical briefing that was rather in depth and impressive. You see Andrew is an Army Officer, a West Point graduate.
He went on to pilot Blackhawk helicopters in Afghanistan. Very smart, calculated individual. Book smarts and street smarts. Pittsburgh boy to boot so blue collar as well. Worked his ass off for his accomplishments. So after his anal analysis I look over at Redneck and then over at Andrew and before anyone can say anything I blurt out, “Jeez! What are you, his doctor or something? Ole’ Doctor Rocket over here people!” And Redneck and Andrew laugh and Redneck goes “Doc Rocket!” And so he was Andrew no more. Doc Rocket had officially been born.

The rest of the day was slogfest as Doc Rocket and I pushed 16 miles to Route 9 where there was a water cache so we camped there for the night. Feet killing. Redneck never showed up which was puzzling.

Watched a beautiful sunset as the moon rose a little bit later. Woke up in the middle of the night to change sleeping positions to catch the beginning of the blood moon lunar eclipse. I laid awake for about 90 minutes and watched in awe as it materialized before me.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:33PM
CDT Day 4 – 21 miles (approx)

I started this day with no plan for how far I was going to go except to go at least as far as the next water cache which was 13 miles. That all began to change throughout the day as my feet continued to bark at me for walking on them in the hot, sandy, dirty, desert. You see, feet don’t like dirt and heat when you have a pack on your back. The dirt and heat with the extra weight is what has been causing these blisters. I quickly realize that what my feet need Is a break.

Around lunch time I break under the only shade tree that I had seen for mikes. My feet thanked me for it. I laid out my ground sheet and my small foam pad perfectly within the confines of the shade bubble. I ripped off my shoes and socks and all my clothing except my boxer briefs. Laid everything out in the sun to dry while I prepared my lunch. Yellow fin tuna in olive oil covered in cheetos and wrapped in a tortilla, my favorite. I laid there and relaxed and felt the breeze coop my sweaty skin. I could have laid there and taken a solid 2 hour siesta and would have been completely content. Something stopped me from doing this and at the time I just felt like it was too hot and I was too far from water to linger there too long. 13 miles between water caches. Not the furthest I had gone so far between water fill ups (22 miles) but in this heat I wasn’t trying to mess around.

I started to get ready to go and no sooner did I put my clothes back on but a hiker I had never seen before comes walking up the trail. We exchange greetings and get to chatting. A nice fellow in his 50s from Taos in northern New Mexico. He introduced himself as “Miles” and I assumed that was his trail name. He informed me that he was a section hiker and trying to finish his miles of the CDT in New Mexico and that he was going from the start up to past Silver City. Once he was completed with this section he’d official have 1,000 miles. We walked together and chatted for the next 7 miles or so all the way to the cache. At which point I proceeded to take a 2.5 hour break and we separated because he was trying to put down some distance. He hit it after a small snack a water top off. It was fun chatting with a fresh face and I genuinely liked the guy. But what he did was give me an idea.

During our hours walking together he told me that he was trying to make it to Lordsburg by the following night. Lordsburg is the first town you come across on the CDT. It is anywhere from 85-92 mikes from the start of the trail depending what route you take or whose maps your going off of. For me, at this particular point in time, getting to Lordsburg the next day not only felt impossible but also reckless. My hiking schedule didn’t require me to get there until Saturday while averaging 13ish miles a day. But as I sat there with my feet up, airing out, bandaged up, popping ibuprofens like candy for the pain, I thought to myself and had an epiphany. “If I make it to Lordsburg tomorrow evening then I will have TWO ZERO DAYS with which to rest my feet!” I began doing the math while looking at the map and determine miles and speed and when I’d get in to town and how long my breaks could be. What I determined was that if I walked 8 more miles that day (21 total) it would be put me within one days shot of Lordsburg at another 21 miles. Now, my feet didn’t like this idea but luckily my feet don’t make the decisions around here. I do. My thought process was such that if I got into Lordsburg two two days ahead of schedule that I could give my feet and body two full zero days to mend me dad recover from the brutal first stretch. Back to back 21 mile days. Not exactly the way I anticipated my first week going. I didn’t think I’d be banging out 20+ mile days until after the first couple weeks. That’s what happens out here though, you try and have a plan and then it all goes to shit before you know it. Don’t make plans out here.

So the decision was made. Told the feet to SITFU and the death marching began. 8 more miles. Figured I’d be hiking until around 10pm at the slow and steady pace that I had been trudging along at. I left the water cache around 6pm. That’s around the time where the most brutal temps start to subside. And boy was I glad that I waited. Because the next 8 miles was across completely flat and exposed desert. Not a glimmer of any shade or break from the sun. Starting this section 3 hours earlier would have been extremely hot hot and painstaking.

10pm rolls around and not a moment too soon because I felt like I was walking around on bloody stubs. Which really isn’t too far out of the question since the day before I pulled off my sock and it was covered with blood.

I set up my ground sheet and sleeping bag and get settled in for the night. Right before putting my head down I feel something tackling my neck. I didn’t really think anything of it because it could have either been my hair or the collar of my shirt. I brush my hand over the area and definitely felt something there as I brushed it off me. I grab my headlamp and turn it on in the direction of where I was brushing. Low and behold, what appeared to be a camel spider (thought they only existed in Iraq, at least that’s the only place I’ve ever seen then before) was sitting there directly next to where my head was about to be laying. I went to reach for a rock that was sitting beside it to crush it with and the moment I made any move for the rock the spider went up on his back 4 legs in straight up attack mode. This thing was enormous. The size size of a medium plate. I grabbed the rock swiftly and dropped the bomb on the poor little fella. After that it was lights out. I had no patience to be paranoid of others. Sleep was well deserved this day.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:16PM
CDT Day 5 – 21 miles (approx)

There isn’t a whole lot to say about today. The mission was to get to town. Was hoping to make it to the Best Western no later than 8pm. The death March commenced yet again. Shorter breaks meant more walking in the brutal heat. I will say though it is definitely true what they say, ” Yeah but it’s a dry heat!” Add any humidity to these temps out here and I feel it would be more difficult.

I ended up LITERALLY HOBBLING into town around 630pm and my good buddy Fidel had an ice bath waiting for. I spent the rest of the night systematically icing different parts of my body to aid in the healing process. A bed and a pillow under my head. This was truly heaven. Pizza was on the way, a supreme and Hawaiian. Life is good.

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Friday, April 18, 2014
CDT Day 6 – Zero Day (90 Total miles approx)

I used today mainly to recuperate but also also to lock down my pack weight situation. I started the trail fully knowing that when I got to Lordsburg that I would be ditching certain pieces of gear. I have never done extensive backpacking in the desert like this before and wasn’t sure exactly what pieces of clothing or gear I would definitively be utilizing. This is also where I had my maps sent to for the sections north of Lordsburg. I only carry what maps I need for the sections I’m hiking as not to have any dead weight. The rest of the maps I bounce forward to meet me at the next town and and this process repeats itself. I hope to shed 10 lbs of weight and better plan out my food situation. Last time I over bought and had entirely too much food. Which was never a problem on the AT because my feet weren’t an issue. However now I believe that it is imperative to have as light a pack as possible to help alleviate some of those issues.

Ice, rest, food, beer and TV. Just what the doctor ordered. Tomorrow I will ship stuff out.

Also tomorrow Warrior Hike has a bit of support. A gentleman is driving his RV down along with his wife and parking it at the KOA campground to cook us up some steaks and have some beers with us. He is a veteran himself and was at the kickoff event in Hachita last week. A nice gentleman. Looking forward to it.

Starting a New Chapter or a New Book? Why Not Both?

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This is the beginning. But what is it the beginning of? It is the beginning of many things and a continuation of others. 

In one sense, it is the beginning of a new trail. It is the beginning of a new perspective. It is the beginning of a new environment. But all of this is the continuation of a journey that I started last year when I began the Appalachian Trail. I am continuing that journey, that adventure, that lifestyle, that mentality, that dream.  I aspire to surround myself with the goodness that the trail gives me. I imagine there are only a handful of situations in life that can put you in that place (though I’m sure there are more and I just have yet to experience them). The place I’m talking about is an overwhelming feeling of fullness. The fullness of life. The feeling that you are where you are supposed to be and doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. Looking at a view that only God could have made just for you in that specific moment in time. 

You see, I experienced that all too often on the AT.  And it wasn’t always a view and it wasn’t always because everything was going right all the time.  You experience so many good things and so many bad things all at once and yet stretched out over hundreds of miles and countless hours and yet you always seem to land on your own two feet with a smile on your face at a perfect sunset-facing vista. All the rainy, cold, exhausting, crappy 20 mile days are worth those moments.  They are without a doubt worth those moments. And they are only fortified by the strangers that become your lifelong friends that you are experiencing this with.  It’s a feeling that I can never fully explain to you unless you put yourself out there on that mountain with nothing but your backpack, your sense of adventure, and your determination and motivation to walk in one direction….INDEFINITELY!

This is a new book in my life in the sense that I want to experience this new journey in a way that I did not experience the Appalachian Trail.  That new journey is, of course, The Continental Divide Trail.  It is a 3,100 mile UNFINISHED trail that spans from Mexico to Canada by way of the Rocky Mountains.  I started the AT with an extremely loose desire to journal.  Deep down, I knew I had never really committed to doing it.  I was too lazy. I didn’t care enough.  The prospect of just hiking all day every day was overwhelming enough.  But after completing the AT, I found myself regretful that I didn’t chronicle my journey more than just my pictures and Facebook posts.  Not only that but I experienced a great amount of personal motivation from the feedback that I was receiving on my Facebook page whenever I was posting.  Too many incredible stories are stuck in the recesses of my mind from that journey.  Too many hilarious, stupid, dangerous, illegal, touching, loving, caring, fun, and truly wild stories that I did not take the time to write about.  And I can only imagine that if I did write about them that I would have shared them with all of you.  And then I can only imagine that by sharing them with you, it would have been further motivation and inspiration to push myself everyday on the trail with rejuvenated spirit.  I draw a lot of my motivation and inspiration by sharing my journey with other people and by seeing others doing the same.  So really, a major part of why I have created this brand, this hiking project, this traveling and adventuring endeavor called THE REAL HIKING VIKING, is because of all of you.  I think this world is a wonderful and amazing place filled with wonderful and amazing people.  All too often the news and the internet is cluttered with negativity of every variety.  I am not one for focusing on these things. That’s not to say that I ignore everything thats wrong with this world but I like to embrace and fortify the things that are good and right in life.  If I can add even just a little bit of good to someone else’s day, than you better believe I’m going to do that. 

So here I am, my first legitimate Blog post.  My intent is to journal every day on trail and hopefully post to here no less than once a week.  You are along for the ride.  Hopefully my writing skills improve everyday with every entry that I create.  I’m extremely scatter-brained because I am always so excited by everything and I want to share it ALL AT ONCE.  My brain definitely works faster than my fingers on a keyboard do.  So this is literally a new book in the sense that I am physically writing now but also in the sense that this gives me an opportunity to experience the trail in a new way. I can reflect more on what I am doing. I can fully experience the gravity of my actions and the people and places I am encountering.  So I have you all to thank for motivating me and inspiring me to live my life in a new way.  Maybe I will hone my writing skills in a way that I never was able to before.  I was never much of a school guy but I always knew I had the ability to accomplish anything if I put my mind to it.  So with any luck (and your continuing help) I can make this new aspiration of mine a smashing success. 

But here I am merely continuing the journey that I started on the AT. This is a new chapter for me in that sense. Aching to get back to the trail life, living simply.  Some of you may already be aware, but for many of you my story may be new to you.  After I completed the Appalachian Trail (as seen in my summit photo on Katahdin 9/13 compliments of Cindy Ross), I went back to my job at Appalachian Outdoors in State College, Pennsylvania.  I was surrounded by backpacking and camping gear all day, it was madness.  I went from living outside and using all that gear for 6 months to working inside for 8-9 hours a day selling it to others that were going to get out and use it themselves.  I liked my job and enjoyed my coworkers but being inside, this needed to end, and fast.  After a mere month of work I put in my two weeks. I then proceeded to get rid of most of my possessions, put the rest in storage, move out of my home, get rid of my vehicle, all in an effort to downsize my life and to LIVE SIMPLY.  Some people use it as a catch phrase, I aimed to truly make it a reality, MY reality.  It felt good, it felt right, it felt empowering, and exhilarating. I unshackled myself from the everyday structures and confines of the “normal” societal ways of life. I made a new “normal”.  I have two monthly bills, a cell phone and a storage unit. This is a far, far cry from the bills I had while I hiked the AT.  To free myself of all of that was truly like a weight being lifted. It invigorated me and I set my sights on the world.  My imagination has become my reality.  After I spent the holidays with my family back in Lewisburg, PA I took off for the tropical islands of Hawaii. I spent roughly 10 adventurous weeks there avoiding the brutal Northeast winter until I came to Colorado for my pre-hike training and preparation.  So this is my life now, long distance hiking.  And in between long distance trails I plan to seek out new places and new activities and adventures around the world.

This project is my vessel for seeing the world and sharing it with you. And if my experience on the AT is any indication, its going to be a lot of fun for everybody involved and I invite you to enjoy it and share it with everyone you know. This is my new chapter and my new book all rolled into one.  Here’s to futures….

-Jabba aka The Real Hiking Viking-

Hawaii-Bound

1270041_10151926609471311_1250339122_oSo tomorrow I am hopping on a flight to The Big Island of Hawaii. I have never been to Hawaii before but I have a few months to kill between now and when I start my thru-hike on the Continental Divide Trail (April).  I have always wanted to go and I have a connection with someone who was kind enough to give me use of their rustic cabin near Hilo.  I will be doing as much hiking and adventuring as I can while I am there, using the cabin as my home-base of operations.  I would like to get to as many of the islands as possible to get a feel for the local flavors.  This couldn’t have come at a better time as the Northeast was just hammered with a big snow storm and I am itching to enjoy some sun, beaches, and hiking. Can’t wait to get out there and explore a new environment while discovering a new culture and way of life!

– The RHViking