Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Full Specklebelly Moon

The following blog post is written by a good friend of the shop, Possum - who writes a full moon report every month. They're all great to read, but I really wanted to share this edition with all of you. I hope you enjoy.... John

Full Specklebelly Moon

Full Specklebelly moon rises Saturday evening at 4 pm and the sun sets at 5, an hour later. I expect her to clear the trees here in my bottomland hardwood yard after 530, just about right. This should be a fine show down here on the gulf rim with blue skies and cool temps. My hope is to have the fire pit going with a glass of my latest tart red 3/$20 selection from Marcello’s cellar. I will toast you my friends and the moon, with my honey at my elbow and surrounded by admiring grandchildren, errr, to be honest they tolerate me and love and admire their Mimi. The chores should be all done and the chickens put up for the night, so we’ll just feed the fire and talk about the moon, the night, life and love and whoever is not there.

Last Friday I was at a tree seminar in Pollock, La. when I observed a great string of Snow geese winging over, headed south. It reminded me of the reports of huge congregations of Speckled Belly Geese or Greater White Fronted Geese south of Crowley, hence a perfect name for this moon with a local twist of course. Now that was before the shooting began on Saturday. In any case it is always a sight that causes me to pause, listen, and reflect. Ah, the great migrations.

Speaking of my natural world, GHOs (Great Horned Owls) have been gathering in my backyard every other evening or so to murmur to each other about who knows what owls talk about. This always concerns me for my little Peanut is so white, so small, and so an outside cat and kind of, well, almost a member of the family. We have had that little cat for 8 years and will miss when her time comes. I also worry about my hens, now they would make a fine meal for a mature GHO, Peanut is all fur and bones. And--- what a wonderful sound to go to sleep by.

While I’m yammering on about raptors, let me tell you the ultimate urban raptor, the Cooper Hawk. My students and grandkids say my stories go on and on, so bear with me. Wednesday, while driving to work through “The Ville”, that’s St. Martinville to you people not from around here, which is located down in the delta on the Teche ridge, the natural levee of the Bayou Teche. Now I go that way to avoid the stop and go traffic in Broussard on US 90, anyway I pass on the Cypress Island Road, named for the natural meander ridge it is built on which has cypress swamp on both sides. I then turn on the Prairie Road which passes by beautiful Lake Martin, through an awesome bottomland hardwood and next to a great hay meadow, across the Bayou Vermillion, up the Terrace (the escarpment or the left bank of the Mississippi River flood plain) and then turn on Carmel Avenue (the old Breaux Bridge Highway) to Louisiana Avenue to Johnston Street. Then to avoid the congestion at University Avenue, I zig and zag through the hood down to Lamar onto General Mouton. Ya’ll with me, I know this is a lot but it is well worth it. Well,--- I turns left onto Gen. Mouton so I can get to McKinley when I see this bird in the street, in the middle, like on the stripe, just sitting there. He turns out to be a Coop sitting and plucking on a dove he just knocked the life out of, still warm and bloody, but he waits until my truck passes within 4 feet of him and a car the same distance in the other lane clears the scene and in my rearview mirror is see him take off to about 3 ft altitude with this load of fresh meat headed for the roadside shrub to finish plucking and eating in peace. Now that was totally cool, and a real cool city dude at that.

Sorry, but it was a good story and I wanted to share. I needed the diversion. We are in the middle of a construction boom on campus to overcome the reality that our dorm rooms are among the most “dungeon-like” in the country. With our vision clouded by “more important issues” my employer, the university will remove (their sanitized words) 6 large healthy live oaks lining our main campus. They say they are diseased. All old urban trees have some defects and pockets of decay. This all makes me so sad.

Someone shared Jelaluddin Rumi’s poem The Guest House with me, thought you may enjoy it like I have.

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

I don’t mean to sound bitter about the campus live oak trees, I’m just deeply disappointed in my people. I see little hope for any substantial change. In my eyes it just keeps getting worse. My personal philosophy is that much of human pathology and disease is due to stress because of our human disconnected condition, disconnected from the natural world. We are biological organisms. We evolved in a natural setting where it is normal for us to develop as humans in that natural setting. When we cut those normal connections to live the all consuming modern life the result is stress, and violence to each other and the earth. We cannot relate normally to the earth and nature so we violate them and each other.

So, that being said, I have been doing daily thankfulness exercises in these days before Thanksgiving. My favorites are:

From Jake Swamp, “Humans have been asked to respect the life’s breath that enters our bodies and allows us to exist. Life is a precious gift of time and we need to continually be thankful for what has been provided for us.

All that is required for a happy and healthy life is already in front of us. We need to show respect toward each other’s individuality. We need to show respect for the sacred landscapes in which we live.

We need to respect ourselves and live in a peaceful and contributing way. Humans have a critical role in the well being of the universe by carrying the thoughts of love, sharing and respect, we can give future generations not only hope, but a way to fulfill that hope”.

From Maya Angelou, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, a bird sings because it has a song”.

From Bruce Cockburn,

“Hear the wild moan in the bright diamond sky

these mountains are waiting, brown-green and dry.

I’m too old for the term, but I’ll use it anyway

I’ll be a child of the wind till the end of my day.

My thanksgiving holiday will be full of family around the table in my home with Mimi in charge. And black Friday and black Saturday spent on Rutherford Beach. Nothing like a South Louisiana beach on a winter weekend. There will be loads of shells, a warm fire, good food and good family fun, and waves. I cannot wait. Me-n-my people really hate to shop!!!!

Speaking of my people, Amy called to say that Mathew, age 2, looked at Sarah Palin’s photo in a rag and said the she looked like his dark haired Mimi, Paula, (as compared to yellow hair Mimi, his caregiver). Now Mimi says she does not look like SP and I says hmmm maybe a little. So I’ve been going around telling everyone I slept with SP last night. Of course I feel like I’ve let my liberal buddies down even kidding about that.

Peace, love and full specklebelly moon to you all,


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stacey's Home Grown Powerbar Recipe

We've had requests for the recipe for the home-made powerbars that our guide Stacey Scarce brings on some of the trips she leads. S0 - here it is!:

4 cups rolled oats

1 container of peanut butter

About 16 oz or more of honey

Now add whatever of the following ingredients that you would like to include: maybe ½ cup of each, except flax can 1 cup

Flax seed (healthy)

Millet (my favorite and healthy)

Sesame, Pumpkin, Sunflower seeds, I usually add one or two of these but not all three

1 cup or more of dried cranberries

1 package of semi-sweet choc. Chips

About 1 ½ tablespoons of vanilla and cinnamon

You can add other stuff to it just make sure the oats are the most abundant ingredient. If you put too much millet, it doesn’t bind together well.

Mix it all together, dump it in a pre-greased pan then press it in. I use a glass with a little water on it so it doesn’t stick and roll the glass over the top to pack it down.

Bake 350’ for no more than 30 minutes. Check it out at 20 minutes to be sure it is not too brown. It should have a soft brown hue in the middle when it is done.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Just Resting My Eyes

Last week, I taught my favorite clinic - Ultralight Backpacking. We had a very receptive crowd and I thought that I was really in the zone teaching the class. Little did I know that one of my students in the back of the room wasn't nearly as impressed with me as I was with myself!
Things started off well enough - but Boone's body language is saying "What-EVER!!"

"No - No - Really - I'm just resting my eyes!"

"I just need a more comfortable spot to rest my back. Yes - I am STILL resting my eyes!"

"Hmlgrph... huh? ... Yeh - I'm resting my eyesss...."

"Uggg... What the heck - I can't take any more of this"

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Afternoon Well Spent

For a while now, Becky and I have been meaning to get out to Lake Martin to try out some tandem kayaks that we are thinking of putting in our rental fleet. We've had that project rolling around on our to-do list for 5 or 6 weeks. Not exactly a to-do bullet point that you keep wanting to avoid. But somehow, we just never seemed to get around to it.

Last week we finally loaded the boat and headed to Lake Martin. As soon as we slid the kayak into the water, we noticed a regal egret standing rock-still on a log watching us glide silently by. We decided to head down towards the rookery. Approaching the treeline, a large bird swooped in - moving left to right. Our first Bald Eagle sighting at Lake Martin! We had heard there was a nesting pair and also a single bird at the lake - but never saw it before.

The wind and our momentum carried us into the trees, back towards the rookery and into a cacophony of bird life. A flock of thousands of migrating Grackles were everywhere. These birds are not the regal silent type. They are more like the guys you see on the floor of the stock exchange moving around and yelling, but you're not sure what it's all about. These Grackles were great entertainment. Their oily-black plumage accented by the deep iridescent green was beautiful. We tried to see what they were doing in the trees, but never could tell. Most likely they were just enjoying the afternoon at the lake just like we were.

As we made our way through the trees, the sun began to set. We turned our bow towards the sinking golden orange orb dropping over the other edge of the lake. Now completely relaxed and absorbed in the experience, we paddled across the open water straight towards the setting sun.

I often tell groups that there is a beautiful sunset at Lake Martin every single day. Every time we go out for a late afternoon paddle, we ask ourselves why we don't do this more often. I guess we're not the only ones. During our paddle we didn't see another canoe, kayak or motorboat on the water.

We can all agree that Lake Martin is truly a wonderful asset for Lafayette. But I think considering Lake Martin to be an asset kind of makes it abstract. I want to start thinking of Lake Martin as a canvas on which we can paint beautiful scenes in our life. The 2 hours we spent on the lake will be indelibly imprinted in our memories as an afternoon well spent.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Building Implosion at Pack & Paddle

This is our locals version of a building implosion. We're cleaning out back near our warehouse to create a brand new kayak yard! In case you don't know him, Will Daley works for us at P&P building displays, fixing problems, and now... tearing down buildings.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tour Du Teche Winners

A 43-foot, six-man Texas Unlimited canoe named “314” walked away with top honors in the inaugural Tour du Teche this month, completing the 130-mile journey from Port Barre to Patterson in just 18 hours and 29 minutes.
Andrew Stephens, 30, New York City; William Russell, 27, San Antonio, Texas; Andrew Soles, 37, Arlington, Va.; Sam Ritchie, Philadelphia, Pa.; Dan Hammer, 26, Philadelphia, Pa.; and Amado Cruz, 22, Esperanza, Cayo, Belize, will share in at least $3,225 in winnings.
They won base prizes of $500 for being first over-all, and $100 for being first Texas Unlimited from Tour du Teche, plus $100 each prizes for firsts in class not claimed: first male tandem unlimited, first female tandem unlimited, first female solo unlimited, first solo composite kayak, first male and female recreational, first solo canoe recreational, and first solo and tandem pirogues.
Added to that is another $3,500 from the Town of Berwick, which has pledged to match all of the Tour du Teche base prize money provided by a grant from Teche Federal Bank.
Prizes could rise as expenses are sorted out.
On top of Tour du Teche prizes, the Texas Unlimited team won the “Prix du Gabriel Award” for the first male to reach St. Martinville, $100; another $100 for the first boat to reach New Iberia; and the $25 “Eugene Arnaud Award” for being the first boat to reach Arnaudville.
A unique feature of Tour du Teche is that communities along the way set up their own unofficial finish lines and awarded their own prizes.
“Steppe Missile,” Alan Lamb, 24, of Lansing, N.Y., and Richard Steppe, 52, Dallas, Texas, were second overall and first in tandem kayak composite at 21 hours, 17 minutes.
Their first-in-class finish earned them a base of $100 from Tour du Teche plus a matching $100 from the Town of Berwick.
Hot on their heels was “Illinois Brigade,” paddled by Wally Werderich, 37, Yorkville, Ill., and Gustave “Tave” Lamperez, 50, St. Charles, Ill. Their finish in 21 hours and 24 minutes was a first-in-class for tandem canoe composite, winning $100 from the Teche Federal Bank funding and a matching $100 from the Town of Berwick.
Adventure racers Laurence Cohen, 54, New Orleans, and Rusty Bernard, 52, Mandeville, paddling “La Madeleine” in tandem kayak recreational, shaved miles off the course by innovative portages across the necks of loops above New Iberia and Franklin to finish in 23 hours, 14 minutes, again winning of $100 from Tour du Teche $100 from the Town of Berwick.
Grady Reed, 33, Lockhart, Texas; Ginsie Stauss, 51, Austin, Texas, a.k.a. “Gatorhead and Da Shrimp,” were in the money as first mixed tandem unlimited at 26 hours, 30 minutes, winning the $200 in official prizes. Stauss will also receive $100 for being the first female paddler to reach Breaux Bridge – the “Scholastique Picou Breaux Award” – and $100 for being the first woman to reach New Iberia. She and Reed share another $100 for being the first mixed tandem unlimited to reach Patterson, a special award of the Pellerin Companies.
At 35 hours and 20 minutes, “XMA” paddled by David Dupuis, 47, was sixth overall and first in solo kayak recreational. Prizes total $200.
Ted Edinger, 61, Pineville, paddling “332,” a Texas Unlimited Solo, finished in 35 hours, 44 minutes, winning in addition to the $200 in official prizes $100 from the City of St. Martinville as the first male solo unlimited to reach that check point.
“Pogy,” Dennis Wise, 52, of Cecilia, and Tami St. Germain, 48, Arnaudville; paddling in mixed canoe recreational, finished in 39 hours and 8 minutes, earning $200 in first-in-class money plus $100 from Buck & Johnny’s Pizzeria of Breaux Bridge for being the first mixed canoe recreational to reach the Breaux Bridge check point. On top of that, Wise will get the “Golden Bed Pan Award” from the St. Mary Council on Aging for being the first senior to reach Franklin. With the award comes one night at the Fairfax Bed and Breakfast in Franklin and dinner for two at Main Street Cafe in Franklin.
Others who didn’t place officially but won unofficial awards include:
•Kenneth “Trey” Snyder, 38, St. Martinville, whose “Pont Breaux Pirogue” was the first solo pirogue to reach the Breaux Bridge check point, earning him $100 from the Kiwanis Club de Pont Breaux.
•Taylor Trahan, 16, of Breaux Bridge, paddling with Bo Lester, 19, also of Breaux Bridge, in “Budmaster,” a tandem canoe composite, wins $100 as the first junior paddler to reach St. Martinville, courtesy of the Kiwanis Club of St. Martinville, and $100 from the New Iberia Kiwanis Club as the first junior to reach that check point. The pair made it to Patterson in just 33 hours and 4 minutes but finished second in class behind Werderich and Lamperez.
•Bruce Bodson, 56, of Missouri City, Texas, paddling a solo kayak recreational named “Dagger Seeker,” was first solo senior to reach St. Martinville, earning $100 from the Rotary Club of St. Martinville.
Special prizes going unclaimed are $100 for the first tandem pirogue to reach Breaux Bridge (Kiwanis Club de Pont Breaux) and $100 for the first all-female tandem unlimited to reach St. Martinville (Pat Theriot, State Farm Insurance).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Something Old, Something New....

As most of you know, the front of our shop was turned into a drive-thru by an out of control car last December. Since then, we've taken some time to decide what we wanted to do with this area. Since it's the front entrance of the shop, we wanted it to be in keeping with the building - but also wanted to do something different with it.

We have finally finished repairing the window and wall that were knocked in during the crash. For the project, we hired our good friend Mark Menou. Mark is one of those people that can do pretty much anything. Plus - he and his wife Jennifer have a fun, funky and artistic flair that we thought would add to the project. Mark did all the carpentry and painting work on the project and we couldn't be happier!

The way this window came together was this: We had decided to use some of our old windows from the previous project in the boat room. While searching around in the back, I came across three flat objects wrapped in brown paper. I pulled them out from the dust in the back of the garage and found some beautiful leaded glass panes. We then called another friend - Claude Martin to come by and help us create a panel. We started working on the design of the panel - but needed something to make it all come together.

That's when I thought of a stained glass panel that was up in a wall at the top of the shop in an area that nobody could really see. Claude took one look at it and said "That's it. Get that window and it will go right here in the middle".

This window was in an area of the shop that was originally the office in the late 70's. This photo shows my mom sitting at her desk probably the first or second year we were open at this location. Notice behind her (sorry it's a little washed out) is the window that we reclaimed and made the centerpiece of our new window. In talking to my dad about the leaded panes, he told me that those were panes taken out of my great grandmothers house during the depression in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

We're very excited and proud of how the finished window came out. We hope that you will come by soon to see - But please - leave your car outside!

I wanted to share this description of the Tour Du Teche from one of the racers that's also one of our customers. Jeri St. Blanc paddled the 130 mile route in her Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145. Thought you might enjoy reading it:

Hello to all Tour Du Teche participants! What a wild week-end! It was such a pleasure sharing the bayou with you throughout the week-end. I met many of you at some part of the race and enjoyed the conversations we had. I enjoyed meeting many of your friends, family and bank runners along the route. Their commitment to each of us and support was amazing.

I've been sharing stories with my family and friends just as I'm sure you have also. I would love to hear some of your stories.

This is the first time I've done anything like this so everything was a new experience. Here's a few of my highlights:

I left St. Martinville at 1:30 am (no moonlight) really scary.

I stepped out at Keystone Dam and sunk to my knees in mud- sucked my shoe right off my foot. I then had to portage my kayak through the path without shoes, then down the mountain and over the boulders.

After leaving the dam, I ran into a patch of lilies and something like a branch or tree down across the bayou, not really sure because there was so little light. I was jammed in the lilies and had to pull through them. I just knew a huge gator or moccasin was waiting to devour me. With my heart racing out of my chest, I wildly pulled through.

After getting through I just knew I had made a wrong turn into a drainage canal or something, I found my phone and called my husband to find out if I could have messed up. He assured me if I was on the left side of the bayou I was OK. I gave thanks to the Lord and continued on .

Reached my hometown of Charenton! What a homecoming!!!!!!!!!!!!! Took a rest at my home on the Bayou at the Charenton Bridge. After resting, and realizing the current was not going to turn just because I willed it to, I started out. Within a quarter of a mile, I heard rolling thunder. A gentle rain begins and then a torrential downfall. Ok, I'm beginning to wonder if the Lord is speaking to me. The rain and wind kicks up and is blowing toward Baldwin. Just as I think maybe I'll stay wet and take a free ride with the wind to Baldwin, streaks of lightning come down around me. I pulled my kayak out of the water and turned it over on the bank. All my gear is now drenched. I ran to a house and at that time my husband, hearing the thunder, calls to check on me. He picks me up and after drying up and repacking, I started out again.

Saturday night, we were blessed with more moonlight. The ride from Baldwin to Franklin started out really nice until I hit the bridge at Oaklawn. I knew it would be 6 miles until the Sterling Bridge and there would be little to no homes on the Bayou. I went in already a little apprehensive. I called and reported my position to my husband and Mom then started paddling. I now know where the gators hang out at dark. I saw soooo many gators, I began thinking about "Swamp People." The ones that crossed in front of me, I didn't mind. I would slow up, let them definitely have the right of way. One of them swam at me and then surfaced about 3 ft from me. After that I set a new paddling record. I was truly petrified.

I was told the last leg of the race, past the east gate of the locks, would be an enjoyable paddle without current. They didn't tell me the tour committee was adding wind resistance to make the end so much more memorable. Just kidding.......

All in all, the tour was challenging but such a rewarding experience. When asked if I plan to do it next year, my reply was, "Ask me again in two weeks!"

Jeri H. St. Blanc

Recreation Coordinator

Chitimacha Tribe of LA

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Boone Discovers the World

A little over a year ago, Becky and I sat staring at a list scribbled on a piece of paper. On the left side were all the things we like to do. Kayak fishing, day hikes, extended hikes, canoe trips, work, going out to eat, bicycling trips etc... On the right side was how we would do these things if we owned a dog.

Except for the last 3 years, we've always had a dog in our family. Our previous dog, Pepper had lived to the ripe old age of 18 and we were convinced that no dog could possibly replace her. Three years after Pepper passed, we found ourselves staring at this scrap of paper. Weighing the loss of our freedom against the fun of sharing life with a dog.

Long story short, we dove in headfirst (as we always seem to do), decided that our new pup would be our 25th wedding anniversary present to each other, and found what we thought was the perfect dog. We named him Boone (no special meaning - we just like the name) and have spent the last year watching him discover our world.

As a puppy, Boone was very relaxed and sleepy. Not at all like other puppies we've seen. But he loved water and loved going on long walks. Good signs for being part of an outdoor family.

Boone went everywhere with us - so when Harold Schoeffler invited us to go fishing with him offshore, we naturally brought Boone along. I don't think Harold was amused when Boone lost his breakfast in Harold's seat while we were riding out the swells near a rig in Vermilion Bay.
Boone's first real hike was near Salida Colorado at the Orient mine area to see the Bat caves. He was a good little hiker - following along and soaking in the experience in his good natured way.

Later on that same trip, Boone discovered one of his great loves: SNOW!!! The skies opened up and dumped 2 feet of early snow on Salida - leaving Boone a brand new playground. He dug in it, romped in it, tunneled under it, bounded over it and even ate it. He loved this strange white stuff and just couldn't get enough. Here are some pictures of Boone discovering snow:

The holidays are all about family, and Boone loves family. Here's a few pictures of Boone with family:

In January, Boone was a part of a very chilly cross-basin canoe trip with friends. We spent 3 days in the Basin crossing from Catahoula to Bayou Sorrell. Here's some pictures of Boone on the Basin trip:

In the spring, Boone was Becky's hiking partner for his first real backpacking trip. Becky and Boone hiked the Appalachian Trail all the way from Georgia to Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina. They spent 2 weeks on the trail and covered well over 100 miles. Here's some pictures from their adventure:

During the spring, Boone also took his first trip down the Buffalo River in Arkansas as part of a guided trip Becky and I led for a school in Houston. Here are a few pictures of Boone discovering the Buffalo river:

We have spent some time in Colorado hiking and mountain biking. Here's a few pictures of Boone in the high mountains of Colorado:

Watching Boone discover the world has been a lot of fun. Dogs are a wonderful reminder of what it is to trust, to celebrate, and to love. If there's a lesson in any of this, it's simply that taking a chance on love is always worth it. Here's to good dogs, good times and a great life!

Backpacking Cat

We got these pictures and story through a friend's email. We think you'll enjoy them...

Kitty is a very adventurous cat. She is the beloved pet of American travelers, Peter and Marcia Simmons, who are hiking from
Miami , Florida to Ushuaia in Argentina . They are currently in Colombia . Kitty is often seen resting in Peter's backpack as they travel. They have set up a little umbrella on the backpack to shade Kitty from the sun.

Kitty is enjoying the trip as much as her owners. She often climbs on Peter's shoulder to get a better view of the new scenery. She is not at all shy about meeting new people. If there was an award for the most adventurous cat, Kitty would be the purr-fect candidate.

Kitty is definitely Daddy’s girl…

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tour Du Teche Racers Gathering

The Tour Du Teche Racers Gathering is for all people interested in finding out more about this unique 130 mile race along the entire length of the Bayou Teche. At this event, race organizers will cover details about portages and other features on the race route. During the meeting, organizers will cover and explain all the race rules as well as the race boat categories. We will host an informative session in which an experienced racer will give tips and tricks on how to eat, how to hydrate and other essential information that will make you more successful during the race.
The event is scheduled for Tuesday, August 17th at Pack & Paddle at 6pm. All prospective racers and family are invited to this free event.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Alone On The Appalachian Trail

Recently, Becky Williams and her puppy Boone took a two week solo hike on the Appalachian Trail. In the following blog, Becky describes their journey together.

People have asked what was I seeking, wasn’t I afraid and what was my trip like. Anyone who has taken a big trip will understand that these are sometimes difficult things to define. In thinking it through, I believe that there were three threads that ran true throughout my trip: 1 - Facing Fear, 2 - Being Present, and 3 - Staying Found.

My husband John and I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (AT) a couple of years ago and, while we were on the trip I was always a little in awe of the women starting their hike alone. Women you may know like Emily Starr Philips or Nancy Hall from the LA hiking club made me wonder - could I do that? John and I have been married since I was 18 years old, so I have never had to face my fears of being alone. This was my time to do it. I did bring along my puppy Boone, who was a constant source of companionship, a warm body to snuggle with and at the very least, a good bark. Not to mention good picture material!

What I immediately noticed about hiking alone was the incredible sense of being home on the trail. A lot of what we fear in day to day life is more in the stories we have heard or our imaginations running wild. Things could happen, but they could happen while I’m at home or driving to work. I have decided to use good judgment, but to live my life and enjoy it.

Taking some measured risks also tests and builds our faith. Long distance hiking always involves hitchhiking into town for re-supply. When I had to hitchhike, I spent some time praying about the people who would pick me up as well as for good judgment in the moment. Every time I had a great experience. Once it was a young couple dreaming of a thru hike of the AT themselves. Another time it was a couple about my age who were just finishing a 2 day trip. Yet another was a retired church-going couple from town. All these encounters may seem like risks to some, but the flip side are the opportunities for new friendships and positive encounters.

Another fear is things that go bump in the night. When hiking the AT, you will frequently camp in areas where others are camping also. On this hike I actually spent at least 4 nights totally alone. In one span of time, I went for over 48 hours without seeing another soul (outside of Boone!). One of the nights I heard the footsteps of a large animal. My heart started racing and panic was welling up. I had to fight myself into reason. I made myself think - there is nothing in my tent an animal would want - I am safe. Normally I would have yelled to scare it away, but luckily I had Boone to make all the noise for me. The animal (probably a boar) left and we went soundly back to sleep. I will agree that hiking with others is safer, but hiking alone gave me a different perspective and an opportunity to stay present and examine myself.

On a normal hike with John or other friends the constant buzz of people creates a lot of entertainment on the trail. This hike, however, was about introspection. I brought the perfect book along for this – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. A quote from the book is, “No heart had ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and eternity.” This perfectly describes why I took the hike. To accomplish this, I had to stay in the present moment. Not looking back at my past successes or failures and also not planning ahead for the next day or week. Simply trying to live in the moment. I found this difficult. Even though I was not making business or family plans, I could occupy my mind with plenty of things - how far to hike, what to eat, where to sleep - or even tasks of taking care of Boone, camp or journaling. One day during a rest, I was trying to catch up on my journal and my pen quit writing. I took that as a reminder to just be present. This time I heeded the reminder by lying on my back and looking up in the trees. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I was enjoying God’s artistry when a scarlet tanager flitted into the scene. Wow - wouldn’t want to miss that!

The lesson about being present also ties into staying found. On my last day of hiking, I found myself daydreaming about life when I get home. Just like my pen running out of ink, I took this as a reminder to stay present. As you may or may not know, I can be stubborn – and on this occasion, I just didn’t feel like it. I wanted to daydream. My route took me up, up, up out of a gap for 1 & 1/2 miles to an observation tower on the AT. I was following 2 guys and chatting. When we reached the tower, I realized it was too steep for Boone, so took off hoping to get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center in time for a late lunch. I daydreamed down, down, down the trail and came fully aware when I saw a road. My heart sank as I realized I was back at the original gap I started from.
My daydreaming cost me a very steep 3 mile up and down. Lesson noted, I started back up. I just could not stay in the present, though. I ignored my spirit telling me to stop daydreaming, just knowing that I could not possibly make the same mistake twice. I went up and over the field where the tower was and then down the trail to NOC. Daydreaming my way down, I became really sick when I saw the same road again. This could not be happening! Some other hikers came along and asked where I was from. I replied “Groundhog Day.”

I was so very confused. I knew I didn’t go down the same trail again - how could this have happened? Through talking to them, I realized I had followed the 2 guys up a trail on an old road which parallels the AT (then down, then up again). I then had taken the AT south where I came to the gap for the third time. Now I was 6 miles out of my way on an eleven mile day - big bummer. As with almost everything in life, there is beauty beyond the pain - if you are open to it. This turned into the best day of hiking on the trip. The group I met in the gap were incredible. I hiked the rest of the way in to NOC with a fellow past thru hiker - with the trail name “Corsican.” We talked of my trip and what it meant to me, of God and the beauty we were surrounded by.

The experience of these two weeks was incredible. I faced my fear of being alone and found there wasn’t much to be afraid of. I (for the most part) stayed present and fed my soul. I tested hiking, camping, and navigation skills and gained confidence and hopefully became a better hiking partner and partner in life with John. I have realized I can hike alone - I loved this experience. But my futures plans revolve around adventures with my Pack & Paddle friends, most importantly - John. You were missed partner!