Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let it Fall

My favorite time in high school was Cross Country season. Coach Wertz' practiced introduced me to the Appalachian Trail and much of Botetourt County that I have since become enamoured with while traversing the landscape via foot. I think the best part, for me, was the transition and camaraderie. Somehow a group of 20 some teenagers started running in late August. It is a season of sticky thick heat, sweat, sun, swelling storms, and groaning through "base miles". It is a season of learning your teammates, encouraging each other to not look over their shoulder, to attack the next hill, to get over their summer fling, to hurry up and read the cliff notes from all the books they didn't read over the summer.
School starts, and suddenly you're workouts are after school instead of the morning. Suddenly you have academics on top of outdoor revelry. Every day at lunch you watch what you eat, so as not to puke it up during a ladder or running up Tinker Mountain.
Races start, the affair of frolicking through the woods becomes more serious and you are pounding tired, well tuned muscle through leaves and sun beams.
Somewhere in all of this, things change. One day, mid September you notice the trail has red and yellow leaves on it, leaves on Camelot and Tinker are bursting, and falling, with better views. Eight am race starts are cold, and you are huddled around your now best friends, holding pinkies, praying for the miles to come. There are tears, there are cramps, there is growth, there is love.
My lifelong best friends know what I'm talking about. It is hard to experience the full spectrum of summer revelry to fall splendor during college or a full time job. Unless you have the rare opportunity to be outside every day you may not be cognisant of what is going on around you.
I awoke this morning in a bed in a hayloft, upper story of a New Hampshire barn. The morning light flooding in the window I thought, why not stay, watch the day move over this town, I'll go to the woods later.
Leaves have been changing since New Hampshire. Last week, hitch hiking 100 some miles with Hasty gave me a glorious opportunity to spend time in the valleys, out of rocky summits or green tunnels. I saw patches, clumps of orange, yellow, red. As we made our way north back to my trail take off listening to Old Crow Medicine Show and other bluegrass jams, I thought I couldn't be happier.
Transition to fall is vivid on the Appalachian Trail. Although I'm now carrying heavier clothes and working with less daylight hours I'm excited to walk through and with my favorite season.
So today I've traipsed around town enjoying story time at the library, coffee and Edward Abbey from my bed, and phone catch up from a rocking chair. Tomorrow perhaps, tomorrow I will be wild again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The White Mountains --> Maine Attraction

I worked my butt off for a month to hike the Whites with one of my favorite adventure companions, Ryan Hasty. That's the main reason I've been so sparse updating this blog as well as taking very little time off in town away from the trail. Today I am in Gorham NH, trying to get my head around the 300 miles between where I sit now and Mt. Katahdin.
Photos have been posted of the past two states. I have been blessed and fortunate to travel with a beautiful fellowship of companions in Vermont and NH. Time at Anna's Vermont home was delicious, soulful, and restful. My new dear friend Low kept me smiling and laughing through hail storms, rain, mud, and many many miles of Vermont and NH up until the first shelter in the Whites. Bones has also risen to be a source of joy and relief. As it turns out the past two states and the weeks to traverse them have become a whirlwind of fellowship, miles, and wildness, so much so that I only realized a couple days ago, standing on top of the Wildcats North of Pinkham Notch, alone, for the first time in nearly a month, how far I had come. Hiking is a funny business when your mind becomes absolved in the greenery and rocks. I am nearly in Maine. I can't really tell you how that happened.
I've been thinking too much time in the woods is a lot like deep sea diving. They say once you're deep enough under water your world fades into an existence of blue, above, around, below, you no longer know which way is where. I listened to a lot of Eddie Vedder, Into the Wild, soundtrack before leaving VA. There's a song on that album that says "gonna rise up, find my direction magnetically, gonna rise up, turn mistakes into gold" I used to feel magnetized north. I don't know which way is what anymore; in a strange foreign place.
There are glimpses of this landscape that seem a strange mix of Montanan grandeur and Virginian greenery. Sometimes it is comforting; always surprising.
The White Mountains were in a word- epic. Traversing them with someone so near and dear to my heart was definitely a highlight of this trip. We had nearly perfect weather for the whole stretch- a feat unheard of in this area. Even the day we summited Mt Washington and hiked the Presidential range was sunny, warm, clear, with little to no wind. Although Hasty, Bones, and I pushed nearly 15 miles that day and didn't set up camp til 9pm, and although I had to sing myself through the last 3 miles of exposed ridge at sunset and with a headlamp not to cry from fatigue and frustration, it was in fact, one of the most glorious days on the trail yet.
It seems I'm always online with someone breathing over me to get off the computer, so , as always, I'll wrap up before I would like to. But first- a few shout outs.
Homer, Theresa, Taylor, Bennet Witcher: I think of you nearly every day. You have my utmost admiration and respect for having walked this path as a family.
Amtower Clan: Thank you so much for gifts of presence and support. I miss you and love you very much
Botetourt County School Employees (who are prob reading this bc of my Mom): Encourage your students to dream huge, beyond huge. Tell them youthful dream chasing gives you confidence and life to dream more, chase more.
Anyone who can give me a full time job with health benefits starting at the first of this year give me a shout =) Particularly one near Missoula Montana =D
Love and peace to you all.
May you find graceful wonder as you wander.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Glencliff NH

Three months after leaving from the Daleville Pizza Hut parking lot I find myself at a hostel in NH, at the base of Mt. Moosalauke, entrance to the White Mountains. Hasty helped me resupply / change out to fall/winter clothes, and we are about ready to shift into wild mountain climbing mode. Leaves are starting to change, it's in the 50's at night, and the sun is starting to shine again. So here's to being epic =) I'll upload pics... sometime... ? Thanks for the warm wishes and prayers (esp PenMar Family) Love and grace be with you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Live Free or Die!

So many stories to catch up on, but I just can't be still long enough. Taking my first zero day since New York City to wait out the rain, rest up, and collect myself a bit before the wildness of the White Mountains. Walked into Hanover NH yesterday, one of the happiest moments of my life. I've been filling my moments and adventures with some really solid fantastic people that make the wet dreary days and nights brighter and more epic. I will try to update blog and photos in Glencliff NH, right now my images are in VA being backed up by Cindy.
Shout outs:
Mark, It's so wild the time we spent together and it's been so long. I miss you, S bean, and stories of your family.
Doug, SOOOO happy you and Geronimo had a great time together! Thanks so much for keeping him.
Fischa, Thanks for keepin Moes with your boys, hope we can drink a PBR together for your birthday!
Everyone else: I love you and miss you and will write more soon, right now a Dartmouth student is P.O. ed and waiting for this computer.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


I am in Vermont, have been about 4 days now. The rain, mud, cooler temperatures, and walking on a schedule frequently steer me towards frustration and fatigue. In reality however I am warm enough, dry enough, happy enough, and very blessed by grace and fortune. Currently I'm out of the rain sipping Dutch tea and dutch cookies with a new friend that bought me to town from the trail. In a few (short?) days I plan to be at my college friend Anna's Vermont house, and although she won't be there in person the opportunity to hang out with her mom and spend time in a place she loves so much is very exciting.I plan to keep pushing north, probably without a significant break until Glencliff New Hampshire. That is a tough mental battle, but the reward for the miles in between; Ryan and the Whites keep my dreams sweet and feet moving. Thank you for all the kind words, I'll write more later. Love!