I should have taken a left at Albuquerque

Monroe Falls, Ohio

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Monroe Falls, Ohio 41.144501, -81.439834 Monroe Falls, Ohio

This journey has always qualified as exploring the unknown. Even when I was under the delusion that I would leisurely walk 2200 miles with nary a sweat, I truly did not know what to expect. But I have to admit, ending up in Ohio never even entered the realm of far-fetched possibility. It is definitely NOT on any trail map I have encountered.

Yet somehow that is where I am today.

This journey has definitely shifted in ways I could never even imagine, yet it is all the more exciting as a result. I am truly beginning to explore the world as I always wanted to, even if some areas are not on any list of Place to Explore I might have ever made. This just brings to the forefront a very simple reality … there is beauty and ugliness to be found EVERYWHERE. We often all have expectations every time we visit someplace new, whether from information gained through the information storm technological societies face daily, or our own imagination. And most likely our expectations are at least partially wrong.

“Why?”, the more curious might ask, “ARE you in Ohio anyway?”

Well I’ll tell you.

As my journey morphed from a jaunt in the woods into a nomadic wandering, any budget that I even imagined got completely shoved into the realm of poorly written fiction. Sadly, this means some people have been hit harder than others in the capacity of supporter (thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU mom). In an effort to recoup some of the excess, as well as have something to work with to start actually earning funds again, I have come to the land of Kelly (my fellow nomad). Here she will use her skills and connections to earn a few bucks so we can get back to th realm of survival again. So we will be exploring the wilds of Ohio for a couple of weeks.

In the mean time, here are some pictures of the beauty I have already encountered along the way.

Playing the tourist

Unicoi Gap

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Unicoi Gap 34.800927, -83.742955

Day: 8-10
Weather: sunny and hot, threatening thunder showers, sunny and hot
Trail miles:: 52.9

Refreshed, resupplied, repacked, and recharged from our hostel stay, we had a good day’s hike. Pleasant weather, beautiful scenery, brought us most of the way to our next campsite. The last bit of the trail was obviously put there by the god’s to keep us humble since it was steep and rocky and of course … up. The roughly 7 miles we went that day was an improvement over our average, which meant for me at least a muscle relaxant and painkillers to get to sleep that night.

Thunder storms were promised for that night and the following day, but all we got that night was a bit of breeziness. A rather pleasant night actually, which is good because now I have another equipment malfunction, namely the zipper on my sleeping bag. Guess I am going to have to call on my inner MacGyver again.

Thunderstorms were definitely threatening the next day, so we got out of camp pretty quickly, and managed to keep ahead of the storm. We actually were flying at first. Grey Wolf had a mail drop coming into Helen, Georgia, and it being Friday it meant we had to get over 14 miles by Saturday morning for him to get it. Either that or wait until Monday. Neither Preacher or Ken were up for that kind of day yet, and were not specifically keen on visiting Helen (9 miles off the trail), so for now at least Grey Wolf and I have parted ways with them. We pushed ourselves to do the 14+ miles with about 11 hours of hiking. If we had gotten to our destination a little earlier, we would probably have been able to hitchhike into town. Unfortunately it did not work that way, so the choice was to collapse where we were or pay for a ride in.

We stayed in a Super 8 Motel last night. We decided to take a recovery day in Helen, which is a tourist town with a flavor of Germany (actually the 3rd most popular tourist attraction in Georgia). It was a beautiful and relaxing day. The town is small but entertaining, with plenty to do and an extremely friendly populace. We will stay one more night here, then hit the trail tomorrow for 3 days of hard up and down to get to MY first mail drop. Supposedly we will be walking through rain on Monday at least, with the rest being good weather.

I had an oopsie with my camera resulting in the protective filter breaking, so some pictures may have odd distortions until I can get that replaced.

The truth sets in


Woody Gap

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Woody Gap 34.677591, -83.999357

Day 2-5
Weather: rainy; cold, rainy, and windy; rainy into sunny; hot sunny
Distance travelled: 21.1 miles

After Jeff’s setback, I hooked up with two new hikers: Rich (Grey Wolf) who is my age, and Ken who is 71 (no trail name yet). We all realized that our eyes were bigger than our muscles, and we are basically some of the slower folk on the trail right now.

Day 2 was crappy weather, and we were all feeling the effects of the previous day, so we stayed put that day. The next day we moved on, though it turned out to be and even crappier day. Between the rain, the chill, and the three stooges, we ended up only making it roughly half way to where we wanted to be. We made the mistake of camping in a gap (Cooper’s Gap) which means stopping in a wind tunnel. Thirty to fifty mile an hour steady winds, combined with rain and almost freezing temperatures made for a rather uncomfortable night. We were saved by some trail magic when a local car camper took pity on us and gave us beverages and food, and even a hat that night, and returned the next morning with hot coffee.

The next day we reached the shelter we were originally aiming for on day 2.

Finally today, day 5, we got the exact opposite weather, being unseasonably hot. Beautiful views, but dehydration was hanging over us. We ended at Woody Gap, far short of where we wanted to be again, and beat, decided to stay in a hostel. A subway sandwich, a hot shower, some cleaning, and a decent night sleep (hopefully), ended this part of the journey.

Right now we are averaging about 5 miles a day, which is well shy of the 8 to 10 a day planned on, but we are still plugging along. I shed most of the gadgets I brought along. They did not really work as I hoped, and are not worth the 15 extra pounds the are loading me with. I will still blog, and take as many pics as I can. It just won’t be as often as I envisioned.

Incidentally, my trail name is Rotund.

The most important map

There are quite a few descriptions that people might use if asked to describe me, but there are a few that will never make that list, even by accident. For instance I doubt anyone would even try to link me and the word “organized”. And I definitely fall short on such things as “detail oriented” and “a planner”. My usual method for packing for a trip is to start stuffing things in a bag roughly two hours before have to board whatever transportation method I am using. Considering this, I usually don’t leave anything I really need behind. It is usually the small things that I can easily pick up somewhere along the way, or simply replace with a little bit of creativity. I tend to approach most of my life in this spontaneous manner, and usually it works well for me. On those occasions I actually try to plan ahead … well let’s just say planning and I really don’t get along well. My inner MacGyver rebels I guess.

Thus one of the true challenges for me as I am preparing for this adventure is all the future planning that is inherent in the trip. I am trying to keep it to a minimum, so I don’t implode, but there are some things that simply cannot be avoided. Minor details like how I am going to get to the starting point, or where I am going to get pesky things like food, or what to bring. Fortunately I have had ample help in most of those departments, so will most likely survive without having to eat any fellow hikers. But, and this is actually from personal experience, I can’t do my normal packing method on this trip. Not only do I have to ensure I pack things for the best distribution of weight, but I also have to be sure I can actually FIND what I packed again, while having a fair chance of putting it back in the same place. For some this is par for the course in EVERYTHING they do. For me it is like learning a foreign language.

The most important map

The most important map

So today, I gathered all my piles of goodies together in one fairly spacious spot, and packed everything the way I intend to do it on the trail. To make sure I can REMEMBER where I packed everything, I went so far as made a MAP of my pack, and an inventory list based on WHERE it was packed. I suspect one of two things will happen on the trail. I will either get very used to this current arrangement, to the point where I will be able to find just what I need in the darkest of night even sand flashlight, or it will drive me nuts and I will slip back into “I know it is here somewhere” mode. I guess that will be part of my personal challenge.

The fully packed pack is a bit heavier than I was aiming for, but that is the price I pay for being a photography and blogging junkie. Removing all the gadgets that I need to take all the photos I want and make multiple blog posts a week would probably make the weight much closer to the ideal Possibly even less), but then half the reason I am going on this adventure would be removed. I figure I can lower the weight quite a bit if I simply remove all food, water, and clothing. One has to have their priorities straight after all!!

TWELVE days and counting!! If my dreams are any indication, I have a nice mixture of excitement and nerves building. Can barely wait to get to that first “Why the !@# am I doing this again?” point. That will mean we have actually started and my poor tortured body hasn’t yet adjusted to the extra person I am now carrying up and down hills.


Sun glassesGoal 0Toilet PaperCamera and Glasses Cleaning Supplies
Glasses caseFirst Aid KitTooth Brush
Camera FiltersMulti ToolTowel
Macro LensScrew Driver Less Small Flashlight
Hard DriveSmall Flashlight
KeyboardDuck Tape
Camera Battery
Whistle/Match Case
Note Book
Power AdaptersFoodMess Set
Knife SharpenerTent & Tent SuppliesStove
Emergency Fire StarterWater FilterRain Gear
Multi Purpose LineWater BladderSleeping Pad
Camera CaseExtra TarpDr Bonner’s
Spork & KnifeGators“Pillow”
Big KnifePrescription MedsSolar Panel
VitaminsWater Bottles
Yep. I will be wearing THAT on my back.

Yep. I will be wearing THAT on my back.It’s all in there!

Time for some mushiness!

I have been doing a bit of digital prep today. Basically, I have been letting the hordes of fans that I have on my several thousand other blogs (you can stop laughing now) know that once I am on the trail, my blog presence will be mostly here. If anyone is bored, and maybe actually wants some more insight into what this trip is all about for me, feel free to visit these posts/blogs:

  • A Fresh Canvas — where I describe in detail the ultimate WHY of this trip.
  • Going on a stroll … — a little gratuitous self promotion (like this) in an attempt to get more people along for the ride.
  • Peace Child — a last ditch attempt to save the world before I explore it.

For the geeks among us, I have also added a plugin that should make any pictures I share here nice and albumized (is that a word?).

I would like to thank ...

I would like to thank …

Now that I am done trying to make myself look good again, I wanted to say thank you … while I am thinking of it. Just in case I neglect to do it later, I want to be sure that EVERYONE involved in this endeavor truly understands how much I appreciate them. First and foremost of course I want to thank THE Idiot, our friend Mark, for creating this adventure in the first place. As far as I am concerned, you are still coming along, and I will be thinking of you the whole trip … especially when I am wondering why the hell I am torturing myself in such a way. Which reminds me, I need to get some skittles! I want to thank those of you who have made charity donations; those who have given moral support from the beginning (in many cases the same people); those who have offered advice; those who have helped with the preparations (whether financially or otherwise) — even if blood relations guilted you into it. And I want to thank of course my newest partner in crime Maytag … for jumping aboard, being VERY enthusiastic about it, and keeping me on my toes as we prepare.

Even though the fundamental nature of the hike has shifted form (several times), I still view it as a group effort. I still have dreams of making this charitably profitable. I still hope to join people from the blogging (and social networking) world on or off the trail, even if just for an hour or two. Contributions of any sort are still welcome (care packages are always a good idea haha), and will be throughout the hike. In a way, this is more than just a hike, this is an experiment in the power of digital friendship. I am considering the idea of dedicating each week to a specific charity, where maybe others can raise pledges based on the distance travelled for that week. If anyone likes this idea, and/or has a specific charity/cause that they are passionate about … let me know. Spread the word. I also welcome suggestions on other ways this can become more of a group event. The very thought energizes me and I suspect it will help motivate on those days when the muscles are screaming or the weather is drenching or the insects are swarming.

OK that is enough gushing for today. I still have some fine tuning to do on packing and such. I probably will till the moment we leave. Catch you all again soon!