Saturday, March 22, 2014

Save time....Grow a Beard

Atleast once a day, someone asks me why I have grown my beard so long, and each time, I look them in the eye and I just say "my beard saves me time".  An odd answer perhaps, and yes, having a very large beard requires a little bit of extra time in the course of my day; however, in terms of extraneous and shallow minded people in my life, it's quite the time management tool!  I'm a busy man, and between hiking, trail maintenance, and working with Disabled Veterans, I just don't have time for people who judge me based entirely on my appearance and the length of my beard. Therefore, if one has nothing better to say to me than "Hey Santa", my beard has just relieved me of the awkward task of telling this person to fuck off.  I wouldn't want this type of individual in my life regardless of my appearance or length of facial hair, so my beard actually does help me filter out the dickheads of the world; thus freeing up my time to do the things that really are important to me.  Have a nice day! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Oops....I'm doing it again!

As someone who has spent the past 12 years traipsing up and down the Appalachian Trail, I have to admit that I've gotten a little jealous this Summer when I see thru-hikers finishing their hikes.  I'm not jealous in a mean spirited way because I am genuinely happy for each hiker who finishes their hike; my jealousy is derived from the look in their eyes.  

The sense of accomplishment in their eyes is something that has been making me sad lately; not sad for them, but sad for me because I truly miss that feeling of joy right after I finish a thru-hike!  I miss feeling like I can do anything, go anywhere, and accomplish any task.  That's not to say that I don't derive satisfaction from building new trail and maintaining my section of the AT, because I do.  However, that type of happiness is fleeting, and if I'm being totally honest with myself....I need more! 

I need more because there are only a hand full of things that I do well, and thru-hiking the AT is one of them!  When I got off the trail in 2011 and bought that Albatross of a house, I told myself that my thru-hiking days were over, and I should just concentrate on giving back to the Appalachian Trail.  Indeed, working on the AT, and helping to preserve it for the future has in fact been very gratifying; however, after spending this Summer building trail, helping hikers, and living on the trail here in Maine, there is no question that I need to thru-hike again!

Therefore, on 1 September, I will be stepping off on a Fall/Winter southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail! This particular hike won't be ego driven, or a drunken response to my advancing years, or even because I just like eating ramen noodles every's because I need it to be truly happy again!  We all have to face up to what we are sometimes, and I'm a I'm doing it again!  

So, I'm gonna go to town today, have a nice lunch, drink some Millinocket Martinis; and then tomorrow, I will start to work on getting that look back in my eyes.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Where have all of the great Mentally Ill hikers gone?

I met a northbound Thru-Hiker named "Brian" in the 100 Mile Wilderness last week near Monson, Maine, and although our interaction was relatively brief, the main topic of our conversation stayed in my head all day.  You see, Brian was on pace to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail in less than 65 days; however, his original goal was to Thru-Hike the AT in 60 days, which would break the unofficial speed record for an unsupported Thru-Hike of the AT.  Naturally, Brian was in a hurry that day, so he headed North, and I went back to building trail, but it was this brief conversation with Brian that got me to thinking about the individual who has held the unofficial record for the past 23 years.

Currently, the unofficial record holder for an unsupported Thru-Hike is an elusive hiker by the name of Ward Leonard.  Ward was a fixture on the AT in the 1980's, in fact, he Thru-Hiked the AT 10 times; but it was in 1990 that Ward Leonard thru-hiked the AT in 60.5 days completely unsupported. The exact number of days it took for Ward Leonard to finish his Thru-Hike in 1990 is always up for debate, but there are two things that have never been in doubt.  No one has ever doubted that Ward's 1990 Thru-Hike was unsupported, and no one has ever doubted that Ward Leonard was profoundly mentally ill...which begs the question, where have all of the great mentally ill hikers gone?

I ask this question because I, for one, miss them!  I miss guys like "Chip", "Atomic Bob", "Magic" and "Shrek"!  Yes, they are weird, socially awkward, and sometimes, down right scary, but they also add a certain style and panache to the Appalachian Trail!  Lets face it, it takes a certain type of anti-social misfit to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail to begin with; therefore, having certifiably crazy people on the AT is just icing on the cake! So, if you forgot to take your psych meds today, throw some stuff in a backpack and join us on the Appalachian Trail!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dirtbags...Posers....and PBR

After 12 years of dedicating all of my time to either hiking or maintaining the Appalachian Trail, there is exactly one thing that I know for sure.....Hikers are NOT perfect people!  As a matter of fact, the most dedicated AT hikers I know, whom I choose to call friends, are all either alcoholics, pot heads or perpetually unemployed.  I myself, have never met a can of PBR that I didn't like, and I can assure everyone that on Memorial Day, 4th of July, Veteran's Day, and the Marine Corps Birthday, yours truly is going to be drunk all day. 

Given these defects of character, there is no possible way that this band of broke and alcoholic potheads could possibly play an important role in one of the world's largest volunteer run endeavors such as the Appalachian Trail....but the truth is we do!  The so-called leaders of the Appalachian Trail apparently have a hard time wrapping their minds around this phenomenon as well; I know this because I hear hiking club leaders, AT service providers, and those who I choose to call "AT Posers" gossip and judge hikers who like to drink, smoke and live life their own way.  For the most part, I usually get a pass because I'm retired from the Marine Corps, and because I've owned homes, cars and I once found a woman who could stand me long enough to marry me; albeit not for very long.  Even so, I still get judged because I've chosen to live what I feel is a true Appalachian Trail lifestyle. 

Just the same, when the Appalachian Trail needs help, it's this group of imperfect substance abusers who are called upon to save the day.  I challenge anyone reading this to name a major relocation on the Appalachian Trail in the past 20 years that wasn't built in large part by the same homeless, drunk and unemployed hikers who get judged on a daily basis.  Thus I have chosen to side with this imperfect group of hikers; mainly because I am certainly imperfect myself, but also because we share the same love of the Appalachian Trail and desire to live life our own way, regardless if anyone approves or not.  So, if you want perfection, the Appalachian Trail may not be the long distance hiking trail for you.


Friday, July 12, 2013

"Hike your Own Hike"....It's Not a License to Steal

"Hike your own Hike" may very well be the most over used term on the Appalachian Trail, and yet very few people can truly define what it exactly means.  Is it one of those subjective cliches that has permeated our culture in the new Millennium that truly means nothing, or has it become a phrase that has given long distance hikers permission to behave any way they please? 

For this hiker, "Hike your own Hike" has always meant the manner in which a long distance hiker completes their hike.  Whether that be southbound, northbound, or whether or not a hiker passes every single white blaze from Georgia to Maine or visa versa.  That definition however has changed over the years, and sadly, not in a good way.  

Some hikers will tell you that "Hike your own Hike" means that they can do whatever they damn well please on the Appalachian Trail regardless of who it hurts!  I always tell these hikers that it hurts the Appalachian Trail, and any hiker who comes after them; but I'm usually given a dismissive look or I'm outright laughed at because of my viewpoint on this topic.  

Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not opposed to having fun on the Appalachian Trail; as a matter of fact, I've drank enough beer on the AT to float a battle ship, and I can Yogi food off of tourists with the best of them.  What I'm talking about is the outright disregard for the trail and the people who provide services to it's hikers under the guise of "Hike your own Hike".  Not paying your bill at a Hostel, sneaking 10 hikers into a motel room, or staying at a "Donation Suggested" church facility and leaving nothing are not examples of  "Hiking your own Hike"....they are examples of theft!  

Just the same, I meet hikers regularly who rationalize and excuse these actions by telling me that "I'm Hiking my own Hike".  When did "Hike your own Hike" become a license to steal?  Is this just phase on the AT, and all will be better soon, or is this a real problem on the AT and it's going to ruin it's reputation?  I say that it's a real problem, and apparently ALDHA and the ATC agree.  There has been an Endangered Services Program on the AT for quite some time; granted it's an ineffective program, but the problem is bad enough that the ATC gave the issue it's usual half hearted and misinformed attention.

The result of this "Hike your own Hike" gone wild attitude is that long time AT service providers are beginning to close their doors.  Many of these people I've become friends with over the years, and it pains me to see them become fed up with the sense of entitlement on the Appalachian Trail.  

If you like to take a shower every few days, have a hot meal, or sleep in a bed occasionally, you might want to rethink what "Hike your own Hike" means to you!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Jesus Christ...Not another F*cking Outdoor Blog

As with a lot of solitary people who happen to be very task oriented, I spend most of my time outdoors challenging my body and my mind.  Likewise, I also follow and participate in a Social Media called Twitter.  I like Twitter because I can follow like minded individuals who care about the the same things I do without having to endure photos of their grand kid's 1st grade graduation or worry if anyone "Likes" what I'm saying or doing.  In short, Twitter fits my lifestyle and my ever dwindling attention span.

I've been paying way more attention to Twitter these days since I decided to sell my house and dedicate all of my time to giving back to the Appalachian Trail. As such, I was in my sleeping bag last night watching my Twitter feed on my fancy new Iphone, when I came across a Tweet that bothered me a great deal.  The Tweet in question was only tangentially related to the Appalachian Trail, but it bothered me nonetheless.  This Innocuous Tweet, authored by who I am sure is a well meaning individual, made me realize that many people have absolutely no clue what it means to live a true "Appalachian Trail Lifestyle", or what really happens on a long distance hike on any trail for that matter.

Perhaps I hit my head too hard this morning when I slid off of a bog bridge in the 100 mile wilderness, or maybe I have finally had one too many Pabst Blue Ribbon beers and I am now in a permanent alcohol induced stupor.  Regardless, I decided today that I am starting a Blog about what life is really like on the Appalachian Trail.  A true, non-sugar coated version of what really happens on the Appalachian Trail; along with the sacrifices that are made by the dedicated people who actually keep the AT going year after year.  

This Blog will be the down and dirty description of the Appalachian Trail Lifestyle, and an overview of what really happens on America's most famous National Scenic Trail.  Therefore, if you want gear reviews, or flowery narratives about Mountain Laurel, go read Backpacker Magazine; however, if you want to know everything else....stick around.