Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm Done!/ Thanksgiving Post

"Good morning!" from freaking Miami, FL! You know what that means, don't you!? That's right, you got it, I finally quit!

Just kidding. The Bastards, Bob White, Powder River, and Teeny (Valerie), summited Springer on the morning of December 17 with a full cast of relatives and assorted loved ones. It was a lot of stuff. Mostly, though, it was awesome. 
It's wonderful to be back with my family and old friends, and bittersweet to part (momentarily!) from my trail friends.
Besides a UNICEF fundraiser, this blog is my trail journal. I'll continue to update this blog through Springer, and probably Miami too. I'll describe this whole phase more thoroughly when I reach that point in the journal (it'll be more convenient to look back at it after some time, considering I'm pretty dazed and wistful at the moment).
I wrote the following post on Thanksgiving, intending to put it on this blog earlier. Here ya' go:

Salutations from Overmountain Shelter, NC! Right now, Eddy's managing the fire... It's funny how much of a spectator sport it's become... He just poured a bit of Heet and it leaped into life! To someone from the past, that'd probably seem like some cheap magic trick... T-Mellow just resorted to a plastic dustpan in place of this shelter's missing broom... Surprisingly adequate- nice!
This shelter's awesome; a converted barn with a spacious attic and an epic view of a valley and a far-off mountain range. It'll be a fine spot for the crew's Thanksgiving festivities (Eddy's got the hot dogs on lock. T-Mellow's going for the more traditional Stove Top Stuffing with turkey n' gravy).
Oh! Eddy found the broomhead and jabbed a stick in to function as the handle...
It's been a great Thanksgiving; perfect temperature, absolutely spotless skies, and easy walking over exposed prairie land- 5000+ feet high!
It's no secret that we have a lot to be grateful for. We thrive on the generosity of so many hitches, hostel-owners, and trail angels, on the whims of the weather, on circumstantial reunions with old friends, or fateful encounters with new ones, guided along what might be the world's greatest volunteer project: a tour of the Appalachian's richness of miracles.
For a couple of weeks, every day would turn out to be the "best day ever," until the next one topped it. Eventually this streak did end, but the isolated moments of awesomeness that followed kept us astonished.  
If there were a recipient for my la-la cosmic gratefulness, I'd probably have talked his ear off by now...
Except I guess I haven't... I'd like to propose a toast to my freaking AMAZING parents! The awesomeness cannot be transcribed. They encouraged this trip, financed it, helped plan it- they brought me on my first camping trip, hahaha! Most importantly, they founded a household on mutual respect, friendliness, and simple affection... or love. Or whatever.
Mad, mad props, guys.
I'd also like to thank Adam and Ali, T-Mellow's friends from Virginia Tech, who took me in when I was sick. Also, Tabitha, Rachel, and Megan, the ladies in Boone who let us crash at their place for two nights. I'll elaborate on all their deeds, but rest assured, they're remarkable people.
Well, I haven't written the next part of my story yet, but stay tuned! It's a pretty un-missable kind of thing, you know!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Photos 2

Some assorted pictures from the area around Roan Mountain, NC:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Photos 1

I've been taking photos again for the last couple weeks. Let's check em' out!

Morning after our first snowy day. It was melting at this point. I was really into the color/snow combo. T-Mellow has great photos from this day on his blog (see the previous photo post for the address).

Outside of Daleville, VA.

A vista outside of Daleville,VA.

Another "peak chill."

Reminds me of some vintage sci-fi thing.

Cow country in Kent, VA. That barn is The Barn, an awesome home-cooking joint.

Rocks in Grayson Highlands State Park, VA.

Ponies, hahaha.

Stumpy lil' dudes- and fat/pregnant.

Impressive texture on that pony. Coach's signature photo smile.

View from White Top Mountain.

Kitties at Kincora, a popular hostel near Hampton, TN.


I heard that Bob Peoples, the hostel-owner, has 5000 thank you cards.

Tabitha n' Megan n' Rachel's place in Appalachian State's Boone, North Carolina. We met Tabitha at Kincora, where she and a bunch of App. State kids were doing volunteer trail maintenance. We wound up getting driven to Boone (in Dan's pimped-out camper van) AND staying at Tabitha's for two nights before she drove us back! Them and their town were awesome (grammar?). I'll detail the awesomeness in an upcoming blog entry.

Megan and Eddy chillin' on the futon in front of an epic mural in the living room.

Tabitha and the crew outside our wonderful Boone crash-pad.

Straight flowin'... T-Mellow too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, November 7, 2011

Salisbury, NY to NYC to Pawling, NY

"Holla!" from Catawba Shelter, VA. Tag and I just had an epic game of frisbee. We were casually tossing the lid back and forth, prepared to call it quits fairly soon and begin our day's hike, when Coach discovered that his package wouldn't arrive in the nearby town of Newport until at least tomorrow. This, in addition to his full-fledged blister situation, immediately convinced Tag and me that a zero was in order. The free time really helped us focus on, and invest in, our frisbee skills; we've been banking shots around the trees for at least two hours now.
Now where were we...?
We thanked the Cobbs one last time and moved onward, excited for the upcoming detour to NYC, where we would stay at my brother's new pad with his super-cool/accommodating girlfriend, Lisa, and roommates, Matt and Kat. From Salisbury, CN, we hiked to Kent, where I downed half a gallon of Chocolate soy milk before accompanying the gang, plus Moose n' Easy, to a pizza joint. The waitress, like most ladies these days, was remarkably distracting for myself and my fellows.
We hitched out of Kent just before sunset and walked a short ways to the nearest shelter. Little did I know that the most horrific night of my entire life awaited me there. Besides a few mosquitoes, which probably spawned from the stagnant puddles of a nearby creek, a fleet of invisible something's (I presume bugs) tormented me all night long, attacking any exposed skin they could find. I hid myself under the sleeping bag and, ignoring the heat of the night, fell asleep.
But no. The temperature managed to wake me up and, emerging from my sarcophagus, I discovered that I had thoroughly soaked the bag in sweat. Besides Moose's campfire, which had escalated into a strobing blaze during my unconsciousness, I thought the invisible bugs might have infested the shelter, so I bailed out of there, leaving a body-length wet mark behind, and set up on the ground behind it. Enclosed in my hammock's bug net (not strung up), I alternated among countless positions, constantly shifting attention from one stress factor (balance, bug net tension, warmth?) to another (muscle fatigue, claustrophobia, clothing distribution?).
Miraculously, I awoke with my sanity.
Originally, We intended to do an 18-mile day to the Appalachian Trail Railroad Station, a tiny platform along the trail, so we could board the 7:30 ride to Grand Central Station. However, I couldn't reach Jesse to inform him of our arrival (turns out I had the wrong number), so we decided to do a shorter day, bypass the the station the next day (it only runs on weekends), and take the train out of Pawling, NY.
We lolly-gagged all day, taking generous peak chills, a relaxed river-side lunch, and some fierce, highly-stylized noodle battles (a few kayakers witnessed the action). It was a sluggish day- overcast, humid- "poopy"- if you will- so we were eager for distractions.
Around 4:45, we rolled into what might have been that night's shelter. We snacked, then I tried reaching my brother some more, before calling my mom to catch up. She told me that Jesse expected us sometime that night! We could still make the 7:30 train, 6 miles away, if we moved fast. The prospect of being whisked into the city before the day ended revitalized our momentum. At 5:20, we headed off. Power walking the uphills and jogging the downhills, we managed to totally overcompensate and arrive around 7:00. It felt like some heinous military drill.
We found T-Mellow, Moose n' Easy chatting with a couple day hikers. We bid Moose n' Easy farewell, knowing that they would be well ahead before we returned to the trail. In the heat of the moment, T-Mellow hopped aboard and joined us on our New York escapade.
The train ride was a victory cruise to our long-awaited destination.
The glared windows only revealed the tops of trees and the outlines of buildings against the night sky. The train ducked underground before New York was visible. Exiting the train, it was more like we had teleported, and not gradually transitioned from the familiar outdoors to this seemingly impossible subterranean railroad platform. Climbing the stairs and stepping into the monumental, arched lobby of Grand Central Station, buzzing with hundreds of people, all types and styles, completed the effect. I had a moment of vertigo distinct from that of much larger mountains and valleys, but comparably powerful due to the scope of human reach, represented in the architecture, and the promise of the city, its home.
We were all giddy and started to laugh. We were ready to get stimulated.
Of course, the whole city's abuzz with human activity- industry and culture and rhetoric and coordination and social posturing- blown up to a scale that the modest woods and its critters can't match. My dad would've said, "Oh, the humanity!"
Outside (are you ever "outside" there?), we were struck by the cry of a bagpipe-player, and down the sidewalk, listened to a jazzy saxophonist. Each musician had their own bubble of spectators and, although their music was so loud, they could play within half a sidewalk's distance from each other, isolated by the muting effect of ambient traffic and babel. A bit frazzled, we tried to follow my iPhone's GPS to a cafe, but it was all glitchy, probably because of all the signals and obstructions in the area, so we wandered into a deli/grocery store. I simply couldn't decide what I wanted most, so I settled on a banana. 
("that banana.")
("here ya' go, thanks.")
Tag got some cereal and milk- for ten bucks! This kind of thing would prove to be typical of the city, and even the whole state to a degree.
We chilled on the sidewalk and watched the crazy people in their ridiculous clothes. They seemed convinced of something important, or desirable, that dictated not only their destinations, but the manners they'd adopt for the commute. Some darted to appointments, some ambled too-cool-for-school with their phones or dates, and others bobbed along like Macy's Day balloons for all to see, parodies of fashion, full of cultural static and color and hot air (I'm going to go ahead and keep that sentence in there). They seemed to inhabit worlds of their own. They moved- and communicated- with and around each other, shooting their vectors in all different directions. (The AT's no more "real" than fashion or pop culture or whatever. It's less visual, that's all.)
Soon enough, Jesse materialized from the crowd. I was happy to reunite with someone from "the beforetime," especially my near-n'-dear bro. I was proud to show off his cool demeanor and witty antics to the crew.
We followed our groovy guide all the way home, where we were warmly received into a perfectly stationary living space. Our hosts couldn't have been cooler. We chit-chatted over drinks, bathed, and eventually passed out on the air mattress, excited for the days ahead.
The next morning we drew up an itinerary over coffee, donned some of Jesse's duds, and set off on a two-day urban safari ride.
At the Museum of Natural History, we gawked at dinosaur bones and extravagant, taxidermic displays. Tag and I were especially fascinated by Native American survival techniques, weapons, and smoking implements. The Hall of Biodiversity blew me away for the second time in my life.
Afterward, we got some 'za (pizza) and made our way to Central Park. Everyone was getting fit and/or looking picturesque with their kids (except, as is always the case in NYC, for the visibly crazy and the homeless).
I separated to meet up with Carina, my good friend, currently studying at NYU. I was struck by how we had met in the fifth grade (I was her dad, a mad scientist, in the Cosmos Program's annual play) and then found ourselves leading drastically different lives, sharing information on our old friends, something that, largely, has been scattered and exists in the beforetime (December will be glorious).
That night, the Bastards (with T-Mellow, an honorary member) and Jesse & Co. hit the town! We bar-hopped, saw the hipsters, bar scenes, and some bands. Tag and I enjoyed the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn (probably my favorite attraction of the whole trip).
As intended, we passed out too late and awoke too early. While the others went to Chinatown, I headed for Columbia University to visit Blake, my friend from preschool. I relied too heavily on my faulty GPS and got lost within the subway system, but after consulting a map (the trail's taught me a lot, but not that much), I finally surfaced at Columbia, only two hours (or so) late! The Columbia campus is by far my favorite. I liked checking it out in the rain.
Some more confused subway navigation, a game of phone tag, and wandering in the rain, and I met up with Carina to get food and hang with her college buds. Mamoun's Mediterranean restaurant was just the cheap New York joint I'd been pining for (awesome tamarind smoothie).
I wound up in Times Square on my adventure home. It was practically empty and entirely quiet. It was magical to have it to myself, with all the volume turned down, and the rhythms of the cycling ads, the colors diffused into the drizzle, playing in all directions.
New York was phenomenal, but we were all satisfied by the second day. We rode the commuter train to Pawling, NY, somehow more exhausted than when we arrived.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Miscellaneous Pictures from T-Mellow

A Bastard showdown near Ten-Mile Mountain in New York. Nearby kayakers witnessed the action.

We made friends with some campers from HP Woodlawn High School, an alternative public school where the student body gets to vote to determine aspects of their curriculum.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hey, we're in the news!

This is from a recent edition of "The Journal," a West Virginia Newspaper. Here's the link:

Freedom’s Run has variety

Runners of all ages, experience participate in third annual event

October 2, 2011
By Rick Kozlowski, Sports Editor - Journal Sports Editor
SHEPHERDSTOWN - A quartet of young men took a day off from their Maine-to-Georgia hike along the Appalachian Trail and ran a marathon on Saturday.
Running his first 26.1-mile race, Dylan Ricke of Miami, Fla., finished only 14 minutes behind champion Tal Angelosant of Washington, D.C., during a rainy and chilly day of races at the third annual Freedom's Run.
"The ridiculous factor is what attracted us; it seemed far-fetched," said Ricke, who averages about 16 miles hiking each day in a quest of becoming the second member of his family to traverse the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Winning might've seemed a bit far-fetched for Angelosante, running his 28th marathon and first Freedom's Run.
He's 52.
"I wouldn't say I'm an inspiration," Angelosante said. "It just says you can still run pretty good into your 50s."
A two-time marathon winner previously - "when I was younger," he said - Angelosante hoped to win his age group, not the whole race.
"I got ahead at mile two," Angelosante said. "I never thought I would win until about mile 25. I kept expecting someone to come up on me."
Angelosante finished the race in 2 hours, 57 minutes, 34 seconds, two minutes ahead of 29-year-old Migel Perez (2:59:52). Thirty-two-year-old Brian Smith came in third with a time of 3:00:40.
"This really is a terrific course and really a well-run race," Angelosante said. "Aside from the rain and the hills at the end, it was really a fantastic experience."
The rain wasn't a factor in Angelosante's view.
"There's a certain exuberance in running," he said. "You don't let (the rain) bother you until you cross the finish line."
As runners finished their races, there was plenty of hustling to get into warm cars and out of the cold, damp clothing on the wet and raw morning.
Women's marathon champion Jacqueline Palmer, 23, of Frederick, Md., wore her commemorative Boston Marathon jacket from the 2010 race, though was still in her running shorts at the awards ceremony held a couple of hours after most of the runners had finished their races.
She and Angelosante both received plaques from the Road Runners Club of America as regional champions, a designation the Freedom's Run marathon received, during the postrace celebration held at the Bavarian Inn.
"I actually liked the weather," Palmer said. "I run best in the cold. I just have a little wet feet."
She chose to use the race as a "training run" for the JFK 50-miler about seven weeks from now.
"I wasn't really expecting that," Palmer said of her victory.
She completed the course in a record time of 3:18:42, less than a minute ahead of 38-year-old Victoria Grieve (3:19:20). Third-place finisher Shawn Loy crossed the line in 3:25:24.
Mandana Mortazavi held the previous record of 3:28:33 set in the first even in 2009.
"It was definitely challenging to pace myself in the beginning," Palmer said. "(The win) lets me know I paced myself well."
Palmer's time over the second 13 miles was faster than her first 13 miles.
Freedom's Run was her sixth marathon, and she'll be back at Boston next April.
Half marathon record-holder David Hryniak of Chesapeake, Va., finished second to Charlie Ban. Erik Hinrichsen was third.
In the women's half marathon, Lori Jandreau defeated former Jefferson High School standout Michelle Van Horn. Molly Matala was third.
Times weren't available in the half marathon.
Winners in the 10-kilometer race included Stephen Malcolm, 25,and Kelly Buriak, 27.
Malcolm completed the 6.2 miles in 39:05, 13 seconds ahead of runner-up Owen Faris and about a minute over Harry Linde, 52, in third.
Buriak ran her race in 41.45, winning by 34 seconds over Shauna Hanley (42:19). Heidi Marks ran 43:28 for third.
Martinsburg's Brad Sponaugle won the 5K, while 13-year-old Abby Colbert claimed the female division with a one-second victory over 8-year-old Fiona Brummor.
Sponaugle normally runs in the half marathon, but he opted for the shorter race as he recovers from a distance relay event held last weekend. In such racers, runners cover a segment of a race before giving away to a teammate for the next segment, and so on, over the course of about 24 hours.
"I was getting a run in," said Sponaugle, 31, who finished in 18:13 and hurried off quickly to get warm and dry, missing the awards assembly.
Runner-up Jeremiah Downie finished in 19:45 and Mark Schmitt ran third in 19:57.
Corbett completed the 3.1 miles in 20:02 and Brummer 20:03. Twenty-two-year-old Lindsey Hollenshead finished in 22:23 for third.
Many other youngsters ran in a one-mile fun run.
Race co-director Dr. Mark Cucuzezella urged on the youngsters as they finished the race on a slight uphill, hollering over the loudspeaker as rain fell harder, "You're not cold; you're having a good time."
Which is part of the premise of the race - enjoyment and health.
And for a group of four, a break in their hiking routine.

Wooooow photos!