Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Adventures

So, you've got the photos and you've got the map - but you're still probably wondering what we've been doing this summer (and perhaps why and how). Here's a little insight for the time being.

When we started this summer we had planned on hiking the Appalachian Trail. That was supposed to take up a little over 3 months and so we had to budget for that period of time. When we got bored of hiking, we still had the time and the money - thus our summer adventure.

Most of our time hiking was consumed with conversation about all of the amazing things that there are to do throughout the country, and not having current passports, we are limited to in country travel only. After playing around for a bit we figured, what better way to see the country than by visiting locations that were deemed important enough to be protected by an act of congress?!

Thus far we have visited the following National Parks, Preserves, Forests, Monuments, and/or Scenic Rivers:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (while hiking the AT)
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (St. Louis Arch)
Niobrara National Scenic River
Badlands National Park
Wind Cave National Park
Mount Rushmore National Monument
Jewel Cave National Monument
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Pompeys Pillar National Monument
Gallatin National Forest
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Bridger-Teton National Forest
Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Arches National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Natural Bridges National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument
Mesa Verde National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Rocky Mountain National Park

We have seen amazing things through hikes, canoeing, climbing, and even doing the touristy thing of just looking out the windows. Through ranger talks and different displays I think I have learned more about our national history than I ever did in school and it has been amazing. Stay tuned for more stories of this summer, and of course more photos as our adventures continue!


Map of our summer of adventure

View 2009 Summer Adventure in a larger map

Friday, May 29, 2009

AT Days 13-22

The following are Tarah's journal entries from our final ten days on the trail. Entries from our first twelve days on the trail can be found here.

May 14 – Day 13 ~21 miles

Today felt great! Still have tired feet at the end of the day, but they are feeling better for longer each day!
Met some interesting people today – a ranger and a ridge runner, some old school hikers and their light weight friends (some miles apart of course) a couple of guys (Big Foot & Green T.) that started their hike in March, some people without a plan, and a guy (Tom) who started the hike with his brother – but his brother has since ditched him.
We’re staying at the Icewater [Spring] Shelter tonight- perhaps our only one this trip – but we made numbers 6 and 7 so camping wasn’t/isn’t really permitted. We’ll see how it goes. :)
Today we also did Clingman’s Dome – the highest elevation on the trail – does that mean it’s all downhill from here? I don’t think so!

May 15 – Day 14 ~21 miles

Holy hail storm! This afternoon we hiked through quite the storm. It chilled me to the bone, but I was already wet, already cold, and on the trail anyway so we kept on moving – at least that way we generated some heat!
Made it to our shelter in about 10 hours – despite the rain it was a wonderful day! My feet didn’t even bother me much when we got into camp – maybe it all the river walking!
Last night after settling into bed Cargin and Scott rolled into camp. We saw them again and this morning they admitted we might just keep seeing each other. We discovered that they started on the 4th and are planning their summit a couple of days after ours. Today they got into camp about an hour and a half after us (they waited out the hail storm).
We have quite the characters staying at the shelter tonight – and thankfully we are tenting! There is a group of 5 in from Shelby to see the plane wreck and they have enough supplies to outfit a circus! We started the evening with them going out to find firewood. They tried roping it down from trees – then they tried cutting one down with one of their many machetes – they had success there and seemed to just keep on chopping! Anyway a fire was started and I think we came to the tent as the party was getting started.
Despite their many offerings of making room for us in the shelter, I am glad to be in the tent. :)
Also here tonight – Moe King.

May 16 – Day 15 ~21 miles -> $17.75

We started the morning with a quick hike out of GSMNP and made it to Standing Bear Farm for our resupply by 12:30. Standing Bear was a great environment – I can see how some people may get sucked in for days at a time! They had a nice library, Internet, phone, showers, washboard laundry and of course our reason for stopping – a resupply “store”. Everything was reasonably priced – so we’re set until we get to Hot Springs (plans to meet up with mom were also finalized at S.B.)
We were happy to have a banana with lunch today – yay fresh fruit! Then decided S.B. taints their food to make you want to stay! We were rather sluggish those first miles back on the trail! They also tried to get us to fill up on water. We figure they taint that too, to get you to stay for a couple of days. J Of course now we are at camp and there isn’t water like our data says (unless you count the stuff falling from the sky). So goes a day on the trail…
Here’s hoping for a slight break in the rain so we can scarf down some food before hitting the sack. :)

May 17 – Day 16 23.3 miles

Long rainy day into Hot Springs. We’ll meet up with Mom and Ashley tomorrow morning – change out some gear and do a resupply. I’m going to check out some shoes to see if I can make my toes happy.
Good long day – good pace! In tent by 9:00pm – started 9:00am and took an hour water break today.

May 18 – Day 17 ~11 miles -> $14.50

Today was a relatively slow day. We met mom, dad, and Ashley shortly after 8am in Hot Springs. Since the outfitter didn’t open until 9 we went for breakfast despite the fact that Chris and I decided yesterday that we didn’t want to go out to eat – but we kept it light – I had an and egg and cheese biscuit and Chris had some home fries – much less than most hikers eat (for instance Cargin and Scott each had about 3 entrees).
Any who – went to the outfitter, but they didn’t have shoes so we supplemented mom’s resupply for us with a couple of other things. Heaviest resupply so far, but it will last us awhile.
Got things settled and were on the trail by 11:30 (2 hours later than intended). Also got a new bite valve today (thanks dad). Ashley made sour cream chocolate chip cookies – yum and we got some Neiman Marcus cookies from Chris’s mom – woo hoo!
11 miles to shelter – did laundry – and a party showed up. Maybe 15 people around now. More reason for a big day tomorrow.
Money rundown today:
$14.50 spent
$6.00 breakfast thanks mom & dad
$6.00 bite valve thanks dad
$20 donation from dad – Thanks!
Partial resupply already – priceless
Thanks :)

May 19 – Day 18 ~23 miles

We were second out of camp today. Moe King left about an hour ahead of us. It was nice to get moving like we would on a regular day – after yesterday it was doubly nice. With a big day planned it was good to be out of camp around 7:30 – and before most people were up.
We made great time today, covering the first 4 miles at roughly a 20 minute pace. We made it to the first shelter of the day around 11 and had a snack before moving on again.
We had a beautiful exposed ridge hike today. There was mental stimulation for the footwork, some nice views, and it was just all around good hiking. I think it was my favorite section of our hike so far!
Made it to the next shelter shortly after 2 and had lunch with Moe King and Kermit. Then moved on to our lovely campsite for the evening. After last night at the shelter it is nice to be just the two of us.

May 20 – Day 19 ~21 miles

Today was a not so good day. I felt sluggish and slow and climbs felt like they lasted all day. I got frustrated with my pace and pushed on past a shelter and took my decision out on Chris. All in all – not a good situation.
We talked about whether or not we need to leave the trail – if our hiking styles will make this a bad trip for our relationship. We’ll give it some more miles, but our relationship is much, much more important than any trail.
Positives for the day included some amazing views and meeting a few more people. Also – being outdoors, no matter how uncoordinated I felt – leave it at this, if I didn’t have trekking poles and closed toe shoes I would probably have a broken nose and ten broken toes, so huge positive – trekking poles.

May 21 – Day 20 ~20 miles

Not really sure how far we trekked today as I’m not sure where exactly we camped last night. Stopped earlier than we would have liked since there doesn’t appear to be any place to camp between this shelter and Beauty Spot Gap. This will make our next resupply either at the very end of tomorrow – depending on how well we get moving in the morning or first thing Saturday.
Today was a much better day. The pace felt relaxed and yet we covered good ground and would have gone further had trail conditions appeared like there would have been good camping in the next 3 miles as opposed to roads.
Any who – happy trails, happy journeys and happy thoughts.
* Power music today: Queen (Bicycle Race), Talking Heads (I’ve got a Girlfriend), Kanye West (Amazing), Girl Talk, and a random church hymn,

May 22 – Day 21 ~22 miles + 1.2 miles to resupply -> $28

This morning we managed to roll out of camp at 7:15! Our biggest challenge has been actually getting out of our nice, warm sleeping bags each morning, it seems. However, some mornings the call of nature gets me moving a little faster!
So, got out of camp – and after Chris got going in the right direction he caught me and let me know that overnight the toe monster had gotten him and that after 3 primarily foot problem free weeks a strange sore had popped up.
We stumbled through Beauty Spot (not the name I would give it) and up Unaka Mountain to decide his foot needed a rest. After squeezing some junk out of his toe we moved on to the shelter to reassess.
With a decision to hike in Crocs we managed to make our resupply and move on to the next shelter! What an afternoon!
Happy in camp and here’s to happy toes.

May 23 – Day 22 ~17 miles?

So, we are set up in the middle of a cow pasture right now – somewhere between the summit of Hump Mountain and Doll Flats. We started climbing the mountain with looming storm clouds and after walking through some thick mist for a while we decided to abort our mission to get to Doll Flats. Isn’t that what a thru hike is all about?
Started our day going up, up, up to Roan High Bluffs and then walked down some annoying cobbles and then onto the balds. We had 4 balds today, and until we got on Hump Mountain, they made me think of the Sound of Music – all green and stuff – it just needed Maria singing. :)
So here’s to a squishy, hilly, some sort of night! Happy hikers and feet tomorrow. :)

May 24 – Day 23 ~16 miles -> $10

Today we woke to a dreary fog/mist on the top of Hump Mountain. Made our way to Doll Flats and filled up on water. After walking a couple more miles we had a discussion that led to us deciding today would be our last day on the trail.
Some may say that was a hard decision or that it was giving up – but in our minds we have spent 90-95% of our journey talking about everything else we want to do. The other times we talk about random stuff or about how we have had better times in Acadia with the views and technical hiking. All in all, what is the point in hiking 2200 miles if it isn’t enjoyable? We aren’t ones to do something just so we can say we did it.
They say it’s about the journey – not the destination. We’ll see what other adventures present themselves this summer and accept that as the path God has intended for us.
And – we hiked 400 miles in 23 days. I think that’s pretty good stuff.
Tonight we’re at Abby’s Place and tomorrow we’ll meet mom and dad for the drive to NC (just when we though we were through with the state for awhile!).
Sweet dreams & here’s to a whole new adventure!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Summer Travel Plans

We're looking at about eleven and a half weeks of travel, with stops in:
Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

We'll be hiking, climbing, canoeing, rafting, caving, visiting National Parks, spending time with friends & family and more!!!

Way better than just walking 2000+ miles.

View Epic Journey Summer 2009 in a larger map

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The AT Days 1-12

The following are Tarah's journal entries from our first twelve days on the trail. Entries from our final days on the trail will follow shortly.

May 2, 2009

Today we started the AT. Mom and Dad dropped us off at Amicola Falls State Park and then hiked about 3 miles or so with us. We started around noon after signing in as hikers 667 and 668 for the 2009 thru year.

We arrived at the summit of Springer around 4pm. It was really anti-climactic – but after a couple of photos we took our first steps on the AT! Yay us! We stopped around 7pm, roughly 5 miles past Springer – around 14 for the day.

May 3 – Day 2 AT ~16 miles

Today started with waking up in the rain and it looks like we are going to sleep in the rain. However, the day was mostly dry and the sun even came out for a little while!

We saw a variety of creatures today including: red lizards (about 4 of them), a million different centipedes of all different colors, a variety of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks. We also saw several humans. We played tag with a group of 4 for a couple of miles and they did not catch up again in the end. Perhaps we’ll see them another place, another time. There were about 3 other people we passed and 2 ultralighters that passed us.

We had our first hot dinner tonight, with Chris’s mac and cheese exploding and mine turning into soup. Thankfully we have 2200 more miles to figure it out!

For now – rain and occasional thunder – tomorrow Blood Mountain and Neel’s Gap.

May 4 – Day 3 ~17 miles ‡ $2

We started today with a break in the rain, it even seemed promising enough that we took off our pack covers in hopes of things drying out! Then the mist rolled in and so we covered everything up once more.

Stopped at Neel’s Gap for lunch and that’s when the rain came pouring down. After comments from other hikers on our tenacity, we took off into the rain for six miles of singing through bear country and a trail that turned into a river!

All in all, a good day – even if it was a bit damp. Now that camp is set up it appears we’ll have a dry evening – maybe a dry day tomorrow?

May 5 – Day 4 ~11 miles

Today we started out in our crocs because our shoes were still wet from yesterday’s downpour. I ended up changing into my wet shoes because I started getting a little rash on my foot. The little rash turned into a big rash that is now covering both of my feet 0 oh joy! Thankfully it doesn’t itch or hurt so I’ll keep taking benadryl and hope that it goes away.

We had a low mile day today so that we can go into Helen for a resupply tomorrow. If all goes well we’ll hopefully make it to Tray Mountain Shelter (and maybe my feet will clear up!)

May 6 – Day 5 ~13 miles (trail) + 5 miles (road) ‡$16

We started the day with a loud thunderstorm and loads of rain – and some magic! We were walking into Helen to do a quick resupply and after 4 miles of road walking (where the store should have been) a nice man picked us up and drove us the other 2 miles (he had already taken the Swiss guys to the store and they told him they had met us on the trail – and he came back!) After our resupply we walked about 1.5 miles and a couple of women picked us up to take us back to the trailhead. What fabulous magic! We were able to start hiking again by the time we wanted to leave town!

*A quick side for memory sake – one of the women may have been trying to get us to buy pot … hmmm …

*Additional note: for those who have watched Northern Exposure, the old man that picked us up reminded me of Maurice – in looks and mannerisms

Anyway here we are, about 5.5 miles past our original plan and we’ll hopefully make it to NC tomorrow!

May 7 – Day 6 ~17 miles (79.3 total)

Today we made it into North Carolina! And, North Carolina means business – almost as soon as we entered the state we went up, up, up!

Feet felt a little better today, just a little tender at the get go – but the couple of blisters I have are feeling OK as of now.

It was nice and sunny today – a great break from the rain. Tomorrow we’ll see what the trail has in store for us!

May 8 – Day 7 ~19 miles

Today we had a pretty easy day in North Carolina. There were rolling hills and occasional views – and of course that one pesky thunderstorm that was right over our heads (literally no time between lightning and thunder) and drove us to a shelter for about an hour. There were about 10 of us there waiting out the heaviest part of the storm – and we were the first out when things lightened up a bit.

We gladly added 3 miles onto our planned day when we arrived at that campground by 5pm. Chris would have driven me crazy with that much daylight left and there was a crazy, growly dog there.

*As a side, there were also two hikers who had told us in the morning that we probably wouldn’t see them again – they were planning the shelter where we are now – as of right now we passed them twice in the morning but have yet to see them at the shelter – and we have been here for about 2 hours. Maybe we’ll see them in the morning.

Another shorter day tomorrow and a resupply!

Oh! And it seems that every time I say it’s just a 5K we climb up, up, up!

May 9 – Day 8 ~20 miles

So we skipped our resupply today in favor of going to the NOC tomorrow instead where we won’t need to go off trail for goodies.

Had a late start today but good miles through early afternoon when we were thwarted with a very cold rainstorm. Regardless – we stayed on track and are at the shelter for the night – and made our fist 20 mile day.

May 10 – Day 9 ~16 miles ‡ $12

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Birthday Ashley!

We are camped out at the shelter before the NOC. We got in about 5 – Chris ran (literally) to the NOC to get a couple of days resupply food and I set up camp and started laundry. When Chris got back we did baths and water and all that hullabalu to get clean for the next couple of days – week – whatever :)

Today was some nice hiking – ups and downs with quick views – kind of like Maine. For me it has been my favorite section of the trail so far, even if my feet TOTALLY disagree.

This evening after setting up camp Cargin and friend came through headed to the NOC. For people we weren’t supposed to see again we sure have seen them a lot. Not sure when exactly we passed them – but apparently we did. Who knows when we’ll run into them again!

Happy trails and Happy feet :)

May 11 – Day 10 ~ 17 miles

Up, up, up! That’s what we did today – I’m sure we went down a little here and there, but mostly I remember climbing when I think of today! We had some nice views over the Nantahala Gorge and from Cheowa Bald. It stayed pretty cool most of the day.

This evening we got to the shelter and there was a man there with dogs. He told us that if we were going to eat the dogs would beg – but we could just ignore them. My advice to hikers with dogs – put them on a leash.

Settling in now and ready to get warm! Chris has found that we are camping on nature’s Tempur-Pedic. If he shifts just right his bum goes in a hole and straightens out his spine! Just what you need after a long hike :)

*Additional note: The privy at this shelter was missing its walls! Just what you want when you have two unleashed dogs roaming the area…

May 12 – Day 11 ~13 miles + 2 road miles ‡ $45

Today we had a pretty relaxing day. We lazed in our tent until around 7:30 and left camp around 8:45. With only 13 miles to Fontana Dam we figured there wasn’t much of a rush.

Saw some crazy millipedes congregating on a tree and Chris spotted another snake that I just happened to walk over without notice – this makes 2. I better start noticing them, I don’t want to irritate a poisonous one!

Made it into Fontana after chatting with some crazy hikers. They were 2 older men who have been sectioning for a while – they’re finishing up the south this trip and then have Maine left. One likes Pennsylvania because of the road houses at every gap – the other thinks his friend wouldn’t know a good vista if you told him it was right in front of him :)

After walking to Fontana Village for resupply we partook in some magic from some ’08 thru hikers and a section hiker named Xanadu. Now we are at the Hilton (shelter) – there were free showers!

Tomorrow it’s onto the Smokies!

“I do not impact nature – Nature impacts me” – Tunnelvision this AM :)

May 13 – Day 12 ~23 miles

Enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! The first part of our day flew by with gradual up-hills and gradual down-hills. The trail was reasonably wide and pretty level. We reached our halfway point around 1.

Our second half was a little slower with a climb up Thunderhead Mountain and slightly rougher terrain on a little tired legs and feet – feet much more so than legs.

We made it to a full shelter after about 12 hours of hiking and after dinner and a little deliberation, happily pitched our tent (* you are only supposed to sleep in shelters in the Smokies, unless they are full).

Today’s excitement included interrupting a climbing lesson between Mama and Baby bear just before lunch and then about 45 minutes before getting to the shelter we heard a nice little growl before what I assume was a bear ran down the mountain.

Happy trails :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Leaving the Trail

After three weeks and 400 miles, we have decided that we have way too many interests we want to pursue, to spend three and a half months walking in the woods. Instead we are going to spend the next few months traveling around the country seeing friends and embracing the outdoors in many more ways than just hiking one trail.
A tentative schedule of our upcoming adventures and when we'll be in your part of the world to come soon.

Thank you all so much for your support, thoughts and prayers,

Chris & Tarah

Pictures and thoughts from the trail coming very soon

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Trail musings...

Tuesday 5-12
Thoughts from 11 days on the trail:
Georgia: Lots of switch backs and pretty clear trails. Lots of rain!
North Carolina: Up, up and away! You actually climb up mountains here
but it also appears someone has stollen the switch backs.
Bugs: lots of cool centipedes of all sorts of colors.
Other critters: noisy squirrels, quiet snakes, birds that try to fly
up your pants.
People: interesting - some I would like to talk to more - some I enjoy
passing because they underestimate me since I am female.
Days: 11
Miles: 164
Money: under budget
Life is good - back to the trail!
Sent from our iPod

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tomorrow's the Big Day

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 2, we will be starting our long walk back to Maine. You will be able to follow our progress via this blog. The map on the right side of the page should be updated daily by our wonderful sisters. You can also find a link in the sidebar to our SPOT page that will show the previous seven days of trail activity.

We will be posting occasionally, but we won't be able to share any photos until we finish the hike, unless someone else on the trail takes our photo and emails them to us.

Please feel free to email and/or leave comments here and share our contact info with anyone else you think might be interested in our crazy adventure.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Trail Names

On the trail, hikers lose more than just weight, they also lose their Christian names and are bestowed with trail names. Tarah and I have already given each other trail names while logging our many miles in Acadia and Baxter, but we are open to additional names while on the A.T.
My trail name is Steward, short for Trail Steward. Since I hike a little quicker than Tarah, I often clear fallen branches from the trail while she catches up, and by day's end my pack is almost always loaded with litter and discarded clothes and gear left by other hikers.
Tarah's trail name is a little more fun. I call her Tunnel Vision because when she gets in her hiking zone she is so focused that she either keeps marching forward regardless of whether there are blazes or not, or she follows the blazes so literally that she tackles difficult terrain when there is a simple route a step or two to the side.
While these names fit well and we enjoy them, I'm sure that we'll pick up some new names on the trail. I have an inkling that my hot pick socks and camp shoes or my bright red trail runners will lead to a name or two, at least amongst other hikers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

AT Preparations

With our start date for the AT now six weeks away, I thought I'd share about our preparations. We have been trying to get to the gym 9 or 10 times a week. We've been lifting weights for our legs, arms and core; we've been using the stair climbers and treadmills with weighted packs; we've been in the climbing gym, and gone for the occasional runs and swims.
We have finalized our gear, we bought pack covers and dry-bags (one to purify water in and one to store our electronics).
Last weekend we made our first aid kit with an empty peanut butter jar, a few adhesive bandages, some moleskin, antihistamine, alcohol wipes and Tums. The jar is light, relatively crush proof and water proof.
Probably the most important preparation though, is my beard. I decided that I didn't want bother with shaving, or the itch and pesky neck hairs of growing a beard, on the trail. So, I decided to get a jump the whiskers and have the beard in place by the time we hit the trail. Of course, I'll still have to deal with trimming the 'stache, but I have a handy scissors on our mini multi-tool and a loving wife, so that won't be too bad.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

N is for...


Today we received our official nomination for the Peace Corps. It is exactly 3 months after our interview and it seems like it has been a long wait.

Of course, as we have learned though our service with AmeriCorps, service work with the government always requires some wait. This time the wait will be a little longer than 3 months as our nomination is for March 2010 in Central or South America. We will be doing youth development work and some community development work. One of the cool things about service in Latin America is that you live with a host family for your first year of service. I am really looking forward to the first-hand knowledge of the culture and customs of whichever country we go to instead of just figuring it out as we go!

Now it is a matter of those physical and dental exams that were mentioned in an earlier post. Thankfully mom works with the hospital system in Asheville/Hendersonville and they have a free clinic. Hopefully things will work out for us to have these exams after we move down there in April when we will no longer be employed or insured.

More updates as more information becomes available...but like us, you'll have to wait!

Monday, March 2, 2009

In a pack and on the back

As we roll into the month of March I am getting more and more excited about the journey that lies ahead. I am reading about individuals who have already begun their trek on the Appalachian Trail, about those who have successfully finished, and about those who are trying to put it all together so that they can make the great journey. I look forward to the day when I move beyond the "putting it all together" stage.

This weekend we received a well-timed message at church, "Packing and Unpacking." We explored what is really needed when you are out in the wilderness, and thankfully we have a little more time to put together the elements that we "need" to survive. It was this message that gave me the motivational shove to see what it is that we have been talking about taking on our backs and to see if indeed, everything would fit in our packs (without making us bend over in pain!)

I feel like the list of things to take is long, but at the same time I realize that in order to be comfortable (to a modest backpackers extent) at the end of (and during) the day I will need to take some gear. Chris and I have our tent, sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners (to try and minimize the damage to our actual bags), sleeping pads, backpacks, food storage system, cooking system, water purification system, LNT garbage system, first aid / personal hygiene system, trekking poles, clothes, shoes, gaiters, camp shoes, camera and tripod, an iPod (for desperate moments,) a compass (for more desperate moments!,) a leatherman, SPOT, and headlamps - and of course clothes (layering systems and raingear) - and it all needs to go on our backs. For more detailed information about what these items are, check out our AT Gear List. The short of the long of it though, is that it looks a little haphazard (and maybe a little scary) when it first comes together. Now it is just a matter of actually getting it to be transportable in a way that won't require pack mules.

As I was pulling stuff out of our gear room (formerly an extra bedroom until we realized we had that much gear) I was really wondering if I could make it all work. Sleeping bags seem to grow as they hang and air out and even after the list is surveyed and cut back upon, you just can't keep clothes from taking up space. Then I realize that yes, I have a compression sack for my sleeping back, that I will be wearing some of these clothes all of the time and some of them most of the time, and some of them some of the time, and occasionally I may be wearing all of them at the same time. I realize that all of the little things can fit into little spaces such as the hood on my pack or the stretchy stow pockets or the nifty zippered section on the stow pocket. I realized that between Chris and I, I only need to carry half of our tent. I know that I can shove my "camp clothes" and bag liner into my sleeping bag's compression sack. After a little time, and not too much effort I made it work - even better, I have room to spare!

To prepare for our hike we have been "climbing" the stair stepper at the YMCA with weighted packs. At last weigh in I was training with a 30 pound bag, and my loaded pack weighs less than that (based on the oh so scientific method of picking up a "weighted" pack (Chris's which weighs in at 33 pounds for training) and then my "loaded" pack). Granted, I do not have the weight of 4 - 5 days of food or a full water bladder, but I think I will still weigh in under 30 pounds. To the left you can see Chris's compact "weighted" pack from training and my "loaded" pack for this summer.

In then end (or you may still call it the beginning), I have realized that yes, I can comfortably (I say from the comfort of my home) put it all on my back and that I have everything that I need. So now I can sit back (when I am not on the dreaded stair stepper) and wait for May 1 to arrive.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Last Saturday, we finally had good snow, good weather and free time to enjoy the outdoors again. Short of a New Year's/birthday stroll through the beautiful DuPont State Forest in North Carolina, we hadn't gotten out since our Cadillac sunrise summit.
On this outing we headed to Camden Hills State Park. We avoided the trail and used the Televator feature on our snowshoes and headed straight up the side of Mount Megunticook. We had spectacular views of Megunticook Lake, Camden Snow Bowl and the Atlantic.
Never shying away from an adventure, our route down was the steepest area we could descend without rappelling or down climbing with crampons and ice axes. Our descent was a mixture of shoeing, skiing and sledding.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Waiting Game

"The only locations that fit the skill sets of you and Christopher require level 2 Spanish speaking abilities."

And so our wait began... or at least the next phase of it.

After interviewing for Peace Corps in December we received word at the beginning of the month (February) that if we would agree to enhance our Spanish abilities we could be nominated for service starting in March 2010. So, while this narrows our options for service countries, it also gives us a smaller area to ponder as opposed to the whole world!

After surveying the options for learning Spanish and checking out prices for these options, we decided that this was a feasible plan. After roughly 10 years of not using Spanish we will take the plunge and eventually invest in Rosetta Stone. Based on information from those who have used it before we figure it will give us the abilities to pass the CLEP test for the required college credits at a small fraction of the price to attend a semester of college. Now we wait for the next round of information, which our recruiter is trying to pin down. Between conferring with those at the placement office and his recruitment campaigns we are bound to have some more information in the future (how distant that future is I am not completely certain, but I hope that it is soon!)

Once we pass this hurdle and sign whatever required documentation is needed to bind us to this agreement to learn Spanish we will enter the waiting phase that is broken up only by physicals and dental exams - and more waiting while the results of those appointments are reviewed to see if we are healthy enough to live outside of the great United States for a period of 27 months.

And so we wait for our next service experience to come to fruition.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Now that we are well into 2009, I thought that it would be fitting to do a recap of our 2008 activities. iPhoto makes it quite convenient to remember when different adventures took place, so here it goes.

New Year's Day: We enjoyed our new outdoor equipment and went snowshoeing in Camden Hills State Park. We climbed up to the top of Bald Rock where we could look at at the islands of Penobscott Bay. We also enjoyed a delicious meal of Ramen and played with the panorama feature of our new waterproof/freezeproof camera.

January 6: More snowshoeing

January 13: Took in a BodyVox production

January 20: More snowshoeing

February 2: Camden WinterFest - We carved ice sculptures in support of the nonprofit organizations that we each work for. Unfortunately, all of our cameras lacked batteries with any power so there are no photos, but Tarah's organization (S.T.A.R./5 Town CTC) carved an adult holding hands with a child and Chris's organization (The Teen Center) carved a tree on a base of a heart, because everything that the Teen Cener does is "rooted in love".

February 3: We watched the Super Bowl at our friends Dave and Eri's house and ate tons of delicious sushi and other Japanese food.

February8: Attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

February 9: More snowshoeing

February 16: First longish (10 miles) run in preparation for North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler

February 23/24: Winter camping trip in Acadia National Park

We don't have any photos or notes from March, but I'm guessing we probably snowshoed and Chris ran miles and miles and miles (mostly inside).

April 5/6: Shoulder season camping and Cadillac Mountain summit sunrise hike

April 12: North Face Endurance Challenge in Bear Mountain New York
Tarah runs/hikes the 10K, Chris runs/hikes over half of the 50M Chris makes it into the ad for the the 2009 series

April 20: Explored new (to us) trails in Acadia National Park

April 26: Chris went solo in Grafton State Park hoping to knock out the Grafton Loop Trail in a weekend. Little did he know there was still a ton of snow so his attempt was thwarted, but he got to use his orientating skills and get home early to spend his b-day with Tarah.

May 3: We are introduced to the world of rock climbing and the joys of a Dan Deacon Concert

May 11: Shopping for outdoor gear, including climbing gear, in Freeport and Portland

May 24/25: Back to Grafton. We knocked out the 40ish mile loop in two days

June 7/8: Participated in National Trails Day in Baxter State Park by being eaten alive by black flies and clearing a trail with other volunteers

June 14/15: Worked on "defining the corridor" that is the Wadleigh Brook Trail in Baxter State Park, our assignment for the Trail Stewards program

June 21/22: Back to Acadia National Park, this was the trip that we decided that we needed to hike all of the trails in Acadia before we left the area.

June 28/29: Back to Baxter, this time purely for pleasure. We poked around the south end of the park on Saturday and then got up early Sunday and climbed Katahdin in the rain and fog.

July 4/5/6: A long weekend in Acadia National Park. We avoided the holiday masses, except to watch Bar Harbor's fireworks from atop Cadillac Mountain, and hiked everything that we could on the "quiet side" of Mount Desert Island.

July 12/13: More trail work in Baxter and the Traveler Loop, in under 7 hours

July 26 - August 2: Vacation in Iowa (and Nebraska) Our "tax credit" went to plane tickets to the plains. We enjoyed a wonderful at week with the family, chilling at home, hanging at the Iowa Great Lakes, and seeing the sights at Henry Doorly Zoo. A few highlights were the water park at the condo, the wooden roller coaster at Arnold's Park, winning plush roses playing "Ice Ball", cruisin' on the Queen Mary, the Grotto at West Bend and the butterfly garden at the zoo.

August 9: Bouldering in Acadia

August 11: We celebrated our first anniversary with a lobster dinner and came home to carrot cake from Sweet Sensations.

August 15/16/17: Camping and hiking in Acadia once again

August 23/24: Final trip to Baxter. Corridor definition, canoeing and swimming.

August 30 - September 1: Wrapping up Acadia's final trails on Mount Desert Island.

September 14: We knocked out Acadia's only miles on the mainland, Schoodic Point

September 20 (&21): We got up before the sun and hopped a ferry to Isle Au Haute to hike the final 18 miles of Acadia's trail. Unfortunately we missed the ferry back to the mainland and had to spend the night in the ranger station. The bright side is that we got to take in a few more sights on Sunday morning.

September 28: Pancake 5K in Belfast. Chris won his age group and Tarah set a PR

October 4: We volunteered at Camp Sunshine's Maine Pumpkin Festival were we got to hang out with one of Tarah's corps members. We even found the jack-o-lanterns that Tarah carved and a Huskers one too.

October 11/12: Grafton Loop Trail, again, this time in reverse and in record time.

October 19: MDI Marathon. Chris and Tarah both set PRs.

November 8: A rainy, quiet day in Acadia. We also practiced our leaps in case we ever needed to jump over a raging river or a babbling brook.

December 5: Peace Corps interview.

December 13: Cadillac Mountain summit sunrise hike.

December 31: Surprise visit to North Carolina to see Tarah's family