Wallets, like all of my gear, eventually wear out on the trail. They get wet, they get abused and then they disintegrate. In my search for a more durable product, I came across Trayvax. They make several models of tough, technical wallets right here in the USA. I contacted them about my upcoming (Feb 2017) hike of the Israel National Trail and inquired about their product. As a result of that contact, I am proud to say that the Trayvax Axis will be coming with me for the entire 642 mile trail. I feel like this will be a real test of exactly how tough this wallet is. I'll be swimming in the Red Sea, crossing the Negev Desert and generally abusing it (like I do all my gear!).
Gotta say, I am especially proud to be associated with a company that manufactures in the US, supports veterans and makes such a fine product. Stay tuned for more of my adventures with the Trayvax Axis.
People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. In 2017, I hiked the Israel National Trail and the Golan Heights Trail. I was the first to hike the Baja Divide Trail in Mexico but failed miserably to thru-hike the Bruce Trail in Canada. In 2019, I hiked the TEMBR in Ecuador and now, I'm going to attempt to hike 1,150 miles of the North Country Trail as it runs through my home state of Michigan.
The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in these endeavors.
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Kinda boring, I know. But there's nothing else going on out here. There are no other hikers. I'm freezing. Just trying to finish this trail and get home.
This is the beer that I used to celebrate the end of the AT and the beginning of the BMT. The amazing thing about this beer is that it was stashed in the woods about a month earlier by Sarah 'Two Braids' Hillier. Amazingly, she is of no relation. Just another hiker who reached Springer Mountain way before me and cached this beer. She sent me this map:
I can't believe I found it. Thanks, Two Braids!
The picture above was taken on a very foggy morning but this is the tree in front of the Mountain Crossings gear store. Every year, hundreds of northbound AT hikers hit this store just a few days into their hike and then realize that their feet are sore because they have the wrong foot gear. They re-fit and chuck their old ones into this tree.
This guy was stalking a shelter on the AT. That's a full-size lighter for perspective.
This was a random entry in a shelter journal. For some reason, it just cracked me up. "I have a bag for poptarts now and it's fer sure not okay." What does that even mean? Live!
Frost on my pack every morning. Everything not IN my sleeping bag with me is frozen solid. Every morning. This aspect of the hike is getting old.
My two favorite things.
All sewn up. All these miles have been pretty hard on my gear. One more reason to hurry up and finish this hike.
This means me.
Overall, this is a beautiful trail and I'm lucky to be out here. Many volunteers have worked very hard to keep this trail well-blazed and maintained. I am grateful to all of them for making this such an amazing experience for me. Soon, I'll be back in Michigan and missing the trail like crazy. Best to appreciate these last couple weeks and to spend them reflecting back on what a great adventure this has been.
Please feel free to leave me a comment below.
Monday, January 11, 2016
You know that feeling of doom that pours over you when you realize that you've lost something really important? I'd rather fall off a mountain than ever experience that again.
I was returning to the trail after a successful pit stop in the tiny town of Suches, GA; I was fully resupplied, I had picked up a good paperback book to read and had even scored a ride back to the trail. A father and son let me throw my pack into the bed of their pick-up truck and helped me climb in the back seat. As they were asking me all the usual questions about long distance hiking, I was checking my phone to make sure of the location of the trail in relation to the road we were on. I was excited to be getting back to my hike and engaged in the conversation. I set my phone down on the seat next to me.
To the modern hiker, a smart phone is an essential tool. It's not only my way to communicate, it's a way to navigate, it's my camera, my journal, my compass... even a back-up flashlight. I realize that hikers got along without them for decades but I swear I don't know how they did it.
When we arrived at the trailhead, I hopped out of the truck, grabbed my pack and shook hands with the guys who so kindly gave me the ride. After they wished me well, I crossed a busy road and headed up the trail. Just about a quarter of a mile into it, that feeling washed over me. That dreadful realization that I had left my phone in the truck. I didn't even waste time checking my pockets because I already knew that I had screwed up. Badly.
I raced back to the road but the truck was long gone. I decided my only hope was to stay right there. Maybe they would see my phone in the back seat and come back. Or, maybe I could catch them on their way to work the next morning. I didn't even have any water with me but I dared not leave the side of the road to go get some for fear I would miss them driving by. I had a seat right there in the dirt and tried to prepare, mentally, for a long, cold night on the side of a busy Georgia highway. I felt helpless and angry with myself for making such a bonehead move. I tried to focus on the book but I kept turning over scenarios in my mind: What if they didn't see my phone in the truck? What if they never came back this way again? Should I try to hike on without the phone? Was this the end of my hike?
To make matters worse, the temperature was dropping and it was getting dark. I pulled out my sleeping bag and tried to read a book - right there on the side of the road. Cars would sometimes honk. A couple people pulled over and asked if they could help. One guy wanted to take a picture of me; it was rather humiliating.
Eventually, someone must have called 911 because a Fire and Rescue truck pulled up with lights flashing. Great. Just what I needed. I told the officer my sad tale and, while he had sympathy for me, there was nothing he could do. At least he hooked me up with a couple liters of water. He drove off and I went back to my book.
About a half hour later, he returned. This time, no flashing lights. He said he might have some good news for me: Apparently, as he was reporting my situation over the radio, the county sheriff chimed in to say that someone had just turned in a phone at the their office. They were going to bring it out to me and see if it was mine.
I paced back and forth with my headlamp on, eagerly awaiting the sheriff. I supposed that the chances of the phone being mine were slim as they probably had tons of phones, wallets and purses turned in to them every day. When the deputy pulled up and asked how I was doing, I replied, "Not so good but I'll be a lot better if you have an iPhone for me!" He asked me to describe it and to tell him what the background picture was. "My dog, Ruby!" I said excitedly.
He checked the phone and handed it over to me. I was so grateful I almost felt dizzy. I thanked the officer repeatedly and ran to pack up my gear and get off the side of that stupid road. I didn't get very far into the woods before I found a nice flat spot and set up my tent. After so much emotion and anxiety, I slept like a rock.
Early the next morning, I packed up and got busy doing what I do best. I felt great. The miles flew by as I thought about how lucky I was and how grateful I was to the guy who turned my phone over the sheriff's department. Then, from a hundred yards away, I saw a big green sign. Looked like some kind of warning or trail information.
Not only had that kind stranger given me a ride back to the trail and turned in my phone, but he posted this sign where he knew I'd see it. I especially loved this line:
"This way to maybe a fone". That cracked me up. I took down the sign (Leave No Trace!) and hiked down to the next major road.
When I finally got to a restaurant that had a wifi signal, I messaged my dear friend Pam and asked her to call the guy (as I have no cell service) to let him know that I did indeed get my phone back.
The lesson that I learned is a lesson I seem to keep learning over and over: Slow down. Pay attention. Do a 'gypsy check' before leaving a vehicle, a campsite or anywhere that I set my pack down.
Ever have that feeling of doom? Leave me a comment and let me know what happened and how it turned out.
Monday, January 4, 2016
The Benton MacKaye (pronounced like 'the sky') Trail (BMT) is a relatively new trail, having just been completed in 2005. It stretches 286 miles from Springer Mountain (GA) in the south to Davenport Gap (NC) in the north. It crosses through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) following a different route than the Appalachian Trail.
I admit that I don't know much about this trail other than being curious about it when I thru-hiked the AT northbound in 2011. I saw the signs for it and I knew that Benton MacKaye was the man who first proposed the idea for the Appalachian Trail back in 1921 but I really had no idea where it started or how long it was.
I got lots of help with maps and information from the good folks at the Benton MacKaye Trail Association. Check out their website at BMTA.org.
Finally, the only person I know that has thru-hiked it is So Way (from the famous A Team: So Way and E-Brake). He had hiked it with his sister in preparation for his first AT thru-hike. He was able to give me specific advice and show me pictures stored in his phone. To their credit, So Way and E-Brake were the only two people to say "Hell yes!!" when I first told them I wanted to hike this trail. I am grateful to them for their support.
Stay tuned to this blog for pictures and stories from this latest adventure. If you've hiked it before or have any additional information for me, please leave me a comment below.