Whats wrong with today?

It is all too often that I will call a friend some early and random morning to see about a hike. It is also all to often that I get a response of “eh’ not today.” It led me to wonder what drives people in the morning, or the day for that matter. Clearly, what drives me isnt what drives them. If it was, the sheer idea of being out there today, in the woods, with nothing to do but hike, would get them out of the house. It doesn’t.

On instagram, I am no hero. That being said, I have taken a following of under 100 and gotten it to more than 6 times that solely based upon the pictures I took of the outdoors. Although I follow a few less than follow me, the common theme between both is that we all love the outdoors. We have created friendships through mutual passions and interests. I can only hope to be lucky enough to share trail time with each and every one of them. On instagram I have this acquaintance, Mitch. He is always out hiking, and he doesn’t care about the weather. I have yet to see him use “not today” as an excuse. To the point that I look forward now to seeing where he and his little dog, Aspyn, have trudged today. The coolest thing about Mitch, is when he sees my pictures up from hiking in 2017’s worst blizzard he comments something about wishing he could go. He sees my dirty hiker trash self mid trail and always mentions something about being there. The difference between Mitch and most… I believe Mitch. (Check out some of the great thoughts Mitch has about hiking here: http://mitchincolorado.com/2014/04/20/should-i-stay/ ) It is people like Mitch I need more of around here to say the least. Mitch, and many others led me to wonder about the all to common ability to push things off until tomorrow.img_20170216_171140_361

(Mitch taking on winter)IMG_20170216_171138_257.jpg

(Mitch bearing the ice and snow)

That being said, it wasnt but a few days ago that I hit the grocery store only to have 1500 people out of our 6000 person census greet me with the reminder that a storm was coming. As they furiously piled in the store for their last minute bottled water, frozen pizzas, and red box movies i quietly, through thought, thanked each and every one of them. Not for a reminder of the storm, but as a reminder that they would be all cozied up inside tomorrow and trails would be people free! As they were there for last minute supplies, I was there for a bag of ginger candy to bring with me on trail the following day. I decided I would hit the trail even though they were calling for 24” of snow, below freezing temperatures and 60 mp gusts of wind.

Personally, I see a purpose out there. My purpose is different than yours and I have stressed that so many times, but we all have one. It is an amazing thing to me to see the heards of tourists all pile onto the same trail during that 85F summer day. Here they are shoulder to shoulder, cant move, and can hardly breathe, but they are there. Then come late fall or winter when the trails are empty, the views are nothing but snow covered beauty, and the bugs are gone, there is NOBODY! Now dont get me wrong, I am not complaining. Maybe because I enjoy the bad days as much as the good, but all the same I am not complaining.   Anyways it got me thinking… “Who can i sucker into a hike tomorrow?”

My best friend, Josh, hes a little different. Different in the fact that he is completely ok with our tradition of terrible decision making and out of the norm ideas. One person I can ALWAYS count on is Josh. Ive turned around during the worst times in my life and there he was, smiling with gritted teeth saying something like “This is going to suck so fucking bad.” Its on the worst days of the worst of days that he is calling saying something like “So where should we go?” Fifteen years ago I used to laugh it off as a joke. Now, today, i put my gear on before I even call him back. So i knew he would be going and surer than all shit, the morning of the storm he rang. 5:30am on a snow day and my phone rings. I answer with a “where to?” and am received by a “Great Pond Mountain after we dig the cars out!” I just assure him ill be over to his house when i am able to get out of mine and I will have coffee in hand. Hes in!

Then in an attempt to be outside the box and give everyone I can an opportunity to go, I put it up on Snap chat. “Going to play outside. Come with? Message me!”. I go outside, i shovel out the driveway… 2 hours later I am back inside where my brother had made coffee. Upon seeing me strap up my gaiters he said “Man I thought you would think I am crazy if I asked you to hike today!” (My brother and I are in the newer stages of getting to know each other intimately and outside of our dysfunctional family setting) I let him know hes more than welcome and much to my surprise, without hesitation he heads to his room to start getting geared up. My brother has spent most of his life in a prison cell so hes quite new to the outdoors let alone backpacking, but always willing to adventure. Less the occasional “DO YOU THINK THIS IS OK TO WEAR?” coming from his room, he was pretty quiet. Come to find later that his nerves had gotten the best of him and he was questioning himself and me…”is my fucking brother stupid or crazy?” Turns out… your brother, my friend, is neither. He is however an against the grain naturalist who doesnt use mother nature as an excuse not to experience mother nature. Oh the irony there.

Anyways, I remembered my snap chat and checked it to see if anyone was up to play. 136 views in 2 hours and only 3 messages. All of them similar in context… “youre seriously going to hike today?” “Youre fucking nuts” “whats wrong with you?”. I just shook my head, laughed, and deleted the snap. It looks like its me, my brother, and my best friend this time around. (To Mitch’s credit, he would have gone too i know it.)IMG_20170213_182634_440.jpg

One of the greatest revelations I have ever had was on this treacherously gorgeous day. You know how old folks say something like “Back when I was young, we hiked up hill both ways in the snow!” Truth be told i always thought the Alzheimer’s gave them some sort of distorted memory of uphill and downhill. Until today. As we were laughing and happily bitching, we all three at the same time threw our fingers in the air as if to say that we had “got it”. *Queue light bulb*. We first laughed at the irony of all three of us just simply having an idea…. and to find it was the same one. This is what those old folks meant! I was the one bitching at the time saying something like “Holy fuck, going downhill is literally the same as going up hill”. Turns out… in literal waist deep snow….it actually is. Going down was literally the exact same effort as going up. We unanimously decided that this is exactly what they meant and in fact the innuendo has more meaning now than it ever had in our pasts. Our ages differing between us all, but our revelation none the less a real one.

Here we are… at the top. It is small mountain, with a summit only 1200 feet above sea level. That being said, its a bare top with few trees and a 360 degree view. The wind is all of 60mph and the temperature with the windchill was most definitely below 0 degrees F. We had hunkered down behind a ledge which got us out of the wind long enough to adjust everything and grab a drink of water. The snow was falling as fast as it had in the early morning hours and was accumulating with no less desire. A desire to bury coastal Maine in it’s wake. As we took deep breathes, exhaling on our fingers as we furiously wiggled our toes in our boots to increase circulation, we lay there… each and every one of us with a smile on our face. We were in pain, we were cold, wet, hungry (none of us had eaten that day) and miserable by most peoples standards, but by ours we were happy. IMG_20170213_194342_639.jpg

We all chatted for a few brief moments to come to the agreements that 1. this was absolutely the furthest any of us had walked in weather like this. 2.This was unquestionably the hardest walking any of us had done. 3. We were all really fucking hungry. 4. We were glad we came. That being said we all still had to get home. So down we headed.

We got back to the truck to find that 4 miles had taken us just over 6 hours. As a long distance hiker I am pretty familiar with my times and pace. Some of the hardest parts on trail that I have hiked I could carry at least 1.5 mph. My Katahdin hikes have never come in under 2. I was baffled that it took us as long as it had. Honestly I thought we made pretty good ground, but hindsight, we had to take a break every 20 or so steps. We were letting our vehicles warm up over a joint and we all agreed on a few more things. That after that day, every other day would seem just a tiny bit easier. Any warmer temperature would not be THAT cold. Every hike would seem just a LITTLE less strenuous. That our ability to survive was now backed by our willingness and confidence in doing so. There was nothing that could stop us at that point and we knew that. Hell, we KNOW that. We most definitely knew that choosing to be outside on that very day made the difference for so many days to follow.960.jpg

So I write this for simple reasons. To get your opinion on what is wrong with today? Why is it, “Not today” or “in a minute” or “ill do that tomorrow” is even acceptable? Not by my standards but by your own, for yourself. Having the ignorance to travel during the worst day of the year, to a place that most people avoid on the nice days, led to a completely different view about the “tomorrow’s” of my life.  Maybe its not hiking for you… maybe its just doing a good deed… or standing up for what you believe in… or tackling the year old project that you’ve been pushing off. All the same, today is the day! What is wrong with today? Don’t wait until tomorrow! It may never come!

The Day I Became Nature

The sun was beating on the outside of my tent, turning it into something like that of a sauna. The evening before was damp and the condensation was dripping down the inside walls. I wanted to wake up early to catch the sunrise on my first summit but I was being lazy about breaking down camp. I was 6 days into my section and to say the least I was sick of all the food I had brought and I had only a couple days left on trail leaving me with few options, so for now I would opt out of my nasty ass oatmeal. This was not my best morning and I was fairly tilted.

Being I was short on supplies, mainly food because I had shared a bit during my second night at camp, i figured a half of a joint and a cup of instant coffee would work for now and I would ration my two days of food over the next three. At least between the two I could hopefully get moving sooner than later and make up some time I had lost while being grumpy about the rain the day before. I broke down camp and on I went.

I make it a habit to stop about a mile into my mornings. Usually i perform my foolish and eccentric stretching rituals, run a toothbrush over my teeth and dig a hole for my morning duties. Normally, this fifteen minutes is extremely uneventful. Today was different. I stopped and dropped my pack. Sadly, after only a mile, dropping my pack was a well needed moment of peace. Now truly, and to give TMI, the stretching, teeth brushing and hole digging is pretty fucking boring. The shit though…. its the most peaceful shit youll ever have. Birds are chirping, the suns shining, your body is weightless from instantly shedding weight from the pack. Call me crazy, but shitting in the woods is a friggin passage to manhood…..and hikerhood as far as im concerned. Believe me when i tell you its a much preferred method over a privy, pre dawn, with a headlamp. The flies are relentless and shitting in the dark is of no talent of mine. So here I am all squatted up off trail a few seconds…. the silence is overwhelmingly loud as you listen for hikers nearing your pack, or bigger game approaching you as to say “hey why are you shitting in my living room.” (I am not sure this happens, but i duly note it none the less.) Crack* snap* crack* THUD! Oh this is great, i decided to shit under an oak tree. Who squats under a tree that fights back? Apparently I do. Crack* crack* snap* crack* THUD. I think to myself, “isnt it a bit early for acorns to be falling.” So now that I have provided you a mental picture of me squatting under a tree trying to shit in peace while laughing at my own stupidity, picture this. I have my back against the tree and mere inches over my right shoulder on the trunk of the tree i catch movement out of my peripheral. Well for you who dont know me, im deathly afraid of snakes. That’s is the first thing that came to mind. I dive off the tree, praying to mother fuckin earth that i miss my shit in the process. (I did if you were wondering…fortunately) Unfortunately with my drawers around my ankles i take a little fall. I start laughing hysterically at the outer body vision of me laying there, balled up laughing hysterically with a shitty friggin ass. I glance past my bare back side and see a chipmunk on the tree. I start swearing and laughing at the little bastard. Now, im much a fan of nature and not so much one to take a life. That being said, had I been able to derive a way to catch that son of a bitch right at that moment, I assure you I would have made him my lunch without a second thought. Here comes lesson one about becoming nature. When diving out of the way to avoid shit and random animals…. do watch where your toilet paper is. Personally, I did not, and realized I had so conveniently kicked the toilet paper into my shit. I literally was about to become nature as I found myself picking the biggest leaves within my vicinity. Good thing I perched up to an oak tree and not a pine. Although, if you are not familiar with oak trees, they have a considerably small leaf. So there it is… becoming nature 101. Wiping your ass with a leaf. oak

Now onto a much cleaner subject. I assure you I was still giggling to myself as I picked my pack up and threw it upon my shoulders. The mental picture of the event had me shaking my head. I could not help but wonder about that fucking chipmunk. I wondered a lot of things, but mainly about his ballsy curiosity that not only put him willing within inches of a human, but within smells distance of human crap. I assumed there were some seriously fucked up facts about chipmunks I did not yet know. I kid you not at that very moment, and only seconds after I put my pack on, contemplating my idiocy, I rounded a corner that had a log protruding onto the inside of the trail. There sat a chipmunk. Acorn in fucking hand. I can recall making some stupid comment like “hey you little fucker, your brother got me good a few minutes back.” He scurried off at the sound of my voice. Around another corner I go… surer than all hell there sat another fucking chipmunk smack dab in the middle of the trail, acorn in hand. At this very moment I began questioning my sanity. I had decided to pass it off as an abundance of both acorn and chipmunk. Besides, what the hell do i know about chipmunk preferences. For all I know, maybe I just shit at the bottom of the holy grail and mother of all acorn trees and they were angry. 538984489

I chalked all the chipmunks up to chance and kept on walking. I made it a little over a mile albeit had ascended close to 2000 feet. It had been close to an hour and I was hot, sweaty, and somewhat fatigued so I took a quick break. The woods were becoming bristly and smaller. The roots starting to show as they do when you get up in elevation and thank god there were no fucking oak trees for sake of my own well being. I sat down and was eating the last of some dried apples I had. That’s when becoming nature 101 kicked it up a to level 2. Not a meter from my feet, that were resting peacefully on my pack IMG_20150902_122947319-EFFECTS.jpgas my back lay against a downed and rotted tree trunk, there was a mother fucking chipmunk. “ARE YOU SERIOUS!?” I bellowed loudly. No doubt the mountain heard me. The interesting part, he didn’t scamper off. Hindsight, I sing and whistle the majority of the time when I hike alone, so maybe he had become familiar with my noise making. Oddly enough, he had a serious fucking staring problem. That is when I noticed an acorn in his hands. Had I not been sitting, I would have no doubt fallen ta’ fuck over. For a mental picture… think… ICE AGE. There is with no question the idea that these chipmunks are stereotypical when it comes to their acorns. Or so I thought. That is when he dropped it. An all to familiar thud yet quieter due to a lack of free fall. He took a little hop, putting him a couple inches closer to my feet. Well, maybe this was the pot talking, as I had complimented my apples with the other half of my joint, but i struck up a very one sided conversation with the little thing. Which i hesitantly admit was cuter than all hell. Like a dog with his head a bit off center, he seemed to at least be hearing me.I dont believe for a second he understood me naturally but he heard me. I tossed a piece of dried apple fairly close to him. He moved so quickly you could have sworn he caught it with his bare hands before he ran off. Literal seconds passed by and there he was…AGAIN. I tossed another piece of apple over his way and wouldn’t you know it, he grabbed that and took off too. I began to think I was back home on the coast of Maine, acting as a tourist and flocking the seagulls around with my left over french fries. (Highly frowned upon by locals mind you.) He kept coming, I kept throwing. Each time he would disappear momentarily and come back empty handed. It was like a backwards game of fetch. I cant lie, I felt a bit used when I was not getting anything in return. (For the record, i dont try and make feeding wildlife any habit. We were many miles away from a lean to and chipmunks dont seem to be quite as deadly as say… a bear… right or wrong, I made my choices)

My rest had come to an end but I must admit that this little fella had some serious attention. I almost felt a little protective and responsible in regard to his well being. After all he did eat all my fucking apples. So…. I decided to watch him. Really, my attention had started because of the conversation. As I was walking off, I was still talking to him…. something along the lines of “alright pal, lunch was nice, but its time for me to go.” Mine you i tend to talk to everything in the woods. Numerous days on trail, and the trees make pretty peaceful hiking buddies. Don’t judge. Well, all the same, as I was saying my good byes and walking off I had noticed him head in a similar direction. We were up in tree line so his movement was no longer lost in the thicket of the tall pines and overgrown brush. I kept track of him…. well what happened next was becoming nature example number 2. For the next 4 miles… and when i say 4 miles… i mean a literal 4 miles, this damned chipmunk would pop out on a branch, log, or rock every hundred feet or more and we would continue our conversation. Now for the record, he was no longer carrying an acorn but every bit of me assumes this was exactly the same chipmunk that scared the shit out of me…. well to be accurate, scared me while I was shitting. I would not have believed this myself had I not watched him scurry with my own two eyes for these 4 miles. I would stop and talk for a second as he stared, even continuing our conversation as if he was on my shoulder when he scurried off… instantaneously as I would pass he would dive off about 15 feet into the woods and start running parallel to the trail. I could clearly and without doubt see him pop out. Don’t get me wrong, I know he wanted food. What impressed me most was the ground he covered. The intent he had. His ability to not be afraid. What confused me was where he had hid all the apples as he surely wouldnt go back to find them. How he had followed me to almost above treeline where the woods would be unnatural to him compared to the lower elevations. Or so I assume, again im no chipmunk expert here. I just simply could not believe what was happening. I had realized during these 4 miles that he was not scared of me per say. I was a visitor in HIS home. Not the other way around. To him, I was probably just a food source. To me, he was a friend. To us, we were one in the same place. At least for a little while anyhow. Our time came to an end but the memory, in combination with the entirety of my day, has never left. I had stopped at a water source to refill and as fast as he came, he went.

Basking in the glory of my chipmunk whispering, a new found friendship, and my eventful day I decided that the pond I would be coming across shortly would be a great place to have a decent meal.IMG_20150901_153249900_HDR.jpg I had heard there were some canoes on the shore that needed to be patched but made a perfect picnic table in the mean time until they were. The hike to the pond was relatively flat and muddy. Along the way I had seen many of tracks. Deer and moose mostly with some bigger bird tracks, i assume turkey. There they were, the canoes. So pleasantly placed beside them was a hose coming from the ground that was spitting fresh, cold mountain spring water. I dont think I had ever been so happy. I love mountain water… I am always carrying my sawyer filter, but when the opportunity arises… as a local Mainer familiar with springs…. i jump. There is nothing better than fresh mountain water and when it hit my lips… *sigh* what a treat. I decided to have the oatmeal I was dreading. Mainly in due part of the fact that I was almost out of food and my interest in the chipmunk has used at least a handful of snacks that I was supposed to be rationing. It was just then nature gave me the most appreciated treat of all. I had just lit my stove and placed water atop the flame when I had heard a splash. It took me a minute but as I had scanned the pond I saw water fly and heard another splash. How unaware I was that only 50 yards away, play a moose. Diving his snout into the water only to quickly take it out. With him came fountains of water and ….grass? Now again here, im no animal expert, but with my own eyes I made the assumption after many more minutes that he was playing. He was reaching down, picking out the grass and tossing it into the air, like a dog with a new toy. I had literally been so mesmerized that when I had turned back to throw my oatmeal in the water it had nearly evaporated. I added a bit more water and threw my instant oatmeal in. Suddenly the oatmeal was irrelevant. For all I had known, I could have reached down and grabbed handfuls of dirt and it would have been no different to me. The moose had played throughout the entirety of my meal. Which was short I will admit, but seemingly it was a lifetime. He seemed as if to never notice me despite the noise I made prior to realizing I had company. At an instant I realized I needed a picture… I got into my pack and dug out my phone, turned it on and when i brought my phone up to snap a picture… nothing. Like the chipmunk before him, he just disappeared. While hanging my head in disappointment i noticed a large moose track… then several more… all of them heading straight into the pond he played.1011161225a.jpg I had practically followed him into the pond unknowingly. Part of me wished I had. I packed up and I continued on with the thought of my day clearly replaying in my head.

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I learned plenty this day. Some of which I carry with me on an every day basis. Some of which I only carry on trail. For one… forget the fucking phone. As I sit contently at my computer typing this, only to contradict myself, I recall technology being the sole reason that I shorted myself time with the moose. Had I been content with the memory, i would not had wanted the photo. I learned to be patient. Had i acted upon my anger with the chipmunk, tossing rocks, screaming and swearing … he might not have been curious enough to know me. He might have scampered off long before he actually did. I learned to lighten up. My time under the oak tree normally would have ruined my day. Mind you I had three days left and now no toilet paper. This time though… I was able to laugh it off. Being content kept me light on my feet and my spirits high. Both i believe were necessary for arriving at the pond at the most opportune time. I learned to slow down. 15 seconds slower, taking the time to be more aware, I might have gotten the chance to share time with him just for only a few moments longer. A few irreplaceable moments. I think most importantly however I learned this. No matter the preparation you put in, you can never predict the trail. One slip in the mud calls for wet feet on a dry day. One stumble could cost you your life regardless of how quick you are on your feet. One picture can cost you a memory. So I strongly urge you, that when you are there, be there. There is time for pictures, there is time for all emotion. Just pick your times and remember that no matter how many times you go through the same stretch of trail, it will never be the same. Also, never forget where you are. You are only a visitor to become part of nature. Nature is not ours… its everyones but. The chipmunks, moose and trees… its theirs. Until we realize that we are only but part of a bigger picture we will never fully appreciate whats there. Every bit of trash has an effect. Every noise is heard. In the end, we share nature with the ones whom call it home, but it is not in fact our home. IMG_20160731_203605.jpg

 

Hiking Is Not The Reason I Go Hiking

Where does one start when he tells another about how his passion was created. A passion that has engulfed him as a lifestyle and desire so strong that there isn’t an army in the world that could take it away from him. A passion so strong that it takes precedence over everything in his life besides that of whom he loves.

Where does one start when he tells another about how he is not in fact in love with his passion, but the reasons he participates in it. That hiking in itself is not the reason he goes hiking. Well….. he starts about 25 years ago.

When I was young, maybe as young as I can remember, anxiety has been a major issue. Through the years I had tried several medications, several ways of meditation and numerous, almost countless home remedies. Nothing prevailed. My anxiety in my younger years was worn on my shoulder. As far back as my memories go I refused to be surrounded by large groups. My mind raced like a thoroughbred’s heart at the end of a Kentucky Derby. My palms sweat causing me to constantly keep my hands in my pockets when I was anxiety ridden. My left leg taps when I stand or sit. My eyes are constantly on the go and I have always had a hard time focusing on what was in front of me, always searching the room to make sense of every sound and smell i perceived to be out-of-place. Or in place for that matter. My anxiety was at a point that even my parents, peers, teachers, and family could see it. It came without notice for no apparent reasons and it ran my entire life. I could not participate in sports teams because I would freeze long before i stood in front of a crowd to play. I refused, with stubbornness, to attend family dinners and anything that put me in the center of attention. I was not present for any of my boy scout badges and did not go to my 8th grade graduation.anx1

My anxiety through and through was an issue albeit an issue that everyone ELSE was trying to solve. I was just trying to take myself out of the places that caused it and alleviate the things from my life that presented it. When others were trying to fix it, i found it made it worse. The attention they gave me trying to talk to me about my issues was in fact the exact thing I did not want.

Some years into my anxiety, and somewhere in between not knowing what it was and finding a solution, i decided I wanted to learn about it. I knew at this point it was unhealthy, as the only time I would throw myself into social situations was when there was a great chance that I would be the only one there, or I was medicated. The medications were a problem all on their own. We never found the fine line although knew there was one. To medicate my anxiety they gave me anti depressants. I was a lot of things, but depressed just was not one of them. In my previous posts I have shared that some of the things in my life subsided my extreme emotions, like depression. I, for a long time, have been a very neutral person when it comes to emotions. Anyhow, too little medication and my anxiety would ramp up. Too much and I would experience mood swings, insomnia, lucid dreaming and an artificially created sense of trust and benefit of the doubt. If i knew one thing to start, it’s that I was definitely not going to live my life on the medications I was told I would need to.

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So to recap my adventure… The first thing that developed was a loathing for any medication that was man-made and artificial. That led me into researching the body and its mind. My research started with dreaming. I wanted to understand my subconscious mind first. When I was researching dreaming i found its relevance and importance. I became infatuated with their messages and wanted to learn to dream consciously. I knew that the medications that were giving me lucid dreams were in fact creating their own context and my dreams at that point were no longer based off of my own context. The context of the subconscious that your dreams are based upon, giving them relevance in your life whether we do or do not see it. I found through my research of dreaming absolutely nothing in regards to my anxiety. Except one of the more important things I have ever discovered in my life. I wanted to dream and I wanted to understand them. Which in the end simply supported the fact that I did not want to subside my anxiety with medications that would change the chemical balance of my conscious and subconscious.

Next, I decided to learn specifically about anxiety. The first term I came across was “disorder”. HA! Disorder you say? There was no way I was buying that. Turns out, anxiety is one emotion that is less controllable and predictable than all others. However, in the end, it’s just an emotion. I knew at this point that emotions could be manipulated, so how in fact would I manipulate the one in which is 99% manipulated through substance. Yeah I didn’t learn much here either.

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So upon discovering that anxiety was an emotion I decided to look into the mind again, however this time on a different level. The research I had done on dreaming had also led me to be curious about the mind as a whole. Oooohhhh what an amazing thing it is… but let’s be honest, neuroscience was not something I would be mastering in at 16 years old. I did find one thing that changed a lot for me….. the mind was mine. It wasn’t yours, and it wasn’t artificial. It was mine and mine only, and I had the ability to control it. I might not have known how to use that ability, and still don’t to a point, but I knew it was possible. That is when I found meditation.

Meditation was something I came across that intrigued me. Controlling consciously your thoughts… your state of mind…. your emotions and even down to the physical effects your body had on itself such as heart rate, core temperatures, oxygen intake, sleep requirements etc. I remember specifically this point in my endeavor. I remember it because I had found myself laughing and thinking, “How in all fucks does someone who can’t focus because of anxiety, alleviate it by focusing?” A solution that would come long after now. Turns out when you read about meditation, you come across a shit ton of pictures with people sitting crossed legged and their eyes closed. Queue humming noise. Yeeeahhhhhhhh, that was DEFINITELY going to work. NOT! I couldn’t sit still when I was in a good place, let alone a bad one. Have you ever tried to reach full meditation with a shaking leg? It somewhat defeats the idea. No, it definitely defeats the idea. In all of my reading, i came across several alike terms: “Put yourself in a happy place”, “relax your body completely”, “breathe deeply”. Like, oh you want me to fucking hyperventilate while I am doing this, because that’s what having my eyes closed is going to do. When these eyes close, there is no relaxing unless im going to sleep. Instead i am overwhelmed with a sense of not knowing what is coming up behind me… or not knowing whats standing directly in front me… the lack of surety I get when I close my eyes consciously is over powering. Put myself into a happy place? Relax? Hahahah, well i think this is about the point I realized that meditation was not MY solution albeit a valiant effort or three.

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Then, I found it, or so I thought. After reading about a man named Osho, i read about, what he called, Rajneesh Dhyan Yoga. When his methods were adopted in the Indian mountains, his methods of would be translated to english. It would then be called, “DYNAMIC MEDITATION”. Dynamic Meditation by definition is “a form of meditation in which physical activity is present”. That’s like showing a poor man a sign that says “Uncooked food.”. Well you can be damned sure that a poor man will find a way to cook that food as his problem is hunger not the fact he is lacking an oven. Just because he can’t eat, doesn’t mean he cant cook. I have no problem being active, I just cant meditate. Not as the books were showing me. Now here was the problem with the magic words I had found. They never told me how to meditate. They told me what active meditation was and I was aware of Osho’s methods. These mainly consisted of spiritual dances. Well, I was far from spiritual and I cannot dance for shit, so for the time being, I threw that right out the window.

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Bare with me here, im getting to it. SO, through my younger years my anxiety caused me to experience anger. Anger was the emotion that I subconsciously turned my anxiety into. Through some trial, but mostly error, I learned about myself that I was great at being angry although I did not want to be. This would come to my advantage in my later years, and would encourage me to be more kind, passionate, conscious and passive than I once thought I could be, but not without a long learning curve attached. Anyways, when I got angry, I could hold that anger with me for days at a time. I would stew on it until I either did something about it or forgot about it. Hahaha, we are talking anxiety here folks, not Alzheimer’s, so forgetting about it wasnt actually an option. Well you can only act on your anger but a handful of times before someone or everyone has had just about enough. My time was coming for this and I knew that. I had sat back and reflected a bit …. I reflected on the days I was putting in two work outs. One in the morning and one in the evening. I was constantly in the gym as I had found mixed martial arts as a hobby to try to alleviate my anger. Turns out, it didn’t, because my anger was not derived from the same places yours might be and physical violence did nothing for me emotionally when it was expected and not derived from my anxiety. It did not create or alleviate any emotion, anger included. In fact, it had no emotional effect on me, it was simply something to do. I did realize however that on the days I was putting in two workouts, i was entirely depleted. Every other day, i would get up early and I would put in a normal work out. After school, I would go back and I would physically deplete myself. Pushing to failure in all of my sets. Those nights, even though I did not know it yet, I would go home in peace, and dream with the fairy tales, leaving my anxiety wherever I was leaving it, but I didnt care because I was not taking it with me. Upon realizing this I had come to a theory. An unhealthy one possibly, but one in which I still use to this day. When in fact I physically, and completely, depleted my body , my anxiety would subside. Mainly due in part to the inability to create and ponder thoughts. So how does one put ones self through such torment just to subside an emotion. That’s like waterboarding a child so they learn not to fear fire. All this revelation did was teach me that, if im anxious, i was going to have a seriously shitty night physically. Now i had two things NOT to look forward too. How fantastic huh?!

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So back to my first story…. and skipping ahead a few years… Here I am at the end of my first 106 mile hike. A hike in which I carried a small adult sized backpack the entire way due to a lack of experience and knowledge. Well, i can tell you, surer than shit, that I was depleted. I had NOTHING left in me, but my friends let me just tell you something. I felt GOOOOOOD!!!! Man did i ever feel good. Hell, I had NEVER felt that good. Spite my physical pan, my golf ball sized blisters, my blood blistered shoulders and hips…. i felt absolutely fantastic emotionally. A bit hungry, which to me is as good as an emotion, but that was about it. The revelation is coming…..

At the end of my hike I was so hungry, and as I had mentioned I decided to stop at the highly suggest ABOL STORE and grab myself some even more highly suggest pizza that they make. Now this fantastic little store, as I would find out, is filled with passer bys picking up last-minute supplies. Also, it’s a small store putting you in close contact with others while you browse. I got my pizza and spoke with the cashier that assured me I had several miles ahead of me before I reached an opportune place to stick my thumb out and catch a ride south.

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Now if there are a few things that amp my anxiety to a maximum… its frustration, and people. I was frustrated that after 106 miles, considering the physical pain i was in, that I would I have to embark on another 8 mile hike. There were not tent spots open within in a similar amount of miles, it was dark, and I really just wanted to be home at this point. The people… well i just can’t stand having people behind me, especially if they are close enough to touch me. It is just a peeve of mine that came from a fair history of pissing people off that had no problem coming up behind you to reassure their revenge.

So a few miles down the road I found myself whistling. Whistling is something I actually do fairly often. Enough that I have heard “will you please stop whistling” more than 100 times in my life. Regardless of the negative nancies that don’t like my bird song, truth is I only whistle when im happy. Here was the revelation. It was this very moment I realized…. i was literally in a position just moments before and currently that would normally have both legs tapping and have me spinning in circles due to the levels of anxiety they would have caused. I had NONE. WHAT?! No anxiety? How could this be? Well, a couple of miles later I remembered the gym….

Finally I had realized it…..114 miles on foot will do that to a guy. I had just physically depleted my body in the most positive of ways. For more than a week I was the happiest, dirtiest, scratched legged, anxiety-less person you would meet. I was putting in 8-10 mile days (That’s funny to think about now… my morning run is 7 miles and i get back in under an hour)  that took me over 1-3 summits and pushing my body like it had never been pushed before…. I just didn’t know it. I was LOVING my hiking… and granted there were times where LOVING was NOT in my vocabulary on trail, but all in all I really enjoyed it. I had mentioned at the end of my story about my first hike that I knew hiking was what I wanted to do and I wanted to do more of it. All in part to this revelation. Now don’t get me wrong, I had my good trail days and my bad trail days but never once did I ever have anxiety during them. The facts were that I was physically depleting my mind WHILE it was full of contemplated thoughts and emotions. As I hiked, I thought about EVERYTHING. Though, EVERYTHING, did not cause the anxiety that it did when i was sitting stale in an office or in my house the midst of my thoughts that would lead up to an effect. The effect being me seeking out a way to completely deplete my body to the point of full exhaustion. This in itself was worth all of its weight in unobtanium. Being able to ponder, not one, but all of my thoughts without the emotion of anxiety creeping in was something I had never experienced. I could finally, for the first time, think clearly and rationally about all the things that bothered me. I had a new set of eyes and I was not about to give it up.

 

I had to test my theory of course… skip ahead awhile, as when I got home from this one I REALLY needed to contemplate my systems. You carry 74 lbs for 100+ miles  and let me know how much you enjoy that. I needed to save weight and saving weight I was absolutely committed to . Here we are, some time later after diligent effots to understand backpacking materials, science, gear, and theories.

I am getting ready to hike the same section, except this time I will go south instead of north. I had my pack down to roughly 30 lbs and I had been hiking constantly. Short jaunts every night and on the weekends were a way to test my gear and understand what I did and did not need. Here I am stading on the summit of Mt. Katahdin thinking to myself “OK here we go!”.

Now this day was actually pretty clear, and opportune to say the least. I had just lost a friend in a terrible way and I could not get that out of my mind. I had watched him fatally overdose on an acquaintence’s bathroom floor. I could only watch helplessly with inexperience and in fear. I could still see it unfortunately and it was really taking a toll on my well being. I had felt a strong sense of guilt and sorrow. I was not used to being overwhelmed by emotions and had come to find that all of my emotions that I did not appreciate, in the end just turned into anxiety. Essentially the entire purpose to this specific hike was to understand what had happened just months before and to make sense, the best i could, of everything i didnt already understand. Which at the time, was just about all of it. I was in an odd position that I had never been in before. My anxiety this time was extreme. It was also created by something I did not want to remember, however I never wanted to forget. I think the reason this became relevant, is this time I was not hiking to alleviate my anxiety. Truly, I had forgotten all my revelations at this point. This time around, I was just hiking to get away. I was sick and tired of the “sorry’s” and condolences. I have this peeve with “sorry’s”. I think its what someone says when they dont know what to say. I believe at that point, its more powerful to say nothing than to fall on the bandwagon of the most commonly used term in ancient history. (not a fact). I just try to avoid sorry’s and live my life appreciating the choices I have made and even hearing the word “sorry” tends to aggravate me in most contexts. I was on a quest to be alone, and subconsciously i think I knew there would be a greater benefit.

Through my hike I learned a lot this time. Not so much about hiking as I had , for the time being, fine tuned most of it to the extent that my ability allowed at the time. Its easy to talk about now, but for a long time i stayed in silence about my thoughts. I had thought about everything! I replayed that night in my head so many times and started to slowly understand the why’s and how’s. I no longer felt guilt and my sorrow had switched. I no longer was upset I had lost a friend, but upset that his family lost a son. I no longer felt guilty for not being able to help, but guilty that I had waiting long to even be in a position to need to help. I no longer was angry at him or myself. I now knew that I would not bury my thoughts of it deep down inside, but I would float them to the top periodically to remind myself how grateful I should be. To remind myself how important life is. To remind myself to be up front and honest with people even if their opinions differed. To remind myself that the term “friend” is used to loosely for my liking and to be more diligent about understanding people before i gave them my friendship and care. I would also float it to the top periodically to remind myself that my thoughts need not be overwhelmed, they just need time to be understood. With all that I learned, one thing stuck out. In the 106 mile (that I would this time complete in 3 nights and come out on the fourth day) hike that i embarked on, I understood my anxiety. I knew now that it came from a whirlwind of thoughts that were overwhelming me when presented all at once. I would learn that my anxiety would always be a part of me, and that it no longer would control my life. On the trail, as I pondered my thoughts, I did in fact have anxiety. It was then I knew, hiking didnt have anything to do with my anxiety, but it had everything to do with my thoughts. My THOUGHTS had EVERYTHING to do with my anxiety however, so hiking indirectly interrupted the correalation between the two.

As I hiked, my feet couldnt tap. I would learn to close my eyes and make sense of the sounds. I would learn to trust my intuition as to where those sounds were coming from and as to how close they were. I would learn to appreciate what I couldnt see more than what I could. The people were few and far between and one here and there in passing was actually a pleasure not a pain. I would be so tired at the end of the day that a good nights rest was the ONLY thing I would be getting. I had TIME to ponder my thoughts as opposed to receiving 1000 of them at once and only a minute to react… Now I had the opportunity to take 10,000 thoughts and give them each their own minute. A minute per thought was all it took. I just needed to slow myself down long enough to make sense of things, and with the whirlpool of thoughts topped with an obligatory feeling to react, I was never able to make that sense in the past.

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My anxiety in fact would never leave me. I still tend to go on limit pushing runs that have me crawling literally into the driveway late at night when I can’t sleep. I did find that it would always be a part of me. Well, unless some chemical imbalance becomes balanced, but for now im counting on always experiencing it. However, that is in fact the difference now. Now I get to experience it for what it is. I can still ponder my thoughts when it comes. No matter how bad it gets I know that the woods are only a step away. If it becomes to much I now know that I can meditate to gather my thoughts and no you need not hummmmm it off. The woods is the one place where everything is ok. THAT is why I hike.

Times are a changin’

Well hello again. Sorry its been awhile, I have been a busy fella. Embarking on a secret, life changing endeavor has not left me much time. HOWEVER, I cannot tell you guys about that QUITE yet. Soon enough.

Alright, so again, sorry its been awhile but I am here now so quit your fussin’. So actually, this time around I do not have a gear review… no ‘MAINERRISM’… honestly it just recently occurred to me that I walked you guys through my introduction to backpacking and hiking, and then we continued into a couple long trips but I have never told you guys about where I am now in my adventures or the hiking I have done since. So let’s see what we can do.

So you saw where I started…. a 75 pound pack only to be shaken down over the course of 100 miles in which case it would still push 50+ lbs by the end of that trip (I am a slow learner.) And now… here is where I am.

I recently spent the beginning of the year backpacking and yellow-blazing the entire United States. 6856 miles to be exact. Starting in Maine (my home town) and heading to Washington. From there I ventured down to Arizona and back over to the bottom of the US to the east coast connecting a plethora of dots that has put me in nearly every state now. I do still have Hawaii, Florida and Alaska to get to. Believe it or not, I did this all while holding a full time job with the help of a fantastic boss that does in fact accept my lifestyle and allows me to work all while having a bit of time to myself to get out of town now and again. While I was out I had made a couple of points to assure that my adventure would in fact be genuine. 1. I traveled on no more than one third of my salary per week even though I was getting paid my normal salary while I was gone. 2. I offered to work for my food and shelter if i needed either but would never accept it for free. 3. I never turned down any offer of kindess however I never accepted more than what I needed and always gave something in return. 4. I never accepted money. 5. I did not plan any of my travel itinerary except my initial flight to Washington.6. I never ate the same thing twice. This experience in itself was humbling and life changing to say the least. I would come to learn in this time something I continue to re-learn every year. How much less I can do without.IMG_20160523_235322 (1).jpg

Through the spring I was able to finish the long trail for the third time and get up Katahdin for sadly the only time this summer… which would in fact be my 5th Katahdin summit. Throughout the summer I bushwhacked a 75 mile “mountain” range here locally using a map and compass that had not a single trail, sign, or sign of life. It would be my first trip out relying solely on a map and compass. The fall thus far has led me into a very cold, albeit successful transition into hiking barefoot. Something I have been transitioning into now for almost 3 years. Teaching me to never be more conscious of my surroundings and to have an absolute appreciation for our bodies ability to adapt and over come. The winter… well, I have yet to decide where winter will take me, but again last year it sent me around the entire country so I suppose we will see. For sake of full disclosure , im NOT ready to be barefoot in the winter sadly. IMG_20160527_201651 (1).jpgIMG_20160528_200439.jpg

I think there are a few important things to note. The most important being…. my pack is no longer 75 pounds haha. In the last ten years I have found to love ultralight hiking. I am currently stuffing 13.6 pounds in a 35L pack. A far cry from where I started to say the least. Another thing being, my priorities have changed. There was a time that survival is all that mattered. Then a quick transition into comfort followed by a short lived stage of arrogance where miles were the only thing that really mattered. Now…. well now I just appreciate being out there. As a contributing member to society, holding a profession that works hand in hand with the public… simply put… I have learned to like the solidarity. Those that know me will likely tell you all the same… i play tough, but i have a fairly decent heart. All the same, in the end, I keep my heart because I have the ability to reflect. That is really all hiking is to me. A reflection in the broadest sense of the word. Time to myself to understand what life, to me, really should be. It’s necessary all the same. My meditation if you will.IMG_20160528_174647863_HDR.jpg

Another thing to note…. when I first started this blog… and I wrote my first story… At the time when the story took place I had about 0 miles on my belt and by the end of it I had exactly 106. Now, I have put in many 100+ mile trips. I have explored the desert, the canyons, mountains, forest, ocean, flatlands and wet lands. I have put my tent up in sub zero temperatures and hiked countless miles as a sponge. I cant lie and say I know how many miles I have now but I can easily tally more than 4500 foot miles just off the top of my head not including day trips and weekend trips that occur more often than not.

There was a time i left in the nicest of weather. I would look ahead to plan my week and I only left on the weeks that would predict that I would need sunscreen. Now I make it a habit to leave in a snow storm, a rain storm, the heat, and the cold every year. After traveling the desert in January, you learn to be prepared for all of the weather at very least.

I used to carry 4 liters in fear of not having water. Now i understand that my body can go without it for a period of time and carrying more than a liter or two, for me, is foolish. To mention, i used to plan out 3 full meals and snack for every day and was carrying somewhere near 3 lbs. of food for each day. I only carry snacks now unless I am just venturing for an over night, and I try not to exceed a pound a day.IMG_20160525_201919.jpg

In short, my fears are no longer fears. Im fairly comfortable in the woods. At least now I know that I can in fact build a shelter if I dont have one. I have perfected the figure-4 trap and fish traps in case I have run out of food. I can now double my tent pole chord into a sling shot band and consistently start a fire, wet or dry, with my knife and flint. I am familiar with my pack enough that I dont reach for my headlight any longer if I need something out of it. I turn my headlamp to its lowest setting when hiking at night because I have learned to make sense of the sounds. Ill turn it off with any moon. I have learned to fear moving shadows more than I have loud noises. Lights make shadows…. so dont animals… Might as well cancel one of them out.

I find opportunity in the woods now. I remember looking down at my feet constantly as to not fall over. Now I just fall over because I dont want to miss a single second of the trail. I used to plaster my itinerary in the window of my parked vehicle, but thats hard to do when you no longer set them. I used to stop for everything including eating, bathroom breaks and rest. Now I just walk slow and do everything else while doing so. Except bathroom breaks, have not figured out how to do that on the move yet. I used to seek out a privy, but I have since learned to dig a hole with a stick. I used to carry a giant medical kit… fit to keep an army platoon afloat….. ive graduated that down to super glue, duct tape, and a needle. Anything else I figure I’ll fashion from my pack or clothes if necessary. I might take my tarp or hammock instead of a tent, something I would have never have done in the past. I still prefer a tent, but im happy to have, and more importantly, know how to use, a tarp.IMG_20160727_194805935.jpg

What once made me feel like foreigner, now makes me feel like a local. I don’t seem to miss much aside from my daughter… but once backpacking took over… I treat it with the same respect, although i still miss my daughter more naturally. I used to be so worried about getting to the next stop that I had pre-planned many of days before…. Now , to be quite frank, I dont care if I ever reach it. If the woods taught me one thing… it is that every step closer to home, is one step less you will be in the woods. For now, I’d just assume be in the woods.IMG_20160623_213652.jpg

In the end, times have been a changin’. I still learn every time I go out and I make it a point to do so. The definition of a “survivalist” or a “minimalist” is still a far cry from where I am now, albeit in the not so distant future all the same. My experience now has been greatly rewarded with small sponsorship’s and affiliate programs for several companies, writing reviews and testing gear on my time out. To to say the least… I will see you out there because truth is…. im not going anywhere. Happy Trails guys… Ill be back soon with a new Mainerrism and a current gear review I am working on. Who knows, i might even let you guys in on my top secret endeavor. We will see!

 

And that was the last time I saw a Tortoise with Rigor Mortis

Some time has passed, that is for certain. Here is a little mental picture of where I am at. (Insert dreamy music, and fade into deep memory)

I have well over 3000 miles under my belt. My 75LB pack cut out the carbs and got itself down to a full load, less food, of 13.6 pounds. My old hiking boots have turned to Huarache sandals if i wear anything at all. My luxuries now consist of a toothbrush with NO holes (albeit cut in half) and a solar charger to keep my phone up to date so that I can contribute to my new found love of photography as I hike. My head stays up when I hike now and my heart takes much longer to become lonely. I feel more at home in the woods than I do at home and I find more appreciation in the changing of a leaves color than I do in the election and civil rights movements that are taking over the country.

Anywho, my point is….. I am a bit past my first 106 miles and hiking no longer brings “problems” for me as much as it does “opportunity.” I am pretty comfortable on the trail these days. I dont hesitate to put in night miles, or take off in the rain. Sub zero temperatures just means a slightly different routine when I set up and break camp and my values have become much more simple. I hate money more than ever, and cherish silence as most would their last meal.

Something else I have learned…. happiness is only true when shared. Who or what you share it with falls under the euphemism “to each their own.” That being said… this story is not about me at all… but if it was not for who I was, and not for the things I loved, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the story about the last time I saw a tortoise with Rigor mortis.

I know by now you are thinking…”what in all hell is this whacked out scallywag muckin about??” Well……

The fog rolls across the lake like a modern day smoke machine appeasing the dance floor masses. The sun has yet to wake up and we are 3500′ feet up on our way to breakfast. If we push hard enough we can have our food ready by the time the sun shows its face, and if all works well we will set ourselves up for three summit’s today.

The rock is slippery because in late September the night brings a light dew. The roots are covered in mud from the hundreds of free souls that came before us. The kicked up rocks trail with crashes and bangs as they roll out from under your feet down over the hundreds of meters of ledge below.  The trees saturate your clothes as you brush up against them. The spider webs, with their morning dew glistening in the late moon, look like vertically strung trampolines for the small. The grouse above kicks dirt at your feet as you pass to close to her nest and dark amplifies every sound.

Then in the distance you hear a gruff mans voice…. “fuckin jesu….son of a mutha…. you co… fu… bastar…. assho…..”.

I can’t lie… these kinds of things stick out a bit when you haven’t heard another person speak in two days. Honestly though… I giggled once I interpreted and assumed the lack of fear and worry in the far away rant. Sound travels atop a mountain in a way that you would only know had you been one of two boats on a lake in the middle of the calmest of evenings. My giggling however had nothing to do with his troubles… but everything to do with already liking the guy. “Hell, this guy sounds like someone from home.” I thought. “Shit, he talks just like me.” Upon wondering what the fuss was all about, I picked up my pace. Inside the mile I started to come up on a ratty back pack….. long gray waving hair half tucked into a sun a hat with a matching beard….. a gray t-shirt and old knee brace and some khaki shorts. There was no doubt in my mind, from 100 feet away that THIS was the man that had a contradictory way with words.

He heard me coming… or so I assume. He spun around as if he heard the blow of a charging moose. Apparently, with my grace (or lack of it) its hard to sneak up on a man.

“Hey good morning!” he said.

Hmmm… that was far to kind of a greeting to be the voice that had me laughing moments before.

“Morning… how goes it?” I asked.

“Jesus fucki… son of a bi… god fuc….” he replied.

Well, I had the right guy. This was something I was now certain of. Usually however, my greetings bring a much more positive response. I mean really, i’m a pretty happy dude. I don’t think I’m necessarily offensive looking to say the least, and I definitely don’t know him. Which naturally causes his “greeting” to kick in my curiosity.

“Rough day friend?!” I replied

“Na! Son, the sunrise is going to be a beautiful one and I cant…FUCKIN CO…ASSHO…DICKHE… I am sorry.”

Tourettes of course! That is what I expected him to attribute his french to.

“No need to apologize” I said in assumption of his condition.

“No really I am sorry.” he said. “My buddy left this morning and he had the only two beers we brought… im pissed off, in pain, old, and I want my god damned beer. We were supposed to save it for the end of the trail but i’m fucking thirsty and I want the damned thing.”

I could not help it but i broke into laughter. I appreciated this old man. I could tell he had a sense of humor, because his emotion was not over the top but in the same sentence it was genuine. He really was angry, but he was just ok with it. He was dealing with it in a way I might, so in hopes to lighten him up i just said “fuckin rough day my friend… but if you want your beer you are going to have to swear a little louder. You were only audible for the last few miles!” and i gave him a wink.

He held his hand out… “I am tortoise. Soon though, im going to be tortoise with rigor mortis.”

“Tortoise, I’m Cheers….and pretty soon im going to be Cheers ……..” my voice trailed off with a lack of whit. Tortoise did not really seem to be looking for the punch line fortunately for me. In the moment he had found a half cut stump and sat down. The world seemed to escape him for a minute.

In an over emphasized whiny voice he sighed and said, “I just want my fucking beer. I cant die without a beer. That is unamerican.”

I am not much of a drinker but I understood Tortoise’s point. He was tired… beat… sore… and he just wanted a moment of peace. Hiking to him was not what hiking to me was. We were not there for the same reasons by any means, and we didnt get there in the same time. One thing is for sure though…. we shared a like minded outlook . It wasnt but two days before this I just wanted to go home. I get that way sometime in between the first and second week of hiking. I miss my daughter … my bed… hot food. I just get… over it. In moments like those the only thing that keeps me on trail, is that usually im 150ish miles from where I started, in which case my shuttle back to my car is likely a bit closer at this point. So usually I will just push on. I move on from those feelings, and they are generally shortly lived, followed by a peace and a serenity that only knowing the feeling of loneliness allows you. But there is no doubt, I know what its like to feel the way Tortoise did that day. The fact of the matter is he didnt care about his beer. But his beer did give him a modern day luxury to remind him that life wasnt that far away, and sometimes when you are miles away form home… battered, bloody and bruised… a real life reminder of home is all you need.

I tend to do a ton of reading of people… its part of my job really… and at this point, I knew Tortoise was gonna make it. He was just throwin a little fit before he did.”Hey Tortoise… what you think? He’s gonna throw that fuckin’ thing from the top and it’s gonna land in ya lap?”

“Sounds fine to me.” He said, as his face showed nothing but seriousness.

“Well personally, I dont like my beer shook up… and as far as I am concerned, I have been itchin for a good brew for 100 miles. I’ll let your buddy know you send your wishes and that he owes you a beer when ya’ll get out. Until then my friend!” I told him.

“Owes me one? After this he will owe me ten!” Tortoise mumbled

“Maybe so… but he is definitely gonna owe you the one that i talk him outta!” I laughed as I walked away.

All of a sudden a ruffling and plethora of adjectives grumbled behind me. “Ta fuck you will, you son of… mother fu…. god damni…. here we fuckin go again.”

As Tortoise stood up though, I could see the barely visible grin he had hiding under his choice words and mangy beard. I could also see the sense of humor Tortoise had, not to mention the one of a kind personality that I could already see allowed him to enjoy life. Differently than we might, maybe, but he didn’t mind it.

“There ya go old friend… hell if i’d known it woulda taken a ransom note and a missing beer to get you off your ass and stop your complaining I would have called ahead for a case and a pen.” I joked.

“Son, i’ve killed men for less.” He replied. Although this time i feel like i believed him a bit.

“Where you headed anyways.” He questioned.

“Home i suppose. I just have a few hundred miles in between me and it. But ultimately, in the end… that is where I am going .” I told him.

“You want some company?” He hesitantly said.

Now normally I tend to be quite the stickler about hiking alone. I have been known to leave lean to’s at 9pm and head for the next tent spot 10 miles out. In the end though, he seemed pretty damned entertaining so what the hell.

“Well, in that case… I’d say we best get moving… you lead the way.” I told him.

“No, no, no. YOU lead the way… I hike slow!” He said with a lack of confidence

“Tortoise, you just asked me if I wanted company… well my idea of company is not hiking ahead of you a few miles…. Besides I need you to point out the guy with the beer when we see him.”

He obliged and headed down the trail.

Tortoise and I first got to the summit. This was a real treat on its own. Now the sun never shined through, and we could spit further than we could see, but it was worth it. We sat down to take a quick break after finishing our 3600′ climb. At this point Tortoise was pretty cheerful. Cracking jokes the entire way up, and throwing in pun after pun. His whit was unmatched by most and his humor was dry . To the point that in order to know he was joking, he would have to say “im joking.” Personally, I have a similar humor, so i just never took him seriously. If you had, i think he would easily offend most folks.

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(Tortoise on the right waiting patiently for his picture on our second summit)

“Im gettin fuckin’ thirsty young man.” He moaned

I just got up and started putting my pack on, picking up his poles for him as I did. On we went.

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(Tortoise up next for a summit photo)

Skip ahead 7 miles and we hit the lean to. We ended up only getting in a little over 12 miles that day and I had planned another 20. The company however had me pretty entertained, and I had a couple days to spare and planned to take a zero the following day anyhow so it was what it was. I just planned on skipping my zero and getting in a 20 mile day to make up for it. We had not yet come to the lean-to when he started in…

“You stupid fucking cock sucker, where the fuck… do you know how fucking… you son of a bitch… ive been swearing your name all day you piece of fuckin….”

A head popped out of the lean to that only one back pack lay against.

“Tortoise you miserable son of a bitch, I could hear you bitching half the day! What in all hell is your problem?” The man hollered.

“You, you stupid fuck. You took the beer with you!”

“Tortoise, those are our celebration beers! ”

“Yeah well give me mine so I can celebrate not killing you!”

I expected a stutter in his step. A smile to glisten. SOMETHING! Tortoise though… not much changed on him I had noticed. He did in fact get his beer, but he just put it in his backpack stale faced.

“Tortoise” I said. “All day long I have listened to yap and yap about drinking that beer and now that you have it, you done put it in your fuckin pack man?!”

The man, who I would briefly come to know as “O” just started laughing. “That miserable old fuck does this every time we go hiking. He doesnt even like that beer, he just likes to bitch. He does it constantly. He just likes to see who will listen.” Which hindsight, I already knew. I knew it the second I met Tortoise. He never cared about the beer.

Tortoise never replied. He just smiled. It was that moment I completely understood Tortoise. We were one in the same, just had a few years worth of a split going. I tend to do the same thing… i entertain myself in some funny ways. One of which is being argumentative even when I KNOW I’m wrong. I think the fact that I never took Tortoise serious put me on his good side. I even did a little bitching of my own a couple times after losing my footing and hindsight, he enjoyed it. I always wondered why his shoulders shook a little when i got to swearing.

To say the least, we had a good night at camp. Never did drink the beer but we got to know each other fairly well.

I got up early the next morning. Sadly I knew I was not going to be spending the day with my new friends because I had to get in at least 22 miles to get myself back on track, which would be fine, but I would have to run with the sun. (and later that night the moon.) I tried my hardest not to wake anyone up before I left. Honestly, I really wanted to wake up Tortoise to say goodbye. I am not known to be the sentimental type, but I wanted him to know I appreciated his character and that I would look forward to seeing him again. I decided to write a note and slip it into his pack.

“Tortoise… next time i see you… have two beers… and dont be whining like you did yesterday, I can only take so much. I say heavy hearted and genuinely that it was good to know ya and Ill see you on the trail. Do me a favor and accept this as a token of my friendship and good luck. The ductape is for “O” ! -Cheers” I wrote on a torn out page of the log book. Crumpled up in the paper I had left a penny for luck and a small piece of ductape intended as a joke to be put over Tortoise’s mouth. Off I went, wondering how Tortoise made out and if “O” got the duct tape joke, Or if he had died beside me and lived well up to his new name. Toirtoise with Rigor Mortis.

And THAT my friends, was the last time, sadly, I saw a Tortoise with Rigomortis.

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(Featured photo: Photo Cred: Tortoise / Picture of me heading off the summit)

 

 

You Cant’ Get There From Here

Here in Maine, it is of no surprise to anyone, that we have a lot of un-adventured land to see. It is also no secret that you learn to go home on a full tank of gas and a bag full of groceries… because once you are there, you are not want to go to the closest general store that just happens to be 45 minutes away when you realize you ran out of milk and the store closes in 15 minutes sending you another 30 minutes past your initial idea of a destination. . That’s really the problem with most of Maine. Its hours from one town to the next in places. You might drive literal hours and never see another single car. Now granted, don’t get me wrong, we have cities just like you. Stores upon stores, and people upon people, but its not the “norm” . You have your big cities like Portland, Kittery, Bangor and for the summer months you have Bar Harbor. But Maine is a big place, full of a shit ton of smaller cities. Cities that I still find I have never heard of. Anyways I am getting off track a bit, but we have this saying… “You can’t get there from here.” Albeit it would be said something more like “yaaa caaant get theeeyaaaahhhh from heeeaaahhhhh bub.” So back to me getting off track….

I come from a place we call “The County”. To give you an idea…. a tractor on the road is as common as a horse… EVERYONE and I literally mean every single person waves to every single other person. With no exaggeration, once I was driving to my grandparents house and randomly happened to catch, out of the corner of my eye, a guy down in his driveway by the wood pile waving as I drove by. Well at least I think it was a guy, but I have been two years figuring out how in the hell he even heard me coming as he must have been a good 1/8th mile away from the main road. That is literally, how the people are. That being said… when your closest neighbor is a half hour drive away… maybe you learn to appreciate a little company. Even if it is going by at 60 mph. Whats that saying? “Roads? Where we are going we don’t need roads!”. Well, whoever said that is an idiot and has never been to where I come from. Because if you don’t have roads… well…. YOU CANT GET THERE FROM HERE! The point is… we are pretty secluded.

iphone 220

Now you have an idea of our country, I will give you an idea of the “roads”. They suck. They are absolute shit. They are filled with pot holes, frost heaves, and narrow shoulders. They lack guard rails, sidewalks and street lights. They are dust covered, missing lines, and the gps does not pick them up. As a matter of fact, in my current town in coastal Maine, they do road maintenance every two years. Less filling the one and a half foot deep pot hole now and again. This year, they painted the lines. On my drive home, I almost went off the road while using the lines as a guide because the people who painted them decided to paint around the wash out …. Here is this beautiful straight line and all of a sudden it jumps towards the center of the road almost 3 feet to go around the part of the road that had gone missing in a rain storm over the year. Its ridiculous really but we learn to love it. Granted we set aside a mortgage for wheel barrings, alignments and blown tires, but we love it.

Why do we love it? Because when you tourists come up, you wont be able to get there (where we are) from here (where you are). And if you think you can, we will whole heartedyly enjoy watching you while you are running your $100k Lexus up and over a rock pile, through a culvert, while trying to fit all of its 6 feet of width down a 4′ trail that grew in through spring. Oh did i mention, after all that…. we just came out here to pick some blueberries real fast, but the real road is another 49 miles in, all of the same terrain? Maine is not for the pretentious. If you are standing out on a back woods road needing help changing a tire…. I have a tip for you…. light the car on fire to stay warm, nobody has been down that road in 25 years. If they had, they blew by you in a drunken oblivion at 50 mph and although they waved, they were not aware enough to see you needed help. Hey, look at the bright sides though… at least your warm and you can keep the mosquitoes off while your plush upholstery burns.

So what am I getting at ? You know when you walk out in to the woods, get turned around a bit, and all of a sudden everything looks the same? Well that’s the same feeling you get when you pull into many of the cities in Maine. Road signs? hahaha you  mean fire routes! The numbers designated to specific plots of land and certain routes. Most of them unattended dirt. They are numbered not named. Try driving down a main road at forty miles and hour trying to read the sign that instead of “Such and Such Drive”, it says “FR-165048961”. Oh and the next one doesnt end in a two… it is its own number likely. Basically, Maine is a super huge grid of trees, backcountry, dirt roads, free flowing water and the occasional signs of civilization. “You can’t get there from here” is a way of saying… “you’re going to have to go around.” or “sorry roads don’t go there” or it might even mean… “get ya shit kickers on bub, cause you gonna have to do some trekkin if you wanna get over there…and yous aint’ gon’ like it.” Point is… the roads go in their own direction… the city grid is unorthodox version of a cats cradle move. All the road signs that have “intriguing” names have been stolen. You might have to get to the house you see from your car, by going around to the next town a half hour over just to pass the river or a wash out. Its ridiculous really, but again we love it. So when you come to Maine… just know…that in fact… you might to be able to “get theyah from heyah”.

AYUT’

If you have spent anytime in Maine, you realize a few things. The mosquito’s are wretched, flannel is over used, and we have our own way with words. Well just for the record… you never get used to the mosquito’s. You will in fact probably own some flannel or plaid wool if you stay long enough…. and our way with words …. well… its ours.

This one reminds me of a gentleman I have known for years.. I will call him S for sake of the story.  He is what we call a “downeaster”. A “downeaster” likely has a simpler way of life. Fulfilled with hard work, good people, and a plethora of made up words. As made up as they are, they get around. S, well I personally know him through business… however he is one you will hear of because all he literally says is “AYUT”. Good, bad or indifferent, you can expect him to answer with a monotone and a cold face… “AYUT”. I guess my point here… by its interpretation, it would likely be understood as a “yes”. I figure, yup, yes, yut… ayut… they all seem the same. That was until I met S.

“Hey S, you won the megabucks!” S- “ayut.”

“Hey S, your dog got ran over today.” S- “ayut.”.

Honestly I am not 100% that he knows any other words… I cannot honestly say I have heard him say any. S, however, changed my definition of this one. So what is “ayut.”

“Ayut” is simply an acknowledgement. As good as saying ” I heard you ” . Maybe it is a passive way to avoid unnecessary conversation. Maybe it provides time for thought and/or understanding of the situation. Maybe what you are saying has no interest to who you are saying it to. Now normally “ayut” would in fact imply a yes of sorts…. but like I mentioned, that was until I met S.

The bright sides? If you get lost in a conversation, space out a bit, or have no interest in what the other person is saying… if you answer with “ayut” you are probably in the clear. Just don’t nod your head when you do to lean its implication one way or another.

OFF TOPIC: Earlier this year I became an affiliate to a company called XeroShoes. They offer a great take on recreational sandals built for minimalism and function. They are ridiculously light weight, cheap, and with every purchase 10% goes to the Tarahumara Childrens Hospital. If you are looking for a do it all sandal, or are an aspiring barefooter…check them out here. You can even build your own at home!

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Let The Backpack Carry It NOT Your Back

Looking for a do it all backpack? Something you can take on the weekend trips and fill full of luxuries? Or maybe something you can pack full of the essentials and some extra food for that long distance thru-hike? Or maybe you just want a comfortable way to carry around that age old -20F synthetic mummy bag? Regardless of why… you should be asking where?! Then I would answer with… well go to this link to check out the review that I did for Trail Space, and it should get you what you need!

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/osprey/atmos-ag-50/?review=35563

Really though, if you are looking for the most comfortable backpack since the start of backpacking….. check out this Osprey Atmos AG50. It comes in several different colors, sizes, and you will find all combinations in men or women! A revolutionary breakthrough with suspension design that makes carrying weight seem as effortless as ever.

 

And on a side topic… don’t forget to check out this link to find out how to make your own huarache sandals and for other great ultra light recreational sandals that are available!!! Every purchase supports the Tarahumara Children’s Hospital. “Feel The World”

http://xeroshoes.com/go/Mainerrisms

Time To Shake It Down and Movie It Forward

Alright, so I have gotten off track a bit. Lets go back.

A couple of weeks after getting home and upon reflection of my hiking trip, I had come to know so many things. The singular most important one being, that I wanted to learn to survive. I assumed that the ability to make something out of nothing could be an important one. Especially the in the event of some sort of zombie apocalypse or something. Ill be damned if some flesh eating, maggot infested, walking dead like creature is the death of me. Anyways, I now knew I wanted the knowledge to do exactly that. Make something out of nothing. And make ‘something’ content.

Well we all know for damned sure, that I had way to much shit in my bag. I was actually fairly excited to get home and go through everything to take out what I know I did not need and just see the difference. What a difference it was. By the time I was finished, I had gotten my bag down to  a sleeping bag, tent, stove, and water filter. I put a couple Tylenol and a band aid in a baggie with some toilet paper for a med kit and called it good. It was amazing how before, maxed out straps, were now flowing from my bag. Not to mention, what I did still have in there was cheap, bulky, heavy gear. I just had a lot less of it at this point. Picking it up, after carrying it around for more than 100 miles, was night and day. I could feel a relief come over my knees, and my feet were chanting in my subconscious…”THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU !!”. I knew I had to replace what I had, but now was not financially the time. So I would make do for now.

It was now that I started to see my pack in a different light. Not something to carry the things that would make camping enjoyable…. but as extra cordage, parts and my life supply. The one thing that would keep me alive if I wanted to live bad enough. I spent the next few months glued to youtube and bushcraft books. Learning to take what was right before me, and turn it into the difference between life and death. Making most situations life… unless I messed up…really really bad! That was the whole idea though… to put life into my own hands. If I went into the woods now, and did not come out. It was probably my fault…and no pun intended, but I can live with that. (Or die with it).

I knew I had to practice, so I went out every single night and would set up my tent in the middle of the furthest close place I could drive and still be back by sun up for work. I would sometimes set up my tent, take it down, and set it up again. I would learn to slow myself down and take everything in. I would learn to be conscious of being aware…to be proactive and mindful. Setting up your tent beside an ant hill will do that to a man. I would practice making a deadfall trap and studying the weeds as I walked trying to figure out if there was a theory to where good cordage would grow in case I had to use a bow drill. In fact, making that bow drill and struggling for weeks on end before I would get my first bit of flame…..which would eventually go out due to a lack of patience. (Fortunately for me I carry a lighter). I would learn to use a bow drill however, and with it I would learn a bit more patience. I would learn to slow my hiking down in order to speed it up and to take less pictures. To want to accrue the knowledge instead of feeling like I had some sort of obligation to. I would learn to appreciate hiking at night as its own beauty. To be more tolerant of sounds, and conscious of where they might have came from instead of letting my imagination get to me.

I was used to my pack weight and somewhat accustomed to my routine of things. I had more knowledge than I ever had and it was forever growing every minute I hiked. My feet were starting to toughen, and I knew not to use your head lamp before sun up, or after sun down in a shitter. (The flies are relentless.). All the same, I knew I was ready to go again. So again I would go. This time, I would have an itinerary. Monson, south. Here I come.

 

  • On a non related note, check out these diy or pre made sandals for recreation use. I cant say enough good about them to all you barefooters’ out there.
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