Road Trip Part 3 – Olympia Washington – Pacific Coast Highway to San Diego

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Road Trip – Part 2 – Grand Forks, ND to Olympia Beach Park – Washington

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6500 mile Road Trip – Part 1 – Maine to Grandforks, North Dakota.

I found myself in heaven after a while.  3-4 weeks had passed since I had finished my hike, and I was bouncing between Cushing Maine (and that big beautiful comfortable vacation house that I wish was mine) and New Hampshire with the girl I was hanging out with, and Swazey was ALWAYS at a beach.  IMG_4018

But it came down to the point where summer was winding down, and I knew I was running low on funds.  I still had to drive back to Phoenix (gas money, places to stay, food) and I also had only rented out my house until September 1st.  For me, there were 2 ways to go home.  Straight to Phoenix, which would be a no fun 3 day road trip.  OR a spur of the moment whatever I felt like road trip, where I could camp everywhere and go see places like the Redwoods!  OH and I have never been north of Santa Barbara California!  Whaaaaaat.  I knew I wanted to go to the Northwest.  Guy on a Buffalo (a fellow thru-hiker) offered me a place to stay in Olympia Washington, so I vaguely knew where I was going.

I put the dog in the car, said bye to my super amazing parents, my friends, and the East Coast.  I stopped down in Hartford Connecticut for lunch to see my friend Monika who I NEVER get to see because she just moved back from Italy, and set my sights on Ohio.  I didn’t know where I was going, I just knew how long I wanted to drive.  I picked a town not far away and googled campgrounds near it.  I found an AWESOME one, no idea of the name.  I instantly met a guy fishing with loud music drinking beers and made him my best friend for the day.  He let me fish with him, we caught 3 bass, he taught me how to filet the fish and then we cooked them over a camp fire.  I found out he was living at the campground for the last 6 months, because he likes being outside.  He works as a metal welder but just liked camping.  I love his style.

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The next morning, I awoke to the most BEAUTIFUL sunrise over the fishing pond.

IMG_4039  Friggin surreal right?!  Damn I love camping.  So I did a little digging with my phone.  I found a GREAT website for car camping.  Did you know you can car camp the entire US for FREE?  I didn’t.  I paid $15 for that campsite the night before.  But that was literally the last one for a while.  www.freecampsites.net allows you to input a destination, and find FREE campsites within 50 miles of your destination.  They also post paid campsites if you want to be a snob.  Some paid sites are really dope of course.  This was the greatest information ever!  I wish someone had told me about this long ago.  I found some of the most remote and beautiful campsites because of this website.

Anyways, I b-lined it to Cedar Rapids Iowa next, because why not?  Also I have a lot of friends there.  I ended up staying there for about 3-4 days for free on someones couch and it was just a giant binge drinking week.  Swazey loved it too,

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For my next trick, I decided to take a guy (another thru hiker I met on the trail, named Uffda) up on his offer for me to come crash at his place in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Shit, I had never been to North Dakota, so why not?!?  PLUS, it takes me right through Minnesota, and there is another place I’ve never been to…  I found the dopest dog park outside of Minneapolis using yelp or something like that, it was 25 acres with huge lakes and all that.  Swazey went nuts and got very very dirty.

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Now that I had mud in my car, I moved on.  The sky was beautiful on and off, rainstorms in the distance, or sometimes on top of me.  BUT I WAS IN A CAR!  HA!  Take that mother nature!  (Hiking the Appalachian Trail had mother nature making me its bitch).  IMG_4050 IMG_4056

Well, I made it to Grandforks, and Uffda showed me the hockey stadium that city is apparently famous for.  It’s called the Taj Mahal of hockey, and cost $104 million dollars to build.  Former NHL hockey player Wayne Gretzky has called the structure “one of the most beautiful buildings we have in North America”.  So what the fuck, I went and saw it.

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Cash Money!  This road trip is a blast, and is a lot to share… SOOOOOO I will write more about it soon!

Post Appalachian Trail life – Never go home

Once you finish a trip like the Appalachian Trail, you are not going to want to go home, or anywhere that resembles normality.  I feel pity for the people that had to finish on a specific date and go right back to the real world, albeit they must have been doing something important, and so good for them.  I had no inclination to go back home.  In fact, it took me over 1 and a half months to go home.  I spent most of my time up in Maine, relaxing on the coast with my parents and my trail friend Fresh.

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I returned once in a while to New Hampshire, where I had started seeing a girl who lived on the beach.  She had a dog and the beach was dog friendly after 7pm and before 9 am.  Swazey loved it!

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A month and half of this, no worries, and you can see why I might not have ever made it back ;)  Now, you might think to yourself, what about MONEY?!  You are right… I only spent 2500 on my 5 month Appalachian Trail trip (not counting gear), and had some cash leftover.  I was usually a guest and was not paying to stay anywhere, just a drifter.  I had lots of friends to see and catch up with, I was in no hurry.  Plus… Look at the above pictures, would you leave?  But I knew, Winter is coming.  So my next post will be about the 6500 mile road trip home.  Until next time!

Appalachian Trail – Afterward

7 months ago I finished one of my dreams come true, thru hiking the entire Appalachian Trail!  I hiked with friends, I hiked alone, I took breaks, I canoed, mountain biked, binge drank, ate pop tarts for 5 months straight, I… walked a lot.  After the trip, I had no straight plans to head for home.  I just knew I wanted to explore the country.

I wrote about meeting up with Gandalf and fellow thru hikers Goat Fresh Kamikaze and Figgy, people I had spent a lot of time on the trail with, and it really hit home that I was able to summit with them.  We were invited back to Moosehead Lake by Bob and Jackie who were my ultimate trail angels throughout the hike and partied with them for a couple days.  Afterwards, Fresh and I decided not to go home.  My parents had bought a house on the ocean in Maine, near Cushing and Rockport (way off the map), and we stayed there for a couple weeks.  I invited people up to party, we played tennis, we lounged, we partied with friends close by!  Like hard.  Like my parents got mad at how much we were binge drinking.  THRU HIKERS CAN DRINK!  we played video games (we talked about video games for months) and we cooked and ate so much food, we went ocean kayaking, I found a summer girl friend, it was a beautiful ending.  I want to thank my parents for making this all possible, they were willing to put homeless hikers up in their brand new house.

The road trip will be another post, I wanted to take time and reflect on what I learned from this trip, what I took away, what I could change, and the roller coaster of emotions I went through.  Immediately after finishing, I felt a wave of relief, but also I felt depressed.  This depression would not go away soon.  I ignored it by the fact I had done something so immense and was proud, but that thing I worked so hard for was done… And I no longer had Katahdin in my distance, it was behind me.  After returning to Phoenix (a 3 week, 6000 mile car camping trip done with my dog Shwayze and I, which I will post about soon) I was exhausted.  I was in no hurry to find a job, I still had some money leftover.  I hung out with friends but I found that feeling of being alone amongst people.  They would all ask how the trip was but I feel they wouldn’t grasp what I was talking about, or wouldn’t care.  That feeling will only forever be shared with the people I was on the trip with.  I felt isolated for a very long time, months even.  I had the post trail blues.  I refused to exercise, my diet was still horrible, but I had to move on.

Coming back to the city I was FULL of anxiety.  The way of life, going to bed at 8 and having no responsibility was over.  I am back in my house that I own, things are broken down, I need to fix them, their are 1000s of thoughts flying through my head at full speed.  I got a job serving tables at Hard Rock Cafe, they loved the fact I was a thru hiker.  I had a huge beard when I applied and kept it for quite some time.  Once I was back in the swing of things with work, I started going to the gym again, and eating better.  It took about 6 months for me to see a Dr. about the way I was feeling, and I have been put on some anti-depressants/anxiety medicine.   This has all helped immensly, and I believe time was the greatest cure.  It is, to put it mildly, straining on the body and mind to be having the time of your life with people who mean the world to you, and then to summit and be ripped from everyone you care about, and taken from that life, and put back into what you were escaping from in the first place.  I have read up a lot about post trail depression and I was ready for it, but it hit me hard.  I talked for hours with fellow thru hikers and they helped out a lot.  I did what anyone else would do, I planned my next adventure.

Other than the post trail depression, I took away a lot from this trip.

-Travel alone anywhere with confidence

-New sense of adventure (there are seriously so many adventures out there)

-A new mindset on my future and how to attack my goals (I spent lots of time thinking.. LOTS)  I am going back to school for physical therapy assistant ASAP.

-The ability to trust people again.  This is huge, living in the city can turn you indifferent, you will turn a blind eye to people, it makes you not trust each other, it makes you ignore.  I was helped by complete strangers that at first I didnt trust.  Jimmy (a trail angel that had taken my back pack down the road for me and also helped us in New Found Gap was the first instance of this).  I feel more human now!  I help out whenever I can, I will not turn a blind eye.  People matter to me again.  This was one of the greatest side effects of hiking the trail.

-The feeling that I can do anything I put my mind to.  (Seriously, I just hiked 2200 miles, prove me wrong)

-A deeper understanding between the relationship of humankind and nature.  This is more of a Native American approach to our Mother Earth, but it took me this trip to understand it.  I no longer throw away things on a hike, put trash in a fire pit, etc.  This is what we have, leave it more beautiful than how you found it, because you never know who this location will inspire next!

On a side note… This July, I will be hiking the Lost Coast Trail (Humboldt California) a 56 mile completely on the beach hike, that goes through some red woods!  Gandalf, Goat and Bob the trail magic guru are coming with me.  This trip coming up means the world to me, I get to hike with my fellow hiker family and see a new part of this beautiful beautiful country.  I would love to share it all with you and will do so, and I hope you enjoy it!

COMING SOON – LOST COAST TRAIL :)

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Day 152 – Mt. Katahdin!

Abol bridge to Mt. Katahdin – 15.1 miles (plus 5.1 mile hike back to parking lot)

2185.3 / 0.0

So I guess my trip all boils down to this final day.  Everything I have been doing, working for, thinking about, etc for the last 5 months is on this mountain I’m sure.  It just builds up to one last day.  And it was a short day, but it couldn’t have went better.  We were up around 4:30 am because we still had to hike 10 miles BEFORE we got a chance to hike Katahdin.  As I said, the campsites were all full being that it was a weekend.  The 10 miles were breeze though, we were able to do them by 8 am.

We arrived at the ranger station and dropped our packs off.  We are able to pick up loaner packs to do a quick day hike up the mountain.  None of us will need our stoves, sleeping bags, tents etc.  Ran into Sole Power checking in, and hiked with him and Fresh.  We were exhausted, but flying up the mountain.  We passed huge groups of people, nothing could slow us down.  We did get stuck in some lines as the hike became a lot more technical, the boulder section right before the table top.  Could not have asked for better weather, although a bit cold, it was very sunny out.

Immediately after clmbing above treeline, the views were stunning,  We were surrounded by pointy rocky mountains that seemed to tower over the valley below.  The boulders became huge, and there was some rebar set into the rock to help out.  Once on the tabletop, we ran into the 4 girls I had hiked with previously, on their way back.  I chastised them for leaving the mountain so early (it was 10 am) as I wanted a big ol group of homeless hikers to hang out with at top.  They let us know that Gandalf and them were only a couple hundred yards ahead.  Fresh started running.

We ran into Gandalf and Goat right before the summit.  Mind you, I had hiked with these guys on and off since Hot Springs, North Carolina.  Almost 2000 miles on and off.  It was so good to see them once more before the trip ended, especially to get to summit with them.  Once on top, we ran into Figgy and Kamikaze, who I actually havent seen since Virginia.  A great group to be on top with!  I thought I would get emotional, but that did not happen yet, we took a ton of pictures with the sign, Figgy and some others brought beer and champaign up, and I had a couple drinks to celebrate.

This was it!

Afterwards we were invited out to Moosehead lake to party.  Lobsters, boats, drinks, thru hikers, good times!

Thank you all for keeping up with me!

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Day 151 – Maine

Rainbow river lean-to to Abol Pines campsite – 15.0 miles

15.1 / 2170.2

Tomorrow is the last day. It’s crazy to think, my trip will be at an end in less than 24 hours. Tonight will be the last night I spend outdoors.  Sad.  Yet beautiful.  We had the opportunity to camp out at Abol Pines campsite, right next to a beautiful view of Katahdin, on the river Thereau himself canoed to on his way to summit.  This is the great wilderness.  Today we were turned around at Abol, the campsites surrounding Katahdin were full.  It looks like to summit tomorrow, we must hike 10 miles first.  I’m ok with this, too excited to care.

We ran into Sole Power around 4 pm, after not seeing him since Viriginia.  We all look quite homeless now, and he is no better.  He actually wore the same shirt, and it is horrible.  I believe this was what the Derelicte campaign of Zoolander was all about.  We sat around, having a couple beers and just looking out at the river, all of us in disbelief that our trip ends tomorrow.  How have 5 months slipped by so fast?

We have been informed from one of the ridge runners that most of our friends are at the campsite and are summiting tomorrow.  I would love to run into the likes of Gandalf, Kamikaze, Figgy etc.  Tomorrow will be a good day!

 

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Day 150 – Maine

Cooper Brooke Falls Lean-to to Rainbow Stream Lean-to – 29.6 miles
2155.2 / 30.1

Huge day!  Almost 30 miles, forgot what that was like.  It’s a beautifully painful feeling. We were able to crush 15.7 miles by 12:30, it’s always good to get the majority of them done early, because you don’t really feel like continuing your hike after dinner, after dark, etc.  You CAN, but ugh.  Waking up in the morning after a 30 is rarely fun.  Especially after not sleeping well.  So for lunch, after doing 16 miles our attitude was pretty good.  We took a long lunch, taking our shoes off, trying to dry our socks etc.  We had a couple of river crossings to do before lunch.  Maine does not have bridges on most rivers, instead you must navigate your way across rivers, staying dry if you can, although you are usually up to your knees in water.

After lunch was a different story.  The terrain became once again difficult.  We were not able to do as many miles as fast as previously.  Add to that the weather changed for the worse.  We had been getting afternoon storms as of late and today was no different.  Except todays storm packed a powerful punch!  I saw it off in the distant, an anvil cloud, one you could tell just by looking at it, that it had a powerful updraft.  I thought we would be fine, it looked 3-4 hours off to the distance.  1 hour later I was listening to thunder and cursing.  We made it to a shelter with 8 miles to go to make 29 miles.  Mind you we had already traveled 21 miles by now, tired and it was 4:30 pm.  We could hear and feel the storm approach, I knew it would be a big one, but we left anyways.

And we began to climb the one mountain we had left, just a 1000 ft climb, but currently in a lightning storm.  Lightning started striking very close, scaring us.  Then the rain started.  It was just sprinkling when we spotted a cave.   Big enough for 4 people Ha!  How is that for luck.  Got in instead of hiking thru it, thankfully.  It started hailing almost immediately.  Not quite golf ball size, but a large marble.  We had a safety meeting and I took a short video of the weather to show off with.  :).  It stopped and we were on our way.

But that stopped us for too long, it was dark when we arrived to the campsite, the shelter full, the campsite completely full, we were soaked and now had to set up our tents on uneven ground.  Oh well, we did a huge day and survived the storm of the summer!  Plus we have 30 miles left, I can’t complain when my trip is this close to over.  Once the storm ended we were able to finish climbing our one mountain and were rewarded with one of the most breathtaking views of the summer.  Katahdin in the distance, storm clouds on the horizon.  We were able to see many beautiful views of the mountain we had been chasing all summer.  It is finally coming to a close, I can see the end.

 

 

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Day 149 – Maine

Sorry I have not posted until now!  I have summited (I’ll get to that in a later post), traveling around Maine to various islands, houses etc.  Have not had internet til today so bear with me.  Thanks!

Gulf Hagas Stream to Cooper Brooke Falls Lean-to – 22.1 miles
2125.6 / 59.7

I forgot how good it feels to put up big miles. I’m at the dopest shelter (swimming hole, waterfall, Brooke, best privy ever) and it’s been a cruisy day. It was hard getting started as it was raining when we woke up. I stayed in my tent til 7 and got up when it finished raining. Hit the road at 7:45. At first the going was tough, we had 4 mountains with 5000 ft elevation to climb. But we made pretty good time.

We ate every couple miles which helped with the energy and every time we took a break it started raining which helped with the time. :). Before we knew it we were 9 miles to the top of White Cap, the last big mountain until Katahdin. We had lunch and started a faster pace. The rest of the day was pretty much downhill and easy terrain. We made the remaining 13 miles in 6 hours ish with an hour break.

Some great views of lakes and ponds. I’ve loved Maine and I really like this section. Sad to think there are only 59 miles left. But my mind has started to wander to what I’ll be doing in real life again.

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Day 148 – Maine

Long Pond Stream to Gulf Hagas stream – 18.0 miles
2103.5 / 81.8

Another rough day. I started feeling better and was out of camp at 7:30. We climbed up and over 4 mountains today. The first one was 2000 ft but we were pretty quick. My stomach started turning towards lunch again, and I’ve been in rough shape since. I’ll spare the details.

It was beautiful hiking and the sun was out. I was able to dry all my wet stuff from last night relatively quickly on big open rocks in the sun with views of the valley. Ran into a ridiculous amount of people today also. I think we’ve seen 60 people and we’ve only gone 30 miles. It’s a good section of trail so I can see why it’s so popular.

So many fresh wild blueberries!

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