June 30, 2014

Trail Update: Mile 246.8; Andover, ME

Ahh ... civilization once again. Coming into towns have been a big part of our encouragement while we are hiking. It's nice being able to shower and clean your clothes. It's also great to plop down on a bed instead of setting up a tent and blowing up a sleeping pad. I have developed an intense appreciation for civilization and all the things I can't have while I'm in the woods. For example, being able to eat raw, healthy foods that I can't carry with me. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to eat the biggest, vibrant salad ever! 

Although, I must confess that it doesn't take very long for the mountains to call me back. I never thought I would miss being out in the wilderness after spending so much time out there . . . but I do. I miss the stillness and the sounds of nature. I miss the smells of the trees and the waters. I miss the simple life of waking up with the sun and going down with the moon. 

The trail since Rangeley has been great. We have had absolutely beautiful weather and the terrain has been pretty kind to our muscles and joints. (except for the 2 big wipe-outs Dad and I had) Stacey is feeling much better. The bugs have not been bad and we haven't hiked through any bogs! YAY! We've seen lots of frogs, snakes, squirrels and chipmunks; a few birds beavers, grouse, and loons; and one snapping turtle. Still no moose. We are seeing more and more Northbounders who have been informing us about what's ahead. We are all getting anxious about "the whites," but are thrilled for the views. Mom, stop googling and freaking yourself out. We will persevere!   

We got a hitch from local into Andover, ME. It's is a very small town much like Monson and Stratton. We are staying at the Pine Ellis Hiker Lodge. It's kind of quirky, but full of character. The owner's ex-son-in-law showed us around and informed us of all the rules of the hostel. He's a Native American Indian form the Mayan tribe. I told him that I was currently reading a book about the Lakota tribe. He slowly turned around and grabbed a flute that was made from the Lakota. As he started playing it I thought about how awesome it was going to be pick his brain and learn all about his culture! Well so far I've learned that he believes Maine is the perfect state to die in because it only costs $25 for a pine box and someone to come cry at your funeral. While doing our laundry in his make shift garage I saw a huge pile of Moose scat. He is the infamous moose poo jewelry maker!! Apparently, there are people that actually pay money for a moose nugget necklace. Hey, to each his own, right?? Oh, he just walked by me and asked if I wanted to learn how to play the flute. Awesome. 

Other than that, it's been a typical town day. We've ate breakfast and lunch at the only restaurant. We resupplied at the restaurant. We picked up our care packages (thanks Momma, Lex, Mum T and John). We washed our clothes and hung them on the clothes line to dry. Now, we are all RELAXING. Stacey is e-mailing gear companies to tell them about how their products are holding up. Tuck is reviewing the elevation change in the White Mountains (yikes!). Dad is chatting with some fellow hikers. While I am keeping all of you sweet readers informed!

We are slack-packing tomorrow and staying one more night in Andover. I hope everyone back home is having a great day. Thanks for following our journey and encouraging us along the way. The East Tennessee tribe will continue to carry on! 

Happy Trails, 

June 26, 2014

Trail Update: Mile 220.4; Rangeley, ME

Hi all! 

Amber here (still no trail name).

The gang is doing well. We made a pit stop in Rangeley to dry out our gear and clothes since it has been raining the past several days. The town has been pleasantly surprising. It has everything we need and more: good pizza, a post office, a laundry mat, a motel with wifi and a decent coffee shop! We got a ride from a local named Erin, who offered to give us a ride back to the trail head tomorrow! (Amazing trail angel!)

The past few days since leaving Stratton have been draining. We've hit the bubble of early bird SOBOs and we've been meeting more NOBOs. The shelters and campsites are getting crowded and louder. A virus has been going around and unfortunately Stacey caught it. Dad woke up in a mud puddle yesterday. I think he is regretting sending his tent home in efforts to reduce weight. And yes, he is still trying to tough it out by sleeping without a sleeping pad (fellow hikers call it "cowboy style"). 

The trail has turned into a creek once again. We hiked with wet shoes all day today. I've been praying for no blisters. 

Stacey had a wipe out on top of Saddleback Junior and snapped one of his hiking poles. 

We've had many steep inclines but not many views. Though, our spirits are still high. All of us are happy to be in town for the night. 

Next stop: Andover, ME! 

Good vibes, 

June 24, 2014

|| SLOW down ||

Lately, I have found myself staring at customers drifting away to a mountain range in an unknown land only to snap back to just to see two hateful eyes darting back at me while tapping the counter with their fingers or clicking a pen to hurry my pace.  It makes me wonder, "When in the hell did we get in such a hurry?!!!?"  I have noticed this in all facets of life-driving, talking on the phone, buying....well anything, I mean, we can't get the gas out of the pump fast enough to speed to wherever we are going that is soo important.  

How can we be actively engaged in our surroundings if we are constantly thinking about getting to the next check point on the "to-do" list?  

It is a good question, I know, and I have thought long and hard about it...the answer is fairly simple.  JUST SLOW DOWN.  We spend the majority of our time in our heads, think about it for a minute.  Think about how much time a day you spend with someone other than yourself. Can you believe that you spend the majority of the time (in the presence of others) thinking about events, work, people, etc.??   Instead of actively engaging in conversations, remembering experiences, and recollecting information, we only half-way listening, half-way  remembering, half-way recollecting the information that is ingested throughout our interactions.  If you continued living your life that way, you would only be living a half-way life. If we took the time to stop, look, and listen; you would be amazed with the information you would acquire; the relationships you would develop; the experiences you would remember.  In return being happy with your day knowing that you did everything wholeheartedly and embraced every moment that created your day.  And at the end of the day, you would be surprised at how good you would feel because you would feel accomplished and fulfilled.  All due to actively engaging in every interaction you encountered throughout the day.  Because you never know who will meet, who you will impact, or what you will learn...simply...by being present. 

Don't let the worries of life cloud up a sunny day.  You control the pace of your life-slow down, and enjoy it. 

June 22, 2014

This is Adventure

I nervously stepped into the water after changing out of my trail runners and into my chacos. Stacey agreed to carry my pack accross since the water was over my waist. We hiked 3 miles beside the roaring river and I was praying the entire time that we wouldn't have to ford it. "Surely, we don't have to cross this" I kept thinking, "it looks like the Ocoee!" Thankfully we had to cross at a wide spot with no rapids; yet, the water was still moving fast and the current was strong. I was relieved there was a rope tied from one end to the other that I could hold on to. As I reached for the rope, I imagined myself slipping on the slimy rocks and being carried downstream- ending my thru-hike. I heard my Dad from the other end yell out "hold on to the rope and you'll be fine!" I quickly shook my nerves off and started  singing a song called "no fear" from a Disney movie me and Lexi used to watch. 

The water was so cold that it took your breath away. I moved as fast as I could while fighting against the swift current. By the time I was in the middle of the river the water was up to my chest. After I made it to the other end I felt a moment of victory. I was one more river crossing stronger, braver and more confident. 

I also took a minute to appreciate my loving husband who had to cross 2 extra times to bring my pack over. 

As we waited for Tucker and Luke to cross, Dad and I looked up the trail and noticed that it was gone. The trail was flooded from the previous 2 days of rain and was now a creek. He just laughed and with the most positive upbeat attitude remarked, "now, this is adventure." 

We hiked the next 13 miles in ankle deep water. We did our best not to roll our ankles on the rocks below, but it was inevitable. The whole day was spent trying to keep each other laughing at the situation. Tucker made jokes about how he liked to hike in wet socks and shoes because it felt like squishy memory foam. Luke sarcastically talked about how he needed a boat. These are the perks of hiking in a group- uplifting encouragement. 

We honored the 17.9 mile day of adventure with a big campfire. 

The Appalachian Trail is full of adventure, but can easily be under appreciated and taken for granted. I'm glad we have each other to remind ourselves of this once in a lifetime experiences. Life is what you make it. So next time you find yourself in a scary, uncomfortable or unenjoyable situation, live it and learn from it. 

We are returning to the trail today with rested bodies and full bellies thanks to the Stratton Diner. Our next few days look challenging but we are more than ready to get back to the woods! 

June 21, 2014

Free Spirit Saturday: Charmie Stryker

Happy Summer Solstice you sweet sun bathers!  We hope you are out enjoying the longest day of the year! Opal+Wonder is so happy to introduce this sun-chaser as our Free Spirit feature, Charmie Stryker

"Breathe properly, stay curious, and eat your beets." || Tom Robbins || 

Sometimes life has a funny way of introducing integral parts of your life without your knowing of it.  Back in 2007, I met Charmie and Aaron for the first time through a mutual group of friends, upon meeting them little did I know the importance of their presence in the future. We crossed paths various times throughout the remainder of their time in Tennessee before they moved to Austin,Texas in 2010.  Each meeting leaving a stronger impression on me; it was when they moved to Austin I started seeing the dynamic, inspirational, adventurous individuals they are.  Charmie's love for the unfamiliar inspires me to willingly walk outside of my comfort zone, to feel confident walking into the abyss, to be powerful in my own skin. Her graceful presence shows, women, in particular, the importance of self-reliance, individualism, but most importantly, not being afraid to see life in a different light, a light that is not attached to an electrical circuit, a light that is not provided falsely by dollars; but a light that shines effortlessly through her transcendental self.  Charmie's travels have taken her all over the United States (I'm pretty confident she has been to almost, if not all of them.) and during those travels, she and Aaron bring to life a beauty that is sometimes forgotten due to the high-paced, commercialism lives we live currently. They withhold the capability to display the rarest beauties and unfold the forgotten treasures of this world. 

Rajasthan, India

 On Earth Day in 2013, they both resigned from their positions in Austin, TX to embark on a journey that would take them across the United States, and to lands most of us dream of seeing: Laos, Thailand, India, Cambodia, Philippines, and Palau- just to name a few.  You can scroll through their travels on their  photo blog: Visual Journey. Charmie just recently received her yoga licensure in the Himalayans with fellow Free Spirit, Kaya Cait with The Barefoot Print. As Charmie and Aaron began their journey around the world, the two of them brought New Crop to life- a multi-cultural shop that inhabits the most delicate jewelry, exquisite patterns and materials of the cultures that have left their mark on the canvas of Charmie and Aaron's life; the site is also home to a blog that tells the most beautiful stories of some of the most primitive cultures and tribes in the world, and a visual blog that will make every hair on your body stand on end.  New Crop is our connection to lives that are beautifully detailed, respectfully self-reliant, and gracefully happy.  New Crop provides a look into cultures that live simply.  

This versatile Gemini's spirit is an infectious one, that breathes life into all she encounters, (She is, after all, the air element.) her spirit excites you, inspires you, and challenges you to step out in the void...Confidently. I am over the moon to present a feature on a young lady who originates from the Philippines, but found her home in Johnson City, TN who is currently residing in an Ashram in the Himalayans in Kullu Valley, India, Charmie Stryker. 

Charmie received her yoga certification in the Himalayans. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: 

I was born in the Philippines with an amazing childhood surrounded by family and living with all my close cousins under one roof. I moved to Los Angeles when I was in 2nd grade which was a great city to "ease" in to a new country. LA was so vibrant with culture and diversity that I didn't have a hard time adjusting. Later, my father's job was moved to a small town in East TN where I spent the majority of my school years, where I have made my life long friends, and where I met Aaron =) Hindsight, I realize how serendipitous life is.  My family found their way back to Los Angeles and me and Aaron  found ourselves manifesting our dreams in Austin, TX. He pointed out a boutique design agency that he said he would love to work for, and I admitted my dreams of working for a creative magazine in which later we both landed as our dream jobs at the time.  We were so blessed to be surrounded by such a fun buzzing city that was growing with us filled with music festivals, sunny days and amazing friends. As happy as we were we found ourselves in search for something more. We would daydream out loud about "what if we could just up and leave, and do whatever we wanted?"  If money and security really wasn't an issue and you couldn't fail, then what would you do? The same way we planned and manifested our dream jobs in Austin, we planned to manifest our dream lives.
We daydreamed about travel, about discovering and RE-discovering our roots. Hugging family members and sharing stories in person. 

Charmie and Aaron celebrated their 8th anniversary in Ifuago, Philipines.  
We wanted to find our creativity in a place we never even thought of visiting, and finding inspiration in places we wouldn't think to look for. I will admit the thought excited me to the depths of my soul and scared me to tears at the same time. All of it makes you feel so alive. That was all we needed to feel to hit the road. The road has been our biggest teacher. I've learned not to tie myself to anyone or anything. I realized how temporary everything can be and to allow things to happen, to appreciate it and then to let it go.  The act of letting go has made me feel even more connected with everything and with myself. I have fallen in love with our nomadic lifestyle, where our only permanent address is our emails and when the only constant is change is when we feel most alive

How do you keep your mind stimulated? Books? Records? Journals?

I have gone deeper into my meditation during my stay here at the ashram. They require us us to meditate twice a day. There is such a mind stimulating life force within us internally that we lose awareness to during the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. A lot of intrinsic changes, emotions and realizations arise from this and I find the best way of sorting out is with my journal. I also find travel to be exponentially mind stimulating. Everything seems to be a discovery, the food, the language, the people, their culture and their art.  I am always in awe of the creativity that is naturally within us. I always find that those who live simpler lives are happier, live with more mindfulness to the earth, and have kept their traditions and  art alive.

Why leave it all behind?

Hindsight, I realized that letting go and practicing non attachment has opened up a whole new mindset for me. When we first set out to leave, I spent a few nights overwhelmed with fear and anxiety wondering how we were going to make this crazy idea of just up and leaving to travel indefinitely actually work? The hardest part was convincing our friends and family we weren't crazy and that we were going to be ok, when we weren't even sure ourselves if we were crazy or not, or if we were going to be ok. The act of leaving was surprisingly easy, once we downsized everything we owned to fit in a car, we hit the road. We've been downsizing every since, our packs getting smaller and smaller with each step. I can't even explain how liberating the feeling is knowing that we were leaving and could come back whenever and wherever we wanted to.


How do you budget for a trip that long? Advice?

We sold everything, and saved up a couple month's salary and decided we would figure out the rest when we got there. Being on the road and meeting lots of other travelers I realized the one thing that long term travelers are rich with is courage. With our scenario we were both lucky enough to be able to do freelance and work from anywhere with wifi. So when we quit our jobs, we started working for ourselves and with amazing clients. Aaron handles mainly all the design web and print, and I handle the social media, and blog management. I've realized travel takes more courage than it does money. When most people think of travel they think of vacation, which normally is a lot of money. There are so many options with traveling long term such as: work abroad programs, freelancing, teaching English somewhere exotic for a year,  couchsurfing…etc. We found ourselves traveling a lot longer than planned, working a lot less, and saving a lot more. I keep asking ourselves why we didn't we do this sooner?!  =)

Was New Crop already an idea? Or was that an idea that manifested into your travels?

Yes, I look at our old logos, which says est. 2011, but we didn't actually launch it until a few months ago. We knew we wanted a creative outlet, and once we hit the road puzzle pieces started falling into place; it eventually evolved into what it is now. I have definitely found my passion in rediscovering my roots and preserving my culture and along the way I have felt a calling towards discovering and preserving others' cultures through New Crop. It is still definitely manifesting, and evolving with us and our journey.

Along with your growth, how did your experiences change you perspective on priorities?

 It took leaving everything behind to make me  realize the unknown is not so scary after all, it gives you that warrior spirit and makes you feel fearless. To not let uncomfortable situations and annoyances distract you from realizing that our circumstances of existence is pretty glorious.

Siem Reap, Cambodia 

What are some of the best experiences you have had overseas?

India by far has taken the cake for experiences. I have never pushed out my comfort this intently and this often. Sometimes its a love/hate relationship but one thing is for sure, it has definitely shaken and awakened me. Made me realized just how sheltered and comfortable I was before and how little I know and how much there is left unseen. India has made me hungrier for more.

How have you coped with uncomfortable situations? Have you had any?

All the time =) I think that is the gem with traveling. Funny thing is as I answer this question,  I am on a sleeper train in India, where someone is currently sleeping on my bed, so me and Aaron are sitting cross-legged on his bed while other Indian passengers across from us are resting their feet on his bed using it as a foot rest. The funny thing is you cant resist the uncomfortable situations, you just have to go with it and let it be =)

Any "aha" moments that humbled you?

Constantly, even now as I write this and wonder if I'll have my bed to sleep on tonight on this train, I realize that I am lucky enough to get off this train and have a comfortable bed in a guesthouse.  That it's not the end of the world if someone who needs my bed more than I do is currently in it. No matter his situation or others that I come across, I know how lucky I am and I am constantly reminded to be grateful for my situation and to be mindful of others.

Any advice for Wanderlust spirits?

Follow what sends a tingle down your spine, what makes your heart race and where your daydreams wander.  Make a list of what truly makes you happy, or what your dream life would consist of and find a way to connect the dots. Whatever your bliss may be, work really hard at it and surround yourself with those who inspire you and support you.

|| Keep up with Charmie and Aaron's adventures||

New Crop Blog

Congratulations to Aaron and Charmie on their engagement!  Aaron proposed to Charmie on June 13, 2014 in India!  O+W wishes you all many years of love, adventure, and happiness! :)  

All photos from New Crop

June 19, 2014

Digging Deep

Hi family and friends! 

Amber here- writing from Lisa's organic farm in Kingfield, ME. We decided to hop off the trail for a bit to get a shower and call our family. Lisa let us work on her farm in exchange for a night stay and an organic breakfast! The day has been perfect. It's times like these that we all look forward to. The weather could not be any better (seriously ... blue skies for miles) and the scenery is like something out of a story book. My favorite part of her place is watching the 35 range-free chickens run around happily. 

Let's see, the past few days have been pretty great. While we were in Monson, we loaded up on food and bugspray. So no more growling stomachs and we have way less bugs to combat. We are starting to see more hikers which is nice. Some are cool. Some are odd. All are respected for being out here. 

We are heading back on the trail tomorrow to climb "the bigelows" and it's way past my bead time so for now I will leave you with this week's mantra: DIG DEEP

My recent thoughts: These mountains will wear you down. When everything is pushing against you it just seems so easy to give up. Waking up in a wet tent, packing up in the rain, then hiking all day after hiking all day yesterday . . with wet feet is in no way enjoyable. Neither is hiking up 500 ft inclines with bugs biting and then twisting your ankles when you hike down 90 degree declines. However, adventure awaits for those who persevere. Life is full of mountains we must climb. I have learned that just like in life outside the trail, one must dig deep. So whatever it is that is weighing you down, hang in there! You will reach the top of the mountain if you keep on going. 

We will be in Stratton in a few days. I should be able to post some of our photos. Thanks to everyone who has been looking out for our loved ones back home. Sending positive vibes your way!


June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Bad-Weather.

Today the East TN Tribe of 5 enjoyed lunch and a nap on Moxie Bald. I can imagine this felt great to them all after what sounded like a rough stretch of 18 miles knocked out yesterday. I am sure there will be more details and stories on that trek to come, but from what I hear it was full of rain and stream crossings surpassing Amber's waist! Crazy. Mom and I, were able to wish dad a happy Father's Day over the phone, and hear that all were doing well. 

Things are good on the home-front as well; packaging and letter writing keep mom and I pretty busy, which is good. (Oh, and you can't forget the caring for 4 cats & a dog; Amber & Stace, your cats are so needy!) We did learn one thing, however- Note to any future AT wives at home, stay clear of any chick-flicks playing at the movies, it may make you miss your mountain man even more..Sorry Mom;)
Today, we picked up some brownie mix and homemade trail mix assortments to send out with this next package, however, I am still on the search for Amber's vegan jerky...

Fact: I have a trail-dad.

One whom is currently walking south for 2,000 plus miles, finding adventure in the wilderness, and taking in glimpses of God's glory through creation all along the way.

More specifically, I have a trail-dad who, when in the woods, goes by the name of "Bad-weather." 
(Try topping that for third grade show-in-tell).

Today was Father's Day, and considering my dad has taken on the Appalachian Trail, our usual Cracker-Barrel celebration date has been post-poned for a couple months, or so. As a result, it was all-in-all a day no out of the ordinary as another (although, I did enjoy more time with my sweet mother, which I am always thankful for).  Out of all the Father's Day I have celebrated, this year I am the most grateful; and I don't know whether to call it sad, or not, at the fact that it took these weeks away from him to see it all. We laugh because I have somewhat stepped in to handle all of dad's regular house care and errands while he's gone- and let's just say I fall quite short of them all. My mowing may be getting better, and I hope to throw the trash in the right dumpster next time, but there is still so many obvious areas that show momma and I are missing our chief. If you know my dad, you know what joy he is to have around, the laughter he can bring, and the deep caring heart he has that always makes you want to be a better person. 

At church this morning we sang the beautiful, and so fitting, hymn of "Higher Ground." The piano began to play, and momma leaned over and said, "This always reminds me of your dad." She could not have been more right. 
"I'm pressing on the upward way,
New heights I'm gaining every day;
Still praying as I'm onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."

This is my dad's heart. From what I understand, the Appalachian Trail is just as much as a spiritual journey as it is physical. 
"My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

Momma and I have many different jobs on the home-side of the AT journey, and that includes prayer, and lots of it. As long as this journey continues, as will our prayers, and today this song became just that.
"I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I'll pray till heav'n Ive found, 
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."

How wondrous God must look from the top of Mt. Katahdin, how beautiful He must sound through the  falls and wildlife, and how refreshing He must feel through the revealing of His glory in every step. The key point is that none of this could/can be experienced without the pursuit of "new heights." Higher ground is found by scaling the "utmost height." Doubts and fears are inevitable in this life, so in order to catch that gleam of glory bright, we must stay onward bound.

I have a trail-dad, and his aim is higher ground.

Happy Father's Day, Bad-Weather. I pray this hymn comes to your mind every new height you reach.

"And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good." -Genesis 1:31

June 13, 2014

Through the Wilderness: Day 8 + 9

June 10
Chairback Lean-To - Long Pong Lean-To (10.9 miles)

Well we woke up at 5am from the worst sleep because our tent was on a slope. We hiked in the rain all day. It was freezing and really windy. The terrain was mostly downhill with rocks, roots and boulders. I had a tough time with swollen, sore ankles. Each step hurt so extremely bad, especially the last 4 miles which felt more like 7. I had my first "what the heck am I doing moment." I knew it would be in the 100 mile wilderness. It didn't last long because Stacey was having a really good day of hiking and was motivating me the whole time. We played "your top 5" like we used to when we first started dating. We went through everything from our top pies to the top countries we want to visit. It helped take my mind off the pain.

This dog statue was funny.

Trail life is still good. The mountain top views make the pain worth it. Also, we all become rejuvenated when we get to camp. I am so thankfully to be doing this with family. I often wonder how people cope through this journey solo. We spend so much of our time uplifting each other and looking out for each other. I can't imagine doing this alone. 

We were surprised with trail manic at the shelter. A guy that hiked the AT last year brought rice and beans with SPICES at the shelter we were staying at. Finally, after days of starving ourselves we get to go to bed with a full belly. Thank you Yettifoods! 

We camped beside Charlie the chipmunk. 

Last thing I wrote in my journal- This is the hardest thing over ever done in my life. 

June 11
Long Pond Lean-To - Leeman Brooke Lean-To (12.1 miles)

Today we saw 4 dead animals including a moose, fox, beaver and shrew. It was very bizarre. Despise the dead animals, it was a great day of hiking! Everyone's spirits are high since it's the last night in the wilderness! The birds were even singing songs of praise. I had a fun river crossing right before we passed our 100 mile mark. 
We had lunch thanks to Fish Flake giving us some of his oatmeal!

We hiked with Tuck and Luke for a while which was nice since we are usually on different schedules. 

Thankful to have the opportunity to be out here! We hiked 3 miles to Monson on June 12.

Through the Wilderness: Day 4 + 5

June 6
Wadleigh Lean-To - Antlers Campsite (13.6 miles)

Great day of hiking! It rained all day, but kept the bugs away! The sun came out as soon as we got to Antlers campsite. This was our favorite night in the wilderness. The campsite sat right beside the most gorgeous pond. Everyone was doing their nightly routine, setting up tents, drying out gear, prepping diner, when we hear Stacey yell out from the pond. He had the best idea ever: bathe! We all followed along. The water was warm and so refreshing. I didn't wash my hair but I did get to shave. (Just for you, Lex)

Everyone's spirits were high. I even got 5 minutes of alone time admiring the pearly sky and calm waters before the mosquitoes found me.

Quote of the Day: "How are the mosquitoes eating me through my clothes?" - Amber

June 7
Antlers Campsite - East Branch Lean-To (16 Miles)

Long day of hiking. The weather was amazing and the terrain wasn't bad. However, hiking 16 miles on 500 calories is rough stuff.  Everything was hurting, especially my hips and feet. This was by far the worst day of bugs. We had to wear our rain jackets to keep them from biting our arms. Bugs really test you. You can't even take breaks in peace! Stacey and I motivated ourselves by singing "Om Nashi Me" which we now sing every last mile of the day. 

We were so excited to make it to the shelter. Stacey had bad blisters on his heels. My stomach was hurting so bad from hunger pains and my feet and ankles were swollen. The last thing we wanted to do was filter water and cook dinner . . . with the mosquitoes. We had planned on making our omelet backcountry meal and instant mash potatoes. I was looking forward to the strange combination, but here is where the story gets really sad. As soon as the water boiled for me to pour I noticed that the potatoes had bacon in them. (noooooooooooooooooooo) Stacey said "whatever, I'm hungry, you eat the eggs and I'll eat this." Sounded okay except for the eggs turned out to be one of the most disgusting things I've ever put in my mouth. I had no choice. I forced myself to eat as much as I could without puking. I went to bed with sore muscles and an rumbling stomach. 
Oh the woes of a thruhiker . . .

Through the Wilderness: Day 6 + 7

June 8 
East Branch - Carl Newman Lean-To (10.8 miles)

Today was rough. We hiked up White Cap Mountain which meant, lots of inclines. I took Advil PM the night before so it took a long time for my body to wake up. The first half of the hike was spent in silence. Stacey used to feel so uncomfortable in the silence, but I think he is starting to appreciate it. We love listening to the birds sing and the squirrels chatter. We pretend they are cheering us on. I am feeling very connected with nature and loving trail life but we are all ready to get to Monson and eat some food that isn't cooked in a Jetboil.

June 9
Carl Newman - Chair Back Lean-To (9.9 miles)

The days are draining me mentally. I am so ready to talk to my sister and mom. I know Stacey is ready to talk to his parents. We all 5 have seemed to hit our wall. The terrain is getting more difficult and our food bag is getting smaller and smaller. My ankles are so sore. They are both swollen. I'm hoping to have my hiker legs, ankles and shoulders soon. Everyone in our group is in pain. Just look at Stacey's feet. 

We had to ford the West Branch Pleasant River and decided to wash our hair. It was a nice break. Fish Flake met up with us and hiked half a day with us. The terrain was much more difficult than we anticipated. Just when I thought we were finished, we came around a corner with a huge rock wall we had to climb. I stopped, threw down my pack and took 5 minutes to just study how the heck I was going to push myself over the boulders. I had zero energy left. 

Lexi ( a yellow monarch) followed me all day. I think God knew I needed motivation from home. As soon as we got to the top we let out the biggest wooooooooo our bodies had in us. 

Stacey and I decided to read our letters from home that we were saving for a rough day. I couldn't get past the first line before my eyes filled with tears. I missed the comforts of the modern world. I was hungry, tired and in pain. I was feeling so discouraged after being in the woods for so long. I needed to hear that someone was rooting for me to carry on. The words of my mom and sister were just what I needed to help keep going. 

Through the Wilderness: Day 2 + 3

June 4
Hurd Shelter - Rainbow Stream Lean-To (11.5 miles)

I claim this day to be the Day of Bogs! We all hate bogs. We especially hate bogs in the rain. This day was destined to be tough. I was dreading our first day of rain.

However, I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked the rain due to the fact that it kept the bugs away. It was nice to rinse off a bit too, but dang those bogs were bad. I was so angry at the bogs but had to stop and take a photo so I can show you all what we were hiking in. Think 13 miles with wet feet... bad news...

It's funny- I catch myself getting angry at the earth. I get mad when I step in a bog and my foot gets drenched or when I'm looking straight up at ANOTHER rock face I have to climb. Stacey and I yell and curse at the mountains like it's their fault they are tall. Sometimes it helps but most of the time it just drags your mood down. I tried to stop myself from being mad at the bogs this day. Even though I was absolutely miserable the last 6 miles of the hike I forced myself to see the beauty in the pesky mosquitoes and the swampy bogs. It's mind over body people.

I stopped a lot to rest my feet. Balancing in roots and rocks all day is exhausting. The long rainy day was worth every bit because we stayed at a killer campsite. You had to cross a slippery log to get there. I inched across ever so carefully as the boys just walked over like it was no big deal. I promise it's harder than it looks.

The boys built a great fire and we sat and talked for hours about what gear we were going to send back home. I've learned that the fire is the best friend around camp. It brings everyone together. Plus it masks our stench.

Quote of the day: "Where's my sword??" -Fire Squirrel as he searches frantically for his machete

June 4
Rainbow Stream Lean-To - Wadleigh Lean-To (8.1 miles)

This was a pretty mild day of hiking. We had more ups and downs from the past few days. I had 2 big wipeouts on top of the rainbow ledges. (Thankfully, no serious injuries) We kept a slow but steady pace. All of us are still enjoying Maine's scenery. Still no moose. . .

Dad left a note in the dirt that said "ET 5 :)" and a group of SOBO's behind us thought it meant Estimated Time 5 minutes. Yeah, it definitely wasn't 5 minutes to the next shelter. They weren't too happy at the time, but it made for a funny story later.

Stacey and I realized that we didn't bring enough food to get us out of the wilderness. We each had one cup of rice for dinner and went to bed with growling stomachs.

Through the Wilderness: Day 1

June 3
Katahdin Stream Campground - Hurd Shelter (13.4 miles) 

We all woke up at 6:15 and was on the trail by 7am. We took our time to really take in Maine's beauty. The terrain was pretty flat; although, it was our first day with our heavy packs so we were all feeling pain in our shoulders and hips. We stopped at Big Niagra Falls to soak our feet for a while. 

We were loving every minute of our refreshing break but knew we had a long way to go to get to the shelter. We had our first of many stream crossings. I was so scared the current was going to swoop me and pack away and drench all my gear. The boys are so much better at fording, but I'm learning. 

We had lunch at Abol Bridge store, which was the last resupply spot before the 100 mile wilderness. They didn't have much for vegetarians so I munched on chips and chocolate while the boys scarfed down turkey sandwiches. This was were we first met Sky Chicken, a helicopter pilot from Texas. Note in the photo below that Tucker's socks were already standing up from 2 days of hiking. Also note, we were so happy to see that ice cream sign and were crushed when we found out that they didn't have ice cream. 

As we headed back on the the trail and entered our way into the 100 mile wilderness, I knew there was no way of turning back. This was it. I saw the first yellow monarch and felt my sister, Lexi give me a great big hug. I was ready for the wilderness. We arrived at Hurd shelter at 4:30pm. The last thing I wrote in my journal that night was "I love being away from society." Haha the wilderness was about to feed my soul exactly what it needed. 

Quoted the Day: "I guess I'll just sleep on the ground. It's like going back to my childhood."- Chief Badweather as his sleeping pad deflated from a hole in it

Sumitting Katahdin

June 1
Getting to Baxter State Park

Today we woke up bright and early to catch our shuttle. We said good bye to the modern world as we entered into Baxter State Park. We were all pretty tired from the previous day of travel. Luke and Tuck slept most of the way until we woke them up screaming when we saw a moose on the side of the road.

We stopped to get fuel at a shop that had mainly hunting and fishing supplies. I couldn't help but feel disgusted as I looked around at all of the animals mounted on the walls. Then "BAM!" I hear this loud popping sound. I thought a gun or firecracker went off. Nope, it was just Luke. He sat on a plastic table that he thought was a stool and cracked it. Whoopsie.

Once we got to Katahdin Stream Campsite, which would be base camp for the next 2 nights, we signed the first of many trail registers and spent the rest of the day taking in beautiful Maine.

June 2
Sumitting Katahdin, Baxter Peak (10.4 miles)

Stacey, Tucker, Luke and myself woke up to "see you guys on the trail" at 4am. Dad couldn't sleep from the excitement. He was eager to get on the trail and climb the mountain that he has waited nearly 40 years to climb. Stacey's competitiveness immediately went into first gear. He was packed and pulling me up the trail before I could get my pants on. And if you know me at all you understand that I am not a morning person...at all. Tucker and Luke quickly met up with us. Those guys are like lightening. We were about 1 mile in and I started to feel my clothes become damp with sweat. Then my breathing became heavy and I could feel my heart beating in my ears. I was trying so hard to keep up with the boys but had to stop and take a breather. By the time we caught up with Dad I was pale, nauseous and on the verge of fainting. That's when I learned first hand the importance of "hiking your own hike." The combination of not enough sleep or food and pushing myself to hard had led me into a hiking nightmare. I prayed so hard that I would make it up and down the mountain safely. Thankfully, I was surround with my family. Stacey literally pushed and pulled me up the mountain. I could feel our marriage becoming stronger. I starting feeling better right as we got to this beautiful waterfall. I felt the mist hit my face and said to myself "you can do this."

It's insane how much of this journey has been mind over body. We have overcome pain countless times just by being positive and determined. I am amazed at how strong and powerful the human mind can be.

The terrain up to Baxter Peak was tough and technical. There was still places with thick ice!

And miles of bouldering!

This was taken during one of our many false summits. Each time we thought we reached the top and quickly realized we had MORE boulders to climb.

Ah! This was so exciting for me. My favorite writer and naturalist, Henry David Thoruea hiked Katahdin in 1846 and had a spring named after him.

Tuck and Luke got to the top of Katahdin at 8am. Stacey and I sumitted at 9:30am and Dad was right behind us.

The only thing that was missing was the rest of our family. I wish they and everyone could experience this view for themselves.

It was the coolest feeling I've ever had. I've never in my life felt so light and free.

This was the beggining of our thruhike adventure.

After thanking God for creating such a beautiful place and asking him to keep our families safe he revealed himself in the most spectacular ray of sunlight. Our skin was tingling and our hearts were bursting with accomplishment as we trekked down the mountain.

It was a fun, interesting trip down. I may have led us down the wrong way at some point. And Dad may have done the plank between 2 boulders.

Quote of the Day: "It's fun to have fun." - Chief Badweather