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Unique might be a better term if we want to leave the definition indifferent. That seems to be the easiest way to describe with respect, what is uncommon. Maybe I am “my own person”, or maybe I just don’t want to be like other people. Whatever it is, it runs my life. To say I am me, I’m not sure you would understand. To say I am not you however, and you get the idea.
My childhood was good, pending how a childhood should go. My parents were not rich, but I had everything I needed. Maybe spoiled a bit in fact. I got to play all the sports I wanted, eat what I wanted and my playroom was filled with plenty of toys. Life as I have seen it has not been all that bad. In the same sentence, I wonder if the things I have seen have made me numb to my feelings. Maybe I don’t actually know what my childhood was like from the outside looking in, because I lived it. Like the cardboard box you turned into a spaceship, or the blanket fort you fought 100 armies from. Maybe I don’t really know what bad is because I made sense of it. Finding answers to its “why’s” and “why-not’s”. The same goes for the good.
On the outside… I am somewhat of a chameleon. Blending in with my surroundings to an extent seems to the be the easiest and most profitable way through life. I can’t say I have an appreciation for this ability, it just is. I work with the public and it’s fair to say that not all of them would appreciate the real me. Some might, sure, but not all, and as bad as I hate to admit it, I need them. On the outside I’m here for your best interests. I am kind and quick to help. Laughing comes second nature and I speak with consideration. Manners are a part of me as is being humble and I tend to respect the respectful. All of which are genuine in intent.
On the inside, I am a whirlpool of analytical, judgmental, and controversial thought. My good deeds are self served in the respect that I have bills to pay and morals to uphold. I don’t live my life the way I want to, I live my life the way I am allowed. I am a public figure, a role model, and an employee. A son, brother, and father. I am not a person that believes in the saying’s “Everything happens for a reason.” or “You can’t choose your family”. I am very much an introverted nomad with a great level of respect for nature. I don’t feel at home anywhere but the woods, and I find intrigue in self sufficiency and simplicity. I am not known to be affectionate, sympathetic or fair. I am stubborn, decisive and opinionated. I lack true emotion that effects my decision and have only a multi sided point of view for consideration. People are not an appreciation of mine only to fall second to money. I despise a lack of common sense and trust is something more like folklore where I’m from.
Where did the world turn? I once was a loving boy, with passion that would fill a room. I could not fathom life without my family and there were people I looked up to. So why now, 20 years later, do I feel that the lack of emotions come from an overwhelming mess of them, that have nowhere to escape. Surely making it through hardened skin to the real world would not be an option. How can you open a lock that has not a key?
We all have experiences…. the good the bad and the indifferent. We have these experiences at different times and they come in different forms but we all have them. We all experience pleasure, hate, kindness, love, loss, fear, lust, betrayal…. We all have our preferences and we all have our reservations. Which feelings we enjoy. Which ones we never want to feel again. Alas, we all have the ability of consideration. We can consider the cause, or we can consider the effect. We could consider the right and we can consider the wrong. With consideration, should we be pondering opinion or fact?
I have never been any sort of open person. My thought process is mine and I am not convinced that anyone wants to hear it. I have never felt sharing it made much of a difference. To be simple about it, I don’t appreciate my thoughts debated and I have already done that anyhow. I also don’t need them changed. I arrived at my conclusion through careful consideration of my own. Just because it is not your thought does not mean it can’t be mine. We are led to believe there is a right and a wrong. A way about things and a way around them albeit I am a man of my own way. We are presented with the good and the bad as others see it. One sided fairy tales with no good end. Metaphorically the difference between what your eyes see versus what your camera lens captures. Quite literally the preconceived depiction of that in which the story tellers thought process directly reflects.
The age old saying “If a tree falls in the woods, does anyone hear it?” I ask you, does anyone need to? Are you asking me, if I don’t see it does it count? Or are you asking me to turn a blind eye? Because really either way, I’ll probably answer you with disgust and spite towards your ignorance. This view around the world is its very demise. The reason that we can take, but yet we cannot put back. The reason that we can act without thought and be led astray by those who don’t know where they are going. What we need, it’s already there. So why go get more? Can we not do with what we have? Or is it that we cannot learn from what has already been taught? As a race, do we appreciate ourselves enough to be proactive in regards to our future generations? Or do we manipulate the quality of life in which we experience, to satisfy the emotions that manage ones definition of survival.
With the world changing and the young and old striving to live conflicting lives of minimalism and luxury, in no particular order, one thing is for certain. Living life on a scale that is by no means weighed is a lost art. Life is two sides. Like everything when you consider the laws of science. Good and bad. Light and dark. Up and down. Right and wrong. Every push has a pull right?!
What if….. what if no one was ever able to persuade your subconscious to have an opinion. What if your life as you know it, is not what it is supposed to be, but is what you have made it be. Unknowingly, without a choice, like a poorly trained dog. Not the decisions you make, but your ability to make them. Going deeper than the outside, and straight through the inside, what would life be if it could be anything at all. What if you didn’t know you could not, or more thoughtfully, if you didn’t know you could. Would you still put your decisions in a prayers hands? Or your government in an opinionated money-fueled debate?
Everything has a choice. Everything comes down to that choice. I believe in cause and effect. When someone says “Everything happens for a reason” I’m somewhat inclined to agree. Not on the basis of a higher power, but on the basis of choice. If you choose to do something, that something in fact will have an outcome. The outcome happened because of a choice… because of the relevance between time, chance, and free will. Make the right decisions, end up at the right place. Make the wrong ones, and you will end up in what could be a truly endless list of places that you might not want to be.
The same thing proves true for me in regards to the people I choose to put in my life. Why is it that the entire world can perceive your blood born brother as a burden to the world itself, but you cannot. Why is it you are bred to support your drug addicted, abusive mother in times of need. Or your care free, emotionally non-supportive, money driven father at times when he says you can? Regardless the case, who wrote the law that you cannot alleviate the things in your life that bring you down? Even if those things happen to be your family? Or your friends for that matter. Your parents will constantly suggest to you through your pre-teen years who to be friends with and who not to be friends with based upon their opinion of them. So when it comes to those that call themselves “family”, why is it that you are left no longer with any opinion at all? Yours or theirs?! Through my time I have come to believe that in fact, you are control of every aspect of your life. Including those that are in it. The morals you live by. The choices that you make.
My entire life I have been taught to surround my life with good things. Back to your earliest child hood, your peers, parent figures, and figures of icon have been subconsciously telling you what to do. Every ad that suggests some sort generic, applies-to-everyone , benefit, is only built to touch on your emotional pressure points. Every non smoking ad conflicts itself with what they will perceive as the inevitable end to your life. Every political campaign, a plethora of compelling speeches that assure you of your good decision and your bad. Designed to guarantee the self reflection of yourself as a person as to if the choice YOU are making will change the world. Why is it though, that the weight of the world should be laid upon your shoulders?
My entire life I have been fairly grounded. As a child, I was known to take my lickings when they were due. To come forth with honesty even with the surety of my burden laying behind the unopened door. To push my limits within reason to remind myself that I am in fact nothing more than a body, allowed to enjoy my stay here on earth, with no guarantee that my existence is a right, but only a privilege.
I find a common question that I hear is.. “How did you know what you wanted in life?”. The answer: I don’t. I have no clue what I want in life. Sure I have wants, but I don’t have an articulated picture as to what I want my end result to be. I do however know all of the things I don’t want therefore leaving me obligated to consider diligently the things that I do. Similarly, they are likely things you don’t want either. Pain. Heartbreak. Worry. I live my life on the basis that I have made many of the wrong choices. Learning from each and every one. I have found myself in more places that I did not want to be than I have ones I did want to be. Right or wrong, I live my life on the basis that my walls are not big enough, and I must work harder to build them higher. I live my life on the basis that I want my daughter to be self reliant, safe, and understanding in a world that she not yet knows is full of evil. I do not live my life however, trying to attend parties that I once watched my closest acquaintance explore his love for opiates for the last time. Replacing the puppy and best friend that was ripped away without notice, teaching me the true meaning of a broken heart. Dwelling on the fact that despite looking up to my brother during our entire childhood and worshiping the very ground he walked on, that he would try to hang me in the basement of our three story colonial when I was 7. I certainly do not live life for late night rides that lead me to places that provide the opportunity of watching my best friend get stabbed and I certainly don’t strive to replace the woman that once tore apart my entire world with her soft hands and brilliant smile simply because come to find that she still had love for another. My ego no longer drives me to bring forth my alpha male traits in an unannounced competition of dick measuring contests and self provided pats on the back.
My entire life’s memories consist of all the things that I fear more so than the things that I loved. I am not known to dwell on my past however. As far as I see it, my past has taught me not to love, or hate, but to hate to love. Love is single-handedly my weakest attribute. Not because I don’t have any, but because I refuse to lay it out like a treasure map to my kryptonite. Amidst my morals, I have found that my genetics have provided me with a very black and white definition of loyalty. My loyalty comes only from my love, and my love comes only from the trial and error that a true roads end could only bring. I no longer choose to love that of which touches my heart on an instantaneous level. Whats that saying? “Talk is cheap.” I am a firm believer in that. Life is about the overcoming of contradictions. One side contradicts another, as does my opinion maybe to yours.My life has been about the contradiction of hate and love. Loving and losing caused me to hate love albeit never to hate. My being no longer has the strength to tolerate a broken heart, or to accept the things I cannot understand after reason.
The world is built upon many of things. I believe it is a good thing to understand both the things you want to know, and the things you don’t. A misunderstanding leads to a lack of understanding. All my life I have misunderstood love to be a power in which the world is divided upon. One in which oversees greed, lust, and wonder. With love you can’t rule the world, but without it you can’t understand it. It has as much place in this world as does its opposite. If we only loved, would the world fix itself? Or would we learn to appreciate the things that we now have the ability to question only driving it further into a downward spiral of opinionated rights and wrongs? If we did not create our safety nets, would the world perceive us as stronger, or weaker? If we did not love and hate, would the world perceive us at all?
So no, I do not think that hating to love is in any relation to loving to hate. I think hating to love goes quite hand in hand with appreciating love and understanding its true infrastructure. I think loving to hate goes hand in hand with bad genetic wiring and an unfortunate ability to consider consequence, paired with the repercussion of the actions of others that had a similar and unfortunate fate . I think love is a drug so strong, that once addicted, only true rock bottom will turn you away from it. So as people, how do we take something of which is perceived as such a honor, and put it into the light it deserves as an illness. Something of which cannot be fixed on your terms, but only its own. A drug in which we all inevitably use and share. Like a dirty heroin needle passed through a crack house, infecting every vein it touches with the utmost uncontrollable of diseases. Is there a place for love in your heart, or a void that you once considered to suffice. If you do not love do you have to hate?
I was drenched in sweat and my blisters had ripped open 65 miles ago. I had blood spots on my shoulders from the weight of my pack and my hips were bruised from my hip belt. My knees ached regardless if I was going up or down at this point and I was starving. Which was a bit contradicting seeming how I had a pound or more of trail mix, and a couple rations of beef jerky left. Both of which I learned to hate inside of 100 miles…. But I had done it! I had officially walked 123 miles in one trip without any sort of anything helping me along. Me and my good ol’ hiking boots had officially traveled over several summits, across numerous fjords, and under, over, beside, and around many of root and rock.
My summit of Katahdin was nothing short of spectacular and my hike had been literally life changing. The knowledge I had gained was at this point more than overwhelming and I knew I had alot to do when I got home to say the least.
I had learned a lot. I had learned that essentially I had every bit of wrong gear one could possibly have. I had the heaviest, bulkiest, cheapest version of ever major component in my bag. What was so whole-heartedly appreciated a week ago, was now being ripped apart analytically and necessarily with a lack of appreciation and a desire for more function and less weight. Not to mention my backpack was very much falling into that same category.
Second, I had learned that I only used about 30% of the stuff I had packed. For instance…. I had learned around the second day that personal hygiene stopped at teeth brushing and wiping after an early morning toilet stop. What I had mistaken as deodorant here and there were in fact chafe sticks. The camp soap and camp wipes I had bought were nothing less than a joke to me at this point. It sounds funny, but after several days in the woods with no shower, you can smell sunscreen or deodorant when it is literally miles away. There was one day, I had walked the entire day and I could not get the smell of fresh flowers and sunscreen out of my nose. It was so confusing as when you looked around you were surround by pines, spruce, and birch and not only that but I had not seen one single person that day. I would arrive at camp that night to find “Milky Way” had been ahead of me about 3 miles the entire day. She was section hiking and had just left that morning after getting dropped off at an access road. She was fresh from the shower, and she stuck out way more than us dirty hikers did. I learned we all smelled the same, and that in fact, “Milky Way” being cleaner than the rest of us was the one that stuck out. I would learn to find even more truth in this smell theory when I would come to more populated spots on my last day or two. The one time I did use some camp soap and a camp wipe, I would learn that it attracted bugs, and that my cleanliness was a mute point by sunrise. Staying clean was hopeless. Another thing I found… everyone else smelled just like me…. or worse, and nobody noticed. After the second day, the only time I changed was to put on my sleeping clothes. I would come to learn to just throw back on my dirty gear from the day before after it had sufficient time to pretend to dry. So needless to say, the 5 outfits I had brought, were irrelevant. I also learned that underwear were just one more unnecessary thing to dry out. I learned not to go into a privy before sunrise or after sunset with a head lamp on… the flies are relentless and ridiculously vicious towards the light.
I knew now how absurd it was to have a 6 piece cook set. Now don’t get me wrong… had I had the ingredients, I could have whipped up a four course meal in no time. I had the tools for sure. The truth was, that if I needed my cook set for anything at all, it was to boil water. Nothing more, nothing less. So having a pan, bowl, pot, and cup, plus all three common eating utensils was a bit overkill. Also, I believe backpacking is exactly why one invented a spork.
After seeing many of sleep set ups, I knew one thing for sure. I needed a sleeping pad, but I did not need this ridiculously large cotton stuffed sleeping bag. Between its size, and weight it accrued when it got wet, it was a burden if anything. Not to mention it was late summer and the temperatures certainly did not require a sleeping bag rated for freezing temperatures. You are hot and sweaty all day and laying down at night is almost a treat in itself. You learn to appreciate the cool air pretty quickly as it blows over your skin and being all bundled up was unnecessary to say the least.
The food situation was something I had over looked. Things that I brought that were at one time some of my favorites, I no longer wanted to ever see again. Beef jerky was as good as leather boots. Trail mix had given me PTSD about eating more trail mix. Ramen noodles wouldn’t entice me if I was on the brink of starvation. I guess when you eat anything day in and day out for almost two weeks, you end up pretty sick of it. So buying those snacks in bulk to save money, and rationing them out in ten days worth of baggies, only to eat the same thing EVERY day, was something I would only do once. I know now to spend the money for a little diversity if you can.
Bears…. How funny it is for me to look back and think that two cans of bear spray was necessary. Just for the record, I no longer feel that a bear attack will be the inevitable end to my life. Sharks on the other hand I can still argue, but bears don’t seem to be a fear any longer.
I had learned alot yes, but I had plenty more to think about that was for sure. I still had a lot to learn, no doubt. But in the end the most important thing I learned, was always to have a plan. Even if its a tentative one that really isn’t much of a plan at all, but just have something. See, I found this most important when I realized the lack of this said plan….came to light when it finally set in that I needed to get back to my vehicle over 100 miles away. In the beginning of it all, I had spent so much getting geared up that I no longer wanted to afford a shuttle. So I 86’d my original plan of hiking south and decided to hike north and figure it all out at the end. Well it was the end….. and I still hadn’t figured out shit. Now I admit, I wanted an adventure… but holy ol’ hell, I only prepared for one. I had to be back at work in a day and I was a good drive from home, let alone what I had to get back to my car. Well I know for sure I hiked 106 miles as the crow flies…. and out here, taking a main road certainly does not constitute as a “crow flies” kinda path. The abol store was kind enough to let me charge my phone for a bit, so I did exactly that. I also asked about shuttles going back to Monson, which were available…..the next day. I did at this time learn that you can split shuttles, so some simple asking around can save you a bunch of money. Tomorrow however, was not an option for me unfortunately.
After my phone charged I was able to pull up Google Maps. I was also able to discover that I was more than 130 miles from my car. Honestly at this time a feeling of anxiety overwhelmed me. I could feel the lump in my throat every time I swallowed and my palms were sticky. I was instantly angry with myself for being such a stubborn person. The anger however….. this time… would make the difference.
Unimpressed with my lack of thought, I ate a shit-ton’ of pizza and threw my pack on. One thing was for sure….. I was not getting anywhere sitting here pissed off at myself. I can be kind of hard on myself sometimes. And really, being stubborn about the fact that I am stubborn was the only choice. So since I believe that sometimes you just have to take your lickings when your lickings are due, I hit the dirt road. I’ll walk as far as I can with my thumb out… if someone picks me up great. If they don’t, screw them.
Now I never used to be one to pick up hitchhikers. I also cannot imagine that if I was going to pick one up, I would stop for the dirtiest one that is carrying a weeks worth of luggage. This is one time in my life that I just wished that I had been built with a big bust, long brunette hair, and curvy legs…. unfortunately for me…. my big bust, brunette hair, and curvy legs aren’t quite the image I’m talking about. It certainly isn’t the one that gets you picked up a few minutes before sunset on a Friday night.
I walked that entire dirt road… and I don’t know how long it is to be exact, but its several miles and took me a good couple hours. I also learned that being on flat ground did not bode well for me…. I had picked up my speed, due to a mix of anxiety, fear, and adrenaline, which was easy to do on flat ground. When I did it created a ridiculous amount of friction in my shoes, putting more blisters on top of my blisters. My feet hurt so unbelievably bad I could have cried. They felt like they were literally on fire. I just wanted to be home. By this time it was dark out and I knew for sure I was screwed. I had come to terms with the fact that I would just walk until I literally could not walk anymore and set up my tent on the other side of the ditch somewhere in the bushes. I’d sleep for a bit and try again when I woke up. I had seen about 4 cars in 15 minutes which was extremely discouraging. Number 5 though…. let me tell you what. I’d kiss number friggin’ 5 smack dab on the ol’ cheek if she was sitting here now. A quiet middle aged lady. Driving a passat wagon…(which where I’m from, that usually either signifies you’re somewhat of a hippie or organic folk to some extent). She pulled over and as I ran up the trunk popped, her voice shining through the back hatch like miracle when she told me to throw my pack in and hop in. I had never been so appreciative of a single person for their act of kindness than I was when she pulled up. She asked me where I was going and when I told her, with a kind smile, she said “well shit, I can get you most of the way.” I laughed, I was so relieved and I don’t know how many times I thanked her. Enough that she told me to stop thanking her for sure. I was as relieved that she opened with “shit” as I was that she was taking me most of the way. Heck, at least she was “normal” as I figured it, so the ride should not be to bad. Well she did get me most of the way and the ride was not bad in the slightest, but our time had to end. When it did, I was still 30 miles away from my car. Not a single part of me wanted to walk another step. I had to be thankful though…. and thankful I was as I saw my savior off. I made extra sure not to shed even the smallest bit of guilt upon her by showing my pain or discomfort. As soon as she drove off though, man let me tell you what…. I went from ultimate high to ultimate low. It was late, dark, I hurt worse now than I ever had…this sucked. I made it maybe 10 steps when I heard a car. Using it as an excuse to stop walking, I turned around to face the car, as if these friggin’ puppy dog eyes would veer them off the road to my rescue. Pfffftttttt yeah right. Aaannnddd they did. Yup…. this sad looking, pathetic mug of mine did it. They pulled riiiiiggghhhttt over…. HAH! I was a friggin’ pro at this stuff! I hobbled on over to that truck already thanking the man out loud before he had even got out of his truck. “Where you going?”. “Shaw’s, but any bit closer is fine.” “I’ll get you there, but no disrespect can you ride in the back, I just cleaned my truck?”. Hahahaha, I appreciated this friggin’ guy. Heck, if you are willing to give me a ride, at this point, I would drag behind the truck if you wanted me to. “No problem at all, I’d love to”. The thing was though, I really did love that ride. I am soooo glad he asked me to ride in the back. 30 miles of back country roads, a clear summer sky, crickets chirping, country music blasting in the cab of the truck. Hell, I don’t even like country but that was the best damned country I had ever heard. I could see every star. Not a cloud for as far as the eye could see. It was absolutely surreal. Not only did I not have to do any walking, but I was getting to my car on time, going to get home in time for work, and I got to do so riding in the back of a pickup truck through the back country.
I made it back to my car, and I was as thankful for the ride in the truck as I was for the one in the passat. I wasn’t completely thankful that I was going home, but I was thankful for some of the things that were there. I had learned to appreciate kind people. The ones that just do things because they think they are right and they don’t expect anything out of you. The ones that don’t judge you just because you aren’t looking your best. The ones that give people a chance. Unfortunately I’m not really one of those people, but I’m very appreciative of the people who are.
As I was undressing my feet for the first time that day, feeling the skin of my feet literally pull away with my socks and the grit from more than a weeks worth of walking scraping across the open wounds, I realized how lucky I was. How lucky I was to have survived. To have lived and to have been able to understand the difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’. I was lucky that there were people out there kinder than I was. Kinder than the people I knew. People that appreciated me just because for a short period of time, I was part of their family. The hiking family. I knew I was lucky that even if I never went again, I had a story to tell. Something I could turn around to my daughter and say, “do it just to say you did.”. Well, I did want to go again. I would DEFINITELY be going again…. I just needed to go home and figure some things out first.
So home I went.
Whats that?! You have dinner ready? Your stove is broken? Is there such thing as stove down?
No, nope, and not that I know of. Honestly, I have found that writing about these Mainerrisms cracks me right up. I sit here and I think…. “ok, ‘stove up’… how do people not use this? Is there even another term that would work? Wait a minute, ‘stove up’ IS the definition.” I have come to learn that it is actually quite hard to take our every day words and explain them. Then I think.. “Who in the hell even thought of that and why? Does that even make sense” and for a moment I remember…. this is exactly why I am here…. and no, it probably doesn’t make sense, which is exactly why it fits perfectly as a “Mainerrism”!
Stove Up: to be incapacitated or damaged; past tense of stave. Stave is the act of smashing a hole in the side of a wooden boat therefore ruining it. Also defined as suffering physical discomfort caused by injury, illness, exercise, or overwork.
Now in Maine a lot of things can leave ‘finest kind’ and come back ‘stove-up’. For instance… you fall and scrape ya’ knee, you might just say “I got stove up!” If you leave the house and end up in a ‘fender-bender’ you might just as well say “Stove up tha’ cah today bub.”
The best part about stove up? It doesn’t need any further explanation. If you tell someone you stove something up, they picture the worse. If you tell me you stove up your car, I picture a boatload of scrap metal. If you stove your own self up, as far as I figure it, you’re out of commission for a few days. Stove up supersedes terms like, scratch, ding, dent, broke, smashed, ruined etc. It will generally describe the worst case scenario, but in the end one thing is for sure… whatever you done stove up, is in a whole lot worse condition now then it was before your extravaganza.
Stove up in reality though, can really define even the smallest of scratches. I find the more sentimental value the item holds, the less damage it take to constitute it as ‘stove up’.
For instance… take a 40 year old trailer that’s rotting in its place. If a candle doesn’t blow out sitting the middle of the room, and birds cant get in the crack of your eves, then its probably good to go. As soon as the floor falls in, and a wall goes missing though, one might then deem it “stove up”. That being said, you take a Mainer’s motorcycle… put the smallest, unnoticeable scratch in its fender, and you will be met with the meanest Mainer you might ever meet, with a finger in your face telling you how you stove his bike up.
My definition of stove up, is not necessarily that bikers but one thing is for sure, if anything is stove up, by it’s owners terms, you will probably hear about it. Especially if you had any hand in “stavin’ er’ up” . So be careful out there… the last thing you want to do today is to be stavin’ anything up.
If you are looking for a beanie to go out in on the weekends, wear around town, or take with you on a long distance trip, this beanie will do it! Made of wool, polyester, and nylon, this beanie will retain warmth when wet as well as wick away moisture from your head. Weighing in at 1.9 oz’s, it’s a lightweight option that you will never leave behind. Having traveled literally the entire country with this hat it has become my absolutely go to. Its a more fitted cut and with its flat seam construction it maintains a great look for many adventures. Check out this review on Trailspace.com and see if it is the right hat for you!
Lets get off track a bit..Just to give you an idea and tell you a little about me. I am not known to be a people person to start. Which is why hiking has turned into such a passion of mine. And this truth completely contradicts my living and my life in a small city. See, I found out I was becoming a father at 16 years old. During that time, as hard as I tried, fulfilling my idea as a father, and getting my education just were not going hand in hand. In the midst of everything, I used to skip school and head down to the local motor-sports dealership where a guy named Josh, who would later become my best friend in life, was the sales manager. Sick and tired of me coming in and wasting his time, as any naive 16 year old might in their dream store asking what I would learn to be silly questions, he offered me an opportunity. To apply for a job and become proactive instead of moping around all the time. Skipping ahead 10 years, I finished my career there having worked my way through from the bottom to the top. Upon realizing that I would, in fact, never own the place, I searched out a career elsewhere. I don’t want everything, but I do like to move towards something all the time. When that potential is all gone, I start to feel trapped. And I don’t like feeling trapped. This led me to an opportunity at a local car dealership where I am still employed. Very happily might I add. But my point here, is that my entire adult life has been based in a public setting. It’s a common occurrence to be greeted by a stranger that knows more about me than I do them. Or for that matter, someone that I know at all. It is also the going joke that if you see me on my phone in public, I am actually probably not on the phone! Going into the grocery store and grabbing a salad is not uncommon to run me a half hour to forty-five minutes after stopping and chatting with every familiar face and my fake phone calls are a way to keep my day on schedule. Don’t judge me. I don’t necessarily mind people, and in my office, I feel like I am at home. I am comfortable, calm, fairly collected and you can fill this place edge to edge with folks and I won’t be bothered to the slightest. Put me in the middle of a handful or more of people anywhere else, and my anxiety will have me stuttering, red eared, and angry in no time. I cannot even say I have a good reason for this, it’s just in me. It is also fair to say that I lack an appreciation for tangible goods. I lack appreciation for the “american dream” to say the least. My idea of peace, life, and happiness exists in simplicity. In the understanding and opinion that as a race, we are ruining the world, and quite simply, I have never wanted to be a part of it. I despise money, politics, and most religion as its presented today. I have a high appreciation however, for those that live life without regret. And honestly. What they enjoy specifically during that life is of no business of mine. My main focuses however have always been clear. To appreciate what is already there and live humbly. Focusing and giving my 100% to everything my life deems necessary. For the last eleven years that has been my daughter. It is important to me that she becomes her own person, and I am not one to mess with free will, but teaching her manners, respect, and the ability to contemplate right from wrong along the way has been my ultimate goal. The rest is hers to have, not mine. Tell me though, how does one teach if he does not know? In the same sentence how does one learn if he does not have a teacher?
Jump back 6 years with me, to the Abol Bridge Store only minutes away from the base of Katahdin. I am quite exactly 106 miles from the start of my first soul searching long distance journey. Fortunately for me through these 106 miles alot has changed. Packing my pack became easy. I was getting good at setting up my tent, and had a routine in place that would reassure me dry socks in the morning. I no longer needed fancy foods, as a matter of fact any food would do. My face had started to thin, and I noticed the creases in my waist belt changing. For the first time in my entire life I didn’t feel the need to iron my clothes, do my hair, or shower every day, which was my routine prior to leaving. I no longer felt the need to take a vehicle 1 mile down the street to the store and sleeping in was no talent of mine any longer.I had learned to “appreciate the little things” as they say.
Some things did not change however. I still was no fan of people, and spending the last 10 days alone, in no way shape or form, made me miss them. I become annoyed easily, heck I even annoy myself sometimes… but me and people just generally don’t mesh well. It certainly is not personal. I was still somewhat socially awkward. I still had more pride than I did brains. My stubborn attitude, which was most definitely separate from my pride, was still there. I missed a few things more than ever, but they were the same things I have always missed, if I was going to miss anything at all. My daughter, my best friend and my guitar. Man did I ever want to play my guitar. I was less talkative when I revealed myself from the woods, and although my morals had not changed I had added to them.
Speak less and listen more. Now I cant say I didn’t do plenty of talking to myself in the woods, but I had now learned to listen to myself as well. I had become engulfed in so many hiker stories around the late night campfires that I was now eager to hear, but not so eager to tell. As I had mentioned before, my patience had doubled at very least and my tolerance of every day issues grew longer than ever. I could finally understand that the problems I had faced in life, were really no problems at all. I could see now that being able to eat, drink and breathe was all I ever really needed to live and that my entire life I had so much more than most. I was never deprived and I never had gone without, and I had finally learned to appreciate all the things I had in life. I also learned to know that I didn’t need them.
Now I got pretty lucky at Abol. Being my roots are in Maine, I had friends and family in most places. An acquaintance of mine had heard of my journey and had, unknowingly to me, been excited to surprise me with a six pack of beer and an invite back to his camp only a few miles away. Well of course, it goes without saying, I was most happy to accept his invitation. My new found appreciation for less only meant I was to appreciate the luxuries that much more.
“Jeezum crow bub, who woulda thunk it, that a city boy like you would be out here with all these country folk!” he joked. But something in me didn’t find it funny. “Lucky for you, I picked up some wicked steaks on the way up and a rack of beer… welcome home bud.” It was at this time his manner mellowed, likely reflecting my reaction, which was less than eccentric and lacked any real conversation. I could tell that he consciously put his questions on hold and that he could see some sort of difference in me. Inside I was jumping up and down and I really wanted him to see that because I was ridiculously appreciative of his gratitude, however outside I was showing more of my thought process not my feelings. My thought process at the time was not a thought at all, but a reflection. And quite frankly, I was engulfed in it. A part of me knew that the real world was only a couple days away after my Katahdin summit and I needed to figure out what I was taking with me from this trip and what I would leave behind. Something about him calling me a city boy had rubbed me the wrong way though. I was in a transition towards finding myself and a title was the last thing I wanted.
The evening commenced with a lot of beer drinking, and a lot of steak eating, and I would be lying to say that my buzzed up, beer drinking self wasn’t a bit more enthusiastic than I had been a few hours before, but I never strayed too far away from my thoughts. My journey was not quite over yet. In the morning I was getting dropped back off at Abol to finish my Katahdin summit.Now, Katahdin was not necessarily my milestone as I had hiked it once before, but it would be the official “end” and I definitely needed that for closure. It would also allow me to say that I had hiked exactly 123 miles from my car in one go at it and subconsciously my pride wanted those braggin’ rights. I wouldn’t be one to use them, but having them bottled up inside was just fine with me and I was not going to short myself of that.
After an extremely over done breakfast, and a couple more I.P.A.’s to cure my hangover I was ready to go. My mate though, he was still passed out in the camp. I was so appreciative of everything he had done, but this was no time for others. This was a time for me and I was going to be selfish about it. I had a real journey to finish and like it or hate it, I could not be on someone else’s time, as appreciative as I was. He had not planned to hike with me that day, so I figured letting him sleep would be the best option. I wrote a note expressing my gratitude, ended it with a “Cheers”and I was on my way. I was just over 3 miles from Katahdin through some old loggin’ roads that I knew fairly well and I needed to walk off this breakfast on flat ground anyways. So sleep he would.
I arrived at the start of The Hunt Trail, which was the official AT route up the mountain, and it essentially started at a nice campground in Baxter State Park. It was here I would learn my mistakes. “Check in at Ranger station” read a sign pointing towards a small brown building. Outside of it were several hikers. Some with big packs, some with little ones, but all were headed up the mountain. “Day Packs Availble” another sign read as I approached. The thought of trading my pack for a day pack seemed worth doing, but the closer I got the more of the conversation being had I could hear. “Well I have walked this far with it, so I might as well keep going with it!” said one slender, bearded hiker, when a more well fed, clean cut hiker replied “you are nuts!”. That friggin’ pride thing man, it gets me every time. Well if he was hiking with his pack I am hiking with mine. Upon getting to the station I noticed hikers taking turns hanging their packs. They were weighing them? Then next to their name in the book they would write their pack weight. 35, 39, 18, 42….. all the numbers seemed fairly close in comparison. Curiosity struck at the same time an unfamiliar voice beckoned “come on your next lets see what you got?!”. You know that old Foxworthy saying “Here’s your sign”? Well my first one came when I handed the young lady standing there my pack. She started laughing, gasping, and mimicking the weight as she took it from me. “Holy man what do you have in this thing?” “Everything!” I replied, doing my best to redirect the attention. “74 LBS!!!??” “Well pal, you are officially the heaviest number on the page, congratulations.” I wanted to cry, scream, and burn my bag all in the same moment. I had been hiking with 30 POUNDS more than everyone else on average!!! No wonder I was in pain and pulling half the miles as some of my fellow hikers. The worst part was I didn’t even know better. In fear of looking like the first time hiker I was, I just laughed as I wrote my name and pack weight in the book. It was far too late now, and cutting weight today was out of the question. I had already trekked over 100 miles with the weight and I had a small window to get up the mountain and back in order to find a way back to my vehicle. I knew however, that when I got home, there was some diligence that needed to be done, and knowledge I needed to find before I had a second go at it. Knowing in the back of my mind that I was hiking with near TWICE the weight of everyone else ate at me mentally. It ate at me though in a way that benefited me. Approaching the trail, in my head I chanted …. “I hiked with TWICE what everyone else did. I can do this!!! I can do this!” Nothing could stop my ego, and knowing that I had twice the weight as everyone else made my head so big and heavy that my pack was was nearly unnoticeable. Inside, I was the cockiest I had ever been. I walked with my head high, my chin pushed to the clouds, my shoulders back, and I might have even had a little limp in my step. Ill learn through my parenting years to call this… “swagger”.
Well I did make it up that mountain and I definitely made it back down. At this point, this seemed like a routine any how. Through the 100 Mile Wilderness you cross many peaks at the 3500 plus foot elevation. It was a beautiful site, and the best lunch I had ever had. In which case, I was happy to have a ham sandwich topped with a few extra slices of america cheese thanks to my stay the evening before. After a week’s worth of ramen and rice sides, the ham sandwich, I assure you, was a nice change. To eat it at 5280′ brought that ham sandwich to a whole different level and perspective.
I made my way down and out, and while I did, I did so as a new person. All the things I had before given thought to, were now built into my instinct. Its cliche to say that I walked out of the woods a new man but I did. My process was not thoughtless by any means, but I had a conscious understanding of who I wanted to be. That person was not the person I was when I started. So when I say I was a new person, I absolutely was, but it was completely by choice. It was from this very point on that my path was not in question, but how I would travel it might have been. By foot, sure…. but where would it take me? I had no idea, but for the first time in my life I had found myself. The time I had to think, the thoughts I had to ponder…. so many things came to light in that time.
To say I was experienced however, was far from the truth . Upon my return to the campground, the sun setting behind the trees, essentially returning to nothing as I had not made a reservation to stay there, I remembered an important first hurdle that I so eagerly pushed off….. MY CAR WAS MORE THAN 100 MILES AWAY AND I DIDN’T HAVE A RIDE!!!! One of a hundred things I had over looked really, but one of the most important, and I pushed it off, and had forgotten about… I certainly could not walk another 100 plus miles. Physically I might have been able to make it, but I did not have the time, I had to be back at work. I would have to try and hitchike. The whole reason I so idiotically pushed this off was because I didn’t want to afford a shuttle. So to that… my adventure continues.
It ain’t no secret that up here in Maine we make our livin’ about 100 ways. Like anywhere else I assume. You will find however, that a select few industries are much larger than others. Northern Maine is known for its potato’s and broccoli. Coastal Maine for its berries. The entirety of the state for its paper land and farm-able soils. Construction is as common here as everywhere else and we have an abundance of “self” employed folks. All aside, one industry stands out far more than others to me. FISHIN’! From Central Coastal Maine down, you will find buoys and boats everywhere. You ask 10 people here in “downeast” maine what they do for work and you will get a solid common answer from probably half of them.. “Fishin’.” We fish for a whole plethora of things here in Maine. Scallops, mussels, clams , eels, salmon, sea cucumbers and lots and lots of urchins. One gets a bit more fished then others though. Lobstah’! Lobster fishing is so common that you will find lobster traps in more dooryahd’s than you will garages. Its unlikely that if you grew up anywhere on the coast of Maine that you couldn’t tell someone at least a little about the industry. Traps are called pots. Boats have a stern man. Its a dirty, sometimes cold, and labor intensive job. It’s rare to know NOTHING about the lobster fishing industry if you live in Maine. So…..
Here in the midst of the industry, I have seen a lot of misconception about lobster.
To start, lobster are not generally red. There are some instances where a lobster are pulled from the water showing a red color, but that is a huge misconception. Lobsters are many colors, but red is not really one of them. A lobster turns red when you cook it.
Like a crab would. Maybe this misconception stems from several things…. most lobster graphics are colored in red… the claw you find on the beach will likely be red, unknowingly from the sun. I assure you however, they are not in fact red. They are typically a darker shade of brown and dark blues which could be perceived as an almost black. They are multi colored generally with several shades of each.
Not everyone here eats lobster. TOURISTS seek out lobster. It’s as common to us as tomato’s might be to a gardener. Personally, I don’t eat it. I have eaten too much of it in my younger years, and I don’t have a taste for it anymore. We do in fact call them “BUGS“. To me, it’s a giant sea cockroach. Or the mermaid version of a scorpion maybe, but nothing about a lobster attracts me. You mights’ well head out back for a handful of ants a few june bugs as far as I’m concerned. Most of us have access to lobster and most people you will find eat it more so when they have company coming or some event to hold because, well, that’s what people expect out of us Mainah’s.
Lobster (BUGS) are not expensive. The tourists are led to believe so because it is in fact our biggest industry where I am. Without the travelers stopping in to give anywhere from $29.95-$59.95 for each plate, which might include one 1.25LB lobster, a starch and a vegetable, we would not survive. Our economy is built upon it. If you take a drive down the coast you will see lobster offered 50 different ways at 100 different places. All the same, us locals most definitely will not be paying $29.95 for a plate of lobsters. Like most places that have an industry, there are loop holes. Ours? Go straight for the boat. Ill be damned if I’m going to go pay $30-$60 dollars for something I can head down to the dock and trade a 6 pack of beer for, or hand over a $10 bill and get two plates worth of the stuff. Most of us know a fisherman or 200, and we all know about 20 ways to whip up a lobster. Lobster sells for just over $3.00 per pound to the co-op. The co-op sells them out for a tad bit more and then stores and restaurants have a hay day with their pricing. If you are paying $40.00 for a 1.25 lb lobster and get a half cup of broccoli and a cup of potatoes and I pay $3.25 per pound for lobster… you can do the math on how much you are paying for broccoli and potatoes. (both a large Maine industry as I mentioned). Let me reassure you though, if you send a tourist down to the dock, they might get to pet one but that’s gonna be about it. It’s a locals thing. Fishing is a living…. a store doesn’t give you the “good buddy” discount just cause you look nice…. you gotta’ know someone. So get out your wallets folks… you’re either gonna pay property tax for cheap lobster, or pay for expensive lobster.
Lobster is not hard to eat. I don’t know how many nights I have sat at the bar picking tourists out one by one. It’s easy in fact, you just look for the flying lobster, bibs, and empty rolls of paper towels. Watching a tourist spend 20 minutes getting the claw meat from a good lobster is worth paying admission. Just wait until they get to the tail! I have, with my very own eyes, seen several lobster tails (the most of the meat in a lobster) fly across the room. The embarrassed look everyone gets when they go to the next table over to retrieve it is a riot. Besides, who do you know is gonna throw a $20 piece of meat across a room and leave it there for the mice? So how long does it take a local to crack a lobster? Well, maybe 1 minute per claw and 30 seconds for the tail. so two and a half minutes? Not to mention, we can do so without being entirely covered in yuck and we don’t need those fancy cracker things the restaurant gives you. Also, if you do it right, you are left with two claws and a tail… whole… in one piece… if your tail or claw comes out in more than one piece, you are probably doing it wrong.
To give you an idea, lobster was originally prison food. Deemed no good for nothing, and not a food for the rich. As it would wash ashore it would be collected and fed to prisoners because of its abundance. Well they no longer wash ashore, and we don’t feed it to our prisoners (I dont think) but it is still looked down upon by many as a food. To most of us, it’s not as fancy as it might be to you. So when you hear the term “bug” you can be reassured we see it as nothing less. Who knew an economy would be built upon …. BUGS!
Next time you are in town… I will say if you are going to eat a lobster… do it Maine. We do in fact do lobster the best… ok maybe that is not a fact, and I could be a bit biased…in the same sentence when you think Maine… you generally think Lobster. There is a reason for that.
You know that time of year when the mornings are cold, and the afternoons hot. With it comes that age old question…. pants or shorts? Well I am not generally a fan of zip off pants aesthetically, but these pants actually don’t look bad at all. They have a DWR finish to repel anything from water to mud and are exceptionally comfortable. If you are looking for that off-season pant that will stand up to hundreds of miles of hiking, or a night out on the town, these are probably a good option for you. Check out the review I did on Trailspace.com by clicking the link below!
These pants are light weight, weather resistant, and extremely affordable. Compared to pants in their class, they are half of the price. The Mountain Hardware Castil pant is absolutely worth considering as a pant to fit an active lifestyle! Cheers
Sleeping bags start to ruffle at the same time the birds start to chirp. I can feel myself starting to sweat as I lay there with the sun beating on the outside of my tent. I go to roll over and it was then that I realized so many things in an instant. The aches and pains started first. My neck was sore. My right shoulder, which is bad from a skiing accident in 2009, brings a cringe to my face as I move on the good days let alone after sleeping on it. My heels ached like they had been pressed in a vice all night? As I finally started to stretch myself out of my funk I could feel my thighs and calves hesitant to move. I was caught up on my heels hurting, as that was never a pain I had ever had. After a long career in the Motorsports industry, most of my pains have some sort of story behind them, and they are somewhat expected, but not my heels. My whole body, literally head to toe, was sore and ached. “Screw this” I thought as I recalled one of my many vices I had brought with me. COFFEE!!!! On the trail I was constantly hearing how breakfast was so important…”It’s the most important meal” they would all say. Well, I am not one for breakfast and I had brought my oat meal along of course, but coffee is what I was looking forward to.
Through the pain, I climbed out of my tent revealing the most beautiful morning my mind could recall.The sun rising in the sea of pines and white birch. The rays shining through like a flood lamp in the early morning dew, heating everything in it’s path and drying the wet roots as it reflected from the pond near by. The sound of more rustling and mother nature coming to life filled the mountain air. It was unbelievable, and as my coffee cooked I made sure to take a minute and appreciate that exact fact. That this very morning, was without question, unbelievable. As my coffee finished I let my toes free in the soft dead pine needles covering a bed of soft ground. Watching tents rustle with awakening backpackers, most of them weekend hikers, as the thru hikers left before the sun come up. The warm wind warmed my sweat drenched body from the outside as the coffee did the same from the inside. It was at this very moment, that I took my mornings first drink of coffee, where a calm had come over me. A moment where I remembered and truly understood why I was there. Why I chose to take a path that would leave me completely in pain, mud covered, sweat drenched, foul smelling, and a path that would most certainly put me in question of my own self. Who I was, why I was there, and where I wanted to be in life. At this very moment I had not an answer, but an understanding as to why I was asking myself these questions. This was the very moment where I knew that from here on out the trials would be seen as a learning curve, not a reason to quit. The better days as the same. This moment was the longest singular moment of my life and it lasted only one cup of coffee.
That cup of coffee was over now, and I had finished up with my oat meal. Which I will learn to put in the same category as beef jerky, trail mix, and ramen noodles. The category that stays in the cupboard next time I leave the house. Eat any of these for several days in a row, every day, all the time, and you will most likely learn the same things I will. I had to pack up camp and get moving. The sun had been up for an hour and I had no idea what time it was. See, my phone died the first night because apparently if you do not shut your phone’s data and wi-fi off, it will continue to search for it. And when you are in the “longest un-manned stretch of wilderness on the AT” it will search and search and search… and apparently that uses a lot of battery. So I no longer had a phone for pictures, and unfortunately no longer had a clock. How in the world, in this ridiculously sized pack (which I will weigh later) did I not have a way to charge my phone?! Add that to the learning curve list!
In the next few minutes of breaking down camp here are some things I would quickly learn…
Nothing will dry while hanging INSIDE the tent… this must be exactly why everyone else hung their wet clothes OUTSIDE of their tent. Drying clothes from a previous days hiking smell unbelievably terrible. The tent I had was NOT waterproof. Between condensation and dew, judging from the puddle at the bottom of my tent, it holds water in MUCH better than out. Wet shoes are no good for dry socks. Dirty clothes turn clean clothes into dirty clothes really quickly when in the same dry sack. Everyone brushes their teeth, even on the trail. Bear bags are as hard to get down as they are to get up. Cheap tents and sleeping bags never pack down to the size they were when you bought them. Cheap synthetic sleeping bags hold a ridiculous amount of weight in moisture, easily equaling the weight I ate down the evening before. I needed a SLEEPING PAD!! Thaaat is why my heels hurt!!! I had been rolling around on on the hard ground all night and a sleeping pad is nothing that I had even considered at this point! You take for granted the things a mattress might do for you.
Something else I learned that morning was something I was able to take with me. A moral I use today, and will continue to take with me from this day forward. PATIENCE! Now it is important to know that all my life I have reacted upon instinct. Most that know me will tell you, I’m wired for instinct not a thought process. The bright sides is, I react quickly, and considerably well in times where most cannot. The down sides, I react TOO quickly, and sometimes I can be a bit over the top until I realize that what I am reacting upon is sometimes not a big deal at all. My brain was hard wired during my conception and that is something that I have learned to be fine with. It is also something that I have learned to mold. I know I cannot change my instincts, but I can help them understand. To be a bit more analytical in a moments notice. I can also teach them that there are times and places to act like a spastic over protective father bear, and times to take a deep breath and think things through. This was a time where I just needed a deep breath.
Trying to pack everything back into my bag was as trying as anything I had done. I have mentioned before, I tend to be a bull not a ballerina. If something does not fit, I will make it fit. I am that guy that can make a square peg fit in a round hole. I am most definitely that damned stubborn. While pondering the ripped off handle from when I was in the midst of my strap tension escapade, I thought… “don’t go ruining this bag you jabroni, cause you ain’t gonna wanna be carrying this gear out in your hands!” The sleeping bag could not be stuffed, it had to be rolled. The tent was dirty, wet, and impossible to fold neatly. Fortunately, it did all fit…. eventually. It took a lot of folding and unfolding, and re-folding and rearranging but it did all go back to where it sprung from. Not to mention I did not tear a single stitch!
I was excited to get my pack on, having eaten a meal out of it and thrown some unnecessary packaging into the hot coals from the night before, it was most definitely lighter in weight, right?! Nope, just kidding. It was not lighter at all. In fact, the moisture had made it considerably heavier. My shoulders hurt so badly, and the pain on my waist was unknown to me until I briefly hooked my waist belt to continue my trek.
I unhooked it. I sat my bag back down and pull my knees into my chest in the lean-to. I hung my head, not in defeat, but in consideration. I considered what the repercussions would be if I did not finish. I considered what might happen if I just continued in pain. I reflected upon my whole morning. It was a few moments before I was able to reflect back to my coffee, back to the birds and the warm wind, and most importantly…. back to all the reasons why my reflection was unnecessary because there was absolutely no way I would rob myself of another morning like the one I woke up to today.
Not only did I grow substantially towards being a patient character that morning, I also learned something about myself. That physical pain, for me, did not outweigh the emotional pain that my own failure would cause me. That half dollar sized blisters, exposed to what will be 80+ more miles of rocks and routes, against cotton socks, was nothing compared to the thought that I would have to explain to my friends and family that I did not achieve what I set out to achieve. That my mind was in fact, much stronger than my body, spite its ADHD like contemplation and absurdly spastic thought process. It was very much the strongest part of me, and now I had a curiosity as to what exactly it would allow me to do . What was it capable of? Where could I go? What could I do?
That realization specifically, and those questions, would be the very reason I will come to find myself and who I am. It would be that very day that would eventually find my soul and turn me into nothing short of what my aspirations wanted me to be. Until then however, I have to hike. Ill see you at the end of the remaining 88 miles.
If you are anything like me, unnecessary weight is exactly that, unnecessary. We all have our luxury items, but usually mine are something like, a fresh apple and a book. I might stretch a bit and bring a Mountain House and a cotton T-shirt. Regardless of what I bring I try and keep it down to two items, both under a pound total. So needless to say when this popped up on sale, it was easy to resist the urge. UNTIL, the next day when it was marked down to $7 dollars. Now for $7 dollars I’ll try just about anything once. If it doesn’t work, eh’ whatever, its $7 dollars. Well this is NOT one of those things that did not work. This actually broke all of my rules of lightweight camping. This has become a fixture in my pack, and I loved it so much I now have two.
Whether you need a dry place to sit when its wet out, or a pillow to lay your head at night, the Klymit Cush will do it. Its under 3 oz’s total and packs down to smaller than a normal wallet. Its comfortable, quick to use, and extremely versatile. If you are looking for that luxury item to add to your sleep set up, consider the Klymit Cush Pillow/Seat. Head on over to Www.Trailspace.com to read more!