The Dare Out There

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“On the street of by-and-by, one arrives at the house of never.” – Cervantes

The pressure is strong; the urge unrelenting.  The demands of life – work, earning a living, plus a thousand other things – quickly jam into each nanosecond of our existence, leaving little time to catch our breath, plan meaningful futures, or nurture things which matter most, such as relationships and finding a life purpose to fully commit to.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to take a leap of faith.  You have to simply put all other things aside and go; even if you don’t know how you’ll get there or what will happen when your backpacking boots move beyond the starting line at Springer Mountain, Georgia.

You just know: “I’ve simply got to do this.  Now!”

Somehow you just know.  The food that will fuel your soul, the sustenance which will galvanize you into going inside and giving yourself time to think and get to know who you are – lies in the glory of nature.  Yes, there will be a price to pay in pain and hardship, loneliness and ache.  But if you cross the zone along the trail (for me it was about the fifty mile mark) where it feels something has shifted and that you’ve somehow “broken through” the majority of your resistance and second-guessing, you will know you can achieve what you set out to do.  Hike from Georgia to Maine!

That’s when things will get really interesting.

Backpacking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine (or in any other configuration you choose) will always be a benchmark for the rest of your life.  Even if you should not succeed in completing the entire trail, you will discover your outlook is brighter, your spirit bolder, your boundaries of possibility expanded.

My advice is not to fuss too much about which gear to use or whether or not you should saw the handle off your toothbrush.  Not if it delays your setting out too long.  I spent a year in research, gathering equipment, and planning.  Even then, I hit the footpath with a pack weighing 55 pounds to start with.  By the end of my trip that weight had drastically dropped to about 30 pounds.  The thing to remember is that is plenty of room to learn as you go.  Stick with the basics and set out.

Treat the land as if it were your own back yard.  In recent years I’ve been dismayed to learn the trails has suffered from littering and graffiti.  If you care about stewarding the world you live in, leave shelters and campsites better than you found them.  You will be amazed at how good you will feel when you spend a few extra minutes sweeping out a shelter with a broom!

Take time to – as the old saw goes – “hike your own hike.”  Leave high-daily-mileage setting to those who feel the need for such accomplishments and focus on your own; the pace that enriches your soul and makes your spirits fly when you unload your pack at the end of the day.

Whatever date on the calendar you mark to begin your journey, remember that the dare out there will bring out everything that is within you, both good and bad.  And that’s OK.  You are about to grow in ways you could never imagine before.

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Filed under A.T., Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Discipline, Dreams, Hiking, Long distance backpacking, outdoors, Transformation

Imagining with your pen

landscape-1622739_1920Is is somewhere in the Himalayas?  The Canadian wilds, perhaps?  Maybe even the dark land of — Mordor?!  Wherever you think this wild wonder is, take ten minutes with your journal and pen and imagine you’ve been dropped off in this vast landscape.  You have nothing but a knife and a short length of rope and a small container of water.  You have five days to get to civilization or summon rescue.  What would you do?  What’s most important first — food? water? shelter? fire?  Let your imagination roam with the exercise.  Enjoy the challenge of trying to sort things out on paper, as opposed to actually being right there in the middle of it.  What did you learn about yourself?  What did you think and feel?  What skills did you have?  How did your exercise turn out?

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Chipmunk brazenly nabs “honey bear” on Appalachian Trail

Wildlife is already showing signs of impatient scurrying in my yard; who knows how safe a “honey bear” will be *this* year?

Write in Front of Me

Honey Bears Honey Bears (Photo credit: Coco Mault)

There was nothing I could do.  It was a lost cause.  Though the peril was not my own, my heart went out to my fellow hiker, who watched in anguish as his morning breakfast was disrupted.

We were enjoying breakfast in a shelter in the Great Smoky Mountains along the Appalachian Trail; one which had chain-link fencing on the front.  Rangers say it’s to keep the bears out and protect hikers.  My view has long been that the shelters along the A.T. in the Smokies are the only place where they put the people in cages and the animals roam free.  In this case, an ambitious chipmunk had just stalked between the links of chain and glommed onto the plastic “honey bear” my backpacking friend was about to use to drizzle his morning pancakes.

Siberian Chipmunk photographed on the mountain...

Too late!  The critter swiftly embraced the bottle with his…

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Nothing’s Promised

“It’s as if the AT is calling me and I need to go see what it has to say, all the way from beginning to end.” – Cato readies himself for his own Appalachian Trail endeavor.

Cato LaCroix A.T. ‘18

This April I will be attempting my first ever thru hike. My trail of choice: The Appalachian Trail. The “AT” is a 2,100 mile trail stretching from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Kahtadin, Maine. Each year thousands of people from all different walks of life attempt to complete this journey, with each individual having their own reason(s) to do so. I have never done any backpacking before and this is by far the most “out of my comfort zone” experience I will have ever embarked on in my 24 years of life.

As my start date gets near, I find myself thinking about why I’m doing this. Why am I leaving the comforts and luxuries of my current life to live in the woods carrying everything I need on my back for 6 months? Ive read that it’s important for you to have a “why” for you to remember on…

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The 2,000-mile barrier

hiker-1149898_1920There is something which stands in the way of an Appalachian Trail backpacker and success. Something that makes even the day-hiker hesitant to head out the door into the wild.

Vast and dominant, it looms over the beauty which beckons the heart and soul, daring the brave who wish to enter the sanctuary of wood and stream, glen and crag.

There is something which intimidates and defeats, which cripples and discourages. Even the seasoned backpacker who is armed with profound skill might in a moment collapse into discouraged retreat. Rather than forge into the green, they will pack up and head for home, tail between their legs. Rather than return to the world with wondrous stories and rich memories, they bear the shame of having given up to a simple and pervasive enemy which will haunt them for their lack of fortitude.

Countless expeditions and numerous souls who might otherwise push hesitancy aside lose all sense and intention when faced with this one, single, seemingly-mighty barrier.

wrangell-1721526_1920Should you be among those with the will and ability to endure this demon, you will find it accompanies you the entire length of your woodland sojourn. It will gawk at you across the fireside and pester you as you walk the miles.

Nevertheless, this creature which plagues the wilderness is deserving of existence. For it is the guardian and force which prevents lesser prepared travelers from crossing the boundary into the mystic mist of remote lands.

Should you be among the few who can tolerate its company, you will find that it does not disempower or distract you from the joy to be found in walking wild places. In fact, this jinn obstructs lesser souls, but nourishes those wise to the gift it can bring.

What is this force; this barrier? Simply this…

the unknown!

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Apprehension, Backpacking, Courage, Fear, Hiking, Journey, nature, The Appalachian Trail, Walking

The ABCs of Nature’s Healing

Ever heard of Forest Therapy? Want to know more? Keep reading!

The Big Epic

Have you noticed how you feel better in your daily life after spending time outdoors? As we immerse ourselves in the natural world, we become more whole physically, mentally, and emotionally. Plus, the better we know the world around us, the more we enjoy spending time outside. Continue reading to learn about the three different levels of connecting with Nature…

A – Have an ADVENTURE in Nature

“Nature” refers to the outdoors, the natural world, the places not made by humans. Everyone has an emotional response when they hear that word. For some of us, it is a place of comfort or adventure or pleasure. For others, it is a place that is dangerous or boring, a place to avoid. At this level, Nature is something separate from the adventurers, something to be explored or enjoyed in and of itself.

We enjoy extended backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail

So…

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An Appalachian Trail Backpacker’s Code

As backpackers and hikers gear up for another season in the wild, it seemed appropriate to revisit this post.

Write in Front of Me

Photo courtesy Jim Dollar @ Flickr Photo courtesy Jim Dollar @ Flickr

Daniel Wood left journals from hikes he had taken. Among those pages I discovered this document. I testify it was written by him. He requested whoever discovered it would post it online for all Appalachian Trail hikers and backpackers.

A Backpacker’s Code

I realize that choosing to hike this trail is a fulfilling, but serious endeavor. In setting foot here, I choose to be responsible not just for myself, but for those I meet on the trail. While I may never find myself in such a situation, I owe it to myself and others to hike responsibly and stand ready to help another backpacker should the situation arise.

I realize that I am to be responsible to myself first, and self-reliant to the extent of my backpacking and camping skills. If I do not have the basic skills of the art I will seek out seminars…

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Doggone Cold! Winter Gear List for Dogs

Yes! You *can* take your furry friend onto frigid winter trails; Patches Thru share with you just how it’s done!

Patches Thru

Winter on Mary's Rock

Here’s a list of the winter hiking and backpacking gear that M’s Seeing Eye Dog Edge used on our winter Appalachian Trail adventure in Virginia for New Year’s. This list includes the gear he used for climbing up to Mary’s Rock with wind-chills of -15℉, as well as the gear he used for his first winter overnight (with a record-breaking low of -2℉).

Winter Day-Hike Gear List for Edge

  1. Fleece-Lined Waterproof/Windproof Jacket (5/5): The jacket was easy to put on and take off, provided good coverage for precipitation, great mobility, and some added warmth. The jacket performed as described; I think it would have been perfect if the weather had been in the predicted range (lows of 15℉ to 25℉), but with temperatures dropping into the single digits and wind-chills making the effective temperature even colder, a warmer jacket with more coverage would have been better.
  2. Musher’s Secret Wax:

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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, dogs, Hiking, outdoors, Walking, Weather, Winter hiking