Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's Been Too Long

Let me say first, I'm sorry for massive delay. I treated our beautiful blog very poorly and I apologize. We did so well letting everyone know what's going on for so long just to abruptly stop. Not cool. So, this blog has been building in my mind and my heart. Here's what you've been missing:

Man, the last blog was in Glasgow!? Crazy. Bad blogging hikers! We are currently in NYC as many of you found out via tagged photos on Facebook. "Why are you guys there!?". My older brother and awesome girlfriend, Nandita, live here. "Yeah, but why aren't you hiking?" Let's start back at Glasgow where we last left.

Glasgow was awesome. New friends and close bonds were made. Between Shenanigans, Red Fury, Mouse, High Life, Five Thirty, One Mile, and Voodoo the good times were outweighing the true frustration of Virginia and the summer heat. Out of Glasgow we got a ride to Buena Vista, VA where we got an amazing hitch(which took hours), not just to the trail, but to the top of the mountain leaving Buena Vista which we had been prepared to climb. It was a grueling 2000 foot uphill. This was way out of the hitcher's way. But he was psyched on hikers and the Trail so he didn't mind his truck doing the climbing instead. He coincidentally, we later found out, gave Squatch and others a ride to the same spot the day before. Trail Angel. We chatted for a while then we were off smiling and happy. That evening we weren't sure where all our buddies were because we all got different rides. We reached Spy Rock, which was a bit of a rock scramble up some massive rocks but lead to an amazing panoramic view, and set up camp. Right as dark approached and it was looking like we were camping solo, Red Fury and High Life showed up. Sweet. Made a fire, played a little guitar, then crashed. We knew we had a rough day coming between Priest Mountain and Three Ridges.

We awoke and got the day going. Another hot day. Same soaked in sweat shirt and shorts. We ended the day with a massive uphill which is always pretty tough. Got into camp about 9:30. Another 12 hour+ day. At this point, Caveman had somehow gotten ahead of us. Grizzly was already in Waynesboro and Soda Pop had to get off the Trail temporarily due to funds. Belch was still back near Daleville, I think, as was Bumble Bee. The next big town coming was at the southern base of the Shenandoahs, the next big national park. We were still 25 miles away Waynesboro and had only been a couple days out when our feet started getting bad again. One of Reverie's toes had been swelling pretty bad and my heels were still so jacked up. No amount of time off them, mole skin, or duct tape would relieve it. They just kept getting progressively worse. So, we reluctantly hopped a ride to Waynesboro, VA. It's never our plan to skip small sections. But between mail drops, injuries, and dog food sometimes there's no way around it. You just GOT TO get to town.

Waynesboro. One of the, if not the most Trail-friendly town so far. They offer a place in town for hikers to set up tents and hammocks. There's a bathroom and free access to the local YMCA which offers free showers. Plus, an easily accessible new library. In addition, and this is the coolest part, they hand out a massive list of about 30 names and numbers of Trail Angels that offer rides to and from the trail head and around town. That's huge. If only all towns had that. Anyway, when we arrived to town, Sqatch, Jumanji, Eva, Short Term, and a multitude of other thruhikers were preparing to Aquablaze. Aquablazing entails canoeing the Shenandoahs River from Port Republic to either Luray or just before the West Virginia border 150 miles later. Different lengths are different prices. Aquablazing BLEW UP with popularity the last couple years, but especially this year. There were so many hikers wanting to canoe, places offering the service couldn't keep up. Here's the thing about Aquablazing...

Finishing Virginia via a boat and breaking up the same pattern of hiking everyday would be awesome.
Using our arms to get around instead of feet.
Great group of people to canoe with.
Change of scenery.

HOT in the SUN all DAY.
Paddling can be exhausting.
Chaser in a boat. Not a bad thing, not an easy thing either.
Expensive. No less than $150 per person. Ouch.

We wanted to do it so bad. Really bad. And we battled the idea for days in Waynesboro. It was frustrating. Do we canoe or keep hiking. The "everyone else is doing it" factor was painful. But how practical is canoeing it anyway? What would we really be getting ourselves into? No one has documented an aquablaze on film but maybe there's a good reason for that. The river was unusually low. All the places we talk to made it sound like, due to lack of rain, there was a lot of boat dragging. I couldn't imagine having to lift our boats over rocks with our packs. We spoke with Squatch and his party the day after their departure. Things apparently were quite fun. They were also staying quite drunk. There was a canoe overturned and a gun-threatening redneck that didn't like them camping on his property. In addition, the water on the river was undrinkable due to the cattle bathing in it. It was a constant mix of good and bad reviews. The second we had it in our mind to hike it out, more hikers would show up and want to get people on board causing us to rethink again and again.

By now Caveman showed up, as did Red Fury and High Life and Five Thirty and Voodoo. And Bomb and Stones and Snickers and Peanut, Suds, Tape Worm, Sir Richard Flap, and a bunch of others. Good party zone. Caveman and Flap wanted to make Aquablazing work. In fact, they had an idea to get some inflatable Walmart rafts ride it out that way. Hmmmm. Is this the answer to our aquablazing problem!? Maybe? We went to Walmart and blew up a "2 person" raft just to see. Oy... Maybe not. Nevertheless, we purchased a tester. It seems as though a cheap raft as such would almost immediately pop upon sharp rock contact. But maybe not. It looked like it might be just big enough for me and Chaser. But maybe not. It looked like fun and that it might just work. But probably not. Long story short, the test run went okay at best. A person and their pack was not likely. In addition, people, such as canoe rental workers, thought it was insane. They said it's simply NOT POSSIBLE to, due to water levels if nothing else, make it past half a day on an inflatable raft on the Shenandoah River. It will pop, you may be stranded. Even after hearing that it was hard talk them and ourselves out of this cheap alternative solution to row instead of hike. But ultimately, the plan was nixed, the rafts, pumps, and paddles were returned. Hiking it is.

Well, sorta. We were about to enter a national park that fortunately, unlike the Smokies, allow dogs. Unfortunately, they require them to be on a leash at all times. Now, Chaser is great most of the time, but him on a leash connected to me for 80 miles ain'ts gonnas work. We decided to catch a ride past some of the Shenandoahs. Yep, skipped a little more. Ultimately, we were glad we did. We got into camp where we saw Stoves, Smokes with Snakes, and a bunch of people we haven't seen since Daleville. That was great. However, we got there late. It was already frustrating getting tugged around by Chaser. We set up in the dark right and as we threw our rainfly over our tent we heard what sounded like a train coming. What in the hell is that? The wind suddenly kicked up. All the hammockers started swaying. We rushed our gear and ourselves into the tent as the sky opened up. It was quite terrifying. It felt like a hurricane. It was hailing and windy as hell. We were pretty much praying that a tree won't fall on us. After about 20 minutes, it eased up into a light rain for the rest of the evening and everyone survived.

The next day was hottttttt. Chaser hiked attached to me and was good most of the time. Occasionally, he'd jerk me back to smell something and often I'd have to remove the leash from under his leg. Both things frustrating with a 50lb+ pack on your back. It added that much more weight tugging me down. It was our first taste of the Shenandoahs and right off the bat, we didn't like it. This is mainly due to Skyline Dr. It's the road that cuts through the Shenandoahs. We cross it multiple times a day and can hear cars at night. Lame. Really, the lamest part was that you hike, hike, hike to a nice view and you look down(or up) and there is a car looking at the same thing in front or behind you. All the nicest spots you can drive to and in fact, they have the nicer view from the road. That's the first and hopefully only time something like that will happen.

There was a couple fires in the national park. It required diverting the hikers to the road. So, we had several miles of road walking. Kinda a drag. We came across a store, as they have them all up and down the Trail in the Shenandoahs, that normally serves shakes and burgers. However, the storm that came through the night before ripped trees and limbs down all over the place and knocked the store's power out(and apparently a lot of Washington DC's too). Bummer. We stopped there anyway. There was park ranger warning all the hikers that an even larger storm was supposed to come through in a few hours. She recommended going to the next shelter and staying. Well damn. So, we did. Of course, there was were tons of other hikers who received the same warning holding tight there too. It was a lot of great hikers. Caveman, Flap, Red Fury, and High Life amongst others. So, calling it an early day wasn't so bad. The damned thing was that the storm never even came close to coming. Nothing. It was a fun hang zone but we were all looking at the sky waiting. Kinda glad it didn't show up.

The next day was our last in park. Good thing. I couldn't be literally attached to Chaser anymore but I was. We were glad to get outta there. We made it to Front Royal, VA where we stalled out again. It was just SOOO hot and increasingly miserable. We were trying to get above it our heads but it wasn't happening. Caveman came and stayed with us. It was a nice town too. We even found a skatepark and borrowed some boards from some cool skaters. It was so nice to skate again despite the heat. We zeroed there.

Reverie had decided weeks before that she needed a break. She was gonna go from Harpers Ferry to DC then to NYC and wait at my brother's until I showed up. That was the plan. Chaser and I were gonna push it through West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and most of New York then head to the city. However, something clicked in my head too. I wasn't over the Trail but I desperately needed a break too and looking at Chaser, he felt the same. That dog was hotter than us and he's been dragging ass. We sat in Front Royal looking at a ticker that said 107 degrees. That's it. I'm going too. I didn't wanna hike AT ALL. But I didn't want to go home either. We were becoming increasingly poor hikers anyway. We were loving the people and the sights but the Trail was grating so terribly on us. People were still dropping like flies. We needed a change.

The plan turned into hopping to NYC and waiting for Caveman and others there. In fact, that is the current plan and is what is happening as I type this. I talk to Caveman about every other day. We look forward to his arrival. We are ending this thing on top of Katahdin, no doubt in my mind. The thruhike is not nearly as "thru" as it was intended. We are missing about 400-500 miles of 2186 miles and for some reason I don't feel all that bad about it. This adventure is just that. It doesn't require all steps on the Trail. We've spent over 3 months on the Trail and we still will have 700 miles left. That's two months left and it will slowly start cooling off. I do miss the Trail and especially Caveman and the others. I look forward to starting back up in New England. In the mean time, we are having fun here. We are doing every free thing possible. Chaser doesn't necessarily like the city but he's enjoying the break. We were going to try and send him back for many reasons. But he is doing better and I know he wants to keep hiking. Good thing because it isn't easy sending a dog back as cargo.

So, to wrap this blog up. The hike is not over. It's only on hiatus. There is still much filming and much more Trail to come(will be back on in early August). Our bodies are healing. In fact, Reverie had to go to the emergency room our second day here because her toe was badly infected and had to be lanced. GOOD thing we were in a position to do that.

Again, I apologize for the lack of updates. It was constantly on my mind. But I wasn't sure what exactly to say. I've been at a slight loss of words about the choice to come here. Apparently a lot of people read this blog and I will not go that long again before another. We appreciate everyone's time and miss you all.

Now, if I can throw a ton of pictures at y'all.

PS. Update on the Aquablazers. We found out in Front Royal that all but one canoe bailed within the first couple days of canoeing. Too hot and they didn't like paddling. Plus, that storm dropped a tree on one of their tents. Good thing we didn't do that.

PSS. Gerber, Onkles, and Two Pair have been doing some hopping around too. They came and visited here in NY from NJ yesterday. I played host and we went to the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, Central Park, and Times Square. It was great to see them. We can't wait to get back on with them too.

 Best Hitch yet
 Spy Rock and rock climb
 Spy Rock view
 Finally, some springs in VA
 Chaser waiting for Rev
 Three Ridge Mountain. That was a tough one. One of the largest climbs since coming out of the NOC in Georgia.
 Great view

 Waynesboro! YMCA showering.
 She loves it.
 The Hammockers. Caveman and Flap
 "Two Person" Raft. Do you think that would've made it?
 "Four Person" which is really closer to two.
High Life thinking it out.
 We piled in for the ride to the Shenandoahs
Caveman, Shenangains, (Flap), then Red Fury.
 Rev and High Life in the front
 Kissing Trees

 Darkest rattle snake I've ever seen.
 Headed to Front Royal.
 Caveman loves Chaser.
Chaser loves Caveman.
Best friends, 2012.
 Old man gone wild
 I dream about this now

 Sandle skating, impossible.
 THAT's the Place
 NYC just in time for 4th of July
 Roof tops are the best
 Chesley and me

Tim and Jared BBQ'ing

 20 dollar board!? Thanks Craigslist!
 The lancing. Poor thing.

 Dog beach in Prospect Park
 Beach near Coney Island. Ewwww but fun.

 New stomping grounds

 Tim Marchiafava's job

 Giggles, Two Pair, Gerber, and Onkles