Saturday, July 24, 2010

319 Miles Left!!!

     It's hard to believe, but the journey keeps getting better and better. Lola and I are doing well and are currently in New Hampshire. We spent the past week making our way through the White Mtns., including the Franconian Range and the Presidential Range, and we have both been left in awe. The hiking was steep and sometimes slick, but the 360 degree views made it all worth the struggle. The vastness and the sheer scale of the Whites exceeded all our expectations. Even now I feel as though I'm still trying to catch my breath. We have been blessed with more amazing trail magic as our new friends Terry and Gretchen, who we met along the trail in Virginia back in May, have taken us into their home and treated us to a day of rest. Right now I'm enjoying an ice cold beer, some chips and home-made guacamole, and I can smell the swordfish cooking in the broiler. Life continues to astound! We will be heading back to the trail tomorrow morning and should be crossing the border into Maine in 3 or 4 days. As best as we can tell, it looks like we'll be finishing sometime around the 15th of August. Wow! That seems really weird to type. I'm not sure how many chance we will have to update the blog between now and then with civilization becoming more spread out as we go further up into Maine, but we will do our best to keep you all up to date. Special thanks to Mom Boutwell, Mom Baker, Tony P and Maureen, Bess, and Peter for the awesome care packages we picked up in Killington, VT. You guys and gals are great! And a huge thanks to Terry and Gretchen. Your hospitality was just as amazing as the views!

The Presidential Range, NH

Sunrise from Liberty Mtn., NH

Franconian Range, White Mtns., NH

Thundering Creek Falls, VT
Is this what they mean by "Natural Beauty"?

Vermont/ New Hampshire Border

Sun setting and moon rising, White Mtns., NH

Catching the sunrise atop Liberty Mtn., NH

Franconian Range, White Mtns., NH

South Twin Mtn., NH

Lakes of the Clouds Hut, where we helped with dishes in exchange for a meal and a nights stay

Mt. Washington, NH

The Great Gulf, Mt. Adams in the distance, NH

Lola on the summit of Mt. Madison, NH

Curious fox, White Mtns., NH

Galehead Hut, White Mtns., NH

Friday, July 9, 2010

Upper Goose Pond, MA

The wetlands of New Jersey

New York!!!!

Lyme Disease, BOOOO!!!!!!!!!



Race Mtn, MA


Beautiful mountain lakes, VT

4th of July at Tom's!!!

The A.T. runs right in front of Tom Lavardi's house in Dalton, MA, and he absolutely blew us away with his over-the-top generosity and hospitality. We walked into Dalton late afternoon on July 4th, and were greeted and offered a shower, laundry, a place to sleep, and dinner. Wow! The truely amazing part is that he not only opened his home to us, but to 13 thru-hikers in all that evening. It was a 4th of July picnic we will never forget. Thanks so much Tom. You are a legend.

Journal entry from 7/7, Day #107

     My feet hurt. My knee hurts. They are not sore. They don't just ache and they aren't just stiff. They hurt. My feet are calloused and blistered. My heals are both bruised and tender to the touch. Where the nail of my right pinkie-toe used to be there is now . . . well, I don't really know what that is. My knee is swollen. I touch it with my index finger and can feel the fluid that has built up around my knee cap. 107 days, 12 states, and over 1600 miles of walking have taken their toll. I gently rub and massage them after another long day on the trail, mainly out of obligation, feeling guilty for what I've been putting them through. Sometimes I imagine them looking up at me and yelling obscenities, asking what in the world I am thinking. "Why were we not a part of the decision making process?" they ask. "You wanna walk from Georgia to Maine, fine, sounds great . . . just as long as you walk on your hands." My imagination begins to wander. Then I remember a story, a story of a woman. She was also attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, and, as every thru-hiker is at some point or another, she was asked the question, "Why? Why are you out here?" Her reason was somewhat shocking. Shortly before starting her hike, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her doctor had given her months, a year at most, to live. She said she wanted to be on the trail because every day that she was in the wilderness, every time she struggled to make it up a mountain, every moment of pain, every step, was another moment that she knew she was alive. I've found that I understand her answer a little more each day. It's when I'm pushing up the last few feet of a steep climb, sweat completely saturating my shirt and still pouring down my face, and just as I reach the summit, I am greeted by a gentle breeze that manages to send a chill down the length of my spine. It's bending down over the coldest, clearest spring I've ever seen, cupping my hands, and tasting its refreshing purity. It's standing atop an exposed ridge, trying to comprehend the magnificence of the sunset that is on display before me, and all I can do is throw my arms out wide and scream. It's waking up to the beautiful songs of birds and falling asleep to the soothing hoot of an owl. It's when it rains so hard that all there is to do is laugh. It's waking up on the morning of our 5th anniversary and looking at my wife asleep next to me. We're in our tent, on the Appalachian Trail, living out a dream that was just some crazy idea we began talking about when we were engaged. These are the moments that remind me I'm alive, the moments that remind me that I am blessed.
     A friend of mine once shared with me his analogy for life. He explained to me this idea of how life is like a big sponge that is totally saturated, and that the harder we squeeze, the more life pours out onto us. I've thought about the picture for a while now. Often times I've envisioned myself squeezing every last drop of life out of that sponge. I want to squeeze so hard, so hard that it hurts. . . 
     I look back down at my feet, realizing I have a new understanding of my friend's analogy. Maybe they're not yelling obscenities at me after all. Maybe they're just trying to remind me that I'm alive. Maybe it's less about being comfortable and instead thriving in the uncomfortable? Maybe it's about embracing the struggle instead of trying to find an easier way? As I lay back and slowly begin to drift to sleep, I think about the experiences, the moments, and the adventure that still lies ahead. Such a gift life is. I hope I can always remember this truth. I hope I will always remember to live life 'til it hurts and to laugh louder the harder it rains.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Almost to Vermont!

     Hello to all and much love from the trail. The past two weeks have seemed to fly by. There's been plenty of adventure, no doubt. For those of you who have not heard, Laura did contract Lyme disease. She is doing really well though, has experienced no symptoms whatsoever, and will continue taking antibiotics for the next couple of weeks. We were truly blessed to meet a local trail maintainer in New York, Ralph "Elvis Trailsley", who was extremely helpful with information and with getting Laura her medication. Thanks so much Ralph. You are a true trail angel! (On a similar but far less curable note, my beard continues to grow rampantly out of control. No amount of antibiotics or landscaping equipment seems to be helping!) As far as the hiking goes, since our last post we have traveled through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and tomorrow will be our last day in Massachusetts. That's a little over 280 miles in 13 days. We're feeling great both physically and mentally which is good because from here to Mt. Katahdin, the hiking is going to get a lot harder. The last 600 miles through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine is said to be without a doubt the hardest stretch of the trail. The journey continues to be amazing, overwhelming, inspiring, humbling . . . pretty much every feeling and emotion that can't be properly put into words. We are so excited about what lies ahead, and as always, are so appreciative of all the love and support and encouraging comments. Specifically, thanks to Logan and Lerrin for sending us our mail drop. To Kirk, Chrissy, Rachel, Kennon, and Nathan, thanks for the care package. It's always great to have some treats on the trail! To our friend and trail angel Joe in Vernon, NJ, thanks so much for the ride from the grocery store and for taking the time to chat with us. You made our day by keeping our ice cream from melting! Finally, thanks again to you for keeping up with us through this blog. We will post more pictures and videos as soon as we are able. Much love and blessings from Lola and Sunrise!