COUNTDOWN – 11 DAYS!!
I am sending this from my phone in order to practice a potential trail post. I am trying to compose and publish within 5 minutes in order to conserve the battery life of my cell phone.
COUNTDOWN – 11 DAYS!!
I am sending this from my phone in order to practice a potential trail post. I am trying to compose and publish within 5 minutes in order to conserve the battery life of my cell phone.
COUNTDOWN – 12 DAYS!!!
It is a rainy day in Ohio today (Monday) with the threat of snow overnight! How unpredictable spring weather is. My desk at work is located close to a large window. I heard the rain pounding against the glass throughout the day and found myself regularly being happy that I was not on the Appalachian Trail and also praying for the thru-hikers that were plodding along the path enduring the wet and cold terrain.
With the crazy weather pulling my attention away from the tasks on my desk, I found myself reflecting on and smiling at the birthday party at my house on Sunday. My two grandsons (that live in town) were both born in April so we had a joint wingding yesterday to celebrate the lads’ 4th and 6th birthdays. My wife is so cool and thinks of great ideas to make the day special. Over the past week, she (with the help of the two boys) made a papier mache piñata and purchased a few unique gifts for each. She decided that she would make each boy his own super hero cape. She didn’t want to copy a comic book hero like Superman or Batman, so she designed a unique cape for each grandson. For the elder, she made a red cape with a lightning bolt on the back thinking we could call him Flash or Lightning or Thunder. On the blue cape of the younger one she placed a giant star – he loves to play Super Mario Brother’s Galaxy video game so we were going to suggest “Galaxy” for his alternate personality.
The elder grandson opened his cape first – took one look at the lightning bolt – and with wide eyes of excitement said, “Great! Now I can be WEATHER MAN!” Now with his super powers, he will not even need Doppler Radar to predict and control the storms. After having a great laugh over his pronouncement, I thought how beneficial it would be to take him on the trail. It would be more than convenient to have Weather Man go before me ensuring sunshine and blue skies.
The younger boy opened his star cape. His dad helped him put it in place. I turned my head for just a second and when I looked back I thought that he had just slipped on the tile floor and landed on his posterior. He got up and looked at his father. With a face of disappointment and a rather sad look in his eye he whispered, “I can’t fly.” The reality of the pretend super hero cape was soon replaced with running around the house at light speeds occasionally smashing the sound barrier. Putting on a special cape does not make a super hero fly….putting on a good pair of boots does not make a thru-hiker walk. The change in my grandson’s attitude when he embraced the world of imagination is the kind of attitude adjustment I need when I embrace some the adversity on the trail – no adversity… no adventure.
Thank you boys for some great lessons – and may you each fly high and do good deeds.
COUNTDOWN – 13 DAYS!!
Yesterday’s hike at Sugarcreek MetroPark was filled with sunshine, fresh air, people and dogs. This is quite a popular trail-running spot and a great place to exercise your dog. With spring stretching its morning arms in beauty, people want to be part of the experience. Today I passed three different groups of folks with binoculars straining to catch site of the early spring birds. This is such an ideal time with the barren branches providing minimal camouflage for our feathery friends of song. Dogs of all sizes and shapes were sniffing the air in search of wild game. Some K-9s were in great shape with tails wagging and heads darting back and forth with a true spirit of adventure. Other dogs appeared to have a case of winter inactivity as they walked with floppy tails and open mouths looking for air.
I get a lot of strange looks as I hike this loop trail with a 35-pound pack on my back – my tent and extra pair of shoes attached to my pack cause some to wonder what in the world I am doing and have I lost my way or just my mind. I also receive lots of smiles and greetings, lots of nods and grunts, and an occasional failure to acknowledge my existence. Some are hesitant to say much the first time we pass each other going in opposite directions. I always say something like “Hi, great day for a walk!” – then on the second pass, there is a bigger smile when I comment, “Hello, again”, and by the third encounter, it’s almost like we know each other as friends. I think they’ve some to realize that the homeless guy is harmless.
There was a handsome, middle-aged couple hiking down the hill as I was making my way up. We smiled at each other and I gave my normal greeting. They responded in kind. When the loop brought us back together, I could tell by the look on the man’s face that he wanted to stop and chat. I slowed down and smiled. He said, “Are you making a trip soon?” I shared about my Appalachian Trail adventure and that I was leaving in 2 weeks. His wife’s face light up with smiles, “He told me that he thought it might be the A.T. – what an exciting experience! Have a great time.” After a brief chat, I was on my way with an encouraged attitude.
I thought I was making pretty good time and maintaining a healthy pace, when a single walker overtook me and within a minute was out of eyesight. As she passed she asked, “Training for sometime special?” I smiled and quickly responded, “The Appalachian Trail – I leave in 2 weeks.” She looked back and shared, “Thought so, no one walks around here with such a pack unless they are seriously focused on something bigger – best of luck!” I waved and said, “Thanks a lot. Have a great day,” knowing that my hike had very little to do with luck and everything to do with God’s hand of protection and guidance.
At the beginning of my last loop, there was a couple who had just entered the path going in my same direction. They were accompanied by one of the biggest dogs I have ever seen. It was a huge white Great Dane with black spots (kind of looked like a Dalmatian on steroids). There were not walking very fast and I knew I would need to pass them on the left. I was about 20 feet way from them when the man turned around to let me pass – the dog was as docile as he could be, standing 4 ½ feet tall and weighing in at 300 pounds (my estimates!) The man asked if I were preparing for a long hike. My normal A.T. explanation met with smiles. He and his wife have just gotten into backpacking and they are planning an 80-mile hike in May. I figure they could just ride the dog if they get tired. They were a very friendly couple and I was glad to have had a brief talk about their plans.
COUNTDOWN – 2 WEEKS! Just 14 days!
It is amazing to think that in just two weeks I will be hiking on the Appalachian Trail. No more practice – it will be the real deal. No more talking about it…no more thinking and dreaming….two weeks and it will be time for action.
Yesterday was my 200th blog post. This is a big accomplishment for me. I have missed submitting a post a total of 17 times during the past 217 days since the blog went live. I have enjoyed every moment of recording my thoughts and adventures in preparing to hike the A.T. I didn’t realize I had so much to say!
Today’s post is a collage of pictures I snapped during my hike today (Saturday). I love seeing spring come to life and the wildflowers beginning to paint the path with delicate expressions of color. I’ll share a bit more about the hike itself tomorrow.
COUNTDOWN – 15 DAYS!!
As I was driving to the Xenia Campus this morning in order to share a devotional thought with the faculty, I was reflecting on the passage in Ephesians 4:17-24. This rich section of scripture deals with such a great biblical principle of being renewed in the attitude of our minds. I really identify with this truth and then about halfway there (20 minutes into the trip), I began to think about the students in the school and how great it has been to talk with them about my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and the adventure that God is providing for me. It suddenly hit me that I have never given the faculty an opportunity to ask about my journey.
Since today was my last devotional time with them until I return in the fall, I decided to take the first 5 minutes or so to respond to any inquiries they had. I opened the floor for questions…. They asked about my preparation…. my plans for resupply….the things I look forward to the most…. my travel arrangements to Georgia…. How many hours I plan to hike each day …. the concerns and needs of my wife while I’m gone ….and 20 minutes later (the length of the devotional time), I still had not opened to Ephesians 4. Instead the principal of the high school asked the faculty members to gather in a circle and join together in some prayer for me.
The prayers were so meaningful to me because they prayed for my safety and emotional/spiritual well-being during those times of loneliness; they prayed for my wife and her needs in my absence; and they prayed for other thru-hikers along the trail and the friendships that I might develop on the trail. The devotional time was not spent in the word of God, it was probably not as meaningful to the faculty as Ephesians might have been, but it was very impactful on me. This kind of expression of the love and support of others will fuel my courage and confidence in those dark and lonely times. (Thanks Dan, Ron and Eddy for your words of prayer AND thank you Xenia Christian Faculty for your enthusiasm and support around the circle.) I so look forward to reporting back to them in September!
COUNTDOWN – 16 DAYS!!
This was such a great day. With my hike just around the corner, the high school at the Miamisburg campus invited me back to share with the students. I really appreciate high school students and the fresh, dynamic way they look at life. I am always challenged in their presence and often inspired by their hearts’ commitment to faith.
Since I had already shared the details of my A.T. hike with this group several months ago, I wanted to share something different. I choose to share some ideas on how people change their worlds by using their giftedness and following God’s call on their lives. I used Ephesians 4:1 as a key verse to explore my thoughts: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” I shared a concept that my friend and mentor, Greg Kurtz, often communicates – you are not called to change THE world, but you are called to change YOUR world. I presented several examples of people who used their gifts and talents to change the world around them – Bob Briner, Frank Peretti, Dr. Benjamin Carson, Joni Eareckson Tada, and David Green, as well as some unknown, contemporary teens (Laura Sweeting, Candonino Agusen, and Amanda LaMunyon) who are doing some incredible things to serve others.
I concluded that all of these “world changers” had at least two things in common – vision and courage. Zeroing in on the character quality of courage and the importance of never giving up, I tried to make the connection between courage and the call. The source of courage is not found in the depths of man but in the hand of God. If one is called to a task or a mission, the source of courage comes from the One who has done the calling. If God has called me to the trail, He will not abandon me, nor fail me, nor remove His hand of protection from me. My courage comes from His presence. My confidence is found in the call. There is much to learn, adversity to embrace, challenge to conquer, some refining to experience, and lots of insight to discover. And my courage will arise from my call to hike.
At the end of the chapel, a very special young lady came to the front and presented me with a check for $1,000!! The check was a result of her initiative and her diligence to have bake sales throughout the school year to support my hike. Ashley you ROCK!! We got a picture taken together with the giant check she presented during chapel. In those discouraging days, the photo of Ashley’s smiling face will inspire me to continue on. She has literally changed my world that we might be able to change the world of others. I have been impressed and humbled by the generosity and kindness of others; I have been brought to tears by the expressions of love and support from students and family; but Ashley holds a special spot of inspiration and admiration. The next time I present about world changers, Ashley’s picture will be in my PowerPoint!
COUNTDOWN – 18 DAYS!
I have had several friends and family members request my itinerary for my hike so they can follow my progress and maybe even meet me on the trail somewhere. I know it is important to have a plan and I understand the saying that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Several months ago, I took my A.T. Guide by David “Awol” Miller and I mapped out my trek from Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin. It was a great exercise and I thoroughly enjoyed hiking over the pages of the guidebook. To plan a daily 20-mile hike on paper is so easy to do; to make a resupply stop and still manage a 16-mile trek only involves a few strokes of the pencil; to climb up and over 5 mountains in a day is as simple as filling in the blanks.
But executing the plan is quite another matter. So I decided that averaging 18 miles per day (every day for 120 days) might be a little too aggressive. I have begun to map out a plan for 12-15 mile days for the first twelve days; another 12-15 mile/day goal for twelve days in New England (New Hampshire); I figure I can hike 22 miles stretches for 24 days when I hit easier terrain in NJ, NY, MA, and CN; that will leave me about 74 days to average 18- mile walks. That’s 122 days of hiking – if I take a zero-day every 10 days – it will total a 132-day adventure.
However, the plan is only as good as the hiker. I might find that I can only manage 10 miles per day….or maybe I can do 22 miles starting out ….or maybe an injury slows me down for 5 days….or maybe the rain and mud slow my pace to one mile an hour and I find myself exhausted after 6 hours….. or maybe I just can’t stop and decide to set the speed record for 64-year-olds from Ohio. In any case, I think my plan will be good for one night and then part of each evening afterward will be strategizing for the next day. When will I be in Hot Springs, or Damascus, or Harpers Ferry, or Duncannon, or Monson? I really wish I could tell you, but right now it is just a guess and not even an educated one at that. The goal is to start the trail in Georgia and end in Maine sometime before winter.
I am going to start the trail with three plans – fast, hopeful, and slow. I will look forward to filling in the fourth column – actual. As long as the last actual entry has Katahdin behind the mileage, I will be most satisfied!
COUNTDOWN – 19 DAYS before I start my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail!!
Spring is really here – I saw my first wildflowers along the trail. What a difference a week makes. The last Saturday of March was pretty dark and dreary – there were spots of green grass, moss and ground cover, but the majority of the trail was brown, gray, dark, and dormant – begging for the thaw that will burst forth life. God threw the switch sometime this past week. The spring moment happened and evidence began to pop up through the landscape.
I wish I knew my wildflowers better. I have been overwhelmed with the shear variety of them. There are thousands of pretty blue ones, hundreds of delicate white flowers, countless orange, purple, green, yellow, and red blossoms. Instead of suffering from the task of learning all their names, I decided just to enjoy their beauty and make up names of my own. I’ve posted a few photos from my hike on Saturday as I captured some of my first introductions to this year’s spring flowers. The names provided are not scientific, not authoritative, and not serious – they are my names for these beautiful creations.
I also saw a great horse along the trail. I have never seen an animal with such interesting coloring. It was not an Appaloosa but it had wonderful markings, It was kind of a cross between a Zebra and a Cheetah (the coloring, not the animal – it was definitely a horse). I think it should be called a Zebreetah. I did a little research and it could be the British Spotted Pony, or the Danish Knabstrup or the Central Asian Altai. I still like the Waynesville Zebreetah best of all.
COUNTDOWN – 20 days!!
I hiked a bike trail yesterday (Saturday) in preparation for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike beginning the end of this month. The day was absolutely gorgeous! But with the rain that covered the area during the last three days, I knew the MetroPark trails would be muddy, some totally underwater, and many treacherous on the steep downhills. So I selected the dry, straight bike trail from Waynesville toward Cincinnati. A bike trail has some great advantages and some challenges to consider. The advantages include: a smooth, solid surface void of sneaky roots, trip rocks, and swamps the size of the everglades to navigate. A hiker can maintain a quick pace and can log a high number of miles (I hiked for a tad over 9 hours and accumulated 27 miles). Mileage is easy to calculate because the trail has markers every ½ mile.
The downsides are significant as well – the surface, although solid and dry, is hard on the feet and knees – there is very little “give” on the surface and your leg joints take a beating. It’s called a bike path for a reason – today’s weather brought out lots of bikers, most very serious folks with fancy bikes, fancy clothing and a fast pace. Try as I will, I cannot keep up with them – they all pass me. Being the tortoise among all the hares, makes hiking a challenge. I felt like the frog in Frogger trying to get across the road with all the speeding autos. I walk on the left facing oncoming bikers. When I see them coming I switch to the right side so they will have a clear lane. However, if a speed-racer comes up from behind me while I’m on the right, I am simply in their way. I step off the trail and yield to the speed. I listened to a book on CD today, which makes the process of lane shifting even a bit more dangerous. I can’t hear the bikers coming up on me. Some try to give a verbal warning like, “Biker on your right!” But with a book being narrated in my ear, the warning is hard to catch.
Every once in a while the perfect storm presents itself – just like Saturday: I move to the right to make room for walkers coming toward me. I looked behind me before I moved over – there were hikers a fairly long distance behind me on the right. When the walkers passed me, I moved to the left to get back in my appropriate lane. The hikers behind me weren’t hikers after all, but tandem bikers. We almost collided (a catastrophe for all of us). The driver made a skillful swerve and avoided a nasty smash. I got bumped in the elbow but the bikers remained upright. I yelled “Sorry!” but they kept peddling. It was totally my fault – I felt so bad and so responsible. I replayed the event in my mind with a sprawling bike, blood and broken bones, and stitches and a lawsuit. It was all my fault – I felt like an intruder on their path. Unless I dust off my Schwinn, I think I will avoid the bike path from now on.
Bike Path Photo found at: http://www.miamivalleytrails.org/ohio-indiana-trail
COUNTDOWN – 3 WEEKS!! that’s just 21 DAYS!!
This post on Hike It Forward is my 195th post regarding my preparation for the thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. What a joy to put my thoughts and plans on virtual paper and share them with friends and family and new-found friends. Thank you all so much for reading my ramblings and supporting my insanity. I have learned so much about the trail in all 14 states. I have discovered the interesting history of the establishment of the trail itself as well as the bigger-than–life thru-hikers who have conquered the wilderness. I have read about the animals that call the AT “home” and have made a mental checklist on which I hope to see and which I hope to avoid. I have learned some of the trail language and know what a NOBO is, what HYOH stands for, what MUDs and PUDs are, and the value of Vitamin I. I hope to continue to post until I leave. My new goal is to publish 210 posts before hopping on the trail at Springer Mountain, GA. I am not sure about technology and connectivity on the trail, but I hope to take a picture, share my trail miles for the day, and provide insights or prayer requests on a regular basis.
I took a great hike today (more on that adventure in tomorrow’s post) bringing my total number of miles up to 2, 114.8!! This leaves only 70.5 miles to hike prior to April 26 in order to meet my target of hiking the distance of the thru-hike before I attempt the thru-hike (2, 185.3 miles). This is very doable as long as the weather provides some warm days and clear skies. I am 85.2 miles from my original 2,200 miles of preparation. With Easter Break coming up and the daylight hours lengthening into the evenings, I might just reach the top of that mountain.