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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!