Woohoo! I finally summited Mount Katahdin on June 27, 2023, and with that accomplishment I completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I was thru-hiker #5 signing up at Amicalola Falls State Park on January 1, 2023, and was #31 at Baxter State Park to summit Mount Katahdin. 178 days, 58 days longer than I originally intended, but I did it!
To my great pleasure, my CNM partner Christine Krejca was with me at the start, the middle, and the end of my AT thru-hike. She joined me for three days at the start of my hike, again through the Shenandoahs for nearly two weeks, and was there with me at the end through the 100 Mile Wilderness to the summit. I am so glad that she was a part of my entire journey—which was only possible because I am so slow. 🙂
Appalachian Trail Flooded!
I talked about the rain last post when it was merely annoying. 17 days straight of annoying. However, it progressed from annoying to life-threatening. Trails became rivers. Numerous stream crossings were impassable. For example, here is the Upper Falls of Little Wilson Falls. At this point, I hadn’t realized how flooded Little Wilson Stream actually was. However, Robert Chew later shared a photo of the normal water flow at the falls. Barely recognizable as the same falls. And this is shortly before the crossing for Little Wilson Stream shown next. Yikes!
Normally, you can step across these two stream crossings without getting your feet wet. My conditions were quite different. I managed to get past the first one, Leeman Brook. However, Little Wilson Stream crossing (downstream of Little Wilson Falls shown above) was impassable. I had to walk about 11 miles to get around this and the next several flooded stream crossings.
Here’s the Appalachian Trail as it entered Baxter State Park. This was several days after the major flooding and was pretty much what the trail was like for me during the previous three weeks. The trail actually became waist-deep and even chest-deep for some parts a bit farther up. Thus, all hikers were strongly encouraged to take the alternate Blueberry Ledges Trail.
Fortunately, I was able to find a way across or around all the flooded stream crossings. My feet were not happy since they were basically submerged in buckets of water (also known as “shoes”) for the majority of each day. They were so waterlogged that they were literally white. Pale, ghostly, death white because the water had so saturated my feet that blood was no longer getting to the surface layers of my feet. I cannot emphasize how crazy white my feet were. (Sorry, I didn’t get any photos of them.)
But while we’re on the topic, let’s talk about my new shoes.
If you remember from my previous post aptly titled “New Shoes“, I recently got new shoes. My previous shoes were Altra Olympus 5 Hike Mid GTX boots, and I replaced them with the same model but a shoe instead of the boot, the Altra Olympus 5 Hike Low GTX. The boots lasted about 1500 miles (with lots of field repair and maintenance). Apparently, that was a fluke. The new shoe version started falling apart after only 200 miles. Tread started peeling off, which is the most common complaint with these shoes.
Talking with another hiker, he said Altra expects their trail shoes to only last 200–300 miles. Whoa…WTF? These are $200 shoes that are intentionally built to only last 200 miles? That’s $1 per mile. That means hiking the AT will cost over $2,000 just in shoes! Well, that’s assuming you buy crappy Altras. Consequently, I’m done with Altras now. Never going to buy them again because their shoes are so crappily made. Plus, I’ve never had pinch blisters before, but they were a constant issue the entire time I wore Altras. Ironically, the wide toe box the Altras should eliminate that. I’ll just have to see what happens when I switch back to narrower shoes on the Continental Divide Trail.
Yes, you read that right. I’m off to the Continental Divide Trail now. I’m too slow to do the Calendar Year Triple Crown where I hike all three major trails—the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail—all from January to December of the same year. But I think I can still pull off two trails within the same year.
Many of you have said that you find my journey inspirational. During my thru-hike, I encountered rain, snow, floods, freezing temperatures, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, lost toenails, and debilitating knee pain. I lost 18 pounds and 4 inches on my waist. So many times I wanted to quit. But at the same time, I also experienced amazing sunrises and sunsets, picturesque mountains and valleys, delightful botany and wildlife. Days alone to reflect upon life and love and philosophy. I’ve made new friends and hiked with them for many miles across numerous states. I’ve received so many kind words and support from people like you.
This was an amazing journey with all its highs and all its lows. In a previous post, I challenged you to follow your own aspirations and to have adventures of your own. I told you about Captain Caveman, a hiker who has a prosthetic leg and is still out hiking and enjoying the outdoors. I also mentioned another man with a prosthetic leg who didn’t let that slow him down caving. Even a blind caver who successfully navigated a highly technical vertical cave with multiple drops and climbs.
There’s also people who I haven’t mentioned. EKG is a hiker who had heart issues just before starting the Appalachian Trail and had to get an EKG. Hence, the trail name. When I met him, he was on his final few miles to complete the AT. Another hiker got attacked by dogs and had to leave the trail because of the injuries. Undeterred, he returned months later, brandishing the trail name Dog Food. Awesome, right? Embrace the trauma. He passed me and summited Mount Katahdin a few weeks ago. Great job, Dog Food!
These people are inspirational. Pushing themselves. Challenging themselves. Pressing on beyond adversity. Living their dreams. Experiencing all that life has to offer.
Some of you have talked about starting your own journey, like Dana Hucek. Congratulations on your hike from Springer to Woody. My long-time friend Annie Weisbrod is retiring after 25 years as a scientist and opening a mediation and yoga studio. This has been on her radar for years, and she’s making it a reality now. How about you, Kerri Bridges? Are you starting your adventure?
How about you, Dad? I told you that you need to work on your health. Your diet is horrible—almost all brown, processed food. Have you looked into a Paleo diet like I recommended? Have you talked to your doctor about changing blood pressure medications that don’t interfere with your ability to exercise? Gina told you to do that years ago. Have you? Let me be blunt…Do you want to still be around when Chance turns 18? Because if you don’t change these things, I don’t think you’re going to make it. If my adventure isn’t enough to inspire you, then let Chance be your inspiration to improve yourself.
Get Busy Living
For those of you still not inspired enough to start your own adventure, let me share a line with you that was used twice in the movie The Shawshank Redemption at pivotal decisions in the two main characters’ lives. (If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It’s the highest rated movie of all time on IMDb. A movie of personal growth, redemption, and hope.)
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Think about that for a moment. Has there ever been a truer statement of life? What are you doing with your life? Wearily working a 9 to 5 job, hoping to make it to retirement? Coming home at the end of a long work day, eating takeout, and plopping on the couch to stream movies or scroll aimlessly through your phone? That’s not living. You’re stagnating. Just passing time until your death. Busy dying.
Get out and experience life!
Make your dreams a reality. Think of all the possibilities. Start your own business. Finish your college degree. Take that vacation you’ve been thinking about. Learn a new skill. Take that cooking class you’ve been thinking about. Take a chance and ask out that cute classmate.
Or just wake up early one morning and hike to the top of that nearby hill and watch the sunrise. I’ve posted many sunrise and sunset photos here, but none even come close to experiencing one for yourself. The cool, crisp morning air. Birds chirping as the sky starts to glow, turning all shades of yellow, red, and orange. Then that first sliver of the sun peeks over the horizon as light bursts forth, ever so slowly rising until it’s a glowing orb shining in a glorious new day. What an experience! What a way to start your day. The peace, the serenity, the beauty. How can you not want to fill your life with these experiences?
Those are pretty photos, but you haven’t gone out to see the sunrise yourself, have you? Yes, you, reading this right now. You didn’t sign up for that class. You didn’t start planning that trip. You didn’t ask out that cute classmate. You didn’t start that business.
What’s stopping you? FUD…fear, uncertainty, and doubt? Don’t let fear control you and keep from experiencing the wonders in life. For those of you stuck in a dead-end job, unfulfilling relationship, or just struggling with life in general, let me share my personal story that I hope will inspire you as well to live your life to its fullest.
I have Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s been reclassified recently as Autism Spectrum Disorder, level 1. Basically, I’m a highly functional autistic. I spent my childhood undiagnosed, but looking back, it was so obvious. Socially awkward. Hyperfocus. Misophonia. Pulling my hair to self-sooth to the point that I had bald spots.
You’re never “cured” of Asperger’s or autism. However, I’ve been so successful in overcoming the negative traits—actually overcoming, not just “masking”—that most people who have known me only the last 10 or 15 years don’t even realize that I have Asperger’s.
For example, my social awkwardness. I simply didn’t pick up social cues. Conversations were difficult for me. Someone would ask me a question, and I would freeze up. In my head, I’m frantically thinking, “Uh oh. How do I respond to this? What’s the proper way to respond? Like how should my tone be? Wait… What was their tone like? Were they being sarcastic? No, I don’t think so. Oh no. I’m taking too long to respond. I can feel the awkwardness growing. Now my response has to be really witty to make up for the long silence. Crap. Now the pressure is really on. What do I say? Shoot. It’s been so long and I haven’t even thought of the question yet. What was it they asked me?”
By then, the other person has become frustrated. “Dude, I just asked you what time it was. Look at your fucking watch and tell me the time!”
Seriously. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that’s how conversations were for me.
Consequently, I spent years reading books on body language and conversations. I forced myself to engage with others, then retrospectively analyze those interactions. I even attended Toastmasters. For those who don’t what that is, it’s a group where you are required to give speeches in front of the group, and afterwards other members publicly critic your speech. Can you appreciate the terror of doing that for someone with Asperger’s? A group of people who were all staring at me as I stood before them and spoke? Ack! But I wanted to grow beyond my social awkwardness. I knew I would have so many more opportunities in life if I could. Mission accomplished. People now (erroneously) think I’m social and extroverted. 😂
And Asperger’s is just the tip of the iceberg. I have experienced numerous trials and tribulations, any one of which could have been potentially devastating. At age 12 and 13, I was bullied so much that I contemplated suicide. I dropped out of high school. I’m divorced. My younger sister died when she was 3 years old and I was 6. I had a son who died at 5 months old, literally holding him in my arms as he took his last breath. And yet despite all this, I am here today, happy and thankful for my life, wanting to experience everything life has to offer.
Again, I’ve got to ask…what’s holding you back? Life is short. Don’t fritter away your precious moments waiting to die. Get out and experience life! Fill your life full of adventures, big and small. Fill your life with beauty. Grab every ounce of joy and laughter and beauty that life has to offer. Get busy living your life to its fullest.
While you’re thinking about that, enjoy these photos from my Appalachian Trail adventure.
“Get busy living or get busy dying. That’s goddamn right.”
—Ellis Boyd Redding, The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Carnivorous Pitcher Plants
This is the first time that I’ve ever seen carnivorous pitcher plants in the wild. These smell sweet to lure insects into the liquid-filled pitchers, where the insect becomes trapped in the liquid and slowly digested by the plant.
For some reason, I always thought pitcher plants were tropical. I could not have been more wrong. These were growing abundantly in an alpine marsh in the mountains of Maine, USA. Chris also tells me that they grow in Alaska, too. Learn something new every day. Get out and experience life, and you can learn new things, too.
Pink Lady's Slipper
For some reason, these orchids make me think of my girlfriend. Like, I need to call her, send her some flowers. Maybe some twolips (spelling?).
I love fungi. The crazy shapes and colors. Growing on decaying remains, part of the circle of life.
Plane wreck on the Appalachian Trail. I read about this, but forgot it was coming up. Then as I came over a small hump, suddenly there it was!
Frog and Toad
An Appalachian Trail tribute to Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, one of my favorite children’s book series that I read when I was a child.
That’s enough time online. Now get out there, get busy living and having adventures of your own.